Author's Note: Standard disclaimers hold. The characters are mostly created by JK Rowling. Several ideas have been drawn/inspired by Julius Caesar's history. The TV series Rome has also played a hand in inspiration. The actual intrigue begins after a few chapters.
Part 1 - Wizengamot
The night was dark and the moon was hidden by clouds. There was something disturbing in the air, an omen of sorts that gnawed at the very core of Sirius Black. He wasn't a noble man, he was fully aware of his faults, but if there was something he took great pride in, it was his loyalty to his friends.
"Something is happening," he muttered to himself. He stood up. "I better check with James and Lily." He pulled his cloak around himself and vanished in thin air. A few moments later, he reappeared halfway across the country in a quiet Welsh village. "By Merlin's Beard," he cursed, beginning to run towards a house. Strange lights were coming from within. "Peter, you bastard!"
The moment Sirius entered the house, his heart nearly stopped. Duelling with his best friend James Potter was the Dark Lord Voldemort, the scourge of their Nation.
"Diffindo," Sirius sent a curse at Voldemort from behind. But it never reached the Dark Lord. Instead, Voldemort levitated to higher ground in order to get a better sight of both his adversaries. "Prongs, I've got your back."
"Reducto," said James while Sirius yelled "Protego," to draw a shield up to cover the two of them from the Dark Lord's blows.
The duel continued for several minutes, with Sirius Black and James Potter skilfully matching Voldemort. However, even together the two of them were outmatched and were backed to a corner.
"Diffindo." A new voice emerged from upstairs.
Sirius heard James groan in despair. "Lily, go back to safety," he begged.
"No," Lily Potter yelled back. "Together we might stand a chance. Attack together."
But Voldemort was enraged. With a wave of his wand, he swatted Sirius Black to one corner of the room. "Avada Kedavra," he hissed.
"LILY!" James cried, his mind no longer in the battle as he ran to catch his wife's corpse before it fell to the ground.
Two voices had yelled the killing curse at once. The next instant, James Potter crashed to the floor, falling on top of his wife, while Lord Voldemort let out an inhuman scream. A dark shadow escaped from the body of the Dark Lord and blasted its way out of a window. Sirius, however, had other things in mind. He ran to his fallen friends.
"James! Lily!" he yelled in despair. "No, this can't be happening." He knelt by the fallen couple and wept. "This is all my fault," he cried. "I shouldn't have insisted on that Worm being made your Secret Keeper. I - I'll kill him! By Merlin's Beard, I'll kill that rotten -" His voice was broken by the loud cries of an infant from upstairs. "Harry," he said. "Oh God. Harry." He leapt up the stairs, two at a time, and threw open the doors of the nursery. His godson was lying in his crib, crying for whatever reason a fifteen month old baby might have for crying.
"Oh Harry," Sirius grabbed the baby in his arms and cradled him protectively. "My little Harry, poor child, how I wish I could bring you your mummy back. You deserve better than this." He held the boy in his arms and began calming himself. Harry depended on him. He had to think carefully. Suddenly, he frowned. "There's going to be an uproar about what happened here, little one. I need to keep you somewhere safe."
Without a second thought and securing Harry in his arms, Sirius grabbed a milk bottle lying nearby, and rushed downstairs. He walked to the fireplace. "Tonks Residence, 21 Baker Street." He coughed as the dust from the fireplace entered his nose and mouth.
"I am armed and I won't hesitate to kill."
Sirius shuddered at the cold tone and took a deep breath. He said, "It is I, Sirius Black. I need your help, Cousin Andromeda."
"Oh Sirius," the voice called out, a dark haired woman reached forward. "I am so glad you're here. They - they killed Ted."
Sirius gasped. "What? Who?"
"Who else?" Andromeda Tonks spat with disgust. "Death Eaters. My dear sister's husband was among them. They tried to rape little Nymphie."
Sirius blanched. "What? But - But she's a child!" He took a deep breath. "Tried?"
Andromeda nodded. "Something happened and they just stopped. There was confusion and they left abruptly." Then, she noticed the child in her cousin's arms. "Dear God. Who is this?"
Sirius lowered his eyes. "The Dark Lord killed James and Lily. This is their son, Harry." His voice broke slightly.
"Oh, Sirius," Andromeda took the baby from Sirius and patted his shoulder. She placed the baby on a comfortable couch and hugged her cousin. "When will this bloodshed end?"
Sirius' face hardened. "It ends today, Andy," he promised. "I killed the bastard."
"What?" asked Andromeda.
"I killed Voldemort," Sirius repeated. "I killed him but I was too slow to save James and Lily." He sunk to the floor and wept. "It's my fault… I made them change Secret Keeper… Pettigrew…" He stood up again. "I'll kill that -" But before he could finish, he had grabbed another fistful of floo powder and vanished through the fireplace.
Andromeda shook herself out of her stupor. She heard the cries of the baby and forced herself to stifle her grief. "That fool will get himself in trouble," she muttered. "Nymphie!" she called out. "It's safe, sweetheart. That was Cousin Sirius."
A small girl - no more than seven years of age - came out from underneath the couch and looked with terrified eyes at her mother. Andromeda hugged her daughter. "Everything will be okay, sweetie." She eyed the baby nearby, looking at her with wide green eyes. "Why don't you play with Harry? I have to make some calls." She smiled when her daughter eyed the baby curiously and then poked him in the stomach.
Andromeda turned to the fireplace. "Alastor Moody," she called, throwing a fistful of powder. "Moody? Moody, is that you?"
"Who is it?"
"Andromeda Tonks," she replied. "We served detention together in my third year, cleaning the Potions laboratory."
"What do you want? I'm busy here. The McKinnons have been attacked."
"So have I," she snapped. "They killed my Ted. But that's not why I'm calling you. My cousin Sirius just came here. He said he killed the Dark Lord at the Potter's home and was going after Peter Pettigrew to -"
"What?" Moody bellowed. "Black killed Voldemort?"
"That's what he said," Andromeda replied. "He left Harry Potter with me. The Potters were murdered."
"But wasn't Black the Secret Keeper?" asked Moody suspiciously.
"He claims he was a decoy. I am afraid he's going to do something rash," said Andromeda. "I have two children with me, Alastor. Can I count on you to look after my cousin?"
Moody nodded curtly and closed the floo connection.
Andromeda sighed and was about to turn back when the fireplace came alive again. A face she hadn't expected to see came in view. "What do you want?" Andromeda hissed with contempt.
"I'm so sorry, Andy," a blonde woman said in anguish. "I didn't - I swear - I would never - please, believe me," she begged.
"Mrs. Malfoy, your husband killed my husband and tried to rape my child. We have nothing to say to each other."
Narcissa Malfoy hesitated, looking dolefully at her older sister for several moments, before she sighed and turned away. The fireplace turned empty.
"Where do you think you're taking him?"
Sirius blinked with disbelief and hope at the newcomer. He had been apprehended by Aurors after Peter Pettigrew, the man who had betrayed the Potters, had staged his death and shouted out that Sirius had been the traitor.
One of the Aurors blanched at Moody's tone. "Sir, Sirius Black betrayed the Potters. Mr. Crouch ordered him to be taken to Azkaban."
"Azkaban? His trial was quick, ne?" Moody questioned.
The Auror on duty shifted uncomfortably. "Mr. Crouch decided a trial wasn't necessary."
"Did he indeed!" Moody barked. "A sad day, it is, for the Nation, when the Department of Magical Law Enforcement decides that trials are a mere inconvenience. Cavendish, you will release Mr. Black to my custody at once."
"But sir -" Auror Cavendish began to argue.
"No buts," Moody retorted. "You work under me, you scum, not Crouch." He waited patiently while Sirius Black was released. "Now, Black. What is this about you killing the Dark Lord?" He got the desired effect. Every single Auror in hearing range gasped with disbelief.
Sirius Black turned to Moody in surprise. "Oh, Andromeda called you?"
"And a good thing too," Moody roared. "Or else you'd be in Azkaban within the hour."
Sirius lowered his head. He sighed and said, "I can give you my memory to view. I don't know if Voldemort," he shook his head with disgust when all the Aurors except Moody flinched, "is dead. But I sure got him good with a Killing Curse. I can also show you my memory of what happened with Pettigrew. But - But don't ask me to join you… I cannot see… James and Lily…"
Moody frowned. He raised his wand and waited for Sirius to nod. Then, he extracted the memory. Then, he turned to his Aurors. "Cavendish, Bones, Prewett. Follow me inside. Black, you may stay outside. Longbottom, stand guard with Black."
Sirius waited while the Aurors entered the pensieve. He then sunk to the ground again and held his head in his hands.
"James and Lily are -" Frank Longbottom began uneasily. "You're certain?"
"I saw them fall," Sirius said heavily. "I took revenge. I rescued Harry out of the damned place. Yes, Frank, I am certain."
"What about the Fidelius?"
Sirius closed his eyes in pain. "I convinced them to change to Peter. I was too obvious. Nobody would suspect we'd choose him."
"Merlin's Staff!" Frank cursed suddenly. "We were so convinced and would have thrown you in Azkaban." He stood up uncertainly. "This war has festered our Nation for too long, if we are willing to give up the very ideals that make us different from those we fight. I…"
"Frank?" Sirius was troubled by the tone of the man.
Frank turned to Sirius. "I am sorry for what I would have done to you, Black. No man deserves punishment without a trial, no matter what his crime and who his accuser."
"True, Longbottom," said Moody. He had come out of the pensieve. "Black here is a national hero. I am ashamed of you all, to listen to Crouch and throw one of your own into Azkaban without insisting for a trial." The Aurors all lowered their gaze, not being able to meet Sirius in the eye.
Moody continued. "Prewett, Bones. The two of you are to lead the hunt for Pettigrew. Use Animagus locator charms and make sure you get that rat," Moody demanded. "Cavendish, I want you to keep Crouch under surveillance. I wonder if his insistence on ensuring the incarceration of Black has something more sinister behind it. Longbottom, Black. You follow me."
The two Aurors followed Moody to his office. It was late in the night and only the Auror Department had people working in it. Moody took out a flask of firewhisky and poured three glasses for them. He waited until they had taken a few sips and said, "Gentlemen, I require you to leave the Auror force."
"What?" Frank demanded.
Sirius looked at Moody cautiously before nodding. "You want us to take our seats in the Wizengamot?"
"Yes," said Moody. "Now that the Dark Tosser is gone, rounding up the Death Eaters will be easy. Making sure they get their due punishment will be much harder. Chief Warlock McKinnon was murdered a few hours earlier. There will be chaos and confusion everywhere. I fear this could work to the advantage of the criminals."
"But Dumbledore -" Frank began.
" - will certainly be elected Chief Warlock in due course," Moody continued. "However, that is my biggest concern. Black, can you see my reasoning?"
"He's too forgiving," Sirius muttered. "He will want to give second chances to altogether too many criminals."
Moody nodded. "Our other alternative would be Crouch."
Sirius' face darkened.
"Precisely," Moody continued. "As Head of the Auror Department, I cannot prosecute. I need the two of you to take this responsibility. Losing two good men will hurt but -"
"Sir, I have a suggestion," said Sirius. "Remus Lupin is a reliable man. He is skilled and resourceful and -"
"And a werewolf," Moody sighed. "But I need skilled men. Very well. I will consider taking him on. Longbottom, you look like you have something to say?"
"About Dumbledore, sir," Frank said uncomfortably. "A few weeks ago, he called the Potters, my wife and I to his office in Hogwarts. He informed us of a prophecy about the fall of the Dark Lord. According to him, one of your sons was destined to bring about the fall of the Dark Lord."
"Prophecies," Moody spat out. "Black has defeated the Dark Lord, at least, temporarily. The pressing need is to restore law and order to the Nation, so we will take the official stance that Voldemort is dead and Black killed him. Once we have weeded out the Death Eaters and restored peace, we can think of a more permanent solution. The involvement of your sons can come there, I suppose. Just what did Dumbledore expect two toddlers to do against a dark wizard? Piss at him?"
Frank smiled weakly but Sirius kept a stony face.
"Pardon the levity, Black," said Moody. "I suppose you are hardly in the mood for it."
Sirius stood up. "I accept your plan and resign from the force, Director Moody. I will see you in the Wizengamot trials."
"Oyez, oyez, oyez," the clerk said in a loud but serene voice. "The Wizengamot is now in session. In the absence of a proper elected Chief Warlock, the law confers the seat to the oldest Warlock in attendance. Warlock Dorothy Diggle is requested to come forward and take the seat."
Sirius turned his head to look at the shrivelled old lady slowly rise from her seat from next to Albus Dumbledore and walk to the front. He turned to Frank Longbottom, who was sitting next to him. "Dumbledore's creature."
"Shh," Frank said, but surreptitiously glanced at Dumbledore. Moody was sitting next to Dumbledore and winked back at the two ex-Aurors. "I wonder what tale Moody told Dumbledore of our decision to leave the force."
"He used me," said Sirius. "Apparently, I am disgusted with the Auror force because of their willingness to throw me in Azkaban, and you feel the same."
"I do," said Frank seriously. "I am disgusted with myself."
Sirius shrugged. "Let it go, Frank. We have a busy time ahead of us. But you have to give it to the old rascal. He has played a deft hand." He glanced at Moody. "Look at him. He looks like he's taking Dumbledore's soft side but you know what he's going to truly vote."
"Shh," Frank repeated. "We don't want others to know. He's our hidden ace, Sirius. We've already got a good backing, especially due to your feats and my supposed righteousness. But -"
"Greetings," said the stand-in Chief Warlock. "It grieves me to address the Wizengamot on a matter of such gravity. The proceedings will be simple. One among us will stand up to accuse a party of wrongdoing and the defendant will appear with counsel. Both sides will be heard and the verdict will be put to vote and be passed by simple majority. Sentencing to life in Azkaban or execution will require passing by two-thirds majority. Any objection must be shown by raising of hands. I will have the final say in all technical matters and interpretation of the law. Any questions."
There was silence.
"Very well." She looked at a parchment. "Warlock Crouch calls forth the accused Lucius Malfoy. Is the defendant in attendance?"
"We are, Chief Warlock," said a stout man. He stood up and led the silver haired Lucius Malfoy to the front. "Parker Parkinson giving representation."
"So noted," said Diggle. She faced Malfoy stonily. "You are charged with five counts of murder in the first degree, seven counts of manslaughter, three counts of rape, one count of rape of an underage witch, multiple counts of casting Unforgivables and being a member of a terrorist organization. How do you plead, sir?"
"Not guilty to all counts," said Parkinson, "because of enchantment under the Imperius Curse. My client has not committed any crime of his own volition."
"Like hell he hasn't!" Sirius muttered. He turned to Dorothy Diggle and saw a resigned expression on her face. "Dumbledorean politics," he said darkly. "He wishes to redeem Malfoy."
Frank remained silent. He was looking at Crouch's response. "Crouch looks stumped," he said finally. "This is bad."
Crouch finally said, "Chief Warlock, may I request the use of Veritaserum to find the truth -" he was interrupted by a cough from the Defense lawyer.
"Here is a signed letter from St. Mungo's," said Parkinson. "My client has a potential health risk if dosed with Veritaserum. Therefore, it is our request that the charges be dropped due to insufficiency of evidence to disprove, beyond all reasonable doubt, that Lord Malfoy was indeed under an enchantment. We are deeply regretful that this black mark cannot be removed incontrovertibly from the Malfoy name. It is a shame that an old and honorable family must live under the shadows of -"
"Hogwash," shouted Sirius. He stood up angrily. "I have heard from a witness who can provide definite proof of Lucius Malfoy's guilt."
"Who is this witness?" asked Parkinson.
"Narcissa Malfoy," said Sirius plainly.
Parkinson sneered smugly. "The evidence of a wife is not admissible -"
"Oh, pardon me, did I say Narcissa Malfoy?" said Sirius in mock regret. "I meant Narcissa Black. She requested me, as Lord Black, to acknowledge her divorce and accept her back to my house. The arrangements were finalized and the documents were given to your client by my cousin. Mr. Malfoy deemed it unimportant to read the divorce papers his wife served on him earlier today." He turned to the Chief Warlock. "I can produce the witness to counter the defendant's claim of enchantment."
Both Malfoy and Parkinson turned very pale. "Objection," Parkinson yelled. "This is highly irregular and breaches the decorum of the Wizengamot."
"I must admit this is indeed very irregular," said Dorothy Diggle, frowning at Sirius. "However, I find no breach of law. The witness will be permitted."
"One second," Parkinson cried out. He turned to Crouch desperately. "Is the plea bargain still open?"
Crouch, obviously displeased by Sirius stealing his thunder, seized the moment and said, "Your client is willing to plead guilty to manslaughter, rape and use of Unforgivables? That is triple life in Azkaban."
"Yes, we are," said Parkinson, not looking at Malfoy, whose face had turned paler than his silver hair.
Sirius frowned but Frank pulled him down. "Triple life is sixty years," said Frank. "Your insistence on a more severe punishment would look bad."
Sirius frowned. On one hand, it would be better to see the end of Malfoy for good. But if it was possible to get a reasonable punishment while saving Narcissa from the ordeal of appearing in court… "Fine," he muttered. "But if the Dark Tosser comes back and breaks him out of Azkaban, I'll -" He didn't know how to finish it, so he simply shrugged.
Within minutes, the first trial was over. Lucius Malfoy was given sixty years in Azkaban. Avery, Nott, Mulciber, Crabbe and Goyle followed soon after. Malfoy was the one who had hired Parkinson. Without him, the others lacked the financial resources to retain Parkinson's services. As a result, their trials ended swiftly, with most of them agreeing to similar pleas as Malfoy.
"The final trial for today is Severus Snape. Is the defendant in attendance?"
At that moment, Albus Dumbledore coughed. He raised his hand.
"Warlock Dumbledore, you have something to say?"
"Yes, Chief Warlock," said Dumbledore calmly. "I wish to vouch for Severus Snape's innocence -"
"WHAT!" Sirius bellowed.
"Silence, Warlock Black. You will wait for your turn," Diggle reprimanded. "Continue, Dumbledore."
"Young Severus was indeed led astray by Lord Voldemort's excellent oratory, but he turned spy for our side long before Voldemort's demise. I request the Wizengamot to drop all charges."
"How can he do this?" Sirius whispered angrily to Frank. He glared at Moody, who shrugged from beside Dumbledore.
"Because he is Dumbledore," Frank replied back. "What do you intend to do now?"
"Objection," Sirius spoke out before Diggle could rule. "If Warlock Dumbledore wishes to represent the defendant, he should withdraw from his seat for this trial and give proper representation to his client."
"Come now, Sirius my boy, you should let go of petty childhood grudges," Dumbledore said loudly, making several older members chuckle mirthfully.
Frank stood up. "With all due respect, Warlock Dumbledore, you are a member of the Wizengamot. Show some respect to this institution."
There was silence. Everybody stared at Frank Longbottom, who had built a reputation of irreproachable honour, and then at Albus Dumbledore, the greatest light wizard since Merlin. The struggle was clear - mercy against justice.
"The system is in place for a reason," Frank continued before Dumbledore could speak again. "A crime was committed and a person has been accused. Two men will rise up - one in prosecution and another in defence. The rest of us will vote for a verdict and the Chief Warlock will give a sentence, if required. If we cannot uphold this system…" he raised his hands in disgust. "No, Dumbledore, not even you have the right to prevent the due course of justice." He sat down.
Sirius clapped. Before he knew it, the entire Wizengamot was applauding Frank Longbottom. "Good job," he whispered, but Frank glared back at him.
"You will have to prosecute," Frank said. "Crouch doesn't look too keen to stand against Dumbledore. But beware, Black, don't let childhood rivalry come into play."
"Order," Diggle yelled a few times until silence was reached. "Thank you, Warlock Longbottom, for your reminder. Mr. Snape, are you present?"
"He is," said Dumbledore, gesturing for Snape to come forward. He stood up. "Albus Dumbledore for the defence."
Sirius stood up. "Sirius Black for the prosecution," he said calmly.
"So noted," said Diggle. "The two of you are denied the right to vote in this trial. Mr. Snape, you are accused of being part of a terrorist organization banned by the Ministry of Magic. There is an automatic sentence of ten years in Azkaban for this. How do you plead?"
Dumbledore closed his eyes for a moment and then said, "We plead guilty but request leniency. Severus Snape has never murdered, raped or cast an Unforgivable on another human being. This he will attest to under Veritaserum."
"So noted," said Diggle. "The clerk will administer Veritaserum."
"What do you think?" asked Sirius while the potion was being brought.
"I don't know," said Frank. He looked troubled. "On the one hand, he deserves to be punished. Yet, there is something in Dumbledore's request for leniency."
"How do you intend to vote?"
Frank looked at him irritably. "The trial hasn't even started in earnest. Look, Sirius, I'll be honest. If you want me to vote against him, you better get something incriminating. Make him admit to some grave wrongdoing and I will gladly see him rot in Azkaban. But if Dumbledore is correct and Snape's only crime is a tattoo on his arm…" he trailed off.
Sirius nodded. "That's the difference between us, Frank. You're noble. I'm vindictive. I wonder why Moody wanted us to work together."
"To keep the balance."
By then, the clerk had finished. Dumbledore started speaking. "What is your name?"
"Severus Tobias Snape."
"Why did you join the Dark Lord as one of his Death Eaters?"
Snape said, "I was promised full access to the potions manuals of old pureblood families and unlimited resources to practice the art of potion making."
"When did you stop being a Death Eater?" Dumbledore was looking at Snape in the eye.
Snape looked intently back at Dumbledore before answering, "I voluntarily approached Headmaster Dumbledore and offered my services as a spy weeks before the fall of the Dark Lord. I provided information that allowed the Headmaster to prevent the murder of the Proudfoot and Greengrass families."
"Why did you stop being a Death Eater?" Dumbledore asked, his eyes locked on Snape's.
"I didn't agree with the Dark Lord's views on killing people. I was young and foolish, freshly out of Hogwarts. I was blinded by promises of endless resources to practice my trade."
Dumbledore turned to the council and the rest of the Wizengamot. "As you can see, leniency is definitely merited, if not complete exoneration. Personally, I commend this young man's character. He has shown great courage in the face of adversity…"
After several minutes of a long and moving speech, Dumbledore finally sat down with a pleased smile, convinced he had won. Sirius looked at Frank, who shrugged unhelpfully. Sighing, he stood up.
"Has the Imperius Curse ever been cast on you?"
"Have you been enchanted by your former master?"
"You would know if you had been, is that correct?"
"I am a Master Occlumens. Yes, I would."
"Have you ever been forced to brew a potion against your will?"
Sirius looked slightly triumphant. "Did the Dark Lord require you to brew potions for him?"
"Have you ever brewed potions for the Dark Lord, knowing it was to be used to hurt or torture or even kill?"
Snape looked at Dumbledore. After several seconds of silence, he said, "I am a potions master. I have a license to brew any and every potion from Moste Potente Potions and sell it at a price or barter of my choice. I have given my potions to the Dark Lord in return for access to research manuals."
Sirius frowned. The answer was almost too perfect. He looked at Snape and then at Dumbledore, and his eyes widened. They were using Legilimency to communicate. He turned to Diggle to complain but saw an unyielding look on her face. He reminded himself she was a strict Dumbledorean. He looked at Moody, who looked back stonily. Then, he turned to Frank, who wasn't looking at him. Sighing, Sirius realized he had no allies against Snape.
"Warlock Black, you are wasting our time," Diggle said sharply. "If you do not have any more questions, I will move to the sentencing."
That was when Sirius realized what a farce this last trial truly was. Snape had pleaded guilty to only one crime and there was no need to sway any votes. No matter what he unearthed, Diggle would still give a sentence akin to a slight slap on the wrist. Dumbledore's will would prevail.
His face hardened. This wasn't justice. "Leniency," he spat out. "Death Eaters have terrorized the Nation for so long. Being a Death Eater is not just getting a tattoo on your arm, but to give support to a madman's cause for murder and -"
"Enough, Warlock Black," Diggle slammed her hammer on the table with a force that belied her age. "Do you have any questions?"
Sirius turned to Snape. He didn't expect anything out of it but didn't see the harm in putting it forward, especially as the man was under Veritaserum. "What role did you play in the murder of the Potters?" The reaction was astounding.
Dumbledore jumped up in dismay. "Don't answer that!" he yelled in terror. "Don't answer that! Objection -"
"Sit down, Warlock Dumbledore!" Diggle said with a frown. She rubbed her forehead. "Your objection is overruled. Mr. Snape, you will answer the question."
However, Snape said, "I refuse to answer under grounds that it might incriminate myself."
From afar, Moody could be heard to let out a delighted, "Ha!"
Sirius however had frozen. He was looking at Snape unmercifully. But Frank had stood up and he pulled Sirius back to his seat. Frank then turned to the Chief Warlock. "Warlock Dumbledore has swayed me to his reasoning but I cannot accept a lenient sentence without hearing a full disclosure to that final question."
Diggle sighed. "You have spoken my very thoughts, Warlock Longbottom." She looked at Snape and said, "You take your pick, Mr. Snape. If you remain silent, I will have to give you some time in Azkaban."
Snape turned to Dumbledore.
"Dorothy, I beg you," Dumbledore pleaded. "Severus is truly regretful and deserves leniency. He has erred, as have we all. It is but human to err but it is divine to forgive. I beseech you to look at his remorse and give him a second chance."
"I cannot give a lenient sentence until the defendant reveals his actions," said Diggle.
But Dumbledore continued, "I give you my word that Severus did not intend for the consequences of his actions."
"Sit down, Albus," Diggle said exasperatedly. "We cannot move to the sentencing until I have heard from your client. Answer the question, Mr. Snape. You cannot incriminate yourself more, considering that you have already pleaded guilty."
Sirius Black waited patiently.
Snape sighed. "I provided information by eavesdropping on Dumbledore that led to the Dark Lord's decision to kill Harry Potter."
Sirius froze. It was as if time had stopped moving for him. His eyes were fixed on Snape and everything else became unimportant. The rising noise of the Wizengamot made no sense to him and all he could see was a man who was responsible for the death of James and Lily Potter. Before he knew it, his wand was out.
"Sirius, no!" Frank snatched the wand away. "Don't do anything you'll regret."
Sirius turned to Frank angrily.
"The sentencing," he said pointedly.
Sirius turned to Diggle, who was glaring at him. Forcing himself to control his emotions, Sirius grabbed his head and closed his eyes. For several minutes there was silence as Chief Warlock Diggle deliberated. It was a painful silence, Sirius wanted vengeance.
"This is undoubtedly the hardest case of the evening," began Diggle. "A remarkable feat, considering the defendant pleaded guilty." She sighed. "However, the case isn't completely black and white, as was pointed out by Warlock Dumbledore. Mr. Snape's request for leniency was on the grounds that he has committed no crime other than branding his arm with a tattoo. Warlock Black revealed Snape's involvement in the murder of the Potters. However, I cannot find myself to sentence a man who is truly remorseful to Azkaban for such a small misconduct. Snape's aid in saving the lives of several innocent people must count for something, as must Albus Dumbledore's insistence on…"
"You can't be serious!" Sirius bellowed.
"Silence, Black," Diggle snapped. "You are way out of order. One more word from you and I will have you thrown out of here." She paused. "Albus Dumbledore's insistence also counts for much. He is a good judge of character of his former students. Therefore, I believe leniency is warranted. In fact," she leaned forward, "I believe we may have a vote to decide whether Severus Snape should be exonerated completely. All those in favour of returning an innocent verdict, please raise your hands."
Sirius had frozen again. He could feel the pace at which his heart was beating and knew it was much harder than while he was duelling with Voldemort.
"This is wrong," Frank muttered next to him. "A guilty verdict with a fine and withdrawal of his potions license, yes… but complete exoneration? The man led to James and Lily's death… This is wrong." He rubbed his forehead. "This is wrong. Dumbledore's assurance should be immaterial."
"The bastard deserves to rot in Azkaban," Sirius muttered darkly. His expression darkened at seeing the large number of people raising their hands. He looked at them carefully, marking each face in his memory.
Diggle finished counting. "Of an assembled gathering of two hundred and six Warlocks, a hundred and eleven are in favour of complete exoneration. Mr. Severus Snape, you are a free man."
Sirius stood up and walked out of the most hallowed institution of justice in the wizarding world. He couldn't trust himself to stay inside for one more moment among those who decided not to punish someone who was responsible for the death of James and Lily Potter. All because of one man's belief in redemption without penance.
"I spit on your values, Dumbledore," he muttered, while crossing Albus Dumbledore on his way out. "You make a fine speech for Snape. But who's crying for the Potters?"
"Your son will be the death of me, Narcissa."
Sirius threw his hands in mock despair. His entire morning's work was lost. He heard his cousin laugh as she drew her wand out and dried him. "Honestly, you should know better than to give a four year old water balloons to play with."
"Don't blame me," said Narcissa with a pout. "It was Andy."
Sirius chuckled. He threw the soaking parchment in the bin and started writing again. "Tell Draco it's enough for now. I have to finish this and take it to Moody by nightfall."
"Oh," said Narcissa. There was a hint of disappointment in her voice. "I made dinner."
Sirius sighed. He had invited his cousin to move into Grimmauld Place with her son, but he had expected it to be a temporary thing. Narcissa, however, had made herself a permanent guest. Although, Sirius had to admit at times he really valued her company and Draco was a delightful lad, reminding him of himself at that age. But he tired of her attempts to mould him into the man she wished her husband had been.
"I'm sorry, Narcissa," he said firmly. "I have important work tonight." Without another word, he returned to his work. More than two years had passed since that fateful day when Sirius had stormed out of the Wizengamot. In those two years, he hadn't returned again, completely disgusted by their decision. Instead, he had focused his energies at taking over the Black family estate and investments. He had made many changes and had nearly doubled the vast wealth. Added to that, Narcissa had received half the Malfoy fortune after her divorce and she allowed Sirius to handle it as well.
"What about afterwards?" asked Narcissa. "Shall I wait for you?"
Sirius forced himself to stifle his frustration. "No, don't," he said. "I intend to visit Andy and see how Harry is doing." He returned to his paperwork and missed the jealous expression on his cousin's face.
An hour later, Sirius was walking towards the office of the Head Auror. He knocked twice and waited. "Come in," Moody's voice bellowed from inside. "Black," he greeted when Sirius stepped in.
"Alastor, I have everything ready," Sirius said. "The Black Estate will contribute a hundred thousand galleons to your campaign fund. Will that suffice?"
"Against Fudge?" Moody muttered. "I don't know. He has managed to worm his way through the arses of many purebloods. He cuts a very moderate and bureaucratic figure, whereas I am a broken relic of the last war. Sometimes, I wonder if I should just retire from public service."
"But you'll make a much better Minister than that blundering fool!" Sirius argued. "But why are you even considering Fudge as your prime competitor? What about Bagnold and Crouch? And Dumbledore, isn't he running for something as well?"
"Bagnold is history," Moody shrugged her off. "Her woeful handling of the reconstruction is a guarantee of her failure in the upcoming elections. And Crouch… well, this is confidential so keep mum about it. Crouch's son was incriminated in an attack on Longbottom Manor. Alice was tortured to insanity. Fortunately, my men arrived in time to save Frank and his son."
"What?" Sirius paled. "When did this happen?"
"Two weeks ago. The Lestranges and Barty Crouch Jr. had a harebrained plot to resurrect the Dark Lord by killing the Longbottom boy. Longbottom wanted it kept quiet. That is why the Prophet hasn't heard a word about it." Moody looked inquisitively at Sirius. "I take it you have lost touch with Longbottom?" He sighed. "The Wizengamot sat a few days ago in a closed session. Longbottom wanted the four to be executed immediately but the Dumbledorean faction -"
Sirius spat disgustedly.
"According to them, as long as there is a possibility for Alice Longbottom to regain her mind, however small, capital punishment is not justified. They were given twenty years in Azkaban."
Sirius chuckled mirthlessly. "Fools, all of them. I wish Frank had told me. I would have come to give him support."
"That man is a walking moral dilemma," Moody said exasperatedly. "I swear on my father's grave that he was more distressed that the Dumbledoreans chose his personal case to push forward their anti capital punishment agenda than with the outcome itself."
"The man doesn't have a vindictive bone in him," Sirius agreed. He frowned. "What is your true reason for calling me tonight?"
Moody chuckled. "Sharp, as ever. I have heard rumours that Diggle is going to step down as Chief Warlock within the year. You weren't present the day she got elected. It was a narrow thing between her, Dumbledore and Crouch. With Crouch out of the picture…"
Sirius groaned. "I don't want to enter politics again. Last time was a disaster."
Moody nodded gravely. "Had Frank not restrained you from cursing Snape, you'd be in Azkaban right now."
Sirius' eyes blazed, as they always did when anyone mentioned Snape.
"I daresay he got off lighter than he ought to," Moody continued, waving his hand dismissively, "but that's politics, son. You win some. You lose some. The trick is to pick your battles so that you win the ones that are most important." He paused. "Me becoming Minister of Magic is not the most important one."
Sirius frowned. "Then what is?"
"Frank Longbottom becoming Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot."
"The man lost his wife, Moody," Sirius said sharply. "Give him some time to mourn."
"We don't have time, Black," Moody roared. "The Nation is going to the dogs. If it isn't corruption, then it's foolish Dumbledorean antiquities. The man's got people talking about magic in light and dark terms again. He's dragging the Nation back to the medieval times. His supporters - Weasleys, Diggorys, Patils, Bells, Woods and your old pal Lupin - they are very vociferous about the light-dark polarity. We can't have him as Chief Warlock."
Sirius sighed. "What do you want me to do? I am only one vote. I have tried my best to cry out in the dark night but nobody joined me last time. Why should now be any different?"
Moody smiled ruefully. "Because this time the stakes have changed. You aren't as emotionally involved as you were earlier. I am fully confident in your abilities to ensure that Frank Longbottom is elected as Chief Warlock."
Sirius frowned. "What are you trying to imply?"
Moody shrugged. "You're a Black. Whether you like it or not, handling people is in your blood."
Sirius let it pass. Then, he suddenly said, "Have you heard any strange rumours concerning goblins?"
Moody became wary. "Some. What have you heard?"
Sirius shrugged. "Not much," he said. "There's some unrest in Gringotts. Do you think they're thinking of it again?"
"I hope not," Moody sighed. "We simply aren't ready to face another goblin rebellion. One of my first requests as Head Auror a decade ago was for a fully-trained and functional magical army. But Dumbledore shot it down instantly. He didn't want the magical world to be armed."
Sirius narrowed his eyes. "Moody, if there is even the slightest of possibility of the goblins, or for that matter any serious threat, we cannot have Fudge in office." He suddenly got a glint in his eyes. "Now, that is something any fool will realize."
"Black, what are you planning?" Moody asked. Then, he hesitated. "No, don't tell me. Just don't do anything we'll all regret."
Sirius grinned darkly as he walked to the fireplace. "21 Baker Street," he spoke out clearly. "Tonks Residence." He entered a well-furnished but small and quiet living room, which immediately came alive at his presence.
"Cousin Sirius!" a young girl jumped at him.
"Ha ha. You're getting big, Little Nymphie. Did you like the new dress I bought for you," Sirius whirled his cousin around in a circle. He looked around. "What's Harry up to?"
"Harry's in the study," Nymphadora said. "He's trying to read some of the harder books. I told him to stick to the Ladybird books mum got him but he finishes them too fast."
Sirius grinned. "He gets that from his mother," he explained. "I swear Lily finished reading the entire Hogwarts Library by her fourth year. Do you mind running along and fetching him here? I don't have much time."
Sirius sat down and waited for his godson to come to his presence. He spent altogether too little time with Harry, he knew, but there was no lacking of affection between the two. He stood up again when the four year old boy walked to him. "Hello Harry," said Sirius. "How are you doing, sport?"
"Uncle," Harry greeted Sirius with a wide smile. "I finished reading The Three Musketeers."
"Did you like it?"
Harry nodded. He hesitated.
Sirius chuckled. "Now which one do you want, kid?"
"It's by the same writer," Harry said. "The Count of… The Count of…"
"Monte Cristo," Sirius finished for him. He nodded. "There is an unabridged translation from the French version in Grimmauld Place. I'll have it sent to you through Kreacher. Let's see how you handle a tough book."
Harry's smile widened.
"You know you're welcome to come over at any time," said Sirius. "Both you and Nymphie. The Black library has many books you'd enjoy reading." Harry's smile dimmed slightly. "I know Cousin Draco is a bit loud and hyperactive…"
"He's annoying," said Harry petulantly.
Sirius was momentarily irritated but he pushed it back. "You're both different, Harry. Your maturity is unusual for your age. Your cousin Draco acts quite like someone of his age. You shouldn't dismiss his friendship like this."
"Sorry," said Harry, looking down unhappily.
"Come here," said Sirius, giving the boy a hug. "I have to leave now. There's a lot of work to be done." He saw the curiosity in the boy's face and shrugged. "One of your parents' old friend was hurt by bad people. I'll give him and his son some support." He sighed. "And try to convince him to put aside his grief and run for Chief Warlock."
"Why?" asked Harry curiously.
Sirius smiled. He didn't think the boy was understanding anything but wanted to be part of something important. "The Nation needs good men like him. Frank Longbottom must become Chief Warlock, if only to stop Dumbledore from becoming Chief Warlock." He stood up and spoke more to himself than to the boy. "And that isn't the only thing that the Nation requires. Moody must become Minister of Magic and establish a magical army to be prepared in case of a goblin rebellion."
"But why would the goblins rebel when they already have all our gold?" asked Harry curiously.
Sirius froze. "Merlin's Beard. You are correct. That is yet another thing the Nation needs to do - to remove the monopoly of the goblins on our economy." He walked towards the fireplace. "I must get started immediately. Make sure you eat your greens and get some exercise daily, little scholar."
"Oyez, oyez, oyez," the clerk cried out. "The Wizengamot is now in session. Chief Warlock Diggle is in our presence."
Six months had passed since Sirius' last meeting with Moody and much had happened in the meantime. The Wizengamot session had several major issues to deliberate on, including the election of a new Chief Warlock. Sirius was sitting next to Moody. Frank Longbottom was sitting a few places in front of him. Dumbledore was right in the front centre of the assembly, clearly with an intention to make his presence felt.
Moody nudged Sirius. "Your intend to stay in the background?"
Sirius nodded. "I thought it best to distance myself from Frank for this session. He must be seen as the most suitable candidate even by the staunchest of Dumbledoreans."
"Order. The issues in question today are of great importance," said Diggle. "I will first lay down these issues before the assembly. I will then accept nominations of candidates for the position of Chief Warlock. Each candidate will speak their views on the opinion and a vote will be made. Warlock Black, I am pleased to see you in attendance as the first and most vital matter concerns you."
Sirius nodded and stood up. "I will hold myself accountable to the Wizengamot."
"You have acted rashly and without foresight. Your actions have brought the goblins to threaten violence," Diggle began harshly. "The finely-balanced peace between our two races is now damaged. What do you have to say for yourself?"
Sirius cleared his throat. "The goblins have long enjoyed monopoly over our economy. As the sole bank operating in the magical world, the power of Gringotts in effect exceeded even that of the Ministry of Magic. By opening Black Capital, I have acted within the law and given the people a second option in banking services. What are the goblins afraid of that they are threatening violence? Lack of control over the hard-earned wealth of honest wizards? Lack of influence over the Ministry? I say, it is a good thing to root out such ambitions and aspirations from them at our advantage."
"You fool," an old wizard stood up. "The goblins have guarded our vaults for five hundred years. In that time, they haven't wanted to do more than mining for more gold and digging their tunnels. Why must you young fools always tickle the sleeping dragon?"
"Warlock Slughorn, please return to your seat," said Diggle tiredly. "The time for debate and discussion will come later and in the presence of a new Chief Warlock. Continue, Warlock Black."
"The magical world of Britain is blind to what's happening around it," said Black. "We allowed a Dark Lord to rise. We haven't benefited from the technology of muggles. We have allowed goblins, our traditional enemies, full monopoly over our economy. By opening a new bank, I have done nothing wrong or illegal. The fact that the goblins are threatening violence over such a minor thing is a warning sign to us - we should remove the blinds from our eyes and see the threat they pose." He paused. "May I request the Wizengamot to give a show of hands. How many of you would rather keep your gold in a bank run by wizards?"
Sirius paused. He waited several seconds and then smiled. The plan had worked. The sheer number of hands that were raised threw his critics in a quandary.
"Why is that?" Sirius asked out loud. "Could it be that even after five hundred years of peace, wizards still don't trust goblins? Then what makes you believe the goblins trust us? See how they threaten violence just because someone has opened a bank. What then would they do if one among us had committed an actual wrong against their people, even by accident? I beseech the Wizengamot to look at the bigger picture. I haven't broken any laws. I have exercised my right to practice a trade of my choice. I am giving new options to wizards to protect their gold. The goblin threat is unlawful, excessive and insulting to wizard kind."
Sirius nodded at the Chief Warlock and returned to his seat. Moody nodded approvingly at him.
"The second issue in question is Head Auror Moody's request to train and equip a much larger number of Aurors to be held as a reserve force for extraordinary threats faced by the Nation." Diggle paused to rub her forehead. It was clear that she was against the motion. "He cites the threat of goblins being a real one and says it would be foolish of us to not act in a timely manner."
"The third issue is brought forward by Albus Dumbledore concerning Dementors. The Headmaster of Hogwarts wishes Dementors to be removed from Azkaban," said Diggle approvingly. "He says the light should not align itself with such fell creatures. The control of the prison should move to the Aurors instead."
"The final issue is my favourite and it will be dealt with first," said Diggle with a sigh of relief. "I will preside over the election of a new Chief Warlock. My health is failing and my nephew Dedalus will take my seat from the next session of the Wizengamot. It will be the responsibility of the new Chief Warlock to deal with the other issues of the day."
Moody grunted. "I hope you have something planned, lad. Everyone expects this to be a landslide victory for Dumbledore."
Just then a man stood up. "I nominate Warlock Dumbledore."
"I second the nomination," said a red haired man.
Moody whispered to Sirius, "Amos Diggory and Arthur Weasley are firm Dumbledoreans."
Sirius nodded but kept his attention fixed on Dumbledore, as he stood up to face the assembly.
"Thank you, Amos. Thank you, Arthur," he began calmly. "I will endeavour my best to resolve the current situations faced by our Nation in a timely and peaceful manner. War and violence is never an option and I will not sanction the Ministry to establish an army. If elected, I will most definitely use my veto to stop such a grave misjudgement. There will be no recourse to public funds for violence." He paused and looked sadly at Sirius. "The goblins need to be appeased in order to restore the peace between our races. I will establish channels of communication and reach an agreement that will recompense them for our errors. Sirius hasn't broken any law but he has committed a major wrong to a people long discriminated against by wizard kind. I will not allow this wrong to continue. The goblins have taken care of our gold with honour. To say otherwise is to disrespect them. To allow another bank to thrive is an insult to their honour. I will not let that continue." He paused again. "There are some of you who would feel safer with your gold in the hands of wizards. Let me remind you that Azkaban is full of criminals and not a single one of them is a goblin. They are all witches and wizards. Let me remind you that Lord Voldemort was a wizard, not a goblin. Let me remind you that Gellert Grindelwald was a wizard, not a goblin. And finally, let me remind you that Salazar Slytherin was also a wizard, not a goblin."
Dumbledore took a deep breath and paused for several seconds.
"He's got them," muttered Moody regretfully. "You can literally hear them give up their own freewill and let the Headmaster do their thinking."
"Shh," said Sirius.
"Yet another issue of concern is the continued role we allow a creature of malice and hate play in our society," said Dumbledore sadly. "I speak of Dementors. A creature that breeds in fear and pain… how can we join hands with them? However, that is not an urgent matter and requires more deliberation. If I am elected Chief Warlock, I will put my hundred and fifty years of experience and knowledge of human nature and serve the institution to my best capability."
There was a thunderous applause for the old wizard as he bowed and returned to his seat. The applause didn't seem to end for some time. Finally, when it ended, Diggle spoke again. "Are there any more nominations?"
"There is," someone spoke from right behind Dumbledore. "I nominate Sirius Black. Dumbledore's experience is all very good. But we need someone young who can lead us through this troubled time with an eye on the future, not the past. Who better than the man who defeated the Dark Lord to lead us?"
"I agree," said another man. "I second the nomination."
Moody frowned. "Black, is this your doing?"
"Of course," muttered Sirius. "Keep your hair on. I need you to speak in my support. Believe me, there is a plan. Do it now."
Moody stood up. "Sirius Black worked as an Auror under me until the end of the Purity War. He is a resourceful and clever man, willing to work tirelessly to achieve his goals. He has shown himself more than capable in handling responsibility. The success of Black Enterprises is a prime example. I heartily recommend him." He sat down. Immediately, there was a buzz of whispers around the floor. Moody turned to Sirius. "I hope you know what you're doing. The Dumbledoreans will never accept you."
"How can we allow this headstrong upstart to such a position?" Warlock Slughorn stood up again. "He is a warmonger and a troublemaker. I call forth on anyone and everyone who owes me a favour. I ask you to vote for anyone but Warlock Black."
There was another uproar.
"Just who is that man?" asked Moody furiously.
"Oh, that's Horace Slughorn. Tried to teach me potions in Hogwarts but gave up eventually," Sirius replied back. "Charming old codger, don't you think? Makes a wonderful drinking buddy… of course, only if you supply the drinks, that is."
"Merlin's Hairy Arse!" Moody cursed quietly. "He's in your pay?"
Sirius grinned cheekily. "Just neutralizing the Dumbledore-effect. I want people to feel they are being coerced into voting for Dumbledore."
Slughorn wasn't finished. "This man killed You Know Who, I grant you, and that makes him a great warrior. But what makes him a good politician? I tell you, this is only the second time he has stepped foot in this hallowed institution of our forefathers. Nay, I believe the Wizengamot is better off to be in the hands of someone entrenched in the past and willing to stick to things as they used to be. Dumbledore!" he cheered.
"Perhaps Warlock Slughorn has had a drink too many, if he believes sticking to the past is the best way to move to the future," someone jeered.
Slughorn glared but sat down. "Mark my words, Mundungus Fletcher. Albus Dumbledore was my colleague and I know him better than many here. He is fully capable of brokering peace with the goblins and make them forgive the shameful act of this upstart. Albus Dumbledore will not fail. Why, to even consider that is ridiculous. For those who want to restore peace with goblins, vote for Albus Dumbledore."
Mundungus stood up. "But what if the goblins aren't as easy-queasy as you believe them to be? What if them beasties do not care for Albus Dumbledore's honour? What then, Sir Slughorn? Whom will you have us lead through the war? A schoolmaster or the man who defeated the Dark Lord? I support Black."
"Dung Fletcher's in my pay too," said Sirius quietly.
"What are you playing at, Black?" Moody whispered, but Sirius ignored him. Instead, he stood up to face the Wizengamot.
"Thank you, Warlock Fletcher. I believe it is my turn to speak." Sirius walked to the front. "Warlocks of the Wizengamot. I feel myself at strange crossroads. Unlike what Warlock Slughorn suggests, I do care deeply for the Nation. Therefore, seeing this inopportune rift among us, I will step aside if there is another nomination in my stead for one who also cares for the Nation deeply and is willing to consider both peaceful and aggressive options. I came here fully willing to support Albus Dumbledore but his words have shocked me. I find it astonishing and insulting that Albus Dumbledore has already decided to exercise a veto which he hasn't yet earned. Is this a herald of how Chief Warlock Dumbledore's tenure will be? A draconian enforcement of peace and appeasement of our enemies?" He paused for effect. "Nay. I will not stand aside unless someone else comes forward, willing to consider all options and hold the vote to the assembly."
Moody took a deep breath and was about to stand up but he caught Sirius' eye and remained sitting.
"Is there no one amongst us capable of considering peaceful options while preparing for the worst possibilities?" asked Sirius curiously. "Perhaps Dumbledore is correct and the goblins are more honourable than wizards, including everyone present here. But I am sure there must be someone as honourable, if not more, than most goblins."
Moody stifled a chuckle when he saw the outrage in everyone's face at Sirius' interpretation of Dumbledore's speech.
"Warlock Slughorn," asked Sirius. "Are you more honourable than a goblin?"
"Of course, I am," yelled Slughorn back indignantly. "What manner of question is that?"
"Then will you stand for Chief Warlock?" asked Sirius curiously. "If you take my position here and swear to consider all options in dealing with this threat, I will gladly step aside and yield my vote to you, despite your clear dislike of me personally."
Slughorn gasped. He blinked a few times. "That is mighty noble of you, Warlock Black. I - Unfortunately, I must decline the offer." He sat down. Then he stood up again. "However, I have a nomination of my own. Frank Longbottom is well known to everyone here as a man of irreproachable honour. I nominate him for the position of Chief Warlock. Will you step aside, Warlock Black, if Frank Longbottom runs for election?"
Sirius grinned. "Certainly. In fact, I second the nomination," he said and walked back to his seat.
"Well played, mate," Moody welcomed him back.
Frank Longbottom was stunned, to say the least. After several seconds of silence, he stood up. He looked at Sirius with an unreadable expression and then turned to Dumbledore. "I -" he began and paused for a moment. He turned to Chief Warlock Diggle. "That seat there is the highest decision-making authority in this Nation. For someone who sits there with a prejudiced mind is fundamentally wrong. A Chief Warlock's prime responsibility is to listen to all sides and make the fairest decision in the light of all evidence and arguments. The fact that a Chief Warlock might personally have other ideals, even if it is for the greater good, is a moot point in a democracy. I - I find myself disappointed by Warlock Dumbledore's speech. For far too long, a mockery has been made of this institution." He glared at Sirius. "Warlock Dumbledore has strong ideals. He cares for the Nation, of that I am sure. The same can be said of Warlock Black. But the Nation will decide what is best for itself by a collective vote from us representatives, and not by the choices of one man alone." He hesitated. "I - I do not know if a magical army is the best way forward. I do not know what contingencies are available if Dementors are to be sent through the Veil for the security of Azkaban. I do not know if shutting down Warlock Black's bank is for the good of the Nation. But I am willing to hear them argue and let the Nation's representatives decide." He paused and abruptly sat down. For a second there was silence and then a thunderous applause rose through the halls.
Moody sighed in relief. "That's half the battle done," said he. "Now we must hope we get enough votes -"
"It is ours," said Sirius nonchalantly. "Convincing Frank to accept the nomination wasn't half the battle, Moody, it was the only battle. Slughorn painted Dumbledore as a relic of the past. I twisted his words as an insult to pureblood honour. Frank revealed the prejudicial nature of Dumbledorean philosophy. Dumbledore cannot win."
"Stranger things have happened in elections in the past," Moody muttered.
Sirius sighed. "Very well. I admit it, Slughorn and Dung weren't the only people in my pay. I have a third of the assembly in my pocket. The firmest Dumbledoreans will not be swayed but the neutrals… Merlin, did you hear Frank's speech? We have it, Moody, we have the damned vote."
Moody cursed silently for several seconds. After finishing, he turned to Sirius and muttered, "Looks like I wasn't wrong about you after all, lad. Now, about my campaign for Minister of Magic…"
~ End of Part 1 ~