Author's Note:

I know this is a long overdue update, and I apologise for it. No excuses other than a general lack of time and the lack of a disciplined mind and a lady friend who requires high maintenance. Please review, so I know people are still reading this and want me to continue. Concerning my other stories, an update on Rise of a Dark Prince is on the agenda.

To clarify a misunderstanding about this story: it isn't a HarryGinny, although the dynamics between them were necessary, but again, romance isn't at all important here.

Part 5 – Triumph

The mood in the Dictator's chambers was grim. Sirius Black stared silently at the roaring flames of the fire in front of him. He was accompanied by some of his most trusted people. Remus Lupin had been the bringer of the bad news.

"Are you absolutely certain this is not some trick to make the Dictator break his word?" asked Bill Weasley. There was little love lost between General Weasley of the Owl Legion and General Lupin of the Dragon Legion. Both were of completely different temperaments and personalities.

Remus shook his head. "I wish it were so," he said. "My source is reliable. She got it straight from the mouth of Amos Diggory's son, Lieutenant Cedric Diggory of the Scorpion Legion, after seducing him. Diggory was a weakness for attractive women."

"So, the Chief Warlock is mobilising an army in Cornwall to march against the Dictator," said Nymphadora glumly. She and Ginny, as fully trained Aurors, had been retained as the Dictator's personal civilian guard in places where his Legion should not politically be seen. "This means war once again. But why would Frank Longbottom do such a thing? The year and the Dictator's term is nearly over."

Sirius turned his head to face her. Anybody who would have responded to the young Auror lapsed into silence to permit the Dictator to speak. He looked at the group. Bill Weasley was leaning against the wall; his posture indicated he was exercising great patience to wait out the meeting and rush to marshal his Legion. Remus Lupin looked weary, perhaps more weary than the Dictator himself, and he appeared eager to work out a peaceful solution. Nymphadora and Ginny sat defensively near him, and Sirius trusted them with his life. Others in the chambers included Jones, Travers and Singh, lieutenants of the three Legions that were represented there, and a man who sat in the shadows quietly.

"Frank Longbottom has fallen prey to an affliction suffered by many who strive against tyranny," said Sirius Black. "They often become what they fight against – lusting after power. He has convinced himself that my call for a limited tenure of a Chief Warlock is against the best interests of the Nation and thereby he has justified a war in his own mind to restore himself to full power. Men willingly believe what they wish."

"He is a fool," muttered Bill. Louder, he said, "If it pleases you, General Black, I will leave now and have my men put up anti-travel and anti-communication wards to restrict the enemy."

Sirius nodded. "Yes, do that at once. Keep a secure channel open to France until Julian departs," he said. Bill nodded at Singh, and the two of them left. Sirius turned to Remus. "Marshal the Dragon," he said. "Take your Legion to our meeting point in Cornwall and wait for further orders."

Remus nodded. He left with Travers.

Sirius paused for a moment. He looked at the people who were left – Hestia Jones, Nymphadora Black, Ginny Weasley and Julian Delacour, and sighed. "Marshal the Eagle, Hestia, including those companies that are recruiting in Europe," said Sirius. "Take everyone to lay a siege on Hogwarts."

Nymphadora gasped in shock. "What?"

"Frank Longbottom has many talents but such swift decisiveness is not one of them," said Sirius. "He would not have moved without Dumbledore's backing. I expect them to launch a small front in Cornwall to get us to move our forces there and then capture the main strongholds in the country while we are there. Majority of the honourable Griffin, Scorpion and Chimera Legions are most likely camping in the grounds of Hogwarts."

"But, that means – that means, you think General Lupin is aiding them!" Nymphadora cried out in shock and betrayal.

"I do not know for certain," said Sirius. "He may be. Or he may have been outplayed by Cedric Diggory. Diggory may have a weakness for women but he is a very capable man. I do not trust the information we have received in this manner." He turned to Hestia and nodded. "Keep a veil over the Legion. When battle starts in Cornwall, if my understanding is correct, their main force will trickle out of Hogwarts and break our anti-travelling wards and then take over the country. Ambush them then."

"What level of force are we authorized to use?" asked Hestia.

"Start out by disarming and stunning." Sirius turned to the fire again. "Once they throw a lethal curse, show no mercy."

Hestia left.

"I wish it weren't so," Ginny said glumly. "Now, Bill will fight against Ron and Draco again."

Sirius turned to her tenderly. "Such are the unfortunate consequences of a civil war, child. But I will take no blame this time. I wanted peace. They have brought war to me." He turned to Julian. "Our plans are delayed again, my friend. We have done well with London. The beautiful city is now a model for magic and muggle technology working together. But we must tarry until the situation is more stable before moving on."

"Pity," said Julian. He stood up. "I should depart then. Shall I take any message for your godson?"

Sirius smiled at the mention of his godson Harry. "Just that I trust he is spending as much time with his studies as in the arms of young Gabrielle."

Julian grinned. "Few have ever succeeded in convincing young people to follow their brains and not their heart."

"Just one more," Harry begged. His voice was strangely shrill and his eyes were dazed. He tried to reach forward and grab another glass on the table but his hand was slapped aside.

"Look what you've done, Wood!" Marcus Flint chided. "You've got General Black's godson drunk!"

Oliver Wood was flustered. "But – but he's only had two glasses of wine!" he argued. Then, suddenly it dawned on him. He turned to Flint accusingly. "You spiked the drink!"

Flint looked at his fellow Eagle, Oliver Wood, and Viktor Krum with feigned innocence. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said with a dignified huff. But he was glared down by the other. "Fine, just a drop or two of firewhisky. The important thing now is to sneak him back in without waking up the Delacours."

"That will be hard," said Viktor. "Mrs Delacour usually waits for us to return when we go out for a drink. And we have to first retrieve Marius from Lavinia's place."

Before further plans could be made, both Oliver and Marcus jumped out of their seats. They removed identical figurines of a tiny eagle from within their robes and held it firmly in their hands.

Viktor correctly perceived something was wrong. He held Harry back while he tried to reach for Oliver's drink again.

"Shit!" Marcus cursed. "The Legion is being moved." He looked anxiously at Oliver. "I will go to the camp and get ready. You gather those who are out tonight."

Oliver nodded. He looked at Harry with concern. "What about Harry?" he asked.

"I will take him home," Viktor said. "I wish you luck in whatever battle you go to."

"Wait." Harry shook his head. He slapped his forehead. He called a server. "Water for everyone." He turned to the two soldiers. "What's happening?"

"Longbottom is moving the Griffin, the Scorpion and the Chimera against General Black. It's a civil war," said Oliver grimly. "Once again."

Harry shook his head as he took a sip of the water that Viktor had hurriedly brought. "The old civil war had never truly finished." He closed his eyes. "Frank Longbottom's new offensive comes at a very bad time for the people. This will severely delay reconstruction. Longbottom isn't a fool, he knows he will alienate the common people – muggles and wizards alike – with this move and lose his credibility. Why would he do something like this? What are we missing here?"

There was silence.

"There must be something that makes Longbottom sure that he will regain popularity after the war. Something…" Harry lapsed into a thoughtful silence. "Or someone." He turned to Oliver Wood. "I suppose you aren't at liberty to tell me exactly where you are heading to?" Harry enquired, but the two eagles remained impassive. He banged his hand on the table. "Your silence answers it. Tell my uncle to take into account the centaurs in the forest. They are sworn to fight in defence of Hogwarts castle."

Oliver gasped. "How did you know we are going to Hogwarts?" he asked quietly.

"It is the only thing that makes sense," said Harry.

"This is a ridiculous enterprise," Viktor commented.

Harry looked at him curiously. Viktor's area of research and expertise was warfare and the optimal use of magic to win battles.

"Nobody can break the wards of Hogwarts from outside," said Viktor. "The moment Dictator Black's Legions are revealed the enemy will retreat within the wards and slowly bleed the Dictator's forces dry."

"There are secret ways in," said Harry. "But I believe Dumbledore knows them all. What would you do if you were one of my uncle's generals?"

Viktor looked from Harry to Oliver and Marcus. "How many of your Legion can you round up here?"

Oliver shrugged. "A hundred," he said. "Slightly more if we take some of the new recruits."

Viktor nodded. He turned to Harry. "I would take these hundred and enter through a submarine vessel from the lake in Hogwarts. Perhaps, the old wizard has not extended the wards to cover the channel to Durmstrang through the lake as yet. With these men, I would create havoc inside the wards and force them out."

"To the rest of the Eagle." Harry nodded. "Oliver, Marcus," he said seriously. "Take Viktor with you and do as he says." He saw the two open their mouths to protest. "The choice is yours, of course, gentlemen. You can spend the rest of the night trying to break through the enemy's anti-travel wards and be completely useless to the Eagle. Or," he leaned closer. "You can hand them victory in a silver platter."

"Choice, he says," grumbled Marcus. "General Black will have us whipped for this insubordination."

"Only if we fail," replied Oliver. There was a gleam of anticipation on his face. "He values results more than blind obedience."

Harry stood up. "Viktor, I guess you will want to go with them? Take care of yourself, my friend. I don't need to tell you to send an envoy with a white flag to the centaurs and tell them that the Eagle means no harm to any of the usual inhabitants of the castle. They only fight against the armies that are temporarily hiding within the wards and not inhabitants of the castle."

"What about Dumbledore?" asked Viktor. "He will be the hardest foe."

Harry paused to consider. "Albus Dumbledore is many things but he will never compromise the safety of any student in Hogwarts. You will need to find a suitable hostage sufficiently early to neutralize Albus Dumbledore. Stay near Gryffindor tower, the students of that house are the most likely to enter into battle."

Viktor nodded. Without another word, he followed after the two older and grim looking veterans.

Harry waited for a minute while the others left. Then, he sighed. "Typical," he muttered, realizing that once again the soldiers had left him in charge of settling the bill. He reached for his coin bag.

The Dictator was astonished. He hadn't expected battle to start until dawn, at the very earliest, but urgent messages from Hestia had made him rush to Hogwarts. He had been preparing for the worst outcome, but what he saw astonished him.

The Eagle was cheering triumphantly in the night. Hundreds and hundreds of wizards and witches with various insignias of a griffin, a chimera or a scorpion were disarmed and tied. The enemy generals were in the middle, securely being watched by some of his loyal eagles. He recognized Draco being amongst them.

"At least, he is alive," Nymphadora whispered to Ginny, and Sirius stifled his annoyance. The two were professional Aurors, they should know better than to show emotions.

"What happened here?" Sirius asked Hestia when she joined him.

"I am not entirely sure myself," Hestia admitted. "About two hours ago, one of Oliver Wood's men came from within Hogwarts, warning us to prepare for an ambush."

"Isn't Wood stationed in Europe?"

Hestia nodded. "At first I expected trickery or treachery of some sort, but the man said their company infiltrated Hogwarts through the lake."

"Hmm. So, Dumbledore left the lake open to access from other schools in Europe in case the students there needed sanctuary. So, you ambushed them?"

Hestia nodded. "The enemy camp was in chaos, they charged out of Hogwarts, thinking they were being betrayed or something. Right into our ambush."

Sirius smiled. "What's the final status now?"

"We lost four from the Eagle and three from the Owl," said Hestia. "The enemy suffered more than ten times the loss, including Amos Diggory. Amongst their officers, we have captured Rufus Scrimgeour, Cedric Diggory and Draco - Malfoy."

Sirius raised an eyebrow at the use of the name 'Malfoy' instead of 'Black'.

"When asked to identify himself, he gave that name," Hestia said.

Sirius nodded with a stony expression. He saw Bill Weasley walk towards him with a wide grin on his face.

"Dictator, your timing couldn't be more perfect," Bill greeted. "We have received a message from Dumbledore. Hogwarts is surrendering. My men are moving in."

Sirius raised an eyebrow. "Hogwarts is surrendering," he repeated to himself. "But I have no battle with Hogwarts. My battle is with Frank Longbottom. What of Longbottom and the other treacherous crows?"

"Let us go and find out," said Bill, gesturing towards the mighty castle in front of them.

Sirius nodded. "Hestia, stay here and bring things under control. We may yet need to fight tonight." He turned towards his nephew Draco, where Ginny was kneeling by his side and checking his injuries. "Bill," said Sirius tightly. "Ginny Weasley and Draco Malfoy's betrothal has become undesirable. We must discuss on this matter later."

Bill nodded gravely. "I trust you will show considerably less generosity to those who have betrayed you again, Dictator."

Sirius didn't say anything. He walked towards the castle, ignoring his nephew and gesturing for Nymphadora and Ginny to follow him.

"Oh, my!" Nymphadora exclaimed when she saw the heaps of bodies around them. Most of them appeared to have been attacked from behind when defenceless.

Sirius ignored the judgmental glances from the two girls at the deeds committed by those who fought for him.

"This is war, Ginny," Bill, however, felt the need to justify it. His voice was bereft of all his usual arrogance and cheer. He sounded grave and sad. "People die."

"These people look like they never got the chance to defend themselves!" Ginny argued. "This wasn't a war. This was murder! This was a slaughter! Look at them – they were sleeping in their tents! Your men murdered them in cold blood."

Bill remained silent for a second. "You are wrong," he said quietly. "Those who fought here didn't kill in cold blood. They took this burden on their shoulders to save as many of their brothers and sisters waiting outside. This is war, Ginny, and the only thing one must keep in mind is to survive."

Ginny started to argue again but Sirius raised his hand. A group was walking towards them. Oliver Wood and Marcus Flint were leading the group. Albus Dumbledore, Bartemius Crouch and Dolores Umbridge were with them, each had at least two wands pointed at them.

They stopped in front of Sirius. The soldiers touched the eagle on their chest and raised their hand in salute.

"At ease," said Sirius.

"Albus Dumbledore has surrendered," said Oliver Wood. "He has sworn an oath to end all hostilities and provide no support or aid to any Legion whatsoever and declared Hogwarts a neutral ground."

"Neutral," repeated Sirius, as if testing the word in his mouth. "Hogwarts was neutral before it opened arms to my enemy. Now, Hogwarts is conquered."

"You would conquer a school of children?" asked Dumbledore.

"No," said Sirius. "I would conquer a castle where a powerful sorcerer sheltered an army of traitors and an ambitious former Chief Warlock. Where is Frank Longbottom? Let him come out so we may declare terms of his surrender once again."

There was silence from the other group. Finally, a voice from the back stepped forward and bowed. "Longbottom jumped from the Astronomy Tower after Dumbledore's surrender," said Viktor Krum, stepping into the light. "His body lies at the foot of the tower."

Sirius turned stiff. He couldn't hear what the others were saying and his feet carried him automatically towards the Astronomy Tower and he scanned the faces of the fallen until he recognized the features of his one-time friend. He knelt on the ground and closed his eyes.

"I should have you whipped." Sirius was sitting behind the desk in Dumbledore's old office. He had taken control of Hogwarts. His two Auror guards, Bill Weasley, Remus Lupin and Hestia Jones were present. In front of him, standing with heads lowered, were the orchestrators of their victory. "What part of my orders did you not understand? You were to break through the enemy wards and join the Eagle. Did you or did you not receive those orders?"

"We did," admitted Oliver Wood.

"And we would have followed them," said Marcus.

"You should have followed them," Sirius cut in. "Why did you not?"

Oliver and Marcus looked at each other and hesitated. "It was – I mean – we were moving – but – actually – the truth is – Harry said something about handing victory in a silver platter and -"

"Harry?" Sirius interrupted. "Harry Potter?" Both nodded. Sirius couldn't help keep his lips from twitching with amusement. "So, the sun in France hasn't weakened my godson's skill at strategy. Tell me from the beginning."

"Dictator, if I may," Viktor Krum spoke out. Sirius nodded. "I suppose you can say it all started when Wood and Flint decided to get Harry drunk while Marius Delacour was… busy with a feisty new recruit to the Eagle."

Sirius narrowed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. Before the explanation had finished, he had started laughing out loud. "As someone who has been a victim of Harry's logic, I fully sympathize with you two. There will be no punishment. Of course, I cannot publicly reward your insubordination either. So, you may return to France at your convenience until the good weather lasts, and I wouldn't be surprised if a small amount of gold from Black Capital mysteriously finds its way to your vaults and a mysterious turn of good fortune leading to a promotion at the next remotely useful thing done by you two."

The two men saluted and moved to leave.

"Viktor Krum, stay." Sirius waited until Oliver and Marcus had left. "You have shown great skill and courage. But was it necessary to use lethal force against those who were sleeping in their tents?"

"Yes," said Viktor simply. "Defeating the enemy's morale swiftly was vital. Otherwise, our small company of a hundred would have been completely annihilated by the army of thousands in front of us. My strategy led to victory with the loss of only two persons under Wood and Flint."

Sirius nodded. "You have skill," he said. "I am surprised you have not drafted into one of my Legions yet. I have plenty of your countrymen in the Eagle."

Viktor paused to think his answer. "Somebody has to watch Harry and Marius' backs while they are busy with Gabrielle and Lavinia."

Sirius grinned. "Very well," he said. "Will you take a message from me to my godson?" He handed an archaic scroll, folded and with a black ribbon, to Viktor, who took it with an air of surprise, as if he understood the importance of the scroll. "Thank you for all your help, Viktor Krum," Sirius dismissed Viktor.

"So," Bill chuckled. "This Harry Potter… he orders part of the Legion without having any right to do so, and gives us a swift and easy victory, while sitting all the time in the sunny beaches of France with veela maidens near him. I like his style."

Sirius noticed a sudden movement made by Ginny but she schooled her expression almost instantly.

"I don't think much of your amnesty agreement," said Bill. "Those crows will not stop scheming."

"I know," said Sirius. "In fact, I expect them to get a whole lot more vicious now that Frank Longbottom is no longer with them." He paused when he saw Remus frown. "You see it too then?"

Remus nodded. "Frank was not a man who would resort to suicide," he said.

"You mean, someone murdered the Chief Warlock?" Nymphadora was shocked.

"Perhaps," said Sirius. "There is no way of finding out." He turned to Bill. "I have no doubt that Crouch, Scrimgeour, Umbridge and Greengrass will now become more vicious in their efforts to get rid of me. But allowing those four to live is worth the price of gaining the respect and loyalty of the good witches and wizards of the Scorpion, the Chimera and the Griffin."

"I still say you are being too lenient," Bill protested. "Young Diggory and your nephew, I understand, they are young and impressionable. The others are serpents who will come back to bite you some day."

Sirius closed his eyes. "Leave me for now," he said. "I would like to rest for a while." He remained quiet and closed his eyes as Hestia, Remus and Bill left.

"We will wait outside," Nymphadora said quietly.

"No," Sirius opened his eyes. "I wish to speak to both of you." He looked at Ginny first. "I am sorry for the way your brother and I have treated you. You deserve better than to be pushed here and there into betrothals for the political expedience of old men."

Ginny didn't reply.

"You have every right to hate me," said Sirius. "But I want to know if I can trust you."

Ginny was surprised by the question. "Of course, you can," she said. "I don't hate you. Draco and I weren't really getting along very well. Who knows, Cedric and I might actually get along."

Sirius sighed.

"I understand my betrothal to Cedric is necessary to put a wedge between him and Draco," said Ginny. "But it will not affect my professional responsibilities at all. You can count on me, Dictator."

Sirius looked at her piercingly before giving a nod. He turned to Nymphadora.

"You don't have to ask," Nymphadora looked slightly affronted by the questioning glance. "You are family."

"I wish it were that simple," Sirius muttered darkly to himself. "My men have evidence of your aunt Narcissa joining Snape and Scrimgeour for private meetings also attended by Umbridge."

"What!" Nymphadora demanded.

"I need to be absolutely certain that I can count on the two of you in places where I cannot take my Legion," said Sirius piercingly.

"I will give an Unbreakable Vow, if you want," Nymphadora said dazedly. Next to her, Ginny nodded.

"That won't be necessary."

Albus Dumbledore leaned back on his chair, wishing he had handled things differently. He felt the loss of Frank Longbottom almost as sharply as Sirius Black had. Frank, despite his eventual fall from grace, had kept his faction and supporters in a leash, which was now broken. He feared what Scrimgeour, Crouch, Umbridge, Greengrass and their fellow conspirators would be willing to do now.

But he couldn't deny it. He had just returned from a brief trip to London and had seen the reconstruction that Sirius Black and Julian Delacour had engineered in the ancient city. The various wars had revealed the magical world to the muggles and the armies had neutralised muggle defensive capabilities, during Sirius Black's first reign as Dictator. The magical governments in Europe, for all practical purposes, were the sole governing authorities.

The improvements in London was spectacular, and even the muggles were showing tremendous support of General Black. The city was a spectacular work of magic and technology wrought together.

But the ends couldn't justify the means. Dumbledore was troubled by the amount of power held by Sirius Black. He was troubled by the ruthlessness with which he struck against his enemies. The Nation needed a legitimate democratic government. And that was why he had sided with Frank Longbottom when he moved against Sirius Black. That had been a mistake.

He was so engrossed in his musings that he didn't even realise the entrance of his Deputy.

"There's another one, Albus," said Minerva McGonagall grimly.

Dumbledore's face turned ashen. "Who?"

"Eva MacDougal," said McGonagall. "Fifth year, Ravenclaw. She's the third one to come forward."

Dumbledore's lips thinned.

"She recognised her attacker. She claims it was Rupert Bell, another one of Scrimgeour's men."

Dumbledore nodded grimly. "Is Poppy looking after her? See to it that she gets all the counselling she requires." He covered his face in his arms. Bringing an army into Hogwarts was a foolish decision. He had failed his students.

"Albus, this wasn't your fault…"

"I am grateful for your attempts to assuage my guilt, Minerva," said Dumbledore heavily. "But you are wrong. I am no longer fit to run Hogwarts."

McGonagall paled at the implication of his words. "Albus, don't even think about it. We need you now as we never have before. With everything going on, we need you to stay here in Hogwarts."

Dumbledore sighed. He looked away, unable to meet his Deputy's gaze. "That is what Frank told me. They needed me. They needed my support. The Nation needed me. They needed me to stand firmly against the Tyrant. Look what that has led to. Three students I had sworn to protect were raped by persons invited by myself and under my supervision."

McGonagall lowered her face.

"And I can hear your unstated fears that there might be more," said Dumbledore. "How can I look at the students in their faces from now, Minerva? How can I tell them that Hogwarts is no longer a safe haven that I promised them it was? That the biggest monster of Hogwarts is none other than Headmaster Dumbledore himself…"

"You are being unfair to yourself," said McGonagall.

"Snape," Dumbledore continued. "He is no longer welcome in the castle. I fear I have allowed yet another poisonous viper to grow teeth and venom in the sanctuary of Hogwarts."

"Then, it is your duty to make amends!" McGonagall exclaimed. "Not wallow in self-pity and despair…"

"And that is the whole point, Minerva!" Dumbledore exclaimed. "I see many problems in front of us but I have no solutions to them, nothing, I do not have a plan!"

"Then, who does?"

Dumbledore laughed wryly, recalling a similar conversation with Harry Potter. There was a dark undertone to it. "As far as I can see, the Tyrant is the only one with a plan to bring back peace, fight the Dread King as well as bring justice to these poor girls. Giving him the names of those who raped the girls will give him a license to move against Scrimgeour's men, something he sorely wants to do but cannot without alienating the other Legions not yet firmly behind him."

"Perhaps," McGonagall hesitated. "Perhaps…"

"I want to hear you say it out loud," said Dumbledore. "Perhaps, what?"

"You have tried aligning with Longbottom's faction and that led to disaster," said McGonagall slowly. "Perhaps, it is time to consider aligning with Sirius Black and hope for the best. I admit I haven't been one of his strongest supporters since the beginning, but as matters stand, I will put my lot with anyone who would punish the vile monsters who raped mere schoolchildren." She got up to leave. Before opening the door, she turned back and said sternly, "And so should you, Headmaster!"

Dumbledore watched her leave and remained still for several minutes. Finally, he picked up a quill and started writing. When he was finished, he made several copies of the parchment and turned to his phoenix. "I need you to make several deliveries, Fawkes. It is time I accept reality: the world is changing and we need Sirius Black to guide us through the transformation."

"The world is changing and we need to make sure it is free from Sirius Black's influence," said Bartemius Crouch. He was addressing a small group of his most trusted soldiers and other allies. He had the support of Rufus Scrimgeour. Draco Malfoy was there, increasingly disillusioned by his cousin, and with him, stood Ron Weasley in staunch support. A handful of other soldiers were present, representing the Griffin, Chimera and Scorpion Legions. Cedric Diggory stood mightily in one corner, silently grieving the death of his father.

Amongst his other allies, Umbridge, Greengrass and Snape were present. Narcissa Black stood silently behind her son, with her arm on his shoulder, almost as if giving him the courage to stay party to the proceedings. Percy Weasley was nodding approvingly at Ron's presence from time to time.

"It is a pity Frank is no longer here to lead us," said Crouch. "I am compelled, therefore, to take leadership of our cause into my own hands. Does anybody here have an objection?" He waited patiently while the people gathered exchanged glances with each other. Scrimgeour looked like he wanted to say something but kept his silence when Dolores Umbridge and Narcissa Black shook their heads at him.

"Very well," said Crouch. "We have tried everything against Black. We have tried reason and common-sense, we have tried lawful methods, we have tried open warfare. He has proven to be wily and rather difficult to corner. Moreover, he has aligned with those infernal goblins and keeps making a mockery of our magical heritage."

"Have you seen what he has done to London?" Umbridge screeched. "The muggles are making use of portkeys to travel! Magical healers are treating muggle patients! How dare he defile our magic by allowing such… unworthy creatures to make use of it! And that's not even -"

"Dolores," Crouch silenced her. "It is true that Sirius Black has broken the barriers of secrecy and brought a tentative peace with muggles. But what gives him the right to use Ministry funds for such purpose? He is a thief and a scoundrel."

"He is also a Dictator," Cedric Diggory pointed out.

Draco snarled at Cedric. "Perhaps, you'd rather be elsewhere, Diggory. Like in Black's camp with your new betrothed."

Cedric chuckled with amusement. "Are you jealous that I will soon be the one to take your beloved's maidenhood? That is, if she hasn't given it to Sirius Black or one of his Eagles already…"

Draco reached for his wand, but his mother restrained him. But Ron had also reached for his wand.

Crouch and Snape interfered, disarming the two youths before they could release the first curse. "Young Malfoy has a point," said Snape. "How do we know we can still trust you, Diggory? You are betrothed to one in the enemy camp."

Cedric looked away. His face had turned red. "Do you think that pushing a dainty young maiden in front of me will make me forget the face of my father just before he was murdered from behind?" He turned a furious face towards Snape. "You can trust me to spit on the corpse of Sirius Black."

Draco looked agitated. "I thought the plan was to depose a Tyrant legitimately, not resorting to cold-blooded murder…"

Crouch intervened again. "Diggory speaks for himself with anger that is righteous but not everyone feels the same way. Our plans are unchanged. We are here to depose a Tyrant and bring back the old order. Does anyone have suggestions on how to proceed?"

"We have to succeed in one single strike with finality and ruthlessness without giving Black an opportunity to retaliate," said Snape. "His men are busy in various tasks and our best bet lies in deposing him before he can round them up."

"True," Percy agreed. "But we must do it in a manner which reveals Black's true nature to the common people. They are his biggest strength right now, more so than the Legions. We have to destroy their love for him."

"People are like sheep," Umbridge sneered. "They can be easily led away from Black."

Crouch nodded in agreement. "Crudely put, Dolores, but not entirely inaccurate. If enough members of the old Wizengamot, representing all the various traditional factions, act together; then any act against Sirius Black will be seen as a united stand by the people's representatives against a Tyrant." He chanced a glance at Narcissa and Draco. "The presence of his own family in our midst will also go to lend credibility to our actions."

Draco stirred. "I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with the way you are making use of us in this, General. I have nothing against Sirius Black the person… it is only his status as a Dictator which is worrying."

Narcissa squeezed her son's shoulders. "You face a hard decision, son, to choose between one you have looked as a father and the good of the Nation. The childhood love you once had for him should not blind you to reality. I know and I have every faith that you will make the correct decision."

Draco was troubled.

"Oyez, oyez, oyez. The Wizengamot is in session and the most magnificent Sirius Black, Dictator of the Nation and General of the Eagle, will begin by addressing the assembly."

Sirius stood up from his seat at the middle of the front row. He walked to the front and walked towards the seat of the Chief Warlock, which most of the gathered Warlocks assumed he would be taking for himself.

He looked at the assembly. It was mostly a full house. All the great families were represented, although the faces were different. New faces, of sons, daughters, nephews and nieces of those who had been in the Wizengamot before the goblin wars had begun. So much had changed since then.

Sirius wondered how many of them were faithful to him and how many were plotting to get rid of him. No sooner had he taken the seat of the Chief Warlock that a loud murmur of whispers broke out. "Vultures," he whispered to his two Auror escorts Nymphadora and Ginny. Out loud, he said, "Warlocks of the Wizengamot: Your Dictator stands before you today to make good all promises. We have peace with the goblins; the Dread King is trapped in Azkaban; the civil war is over; we have peace with the muggles; we have begun redevelopment works unlike anything seen before. My dear Warlocks, we are at peace. At last."

There was a thunderous applause.

"What of your other promises, General Black." Amelia Bones' voice rose above the chorus of applause.

Sirius noted with interest that Crouch and his faction had joined in the applause. Only Amelia Bones, amongst his original peers who had conspired against him had dared to challenge him openly. He decided at that moment that Amelia Bones was one less threat to him. She was still in the Longbottom mould, looking for lawful methods to depose him, not with guile and secrecy.

"If I remember correctly, you also promised to oversee a return of democracy," said Amelia Bones, "and the election of a new Minister of Magic and Chief Warlock. But now, we find you sitting on the chief's seat yourself!"

Sirius smiled. "Only for the day, Amelia. I had promised to bring democracy to our system, not the old corrupt oligarchical ways. Therefore, as of today, all existing families with seats in the Wizengamot will form the House of Nobles, you are two hundred in number. Three hundred new seats will be formed, to be elected by the common people, called the House of Commons. Law-making authority will be divided between the two Houses but assent from the Commons will be essential for all Acts of the Wizengamot. The Chief Warlock of both Houses of the Wizengamot will be elected by simple majority from the House of Nobles. The Minister of Magic will likewise be chosen from the House of Commons." He waited for the chorus of outrage to subside before throwing the final bombshell. "Muggles, passing a basic knowledge test on magic, will be permitted to vote and contest for a seat in the Commons. This is my final act as your Dictator."

He stood up, ignoring the shouts and curses. To his surprise, more than a fair handful of Warlocks also stood up when he did. They all held identical golden scrolls in their hands. Scrolls that he had seen only once before in the office of the Headmaster of Hogwarts.

Dedalus Diggle, nephew of a former Chief Warlock, stood up and cleared his throat. What he lacked in influence and political power, he more than made up in general respect from the people. He was a stout pureblood with no extreme views on blood purity or muggle rights.

"Silence," someone cried out. "Silence. Let us hear Warlock Diggle."

When silence was attained, Diggle cleared his throat again. He bowed in front of Sirius. "Esteemed Father of our Nation, a few nights ago, I received a missive… now I can see that I wasn't the only one who received it. It is my wish to read out the contents of this missive to the assembly…" There was silence, and Diggle hurriedly unfolded the scroll and straightened himself, with the full knowledge of what an important task he was performing. The future of the Nation depended on it.

"When I was a young man, I defended our Nation. As an old man, I often fear I have abandoned it to the wolves and hyenas. I do not speak of goblins, nor do I speak of the Dread King. Indeed, I do not speak of Sirius Black, who despite bringing war and destruction to our Nation has also done everything in his capability to protect it. Nay, I speak of you, wretched Wizengamot! You are the rot that has festered in our society, allowing bigots and fanatics to wreak havoc to our gentle Nation."

There was a sudden chorus of outrage.

"I sit in my office and shed tears for the blood of my students that has been shed in these past few years. I shed tears for my students raped by soldiers in General Scrimgeour's Legion. And I also shed lonely tears for what I am about to ask of you… The Nation still needs Sirius Black at the helm. I, therefore, urge the Wizengamot to yield before him the title of Dictator in Perpetuity. Signed, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore."

Sirius Black was stunned. In the complete silence that surrounded him, he slowly scanned the faces of those before him. Many appeared troubled but were considering the words of the wise sorcerer in earnest. Some appeared resigned. A few looked rebellious. But then something unprecedented happened. The Dumbledoreans, who had received the missives, moved en masse to the side of the hall where his own supporters were gathered. And then, the Wizengamot went mad, applauding their new leader.

Sirius slowly raised his hand to acknowledge his new position of authority.