The restaurant The Fifth House was subtle, subdued and very, very expensive. Understated refinement and excellent food were its aims and it fulfilled them perfectly. Deferential waitresses, every one of them a witch, (squibs did not enter The Fifth House's world view), took orders with soft voices and welcoming smiles, supervised by an imperious head waiter with airs enough for a Malfoy.
The shout of outrage echoing through the cool atrium was not what was expected of The Fifth House.
Heads turned to stare.
"Sirius Black!" the witch roared.
Eyebrows raised as the clientele recognised Madam Bones as the irate witch. Heads turned in the direction of the notorious Lord Black to observe his reaction.
Lord Black, dining with an excessively beautiful companion nobody recognised, leaned back in his chair and raised one elegant eyebrow.
"Dear me," he drawled, "this has been a day for interruptions. Whatever has come over people?"
"Sirius Black," Madam Bones continued to barrel towards him. "What is this I hear about you refusing to let your godson attend Hogwarts?"
"All this fuss? For a common little muddyblood?"
"How dare you speak about him like that."
Lord Black removed a speck of dust from his immaculate dark grey silk robe. "As he is my charge," his voice was silkily with menace, "I shall speak of him however I wish."
Madam Bones made a visible effort to regain control of her temper.
"Be that as it may, he should attend Hogwarts. Surely you can see that? It's his birth-right."
"Why should I waste good galleons educating what is as near as damnit a squib?"
"Do not even try that Black, everybody knows the Potters left more than enough to send their son to Hogwarts."
"I feel it would be more to ward's advantage to husband his resources so that he will have support through what is bound to be an unproductive life."
Madam Bones snorted, appeared to be about to speak, then drew back. She screwed her monocle more tightly in place.
"Fine then," she said, "I will pay his school fees."
"Thank you for your generous offer but,"
"I said I will pay his school fees and he will attend Hogwarts. Think carefully Black, the Wizengamot is unlikely to look kindly on a guardian denying his ward an education."
Lord Black shrugged his shoulders and relaxed more deeply into his chair.
"Very well. I had hoped to save the boy the shame of making a fool of himself, but if you insist, I am sure we can reach an accommodation. Now kindly cease making a scene, Amelia. You will quite ruin our fellow diners' digestion."
Madam Bones huffed and stalked away to rejoin her party. Lord Black returned his attention to his charming guest.
The latest gossip reached the Headmaster of Hogwarts approximately thirty minutes later. Albus Dumbledore smiled with satisfaction, he must thank Amelia for her successful intervention, Harry Potter would be coming to Hogwarts despite the best attempts of his godfather to prevent it.
Minerva McGonagall was not having a good day. Muggle day, when all the Muggle-born soon-to-be first years toured Diagon Alley was always a nightmare of epic proportions. Not only did she have to coordinate security with the shop-keepers and the Aurors, she also had to deal with ten or so Muggle families all determined to ask exactly the same endless list of questions, and ten or so Muggle-borns hyped up as if they were on pixie-dust.
And then Sirius Black turned up.
Minerva's headache upped to a grinding migraine and her fingers twitched for her wand. She wanted nothing more than to hex away the fine trappings that had deceived them all to reveal the darkness beneath.
It seemed wrong that there should be no outward sign of the evil he had committed. Nothing betrayed the traitor who had orchestrated his best friends deaths. Sirius Black was still just as handsome as when he been at Hogwarts breaking Gryffindor hearts right and left.
Not that he resembled that reckless schoolboy in Muggle jeans and trainers any more. This Sirius Black was dressed in the very finest pureblood style and stood with poised elegance, effortlessly drawing all eyes to him.
Minerva wasn't fooled, she could see past the glitz to the small, skinny boy, dressed in like a house-elf in a cut down sack, standing in his shadow. The boy had dark messy hair, heartbreakingly beautiful green eyes and a huge purple bruise obscuring the right side of his face.
"Minerva, how delightful to see you again," the bastard Black smiled broadly.
Her animagus side yearned claw those smirking eyes. She straightened her spine.
"Lord Black, I wish I could say the same."
"Now don't be like that Minnie."
She couldn't help flinching at the nickname James Potter had bestowed upon her as a cocky fifth year.
"What are you doing here?"
"It's mudblood day, so I brought my little muddyblood along."
It took everything Minerva had not to curse him at the casual way he said it. She took a deep breath and said, as calmly as she could,
"Black, Harry is not a Muggle-born. You are perfectly capable of escorting him around Diagon Alley."
"I have far more valuable things to do with time. Still, if you don't want to be bothered with him, and believe me I more than understand, we can leave. Come along brat." He grabbed a handful of the sack the poor child was wearing and hoisted him in the air, startling a squeak out of the boy.
"Oh?" Black turned back.
Minerva hastily rearranged her thoughts. While it was quite outrageous for Sirius Black to bring the Potter heir to Muggle day, it did mean she could shame the man into providing decent supplies for his godson.
"You may stay."
Albus Dumbledore looked up as Minerva stormed into his office.
"Albus something must be done about the Potter boy."
"What has Harry done now?"
"Harry hasn't done anything. It's that man." Minerva hissed like an angry cat.
"I assume you are speaking of Sirius Black."
"Yes he brought his 'little mudblood' to Muggle day. He was appalling. I don't know what the Muggle parents thought. I wanted to sink through the pavement with shame. If Amelia hadn't turned up I don't know what I would have done."
"With Susan, the Aurors on duty alerted her to Black's presence. Black still seems bent on arranging a marriage between Susan and Harry."
Or more precisely, thought Albus, bent on gaining control of the Bones seats on the Wizengamot.
"So once she arrived he was mostly focused on her. Smarming all over her, 'wasn't it nice to see the children growing up' 'wasn't it time to consider their futures'. I don't know how the poor woman stood it."
"Madam Bones' objection to betrothing Susan before she is of age is well known."
"If you ask me that's nothing more than a delaying tactic to put Black off as long as possible."
Albus smiled fondly at his deputy, dear Minerva did not have a political bone in her body. Amelia's desperate stalling was perfectly obvious to the entire Wizengamot. Albus was certain any other offer for her niece would be seized on with the clutch of a drowning man. Not that any other was likely to be forthcoming, nobody was interested in directly opposing Voldemort's right hand man. Which was why Sirius Black was prepared to play a waiting game.
And why Amelia would grow increasingly frantic as Susan's seventeenth birthday approached, which should tip her further and further into Albus' camp as the one Wizard willing to protect her beloved niece.
Albus Dumbledore knew how to play a waiting game too, and he had outlasted better men than Sirius Black.
"Not that it made him behave any better," Minerva continued. "He treats poor Harry worse than house-elf. He shoved him and slapped him, even grabbed him up by his ankles and shook him."
"That is most disturbing," Albus said, because that was clearly the appropriate thing to say.
"It is more than 'disturbing'. Harry must be moved, immediately."
"Now Minerva, let us not be hasty. Harry is joining us at Hogwarts this September, he will be quite safe here."
He shook his head sadly, "Unfortunately Sirius Black is Harry's godfather and guardian. The Potters' wills were extremely explicit. There is literally nothing Sirius can do that would revoke his guardianship."
"He betrayed the boy's parents to their murderer, cares nothing for the boy himself, and yet we still cannot revoke his guardianship?"
"No, but in a way we have been lucky. Think how much worse it would be if Sirius had doted on the boy. If Harry had been brought up as the heir to Voldemort's right hand."
Minerva blanched and Albus could see his deputy final understood the nightmare that had been haunting him since that long ago November.
"Great Merlin," she whispered.
"Yes. Harry is quite probably be the Child of the Prophecy, for him to have gone dark would have been a disaster from which we may never have recovered. His mother's Muggle blood has saved us from that fate."
"But must he really stay with Black?"
"Unfortunately he must," said Albus gravely. He wasn't altogether displeased with the situation, although he had no intention of admitting as much to his deputy. Black obviously had no intention of permanently harming the boy, probably because that would cut his access to the boy's Gringotts vaults, and a difficult background for Harry would only make him that much more keen and eager to do well once he reached Hogwarts. Really everything was working out for the best.
"We must be sure to welcome Harry to Hogwarts," he continued, "and help him to understand that he has finally come home."
Minerva's spine straightened as she took on the new responsibility. After a moment of thought, she said, "Headmaster, do you suppose Remus Lupin would be willing to accept a position at Hogwarts?"
"An excellent idea Minerva. I am sure Harry would enjoy the chance to meet one of his parents' true friends. I shall arrange it."