Epilogue December 1996:

Professor Horace Slughorn, Potions Master, was very happy with himself, not only did he have his usual assortment from the cream of Hogwarts, but he'd managed to get the Black Heir to attend. The Black Heirs had been notoriously resistent to dealing with him...infact Blacks in general seemed to go markedly out of their way to not have dealings with him. Oh, the joy, he had the Black Heir and on such a momentous evening with Eldred Worple having agreed to come and bring his friend Sanguini to visit. Horace Slughorn wended his way through the crowd, lost in a happy dream which was eventually shattered by a furious argument. It didn't take Slughorn long to realised that it was the Black Heir who was in the centre of it, backed by his two brothers and watched by a growing crowd of the confused and amused. Hades Black was ripping Worple to shreds, going at it hammer and tongs under the eye of the amused Sanguini.

"...dietary supplements..." Between one thing and another Slughorn wasn't hearing more than the occasional phrase.

"Mumble." That one had been Worple, who was apparently attempting to explain why he'd encouraged a vampire to forgo blood.

"...internal irregularities of..." It was medi-jargon at the worst possible level and Slughorn began to look around for someone to end this without causing offence. Then, the matter ended anyway as Black stepped back with a disgusted noise and flung his wand into the air. "I, Hades Ankaa Alkvn Black, summon the Negotiators to resolve this question."

"..." Sanguini closed his mouth with a snap and the students crowded to the walls as shadows began to grow on the ground.

"What is happening?" Slughorn was spluttering from one side.

"Mr Black has apparently exercised his right as a Black to summon the Chief Negotiator of the Vampires." Sanguini seemed speculative more than anything.

"You summoned a Vampire?" Snape's expression was best described as highly amused.

"Actually I've summoned three...the Negotiator never travels without his guard." Black's wave was dismissive and disinterested. "I've also summoned Daiyati since he's the other negotiator."

"You called young Hades?" The Vampire who rose from the central part of the shadows made Malfoy look like an ill-bred clod. He was backed by two muscle bound tanks who were already moving.

"Archon." Hades bowed neatly, a discreet flick of his fingers raised Black Fire between the negotiation and the watching students. It was usually Sirius who raised the fire, but then it was usually Sirius who summoned the Negotiator. Usually the ward was to prevent the unwary from accidentally entering, and though he hoped the students weren't so stupid as to approach a vampiric negotiation, but he wasn't willing to take any chances either and it had the added advantage of ensuring that the vampires didn't stray if this negotiation became boring...and Hades was more than a little worried that Sanguini was well past the point of caring what source supplied the blood.

"You summoned a negotiation?" Sirius Black's tone was level.

"Your pardon." Hades shifted to keep his distance from the two guards, as heir apparent to Sirius they would be out to prove he deserved the ability to summon a negotiation...and what better test than to try and kill him while he is still oathbound as heir. The Archon was unlikely to attack out of respect for Sirius, but he would undoubtedly be watching.

"I see you've found our missing one." Archon had barely glanced at the delicate dance of distance, his attention on the fourth vampire in the room. Now he blinked and then gave a small yawn. "I take it this summons is about him?"

"I do not consider him well enough to travel safely." Hades slid into the Archon's own dialect at the same time as he neatly slid under the hand of one of the guards. With Sanguini within the negotiation circle, he could not even afford to shed a drop of blood. "The unblooded are to be protected."

"You bring your sire honour." Archon waited until there was a break before he summoned his guard back, young Hades was shaping well and had clearly recognised when attacks were not carried through to full extent. "It is suggested that you accept responsibility for the mundane negotiations within human law."

"The Negotiator does me honor." Hades waited until all four vampires had gone before he turned to Sirius. "Sir?"

"They have argued that a sixteen year-old could not have the skills...I think they've changed their minds."

"Mundane negotiations within human law?" The query came from the students who were now edging warily forward since the vampires were gone,taking the excess shadows with them and the flames had gone out.

"Human-Vampiric negotiations where the law in question is human." Sirius Black seemed to be studying his fingernails.

"There's any other sort of law?" The tone was ironic and loaded with disgust.

"Certainly." Sirius gave a sniff. "There's Vampiric Law, Goblinic Law, Centauric Law, Elven Law, Fae Law...you name a life form which resides within community, or otherwise interacts with its own species, and there'll be a legal system in place of some variety which requires negotiation." There was a long moment of silence. "Master Snape, your time, we require a guide to the Headmaster's Office and a confirming authority that I am not just making this up to get Hades out of class time."

"Negotiator Black." The faint bow of acknowledgement before a leading gesture began the journey from the room. "How long?" As a question it didn't require clarification, for the vampires had refused to acknowledge Hades as a negotiator only a couple of months previously, they'd given him summoning rights with extreme ill-grace. How long until Hades took over as Negotiator Black?

"Who knows...but I would advise you not to be surprised if this is his last year at Hogwarts." Sirius Black half-glanced down at his heir. "He is much more to their taste and this mundane negotiation period will more than prove his ability." Black gave a faint shrug. "The necessity that I deal only with the Archon is problematical...makes him too busy for his own taste, even if it does thin out the impatient from his responsibilities."

"Black Negotiator at seventeen?" Snape's brows had shot up sharply.

"Azkaban is not good for the soul and repairs are never as strong as they should be." Black gave a small shrug. "He'll be Negotiator Black by 19 regardless of anything because there's only so much time in each day and by then, even with the limitations and allowances, I'll need more than double the time any negotiation takes to repair the damage...and that's when you end up executed over retired. I'd prefer to retire."

"Daiyati." Hades Black had been listening in silence.

"Spike?" Sirius glanced at the boy.

"Why must Dumbledore be told of this?"

"Because we can't possibly hide it and he will make things difficult if he doesn't know...and Merlin have mercy on us if he doesn't believe he has the right of sanction."

"What happens if the Headmaster refuses to acknowledge the charge?" Hades was more than a little worried.

"Then I summon the Archon so Headmaster Dumbledore can personally explain why he is refuting the Archon's choice of mediator." Sirius' tone was dismissive.

"I do hope he refuses." Snape's tone was downright wistful.

"I don't." Sirius' nose wrinkled up slightly. "The Headmaster gets down-right bitchy when he thinks you're scare-mongering. Can you imagine the fuss he'll make when I cause his office to reek of Black Magic for a month because of a summons?"

"Fine, I agree, I don't want him to disagree either...and just why are we hurrying up so fast?"

"Because otherwise we won't have finished here before Spike gets his first call-out."

"You're expecting a call-out?"

"The fools in the Dangerous Creatures office reliably take this night of the month to round up vampires. Very busy night. Lots of annoyed vamps. It'll take three days to sort all of the negotiations, then the obliviators come through the Dangerous Creatures office and we're set for it to happen all over again with the next moon."

"Damn." Hades' curse was very heartfelt.

"Obviously I didn't shuffle that paperwork off on you nearly frequently enough." Sirius' observation came with rather a look.

"The damn had more to do with the realisation that this year the Vampire New Year is going to coincide with the monthly sweep..." Hades let it hang while Sirius scowled over the calculations.

"Forget it Black, the calculations will strain the brain cell you might have and we're here."

"Oh joy...password?"

"No idea."

"Good, then I'll give him half a minute before I let myself through."

"How do you intend to let yourself through?"

"Urban remodelling." Sirius was busy with a tapemeasure, his eyes glinting. "Or that was the term used by the vamp last week when explaining why he felt the need to tear through three walls. I think the Headmaster's entrance can be improved if the angle of the arch widens...I think if I clear an extra quarter metre either side as well as the gargoyle...oh, greetings, Headmaster, care to..."

"No, Mr Black." Dumbledore's tone was downright chilly.

"Ducky. Now, just letting you know that Hades has been nominated Mundane Negotiator by the Archon. He'll be leaving the school on occasion to meet the demands of that role."

"Acceptable, but his schoolwork may not suffer and no vampires may enter the school permises in search of him."

"His schoolwork never suffers and we cannot possibly guarantee that no vampires will come onto school grounds...best we can do is guarantee that they won't survive taking blood on school grounds."

"Even vampires deserve the right to a fair trial." Dumbledore's frown darkened again.

"Yes, well Blacks deserve the right to protect their lives, so vampires who break the laws of negotiation die. Anything else Headmaster?"

"No." It came after a long and grudging moment.

"Marvellous." Sirius consulted a large watch. "Come Hades, we've ten minutes to get clear of the wards before the summons are likely to begin."

"Bu..." Dumbledore settled for gaping as the two Blacks actually ran off, then he turned rapidly and caught Snape before he escaped. "There really is a call out tonight?"

"Highly likely." Snape's tone was bored. "Vampires know their rights and the Department of Dangerous Creatures is about to try stomping on their rights. The Department of Dangerous Creatures has a habit of stomping on the rights of the numerous sentient dangerous creatures and most of them come under the Black Charge for jurisdiction when they object to the oppression. Makes for a busy few days for the negotiators every month. Young Spike will no doubt make the rounds to collect his brother's homework until he returns." Snape eased himself away, in no mood to listen to the Headmaster's plans to return the Blacks to the straight and narrow path. A path which did not include killing vampires, blackmailing compliance out of poor defenceless schools, or any of the various acts of Dark Arts mastery that the Blacks had a habit of indulging in at very regular intervals.


So ends 'Black Dawn'. 'Moonfall' and 'Sleeping Dragons' are currently writing simultaneously and slowing things down, but should be posted in less than a year. Depends on bunnies and reality. Cheers. Adari