Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or its characters, those belong to J.K. Rowling.

Rated: M

"Spoken dialog."

'Thoughts' / internal thinking

Author's Note: Thank you for all the feedback my faithful readers. I am acting on it, never fear. Furthermore, chapter 43 has been reposted due to some problems with the publishing for some reason. Sorry about the long update time, I've been very busy, plus this chapter was a pain to write. However, I made it extra long by adding in first half of chapter 45

Btw, I don't mind epic length.

Midnight Gold, the Rise of the Forgotten Lord

Chapter 44: The Fall of Lord Malfoy

Posted 02th June 2013

Revised and Beta'd by 'Joe Lawyer'

Mr. Cullen Eddings smiled at her, the old lawyer's hand moving slowly to her thigh; she smiled back to the lawyer who was sitting next to her on the sofa with her best seductive smile. "You never said who you work for Miss Titley?" he asked her. She responded with a playful smile, as she mightily resisted the urge to vomit both due to the taste of polyjuice potion on her tongue and for what she was currently doing.

"Someone Lord Malfoy insulted and betrayed; someone who has waited a very long time to finally have a chance at repaying his former friend," she answered, before reaching for the wine glass sitting on a nearby crystal table. "My employer simply wishes for Lord Malfoy to be brought to justice, and not dodge it as he's been so successful at doing in the past," she further explained, before taking a sip of the red wine, her red lipstick marking the delicate clear glass. "He is willing to offer you a considerable sum of gold and the promise of a great deal of future work for your help in this sensitive matter."

"I'm afraid I can't do that; my oaths as a lawyer prevent that," Cullen replied, in a professional tone, his hand moving slightly more up her leg.

She smiled back, her lord had already planned for this. "Of course. He suspected as much," she replied. "But my employer merely asks for you to work around the parameters of your employment oath, which certainty has several loopholes in it that could be exploited. All my employer wants is for you to not give your best effort at the trial tomorrow, and to subtly undermine it where possible. Of course put on a good show, but make simple mistakes that none would question overmuch." Her hand slipped into her handbag, before placing a heavy money sack on the leather couch, the sounds of gold galleons pleasantly clinking together. "Just a small down payment in advance, you'll get three times that amount if you help ensure that your current client's case fails; you'll even get a bonus." She smiled in a mischievous way, a naughty, suggestive way, before leaning forward slightly to give the old wizard in front of her a better look at her magnificent breasts, absently wondering if the action might give the old man a heart attack. The white haired lawyer took the bait and looked down her revealing top with a smile. She knew where the man's mind was now drifting, as she gently and suggestively stroked the man leg's to fuel his thoughts of having her. She resisted the urge to shiver in disgust, but her magic forced her on.

"I see," the lawyer said, before taking hold of the money bag, feeling the weight of it, as she moved his hand beneath the rim of her silver cocktail dress, allowing him to feel her silk garter belt.

"Do you like what you feel?" Rita purred, showing no sign of her own internal discomfort.

"Oh yes," the elderly lawyer cried in excitement, clearly forgetting about the money bag in favour of feeling her up, his other newly freed hand cupping the side of her breast as she felt his erection through his trousers, the urge to vomit at his touch nearly overwhelming.

"Good," she purred, as she gave a playful squeeze through the fabric of his pants.

"Can I get a sample of my bonus now?" Eddings asked, with a lecherous old grin.

Standing up and turning to face the lawyer, her naughty smile firmly back in place, her chained magic suppressing the side of her that was screaming 'hell no' and that wanted to stop immediately, her thoughts of Malcolm disappearing from her mind as if they never existed, even as her hands went to the magical zipper at the back of her dress. She slowly teased the zipper down.

"You can get a small taste now," she answered, as the cocktail dress fell to her heels, revealing her borrowed naked body and her shaven womanhood since she had forgone underwear for this special meeting. Edding's jaw dropped to the floor, her tight polyjuiced body stunning the old wizard, her perfect breasts hanging free, but firm and perky, thanks to the young body. Her long, sinful legs were enhanced by her matching black stockings and garter belt set and three inch black heels, as she turned around on the spot to show him her tight bottom.

Moving forward slowly and sensually, while putting an extra seductive swing in her step, her chained magic suppressed any hesitation she had as she mounted the old clothed wizard's lap, whose greedy hands immediately cupped her breasts. Even as she pressed her lips against his own, she felt the man's fabric covered erection pressing against her naked womanhood. Breaking the heated kiss, she looked into his lustful eyes whilst her mind was clear and unclouded despite the fact the man's hands were exploring her body, which would, under normal circumstances, excite her. "This is but a taster, do you want more?" she teased.

"Yes!" he answered instantly, in a near desperate tone. She smiled coyly, before kissing the old wizard's neckline, a plan forming in her mind driven by her chained magic, her hand drifting down and into his trousers, like a seeker chasing down a snitch as her hand found its way to the lawyer's manhood.

It wasn't the biggest she had ever had she thought, as she gave him her best naughty smile. "Good," she purred, giving him a playful stroke as the old lawyer moaned, almost panting now.

o_ooo000ooo_o

Her bedroom mirror rippled like water as the enchantment upon the mirror activated, revealing her young master.

She looked at her lord and master with mixed feelings, a small part of her wanting to scream and throw the darkest curses at him for enslaving her only to feel a spike of piercing pain at the back of her head, her own chained magic punishing her for such disloyal thoughts, but another part of her just whispered for her to submit, to give in to him, to obey happily. She smiled warmly, the pain fading away as she thought only good thoughts about her master, like how generous he was to her when he didn't really have to be. Her own magic rewarded her with a warm, content feeling for the 'good,' obedient thoughts she was having. Her anger was swept away by the powerful feeling, causing her to smile warmly at her master's image. She could hardly condemn her master any longer for his entrapment of her, since she had done the same with Cullen and others throughout her career, albeit more crudely with the use of sex.

"Rita, how did the meeting go with Mr. Eddings? Were you successful?" he asked. She debated what to share.

"Yes, my master, everything is set, Cullen is with us now. I have a complete copy of his planned defence for tomorrow's trial," she answered, her voice far more submissive than usual, as she realized she had addressed the young man as 'master.'

Her slip, unfortunately, wasn't missed. "Master? Now that is new," he answered with a smirk, clearly amused at her choice of title. "Master," he repeated once again, the word almost silky as he tested the way it flowed off his tongue. His voice causing her to shiver in pleasure unconsciously. "I rather like the sound of that," he offered as he turned his attention back to her. "You can call me master if you really wish to Rita, only when we are alone though, we can't have you calling me that in public now can we?" Her cheeks reddened, as she cursed her slip.

"So what happened? How did you persuade him to play ball?" he pushed, showing why he was in Ravenclaw house for once rather than Slytherin, as he waited for her answer.

She decided to keep her replies short, but truthful, since her magical orders prevented her from lying to her lord, but deciding to retaliate by making her Lord blush red with her answer. "I manipulated him, rather easily I might add," he nodded in response. "You'd be surprised how easy a man is to manipulate when you have his cock in your hand, and his own wife hasn't played with it for years," she explained, her lord's cheeks turning slightly red at her extended explanation.

"I'll take your word for it," he replied calmly, before falling silent in thought.

Wondering if she could make him blush more, she was just about to add some more saucy details to what happened on her mission, when he spoke up again. "Did you have sex with him?" The preteen asked suddenly, his tone curious, but at the same time reluctant, as she wondered if he had been given the talk yet.

"No, I just gave him a hand job, and a very good lap dance, if I say so myself," she replied with a grin, suddenly feeling randy and dirty at the memory of what she had done, before adding without thinking, just as he took a sip of fruit juice. "Would you like one master?" Unintentionally using the M word again.

Her well timed question had exactly the outcome she desired, causing him to both spit and choke on his juice, some of the orange liquid flying at his mirror. She allowed herself to smirk, but was also suddenly afraid he'd take her up on it someday. He vanished the choked up juice with an elegant flick of his wand.

He looked at her seriously, clearly wrestling with an internal question which suddenly put her on edge. "I might take you up on your generous offer Rita if you keep asking," he replied. She nodded, understanding the hidden message. "Send a copy anonymously to Madam Bones; the ministry assigned lawyers could use an advantage."

"I don't think that will be necessary my lord," she replied. He merely looked at her in confusion, clearly not expecting such a reply.

"Why isn't it necessary Rita?" he asked.

Realizing she now had no choice but to tell the truth, she elaborated, "I tricked him into making a magical vow; he has no choice now but to lose the case tomorrow or he loses his magic," she explained, wondering what her lord would say to her.

"I see. Tell me everything," he commanded seriously. She quickly recounted everything that had happened at the meeting hours earlier, his order forcing her to share every detail of her adventure. "Is there any chance that he can identify you? Or backtrack you to me?"

"No, I was using polyjuice and a fake name, just like you ordered me to," she answered. "The hair I used was from a random muggle I came across. I secured quite a bit in case I ever needed to make use of that form again."

"Did he realize he made an oath?" he asked.

"No, I don't think so," she replied.

"Let's hope this doesn't come back to bite us in the ass," he voiced, clearly not happy with what she had done.

Midnight Gold

'Confidence, a Lord is confident,' Harry recited to himself in the back of his mind, even as he stepped in time with his godfather Sirius. His gait was confident and purposeful, possessing an elegant feline grace that would be expected of the Lord of an Ancient and Noble household as notable as his own.

He and Sirius were accompanied by a security wizard as the small party of four moved through the imposing halls, whose architecture reminded him of imperial Rome. Everything here within the walls of ministry was purposely styled to be imposing and intimidating, most likely to suggest to the populace that the Ministry of Magic was bigger and more important than any single individual, he silently theorized. He knew such themes were common in all government structures that had to convey a sense of intrinsic authority. But the truth was, like most governments, the ministry only served and had power through the collective consent of the people. If the common wizard or witch ever decided the Ministry wasn't needed any longer, or didn't have authority to govern them, the Ministry's power would be non-existent.

He wouldn't be intimidated or scared by this tactic. Despite being only twelve years of age, he had already achieved feats of magic that many older, more accomplished wizards had failed at. He had already survived several attempts on his short life, had freed his falsely imprisoned godfather, and unknown to them all, he had found the entrance to the legendry Chamber of Secrets at Hogwarts, a place which most wizards and witches had dismissed as simply a fairy tale, a legend of the past. Furthermore, his ancient bloodline had helped create the original Wizengamot; his forbears had then helped to create the Ministry itself he told himself. Again, despite his age, he belonged in these ancient halls, as his ancestors had helped build them. And if he had his way his family and bloodline would still be walking these same hallways in the many centuries to come. As he had these thoughts, Sirius and their ministry appointed security escorts passed by another group of ministry officials talking in the middle of the corridor.

Both he and Sirius were wearing their traditional ceremonial robes that marked them as members of the Wizengamot, as the pair of them and their smartly dressed security escorts made their way into the heart of the Ministry of Magic, where the Wizengamot chamber was located behind a wall of security wards. Fortunately for the pair, they were quickly waved through the internal security checkpoint without any hassle by ministry security personnel, a group which was out in force today due to Lord Malfoy's highly publicized trial being opened to the public.

Lord Malfoy's trial would be beginning within the next hour and a half, give or take a few minutes for inevitable delays, assuming that everything stayed relatively on schedule. They had decided to get here early so that they could rub shoulders with the other Lords and Ladies and officials in a last minute charm campaign. He and Sirius were currently being escorted through the highly decorated and propaganda filled corridors of the ministry by a pair of MS officers, (Ministry Security) who had been charged with providing security for him for the duration of the court case, due to the lingering threat of another assassination attempt being made upon his life.

Despite how unlikely such an attempt would be, he didn't argue with Madam Bones on the issue when the head of law enforcement had insisted on the pair of them having a protective escort whilst within the Ministry, making the argument that with the ministry open to the general public for the trial that anything was possible. Predictably, the Minister had readily agreed to the idea too, rather than take the risk of yet another sandal unfolding within the heart of the Ministry if he was attacked and killed. His successful murder in the ministry would likely be the final nail in the Minister's political coffin.

Privately, he and Sirius suspected the security detail assigned to them was more likely meant to act as a buffer between the gathered reporters and the watching public, so that he wouldn't be mobbed by overzealous supporters and well-wishers. Normally, the Wizengamot Chambers and the law courts would be closed to the general public, but today they would be opened wide for the first time since the war against Voldemort had ended; the common wizard and witch would thus be able to watch the highly anticipated court case for themselves.

Frankly, he, Sirius, Ted, and Andy suspected that the Minister was using this whole open court case as a means to bolster his own damaged popularity with the public, so that he could publicly denounce Lord Malfoy in front of a large public audience, thus everyone could then publicly see the Ministry and the Minister dispensing righteous justice to the dark wizard. After all, Fudge had publically announced that he would 'ensure' that justice was done after the massive public backlash against the skittish minister for his association with the dark pureblood lord, whom everyone now suspected was a willing death eater, and actually might have been Lord Voldemort's second in command if the rumours were true… After all, the Malfoy family had profited greatly from the war, both in the realm of political power as well as in the world of business, with several of their ancestral competitors suddenly meeting unfortunate ends or key assets being destroyed under the cover of terrorism. All of which implied that they had been killed off on Lord Malfoy's orders, and not simply for the cause of pureblood supremacy, but because it was imminently profitable for the man's family. He personally believed that to be true. The ancestral Potter docks had been destroyed by death eaters during the war and many of those same men had profited greatly because of it in the ensuing years.

Along the way to the Wizengamot chamber they ran into several groups of people, most of whom Harry didn't personally know nor recognise, but Sirius did, since the dog animagus had spent a considerable amount of time courting his new peers and re-establishing old contacts since gaining his freedom. He had redoubled his efforts in the recent weeks in preparation for this day. Naturally, several business deals had also been made, to help establish some real ties and links with his newfound 'friends,' deals such as these would ensure those relationships couldn't be set aside so easily. Predictably, many had easily recognised Harry thanks to Rita's extensive public relations campaign which put him at a disadvantage during these short exchanges. Nevertheless he smiled back politely, despite hating the idea of being at a disadvantage of any kind, even as he gave them his best fake smiles and friendly handshakes whilst wondering how long it would be before he had to kiss a baby or something stupid in the name of charming some more support. Fortunately, it was easy to do despite his ill feelings about it, often answering light hearted questions about himself and his interests, with a few very discreet questions targeted at his beliefs spoken in the old fashioned double talk favoured by politicians the world over.

Thankfully, he was spared from further questioning by the unexpected appearance of the smiling Chief Warlock, who was wearing a grand set of highly decorative robes that put his normal choice of extravagant robes he wore around Hogwarts to shame. The white and gold colour star patterned robes glittered under the light, the stars shooting across the robes at various angles, the many decorative runes on the cloth seeming to glow with mystical energies, which suggested that there were some rather powerful enchantments on the robes. What they were meant to do, he had no idea at this point. The former headmaster's eyes seemed to sparkle as always.

"Good morning, Lord Black," the old wizard greeted Sirius, before turning his attention to me with a friendly smile on his wrinkled lips. "Good morning Mr. Potter. Or perhaps I should be calling you Lord Potter-Peverell now?"

'It took you long enough,' he thought, whilst offering his own amused smile. "Lord Potter-Peverell if you please, as this is an official meeting of the Wizengamot and we must follow proper procedure and tradition Chief Warlock," he replied easily, showing no discomfort at the fact that the old wizard had finally put all the little clues together. He hadn't exactly been hiding it with great effort. After all, by the end of the trial the fact that he was a dual lord already would become common knowledge. The former headmaster of Hogwarts smiled, seemingly indulgently at my answer.

"Of course," the Chief Warlock humoured me with a smile. "Let me be the first to officially welcome you to the Wizengamot. Hopefully your first time here won't be too dull, listening to teams of lawyers arguing over the word of law." I politely nodded in thanks, noticing out of the corner of my left eye a small audience was discreetly listening to our unfolding exchange.

"Now onto a more serious matter; there has been a minor problem with my reinstatement as Hogwarts' Headmaster, and I believe you may be able to help me solve this problem, Mr. Potter," subtly using the less formal address, either in an attempt to make him seem less important to those subtly listening to the exchange, or in an attempt to imply some type of familiarity between the pair of them. It could also be an attempt to underplay the problem the headmaster was having in regaining his old position, or the old wizard could have simply fallen unconsciously back on the habit of addressing him as he would any other student, rather than a dual Lord of the Wizengamot. Since there was no way to know without a great deal more experience with and a much better read on the man, he decided to let the slip of tongue go without comment, for the moment, rather than calling the Chief Warlock out. He was forced to speculate, however, on what possible problem the Chief Warlock could be having.

Then, like a light bulb turning on, it clicked, and he realized what the former headmaster wanted from him. He decided to play dumb and naive for a few more moments to help hide his intellect, which would hopefully cause the headmaster to underestimate him for a little while longer. "You flatter me Chief Warlock, but I don't see how my minor influence could be of any assistance to someone like you," he replied in a humble tone, whilst thinking, 'Just try to manipulate me you old bastard, it will cost you dearly,' even as he mentally listed the man's many crimes against him and his family.

The old wizard fell back on old patterns and gave his standard grandfatherly smile in response, one that would normally disarm other people, but one which had always inversely put him more on guard when dealing with his former magical guardian. He continued to avoid eye contact, just in case. "You see, thanks to several recent articles about you and several interviews you gave to the Daily Prophet, many parents mistakenly believe that Hogwarts is no longer safe for their children," the old headmaster explained slowly, like he was talking to an idiotic child.

He fake smiled back, "Indeed, there were many gaps and weaknesses in the vaunted Hogwarts wards that led to some serious security failures, I believe parents have right to be concern about their offspring safety" he replied. He felt the need to add to this statement and give a few reminders to his listening audience as to exactly what those failures were and under whose watch they happened under. "First, there was the 12 foot tall adult mountain troll that somehow found its way past Hogwarts' supposedly powerful protective wards and by some still unknown means found its way into the castle itself and the girl's bathroom, almost killing two young female students using the bathroom. Then there was the bewitching of Neville Longbottom's quidditch broom during a match attended by you and the entire faculty and staff; he nearly fell to his death in front of the whole school. Then there was the hungry, fully grown adult Cerberus locked behind a simple door, a door secured only by a basic first year locking charm on it; that beast could have easily killed any student that had been curious enough to open that door with a simple alohomora charm."

"That area was declared off limits at the start of the year," the Headmaster began to explain.

Cutting in before the old wizard could build up some steam and somehow convince their listeners with his honeyed words, he continued. "True, it was," he nodded in agreement whilst considering his next words carefully. "But as you should well know after so many, many years as headmaster, students are always inquisitive, nosy and often reckless. If you had said nothing, however, no students would have even looked behind that unremarkable door in the first place, especially if you had put up a simple repelling ward, a more complex locking charm, an age line, or even a notice-me-not enchantment upon it, instead students were daring each other to peek in and confront the beast," he argued in a serious tone.

"I'm sure any parent would tell you if you tell a child not to do something, they will do it anyways, just because you said not to, thinking that they know better or convinced of their invulnerability," he heard muttering in agreement behind him. "Also the point stands, why was a four X rated magical beast locked up within the school anyways? Where any young student could find it?" Of course, he knew the answer already, but the headmaster didn't know that and neither did their listeners.

Seeing there was no immediate answer on the headmaster's tongue for once, he moved on, pressing his advantage. "Not to mention a group of first years wandering around the forbidden forest in the middle of the night serving detention, when there was dark creature about capable of slaughtering a creature as fast and powerful in magic as unicorns for their life-blood," he added as his audience gasped in shock. "Was it normal Chief Warlock, under your tenure as headmaster, for students to serve detentions in the Forbidden Forest, in the middle of the night, when something capable and willing to kill unicorns was in the area? I heard from the groundskeeper, Hagrid, that if it weren't for the timely intervention of the centaurs that call the forest their home that Neville Longbottom, our beloved Boy-Who-Lived, would have been attacked, and in all likelihood killed whilst serving detention that night, along with the two other first year students accompanying him. It seems to me former Headmaster Dumbledore that you were awfully lucky that night," his words had the desired effect of making the headmaster pale a tad and subtly look around at the increase in the volume of muttering in their audience.

"That was a simple mistake, the detentions were misallocated," the former headmaster of Hogwarts stated clearly.

Pushing his advantage after such pathetically weak excuse, he kept on the attack. "It may have been another simple, honest mistake on your part, but children could have died because of it," he pressed forward, knowing that the now silent audience behind him was a very good sign that his point was getting across and the legend of Dumbledore's power and infallibility was slowly being chipped away at. It was also being made clear to these powerful and influential individuals that he was his own man and not another Dumbledore sycophant. "How do you think their parents would have felt if those students had been murdered that night due to a simple administrative mistake? Would that have given them comfort? Lessened their despair? When you were headmaster of Hogwarts you were ultimately responsible for the safety of all the children placed under your care, parents place their absolute trust in the headmaster/mistress to protect their children while at school. Therefore that mistake and all the others that could have cost them their lives while under your care, lies at your feet, and yours alone."

Collecting his thoughts for a pregnant pause, he launched his next verbal assault, "Let's also not forget why we are here today. There were three nearly successful attempts on my life this past year at Hogwarts, along with several attempts on Neville Longbottom's life. Before you make the excuse that the reason why these numerous attempts were so successful was due to a school governor being involved, remember the attacks resulting from the chamber of secrets and the attacks on me were also driven by Lord Malfoy's desire to have you removed. Arguably, our attempted murders were all just a means to ultimately hurt you," stabbing his finger in the former headmaster's direction. "An auror assigned to be my body double was murdered at a meal in the Great Hall due to the many security failures around the school, security that was undermined even further by your allowing unscreened individuals within Hogwarts' walls. Goblets and dining utensils that should have been enchanted to detect poisons weren't, allowing a good wizard to be needlessly poisoned for real. He left behind a wife and two young children by the way. How many children could have been accidently poisoned if they had drunk from that poisoned chalice?" he repeated an argument made many times in the Daily Prophet recently for the growing audience, playing on their fear.

"In light of all the facts I just reminded you of, I believe my original statement concerning how unsafe Hogwarts is is rather accurate, I hardly consider parents misguided or alarmist for wanting their children to be safe when out of their care. They expect much, because they risk so much. Is it wrong to expect that assurance of safety from the head of Hogwarts? After all, we don't all have the same magical prowess or skill as you do with the wand Chief Warlock," he offered in a flattering tone, his words causing the soft muttering of agreement from his audience, as the former disgraced headmaster realized he could not challenge the explanation without undermining the idea of his own prowess and skill, or without insulting the parents within the audience by implying that they were stupid and overreacting, which would surely cause even more headaches down the line.

But, stupid was a relative word really, compared to the headmaster's own intelligence and knowledge most people could be considered 'stupid,' even Harry could be considered stupid when measured against the headmaster. Yes, he was smart compared to his year mates, but compared to the Chief Warlock who had had over a century to gain magical knowledge, he was rather dumb. "Let's not mention the thousands of carriage sized man eating spiders' groundskeeper Hagrid keeps as seeming pets in the forbidden forest," he added seemingly as an afterthought, rather enjoying this exchange before turning to Sirius. "Godfather, as a former Auror, do you believe my assessment is incorrect or overstating things?" With this question he innocently pulled Sirius into the public discussion, at the same time reminding their audience of Sirius' expertise and qualifications to give an informed opinion that should be listened to. He noticed Rita hidden amongst the crowd, her deadly quick quotes quill and notepad already in her hand.

'That woman must have a sixth sense for a story,' he noted to himself with an internal smile, whilst waiting for Sirius' response.

"I have to agree with my godson on this matter Chief Warlock," Sirius thoughtfully agreed after seeming to consider the question carefully for a few silent moments, publically giving voice to the crowd's own thoughts and thus validating them, making them seem far more than merely a personal opinion. "Not even during my own troubled time at Hogwarts, with the persistent threat of You-Know-Who hanging over all of us like a dark shadow, did we have so many serious security failures around the school in such a short period of time." Sirius' words caused the Headmaster's eyes to widen just for a second, for some unknown reason, before the old wizard's mask was firmly back in place once again. He suspected that the veteran political operators in the audience saw that brief lapse as well as he did. "Then there are the failing standards of teaching in such fundamental and vital areas as self-defence, potions, divination, and history of magic that have gone on in the last two decades under your leadership. This is a worrying and dangerous state of affairs for the future of British magical society. Were you aware that a little less than half of all fifth year students fail their OWLs in Defence Against the Dark Arts and Potions. And that this failure is the cause of an incredibly dangerous skilled labour shortage in the auror corp, the ranks of healers, and the potions brewing sector? Need I remind you that a Potions OWL is required for numerous vital jobs in our world, like that of a healer or an Auror. This is in turn weakening Britain as a whole due to this skill shortage. In my business discussions with several Lords and Ladies of the Wizengamot with interests in the potions sector, for example, they simply can't find qualified people to hire and replace those employees that retire, much less hope for any kind of expansion. In fact even after 12 years since the end of the war with You-Know-Who we have not recovered the numbers of healers and aurors we had before the start of the war. As a country we may even be forced to hire aurors, healers, and potions masters from foreign countries simply because our schools are seemingly incapable of producing any of our own!"

The former headmaster was about to respond to these damaging remarks, when another rich and elegant voice he recognised as Lord Greengrass butted into the unfolding public drama. "I also have to agree with Lord Black and the young Lord Potter-Peverell on this matter Chief Warlock, since he is a first-hand witness," Nicholas solemnly agreed, his beautiful ice queen of a wife standing next to him on her husband's arm. 'I wonder if Daphne will look as beautiful as her mother at that age' he pondered for a few moments before Lord Greengrass spoke up again, as he mentally slapped himself for allowing his concentration to falter. "There have been several disturbing failures of security around Hogwarts of late, and the plummeting standard of education is also quite worrying to me, especially when Hogwarts is supposed to be the best magical school in all of Europe. I am starting to realize that perhaps that was true, long ago, and we have all been deluding ourselves for years out of some misplaced sense of nationalism instead of ensuring that that remained true in reality year after year. I want the very best magical education possible for my two daughters, and I am truly starting to question Hogwarts' ability to do so."

'Best school in Europe? I seriously doubt that,' he mentally muttered, believing that statement was in fact some national delusion and unrealistic pride in the ancient school. If Hogwarts really was the best, the schools in the rest of Europe must be so poor that they somehow made Hogwarts look good in comparison, he pondered to himself.

"I have also heard from my daughter that there is a disturbing amount of criminal activity taking place within the school's walls, students brewing polyjuice potion to impersonate other students? Personal items being stolen by bullies and thieves? Pranks gone so far as to rightfully be considered assault?" Lady Greengrass added, supporting her husband, and also confirming to him that everything he shared with Daphne eventually found its way back to her mother and father. Even if seemingly obvious and likely, it was good to have that belief confirmed he supposed. "You are aware, Chief Warlock, that brewing polyjuice potion is a criminal offence with a sentence in Azkaban?" Putting the Chief Warlock on the spot to answer, the aged wizard suddenly realized just how outnumbered he was, with no allies in sight, and just how much the audience was turning against him. The bigger problem was that from a certain point of view, everything being said was true and could be verified with minimal effort.

"The matter was dealt with, the students involved weren't aware that it was a criminal offense," he replied in a grandfatherly tone, downplaying the event as best he could and relegating it to a mistake of youth.

'That's a lie,' he mentally acknowledged, knowing first hand that in the textbook they had used to brew the potion there was a clear disclaimer about the potion's illegality in Britain, and the warning of a jail sentence for misuse. Unfortunately, before he could call the former headmaster on his lie, Lady Greengrass spoke again, robbing him of the chance to score another point against the old wizard, as well as to catch him publically in a lie.

"Was this marked down upon their school records?" Lady Greengrass pushed.

"I didn't see the need to, it was simply intended as a childish prank," the old wizard answered. "Now, if you would excuse me, I'm needed to oversee the final preparations for the trial," he said in dismissal, before virtually bolting down the corridor as fast his bony old legs could carry him without it actually looking like he was fleeing. Harry's enhanced eyes did notice, however, a beetle clinging on to the man's robes. 'What's she up to now?' he wondered, knowing he would be talking to Rita this evening about what she had heard before turning his attention to meet and greet Daphne's parents, Lord and Lady Greengrass.

"Now that was satisfying," Sirius proudly proclaimed with a roguish smirk whilst their thoughtful audience left to go back to their various tasks. "Nice timing there Nicholas, Cynthia, never seen the old goat move so fast."

"Indeed, it is a rare sight. I wasn't aware he could still move that fast," Nicholas agreed with a slight smile, before turning his attention to Harry. "Well played there Harry."

"Thank you Nicholas, I do try," he offered with a small smile, before giving a graceful bow. "Hopefully the rest of the day will go so well, if not better."

"I'm sure it will. Lord Malfoy has made far more enemies than he has allies over the years. I expect most will use this opportunity to retaliate for any number of past transgressions and slights Lord Malfoy doled out over the years, and his wife hasn't made too many friends either. More than a few ladies would like to see her fall from her lofty perch," Cynthia reasoned.

He nodded, knowing that there was constant state of rivalry behind old houses. "It certainly doesn't help that the Malfoy family vaults at Gringotts have also been sealed at the request of the Ministry, and are currently under investigation for tax evasion. Without access to the family vaults buying Lord Malfoy's innocence isn't really an option this time," he added, his smile turning more into a predatory smirk, whilst the trio nodded in agreement.

Midnight Gold

'Fucking half-blood, who does he think he is, acting like he is one of us,' Draco mentally snarled for what felt like the thousandth time since he had arrived earlier that morning for his father's trial. He couldn't help but stare hatefully across the Wizengamot courtroom at his most hated nemesis dressed in a set of highly expensive traditional head of house robes, his grinning blood traitor of a cousin who had the nerve not to die in Azkaban like he should have next to him. That filthy half-blood bastard was even laughing lightly at something that blood traitor had said, looking like he didn't have a care in the world. 'I'll get you for this Potter,' he promised, knowing his fall from grace and his father's destroyed mind was all Potter's doing.

He wanted nothing more than to reach for his unicorn tail hair wand and send a killing curse at Potter's smug face, his anger and hate boiling so strongly in his veins that, despite not knowing the inner workings of the murderous spell, he was certain he would be able to cast it successfully! He just wanted Potter dead, as he watched the fucking half-blood pretender that had stolen his rightful position as the Black family heir rise from his seat to meet the Minister of Magic, his anger and hatred for the Ravenclaw that had ruined his life intensifying to even new heights as he watched the pair.

'Uncle Cornelius should be talking to me! Not that fucking half-blood thief,' he mentally raged whilst glaring at his enemy, the Minister of Magic laughing at something Potter shared, the two of them smiling and laughing like they were old friends.

"Draco, stop staring," his Mother hissed dangerously from besides him, instantly grabbing his attention.

"Mother, they're talking about us," he hissed back, as he looked at his prim and proper mother who had her familiar blank mask in place, the same icy indifferent mask she used whenever outside the house or attending social functions.

"You don't know that, they could be talking about anything, and most likely nothing of importance, just polite small talk to be seen talking to each other," she argued back, her voice calm and level even as he stared back at his most hated enemy and the man his father had actively encouraged him to call Uncle Cornelius getting friendly together. "Draco, ignore it, don't make me take you back to Hogwarts," she warned in a much firmer tone, his normally doting mother for once showing a surprising amount of steel.

Not knowing whether his mother was being serious or not with her threat, he decided not to push his luck with his mother being in this unexpected and unfamiliar mood. Shifting his attention away from the unfolding scene involving his nemesis, he decided to focus on examining this ancient chamber turned makeshift courtroom.

He knew from his father's lectures before he lost his mind that the Wizengamot Chamber served several functions besides hosting Wizengamot sessions. The ancient circular room also doubled as a massive symbolic courtroom. But it only rarely served that purpose, usually only when one of its own esteemed Wizengamot members were on trial as the accused or the case was deemed high profile enough to warrant the use of the ancient chamber. The main reason why the chamber was used this way was because it allowed the common masses to watch the high profile trial for themselves from a large viewing galley above, allowing everyone a chance to see the Ministry and their social superiors dispensing justice at its finest. His thoughts turned back to his wrongly accused father. 'How is this fair?! My father can't even remember his name, how can he defend himself against these unfounded accusations, and why and how was this trial even happening when the main witness had bolted and still hadn't been found?'

Thinking about his mentally damaged father caused him to sneer at the magically shielded viewing platform high above; the very idea that he and his noble family were merely entertainment for the herd of second rate beings that called themselves wizards and witches was disgusting. He gave a defiant snort at the very idea. He was a Malfoy; his family didn't have to explain themselves to the common rabble! He was Malfoy, he was better than everyone else, pure and simple, he recited to himself.

Turning his attention away from the viewing galley that made him want to throw curses, his eyes rested on the small section of the courtroom reserved for reporters, which was even now slowly filling with the bloodsucking members of the press. These were the very same people that had been slandering his family's good name non-stop for the last three weeks. The last three weeks of his life had been a truly miserable ordeal, despite his godfather's best efforts to shield him from the worst of it, the whole school now openly targeting him. Pictures of his drooling father from the Daily Prophet would appear randomly on school walls to be laughed at. His own househad even openly turned against him, his childhood friends and his contracted, Pansy, abandoning him in favour of better prospects. He knew Longbottom and Weasleys were somehow behind the pictures, but it couldn't be proven, so he was openly mocked and hexed now, considered free game by all and protected by none but his godfather.

However, a good amount of his anger and hate was focused squarely on the blonde haired woman dressed like a muggle prostitute that he recognised as Rita Skeeter, the very woman most responsible for publicly tarnishing his good family's name and making his life a living hell through her poisonous and slanderous articles. He wanted to do nothing more than to march down from his family box and confront her about the accusations and horrible lies that she had spread about him and his family, but he knew he shouldn't make a scene in public, that it would make things even worse in the end.

Severus and his mother had made it very clear to him to avoid talking to any members of the press, because no matter how nice and friendly they appeared at first, they would gleefully twist and mangle his every word to be used against him to sell more papers. Magical Britain's most popular newspaper, the Daily Prophet, was already firmly against his father and his family. Severus had made it perfectly clear that that wouldn't change any time soon, no matter what they said or how much gold was offered to make them change their stance. The press had chosen their side and were giving voice to everyone's thoughts and long-held resentments, whilst at the same time feeding and stirring the pot of anger and outrage against his family, to the point that both he and his mother had received several cursed letters and howlers each day. He turned his attention away from the press box.

His father's extensive influence had, for many years, sheltered them from the worst the press could say and do, but those days were over, leaving them exposed and vulnerable to any slander and lies the press desired to print, despite the fact that they owned many shares of the newspaper. Unfortunately, they did not control a large enough block of votes to silence the parasites that now spread their horrible lies, a matter made even worse by the fact that the blood-traitor, Lord Black, also held a good percentage of the stock.

Next to the press box was a small area reserved for the record keepers charged with recording and documenting the trial for the Ministry's record office, with another smaller section to their right where the updating books of law were neatly stored on several old bookcases. The three ancient law readers were already there, waiting behind their desks, the three white haired wizards ready to reference any magical law or regulation or past ruling if needed by their superiors or lawyers throughout the trial.

Unfortunately and despite his best efforts, his eyes were once again drawn inexorably back to Potter, who was busy posing for a photo with the Minister, his jealously stirring once again. 'It should be me having my photo taken! Not Potter,' he mentally proclaimed, not noticing that his own photo had just been taken by a watching reporter. "I'll get you Potter, I swear it," he muttered hatefully beneath his breath, but not going so far as to swear it on his own magic, because that would be just plain stupid. He no longer cared about Longbottom and Weasley, well, he did care, but they were progressively moving down his list of enemies that he wanted to see dead and humiliated. He would get Potter back as soon as the four eyed Ravenclaw returned to Hogwarts, he told himself, taking joy in thinking of all the different ways he would humiliate Potter, knowing his godfather would also join in on the fun.

"Draco, don't say things like that," his mother warned, picking up on his quiet mutterings. "The public already believes this family is dark; don't confirm their suspicions by muttering such dark thoughts in public where anyone could hear you."

"I don't care what they think, I'm a Malfoy," he said proudly, subconsciously puffing himself up to make himself seem bigger, more important, totally unaware that the gesture was positively laughable when done by a child. "Father always said not to care about what the foolish mob thinks, or says, that they're beneath us," he argued back, his voice getting progressively louder even as he gave a dismissive wave at the public viewing platform overhead.

"Draco, keep your voice down," his mother warned, before flicking her wand through the air to weave a privacy bubble around them to prevent anyone from hearing them, which meant a lecture was coming his way.

He braced himself for the inevitable lecture as she turned her attention back to him, her face surprisingly serious. "Let me make this clear Draco, what the mob thinks absolutely matters, because the mob easily outnumbers us. Our power and control continues through the creation of the Ministry, through the ministry we give them the perception that they actually have a say in this government, that they have a voice in running this country, which couldn't be further from the truth," she told. "Our ancestors in the Wizengamot created the modern Ministry to serve as a tool of their will, because it's easier to control people who believe that they have a say, a voice in government, than people who believe they don't have a voice. All this was achieved by paying the very low price of offering them a single vote. People who believe that they don't have a voice tend to revolt and rebel against their social superiors, and revolutions are an incredibly bloody business, often resulting in said social superiors being executed by the droves," she lectured, as he blinked in surprise.

"The Ministerial candidates are selected by us, the families in Wizengamot; we pick ambitious individuals of lesser families who understand their place and will serve our purposes. Then the masses vote on the candidates we choose for them, believing the Ministerial election is their doing, their will, but it's really we who control what the masses are told, what they believe they know about the candidates through our control of the Prophet," she lectured, before looking to the viewing gallery above. "Cornelius was selected by us to be a candidate for Minster because he was controllable, hence he serves our purposes, our desire to remain in control and in power, and he was well liked by the Mob above us due to his friendly face and everyman persona. If the Mob does not believe that the Minister is acting in their best interests, their will, the Minister is useless to us as a tool of control over them. If the Minister is useless to us, he is replaceable, otherwise the Mob may rebel against us because they believe they're being ignored, which could cost us greatly and force us to give the Mob more influence and power to calm them back into submission, back into the acceptance of their position in life."

'Father never mentioned any of this,' was his first thought, finding his mother's words hard to believe that the mob were that powerful even as his mother continued.

"The Mob wants your father's head on a platter," hand waving to the nearly full gallery above for emphasis, causing him to look at the growing mob above him with a sneer on his pale features. "And the Minister will give it to them because your father is a dark wizard, and he did serve You-Know-Who as a Death Eater, an inner circle member of a group who terrorized the masses, who ruthlessly raped, tortured and murdered their loved ones during the war. If the Minister and the Ministry as a whole do not give them what they want then the Wizengamot's control over the country will be threatened. Before all this, your father's rumoured involvement in Death Eater actions could simply be ignored and brushed under the rug as simply rumours, of slander spread and devised by his many political enemies who wished to discredit him. The lack of any concrete and irrefutable evidence to back up such claims helped a great deal. Of course, a great deal of gold changed hands too over the years, to help ensure that the rug was never looked under all that closely or any evidence found. This was possible because after the war's abrupt ending the political balance of power was in your father's and his allies' favour, powerful men who also wanted it all swept under the rug, and the opposition in the Wizengamot had been severely weakened by that point and were afraid that if they tried to force the issue, the war would continue on. By that point they were also tired of war and merely wanted it to end. So an under the table deal was forged, they supported the ridiculous Imperius defence and we in turn donated huge amounts of gold to the Ministry to be used towards reconstruction efforts, and thus they were publically cleared of all charges," he nodded to show that he was still listening.

"Naturally, there had to be someone to blame, and confirmed and unrepentant death eaters who wouldn't forsake their dead master, such as my sister, were sold out by their former comrades to save themselves," she explained in a bitter tone. He realized in that moment that history was repeating itself, that the same was happening now, that his father was being sacrificed by his former comrades to maintain the status quo and keep their freedom. "That deal was maintained for the last decade."

"Wait a minute, you said that father had the advantage and that the Ministry was weak, so why didn't he just fight on when he was winning?" he interrupted, wondering why his father had agreed to such terms.

His mother smiled; it was an amused smile. "Yes, the Ministry was weak and hopelessly infiltrated at all levels, and the general population was tired and war weary, but the Chief Warlock moved very quickly after You-Know-Who's death to rally fresh support, almost like he was forewarned it would happen and had prepared ahead of time. This caused several of the Dark Lord's most valuable allies to break away, like the giants and the werewolves and the vampires. Granted, most death eaters were happy to see such foul creatures go, but it weakened them as well. At the same time your father's comrades were unsure and divided. Some believed that the dark lord would soon return and thus they wanted to wait, others, the more ambitious members attempted to seize control in various bloody ways during the chaos, many others simply fled the country; the bottom line was that the slapped together leadership, such as it was, was utterly divided as to what to do next," she explained as he nodded again, enjoying the subject since he had never heard of the war from his father or godfather.

"You also have to understand that the Chief Warlock would always face off against You-Know-Who in an epic duel in each engagement, both leaders keeping the other busy while their respective group of followers decided the battle. With You-Know-Who gone, Dumbledore would now be free to assist his own allies in battle and would have easily turned any battle in his side's favour, despite only using non-lethal spells. You have to remember that a lot of people joined You-Know-Who's side not because of their belief in the cause, but due to the simple fact that we were winning, and they wanted to be on the winning side when the dust settled, and frankly also out of the belief that by siding with You-Who-Who that they and their families would be safe. In terms of picking a side, if you lost a battle as a death eater, nine times out of ten you were only captured. If you lost a battle as a member of Dumbledore's group, you were likely killed in various horrible ways. With You-Know-Who dead and gone, this large group of half-hearted, reluctant supporters immediately broke away," she lectured, her tone almost suggesting she had been involved herself, but he knew that his mother had never taken the dark lord's mark, unlike his father.

"Given enough time, the Chief Warlock would have turned the tables in his favour if the war had continued on, resulting in far worse bargaining position for your father and his allies to negotiate from, or they would all have been eventually completely subdued and imprisoned, our families ruined for all time. Your father realized this and decided to make peace whilst he still had the advantage and still had some small amount of influence and control over You-Know-Who's now leaderless followers. He knew that after a few defeats, even that would have ended. The Chief Warlock was willing to accept this because his own followers, whilst hopeful in their eventual victory, were also weary," she explained.

"Then there was also you to consider. Your father wanted to be free to raise you, not to be locked up in Azkaban for the rest of his life, which gave your father another reason to negotiate for peace," he nodded again, his mind swirling with numerous questions. "Hence a balance of power was achieved after the war and two political factions emerged in the Wizengamot with your father and Chief Warlock and their respective supporters facing off against each other, with neither side having an advantage. But that all changed with your father losing both the Black and Lestrange family votes and their respective vaults this past summer. With your father so politically weakened, several neutral households who had previously, grudgingly, supported the Chief Warlock to counter your father's power and influence, changed their political position back to a truly more neutral stance, like they had long had before the war to pursue their own political goals, now under the leadership of Lord Greengrass and Lord Black whose star was on the rise. This, in turn, meant that Lords who had sided with your father to counter the Chief Warlock's own political goals followed suit, causing a domino effect, creating several newly reformed political factions over the last couple of months. No longer is there a consolidation of power in only two factions, the light and dark magic supporters. This exodus to the middle, to a more neutral political position, was also encouraged when the Chief Warlock's faction lost the Potter family vote. Now neither side has the necessary support to force through any legislation without the support from several neutral factions, which means bargains have to be made, and legislation has to be far more moderate to win support. The next few years should be interesting, as the neutrals are comprised of both traditionally light and dark families. Our very definition of what those two things mean, in terms of magic, may even change over time."

"But now everyone knows what your father did thanks to those Prophet articles, and it can no longer be hidden away beneath the rug. People want someone to hate, someone to blame for the many years that You-Know-Who terrorized them, they want someone to be the bad guy, someone to pay for what happened to them, and who better than someone as high ranking as the aloof and powerful Lord Malfoy?" she asked him, whilst he wondered if she expected an answer from him.

"The Minister will gleefully give them your father's head because it saves his own hide, and it will keep the mob in check. Otherwise, the Minister will be thrown out of office due to corruption charges, or even worse, sent to Azkaban to waste away and die in a cold, filthy cell. Every Slytherin for themselves is the game now, and Cornelius is smart enough to recognise a sinking ship when he sees one," she said humourlessly. "Many Lords and Ladies will vote against your father just because it will keep the Mob happy and in check. Others will because your father was their enemy, or because they considered your father a rival that they can now safety destroy without fear of retaliation. Others, like your father's former allies, will sacrifice him because it might sate the public's hunger and allow them to avoid the same fate," his mother's words causing him to scowl at the mention of his father's allies betraying him, which in turn reminded him that his own friends had abandoned him.

"Traitors," he spat hatefully.

"Your father did not get the power he had by playing nice with others Draco," she scolded. "He made a lot more enemies than he did friends, even amongst his allies. Keep in mind even his allies were mostly there due to necessity, rather than any real loyalty to him personally, it was more for the protection that can only be had in numbers. In fact he kept incriminating files and evidence on all of his allies, so that he could either blackmail them into staying in line or destroy them if need be, so that they could never become a threat. A safeguard in times of crisis."

"Couldn't we use these files to blackmail them into supporting us," he asked, seeing a possible way to save his father from his unjust fate.

"We could, perhaps, if we even knew where your father stored them," his mother answered, causing his rising hope to come crashing down. "But that would be a very dangerous game, if you get my meaning Draco." He nodded solemnly, understanding what his mother was saying.

"Of course, they don't know that I don't know where the files were stored, so I made a deal with them. They won't move against me or you, and I won't have to use the 'files' against them. The threat that the files would be released in the events of our untimely deaths has further prevented them from simply killing us and being done it," his mother explained, with a hint of smirk on her features.

His respect for his mother went up a notch after hearing his mother's bluff, causing him to look around the courtroom once again whilst wondering which notable figures his mother had made an agreement with to secure their safety. "Is there nothing we can do to help father?"

"Your father is nothing more than a scapegoat now, a sacrificial lamb. No Draco, there is nothing we can do for your father, but we can and must protect this family, to ensure that it's not destroyed today for all time. That was what your father would have wanted, why he took his own memories, so that the Malfoy name could endure to fight another day," she said, in an ice cold, emotionless tone.

He was taken aback by his mother's words, first because his mother had never shown such political insight before, second because his mother's words lacked any sort of feeling towards his father, and finally, because it seemed like his mother had already accepted defeat. He knew his mother and father's marriage had been arranged by their respective parents, but he had always thought there was some semblance of love that existed between them, as they always had a happy face on around the manor. "Don't talk like that Mother," he commanded in disbelief, not willing to believe or accept his mother's words that would doom his father.

"It's the truth. There is no point in denying it now; far better to accept it and make the best of it. Denial will get us nothing," she remarked coldly.

"Then what's the point of the trial then? If father is just going to be found guilty anyways? Why don't they just throw him in Azkaban and be done with it?!" he countered angrily.

"For the Ministry this is just a big show, a drama for the masses to gorge themselves on. Madam Bones has all the evidence she needs to utterly destroy your father a dozen times over, though it certainly took her long enough. She's been after your father with a vengeance for years, ever since the war ended," she stated humourlessly. "For us Draco, this trial is only about damage control, to minimize the political and financial damage done to this house and a chance to defend our own names; a chance to make us less guilty by association. The best possible outcome for this farce is that when it's all over there is actually something left so that you can rebuild the family name for your own heirs to inherit one day, and to ensure that your father is kept in the hospital, under medical care, rather than being given to the Dementors to feed upon."

Considering his mother's words, he was just about to reply before she cut him off. "I expect several grandchildren by the way; I want at least one girl that I can pamper and dress up," she offered with a genuine smile. His mother's words causing his cheeks to redden in embarrassment at the sudden change of subject, causing him to look back towards the courtroom to see the Chief Warlock enter the room by a small door at the back of the room. The old muggle loving fool took his seat on the raised platform reserved for the Chief Warlock, the Minister of Magic, and the Head of Magical Law Enforcement. The highest seat at the centre of the platform was for the Chief Warlock, the second to the left was meant for the Minister, and the third and lowest seat of the trio was meant for the Head of Law Enforcement, easily recalling the lessons his godfather had drilled into him in preparation for today's trial.

Thinking of his father once again and of his father's state of mind, his anger boiled over again at the injustices that had befallen upon the man he so looked up to, who taught him how to be a Malfoy, how to be a man. It was so wrong that his father had to stand trial for standing up for their traditional values, for their way of life, for wanting to remove the muggle filth from Hogwarts. He never once considered the fact that his father was standing trial because he had tried to murder several people, some of which were his classmates, nor put the entire school in danger, nor the fact that an auror was dead because of one of those attempts.

o_ooo000ooo_o

He smiled proudly to himself as he watched Minister Fudge and his handful of attendants leave, or 'Cornelius' as the minister liked to be called by his 'very dear' friends, his initial impression about the career politician once again confirmed after the short exchange. He turned to face his godfather, "That was interesting, it looks like Cornelius is shopping for a new financial backer," he offered aloud to his godfather who nodded in agreement, whilst retaking his seat besides the thoughtful dog animagus. "Looks like someone's unhappy," he offered, subtly pointing out Draco and the boy's mother, Lady Malfoy, who was sitting across from him and Sirius. The former Black family member, who had been cast out for all time, was sitting proudly by her son, with a familiar 'I'm better than you expression on her beautiful face,' whilst Draco was staring at him with hateful eyes.

"Maybe you should wave a cheery hello to them," Sirius suggested with a doggish smile, causing him to grin and laugh at the idea of baiting Draco so publically. He did restrain himself from acting on the childish suggestion though. Today he was Lord Potter-Peverell, heir to the Black family, not a childish 12 year old child acting out.

"Maybe," he offered back with a smile, but knowing he wouldn't. He spotted his pet reporter down in the reporters' box, seeing her brought to mind their discussion the night before. "Rita looks rather appealing today," his innocent, but probing words causing his godfather to check out the reporter in question with an appraising eye, hoping his godfather wouldn't make any crude sexual remarks in public.

"Right you are there pup," Sirius agreed, his grin growing bigger as he looked at Harry. "So little Harry is finally starting to notice the opposite sex; I was starting to get worried about you pup," Sirius teased in a playful tone, as he felt his cheeks redden, before he stopped the physical reaction with his iron will.

"I've been able to notice the opposite sex for a while now Sirius, but only now am I starting to understand and appreciate the meaning behind the word sexy, and just how visually appealing the female body can be," he stated flatly.

"Ahh, you're finally growing up then Harry," the familiar voice of his elder cousin teased from behind him, causing him to turn to see Tonks and her family standing behind them.

He smiled fondly at them, standing up to give her a tight, lingering hug. "How's Hogwarts?" he asked her, not yet letting her go.

"Not bad. Thanks for getting me out of school for the day," she answered with a smile, returning the hug.

"It was your mother's idea, so that we could display a unified front as a family," he explained, before releasing her and retaking his seat, while Sirius greeted Ted and Andy. "What's DADA like with Snape teaching it?"

o_ooo000ooo_o

He watched as the muggle loving fool rose from his seat to address the chamber, the chamber quieting quickly with the simple action of the Chief Warlock standing. "The trial of Lucius Malfoy, Lord of the Noble house of Malfoy, will begin in ten minutes time. Please be seated so that we can begin on time without any delays," the Chief Warlock declared with a soft half amused smile, before retaking his seat as their family lawyers approached.

The most senior of the two lawyer's wand appeared in hand, before casting an advanced privacy charm around them to block out any potential eavesdroppers. "Lady Malfoy, we will go with our planned defence," the aged lawyer said, "but as we discussed yesterday, I don't expect it will work given that your husband's current medical condition can be seen as self-inflicted to avoid justice, and resulted from resisting arrest. It will only delay the trial's progress, maybe a couple of hours, maybe a day at most, if we are lucky," his mother nodded in understanding. "I'd once again like to point out that this delaying tactic might cause some resentment and anger amongst the judges towards us, which in turn might turn the court against you for time wasting, which could come back to haunt us later on."

His mother nodded, "Proceed as we have discussed Mr. Eddings. Remember that this is all about damage control, to ensure the family's standing and name remains. It must be made abundantly clear that all this was solely Lucius' doing, and not mine or Draco's. We need to make the court understand this if we are to survive," his mother stressed. "The Malfoy family fortune and name must stay intact for Draco to inherit when he comes of age."

"Yes Madam, I know your wishes," Mr. Eddings replied, before cancelling the privacy charm and then returning to the courtroom floor with his assistant in tow.

Turning to his thoughtful mother, he posed a question on his mind. "Is Mr. Eddings any good?" he probed, wanting to know more about the man responsible for defending his father and their family name.

"He is competent and has a good court record; Severus found him for us," she replied. He broke down his mother's answer; 'competent' certainly did not mean that their lawyer was the best around, far from it in fact. It meant the man defending his father's life was average and that Mr. Eddings was at least professional and knew his stuff. If his godfather thought the man was capable, that was something positive in the lawyer's favour since his godfather considered most people idiots, or worse.

"So he isn't the best around then? There are better lawyers around we could have hired?" he pushed, wanting to know why his mother hadn't gotten the very best lawyer possible to defend his father.

His mother clearly knew where his questioning was going and quickly cast another privacy bubble charm around them, as a dome of visible light covered them from view. "Draco, the Ministry froze the Malfoy vaults because your father is under investigation for tax evasion. The only bank vault we currently have access to at the moment is my private one, thanks to a petition I submitted to the Ministry with the help of Severus, meaning our financial resources are rather limited at the moment," she explained. "Your father, in his infinite wisdom, never told me where he had the other 'unofficial' gold deposits hidden in case of emergencies like this, gold that was untraceable which could be used for bribes and in situations like this where the Ministry froze our normal accounts or the Goblins rebelled," her tone bitter, clearly unhappy about his father not trusting her with such important information.

But then again, his mother did have extremely rich tastes, and never wore the same outfit twice; which meant his father was probably concerned she would raid all the unofficial funds to fuel her shopping addiction. Of course, he said nothing of this and just quietly listened to his mother. "We have to be very careful with the gold we spend now, especially since we don't know how large the ministry fines are going to be. The last thing we need is to fall into debt with the goblins," she argued as he nodded, having no desire to work in the goblin mines for the rest of his life. "Mr. Eddings is quite simply the best we can afford to defend your father and the family at this time, and is one of few lawyers around actually willing to take on the case. No lawyer wants to take on a case that they are almost certain to lose, which undermines their win to loss ratio," he nodded again in understanding. He was finding there was quite a bit of settling and bad luck to go around in this situation.

"Why did he agree then? What does he gain by representing us?" he asked, trying to work out what the lawyer gained.

"Mr. Eddings runs a small firm, almost unknown, so even if we lose the case, he will gain a measure of prestige and publicity by finally representing a 'big' client. That means new work, even if he loses. If he wins, however, he is looking at a lot of prestige and even more new business," she answered back.

Looking back down at the courtroom floor, he examined the lawyer who was busy looking over his paperwork with mixed feelings; his mind turning back to the subject of gold. "How much do we have left?" he asked, not really sure if he wanted to know the answer or not.

"Less than twenty thousand galleons. Hopefully it will be enough until the Malfoy family vaults are reopened to us, even then, your father limited the size of withdrawals I can make," she explained carefully. "With him still being alive, he is officially still the head of the family, despite his mental condition preventing him from fulfilling the role, which means he'll still officially control the purse strings of the family. That can't be challenged until you are 17 and can claim the position for yourself given the extenuating circumstances. Until then we need to closely watch our spending. If things get really bad, I could always approach my former family, but I doubt they will offer any aid as long as I carry your father's name," his mother's words causing him to snarl in disgust at the very idea of being forced to go and beg anything of the Lord Black.

"Did father not trust you?" he asked without thinking, wondering if he should even trust his mother if his father didn't. His ridiculously blunt, un-Slytherin words caused his mother to stiffen visibly at the question, before giving him a very, very cold look, a look he recognised as a bad sign.

He immediately realized that he had touched upon a raw nerve with his mother, but before he could backtrack and apologize profusely his mother spoke, her tone sounding like ice and sharp steel mixed as one. "Your father was a rather distrustful individual; he trusted no one, not even me, despite the fact that I stood loyally by his side for so many years without complaint. Maybe the better word would even be 'paranoid' to describe your father's attitude to the world; he was always looking for the slightest sign of betrayal, jumping at shadows," she answered, her tone bitter and angry at the end, but also a touch amused. "He was always worried he would be stabbed in the back. It's rather amusing that given all the incredibly dangerous people he dealt with on a daily basis, it was timid little Peter Pettigrew that set him up and brought him down in the end. It's always the ones you underestimate that get you in the end Draco, remember that. And don't ever trust a rat either."

He just nodded, since he had nothing productive to add to the subject. He decided to ask another blunt question that had been on his mind. "Did you even love father?" he asked, as his mother just looked at him, clearly debating what to share with him as he held his breath, hoping the answer was an unequivocal 'yes.'

"Do you really want to know? It will change how you see me and your father," she asked in return.

He paused for a moment, "Yes, I do," he answered, wanting to know the truth of the matter.

"I did love him, at least at first, despite it being an arranged marriage by our parents," she answered with a sad smile. "Well, I thought I did, he was so charming and cunning, a wizard with a quickly growing power and influence and reputation. He was like my prince and along he came to sweep me off my feet." He nodded, thankful that his mother was keeping out the more personal details of their courtship. "But that quickly faded away into nothing, and that young love was washed away," she finished with a regretful sigh.

"What happened?" he blurted out, wanting to know why his mother didn't love his father any longer.

"Many things, many small things that added up," she stated vaguely, avoiding the question in a way that was so typical of someone who had been a member of Slytherin house.

"Mother, I want to know," he pushed, wanting to know more about his mother and father who he always thought loved each other, at least until a few moments ago.

She sighed, "The first thing, and the most damning, was when I came to realize that he did not in fact love me. I was merely a means to an end, the way he'd have a pureblood heir, a successor to ensure that his family name continued on long after he was gone. He didn't share or ask me for advice with his schemes, nor did he trust me. He wanted a pretty trophy wife to look good on his arm when he attended parties and climbed the political ladder, never a true partner. But we did make a deal. He would treat me with respect and ensure that I had everything I could ever desire in life, and I, in turn, would play my part in his grand schemes as his prefect pureblood wife." He nodded again. "We did have some problems, and several miscarriages that damaged the relationship between us that always ended in your father blaming me and me blaming him."

"Then we finally had you and things got better for us, because we both loved you," she smiled fondly at the memory before her mask was back in place. "And that love for you was something we could share, something that gave us a common goal and purpose. We both wanted what was best for you, and that gave us a common ground to build our marriage around. It also helped that there was no longer a dark lord around anymore calling him away all the time to complete tasks for him. I swear, your father seemed to love the dark lord more than he loved me at times. In the end our marriage became just like most other arranged marriages in the end, we both played our own part in public, love was replaced with contentment. I was married to the most powerful man in the country. I had money, position, comfort and a son to raise, and he had the perfect wife and son he always desired to inherit his throne."

He wanted to say something, but his tongue froze in his mouth, preventing him from saying anything as his mind absorbed and digested his mother's explanation which explained so much, and why he had no younger sibling.

"I admit, I would have liked it if he saw me more as an equal partner in our marriage, but that just didn't happen despite my best efforts to make it happen. He just didn't trust anyone, not even me… I personally blame the darks arts myself, they twist and corrupt one's emotions, corrupting the caster to the point where they just aren't capable of feeling love and affection and kindness anymore," she stated, her mask fully restored.

"Father wanted to teach me the dark arts," he said at last, finally finding his words again.

"I would have tried to discourage him from that idea," she replied evenly. "When the dark arts are overused they can twist and corrupt your personality beyond repair. They can also rob you of your fertility as well, but your father would never acknowledge that fact. My sister Bella is an example of what can happen from over usage. She is a nut case now, totally insane, and the dementors have probably made her even worse. It really is a shame; she was such a nice girl, beautiful and kind, intelligent and powerful."

He nodded, not sure what to add, or how to reply to his mother's remarks as he looked out over the quieting courtroom, trying to work out if he felt any different about his father.

"If you had gotten married to Miss Parkinson like your father intended, you might have been lucky enough to actually fall in love with her someday, but in all likelihood you would have likely merely reached a compromise, an arrangement between the pair of you to ensure the marriage worked out, just like I did with your father and just like my mother did with my father," she explained. He nodded automatically again, not really paying attention anymore, too wrapped up in his own thoughts to listen to his mother's words.

The next couple of minutes passed by without any more words being exchanged between the two of them, his mother cancelling the privacy charm as he considered his parents' relationship and his own future. Turning back to face his mum, he was just about to ask another question when the doors leading to the Wizengamot chamber closed noisily and a blue energy barrier came from the grand wooden doors, sealing the room as the Chief Warlock stood up from his chair and called the chamber to silence.

"Please all be seated, the trial of Lord Malfoy will begin in a few moments," Hogwarts' former headmaster announced in a magically augmented voice, the large chamber falling silent and the last few people taking their seats. The aged wizard scanned the room, clearly making sure that everyone was seated before checking that all the required ministry officials were at their proper posts, as both the defence and prosecutor teams signalled that they were ready to begin the trial, before he turned to the Minister and Madam Bones who also nodded that they were ready to begin.

"The trial of Lord Malfoy shall now begin," Dumbledore declared, banging his gavel to emphasize the point. "Representing and conducting Lord Malfoy's legal defence on his behalf is his wife, Lady Narcissa Malfoy. Lord Malfoy has been declared medically unfit to represent himself due to permanent memory damage suffered from overexposure to a self-inflicted grade 1 memory charm whilst attempting to resist arrest by a team of aurors. It should be noted for the official record that Lady Malfoy is the closest family member capable of representing the accused, due to the fact that the direct male blood heir of the accused is not yet of age." His mother elegantly rose from her seat, the eyes of everyone in the chamber falling upon her.

"Lady Malfoy, do you hereby accept the legal responsibility for your incapacitated husband," he asked in a firm tone, showing no visible emotion.

"Yes, I do, Chief Warlock," his mother replied in a calm and level tone, showing no sign of nerves even as his own stomach did cartwheels, despite the fact that he had no active part to play in the trial. "I would also like to voice, for the record, that my husband's accused deeds were without my knowledge, and hereby voice my own innocence and that of my son's. And furthermore, that when I was questioned by the investigating aurors, that I was cleared of all charges and complicity in any of the charges." The Chief Warlock looked over to Madam Bones who shared a few quiet words before the Chief Warlock nodded in acquiescence.

"It shall be noted for the record that when questioned by the Ministry Aurors, Lady Malfoy, under truth serum, proved that she knew nothing of her husband's accused crimes," the Chief Warlock voiced aloud to the chamber. Madam Bones stood up and also confirmed the statement was correct for the record. "Lady Malfoy, would you please confirm that you have appointed Mr. Eddings and his legal assistant, Mr. Potsworth, as your husband's legal defence team, to represent your husband on your behalf."

"Yes, I do, Chief Warlock, as I do not have the requisite legal knowledge, nor do I have the understanding to properly and competently represent my husband in this legal proceeding. I trust Mr. Eddings and his legal team will represent my husband to the best of their combined abilities," she voiced, as Mr. Eddings and his assistant stood up from behind their wooden desk. He watched as Dumbledore asked the pair of lawyers if they accepted responsibility for his father's legal defence throughout the trial, to which both men agreed. His mother then sat back down, her small part in the trial complete.

Dumbledore then stood up, gently smoothing his robes before addressing the chamber, "Due to the fact that I am one of the unfortunate victims in Lord Malfoy's alleged crimes, and I am also a witness to the events, I am required to give several pieces of evidence during this trial on behalf of the prosecution. I therefore must temporarily stand down from my position as Chief Warlock for the duration of this trial to avoid unfair bias." His hopes soared at this news; his father would be freed now for sure, now that his father's greatest enemy was no longer the head magistrate responsible for deciding court rulings. He happily looked to his mother who just gave him a shake of her head, her expression confusing him.

"By law, I now pass the responsibility of my prestigious office to the highest office in the land, the Minister of Magic." The old wizard then turned to face the Minister.

Cornelius then stood up to symbolically accept the offered seat that the Chief Warlock had just vacated, at the same time accepting the symbolic gavel that was passed to him. "I hereby accept the position and the responsibilities of this ancient position of justice, Chief Warlock," the Minister declared formally to the listening chamber, the court scribes and reporters' quills working quickly to record the change of legal authority. His hopes climbed ever higher at the idea the Minister would secretly aid his father, a smug smile forming on his face, despite his mother's earlier words that the Minister would sell him out to save his own skin. The Chief Warlock then left the box to take a free seat in the stands reserved for high ranking ministry officials.

There was a short pause before the Minister stood up to address the chamber, "Under the law of these lands and in the interest of justice, I also must relieve myself of the duties of this temporary office of justice due to my former close friendship with the accused to avoid the appearance of favouritism and basis," the Minister's words instantly caused his smile to disappear and his hope to come crashing down as he eyed Madam Bones warily. "I hereby remove myself from that authority for the duration of this trial," the Minister voiced, like he was reading from a pre-planned script. "I hereby pass the responsibilities of my temporary position to the next highest authority, the head of the office of Magical Law Enforcement, Madam Amelia Bones." The Minister then turned to face Madam Bones, as the chamber started to stir again at the realization that the incorruptible Madam Bones would be heading the trial.

That meant one thing, his father was in trouble, big trouble; Madam Bones had been after his father for years. A pit of anxiety formed in his gut, as the witch took the offered seat from the Minister, but chose not to engage in any type of flowery speech.

"Not good," he stated in a low tone, the Minister taking the seat next to the Chief Warlock, ready to watch from the sidelines.

"It's about to get worse," his mother offered, as Madam Bones stood up to address the chamber, the crowd stirring.

o_ooo000ooo_o

'So far so good,' Harry noted to himself, as the minister of magic stepped down from the podium, his trademark bowler hat holstered under his arm as Madam Bones stood up to address the chamber.

The stern no-nonsense witch was dressed in full Auror dress robes today, as he considered the idea that his older cousin could very well be doing the same job as Madam Bones in the years to come. "I also must relieve myself from this temporary office and the responsibility for overseeing justice, as I led the criminal investigation against Lord Malfoy," the head of law enforcement explained to the restless chamber, the Lords and Ladies of the Wizengamot muttering amongst themselves, clearly wondering who would be Madam Bones' replacement.

She paused for a moment to allow the chamber to calm down; he noticed Dumbledore frown at this, clearly the old wizard had not expected the head of magical law enforcement to step down. "I must also pass on the responsibility for upholding justice during these proceedings to my second in command, Senior Auror Rufus Scrimgeour." An old stern faced wizard that reminded him of an old lion got up from his seat in the ministerial box and descended to the chamber floor in a fast, but purposeful march, causing the ambient mutterings of the chamber to get a good deal louder.

It was clear from the facial expressions on the Chief Warlock's and the Minister's faces that they hadn't been made aware of Madam Bones' intention to stand down, rather than overseeing the trial herself. The stern faced auror in full dress uniform took the offered seat from his boss, who then stepped down and joined the team of prosecutors on the courtroom floor, once again surprising the chamber.

Turning his attention back to Rufus Scrimgeour, he mentally named the man, 'old lion.' He had never met the senior auror personally, but that was nothing new, but from everything he had heard from Sirius and Madam Bones he knew that this man was to be respected for his ability with his wand, and for the leadership and courage the man had shown during the war. The simple fact was that the man was both capable and professional.

After all, Madam Bones wasn't the type of person to promote someone based on personal contacts and friends over personal ability. He also knew Scrimgeour himself had suffered several family loses during the war to the Death Eaters, and had had a long career mercilessly hunting down dark wizards for the Ministry, in fact Scrimgeour was only second to the famous Mad-Eye Moody in his passion for justice. "I bet no one saw that coming," he voiced to his godfather with a smirk.

"Madam Bones' idea most likely, never knew she could be so sneaky," Sirius offered with a grin as the courtroom settled again, after realizing that the game of musical chairs was finally over.

The Chief Warlock then stood up, Scrimgeour acknowledging the old wizard thus granting him his permission to address the floor. "Senior Auror Scrimgeour, I recall that your own son was killed by several death eaters during Lord Voldemort's initial rise to power," the court room collectively flinched at the use of the Dark Lord's real name. "Do you believe that you can uphold the responsibilities of the office you are holding for these proceedings without any personal basis against the accused," the Chief Warlock asked gently, but the chamber and audience above heard every word.

"Chief Warlock, that was over a decade ago and I have made my peace with it," Scrimgeour replied in a calm, but firm tone, which reminded him of polished granite. "I highly doubt that you could find anyone of sufficient rank and knowledge to fulfil the duties of this office that doesn't have some type of personal bias or personal experience relating to the criminal terrorist group known as the Death Eaters. I would also remind you and this audience that I have served the law and the Ministry to the utmost of my ability for over four decades. I have no personal knowledge of this case nor had any involvement in Madam Bones' investigation, nor do I have any type of personal relationship with either the victims or the accused," Scrimgeour added, but it was more than likely meant more for the benefit of the chamber at large, than the Chief Warlock.

"Therefore I am as unbiased as can be realistically expected in this matter of justice. I'll uphold the law as it is written, no more and no less. Now, are there any other objections?" the Senior Auror asked the chamber. Scrimgeour's impromptu speech nicely brushed aside any arguments against his appointment whilst also stating why he was the best candidate available to fill the position. There was some light muttering amongst the chamber, but the crowd seemed to approve.

It was clear that some of the Wizengamot Lords and Ladies felt otherwise, but weren't willing to publically oppose the man with the mob against them. Scrimgeour then surprised him further by taking the initiative by going on the attack whilst he had the advantage. "Shall we call a vote on the matter? Since it is clear by your whispering that some of you disagree with my appointment, but are unwilling to publicly voice that opposition," Scrimgeour spoke calmly, but clearly, the room falling silent at his bold move.

It was then that he saw what Scrimgeour was cleverly doing; he was forcing people who might otherwise object to his appointment to publically reveal themselves in front of the mob watching above. It was a sound tactic, with a vote of the entire Wizengamot on the matter, his appointment later on would be unassailable. "All against my appointment to the role of Chief Warlock for the duration of this trial, please stand and be counted," he called out, but no one stood even after several moments pause, many clearly unwilling to single themselves out in front of the mob.

"All those in favour?" Scrimgeour barked from the podium, carrying on with the vote without pause.

If no one had reacted or acknowledged Scrimgeour's authority, the unofficial vote could have been dismissed as the auror overstepping his temporary position of authority, but the effect was instantaneous, as almost a quarter of the courtroom stood up, including both him and Sirius. He looked over to see Lord Greengrass also standing, along with the aging Lady Longbottom, as more and more Lords and Ladies were forced to their feet rather than risk being labelled a Death Eater sympathiser by the audience above. Even the Minister of Magic and the Chief Warlock reluctantly got to their feet, clearly understanding that this fight was truly lost, and didn't want to be seen going against the will of so many Lords and Ladies.

Surprisingly, even Lady Malfoy got to her feet in agreement. Draco's mother clearly understood that despite her vote not being counted for the duration of this trial, it was best to publically show her support for justice, rather than stay sitting and risk being singled out.

"Motion carried," Scrimgeour stated calmly, with a hint of smugness at his well played victory. "Please be seated," he commanded, everyone then retaking their seats.

Retaking his own seat, he turned to his godfather, "That was rather anachronistic; I didn't expect we would have to physically stand for a vote," he stated, disguising his question as an observation.

Sirius smiled, "We used to cast votes that way for centuries, and many traditionalists still want to, but it was realized after a while that the voting system we used could easily be rigged with a couple of well placed confundus charms or even something as simple as purposefully miscounting the standing/sitting members, etc. I think Scrimgeour chose that method to ensure that the crowd saw how everyone voted. It also prevented certain parties from claiming that they put their wand in the wrong voting slot," the former Auror explained amusedly, as he pointed out the two holes in the wooden post by both of their seats, labelled 'aye' and 'nay.' Harry nodded in understanding. "It's easier and simpler just to use the wand method, rather than standing and sitting most of the time. Just a bit of common sense really. Voting this way also ensures that the votes are tallied magically and records kept as to how each family voted on each law."

"That's rather surprising, most wizards I have encountered lack that type of common sense," he replied, before turning his attention back to the floor as his godfather looked at him in amusement.

Midnight Gold

'Not long now. Lucius' trial will be starting soon,' Peter thought to himself, causing him to check the train clock to see that it was fast approaching eleven o'clock, the appointed start time of the highly publicized trial. 'Finally, I'll be able to do some good, if they don't kill me first,' he thought darkly to himself, his heart starting to beat faster and faster at the thought, to the point it felt like his heart was going to explode in his chest.

He knew how his former dark comrades dealt with traitors, how they would deal with him if they got a hold of him, but he pushed his fears to the side and instead tried to keep calm as he neared ever closer to his moment of judgement and hopefully redemption in the eyes of the world. He really liked the idea of having a single moment of well-earned glory, a chance to set the record straight, to do some good.

He felt the dark mark angrily pulse on his left arm, a shiver of pain that reminded him of what he had done, of his crimes, of the people he had betrayed in the quest for power. A part of him wondered what would happen to him the moment he betrayed his lord by denouncing the dark lord in open court. How would the magical vow he had taken over a decade ago react? Would he die instantly, right there on the stand? Or would it be a slow, agonizing death?

'A slow agonizing death,' another part of him answered fearfully, knowing that would be just how the dark lord would like it, to send a message, the rat instincts inside him telling him to run.

'A griffindor is brave, fearless,' he recited calmly to himself, taking courage in the words his dead mother once spoke to him decades ago in preparation for boarding the Hogwarts Express, his tired mind turning back to his happy childhood to hold together his remaining resolve.

'How did I fall so far?' he asked himself, wondering what had happened to cause him to fall so far as to betray his childhood friends, his brothers in all but blood. Looking down at his hands, it was like he could almost see their blood upon them. He looked away from them in shame, causing him to look into the train carriage's window only to see his polyjuice created face looking back at him in the darkness.

Despite the face staring back at him not being his own, overwhelming guilt and sadness were plain on his exotic features. As he considered his fate, he wondered what his ancestors thought of him now. His inner rat voice got louder as the train rumbled, telling him to run and hide, to run back to the safe house that Dumbledore had provided for him in Italy and wait for the old wizard to return. But he was so tired of running, of always hiding, tired of serving others at the cost of his own happiness, of always having to be on guard, of always having to look over his shoulder looking for any sign of the bounty hunters and aurors that hunted him, of always having to use polyjuice whenever he dared to walk amongst other magicals, since he lacked the skill to use a glamour charm.

It was at that moment that the train left the channel tunnel and darkness gave way to daylight, allowing him to see the familiar scenery of his country of birth. The many mismatched green trees and bushes that lined the train tracks were a welcoming sight after almost a month overseas in the dry heat of southern Italy. Italy had been a fine country, with wonderful weather if you didn't mind the dry heat and the sun, but at the end of the day, it still wasn't home. He didn't understand their tongue, nor their odd customs, and their food was far too exotic for his taste, and at the end of the day he was an outsider, a stranger, and it seemed they all knew it somehow despite his best efforts to blend in and appear as one of them.

"The train will be arriving in London in 15 minutes time, please make sure you take all your personal belongings with you at that time," a feminine voice announced over the train's speakers, before shifting to French and making a similar announcement, causing his heart to start pumping in overtime as he felt a panic attack coming on.

Reaching into his coat pocket, his hands shook violently as he felt the curious eyes of several other passengers resting upon him. He pulled out a small vial of clear, sky blue liquid, before uncorking the bottle whilst ignoring their combined stares and quickly downed the calming potion. The potion's effects were instantaneous; a relaxing wave of calm washed over him, his hands stopped shaking, his heart calmed down by a noticeable amount and his breathing eased.

It was at that point that he remembered the group of curious muggles watching him intently, several of them eyeing the now empty vial. "Medicine for my heart, got a bad ticker," he offered to the watching group, his reason being easily accepted as they turned their attention away from him and back to their own business. He sighed in relief that his excuse had been accepted, this saved him from having to memory charm them, which would have likely caused other problems given his lack of skill with the spell. He allowed himself to sink back into his seat again and closed his eyes for a few moments.

A few minutes later he felt the train begin to slow down, his animal senses feeling the brakes being applied beneath him. 'Keep it together. Soon you will redeem yourself as a Griffindor and do some good for once,' he recited to himself, but felt no emotion or excitement at the thought on account of the potent potion he had taken. The muggle train gently pulled into the station without fanfare, the passengers around him standing up and collecting their belongings. He made to follow them, rather than stand out by walking alone. There was anonymity in being a part of a group.

That was something that he had learned well over the years in hiding; single people stood out far more than groups did. By simply stepping in time with a group he would appear uninteresting, non-threatening, thus meeting unconscious expectations, especially if the group he joined made no fuss about him. There was also the fact that the calming draught he had taken ensured that he would be calm and collected, rather than nervous and jumpy looking, which would again draw the attention of the border guards looking for any questionable travellers. He continued with the group for a few minutes more until he spotted a spot shrouded in shadow, a place he could use to apparate away. He would have preferred to use a port-key or the floo, since his first experience with apparition had resulted in him leaving his arm behind, but neither option was available within the muggle station. Resigning himself to apparition, he focused his mind on his desired destination.

Thankfully, due to the calming potion he had just taken, it proved far easier to focus on where he desired to go than it normally would have been. He pulled and twisted his magic around him to encase him in a protective cocoon of magic, before he popped, darkness engulfing him for a few moments before he reappeared in an alleyway just outside the Leaky Cauldron, just as he desired.

After a few moments hesitation, he entered the pub. 'No turning back now,' he noted to himself, whilst he walked over to the bar to see good ol' Tom cleaning the bar top, several newspapers on a nearby stand resting on the bar. "Good morning Tom, how are the kids?" he greeted in a friendly manner, like they were old friends.

"Err, do I know you sir? I don't believe we have met before," Tom the barmen asked confused.

"I'm currently using polyjuice potion," he answered, as he took a seat on a nearby barstool and made himself comfortable. "Would you be so kind as to call the aurors for me? I wish to turn myself in. Can I get a full English breakfast while I wait though? It's been far too long since I had proper English food," he explained as the barman blinked in confusion.

Midnight Gold

"Lord Lucius Malfoy stands accused of high treason against the state, of multiple counts of murder in the service of the Dark Lord known as..." Scrimgeour paused at that point, before forcing himself to use the dark lord's name, "Voldemort." The entire courtroom collectively flinched at the use of the name, causing Harry to roll his eyes at their ridiculous behaviour. The dark lord had been dead for ten plus years now, but they still feared the very name of the man that was now just another name in the history books, a harmless memory. "Conspiracy to commit the murder of Harry James Potter, heir to both the Noble and Most Ancient houses of Potter and Black, illegal possession of Grade 5 cursed dark arts objects, tax evasion, and the masterminding of the attacks that occurred at Hogwarts this past year and on her students," Scrimgeour listed calmly, reading the accused's alleged crimes to the chamber and the audience above from a symbolic scroll. "How do you plead?"

Mr. Cullen Eddings stood up from behind his table to address the courtroom, "On behalf of the defendant, we plead guilty to the charges of tax evasion and possession of cursed dark arts object, however, we plead not guilty on all other charges." A murmur ran through the crowd at this, quickly growing louder, but it was now time for him to play his own part in this little drama. He elegantly stood up from his chair, the action grabbing the courtroom's attention, gradually silencing the increasingly noisy crowd.

Scrimgeour gave him a curious look, "Is there something you wish to say Mr. Potter?" the acting Chief Warlock asked.

He forced a calm smile on his face, through sheer force of will clamping down with an iron grip on his nerves, as he addressed the entire courtroom for the first time, "I am afraid there has been a mistake in the charges being brought against Lord Malfoy that needs correcting, if we want to ensure that proper justice is done acting Chief Warlock. You see at the time of the first attempt on my life, I wasn't the heir to the Noble and Most Ancient house of Potter, I was already invested as the Lord Potter." His words caused another round of whispers to run through the courtroom. "Therefore, as accused, Lord Malfoy attempted to assassinate the Lord of a Noble and Most Ancient house. This correction to the list of charges is relevant as under the law this carries far greater penalties, especially given the status of my house as one of the founding families of the Wizengamot and the modern British Ministry of Magic, a family that Lord Malfoy's actions nearly made extinct."

"Preposterous! A mere child can't become the lord of their family!" an unknown woman proclaimed loudly, getting several murmurs in agreement.

He turned his burning gaze to the general area of the courtroom where the voice had come from. He had expected such a response, in fact he had counted on it; it was only a shame that he couldn't call the individual out and ensure that they were paid back accordingly in the days to come. "Actually, I can, under the Last Blood Heir Act of 1436. That law allows me as the last heir of the Potter family to take up the Lordship of my family even before my 17th birthday if I desired to. I'm certain one of the of the law readers of the court can confirm this officially," he responded calmly, gesturing towards the three 'wise men' suddenly going through their beloved books, but at virtually a snail's pace. "The record keepers should also have an official record of my ascension to the position of Lord Potter." This caused the official record keepers to leap into action, but unlike the law wizards they actually had a bit of pep in their movements. Some of that might have been because they were collectively at least 50 years younger on average then the law readers.

The entire courtroom turned its collective attention to the three old wizards, who seemed to be immune to the stares and the silent calls for them to hasten their search through the law books. "Well, what's the ruling?" Scrimgeour asked, growling impatiently. The growl did nothing whatsoever to hurry the trio up; in fact it only caused the tension slowly building up in the courtroom to ratchet up another degree. There was a collective silent sweat drop when one of the ancient wizards slowly began to clean his spectacles, whilst a long bony finger of another slowly ran down the ancient parchment of the self-updating book of laws.

It was the record keepers who finished their appointed task first. He watched as the most senior of the record keepers snatched a piece of yellow parchment out of the younger man's hands before addressing the courtroom. "Sir, the records office can confirm that Lord Harry James Potter ascended to the position of Lord of the Noble and Most Ancient house of Potter this last summer. At the same time, he granted Lord Black proxy powers for the Potter family's hereditary seat, along with the proxy power for the Peverell family seat as well." The senior record keeper quickly finished, causing another murmur to run through the courtroom at the confirmation of the Potter lordship and this unexpected bit with the Peverell family, which had long been thought extinct. Once finished the record keeper left his corner box to hand the official piece of parchment to Scrimgeour, who quickly snatched it and began to examine it closely.

Several seconds passed in tense silence before the old lion spoke to the chamber again. "It is official; Harry James Potter is indeed the Lord Potter, head of the ancient and noble house of Potter." Scrimgeour's confirmation caused the whispering voices to grow louder.

He smiled, rather enjoying being the centre of attention and the upheaval he had caused before turning his attention to face his former magical guardian, "Did I fail to mention that I am also Lord Peverell? Head of the Noble and Most Ancient house of Peverell, and have been since my 11th birthday?" he asked, the murmurs getting louder as the Lord and Ladies around the courtroom started to talk openly amongst themselves at this latest sensational twist, with the resurfacing of the old house that many believed to be long dead.

It was at that thought that one of the old law readers spoke up, "Here it is," the old wizard declared with a satisfied tone, whilst playing with his half-moon style spectacles. "The Last Blood Heir Act of 1436," his words barely audible over the noise of several hundred people talking at the same time, but perfectly audible to his own.

"Silence!" Scrimgeour bellowed loudly to no noticeable effect, obviously trying to reassert control over the courtroom so that the old law reader could finish his report. "Silence!"

End of Chapter