Sirius's study within Hogwarts lacked the intimidating feel of the Black family magic but Hogwarts seemed to have responded to the need for the study to be a safe place for Sirius, and Albus as the Headmaster could feel the shift in the ambient magic; Sirius – and Harry – would be defended within the space even against any action Albus might take. It was a sobering realisation.
Albus tucked his robes around him as he sat on a cosy armchair in the seating area in front of the fireplace; Cornelius and Amelia had ended up on the small settee, Croaker had taken the other chair, and Sirius, Remus and Harry had chosen to stand.
"First things first," Sirius waved at Harry, "Harry will be joining us from now on when his schedule allows for it."
Albus's gaze sharpened on Sirius but the Head of the House of Black had been trained well and there was nothing on his expression to give away why Sirius had changed his mind about including the teen. He thought about protesting for a moment but determined from the look of satisfaction on the others' faces that he would be a lone voice so refrained.
"Secondly, we have a political crisis to deal with before we get to the rest of the agenda so…" Sirius motioned at Cornelius.
Cornelius smiled grimly. "Wenlock is clearly moving against us." He waved a hand almost absently. "Nothing we didn't plan for but still very annoying to have to deal with."
Sirius exchanged a look with Harry and Remus, heavy with the truth that the reality for Remus was a good deal more than annoying.
"The papers were a good start at a defence." Bertie said, stepping in before Cornelius could say something else.
"The international press has been the most supportive." Sirius nodded, and as he glanced again at Cornelius, a glimmer of approval returned to his gaze. "The wireless interview was a stroke of genius. The Prophet is running for cover this morning."
It was something of an understatement, Albus thought; the Prophet had published a full apology to the Houses of Potter and Black in the morning edition with a full article from Rita claiming she had been duped by incorrect information from an informant.
Amelia snorted in a very unladylike way. "They claim that Rita found the information on her desk and after verifying that the incident had taken place – although they don't say how she verified it – that she went ahead with the article."
"So they don't know who gave them the information?" Bertie sighed. "That's very convenient for them, isn't it?"
Albus nodded in agreement.
"And not a good thing when I'm trying to pin down the culprit responsible for giving her the information for criminal charges." Amelia pointed out dryly.
"It's a shame Rita can't be charged." Sirius muttered – unkindly in Albus's opinion and he had no love of the journalist.
"We can't prove that she was aware the information was illegally gained." Amelia said with a sigh. "Unfortunately, the check on Remus's file has only provided us with two suspects as the source of the information – Diggory and Dolores Umbridge."
"Umbridge!" Sirius exclaimed. "I thought she was in the depths of the jungle somewhere?"
"Oh she is," Cornelius hastened to assure them, "but she is still a Ministry employee so she still has some access to Ministry resources."
"Not to mention that she still has friends, well, allies here." Amelia added. "Allies such as Clarence Smutter who accessed Remus's file for Dolores soon after it was announced that Sirius was Lord Black."
"She was looking for dirt." Sirius commented, his disgust evident in his tone.
Albus felt disappointment in Dolores; she hadn't been the best student but he expected better from her.
"She found some." Remus sighed.
"It's not your fault, Moony." Harry said softly. "If it hadn't been this, she would have found something else."
"Harry's right, Remus," Amelia said, "she also asked Smutter to access the sealed file on Harry's placement with the Dursleys. Smutter, of course, couldn't access that file without my approval so Dolores agreed he could leave it."
"Better my file than Harry's." Remus remarked.
Albus noted Harry frowning at the idea that it was better the scandal revolved around Remus than Harry's childhood abuse. Sirius, on the other hand, looked as equally relieved as Remus that Dolores hadn't gotten her hands on Harry's file.
"Unfortunately, all I can prove right now is that Smutter accessed the file and gave her the information," Amelia sighed, "and as she is still a Ministry employee I can't charge Smutter with passing the information to her." She motioned with a free hand. "I've sent an Auror to question her but I doubt she'll admit to anything and I can't use truth serum without more evidence against her."
"What about Diggory?" Sirius asked, shifting position to glance at Harry and check he was fine.
"Same issue," Amelia's frustration bled into her voice, "he has plausible deniability given his post means that he has every authority to access Remus's file. He readily admitted to it and he has offered to take a vow that he didn't give the information to the press."
"That's a pretty specific vow." Harry commented.
Amelia gave him an approving nod. "It certainly doesn't exclude him giving the information to someone else who then passed it on."
"That someone being Wenlock." The disgust was back in Sirius's tone.
"But again there is no proof." Amelia said. "Even if Amos admitted giving the information to Wenlock, without more evidence I couldn't accuse a member of the Wizengamot."
"So that's it?" Harry demanded. "They just get away with it?"
Albus felt a rush of nostalgia for the days when he had been as innocent and passionate; when he hadn't been jaded by the reality of political wheeling and dealing.
"We can move Diggory to another department as a response." Cornelius suggested. "Move someone with the same agenda as us into his post."
"We should do that anyway." Sirius agreed. He rubbed his chin. "Maybe there's a way to get Wenlock to admit it during the Wizengamot discussion."
"He's probably expecting you to try something." Remus pointed out. "I mean more than you already have planned."
Albus wondered at that especially when Amelia looked amused. "Do we want to know what you have planned, Sirius?"
"Nothing too wild," Sirius said evenly, "I promise."
Remus smiled tightly. "I talked him out of pranking Wenlock naked."
Cornelius choked on his tea, but then grinned. "That would certainly liven things up."
Bertie chuckled. "I take it you are going to give the counter-argument rather than Daniel?"
"Yes," Sirius said, "and Remus is probably right, Wenlock will expect me to attempt to manoeuvre him into saying something about the newspaper article and be on his guard." He shrugged. "Still, we might be able to trick him into saying something."
"You're going to have to be on guard yourself too." Remus remonstrated gently. "Especially as Harry will be in attendance."
Albus frowned. He didn't think that was a good idea, but he refrained from speaking seeing the glee on Cornelius's face, and immense satisfaction on the others. It seemed his view that Harry had no business being at the Wizengamot until he was of age was not shared.
The sound of his name drew him sharply back into the War Council.
"My apologies," Albus said smoothly, "I was wool-gathering."
"We've moved on to the tournament since there's nothing else to say on the politics front." Sirius explained without a hint of the impatience that glimmered in his grey eyes.
Albus motioned at Harry. "My apologies but I do not believe I can speak of it with Harry present."
Harry's face fell but Sirius nodded his agreement to Albus's concern.
Remus gestured at Harry. "Why don't you and I get ready that while everyone else here finishes up?"
Harry glanced at Sirius for permission, Albus observed, and on gaining it, left immediately with brief if polite goodbyes to the others. Remus followed him out.
Albus repressed the urge to sigh heavily. He had been hoping for a second alone with Harry to make an apology. He shook the thought away and refocused on the discussion. He knew he would also have made an attempt to get Harry to reconsider attending. A Wizengamot debate was no place for a fourteen year old boy, even one as accomplished as Harry.
"Albus?" Sirius prompted with enough exasperation that Albus knew it wasn't the first time his name had been called again.
Albus nodded sagely to cover his embarrassment. "The preparation for the second task has already begun. Alastor is in charge of the security and we are keeping an eye on the Durmstrang ship. Unfortunately this task was made much more dangerous by Voldemort's revisions, and I fear he will not have to resort to sabotage to pose a real threat to Harry's life." It was more than likely that someone would die in the second task outlined by Tom, Albus thought sadly, despite their best efforts to mediate some of the parameters. "I'll be giving the same warning to all the champions."
Sirius's face was a dangerous blank. "I see."
"In terms of security," Albus continued, "we haven't been able to provide any further evidence that young Bartemius and his cohorts are operating from the Durmstrang ship beyond the obvious relationship Karkaroff has as a liaison – which is hardly definitive proof."
"It's certainly not enough to be able to issue a warrant to search it or ask formally." Cornelius said regretfully. "I have spoken with Bogdan though since Remus approached him off the record, and, unofficially, he tells me he is making some progress with his fellow Ministers in the Durmstrang pact. He feels they may make a decision based on the outcome of the second task and whether there is additional evidence of sabotage."
"Now I don't know if I should be hoping for sabotage or not." Bertie said wryly.
Albus inclined his head, understanding the sentiment.
Sirius gave Cornelius an approving nod. "Thank you for the behind the scenes support, Cornelius."
Cornelius puffed up proudly in response.
"Let's move on; Tag the Death Eater?" Sirius redirected the meeting with quiet competence.
"No movement on any front." Amelia sighed heavily. "None of the tagged Death Eaters have had any contact with Crouch, Travers or Greyback as far as we can tell. There have been no sightings of any. Professor Snape has exchanged messages through Karkaroff, of course, but we don't know how Karkaroff is passing the message on; it may be in person, or by an illegal floo connection."
"What of the Azkaban lot?" Sirius asked. "Travers Senior and Mulciber?"
"With your account of what happened we managed to find the house you and Neville were held at," Amelia said, "and we found Rookwood's and Mulciber's remains. Travers Senior is at large." She took a sip of tea. "We've upgraded the wards at Azkaban following the breakout at Yule so we don't expect a second wave of escapees."
"I take it the Dementors Crouch had are still missing too?" Sirius asked.
Amelia nodded. "I'm afraid so. It may be that they'll get hungry enough for some unexplained catatonic states to appear which will then give us a clue." She tapped her fingers lightly against the tea-cup. "Hearing myself report our lack of progress, I feel we're being rather ineffectual."
"You're doing the best you can." Sirius reassured her before Albus could speak. "You know Moody told us that ninety per cent of law enforcement was patience, pain-staking clue gathering and desk work." He gave a short laugh. "Made us do surveillance after surveillance in training so we'd learn."
"I remember." Amelia smiled. "He made me watch Florence Parkinson for a whole week because she was going into Knockturn Alley, and the most suspicious thing she did was buy an illegal hair dye."
Albus pursed his lips. He had known that particular shade of blonde couldn't have possibly been natural.
"I should also say, Amelia, that you're not the only one feeling rather ineffectual." Bertie broke in. He glanced at Sirius for permission to continue and received a nod in reply. "After our gains in the Summer on the Treasure Hunt, the Ravenclaw diadem is proving to be very elusive." He huffed and motioned to Albus. "Thanks to Albus's continuing attempts to talk with the ghosts, we do know that the Ravenclaw ghost – otherwise known as Ravenclaw's daughter – did let Riddle know where the diadem was in Albania."
Sirius glanced towards Albus and inclined his head slightly. Albus inclined his own in response, feeling something tight inside of him lessen with the younger man's acknowledgement of his efforts.
"The ghosts have also confirmed that Tom brought the diadem back with him when he returned from Albania to interview for the position at Hogwarts but they claim they do not have the knowledge of where it is hidden, only that it is at Hogwarts." Albus said brightly.
"So we have made some progress," Bertie said quietly, "we have confirmed that the diadem is likely the horcrux rather than the other Ravenclaw artefact we considered."
"And you've confirmed Regulus's letter that it's hidden at Hogwarts." Sirius said. "We'll just have to keep searching for it."
"At least we know it's not a futile search." Bertie agreed.
"Well," Sirius said looking towards the clock, "we should wrap this up since we all need to get to the Wizengamot."
There was a flurry of movement as everyone made to leave, but Albus hung back and it didn't take long before he was alone with Sirius.
"You need something, Albus?" Sirius asked dryly.
"I wanted to once again apologise to you," Albus began, "Minerva was quite right to take me to task. I should not have assumed that I knew best nor allowed the situation with Hagrid to distract me from completing the task Remus had asked of me."
"We've covered this ground more than a few times now, Albus." Sirius said calmly, his steady grey gaze meeting Albus's own.
Albus sighed. "I fear I did not realise how difficult it was to change my thinking, my dear boy." He paused again. "I truly am sorry for the pain I inadvertently caused to young Harry."
"You need to apologise to Harry." Sirius replied.
"I was hoping for the opportunity to do so." Albus said.
Sirius seemed torn but he nodded and gestured for Albus to follow him out. Harry was in the living area with Remus. Both had changed into their formal robes and Harry was talking rapidly with his honorary uncle.
Albus wondered again if it was the right thing to place the pressure of being present at the Wizengamot on Harry's shoulders but he focused on the matter at hand, jumping in when Harry paused for breath. "Harry, if you have a moment, please?"
Sirius nudged Remus's arm. "I need to talk with you. Come and sit with me while I get changed."
Remus cast a distrusting look in Albus's direction but went with Sirius.
Harry had stopped pacing and he gestured for Albus to sit down. "You wanted to talk me with me, Professor Dumbledore?"
He gathered his robes and sank into a chair; Harry perched on the edge of the sofa.
"I wanted to personally apologise for not informing you as Remus had asked." Albus said solemnly. "I can only imagine what you went through believing Sirius to have died and I am tremendously sorry that I played a role in you coming to that conclusion."
"It's OK," Harry sighed and rubbed his nose, "well, not OK, but I know you meant to protect me and…well," his cheeks reddened, "I've had my own taste of making decisions I thought would protect others and it not working out the way I thought it would."
Albus relaxed with Harry's welcome benediction. "I will try to do better, Harry." He cleared his throat. "With that in mind, I hope you take this in the caring manner it is meant, Harry; are you certain you should attend the debate in the Wizengamot?"
Harry's gaze flickered to him and for a long moment Albus felt as though he was being weighed and judged. It was a disconcerting feeling. Finally, Harry spoke. "The alliance is called the Potter alliance. They stand with me on my agenda. I know I can't debate because of my age – and I'm grateful for that – but the least I can do is be there."
"It is Sirius's responsibility to represent you until you come of age, Harry." Albus pointed out gently.
"Maybe," Harry conceded, "but…" he paused and his gaze fell to the pictures on the mantel, "when I lost him…"
Albus had to strain to hear him.
"When I thought I'd lost him, I realised that I was going to have to lead the alliance and do everything myself…and I accepted it because there was no other choice and because I know it's going to be me and Voldemort in the end." Harry said simply. "I think I always knew it even before we went to hear the prophecy." His green eyes flashed up and caught Albus's fiercely. "You and I both know it."
His heart about broke with the pain that was evident on Harry's face.
"Now I have Sirius back…Sirius would gladly do everything on my behalf, I know he would, but I need…I need to take the lead if I'm going to face Tom again." Harry concluded.
Albus could do nothing but nod. He had known it for years and still wished that there was something he could do to change it.
"The thing is," Harry continued, "it's not like I had someone before." His expression saddened. "It was only me with Quirrell and Voldemort, and only me with the basilisk and Tom's shade. So," his shoulders went back and his chin went up, "if I can face them, I can face Wenlock." He smiled suddenly. "And at least I know Sirius and Remus will do all they can to prepare me and will cheer me on; that they're there if I need them now."
"Not just Sirius and Remus, my boy." Albus said softly.
Harry nodded slowly.
Suddenly, steps running down the stairs had them both turning to see Sirius approaching, Remus on his heels. Albus noted that Sirius once again wore sharply tailored duelling robes over black leather pants and black silk shirt; dragon hide boots completed the outfit. Remus wore immaculate formal robes in the same style as Harry, the crests of Potter and Black proudly embroidered on their chests. They were going to make a definite statement walking into the Wizengamot together, Albus mused, eager in many ways to see the reaction to them.
"Right," Sirius said loudly, "let's get going, shall we?"
Albus rose from his seat along with Harry and took a moment to let the wild surge of hopefulness inside of him let loose before he reigned it back. Because if Harry could face Voldemort in the end with as much dignity and courage as he had shown in their discussion, Albus had no doubt Voldemort would lose. And the hapless Wenlock stood no chance.
It was a most satisfying thought, and it was with a spring in his step that Albus led the way through the floo to the Ministry.
"I'm not surprised that she's ignoring you." Draco drawled.
Harry spared a moment from gazing at Hermione, stood with the Tonks' on the other side of Cornelius's office, to glare at him. "That's very supportive, Cousin. Thank you."
The Houses of Potter and Black had been waiting forever in the office. Sirius wanted to make a showy entrance to the Wizengamot at the very last minute, and they had arrived with time to spare. Harry looked again towards Hermione, but her attention was firmly on whatever Amelia was saying. Hermione had politely greeted Harry but ignored him otherwise.
Draco raised one thin blond eyebrow. "You have to admit you'd be furious if she'd tossed you back to Hogwarts the way you did her."
"I was trying to protect her." Harry bit out.
Draco shrugged. "If you say so." His pointed features seemed entirely too gleeful for Harry's liking. "So are you single now?"
Harry scowled at him. "No! Will you just shut up about it?!"
Draco lifted one hand in supposed surrender. "Would you prefer we talk about Wenlock and the debate?" He sneered.
In truth, Harry figured they should be talking about the debate. Which maybe was a sign, Harry mused, that dating was a distraction and he needed to be focused on other things. Maybe he really should give up on dating until the whole thing with Voldemort was over – then he wouldn't have to worry about protecting his girlfriend nor about upsetting said girlfriend when he protected them in a way they disagreed with, nor worrying about how to make it up to them when he had upset them when he should be thinking about how to defeat Voldemort, or prepare for the second task, or how not to allow Wenlock provoke him in the debate…
He repressed the urge to sigh and rubbed his forehead trying to ease the beginning of a nagging headache there. He figured this was one of those moments where Hermione would berate him if he made a decision alone without conversing with her. Truthfully, he really didn't want to give up dating Hermione although the situation with Remus had distracted him from planning a way to make it up to her.
Harry belatedly realised Draco was waiting for him to reply. He dragged his mind back on topic. "Sirius will be great in the debate." Harry muttered defensively.
"I'm sure he will but Wenlock be expecting him." Draco drawled.
He wasn't wrong, Harry thought, the plan he and Sirius had come up bringing another flutter of internal butterflies.
"He might make mistakes in the debate underestimating Sirius, but the only way I can see him confessing anything illegal is to dose him with truth serum or put him under a truth spell like Sirius did with Father." Draco continued.
Harry froze, arrested by the germ of an idea that Draco's words had triggered. Sirius had used family magic to force Lucius to be truthful. Was it possible for Harry to call on Wenlock's family magic to force him to tell him the truth? If the magic was available to him, he could do it, Harry mused, but that was the question; would Wenlock's magic be available to him as the most powerful in the family magic circle? And how could he do it discreetly?
"Harry?" Hermione's quiet voice yanked Harry out of his thoughts abruptly and he started a little when he realised she stood next to him.
Draco smirked at him knowingly.
"Hermione." Harry pushed his glasses up his nose.
"Amelia says Sirius is going to try and get Wenlock to confess in the debate?" Hermione questioned, worry creasing her forehead.
Harry nodded. "Yeah, he's planning to…" his gaze flickered to Draco briefly, "and Draco's just given me a brilliant idea."
They spoke in unison and glared at each other in with identical frowns of outrage; if the situation wasn't so important, Harry would have been tempted to laugh out loud.
"Draco mentioned that he didn't think Wenlock would give too much away unless he was under the family magic truth spell." Harry explained.
Hermione's frown cleared almost straight away. "So you're going to see whether you can call on his family magic?"
Harry nodded. "I need some way to do it without actually saying it though."
"Why do you think you can call on Wenlock's family magic?" asked Draco, puzzled.
"I, uh, managed to call on Neville's at the World Cup," Harry admitted, realising that Draco probably hadn't been told – he wasn't sure Sirius had even told Lucius and Narcissa. The secret of his ability with family magic was too important to share widely. He'd only told Ron and Hermione, and only because Neville had witnessed it.
"Really?" Both of Draco's eyebrows shot upwards. "But…that would mean…I mean, are you that powerful?"
"Well, we don't really know if it's a question of power or whether it's something to do with Harry's and Neville's oaths." Hermione lectured briskly. "This would be a good test of that since Wenlock is not allied in any way with either House."
"I still need some way of doing it quietly though." Harry said. "If I shout it out everyone will know and that would be bad if it got back to Voldemort."
Hermione turned contemplative. "You couldn't cast it silently?"
"I'm not sure." Harry admitted. "I don't think so; I think ritual magic has to be declared when invoked." He glanced toward where Sirius was deep in conversation with Lucius and frowned. "I can ask Sirius."
"It's a shame you can't use Parseltongue." Draco said. "Father said you talked to the family snake the entire time you were at the Wizengamot last. He said it drove everyone mad trying to guess what you were talking about."
Harry shrugged, flushing. "The snake likes to gossip."
Hermione and Draco both gaped at him.
Harry almost jumped when he realised that in the few minutes that had passed from his glance-over, Sirius had moved to stand next to him, along with Remus. "I think so. Actually, Draco has come up with something."
Sirius's eyes flickered to Draco who blushed furiously as Harry quickly explained.
"…so we don't know if I can try to invoke it silently or try Parseltongue or…" Harry shrugged helplessly.
"Well, firstly, I'm not sure if it will work. The truth spell usually only aligns to the family head who has cast." Sirius said.
Harry's face fell and he noticed Hermione and Draco also looked despondent.
"But I guess there's no harm trying." Sirius added.
Harry breathed out, gleeful anticipation sending his blood tingling through his body.
"Now we can invoke some family magic silently, it's rare but I remember my Grandfather doing it." Sirius said contemplatively. "But you've only just started doing silent casting in your lessons so it could be a bit hit and miss if it works."
"But you could try it and if that doesn't work use Parseltongue." Remus suggested.
Harry nodded. It was a plan.
"And really it doesn't matter if it doesn't work, it's a good idea to have thought of it in the first place." Sirius said approvingly, looking over to Draco.
"I hope it does work." Harry said. "It might be the only way to make Wenlock trip up."
Sirius patted his shoulder. "Have some faith." He chided dryly.
Harry flushed. "Sorry, I mean, I know we have the plan, it's just…"
"It's going to be difficult to ensure Wenlock hangs himself with the rope we're hoping to give him." Sirius acknowledged. He grinned at Harry suddenly. "Besides, if it does all goes terribly, I'll make him lose his pants and nobody'll notice the debate."
Harry chuckled and his spirit lightened. His eyes caught Draco's for a moment, before moving onto Hermione's chocolate gaze. She blushed and looked away.
A curl of satisfaction settled in Harry at the small sign that she still liked him. So, he thought determinedly; he'd get the debate with Wenlock out of the way and then he'd plan how to win Hermione back as his girlfriend, and of course, finally defeat Voldemort.
It was a good plan. Well. It was more of a plan than he usually had at any rate.
Augusta watched the chattering groups spread all over the Wizengamot with well-hidden glee. The chamber rang with the verve and energy emanating from the various groups.
On one side of the chamber, Richard Bones was urgently conferring with Leonard Abbott, and on the other, an equally passionate exchange seemed to be happening between Wilkes and Nott. Augusta couldn't help noticing Wenlock nodding at some of his allies, a smugness in his manner that had her wondering what else the wizard had up his sleeves to try and disturb the revamp of the Creature legislation.
She shook her head and once again mused wistfully that Sirius's advent as Lord Black, the steps he'd taken in the protection of Harry, had certainly brought life back to the legislative body of the magical government. And that was a good thing, Augusta thought with inward wry acknowledgement of her own continuing deep-seated guilt that it had taken Sirius to kick the rest of them into action.
Her eyes landed on Albus, deep in discussion with Dullard. Times had changed for the Chief Warlock, she mused. He was no longer the foremost authority that the Light looked to, not after his mistakes with Harry. Oh, Sirius's plan wasn't completely without its delays and its problems – Yule and the incident with Crouch abducting Sirius was proof of that – but ultimately it was working.
The DMLE was dynamic; actively and proactively keeping the peace through their constant vigilance (and Augusta smiled at the latter phrasing of her thought, her mind drifting absently to Alastor); the Unspeakables in the DOM were equally vibrant in their pursuit of whatever it was that was the focus of the Treasure Hunt, and even Cornelius seemed rejuvenated, diving into his politicking with a new energy and a new direction that was wholly aligned with the wishes of the Potter alliance.
Augusta fingered her wand and settled back into her chair. It had been a shock the day before when Harry had attended the alliance meeting but Harry had done an admirable job. She'd been proud of how he'd listened to them all offer him advice, (which had ranged from her own supportive 'whatever you decide the House of Longbottom will stand with you' to Doge's blunt – and very rude statement since Remus had been right there – 'you should get some distance between you and the werewolf'), before he'd straightened his shoulders, thanked them and then proceeded to tell them that Remus wasn't going anywhere, that the best defence was a good offence, and he wasn't going to allow the likes of Wenlock to bully them into agreeing to legislation that would only weaken their society at best and totally undermine it at worst. It had been easy to see just why so many of their Heirs had sworn fealty to Harry.
Her gaze shifted to the fourth tier of the gallery where those same Heirs were gathered. She noted Amos Diggory sat near to grandson. Neville sat beside Hannah, Susan beside her with Diggory beside her. On the other side of her grandson, a space had been left for the missing but expected members of the House of Black. Just as she began to consider where they were, the doors to the chamber floor opened and they all entered.
The Blacks, Augusta thought amused, knew how to make an entrance as the chamber fell into an almost reverent hush.
Sirius, Harry and Remus entered first; all robes adorned with both Potter and Black crests. The Tonks' were next; Nymphadora wore Auror robes and her gait suggested that she was on duty; her mother and father escorted Hermione Granger between them. The three Malfoys followed close behind them. The procession paused at the bottom of the stairs up to the empty seats Neville had commandeered for them.
Remus gave a bow to Sirius and Harry. Augusta heard the worried murmurs trickle around the chamber as the werewolf calmly, and with his head held high, escorted Nymphadora up the stairs. She wasn't surprised to see that when he sat down it was with Neville on his right and the Auror on his left. The House of Black quickly took their places but the chamber's attention was drawn back to the Ancient and Noble House tier where Sirius and Harry had arrived. Sirius was quietly invoking the family magic to protect Harry as he had done previously on his son's first visit.
"Seal the doors!" Albus instructed loudly.
The doors to the chamber closed with a sharp bang and Augusta mused ruefully that she'd been so caught up that she'd failed to even see Cornelius, Amelia, and Bertie enter.
Sirius made his way unhurriedly to his seat. There was another moment of acknowledgement as the Houses rose in deference to him (even Wenlock although his manner was grudging and mocking), and then they were all sat and the session was upon them.
"Point of order!" Wenlock jumped up just as Dullard opened his mouth to speak the first order of business. Wenlock pointed over towards Remus. "I demand that creature be removed immediately!"
The chamber erupted into chaos.
Augusta was on her feet and shouting her objection along with several other members of the Potter alliance, although she absently noticed Harry didn't move an inch after a quick glance at Sirius who remained calm and seated. Members of Wenlock's group were yelling back and it was hard to hear what anyone was saying in the cacophony of noise.
A small bang from Albus's wand silenced them all.
"Thank you, Chief Warlock." Sirius said as everyone else subsided. "As the objection was raised against the steward of my Houses, perhaps I may be permitted to respond?"
Albus inclined his head, his blue eyes twinkling madly. "Of course, Sirius. Please proceed."
"Lord Wenlock," Sirius said firmly, "I will not take insult with you on this occasion as I assume the erroneous publicity surrounding my steward's one time lapse in judgement has influenced your opinion."
The threat that he would take insult for a second slur was more than evident in Sirius's words and manner. Augusta nodded in approval.
"However," Sirius continued, "I will reaffirm the statement I made to the press yesterday; Remus Lupin remains the steward of the Houses of Black and Potter, and has our trust. While I would not say he isn't dangerous outside of the full moon – he is a fully trained wizard after all with excellent knowledge of Defence of the Dark Arts – he is only a werewolf during the full moon. As we have some way to go before the full moon this month, I can vouch for him not turning into a werewolf for the next four hours of this Wizengamot session."
The point that Remus was a wizard more than a werewolf had more than one face turning ashamed in the chamber. Wenlock merely sneered at Sirius.
"I agree with Lord Black," Albus said calmly, "Mister Lupin is hardly a threat to anyone and will remain."
"He's a werewolf!" Avery said shrilly. The way he looked towards Wenlock for approval gave away where that thought had come from.
Sirius glared at him and Avery cowered back. Augusta mused that perhaps it was occurring to Avery that the greater threat wasn't the werewolf but the Lord of the Ancient and Noble House of Black.
Nott stood up and cleared his throat. "I would like to state that I concur with Lord Black's assessment of Mister Lupin as a threat. There is no need for his removal."
"That's easy for you to say," Wenlock responded, "you have a détente with the House of Black."
"Yeah, what about those of us who don't have some kind of détente or agreement?" asked Tripe scowling as he stood up.
Augusta thought she saw a glint of satisfaction in his eyes as he resumed his seat. It was a trap, she realised suddenly. They had anticipated Remus would attend the session and had determined a manoeuvre to force Sirius into a corner. Either he would have to acquiesce to Remus being removed or concede to conditions on his remaining. Her lips thinned. Well, not on her watch! She was going to…
"Why don't you just use the family magic?" Harry's blunt question broke through her mental ranting.
She glanced over and found Harry petting the Potter griffin absently as he pushed his glasses up his nose and regarding Wenlock and Tripe with guarded wariness.
"I mean," Harry continued, "Sirius calls ours to protect me while I'm here so why don't you call yours to protect you if you're really all that worried about Remus?"
Wenlock seemed momentarily speechless.
Tripe got to his feet, red in the face. "I'd remind young Lord Potter that not all of us have family magic." He snarled.
Sirius shrugged. "I won't take offence if for the duration of the session Lord Wenlock extended his family magic to protect all those in the chamber. I'd offer to extend my own but I believe some may not believe it would protect them against a protected member of my Houses." He smiled darkly.
Augusta frowned. It almost seemed as though Sirius and Harry were baiting Wenlock into calling his magic.
Dullard sprang up. "There is a precedent," he said excitedly, "in nineteen forty-one Lord Lovegood extended his family magic to protect all in the session from the Goblin entourage that had come to sign the last treaty at his behest."
"Well, then," Albus said firmly, "that seems to be the solution." He waved his hand toward Wenlock. "Lord Wenlock?"
Wenlock glowered, clearly unhappy that his grand plan to corner Sirius into making concessions had been thwarted. He made an impatient gesture and called his magic. The silver vulture formed slowly and didn't seem happy to be there as it immediately flew to the ceiling of the chamber and perched itself on the chandelier. Wenlock sat down.
The public tier was quiet; hushed by the sight of another family magic avatar and Albus indicated for Dullard to continue with the notices.
It hardly felt like any time had passed before Dullard called on Dirk Cresswell to present the suggested revisions to the Werewolf and other Magical Creature legislation. Augusta had read the legislation and was pleased with it but she listened intently as the wizard began to make his case.
"Let me first deal with the relatively non contentious item," Cresswell stood in the centre of the Wizengamot floor, hands behind his back, his blue robes of good quality but not ostentatious. "There are currently two rough categories of Creatures with the easiest being those identified as Benign. The Benign creatures range from the firefly to the kneazle to the postal owl and the review of the laws suggests that only minimal changes are required, mainly to address change in language and terminology since the last laws were enacted. I'd like these changes to be put immediately to a vote."
Dullard addressed the chamber. "Does anyone present raise an objection?"
Augusta glanced around at her fellow Wizengamot members but all remained silent. The following vote was brief and unanimous for passing the changes into law.
Cresswell returned to the floor. "The second part of the legislation deals with the remaining Creature category." He cleared his throat. "Firstly, it is the view of the Committee responsible for the review of the existing legislation that the definitions of Magical Races and Magical Creatures have been allowed to become blurred in our legislature. It is recommended that those listed in Table 2a of the Committee's Change Bill be known as Protected and Dangerous Creatures…"
Augusta tuned out the list as Cresswell read it out loud. She had read it and agreed with it.
"Again, the proposed changes in regards to these Creatures are mostly minor in respect to registration and control with the major proposal the establishment of a new Ministry controlled endangered species reserve in the Highlands." Cresswell concluded. "The new reserve would be able to be self-sustaining within three years and can be funded from the increased registration and licensing fees that are part of the minor changes. I'd like these changes put immediately to a vote."
Selwyn raised his wand and Albus recognised him. "What of those you have redefined as not a Creature? If we vote this part of the legislature through, are we not already approving this list as definitive? And if we are, I have a problem with that since it's missing a number of creatures you are proposing to redefine!"
There was a chorus of agreement from a number of seats, mostly those in Wenlock's little enclave although Augusta noted a number of Lucius's group. Some may have sought a détente with the House of Black but it hadn't changed their fundamental politics.
Cresswell raised a hand for silence and surprisingly got it. "Clause 9 clearly states that the list remains open to the addition of new creatures or creatures that are re-classified. If this list is voted into legislation it does not prevent any of those we have yet to discuss from being added to it later in this session or another."
Mollified, most of the protesters subsided, with one or two of the Minor Houses standing up to protest the rise in licensing fees and the breeding regulations. Their objections were swiftly dealt with – because any sane person would want the breeding regulations changed and really the licensing fees have been too low for decades. It didn't seem like any time at all before the second vote swiftly moved the Protected and Dangerous Creatures section into legislation.
Augusta huffed out a satisfied sigh. Two sections of the new law were done, but there were several further sections to go and she knew neither she nor the rest of the alliance could be complacent.
"All others previously known as Creatures are now identified as Magical Races as listed in Table 2b of the Committee's Change Bill." Cresswell announced. "The following sections set out the proposed legislature either repealing prohibitive rules and regulations in respect of a Creature species now deemed a Race or Wizards and Witches with Special Circumstances."
There was an immediate objection from Wilkes. "What are you saying constitutes a Race and what's this complete nonsense about Wizards with Special Circumstances?"
"A Magical Race is redefined in this legislature as a magical species with recognisable governance, speech and intelligence." Cresswell stated firmly. "Wizards and Witches with Special Circumstances refers to situations where there is a cross-species progeny between another magical Race and our own, or where those who were born as a Wizard or a Witch are infected with a condition such as lycanthropy."
Unsurprisingly, the chamber went into an uproar again.
Augusta glanced over at Sirius and was unsurprised to find him keeping a close watch on Harry who seemed to be talking with the Black snake.
"Silence!" Albus's stern declaration finally brought order again and the session resumed.
The creation of a new Department overseeing Wizard and Magical Race Relations was proposed and passed with only a minimum of protest. Each Magical Race was then discussed in brief where the Wizengamot voted that they were a Magical Race and then determined a course of action. They made quick work of Giants, Centaurs and Merpeople since there was grudging admission that all three constituted a Race with their own governing bodies, and as all three Races simply wished to be granted dominion over their own lands (something the Wizengamot hadn't fully conceded before and still didn't under the new law) and to be left alone, the sections of the law pertaining to them passed quickly and without debate. Equally there was no real debate about Vampires and Veela as neither had real communities within Britain and the sections simply recognised that they existed and restricted their usage of their various powers against Wizards and Witches on British soil. The Goblins were another easily passed section; the Wizengamot agreed that the Goblin Treaties were not to be touched but the Goblin Liaison Office would attempt to open a more positive dialogue. The establishment of House-Elves as a Magical Race did cause some debate (there was no central governing body to engage with) but ultimately passed along with a new law that protected them from abusive owners. However, it was the final section everyone was waiting for.
"Firstly, the review stands by the current laws surrounding the progeny of a Witch or Wizard with a member of a Magical Race as the second parent," Cresswell began, "in that the progeny in all cases is considered to be first and foremost a Wizard or a Witch. However, if dangerous traits are inherited, such as in the case of Vampires and Veela, then they also need to conform to the agreed legal restrictions for that Magical Race. If no-one has any objections, I would like therefore to move onto the second category, namely the topic of Wizards and Witches infected with lycanthropy."
There was an expectant hush in the chamber. Augusta could see Wenlock shift minutely; his body tensing in preparation; his cohorts also subtly changing their body language. They thought they had an advantage and Augusta wondered what it was. Sirius would clearly going to have to think on his feet in a debate if they were going to be surprised…
Get on with it, man, Augusta thought impatiently at Cresswell.
Cresswell though took his time to sweep his audience with a thoughtful gaze, pausing briefly but significantly on Remus Lupin before continuing. He cleared his throat. "It is proposed that this section replaces and supersedes all previously written legislation regarding Wizards and Witches with Lycanthropy, or as they have been previously referred to: Werewolves."
A murmur went around the public tier at the blatant renaming of a Dark creature to something that acknowledged their usual state of being more.
"The Committee has found that the previous legislation to be abhorrent and more likely to incite dissension and unrest within our society than to provide protection for its citizens." Cresswell continued. "Over ninety-eight per cent of the infected do not actively choose to be infected nor do they actively seek to harm others, usually securing themselves away during the nights of the full moon. However, our current laws strip them of all basic rights, restrict their employment, education and housing options, and allow executions of even those of minor age. The Committee believes this is a travesty of justice. Yes, our laws should provide protection for the wider community against those who have chosen infection and embraced a feral existence, but at the same time, they should acknowledge the vast majority seek help in managing their condition, and desire to continue to be productive members of our society."
Augusta found herself nodding along to Cresswell's speech. She was impressed with his eloquence and as she regarded her fellow Wizengamot members she could see the rest of the Potter alliance was pleased at Cresswell's performance and the results of the Committee's review.
"So," Cresswell stated firmly, "the proposal is two-fold: firstly, Identification and Rights: Wizards and Witches infected will no longer be referred to primarily as Werewolves unless charged and convicted with knowingly attacking another Wizard or Witch while transformed or partially transformed. They retain all rights as Wizards and Witches with which they were originally born. If employed in the Wizarding world, their employers are encouraged to make all allowances for time off for the day of the full moon and up to two days beyond it."
He waited for a second murmur of noise to die away before finishing.
"Secondly, Protection. It is understood that transformed or partially transformed Werewolves are dangerous creatures. The infected must make every effort therefore to secure themselves during the nights of the full moon; parents assume the responsibility for minors. While the State would like to provide safe houses and make provision for supplying Wolfsbane, currently there is not enough budget to support this and we ask that this to be deferred and discussed within the next annual budget review." Cresswell looked up again. "Any attack by a Werewolf will be investigated by the DMLE. If the Werewolf is found to have attacked knowingly and with forethought, the punishment will remain execution. If the Werewolf is found to have attacked instinctively but to have harmed another, the punishment will be imprisonment. If no harm was incurred, a warning will be issued. Multiple warnings may lead to imprisonment." He nodded decisively. "This is the Committee's proposal."
Wenlock barely waited for Cresswell to sit and Dullard to open the debate before objecting. Albus sighed and nodded for Wenlock to speak.
He did make an impressive figure, thought Augusta as she took in the finely tailored robes, the aristocratic features and the impeccable grooming.
Wenlock smiled, and Augusta couldn't help but think it was a shark smile; cold, deadly and predatory. "My first point is that the Committee has taken its remit beyond what it was tasked to do. Review the legislation, yes. Provide suggestions for improvements, yes. But to redefine Creatures? No. That is a step too far." He held up a hand when there was a whisper of protest heard from the public tiers. "But we have acknowledged that perhaps, yes, in the cases of some such as Centaurs," his voice was a sneer, "or Vampires that redefinition as a Race may be in order. However, there is a substantial difference between redefining a Creature as a Race and redefining a Creature as a Wizard with Special Circumstances."
Augusta frowned. It was unfortunately a good point and she could see it resonate with some in the room – a few heads nodding along in agreement.
"We can recognise that for those infected with lycanthropy, it is a tragedy." Wenlock continued smoothly. "In one instant, their entire lives are redefined. But to pretend otherwise would be a greater tragedy for our society. Once infected, they are no longer Wizards but Werewolves. The wolf's instincts do not only come out at the full moon and we would be foolish to believe that they are as dormant in the in-between as the Committee pretends. They seek out packs. They gather in groups together and the majority seek the dominance of one they call Alpha. They identify as Werewolves. Why should we ignore this basic fact and suggest they should have the same rights as us?"
More head-nodding and Augusta could see that Wenlock's rhetoric was swaying some to his side. Merlin, she could see Doge absently giving an approving head tilt in Wenlock's direction. She pursed her lips.
"And there is a more important point here," Wenlock continued, "because if we allow ourselves to be swayed into believing these Creatures are not different to us, then we have no way of recognising that they are. We could sit beside a werewolf, anger them in ignorance and find ourselves fighting for our lives, our existence, within one breath and the next. Even a scratch from a non-transformed werewolf can be deadly. To identify them as werewolves ensures our protection as a society; ensures that we know to be on guard when one of them is within our midst; ensures that we can choose to place ourselves at risk or not. To allow them to identify as us, to roam among us freely…it is an invitation for the disease to spread and become prevalent."
He took a breath.
"Werewolves are Creatures. They are a threat. Any attack, whether intended or not, is an attack and should be met with the full force of the law." Wenlock darted a glance at Remus and then at Sirius, and clearly (or clearly to Augusta if she was any judge of character) reconsidered using Remus in his argument. "We should be reinstating our previous laws not allowing this weak and feeble-minded piece of legislation to pass."
Wenlock sat and his allies broke out into applause, something echoed by a few in the public tier. Augusta's heart sank. The unfortunate thing was that Wenlock's points were perfectly reasonable and no doubt attractive to many. Why should everyone run the risk of infection when the simple answer was to ostracize those from their society and eliminate the threat completely?
Augusta exchanged a look with Richard Bones across the chamber. Both of them knew Sirius was formidable but Wenlock had been better than they had thought.
Sirius waited for Albus to recognise him and got to his feet. The chamber fell silent as Sirius cast a serious gaze around the gathered members.
"Lord Wenlock has certainly summed up the view of the opposition succinctly: maintain the status quo. And it could even be argued that the status quo is the right state of being. For those of us who are not infected, we can go about our daily lives and know that there are no werewolves in our schools, nor key places of employment and government. We know there is the threat of execution that hangs over every werewolf in the event that they should not take care to chain themselves up during the full moon, and revel in the small security that provides us. We can look at the packs with distaste as something feral and different and wrong. And all is well because we are safe." Sirius paused and took a breath. "We are wrong."
A mutter broke out on the public tier. Wenlock's eyes narrowed trying to ascertain Sirius's argument.
"The status quo," Sirius continued, "draws lines: them on one side and us on the other. It says we are right and good; that they are wrong and evil. The truth is that who is right and who is wrong, who is good and who is evil, depends upon which side of the line that you stand." He looked around the hushed chamber. "That is a universal truth. If we were infected, would we not stand on that side of the line and say: it is not right that I have lost my home and my job and have to endure that my friends look at me with pity and fear? Would I not say that the person who would rather kill me than help me is a monster?"
There was a rustle of movement as people squirmed in their seats, disturbed by the blunt harsh reality of the picture Sirius was painting.
"So this is the truth: that the status quo has drawn lines and divisions. It has created the packs in part because where else will an infected wizard or witch find comfort and kinship and belonging when the rest of society casts them out? When they are labelled as a Creature and a werewolf – something that society tells them is no longer even human?"
Sirius took a breath. "As a governing body we are sworn to protect all in our society: the weak and disadvantaged; the elderly and the sick. And those infected with lycanthropy carry an illness. It is a condition that gifts them unusual senses, strength and endurance on one hand, and harshly punishes them with the torture of changing and losing their mind and sense of self every month on the other. We have as much a duty to ensure their safety and protection, to safeguard their rights and interests, as we do to ensure the safety and protection of those who are not infected." He looked in the direction of Wenlock briefly. "Execution and exclusion are easy options but they only make monsters of us all." His eyes landed on Harry. "But those of us who are not monsters, who look at the world through new eyes; it is those among us who show us that the right option is to protect everyone and never draw the line that says them and us."
Harry smiled at his father, at the acknowledgement that it was his political agenda that Sirius was arguing for.
"My son wants to protect everyone." Sirius said, his eyes never leaving Harry.
And Sirius would give Harry what he wanted. The unspoken message was as clear as if Sirius had shouted it from the rooftops.
The chamber erupted.
Augusta found herself on her feet, clapping. All of the alliance was clapping and a good portion of the public tier had followed suit. It was a good sign and Augusta breathed out a sigh of relief even as she sat back down as Wenlock jumped back up.
"Are you seriously arguing that we're monsters for wanting to protect ourselves from a threat?" Wenlock sneered.
Sirius smiled in response, his eyes sharp as flint. "When you would rather kill a wizard than help save him: yes."
Wenlock jumped, seemingly unable to help himself. "But they're not wizards! They're werewolves!"
"Because we call them that!" Sirius thundered back. "How we identify anything drives our reactions and actions! You call them werewolves and you see them as something less than human, as dangerous creatures that must be executed." He glared at Wenlock. "Start thinking about what you'd want to be called if you were bitten!"
Wenlock bristled. "Is that a threat? Will you turn your steward loose on me if I dare to disagree with you? After all, didn't you send a school boy rival to meet a werewolf on the night of a full moon when you were at Hogwarts?" He looked triumphant.
There was an audible intake of breath around the chamber. Every eye flew to Sirius's to see his reaction to the charge.
Sirius raised one eyebrow, a small mocking smile lurking about his lips as though to say 'is that the best you can do?' He gave a shrug. "I was young, very stupid and I almost fell for a rival setting me up to be expelled and one of my best friends to be executed." He glanced apologetically at Remus. "Luckily, James Potter rescued us all including my rival who knew what he'd find on the night of a full moon."
"Young and stupid, indeed!" Wenlock threw back. "So why should we trust your word on this? You have gathered an army of werewolves all under the leadership of your steward!"
Pandemonium broke out.
Augusta tried to retain her composure, wondering how Sirius could stand there and look so unaffected by the accusation as abusive shouts were hurled at him.
It took Albus a long time to bring order back to the session.
"An army," repeated Sirius dryly. "This is what I was talking about. You say to-may-to, and I say to-mah-to. You say an army, but I say my son and I are providing sanctuary and protection for those who want to escape from the Greyback pack."
The announcement immediately caused another uproar. Augusta felt hysterical laughter bubbling in her chest and she tried to contain it as Dullard shouted ineffectually for order again.
Wenlock was furious. "You are building an army with your steward as Alpha!" He yelled as soon as the chamber fell silent enough for his voice to be heard.
Sirius looked at him pityingly. "Why would I want an army?" He asked evenly.
"To become the next the Dark Lord!" Wenlock snapped back.
The excited thunder of chatter after that pronouncement was like a roar of sound. There were yells of disbelief; cries of panic; people shouted at Wenlock calling him a liar, some at Sirius condemning him, at Cornelius demanding he do something, with more demands for help directed at Albus.
Augusta was tempted to cover her ears, but just as she began to raise her hands, Harry rolled his eyes and stood, surprising everyone with the exception of Sirius.
The noise in the chamber petered out as the crowd settled suddenly, eager to hear the words of the Boy-Who-Lived.
"Lord Wenlock, you've insulted the House of Black and you've insulted the House of Potter." Harry said bluntly.
Augusta was sure she wasn't the only one looking stunned at Harry's impulsive move. What was the boy thinking calling out the older wizard? And yet…her eyes flew to Sirius who seemed wholly unsurprised.
"What?" Wenlock almost stuttered over the word, eyes wide with the shock of actually being called out.
"Not only is my father Lord Black, but he was adopted into and is protected by the House of Potter. My steward is protected by the Houses of Black and Potter. The army you talk about are a group of wizards and witches who are seeking protection and who have it provided by the Houses of Black and Potter." Harry responded, his eyes shining anger. "You've just insulted both Houses three times over and as the Lord of the House of Potter I take insult."
"My dear boy, perhaps Sirius hasn't had the chance to explain what that means…" Albus was clearly horrified by the turn of events.
"Actually, he's explained the matter of House honour to me very clearly, Chief Warlock," Harry replied, not taking his eyes off Wenlock who squirmed under the hard emerald gaze, "and calling my father a Dark Lord is a grievous insult especially since my last father died at the hands of a real one."
Albus swung round to face Sirius. "You cannot…"
"Harry seems to have this hand." Sirius interrupted Albus firmly. He regarded Harry fondly and sat down.
"But!" spluttered Albus.
Augusta held her breath. They'd planned it, she realised wildly, taking in Sirius's calm demeanour. They'd planned it knowing that Wenlock facing off against a teenage boy would make him appear the villain.
Oh, it was so clever! But so dangerous…if Wenlock suspected and called their bluff…
Wenlock straightened and glared at Harry. "You cannot expect me to duel you! A boy!"
Every swivelled back to Harry as though watching some kind of insane tennis match.
"Why not?" asked Harry, with all the stubbornness of youth. "I duel with Director Bones all the time."
Amelia cleared her throat. Augusta could tell that the Head of the DMLE was a tad bewildered, apparently as much in the dark as the rest of them. "I can validate that he does, Lord Wenlock."
Richard Bones stirred in his seat. "Actually hasn't he beaten you several times, Director?" His teasing tone eased some of the tension in the room.
Amelia shot him a sardonic look but nodded. "I believe Harry leads our duels five wins to my three."
Wenlock paled visibly.
Harry continued to look at him.
"Perhaps an apology, Lord Wenlock?" offered Albus hurriedly, trying desperately to intervene.
"I'm afraid I won't accept it," Harry said before Wenlock could reply, "it's a duel or a forfeit."
Oh Merlin! A forfeit! Augusta had forgotten about that archaic part of House honour and from the surprised faces around her she could tell most of the other Ancient and Noble Houses had done the same. A forfeit could be offered in restitution to an insult but it was a rarity.
Wenlock turned furiously to Sirius. "Are you just going to sit there?! You're his Regent and his father! You should stop this!"
Sirius raised an eyebrow, calm and collected. "Or you could accept that you insulted our Houses' honour and take the forfeit." He waved a hand vaguely at Harry. "Unless you want a duel with my son?"
It was clear that Wenlock had no idea how to handle the turn of events. For some reason he hadn't planned for his accusation to be taken so seriously; hadn't planned for Harry to be the one to challenge him. Oh, those clever boys. Augusta kept the smile off her face with difficulty.
"I will concede that my words were hasty." Wenlock muttered. "But surely you can see that it looks bad!"
Everybody turned to hear Harry's response, captivated.
"What exactly looks bad?" Harry asked pointedly.
"The army of werewolves!" Wenlock said.
"As Sirius has already said there is no army." Harry sounded completely exasperated. "We're providing a sanctuary house for any wizard or witch with lycanthropy, especially those wanting to escape the Greyback pack. We give them work and Wolfsbane and somewhere they're safe during the full moon. It's not an army. And," he gestured out towards Amelia and Cornelius, "both the Minister and the Head of the DMLE signed off after Greyback's attacks last year."
Augusta crowed inwardly at the completely flustered expression on Wenlock's face and at the way Harry had sold the sanctuary as a good thing.
"Your steward is Alpha and is building a pack from the situation, you cannot deny that!" Wenlock said desperation creeping into his tone.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Remus already has a pack; he has us." His gaze turned fond as he glanced over at Remus. "But he's also the one we put in charge of organising everything to do with the sanctuary, and for wizards and witches with lycanthropy, part of their condition is recognising pack or rather social hierarchy to an extent. So yes, they view him as their Alpha and Remus has had to accept the position because he is the one with the most authority within the group."
"So you admit werewolves align themselves to pack mentality? That they have their own government and structure?" Wenlock tried to deflect Harry back to the original argument.
"They have no choice at the moment." Harry returned. "If the rest of society casts them out, where would they go? The packs provide a place of safety and belonging – well, most of them. Greyback uses his for his own violent purposes and puts them all in danger. That's why we're offering sanctuary. If society accepted those with lycanthropy, Greyback would never have anyone wanting to follow him apart from those who already have violent tendencies." He paused, allowing the argument to be considered by everyone in the chamber. "But that's beside the point: I'm still insulted and awaiting your reply."
Wenlock scowled furiously. "You should drop this. You're clearly not old enough to determine that for yourself."
"It's a question of honour, Lord Wenlock." Harry repeated calmly.
"The boy's right." Tiberius Ogden got to his feet. "You insulted the House of Black and the House of Potter."
Augusta rose swiftly. "Hear, hear."
Richard stood. "I don't think there is anyone in the Potter alliance who feels you didn't insult them, Lord Wenlock."
Augusta was surprised when Nott was the next to get up.
"As much as I am pained to take attention away from the actual debate on werewolves," Nott said smoothly, "if you had accused me as you did Lord Black then I would be insulted and demand restitution. Lord Potter has the right of it; either accept a duel or a forfeit so we can move on."
"I am not duelling a fourteen year old boy!" Wenlock said defensively.
Nott nodded his head thoughtfully. "Then a forfeit it is." He gestured toward Harry. "Name your price, Lord Potter."
Augusta resumed her seat along with the others as Harry's expression turned contemplative. She was surprised that he didn't immediately state a forfeit since she was certain that the move had been planned, but maybe something had changed since the plan was formed…something had been said in the debate or not said…she shook her head and refocused on Harry.
There was a 'blink and miss it' exchange between Harry and Sirius – a question that had been answered, Augusta mused, or a confirmation of support. Either way Harry's demeanour altered almost imperceptibly.
"One question answered truthfully as sworn on your family magic." Harry announced.
Even Augusta could see that Wenlock was sweating profusely. What Harry asked for on the face of it was wonderfully simple – how could Wenlock refuse without looking like an arse?
Albus beamed happily. "That sounds like a splendid idea, my boy! Lord Wenlock?"
All eyes were on Wenlock. The faint sheen of his sweat shone from his brow and ruined the picture of Lordly perfection he had been so careful to cultivate.
"What is the question?" asked Wenlock stiffly.
"Your sworn oath, Lord Wenlock." Harry insisted.
Wenlock cast a frantic look about the chamber but he received no support from any corner including his own allies. He swallowed hard enough that Augusta saw the movement of his Adam's apple. He was trapped and he knew it.
"Very well." Wenlock said between gritted teeth.
"You have permission to draw your wand for the oath." Albus continued cheerily.
Wenlock extracted his wand and held it up. "I swear on my family magic that I will answer Lord Potter's question truthfully."
The vulture swooped down and landed close to Wenlock, regarding him seriously.
Harry gave a brisk nod. "Please can you tell me everything you know about how Remus Lupin's actions on the night Sirius Black escaped Hogwarts were leaked to the press."
Wenlock went bright red, then white, then red. His family avatar stared at him before making a baleful caw. A gold geas emerged from the vulture and settled over Wenlock.
It was a version of the truth spell invoked by family magic, Augusta realised; a demand that Wenlock answer. He would not be able to resist it. Wenlock was trying though – that was evident from the way he was tightening his lips and clenching his fists.
Silence dominated the chamber as everyone waited for Wenlock to answer.
"I put Amos Diggory under an imperius spell and commanded him to bring me Lupin's file which I then arranged for someone to leave on the desk of a journalist." Wenlock finally blurted out.
As the chamber erupted again on a wave of noise. Wenlock moved, snapping his wand up and across the chamber towards Harry.
A cry of warning was on Augusta's lips but she knew it would be too late and yet…
Sirius was already on his feet, casting…
Harry stood firm...wand out and casting a shield...
The Black snake moved...flowing into the Potter griffin whose wings were spread wide protectively in front of Harry so swiftly that to Augusta it looked like one moment it wasn't covering Harry and in the next moment it was…
And Wenlock's purple curse travelled across the chamber and…
The Potter griffin roared, trebled in size and charged…swallowing the curse…
The red flash of a stunning spell shot across from Sirius's wand and knocked Wenlock into his chair unconscious…
And the vulture gave another sad cry and abandoned Wenlock, flying to Harry and bowing down at his feet before disappearing…
Sirius was out of his seat, running to Harry as the griffin returned to guard him again. Sirius wrapped Harry in a tight hug, before shielding him, pushing Harry slightly behind him.
"Are you alright?" Sirius demanded.
Harry nodded but didn't protest Sirius's presence and protection.
"Aurors!" Amelia yelled. "Take Lord Wenlock into custody now!"
The Aurors hurriedly ran to do the Director's bidding.
Augusta watched as Amelia walked up to where Amos sat, and Leonard Abbott hurried to her side.
"Amos." She said gently.
Amos blinked at them, bewildered. "He said…he said…but wouldn't I know?"
Leonard took Amos's elbow and drew him up and off the bench. "Come on, Amos. We should take you to see a healer."
A respectful silence filled the chamber as the Department Head was led away by his friend.
Sirius kept one his arm wrapped around Harry, the other at his side held his wand. "Chief Warlock, in the circumstances, I suggest a short recess?"
"Yes, yes, quite right, my boy." Albus raised his voice. "The Wizengamot will take a short break. Session will resume in one hour. Doors are open!"
Augusta breathed out.
It was over.