"Welcome to the closed Wizengamot session," Barty Crouch Sr. said, looking out at the select few that were in attendance. "We gather here today, to decide as a collective force the guardianship of one Harry James Potter." The men and women clad in the Wizengmot issued scarlet robes, exchanged glances with their partners at this. The closed session had been Malfoy's idea; it was seconded by the Black family seat, now headed by Sirius Black. The closed session could only be attended by the Wizengamot members; visitors weren't allowed and couldn't vote.
"The aforementioned is currently in the care of a Vernon Dursley, at Little Whinging, Surrey," Crouch continued, reading out from a file folder. "Mr. Malfoy has petitioned the Ministry to hand over guardianship to him or any other Wizarding family."
"Objection, Mr. Minister," a man called out. "Mr. Potter is already in the care of his relatives. Why should there be a change in the guardianship now?"
"Exactly," a second voice called out.
"It is customary for the Ministry of Magic to assign the guardians of orphans when they are a national celebrity," Crouch replied. "Now, Mr. Potter was taken to his relatives house located at Little Whinging, Surrey immediately after the attack on the Potters' by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named by Dumbledore." Crouch looked up from the file folder and glanced at the Chief Warlock. "Why did you take young Mr. Potter there, Dumbledore?"
"Ah," Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling. "I have a few reasons, Barty. Firstly, the Dursleys are his only living relative. Secondly, I have set up wards around the residence that does not allow anyone with ill-intent or intent to harm Harry to come near it. Thirdly, Lily Potter sacrificed her life for that of her son. In doing so, she triggered ancient magics that continues to provide Harry protection, but only if he stays with his blood relatives. I should recommend you to think over the matter of Harry's guardianship again, Barty."
Crouch frowned. He flicked a few pages on his file folder and looked up at Dumbledore.
"The Dursleys aren't his only living relatives," he said, looking at the file folder again. "It says right here that James Potter's mother was a Black and there are a lot of Blacks still alive."
"I meant only living relative on his mothers side," Dumbledore smiled. "The protection only works if he lives with a blood relative from his mothers side."
"Would you care to explain what these 'wards' involve?" a woman asked from the other side of the room.
"I'm sorry," Dumbledore replied, giving the room his grandfatherly smile. "Doing so would side track the current discussion."
"I have taken the liberty to look at a few of the wards placed upon the Muggle residence," Lucius Malfoy spoke up from his seat near Dumbledore. "They basically include a couple of strong non-compulsion charms and a really powerful ward that does not allow people with ill-intent to young Mr. Potter from coming near a ten mile radius of the residence."
"So they are basically charms that could be applied to any residence," the woman confirmed with Lucius Malfoy. At his nod, she continued, "I don't see any reason why they can't be applied to any establishment that takes up the care of Mr. Potter."
"Also, the protection provided by magical guardians could be more helpful than that provided by any Muggle," the head of DMLE replied.
Dumbledore certainly didn't look pleased that his way wouldn't be had in the Wizengamot. But he quickly covered it up and smiled his grandfatherly smile again. "We could have a vote on keeping the current guardianship of Mr. Potter or look for a change in guardianship," he said, his eyes twinkling madly.
"Seconded," Sirius Black called out.
"Motion seconded and carried forward," the court scribe called out. "Those in favor of keeping Mr. Potters current guardians?"
A lot of people raised their hands, mainly those who were known supporters of Dumbledore. The scribe quickly jotted down the numbers and called out, "Those against?"
After tallying up the results, the court scribe declared, "Majority vote for no change in current guardianship of Mr. Potter."
Dumbledore was pleased internally, but he did not show it.
"The Blacks have also petitioned for a public reading of the Potters' Last Will And Testament," the Minister for Magic said, looking down at his file.
"I'm afraid that is not possible, Barty," Dumbledore said, striding over to the Minister. "The Potters made a request that their Wills not be made public."
"Have you any proof for your claim, old man?" Sirius Black questioned, rising up to face Dumbledore.
"Why, yes, Mr. Black," Dumbledore replied, not looking Sirius in the eye. "The goblins at Gringotts would vouch for me."
"I request on the behalf of the Wizengamot that they check up on this claim," Black proclaimed.
"Motion seconded," the same woman in the back called out.
"Motion seconded and carried out," the scribe announced. "The Wizengamot will look into the claim and announce the results at the next Wizengamot meeting."
"The Wizengamot is adjourned till noon," Barty Crouch announced. "We will assemble for an open court session for the trails of various suspected Death Eaters."
With that, several of the members left the courtroom. Sirius Black walked over to Dumbledore and said, "I don't know what your game is, old man, but I will soon figure it out."
With that, he soon left the courtroom with Lucius close behind him. They discussed the session on their way towards the cafeteria, but were stopped by a woman calling out to them.
They turned around to see the woman from the Wizengamot session hurrying to catch up with them. She was a pretty woman with strawberry blond hair and very aristocratic features. She was out of breath by the time she reached the pair of them.
"I'm Capella Greengrass," she said, holding out her hand to Lucius. "Enoch, my husband, usually sits on the Greengrass seat, but he was held up today, so I took his place instead." Lucius bent over and kissed the woman on the hand in the traditional Pureblood way.
"Would the lovely lady care to join us for lunch?" Lucius asked politely, once Sirius had introduced himself.
"It would be my pleasure," Capella Greengrass replied, blushing at Lucius' antics.
As the three of them moved towards the cafeteria, Sirius and Capella struck up a light conversation, while Lucius looked to be deep in thought. When they reached the cafeteria, it was jam packed like the other times the Wizengamot broke up to reconvene at noon. Lucius found them a table while Sirius went over to get the food for the three of them. When in line, he found himself behind Arthur Weasley, and they exchanged pleasantries, although you could say that Mr. Weasley was a little bit nervous at the beginning.
Sirius returned a short while later, with a tray of food for each of them. Once they began tucking in, Capella addressed both of them.
"Don't you think that it would be wise to invoke the reading of the Will of Lily and James?"
Lucius looked at her before spooning vegetables into his mouth and swallowing it. "What makes you think we haven't considered that?" he asked, setting down the fork and wipinghis mouth with the linen provided.
Capella Greengrass shrugged. "I really doubt if James and Lily would make the reading of the Wills private," she said, leaning back in the chair and closing her eyes for a moment. "James was the Head of the Potter family before he was killed and it is an unspoken rule when there are no of age members or off-springs to make the reading private."
Sirius inclined his head and smiled at the witch sitting in front of him. "The Wizengamot also cannot invoke the Wills at the order of two seats, no matter how powerful they be."
"What makes you think it would be only two seats?" she frowned. "There are a few who do support you, you know?"
They both nodded. "Invoking a Will requires the support of the entire Wizengamot," Sirius said, looking around the small cafeteria. "If there is even a single objection, then it cannot be carried out."
"Dumbledore is playing a very dangerous game here," Capella commented, setting down her fork and spoon. "I don't know what he wants, but whatever it is, is in the interests of his own twisted philosophy." No one spoke for a few moments as they looked at Dumbledore sitting a few benches away, conversing with Elphias Doge. Doge was nodding his head and listening attentively, looking at Dumbledore with devotion.
"Well, I'm taking off," Capella Greengrass announced, shaking Sirius' and Lucius' hand. "Gentlemen, until next time."
Two days after that, Privet Drive in Little Whinging, Surrey was flooding with activity. Though the Muggles that lived there hardly noticed any difference, the streets were hardly empty that day. Vernon Dursley spotted the same cat that he had spotted a few weeks ago, this time reading the number plate on his car. No, he shook his head. It was looking at the number plate on his car. Cats couldn't read.
Vernon Dursley also noticed an oddly dressed woman with red hair passing by at the corner of Privet Drive and he almost laughed out loud at the absurdness of the get up. He was chuckling all the way until he reached his office, where he promptly forgot all about the woman he had seen and concentrated on drills and shouted at a few people.
Petunia Dursley's long neck constantly found itself craning over the fence to spy on the neighbor. At one time, she noticed an oddly dressed man passing by in the street, but she thought no more about it. When she went outside, she also noticed a tabby cat with peculiar markings around it's eyes sitting stiffly. Petunia tried to feed it, but the cat looked back at her with a look that resembled a glare. Petunia shuddered. She tried to chase the cat away, but it never budged and Petunia had the strange feeling that it was staring defiantly at her. Feeling creeped out, she went into the house and didn't appear for the rest of the day, though she did keep watching the tabby cat from time to time.
McGonagall, on the other hand, had kept her promise and had kept a watch on Privet Drive for most of the day. Many of the Order members were patrolling the area, and she caught glimpses of them from time to time. At around noon, while she was contemplating on getting back to Hogwarts, she noticed a big black dog walking down the street towards Number Four. She flicked her tail; this dog was familiar, but she couldn't place her mind on exactly where she had seen it before.
The dog came towards the house stealthily, slinking from bush to bush and taking advantage of any cover it could find. The dog hadn't seemed to notice the cat yet, as it was too busy with keeping out of range of the residents at Privet Drive. McGonagall looked at the dog and racked her brains, trying to remember where she had seen it before. The first thing that came to her mind was that the huge black dog was a Grim, but she had quickly put that out of her mind. It was one of Lockhart's imaginary creatures mentioned in his book, she was sure.
When the dog finally reached Number Five, it looked up at the Dursley's house and seemed to notice the cat for the first time. It stared for a split second, before turning tail and running down the way it had come. It didn't bother with staying hidden this time; once it reached the end of the road, it disappeared from view and McGonagall could no longer see it. When the dog had been close enough, McGonagall had also smelt it, and she seemed to vaguely recognize the scent, though she couldn't exactly tell whom it was.
McGonagall pondered on weather to report the strange occurrence to Dumbledore or not, and she decided not to. She still suspected Dumbledore was up to something, and she wanted to find out what it was before she could tell him anything. She waited for a few more minutes, and when she saw another Order member coming down the street, she gave a slight nod and slipped away to a secluded area before Disapparating away to Hogsmeade.
Next morning, the Daily Prophet carried some astounding news.
"Son of Minister of Magic a Death Eater : Sentenced to life-time imprisonment"
Half the people couldn't even believe what they were reading. Many people started protesting that the current Minister for Magic should retire. A few even went as far as to claim that Barty Crouch Sr. himself was a Death Eater. Various rumors were circulating around the Wizarding world, and a few of them were so ridiculous that it was a wonder people even believed them.
When Abner Cunningham saw the headlines, he had spent around ten minutes doing an excited jig around his living room before going into his little study and writing up a speech regarding the choices of the people selecting wrong leaders. Abner Cunningham had managed to get off with a warning for giving a speech in Diagon Alley a few weeks back, in which he had been arrested by the Aurors. Technically, the Ministry couldn't arrest him for making a speech that told about his opinions.
After the arrest, he had made a few more speeches, and he had gathered himself a small following that agreed with his viewpoints. What Cunningham wanted, in short, was to dissolve the entire Ministry of Magic and replace it with a completely new political system. His new system borrowed many points from the monarchical system and a few from the current Ministry system.
Many people still couldn't wrap their heads around his view points, because doing so would mean that many people working in the Ministry would lose their jobs and there would be loads of people unemployed. Cunningham vowed that he would come up with a working system that would allow the current Ministry workers to keep their jobs while at the same time taking the country through a much needed change. But, for now, all Cunningham wanted to do was slander the Ministry and reduce it's image and standing in the eyes of the people. The rest would come with time.
The Muggle neighborhood was dismal. As the man walked into a small alley littered with garbage, he covered his nose from the foul smell that penetrated it. The man looked around a few times before he opened a small door off to the side of alley, all the while clutching a newspaper under his arms. The door was barely noticeable and was only visible if you really knew where to look for it.
The man disappeared into it and climbed the stairs. When he reached the landing, he flicked on the light switch and went into a small doorway. He switched on the lights again and looked around the dismal room before he threw the newspaper on the small couch. The small room led off to a small corridor which opened out to two more rooms. The small apartment was completely Muggle and the man was feeling quite tired of looking at it. The man sported a bushy beard that clearly hadn't seen a razor for a few weeks. The man's shabby appearance was also startling, for the clothes he wore seemed to be of an excellent quality.
The man probably had been handsome once upon a time, but his greasy face and ragged clothes clearly concealed the fact. The man paced around the room for a while, his face scrunched up in thought. He frowned, walked over to the discarded paper and started reading. It was a copy of the Evening Prophet, and the headlines said that Orion Black had given up the Black Wizengamot seat to his eldest son Sirius Black. The paper was a few days old, but the man had scourged through the dustbins in Diagon Alley for a long time before he found it. He flipped over to one of the inside pages and saw another headline.
"Barty Crouch Sr. to resign as Minister of Magic"
He frowned as he saw the headline and started to read the article below it.
The respected Minister for Magic, Barty Crouch Sr., was caught in a tough position when his son was revealed to be a Death Eater. Death Eaters are the supporters of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. It was brought to their attention by Igor Karkaroff, who named a few Death Eaters in exchange for his freedom.
Barty Crouch Sr. gave no preferential treatment to his son, despite all the begging, and threw him into Azkaban. All followers of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named receive an imprisonment for life. The cells at Azkaban are already half filled with Death Eaters.
Following the rumors and bad press, Crouch Sr. has deemed it best to resign his office. For more on the candidates nominated for Minister for Magic, turn to Page 12.
The man's frown deepened when he reached the end of the article and he started stroking his bearded chin.
"Bah!" he exclaimed, throwing the paper on the floor and walking to a small table in the corner of the room. He sat down on a chair in front of it and pulled out a piece of parchment and a Muggle pen. He scribbled something and folded the parchment once he was done. He put out all the lights in the small apartment before heading out to the landing and going downstairs.
He came out into the alley and made his way through the busy streets of Muggle London. He tried to keep to the shadows as much as possible. It wasn't difficult, for it was well past midnight and there were hardly any people out at this hour. He turned the corner onto Charings Cross and kept a close lookout for any people watching him.
When he reached the Leaky Cauldron, he pushed the door open, gave a slight nod to Tom, walked up to him and placed the parchment in a swift motion. Motioning Tom toward him, he spoke, "Take this to the post office first thing in the morning. Give it to an owl; it'll know where to go." He waited until Tom nodded and headed out of the bar.
Severus Snape looked at the man walking in front of him and was confused for a moment. The man seemed to know that he was being followed, but he did not intercept him or do anything. Instead, he just walked on, keeping to the shadows. Snape thought that the man was leading him on a wild goose chase, and he wasn't prepared for that tonight.
The shabby young man had piqued his interest the moment he had entered The Leaky Cauldron. When he had handed over a letter or something over to the bar keep and had a few quiet words with him, his curiosity won him over. He had hurriedly thrown a couple of Galleons on the table and followed the man out of the pub, keeping as far behind the man as he could, remaining in the shadows and keeping silent.
The man led him down the streets of Muggle London, not pausing or hesitating even for a slight moment. The man seemed to know where he was going, and for that, Snape felt thankful. He couldn't find his way around Muggle London on his own. He had lost touch with it a long time ago. He recognized a few of the building as they passed though. The man turned the corner ahead of him and Snape hurried a bit so that he wouldn't loose sight of him.
The reason that Snape was following him was because he had met this man long back, in times he wouldn't wish to remember. People presumed this man to be dead and he was indeed very surprised when he actually met him again for real. He just wanted to make sure that his eyes weren't playing tricks on him again. Lately, that had been happening to him a lot.
Snape finally reached the corner and took a turn, but he couldn't make out the man in front of him. Too late, he looked back, but was greeted by a voice saying, "Looking for me?" The next moment, he felt his head go light, his eyes began to dim and he was surrounded by total darkness.
A/n: Sorry for the late update guys! I've been held up a lot recently and I'd also lost my laptop. I got a new one yesterday, so I've worked on this for a whole of one day to get this out. I've lost the original copies of whatever I'd written in advance, so I'll have to dish out the story as it goes now. Anyway, I hope you do enjoy this. I'm not going to abandon this at any cost.
You can look forward to regular updates from now on. Maybe once a day or once in two or three days. I'm also working on another fanfiction, so it'll depend on when I find the time to keep up with both. Enjoy. :)
Oh, and please review! I'd like to know how you all are enjoying the story so far.