A/N: This took alot longer than I expected it to but it's finally here. Thank you for all the reviews and contued interest in this story. It does my hart good that so many people seem to like my wiriting. So, without any further delay, let's get on with the show.
Tom Wilson had had enough! Another pureblood wizard had joined the team and was put on days instead of him. This one was single with no family. It was the last straw. Tom now realized that the only way out of the graveyard shift was by getting rid of McTavish. He didn't like what he was about to do but the man had left him no other choice.
He made his way to his boss's office. He pulled out his wand and checked the door for wards and charms. There were only basic ones that he was able to bypass easily. He then entered the office and headed straight for the filing cabinet. The files were mostly copies of the ones kept in the main file room but there was a locked box in one drawer where he kept personal files on 'special' patients that no one was supposed to know about.
Tom knew there was a patient he wasn't even allowed to see. He hadn't even been told the patient's name and there was no file in the main file room for them. He knew that patient's file would be in McTavish's private box and was his best hope of finding something to use against him.
Again, he made short work of the locks and charms on the box and soon had it open. He was shocked to see two files in it. The first had no name on it but the second was the Longbottom file. He'd cared for the couple for years and had spent many hours researching cruciatis treatments hoping to find something to help them.
He set their file aside deciding to focus on the unknown patient first. When he opened the file he was again shocked to learn it was Sirius Black. Sirius had protected him from McTavish's bullying in school. It wasn't just his fellow Gryffindors either. He and his friends were well known pranksters at Hogwarts and he would use his talents on any bully he came across.
McTavish was one of the worst so naturally was on the receiving end of one of Sirius's pranks more than once. There was no way he wasn't taking advantage of having Sirius at his mercy. Tom carefully read through the file determined to help his friend. Everything seemed to be on the up and up except for a notation about treating him with a 'special' potion.
On a hunch, he checked the Longbottom file and found a similar notation but, according to their file, they had been given that potion since the night they were brought in. it didn't make sense to give someone a potion for that length of time especially since it obviously wasn't helping them. Then a feeling of dread came over him as another possibility occurred to him.
"No," he spoke his thought out loud. "Benedict, please tell me you're not that cruel?"
There was, of course, no answer since he was alone. He moved over to the cabinet where the 'special' potion was most likely kept. Inside were several vials of a milky white potion. They looked remarkably like nutrient potions and were even labled as such. He pulled out his wand and checked one of the vials. His suspicions were confirmed with the results.
He transfigured a duplicate of the vial he checked and put the duplicate at the back of the shelf while moving the others up so McTavish wouldn't know he'd been there. He then slipped the vial of real potion into his pocket. He put the files back in the box replacing the charms and locks then did the same on the office door.
He then headed straight for the Longbottom's room. Alice Longbottom's eyes didn't watch him like they normally did but were as vacant and lifeless as her husband's. According to the file, her dosage of the potion had recently been increased. Tom figured she must have been fighting off the affects and McTavish had increased the dose to get her back under control. He moved to her bed and placed his hand on hers.
"I know what's going on now Alice," he whispered. "I'm sorry it's taken so long but I promise you you'll be hugging your son in no time."
He then made his way to another room. A room he wasn't allowed to enter. There he found Sirius in a similar condition to the Longbottoms. Again, he moved over to the bed this time placing his hand on his old friend's shoulder.
"Sirius," he said again keeping his voice to a whisper. "I'm going to get you out of here very soon. I know what McTavish did and I'm going to make sure he pays for it."
He then returned to his desk to figure out how best to proceed. He decided to finish out his shift then he would contact Amelia bones. With that decision made he returned to his duties confident he would soon be free of the graveyard shift.
It was a few nights later that Harry was woken up in the middle of the night by Professor McGonagall.
"Mr. Potter," she whispered. "I need you to get dressed and meet me in the common room.
"Did something happen with Sirius?" he asked worriedly.
"All will be explained in good time Mr. Potter," she replied. "Now, hurry up and bring Mr. Longbottom with you as this concerns him too. I'll expect you down there in five minutes. I'm going to go wake up Miss Granger now."
"Hermione is coming too?" he asked while rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
McGonagall smiled slyly at him before answering.
"You are on detention Mr. Potter or have you forgotten?" she answered him. "You have to stay with Miss Granger so, if she doesn't go, then neither can you." Harry returned her smile with one of his own as she spoke. "Now, enough with the questions get a move on."
Five minutes later, Harry and Neville entered the common room to find McGonagall and Hermione waiting on them. McGonagall then led them up to her office. She walked over to the fireplace and took the bowl of floo powder off the mantel.
"We're going to St. Mungos." She told them then explained how to use the floo.
She sent Harry through first. Naturally, he landed on his bum. He quickly got up wondering if he'd ever be able to do it without falling down. Hermione came through next and he felt jealous as she stepped right out without a problem. Neville didn't fall down either then McGonagall came through. She began leading them through the hospital and Neville quickly realized where they were heading.
"Has something happened to my parents?" he asked clearly worried.
"I'll tell you the same thing I told Mr. Potter," she answered him. "Patience Mr. Longbottom."
A few minutes later they entered his parent's room to find his grandmother was already there.
"Gran?" he called to her. She turned to him and there were tears in her eyes which only made him more worried. "What-," he started but was interrupted by another voice.
He turned and found his mother looking at him. Looking and smiling while holding her arms out to him. He was nearly blinded as tears filled his eyes.
"Mum?" he asked then noticed his dad also smiling at him. "Dad?"
"It's good to see you son," his father responded.
It was only a moment before he ran to their beds. He alternated hugging both of them before sitting in between them clearly not planning on leaving them any time soon. Harry was happy for him and noticed Hermione smiling while shedding her own tears showing that, she too, was happy for their friend. His attention was drawn away from the scene before him by the sound of a very familiar voice.
"Harry?" it said softly.
Harry didn't even hesitate but immediately charged the owner of the voice.
"Sirius!" he yelled.
Sirius Black threw his hands up in surrender momentarily worried the boy was going to attack him only to find himself the recipient of a fierce bear hug. Sirius returned the hug then pulled back to get a look at him.
"Harry," he said squatting down so he could look his godson in the eye. "I don't know what you've been told but-"
Harry cut him off before he could finish.
"I know you're my godfather. I know you were friends with my dad all through school and was accused of betraying them to Voldemort when it was really Peter Pettigrew that set them up. The rat finally got what he deserved and now you are finally getting your life back."
Sirius gave a laugh before responding.
"Yes, well," he said smiling. "I guess that about sums it up." His expression turned serious as he continued. "I was a fool the night your parents died Harry. I let my grief get the better of me and left you to go after Peter. I promise you I will never make that mistake again."
"Good," Harry replied. "Because I need you to stick around."
Sirius pulled him into another hug.
"Don't worry Pup," he responded. I'm not going anywhere."
"Pup?" Harry asked. He knew the answer of course but he couldn't let anyone in the room know that.
Sirius just winked at him.
"Family secret," he answered. "I'll explain when we're somewhere more private."
Sirius then noticed the young bushy haired girl keeping a close eye on them.
"Now," he continued. "What say you introduce me to the lovely young lady that's been watching us?"
Harry turned and beckoned her forward.
"This is Hermione Granger," He introduced her a smile on his face. "And you know Neville. They are my best friends. Oh, and Luna Lovegood too. We met her at your trial and really hit it off. She won't be at Hogwarts until next year."
Sirius noticed that Hermione was standing very close to Harry and decided to have a little fun.
"Nice to meet you Hermione," he said bowing his head slightly and assuming a formal tone. "If my eyes don't deceive me, I daresay you have feelings that perhaps go beyond mere friendship?"
Hermione looked embarrassed and quickly put some space between her and Harry. It was going better than he thought it would and decided to go in for the kill.
"Let me make things clear for you young lady," he continued adopting a firm tone. "I won't allow just any witch to be with my godson. Any potential mate will have to meet a very strict criteria or-"
He trailed off when he saw the expression that came over her face. It was similar to the one that would appear on Lily's face moments before she started throwing hexes around usually aiming for a marauder. He knew she was just a first year and probably didn't know many hexes yet but he wasn't willing to find out.
"I'm just pulling your leg Hermione," he said quickly putting a devious smile on his face. "I saw how close you two were and thought I'd play my first prank on you."
He was relieved when a smile returned to her face. The last thing he wanted was for his love of pranks to cause him to make a bad first impression on his godson and his friends.
"The truth is Hermione," he continued truly serious this time. "I have only two requirements for any girl wishing to be with Harry. They have to love him and make him happy. I don't hold with the proper breeding rubbish that many purebloods cling to. So, if in a few years, you and Harry decide to give it a go, you will have my blessing."
"Thank you," she responded.
"You're very welcome," he replied making an over the top bow that caused her to giggle. "You're going to find Hermione," he continued. "That I'm almost never serious. Well, actually, I'm always Sirius. I mean, it is my name after all but, er, that is, oh, you know what I mean."
By this time everyone was cracking up. Sirius mock pouted for a moment causing everyone to laugh harder then joined in. He then took a seat in an empty chair near Alice's bed. Harry sat in the chair next to him and Hermione sat on Harry's other side.
"If we are done joking around now," Harry hadn't noticed Amelia was in the room and there was a man with her he hadn't met before. "Perhaps we can get down to business."
"I'll never be done joking around Amelia," Sirius quickly responded getting more laughs from the kids. "It's against the marauder code and just isn't in my nature not to mention the ten years I have to make up for."
"Can you please be serious for just a few minutes?!"
Amelia knew she'd made a mistake the moment those words left her mouth. The grin that appeared on Sirius's face confirmed that he was more than willing to take advantage of the perfect setup she'd just given him.
"As I just told Hermione," he replied clearly in his element. "I'm always Sirius. It's the name I was given when I was born and I have never shied away from being myself."
Amelia decided to try to steer the conversation away from the marauder if only to maintain her own sanity. She pointed at Tom Wilson drawing everyone's attention to the healer. Unfortunately, her next words put her right back into Sirius's clutches.
"This is serious, Black-," she started but the marauder immediately seized the opportunity she'd just provided for him.
"No he's not, I am," Sirius interrupted feigning irritation. "We just established that a moment ago. Are you feeling all right Amelia? I mean your face is a little red. Perhaps you're running a fever. Maybe Tom Wilson here," at this point he indicated the man standing next to Amelia. "Should take a look at you; he is a healer after all."
Her face was getting red but it had nothing to do with a fever.
"Lord Black! We have serious matters to discuss here!" she yelled finally losing her patience.
"Oh goody," he replied. "I love being the center of attention."
Amelia closed her eyes and began massaging her temples to try to stave off the headache that was rapidly forming as a result of this conversation. The kids were laughing the whole time and that, in her opinion, was the only good thing this conversation had produced.
She was about to tell them some things that would no doubt be very upsetting to them. If a few minutes of laughter would make it easier for them to handle, she was more than happy to play the straight man to Sirius's antics.
"Minerva?" she said turning to look at her friend. "How did you manage when he was at Hogwarts?"
"I assigned him detention with Mr. Filtch," Minerva answered a slight smile on her face. "I had to do that quite a bit as I recall. We think that's why our caretaker now walks around mumbling about the good ol' days when they were allowed to torture children."
The kids laughed again while Sirius acted insulted.
"Oi!" he objected. "Filtch talked that way when I was in school too!"
When the laughter died down, she again tried to get down to business.
"As I was saying," she started. "We have some s-," she caught herself that time looking pointedly at a smiling Sirius and paused momentarily before continuing. "Important things to discuss."
Sirius momentarily looked disappointed then the mirth disappeared from his face as he placed a comforting hand on Harry's shoulder. She then understood that he too was worried about the kids. He knew what was coming and obviously thought as she did: that the laughter would hopefully lessen the tears that were sure to come later.
"You're no doubt wondering how your loved ones have so miraculously recovered," she started.
All three kids nodded their heads vigorously. Neville was holding on to one of his mother's hands with both of his. She had her other hand caressing both of his hands while Frank had followed Sirius's lead and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"The short answer," she continued. "Is that they were never really sick."
All three kids looked confused so she launched into what she expected to be a lengthy explanation.
"I'll start with Sirius first. When he was brought here for a checkup after his trial, he was given a potion that made him attack the healer then given another one that put him in the same condition Frank and Alice were in."
She looked at Neville at that point. He seemed even more confused and it was only a moment before he voiced his thoughts.
"But how is that possible," he asked. "Mum and Dad were that way because Bellatrix tortured them."
"No Neville," Amelia answered as gently as she could. "They were that way because they were given the same potion the night they were brought in."
Again there was confusion on his face until it dawned on him what she was saying.
"You're telling me someone purposely tried to make it look like they had been tortured into insanity by giving them a potion?"
"I'm afraid so Neville," Amelia answered him.
There were tears in his eyes as the confusion was replaced with shock and more than a little anger.
"I could have had my mum and dad with me all these years," he said quietly mostly to himself.
His mother pulled him into a hug as the pain of those years were now evident on his face.
"Do you know who did this?" Harry asked.
She turned to look at him knowing the next part would probably be hardest for him to hear. He was visibly upset while Hermione was openly crying.
"Yes," she answered him. "Benedict McTavish."
"I'll gut the little bastard!"
It was Augusta Longbottom that had made that pronouncement. She was a part of a generation that held strictly to traditions and old fashioned propriety. She was adept at politics and not one to lose composure or show a lot of emotion. She was also a formidable woman whom you messed with at your own peril.
Truth was she died a little bit every time she saw her kids in that state. She considered Alice to be every bit as much her child as Frank was. It was only the fact that her grandson needed her that had kept her going. Finding out that her family had suffered needlessly was more than she could take. Frank reached over to comfort his mother while Amelia focused on Harry as the worst was still to come.
"Healer McTavish was administering the potions," she continued. "But we think he was doing it on someone else's orders; someone who wanted all three of them out of the way. Harry, the Longbottoms and Sirius have only one thing in common; they were both listed as potential guardians for you in your parent's will."
She watched as a cavalcade of emotions crossed his face as the implication of what she was saying dawned on him finally settling on guilt.
"It was my fault wasn't it?" he asked shedding his own tears, "It's my fault Neville's parents didn't get to watch him grow up. That Neville lost his parents. That Madame Longbottom lost her kids. It's all my fault."
"No!" yelled Hermione. She'd moved from her seat and was now crouched in front of him cradling his face in her hands. "None of this is your fault Harry! It's not your fault that a dark wizard decided to kill you and killed your parents because they tried to protect you. It's not your fault that another wizard decided to try to control your life even if it meant destroying others. We both know whose fault it is Harry so stop blaming yourself."
She pulled him into a hug and within a few minutes he'd calmed down and then she turned to Amelia.
"It was Albus Dumbledore wasn't it?" she asked with certainty.
"I believe so Hermione," Amelia answered. "I can't prove it yet but I believe his involvement in the Longbottom's case goes beyond the potions."
There were shocked gasps all around the room at her words. It was Sirius that found his voice first.
"Surely you don't think it was him that-"
"No I don't Sirius," she answered cutting him off. "There is no doubt in my mind that it was the Lestranges and Barty Crouch Jr. that carried out the attack but I think Albus may have helped them either accidently or on purpose. He was one of the few people that knew who their secret keeper was and the timing of the attack was very fortuitous if his goal really was to control Harry. After Sirius was arrested, Harry's guardianship was in question. Records show that Frank and Alice filed for guardianship when Sirius was sent to Azkaban."
"We did," Alice broke in. "We knew your parent's wishes Harry and wanted to look after you. James and Lily were dear friends of ours. You and Neville had played together as babies and we thought you might like growing up like brothers. We would have done all we could to give you a good home if we had been given a chance."
"Thank you Mrs. Longbottom," Harry responded smiling. "I would have loved getting to grow up with Neville. It didn't make any difference anyway. Neville and I are still like brothers."
"I'm glad to hear that Harry," Alice said returning his smile. "And please call me Alice."
"I would be honored to Alice," Harry replied before turning his attention back to Amelia. "How could Dumbledore have helped them?"
"It is well known that Albus is associated with at least one known death eater; Severus Snape." She responded. "My thinking is that Albus told him who the secret keeper was and Snape passed that information along to the Lestranges". She then turned to the Lonbottoms as she continued. "Your secret keeper was last seen a week before the attack and was never found. My best guess would be that they kidnapped him, tortured him for your location then got rid of him."
The room was silent as they all contemplated her words. Their view of Albus Dumbledore had taken a gigantic plunge over the last hour and it hadn't been that high to begin with. It was Amelia who finally broke the silence.
"Well, that's all I had," she said solemnly. "Minerva needs to get the kids back and these three need to go back under the potion."
"No!" Neville was on his feet his face red with anger. "I'm not letting you take my parents away again!"
Although Neville's reaction was understandable, Harry and Hermione moving behind him then all three drawing their wands was a complete and utter shock. It was clear that Neville was willing to fight to protect his parents and that his friends had his back. Amelia wasn't sure how to resolve this sudden standoff and was trying to come up with a solution when she got help from behind the protesting students.
"Neville honey," Alice spoke softly. "It's only temporary. Healer Wilson will bring us out of it every night so we can learn to move around again. We will also get to catch up with Sirius here during the week and have you and mum visit on weekends."
He turned to hug her but Amelia noticed that Harry and Hermione maintained their vigilance.
"But why do you have to be under it at all?" he asked desperate to save them from that fate again.
"We don't want to let McTavish know we're on to him yet son," Frank had joined his wife in trying to calm their son. "It will tip our hand to Dumbledore and we don't want to give him any chance to weasel out of this."
Neville was fighting a battle with his emotions as he absorbed his father's words. Finally he seemed to accept it but his emotions were far from being under control.
"H-how long?" he choked out while fighting sobs causing his mother to pull him into another hug.
It was Amelia who answered when she saw Harry and Hermione put their wands away.
"In three weeks, there will be a hearing for a final ruling on Sirius's guardianship of Harry. That should be enough time for me to put a case together so I can take them both down. My plan is to bring all three patients into the chamber and give them the shock of their lives."
It took a while before Neville was willing to leave his parents but soon they said their goodbyes satisfied with the plan they had set in motion. Minerva surprised everyone when she pulled Sirius into a hug.
"You don't know how happy I was to learn we were all wrong about you," she said affectionately. "Going after Peter, while understandable, was nevertheless a foolish thing to do. Harry needed you then and the rest of us had already lost far too much when James and Lily were taken from us. I have half a mind to transfigure you into a welcome mat and leave you outside Pamona's dung house for a week for the added worry you caused us."
A look of remorse came over his face as she spoke.
"I know I let a lot of people down including myself," he said apologetically. "I failed to make sure James and Lily's wishes were followed and, most importantly, I failed Harry. I promise you that won't happen again."
"Good," she replied. She turned to go but quickly turned back around. "Oh and Sirius," she added. "I know you won't be able to help yourself, so I won't even bother asking you to refrain from teaching Harry and his friends any of your, shall we say, special skills? But know this: if I suddenly find I have a new generation of marauders to deal with, I may give my welcome mat idea a go and leave you there for a month."
The smile on her face belied the seriousness of her tone. Everyone laughed when Sirius dramatically gulped. Minerva suddenly became emotional as she reached up and lightly patted his cheek.
"It's good to have you back my boy," she told him and there was more than a little moisture in her eyes.
She then led the Gryffindor trio out of the room towards the floo and back to the castle. Once they arrived back in her office, she escorted them back to Gryffindor tower and bid them goodnight. All the while, Albus Dumbledore slept peacefully in his bed unaware that all of his schemes and manipulations were coming apart at the seams.
The next day was Saturday so they went to see Luna to fill her in on the previous night's events. She was obviously happy for Neville and Harry but, as their story unfolded, she became shocked, horrified and finally livid.
"That's it!" she said angrily. "I'm using the spell on the old fart!"
"Luna, I really don't-," Harry started but was cut off as she rounded on him.
"Save it Harry!" she snapped at him then focused her ire on Hermione. "And don't you start with that 'Dumbledore isn't evil' rubbish either Hermione! It's clearly not true and I'm not going to listen to you spouting that nonsense anymore! If you thought I was odd when I used to talk about my dad's creatures, then your continued belief in Dumbledore's goodness after all we've learned is bloody insane!"
Neville reached out to comfort his girlfriend and hopefully calm her down.
"Luna-," he tried to speak but she was having none of it.
"No Neville!" she snapped at him while batting his hand away. "I've held my tongue long enough." She then turned back to Harry and Hermione. "Neither of you were there on Christmas. You didn't see how hard it was on Neville when his mum reached out literally begging him to help her. You didn't hear the sorrow in his voice when he apologized for not being able to do anything for her and told her she deserved a better son!"
There were tears running down her face now as well as Hermione's.
"You didn't see the pain he was in. you have no idea how much he suffered seeing his parents in that condition year after year but I do because I was there! Do you have any idea how hard it was to watch the man I love going through hell knowing there wasn't a bloody thing I could do about it? And now I find out that it all happened because the suffering of Neville and his family was deemed an acceptable price to pay for Albus Dumbledore's bloody greater good?! No, I'm taking his magic then I'm hexing him to hell and back!"
She was yelling at the top of her lungs by the end of her tirade having completely lost her temper. Neville again tried to comfort her. She resisted at first then collapsed into him finally breaking down. He just held her until she calmed down.
"I appreciate the support love," he spoke to her softly. "But you're wrong. The last thing either Harry or Hermione would do, at this point, is defend Dumbledore."
"Nev's right Luna," Harry tried again. "I was only going to say that I don't think we should use the spell on him because, with his age, it would likely kill him quickly and I don't think he deserves a quick death. After what he's done, he deserves to be tortured slowly and painfully until he's begging for death then tortured some more."
"Luna?" Hermione added. "If you don't mind, I'd like to help you hex him to hell and back. With all the hexes that we both know the old bastard won't know what hit him."
Luna giggled at that and soon everything was back to normal. Luna sat back up and pulled Frank's wand out from behind her ear.
"I suppose you will need this to give back to your dad." She said holding it out to him.
"I do," he responded taking it from her. "But don't worry. It will only be for a few months then you will have your own wand back."
"I know," she replied. "But it was nice to have one again even if only for a while."
They put the more serious matters aside after that and just enjoyed their time together.
Severus Snape was hiding out in what amounted to little more than a shack. It was a house that had been in his father's family for generations. His father had used it as a vacation house or perhaps as a place to bring his women to. Apart from being a total bastard to Snape, he had also had numerous affairs on Snape's mother.
Snape hated everything to do with his father including this house but he had little choice at the moment. His year had gotten off to a rotten start. He'd lost his magic as a result of that blasted troll attack and the poor excuse of a wizard Quarenius Quirrell. To make matters worse, he couldn't even get revenge on the turban wearing idiot because the troll killed him first.
Without his magic he was essentially a muggle and, because of his father, he hated muggles and everything to do with them. That's what drew him to the death eaters and serving the dark lord. Voldemort would kill him on sight now that he was one of them. But that wasn't why he was hiding. The dark lord had been gone for a long time now.
He knew Albus believed strongly that Voldemort would return someday and he may be right but it hadn't happened yet. No, Severus was on the run from wizarding law enforcement. He knew once he lost his magic his memories would be next. Wizarding law mandated that wizards or witches that lost their magic and had no living magical relatives be obliviated to maintain the statute of secrecy. It was an old law that was put in place in order to steal family fortunes legally although officially it was to be merciful to those that suffered what was considered the worst fate that could befall a magical individual. Without magic, they couldn't access their vault at Gringotts or even their own homes without a magical relative to help them. Once he lost his magic, he fell under that law.
There were certain memories he wasn't willing to lose so he knew he would have to escape. The infernal healer had bound him to his bed and told him he would be kept there until he learned to be good like some misbehaving child. He played along until they finally removed the restraints. He then overheard a conversation between the healer and an auror where they talked about him being questioned under veritaserum about a pending case. Severus knew then that it was time to go. Without magic, his only option was the muggle world. He had no muggle money so he'd had to travel on foot. It took him a few days to get there but he was safe for the moment.
Thankfully, the house was stocked as usual so he would be able to get by for a while. He needed to get out of the country but that would take money and a passport. He would have to get some sort of job to earn it but didn't have a clue what muggle job he could possibly do. He cursed the fates for yet again tormenting him never once considering that, through his own deplorable behavior, he could have brought this on himself. He decided to eat something then get some rest and work on it in the morning.
The next three weeks flew by fast for the Gryffindor trio. They visited Luna a few more times and were happy to learn that her parents had decided to let her go with her them to the hearing. They also enjoyed visiting Sirius, Frank and Alice at St. Mungos. As the hearing drew near, Amelia informed them that she had been unable to find Snape but would still be able to get Dumbledore on the potions and could add other charges later.
The day before the hearing, Harry was called into Dumbledore's office. Naturally, Hermione and Professor McGonagall went with him. McGonagall gave the gargoyle the password and they rode the staircase up to his office door and waited to be let in.
Albus Dumbledore didn't even bother to look up when his door charm announced that he had a visitor.
"Come in," he said loudly and continued to read the document on top of the pile on his desk.
He heard the door open but decided to let Mr. Potter wait for a moment until he was good and ready to start the meeting. Tomorrow he would finally be declared the boy's guardian and Albus had chosen to start exerting his power over the boy early. When he decided he had made his point, he looked up and was surprised to see Hermione there.
"Miss Granger," he stated firmly. "This is a private meeting between myself and Mr. Potter. You may go."
He gestured toward the door but the girl stayed put.
"If she goes Albus," Minerva jumped in. "Harry will have to go with her due to his detention. The one you insisted he have."
"Surely he has learned his lesson by now and we can end it?" he replied incredulously. "Or at least suspend it for this meeting? I need to speak to Mr. Potter on a private matter."
"No Albus, it can't," she responded. "I gave Mr. Potter a suitable punishment and I intend to see to it he completes it."
"Minerva-," Albus started intending to argue further but was interrupted by a quiet voice.
"Headmaster?" Harry broke in. "I don't mind if Hermione stays. I don't have any secrets from her and would probably tell her about it anyway."
Albus sighed in frustration. Harry may not mind if she stayed but he did! He called this meeting to inform the boy that Albus Dumbledore would now be the one he was required to listen too from now on. The meeting hadn't even started yet and already he had lost control again.
He reminded himself that, in just one more day, only his opinion would matter when it concerned Harry Potter. He would allow this one final exception for the boy but it would be the last time he would do so. It was time for Harry Potter to start listening to the one person who truly knew what was best for everyone; Albus Dumbledore.
"Very well," he said finally. "Let us get started then shall we?"
Harry and Hermione took the two available seats while Minerva conjured a third chair for herself. Once everyone was seated he focused in on Harry.
"You may not be aware Mr. Potter," he began. "But there is to be a hearing tomorrow to determine if Sirius Black is able to continue on as your guardian."
"He's aware of it Albus," Minerva corrected him her tone a bit terse. "I have been keeping Harry up to date on his godfather's condition and, when I heard about the hearing, I passed that information along to him as well."
Albus was beyond fed up with Minerva answering for the boy every time they met with him. After tomorrow, he would have to learn to live without her at these meetings as she would be barred from them.
"Then you are aware that he has not improved," Albus continued his eyes never leaving the boy in front of him. He felt an inner thrill at the slight anger that came over the boy's face. "I had hoped that his breakdown would turn out to be merely a temporary setback but alas that is unfortunately not the case. As a result, a new guardian will have to be appointed for you. The truth is, tomorrow's hearing is merely a formality as I have already been selected to be Sirius's replacement as your guardian."
He paused for a moment to let it sink in. Minerva's scowl deepened indicating her opinion of this news. Hermione was visibly upset while Harry had a look of disbelief on his face. Albus was doing a happy dance in his head over those reactions. Now it was time to lay down the law.
"So you see Harry," he continued. "Yes, I called you Harry. Now that I'm your guardian, I think we should be on a first name basis don't you? As such, you may call me Albus in private but you will still need to refer to me as headmaster or professor in public. I called you in here to inform you of the change in our relationship and explain how it will affect you. We will start with where you will spend the holidays."
He decided to start with something that would likely please the boy first then move on to the more unpleasant ramifications of being Albus Dumbledore's ward.
"I have looked into your home life with your relatives and found it appalling so I have decided to allow you to remain at the castle when the school year ends."
"Will I get to see my friends?" Harry asked.
"I'm afraid not," Albus answered shaking his head. "It's not safe for you to be out in the wizarding world. Voldemort is still out there and could return at any moment and his followers would love nothing more than a chance for revenge against you for defeating their master."
The truth was that Voldemort was removed from the castle when Quirrell was killed by the troll and was probably back in Albania by now. There were none of his followers, other than Lucius Malfoy, left alive in the magical Brittain outside of Azkaban. The boy was actually perfectly safe but there was no way for him to know that.
"You will have to stay here the entire summer. When the time comes, I will go to Diagon Alley to gather your school supplies and, since you will already be here, there will be no need for you to ride the train. I know you may not like the idea of being cooped up in the castle all summer but I only do this to insure your safety."
"Couldn't we visit him here then?" Hermione asked.
He was also tired of Miss Granger being a part of these meetings. She was far too adept at poking holes in his arguments for a girl her age and wielded far too much influence over the boy. She had to go as well. He needed Harry to listen to him above all others. He put a condescending smile on his face while turning the eye twinkle on full force as he turned to her.
"I'm afraid that wouldn't be possible either Miss Granger," he answered her. "As silly as it might sound, Students aren't allowed in the castle during summer break. It was only the extreme circumstances that convinced the Board of Governors to grant an exception for Harry. There is no way they will grant more for his friends just so he won't have a lonely summer."
In truth, the Board of Governors didn't really exist at the moment so he could pretty well do what he wanted but he certainly wasn't going to tell her that. She seemed to consider his words for a moment before nodding her acceptance.
"Now, I suppose," he continued putting a regretful look on his face. "We should move on to what I suspect will be the most difficult part of this discussion."
He paused to savor the moment. It would be difficult for them but he was looking forward to putting the brat in his place.
"As you know, I have been concerned about your behavior since the school year began. After careful examination, I have come to the conclusion that there are two root causes for your violent tendencies. The first was your exposure to your relatives which I have resolved by making it so you can stay here. The second is your friends. Mr. Longbottom is, if possible, even more violent than you are. He is usually the one throwing the first punch as it were. Miss Granger here tends to be the instigator of the violence. She is usually the one creating the conflict then eggs it on until violence ensues. Add in her seeming lack of respect for any authority figure and she is clearly not the sort of person you should be friends with."
Minerva looked livid while Hermione looked shocked. It was Harry that unnerved him. He was staring at Dumbledore with a look of cold fury in his eyes. Albus had to remind himself that the boy was just a first year. It was then that Hermione recovered from her shock enough to speak.
"You can't do that!" she yelled coming to her feet. "Harry and Neville are like brothers!"
"Harry is young Miss Granger," he retorted. "He may not be happy about it at the moment but, in time, he will get over it and make a new best friend. I daresay he will also have no problem making friends with another girl once you are out of the picture as well."
"I'll never give up Hermione old man," Harry said softly and coldly.
So much so that it sent chills down Dumbledore's spine. There was so much anger rolling off the boy that he almost seemed dark. Tomorrow couldn't come soon enough so Albus could start putting the boy back on the path of light where he needed to be.
"You have no choice in the matter Harry," Albus responded matter-of-factly. "I suggest you spend tonight saying your goodbyes to both of them for, as of tomorrow, you are to have no further contact with Neville Longbottom or Hermione Granger. In the future, I will only permit you to be friends with those I deem to be suitable companions for you. It is a shame you got off on the wrong foot with Mr. Weasley by accusing him of attacking Miss Granger. Perhaps if you apologized to him, he might forgive you and you could have your first friend."
He was worried he might have gone too far as Minerva got to her feet with her wand in her hand and a look of utter rage on her face. Hermione was glaring daggers at him but it was Harry that spoke first in the same cold tone he had used before.
"The only thing I'm sorry for is not killing the git when I had the chance."
Again, it was chilling to hear the anger and hatred in his voice. In truth, Albus could care less if Harry and Ron Weasley ever became friends. Mr. Weasley no longer figured into his plans. When he had successfully divested himself of the burden that was Molly Weasley, he was freed from having to look after her idiot of a son as well.
The boy had been far more trouble than he was worth especially considering he had utterly failed at becoming Harry's friend like he was instructed to. He only brought the redhead up as a means to rub salt in the open wound of forcibly separating the boy from his friends. It may seem childish and petulant, but Albus wanted a little payback for all the grief the boy had given him since the beginning of the school year.
Plus, he just couldn't resist rubbing it in a little now that Harry was finally under his control where he belonged. If, somewhere down the line, Neville Longbottom became the pliable boy Albus had expected him to be, he might consider permitting Harry to associate with him once more but Miss Granger would never be allowed to be near him again. If necessary, he would find a reason to expel her from Hogwarts to keep her away from him.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Albus replied. "But your response convinces me even more that I am making the right decision. Neither your relatives nor your friends have taught you to forgive and have, in fact, done the opposite. I therefore have no choice but to separate you from those negative influences and endeavor to instill that value in you myself. Being able to forgive is imperative if one is to stay on the path of light. Tomorrow evening we will meet again, alone this time, to discuss your new life in more detail but, for now, you may go."
The two children glared at him as they got up to leave while Minerva stayed where she was. As soon as the office door closed she rounded on him.
"Albus how could you-,"
He held his hand up to cut her off. He was done with her interfering in his dealings with the boy.
"Minerva," he said firmly. "This is a matter between a guardian and his ward not a school matter. Therefore it doesn't concern you. All future meetings between Harry and I will be treated as such so your presence will neither be required nor welcomed. If there is nothing else I have other matters to attend to."
Minerva, if anything, looked even angrier. Her wand twitched in her hand and he was momentarily afraid she might try to hex him but then she seemed to regain control of herself and turned to leave.
"Oh, and Minerva?" he called to her as she reached the door. "As the headmaster of this school and your superior, I am overruling you and ending Mr. Potter's detention. I meant what I said. Miss Granger is to have no further contact with Harry after today. If I have to, I will take further steps to insure my wishes are followed so keep her and Mr. Longbottom away from my ward or I will."
She didn't respond other than to glare at him for a moment before turning on her heels and leaving. He then returned to the stack of documents on his desk that needed his attention. He smiled as he worked confident that, finally and for the foreseeable future, things were going as they should be; Albus Dumbledore's way.
At that moment, another meeting was going on as Harry and Hermione met up with Neville in an empty classroom to tell him what Dumbledore wanted.
"Sounds like the old bugger really thinks he's won eh mate?" Neville commented when they were finished.
"Yeah Nev," Harry answered. "The git was beyond insufferable."
"You still shouldn't have lost your cool Harry," Hermione chimed in. "You know there is not a chance in hell of him being able to carry out his plans."
"I know love," Harry responded. "But after all he has done, for him to sit there and sanctimoniously pronounce that I have lost my way and that only he can guide me back to the right path was more than I could stomach."
"He will be the one being told what he can and can't do after tomorrow," Neville replied. "Hopefully he will spend rest of his life getting cozy with the dementors in Azkaban for what he did to my parents."
There was a flash of anger on his face as he spoke but it soon disappeared.
"It's the least he deserves Nev," Harry agreed. "Suddenly I'm starving. Is it dinner time yet?"
"Not for a couple hours yet," Hermione answered him.
"I'm hungry too," Neville chimed in. "Why don't we go to the kitchen and get a snack?"
Hermione was also hungry so she and Harry both jumped on Neville's idea. They left the classroom and made their way down to the kitchen. When they entered the kitchen, Harry and Hermione found themselves looking at a memory out of the past. The house elf Winky was sitting by the fire clutching a piece of clothing in one hand, a butterbeer in the other and was crying and obviously drunk. They had put Crouch on the list to take care of him and hopefully his son but they had forgotten about Winky. Their hunger forgotten, they approached the poor elf and crouched down next to her.
"Hello," Harry said gently. "What is your name?"
Winky turned toward him but he wasn't absolutely sure she could see him in her current state.
"I is Winky," she answered though her words were slurred.
"Why are you upset?" he asked her. "Don't you like working at Hogwarts?"
He already knew the answer from the first time around but he was meeting Winky for the first time in this timeline and wanted to avoid suspicion.
"Winky doesn't want to work in castle," she answered through tears. "Winky wants to take care of her family but master gave me clothes. Now Winky is free but Winy is a good elf and don't want to be free."
She broke down for a moment then took a drink of her butterbeer. Harry and Hermione shared a brief look before turning their attention back to the unhappy elf.
"Why did your master give you clothes?" Hermione asked.
"Winky got master in trouble but it was an accident," she answered imploringly. "Master was sick. His magic not working right. Winy tried to fix master but couldn't so Winky got help for master but, when they came, they found master's secret and took him away. Master gave Winky clothes before he left. Winky doesn't want to be free. Winky is a good elf."
Winky broke down again when she was finished. Hermione patted her back gently in an effort to comfort her.
"Winky," Hermione said when the elf was calm again. "It is possible you might learn to like being free."
"Winky is a good elf!" she cried out almost hysterical. "Winky doesn't want to be free. Only bad elfs are free. Winky would rather die than be a bad elf!"
She broke down again and Harry looked imploringly at Hermione. There were tears in her eyes from seeing how much the poor elf was suffering when she looked up at him. She knew what he was asking without him having to say the words. She hesitated for a moment then, with one more glance at Winky, she nodded her head reluctantly.
"Winky?" Harry called out and waited for the elf to calm down again. "I can't make your family take you back but I can take you as my elf if you are willing?"
"You want Winky to be your house elf?" she perked up noticeably at his words.
"Only if you want to Winky," he answered.
"You have family?" she asked hopefully.
"Right now it's just me Winky but," he continued speaking to Winky but was now looking at Hermione. "When I grow up, I plan on marrying the most beautiful girl I have ever seen and having as many kids as she wants."
Hermione smiled softly as he spoke and there were tears of joy running down her face.
"I can't wait," she responded softly and reached out to squeeze his hand.
He returned her smile then looked back at Winky
"So we will probably need a good house elf or two to look after us all if you are interested."
"Winky is a good elf," she responded looking happy for the first time. "Winky doesn't want to be free. Winky would love to be your house elf."
"Good," Harry said smiling. "I've not done this before Winky. What do I need to do?"
"You say your name and claim me as your elf while we shake hands." She instructed him.
"Okay," he responded then took her little hand in his. "I, Harry Potter, take Winky to be my house elf."
They both glowed for a few moments after he spoke. When the glow faded Winky looked different. She was no longer drunk and her dress that had been torn and dirty was now in perfect condition.
"I'm your elf now Master Harry." She said and there was no mistaking the joy in her voice. "What shall Winky do first?"
"I don't have anything for you to do right now," he answered her. "But I do have some rules I would like to tell you about. First, you are not allowed to punish yourself for any reason. Secondly, I'll give you money or anything else you need but I want you dressed properly. You can call it a uniform if you don't like the word clothes but I never want to see you in a dirty tea towel or some other rags. Thirdly, from time to time I will be giving you some money. It's not wages because I know you don't want that but I want you to be able to buy something should you want to. You can spend it, save it or throw it away but you can't give it back. Fourth, I may every once in a while, tell you to take a day off. On those days you are not allowed to cook for the family or clean our home. We will be more than capable of taking care of ourselves for one day. I want you to take time for yourself. I want my house elves to be happy. Finally, we may forget or get distracted and give you clothes as a gift or hand them to you without thinking but we will never do it to free you. You are a part of my family now Winky and I would never send a member of my family away."
Winky threw herself at Harry and hugged his legs.
"Winky accepts," she said crying tears of joy. "Winky promises to be good elf for you Master Harry."
"I know you will Winky," he replied hugging her back. "For now, you can help out in the castle. Don't tell anyone you're my elf especially the headmaster. Hermione here is my intended and Neville and his intended Luna Lovegood are our best friends. I want you to come when they call and help them if they ask. I will introduce you to Luna as soon as possible. I expect to be living with my godfather this summer and will introduce you to him as soon as I can as well. He may need your help preparing a place for us to live. In the meantime, don't come to me unless I'm alone or with someone I have introduced you to unless I call you. Now we came here to get a snack is it poss-."
He hadn't even got the question out before she disappeared only to reappear a few moments later with a basket filled with various snacks and three butterbeers.
"Here is your snack Master Harry," she said happily. "Winky takes good care of her family."
He took the offered food and drinks and thanked her. She bow then disappeared. They took their snack and found a private place to enjoy it then carried on with the rest of their day knowing that the next day could and probably would change everything.
The next morning, Harry woke up early and had a smile on his face as soon as he was awake enough to remember what day it was. He roused Neville then they both quickly got ready for the day before heading to the common room where they found Hermione waiting for them. The three friends made their way to the great hall for breakfast barely able to contain the excitement they all felt about what they thought would be happening later that day.
Harry didn't eat much and couldn't really have told anyone what he ate because he was too focused on the head table. It wasn't Dumbledore he was looking at although he did notice a look of disappointment on the old man's face probably from seeing the three of them together. 'Better get used to it,' he thought to himself briefly as he fully expected the bastard's day to be full of it. No, he was watching his head of house so he would know when it was time to leave for the ministry. Hermione and Neville were watching her closely as well but it seemed to take ages for her to finish eating. They launched themselves from their seats the moment she started to get up from the head table. They met her at the hall doors then they all headed to her office and on to the ministry.
Dumbledore watched them leave with a passive expression on is face but he was raging inside. He figured the boy would be defiant this morning but that didn't mean he was okay with it. It really didn't matter anyway because in a few hours Harry Potter would no longer have any choice but to do exactly what Albus Dumbledore told him to. That thought put a smile on his face while he finished his breakfast. When he was done, he quickly made his way to his office to floo to the ministry. He had an important appointment to keep.
Professor McGonagall led them into the room where the hearing would be held and up to the visitor's section. The Lovegoods were already there along with Neville's grandmother. Greetings were quickly exchanged then the kids found seats together while the adults did likewise in the row behind them. The three Hogwarts students then put another communication plan they'd come up with into action since they couldn't use magic in the courtroom. Two of them began talking loudly and exuberantly about classes and other school stuff while the third whispered telling her about Winky and the meeting with Dumbledore. They switched back and forth so it would look like a normal conversation between school children. Luna caught on quickly and was soon responding to both conversations as she was brought up to speed on the latest happenings at Hogwarts. Once that was done, they just enjoyed each other's company until the hearing started.
Albus Dumbledore walked into the courtroom with an air of supreme confidence. He felt every bit as confident as he looked. He was in a particularly good mood that morning. So much so that even seeing Harry sitting in the visitor's section with his friends in obvious defiance of his orders couldn't dampen it. In a very short time, hopefully no more than an hour, Harry would have no choice but to do exactly what Albus Dumbledore, his new guardian, told him to do.
He made his way to a table facing the judges seats. Normally, he would be sitting up there most likely officiating the proceedings, but, since he was petitioning for guardianship of the boy, he obviously couldn't sit in judgment on this case. Healer McTavish was already there. He would be the key witness in Dumbledore's bid to gain control of the boy. His testimony would cause Sirius Black's guardianship to be revoked paving the way for Albus Dumbledore to assume that very important role in Harry Potter's life. A few words with the healer confirming Sirius' condition hadn't changed and Albus was sure there was no way he could lose.
Soon the courtroom was full and waiting on the judges to start the proceedings. It was a three judge panel that would oversee this case. The judges were Amos Diggory, Frederick Macmillan and, the head judge for this case, Adrian Greengrass. Albus was curious when Amelia Bones arrived and sat at the other table as if to oppose them but was still certain of his success. All thoughts about Amelia's presence left his mind when the head judge brought the courtroom to order.
"We are here today," Adrian Greengrass started, "to make a final determination on the guardianship of one Harry Potter."
There were no gasps of surprise at that pronouncement since it was well known what this hearing was for so he was able to continue without any interruptions.
"We will be starting with James and Lily Potter's will to see if anyone they named are able to adequately care for young Harry. If not, we will appoint a guardian for him until they are or Mr. Potter comes of age whichever comes first."
He briefly looked Dumbledore's way as he said that filling the headmaster with even more confidence that he would be getting exactly what he wanted out of this hearing. Then, surprisingly, he turned his attention to Amelia.
"Madam Bones," he asked her in an official tone. "Do you have a copy of the Potter's will with you?"
"I do your Honor," she replied while holding up a document.
"Very well," he responded. "You may read the list of guardians for the record."
"There are only two potential guardians listed in the will," she started her tone official sounding as well. "The first is, of course, Sirius Black while the other is Frank and Alice Longbottom."
Dumbledore was well aware of James and Lily's wishes concerning Harry. He also knew that, while Harry would likely have been very happy and well cared for with either Sirius or the Longbottoms, it would not have been in the best interests of the wizarding world for that to happen. No, the greater good had mandated he take the necessary steps to prevent them gaining custody of the boy back then just as it was requiring him to do so now. He took no pleasure from it and was sure that, in time, the boy would come to understand that he really had no choice in the matter.
"I see," the judge responded. "It is my understanding that all three of them are currently patients in St Mungos. Is their healer here today?"
"I am your honor," McTavish said while standing up.
"Very well," judge Greengrass replied. "Please take a seat in the witness chair."
McTavish made his way to the chair and Dumbledore couldn't help but notice he looked slightly nervous. Once he was seated the judges began to question him about the condition of all three patients. All three judges participated asking the healer questions. He answered every one of them without any problem while pronouncing that all three would probably never be well enough to ever leave St. Mungos much less care for a young boy.
"Do we have anymore question for this witness?" Judge Greengrass asked his fellow judges who both shook their heads no. he then turned back to the witness. "Very well. Healer McTavish you are excu-"
He never got to finish that statement as Amelia had come to her feat and interrupted him.
"Actually your honor," she said cutting him off. "I have a question for this witness with the court's permission?"
The confidence Dumbledore had been feeling disappeared at this turn of events and was immediately replaced with concern. He hadn't expected Amelia to be here much less interfering like this. He knew there would be someone from the DMLE present to answer questions regarding the will like she'd done earlier but figured it would be a low level employee doing it as was normal rather than the head of the department. Something like this was beneath her station and he didn't like the implication her presence brought to mind; that something more might be going on here.
He wasn't worried about any of the three judges questioning the healer since they weren't likely to notice his nervous or occasional squirm while answering some of the more detailed questions or simply chalk it up as nerves over testifying in front of witnesses. Amelia, on the other hand, was a trained interrogator. She would likely pick up on his behavior and suspect he was lying. She would also know just how to trip him up and get the truth. That would be a disaster for the wizarding world and most especially Albus Dumbledore. He watched as Adrian Greengrass conferred with his fellow judges and fervently hoped they would tell her no but saw that hope dashed when the judge turned back to Amelia and nodded his head.
"Thank you, your Honor," she responded then turned her attention to the witness who appeared even more nervous than he was when the judges questioned him. "Healer McTavish, has there been or is there now any other healer assisting you in the care of these three patients?"
"No," McTavish answered. "I make all the decisions regarding the care of these patients with the family's approval of course in the case of the Longbottoms I leave explicit instructions for my staff when I'm not there and check to make sure they are followed to the letter. As for Sirius Black, he has no family and is now a ward of the ministry who has given me the authority to do what I think is best concerning his care. I have forbidden my staff to have any contact with him unless it's an emergency for their own safety. I still don't know why he attacked me and don't want any harm coming to any of my staff."
"Thank you, Healer McTavish," she replied then turned to the head judge a slight smile on her face. "I have no more questions for this witness at this time your Honor."
Dumbledore watched her sit down and felt his confidence return. He didn't know why she asked that particular question but he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. By the satisfied smile she wore after his answer, Albus figured there were no more surprises coming. Both the question and answer seem to only help his case. It established Mctavish as the only expert on the patients eliminating any argument anyone else could make that he was wrong about their condition. The judge then excused the healer from the witness chair and, as he made his way back to the table they were sharing, he was sure nothing could stop him from gaining custody of the boy now.
"It would appear that we're going to need an alternative guardian after all," Adrian Greengrass said once McTavish returned to his seat. "We met privately before this hearing to discuss what we would do should this situation arise and have already decided on who we think is best suited to look after Mr. Potter and have concluded that only one person fits the bill." He then looked directly at the headmaster. "Albus Dumbledore, Do you still wish to be the boy's guardian?"
Dumbledore felt almost euphoric as he stood up to give his prepared answer to the question. He carefully schooled his features into an expression of reluctant acceptance mixed with sadness.
"What I wish, your honor, is that healer McTavish could be wrong about his patient's conditions," He began sounding as solemn as he could. "They are, without a doubt, three of the finest people I have ever known. I know young Harry would be far happier living with his godfather or the Longbottoms than he ever could be with me but unfortunately, as healer McTavish has so undeniably pointed out, that is not possible. Therefore, I have no choice but to offer myself up as a willing but obviously inferior replacement. I'm not them but I assure your Honors, those watching these proceeding as well as the wizarding world as a whole that I will do my upmost to see to it that Harry Potter has the best upbringing I can give him."
With that he sat back down wanting to shout in triumph at the responses his speech was getting. He saw many people wiping tears form their eyes. He purposely avoided looking Harry's way. He was sure that if met the boy's eyes he would see anger there and cause people to question if he would be happy being Dumbledore's ward. He would meet with the boy later as planned. For now, he was content to sit and wait for the judges forthcoming declaration that would seal the boys fate then he would have the next six years to gloat. The judges seemed to confer far longer than he was comfortable with but finally the head judge turned to the waiting audience, his gavel held high, clearly about to make the expected ruling.
"The decision of this panel," Adrian Greengrass started. "Is that, from here on out, Harry Potter's guardian shall be-"
Once again Amelia stood and interrupted the judge.
"Actually, your Honor," she said while holding up two documents. "I have two other petitions for guardianship of Harry Potter."
Once again the confidence Dumbledore felt disappeared. This time it was replaced with dread. He should have known there was no way Amelia would simply be here to do a menial task even if it was regarding the boy who lived. No, she was up to something, he was as sure of that as he was now that the question she'd asked wasn't nearly as harmless as he'd thought it was. He still had no clue why she asked it but now knew it couldn't be good. He watched helplessly as she walked up to the bench to show them the petitions. The shocked looks on the faces of the judge as they read the documents only caused the feeling of dread to deepen. He was soon watching an animated conversation that he wasn't privy to because of a silencing charm around the judge's bench. The conversation only lasted a few minutes then Amelia returned to her table but remained standing while facing the judges. Adrian Greengrass waved his wand removing the silencing charm then once again addressed the court room.
"It seems we aren't quite done yet," he told the waiting audience that had gone silent as soon as Amelia had stepped away from the bench. He then turned his attention back to Amelia. "Are they really here?"
"Yes they are your Honor," she answered. "They're waiting right outside that door."
She pointed at the door where witnesses usually entered from during a trial.
"Very well, bring them in," he responded.
Amelia walked to the indicated door, opened it then poked her head through it. It was only a few moments later that she stood back opening the door completely. Albus Dumbledore had no word for what he was feeling as the first person came through the door. There were gasps all through the courtroom at the appearance of Sirius Black. The gasps got even louder when two magical wheelchairs followed behind him carrying the Longbottoms. Everyone was so transfixed on the new arrivals that no one noticed the healer guiding the chairs not even his boss.
As they made their way to the other table, Dumbledore was thinking of something far worse than failing to get custody of the boy. This was more than a blindside, it was a bloody blitzkrieg! There was no doubt that his bid to gain custody of the boy had just gone up in flames but now he would likely need a miracle to avoid becoming a permanent guest of Azkaban. Something had gone very wrong in their plan to keep these three out of the way and he had no doubt Amelia planned to let him know just how wrong they were.
He looked at his 'partner' in crime as it were and noticed he was shaking like leaf while sweating profusely no doubt feeling the same way Dumbledore was at that moment. Albus knew there was no way the healer would keep him out of it. In fact, he was surprised he wasn't already shouting to anyone who might listen that Albus Dumbledore made him do it. The judges were busy trying to quiet down the courtroom allowing Albus a few extra moments of freedom. Moments he could use to find a way out of this if it were possible but, unfortunately, he knew it wasn't so instead he began preparing his defense for his trial. Obviously he would have to play his trump card that was a given but he would need to play it just right.
He was pulled from his thoughts as Mctavish began swaying on his feet. Dumbledore looked closely at the man and saw that he was deathly pale. Then fate handed Dumbledore a golden opportunity to save himself as McTavish fainted falling behind the table obscuring him from view. Dumbledore quickly knelt beside him placing his hand on his forehead as if checking on him. He knew he couldn't risk pulling out his wand but, unknown to most people; he was fairly proficient with wandless magic and hopefully could do what needed to be done without it. He quickly cast a wandless, non-verbal obliviate. He only had a few moments to manipulate the healer's memories before he was forcefully pulled off by an auror to find Amelia stand nearby.
"We can tend to him Albus," she said harshly.
"Certainly Amelia," he replied graciously. "I was merely trying to help."
"He doesn't need your kind of help headmaster," she responded maintaining a hard tone. "You may return to your seat."
"Actually Amelia," Dumbledore said turning the twinkle on full force willing to use anything at his disposal to get out of there at that moment. "Seeing Sirius recovered has relieved any concerns I had for Mr. Potter's well being. I hereby withdraw my petition for guardianship ending any need for me to stay. I do, after all, have a school to run. So, if you'll excuse me, I'll be heading back to Hogwarts now."
"You're not going anywhere Albus until we have this all sorted out," she replied clearly unaffected by his attempt to charm his way out of there.
He knew arguing with her was useless so he had no choice but to sit back down and hope the memory charm worked. McTavish was revived and forced to sit in the seat next to Dumbledore than they were surrounded by a rather large group of aurors who held their wands at the ready. This drew more gasps from the crowd who was no doubt shocked to see the great Albus Dumbledore being treated like a common criminal. This made it take even longer for Adrian Greengrass to regain order. It took sever bangs of the gavel and finally a threat to clear the courtroom to get them to quiet down.
"As you can see," he said once it was quiet. "This hearing has taken a rather wild turn but we still have an issue to resolve; the guardianship of Harry Potter. Since the potential guardians listed in his parents will are obviously more than able and even more germane to the issue at hand, willing to assume that role in his life, the petition submitted by Albus Dumbledore is hereby denied."
There was a moderate amount of cheering at that announcement particularly, Albus noted, from the section the boy sat in with his friends. That, though, was the least of his worries at the moment. He was more concerned about still being a free man at the end of the day. Outside of Azkaban, there were ways in which he could turn things around and still achieve his main goal; control of Harry Potter. In prison, he would effectively be cut off from boy, eliminating any chance the boy had to complete his destiny. It was imperative that the charm worked. Anything else could very well result in the destruction of all they held dear. At the moment though, all he could do was wait and see what happened as Amelia clearly wasn't giving him any other choice.
"That leaves us with the two guardians listed in the will," the judge continued. "They're both obviously well qualified to be the boy's guardian. The question for this panel is who should we choose?"
"I can save you the trouble your Honor."
It was Frank Longbottom who spoke. A voice most of the adults in the courtroom hadn't heard in a decade. Adrian Greengrass smiled at the man in the wheelchair. Few people knew that, despite Frank being in Gryffindor while he was in Slytherin, they had actually been friends in school. Adrian Greengrass did not agree with most of his fellow Slytherins and was opposed to pureblood bigotry. His family had publically remained neutral during the war but secretly had hidden muggleborns as well as others who were targeted by Voldemort and his followers. He'd even hid Frank, his wife and newborn son for a time until they thought it would be safer to hide under a fidelis charm. It had broken his heart when they were attacked and he'd spent the last decade missing his friend.
"If you've got a solution to this mess," Adrian responded gratefully. "We're all ears.
"As much as we would love to add Harry to our family," Frank replied. "We know Sirius was James and Lily's first choice and are more than happy to withdraw our petition and allow him to finally take his rightful place as Harry's guardian. We've been privileged to get to know Harry recently and have seen how they interact with each other. They have a great relationship. They deserve to be together. We've actually kind of become an extended family as it is. Harry and our Neville are like brothers and I expect we'll be seeing plenty of him either way."
"That would simplify things," Adrian responded before conferring again with his fellow judges. It was only a few moments before he turned back once again holding the gavel up high. "We hereby name Sirius Black as Harry Potter's Guardian!"
With that said he slammed the gavel down finally ending the guardianship part of the hearing but it was far from over as his next words clearly stated.
"With that out of the way," he continued. "There is the matter of conflicting reports regarding the condition of Mr. Black and the Longbottoms. As a result, we are moving on from a custody hearing to a criminal trial."
This caused another uproar in the courtroom and it took almost five minutes for Adrian regain order. When he did he immediately turned to Amelia.
"You may proceed Madam Bones,'' he told her.
She singled to one of her aurors who immediately waved his wand at a spot in the middle of the room. A chair appeared with chains attached to it. She then signaled to the aurors around McTavish. He was then roughly grabbed by two of them and practically carried to chair. Once he was seated the chains immediately locked on to him tightly making it almost impossible for him to even move. He was obviously a total wreck with tears streaming down his face and his eyes were full of fear. It was then that he finally noticed who the healer was.
"Wilson!" he shouted. "You did this to me you filthy mudblood!"
"No Benedict," Tom Wilson answered in a sad voice. "You did this to yourself. You took the Longbottom's lives away for over a decade and tried to do the same to Sirius. You deserve whatever's coming to you."
McTavish was silenced before he could respond. He was then given veritiserum. The silencing charm was lifted as soon as it was clear the potion had taken affect.
Amelia then began questioning him. Under the affects of the potion, he admitted giving the Longbottoms the potion to make them seem insane the night they were attacked as well as all the years since. He also admitted to giving Sirius a potion to make him attack the healer as well as the same potion he had been giving the Longbottoms. At that point Amelia paused her questioning of the Healer to question Tom Wilson for corroboration. Tom Wilson took a seat in the witness chair while McTavish remained chained to the prisoner chair. Amelia then took Wilson through his story of discovering what his fellow healer was up to then administered veritiserum to confirm he was telling the truth.
Tom Wilson was then excused. Amelia shot a look a Dumbledore and the headmaster knew this was the moment of truth. As Tom Wilson took a seat next to the Longbottoms, Amelia returned her attention to McTavish. After waiting for another dose of veritiserum to take effect, she finally asked him the question everyone wanted the answer to.
"Healer Mctavish," she began. "Why did you poison these innocent people?"
He seemed to be trying to fight to potion at first and at one point glanced Dumbledore's way. Albus found himself almost unconsciously leaning forward to make sure he heard the healer's answer.
"Because I hated them," was the answer the struggling healer finally gave. "I've hated them since I was in school. Frank and Sirius always seemed to show up right when I was about to show a mudblood what their place was in our world and put a stop to it. They then bullied me mercilessly but I got the last laugh didn't I? Frank Longbottom lost years of his life and missed watching his son grow up. I only wish I could've had Sirius as long. Oh well, you can't have everything I guess. At least I had the satisfaction of torturing Frank's wife along with him, making him suffer even more. The bloody bitch kept fighting off the potion no matter how high I upped the dosage. Nearly broke free last Christmas, might have later if Franks mum hadn't inadvertently alerted me to it. Probably should have saved myself some trouble and just killed her years ago."
Outrage again erupted in the courtroom the McTavishes words. Augusta Lonbottom screamed her outrage loudly enough to be heard over crowd despite sitting in the visitor section trying to comfort her grandson but the real show was happening down on main floor. Frank was struggling to get out of his chair as the combined efforts of his wife and Tom Wilson was just barely keeping him there. Meanwhile, Sirius free of the restraints of a wheelchair had charged at the prisoner. Two aurors immediately got in front of him and tried to grab him only to find themselves practically being carried until a few more aurors joined them barely managing to stop him only a few feet from his goal. He still managed to spit on the bastard before being forced back to his seat. Once again it took a few minutes to restore order. When everyone was calmed down again Amelia once again addressed the potioned prisoner.
"Healer McTavish," she started again. "Did anyone ask, manipulate, or hire you to poison these people?"
She threw a glare Dumbledore's way as she asked the question letting Albus know she suspected he was behind this. That told him she didn't have any actual proof that the headmaster was involved. That thought gave him hope he might still get out of this. Again McTavish seemed to struggle not to answer and again he looked at Albus while he was struggling.
"No," he said finally. "I did it all on my own."
Dumbledore was doing a dance of joy in his head. The charm worked and he looked to be in the clear. Amelia repeated the question a few more times getting the same answer every time. She finally gave up throwing another glare the headmaster's way. He carefully schooled his features to avoid the triumphant sneer he wanted to respond to her with. She turned to the judges and turned the case over to them for sentencing. They wasted no time handing the now former healer three life sentences, one for each of his victims before ordering the aurors to remove him from the courtroom. Benedict McTavish would never harm another soul again.
Now filled with a renewed sense of power and authority, Dumbledore pushed his way through the aurors guarding him and stormed angrily up to Amelia. His anger was no act either he was blood furious at how badly this day had gone.
"I trust you are through trying to publically slander me and I'm free to go?" he asked angrily.
She glared at him unrepentantly for moment before she answered.
"For now Headmaster," she responded just as angrily. "But don't think this is over. I know you were behind this even if I can't prove it. Consider yourself under investigation from this moment on. I won't rest until I make you pay for what you've done and neither will they."
She pointed toward where Sirius and the Longbottoms were sitting. They were being mobbed by their family and friends. Neville was trading hugs back and forth with both of his parents while Augusta stood behind their chairs with one hand lovingly caressing her son's shoulder while her other hand did the same to his wife. Harry and Hermione seemed to be having a contest to see who could give Sirius the biggest hug while Minerva looked on with a big smile on her face. Next to her stood a lovely blond haired woman and an oddly dressed man that Albus didn't immediately recognize. A little girl that could only be their daughter stood between the two groups rather than with her parents. She seemed to be keeping an eye on both groups but seemed to be paying closer attention to the Longbottoms.
"Believe what you will Amelia," he retorted. "But you're wasting your time. I have done nothing wrong."
With that he left to return to Hogwarts and lick his wounds grateful to still be a free man. He would have to be very careful from now on because he highly doubted he would get a lucky break next time.
Harry watched the old man leave the courtroom and felt rage well up inside him. Dumbledore had somehow beaten them again. He vowed to himself, right then and there, that he would bring the old bastard down if it was the last thing he did. He wasn't looking forward to seeing him back at school but he would enjoy rubbing Dumbledore's face in the fact that the 'law' he had tried to lay down regarding Harry's life was now null and void. Despite the headmaster once again slipping through their fingers, the day had gone pretty well. He had Sirius back in his life and would never have to see the Dursleys again
He was pulled from his thoughts as suddenly he and his group were bombarded with questions from reporters. Amelia put paid to that idea quickly by ordering her aurors to force the press back then led them through the doorway that Sirius, Frank, and Alice had come through and into the witness waiting room for some much needed peace and quiet. Lunch was brought in as they all found seats then they just enjoyed each other's company for a while.
It was the Lovegoods that broke the group up first. Xeno needed to get home to work on this story for the next issue of the quibbler while his wife had a project of her own that she needed to get to. Luna was distraught and begged her parents to let her stay with her friends. Her parents were reluctant until all the adults promised to watch over her and make sure she got home safe. She squealed with glee when they said she could stay then gave them both a big hug before returning to sit with her friends.
After they left, they stuck to light topics for a while longer, the adults and children both content just catching up on the everyday things going on in their lives. Harry and Hermione, with help from Minerva, filled everyone in on their meeting with Dumbledore the day before causing most of the adults to once again voice outrage at the man they all used to respect so highly. Eventually, the conversation came back around to the trial and the biggest question on everyone's mind was how Dumbledore had managed to get McTavish to take the fall for him. No one believed for one second that Dumbledore wasn't involved. Many ideas were bandied about until a voice spoke that up until then hadn't been heard since they'd left the courtroom.
"I think it was a memory charm," Tom Wilson said simply. He'd been sitting quietly in the corner listening to the conversations going on around him and decided to put his two nuts worth in.
"He couldn't have," Amelia replied incredulously. "He never pulled out his wand."
"He must have been able to cast it wandlessly and non-verbally," Tom answered.
"I don't even think that's possible," Amelia replied. "Wandless magic is very crude and hard to control."
"That's true but Albus Dumbledore is a very powerful wizard," Tom responded. "I can think of no other way McTavish could have given the answers he did under veritiserum. The only way the potion couldn't force the truth out of him was if his mind couldn't remember it. The only other possibility is that Benedict McTavish actually told the truth."
No one in the room thought that was even a remote possibility and were forced to accept the healer's theory as the most likely answer. Amelia's next words would make what Tom Wilson said seem like good news by comparison.
"Then Dumbledore will get away with this like he did the potion incident," she stated sounding completely defeated. "There's no cure for a memory charm and there is no other evidence he was involved."
The adults all visibly deflated as the ramifications of that news sunk in while the kids were distraught. That is until Tom Wilson spoke again.
"Maybe not," Tom replied simply.
They all looked at him expectantly, Sirius, the Longbottoms and the kids with a renewed hope at the possibility of getting justice for what Albus Dumbledore had done to them, Amelia and Minerva just hoping for a way to make the headmaster pay for his crimes.
"If you have information you haven't shared with us yet," Amelia asked her tone a little harsh. "I would very much like to know what it is."
Tom held up his hands defensively as he hastily answered.
"I don't have any more evidence," he replied quickly. "If I did, I would have given it to you for the trial. However, I may have a way to reverse the memory charms."
Silence once again fell over the room as his words sank in. Hopeful expressions appeared on everyone's faces as they focused on the healer desperate for any good news he might have. Tom Wilson took the extended silence as his queue to continue.
"Being stuck on the graveyard shift for the last year has given me a lot of time to devote to research. The patients usually sleep through the night and therefore don't usually require many potions or very much attention," he began his explanation. "As a result, I have been working on a way to do more for the patients then simply maintain them. There are many patients in St. Mungos that are thought to be beyond help much like the Longbottoms were." He indicated Neville's parents as he spoke. "Mostly because a simple finite spell can't undo the severe spell damage these patients are afflicted with. Most healers think they are simply dealing with the effects of a spell once they cast a finite and therefore try to treat the problem by using another spell to reverse it and consider the patient untreatable when that fails. I believe that the spells are still active deep inside the body because a finite cast using a wand simply isn't powerful enough to fully penetrate the body and remove the true source of the problem."
He paused momentarily to take a drink from his cup of tea then continued.
"I have been trying to develop a potion that would have the same effect as a finite but with more potency," he said picking up where he left off. "It would take the 'finite', if you will, right to the source of the problem hopefully returning them to normal. I'm not quite there yet but I don't think I'm far off. I may be able to have it ready for testing by the end of the year, maybe even sooner."
The room's occupants were desperate enough for any good news that they were willing to grasp at any straw that offered a possible answer to their dilemma no matter how flimsy it might be. As head of magical law enforcement for Magical Britain, Amelia Bones was quite used to having to be the voice of reason. Seeing the looks on everyone's faces, she could tell they were to ready to believe anything or anyone that told them what they wanted to hear. There was an unavoidable fact that they were either ignoring in their quest for justice or not aware of. She hated having to be the bearer of bad news but it was better to get it out there now before they got their hopes up.
"I think I speak not only for the people in this room but for the wizarding world at large when I say you would be doing the magical world a great service if you were successful," Amelia waved her arm in an encompassing gesture as she spoke. "However, I don't see how that will help with our situation. Even if you could remove the charm, it wouldn't make any difference, because, as I understand it, aren't the memories irreversibly destroyed by the charm?"
"That's the prevailing wisdom in the magical world Amelia," The healer responded. "But the magical world has little respect for much less understanding of muggle science and technology. If they did, they might think differently about a lot of things including this. Muggle scientists have studied the brain extensively and still believe they've only just begun to understand how the brain works while the magical world hasn't even bothered to try choosing instead to accept someone's assumptions as fact and leaving people to needlessly suffer."
The passion in his voice as he spoke along with his words clearly moved everyone in the room. No one said a word but most of the females in the room could be seen wiping a tear off of their face as they listened to him speak.
"According to muggle science, their best guess is that memories are stored by specific synapses firing in a specific order until the pattern is stored as a memory. A synapse is an extension of a brain cell that allows it to connect with and send messages to other brain cells. If that's true, all it would take to stop someone from being able to access a specific memory would be to prevent that specific pattern by blocking a single synapse. Remove the block and the memory should be restored."
No one spoke right away as the healers word gradually sunk in turning what was, up until then, only wishful thinking in those listening to him speak into real hope. It was the head of the DMLE that finally broke the silence. Amelia stood up and struck a rigid pose her eyes never leaving the healer.
"Tom Wilson," she said in an official sounding tone. "I think that I can speak for all of us when I wish you luck and hope you complete your work as soon as possible." She briefly looked around the room for confirmation and received several enthusiastic nods before returning her attention to the healer. "To that end, you will have the full weight of my department backing you up every step of the way including using every ounce of influence I can muster on St. Mungos' board of Directors to keep them from interfering with your ability to continue with your research."
"Thank you madam Bones," he responded gratefully then made eye contact with everyone in the room before he continued. "I will do my best not to let you down. Now, speaking of the board of directors, I'd should probably go and let them know that they need a new department head. I will keep you posted on my progress Amelia."
He headed for the door but was stopped by a question from Neville.
"Wait," Neville called out to him in earnest. "Don't you need to take my parents with you?"
It was clear to see he didn't like that idea at all but truly wanted his parents to get the care they needed even if it meant returning to that place. Tom turned around and made his way over to where Neville was sitting next to his mother and placed his hand gently on his shoulder in a comforting gesture.
"Your parents were officially released from the hospital today Neville," he answered smiling.
"Really?" Neville replied excitedly breaking into a wide smile at the healers words. "They don't have to go back?"
"They've progressed rather quickly," Tom responded happily. "I suspect they wanted out of there as much as you did if not more. Your parents don't need hospital care anymore just some potions to help rebuild their muscles along with an exercise regimen and time. I have given your grandmother instructions and she has assured me that they will be followed to the letter so they should be back on their feet before you know it."
Anyone who knew Augusta Longbottom could tell you that she was not someone who brooked any arguments when she gave orders and her own children were no exception so no one doubted the healers words one bit not that Frank and Alice looked ready to protest. They'd missed out on enough of their son's life and were willing to do whatever it took to make sure didn't miss any more of it. The healer then said his good byes and left.
Seeing that all of the kids had finished their lunches, Minerva banished all the cups and plates then stood and straightened her robes. She took in the scene around her and was loath to break it up. Seeing Neville spending quality time with his parents telling them about school and his friends was heartwarming to say the least. This was the first of what she was sure would be many such conversations in the years to come.
She briefly thought of why it was this was only the first time this family could be together like this and felt another surge of anger at a certain old fool for what he'd done to these people she'd come to care a great deal about. She felt the same way seeing Harry and Sirius together. She could no longer remember what made her believe that Albus Dumbledore could do no wrong but her eyes were wide open now and she would never let him fool her again.
As it was, she was greatly ashamed that it had taken her so long to see who he really was. The fact that she probably couldn't have changed anything that happened didn't alleviate that shame one iota. She'd blindly followed the man responsible for all their suffering never questioning his wisdom or, more importantly, his motives. She wouldn't blame any of them if they never forgave her for she doubted she would ever be able to forgive herself. She pushed those thoughts to the back of her mind as she currently had a job to do.
"Though I hate to break up this family gathering," she said getting everyone's attention.
No one argued or seemed put out that she called them all a family. Several smiles could be seen as the idea sunk in and was slowly embraced by everyone in the room. They may not be related by blood but family was a good term for the growing relationship of the room's occupants. Friends just didn't cover the bond they all now had with each other. Family was truly the best fit.
"I should probably take the children back to Hogwarts now." She finished when she had everyone's attention her tone indicating to all present that she really didn't want to do her job at the moment.
There were obvious signs that none of them wanted their time together to end but eventually even the children seemed resigned to leave until Sirius spoke up his tone deadly serious.
"I want that old bastard kept away from my godson Minerva!" he said almost shaking with rage. Everyone including Minerva knew his anger wasn't directed at her. This was the protective and serious side of the marauder coming out. The side few people got to see. "I don't want him to have any contact with Harry unless I'm present!"
Before she could respond the Longbottoms demanded the same thing for Neville. Then Amelia asked for the same for her niece Susan. This once again brought Dumbledore to the forefront of everyone's minds and there were renewed discussions about what they would like to do to the man who apparently thought he had the right to stick his overly large nose where it didn't belong regardless of who got hurt. Minerva eventually regained control of the room using the tried and true techniques that had never failed in her classroom. When the room was once again quiet, she responded to their requests.
"I understand your feelings on this matter and wholeheartedly agree with them," she began her expression echoing her words. "I'll need to go see Griselda Marchbanks for the proper forms then you will of course need to sign them. Griselda should be in her office now so I think I'll just pop over there. I should be back in a few minutes."
She headed for the door but was stopped when a quiet voice called out to her.
She turned to see that it was Hermione that wanted her attention. She could tell that the girl was nervous and immediately sought to put her at ease.
"What is it dear?" she replied trying her best to make her tone warm and inviting.
"I was just wondering," she responded hesitantly. "If it would be possible for you to get an extra copy of the form so I can send it to my parents the next time I write?"
Minerva was sure the regret she felt at what she was about to tell her brightest first year was written all over her face.
"I'm afraid Miss Granger," she said in a remorseful tone. "That it would do no good for you parents to sign it. You see, they can't even see the school much less go there without a lot of preparation. That's why the school by-laws require every muggleborn student to be assigned a magical guardian to oversee their well being in place of their parents. Therefore it's your magical guardian that would have to sign for you."
"So who is my magical guardian?" Hermione asked the next logical question.
Minerva seemed to think it over for a moment before answering.
"I don't believe your parents appointed one," she answered finally. "That is not uncommon with muggleborns as most muggle parents don't know anyone magical. According to the bylaws, if your parents didn't appoint one for you, your magical guardianship would default to-"
She stopped speaking and suddenly went pale at the implications of the conclusion she'd just come to. The rest of the room's occupants noticed the change in her and naturally became concerned. It was Amelia that finally spoke up when her friend still hadn't said anything for quite a while.
"What is it Minerva?" she asked her friend.
"Miss Granger's magical guardian is most likely Albus Dumbledore," she answered looking like just saying the words made her ill.
Everyone else joined her looking horrified at that news. They all knew the old bastard would try to use it to his advantage at his first opportunity. The room once again erupted in uproar as the adults tried to yell over one another in voicing their outrage that Dumbledore might have any control over one of the children. The four time travelers looked fearful no one more so than Harry.
The thought of the most important person in the world to him under Dumbledore's control was more than he could bear. He only hoped there was something they could do because, if not, everything was lost. He couldn't risk anything happening to her so he would have to do whatever Dumbledore wanted in order to keep her safe; even if that meant permanently removing her from his life. A glance at Luna reminded him that they still had the spell up their sleeves easing his fear and filling him with a renewed hope. He didn't want to use it on the headmaster but, if that was the only way to keep Hermione safe, the old man's days were numbered. He was pulled from his thoughts as Professor McGonagall once again managed to calm the room.
"I think this can be fixed if we move quickly," she said hastily. "If we can get Miss Granger's parents to appoint a guardian for her before Albus can use this technicality to take control of her, she should be safe."
There several audible sighs of relief at her words and the hugs, pats and murmured words of comfort Hermione had been receiving from her friends became ones of encouragement as Minerva continued.
"Suffice to say getting the children back to Hogwarts is no longer a priority," She said her voice taking on her best take charge tone. "I shall be back shortly with all the forms we need." She paused momentarily as her eyes fell on Luna then continued. "I think I'll even include one for your parents Miss Lovegood. I know you won't be a student at Hogwarts until next year but I wouldn't put it past the headmaster to try to use your friendship with Harry against him. I think, in this case, it's better to play it safe when it comes to Albus Dumbledore. Once the forms are signed, Miss Granger and I will head directly to see her parents. The only problem now is finding a suitable guardian for her."
"I'll do it!" Sirius spoke up immediately.
The Longbottoms and Amelia also offered their services as Hermione's magical guardian causing Hermione to tear up in gratitude.
"I was hoping you all might say that," she replied. "I intend to offer myself as an option as well. Hopefully her parents will accept one of us once I explain to them the alternative but first we need the forms so, if you'll excuse me, I'll be back as soon as I can."
With that she left the room and, true to her word, was only gone for a few minutes.
She quickly had Sirius, the Longbottoms and Amelia fill out and sign the forms for their child then she and Hermione left to go see her parents.
Amelia was the next to leave as she needed to make travel arrangements to get McTavish to Askaban. Then a paper airplane flew into the room drawing everyone's attention as it gracefully glided to Augusta Longbottom. She grabbed it out of the air before unfolding it and reading the message it contained. After a few moments she announced to the group that she was being called to an emergency meeting of the wizengamot to continue the process of selecting a new minister to replace Fudge.
She told Frank and Alice that they should accompany her so that they could start getting back into the swing of things for when Frank resumed his lordship and invited Sirius along as well. Sirius politely declined stating that, since his mother disowned him, he didn't think he had a lordship to take on and would probably be utterly bored during the whole thing anyway. Augusta said she understood but advised him to pay a visit to Gringotts to make sure he really was disowned because Walburga Black was known more for her screaming histrionics than she was for following through on any of the threats she'd ever made. He promised the older women he would then, after some more hugs between Neville and his parents, the adult Longbottoms left leaving Sirius and the remaining kids as the only occupants of the room.
Harry was hoping for a chance to introduce Sirius and Luna to Winky and it looked like he was going to get his chance once Neville's family left. He waited for about ten minutes to make sure they were gone then decided it was time but just as he was going to call her there was a knock on the door.
Sirius, the only adult left in the room, stood up and headed to the door while indicating that Harry and his friends should stay seated. He approached the door with a look of grim determination on his face. When he opened the door and saw who it was, his expression first became a slight smile before becoming a full on marauder's grin. He momentarily disappeared behind the door but they could clearly hear a muffled conversation and even some laughter. Sirius soon re-emerged from behind the door with a man wearing old and rather worn clothes.
Harry recognized Remus Lupin immediately and it warmed his heart to see him again. Sirius made the introductions and they all pretended not to know him. Remus was soon filled in on the actions of Albus Dumbledore, the man he felt he practically owed a life debt to. The children then got to see the wolf in him first hand as he growled in his outrage at what the old man had done and offered to pay the headmaster a visit on the next full moon. He then gave an oath of loyalty to all of them especially Sirius and Harry. It relieved a worry the four time travelers had had about Remus and how much they could trust him do to his loyalty to Dumbledore. Harry then told them both about Winky before finally calling and introducing her to Luna and the two marauders. They spent the rest of the time waiting for McGonagall and Hermione's return listening to Sirius and Remus tell stories from their days in Hogwarts. The room was filled with laughter until the two people they were waiting for returned.
When they walked in Minerva was wearing the stern expression she was so famous for causing everyone to go quiet as they waited to hear how it went. She quickly put them out of their misery by holding up the document they all hoped she had gotten. There were cheers and celebratory hugs all around at the news. Knowing that Hermione was protected from the headmaster was the main thing they wanted to hear so they rejoiced in that for a while before they got around to asking the next all important question. It was Sirius that finally gave voice to what they all wanted to know.
"Who did they choose?" he asked.
"They chose you Sirius," she answered him. "Apparently they became quite fond of Harry over the Christmas Holidays so much so that they ask him to write to them too before he and Hermione returned to school. They said he has spoken very highly of you in his recent letters."
"Highly?" Remus spoke up first looking shocked then turned to his fellow marauder. "Harry obviously doesn't know you very well does he Padfoot?" he finished causing the children to laugh.
"Shut up Moony!" Sirius replied. "Or you might find yourself in a frilly dress singing 'Someday My Prince Will Come' again."
"I always knew you were behind that!" Remus responded his tone turning menacing. "Just you wait Padfoot, You'll get yours!"
"In your dreams Mooney," Sirius answered him confidently. "In your dreams."
Minerva hadn't shown the slightest irritation at being interrupted. In fact, she was enjoying their banter thoroughly but she still had business to attend to so she regained their attention by clearing her throat.
"Now, as I was saying," she began again. "They figured that since Harry was Hermione's best friend, who better to look after her in the magical world than her best friend's godfather."
"I would be honored," Sirius replied then signed the form where she told him to.
He barely managed to hand the form back to Minerva before finding himself on the receiving end of one of Hermione's bear hugs.
"Thank you Sirius," she said. "I promise I won't be a bother."
He gently pulled free after returning her hug and crouched down to look her in the eyes.
"You're no bother Hermione," he assured her. "I haven't known you for very long but I can already tell that Harry considers you like family to him. That makes you part of my family as well. This just makes it official."
There were tears in Hermione's eyes as she gave him another hug. He then stood up and turned back to Minerva and signed the remaining form barring Albus Dumbledore from having any contact with Hermione without him being present.
Minerva then escorted Luna home so she could get her parents to sign a form for her as well. They were sad to see her go but were glad that she would be protected from Dumbledore before she ever even set foot in the school. Sirius and Remus told them more stories while they waited for McGonagall to return. Minerva returned about a half hour later having filed all the forms with the ministry and retaining copies to give to the headmaster including the one for Luna then declared it was time to go back to school. They said their goodbyes to the marauders with Sirius promising he would be in touch soon and followed Minerva out of the room and back to school.
Albus Dumbledore sat in the great hall his breakfast virtually untouched in front of him. Next to his plate lay the latest issue of the Daily Prophet. The headline and front page article were all about the events of the day before. The paper had always been big on sensationalism in order to sell more papers and, all too often short on facts. Today was no exception. The headline was practically shouting that Dumbledore was involved in what had happened to Sirius and the Longbottoms. They'd even printed a quote from Amelia Bones saying she believed he was behind the whole thing.
They had eventually said that Mctavish testified that he had acted alone but that was in a follow up story that was buried deep inside the paper where very few people would read it. The damage this would likely do to his reputation as well as the scathing looks he was getting from both his staff and much of the student body was more than enough to ruin his appetite but that wasn't what had done it.
To say that the day before hadn't gone as planned would be an understatement of epic proportions. It was an unmitigated disaster! He was fortunate to still be a free man. McTavish's fainting had given him the opening he needed to save himself. The memory charm had worked so Dumbledore knew he was in the clear since there was no way to reverse it. Even so, he was still forced to make a hasty retreat out of the courtroom and back to the castle like a misbehaving mongrel with his tail between his legs. Amelia's statement that was heard by virtually everyone in the courtroom meant the Prophet would undoubtedly be carrying the story adding to his humiliation. He was correct in that assumption but that didn't mean he wasn't upset about it.
When he returned to his office he was beyond livid. Only years of practice controlling his emotions kept him from erupting in a fit of rage that probably would have resulted in a lot of destruction in his office. It took some time but eventually he cooled down and began to figure out what, if anything, he could do to salvage the situation. The future of the wizarding world was at stake. Why couldn't everyone realize that the only hope they all had was by doing things his way? He'd spent his entire adult life serving the greater good. Yes he'd had to make some unpleasant choices and yes some had suffered greatly because of it but there had been no other option at the time. The only way Harry Potter stood a chance in ridding the world of Voldemort once and for all was with the proper guidance; guidance that only Albus Dumbledore could provide.
He'd sat there for quite a while mentally raging at the shortsightedness of Amelia Bones and others while glancing through some of the paperwork that littered his desk when something caught his eye that quickly brought his mental rage to a halt. He picked the document up and examined it more closely as the first whisper of an idea began to form in his mind. Soon he was smiling as his plan became fully formed as he thought he had found what he needed to turn the situation back to his advantage.
The document contained the list of magical guardians for that year's new students. It mainly held the names of all the first years but did include a few students that had transferred in from other schools as well. For most of the students, their magical guardians were their parents but he noticed that he was listed as the guardian for several students. A quick look through his private files revealed those students to be muggleborn. He immediately returned to the list focusing on the 'G's until he found the name he was looking for. He did a happy dance in his head upon finding himself listed as Hermione Granger's magical guardian.
His original intent had been to remove her from the boy's life but now she was is only way back in. He recalled how cold the boy had become during their meeting the previous day when told he would have to stop being friends with the girl. His statement that he would never give her up and the way in which he said it still gave the headmaster chills but also told him his new plan would work. The boy would be so desperate to help her he would likely agree to anything Albus asked of him to keep her safe.
Sirius Black, Minerva and even Amelia bones would eventually capitulate to his demands once the girl was under his control. They were too soft hearted to take a stand and risk her safety. His plan was to head to the ministry immediately after breakfast and file the necessary paperwork to make her his full ward. She wouldn't even be able to see her parents unless he allowed it. Then he would hold all the proverbial cards as the muggle saying went.
He had the house elves bring him his dinner in his office as he continued to plan. He could sequester the girl at a location only he knew about holding her hostage as it were if the boy ever resisted. He could also threaten to make a betrothal agreement for Miss Granger with Mr. Weasely if he didn't cooperate. He may do that anyway. He would have to do something with the girl when the time came and there was no way he would ever allow her and the boy to ever be anything more than friends. The boy would need a pureblood wife. Nothing less would be acceptable. Secure in the knowledge that he couldn't lose this time, it was a much happier headmaster that headed to bed that night.
He was still happy as he entered the great hall for breakfast the next morning. He sat in his usual seat and filled his plate with tasty morsels and had just started to eat when Minerva arrived and placed a stack of documents in front of him. She threw him a glare then took her own seat. She had stopped sitting next to him like she had for the last thirty years but instead now sat as far away from him as she could and still be at the head table. If he didn't already have two positions to fill he would fire her at the end of the year. He could only hope the next defense professor lasted beyond the next year. If so, the next school year would be her last.
He looked through the documents and, at first, wasn't surprised. He expected both Sirius and the Longbottoms would do whatever they could to protect their children from him. That didn't mean it didn't bother him that he could no longer have any contact with either boy without them being present. It did but, like he always dealt with obstacles in the past, he would have to find a way to work around them. The third one wasn't so much surprising as it was unnecessary. Susan Bones had never figured into his plans nor, did he expect she ever would so Amelia filing this form along with the others was the very definition of redundant.
The fourth document gave him the identity of the other family at the hearing; the Lovegoods. He knew of them of course but didn't know them personally. Their daughter Luna wouldn't be a student until next year so this one didn't apply yet but did preemptively block him from using her to influence the boy. A sudden feeling of dread came over him upon seeing that there were two more documents in the stack. A quick glance confirmed his fears. His meticulously laid out plan had gone up in smoke before he had even had a chance to put it in motion. Miss Granger's parents had appointed a magical guardian for her leaving him without a way back in. Their choice of guardian offered him no hope either; Sirius Black. Like the others, he was barred from any contact with Miss Granger without her guardian being present.
That was when he lost his appetite. The new edition of the Daily Prophet was just piling on. He would have to go back to the drawing board as it were and come up with a new plan. Getting guardianship of the boy was now merely a pipe dream. Even with Black and the Longbottoms out of the picture, he would never get a hearing much less be allowed anywhere near the boy so trying to remove them as his guardians was a waste of time. In fact, the recent turn of events had made it nearly impossible for him to have any influence on the boy at all. Why couldn't they see that they were putting all they held dear in jeopardy by their actions?! If this continued they would force him into taking drastic action for the sake of the wizarding world.
At first, his thoughts were on taking the boy by force and holding him for as long as it took to properly prepare him for his destiny. He soon discarded that plan as he realized that Harry would be far too protected for a kidnapping to be feasible. He had no doubts that Sirius would have the strongest possible wards placed wherever they lived, up to and including the fidelus charm. He made similar assessments about his friends until his thoughts returned to Miss Granger. She was a muggleborn. Her home would not be strongly warded making it a veritable cakewalk to take her. Once he had her he could put the plan he'd come up with the night before into action. The circumstances might be different but the results should be the same; control of the boy.
He would do it if his hand was forced but only as a last resort. For now, he could afford to be patient and wait to see if another option presented itself. He doubted Voldemort would be in any position to return for a few more years yet so there was really no rush. He took the napkin from his lap and dropped it on table, grabbed the documents and, after throwing a glare at his assistant headmistress, left the great hall and returned to his office to continue his planning.
The next two months passed without incident. The Gryffindor trio spent their days like their fellow students; studying, doing homework, going to class, enjoying their free time and of course corresponding with their families. Harry and Hermione loved seeing the joy in Neville's eyes when he received letters from his parents. They were happy for their friend. They knew how much he'd suffered the first time around. It had been pure torture to see them in St Mungos year after year but it was also painful to watch his classmates get letters from their parents knowing he never would. Harry, especially, could identify with that feeling but didn't have to see his parents the way Neville had; alive but not really there.
They now knew Neville's suffering had been unnecessary but forced on him to serve someone else's idea of the greater good. It made them angry seeing Dumbledore everyday knowing what he did but they had hope that he would soon pay for his crimes so they were able to tolerate his presence for now. The headmaster hadn't so much as looked their way since the hearing and that suited them just fine. They knew it wouldn't last and that sooner or later he would stick his nose in their business again or would at least try. It was the last week of school when he proved them right.
They were eating lunch after a morning filled with end of year exams when professor McGonagall approached Harry and told him the headmaster wanted to see him.
"Has Sirius been contacted?" he asked his head of house.
"I'm on my way to call him now," she answered him. "Finish your lunch then come to my office. Once Sirius gets here, we'll all go see the Headmaster together."
They nodded then watched her leave before returning to their lunches. Once they were finished, Harry and Hermione said goodbye to Neville then headed up to Professor McGonagall's office. Sirius was already there when they arrived. They both hugged him then, as a group, headed up to the headmaster's office.
Albus Dumbledore sat in his office waiting for his guests to arrive. He'd spent the last few months licking his wounds and trying to come up with a way to fix things. Sadly, he had found no easy answers to his dilemma. He decided that, rather than taking drastic action like his thoughts had turned to recently, he would be patient and work to earn the boy's trust back however long that might take. Today's meeting was the first step in that process. He wasn't expecting much success on his first attempt. In fact, it was possible that it would make things even worse but it would still plant the idea in Harry and his companion's heads that he was making an effort. It would be a start and that was all he could really hope for at this point.
His door chimed announcing that his guests had arrived. He called out 'open' and heard the telltale click indicating the unlocking of the door. Minerva walked in first followed by Sirius then Harry. He was annoyed but not surprised to see Hermione Granger bringing up the rear. Minerva had reinstated the detention immediately after the hearing and, given his current restrictions regarding contact with either of them, he was essentially powerless to do anything about it.
There were only two chairs in front of his desk. He pulled his wand out to conjure more chairs only to be stopped by a stern look from Sirius. He pulled his own wand out and first moved the existing chairs farther apart then conjured two more chairs identical to the originals but they were place a few feet farther way from the desk. The two children took those seats while Sirius and Minerva sat in the chairs closer to the desk. Albus quickly realized the formation was defensive in nature. It suddenly dawned on him how little he was trusted. Sirius and Minerva had positioned themselves so that they were between him and the children without blocking them from his view. Indeed if his intentions were to do the children harm, he would have to go through them to do so. How could they think he meant the children harm? Everything he had done up to this point was for the boy's benefit.
Once again he felt desperation fill him along with thoughts of those drastic actions he was resisting taking returning to the forefront of his mind. He viciously pushed those thoughts back down as he firmly believed such actions were beneath him and, at the moment at least, unnecessary. He hadn't fully realized just how bad things were but knew they couldn't be allowed to continue this way. From now on he would work tirelessly to rebuild the bridges he had apparently completely burned. He was brought out of his thoughts by a cleared throat. He then focused his attention on his guests.
"Thank you for coming," he started his tone as unthreatening as he could manage.
"What do you want Albus?" Sirius asked sounding irritated.
"I want to apologize Sirius," he answered adopting a solemn tone making eye contact with all of them. "To all of you. I have been doing a lot of reflecting over the last few months about all that has gone on this year and have come to realize that I have made several errors in judgment that I would like an opportunity to rectify. Harry, we got off on the wrong foot at the beginning of the year and were never able to get off of it as it were." He turned his twinkle on full force hoping to at least get a smile but was disappointed to get no reaction whatsoever. "I would like a chance to put things right between us, and that goes for the rest of you as well, in the hopes that you might find it in your hearts to forgive an old man his mistakes."
"What about Neville and his parents headmaster?!" Hermione spoke up defiantly. "Do you really think a simple apology can make up for what they have been through because of you?!"
Despite the anger he was feeling at being talked to that way by a first year, Albus nevertheless schooled his features into a grandfatherly smile once again putting his twinkle in overdrive as he began his reply.
"It does my heart good to see how you stand up for your friends Miss Granger," he responded not really answering her question. "It tells me there is hope for this world yet."
He paused momentarily hoping the compliment might throw off her anger and open her up to what he was going to say next.
"No one is more appalled at what Benedict Mctavish did to the Longbottoms and Sirius here than I Am." he indicated the marauder as he spoke with a wave of his hand his expression turning somber. The truth was he was more appalled that the plan had failed and almost took him down with it but he certainly wasn't going to tell them that. "You have no idea how hurtful it is that there are those, including yourselves, which think me capable of being a party to such a heinous act. I know my relationship with all of you has been strained to say the least and that, to a large extent, it is my fault that it has become so but I implore you try to find it in your heart to believe me when I say that I'm innocent. If not, I will simply point to McTavish's own testimony given under veritaserum that he acted alone."
Again there wasn't much response beyond a few cursory nods but he took those nods as indications his attempt to sow doubts about his guilt may have succeeded in planting a few small seeds in their minds. It wasn't much but he would take anything he could get at this point. He had already conceded that getting back into a position of trust with the boy and those around him would be a marathon rather than a sprint so was content to be patient for now. His hope was further bolstered when Sirius spoke again but this time without sounding irritated.
"Was that all you wanted to see us about Albus?" he asked his tone not particularly friendly but an improvement nonetheless. "If so, I think you should have included the Longbottoms as well."
"That wasn't what I wanted to see you about at all Sirius," he answered the smile returning to his face this tinged with gentle condescension. "I was just taking advantage of an opportunity. The real reason I wanted to see you was to discuss Harry's summer arrangements."
"Where Harry goes for the summer is none of your business Headmaster!" Sirius responded angrily.
The others were visibly angry too so Albus raised his hands defensively. He had expected this response and had his reply ready.
"My apologies Sirius," he replied quickly schooling his features to show regret. "I assure you I wasn't trying to stick my nose in where it didn't belong. As I said earlier, I wanted to make things right between us. To that end, I was merely wanting to offer my assistance should you need it. You have only been a free man for a few months-"
"Thanks to you," muttered Harry under his breath but Albus still heard it.
"You're quite right Mr. Potter," he responded and was rewarded with getting to see the boy flinch noticeably upon realizing he'd been heard. "My concern for your godfather helped to put him in McTavishes clutches as it were. That is yet another thing I hope to be able to atone for"
His plan was to continually point the finger of blame at the healer every time it came up hoping they would eventually believe it allowing him to regain their trust.
"You have barely had enough time to put your affairs in order much less find a place for you and Harry to live," Albus continued returning his attention to Sirius. "To that end, I wanted to offer a suggestion; Harry could return to his relatives for the summer giving you more time to set up a home for the both of you. He would be safe there Sirius just like he has been the last ten years."
In truth, Dumbledore had no real desire to send the boy there other than for his own convenience. If Harry didn't return there, the blood wards would fall and then he would have to honor a promise and find another way to insure the Dursley's safety.
"Safe!" Harry spoke up again but this time he wasn't bothering with doing it under his breath. In fact he was practically yelling. "You call being beaten, starved and having a cupboard under the stairs as a bedroom that I was locked into, sometimes for days, safe?!"
The temperature in the room seem to drop several degrees as his words sunk in to his other three visitors and Dumbledore knew he would have to add the Dursley's to his list of things to do that summer. He was now receiving what could only be described as death glares from them as they tried to comfort Harry. After a few moments, Sirius stood up and, for a moment Albus thought he might attack him.
"Harry is not going anywhere near those people Albus!" he said his tone like steel. "I'll say this for the last time; stay away from my godson Headmaster! He is no longer your concern!"
"Before the hearing, you said they weren't fit guardians for me and now you think I should go back there?!" Harry spoke up again. "What kind of game are you playing at sir?!"
His words once again earned Dumbledore glares from Miss Granger, who was now sitting on the arm of Harry's chair comforting her friend, Minerva and of course Sirius. That was no surprise as they had been at that meeting except for Sirius of course but it was obvious from his reaction he had been told about it. Things were going bad quickly but luckily he had anticipated this turn of events and had prepared for it.
Albus Dumbledore learned long ago that, to be successful at manipulating people, one needed to be a good actor. He also came to realize that the best way to convince someone of your sincerity is by shedding a few tears. To that end, he worked on it and practiced until he was able to cry on demand regardless of what he might really be feeling inside. He schooled his feature into an expression of sadness mixed with guilt then, a few moments later allowed some tears to escape his eyes for good measure. He waited to speak for a few moments to make it look like he was having a hard time figuring out what to say. He finished the effect off by looking down at his desk and avoiding eye contact in order to make them think he couldn't look them in the eye at that moment. When he thought enough time had passed, he spoke in a shaky voice while continuing to stare at his desk to maintain the ruse.
"I was concerned about your behavior Harry," he started trying to sound as remorseful as he could. "I thought that perhaps they had been too lenient toward you and therefore not proper guardians for you."
Then why would you want to send him back there now?" Sirius asked
"Now that I know what his life was like with them I don't," Albus responded firmly allowing more tears to escape for appearance sake. He, of course knew all about the boy's treatment with his relatives. It was part of his plan all along but the end result hadn't been what he had expected. "However, to answer your question, because of Lily's sacrifice I was able to erect blood wards there because Harry had a blood relative that lived there. In this case his Aunt. The wards keep him safe from anyone wishing to do him harm or at least I thought they did. I hadn't counted on his relatives being among them."
He paused for a moment pretending to gather his courage then finally looked Harry in the eye as he continued.
"It is my fault that you were ever there Harry," he said to the boy directly trying to sound apologetic. "That is yet another mistake I need to atone for. I can only hope you will give me that chance. That goes for the rest of you as well."
At that point he glanced around the room making eye contact with all of them maintaining his repentant expression. No one was quick to respond. Minerva seemed to look away in silent contemplation. Sirius focused on the boy who was still being comforted by Hermione. Neither kid seemed to be paying him any attention at the moment. Sirius got their attention as he leaned in close and whispered something to them that Albus couldn't hear. Harry seemed to respond with a shrug then Sirius turned back to face him.
"You've got a lot to make up for Albus," he responded his tone non committal. "I wouldn't blame Harry if he never spoke to you again. You need to back off and give Harry time to come to terms with what has happened and maybe he might be willing to give you another chance but it will be up to him. Are we clear?"
Albus just nodded his head allowing a little hope to show in his expression.
"Is there anything else?" Sirius asked after a few moments.
Albus just shook his head and then silently watched them leave. To an outsider, the meeting would look like a disaster but he knew he had made some headway with them. It was not very much that was for certain but it was a start and that was enough for now.
The four visitors had suspected that Albus had called the meeting to try to manipulate them. They decided they would play it hard to get but in the end throw him a bone in the hopes that it would keep him out of their hair for a while. They didn't believe a word he said. They went their separate ways after the meeting feeling confident that Dumbledore had been dealt with for the time being.
A week later they climbed aboard the Hogwarts Express as their second first year finally came to a close. They enjoyed the train ride as; once again, neither Ron nor Draco bothered them. They reached King's Cross without incident. Harry and Hermione shared a goodbye kiss before helping her with her trunk as they got off the Express. They then had a joyful reunion with their families before saying friendly goodbye to each other.
They had decided to spend the first two weeks of the summer with their families before starting on their summer plans. It would be the first time Harry and Hermione would be apart since they came back in time. Harry said goodbye to his friends and watched them leave with their parents and couldn't help feeling a little jealous at not having his own parents there.
He quickly shook those thoughts out of his head as he followed Sirius out of the train station and began thinking about their summer plans. There were horcruxes to find and destroy and hopefully a dark lord to dispatch among other things. But that would come later, for now he would enjoy spending time with Sirius and try not to miss Hermione too much.
Lucius Malfoy watched as Arthur Weasley and his inspection team left his house once again disappointed. There had been many such raids over the last several months but in every case they had come up empty. It wasn't because there was nothing to find but simply that Lucious Malfoy was smarter than that bloodtraitor Weasley. His questionable items were well hidded in places that simpleton had no hope of finding.
That didn't mean he wasn't angry about the constant intrusion. In fact, he was bloody furious. This latest attempt had kept him from being able to meet his son at the train. Instead he had to send Narcissa on ahead without him and wouldn't get to see Draco until they got home. Lucious Malfoy had had enough! Weasley would pay dearly for this harassment. With any luck he would take Dumbledore down as well. That would be an unexpected but welcome bonus. They would soon learn, much like whoever it was that had killed his fellow death eaters had obviously realized since they hadn't even tried to come after him, that it was foolish to mess with a Malfoy.
A/N: Thanks for reading.