Author's Note: Remember to keep in mind that this is not canon. I will abuse canon because it deserves to be abused and I will have my whims satisfied. Don't like? Girl (Boy), bye!
"We don't have to do this now," Kurt said, sighing, "nor do you have to help me."
Quinn rolled her eyes. "Of course we do." She gave him a frustrated glare. "Kurt, I appreciate the number of times you have attempted to warn us away from this, but the bottom line is that we're not going anywhere. Did you somehow forget that we just agreed to attend Hogwarts with you? Stop being a martyr and help us!"
He gaped at her and then turned to Santana, who merely raised a brow. She was content to let Quinn handle this. When Kurt would eventually become even more unreasonable, and she knew that he would, then she would step in.
"Only because of the bond," Kurt whispered, turning his eyes downcast.
"Bullshit," Santana spat. "That's not true and you know it, Tink, and I fucking resent the implication. We were close before the bond. The bond wouldn't have been given to us and then solidified were that not the case." She put her hands on her hips. "Do I need to drop my shields so you can read how much I love you and how much you are pissing me off?"
Quinn smirked with satisfaction as Kurt shuddered.
Santana basked in her triumph. "We'll lay aside - temporarily - that you never told us you remembered that night. It's your business and we won't pry."
Quinn hesitated, but at last nodded. "For now," she qualified. "Sooner or later, you will have to tell us, Kurt, because if you remember that Halloween, it's very possible that Harry does, as well."
Kurt fidgeted. "I don't think he remembers me," he said sadly. "If he did, I would feel it; there would be something to the bond."
"You don't know that," Quinn said, her tone both kind and pragmatic. "The truth of the matter is that twin bonds are not well understood beyond the fact that they exist. Most twins are too private to allow that aspect of themselves to be studied."
Kurt shrugged and turned his head to the side, signaling he was finished with the discussion at hand.
Santana and Quinn exchanged a glance filled with sadness, anger, empathy, and irritation. Kurt was their best friend; in fact, they most likely would have never been friends themselves without Kurt's influence. As it was, they argued frequently. However, at the end of the day, anything that threatened one would die by the other's hand. That was a fact with comforted like none other. And when Kurt was threatened, they would lay waste to the world in their pursuit of his tormenters.
In a world filled with uncertainties, prejudice, evil, sadness, and loneliness, Kurt, Santana, and Quinn would always have each other, whether they liked it or not. Such was the nature of their bond.
They liked their bond.
Quinn frowned. Do you think we'll also have a bond with Harry?
Santana blinked and didn't immediately reply. I'm not sure, she finally said. As Kurt said, they're not identical. They're biologically different human beings, not to mention the fact that their magic is unique. Perhaps they'll have magical consonance, but that still doesn't mean our bond would extend to Harry.
Quinn bit her lip. Do you think Kurt regrets our bond? What if it supersedes his bond with Harry? Because of course they're getting that back.
Santana smirked with approval. They will, and I don't think he does. Remember that Kurt has always known about Harry and the loss of their bond. He entered our bond willingly and immediately. I don't think he regrets it at all. That said, we're not his twin brother. We could never take Harry's place, and I think Kurt knows we would never try.
Quinn, obviously relieved, nodded and then decided it was best to snap Kurt out of his maudlin funk. "What do you believe Dumbledore suspects about us?" she asked him.
It worked, and Kurt paused to consider her question. "I'm not sure," he said slowly. "Although we threw a lot of information at him, we barely scratched the surface." He bit his lip. "I don't believe he knows we're aware that Harry is my brother. If he did, he would have pressed the subject."
The girls nodded.
"Honestly," he continued, shrugging, "I don't think he knows any more than what we told him, but as to what he suspects? I'm sure he found it unusual how in sync we are with one another. We communicated with looks and finished each other's sentences. I wouldn't say that's particularly extraordinary, but it is odd. I think he accepted it because we made it clear that we've been together as a unit for a number of years."
"Do you think he knows about the bond?" asked an uneasy Santana.
Kurt scoffed. "If our parents don't know, I highly doubt Dumbledore is aware. The type of bond we share hasn't been seen in over two thousand years and was never witnessed on British soil. No matter how learned Dumbledore is, I don't believe he's particularly interested in history on a global scale." He shrugged once more. "As it is, our bond would be considered nothing more than a myth or fairy tale."
"All of this presupposes that Dumbledore won't perform his own investigation of us," Quinn warned. "There's a month between now and when the term begins, and he can accomplish a number of things in that time."
Santana nodded. "A legitimate point, but I don't think it's one he'll press too hard. We were nothing but honest with him about our agenda. Sure, we held stuff back, but I think he expected that and he held back just as much, if not more. I don't think he was prepared for how much we knew, specifically about his country, not just Hogwarts, and it was apparent he had no clue about any of us."
"Which bothers me," Kurt said, frowning. "If he didn't check up on me, it stands to reason he never bothered with Harry. In fact, I believe that when he called his phoenix to him, it had something to do with Harry."
Santana stared. "You saw the phoenix. You actually saw the phoenix?"
"I suppose you could say we met each other," he replied. "Fawkes, the name of the phoenix, alighted behind me and proceeded to peck at my head in a playful manner. Dumbledore was amused."
"So the phoenix likes you," Quinn said, contemplating his statement. "That could prove useful, as well as being a great alibi for the future."
Kurt rolled his eyes. "I'm not evil; none of us is."
"It's not that simple, Kurt," Santana said, "and you know it. We've used what would, in Britain, be considered dark magic."
"But not for ill intent or personal gain," Quinn interrupted. "Further, what Britain considers dark magic is truly laughable. If they could, they'd outlaw everything, disarm their people, and then kick back and collect taxes."
"There's no such thing as dark magic, Santana," Kurt added, "and you know that."
She sighed and closed her eyes. "That entire country is going to crucify me."
"I really don't believe they will," Quinn said, "at least not on the basis of your family's reputation. Britain respects power and money, San, and you've got that in spades. If anything will get their collective goat, it will be the fact that you, that all of us, are foreigners. British magical society is intensely insular and xenophobic."
Kurt nodded. "However, I believe that will be somewhat ameliorated." He raised a brow. "Do you really think the Fudge administration won't make the most of the fact that an ambassador, a Swedish countess, and a genuine princess chose Hogwarts at which to study?" He shook his head. "They'll be falling all over themselves and us."
Quinn turned toward him. "I noticed you didn't make mention of your titles or mine to Dumbledore."
"Of course not," he replied. "For one thing, our titles are mostly ceremonial; they won't do much except encourage people to consider the fact that we have political allies outside of the United States upon whom we can call if necessary."
She nodded. It was true, of course, and let Dumbledore and Britain be content with thinking just that.
"The other is that there's a distinct difference between nobility and royalty," he added. "Santana is a legitimate princess, not just of a country, but an entire continent. She is absolutely going to become a seated sovereign and is from a family dynasty which has ruled consistently for more than a millennium."
"Do you really think it will even matter?" Santana asked. "Most of wizarding Britain is completely unaware that Queen Elizabeth is their monarch; that she, in fact, holds more power in their world than in the non-magical one?"
Kurt shrugged, unbothered. "That's what happens when you let a ghost teach history to the children of an entire nation for more than two centuries. Look at the damage Snape has inflicted on their number of Healers and Potion Masters, all in the space of a decade."
She conceded the point with a nod.
"Let's not forget the most obvious thing," Quinn interjected. "The moment this begins to go south and we're faced with no real options, we withdraw from the school and simply take Harry with us in whatever manner the situation requires."
Kurt nodded as Santana's eyes gleamed with malevolence.
"That presupposes he'll want to be with me," Kurt said softly. "He might not. He'll want to know why it took me this long to come to him."
Quinn frowned. "Kurt, you're a child! You've spent years searching for him. We can prove that. Why wouldn't he accept you?"
"There's a difference between understanding and feeling," Kurt said. "I have no idea what's happened to him in the past ten years, but if he was, as I suspect, left with the Dursleys, then it won't be anything good."
"Are you sure he's with them?" Santana demanded. "For that matter, what on earth could block you and an entire government from finding one non-magical family?"
He turned to face her. "A blood ward."
Her eyes widened as Quinn gasped.
Santana's face shut down. "The kind of ward of which you're speaking is an affront to magic itself. There is nothing in Dumbledore's profile that would suggest he has any authority or practical experience in creating such a ward." Her gaze was searing. "Do you truly think him that stupid?"
"Not at all," Kurt said, "but I do think him terminally naive, particularly where Voldemort is concerned, which is far more dangerous."
She exhaled slowly. "Then that explains a number of things."
Quinn threw up her hands. "I have no idea what either one of you are talking about." Before they could utilize the bond, she held up a hand. "Verbally, please. There's a lot I'm trying to assimilate at the moment."
Kurt nodded. "You wouldn't necessarily know this Quinn, and it's something neither Santana nor I have ever tacitly discussed. I'm aware of this particular ward because warding is Dad's specialty, and Santana because blood magic is an integral part of her culture. We haven't left you out of anything, not intentionally."
Quinn blushed lightly. She hadn't mentioned it, but she had been slightly bothered that they were privy to knowledge she was not. That wasn't how their bond worked. Although each of them could dampen the bond so that their thoughts could remain private if they should so choose, knowledge was something they never kept to themselves. When one learned something, the other two automatically assimilated the information.
"What we believe has happened is that Dumbledore enacted a blood ward of protection around Harry," Kurt explained, "ostensibly to keep him safe from any Death Eaters who skirted punishment after the fall of Voldemort. It means that Harry has been essentially removed from magical observation; that is, no one outside of Dumbledore and perhaps a few key Ministry personnel knows where to find him."
Quinn shook her head in confusion. "That doesn't explain why you haven't been able to find him using non-magical means."
He nodded. "Which Santana will do now."
"In order for this ward to function properly," Santana continued, "it must be generated by a willing sacrifice."
Quinn's thoughts raced until she arrived at the only answer she believed could make sense. "Lily."
"Most likely," Kurt said. "From the little intelligence Dad has been able to gather, which is almost none, considering the events at Godric's Hollow were placed under the Official Secrets Act, Lily's body was found at the foot of Harry's crib, suggesting she was the final barrier Voldemort had to cross to get to us."
"You and Harry didn't share a crib," Quinn surmised. At the shake of his head, she continued to extrapolate. "Then Voldemort did attack Harry first."
"So Harry really is the Boy Who Lived," she said. "Dumbledore didn't make a mistake about that."
"No," Kurt said, smirking, "but I imagine he's reconsidering it now."
Quinn smirked in kind. "Well, that should keep him occupied for quite a while." Her face cleared. "And the ward?"
"Here's where it gets tricky, and truly disgusting," Santana said, pulling a face. "The ward can only be maintained by continual sacrifice."
Quinn blinked. "But Lily's dead."
"Exactly," Kurt whispered.
Quinn's face twisted in horror. "You mean it's Harry? He has to be sacrificed?"
"Not quite," Santana said gently, throwing a cautious glance at Kurt. "It's that Harry has to make constant unwilling sacrifices."
"What the hell does that even mean?" Quinn demanded.
"The initial sacrifice was based on Lily's love for her children," said a sedate Santana. "In order for the ward to be set, Harry would have to be placed with someone of Lily's blood."
"Petunia," Quinn guessed.
Santana nodded. "Had James cast the spell, Harry could have gone to a paternal relative."
Now Quinn was hopelessly lost. "Wait a minute, before we go any further, where does Kurt fit in with all of this? Why did Dumbledore separate him from Harry?"
"He most likely believed, and perhaps not incorrectly, that I could be used against Harry," Kurt said.
Quinn disagreed. "I could see that if you and Harry were adults, but how would one toddler be used against another? Further, as you're the elder, you're heir to the House of Potter, not Harry."
"That makes the point for me," Kurt said. "If I had fallen into the hands of Voldemort's minions, they would have killed me so that Harry would have inherited. Then, they would have used the Ministry's own laws to have Harry placed with one of them. He would have been under their control, as would the House of Potter and its fortune."
Quinn swallowed heavily and nodded. That made sense. Horrible, sick sense. Then another thought occurred to her. "You're not actually arguing that Dumbledore made the right decision, are you?"
"No," Kurt said, rather heatedly, "only that I can understand his reasoning. Dumbledore cares about me in the abstract, as he does everyone, but not as a person. I am a tool to him, as is Harry, and that's the main reason for the separation. It's obvious from his actions he believes Voldemort will return. When that happens, the most logical person to oppose him would be the one who defeated him."
"Although," Santana interjected, "critical thinking would suggest that it was Lily who ultimately defeated Voldemort, not Harry. He was the instrument."
"Possible," Kurt replied, "but not definite. Harry could just be that powerful."
Quinn and Santana doubted that, but neither could they dismiss it. Accidental and wish magic, particularly in highly charged emotional situations, could be inordinately powerful and notoriously difficult to control or counter. Not to mention that Kurt was more magically powerful than either one of them, though they themselves were incredibly strong. If Harry's power was equal to or greater than Kurt's own, who was to say what happened that night?
"We have to assume that whatever Lily's protection entails, it also extends to Kurt," Quinn said.
"But Voldemort chose Harry," he said, "not me."
Santana blanched. "You really do remember."
He gave a tired nod.
Quinn felt it best to get the discussion back on track. "So what are you saying? That the severing of your twin bond is a result of the blood ward? That their relationship was a sacrifice?"
Santana met her stare with grave eyes. "Yes."
Quinn shook her head in incredulity. "That's...perverse. It's absolutely reprehensible."
"And it gets worse," Santana added. "The ward would compel Petunia to admit Harry into her home, but not to love or even care for him. If anything, the ward would have turned her against him completely. Yes, her blood, as one of the last members of Lily's family, would help to anchor the ward, thus giving Harry sanctuary, but she would come to resent his presence thoroughly."
"Are you saying Harry has been abused?" Quinn roughly demanded.
"At the very least, he has probably been neglected," Santana admitted, "but given the nature of this ward, of the power necessary to cast it, and the magical strength that flows through Lily's children, yes, I do believe Harry most likely has been abused."
"That doesn't make sense!" Quinn insisted. "Intellectually I can understand Kurt's argument that Dumbledore separated him from Harry in order to protect both of them, but there are too many inconsistencies. First, as suggested earlier, it's only logical to assume that whatever James, Lily, or both of them did to protect Harry also protects Kurt. Kurt says that Voldemort went immediately for Harry, but we don't know if that was planned."
She sent a sorrowful look to her friend. "It could have just as easily been you," she whispered.
He nodded his agreement, which served to spur her further.
"Second, I can understand Dumbledore's impetus for the ward and, as long as we're excusing his ignorance, that he wouldn't necessarily know that he had cast it improperly or the ramifications of the casting." She paused for a breath. "That doesn't explain, however, why he would separate them. If anything, Kurt's blood would also power the ward, thus doubling their protection."
Santana blinked, narrowed her eyes in thought, and turned to Kurt. "It's a valid point."
He swallowed heavily. "There's a prophecy."
"Aw, shit," was Santana's summation.
"So you don't know what the prophecy is, only that there is one?" Quinn asked.
"Well, that's unhelpful, " Quinn said.
"Who told you this?" Santana demanded.
He regarded her carefully.
She squeezed her eyes shut. "Brittany."
He nodded and, though she couldn't see it, she felt it. Her rage and regret began stewing to a boil.
"It's not our fault," Kurt said. "We still don't know what happened."
"She shouldn't have been there," Santana hissed. "We shouldn't have taken her."
"We didn't," Quinn gently remonstrated. "She followed us. We couldn't have known, Santana."
Santana knew her friend was right, but that did little to quell her fear. She sighed. "I don't know why I didn't..."
She had some minor seeing talent, but nothing in the way of what Brittany was and would later become. She was still devastated that Brittany wouldn't be accompanying them to Hogwarts, but understood she required more specialized training than Hogwarts, or any other magical institution, could provide.
Kurt offered a diffident shrug. "She's Brittany. She defies all logic and explanation."
Santana smiled. It was filled with sadness, but also agreement.
"So you believe this prophecy is what encouraged Dumbledore to action," Quinn said to Kurt, who nodded.
"It makes the most sense. The Potters were targets long before Harry and I were born, but never had Voldemort been so overt in his quest to bring them to heel. Disposing of minor annoyances - and, let's face it, compared to his abilities, James and Lily could be considered nothing less - was left to his lieutenants, yet he showed up to Godric's Hollow himself. He personally killed James and Lily before training his wand on Harry. Yes, as you pointed out, it could have just as easily been me, but he obviously viewed us as a threat which required elimination."
"Then Voldemort knows the prophecy," Santana said.
"I assume so," Kurt replied, "or at least part of it." He tilted his head. "Enough to take drastic measures and expose himself."
"And you think Dumbledore knows the prophecy, as well," Quinn said.
"Definitely. We all know that prophecies, while inexact and usually worthless, have certain parameters."
Santana stiffened. "You believe Dumbledore was there when the prophecy was uttered."
"Absolutely," Kurt said. "He had to have been, else why was he the one who engineered all of this? He was the one who separated me from Harry. He was the one who put me with my parents and Harry with the Dursleys. He obviously has some scheme in mind, probably a convoluted and ultimately idiotic one, and has spent the past decade twiddling his thumbs and waiting for the Potter twins to come to Hogwarts."
Quinn pulled a face but nodded. Kurt's explanation made the most sense, but something else was troubling her. "What about the Dursleys?" she asked. "Why haven't you or Uncle Burt been able to find them?"
Kurt nodded. "I believe that has to do with the ward. From what Dad's taught me, a blood ward of this kind, based on sacrifice, is designed to protect the warded from their most dangerous enemy, which, in this case, would be Voldemort. That means that Dumbledore has known for quite some time that Voldemort still exists in some form.
"The next part," Kurt continued, "ties in with the nature of sacrifice. Lily gave up her life, her blood, to protect Harry and me, but since Dumbledore, in his misguided wisdom, separated us, the ward itself applies only to Harry, as it was built around him."
"The ward itself," Santana interrupted, slowly repeating his words. "You think there's a protection in place separate from the ward?"
"I do," Kurt said, "but without access to the spell she used, I can only posit what that might be, and it won't necessarily extend to me. I believe that it would, that Lily would have attempted to protect both of us, but it's all supposition at this point."
"You're sure it was Lily?"
Kurt looked away. "James was found on the first floor. Lily was found on the second, in the nursery." He paused. "This is just my own extrapolation, but I believe he was buying her time."
"And the Dursleys?" Quinn repeated.
He sighed. "My bond with Harry was severed; that was a sacrifice. It can be argued that it was a sacrifice demanded of both of us, but that's debatable, because I never agreed to any such thing. Harry, however, is under the power of the ward, and his permission isn't required for sacrifices to be made on his behalf. I have memories of Harry, while Harry most likely none of me. Who knows which of us is worse off for that."
Quinn shook her head, furious at Dumbledore.
"As for the Dursleys," Kurt said, "I've already explained that it's my belief that Harry has been required to make continual sacrifices to power the ward, and it's possible that any memories he had of me have been suppressed in yet another sacrifice."
"You mean he might remember you, but those memories are hidden from him because of the ward," Quinn said.
Santana nodded. "The ward is powered by continual suffering. Harry's continued separation from Kurt qualifies. Conceivably, anyone of Harry's blood should be protected by the ward, but because Harry doesn't know of Kurt's existence, the ward would not necessarily recognize Kurt as blood."
"But it does Petunia and Dudley," Kurt picked up, "because Harry has been led to believe they're all the remaining family he has. Essentially, he thinks they're his only option. As such, the ward is made stronger by his belief he is alone in the world, save them."
"And you think they've abused him," Quinn said darkly.
"From the pieces Dad has been able to put together," Kurt said, "there was no love lost between Petunia and Lily. Petunia did not attend Lily's wedding, our birth, or the Potters' funeral. I sincerely doubt that taking in her wayward nephew was high on her list of priorities."
"So she, as Santana said, would resent him," Quinn surmised, "and would see him as a burden."
Kurt nodded. "I haven't been allowed to access the Potter estate yet, though I will be able to do so as of today, but I was able to determine that there have been no withdrawals from either it or our trust funds. I doubt that Dumbledore is footing the bill for Harry's upkeep."
Santana gnawed on her lip. "So, if the ward doesn't recognize you as blood, it would keep Harry and the Dursleys from being able to be found by you or anyone acting on your behalf."
Kurt gave a sad nod. "If neither my father nor your grandmother can find one small nonmagical family in an island-bound nation, only the blood ward would possess the magic to hide them." He rolled his shoulders. "Anyone I asked to find them would be considered an agent of mine, and the ward would not reveal Harry's location."
Quinn growled. "Look, I understand how intricate and illogical magic can be, but there's something seriously wrong with this scenario. If what we're thinking is right, and it probably is, that means Harry has been raised as a non-magical. There have to be records of him in that world, some kind of paper trail. Medical records, school records, something."
"I'm sure there is," Kurt agreed, "but we can't find them." He offered a diffident shrug. "And enter Dumbledore."
Quinn grew very red, withdrew her wand, cast a silencing spell on herself, and screamed her head off.
"You think Dumbledore knew your family would come looking?" Santana asked him.
"I think he considered the possibility and planned for it," Kurt said. "I'm sure that, after today, after realizing I was blood adopted into the Hummel family, he wonders how much I truly know about my birth family. There are various rituals one can use for a blood adoption, but most of them will reveal the child's biological relatives as a magical safeguard. He might not know that I know I was born a Potter, but I'm sure he suspects my father does."
Quinn released the spell and hissed. "So that will be his excuse. He didn't tell you about Harry because he wasn't sure you knew, and he wouldn't want to interfere in how Uncle Burt was planning on telling you."
Kurt gave her a bland look. "He had no idea of the positions Dad holds in the international community, let alone who he is as a person. If all of this has taught me anything, it's that Dumbledore sees me as a carrot he can use to goad Harry into action. He will reveal nothing until the last possible moment or unless he feels someone else might reveal it first. Then he would rush to tell all and appear as the only honest and trustworthy adult in our lives."
He began pacing. "I don't think Dumbledore is a malicious man; I truly don't." He rolled his neck. "However, I do believe that he is so focused on the big picture that he has made himself offensively myopic."
"He can't see the trees for the forest," Santana said wryly.
Kurt nodded. "Exactly. This is all an elaborate chess game for him, and he fancies himself the chessmaster. Despite his good intentions, the problem is that he doesn't recognize the pieces are actual people, and so while he feels compassion when he deems them necessary sacrifices, he believes the collateral damage to be worth the risk. That's what makes him so dangerous."
Quinn eyed him. "You believe that, as Dumbledore knew of this prophecy, he also knew the Potters would be targets?"
"Everyone knows the Potters were killed in Godric's Hollow, but no one knows exactly where. That suggests a Fidelius Charm. That charm isn't in the standard Hogwarts curriculum, not to mention that it requires a tremendous amount of power to cast."
He paused. "By all accounts, Lily was one of the most powerful magical practitioners of her generation, as well as a Charms prodigy. She could have cast the spell, but someone would have had to show her how. Flitwick, perhaps, but I'm betting on Dumbledore."
Quinn blinked. "A Fidelius? Wow." She frowned. "So that would make Black was the Secret Keeper? That's why he's imprisoned and labeled as a betrayer."
Kurt grimaced and nodded
Santana raised a brow. "As in the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black? A member of the Major Arcanum?"
She gave a low whistle. "How did I gloss over that before?"
"It wasn't important," Quinn said. "It still isn't. He betrayed the Potters."
Kurt had some questions about that, but held his silence and hid his doubts from their bond. He would discover everything that happened that night, but now wasn't the time. Regardless, he and Sirius Black were overdue for a chat.
"We need to get that ward down," Santana declared.
"I might be able to help with that," Sue Sylvester barked as she strode into the drawing room.
Augusta Longbottom was not pleased and let Amelia Bones know it. Unfortunately for her, Madam Bones had zero shits to give.
This had not been a good day.
Fudge was even more bumbling than usual; Dolores Umbridge had dropped by her office in an attempt to be menacing, failed, and left an unwelcome, lingering scent of litter box in her wake; Dumbledore had tried to Floo her first thing that morning, though she hadn't answered; and her niece Susan was Hogwarts-bound and far too excitable.
If she hadn't had so much respect for Filius Flitwick, she would have turned him to stone and placed him as part of that ridiculous statue in the Ministry atrium.
Harry Potter, the Harry Potter, the Heir to the House of Potter, the Vanquisher of Voldemort, and all-around Boy Who Lived was sequestered in a silenced conference room being guarded by four Aurors and Flitwick as she tried to figure out her next move.
That move would have to be implemented fairly quickly, lest Cornelius or the Frog stumble across the boy and make matters so much worse.
Their legend, their hero, had been abused by Muggles.
This was beyond a clusterfuck. Should knowledge of how the Potter boy was treated be leaked to the public, there would mass revolts and political chaos would ensue.
Amelia Bones wasn't prone to melodrama and she well knew the fiasco this could cause. Dumbledore would be vilified, perhaps rightly, by the press. The former Minister Bagnold was dead and thus beyond the grasp of the public's fury, but their anger would certainly carry over to Fudge, who had known of the boy's placement. Worse, he had approved of it, seeing no reason to rock the boat Dumbledore and Bagnold had set adrift.
This was one of Fudge's greatest inadequacies: he hesitated to action, content to rest on his laurels and allow others to make difficult choices. When those choices resulted in triumph, he reaped all the accolades; but should failure result, he shrugged off any blame, passing the proverbial galleon to the first available patsy.
In this case, that would be her. As Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, she was nominally in charge of overseeing the Magical Child Welfare Division. The connection was tenuous at best, but because the MCWD sometimes required the assistance of the DMLE, Amelia was tangentially its head.
She knew Cornelius Fudge believed she was his only likely opposition when it came time for reelection, and though she had no intention of running - at least not yet - she also knew Fudge wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice her to protect himself. She wasn't about to throw away almost twenty years of service and a sterling reputation because Fudge couldn't do his job.
She was disgusted by how Harry Potter was treated - outraged, in fact - but she knew she would do him more good by retaining her position and seeing those responsible for his treatment paid for their mistakes.
And they would pay.
She glanced down at the medical report before her, remembering how Flitwick, one of her favorite instructors, had flung it at her, snarling, when she had responded to his summons at St. Mungo's Hospital. She had never before seen the man so infuriatied and intimidating.
She gave a bland look at Augusta Longbottom and causally slid the report across the desk.
Augusta raised a brow and looked down at the offering, underwhelmed.
She had never cared for the Ministry, though she had once recognized its value, remembering the days when it served the public, rather than forcing the public to service it. She remembered Ministers who had been the salt of the earth, proud and dignified witches and wizards who served with honor but also knew when to exit the stage.
In the past half century, however, particularly the past twenty years, she had seen the Ministry for Magic turn away from its mission and devolve into a den of iniquity which granted itself overreaching powers, placing that power in the hands of the morally bankrupt and terminally stupid.
The Ministry had become a collective for those with illusions of adequacy.
She maintained her positions in the Wizengamot and on the Hogwarts Board of Governors primarily to inject a sense of dignity and decorum into their proceedings as she prepared Neville to take over the reins once he was of age. As his Regent, such was her duty to the House of Longbottom. Also, it was a fantastic way of keeping her eye on the undesirables, such as Lucius Malfoy and his ilk. She had a network of spies and informants which easily rivaled those of Dumbledore and Voldemort.
Augusta Longbottom was a proud woman, a busy woman, who had no time for nonsense. She frankly resented the summons which had brought her to the DMLE this day. She had a large respect for Amelia Bones. The woman was competent, magically powerful, and ethical - a rare combination in a Ministry employee.
She thought it rather unseemly that Amelia had placed herself front and center of the political game instead of behind the scenes, where a woman of her character could exercise real power, but she appreciated the gravity and moral center she brought to her position.
That said, she was unhappy to have been ordered to appear like a wayward child.
"What is this?" she demanded, tapping a fingernail on the folder.
"Read it," Amelia said.
Augusta narrowed her eyes. "Summarize its contents."
"I wasn't aware you were a functional illiterate, Augusta."
Augusta hid a smirk of approval, stared at Amelia for a long time, before slowly opening the folder. At the first page, her eyes widened. As she raced through the document, she felt all the blood in her head rush and pool in her feet.
"Is this accurate?" she hissed.
"I wouldn't waste your time or mine if it wasn't," Amelia barked.
Suddenly, Augusta gleaned Amelia's plan.
Amelia was not about to let this old crone dismiss the situation out of hand. "I don't believe you understand what's happening here."
"I understand more than you could possibly imagine," Augusta said. "There is no way I will have this child remanded in to my custody. He needs serious care, and certainly more than I can provide."
They argued for the next twenty minutes, Augusta being intransigent and Amelia being persistent. Finally, Amelia played her ace.
"Alice is the boy's godmother."
Augusta paled even further, this time with rage, visibly affronted that Amelia had the audacity to question her devotion to family. Yes, her daughter-in-law was indeed Harry Potter's godmother and, yes, Augusta had been negligent in following up on Harry Potter's care, but she was not about to accept responsibility for a physically and emotionally damaged boy. She had enough on her plate dealing with Neville and his wealth of inadequacies. She had no room for more.
"Alice is unable to care for the boy," she growled, "as you well know, Madam Bones, and though she is my son's wife, I will not be held accountable for the responsibilities she is medically unable to exercise."
Amelia leaned back in her chair and regarded Augusta with cool eyes. "You're suggesting that because Potter is not of your blood, you bear no responsibility for his care."
"Correct." Augusta knew she sounded heartless, but she would not be bullied into doing something she knew was ill-advised.
She was not a maternal woman. Frank had been a late-life pregnancy, conceived long after she thought herself barren, and while she was overjoyed at his birth and proud of his many accomplishments, she knew she had not been a very good mother. She had been abrasive and controlling, manipulative and emotionally unavailable. It wasn't that she didn't love her son with every fiber of her being, but that she had been too old and set in her ways when he had been born. Worse, she knew she was repeating her mistakes with Neville and had no idea how to stop herself.
It hadn't surprised her when Frank had married Alice, a woman who was the polar opposite of his mother. She had been taken aback by Alice at first, but had grown to love the woman fiercely, especially when they argued. Alice came across as meek and docile, but she had the heart of a lion, a true Gryffindor, and hadn't let Augusta get away with anything. Alice had been a check and balance Augusta had desperately needed.
She missed the woman as much as she missed her son, and knew both would be appalled by how she had raised Neville, though she had done the best she could. She knew it wasn't good enough, that she had damaged him, perhaps irreparably. She would not be found guilty of doing the same to Harry Potter.
Amelia gave her a measured look. "You might be Augusta, the Lady and Regent of the House of Longbottom, but you were born Callidora Black." She tilted her head. "I was very young when she was transformed into the woman who now sits before me, but I remember her and I've heard tell of how Black children were raised."
Augusta set her jaw.
"Toujours pur, oui?" Amelia asked. "Forever pure is the family motto, but it never meant what Walburga and her brood allowed it to become. She perverted the motto to suit her Pureblood agenda, but we both know that it references pure of heart."
Augusta said nothing.
"Apparently you have no heart," Amelia continued, "so allow me to put this in terms you can understand. First, you may have no legal duty to the Potter boy, but you most definitely have a moral one. Alice wouldn't have hesitated to step in and care for the boy, and you, as her current Head of House, bear the onus of her responsibilities."
She paused. "Don't forget that I knew Frank well. I was his supervisor when he and Alice joined the Corps. He would support me in this, would have supported Alice, and you know it."
Augusta curled a lip.
Amelia shifted. "Let us lay that aside for the moment, however. You bleat about how important family is to you, that you are protecting and ensuring Neville's legacy until he reaches his majority, but do not forget that Harry Potter is of your blood."
"His grandmother was Dorea Black, your cousin." Amelia raised a brow. "You were rather close, as I recall."
"Do not speak of her," Augusta warned.
It was then that Amelia realized Augusta shared her suspicions that Dorea Black Potter had been assassinated.
"But more than that," Amelia quickly added, "Sirius Black, also your kin, was named a Son of the House of Potter by Charlus and Dorea Black. He is also Harry Potter's godfather."
"Irrelevant," Augusta seethed, furious that her connection to that disgrace of a wizard had been spoken of, even in this private conversation.
Amelia hooded her eyes. "I did some discreet checking," she said with utmost nonchalance, "in the Book of Names."
Augusta's eyes widened to the size of dinner plates.
"Harry Potter was named by his godfather, Sirius Black, as Presumptive Heir to the House of Black."
"Impossible!" Augusta bellowed, rising to her feet.
Amelia stared up at her. "Oh, it is quite possible and very true. You well know that Sirius was named Heir by Arcturus, and though Sirius has been imprisoned, his status is unchanged. Walburga tried to disown him, but was unable, as she wasn't his Head of House. He cannot fulfill his duties, of course, but that takes nothing away from his title. He will remain in Azkaban for the rest of his natural life, but Harry Potter, on his seventeenth birthday, will become the Head of House Black."
She smiled. "Coincidentally, the day previous, your grandson will become the Head of House Longbottom. On that auspicious occasion, you will revert to being a Black."
"I am a Longbottom!" she screeched. "Now and forever!"
"In thought and feeling, perhaps," Amelia conceded, "but you are not a Longbottom by blood. Harry Potter, once he accepts his title, will become your Head of House."
Augusta promptly sat down. "You are blackmailing me."
"Not at all," Amelia smoothly said. "I'm merely reminding you of a few key facts. What you do with that information is, of course, entirely up to you." She hummed. "I would, however, be very interested to see how young Harry and Neville get along at Hogwarts. Will they, for example, be as close as their fathers? Will they possibly renew the alliance that once existed between their Houses, and, if they do, what would that mean for you when they learn of this moment?"
Augusta's face became a perfect mask. "Well played."
"I'm not trying to play you, Augusta," Amelia said firmly. "I want you to understand the consequences of your decision, of how very important this is. Harry Potter has a biological connection to you and a magical one to your daughter-in-law. Those connections will give the Wizengamot and Ministry very little pause in assigning him to your care."
Her face darkened. "Do not forget that you are not the only Black in existence. Think carefully about who else could make a claim for custody and of the ramifications that would result should one of them gain power over Harry Potter."
Augusta's breathing rapidly increased.
Narcissa, and thus Lucius Malfoy, could lay claim to the Potter Heir. That would be absolutely disastrous.
"Why not Andromeda?" Augusta demanded. "She is younger and, thanks to her husband, understands Muggle ways."
"A fair, if slightly offensive, question," Amelia said, "and one which as a ready answer. That answer you will repeat to no one under any circumstances." She dropped her chin and gave the woman an arctic glare. "Is that clear?"
Augusta suddenly understood why this woman was so feared. She nodded her acquiescence.
Amelia tented her fingers. "Harry Potter was raised by Muggles, yes, but much was omitted from his knowledge. Until today, he had no idea he was a wizard. He had no idea that magic was real and the magical world into which he was born even existed. He was told his parents were lazy drunkards who died in an automobile accident. He has no knowledge of magic, the wizarding world, his place within it, or the House of Potter."
Augusta leapt to her feet and began pacing.
"Unacceptable!" she furiously whispered over and over.
She then halted and turned on her heel, glaring down at Amelia. "Dumbledore."
"Yes," Amelia said gravely. "Now, tell me, Augusta, what would have happened had the LeStranges incapacitated you as they did Frank and Alice? What would have happened to Neville if his destiny had been placed in the hands of Albus Dumbledore, as that of Harry's was?"
Augusta gnashed her teeth. "I accept."