Just a preview of the next chapter. More to come soon, I hope. ^^


24 January 2004


The sights and sounds of Diagon Alley disappeared and were replaced almost instantly with the familiar view of the Great Hall. Sirius landed easily, his balance undisturbed after years of traveling via port key. His years of imprisonment hadn't been able to remove at least that bit of ingrained training.

His eyes flew to where Heero was helping Duo regain his balance. The American looked as cheerful as always, and so he moved on to make sure the others were doing just as well. Quatre was smiling a little shakily, but Trowa seemed to look as though traveling through nothing was as easy as falling off a log.

Wufei was crouched near Ron and Draco who had landed in a tangled heap, their balance thrown off after the shock of witnessing two deaths right in front of their eyes, no doubt. The girls on the other hand, seemed to be made of sturdier stuff. Ginny and Hermione stood next to the boys, awaiting everyone's next move.

Then his eyes met Jason's and he couldn't suppress the small pang of hurt that materialized in the pit of his stomach. It was odd seeing the other man after so many years. Of all the people Sirius had never wanted to disappoint in his life, Jason Armstrong was definitely one of them. Jason had rescued him from his father's beliefs and helped make him into one of the best Aurors of his time. He smiled – even if I do say so myself. That Jason had believed him capable of killing his best friends was almost as bad as Remus not believing in his innocence.

Enough speculation. Sirius turned his gaze away from the larger man, and focused on Minerva who was dusting off her robes. "Where do we go Minerva?"

"The Great Hall will suffice," Dumbledore spoke up from behind them. "There are far too many of us to all be seated comfortably in my office." His usual smile had been replaced with one far older and wearier, as though he were mentally preparing for battle. "The house elves are bringing refreshments. I'm sure most of you could use a hot drink."

Or a strong one. Sirius shook his head first, and then nodded. "Come on guys."

He began to herd the group through the main doors. Draco and Ron needed to be prodded a bit, but he got them moving. Jason followed slowly, watching them all with barely-tempered impatience. "Stuff it Jase, you'll get your explanation in a minute." He really wasn't in the mood to deal with the older mans crap yet.

His nerves were still wound up from the – not a battle, right? Jesus but it might as well have been – altercation. Seeing the pictures in his godsons apartment, hearing the stories, seeing the Preventors building – none of it had prepared him for the truth behind the words. And he would not soon forget the sight of his godson calmly checking the clip of his gun before sprinting headlong into sure danger. Christ, he could've been killed…

With that thought in mind, he glanced back to Duo, his eyes slightly narrowed. The longhaired boy had killed two men in cold blood and looked like he wasn't even thinking about his actions. Shooting one man – not a man, a Death Eater scumbag – off the roof of Madam Malkins store, and he didn't even want to think about the skill, strength and precision needed to throw a knife at a person with such accuracy AND without killing. This was the kind of person his godson loved?

His initial acceptance of them both hadn't wavered, but his assessment of them was undergoing a rapid rearrangement. He remembered talking to Dumbledore about getting proper protection for the boys and couldn't help but chuckle. It looked like the boys were going to be the ones protecting them.

Heero looked back at the sound, one eyebrow raised questioningly at Sirius's obvious amusement. Sirius shook his head and waved them on. He had no intention of encouraging the boy to take risks, after all.

They gathered around one of the large tables. Sirius recognized it as the one belonging to Ravenclaw, and saw that Heero had been the one to choose the location. He guessed it had something to do with avoiding the Gryffindor/Slytherin rivalry that was sure to break out if they had settled down at the Gryffindor table. It was good thinking – he hadn't even thought of that.

"When are my parents arriving?"

Draco's voice broke the stillness. It was quieter then Sirius remembered, the boy was probably still in shock, and his eyes darted warily around the table before settling on the headmaster.

"They're on their way Draco." Dumbledore briefly touched the boy's shoulder in a comforting gesture before taking his own seat. "They cannot apparate into Hogwarts but they can to Hogsmede. They will be here soon."

"But no one's going anywhere until I get some answers," Jason said gruffly. He remained standing watching everyone like they were all about to try and escape. "Starting with who you are, where you came from, why YOU – "he pointed at Duo and Heero. " – have muggle weaponry, and what happened down to the precise detail." He glared around the table. "Who wants to start?"

Big bluster. That would go over real well. Sirius rolled his eyes. Minerva frowned. "I hardly think your bullying tactics are required here, Mr. Armstrong. Regardless of what happened in Diagon Alley, they are still children, and not hardened criminals." Her eyes narrowed sharply, and Sirius was suddenly reminded of being on the end of that gaze during his school years. He bit back a brief surge of pity for Jason. Minerva pinned the Auror in place with her eyes. "Do try to be somewhat civil please. I remember you were such a polite and upstanding young man when you attended Hogwarts. I should hate to have to change my opinion of you now." Her voice, though courteous, was wrapped in layers of steel, daring him to defy her in any way.

Sirius stifled a snicker at the surprise on Jason's face before the large Auror deflated somewhat and nodded grudgingly. 

Heero sighed and stood up. "Where do you want to do this?"

Jason blinked at the boy in confusion. Heero scowled.

"It's standard procedure to separate the witnesses before interviewing them," Duo put in helpfully, giving the Auror a sunny smile. "You know, so we can't concoct alibis and stories and mess with each others perceptions of events." His eyes were wide with fake innocence.

Obviously Jason wasn't buying his sincerity. Sirius watched, amused as Jason tried to match Heero's scowl. " I know what the proper procedure is for muggles. But there's no point in any of you lying to me."

The animagus growled softly beneath his breath and sent a warning glare to his former boss. "They're too young to use veritasium on, so don't even think about threatening them with it."

"Please, Black." Jason sent him a withering look as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box. Opening it carefully, he withdrew a small glass orb and set it on a crystal stand on the table. Sirius nodded as he recognized the object and sat back. Hermione looked at it curiously.

"What's that?"

"A Truth-Ball," Jason replied. "Whenever one of you lies or tries to hide the truth from me, it glows. The strength of the glow reflects the strength and size of the lie you tell."

"You use this for minors or those who cannot be subjected to the spell Sirius mentioned?" Quatre asked, obviously wanting clarification. Jason nodded shortly.

"Veritasium isn't a spell. It's a potion designed to make you answer truthfully any question put forth to you." He gestured to the ball. "This is generally used on children, or young wizards and witches. They can't perform wandless magic, especially at such a young age, and do not have the power to keep the orb from detecting deceit. Older wizards and witches can probably trick it, which is why we have veritasium. But this is more then sufficient for you."

Sirius had to keep himself from grinning. Heero was rolling his eyes, and even Dumbledore and Minerva seemed amused. After all, hadn't Harry been in the process of refining his wandless magic skills before he….

Sirius blinked and pushed the memories away again. Damn, but he was getting good at the whole repression bit.

Jason was staring expectantly at Heero, who rolled his eyes again, and began to tell what happened.