AN: Standard disclaimer: Harry Potter and the associated rights belong to JK Rowling. I'm just playing with them!
Thanks to all my reviewers, favouriters and followers! A few quick replies to reviews:
Susan M.M.: Regarding the wills, James went through Hogwarts with Peter always there as a Maurader, so does remember him fondly. When it comes to the wills, as Peter was trusted to be Secret Keeper, he is close enough to be left something. However, if the Potters die because of the Secret Keeper's treachery, then he will lose the bequest. Yes, Lily never really trusted him, but remember she was friends with Severus and saw the problems the Mauraders caused him at first.
LittleBast; LilDevyl; Ann Jinn; AJ Granger: Some of your questions are answered in this chapter, others will have to wait, sorry!
Bensdad: I definitely wanted it to come across that Nagnok and the other goblins are having fun destroying Dumbledore!
Delatrix: I wasn't considering Susan Bones except as a periphery character, but may be able to work her in later. Doubt it'll be with Harry or Neville though, as I already have plans for them!
Now, on with the story!
Sirius gave a heartfelt groan, gazing at the three large files sat in the middle of Nagnok's desk. Given his mother's frequently and loudly expressed belief that Reggie would make a better Heir, Sirius had never paid much attention to the lessons on the Black family history and accounts which his father had made him sit through. Now it appeared that Nagnok was going to force him to learn everything he should have learnt as a teenager.
Nagnok grinned evilly (in Sirius' opinion, and more than likely in Nagnok's as well), and lifted a much slimmer file.
"To start, I believe that it is time for you to hear the Potters' Wills. Let us get started."
Tapping the scroll, Nagnok sat back as the parchment floated up to form lips. He discreetly refilled Sirius' glass, knowing that this man would find his emotions running wild before very long.
Amelia Bones gulped a glass of Firewhisky as soon as she reached her office. The revelations from Sirius Black that Dumbledore had known all along who the Secret Keeper was, and had (she suspected from the gaps in Black's memories) been somehow behind Black rushing off to track down Pettigrew, somehow both did and didn't surprise her. The further questioning that elucidated the information that it had taken Black several days to track down Pettigrew, yet only minutes for the Aurors to get his location and arrest him had thrown up more questions than it answered.
Why had Black suddenly been filled with the need for revenge after Hagrid collected Harry, yet taken so long to track Pettigrew? How had Hagrid, who was not permitted a wand or even to use magic due to his expulsion from Hogwarts, been able to convince Black to hand over his godson without question? How had the Aurors been prevented from finding Black until he had cornered Pettigrew, yet been able to be at his side in time to see the Muggle street blow up?
Amelia sighed. She needed to investigate these matters, but she would have to tread extremely carefully. Dumbledore was beloved by the majority of Wizarding society, and to accuse him publicly before all the facts had been gathered would be career suicide.
And she had to somehow convince Fudge that it would be in his best interests to immediately rescind the 'Kill On Sight' order for Sirius Black, and sign an official pardon and compensation agreement. She decided that it was imperative that this matter was handled first, so she gathered the Record of Black's questioning and the copy of James Potter's Will naming Pettigrew as Secret Keeper, and left to the Minister's office. During the short trip in the lift, Amelia made mental notes regarding exactly what she would need to get her trusted Aurors to investigate, and the need for absolute secrecy on this matter.
Reaching the antechamber, Amelia grimaced. That obsequious toad of an Under-Secretary Delores Umbridge was speaking to the Minister's overworked and underpaid receptionist, and Amelia really did not want to deal with the virulently-pink-dressed woman, especially with the revelations of earlier today shortening her temper.
Most of the Ministry staff could not stand Umbridge, however unfortunately Fudge was enamoured of Umbridge and her constant flattery, and could not be persuaded to remove or demote her.
Amelia sighed. In order to pass into the Minister's office, she would have to get past Umbridge without hexing the woman. Amelia decided that the best method of dealing with Umbridge was to ignore her, and so she caught the attention of the receptionist (who looked relieved to be able to turn away from Umbridge). Taking a calming breath, Amelia smiled and spoke quickly before Umbridge could interfere.
"Miss Boot, is the Minister available please? I have something of great and grave importance to inform him of, and it is essential I speak to him as soon as physically possible."
"Of course, Madam Bones, I believe Minister Fudge has some minutes before his next meeting. Please wait a moment while I inform the Minister that you are here."
Amelia nodded politely, and retired to the visitors' seating, organising her thoughts so that she could present the best case to the Minister and get Black cleared and re-instated as Lord Black. She ignored the 'hem-hem' -ing of Umbridge, and made sure to shut the door in the woman's face once the Minister was ready to see her.
Entering the Minister's office, the first impression on any visitor was the enormous desk clear of any papers and the short rotund figure of the Minister in his lime-green pinstriped suit. Most visitors were not impressed but the Minister failed to see this, instead assuming the expressions on their faces were awe rather than shock.
Amelia placed the file on Fudge's desk and stepped back in silence. The Minister glanced at the file marked Secret in large red letters, and back at Amelia. Given that the DMLE Head had not asked for an appointment in advance, this was clearly a major issue. Cornelius Fudge may be ridiculous and appeared ineffectual and dithering to most of the Wizarding World, but under the dreadful fashion sense lurked a conceited ego and a well-honed ability to pass the buck and avoid any flaying in the press.
"Madam Bones, how can I assist you today?"
"Minister Fudge, I have recently come across information regarding the Secret Keeper of the Potters, the actual details of that night and the following week, and also details regarding the now Lord Potter's residence since then. It is imperative that not only something be done about this matter, but that certain information be disseminated to the wider public as soon as physically possible.
To that purpose, I have some information to give you, several pieces of paperwork which you are required to sign, and I must check your office for security purposes, if you will permit me."
Amelia did not give the Minister a chance to argue, before raising her wand and beginning to scan the office and the Minister's person for Listening Charms, Animagi and anything else she could think of. Having negated three Listening Charms (one placed on the Minister himself) and one Recording Spell, and placed strong Privacy Wards, Amelia returned to the seat in front of the desk, and waited patiently for the Minister to recover from both the shock of the topic, and the discovery that somebody (or several somebodies) had been spying on the Minister. Finally the Minister's face settled, and his mouth opened.
"Information? I already have the 'Kiss On Sight' order spread across the Wizarding world, there's no way Black can escape. Then young Mr Potter can rest easily at night knowing that his parents' betrayer is finally gone."
Amelia sighed, and settled on the chair in front of the desk to explain, as simply and quickly as possibly, exactly what she had learnt since the first approach by the goblins regarding this matter.
"No, Minister, you need to rescind the 'Kiss On Sight' order immediately, as Sirius Black was not the Secret Keeper at the time of the Potters' deaths. Indeed, I have here not only the Potter Wills stating that fact, but also Lord Black's memories of that night, along with a confession from the true betrayer, Peter Pettigrew. I have also questioned Lord Black under Veritaserum, and he is innocent of any wrongdoing or culpability in the matter.
Lord Black did not receive a trial at the time of his capture, thus will require a short formal questioning session in front of the Wizengamot in order to convince the public and members of the Wizengamot of his innocence. I have provisionally arranged this for tomorrow morning, since we must get this error corrected as soon as possible. Obviously we have the record of the questioning I conducted earlier, but corroboration will no doubt be required."
Amelia paused, took a sip of water and waited for Fudge to catch up. Luckily, the Minister was fairly quick-witted if he could see a way to blame somebody else for the error, and his mind was indeed working overtime right now.
"So, the previous administration threw a Noble Lord into Azkaban without due process, thus almost ending a Pureblood House?"
Amelia nodded, reflecting that surely any actions taken by Fudge could only assist the Potter/Black cause, since Fudge would be determined to ingratiate himself with both Lords and avoid blame being attached for Black's time in Azkaban.
"Indeed, Minister. Thus we must act swiftly to correct this miscarriage of justice, and then also check all details regarding every inhabitant of Azkaban, as we don't want any more problems.
Now, I have here a brief statement for the press, merely confirming that new evidence has been brought forward in the case of Sirius Black and the death of the Potters and that the Order to Kiss On Sight has been cancelled completely.
If you could sign here on this form, and this, and this one, I shall inform the Aurors of these details, and also notify the Wizengamot, Lord Black and Lord Potter as Heir to the House of Black of the date and time of the questioning. Naturally only certain members of the Press will be permitted into the hearing, and all quills present will be be-spelled to write only the truth."
Amelia held up a swift hand and masked her inner amusement as Fudge stirred upon hearing the words 'Lord Potter', and proceeded with the rest of her planned statement.
"Harry Potter is indeed now Head of House Potter, emancipated by his entry into the TriWizard Tournament, and there are many issues coming to light because of this, mostly regarding his previous placement, treatment by his guardians both Muggle and Magical and the mismanagement of his accounts. Most of this is being handled by Gringotts, with careful collaboration by myself and some trusted Aurors along with the Guardian named in the Potter Wills, in order to preserve the secrecy and privacy of Mr Potter until the last possible moment. Mr Potter is determined that action will be taken against those who used him for their own ends, but has asked that very minimal information be given out, so that nobody can be accused of affecting the outcome of any action. He is worried that any obvious signs of assistance from within the Ministry could endanger people both politically and socially, not to mention the inherent dangers of Death Eaters.
Now, regarding Lord Black and the long overdue trial, shall we say 10am tomorrow? Obviously Mr Potter as an emancipated minor can leave Hogwarts for a day as long as he has the permission of either the Headmaster or the Minister. I have taken the liberty of drafting a short missive for you, requesting Mr Potter's presence in the Ministry, along with Professor Severus Snape who has provided one of the corroborating memories regarding Peter Pettigrew's survival and confession of guilt."
Fudge fish-mouthed for a second, then seemed to regain his wits enough to start signing documents confirming and permitting whatever Amelia felt necessary to discover the full extent of the exploitation of two Noble Houses and the mismanagement of the vaults connected to those Houses.
Amelia Bones stepped out of Minister Fudge's office forty-five minutes after entering, feeling pleased and amused with her actions. Without actually informing the Minister of much at all, she had secured Black's future, removed any hope the Minister may have had of using the Boy-Who-Lived as a tool, and potentially turned Fudge into a supporter of what she could sense would be a formidable team of Black, Potter and Snape for Wizarding politics, society and a prosperous future.
Now to get all the notices sent out for the questioning tomorrow, and ensure that only Aurors she personally trusted were to collect Black from Gringotts and escort him to Courtroom 10 for the questioning.
Among the letters to be sent out by secure owl was one to Senior Accounts Manager Nagnok, which contained only the words "Tally-ho, old bean!"
The next step, thought Amelia, as she watched the last owl leave, is to begin pulling together all the information regarding Albus Dumbledore's involvement in the events surrounding the Potters. And most especially the Prophecy currently residing in the Department of Mysteries that Severus Snape had requested Harry and he be permitted to view as soon as convenient.
This was the first that she had heard of any Prophecy, yet apparently it was this Prophecy, spoken to Albus Dumbledore by Sybil Trelawney and taken to Voldemort by Severus Snape (supposedly) which had kick-started the situation which resulted in the Potters' deaths and the Boy-Who-Lived scenario. Amelia sighed. Divination, she felt, was not a clear science, and if Harry Potter had become an orphan because Dumbledore had interpreted a Prophecy wrongly, Amelia would be glad to charge him with endangerment leading to death.
And just how had the Prophecy made its way to Voldemort? Severus claimed that despite the evidence provided by Dumbledore that he had been a spy, he would never have joined Voldemort, as he had been exploring the possibilities of utilising Potions against the Dark Magic practitioners. The amount of spells that had been stripped from Severus at Gringotts, it was possible that some mind manipulation could have been done. As Severus was well-known as a Master of Mind Arts, it would have to have been done at a time when Severus' defences were already down. Perhaps after an injury at some time, while he was in Hogwarts hospital Wing.
Dumbledore, it all seemed to come down to Dumbledore. Perhaps, mused Amelia, she should look into his background as well, and his defeat of Grindelwald, to see what exactly had been going on. Maybe his manipulations had been going on longer than just the last fifteen years.
Meanwhile, at Gringotts
Sirius and Nagnok had listened in silence to the Potter Wills, only broken by the sobs of Sirius as he heard first his bond-brother and then his sister-in-law dictate their love for their friends and relatives. A broken laugh was surprised from him at Lily's order for him to bond with Remus before the notoriously danger-prone Black could mess things up again. Dearest Lily! She had never understood that the bond between the werewolf and the Grim Animagus was that of brotherhood not romantic love, too stuck in her honeymoon dreams of forever lasting happiness. Sirius was perfectly happy as a bachelor, and Remus had been too buried in his books to notice girls, or boys for that matter! Sirius hoped that had changed in the years since.
A fresh measure of Fire Whisky was poured into his glass as the Wills rolled themselves up and descended once again onto the desk, and he mopped his streaming eyes with the proffered handkerchief.
Nagnok shuffled some papers to give Sirius time to compose himself, then spoke.
"Regarding Mr Potter. As you have no doubt been informed, he is now emancipated, although still under the guidance of Professor Snape as he should have been from the start as he has little to no knowledge of the Wizarding World and his place within Wizarding Society. Mr Potter asks that you and Professor Snape assist him in learning all that he is required to know in order to take his place and Head of House Potter.
Mr Potter, however, had been residing with his mother's adopted sister Petunia and her husband Vernon from the time that Mr Hagrid removed him from your arms. I have been authorised to show you the Medical and Magical Scans of Mr Potter, be warned, it does not make for comfortable reading. It appears that the Dursleys attempted to dissuade, with vigour, Mr Potter from ever discovering the Wizarding World."
Another large glass of Fire Whisky disappeared rapidly after their perusal of the Scan records, then Sirius Black firmed his shoulders and visibly became Lord Black. Clearly, Harry needed someone on his side, and Sna – Severus was right, it needed to be someone who could work without being under Dumbledore's eyes.
"Right, obviously the Potter Accounts and Harry's health matters are being dealt with, what with you and Snape on the case. What else is there, besides the Black Accounts?"
"Mr Potter has authorised me to offer you on his behalf Medical and Magical Scans with particular emphasis on regaining your pre-Azkaban health, with any resulting costs being charged to Dumbledore. Mr Lupin has already accepted this offer and undergone scans and healing, as has Professor Snape."
Nagnok paused, and studied Sirius for a moment, before continuing.
"Regarding the Magical Scans of both Mr Lupin and Professor Snape, both had remnants of spells against each other from their days at Hogwarts, and Professor Snape suspects that we will find the same on you. Professor Snape believes that once cleansed and healed, the three of you should sit down and discuss honestly and calmly the events and actions during your shared time at Hogwarts, as he suspects that there will be differing recollections of many of them between himself, and Mr Lupin and yourself. He especially considers the events of your fifth year to require a lengthy conversation."
Nagnok paused, to allow Sirius to nod dumbly, confused by the sudden turn of conversation.
"Our Healers stand by ready to see you. I suggest that if you agree, we conduct the Scans and Healing before we tackle the full accounts of House Black. Since you are at present labelled as an escaped convict, you do not have complete access or decision-making abilities with regards to the House Accounts. However, naturally, you have full access to your personal vault including that bequeathed to you by Alphard Black I believe the investments you made before your incarceration have continued to increase your balance considerably.
Mr Lupin has been informed of the Potter Wills and given his bequests, and I believe he has also attended Madam Bones to give full testimony to the incident in June last year."
Just as Nagnok finished speaking, a secure owl fluttered through the charmed window, and dropped two envelopes onto the desk. One was addressed to Nagnok, the other to Sirius, in Amelia Bones' clear authoritative handwriting.
Ripping open his letter, Sirius sagged with relief. His trial had been set for 10am the next day, and the Aurors he had met earlier would be collecting him from Nagnok's office at 9.30am and escorting him to the Ministry. Taking in a deep breath and steeling his shoulders again, Sirius met Nagnok's eyes and nodded.
"I, I guess that the Scans sound good. If I can be looking and feeling more healthy for tomorrow, that will help with the Wizengamot."
The way down to the Goblin Infirmary was long even on a quick cart, and Sirius found his mind revolving fruitlessly around the information he had gained from Nagnok and the Potter Wills. Although he had been receiving letters from and replying to Harry, both had stuck to the topic of the TriWizard Tournament, and avoided the topics of Dumbledore and mostly Harry's new relationship with Snape.
Harry had mentioned the incident with the Slytherins and Ravenclaws, and the possibility put forward by Fred that the younger Malfoy did not wish to be a Death Eater. Sirius had agreed that perhaps there was a way to ensure that Malfoy was protected, but cautioned that it could just be a trap, baited to catch the Boy-Who-Lived for some nefarious scheme.
Sirius had admitted to himself that his paranoia was fully-blown, especially after his stay in Azkaban, but only to himself. He had to present a mature and adult face to Harry, who needed someone to look after him, so couldn't burden Harry with his nightmares and fears. He resolved to ask Sna- Severus whether there were any Potions he could take, to enable him to get a better night's sleep and reduce his paranoia levels, once the Goblins had Scanned and Healed him.
As Sirius and Nagnok reached the Infirmary, they were greeted by Healer Turnhook.
"Well now, another one to be Scanned and Healed then? Right this way sir."
Healer Turnhook waved Sirius to the bed occupied by both Harry and Remus Lupin, and began laying out the rune stones ready. The parchment roll and quill was placed to the side, and the Healer began chanting in Gobbledy-gook.
Healer Turnhook started with the Medical Scan, knowing that Sirius had spent 12 years in Azkaban and one on the run and therefore needed his health taking care of straight away, before dealing with a Magical Core not only depleted by Azkaban but also probably damaged by insidious and secretive spell work.
The Scan took several hours, and Healer Turnhook was sweating by the end. The three rolls of parchment lowered themselves onto the bedside table, and Sirius sat up carefully.
"So, how bad is it?" Sirius said weakly, unable to joke through this, as his mind had been racing during the Scan with worry about Harry, the Tournament and Dumbledore.
"Well, obviously all injuries sustained during your Hogwarts time and your Auror career have healed well, however you have a untreated and now poorly healed break in your right ulna. It is dated from 6th November 1981, and I would assume you received it during the explosion caused by Pettigrew. Evidently you were not checked for damage by the arresting Aurors, nor did anyone check you for injuries or illness during your time in Azkaban.
You are malnourished and underweight as you know, so will need a two month regimen of very strong Nutritional Potions in order to bring you to some semblance of health, with a further six months of taking the standard Nutritional Potions. You also have been suffering from nightmares and memories, so will need a regimen of carefully used Dreamless Sleep along with other Potions to clear and calm your mind. Professor Snape would be your best resource on this matter, especially as he has a vested interest in your improved condition!
Your arm will have to be regrown, as it has healed incorrectly. Now, we have the Potion here, and it shouldn't take more than two hours. During that time, since you will be asleep, we will run the Magical Scan, and have the results and any plan of action ready when you awake.
I believe that Nagnok is willing to leave the matter of the Black accounts to tomorrow, as we are expecting a long discussion session over your Magical Scan, given the..."
The pause was oddly comforting to Sirius, as the goblin was clearly trying not to worry Sirius.
"Ah, issues which came to light with Mr Potter, Professor Snape and Mr Lupin. Now, if you will lie down again, and we shall begin your healing."
It was some time after 7pm when Sirius stirred, in the Infirmary deep in the bowels of Gringotts. The healing sleep that he had slid into aided by the gentle sleeping potion administered by Healer Turnhook had left him feeling somewhat refreshed, although he did not want to deal with the no doubt long list of spells and enchantments that he had been under. Especially with the trial and press interest of tomorrow.
A door closed with a click behind Sirius, and he turned to see Healer Turnhook pacing steadily down the room.
"Mr Black, I have completed all the healing I can do for you for now. Here is a list of the Potions you will need, and a week's worth to get you started. I suspect that Professor Snape would prefer to make the Potions himself, in order to keep both yourself and Mr Potter happy.
Now, Nagnok would like to see you in his office, he already has the Magical Scan record waiting for you to collect. Good day to you, Mr Black."
He escorted Sirius to the door, where the guard from before had apparently been waiting to escort Sirius back up to the offices level.
Nagnok handed Sirius a folder, and nodded politely.
"I believe that a discussion about your Magical Scan can wait until after your trial. Now, a good night's sleep will be best for you, and Healer Turnhook has included a mild sleeping draught for specific use tonight. I will owl you to set up an appointment for later this week, to go over your Magical Scan, and the Black Accounts. I will bid you good night Mr Black, and good luck tomorrow."
Sirius thanked Nagnok for his help, and walked out of Gringotts shakily. Remembering to reactivate his Glamour before stepping onto Diagon Alley, he Apparated back to Grimmauld Place, and slumped on the sofa in the library. A few minutes elapsed before Kreacher popped up near him to announce a Floo-call.
Sirius flicked the wand he had been using – one he had had made for him overseas during his 'recuperation' – at the library fireplace, and flames roared up. Then a face materialised in the flames, a face Sirius knew well.
"Remus! Come through, seems like we have a lot to discuss!" Sirius leapt from the sofa and strode to the drinks cabinet as the flames roared once again and Remus stepped onto the hearth-rug. Dusting off the soot, the werewolf gazed at his oldest friend, the man he had been told had betrayed his bond-brother, and felt yet again guilt and sadness over the whole affair.