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Steward of the House of Black
Chapter the Seventh
This chapter is not going where you think it's going (probably).
Steward of the House of Black
Chapter the Seventh
The ball was going strong. The original group of musicians had been replaced by a string quartet now playing with gusto. In spite of distractions, Remus found he was happy in the moment.
“Knut for your thoughts,” Alice whispered.
“I’m enjoying this,” Remus said after a long silence.
“The operation or the alibi?”
“I’m enjoying dancing with a friend who happens to be a very pretty woman,” Remus said.
“Thank you,” Alice said, pulling him a little bit closer.
“See anything?” Maud asked. The night was dark and as they approached the island, there were patches of fog.
“Nothing on two feet or four,” Daisy said from the prow of the Zodiac.
Maud sighed and swung the boat around in yet another lazy circle.
Narcissa walked silently on the flagstones of the hallway, any noise her bare feet made being muffled by the edge of Rowle’s cloak as it brushed the ground. She thought herself tall for a woman, but wearing the cloak of a giant like Thorfinn Rowle made her feel like a little girl dressed up in Mummy’s clothing. The thought made her giggle, which she immediately suppressed.
She almost passed by the cell where Sirius was incarcerated, this part of the cellblock being particularly dark, but she could make out something on the cot.
She reached inside her borrowed cloak for the key ring, fumbling with the keys until she found the right one. The mechanism of the lock made a ‘snick’ sound. It was now open, and could not be locked again without the key.
“Toujours Pur,” she whispered before turning around and leaving the way she came.
“Remus, who is she?” Alice murmured.
“I’m sorry, what?” Remus replied.
“The girl you’re thinking about when you’re dancing,” Alice said.
The pair continued waltzing around the ballroom floor.
“Marlene McKinnon,” Remus said quietly.
“I knew her, but not well,” Alice said.
“We had an understanding,” Remus said softly.
“And now she’s gone,” Alice said
Narcissa performed a chain of spells with Thorfinn’s wand, and then tucked it back into the holster on his wrist. She pushed his inert body up into the window frame, and with a final shove, out the window. She didn’t bother to wait for the sound of the body landing below, pushing the bars back into place with a satisfying snap as the mechanism locked.
She walked back to her cell, picking up her hairbrush and concentrating, pulling a silvery thread of something from her temple, and then dropping the thread into the chamber pot. She then pushed her own cell door shut, shuddering as the lock clicked.
Pulling the slip over her head she debated whether she wanted to soak first, or wash her hair. The desire for a soak won out, and she sighed as she sank into the cauldron.
The Grim was particularly haggard, almost as thin as a Thestral. His paws clicked on the flagstone, which couldn’t be avoided if he wanted to make speed, which he most definitely did want.
Thus far, all of the doors were unlocked. By his count of turnings in the stairwell, he should be on the ground floor by now. The Grim pushed a door open with his front paws and then carefully slid through the door before it closed again. He stopped in the shadows. A Dementor was approaching. The Dementor turned and the shadows beneath the hood seemed to be pointing his way. The hood then turned and the Dementor resumed its patrol, walking away from the Grim.
There, at the other end of the hallway, was a door leading to the outside. He could smell the sea beyond.
The Grim sat next to the door, listening to all the ambient sounds and analyzing the smells. While he thought there was no one waiting on the other side of the door, he wasn’t quite certain. He finally nudged the latch with his nose and then pushed the door open.
According to his reckoning, he was somewhere on the east side of the prison, which meant he had to go left if he wanted to reach the beach on the north side of the island. The ground was rocky, which gave him an advantage if he were to be pursued on foot, but not by anything flying – which doubled his resolve to cover ground as quickly as possible.
The Underwarden dropped by the muster room where the guards going on shift relieved the guards going off shift. He checked the sign-out roster for the departing guards.
“Where’s Rowle?” he asked the duty sergeant.
“He took a cauldron to Mrs. Malfoy so she could have a bath; he’s probably scrubbing her back as we speak,” the sergeant said with a smirk.
“Was that authorized?”
“It’s in the log book.”
“That sort of thing should be done by a matron,” the Underwarden complained.
“We’ve had no matrons on the duty roster for eighteen months, sir,” the sergeant replied. “Give him fifteen more minutes.”
The Underwarden went back to his office. Strictly speaking, he was off duty, but something about the evening bothered him. He tried to read for a while, but the nagging sense of unease prickled him. He grabbed a lantern and his keys and headed off to the upper levels of the prison.
He passed by Mrs. Malfoy’s cell. A flatbed cart was parked outside the door, and Mrs. Malfoy was in the cauldron, bending over to rinse her hair. He looked appreciatively at her pale shoulder blades and then walked into the next cell block, his pace picking up.
The cell door for Black’s cell was not quite closed. He knew it would be fruitless, but he searched the corners of the cell with light from his lantern.
Black was gone.
MoM – FLASH BULLETIN – DEPARTMENT OF MAGICAL LAW ENFORCEMENT- Begin
AZKABAN PRISON – per UNDERWARDEN SINCLAIR reports that prisoner SIRIUS BLACK is missing from cell block. AUROR THORFINN ROWLE is missing as well. AZKABAN PRISON is in LOCKDOWN with 100% check of all prisoners underway. Search of grounds of AZKABAN ISLAND has started.
MoM – FLASH BULLETIN – DEPARTMENT OF MAGICAL LAW ENFORCEMENT – Ends
Later in the evening, Alice was invited to play cards in a side room with Amelia Bones and Rufus Scrimgeour. Alice recruited Remus to play as well, hoping that it would dampen Madam Bones’s desire to talk her into returning to active duty as an Auror. When Remus entered the room, Rufus looked to Amelia, who shrugged and cut the cards, dealing out cards with practiced ease.
They played several rounds without much comment beyond the traditional second guessing at the end of a hand whether a certain card should have been played. Remus called this the ‘would-a, could-a, should-a’ ritual that was probably as old as card playing.
A fit young man discreetly appeared at the side of Madam Bones, placing an envelope in front of her. She dealt out the next hand and then opened the envelope, leaning back to read the message. She then passed the message to Rufus, who tossed his cards back down on the table.
“Crime doesn’t take a vacation,” Rufus said brusquely.
“Sir, madam, we must excuse ourselves,” Madam Bones said, retrieving the message and tucking it into her sleeve.
“Might I have one more dance?” Alice asked.
Remus nodded, and the two went back to the main ballroom, which was substantially less crowded at this hour.
“Do you think that means what I think that means?” Remus asked.
“That senior DMLE officials are called away?” Alice parried.
“Yes, that,” Remus said.
“Probably, but for form we should stay a bit longer just to establish the time a little more cleanly.”
“Of course, it wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that you’re toddler free for the moment and you love to dance,” Remus teased.
“That is a fringe benefit, Steward, I will grant you that. Daisy is right about one thing, by the way,” Alice said.
“Daisy is right about many things,” Remus said. “Which one are we discussing at the moment?”
“You really do smell nice,” Alice said.
“I can’t think of anything intelligent I can say in response other than ‘thank you’ so I’ll leave it at that.”
The Grim heard the gongs sound about the time he reached the north end of the island. He looked for any piece of cover he could find that would stand between him and the prison and then transformed into human form. He blinked for a few seconds and then summoned his will, pouring magic into the Head of House ring, releasing a Quaffle sized ball of light, sending it out over the waters. He was relieved to see a brief flicker of light in response from the water, which meant that it was his time to head down to shore.
Daisy saw the light a moment before Maud spotted it. Maud had the engine at a very slow idle, just enough to keep the boat from being blown away from the island by the South by Southeast breeze.
“Twenty degrees to starboard,” Daisy announced.
“Got it,” Maud said, opening the throttle so the little boat was running at top speed.
“He’s got company, why isn’t he transforming?” Daisy shouted over the sound of the motor.
“He doesn’t see them,” Maud said, reaching under her seat to grapple with something while keeping her other hand on the steering wheel.
Daisy transformed into a pale white wolf. The added mass of the dry suit seemed to be reflected in the transformation as the wolf was a little more stocky than usual. Maud came as close to shore as she could without running aground.
Daisy paused on the edge of the boat. The man was just now recognizing that he had three Dementors vectoring in to intercept him before he reached the water’s edge.
One of the Dementors dove for Sirius, grabbing his heel as he ran, sending him tumbling into the surf. Daisy leapt from the boat, clearing over Sirius’s prone body, charging chest first into the second Dementor. Daisy’s jaws grabbed ahold of something under the Dementor’s hood and the Dementor’s wail drowned out the howl coming from Daisy’s throat.
The first Dementor scrambled after Sirius, flipping him over so as to grab for his head. The Dementor’s hooded head dropped over Sirius’s face.
Daisy turned and transformed on the fly. “No!” she screamed as she grabbed the Dementor’s shoulders, pulling him off of Sirius. “Mine!” she shrieked, grappling with the Dementor’s throat.
Maud took this opportunity to stop the boat, idling the engine, and grabbed Sirius by the hair, dragging his limp body into the boat. The third Dementor swept over the water, approaching Maud and Sirius. Maud did nothing, letting the Dementor close the gap until it was slightly out of arm’s reach. She then raised a flare gun in her off hand and shot the Dementor in the face with a fusee round.
The third Dementor screamed as the incandescent round consumed its head in a ball of fire. Daisy threw the second Dementor above the high tide mark on the beach, pivoting to jump into the Zodiac as it skimmed parallel to the beach, building up speed before turning out to open waters.
The Dementors gathered, surrounding the Dementor who had been burned by the flare gun. After a silent deliberation, they floated uphill to the prison.
Sirius was in the bottom of the boat, moaning.
“Daisy, you okay?” Maud called.
“I’ll live,” Daisy said. Her hands and face burned from where she’d been grappling with Dementors.
“Well?” Emil said to the first mate, who’d been watching the beach through binoculars from on top of the cabin.
“Package is picked up, do you want me to head closer?”
“No, we’ll stay clear for the moment. Is everyone okay?” Emil asked.
“Don’t know – that girl must be crazy, she grabbed a Dementor and was throttling it,” the first mate said.
“In a fair fight that ‘girl’ could take either of us apart if she had a mind to. Tell Bina that we may have casualties,” Emil ordered.
“Aye, sir,” the mate said, jumping down from the cabin roof to go below deck.
The Underwarden was fuming. The body of ThorfinnRowle had been found outside the prison by a team of guards sweeping the grounds. The body appeared to have fallen from a great height, but given his size and his thatch of blond hair, it was an easy enough body to identify. The body was left in place for the investigators. He knew better than to muck with a crime scene.
The Dementors had made a jumbled report that Sirius Black had escaped by boat and that two of their number had been injured, but the Underwarden wasn’t quite certain that he rightly understood that part of their report.
The crew of the ferry were rousted from the barracks and an improvised mission was launched. At the request of the Dementors, a trio of the dark beings shuffled onto the ferry and then took up positions on the top of the cabin.
Emil watched from the cabin as his crew skillfully used the aft crane to hoist the Zodiac. Ten minutes later, he saw an absurd lime green ferry skimming over the water at great speed. Given the speed that the obviously magical boat was capable of traveling, the chance of outrunning the boat was slim. The first mate entered the cabin.
“Yes, I’m already aware that the British have sent a boat. Please ask Bina to pump enough stimulants into our special guest that he can become an absurdly large dog. Our story is that we were assisting the Home Guard in a training exercise. Have the ladies and the dog stay above deck, but keep them all as warm as possible.”
“Aye, captain,” the mate replied.
It was nights like this that kept Emil from retirement. Who needed to slay dragons when you could grab the beard of the British Ministry of Magic and tug with impunity?
Bina poured several potions into Mr. Black, including one that made steam pour from his ears. Mr. Black sat up and then melted into the form a giant black dog, usually an omen of death.
“Ahoy, vessel,” Emil heard a magically amplified voice call from the ridiculous green ferry. “We are police in hot pursuit of an escaped prisoner, prepare to be boarded.”
Emil kept the diesel engines turning, but the ship was not moving for the moment. His smile faded when he saw the three Dementors standing on the roof of the ferry’s cabin.
A great booming horn then sounded, followed by the unmistakable sound of ship engines being spun up. A blinding spotlight erupted in the night, cutting a swath of light between Emil’s ship and the Ministry ferry.
“Ahoy, putrid green boat,” a voice sounded from a high wattage speaker. “This is the ship Andromeda of the Danish Home Guard, conducting a training mission. I see that you have brought demon monsters from your prison into Danish waters. Is the British Ministry abrogating its solemn treaty with the Crown?”
There was confusion on the deck of the ferry.
“Ahoy Andromeda, we are not abrogating the treaty, but we are in hot pursuit!”
“Who are you pursuing?” the voice asked from Andromeda.
“The mass murderer Sirius Black,” the Underwarden answered.
“Is this Sirius Black a young adult male?”
“I see two women and a dog on the aft deck of our training ship,” Andromeda called.
“We intend to board and search the ship,” the Underwarden announced, his confidence gaining.
“You have brought demon monsters into Danish waters. If you board that ship, I must regard it as an act of war against the Danish crown,” the voice from Andromeda boomed.
“We are boarding the ship,” the Underwarden shouted back in reply.
Emil heard an order given on the deck of Andromeda. The booming chatter of a large caliber machine gun stuttered out twenty tracer rounds in front of the ferry.
“The next rounds will go below your waterline,” the booming voice from Andromeda announced.
The ferry stopped dead in the water.
Emil signaled the pilot to engage the engines with a course back to Tórshavn. He’d let his friend from the Danish Navy entertain the British Ministry. He wasn’t getting paid enough to start a war this evening, but he had thoroughly enjoyed the performance.
The ferry turned about slowly and headed back to Azkaban Island. The spotlights of MHV 809 Andromeda were extinguished, and nothing more was heard from the ship, other than the thrum of the engines as it receded into the darkness.
The outbound Apparation point at the Ogden estate was a gazebo next to a pond. Across the pond was a formal garden, and then beyond that were the stables. Remus walked Alice to the gazebo.
“Thank you, Steward, for a lovely evening,” Alice said, extending her hand. Remus bowed and kissed the back of her gloved hand.
“The pleasure was mine, Ma’am,” Remus replied.
Alice gave a covert wink and then disappeared.
Remus disappeared soon afterward.
By plan they both took separate routes, Apparating to various locations before meeting up at the lodge.
Tony was waiting in the great hall of the lodge, reading by the fire. He rose when Alice and Remus entered the hall.
“You’re smiling,” Remus said.
“That I am,” Tony said. “Mr. Emil called on the office telephone. Our Lord Black and Miss Daisy are having some medicine.”
“And your Maud?” Remus asked.
“My Maud shot a Dementor in the face with a flare gun,” Tony said proudly.
“Not many people can say that,” Alice said dryly.
“Mr. Emil said that he’d drop them off at the agreed location tomorrow, as the two younger ones aren’t fit for magical travel,” Tony said, nodding at both of them before leaving the hall.
Alice turned to Remus.
“I really did enjoy myself,” Alice said. She opened her arms and pulled Remus into an embrace. “Goodnight, Remus.”
When Alice returned to her room, Augusta was waiting for her. Alice wordlessly sat down and Augusta began unpinning her hair and then began the process of getting her out of the dress.
“Mimsy,” Augusta called.
“Madam called Mimsy?” the elf replied.
“A very small sherry and a cup of hot lemon water,” Augusta requested.
“Very good, Madam” the elf said.
“How do you feel?” Augusta asked.
“Like I’ve just run an operation,” Alice said. “Only I didn’t have to worry about getting shot, stabbed, hexed, or cursed.”
“Ministry events are known to be rather tame,” Augusta say wryly. “It’s parties with some of the older families where you can reasonably expect stabbings, hexes and cursing, but rarely any shooting; too Muggle don’t you know.”
Alice leaned back against Augusta.
“Thank you, Mum. Neville okay?”
“Evidently I don’t read stories with the right voices,” Augusta said. “So what happened?”
“At the ball or at the beach?”
“Tony already filled me in on what happened at the beach. He seemed so delighted that his dear wife was capable of such violence,” Augusta said.
“She was raised up north,” Alice said. “She lost family to the Dementors.”
“That would explain it then,” Augusta said.
“The ball had several different things going on. I was surprised at how much family business was being transacted. Madame Bones was trying to get me to come back to work, which isn’t going to happen. The usual scolds were watching me, looking for anything that could be used in a whispering campaign. If they could, I swear that they’d get out rulers to see how close I was dancing with Remus,” Alice said.
“You maintained the proper distance?” Augusta asked, brushing Alice’s hair.
“For most of the dances,” Alice said. “I feel bad that I enjoyed myself with Remus.”
“It was Frank who died, not you, dear,” Augusta murmured.
“But I was enjoying it,” Alice protested.
“You are a healthy, vibrant young witch, dressed to the nines, with a well-dressed, well-mannered, very attentive wizard, of course you were enjoying it,” Augusta responded.
“But I love Frank!” Alice moaned.
“Of course you do, dear,” Augusta murmured. She continued brushing Alice’s hair. “Remus is a very good man who has been treated in a very shabby manner by our people.”
“Very true,” Alice said.
“He needs a reason to stay,” Augusta said.
“He told me once that the only reason he hadn’t left yet was because he had friends. Then Lily and James died, and Sirius was tossed into Azkaban,” Alice said. “Wait; are you encouraging me with Remus?”
“You’re too young to be a life-long widow, Alice,” Augusta said. “See where things stand after your year of mourning, but don’t wait too long, because I see how young Daisy looks at him.”
“I don’t think I have to worry about Daisy ,” Alice said with some confidence.
“She won’t always be awkward and skinny,” Augusta said knowingly. “I remember another awkward, skinny girl who caught my son’s eye when he was at school, she turned out to be quite bright, beautiful, and capable, but then again, she is related to my brilliant grandchild, so perhaps I’m biased.”
Mimsy appeared, bearing a tray with a sherry glass and an earthenware mug.
“Thank you Mimsy, I think we’re good until morning,” Augusta.
“Mimsy will be retiring then, Mistress,” the elf said.
Alice wrapped her hands around the mug, thankful for the warmth. She had a lot to think about.
Life at the hunting lodge continued as before, with a difference; Sirius Black was now in residence. The pack members paid measured deference to him, a nod here, a slight curtsey there, but otherwise went about their duties. Daisy spent most of her time as a wolf in the weeks after the rescue, except for her daily lessons with Augusta (reading and writing) and Alice (Charms and Transfiguration). Her tumble with the Dementors had left her with first and second degree frostbite on her face, hands and arms. The healer had said she should have no scarring, but she still felt self-conscious about the discolored skin. Sirius had similar discoloration on his face, which became all the more evident now that he was shaving again.
Horses were purchased, which gave Sirius an excuse to be out and about on the grounds. If anyone noticed that the intense young man on horseback was sometimes followed by a pale white wolf, they had the good sense to keep their observations to themselves.
Rufus walked stiffly into Madame Bones’ office. He hadn’t had a lot of sleep in the last week.
“So what do we know?”
“We haven’t a clue as to where Black is,” Rufus began. “He may or may not have been picked up by a Danish flagged boat. The Danish Ministry of Magic is being particularly uncooperative, which is to be expected, given that Underwarden almost started a war when he brought Dementors into Danish waters. The Home Guard Ship Andromeda had a Captain aboard who is known to be part of the Danish Ministry of Magic’s intelligence apparatus, but I’ll be hanged if I can find any connection between the Black family and the Danes.”
“I wish Alice was here, she’d be able to find it, if there was anything to find,” Amelia Bones said.
“You and me both, we lost two of our best investigators when we lost the Longbottoms,” Rufus growled.
“She may come back to us yet,” Amelia said.
“I don’t think so,” Rufus said.
“What about Rowle?” Amelia asked.
“As usual, indications are that he was dirty, but again, nothing tying him to Black, other than the Death Eater connection, which we were never able to prove,” Rufus said. “He was probably rogering Mrs. Malfoy, or some other female prisoner. The last spells found on his wand were Imperio , a charm for female lubrication, a charm for male enhancement, and an Obliviate .”
“He’d checked out a bathing cauldron and delivered it to Mrs. Malfoy. When the guards finally got around to checking her cell, she was still soaking in the cauldron. The investigator says she’d been memory charmed in some fashion. We didn’t have any grounds for doing an invasive search, so all we know now is that someone did something, recently,” Rufus reported. “No signs that Rowle unlocked Black’s cell. We did find evidence that he’d been pushed from a window, but all of the guards have keys that can unlock the grates on the windows, and Rowle wasn’t exactly popular with his peers.”
“How’s the Underwarden?” Amelia asked.
“He knows that he’s not getting promoted to Warden anytime soon,” Rufus chuckled. “His paperwork is flawless, so it’s not likely that he’ll get fingered in the report of investigation; he was doing the best he could, given the scarce resources he had available. The only thing he can be faulted on is taking the Dementors on the ferry, and international sensitivities aside, that’s not something the Wizengamot is likely to criticize.”
“So, Black is loose, we have no idea how he got out, no idea where he is, a probably dirty Auror is dead and we don’t know who did it,” Amelia said.
“That pretty much summarizes things,” Rufus said.
“Go home, Rufus,” Amelia said. “I don’t want to see you for three days. When you come back we can start prioritizing, but I think we can keep the chaos stirred without you for a day or two.”
“Thanks, Boss,” Rufus said. “I wonder if my wife will recognize me?”
“I’ll send her an owl,” Amelia quipped. “Let her know that you’re coming. Three days, no work, got it?”
“Got it, boss,” Rufus said.
Sirius Black was spending most of his time out of doors, sometimes going so far as to sleep outside, which wouldn’t be remarkable in the summer, but was considered a bit odd for Wales in March. Today was sunny, a rare enough occurrence in March, and he was sitting beneath a tree overlooking the paddock where the horses grazed.
“You can come out now, Daisy,” Sirius said cheerfully. “I don’t particularly like being stalked.”
“I wasn’t stalking you,” Daisy said defensively. “I was just being quiet.”
“What’s on your mind?” Sirius asked.
“I feel so stupid,” Daisy said.
Apparently that was a complete statement, because she offered no additional explanation.
“Okay, give me some help here, when and where are you feeling stupid?” Sirius asked. “I’ve got years of experience being stupid, just ask Remus.”
“I can’t ask Remus, he’s always too busy .”
Daisy plucked a strand of wild grass, peeling the leaves from the stalk.
“Reading is hard ,” Daisy groaned. “Miss Augusta says I’m almost reading ‘on level’ and now she’s trying to teach me French . When am I going to need to talk to a Frenchman? We live in Wales.”
“I want a wand and I want to learn wandless magic. I have a hard time doing magic with Miss Alice’s wand,” Daisy said.
“I can probably help you with the first, but not much with the second,” Sirius said.
“Remus says I can’t buy a wand until I qualify for at least one OWL,” Daisy complained.
“He’s right and he’s wrong. If you bought a wand from a licensed wand maker before you earned an OWL, you’d have the Ministry Trace, which is never a good thing. If you made a wand, however, the Ministry would be none the wiser,” Sirius explained.
“What about wandless magic?” Daisy asked.
“I can do exactly two things wandlessly,” Sirus said.
“I’ve seen you do lots of magic without a wand,” Daisy objected.
Sirius raised his hand, displaying the Black signet ring.
“This lovely head of house ring is a magic focus, almost as good as a wand,” Sirius said.
“So what can you wandlessly?” Daisy asked.
Sirius sighed. Using the ring he summoned two bottles of ginger beer from the kitchen. He then took off the signet ring and handed it to Daisy, who held it in her open hand.
“Nothing up my sleeves,” he said theatrically as he passed his hand over the bottles. The caps of both bottles fell to the ground. He picked one bottle up and handed it to Daisy.
“Thanks,” she said, taking a pull from the bottle.
“What’s the other thing?” Daisy asked.
“That one’s probably not a good idea to share,” Sirius said.
“C’mon, you can show me,” Daisy said. “Please?”
Sirius rolled his eyes. He then gave a slight tilt to his hand.
Daisy startled and then shifted her shoulders.
“I’m unhooked, how did you do that?” she demanded.
“Magic,” Sirius said, wiggling the fingers on one hand.
“You’ve done that to other girls?” Daisy asked, her voice gaining volume.
He never saw the slap coming.
Given the way stars were shooting across this vision, he was glad she’d hit him with an open hand, but this was probably not the time to discuss rules of engagement for unarmed combat with a very angry witch.
He looked down to see a pale white wolf trotting off towards the woods. On the ground were her clothes. At his feet was the signet ring.
He picked up the ring and then carefully folded the clothes. He might be ‘Lord of the Manor’ but even he knew he was in trouble now.
Remus doubled over with laughter.
“Sirius, you know that little voice at the back of your head?” Remus began.
“Yeah, the one that sounds suspiciously like you?” Sirius said.
“Yeah, that one. Did the little voice say that this might be a bad idea?”
“Well, yes, but she did ask me to show her the second bit of wandless magic,” Sirius said with all the contrition of a school child caught in the cookie jar. “Why was she so mad?”
“You’re asking me for relationship advice?” Remus asked, still chuckling.
“You work with a lot of teens,” Sirius said.
“Yes, I teach them Charms, Transfiguration, Runes, and Arithmancy,” Remus said. “That doesn’t mean that I understand how they think.”
Remus pushed back in his chair and looked out the window. He made an origami crane and then tossed it out the window where it fluttered away.
“What’s that?” Sirius asked.
“I figured that would have more class than yelling ‘Yo, Maud, come on up here’ which I would only attempt if the house were on fire,” Remus explained.
There was a knock at the door. Without waiting for an answer the door pushed open, exposing Maud’s broad face. She was dressed in flannel shirt, overalls and muddy Wellington boots. Maud nodded to Sirius and then threw the crane back into Remus’s lap.
“You called, oh mighty bookkeeper?” she asked with a wink.
“Yes, Maud, have a seat, I don’t care that you’ve just come in from planting,” Remus said. “Sirius and I need you to enlighten us from a woman’s perspective.”
Maud raised one eyebrow skeptically as she sat down.
“It’s about Daisy,” Remus said.
“Oh, her,” Maud said. “What’s she done now?”
“It’s more what Sirius did,” Remus said.
Sirius explained what had happened, leaving no details out.
Maud listened with a rather stony expression right until the end, when she snickered.
“So you can do wandless magic,” she said.
“Two tricks,” Sirius said, holding up two fingers.
“Well, I’m not wearing one today, so don’t bother demonstrating,” Maud said. “So you’re wanting to know why she’s upset?”
“Yes, please,” Sirius said earnestly.
“She’s upset that you’ve been groping other women,” Maud explained.
“When I was young and stupid, I did stupid things,” Sirius said.
“Our Daisy is not exactly proficient in social graces,” Maud said. “Which, when you understand that she really was raised by wolves makes sense. I’ll try to explain this very simply. Daisy is sweet on you.”
“On me? I thought she was sweet on Remus,” Sirius objected.
“Oh, she was,” Maud said. “That was before she fought a pair of Dementors for your soul. I reckon she thinks you’re hers, spoils of war and all that.”
“I had no idea,” Sirius said. “I think I need to go apologize to her.”
“Think hard, Lord Black, as to what you’ll be apologizing for,” Maud warned. “Well, as amusing as all this is, there’s work that needs doing, so I’ll be off unless you two need anything else.”
“Thank you, Maud,” Remus said.
“Oh, one more thing, Lord Black,” Maud said.
“Don’t be using that trick on Daisy again, unless your ring is on her finger and she’s taken your name. Have I made myself quite clear?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Sirius said contritely.
Maud left the office, closing the door behind herself.
“What would she do to me?” Sirius asked.
“She’d probably remove your testicles,” Remus said in a matter-of-fact tone. “If she was feeling charitable, she’d use a knife. You’ve got to realize that most werewolves can’t have children, so this entire pack is very protective of Daisy.”
“Right,” Sirius said. “I’ve got to figure out how to apologize to her without getting engaged.”
“Good luck with that Sirius,” Remus said. “Next time listen harder to the little voice.”
“Easier said than done.”
To apologize to Daisy, Sirius had to find her, which was very, very difficult when Daisy did not want to be found. After two days of very successful evasion, Sirius laid an ambush.
Daisy had regularly scheduled classes with Augusta and Alice, filling in the gaps in her education. After a lengthy explanation, Alice agreed to let Sirius wait in the room she used for tutoring Daisy in Charms and Transfiguration.
Daisy was on time, pushing the door open with her usual greeting.
“Hello, Miss Alice, I’m here to learn,” she said, and then she froze in the doorway. “Oh, it’s you.”
“Yes, it’s me,” Sirius said.
“I don’t want to talk to you,” Daisy said.
“I kind of figured that out, but I want to apologize to you, and that’s hard to do when you won’t let me talk to you.”
Daisy crossed her arms.
“What would you be apologizing for, Lord Black?” Daisy asked in frosty tone of voice.
“I shouldn’t have used that magic on you,” Sirius said.
“But you’ve used that magic on other women?” Daisy asked.
“When I was young and stupid, I did stupid things,” Sirius said.
“Will you be using that magic on other women in the future?”
“I will not use that magic on any witch unless she’s wearing my ring,” Sirius said. “Or some bizarre situation where it’s a matter of health and safety.”
“I have your word on that?”
“You have my word.”
“Apology accepted, now please get out of here, Lord Black, I have a lesson scheduled,” Daisy said, looking to Alice for support.
“Actually, Lord Black is part of today’s lesson,” Alice said. “We’re learning about wands and magical cores and how to choose materials for a wand.”
“Really?” Daisy asked.
“Really,” Sirius said, opening a container holding many different samples.
“Well then, let’s get cracking,” Daisy said, sitting down.
Sirius was free, after a fashion, so long as he successfully avoided the agents and officers of the British Ministry of Magic, who had orders to arrest him and return him to Azkaban.
To be truly free, he needed to be tried before the Wizengamot, but the real showstopper was producing a living, breathing Peter Pettigrew. Alice, now separated from her connections at the DMLE, hadn’t a clue how to produce this particular rodent from any hat imaginable. Remus after several hours in consultation with the solicitor was equally stumped. Sirius, however, had some hazy notions that he was turning over in his mind.
What he needed now was magical research, which either meant the Hogwarts library, where he would be arrested on sight, or the Black Family library at Grimmauld Place, where he had to deal with the shadows of his past.
“I need to go to Grimmauld Place,” Sirius said.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Remus said, looking up from paperwork on his desk. “Last time I was there it was under surveillance.”
“I need the library,” Sirius said.
“Perhaps Daisy could walk her very well-behaved dog in the estate,” Remus said, pondering the details. “I’m okay with you going, but it has to be as Padfoot, and you need backup.”
“Can you go?” Sirius asked.
“Probably not a good idea; I’m followed by Aurors wherever I go when I’m in England, which is part of why I’m spending so much time in Wales,” Remus explained.
“Okay, I’ll go ask Daisy,” Remus said without much enthusiasm.
“I thought you patched things up with her,” Remus said.
“Oh, kind of; I apologized, and I helped her put together a working wand, which probably got me further than the apology,” Sirius said. “It’s still a little weird.”
“It’ll work out,” Remus said encouragingly.
“You want me to do what?” Daisy asked.
“I need you for cover and backup. I need to do some research in the Black Family library,” Sirius said.
“Anybody living there still?”
“Just an elf; Mumsie died while I was in Azkaban, it probably brought her so much joy that her heart couldn’t take it,” Sirius said.
“Do you have a leash?” Daisy asked.
“I think I can find something in the stables,” Sirius said.
“Proper dogs walk on leashes,” Daisy said knowingly.
“You’ve got your wand?” Sirius asked.
“Yup,” Daisy said, patting her sleeve.
“You’ll need to carry the Black ring to get into the door,” Sirius said.
“Okay,” Daisy said, palming the ring as Sirius handed it to her.
“Ready for side-along?” Sirius said.
“Do I have a choice?” Daisy asked, making a sour face. “C’mon, we don’t have all day.”
Daisy put her hand in the crook of Sirius’s elbow and they winked out of sight.
Daisy had gone shopping for this venture. She was wearing sunglasses, a cute hat with a turned up brim, a belted knee length trench coat in a pastel blue and dark slacks. Padfoot was in a smart collar with a six foot leather leash. He’d been brushed out and looked like a shaggy Cane Corso, only larger. Five steps into their walk Padfoot flopped over on his side, rolling on his back.
“Oh, does little Padfoot want his belly rubbed?” Daisy asked in sing-song voice.
She crouched and gave his belly a vigorous rub and then thumped his ribs.
“We’re clear,” she whispered. “There’s someone across the park, but we should be able to slip past them.”
The park that made up Grimmauld Square had enough shrubs that Padfoot was able to convincingly sniff and piddle on the majority of them. A double-decker bus drove on the street and Daisy took advantage of the screen it provided to dash up the walk to Number 12, pressing the signet ring onto a blank piece of ironwork above the door knob. She pushed the door open and slammed it shut as soon as Padfoot’s tail made it through the opening.
A shabby house elf appeared.
“Kreacher does not know the girl that carries the Master’s ring,” the elf said.
“Kreacher, listen carefully, I’m here on behalf of Black of Black. You are to tell no one that I’m here. I’ll be in the library, probably for hours,” Daisy explained.
“The girl has a dog that is not a dog,” Kreacher murmured.
“Kreacher, you are to tell no one that the dog who is not a dog is here either,” Daisy warned.
“Does the insolent girl who commands Kreacher need food or drink?” Kreacher asked, not making eye contact.
“No, but thank you for offering,” Daisy replied.
“Kreacher will keep an eye on the insolent girl and the dog who is not a dog,” Kreacher muttered.
Daisy took the leash off of Padfoot’s collar and walked into the house, taking care to not walk by the portrait that Sirius had warned her about. She walked through a sitting room and then down a hallway that led to the library. Once again she pressed the signet ring onto a piece of iron above the doorknob. After a moment of deliberation, the door unlocked and swung open. Daisy and Sirius entered the library. Sirius transformed, pushing up from the floor, shaking his head a bit.
“The old place is as charming as ever,” Sirius said. He held out his hand for the ring.
Using the ring he pressed the signet into plates on numerous shelves of books. In some instances a particular book glowed, and in others the appearance of the books changed, revealing different titles on the spines.
“The books over by the window are mostly safe,” Sirius said. “I recommend that you sit by the window while I look through the more obnoxious volumes. Even with the ring, some of these are just plain nasty,” Sirius explained.
Daisy took off her sunglasses, tucking them into the pocket of her coat, and then took off the coat and hat, draping it carefully on one of the chairs. She then found a large picture book of magical plants and animals and sat next to the window.
Sirius had a notion of which books might contain the spell work he was seeking. He went to where he remembered last seeing one of the books, only to find that there was a gap in the bookshelf where he’d last seen it, years ago. He turned away and examined another shelf, watching with his peripheral vision the spot where the missing book had been. He then turned suddenly, shooting a golden light onto the shelf where the book had been. The book appeared in the blank space and then fell off the shelf onto the floor.
“All right there, Sirius?” Daisy called.
“Just playing hide-and-seek with a book,” Sirius replied.
Sirius was beginning to get a little short tempered. The books were hiding from him, changing before his eyes into different languages and one book had a cover that absolutely could not be opened. Daisy had finished the book on magical flora and fauna and was now using her new wand to make one of the library chairs walk, coordinating the four legs until she could get an adequate gallop. Sirius walked back to the sitting room where Daisy was waiting.
“Any luck?” Daisy asked.
“The books are hiding from me,” Sirius said.
“Have you tried talking to them?” Daisy asked.
Sirius gave her a withering glance.
“Hey, it works with the horses,” Daisy said. “Give me your ring again.”
Sirius pulled the ring off his finger and handed it with a flourish to Daisy.
“All right, what book are you looking for?”
“The family Grimoire.”
Daisy slipped the ring on her right hand and rapped on the side of the nearest bookshelf.
“Okay, you books, listen up, Black of Black calls for the Black family Grimoire. Stand and deliver!”
The library was silent, then there was a murmuring followed by the sound of a book falling to the floor. Then there was a fluttering sound. A grey leather bound book hopped across the carpet in three foot jumps until it fell over in front of Daisy’s feet.
Daisy took the ring off and handed it back to an astonished Sirius Black.
“Your book, good sir,” she said with a wave of her hand.
Sirius put the ring back on and then picked it up, wincing as he did so.
“You okay?” Daisy asked.
“Kind of painful to touch at first,” Sirius said. “I’m all right now. I don’t recommend touching the book unless you have the ring.”
“Gotcha,” Daisy said “So, is that the book?”
Sirius opened the book, scanning inside. “I think so,” he said.
“Can we go now? This place is creepy,” Daisy said.
Sirius shrank the book and put it into a coat pocket. He then handed Daisy the ring back.
“You’ll need this to seal the door as we leave,” he said.
Sirius became a big black dog once again.
As they passed through the front hallway, Daisy noticed that a curtain, previously closed, was now open, displaying a full sized portrait of a sitting woman with a most unpleasant expression. She was glaring into the hallway.
“Filth,” she screamed. “Who are you to defile this house?”
Daisy put out her hand to indicate that Padfoot should remain.
“Who are you calling filth , old woman?” Daisy growled.
“I am the mistress of this house!” the woman screamed.
“You were the mistress of this house,” Daisy corrected. She brandished the signet ring.
“Where did you get that, thief? You are not worthy to touch that ring.”
Daisy extended the signet until it was covering the woman’s mouth.
“Black of Black entrusted me with this ring so that I might serve him this day,” Daisy said. “Who are you to question his choice?”
“I’m sorry,” the portrait muttered with a muffled voice.
“Yes, you are a sorry excuse for a mother. You drove one son away because he showed a streak of courage, and you drove the other to swear allegiance to a crazy wizard who killed him. Do you even know the meaning of Toujours Pur ?”
“We have been pure for generations, striving to protect what was ours,” the woman said defiantly.
“You didn’t do a very good job protecting the sons of this house. Tais-toi harridan !”
The portrait tried to speak, but no sound came from her mouth.
“By order of Black of Black, you will tell no one of what you saw and heard today. Am I clear?” Daisy asked.
The portrait nodded.
Daisy pulled the drape shut.
“Let’s get out of here, I don’t like this place,” she said. She hooked the leash on Padfoot’s collar and opened the front door.
“So, what did you learn?” Remus asked.
“Daisy may not have much education, but she’s one sharp witch,” Sirius said. “I was having problems in the Black family library, couldn’t find the right books to save my life. Concentrated little witch takes my ring, raps on the bookcase, calls for the book I was looking for, it jumps off the bookshelf, hops across the floor and plops itself at her feet. Mumsy’s portrait tried giving her lip; she gave it a piece of her mind and then silenced her. No one’s been able to silence that portrait, no one!”
“Any chance that she’s a Black?” Remus asked.
“She doesn’t look like one, but she’s certainly got the attitude. Something to look up once I’m a free man,” Sirius said.
“Speaking of which, did you find what you’re looking for?” Remus asked.
“Yup – I remember Great-Grandfather telling my father a story when I was little – really little. It’s right here,” Sirius said, opening the Grimoire on the table.
“ The Betrayer’s Summoning ?” Remus asked. “Really? That’s pretty specific magic.”
“If you knew our family history, you’d understand why it’s recorded in the book of Black family magic,” Sirius said. “Lots of infighting.”
“When can we do it?” Remus asked.
“Any time, actually, but this is another one that’s good during the new moon,” Sirius said. “We need a prime number of summoners, all of whom have been betrayed in some way. I think two godparents and a betrayed Marauder could fit that nicely.”
“Let’s talk to Alice,” Remus said.
“No time like the present,” Sirius said.
Checking his watch, Remus figured that Alice would be in the room she used for tutoring, most likely with Daisy as the student. He led Remus to the kitchen where he made a pot of tea and then they brought tea service to the tutoring room.
Alice opened the door.
“I don’t want you to write anything,” Alice began.
“Huzzah,” interrupted Daisy.
“But I do want to think of three different ways you can use this charm for the next lesson,” Alice concluded.
“Miss Alice, you have company,” Daisy announced.
“Gentlemen, please come in,” Alice said.
“Is this a good time?” Remus asked.
“I don’t have another student for an hour or so,” Alice answered.
“May I stay, Miss Alice?” Daisy asked.
“Why?” Alice responded.
“Well, Sirius is carrying his family Grimoire, so this promises to be an interesting conversation,” Daisy replied. “I am trying to learn things, you know, making up for lost time.”
“I don’t think that would be a problem, but you will need to keep this to yourself,” Sirius said.
“Won’t you come in and sit down?” Alice asked. She waved her wand in a broad circle and chairs slid in from the edges of the room until there was a circle of chair. With another wave, the posters on the walls became landscape paintings.
“A quick recap for all involved,” Sirius began. “Although most of Wizarding Britain thinks that I betrayed the Potters to the Pretender who calls himself Voldemort, I was tossed into Azkaban without any trial. A trial could clear my name, but my chances of victory go up if I can produce Peter Pettigrew at the trial, the real Secret Keeper, and the real traitor. Slightly complicating all of this is the very real possibility that I might be kissed by the Dementors before I even get through the doors of the Ministry of Magic to have a trial.”
“That’s a pretty fair summary,” Remus said.
“Thanks to the lovely and talented Daisy, known to the pack as ‘our Daisy’ I was able to find the Black family Grimoire. In the Grimoire is a particularly obscure bit of magic known as The Betrayer’s Summoning which does pretty much what it sounds.”
“How complicated is this magic?” Alice asked.
“It works best with multiple summoners, preferably a prime number. Each summoner must have been betrayed in some way by the person being summoned,” Sirius explained. Sirius pointed to Alice. “Friend of Lily, godmother to Harry, betrayed by Peter as Secret Keeper.” Pointing to Remus, he continued, “Friend of Lily and James, betrayed by Peter as Secret Keeper, betrayed by Peter when he was falsely accused as a follower of Voldemort to the Order.” Then Sirius pointed to himself. “Friend to Lily and James, godfather to Harry, betrayed by Peter as Secret Keeper and falsely accused as a betrayer by Peter to the public at large.”
“Put that way, you have some serious weight for this ritual,” Alice said. “Can you open the Grimoire, please, I want to read the details.”
Sirius enlarged the book to three times its normal size and then opened it to the page where the ritual began.
“Hmm,” Alice said. “We’re going to need something of the Betrayer. Too bad all of his blood is sitting in the evidence locker.”
“Uh, not quite,” Remus said. “I kept some of it, going back to the collapsed ward stone after Frank said he was done with the crime scene.”
“How thoughtful,” Alice said.
“I knew he was alive when Frank was collecting evidence, I thought it might come in handy, although I had no idea that Sirius had this ritual in his family magic,” Remus said.
“Can I ask what blood we’re talking about?” Daisy interrupted.
“When Peter became Secret Keeper for the Potter family, the charm was tied to the location by use of rune stones. Peter collapsed the charm by erasing the rune on one of the stones with his blood on the night the Potters were betrayed. Alice’s husband collected some of that blood as evidence when investigating the crime scene. I picked up the leftovers,” Remus explained.
“What were you going to use the blood for? Voodoo?” Daisy asked.
“I’d rather not answer that question,” Remus said.
“Oh,” Daisy replied.
“I propose we do the ritual on the night of the next new moon,” Sirius said. “We’ll do it at Godric’s Hollow. Once we’ve stuffed Peter into an unbreakable bottle, we can arrange for a trial.”
“I’m in,” Alice said.
“You don’t have to ask,” Remus said.
“Can I tag along?” Daisy asked. “I’ll stay out of the way. Besides, you need someone to watch your back.”
“You’re pretty good at that.” Sirius said. “Unless Charlie has objections, I think the answer is yes.”
The night of the new moon found seven at the ruined cottage at Godric’s Hollow. Sirius, Alice and Remus were acting as the ritual summoners, while Maud, Charlie, Tony, and Daisy provided a security perimeter. As three plus four make seven and seven is a prime number, Sirius thought the composition of their crew was compatible with the ritual. A triangle of salt was poured on the ground surrounding the location of the failed rune anchor, the physical locus of Peter’s betrayal. A fire was lit within the triangle, and each of the summoners poured a specially brewed concoction from a shared goblet into the triangle while reciting how Peter had betrayed them. With the last recitation the fire went out. There was silence, followed by a whistling sound which ended when a body appeared inside the triangle. The body fell to the ground, and then staggered back to a standing position.
The four providing security triggered preloaded strings of magic that made magical transportation out of the area impossible the instant that a body appeared within the salt triangle.
Peter was standing there with his pants around his ankles.
“If you don’t mind terribly much, I’d rather have this conversation with my trousers up,” Peter Pettigrew said. “Summoned by Sirius Black whilst taking a dump, why am I not surprised?” Peter reached down and pulled up his trousers, buttoning the fly and buckling his belt. He then crossed his arms, looking at the summoners.
“Is that all you have to say for yourself, Peter?” Sirius asked.
“What, you expected pleading or maybe contrition?” Peter asked. “Not going to happen. The Dark Lord was winning the war.”
“So, who recruited you?” Remus asked.
“A dirty Auror,” Peter said. “He threatened my mum if I didn’t give him a lead as to where James was hiding. He had no idea that I was the Secret Keeper.”
“What did he promise you?” Sirius asked.
“He promised that he would stop beating me and that he wouldn’t kill Mum. He was very persuasive,” Peter said.
“That’s all it took?” Remus asked.
“C’mon, Remus, you know me,” Peter said. “I’m just Peter, not as handsome as Sirius, not as bold as James, not as smart as Remus, the guy who just tagged along; but I always looked to see which side was winning, and I always had a plan B.”
Peter smiled at them with an odd gleam in his eyes. Then he opened his hands.
From Daisy’s vantage point it was as if a cloud of darkness consumed the summoning triangle. She saw flashes of magic, but by the time the darkness parted, Sirius, Alice, and Remus were all down on the ground, and Peter was holding their wands.
“Amateurs,” Peter said as he began walking to the house. He intended to walk beyond the boundaries of whatever anti-transportation magic they’d invoked, and then return to his new life.
He never saw the wolf until she sprang from the darkness, jaws targeting his neck.
Rufus Scrimgeour had stayed away from work for four days. While it was always a good thing to spend time with his wife, and particularly delightful to erase his sleep deficit, he wasn’t able to fully enjoy his time off because of the loose ends he knew would be waiting for him when he returned to work. Black was somewhere on the loose and an Auror was dead and he had no idea where Black could be found, nor who killed the Auror. Some of the less imaginative in the department wanted to charge Black with killing AurorRowle, but Rufus wasn’t going to allow that, not on his watch.
Rufus began his career on the streets, and like all good policemen, he built a network of informants throughout his career. The first thing to be done when he was back on duty was not a return to the office, which would be filled with mounds of paper and parchment, but instead he walked the streets, meeting up with his informants.
By lunchtime he’d met up with all of his informants save one, the informant who had been providing useful information the longest. The informant ran a business licensed to sell furniture, but there was a bit of everything in the shop. While none of the items in the store were ever proven to be stolen, the informant’s ability to provide satisfactory paperwork on most items was lacking. Rufus opened the door, making a little brass bell tinkle as he passed through.
The informant was sitting on the floor, using a screwdriver to open a wooden crate.
“My good friend Rufus,” the informant said. “I was wondering if you were ill, I haven’t seen you in a while.”
“How’s business?” Rufus asked.
“I’ve been busy with estate sales,” the informant replied.
“What do you have for me?” Rufus said, plopping down onto an ottoman not far from where the informant was sitting.
“Not a whole lot. Are you particularly worried about a truckload of wine that’s being sold in case lots up and down the street?” the informant asked, prying another bar from the crate.
“Is it really wine?” Rufus asked.
“No one’s complained, no one’s gotten ill, so I suppose it’s probably wine, but I have my doubts as to whether it came from France,” the informant said.
“I doubt that I’m interested.”
“I may have something,” the informant said.
“What is it?”
“It might be as fake as a brass galleon,” the informant began. “A gentleman was asking about you. He said he might have information leading to Sirius Black.”
“Didn’t give one, but he did offer something instead,” the informant said, pulling the last bar from the crate.
“He said he knew how to bypass the concealing charms used by rank-and-file Death Eaters for their marks,” the informant said, looking up for the first time.
“Did he say what it was?” Rufus asked.
“Said that you needed to touch some copper, the purer the better, to the skin of a Death Eater while using Aparecium , a bronze Knut will do, but pure copper is better for some reason,” the informant explained.
“I’ll give that a try,” Rufus said. “How do I get ahold of this person?”
“You don’t, he finds you.”
“So, where does he find me today?”
The informant looked at his watch.
“Take a late lunch at Miser’s, say three o’clock and sit in the back. For what it’s worth, their soups are usually pretty good.”
“As always, I thank you,” Rufus said. “What’s in the crate?”
“It looks like alarm clocks,” the informant said. “It was included as part of a bulk lot I bought at auction this weekend and I’m just now getting around to it. You need a new alarm clock?”
“Let me know if they work. I hope business picks up,” Rufus said, leaving an envelope on the ottoman as he departed.
This particular informant was never paid in Galleons, only Muggle Pound notes.
Rufus visited Max in the technical services division.
“Rufus,” Max said, looking up from his cluttered desk.
“Where can I get some copper?” Rufus asked.
“What quality, and how much do you need?”
“It needs to be purer than what you find in a bronze Knut,” Rufus said.
“That’s a pretty low threshold, although I’m not sure that anyone who’s not a Goblin knows exactly how much copper is in a bronze Knut. Go to a muggle ironmonger shop – muggles use copper for water pipes – you can buy copper fittings the size of your thumbnail, or you can buy copper pipes twenty feet long. Do I want to know what you’re using this for?” Max asked.
“Call it an experiment,” Rufus said.
Max pulled open a drawer from his desk, digging into an array of items. He seemed to be going by feel as he worked his hand towards the bottom of the drawer.
“Try this,” Max said, tossing an elbow shaped tube at him.
“What is it?”
“Copper pipe fitting, half inch by the look of it,” Max said. “Let me know how the experiment works out, I’m a curious guy.”
“I’ll do that, thanks Max,” Rufus said.
Max said nothing, his attention returning to the papers on his desk.
Rufus’s next stop was the morgue. He checked in with the Coroner on duty and then checked the roster to see which bodies were in the cold bins, awaiting disposition. According to the roster, the body in question was in drawer six.
“I’ll be taking a peek at drawer six,” Rufus called to the Coroner.
“Best be quick about it, the family is coming sometime this afternoon, they’ve been pestering us about releasing it for a funeral,” the Coroner said.
Rufus nodded, and then went down length of the narrow examining room until he found the drawer marked with the number six. He pulled the drawer out, thankful that it was covered by the usual examination sheet. He reached over to pull the left arm out from under the sheet. He pressed the copper fitting into the crook of the body’s elbow, and then traced the forearm with the tip of this wand.
“Aparecium,” he whispered.
At first nothing happened, and then swirls like dark smoke appeared on the skin, resolving into the familiar pattern of skull and snake. He pushed the drawer closed and wrote several lines onto the case file.
“Hold the body in drawer six,” he called to the Coroner. “Ongoing investigation.”
“Did you write that down on the file?” the Coroner called.
“Yes, of course,” Rufus answered.
“The family’s not going to be happy, but if it’s on the file, it’s your supervisor who gets the call, not mine,” the Coroner said with some satisfaction.
“All part of the big money they pay me,” Rufus said. “Thanks for the help.”
The Coroner waved, returning to the autopsy he was working.
“Thank you, Max,” Rufus said to himself as he left the morgue. He looked at his watch. If he finished some paperwork he could take a break for late lunch at Miser’s.
Rufus was cautiously optimistic about lunch at Miser’s. He’d been there before, but not for a meeting. The owner showed him to a booth in the back. Rufus selected a seat that would allow him a good view of the front entrance. He ordered soup and a salad with a large glass of water. He wanted the pale ale, but he was still on duty, and the wife was pointing out that his growing waistline needed some attention.
He finished his salad and began working on his soup when a man in a hooded winter coat walked in from the back of the restaurant and plopped down in seat across from him in the booth.
“Mister Scrimgeour, I presume?” the man said, looking out from the shadows of the hood.
“Aye,” Rufus replied.
There was a period of silence.
“A business associate said you were looking for me,” Rufus said.
“Possibly,” the man said. “I can deliver Sirius Black to you.”
“Bully for you,” Rufus said. “What do you want?”
“Mister Scrimgeour, I’m a very careful man,” the man said. He pulled back his hood. His face and neck was covered by scratches and several bite marks.
“Apparently you weren’t too careful,” Rufus said. “Mauled by dogs?”
“You could say that,” the man said. “Do you recognize me?”
Rufus looked long and hard at the man’s face, trying to subtract the scratches and bite marks.
“Peter Pettigrew, you’re supposed to be dead,” Rufus said after careful study.
“It’s made my life easier if people believe that,” Pettigrew said. “The Dark Lord’s people are everywhere. I trust you found my little trick helpful.”
“Most helpful,” Rufus said. “It even works post-mortem.”
“I’d never tried that, but I suppose it would work that way.”
“Again, what do you want?” Rufus said.
“Immunity,” Pettigrew said.
“Everything and anything,” Pettigrew said. “I intend to deliver Black to you, alive, but I want to do so safely, collect the reward, and then disappear.”
“The man tried to kill you,” Rufus said.
“Then try him for that, just don’t stick him in that hell-hole without a trial,” Pettigrew said.
“Do you know how he got out?” Rufus said.
“Listen, Mr. Auror, I’m a dead man hiding from Sirius Black and the Death Eaters, I’m hardly going to show up to Azkaban Prison and break someone out,” Pettigrew said.
“Why are you concerned that he gets a trial?” Rufus said.
“I care about justice,” Pettigrew said.
“But you want immunity,” Rufus parried.
“I want others to get justice, me, I want immunity,” Pettigrew said with a laugh.
“I’ll see what’s possible,” Rufus temporized.
“Listen, Scrimgeour, we both know that Madam Bones has all the authority she needs to grant immunity. Keep this between the two of you and I probably won’t get killed by the Death Eaters on your payroll,” Pettigrew said with some bitterness.
“How do I get ahold of you?” Rufus asked.
“You don’t, I have a solicitor for that,” Pettigrew said, pulling a card from his pocket and sliding it across the table. “Do we have a deal?”
“If I can get the grant of immunity, we have a deal,” Rufus said.
Rufus walked into Amelia Bones’ office and plopped down into the visitor’s chair.
“By all means, Rufus, make yourself at home,” Amelia said.
“I’m sorry, Boss,” Rufus said. “I’m still flabbergasted at how many Death Eaters we’re finding in the sweeps through the Ministry.”
“Sometimes having a lame duck Minister is a good thing. When I told Minister Bagnold that we had a reliable test she pulled the authorization order out of my hand, she was so eager to sign it,” Amelia said.
“What’s new on the immunity front,” Rufus asked.
“We keep passing drafts back and forth with Pettigrew’s solicitor,” Amelia said. “Standard language was no good, so now on revision seven, it’s more or less ‘the person who brings the betrayer of the Potters to trial has immunity for everything that’s happened since Samhain’ which our lawyers say is vague, weird, and not very lawyerlike, but not illegal.”
“So it all boils down to ‘what’s the worst that could happen if he’s lying?’” Rufus said.
“If I could close the Black case, I’d take some embarrassment in front of the Wizengamot,” Amelia said. “He gets the reward if it’s indeed Sirius Black that he delivers, win, lose, or draw.”
Amelia pulled a folder from the pile on her desk. She opened it and looked at the document one last time, and then she picked up a quill, dipped it in ink, and signed the bottom of the document with a flourish. While the ink was still wet, she touched the tip of her wand to the signature and the document flashed with a yellow light.
“Let’s do it, Rufus, let’s see what your little man can produce,” Amelia said.
Oddly enough, the designated neutral ground was the lobby of Gringotts bank. A phalanx of cleared Aurors went with Rufus to the bank. They were met by the solicitor Pettigrew had retained, accompanied by two men, one tall, one short, both in hooded robes. The tall man was wearing silver colored manacles and seemed mildly confunded. Rufus scanned both men, guaranteeing that they weren’t carrying wands or other weapons. He nodded to the solicitor and the phalanx of Aurors left the bank with two wizards under heavy guard.
The group was pre-cleared, so they bypassed the checkpoint in the Ministry Atrium and walked into the largest of the lifts, heading directly to level ten of the Ministry building. They slowly walked to the massive wood and iron door for Courtroom Ten. The door was opened by a clerk who whispered to Rufus that the Wizengamot was still debating another item, but that they were next on the agenda. Rufus led the group to a side hallway and waited for the prior business to resolve.
The clerk nodded to Rufus.
As Rufus led the group back into Courtroom Ten, the clerk announced.
“The Department of Magical Law Enforcement has requested an expedited trial under the provisions of the Emergency Articles,” the clerk cried.
Albus Dumbledore, dressed in dark purple robes with twinkly stars looked up from his seat.
“That’s not on the agenda,” he objected.
“Actually, sir, it’s there as ‘classified hearing,’ listed as item number three on the agenda,” the clerk replied.
“Oh,” Dumbledore said, looking confused. “Well, proceed.”
Rufus led the prisoner to the examination chair, unlocking the manacles with the key provided by the other hooded man. He then pushed the man into the chair by shoving on his chest. The chair applied chains to the arms and legs, securing the prisoner. Rufus took out a thumb-sized copper fitting, touching it to the prisoner’s arm and muttered the revealing charm. The now-familiar smoky pigment swirled across the man’s arm and revealed the dark mark. He then reached up and pulled the man’s hood back.
There were gasps of recognition in the gallery.
“It’s Sirius Black,” he heard a matron shriek.
Dumbledore looked even more confused.
“If it may please the Wizengamot, I’d like to administer Veritaserum,” Rufus said.
Dumbledore said nothing, staring at the prisoner.
The clerk whispered something into Dumbledore’s ear.
“Uh, yes, please administer the Truth Serum,” Dumbledore said, his eyes not leaving the prisoner.
Rufus motioned to one of the bailiffs, who brought a bottle forward. The bailiff held the prisoner’s mouth open while Rufus used a dropper to administer three drops.
Rufus then got out his note cards. The agreement with the solicitor was very specific as to the questions to be asked and the order of those questions.
“Are you a Death Eater?” Rufus asked.
The prisoner seemed confused, looking around the courtroom.
“Yes, I am,” the prisoner said.
“Were you the secret keeper for James and Lily Potter?”
“Yes, I was.”
“Did you reveal the secret of where James and Lily Potter were living to the man known as Lord Voldemort?”
The man shook his head as if trying to clear it.
“No, I did not reveal the secret. I took the Dark Lord to Godric’s Hollow and dug up one of the rune stones anchoring the Fidelius Charm and cut my hand,” the prisoner said, looking at his own hand. “When I bled on the stone the charm failed.”
“What did you do after that?”
“Why did you leave?”
“I wanted nothing to do with killing James and Lily,” the man said.
“What is your name?”
The man tried to kick his now restrained legs against the chair.
“Yes, what is your name?”
“My name is Peter Pettigrew,” the prisoner said.
He began to writhe in the examination chair. He appeared to be in the midst of a seizure.
There were shouts and shrieks in the gallery. Dumbledore banged his gavel once, twice, and then lifted his wand and shot off a canon blast.
“Silence in this courtroom!” he thundered.
The prisoner’s writhing slowed and then stopped. He shrank in the chair and his hair changed in color from stringy black to short cut sandy blonde.
Rufus looked to the other cloaked, hooded man.
“Surprised?” the figure asked.
He seemed to grow inside his cloak. He then pulled his hood back.
“Hello, Rufus, I’m the real Sirius Black,” he said.
The shouting and screaming in the courtroom reignited.
“Arrest that man!” someone in the gallery shouted.
Dumbledore smacked his gavel.
“Well, Mister Black,” Dumbledore began, “this appears to be one of your legendary pranks writ large – will you care to enlighten us all?”
“Well, first off, I’d like to remind the entire lot of you that I have a signed grant of immunity,” Sirius began.
“Yes, yes,” Dumbledore said, deeply regretting that he’d not read this week’s memoranda from DMLE more carefully.
“Will you submit to Truth Serum?” Rufus asked.
“Well, since you ask so kindly, yes, I’ll take the usual dose,” Sirius said. “But I’ll take a pass on the chair, as you’ve got a marked Death Eater sitting in it already, and dear old Mumsie always warned me about sitting in other men’s laps.”
Rufus administered the dose.
“My name is Sirius Orion Black; I am the head of the Ancient and Noble House of Black.”
“Are you a Death Eater?”
“No, I am not now, nor have I ever been a Death Eater,” Sirius replied.
“Were you the Secret Keeper for James and Lily Potter?”
“Not exactly. When we discussed it with the learned Mr. Dumbledore, everyone assumed that I would be the Secret Keeper. I convinced James and Lily at the last minute that we should switch and use Peter Pettigrew instead. To my dying day I will regret that terrible idea.”
“Did you attempt to kill Peter Pettigrew?” Rufus asked.
“No, I was attempting to capture him, when he blew up a gas main and transformed into a rat.”
“How did he transform into a rat?”
“Peter Pettigrew is an Animagus.”
“Did you escape from Azkaban Prison?”
“Well, I’m here now, aren’t I?”
“How did you escape?”
“An Auror, or rather, someone dressed in an Auror’s cloak unlocked my door one night and then left. The door wouldn’t lock on its own after that. I was visited by Dementors every night, so I reckoned that if I stayed there the Dementors were going to come into my cell.”
“What did you do?”
“I very carefully snuck out of the prison, walked to the north shore of the island and got picked up by a boat driven by people I’d never met before,” Sirius said.
“You did not know these people?”
“Not at the time, no.”
“Did you know Thorfinn Rowle?”
“How did you know Thorfinn Rowle?”
“He was a Death Eater; he also served from time to time as a guard at Azkaban.”
“How did you know that he was a Death Eater?”
“I broke up a Death Eater raid in the Midlands, he was one of the raiders. Even in a mask, it’s hard to hide when you’re that big a man.”
“Did you see him at Azkaban Prison?”
“My first week at Azkaban, he was part of a group that beat me one night.”
“Did you report the beating?”
“I didn’t have to, it was pretty obvious. After leaving me in my cell for two days the Underwarden had a healer visit me.”
“Did you see Thorfinn Rowle the day you escaped from Azkaban?”
“No, not unless he was the one in the cloak who unlocked the door to my cell, but whoever that was, he was much shorter than Rowle,” Sirius said.
“Did you push Thorfinn Rowle out of a window at Azkaban Prison?”
“No,” Sirius said. “Falling ten stories is way too gentle for a man like Thorfinn Rowle.”
“With the indulgence of the Wizengamot, I would like to remand the prisoner Peter Pettigrew to the custody of the DMLE for an open trial,” Rufus said, looking out at the assembled Wizengamot before addressing Albus Dumbledore.
“Yes,” Dumbledore said.
“I would also request that the Wizengamot cancel the apprehension order for Sirius Black and remand him to his own recognizance for any further proceedings,” Rufus said.
The clerk handed Dumbledore a folder which he opened. Dumbledore crossed through the first sheet in the stack of documents and signed his lengthy name diagonally across the sheet.
“So it is written,” said Dumbledore. “If there are no other matters pressing today, I think we need to adjourn and let Mr. Scrimgeour sort things out for us.”
“Chief Warlock? I request that I be heard,” a voice called from the Wizengamot.
“Yes,” Dumbledore said.
“Augusta Longbottom, proxy for the House of Black and Regent for the House of Longbottom,” Augusta began.
“What do you need, Augusta?” Dumbledore asked wearily.
“This is a civil matter, not criminal,” Augusta began.
“Go ahead, the day couldn’t get more confused,” Dumbledore countered.
“Bailiff, please admit my guests standing outside,” Augusta ordered.
The door was opened, revealing Remus Lupin and Alice Longbottom. Remus was holding the hand of Neville Longbottom, while Alice was carrying Harry Potter.
“This concerns my daughter and her ward and godson, Harry Potter,” Augusta said.
The crowd began babbling again.
Dumbledore smacked his gavel on the bench.
“If it please the Wizengamot,” Alice said, “the late James and Lily Potter designated me as Harry’s godmother. I don’t know how it happened, but after their death, Harry was placed with Lily’s muggle sister, but as of this morning, she’s relinquished custody to me, and this morning the Family Division of the High Court permanently remanded Harry into my custody. I wish to have this decision endorsed by the Wizengamot.”
“Well,” Dumbledore began “this is all highly irregular.”
“I think it can be cleared up easily enough” Alice said, smiling sweetly. “I have with me a copy of James and Lily Potter’s joint wills, the baptismal certificate naming me and Sirius Black as godmother and godfather, and the decree of the High Court.”
“This is all very technical,” Dumbledore said.
“Point of order, Chief Warlock,” Augusta said.
“I am asking that the Muggle Court decision be endorsed , which can be done without a hearing on a simple voice vote,” Augusta said sternly.
“I, Tiberius Ogden, move that the High Court’s decree of custody be endorsed by this magical body, so that Harry Potter can live with a magical family,” Tiberius said, standing tall with a gleam in his eye.
“I second the motion,” a voice called.
“Who seconds the motion?” Dumbledore asked.
“Bertrand Botts,” the man said.
“Bertrand? Bertie Botts?” Dumbledore asked.
“Yes, Chief Warlock. Bertrand is my given name, but in the world of commerce, I’m ‘Bertie.’” Bertrand said, as if he’d made that explanation before.
Tiberius spoke up again.
“It has been moved and seconded,” he said with a booming voice. “All in favor?”
There was an eruption of “Aye” throughout the courtroom.
There were a few titters of nervous laughter.
“I believe, Tiberius, that I’m the one who’s supposed to call that vote,” Dumbledore said.
“Feel free, Chief Warlock,” Tiberius said. “I was just trying to help move things along.”
“Thank you Mr. Ogden,” Dumbledore said with a sigh.
“It has been moved and seconded with a resounding ‘Aye’ vote, the order of the mundane High Court regarding the custody of the magical minor Harry Potter is endorsed by the Wizengamot. If there are no other matters, this august body stands in recess,” Dumbledore said, looking with a baleful glare at the assembly, hoping earnestly that no new matters would be raised.
Dumbledore smacked his gavel down on the desk. A splinter from the gavel shot out and hit Peter Pettigrew in the cheek.
“Ow!” he exclaimed. His eyes looked clear again. “What the bloody hell am I doing here?”
This was originally two chapters, but I fused them together for better storytelling.
Thanks, as always, to Garden Girl, who thinks baby goats are very cute.