Won but lost

All recognisable material belongs to the respective original copyright holders. This was re-posted after slight editing on 20/05/2017.

It was a very homely atmosphere in which the people Hermione had mentioned settled down for what was, for Joanne, the true attraction for the weekend. She had so far kept several questions about absences and presences to herself, being a fair bit out of her comfort zone. Now though, she could let her curiosity forth.

Although the guests had left, for the most part, there was still a lot of cleaning up left to do. That was why barring the four youngest couples who were hosting the entire program, the rest of the people Hermione had mentioned were already sitting in the large room on the top floor in Harry and Hermione's wing. The kids were being entertained by Sirius, who was having a ball living up to his god-grandfatherly duties. Of course, it was a term he himself had coined. The other gentlemen were trying to hold a dignified conversation while pretending that Sirius' antics were not amusing them. Severus, though, was reading something while listening to music that he was nodding in tune to.

Andrew and Francis were still hounding Alice over Gimlet. It was apparently their way, however misguided, of cheering her up. The girl was giving them a patient patronising look that looked perfectly at home on Daphne's daughter. Stephen was saddened by the death of Gimlet. Imaginary or not, Gimlet was a kangaroo, and Stephen loved animals. Ellie was entranced by the book Felicity was reading to her. Polaris and Jack were being teenage boys in that they were 'ignoring' the kids in favour of Quidditch talk.

On seeing her enter, Clara smiled and shifted over. Between Clara and Flora, Joanne had found people who were supposedly on the periphery, but very much a part of the magical world and yet were routinely surprised by it. Clara was a petite woman, and funnily, looked like a blonde miniature version of Hermione, whose hair and eyes, and stature, were just like Christopher's. By their side were Juliet and Cassandra, Daphne's mother. Daphne was a true combination of her parents, having Marcus' features set in Cassandra's face, only with feminine beauty. Alice, apparently, took after her paternal grandmother and namesake apart from some features.

"You know, it still astounds me how close you all are. Such family gatherings are becoming rare, and the closeness you all share is becoming rarer still," Joanne remarked as she sat down.

"We are a very small community, as the children might have told you, Madam Rowling," Juliet replied. "We therefore have closer familial ties that would otherwise seem very surprising. Joint families are still prevalent. Not everybody has as yet seen fit to break away. Some, who have nomag roots or upbringings, are comfortable there entirely. Some like Sirius and I had friends who helped us become adept at living like nomags. That isn't entirely true for everyone else. Family signifies safety, and isn't that what we all seek?"

"Yes, you tell her Jules!" cried Sirius. "Why don't you tell her how much you like the nomag dresses? You know Lils showed us that."

"Sometimes, Sirius, your animagus form is an inconvenience. Didn't anyone teach you to not eavesdrop? And before you rib me about dresses, just remember that you and that son and godson of yours spent seven hours in Hamley's!"

Sirius opened and closed his mouth before hitting upon what he decided was the correct response. "It is about our Corporate Social Responsibility thing!" he defended stoutly.

"Yes. Delude yourself that way."

"Well dears, I am quite fond of the remote controlled cars Sirius sends me each year on my birthday," Dumbledore put in his own two Knuts, in his gravelly voice.

"SEE? HA!" was the response from the canine animagus before he went back to simultaneously helping Felicity read to Eleanor and putting in more arguments for the boys as they now pestered Alice about something else. The women around here seemed to have infinite patience.

"Just ignore that," advised Juliet with a roll of her eyes. "I am just thankful that Lils never told him about Peter Pan. He would have found a new hero. He is overcompensating with his boisterousness. Harry and he toss a coin each year to decide who will be Father Christmas each year for their CSR gig. As you might have guessed, Sirius lost for the second year running."

That certainly explained Harry's new appearance.

"By the Spirits, that was tiring," muttered Hermione as she came in leading the rest of them. She carried a set of mugs for all the people in the room while Harry wheeled in a large container with a tap. Of course, since David had got hold of a piece of paper, he was wearing a paper-made origami maid's cap. The cap's maker looked inordinately pleased with his accomplishment.

"You say that for yourself, Hermione. I had fun," Arwen replied.

"Of course you did. That's why you were cribbing about the tables weren't you?"

"Hmph," argued Arwen weakly.

Flora glanced at them and saw Harry's ridiculous headgear. "And why exactly are you wearing that, Harry?" she asked with an arched eyebrow.

Harry's hand followed her line of sight, and grabbed the cap. A quick glance behind him told him who had pranked him. Sporting his most innocent look, which looked particularly ridiculous with the beard, Harry bounded up to Flora like a three-year-old child. "Wook Aunty Flo'!" he cried. "Fay-vid make'd me a pwetty cap!"

Flora could only close her eyes and count to fifty as the children all giggled at Harry's antics. Somewhere somehow she had gone really wrong with those two. For the sake of God, they were supposed to be in their late 30s!

Hermione on her part called for Morris, the house-elf. Trust Harry to behave like a kid instead of disciplining them. Turning to the children, she ordered, "You all will be going to your rooms. This is for grown-ups."

"But mum!" protested the twins.

"No!" Harry cut across, suddenly strict. Joanne found herself likening him to a switch with far too many poles. "There is a good reason why we had told you not to be here for this. We don't want you knowing about this till you are at least eighteen."

It was obvious who had been...convinced to let them in. "But gran!" Flora shook her head in response. She was the 'proper' grandmother and therefore was always hoodwinked by those brats.

"No. All of you are going to be under Morris' care. And that means you as well, Jack," scolded Derwen. He looked over at the two Longbottoms and the Driscolls. He couldn't exactly admonish their children though Neville was his cousin, and David was Harry's. It would seem like he was overriding their authority over their children.

"That does mean you as well," Ginny admonished. She couldn't bear the idea of her children knowing the horror she had faced.

"The young Masters and Misses should leave, as their parents rightly say," Morris said. Evidently Morris was not just an elf, and had a hand in disciplining the children. He reminded her more of a proper butler. "Some things are not to be inflicted on young minds."

There were loud grumbles and protests as the children dragged their feet. It took a while for everyone to settle down with their respective steaming mugs of tea or coffee from the charmed container.

Once they were ready, Severus, who had hitherto been silent, spoke up. "So, Madam Rowling, welcome to this family's home video watching event," he drily delivered. "We are pleased to present to you the story, as we lived it." He flicked his wand beside his chair and conjured a table that followed him as he wheeled over to the table on which the pensieve was set. He tapped the wall behind it so that another small screen materialised in front of the table from the wall.

"I will be pouring several memories from time to time. These have been procured from various people, most of whom are present here. Normally, we would have gone in, but nomags can neither donate memories nor can they view one in a pensieve. So the memories from the Driscolls have been extracted with Legillimency and with their consent. If you have questions, please sit on them till the end of each memory. We can't pause. So let's start with no further preamble."

Everyone nodded. Then Dumbledore was settled in a medico-magical chair that would shift its hinges and assume the position he would in most comfortable. He was also given a footstool to place his feet on. He was getting that old.

"Lights off!" called Aaron, and the room was bathed in darkness.

Memory starts

[It was in the Driscoll home – a very cosy, lived-in home, as it was – that the scene started.]

"Flora..." called Vernon, while shifting his weight on his feet. It certainly seemed like that because the image was moving slightly. The memory was Vernon's and he was therefore not visible. It was the morning of the first of November. He felt very ill-at-ease, for some reason. While most others would have dismissed the feeling, the soldier with exposure to magic couldn't.

"Hmm?" responded she, as she flipped a rasher.

"I think something is terribly wrong," he mumbled.


"I said, I think something is terribly wrong."

Setting down the utensils and switching off the stove, Flora turned around to look at her husband and seek an answer with a raised eyebrow.

"You were irritated by the yowling cat last night, right?"


"I checked. I swear it was Minerva. The cat nodded at me. It has just returned."

Flora paled and reached for a chair before sitting down shakily. She might have cut off her ties to the war, but she couldn't do that with her sister and brother. She had known for some time now that the unpredictable and unfortunate could befall them any time. It was some time before she spoke again. "She must be here to keep watch Vernon. Dumbledore did say that though we refused to be a part of the war any longer, and he respected that decision, he would still have some warning or monitoring scheme placed around us."

Vernon didn't say anything immediately. He looked at his wife who was clutching her head with both hands. Finally he seemed to have come to some sort of a decision. Delaying the acceptance never helped. "I don't think so, Flo. Minerva teaches up at the school. And it is just halfway through term. Why would she take up guard duties?"

Flora looked even paler at that. As if on cue, the bell rang.

"I'll get it," Vernon declared, motioning for his shaking wife to sit. It was Minerva.

"Miner-" started Vernon, only to stop cold at the tear tracks and the frazzled look on the lady's face. Working purely on honed instinct, he ushered her in and swiftly closed the door before leading her into the kitchen. He ensured that she sat down first. It was as he feared. Someone was dead – either the Potters or Severus. At the moment, he had to keep calm. However long Minerva had been outside their home, she hadn't had time to grieve or talk to anyone. They all knew that under the severe exterior was a very maternal lady who loved her students as her own.

"Flora..." Minerva gasped.

The word was enough for Flora's control to lose its battle. "Who was it?" she croaked out.

Minerva gave a mighty sob before uttering, "The Potters."

And with that, they both broke down. Vernon too sat down. The mourning silence stretched till Minerva was able to speak again.

"He attacked last night. Lily and James are dead."

"Sirius gave the secret?" Flora asked bleakly. "He was the traitor?"

"He couldn't have," asserted Vernon. "Severus told me that Sirius had sworn that Death Vow thingy with Dumbledore as the bonder, and that the conditions were good enough to take in all the possibilities available to a willing traitor, including torture. Sirius couldn't be the betrayer."

"It wasn't him," confirmed Minerva. "They have arrested him though, on a technicality. He killed fourteen Death Eaters last night to get through to the house. They hadn't fired lethal spells till then."

"Oh...Sirius..." sobbed Flora again. She didn't know the man too well, but he had been around at the Potters' often enough for her to remember the man who tried (sometimes too hard) to keep the spirits up, fondly.

Vernon once again needed to assert control. Otherwise they would never get the whole story. "You said Lils and Jim died. What happened to Harry?"

Flora's head snapped up at that.

Minerva looked surprised but happy at that – as happy as she could be in the circumstances. "That's why I have come here. He is alive. You-Know-Who was defeated last night! They are saying Harry survived the Killing Curse with naught but a mark – a rune that Lily etched on his forehead!"

Somehow Flora latched on to that. "WHAT? HOW? WHERE IS HARRY?"

"Severus took him to Hogwarts last night around two. Poppy, Althea and Albus are checking him with Melina Edwards. They think there might be some curse residue. In the meantime, we are moving you all to safety. Even as I speak, Aaron has gone around to your parents'. I have come to take you to Y Nyth Mwd."

It was true that Minerva was speaking in a disjointed manner. But with all that was going on, they couldn't truly expect more. Swiftly guiding David and Flora through their paces, Vernon arranged for a leave. While he didn't like to bandy the fact that he was the company owners' son, a family tragedy certainly qualified. In less than fifteen minutes, the family was ready to leave.

[Joanne had to close her eyes to prevent the nauseating feeling of vicariously experiencing travel by Portkey. Muggles, or (as she now knew to call non-magical people) nomags, could, apparently, travel by Portkey. She recognised the landing point as the grounds she had spent so much time in during the last two days.]

Anna was waiting for them at Y Nyth Mwd. The woman, nearly thirteen years James' senior, had known the mischievous little cousin of her husband since her own marriage just as long ago. To think that he had been brutally murdered...she couldn't say a word. She seemed to be bewildered. They had all known that the war would and could claim lives, but it is always a shock when Death strikes so close.

Vernon saw Anna pointing her wand at the four people walking up to her. Minerva didn't break her stride and instead transformed into a cat and back on successive strides. David was bawling in discomfort because of the Portkey.

The five people walked down to the very room she had first arrived into. Matthew and Rose were already there, sitting blankly besides Charlus and Dorea. Flora joined her parents immediately. Raymond and Ursula were already at Hogwarts where the bodies were. Nobody had even thought to think of St. Mungo's. At the moment, they had to consider every place infiltrated – well, except Hogwarts of course.

"I must go back to Hogwarts if Dumbledore is to leave anytime soon. I think he will," Minerva said, excusing herself. It was a ruse. They knew that she was going to do her share of grieving in private. She would open up to others in her own time.

Vernon, who was holding his son walked towards Aaron, who, like him, was trying to keep a calm head. "What is going on?"

"I don't know much either," replied Aaron. "Severus floo'd a few minutes ago. Whatever they were checking Harry for seems to be done. Filius, Remus and Albus are helping him bring the bodies. He also said he will hand me Harry in ten minutes or so, when he will come through. Fabian is getting one of his contacts secure the Floo Network."

Vernon nodded. They had ensured operational security.

Aaron's face took an ugly expression. "Mad-Eye had to take Sirius in, instead of going on a hunt for the Rat with him as Sirius wished. He killed fourteen of the scum. It was Peter."


"Yes. Never seemed like a traitor, did he? That's got to be something You-Know-Who utilised. Took him right through the wards, Peter did."

Everyone was silent thereafter, with only the occasional sob, or sigh, or David's sniffles or babbling breaking the silence.

"Aaron?" called Severus from the floo.

"The connection is open, Severus." Aaron bent down to receive the baby. Evidently Harry was under a sleeping spell. Aaron took the precious cargo and clutched it protectively to his chest. Vernon was in prime position to see the boy. There, on his forehead, was the rune that Lily had etched.

"Hawwy!" babbled David gleefully, clapping his hands. The toddler had met his cousin a few times, and the two had hit it off immediately. It was still curious that a child that young remembered someone he had met more than a month prior.

"Yes son. That's Harry."

A few moments later, the four men brought in the bodies of the child's parents. It seemed odd to see two people they knew to be alive in every sense of the word, be suddenly so dead. The image blurred a bit and there was a glint of obfuscating reflections before a hand swiped across it and cleared what Joanne realised were tears. It was weird.

Raymond and Ursula had arrived just after them. They spoke nothing. They just stared.

"Mum, dad, Flo," was all that Severus said, losing his control only ever so slightly, as he moved towards them automatically. They grieved very silently, and nobody else spoke a word either.

Remus collected Harry next. He looked at Dumbledore in request and the Headmaster took the spell off. Harry woke with a start and started wailing. He then realised who it was. "Moo!"

"Yes it is me, Harry."

"Ma gween sweep!" described the child tearfully. He was talking about the Killing Curse. "Da gween sweep!"

"I am sorry Harry," Remus slowly croaked with closed eyes as a few tears leaked out. He just hugged the closest thing to a nephew that he had close to him. Turning to the others, he promised, "I am going to hunt that rat down. I promise you that." He looked at Harry one last time before handing him back to Aaron whereupon Harry found the remarkably similar looking Aaron baffling.

Harry attempted to ascertain the identity off this person by patting his hands on Aaron's face. "Da?" he asked innocently.

The man could only close his eyes as a few tears made their way down his cheeks as well. "No Harry. I am Cousin Aaron."

"Kin A-won," mumbled Harry obediently.

"Yes. That's close enough, I suppose." Suddenly he felt a warm wetness over his arm. He couldn't help chuckling a bit. "It seems that a little boy just had a little accident!" He shifted Harry to his other arm and drew his wand to clean up both himself and the child. He hadn't expected Harry to take one look at the wand and scream in terror, let loose some accidental magic, and start squirming. It was with a tremendous effort that he managed to hold on to the terrified toddler.

Dumbledore took Harry and soothed him as best as he could, before Harry was put under another sleeping spell. One little hand clutched the great white beard in a desperate search for comfort. Sad blue eyes looked at the baby as Dumbledore gently eased the beard out of Harry's grasp.

"What just happened?" Aaron asked, just as terrified himself.

"It's the wand," answered Filius. "Every time he has seen a wand, he has reacted exactly that way. We needed to run some tests on the scar and we need him awake and conscious for those. He reacted badly."

"How badly?" wondered Anna. The others were not all exactly listening to everything, but even in the midst of all the events, the baby and its welfare had to come first. And for a magical baby, reacting badly to a wand was a terrible thing to happen.

"Let's just say that little Harry is one powerful wizard, and probably someone who can stand up against Tom Riddle or You-Know-Who, when the time comes."

"When the time comes?" asked Dorea sharply.

"He is not dead," answered Dumbledore heavily.

The adults all staggered at the statement. "How can it be?" Raymond asked at long last.

"I can think of five ways, each more heinous and more effective than the next. Knowing Tom as I think I do, I'll assume the worst till I can conclusively say one way or the other. It is a matter I intend to look into once we get the situation in hand. It ties into why we were trying to test Harry. Tom – or rather his wraith – attempted to possess Harry."

There were gasps, more sobs and a moan of horror at that pronouncement. Dumbledore held up a hand and barked, "Calm down! I said 'attempted to', not 'managed to'. What I am worried about is the scar itself. I ran some cursory scans and it is bleeding out a dark curse residue – specifically the Killing Curse. Add to that the fact that he survived. It is necessary to know the 'how'. After all Lily was not the first mother to sacrifice her life for her child. We don't know what was done, or what effect it might have on Harry."

"What are we waiting for then?" asked Severus. "I thought you were done!"

"We need him awake and cognisant of his surroundings, Severus. He might need soothing. We cannot predict how he may react. Vernon, Matthew, Flora, Rose; I must prevail upon you to get David out of this room."

Vernon grasped his wife's hand and squeezed it. "I will go."

Anna stood up. "I'll help you all get settled in."

Memory Ends

"So McGonagall really was waiting near your house as a cat?"

"Riddle attacked Lils and James around ten that night. As I remember telling you, we were at Hogwarts, Sirius, Mad-Eye and I..." started Severus.

"And there was immediate danger to Flora and her family as well as their parents. So father despatched Minerva to keep watch along with Maurice Wilson, who I believe, had the animagus form of a common barn owl. Both could blend in and alert the Order if anyone seemed poised to attack. We didn't know who the traitor was, but Vernon was known to Pettigrew at least," Albert elaborated.

"It was good luck that Pettigrew never told that lot about Vernon," Marcus commented. Joanne nodded as she was about to ask the same.

"Retrospectively, it is rather curious that they didn't attack the Driscolls or the Evanses before," Albert agreed. "As Order assets, as nomags and as a gruesome message to us, I honestly cannot think of anyone who would have been better targets. Then again, they might have been insurance if things got rough for the traitor." At Joanne's uncomprehending expression, he added, "If their side caught him and tried to extract information, he would have information in reserve."

"Oh." That made sense, even though the non-attack was curious.

"Also as an aside, Dedalus Diggle didn't celebrate the deaths of two Order members. He wouldn't have. He also couldn't have. He was already dead."

"Ah. Yes." There was an awkward pause for a bit, as Joanne contemplated how many of the incidents would be considered as horrible, glaring, insulting mistakes. She quickly sought to change the subject. "So you came to know about the Horcruxes immediately?"

"Within the next two years, actually," confirmed Dumbledore. "Not immediately of course, but we started our research into how he survived. It couldn't be done as soon as we knew, you see. The attack on the Longbottoms had shown that their side knew about Tom's continued existence as well, though clearly they didn't know the full incident. They wanted the whereabouts of their Lord. In such situations, under a combination of fear and greed, discretion doesn't necessarily remain so. It was too much of a risk to pursue the matter immediately."

"But did you find one?"

"Indeed we did. The ring that supposedly killed me...we found it the year before these children started at Hogwarts. It may seem paltry, finding just one, but that is a part of any treasure hunt, as it were. A Horcrux is one among many things that its maker may enchant. Any object belonging to Tom that we found could or could not have been one. Identification is just as arduous a process. It wasn't something that three untrained and barely of age magical children, could have done, never mind their skills or the aspect of the prophecy. We did a good job eliminating several false leads. Most of Tom's things were about control, so even if we could narrow down the search that way, it more often than not was a failure."

"Ah," agreed Joanne. Then something else struck her. "You called him You-Know-Who!"

"Yes. Voldemort was the name he coined for himself. Tom Riddle was the name he hated. He was to be feared for his prowess, there are no two ways about that, but not for his self or his humanity. Calling him Voldemort did trigger the reaction of the Taboo the first time over. I wasn't willing to sacrifice my people over that. It also caused Severus pain. So we knew that there was a curse of some sort.

"Calling him Tom or Riddle as we do showed that we neither feared him nor did we respect him. It also angered him greatly. It was also the way to disseminate information about him. If we directly stated that Tom Riddle was a halfblood, the Purebloods would use it to harm halfbloods and newbloods. With the number of times we called him Tom Riddle or any variant thereof, in passing or directly, people were bound to try and find out who this person was. And they could hardly go about blurting that out once they did, since those who would use that information to cause harm were his minions." He gave a small shrug. "It appealed to the teacher and the manipulator in me."

Joanne couldn't help it. She started laughing. "I wondered why you never revealed his origins..."

"But we did! There are things that you simply don't state outright," Albert pointed out with a grin, as Severus proceeded to the next memory.

Memory starts

[Here the POV changed. It was Flora's memory.]

Aaron conjured a table large enough for Dumbledore to use it as a makeshift healer's table. The Headmaster was not particularly adept at healing, but curse and dark magic detection was certainly his forte.

"Hold fast, Aaron – you should too, Severus. He might have a heavy burst. We cannot say how the wildness may manifest."

Charlus grabbed hold of his twin's shoulder and forced him to stand, before dragging him over to a wall where a Rune was carved. "Raymond, we might need to channel any of Harry's wild magic into the wards. Open yourself to them!"

Sure enough, a newly awakened Harry resumed screaming and crying as Dumbledore twirled his wand in complex patterns around the scar. His expressions changed with each moment. There was sympathy for Harry, an apologetic expression in response to the baby's fear, alarm at the intermittent arcs of magic that seemed tangible and finally, sheer wonder.

Flora was evidently angered by the whole process – she was moving towards the table with a hand outstretched and would probably have shouted, but for Flitwick holding her back. She turned to look at the professor who forestalled her outburst. "Don't. He is not in pain. What Albus is checking for is very important. If there is a problem, and it is not diagnosed and treated now, it could very well cause lasting, or worse, fatal harm." It was the only thing that could have calmed her at that moment.

"Dear Merlin!" Dumbledore breathed at last. Harry had subsided to whimpers and was soon seeking comfort with his thumb.

"What is it?" asked Dorea.

The eldest gentleman was silent for a while before he finally spoke. "Lily was undoubtedly the single greatest witch of her generation – possibly one of the greatest ever! She has achieved the impossible."

"What is it?" asked Filius. Albus could sometimes go abruptly into his 'teacher mode'. This was neither the time nor the situation.

"She became magic!"

"What do you mean?"

"All that was Lily – her soul, her magic, her consciousness...whatever you want to call it – became one true entity, far beyond a simple sacrifice. She became just what she meant to be – to do what she meant to. She has – all of her – become the shield that protects Harry."

"You are using the present tense..."

"I am. There are still traces of what is certainly her magic around her child. She is dead, yes. But through Harry, her protection, which has somehow proved to be stronger than the Killing Curse, survives. This is magic at its swiftest, deepest current. Nobody can truly ever claim to understand it. From mother to child, between friends, siblings, lovers... it is Love, the sort of which can neither be quantified nor qualified. In doing so, she has used magic of a kind that transcends human comprehension. I doubt that anyone could consciously replicate it." He absently brushed away a few tears that had sprung in amazement and sorrow. Lily was a truly amazing woman, who would never be truly gone, but would always be missed.

It was then that Flora approached the table. The baby – her nephew – was all that was left of Lily. At first glance, Harry would be immediately classified as James' son – the similarity was too stark to not think of him that way. She lifted the child, now attempting to consume its thumbs, as gently as she could.

[It was slightly disconcerting to see the baby face grow so large, as it moved to the side.]

"Hello Harry," she spoke in a thick voice, as a hand gently patted the baby on its back. "I'm your Aunt Flora."

Harry shifted in her arms, looked at her inquisitively and declared, "Gammy!" Then he squirmed and twisted a bit more in his Aunt's hands, and saw another of his "Gammy!" It was too much for the boy and he started whimpering. Flora soothed him again and sat with him near her parents and her brother joined them. Sitting next to Rose, she said, "She is your Gammy, Harry. I am your Aunt, Aunt Flora." She was certainly frowning in worry, as the furrowed brows and narrowed view told the watchers. True, she did greatly resemble Rose, but not so much that they could not be told apart.

She handed Harry to her parents. Matthew just held on to his grandson as he looked into the most tangible reminder of his daughter – her eyes. Harry stared at them in confusion. For the Evanses, they had just found a new person to rally around.

Memory Ends

Lily's achievement took some time for the nomags to understand. They also understood that it was not just the emotion of love, but rather the concept of it in a sense beyond the ken of currently existing knowledge. In other words, they still had no explanation.

The first question that Joanne had was related to Dumbledore's instrument of choice. "Don't you use a Staff?"

"Staves and Wands are conductors, channelling our magic. The analogy is like a handgun and a rifle, I suppose. I'd seen those during WWII. The Staff lacks finesse like the wand, but the wand can channel only so much. The Staff is a combat weapon, not something you use when you are working with a baby."

"Do you know much healing?" Joanne asked Dumbledore curiously.

"Healing no; magical detection though, I do know."

"What he isn't telling you is that he had somehow procured the services of a healer specialising in healing the brain and the nervous system and the sensory organs, with the protections of Unbreakable Vows," Anna pointed out. "He was making nearly daily visits to the Potter Abode with Poppy, Althea, Melina or the other Healer. We are not allowed to divulge the name. It was the Healer, obviously, who confirmed that Harry would have horrible eyesight. It was actually touch and go, but thankfully that was detected early. The eyes of children are far more delicate, and even without the high power magics, the flash of the curse had caused his eyes lasting harm."

"It is nothing to speak about, girl. We were faced with the unprecedented and regular scans on the child were the only way forward. I had not enforced Vows onto the Order and Lily and James, and Alice and Frank had paid for it. Due to the close relations between your families, you all suffered the most in those two days. Not that the Vows were enforceable involuntarily, but they could have been made a condition for entry. In a bid to have more people working for the cause, I had allowed operational security to be compromised. I will not be so arrogant as to take all the blame, but that executive decision was mine alone."

It cast a slight pall over the proceedings. Fortunately, the two cousins were channelling the Weasley Ghoul that was in the books. Everybody becoming quiet was never a good sign.

"You do realise what this proves, don't you?" David asked Harry, grinning. The two got into their double act – things were getting too sombre.

"My mum and her sister are/were the greatest?"

David stopped and pondered. "Yes, that as well – but it's more the fact that I was cleverer than you were, even then!"

"You were five months older!"

"I still am. It matters not!"

"It does in babies!" retorted Harry hotly. When his cousin, and even his wife and friends continued grinning, he whined and adamantly stated, "It does!"

Hermione patted his hand condescendingly. "It's okay. You are clever enough, Harry." Her husband only grumbled.

"What happened then?" asked Joanne, more interested in knowing more than in their tomfoolery. This sort of behaviour certainly had been adopted from a role model.

"Well, while we waiting for them after we were done testing Harry," answered Albus Dumbledore in a cranky manner, "the Longbottoms were attacked. We had of course sent a message to Augusta. The batty old woman didn't listen immediately. That was long enough for the Death Eaters to breach their secret as well."

There was just a passing moment of silence as they digested the oldest man they knew calling anyone 'batty old woman' – particularly given the fact that the woman in question was almost young enough to be one of Dumbledore's earliest students.

"And she regretted it till her dying day," offered Aaron.

"Who was the secret keeper?"

"Uncle James was. Dad had Peter on the approved list. The logic was that if Y Nyth Mwd, too, was breached, then the Potters and Sirius, Remus and Peter could regroup there. Conversely, Gran and my parents too knew the secret to the Potters' home, but that was only a gesture. We being betrayed meant that the Potters were the traitors, and Uncle James was dead as he too had taken the Unbreakable Vow, or they were all dead. The fact is that they all dropped the quaffle on that one," Neville answered.

"How come nobody ever doubted Peter?"

"Nobody expected Pettigrew because he was placed in the Ministry in a unique position – the Department of Magical Transportation – and we were receiving what seemed to be true reports. He could create unsubstantiated reports of clandestine meetings between known or suspected Death Eaters. A few would truly be precursors to attacks. Of course, in hindsight they were with Riddle's blessing," explained Dumbledore. "In fact, and we should have thought that it was highly suspicious, in the month before the end of October, there were more true reports from him, and the attacks were not much to speak of."

"What astounds me is that they managed to hide a Legillimancer amongst their numbers," pointed out Vernon. As someone who was once very familiar with the group's operations, he had a very valid point. "Severus had told me that they are rare, truly rare."

"What has that got to do with anything?" asked Clara. She was the mother of one of the people most involved with the story. Yet she was oblivious to the workings of the most complicated magics.

"It's about the Charm, mum," answered Hermione. "Pettigrew could honestly say that his mind was plundered by Riddle. However neither he, nor Riddle could divulge the secret in any form by oral or written information – that is the basic flaw with the charm. Contrary to what you may have heard or read elsewhere, it was never made with Legillimency in mind because the wielders of the magic are so rare. The spell only takes into account physical or verbal forms of communication. Mental intrusions don't count. It was why it would have been so easy to implicate Sirius."

A calming hand on her forearm made her take a deep breath. She was digressing from the actual answer. "Riddle was a known Legillimancer. However, he could not have told his minions because he actually couldn't have, not being the secret-keeper. It follows that one of the Lestranges or Crouch was a Legillimancer. They got hold of Pettigrew and got him to help them go after the other boy the Prophecy referred to."

"So Wormtail, who had escaped, was caught by his comrades and they attacked the Longbottoms?"

"That's what we are going to see now."

Change of Incident/ Break of continuity

"HELP!" shouted Augusta, her face tear-streaked as she appeared via Portkey into the room they had all first entered. The two toddlers were sitting on the ground, while the adults were occupying the various seats around the room. They all looked old and tired, obviously the effects of the incidents of the previous day. It was very obvious that something was wrong – he had activated the Portkey with Baby Neville in her arms and without help. It was dangerous for the baby and she had still done it.

"Augusta!" called Dorea, rushing over to her twin. "What –?"

"LESTRANGES!" the Lady Longbottom screamed. It caused a flurry of activity. Armed with true anger and hatred, and also a wand, the men – barring Raymond, and of course Vernon and Matthew – and Anna grabbed the same portkey that their guest had travelled with.

"Calm down Gus!" Dorea soothed her sister, patting her back. "It will be alright!" She actually cringed. Her words seemed hollow even to the others. Things were so far from alright that they could have laughed at the sheer irony of the attempt.


The shouting scared the three toddlers and they started crying. Dorea loved her sister, she really did. And given what she had heard and what was going on, she could understand, even empathise. But Augusta was not keen to realise what situation she had arrived into. She shepherded the children over to where Derwen and Aneira were sitting. Those two had gone under the radar, too young to understand the full implications of what had happened, and too old to be constantly cared for. Having the babies around them would help them feel included and not so out of the loop that it would make things too strange for them.

"And my nephew and his wife have already died! Their best friend, a boy I have seen grow up here for the most part has been arrested for killing Death Eaters!" she hissed back. "They have died, and as soon as we could, we sent you a message to evacuate and escape! Yet I hear that I could lose one more nephew! Why did you take so long?" They all had problems. Augusta had no business making a scene, even due to her fear for her son's life. Dorea cared for Frank as much as she cared for James, and her sister could have made a potentially fatal mistake.

The other former Vaisey opened and shut her mouth a few times. "I thought we would have time to save the Hold..."

"Are you monumentally stupid or is it magic that makes you so?" asked Flora angrily, while she took care to keep her voice low so as to not scare the two children she was soothing. At least the seven-year-old Derwen and his younger sister, who were both proud to play the roles of big brother and sister respectively, were quite able to hold their attention. "You tried to save a bloody house? What about the people? The freaks amongst your lot killed my sister! She is never coming back!" She was breathing heavily. "I have heard absolutely asinine things in your world, but never – NEVER! – have I heard anything this callous!"

"Fweaks!" repeated Harry, while staring up at her in absolute wonder. "Fweaks!" he repeated, apparently having liked that word.

"Language Harry!" scolded Flora. "You shouldn't use that word about people, though some may deserve it." Harry nodded as if he had really understood. Flora turned her attention back towards Augusta. "I honestly hope, for Neville's sake, that they are safe!"

It seemed like an interminable wait. It was, every minute of it, adding to their worry. It was nearly an hour after they had left that Severus' Adder Patronus uncoiled itself in front of them. "We are in St. Mungo's. We took out Rudolphus. I am sorry. Frank was killed before we could reach. Alice too has succumbed – Bellatrix tortured her to death."

"NO!" screamed Augusta before giving in to her sorrow as she collapsed into tears.

Memories End

"I never knew that," muttered Neville. He felt angry. He wanted to rant and rave at the memory of his beloved grandmother.

"You weren't supposed to know while she was alive," Flora replied. "She made me and Dorea promise her that."


"Augusta was afraid that you'd hate her. Remember, that she was in a unique position, Your Grace," she emphasised, to get the point across. "The House of Longbottom, as the secret, magical member of the peerage, holds much more than just a magical legacy, Neville. She was upholding her duties as the member of the House, and as the Lady-Emeritus. All the same, she wanted you to know that people are a far more important part of that legacy."

Joanne's eyes widened during that exchange as she turned to look at Sirius – His Grace, Sirius Black the Duke-Magical of Devonshire, Additional Advisor to Her Majesty on Matters Magical in general and Supernatural Security in particular – during the exchange. She remembered who else in the room was a part of the Peerage. Sirius just grinned and waved back.

"That explains why she was so distant sometimes..." muttered Neville.

"It was the cross she had to bear."

"Wait a minute. If Mr. Black is Duke-Magical Black, how did it escape the notice of Her Majesty that he was wrongly incarcerated?" It was the question Joanne had had since she knew that Sirius was Lord Black and had just remembered.

"There's a two-pronged reason," answered the man in question. "My paternal and maternal grandfathers – Arcturus and Pollux, respectively – were cousins." At Joanne's distasteful sniff, he barked out a laugh. "I lived with them you know? I always wondered how their children even met, let alone got married. Anyway, they were the third generation of a family feud. Their grandfathers were the ones who started the feud, because Procyon, who became the Head and Lord, wanted to continue with the tradition of the Peerage instead of Pollux the first, the rightful successor by primogeniture, who wanted to disavow the 'filthy nomags'. Mind you, that didn't make him a stalwart pillar of wisdom – he just liked his title too much.

"I was more like Grandfather Arcturus and father as opposed to Pollux, and given that I had friends like Lily and Flora and Vernon and everyone else, I knew and liked a lot of nomag things. Dear old Lucy was Grandfather Pollux's heir of choice, given the fact that he had no male heir. Even Her Majesty has to know to act. And it is the Ministry's duty to do so, in absence of the legitimate Duke-Magical Longbottom or Black. And only the Minister has clearance to divulge any information. Funnily, all these rules came into existence between 1981 and 1984, when practically no Order member was in a post where he or she could make any headway. Riddle might have been disembodied but it was their side that won at the time."

"That's about as true as it gets," concurred Albus. "It was a frustrating time for us. Thankfully, the Order has never been short of Volunteers. The Azkaban guards are changed every six months. There was always somebody from the Order who got the worst posting – the high security section. Sirius was innocent, so slipping him chocolates every now and then during the five years of his legally wrongful incarceration, and ensuring that he was treated with only verbal contempt during inspections did not violate their code or oath." The old man grinned with a twinkle in his eye. "They use the word 'convict' and not 'inmate' in the oath. Sirius was no convict after the first forty two months in the high security section and the forty two months after that in the low security section."

The twinkle made Dumbledore look much younger. It also told her why certain pranksters were not controlled beyond the obvious disciplining required if they overstepped their bounds. People grew up and only their objects and subjects of interest changed. Their methods became refined. That was what the Order had done for Sirius. She just had to grin back. Perhaps finding these tricks to get around the corruption and the body blows was what kept these people sane.

The distribution of another round of hot chocolate accompanied the time Joanne required to assimilate the information. She couldn't think of anything immediately that bothered her till then.

"Now pardon me for going off on a tangent with a couple of questions, but Lord Black..."

"Please call me Sirius."

"Yes please do so," ribbed the man's godson. "Otherwise he will get a Lord Complex."

"There's no such thing, brat."

"You are a special case, mutt," Severus snarked. "If it doesn't exist, you will still have it anyway."

Juliet just made a get-on-with-it gesture towards the guest.

"You have explained things to me with completeness and in context. But I find that somebody who must obviously have been a major player in all those events is missing. Where is Mr Lupin?" She had never seen expressions change as if controlled by the latest electronics. It was also when she saw the perpetually jovial, jocund masks that Sir Harry and Lord Sirius wore for what they were. She had once heard the adage, "Never ask questions you aren't prepared to hear the answers to." This seemed to be one of those situations.

"Moony," said Sirius with a sigh. "We lost him." He had slumped against the wall. Harry too looked slightly out of it. Others had expressions of fond reminiscence and general sadness. Dumbledore had a bit of regret as well. "At least we lost him in the war, and not because of his affliction. I never wished him ill, and so I honestly wished that Moony died fighting, instead of dying due to his affliction. It would have been a tragedy to see him die as most other werewolves of his kind, who live submissively, do."

This proclamation caught her cold. She had not expected Sirius Black to say that about his lone remaining best friend. "What do you mean?"

When Sirius did not – could not – elaborate further, Joanne naturally turned to Cassandra who seemed the least affected. "This is beyond what people among the nomags apparently know about werewolves. Lycanthropy is a very serious affliction. I cannot exactly explain, because it would need a close enough analogy, that I am not sure I can give..."

"AIDS," interrupted Ginny dully and unexpectedly. "As far as the vector for the disease goes, and as far as the final stages for the beta-type go, Lycanthropy closely resembles AIDS – to an extent. That is of course in layman's terms."

"It is an STD?"

She nodded. "There are two types of werewolves. Fenrir Greyback was of the first kind and Remus was of the second. The first are those of the α-strain. They are born to at least one werewolf. Often though, those werewolves have a very aggressive breeding tendency and may not actually check whether the recipient is magical or not, or they breed in their wolf form. Many werewolves of this kind terrorise villages and are often satiated with the sacrifice of a mate. Many times these very people become the next terrorising elements in an endless cycle.

"Anyway, α-Lycanthropy is also sexually transmitted. So the birth of α-werewolves creates one or even two werewolves, depending on whether the mate at that time is or isn't already infected. Α-werewolves are stronger, temperamental, more vicious and aggressive in general, and most are feral. These have to be put down for the most part, even if it sounds cruel. They have the capability, and more importantly, the sheer wish to infect as many other people as they can, even while they are in their human form.

"The other kind is the β-strain. They are the ones created due to bites, body fluid contact not including reproductive organ fluids – because once they infect the person the α-Ws treat them as dregs and would never bother to 'descend to use them', or such. They are stronger than the average human, but weaker than the α-L's, are infertile, and as the disease is foreign, have a very stringently adverse reaction to it, resulting in severely shortened life spans. They can't infect while they are human. We believe at this time that a King/Queen-Worker society – as in bees – might have existed in olden times, instead of a pack, because even in packs, the non-alphas can mate, though they usually don't. Remus was one of the Betas. He died in 1998 at the age of thirty eight. "

"And while we grieved for him," added Hermione softly, "because he was our friend, teacher, an Uncle to Harry and by association me, a role model and so many things, we were relieved in a way that he went out in the prime of his health, unlike some werewolves who lived their lives out, begging for death as the disease took its toll towards the end."

It felt horrible to have asked that question. She just glanced around to see that Severus was studiously maintaining a severely stony mien, as if trying to rein some sort of thought or memory or something in. She didn't press on. She had lot of time to know.

"You happen to know a lot," Joanne observed, aiming the observation at Ginny.

"You didn't meet Bill today, Madam Rowling, nor did you see him in any photographs post-February 1997 that these four might have shown you. Bill was bitten by Greyback. He knew what lay in store for him, even though we would always be there for him. He committed suicide," she replied in a thick voice as her husband wrapped her in a comforting hug. "It is exactly because of that that the rest of the Wesley family isn't here. Mum never came to terms with his death. We have to behave normally around her for that. And thank you for the 'Percy's falling out thing'. We are using it as a cover story. Mum believes that Bill will come around one day."

Joanne wondered whether knowing the truth was really so important now.

Neville was on hand to refute that. "It was an attack on a known hideout. Don't demean his efforts. He took out fifty of them and a whole supply depot before he fell."


"It was still mostly successful, apart from his death. It may have been more had he not died," agreed Neville softly. Ginny was his friend as well, and he knew how raw her brother's death was for her, especially given her work. "But to call it suicide...? No. He was a martyr, Gin."

She just blinked some more tears away angrily. It took her a few moments to collect herself. When she did, she was once again Dr. Virginia Wesley-Driscoll. "It was one of the most painful things for us to read in those books. Harry and I having a godson who'd be the son of Remus, or Victorie, Bill's daughter, were things that were never on the cards. I was already living in the nomag world at the time of Bill's death. At that time I knew that Sirius and Harry were actually looking for cures for Remus, knowing there wasn't enough time. It was why I chose to study microbiology as a special elective during my course work while I studied to be a doctor. I work on the disease. They finance my work as they did my higher education."

Why were you living in the nomag world? And who were you living with? Joanne so eagerly wished to ask. But she held her tongue again. Magical people with no nomag antecedents didn't just up and live in the nomag world. It would be especially true for the littlest girl of a loving family, if she refused or failed to learn magic any longer, and instead chose to study one of the toughest courses there is.

"So; we knew at that time that Moony didn't have much time left, and we were going to fail. Having lived on both sides of the magical divide, we knew better than to ignore any nomag methods, and that was a desperate attempt. It wasn't as if we could actually take Moony to a doctor and explain things.

"Squibs do often turn to the nomag world, but since they leave at age fifteen or thereabouts as many hold the hope that they may be late bloomers – after eleven in any case, it isn't as if they can realistically take up high level professional courses. Gin was a blessing then, and of course it was at a terrible time for her and us. Her father had arranged for his children to have access to non-magical education till the age of eleven, what they call KS-1 and KS-2 now, so she wasn't far removed from the system. Things just moved along from there. We had the same motivation; she would have the knowledge and skills and we would have the money," explained Sirius. "We can only hope to help others where we failed Moony. It was how the Remus Lupin Memorial Lycanthropy Research and Treatment Centre, was established. She herself set up the William Wesley Support Centre, which employs counsellors, mind healers and psychiatrists. She heads the Remus Lupin Centre ably."

"Are they treated so badly?" Joanne asked timidly – not out of fright, but out of sympathy.

"Not a day goes by when the fear which causes people to tar both sets of werewolves with the same brush doesn't make me cringe," offered Severus in a careful neutral voice. "Remus was one of the best people I knew. In general werewolves are treated with disgust and termed as close to untouchables as can be, are turned away and shunned. The poor man's only mistake was being the nephew of the woman Greyback wanted to sire pups with, and the son of the man who died protecting his sister. He was a person of true intellect, was caring, honest and noble to a fault, and however much he was hurt, he still found a way to go on. Yet he was treated as if it was his mistake that he was infected. The worst thing was that he was bitten so young – it gave the disease a lot of time to completely manifest. He was reaching the final stages already by 1996."

"In my long life," croaked the Headmaster (and Joanne felt terrible for being so uncharitable in that description) I consider myself rather unfortunate to have outlived so many of my friends and students. Remus was – or is – one of them. I remember meeting Remus and his mother the first time. At the age of eleven, a boy who loved books had taken to building a house for himself away from his village from what boards he could cut from the forest wood."

Dumbledore had a faraway look as he remembered one of his best students. "Two students whom I had visited stand out in my memory – Tom and Remus." He broke off before repeating his words unconsciously, as old people often do, "I remember meeting Remus and his mother the first time. At the age of eleven, a boy who loved books had taken to building a house for himself away from his village from what boards he could cut from the forest wood. The look in his eyes when I offered him my hand to shake...he thought I was mad to want to touch him even to shake his hand.

"It was a true travesty. People stayed away from him and shunned him out of misinformation and fear. If anyone I knew had any motivation to go dark, it was him. He was dealt a terrible hand by fate, and yet, Remus remained strong and true and fought. Through my years, I have known many people. But I haven't been prouder of anyone more than I was, and still am, of Remus."

"When father told me that Remus was a werewolf, I had seen it as a statement by the Order," remembered Albert. "I never truly understood the friendship of the Marauders then. It was only much later that I truly understood and appreciated the action of three eleven year olds – yes, even Peter – to defy conventional behaviour and befriend Remus, and more importantly keep that friendship alive and closer when they found out his secret. Keeping that secret, helping him through those days, supporting him and making him feel wanted...they showed more wisdom than people several times their ages. Remus especially loved Harry. Neither of Lily or James was going for the symbolic when they presented Harry to his Uncle Moony, but then nobody else I knew would have done that, of course except Sirius."

"Moony was one of the few people who are simply too hard to not like or respect," reminisced Daphne. "He had the unique ability to stand in someone else's shoes and walk a mile. Then again, he knew what it was like to be a werewolf in the midst of the social ostracism that werewolves face. From stupid problems we might have had as children to protecting us during the war, he could do anything."

"Bill was an equal motivation for me, as was Remus. After the events of the Chamber of Secrets, Remus took the time and effort to attend to me. For all that could reasonably be expected from my brothers, they were still children. He came down to my level and talked with me. There are so many lives that the man touched and made better..." Ginny added. "And Bill was the best of course. He was my big brother." She chuckled half-heartedly. "He was the one who saw me as the baby in the family, but still taught me new hexes "because he wasn't around always to protect me", taught me to ride a broom, and so many, many things..."

"Moony was my Uncle – just as close to being a brother who was his own age for dad as Sirius was. He played a huge role in helping me stay connected with Padfoot, a mythical person whom I hadn't seen till I was thirteen. Out in the nomag world he was able to truly be himself, and then the man with the twisted humour who hid behind the gentleman used to shine. He was a rather successful wool-farmer. His farm was just outside Toab in southern Shetland. You might appreciate how that influenced me," Harry pointed out. "He had the mission to ensure that I...ah...stayed true to my father's nature as well."

Joanne couldn't help but snort at that.

"Bill on the other hand was, as you wrote, just cool! Sirius taught me the tricks of the trade, but Bill was Indiana Jones and, perhaps Dr. Strange all rolled into one. I wanted to be him. I know it's pretty hard on the Wesleys, but from what I knew of him while he worked for the Order in England, and from my interactions with him, I agree with Gin and Nev. He was a martyr, but he went out as he would've planned – the charge of the light brigade."

"Now you see why the idea of Sirius, James or even Pettigrew as he was then, setting Remus on anyone, let alone me, was inconceivable?" asked Severus. "The man was too well-loved for anyone to think of even doing that."

Joanne could only nod. She couldn't even think of Sirius thinking of that as prank. The man was too loyal to those he loved, and Remus Lupin was a man loved by all. The atmosphere was turning too sad. None of the usual suspects seemed intent upon changing it, so Joanne had to change the subject herself. "How far have you progressed?"

"Surprisingly, for having recognised different strains, we have progressed very little. Isolation of the pathogen is still under progress. The strains were recognised purely empirically by observation of the collected infection data and behavioural observation. We have yet to understand why the effect of the full moon causes both strains to behave similarly, or indeed, how the two strains originated and have evolved differently. Preliminary tests on stunned werewolves of both kinds have shown similar biological behaviour of cells of the organs as against lupine cells for corresponding organs.

"Some things we have had to revisit. Exchange of bodily fluids needn't be of the procreative kind for the Alphas, as I told you. It is the classic 'share-the-razor' thing. Contact between an open wound of an uninfected person and the saliva or blood of a werewolf – a Beta in wolf form or an Alpha in any manner – helps the spread of that aggressive disease. Again we have observed that crucial difference but haven't yet found the reason. Infection occurs in as little as under five or so minutes, always. Contrary to popular belief, not every injury caused by just about any werewolf, without such fluid contact, results in infection.

Ginny sighed before she continued. "We can only conclusively state that we know every means of propagation now. At the moment, since it is necessary to cull the α-population, we are worried about the β-pathogens mutating to emulate the α-strain. We don't know for sure, but it is a matter that has seen no solution as of yet. The matter is embroiled in severe political, policy and legal-moral complications, while at the same time being crushed under the weight of possible implications that newer experiments have shown."

"This might be a stupid question, but couldn't the disease be entirely magical?"

"It would have been possible if there was any ritual, spell or potion to turn a person into a werewolf. We did investigate that. But that was a good question, nonetheless."

"I really hope that you succeed," Joanne wished fervently.

"Thank you," replied Ginny in a heartfelt manner.

Joanne then looked at Harry accusingly. "Why did you say that you don't do much?"

"I don't, do I?" asked Harry with a shrug. "Gin does the work. I may provide financial support, but I can't co-opt her work. I don't do anything, really." He then gave a strained grin. "I am not even smashingly handsome, nor am I a beautiful lady. So I can't pull a Princess Diana either. We have got these beauties for that..." he attempted to joke, sweeping a hand to indicate the ladies present in the room.

The authoress could only smile in surprise. There was the reluctance to accept praise, and the absence of apathy. Everyone was silent for sometime as they worried their mugs and took lengthy draughts. It was only ten minutes later that Joanne felt comfortable enough to speak again and turn the conversation back to the original topic. "So, what happened next?"

In answer, Severus poured another memory into the pensieve.

Memory starts

"We still have to take care of their funerals still," Matthew spoke out for the first time in two days. The bodies of the four were being kept under a stasis spell. It was true horror that they were afraid of being attacked while their children would be laid to rest, never mind the fact that they had to lay their children to eternal rest.

"Those will have to take place by magical rituals. We simply cannot bury them," Dumbledore declared in a tone of grave finality.

"Why? Lily attended Church," protested the bereaved father bitterly. "Your world took her away! At least let us say goodbye in our own way!"

Dumbledore grimaced and looked away sadly. There was nothing he could say to Matthew or Rose, that would make them accept the practical reasons for the situation. Severus could see that he would have to intervene. It was the one circumstance when he feared that Matthew and Rose would regret taking him in.

"Dad, the Headmaster doesn't want to enforce the magical rituals on us," he temporised, using the word 'us' to calm his father with the empathetic feeling of collective sorrow. "There is a very real reason. You know what inferi are. You know that Riddle is not dead. If and when he returns, he will attempt to move against us and the first thing he will do is break us with reanimated corpses of Lily and James. I hate that this has happened. I hate it, I truly do. And I am going to exact revenge on every single one of those beasts that killed our little flower. But I know that if I see the soulless husk of my sister stride over to me to attack me, I will be unable to do anything. He may find Harry some day and your grandson, my nephew – her son! – will be in danger from Lily."

Matthew sagged in defeat. Severus pressed home his advantage, hating himself thoroughly. "Tell me dad, will you be able to hurt her?"

"No," replied Matthew hollowly, before, ever so slowly, breaking into sobs. It was the first time he had reacted beyond staring at Lily with intensity as if hoping she would wake up.

"There is something you can do though, Matthew," Dumbledore offered kindly. "The ashes, you can bury them. Some will be scattered to the four directions of course, but otherwise, there will be a chance for you to say goodbye. I know. I had all my grandchildren die as well." Matthew said nothing.

"We will have to ask Augusta whether she minds the Welsh rites or would allow them..." Charlus prompted into the awkward moment.

"Ah yes, I should go meet her," agreed Dumbledore.

[They were watching the events in a grove. There seemed to be two funeral pyres.]

Four pyres were laid out under the open sky in the centre of a fairly large circle of stones. They could see Y Nyth Mwd in the distance, so it was probably deep in the surrounding copse of trees. A person, older than Dumbledore seemed to be in the present, and younger than a newborn infant, stood ramrod straight facing them.

On closer inspection, the pyres turned out to be constructed of earth baked to hardness, and two fat and long branches each of Yew, Elder and Holly – three trees with special significance in the ancient system with reference to life, death and the passage of souls to the next world – ensconced the bodies. Straw and animal fat made up the fuel.

The closest living female relatives of each of the dead – Elizabeth Dearborn, Alice's mother, was about to consign her daughter to rest, after having already done so with her son; Ursula and Dorea for James, Flora and Rose for Lily, and Augusta and Aneira for Frank – planted a sapling each of Alder (for air), Willow (for water), Hawthorn (for fire), Elm (for Earth) and Ash (the holy tree) around the circle at large intervals. There were similar other trees, so evidently it had been used by the Potters before.

The gentlemen then planted a sapling at the head of each pyre, each signifying the wand-woods. Raymond planted a Mahogany, and it being technically non-native, he had to cast several charms on it to ensure that it would thrive. Harry was with him first, and then with Matthew and Severus as they planted a Willow at the head of Lily's pyre. Reginald Dearborn and his grandson planted a chestnut at the head of his daughter's pyre, before Aaron, Charlus and Neville planted a yew by Frank's pyre. Of course, given the sheer sizes of the trees, they had to be planted in line with the heads of the pyres. Together then they all planted another yew as well.

The sheer size of the clearing could be imagined when one recognised how large the trees grew to be.

It was then that the gentleman, who was a magical priest, started chanting in Welsh. It roughly translated to: "Great Divine Spirits, we pray to you today in great grief and sorrow. Here we consign to the flames Frank of House Longbottom, a beloved son, brother, husband, father, friend, warrior and protector. War has taken from him the Great Bounty of Life that you had bestowed. His soul – which shall remain immortal – and his magic, leave the earthly body today to travel to your realm. Please grant them safe passage. Through Water, through Air, through Fire, through the Earth, and through the Skies, that which you have bestowed returns to you, to rest and to be judged and to be bathed in your benevolence, while he may watch over his loved ones from your Realm. Grant Frank safety, till such time as you deem fit for him to return once more into our midst." Similar chants were repeated for Alice, Lily and James. The old man, for druid was not the word for him even though several beliefs were shared with that ancient system (including rebirth), sprinkled some water onto the pyres with a small sprig of yew, followed by some earth from the ground they stood on, before finally nodding to the wand-wood planters. Jets of fire flowed from their wands, and the pyres lit. It was an intensely private moment of grief shared by the three families. The fires burnt away the bodies and a fistful of the ashes were dispersed with winds to the four directions.

[The scene shifted back to Y Nyth Mwd.]

"He hasn't stopped crying whenever we use our wands near him, Albus," Raymond complained worriedly. It was a torrid time for the 'younger' Potter twin, with his son and daughter-in-law dead, with a man he considered close enough to be his own son under indefinite arrest for killing people who would have helped murder his son, and his grandson reacting horribly to probably the most important instrument he'd ever hold. He was no snob, but at the same time, Harry had to be able to function as a wizard.

"I understand Raymond, I really do. But the Healer's assurance is that it is simply fear and that he will grow out of it, if he is shown enough good things about magic that can be performed with a wand."

"We are doing that already! He enjoys the show so long as the wand is not pointed towards a person. Once that happens he starts bawling."

"Well at least Alastor will be happy," remarked Dumbledore with a sigh. "If this keeps up though, we will have to raise him on the nomag side. Once he becomes old enough to understand, we can reintroduce the wand to him."

Raymond lapsed into thought. It was a no-brainer, really. This was his only grandson they were talking about. "Ursula and I can live as nomags. Perhaps, if Matthew and Rose agree, we can all live together."

Dumbledore spied Rose, who looked woebegone and then towards the toddler who was racing Neville and David in a bid to clamber up the sofa. "I find your suggestion quite acceptable, Raymond," he replied in a low voice. "But can you honestly look at either of those two and think that they can keep up with a growing boy?"

"We can," offered Flora and Vernon. "David and Harry are the same age, Dumbledore. They get along quite well."

"Are you sure? It will be a risk. Your home is owned by non-magicals. As much as I want to ward it, you know who is coming into power, and that I therefore can't hide it well enough without being paranoid. I can hardly endanger you that way in good conscience, while being unable to cast wards around your house."

"Pettigrew hasn't yet been caught, Professor! We would be at risk anyway!"

Dumbledore stroked his beard as babyish giggles emanated from the background.

"Is it a matter of contract or intent?" pressed Vernon.

"That's a very interesting question. I would hazard a guess and say it is both. My guesses are usually correct."

Vernon turned to Raymond. "The price of my house is ten galleons."

"How do we remain a part of Harry's life though?" asked Raymond before things could progress further. He didn't like the way things were being decided. "He is my only grandson! He is all that is left of James!"

"And of Lily as well!" retorted Severus a bit heatedly.

"Calm down! Both of you! Raymond, please understand. You are already approaching your seventies, as is Ursula. I am already worried about Matthew and Rose's health." The image moved a bit as Severus nodded. It seemed Dumbledore had spoken to him about that. "With Vernon and Flora he will find parents who would be of that very generation." Raymond was still frowning. "This doesn't mean that you will be cut off from him. On the contrary, Harry will have his grandparents and magical protectors staying close by. Who else will tell him all about being a Potter?"

Raymond still remained silent.

"The way I see it, it also protects my family from something we can't hope to defend ourselves," reasoned Vernon.

Finally Raymond nodded, albeit reluctantly. "The rent will be suitable care for my grandson, and accepting the wards that Dumbledore shall select or lay as the case may be."

"He can of course, also have his Uncle around, hopefully," Severus put in. He knew he was always welcome at Flora's place, but he needed to ensure that he wouldn't be intruding.

Vernon gave him a look which implied that he was thinking that Severus was being particularly daft. "You do remember Flora, don't you, Severus? Remember, the blue-eyed woman who looks a lot like your mum? You know, the woman who also happens to be your sister? I somehow don't think that she would quite appreciate an absentee Uncle for either of the boys."

Whatever the expression it was that Severus had assumed, it certainly made Vernon smile. Flora certainly had the measure of her brother, it seemed.

"How are we going to do it though?"

"Y Nyth Mwd, like many wizarding homes, was built on land already owned by those who lived in it and whenever the ownership has transferred, it has almost always been through a will – I cannot remember a case to the contrary. So the concepts of a contract or notarisation of the sales deed are absolutely alien," Charlus explained speaking up for the first time during the conversation. "So respectfully, I will dispute Albus' contention that both intent and contract matter."

Charlus was right. There was again no immediate reference.

"We need to check it somehow," offered Aaron. "If we can ensure that it works as we want it to before having Harry live with the Driscolls, we can at least rest assured."

There was a span of silence as the people involved in the process tried to find a way around. The solution came from someone who hadn't been considered in the 'decision making' process. "Does ward-laying for any object need permissions?" asked Anna.

"Yes. Yes it does. That fact does not change for any object that needs to be protected by wards," answered Dumbledore.

"Well, then, just have Uncle Raymond buy Vernon's pen or shirt or something, ward it, and give it back to Vernon to use and try to transfer the ward control to him! That should satisfy the intent, shouldn't it?" she reasoned.

The men looked at her, stunned. Then Dumbledore started chuckling. "Sometimes, the most obvious solution eludes us all!" He fished out a small button from his robes and after warding a pen, enlarged the button and with his wand carved a few runes on it, then got the two men to prick their thumbs and place a drop on the button each, before he enchanted the button. At the nomag's questioning glance, he explained, "You can't actually feel the wards, Vernon. This is the ward control mechanism by proxy that is exchanged between landlords and tenants – tenants don't own the house. Since Raymond can't be around all the time, if this works, you will be the one in control of the wards."

"But I am not magical," wondered Vernon.

"Vernon," corrected Dumbledore, "Life is magic. Blood sustains life, and is therefore a magical substance, irrespective of whether the person is magical or not. Blood magic can be truly practised by anyone, but it is too exacting, too powerful to control, and therefore, often too dangerous. This is peanuts compared to that."

The experiment was a success. "Well, that solves one problem," declared Severus. "The next is transportation. Say Charlus, you performed the Ward and Home Acceptance ceremony for Harry here, right?"

"Of course!" replied the Head of House Potter.

"We'll have to perform it again, won't we?"

"Ah... Yes. We will."

"Again, the solution is obvious," pointed out Flora this time. "Alastor has the keys to Sirius' bike, about the only thing that can expand enough to seat the one person who is protected by the very nature of what he is – Hagrid."

[The scene changed to that of the night when Harry was delivered to the Driscolls.]

A motorbike ghosted through the cool night, bearing three passengers – a gigantic rider, a man sitting in the sidecar and the baby that the man held. There was no sound, a fact that would have bike enthusiasts cringing. Silencing a Triumph T140D Bonneville and attaching a sidecar was nigh on sacrilege. There was also no tell-tale smell that the exhaust gases generated. As they descended towards a house in a residential area in Guildford, the man with the baby drew out his wand and sent two balls of light towards two houses.

The woman who was watching it all happen from the open terrace at the top of her home nodded once as one ball sped towards her. Looking down towards the street, she saw two people appear out of thin air just outside the door of her home, climb onto the first step and then step down before waiting on the pavement for the motorbike to land.

The woman nodded again as if confirming the odd behaviour as a predetermined sign, before hurrying down the stairs. A few moments later, the woman and her husband emerged from the door, where they were joined by the people on the pavement, the motorbike riders and a very old, white-bearded man in a black suit and a red tie, and a woman wearing what seemed to be an emerald green, velvety, Victorian dress.

"Raymond, Ursula," Vernon called out, acknowledging the Potter couple, followed by, "Dumbledore, Minerva."

Ursula nodded dully. She had finally, after two weeks, started to come to terms with and accept the losses of her son, daughter-in-law and the incarceration of Sirius.

"Hagrid," Vernon called next, holding out a hand to the gentle giant. He also nodded to Severus who was clutching onto their nephew. Hagrid in turn gingerly shook Vernon's hand with two fingers and his thumb, as firmly as he dared (Vernon was only four foot shorter and weighed only a ninth as much as Hagrid did) before retrieving his sail of a handkerchief and blowing his nose into it.

"There, there, Hagrid," consoled Dumbledore, as he patted his biggest student's back. He might as well have attempted to pat Hagrid's shadow for all the good it did. He gazed deeply at Vernon. "I ask you again, Vernon, as by . Is your decision final, knowing all the risks and the benefits? If you have any misgivings, you should air them now and you may still back out honourably."

"Are you asking us whether we will forsake not only our familial bonds but also the only remnant of my sister?" asked Flora flatly, though with a hint of anger.

"My decision is final. I believe that, were they in my place, Lily and James would have cared for my son as I shall for theirs. While Harry needs to have a magical upbringing as well, he shall not want for parental love and care under my roof, with all that it shall entail."

Dumbledore merely nodded. "I will now place Harry on the lowest step adjoining the pavement. The letter I gave you and Raymond – have you both placed blood drops on it? I have enchanted it so that the pages are never-ending, and you only need to write a new name to allow access."

Vernon nodded to show that he had understood, before fetching it.

"Then you may proceed." Dumbledore placed the baby on the pavement. Vernon wrote Harry's name on the letter.

Flora took Harry in as Vernon said, "I, Vernon Lawrence Driscoll, do hereby accept Harry James Potter as a resident of my House and as a part of my family, and extend to him my love and protection."

"I, Flora Mary Driscoll, accept Harry James Potter into my home and extend to him my love and protection."

There was the fine distinction in the use of the words "house" and "home". It was enough to seal the deal though, as Harry was cradled lovingly by his aunt.

Minerva bent to place a small kiss on the baby's brow, as did Hagrid. The whiskery kiss woke Harry who came face to face with the giant. Hagrid touched Harry with his littlest finger, and Harry, wriggling free of the blankets, attempted to grab the huge object with both hands before he could decide whether or not he should cry. Severus stepped up to tickle his nephew's face, before bending down and whispering, "We will meet soon, Harry." He received a pat on his nose for that.

Dumbledore peered closely at Harry, before wishing, "Good luck, Harry Potter." He turned to Flora. "James had some minor investments in the nomag world. Those returns were deposited into a fund for such an eventuality. To keep things strictly legal, you will get three hundred pounds a month."

Flora didn't say anything in reply. There were certain legal reasons, and there was no need to have people nosing about.

Memory Ends

"So you have a religion of your own?"

"I don't know whether you can call it a religion. We do not truly assign names or specific customs to a God or Goddess. Some follow the Wiccan or the Druidic ways, but the mainstream Magical World doesn't. We just recognise the presence of powers far greater than ours which are the genesis of our own, and believe that Nature is the manifestation of the greatest miracle that magic has to offer. We do have very much the same festivals. We celebrate solstices, Samhain and so on," explained Cassandra.

"This difference – where many nomags brought with them the beliefs common to them, and clashed often on what to pass on to the children – has been one of the larger issues of the anti-newblood strife. The strife occurs because the younger magical generation finds it easier to accept festivals like Christmas in its true spirit, while often the newbloods would be fast to deride our customs as uncivilised. Then again there were cases where people clung to customs which no longer made sense. It was always a case of there not being a right answer."

"Of course," the authoress agreed. Magical or not, that matter never had a right answer.

"You know, the complete absence of any sort of remembrance for either mine or Neville's parents was very odd, to say the least. We didn't have the graves, but there are other ways to remember. True, it was not the powerful scene of the graveyard in Godric's Hollow, but we visited the Grove every year," Harry pointed out. "That scene...it was beautiful, though. And if it were truly the situation with the previous books and everything thereafter, I honestly can't imagine anyone else but Hermione with me," he added, squeezing his wife's hand. She smiled in reply.

Joanne smiled truly for the compliment as well as for the several qualifiers. It, it was one of those scenes she had written which even she knew to be defining for those two characters. "Thanks." She cleared her throat a bit before asking, "The next obvious question is: What is this ceremony that Mr. Evans referred to?"

"Although Riddle was evidence to the contrary, we aren't uncultured brutes," Severus replied. "We have our own customs and culture, as Cassie said, and I believe they are perfectly reasonable. When babies are brought home for the first time, they have to be keyed into the wards. Both the Lady of the House – in her role as the Mother – and the Head of House, who allows entry into the wards, together take the baby in from the boundary of the wards. This applies to guests also, but that is a different welcoming ceremony, again only necessary for magicals. Of course, very powerful, unwelcome guests like Riddle can break them down and invite themselves in, given enough time and inside knowledge. Nobody would have expected a magical to rent out a house to a nomag, so that circumvented the law! Now since Vernon was the Head of the House and Flora the Lady by the tenancy, which precluded Raymond's rights of Ward Control once the tenancy was agreed upon, they had to be the ones to accept Harry into the household and the wards..."

"So that was why he was placed on the steps!"

"Yes. Take five points to Ravenclaw."

Joanne was now on a roll. "And since it would draw too much attention given Hagrid's presence, it had to be done at night."

"Excellent!" echoed Dumbledore. "Take another five! Moreover, we could always trust Hagrid. Also, as with all giants, he is supremely resistant to curses. So if they were attacked, he could always take Harry away to a safe place temporarily."

"Where is he?"

"Henry is meeting his biggest friend's family – from a very large distance," answered Cassandra. "Hagrid doesn't particularly need oaths and stuff. He is loyal to Dumbledore. That's it."

"But didn't the bike break the Statute?"

"Hagrid's very presence breaks the statute," pointed out Sirius drily. "We can't exactly get him to be smaller and less conspicuous, can we? So the bike doesn't do any harm." Nobody objected to Sirius' bike!

"When's the last time you caressed Bonnie, Sirius? When was the last time you cleaned all her curves and niches?" asked Harry innocently. He received a two-fingered response from his godfather and a swat on the back of his head from his wife.

Joanne sipped her chocolate a bit more. It was amusing that she hadn't realised that the same container had dispensed three different beverages. Everything was too straightforward, making her doubt things, again. "So obviously, Harry was never the abused child," she commented, her voice bearing quite some scepticism.

"Of course not!" snapped Harry, shocking everyone by the sudden outburst He didn't understand the doubts in the face of irrefutable proof. It was for the first time that she had seen true anger from the man, and it hadn't taken three seconds for the reaction. He had never seemed less like the Harry she knew, and who had complimented her less than three minutes prior. "It might make for a good story maybe, and work for the theme of the downtrodden hero, probably, but it doesn't and didn't happen like that in real life. Aunt Flora and Uncle Vernon have been my parents for as long as I can remember. Just because there was no strife on that account, it doesn't mean that things were easy all around."

"Harry!" cautioned Severus.

"No Uncle Sev," he cut him off harshly, his tone becoming snappy and rather sibilant. "This is the object of this entire exercise – exorcising the misinformation which essentially maligns and haunts my family. I do not have much patience with those who do so, directly or indirectly. People would do well to remember that, especially when they are being given proof."

"Harry!" scolded Flora in right earnest. "Apologise and go cool off!"

The man gave his Aunt a mulish glare, and lurched to his feet, before snapping off an apology to Joanne which he clearly didn't mean. "I apologise for my words Madam Rowling." He then stalked off. Vernon gave Joanne a blank look and followed his nephew.

Joanne was still reeling from the shock of having been exposed to the overwhelming anger of Harry Potter which nonetheless was expressed more through the tone and body language and the behaviour and its abruptness, and an overwhelming feeling which could only be described as a...pressure, of a sort, rather than the words.

Hermione sighed and turned to Joanne. "I apologise, on his behalf, as he said for his words."

"And I on Vernon's," Flora added. "He really hated the books."

It was a complete minute before Joanne could speak. "It was...shocking!"

"And do you honestly think that the reaction was unexpected, Madam Rowling?" asked the oldest man in the room, his eyes flashing. "Your books insinuated that I allowed a child, a precious life which had undergone such a horror, to be placed in an abusive home; that the abusers were his own aunt and uncle – people who we all know to be good, trustworthy and upstanding people and whom Harry regards as the loving parents who have brought him up; that the nomag system where teachers are trained to root out cases of abuse failed – either on account of some shoddiness behind the scenes or by some other means surely, because I know for a fact that the system is powerful and getting better and is something that I admire and have resorted to in quite a few newbloods' cases; that the man who we know to be Harry's uncle in real life was responsible for the attack on his family... So many things are included that repulse us, insult us.

He glared a bit. "We are not saints Madam Rowling, but we aren't so far gone as to enable abuse – nay, torture – of a child. We, all of us, do have a conscience. It is true that the present ideals of childcare were not known or followed in my childhood, but we know when things change and when they change for the better."

Joanne cringed at that. She had not taken that into account, and though in dire circumstances, Dumbledore was known to talk straight, his cutting words in what was essentially a homely environment made her feel as if she had one some grievous wrong – which perhaps, by the perception of these people, she had, even though unwittingly and by association.

"It's just that...that he scared me horribly," she mumbled.

"Yes," agreed Clara. "But then we have always known the fact that he has anger problems. Hermione has the ability to channel it well. She has the reasons why she puts up with that, and I have disapproved of his reluctance to seek help time and again. I have never received those reasons, but now seems to be a good time. "

"He wasn't reluctant. I had taken him to Phillip, Clara," Christopher temporised in his surprisingly deep voice for such a small man.

"It is an effect of the Prophecy," answered Anna and Derwen said simultaneously. "We all know to expect a sudden, seemingly unexpected reaction."


"It's the effect of the Prophecy," echoed Albus. "Harry could have always been the same person as Riddle was if he had been brought up in an environment harmful to a child and bereft of any love at all. At least I believe so."

"What do you mean?" asked Christopher. "My friend had never found a trigger, but I had always assumed that Harry had never been able to be completely truthful due to the Statute or something."

"Please understand that a lot of Divination doesn't make sense or is unintelligible until after the events have passed. The meaning of the Prophecy became clear only as the war went on and it meant anything at all only once it was fulfilled. Till then, even I had left it as a bad job after pondering over it for the first two years.

"The Prophecy stated that the Dark Lord would mark him as his equal. Tom was quick to temper, violently angry when roused, had complete disregard for rules and human life as well. He was also scarily powerful and he was also terrifically clever – he had tremendous brains. By the Prophecy, Harry was nearly all that – is nearly all that – barring the disregard for human life, except for situations where one has no time to think. I have seen enough to see the similarities. So much so, that, I strongly believed that, again by the Prophecy, Tom's Horcruxes..." He assumed a grin as he trailed off. "No. I'll prefer to let that part of the story unfold in its own sweet time. The truth is, after all a beautiful and terrible thing. It must be treated with caution and not dismissed when it is stranger than fiction. You shall yet be shocked or surprised, I daresay."

"So what set them apart?" asked Flora turning a little green, yet looking towards the door with an expression of remembered fear, one that Hermione shared. Flora knew the Prophecy of course, but had never truly pondered upon these ramifications. "What makes Lily's son different from the monster that killed her?"

"You do," answered Daphne as she smiled in comprehension. "You, Mr. Driscoll, the Professor and the Potters do. I have seen every terrible facet of my best friend during the time I fought alongside him. I have been scared of him often enough. And then I have seen him question everything that he did and become riddled with shame and self-doubt. What sets them apart is the fact that he was brought up with morals. He was brought up with the understanding, the ability to discern between the good and the bad. He has his own code of ethics. He is human with all the good and bad that it entails. We have seen him question himself endlessly. You all have taught him what being a human means, what being loved and loving people in return means."

"Indeed," pointed out Dumbledore gravely. "That was what made Harry 'the One' and not 'the Dark Lord'. It could well have gone that way. In those books," and here his tone was scathing, "all that was ever shown was the terrible side of magic. All that he knew about magic was that it hurt people he grew even a little close to. The obvious response after experiencing the sort of childhood he was portrayed to have, would not be him shutting himself from magic – it would be to ensure that magic would simply cease to exist. Moreover, he would see the 'muggles' as cruel, vicious people who either harmed or watched as someone was allowed to be harmed. So they wouldn't deserve to exist either.

"If this started while Riddle lived, then it would be him who would be 'the One'. Riddle, who sought to rule, would be the hope against a madman who just wanted to destroy everything. Riddle too was, after all, reduced to nothing, magically. He too survived the killing curse. He too would be considered as marked as an equal, by the Dark Lord Harry. He would be the one fighting for the world's survival, so that he could rule something, anything. He would have the experience that he garnered over the years as 'the power the Dark Lord knew not'!"

Everyone looked thoroughly aghast at the end of this pronouncement. The man who had stomped out of the room because somebody insulted his family was nothing like this. Mood-swinging and unpredictable he was, but certainly not a monster, though he very well had the capability to be one.

"So when you say disregard for human life in certain situations..." she trailed off. "What does that truly mean?"

"The place where Ronald, I and Harry run into Death Eaters including Dolohov in the seventh book, for example," answered Hermione. "Had that really happened, Harry would have reasoned that three of those scum should never walk the earth again, beheaded them and sent the incapacitated corpses to Riddle, sent photos of the heads to all the newspapers, and the heads would be dropped unceremoniously in Diagon Alley for people to see and hope, along with those photos also being pasted there to ensure that everyone would know.

"That's the sort of disregard we know he would show. And given that Dolohov had "nearly killed" me before...let's just say Riddle was not the only one capable of creating fear, "because it would only be fair that our side had someone who could, too." It wouldn't be an eye for an eye. It would both eyes, and possibly the life of the person as well. And then he would spend days brooding over his actions. I love him, but Harry is not a good person to face in a war. A large part of it was because he didn't consider the Death Eaters who actually revelled in being what they were, human. I am pretty sure that he never placed any value on their lives."

"Why do you think it took so long, Aunt Flora?" asked Neville softly. "Much apart from the obvious reasons, there is the very important fact that he feared – we all feared that you all would be ashamed of us. It was his Boggart, you know, that he would become Tom and you would scream out that you were ashamed of him – that Aunt Lily and Uncle James were ashamed of him. Barring the Killing Curse, he has used all kinds of magic. And creativity was always one of the things he could display, even as horrendous as it could be."

"That's stupid. I know I haven't had to take that sort of action since my job was within the Ministry, but even as a bureaucrat I am not repulsed by the intellectual necessity to consider what we might call summary execution of the enemy in combat situations," retorted Derwen. "It is quite ironic that he was only doing Walden McNair's job in the true sense."

Flora scowled as well, as she echoed, "I am a soldier's wife, Neville. And Harry has been as good as my own for nearly all his life. That is the stupidest thing I have heard, and I have heard a lot of those, particularly from him."

Joanne saw one more aspect to the character of Flora Evans-Driscoll. She called it as she saw it. Her words could at times be cutting, but indirectness was absent in its entirety. A blunter woman one would be unable to find. And Derwen, measured, soft-spoken Derwen, had given what was a very precise description of those actions which his cousin was still apparently ashamed of.

Clara turned to her daughter sharply and asked, "Have you?"

"I haven't, but that's because like Uncle Severus, I was required to brew. I am no healer, but even he declared me to be a competent brewer. It was a close thing though." Her eyes narrowed as she suddenly impersonated Clint Eastwood. "And I would thank you to not feel disgusted by his actions! It still troubles him enough as it is!" Hermione warned her mother, brushing past the smokescreen that was the question about her actions.

"I am not disgusted," Clara stoutly declared. "But his anger issues and his experiences may unexpectedly bring the worst out of him. You weren't hurt by that Tyrannis person. Imagine a scenario where you were!" she warned ominously.

"And what exactly makes you believe, mother, that I would not do that were he hurt or in danger?" Hermione retorted. "What makes you think I can't harbour that hatred to someone who would lift a hand, wand or weapon of any sort to hurt my children or the man I love or indeed any of my family?"

There was a shocked silence.

"Is-Isn't hatred an emotion associated with the very basis of everything that Riddle was?" Joanne asked carefully. She had not bargained for such a statement from Hermione.

"Hatred is not so far removed from love, as people think, Madam Rowling. Perhaps I can give you an analogy, as unrelated as it may seem. Love and Hate are like magnets, in that they are always dipoles. They aren't able to truly exist in isolation like electric charges, however one idealises the notion.

"One person cannot only be able to love, yet harbour no hatred against those that actively seek to hurt those they hold dear. In one form or the other, one cannot exist without the other being attached to it. They are integral emotions for human beings, who are born to live in a society. Most people learn to mute one over the other. I love my family, but I know I have the ability to snap off all three Unforgivables at anyone wishing to hurt my family, and those spells truly require real hatred, well except the Imperius. Even an insane Dark Lord Harry would cling to the idea of loving parents, and Tom Riddle at least had to have loved himself."

It was for the first time since the memories started that Arwen had spoken. And Joanne truly couldn't find a rebuttal. "But there has to be some for..."

"There has to be forgiveness or mercy? They were not human, not subhuman, not beasts. They were worse than Dementors personified. One doesn't forgive people who murder people, who have neither repentance nor remorse. We were never the aggressors, Madam Rowling, but our retaliation was always too strong for them to bear. We had a healthy appreciation for when to take up that course of action – some would have been in a similar position as the Professor," answered Daphne in a cutting tone. "But one doesn't simply forgive people. They must be made to suffer or perish. A criminal is a criminal, no matter the age, gender or any other damned parameter."

"Doesn't it make you just the same as them?"

Daphne glared at Joanne in disappointment. "No. I am not explaining that. Perhaps your views might change as we see further memories."

"Let's just move on to the next memories," Ginny cut through. She was not really a major player as far as the war was concerned, but she knew enough to support the man who was as good as her brother-in-law in all ways that mattered, and was one of her most trusted friends. This talk of love and hatred scared her. She had after all, come into contact with true Hatred, with the capital H.

"Yes. Let's do so. Let's get to something a bit...lighter," the controller agreed. "Perhaps we should see a bit of Hermione's childhood, a bit ahead in time?" Adorable children always calmed tempers and shocked nerves. Severus Evans was a truly frightening combination – he was a Slytherin and was wise.

Memory Starts

In a cream coloured room, on a brown chair, a bushy brown-haired girl sat with a book. She was nodding fervently to something only she knew about, her pigtails swinging wildly as she did so. Her little fingers were grasping at the edge of the page in anticipation of being able to read what followed. A dictionary lay on the armrest, ready to be used at a moment's notice.

Christopher stood next to his wife presumably, as he looked at his daughter with sad eyes. "Why isn't she our little girl, Clara?"

"She is, Christopher," replied Clara, but it was an obvious and rather forced attempt at levity.

"You know what I mean. She is our girl, but she isn't little. She has never been as little as she should be. The only littleness we see is when she has to interact with unknown people."

Hermione sensed her parents' presence and turned to look at them. She looked the most absolutely adorable six-year-old. The front teeth were a bit large. The eyes were widened as she found something of absolute novelty in what she was reading and she was very happy to see her parents, leading to a wide smile. Eleanor looked so much like Hermione did.

"What are you reading, love?" Clara asked her daughter.

"2001: A Space Odyssey," she replied. She then giggled, "Did you know that Hal thinks that two plus two is four point zero, zero one?"


"But how did the computer go bad? It shouldn't be able to feel and think which it seems it has throughout the story!"

Clara was unsure as to how she was supposed to answer that. Thankfully, she was literally saved by the bell.

"I will get it!" squealed Hermione as she raced down the stairs to the door. She was still that 'little'.

The door opened to the oddest pair she had ever laid her eyes on. It was Filius Flitwick and Minerva McGonagall. The description that followed gave further evidence of the fact that however well-read she was, Hermione was still only six. "MUM! THERE'S AN ELDERLY LADY AT THE DOOR AND SHE HAS BROUGHT GIMLI ALONG!"

As most parents do, Clara wasn't exactly waiting up the stairs while her little girl opened the door to strangers – even though said strangers had intimated the time of arrival a week prior. As such, she was very much in ear-splitting range of the words that only a well-read or well-read to, but not necessarily well-adjusted girl could shout out. Once she had her bearings back, she naturally scolded her precocious child for her rather missing manners.

In response, Flitwick only chuckled. "Believe me, Mrs. Granger, this is quite common when I go to visit children older than little Hermione here. At least, this is a change. Someone at least has recognised my beard and called me a dwarf instead of a hobbit." He refrained from adding the adverb 'correctly'.

Hermione blushed, but the grinned.

Clara blinked twice at the odd pair, and then remembered her own manners and invited them in. "So, Ms. McGonagall and Mr. Flitwick, isn't it? What can we do for you?" Christopher cleared the newspapers off the sofa.

In a manner that suggested that she might have been more bored of the events which were to unfold than someone stuck listening to a recorded voice on the telephone, Minerva started, "Have you ever seen Hermione do something special – nearly out of the realm of imagination?"

"I am not sure that I follow."

Minerva decided to show Clara her stock convincing mechanism. She turned into the tabby. Clara let out a high-pitched "EEK!" while Christopher whistled. Hermione squatted down next to the cat and gave her a few experimental pats on her head and a few scratches. Minerva basked in the attention for a bit before reverting to her human form.

"That is what I was talking about."

"No. I have never become a cat before. Can you, and will you turn me into one, please?" pled Hermione. She was really attempting the innocent kitten look on Minerva McGonagall.

Minerva smiled. "I can, but I would rather not." Hermione pouted a little bit before resuming her seat. Minerva turned to the parents. "Mr. Granger, Mrs. Granger, I am a witch. Filius here is a wizard. We teach at Hogwarts, which is a school where we teach magic." Either of Christopher or Clara must have opened their mouth to argue or might have assumed incredulous expressions, for Minerva hurried on, "Please do not claim that it cannot be true or cannot exist. I teach there, and I have just given you proof that magic exists. No nomag technology which can turn a human into a cat exists."

"I am sorry, what technology?"

"Nomag; it is the abbreviation for non-magical. The Americans, as always, have changed the pronunciation to no-maj to suit the pronunciation. Anyway, you both are non-magical, or nomags for the sake of brevity. Hermione is a magical like us."

There was a stunned silence. "But how?" asked Christopher weakly. "How can she have magic? Neither of us is a magical!"

"I understand. Hermione is what we call a newblood. That is to say that there is no magical precedent in her family. Newbloods constitute about a quarter of the magical population. I would know. My father was a newblood as well. Gran found it very amusing that her special boy was really special."

This part always worked to reassure the parents. It helped Minerva come across as sympathetic to the non-magical descent of the child. Also, since she was not being shepherded as politely as possible by the parents, she was not worried either. Sometimes monsters lurked under the most unexpected garbs.

"So you have got all the Potions and spells and sacrifices and stuff?" asked Christopher.

"I assume you are talking about the nomag descriptions of witches," Filius guessed. "That is a myth. See? Minerva has no green skin or boils. She also doesn't usually cackle."

A very reluctant snort escaped Clara. To cover that snort, she took a deep breath and proceeded to ask, "So how did you know that Hermione is magical?" Her scepticism was quite evident in her voice. At best, it was a mistake. Or there was a hallucinogen in the air, in which case they might be robbed soon, she assumed. Then again, a part of her recognised that she was being too calm in the face of what she was being told.

"Newblood students are detected with their first major bout of uncontrolled magic. I believe this happened last Wednesday for Hermione, didn't it, child?"

Hermione cowered a bit. "Yes. Jessie's uncle was being a bad man to her. So I wished that he had feet instead of hands and hands instead of feet." Her eyes widened and became a bit watery as she claimed, "But it was an accident!"

"How do we not know?" demanded Christopher.

Flitwick took up the explanation. "As you can very well understand, it will give away the secret if the people in charge remembered anything. We have accidental magic reversal squads and Obliviators – people who manage the scene and reassign or reform memories. The man in question was arrested for horrible things he did to children. It was necessary to protect Hermione and the other girl as well. Since Hermione never featured in any reports as the magical police – whom we call Aurors – handed the man over to the nomag police, the investigation never reached you. The Aurors have the authority to 'interfere' in cases where the jurisdictions overlap. You may have heard of the case though.

"Technically, the incident could have been an attack by a magical on a nomag, but for Hermione's age, her intent and situation." Filius looked at Hermione seriously. "I know that you thought that your parents would have thought that you were lying, but never hide such things from them. You should always tell them the truth. Do you understand young lady?"

"Yes sir." She shrank back as she attempted to stifle a yawn.

"Looks like it is time for your afternoon nap," Clara observed.

"NO! I want to hear what they have to say!" Hermione even sat with her arms folded and a glare that seemed completely, hilariously adorable.

"We don't take rude children into our school, Hermione," Minerva remarked.

In keeping with her 'respect authority' nature, therefore, the little girl relented.

Once she was out of earshot, Clara thanked Minerva. "I do want more information. But I need to talk to her as well."

"Yes. The man would have had his soul removed in our courts. It's our form of the capital punishment." The woman closed her eyes before sighing and opening them with a smile. "You should be proud of her. She is a powerful witch. Not many can perform the switching spell even when we teach it in the fifth year."

Clara beamed and busied herself with the ritual of pouring tea. Whether or not it was something to doubt, no parents were ever alienated by any praise directed towards their child. "So, what does magic entail?"

Filius handed her a book. "Magic has remained hidden from nomags, primarily because people were scared of it. We once were part of the mainstream, and hope to one day become so again. This book contains a description of the structure of magical society, customs and education. Education starts at the age of eleven. The term starts from the first of September each year. This means Hermione will, if you so decide, join us in the year 1991."

The couple nodded appreciatively at the gesture. "This will certainly be a big help," Clara agreed as she flipped through the book. "I cannot imagine Hermione accepting things before..." She trailed off as she stopped on a few pages detailing the wars against Grindelwald and Voldemort. "You had dark lords!"

Minerva grimaced. "Yes we did."

Clara's husband joined her in searching through the book. "Your last war ended when Hermione was barely one!" he pointed out gravely. He only pointed out the fact of course. The knowledge that there was a recent war in a hidden society which could claim his daughter as its part did not exactly mean much. The not-at-all-secret society too had its share. But this was one place where he couldn't help his daughter.

Clara could see the turmoil very evident on Christopher's face. "Please tell us about it."

It seemed Minerva was following the rule of the plaster, and intended to get the facts out very quickly. "There was a boy named Tom Riddle. He went on to become a Dark Lord simply because he could. He was raised in a nomag orphanage where he was just one among many in the time just after the First World War. It didn't sit well with him and he harboured a deep-seated hatred against non-magicals for that reason alone, in spite of, or perhaps in particular because of the behaviour of his father who rejected him. Tom Riddle Senior was forced into the paternity by magical means and he reacted as would be expected, in the situation. Tom Riddle was certainly not sympathetic to his father's reasons. With that, his unreasonable hatred for those without magic festered.

"Somehow, he found out that he was related by blood to a founder of Hogwarts, Salazar Slytherin, who supposedly didn't want those of non-magical descent to be allowed to earn magic, and on the basis of that, and on the basis of his truly prodigious magical prowess and brains sought to rule over magical Britain and then the world. He was, however, defeated by the Potters on the Halloween night of 1981. Young Harry Potter, who will be Hermione's classmate, is the only known survivor of a Killing Curse. Nobody knows how, but survive he did."

There was only a moment of silence to assimilate what they had heard, before the concerned parents simultaneously asked, "Why should we send Hermione to what is obviously an unsafe world within the world?"

"You should – I want to say must, but I mustn't do so – have Hermione trained. Hogwarts is the only organised school of magic in the British Isles. One of the main reasons why, is the population – we account for less than one per cent of the population, less than a fifth of a percent to be precise. Since magicals tend to live far longer than their nomag counterparts, the number of children is also not high. A conservative estimate as of this moment is about twelve thousand children – or non-adults.

"Most don't attend school, as they choose to be homeschooled in magics not constrained to the school structure. We find these groups chiefly in villages, such as they are any longer in the British Isles or in groups following Occult practices. These students then become our outreach as far as getting structured magical education out to the majority of magicals in Britain. Anyway, talking of ages and such, our Headmaster himself has passed his century mark, and he is not old in magical terms. We can safely expect him to be around for another thirty or so years at least in fighting form."

"That doesn't answer our question."

"I am coming to it," Minerva replied testily, glaring at them as she would at errant students. "We have the provision to help people forget about magic if they so choose. However, as they can be expected to live for so long, and as we have no provision whatsoever to block their magic, they are bound to rediscover it, as it were. This is because magic is a form of energy, and you can't permanently block energy – it has to be used in some form. One such case was that of a newblood who lived for three hundred years. The Ministry has to control such cases by modifying memories.

"Now imagine that by the time she is eleven, you choose for Hermione to not be trained in the control and use of her magical powers and voluntarily choose to forget about it. She will then be on the brink of her teenage years, when children are bound to experiment. At such a juncture, she will be a danger to herself and others. She will have powers she can neither name, nor truly speak about and can use imperfectly. It is why she has to be trained."

As loath as they were to accept it, they couldn't help but agree that Minerva had valid points. "Please excuse me for a minute," Clara requested. She retreated to their study, grabbed a small notepad and jotted down everything that she had heard in it in shorthand. It was not a skill usually found in doctors (everyone knew that they wrote in a script of their own), but it was a blessing for her. Promptly, she returned, now determined to have a slew of questions answered.

"I hope you have a bit of time, Professors. I find myself unwilling to commit to this without having my many doubts addressed. Hermione is our only daughter."

"We understand," answered Filius, "and that is the reason why we endeavour to inform parents as soon as possible. Oh, and we do have about fifteen minutes." He continued, as Clara nodded appreciatively, "By the time she is eleven, since the records of students are registered with the European Magical Records Office, she will probably get such visits from Beauxbatons in France, Durmstrang in the Soviet Union, Bundesrepublik Schule der Zauberei in München and the Accademia Italiana di Magia.

"While Durmstrang technically is a co-ed institution, it nevertheless has very few girls, or probably not. It is also not widely regarded as a good place to be for newbloods. The Beauxbatons Academy is pretty much the opposite in every way, and French is a prerequisite. BSZ-Munich is widely recognised as the only true competitor to Hogwarts. However its medium of instruction is strictly Deutsch. This I will say, though, that if not Hogwarts, BSZ can't be recommended enough. I have taught there for a decade. AIM is also a good institution, but again, she would have to learn Italian. It has a pan-Mediterranean alumni cast."

By this time, the two parents were loosening up a bit. Minerva and Filius were being forthcoming with the information. It was at this juncture that Minerva added one more bit. "You must also understand that every magical school is a boarding school. It is for two very simple reasons that it is so. Often in the past, we have had experiences of newbloods facing abuse from their families. The schools have stepped in often on that account within reason.

"The other is again the age of the students and their natural inclination towards trying out something out of curiosity. It can be dangerous. It is for this reason that Hermione may not use magic away from school until she is thirteen, by when we expect a modicum of responsible behaviour from the students. After that she will be allowed to use those spells as have been covered in the curriculum. She also will have the responsibility of using magic away from nomags who do not know about it. She still stands the risk of being expelled if she performs magic to hurt anyone, or on a nomag unless in a dire situation."

Without being asked, several questions that Clara hadn't even thought of had been answered. That didn't mean that she was happy with the answers, just that she had the answers.

Christopher asked another question. "What are her prospects after her education if she decides to pursue it?"

"We have a few core subjects, namely Transfiguration, Charms, Potions, Defence against the Dark Arts which is called DADA for short, Care of Magical Creatures, Herbology, History of Magic and Astronomy. In the third year, a number of electives, namely Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, Non-Magical Studies, Healing and Duelling are introduced. Since duelling and healing don't actually end up being what students expect, they are not so popular. Occasionally, if we detect a student with the Sight, we arrange for lessons with the resident Prophet. There is a department devoted to studying Prophecies – some may choose to learn Divination with that in mind. Students can choose three at most, and may at most attempt eleven OWLs which are equivalent to GSCEs. At such time, students wishing to pursue professional courses thereafter progress to NEWTs which could be considered equivalent to the A-Levels. Some students choose to pursue specialised internships after OWLs."

"So you have colleges?"

"We have institutions similar to colleges, but they are all entirely research oriented. Since the population is low, the spectrum of careers is also smaller, but not too small. Law Enforcement, Administration and Inter-racial relations are one of the major employers. Others include the research wing of the Ministry which is like a government laboratory with far fewer restrictions. Private spell-crafting, healing, potions research, teaching, ward-laying, curse-breaking, controlling magical creatures and banking are some of the respected occupations. Of course, sports, entertainment and journalism are available, should she so choose."

"And what if Hermione wants to work in the non-magical world?"

"The Ministry has tie-ups with certain institutions, the details of which you can find in the book. We encourage students to pursue non-magical studies, as long as the demands are within their ability when combined with their magical course work. Since mainstream inclusion is the eventual goal, and the largest majority of the demographic is comprised of halfbloods or people with partial non-magical parentage, like me, this trend is on the rise. It is very likely that you may find a witch or a wizard working around you, yet, with only about hundred thousand of us living in the UK it is far more unlikely as well. Internalisation of the economy can only work so far. As the population grows, we have to diversify."

"If I may not sound rude, what are the safety regulations, and the qualifications of the teachers?"

"Each Hogwarts Professor has to have achieved at least a Mastery qualification in their subject. I myself am pursuing my Supreme-Mastery which is our equivalent of a PhD. I intended to do so twice, really, but both times the wars put a crimp on my plans. And with so many dead..." She looked away wistfully as she remembered people long lost. She had never had so many questions, and had slipped into the teacher's role. "Anyway, Severus Snape-Evans, our resident Potions Master, is the youngest recipient of the Supreme-Mastery. If she so wishes, after joining Hogwarts, Hermione may cultivate a personal rapport with him. He is a person of partial non-magical descent, but was brought up entirely in the non-magical world and is studying Chemistry. He is, at the moment, working on the isolation of magical components of potions as a part of his BSc course with his chosen University, something that he is attempting to emulate in magical conditions. I am not at a liberty to reveal further information." Christopher's mouth shut with a click at that. "All I can say is that the objective is to bring alternative medicines to the larger domain."

"As for safety, most of us teachers have had actual combat experience. It was not only a part of our practical theory, but also a necessity during the last war. We have the hands-on experience, not that we expect to need it. Filius here has also been the duelling champion on the European Circuit for seven years running. We believe, on the basis of our experience thus far and through the war, that we're well-equipped to deal with any situation that may arise from time to time."

This information deluge was certainly overwhelming Christopher. It was unclear whether Clara was in the same boat, but it seemed to be so for her as well – her view was a bit scrunched as she frowned at the notepad in her hands.

"If you are so few, and if you numbers have sustained their relative percentage, what's the point of you magicals existing?"

Christopher, Minerva and Filius visibly winced at the extremely rude sounding, but nonetheless, true question.

"At the end of the day, magic is a unique ability. Perhaps since we have had a long exposure to it, we don't appreciate it as much as we ought to. Perhaps since it always seems to have exited, we take it for granted; nobody has ever truly bothered to find why it exists. It just does. Till such time as it does, however, education is a necessity. Education has, finally, some true purposes – helping people think, helping them understand and recognise the good from the bad even in what they learn and of course, helping them progress. We, who have magic, also have the responsibility of making others who have it learn to shoulder the responsibility that comes with the ability. That will be our mandate so long as magic exists. We can't allow for more Riddles, really. From experience, we know that a magical that travels down the wrong path, is as troublesome as a whole host of terrorists."

"Those who have great power have great responsibility," quipped Christopher.

The joke was lost on the magicals. "Yes. Something like that," was the answer he received. He gaped a bit at the two, and then thought against it.

Filius meanwhile drew out a card from his robes. On the card were several postage stamps. Each bore the word 'Merlin'. "Should you have any more questions, you can affix these stamps. You may write to us, or to the Headmaster. If you give me a box in which to keep them, I can charm it to be self-replicating once you place pieces of paper in the box while at least one 'Merlin' stamp remains in the box before you do so."

Clara mutely nodded. She had a healthy appreciation for theory, but she was floundering in as much theory as the two visitors had been able to give, and it was a lot, about a subject she didn't even know existed.

"Once you have made a decision one way or the other, write to us. If it is a positive reply, a representative – mostly Minerva or Severus, both of whom are able to operate in the non-magical world easily – will visit you and help you to the Dragon Alley, our chief shopping district."

It was in a very underwhelming way that the guests were bid adieu. At the door, Minerva stopped and turned. "I honestly hope that you choose Hogwarts. Little Miss Granger is too powerful a witch to be kept from her rightful education. Good day!"

"Good Lord!" swore Christopher, once they were gone. "Let's just hope that we wasted this afternoon in a prank!"

Memory Ends

"They really should break it a bit slowly to us," Flora opined. "When Severus' time came, we just found this big sudden heap of information and mum and dad didn't know what to do."

"We just get it out of the way," pointed out Dumbledore. "I have been on such visits myself. People either treat us as they would treat rabid religious preachers, or threaten to throw us out of the house. It becomes imperative to dictate the flow of the discussion and dispensation of information."

Joanne was staring at the Pensieve and by association, at Severus. "Yes?" he demanded with an eyebrow rise to accompany his drawl.

"You people actually have some machinery in place!"

"Given that the society has thrived, yes, we do," retorted Severus with a roll of his eyes. He was about to say something but was interrupted by a knock on the door. It was Harry and Vernon.

They entered and Vernon was the first to speak. It was the first time that he had spoken directly to Joanne. "Madam Rowling, I apologise for my behaviour over the past two days. I hope though, that the visible proof of your knowledge being false may provide you a better perspective." His tone was formal, just barely acceptable, and it was obvious that he didn't like her much. All the same, it was a welcome gesture.

"Madam Rowling, I apologise for my behaviour towards a guest as well. I can only hope that you can forgive me. I also apologise, Cousin Aaron and to all of you," he continued gazing at the others in turn. "My behaviour reflected on the House of Potter, and it was not the image I would ever wish to show. It also reflected upon our society and it goes contrary to what we are trying to prove."

Aaron nodded stiffly. Joanne only replied with a fervent nod and a quick, "It's alright" before the two resumed their seats and all eyes turned back to Severus, who stared back blankly, having lost his thread of conversation.

"The machinery..." prompted Joanne.

"That, yes; the machinery exists, because without a sustainable system in place, all things eventually crash. That's all I was saying, nothing important..." He paused. "Maybe the idea behind the ludicrous descriptions was to ensure that newbloods who read the books would already make enough connections about things and come into the magical side of the world with a defensive, tenacious mindset, and with the feeling that they are bound to be unwelcome. It could have been a self-fulfilling prophecy."

"How do you mean?"

"Put yourself in the shoes of a newblood. You have got surly bankers who you have no option but to trust with your money. You will be treated by some as worse than what you would scrape of your shoe. You have no idea whom to trust. Isn't belligerence and defensiveness the obvious response then?"

Joanne frowned. She couldn't honestly go against that. Severus seemed to be a student of the human nature – as all good teachers are. "You're right," she acknowledged reluctantly. It was then that she realised why she had problems with the truth as was being presented to her – it was going directly against what she had worked so hard over. It was a rather unnerving look into the proverbial mirror, to find that somewhere, she too had that fallacy. She huffed a bit so as to clear away those thoughts. Then an idea struck her. "I want to see how you ended up being Professor Snape-Evans."

"Sure, bring up my boggart, why don't you?" groused Severus. He then nodded. "It will come eventually."

Joanne could only nod at that. "And what about the Trace?" she asked.

"It is fiction," scoffed Albert. "How exactly is anyone supposed to practice spells for the summer homework, or show their parents what they have learnt during the year? More importantly how would it be possible for the Ministry to track someone and then break it when they become adults? Essentially you are talking about the Ministry having a record of magical signatures for everyone over eleven. Even if the Trace breaks, the fact still remains that the records exist. Then there would be no need for crime scene forensics, would there? And do you honestly think the purebloods who account for about twenty five percent of the population would either risk a revolt by the remaining seventy five percent by making their children exempt from such a law, or allow their children to come under the ambit of a law where they couldn't use magic, even as legal fiction? Remember, such a restriction couldn't be suddenly brought up. Everyone would revolt."

He took a small breath before continuing, "What we do have is a registry of the general area where a witch or a wizard resides in nomag communities. That way, if their help is needed, the Nomag-Worthy Excuse committee, which does exist, has a way to make region or community specific excuses."

Joanne nodded. It was stupid really, to start with. Even when she wrote it, it was fraught with inconsistencies, she knew. There was not much she could say to that. So she just frowned and sipped her chocolate.

"Say, Hermione, how did you go from being such a cute kid to a rules-obsessed woman?" Polaris asked out of the blue. His god-sister-in-law was a bit of an odd duck as far as he was concerned. Polaris was a wild person by nature, and given that he had Sirius for his father, it actually said something when even Sirius worried himself about his son. He too, however, quailed when pinned by Hermione's glare – she had apprenticed under Minerva for that. It always helped with the interrogations. Io whispered in a low voice, "Go Minnie!"

"The Obliviators were quite obviously more concerned with the fiend. They dismissed the children's memories as being unimportant. Children that age have lots of fantasies, and they are eventually dismissed or ignored as well."

Juliet's raised eyebrows halted her.

"Alright!" she mulishly amended. "Memory Charms on children that young are dangerous."

Juliet simply nodded. Obviously Hermione still fostered a bit of bitterness.

"My classmates never forgot though. They grew up, but the inkling of me being different, because I had pushed the man away from my friend and he ended up with his hands and feet switched always remained. Some became scared of me and pulled away. In desperation, I thrust myself into studies and took shelter of the rules when I was bullied." Her voice petered away as even she had to stop for a breath of air. "Being different didn't make me seem like a super-heroine. It made me a scary person for them."

"They pulled away, I pulled away, resentment festered, and even with those who weren't scared, I was left with an ever-dwindling number of friends, leading to further bouts of uncontrolled Magic. At six, I didn't exactly comprehend magic, but Minerva, who kept visiting over the years as my parents were determined to know all they could, became a role model of sorts. Magic provided me with a succour of sorts when the lack of friends was pushing me into a "why does nobody like me?" funk. As a child, the idea that rules and teachers were my friends took hold..."

"I don't see why that should be a problem, Polaris. It helped her become the second youngest Director of the DMLE, didn't it, not to mention the fact that she excelled in her calling? If she adheres to rules, then it speaks much about her strength of character that he practices what she preaches," pointed out Harry with narrowed eyes. Polaris backed down a bit, abashed. Harry was not done though. "You know, that was the sixth time you poked her about the rules. I didn't speak out before because she will assuredly chew me out for being overprotective, but it doesn't stop me from wondering. Have you been doing anything at those parties that makes you wish she wouldn't enforce the rules, Polaris?"

Hermione's glare was born from indignation. Harry's was in support of his wife, the woman he loved the most in his life. Polaris could only blurt out a hurried "NO!" along with an inarticulate cry of protest from both Sirius and Juliet which was stalled by Io.

"That's good," replied Harry simply. "I wouldn't quite fancy putting her in a bad position by requesting for visitation rights."

"I have done nothing wrong. She isn't going to have to haul me in," Polaris declared firmly. He only received a nod. It took a moment, but then he marvelled at the fact that Harry had defended his wife, scolded him (Polaris), and both verified a nagging doubt that the elders had and at the same time given Polaris an intimation of that doubt, and pointed out who he would support if it came to that. And he required just seven or eight sentences to do that. In spite of the situation, he had to smother a grin. This was why his father entrusted negotiation to his godson. Off to the side, he could see Hermione's father give his son-in-law an appreciative nod.

With the little family drama out of the way, they were free to move onto the next memory. It was Severus'.

"This one, it is important because it shows what exactly happened when the Imperius Defence was used. It contains the farce of a trial that Sirius faced. And it also addresses the misinterpretation of the "Severus Snape is no more a Death Eater than I am" statement. Just thought that it would be better to show you cute little Hermione before showing you the tale of our political losses. The actual memory is an amalgamation of several different memories spread across several days. I am also warning you that you are in for a massive surprise early on," the controller stated.

They were just about to step in, when Severus remembered something. "Do you remember asking me why Unbreakable Vows were not widely used as proofs? Well, you will find that we did. We had, between us, around Halloween 1981, taken several Vows, and notarised them all. They had to accept those. It was unusual, but since they were voluntary, they couldn't be disregarded."

Memory Starts

The scene was that of a courtroom. It was odd really, the arrangement. It was a closed copy of an ancient roman amphitheatre. The seats were arranged in such a way that the members sat on the lower rungs (as the nameplates near each seat suggested. They read: 'Head of House of...') while visitors or the audience sat in the higher rungs, further away from the matter at hand. From Severus' point of view, the hall seemed enormous. He was seated in the first or second rung. Obviously, he was on trial, or he was a witness for a trial. To his right sat Albus and Richard Bones. They were communicating with nods at someone who was seated four rungs above and diametrically opposite them. It was Albert, who was seated in what was obviously the seat of the Magical House of Dumbledore. He was mouthing something which the people in question obviously understood, but was not exactly decipherable to the memory-viewers.

"He has the numbers," Richard said, frowning down at the piece of parchment in front of him. "Malfoy has rallied a big tally, it seems. This is bad, Albus. We might have to call on Severus."

"So long as those filthy beasts that killed my sister are all dead in the most gruesome manner possible, I will do anything. If you want, I will wear the Royal Crown and a pink tutu and dance in the middle of Dragon Alley," replied Severus. In most circumstances, the words would have been considered a joke of some sort. Here they were spoken with such viciousness and venom, that it was very obvious that even a bit of gallows humour was not the intent.

The view widened a bit as an elderly man walked in and sat by the side where Abraxas Malfoy, whom Richard had referred to, and his cronies usually sat. Well, the houses of Malfoy, Selwyn, Pew, Holler and Nott were certainly there. Pollux Black was sitting by the Houses of all those suspected to be Death Eaters.

"Richard, Albus..." whispered Severus discreetly.

"Yes," responded Dumbledore, looking anywhere but at Pollux Black. "I saw."

"Do you think they intend to make an example of Sirius by helping him and then crushing him under their debt?"

"That would be a very Slytherin thing to do, wouldn't it? I would have been inclined to take your word for it, but for the presence of Pollux. You and I both know how much he hates poor Siri," Richard mused. Severus nodded. "So far as I know though, the current Heads of Houses may have some cunning, but at least two of the five had Heirs unworthy of Slytherin. Pew and Holler were morons – better than thorough idiots, but only nominally so. They caused our dorm to smell horribly as well. I have heard old Crabbe and Goyle, Malfoy's little henchmen have surrendered and pleaded not guilty. They apparently have traces of Mind Control Magics on them."

"The most interesting thing though, is that Tom went after the Heirs – the chief Heirs, that is," observed Albus. "It struck me before as well, but it is only now that I appreciate the political ramifications. The idea was undoubtedly to have entire families dedicated to his cause." He gazed up at his son and Heir and pointed out the 'other Black's' presence to him. Albert nodded grimly. This was an unforeseen complication.

The next few minutes after the hall was filled with all the people who could come – all the people who were alive and could come – were enchantingly occupied by the drudgery of protocol and pomp and stuff as the session was brought to a start.

Millicent Bagnold, the Minister for Magic, delivered the opening address to the Wizengamot, an institution that served as both the lawmaking boy as well as the single court for the country which had no appellate courts, as such, and where an attempt to reverse a decision usually failed.

"Today we are gathered for a recapitulation, remembrance and reconnaissance of where we stand at the end of this horrific war that has claimed the lives of our brethren," she said at the end. "War has taken the lives of so many witches and wizards of good repute and ability -"

"Purebloods only, she means," scoffed Richard. "Or rather, she means only those purebloods that the Ministry is either forced to acknowledge or have paid enough before that they need to be acknowledged."

"- And young Mr. Potter and the honourable Lord and Lady Longbottom were only some of the last sacrifices that sated –"

"She didn't even mention Lily!" growled a bristling Severus.

"– And the defeat of the Dark Lord by a miracle child –"

"They are using Harry!" snarled Severus, now truly at the end of the end of his tether.

"– Should therefore be the starting point of far-reaching and all-encompassing changes to our society where good witches and wizards can live without fear." There was a round of applause for the speech when it finally ended.

"That kind of tells us that she has been bought as well," Albus observed. "It seems the speech has been scripted for her by some upstanding individuals."

"The Filthy five, you mean," rejoined Richard.

"Humour can become quite misplaced in the face of this, Richard," replied Dumbledore irritably, causing his companions to quiet down. There was no calming Dumbledore today.

After the next hour or so, the recap, which was an apathetic reading of the monetary losses and the losses of lives (in that order) suffered by the magical community, the matters finally turned to the subject of the Death Eaters.

"On this matter, we have an approver," the Minister informed to the crowd. "I request the Chief Witch to declare his name."

Matilda Milner threw the Minister a discernibly dark look of utmost loathing. "The Wizengamot henceforth recognises Mr. Bartemius Angus Crouch, alias Bartemius Crouch Junior, alias Barty Crouch Junior as the Approver for the Crown against the terrorist organisation and its members, henceforth collectively to be known as The Death Eaters."

"WHAT? BARTY, FRANK'S MUDRERER IS THE APPROVER?" growled Severus as loudly as he dared, even as he winced. He was behaving in an extremely un-Slytherin-ish manner, not just for a person who wasn't supposed to be noticed, but also for a Slytherin in general, since Lily's death.

[Joanne very much agreed with and wanted to replicate the reaction. This was not a surprise – it was a shock was what it was.]

"They are going to go unpunished," commented Dumbledore dully. "Don't expect much."

Richard gave a reply that held too much hope. "Perhaps justice will be served, Headmaster. Have some hope!"

"Oh it will be served, Richard. I don't doubt it. I just wonder whose version it will be."

"No. Barty's testimony will pave the way for misplaced sympathies. I know our world well Richard, there will be a host of 'humanitarian activists' pleading the cases of these terrorists. It happens everywhere. In their hurry to appear wise and all intellectual, they try to dismiss the true process of law," Severus explained.*

Barty Crouch, in his deposition, wove a wonderful sob story of a young impressionable boy targeted because of his father's position. He spoke of the horrors he had perpetrated, and also spoke of remorse. His solicitor, Wayne Terry, Master of Magical Law, was only interjecting at certain points to ensure that his client wouldn't go overboard. There was a fine line that Crouch was toeing, and it was Terry's job to ensure that he didn't cross it.

"The defendant stands before you today, honourable ladies and gentlemen of the Wizengamot, and states, that he was wrong. He was wrong in every way that it could be possible for a human to go wrong. He asks for neither leniency nor clemency. He simply asks that the process of law may recognise his contribution to the investigations."

"They really shouldn't allow people to append their comments to their statements," murmured Dumbledore disinterestedly. "They are going to make a big show of sacrificing him. I just hope it's not a show."

"Why isn't Milner cutting him off?"

"Because," answered the Headmaster, "she is no longer in control of the Wizengamot. She is protesting through her actions – or rather inaction. Look around Severus. The neutrals were going to abstain on general principle, but Charlus said that he had twelve of them on board to vote against the Death Eaters. The Black Alliance is in Pollux's hands.

"The Longbottom-Salisbury Alliance stands decimated, to all intents and purposes. This trial is within a month since Frank and Alice's murders – so Augusta can't rally the Alliance as she is still in the 'grief period' that the Wizengamot rules enforce. You will notice that people of Houses who would necessarily stand against Tom started grieving for a whole month only in 1973.

"The outcome is a foregone conclusion. Milner will help – by ensuring that our side is heard unimpeded as well as by exercising her rights during that time to use every bit of verbal evidence we can possibly provide."

The Prosecution was headed by Pius Thicknesse and Richard was part of it. Dumbledore mimed writing and drew an air-question mark to Albert. He wasn't allowed to take notes or communicate with the lawyers technically. Albert mouthed, "Richard has made a copy just now."

It was very interesting to note that Thicknesse had worded the questions in such a way that made Voldemort the villain in the cases of several Heirs of those who sat among the crowd. Of course, some like the Lestranges were too far gone to be saved. They would be 'sacrificed'. The rest though, would be saved from the gallows or prison to further the agenda.

While the likes of Malfoy and the others had their voting rights suspended for the trials of only their heirs, the rest of the alliance, who were sympathisers but not marked, didn't, nor did those that had been bought or threatened. Even the trials were staggered so as to ensure that there were enough votes through the alliance. Some would toe Arcturus' line, but the writing had been on the wall – too many Heirs were Death Eaters even after Lord Black's open condemnation of Voldemort in May 1974. It had been the act, which, with Lord Black as the Queen's Agent, forced the Magical government to take a stand against Voldemort.

"Should Richard call you up for the deposition, do not mention the mechanics of the Dark Mark unless specifically asked, and even when they ask you, try and obfuscate it as much as you can. They will put you into Azkaban or pervert the words unconvincingly, win and preclude any future way in which they can be punished."


"Choose the battles, Severus. This one is already lost. Our aim is to save you and Sirius and cut our losses. Are you a Slytherin or not? I am not above framing these people later on if need be! Harry needs you as much as we need justice. They will try to have you arrested! We need to ensure that we don't lose people right now! Choose wisely!"

Severus quieted down. What Dumbledore was suggesting went against the morality and legality that should have ideally surrounded the situation. But it was also the truth. The war might have paused, and it might have seemed that they had won, but with the corruption inherent to government systems in general, and exacerbated and twisted to suit their purposes by the Death Eater faction in particular, and with the deaths of so many good people, they had won but lost.

By the end of the questioning, Crouch, along with Gunther, the Lestranges (Bellatrix and Rabastan – Aaron had killed Rudolphus), Karkaroff, Dolohov, Pursang, Khan, Moin and Damka were all implicated. It was interesting to note that most of the politically important British Death Eaters were conveniently glossed over. Malfoy, of French descent, was left out too. The sentencing was to be held at the end with all the other convicted ones. A few low-level ones were also sacrificed. Severus was not even mentioned. There was an argument between Bones and Thicknesse, which ended with the latter shoving a sheaf of papers which the former was pointing at hurriedly into a briefcase. From their point of view, they could see Richard Bones glowering at Thicknesse. It was quite obvious what had happened.

"Thicknesse has been bought," surmised the Potions Master correctly. Dumbledore didn't even need to qualify that with an agreement.

It was a testament to the fact that the 'trials' were a farce when the judgement against those who were to be sacrificed was developed through statements intended to turn the Wizengamot's opinion against them. They were brought in and represented, and were 'allowed' to spew their vitriolic diatribe against mudbloods and blood-traitors and everyone else failing to conform with their world view, but it was with the knowledge that they would be moving to the cold lodgings of Azkaban, though the judgement wasn't passed just then.

Even while in the memory, Christopher couldn't help but comment, "It is a bl- er... governmental andjudicial procedure! These things simply don't work this fast!" He received snorts in response.

"Well, thanks to your daughter, such a travesty no longer occurs," Harry informed his father-in-law.

[The memory gave way to another, a snippet really. It was another day, and another trial.]

"That is Igor Karkaroff," pointed out Hermione venomously. There was more to the story there, certainly, beyond him helping the resurrection of Riddle.

"You are a bought man, Thicknesse!" snuffled Karkaroff. "If you weren't, you'd know about Augustus Rookwood. He killed your daughter and her husband, thick-y! He killed your daughter, who ran off and married the son of a nomag! Such a disgrace would never have occurred in my homeland!" While the castigation seemed to be about corruption, everyone knew that it was actually the former Miss Thicknesse's actions that were being termed so. It was not actually possible to accuse Karkaroff as such, not after the colourful description of the 'circumstances' under which he had been 'forced' into serving the beast. It had certainly eclipsed Crouch Jr.'s story.

There was no way to discern Thicknesse's expressions, but with the accusations and with what they were hearing about his daughter, there was reasonable suspicion that he may even have facilitated it. She had impugned his honour, such as it was, after all.

"There is no way..." started Bagnold. Obviously Rookwood was supposed to be protected.

Emotions did not really bleed into the watchers' consciousnesses through the memories, but it was obvious that a smidgen of fear that was seen on Dumbledore's face was reflected on Severus', as Karkaroff simultaneously tried to save his skin in the short term, and dug his grave as well. "Augustus Rookwood was the inside man in the Department of Mysteries. Why else do you think that the Dark Lord went after the Potters? The boy was prophesised to defeat the Dark Lord! Rookwood was the one who sent the Dark Lord after the Potters! The Prophecy was made to Albus Dumbledore!"

"Dear Merlin!" breathed Severus. "Whatever shall we do now? If we deny, they will ask questions. If we accept, they will try to use him or worse!"

"We accept, if asked. Then we go for damage limitation. Karkaroff has signed his own death warrant. Let him dig a bigger hole." He signalled for Charlus and Albert to maintain silence. "If things come to it, either Charlus or I will stand as guarantor for you."

"You think?"

"He is trying to go in for a reveal to save his skin. We need to be ready."

"Please stick to facts, Mr. Karkaroff. Do not cast unfounded aspersions on the Prosecutor," admonished the Chief Witch. It translated to, "You are not supposed to divulge information which the Minister's masters have not approved of."

The Death Eater only sat down with an amused and triumphant smile.

"I would like to call upon Albus Dumbledore as an independent witness to corroborate Mr. Karkaroff's story," called Thicknesse officiously.

With an angered sigh, Dumbledore took the stand. He was offered a chair, as was the norm, but he declined. He needed to be seen as a powerful figure there, something that the chair would be counterproductive to.

"I, Druella Prowse, stand as Solicitor for the Witness."

"The Wizengamot recognises Druella Prowse, Mistress of Magical Law (MML), as Solicitor for the Witness."

"Are you Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, current Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Order of Merlin, First Class recipient and Leader of the volunteer organisation, the Order of the Phoenix?"


"Were you the recipient of the Prophecy to which the defendant alludes?"

"Yes. I was the recipient of a Prophecy."

"In what position was the Prophecy received?"

"I beg your pardon, but I cannot say I understood the question."

"Did you receive the Prophecy as an individual, or in any of your two official positions with regards to either Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry or the Order of the Phoenix?"

"Objection!" cried Prowse again. "The answer to this question may divulge information impertinent to this hearing. The Witness will respectfully refuse to answer." The faces of several people showed frustration at the answer. Milner resolutely refused to counter Dumbledore in her official capacity. Technically Dumbledore had no grounds to answer the question. The Prophecy was made to him and it was a branch of magic the Wizengamot hardly ever bothered to know more about. Nobody was particularly stupid enough to try and forcibly extract an answer from the Defeater of Grindelwald.

"Do you believe that the Prophecy alludes to Mr. Harry James Potter?"

"I believe that the Prophecy I received does indeed refer to Mr. Potter."

"Do you have reason to believe that the Prophecy you received and the Prophecy which the defendant refers to are different?"

"I cannot say. I mayn't know what the defendant may know. Even if the content is same, it may not have the same interpretation." Translation: "Go bugger off, and ask Karkaroff or the other Death Eaters if you have the balls to go against your masters."

"If the Wizengamot were to ask, what were your actions upon receiving the Prophecy?"

"I would humbly request the Wizengamot and Lady Chief Witch to remind the Prosecution that Mr. Dumbledore and his actions are not pertinent to the current hearing."

"The Wizengamot reprimands the Prosecution and orders it to keep the questions within the ambit of this hearing." Milner had shed her non-cooperation for Dumbledore's deposition, and was being extraordinarily helpful.

"The Prosecution requests the honourable Wizengamot to request Mr. Dumbledore to divulge the contents of the Prophecy."

A wand was lit. "The Wizengamot recognises Charlus Alwyn Potter, Head of House Potter."

"The Prophecy in question, which was received by Mr. Dumbledore, has been verified as referring to Harry James Potter, my great-nephew, by both Mr. Dumbledore and me. I hereby declare it to be a secret of House Potter, that none who knows the Prophecy may divulge it and none may refer to it without the explicit consent of the Head of the House of Potter. It shall remain a secret of my House till such time as when I or my Heirs deem fit."

There were certainly more than just murmurs and grumbles now. Potter and Dumbledore were stonewalling every attempt to know more – the Prophecy was something that even Voldemort's inner circle new the very bare bones of.

"I would further ask the Wizengamot to not pursue the matter of the Prophecy. Augustus Rookwood, an Unspeakable, has been arrested red-handed already while casting the Dark Mark, so the Prophecy has no bearing on his trial either as far as his treachery to magical Britain is concerned. Is it an attempt to pass off collective failure as inability to act owing to some Prophecy which may or may not be relevant? Are you going to blame a baby for not being born a few years early and his parents for not dying early as well, or are you going to blame some lurid uttering with no basis in concrete fact, and which can only be retrospectively recognised, for not revealing itself early, and maybe destroy another family?"

It was the most stinging criticism that could be meted out. It was also very much on the ball, so the honoured Hall dropped the matter like a hot potato.

"Well, you should first deal with the traitors within your homes," remarked Karkaroff. "Perhaps deal with the Blacks and the Snapes of the world. Severus Snape is a Death Eater, a marked one at that."

"The Prosecution requests the Wizengamot to obtain judicial custody of Mr. Severus Snape!" yelled Thicknesse gleefully.

"The Wizengamot admits the new allegations and remands Mr. Severus Snape to judicial custody. He is to be produced immediately for primary investigation."

Once again Druella stood to the fore. "I, Druella Prowse, stand as Solicitor for the Defendant."

"The Wizengamot recognises Druella Prowse, Mistress of Magical Law (MML), as Solicitor for the Defendant."

"The defence requests Oaths of Protection from the DMLE."

There was a small furore over this. It was obvious what Druella was implying. Mad-Eye, an Auror, who was not officially known as an Order member, but was a known associate of Dumbledore, was guarding Sirius. He couldn't extend the same to Severus. Kingsley was too junior to be of note, and could still be ordered around by someone who was senior, and had been bought. The other side could easily arrange for Severus to have an accident.

Milner smiled a bit viciously at Thicknesse as she acquiesced, "The Chair grants the defence the right of Demand for Oath. The Wizengamot will be adjourned after the Oath is given and accepted."

Karkaroff and Severus were dragged away by the Aurors at the end.

Scene Change

[The scene changed. It was now obvious that Severus was in the criminal's chair.]

Severus saw Dumbledore mouthing, "Behave like Sirius would!"

"Are you Severus Snape...?"

"Evans," interrupted the Potions Master. "My name is Severus Evans, though my birth name was Severus Snape. It has been so since the age of four."

"Evans, Snape – why does that matter? You were born Severus Snape..."

"My parents raised me since I was too young to understand the difference. I have been Severus Evans ever since. Funny how only magicals seem to have a problem with that."

Thicknesse showed amusement on his face. "Severus Evans, then," he smirked. "Please do allow me to repeat the question. Are you Severus...Evans, Supreme-Master of Potions, registration number 19368, member of the Death Eaters, bearer of the Dark Mark, also member of the volunteer organisation, the Order of the Phoenix?"

"In order – Yes, I am Severus Evans, you have my Supreme-Mastery number right, I am a member of the Order of the Phoenix, I bear the Dark Mark, and no, I am not a Death Eater."

"I humbly request her Ladyship to accept these documents that have been notarised and sworn. They state the torture inflicted upon the defendant by the Death Eaters and the defendant's actions since his escape from captivity was enabled."

Milner took the sheaf of papers from MML Prowse. Thicknesse scowled. The plan had been to eliminate this upstart who had worked against the Dark Lord. That he was the uncle of the Boy-Who-Lived was an added advantage. Severus...whatever he wanted to call himself was a thorn in their side. The old bumbler's people had come prepared for that eventuality.

"The Prosecution would ask the defendant to tell the honourable Wizengamot what transpired during your...captivity."

"The defendant would humbly request the Wizengamot to note that the names of the captors and Death Eaters that have hitherto not been named may be contained in his deposition."

"The Wizengamot may declare suo moto cognisance of any new information that may be gleaned depending on the severity of the actions described."

Milner really was firing on all cylinders, now that the shoe was on the other foot. Anything, anything that could be done to support the Order, and she was doing it. It was astounding how it was becoming evident in every single action that she was legally able to take. She was only someone who was akin to the Speaker in the Parliament, the mediator during debate in the Hall, and the one tasked with ensuring that protocol and the course of law were both followed during a civil or criminal hearing or while debating a new law. She also was the deciding vote when a matter had equal numbers for and against. And within the ambit of those rights and duties, she was doing everything she could.

Severus Evans could on occasion give a very, very detailed explanation of things, but at that time he was the very soul of brevity and conciseness. He threw fact after fact after fact at the Wizengamot, all of which he was sure could be proved. He had spent the past two weeks making sure they could be proved and that those proofs would stay put, after all. He wanted these people gone. They had killed his little sister, and Severus Evans was no saint to forgive them. It was only a pity that he had nothing to incriminate the inner circle. They had been clever. Still, taking away the henchmen, middlemen and the intermediaries ensured that the inner circle would eventually have to get their hands dirty. He still refrained from speaking about the Dark Mark however.

"The Wizengamot notes the new information obtained and issues warrants for their arrests and temporary custody pending their trial." It was then that it clicked. Milner was upholding the law in their favour to even out the odds as Dumbledore had predicted she would. Most of the rest of the Ministry might have been turned, but Milner was on their side and was exercising her judicial rights to their fullest extent. So while the majority of the inner circle that had taken care to appear as public figures and had shown(un)righteous indignation at Riddle's actions would get off, they would, in theory, be able to get people like Severus and Sirius off as well.

Then Thicknesse raised his next argument. "That still leaves the punishment for the defendant's actions while he was under the thrall of the magic of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. He has obviously hurt innocents, and from his own testimony, I quote, "The Dark Mar doesn't bind itself to the person without the acceptance of responsibility for the deaths caused!""

"The defendant would submit that not only was that not his intention, but also that he was not under the thrall of any other magic from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named except for that designed to torture."

"That cannot be considered a valid statement, Your Ladyship!" Thicknesse directed the retort at Milner, of course.

It was into this that four wands were lit. It was Charlus, of course, and Albert. Then there was Marcus Greengrass. The fourth person was a complete surprise. It was Gaius Prince, Severus' grand-uncle and Head of the Prince family.

"The House recognises the Heads of the Houses of Potter, Greengrass and Prince and the Heir, for the Head, of the House of Dumbledore."

"The House of Potter vouches for Severus Evans. He was the elder brother of Lily Potter and his actions are known to the family. The incident regarding his marking is also known and I categorically declare that House Potter believes that the circumstances were not voluntary."

"The House of Greengrass vouches for Severus Evans."

"The House of Dumbledore vouches for Severus Evans.

"Let it be known that Severus Evans has voluntarily given the Heir of House Dumbledore an Unbreakable Vow to state that at no point of time has he participated voluntarily in any Death Eater activity; that he acknowledges that he is loyal to the Order of the Phoenix and its ideals; that he has not harmed or attempted to harm any member of society except in self-defence or in defence of people around him unless the person bore the Dark Mark, and that the use of non-lethal combat spells was preferred till the opponent used Unforgivables. He also accepts that he has killed twelve Death Eaters in combat.

"He also acknowledges that he may have involuntarily harmed innocent people under duress through his potions which he was forced to brew and which may or may not have been administered and that he had attempted to cause the potions he was forced to brew for the Death Eaters to malfunction as many times as possible, or he purposefully rejected the material provided to him to delay the process for as long as he could.

"The bonder for this Vow was Albus Dumbledore, Head of House Dumbledore, and it was witnessed by Mrs. Minerva McGonagall, current Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Mr. Charlus Potter, Head of House Potter and notarised and submitted to the Hall of records on the twenty ninth of November, 1981. The notarisation has been so submitted to Her Ladyship."

Minerva (who was sitting in the audience in anticipation of exactly this), Charlus and Druella, all stood to be called to the witness box for their testimony as Milner rifled through the papers Prowse had submitted before the trial in what was effectively a fast-track court.

"Mr. Albus Dumbledore, do you attest that this notarisation is true?"

"I do, Your Ladyship." He swore an oath to that effect, voluntarily. It, along with Severus' Vow, was a masterstroke that would always thereafter hound those who would buy their way out of court. "Severus Snape-Evans is no more a Death Eater than I am."

"The Hall of Records has attested a true notarisation, as well," declared Milner.

At last it was the turn of Gaius Prince. "The House of Prince recognises Severus Snape-Evans as a legitimate son of the House of Prince, and vouches for him. I personally wish to thank and applaud his adoptive parents for their stellar efforts in his upbringing. Furthermore, Elmer Prince is hereby disowned officially. No willing murderer of innocents shall find place in the House of Prince."

That set the cat among the pigeons. The House of Prince had essentially taken an anti-Voldemort position, in spite of being a neutral, pro-pureblood-but-not-supremacist House.

From the corner of his eye, Severus could see Charlus and Albert exchanging glances and the latter making a note in his ubiquitous small notebook. He couldn't care less. The politics of the Wizengamot or the House of Prince were none of his business. He had hoped for, and wished for some acceptance – both for himself and his new parents – once, but Elmer, who had been in his sixth year when Severus had started at Hogwarts, had told him what he needed to know. It no longer mattered now. Whatever it was, he trusted Charlus or Albert to take care of things.

Once more Marcus raised his lit wand. "The House of Greengrass proposes that this was an isolated case, and therefore, based on current evidence and in particular the Unbreakable Vow, the Wizengamot should treat it as such and proceed to a verdict."

There were lengthy deliberations, and the verdict was by no means unanimous, but Severus Evans was declared innocent of willingly causing harm. He was given a one year ban regarding Potions. He couldn't sell, or teach or in any way make money from Potions for the following year. He however willingly volunteered to make Potions for St. Mungo's for free during the year, something that got quite a few approving nods.

[The memory dissolved into nothingness as another seemed to be ready to take its place.]

Scene Change

Joanne uttered, "OH!" spontaneously. This was the reason. Dumbledore had made that statement in defence of Severus Snape-Evans with more proof than was necessary, from his point of view.

The scene was no longer that of the Wizengamot. It was the Headmaster's office, if the portraits lining the walls, the books, several half completed trinkets, a bag of sherbet lemons suspended upside down above the chair on which Dumbledore presumably sat, a bunch of quills, some of them broken, and a photograph of the Order accompanying a photograph of what might once have been the Dumbledore family, were any evidence. If any more evidence was required, Dumbledore leaving the Headmaster's chair and pacing around the room was it. This was Albert's memory.

"Have you any inkling why he wants to meet you, father?"

"I don't know, but I can hazard a guess. And my guesses usually seem to be good."

"Is it a way against Pollux?"

"Is it a way that His Grace, Duke-Magical Arcturus Black, has come up with to potentially thwart his cousin? Yes, I believe it might be as well."

"It doesn't explain why he requires my presence though."

The Headmaster peered out of the window of the tower. "I believe we may yet have a most interesting discussion. He has arrived with Ursula and Raymond, and Charlus." A small telescope was suddenly aiding him. "The Potters seem very confused."

It was enough information for Albert, a well-established lawyer in his own right, to build the complete picture. "He is securing Sirius' security, should the Wizengamot rule against him, as well as eliminating the threat of the Ancient and Noble House of Black falling into the hands of Pollux and his son-in-law."

"I believe you're entirely right," replied his father. A minute later Dumbledore called, "Let them in," and stood to attention.

In strode Arcturus Black, the 23rd Duke-Magical of Devonshire, looking the picture of serene, unruffled authority and grace in what were undoubtedly turbulent times. Even Albus Dumbledore had to visibly stamp down the fidgetiness. Arcturus behaved – naturally – as if he owned the place.

Joanne peripherally observed that neither Sirius, nor Neville, had that sort of an air.

The Potters walked in after him, looking distinctly bewildered.

"Headmaster Dumbledore," acknowledged the aging statesman. It was a bit odd to address his teacher so formally and in the circumstances of their station. He and Dumbledore's son had been classmates.

"Your Grace," acknowledged the Dumbledores with slight bows. It flew in the face of protocol, but it didn't seem as if Arcturus was perturbed by that. "Mr. Potter, Mr. Potter, Mrs. Potter," he nodded to Charlus, Raymond and Ursula who each nodded back.

"I think we can dispense with the formalities Dumbledore. You have both probably already surmised the reason for this visit." He took hold of the back of the chair next to Albert. "May I?"

"Of course, Lord Black," replied Dumbledore as he conjured a squishy beige sofa for the Potters.

"Albert, I want you to draw my will."

"Arcturus...?" protested Albert.

"No. Hear me out please. I won't beat about the bush, and I certainly won't take much of your time." The two Dumbledores nodded. "You both may have heard about the family feud between my cousin Pollux and me."

"Yes." There was no point in denying that. It was so severely hidden a secret that the entire magical world knew about it.

"I fear for both my Heir and my Heir's Heir. I believe that Sirius will be eliminated by some means by Pollux. I have received inside information that they may push for the Kiss."


"Pollux is also Sirius' grandfather? Yes. It doesn't matter to him. Let me give you an overview. My father and his father were both loyal to Her Majesty, even though, ironically they were Pureblood supremacy believers. I have struggled to break the mould, as has my son, though he has been moderately successful in portraying a neutral stance. Sirius, however, is the perfect Duke-Magical Black, as the world and the House of Black need him to be, though he is still a bit immature.

"Anyway, I digress. Pollux's faction believes that both we and the Longbottoms should forsake the duties and titles entrusted upon our forefathers and inherited by us. In principle, he wants the Grindelwald model to take shape again. Three generations of my line have thwarted his. I strongly believe that the marriage of his daughter to my son was not necessarily out of love, but a ploy by Pollux to unite our lines and use my grandsons as instruments to achieve his aims. There may even have been some sort of deceit involved. Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for him, Sirius is as he is. Regulus was swayed to Riddle's side – yes I know his true name – but was killed. That has left Pollux with no true Heir to the House who will continue with his legacy."

"He intends to use Malfoy now," murmured Ursula.

"Precisely so," agreed Arcturus. "I believe that Sirius will be killed 'legally' and his father and I will soon be assassinated, leaving the House in their grubby hands."

"You think he will go to such depths?"

"He would sell his children if it got him power, Dumbledore."

And everyone present knew that Pollux Black would do exactly that. He had murdered Alphard, his elder brother, because he agreed with Arcturus and because he would inherit from their father. Of course that hadn't ever been proven.

"That doesn't explain why we are here, My Lord."

"Doesn't it, Charlus? I want a will that can only be triggered after Sirius' death, which names a male descendent of my grandfather's line as the Heir, unlike Cederella, who, in spite of her proper views, is Pollux's cousin. And of course, it will be declared in the Wizengamot upon my death."

"You mean...NO! He is a baby! What can he do against...?" cried Ursula, making the connection quickly.

"You will be the regent of course, cousin. Who better than his grandmother, and a person like Augusta Longbottom with you, to guide him?"

"My Lord, this may seem a very good move politically, but you must have seen the way the Houses in your own alliance have arranged themselves..." Raymond tried to dissuade Arcturus from his chosen course.

"Yes. I know quite well that I am playing with fire and am but a sword stopping them from using the alliance to overthrow Britain as we know it. Young Harry will become a symbol for the others to rally around. I have been a traditionalist for all my life, but Sirius was supposed to be the one to usher in the change. You know this quite well, Ursula. Our motto is to ensure the survival of our House. That means we embrace change when it is necessary, and oppose those that contravene our duties and our responsibilities or which harm us. Having Pollux or Lucius ruling the House of Black is such a change."

Ursula looked at her cousin fearfully. She didn't like it. She trusted Arcturus and his judgement, but the trust when juxtaposed with the loss of her son, lost out to the desire to protect her grandchild at any cost. "Charlus, please..."

Charlus, on his part, looked at the two Dumbledore's in turn, perhaps for guidance, perhaps for some sign of agreement or disagreement. Whether he found what he was looking for was a question left unanswered, but he tiredly took of his glasses, cleaned them and put them back on before speaking. "As the Head of House Potter, I am inclined to think of this matter with its political significance in mind. As Harry's granduncle, I am inclined to look out for his protection. As it stands though, the two matters are inextricably linked."

Arcturus smiled. He realised that Charlus was about to support him.

"Imagine that Lucius is able to claim the House in the future. His word will carry more weight than it will, once they get him off – and they will. It will endanger Harry, as he will be able to force through some bits and piece of laws that will strip Harry of the protection. I agree with His Grace. It is the best option we have to cut them off at the knees before they gain power on that account."

"But Sirius..."

"You will remember that this Will of Intent – as Lord Black wants it constructed – will come into play in the event of Sirius' death, something that Pollux and his chosen Heir will no doubt try and facilitate. There are a lot of things that can be done to protect Sirius that can be done by the regent of the House of Black," Albert pointed out. "In my opinion, this is a legally enforceable way to protect all parties involved from your unscrupulous cousins."

There was a little silence, before Raymond responded, "We need to think about it."

"We need to do it before Thursday, so that we can notarise it before Monday when they hold whatever will pass as a trial for my grandson."

"Yes. I am hoping that we can wrench him away from them. I have lost one son, my Lord, but for a long time, your grandson has also been one of mine, and I have to hope that we don't lose him as well. I would rather have him safe and sound and fighting, but only if the need exists."

"I appreciate the sentiment, Raymond," Arcturus replied, looking as old as he was. "I do, truly. But I doubt that sentiment will save Sirius. We need to have every option to protect both your grandson and mine explored before Thursday."

"I will work on an initial draft immediately. They can have their time to decide till we get the draft sorted out," suggested Albert. "Maybe we can trouble them more and add a clause wherein every person wishing to claim the House of Black has to give an Unbreakable Vow stating that they were not involved in the deaths of Lord Orion, Lord Sirius or you, My Lord, either directly or indirectly, by deed and conspiracy or by intent, and it can only be given in the absence of any mind-control or memory modification. Any medical proof to that effect will immediately disqualify the claimant."

"I really like the way you think, old friend," replied Arcturus with a smirk. As morbid as the planning was, there was no way that they could not use that clause. Being as sure as he was about Pollux's intention, this was too good a measure to not enact.

[The memory drifted into nothingness as well.]

Scene Change

It was Sirius' trial, as Severus saw and remembered it. Mad-Eye was guarding. He already had that hideous and extremely useful eye. The appellation of course gave that fact away. The other eye was observing Sirius with a mixed look that contained a sense of comradeship, an almost paternal look, and sympathy and sorrow. It didn't fit the typical image of the veteran, gnarled Auror. It was also a testament to the fact that the Order was indeed a close-knit bunch.

"Are you Sirius Orion Black, son of Lord Orion, Heir to Duke-Magical Arcturus Black of Devonshire?"

"I am." It was so...odd...to watch a subdued Sirius. He was resigned, grieving and had a lost look on his face that the memory-watchers would never have associated with the boisterous man they knew – or had heard of, in Joanne's case.

"Had James and Lily Potter cast a Fidelius Charm on their house in Godric's Hollow?"


"Were you the secret-keeper?"


"Why did you betray them?"

"The defence would ask the Wizengamot to note the notarisation of the Unbreakable Vow taken by the defendant on the fifteenth of September, 1981. He had vowed to not betray the Potters, the members of the Order of the Phoenix and the magical society in general by joining or aiding He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named knowingly in any direct or indirect manner; that he would not reveal the secret to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named or any of his known supporters; to reveal the secret to only those people who the Potters would allow the secret to be revealed to; and to try and protect or try and help protect the Potters as the need be by whichever measure necessary. That the defendant is still alive is proof that he has not betrayed the Potter family." They really had exploited the Unbreakable Vows to the point where it could be termed as abusing the resource.

Once again, the bonder was asked to verify. As it happened, Dumbledore did, in fact, testify that Sirius was the Potters' secret-keeper – but that was accompanied by the testimony regarding the Vow to prove that Sirius too was as much a Death Eater as he was. It didn't take much more for Joanne to realise the half-truth Morgan had told her. It would be so easy to blame Dumbledore for being insensitive, incompetent, for adhering to the vague and/or self-serving, manipulative, Machiavellian idea of the Greater Good and for whatever else that could be laid at his feet with just that much information.

"The Hall of Records has attested that this notarisation is true, as well."

"The Prosecution would like to ask who the defendant believes betrayed the Potters."

"It was Peter Pettigrew. He had been cleared by both James and Lily. We all trusted him. He led Volde-idiot through the wards."

"Peter Pettigrew was not found at Godric's Hollow. His finger, however, was. Perhaps he was an unaccounted victim of Sirius Black's all-consuming rage?"

"He knew that I would find him and have him killed by the Wizengamot in the most heinous manner possible. He escaped before I could lay a curse on him," Sirius retorted with gritted teeth.

"The Prosecution should find that Pettigrew is not dead. The magical births and deaths registry still records Peter Pettigrew as a living person."

"The Prosecution has no more questions for the defendant at this moment on this matter."

"The Defence rests on account of those charges."

"The Prosecution still charges Sirius Black with the murder of the following: Longinus Bletchley, Julio Mata, Feiern Müller, Robert Miller, Gaius Greengold, Wallace McArthur, Justin Belter, Shaun Burke, Eric Greengold, Bilius Thinstaff, Edmund Palmer, Elmer Sabre, Ashley van Poll, and Seamus O'Brien." Thicknesse read out.

"The defendant accepts that he has killed these fourteen people. However, the defence objects to this being termed as murder. The deceased were all found at the site in Death Eater regalia, had Dark Marks on their arms and were clearly supporting He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named as he attacked the Potters. This was in accordance with the Unbreakable Vow that the defendant has sworn."

"Yet the defendant allowed one Peter Pettigrew to escape," argued Thicknesse. "There are several proofs here to show that the defendant, the deceased, James Potter, Peter Pettigrew, and one Remus Lupin, were friends through Hogwarts. It is possible that in the heat of the moment the defendant's judgement was clouded while his friends were under attack and another was supposedly aiding the attack. The Prosecution has one doubt – was this error of judgement deliberate? Did the defendant allow this Peter Pettigrew to escape? Was the defendant attempting to circumvent his Vow through this Death Eater, possibly even after suspecting – but not knowing – that Pettigrew was a Death Eater?"

In spite of knowing that it no longer mattered, that Sirius was free, and that he had been exonerated as well by the post-Voldemort courts after 1999, neither Joanne, nor Clara and Christopher could control the hiss of anger. They were trying to implicate Sirius in spite of the Vow, and were sowing the seeds of doubt against the poor man.

"Objection, your honour!" cried Prowse. "The Prosecution is indulging in defamation, slander and character assassination! The conditions of the Vow cover the situation that the Prosecution is building!"

"The Objection is sustained. The Prosecution would be well-served to be better prepared instead of wasting the time of the Wizengamot on the basis of conjecture without evidence."

That had to burn. It was not so much a rap on the knuckles as having Thicknesse sit on a stool in the corner with a cap bearing the word 'dunce'. Thicknesse could do nothing more than silently seethe and glare at Milner. Glaring didn't count under 'demeaning the Hall'.

"The Prosecution would still pursue charges against Sirius Black for the fourteen murders."

"The defence would argue that as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was attacking the house which these fourteen were guarding from external intrusion, while bearing the Dark Mark and wearing the regalia used by Death Eaters. They had no reason to be there. They were neither friends nor colleagues of either Mr. James Potter or Mrs. Lily Evans-Potter, who in fact, had fought against the Death Eaters. So this execution, for there cannot be another description, might have been performed in self-defence."

"They had not performed any spells!" growled Thicknesse. "You are passing judgement, respected colleague, upon people who were probably innocent!"

"They had not fired any spells on that night at Sirius Black! The defence does have the complete six monthly results of the forensics performed on their wand, the part of the common evidence that the defence was allowed access to. They revealed a minimum of thirteen killing curses per wand! You, sir, are absolving people who definitely were guilty!"

"Three of those killed were Aurors! Director Crouch had allowed the use of Unforgivables!"

"There are two glaring fallacies in your argument! Director Crouch allowed the use of force to bring down resisting Death Eaters before arresting them alive! And secondly, since we know that Aurors are trained to withstand mind-control and blackmail, why did these three Aurors bear the Dark Mark? It is impossible for an Auror to not be a traitor if he or she is a Death Eater."

There was a moment, or an eternity, of silence. The ball was in the Wizengamot's court now, quite literally. It would be the honour of the Wizengamot, or the part of it, that voted against Sirius Black which would be irrevocably damaged.

"The Prosecution would point out that at this moment, it cannot be ruled out that the Aurors in question, whom the Defence is so free to label as traitors, were not spies for the Ministry," shot back Thicknesse. "It is merely conjecture as well."

"By the same token, the Defence would point out that the Aurors not being traitors is conjecture. What possible excuse would the Prosecution like to put forth for the Aurors in question using non-sanctioned measures, which were – are – a hallmark of Death Eater activities, while also being in the company of the very criminals?"

"The status of the other eleven as criminals is..."

"...proven," interrupted Prowse. "Even if one were to momentarily ignore the measures taken by the contentious Aurors, the other eleven were civilians, and certainly had no clearance whatsoever to cast killing curses."

"They might have been under mind control!"

"The operative phrase, as the Prosecution uses it, is "might have been". Under the extraordinary circumstances that Sirius Black was faced with, he had certainly neither the time nor the inclination to decide whether the Death Eaters were possibly innocent. It is here, therefore, that the Defence argues for the charges against Sirius Black to be quashed. There are no grounds to prosecute him for murder. And it can be proven conclusively that the killing of these fourteen Death Eaters was to protect a child," she stressed, "a child for whom the defendant is one of the people who are legally, morally and emotionally responsible, in the case of its parents' death."

There was a furore again. All around the room, however, several heads were nodding in approval. Druella Prowse was chipping away at the charges in bits and morsels. They frowned on the killing of purebloods, yet they could appreciate, for some unfathomable reason could see the Heir Black trying to get through enemies to save his friends. Also a pureblood heir would be kissed by a Dementor if he was convicted of murder while trying to protect another pureblood, albeit a blood traitor. The Death Eaters had killed too many purebloods anyway – more than they had killed mudbloods. To some others, the fact that Sirius Black was responsible for the safety and upbringing of their saviour meant that he was automatically innocent as well. A smaller group consisting of Charlus Potter and his allies ranging across politics saw only Sirius, a person whose actions were absolutely right in the circumstances.

"The actions of the defendant were admittedly fatal. However, it cannot be classed as premeditated murder. Further proof of the same can be accrued from these documents obtained from the DMLE's Records." She submitted more documents. "On eight separate occasions, Sirius Black, as a member of the volunteer organisation, The Order of the Phoenix, assisted Aurors in the arrests of twenty nine Death Eaters. In each of these instances, the hostiles were alive, with the most powerful curse used being the Bone-Breaker curse. It was only on twelve occasions that Sirius Black had to end a life in self defence. In depth investigation has already proven those circumstances. This was an extraordinary situation for the defendant.

"We therefore firmly contend that the attack on his friends, and the betrayal by another was the cause for a man who was at war to panic, at worst. Through this war, a very bloody war, the Death Eaters have attacked their victims in large numbers. With that in mind, and with the facts that these supposed victims were by no means innocent, considering their spells cast, clearly to prevent anyone leaving that house alive except their Master, Sirius Black can only be said to have done what was best in the situation."

Now Thicknesse had to get a word in.

"The Prosecution protests such a move on the grounds that the defendant's first action was to choose to kill. Whether or not the actions were in self-defence, he has killed before. The Prosecution accepts that those actions were within the ambit of the strictures placed on volunteer organisations. However, in this situation, the defendant was the aggressor. In absence of any lethal spell fired by the deceased, the defendant's intent was unquestionably murderous. What remains to be proven is whether it was by provocation, or premeditated."

It was a damning indictment of Sirius' actions, as nearly true as it was. All the same, there was an edge for the Defence here, because proving intent is never the easiest thing to do in any court of law, though the difference between murder and manslaughter hinges upon it. The matter was sent through straight to a floor test. Everything hinged on this. If the charge was even reduced (and no lawyer worth his or her salt ever asks for reduced charges at first because that is as good as accepting the guilty verdict) Sirius would automatically be off that hook – and away from the Dementors' loving ministrations.

Ten terse minutes later, Sirius was cleared to breathe again. It was a matter of only eight votes. This didn't absolve him of all charges – just reduced the charge to one that would not carry the Death Penalty. Irrespective of whether or not he would die in Azkaban, Sirius certainly wouldn't die immediately, for upholding the murder charge would have only meant that he would be convicted and sentenced.

"The Defence thanks the Honoured Wizengamot for upholding the spirit of justice in this matter by reducing the charges, at least. The Defence of course contests all charges placed against the defendant."

It was twice in two cases that Druella Prowse had bested Pius Thicknesse. Pollux Black had wanted this man eliminated, and no Kiss for Black meant he had already failed. Manslaughter did not have the capital punishment. The massive blow to the Thicknesse's ego and pride that it dealt was reflected in the glare he sent Prowse's way. "The Prosecution will continue to pursue those charges," he fairly spat.

"Indeed," answered Druella. "This is where we must take into consideration the...ah... supposed victims."

"The deceased were victims of Black's indiscriminate, mindless manslaughter. It is not established that they were willing Death Eaters," Thicknesse argued furiously.

"If the Prosecution is suggesting that the deceased were victims of mind control or any such measures, then the defence would contend that the Prosecution has attempted to obfuscate the evidence."

There was a unanimous sound of dismay, disgust and confusion – well maybe not so unanimous.

Druella continued, "It would be important to note that these bodies, which were crucial evidence, were released to their relatives at the end of the one month and one day period, but also that the Prosecution requested the Wizengamot for postponement of this hearing till such a period, curiously, was completed, and yet did not ask for extension of possession of evidence. The Defence has, on three occasions, requested access to the evidence with a Wizengamot approved overseer," she added while providing proofs of the same. "The Defence has received no response whatsoever. The bodies, on which the Defence intended to conduct post-mortem analyses, independently, were crucial pieces of evidence denied to the Defence wilfully."

It was a risk, showing the Prosecution in that bad a light. The underlying point still remained. The law would rather see a hundred guilty people go free, but would see to it that not a single innocent would be unduly punished. As the memory watchers knew, the corruption ensured that the ideal was discarded thoroughly, eventually.

"The Prosecution formally decries the Defence's insinuations that the post-mortem report by the DMLE and its associate bodies was by some means influenced!"

"A perceived slight cannot be valid grounds for denying access to crucial evidence which was in the common domain."

Thicknesse didn't even bother to reply. "And yet, by no means does that justify Sirius Black's killing of these men. That they might have been Death Eaters, murderers, traitors, criminals, or they might have been anything else for that matter. The fact remains that they had not attacked Sirius Black. The fact that they might have even been there on the orders or the behest of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is of no consequence. They had not attacked Sirius Black.

"There was certainly legitimate fear for the defendant – that can be said with surety – if he was operating under the belief that they were Death Eaters for certain," he acknowledged, changing his tactics. He had to get Sirius put away on that lesser charge at the very least – the longer the better. "But it still was pre-emptive. They had done nothing to him, and were probably unlikely to do anything at that point of time at all. Sirius Black could just as easily have merely injured them grievously enough for them to be unable to move and fight. He didn't.

"Sirius Black," he paused before he added with a touch of drama, "is a killer."

Druella clapped with the Hall. He had attempted well. "The Defence must show two glaring fallacies to this, while noting that the Prosecution has purposefully sabotaged the investigations on the basis of a perceived slight. My esteemed colleague doesn't deny it. As for the Death Eaters, they were attacking the rescue party that had come for the Potters. They had not attacked the defendant, but certainly attacked his companions, while the others were casting spells at the house in which a child lived and was being attacked to their fullest knowledge. In a group, that certainly qualifies as self defence on Sirius Black's part. And it certainly qualifies as crime to support an attack on innocent members of any society."

Pius looked, not so covertly, towards the alliance consisting of the current Heads of Houses that were allied to Pollux Black.

"The second is that Mr. Black was acting within the ambit of the Vow sworn to Mr. James Potter. He was trying to protect Mr. Potter and his family by any manner possible, and the only way to face the chief attacker, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, to fulfil that Vow, was by first going through the ranks of the Death Eaters. In light of those two conditions, the Defendant was acting very much in self defence."

"And that is where his actions are found to be in contravention to the Special Volunteer Groups and Paramilitary Act (Rights and Controls), 1785. While the Vow may be true, it was the defendant's responsibility to ensure that the Vow would not force him into such a situation where his conscience was called into question. He had the right of refusal. Secondly, and perhaps more pertinently, the Law states that, "the act of self-defence is defined to be performed by the defendant/perpetrator when one or all of the victims or the deceased, as the case may be, had fired a lethal spell at the defendant/perpetrator." The Wizengamot may note that the deceased, irrespective of their criminal status had not fired any lethal spell at Sirius Black. By the letter of the law, the Wizengamot may therefore only judge whether the Vow was sufficient reason for the defendant to take such drastic action."

It was a very bold thing for any lawyer to do, dictating what the jury may or mayn't do. And yet, yet, the technicality, the letter of law, unlike the spirit, stood by Pius Thicknesse. Severus could see Dumbledore's face assume a grim mien. Thicknesse's job was not, after all, showing that Sirius was not innocent – it was guaranteeing Sirius' conviction by turning the Wizengamot against him.

And judging by the dismayed frowns scattered around the hall, the nervous wringing of hands, and of course, Pollux Black's pleased smirk, that job was done.

Change of scene

"Witness for the Prosecution," rang out Thicknesse's voice in a bored manner, "Severus Tobias Snape...Evans." Why the man kept up the deliberate inflection on 'Evans' was anyone's guess.

Severus sat on the chair in the Witness Box, in a memory provided by Dumbledore.

"Are you Severus Tobias Snape...Evans, Potions Supreme-Master, member of the Volunteer Group, the Order of the Phoenix, and bearer of the Dark Mark?"


"You stand to contradict the claim by one Lucius Malfoy that he was imperiused by the Dark Lord."

"No. Malfoy may or may not have been imperiused by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. I stand to contradict his claim that he was imperiused while he was marked."

Thicknesse nodded and did not pursue it further, as Wayne Terry took the floor again.

"I hope you choke on the gold you have consumed," Severus grumbled sub-vocally as he sipped from a glass of water. It seemed Dumbledore had used charms similar to the ones used by Nikolaj Kolarov. There was no need to make it obvious to anyone that the Order was aware of the underhanded dealings involving the Prosecution Lawyer.

"So, Mr. Snape-Evans," started Terry smugly, "you wish to contest the claim by the defendant that they were imperiused."

"As I told the Prosecution, the defendant may or may not have been imperiused at the time of his arrest. I can say with absolute certainty that he was not imperiused when the Dark Mark was administered to him."

"You can say that with absolute certainty, can you?"

"I can, as a matter of fact. The Dark Mark is a perversion of the Protean Charm. That I have discerned through experience and through my attempts to remove it. By channelling his magic through anyone Mark, he could control whom to call, whom to torture through the Mark, whom to send messages...whatever that fiend decided, in general."

"Was your Mark used?"

"No. I was punished for an extended period of time through it because I sabotaged the potions that fiendish beast wanted. My captors were sent messages or orders."

"You keep calling him fiend and beast and whatever, Mr. Snape-Evans. One would think you don't respect him," Terry commented silkily, or in an attempt at such a tone.

"Considering that I have spat in his face, he pretty much knows how much esteem I hold him in," Severus sneered. It took Joanne a lot of effort to not sigh in relief (even as there were gasps from the Wizengamot). This was the expression associated with the person known as Severus Snape. "One would think that you hold him in reverence, Mr. Terry. That is quite dangerous to your...ah...reputation as a supposed upstanding gentleman," Severus continued, his dark eyes boring into the lawyer. "Even as a defence lawyer, your job is to uphold the laws of the land, not asking a man whether or not he respects his sister's murderer."

"The Wizengamot reminds the defence and the witness to adhere to the proceedings!" Milner scolded sharply.

Terry stood back before nodding. "I apologise."

"As do I," echoed Severus, though there was more than a hint of the sneer levelled at the offending lawyer on his face.

"The witness may proceed with his deposition."

"From my own attempts to study it in an attempt to eventually be rid of it, I have, as I stated before, learnt that the Mark is a perverted form of the Protean Charm. The controls are somehow tied to the consciousness of You-Know-Who – he did not volunteer himself for an in depth study into the matter, so I cannot say how."

"You were administered the Mark. You have claimed that this wasn't under the Imperius."

"It wasn't. I am loath to speculate whether the Mark would have held. From the standard available texts regarding the Imperius, the subject is unable to form his own thoughts while he or she is under the Imperius, and is in general, just a step below being possessed. It logically follows that the subject either has no knowledge of their actions under the curse, or any understanding of the actions themselves and their consequences, or both."

"So you had at least the knowledge of your actions as well as the understanding of the consequences."

"The defence is reminded that the Witness is not on trial, and that the Witness' actions are well documented," piped in Druella. Wayne Terry was trying to drive the public opinion into making this an informal retrospective trial with the judgement going against Severus. This was precisely why Druella was one of the best in business, being Albert Dumbledore-trained as she was. She was also the boggart of criminals if she was the Prosecutor.

Severus returned to his testimony, studiously keeping out many suppositions, before going on to theorise that the Dark Mark worked quite like the ability to see Thestrals. To see the creatures, one had to be able to understand the death one had seen. To be able to sustain the Dark Mark, one had to accept responsibility of the murder caused. In effect, there was a possibility that an innocent, who was forced to act in a certain way which resulted in the death of people, could, in theory, be forced to bear the Dark Mark which would sustain. (It was an out for himself, truly.) The Imperius Curse thoroughly disabled its victim from acting in keeping with his own thoughts and conscience – in effect it was as if the victim was acting on autopilot (not that he used that word), with the caster's mind providing the emotional or psychological component to the personality. In effect, a person under the Imperius, could, under no circumstances, feel the responsibility/pride/power or anything that a person ranging from a complete innocent to an inner circle Death Eater could feel upon learning that he or she had ended someone's life.

That led to the conundrum of proving intent. If they were innocent, they could easily follow Severus' lead, as he implied but did not say outright. The implication was clear, however. They had to find another way to prove their innocence. Even if the Wizengamot was bought, these open trials, where they had attempted to slander Sirius, were also the place where Severus had placed enough doubt against the legitimacy of the Imperius Defence. If even a third of the people who were undecided, doubted these upstanding gentlemen, it was a massive victory, wrapped in what was going to be a massive defeat. He knew Terry's next steps though. He would attempt to make light of, or question the accuracy and the legitimacy of Severus' studies. That was alright. People were likely to believe him, he realised with a cringe, because he was their saviour's Uncle. Well...

"Are you an operative for the Department of Mysteries, Mr. Snape-Evans?"


"Do you have any experience in the studies of Dark Arts? Were these studies Ministry sanctioned and recorded?"


"Were you held under the curses you described?"

"Yes. By that beast, legally referred to as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named," Severus added.

Turning to the Chief Witch, Wayne Terry smugly said, "Let it be known that the Witness' deposition is based on only one set of amateur, single data point observation."

"We would point out that the Witness is the only person who has attempted to seek answers," Druella interjected.

"The Witness it seems was the one ashamed enough..."

"Well, if the defendant doesn't deem it shameful that he is a murderer, and seeks to escape justice, isn't that outright dishonourable?"

"That has not been yet proven."

The arguments went back and forth, till Druella was compelled to say, "The Defence brings forth no proof to counter the Witness' conclusions. There are ways that the Witness himself has used to give solid proof."

"Yes. The Wizengamot is quite aware. The honour of the Defendant doesn't hinge upon the unsubstantiated ramblings of the Witness. The Witness, honoured members, is only pursuing a vendetta against the marked. While the defence can hardly question the witness' own innocence, his objectivity in this matter is nonetheless questionable. The Defence finds it offensive that the Witness is implying that the Defendant has not regretted what he was forced to do under the Imperius. How can the Witness prove what the Defendant felt or didn't? No court of law accepts such a basis. Intent and emotions are not the same."

In the end, Barty crouch Jr., along with a few more very low-level Death Eaters, was sentenced to the Dementor's Kiss. Sirius was sentenced to his seven years in Azkaban. And the majority of the British Pureblood pantheon of murderers with money walked free.

Interestingly, Dumbledore and several others fiercely argued for only life terms for the most dangerous Death Eaters, in spite of the fact that some others had got the Capital Sentence.

"I can't believe it!" raged Remus. "They have all been bought!

"I am not," replied Severus and Richard Bones, the Advocate for Sirius, in tandem. "It was orchestrated by Pollux," the former informed Bones.

"But Sirius is the man's own grandson!"

"Sirius was Arcturus' grandson. We all know that through Walburga, Sirius was always an instrument for Pollux to get the position of the Head of House Black. The despicable old f...man was very disappointed by Sirius' inability to toe the line he dictated. It was why he took Regulus under his wing," Severus pointed out. He was, through his personal acquaintance with Andromeda Tonks, very conversant with the Black family politics. For Severus, it was important to recognise the warning signs – the unmarked Death Eaters were ruling the policies.

"What should we do now, Albus?" Remus asked.

Dumbledore said nothing. He looked very old – older than he looked in the present. He was staring away into the distance, a look of fury mingled with an odd sort of lost look that didn't bode well at all.

"Professor?" called Richard. "Professor, are you alright?"

When Dumbledore still failed to respond or move, there was more than just a fleeting sense of panic. They wouldn't be able to weather his death at that moment. Even leaving sentimentality aside, he was the one man alive in England who seemingly knew everyone, having taught almost everyone under the age of sixty five, and was a beacon of hope before the incident in Godric's Hollow. If he died, the public moral would go down, while the Death Eaters would co-opt his legacy and pervert it to make England a fertile ground for Voldemort.

However, before they could truly panic any further, he leaned forward. Well at least he was not dead or something.

"What are we fighting for, my boys?"

It caught the other three short. When he went into such a phase, calling people by anything other than their titles or – if they were that familiar as Severus, Remus and Richard were – by their first names, was when he let down his guard, so to speak. That was when he would speak without any 'politically correct' filters; he would speak exactly what he meant.

"Sir?" ventured Richard cautiously.

"Why are we fighting? What are we fighting for? All we achieved after losing four good people is losing more people. So many decisions, all taken with good intentions, have now proven to be detrimental." He jerked up and started pacing the room. "Tell me, Richard. You have studied law. Why do you think I was firm about registering the Order as a volunteer organisation, in spite of the fact that our powers in the field would be curtailed?"

Richard Bones nodded glumly. "It was done to protect our members. We were in a war. It was obvious that at some point of time, we would have to choose between the lives of our own, of our family, friends and co-workers, and not staining our souls. As volunteers we would have the cover of self-defence if it came to that. The objective was to have a strong argument in our favour." He turned to look at Severus. "I really hoped that your testimony regarding the Dark Mark would turn things in our favour."

Severus gave a dry, mirthless laugh. "With due respect to your professional judgement, Richard, I didn't have much hope. The moment I saw Pollux sitting there with Abraxas Malfoy, I abandoned hope. This was something Andromeda had warned me about long ago. Sirius rebelled against Pollux and Walburga. He became expendable, nay, a thorn in Pollux's side. This was about much more than the Black family feud, and probably about nothing more than that."

"What do we do now?"

Dumbledore closed his eyes and sighed. "We lie low, my boys. We lie low, regroup, increase the protections on our homes and try and influence people. Tom will return. And when he does, we must be ready."

"Should I send word to the Order for a meeting?"

"Not now, no," answered the Headmaster carefully. "At least don't send word to everyone. I know that we don't have a formal hierarchy, but we need something like a core group. Alastor, Aberforth, Elphias, Septimus and Cederella, Minerva... it should seem like an age-based group."

"You have suspicions," Remus observed flatly.

"I am paranoid. We made a fatal mistake with Pettigrew. The Order needs severe secrecy and such before we proceed. I trust you three. You and Severus have taken Vows, as did Sirius. Richard has reasons which I know, and that is enough. But we need a comprehensive Vow or an Oath to ensure we face no more betrayals. But above all, we need to plan."

Memory ends

"You had a trial!" Joanne rounded on Sirius.

"Of course I did. I was to be made an example of, wasn't I?"

"But she said you were under illegal incarceration and escaped..."

"That is all a half-truth. I was legally jailed for seven years. From December 1988 to June 1993, for four and half years, it was illegal incarceration. At least I had visitation rights in that period. Thanks Albert."

"Then how did you survive, if you weren't innocent, technically?"

"I was not dead."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"The Vow meant that everyone knew that I was innocent of the crime of betraying James and Lily. That was all that mattered. I didn't consider killing those fourteen a crime. I was alive, and that meant that I had done enough to at least fulfil the terms of the Vow. The Dementors did affect me, but it was due to my grief. The Order believed in my innocence and had fought on my behalf. My father and my grandfather believed in me. The others could go fuck themselves for all that I could care. What being Padfoot did, was help me dim my emotions. I didn't need Occlumency because I nearly stopped feeling anything except cold. That was what I needed help with post Azkaban. I had learnt to not feel. So much so that when they told me that my father and grandfather had died in an accident in Grimmauld Place, I just said okay." He snorted mirthlessly. "I needed to feel again."

This wasn't, again, what Joanne had expected. She had imagined a man nearly berserk with his emotions. Instead Azkaban had created an automaton.

"So did having your godson help?"

"Yes. Building a relationship with Harry helped me be close to another person again. And he was so much of James and so much of Lily and so much entirely his own that I could not help but connect with my godson again. I did love him when he was a baby. I loved him as just Harry even more. And of course, having friends helped."

Joanne stared at Sirius a bit, before sitting back in silent contemplation. Often expectations and reality were so wildly different that the mind boggled.

Her next questions were for Dumbledore.

"Why did you choose to oppose the Dementor's Kiss for the Death Eaters?" Joanne demanded.

"That was for two objectives related to security," answered Sirius. "I hope you can recognise me as somewhat of an expert in these matters, having chalked up guest loyalty points with Azkaban."

Joanne only nodded.

"Well we had to sign the roster daily with a blood quill," he recalled blandly, brandishing the back of his left hand which had the initials, SB, carved in. "It was verifiable, and I suppose the Order had someone to do the verification randomly to ensure proper procedure...?"

"Yes we did," Albert acknowledged. He didn't elaborate.

"Now, contrary to the Azkaban book – which, till 'that' Harry had a chance of having a family stripped away, was my least disliked one of the series by-the-way – Dementors aren't allowed to leave that island by a directive that I can support now that I don't live there."

"So the kiss would have to be necessarily performed there as well," realised Joanne. She chose not to comment on his 'least disliked' remark.

"And the third bit of information – which you know – is that the person, Barty Crouch Junior was alive till long afterwards. His mother's living corpse was fed Polyjuice Potion till she died two days later. What does that tell you?"

The three bits of information congealed to reveal one fact – the convicts on the Death Row could be spirited away with nobody any the wiser. Their replacements wouldn't necessarily be voluntary like Crouch's mother was; something that she had forgotten. A Bellatrix Lestrange or an Antonin Dolohov roaming out of prison – especially when they were real – was the stuff of nightmares. Suddenly, the maxim about having an enemy where they could be seen and their presence could be verified made far too much sense. "Oh God," she groaned, partly in relief, and partly in accompaniment to the shudders that the terrible idea of Death Eaters out of Azkaban gave her.

"Oh God, indeed," Albus Dumbledore agreed.

"How did your society survive?"

"Shame is a wonderful thing to feel when things become almost too dire." The caustic and sarcastic bitterness was something so associated with Severus Evans and so absent in their dealings, that it startled her. "And after shame is effort, which is followed by pride, and then it is followed by jingoism. One can be almost sure that the inventor of the wheel was a magical."

"Most magicals don't have that much imagination, Severus," Derwen replied in a bored, self-deprecating manner.

"Speak for yourself Derwen. I do."

"Don't you get in on that Severus!" growled Flora. He only grinned back at her.

It was at this time that Morris reappeared. "Mistress Anna, if it so pleases you and the guests, dinner is ready. I must remind you that it is now seven thirty pm."

"Good Lord," muttered Christopher. "I just didn't realise how late it is!"

"Indeed," grumbled Dumbledore. "It is also time for my evening medicines. Shall we adjourn for now?"

As Joanne stood up and stretched a bit, it occurred to her that she was, once again left with more questions and anticipation.

Credits: The question Dumbledore is plagued by during the trials has already been used in 'The Mark' by Nargled. It is a wonderful two-shot.

Dumbledore and Snape: There are going to be two faces to both. One will be the school face, the one that we know from the books, carefully constructed to deflect Ministry interference. The other will be this heavily OOC face as members of the Order. It is obvious

Laws: Sections 54 and 55 Coroners and Justice Act 2009. But the assumption is that a similar law must have been in effect for other purebloods as their "get out of jail free" card. This was the part used in Sirius' trial. Sirius Black could, ideally, be tried under and convicted for Voluntary Manslaughter by current UK laws, unless it was proven to be self-defence. He had every reason to fear bodily harm from the 'victims'. The Prosecution's argument hinges on the deceased not being 'proven' Death Eaters as there was no investigations.

A/N: Beta required for story with long chapters. Beta Leser gesucht.

This is part one of the years 1981 to 1991. The next chapter will be part 2. Neither the Order nor the Death Eaters were idle for this story.