Hello dear readers! Happy new year! Unfortunately this chapter was delayed because I, my beta, and our families were affected by covid. As I'm now on the mend, I'm able to post! Thank you for your patience and I hope you enjoy the newest chapter!
Thanks to my amazing beta for helping me out even while not feeling her best. Love you, SB!
Harry and Percy flooed into Arthur's office for a day of meetings to be held in Harry's personal offices. It was the first time Harry had seen the ministry office that he'd allowed Percy to rent in his name.
Harry liked that Percy had kept it simple when choosing the decor. There were two rooms - one, a small antechamber that had been painted beige which held his desk, a chair and a file cabinet, and the second, a slightly larger room which had been painted a slightly golden shade of beige which held Harry's desk, a few chairs and a bookcase.
Dobby brought lunch after the third meeting had concluded and Harry looked up as Percy poked his head in. "What is it?"
"Sorry to interrupt, Harry..." Percy said, softly. "Madam Bones is here."
"Let her in." Harry said, quickly wrapping his lunch and sliding it into the top drawer of his desk while Percy opened the door for her and left as Harry waited to see what she had to say.
"Lord Potter." Amelia Bones stood proudly but he could tell she wasn't happy with what she had to tell him. "You were right. I looked into the courtroom transcripts and there are at least fifteen prisoners in Azkaban who were put there without a trial."
Harry shook his head, sighing heavily. "I had hoped Sirius was the only one. Will you help me free them... free him?"
"Yes." She answered passionately. "The others have done nothing to deserve this and although my brother's broken heart and ruined reputation deserve vengeance I would never condone something as severe as a decade of wrongful imprisonment."
"Thank you, Madam Bones." Harry nodded solemnly. "As soon as we have a plan in place, I'll contact my godfather."
"Please, call me Amelia and we can get to work." She said decisively. "I have a few ideas to start with."
"Then I am Harry... and I can't wait to hear them." Harry said as he pulled some parchment and a quill from a separate drawer.
As Harry sat down to breakfast at the London townhouse the next morning, Dudley and Sirius were having a discussion about some aspect of Dudley's defensive training and Remus smiled across the table at him. "The papers have arrived, Harry."
"Oh?" Harry smirked mischievously as the room focused on him.
"Indeed, they have... what are you up to, pup?" Sirius asked as he passed them over.
Harry skimmed the headlines of the Daily Prophet and The Quibbler.
Innocents in Azkaban? Miscarriage of Justice: Who's Responsible?
Is Sirius Black Innocent - Trial Transcripts Missing!
"Madam Bones works quickly." Harry grinned at his companions. "What I'm up to is getting my godfather a fair trial which will see him free and able to go out in public in his human form."
Sirius' face softened. "Oh, pup!"
"Lucius Malfoy, Lady Longbottom and Madam Bones have all agreed to support a fair trial..." Harry smirked. "If you could be found and persuaded to attend."
Sirius laughed. "I suppose that could be arranged."
"So, Madam Bones... Amelia 'leaked' some information to a reporter friend of hers and I told Luna it would be helpful for her dad to put something in the Quibbler." Harry divulged.
"Who is behind this one?" Remus asked, handing over the latest edition of Witch Weekly. The picture showed a young Sirius in muggle jeans, a plain white t-shirt, and a black leather jacket with silver studs.
Harry's eyes widened. "That's..."
Sirius blushed. "Me when I was a seventh year."
"You were hot!" Harry murmured and then blinked as he realized what he'd said. "Not that you don't look nice now but..." Then he saw his uncles laughing at him.
"But this me is closer to your age." Sirius grinned. "I get it."
"Anyway, I don't know how that happened, but speaking of school age... I have to talk to you about the map." Harry told them what he'd seen a few nights ago.
"Dumbledore is a powerful wizard, Harry, and there's no real way to measure an individual wizard's magical power." Sirius shrugged.
"We - your dad and I..." Remus cut in. "We theorized that Dumbledore's power sort of short circuits the map."
"They used to talk about it constantly." Sirius smiled wistfully.
"So it's always done that..." Harry hummed thoughtfully as he got ready for another couple of meetings at the ministry.
Draco sighed quietly as Blaise went on about trying to get some Gryffindor's attention when the door to the common room opened and Harry walked in.
"You're back!" He called happily.
"Hi." Harry grinned as he walked over and sat down next to the blond. "I have to work on an astronomy assignment with Nott...but not until after dinner. Want to have some time together?"
"Yes, but first, please tell Blaise how to attract the attention of the Gryffindor he likes." Draco smirked at his friend.
"Which one has caught your eye?" Harry chuckled. "Everybody is different. I don't even know your persuasion."
"Ron." Blaise frowned.
Harry blinked. "Well, that's a bit more complicated. He's straight."
"I don't think he'd lash out if you approached him but he's not likely to accept your advances..." Harry sighed. "Oh, alright! He likes quidditch... specifically the Chudley Cannons. Why am I telling you this?"
"Because you know that I have the power to make your life hell if I'm unhappy?" Blaise smirked.
Draco laughed. "Come on, Harry. Want to get out of here?"
Harry nodded. "Where should we go? The suite? An alcove nearby?"
"I was thinking of Salazar's room..." Draco smirked.
Harry looked around and noticed that it was only the three of them. He nodded and stood up. Draco joined him and they opened the secret passage to descend into Salazar's secret room, leaving Blaise behind to plan his attempt at courtship.
Harry sat at the desk and watched Draco wander the room. "Is there something you want to talk about?"
Draco shook his head and then nodded. "My godfather took my blood yesterday. He's decided to test several students to be sure our house doesn't have anyone who might be manipulated by Dumbledore."
Harry sighed. "Who else is he testing?"
"A boy and a girl from each year." Draco murmured as he sat on the bed. "I'm angry it's a possibility and afraid of it being true."
"Draco, I..." Harry fumbled for words as he stood and made his way to his betrothed's side.
"What if I am potioned?" Draco began to ramble. "What if I would've reacted differently to everything that brought us together and what if ...when I'm cleansed..."
"Draco, calm down..." Harry said gently, pulling the blond into his arms.
"But what if I don't want you?" Draco whispered, sounding sad.
"We'll deal with it if we have to." Harry told him quietly. "But don't forget - Dumbledore is trying to sabotage our relationship. I don't think he would go to the trouble of dosing you with a potion to get us together and then sabotage it... would he?"
"Probably not." Draco sighed and thought about it. "Honestly, the things I feel are most affected by whatever this is are my critical thinking and logic. My sarcasm is also slightly lacking of late."
"Well, I have faith that those things will get back to normal soon." Harry tilted Draco's face up so he could look closer at the blond. "We can take things slow if you want... I don't want you to feel like I took advantage of you if you're under the influence of a potion."
"Going slow works..." Draco murmured as Harry's lips descended on his. "How? Hmm... how do you want to do that?"
"Kissing only..." Harry chuckled. "Clothes stay on... and when we're sure you're potion free, we can make the decision together of when it's the right time to go further."
Draco returned Harry's kiss with enthusiasm as they sat on the bed.
Time flew as they enjoyed their solitude. The young couple were startled when Dobby popped into the room with the news that Blaise had sent him to call them for dinner. They walked into the Great Hall holding hands.
Harry was in the library with Theodore Nott working on their astronomy assignment when Ginny came in with her year mate Colin and their partners from some class or other. As she passed them, Harry's cousin gave him an eye roll and then settled in at a nearby table.
Hermione and several other students arrived soon after but they all went towards the back of the stacks to find quiet tables.
Harry sighed as he watched her go. He missed having her sit beside him with her color coded study guide, nagging him on his terrible handwriting while Ron napped.
Just over an hour later, Professor Mcgonagall hurried in, spoke to Madam Pince and rushed off in Hermione's direction.
"Sorry. I'll be right back." Harry followed discreetly and overheard Mcgonagall's words to Hermione.
"Miss Granger?" Mcgonagall said softly. "Please come with me. There's a matter of urgency that must be addressed."
"But, Professor, I'm in the middle of an assignment!" Hermione protested as her teacher charmed the books to pack themselves up into her bag. "It's OWL year!"
As the Gryffindor Head of House led her student away from the library, Harry rushed over to Ginny's table and pulled her into the stacks with him. His communication mirror buzzed lightly in his pocket.
"Harry!" Sirius called out as soon as he saw Harry appear. "Tonks found, retrieved, and tested Hermione's parents!"
"I'd hoped that's what happened. She was just collected from the library." Harry sighed with relief. "Tell me - erm - tell us?"
Ginny's head bobbed in approval when he corrected himself.
"Hermione's parents had been potioned into paranoia and then the imperius curse was used to make them administer the potions to their daughter until it was time for her to return to Hogwarts." Remus explained. "At that point, they were told to wander the dentistry conventions in every English speaking nation in the world. They were supposed to write to Hermione in November telling her to stay at school for the holidays."
"How did Tonks find them?" Ginny asked, voicing Harry's thoughts.
"Well, apparently they weren't instructed to change their identities so they registered at all the hotels and conventions in their own names. It was only a matter of following the trail and credit card activity." Remus replied matter of factly. "The goblins took care of them and they'll take care of your friend as well."
"What about you, Moony?" Harry asked. "It's the new moon tonight."
"I hope they have time for everything." Ginny bit her lip, worried.
"Oh, that's why Hermione is being called home from school. Her testing and purge will happen tomorrow." Sirius told him. "Moony's ritual has to be done tonight at the highest point of the new moon."
"We actually need to get ready now, cub. We can floo in the morning." Remus promised.
Harry nodded and gave Ginny a nudge back toward her friends. "Give my greetings to Korlag."
Sirius nodded as the mirror blanked.
"So... you're in contact with the fugitive Sirius Black?" Nott asked innocently but the sound of his voice startled Harry.
"He's my godfather and he's innocent of the crimes he was accused of." Harry snapped, angry that he hadn't noticed Nott coming.
"Does the DMLE know?" Nott asked.
"Don't you read the papers? There were articles in both of them and even Witch Weekly had one." Harry gritted his teeth to stay polite. "He is going to be given a trial soon."
"That's nice." Nott smirked. "Shall we finish?"
Harry only nodded and moved back to the table.
When Harry arrived at the Slytherin table for breakfast, the Great Hall was abuzz with conversation.
Harry had informed Draco and the Weasleys that weren't currently residing in the family suite about Hermione's removal by an elf delivered note the night before. He expected that the rest of the school would be informed with the morning announcements and he was proven right when the owls dropped the mail and Professor Mcgonagall stood, calling for quiet.
"Fifth year students, please be aware that Ms. Hermione Granger has been temporarily called home." She announced. "It is unclear when she will be returning so anyone having a partnership with her will need to find another way to complete their assignments."
Harry met Draco's eyes over the table to acknowledge between them that things were finally falling into place.
Dumbledore was next to address the student body, though he waited until the end of the morning meal. "Young ladies and gentlemen, please allow me a moment of your time." He waited for silence before continuing. "It is unfortunate that unpredictable events are currently disrupting our little world. If you need help adjusting to these events, please seek assistance from your peers or your head of house. Thank you."
Harry chuckled as he and Draco moved toward the potions classroom. "I suppose these events are unpredictable...for him."
Draco smirked until he saw the two professors standing at the classroom door.
"Lord Potter and Mr. Malfoy, you are excused for today as Professor Snape needs you both." Slughorn said before closing the door behind the students.
Draco met his godfather's eyes and his heart sank.
A nod from Snape prompted both boys to react. Harry growled furiously, trying to suppress his elemental magic while Draco simply nodded and squeezed Harry's arm to get him to follow them.
"This man is in charge of children!" Harry hissed as he allowed himself to be led. "The future of the wizarding world is in his hands and he chose... At some point, he chose to manipulate them and use potions to control them!"
"Lord Potter... " Snape interrupted the young lord's rant when they reached an abandoned classroom. "We can do nothing without proof."
Harry's entire body tingled and he felt like his clothes were choking him. He ripped his robe off and tugged at his tie.
'I am working to prove it but I believe that he is somehow dosing the entire school." Snape continued. "House by house."
"How would he do that?" Harry asked under his breath.
"The feasts?" Draco suggested. "I remember someone telling me that the pitchers are charmed to refill themselves."
"It's in 'Hogwarts, a history'." Harry told them grimly.
Draco's eyebrow rose. "So, if he dosed the first batch with whatever concoction he's come up with, it would just keep going."
Snape considered this carefully. "Potions like the one we're hypothesizing would build up in someone's system if administered daily... but perhaps if spaced out..."
"Like, say..." Draco whispered in horror. "Start of term and then Halloween ..."
Nodding, Harry got into it. "All the special feasts."
"The welcome feast goes without saying but then Halloween and Yule..." Snape sneered, contempt leaking into his voice. "He's got endless opportunities to renew the potions."
"Potions? You think there's more than one, sir?" Harry asked.
"I didn't feel like this while romantically involved with a Ravenclaw, Potter." Draco smirked, rolling his eyes. "I'm guessing there's four variants."
"One for each house..." Harry muttered in disgust.
"I've never been to his office without a parent or teacher, Harry... Does he say or do anything that other teachers don't?" Draco frowned at his betrothed.
"He offers tea or various candies, why?" A confused Harry replied. "He's not the only one. Mcgonagall offers biscuits if she's of a mind."
"He could be altering them." Snape pointed out.
Harry nodded thoughtfully. "Give me several vials. I'll have my elves get samples at the next meal so we can test them."
Snape agreed with a perfunctory nod and took a box from his closet. Setting it down he cast a charm to keep them from breaking. "If our theory is correct, the first sample should be clean of any potions."
Harry nodded in agreement.
"Draco, your father has instructed me to give you a purging potion...if you want it..." Snape informed his godson. "Your other option is to wait until Halloween weekend and he'll bring you home to do it."
"I've never had to use one before." Draco said quietly. "What does it do?"
"It will cleanse your system of any potions. If you have recently ingested any, you will vomit... quite a lot." Snape replied gently. "If it is in your blood, it will speed up your metabolism and you'll spend most of the following day in the toilet."
Draco made a disgusted face and Harry tried to remain stoic by biting the inside of his cheek.
"I guess I'll be missing classes today." Draco turned his grimace toward Harry. "See you tomorrow."
Snape told Harry to wait a moment and sent Draco to his own quarters where he had a spare room. "First, this note excuses Draco from Arithmancy. Please deliver it for us."
Harry took the slip of parchment with a nod.
"Now..." Snape paused. "The woman I told you about - the one who has harvested a basilisk - her name is Laurelle Brooks. She's been approved as a guest speaker for several weeks beginning in November."
Harry grinned. "Brilliant. Just let me know which passage you want to use and I'll make sure it's clear."
"We will want to see both." Snape replied. "I am most curious to see how you got down there the first time and Draco told me about the path to the secret room."
Harry nodded as he left. He wasn't sure how much he wanted to reveal to anyone about his resources here in the castle so he waited until he'd delivered the note and was back in his office to call his resident elves. "I need to clear a rock slide. Which elves would be best for such a task?"
Ziva seemed confused but Dobby knew what to say.
"Master Harry, sir - Dobby has been talking with all the elvesies and Dobby has figured out the talents of each elf."
"Brilliant, Dobby." Harry told him, happy to have something confirmed. "Please go on."
"Milly and Podrey are being good with heavy labor. Maddy and Kipsey are being best with detail work. Corky, Bisbee, and Tilly are having special skills in the gardening but Ziva, Winky, and Landy are best at house work." Dobby explained. "Roody was taking care of the island all alone so even if he enjoys cooking most, he is truly knowing how to do everything."
"Dobby?" Harry nodded thoughtfully. "I've been thinking... Ziva knows the Potter elves... Milly knows the Hufflepuff elves... Roody likes you and Winky has been your friend for years... You're well liked by all of them and you have taken much initiative throughout the years I've known you... How would you like to be my head elf?"
"Oh, Harry Potter, sir!" Dobby's eyes widened and teared up. "Oh! Dobby is so honored, sir!"
"Now, Ziva, I don't want you to take this as a slight against you." Harry frowned as he knelt to her eye level and held out a hand. Once she placed her hand in his, Harry continued. "I hope you understand. I've only known you a short time, but in that time, I've brought new members into the family and you haven't really connected with them. You're the head Potter elf but my family can't be limited to the Potters. It needs to expand to include all my houses."
"Ziva has always had difficulty making friends with other elvesies." She sighed.
"Dobby has known me since I was twelve, Ziva, and since he sang the song, he has instinctively sensed my needs. He has seen and done things in service to me... even when I was unaware of his efforts." Harry explained. "In a way, I think it's best that an outsider who chose me takes the lead."
"Ziva will support her mate and Master Harry however they need it."
Harry was happy as he called Milly and Roody. When they arrived, they bowed low and listened carefully as Harry explained what had just happened.
"I want you all to be able to work together, ok?" Harry asked. "We need to become one big family."
Dobby took charge and drew them away to attend their duties. When he returned, he was alone.
"Now, Dobby, clearing the rock slide that blocks the opening of the Chamber of Secrets is only one of several things I need done." The young lord explained as he showed his head elf the vials. "The next thing I need is samples of the drinks to be served at this evening's meal because we suspect that they've been tampered with during some of the feasts. Get a sample and label which house table they came from, then bring them all to Professor Snape."
Dobby nodded enthusiastically as he took the glass tubes.
"Good. Any news on the Dumbledore watch?" Harry asked.
"No, Master Harry, sir. The headmaster is receiving some shipments of books and things that he is not wanting any of the elvesies to handle." Dobby related. "He also went on a trip after lunch by portkey."
"Any clue where he went?" Harry asked.
"One, Master Harry, sir, the phrase that activated the portkey." Dobby shrugged.
"What was it?" Harry asked.
"His voice sounded harsh when he said it, Harry Potter, sir." Dobby replied and Harry could tell the elf was trying to get as close as he could to Dumbledore's pronunciation of the words. "He said... 'heiliger Boden'."
"I wonder what language that is." Harry murmured though he had a suspicion. "It sounds like Russian or Polish... maybe Remus will know. Thank you, Dobby. Keep up the good work. Oh, by the way, I want this suite and the founders' rooms tended to only by our elves. Is that clear?"
"Yes, Master Harry Potter, sir!" Dobby snapped to attention and then disapparated.
Two days passed with no word on when Hermione's parents would send her back to school. On the third day, at the breakfast table, Dumbledore's absence was obvious as the owls began dropping newspapers and magazines to their owners.
Potions Scandal at Hogwarts - Dumbledore Called in for Questioning!
Tonks, Granger, Potter Families Speak Out!
Harry glanced up at the faculty table where Mcgonagall was standing to address the students.
She paused to take a deep breath. "Children, it is true that Headmaster Dumbledore will not be joining us for the morning meal. He has gone to the ministry but there is no cause for alarm as he expects to return by this evening. Heads of houses will be in your common room at curfew tonight to speak with you all, so please go on about your day. Lord Potter, please see me at your earliest convenience."
Harry nodded to her as the food appeared on the tables. When he finished eating he walked up to her table. "I have two classes, Professor. I'll be at your office after Care of Magical Creatures, if that's alright."
"Very well, Lord Potter." She accepted his words.
As he walked beside Draco towards the DADA classroom, he considered what details he was willing to divulge... as his head of house and the deputy head of the school, Mcgonagall was entitled to some sort of explanation but he wasn't quite ready to give the whole game away.
Draco pointed out that it was driving him to distraction from his classes so Harry decided he'd have to figure it out later or risk his grades.
During class, Snape assigned a partnered project that would be due in a month and then dismissed them five minutes early.
Lunch went quickly and Hagrid seemed sad when he greeted Harry's class. He accepted the fire-crab projects from each set of partners and let them go without introducing the next creature. Harry suspected that it was the news about Dumbledore that had the large man upset.
Harry hurried to Professor Mcgonagall's office and knocked.
"Potter, I'm quite disturbed by the articles in today's Prophet." Minerva Mcgonagall frowned at him. "Am I truly to understand that you, Ms. Granger and the Tonks family believe that Dumbledore has used potions to interfere with your... well, your very lives?"
"Unfortunately, that is a matter which is currently under investigation with the DMLE and I can't say much." Harry sighed sadly. "What I can say is that I was tested at Gringotts this summer and the findings were highly suspicious."
"I don't understand!" She shook her head in confusion. "Why do you believe it was him?"
"I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to say, Professor Mcgonagall." Harry said calmly.
"What would he stand to gain?" She cried. "And where would he have gotten the potions? When could he have given them to any of you?"
Harry sat silently, waiting for a question he could answer.
"I'd hoped you would trust me with something like this, Potter..." She said, disappointed. "I suppose you may go."
"I'm sorry, Professor." Harry sighed as he stood to leave. "If it means anything to you, I was shocked and disillusioned when they tested me. I never would have thought him capable of it."
She only nodded as he closed the door behind him.
That night at dinner, Dumbledore announced a visitor to the school.
"As you all know, there is an investigation going on involving me. The ministry believes that placing someone here will uncover the truth of the matter. So, I hereby introduce Madam Delores Umbrage. She will be speaking with some students and staff at random intervals during the next several months as well as observing some classes."
Harry watched the toad-like woman stand and wave to the students.
Dumbledore started to go on but she came forward to speak so he politely waited for her to finish.
"Hello students!" She said with a bright smile and a squeaky giggle, "Now, it wasn't so long ago that I was sitting at one of these tables, so I understand that you have assignments and classes to worry about and I promise not to disrupt your schooling any more than necessary. We, at the ministry, care deeply about the wellbeing of the wizarding world's children and I am here to find the truth behind the accusations being made. To help me do this, I have been given an office but please feel free to approach me in the halls as well."
As she took her seat, it occurred to Harry that he had a bad feeling about this witch. He hadn't had much interaction with her to this point but something about her was rubbing him the wrong way.
"On to other matters... It has come to the staff's attention that some of you have been sitting at different house tables than you're supposed to. Starting tomorrow morning, we will be instituting a new policy in order to assist Madam Umbrage in getting to know all of you." Dumbledore smiled at them. "All students will be required to eat meals at their assigned house tables. No exceptions."
Harry's eyes locked onto Draco's.
The blond's face set into an amused smirk and he nodded in acknowledgement of this new attack on their relationship.
The meal ended with little fanfare, though Harry was aware of someone following him back to his suite. To find out who it was, he ducked into a hidden passage and waited. As expected, it turned out to be Madam Umbrage so Harry called Dobby to transport him. He gave his things to the elves and stayed up long after his cousins went to bed doing his homework in the sitting room to see if she would be brave enough to knock.
It was strange to sit at Gryffindor's house table the next morning and Harry struggled to keep his gaze away from Draco because he didn't want the old codger to know he had successfully gotten to him.
"So... Harry?" Ron mumbled hesitantly. "Something weird happened the other day."
Harry's mouth was full so he tried to make an encouraging sound.
"Malfoy's friend, Blaise Zabini, asked to be partners in our next Divination class." Ron frowned.
"That's not weird." Harry chuckled. "People arrange partnerships in all sorts of times and places."
"What's weird is that he started talking about quidditch after." Ron frowned.
"Why's that strange? You like quidditch... don't you?" Harry asked innocently. "Did you talk to him?"
"Yeah... for a while... it's just weird." Ron shrugged it off with a grimace. "He's never talked to me before and I never got the impression that he liked quidditch beyond the house teams."
"Maybe he just knows that, since Draco and I are dating, you guys will be seeing a lot of each other." Harry suggested. "Maybe he wants to become comfortable around my family and friends."
Ron sighed and nodded slowly. "I guess that makes sense."
Harry smirked, knowing that he'd just bought Blaise some much needed time. Now he needed a distraction. "I've been thinking about what to do when Hermione comes back."
"If she comes back..." Ron mumbled sadly.
"What do you mean?" Harry asked, startled.
"Had a letter from Mum." Ron whispered. "It seems the Grangers are having second thoughts about letting Hermione be a witch."
"It's not like she can stop now that she's started." Harry grumbled. "Even breaking a magical person's wand doesn't stop them from being magical."
Ron made an affirmative noise around the food in his mouth.
"Step one - we need to convince them to let her come back." Harry said, determinedly. "We need to get them to realize that whether they like it or not, she's got a role to play in our world."
"What's step two?" Ron asked.
"Haven't got that far yet." Harry frowned. "I'm thinking of a slow reintegration into our circle."
Ron nodded thoughtfully. "Maybe a publicly slow integration but privately...a bit faster?"
"Of course." Harry smirked. "It just has to look to certain people like it's slow. That's all I meant."
Ron grinned, relieved. "I miss her, mate. Y'know?"
Harry nodded, understandingly. "Me too. So, let's get her back! We're halfway there!"
"Actually, guys..." Ginny broke in with a sad tone. "It may not be her parents that need convincing."
Harry's heart dropped. "What?"
She handed over a letter she'd been holding. "It's from Hermione. She's incredibly depressed that she let someone get to her this way. She says she feels weak and like she'd be a liability when you need strength."
"We need to write to her." Harry winced. "We need to talk to her."
Ron and Ginny nodded enthusiastically.
"We need it to be in person though." Harry frowned. "How can we do that?"
"Well, you can leave school grounds, can't you, Harry." Ginny asked.
"Only for family emergencies and wizengamut business." Harry explained, shaking his head. "We'll have to settle for letters."
"If all else fails, remind her about the library! If she doesn't come back she'll never get to visit the Hogwarts library again!" Ginny joked halfheartedly.
Harry chuckled to let her know her effort was appreciated. "We write and get her back here where we can convince her to stay and maybe get revenge on the bastard."
"Alright! We have a mission!" Ron stood up with a grin. "Let's go!"
"Hem hem...Pardon me."
Harry looked up to see Madam Umbrage. "Hello. Is there something we can help you with?"
"Well, you all sounded so excited, I thought I'd make sure everything was alright, dears." She smiled brightly.
"We're just happy to write letters to our mutual friend, Madam." Harry gave her a brittle grin. "I think we must be going to class now, if you don't mind."
She continued smiling as she walked away while they gathered their books.
Once in the hallway, Harry hissed to Ron that the pink toad gave him a bad feeling. Ron agreed and they rushed off to History of Magic.
Hermione winced as she chewed into her thumbnail. She hated that she felt so nervous and jittery in her own home. Her parents had offered to move house if she didn't feel safe but she didn't want to cause more trouble for them... didn't want to be a bother to them. Wasn't it bad enough that all this had happened because she was magical and close to Harry? Why should they have to upend their entire world when she could just remove herself from the magical one instead.
She felt hot wet tears rolling down her face and swiped them away as she stared longingly at her school trunk thinking of Harry and Ron and Ginny. She could keep her family safe just by staying away from the magical world... staying away from Hogwarts... staying away from her closest friends... friends who had cared enough to get her the help she needed and even paid for it.
The cleansing hadn't been easy. The potions and ritual had taken both a physical and emotional toll. Harry's estate manager had even found her a squib psychologist to talk to and her first meeting had gone well but she was lonely and sad and felt as if she had nothing left to give but her absence.
She heard her mother's voice on the other side of the door and quickly dried the tears from her eyes before opening the door just a crack. "What is it, mum?"
"A certain snowy owl just delivered these." She said with a soft smile.
"L-Letters?" Hermione felt her lower lip tremble. "From Harry?"
"And Ron and Ginny as well." Her mother pointed out. "Why don't you see what they have to say?"
The sixteen year old brunette sighed but took the letters into her hands before locking the door.
All three letters were full of love and encouragement. Ron missed her proofreading his assignments. Ginny missed having someone to girl-talk with. Harry missed her companionship and her research skills and capped his letter off with an offer of help getting revenge on the man who hurt them.
Hermione decided to sleep on the subject and make a final decision tomorrow.
The room was empty and silent as Harry entered. It was larger than he remembered from August's visit and almost as intimidating.
"I remember my first session, Potter." Lucius Malfoy said as he walked up behind the younger man. Harry could hear the pride in his voice. "I was in my twenties, though, so I'm sure you'll feel somewhat differently."
"As with any of the previous situations I've had to deal with, it looks like a big job that will overwhelm me..." Harry admitted, smirking at him as he smoothed a wrinkle in his official robes. "But I have allies and plans and even contingency plans. I will free Sirius and bring down the person responsible for the terrible things that happened that night so long ago."
He grinned as his statement was punctuated by the doors opening to allow the rest of the members into the room.
As Harry took his seat, he nodded to each member he'd met with. They all seemed happy with the agenda as it sat before them.
Percy came and sat beside him. "As you know, Dumbledore is the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. He is usually the last to enter the room. When he arrives, he will announce your name during the roll call and make it known that it's your first session. The members will handle anything currently on the table, allowing you the chance to vote on things to see how the process works. When those topics have been settled, the Chief Warlock will ask for new business. Madam Bones has agreed to bring the issue to the floor and you will second it."
Harry nodded silently allowing Percy to sit back. Harry had formed this plan with Madam Bones when they met the Saturday after their original confrontation. He'd also conducted several meetings with other members of the wizengamut hinting at the innocent men and women currently being incarcerated at Azkaban. The research Amelia had done showed the truth behind the rumours. There was no record of a trial being held for Sirius or the other fifteen prisoners she'd discovered and when she'd appeared at his office and apologized for her behavior Harry had felt vindicated. She had then told Harry what she thought was the best plan of action before asking him for ideas of his own and together they'd arrived at this.
Over the fortnight between then and now, several details and pictures had been leaked to the press resulting in articles about the rumors of innocent people in Azkaban and the lack of trials during the first war with Voldemort. True to form, the public outcry that resulted, caused the Minister to demand that the head of the DMLE do something to correct the situation. She, of course, said she'd find a way by the first session of the new wizengamut season... and here they were.
Harry waited for the roll call and stood when his name was announced. Everything happened as Percy had said it would. He voted on existing topics and gave opinions when called upon... until it finally happened.
"New business?" Dumbledore called out. "Is there any new business?"
Madam Bones stood. "I have something for the members' consideration."
Dumbledore nodded in her direction. "Madam Bones, you have the floor."
"As everyone has been seeing in the papers, there are rumours of great injustices in our judicial system! Some of the prisoners in Azkaban have been sent there without trials!" Amelia Bones stated her case regally. "I have done research into the matter and compiled a list of true cases where an inmate's trial transcript is missing. I move for the wizengamut to try these inmates immediately."
Harry stood, gazing steadily at the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. "I second."
Dumbledore stared back at Harry for a moment. "A motion has been made and seconded. Does anyone have an objection to discussing this issue?"
Nobody raised a hand so Amelia made an impassioned speech announcing the names of the sixteen prisoners for whom the trial transcripts were missing and then proposed that trials begin immediately.
"All in favor?" Dumbledore asked with pinched lips and a tense expression. "All opposed?"
Harry waited for the tally though he knew the majority was in favor of it.
Lucius Malfoy stood. "I move that these prisoners be judged by a tribunal council instead of the full wizengamut. The wizengamut has failed them before and it was during wartime, after all.
Harry suppressed a grin as Lady Longbottom seconded that motion which failed when some of the members realized that only the members of the tribunal council would be privy to the case details.
"Members of the wizengamut, I propose that a committee be assembled to assess the worthiness of these cases." Dumbledore smiled benevolently. "The committee can then present us with a ranking of the cases and we will call them in order."
"Or we could go alphabetically." Harry pointed out reasonably.
Madam Bones, Lucius Malfoy, and Lady Longbottom voiced their agreement with his suggestion and there was some muttered approval from the other members who wanted to get the matter taken care of as quickly as possible.
"All in favor of going through the names alphabetically?" Dumbledore asked through clenched teeth. "Any opposed?"
Harry suppressed his satisfaction when the verdict was unanimous.
"This is all very well but the 1st person on the list is not even in custody. Are we to try him in absentia?" Dumbledore huffed.
Harry stood. "Sirius Black is my godfather and we have been in occasional contact. I have the means to get in touch with him."
"Lord Potter?!" Minister Fudge sputtered. "Am I to understand that you knew his location and didn't turn him in?"
"That's not what I said, minister." Harry somehow kept a straight face. "He has floo called from houses he's broken into or written the occasional letter... but no. I wouldn't tell you where he was if I knew."
"B-b-but why?!" Minister Fudge cried.
"What is the current order regarding Sirius Black minister?" Harry asked innocently. "Kiss on sight... isn't it?"
"Oh... oh, well...yes. If we're going to try him, I'll have to change that." Minister Fudge mumbled awkwardly as he conjured a piece of parchment and sent it off as a memo to his assistant. The assistant, a harried looking young man, hurried in with paperwork which the minister signed quickly and commanded him file it with the auror office at once. "Is he in the country, Lord Potter? Will he turn himself in?"
"I believe he is in Britain and I'm certain that he will come in if I ask him to... if he's guaranteed a fair trial this time." Harry told the room. "I'll need a five minute recess to contact him."
Dumbledore stood. "I'm afraid we can't allow that, Harry."
Harry looked at the old man and lifted one eyebrow.
"Lord Potter, if you know where he is, we can send an auror squad to get him, but private communication with a suspected criminal is forbidden." Lucius Malfoy explained.
"Very well..." Harry shrugged and turned to the side, drawing his wand. "Expecto Patronum!"
The silvery light of Harry's patronus shocked many of the members seated around him but the young lord didn't allow that to distract him from his task.
"Tell Sirius Black that the kiss order has been rescinded and he will be tried fairly before the wizengamut if he sends back a location for the aurors to meet him."
A man sitting near Dumbledore cleared his throat. "Shows of power such as that aren't usually allowed during a session, Lord Potter. It will be overlooked in this instance because it's your first session but..."
Harry cocked his head. "Well, as I don't know his current location and I wasn't allowed a private moment to contact him, I wonder how else you'd expect to get him here."
"We've never had a situation such as this, Elphias." Dumbledore said quietly. "I suppose we'll have to set up a way to handle it if it should happen again."
The large silvery dog patronus that Harry knew to be Sirius' animagus form appeared in the center of the room. "I will only surrender myself to Nymphadora Tonks and I will meet her in the small park across from my childhood home in fifteen minutes."
Amelia nodded and sent off her own hawk Patronus introducing herself and promising to abide by his request. She, then, sent a memo to inform Tonks of her assignment.
Dumbledore announced a thirty minute recess for lunch and when they reconvened, Tonks was waiting at the doors.
As Harry passed her, Amelia Bones was receiving her report.
"He's in a warded holding cell, Ma'am. I warded it myself." Tonks informed her superior. "He's dressed in ragged clothes. May I transfigure some for him?"
Amelia gave permission and moments later the wizengamot was presented with a similar version of his godfather to the one Harry had met two and a half years ago.
His dark hair was overgrown and his skin a bit too pale with a barely tamed beard. The clothing didn't hang on him but it obviously wasn't tailored to fit.
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the Wizengamot, I present to you Lord Sirius Black." Tonks called out as he sat in the chair provided.
heiliger Boden = hallowed ground in a language to be revealed in a later chapter. If you know it please don't spoil it for others.