A Christmas to Remember (Part Two)

A/N

Here is part two of this chapter for you guys. Don't worry, there isn't a part three.

Anyway, as ever, do enjoy.

Happy Reading,

TBR

It had been a relief to see Harry at the church in Godric's Hollow on Christmas Day. Charlus had seen little of the man in the weeks since their last dinner plans at his home had been cut short when duty had called, and those encounters had been brief.

Ever the worker, that was Harry Evans.

It was hard for Charlus to separate the boy who had joined them in their sixth year, the Hit-Wizard he had become, and the kind, caring man that rolled up his sleeves to feed, and help those that needed it most during the festive period.

It was not as though he was obligated to, but Charlus, and the rest of the Potters appreciated it.

Still, even though Charlus knew him well, he wouldn't pretend to understand his friend, nor his motivation for doing what he did.

He need not spend much of his life traipsing across the globe and entangle himself with the most dangerous elements of wizarding society, not when it was abundantly clear that he was accumulating quite the portfolio for himself.

No, Charlus couldn't understand him.

Often, he wanted to grab Harry by the shoulders and give him quite the vigorous shake to see if he could be snapped out of it, but he knew it wouldn't work.

He was more stubborn than even the Lady Potter.

The thought brought a smirk to Charlus's lips.

His mother was a stubborn woman and had voiced her feelings on what Harry had chosen to do.

Oddly, he took it all in his stride, dismissing Angelica Potter's concerns with a laugh.

He'd even gone as far to torment the poor woman by saying he'd put in a good word to have Charlus recruited.

That joke had not gone down well, and were it any other than Harry who had made it, they would have been hexed.

Charlus chuckled at the memory of his mother chasing Harry around the church with a wooden spoon.

"Coward," he muttered amusedly.

Evans may well be comfortable having people trying to kill him, but he still had no idea how to handle a woman.

"And what is it that has tickled you, Potter?"

Charlus felt his mouth go suddenly dry at the sight of Dorea Black.

He had come to Flourish and Blotts to browse for any transfiguration books that took his fancy for his ongoing studies.

He certainly hadn't expected to run into her of all people.

"Just something I saw yesterday," he replied, composing himself as best he could. "And what brings you here today?"

"Well, I was looking to buy some books on necromancy, but it seems they are all out," Dorea sighed, her eyes twinkling in humour as Charlus recoiled. "You don't really think I practice that do you? Is my family reputation so depraved?"

Charlus shook his head.

So much for Harry not being comfortable around women.

"Not quite that bad yet," he returned, "but with you, the reputation could take quite the plunge."

"I will bear that in mind," Dorea replied with a smirk, "and don't look so worried. Arcturus is not here."

"I'm not worried about him," Charlus denied. "I am surprised that he let you out on your own."

"Let me out?" Dorea asked challengingly. "I am free to do what I like. It does help that he is having lunch with the Macmillans."

"The Macmillans?"

Dorea shrugged.

"He's not said anything, but I think he is fond of Melania."

"Would your father agree to that match? It's not as though they have much to offer."

He noticed Dorea stiffen at the mention of the Lord Black.

"I don't think my father cares so much anymore," she replied stiffly. "Arcturus is the one keeping the family businesses running."

Charlus did not know the ins and outs of what was happening within the Black family, but it was clear that Dorea did not wish to discuss it.

"Well, I suppose it's only a good thing if your brother gets to choose who he marries."

Dorea nodded.

"Anyway, I won't keep you, Miss Black. I'm sure you will find the books you need to carry out your evil deeds."

"You could always help me," she blurted as Charlus turned to leave. "If you're not busy."

Charlus offered the woman a smile.

"It would be pretty poor of me to leave a lady like yourself roam the dangerous streets of Diagon Alley alone," he replied thoughtfully. "Of course, I'd be happy for the company."

The woman positively beamed at him as she looped her arm through his and the two of them took their leave of the bookshop.

Those within the alley followed the odd pair with their gazes, shocked by the appearance of the Potter heir and a member of the infamous Black family seemingly sharing quite the intimate outing together.

(Break)

With Harry's arrival at her family home imminent, Minerva was overwhelmingly nervous, more so than she had been when she had sat her NEWTs.

Her home life had always been kept separate from the wizarding world, and the thought of the two of them coming together for the first time was something she was struggling to come to terms with.

It wasn't only what Harry and her parents would think of each other that worried her so, but the plethora of other things that could go wrong.

Her father was a sweet man, a good Christian man who did not judge others, though he had never been confronted by what he was to face today.

Harry wouldn't rub their ways in his face, but the topic of magic, and the wonders of wizarding life was unavoidable.

Minerva simply didn't know how her father would react to what he may learn.

"Are you going to just stand there, or are you coming in?"

The question wasn't asked impolitely.

Her father was smiling at her from behind the desk in his study, the same way he did when she had been a child and she wanted to watch him work.

"What's bothering you, Minerva?"

She returned the gesture and sat on the edge of the desk as she had so many years ago, only now, her feet touched the floor, and she didn't need help positioning herself.

"Why do you want to meet Harry?" she asked nervously.

Robert McGonagall released a deep breath, an expression of guilt weighing his smile down.

Minerva was curious as to what the man's motivation could be, terrified that the coming together of her worlds would only widen the rift between them.

"You are a grown woman, Minerva," he sighed, "and I missed you becoming one. Somewhere over the years since you left for school, you stopped being a child, and here you are now. I've had no part in that, and it is because I ignored that other part of you, the part that is different and that I do not understand."

Minerva felt her stomach tightening with dread.

"I don't think now is the time to talk about that," she tried.

"Nonsense," her father countered. "Let us not pretend that I have been a good father or husband over the years. Your mother and me have never spoken about it. We chose to continue as we had been and have lived in ignorance most of our married life. I can't blame you for not wanting to be around that."

"Then why didn't you talk about it?"

"I suppose we just accepted our lot," Robert answered. "Your mother seemed adamant to leave that life behind, and I was content with ignoring it. The longer it went on, the easier it was for both of us to just go along with it."

"So, what's changed?" Minerva asked gently, beginning to understand why the relationship between her parents was so strained.

They had seemingly never spoken of anything about her being a witch.

"You came along, and you are going to remain a part of the life your mother turned away from," her father explained. "If I want to be a part of your life, I have to accept that there is more to you than the parish."

"Do you want to be a part of my life?"

Robert nodded as he stood and pulled Minerva into his arms.

"You are my daughter, and my love for you is unconditional," he said sincerely. "I want to know you, Minerva, and share some of your life with you. I won't pretend that it will be easy for me, but I want to try."

"And you have to meet Harry for that?"

Robert smiled.

"I saw the way you reacted when your mother mentioned his name. He means a lot to you, and I want to see what kind of man it takes to bring that kind of smile to your face. I thought I might be able to pick up some tips from him."

Minerva snorted as she shook her head.

"Harry is different from everyone else, dad," she chuckled.

"But he is a good man? He has looked after you?"

Minerva nodded.

"The best," she whispered. "I suppose you'll see for yourself soon enough."

"Then I am looking forward to meeting him," Robert declared, "mind, not as much as your mother. I can't quite work out if this will be a good thing or not, but it can't make anything worse."

Minerva offered her father a look of sympathy.

Over the years, she had tried to understand him, and now she felt she did.

Between him and her mother, they had made a poor showing of trying to work through their marital problems, and as a result, Minerva had been the one to suffer.

She had avoided being home for the holidays as much as she could, and though she didn't have any ill-feelings towards her parents, there was a part of her that resented her childhood.

Still, it was better late than never for them to try to make amends, and for her father to at the very least, try to accept her for who she was.

(Break)

For all the years that Harry had spent in Scotland, he had never ventured further than Hogsmeade, but as he arrived in the village on the outskirts of Caithness, he could see why this area of the country was aptly named the Highlands.

In the distance, as far as the eye could see, were hills and mountains, and at this time of year at least, a thick blanket of snow covered the landscape.

Was it always this cold here?

A thick plume of fog was the result of him emptying his lungs, and he shuddered into his coat before casting a warming charm on himself.

The Scots that lived here must be hardy folk, and Minerva certainly was that herself.

Although he was no longer feeling the cold that permeated the air, he did not wish to spend too much time in the open. As such, he headed towards the village below the hill he had landed on where the wind was a little less biting.

The village seemed to be in high spirits, the pub he passed lively and raucous, and though the roads were still thick with snow, it had not deterred the locals from indulging in their merriment.

Dozens of footprints could be seen exiting the houses, and many heading in the direction of the pub.

Hardy folk indeed if they would brave such conditions for a few drinks with friends.

Harry snorted amusedly.

He couldn't blame them, and even admired their determination.

He, however, was not here to observe the grit of the people, but to fulfil the invitation sent his way, and as he reached the vicarage that the McGonagalls called home, he felt a sense of nervousness begin to creep in.

He knew Minerva well, and it wasn't seeing her that made him feel this way. It was the knowledge of the nature of the relationship she shared with her parents that set him on edge.

Suddenly, he had a vision of an enormous Scotsman in a vicar's robe tying him to a chair and attempting to perform an exorcism on him.

Harry shook his head of that thought.

He doubted he was asked here under that pretence.

Still, it was with caution that he made his way towards the front door before knocking.

Much to his relief, it was Minerva that answered a moment later, her appearance making him feel easier about the dinner ahead.

"You dressed up?" he asked, a grin tugging at his lips.

She was wearing a long, green dress that matched the shade of her eyes, and she had gone to considerable effort in styling her hair the same way it had been the first night they had met in the Gryffindor common what felt like many years ago now.

Minerva merely raised an eyebrow before nodding at him.

"The same could be said for you."

Harry chuckled as he shrugged.

"Well, I couldn't make a bad impression, could I," he pointed out. "Something tells me this is quite important."

Minerva deflated slightly.

"I'm sorry, Harry, I…"

Harry waved off her apology.

"You don't have to explain anything," he assured her. "You asked me to be here, and I am. I'll always come if you need me."

She smiled brightly at his words, one of gratitude and appreciation.

"I don't suppose we can just run away?" she asked.

Harry shook his head.

"I don't think so," he said comfortingly. "I don't know what to expect, but it can't be any worse than dinner with my relatives. Did I ever tell you about the time a house-elf appeared and dropped a trifle on my uncle's business associate? He was not impressed by that escapade."

Minerva giggled as she gestured for him to enter and helped him remove his jacket when Harry closed the door.

"Do you just attract trouble?"

Harry nodded.

"It does have a way of finding me."

Minerva rolled her eyes before her amusement was replaced by nervousness.

"It will be fine," Harry reiterated.

Taking a calming breath, she led him down the length of a long hallway, and to where a door was slightly ajar.

It had been some time since Harry had been in a muggle home, and it was odd to see photos staring down at him, lifeless and unmoving. Even the fixtures, and furniture were not things he was used to.

Not that he had much time to consider those frivolous things.

Seemingly finding a strand of the Gryffindor bravery those of their house were known for, Minerva pushed the door the rest of the way open, and Harry followed her inside.

It was a kitchen with a dining area set to the side he found himself in, and a roaring fireplace set next to what he would consider to be an old stove.

It was warm in here, a far cry from the temperature on the streets outside.

What struck Harry as odd, however, was the silence, despite there being four people in the room.

It took only a single look at Minerva's parents to see that they were much more nervous than him, so much so, they didn't know where to begin.

Harry felt for them, and he knew it would be down to him to put their minds at ease.

With a smile, he stepped forward and offered his hand to the broad, salt and pepper haired man eying him curiously.

"Hello, Mr McGonagall," he greeted Minerva's father. "It's nice to meet you."

Robert McGonagall accepted the proffered limb and relaxed somewhat.

"And you, young man," he replied kindly. "This is my wife, and Minerva's mother, Isobel."

If Robert McGonagall was nervous, Isobel was nothing short of terrified.

Her delicate hand was trembling when Harry took it in his own, her own smile quite forced.

"Well, it is clear who Minerva takes after," he commented.

The woman's smile widened slightly, though she remained rather tense.

"Indeed," Robert broke in. "Our Minerva looks very much like Isobel when we were her age. Come, take a seat."

Harry held out a chair for Minerva before taking his own at the table.

"Dinner won't be long," Isobel announced, "would you like a drink, Harry?"

"Aye, I think a hot toddy will warm his bones," Robert answered with a chuckle. "The southerners aren't used to the cold up here."

"I'll help you," Minerva declared, following her mother to the stove.

"A hot toddy?" Harry asked.

"Whiskey, hot water, and honey with a dash of lemon juice," Robert explained. "It'll put hairs on your chest."

"I'll take your word for it," Harry replied.

A silenced fell between the two men for a few moments before Robert leaned forward.

"I have never seen my wife so scared," he murmured. "To be honest, I've not felt this nervous since the bishop came to visit the church in the twenties."

Harry nodded his understanding.

"This is new for you, isn't it?"

"It is," Robert confirmed.

"I think your wife is nervous about how you will react if the conversation turns to things that are not familiar to you."

"I see," Robert said thoughtfully. "What do I do?"

Harry gave the man a sympathetic smile.

He was trying, and not much more could be asked of him.

"Ask about anything you are uncertain of but try to keep an open mind. We are not so different really, and this is important for both of them as much as it is you. Remember, you don't have to try to learn everything in one night."

Robert nodded.

"Thank you, lad. I will try," he promised, leaning back in his chair as his wife and daughter returned.

"He we are," Isobel announced as she placed four steaming mugs on the table and took her seat. "This will warm you up."

"And put hairs on my chest, apparently," Harry replied.

Robert laughed, nodding as he cupped his mug in his hands.

Isobel rolled her eyes the same way her daughter did.

"It could be worse, Harry," Minerva interjected. "If it was up to my father, we would be having haggis for dinner."

"Isn't that sheep guts?"

"Amongst other things," Isobel confirmed. "It's delicious."

Harry shot Minerva a questioning look, and she nodded her agreement.

"Don't worry, I won't force you to eat that just yet," she assured him. "One day maybe, but we are having beef."

"Not the guts?" Harry asked with a smirk.

Minerva swatted his shoulder whilst Robert laughed.

"Not tonight, lad," the older man replied.

"Well, if haggis is half as good as this, then it wouldn't be such a bad thing," Harry declared, having taken a sip from his cup. "It's easier on the throat than Firewhiskey."

"Firewhiskey?" Robert asked.

Minerva and Isobel had stiffened.

"It's a drink that one of our friend's family produces. I've only had it once, and never again. Minerva can tell you more about it than me."

"You make your own drinks?" Robert questioned curiously. "This Firewhiskey sounds potent."

Harry snorted.

"If a hot toddy puts hairs on your chest, Firewhiskey will burn them off."

Robert chortled.

"I have to give that stuff a try."

"On your head be it," Harry warned. "Minerva is the only one I know that likes it. Even Tiberius can't manage it, and it was his family that invented the stuff."

"That's because us Scots are made of sterner stuff," Robert declared, smiling proudly at his daughter. "You'll have to bring some up next time. I'll be the judge of how potent it is, lad."

"I will," Harry promised. "I can bring some Butterbeer too. That's a little easier on the palette."

"Butterbeer?"

"It's exactly as it sounds," Minerva explained. "There's no alcohol in it though."

"You're quite the industrious bunch," Robert commented. "Minerva did mention what you do, Harry. Something about catching criminals. Are you a policeman?"

"Of sorts," Harry confirmed. "My job is to capture people that the regular police forces can't, or that are too dangerous for them."

Robert whistled appreciatively.

"So, that is not a safe job?"

"It is not," Minerva said pointedly. "It is one of the most dangerous jobs someone can do."

Robert grinned at his daughter.

"You do not like it?"

"No," Minerva sighed, "but Harry likes what he does. I'm learning to live with it, even if he will turn my hair grey before I'm thirty."

"It's not that bad," Harry muttered. "I've not even come close to being killed."

"Prague," Minerva replied simply, glaring at him.

"What happened in Prague?" Isobel enquired.

Minerva grinned, seemingly having found an ally.

"Tell my mother, Harry. Tell her what happened when you went to Prague," she urged.

"Oh, this doesn't end well for you lad," Robert snorted. "She's got that look on her face which means you've got no chance."

"Thanks for the support," Harry returned.

Robert chuckled.

"I'm still waiting to hear about what happened in Prague," Isobel reminded them.

"Prague wasn't my fault," Harry pointed out. "I was sent to observe some people of interest, and someone provoked an ugly incident. I had to extract a civilian and some of my colleagues that found themselves in danger. A few were killed, but we managed to get out of there."

"Only just," Minerva reminded him, a reluctant grin tugging at the corner of her lips. "I don't know what I'll do with you," she huffed when Harry nudged her with his elbow.

"That's the only time it was dangerous," Harry defended.

Minerva's nostrils flared.

"Bregenz?"

"Ah, I forgot about that," Harry muttered. "Alright, it can be a little dangerous sometimes," he conceded.

Minerva hummed and shot him a smug grin whilst her father laughed heartily.

"You'll get used to being wrong, lad," Robert comforted.

"Oh, I'm already used to it," Harry replied. "Besides, it's been months since I was in a really dangerous situation."

"That's because you've been chasing that bank robber," Minerva reminded him.

"You mean capturing them."

"You got him?"

"Her," Harry corrected.

"A bank robber?" Isobel asked. "Not against the goblins, surely."

Harry nodded severely.

"She managed to steal from nine banks before I caught up with her."

"How did she get away with it?" Minerva questioned.

"Well, I think you'll appreciate this more than I did. She's an animagus. A spider," Harry clarified. "She was waiting for the master vaults to be opened, entering, and then setting off the alarms once she had bagged up the gold. She would then scuttle out with it."

Judging by Minerva's expression, she didn't appreciate the abuse of the woman's ability.

"I've been requested to provide evidence at her trial in a few days," Harry explained. "The ICW are quite keen to put this behind them I suppose."

"You've never been asked to do that before," Minerva said with a frown.

"No, but this time it is different, I suppose," Harry mused aloud. "No one knew who she was or how she was doing it, and it was me that figured that out."

"That makes sense," Minerva murmured.

The conversation was interrupted by a pinging sound sounding from near the stove.

"That will be dinner," Isobel announced as she stood. "No, I will get it," she insisted when Minerva followed suit.

Harry turned his attention to Robert who was looking at him and his daughter with an expression of confusion.

"Did my wife say something about goblins?" he asked.

Minerva and Harry shared a look of amusement.

"I think I should probably explain the last part of that conversation to you," Harry offered apologetically.

Robert nodded.

"I'd appreciate that, lad. I'm completely lost," the man snorted.

(Break)

Although the evening had begun awkwardly, Harry had made it much less so with how patient he had been with her father who seemed to take a shine to the young man.

Minerva was grateful for his presence.

Harry had taken a stressful situation and had made it a pleasant affair. Even her mother had managed to be relaxed by the time she served the meal.

Minerva had worried that her father may be overwhelmed when the unavoidable magical topics were discussed, but Harry had taken the time to ensure the man knew what was being said.

Although it had been difficult for Robert McGonagall to accept some things, he hadn't been judgemental as Minerva feared, but had done his best to understand the world she lived in.

It was sweet of him, and of Harry to empathise with him when he appeared to be lost.

In all, Minerva was both pleased and relieved that the night had gone as it had.

"He's a nice lad," her father declared when Harry had taken his leave.

"He is," Minerva agreed. "Thank you for trying."

Robert McGonagall smiled.

"It's hard for me to believe in all these things," he sighed. "The bible is not so favourable towards magic and the like, but we are all God's children. Just because I do not understand, nor can I explain it, that doesn't make it any less true. Instead of burying my head in the sand, I should have realised it sooner," he finished morosely.

Minerva didn't know what to say.

She didn't want her father to feel guilty, but she couldn't pretend that his ignorance over the years had not been a source of hurt for her.

"Do you think you could show me some magic?" he asked suddenly. "I'd like to see what you can do."

"Really?" Minerva asked sceptically.

Robert nodded.

Cautiously, Minerva drew her wand and changed the colour of her father's tie from red, to the green tartan of her dress.

The man gasped in surprise, but smiled, nonetheless.

"Well, I think that is more suitable, don't you?"

"I do," Minerva agreed, stowing her wand away once more.

"This will take some getting used to for me, but I meant what I said. I do want to be a part of your life, and if that means getting used to what you and your mother can do, then I will try. I can't promise it will be easy, but I will do my best."

He meant it. Minerva could feel the sincerity in his words, and though it had taken so very long, and caused quite the rift, she was willing to allow him to make amends.

"I'd really like that," she replied.

Her father pulled her into his arms and squeezed her gently.

"Now, why don't we help your mother clean up. Can you do that with your stick?"

Minerva snorted as she nodded.

"It's called a wand, dad."

"A wand, aye," he said thoughtfully as he led her towards the kitchen. "So, I shouldn't call it a stick?"

"I don't suppose it matters," Minerva replied with a grin. "You can call it a stick if it helps."

(Break)

It was most unusual for the ICW to convene so soon after Christmas day, but Ivan found himself here at the behest of the Supreme Mugwump so the collective representatives could pass judgement on the bank robber that Evans had apprehended.

He couldn't see why it wouldn't wait until after the new year had come and being summoned so seemingly urgently did not sit right with him, especially whilst he and Harry were not allowed within the room whilst the trial was being carried out.

Not yet at least.

"Something's not right," Evans murmured.

"It isn't," Ivan agreed.

He hadn't mentioned his encounter with the Supreme Mugwump and the Italian representative. The young man had his own work to keep him occupied and he need not be bothered by Ivan's own problems to overcome.

Still, he could not allow Harry to enter the chamber without something of a warning.

"This is more than having me here to give evidence, isn't it?"

Ivan nodded.

"I have not been made privy to the details, but I expect so," he muttered. "Beware of the Supreme Mugwump, Evans. He is not to be trusted."

Harry frowned, but nodded his understanding before the door to the waiting area opened and they were ushered to follow half a dozen men in pristine white robes.

These were the guards of the ICW headquarters.

They never spoke, and even Ivan knew not where they were recruited from.

Only once had he seen them be used to restore order during a particularly heated trial.

The group on the receiving end of their spell work had held out less than a minute before being subdued and removed from the chambers.

"You're a cheery bunch," Harry commented sarcastically, eliciting a smirk from Ivan, the slight tickle of amusement vanishing only a moment later when they entered the frosty atmosphere of the trial.

"I call to the stand the Hit-Wizard known as The Serpent," the Supreme Mugwump called, his expression not one of friendliness.

Evans' own matched it as he approached the indicated stand, close to a chained woman who had two guards of her own standing beside her with their wands drawn.

No, this wasn't good at all.

(Break)

Harry narrowed his eyes at the Supreme Mugwump as the man glared at him in turn with a look bordering on curiosity. The Japanese man was small, his hair short, and the glasses perched on the end of his nose giving him a sinister appearance.

When Harry had looked upon him for the first time so many months ago, he had seemed to be benign, but now, he wasn't sure.

No, there was a monster within the man, foaming at the mouth at the prospect of being unleashed.

"Please state your name and your home residence," the Supreme Mugwump instructed.

Harry did not need to look towards Federov to know the man was infuriated by the impertinence.

"That is privileged information, as you well know," he returned evenly.

"Indeed, it is," Doge called disapprovingly. "You know the rules as well as any. The identities of our Hit-Wizards are to remain hidden for their protection."

Quite right," the Supreme Mugwump murmured unhappily. "Well, I have only a few questions for yourself pertaining to this trial, Serpent."

"Then let's not delay," Harry urged with a smile.

The Japanese man nodded, and Harry ignored the wave of loathing that washed over him.

"Your report states that you discovered Ms Summerbee in the master vault in the Lisbon branch of Gringotts, and that she had succeeded in her thefts through the use of her ability as an animagus."

"That is correct."

The Supreme Mugwump took a few notes with his quill before turning his attention back to Harry.

"At any point, did you use Veritaserum, or any other means to learn the whereabouts of the rest of the stolen gold?"

"I already told you he didn't!" Summerbee interjected hotly.

"The prisoner will remain silent!" the Supreme Mugwump snapped.

Harry nodded for the woman to comply before he offered his own explanation.

"Ms Summerbee gave up the information willingly. When she was captured, she was compliant, and offered no resistance."

"And you recovered all of the missing gold?"

"I did," Harry confirmed. "Ms Summerbee led me to where it was being stored and I retrieved the combined sum stolen from all nine banks."

"Yes, that would be the significant value of 780,448 Galleons. Is that correct?"

"Yes."

"And the gold has been returned?"

"Every last Knut minus my 1 percent cut as promised by the goblins for apprehending Ms Summerbee."

The Japanese man pursed his lips.

"Very well. The chambers will empty whilst we deliberate the fate of Ms Summerbee."

Harry found himself being escorted from the room by the guards along with Federov. They were placed back within the chamber, though this time, they were not left alone to confer.

For close to an hour, they remained there before they were shown back into the chambers.

Eleanor Summerbee was already in the dock, as composed now as she had been the day Harry had arrested her.

"Ms Summerbee," the Supreme Mugwump called. "In light of your crimes against the goblins of Gringotts, and for being an unregistered animagus, we have reached a decision regarding your punishment. Upon being escorted from these chambers, you will be committed to spending no less than three years imprisoned at our pleasure. I hope you will learn a valuable lesson that theft is unacceptable on any level."

"I have."

"Good, then please be seated," the Supreme Mugwump commanded. "I would request that The Serpent joins us once more."

The feeling Harry had that something was amiss became only more prominent as he stood and returned to the witness box.

"Now, all that is left to deal with is your conduct upon making Ms Summerbee's arrest."

"My conduct?"

"You will speak only when asked!"

Harry raised an eyebrow in response and waited for the man to continue.

"It has been reported that you attacked several goblins in the bank, resulting in the death of two with several others being injured. Do you deny it?"

"And where did this report originate from?" Harry asked.

"The goblins themselves informed us of this," the Supreme Mugwump confirmed. "As a matter of fact, they are here today to attest to the truth of their word. Send them in."

One of the men garbed in white opened the door to the chamber, and four of the diminutive creatures entered, each shooting Harry a hateful glare.

"Now, I ask again, did you attack the goblins in the Lisbon branch of Gringotts?"

Harry's temper began to flare, and he clenched his fists to maintain a semblance of control over it.

"I don't like the tone you are using to address me," he replied coldly. "I suggest that you reconsider it."

It was not only his voice that had taken on an icy edge, but he felt the same coldness flowing through his veins.

"You will remember where you are!" the Supreme Mugwump warned. "You will not make threats in these chambers."

Harry laughed.

"And yet, you expect me to allow you to make accusations against me without consequence. With all due respect, you can piss off."

Whispers, and some pockets of laughter followed his words and the Japanese man flushed bright red in a mix of anger and embarrassment.

"I'll tell you exactly what happened," Harry continued before the Supreme Mugwump could respond, "but I will do so in a way that you can't pick and choose what questions to ask."

"Go ahead, Serpent," the French representative encouraged.

Harry offered the man a nod of appreciation.

"Well, it went exactly as was clarified earlier. I discovered how Ms Summerbee was stealing the gold, and the goblins in Lisbon alerted me that one of their alarms had been tripped. I attended and captured Ms Summerbee with the intent of submitting her to the ICW, as I do with all prisoners."

"What of the unpleasantness with the goblins?" the Portuguese representative asked.

"They insisted that I hand Ms Summerbee over to them to face judgement."

"And why did you not comply?"

"Because the goblins do not have jurisdiction over any witch or wizard when it comes to judicial matters," Harry answered. "If they had their way, Ms Summerbee would not face justice, she would face execution."

"Rightly so," one of the goblins growled.

"And then you would not have had your gold returned to you," Harry replied.

The goblin bared its teeth in displeasure.

"What did transpire?" the Portuguese representative pressed. "The report received states that you attacked the goblins and made your escape."

"Does the report say that they drew their weapons first and set a troll on me?" Harry fired back. "Does the report say that I tried to handle the situation diplomatically but was unable to do so because they tried to harm me and the prisoner?"

"It does not," the Frenchman clarified.

"Which is of no consequence!" the Supreme Mugwump interjected hotly.

"It is of every consequence," Harry returned. "My responsibility is not to the goblins of Gringotts. As a Hit-Wizard, any prisoner that is apprehended by me is under my care and protection until they are duly processed and submitted to the custody of the ICW. The goblins of Gringotts are not a part of this body, so I took necessary measures to ensure the safety of Ms Summerbee."

"By putting the treaties of peace between wizards and goblins at risk!"

"The goblins put any treaties at risk when they attacked me," Harry countered irritably. "If there is nothing else, I will be leaving now."

"You will wait until you are dismissed, Serpent," the Supreme Mugwump snapped. "As punishment for your actions, you will return the remaining gold to the goblins as compensation."

Harry snorted as he shook his head.

"I will do no such thing," he denied. "I earned that gold, and if I hadn't spent months pursuing Ms Summerbee, the goblins wouldn't have theirs. The compensation in this case is that I did not use lethal magic against them whilst they attempted to kill me. That is more than I am willing to give, and they will consider themselves lucky that I did not exercise my right to kill all that stood in my path."

With his final words given, he stepped off the stand and headed towards the exit where he was accosted by four of the men in white robes.

Harry purposefully slid his wand into his hand, the coldness he felt urging him to strike them down as they blocked his exit.

"I would move out of my way if I were you," he warned.

"For the love of Merlin, stand aside!" Doge commanded. "The matter is put to rest."

"It is not!" the Supreme Mugwump denied.

"Yes, it is," the Frenchman supported the Brit, eliciting calls of agreement from his nervous peers. "It is clear that The Serpent acted within his rights to ensure the prisoner was submitted through the official channels. The goblins have offered no rebuttal to his claim that they attacked him first. It is done, and I move that we exonerate The Serpent from any wrongdoing with regards to this matter. Are there any who disagree?"

The Supreme Mugwump, the Italian and only a few others raised their wands, but the majority were against them.

With little other choice, the Japanese man waved the guards aside, and Harry took his leave from the chambers with Federov in tow.

"You may not like it, Supreme Mugwump, but he was in the right."

"The man is completely unhinged!"

Those were the last words Harry heard as he rounded the corner with his superior.

"The Supreme Mugwump?" he asked simply.

Federov nodded.

Harry's jaw tightened at the thought of the man holding such a powerful position.

"I'm working on it," Federov assured him.

"And I suppose you think I should have handled that differently?"

Federov shook his head amusedly.

"In the circumstances, I think you handled it the best way you could," he replied. "Sometimes, a show of strength is needed, and most in there will respect you all the more for it. For what it is worth, I'm proud of you for not bowing to his demands. With that being said, I must urge caution. You have the makings of a strong leader, and I would not be without you and your assistance. I will need it in the coming months."

Harry nodded his understanding.

"So, what now?"

"You get back to work, Evans. There are still many people that I would see behind bars. Leave the rest of it to me. I will keep you informed of any developments."

"Of course," Harry agreed, keen to put the events of the day behind him.

If truth be told, he was looking forward to perusing the wall of wanted criminals once more and returning to what strange normality he had cut out for himself.

Still, it would be with the threat of the approaching war that drew ever closer, something as unpleasant as it was inevitable that he would have to navigate when it broke out in the coming months.