Hi everybody. The next chapter is done. I hope you enjoy it. Happy reading.
Sirius looked up from reading the Quibbler. He had caught up on the most important parts of the events that took place during the past ten years, while he had been stuck at Azkaban. He looked much better now than at the beginning of his treatment. Most of the physical damage had been fixed, but even magic needed time and fuel to get everything done. And with dementors the main damage was done to the mind, not the body. That was the reason why the healers insisted on keeping him at the hospital for four months on end, before they would release him to a place where he would still be under constant observation and care, just with more options of moving around freely.
The Daily Prophet, while he got it every day from a DMLE subscription for the ward, wasn't enough to last throughout the day. It kept him busy for about two hours, if he read every article that was, which he did to reduce his boredom, but he needed more to occupy himself. He was quite looking forward to the time when he was released, even if he still had more rehabilitation before him. But if he wanted to get back to how he was before Azkaban, or as close to that state as possible, he would invest the work.
The Quibbler was an amusing magazine that Xeno Lovegood published every fortnight. It was full of stories about magical creatures that the Lovegoods went on trips to find. Most sounded too stupid to be true, but who knew what could be possible with magic. Before Newt Scamander had written Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in the twenties, most people had never heard about many of those interesting creatures, if they didn't live close to their homes. And very few knew how to act around them safely. Who said that beings like crumple horned Snorcacks couldn't be real? It could be that they were known under other names or needed special circumstances to be seen, like thestrals. Sirius was willing to be open-minded about things like those. Not to mention that the reports about the trips were worth subscribing to the magazine.
And the rune puzzles were tricky and clever, which kept his mind occupied for a long time to solve them.
The reason why he had looked up from his reading was that somebody had entered his room.
"Amelia, good to see you," smiled Sirius, "Any news?"
Both knew what he was referring to.
"Indeed. Good ones at that. We have him, Sirius," she informed him.
His face switched between emotions for a few seconds. Elation, shock, surprise, anger, fury, trying to calm down and then satisfaction.
"I'm glad you got him, Amelia. This is one worry less on my mind. I don't want to imagine what kind of damage he could have caused, with his form being as good for hiding as it is. I can't believe that I never saw that back when we were teenagers and young adults," Sirius commented.
"Indeed. He's secured in one of my holding cells with magic suppressors on all limbs. I won't risk anything. Moody also personally took care of spelling the cell to prevent any kind of escape method. That thing is probably safer than the cells at Azkaban right now, short of having a dementor in front of it," stated Amelia.
"Great. Just ensure that once he goes to Azkaban the same security measures are kept up. Dementors are blind, Amelia, and any slip for a rat animagus would see him flee that place. You know that the reason why I'm not insane is that my own animagus form protected me," Sirius had confessed being a dog animagus when the healers wondered how he could possibly have stayed this clear of mind with the constant dementor presence.
It was included in his therapy as well. Amelia had discreetly arranged that Sirius' registration paperwork was filed correctly, deep in the DMLE archives. The paperwork was doctored to appear having been filed during the war by Moody, who was a great believer of constant vigilance. There were more than seven animagi during the current century. Seven were just the ones that were registered on the official, the public list. Several aurors had achieved the feat as well but giving that vital information out where everybody could find it wasn't smart. Therefore, the DMLE had its own list. Moody was informed to claim that he had registered Sirius Black and James Potter secretly to cover their backs in case they were discovered. They were prominent fighters after all, and Moody would claim that during the war he couldn't care less that they hadn't officially been aurors.
And everybody knew that Moody always did what he considered right. He would circumvent some rules he considered stupid without breaking the law. Amelia could live with that. It was part of what made Moody such a good auror.
Padfoot, which was the name of Sirius' dog form, was by now a large part of Sirius' psyche. Thanks to staying in that form for a long time, simply because the dementors didn't affect the dog as much as the man, the therapy needed to address both sides of his mind.
"I will definitely make sure that he gets what he deserves, Sirius. I also got Fudge to agree to changing the law about the use of veritaserum," revealed Amelia.
"How did you manage that?" wondered Sirius.
"He got a bad shock to his worldview and had to examine his priorities due to the scenario we used to catch Pettigrew," answered Amelia, "Until now, as he has only been elected as Minister back in May last year, he didn't really have to worry about any real emergency. But he has seen for himself that the stupid advice from people like Dolores Umbridge would come to bite him heavily, should such a scenario actually become real. And it would be too easy for it to happen. He had to deal with demands why the DMLE wasn't faster in inspecting all the private properties. Many concerned witches and wizards have sent letter, some even sent howlers, trying to get their homes pushed up on the list of properties that were secured. Nobody wants such a possible danger around. And the confiscation of all magical rats in the country took us weeks. A few days the people might have been willing to tolerate once the news broke, but we needed about four weeks to have all rats collected."
"Many will have been furious about the time it took for them to get the safety of not being included in the group where those 'contaminated rats' were left," nodded Sirius in understanding, "Or at least get the possible threat away from their homes and families."
"Indeed. Fudge has seen that my constant claims that the personnel of the DMLE isn't large enough for the jobs we need to perform. It couldn't have been clearer that I don't have enough aurors to deal with possible threats. He also has come to the realisation that with forty-five out of fifty prisoners we took while performing the inspections having a dark mark, previous claims of imperius sound hollow now. He knows how many of those people have worked on getting close ties to him. And it scares him. While he isn't sure if Dumbledore could be right, I have convinced him that it was too much of a risk to bluntly deny the possibility of him being alive in some way. Especially as we have continued reports from Azkaban that his followers, the crazy faithful ones like the Lestranges, still claim that he will come and get them out."
"Yes, Bellatrix often screamed that he would get her out once he came back," nodded Sirius, shuddering at the memory.
"Based on that realisation, he agreed that we will interrogate every single one of them, no matter if they are purebloods or not, under veritaserum, as soon as we can exclude the possibility of potions having been taken to possibly kill them through the serum. That way, even Dumbledore won't be able to refuse the use of the serum, as the main reason why he supported the law of forbidding its use, even if he wanted it valid for everybody, not just purebloods, will be void. Still, he prevented that we used it back then often enough, which had the same result.
"I think that Fudge finally saw that he would never survive, should something like the terror of the seventies and early eighties was repeated. He isn't a powerful wizard, but he has shown some surprising ideas and insight. I guess a healthy shock to the system can be a good thing from time to time. Even Umbridge can't sway him from his new course. Which is something I heartily approve of. Her ideas are way too extremist. If I'm lucky, Fudge will get too annoyed by her and fire her after a while."
Sirius laughed at that. He had heard a lot about Dolores Umbridge and her machinations from Amelia and other aurors here at the hospital, as he needed to be aware of the dangerous and influential players in politics right now. Once he was cleared of all charges officially, he planned to take up the Black seat at the Wizengamot. While he didn't really like playing politics, he was the only living male member of the Blacks that could take the seat. And it would be good to have something to do. He would work on getting a lot of biased laws repealed and measures established that would make it much harder for any kind of extremist to get his ideas passed. From both sides of the spectrum. Dumbledore was as much of a problem as Voldemort, he had realised. An extreme pacifist that wouldn't imprison the guilty, nor allow those that murdered and tortured without remorse to be killed on the battlefield could cause as much damage as a maniac out to enslave everybody, and who didn't care about killing those that opposed him.
"I wish you luck with that. Another thing, where did Peter hide?" asked Sirius.
"Among the pet rats that were at Hogwarts."
"I was worried about that. Will you tell the family?" asked Sirius.
"Not all of them, they are good people and won't have known about it. Arthur Weasley, the father of the boy that had the rat, will be informed until oath of secrecy once the trial for you and Pettigrew is over. The family is poor, which is probably why Pettigrew managed to get accepted as a pet by one of their children. I still have some time until all the rats have been examined, I'm actually exploiting the current situation as much as possible to get support for my increase of the DMLE budget. I have called in the auror cadets from the academy to join the ones examining the rats, now that we don't have to worry about non-verbal spells anymore. It makes it appear that we are drawing on all resources to get the situation solved," grinned Amelia.
"Devious," approved Sirius, "the presentation of a prank is always the most important part, next to having planned and prepared everything properly."
Amelia chuckled. Sirius, despite his experiences, was still a prankster at heart.
"When will the trial take place? We have to conceal the other deadline after all," Sirius wanted to know.
"As I have so many Death Eater suspects in my cells right now, their trials will take place first. I also got Fudge distracted further by letting him work out a program to care for the children of those that will go to Azkaban. He actually had a good idea about that, which I'm happy to support. Next to the idea of it possibly also increasing the number of children born. And as long as he works on something that will actually let him look good to the public, which is a worthwhile project, he can't look too closely into other things. He will be busy with those two parts, the trials and the program, which needs to be ready when Hogwarts lets out, to cover the placement of the children that are currently at the school. I have some emergency caretakers for the younger ones who don't have family members left over already, but that's only a short-time solution," admitted Amelia, "Mainly those caretakers are retired DMLE personnel that take care that they get three meals a day and do the homework set for them, if they are at least four years old. It's not perfect and their numbers are too low."
Sirius pondered about that.
"They will have learned several bad things from their families," he commented, "coming from a dark family myself, I know that caring for your children isn't always high up on the list of the parents. They will demand that the children conform to their beliefs. And many children can't do that when they are young. Especially when the expectations are too high. I know that my mother didn't hesitate to use punishment spells, as she called them, to 'correct' my and my brother's bad habits."
"Is that common?" asked Amelia worried.
"In the dark families, yes, at least it was when I was a child and a teenager. If you can manage, get Fudge to not only work out a way to give all those children a place to stay. If he really wants to work in that area, suggest that he can make a really big impact, if he took on the problem of children being mistreated. And let it cover all families. That way the dark faction can't dismiss it as discrimination, even if I expect them to be the worst offenders. Point out the way obscurials are created and how that had to be avoided. How will this be financed, by the way, as that will be a question that the Wizengamot members will ask."
"The fines put on the Death Eaters," grinned Amelia.
"Good idea," approved Sirius, "But you have to consider that the children will inherit the money of their parents. In your position, I would look into tying it up until they had graduated Hogwarts and are at least seventeen years of age. Make it a condition that they can show at least three NEWTs before they are allowed to freely work with the money. Even the biggest fines won't deplete the larger fortunes. I know that the Malfoys have a lot of money and even if they would have to pay a double fine for Lucius and Narcissa, Draco and Persephone will still inherit a lot of money."
"Persephone?" asked Amelia confused.
"The dirty little secret of the Malfoys," nodded Sirius, "I only know about her existing because Narcissa is my cousin. You know that Lucius was five years ahead of me at Hogwarts and he married Narcissa one year after he graduated, directly after she finished Hogwarts. Still, Draco was only born in 1980, when it is normal that a new couple will try to ensure the continuation of the line as soon as possible. Ever wondered why?" challenged Sirius.
Amelia was surprised at that line of thought. Sirius was right. Most couples had their first child when they were young, shortly after their marriage. The Malfoys had married in 1974. And everybody knew that Narcissa Malfoy didn't work a day in her life. She got a big dowry from the Blacks, which was added to the Malfoy fortune, which meant, she should have been pregnant way earlier. Having her first child six years after her wedding was very late.
"You are right, it is strange. If you mention a girl, did Lucius have a bastard child?" she guessed.
"You are nearly correct, she is Narcissa's illegal child," revealed Sirius, "She was born in 1976. Grandfather was furious about that event and nearly voided the marriage contract that my aunt and uncle had made for Narcissa and Lucius."
"What? How?" exclaimed Amelia, "And where is the girl now?"
"I don't know for sure, but I know that she is a witch. It was tested when the girl was one year old. Back then, I was still kept in the loop by grandfather, as he hadn't disinherited me, like my mother did halfway. She could blast me from the family tree, but she couldn't take away my name, which needs the action of the head of the house, as you know. I was the Black heir, as grandfather didn't believe that Regulus was strong enough to keep control over the bloodthirsty lot that was the Black family. While officially people believed that Regulus had been made heir, it was never seen through. And when he vanished without a trace, presumed dead, well, he didn't have other male heirs," shrugged Sirius.
"Persephone was the result of Lucius ignoring Narcissa completely after one year and a few months. He thought her infertile, useless to continue his line. When some of his friends or subordinates started using that situation and flirted with Narcissa in subtle ways, she decided to pay her husband back for his not-so-well-hidden unfaithfulness. He had been sleeping around since about two months after their wedding. She informed grandfather of that when she had to explain her pregnancy from a man not her husband. I wasn't informed who the father was, but it wasn't a pureblood, that much I know, which was a huge problem for my family.
"It was a powerful and handsome halfblood wizard. Even if Narcissa claimed she thought he was a pureblood. Mainly because she couldn't imagine Lucius associating with anybody not a pureblood. Still, fact was, she was pregnant with a non-pureblood child and you know that abortions are simply not done in the wizarding world. It could cause too much damage to the witch."
"Yes, aborting a child disrupts the magic flow of the mother badly and often kills her. That's why any kind of potion aiming to kill an unborn child was made illegal centuries ago," nodded Amelia.
"Correct. Well, the truth had to be hidden and you know my family. They don't hesitate to permanently end any kind of threat. The father was discreetly disposed before the baby was even born. Death Eater attack was given as cause of death. Lucius was forced to acknowledge the girl as a Malfoy by grandfather, but he cut her out from the line of inheritance directly after she was born. If he had not done so, he would have had the contract voided, including having to pay back the dowry, as the baby proved that the failure to conceive a proper heir wasn't Narcissa's fault, but his. It should have been obvious with all his sleeping around, after all he also didn't manage to get those women pregnant," stated Sirius.
"Then how could Draco have been born a Malfoy?" wondered Amelia.
"I'm not sure, but I suspect that he isn't Lucius' son but Abraxas'" answered Sirius.
"That would make him Lucius' brother," exclaimed Amelia.
"Yes, but still a legitimate heir to the Malfoy family. If Lucius is infertile, like I believe, then that would be the only way to conceive an heir. And Abraxas only died in 1987 of dragon pox. He could have got Narcissa pregnant when he realised that his son wouldn't manage. Perhaps he even did so secretly, using polyjuice to hide his identity. After all, it would be dangerous if he allowed her to have more ammunition against the Malfoys. Perhaps he claimed a new potion had given him the one-time ability to sire an heir, that's what my family would have done at least. Everything to keep the family name intact," explained Sirius.
Amelia had to digest that part. Truly, the dark families were despicable in many ways.
"Besides the terrible practices of families like yours, I think that I will point out the fact of inherited fortunes needing to be secured until the children are old enough and responsible enough to receive them," she got them back on topic.
Secretly she made a mental note to investigate the fate of Persephone Malfoy. The girl had to be at one of the magical schools in Europe or America after all.
Dolores Umbridge wasn't a happy bureaucrat. Until a few months ago everything had been going right in her world. Cornelius Fudge, whom she had worked with for a while, had been elected as the new Minister of Magic during the elections last June. She had climbed the ranks inside the Ministry in his shadow as well, becoming Senior Undersecretary to the Minister. That was one of the most important positions at the Ministry, on par with the heads of the diverse departments. But she wielded more influence, as she knew secrets that were passed on to the Minister, or which she overheard during working hours. Those secrets allowed her to influence people and decisions where needed. And she considered the pureblood cause the most important thing.
But an investigation of the DMLE, which she hadn't believed would turn into what it was now, had turned everything upside down. Several upstanding pureblood members of their country were sitting inside the holding cells, awaiting their trials. That wasn't right. Purebloods shouldn't be treated like that. But the DMLE for once had all laws on its side. Those people were caught in the act when the aurors had used the hunt for the traitor Pettigrew to also arrest those that were found with illegal items, potions and other things. Some even she believed to be too stupid. Who kept some imperiused sex slaves at his own home?
That was what the aurors arrested Leonidas Nott for. She had thought he was smarter. If one had to lower oneself to use muggleborns like that, then it shouldn't happen at home, but a secret hideout. Or Goyle not hiding dark artefacts but displaying them in his study. Stupid, stupid, stupid. She had tried to make the Minister see sense, but she had been rebuffed. Cornelius had told her that he would find out the truth of things, as seemingly not everybody that claimed imperius back in 1981, directly after the fall of You-Know-Who, had told the truth about that fact.
She had tried to argue, but forty-five proven findings of dark marks on the left forearms of fifty prisoners was too much to push under the rug. She hated it, as those people were also ones that paid her good money for insider information about things going on at the Ministry. Not to mention that they firmly believed that only purebloods should be allowed to lead their country and work at the Ministry. But now those fine people were all arrested. She felt that Amelia Bones was abusing the power given to her to find Pettigrew, but she couldn't stop the other woman. She got carte blanche in the search for Pettigrew, and worse, she had succeeded. They had caught the rat.
Everything was still kept under wraps, as nobody wanted to risk having one blunder mess things up. Not to mention that now that the goal was achieved, they had to try the other arrestees in front of the Wizengamot. Which would normally end in them getting of with a slap on the hand, but the bitch Bones had managed to get the law concerning the use of veritaserum on purebloods revoked, replacing it with one that allowed the potions' use on all witches, wizards and sentient magical creatures if they were accused of a list of predetermined crimes. Meaning it couldn't be used in trials against petty thieves, but those suspected to have committed capital crimes like murder couldn't refuse taking it anymore. Some security precautions to prevent deaths like in the seventies were to ensure that things went right this time around.
She hated that. And she had noticed that the Minister listened to her advice less and less. Not to mention that he was busy with working out his program for the increase of birth-rates for magical children. Including a bill to ensure the care of the children that lost their parents due to being sent to prison. And she knew that Bones would send most of the prisoners to Azkaban. She was busy at collecting evidence. And none of her informants inside the DMLE could tell Dolores what exactly that evidence was. They were all too busy with the work that had been pushed back while the rat hunt and examination of the rats had taken place. Only those that Bones trusted implicitly were involved in the preparation of the trials.
She would have to think how to deal with the development of so many important people being taken out of the game soon. Some of them also sat on the Wizengamot, which would change the political stage until their children would be old enough to take their seats.
Keith and Jessica had just finished their visit at the child healer's office at St. Mungo's. While for most needs Jessica's friend could take care of visits, there was a law that every baby born to magical parents had to be examined and registered at St. Mungo's at least once during the first six months of its life. It wasn't really a problem. They had decided to combine the visit to have Vanessa examined with a visit to Sirius. The examination didn't show anything special or worrisome. Vanessa was as healthy as a little witch could be. Not that they had doubted it. Undine Terasen had done her duty as a healer after all, and she had added a report for the head of the department that recorded the official examinations as well.
It had only taken the couple twenty minutes to have their daughter examined and registered. There were no vaccinations against magical diseases that she needed, Undine had already given those to her. By now, Keith was known to the aurors securing the DMLE ward and they were allowed to pass after their identities had been confirmed. They walked down the corridor and Keith knocked on the door to Sirius' room, as Jessica was carrying Vanessa. They were called inside and found Sirius working on some kind of puzzle.
"Good afternoon, Sirius," greeted Keith.
"Good afternoon, Keith and Jessica. Great to see you. Is this Vanessa?" asked Sirius curiously.
"She is," nodded Jessica with a smile, "we decided, as we were already here to get Vanessa examined and officially registered, we could combine it with a visit to you."
"That's great, thank you," replied Sirius, beaming at them.
"You seem to be in a good mood?" asked Keith after they had all taken seats.
Vanessa was awake and looked around curiously. This was the first time she had been taken to another place and she had been good during the examinations. She had only whimpered once, when her clothes had been taken off to allow the healer to check her without interference.
"I have all the reason to be happy. I can't tell you details yet, as I had to swear to Amelia Bones that I would keep quiet until the DMLE was done with their work, but I won't have to stay hidden longer than absolutely necessary. My healing is progressing really well, and I have got confirmation that in one week I can leave St. Mungo's for a safe house, where I will continue working on my recovery."
Keith and Jessica understood that an ongoing investigation couldn't be endangered by letting details slip too early. They didn't pry into things, instead taking the topic of Sirius soon leaving the hospital.
"I'm happy to hear that you can leave soon," stated Jessica, "I guess it will be a great relief to see something else but this floor all the time."
"Definitely. The house is somewhere outside of other settlements, meaning I will be able to take walks within certain limits. I have been told that there is a small forest close by, which will be great for that. It also has a pool, which I can use to increase my training. It really sucked being stuck in bed most of the day. That's something I certainly will pursue, as I want to get back to my previous level of strength as soon as I can. And the healers have already cleared me for light magical training again, which is what I was doing with the puzzle," explained Sirius.
"What kind of puzzle is it?" asked Keith curiously.
"It's normally something given to young children to playfully learn channelling their magic. You have to concentrate and will the picture on the piece you are holding to appear. You do that by channelling a little magic into the pieces. As children aren't allowed to have wands before they turn ten, and then only very basic training wands until they get a real wand when they turn eleven, wizarding families have developed other ways of letting them practice their gift in some way."
"That's smart," appreciated Jessica, "Where could such a puzzle be bought? I mean, it will be some time until Vanessa is old enough for something like that, but it never hurts to know where to look."
"I know that they are sold in Diagon Alley. I guess Derwish & Bangs would be a good place to start looking," pondered Sirius, "I never really asked where my parents got them."
"We will find out when she's old enough. I think Harry wouldn't find them that interesting."
"Perhaps because he didn't see one before, but otherwise, it's not very challenging for a wizard that has already started Hogwarts education," agreed Sirius, "I'm mainly doing them, because the healers believe that this easy exercise will prepare me for the time when I will be allowed to properly use my wand again. I can't wait."
"It has to be unpleasant to be limited in your activities," nodded Keith.
"How is Harry doing?" asked Sirius.
"Better than last term. The fact that Dumbledore was forced to act on the report the students put together has improved several things at Hogwarts. Harry especially likes that Professor Snape isn't his Potions teacher right now. We will have to see if the man's behaviour has changed when Harry starts his third year, which is when he will have that man as his teacher again. But with the Ministry keeping a closer eye on things now, as they didn't like the report much either, I am hopeful that it won't go to the bad situation from before," answered Jessica.
"I still can't believe that Dumbledore employed Snape of all people as a teacher. He is the furthest from having the right temper for the job," Sirius shook his head, "He already hated having to explain things to classmates when he was at school, I doubt he enjoys being around children all day."
He had come a long way in not cursing out the injustice of Snape being allowed to stay free, under the protection of Dumbledore, when he had been a Death Eater, while Sirius didn't even get a trial. It took many meetings with a mind healer to get there though. It was doubtful he could keep control if he saw Snape in person, but at least talking about him didn't send him into a rage anymore.
"Well, we will see how things go in the future," Keith stated diplomatically.
"And, how are you faring with the little one? Does she keep you up a lot at night?" Sirius asked.
"Sometimes. Most of the nights she only wakes up once, wanting to be fed and normally she also needs changing. But two weeks ago, she suffered from a slight fever and was really unhappy, which caused her to sleep less well. I did carry her around for two hours one night, until she could fall asleep again. But Undine told me that it was normal that young children would contract illnesses from time to time, but with magical babies is rarely lasted long. As we live in the muggle world, the risk of her getting in contact with a magical disease, which would be much more serious, would be a lot lower," explained Jessica, "I'm glad about that. I'd rather she only suffers from light illnesses than something that needs a lot of potions to be treated. And this way, her immune system learns to deal with those problems. I don't like her being sick, as I always want to do something to make her feel better, but I logically know that all children catch one sickness or another regularly."
"True, and better she catches a normal cold than dragon pox," agreed Sirius.
"Just my opinion," agreed Keith, "Undine told us what kind of dangerous child diseases there are in the wizarding world and I would rather have my daughter protected against them with vaccinations as much as possible. But it takes time until they can be given and while that is the case, better to keep her away from anybody having them."
Sirius could only nod to that. It was the main reason why magical children were normally kept away from others that were not part of the family until they were at least three years old. By then, the responsible families would have ensured that they all had their baby vaccinations. Some less responsible ones decided that they could save the costs. It normally ended badly for the children.
They continued talking for about an hour, before Jessica decided that Vanessa needed to soon get fed again before being put into bed for the night. Sirius thanked them for their visit and returned to his puzzle.