Tug of War
Tug of War
Frank and Alice Longbottom, along with Amelia Bones and Augusta Longbottom, were preparing to do battle with Albus Dumbledore. They were, of course, very concerned about the fact that Sirius had not been heard from in a couple of weeks and that they had no idea if he was even alive. Sirius' well being had, unfortunately, no bearing on the outcome of this particular fight. Albus had gotten a court date with the purpose of overriding the stated wishes of James and Lily Potter as to the guardianship of little Harry. Dumbledore was going to attempt to paint Sirius as an unfit guardian because of his single lifestyle and the fact that he held a dangerous job as an Auror. He would probably have a lot of backing in the Wizengamot with these arguments. Even if Sirius were present to defend his position, he would probably lose. Dumbledore was bound and determined to use the excuse of the blood wards in order to force Petunia Dursley to take in Harry.
What Dumbledore didn't know was that he was not dealing with amateurs in this battle. The Longbottoms, also listed in the will as potential guardians, were going to concede that Sirius might not be the best choice in order to throw off Dumbledore's main argument. Augusta Longbottom was a hands on favorite person to the older crowd in the Wizengamot and Frank was also well respected, heir to the family. Amelia had also done some digging and had come up with a couple of irrefutable arguments that should set Dumbledore back on his heels. She had gone to 4 Privet Drive, analyzed the unfinished wards that Dumbledore had put in place, then spoken with Petunia Dursley and her husband. Amelia left Surrey with a large smile on her face.
"She said that!?" Alice asked, aghast.
"He said that!?" Frank parroted.
"They most certainly did. I wouldn't really worry too much about Albus bringing this up. When I finish with him, he will be lucky to avoid criminal action against himself. Now, once the case is called, here is what I want you to do…….."
Soho Veterinary Clinic
It had taken almost two weeks, but Sirius had come up with a workable plan to escape the tender loving care of Dr. Nalett while keeping his manhood, or rather doghood, intact. He had put up with everything that they had done to him so far, even the planting of the so-called microchip. He didn't know why they called it that, being as it was in the developmental stages, the blasted thing was almost an inch square and had required an incision to implant. He figured that he could always have it removed at St. Mungo's when he got back to his world. The healers would probably have a good laugh at his expense, but he would have a neat scar to show off to the ladies. Padfoot had been moved to the larger cage where he would be able to stand up once he transformed. Now all he had to do was get this cast off his leg. He waited until the staff had gone home, then began to chew. If he could get most of it off, the rest should shatter when he transformed. If he could stand on his partially healed leg then he could apparate to St. Mungo's. Otherwise he would have to use his emergency portkey to the office, then get another portkey to the hospital.
Padfoot chewed on the cast for several hours, taking breaks to rinse his mouth out. He really hated the taste of plaster! He noticed the clock and began to get a bit frantic, it would not be very long before the staff would be coming in for the day. He finally got the cast degraded to the point that it should shatter when he transformed. Giving a short bark of triumph, Padfoot became Sirius for the first time in two weeks. "Oh, she is going be sooo tweaked when she comes in and finds me gone. I think that I will take the cast with me and really give them a mystery!" he thought. Sirius gingerly tested his leg, thought of St. Mungo's, then….
Before he could apparate away, a beam of light hit him and he knew no more.
What Sirius had no idea of was the fact that as he transformed, he had an audience. Sarah Nalett had come in a bit early in order to check on him. She had plans to go ahead and neuter Padfoot today so that she could take him home. The other thing that Sirius was clueless about was the fact that Sarah Nalett, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, was, in fact, a muggleborn witch. She was every bit as brilliant as Lily Evens, and had been sorted into Ravenclaw a mere two years before the Marauders entered Hogwarts. She also finished almost two years early, having independently studied the curriculum, taking her O.W.L.s in fourth year and her N.E.W.T.s in 6th. Sarah had specialized in Care of Magical Creatures, but when she graduated, she found most doors closed to her. The purebloods had all of the good jobs, muggleborns, even one as brilliant as herself were relegated to low paying jobs with poor advancement possibilities. Fuming, she had taken her college entrance exams, then sailed through Veterinary training.
Sarah had, for the most part, turned her back on the world that had shunned her. She still loved magic, and in some cases used it to help heal her patients when no one was looking. She was actually planning to castrate Padfoot magically, putting him under with a spell, then doing an incision-less procedure to sterilize him. That was the reason that she had her wand ready and available. When she saw Padfoot become human, she did the only thing that made sense, she stunned him. Going over to the cage, she placed a couple of wards up to prevent apparition and the use of a portkey. She then pointed her wand at the unconscious Sirius and said, "Enervate!" Sirius opened his eyes, took in the fact that the gentle doctor had a wand pointing at his face while wearing a truly scary expression of outrage. He summed up his situation in two succinct words.
After the shock had worn off, Sarah had put on a pot of tea so that they could talk and get each other's stories. She had almost fallen off her chair laughing when she realized that she had almost castrated the infamous Sirius Black. Even though Sirius had never paid any attention to her at Hogwarts, in fact had not even known of her existence, she had heard stories about the Marauders during her visits to Hagrid over the years. From those stories, she would bet that she would have been the envy of many witches, having held Black's breeding future, figuratively speaking, in the palm of her hand, where on a whim, she could have turned the stud into nothing more than a technical advisor.
As time for the staff to come in drew closer, Sarah had run some diagnostic spells on Sirius' leg and, with a few more healing spells, had pronounced him well enough to go home. She advised him to stay off work for a couple more days and they exchanged contact information. She was informed about the likely demise of Voldemort (she refused to call him by his hyphenated name) and the deaths of the Potters. She was happy to hear of Voldemort's defeat, she had watched from the sidelines as he had started encroaching on her world, but was saddened that it had come at such a terrible cost. She had met Lily Evens a couple of times during her stay at Hogwarts and had been impressed by the young witch. She decided that she would tell her staff that Padfoot's owner had come in to claim him. With that, Sarah had removed the wards and Sirius apparated away.
Ministry of Magic
Department of Magical Law Enforcement
When Sirius walked in the door, he looked around at the beehive of activity in the office. The Death Eater trials were coming up and everyone was busy wrapping up their cases to present the parchmentwork to the prosecutors. He stood there for a while with no one noticing him, then remembering a muggle show on the telly, called out, "Luuucy, I'm home!" The effect was immediate. Amelia Bones and Frank Longbottom hurried up in order to ask him just where in Merlin's name he had been for two weeks. Walking back to Amelia's office, he told them about his stay in Soho Veterinary Clinic. It took quite a while for his co-workers to get their mirth under control. The conversation then took a serious turn.
Amelia filled in Sirius about Dumbledore's attempt to thwart James and Lily's wishes regarding Harry and the impending Wizengamot hearing. They had to physically restrain Sirius to keep him from putting Dumbledore on the same short revenge list as Wormtail. It would have not looked very good if a member of the DMLE had hexed the Headmaster of Hogwarts, not to mention the main poobah of not only the Wizengamot, but also the International Confederation. After petrifying Sirius and not letting him loose until he agreed to hear them out without going off half cocked, they proceeded to attempt to talk some sense into him.
Laying out Dumbledore's case for Sirius, even he conceded that Albus could, by hints and innuendo, severely damage Sirius' reputation to the point that it would be impossible for him to gain custody of Harry. In fact, he would be hard pressed to even be allowed visitation with his godson. Frank then lay down his strategy for the hearing. There was a lot of screaming, not at Frank, but rather to him about Dumbledore, but in the end Sirius agreed to go along with it in order to present a united front against the old meddler. Since the hearing was due to convene in a couple of days, Amelia gave Sirius the next day off so that he could get checked over at St. Mungo's, cleaned up and rested.
After checking on the progress in the hunt for Pettigrew (there was no progress), Sirius left the office to portkey to the hospital.
Ministry of Magic
Albus Dumbledore entered the courtroom feeling very confident. He had brought with him all of the evidence that he needed to destroy Sirius Black in the event that his former student contested his plan to place Harry with the Dursleys. In a folder he had disciplinary reports for all seven of Sirius' years at Hogwarts, along with statements from some well connected Ministry workers detailing what could very well be a reckless approach to his job as Auror. Combined with his family's history, tacit Voldemort supporters as well as having a brother who had been a marked Death Eater, along with his unmarried status and having a werewolf as a best friend, Sirius would be fortunate to stay out of Azkaban, let alone get custody of anything with more feelings than a mushroom. He had heard of Sirius' two week absence from work, disappearing for long periods of time without contact would also be something that he could use against him if necessary.
Considering all of these factors, Albus was surprised to see Black come in with a fairly large group of people, two of which he did not recognize at all and one woman who he felt he should know, but just could not place her. Frank and Alice Longbottom were there with Harry and Little Neville. Augusta was with her son and daughter-in-law rather than in the Wizengamot jury panel. That was too bad, she was one of his big supporters and one who realized the importance of a child growing up with family. He snorted. She must have felt too close to the situation to vote on the placement. Sometimes Augie's high ethical standards annoyed him. She would be able to sway people from the gallery though so maybe it wasn't a total loss. Albus was sure that Alice was ready to hand Harry over, one 16 month old child could be a handful, tow, with one of them not even related must have been a nightmare. Albus didn't give a thought to dumping that same responsibility onto Petunia, after all, she was just a muggle not good for much other than servant work. He did have to admit that Black looked good dressed in his formal robes with the crest of the House of Black. The young lady he was with, the one Albus felt he should know, was also well dressed and coiffed, her long red hair falling over her shoulders. For a moment, he thought that the woman might have been a Weasley or Prewett, but if she had been, he would have known her.
"Oyez, Oyez, This special session of the Wizengamot is called for the purpose of deciding guardianship of the minor child Harry James Potter. Chief Warlock Albus Dumbledore presiding, representing the Department of Magical Law Enforcement is Madam Amelia Bones. Representing the Minister of Magic is his Undersecretary, Cornelius Fudge. Those having business before this august body, please step forward!"
At that time, Sirius, Frank and Alice, Augusta, and a non-descript young man stepped forward. The two strangers, a man and woman dressed in muggle clothing also stepped up, standing behind Sirius. Albus figured that they were some disreputable supporters of Black and wrote them off mentally. The young man standing apart from the others interested him, so Albus leaned forward and addressed him. "Young sir, please state your name and business in this matter."
"Grand Wizard Dumbledore, members of the Wizengamot, my name is George Steinman. I am a solicitor representing Gringotts Bank. My employer was named executor of the wills of James and Lily Potter, I am here to present their wishes."
At this point, Albus began to see that there might be a bit of a problem. Wizarding wills could not be broken without serious consequences and evidence as to why the deceased's wishes were not being followed. Barring that, a person who messed with a will could find themselves either in Azkaban or persona non gratis by Gringotts and the Goblin Nation. When Gringotts was named as executor, they took their duty very seriously. Well, it looked like he was going to have to pull out the big guns and destroy Sirius Black. Putting on his best grandfatherly smile, he nodded at Steinman and began the proceedings.
"Very well. I have filed a petition to place the minor child Harry James Potter in the care of his biological aunt, Petunia Dursley. The reason for this is that the child is in danger from supporters of Lord Voldemort due to Harry being the catalyst in the defeat of their master. One of the people believed to cause harm to the child is Peter Pettigrew, the betrayer of James and Lily Potter and a friend of Sirius Black…"
"OBJECTION!" Sirius almost hexed Dumbledore where he stood. "That rat Pettigrew is no friend of mine! He is a traitor to the very people who cared so much for him. I was the one who alerted the DMLE to the fact that Pettigrew was the traitor while you were doing your best to slander me and get me sent to Azkaban!"
Dumbledore smiled. "Do you have any proof of that, Mr. Black? All I know is the fact that whenever there was trouble at Hogwarts during your stay at the school, you, Pettigrew and the werewolf Remus Lupin were right in the thick of it. It does not bode well for your cause that your closest friends, people who could possibly influence young Harry, are an illegal animagus and a werewolf."
"Albus, that will be quite enough." Madam Bones stood. "Mr. Black does not have to have proof, I have it. I have sealed pensieve memories and the transcripts where Sirius Black was questioned under Veritaserum the night of James and Lily Potter's murders. Mr. Black is a decorated Auror who has, along with Auror Moody, led the efforts to bring Pettigrew to justice, even receiving serious injuries in the line of duty. His healer, Doctor Sarah Nalett, is here to attest to the injuries if need be." Amelia pointed at the young woman with Sirius and Dumbledore inwardly groaned. How could he of not recognized one of his most brilliant students? Amelia continued, "Besides, there is no reason to slander Auror Black in this court, he has not put forth a petition for custody."
This had the effect of dropping a bombshell in the court. "If that is true Mr. Black, why are you here?" Dumbledore was confused, a state that displeased him greatly.
"I am here to see that the right thing is done. Harry is my godson. James and Lily stated in their will, Mr. Steinman can attest to it, that I was the first choice for guardian of Harry. I find myself in a position where I cannot fulfill that trust. I am in a very dangerous job, I am unmarried so I would have no one to care for Harry when I am working. Harry could possibly be in danger from Pettigrew simply because Pettigrew knows my habits and knows where I live. I live in muggle London in a multi family flat. Although I do have a family estate, I do not want to subject Harry to the influence of my only living relative, my mother. She would probably try to smother him in his crib, either her or that demented house elf of hers. That is why I am asking that the panel place Harry in James and Lily's alternate choice, the home of Frank and Alice Longbottom. The Longbottoms have filed a counter petition for custody in this matter. They have a fine family and a loving home. Harry would also be raised as a wizard instead of having to endure the problems that he might face in a muggle environment."
Albus could feel the tide start to turn against him. He made a gamble on a longshot. "But Mr. Black, surely you can see where the best people to raise Harry would be blood relatives.."
Steinman stepped up. "Grand Wizard, the Potter wills specifically state that the parents did not want Harry to be sent to her sister under any circumstances. In order to violate that prohibition, you would have to have very good reasons why it would be in the child's best interest."
Dumbledore played his trump card. "I believe that we could all agree that the safety of the child should be foremost in all of our minds. I have placed special wards on the Dursley home that will protect Harry from any and all magical people who might want to harm him. They are based on the sacrifice that his mother made and only require a drop of his blood and that of his aunt to activate them. As long as the related blood of his aunt and cousin are in that home, he will be protected." He could see members of the panel nodding their heads, impressed with his wisdom.
"That's another thing, Albus," Madam Bones cut in. "I went by the Dursley home and analyzed the wards. I would like to know why you were putting up blood wards that have been banned by 10 different international treaties as well as having been illegal in Britain for over 40 years, ever since they were abused by the forces of the Dark Lord Grindlwald! Had you have actually completed the wards with the blood magic, I would have been forced to arrest you for the practice of dark blood magic! And, in the case of Harry Potter, they would not have worked."
The court broke out in noise, different members shouting at Bones, Dumbledore, and each other. Dumbledore shot out sparks and a loud BANG from his wand to quiet the court. "What do you mean, they would not work?"
"I am going to have to let someone else answer that. I call Petunia and Vernon Dursley!" The couple that Dumbledore did not recognize stepped forward. The man had a sneer on his face and was rapidly turning a deep purple colour. Petunia also had a sneer that would make Lucius Malfoy jealous. Vernon started their 'testimony.
Vernon looked at Bones. "Thanks….freak" There were gasps of outrage throughout the court. "I may hate your type, but at least you showed some decency." He then addressed the court as a whole. "The way I understand it, Pet's freak sister made a baby freak with that worthless piece of rubbish she married. Then they got themselves blown up by some other freak that you guys couldn't control. The freak baby offed the big freak and now you want to stick the little mutant with us so other freaks won't kill him. It's not going to happen. All of you abominations should have either been drowned at birth or had the abnormality beaten out of you. You try to stick him with us and that is what will happen to him. Either that or I will drop him off in some orphanage outside the country. You freaks can just clean up your own messes and leave us normal people alone!"
Petunia stepped closer. "The only thing that I disagree with my husband on is the drowning and beating, but only because he could get in trouble for doing the world a favor and getting rid of one of you freaks. I do agree with him about dumping the brat at an orphanage, preferably one far, far away. Besides, your so-called blood wards won't work because Lily was never my sister!" At the shocked response of the court, she continued. "Lily was adopted by my family when I was 2 years old. It was the stupidest thing they ever did, allowing a mutant like that into a normal family. I won't have you freaks trying to push another freak off on me and maybe infecting my normal son! So let us get out of here and never bother us again!"
Amelia smiled. The Wizengamot was in an uproar, the only things that kept them from hexing the Dursleys were the ward she had put up around the witness area and the stubbornness of the members to not allow the muggles the satisfaction of being right in their estimation of wizarding society. There was one more thing to do however. Amelia turned and quietly spoke to the members about what needed to be done. At their agreement, she then nodded to the magical people in the witness gallery. They took this as their cue to step away from the Dursleys. Amelia and Lady Marchbanks pointed their wands at the Dursleys and shouted, "Obliviate!" Amelia spoke to the Dursleys. "You will not remember any of this, magic is a myth. Your adopted sister was not magical, she was killed soon after high school in an automobile accident. You have never heard of Hogwarts and have nothing but scorn for idiots who believe that magic exists. Magic is fantasy, something in books and on the telly. Since you do not believe in it, it does not bother you."
Two Aurors came up and took the Dursleys out of the courtroom. They portkeyed them, still in an unknowing stupor, back to their car before giving them the suggestion that they were out on a shopping trip for their son. Petunia and Vernon were then enervated and sent happily on their way, free to live their perfectly normal lives.
Back in the courtroom, Dumbledore was furious. He had been thwarted at every step. Things had gone from bad to worse when Amelia had taken him aside after the Dursleys had left and given him an ultimatum.
"Albus, you went too damn far this time. I have been collecting a folder on your actions for quite a while. Not only did you almost cause an international incident using banned blood wards, I also recognized some of your work inside the house. That vase you spelled as an antipathy generator. Those people have enough hostility to magic without spurring it on. Harry would not have come out of that house alive. Did you even know how much Petunia hated Lily and blamed magic? Did you want Harry to be so grateful to you when he got his Hogwarts letter, taking him out of a place where everyone hates him that he would be your perfect little protégé? I'm giving you fair warning right now, stick your nose in one more time where it shouldn't be and that folder will be opened and you will be stuck so far down in Azkaban that the Dementors will have to dig tunnels to get to you. And remember this also. I am immune to memory charms, I can throw off the Imperious, and I am an expert Occlumens so quit your sorry attempts at Legimency before I throw you across the room. You are the Headmaster of a school, not God, so get over it!" She rudely shoved him out of her way and resumed her place.
Dumbledore was forced to make a desperate attempt to save face. He put on his best grandfatherly look and addressed the court. "Madam Bones, I commend you for digging further and finding out the true unsuitability of the Dursleys. I made some foolish mistakes, blame an old man for wanting to assure the safety of our little hero, Harry. I hereby withdraw my petition and recommend to the panel that the petition of Frank and Alice Longbottom be granted. Mr. Black, as godfather of little Harry, I urge you to set a responsible example when you visit him. If there is nothing else, the panel shall now vote on the petition."
The vote was unanimous, there had been other filers for guardianship, however they were in neither the will or Dumbledore's good graces so they were discarded. Dumbledore quickly adjourned the session and left before Sirius could lay hands on him.
Sirius turned to Sarah, wanting to thank her for coming to support him. She had been quite impressed with his passion to do the right thing as far as Harry was concerned. She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and whispered in his ear, "If you ever want that special spot behind your ear scratched, give me a call."
Sirius gave a happy barking laugh. "I'd love to, just leave the castrating tools behind. Oh, and by the way, can you do something about that damned microchip?"
"Not a chance, pal. I think that someday I might want to make sure that I can keep track of you."