Setting the Record Straight
A/N: Thanks to Pagan ThunderGod and wwwendy for alerting me to a huge screw-up in Chapter 7. I ended up killing off Lucius Malfoy twice! And in the same manner! I first executed him by Dementor's Kiss in a previous chapter, then had him Kissed while under the Imperius curse while trying to escape. The only thing I can say in my defense is that it is just so darn fun to kill off Lucius that I keep wanting to do it over and over again. Alas, since Lucius didn't have enough of a soul to satisfy one Dementor, let alone two, I had to give that 'honor' in chapter 7 to Dolohov…
Setting the Record Straight
Ministry of Magic
Department of Magical Law Enforcement
Sirius Black came bouncing into his old office, responding to a request to stop by from Frank Longbottom. He told the desk Auror his business, and was let through the divider into the office area. He entered to see Amelia Bones sitting with Frank.
"What's up, guys?"
"Sirius," began Amelia, "I need to ask you for your wand before we start."
"Why?" he asked suspiciously.
"We are investigating the beatings given to Severus Snape during his stay here. You have been implicated. Now please, your wand." Sirius handed it over, wondering how on earth he could be blamed for Snivillus' bruises.
"Thank you. Now, Mr. Black…"
"Please Amelia, we worked together for three years, Mr. Black is my father."
"Never the less, we still must follow form. Mr. Black, did you ever order or suggest to any guard that they should use physical force to convince Mr. Snape to sign an agreement to stay away from your ward, Draco Malfoy?"
"Never! I thought the court would sort out Snape, there was no reason for me to do anything but try to convince him to sign so that it would be easier on Draco. I don't like Snape, never have, but it is ludicrous to imply that I would have anything to do with having him beaten!"
"Ludicrous as in setting him up to be bitten or killed by a werewolf?"
"Merlin, we were just kids at the time! I never thought he would actually be stupid enough to follow me after I dared him."
"Isn't it true that without the intervention of James Potter, Mr. Snape could very well be either a werewolf or dead? And that your friend Remus Lupin could have been put down as a danger to society?"
Sirius hung his head. "Yes, I thought it would be a good prank to scare him, I just didn't think."
"Would you be willing to undergo questioning by Veritaserum to prove what you have said?"
"I suppose so, if it will get you guys off my back."
"Very well, Auror Longbottom, please get the Veritaserum." Frank went out to the safe, retrieved the potion, then returned. He and Amelia went through the procedure to assure it had not been tampered with, then he administered it.
"State your name."
"Sirius Orion Black."
"Mr. Black, did you have any hand in the beatings of Severus Snape in the DMLE holding area?"
"Did you ever suggest that Mr. Snape should be physically abused or beaten to make him agree to sign papers affecting the visitation of Draco Malfoy?"
"No, I did not."
"Do you know who might have suggested to the guard that it would help you if Severus Snape was beaten?"
"Did you have any plans to keep Severus Snape away from his godson?"
"What were they?"
"I planned to talk to him, hoping he would sign a visitation waiver. Failing that, I thought that he would be convicted by the court and that there would then be no need for a waiver. In the event that there was no trial, if Dumbledore had gotten his way, the Headmaster assured me that he would make sure that Snape wouldn't gain visitation."
"Thank you, Frank, administer the antidote." Frank gave the antidote, and Sirius' eyes began to refocus.
"Are we all done?"
"Just one more thing." Amelia handed Sirius a parchment.
"What is this?"
"It is a summons to family court. Severus Snape's solicitor asked us to serve it on you. You are to appear to show cause why Mr. Snape should not be allowed visitation."
"Show cause! Because he is a damned Death Eater, that's why!" Sirius threw the parchment down in disgust. "How you people ever let him go is beyond me."
"Maybe because he was innocent? Now you have to decide what you are going to do. He has not only been found Not Guilty under Veritaserum, but has also been awarded the Order of Merlin, and been given a lot of money over these beatings. If you go in there spouting that Death Eater charge, they will not only laugh you out of the courtroom, they will probably take custody away from you and grant it to him. I suggest that you change your attitude and try to work something out. Get rid of your damn schoolboy animus and grow up, for Merlin's sake!"
Frank stepped in. "Sirius, how would you feel if you were denied visitation with Harry? You know that Dumbledore was setting you up for something like that. Had you gone after Pettigrew, you would probably be in Azkaban right now and Harry would be with his mother's adopted Muggle sister. In fact, I'm not so sure that getting any kind of advice from Dumbledore is very smart. It looks like he has been playing all of us. I'm not really very impressed by the way his name keeps popping up everywhere I look in these investigations. Think about it and get back to me. In the meantime, it might just be time to eat a bit of humble pie and work out something with Severus."
"Crap, he is still going to think that I ordered the beatings."
"No he won't. I will speak with him and allow him to view this interview in my pensieve."
"Hey, even if you are retired and managing your excessively large estate, you are still one of us. Just don't cross any lines, because we would still have to come down hard on you, like it or not."
"I understand." Sirius picked up the summons and left.
Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft
Office of the Headmaster
Albus Dumbledore was not happy. Not only had he been effectively slapped down in his attempt to have Harry Potter placed in circumstances which would have properly prepared him to look at Dumbledore as a savior when he finally entered Hogwarts, but he had also lost any leverage he might have had over Severus Snape. Instead of having a well placed (and low paid) servant dependant on his goodwill to stay out of Azkaban, Snape went and broke his chains and was now looked at as a bloody hero! And Albus was the one who let the Wizengamot know he was a hero. It was days like this that he really started to feel his age. Oh well, he had the next nine years or so to mold Severus back into the servant that he should be now.
He was interrupted in his reverie by one of the elves, named Tippy, bringing him a piece of parchment. He vaguely recognized the elf as one that would help Snape in the Potions lab cleaning when there were no unfortunate students serving detentions. Albus took the parchment from the elf, and before he could read it, the elf popped out. He unrolled the parchment, read it, and then threw it down and proceeded to throw a fit. When he had finished unleashing his anger, he picked up the parchment and reread it, just to make sure that he had not missed anything. He had not.
"Dear Headmaster" the parchment read, "As per Section V, Clause 14, paragraph (x), I am hereby notifying you of my intention to leave the employ of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in three days at the beginning of Winter Holidays. I have cleaned out my office and personal quarters; I have also spoken with the Board of Governors regarding the unexpired portion of my contract. The have granted me compassionate leave so that I might deal with the custody matter of my godson. The leave began this morning. Replacing me will be Professor Horace Slughorn, who has agreed to come out of retirement for the balance of the year. He will be reporting to you prior to the end of the holidays.
Should you need prepared potions for the infirmary, I am willing to give the school an institutional discount from my new shop, Perfect Potions, located at 93 Diagon Alley in London. Please note that I will not provide you with some of the more esoteric potions that I have brewed for you in the past. In other words, all potions I sell will be legal under present Ministry Regulations. Should you need legal potions, please have Madam Pomphrey contact me. Should you personally get the undeniable urge to speak with me, do not bother. I have warded my shop and home against your magical signature. In other words, don't call me, I certainly won't call you.
Severus Snape, Potions Master
Order of Merlin, third class
Office of Marvin Sheistre, Solicitor
While Dumbledore was blowing a gasket, Severus was in his Solicitor's office settling the bill for his defense in his recent trial. Since he had a second case coming up, Sheistre had given him a 'frequent client' discount. Sheistre was also in a jolly mood because he had been able to rub Dumbledore's face in the mud, if only for a short while. He knew that the look on Dumbledore's face when he called him a liar would be one of those he would keep in his pensieve for those days when he needed a quick lift of his spirits. Hell, it was so classic that he could probably use it as a Patronus memory. He looked at his client, and could really see the difference in the man. When he saw Snape in the holding cell that first day, the man looked like he was at least forty years old; now he appeared to be the twenty-four year old he actually was.
"So Severus, how's the new shop going?" Snape had gone over his plans and Marvin had helped him write his resignation letter so that it would have the greatest impact upon Dumbledore's psyche when he received it.
"Excellent, I was able to get a start-up loan from Gringotts that I should have paid back in a short time. I had to put up my home as collateral, but the loan officer seemed to think that the business would take off quickly. I got a contract with a herbology supplier for some of the ingredients, and I have cultivated contacts over the past few years for the rest. I start brewing tomorrow, and the shop will be open in a week. I still need to hire someone to mind the counter when I am busy brewing, but for now I will brew at night and run the counter during the day. I really owe you a lot, you have not only given me back my life, but given me a new life."
"Don't mention it. Now, on this visitation suit, I think that if we can just get Black to sit down and talk, you can save a lot of heartache and court costs. We can work out an agreement, then just present it to the Ministry. That way you will only be billed for the hours that I actually work."
Snape's face got a distinctively sour look. "I doubt it, Black doesn't listen to anyone."
"Something tells me that there is some history there, care to tell me about it? It could help, maybe there is something I could use for leverage."
So Severus told Marvin about the miserable time he had over the years at Hogwarts, the hooligans known as the Marauders, and the deep seated hatred that the two held for each other. Marvin already knew some of it, but hearing about how Sirius had set him up to be attacked by a werewolf made him pale in disgust realizing just what a vicious enemy Black could be. It was a good thing that Black was no longer an Auror, he really seemed to be the type to abuse his power.
"Well, one thing you can rest your mind over, he didn't set up the beatings in the holding cell. He passed testing by Veritaserum. It might be that the guard thought he was doing Black a favor, we'll never know, the guard was killed by one of the prisoners, a Death Eater named Dolohov. Dolohov tried to escape and the Dementors Kissed him.
"It couldn't have happened to a bigger pair of bastards." Snape had a satisfied gleam in his eyes. That was one more Death Eater he would never have to worry about. He did wish that he had been able to see a pensieve memory about it though. Something about the whole thing was just a bit too convenient. He did not really believe that Dolohov would do something quite that stupid on his own. Never mind, he was beginning to see manipulations around every corner, maybe it was the product of seven years as a Slytherin and almost that long as a spy working both sides of the street. It sounded like something out of Dumbledore's twisted mind. He shook it off. "If you can get Black to sit down, go for it. I would suggest getting his pet werewolf to talk to him, as much as I despise Lupin, he was the most level headed."
"I'll give that a try. I'll contact you when I hear something. If I can't hammer out an agreement, we'll just take his arse to court, you have value as a good guy right now. If I need to, I can put a bug in Cornelius Fudge's ear, he can probably influence the court a bit if push comes to shove." The two men stood, shook hands and Snape left.
It had been a hard week's work for Frank and Alice, so tonight Sarah and Sirius were planning to take the boys off their hands so they could have a little bit of 'alone time.' Due to the fact that taking three squirming kids through a Floo was not exactly the best form of travel, Sirius had gotten directions to Longbottom Manor so that he could pick the kids up in Sarah's car. This was somewhat complicated by the fact that there was not an actual drive up to the house; as magical people, there was no need for it. The road passed a quarter mile away from the house, it being built in the centre of a large tract of land. The Floo system and portkeys were the normal method of access and exit. This problem was solved by Sirius bringing his broom in the boot of the car and flying from the road to the house. He landed and knocked on the door.
"Oi Alice, are the kids ready?" Sirius could hear Harry and Neville in the background making excited yelps.
"Oh yes," Alice peered around Sirius. "Are Sarah and Draco with you?"
"They're out at the car. I picked up a couple extra child seats today, so they will all be strapped in."
"Where were you guys planning to go?" Alice stepped aside so that Sirius could enter. Just then, Harry spotted Sirius and squealed.
"Padfoot!" Harry rushed forward and grabbed Sirius' left leg, quickly joined by Neville grabbing his right. The sudden tackle attempt almost made him lose his balance.
"Whoa there!" Turning to Alice, he stated, "We're going to go into Muggle London and hit a pizza parlour that Sarah mentioned. It is supposed to be a 'kid friendly' kind of place. She mentioned something about a giant mouse."
"Sounds interesting, just make sure that it is a mouse and not a rat. Okay boys, do you have your brooms?" The toddlers broke away and rushed to the closet to grab their toy brooms. These were spelled with auto-balance charms and were limited to one metre height. They would go about fifteen miles an hour, so the trip to the road would pass quickly. They ran back to the entryway and looked expectantly at Sirius.
"Boys, you're not going anywhere until I get a kiss and hug," Alice scolded them with a smile. They dropped the brooms and wrapped their arms around her neck when she bent over. After a big hug and kiss, she straightened and asked Sirius, "What time should I expect them back?"
"Why don't you plan on about six tomorrow evening? We'll stuff them full of junk food and take them to the zoo tomorrow. Moony is coming with us tomorrow, so we can probably get them well worn out before we send them home."
"Sounds good, Frank and I can have some time to unwind, and I can drag him down to the shops tomorrow. What is it about guys that they hate to shop so much?"
"Don't ask me, I think that it is in the genes or something. And Alice, I know that I say this all of the time, but I really appreciate the way you and Frank stepped up in Harry's case. I would have hated to seen what would have happened if Dumbledore had gotten his way."
"Don't mention it. Besides, you are also doing a great job with Draco; I would hate to think how he would have turned out if the Malfoys had not been caught."
"See you tomorrow then. Okay boys, mount up!" Harry and Neville mounted their brooms and Sirius spelled them to follow him in a line. The trip to the car took just a few minutes, then Sirius and Sarah were strapping the boys into their car seats and putting the brooms in the boot. Sirius snapped the lid closed, then turned and put his arms around Sarah's waist. He drew her close.
"Do you have any idea how much I love and appreciate you?" he asked. He bent his head and kissed her gently.
"Oh, you might have mentioned it a time or two. But we had better get these ravenous beasts to the restaurant before they start plotting our downfall." She gave him another quick peck and they headed around to the front seats.
Charles Cheeze Pizza Parlour
The three boys were captivated by the sights, sounds, and aromas at the 'family friendly' pizza parlour. After Sirius had ordered, they slipped down from their chairs and begged him to allow them to play some of the games. Sirius exchanged some sterling for tokens, and the males of the party went to find some age appropriate games. By the time the pies arrived, they were on the way back to the table with several stuffed toys and other prizes.
"Looks like a nice haul," Sarah said with a grin.
"You would be amazed how good these kids are at that crane game. One would take the controls and the others just stood quietly on each side. There were several times that I wouldn't have thought that they would get the prize, but each time they played, they got something. Nobody else had that kind of luck; they had to restock the machine."
Sarah looked at the boys with a stern look. "You boys didn't do anything to the machine, did you?"
With looks of total innocence, they, as one, shook their heads. "No, ma'am" Draco said, "We just wished that we would win."
"Well, I guess that is no different than what anyone else does," Sirius said with a grin. "Besides, should we tell the management that these kids wished the prizes out of the machine?"
"Of course not, but we are going to have a little talk when we get home about right and wrong. And not using sneaky means to get what they want. But for now, let's dig in."
They were mostly finished with their pies when the stage show began. One of the female employees introduced the players and the curtain opened to show a large man in a grey mouse costume, a bear playing the banjo, and a dog on the drums. The bear and the dog were animatrons, robots programmed for certain motions. The mouse, on the other hand, would announce birthdays and such. Harry glanced up at the stage and paled. He quickly got the other two boy's attention, and their heads went together while they dropped their voices. Sarah and Sirius did not notice this, they were looking at the stage and enjoying the show. Before they could spot what the boys were doing, the trio had slipped out of their chairs and ran full tilt at the stage.
Harry ran straight up to the costumed employee with Neville and Draco a step behind him. He drew back his foot and delivered a solid (for a three year old) kick to the man's shin.
"Bad 'ermtail! Bad, bad, bad!" With each 'bad', he struck out at the confused man. The other boys got a look of intense concentration, and suddenly the man's feet flew out from under him, and he found himself hanging upside down in mid-air. Sirius and Sarah jumped out of their seats and rushed the stage to grab the three boys. With their concentration broken, the man fell in a heap on the stage. There was a series of pops and suddenly Ministry Obliviators were there, stunning and Obliviating everyone in sight. One of them came up to Sirius.
"We got a report of a huge burst of accidental underage magic coming from here. Do you know anything about it, Black?"
Sirius quickly explained what happened, the boys thinking that the mouse-costumed employee was Peter Pettigrew, and the Obliviator slapped his leg, roaring in laughter. Through his laughs, he suggested that Sirius and the Longbottoms consider putting some minor blocking spells on the boys to prevent a recurrence, then told Sirius that he would be receiving a bill for the emergency call. "And Pettigrew better hope that he never meets these kids, he won't know what hit him. That poor muggle sure didn't."
Sirius grabbed Sarah and the boys and got the heck out of there before anything else could happen.
A/N: Yes, I know that there were not any Chuck E. Cheese pizza parlours in London back then, but the scene just popped into my head…. My muse forced me into it!