- Character Bashing
- Alternate Universe
The past almost two months had been far more interesting for Merlin than even the past two centuries had been, save for the various wars and battles he’d lived through in that time. They’d managed to capture, try, and punish Peter Pettigrew, condemning him to life in Azkaban in a rune-based warded and Animagus-proof cell deep in the darkest pits of the dementor guarded prison; Sirius had quietly registered his own Animagus form with the ICW before anyone could complain.
Much to Merlin’s pleasure, the goblins had been able to find and promptly cleanse all but one of the Horcruxes. Their rituals had been able to determine that the final one was located somewhere in Hogwarts, but the general consensus that it would likely be easier to wait until the longer summer break to search for it rather than try during the much shorter winter one.
The plan was to introduce the idea of overhauling the school’s wards in the coming Wizengamot session, using the fact that they hadn’t been updated since before the Second World War (a fact that had been gleefully given to him by the goblins) and the lingering paranoia from the most recent Blood war. After all, quite a few Heirs had been lost in the war between Voldemort and the Light, and those that were under the age of majority and still at school or younger were highly prized regardless of the alignments of the various Families. It would likely be child’s play to use that to get near-unanimous approval regardless of what Dumbledore tried to say or do.
Merlin walked through the halls of the Ministry of Magic, Arcturus and Frank on either side of him. They made quite a few people stop what they were doing and watch, especially since it had been quite some time since Arcturus had been seen at the Ministry, and even longer since he’d been seen dressed in the elegant plum colored robes of the Wizengamot. Whispers followed them as people immediately started to gossip about Lord Black and his companions, one of whom was entirely unknown and the other who was far younger than the other two and hadn’t been proven to their fellow members of the Wizengamot.
The three men rode the elevator down to level nine and then went down the stairs to level ten, heading into the opulently appointed Wizengamot chambers. They parted ways there, Frank heading to the Longbottom box where Augusta was waiting until the session started– she would be moving to the observation area at that time –while Arcturus went to the Black box where Sirius waited in the Heir’s seat. Merlin glanced around for the Potter box, and upon spotting it, walked across the main floor and then up the carpeted stairway until he reached the dark oak door to the box on the top tier around which the other Most Ancient and Noble Houses were arranged. Only the empty royal box was higher, but it would remained closed off until Amaranth ascended properly to her throne at twenty-one.
He placed his left hand against the Potter coat of arms on the door, making sure the ring made contact with it as he pushed out with his magic. The coat of arms glowed a deep silver before the door swung open, allowing Merlin entrance. There were three padded and comfortable chairs in the box: a Head/Regent’s chair, an Heir’s chair, and then a Lady/Consort’s chair. The Head’s was in the center; the Heir’s was to its right, and the Lady/Consort’s to the left and slightly behind the Head’s. There was a sideboard at the back of the box that had a pitcher of water and goblets on a silver tray; a small table sat between the Heir’s and Head’s seats to put the goblets and small plates of food on if the session ran long, while a waist-high table sat in front of the chairs to be used as a desk or other writing/reading surface. A discreet door in a corner led to a small washroom with a toilet and sink within.
Merlin sat down in the Head/Regent’s chair, letting his shrunken staff click firmly into the wand slot in the right hand arm. The moment it clicked into place, the golden coat of arms on the front of the box gained a merlin falcon rising volant on either side of it in dark silver to mark his role as Regent over the House of Potter. He felt the magic of the Wizengamot rise up to test him as he settled in.
It felt curious, rather like a dog sniffing at a kind stranger. Merlin let his magic reach back, chuckling softly when the magic of the Wizengamot seemed to perk up and then roll over on its back, as if asking for a belly rub. A smile curved his lips at that. He doubted many places in Magical Britain would be closed to him given his status as a true and soul-marked servant of Magic, but it was always amusing when deeply magical places reacted like that to him. He activated the privacy wards on the box and then cleared his throat.
“A Potter elf to me, please,” he said quietly. There was a subtle pop and a house elf was standing next to his chair, her neatly pressed uniform of a black knee-length dress made of a soft tea towel marked with the Potter coat of arms over her right breast.
“Hello,” Merlin said kindly. “What is your name?”
“Callie, Regent Potter sir,” the elf replied.
“You can just call me sir if you like,” Merlin told her. “I don’t really stand on formality all that much. Are you the elf assigned here, or were you just one that was able to come?”
“Callie takes care of the Potter Box and makes sure it’s supplied when the ‘Gamot is in session,” Callie replied. Her ears drooped. “We elves miss Lord James and Lady Lily. Is Miss Mara alright?”
Merlin winced, mentally chastising himself for forgetting about the Potter elves. “You all have my apologies,” he said, getting out of his chair and then kneeling in front of her. He held out his left hand. “Here. Touch my ring and you’ll be able to find her. I believe Lady Malfoy is watching over her and her cousins at Potter Manor. I apologize for banning you elves from there while we settled in.”
Callie reached out and brushed her long fingers over the carnelian set atop the platinum ring. Her bright brown eyes closed briefly as she took in the secret of Amaranth’s location. She nodded and then let her hand fall away. “Thank you for keeping her safe, sir,” she said, a bright smile forming. “The others will be happy to know she’s alright. Callie will go tell them and then return to serve the Regent.”
“Only the Potter elves,” Merlin insisted. “The Black elves know the Secret as well. Heir Black has adopted her as his daughter in blood and magic.”
“Master Padfoot will be a good father,” Callie said, bouncing a little on her toes. “He loves Miss Mara.”
“That he does,” Merlin confirmed. “Thank you, Callie. Come back here within…” He checked his pocket-watch. “…ten minutes. Keep yourself unseen just in case.”
“Yes, sir,” Callie said, giving him one last smile before popping away. Merlin rose to his feet and then went over to the sideboard, pouring himself a glass of water. He took a long drink, refilling the goblet before setting it on the table next to his seat. He sighed before turning to look at the enchanted mirror that hung next to the door. His connection to the box’s wards was telling him that someone was attempting to get in who wasn’t allowed. The mirror showed a rather annoyed-looking Albus Dumbledore standing outside, wearing a particularly garish set of bright red robes with candy canes, jolly snowmen, and sparkling snowflakes all randomly drifting around on it.
Merlin winced. By the Lady, did the man have no fashion sense whatsoever? Merlin wasn’t the most fashion-forward person to be sure, but at least he wasn’t a walking advertisement for blindingly saccharine kitsch. He stepped forward and pressed a rune at the bottom of the mirror that activated its partner hanging on the wall next to the door outside.
“Can I help you, Chief Warlock?” he asked, keeping his expression composed and neutral.
“Yes,” Dumbledore said shortly, barely even attempting his usual facade of grandfatherly kindness. “You can tell me who you are and how you managed to trick the Wizengamot into accepting you as the Regent for House Potter.”
Merlin arched an eyebrow at him. “You can’t trick the magics of the Wizengamot,” he replied. “It’s impossible since it was founded on the same protocols that the Pendragon himself set down.”
With more than a little help from Merlin himself, naturally, but Arthur had been the one to tie the protocols to the boulder-sized ward stone sunk deep under the polished floor of the Wizengamot. It was entirely separate from the Ministry’s own warding scheme, as the latter had come far later than the Wizengamot and the Wizard’s Council that had preceded it. The initial meeting space for the Wizengamot had been a natural cavern far beneath the surface of the quickly growing port city above, and the Ministry of Magic had been constructed overhead by the goblins in the 1700s. That was why the Wizengamot chambers were so far down rather than up on a more prestigious floor, even though quite a few complaints had been lodged about it over the centuries.
Dumbledore let out a huff at that. “Be that as it may, you still haven’t told me who you are.”
“I am Lord Ambrose, the Magic-appointed Regent of the House of Potter. If you want to debate it, please contact the goblins at Gringotts and they will provide you proof. I also was accepted by the magic of House Potter itself,” Merlin said calmly, lifting his left hand to show off the Regent’s ring. “If there’s anything else you would like to discuss, we can do so after the session is over, though I will ask that you make an appointment via owl, as I am rather busy most days. Have a good day.”
Merlin deactivated the viewing abilities of the mirror on Dumbledore’s end, rolling his eyes at the other wizard’s immediate response of attempting to get into the box again. He watched him continue to try until the chime signaling the five minute warning before the start of the session rang out, forcing Dumbledore to abandon his attempts and retreat to the box set aside for the Chief Warlock. Merlin wondered how long Dumbledore would be able to keep that post, especially given the fact that he’d been the one to lead the charge to seal the Potters’ will.
He took his seat, deactivating the privacy wards just as a second chime sounded. Merlin settled back in his chair, curious to see how the rest of the Wizengamot would react to him. He highly doubted Dumbledore would be pleased with any of his choices, even if quite a few of them would likely benefit Avalon and the British Wizarding World greatly. Dumbledore struck his gavel against the hard surface of the table in front of him before setting it aside.
“Welcome, honored Lords and Ladies, to the Winter Session of 1981,” he said, folding his hands on the table in front of him. His voice was magically modified to be heard from any part of the chambers, be it in the observers’ balconies near the main floor or the royal box itself. “Many things have changed since we last met. I would ask that we take a moment of silence to remember all those who have fallen in the war against the Dark Lord Voldemort, regardless of what side of the battlefield they were on.”
He bowed his head, lifting it about a minute later before clearing his throat. “Now then, to business. Lord Recorder Ogden, do we have any outstanding business from the last Session?” he asked, turning his attention to Tiberius Ogden, who served as the recorder and keeper of the minutes of each Session, a role that had belonged to the reigning Head of the Noble House of Ogden since the Wizengamot had been established.
Ogden quickly read over the minutes of the prior Session, paying particular attention to the section at the bottom of the record scroll that listed all of the items that hadn’t been resolved at the end of the Autumn Session. He crossed off several items, as some of them had been taken care of since they’d last met in September, and then set his quill in its holder. He read out the remaining items before settling back in his chair. Thankfully, with the death of Voldemort, the most pressing matters were easily taken care of in short time.
Merlin watched all of this in thoughtful silence, ignoring the curious looks he was getting from his fellow Wizengamot members. It seemed that the body was roughly divided along alignment lines, though not all Houses voted solely with their similarly aligned compatriots. It was certainly going to shake things up along party lines when the Houses of Black, Malfoy, Longbottom, and Potter voted similarly on an issue. While Potter and Longbottom were traditionally Light aligned, Merlin was going to settle both the Potter and Ambrose votes firmly in the Gray alignment, giving him the most neutral base for Amaranth to learn from and eventually build upon.
Once the last pending item was cleared, Dumbledore opened the floor to new items. Arcturus immediately chimed in, pressing his wand down in its slot to signal that he wanted to speak. Dumbledore allowed it, though he had to quickly work to hide his disappointment that he had to hear anything a traditionally Dark House had to say.
Arcturus rose to his feet, a warm smile on his face. “Chief Warlock, honored members of the Wizengamot, I am pleased to introduce a new member of our ranks,” he said, the spells laid on the box projecting his voice easily around the chamber. “I have the honor of introducing Lord Merle Ambrose, the Head of the newly revived Most Ancient and Noble House of Ambrose and the Magic-appointed Regent of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter. Please help me in welcoming him to these hallowed halls.”
He led a round of applause for Merlin, who rose to his feet and bowed in thanks before sitting back down.
“Thank you for your warm welcome,” he said,. “I look forward to getting to know you all better in due time.”
“Congratulations, Lord Ambrose, on your ascension to our ranks. What alignment are you declaring your Houses to be allied with?” Dumbledore asked, more out of tradition than actually wanting to know. He was still seething over losing the ability to use the Potter votes. It would have been a boon to his agenda to have them to use, especially since by the time Amaranth grew old enough to have any say in the matter, her House would’ve been even more firmly entrenched in the Light and under his thumb.
“Gray,” Merlin replied, casually resting one ankle on the opposite knee. “House Potter and Ambrose are declared neutral.”
That sparked some chatter around the chamber, as House Potter had been aligned mainly with the Light for quite some time. A gray globe lit up over the seal on the Potter box, marking its alignment.
“Are you sure, Lord Ambrose?” Dumbledore asked, eyebrows rising high.
“Very, Chief Warlock,” Merlin replied firmly. “Thank you for the double checking, though.”
Dumbledore hummed at that before looking around the chamber. “Any other new business?”
Frank immediately swooped in, the chime from his box ringing out. Dumbledore turned his attention to him, looking far more relieved to be dealing with an obviously Light-aligned House than a Gray or, gods forbid, a Dark House.
“Yes, Lord Longbottom? What do you have to bring before us today?”
“I would like to propose that we work with the Gringotts’ ward masters and curse breakers to do a full audit and update on the wards of Saint Mungo’s, the Ministry, and Hogwarts,” Frank said. “This war has taxed all of our resources, and I suspect that if it had continued on for much longer, He Who Must Not Be Named would have turned his attention towards those three pillars of our community. I propose that we ensure that those who might try to attempt to follow in his footsteps cannot do so. We’ve lost too many of our heirs and spilled enough magical blood in this war. Let’s make sure we don’t lose any more in the future.”
Merlin had to hand it to Frank; the young lord knew exactly how to play to all aspects the crowd. None of what he’d said had anything to do with magical alignment, instead appealing to things all sides had in common. He wondered if Augusta had had any hand in the short speech, but kept that thought to himself, instead preferring to watch and listen as debate sparked up all around the chamber. After about forty minutes or so of intense discussion about where the funding for the audits would come from, Dumbledore called for a vote on the matter.
“All those in favor of this motion?” he asked. “Light your seals, please, to indicate your votes.”
A good eighty-five percent of the Wizengamot lit their seals, leaving the need for a vote against the motion entirely unnecessary. Dumbledore nodded, sitting back in his chair. “Very well, the motion has been carried. Lord Longbottom, as you are the instigator of this motion, I will leave it in your capable hands to get everything organized. I would ask that you create a committee to help you deal with this, as well as work with Gringotts to create an account that we can pool the funds for the work into to ensure prompt payment. I would also ask that the work on Hogwarts’ wards waits until the summer so as to not interrupt the students’ learning.”
“That was already in the plan, Chief Warlock,” Frank assured him. “I wouldn’t want to disturb anyone’s learning, especially not with OWLs and NEWTs approaching so quickly.” He smiled. “It’s not been so long since I was worried about passing my NEWTs, so I’ve not forgotten how panic-inducing it can be.”
That earned him a round of laughter from the others, particularly from those closer to Frank’s own age. Albus smiled benignly at him, all the while furiously thinking of what he could do to stall or otherwise delay the work on Hogwarts further than that coming summer. The curse that Voldemort put on the Defense Against the Dark Arts position would surely be found and dealt with, something that Albus had been using ever since the early 1960s to control just how much of the Dark Arts the children that passed through his domain actually learned. After all, if none of the teachers lasted for more than a year, how would anyone, Slytherins most of all, actually learn how beguiling the Dark Arts were?
Oh, sure, he’d allowed the students to be taught enough in the subject to pass their exams, but nothing more than that. If a non-Slytherin student had shown a particular aptitude in DADA, Charms, or Transfiguration, then Albus had subtly recruited them into his Order, currying favor with them especially if they were from a rich stock both magically and monetarily. Wars needed money and blood to run on, after all, and Voldemort was no easy foe to vanquish, especially not with that thrice-damned prophecy that had put quite the damper on Albus’ plans for the man. The war was supposed to end in a spectacular battle pitting good against evil with him at the head, not because some babe still in diapers had the benefit of two parents willing to go to any length to protect her, including using quite illegal blood magics that, while Dark, weren’t Infernal.
Albus still wasn’t exactly sure how the Killing Curse had rebounded– and it had to have been the Killing Curse, even if the only person who actually knew what had happened that night was still mostly pre-verbal –as Voldemort didn’t tend to favor the messier curses, jinxes, or hexes that his subordinates did when it came to killing his opponents. He was sure, however, that young Amaranth Potter now carried some of Voldemort’s soul within her. Alas, the girl would have to die one day because of it, but preferably not before she’d killed Voldemort or, at the very least, had weakened him to the point where someone– preferably Albus himself so he could further cement his place in history as the most powerful magic user in the world since Merlin –stepped in to land the killing blow, thereby ridding the world of the Dark Lord once and for all.
Albus cleared his throat and focused on the Potter box. “Lord Ambrose, an important question for you before we conclude this Session,” he said, his words causing silence to fall across the chamber. “You took Regency over House Potter. What happened with Heiress Potter?”
“Shouldn’t we be asking you that, Chief Warlock?” Merlin asked. “You, after all, were the one who placed her with a supposedly safe family… somewhere.”
“I did, but I suspect you may have removed her from that situation,” Albus said.
Merlin hummed. “You’re right, I did,” he said calmly, “but you already knew that. She is actually safe and sound in a secure place, and that is all I will tell you. She will learn exactly what she needs to survive in the Wizarding World and in the Mundane one as well. There are others who know the Secret of her permanent location.” His expression tightened. “She is not going to be raised unaware of her heritage like what would have happened had she grown up where she was initially placed.”
“You swore that she would be raised to know our customs and history, Albus Dumbledore!” Lady Bianca Zabini called out, ignoring the speaking protocol in her surprise. “What else have you lied to us about?”
Merlin sat back as chaos erupted throughout the chamber, drawing on all of his skills to keep his expression neutral as he watched Dumbledore try to defend himself. After a while, Dumbledore pulled rank and ended the Session, leaving the Chief Warlock’s box in a flurry of jolly robes and indignation. Merlin waited for another ten minutes before leaving the Potter box, joining Augusta, Arcturus, Lucius, Sirius, and Frank on the main floor.
“Well, that went better than expected,” he said. Arcturus snorted sharply.
“Dumbledore nearly wet himself with that last comment you made,” he retorted. “You don’t pull your punches, do you lad? ”
“I’m not fond of people who fancy themselves puppet-masters,” Merlin replied tersely. “That never goes well for anyone involved, particularly not the puppets.”
“Agreed. Now, I suggest we get out of here and maybe get some lunch,” Sirius said. “I’m hungry.”
“I thought you were Sirius,” Frank shot back immediately, making the others roll their eyes– well, except for Sirius, who just grinned at his friend. The six of them left the Wizengamot chambers, managing to escape most of the crowd who wanted to talk to them before they could reach the Floos to go home.