- Rough Draft
- Work in Progress
- Abuse - Child
- Dark Themes
- Death - Minor Character
- Discussion - Child Abuse
- Discussion - Murder
- Discussion - Torture
- Disturbing Imagery
- Hate Crimes
- No Beta
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
- Fix It
It likely said something unfortunate about Elphinstone’s life choices that he knew his house elf was bringing him sensitive information solely by the gnarled grey hand touching his shoulder. Too many long years meant Elphinstone woke without a sound at the nudge, eyes snapping open and magic tapping into the house’s wards. However, all the usual questions demanding an update stuttered out upon his realization that it wasn’t his Elf valet waking him, or even sweet little Lola who ran his London house and had been irked for days by the Aurors sleeping on his sofas, it was Gingham.
Gingham, the head of all the Urquart Elves, who was supposed to be enjoying his retirement and experimenting with plants in the manor greenhouses. Gingham, who had been his grandfather’s valet at the turn of the last century. And Gingham, who upon the rise of Voldemort had declared he was too old “to be following Sir into his nonsense anymore” and appointed his successor.
Elphinstone popped upright and fought back the urge to gather the old Elf into his arms to check him for wounds. Before he could speak, Gingham interrupted in a level and uninterested voice, “Miss Minnie is at the house.”
“She’s downstairs?” Elphinstone flipped back the covers. “Are the lads giving her grief?”
“No, Sir. She is at the house.” Elphinstone paused halfway out of bed and only decades of training kept him from clarifying. There was only one house Gingham could mean with that tone, one house that had been under lockdown since the war started and where this particular Elf had been in charge. “She asked that you come directly.” And based off the pointed raise of one his brow bone, that directly probably meant something closer to quietly. Though why Gingham felt the need to sneak about in Elphinstone’s own house, he couldn’t imagine.
When Gingham was certain that Elphinstone understood his implication, Lola popped up beside the bed. “Lola will be telling the Aurors that Sir woke early and went to breakfast.”
“When they complain tell them I didn’t want to pay for their lazy arses.”
Lola gave him the same pinch-lipped frown she always did when she was forced to deal with less than distinguished Wizards, but nodded that she’d sell their little story. She snapped her fingers and Elphinstone’s pajamas vanished in place of his standard work clothes. “They be stirring, Sir.”
Elphinstone thanked Lola and took Gingham’s hand to let them pop them out. A few of the sleeping Aurors were talented enough to recognize the magical ripples of a Wizard apparating through the excessive wards Elph had wrapped around his home, but only the master of the house could keep track of the House Elves. In a blink Elphinstone arrived on the front walk of the Urquart family manor and started for the house. “Gingham,” Elphinstone said before the Elf had the chance to pop himself away, “do all of you know what’s going on?”
“No, Sir. Others don’t know, but they magic can feel my worry.”
“You want to warn me about what’s in there causing you worry?” Of course, Gingham popped away instead of answering. “Silly me.”
Over the course of their years together, Elphinstone had lost track of the number of times Minerva had apparated into his home or his office. Whether it was to complain about students, their ridiculous parents, or the state of her tea, Minerva’s sudden arrival was something that everyone from the House Elves to his department secretary was prepared for. Minerva’s arrival at Urquart Manor, however, was not. It had happened a scant handful of times in their friendship, each time triggered by some terrible upheaval in Minerva’s life.
With each step, Elphinstone steeled himself to be told that a corpse had just been discovered and another of their friends had fallen in those last few hours before Voldemort’s demise. But what he never would’ve expected if he’d been given a hundred years to guess was Minerva McGonagall perched like a queen in the wingback chair before his fireplace, with a baby in her arms. In case he didn’t believe his own two eyes, there were three House Elves perched in a row along the back of the chair, others leaning over her shoulders, one on top on the mantle like a miniature gargoyle, and Gingham himself in the place of pride beside her on the chair with the child’s hand wrapped around his finger.
For a man who prided himself on maintaining his reflexes despite his advanced age, Elphinstone was a bit ashamed that he stood there like a lump and stared at the lot of them.
As always, Minerva was a bit faster on the uptake than he was, and without taking her eyes off the child, she announced, “Read the scroll first. I have the pertinent passages marked.”
One of the poor younger Elves had been exiled to the doorway, forced to stand there waiting for Sir with the scroll outstretched. The second Elphinstone relieved him of his burden the boy bounded over to the circle and scrambled up on his older brother’s shoulders to stare down at the baby. Since Elphinstone retained the sense that God gave a slug, he did as Minerva told him. He let the scroll unwind in his hands like it was on a player piano, stopping so often that Elphinstone had no problem keeping track of the mundane things that happened in between the highlights so that when this inevitably ended up before a judge there wouldn’t be any justifiable circumstances to blindside them.
Because this abomination, this was going to end up in court. A magical child out there being abused by Muggle relatives? Chaos of the war ending or not, this kind of thing shouldn’t be happening when someone could set a few wards, cast a charm or two, and have a child protected from anything even resembling abuse.
Admittedly, Elphinstone didn’t ask himself why it was that Minvera would be anywhere near this house monitoring them with a DMLE-grade transcription quill. The excessive use of ‘freak’ to describe the baby instead of anything resembling a proper name meant that when the quill jotted down Minerva’s entrance and the name Harry Potter, Elphinstone went weak in the knees. Gingham nudged a chair behind Sir to keep him from dropping to the floor, but Elphinstone just kept reading, soaking in the details of Minerva’s conversation and aching to read the letter that the quill had down as a stretch of silence.
With years of long experience, Elphinstone tabled his first instinct to demand details that she shouldn’t be giving to an officer of the law and instead asked to see the paperwork. Limited though his own experience in domestic issues was, there were no glaring holes in the forfeiture or assumption of parental rights that called out to even his attention. They would need to call in a specialist to verify, but that could be tabled for the moment. “We need to contact a healer.”
“They never actually struck Harry. I would’ve gotten him out of the house immediately if they’d tried.”
“I know,” Elphinstone soothed her hushed temper. “You’re going to have to go in front of a judge and prove that they shouldn’t take him away from you, paperwork or no paperwork. You can verify that you took him without going to Magical Child Services because you were gathering proof of abuse. The fact that you waited for proof and that you took him the second you had incontrovertible evidence will be both good and bad depending on the judge. Either way, you’ll have a stronger case if you can show that being in the Dursleys’ presence negatively affected his magic. And if Dumbledore was willing to turn the child over to Wizard hating relatives, I can’t imagine he thought to have someone check over the boy despite being attacked by He Who Must Not Be Named.”
“You know why I didn’t go to Child Services, Elph.”
He shoved aside the desire for it to be half an hour ago when he was back in bed. “Because none of them bothered to check in on the boy or find out what happened to in the days since his parents murder. And you can’t send Harry blood Potter off to some foster home or orphanage when there are Death Eaters on the loose. I understand perfectly, Nerve, and we’ll get you a judge and a barrister who will understand full well why believed you did the right thing.”
“I did do the right thing and you know it.”
“Don’t snap at me, you’ll wake the baby.”
“I couldn’t leave him there!” Minerva hissed.
Gingham slipped off the chair, giving over his seat to Sir so he could perch beside Minerva in the small space. “I wouldn’t want you to. Honestly, I’m a bit stunned that you managed to hold out as long as you did.” Minerva pressed the sleeping child closer against her breast, giving him a few little bounces at some non-existent sign that he might wake. “This is going to be difficult, love. You’ve made it easier on yourself with proof of abuse, but no matter what you did before or what you do now, you’re going to have a beast of a time keeping custody. It’d my job to think of the worst and try to protect the both of you against it.”
“Do you have a healer we can call?” Minerva asked, her voice at little thick with tears she wouldn’t acknowledge. “Every one I know would go immediately to Albus the moment I warned them not to.”
“Frankly, I don’t even know if the medics assigned to the Aurors would have any idea what sort of aftereffects to look for in a person whose been struck by the Killing Curse.”
“Do we look for that now, or after we’ve got custody?”
Elphinstone did not react at all to the ‘we.’ Minerva preferred it when he ignored her accidental bouts of sentimentality. “It can only help matters to be clear that we thought of having him checked when Dumbledore didn’t, despite his assumption of parental control. I’ll contact some of my associates in Germany and America and see if they have any recommendations for someone who’d be willing to keep things quiet.”
“You can hold him, you know. He’s not going to bite.”
“I recall you saying the same thing about your nephews before they bit me.”
“And now Lewis is in training to be an Auror.”
“If you make a joke about him ‘getting a taste for it’ because he bit me, so help me Minerva—”
“You have obviously been spending too much time around your junior Aurors.”
“Those junior Aurors are going to be my alibi when someone comes around asking me if I’ve heard from you. We can’t both hide behind the wards of my townhouse and hope that no one asks too many questions.”
“I’m not hiding with him!”
“You damn well better be. If your hand gets tipped too soon you’ll be the most wanted woman in the Wizarding World and that means that baby getting dropped right back with the Muggles you took him from, and part two of them will only be worse.”
“No swearing in front of the baby.” Minerva reached around and pinched his thigh.
“He can’t hear me when he’s asleep!”
“You still need to get into the habit!”
“Do I?” A different woman would at least pretend to give Elphinstone the illusion that what he had any choice in the matter. Minerva had never been one for beating around the bush when stating bluntly could do just as well. Minerva rose from the seat to her miniscule height and yet somehow managed to look like a queen as she slipped the sleeping child in his arms.
Based off Minerva’s nieces and nephews, Harry was small for his age. He still had the chubby features of a well-fed baby, but the weight of him was barely more than the blankets wrapped around him. He was straddling that invisible line between baby and boy, and for all that Elphinstone had never seen the child awake, he was absolutely certain that any son of James Potter would be climbing up and over things the moment he was given a chance. Elphinstone couldn’t even begin to imagine the kind of baby proofing that he’d have to do to keep control of a Marauder.
“Elphinstone Urquart, this is Harry James Potter.”
“This isn’t the first time you’ve introduced us, you know.”
“I assumed you’d forgotten, because no man with a full memory of the afternoon Lily and James asked me to be their child’s grandmother would waste any of the precious time that we have obsessing about obvious answers.”
“I wasn’t obsessing.
“You only answer questions out loud when you’re obsessing over something. The rest of the time you assume correctly.”
“Do you feel better now that you’ve scolded me into being co-parents?”
“Don’t you sass me Urquart.”
“If I don’t then we’ll have nothing to talk about.”
Minerva bit back a smile and as much as Elphinstone wanted to give her a moment of peace, he had to make sure things got done so she could have many more moments like the one she deserved now. “Minerva, I need to know, has the Potter’s estate been settled yet?”
“I have no idea. If it has it didn’t include me.”
“Do you think that they would have left Harry with these relatives in their will?”
“Not in a million years. Lily spoke to me once or twice about her Muggle sister and there was no love lost between them. Sirius told me that things only got worse after the sisters got married because their husbands disliked one another on sight.”
“I can only imagine how Sirius would’ve worded that.”
“Fat lump may have been used.”
“Sirius was Harry’s godfather, yes?” Minerva nodded. “Do you believe they would’ve left Harry to Sirius’ custody? Or would he have gone to the godmother?”
“Alice Longbottom was his godmother, not Petunia. I’m sure they had her on the paperwork somewhere, but Sirius would’ve been first. If I had to guess I’d say Sirius, then Remus, Alice and Frank, and even Albus and I might be on the list of people someplace. James would’ve known better then to leave any chance that the Last Scion of House Potter would end up in the hands of Muggles who hated his parents. Frankly, I’d imagine that his last resort would be to call on half a dozen old alliances that various families had with his house and ask one of them to take his son as their ward.”
“But you imagine that Sirius Black is the one they granted immediate custody to?”
“Almost certainly. But Sirius… Sirius has fallen.”
Elphinstone shoved aside the stab of pain that came from Sirius’ unexpected betrayal. The boy had been a beloved protégé, quick with his smile but too dramatic in his dueling. He was the closest Elphinstone had ever felt to being a father and he’d looked forward to seeing what kind of man he became. Never in his wildest dreams had he imaged that Sirius would break his heart through anything other than laying down his life to save the day.
“The simplest way to get Harry back from you would be to put him in the hands of whoever the will say is legally meant to have custody over him. Unless there’s a medical miracle, that person cannot be Alice, and despite his confession, Sirius hasn’t been convicted of anything. He may have been disowned from his family, but I can’t imagine Arcturus will leave him to Azkaban without fighting it tooth and nail. Whatever might come of that, at this point he’s a dangerous loose end regarding Harry.
“We have no idea how his trial might go since the only witnesses to his confession are Muggles, and a talented lawyer will be able to cast them as misinformed fools. If someone wanted Harry they would exploit any loophole they can find get make Walburga, or Arcturus, or some former Death Eater declared Sirius’ parental proxy while he’s at trial. Or perhaps Arcturus will use the chance of that custody transfer to blackmail Sirius’ way out of charges. Without the will in front of us we can’t know how someone might exploit it, and Dumbledore has already set a dangerous precedent by putting Harry with someone so unsuitable without even bothering to consult the court. He can’t be trusted with boy, and now his opinion on Harry will have little to no weight.”
Elphinstone laid the child back into Minerva’s waiting arms with gentle hands and asked one of the Elves to fetch his red Auror robes.
Minerva cradled Harry in one arm and grabbed Elphinstone’s jacket before he could step away. “Where are you going?”
“Phin—” Minerva half rose out her seat, but Elphinstone nudged her back when Harry gave a grumble. He gave a soft stroke to Harry’s cheek that calmed the child and dropped to a knee before Minerva.
“Sirius is your best guess as the person who should have custody, and that’s a risk we can’t leave out there for someone to exploit. We can’t have you running around where someone can report on your movements, and I think both you and the child have earned a bit of rest in a safe place after the last few days. Stay here, compile the evidence, send one of the House Elves to ask your brother to recommend someone trustworthy and ruthless to handle the adoption, and get the pieces in position.
“You know that if Albus wants Harry with the Muggles he’s going to pull out every last stop to make it happen the way he wants. You’re the only one who knows him well enough to guess how he’ll manage that. But you’re the superior chess player, Minerva, so get the board set up for us.”
Elphinstone rose and tossed the cloak around his shoulders with flair that somehow managed to make him look efficiently dramatic and had made Minerva’s breath catch ever since she’d been nineteen and trying not to be one of those silly girls who was smitten with their boss.
Twenty years later, and Minerva had not spared a thought about coming straight to Elphinstone after she’d kidnapped the savior of the Wizarding World. Going to one of her brothers, or her own home, or even to Albus and shouting at him until he agreed with her – as was their usual approach to conflict – had never crossed her mind. Going to Elphinstone was an autonomic action. There were few people in the world Minerva could trust to be competent, and Elphinstone was one of them. And here he was, doing precisely what she’d known he would do: saving the day in a fit of logic and common sense.
Minerva handed the baby to Gingham, who had his gnarled hands already outstretched, stood up and lunged for Elphinstone. Somewhere in the course of their relationship Minerva had lost track of the number of times she had turned up at his house and without a word he had taken her into his arms until she didn’t want to hex one of the school Governors anymore. Or there was the number of kisses she had dragged him into, and even those instances she had hauled the man into his own bedroom and he had never once complained. Even now the poor fellow was going to be bruised from how hard she’d smashed against his ribs and a kiss that had been more a collision of teeth and jaws than anything else. She soothed the motion to something less brutal but no less desperate, her hands running up the tendons up the back of his neck across the smooth skin of his head, though she kept herself from tracing her nails over him despite the way she knew it made him shiver. Already he’d have to wipe off the lipstick before the Azakaban guards gave him nonsense, he didn’t need scratches to make it worse.
All too soon Minerva pulled back with a juvenilely loud pop of their lips parting. She swept her thumb along the bottom of his lip and cleaned him up a bit before taking Harry back and heading towards the bedrooms. Elphinstone stood there for a moment, gathering together the shards of his professionalism before he muttered, “Well, all right then,” and apparated out the door.