- Work in Progress
- Discussion - Child Abuse
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
“Bloody hell!” James Potter swore out loud as he scrambled for his Wizengamot robes and tried to magic his Patronus into being at the same time. He finally managed to get the wand movement right and the glowy raven took form as he shrugged into the plain black robes which signalled a House in mourning. “Go to the Lady Alice Longbottom and tell her Fudge has called an emergency Wizengamot session, which since Neville is supposed to come in this morning for the hearing on his accidental magic last week is more than a little suspect. She needs to get Neville here pronto!”
The misty raven took flight and James took a moment to push his glasses back up his nose, straighten his robes – he refused to close them and instead left them open displaying his tailored crisp white shirt, narrow black tie and matching black pants – and take a breath before marching out of his office and down the corridor to the lifts.
One arrived with a bright chime which made James glower unhappily. He got in and was about to stab the button he needed when a shout to hold the lift had him shifting to press the ‘doors open’ button instead.
Two more Wizengamot members hurried inside. Lord Richard Bones was still pulling his traditional lavender robes on over his grey pants and a silk grey shirt whereas Lord Tiberius Ogden had his robes buttoned up and wore the pointed lavender cap to boot. Ogden gave a snort at the two younger men and reached past James to stab the right button with the end of his cane.
James nodded at both as the doors slid shut and the lift began to descend.
“Any ideas what this is about?” Richard asked as he smoothed his robes down.
“Neville’s supposed to be coming in for his hearing this morning.” James said briskly. “It wouldn’t surprise me if it was something to do with that. Fudge has been trying to discredit the Longbottoms all summer.”
“He’s bloody lucky so many of us are in this morning!” Richard grumbled, running a hand through his thick blond hair.
“Actually,” James said, “I think he was rather hoping most of us would be elsewhere since he only provided us with a ten minute warning.”
“Fudge is a bloody idiot.” Ogden grumbled, his heavy grey brows lowering.
James and Richard exchanged an amused look. They weren’t about to argue with Tiberius’ view of the Minister. Cornelius Fudge had been a half-decent if bland Ministry official for most of his career but since he’d ascended to the position of Minister of Magic, he’d descended into a bigoted fool, happy to be swayed by the slightest flattery and – if James was any judge even if he had no proof – by the merest hint of gold.
The doors opened and they walked out quickly, falling in with the other Wizengamot members who were also hurrying towards the chamber.
James felt his breath catch as it always did every time he entered.
The chamber was an impressively large space – circular in honour of the Round Table with the original roughly hewn wood itself embedded into the centre of the floor. Half the room was given over to the members of the Wizengamot who entered from the wide double doors to the North; the other half of the room was a public viewing gallery and the public entered from the South. Surprisingly the public gallery was almost full despite the early hour and the speed of the summons.
James frowned as he followed Tiberius up to the top tier of the Wizengamot where the Ancient and Noble Houses were seated. There were thirty seats – and James was relieved that most seemed to be filled. Below their tier the additional Noble Houses were also well-populated. The Order of Merlin recipients had seats in the third tier with the Ministry Department heads seated on the fourth. The fifth tier was the floor of the Wizengamot. There was an ornate seat for the Chief Wizard, with the seat to his left taken by the clerk, Augustus Dullard, and the seat to his right taken by the Wizengamot scribe, Alonysius Dippet.
James sank into his own seat with a sigh of relief as the Minister sprang to his feet and the public gallery quieted in response.
“Close the doors!” Fudge shouted, his chest puffing out proudly.
“Hold!” Lady Griselda Marchbanks stood and glared at the Minister. “The Minister has no place calling for the doors to close!”
James wrinkled his nose as the Minister’s odious Under-Secretary jumped to her feet.
“Hem-hem!” Dolores Umbridge wagged her finger at Griselda. “I think you’ll find that under the Ministerial Act of 1876 the Minister has the right to close the doors in the absence of the Chief Warlock or Witch.”
Griselda glowered at her. “And I think you’ll find Madame Umbridge that the Act only provides such powers to the Minister if the Chief Warlock has delegated his authority in writing with his waxen seal and magical signature as proof, or if the Chief Warlock is medically unable to do so and there is a Healer’s authenticated note to justify the temporary shift of power!”
James kept the grin off his face with difficulty. It was a shame Moony and Bats weren’t there, he mused; they would enjoy the sight of Umbridge being taken to task by the wizened Griselda, as though Umbridge was a toddler and Griselda was an annoyed nanny, as much as he did.
“Do you have such proof?” asked Griselda bluntly.
“Well, I never…” Fudge began to bluster.
Umbridge’s smile remained pinned on her face. “I’m afraid you are mistaken, Lady Marchbanks. The Act of 1856 did require such provisions but the Act of 1876 superseded it and has no such conditions on the Minister assuming power of the Wizengamot if the Chief Warlock is not present at the designated time of the session.”
“Actually it does.”
The smooth deep voice had heads turning to look in surprise at the occupant of the Black seat.
Sirius Black lifted one dark eyebrow at the attention.
James could objectively admit that maybe Black deserved some of the simpering and giggles that twittered across the public gallery. Black had always been good-looking even as a school-boy but if he’d been a pretty teenager with his dark locks and silver grey eyes, he’d grown into a beautiful man. It was more than just his classically handsome face with its sharp cheekbones, a strong jaw and a straight and proportionate nose; it was the air of quiet confidence and the hum of leashed power that added to his attraction. The black robes Black wore over what appeared to be an outfit of entirely tailored black clothes didn’t hurt either.
James had never lacked confidence in his own attractive features but even he sat up a little straighter in his chair before he realised what he was doing.
“I beg your pardon, Lord Black?” Umbridge stammered out.
“Lady Marchbanks is correct. While you rightly state that the Act of 1876 did not state the provisions of the previous Act explicitly, you missed clause one hundred and fifty-one B which grandfathered the Act of 1856 in its entirety also into the Act.” Black recited almost lazily.
James almost snickered at the dumbfounded expression on Umbridge’s face.
“So unless you or the Minister have the required proofs, we will all have to wait for the arrival of the Chief Warlock to call the session into order.” Black finished.
Fudge finally seemed to grasp that whatever plot he’d had to keep Albus Dumbledore away from the Wizengamot had failed. “My apologies to the Wizengamot members,” he said smoothly, “I was expecting under the terms of the 1876 Act that I would be able to prevent us from wasting time waiting for the Chief Warlock but it appears we will need to do so. My thanks to Lord Black for the correction.” He sat down with a flourish of his robes and Umbridge took her own seat with a face that could have soured milk.
James tapped the armrest of his seat impatiently and paid no attention to the flurry of last minute members turning up and taking their seats.
He let his gaze wander back to Black and wondered what had brought the other wizard back to England. Andromeda Black had been the proxy of the Black seat since Arcturus Black had died five years before. Black had been abroad working with the International Confederation of Wizards at the time and had only returned long enough to bury his grandfather and take the oaths of the Wizengamot before handing the proxy over to his cousin and leaving again. James had sent the required condolences and had received a short acknowledgement note back. But that was the sum of their interaction.
Even at Hogwarts they’d rarely spoken.
Which wasn’t too surprising, James conceded silently to himself; Black had been a Ravenclaw and James had gone to Gryffindor. The two Houses rarely interacted and were generally separated by the tradition of the school timetable which had Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw sharing classes while Slytherin and Gryffindor were the other combination.
James frowned. He was certain they’d shared some NEWT classes but if they had they hadn’t collaborated on school assignments. His overriding memory was of a quiet and studious boy who regularly topped the class rankings and who didn’t indulge in the petty bullying and name-calling which characterised many of the other purebloods Black should have been friendly with.
There was a murmur of sound which broke through his meandering thoughts and James smiled warmly down at the sight of Alice Longbottom and his ex-wife, Lily, carefully ushering in Neville. Lily sat with Neville in the public area on the lowest bench while Alice made her way up to the Longbottom seat. James couldn’t help that his gaze rested on Lily for a long moment taking in the neat up-do that tamed her wild red hair and the green hue of her every-day robe. Their relationship might have been over for a number of years but she was still the mother of his children and he still loved her.
Lily caught his eye and nodded in acknowledgement. James was mid-nod in reply when Dumbledore rushed in and slowed as he realised the chamber was waiting for his arrival.
“Ah, excellent.” Dumbledore stroked his long white beard and assumed his seat on the floor. “I feared I was going to be rather late.”
“You are late, Albus.” Griselda said smartly.
“Then let us tarry no more.” Albus said, his eyes twinkling behind his spectacles. “Close the doors! This emergency session of the Wizengamot is now in session.”
The doors closed with a thump and James shifted position eager for the session to begin.
Albus suddenly did a double-take and stared at Black in visible surprise. “Lord Black, I did not realise you’d returned to Britain.”
“Just this morning, Chief Warlock.” Black said briefly.
Griselda coughed pointedly.
Albus blinked. “Right. We must catch up later, my boy, but for now, let me welcome you back.”
“Thank you and I look forward to our catch-up, Chief Warlock. I’m sure we have much to discuss.” Black stated dryly.
James wondered if he was the only one who caught the tense edge to their exchange.
“What is on our agenda?” Albus asked turning to Dullard.
“The Minister has called the session to adjudicate the matter of the Wizengamot versus Lord Neville Longbottom, the Duke of Salisbury.” Dullard recited without emotion even as whispers and mutters swept through the crowd.
Fudge really was a grade A bastard, James thought angrily.
Albus called for silence and his sharp gaze was directed at the Minister. “And what are the charges?”
Dullard cleared his throat. “The Lord Longbottom is charged with endangering the Statute of Secrecy by performing magic in front of two muggles on the night of August the eleventh, in the year 1995.”
“I object!” Alice Longbottom’s angry declaration broke through the rising murmur of more whispers and mutterings sending the entire chamber into silence.
“I second that objection!” Richard said loudly. “Lord Longbottom is a child, not an adult. The Wizengamot has no place adjudicating this matter!”
The Minister rose to his feet. “I believe I have the right to reply, Chief Warlock?”
Albus inclined his head. “I’m afraid that is correct.”
Fudge shot him a look but stood and turned to address the Wizengamot. “Members of the Wizengamot, I have called you here because of a severe breach in our most sacred law! Lord Longbottom is fifteen years of age! Old enough to know the difference between right and wrong. Is a ten minute hearing before the Head of the DMLE, a known friend of the family, be enough to fully judge the gravity of what occurred? Should not the Wizengamot have the right to sit in judgement on this matter?”
“I believe the Minister has a point.” Lucius Malfoy spoke up. He flicked his long blond hair back behind his shoulder and pinned a cold gimlet stare on Neville. “After all, others will no doubt follow in his footsteps since Lord Longbottom is the Boy Who Lived.”
to be continued