Title: Judgment and Justice
Fandom: Harry Potter
Relationship(s): Arthur Weasley/Molly Weasley
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Adultery, Dark Themes, Discussion-Child Abuse, Discussion-Rape/Dubious Consent due to potions, Drug Use, Infidelity
Author Notes: The discussion of rape/dubious consent is due to potioning and nothing explicit is shown or discussed.
Word Count: 64,768
Summary: When his sons steal his flying car to rescue Harry Potter from the Dursley’s, Arthur Weasley can’t ignore the signs of abuse the boys report. His instincts as a father result in an investigation into corruption that will lead from a muggle home to the highest levels of magical government. Before it ends his world will be rocked and Arthur will find himself hanging onto his family and his faith in Magic’s Judgment and Justice.
Cover Art by sexycazzy
Arthur Weasley entered his home Friday morning after a long hard night. His work in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Department had kept him out while they conducted raid after raid. Eight in all last night. With one rather close call. He heard the usual breakfast sounds coming from the kitchen. A bite to eat and some well-earned rest was definitely in order. He was just glad he had finished his reports before coming home so that he could be off for the weekend.
He happily saw his children gathered around the table in various modes of morning dress. Their greetings warmed his heart. With a quick peck on the cheek for Molly, he took his seat before noticing one extra at the table. Even as tired as he was, it was easy to spot that this was Harry Potter. Molly quickly disabused him of any notion that the lad had arrived in the normal fashion. She was going on about it, but what caught his attention immediately was that the boys had taken his flying car.
Leaning over the cup of tea, Arthur asked, “So how did it handle?”
“It was smashing good,” George responded.
“Smooth ride, no bumps, landing was decent,” Fred added with a grin.
“What was that?!” Molly screeched.
Arthur winced, “You boys should not have done that” he chastised sternly before glancing at his wife to see the red creeping up her neck.
“But Dad” Fred started,
“They were keeping” George continued,
“Harry prisoner.” Fred finished.
“They’re exaggerating to talk their way out of trouble, and you are not going to allow it this time, Arthur. They dragged poor little Ron and Harry in on their escapades. Now I’ve already punished Ron enough for this. Harry is our guest, and it’s not right to continue to punish Ron when we know whose idea this was. But I insist that you do something about it. They could have gotten Ron and Harry killed, then where would we be?” Molly threw up her hands and stalked out of the room toward the laundry.
Arthur watched her leave and sighed tiredly. He looked back toward the twins. “Let’s all give her some room to calm down. I need to get some sleep. You two consider yourselves confined to your room unless she needs you for chores. We will talk this over with calmer heads this evening.”
The twins exchanged looks again, and Arthur waited them out. Magical twins often shared the same thoughts, and he had learned to be patient when they were little. Molly, on the other hand, always took it personally when they would double-speak. Give them enough time, and they would speak for themselves.
Finally, it was Fred who spoke, “Dad, we know you must be tired, but we aren’t trying to get out of trouble. We knew what we were in for if we were caught. It isn’t an exaggeration. They had Harry locked in a room with bars on the windows and look at him, it’s obvious they are practically starving him.”
George couldn’t hold back any longer, “His trunk was locked up under the stairs in a small cupboard. And there were signs someone had been living in there. There is something seriously wrong with Harry’s home, Dad.”
Many people took the jokes and the flippant attitude at face value when it came to his boys. But Arthur understood them in ways others rarely took the time to try. They were probably the closest to him in their love of tinkering and experimentation. But they also had a sense of justice that could most frequently be seen in their vindictive practical jokes. He saw that in them now. That need to take action. The need to right a wrong.
“I hear you, but honestly I’m too tired to make heads nor tails of anything.” Arthur looked at his son’s trying to determine if this would keep. “I tell you what boys, you stay in your room as I said. Punishment for taking the car we will discuss in full later. But for now, written reports from you both. I want every detail of what happened, and I want solid reports from each of you. Facts only. That’s the way it is in my department. If your mother asks, I told you to write your confessions. Then you will write apologies to your mother for worrying her.”
The twins sighed, agreed, and he added as they started to go. “And make sure every detail about driving that car is in those reports.” He raised his eyebrows, and the twins grinned broadly before racing up the stairs.
Monday morning arrived with a bang, literally. The twins were experimenting again. They had been reserved this weekend, so he was glad they were back to their usual shenanigans. By the screaming in the kitchen though he could tell Molly had hoped the quiet might last longer. Arthur got up to dress for work and reflected back over the weekend. He’d had several talks with Fred and George about what they had witnessed in the Dursley’s house. Both before and after reading their reports about the adventure. The more he learned, the more he believed that it might have been a rescue after all.
Indeed, to look at Harry, he was underfed and a bit skittish near the family, but trying so hard to fit in. He was relaxed around the kids but tensed up when Arthur or Molly got near. He had tried to talk to Harry about his situation, and the boy had deflected everything. He had acknowledged the bars, but every answer was vague enough that he had no proof. After that Harry had stuck to Ron like glue and the boys had avoided Arthur for the rest of that day. Ron, of course, was oblivious to the reason. He was just having fun with his friend here.
Speaking to Ron had been of little help. He would insist every time asked that Harry had been a prisoner there, but he couldn’t explain why he reached that conclusion other than the bars. He loved all his sons, but honestly, that boy must have skipped the line where they handed out intelligence and common sense. He couldn’t articulate one original idea. So, Arthur guessed asking him to explain all the warning signs of possible abuse had been asking way too much.
Arthur arrived at work early to request a meeting with Amelia Bones and was thankful that she had some time first thing. Madam Bones was the Director of Magical Law Enforcement for the Ministry of Magic. As such she was his boss, though he formally reported through his supervisor, Jasper Grey who oversaw several of the smaller departments. Arthur worked in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts division. Wizards were constantly ensorcelling everyday muggle items in ways that would harm or terrorize muggles.
While he waited nervously to be seen, he considered his options carefully. Handled the wrong way this could see him lose his job today, and he had a family to think about. But it is his family he’s thinking about now. What kind of father would he be if he saw something wrong and walked away? What message would that send to his children, especially the twins? The two of them were either going to be solid, productive citizens, or they were Azkaban waiting to happen. Besides, he strongly felt someone needed to look into Harry’s situation.
Madam Bone’s assistant stepped into the outer office, “Madam Bones can see you now, Mr. Weasley.”
“Right, thank you.” Arthur stood, took a moment to adjust his robes while taking a deep breath and entered the office. Within the office sat a woman behind a large solid desk. It lacked in ornamentation just as she did. Her appearance was austere, strict, graying blond hair pulled back into a bun, dressed head to toe in black. She had a monocle in one eye as she perused a stack of reports neatly lined up on her desk. Her morning tea on a tray to one side.
“Mr. Weasley, please enter.” She spoke. “I understand you have an urgent matter to discuss with me?” She raised one eyebrow.
“Ahem, well perhaps not so much urgent as delicate.” Arthur began. “You might not be aware, but my sons are housemates with Harry Potter at Hogwarts. Ronald, my youngest boy, has become best friends with the lad. He’s been writing him all summer without a response, and we were frankly becoming a bit concerned. On Friday in the early morning hours, he and the twins decided to take matters into their own hands and rescue the lad from his aunt and uncle’s home.”
She was still quietly staring at him, examining him as if he was a bug. Arthur pulled slightly at the collar of his robe before he caught himself and sat still while he continued. “They, um…ah, well they took my flying car for the rescue. Now I’ve double checked, and there were absolutely no sightings of them by muggles. The only muggle to possibly see the vehicle flying was Harry’s uncle, who incidentally is aware of magic. Therefore, the Statute of Secrecy has not been broken.”
She just continued to stare, it was frankly a bit unnerving. Molly would typically be yelling at him by now. “They reported to me that the boy had been locked into a room with bars on the window, nothing but a bed in the room, and a slot through the door to deliver food. And it couldn’t have been much food because the lad is much too thin considering how much Hogwarts feeds the children during the school year. Harry hasn’t actually said anything to me, but I see him. Molly has a tendency to yell a bit when upset, and the boy flinches from us when it happens. I just see too many signs not to question what his home life is like and if it is safe. But honestly, with his fame, I would prefer to keep everything as quiet as possible. I just don’t know what to do in a case like this.”
“I see.” Amelia removed the monocle while watching Arthur then spoke again. “The abuse of a magical child while under the care of muggles is a bit of a touchy subject at present. Add to the mix that this is not just some child, but Harry Potter, then I have to admit that any formal investigation has the potential to become explosive. What we need is someone with extensive knowledge and experience investigating incidents of child abuse.”
She wrote out a memo and sent it via the interoffice mail system. It formed into a paper airplane and flew away. While they awaited a response, she notified her assistant that she would like to cancel her first meeting and ordered a new tea service. The tea arrived barely a moment before another woman was ushered into the room.
She was short enough that he could wonder if there might be some goblin somewhere back in her family tree, though he would never be so crass as to ask. She stood a bit under a meter and a half and held herself fully erect. Her short brown hair was in a simple, no-nonsense cut. Glasses were set squarely on her face as she looked at the two of them waiting here for her. She had a well-tailored set of business robes with a broach offset.
When she spoke, there was a slight grain to her voice, “You requested my presence, Amelia, dear.” He had never heard anyone refer to Madam Bones as ‘dear’ in his life.
“Geraldine Strumpf, may I introduce Arthur Weasley. Arthur, Madam Strumpf is the current Director of the Bureau of Magical Child Protective Services. Geraldine, Arthur approached me for my opinion today regarding a rather delicate situation involving a well-known child.”
“I see,” Geraldine gestured toward the tea and poured herself a cup before taking a seat. “Please go on.”
Arthur took some time to go over everything again in a bit more detail than before, only leaving out the identity of the child.
“It has not escaped my notice that neither of you has mentioned the name of the child in question.” Arthur felt eyes upon him and was pleased Madam Bones had left it to him to decide. “I am waiting, young man.”
“It’s just, it is so easy for word of an investigation to get out. In this case, it would be, well, counterproductive to providing help for the boy.” Arthur explained.
“While it is good to know you are concerned over the welfare of the child, I must have a name in order to determine the appropriate actions. Now, a name if you please.” She stared him down.
“Harry Potter” it just slipped out. Arthur widened his eyes in surprise and then was calmed when he saw that she did not react poorly to the information.
“I see,” Geraldine repeated her earlier comment. “You are quite correct that an investigation into Mr. Potter’s situation would garner a bit of ill-advised attention. However, he is not the first child that requires special handling to avoid the limelight. The MCPS does require some kind of formal report to begin an investigation. I cannot accept your opinions as cause to open such a report. I will need a formal report from your sons, specifically the two who entered the domicile along with an interview with the child in question.” She removed her glasses and proceeded to clean the lenses with a lint-free wonder wipe while she spoke.
“You may bring the twins in tomorrow. And then tomorrow evening perhaps Amelia and I could join your family for dinner and meet with young Mr. Potter. Today, I will unofficially review our department’s documentation regarding the custody of the child. Even with a will, an official home inspection is required when an orphaned magical child will be under the guardianship of muggles, relatives or not. And then a welfare check must be performed at least once a year. Those two are non-negotiable. We must assure that the new guardians fully understand the needs and are able to handle magical outbursts on a young, possibly troubled child. I will review the custody declarations of the will myself.”
With that, she stood, and Arthur politely stood with her, “Amelia, Mr. Weasley, perhaps it is best if we meet here tomorrow afternoon. To keep the issue out of my office as long as possible. Now if you don’t mind, I will get on with my day.”
Once the door shut, Arthur returned his gaze to Madam Bones. He retook his seat as she motioned him.
“I understand the risk you have taken coming to me with this issue. At this time this is just an informal, hypothetical discussion and nothing has been recorded. So, Arthur, if I may call you that?”
He nodded sharply once.
“I will not ask how one might have acquired a flying car. Or, what other items might be found nearby said car. But, if this investigation becomes official, then such questions must be asked in order to demonstrate that there is no favoritism. While I would not wish to see you punished for attempting to assist young Harry, I would and will carry out my duties to the full extent of the law. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Madam Bones, I believe I understand you fully. If that will be all, I believe I am feeling a bit poorly and need to take the remainder of the day off if that is acceptable to you?” Arthur stood.
With the barest hint of a smile, she inclined her head. “I believe that is an excellent idea, Mr. Weasley.”
Arthur gathered his family together as soon as he arrived home. “Now, everyone. There is nothing wrong, but we have a bit of a minor situation, children. Tomorrow evening we will have a couple of guests for dinner. Madam Bones and Madam Strumpf will be coming for dinner. I would like to make a good impression on them, so I need everyone to pitch in and give the house a good cleaning. Top to bottom as it is. We Weasley’s may not have the best, but we take pride in what is ours.”
Molly gave him a questioning glare before turning toward the children. “You heard your father. Time this place got a good cleaning anyway. Ron, start in your room and work your way down.” She smiled at Harry, “Harry, dear, you’re our guest, so don’t let this worry you.”
“I would be happy to help. I could help Ron with his room first.” Harry volunteered.
“Very well, but you two mind yourselves. I expect that room to be spotless in no time before you come down to work on the living room.” She turned to the others. “Percy, I know your room is already spotless, so if you could be so good as to help Ginny and then get a jump on laundry. You at least understand what fold means.”
“Of course, Mother. And I would be happy to oversee the younger children. We must ensure we make an appropriate impression on important members of the ministry.” Percival agreed.
“Fred, George,” Molly began.
“I’m George.” Followed by, “I’m Fred.”
Arthur stepped in before things could devolve, “Actually, I will require the twins’ assistance in my work shed for a while. I believe now is a good time to dispose of many of the items there. Come along boys.” And Arthur retreated out the door before Molly had a chance to interrogate him.
The twins, showing their own ability to quickly scrutinize a situation and respond, followed him quietly.
When they were far enough from the house, they spoke up, starting with George. “So, Dad, may we imply that”
“this sudden need to clean is”
“directly related to our”
“recent trip and the dispensation of” Fred speculated.
“one Harry Potter?” George completed.
“Yes, boys. You might imply that.” Arthur reached the shed and sighed as he petted the side of the car. “I want all of your little experiments boxed up, and your bedroom lab cleared out. Tomorrow morning the two of you will go to work with me for a formal report. Madam Bones will be inspecting the home tomorrow, and we need to ensure there is nothing questionable to be found. I’m sorry Fred, but as the driver, there may be some punishment, but by being proactive in this, we can minimize everything. After all, you only used the car, you did not perform any magic yourself.”
“That’s OK, Dad. We didn’t get you in trouble, did we?” Fred asked.
“No, boys. At least not yet. So be thorough so that we can stay out of trouble.” He shooed them back to the house to start working on their room before turning back and petting the car again. Well, at least Molly will be happy to hear that this has been cleaned out. Arthur spent the rest of the day disposing of any muggle items that had been touched by spell-work.
“Now remember boys, I want you on your best behavior today. There is serious Ministry business taking place here and how you act will reflect on me. No jokes, no snooping, and absolutely no back-talking. You will do as you are asked, when you are asked, in the spirit of how you are asked. Do you understand me?” Arthur looked hard at George and Fred before stopping to check them in at security.
They soon found themselves outside the office of Jasper Grey. Arthur left the boys outside the office while entering to speak. Jasper was a bit of an unimaginative man. Injured in an unfortunate potions lab explosion he was no longer able to engage in fieldwork. Nominally he focused primarily on ensuring the paperwork between his divisions were appropriately filed and reviewed the cases to determine if it could be submitted to the Prosecutors Office.
“Do you have a bit of time for me, Jasper?” Arthur asked loudly when the man kept reading. The explosion had left Jasper a bit deaf and with a loss of peripheral vision, so it was probable that he hadn’t noticed Arthur entering rather than was ignoring him.
Jasper jerked slightly surprised before waiving Arthur in. “Good day, Arthur. Just getting caught up here. Looks like your paperwork from last week’s raids is all in order. Not that I expected anything else. Tiptop work you always do here. So what can I do for you this morning?”
“Well, I have a bit of a problem, and I know I must do my duty and report it,” Arthur stated. He had been considering all day yesterday as he cleaned out his shop how to handle this conversation.
“Very well, let’s hear it.” Jasper urged.
Arthur pulled something the size of a matchbox out of his pocket and with a flick of his wand returned it to its original size. Inside the box were eight muggle items of various types. “Sometimes I take my work home with me, you might say. You see, purely as a way to improve my own skills in identifying such things mind you, I will sometimes experiment with spells that can be applied.”
“Arthur!” Jasper exclaimed.
“I am fully aware of the law. I had absolutely no intention to ever use, sell, or distribute the items that have been spelled. As you well know, as such, I have not broken a single law.” Arthur stated firmly.
“Why then bring this to my attention now?” Jasper asked with exasperation.
“Well,” Arthur paused. This was the sticky point. “I have a muggle automobile. The ministry has several for when we must travel within the muggle world. I do not know if you are aware, but they have been charmed with several expansion charms to maximize seating and storage space. The ministry has a special dispensation for using these vehicles.” Jasper nodded, and Arthur continued. “I experimented with adding the same to my automobile. I am relatively certain I could spot that spell work on any such vehicle now that I have used it myself. But I took it a bit further and also spelled the vehicle to fly, just to see if it was possible, mind you.”
Jasper’s eyes widened, obviously never contemplating that one would try to make a ground vehicle into a flying one. He sighed then inquired, “I understand wanting to be prepared. I assume you also practice how to remove such modifications?”
“Yes. The practice in a controlled environment has been immensely helpful in my work.”
Jasper cocked his head slightly, “While I am not happy you have done this without some sort of prior authorization to avoid the appearance of wrongdoing, as you say, nothing you have told me thus far is actually illegal. So, why report this to me now?”
“Well, that involves my boys. I have them outside to speak to you. But, I have learned that last Friday they took the automobile for a bit of a, how do the Muggles word it? A joy ride.” Arthur saw red rising in Jasper’s neck and tried to head it off. “Now the Statute of Secrecy was not broken. Not a single unaware muggle saw them. They performed no magic themselves, so the Statue of Underage Wizardry was not broken. Their only infraction is in actually using an ensorcelled muggle item in a way it was not intended to be used.”
Jasper just stared at Arthur while calming down. Arthur was relieved when the red disappeared. It meant Jasper was actually thinking this through. And Arthur knew that he secretly had a soft spot for the twins. His own younger twin brothers having perished in the war with Voldemort. “Not to repeat myself, but why tell me this now? By making this official, I have to take action. So why, Arthur?”
“What kind of father would I be if I didn’t show them that actions have consequences? I don’t want anything to happen to them, but I felt we could perhaps teach them to think things through.
They have a great deal of potential, and I would like them to grow into productive citizens and not into potential criminals. Due to the nature of the infraction, I was hoping that we could just push through a plea that would not end up on their permanent records? I believe Madam Bones could be persuaded to approve such a recommendation from you.”
Jasper sat up straight and nodded. “Madam Bones frequently accepts such recommendations from me. Let’s bring the boys in and see what they say.”
Arthur opened the door and called the twins into the room.
Jasper stared them down as they stood before his desk. Arthur stood behind them, a hand on each shoulder. “So boys, your father explained about your little adventure last Friday. What do you have to say for yourselves?”
Fred spoke up first. “I take full responsibility for this. I am the one who drove the car. While I took precautions to use the invisibility controls and to fly above the clouds, I was just thinking about having a little fun on holiday and didn’t consider that anyone other than me could get into trouble.”
George piped in, “I can’t let him take all the blame. It was my idea, to begin with, and if I had won the toss, I would have been the one driving. It never”
“Occurred to us” Fred continued.
“That our father”
“Could get in trouble”
“Due to our actions,” George ended.
The twins shared a look, “He isn’t in trouble now, is he?”
Jasper shook his head. “While he hasn’t broken any regulations, as your father he is responsible for your actions. You need to understand that your actions can have serious repercussions for those around you. What if you had been seen by muggles? Breaking the Statute of Secrecy is serious business, and you came very close to doing just that. One bit of spell failure, and we would be in a courtroom instead of in here.”
“We are very sorry.” The twins said together while putting on their little boy repentant looks.
“Well, I can see that you are both sorry for what was done. And it is good that you came in voluntarily to confess even though you were not spotted. But, I can’t let you off with just a sorry. So how about I recommend twenty hours each community service for the two of you. You can help your father’s department remove enchantments from muggle items that are backlogged for disposal. I think that is fitting. It will reinforce the dangers of misusing muggle items.”
“Excellent!” The boys said before looking contrite again.
“I am certain,” Fred started.
“that we have learned our lesson,” George ended.
“Very well. I will write up my report and recommendation for Madam Bones. In the meantime, I suggest you go ahead and get started. It will show your willingness to comply. I will file a special dispensation for the two of you to use your wands inside the ministry only. Mind you that this is not permission to go wild boys. You are paying off a debt to society and should do so with the proper demeanor.”
Arthur cleared his throat. “What do you say, boys?”
“Thank you, Mr. Grey.”
“Now, wait outside for me to finish.” As soon as the door was shut, he turned back, “Thank you, Jasper.”
“You are doing an excellent job raising those boys, Arthur. Of course, I do expect the automobile to be donated to the department. As you said, the ministry does have some. I think the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Department might be able to utilize a vehicle that can blend in with Muggles. Of course, the flying will have to go. Shame that. Perhaps we should test it first, purely for training purposes mind you. Need to know what to expect if we find something like that.” Jasper raised an eyebrow at Arthur before both broke into laughter.
It was three o’clock before Arthur received a notice to report to Madam Bones’ office. The boys dutifully following behind him. Jasper had already received notification that his recommendation regarding punishment was accepted. All told the boys had gotten in six hours of their community service. They had even been suitably chastised in appearance whenever anyone came round. Arthur was concerned they were secretly taking notes for some rather explosive practical jokes.
Madam Strumpf was already present when they arrived. Her face was tense, and Amelia’s had that little wrinkle between her eyes that indicated someone was soon to be in trouble. “Good day, Madam Bones, Madam Strumpf, may I introduce my sons Fred and George?”
“Good to meet you, boys.” Madam Bones said, “I trust you have learned your lesson today?”
“We will be much”
“In the future.”
“I suspect they mean they won’t get caught.” Madam Strumpf stated with a fleeting quirk of the lips.
Bones opened her desk drawer and removed an Auror grade transcription quill and a never-ending scroll. “Let us go ahead and handle the boys’ statements, then we can allow them to wait outside while we review what is known at this time.” She waved her wand and chairs moved into position around the desk. At her nod, Arthur took a seat and ushered the boys into place.
She looked at the twins and removed her monocle before addressing them. It softened her face slightly. “We have already reviewed your written statements. Thank you for being so thorough. These statements will be entered into our file. So I will ask you to first give a brief review of what happened, and then we will be asking some questions to clarify the information.”
With a tap of the wand, she began, “This is Amelia Bones, Director of Magical Law Enforcement. Today is Tuesday, August 10th, 1992. The following is the formal statements of Fred Weasley and George Weasley in the matter of the minor child, Harry James Potter. In my presence today are the minors Fred Weasley and George Weasley, their father, Arthur Weasley, and Geraldine Strumpf, Director of the Bureau of Magical Child Protective Services.
“Fred, if you could begin. Please, in your own words, describe to us the events that occurred on the morning of Friday, August 7th.”
Fred took a deep breath and began, “Our little brother Ron is best friends with Harry, um Harry Potter. We are all in Gryffindor at Hogwarts. During school, we rarely saw one of them without the other. The two of them and their friend Hermione Granger. This summer, Ron had written Harry at least once a week without a response. He learned that Hermione hadn’t heard from him as well. I honestly didn’t think much of it. He’s a nice kid, but after all, he is Harry Potter. He’s famous, and I just assumed he was too busy to write.”
“But Ron was upset and, well, George and I thought it was a perfect excuse to take dad’s flying car out for a spin.” He paused, and Madam Bones motioned him to continue. “We snuck out of the house after midnight since we knew dad was working overnight and flew the car to Harry’s address. When we got there, it was easy to spot Harry’s room, it was the only one with bars bolted over the window. We used a rope and the car to pull off the bars.”
“Harry was excited to leave, but all of his belongings were downstairs in the cupboard under the stairs. And the door to his bedroom was locked from the outside. There was just one slot at the bottom big enough for a food tray. So, George unlocked the door, and we went downstairs to get all of his belongings which were locked away as well. We got everything into the car and was just pulling Harry in when his Uncle entered the room and tried to grab Harry while yelling obscenities at us. I honestly believed he was going to hurt Harry.”
Amelia nodded her head and stated, “Thank you, Mr. Weasley.” She turned slightly and addressed the other boy, “George, do you have anything to add to this statement?”
“Yes, ma’am. I was in the room with Harry first. The only things in the room were Harry, his owl, which was in its cage, and a bed. There were no decorations, books, or scrolls. No toys or games. Not even a bedside table. When I unlocked the door, I didn’t use magic to do it. Down in the home, well I’ve never actually been in a muggle home before, but it was weird and very creepy. There were pictures on the wall that didn’t move.” George shuddered slightly. “They just stared at us frozen on the wall. They were of a large man, a rather plain woman, and their son. After we saw Harry’s uncle, I guess I realized those are photographs of the family. But there wasn’t any of Harry. If he hadn’t been with us, I wouldn’t have even guessed he lived there. And…” He exchanged a look with his twin, “I might have dropped a pack of Zonko’s color changing bubble gum when we were escaping.”
“Thank you, George.” She removed a list from a folder and began asking questions.
“First, regarding the issue of the flying car. This has already been addressed legally and is outside the bounds of this investigation. Next, regarding the muggle, Vernon Dursley. Fred, George, it is your statement that the only muggle who viewed the vehicle in flight was Mr. Dursley, is this correct?”
“Yes, Ma’am.” They spoke together.
“As Mr. Dursley is already aware of magic due to his custodianship of his nephew, Harry Potter, and by the acquaintance of his deceased sister-in-law and brother-in-law James and Lily Potter, then the Statute of Secrecy has not been broken.”
She noted her list and then moved on. “George, you stated that there were no personal items within the room. Did that include Mr. Potter’s wand?”
“Yes. It was locked in his trunk downstairs. Harry said it was locked up the day he returned home from Hogwarts.” George stated.
“When did he tell you this?”
“That it was locked up? When we tried to get him to come with us. About how long it was locked in the cupboard? That was later on the trip home.”
“Please describe for me Mr. Potter’s physical appearance when you first saw him.”
“Well, we first spotted him asleep through the window. When he got up to open it I thought at first he was wearing a nightshirt, but it was just a rather large ratty looking t-shirt. He put on some oversized jeans that he had to cinch tight with a belt to stop them from falling down, and he rolled up the cuffs a bit.” George said.
Fred added, “Other than clothes, well, he looked a bit thinner than when we left school.”
“It was dark in the room, and we couldn’t really see much of him.” George completed.
The next question came from Madam Strumpf, “You stated that Harry’s Hogwarts gear was locked in the cupboard under the stairs. Did you see any of Harry’s personal belongings stored there as well?”
The twins shared a look before Fred answered, “I didn’t see any other personal belongings, and Harry never mentioned anything else. But the cupboard was odd.”
“How so?” Strumpf prompted.
“There was an old bed in there. And some writing on the wall along with a few little knickknacks. It honestly looked like someone had lived in there at some time.” Fred explained with a shrug.
Madam Strumpf nodded to Madam Bones who concluded the interview. “This has been an interview of Fred Weasley and George Weasley.” She put away the quill and said, “Thank you, boys, for your help. If you step outside, my assistant will have refreshments for you while you wait.”
They waited until the door had closed, and Amelia had restored the privacy wards to her office before Arthur finally asked, “Well, I take from your interview of my sons that you found something?”
Madam Strumpf humphed angrily, and he watched the veneer of civility she had fostered with the twins drop away. “It is what I did not find that is at issue. I did not find a copy of the Potter Will. I did not find a file for one Harry James Potter that we are all aware was orphaned on the night of October 31st, 1981. I did not find a certificate of guardianship, custody, or adoption for the child. And I most certainly found no records of home inspections, welfare checks, or interviews with the child’s Aunt or Uncle. As far as I can determine someone circumvented the authority of my office to place the child illegally.”
She turned with eyes blazing toward Madam Bones, “You and I are both aware that there is only one person who would have the audacity to believe he is outside the bounds of the law.”
Amelia sighed, “I am aware that the two of you clash quite often regarding the welfare of muggle-born children, but you know I can not act on supposition.”
Arthur cleared his throat, “It was a chaotic night, and the day following was no different. There were still Death Eaters about causing trouble. And I know we were all busy in the ministry picking up pieces and trying to protect the Statute of Secrecy with all the celebrations that broke out. Could the paperwork have been forgotten in the rush to get the child to safety?”
“That is highly unlikely. And, even if there were a delay in starting the paperwork, it would not have been completely abandoned for eleven years.” Geraldine stated coldly.
Amelia Bones cocked her head slightly to the side considering. “Geraldine, what is the procedure regarding delicate cases? When the identity and location of the child must be concealed for the safety of the child and hosting family?”
“I assume you are referring to security protocols for the child and not the entirety of case handling and documentation?” At Amelia’s single nod, Geraldine responded, “Those cases are referred to the office of the Director only. Our Oath of Office protects us from releasing the information. We are magically protected, and the files are warded similarly. When a new Director takes over, following the Oath of Office, we meet with our predecessor and review all such files in detail. Once completed, those memories are obfuscated as a protection for the one leaving Office. We take every action to legally protect the children, Amelia. Even from our own.”
“So, what happens now?” Arthur asked.
“No twinkling-eyed old goat is going to supersede the authority of my office.” Geraldine began.
“I remind you that I will not accept supposition in place of evidence. Now, we begin an official investigation. For the moment, I will restrict the investigation to myself, acting on behalf of law enforcement, and Geraldine on behalf of the MCPS. We must, of course, still question the child. We can do so informally after dinner tonight. Depending on that interview, we will determine a plan of action.”
Geraldine nodded agreement but qualified, “Regardless of the interview, I require appropriate documentation for my files. I will start as it should have been with a copy of the guardianship instructions in the Potter will if there were any. I have the right to review that information in my position as Director. I have already contacted the Potter solicitors who responded that they can meet with us at 8am sharply tomorrow at Gringotts so that the Potter account manager can be present. Not uncommon for noble houses. They requested that the child be present at that time. Unless the interview yields unexpected results; I find that acceptable.”
“I agree.” Madam Bones added. “I will make myself available for that meeting. Arthur, will you be able to attend with the child?”
“Actually, Mr. Weasley has no legal right to accompany the child to the meeting. It might be best for me to take custody of Mr. Potter tomorrow until the situation is resolved.” Madam Strumpf stated firmly.
Arthur jerked back, “I don’t think that’s in Harry’s best interest. He is relaxed and enjoying his summer at my home. Shouldn’t he be able to continue? I know the kids love having him there and Harry’s a wonderful lad. To take him now would just seem like punishment to him.”
Geraldine shook her head sadly, “Sometimes we must hurt the children temporarily in order to help them. He is old enough to understand. As far as I can determine, the child has no legal guardians on file at this time. Until the investigation is complete and the custody is confirmed, it is my duty to see that he is placed under temporary guardianship for his protection.”
“What about me?” Arthur asked.
“I beg your pardon?” Geraldine replied.
“As you said, it’s a temporary guardianship until custody is determined. Why not officially place the child in my home?” Arthur responded.
“Well, for one thing, you have not been vetted and certified by my office.”
“I am a duly sworn Ministry employee under the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. I have a stable home, I have seven healthy, well-adjusted children, six of whom are boys. And in emergency situations it is allowable to temporarily certify a home for placement, else we would never be able to leave a child with relatives. Also, I am aware of the situation, and therefore, we would not need to involve additional parties.” Arthur argued.
Amelia nodded, “He is not mistaken. We can use tonight for you to complete a home check, but I am certain you will not find anything out of order.” She raised an eyebrow at Arthur, and he nodded confirmation that yesterday had been well spent.
“I am not sure you understand what you are asking, Mr. Weasley. Due to the child’s unique circumstances, I would have to insist on a formal guardianship oath. In my temporary custody that would not be an issue as my Oath of Office suffices.”
Arthur interrupted, “I still believe it is best for the boy, even with an oath. It is, after all, just a temporary situation for his protection.”
“Yes,” Geraldine replied but continued to explain, “Such oaths are magically binding for the term of guardianship only but if there is any compatibility a familial bond can start. That bond would not be limited by the terms of custody. Your magic could bind you permanently to the boy in a pseudo paternal position even after he is permanently placed in the appropriate home. If my memory serves me correctly, you are the Patriarch of your house. Any such oath would be binding on the members of your family as well. Are you willing to chance a permanent bond between the House of Weasley and the House of Potter?”
“I assure you every one of my children would be happy to call Harry brother. If such a bond grows, then I will consider it an honor to the House of Weasley.” Arthur replied assuredly.
Madam Strumpf looked at Arthur for a long while before she finally nodded. “Very well. Tonight I will inspect the home and speak with the boy. I will reserve final judgment until then as we are not yet aware of what the child knows given the situation. If, after the interview, I feel it will be an appropriate placement for young Mr. Potter, then we will complete the oath at that time.”
“Agreed, Madam Strumpf,” Arthur confirmed. “If that will be all, I will be taking my sons home. I will see you both at six.” And taking his leave, he quickly exited the office.
Geraldine and Amelia arrived via the floo promptly at six that evening. Geraldine took a moment while wandlessly waving off the soot to get a first impression of the room. It was a warm and inviting space. Pillows, throws, and doilies properly placed, pictures on the walls, a family welfare clock hanging on the wall. It was a place for a family to gather and spend time with one another. This was not a place where children were expected to be anything other than children. In Geraldine’s opinion that atmosphere indicated more to her than the monetary value of the items.
Arthur was waiting to greet them with one of his sons beside him. “Madam Bones, Madam Strumpf, welcome to my home. Thank you for coming. I would like to introduce you to my third son, Percy. Percy is a Prefect at Hogwarts.”
“Madam Bones, Madam Strumpf, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. May I take your cloaks?” Percy stood fully erect, and Geraldine looked down to unclasp her cloak while hiding a brief grin. The lad must have practiced that line for at least an hour by his demeanor.
“Madam Bones, Madam Strumpf, if you would like to take a seat here. Dinner will be ready momentarily, and the children are upstairs cleaning up for dinner.” Arthur led them to the living room while his son saw to the cloaks.
“Now Arthur, no need to be so formal. Tonight I’m just Geraldine, visiting your lovely home.”
“Thank you, Geraldine, it’s not fancy, but it’s ours,” Arthur said with a bit of tenseness that he was trying to hide.
Amelia took a seat in one of the chairs. “It is a warm and inviting home, Arthur. Not all of us can have a mansion as opulent as the Malfoy’s. You should be proud of what you’ve built here.”
Arthur grinned, “Can’t rightly see my bunch running through a place like that. Half the house would be demolished in a week. Boys will be boys after all, and some of mine are quite rambunctious.”
Geraldine watched Percy as he returned and tried to decide if he should sit with the adults, as he obviously longed to do, or stand. It was a bare moment as Arthur was aware and redirected his son with, “Percy, can you check with your mother on the timing of dinner and then check that your brothers are getting ready.” The boy nodded, disappointed not to be included with the adults she could tell. But Arthur continued, “You’re the only one I can trust to do so with any decorum.”
“Of course, father, I would be happy to do so.” And he left with his head held high, obviously pleased to have been complimented in front of important guests.
Arthur shook his head, “He wants to grow up so fast. Has ambition that one. I’m sure he sees himself as Minister of Magic someday.”
“That is a worthy ambition, one that will take a lot of work and connections to succeed. Even if he falls short, he can have a good career in the Ministry. Nothing wrong with knowing what he wants at an early age.” Amelia stated, clearly approving of a good work ethic.
“I have only ever desired for my children to be happy and healthy. Ambition is fine, but a child shouldn’t desire to grow up too soon. Plenty of time for adult concerns when they’re older. Childhood should be enjoyed.” Arthur disagreed slightly.
Geraldine smiled, she was really starting to like this man. Before she could add her thoughts, the sound of a herd pounding down the stairs started before a muted yell from Percy brought them to a halt, and then footsteps continued at a slower pace. Two young boys reached the bottom of the stairs and slowly entered the room. The first was red-headed, with a relaxed gait and open expression. The second boy, well, this is obviously Harry Potter. Black hair and glasses with the signature scar on his forehead, and don’t get her started on those missing reports which should have included a medical workup for the records. His clothing was apparently taken from his Hogwarts wardrobe mixed with some possibly borrowed from the other boy as the fit was just a bit large for him.
While the first boy walked right on up to his father, Harry paused at the bottom of the stairs, uncertainty filled his slim frame. His eyes were so expressive, and it pained a little to see him evaluating the safety of the situation and glancing at his exits before taking a step forward. Oh yes, she has seen these signs before she thought sadly while not allowing her smile to leave her face.
Arthur opened his mouth to speak as he gestured the boys to come to him. Before he could speak, his wife entered the room. With red hair and a big smile for her guests, she was smoothing the front of her dress. Arthur stood, “Madam Bones, Madam Strumpf, may I introduce my wife, Molly.”
She came forward to exchange polite handshakes, “I’m so glad to meet you both. Welcome to our home.”
“It is our pleasure to be here this evening. Your home is lovely.” Amelia responded.
Geraldine added, “We were just telling Arthur how warm and inviting you’ve made it. You have quite the talent for making a place feel welcoming.”
Molly’s eyes seemed to take on a bit more warmth, “Well, I think we make the most of what we have available. Dinner is ready if you would like to take a seat at the table.” She turned toward her son, “Ron, tell your brothers and sister to come down.”
As the boy turned his head, took a deep breath, and opened his mouth Arthur quickly covered it with his hand and leaning down said sotto voce, “I believe your mother meant for you to go tell your brothers and sister to come down.”
The boy winced slightly and nodded before his father removed his hand. He walked to the stairs before starting to climb. A few steps up the sound of running feet banging up the stairs interrupted the silence before the child’s voice called out, “Mom said to come down to dinner!”
Geraldine openly smiled while Arthur’s face dissolved into one of long-suffering. Then she turned to young Harry before he could attempt to remove himself from the area. “Young man, would you do me the honor of escorting me to the table?”
Harry visibly jerked and stuttered slightly, “Wwho? Me?”
“Well, I suppose that compared to me, Arthur could be considered young, but yes, you.” Geraldine held her smile.
He looked toward Arthur for instruction, which was an encouraging sign. Arthur turned and said, “Of course. And Amelia, might I escort you?”
She rose and took Arthur’s offered arm. Harry hesitantly and awkwardly copied the motion as they went into the dining room.
Several minutes were taken up as everyone was seated at the table. Harry, copying Arthur’s moves, held her chair while she took her seat. He stepped away as soon as was polite and stood nervously near a chair. The youngest son, Ron, was held back by one of the twins as he started to sit before Molly was seated by Arthur. After sitting, Arthur introduced his sons again and then his daughter before introducing Harry Potter and then his guests.
Geraldine surreptitiously watched young Harry’s responses during the introduction. He had a minor hesitation and embarrassment at his own presentation. But when Arthur said, “children, this is Madam Amelia Bones, Director for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement,” Harry’s brow furrowed. She could see the gears turning within to determine why someone of Amelia’s standing was here. Then with, “And this is Madam Geraldine Strumpf, Director of the Bureau of Magical Child Protective Services.” Well, that expressive little face locked down hard and the eyes became shuttered. Ah yes, he knows.
The food was served quickly, and the table eventually settled into a series of quiet conversations after the usual pleasantries about the taste of the food and promises to share recipes. Geraldine was able to get a feel for the family as they interacted at the meal. The youngest, Ginny, was a bit shy and didn’t often make eye contact. She was actually a bit of a surprise as it was a well-known fact that until her birth, the Weasley line was believed to be cursed to have only males. She had the red hair, but darker. Not quite that vibrant red so renowned in the line. Perhaps taking more after her mother.
The twins sat beside her, with her mage sight she could see that they were true magical twins, their aura’s meshed perfectly to form one when near one another. The opposite side of the table held Percy, who had attempted to be very adult when engaging Amelia in conversation. He was trying so hard to impress her with his knowledge. Next, of course, the youngest son, who spent most of the meal being reminded to lower his volume while devoting most of his conversation to Potter.
And then there was Harry. He was slightly awkward, but that could be attributed to nerves. When he thought she was otherwise occupied, his gaze would focus on Geraldine momentarily before returning to his plate. He had barely touched the meal, and she wished she could relieve him of his stress, but she felt it was just beginning.
And then there was Molly Weasley. That was a force of nature. Geraldine could easily see where Ron got his volume. She alternated between overseeing the children, engaging in polite conversation, and keeping a stream of well-made food on the table. Reading her was hard. A bit controlling and over the top, but her aura spoke of a bit of chaos as well.
Soon enough dinner came to an end. To move things along, Geraldine made a suggestion. “Molly, I would love to see more of your lovely home. Perhaps young Percy could show myself and Amelia around while you and Arthur take care of things here?”
Percy stood straighter if that was possible. “I would be happy to escort our guests mother” he added.
Molly stared for just a moment, calculating before agreeing, “Yes, that would be fine.”
Geraldine quickly added before the youngest could escape, “Perhaps Harry could join us and give us a newcomer’s perspective.”
“Yes, Harry, why don’t you join them. Not you, Ron, help your mother.” Arthur quickly encouraged them. With a small bit of pressure, he directed Harry toward their group and herded the rest toward the dinner dishes. So while Arthur and Molly supervised the children clearing the dinner dishes and cleaning, Percy led their group up the stairs.
“I am sure you have seen much more extravagant homes.” Percy began.
Amelia was taking in the layout and design, “Even so, few magical homes are as intrinsically magical as this one.” She pointed toward structural supports and the sometimes odd direction the walls took from the stairwell. “Take away the magic supporting this structure, and it all comes down. The supports themselves could not hold the design or weight. It would just be a matter of time. But with magic, so much more is possible. And, based on the ages of the woodwork in the lower levels versus that up here, I would have to say that the house has been added to at least three times, yet the magic signature shares the same relationship. That speaks of quite a well of power in the Weasley line. That is something to be proud of Percy.”
“Oh, I am. Now above us is the attic, and at this level, we only have the one bedroom belonging to my brother Ronald. Harry has been sharing it.”
“Oh, my…that is…orange.” Geraldine had trouble pulling her attention from the color. Though Harry’s quickly choked off laugh pleased her. “Harry, how does one sleep in this?”
He paused, deciding his response, “It’s a good room. Ron likes the Chudley Cannons.”
“A bit small for two boys though,” Amelia noted.
“There’s plenty of room. You don’t need much room just to sleep. And it’s nice having someone else around.” Harry defended.
Geraldine looked at the sloping walls and arrangement of furniture, “It looks comfortable and cozy to me. A place a person could feel safe.”
Harry’s gaze took a contemplative turn as they turned to walk down to the next level. They kept up the light commentary through each level and the tidy bedrooms, though Amelia seemed to pay particular attention to the twins’ room and that impressive little potions lab within. Geraldine observed her carefully casting detection spells while Percy was not paying attention. Harry’s brow would furrow when she did, and Geraldine winked at him and smiled.
They returned to the first floor to find the children gathered around the table playing a card game, while Molly and Arthur waited in the living room. “Thank you, Percy, if you could keep your brothers and sisters out of here for a while I would appreciate it,” Arthur directed Percy away while keeping a restraining hand on Harry’s shoulder.
Geraldine noted that he led Harry to sit on the couch between Molly and himself while she and Amelia took the chairs across from them.
After a bit of an awkward pause, Arthur took a breath then started them off, “Now Harry, I suppose you are wondering what’s going on. Well, Madam Bones and Madam Strumpf need to ask you a few questions. You’re not in any trouble. You are safe here; I hope you know. We love having you in our home. So just answer them honestly.”
Amelia nodded slightly to Geraldine, asking her to begin since Amelia’s clinical behavior could be off-putting. Great when dealing with criminals, but not very warm. “First, Harry, everyone here has your best interest at heart. My job is to make sure the children in our society are protected. It’s not always possible because as much as I want to help them all, I need help to do it. I need someone to step forward and say ‘this child needs help.’ But I promise you that once I know a child is in need, I don’t stop until I have exhausted every legal recourse.”
“You’re a smart lad. So, let me just tell you what has happened so far. We know the twins and Ronald brought you here from your aunt and uncle’s home in Arthur’s flying car.”
Molly let out a disgruntled humph, and Amelia quickly added, “Arthur came to his department head and myself to admit that. The legalities of the matter have been suitably dealt with, and there will be no repercussions to Arthur or his job.”
At Molly’s nod, Geraldine continued with her explanation. “So we are aware of the locked room and bars at the time they found you. We need to ask some questions about that situation so that we can properly investigate it.” Harry just shrugged without volunteering anything.
“Were there bars on your window, Harry?” A nod.
“Was the door locked from the outside?” Another nod.
“Can you tell us why you were locked in the room?” A shrug.
“Can you tell us anything about your home life with your aunt and uncle?” He stared at Geraldine a moment, judging her before finding the situation wanting and looking away with a negative shake of the head.
Amelia took over, “On July 31st at approximately 7pm there was a burst of magic originating on Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey recorded by the Bureau of Underage Magic.” Harry’s body jerked slightly before shrinking in on himself as if preparing to be struck. “A subsequent warning letter was sent to your home. Would you like to explain what happened on that date?”
Harry breathed in and out hard for a couple of moments and flinched when Arthur started to touch him. Molly’s eyes had grown a bit angry, and she opened her mouth to speak before the warning looks from Arthur and Geraldine silenced her. He stared Amelia down through the whole thing and never looked away as if willing her to drop it. Amelia stared back equally determined to get an answer. Geraldine sighed as she saw the barriers that the evening had been trying to erode come back up with extra reinforcement.
“Harry, I want to help you. We want to help you. But we need you to help yourself as well. Silence is not helping yourself.” He had a jaded look of disbelief that she was very familiar with in her agency.
“Silence is not helping you, and it will impede our investigation. But at this time it is still your right. You don’t trust us. You may not realize this, but that lack of trust answers several questions for me and makes my determination to continue my investigation all the greater.” He looked a little confused at that statement, so she continued as if she hadn’t seen it. “Let me explain to you what I have found so far. Well, rather, what I have not found.”
She kept her eyes locked on Harry to judge his reaction. “When this story was brought to my attention it was not enough to do more than a cursory check as I had no information or perspective for what was being described. Especially since my witnesses are not familiar with muggle homes and therefore could have been misinterpreting what was seen. It would not be the first time a magical mistook muggle interactions. But it was enough to review your case file to ensure everything was in order.”
“You see, Harry, you were orphaned in magical society. When that occurs, a case file is automatically opened. In the normal course of events, my department reviews the parents’ wishes in the will if one is available and verifies that the new home can take the child. There is an interview with the new guardians, and that is it. When, as it is in your case, the new guardians are muggles then there is also a mandatory yearly welfare check on the child to ensure that the family is doing well raising the magical child.”
Harry’s brow furrowed again as he was slowly shaking his head no. Geraldine nodded confirmation. “Yes, as you might imagine, when I looked for your case file, I did not find one. My department was never involved in your placement with the Dursleys. We do not have any records that the placement was legal or any home visits proving it a suitable home for a magical child. You see, unlike magical families, we have the authority to override the wishes of the parents’ will if the muggle home is determined to be dangerous to the development of a magical child.”
Amelia stepped in again, “We are investigating that occurrence to determine if it was simply an oversight during an emotionally charged night and the day that followed or if the system was deliberately circumvented. That investigation will continue, no matter the outcome of your custody.”
“Now, I have opened a file on you. The first thing that will happen is that I have, in my role as Director of MCPS, requested a reading of the guardianship clause of the Potter will. That will take place tomorrow morning at Gringotts.” Geraldine continued.
“My parents left a will?” Harry asked.
“Well, of course, they did. The Potter solicitors have been the firm for the House of Potter for the last nine generations. Most noble houses have long-standing relationships with the firms representing them.”
Harry got that confused look again as if his world view was changing. “Noble house? Mum and dad were…”
“The Lord and Lady Potter of course,” Amelia stated firmly. “Didn’t your aunt and uncle explain about your parent’s situation and the responsibilities of your title?”
“I don’t have a title,” Harry responded with disbelief.
Molly interjected, finally unable to contain herself, “Don’t be filling the boy’s head with things he’s too young to understand. He is much too young to be concerned with titles and duties. He is a boy and should be allowed to be one as long as possible. There are others that can deal with all of the nonsense until he has finished his education.”
“I disagree.” Amelia stared her down. “Without the proper guidance, he will be unable to properly function in the role heredity has gifted him. As the last of the Potters, he has an obligation to his ancestors to uphold the position and traditions of his House.”
“Well, ultimately it is up to his guardians to decide what he needs to learn,” Molly stated dismissively.
“Agreed,” Arthur said while exchanging a look with Amelia. Geraldine noted he did not actually state who he agreed with, but Molly’s smirk indicated she believed in his support.
“Regardless,” Geraldine took up the reigns of the discussion once more, “until legal custody is officially determined we cannot allow you to return to your aunt and uncle. You will be present tomorrow to meet with the solicitors and for the discovery action on the will. But even if the will confirms that your aunt and uncle’s custody is legal, we must complete our investigation before you are allowed to return to them. Since it is only a few weeks until your Hogwarts school term begins, it is unlikely that the investigation will complete before then. Mr. Weasley has requested that we authorize him to be responsible for you and has offered you a place with his family until your permanent custody is finalized.”
Harry looked hopefully at Arthur and then Molly as Arthur looked at him kindly and nodded with a smile. Molly’s head began bobbing in the affirmative as she confirmed, “Yes, we would love to have him here. Such a wonderful boy.”
A sudden bang and yelling from the children in the next room had Molly throwing her hands up in frustration. “Those children! I’ll be right back.” She stood and marched out.
Geraldine pulled a scroll from her handbag along with a self-inking pen. “Since your wife is in agreement, why don’t we go ahead and get the paperwork out of the way Arthur. I filled this out for this eventuality.” She rolled it out. “As you can see, it is a standard emergency guardianship contract. You promise that for as long as the custody is in effect, Harry will be considered your son. You will see to his physical and emotional needs. You are responsible for his actions. A stipend to offset the expense of his care will be provided. Do you have any questions before you sign?”
“No, it appears to be in order.” Arthur took the pen and signed while Harry watched him with quiet awe. Amelia took the pen and witnessed the document without speaking.
Amelia and Geraldine stood, and Arthur pulled Harry up with him. “We will see the two of you at Gringotts at 8am sharp tomorrow,” Amelia stated as she moved to the floo, summoned her cloak and left.
“I had a good time tonight, Arthur. Your home is warm and inviting, and your family is a wonder. I feel you and I will be good friends by the time this is over.” Geraldine summoned her own cloak and approached the floo before she turned back suddenly, “Oh, I almost forgot. The Oath of Guardianship Arthur.”
“Right, of course.” He pulled his wand and with it in his hand, placed his fist over his heart. “I, Arthur William Weasley, do so swear to provide guardianship to Harry James Potter for so long as the term of custody exists. To this end, I will perform any parental duties required by law, society, magic, and conscience. As Patriarch of the House of Weasley, I magically bind this agreement to all those connected to my House by blood, bond, or magic.” A golden glow swept over him, and a brief accompanying flash around Harry showed his magic accepted the connection.
Geraldine smiled briefly and grabbed a handful of floo powder to return to her home. Her last sight of the Weasley home was of Molly Weasley framed in the doorway with a look of horror on her face.
It was the middle of the night as Molly moved carefully and quietly down the stairs. What in the world was Arthur thinking making a binding magical oath? Doesn’t he realize permanent familial bonds can be started with such things? He’s going to ruin everything. All the years of work to get to this point, and in one unthinking move, he could sabotage everything.
She gathered ink, quill, and paper before sitting at the kitchen table to write. Clearly, Dumbledore is not aware of current events, and she needs an ally to bring this situation to a screeching halt. He assured her that the boy would be desperate for acceptance and family when the time came. The work she’s put into grooming Ginny and Ronald will be wasted if the boy latches onto Arthur instead.
Finished with the letter she passed by the family owl, Errol, to use Percy’s owl, Hermès. She didn’t have time to waste, and the younger owl could deliver the message and return before anyone was aware he was gone. “Now you take this to Hogwarts and get back here before sunup.” The owl quickly launched, and she watched a moment as it disappeared from sight.
She cleared away signs of her night’s activities and noted she was out of Arthur’s potions. With a sigh, she realized that it would be a while before she could afford the ingredients to make more. Perhaps Severus could supply her with a bit to tide her over. Well, there’s nothing to do about it tonight. She’ll floo him tomorrow after she has more information about the custody. With that decided she silently returned to her bed, confirming Arthur had not woken during her nighttime walk.
Arthur and Harry appeared at the Diagon Alley apparition point just before 8 am the next morning. Arthur had been slightly upset to learn the only robes Harry had were his school clothing. He had Harry dress in his best slacks and shirt with his school shoes but borrowed the best available day robe from the selection of hand-me-downs Ron will be getting this year. He determined that he would discuss Harry’s attire with the Potter account manager before leaving to see if a proper wardrobe might be funded.
They stepped up to the nearest teller window, and Arthur was relieved the bank was not busy at this time of day. He didn’t want to advertise that Harry was meeting with anyone. When the goblin looked at him questioningly, he stated, “Arthur Weasley and Harry Potter for a scheduled meeting with the Potter account manager.” The goblin leaned down over the desk to look at Harry before writing a note that disappeared with a wave. The unnamed goblin continued to stare at them without speaking until another walked up to them.
“Follow me.” He turned and walked away without introducing himself. Arthur urged Harry to follow quickly so they didn’t lose the goblin who moved quicker than his size would seem possible through the halls of the bank. Finally, they stopped in front of a door, and the goblin opened it and stepped in. “Misters Weasley and Potter.” He announced before turning and leaving.
Inside was a medium sized conference room with a solid oak table polished to a shine. Arthur nodded to Amelia and Geraldine, who were already sitting on one side of the table. While the goblin at the front of the room remained seated, four men on the opposite side quickly stood as they entered. One of the men, slightly older and greying in a navy blue business robe approached and held out a hand to first Arthur and then Harry to shake.
“Good morning, Mr. Weasley, Mr. Potter. Thank you for taking the time to meet with us in person. I am Robert McEarlean of the Firm of Locklis, McEarlean, and Stroan. I am delighted to be able to see you again, Mr. Potter. I am sure you don’t remember, but your parents brought you with them frequently to our offices when conducting business. We are extremely pleased that we are finally able to begin the estate process for the Potter Will after so many years in stasis.”
“If you would like to be seated, I will be happy to introduce you to my colleagues.” He led them to the table before indicating the other men seated. “Please meet my partner Jacob Stroan.” He gestured toward a middle-aged gentleman with dirty blond hair and glasses. “Jacob and I share responsibility for the Potter Estate. These are our associates, Martin Kirby and Sean McCreary, who will be assisting us.” He motioned toward the two sitting at either side.
Bowing slightly to the head of the table where the goblin sat, he continued, “It is my honor to introduce you to Grinlok, who has been the Potter account manager for the last sixteen years. It is my understanding that the Clan Grin has been handling Potter accounts since the founding of Gringotts. We thank him for hosting us this morning.” Grinlok smiled slightly, his pointed teeth making the expression less than friendly, as he nodded his head in their direction.
“And I have been informed that you are already acquainted with Madams Bones and Strumpf,” he bowed slightly to the women. “Before we get started, do you have any specific questions for me today? I assure you that even though this is short notice, we are fully prepared to review any information regarding the estates. As you can imagine, we are eager to finally conduct a reading of the will. However, a full reading must wait until a date can be published, and invitations sent to the beneficiaries. That shall be started as soon as possible, and we would like to confirm a date during this meeting.”
Madam Bones interjected, “Excuse me, but are you implying that the will has not yet been properly read and executed prior to today?”
“Well, yes, of course, Madam. Upon the death of the Lord and Lady Potter inquiry was immediately made into the welfare of the heir and to begin the process. Our offices were contacted by the Ministry of Magic, and a Writ of Prohibe was issued ordering us to hold any action on the will for the protection of the heir due to extreme circumstances,” Mr. Stroan confirmed.
“Everything was in order. It was signed by the then Minister of Magic, Millicent Bagnold.” McEarlean added.
“You didn’t question it?” Madam Bones pressed.
“Of course we questioned it, and have done so every year since,” Stroan stated. “At the time the Writ was issued it was not an uncommon practice. Death Eaters were killing people in the streets. People would disappear from their homes. And even though You-Know-Who was reported as killed, the insanity took a while to subside as the backlash spread. When it was first issued, we assumed that young Harry had been placed in protective custody, and we would be allowed to proceed once everything calmed sufficiently.”
McEarlean took over, “By spring of the following year our firm was questioning the Writ and demanding access to the Heir. At that time a Gag Order was issued restricting us from speaking to anyone outside the Minister’s office regarding the Writ. We were informed that there was still imminent peril and that we were not allowed to take action until such time as the heir or his Ministry appointed guardian directly approached us, or a legally authorized Ministry representative so ordered. Madam Strumpf is the first legally appointed Ministry representative to approach us, and as Director of MCPS, she has the legal right to demand a hearing of the custodial wishes of the deceased.”
“So your demand that Mr. Potter be present in order to disclose the custody instructions today…” Geraldine led questioningly.
Mr. Stroan smiled, “You will note Madam Strumpf, the Firm of Locklis, McEarlean, and Stroan made no such demand. We did, however, make an earnest request for his presence. After all, we knew him as a small child and are pleased to see him again in good health. You will forgive old men who seek only to renew an acquaintance. Now if while we are getting reacquainted Mr. Weasley should request on behalf of Mr. Potter that a full reading of the Will be scheduled, well we have no control over such requests and in no way initiated action outside the Writ and Gag order, now did we?”
Arthur cleared his throat nervously and with a glance toward Amelia and Geraldine invited, “I think Harry here has the right to hear his parents’ will. As his temporary guardian, I will formally request that you begin that process. But as for the date, well, perhaps we should confirm his permanent custody first so that everyone has the chance to be present?”
“Yes,” Geraldine agreed. “Before we go any further, we should hear the wishes of James and Lily Potter in regards to the custody of their son. Are you aware of their decisions regarding custody?”
“Not exactly.” Mr. Stroan explained. “The Potters were concerned about the dangers surrounding the War, so they opted to create a magically updating will. While they set the initial structure and conditions of the will in our office, it was bound to their magical signatures and intent. As long as they were in agreement and pushed through the changes with intent, they did not have to be present to update the will. Additionally, the will continues to update the conditions up to execution. Therefore if someone no longer is eligible to stand as guardian or for their inheritance, the Will automatically annotates the changes.”
“Grinlok, if my associates may be allowed access to your presentation stand?” McEarlean asked.
“Of course.” Grinlok agreed before standing and walking to the very short podium sitting on the end of the table. There was a brief glow of magic. “They have access to modify the setting.”
Kirby and McCreary quickly stood and took a flat disc-shaped crystal plaque to the end of the table and adjusted the small podium into a flat box arrangement before leaving the crystal laying on top of the box. They both stepped back and stood to either side.
McEarlean looked at everyone before his eyes rested on Harry. It was to him that his next comment was directed. “Your parents opted to do a visual will. Personality imprints were completed with it so that updates to the will could be viewed more accurately. It was in vogue at the time, but not very common due to the expense and time it takes to create one. It will appear as if they are projected in miniature above the crystal. They are not actually present and cannot respond to questions. I just wanted to warn you. If it distresses you at any time just let us know and we will pause it. We will play the beginning of the will and then the custody section to make this legal.”
Arthur felt Harry practically vibrating next to him. He saw an eager longing cross the child’s face and remembered how young Harry had been when he was orphaned. He shifted closer to Harry so that he could help him if needed and motioned for them to begin.
The room lights were dimmed slightly, and with a touch of magic, the crystal glowed before projecting light upward. The mist cleared above the crystal and coalesced into the images of James and Lily Potter standing about a half meter high. Once they were fully formed, they began to move more naturally, as if alive before them. It was heartbreaking to hear the small gasp from Harry. Finally, they began to speak.
“Today’s date is April 3rd, 1981 and this is the last Will and Testament of James Fleamont Potter and Lily Joan Potter née Evans. ….Lils, do we really have to do this now? Sirius had tickets to the quidditch match, and you had to drag me in here?”
“James Fleamont Potter, you promised me that we would start a will when I was pregnant. You promised me that we would get it done as soon as Harry was born. You promised me once a month since then and today is that day. Quidditch will be there tomorrow.” Lily lectured.
Under his breath, “not the good seats.”
“What did you say?!” Her image rounded on him.
He took a slight step to the side. “I’m happy to do the will now, dear.”
“Then get on with the reading.” She crossed her arms and tapped a foot while staring at him.
“Ahem, Being of sound mind…”
“…and sound body…”
“We do hereby appoint the Firm of Locklis, McEarlean, and Stroan as our duly appointed Executors and authorize them to take what action is needed to settle our estate and oversee our last wishes and instructions. This appointment shall continue until either revoked by both of us, by the surviving partner, or upon the completion of all terms of the will.” James scrunched up his face in distaste. “Why even word it that way. We’re going to live forever, have seven kids, and dozens of grandkids.”
“Seven kids? Are you insane? I’m not giving birth to seven kids.” Lily looked at him like he was mental.
James smiled, “But honey, we need our own quidditch team.”
She shook her head, “Yes it needs to be worded that way because if you ever again mention me birthing a quidditch team, then I will be the surviving spouse, you can count on that.”
McCreary stepped forward and paused the image, and the lights increased. While the associate made adjustments to the crystal, Mr. Stroan spoke, “Um, we will forward now to the custody instructions.”
Arthur leaned over, seeing the tears in Harry’s eyes, “You OK, Harry?”
He nodded and swallowed, “Yeah. I didn’t remember their voices.” Arthur put an arm around Harry’s shoulders comfortingly. The boy flinched slightly, but Arthur just maintained pressure until he relaxed into it. Arthur watched the associate nod to indicate they were ready and the lights dimmed once more.
“Regarding the Provisions of Guardianship of our minor child, Harry James Potter…” Lily was saying.
“And any additional children born after,” James interjected.
“Just trying to be thorough dear.”
“Watch it…In the event that our child,”
“or children,” He grinned impudently at her.
“is still a minor at the time of our deaths. We designate the following individuals to take custody of our child…shut up James…until such time as the child reaches his majority. In the event our custodian of choice is unavailable, unable, or unwilling to accept the responsibility then the next selection on the list should be approached.” She glared at James and motioned him to continue.
“Oh boy, so it’s like this. Sirius Black. Well, Pads, you’re our first choice to raise Harry. If we’re in the position that both Lils and myself are gone, then I know you will do everything in your power to keep Harry safe and raise him to be a man we could be proud of. You’re my best friend, my brother, Harry’s godfather, and I know you have it in you to be an excellent father to Harry. Don’t let anger or grief for us overwhelm you. Sometimes you just don’t stop and think, but you will have to do that now. Help him grow, learn, live, and love. And for Merlin’s sake, teach him to have fun and fly!” He smiled now, “Teach him to be a true Marauder.”
There was immediate outrage in the room, and the associate rushed to pause the crystal. Arthur realized suddenly he was holding Harry too firmly and let up. Harry was watching everyone and starting to shrink back. He looked up at Arthur, “Mr. Weasley, who is Sirius Black?”
There was sudden silence in the room as everyone turned to stare at the child. Arthur looked around at everyone before turning back to Harry. “Well, you see Harry, Sirius Black was your father’s best friend. When You-Know-Who targeted your family, your parents took you into hiding and placed the house under a Fidelus Charm. It magically protects a place by making the location a secret. The only person who can share the location is the Secret Keeper. They made Sirius the Secret Keeper, but he was a traitor and betrayed them. That’s how you were found.”
“He’s the reason my parents are dead?” Harry asked with a bit of anger growing in his eyes.
“Don’t worry about him. Another of your parent’s friends, Peter Pettigrew, went after him. Peter was killed along with a street full of muggles, but Sirius Black was captured and is serving a life sentence in Azkaban for that murder.” Arthur finished.
Geraldine interjected, “Obviously Mr. Black is not a viable guardian. Mr. Weasley can share with you more information regarding that situation if you desire later. Let us continue with the reading and learn who the Potters named as alternates.”
“Quite so,” Mr. Stroan agreed. “Now as we mentioned before the will is automatically updating. So it should give a statement as to the current suitability of the candidate before continuing to the next. What say we just allow this to run to its conclusion and hold off on any further outbursts until it’s complete?”
The projections started to move again for just a moment before freezing in place. The images became stiff, and the voice of Lily Potter continued. “Sirius Black is currently a non-viable candidate for guardianship of Harry James Potter due to illegal incarceration in the prison known as Azkaban. In the event that he is released from prison and can prove his suitability, then he should be given primacy in the order of care for our child.”
Again the crystal is paused due to the uproar. Amelia Bones spoke over the din, directing her accusation toward the attorneys present. “What is this? Has the will been tampered with? Is it faulty?”
Mr. McEarlean jumped up and held out his hands placatingly while Mr. Sloan and Grinlok both went down to test the crystal. “I assure you the crystal has not been out of possession of the firm since it was created. There should be no way to tamper with this magic.”
“He is correct,” Grinlok’s voice called out. They all turned to look at the goblin. “The spells are clean, and I can attest that other than activation today no one outside the Potters has touched this crystal with magic. Lady Potter’s intent is clear in the spellwork, and it is reading true. She was known to be a powerhouse with such magic and was skilled at experimental charms. I can find no fault with this work.”
Mr. McEarlean sighed, “I know this is upsetting, but let’s just focus on getting through the remaining candidates. We will not be pausing this again.”
Once more James and Lily began to move, “If Sirius isn’t able to care for Harry, then we would like Alice and Frank Longbottom to take custody.” Lily was speaking this time. “Alice, James and I fought about this long and hard. In the end, I let him win on Sirius, but only by a little. You are my best friend and Harry’s godmother. Just as I am Neville’s godmother. If we are unable to raise him, then I can think of no one better than the two of you. You are a wonderful mother to Neville, and I know you have enough love in your heart to include Harry as well. Frank is probably the second best man I know to raise a son, so know I trust you. Raise them together as brothers, for I would never want my baby to know a day alone.”
The image froze once more before James’ stilted voice returned, “Alice and Frank Longbottom are currently non-viable candidates for guardianship of Harry James Potter due to physical and mental infirmity. In the event they receive successful treatment from a Parselmouth Healer for cruciatus damage and are judged viable guardians, they should be returned to their ranking in the primacy of care for our child.”
Movement returned, “Our third selection for Guardian is Remus Lupin…” James turned to Lily and sighed. “Lily, honey, you know Moony is one of the best friends I have in the world, but there is absolutely no way the Ministry will allow a werewolf custody of a noble child.”
Lily crossed her arms and turned away, “The law is stupid James, and it is your duty as a peer to see it change. He is dangerous for just a brief time each month and not even that if he takes his potion. It is time the ministry saw lycanthropy as the disease it is instead of grouping them with dark creatures. Just because a handful of werewolves choose evil does not mean all werewolves are intrinsically evil. Should we determine that all wizards that harm someone with a spell are evil even if it was accidental and there was no intent to harm? It’s stupid, and I detest stupid people creating stupid laws.”
James spun her around and kissed her firmly, “I love you, Evans.”
She pushed him away, “James, this is being recorded!”
He lifted his eyebrows at her several times and said, “go with me on this Evans, and we could make a fortune selling copies. Especially when you make that little sound…OUCH! FOR MERLIN’S SAKE WOMAN THAT WAS A LITTLE CLOSE TO THE JEWELS!”
She put her wand away, “Serves you right, our son could see this one day, and when he asks why he has no siblings, you can show him where it all ended.” She turned back, “Remus, just know if we were able, you would have been our next choice.”
Once again the frozen images, “Remus Lupin is a non-viable candidate for guardianship of Harry James Potter due to the current laws restricting rights to victims of Lycanthropy. In the event the laws are rescinded then the candidate should be returned to his ranking in the order of primacy of care for our child.
“Our fourth selection for the guardianship of Harry James Potter is Michael and Rose Evans, parents of Lily Potter née Evans.” The image froze again before they could speak, “Michael and Rose Evans preceded James and Lily Potter in death and as such are not available as guardians.”
“Our fifth selection for the guardianship of Harry James Potter is Peter Pettigrew.” Again, the image froze, but this time instead of the wooden voiced responses, Arthur heard James’ voice echo through the crystal, and it seemed to almost vibrate. The attorneys stood hastily and stared at the crystal. “Let it be known to one and all that Peter Pettigrew is named traitor, betrayer, and Death Eater. He abrogated his responsibility as Secret Keeper for the House of Potter and betrayed that secret to Voldemort. He is forevermore an Enemy of the House of Potter.”
“Our final selection for the guardianship of Harry James Potter is Vernon Dursley and Petunia Dursley née Evans.” Lily looked outward. “Petunia, I know you have it in you to love Harry. I see you with Dudley and see the loving mother you have the potential to be. If no one within the magical world is able to take him in, I only hope you and Vernon can accept, love, and cherish him. He will be your last link to me. I love you.”
James sighed, “So, Harry is my son, and Vernon can barely stand to think that I exist. I will allow them guardianship of my son with a few stipulations. First, I want a guarantee that their attitude toward magic has changed. Lily and I are aware that their son Dudley is very magical. He hasn’t started showing it yet, but he will within the next 1-2 years. So there is hope that they will learn to accept and love magic with their child. If that is the case, then I demand twice-yearly checks as to the living conditions and emotional and physical wellbeing of Harry. As long as this is maintained, then I have no problem with Harry growing up next to his cousin. After all, they will be going to Hogwarts together. If not, then I demand that a suitable home be found that can raise Harry to know his duties within our society.”
The images froze a final time and then disappeared.
Arthur removed Harry from the room for a few minutes and had him drink a glass of water to regain his composure. Arthur was convinced he needed to do the same. Harry wasn’t talking, but that was ok. Arthur could tell he was calming down and taking in what he had heard. In some ways, Harry reminded Arthur of how his son, Bill, was at this age, brash but intelligent and taking so much to heart. Once he was sure Harry was ready, they returned to the conference room, the discussion had not slowed in their absence.
“Regardless what you say, Madam, the will did not indicate Pettigrew is deceased. Therefore we must update our records accordingly. Final judgment subject to proof, of course.” Grinlok stated.
Geraldine spoke over all of them, “If we can just take things in a logical progression, people!” They all silenced and she looked at Harry and Arthur as they took their seats. Arthur nodded at her that all was well, and she continued.
“First. In the case of Sirius Black. Amelia, I request that you begin an investigation into the arrest and trial of Mr. Black to verify that everything is in order there. The will did not abrogate his responsibility. Therefore we must determine that everything is well founded before we can magically sever any rights he has to Harry as godfather.”
“Second, it is clear that the only other possible candidates on that list at this time are the Dursleys. We must take the next steps in determining their suitability and see to it that the terms of the will and of law are followed before restoring custody. Harry, is Dudley in your House at Hogwarts?”
Everyone stared at Harry questioningly, and Arthur was confused. He was sure the children had referred to Harry’s cousin as a muggle. “No, Ma’am. Dudley’s not a wizard. He’s a muggle.”
“You mean he’s a squib? His magic was damaged?” Amelia questioned.
“No, he’s never had magic. Not ever.” Harry looked around, confused, an expression shared by the adults in the room. There were only a few reasons that a magical child would lose all of their magic.
Taking a deep breath, Geraldine continued, “Then we can verify that during our home inspection and interview. Until everything is in order and compliant with the directions of the will, I suggest the final reading of the will to be on hold. This has opened too many questions that must be answered before the final bequeaths should be made anyway. Are you gentlemen agreed?”
“Yes, Madam Strumpf.” Mr. Stroan responded. “We expect you to keep in contact with us so that we may represent the House of Potter in this matter. And, Grinlok, we will continue to coordinate the account reporting with the estate if that is fine with you?”
“Of course, before you leave Mr. Weasley, we would like to review a few points regarding the Potter Trust.”
“Yes, happy to oblige. Have a few questions myself.” Arthur responded, tired at only 9:30 in the morning.
Geraldine and Amelia left, making plans on expanding the investigation and coordinating their next steps. Mr. McEarlean gathered McCreary and Kirby, the crystal, and their documents and exited, leaving Mr. Stroan behind.
“Just a few minor matters to cover, Mr. Weasley.” Grinlok started. “It is my understanding that Mr. Potter has access to his educational Trust account?” Harry nodded. “Good. That account was started purely for your educational needs, and as such you have immediate access to the funds. I will leave you with an updating account ledger that should have been yours upon your first access to the vault.”
He lay aside one small red book and picked up a second. “Next is your personal Trust fund to pay for your living expenses until you reach your majority and have full access to the Potter Estate. That will happen either when you marry or reach the age of 25.”
He now turned to Arthur. “To ensure no hardship to your family, the estate is authorized to pay a weekly stipend for so long as Mr. Potter lives in your home.”
“I don’t think I can take that. I didn’t take Harry in to get paid for it. I did it because he’s a wonderful lad and it’s the right thing to do. I want him with me. Taking money for it makes it feel like a business transaction.” Arthur shook his head. “Thank you, but no, thank you.”
Mr. Stroan stood firm, “This is not about business. This is about the honor of the House of Potter. For eleven years, we have been denied the right to verify that Heir Potter is living in the standard he should have enjoyed. If we restore that state to him while in your care that will cause strife with your children that should not exist. We are not paying you off, we are allowing you the means by which to comfortably maintain your way of life with the added person in your household. I assure you, this stipend is not impacting the Potter Estate in the least.”
Thinking about adding Ginny to the school shopping this year, as well as Harry, he finally relented. “For the Honor of the House of Potter, I will accept.”
Twenty minutes later saw them on Diagon Alley, diligently shopping for a new wardrobe for Harry along with a few treats for the kids.
It was 11:15 am before Geraldine had assembled her two accompanying Aurors for the spot inspection of the Dursley home along with the initial interview and investigation into the placement of Harry Potter with his relatives. Even if they were listed as candidates within the will, someone circumvented the procedures of her office, and she was determined to find out who did it. The old goat.
With Gawain Robards and Micah Singleton at her back, they arrived in an agency owned muggle sedan. It was frequently used when MCPS had to interact in the muggle world. She double checked their clothing to ensure they were appropriately dressed before exiting the vehicle and walking up to knock on the door. Looking up, she could see the torn window frame where the bars had obviously been pulled free.
The door opened, and she got her first look at Petunia Dursley. Dark hair, pale, pinched face, a permanent look of displeasure. Strangely there was nothing here resembling the vibrant spirit of Lily Potter. If she had not been told in advance, she would not even suspect a relationship.
“No solicitors and I don’t talk to religious freaks.” She stated without introduction.
Geraldine worked hard to maintain a pleasant outward appearance. “Petunia Dursley? Hello, My name is Geraldine Strumpf. I am the Director of Magical Child Protective Services. Would you invite us in please?”
Her eyes widened, and she darted her gaze around to see if anyone was watching. Seeing a neighbor slow while walking her dog, she quickly motioned them into the house before shutting the door. “You have no business coming here to this normal, decent neighborhood. You people are supposed to stay away.”
“Who indicated we would stay away, Mrs. Dursley?” Geraldine watched Petunia’s eyes narrow again when Micah stayed at Geraldine’s back while Gawain started looking around.
“What do you think you’re doing? I don’t want you people in my house.”
Geraldine advanced, backing Petunia up to the couch. She sat automatically as her knees hit the edge. Geraldine took the chair across from her and withdrew a notepad. “Mrs. Dursley, it has recently come to our attention that there are some possible incongruities involving the placement of your nephew in your home. It is my job to ensure that all the proper procedures and technicalities have been addressed. I am certain you can appreciate the need to verify that all the proprieties have been observed.”
She looked worried, but Geraldine was not sure if it was general nervousness, fear of magic, or fear of discovery. She continued, “First, I do not know if you are aware, but your late sister and brother-in-law’s will was never read. We have started that procedure in order to determine proper placement of the child. I can confirm that your family was among those designated by the Potters for custody of their child, Harry.”
“Good, fine. You’ve confirmed I should have him. You can leave now.” She made as if to stand, and Geraldine just leaned back and shook her head.
“I’m afraid it’s not that easy. You have had custody of young Harry for almost eleven years. During that time my office has not accumulated even one piece of documentation verifying guardianship. This situation cannot just be ignored. It will be rectified, and we will start today.”
“Look, I don’t know who you think you are, but when I allowed the boy to stay, we were promised that there would be no interference. We’ve followed all of the instructions. We’ve held up our side. You freaks need to leave now before someone notices you here.” Petunia’s eyes were wide, and she kept glancing between Geraldine, Gawain, and the clock on the wall.
Geraldine picked up her note pad and began taking notes. “Hmm, so who was it that gave you instructions?”
Petunia’s mouth snapped closed, and she looked like she had swallowed a lemon whole.
“Come now, Mrs. Dursley, if someone gave you instructions regarding young Harry we can clear so much of this up by just speaking to the individual in question. I’m sure the paperwork was just an oversight.” Petunia shook her head slowly no. “By choosing not to cooperate, you are only hurting yourself. Without somewhere else to focus our search, we must begin with the idea that you are complicit in the situation and possibly the primary offender.
“I’ve done nothing wrong here.”
“And yet you still refuse to tell me who left the boy here?” Geraldine pushed her glasses back on her nose and sighed. “You can see how this can only reflect badly on you? Can’t you, Mrs. Dursley?”
Petunia opened and shut her mouth several times as if trying to speak before saying, “He was left in a basket on the doorstep. I didn’t see anyone leave him.” She took a deep breath, calming herself.
“Ah, I understand.” Petunia started to relax her shoulders a moment before Geraldine inquired, “Then who promised we would leave you alone?” Her eyes narrowed as she observed the woman breathing rapidly, her eyes darting around for an escape. “I have it within my power to enter your mind and read all of your thoughts.” Petunia jerked. “I will not do so as anything I learn is not admissible in court. But do not take that to mean I will not have the information I require.”
Petunia looked away once more toward the clock and started wringing her hands. “You are going to destroy everything. Just go.” A whine crept into her voice. “Why can’t you people just go?”
The door suddenly slammed open and then closed, and a young voice called out, “Mummy! I’m hungry. Is lunch ready, yet?!”
Turning, Geraldine saw a boy step back against the door as he noticed the visitors surrounding his mother. He was pudgy and in his hand was the remains of a candy bar that he had clearly been stuffing into his face before his arrival based on the smudges around his mouth. For a moment, he looked frozen before rushing to his mother’s side.
“Dudders, mummy just has to finish with these people first. Run along to your room and play. I will call you down as soon as lunch is ready.” She stood and tried to push the boy toward the stairs as quickly as she could. Oddly seeming to try to block his large frame with her slender body.
“Wait a moment, Mrs. Dursley.” Geraldine started. Gawain and Micah moved to block her retreat up the stairs. Petunia pulled her son back against her, wrapping an arm around him protectively. “You don’t want the boy to think you’re rude, do you. It is important to start manners young. Perhaps you could introduce us to your son?”
Petunia jerked around, still wrapped around the boy. “Don’t touch him. I don’t want any of you freaks touching my Dudley.” The boy cringed back at the word ‘freaks’ as if he was in danger.
There was something odd here. The response to magic saddened her and frankly worried her about Harry’s placement in this home, but it honestly did not surprise her. She had seen this from muggles before, often just before removing a magical child from a muggle home. But this was different. A niggle at the base of her neck, a feeling of something missing, or subdued. It was not a natural feeling, and it had not existed here before the arrival of the boy.
She withdrew her wand and started to cast diagnostic spells. She motioned, and the Aurors moved forward to separate mother and child. She cast another to reveal glamours hiding additional spell-work. It took a bit of power to accomplish this. This would take hours to unravel to determine what was done to the boy. Instead, she relaxed her own shields and opened up her mage sight to view the boy, and began cursing in goblin with a German accent.
“What have you done?” She demanded of Petunia in a deadly voice. When the woman only jerked harder to get away, she cast an incarcerous spell at her and demanded again, “who did you allow to do this atrocity to your son?”
Gawain, who until a moment ago had been holding onto the woman, quickly looked between Geraldine and the boy. “Madam Strumpf, what is it?”
“His magic has been core-bound.” She shook her head and cast another diagnostic, this time allowing the Aurors to view the results. “It is insidious and deeply entrenched in his core.” Gawain began cursing this time while looking at Petunia like he could end her now.
Micah Singleton looked back and forth while listening to the cursing grow, “I don’t understand.”
Gawain answered, “It’s using his own core to fuel the binding. As he ages, the binding pulls more and more on his magic, but the core can’t grow with it to maintain the power. Eventually, either the binding fails, but his channels have atrophied and cannot handle the magic, which will cause either his heart to explode or a stroke. Or, the binding holds and drains his magic completely, at which point it kills him because it only has his life to feed on.”
Singleton gasped as he continued to hold the struggling boy and Geraldine’s voice concluded with a crack of doom, “Either way he is dead before he is thirty if the bindings are not removed.”
Petunia was watching them in horror, unable to move from the neck down and Geraldine figured she had finally come to her senses until, “NO! You can’t! If you remove it, he will be a freak like all of you. I won’t let you turn my little Dudders into some foul, loathsome creature like my sister and the boy.”
Geraldine took half a step back in shock before controlling herself. “Your son, Mrs. Dursley, is a wizard.” She watched the woman’s face fill with a combination of terror and hate. “He was born a wizard and has every right to live as a wizard. The only foul, loathsome thing here is what was done to that poor child. It is a crime, and it will be investigated.”
She cast a charm on the child to make him sleep and noted how his body jerked when touched by the spell. The binding would make any outside magic supremely uncomfortable until it was removed. She levitated the sleeping boy and turned once more to Petunia’s horrified face. “By the power invested in me as the Director of the Bureau of Magical Child Protective Services, I am taking into protective custody the child known as Dudley Dursley. You will be notified within the next 24 hours of your rights as his parent, and a hearing will be set once a full investigation into the binding of his magic has been completed. The Aurors present will now conduct a thorough search and investigation of this home and situation. I suggest you cooperate.”
“Where are you taking him?” Petunia choked out.
“St Mungo’s, where they are going to try to save his life.” And with a firm grip on the boy, Geraldine apparated away with a bang.
Geraldine Strumpf paused momentarily in the doorway of Amelia Bones’ office in the Ministry of Magic. She was just outside the bubble created by the wards so while she could see Amelia pacing back and forth behind her desk while gesticulating angrily, Geraldine could not hear what the woman was saying. But, she was most certainly saying something based on the quick movements of her mouth and the red shade growing darker with each word.
For a moment only she considered just turning around and leaving. It had already been a long day, and her temper was short after what she had witnessed at St Mungo’s during the Dursley boy’s examination. However, she was not one to shirk duty, and besides Amelia spotted her and waved her in without pausing, dammit.
“I want to know how this happened. I want to know who perpetrated this atrocity. And, I want to know if there is anyone else suffering this injustice.” Amelia finished her tirade directed at Kingsley Shacklebolt, Gawain Robards, and Micah Singleton.
Geraldine sat in the chair directly across from Amelia’s desk and summoned a tea service that had just been delivered to the outer office. The need here was greater. She poured for both herself and Amelia and took a sip before gathering her reserves to learn what had set the other woman off on such a tirade.
“Perhaps someone could bring me up to speed on the current situation?” She asked with a slightly put upon tone.
Amelia sat down firmly before taking a bracing breath and letting it out slowly. She repeated this twice before opening her mouth and shutting it. Finally, she removed her monocle and picked up the cup of tea to take a drink. The aurors shifted nervously and traded glances, but said not a word. Finally, when her temper was under control once more, Amelia spoke.
“For the last three hours, we have reviewed every documentation regarding the capture and incarceration of Sirius Black.” She picked up a very slim file. “We have witness statements at the time of his capture, the arrest report, arresting officer statements, and documentation of the scene. What is not present are trial transcripts, an official judgment of guilt, admission of guilt, interviews of the suspect, or even a sentence. There is not even an order of incarceration for Azkaban.”
“So, you are telling me that the man was arrested and thrown into Azkaban without even the semblance of a trial?” Geraldine clarified.
“Do we have any information regarding who might be responsible for this miscarriage of justice?” She asked.
Kingsley cleared his throat, “Well madam, we haven’t exactly verified that it is a miscarriage yet. After all, the witness statements all agree that the man was captured at the site of the crime, and he kept repeating ‘My Fault’ over and over. I certainly don’t agree with him not having his day in court, but it does sound like an admission of guilt.”
Gawain spoke before Geraldine or Amelia could respond, “But guilt for what? His fault the muggles were dead? His fault the Potters were killed? His fault for the betrayal? Or his fault for not being there to stop it?” He shook his head to hold off an interruption, “I’m not judging if he’s guilty or innocent, but without an interrogation, we don’t even know his side of the story. From that paperwork, it looks like the man was condemned without a chance to defend himself. How many Death Eaters were given that chance?”
“How many others languish in that hell hole without due process?” Amelia asked.
“I repeat, do we have any idea who perpetrated this?” Geraldine questioned, looking at each before settling on Shacklebolt whose face had a slightly green cast to it.
“At the time of his incarceration, there were only three people with the ability to circumvent procedure. First was Bartemius Crouch Sr, who was the Director for the DMLE at the time. The second was the Minister of Magic, who was Millicent Bagnold. And, finally, the Chief Warlock, Albus Dumbledore.”
Geraldine gripped the cup firmly and had to force herself to relax her hand. “That is a powerful group to investigate.”
“Indeed.” Amelia agreed. She replaced her monocle and picked up another file. “What are the findings on the boy? Gawain reported he is core-bound?”
“Yes. It is disgusting, and based on how entrenched it is, we are estimating that it was placed upon him sometime soon after his first birthday.” Geraldine confirmed.
“Can it be removed?” Amelia wanted to know.
“Yes, the chief healer for the case is certain he can correct this. Unfortunately, he cannot at this time, speculate on the damage to the child’s magic. He was still running tests when I left. The boy woke once and became hysterical, so I approved a regimen of calming droughts. But they need him awake and cooperative during this phase. For the healing, they will place him in a comatose state to ensure there are no emotional upheavals to trigger accidental magic.” Geraldine poured herself a second cup of tea and started to wonder if Amelia had anything stronger to add to it.
She looked at the aurors present, “Did the Dursley woman share anything to indicate who placed this on her son?”
Gawain shook his head. “She didn’t volunteer any information and only demanded repeatedly that we return her son. Once released, she immediately called her husband on that tellyphony thing, and he arrived approximately 25 minutes later. He was incensed and kept demanding his rights and told us he would have us arrested for kidnapping. He kept referring to “that freak bloke” which indicates the perpetrator may be male. We made sure to place tracking spells on them both before we left.”
He pulled out a notebook from his pocket and started to read it. “We did a thorough scan of the property. There was an old magical signature linked to the warding scheme on the property that I can personally identify as belonging to Lily Potter. There are several indications around the property of magical bursts similar to those resulting from childhood accidental magic. Those are most likely attributed to Harry Potter. The highest concentration of residual magic could be found in the cupboard under the stairs of all places. That area must have become saturated over the years. Examining the space, we found evidence of bedding and that the space at one time was used as a bedroom.”
He made a sour face and continued. “The most recent bought of magic occurred in the kitchen. Incidentally, that magical signature is not human. I would most likely classify it as house-elf magic, though I didn’t find one present on the property.”
Amelia’s eyebrow raised. “Any indication when that magic occurred?”
He shrugged, “House-elf magic doesn’t have the same decay rate as ours. But, I would guess sometime at the end of July.” He looked up as Amelia and Geraldine traded glances. “Is that important?”
“The Improper Use of Magic Office issued a warning to Mr. Potter on July 31 for the underage use of magic. Your report could clear that occurrence from his record.” Amelia noted.
“I will make sure the source of magic is highlighted in my report.” Gawain sighed. “The Dursley’s, however, are extremely against magic. The insults and slurs that fell like water from their lips were disturbing when you consider they were left to raise not one, but two magical children. There is no way anyone in their right mind would trust them with one of our kids.”
Amelia tapped a finger on her desk a few times before asking, “Will they be able to harvest the magical signature from the boy when they remove the binding?”
Geraldine grimaced, “It’s possible, but we will not be able to rely on it. The work they perform removing it safely could destroy the trace, and their responsibility is to the health and safety of the boy, not our desire to punish the guilty.”
“Then we must create a case-file and investigate the crime. Are there any suspects? We are talking about a crime that occurred between ten and eleven years ago.” Amelia looked at her aurors and waited for a response.
“Well hell, let’s face it, how many wizards would two magic-hating muggles have access to?” Shacklebolt asked. “There’s James and Lily Potter, but I don’t believe either of them had it in them to hurt a child that way.”
“Agreed. The will reading clearly indicated the Potters were expecting a change of heart in the Dursleys once the child’s magic made itself apparent.” Amelia added.
Kirby tapped a finger at his lip a moment. “The lad was so young when the binding was placed. It was before anyone could have known he was magical. So whoever did it took a big risk. If he wasn’t magical, it could have killed him.”
Amelia disagreed, “No, the will clearly states the Potters knew the child was magical.”
“I don’t understand,” Kirby’s brow scrunched up in thought. “I was five before my parents were sure I wasn’t a squib. My nephews didn’t show magic until they were three or four. My little sister was almost seven. How could they know at a year old? Especially since the parents are muggles?”
“It’s a matter of power level. The average magical child starts demonstrating accidental magic between three and four years old. But some show signs much earlier. As for recognizing the potential, anyone who has trained their mage-sight can see the signs of a magical child. Again, if you are powerful enough to develop mage-sight.” Geraldine explained.
“Right.” Amelia nodded, “So our suspect needed knowledge and access to the child, mage-sight, and the power to create the bond. I’m sure from that information, we can come up with an initial suspect pool to investigate.”
“I have a name for that list,” Geraldine said grumpily.
“Geraldine, I have stated before that I refuse to accept supposition as evidence, no matter what those idiots on the Wizenmagot are willing to accept.” Amelia let out a long breath. “Give me a reason to put him on my list. A solid reason.” She raised an eyebrow and stared Geraldine down.
“One solid reason,” Geraldine stared back without blinking. “During his report to the Wizenmagot on the death of Voldemort,” she ignored the flinching, “he stated that the child was safe and the location would not be provided for his protection. The implication is that he was one of the people aware of the Potter Heir’s location. The location we now know as the Dursley residence. It is not a leap to say it was he who placed the child there, and potentially he was the one to bind the Dursley boy’s magic. He is powerful enough, has well trained advanced mage-sight, and as I know first hand, has researched a variety of ways to bind a child’s magic. He did so when investigating ways to assist his own sister. So don’t tell me I don’t have a solid reason to suspect the two-timing, twinkling, tosser!”
“Ahem, ladies, would someone like to share with the rest of us who you are talking about?” Shacklebolt asked after exchanging looks with Robards.
Amelia glared down Geraldine and stated firmly, “No.” She shook her head when Geraldine started to open her mouth. “I will not have the investigation biased.” She turned back to her aurors. “The three of you will stay on task. Robards, you are in charge of the Dursley investigation. We will wait for a report from the healers, but be prepared to take the Dursleys into custody. Shacklebolt, I want Black transferred from Azkaban to a holding cell here. Determine if he is competent to answer our questions and if not, get a healer to see to him. But I want it kept quiet until we determine the truth.”
She looked them over carefully and when she spoke her voice was like iron, “If I hear rumors of either of these investigations floating around, you will answer to me. Now go.”
She waited until they had left the office before casting more privacy wards. “I do not know why you have this animosity against Dumbledore but I cannot allow that to color the investigation, and you know it. Should he be a suspect? Yes. I agree with you. But I need my aurors to be unbiased to ensure they do a thorough job.”
Geraldine narrowed her eyes and glared back toward Amelia while preventing herself from standing and pacing. She refused to look undignified. “Fine, as long as his position and reputation are not used to excuse him from an investigation, then I will keep my opinions to myself. But you realize that even putting him on the suspect list causes you issues exactly because of his ‘position’,” and yes, she did use the finger quotes she detests in others.
Amelia looked as if she wanted to bang her forehead on the desk but was too reserved to be seen doing it. “He is the Supreme Mugwump of the ICW. International treaty requires that when a member of that body is investigated that at least one agent from the ICW’s Special Investigations Agency must act as a liaison and has the right to take over the investigation if any international crimes are discovered.”
Geraldine’s lips curved in a calculating smile. “Leave the notification of investigation and liaison to me. I have someone in mind that is able to assist with the investigation without allowing it to become public knowledge.”
“Who do you have in mind?”
“Someone who owes me a favor and will not be concerned if I decide to collect.” She stood and started to leave. “I need to obtain a portkey. If I am needed, I will be in Paris, expect me back tomorrow morning at the latest.”
She arrived at the international portkey customs desk in Paris with a group of tourists. She was getting too old to do this sneaking around under the radar thing. Why in the world did the International Confederation of Wizards decide Paris of all places was an appropriate place for their operations. She waited her turn in a queue before boarding the bus la magie to the Agence d’enquête spéciale in the magical district of Neuilly-sur-Seine just outside of Paris. Most of the operational departments of the ICW were based there in easy commute to the magical district of the city where the convention members would meet, without allowing them to negatively impact daily operations.
The trip was quick enough without needing to register for the local floo system since only those registered could gain access to the Special Investigations Agency. She stopped at the information desk just outside the security checkpoint to the main office. She had no desire to deal with the bureaucracy if her contact was not in the office. She could just as easily go to his flat if he had left for the day.
The witch on duty had short, dark curly hair, green eye shadow that highlighted her soft brown eyes, and a forest green business robe with a lovely orange daisy in her lapel. She approached the desk and inquired, “Good day, I’m wondering if Special Agent Antonio Paddington DiNozzo is in the office today?”
The woman briefly smiled while touching the flower before asking, “May I ask your business with Agent DiNozzo?”
Geraldine smiled benignly, knowing her quarry had at least been here today. “I just wanted to let him know his favorite aunt is in town for the evening and inquire if he is available for dinner.”
“Oh, would you like to enter? I can send a message for an escort to his office.”
“No, I don’t want to interrupt him if he’s busy. Perhaps I can just pen him a message and wait out here? I’ve been traveling today and would rather not be in some stuffy office building.” Geraldine took the offered paper, penned a short invitation to dinner, and signed it with a large D. The woman took the rolled note and placed it within an envelope labeled for the recipient. She put it in her outbox, tapped it with her wand, and it disappeared.
It was barely four minutes later when she heard a voice calling out, “Aunt Deeny!” Before she could turn all the way around, she was lifted from the ground for a hug.
“Put me down. I could swear your guardians promised me you were going to be given a gentleman’s education in a reputable institution. If this is the kind of behavior you were taught there, they need to sue the school for a full refund.” She suppressed the quirk of her lips but wasn’t confident it was accomplished before he saw it.
Back on her feet, she looked up at him. Brown hair, sparkling green eyes, and an easy grin marked the man, but with a hint of mischief that still reminded her of the boy she first met just over 15 years ago. He stood before her without the masks that had hidden his heart for most of his childhood, and she was overjoyed to see the confident, charming man who was obviously just as happy to see her.
“I’m not interrupting anything am I?” She inquired, keeping up the sweet little aunt routine.
“As if there could be anything more important than spending time with my favorite auntie D!” He waved his hand extravagantly toward the door with a slight bow, “Did you have anything in mind for dinner?”
“Well, I thought you might recommend a nice place for Italian?”
He shuddered to a halt and placed both hands over his heart as if in pain, “As if I would allow you to eat the travesty the French call Italian cuisine! There is only one place that I would accept to serve you.” He offered an arm, and she took it gratefully with a matching smile. They stepped out of the building, and the moment they passed through the doors, he apparated them to his flat.
His flat was elegantly furnished and yet still welcoming and comfortable. He showed those manners that he frequently pretended to be without as he showed her to a guest room and left her to freshen up. When she emerged, he had Spaghetti Puttanesca cooking while setting the table, a loaf of fresh bread warming in the oven, and a bottle of wine chilling on the counter.
“So, are we going to eat before talking business? Or did you want to get that out of the way while this cooks?” He asked.
“What makes you so sure I am here on business?” Geraldine asked with a raised eyebrow.
Showing the insight that promoted him to the title of Special Agent, as well as earned him training as the youngest certified Hit Wizard in the ICW, he replied,“You are in Paris in the middle of the work week, and you came straight to the Agency instead of getting a hotel room or even contacting me to see if you could use my spare. You have business with the Agency, but don’t want to approach us directly. You arrived at the end of the day via a tourist portkey instead of a British Ministry issued one and avoided every option that would require releasing your name or position.”
She huffed slightly because it was expected, rather than upset. “Were you this observant as a child. Wait, how do you know I used a tourist portkey?”
“Because Ministry issued portkeys are automatically registered with the SIA. It’s required in our treaty with the French government that all governments inform them when a representative of another government will be on French soil since they automatically have diplomatic immunity. Reporting was switched from customs to the SIA last year so that we could verify immunity. Of course, it also means we are aware of who is coming to stir up trouble at the ICW, but it would be above my pay grade to suggest they made that change on purpose.” While his face remained serious, his eyes twinkled with mirth.
“So, are we going to discuss the business. That will take another 20 min.” He motioned toward the stove where spoons were stirring pots and poured them each a glass of wine.
“We have a situation brewing and find that we must report an issue to the SIA, but would prefer keeping it confidential until such time as we determine if there is cause.” She took a sip of her wine, enjoying the soft notes of oak and berry.
“Wow, you just said a lot and nothing at all.” He motioned around him. “The privacy wards are active. I can put up the full wards if you want, but I will need some information before I can just take off to London.”
“No, it’s fine. I’ve been admonished so many times this week to not introduce speculation that…humph” She let out a large breath of air. “We’ve started an investigation, well a couple of them, and one of our possible suspects is Albus Dumbledore.”
“OK, wow, did not see that one coming. MCPS is investigating the Supreme Mugwump? For what?”
“There are actually three crimes being investigated, and for one reason or another, he is just one of the possible suspects in all three. I volunteered to inform the SIA because I could get to you without alerting everyone in the ICW. If the investigation finds that he had nothing to do with the situations, then it would be damaging politically for everyone concerned if it was even hinted that he was a subject of interest.” Geraldine explained.
“Right, of course. You don’t go easy on a guy, do you, Aunt Deeny? Well, how would you like to help me make a salad? I think there is someone I need to invite to dinner.”
“Tonino, I didn’t mean to put you on the spot.”
“No, I understand. I can fly under the radar in London. Just visiting family and friends while being recruited by local law enforcement. I get it. It’s a good cover story if you’re wrong. But this is a little too big to run without backup available if I need it. Don’t worry, my boss understands the politics between countries better than I do.”
He walked to the fireplace, threw in some floo powder, and placed a call while Geraldine assembled a simple salad in the kitchen. She emerged to see a medium-sized blond man with a scar across his left cheek that accented his strong jaw rather than detracting from his looks.
“Madam Geraldine Strumpf, may I introduce my boss, Wilhelm Jäger. Gut Wil Jäger, my Aunt Deeny.” Tonio smirked while he said it and Geraldine rolled her eyes.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, madam. Your reputation proceeds you. May I call you Geraldine?” He kissed her hand with a slight smile.
“Only if I can call you Wilhelm.” She returned the courtesy.
Tonio jumped in and offered his arm to Geraldine, “Well, if everyone will have a seat, dinner will be served.”
She took his arm and whispered in Italian, “Does he have any idea why you call him that?”
With shining eyes and a broad grin, he replied in kind, “Not a clue.”
Dinner was relaxed, and the small talk pleasant. Wilhelm was too consummate the professional to allow his curiosity to ruin the illusion being presented. By the time they finished, he would be able to report what an enjoyable dinner he had with Antonio and his visiting aunt, and how he hoped to meet her again when she was next in town.
As they settled in the living room with an after-dinner coffee, they finally got down to business. Geraldine proceeded to lay the facts out while restraining herself regarding her personal opinions. “On Monday, the Director of the DMLE along with myself were approached by a ministry employee regarding a case of possible child abuse. The child in question is quite well known within our society. Therefore he did not want to cause a scandal. What began as a minor investigation into the child’s home life has grown into something much larger. At this point we have child abuse, illegally circumventing the authority of a Ministry agency, alleged illegal incarceration without benefit of trial, and the core-binding of a magical child that would have resulted in death if not discovered in time to correct it. Our investigations just began today, but in the case of the illegal incarceration we have only three suspects: The former Director of the DMLE, a former Minister of Magic, and the current Chief Warlock, who happens to also be the current Supreme Mugwump of the ICW.”
The men traded silent looks as she concluded. “At this point, we do not have enough evidence to question any of the individuals, everything is circumstantial. But, by treaty, we must inform your agency if there is an investigation into a Council member. Because of the political ramifications, we are hoping to keep this quiet until there is solid evidence for or against.”
Wilhelm pursed his lips then asked, “And if the evidence is against, will you still insist on quiet?”
Geraldine sat up tall as her eyes blazed, “If it’s against, I want him nailed to the wall.”
Wilhelm nodded, but Tonio jumped in, “Earlier, you told me there were three crimes for which he was a suspect.”
“The illegal incarceration is the primary case as only the three of them could have placed the order without anyone questioning the legality. The other two are circumstantial, and the investigating officers have not yet been given his name as a suspect.” She explained.
“And yet you still haven’t explained which cases.” He raised his eyebrows at her, and she sighed.
“That’s the truly touchy piece of this. The child in question is Harry Potter. And Dumbledore is one of the few who might have known the child’s aunt and uncle in order to place the child in that home without involving my agency. But that has not yet been confirmed.” She waited until he nodded and looked askance at her before she continued.
“The boy’s aunt and uncle hate magic. The initial investigation led to me discovering that their own child had a core-bond to suppress his magic. That binding would eventually lead to his death. I’ve taken the child into protective custody, and he is currently at St Mungo’s being treated. The parents have not yet named the wizard responsible, but they have referred to the individual as male.” She concluded.
Wilhelm looked at her with a wrinkled brow, “It is a leap to go from the boy is core-bound to suspecting the Supreme Mugwump of the crime. Can you explain why you suspect this?”
“First, if he is the one who placed the Potter boy in the home, then he had access. Second, as the parents hate anything to do with magic, they would have had few acquaintances of sufficient power to create a true core binding, even in an infant. Third, I knew Albus when I was younger, and he made an intensive study on how to suppress magic to help his own sister. Therefore, he potentially had means and opportunity.” Geraldine stated.
“What of motive?” Tonio asked.
Geraldine shrugged slightly. “That is for the investigation to determine. But after meeting the muggle parents, I suspect they would not have taken their nephew into their home without some form of recompense.”
“And you believe they would have accepted this? Did the parents understand it would cost their child his life?” Wilhelm demanded.
“Yes. After speaking to the mother, I believe she would have done anything, no matter the cost, to ensure her child exhibited no magic.”
Tonio shivered and seemed to space out for a moment. Geraldine wondered if memories were overtaking him and whether he was the best choice for this, after all. Before she could voice a concern, Wilhelm ordered, “Antonio, tomorrow you will go as our liaison until such time as credible evidence is found for or against. I am sealing this investigation to my office only. If we determine SIA involvement is warranted, then I will have a team ready to respond with you as lead investigator. If at any point you determine you need backup you are to contact me immediately. Until that time, as far as the office is concerned, you are on holiday.”
Tonio agreed before Wilhelm stood. “Geraldine, I’m certain we shall see one another again. It has been an enjoyable dinner, but I find I must return to my office to finish a bit of paperwork before retiring. Have you obtained a portkey for your trip home?”
“Yes, in fact, I have a reservation for two tomorrow morning.” Geraldine smiled at him as he bowed slightly and headed toward the floo.
“Have a good holiday, Antonio. Make sure to send me a post and let me know what you’re up to.” And with a final nod, he left.
After his departure, they made small talk and caught up on their lives. Geraldine understood Tonio would not speak of the situation again until he could review the case files in his official capacity to avoid bias and tainting evidence with opinion. And frankly, she was glad to take a moment to relax and reconnect. She got the feeling it was something that would soon be denied her.
It was 9 am the next morning when Tonio accompanied his Aunt Deeny to meet with the Director of the DMLE. They had entered via a tourist portkey, and he had been reminded why he detested such things. The crafting was imprecise and the landing bumpy. He was glad he had postponed breakfast until after the trip.
The office was bustling with activity when they arrived, and they were forced to wait for Director Bones to become available. He caught enough of the talk to realize there had been a major potion supplier bust. Those always generated a ton of paperwork to track down the sources but was usually worthwhile to remove tainted or illegal ingredients from the market.
Eventually, they gained access, and the doors were firmly locked and warded. Tonio knew her by reputation, of course, but usually was able to avoid the local social politics so had not met her. He knew he had a reputation as well and decided to take care of any supposition before it could cloud her judgment. “Greetings Director Bones. I am honored to meet you. Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Special Agent Antonio Paddington DiNozzo of the ICW SIA, here at the request of Madam Strumpf to liaise with your office. Let me assure you that the SIA does not wish to impede or appropriate your investigation. Per the Director of the SIA, I am here in purely an observation capacity until and unless it is determined that SIA involvement is warranted. While I am happy to observe only, I am willing to place myself at your disposal to assist as you see fit so long as I have access to the investigation.”
He saw her eyebrow raise while her eyes squinted down as she clearly judged his veracity. After a long moment, she nodded. “Very well, Agent DiNozzo. I am frankly amazed that the SIA isn’t descending on this office to attempt to take control of the investigation.”
Keeping the smile from his face, as he realized she would judge him poorly unless he maintained appropriate seriousness, “Yes, previous Directors within my agency were willing to take any opportunity to involve themselves in the politics here. My current director, however, understands that the situation is delicate and has sealed the investigation to his office only. I will be the only contact unless the situation requires we become officially involved.”
“Very well. I assume Geraldine brought you up to speed regarding the situation?”
“An overview of the situation only. I prefer to review the evidence to determine what conclusions I can draw rather than relying on second-hand information.” Tonio confirmed with a polite smile.
Director Bones stared at him a moment longer before reaching for some files to hand over. “Very well. While I am certain Geraldine shared her supposition regarding the children’s cases, the specific case warranting your involvement is that of the incarceration of Sirius Black. During the investigation into the placement of the Potter child with his muggle relatives, it was determined that the Potter will had never been executed.”
He took the file but kept it closed as he listened to her. His eyes widened involuntarily at the indication that the will of a noble House had been circumvented was appalling. His Uncle Clive would have kittens if such a thing occurred within the House of Paddington. She continued, and he refocused his attention.
“As Director of the MCPS, Geraldine requested a reading of the custodial instructions which led to the revelation that Sirius Black may not have been guilty of the crimes charged. Further investigation failed to yield any records of interrogation, trial, judgment, or sentencing. In essence, it appears he was arrested and immediately placed in Azkaban for life.”
Tonio opened the file and quickly reviewed the scant information within. It appeared that the law enforcement branch did its job to a point. Everything was in order up to the point an interrogation of the prisoner would generally take place. Then the file ended and yet everyone knew Sirius Black was sentenced to life in prison for his crimes. “And you have determined that the three suspects were the only ones able to circumvent the law?”
“At the time of occurrence, yes. However, we are not ruling out that there may have been a conspiracy at work.” She agreed.
“So, your next move, Madam Bones?” Tonio asked.
“Yesterday evening Sirius Black was secretly moved from Azkaban to a holding cell here. I have five aurors read in on the investigation. Kingsley Shacklebolt is heading the task force at present. We have two healers sworn to secrecy who spent the entire night treating him to ensure he is physically and mentally competent to be interrogated. We are waiting for a report from the Healers now.”
“You are awfully quiet today, Geraldine.” Madam Bones addressed Aunt Deeny for the first time.
“I believe my opinions on this matter are already known. I agreed not to taint your investigation with supposition and if it requires my silence to do so, then so be it. I only remain present to determine if Mr. Black has any knowledge of the events following the deaths of the Potters and the placement of the child with his relatives.” She sat back in the chair and gave all the appearance of someone willing to wait an eternity.
Approximately one hour later, Tonio was escorted to the observation room to view the prisoner. He was gaunt and in desperate need of a haircut and shave, though it was clear that he had been recently bathed and dressed in a new prison uniform. He was a bit twitchy and jumped at loud noises, but the look in his eyes was haunted though without obvious signs of insanity. The man had spent ten years in Azkaban, and he was amazed at the level of cognition.
The two healers gave a brief report that basically amounted to “yes, you can question him, but we recommend a stay in a clinic and a couple years of mind healing first.” So competent. Amelia requested they wait outside and approved Shacklebolt to begin.
“Sirius Black. You are here today to answer questions regarding the events that began just prior to October 31st, 1981, and led eventually to your incarceration. At this time, I must ask if you have a barrister you wish to be called to represent you?” Shacklebolt started.
“Is it time? Is it finally time?” Black asked, hopefully.
“Time for what?”
“He said he was trying to force them to hear my case,” Black explained.
“Who said?” Kingsley waited as Black looked at him, confused.
“Is he here?” He looked toward the reflective glass, and Tonio felt as if the man was staring straight at him, then his eyes lost focus. “Just wait a little longer, we have to know he’s safe. Must protect Harry. Harry is all that matters now. Harry and vengeance. Can’t have that until Harry is safe.”
“Sirius, who said to wait?” Kingsley prodded.
Black looked back and forth between Kingsley and the glass as his eyes went from wild to confused to calculating. “He’s not here. Does he even know I’m here? Has he done anything to help me?”
“Give me a name, Sirius. I can’t tell you if someone is here if you don’t tell me who.”
“If he’s here you already know, and if he’s not then why am I here?
Kingsley looked at the mirror, confused and slightly off his game.
Tonio made a decision and spoke up, “Madam Bones, do you mind if I try?” She cocked her head to the side a moment evaluating and then indicated her approval.
A bare minute later, he entered the room with a duplicate of the folder. He moved forward and took the seat across the table that Shacklebolt had initially occupied while the man took his inclusion in stride. Tonio leaned back in the chair and propped his feet up onto the tabletop while opening the file in his lap. All while humming a little song.
After several minutes where the aurors in the room looked at him like he was a great mystery, Black settled down and was actually paying attention. Tonio looked around at everyone, “Oh, don’t mind me. Just reading.”
“Something fascinating there, Agent DiNozzo?” Shacklebolt asked. Good, the man can play along.
“Quite a bit interesting. There are arrest reports and witness statements. Photos and medical reports. Reports and statements galore.” Tonio went back to reading.
Black was looking interested. His brain was finally kicking in and paying attention. What Tonio needed was for him to start helping himself.
Shacklebolt seemed to be catching on. At least Tonio hoped he was. “So what’s so great about it. Just a lot of things there to show how guilty this one is.” He looked at Black, “That’s why no one helped you, right? Because you’re guilty as sin, and He knows it.”
Black looked back and forth between them, “No, he knows I’m innocent. He cast the Fidelis himself.” He paused, then really took a good look around at the interrogation room as if he was waking up and discovering where he was.
“No one came to help me.” He giggled slightly before chocking it off with a slight sob. His breathing became ragged, and Tonio waited until he started to calm. “Do you want to tell us who you are talking about?”
“You won’t believe me.” Black started, face down, hidden by the hair.
Tonio encouraged, “We want to believe, but you have to talk. You have to give us something. We need something from you if you want to help yourself.”
Black shook his head, his face momentarily obscured. “You won’t believe me….yet.” And he looked up with a fire in his eyes that probably hadn’t been there in ten years. “Tell me one thing first. My godson, Harry, is he someplace safe now?”
They looked at each other before Kingsley shrugged and said, “Yes, right now, he’s someplace safe.”
Black nodded a couple times then his chin came up and his shoulders squared, “I demand questioning under veritiserum. It’s my right.”
Three hours later, it was an exhausted and angry group meeting inside Bones office. Images of an angry young man discovering the bodies of the only people he called family and realizing the breach of trust and outright betrayal of another passed through Tonio’s mind. Whether or not it was true, Black firmly believes Pettigrew evaded capture in the alleyway. Based on his testimony, the man is innocent of all charges. The problem is all evidence against Dumbledore is circumstantial. Black believes the child was taken to Dumbledore but did not stay to confirm it. Dumbledore promised to help him with a trial but does not come out and incriminate anyone else in the incarceration. Black has never met the muggle family but is aware that Dumbledore had done so twice based on Lily Potter’s childhood reports.
“So, what’s our next step?” Shacklebolt asked once they were secure. The healers were back to treating Sirius Black with the designated guards.
“Seems to me the first thing is to reverse a miscarriage of justice,” Geraldine stated.
“Let’s not be too hasty,” Tonio stated, and everyone looked at him shocked. “Wait, just hear me out. That man in there deserves to have his name cleared, I agree completely. But look at him, innocent or not, the public will take one look at him and decide he’s guilty no matter what. And, publicizing his innocence will just tip off everyone that we are investigating.”
“So you want us to just throw the man back in Azkaban?!” Shacklebolt yelled.
Director Bones was nodding, obviously understanding Tonio’s reasoning. “No, not prison. We have him admitted to Merlin’s Miracle Clinic under a false name. His guards will stay with him as bodyguards, and we impress upon him the need to remain hidden there while he is treated. Healers Jones and Stein have rights there, and it’s not the first time we’ve sent a protected witness to the clinic for treatment.”
Shacklebolt nodded, “Ok. As long as it’s clear that the man is not being sent back to that hell hole.”
Geraldine pursed her lips a moment. “Yes, a clinic for treatment is best. Once his name is cleared, he becomes the primary guardian candidate for young Harry, but in his current condition, I would be unable to approve custody. It’s best to not allow anyone to interfere with the child’s placement again.”
Amelia cocked her head to the side while her brow furrowed in thought. “Once we begin questioning the three primary suspects we tip our hand. So, first, you will track down everyone else that might have either been involved or an inadvertent witness. Who were the guards on duty during his in processing? Who transported him to the prison? Who was guarding him while in holding here?”
“If I might suggest,” Tonio added, “approach it as if a regular review of files showed some missing documentation. If you can make them believe you are in trouble and this is punishment work for you, then they may be more forthcoming. And search your files to see if anyone else might have similar discrepancies. If you are reviewing a stack of files instead of a single one, it will be more difficult for them to discern your true focus.”
Shacklebolt looked surprised and then smiled. “I like you, DiNozzo. You were Slytherin, weren’t you?”
Tonio grinned, “Never sorted. I attended school in Italy. But my cousin Crispin would probably agree. Though Uncle Clive was always certain I would have been Gryffindor, while my Auntie Elizabeth insists I’m too loyal to be anything but a Hufflepuff.”
Geraldine huffed, “Please. As if you would have sorted anywhere but Ravenclaw. You have always been smart enough to let people see what they want to see.” He let out his dazzling grin at her before she continued, “while they are proceeding with their plans, why don’t you accompany me to St Mungo’s to check on the Dursley boy?”
Tonio nodded agreement while hoping they can stop for a bit of lunch. Direct Bones reminded them on the way out, “Notify Gawain as soon as the healers have a written report. We will decide when to pick up the muggles for questioning once we have a chance to review it.”
Good ol’ St Mungo’s. They passed through busy hallways on the way to pediatrics. He was glad they had chosen this ward instead of the spell damage ward. Some of those cases were horrifying, and certainly not what a child new to the magical world should see.
“Tonino!” He looked up to see Aunt Elizabeth coming from the room ahead. He reached for her as she moved in for a hug. Tonio was happy to see her here. She was a world-renowned healer specializing in magical core damage. He wasn’t surprised the healers on the boy’s case had called her in to consult. “What are you doing here?”
“In town for a visit. Aunt Deeny told me about the Dursley boy, and I came to see. You on the case?”
She looked at him with that expression he knew so well that meant she knew he was peddling bullshit and was trying to decide if she should call him on it. “Yes, Healer Singh called me in to consult.” She shook her head, “I hope when they discover who did that to the child, they drop him in the darkest pit of Azkaban.”
Geraldine scrutinized her, “Have you removed the binding yet?”
Elizabeth turned and motioned them to follow her into the room. Inside the boy was laying on the bed asleep. A silvery bubble of magic surrounded him. Healer Singh was giving directions to a nurse who was spelling potions into the boy’s stomach at regular intervals. Singh finished and joined them.
With a glance at Tonio, he focused his attention on Aunt Deeny as he cast some diagnostic spells over the child, “Madam Strumpf. As you can see, we were successful in removing the binding from the patient’s core. Healer Paddington was essential in preventing additional damage during the process, which took approximately six hours this morning to complete. In addition to the core binding, he was laboring under an aversion compulsion that would have made him fear anything to do with magic, thus reinforcing his avoidance of magic and therefore reducing the likelihood of childhood accidental-magic.”
Aunt Elizabeth took over, “We will keep him in a magically induced sleep to allow the initial trauma of the removal to subside. He is responding well, so I hope that by tomorrow morning, we will be able to allow him to awaken naturally.”
“And his long term prognosis?” Deeny inquired.
“Health-wise I expect a full recovery. His organs are responding well. He will be exhausted as his body tries to find a new balance.” Healer Singh explained, “As you know magical children require a higher caloric intake than muggle children. His magic demanded the calories, but his magic did not have access to burn them. So, his body stored the energy in the only way possible. At this point, I think it better to allow his body to adjust normally and monitor his intake. It’s not unlike young children who suppress their magic. Once they start Hogwarts or another school, the regular use of magic eventually stabilizes their weight, and overall health improves.”
“Once he awakens, and an evaluation can be performed, we will transition his care to Healer Paddington here for the core healing.”
Elizabeth nodded her agreement. “I have agreed to take on his case long term. He will require ongoing treatment and a full potion regimen for the next year. The first phase will shore up his core and help open his channels. We are lucky that there was another magical child in the home. Whether anticipated or not, daily interaction prevented his channels from complete atrophy. It appears the worst of the damage occurred during the last year when the children were separated for school. Another three years, and there would have been no hope of reversing the effects.” And there was her angry face, quickly smoothed back to professional.
“How long will he need to remain here?” Tonio asked.
“We will know for certain once he wakes up and can be evaluated. In addition to my treatment, I am going to insist on a mind healer to deal with the emotional upheaval. But that can best be accomplished outside of a clinical setting. It is optimal if the boy is returned to a normal home setting as soon as possible.”
Geraldine’s forehead raised in surprise. “You are advocating returning him to his parents?”
“Merlin, No!” Elizabeth denied. “In fact, if I am correct I will have to insist the child is placed in a fully magical home to deal with accidental outbursts until he learns to control his magic. His core will be expanding over the next year, and some instability is expected during that time. We cannot allow him to be on any type of suppressors we would normally prescribe muggle-born children while waiting for their magical education to start. Actually, I believe it is best to restrict the child from entry to the muggle world until he has at least a year of training.”
She looked at Tonio softly for a moment before turning back to Geraldine. At that moment her demeanor changed and instead of Healer Paddington before them stood Lady Paddington, Countess Bonshire. “If the funding for his education is in question, I am confident the Paddington Educational Trust can guarantee the child’s tuition at any magical school.” Again that soft look at Tonio and he smiled slightly in return. “As you well know, the House of Paddington is uniquely invested in ensuring that magical children from the muggle world obtain a magical education.”
Deeny smiled sadly at Tonio as well, and he looked away from both. “I will contact Hogwarts immediately. Minerva and I are frequently in contact regarding children under the auspices of the MCPS. He is only a year behind. He can start with the first years and progress naturally.”
She returned her focus to Healer Singh, “Were you able to preserve the magical signature during the removal?”
He shook his head. “Unfortunately we were not. We had to unravel the spell-work piece by piece. Whoever did this knew what he was doing and took precautions against retrieving evidence. It became unstable and started to disintegrate the moment we began the removal. Without Healer Paddington’s expert skill, it would have corrupted his core long before we could have removed it. It was, in essence, designed to self destruct rather than be removed whole.”
“I see.” Geraldine looked like she was sucking on a lemon. “If you could both write a report regarding your findings, the extraction, and prognosis I would appreciate it. You can forward it directly to the Director of the DMLE and myself. All treatment and findings are confidential while we investigate the crime, and no one is to have access to the victim without my personal approval. Not even law enforcement.”
“Please notify me once the child is awake.” And with that they took their leave, with Tonio promising Aunt Elizabeth he would be home tonight.
The Weasley home was eclectic, was the first thought Tonio had. Nothing like the shrines to image he had been born into, or the sprawling mansion the Paddingtons preferred. And when compared to the gorgeous ocean view of the DiNozzo cliffside villa in the magical portion of Amalfi, well everything would be lacking from that. Tonio was rather glad that the Accademia di Magia had been based there so that he could live in the villa with Nonna while attending school. That had been the happiest time of his childhood. School and friends by day and cooking with Nonna at night.
The hustle and play of the children in and out of the house reminded him of that time. Like the villa, this place was a home first and foremost. They were greeted warmly by Arthur Weasley while Molly was a bit stiffer. The children were screaming and running, though based on the bright green hair of the youngest boy and the mischievous laugh of the twins, there might be due cause.
Tonio’s eyes twinkled in mirth though he kept a more restrained expression on his face while Molly berated the children loudly. Looking to his left, he saw a matching glint in Arthur Weasley’s eyes. Arthur grinned suddenly, “How can we help you today, Geraldine?”
She shook her head and took a seat in the living room. “Now that Mr. Potter has had a couple days to adjust, we were wondering if he was ready to make a statement about his living conditions in the Dursley home.”
The grin dissolved slowly, and he looked down a moment. “We’ve had a few talks about wizarding society in general, but he hasn’t been willing to discuss his home life yet. I can’t tell if he’s embarrassed, afraid, or just doesn’t believe yet that we’ll protect him. I know that I need to stay out of the investigation to be an impartial guardian for him, but is there anything you can tell us?”
Geraldine shook her head. “There have been some complications that make the investigation more involved. Tonio here is a Special Agent with the ICW SIA.”
Molly looked surprised and concerned, “Is there a reason the ICW is involved? I don’t think we should involve them in a trivial matter like child custody. They already want to stick their noses in where they aren’t welcome as it is. No reason to give them a foot in the door to mess up everything when it’s just none of their business.” She stated before turning toward Tonio and in an offhand manner said, “No offense, of course.”
Tonio’s pleasant expression didn’t change, but he carefully noted the attitude before responding, “Oh, not really involved. You know how petty bureaucratic details can be. This is more an excuse for me to be on a bit of a paid holiday to visit my family.”
“Oh, you have family here?” Arthur interjected. Just then, the green haired boy and a black haired boy re-entered the room. “Mooooommmmmm! Look what they did!”
Molly huffed, rolled her eyes, and then rocked to her feet. “Excuse me. Come with me, dear. Let’s see if we can neutralize that before the color sets.”
“Sets?!?” The boy ran up the stairs in front of her. “I can’t go to Hogwarts with Slytherin green hair!”
The other boy had paused a moment at the bottom of the stairs watching the adults warily. Arthur smiled at him and waved him over. “Harry, lad. Come here a moment.” When Harry approached cautiously, he laid a hand gently on the shoulder, but Tonio noticed the controlled twitch.
“You remember Madam Strumpf with the MCPS Harry. And this is a friend of hers with the ICW.” Arthur introduced.
Tonio reached out a hand with a smile and waited for Harry to take it. “Very Special Agent Tonio Paddington DiNozzo at your service.” Harry raised an eyebrow and swiftly removed his hand. Tonio silently sighed.
Geraldine smiled slightly to soften her expression. “Harry, a lot has been going on this last day. I’m here to tell you a bit about it and ask a few questions if that’s ok with you.”
Harry sat up straight and looked toward Arthur. “OK,” he said in a barely audible voice.
“You know your parents’ will gave a list of candidates for guardianship of you. It’s my job to verify the suitability of those on the list and then decide who gets custody. Most of them are unable due to a variety of reasons to take custody. Since your aunt and uncle were on the list, I had to investigate them as well.” Geraldine explained.
Harry’s muscles clenched tight. The kid looked like a line ready to snap. He was no longer making eye contact and had withdrawn from the physical support Arthur was offering. His body language screamed betrayed.
“On first inspection, we found the home to be clean and healthy. But our conversation with your aunt was not positive. She was rather upset to have us there. Also, we found a dangerous situation involving your cousin Dudley that had to be addressed. We are still investigating. But I need to know from you, is there anything we should be looking into? How do your aunt and uncle treat you?” Deeny pushed, and Tonio could see in her desire to get an answer she was going to push too far.
“Is there anything you can tell me that could change my mind about placing you in your aunt and uncle’s home?” She stared at him. “I want to help you, but you can no longer remain silent.”
The kid was breathing hard now as he stood up and said, “Mr. Weasley, may I be excused,” before bolting out the door without waiting for an answer.
They all stood, and Geraldine groaned. “I pushed too hard. I know better.”
Arthur moved first toward the door, and the rest quickly followed. “Now Geraldine, let’s just worry about Harry. I’m sure he will be close by. Tends to seek the gardens when he needs a moment.”
Harry had moved into the garden, watching the gnomes. His shoulders were up and tense, back hunched over slightly, and toes dragging as he wandered around while decidedly not looking back toward the house. His body language screamed that he was distancing himself from the subject. Tonio understood and fully appreciated that particular survival technique. He had been the king of avoidance when he was younger. But time was crucial here, and they needed to do something to get the kid to talk. Tonio let out a sigh, and walked away from his group, circling the garden slowly. Approaching but giving the kid time to adjust.
When he was finally within a comfortable speaking distance, he took out his wand and transfigured a rock into a picnic table. “Sit with me, Harry.” The kid tensed again and then sat down on the opposite side of the table. Tonio took the seat across from Harry, knowing the table between them would give the kid a feeling of physical safety. “I know this situation sucks. I know you’re afraid of trusting any of us because that kind of trust can get you hurt. But I also know that as much as you’re afraid, you desperately want things to change.” Harry glanced at him, face unreadable, before looking away again.
“I understand you more than you could possibly imagine,” Tonio stated firmly.
Under his breath, Harry voiced a doubtful reply, “yeah, right.”
“I don’t have to be a legilimens to read your mind right now.” Tonio saw the kid’s brow furrow over the unfamiliar word, but he kept going. “Let me see if I’ve got this right. You don’t know me so how can you possibly trust me to be any better than the rest who just don’t see how you’re treated? I want to lure you in and promise help, but you’ve been down that road before and know it’s a lie. You’ve tried it before. Listened, finally trusted an adult enough to tell them what your home life is like and they’re all sympathetic and promising help. Then they disappear, or get in trouble and are sent away, or suddenly start ignoring you and treating you like you don’t exist, or they get angry with you and accuse you of lying for attention.”
Now Harry was looking at him. Evaluating. Tonio could see the gears turning. The kid is smart, but there comes a time that you need something more to make you believe. Tonio clinched up for a moment, then continued. “I’ve been there, you know. When I was born, I was given the name Anthony Dominic DiNozzo Jr. My father, Anthony Dominic DiNozzo Sr. was a first generation Italian immigrant to the U.S. My mother was born here. Claire Elizabeth Paddington, only daughter of Lord Walter Paddington, Earl of Bonshire. They were both squibs. The DiNozzo’s are upper-crust Italian society, so when my father came romancing, they were relieved to have Claire marry someone who was in the same boat, so to speak.”
“What they didn’t know was good ol’ dad was only marrying her for her trust fund. He blew through his own not long after his father died and Nonna went back to the family. She was never comfortable in the American wizarding society, and Senior was not accepted. At first, things were ok for them, I guess, until I was born.
They didn’t cope well with having a wizard for a son. Mom’s social circle had to shrink to hide me. Dad was just out and out angry that I would have something he had been denied. Honestly, up until the day she died, Mom lived in a little fantasy world of her own. I have a few fond memories of her, but most of the time, it was really just neglect. She didn’t have the support in the States that she had here and tended to ignore me when she didn’t feel like acknowledging my existence.”
Tonio knew the kid was listening, he was moving his fingers around on the table top as if doodling circles, but not making eye contact. He needed more. He needed to reach the kid. Pulling in a deep breath, he held it a moment before slowly letting it out. It’s been a while since he had to speak about this part of his life. “I loved my mum, even when she couldn’t remember I existed, I loved her. And I would rather have her apathy than Senior’s anger.”
The drawing paused a moment. Contemplating possible meanings. Tonio continued, “Senior didn’t ignore me. He either didn’t have time for me or needed a punching bag. And, when he needed to let out his anger, there I was, the perfect size for punching.” Harry’s hands came down to his lap, shoulders hunching inward, head sinking. It was a classic turtle disappearing into his shell to protect himself move that told Tonio plenty about life in the Dursley house.
“After Mom died, the beatings came frequently. Usually, while he explained in detail that it was a complete mistake that I was ever born. I wasn’t normal and never could be. How I caused her death. How much better his life would be without me around. How no one wanted me, and there was no one out there to help me. Because let’s face it, I didn’t deserve help. It was all my fault.” The eyes were raising, stuck on Tonio’s chest now.
“There was the occasional person that would actually notice and try to help, but that never ended well. Household staff that complained were fired or paid off to drop the issue. Teachers would clam up and start acting like I was invisible. Found out later he had them blackmailed to stop investigations.” Now Harry was actually looking at him. “It really didn’t matter to me why. I just knew I couldn’t trust adults to help me. And, when they acted like they would, the only result was worse of a beating for me.”
Now Tonio continued to look down, letting the kid watch and judge him. Internally he was begging him to believe him. “Everything stayed that way until I was your age. When I was twelve, Senior took me on vacation to Hawaii. Only it wasn’t really a vacation. Senior was working on a business deal, and the other guy had a kid. I tried to keep it together, but I was just so excited. According to Wizarding records, I was being homeschooled for my magic and sent to muggle primary, but magical education was a myth. I was twelve and had never held a wand. But as you know, accidental magic happens.”
Tonio looked Harry in the eye now. “A few minor little accidents and suddenly the guy dropped any hope of a business deal. His son was afraid of Senior’s ‘freak’ son.” Harry flinched hard, and Tonio knew he had him now. “When we got back to the hotel room he beat the ever living crap out of me. I’ve never been that afraid before. I was certain he was going to kill me. I was down on the floor while he was kicking me, and I wished as hard as I could that he would forget I had ever been born.”
He let out a shaky breath and dove back in to finish it. “I woke up sometime the next morning, and I was alone in the room. All of Senior’s things were gone. I was hurt and scared, so I put up the Do Not Disturb sign and crawled into bed. I was there another day before help arrived. You see I had a massive blast of accidental magic and erased part of Senior’s memories. He left Hawaii and didn’t remember he had a son.”
Harry barked out a laugh before choking it back and paling. Tonio smiled at him. “Yeah, kinda funny now, but at the time I didn’t know. I was waiting for him to come back. When help got there, it was the American Magical Criminal Investigative Services. I was rushed to a healer while they figured out what happened. Finally, my magical relatives were contacted to take custody of me. They decided for my protection to clean up everything in the States and lock down Senior’s memories.”
“It took a long time for me to trust any of the adults, especially as there was a minor custody battle between my British and Italian families, but they eventually worked out joint custody, and I suddenly found myself with more support than I could have imagined. What really helped me the most was a little dynamo named Geraldine Strumpf.” Harry glanced back toward the house where the rest of the adults were sitting.
“Yeah, her. Aunt Deeny was the child advocate assigned to my case. She stood toe to toe with every one of them and made sure that no matter what happened, I was safe and protected. I always knew I had someone on my side who would not just listen to me, but take action. She proved herself again and again. Give her a chance kid. Hell, Harry, give yourself a chance.”
They maintained eye contact for a long time. Tonio knew the next move had to be Harry’s. He wanted to shake the kid and order him to trust him, but that’s not the way it works. Suddenly he could see a decision had been reached. Harry closed his eyes and swallowed hard before barely whispering. “I wish I could make them forget me too.”
“Who Harry? You have to say it.”
“Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia. They hate me. They hate magic. Always calling me a ‘freak.’ I have chores sun up to sun down. If I don’t finish, I don’t eat. Aunt Petunia says that freaks like me just take all of their hard earned money and can’t even appreciate it. Until this year, my bed was in the cupboard under the stairs. But my Hogwarts letter was addressed to me there, and they moved me out because the Wizards knew where I was.”
Harry looked up at Tonio again and said, “See, that’s why talking won’t help. They sent the letter right to me there. They knew where I was, and no one did anything.”
Tonio shook his head, “Magical children appear on the rolls of a school if they are eligible. The names and addresses are magically applied with a type of locating spell that cannot be traced for the safety of the kids. It updates until the letter has been properly opened and replied to. It all happens automatically, so no one actually knew your exact address before you got the letter. If there’s no answer, then it escalates for a home visit, but not until then.”
With a short nod that was more acknowledgment than belief, Harry continued, “Uncle Vernon screams and hits. Especially if I do anything ‘unnatural’ where he might see it. They hate me. They told me my parents were drunks who got themselves killed in a car accident and left me to be a burden to them. And, if Uncle Vernon ever finds out that I told you that he will do everything he can to make me miserable. He locked me in my room. There were bars on the window so I couldn’t get away. I was allowed out to use the bathroom every morning, and if I was quiet food was put in the slot on the door once a day. I don’t ever want to go back.”
With a soft kind smile and sad eyes, Tonio promised, “If you are brave enough to help us, then I promise you we won’t just forget. It’s gonna get better kid. Not perfect, I would never promise you that. But it will get better. Let’s go talk to Aunt Deeny and Mr. Weasley. They may get upset about what you are saying, but that’s because every kid deserves to be safe and loved. Are you ready to give them a chance?”
Harry nodded and slowly stood up. Tonio joined him, and with a quick wandless flick of the hands, the table turned back into a rock. For the first time, Harry grinned, “I love magic.” They walked back to the house together.