Disclaimer: Not the Rowling, not the Kanzaka.


Apologies for the even-longer-than-normal delay; I got stuck. I gave my muse some time to regenerate by replaying some of the first Lego Harry Potter game. There’s something cathartic about having Tom Riddle drive around the Weasley’s garden in a pumpkin-shaped car, flattening Ginny over and over. (I also played a bit of the second one, before remembering just how pants it is.)

JKR is, self-admittedly, no good with numbers. As is traditional, I have revalued the Galleon to be worth rather more than her stated amount. More details below.

Once again, thanks to everyone who is following, has favourited, or has reviewed this story.

“Hello.”  :  voice.
“Hello.”  :  voice over phone, radio, TV... or telepathy.
‹Hello.›  :  thought.
Hello.  :  spellcasting, or other invocations of power.


INNOCENT! Black is Back!

Expecto Patronum!” Concentrating on the happy memory of being told she was a witch, Hermione pushed everything she had into the spell... and was rewarded with the faintest wisp of silver issuing from the tip of her wand.

“All right! You got it!” cheered Harry.

“Well, not exactly,” said Hermione, blushing slightly.

“It is really hard,” commented Neville. None of the others had even managed as much as Hermione.

“It’s supposed to be a NEWT-level charm, after all,” said Hermione, nodding in agreement.

“Hang on,” said Harry, “it’s a charm, right? Like making light, levitating things, and so on?”

“Yes, Harry,” said Hermione. “Why?”

“Well... hang on.” Harry pocketed his wand and rolled up his sleeves. “Charms are usually easy. Let’s try it like this.” He opened himself up to the ambient magic, letting it flood into him, then with a flourish released it through his palms. “Expecto Patronem!”

A torrent of sparkling mist poured out of the space between Harry’s hands, quickly falling to the ground and filling the small dell they were practising in to ankle-height. “Oh,” said Harry.

“‘Oh’ indeed,” groaned Hermione. “That’s not the Patronus charm, it’s actual mist. My tights are getting damp.”

“Sorry,” said Harry. “It’s not even a very good mist spell; I could’ve filled the entire area if I used Swightflange. Ah well, I suppose I’d better stick to trying the wand for this one.”

“Next time,” said Ron. “The sun’s going down; we’d better be getting in or we’ll miss dinner.”

“Hang on,” said Harry. “One last shot... Elmekia Flame!” A bright spear of light burst from his hands and splashed against the rocks across the dell.

“Not bad,” commented Neville. “I think you’re getting the hang of it.”

“Still not at full power,” said Harry, shaking his head. “I definitely need more practise with the Spirit spells.”

“Why are you bothering, anyway?” said Ron as the four gathered up their bags. “The dementors are gone.”

“They may not be right on the doorstep any more,” said Hermione, “but they’re still around. I’m not going to be defenceless against that sort of monster for longer than I have to be.” She started up the hill towards the castle.

“What she said,” added Harry, following her. “Anyway, you joined in too. What’s your excuse?”

Ron shrugged. “Well... it sounds like a cool spell to know. Plus, I was hoping you might teach us some of your magic too.”

“You can try if you like,” said Harry. “I suppose you could start off with Lighting, or one of the easier Air spells.”

“What about Earth?” asked Neville.

“Heh,” said Harry. “I’m sure there are some easy Earth spells, but I’ve never come across any in the stories. All the ones I know of are really massive effects — giant stone spears thrusting out of the ground, that sort of thing.”

“Not for beginners then,” said Neville.

“Not really,” said Harry with a grin.

“Harry, Muon’s here,” called Hermione from the crest of the ridge. The owl skimmed over the grass beside her, then pulled up into a neat stall and landed on Harry’s wrist.

“Hey girl, where have you been?” Muon raised a leg, presenting the neat scroll tied to it. Harry took it off and unrolled it as Muon hopped up to his shoulder to have a look for herself.

“It’s from Professor McGonagall,” Harry said. “She wants to talk to the four of us before dinner, in her office.”

“We’d better hurry then,” said Ron. “We’ll be late for dinner as it is.”

“What about you Muon,” asked Harry. “You off for a hunt?”

Muon bobbed her head, butted Harry’s affectionately, and took off in search of small rodents.



“As I am sure you are aware,” began McGonagall, “Sirius Black’s belated trial is scheduled for tomorrow.” Harry nodded. “As the two cases are inextricably linked, the Ministry decided to hold an open inquest into Peter Pettigrew’s actions at the same time, and have requested your presence as witnesses.” The four glanced at each other, slightly apprehensive. “Unfortunately, the Headmaster decided that there is no real need for you to attend. I only found out any of this today when I received an official permission slip from Mister Potter’s mysterious guardian, who has apparently been involved in the Black case to some extent.”

Harry had to choke down his initial enraged outburst, so Hermione got her response in first. “Can he do that? Just go against the government’s wishes at a whim?”

“Not as such,” said McGonagall. “He can make the case that your education must come first, but in the end the decision is up to your guardians — if they find out about it in time, and for some reason all the school owls are away on ‘important business’. Mister Potter, might I prevail upon your owl to assist me?”

Harry nodded. “I’m sure she’d be glad to help. She’s out hunting just now, but as soon as I see her I’ll send her to you.”

“Thank you Mister Potter. I assume that Mister Weasley and Mister Longbottom would gladly trade a day of school to see justice done?” They both nodded eagerly. “I shall contact your respective parents and grandmother for their permission. Miss Granger, I am afraid that as a Muggles your parents cannot be recognised as your guardians in the Magical world. That responsibility falls to—”

“Let me guess, Headmaster Albus Dumbledore?” Harry’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “Is there any pie that he doesn’t have at least one finger in?”

“You are correct, of course, Mister Potter, but please don’t interrupt,” admonished McGonagall. “As for fingers... I must say that he has them in all the pies; the wholesome ones at least.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “But surely if the others are going anyway, he wouldn’t be so petty as to stop me?”

“I would hope not, Miss Granger,” said McGonagall, though she sounded unconvinced. “I shall certainly broach the subject with him once I have the others’ slips in hand.”

“Write something for Hermione’s parents as well,” said Harry. “Just because the law doesn’t recognise their rights doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.” Hermione gave him a small smile in thanks.

“Of course, Mister Potter. And Mister Longbottom... since we’ll be in London anyway, would you be averse to taking a side-trip to Ollivander’s?”

“Not at all, Professor McGonagall,” said Neville with a grin.



McGonagall had all four of their permission slips in her hand when she visited Dumbledore that evening. He was somewhat upset at once again having his will thwarted, but was unable to think of a gracious way to reinforce it. Thus it was that the four were informed that their absence from school for the next day had been approved.

That night, Lina dashed off a quick note to her kitten-loving minion, requesting an early-morning meeting with her. Muon immediately took off with the note, and Lina headed to the library for more research.

Harry briefed the other three on the gist of Lina’s note on the way down to breakfast.



“It’s very... Ministerial,” said Hermione as they walked through the gaudy atrium. They had travelled to the Ministry by a method new to Harry: a rather uncomfortable journey via McGonagall’s fireplace which had ended with him sprawled across the atrium’s polished stone floor. The others had found this most amusing, as even Hermione had managed the trip without incident.

“That’s one way of putting it,” said Harry, looking around. “Ah, there she is. Lina!” Harry waved excitedly as the redhead skipped over to them. “Professor McGonagall, may I introduce my guardian, Lina Inverse?”

McGonagall had stopped dead and stared when she caught sight of Lina, but recovered admirably. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Inverse,” she said, taking the offered hand briefly. “And I’m honoured that you would trust me with your identity.”

“Likewise, Professor,” said Lina with a grin. “And any secrecy about my identity is mostly to annoy a certain busybody Headmaster of your acquaintance. To that end... please feel free to tell him you met me today, but could I ask you to respond appropriately to any questions about me?”

McGonagall gave the smallest of smiles. “How does it go... ‘sorry wah heameatsue dess’?”

“Not bad, Professor,” said Lina. “Sore wa himitsu desu.”

“Sore wa himistu desu. And may I enquire as to its meaning?”

“Simple enough: ‘That is a secret’.” Lina grinned.

McGonagall sighed. “Unfortunately, your privacy may no longer be possible. Although the Ministry had intended to make the trial and hearing low-key affairs, I have heard rumours that suggest Headmaster Dumbledore, in his capacity as Chief Warlock, has taken steps to bring in the full Wizengamot — and thus gain personal control over the proceedings.”

“Do you have any idea why?” asked Lina, sounding slightly exasperated. “Other than Mumblesnore’s inability to keep his nose out of anything to do with Harry, of course.”

McGonagall raised an eyebrow at her mangling of the Headmaster’s name, but replied, “I’m sure I have no idea. As for your hypothesis... I would normally never consider such a thing, but the last few months — especially the last week or so — have seen a considerable erosion of my faith in the Headmaster, so...”

Lina nodded. “In any case, while my name and appearance may become common knowledge, the rest of my background is still under Ministry seal. While I’m sure that he could find out if he made the effort, I suspect he won’t... unless given reason to?”

“I shall try to deflect attention from you,” said McGonagall with another almost-smile. “It’s the least I can do for one of the school’s benefactors. Speaking of which: I must say, your gift has received praise from all quarters of the school.”

Lina waved that off. “It was the least I could do. So Harry, are you going to introduce your friends?”

Harry quickly introduced Lina to the other three, who gave adequate performances of a first-time meeting, marred only by Ron, who felt the need to give Lina a wink while shaking her hand.

“Now if you don’t mind Professor,” said Lina, “I need to have a quick word with my ward in private. Rather than waste time, shall we take separate lifts down to the courtroom?”

“As you wish, Miss Inverse,” nodded McGonagall.

They went over to the bank of lifts, and Lina dragged Harry into the first empty one to appear.

“Sleepy times Harry,” said Lina. “Get ready to take over, Other Me. Sleeping.” Earlier Lina took over just as Harry started to collapse. Later Lina went on, “All right, here’s the Time Turner. Remember the plan?”

“Of course,” snarked Earlier Lina. “I was the one that came up with it, after all! Around two o’clock I find an excuse to leave for the day. I Turn back six hours, and get to Umbridge’s office by half eight. She’ll take the Time Turner to the Dee-Oh-Em, swap it for its earlier version, and bring it back to me. Then I go find Granny Longbottom, make sure she has everything ready, and get up to the Atrium in time to meet Harry.”

“Well done,” said Later Lina, patting her earlier version on the head condescendingly. “My Harry’s awake now, so put me down for the day and have fun!”

Earlier Lina tapped Later Lina on the head, and incanted “Sleeping. Have you been awake for long?” she asked once Harry took over.

“Just as we were meeting up. I slept through the whole day, so this is all new to me.”

“Great!” said Lina, pulling him into a hug.



“Miss Inverse appears to be rather... young,” commented McGonagall as the others entered a lift of their own. “How much as Mister Potter told you about her?”

“A bit,” admitted Neville. “She’s related to his mother somehow; not cousins exactly, but something like that. Also, she’s older than she looks.”

“And she is the Head of her House,” noted Hermione. “Between her and Mandy, I should think Harry will be quite safe.”

“‘Inverse’ is not a name I am familiar with,” noted McGonagall. The others shrugged.

“You’d have to ask her about it,” said Hermione. “Harry didn’t tell us all that much about her background.” ‹Mainly because there isn’t much to tell,› she added to herself.

They passed the remainder of the trip downwards in silence.



Once reunited on Level Ten, Lina and McGonagall escorted the four to the assigned courtroom, to find a notice posted beside the doors.

“Reassigned to Courtroom Ten,” read Lina. “Someone has decided to turn this into a circus.”

“And moved it forward by half an hour,” said McGonagall. “We’ll just make it, if we hurry. This way!”

She led the others down the hall at a very brisk walk. They had to break into a trot occasionally to keep up, and the younger four were starting to get winded by the time they reached the new venue. McGonagall gave them a few moments to catch their breath, then pushed the courtroom doors open and strode inside — rather dramatically, to Harry’s mind. The first thing that caught his eye was a full oval of amphitheatre seats, the wide wedge opposite them being occupied by witches and wizards in purple robes. The Headmaster, similarly attired, stood behind a podium in the centre of the wedge. The remainder of the seating was mostly filled by people in everyday robes.

“Ah, it appears our witnesses have arrived,” said Dumbledore over the sudden murmurs in the crowded room. Although his voice was jovial enough, Harry noticed that his eyes were most definitely not twinkling, and he appeared somewhat put out.

“Well at least the press are here in force,” whispered Lina, nodding towards the collection of stereotypical reporter types in the public gallery.

“You’d better remember to tip them off ‘later’ then,” responded Harry with a grin. “And make sure the venue change notice gets posted as well; I have a feeling Fumblemore wasn’t expecting us to know where to go.”

Lina nodded. “I’d better go join the audience.” She clapped Harry on the shoulder, then went off to find a seat in the public gallery.

“This way please.” An Auror in full dress uniform had come over to them just as Lina left, gesturing to a bench to one side of the main court area. McGonagall led her four students over. Once they were seated, Dumbledore banged a small, polished rock against his podium, and announced, “This special session of the Wizengamot of the British Isles is now convened. Madam Umbridge, you have the floor.”

Harry looked over in interest as the dumpy, pink-clad woman came out from her seat beyond Dumbledore’s podium. »hem hem,« she began. “As some of you are aware, your Ministry recently uncovered a most tragic miscarriage of justice that occurred under the previous administration: the jailing of one of our most noble lords, without any form of trial.” She paused to allow the exclamations from the chamber to subside. “It is our intention to rectify this situation today. However, certain recent events have great bearing on this case, and so we shall first hear the statements of those who witnessed them. The Ministry calls, firstly, Mister Neville Longbottom.”

The usher-Auror guided Neville to a seat to one side of the Ministry section. Once he was seated, Umbridge went on, “You are Neville Longbottom, currently a pupil at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?”

“Yes, Madam,” replied Neville.

“As this is merely a hearing, we shall dispense with any oaths. The Ministry already has your Pensieve recording of the events of the seventh of this month, but could you tell us, in your own words, what you witnessed on that day?”

“Yes Madam. We — Misters Potter and Weasley, Miss Granger, and myself — were discussing certain unusual observations about Mister Weasley’s pet rat...”

Madam Umbridge allowed Neville to make his statement, only interrupting to ask for clarification on two points, and to give Dumbledore time to silence the crowd’s reactions when the name ‘Pettigrew’ was mentioned. She then dismissed him with thanks, and called Ron for his statement, then Hermione. All three of them glossed over their identification of the fugitive, only saying that Harry had mentioned the forthcoming trial in front of the rat just before it bolted, and had claimed it to be Peter Pettigrew afterwards.

Once Harry was in the witness chair...

“And how did you come to the conclusion that your classmate’s rat was Peter Pettigrew in animagus form?” Umbridge was using a rather sickly-sweet voice that set Harry’s teeth on edge, but he bore up.

“I didn’t Madam, not at first anyway. We chased after Scabbers when he bolted, but then he changed into... I had been researching my godfather’s case, Madam, and had seen photographs of my father and his friends when they were younger. I wasn’t absolutely certain that the person the rat became was Pettigrew, but it certainly looked like him, and when I mentioned it to Professor McGonagall she agreed it could have been him.”

“Thank you Mister Potter. The Ministry now calls Professor Minerva McGonagall...”

McGonagall’s contribution was much shorter than the others’, basically being a confirmation that someone, looking very much like Peter Pettigrew, had been pursued to the school ward line by her pupils; that he had transformed into a small creature and back again at points during the chase; and that he had left part of one leg behind when he Disapparated.

“And so to our final witness,” said Umbridge. “The Ministry calls Seeker of the Unspeakables.”

A hooded figure, probably male by its outline, made its way from the shadows at the back of the courtroom and stood by the witness seat.

“If you would describe your findings, Seeker?”

The hooded head nodded. “The Aurors on scene collected the splinched limb and delivered it to us. We had in storage the finger that was found at the site of the explosion on the First of November, 1981. We performed several blood comparisons and magical resonance tests on the two samples, and can state with certainty that they are from the same wizard, and that that wizard is still alive.” Without waiting to be dismissed, the Unspeakable turned and went back to the shadows.

“So,” said Umbridge to the court in general, “I believe that we can confidently state that Mister Peter Pettigrew is not in fact dead, is a Rat Animagus — unregistered, as we have been unable to find any record of his ability — and has been hiding out in that form for the last ten years. Are there any objections to treating these as proven facts?”

There were some murmurs around the chamber, but no-one raised an objection. Umbridge was about to continue, when a stern-looking elderly woman raised her wand.

“The Wizengamot recognises Madam Longbottom,” said Dumbledore. Harry looked round in interest, and examined his god-brother’s grandmother.

“Thank you Chief Warlock. I would like to propose a motion to the Wizengamot: that Peter Pettigrew be stripped of his Order of Merlin forthwith.”

There was much rumbling at that, which Dumbledore had to silence by banging his rock again. He cleared his throat, and began, “Let us not act precipitously here—”

»hem hem«

“My apologies Madam Umbridge. You still have the floor, please proceed.”

“Thank you Chief Warlock. Madam Longbottom, as my esteemed colleague was about to say, there is much that is still unclear about the situation. Might I ask you to hold off on your motion until the second part of today’s business is concluded?” Madam Longbottom rose briefly and bowed to Umbridge. “Thank you. Now, as you are all aware, the discovery of Pettigrew’s survival throws much doubt over the events of the First of November, 1981. You may also be aware that this only adds to the doubt already cast by our discovery that the previous administration chose to incarcerate Sirius Black without trial or questioning.” The gallery exploded into shouts of dismay and denial, along with many along the lines of ‘who cares, he was obviously guilty’. Harry tried to spot the ones who voiced the latter opinion, while Dumbledore banged his rock repeatedly in an attempt to bring them to order.

Finally the crowd settled down, and Umbridge continued, “As you can imagine, Minister Fudge was most distressed to discover the situation — even moreso, as he was one of the first on the scene! His discovery that his then-superiors had flouted the very laws they were sworn to uphold lit the fires of justice and indignation in his heart, and he immediately tasked me with bringing about the trial that is Sirius Black’s right by law, to find out once and for all the truth of the matter.” She paused for dramatic effect, then called, “Aurors, bring in the accused!”

‹She got the point across,› thought Lina as the doors at the other end of the courtroom opened, ‹even if she was more than a bit melodramatic. Fudge should get through this blamelessly.› She stopped to examine her little brother’s godfather as he was led in.

Sirius definitely had the pallor and emaciation that came with a long incarceration, but Umbridge had obviously done her best to ensure he was made comfortable once removed from Azkaban. His hair and beard were clean and untangled, and his clothes, though simple, were in good condition. Those in the gallery more familiar with the ravages the prison wreaked on its inmates were impressed with how collected and aware he appeared to be.

The Aurors led Sirius over to the chair that had stood empty until this point, the one draped in chains. Sirius didn’t flinch as, once he sat down, the chains came to life and wrapped around him.

“Are you Sirius Orion Black, now Lord of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black?” asked Umbridge

“I am,” stated Sirius firmly.

“Lord Black, it is accused that on the First of November 1981 you did attempt to murder one Peter Pettigrew, incidentally causing the deaths of twelve Muggles; that you did, at some time prior to that date, conspire to murder James Potter, Lily Potter, and Harry Potter; and that you were a member of the proscribed terrorist group known as the Death Eaters. How do you plead?”

Sirius held his head up proudly. “Not guilty, to all charges.” Predictably, the court exploded into chatter, and Dumbledore had to bang away with his rock again.

Umbridge turned to face the Wizengamot. “Esteemed members of the Wizengamot, I request that in the interests of expediency we question the accused under Veritaserum. How say you?”

Dumbledore quickly responded, “I do not believe that we need to take such drastic measures at this point. Should we not take Mister Black at his word?”

Umbridge gestured to Sirius, and said, “Perhaps we should allow Lord Black to make his wishes known?”

Sirius straightened his shoulders and announced, “I do not want there to be any room for doubt or misunderstanding. However, I am sure that there will be some who will claim that I am able to resist Veritaserum. To that end, I ask that I be granted the privilege of a Lord of our nation, to make an Unbreakable Vow to tell the truth to my accuser.” Once again, the chatter erupted.

Once Dumbledore had gained silence, he said, “Surely we do not need to disrupt our proceedings so? Is Lord Black’s word not enough?” This was immediately met with shouts of “No!” from the gallery. “Even so,” continued Dumbledore, “I see no need to—” »hem hem« “—My apologies Madam Umbridge, you have the floor.”

“As it is the accused that has made the request,” said Umbridge with a sweet smile to the Chief Warlock, “I feel that we must oblige him. As prosecutor for the Ministry, the vow will of course be made to me. As for the binder, we will need someone of known probity and unimpeachable reputation.” Dumbledore started to puff himself up at that point, then deflated abruptly when Umbridge continued, “Might I prevail upon Madam Longbottom to serve in that capacity?” Neville grinned to the others as his Gran stood to murmurs of approbation.

‹That sounded like it was all scripted out,› thought Lina, ‹except for the Headbastard’s interruptions. What’s he up to? It’s a good tactic though; I wonder if Umbridge or Longbottom came up with it, or if I’ll have to suggest it...›

Once Madam Longbottom had navigated her way to the accused’s chair on the courtroom floor, she gestured to Umbridge to take Sirius’ hand, then held her wand over them.

»hem hem« “Will you, Lord Sirius Orion Black, answer fully and truthfully, to the best of your knowledge, all questions I ask you for the duration of this trial?”

“I will,” said Sirius.

A stream of raw, glowing magic trickled from Madam Longbottom’s wand and wrapped around the joined hands, then sank into their skin. Umbridge released Sirius and stood. “Thank you, Madam Longbottom.”

They nodded to each other, then Umbridge waited until Madam Longbottom had resumed her seat. Turning to Sirius, she began, “Are you a member of the proscribed terrorist organisation known as the Death Eaters?”

Sirius held his head up and answered clearly, “No.” The crowd whispered briefly.

Umbridge went on, “Have you ever knowingly aided, supported, or given succour to that organisation’s members, or to its leader?”

“No,” replied Sirius. Whispers broke out again.

Umbridge waited for the crowd to become silent, then moved on. “Did you, on the First of November 1981, attempt to murder Peter Pettigrew?”

“No.” ‹I wanted him dead, but only after he’d been convicted. That’s not murder.›

Umbridge gave that a chance to sink in, then continued, “What was your intention in confronting him?”

Sirius drew himself up. “I wanted to find out why he had betrayed James and Lily. I wanted to bring him to justice.”

Umbridge nodded. “Did you, while confronting Pettigrew, cause the death of twelve Muggles?”


“How did they come to die?”

“Peter distracted me by shouting ‘Lily and James, Sirius! How could you?’, then fired a Blasting Curse at a gas main behind his back. The Muggles died in the explosion.” Sirius hung his head, still ashamed at falling for the trick.

“What did Pettigrew do then?”

“He used a Severing Charm to cut off a finger, then changed into his rat form and dived into the hole made by the explosion. I didn’t see him after that.”

Umbridge smiled, then said. “Pettigrew accused you of betraying the Potters. Did you?”

Sirius’ answer came as a low growl: “No.”

“Who did?” said Umbridge lightly.

“Peter Pettigrew.” This time it was more of a snarl.

“How can you be sure?” queried Umbridge.

“He was their Secret Keeper for the Fidelius Charm. Only he could tell others of their hiding place.”

Umbridge turned to the corner where the Unspeakable still lurked. “The Fidelius Charm is not well-known. Could Unspeakable Seeker elaborate for us?”

The shadowed figure came forward. “The Fidelius Charm is an ancient and very complex spell, which hides a specific fact in the soul of the one designated by the caster as the Secret Keeper. At the time of casting, all knowledge of that fact is instantly erased from the minds of all other people. Only the Secret Keeper can pass that fact on to others, either by speech or writing. Anything which could reveal the secret to others is simply imperceptible to them. For example, if the secret was ‘Sirius Black is chained to the accused’s chair in Courtroom Ten’, nothing anyone could do would reveal his presence there — we would all forget that he was there, and he would be utterly invisible, inaudible, and otherwise unfindable to everyone except the Secret Keeper.”

“A very secure spell indeed,” said Umbridge rhetorically. “And yet, I can perceive one flaw: if the Secret Keeper were to write the secret down, that note could be passed on to anyone without his knowledge.”

“That is the case,” agreed Seeker, then retreated to his shadows.

Umbridge turned back to Sirius. “Did you at any time have the Potters’ Secret in written form?”

“No,” replied Sirius.

“How did you become aware of the secret?” asked Umbridge.

“Pettigrew told me, immediately after Lily Potter cast the spell.”

“Are you aware of anyone else who had knowledge of the secret?” asked Umbridge carefully.

“James, Lily, and Harry Potter,” said Sirius.

Umbridge smiled. “Do you suspect that anyone else had knowledge of it?”

“Pettigrew wrote the secret on a piece of parchment, and gave it to James Potter. They intended to pass it on to Albus Dumbledore, but I am unaware if they did so.” Sirius did his best to suppress a feral grin at that.

Umbridge smiled to herself, then turned to the crowd again. “I think we can safely assume that James Potter did not betray himself, nor that our esteemed Chief Warlock would have done so.” There were several laughs at that, but also some muttering.

“There is only one further matter I feel needs resolved,” said Umbridge once the room fell silent again. “When you were discovered at the scene, you were laughing. Why was that?”

“I was in shock,” replied Sirius. “My brother in all but blood was dead, betrayed by the friend that I had convinced him to use as protection, and I had just been beaten in a duel by the most pathetic duellist I have ever known. I think I went a bit mad for a while.”

Madam Umbridge nodded. “Thank you Lord Black.” She turned to the purple-robed section. “Given Lord Black’s testimony, which by his oath cannot be anything other than the truth, I see no reason to continue this trial. The Ministry is satisfied that Lord Black is innocent of all charges. Chief Warlock?”

Dumbledore looked resigned to the inevitable. “Do I have any objections?”

Harry and his friends held their breaths.

Dumbledore nodded. “Then I declare Lord Black a free man.” He banged his podium with the rock three times, and the chains fell off Sirius, who immediately stood and bowed to Madam Umbridge as the crowd disintegrated into chattering.

Dumbledore noticed a single wand raised and lit, and called the court to order once more. “Madam Longbottom?”

Madam Longbottom stood. “Firstly, I trust I speak for the Wizengamot when I apologise to Lord Black for his unkind treatment at the hands of the previous administration,” there was a murmur of agreement, which she silenced with a look, “and that I hope he will take his seat amongst us at his earliest convenience.” Sirius looked up to Madam Longbottom and bowed. “Secondly, I propose a motion of commendation for Dolores Umbridge, for her staunch work in revealing this miscarriage of justice.”

Umbridge glanced up at Lina, who gave her a smile, then around the court, which had broken into applause.



Aside from Dumbledore, who had hustled off somewhere immediately after leaving the courtroom, the main actors had to endure a session with The Press. They were falling over themselves to congratulate Sirius on his innocence being proved, Umbridge on a well-presented case, and Harry on regaining his godfather. The sudden appearance of Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic, only added a cherry to the top. Photographs were taken of him formally returning Sirius’ wand into his care, and of his handshake with the famous Harry Potter. He also had an announcement for them:

“The Ministry has decided that, to investigate this terrible lapse of proper procedure, and to prevent its recurrence, there shall be a new Department of Magical Oversight. They will start out small, and their exact powers and relationships with the other Departments are yet to be finalised, but I can announce that the first Head of Department shall be our own Madam Dolores Umbridge.”

Umbridge’s eyes sought out Lina again, as The Press gathered around her with questions, but Lina was taking advantage of her appearance as a mere child to avoid attention. Once Umbridge had given an impromptu statement, the reporters dispersed, leaving a rather flustered, newly-minted Department Head behind, with Harry, Sirius, and Madam Longbottom for company. Lina quickly came over to join them, followed by McGonagall and her other pupils.

“Can I assume you were behind this promotion?” asked Umbridge of Lina, as Harry introduced Sirius to everyone.

“Well...” Lina made a self-deprecating gesture. “I made some suggestions to Madam Longbottom, about a way to ferret out corruption and bad practice in the Ministry, and finding suitable recognition for your hard work. She took it to the Minister and helped him with the details.”

“Then my thanks to you both,” said Umbridge, somewhat distractedly.

There was an awkward silence, broken quickly by Sirius. “So, who’s up for a celebratory lunch? On me, of course!”

“I—” began Umbridge. “Thank you for the invitation, Lord Black, but I must return to my duties. This should be a time for you and your godson to get to know each other.” She politely refused a couple of attempts to change her mind, then walked off, still in rather a daze.

“Madam Umbridge is correct,” said Madam Longbottom. “We should leave Lord Black and Mister Potter—”

“Not at all,” said Sirius, waving his hands vaguely. “Harry and I will have plenty of time to get to know each other; it would be rather awkward if we were left alone on our first meeting. Anyway, I must celebrate my freedom with all of those responsible for organising it. Please?”

Neville turned to his grandmother. “It would be nice,” he said. She started to waver; once Harry added his own pleading look she gave in.

“Oh very well. Do you want to wait for Albus?” Madam Longbottom’s tone made it clear she wasn’t interested in that option.

“Not particularly,” said Sirius, underlining the point by starting along the corridor. The others followed in a loose formation. “Actually, I have no idea where he is... I haven’t seen him since we left the courtroom.”

“I would have thought he’d be here trying to assert control over the situation,” said Lina. “Given that he isn’t, I suspect he’s looking for leverage somewhere else.”



Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot of Britannia, stared down the minor ministry lackey that dared to thwart him.

“I’m sorry sir,” said the file clerk obsequiously, “but all records of Harry Potter’s residence and guardianship were sealed in 1981 by order of... ah yes, yourself.” She paused to suppress her laughter again. “Only a directive from the full Wizengamot can open them, as explicitly stated in the order.”

Dumbledore was about to give a contemptuous snort, then pulled himself together, smiled, and with a twinkle in his eye said, “Exactly correct. Well done.”

He turned and left, waiting until he was well out of earshot before snarling and stamping his foot in frustration.



“Indubitably,” said Madam Longbottom. “So where do you intend to take us for lunch, Lord Black? And please refrain from mentioning the Leaky Cauldron.”

“I’m afraid the only other establishment I can remember is Butterworth’s,” said Sirius. “Are they still in business?”

“An excellent suggestion, Lord Black,” said Madam Longbottom. Neville blanched at the audacity of his grandmother; lunch at Butterworth’s could easily cost 25 Sickles per head. “Now, I am sure you will want to visit Gringotts, and spruce yourself up a bit. Shall we meet at Butterworth’s at... say, half past noon?”

“I’ll let them know to expect us,” said Sirius.

Madam Longbottom nodded. “And I expect Mister Potter will want to spend that time with his godfather. As for the rest of us... I believe that Professor McGonagall has some recommendations regarding your wand, Neville?” Neville blanched and started to stammer something, but his grandmother held up a hand to silence him. “Your bravery is not in question, Neville. Your father’s wand will be given a place of honour in our home, and you will honour his memory by being the best you can be.” Neville nodded meekly. “So, Neville and I will be paying a visit to Ollivander’s.”

“Should we do something about our clothes?” asked Hermione, who had divined the type of restaurant they were to visit from Neville’s reactions.

“A uniform is always appropriate, Miss Granger,” said Madam Longbottom, “though Mister Weasley may wish to consider straightening his tie.” Ron’s hand flew to his neck in embarrassment. “And although Miss Inverse’s attire is unusual, it is not tawdry or offensive.”

Lina grinned at her. “We should also ask Mandy to come. She did almost all of the research to discover Sirius’ situation, and what we could do about it.”

“And I would never have been able to convince the Minister to do as we wished without her assistance,” said Madam Longbottom. “However, I would not expect Butterworth’s to be very accommodating...”

McGonagall laughed. “With Madam Longbottom, Lord Black, and Harry Potter accompanying her? They would seat a mountain troll if you asked them to.”

Madam Longbottom gave a small smile. “I suppose they would, at that. In that case, I look forward to spending time with her in a more relaxed environment.”

They had reached the lifts by this point. Lina said, “We might as well split up here. I’ll go with Sirius and Harry. Neville, you’re with your gran for Ollivander’s. What about you two?” gesturing to Hermione and Ron.

“Well... I wouldn’t mind paying another visit to Flourish and Blotts,” said Hermione. “If Professor McGonagall could take me?” McGonagall indicated her acquiescence.

Ron, wanting to avert the impending doom of spending the next hour or so in a book-shop with Hermione, nevertheless tactfully chose not to latch on to Harry’s party. “I’ll go with you and Neville, if that’s all right Madam Longbottom? I wouldn’t mind Ollivander taking a look at my wand too; it’s been in the family for a while.”

“I would be glad of your company, Mister Weasley,” said Madam Longbottom. “So, until half past noon then?”

They all said their good-byes, and called separate lifts for each group.



Once they were in their lift, Sirius turned to Lina and started babbling his thanks to her, with a couple of comparisons to Lily Potter thrown in.

“Slow down, Sirius!” she said. “I wasn’t even sure you were innocent at first; Harry couldn’t stand not knowing what really happened, so we looked into it as best we could. Even so, it was Mandy that did most of the work; all I did was force Umbridge into giving you a trial. And I’m sort-of related to Lily... it’s really complicated. I think we should hold off explaining that for a little while, at least. Main thing is: I managed to convince the goblins to transfer Harry’s guardianship to me, but I think he needs a father-figure as well. James and Lily obviously thought you were up to the job; do you still want it?”

“Of course!” said Sirius. “Admittedly, they expected that I’d have Alice Longbottom to keep me sensible; I’ve got a feeling you’re not quite so ‘responsible’ as her.”

“Why Lord Black, you flatter me,” said Lina, fluttering her eyelashes.

“I’m surprised they gave Harry’s guardianship to someone as young—” started Sirius, but Harry leapt in between Lina and him.

“I’ve only just got my godfather back,” he stage-whispered to Lina, “I’d rather he weren’t crippled quite yet.” He turned to Sirius and went on, “Lina’s sixteen, all right? She’s a bit touchy about looking younger than that.”

“Ah,” said Sirius. “I do apologise, Miss Lina.”

“Technically, it’s ‘Lady Lina’,” interjected Harry. Sirius raised an eyebrow. “Long story, which we’ll go over later; I think Madam Longbottom needs to hear it too?” He addressed the last part to Lina.

“No need; Mandy already gave Granny L. most of the details,” she said. “Anyway, as far as the sensible, staid part of the family is concerned, we’ve got Mandy for that. Well, sort of,” she added, thinking of how excited her aide could get at times.

“Yes, the mysterious Mandy. Will we be meeting her at Butterworth’s?” asked Sirius.

“How about now?” said Lina. “Mandy!”


“Good morning Mistress Lina, Master Harry! I take it everything went well?”

“Just about perfectly, Mandy,” said Lina. “Even your plan to get Umbridge her own department.”

“That was mostly Madam Longbottom’s idea,” said Mandy. “Reward the toad, while removing her poisonous whispers from the Minister’s ear.”

“You can pass on your congratulations at lunch. However... Mandy, this is Lord Sirius Black. Lord Black, my steward, Mandy.”

Mandy gave Sirius a curtsey as he looked her over. Very tall, upright, and... strong-looking for a House Elf, wearing a dark-blue frock-coat with matching breeches and shoes, a white ruffled shirt, white stockings, and an unfamiliar crest above her heart. Sirius bowed and offered his hand to her. “Words cannot express my thanks for your help in removing me from that hell. If I can ever be of service, please do not hesitate to ask.”

Mandy blushed and took his hand. “You are welcome, Lord Black.”

Once they had shaken, he gestured to her crest, and said, “Do you mind?” When Mandy gave permission, he looked closer. “Sable; a chevron inverted and indented vert, in base a dragon... er... tué, I suppose, gules; over all a sword inverted or...” Sirius paused, straightened up, and scratched his head. “Um... that would be... constancy, faithful service, and a love of fire; enlightened warrior — I suppose that means a combat mage, in our case — plus two references to your surname; and a defender of treasure... no wait, the dragon’s dead, so... you’re actually advertising that you’re a thief?” Sirius looked at Lina in admiration, who pulled her cloak around to display her own copy of the House Inverse coat of arms.

“I prefer ‘asset recovery specialist’,” said Lina with a smirk. The lift doors opened, and they started towards the public Floos. “I used to raid bandits for a living. It’s also a bit more literal than that; I’ve had to off the odd dragon on occasion.”

“Really?” said Sirius incredulously.

“Believe it,” said Harry. “Big Sis is a one-girl cataclysm when she needs to be.” He ducked Lina’s half-hearted swat to the head, then spotted Hermione and McGonagall. He gave them a wave just before they Flooed out.

“And I was aiming for ‘fire is my faithful, beloved servant’,” added Lina, “but it’s nice to see that the effort in making it meaningful wasn’t wasted.”

“Eh... my family drilled that sort of thing into me when I was a kid,” said Sirius. “Hardly ever get to use it. What’s your motto?”

Lina blushed. “I really struggled to get a good Latin one, so I had to go with French. ‘Tuez-le avec le feu.’”

“Nothing wrong with a French motto,” said Sirius. “Tuez— really?” Lina gave him a guileless grin, which had him laughing so much he nearly collapsed.



Lina and Mandy were inclined to stay on the edges of any conversation, to let Sirius and Harry bond, but Harry wanted Sirius to bond with the rest of his family as well, and Sirius felt the same way. So the hour or so they spent reactivating the Black vaults, equipping Sirius with the insignia of his Lordship, and getting him a suitable outfit at Madam Malkin’s, were filled with chatter: how Lina became a Lady, and some of her exploits from her fictional past; some stories of the Marauders, and a few of the funnier incidents from Harry’s school-time so far; the unusual form of magic Harry shared with Lina; and some of the more interesting parts of Mandy’s investigation. Harry’s time at the Dursleys’, like Sirius’ at Azkaban, was glossed over with a muttered ‘it was bad’, and no mention was made of Lina’s true nature. By the time they reached Butterworth’s, they were well on the way to becoming a family.



Ron, Neville, and his Gran were waiting outside the restaurant when Harry and the rest arrived; Hermione and McGonagall came up the street seconds later.

“Have you been waiting long?” asked Sirius.

“Only a few moments,” replied Madam Longbottom. “Shall we?”

Sirius nodded, and held the door open for everyone. Harry and Hermione latched on to Ron and Neville on the way in.

“How did it go?” asked Hermione.

“I have a new wand,” said Neville, displaying said instrument as they started up the stairs to the restaurant’s main floor. “Apparently I’d have been better off using my mother’s all this time; Ollivander says this is very similar to hers. It already feels more alive than my dad’s did.”

They made congratulatory noises, then Harry asked, “What about you, Ron?”

Ron shrugged. “Turns out Charlie’s old wand is a pretty good fit. Ollivander gave me a massive lecture on not taking care of it though; he gave me some wax to use otherwise it might crack.”

“You should all give your wands a good polishing every night,” commented Sirius from behind them. Hermione blushed mightily, but the double entendre went straight over the boys’ heads.

Madam Longbottom had reached the maître d’hōtel’s post, and had identified them as Lord Black’s party. Once their outer wear had been collected by the staff, the maître led them over to a long table with nine settings. Only a few of the other tables were occupied.

Fortunately the three adults had independently decided to brief their charges on what to expect and how to act. Sirius made a point of seating Mandy at his left before taking his own place at the head of the table. The maître assisted Madam Longbottom into her seat at the foot, leaving the three boys to help the others: Harry helped Hermione, then took his place between her and Mandy; Ron sat Lina at Sirius’ right, then sat himself at hers; Neville assisted McGonagall and ended up at his gran’s left. Menus were handed out, and after taking an order of drinks the staff retreated to allow them time to peruse.

They were just received their drinks — wine for the adult humans, various fruit juices for the others — when a loud snort of disgust came from across the room. Mandy, who was enjoying the novelty of having a human waiter serve her, looked over to find herself being glared at by a finely-dressed man with ash-blond hair, who Harry recognised from the Wizengamot. He turned to his equally well-dressed and blonde wife and said loudly, “How terrible, that Butterworth’s has sunk so far as to—” He cut himself off with a sniff.

Sirius gave Mandy a supporting smile and murmured, “Ignore him.” Ron hissed, “Malfoy—” but was cut off by a quick glare from Madam Longbottom.

Lord Malfoy turned to the maître and said, “I find the company no longer conducive to good dining. I hope that this will not become habitual.” He turned to collect his wife, to find that she had gone over to the Black party’s table.

Sirius rose to greet Lady Malfoy and took her offered hand. “Cousin Sirius,” she said, “I am most pleased that you have regained your freedom.”

“Thank you Cousin Narcissa,” replied Sirius. “Perhaps we could meet under more pleasant circumstances?” His eyes flicked over to Lord Malfoy.

“Come, Narcissa!”

A hint of a frown flashed across Lady Malfoy’s brow, then she nodded to Sirius. “Perhaps. Good day to you.” She turned. “And good day to you, Madam Longbottom, Professor McGonagall.” They murmured the appropriate responses as she made a gesture to indicate the others. “Good day to you all.” They responded politely, though Ron had to be prodded and only muttered grudgingly.

The Malfoys departed. Madam Longbottom caught Ron’s eye and murmured, “You see? Now we look like civilised people, and Lord Malfoy looks like a boor.” Ron nodded, still rather wound up.

The maître came over to apologise for the unseemly scene, but as Sirius said, it was no fault of his or Butterworth’s. The waiting staff collected their orders, and conversation resumed.

The remainder of their visit to the exclusive restaurant passed without incident. Although Ron and Lina had to savagely curb their normal eating habits, they all enjoyed themselves immensely, especially once Lina put on her posh character and encouraged the other non-adults to copy her. They discussed many things, chief among them being Harry and Hermione’s theory about the Hogwarts houses’ elemental associations, and what Hermione had discovered about the Sorting Hat’s altered criteria.

“I will need to look into that,” said McGonagall once Hermione had finished her presentation. “However, I doubt that the Headmaster will be interested in fixing the problem. ‘Those criteria have served us well for centuries,’” she said, giving a creditable impression of Dumbledore’s condescending voice. “Never mind that encouraging an entire quarter of our population to turn evil is hardly beneficial.” She added in a whisper, “Daft auld bampot.”

Also discussed was the issue of where Sirius could stay while getting his own house in order. It fell to House Inverse to host him, and Mandy was tasked with getting him settled, as Lina was likely to be indisposed. In fact, as two o’clock approached, she begged their collective forgiveness and left, citing an important meeting.

The others were more leisurely in their departure, taking the time to thank the maître and his staff for a most enjoyable meal. Once outside, they were surprised to find Lina waiting for them.

“My meeting was put back,” she explained vaguely, “so I thought that I could help Mandy get Sirius settled. Professor McGonagall, I know you’ll be wanting to get these four back to the school, but could I borrow Harry for a quick private chat?”

With McGonagall’s permission, Lina dragged Harry into the narrow lane beside the Butterworth’s building. “Right, everyone awake. Counter-sleeping!” She checked that no-one could see them, then said, “Swap over, please.”

Harry let Earlier Lina take over. Later Lina passed a Time Turner to her, then quickly let Later Harry take over. “All right,” said Harry. “If you give that to Umbridge just before she leaves for the day — about half five — she’ll give you its earlier version. Turn back at eight to meet here.”

“All right,” said Lina, “but why— of course, we need to let Sirius know what’s going on with us.”

“Sooner rather than later,” agreed Harry. “It isn’t fair to keep him in the dark. This is our best chance to demonstrate it and everything.”

“True,” said Lina. “Come on.” She pulled Harry back out of the alley.

They said their goodbyes, including Harry getting long hugs from (in turn) Mandy, Sirius, and Lina. Mandy popped Lina and Sirius home; the rest went to the Leaky Cauldron, where Madam Longbottom Flooed home and the rest returned to Hogwarts.



“I suppose your earlier self is off telling Sirius about your shared nature?” asked Hermione as soon as the four got somewhere private. “How did he take it?”

“Of course you would work out what we were up to,” said Harry, then let Lina take over.

“He took it really well,” she said, pulling Neville into the hug he’d been unable to get all day. “He thinks it’s the most amazing prank he’s ever heard of. He also thinks his family library may have some pointers for getting me my own body!”

To be continued...

Oh dear... Umbridge is no longer in a position to influence policy via Fudge, but will be responsible for investigating and reporting on failures to enforce policy. (Yay?) Will she be able to get along with the DMLE, or will she go out of her way to antagonise them? Will the Black Family Library have any hints for Lina? What awful sacrifices will they require?

The pieces are in place, the opening moves made. Now the strategies must have time to develop...

Tuez-le avec le feu: “Kill it with fire.” The House Inverse coat of arms is now the ‘cover image’ for the story.

Currency: One Galleon = £5 is nonsense, no matter whether it’s for cheap items (1 newspaper = 1p couldn’t cover the salaries of the staff, even assuming no other costs), expensive items (1 insanely important life-long multitool = £35? 1 highly-trained post owl = £50?), or grand prizes (“fortune and glory” = £5000, which is also enough seed money to get premises in a prime shopping area??). If that was the sort of prices in the magical world, any time a Magical needed anything Muggle (food, cloth, other raw materials that they can’t possibly produce themselves), they would either have to steal it or bankrupt themselves. (And any half-way rich Muggleborn could buy their entire society out from under them, through a suitably Pure-blooded proxy of course.) So as far as this story is concerned, 1G = £50; this means that Harry’s wand cost £1500 (including a surcharge for the ones he blew up), Muon (highly trained post-owl of rare breed) cost £1750, and lunch for nine at Butterworth’s set Sirius back £660 or so.

The only problem with this reworking is that 1 butterbeer = 2 Sickles = 60p does work quite well, so I’m changing its price to 6 Knuts (= 60p) a pop.

But Siriusly... Just so you know: I won’t ever be using that stupid joke. Never mind that it’s not canon (never used once, even though there are at least four occasions across three books that set it up perfectly), it just doesn’t work in British English. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to check how a large selection of Scots, English, Irish and Welsh people (and one German) pronounce the name of the Dog Star, and I can confidently state that in no accent used in these isles does ‘Serious’ sound anything like ‘Sirius’. One starts sear, the other starts sir (and there are other differences). They only sound even vaguely alike if you are speaking with an American accent (any one of many): using it betrays your origins, just as much as serving biscuits and gravy for breakfast, or having the characters cut up all their food into bite-sized chunks before starting to eat it. (Yes, I’ve seen one author describe a meal to that level of detail; it really stood out as ‘completely foreign’.) Those Americans are pronouncing the word more correctly, in the sense that it’s originally a Greek word that wouldn’t have gone through the Great Vowel Shift, but according to our survey 100% of British people pronounce it as if it was assimilated into English before the shift, not imported after. Hence, no dumb pun.