Diaclaimer: Nope. Still not mine. More's the pity.
A/N: Sorry these chapters keep taking so long to get out there. Things have been rather distracting IRL. I admit I've been procrastinating the beginning of the next plot arc, because I was unsure of just HOW I was going to manage it. I've got some idea now, and am once again plugging away. Hopefully I can get more chapters out now that my brain has picked up the thread of the plot once more.
Many thanks to my betas, Vidicon and Kilolf.
Thanks also to those of you who review, and especially to those of you who have recommended this story. New recs always make me feel like a million bucks, and I cherish reviews - particularly ones that inspire me to include something I may not have considered before it is mentioned.
Now, on to the story...
Of the members of the Family travelling to Malboral, only Harry had never seen that ancient family seat of the Malfoy line. He studied the outer wall with interest, noting that it was built of heavy, well placed stones and bore battlements. As they turned into the gatehouse, which was he thought was a rather ostentatious affair carved with heroic Malfoys defending their lands, he was surprised to see that it actually contained not one but two portcullises and gates behind the sculptures and that he could sense powerful defensive magics reaching out to them even as they stood open, then go dormant as they recognised the Malfoy blood, or maybe his overlordship, in the carriage.
Once out of the shadow of the gate he wanted to remark on it, but then he caught his first sight of Malboral itself, standing aloof and powerful on a hill a mile away, with another wall surrounding the bottom of the hill. He looked at the great grey stone keep thoughtfully. After his limited experiences with some rather fanciful homes in the Wizarding world, this plain structure, adorned only with creeping ivy and a rather large wardstone near the eaves, came as a bit of a shock. It was massive, but so… ordinary looking. It looked like it had survived many centuries, and if the sheer solidity of the place were anything to go by, it would be standing long after everyone he knew was dead. That comforted him, though he couldn’t say why. And as plain as the structure was, there was an earthy beauty to something so completely ancient as it stood, the sun gleaming on the dark leaves of the ivy and picking out the flecks of mica on the granite walls.
When the carriage stopped at the foot of the stairs leading to the front door, Severus hopped out first, and offered his hand to Dame Hélène, who took it and alighted delicately from the carriage. Blaise and Harry followed their Professor’s example, helping Buffy and Calypso, who uncharacteristically did not make any snide remarks at their unusual courtesy, and followed the older man and the Dowager into the keep.
“Bonne Maman!” echoed a happy shriek, as Dawn came barrelling through the foyer toward them. To Harry’s surprise, however, the youngest member of the family, instead of hurling her self into the older witch’s arms, pulled herself up what seemed like inches short of a collision, and dropped into a picture perfect curtsey before her ancestress. Offering a shy smile, she said, “It is wonderful to see you again. I missed you, and hoped that when Daddy went to get Buffy and the others from your house, that you would come along.”
Hélène smiled at her youngest great-grandchild. “But of course, ma petite
! I would not miss the chance to see all of my little ones again!” Opening her arms, she welcomed her great granddaughter’s carefully restrained hug. “Now, where are your mother and eldest sister?”
Dawn grinned impishly. “Mom’s in the kitchen, making tea, and Jessie is still in the surgery, looking after her patient.”
Hélène raised an eyebrow. “Her patient? What on earth is she doing bringing a patient here? Is it one of the tenants? Has someone been hurt?”
“Oh no,” Dawn hastily reassured her. “He’s not from the estate, he’s … um … he’s a dragon trainer, and he got really burned. I think she said Master Brown made him her patient to test her skills?” she finished a bit uncertainly, looking at her father for confirmation.
Hélène sighed, and took Dawn’s hand in her own. Looking at the four teens, and her grandson-in-law, she said, “Severus, I trust you shall take these youngsters into the Keep without letting them find a way to turn it upside down? I think I need to see what mischief that old man has done my Jessamyn.” Then, without waiting for anyone to speak, she swept through the front door, and headed for the surgery, gently directing Dawn to join her mother in the kitchen on the way.
Harry exchanged looks with the others, and then turned to Severus. “Would you object to giving us a tour, sir? I’ve never been here before, and I don’t think Blaise has either. For that matter, I don’t know how long it’s been since Calypso has been here, if ever.”
Severus smiled. That and the fact that he hadn’t just made a rather nasty remark about the lack of his knowledge was still on occasion a major surprise for Harry after so many years of conditioning.
Severus gestured at the great staircase that led up to the main entrance of the Keep, which was located on the first floor. “Of course. The last time the children were here would have been the summer Dawn was born. I’d imagine your memories might be a bit unreliable, girls?”
Buffy and Calypso exchanged rueful glances, and silent nods. Buffy replied to her father’s question. “A tour to get reacquainted would be nice.”
He grinned for an instant. “I thought as much. Follow me.”
Jess was writing in her journal when the door of the surgery opened behind her. Putting the quill down beside the leather bound book, she stood, wiping her inky fingers on a moist cloth the rid them of the worst of the stains as she turned to see who was coming to visit. Her patient’s eldest brother had stopped in briefly the previous day, though he had promised to let Charlie deal with their parents at their home, rather than bringing them into the ancient Malfoy home. Her eyes flew open wide at the sight of the diminutive, white-haired witch before her. “B-bonne Maman?” she gasped, completely surprised.
Hélène looked her over, glanced at her patient – sleeping peacefully on the cot, and smiled at the girl who was, though she would never admit it out loud and would not treat her differently in most ways than the others, her favourite great-grandchild. “Hello, my darling girl. I have missed you so.” She held out her arms, and Jess practically flew into them.
The instant Jess’ arms encircled her great-grandmother, she became aware of the older woman’s chronic pain. Her magic touched Hélène’s own, and made her hands tingle as she instinctively began using it to mitigate the symptoms of the tissue damage done by whatever condition was breaking down the old lady’s joints.
Hélène stiffened for an instant, and then gave Jess a penetrating look. “Ma cherie
, I am very certain I remember your mother telling me long ago that you have no magic. How are you a student of Eleazer Brown if that is so?”
Jess frowned. “Didn’t dad tell you? I went to college to be a nurse, but when things happened here to expose our existence to the Wizarding world, mom and dad decided to move the whole family into Hogwarts, and Madame Pomfrey agreed to apprentice me, since apparently Squibs can train to be nurses because nursing is less a matter of applied magic and more of performing triage and administering potions. And then… well… Bonne Maman, have you ever heard of Touch Healing?”
Hélène blinked. “I have. My own grand-mere was a talented healer. It is a very rare and precious gift. This is why you are training with Monsieur Brown?”
Jess nodded, and smiled tentatively. “Turns out I’m not quite as bereft of magic as everyone thought for all these years. I don’t have the kind of magic that works with a wand, but this...” she gestured toward the sleeping form of her patient, “I can do.” Her smile turned into a fleeting frown, and she asked, “Bonne Maman, what happened to you that you have such lasting pain?”
Hélène sighed softly, cupping her right hand around her left elbow. “Long ago, before my Octavius died, he would take me along on all manner of interesting expeditions. He loved exploring distant places where rumours and legends of magical creatures or events might lead him to an exciting discovery. Unfortunately, great adventures have certain risks, and I contracted rheumatic fever in Siberia on one such expedition. Your bisaïeul was convinced that there was a hidden deposit of enchanted gold secreted in a small valley somewhere out on the steppes. He was so full of the things he could do with it if he could find it, the many people he could help. He was sure it would be even more useful than meteoric iron.”
Hélène smiled in memory. “He was always a bit of a dreamer, my Octavius.” She sighed ruefully, explaining, “We did not find the gold but I’ve had pain and swelling in my limbs and back joints since, although careful regulation of my diet, exercise, and sleep have helped me control the pain. My regular mediwizard has kept me supplied with potions for relief of the symptoms for years, as well, though I try not to overuse them. Octavius was desolate and curtailed his expeditions after that so that he could be there for me. He blamed himself until his dying day.”
Jess frowned. “Bonne Maman, did you have a sore throat before the onset of those symptoms?”
Hélène shook her head, curious. “No, not that I can recall. I felt a bit stiff, and tired, and had a fever for a few days, and afterward, my body just began to protest if I overextended myself, or put excessive pressure on myself.”
Giving her great-grandmother a serious look, Jess asked, “Bonne Maman, how old were you when you went on that trip?”
Hélène arched an eyebrow at Jess. “Old enough to decide for myself if I was fit to travel. What are you thinking, cherie
Jess took one of Hélène’s hands in her own, and focused on what she could feel with her magic. “I think that someone misdiagnosed you years ago. How old were you when you first started having joint pain, Bonne Maman?”
Hélène thought for a moment. “It was the year before I lost Octavius, when your grandfather, Abraxas, was eight years old. We would have been celebrating our seventeenth wedding anniversary that year, which would mean I was almost forty.”
Jess nodded. “That makes sense. Bonne Maman, I don’t think you had rheumatic fever, I think you developed aggressive rheumatoid arthritis. Have you had problems all this time?” As she asked, she began directing her magic into the damage she could feel in Hélène’s hand.
Hélène watched, somewhat bemused, as the enlarged knuckles of her fingers shrank slightly and the twisted look of her hand smoothed to a more normal shape. Almost absently, she murmured, “Oui. It has been nearly sixty years since I could close my hand fully without at least a small bit of discomfort.” She made a fist, and looked at Jess, her eyes misty with a world of emotion. “Ah, ma fille
! I am so very happy for you. Such a wonderful gift you have. But how could they have made such a mistake?”
Jess bit her lip, then said, “I think it was a case of horses and zebras.”
Hélène gave her a look. “Horses and zebras? I did not know they could transmit rheumatism?”
Jess giggled. “No, I meant that you were in a place where rheumatic fever occurs and I think rheumatism is quite rare in wizards and witches as young as forty. So they went for the obvious. It’s a medical story, ninety-nine times when you hear the galloping of hooves, it’s horses, but that hundredth time, it’s a zebra.”
, if it is so, it is so and I will have to have a word with my healer,” Hélène smiled. “Maybe there is something more efficacious to deal with it now we know what it is.”
Jess took her grandmother’s other hand, lightly tracing the knuckles and there too, the inflammation receded. “In the outside world, away from Wizards, there’s no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis; even the treatments to abate the symptoms don’t work forever. But if you let me, I think I can help you.”
Hélène smiled. “If you wish to practice your gift by treating my old bones, I welcome the care, but you must finish caring for one patient before you take another into your hands. I have no reason to hurry away. Au contraire
, I have every reason to spend the foreseeable future here, with ma famille
. For now, I shall leave you to your dragon trainer.” As she stood, her smile became a smirk, “He’s quite a specimen, despite the scars.”
Jess snorted. “Not you too! Mom and Dad were already teasing me about bringing him home. As if I had a choice.”
Hélène gave a Gallic shrug, and kissed Jess’ cheek, taking her leave with a soft admonition. “Enjoy opportunity when it knocks, my darling. I will see you later.”
Jess watched the old witch leave, and rolled her eyes in resigned amusement. Looking at the sleeping male, she commented, “My family. Gotta love ‘em.” Then, dismissing thoughts of teasing elders, she turned her attention to continuing the soft tissue repairs she’d begun on Charlie Weasley’s neck and shoulder.
Aberforth Dumbledore was a private man. It had never been his wont to step into the limelight – a place his younger twin had always seemed to relish. As he supervised the careful bathing and dressing of his abnormally withdrawn brother after his removal from Azkaban, he thought about the highly public trial that would happen uncomfortably soon. Ever since the reading of the Potters’ Will, he’d been researching both the details of his brother’s activities, and potential alternatives to a Ministry trial. He remembered enough of those from the time after James and Lily’s deaths to know that it would be a complete farce. He wanted justice, for both the Potters and his brother’s sake – not a lynching.
Setting his jaw, he watched the House elves lead his brother to the table to feed him. He’d never seen Albus look so fragile. Taking his leave, he walked out to the road in front of the Hog’s Head, and raised his wand. When the Knight Bus screeched to a halt in front of him, he gave the driver a one word response to the request for a destination, and made his way to a seat in the top level, even as the purple monstrosity lurched away from Hogsmeade.
When she learned from Dawn that the others had arrived, Joyce directed the House Elves to continue with the preparations for dinner without her, and led her youngest out to join the rest of the family in their tour. She exchanged a smile with Severus, and took over the lecture he’d been giving.
Harry frowned thoughtfully as he listened to Joyce explain the history of Malboral Keep to him and the other teens. One particular point had him nodding, as it reaffirmed something he’d already discovered. When Joyce paused for a moment, he cleared his throat quietly, and asked, “The original land grant for this property was by endowment from the Lovegood King who adopted the Mal Foi, correct? The contractual obligation was a royal action, predating the founding of the Ministry.”
Arching a curious eyebrow, Joyce nodded. “That’s right. This estate, the surrounding fief, the original house in Winchester, and the land the London townhouse stands on were all settled on our ancestor as a single action, actually. Even back then, London was the seat of the Council of Twelve, so each of them had a secondary residence there, and especially favoured vassals were often granted smaller properties in the growing city.” She smirked. “According to the Compendium Magicum et Res Significat de Regis in Brittania that my father has in his library, the original Twelve had a powerful Seer in their collective court, and she told them London would one day be the heart of a great Empire. They decided that the best way to be prepared for anything the invaders might attempt against our people, magical or mundane, was to maintain a presence among the powerful and keep track of everything they did. As old Mad Eye Moody is so fond of saying, ‘Constant Vigilance’, right?”
Calypso frowned slightly, and asked, “What about Malfoy manor? Was that part of the endowment, too?”
Joyce shook her head. “Malfoy Manor and the propertybeach house in Wales were bought later, by other Malfoy Lords. Both were selected for advantageous locations, the Manor both lying in a heavily magical area and havingbearing a small harbour onnot far from the Avon,Channel, and the Welsh property a somewhat larger one has a small seaport on the Bristol Channel – both of which the family has used for their shipping interests for centuries.”
Harry nodded. “Most of the family business interests are outside Britain, from what I remember. Is that correct?”
“All but the Owl breeding, the income from the estates themselves and the investments in the handful of manufactories my father kept, unless Luce changed quite a bit over the last five years, yes. Harry, what are you getting at?”
He smiled. “I’ve discovered some... discrepancies, if you will, in the way the Ministry handled Calypso’s case. I’ve had an investigation started, and hopefully by the end of the summer, I should have what I need to get it straightened out.”
Just then, Joyce and Severus led the teens through a broad archway into a huge room with great, shining stained glass windows that let the afternoon sun in as a riot of jewel-tone beams of colour. Between the windows hung many portraits, and Joyce stopped below one of a dancing couple. Joyce smiled at the graceful pair, completely focused on one another in an evocative tango. Harry recognised the two of them, and looked at Calypso. She grinned back at him, and he murmured, “Do you have that letter with you, by chance, luv?”
Her smile turned mischievous, and she pulled the parchment envelope partway out of her robe pocket. “Of course.”
He smirked. “Excellent. This should be entertaining.”
Calypso smiled impishly at him, and then cleared her throat. “Aunt Joyce, what do you know about the Mnemosyne spell?”
Joyce raised her eyebrows. “That’s a complicated charm. When I went to Hogwarts, it was one of the charms a student could study as their term project in fourth year. It’s not in the regular curriculum, though, and few people choose it since it is quite a difficult spell to manage. Why?”
Calypso smirked, and pulled the envelope from her pocket. “Luna gave me this letter. It’s a rather spectacular example of Mnemosyne. I wondered if there might be someplace safe to store it.”
“Why? What is it?”
The smirk turned devilish. “Ask your mother, Aunt Joyce. It’s her letter. I’d love to hear her explanation of how it came to be in Hogwarts.”
Joyce took the letter. “Do you mind?” she asked, as she opened the envelope.
Calypso snickered, and Harry covered his mouth with his hand. “Feel free...” she waved her hand.
Dawn’s eyes widened as she recognised the envelope, and as her mother began reading, a whimper escaped her, and she tried to slip out of the room. Her father noticed, and moved to intercept his youngest child. “Something the matter, Dawn?” he asked softly.
Dawn cringed, and opened her mouth to respond, when her mother’s indignant shout captured both her and her father’s attention.
“MOTHER!” Joyce exclaimed, breaking away from the letter’s spell. “How could you leave something like this at school?”
Abraxas and Ermingard broke apart, and moved into the foreground of their portrait. Ermingard gave her daughter a concerned look. “Jocey, whatever is the matter?”
Joyce walked to stand directly in front of the portrait, and opened the letter enough for her mother to see the writing on the first page. Ermingard skimmed the first few lines, and coloured.
“Oh my. I’d forgotten all about that. I wrote that after... well, after that particular evening. I don’t think I’ve even thought about it since I left school. I must have forgotten to bring it with me when I graduated.”
Abraxas gave his blushing wife an amused look. “You forgot? That’s not like you, Ermy. Whatever is in that letter, my dear?”
Ermingard looked abashed. “The evening you asked me to marry you.”
Abraxas blinked, and then began to laugh. Ermingard looked slightly offended. “Abrax! That was a very special memory for me. I was only just fifteen, if you remember.”
“Fifteen? Your were only fifteen when...” Dawn squawked, before slapping her hand over her mouth.
Buffy frowned at her sister, faintly puzzled. “I don’t get it. What’s the big deal? Who was the letter to?”
Ermingard’s colour deepened. “Er... to myself, more or less. I wasn’t going to send it to anyone else, certainly. I was a bit shy when I was young, and that day was important enough to me for me to want to save the memory.”
“But why is Mom so shocked that you left it behind?”
Harry coughed. “Probably because it’s not exactly the kind of reading material that’s appropriate for school children to be getting their hands on.”
Abraxas gave Harry a sharp look. “And who are you, young man?”
“Harry, sir. Harry Potter.”
Abraxas’ eyebrows rose. “Potter? You wouldn’t be James Potter’s son, by chance?”
Harry nodded, “Yes, sir.”
“Well, you’ve better manners than he did at your age, at least. Who is your mother?”
Harry flinched. “My mother was Lily Evans. She and my dad died when I was a year old. Voldemort murdered them.”
Ermingard gave him a sympathetic look. “I’m sorry to hear that. Lily was a lovely girl. Your father turned out better than we’d once have expected, but your mother was one of our Jocey’s best friends.”
Abraxas nodded. “She was a very sweet, charming young woman. Had quite a temper, too.” He looked at Calypso’s hand, resting in the crook of Harry’s arm. “And who is this young lady?” he asked.
Joyce sighed. “Mum, Dad, I’d like to introduce you to your other two granddaughters. Calypso is Luce’s daughter. And this is Buffy, my middle daughter,” she finished, gesturing toward her seventeen year old.
Abraxas blinked, his face shocked and pained. “Daughter? Lucius has spoken often of his son, but I thought his daughter died?”
Calypso cringed. “Celia did die, grandfather. I... well, it’s complicated. Harry’s discovered that it might actually be more complicated than we even knew, but I WAS Draco, until about seven months ago. Now, I am Calypso, and Harry... Harry’s my f-fiancé,” she finished, visibly bracing herself for the reaction.
Abraxas looked gobsmacked. Ermingard looked faintly disturbed. The rest of the family waited for them to react.
After a long moment, Abraxas began sputtering. “How in Merlin’s name... shouldn’t be possible... what on earth...” he paused to take a breath, then blurted, “Thank Merlin I never bedded Dorea!”
Ermingard gave her husband an inscrutable look and drawled, “Was she the only girl in Hogwarts you didn’t, dear?”
Abraxas quirked an eyebrow. “No. There were a few others. I can give you a list if you’re interested…” Then he ducked as his wife slapped at the back of his head.
Ermingard cleared her throat, giving her faintly smirking husband a pointed glare.throat. “Enough of that. I’m sure we will learn all about how our grandson became a granddaughter and the exciting details thereof in time, but for now, perhaps we might deal with my letter. If you touch the letter to the painting, I might be able to reclaim the memory, though the words would remain. Jocey, if you wouldn’t mind?” she held out her hand. Joyce pressed the parchment flat to the painting over the image of her mother’s hand, and felt a faint tingle as the magic in the parchment seemed to fade away. Lady Ermingard drew a breath. “Oh my!” she gasped.
“What’s the matter, my dear?” Abraxas asked her.
Clearing her throat, and giving her head a short shake, she explained, “When the memory joined with my magical essence, I felt as though I were experiencing the entire event again for just a moment. It was... startling.” She looked the letter over, and gave a satisfied nod. “Right then. That should keep anyone else from ... being affected. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d prefer if you destroyed the letter now. It was never meant for any eyes but my own, after all.”
Calypso made a sound of protest, and her grandmother turned an arched eyebrow in her direction. Calypso blushed, and averted her eyes for a moment, before explaining, “I’m sorry. I couldn’t destroy it when I realised what it was, because it was something that had been yours. That made it precious to me. I’d like it back, if you wouldn’t object.”
Ermingard considered Calypso thoughtfully, and then nodded. “It’s only a letter now, but I do ask that you not let anyone else read it, nonetheless. That is an extremely personal record, you understand.”
Calypso nodded, and smiled in timid gratitude when Joyce handed her the letter, and its envelope. As she tucked it gently back into her pocket, Buffy suddenly, shuddered. “Ooh... I get it. Callie, you said Luna gave you that letter. Where did she get it?”
Calypso sighed. “She said it was on the floor outside the infirmary. She thought it was supposed to be like the books that... well, I don’t think she knew who had written it. I don’t think she ever read it all the way through, now that I think about it.”
Buffy frowned. “How would it have gotten outside the infirmary?”
Dawn whimpered, and every eye in the room fell on her. She cringed, and then when her father squeezed her shoulder slightly, she explained, “I found it in the secret compartment in my bedpost, and I read part of it because I was curious, but I didn’t get far before getting kicked out, and I took it to Madam Pomfrey because I didn’t want Mom to know about it. I don’t know how it got into the hall from there, though.”
Joyce looked thoughtfully at her youngest daughter, and commented, “I’ll have to ask Aunt Poppy about that when I get back to Hogwarts in August, I suppose. How far did you get, and what threw you out, Dawn?”
“Er... grandfather turned around, and then grandmother tossed me out and yelled at me,” Dawn squeaked. “I’d’a never, ever even thought about reading it if I’d known what it was, Mom, honest!”
Joyce smiled. “That I can believe, sweetie. In future, though, if you find something in a secret compartment, why don’t you resist the urge to explore it further and bring it to your father or me. What if that letter had been cursed? It could have hurt or killed you, my curious little monkey. Remember what Professor Slughorn had to show you? There are other dangers in our world, and you have to learn to be more careful.”
Dawn looked at her shoes. “Yes, Mom.” She huddled into her father’s side, and he hugged her reassuringly with one arm.
“Well, as the matter of the mysterious Mnemosyne letter has been resolved, perhaps we might continue with our tour?” Severus suggested mildly.
When the Knight Bus finally stopped lurching and the conductor called out Aberforth’s destination, the old wizard stepped off with all the haste his slightly wobbly legs would afford him. As it was, his feet had barely found the packed earth of the roadside before the bus was once again gone with a resounding BANG. Irritated, he began walking up the winding footpath. From the road, it seemed that this particular path wound into an unending forest somewhere north of Ben Nevis. The spell work that made this particular property Unplottable even obscured the truth from overflying Muggle aircraft – no mean feat for the Clan that lived there.
Aberforth smiled a bit as he rounded a bend in the path and the home of the MacDougal clan came into view. Even at the worst of times, Glenheather was beautiful. Unlike most of the English Kings, the MacDougals had kept their Clan together, much as the lairds of old had done. More than a thousand Wizards, Witches, and Squibs lived within the primary holding. Privately, Aberforth wondered if the self-styled Dark Lord had ever been aware of the prodigious enclave. As far as he knew, the property was even kept out of the eye of the Ministry, beyond its obvious function as home to a number of magical families. In all likelihood, only the older Kings even knew it was the locations of the first Magical enclave, and the original meeting place of the Council of Twelve.
He was still smiling slightly as he walked up the broad stone steps of the main keep, and grasped the great bronze door knocker in his hand, giving three firm knocks. The door swung open, and revealed a pretty young witch with a charming smile. “Good morning, sir. Won’t you please come in?” she asked, in a sweet, rolling brogue.
He smiled and stepped across the threshold, returning her greeting. “Good morning, young lady. Could you tell Iain that Aberforth Dumbledore requests an audience?”
Dimpling at him, the girl nodded. “Aye, that I can. Follow me, Grandda should be in his study just now, sir.”
He followed her, and when she waved him into a seat in a well appointed sitting room, he sat. She disappeared through an oak framed doorway, and he could hear her greet the man beyond. “Grandda, the Dumbledore king is here to see ye. Would ye like me to ring up some sandwiches from the kitchen?”
A voice aged by time and good Firewhisky rumbled, “Is he noo? An’ just what would that auld longlegs want wi’ me today? Aye weel, send ‘im in, then. An’ a wee bit o’ luncheon might no go amiss.”
The young lady reappeared, and nodded to Aberforth, and told him, “Ye can gae inside, sir,” and disappeared with no further ado.
Aberforth took a deep breath and walked into the inner sanctum of the Laird of the MacDougal clan, crossing the room to take a seat catercorner to his fellow King. “Iain.”
“Abe. What brings ye tae my door this fine day?”
Aberforth gave a slightly bitter smile. “I wish it were business as fine as the spring weather, but no such luck.” He sighed. “I know you’re aware of my brother’s arrest.”
“Och aye, ye might be sayin’ tha’. Nasty mess Albus got himself tangled in. An’ Potter the new Black King bound and determined to kick up a fuss.make waves. What can I do for ye, Abe?”
Aberforth gave the other man a serious look. “You know as well as I do that if this matter is addressed by the Ministry, my brother will be the star attraction in the circus they will make of the entire matter. The trial is scheduled for Monday, and I would ask that you be there. I’m going to request a High Tribunal.”
Iain raised his thick white eyebrows. “Are ye noo? And ye wan’ me tae sit as one of the judges on this tribunal, then?” his head tilted slightly. “Who else do ye have in mind?”
“There’s the rub. Of the twelve of us, there are several who can’t sit Tribunal, because they are directly connected to Albus or the case. The Black, the Gryffindor, the Zabini, and the Prewett are all recent former students of his, and the Black and the Gryffindor both are his accusers. To be truthful, that’s the primary reason I want a Tribunal. At least that way, he will be given a fair hearing, rather than being made a spectacle.”
“Well, the Lovegood has a daughter in Hogwarts now, so he can’t take on the duty, and the Ravenclaw has been selling his students wands for decades. I’d be uncomfortable asking him to sit Tribunal. An’ if what I hear is true, we don’t want the Slytherin – be like tae tossin’ a viper intae a chicken coop. Nobody knows who the current Hufflepuff is, or if there is one still. That leaves Flint, and the Kirkcaldy. Old Flamel passed a year ago, ye know. His heir could do the job.”
Aberforth blinked. “Who succeeded Flamel?”
“Urquart the Younger.”
Aberforth’s eyebrows made a break for his hairline. “How in blazes did that happen?”
MacDougal chuckled. “Ye know as well as I dae that auld Nick kept his business close e'er since the Grindewald mess. I confess tae bein’ a wee bit shocked meself when Young Urquart came callin’ a bit ago tae tell me that auld Nick had passed, an’ that he meant to continue as the auld man had, meanin’ to maintain all the auld man’s alliances and such.”
Aberforth frowned. “That could be a problem. How did the line pass to him?”
“Through his mum, o’course. You do recall that Minnie’s mum was a Ross, before she marrit the Muggle McGonagall? The Rosses were straight line descendents of auld Nick. Tae be fair, if either o’ Minnie’s bruithers had survived the first War wi’ Riddle, one o’ them’d be King noo I suppose. Twas a stroke of luck that Minnie finally marrit Urquart the Elder, aye?”
“Seems so. I wonder if she knows. Albus didn’t, of that much I’m sure.”
Iain nodded. “Then there shouldn’t be a problem. Young Urquart might be green, but the auld man trained him weel enou’. Took ‘im on as protégé before he was e’en auld enou’ tae go tae Hogwarts, and kept ‘im completely out o’ ye’re bruither’s influence.” He smiled. “Trust Flamel to remember all the auld Royal prerogatives.”
Aberforth tugged on his bushy beard as he mused. “Cassius Flint is far enough out of school to be reasonably neutral, and if Minnie’s boy didn’t go to Hogwarts he should unbiased enough, as well, despite her position.” He gave the Scot a questioning look, “Might I assume this means you are willing to call for a Tribunal at the court date, Iain?”
The old laird nodded sombrely. “Wouldn’t be right tae do aught else, Abe. Albus doesn’t deserve the malarkey the Ministry calls a trial anymore.” He settled more comfortably into his chair as his granddaughter returned. Waving his wand, he relieved her of the tray of sandwiches she’d been carrying, and invited, “Join me for a wee bit o’ lunch, Abe?”
Aberforth, relief evident in the loosening of his shoulders, nodded. “A meal sounds like an excellent idea. Thank you, Iain.”
Iain MacDougal acknowledged the thanks, and floated two generously filled sandwiches onto a plate. Looking at his granddaughter, he smiled. “Thank ye, Morag. These look just the thing.”
“Weel, if I didn’ feed ye proper, ye’d scarce eat a thing in the summer, an’ that’s the truth,” she grinned cheekily, and dropped a kiss on his cheek.
“Off wi’ ye, then. Leave us auld men in peace.”
Aberforth watched the girl leave, then commented, “Lovely girl. Is she promised yet?”
Iain snorted. “That one? The lads she knows are all dead scairt o’ her temper, an’ I won’t allow any man tae marry one o’ my girls wi’out bein’ man enou’ to ask ‘er ‘imsel’.”
Aberforth chuckled. “Well, she’s got time. She’s barely of age, I’d wager.”
Iain nodded agreeably, chewing his food with relish. Swallowing, he commented, “My Isobel will be marrit with a few bairns afore Morag e‘en finds a husband. Erin might find a man afore her sister, for all that. Too bad Potter’s dead gone on his Malfoy. She’s been fillin’ my ears about him since she came home.” He grinned. “Did ye know that after she got picked as Slytherin’s new Seeker, Potter trained her to fly the way he does?”
Aberforth laughed. “That does sound like Potter. Come to that, I think I heard about that from a pair of seventh year Ravenclaws just before the end of the year. They seemed to think he’d cheated them out of the Quidditch Cup.”
“Hmmphmmm. Cheated. Puir sports, sounds like.”
The two of them continued to chat as they finished the sandwiches, and when Aberforth excused himself, Iain walked with him to the end of the footpath. Just before Aberforth raised his wand to summon the Knight Bus, Iain reached out and clasped his arm in a gesture of friendship.
“Abe, I cain’t promise the Tribunal will exonerate Albus, but he will get fair treatment.”
Aberforth smiled sadly. “That’s all I ask, Iain.”
Aberforth was thoughtful as he settled into on of the armchairs on the Knight Bus’ third level. For good or ill, the die was cast. Merlin help his brother.