Harry's tolerance level was very close to snapping. Apparently, one of the simplest and most commonly used words by misbehaving toddlers across the globe was indecipherable to Auror John Dawlish. Not that Harry should have expected more from the Auror, considering the intellect of the man's counterpart in the other world. It seemed that no matter what time-stream he existed within, he and Auror Dawlish were destined to be at odds.
“No,”Harry repeated vehemently for what had to be the dozenth time, his restrain coiling ever tighter in order to prevent him from taking up his wand and cursing the man.
“Hundreds of witnesses –” Auror Dawlish began yet again, his eyes unwavering from the point past Harry's right shoulder that he'd been staring at for a little over an hour now.
“Heard me say, and I quote: 'I'd ask who you're working for, but considering your target, I believe it would be redundant and a waste of time,'”Harry reiterated with a biting edge, his eyes flashing with the annoyance and fury that threatened to consume what little rational thought he had left. It was so like the bleeding British Ministry of Magic to throw accusations at the person who had saved their asses.“Where you get a confession of my being behind the attack out of that is beyond me.”
As Auror Dawlish opened his mouth to no doubt ask the same question he'd been asking for the last half hour, only phrased slightly differently, the door to the interview room burst opened.
Mr. Earnshaw stormed into the small, gray walled, poorly lit room in the fashion of an incensed man. His face was livid and his knuckles were white on the briefcase he carried. His maroon dress robes that he had worn to the ball had been replaced with custom tailored, pinstriped robes and a navy tie, making him look every bit of the clean-cut, high paid solicitor under his lord's retainer.
A furious, clean-cut, high paid solicitor under his lord's retainer, Harry amended, feeling a wave of kinship with the man greater than he had over the last week.
“My lord, I advise strongly that you say nothing more,” Mr. Earnshaw said, as he swept around the table and came to stand beside the chair Harry was sat upon. Turning to Auror Dawlish, he said burlesquely and with authority, “As of this moment, this interview is over. Either charge my client or let him go.”
“Your client is suspected of instigating an act of terrorism,” Auror Dawlish refuted, shoving his chair back from the table with a loudscreech!of metal on stone. Upon standing, he towered over Mr. Earnshaw by a good three inches. As if to further assert his physical dominance, he leaned ever so slightly over the table that served as a tangible barrier between him and Mr. Earnshaw, slamming his meaty hands down on the metal table top with a resound thwack! “I'll be keeping him as long as I like – charges or no charges!”
“My client,” Mr. Earnshaw narrowed his eyes dangerously at Auror Dawlish, “is the Baron of the Peak, a lord of the Wizengamot. You violate his ancient rights every second that you keep him here without just cause for his detainment.”
“A woman is dead! I have five Aurors in St. Mungo's! The Macmillans, Hit Wizard Harkiss, and Kathrin Bell are yet to be located! And, on top of all that, Neville Longbottom has been scared out of his wits and people are in a panic!” Auror Dawlish barked out harshly. “How's that for just fucking cause?”
Mr. Earnshaw's lips curled back into a sneer and he drew from within his pocket a white hanker chief. As he civilly wiped the spray of spittle from his face, he regarded Auror Dawlish with a look of utter loathing. “While the night has been filled with tragedy,” he maintain, with apparent difficulty, an even, restrained tone, “my client has done nothing that was not within his legal right. So unless you have evidence to the contrary – substantial enough to charge him with some form of crime – he will be leaving with me. Right now.”
For a count of seven heartbeats, the two men glared at each. Auror Dawlish looking as if he'd love nothing more than to take up his wand and curse Mr. Earnshaw. While Mr. Earnshaw looked as if he might very well be considering doing the same to Auror Dawlish in return.
Just when Harry thought that Auror Dawlish might give in and finally consent to turning him loose, the door to the interview room opened once more. This time with a soft click of the door latch giving way. At the sight of Albus Dumbledore standing within the door frame with a grave expression etched into his aged face, Harry had to suppress a groan. Great, just fucking great!
“Forgive my intrusion,” Dumbledore said, as his piercing blue eyes swept from Mr. Earnshaw to Auror Dawlish, taking in the heat scene between the two men, before ultimately settling on Harry. Ignoring the startled looks that he received from Mr. Earnshaw and Auror Dawlish and not bothering to close the door behind him, he strode into the room with all the grace and elegance of a much younger man. His spindle fingers of his right hand crept into the breast pocket of his violet and burgundy dress robes, as he approached the table.
“You're free to go, my lord,” he proclaimed, while maintaining steady eye contact with Harry and producing a sealed scroll. Upon coming to rest a short distance from Harry, he offered him the scroll. “Minister Fudge and myself, in the capacity of Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, thank you for your courageous actions this evening and hope that you will accept this token of gratitude on behalf of all the lives you saved tonight with your quick thinking and … shall we say … unique talents.”
Harry couldn't have kept the dumbfounded expression off his face, if he had tried. He reached past Mr. Earnshaw, more out of reacting to what was expected of him than out of conscious action, and accepted to proffered scroll.
Before Harry could even so much utter a response or Auror Dawlish could exclaim in protest, Dumbledore bowed his head respectfully to Harry and inclined his head in acknowledgement and farewell to Mr. Earnshaw and Auror Dawlish. He turned on his heel and strode out the room, as if he hadn't intruded at all. Only the open door he left behind him and the sealed scroll in Harry's hand gave evidence to his brief visit.
“Well,”Harry said after taking a moment to stop gaping after the Chief Warlock. He tucked the still unbroken scroll into the breast pocket of his own dress robes, intending to open it later when he had a bit more privacy. He swiftly stood and turned to Auror Dawlish. “I would say it's been a pleasure, Auror Dawlish,” he gave the man one last contemptuous look, “but that would be a lie.”
Auror Dawlish bared his teeth at Harry, clearly in agreement with him.
“Mr. Earnshaw,” Harry said, looking to the man and nodding to the open door.
Mr. Earnshaw stepped aside to allow Harry past, upon which he followed his client out of the confinement of the interview room and out into the open, brightly lit, cubicle filled office area of Auror Headquarters. He kept a pace behind his client, as the young man navigated his way past the busy cubicles and the various Aurors hurrying about.
Harry could feel eyes boring into the back of his skull with every occupied cubicle and startled Auror that he passed. At this point, however, he was indifferent to who thought what. He'd been answering questions for hours. First in the Atrium with the other ball attendees, as the Aurors made arrests and took witness statements. After which, he'd been compelled to come upstairs for further questioning and had been detained by Auror Dawlish ever since. He was well and truly tired and had simply had enough for the night. With the way the Auror in his path scurried out his way, he imagined that his itchy wand hand showed plainly on his face.
Upon passing his father's cubicle and finding it empty, Harry glowered at the empty desk chair. He had expected that his father wouldn't have been far from the interview room, but apparently he had been wrong.
“This way, my lord,” Mr. Earnshaw prompted softly and directed Harry to the oak, double doors that marked the entrance to Auror Headquarters.
Casting one last glance around for his father, yet not seeing the man anywhere in sight, Harry pushed past a group of red robed Aurors huddled around the beverage station, who were all vying for the last cup of coffee, and made his way to the double doors that would grant him his freedom at last.
“Oh, thank God!”
The moment that Harry set foot in the narrow, softly lit hall beyond Auror Headquarters, he was engulfed by the familiar scent his mother's perfume, as she all but squeezed the life out of him, her arms wrapped so tightly around him, as if she never planned on letting go, effectively choking off his air and crushing his arms to the sides of his body.
“Are you all right?” Lily asked urgently, as she released him, looking him up and down with the ever inspecting eyes of a concerned mother.
“I'm fine.” Harry did his best to put forward a reassuring smile.“Where's dad?” he asked, irritated and somewhat concerned at not to see his father waiting with his mother. Surely, his son being detained under suspicion of terrorism was justification enough for the man to tell Scrimgeour where to shove it for the night.
“Your father's still detained, my lord,” Mr. Earnshaw said grimly.
Harry jerked away from his mother's fussing and wheeled around on the wiry framed man, raising a querying eyebrow that demanded answers. “Still detained?”
“You, your family, and Lord Black were all brought up for further questioning.” Mr. Earnshaw treated Harry to a meaningful look.“Director Bones is determined to connect your trip to the continent at the beginning of the month to the attack.”
“Mr. Earnshaw only just got Bethany and me release ten minutes ago,” Lily said, as she turned Harry back to her and began to look him over once more for any signs of distress or injury. Her hands smoothed over the wrinkles in his robes and fretted at the few skewed locks of inky hair upon his head. “I sent her home with Sirius and Mayra,”she supplied at seeing Harry's eyes wander up the hall, clearly searching for his sister. “She's most upset over the whole affair. As is to be expected. Though it doesn't help that she spent that last week with that Romilda girl at the Frobishers' house. I told James that it was a bad idea to allow her to spend so much time with that girl, but he insisted. Ugh! That man! One minutes he's yelling at her and the next …”
“If you'll excuse me, my lord, I need to go see what I can do to get your father released.” Not waiting for Harry's dismissal, Mr. Earnshaw bow to the youth and nodded politely to Lily, who seemed to realize that she'd started to ramble. Upon the man reopening the oak doors to Auror Headquarters a cacophony of muddled arguments cutting across one another flooded the hall, before being silenced once more by the doors swing shut behind the man.
“Are you all right?” Harry asked his mother, giving her a belated once over. She didn't appear too worse for wear. Her dress robes were rumpled just noticeably and the first signs of fatigue plagued the soft skin beneath her eyes. Otherwise, she appeared to have survived the attack and being detained by the DMLE relatively intact.
“Nothing that a good night's sleep won't fix.” Lily gave a dismissive wave of her gloved right hand.
“If you'd like to go home, I'll stay and –” Harry started to offer.
“No,” Lily said firmly, cutting him off. “I need to stay. But I'm sure your father would understand, if you –”
Harry shook his head. “I've a responsibility to Dad, and not just as his son. I'm staying as well.”
Lily stared at Harry for a long moment, her emotions fighting for dominance within her and playing out in brief flashes within eyes. For a second, Harry was certain that he had seen fear wrapped in hesitation, before it was replaced by the kindness of a mother gazing upon her son and rounded out with pride.
Harry didn't move so much as a muscle, as his mother stepped towards him, leaned up and kissed him lightly on the cheek, stepped back, and curtsy to him ceremoniously with all the respect of a pupil curtsying to her lord. If he didn't know that she was doing so to show her acceptance of who he was to her and his father in more than him merely being their son, Harry would have dissuaded her from treating him so. As it was, he offered her his right hand and a genuine smile, forcing himself to momentarily let go of the indignant anger that burned within him at this worlds Ministry being as infective, corrupt, and filled with idiotic notions as it had been in the other world.
“Dad might be a while,” he said, fighting the urge to scream and light the whole damn place ablaze. If there was one thing to be said for the war in the other world, it had leveled the lands and left a clean slate for a new, hopefully better and less corrupt civilization to rise.
“So he might,” Lily agreed, accepting her son's proffered hand.
Mother and son walked the short distance up the hall to an ornately carved bench, where they settled themselves as comfortably as they could for what both suspected would be a long wait.
Harry and Sirius had had the ancient rights that came with their lordships to protect them and Lily and Bethany had had ignorance on their side when it came to Harry, James, and Sirius's affairs as of late. James had neither a lordship nor ignorance and was an employee of the very body detaining him.
Hours passed and various Ministry officials came and went, most casting glances Harry and Lily's direction, yet saying nothing to them. Mr. Earnshaw dropped by several times to inform Harry and his mother about the status of James's release, before returning to Auror Headquarters or rushing off to file a petition with the DMLE courts on James's behalf.
As late night drew into early morning, Harry felt the previous days events taking their toll and he once more cursed being a teenager in the middle of a growth spurt. In the other world, there had been times where he'd gone for days without a wink of sleep to little ill effect. Tapping into the embers of frustration and ire that smolder within him and refused to die, he forced himself to remain awake and slammed consciousness home with a firm dose of will power.
Lily eventually nodded off around five, losing her own battle against sleep – her petite form curled into her son's side and wrapped in the coal outer robe of Harry's dress robes, her velvet red hair taken down from its up-do and flowing across her son's shoulder.
As the eight o'clock hour descended upon Harry and his mother, Mr. Earnshaw returned, looking somber and fairly exhausted.
The man gave Lily, who remained fast asleep at his approach, a sympathetic and somewhat envious look, before focusing upon Harry.
“Do you want the good news or the bad news first, my lord?”
“However you'd prefer to tell it,” Harry said with indifference, as he forced his mind to a fully alert state from the meditative state that he'd allowed himself to slip into.
“Well,” Mr. Earnshaw yawned, “excuse me, my lord – the good news is that I have secured your father's release, pending that no evidence comes to light giving suggestion to you being behind the attack last night. The bad news is that the DMLE courts have granted the Aurors until noon today to come up with said evidence, before having to turn your father lose, and until the investigation into the attack has been resolved, your father has been suspended from the force.”
Harry hummed, the embers of his fury that had been dulled by the long wait and a poignant lack of sleep sparking back to life.
“Thank you, Mr. Earnshaw, for you diligence on this matter,” he said evenly, doing his best to remain calm and polite, yet unwilling to use Occlumency to alter his state of mind. He wanted to feel the emotion searing him inside. It was that same sort of fire that had drove him head long into the war in the other world and had been apart of what kept him going – giving him unwavering purpose even in the lowest of lows. While some emotions were trivial, what he currently felt was something to be used, not cast aside.
“Go home and get some rest,” he instructed Mr. Earnshaw. “Take what remains of the day to be with your family, if you will.”
“Thank you, my lord. I will.” Mr. Earnshaw bowed gratefully to Harry.
“Tomorrow,” Harry spoke sharply and with purpose, giving Mr. Earnshaw pause in taking his leave, “I expect you to draft a suit against the DMLE and Director Bones in particular.”
“On what grounds … my lord?” Mr. Earnshaw asked, his eagerness at his dismissal sliding off of his face and being replaced with cautious compliance.
“Disregarding the law in favor of a personal vendetta, acting without sufficient evidences, officer misconduct; take your pick.” Harry gave his solicitor a dark look that reflected the fire burning him. “The amount of the suit, I leave up to you as well.”
“Very well, my lord,” Mr. Earnshaw assented, before adding with a warning note, “Though, with you only having been declared last night, I'd advise that –”
“I don't care for public opinion, Mr. Earnshaw,” Harry cut the man off and pinned him with a look that told just how little he cared about what the masses thought of him. Public opinion was as finicky as the wind on a hot summer's day, as far as he was concerned. There was no use sucking up to the masses, when they could turn on a person at the drop of a hat. Not that he didn't realize that the public had their uses and could be played on the short term. Long term cultivation of the publics' good graces, however, would forever remain a frivolous endeavor – a lesson that he had well learned and taken to heart.
“I am not a man to be trifled with,” Harry stated plainly, boring his gaze into Mr. Earnshaw with naked intent. “The sooner that that is understood, the better off things will be for everyone. Draft the suit and bring me a copy first thing Monday morning. Nine o'clock.”
“As you wish, my lord.” Mr. Earnshaw bowed his farewell.
As the weary solicitor rounded the corner at the far end of the hall, his foot steps echoing up the nearly deserted hallway back towards Harry, Harry felt his mother stir beside him.
“Your father told me that you were by far more ready to take on the role of Lord Peverell than he ever would be,” she said sleepily, her voice barely above a whisper. She pulled back from her son to gaze up at him, her eyes lidded and struggling to stay open. “I hadn't the foggiest what he meant,” she admitted in a murmur and reached out a delicate hand to rest it lightly on his cheek. “Yet … you sit here before me proving his words the truth. I don't understand.”
Harry said nothing to his mother's admittance, knowing that if he opened his mouth, he'd wind up owning up to more than just his father's truth. Now was not the time or place for said conversation, if there would ever be a time or place for said conversation at all. So instead, he maintained his promised lie with silence, shifting uncomfortably under his mother's scrutiny. Her gaze was penetrating, searching, questioning. It raised goose pimples on the back of his neck. Though his mother was in no way using Legilimency on him, he felt as if she was looking deep within him – her gaze examining his very soul, glimpsing his base make up. It was unsettling and urged ever insistently for the secrets that he kept locked away to spill from his lips.
“You killed a woman,” Lily said softly after a fashion, sounding almost confused by her words. She frowned. “You killed a woman,” she repeated. “You killed her and didn't even flinch. You'd do it again,” she said knowingly, her gaze unwavering from her son.
“A thousand times over,” Harry confirmed with honesty. “If it had been you, Bethany, or Dad in Neville's place …” he trailed off, knowing without a shred of doubt that if such had been the case, every innocent life in that ballroom would have been meaningless to him and things would have turned out very differently. He made to turn away from his mother to hide that fact from her. A ruthless killer wasn't how he wanted her to think of him. Her hand on his cheek sliding to his chin stopped him.
“You are –” Seeming to think better of whatever it was that she had begun to say, Lily's features transformed from expressing the perplexity that she felt into a gentle smile. “Know that I love you, my son. I don't understand you or some of the things you do, but I love you and that will have to suffice, until you're ready to let me understand.”
Harry opened his mouth to respond, not entirely sure what to say. He was saved from having to come up with an articulate response, as his mother snuggled back into his side and sighed contentedly. Sensing that the chasm that had been slowly developing between him and his mother had just repaired itself the smallest amount, he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her forehead. “I love you too, Mum.”
“I know, sweetie.” Lily breathed out softly, sleep taking hold of her once more.
Noon couldn't come soon enough. Upon his mother waking around eleven, Harry had gotten up and taken to pacing the hall in order to stave off sleep and restlessness. So fixed was his mind on his father's impending release that he didn't notice his godfather's arrival, until Sirius threw a copy of the Daily Prophet at him from where the man had sat down next Lily. Only Harry's quick reflexes saved him from taking the hit square in the face.
“Finally sober, I see.” Harry glared at his godfather, half tempted to act on the impetuous whim to chuck the paper back at the man.
“At least read the headlines before giving me lip,” Sirius said seriously. Harry noted, upon actually taking in his godfather's state that the man appeared as tired as he felt.
Letting out an exhausted, resigned expulsion of air, Harry unfolded the Prophet.
Attack on the Boy-Who-Lived!
Baron of the Peak Declared!
Lord Harold James Peverell
Terrorist Cell Captured!
The headlines were decidedly tame compared to the media frenzy Harry had expected after last night's fiasco.
“Your doing?” Harry asked, looking up from the paper to his godfather.
“Between myself and Fudge, the consequences of Mr. Cuffe allowing his reporters off leash were inexplicably clear.” Sirius smirked. “I believe that this morning in Cuffe's office was the first time I've ever agreed with Fudge on anything.”
Lily gave Sirius an exasperated look. “Honestly, Sirius, he has a lot of good ideas. If you and your lot would just work with him –”
“My lot?” Sirius rounded on Lily, looking offended. “My lot?"
“You know what I mean,” Lily said, giving Sirius a withering look.
Before a full out argument could explode between the two, which was exactly where the two were headed as far as Harry could tell, the doors to Auror Headquarters burst open with such force that they slammed back against the walls on either side of the hall.
“You know what, Bones – I quit!”
The sight of his father, still dressed in his Auror formal robes, red faced, hair disheveled, and yelling at the top of his lungs brought a wide grin to Harry's face.
“Oh no you don't, Potter!” Rufus Scrimgeour appeared in the open doorway, looking as lion like with his wild main of hair as he always did. His stride was powerful and purposeful, as he took several steps into the hall in pursuit of James, who had taken to storming up the hall towards his wife, son, and honorary brother. “You'll be back here Monday morning ready for your shift! Do you hear me? - Do you hear me?” he repeated, when James didn't respond but kept marching up the hall.
“Let's go,” James said, his infuriated gaze connecting with Harry, Lily, and Sirius's in turn.
It was all the prompting that the three needed to stir to action and make haste for the lifts.
“God damn it, Potter!” Scrimgeour's exclamation echoed up the hall after them.