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Stray, Chapter Twenty-Three: The Conspiracy Sealed, pt. 2 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Stray, Chapter Twenty-Three: The Conspiracy Sealed, pt. 2
Sirius got away from Azkaban, only to find an irritated Dora waiting at Remus's place--she distracted the Dementors, and is quite annoyed that he didn't tell her what he was doing ahead of time so she wouldn't have had to plan her interference on the fly. Once she gets him to realize that she and Remus are on his side, the three of them decide that they will get the Brodies to Sirius's hideout in Brazil, taking them by Side-Along Apparition as soon as Fiona is freed (or, if she's not freed, as soon as they break her out of captivity, though Dora has convinced them to give the Wizengamot a chance).

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

"We can't allow a dog into proceedings," the supercilious little guard said.

Remus looked over his shoulder at Sirius, who was standing between the Brodie girls (Elspeth's hand was digging into his fur rather painfully), then turned back to the guard and said quietly, "Please, the girls' mother is on trial for killing their father. Let them have some comfort."


"The dog is well-behaved, and we'll be in the back. If he starts to be troublesome, I'll take him out."

"I believe it will be quite all right," someone said behind the guard, and Sirius was relieved to see Albus Dumbledore, in the robes of the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, a position that Sirius had entirely forgotten that he occupied. He smiled. "Hello, girls, I'm happy to see you. I hope this will be of short duration. Go on, Mr. Lupin. You'll find clear seats in the top row. Near the door, should you discover that you need it, though I hope you'll stay. I should like you to speak for Fiona, if it's necessary."

"Of course, Headmaster." Remus smiled awkwardly. "Er... sir."

Dumbledore chuckled, and gestured them all inside.

About twenty members of the Wizengamot had gathered, and a chair at the center of the room sat with chains dangling from its arms. Sirius looked at it distrustfully. He'd have had to sit in a chair like that, had they bothered to try him, and it was not a chair that bespoke innocence before proof of guilt. He followed Remus up to the top row of seats, and lay down quietly in the aisle, looking down the stairs.

"Is Mither going to come soon?" Kirsty asked Remus.

"Yes," Remus said. It was entirely too late to remind the girls not to mention that they'd packed their bags this morning, but Sirius had a moment's fear that Remus would try to do so anyway. Instead, he just said, "And don't worry. Everything will be all right. I promise."

Kirsty didn't look entirely convinced, but Elspeth relaxed.

The door opened below, and Fiona was led in by two Aurors in full uniform. They led her to the chair. Sirius expected it to bind her, but it didn't. The Aurors fell back.

A little man in a green hat stood up, and it took Sirius a moment recognize Cornelius Fudge; he'd got quite gray and pudgy over the years. "Ladies and gentlemen of the Wizengamot," he said, "are we prepared to proceed?"

There were no objections.

Fudge cleared his throat again and said, "Criminal hearing on the six of February into the charge of murder against Fiona Elaine Brodie, nee Gibbon, of Wikunhallow Island, Orkney, Scotand. Interrogators: Cornelius Oswald Fudge, Minister of Magic; Dolores Jane Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister; Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. Witnesses for the Prosecution: Rufus Calum Scrimgeour, Auror; Edward Tonks, Healer."

Sirius perked up his ears at this last and glanced at Remus, who also looked troubled.

"Witnesses for the defense," Dumbledore cut in, "Nymphadora Andromeda Tonks, Auror; Remus John Lupin, former professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."

There was a general, mean-spirited snicker at this. Remus looked quite stoic, but Sirius knew that it had to sting.

"Lupin is a werewolf," an unpleasant woman in pink said. "He can't testify before the Wizengamot."

"As his testimony bears no relationship to his lycanthropy, Dolores," Dumbledore said mildly, "I believe you will find that no such law exists."

"I'm sure I heard you wrong," the woman said. "Surely, you're not suggesting that the werewolf laws I wrote aren't clear."

"They are quite clear, Dolores, in them, you neglected to mention testimony unrelated to the issue at hand. I read them quite thoroughly, you know."

"We all recall how thoroughly you read them, Dumbledore," Fudge said, "as you regaled us for days with your observations before we passed them regardless of your input." He turned his attention back to Fiona. "To the matter at hand, the Wizengamot calls Healer Tonks."

The door opened again, and Ted Tonks came in. Sirius shouldn't have recognized him, even having seen Dora's pictures. His hair had improbably lightened over the years--not grayed, but lightened, which was odd enough for Sirius to wonder if some of Dora's shapeshifting might not have come from him--and he'd lost the gangly skinniness of his youth entirely, putting on a jolly pot belly and letting his face become rounded out. But he was still distinctly Andromeda's Ted, good-natured and mild looking. He glanced uncomfortably at Fiona, and took a seat in a chair that appeared beside her.

"Healer Tonks," the woman Dolores said, "you were present in the Closed Ward at St. Mungo's on the day Douglas Brodie was murdered."

"I was," Ted said.

"And what did you see?"

Again, Ted looked guiltily at Fiona. "Mrs. Brodie was visiting, as she often has in the past few months. She picked up a plant from his bedside, then suddenly began to scream that Mr. Brodie had stopped breathing."

"And that plant was later discovered to have released a poison?" Fudge pressed.

"I'm not the one to testify about that. I didn't see it." Ted swallowed. "I don't think Mrs. Brodie would hurt her husband. I see a lot of people in the Closed Ward, you know, and some of them think about it. You can see it in their eyes, that they think it would be a lot easier if things just... ended. Mrs. Brodie never had that look."

"We'll take that under advisement," Fudge said dryly.

"As well we should," Dumbledore pointed out. "Healer Tonks was a rather good Seer before choosing his current career path."

"A Muggle-born Seer," Fudge said with a laugh. "Oh, yes, I'm sure he's an expert." He looked at Ted. "Thank you for your testimony. You are excused."

Ted looked as surprised as anyone else by the rapid dismissal, but he got up and left without further comment. As he left, another man came in past him--a tall, forbidding looking man with wild red hair and a limp. He nodded sternly to the Aurors, who seemed to quail, then looked distastefully at the chair. He remained standing. Sirius reached back in his memory--Rufus Scrimgeour. He'd been an Auror during the wars, and a damned good one. Moody had respected him professionally, and he'd certainly been against Voldemort, but he'd disliked Dumbledore personally, and thought the Order, as a whole, was an illegal entity that needed as much scrutiny as the Death Eaters. He'd caught and questioned James once, and it had nearly ended James up in Azkaban.

The questioning of Scrimgeour took longer, and the mutual dislike among the three men involved--Dumbledore, Fudge, and Scrimgeour--became more and more apparent. Scrimgeour had done the tests on the plant and had discovered the potion that had been released when Fiona picked it up. It was a fiddly potion--"Personally, I don't think there's much to suggest that Mrs. Brodie could have brewed it," he added, "though I can think of no one else who'd try"--and it had been designed to be directed at a particular person, which was why no one else in the ward had fallen ill.

"I'd like to return to your comment that you don't believe Mrs. Brodie could have brewed the potion," Dumbledore said. "What leads you to that conclusion?"

"Looked up her school records last night," Scrimgeour said, looking rather insulted that anyone would think he hadn't done so. "She left after fifth year, and Potions was her worst class. I looked up old Horace Slughorn, and he couldn't even remember her. In the years since school, she's bought a number of ready-made potions from the apothecary--relatively simple ones--which tells me she never did catch up with it."

Fiona nodded enthusiastically.

"Mrs. Brodie?" Dumbledore said. "Is that true?"

"It is!" she said. "I was a disaster in potions. I never followed a thing Professor Slughorn said, and the best I can do is a bit of a cleaning concoction now. I wouldn't give my girls any Healing potions I tried to brew."

Dumbledore waved his wand, and a stack of papers appeared. He went through it. "Well, I'll enter your Hogwarts record into evidence, if you have no objection."

"None, Headmaster," she said.

Dumbledore duplicated it, and the others glanced at it.

"Are there further witnesses for the prosecution?" Fudge asked.

There weren't.

"Shall we hear the defense?" Dumbledore asked, sounding rather cheerful. "I believe Auror Tonks has spent a good deal of time with Mrs. Brodie this year, and can testify to her state of mind, and Mr. Lupin can share--"

"There's no need," Fudge snapped, and threw down the file. "She couldn't have brewed this potion. Charges dismissed."

"Minister..." Dolores Umbridge began, but Fudge cut her off unceremoniously. He got up and stalked away like a small boy who'd been denied an ice cream sundae. Umbridge followed him after a moment.

Fiona looked up, confused.

"I believe," Dumbledore said, "that this means you're free to go, Fiona."

She stood up, swooning. "Thank you!" She threw her arms around a very surprised looking Scrimgeour and said, "Thank you, too, for telling them."

He disentangled himself. "Yes, well. I'm an Auror to convict the right people. People who actually break the law." He glowered at Dumbledore, then limped away.

Dumbledore beckoned to Remus to come down, and all of them did so.

"I need to sign some documents to secure Fiona's release. I have a room at the Leaky Cauldron for this particular trip. Ask Tom to show you to it. We have matters to discuss."

The next ten minutes, Sirius just followed Remus and the girls through the Ministry, and finally, to the Leaky Cauldron. Tom led them to a room upstairs--giving Sirius an irritated look--and let them be.

Sirius transformed. The girls were too stunned to be celebrating, but everyone seemed to be in a fine mood anyway. He stretched out in a chair, feeling triumphant, though he'd done nothing. "I see old Scrimgeour is as pleasant as ever."

"I've worked with him here and there," Remus said. "Odd jobs for the Auror Division a few years back. I can't really dislike someone who hires me, but I admit, I've come close with him."

"I'm surprised he did hire you."

"Well, he's a fair man, just a hard one. And strictly speaking, at the time, there wasn't any law against a werewolf doing investigative work." He shrugged and sat down. "He's got a little worse over the years, I think. His brother went mad after the war--nothing magical, just plain old madness--which meant he ended up mostly raising his nephew, which wasn't something he wanted to do. He's a little bitter."

Sirius noted the less than compassionate tone of the recitation, and guessed that Remus was justifying to himself some slight that Scrimgeour had done him, probably in ceasing to hire him for "odd jobs."

There was a knock at the door, and Sirius transformed. It wasn't necessary, as it was only Dumbledore and Dora, leading Fiona, who fell on the girls with hugs and kisses.

"I'm glad things came out as they did," Dumbledore said. "But I believe your instinct is right. It's time to get them away from here."
23 comments or Leave a comment
dreamer_marie From: dreamer_marie Date: November 16th, 2009 09:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I loved the backstory you gave Scrimgeour. Do you have any plans for a fic about how he arrested James?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 16th, 2009 08:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not really, that just sort of came out while I was writing. Working with Ruthless has made me want to look into the Scrimgeours. :D
From: bookworm_91 Date: November 16th, 2009 12:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
And here I was thinking that the worst thing about this day was not the 35'C heat and 80% humidity, and promise of worst to come, but the fact that my favourite authors were all doing NaNo. Thanks heaps for updating, I've got to say I love the backstory on Scrimgeour, the wonderful thing about Harry Potter characters is that you know they all have one, and you have a wonderful knack of drawing them out which complements existing knowledge perfectly.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 16th, 2009 08:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Glad to offset the humidity a little. ;p (Maybe you could send a bit this way.)
willowbough From: willowbough Date: November 16th, 2009 02:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Whew. Good to see Fiona's trial ended so quickly. Effective depiction of the hostilities between Dumbledore, Fudge, and Scrimgeour. The wizarding court seems to be stuffed with people who can barely stand each other. Makes you wonder how they ever arrive at a fair verdict for someone when so many of them are trying to score off each other.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 16th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
It probably only works because they all have opposing axes to grind, meaning that somehow or other, their special interests cancel each other out. It stops working when Fudge starts utterly refusing to see reason.
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: November 16th, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Great work Fern -- and even more so when NaNo is folded into the mix. What a mess the Ministry is, with unpleasant people all operating on their own agenda, sprinkled with lots of dislike between them. The poor Brodie's, getting caught caught up in the underlying struggle by doing nothing more than living where they do, but that strikes me as very realistic. For their own sake, I'm hoping that Fiona and the girls will soon be safely out of it, even though I'd miss them.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 16th, 2009 08:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Eh, NaNo's not going so well, so...

I think I'd definitely want to live far, far from Azkaban.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 16th, 2009 04:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

original fic idea

Thanks for the updates!
I hope your novel writing progresses well.

I was pondering on a way to transfer your amazing fanfic to a publishable book. The department of mysteries & identity themes in Daedalus maze seems fruitful ground. Perhaps some sort of American Department of Mysteries located in New Mexico???

Thanks for sharing your talent with all of us. Your writing quality is certainly good enough to be published, and I look forward to that day!

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 16th, 2009 08:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: original fic idea

The problem would be in de-Potterizing it enough to make it work. (Hears Tim Gunn in the background... "I'm woeful! But make it work!") The structure can't be too similar, and I've given away enough in fanfic that it would be pretty easy to spot what I'm basing on it.
malinbe From: malinbe Date: November 16th, 2009 07:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I like the Scrimgeour backstory. There are many points of view, and not all must be classified in a right/wrong category.

Glad to see Fiona relatively safe, too. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 16th, 2009 08:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
That really was the impression I had of Scrimgeour in the books. He wasn't a supercilious little twit like Fudge, and wasn't afraid of Dumbledore usurping him, but he seemed to genuinely detest the Order.
alkari From: alkari Date: November 16th, 2009 07:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for doing an update! I hope NaNo is going OK for you, but a sneaky little part of me is very glad you have spent time writing this instead - or as well as. :)

Good background for Scrimgeour that fits well with canon in HBP; yes, you can certainly understand how he'd have viewed the Order as a bunch of vigilantes that needed to be watched. And your charming Dolores was perfect!

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 16th, 2009 08:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
To some extent, they are a bunch of vigilantes. Of course, since no one else was doing anything, they had to be, but I can see an Auror--particularly one who really was giving his all--thinking that the regular, legal channels were giving all they could... and if he had to stick to the rules, so did Dumbledore. (I wonder if during the first war, the Ministry was bound by enough British jurisprudence that the Aurors weren't free to do the kind of searches and raids that the Order did. On the one hand, they seem to be a little trigger happy, on the other, they're very bound in their procedures.)
alkari From: alkari Date: November 16th, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I doubt that the notion of jurisprudence came into things at all as far as the Wizengamot in general! Look at how they just threw Sirius into Azkaban, without even a show trial as a formality. "British justice" in those days required at least somesort of trial, even if (as we now discover) there were a few cases where key evidence was ignored or manipulated. It doesn't seem that there were any generally accepted notions of civil rights, and the prevailing ethos would be more akin to justice in the nineteenth century or earlier. Let's face it - Britain was still transporting convicts to Australia until the 1860s, so the notion of sending people away to Azkaban doesn't seem to removed from that.

It's hard to make any assessment of the methods which Aurors were permitted to use, because although it seems that the Unforgiveables were prohibited, there is at least that passing hint from Sirius that Moody 'tried to bring them in alive', meaning he may have used the AK curse if necessary.

I could understand a group like the Order operating as a type of undercover enforcement / intelligence group (of which the Brits had a few), with the Aurors more akin to the regular police and their specialist squads. But it seems that the Order operated outside the Ministry, bound only by their own (Dumbledore's) ethics.
From: severely_lupine Date: November 16th, 2009 09:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nice to see Fiona getting let off, though I'm a bit horrified that it even came to a trial, considering they had no evidence whatsoever and only the most flimsy of motives. Though on the other hand, just because she didn't brew the potion doesn't mean she didn't set it on him. Not arguing with the result, just the logic behind it, I suppose.

And now I'm very curious to know more of these odd jobs Remus did for Scrimgeour. Have you written anything about that, or do you plan to?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 17th, 2009 07:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmm, I didn't have a lot of thoughts on it, but we are almost to December, so who knows what I'll be writing. ;p
From: severely_lupine Date: November 17th, 2009 07:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Sounds to me like something that would be a good part of a "Tonks's first year as an Auror" fic. ;-)
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 17th, 2009 06:58 am (UTC) (Link)
A few years back, I tried to make a comprehenzive list of things that were wrong with Harry's trial from a U.S., basic legal rights view (I assume the U.K. has relatively similiar principles, although I don't know much more than you get from reading Rumpole).

Anyhoo, one of the primary, basic bits that I didn't realize till after I'd done it is that wizarding law does not allow for a _public_ trial, which is one of the basics of our legal systme. Mr. Weasley, even though he's in loci parentis, isn't able to attend Harry's trial (Harry seems to be being tried as an adult).

We do have reporters (well, _a_ reporter) at a past trial, but bystanders are apparently at the discretion of the wizangamot.

Of course, blood relatives may be an exception and Remus was there as a witness. And not allowing cute, little girls to attend their mummy's trial has to be bad PR all around.

My guess on the wizangamot is that it was designed for a relatively small community where everyone knew or knew of each other. It depended on informal rules or assumptions - you're going to play fair with your neighbors if you expect them to play fair with you. If you feel like not playing fair, you have to think about everyone who's likely to be on your neighbor's side.

This is fine if you and that person are about equal. This may still work pretty well even if you have much more clout in the neighborhood if the community is wary of turning on one of its own (either because they identify enough with the neighbor to feel threatened if his protections are threatened or because even a lower ranking person may have enough connections in the community to help get revenge).

Remove those protections - like with Muggleborns without families or with an accused Sirius when no one felt like even listening to an alledged Death Eater who'd murdered his best friend - and it can turn ugly fast.

Because the rights aren't protected or built into the system. The things that are supposed to protect them are social and won't be there for everyone.

Sorry, I didn't mean to go on like that. And I've probably yammered on about this before, too. Some day, I've really got to learn how to say these things simply and quickly.

Er, like "I really liked this chapter"? How's that?

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 17th, 2009 07:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Harry seems to be being tried as an adult

Which is kind of bizarre, as he's being tried for underage sorcery!

I agree that it seems to be a system built around the idea of a small community, and it probably works in most cases for the exact reasons you cited... and doesn't work for those reasons as well.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 17th, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, the ironies abound. Some of Harry's trial sounded like re Gault, a landmark case in juvenile courts (juvenile courts were originally created to spare children the harsher punishments and environment of adult courts, but those loosened rules created a situation where a boy was in danger of a four year sentence for a crime an adult wouldn't have gotten more than a month for. not to mention other violations of procedural protections).

Among other ironies, part of the charge is that Harry did the magic in front of a Muggle - even though the Muggle is essentially Harry's foster brother who has been raised with him and who is EXEMPT from that statute of secrecy.

Less ironic but still irritating is that another part of the charge is doing it in a Muggle neighborhood, even though it's the neighborhood where Harry lives. This clearly shows that a Muggleborn child is at greater risk of prosecution than a wizardborn, although this inequality could be argued as a sad but inevitable fault of the system (I'd argue the point, but at least it doesn't fly in the face of reason [morality, perhaps, but not reason]).

By the way, in U.S. courts, suddenly changing the venue or time of a trial without giving due notice is grounds for mistrial even if you can't prove that it was done maliciously or that it harmed the defendent's case.

But I'll stop before I really go crazy on this, except to say that I started a fanfic once where Harry had a lawyer at his trial just to work off some of my feelings (then, unexpectedly, his lawyer had a Perry Mason moment that crushed Umbridge and maybe Fudge. Dumbledore's arrival was anticlimatic).

purplejunebug From: purplejunebug Date: November 22nd, 2009 01:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Nice chapter section! Funny that you mention Sirius forgetting Dumbledore's job as chief warlock. I'd never really thought about the actual job behind that title before. I wonder, how does he balance presiding over trials and being headmaster during the school year? Also one grammar nitpick: "The door opened below, and Fiona was led (passive voice) in by two Aurors in full uniform. They led her to the chair." I'm guessing you separated this into two sentences to give the ominous nature of the chair more emphasis, but because of the passive voice, I'd consider combining them. Also, I don't imagine they'd lead Fiona in, stop, and then start walking with her toward the chair again, which is what repeating the word "led" in both sentences implies to me. Gah, sorry to make a novel out of this. It was just something I noticed, probably because it's something I struggle with whenever I write (which isn't frequently).
mollywheezy From: mollywheezy Date: November 28th, 2009 02:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Great chapter! I loved your backstory for Ted, Umbridge, Scrimgeour, and Fudge. You also had excellent characterizations for all of them.
23 comments or Leave a comment