Chapter 1 : In Sheep's Clothing
| ||Rating: Mature||Chapter Reviews: 19|
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Hermione Weasley adjusted the reading glasses on her nose and fixed her adversary with a disappointed stare as she slid the sheet of parchment back across the polished oak table. “Sorry, but this just won’t do.”
“Counselor,” the man replied with a forced smile, “I assure you, this is a very generous compromise. It took a lot of arm-twisting to get even the more moderate pure blood members of the Wizengamot to agree to this.” His hands hovered over the parchment, as though he expected her to take it back in order to re-read his offer. His face projected patience and understanding, but his body language betrayed a great deal of nervous tension. She smiled indulgently at him as she sat back in her chair and crossed her arms over her chest.
“With all due respect, counselor,” she emphasized his title, even though they were on a first-name basis, “we both know that you can do better than this.”
“Mrs. Weasley... Hermione, please.” His beseeching tone didn’t faze her. Her expression remained uncompromising, her eyes flinty and cold. “You’re proposing a very substantial modification to the Statute of Secrecy. This isn’t something that can be undertaken lightly. There’s too much history to be taken into account.”
“The fact that an injustice has existed for generations is not an excuse to perpetuate it,” she countered. Her voice rose slightly. “Times have changed. We muggle-borns no longer have to live in shame and invent magical ancestors to hide our family history. Even at their haughty little dinner parties, the pure bloods will concede that much. Muggle-borns have earned our place in this world. For you to tell me that my parents can’t come see me at St. Mungo’s if I’m sick or attend their grandson’s Hogwarts graduation... That’s simply not acceptable.”
“Hermione, try to understand where I’m coming from,” he answered, raising his palms in a conciliatory gesture before her temper really began to get out of control. “There are very valid reasons why the Statute of Secrecy is written as stringently as it is, and they have nothing to do with pureblood supremacy. Need I remind you that before the Statute, witches and wizards were hunted like animals and burned at the stake? This isn’t a matter of prejudice, it’s a simple matter of safety and security.”
“I am well aware of the history of the Statue,” she snapped back, leaning forward in her chair once again. “It’s irrelevant to the matter at hand. My mother and father already know I’m a witch, as do the immediate families of nearly all muggle-born members of our society! So spare me your rhetoric on what this is really about. If this isn’t prejudice, I don’t know what is.”
Being conciliatory was obviously getting him nowhere, and his face hardened. “Mrs. Weasley, I understand the desire of muggle-borns to integrate their families more fully into their lives, but we need to have reasonable limits. Muggles aren’t ready to see some of the things that they would unavoidably see if they were allowed to wander the corridors of St. Mungo’s or Hogwarts. There would be incidents! Misunderstandings!”
“You want a misunderstanding?” Her voice turned low and forbidding. Her brown eyes blazed as her soft voice seemed to fill the silent room. “Ask Dennis Creevey about the misunderstanding that his parents still have about Hogwarts. See, since they lost their son in the war, they’ve been under the distinct impression that the school is nothing but a killing field! And all poor Dennis wanted to show them was the truth. He wanted them to attend the memorial service and see first-hand that Hogwarts was actually a place where children are kept safe while they learn to control and use their magic.” Her voice rose and her eyes flashed dangerously. “He wanted to show them so they would let him come back to school and finish his education. He wanted to get a job with the Daily Prophet, where he could carry on his brother’s love of photography. He wanted to honor the things that Colin fought and died for.” She was standing now. Shouting. Breathtaking in her fury. “But he couldn’t. The rules didn’t allow it. So he had to wait two whole years, until he came of age. This is how your bigoted, anti-muggle laws treated one of the heroes of the war. But no, this isn’t about prejudice, is it?”
The man sitting across from her sat frozen for a few moments. Finally, he began to clap slowly. “Amazing,” he said, slightly breathless. “Aunt Hermione, that was incredible. But...”
It took Hermione a couple of moments to calm down, but she finally caught her breath and stared quizzically at her nephew. “The part about Dennis was too over the top, wasn’t it?”
“No, not most of it,” Albus replied quickly, then his serious face melted into a grin. “But maybe you shouldn’t mention the part about the job at the Prophet. After all, he has worked there since before I was born.”
Hermione shook her head and smiled sheepishly at him. “Alright, then, I’ll dial that back just a bit.”
She couldn’t help beaming at her nephew while he jotted down a few notes. As disappointed as Harry had been when Albus decided to join the Department of Magical Law instead of entering the Auror training program, Hermione couldn’t even pretend to be sympathetic. In just over a year, he had become one of the most promising young staffers in the department. It didn’t hurt that everyone knew exactly who he was related to, but his natural talent and relentless work ethic had already earned the respect of many of his colleagues. More than anything, Albus Severus Potter was determined to make a name for himself, separate and distinct from the three famous names that had defined so much of his young life.
As she worked with him more and more, Hermione started to use Albus as a sounding board for her more radical ideas. He had a keen mind and readily held his own in a debate. While he was young and inexperienced, he also hadn’t become bogged down in the conventional ideas about what was and wasn’t possible within the stuffy bureaucracy of the Ministry of Magic. Although she rarely admitted it, Hermione liked the idea of having a protege, a bright and eager young man who paid rapt attention when she went on about her various causes. With his energy and her experience, she felt like there was no problem they couldn’t solve.
She shuffled her notes to a different page and studied them for a moment. “We have one more hour before the meeting with Mr. Coutridge. Let’s go over this once more, only this time make the counter-proposal something on elvish welfare instead of just a watered-down version of the muggle-born family access amendment. I’m worried that they might try to-”
Hermione paused, interrupted by a knock at her office door. After a moment, it opened and her secretary poked her head inside. “This just came for you by owl, Hermione,” the young witch said nervously, holding out a ratty-looking package wrapped in newspaper and bound with clear tape. “It didn’t have any return address.”
Albus started to stand, but Hermione was faster. She flicked her wand and the package floated away from the secretary, who seemed relieved to see it leave her hands. It landed gracefully on a small table in the corner of the office as Hermione rounded her desk with a concerned look on her face. “Stay where you are,” she said to her nephew, eyeing the mysterious parcel from several feet away. She started waving her wand around the table, mumbling incantations under her breath.
“What are you doing?”
“Warding this corner of the room, in case it’s something dangerous,” she replied without looking away.
Albus sat up straight and slid to the edge of his chair. “Dangerous? Shouldn’t you call-”
“Your dad? Not until I make sure that this thing isn’t going to explode or curse the whole room.” She continued to sweep the small space around the table with protective enchantments, layering the magical protections and weaving them together. When she was satisfied, she turned and regarded her nephew gravely. “We should be perfectly safe, but if anything happens, don’t be a hero. Go and find your dad or your Uncle Ron.”
“Wait, shouldn’t we...” Albus tried to protest, but Hermione had already slipped her wand hand tentatively inside the wards.
“Specialis Revelio.” Hermione cast the revealing spell over the package and it glowed slightly with an inner light for a moment. “Hmmnnn, just some relatively common enchantments inside. Doesn’t seem to be anything dangerous.”
“Look, Aunt Hermione, are you sure we...” Albus’s voice faded as Hermione used a severing charm to slice through the tape holding the package closed. As the wrapping unfolded, she wrinkled her nose, looking mildly surprised.
“This is muggle newsprint,” she mumbled absently, studying the writing. “Looks like yesterday’s Belfast Telegraph. Nothing but a plain cardboard box inside.”
Albus rose from his chair and peered over her shoulder. “Nanna would wrap circles around whoever sent this. It looks like a Troll’s handiwork.”
With great caution, Hermione used her wand to slice through the tape holding the box closed. The flaps slowly opened, revealing a folded newspaper. Levitating the newspaper to the side revealed an old book, with crinkled pages poking out from underneath the worn leather cover.
“Looks like a copy of The Standard Book of Spells,” Albus observed, “but this one has sure seen better days. Maybe someone’s still mad at you for blowing the curve on a test?”
Hermione barely heard her nephew’s weak attempt at a joke. Her eyes were locked on a sliver of purple ribbon sticking out from between two of the spell book’s pages. It was barely visible, but it was enough. “I know what this is,” she said softly.
Summoning the folded newspaper to her waiting hand, she rapidly scanned the contents of the page. “Oh, no,” she moaned breathlessly. “No, no, no.” She quickly flipped the paper over. “This is yesterday’s Prophet. Come on, we have to hurry!”
Albus stood rooted to the floor, watching his Aunt scramble to grab quills and parchment from her desk. “Aunt Hermione, what’s wrong?”
“No time,” she shot back, grabbing two large books off of her shelf and tossing them to her nephew. “We have to go now.”
He followed her meekly out the door, still trying to settle the books in his hands. Moments later they arrived at the lifts and Hermione began to pace nervously as they waited for a car. “Aunt Hermione, please,” Albus tried again, lowering his face to try to catch her frantic eyes. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”
“Not a ghost,” she replied, pausing to take a breath, “a monster.” The lift doors opened and she hurried inside, nearly running into a pair of wizards who were getting out. “Come on, I’ll explain on the way.”
Albus hustled to keep up with his aunt when the lift car delivered them to Level Nine of the Ministry. They rushed down the stairs and she turned sharply and tore off toward Courtroom Number Ten. A hearing already appeared to be in progress as she tore the doors open, but she was completely undaunted. “Begging the court’s pardon for my tardiness,” she half-yelled through rapid breaths. “Hermione Weasley of the Department of Magical Law, appearing on behalf of the Benevolent Order of Wizarding War Veterans.”
Albus looked around the imposing room as she waited for an answer. The wizard in plum-colored robes standing at the front of the room seemed annoyed, and whispered softly to the court officer sitting next to him. The dais was sparsely populated. It seemed that few members of the Wizengamot had bothered to show up for whatever had sent his aunt into such a panic.
“Mrs. Weasley, this is highly irregular,” the wizard replied in a terse, nasal voice. “Your lack of punctuality aside, this is a simple parole hearing.”
His aunt had finally caught her breath, and she spoke with an authority that commanded the attention of the entire room. “With all due respect, the Order is statutorily empowered by Decree Six-Fifty-Three of the Wizengamot to intervene in all proceedings involving Death Eaters.” A low murmur arose from the room, and she seemed to take it as her opportunity to approach the dais. For the first time, Albus noticed a figure sitting in the defendant’s docket. The man was powerfully built, with long, unkempt-looking hair that was streaked with grey and tied back in a large ponytail. He wore the simple, black robes provided by the Wizengamot to all indigent defendants and he appeared to be making careful notes on a sheet of parchment in front of him. As they neared the front of the room, the man turned to face them and Albus felt his blood turn cold.
Bushy eyebrows seemed to erupt from the man’s thickened brows. His scraggly beard was braided into several strands that were seamlessly connected to his hair by sideburns streaked with grey. His lips were slightly parted, and Albus could see the stains on his wicked-looking, pointed teeth. But it was the man’s eyes that truly make his skin crawl. They were hungry, leering... filled with the cold cruelty of a man who had long ago severed his last connections to humanity. And they were focused squarely on his aunt.
“It’s been a long time, Granger,” the man drawled with a chilling, fake courtliness.
“If I never saw you again, it would be too soon, Greyback,” she replied icily.
The wizard in plum-colored robes tapped his gavel lightly on the podium. “Order, please! Mrs. Weasley, since this hearing has already begun, I must ask you to concede the portion of the defendant’s case that has already been entered into the record.”
“As long as we still have an opportunity to make our case against Mr. Greyback’s parole, I’ll accept that,” she replied, lowering herself into a seat near the front of the court and gathering her things on the table in front of her.
“Very well,” the wizard replied. He turned to a young clerk in formal black robes who stood near the dais. “Mr. Barnes, would you please summarize the court’s findings on Mr. Greyback’s petition?”
The clerk nodded and cleared his throat, studying a sheet of parchment. “We have confirmed that Mr. Greyback has completed the rehabilitation and practical training programs made available to all prisoners of Azkaban. His instructors report that Mr. Greyback has been a model prisoner, following all rules of conduct and applying himself diligently in his studies to the greatest extent allowed by his condition.”
“Please the court,” Hermione interrupted, staring pointedly at the young clerk, “does your report indicate whether Mr. Greyback has chosen to avail himself of the wolfsbane potion made freely available to him as a sufferer,” she put a mildly sarcastic emphasis on the word, “of lycanthropy?”
“If I may,” Greyback interjected before the clerk could answer, “I find that I can't tolerate the foul taste of that concoction. My stomach has grown rather delicate with age and the poor quality of the food at Azkaban.”
Albus studied his aunt as she rolled her eyes in response to the answer. In all the years he had known her, he couldn’t remember seeing her quite this out of sorts. She was doing almost nothing to conceal her disdain for the frightening looking man making his case to the Wizengamot. It wasn’t like her to ignore the courtly protocol of the council so blatantly.
The wizard in plum-colored robes seemed determined to keep the hearing moving forward. Turning back to the clerk, he asked, “Have you uncovered anything in your investigation that would bar Mr. Greyback from being paroled under the Statute for the Rehabilitation and Integration of the Victims of Lycanthropy?”
“What?” Hermione shrieked as she exploded out of her seat. “That law wasn’t meant to set murderers free!”
“Mrs. Weasley, restrain yourself!” The wizard at the podium seemed to be on the verge of losing his composure. “The statute clearly states that crimes committed because of the effects of lycanthropy may be considered on the merits of the-”
“I know what it says. I wrote it!” Albus gently placed his hand on his aunt’s arm, trying to calm her, but she shook herself free. “There is nothing about lycanthropy that compels a man to declare his loyalty to Lord Voldemort and take part in atrocities committed against children.”
“Begging the court’s pardon,” Greyback said softly, “but I freely admit to doing many things that I am not proud of due to my condition. That said, I have worked hard during my incarceration to put the past behind me. I’m here asking for a second chance. I’m sure I can prove myself worthy of the opportunity.”
“You’ve proven everything you’ll ever need to,” Hermione snarled, fixing him with a blazing glare.
“Order!” The wizard overseeing the trial banged his gavel against the podium. Hermione reluctantly returned to her seat. “Mrs. Weasley’s objections notwithstanding, this court finds that Mr. Greyback has completed all of the legal requirements necessary for him to be considered for parole under the Statute. If there is no other evidence to be presented, we will turn to the terms of Mr. Greyback’s parole.”
“I believe there is one other question to be addressed,” Hermione cut in again, drawing exasperated glares from several members of the Wizengamot. “The statute states that parole must be denied in the case where the victim presents a clear danger to himself or others.”
One of the Wizengamot members spoke up from her seat on the dais. “Mrs. Weasley, we’ve seen no evidence that Mr. Greyback presents any greater risk to the public than any other werewolf who’s been freed pursuant to the statute.”
Albus noticed that his aunt was thinking very hard, weighing what seemed to be a very difficult decision. Suddenly her head snapped up and she stared directly at the witch on the dais. “With all due respect, Mr. Greyback is not just any werewolf. But if it’s evidence you want, you’ll have it.” She turned back to the wizard in plum-colored robes at the podium. “I request a recess of one hour and that this hearing reconvene in the council’s Memory Chamber.”
A loud groan arose from the few members present at the hearing, but the wizard overseeing the hearing merely scratched his chin thoughtfully. “And if this evidence does not prove convincing, then will you agree to drop your opposition to Mr. Greyback’s parole and allow us to proceed?”
Hermione looked stricken. “I’m not prepared to make that commitment. We’re talking about a convicted Death Eater here.”
“What’s the matter, Granger?” Greyback mumbled softly, leering at her through his fiendish, yellow eyes. “Afraid I’ve actually changed?”
She didn’t even bother to look in his direction. “Hardly.”
The wizard in plum-colored robes banged his gavel angrily. “Mrs. Weasley, we’ve wasted more than enough time on a simple parole hearing. Either you agree to let the council weigh your evidence and accept their judgment, or we will move on without it.”
“Very well!” she replied, staring icily back. Albus noticed that she was studiously avoiding any eye contact with Greyback. The wizard at the podium adjourned the hearing and two Hit Wizards came to escort the prisoner to a holding cell near the courtroom.
“See you soon,” Greyback sneered. “Maybe I’ll even stop by and meet the rest of your family after I’m free.”
Albus grabbed his aunt’s arm as she started to turn angrily toward the grinning werewolf. “Come on,” he whispered, pulling her away. “Let’s go find someplace to talk.”
“I don’t get it,” Albus mumbled as he paged through the report on Greyback from Azkaban. His aunt continued to pore over the text of the lycanthropy statute that she had championed in the early days of her career in the Ministry. “This guy seems like exactly the type of werewolf that the statute was designed to help. He’s paid his debt to society and taken advantage of every opportunity to improve himself. It seems like you’d want to help him.”
Hermione cursed under her breath, showing no sign that she’d heard a word that he said. “How could I have been so stupid?” she mumbled, making notes as she read. “This is worded far too broadly.”
Albus dropped the report onto the table separating them. The noise shook his aunt’s attention away from the documents laid out in front of her. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Aunt Hermione, but it seems like you’re taking this case personally.”
His aunt stared at him for a long moment before setting down her quill and rubbing her eyes. “How much did Teddy tell you about his father?”
“Teddy told me that he became a werewolf when he was young,” Albus answered softly, wary of the strong emotions he could sense just below the surface of her patient demeanor. ”He lived most of his life that way.”
“That’s right,” she replied. Her eyes were burning with anger. “Did he tell you how it happened?”
Albus shook his head slowly. He could tell that his aunt was fighting to keep from yelling. “When Remus Lupin was a young boy, his father paid Greyback an insult. Nobody even recalls what was said, but on the night of the next full moon, Greyback returned to the Lupins’ home, hid himself behind the house and he waited.”
A chill ran down Albus’s spine as the scene played out in his mind. He shook his head, trying to drive the images away. “That’s not possible. Werewolves don’t choose to infect other people.”
“You’re right, Albus. Because in Greyback’s mind, he’s not making them sick. He’s sharing a gift. He’s making them part of his family. Did you know that he prefers to bite children?” Albus shook his head in mute horror. His rational mind struggled to accept what he was hearing. “He would infect them and then try to lure them away from their families to join his pack. It was his way of fighting back against the world he felt had wronged him.”
“Aunt Hermione, is that really true?” Albus replied. His mind was reeling. These were the sort of stories that had been used to justify prejudice against werewolves for centuries. To hear them coming from the woman who had fought for their cause throughout her career felt inconceivable. “When I look at him sitting in that courtroom, I see a man. A man with a terrible illness, but a man nevertheless. What you’re describing is a monster.”
“Appearances don’t make someone a monster, Albus. Fenrir Greyback killed and infected scores of innocent people, including one that I’ll never forget as long as I live. He is a monster. So to your point, you’re damn right I’m taking this personally.”
Thanks for checking out my latest story. The second and final chapter should be posted in a week or so. In it, Hermione faces off against Greyback to show that he's still as dangerous as ever.
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