“You perhaps right a trial wouldn’t change anything at the moment but there are several questions I would like to have answered for my article. I quite thorough with my investigations you know? Would it also be okay to use a dictation quill to record the conversation? You see it writes exactly what we say” Salazar took out one, activated it and it wrote down what he just said.
“Sure” Bones was a bit confused but nodded.
From the letter it looked like there were more to the Black case than she seemed to be able to see. However now the man said that it might be not the case so she was a bit confused and disappointed now.
“First I like to know which spell Black used to blow up the street and killed Pettigrew.”
Now Bones was even more confused and a bit surprised because that was a question she hadn’t anticipated.
“Well from what the scene looked like when the Aurors arrived it must have been a pretty powerful Bombarda Maxima though I don’t know why that would be of any relevance” she finally answered.
“Are you sure? Anyone check the wand for it?”
“The wand? No that was destroyed instantly by one of the Aurors at arrival on the crime scene as a security measurement when it was clear that it was Black who did it” the confusion in her rose even more. What hinted the man in front of her at?
“Ah what a pity! Now there is no way being sure” Salazar shook his head.
“As I said from what the scene looked like it could hardly be anything else than Bombarda Maxima. What is the point in all of this anyway?”
“Yes, yes, point in this. You know there is special research facility in Germany one who not only invents new spells and magical items for everyday use but also researches existing spells the muggle way. Like for example how hot burns Incendio spell or how much weight one lifts with Wingardium Leviosa at the maximum capacity the way muggles research the world. Quite interesting results they get and useful too.”
Originally this facility was founded by Gellert Grindelwald during his reign in order to research new ways of magic for his purpose but when he fell and was imprisoned Salazar bought it and took over out of boredom, curiosity and because he didn’t know what to do with his money otherwise. He later added next to the research division for new spells and magical objects another division for looking into magic the mundane way when James suggested that this might get interesting results. This part was mostly lead and maintained by half-bloods and muggle born. It was fascinating how many of them wanted to research the how and why behind magic. Next to the thirst for knowledge it was the ever advancing muggle technology that inspired to do this and it pays, not only for this case.
For example at the moment they were researching for some kind of holding stack for floo travel so that one could first check who wants to get through and in the end let him in without giving the password away should it be secured by one. It also is supposed to help when several people want to get to the same location but only one chimney is available there. At the moment one of the two attempts would gotten thrown back to its initial point while the other one gets through hence why the ministry had to maintain over a dozen chimneys to cover all the travel. All of this was inspired by how muggles managed phone calls.
“I cannot see what that has to do anything with the Black case.”
“Let me explain. This facility they found out that the hottest magical fire, Fiendfyre, burns at an average of about 1200°C and a maximum of about 1500°C while a normal Incendio burns at about 400°C. You can see here at this paper” he took out one of the many papers he had in his briefcase and gave it to Bones.
“Thing is muggles found out that to completely turn a human body to ashes it takes a fire of over 1300°C and about one and a half hour. To instantly incinerate one without any leftovers you need a far higher temperature, I not know exactly but I’d guess minimum 10th the time than that. You can see here” he gave her another piece of paper. “But even then there be several leftovers like teeth or ash. Yes, yes, I know you now say: But we are talking about magic. Sure, magic might be able to do that even quicker at a lower degree but the end result would always be same as you can see here. You know even magic follows rules to some point. Very thorough research I might say.”
“Mr. Stein I am not able to see how that has anything to do with the Black case” she now grew angry because to her that all seemed to be wasting her time. “I can only repeat what I said earlier, what killed Pettigrew was an explosion not a fire.”
“Sure, sure, but that is even more strange. You know when something explodes pieces of the exploding object are flying literally everywhere” he emphasized that statement with another piece of paper with research results concerning explosion patterns showing in a magical animated picture of an exploding object.
“Problem with explosion is, it’s a short but extreme heat up to 2500°C but even that wouldn’t destroy bodies entirely leaving behind only one piece. You find heavy burns and bits and pieces everywhere but you’d find them even when the explosion occurred directly next to human body. How did the muggles hit by the blast look like and how long did Aurors take to get there?”
Bones carefully read the papers presented to her and was shortly before calling it a day because she thought it a waste of her time when she heard the last question. She suddenly had a very strong suspicion so she sat up and shuffled through the file of the Black case looking for something. It took her some time but finally she pulled out the picture of a finger lying on the street and the ones of the other victims of the blast. She looked at it intensely, this case just got a lot more interesting.
The muggles had all several degrees of burns and the closer to the explosion the heavier the burns they had. The one who was the closest even missed a limb that was torn of and laid a few meters further. That conformed with the research results Stein presented to her but what let her wish for a glass of whiskey was the picture of the finger, the only remaining thing of Peter Pettigrew. It was regardless of being at the centre of the explosion absolutely unharmed in spite of a few minor scratches and the obvious wound. When she thought about it the wound was much too neat and even for being a result of an explosion compared to the injury of the closest muggle, it was more that said finger was cut off. Despite that? Nothing, not even a hair of Pettigrew.
If she could trust the research results Stein presented to her there had to be bits and pieces of the man all over the place and the finger should be heavily singed and maimed. Yes Black could have banished those but according to the incident report that was attached to the file the Aurors needed less than two minutes to arrive at the crime scene. That was far to less time to erase every evidence and then there would be the question why Black hadn’t also banished the finger since it would be another evidence. It also wasn’t the case that the finger was hidden somewhere but lying in plain sight.
On the other hand Black could have used some mysterious unknown dark spell. But then again it was highly unlikely if not impossible that a spell destroyed an entire body and left over one single unharmed finger that looked like it was cut off. The only spell she knew of that could destroy a body in an instant was the Disintegration Curse but that disintegrated the entire body not only parts of it and even then there would be remains. It also wouldn’t fit to the injuries the muggle showed. Sure there always was the possibility that Black first attacked and killed Pettigrew with the strange spell before he blew up the street with which he then killed the muggles but that also was entirely contrary to the evidence.
First, the position of the dead muggles indicated that they were hit by surprise but would have Black used two spells it would be different. That’s because after the first spell they would have either faced him in surprise because they couldn’t believe what they just saw or they would start to run and therefore turn their back to him when the explosion spell hit them. But some of the muggle were hit in the side or were found in other positions which indicates the surprise of the hit.
Second thing is that the eyewitnesses all stated the same. One explosion occurred and nothing else. Black would have to erase the memories of every single person but the question again would be why and mainly when.
The third problem is the finger again. Even if it was spared by the first spell the explosion never the less would have hit and therefore damage it.
Another idea struck her. What if Pettigrew shielded himself from Black’s attack while cutting of his own finger in order to fake his death and go into hiding? Wait, why hadn’t he then come out of hiding once Black was sent to Azkaban? It also would imply that he knew beforehand of the attack so that he could prepare himself because there was only a very small timeframe of not even seconds during the explosion to pull that off and if you didn’t know of the attack you would never be able to react fast enough. No that didn’t add up either.
All in all she could come up with only one explanation that not only fit the evidence but was easy to accomplish. Pettigrew blew up the street while shielding himself before leaving behind a finger and vanish. With this he could be sure what and when it would happen so he could prepare himself accordingly before vanishing. The only two questions with that was first how he vanished but was quickly answered with either portkey, apparition or being a small unregistered animagus. The second is why he would do it. She felt that she was missing an important piece of the puzzle to solve it.
It was now about half an hour that she sat there musing about what she heard and learned. The entire time Stein was silent only sipping his tea some elf brought earlier.
“The longer I think about all that the more I’m convinced that not Black but Pettigrew blew up the street while shielding himself before cutting off his own finger in order to fake his own death and then vanish” she broke the silence. “It is the only thing that makes sense in any way or shape and fits all the evidences. The only question I have is why he would do that? I mean as far as I know he did nothing against the law.”
Salazar grinned inwardly, his plan played out just as he wished. “I don’t know exactly why he did but I assume it’s connected to the betrayal towards the Potters” he mused.
“But had he really faked his death because Black betrayed the Potters then why didn’t he come out of hiding after Black was sent to Azkaban? He can’t honestly think that Black would break out and come after him Azkaban is the securest prison in the world after all.”
“That being possible would your assumption be correct that Black really betrayed them” Salazar now had a smile on his face that clearly told he knew something Bones did not.
Bones meanwhile narrowed her eyes while glaring at the man in front of her. “What are you hiding?”
“Not hiding, no, just knowing something. You know I happen to know person who adopted Harry Potter and he gave me that” he took the inheritance test out of his briefcase and hold it out for Bones.
She on the other hand didn’t even register the piece of parchment but looked at him like he just told her Voldemort was still alive, well and would soon open a muggle orphanage.
“You…WHAT?” she shouted so loud that her secretary came running in in concern.
“Is everything alright?” said secretary asked.
Bones looked at her like she suddenly decided to grow a second head before she put her mind together again and nodded to her. “Everything is fine I was just surprised” with that she dismissed her secretary.
“Please tell me that you didn’t just say that you know where Harry Potter is…” she demanded to know.
“Yes, yes, I know but please don’t ask where cause I can’t tell as well who has him” he replied. “Now to the document.”
Bones took the parchment with hesitation, she wouldn’t let rest that this man knew where Potter was not when the entire Ministry was running around in circles to find him. She read it carefully before she rose an eyebrow on the Heir to Slytherin line part but what really shocked her was the second last line. There under the listing of godparents stood Sirius Black.
“I hope for your own sake that this isn’t a fake.”
“No, no, it’s au-authentic you can ask goblins. I was assured they can confirm it.”
The day they had been at Gringotts Salazar made sure that the goblins would confirm the authenticity if needed.
“Please wait a minute I have to confirm this. Not that I don’t trust you but this is standard procedure after all” she went to the door and shortly left the office to tell her secretary she should send one of the Gringotts goblins who worked at the Ministry for such occasions to her.
They had to wait a few minutes before a goblin in black robes entered.
“You requested my expertise” the goblin asked.
“Yes I need you to confirm the authenticity of this document, please” she handed over the parchment.
The goblin looked at it before his eyes went wide. He sneered and looked at Salazar who gave him a small smile and nod in return.
“This is a valid document made by Gringotts in concern of a heritage test. All information displayed are genuine. Is there something else I can do Ms. Bones?” he politely asked while handing back the parchment.
“Thank you that was all for now unless you have other official documents to share Mr. Stein?” she looked at him in anticipation.
“No, no, that the only one.”
“Okay I’ll return to my duties then. Have a nice day” the goblin left the office not without another smile and nod towards Salazar.
Bones leaned back in her chair. The surprises this day held seemed to never end. “So Black really is Harry’s magical godfather which changes everything. The whole case is therefore null and void.”
Hook, line and sinker, he loved that game. “Yes, did Black really betray the Potters he be dead the same time as them. He not dead so he didn’t betray them.”
Becoming a magical godparent was like taking an unbreakable vow to never hurt or betray the child and its family. So in case that Black betrayed the Potters he would be dead the moment he passed the information.
“But who then betrayed the Potters?” her head now was spinning.
“Don’t know but can imagine Pettigrew. Would fit to the entire rest. He first betrays Potters and hopes Black dies with them or at least gets arrested, then runs away but Black knows and finds him. Then he desperate cause he fears revenge, blows up street and goes hiding. Makes sense or not?”
She thought about it for some time before she nodded.
“You’re right that makes sense but wasn’t Black the secret keeper? How then was Pettigrew able to betray them? Not to mention why he laughed hysterically when found claiming he was the one killing the Potters?” some things still didn’t add up.
“Hmmm, think you should ask Black about that. He’ll have answers but perhaps he feels guilty because he not at home that time to save them or at least help? To the secret keeper…maybe they changed?”
Bones slid down in her chair. Not only was Black innocent but he also had been falsely imprisoned for over four years now without any questioning or trial. He was the Lord of Black since the death of his father and when she thought about it now, it was an atrocity that he never got a hearing or trial to begin with not to mention his false imprisonment.
“We have to inform the minister about that. She has to know that Black is innocent. I’ll call for her” with that she again stood up and went out to her secretary to give her the necessary instructions.
When she was back sitting in her chair she looked closely at Stein obviously musing about something.
“Something wrong Ms. Bones?” he cocked his head questioningly.
“No, nothing wrong but I somehow have the distinct feeling that you knew all that from the outset and now I ask myself why all this talk when you could have just told me.”
“I wanted you to come to the conclusion yourself. Did I just tell you how would you have reacted?”
She thought about what she knew before the meeting and what would have happened when the man told her straight forward that Black was innocent. At least she would have outright denied that fact because every evidence pointed towards him, or so she thought. In the worst case she would have called him mad before throwing him out but she doubted that she would have listened long enough for him to explain his reasoning, not to mention believing him. She had to admit that letting her come to her own conclusions was far the better way to approach such a topic.
“I would have probably outright denied that you could be right possibly throwing you out without even listening to you because I was so convinced of Blacks guilt…”
“See? Better what I did, isn’t it?” he smiled at her.
It took a few more minutes before a middle age woman entered the office looking at both of them with a questioning gaze. Bones gestured her to sit down and offered her some tea.
“Good Day, my name is Millicent Bagnold I’m the Minister of Magic” she introduced herself to Salazar.
“Good Day, I Herbert Stein a German journalist nice to meet you.”
“So Ms. Bones might you want to explain wat this is about? I was in the middle of the revision of the yearly budget for the Department of Magical Games and Sports. You know we hold the European Gobstone Tournament next year” she was less than amused that she had to leave her work.
Bones narrowed her eyes. “We have a problem. Black is innocent and I have prove” she simply stated.
“Ah and what prove might that be?” she clearly disbelieved her.
Bones sat up and explained her everything she got to know this day telling her how Black could never have betrayed the Potters and that he didn’t blow up the street. She helped her explanations with the evidence Stein gave her and even showed the heritage test.
“You see it clearly is impossible that Black did what he is accused of” with that Bones ended her speech.
“May that be as it is Black stays where he is but what I find much more interesting is that you know where Potter is” she addressed the man next to her.
Bones wanted to intervene but quickly was silenced with a stern glare of the other woman.
Salazar pinched the bridge of his nose. Here we are. The only thing he couldn’t really do something against: human ignorance. This statement made clear to him that Bagnold didn’t care what was with Black she only cared about either her bribes or her post as Minister and she would deny anything that could endanger it.
“I told Ms. Bones that I not able to tell you more about it than that he is well and safe. I sorry.”
“Bah I believe that when you either swore an oath or have been questioned under Veritaserum” she gave him a meaningful look.
“I not going to swear oath you cannot force me!” Salazar was peeved, this was going into a direction he didn’t like the slightest little bit.
“Ms. Bones do you have Veritaserum at hand?”
Bones gave him a questioning look and he slightly nodded unseen by the Minister.
The thing is an oath has to be formulated very accurately or otherwise he has to give information he didn’t want to or suffer the consequences. Veritaserum on the other hand could be bypassed when you knew how.
“Sure, wait a moment please” she started to rumour in one of her drawers before she pulled out a vial with a transparent liquid in it.
She gave three drops to Salazar and his gaze clouded.
“So now, where is Harry Potter?” Bagnold asked.
“On this planet” Salazar answered without hesitation.
Bagnold felt the urge to face palm. “Where is he exactly?”
“On this planet” he repeated.
She frowned, that would prove harder than she anticipated.
“Okay in which city is he?”
“Where in London?”
“I don’t know” which was in fact true since he didn’t know where he was at the moment.
Bagnold thought about that but assumed that this would lead nowhere. “Okay other question, who adopted Harry Potter?”
“John Smith” he instantly replied.
“Where lives John Smith?”
“On this planet.”
Bagnold growled, that man was driving her crazy with his general answers but on the other hand she was to bear the blame when she asked such general questions.
“Does he live in London?”
“What is the exact address of John Smith?”
With that question Salazar started to list off the addresses of every single John Smith he knew, not only the ones in London but on the whole planet which were surprisingly many. He was at about the tenth or fifteenth John Smith when Bagnold finally had enough.
“Stop, stop, stop” she sighed, she had to be more careful with her questions. “What is the address of the John Smith who adopted Harry Potter?”
“He has none” how should he, he didn’t really exist and he didn’t own any house or apartment under that name.
“Why doesn’t he have an address?” she slowly grew furious.
“Cause he neither owns a house nor rented a flat.”
“But where does he live?”
Bagnold was shortly before snapping because she ran around in circles with this man. Up to now she didn’t get a single useful information and she knew her time was running out because Veritaserum only lasted for ten to fifteen minutes and one couldn’t apply more within the next two days. Otherwise one would risk permanent brain damage.
“Is he homeless?”
“Then where in Merlin’s name does he exactly live within London?”
Her head started to change colour to an intense red. Bones on the other hand really had trouble to supress a laugher.
“Okay, okay, back to the start. Where does the John Smith who adopted Harry Potter live?” she knew that this question again was to universally formulated but she had to try again because he obviously didn’t live in London as she assumed.
For about half a minute she looked at him like he went crazy. She assumed that he again would answer with “on this planet”, but nowhere? How could someone live nowhere? Then an idea struck her. What if that person was just fictional or an alias so that it only existed on paper but not as a person? She would have to confirm that.
“Does that John Smith who adopted Harry Potter even exist?”
“Yes” he answered and she received a predatory smile that send shivers down her spine. Damned the Veritaserum just stopped working. She was furious and confused to no end. How could a person exist but live nowhere? She was entirely oblivious to the fact that she again formulated the question in the wrong way.
“For Merlin’s sake tell me with who and where Potter is and tell me now or I swear you I will send you to Azkaban for withholding information.”
Salazar’s eyebrows rose. “Thank you for the offer of free vacation to that nice island but unfortunately I have to decline. You know you have nothing to hold me, I right Ms. Bones?” he answered his voice dripping with sarcasm.
She nodded with a smile. “That’s right you have no valid reason to imprison him and withholding information is not a valid reason.”
“Oh yes? I don’t care, he has vital information about the whereabouts of one of our citizens, Harry Potter the Boy-who-lived to be precisely. He can’t be allowed to leave. The entire Ministry is in uproar since the boy vanished to Merlin knows where” she raged.
Salazar sighed, this woman was ticking him off. Not only was she an advocate of the “see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing” philosophy but also seems to ignore any common sense when desperate.
“Ms. Bagnold, not only do we have a man who is innocent sitting in jail which you seem to conveniently ignore but now you also want to throw another innocent into the same place?” it seemed that Bones wasn’t happy with that either.
“Ms. Bones you forgot for who you work. It only takes one owl and I have you replaced with someone more competent. Don’t forget that!” the entire conversation grew out of hand quite quickly.
Bones just wanted to reply to that when she saw Stein shaking his head. This entire mess wasn’t worth for her losing her job over it and there were far better methods to deal with it. So she simply shut her mouth.
“Sure, sure, but may I add that there is another problem you then have?” he intervened.
“And what problem might that be Mr. Stein?”
“You know, I took some…security measurements…before I came here. Thing is when I don’t come back at a certain point of time the article about the Black case and his innocents will be published and copy’s sent to every larger newspaper in the world. Think they would be much interested in it and I also think that they happily dive into every other case the last century or so to see whether there more mistakes made.”
He didn’t think he would have to pull that card but it appeared that otherwise Bagnold would personally escort him to Azkaban not that they could contain him there but it would be inconvenient nonetheless.
Bagnold went white as a sheet before she got a red head. “Do you actually try to intimidate and blackmail me with your empty threats? You are a journalist of some unknown gutter paper and you think that works with me?”
The predatory smile on Salazar’s face returned. “First I neither wanted to intimidate nor blackmail you I just stated fact. Second you greatly underestimating me so you really want to try your luck?”
She looked at him clearly estimating what to do. Yes he was some unknown journalist but she could feel the power radiating from him now and should he be right and the article would be printed she was ruined before the weekend. So better play safe than sorry. She was a survivor and knew when a retreat was the better option.
“Okay, you can leave but you have to promise me to never ever print that article” she said with a cold voice.
“Alright, works fine with me” he gave her now a much nicer smile but she just glared at him.
“Just pray that we never meet again because then I will get my answers.”
Salazar chuckled. “I promise you we never again meet.”
“If that was everything I’ll leave to my office Ms. Bones.”
“Sure, have fun with your revision” she snapped back.
Bagnold gave Salazar a last glare that would have killed him if that were possible before she left the office. Bones took a deep breath of relieve that the Minister wasn’t there anymore.
“Do you really want to retreat now after all the work you put into this?” she gestured to the file of the Black case and the evidence he gave her.
“You think I at my wits end and I retreat, no offense to you, only because of one corrupt an ignorant politician? I have several aces up my sleeve she knows not of and that will get me to my goal without even publishing the article.”
Salazar chuckled lowly and Bones had the distinct feeling that it was a particularly bad idea to piss of that man.
“But before I proceed I have one question to you. Where lies your loyalty?”
Bones’ eyes went wide. “I beg your pardon?”
He sighed. “Are you loyal to said politician or do you serve law and justice?”
Now she grew angry, how dared he to question her loyalty.
“I swore to protect people and aid justice wherever I can and not to serve bribes and power Mr. Stein. So don’t question my loyalty” she growled.
“Good and I’m sorry should I have insulted you but I had to make sure” he answered with his faked German accent completely gone.