The Sugar Quill
Author: Lorelei Lynn  Story: Burn Marks  Chapter: Part 2 - Phineas
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Part Two - The Ministry of Magic, London, 1901

When Phineas Black had started his job as a trainee Healer at St. Mungo’s Hospital, he had never imagined that he would find himself in this position. He nervously fiddled with the notes in his lap and glanced at the two Aurors seated by the wall. They looked supremely bored, but then, he reflected, they must be called to testify before the Wizengamot all the time.

A third Auror appeared at the door and gestured for everyone to follow. Phineas jumped to his feet, spilling his papers on the floor. Red-faced, he scrambled to pick them up as the others in the waiting room laughed. He desperately tried to regain some of his dignity as he and his companions walked through the corridors to Courtroom Six.

Upon entering the courtroom, he was surprised to find a crowd of spectators; he hadn’t thought the case would garner this much attention. He was directed to a chair in the first row just as the Wizengamot members filed in. Another door opened to allow the defendant, escorted by still more Aurors, to enter. Phineas had known this moment would come, but he still found it difficult to maintain his composure as the prisoner glared at him. He really couldn’t blame her. She was, after all, his aunt.

The efficient voice of a clerk rang out. “Wizengamot case number 1901-0124, Minister for Magic Ebenezer Macmillan presiding. Miss Elladora Andromeda Black is hereby charged with 17 violations of the International Statute of Secrecy.”

Phineas shuddered in his seat. He was not looking forward to his part in this trial. His mind wandered during the recitation of the legal particulars, but he snapped back to attention when he heard his aunt’s voice shout, “I will not!”

“Come now, Miss Black,” the Minister replied, “you cannot refuse to tell the court your age.”

“And you, Ebenezer, should know that is a question to which a lady will never give an honest answer. So, for the record, you may put me down as twenty-five.” Phineas sniggered. Aunt Elladora was nearly fifty-one.

The Minister sat stunned for a moment and then rolled his eyes. Motioning the clerk to record the answer, he rebuked the defendant, “I would remind you to address me by my title in this situation, Miss Black…”

She cut him off. “May I then congratulate you, Minister, on the birth of a great-grandchild? I saw that the announcement was in the Prophet this morning. But isn’t ‘Melania’ a rather ugly name?”

Phineas took out a handkerchief and pretended to cough in an attempt to hide his laughter. Elladora was running circles around the Minister merely by behaving as if she were at some society garden party; it was just such Slytherin behavior. Poor Macmillan didn’t stand a chance.

The Minister pressed his lips together in an obvious effort to stifle an inappropriate and probably ineffectual retort. After a moment, he returned to the business at hand and called the first witness, “Phineas Black.”

Phineas quickly answered all of the name, age (twenty-two), and residence (Twelve Grimmauld Place) questions before arriving at the heart of the matter. “At approximately four in the afternoon of 15 February, 1901, I was working my shift in the Spell Damage ward of St. Mungo’s when Aurors brought in three Muggle men and one woman with multiple hex-induced injuries.” He hesitated for a second. “Two of the men showed symptoms consistent with the aftereffects of the Cruciatus Curse.” Phineas bit his lip as he heard some shocked gasps from the spectators.

“Were you able to cure them?” asked the Minister.

“All of the men were Obliviated and released later that evening. Two days later, the woman was released to the care of a Muggle Healer whose sister is one of my colleagues at St. Mungo’s. However, I understand that she still has an irrational fear of calla lilies.”

“She made fun of my hat!” shouted Aunt Elladora.

Phineas groaned, wishing that she didn’t make the Blacks look quite so bad. Even though the two of them had rarely seen eye to eye on any subject, Phineas suddenly regretted that his father was too busy with his new position as Hogwarts Headmaster to come to London on this day. The elder Phineas Nigellus was the only person who had ever had any influence over his sister.

His testimony now completed, Phineas returned to his seat in the front row as the Aurors who had made the arrest recounted their stories. The evidence against his aunt piled up, and Phineas could only make an estimate of the number of years she would have to spend in Azkaban until her death. She deserved it of course, but he still felt the shame to the family.

At last, the members of the Wizengamot voted and declared Elladora Black guilty. However, Phineas was surprised when they withdrew to discuss punishment; he had thought the use of the Cruciatus would automatically mean a life sentence.

After about twenty minutes, the court reconvened, and the Minister read the decision aloud. “The defendant is hereby fined one thousand Galleons and required to remain within her home for the period of eighteen months. Case closed.”

Phineas shot to his feet without any conscious thought. “B-but the Unforgivable… Azkaban…”

In spite of the breach of protocol, the Minister addressed him kindly, “Son, using Cruciatus on a Muggle is not considered an Unforgivable Curse under current wizarding law.”

“But sir, except for some inherent magical protection against injury, the physiology of wizards and Muggles is identical. As is their capacity to feel pain. So why…”

“Mr. Black,” the Minister interrupted, “this is not the venue for debates on the fairness of existing laws. If you have proposals for the Wizengamot, I suggest that you submit them in the proper manner. I, for one, would be interested in reading them. Good day.”

He stood up and was about to lead the procession out of the room when Aunt Elladora spoke up again. “You’re an old fool, Ebenezer.”

The Minister turned around. “Pardon?”

“I used to think you were crazy for wanting replace Sickles and Knuts with something as outlandish as decimal currency, but I never thought you’d start listening to Muggle-loving idiots like my nephew here.” She gave Phineas a contemptuous glance. “That’s what comes of mixing with Mudbloods. They even hire them at St. Mungo’s! I can only hope that my brother will change the entrance policies at Hogwarts.”

“That is quite enough, madam.” Clearly angry, Minister Macmillan swept out of the room. Based on their expressions, Phineas guessed that the members of the Wizengamot were evenly split in their sympathies for the Minister and his aunt.

As she was escorted out of the courtroom, Elladora gave Phineas a look that he couldn’t quite interpret. He ran a hand through his hair as he tried to sort out his thoughts. Mutterings about the dangers of Muggle influence had been constant background noise during his childhood, but his experiences at Hogwarts and St. Mungo’s had led him to quietly reject that dogma as being illogical. Now, following several years of political apathy, he found himself wanting to actively do something to help the Muggles that happened to cross paths with wizards. After all, they couldn’t help themselves.

Making a mental note to discuss the matter with his Muggle-born St. Mungo’s colleagues at the first opportunity, he grabbed his cloak and headed for work. After his shift, he Apparated to an alleyway around the corner from Grimmauld Place and then trudged up the front steps of Number Twelve. To his shock, the normal spells to open the front door did not work. Frustrated, he rang the bell, only to see the curtains pulled back from the closest window.

Aunt Elladora stood inside, smirking at him. She always did like to have the last word.

*

Thanks to my beta, Ara Kane, and everyone who has read and reviewed. I hope you’ll stick around for Part Three - Marius 1928.

//
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