- Character Bashing
- Alternate Universe
An unopened bottle of Ogden’s Best Firewhiskey sat on the center of the scarred and battered kitchen table, its purchaser staring at it with his chin propped up on his interlaced fingers. The young man hadn’t had a drink since he’d graduated from Hogwarts, not wanting to end up like his father, an abusive drunk. He rubbed at his left forearm, fingers running over the place where the insignia of a madman had once rested. It was faded now, and had been for three whole days.
Many things had happened since Halloween. Bellatrix and Rodolphus Lestrange had been captured while attempting to get past the ancient wards of Greenvale Hall, the ancestral seat of the House of Longbottom, while the other two members of the group, Rabastan Lestrange and Barty Crouch Jr, had been killed in the ensuing fight with the Aurors on one side of the wards and Frank, Alice, and Augusta Longbottom on the other. Quite a few other Death Eaters had been caught as well in that short time, often due to informants trying to save their own skins, but so far the young man at the table hadn’t. Yet.
Severus sighed and then scrubbed his hands over his face, scrubbing his hands over his face. Fucking hells. He was trapped. He’d been a double agent during the war, and there were more than likely people on both sides that would love to see him dead, trial or not. He supposed he could try to disappear into the Muggle world or other Magical communities around the world, but that wasn’t his preference, nor entirely foolproof.
“My life is ruined,” Severus muttered. “Now what am I going to do?”
“Maybe make me a cup of tea?”
Severus was up and casting offensive spells at the intruder who had suddenly appeared on the other side of the table. The spells splashed against a shimmering gold shield that Severus didn’t recognize. The intruder didn’t respond to Severus’ attack, simply standing there with his arms crossed over his chest, an unimpressed expression on his face.
“When you’re finished,” he said dryly. “I do have limited time here.”
Severus stopped casting but kept his wand trained steadily on the other man. “Who are you, and how did you get in here?”
“You’re not the first person who’s asked me that recently,” came the reply, accompanied by an amused smile. “My name is Merlin, and I got in here by the Lady’s grace.”
“Right, and I’m Morgana in drag,” Severus snapped. “Who are you, really?”
“I really am Merlin,” Merlin told him, letting his shield drop before taking a seat at the table. “Now, about that tea?”
Severus stared at him. Whoever this guy actually was, he was powerful and entirely unconcerned about his own safety. Obviously he was insane as well, but that often didn’t count for much amongst magic users. He kept his eyes on Merlin as he flicked his wand, Summoning two tea mugs and tea bags to the table and directing one each to his visitor and then the rest to his own seat. Two Aguamentis and heating charms later and the tea was brewing. Severus took a seat across from Merlin, keeping his wand close at hand.
“Thank you,” Merlin said, idly dunking his teabag in the hot water in his mug a few times before letting it steep properly. “Now then, to answer your question about what you’re going to do with your life, I have an offer for you. Come with me to Gringotts, listen to what they have to say, and I’ll remove your Dark Mark and any lingering magics Voldemort might have left behind.”
Severus snorted sharply. “Right. And you’re doing this out of the good of your heart,” he drawled. “What do you get out of it? What’s your price?”
Merlin smirked at that. “Ever the Slytherin. My price, as you call it, is to help me with a very special project. It will take years to complete, but I can promise you that it will be for the betterment of the entire British Wizarding World. Regardless of if someone’s core is Light, Gray, or Dark, they will benefit from this. It will be hard, and at times you will curse my name and very existence, but I can promise it would be a better life than being trapped under the thumb of one master because of the sins done under another’s.”
“Redemption but at a price,” Severus said cautiously, earning a nod from Merlin.
“Redemption always carries one, even if it’s not immediately apparent,” Merlin replied. He lifted his mug to his lips, taking a sip of the tea to test it before setting it back down. “Dumbledore will not be able to hold your Mark and activities over your head. After all, having the verification from Gringotts that you are not a servant of the Dark Lord any more will go a long way, as will the offer of a far better job than Potions Master at Hogwarts.”
“How did you–”
“Merlin, remember?” Merlin said with a smirk. “Besides, we both know you’d hate being tied down to one place and having to teach young children about your favorite subject when they have no idea the difference between monkshood and mulberry or why you should pick certain ingredients at different times of the year, month, day, or moon cycle for various effects. You’d chafe at your bonds and eventually end up miserable and angry, which is something I think you’ve been enough of in your life, don’t you?”
Severus couldn’t argue with that. He drank some of his tea, using the time to contemplate his choices. Either go with the madman proclaiming himself to be Merlin to Gringotts or be caught in Dumbledore’s web for Morgana knew how long until he either died or was somehow freed.
“You’ll remove my Dark Mark?” he asked finally.
“Yes, and any lingering taint Voldemort might’ve left or anything Dumbledore might have attempted to bind you with,” Merlin said. “Your core is Dark but not corrupt, and there’s a world of difference there.” He finished off his tea and then got up, Banishing the mug to the sink and the tea bag to the rubbish bin. “We’ve got a short time before we need to get to Gringotts, but it’d be for the best that we get there soon. A fair warning: there will be others there, some that you will not be pleased about. I ask that you save any and all anger and magical attacks until you hear what’s to be said and we are out of the bank. The information that you are going to hear is vital to the future of the British Wizarding World, and I’d hate to have the goblins bloody their axes because someone was foolish enough to draw a weapon and start casting spells in the middle of a conference room.”
“I can hold myself back if the others can,” Severus replied, getting up as well. A few flicks of his wand and he was ready to go. Merlin held out a short length of rope, offering one of the knotted ends to Severus.
“This will take us directly to one of the receiving rooms in Gringotts,” he explained as Severus took hold. “And… Galleon!”
The Portkey activated, the two men leaving Spinner’s End in a whirl of sound and color, landing a few brief seconds later in one of the better-appointed receiving rooms in Gringotts. A goblin was waiting there for them, looking utterly bored with his task. Without speaking a word, he turned on his heel and left the room, only a short gesture indicating that he should be followed. Merlin and Severus did so, Merlin tucking the rope into a pocket of his long coat. They were taken to one of the larger conference rooms, the goblin opening the door for them before taking his leave.
Merlin stepped inside first, blocking Severus’ view of those already inside briefly before he moved out of the way. Severus stopped just inside the room, having to fight down the urge to draw his wand immediately. Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, and all four of the Longbottoms were there situated around a conference table, as well as three higher-ranking goblins seated at the table’s head, if their well-tailored clothing was anything to go by. Severus barely noticed the doors sealing shut behind him and heavy privacy wards settling into place, as he was more concerned with squashing the urge to curse Black and Lupin heavily. Black particularly seemed to be having the same problem, with only Lupin’s calming hand on his arm stopping him from courting a beheading by one of the goblins, all of whom had their axes leaning against their chairs in a ready to reach position.
“Sit, Master Snape,” the middle goblin said, indicating one of the free chairs. “We have much to discuss and little time to do it in.”
Severus took a seat as far away from Lupin and Black as was possible without being stuck at the far end of the table, sending the two one last glare before focusing on the goblin. Merlin hadn’t sat down, but was instead observing the two young toddlers in a playpen tucked away behind yet more wards in a corner. Severus frowned. He’d figured the Longbottoms would have their son with them, but he wasn’t sure who the second child was, unless…
His gaze flicked immediately back to Lupin and Black. Surely not. Dumbledore had said she was safely hidden away.
“What did you two do?”
“They didn’t do a thing,” Merlin said as he stepped away from the playpen, content to let Amaranth and Neville keep one another occupied for the time being. “I did. Lily and James asked me to watch over their daughter, so I am.” He sneered. “I found her on the doorstep of Lily’s Muggle relatives. She’d been left there under a sleeping and warming charm, wrapped up in a thin blanket. That was it.”
He sat down in one of the remaining chairs before folding his hands on the table in front of him. “As for what we need to discuss, I’m going to warn you now, some of it isn’t pleasant, and all of it is has been declared a High Secret by both the Goblin Nation and by Magic itself. The moment that door closed, protections were laid around the minds of all within this room, the children included, so that no one, not even the most skilled Legilimens or torturer, could either pry it from your mind or make you talk about it. Even if you remove the memory from your mind and put it into a Pensieve, no one but yourself would be able to glean anything from it. It would be utter rubbish to anyone else, and entirely useless. This is by design, because trust me when I say that the fate of the British Magical World depends on it. I’ll let Senior Account Manager Goldthorn tell you more.”
He gestured at the center goblin, who nodded before tapping a series of runes inscribed into the table in front of him. An orb sitting on a stand with feet shaped like dragons’ claws appeared in front of him. The orb itself had a golden mist contained within it that moved around in gentle patterns. Goldthorn reached out with one long finger and tapped the top of the orb with it. The mist swirled out of the orb, coalescing into the shape of James Potter from the waist up. He had a surprisingly serious look on his face as he stared out in front of him.
“I am James Fleamont Potter, Lord and Patriarch of the House of Potter. This is my living will, updated by Magic itself until the day I pass from this world and cross the Veil. No other wills or directives are valid, and any besides this one that are presented should not be considered right or honorable.
“First things first, our Secret Keeper is, or rather, was Peter Pettigrew. He is an unregistered Animagus with the form of a common garden rat. We let the idea that Sirius Black was our Secret Keeper leak out because he seemed the sensible choice given that he’s one of my best friends. He was the perfect decoy.
“Second, if my wife Lady Lily Marie Potter nee Evans survives me, then she is to inherit all of the Potter titles, holdings, riches, and all that goes with them. If she dies at the same time or shortly after me, then our Magic-chosen Regent will oversee our holdings and titles until our daughter, Amaranth Euphemia Potter, comes of age. Gringotts is to continue with our investments save for the Order of the Phoenix. Those donations are to be stopped, as are any future transfers to Albus Dumbledore or anyone associated with him unless otherwise noted to our account manager, Goldthorn.
“Third, the care of our daughter, Amaranth Euphemia Potter, is to be assigned to the following people:
- Merlin Ambrosius, who is to be Regent Potter, unless he’d rather not.
- Sirius Black, her blood- and magic-sworn godfather. Sirius, we know of the effects the curses that you have been subjected to over your life, so if you want to adopt Mara as your daughter and heir in blood and magic, then we give you our blessing.
- Lord Franklin and Lady Alice Longbottom, the latter of whom is her blood- and magic-sworn godmother.
- Dowager Lady Augusta Longbottom, if her son and daughter-in-law are incapable of doing so.
- Remus Lupin, who is to be provided with either a safe place to transform during the full moon from one of the Potter holdings or unlimited access to the newly-developed Wolfsbane Potion, whichever he would prefer. The funds are to be taken from the main Potter Family vault and a minder is to be appointed for Amaranth while Remus is indisposed during the full moons.
- Severus Snape, Potions Master. Snape, there are many things I regret in this world, and the foolish and cruel actions I and others brought upon you are amongst them. I release you from the life debt that hung between us and ask you not blame Amaranth for my sins against you.
“At no point is Amaranth to be entrusted to the care of Albus Dumbledore nor Petunia and/or Vernon Dursley, Lady Potter’s Muggle sister and brother-in-law. The former will merely treat Amaranth as a weapon to be used against the Dark Lord Voldemort because of a prophecy given by Sybil Trelawney, and the latter will not raise her properly as they are firmly against magic and all it stands for, and will likely take it out on her.
“The full prophecy is as follows:
The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches … Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies … And the Dark Lord will mark them as his equal, but they will have power the Dark Lord knows not … And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives … The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…
“We and the Longbottoms were told this by Albus Dumbledore a few months before our children were due to be born due to the fact that the four of us met the requirements laid out by the prophecy. He suggested we go into hiding immediately, leaving the ‘obvious’ targets of our ancestral manors and using smaller houses elsewhere. Lily and I volunteered to move into a house in Godric’s Hollow while the Longbottoms stayed in their manor. We hid behind the Fidelius charm, trusting that it would hold. Obviously, since this will has activated, it has not, and Peter Pettigrew is a traitor to his friends and the Wizarding World. He is no longer considered a brother to any of us and his blood-sworn title as a Marauder is null and void.”
The recording paused in its speaking, and the image of James ran its hand over its face.
“We had a visitor several days before All Hallow’s Eve that was entirely unexpected,” it continued on after a long moment. “He walked through our wards and Fidelius like they weren’t even there. When he explained who he was and why he was there, we were stunned. He introduced himself as Merlin Emrys, and that he was there because Amaranth is the Magic-chosen heiress of Arthur Pendragon, making her the future queen of Magical Britain and Avalon. Merlin can explain more, of course, but we don’t want this information to get out at all until the time is right. All of you are here because we trust you to help guide Amaranth to be a just and fair ruler when the time comes.
“We do ask that you let her be a child as she grows. Don’t let her future duties engulf her whole childhood. Now, her name is already down for Hogwarts, and we don’t know what would happen if she goes to a different magical school for her education now that she has such a heavy responsibility tied to Avalon and the British Magical World. Goldthorn, we ask you to research possibilities of alternate schools if Albus Dumbledore is still Headmaster when she turns eleven. If she is not able to go to a different school, then we ask you all as a group to ensure that he does not try to or succeed in his plans for her. Be her council, support, and parents as needed, and protect her fiercely.
“Now, as for bequests, Goldthorn is aware of them and you and those not here at this reading will be given envelopes with itemized lists of what you will receive. Any and all funds will be transferred immediately to your vaults, or, if you do not have a vault, one of the smaller personal Potter vaults will be given to you after the funds in it are transferred over to the main vault. Goldthorn, recall all Potter heirlooms and artifacts to the main Family vault. You may take all goblin-wrought items save for Gryffindor’s sword, which as you know was gifted to Godric and not bought by him, which leaves the sole ownership within the Potter bloodline in perpetuity.
“A chest of memory orbs has been left in the main Potter vault for Amaranth to view on each of her birthdays and significant holidays until she comes of age. Please make sure she knows that she was dearly and fiercely loved by her Mum and Dad in the brief time we got to spend with her.
“One final thing. Assuming that Dumbledore goes against our wishes and somehow gains guardianship over Amaranth, however briefly, we authorize a full and deep magical scan on her to ensure she is of good health and is not laboring under any curses, blocks, or other magical or physical ailments. Also, since she is a target of Voldemort, the scan is doubly necessary to ensure he does not harm her irreparably in his desire to see the prophecy fulfilled. The funds for this can be taken from the main Potter vault.
“These are the last and final words and wishes of Lord James Fleamont Potter and Lady Lily Marie Potter. May Amaranth grow up knowing and living our family motto: Robur fortitudinis gloriam, strength in bravery and honor. May the Lady guide and protect you all.”
The image faded away, the mist returning to the orb before dimming now that the will had been heard. There was a thick blanket of silence laying across the room, with the only sounds coming from the playpen where Neville had fallen asleep and Amaranth was quick on the way to join him, though she’d perked up briefly when she’d heard James’ voice. She’d settled back down once the will stopped playing, dropping off to sleep while curled up against Neville’s back.
Alice sniffled, dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief. Frank slid his arm around her back, pulling her close. She leaned into him, doing her best to regain her composure.
“So,” Merlin said, breaking the silence after a while, “Amaranth is in need of a health and magic scan. I would suggest that Neville undergo one if he’s been in Dumbledore’s presence for longer than a few minutes recently, just in case.”
“Our cursebreakers and healers can help with that,” Goldthorn said, speaking for the first time since the others had arrived. “As Lord Potter instructed, the costs for Heiress Potter’s tests will be taken from the main Potter vault.”
“And Neville’s will be taken from ours,” Frank said firmly. “We want him to be as healthy as possible.”
“Of course,” Goldthorn said with a nod. “The Goblin Nation is at your disposal.”
“Perfect. Now, Severus, I made a promise to you earlier,” Merlin said. “However, I do ask one more thing of you before I fulfill it.”
Severus narrowed his eyes. “What would that be?”
“That you work to let go of your emnity with Sirius and Remus here,” Merlin replied. “I’m not asking for an immediate change, but it would be in accordance to Lord and Lady Potter’s last wishes as well. Constant fighting would not be good for anyone, least of all young Amaranth.”
Severus’ jaw tightened as he looked over at Sirius and Remus, the former of which didn’t look particularly happy about the whole thing. The Potions Master let out a slow breath before nodding tersely. “Fine, if they do the same,” he said finally, biting out the words. Remus nodded, elbowing Sirius until he begrudgingly agreed to do the same.
“Good.” Merlin got to his feet, gesturing for Severus to do the same. “With your permission, honored goblins, I ask to cast a strong privacy ward in that corner so I can fulfill my promise.” He gestured at the corner across from the playpen where a small two-seat couch was placed.
“You may,” Goldthorn agreed. “Once you are finished with that, we need to set up an identity for you to take up your place as the Potter Regent without question.”
“Hm… How about Lord Merle Ambrose?” Merlin said with an amused smirk. “Close, but not quite.”
“Perhaps a little too close?” Augusta suggested. Merlin shrugged.
“Maybe so, but knowing most of the British Wizarding World as I do, no one will really notice,” Merlin said, “especially if I simply go by Lord Ambrose most of the time.”
“Using Pureblood protocol against them. Nice,” Sirius said with a snicker as Merlin directed Severus to sit on the couch before a heavy privacy ward went up, blocking them from view. The ward came down fifteen minutes later, with Severus looking deathly pale and a sheen of sweat on his face. He was staring down at his bare left arm, running shaky fingers over the clear skin that rested there now. Merlin looked better than Severus but still rather strained, even with his greater magical power.
Merlin returned to the conference table, leaving Severus to recover on the couch while he spoke with Goldthorn. The two other goblins had been dispatched to get the ritual rooms set up for Neville and Amaranth’s checkups. They returned several minutes later, requesting that Merlin and the two younger Longbottoms follow them with Amaranth and Neville. Merlin paused before casting a temporary sleep spell over Amaranth, not wanting her to wake during the ritual. He carefully picked her up, cradling her against his body as he followed the goblins out of the room, Alice and Frank trailing after him with Neville in Alice’s arms.
They split up once they reached the ritual rooms, Merlin following the goblins’ instructions and laying Amaranth on the low altar in the center of the room before stepping outside the ritual circle. The goblins set to work, their wild magic rising and then washing over the young girl in the middle of the room. A heavy scroll popped into existence out of thin air in front of the goblin who was leading the ritual after about ten minutes or so, hovering there at eye level.
She reached out and plucked it out of the air, unrolling it and reading it over before barking out orders in the goblins’ native tongue. Her fellows scrambled to do as she wanted, one fetching a crystalline orb that they then levitated to hover two feet over Amaranth’s body. The ritual resumed, the magic swelling to almost unbearable heights. The thin scar that marred Amaranth’s forehead began to bleed heavily before black vapor escaped it after a minute or two of vigorous chanting.
The vapor rose up in an angry cloud, roiling like a stormcloud. It kept rising, only to be stopped by the orb, which began to draw the vapor within itself. The vapor struggled against the pull but couldn’t resist entirely, eventually becoming trapped inside it with no escape no matter how much it tried. Merlin watched it avidly, his curiosity burning at what it might be. The goblins ended the ritual with a broad-spectrum healing spell that entirely erased any sign of the scar from Amaranth’s forehead and removed the blood as well, leaving her clean and surprisingly, still fast asleep.
“The results of the ritual will be discussed once we are back in safe territory,” the head goblin said, directing the crystal orb to a heavily warded and rune-lined silver chest that one of her associates was holding. The orb fit snugly inside the small velvet-lined chest, the lid closing with a heavy thunk of a lock engaging. One order later and the goblin holding the chest had removed it from the ritual room, spiriting it away to a far more secure location deep in the bowels of the bank.
Merlin nodded before retrieving Amaranth, bringing her back to the conference room just after the Longbottoms had returned with Neville. The goblin who had led the ritual handed the scroll over to Goldthorn while Merlin carefully placed Amaranth back into the playpen. The sleep spell would wear off in a half hour or so, and she would wake naturally when her body demanded it. Severus had recovered enough by then to move back to the table, though he still looked paler than usual.
“What were the results of the ritual?” Remus asked curiously once the wards had been activated fully again. Goldthorn unrolled the scroll, a scowl forming and then deepening the more he read. Goblins weren’t particular fond of most of Wizarding-kind, but they hated two things in the world almost more than losing money: abuse of a child, regardless of species, and Infernal Magics, which were considered the blackest of Dark Arts and dealt death and destruction whenever and wherever they were performed.
“Heiress Potter is very lucky to have been brought here today,” he said, setting the scroll down on the table. “She had a number of limiting blocks and nets on her magical core. The ritual recorded the magical signature that was unique to them since they had been placed so recently. More importantly, a soul shard was removed from her scar, which was healed. She is free of any taint of Infernal Magics or the limiters and blocks.”
“A soul shard?” Augusta asked, a hand pressed over her heart. “Seriously? She had a piece of Voldemort in her?”
“No. She had a piece of…” Goldthorn glanced at the scroll again. “…Tom Marvolo Riddle, also known as the Dark Lord Voldemort. It is far too small to be half his soul, so we will use what we captured to track down the rest of them.”
“I’ll help find them,” Sirius and Severus said almost in unison. They exchanged surprised looks before Sirius nodded slowly but surely.
“For Amaranth and the rest of the kids who deserve not to live in fear of the Dark Wanker,” he said, earning a wry smile from Severus in agreement.
“He was, wasn’t he?” he said. “His ideas sounded good at first, but eventually they turned into nothing more than anger and destruction.”
“That’s often how the rhetoric of madmen goes, lad,” Merlin said rather kindly. “You’re free of him now. It’s time to make your own way through the world and decide what kind of person you want to be. That goes for all of you.”
Severus sat back in his chair, a contemplative expression on his face.
“Very well,” Goldthorn said, resting his hands on the table in front of him. “Master Ambrosius– or rather, Lord Ambrose –once we are done here, we will get you the Potter Regent ring, your House and identity established, and a ring and seal made for them. Where will Heiress Potter be staying?”
Merlin rubbed at his chin thoughtfully. “Well, is Potter Manor still standing?”
“Yes,” Goldthorn replied. “You’ll learn its protected location once you put on the Regent ring.”
“Then we can live there.” He turned to the others. “You are all welcome there. Remus, Severus, Sirius, I would love to have you living there to help with Amaranth if you like. I’ll be bonding with house elves, of course, to help around the house, but I don’t just want to leave her with a nursery elf.”
“I’d love to join you there,” Remus said. “I’ll take the Wolfsbane during full moon so she’s safe.”
“I’ll join you as well,” Sirius said. “I’m not going to let Mara go without her uncle Padfoot.”
Severus considered it before nodding. “I will join you as well,” he decided. “That way I can brew the Wolfsbane potion for you, Lupin. I’ll have to speak to Dumbledore. He’s sent me a missive asking me to take over the Potions Master position at Hogwarts.”
“Which you won’t be taking,” Merlin said. “He can find someone else. As we spoke about earlier, there’s no need for you to be trapped in a place that would cause you to stagnate and wither.”
“What will I do for a job, then?”
“Perhaps your own apothecary?” Merlin suggested. “Or something similar. I’m sure we’ll figure something out that will benefit all of us.”
“Of course.” Severus carefully got to his feet, stretching out his limbs. “I think I’m going to go sleep for a month.”
“War is tiring,” Frank said, standing as well. “Senior Account Manager Goldthorn, thank you for your work today. Please take the funds for your time out of the Longbottom accounts, plus… Hm… Two percent interest as a token of our appreciation.”
“Thank you, Lord Longbottom,” Goldthorn said, watching the others get up. “Ah. Before you go… Heir Black, your ring is still waiting for you.” Sirius stared at him in surprise.
“That’s impossible,” he said finally. “I was disowned.”
“Your mother may have publicly cast you out of your childhood home, but the Patriarch of your House, Lord Arcturus Black the Third, has not exiled you from your Family nor removed you from your status as primary Heir,” Goldthorn told him. “I would suggest taking up your ring and then visiting him as soon as you can.”
“I…” Sirius dragged a hand over his face before sighing heavily. “Yeah. If nothing else, it’ll make my mum mad.”
“That’s surprisingly not the worst reason I’ve heard for someone to take up their ring,” Goldthorn said dryly. He snapped his fingers, causing two ring boxes to appear on the table. One had the Black Family crest on it while the other had the Potter Family crest. Merlin reached out and flipped open the top of the Potter ring box, barely hesitating before sliding the signet ring inside onto his left little finger. It flashed with magic before resizing itself to be at a perfect fit, marking him as the Potter Regent. The ring was made from platinum; a carnelian was set into the top with the reversed Potter crest engraved into it. Merlin would be able to use it to press into wax to seal a letter or authorize a purchase at many shops on Diagon and at the bank. It would also grant him the use of the Potter Wizengamot seat and the votes associated with it.
Sirius hesitated far longer before opening the Black ring box. The ring within was meant to be worn on his right ring finger, and was therefore a little bigger than the Potter Regent ring. It was made of white gold with a piece of jet set into the top, the reversed Black crest picked out on the stone in gold so it was highly visible. Sirius took in a deep breath, let it out slowly, and then picked up the ring before putting it on his right ring finger. There was a short delay before the ring flashed and then resized itself, settling firmly on his finger.
“Very good,” Goldthorn said approvingly. Another snap of his fingers and the ring boxes disappeared, each going back to the appropriate vaults. “I will be in contact with you when we find out more about the soul shards that the Dark Lord made. Our cursebreakers will likely take care of most of them, but we may need contacts you have that would not ordinarily be available to us.”
He looked specifically at Augusta, who nodded once tersely. Her brother worked in the Department of Mysteries, though she had no idea exactly what he did there. She’d contact him if necessary. Hopefully he wouldn’t, but she doubted he would mind helping if needed, especially if contacted directly by Gringotts.
The children were gathered up by their respective guardians or parents, with Merlin handing the now-awake but groggy Amaranth off to Sirius in order to get everything taken care of in regards to creating his Wizarding identity. Twenty minutes later and he was sporting a new ring on his right hand that was mithril with an sapphire set into it; the reversed crest was simple, being a merlin falcon in flight surrounded with a thick oval, much like an Egyptian cartouche. A vault was opened under his name and a moderate sum of Galleons was transferred to it from the main Potter vault as per the written instructions James and Lily had left.
Once that was done, the small party– the Longbottoms had already left by then –left the bank, using a Portkey to travel to the gates of Potter Manor, deep in the Welsh countryside. The grounds beyond the gates looked unkempt and wild, with only a crumbling ruin to be seen. Merlin pressed his ring against the depression on the coat of arms worked into the metal of the gates, waiting until the wards settled over him in a welcoming blanket before the gates swept open, revealing the fact that the manor and grounds were actually pristine and well-kept. The illusion only occured when the gates were closed, keeping out any curious Muggles or wandering wizards.
They settled in at the Manor, taking over one of the sitting rooms on the ground floor. Remus transfigured a pillow into a playpen and a few others into toys for Amaranth before sitting down in an overstuffed armchair.
“What a day,” he said, running a hand over his face.
“Agreed,” Severus replied, sitting down as well. Merlin took a seat in a rocking chair, closing his eyes as he sorted through the information the wards were throwing at him. Sirius had kept hold of Amaranth all throughout, settling down on the floor near the crackling fireplace and Summoning one of the toys from the playpen with his wand before handing the soft plush to the young witch who was now sitting in front of him. They watched her happily playing with the toy, wondering what the future would bring for her and the rest of them.