Oathbound – Chapter 1-9

  • Oathbound – Chapter 1-9
Status:
  • Rough Draft
  • Complete
Content Rating:
  • PG-13
Fandom(s):
Harry Potter

Relationship(s):
Harry Potter/Neville Longbottom, Draco Malfoy/Hermione Granger, OC/OC

Warning(s):
  • Character Bashing
  • Dark Themes
  • Death - Minor Character
  • Discussion - Child Abuse
  • No Beta
  • Violence - Canon-Level
Genre(s):
  • Alternate Universe
  • Het
  • Slash
Word Count:
34,903

Author's Note:
More 'shit I once posted on Facebook'. Harry had PTSD. Albus Dumbledore is a dark mother fucker and he has done some really not-okay shit. Part 4 - Goblin-on-goblin bondage (not the sexy kind) and non-graphic magical torture. Timeline? What timeline? Family Magic and consequences, because the aaaaaaaall those fuckers need to learn consequences.

Summary:
A stupidly self-indulgent Lord!Harry fic where Sirius escapes Azkaban before Harry's 6th year, because I felt like it.


Chapter 1 – July 24, 1996

 

Harry frowns, leaning around the front of the Knight Bus to stare into the gap again. “There was a black thing. Like a dog but huge!”

Stan gives him a once over, then obviously decides to ignore the crazy and move on. “Woss your name?”

Harry spouts the first name that comes to mind, “Neville Longbottom.”

-*-

When the screaming of a kettle ready to tip wakes Augusta Longbottom from a sound sleep. Someone must be calling her personal floo -she hasn’t warmed her own tea kettle for longer than her grandson has been alive!- but who in Merlin’s name would have the balls to call her at midnight?

It’s her Firstie. The first Firstie she had mentored as a Ravenclaw Prefect back at Hogwarts, Hephestia Steward, to be exact. How the girl got the name of her personal floo is anyone’s guess.

“Lady Longbottom,” There is a slight quaver in Hephie’s voice but she clears her throat and soldiers on. “Lady Longbottom, this is Hephestia Steward with Knight Bus Dispatch. I have just received report of your grandson, Neville Longbottom, purchasing passage to the Leaky Cauldron in London on number 4. Alone, with a trunk and an owl cage.”

She frowns at the younger woman, makes a gesture for her to wait, and leans out of the floo’s pick-up range to call her elf. “Echo.”

The elf appears beside her desk with a small pop. “Here, here!”

“Check on the young master and tell me what he’s doing.”

“Check, check!” The young elf pops away and returns after just a few moments. “Master Neville in his suite. He asleep in his window. I moves him to the bed, bed.”

“Thank you, Echo, you may go.”

The elf merely bows and disappears without rising.

Augusta frowns to herself and after a moment nods. No magical could claim the name of their future Lord unless they are bound to the Longbottoms. No magical would claim the name of their future Lord unless they are both bound and in some sort of trouble. Such is the magic of Names and Families, so one of theirs is alone and in trouble.

That is inacceptable.

She leans back into range of the Floo with her most severe frown firmly in place. “Bring my grandson home. I will take care of this.” Her Firstie swallows noticeably and quickly nods. “And Hephie? No one hears about this.”

The younger woman squeaks as she agrees and ends the connection, promising that the Knight Bus will have Neville to Longbottom Keep within the hour.

Forty-five minutes later Augusta is standing outside the Keep’s gates with her brother Algernon, waiting as the Knight Bus makes its way up the path.

She’d called her brother before waking her grandson because if anyone could figure out which person steeped in Longbottom family magic is in trouble before said person physically appears on their door step, it’s her brother. He’s worked for the Ministry for a very long time and even when they were children he had been talented at gaining and keeping secrets. She has long suspected that he is an Unspeakable but it’s not a question she can ask and if he is, it’s not something he would never tell her.

Less than 10 minutes after her call, Algernon used his emergency portkey to Longbottom Keep with the wildest story she’d ever heard about Harry Potter blowing up his aunt and disappearing without any sort of a trail.

Apparently, the entire Ministry is awake, active and going quite mad. Half are looking for the Boy Who Lived and the other half uselessly crying, convinced Black is torturing him to death as they speak.

Three minutes after crossing their border wards, the Bus jerks to a complete and sudden stop in front of them. They hear the conductor call Neville’s name and they watch as Stan Shunpike pushes a skinny boy with green eyes, bird’s nest black hair, and a belligerent chin right off the bus and into their laps.

“This isn’t my stop,” They boy tries to reason with Shunpike. “Hello? This isn’t the Leaky Cauldron-. I don’t know these people. What are you doing? Listen to me, this isn’t- ” The older man is very successful at not making eye contact with any of them as he pulls an owl cage and school trunk off the bus.

The boy sets his owl’s cage on his trunk and focuses on Augusta and Algernon, first confused, then defiant and slowly transitioning to angry when –

“Harry?” Neville -who is supposed to be in the house!- Steps around Algernon to get a good look at his classmate.

Shunpike freezes half a step onto the bus and turns to look at the two boys.

Algernon clears his throat.

Shunpike may or may not squeak. Augusta really can’t be sure over the slam of the door and the order to “Punch it, Ern!”

She watches the Knight Bus until it crosses their border wards and disappears off into the night with a BANG!

She frowns and sighs when she finds her grandson and his betrothed are standing together just outside of their primary wards. Normally she would call them in and chastise Neville but-. But. It’s not like they are completely exposed and Neville is less than a week away from claiming the Longbottom lordship so she just folds her arms and holds her peace.

-*-

When Neville gets close enough he can see that Harry James Potter is shaking. His breathing is too fast. He’s pale and sweating. “Harry,” Neville calls the smaller male’s attention and gives a tight-lipped smile when Harry actually looks at him. “Are you alright?” He drops a hand heavily on each of Harry’s shoulders and holds on like he’s seen Uncle Algie do to Uncle Alastor.

Harry manages a deep breath, shake his head and focuses intensely on Neville.

Just like Uncle Alastor would focus on Uncle Algie.

Neville has to take a deep, calming breath when it registers that Harry is reacting just like the most war-abused Auror the Ministry has had in the last hundred years.

“Uh, yeah.” Harry frowns briefly then nods. “It’s just my aunt. She started… I don’t know! But it was magic. My uncle lost it! And I did magic! I broke the law so I ran. They’re going to snap my wand! I don’t- what do I do? I can’t let them take my wand! I can’t! I’m dead if they take my wand.”

“You are safe here, Harry.” Neville risks a gentle shake because he doesn’t think their relationship is ready for hugs. Harry probably isn’t ready for hugs. “No one can touch you here, that’s why your family magic brought you here. Our families are bound together so it knows we will protect you.”

Neville can almost hear Harry’s mind stop its useless spinning, latch on to something and start processing. Harry looks up at him, a confused frown finding its way onto his brow. Must be something Neville said, then.

“Let’s get you inside,” He coaxes Harry closer to the house. “No one knows you’re here. We’ll raise every ward we have and keep it that way. Half an hour behind the war wards and the guys on the bus won’t remember your face or even stopping here.”

“What’s family magic?” Harry balks just before crossing the ward boundary. “How did I get it? Why are we bound?”

“Oh, boy,” He sighs and pulls Harry through wards. This is going to be interesting.

“Missy.” Harry’s reaction to Neville summoning his own house elf is also interesting. And telling. He manages to catch Harry’s wrist before the smaller man gets his wand leveled on the tiny creature. What exactly has Harry’s guardian been teaching him? “Harry, this is Missy. She’s my-. I guess you could say she is my valet. Missy, this is Harry Potter.”

“Master Potter, sir.” The elf maintains her dignity even though her ears tremble a bit.

Harry nods to her and allows Neville to step around him so that they are side by side before the elf, rather than Harry protecting him from his own elf.

“Take Harry’s things to the Skye Suite please, Missy.” The Skye Suite is the closest set of guest rooms to the family library and Neville might have had it recently redecorated with Harry in mind. Not that he has any of intention of admitting to such a thing.

Neville signals his gran and uncle that he will meet with them after he’s settled Harry.

Gran nods and graciously alights on one of the garden benches inside the gate so that the two boys can get a head start up to the manor house. “Do remember to raise the wards, Neville.”

He leads Harry up the front walk and into the house. Once there is a door between them and the two outside, he asks the question that is weighing on his mind. The question that has been for years, actually. “So, what’s your magical guardian been teaching you?”

Harry hesitates for a brief moment before asking, “Magical guardian?”

“You’re an orphan, like me right? But you don’t have any living magical family like I do with Gran, so they sent you to live with some muggles relatives. You still have to have a magical guardian. That’s the law. You have to have someone to teach you about your family legacy.”

“Is that the Family Magic you were talking about?”

Neville nods to him as the enter the Family Library on the second floor. “And wards. Bindings. Magical contracts. Your lordship.”

Neville casually leans against the desk in front of the fireplace and watches Potter blink owlishly at him. The combination of exhaustion and confusion is catching up to him, if Neville has any guess. “…I have no idea what you are talking about.”

He nods. “We can fix that but I’m going to raise the wards now so don’t freak out.”

Neville takes the letter opener off the desk and slices his thumb. He turns toward the mantel. Using his bloody thumb he draws several runes in the air in front of him. Protection, strength, cleansing, good fortune, and home. He channels magic into the floating runes until the glow green and then mentally pushes them toward the property’s central warding column. The runes seemingly disappear into the mantel behind the desk but Neville holds the image firmly in his mind of them joining the warding column until he feels the wards shift and knows he did the job properly.

He turns back to Harry and watches his classmate’s jaw work. Neville pointedly pulls his wand and heals his thumb before setting it on the desk and raising both eyebrows, silently asking for questions.

After several minutes Harry shakes his head. “I need to know everything.”

Neville grins. There are many reasons that Harry Potter is so close to Hermione Granger and their mutual hunger and thirst for knowledge is top of the list though, honestly, not even vaguely close to all of it.

He gets up and walks over to where the wall of shelves meet the actual wall the fire place sits on.

“You are welcome to read everything in the Library. You can come here at any time, your room is just down the hall.” He crooks his finger at Harry and starts pulling a few books off the shelves. Harry for his part practically apparates toward the promise of books, making Neville grin.  “This section is about Family Magic and Nobility. What it means to be a Lord, the history of it, where it all comes from, your duties and the definitions of different relationships. Further down this side of the room are books about rituals, particularly how to set and manage family wards like I just did, how to bring someone into your family – not just marriage but adoption and just about anything else you can imagine. Over by the red chair,” He points. Harry turns to look and nods when he identifies the landmark. “On the side towards us are books on the basics of magical theory in case you need background reading and on the side towards the door magical law, in case you want that too.”

He hands the three books he plucked off the shelves to Harry and leads him out of the Library. “I found these to be the best balance between easy-to-read and thorough in this lot. Start with the green one, it will set you up for the other two. With the brown and the black the order doesn’t matter, they are a little redundant but they have very different points of view and a lot of different information.”

Neville opens the door to Harry’s suite but doesn’t enter. It just would not be proper and his grandmother would skin him alive if he did. “If you need more to read, Eddie is the elf assigned to the Library. He is quite knowledgeable and can fetch you books on any subject we have. If you need anything else, call Missy. She’ll either get me or help you herself. Whichever you prefer.”

He bids Harry good night and closes the door. He turns toward the stairs, intending on go up to his Gran’s drawing room but has to take a seat on the stairs after less than half a dozen steps.

His nerves.

He’d managed to pushed them aside as soon as he’d seen Harry’s fear but he had not been ready for alone time with Harry. He had not been ready to suddenly be the voice of authority on anything for Harry, his betrothed and long time crush, to rely on.

It is not wise to have a crush on a contractual agreement. His gran has long warned him against such folly but, well, Harry had never looked twice at any of the girls they’d met in their years at Hogwarts. He had looked two or three times at taller, more well built guys in that time, though. Guys of a height and built like Neville. So it’s not a completely stupid idea.

And Harry’s fear was… humanizing.

Neville could totally relate to the terror of losing his magic or, more like in his case, not being magical enough from the beginning.

Neville breathed deeply. He’d done right. He’s talked to Harry like a friend, like an equal. Because they are. Equals. And friends.

As soon as the sweating has stopped and he’s reasonably sure that his legs will carry him, he pushes himself up the central staircase and into the drawing room. It’s his gran and uncle’s favorite place to sit and gossip when Uncle Alastor is out on a case.

They both look up at him as soon as he pushes his way through the door. Neither of them say anything as he settles on a leather wingback chair and accepts tea from Echo.

“He knows nothing.”

Gran frowns and sets down her tea. “Nothing?”

“Nothing. Nothing about family magics or lordships or- ”

“You.” She says bluntly. “Nothing about you and the nature of your relationship to each other. What in the name of Merlin is guardian thinking? Who is his guardian?”

Neville just shakes his head. “He doesn’t know that, either.”

“I’ve a notion.” Uncle Algie frowns at Augusta, they communicate something using their super secret sibling shorthand that Neville has seen all his life but never been a part of. “Alastor is at the Ministry, now. I should go back and see what my minions have found.” Algernon Bones stands and claps his grand-nephew on the shoulder. “We’ll have answers in the morning.”

Neville waits for his great uncle to depart before turning to his grandmother. “I gave him books.”

She grins at him and leans forward for details.

-*-

Harry finally draws a full breath when the door to the Skye Suite is closed, being the sole beneficiary of Neville’s focus is intense.

Just-. No. Almost like he had always imagined.

Reality was a lot less personal than the scenarios his imagination typically supplies but it was good, none the less.

He settles the books more firmly in his arms as he wonders the suite.

Two bedrooms, two full baths, at least one closet larger than Dudley’s second bedroom, a well-appointed office and a sitting room with a fireplace.

But where the hell is his trunk?

“Missy?” He hears a small pop and Neville’s house elf is suddenly directly in front of him, just outside of his personal space.

“Master Harry?”

“Where are my things, Missy?”

“Yous school supplies is in the office and yous clothing is put away in the Master bedroom.” Presumably the one with the huge and a half closet and private bathroom. “Yous shower kit is in that bathroom. Is still packed, would yous like me to change that?”

“No, it’s fine. Thank you, I’ll take it from here.” She eyes him like she doesn’t believe him before nodding and disappearing with another small pop.

He has some reading to do. If Family Magic is why he feels so safe then he needs as much of it as he can get

 

 

Chapter 2 – July 25, 1996

 

It’s noon the next day before Harry drags himself out of his room and into the library for more books.

He has questions. A list, actually, of questions. Some of them are detailed with branches leading to even more questions. Hermione would be so proud.

He’s finally selected a new book -yes, just one!- when the pop he is quickly becoming familiar with sounds. He turns to see Missy standing between him and the desk and a little to one side.

“Master Nev bes joining you for lunch, Master Harry. What you be having?”

He opens his mouth to say it isn’t necessary but hand to Merlin that elf is channeling Professor McGonagall with so much force that when she frowns at him and raises an eyebrow expectantly, he answers without really thinking about it. “Nothing greasy. Greasy food makes it hard to focus.”

She nods. “Master Nev be here soon,” and pops away.

Neville walks in a few minutes later and Harry can’t help but grin at the potting soil smudge on his friend’s face. It’s just too Neville for him not to.

After years of taking meals together they don’t even have to discuss it, as long there is food on the desk between them, they keep conversation commonplace. It’s almost boring, actually, even though they do get into a good debate over the holiday essays Professor Tonks assigned on various potion ingredients and which ones they picked to write about.

Missy is in the middle of clearing their place settings away and Harry is just leaning over the desk to give Neville his page of questions when the man that had been out front with Neville last night, a second man about the same age with a craggy face and wildly mismatched eyes, and a square-jawed woman wearing a monocle enter the room.

Both boys stand and Neville introduces them. “Harry, this is my great uncle Lord Algernon Bones, his husband Alastor Moody and my first cousin at one remove Amelia Bones. They all work for the Ministry. Uncle Algie, Uncle Alastor, Amy, this is Harry Potter. Our family is doing our duty and providing him refuge.”

They all sit and Neville asks, “What’s going on out there?”

Lord Bones nods to his nephew. “Before we get to that, Harry, will you tell us why you ran away?”

Harry feels his face heat and does his best to answer without stammering. “There was an argument at ho- between my Uncle’s sister and I. I preformed some sort of unintentional magic, panicked and ran away. You see, all last year I was harassed by a house elf. This house elf preformed magic in that house last summer and I got a warning for it so I knew the Ministry would be coming to snap my wand. I took off before anyone could show up to do it.”

The woman, Ms. -Madam?- Bones, pulls what appears to be a matchbook out of her coat’s breast pocket and resizes it into a file folder. Frowning, she flips through it. “I see the citation. The magical signature is obviously non-human. It never should have come to you, I will have the situation investigated and the citation removed. Did you pull your wand and intentionally blow your uncle’s sister up at approximately 8pm on yesterday, July the 24th?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Was your wand on your person at the time?”

“No, ma’am. It was hidden under the floor, upstairs in my room.”

“And where in the house were you and your uncle’s sister arguing?”

“She was in the dining room and I was in the kitchen, downstairs.”

“It was clearly accidental magic, Amy.” Lord Bones pipes up.

“Of course it was.” The craggy man contributes for the first time, seeming to roll his eyes without actually doing it. Well, not the brown one anyway. The blue one is all over the place. “It’s just protocol. She’s going to cover both their asses with a report.”

Lord Bones grins up at his husband and turns that grin on Harry. “No one at the Ministry will even think about accusing you of anything as long the right reports are filed. Especially reports signed by the Head of the DMLE.”

“You’re Head of the DMLE?” Harry fails utterly at keeping the surprise out of his voice.

“Youngest ever,” Moody says with obvious pride.

“Law enforcement rather is the family business.” She gives him a small smile. “The Moody’s have been Aurors as far back as anyone can remember. Bones’s tend to go into legal counseling and litigation.

“Now, to Neville’s question. There are several things you need to know about what is happening out there.” She pulls out another few matchbooks and checks them all over but resizes only one. “Are you aware that Sirius Black has escaped Azkaban?”

“I heard on the news that Sirius Black is a dangerous man that escaped from jail but nothing specific. Why?”

“For years, we’ve all thought of him as Voldemort’s Number One Fan, a mass murderer and the reason your parents died. Now, considering the way you disappeared and the timing relative to his escape, the Ministry is all but certain that he’s either kidnapped you or already killed you and we just can’t find your body.” Harry chokes on his own spit. Hermione! Oh, god, she must be so worried. “Of course, based on the assumption he has you, the best way to find you is to investigate Black to find his old haunts and allies and things like that. In the course of this investigation, several Aurors and investigators from various other departments within the Ministry have found some rather interesting inconsistencies in Black’s folder.”

Amelia Bones stops her presentation and raises both of her eyebrows at him.

Knowing what he finds most important right now but, not quite willing to address it with strangers before speaking with Neville privately, he prompts her to continue. “Inconsistencies?”

“Were you aware that Sirius Black is your magically-sworn godfather and legal guardian?”

“I was told that Aunt Petunia is my legal guardian.”

“And who told you that?”

“Headmaster Dumbledore, back in first year.”

She nods, seemingly to herself. “Albus Dumbledore is listed as your guardian in your Ministry file. Petunia Dursley nee Evans is not mentioned. Not even once.”

Harry shakes his head. What significance that fact has isn’t exactly clear to him but he’s starting to get a few ideas and none of them are any good.

“Something else many of us have noted in Black’s file is that there is something rather major missing.” She pages through the second file folder. “We have his birth record, his claiming and his declaration as heir to the Family Black. We have his Hogwarts records -where his friendship with your father is heavily noted, I might add. We have record of Arcturus Black, his grandfather and patriarch, granting temporary physical custody of him to your grandfather and then-Potter patriarch, Charlus Potter. We have his records from the Auror Academy and every case file he ever worked on -over 90% of those with your father as his duty partner.”

“Sirius Black signed as a witness at your parent’s wedding and he was witness at both your birth and claiming. Then, out of nowhere, we have record of his arrest and him being ordered straight to Azkaban where he has been incarcerated for over 10 years. Do you see what’s missing here?”

Harry shares a look with a frowning Neville who doesn’t seem to get it, either. Okay, think. Once you get arrested they hold you while they- oh. “What about a trial? Was there any evidence? Would that be updated in that file?”

“Once collected, yes, the evidence would be logged in his file. Once it’s examined the file is updated again. Before you ask, according to the file what evidence there was, was collected and logged but never examined or in any other way handled. And there is no record of a trail. No jury is listed. No judge. Not even a court room.”

“So what do we do?” According to those books he read last night, Sirius Black has to be innocent. Even the least binding oaths of a magical godfather would have killed him by now for intentionally causing his godson damage. If he had been responsible for Harry’s orphan status, something that even Harry can recognize has damaged him in a number of ways, he would already be dead. Magic hasn’t killed him, therefore he is not responsible for the deaths of Harry’s parents.

“Because Sirius Black is the rightful Lord of House Black and because the Head Unspeakable,” a tiny tremor of excitement draws Harry’s attention to Algernon Bones but the man hasn’t moved and almost looks a little bored so Harry snaps his gaze right back to Amelia. “Croaker feels that it is possible someone in the Ministry remanded Black without trial on purpose in order to damage the House of Black Lordship, therefore the discrepancy has been reported to the International Confederation of Wizards. The evidence has been handed over to the Unspeakables for processing and the ICW representatives from Russia and Canada have already portkeyed in to oversee the entire process.”

“And once he’s proven innocent, he’ll be my guardian? Will he be my patriarch?”

Significant eye flicks pass between all of the non-Potters in the room before Neville clears his throat and leans forward. “You are your patriarch, Harry. Or you will be once you claim your Lordship when you become eligible on Saturday.”

“Because it’s my 16th birthday.” He nods. He read about that last night too but at the time he didn’t think it applied to him. “I really am the last Potter.” Neville’s hand lands heavily on his shoulder but doesn’t linger, much to Harry’s disappointment. “No matter what I never have to go back there again.”

She nods to him and continues with all due gravity. “There’s more.”

He laughs. He can’t help it. Of course there’s more. There’s always more. His life is so fucked so he laughs.

“I think Harry needs a break.” Bless Neville, bless him thoroughly.

“I think Harry needs to know what we are doing about Hermione.” He says as clearly as he can around fits of giggles.

“Hermione?” Amelia Bones frowns at him surprisingly harshly.

“Hermione Jean Granger, our classmate.” Neville glances concernedly between Harry and his cousin. “She’s Harry’s, uh-”

“She’s my best friend, like a sister to me and I won’t have her thinking I’m dying in a ditch or something.”

“She’s a minor?”

Harry nods. “But she’s 17 on September 19th.”

“Do you know where she is?”

“Last I heard she was in France with her parents but she should be returning to the country soon.”

Algernon leans in and his daughter leans out, physically conceding the conversation to him at least temporarily. “We can’t tell her the truth about where you are unless we can make sure the information will remain secure. To do otherwise would cause problems for all of us. That means we’ll need to bring her here and she’ll need to stay until we decide to let the Ministry know you’re safe.”

Harry looks to Neville for permission. It’s his house after all.

Neville nods. “If you can get her here voluntarily and without scaring anyone to death, we have plenty of room.”

They all look to Amelia who just smirks and nods. “Give me two hours.”

-*-

Sure enough, two hours later he’s being hugged almost violently into the wall but his favorite brown-eyed girl.

“What happened? The Prophet this morning,” she covers her mouth and shakes her head, momentarily too emotional to speak. “Are you okay? Did anything-?”

“I got in a fight, got scared, ran, got scared some more and wound up here. I’m not quite clear on why here yet but Nev’s taking good care of me. He has a great library.”

Her laugh sounds more like a sob than any sort of joy. “A fight? Who? I mean, what?”

“Marge came for a visit.”

Hermione’s furious scowl is adorable. “That horrible woman. Did she bring that little monster?”

“Of course.” Hermione pure and unrelenting hate for Marge and her ‘demon dogs’ is not something he wants her to get started on, time to change the subject. “You know all that lord stuff Draco is always after us to read?”

She nods decisively and then rolls her eyes. They agreed years ago that the entire subject is a massive waste of their time.

“Apparently, it applies to me.” Her eyebrows shoot for the sky. “Saturday I can claim my title.”

She’s back to frowning again. “Is that why you haven’t said anything? Why you haven’t told the Ministry that you’re safe?”

Now, it’s his turn to scowl. “There are a lot of fishy things going on. With the Ministry I mean. They were telling me about it when I made them go get you.”

“What kinds of fishy things are we talking about here?”

“Sirius Black is my godfather and was my dad’s best friend. And he was thrown in jail without a trial for allegedly murdering my parents.”

What?

“Yeah, legally he should be my guardian but somehow Dumbledore ended up with that title.”

“But he told you-!”

“Yeah, and you notice he never mentioned my lordship either.”

“You don’t think he’s-”

“I don’t know, they have more to tell me though.”

“Do you want me here for it?”

“I think I am going to need you here for it.” She gives him that so-serious nod again and settles next to him on the couch. He calls for Neville’s elf. “Missy.”

Less than a heartbeat later a little pop sounds, “Master Harry?”

“If they have time we are ready to continue our meeting.”

“I be telling Master Neville.” She pops away only to return very quickly with a heavily-loaded tea tray. “They be here in 10 minutes, Master Harry.”

“Thank you, Missy.”

He risks a glance at Herms and finds her ‘I am missing something’ frown in place.

“Missy is Neville’s valet and quite bossy. I think the two of you will get along quite well. Actually, I am a little afraid of it.”

“What is she?”

“A house elf. Neville probably has a few books on them if you want to take a look later. ”

She nods once and they both stand as Madame Bones, Lord Bones and Auror Moody stomp back into the library followed quickly by a distracted looking Neville.

“You said you have more to tell me?”

“Yes, in an effort to understand you to make it easier for us to find you, your …domicile was inspected and the Dursleys were questioned very thoroughly. It became obvious to my investigators that your home life is not a good one. You uncle and both aunts have been arrested for several charges including criminal child abuse and your cousin has been arrested for several counts of physical assault.”

Harry nods. He’s not happy about it but they probably deserve it. He frowns up at Amelia Bones, the Head of the DMLE is way too tense for something so simple as that to be all. “And?”

“And there was a leak. I have people trying to quash it but it will probably be in the paper tomorrow. The Minister, in particular, is pushing the Prophet to publish our findings about your home to get public focus off of the Black Trial Fiasco.”

That son of a bitch. Harry just stares. He should say something. He wants to say something but what in the name of- fuck! He’s finally gotten used to the idea of Hermione knowing about… all of that and he might be okay discussing it with Neville too. Some day. If things keep going like they have been, but for the whole world to just suddenly know? For the whole world to know because some politician doesn’t want their own embarrassment exposed?

“-And you will remind that awful paper that Harry is a minor! And he has rights that they have frequently dismissed but this goes too far!” Hermione is hollering, sounds like she has been for a while actually. “The last time they disrespected him like this, we didn’t have a lawyer but this time we do! If they step one foot out of line, she will set them back on the other side so fast they’ll get whiplash! Mark my words, if they do this, we will sue them for everything they have! All of them! From the Minister to the editor to the journalist stupid enough to write the story to paperboy that sells it! Anyone that touches this story will be lucky to have a box on the street to sleep in!”

He swallows and touches her white knuckled fist. “Herms, don’t run off the Head of the DMLE. She’s currently on our side.”

Amelia Bones nods. “I am on your side but I would get your lawyer ready.”

Harry glances up at the still standing sister of his soul. She nods and sits back down on the couch with him. Not cuddling this time, she’s too furious for that. “I’ll floo Gaia. In her last letter she said she has an international portkey standing by just in case we need her.”

“Something else for you to consider.” Moody adds. “When you claim your lordship you’ll be taking the reins of a huge well of magical strength and you’ll be alone in shouldering that burden. Possibly for a long time. With everything else that you’ve already gone through, mental and physical healing would not go amiss.”

“That’s a very good point.” Lord Bones agrees. “There is actually a rather traditional healing trance lords of all ages take before claiming their titles. It’s a vision quest of sorts because of the self-awareness and mental stability it leaves the quester with by the end. Neville is scheduled to begin his tomorrow. We could probably find you a healer to handle it for you.”

“I have the perfect person in mind.” Moody raises expectant eyebrows at the room.

Harry looks to Hermione. The idea of fixing a problem before it’s, you know, on the verge of killing them all is so new as to be foreign for him but it fills him with hope. Hope that despite everything things are getting better for them, for him.

Whatever she reads in his face makes her smile just a little and nod. “Maybe we should both do it.”

Harry nods back to her. “Alright, I’ll meet your healer and, if he’s not an asshole, I’ll do the ritual. I won’t even complain about it but I want you to do run an errand for me first.”

 

 

Chapter 3 – July 26, 1996

 

The portkey that is the actual brass key to Potter’s trust vault lands Moody in a well-appointed room. It’s windowless, marking the rooms most likely location as probably deep under the bank. It also has no paintings, not even landscapes.

Undoubtedly for security reasons.

The wards are also very heavy, obviously, for security reasons. Including the anti-apparition ward, layers of human-targeting honesty hexes, integrity curses and enough peacekeeping jinxes to make at least three children sleep for a week and something Moody hasn’t seen before that turns not only the portkey that landed him here but probably any other he might have been foolish enough to have on his person into nothing more than an interestingly shaped hunk of metal.

Ancient and Noble account holders get all kinds of fun considerations, not just the comfy chairs the populate the room and private service. There is a side board with a number of crystal decanters, a number of unique gem encrusted goblets and a charmed bucket full of ice. One table has a stack of several Elf-service plates waiting to be taken and ordered from. Another has a basket of potions in single serving vials, from his landing zone Moody can see Sober-Up, Pepper-Up potions, and… is that Liquid Luck?

The door at the opposite end of the room from his landing zone opens and he takes in the sight of a single goblin entering his receiving room from a sealed and empty anti-chamber.

He doesn’t bother to turn around and just lets his special eye examine the newcomer. They made a Representative of House Potter wait and if there is one thing Alastor Moody knows from many years’ experience is that goblins never make Noble or Ancient and Noble account holders wait.

Power plays are in order.

The small being walks right to the edge of his landing area, glances around and with a distasteful wrinkle of his nose asks, “Auror Moody, are you here on official Ministry business?”

“I am here on official business.” He gives a mean little grin known to send Death Eaters running. “But not for the Ministry.” He opens his coat and probably takes too much joy in it when the goblin double takes at the vassal band he’s wearing over his belt.

Vassal bands are an ancient tradition. Their creation requires an intense connection to the caster’s family magic so they have largely fallen out of style but they are a completely legal way for someone with a family legacy like the Potters to mark those sworn to their family as a trusted representative. Combine that with the presence of the only active Potter vault key and it should get him a lot more respect and maybe even an apology.

It doesn’t.

The goblin just starts casting on the band -and therefore Alastor- to verify its authenticity without so much as a by-your-leave. The goblin frowns intensely, grumbles something in Lower Gobbledygook and just keeps casting, trying to find a flaw. He won’t find any. Moody already checked it quite thoroughly for himself but the longer the asshole tries and fails, the greater Alastor’s pride grows.

Harry fucking Potter had done his work well and quickly, learning to and making four vassal bands in the time most young lordlings take to learn the necessary spells.

He honestly hopes the boy settles on a career path as an Auror because he is a joy to teach. He’s fast on the pickup, has great instincts and is very steady-handed. Whatever reason Albus has for leaving the boy untrained is stupid beyond all measure of it but Alastor finds himself happy to step in. For both his boys, really.

“Everything seems to be in order.” At long last the goblin stops his casting on the Auror’s midsection and gestures him over to a lovely red fainting couch. Once Alastor is seated the goblin pulls a travel desk out of his pocket and activates it. It unfolds with a combination of whooshing magic and clicking gears until a full desk and attached chair is standing within easy conversational range of Mad-Eye Moody. As soon as it stops moving the goblin climbs into the attached chair and looks down his nose at the human. “What can the bank do for the House of Potter?”

“First, your name,” because, seriously? Goblin or human offering your own name is step one in hospitality.

The goblin raises a single, snotty eyebrow. “I am StoneCrusher the Potter account manager, human.”

He nods once, abruptly, and sets a magically sealed roll of parchment on the desk between them. “The Heir of Potter requests a number of legal documents, personal journals and family ritual books for his review.”

The goblin takes the scroll and reads it, then leaves the room. Again with no acknowledgment. No nod, no statement, not even a fucking wave.

Not that even this snotty little prick can fail to meet the young Potter’s needs. The request letter is well-detailed and manages a great balance between being demanding and respectful. Pretty brilliant, really. It’s the first thing Gaia Fitzgerald wrote after she had bound herself to the House of Potter with several incredibly binding oaths and while she isn’t the lawyer Alastor would have chosen -not in this country and definitely not for a brand new, technically-not-yet lord- she swore every oath asked of her without batting an eye and seems legitimately invested in the kids’ cause.

He would have preferred enough advance notice to have her investigated thoroughly, but he is starting to understand that no one expects Potter. And Potter has every right to employ someone that wouldn’t discriminate against him for a gift he was born with. She, in fact, couldn’t discriminate against him, being a parselmouth herself. And her international experience would be of more value to them than some boring ‘pure blood’ stuff shirt.

Moody huffs, settles as comfortably as he can back into his couch without removing his leg and waits. One thing most of the human magical population don’t realize about Gringotts is that no matter what vault you are going to, all cart rides last the same amount of time. It should surprise him but really, really doesn’t that the goblin returns well over six times that standard period later.

StoneCrusher doesn’t even bother to pretend to hustle back into the room but he does enter with a satisfactorily large stack of documents floating along behind him. The goblin all but ignores him as her climbs back into his chair and then turns right around and imperiously gestures for Moody to stand as witness for whatever the goblin’s about to do.

He’s almost tempted to ignore the little twat and remain in his seat but his duty to the young Potter takes precedence over any assholery.

StoneCrusher pulls a magical accordion file and two ledgers – one blank, one used- from various desk drawers. He duplicates the used ledger into the blank one and puts it into the accordion file saying, “Potter Account Ledger.” He pulls a blue hand-bound book from the pile floating obediently at his side, says, “Book of Potter Contracts,” and files it in the accordion file. “Book of Potter Deeds,” is another hand-bound book, this one green. “Book of Potter Businesses,” another book. “Book of Potter Family Rituals. Personal journal, Charlus Potter. Personal journal, James Potter. Personal journal, Lily Potter. Last Will and Testament, Charlus Potter. Last Will and Testament, James and Lily Potter.”

The goblin goes to close the accordion file but Moody stops him. “You forgot the Gryffindor Ledger and all legal documents related to those accounts, or has the bank folded them into the family’s accounts without an account holder’s say so?”

The bank and most older families know that the Gryffindor accounts belong to the Potters but they are not named as Potter accounts, so not having to include that information in a request for Potter account information could be argued as fair, though the line is painfully thin. It’s a game and a gamble that most account managers, like the Longbottom’s, would not have dared to play. Mostly because of the insult it implies.

The goblin doesn’t show any sort of reaction other than making a show of digging through the desk for the requested information. After several minutes he pulls out another two ledgers, again one used and one new, makes the duplicate and files it in the folder that Moody will be taking with him.

Then the goblin walks out of the room, again without any display of manners, and is once more gone for far longer than necessary but he returns with another three books appear floating behind him. In short order the “Hogwarts School Charter,” “School Employment Contracts” and the “Records of the Board” are filed into the bottomless accordion file.

“I also want a list of all those with key access to all Potter and Gryffindor accounts and logs of each time any of the Potter Vaults have been accessed since the death of Charlus Potter.” It’s not a typical request and is, in fact, quite rude but this guy is practically begging for it.

“Of course, human.” This time the goblin goes right to the bottom drawer on the left side, pulls out log book and, without bothering to duplicate this one, drops it in the accordion file.

With a nod at the shorter being, Moody closes the file and with a wandless weightless charm he picks it up.

The goblin doesn’t return his nod, of course. He just hops down from his chair and walks out of the room without even bothering to pack up his desk.

Alastor doesn’t let his ire show but he can see that little shit through the door with his magical eye. The asshole stands in the anti-chamber for several moments doing nothing more than watching his wrist piece before finally leaving and allowing to security wards to drop so that Moody can leave.

What. A. Fucker.

-*-

When Moody lands just outside the gate to Longbottom Keep he is shocked to see the healer he arranged to attend Potter sitting on the wrong side of the gate sitting in an armchair that might have been abducted right out of the Hufflepuff Common Room under a giant, matching parasol.

“Dammit, man,” Len McCoy grumbles as Moody approaches. “I’m a doctor, not a border guard.”

“Amy was supposed to be here to let you in.”

“The old man said she got called to the Ministry and I would have to wait for you to identify me. Outside. For three and a half hours.”

“That old man is my husband.” It damn well better be unless their plans had changed. Again. Dammit. “Let’s get you inside. Algie’s elf makes a damn fine Mint Julep.”

Len mutters to himself as he dismisses his transfigurations with a lazy wave of his hand but allows himself to be pulled through the house wards and into the Library with a minimum of fussing.

Now, Len isn’t a mean man. In his own way he’s actually one of the kindest people Alastor has ever met but he doesn’t exactly have a sunny personality. Combine that with his rather brutal honesty and sarcastic wit, and the auror expected to a hard sell ahead of him in order to get the young Potter to take McCoy as his personal healer.

As expected, the boy is very tense when they enter the Library that he has all but laid claim to. He remains tense until he gets a good look at Len, then soon-to-be Lord smiles the same way he only has for Neville and Hermione thus far, and stands to offer his hand. Figures.

About three-quarters of their way through a round of tea, Len sets his cup to one side and leans forward. “So let’s put it out there. I am both a magical healer and a muggle doctor. As such I consult with the DMLE often and no matter how much they hate to admit it, it’s largely due to both sides of my training, not just the one they prefer. This does mean that I consulted on what they found in the Dursley house so if I tend you, you don’t have to tell me what they did to you. I already know. If you want to talk about it, that’s something different and we can do that. I will have to examine you because while I know what happened and I know how that would effect a mundane body, magic is a wild card and you are a wizard.

“If you take me as your House Healer, I will require you to give me specific instructions on what to keep secret, confidential, for where you are concerned because, god help me, there had better be a trial and they will call me to testify. They always call me to testify.”

Harry hesitates for a moment and share’s a glance with Granger. The girl frowns for a moment before nodding to Harry and turning back to her busy work of helping the lawyer sort through the documents Moody retrieved. “I’m not certain we should keep it secret.” Alastor’s jaw actually hurts with how hard it drops. “If the Minister is so determined to publicize it as a distraction tactic, why should we let him? If the world is going to know then we should tell them our way and make sure to link it all back to my godfather not getting a trail as the root cause. Why not use it to call attention to what they are trying to hide? And use it to call for them to check on all children in foster situations and to make sure everyone in Azkaban has actually had a trial.

They benefit from hiding. Do we?”

Moody tries not to frown at that this ‘them versus us’ mentality because it means that Potter is at war and he can’t help but wonder how long Potter has been at war, exactly. Does he even realize it? Has he ever not been?

“I’m not comfortable with giving the world information about your condition other that ‘improving’.” McCoy frowns intensely. “But I could paint them a picture of your old home life with some generalizations and a few pointed examples. Some transparency will be necessary to get these bastards to pay but you have more than earned your right to privacy.”

Harry frowns up at McCoy for a few moments and eventually nods, “Agreed.”

They work through the oaths and McCoy straps on the last vassal band Potter had made the previous night. Moody, McCoy and Potter move into the sitting room within the suite Potter is sharing with Granger, leaving the women behind and raising additional privacy wards.

Len casts on Harry for several minutes and while Alastor doesn’t know how to read the results of any beyond the first few, he knows how to read Len and Len is puzzled.

Eventually Len takes a seat on the couch opposite Harry, “Many of the things you went through in the house and outside of it since you have come back to the wizarding world, have long-term effects and some of them should have outright killed you but obviously they didn’t and you are in surprisingly good condition. Physically, I mean. Your bones are weak and you’ll never be as tall as your father but physically there is nothing wrong with you that a rigorous potion regimen, a good diet and a proper exercise routine won’t fix. Eventually.

“Magically speaking you are exhausted. Almost to the point of burn out, which is terrifying considering just how powerful you are. And your connection with your family magic is intense. Your family magic is what’s been keeping you alive for at least 10 years and it has provided you with several gifts that I can already detect, well formed on your core. You are a very gifted young man and once your magic is no longer all wrapped up maintaining your physical health, you’re going to need one-on-one training with someone. Probably several someones.

“Now we can do the ritual. I can tweak it to get your magic to start recovering and I’ll camp out here the entire time your under. We can probably get you through the worst of the potions that way because, let me tell you, Skele-grow is not a joyful experience,” Harry grimaces, obviously familiar with it. “And the modified version that you need is worse.”

In order for his body to process the potions fully, the young Potter will be in an enchanted sleep rather than a magical stasis so healer and patient talk through how to handle his body’s needs. Washing and waste will be handled by Missy and the elf readily agrees to it. Feeding will be handled by nutrition potion and hydration will be done by something called an ‘eye vee’, both of which will be handled by McCoy only.

They discuss security for the room and the suite within an already war-warded house and it just drives home how very at war Harry James Potter truly is. And they do it, they put up more wards. They have to call Algie down to handle the actual warding because Neville is already in his trance and Augusta refuses to leave her grandson.

When it’s done, the wards to the suite are transferred to a stone keyed so that only Harry can take them down. Only those sworn to House Potter and wearing vassal bands given to them by Harry’s own hand are allowed in the suite and only McCoy, Granger and Missy are allowed in Potter’s bedroom itself.

Alastor doesn’t think Neville will take offense to the insult of redundant wards but hopefully Harry will wake up first and they won’t have to explain it! He shakes his head at himself. They are totally going to have to explain it but Neville has known Harry for years and will probably understand?

When Len sends Harry off to change into sleeping clothes, Alastor could swear he hears the healer mutter something about a basilisk? But the young Potter returns before Moody can probe the doctor.

Finally, Harry is laying on his bed, in his pajamas. They’ve stacked pillows up behind him so that he’s not completely flat to make potion consumption easier. Len pulls some sort of coat rack on wheels that out of his medical bag, the healer inserts something into Potter’s right arm and puts spello-tape over it. A bit of wand waving later and the young lord is asleep, that unnatural stillness of a spelled sleep.

Moody watches as Len measures out and lines up several single servings of various potions and pours the first two down his patient’s throat. The healer then pulls out some kind of clear bag, hangs it on the coat rack and connects it to the thing still half in Potter’s arm. Two more potions and Len steps back, nodding to himself. “Now, we wait.” The healer transfigures a spare pillow into an exact duplicate of the chair he sat in outside just a few hours before and settles down with a book.

With nothing else to do Moody stomps outside to do a few rounds of grounds inspection but once he exits Potter’s suite, he sees Granger waiting for him beside a very impatient but outwardly calm looking Amy.

“There you are, Pop. You’ve been summoned to court. Dumbledore knows you have Potter.”

He can’t help but frown. The only person he’d seen while out today other than Len who he knows hasn’t communicated with anyone is – “That goblin. StoneCrusher.”

Amelia and Hermione are nodding.

“Gaia left before Amy got here. She’s out making the will of Potter clear to a number of people and will meet you in the Ministry. Delay. Let her get to you.”

Moody nods at Granger’s words. Dumbledore is going to get exactly nowhere with him but it’s always nice to have support. Both moral and legal.

“I’ve already filed the forms to have the case heard in front of an actual judge rather than the Wizengamot.” Amy tells them. “It was granted because Dumbledore can’t sit in judgment over his own petition but clearing out a courtroom large enough and moving the spectators should get us the time we need.”

-*-

By the time they arrive, Courtroom 10 is standing room only. Every member of the Wizengamot is there and in full formal robes but seated in the audience gallery. There is a lone figure sitting on the bench with a bailiff standing on either side and in front of him. Justice Marcus Crane, Lord of the Noble House of Crane is sitting on the bench.

Something hard in Alastor’s gut unclenches at the sight. Crane is fair but tough and he doesn’t tolerate avoidance, Dumbledore’s favorite tactic. Crane’s also probably the only Justice in the Ministry’s employ that could swear the neutrality oath with Dumbledore involved.

The charge is kidnapping, which is a steaming pile of bullshit and Gaia Fitzgerald answers the charge with a plea of “not guilty” even as she slides into place beside him.

She’s wearing one of those coats that looks gray from a distance but is actually black and white speckled. It contrasts with the Gryffindor-red and gold vassal band on the bicep of her wand arm so that no one can miss it. At her nod, he opens his coat to reveal the band he’s still wearing around his waist.

Dumbledore’s face is calm and pale but Moody can see that his hands are clenched tightly on his podium and fine vibrations are traveling through his frame.

“Your honor,” Gaia starts. “Everyone in the Ministry is aware of this but I would like to submit, for the record, a formal list of abuses Harry James Potter has suffered in the Dursley home as collected by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and a statement from the Department of Mysteries showing that neither the Will of Lily and James, nor the Will of Charlus Potter were ever executed, making any grant of guardianship non-binding and the placement of Harry Potter within the Dursley home illegal. Surely no one can find fault with any child removing himself from an illegal and abusive situation.”

Marcus Crane gestures for Fitzgerald to approach with the evidence. He accepts it from her and stops her from returning directly to her post to inspect her arm band. He gets her permission and then casts several spells on it before he sits back in his chair and allows her to return to her place at the podium on the opposite side of the aisle from Dumbledore.

Crane spends at least half an hour examining the evidence before he speaks. “I find that Harry James Potter was illegally housed in the Dursley residence. Hecate,” The female Unspeakable, Croaker’s second stands, hooded and cloaked, and moves forward from her place against the wall behind the bench. “Due to the obvious incompetence of the previously appointed Potter Executors it is the will of the court that the DoM step in and see the wills of these lost lords be done. Perhaps you will find more evidence for or against the conspiracy you are already investigating in the course of their execution.”

The hooded woman just bows, silently accepting the legal directive.

“As for the charge against Alastor Moody for the kidnapping of Harry Potter, it is hereby dismissed. Anyone wearing a vassal band hand-crafted by the Lord Potter is arguably in his custody and not the other way around.”

Several lords in the gallery chuckle but Dumbledore just bangs his wrist on his podium in impatience.

“Harry is not a lord, yet,” Dumbledore interjects. “And he must be placed in the custody of a Light family until he is.”

Crane raises both of his eyebrows in a mocking display of shock. “Is Mr. Dumbledore indicating his belief that the House of Moody is not a light family?” Because that is the stuff of blood feuds. Honestly.

“It is not my intention to impugn the honor of House Moody, however House Potter has a betrothal contract with House Weasley. Specifically, for the hand of Ginevra. Surely his future in-laws have more standing than an auror he met on the street.”

“Respectfully, your honor, when was this contract written?” Gaia cuts in.

Crane indicates for Dumbledore to answer the question.

“The contract was signed June 15th of this year.”

“Your honor, I have in front of me a betrothal contract signed by Lily and James Potter for their son. Surely the will of his blood parents takes precedence over a contract written and signed by a school teacher, someone that isn’t even Harry’s legal guardian?”

“The contract is to settle a life debt between Mr. Potter and Ms. Weasley. It is entirely appropriate and must be honored.”

“Over the will of the boy’s parents? And Mr. Dumbledore is forgetting that for a life debt to be settled between two people with such extensive familial legacies as Mr. Potter and Ms. Weasley it must be accepted and approved by both of their patriarchs. We know this hasn’t happened in the case of Mr. Potter because he is his patriarch and he just learned about the existence of betrothal contracts yesterday due to the neglect of his illegally-appointed Magical Guardian who is, the records will show, none other than Mr. Dumbledore himself.”

Dumbledore opens his mouth to return fire but is interrupted by the bench calling for order. Once the two petitioners and all of the audience has shut up his honor continues. “Lord Weasley, I believe you have something to contribute to these proceedings.”

Lord Billius Weasley, the second son of Cedrella Black and Septimus Weasley is standing by the small wooden gate separating the crowd from the show. He’s a man of average height, broad and athletic; fit and fitting due to his professional career as Lead Chaser for Puddlemere United.

One of the bailiffs moves to open the gate and conjures a third podium for the lord to use closer to the bench and between the two opposing sides.

The Lord makes a show of setting his briefcase down on the podium, removing some papers and shuffling them around before making eye contact with the Lord-Justice. “The House of Weasley recognizes the Life Debt owed by Ginevra Weasley to Harry Potter due to his defense of her from both an unidentified dark object and a basilisk on May the 29th of this year.”

The crowd gasps, the loudest it has in the entirety of the proceeding, and starts talking among themselves.

Moody is all over furious. So furious he would be blind if it weren’t for his magical eye.

On May 29th Harry was at Hogwarts. He was attacked by a basilisk inside his own goddamn castle, in a school ran by Albus fucking Dumbledore. If there is one place the boy should be safe-! And what dark object?! How can it be unidentified if it was defeated?

Once order is again established Lord Weasley continues. “The House of Weasley does not recognize a betrothal contract between Ginevra Weasley and Harry Potter. As this court has already been reminded all such contracts must be approved by the family patriarch.” Weasley gives Dumbledore a thoroughly un-amused look over his shoulder. “Anything signed by the girl’s mother is not binding.

“House of Weasley has already initiated its own negotiations with House of Potter for settling of the Life Debt in question and a betrothal contract is not being offered, mostly due to Ginevra’s condition. As the headmaster, Mr. Dumbledore must be aware that Ginevra was admitted to Saint Mungo’s on May 30th and is still in very rough condition – mentally, emotionally and physically. The likelihood of her ever being released decreases by the day making her completely unfit for the position of Lady Potter.”

The only person surprised when the entire thing is dismissed is Albus Dumbledore, who takes it with all the grace of an Erumpent on roller skates as he all but stomps out of the courtroom.

Though, honestly, how the man manages to leave the Ministry without getting arrested at this point is beyond Alastor. They have several witnesses showing that Dumbledore personally placed the boy with those horrible people and ignored all three of the boy’s requests to get moved into new arrangements. And that’s after illegally getting himself custody of the boy. Moody will eat his magical eye if Dumbledore isn’t listed as executor for at least the Will of Lily and James Potter.

As the crowd thins, Lord Weasley sidles up to them. Or, more likely, sidles up to Gaia Fitzgerald. “I’ve been trying to get an appointment with you through the bank but they don’t seem to know you exist.”

“My appointment is new.” She smirks and returns the lord’s once over. “But they are definitely aware of it. Did you have a list of options for me to take to Lord Potter on your behalf?”

“I left it back in my office but I’m sure we could discuss it. Say, over dinner?”

Moody doesn’t even try to keep from rolling his eyes as he huffs and moves away. He doesn’t have time for goo-goo eyes. He needs to be home before the Evening Prophet comes out. They’ll never let him out of the Ministry building otherwise.

 

 

Chapter 4 – July 27, 1996

 

Three o’clock is such a silent and strange time of night.

Midnight is the most oft-romanticized hour. Two o’clock is last call. Four is strictly reserved for military minds and fitness freaks. Six the kiddies are getting up for school. But three? Three is damn awkward.

So of course three in the morning is the time he decides to cash in his ‘meeting at any time, as soon as it is convenient for the House Potter’ token with the bank.

The token was issued by the head of the bank himself because they have a lot of making up to do and they know it. The god awful hour he’s chosen shows them that he knows it too.

He’s barely made it into the bank when an honor guard falls into place around him. Four bodies, all well armed. Two are goblins, one’s a  human that Moody knows quite well and the fourth is human sized and shaped but hooded and cloaked in a way that makes him reluctant to guess what it is. The bank is taking its faux pas with Potter privacy very seriously. Good.

They lead him directly through the lobby, down a ramp to another level and straight through a disillusioned door.

Director Ragnok is sitting in a winged back chair beside a stone-cold fireplace. The small but mighty being puts down his cup and saucer and stands to greet Moody but doesn’t shake hands.

Goblins are more about bowing anyway.

When they first married Algernon had made him learn 31 different bows and their correct usage before he would allow Alastor to look at the bank, much less go inside it on official business.

“Auror Moody,” Ragnok, Chieftain of the Goblin Horde, Director of the Bank and direct descendant of Gringott himself proceeds to give him the ‘we are equals and I/my people fucked up’ bow.

Alastor responds with the ‘I accept, now fucking fix it’ bow.

Together they sit, facing each other from opposite ends of a long, low coffee table.

“Thank you for seeing us so quickly.” The goblin begins with great aplomb. “At this time, we are preparing to move forward with the investigation into the breach of House Potter’s confidentiality. All we need to move forward is your statement in regards to the breech.

“Before we begin, I would like to assure the House of Potter that I have already assumed personal control of all Potter assets within the bank. I have removed all access not wearing a signet ring or vassal band of Potter and have begun the audit process. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation into StoneCrusher the accounts will not be returned to his management or that of his clan.

“Are you ready to begin?”

Moody nods his acceptance and willingness to give his statement.

The Director flicks a single finger and a red, legal-quality dictoquill springs to life on the table between them.

“The date is 27 July 1996,” The Director begins. “This is the interview of Auror Alastor Alfgard Moody-Bones, known as “Mad-Eye” and sworn liegeman in the service of House Potter, in regards to the suspected breach of confidentiality of the House of Potter by Gringott’s, henceforth to be referred to as ‘the Bank’.

“Auror Moody, at what point did you realize there had been an unauthorized release of Potter information?”

“I realized there had been a breach when my daughter Amelia Bones came to summon me to a courtroom where I was to be put on trial for allegedly kidnapping the future Lord Harry Potter.”

“And that is when you came to the conclusion that a bank employee leaked your connection to House Potter? Please explain for the record how you drew this conclusion.”

“At the time I was summoned to the court, the only ones that knew of my connection with House Potter were myself, my husband Algernon Bones, our daughter Amelia Bones, Lady Augusta Longbottom, Neville the future Lord of Longbottom, House Potter’s private healer Leonard McCoy and Account Manager StoneCrusher.”

“The Longbottoms are magically sworn to a mutual defense pact with the House Potter via a betrothal contract in which House Potter is senior. Plus Neville was already involved in a ritual that put him in a magical sleep before I even went to the bank with Augusta standing guard on him the entire time. That eliminates Augusta and Neville as being the source.

“House of Bones has a mutual defense pact similar to the Potter-Longbottom arrangement that was sealed years ago with a marriage into House Longbottom. Longbottom is the senior house in that contract. Additionally House Longbottom has taken House Bones as a cadet line which places Bones under even stricter conduct guidelines than the original agreement. That eliminates Algernon and Amelia.

“For the record House Moody and House Bones have a defense/betrothal arrangement similar to Potter-Longbottom and Longbottom-Bones in which Bones is senior but I think we can all accept that my silence has been more directly assured through the oaths I have made to Potter himself as signified by the Vassal band around my middle.

“That leaves the unauthorized release of information in the hands of either Healer McCoy or Account Manager StoneCrusher.

“Healer McCoy, however, had no idea who he had been summoned to Longbottom Keep to treat but, knowing the healing ritual expected of him, he assumed -out loud, in my presence- that he would be treating Neville. He did not learn otherwise until he was behind Longbottom war wards with no ability to communicate through them. He had no access to communication mirrors or floos that would work through our wards, he did not summon a patronus, he was not given any access to an owl before I left and he did not and will not receive unrestricted access to a house elf at any point while he is within our wards.

“Additionally, according to Healer McCoy and Algernon Bones, Amelia was called to the Ministry to deal with the charges against me before Leonard came to the Keep which caused Healer McCoy to wait outside our gate for three hours until I got home from the bank to identify him and let him in. Considering that I spent no less than six hours at the bank that day before I let McCoy into the Keep and there were several unnecessarily long periods while I was at the bank where StoneCrusher left me unattended, the only conclusion I can draw is that StoneCrusher used that unaccounted for time to advise Albus Dumbledore that I had access to Harry Potter.”

The Director nods, asks a few more questions about StoneCrusher’s behavior and then closes the official interview. The Goblin then puts a combination honesty/integrity geas on the parchment and writes an attestation of truthfulness at the end of his testimony. Once they take the time to review the testimony and the attestation both human and goblin alike sign the parchment using bloodquills.

After speaking softly in gobbledygook to an aide for several moments, Ragnok stands, “We are ready for the next step if you are, Auror Moody.”

Alastor simply stands and gestures for Ragnok to lead the way. The entire group including Alastor’s four guards and the Director with his two guards and aide move to the wall behind the Director’s chair and perpendicular to Moody’s original ingress. One of the Director’s guards places his bare palm on the wall and the tapestry before them shimmers and disappears, revealing a pair of rough-hewn stone doors.

Through the doors and down a series of awkwardly long but shallow steps leaves them in a cave-like hallway. The hallway curves strongly to the right but what Moody can see of it shows a series of even more cave entrances branching off of the original thoroughfare. Most of them have doors of wood or gold or gemstones plugging them rather awkwardly but others lead to more corridors or just non-private rooms. They enter the second door they come to, the first one with a golden door.

Inside is a goblin courtroom. The room is lined with amphitheater style seating made of carved stone steps that leave a fairly small stage for the room’s spectacle. To the left of the door is a raised Judges’ bench made to hold five judges but only has four seated at it until Ragnok breaks off from their group and climbs in to the highest seat in the center of the formation.

Directly before Ragnok’s seat, in the center of the room StoneCrusher is standing, chained in an X-formation. In addition to rune-inscribed cuffs at wrists, ankles, thighs and waist, the goblin’s hands have been shoved into lead hand-shaped molds that are riveted to the Saint Andrew’s cross to prevent the wandless magic with which Goblins are so adept.

The amphitheater seating is empty save for two humans sitting on the second row.

One of them makes perfect sense to him. Gaia Fitzgerald is the legal representative of House Potter, after all.

The other Moody is not familiar with at all. He’s blond and stocky. From what Alastor can see he’s a decent height; neither too tall nor too short. He has blue eyes, but those aren’t exactly uncommon in magicals. Moody does his best to suppress the instinct to huff when Ragnok calls the meeting to order before he can find out who the stranger is and what he did to get included in such an exclusive audience.

After Ragnok makes a brief statement regarding the tribunal’s purpose and introduces each of his fellow judges to another legal-quality dictoquill, each of the five clan leaders casts a spell on the restrained goblin. The one on the far right starts and they cast in order going across the bench and ending on the furthest left clan leader, the one closest to the door.

Moody doesn’t have time to identify the spells. Not that he’s certain he could identify them. It’s likely that they are not spells known to humanity in any form but whatever Two, Four and Five cast must be painful because their castings make StoneCrusher scream and try to arch off the cross.

The elder goblins ask their junior questions in a rapid-fire style and more than once use their magic to compel him to answer quickly. The five clan leaders are united and merciless in their fury even though someone of them seem to be angry that a breach happened and others seem to be angry that StoneCrusher got caught.

The one and only time StoneCrusher tries to avoid a question -not lie, just avoid– he screams for no less than five minutes and it’s at least another twenty before the sobbing and sniffling subside enough for questions to begin anew.

By the end of the first hour, StoneCrusher has completely copped to failing to ensure the Potters’ Wills were carried out and to knowingly accepting Dumbledore’s illegal claims to the accounts of House Potter.

By the end of the second hour StoneCrusher has admitted that while he did not give Dumbledore access to and control of everything a Lord or even a Lord-Reagent would have, he definitely gave Dumbledore more access than a mere legal guardian should have ever received.

They are barely into the third he admits to not only leaving Potter assets and documents in Dumbledore’s possession and unattended but to accepting bribes to leave them unattended for the express purpose of Dumbledore altering them.

They don’t quite make it to the fourth hour when the questioning has to stop. At that point StoneCrusher is so broken that Alastor almost feels guilty that the goblin is removed from the courtroom alive. Especially knowing that once the goblin has recovered his awareness, the slow death and eternal shame of a Traitor to the Horde awaits him.

Then again if StoneCrusher had done his damn job Harry Potter wouldn’t have been habitually abused for 14 years. At least with death there is an end in sight, unlike the entirety of Harry Potter’s life before now. The goblin really has no one to blame for his fate but himself.

And maybe Dumbledore.

Ragnok takes the time to inform his fellow judges that an audit of all things Potter has already been started and two of them volunteer their clan’s services for independent review.

Number Four calls for Albus Dumbledore to be declared an Enemy of the Horde. They unanimously approve the decision. In short order all accounts under both Albus’s name and magical signature are frozen and surrendered in totality to House Potter but they decide to give Albus 24 hours to surrender himself. Not that anyone actually believes Dumbledore will, in fact, surrender himself but it’s a courtesy that gives them time to gather the security forces they will probably need to take the old goat down without losing face or compromising bank’s security.

Before closing the trial, they finally engage their human audience for the first time but they only do so to advise Gaia that all evidence they have discovered will be turned over to the DMLE and that House Potter has the right to have the Unspeakables or some other human magical forensic specialist review Potter documents to find, reverse and/or verify any forgeries or alterations Dumbledore has made to them.

They also take a moment to inform the stranger, who is apparently Maximus Crane the son and heir of Lord Marcus Crane and the reporter Amelia is ridiculously fanatic about right now, that they want to read his report on the trial before it goes anywhere and that they will handle the initial distribution once it is approved.

Court dismissed.

-*-

“GROWING UP POTTER! – The Truth and the Scandal!”

That is the title of the Evening Prophet from the night before.

It’s also the title on this morning’s Wizarding International News and the Colonial Times, both of which are re-running the original article in its entirety. The Daily Prophet is running the story again, too, in the morning addition with a number of additional articles on the same subject with the same byline, Maximus Crane.

The Wizarding Wireless is reading the original article every few hours and filling the interim with comments from various Lords and other pillars of the magical community.

Maximus Crane did some damn fine reporting. He managed to hit every single point Amelia and Gaia had requested without bogging the story down or reducing emotional impact in any significant way. It’s perfect and just journalism.

The fall out is just starting but is going to be glorious! The Hogwarts Board of Governors has already dismissed Dumbledore. The International Magical Education Agency is all but calling for blood and is demanding investigations into not only Hogwarts but its board of governors past and present, and the management Gryffindor Trust as well.

The International Child Welfare Board is kicking a fit left, right, and center over what Harry’s gone through.

And the best part- The absolute best part! Is that Amelia has received a summons to meet the Wizengamot Member Conduct Committee for breakfast. If they aren’t about to give her their authorization to arrest Dumbledore, she’ll- she’ll- give Kingsley her monocle! or eat it! Maybe both!

Amelia has just given her personal house elf Poet instructions on her attire and grooming for the day when Azure, one of the elves in the service of the DMLE, appears with four scrolls and a flyer.

The flyer is a special Gringott’s Dispatch detailing the trial of a goblin named StoneCrush AKA the Potter Account Manager for treason. She grins when she sees that it is written by none other than Max Crane glad to see others are recognizing his brilliance.

The first scroll is from the Wizengamot Member Conduct Committee ordering her to skip breakfast and arrest Dumbledore right flipping now!!! Before the goblin Horde can have him murdered.

The second scroll is assurance from Ragnok’s personal aide that they will forward her all evidence gathered in the trial of StoneCrusher so that she can use against Dumbledore for his crimes against the House of Potter.

The third scroll is something about needing a senior auror to the cell block healer’s station to oversee some procedure on Dudley Dursley. She hands that scroll right back to Azure and orders her to make Kingsley do it. The elf pops away with a truly wicked and worrisome grin but, really, Amelia doesn’t have the time to worry about one elf’s sense of humor right now.

Because of the fourth scroll. Fucking Hel, the fourth scroll. The fourth scroll orders her to “go ahead and arrest,” complete with freeze and seize, Lord Bartemius Crouch. Something she isn’t prepared to do and hasn’t asked for permission to do on the grounds that it would interfere with the ICW’s investigation into Black’s illegal imprisonment. Interfering with which could lead to her being arrested and the entire DMLE being investigated.

This is not okay!

Wait. Stop. Breath.

Time for priorities and delegating.

Kingsley has the Dursley-healer thing. That’s one thing taken care of.

Savage and Proudfoot are liaising with the ICW group for Avalon’s MoM. They can pass on the WMCC’s request in regards to Crouch and get back to her later. That’s one thing delayed but still addressed.

She can tap Robards to put together the group to bring in Dumbledore. Gawain knows all of the department’s personnel well enough to put together a group that not only will but can take down the Headmaster without hesitating. Gawain is also savvy enough to do it without making the squad so large as to be a automatic or blatant threat.

They’ll need Moody and his Potter vassal band in case the old goat tries to raise Hogwarts’ wards against them.

She glances over the flyer from the bank and finds her papa listed as a witness to the StoneCrusher trial. Perfect. She can recruit his help and make him explain what the fuck happened to the plan and why he didn’t fucking warn her.

-*-

“Explain it again. This time using words someone without your training can understand.” Kingsley frowns down at the tiny asshole of a healer. “Talk to me like I’m a First Year.”

The healer mostly manages to be a professional about it but he still gets the feeling she wants to stomp her foot and huffs. “We found some interesting modifications to the youngest Dursley’s mind. There is evidence of the standard memory charms that we encounter on muggles living with magicals but there are also behavioral modifications that resonate with his core.”

“He’s a mundane.” Shacklebolt interrupts. “Mundanes don’t have magical cores.”

“Right, well, he’s not mundane. He does have a magical core and we found some strange stuff on it.”

“Strange stuff?” He tries to make it a disbelieving statement but isn’t sure he succeeds.

“Yeah, strange. Really strange. Like magical sink strange.”

“Magic sink?”

“A core tap. Someone placed a tap on his core when he was young – possibly as young as a year but definitely younger than two. It’s settled in deep and drains all but the smallest quantity of his magic, the amount he needs to remain living, out of him and into someone else.”

“Who?”

“Some magical that had access to him as a baby. We can try harvesting the magical signature but there is no guarantee we can manage it or that he will even survive the process. Core taps are notoriously Dark and typically booby trapped.”

“Alright, I’ll have someone start checking the log from the house to see if we can find it that way. Madame Bones will want two methods of discovery to confirm all findings so you need to make a plan get started harvesting that magical signature. Is there anything you need?”

“Some pretty advanced potions will be necessary and a curse breaker wouldn’t go amiss.”

“Tonks will bring her mother ’round for consult,” he glances to the trainee over his shoulder. She nods acceptance and apparates without a word. “And I’ll call the bank.”

 

 

Chapter 5 – July 28, 1996

 

Amelia sits in the second chair at the prosecutor’s table in the Wizengamot, playing absently with the wand of one Albus Dumbledore.

Confronting the old goat had been terribly anti-climactic.

She had entered Hogwarts with Papa, her protégé Gawain Robards, and three of her best Aurors at her back. They’d all expected to find Dumbledore deep in the bowls of the castle ready to stage a violent defensive. Instead, he’d been just inside the primary ground entrance, at the base of the Grand Staircase, chatting casually with Minerva McGonagall and Filius Flitwick.

He did turn and pull his wand on the assembled group of Aurors and three of them – Papa, Robards and herself – had all gotten the drop on him. They couldn’t be sure who exactly who had disarmed him but the wand had flown to Amelia so she’d taken the credit, or the blame depending on how you looked at it, in the report.

Credit because, hey, she disarmed Albus fucking Dumbledore. Blame because as soon she caught the wand his eyes gave a disappointed twinkle and he told them that he had been pulling it out in order to surrender it. The unspoken accusation of excessive force had lingered in the air around her.. right up until she saw McGonagall’s ‘bullshit detected’ expression.

Now that she has some free time with the goat’s wand in hand, she can see the Potter Family crest etched into the flattish end of the pommel. What does it say about this man that she used to admire -that everyone used to admire- that he had stolen even his wand from his own ward? Nothing good, that’s for sure.

Movement to her right draws her out of her introspection.

Neville and Aunt Augie are settling into the Longbottom Family box. Amelia had hoped both of the boys would have finished their rituals before today happened but Harry hadn’t woken up yet and Len refused to estimate when he would wake. The boy is recovering from a lifetime of abuse, the healer reminded her.

But if anyone deserves to see justice take its first step toward fixing his world, it’s Harry Potter.

She should be surprised when Gaia settles herself in the first chair behind the defendant’s table but she really isn’t. Who else is going to do it? As far as she can tell no one has been representing the House of Black since Arcturus died almost five years ago. Though, actually, it’s probably been longer than that. From all reports the man had a very long, very slow, wasting and painful death.

The ICW representatives for Russia and Canada along with Marcus Crane, the newly appointed representative for Avalon, take their seats in what would normally be the Chief Warlock’s box.

The representative for Canada places a clear crystal ball on the bench in front of him. Judging by the red sheen, it’s a Communication Orb. No doubt it’s transmitting so that the entire ICW can watch the process they are going through today.

It’s not so much a trial as an inquiry to address the charges against Sirius Black as see if they can even try him for anything. To see if there was any justification for his incarceration in the first place.

The charges are being a Death Eater, betrayal of Lily and James Potter, and the murder of Peter Pettigrew. In legalese, sedition and terrorism, conspiracy to commit murder, and murder with a side of violating the Magical Secrecy Act.

The Prosecutor’s Office is obviously sacrificing their most incompetent member to this case. Amelia is fairly certain that they had gone so far as to find this so-called prosecutor just for this prosecution. Merlin knows she hasn’t seen his name on any case briefs before.

Rufus Fudge spends his entire opening argument assuring the bench that “everybody knows” Sirius Black is guilty of these heinous crimes, mostly because he’s a Black, and then proceeds to call a confusing selection of character witnesses. Almost as if Fudge believes that proving the man a Death Eater would automatically convict him of the other crimes.

First, he calls a number of his Hogwarts classmates that only seem to be able to prove that Sirius had a temper and was intolerant of people suspected to practice Dark Arts. Then the proprietor of The Three Broomsticks, a (half blood) witch who spoke in great detail about how Sirius spent years trying to get in her knickers. A nurse from St. Mungo’s that witnessed Sirius doting on baby Harry first hand, the very image of a loving uncle. Followed by a small selection of Aurors that talked about how dedicated he was to his duty partner and how vicious a dueler Sirius was even before graduation from the Academy. Two of whom were still sore at either losing to a younger wizard or that they didn’t get time for training before he was arrested and shipped off.

Basically, he presents the picture of a feisty, young man with strong, positive ties to his alleged victims and equally strong, negative feelings for the Dark Arts who happens to have been born to a “Black” family.

Nothing that screams Death Eater. Nothing that even whispers it.

Gaia is much more logical and comprehensive in her approach.

She starts with the first charge and disproves Black’s Death Eater status with a novel’s worth of reports and two eye witness testimonies.

The first bit of proof Gaia provides the world are copies of every single Dark Mark check Sirius submitted to from the Ministry. At the time Sirius was an Auror, they were doing quarterly checks for the Dark Mark on all members of the DMLE. Each and every report shows Black to be Dark Mark free.

Then, she submits reports from the guards of Azkaban. These reports honestly disturb Amelia. Surely full body and cavity searches every week for three years and no less than quarterly for the next ten years after that, all in an effort to “find that bastard’s Dark Mark,” are overkill. Especially when every single search comes up empty.

And the way the warden grins when he admits that “consent to.. search isn’t something we actually worry about”? Amelia barely manages not to shutter.

As the warden leaves the witness stand, Gaia catches Amelia’s eyes and frowns. Amelia nods. There is something very not right going on out at the prison. Amelia makes a note to check it out.

Gaia moves on to the conspiracy charge and shoots those down effortlessly. She presents a single document to the court but before she reads it she calls a hooded Unspeakable to the stand to validate them.

Croaker himself takes the stand, quickly casts a series of complicated authentication spells and declares the scroll’s official provenance to the Wizengamot.

Gaia copies it and hands a copy of the scroll to each of the visiting member of the ICW. “As you can see in your scrolls, Mr. Tremblay, Ms. Zolnerowich, the Will of Lily and James Potter specifically states that not only Sirius Black was not the Potter Secret Keeper but he agreed to falsely claim that he was as a misdirection. He agreed to lie to the world about his Fidelus status to further insulate and protect his friends from the efforts of a Dark Lord. He did so knowing that he could be captured at any moment and that Voldemort’s Death Eaters would not hesitate to torture him to death for knowledge that he didn’t even have.

“Additionally, in the paragraph after they layout their planned deception, the Potters go on the record to say that their Secret Keeper was none other than Peter Pettigrew.”

Gaia stands completely still in the silence that follows her statements and allows the bench to review the documents.

Tremblay, the Canadian representative, draws a small runic circle around the duplicate document, mutters a few words, claps once and the scroll disappears. Probably sending the Potters’ Will off to the ICW Lyceum in Athens.

Finally, the legal representative for the House of Potter addresses the murder of Peter Pettigrew and 12 muggles. Even though at this point most people would claim Black murdering Pettigrew was justified, the woman maintains her well-earned reputation for being thorough.

Rather than engaging in any long, drawn out arguments or calling any witnesses – not that there are witnesses of the actual confrontation, Fitzgerald turns to the most potentially-damning piece of evidence. Gaia Fitzgerald picks up Sirius Black’s wand and turns it over to the ICW rep from Russia. Ildiko Zolnerowich just takes the wand with a grave nod and casts priori incantatem.

Amelia isn’t the only on fighting to keep her eyes dry when all of the last three spells casted by a man that for the last 15 years has been made in to a monster second only to Voldemort turn out to be some of the most powerful infant healing spells there are. Sirius Black’s last magical acts a free man were to cast complicated, professional-grade healing spells on none other than Harry Potter.

Obviously the man deserves his reputation as an “infamous criminal.”

“Wait,” is the order Zolnerowich gives them all before she and Tremblay raise privacy wards to start a conversation with Crane and whoever is one the other side of the large mirror they’ve stood between them and the now inactive Communication Orb.

Chatter breaks out everywhere except for the awkward well of silence behind her. The Malfoy Family box. Lucius is stiff and pale. He seems to be torn and for once it doesn’t seem to be a mask. Unusual for a Malfoy. His heir Draco is obviously furious and refusing to look at his father, an even stranger display for a Malfoy.

What the hell? She looks around the room for Gawain.

Her little apprentice is very talented at finding unusual undercurrents and tracing them to their source before they blow up in everyone’s faces. He’s bound to know what’s going on with World War M over there.

She finds him leaning casually as close to the Malfoy box as a non-noble can get. He grins at her and then points back toward the bench.

She gets eyes front just as the privacy wards go down, before Crane starts calling the Wizengamot to order.

“It is the opinion of the International Confederation of Wizards,” Martin Tremblay announces, his voice clear and a little angry. “That there has been a great miscarriage of justice perpetrated in these lands and by this Ministry.

“It has been proven to our satisfaction that Sirius Orion Black is innocent of all charges, has been incarcerated illegally, and deprived of his most basic human rights without any justification. His fugitive status is hereby revoked and the ICW will block any attempts to charge him with his escape from illegal incarceration. All pursuit of Black is to break off immediately and without inflicting damage of any sort on his person.

“All persons responsible for Black’s illegal incarceration – and according to the custody order,” He holds up a scroll for everyone to see. “They include Chief Prosecutor Bartemius Crouch, Minister for Magic Millicent Bagnold, and Chief Warlock Albus Dumbledore – are ordered to surrender themselves to Ministry custody, if they have not already. Arrest Warrants will be issued for any that do not surrender by end of day.

“All work for the Ministry involving any of these three of these individuals will be reviewed by a team of investigators that is being dispatched from the ICW as we speak, to verify that they have not abused their positions of power in any other manner. All victims of their abuses will be compensated by the Ministry. All applicable criminal charges discovered during the course of this investigation will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“In regards to the original accusation of intentional line damage to the House of Black and in the light of recent findings, the three accused will be required to undergo the Goblin-certified testimonial process to verify or refute their innocence.

“Additionally, the ICW is dispatching a second team of investigators to review the case of every criminal punished in any manner by this Ministry within the last 60 years to ensure that they have all received their day in court.

“I personally want to take the time to remind the Magical governments around the world that convictions in the court of popular opinion are not legally binding. In no way does ‘everybody knows’ justify not doing your job.

“Court is dismissed.”

-*-

Innocent.

All this time, all this pain and Sirius is innocent. Always was.

The wolf howls his fury. Rage, grief, and relief mingle into an unending, echoing call that drives all rational thought from Remus’s mind.

His pack. His family. His brothers. Everything.

Everything that matters was taken from them.

Stolen by a goat and a rat.

The goat has been brought to bay, Remus whispers soothingly to his feral mind.

Then we hunt the Rat! The Wolf shouts back. The Rat will learn to fear the Wolf!

-*-

She’s just sitting down for her weekly dinner with her niece Susan when Azure pops into the dining room of her London flat.

“Witness be waiting in you office,” is all the little elf says before she puts down a file folder and pops off.

Susan doesn’t say anything as she pushes the folder closer to her aunt.

Amelia just sighs and with a show of reluctance picks it up to check the label.

Remus John Lupin.

Dammit. He would show up now.

“Susan, I- ”

“Go,” her niece shakes her head with a rueful but slightly mean smirk. “You won’t be able to rest until you’ve questioned him.”

She nods her thanks to her niece and runs her hands through her hair, silently thanking Merlin that she doesn’t have to change again because she’s never changed out of her work clothes in the first place.

“And when you’re back,” the devil known as Susan adds with a real smirk this time. “We can discuss just how well you knew him back in Hogwarts, since he has you all aflutter even now.”

-*-

There he is, just like Azure said.

Remus Lupin is sitting on the fainting couch in her office and he’s obviously settled in for a wait.

His face is torn up, just like it always was when they were kids. His clothing is a little old and obviously muggle in origin but it’s in good shape. Magic can maintain just about anything, you know. He’s looking a little long in the tooth-

That thought stops her.

She takes a closer look at him.

He really is looking long in the tooth. Not just the metaphoric meaning of old but his teeth are literally long. His cheeks and face are supernaturally thin. And when he opens his eyes they flash distinctly gold before settling into their normal olive green.

And how did he know she was there?

There’s no way he heard her. She routinely approaches witnesses under a silencing charm so that she can observe them before they notice her and it always works. His eyes were closed so he didn’t see her. He’d have to have either a tracking charm on her which is a big fat no or some sort of advanced sense of smell.

Remus kicks his feet off of her couch and smiles tiredly at her, almost as if he can hear her world shattering and resettling into a new configuration.

He leans forward, propping a forearm on each thigh and raises his head defiantly.

Rather than engage in the confrontation he’s expecting she closes her office door and moves behind her desk. She sits and makes a show of both looking through his file and not giving a fuck where he settles.

He takes one of the guest chairs stationed in front of her desk.

“As I’m sure you are aware,” She starts without looking up, further reinforcing her power in the conversation. “We no longer require your statement in regards to the character of Sirius Black.”

“I heard he was declared innocent and cleared of all charges.” Remus agrees softly.

“He was but we are still looking into the issue of the Potter’s betrayal, death of Peter Pettigrew and those 12 muggles, and the violation of every single secrecy statue we have. I’m hoping you can shed some light on the situation for me.”

“Anything.” His voice cracks as he says it but he doesn’t hesitate. He doesn’t try to cough and cover his moment weakness, either. He never has. It’s one of Amelia’s favorite things about him. He identifies his weaknesses, accepts them, and moves on to improvement without making excuses.

“You’re a werewolf.” It’s a statement but Remus nods anyway. “You were a werewolf when you were at Hogwarts?”

He nods again. “Fenrir Greyback bit me as a young boy.”

Accepting his statement and moving on to infirm ground she asks. “Your friends – James, Sirius and Peter – they were animagi?”

“Yes, by fifth year. Why?”

“We found dog hair in Sirius Black’s cell. Black dog hair, lots of it. None of the guards can recall seeing a dog anywhere on the island at any time. What were your friends’ forms?”

“Sirius isn’t just a dog. He’s a Grim.”

Well, that’s impressive. Not just a magical creature but a scary as fuck one at that. And, really? It explains so much about the last true Black’s personality.

“James was a stag, a huge beast with gigantic horns. Peter was a rat, a little brown one.”

“A little brown rat?” Oh. Oh, Shit. “Do you know, how long do brown rats live? Natural ones.”

“Four years in captivity.” He gives her a positively feral smile. “I think you’ve drawn the same conclusion I did.” He pulls a newspaper clipping out of his pocket and sets it on the desk, pointing. “A little brown rat missing a finger.”

It’s a clipping from the Daily Prophet. Specifically, it’s the picture published with the announcement that Arthur Weasley won some prize from the Daily Prophet and took his family to Egypt. Arthur is in the middle of the picture surrounded by five of his six boys and, right there sitting on the youngest boy’s shoulder, is a rat. An old one that is missing a toe on one of its forepaws.

Just yesterday, she’d heard Percy Weasley in the corridor positively bitching about his father taking everyone but mom, sister and himself on a trip when they should all be staying home to support mom and sister ‘in this troubled time.’ She can specifically remember him saying Arthur took “everyone including the damned, ancient rat!!!”

“That rat has to be ten years old.” She hears herself say. “It was Percy Weasley’s pet even before he was a first year at Hogwarts and he graduated two years ago.”

“Now he’s going to school with Ron,” Remus adds. “Sleeping in the same dormitory as Harry Potter, for ten months a year.”

“Just to be clear, we are both thinking Peter Pettigrew is alive, more than likely a Death Eater, and hiding as the Weasley pet rat.”

Remus nods. “Only two men with wands were on that road when it was blown up using magic. If you can prove one of them didn’t do it, the other one must have.”

Her thinking exactly. “Son of a bitch.” She pulls out a communication mirror. “Papa. I need you here. My office. Now.”

 

 

Chapter 6 – July 29, 1996

 

It has been a long damn day. Especially for a Thursday.

It started with a meeting with the family of Millicent Bagnold.

She’s dead. Amelia was not only aware of Millicent Bagnold’s death but had attended her funeral. What Amelia wasn’t aware of was the former minister’s truly fucked family dynamics.

Her son Rupert is frighteningly dedicated to his mother’s memory.

He is dedicated to the point that he attempted to follow mummy’s path to ‘greatness’ through the Ministry, only to get fired on his second day in the Tax Revenue Office.

Dedicated to the point where he still lives in his childhood home. He sleeps in his childhood bed and has the entire place preserved to be exactly as mummy left it. He spends every day either reading her journals or going through her personal vault – which is also preserved to remain in the exact state she left it.

Her daughter Laurel is frighteningly dedicated but in a different way.

Dedicated to rebelling against her mother’s image.

She proudly told them as she entered the conference room that she had almost refused their summons. That she had no interest in spending any time on her not-so-dearly departed mother but then she realized that her business would suffer if it looked like she was doing anything to cover for mummy.

That it’s hard enough as it is to start your own wand making business with Olivander’s right around the damn corner and, if she forced her brother to turn everything of mums over to them, would they mention how impressed they are with her wares and what a great deal they are in the next Prophet?

Great, a momma’s boy and a mercenary. Doesn’t that paint a pretty picture of their home life?

By the time she extracted herself from that disaster, the DMLE had received word that not only will Crouch not surrendered himself, but that he’s holed himself up on his family property and turned it into a magical fortress.

That he had violently repelled the Aurors that knocked on his gate, killing one and putting  another in a critical condition.

Basically, that he’s taking the measures they had all expected from Dumbledore.

No one expected shit like this out of Mr. Law and Order himself. It’s mind boggling.

The Crouch property is in a decently wooded area that happens to be full of muggles. Oh, there are several miles between him and his nearest neighbor but his gate is right up against a paved lane with fairly regular automobile traffic.

Amelia squares her shoulders and enters the Auror bullpen, shouting orders as she goes.

They need more bodies monitoring Crouch’s entire fence line so that no one gets out. They need their own wards to go up to prevent apparition and portkey use. They need permission to block off a considerable length of the muggle road for Merlin knows how long. They need to evacuate his closest neighbors both for their safety and for magical secrecy. They need blueprints for the property. They need ward breakers, preferably from both the Unspeakables and the Bank.

By the time she makes it to her office every on duty Auror is scrambling to do her bidding. She grins as the shout out to their fellows which duty they will take.

It’s good to be the boss.

-*-

Andromeda Tonks nee Black’s life has not gone anything like her mother had imagined.

Andy couldn’t say that it wasn’t intentional. She’d fallen in love. She’d made the choice to marry and be disinherited for the sake of that love, so it had been intentional but it hadn’t been hateful.

It’s not like she’d run away from home at 16, shouting ‘fuck you!’ at their little pure-blood world like Bella had.

Or Sirius for that matter. Not that his path was ever effected by Druella Rosier’s life choices.

Honestly, the only one of Druella’s daughters to be a good little girl and follow the plans their mother made to marry them off to powerful lords for her own social and economic benefit was the youngest, Narcissa.

Not that that had gone according to plan either.

Lucius was and always will be pretty but he’s not all that powerful in the grand scheme of things and Druella wasn’t around long enough after the wedding to have a hand in changing any of that.

The point, really, is that Druella Rosier could not have imagined Andy’s life right now. In fact, it is completely outside of the realm anything her mother could have imagined it’s almost mind boggling.

First of all, she’s happily married -something Druella never experienced.

Second, her one and only daughter is successfully working her way through the Auror Academy -something Druella never would have approved.

Additionally, Andy’s teaching potions at Hogwarts and Head of Slytherin House. She’s got her hand wrist deep in influencing all those wonderful, powerful little pure-blood children -something right out of her mother’s sweetest dreams.

And, right now, right this very moment, she’s working with three healers, an Unspeakable and a curse breaker, trying to fix a muggleborn member of the House of Potter and gather evidence against an already-arrested Albus Dumbledore for yet another capital crime.

Oh, her mother would be giddy to see her now. She’d have never earned the right to actually be here but she’d have been ecstatic and probably singing her joy to the rooftops just to hear that it was happening. To see Albus Dumbledore being brought low.

“We’re losing him!” The lead healer shouts.

He and Healer Two promptly start taking different and conflicting treatment paths. The little Mediwitch panics and Dawlish the observing Auror starts shouting about preserving the evidence.

And really? The evidence? How about preserving life, asshole?

She glances over the Assembly of Panic and trades a significant look with the androgynous Unspeakable on the other side of the room. Least she’s pretty sure they share the look. It’s hard to tell with the hood and all.

Andy and Rowan the Unspeakable move at the same time. Rowan pulls the healing squad back from the subject. Andy throws the subject deep into stasis, drops a small satchel of potion paraphernalia onto the treatment bed and starts to raise a containment circle.

The curse breaker from Gringott’s moves in moments after they do, orders the Auror to shut the fuck up and sit down, and then starts to assist Andy with the containment circle, adding a really cool twist to the spell that she desperately wants to learn when this is all over.

When Andy reaches into the containment circle some sort of liquid light covers her hands and arms, allowing her to manipulate things inside the circle without being contaminated. Rather than the low-level burn that would have resulted in weeks of healing to regenerate the skin on her hands like she would have experienced with the circle she originally intended to cast, it feels cool, not really wet and a little like plastic? Almost like she’s covered her hands in the bags from the muggle grocery store but better quality plastic? Maybe?

“Don’t try breath into or through it,” Is the curse breaker’s only advice.

She reaches into the satchel she’d dropped on the bed and pulls out a vial about the size of a grown man’s thumb full of a dark purple potion, a few lengths of rubber tubing, and aerosol activator mix, a glass bulb and a waxed linen face mask.

She places the mask over the subject’s face and connects it to a length of tubing. The other end of that piece of tubing goes into the glass bulb mixing area’s release valve.

At her instruction, the Rowan holds the glass bulb in one hand and it’s release pump in the other. Both at chest height.

Next Andy takes the aerosol activator and connects it to one of the two input openings on the bulb using another length of tubing. She keeps it on the bed in front of her.

Then she connects a final length of tubing to the bulb and holds up the thumb sized vial.

“This is one of the most dangerous potions I make. A drop of this in liquid form will leave you drooling on the floor, not even knowing your own name. If at any time the circle is compromised in any way, run. Run away from other people and do your best not to inhale any of it. If any gets on you wash it off immediately with cool water but do not under any circumstances let the water go down a drain. Ever. Water containing even the smallest trace of this potion will have to be disposed of very carefully.”

She holds the eyes of each magical professional in turn until they all have nodded.

She also sends Dawlish out of the room because the man is a distraction they cannot afford.

Andy pulls a drop-regulating spicket out of her satchel. She attaches the “out” side to the last piece of tubing and stabs the “in” end right through the vial’s cork, not bothering to try and wrestle it open. It will all have to be destroyed when they’re done here anyway.

She motions Healer One to approach the circle and places the vial in his hand, “Hold this. High. No in your hand. Get it up there. Spicket end down.”

Healer Two ends up bringing a small step ladder to Rowan’s side of the bed for One to get more height but One still has to hold the vial over his head to get it as high as Andy wants.

Once she’s satisfied with his placement, she squeezes two pumps of the aerosol mixture into the center bulb and orders One to shake the vial once to force a single drop out of the stopper, down the tubing, and into the bulb.

As soon as the two chemicals meet, they start to blend and change color.

When the mix is a dark blue she has the Curse Breaker cancel the subject’s stasis. The moment the stasis lifts is obvious because young man starts to thrash and scream like a dying thing.

Heartbeats later the mix is a bright glittering teal and she nods to Rowan.

Rowan squeezes the center bulb’s release valve.

The combined mixture is a gas but it’s heavier than air so as soon as it’s allowed, it floats down the tubing and into the mask. The subject breathes it in greedily and goes very, very still.

Once the center bulb is empty, Rowan releases their grip on the release valve allowing it to close.

Two more pumps, one shake, wait 20 seconds, squeeze and breathe.

They repeat the cycle three more times before any physical change becomes evident. The once young man is now clearly a boy about the age one would step onto the Hogwarts Express for the first time.

“Monitor his core.” Andy orders Healer Two and Mediwitch McPanic. “Keep us posted on the status of his Core. As soon as the damage stops, so can we.”

Seven more cycles and the subject appears to be between four and five years old.

“Something’s happening.” McPanic shakily announces.

“The Core Tap is less settled.” Two advises the room at large. His tone is nice and calmly professional compared to the mediwitch’s. “This must be the age of his first accidental magic.”

Two more full cycles and half way through a third, Two tells them to stop. The Tap has disappeared.

Rowan reaches forward and pulls the tube feeding into the mask off, making sure to pinch the end so none of the mixture can escape.

“Maintain positions.” Andy snaps when One tries to climb down off his ladder. Does the moron not realize how delicate things are right now? They could kill this baby so easily.

And he is a baby. Probably around 18 months. Albus fucking Dumbledore tapped a baby’s core at 18 months. It’s heinous.

Well, at least they can tell the Aurors exactly when to check the abuse log from the Dursely house for this… insanity.

Andy passes Rowan a containment vial and the Unspeakable pours the mixture into it and seals it before plugging the tubing back into the mask on the baby’s face.

Hogwarts’s Potion Mistress pulls another vial, this one containing a dark but transparent green liquid, two more mixing bulbs and three more bits of tubing out of her satchel.

She disconnects the purple potion from its original bulb and reconnects it to one of the new ones. She has Healer Two hold it in one hand about a foot above the original mixing bulb. He has the release valve squeeze thing in his other hand.

She shoves another drop-regulator -a smaller one this time- through another cork and has McPanic hold it at a height directly between the new bulb and the purple potion but Andy’s side of the bed, not Rowan’s. This potion is connected to the same mixing bulb as the purple potion.

Rowan is already disconnecting the old bulb and putting the second new bulb in its place. They connect the mask with new tubing and the aerosol mix with its original tubing to the second new bulb. Rowan holds the bulb back up at chest height and tilts their head, waiting for Andy.

Andy seals the old mixing bulb to minimize contamination within the circle itself and then connects the physically higher new mixing bulb with the lower one and calls out for the time.

“Five minutes until Three o’clock, milady.” The curse breaker answers.

“Tell me when it is three.”

He agrees and she sets to giving the assembled group new instructions.

“When I say, I want you to give me one shake of the purple vial,” she says to One and turns to McPanic. “On that same signal, you will give me three shakes of the green vial. Do it slow and make sure you see all three drops. When I point at T- you,” oops, maybe she should have learned his name instead of dubbing him Two. “You will squeeze the valve so the it evacuates into the second chamber. With the new mix we will need three pumps of the activator spray. When I call your name, Rowan, you’ll open the chute to the baby.”

“We are looking for a black tar-like substance with tiny clumps for the first mix and a bright, scarlet red gas for the second one.”

“It is three o’clock, milady.”

Andy nods at One and McPanic. McPanic actually has pretty good timing, she calls for Two to release the mix at the same moment Andy does.

As the tar mix makes its slow way down the tubing, Andy pumps the aerosol activator three times so that a gray cloud is waiting to catch the tar.

Rowan doesn’t even wait for her signal, they release the bright red gas for the subject’s consumption.

“This needs to happen in exactly the same way every odd hour for the next three days. At dawn, after the new moon, we’ll give him a double dose and take it all down.”

The Curse Breaker jury-rigs some sort of magical something to hold all the vials and bulbs in the right places so that not only can all of the participants disengage but so that it will only take one person to administer each dose.

Andy and McPanic will be the ones to do the dosing and set up a log system so that they can be sure the other has done their part.

The Rowan sets up security for the treatment room so that no one can mess with the child’s treatment or otherwise alter his well being.

One and Two set up alternating four-hour shifts to come in and talk to and hold the baby. To make sure he isn’t suffering in his limbo status.

It’s such a strange thing, they all know he did horrible things. That this child was manipulated by Dumbledore to do horrible things but they are all reluctant to leave him there, laying alone on the treatment table.

They hardly speak to each other but none of them actually leave the room until well after dark.

-*-

Amelia huffs to herself as she looks over the crude drawing before her. No one was able to get her blueprints for the Crouch House.

The bank didn’t have them. None of Avalon’s magical architects have them. There aren’t even any filed with the Ministry!

It’s full dark now. She’s standing across the road from the Crouch place under a canvas pavilion surrounded by all of day shift Aurors, over half the night shift Aurors and a squadron of the most bloodthirsty goblins she’s ever met, staring down the barrel of having to send them into an already fatal situation blind.

It sucks ass, and not in a fun way.

Shouting forces her to turn to see Remus facing down Kingsley.

Remus is holding some large, rolled up papers.

Kingsley is refusing to let a werewolf within arms’ reach of his Director.

“King, let him through.”

Her fiancé turns his furious dark eyes on her. She’s half surprised they don’t flash gold at her like Remus’s did just last night.

Remus is smug but silent as he lays his papers down over her drawings. They unroll the top one together and she can see it is exactly what she is looking for, a blue print of the Crouch family property.

“He used a muggle architect but if you look.” Remus casts a wandless revelare on the papers between them and the markings for muggle things she is only half familiar with change into runic notation. It’s not only a physical schematic but a warding schematic as well.

She could kiss the werewolf. All over that scruffy looking face of his.

She manages not to tell him this.

Instead, she calls over both Hecate and the commander of the gob squad. There isn’t a lot of debate as they settle on a plan of attack.

The goblins move out first and attack from the front because, as Hecate pointed out, the documents are mundane in origin and don’t self-update. So while they give the attacking force a good idea of the original warding scheme they aren’t a guarantee about what they will find. And no one can take out fortified potions like goblins. No one.

Hecate leads a second group over the wall to the right of the Goblin position and into the postage stamp of a building that the Crouches are calling their ancestral property.

Amelia waits.

Her Aurors are maintaining the perimeter and the strike forces will signal them if they need further assistance. That’s when they get to go in, wand tips blazing. If they go in at all.

Less than ten minutes into her wait Gawain shows up toting coffee from her favorite muggle shop.

“Status?” she asks even as he hands her her cup.

“Mission accomplished.”

“And? What’s going on with the Malfoys?”

“Papa Malfoy wants Baby Malfoy to claim the Lordship early. Like yesterday, early. He’s completely freaking out about it.”

Wow, Papa Malfoy must have really fucked up.

Or he’s dying.

Could Lucius Malfoy be dying? His father did kick the bucket rather suddenly from Dragon Pox but Lucius isn’t as hands-on in their potion ingredient business as Abraxas Malfoy was and he hasn’t traveled outside of the country in years!

That they know of.

Shit. Now on top of everything else, Lucius Malfoy is either an oathbreaker or dying horrifically and in possession of illegal portkeys. Fucking great.

“And Baby Malfoy?”

“Is not happy. Apparently, he wasn’t going to step in as head of the family until his oldest child reached a certain age and now he has to do it before he even finishes Hogwarts. He’s met his father’s demands with a list of his own and they are at serious odds over it.”

“Well, seems like he only has himself to blame.”

“I know- ”

The pop of Kingsley’s apparition interrupts their debrief. “They need you at the house, Amy. They found something.”

She nods and the three of them run across the road.

They make it to the front door in time to see a goblin drag a bleeding but still breathing Crouch out of his own home. He’s furious and defiant but not going to last much longer.

Before she can start to question him a second goblin exits the house gently holding the tiny still form of a House Elf. Had Crouch ordered his own elf into a battle she couldn’t win? That’s. That’s. She didn’t even have words-!

A third goblin exits the house, dragging a third body. A human body. Amelia conjures a light as they lay the third body at her feet.

Bartemius Crouch Junior.

No. No way. He’s dead. He died like every Death Eater should, in Azkaban.

Hecate steps out of the house and runs a few quick tests.

First, a simple lineage test to verify the body is related to their intended target. He is, in fact, the son of the father they had come seeking.

Then a self-identifying spell. It’s a borderline dark spell because it forces a person’s magic to reveal their identity without their consent. And it uses their own blood to write out their full name on the wrist of their wand arm.

Bartemius Argos Crouch, Junior.

She turns to Senior, furious questions on the tip of her tongue only to find him still and gray. He’s dead, goddammit.

“Call Croaker,” Amelia orders his second. “This is two successful break outs, he has to accelerate his plans for Azkaban. We can’t let anyone else escape.”

 

 

Chapter 7 – July 30, 1996

 

Relief is at war with frustration in Neville’s chest.

Relief because an hour after breakfast Missy popped into one of his greenhouses to announce that ‘Master Harry is awake!’

Frustration because he can’t see Harry. His betrothed has comatose for been five days! His healing trance was almost twice as long as Neville’s and Nev can’t go see him.

And he’s not just talking about not being able to see Harry because of propriety and his grandmother’s rules. No, he’s talking about wards.

Nev had known about the wards on Harry’s suite before Uncle Algie had mentioned them. Of course he had! Half of the main staircase is blocked by the wards on Harry’s suite. And not exactly subtly either.

Nev doesn’t begrudge Harry his privacy. Any additional to the security his future husband wants his future husband will get!

He just hadn’t expected it to hurt so much to watch Hermione and Uncle Alastor enter Harry’s rooms when he couldn’t even take that turn down that hall.

It’s almost time for lunch when the door to the library opens.

Hermione walks in first. She’s stiff, almost defensive, and walking sideways like she’s reluctant to take her eyes off of the person behind her but for some reason can’t walk flat out backwards to monitor them.

To keep Harry from complaining, maybe?

Observation has taught Neville that you have to be careful when trying to coddle of Harry. Nothing will make Harry do the thing you want him to avoid faster than ‘babying him’.

Guilt trips have to be used with extreme caution, too.

So, of course, it’s absolutely unsurprising when the second person through the door is Harry. He’s a little wobbly. Okay, a lot wobbly. Like, well, not quite drunk baby giraffe wobbly? But the guy has been comatose for five days.

Healer McCoy is the third person through the door. He’s either read the Harry Managing Manual or used to dealing with the difficult because he’s keeping his distance but he has two wands drawn.

Judging by the light stream connecting the wand in his left hand to Harry, McCoy must be using it to maintain a health monitoring charm. And the wand in his right hand? While Neville is watching McCoy uses it to cast a silent and subtle stabilization spell on his patient.

Huh, a way to let Harry be his stubborn self but still keep him from falling on his face. Neville vows to make someone teach him that. Preferably sooner rather than later.

McCoy gets Harry settled in one of the winged back chairs by the fire and throws a few more healing charms with his left wand. The healer follows his charms with some grumbling and several not-quite-insults that leave Harry obviously amused. A promise to eat extracted and threats to put Harry’s ass right back in bed is he doesn’t later, and the healer takes off to see his husband and family for the first time in a week.

Once he’s settles, Hermione reclaims “her” chair and starts ordering her army of rolled documents like some sort of officer preparing her troops for inspection.

Harry kindly waits for Neville to settle on one of the couches before he begins the ‘inspection.’

“Well?” Harry prompts the older girl.

She raises both eyebrows giving them a chance to change their minds.

Harry just makes a sweeping gesture with one arm, letting Hermione know that she holds the floor.

“I’ve read every book this library has in regards to magical culture and traditions, Family Magic, and magical law and etiquette. Several of these were books recommended by -” Neville frowns at her hesitation. “Our mutual acquaintance.”

Ah, she got recommendations from Draco. Well, Neville can see why she would turn to her boyfriend for source material and why she’s hesitant to say his name in front of other Gryffindors is even more apparent to him. Afterall, Neville has spend most of the last five years living with Ron Weasley, too.

“And?”

“And I’m a slave, Harry.” Neville is surprised that it doesn’t hurt when his jaw hits the floor at the girl’s bald statement. He’s vaguely gratified to see a similar look on Harry’s pale face. Hermione huffs at them both. “No, seriously, that couch has more rights than I do. The only thing worse to be than a woman in the magical world is a muggleborn. And I’m both!”

“Alright,” Harry says with quiet confidence. “We’ll take care of it.”

Hermione’s glare should be labeled poisonous because it’s definitely lethal. “Harry, I don’t think you understand- ”

“No, Hermione, I have a plan.”

Hermione groans and Neville can fully sympathize. Harry isn’t really known for his plans, he’s a seat of the pants kinda guy.

“Hermione.” Harry waits for Hermione to stop whatever is going on in her head and focus on him. “I claim my lordship tomorrow.” It’s not a question but she nods anyway. “Every Lord has to complete a ritual to settle his Family Magic.” She nods again. “I want to adopt you as my sister and make you the heir to the House of Potter.”

Hermione sits back, not even noticing when several scrolls fall from her hands.

It is shocking. Cool and an amazing expression of friendship but shocking. On levels. Mostly because, “The House of Potter allows for female heirs?”

Harry nods. “I dreamed about it. The Family Charter does not mention gender of the heir at all, they just have to be accepted by the Potter Family Magic. And that actually goes back to Godric Gryffindor himself.”

“Godric Gryffindor?” Neville finds himself questioning.

“Yeah, he was apparently quite the adventurer before he settled down and helped start a school. It made him a really open minded kind of guy. He firmly believed that if Magic decides you’re worthy then you are worthy. Period.”

“That’s… really cool, actually. So, the Potters?”

“Are the descendants of Gryffindor. The Gryffindors married into the Peverells who became the Potters. We are also biologically descendant of Godric’s wife Rowena Ravenclaw but not heirs to her legacy. After the daughter she had claimed as her heir died, Rowena enchanted an object to choose her heir. A portrait that has been missing for several hundred years.”

Harry,” Hermione still looks dazed as she reinserts herself into the conversation.

Harry just raises both eyebrows at her, silently asking her opinion.

“Yes, yes. You can adopt me.” She smiles softly at her brother to be before once again standing firm. “But that only solves the problem for me. What about all other magical women? Or those considered less because of something so arbitrary as their blood status?”

Harry grins, “I told you, I have a plan.”

“Harry!” Hermione gets some real mileage out of that word. She has to have at least five variations. This one is ‘goddammit, Harry!’ with a dash of ‘stop fucking around!’

“Hermione.” Potter’s face does some twitchy thing that Neville can’t readily translate. “What have you found out about the House of Pendragon?”

“Other than the fact that it’s extinct?” The witch rolls her eyes. “Extensive executive powers. A Lord of Pendragon could completely reset the Wizengamot and take over the Ministry to boot.

“If you can believe the utter shit some of these so-called historians have written about on the subject, a Lord of Pendragon could rewrite every law on the books and The People would love him for it. He can do no wrong. He inhales dragons for breakfast and rainbows spawn at his every step.”

“So he could fix pretty much everything that is wrong with our community?”

“Sure, if he existed. And if you could hear him over the roar of his adoring fans.”

Harry just rolls his eyes with a small smile and asks, “So, what else?”

Hermione raises her right hand and frowns when she sees it empty. She bends over, finds the correct scroll on the floor, and hands it to Harry. “A betrothal contract. You were right, you have one.”

Neville does his best not to tense as Harry unrolls the scroll and starts to read it.

“Have you read this?” The future lord of Potter asks his soon to be heir sharply. His green eyes are flashing. He’s not happy but he’s not furious either.

She shakes her head, not bothered in the least by Harry’s sudden attitude. “Gaia has but she told me that you should read it before I did.”

Neville fights the urge to look away when Harry’s focus settles on him. “Were you ever going to tell me?”

“Yes.” Neville sighs. “Well, no. You are senior in the relationship. You set the terms. I thought that’s what you were doing by not acknowledging it. That you didn’t want to deal with it until we had to.”

“But, you knew, you know, that I-”

“No, I didn’t know. That you didn’t know, if that’s what you mean. Not until recently.

“And recently, I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell you but how would you have me do that? ‘Hey Harry, don’t bother to, you know, try and find happiness on your own because you have to marry me. Probably as soon as we finish Hogwarts.’ Yeah, that sounds like a great way to get the guy you’re crushing on to agree to a day at Hogsmeade.”

“You-” Harry pauses, his brow crinkles adorably and his tone changes considerably. “You have a crush on me?”

Neville nods helplessly.

It’s a dangerous confession on a dangerous topic because he knows himself well enough to accept that if Harry pities him because of his crush that something inside of Neville will break. If Harry pities him then he will resent the hell out of Harry for the rest of their natural lives and possibly well into the hereafter.

Neville holds on to things. Even bad things. He’s a total Hufflepuff like that.

But his Uncle Algie impressed on him early that any relationship, not matter how platonic or erotic it is, will only thrive with honesty.

So, yes, it’s dangerous and a gamble but he can’t not take it.

“Oh.”

And, really Harry? What does that mean?!?

“Well, as long as I’m not the only one.”

Hermione gives a very unladylike snort in the background.

Neville gapes for a moment. “Wait, you mean-? What?”

Harry just nods as if already fluent in Neville-babble. “Hogsmeade is a bit away but we could probably hit Diagon Alley? Tuesday? We could get lunch or something.”

“There’s a shop in the Alley that sells daytrip portkeys to the Magical Preserve and Zoo west of Inverness. Just to be clear, you -”

“I’m asking you on a date, Neville. I have had a crush on you… If not since you interrupted McGonagall for the sake of that damn frog, then I’ve had a crush on you since I realized what kind of balls that took.”

“Trevor was a toad and a give from Uncle Algie. I wanted a cat but he’s hates them.”

“He hasn’t said anything about Crookshanks.”

Neville makes sure Hermione can’t miss his skepticism, “Has Algie seen him?”

She shakes her head.

“I would keep it that way but I’m going to leave that decision up to you.”

“What about reproduction?” Harry interrupts before Hermione can respond.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, we’re both men and we both need heirs for our houses. ‘An heir and a spare’ is long standing tradition.”

“Not a magical one but yes, we need heirs.”

“Are surrogates a thing? Or do we have to add a woman to our marriage? How does this work?”

“We could add a woman to our marriage, if you wanted. But there are actually a number of methods for two or more people to create offspring together regardless of gender. The Longbottom Method is the safest and most reliable method used to create magical offspring in the magical world. That we know of.”

“Really?” Harry perks up a little bit.

“Yup. It’s how I was born. My father, too, and we are both children of male/female pairs.”

“How does it work?”

“Well, I can’t tell you specifically until after we marry but it requires at least two people. It can be expended to include up to four for a number of reasons but using more than two makes multiple births much more likely. Oh, and you’ll have to grow out your hair.”

“No.” Harry asserts adamantly. “Absolutely not.”

Hermione cackles.

Neville is confused, “What’s wrong with growing out your hair?”

Harry folds his arms and glares at his now giggling best friend.

“There’s a barber.” She’s still breathless when she starts. “In the Alley. He has a magic mirror that lets you see haircuts and designs before you commit to them because if you change your mind some of the corrective potions are really expensive. Well, anyway, we were playing with it last year.

“And Harry with long hair looks like Snape.” Neville looks to his betrothed with horror and the other male nods once. “Honestly, with long hair, Harry could be his son.”

Neville says the only thing he can think of. “I am so sorry.”

Harry laughs. “We’ll figure out something.” Harry tilts his head and asks. “Is that what you’re doing for your ritual? Making a baby Longbottom?”

“Merlin, no. Never mind that it would take both of us we couldn’t start that until we are married and our Family Magics have been settled, it’s a really long process. Like two, almost three year process.”

“So not a spur of the moment thing.”

“No, but creating life shouldn’t be.”

“Right. So are you going to adopt anyone? Cast someone out of your family? What’s your ritual? It’s gotta be pretty big, right?”

“There’s no one to adopt. No one I want to disown. The wards here could be updated but that’s not big enough. The only thing I can think of that would work is our marriage but-”

“Is that why you haven’t claimed the title yet? Happy Birthday, by the way. We’re doing presents after dinner, right?”

“That’s when we normally do them.” Because no, he’s not playing the ‘you didn’t have to’ card. Harry totally does have to. A birthday gift on the eve of Neville’s expected lordship is completely appropriate. Especially in the light of their changing relationship.

Also, presents. Who doesn’t want presents?

“I think Gran has an idea for my ritual but if she doesn’t, it’ll keep. Grandpa Xavier died just before the start of First Year so we’ve been without a patriarch for.. five? six years? Family Magic doesn’t start to destabilize until the 10 year mark.”

Harry shifts a bit in his chair, “And if I said I had an idea?”

“That’d be two in one day Harry,” Neville teases. “Going for a record, are you?”

“It’s more an addendum to the first one, really.” Harry protests with a grin.

“Oh, well, that’s okay then. What’s your idea?”

Harry just holds up the scroll that is their betrothal contract.

“You want to get married? We haven’t even dated, Harry.”

“We were engaged before we met. I don’t think getting married before we go on a date should surprise anyone.” Harry shoots back. “Besides the more we have everything settled the better I’ll feel and the less anyone can mess with us.”

“And they’ve already tried using betrothal as an avenue of attack once.” Thank you, Albus fucking Dumbledore. “Alright, I don’t object to completing the contract but I still want to take this, take our relationship, slow. We only get to do this once. We both need to be comfortable with each step.”

Uncle Algie would be so proud of him right now but part of Neville is a little disappointed. Most of him is confused. He’s gone from an unrequited crush to getting married in the morning in what feels like heartbeats.

“Alright, when we’re ready to go there,” Harry’s emphasis on the term makes it clear he’s referring to sex. “We’ll go on a trip or something? Like a honeymoon? Is that a thing lords do?” Harry asks.

“It can be but it’s a more modern idea. Bridal tours are more common, not that either of us is a bride. Is a honeymoon something we should be expecting? Just because you also have a crush on me doesn’t mean we’re going to have sex. Are you even gay?”

Once a crush is mentioned most people would assume but Neville feels the need to be very, very clear. Harry could just have crush on his bravery which has nothing to do with Neville’s … physical satisfaction.

“I absolutely am and I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to experience a real, live dick in my ass.” It’s a contest to see if Neville or Hermione chokes harder at Harry’s blunt statement. “But I am willing to wait as long as we need to so that it’s your real-life cock. Are you gay?”

Hermione’s cackling again.

“Bisexual, actually.” Neville says with a nod. “But I want it to be my cock, too, and sooner rather than later but I don’t want to miss out on all of the good build-up things, either. We haven’t walked Hogsmeade holding hands. I haven’t taken you to dinner. We haven’t made out on a single couch anywhere. ”

Harry gives Neville a fond look and it’s so different from anything Neville has experienced from the other male that it’s really quite exciting. “You’re a romantic.” Harry tuts at him when he starts to protest. “No, it’s a good thing. You should make a list, so we can make sure to get them all.”

Of course, Hermione the epic ruiner of moments decides that is the time to chime in with a chortling, “I can’t wait to share this story with your grandkids! I’ll call it ‘The Great Gay Debate’!”

 

 

Chapter 8 – July 31, 1996

 

Harry’s birthday is all of five minutes old when they are all finally gathered together and ready to go in Longbottom Keep’s portkey room.

Augusta does a quick head count, obviously enjoying the need to do one, and enlarges the Longbottom Gringott’s key so that she, Alastor, Harry, Neville and Hermione can all take hold.

A quick activation word and the sensation of being sucked through a straw, navel first, later and they are in a portkey reception chamber, deep under the bank. Both the Longbottom Account Manager BoneBreaker and Director Ragnok are waiting for them when they land.

“Your guests are here and the hall is prepared, lords and ladies.” BoneBreaker is almost vibrating with excitement. But then Magical Line Management and record keeping is kind of a Goblin thing and this is has the potential to be a fairly important event so it’s cool for someone to be excited about it.

It is a duty they demanded as a concession after the last Goblin War. (Thank you, Professor Binns!)

Harry isn’t sure if they, goblins that is, made the demand because as a people they just like studying magical trends or if it’s a knowing your enemy better than they know themselves kind of thing?

Or it could be a power thing?

Getting to tell wizards that no, they can’t have x-magic would be quite a trip after being told the same thing under different circumstances for centuries by wizards.

Possibly all of it. All of the reasons.

“By the time you’ve seen to your guests we will be ready to begin.” BoneBreaker assures them as the guards open the ritual hall’s doors and abandons them with a shallow bow.

Gaia is the first one to approach Harry and Neville.

Lord Billius Weasley is hanging on her arm looking every inch the would-be trophy husband in his tight, dragon hide trousers and black, waist-length coat.

In their wake and also arm-in-arm are the two ICW representatives. Rada Zolnerowich of Russia and Martin Tremblay of Canada.

“Lord Potter, Lord Longbottom,” the young Ms. Zolnerowich greets them both. “We would like to thank you on behalf of the ICW for inviting us to witness this auspicious event. After everything you have been through the faith you have expressed in us is humbling. May your alliance grow ever stronger and good luck in your future endeavors.”

They make small talk for another few minutes. Well, Neville does. Harry is trying to figure out what exactly he or Gaia has said that could be taken as an expression of faith in the ICW. Maybe Zolnerowich just means the invitation to their ascension itself? Yeah, that has to be it.

They break off the conversation and move on to other guests as soon as Neville signals to Harry that propriety’s needs have been met.

Harry is happy to see each of his vassals present with family or at least a date.

Gaia, of course, is right behind him with Lord Weasley on her arm.

Alastor is standing with Algernon and Augusta. Their presence and grouping is probably more about then being Neville’s family than it is about Moody being Harry’s man at arms but it’s pleasing to see none the less.

In the 14 minutes spent on the ICW reps, Hermione has managed to get a smiling and charming Draco Malfoy to accept his place on her arm. How she got him here without Daddy Malfoy horning in on such an exclusive event is anyone’s guess.

Leonard McCoy is in the front of the room, boldly inspecting the ritual equipment the Goblins have laid out for the rituals with his husband Dorian Zabini looking on, fondly amused.

Their nephew, Blaise Zabini, is watching the doctor-healer in undisguised horror and a woman that must be Blaise’s mother Nyota Zabini, based on her resemblance to both uncle and nephew, is watching Blaise’s ill-disguised reactions with a look that dances between fondness and glee.

Fortunately for Healer McCoy, Director Ragnok is pleased to see someone so invested in much-abused young lord’s health that he glares any and all objectors into submission.

When Amelia Bones walks in, a surprising 40 minutes late, Harry finds himself drawn to the group she’s gathered and brought along.

Harry, of course, recognizes Amelia’s niece Susan from school.

From Neville’s descriptions, Amelia’s fiancé Kinsgely Shacklebolt is easy to identify, though Harry is a little disappointed that he’s not hanging off of Amy’s arm. They’d have the full three-piece independent woman collector’s set if he was.

Harry doesn’t recognize Amy’s third companion. He’s too old to be Susan’s date but compared to many others in the room he’s quite young. A year or two younger than Amelia, maybe, with light brown hair, olive green eyes and a permanent five o’clock shadow that gives him a scruffy but not rogue-ish look.

Oh, and his face is torn all the fuck up. Like he got into a fight with a blender and lost.

They guy is either so clumsy it should be qualified as a magical talent and living in the muggle world or he’s a werewolf.

Harry’s betting werewolf.

“Harry,” Amelia greets with all the warm informality Harry could hope for but would never expect from the woman. “I would like to introduce you to Remus Lupin. He, Sirius Black, and your father were inseparable back when they were all at Hogwarts.”

“Unfortunately, I have been abroad most of the time since we left school.” Remus hesitates and Harry gets the sinking suspicion that there is a world of things not being said but this is neither the time nor the place for such explanations and the moment quickly passes.

Remus extends his hand to Harry. “Recent events have made me realize it was past time for me to return home. I would love to get together sometime and tell you every embarrassing story that I can remember about your parents and maybe get to know each other, if you would like?”

Harry just nods and accepts the werewolf’s hand. “I look forward to it.”

He almost asks the older man if he has a place to stay but then decides the question is much too forward and not acceptable between two strangers such as they are.

Neville touches Harry’s elbow to get his attention and point to where BoneBreaker is making his way over to them. They disengage from the conversation as gracefully as they can and meet the Longbottom Account Manager half way. Together the three of them ascend to the ritual platform.

Hermione and Director Ragnok chat idly as they too make their way up the two short steps onto the platform.

Their chosen witnesses gather on all sides like a wall of flesh but remain on the ground level, leaving the platform strictly for those playing along.

The first step of the many rituals they have planned for today is verifying their magical legacies. Harry and Neville to guarantee, for the record, that they are the rightful lords of their houses and Hermione because, as Director Ragnok had informed them, muggleborns are Lady Magic’s way of bringing ancient magical lines back into the world. If Hermione is the first reincarnation of such a line, the Bank will be forced to block the adoption in order to protect the will of Lady Magic.

Before they get to that, though, Harry addresses the assembled. “First, I would like to thank you all for being here despite the late hour.”

Thankfully the Magical World has adopted the idea of a weekend so most of the adults in the room should have Saturday off. If they even do the kind of work that requires a set schedule, of course.

“Second, as you can probably tell from all the wards on the room, we consider this event intensely private. While most of what is about to happen will be announced in the Prophet, we ask that you not discuss some of the things you are about to see. Please allow us to release information on these events ourselves and if after we are through you have any doubts as to which events I refer, please feel free to check with either Gaia Fitzgerald or Alastor Moody when this is over. Thank you.”

At that Harry moves to the table that the goblins have temporarily set up on the platform and allows himself to be prodded into the center writing station between Neville and Hermione.

He accepts a potion from Ragnok and downs it quickly so that he can to avoid tasting it. He then holds very still to listen to the chieftain’s advise and to allow Ragnok to cast a charm on his person.

Harry struggles to follow the advice of “don’t struggle” as his left hand, his non-dominant, non-wand hand, picks up the quill in front of him, inks it, and starts writing.

He expects the –

Inheritance: Lordship, House of Potter – by right of Blood and magic.

He’s surprised by the –

Inheritance: Lordship, House of Slytherin – by right of magic and conquest.

He’s back to not surprised but aware that everyone else will be shocked by the –

Inheritance: Lordship, House of Pendragon – by right of Blood and Magical Rite.

Pulling the sword out of a magical object does have layers of meaning, after all.

He’s right back to being surprised though when his hand keeps writing and several-

Inheritence: All Material Goods (or x-number of galleons, or this business, or that property), House of [family name here] by right of Lord’s Will.

-Tack themselves on to the end of his list.

Even though he started first, Harry is the last of their trio to stop writing.

Now Ragnok has to evaluate their results and accept formal declarations of their intent. He starts with Neville. Neville throws back the potion’s antidote while the goblin reviews the document he just wrote.

“The Bank has magically verified the right of Neville Xavier Longbottom to the Lordship of House Longbottom.” The goblin intones formally. “Do you wish to accept the title today?”

“I do.” Neville states with a nod. A small leather ring box with the Longbottom Crest worked into the top in gold appears on the table in front of Neville with a pop.

The goblin accepts Neville’s response with a nod of his own and has Neville write a brief declaration of his intent on the bottom of his parchment before rolling it up and sealing it with the Bank’s official seal.

He moves to Hermione next, handing her her shot of the antidote before he’s even completely back in his recently moved chair. Once he’s settled, he takes her scroll and reads it while using magic to quickly flip through one of the tomes on the table.

The tome is written in a series of jagged, almost violent looking glyphs that Harry assumes is the written form of gobbledygook because he’s never seen anything like it and he can’t read any of it.

After several moments spent consulting Hermione’s scroll and three different sections of the book in front of him, Ragnok turns to Hermione. “The Bank has magically verified that Hermione Jean Granger is a member of the reborn House of le Faye. She is the third reincarnation of this line that the Bank has identified in the last 200 years.

“The first member of the reborn House of le Faye was Anton Zabini, the great, great grandfather of the current Head of House Zabini.” Ragnok gestures to Dorian Zabini to indicate the Head of House Zabini. “As the line of Zabini not only has an heir but is a single generation from reclaiming the line’s magical lordship and legacy, the Bank finds no reason to block or otherwise protest the proposed adoption of the witch Hermione Granger into the House of Potter.”

Hermione thanks the Bank’s director with a little bow of her head and he moves on.

Now, finally, he hands Harry the antidote for the ritual’s potion and picks up Harry’s parchment for review.

The most powerful goblin on the planet turns his head slightly to one side and blinks twice, momentarily making his surprise evident before duplicating Harry’s parchment and sending BoneBreaker all but flying out of the room with it and some whispered instructions.

“The Bank has magically verified the right of Harry James Potter to the Lordship of House Potter. Do you wish to accept that title today?”

“I do.” A leather ring box with the Gryffindor crest worked into the lid appears on the table just as the Longbottom one had for Neville.

“The Bank has magically verified the right of Harry James Potter to the Lordship of House Slytherin.” Harry can feel Draco, Blaise and Hermione’s jaws drop and he honestly can’t find it in himself to blame them. “Do you wish to accept this title today?”

“I do.” A second pop and a second ring box appears on the table to the right of the Potter/Peverell/Gryffindor box.

“The Bank has magically verified the right of Harry James Potter to the Lordship of House Pendragon.” Crickets, if they could make it this deep in the bank, could have been heard in the ritual hall. “Do you wish to accept this title today?”

“I do.” A third pop heralds the arrival of a third ring box. This box is larger and older looking than it’s brothers. It situates itself closer to Harry, before and between the other two.

Ragnock has Harry write three different confirmations of his intent on his parchment before sealing it just like he did with Neville’s.

Time for the next step.

“Take your rings.” Ragnok instructs.

This round Harry’s going first so he takes a deep breath and opens the Pendragon box. Inside is a solid gold ring in the form of a displayed dragon. The center line where the dragon’s ridge spikes should be is picked out with a series of tiny diamonds. Its wings are spread as if flying and wrap around to blend into the band. The dragon’s neck and tail are folded so that they run parallel to its wings with its head pointing one direction and its tail spade pointing towards the opposite direction.

Harry pulls the ring out of its box and slips it onto the index finger of his right hand.

Next, he opens the Potter ring box and he’s greeted with another gold ring. This one has the expected rampant Gryffindor lion engraved in it with a single ruby sitting pretty in the lion’s visible eye. He slides this ring onto the thumb of his right hand.

Finally, he pulls the Sytherin ring box over. He’s reluctant to open it. Not because he has anything against Slytherin. If this fiasco with Sirius Black has taught him anything, it’s that ‘historical fact’ is reshaped frighteningly easily away from anything even resembling the truth in the magical world. So he’s ready accept the Salazar Slytherin was probably a really good guy. No, he’s reluctant because he doesn’t think he’s the best person to ‘redeem’ the House of Slytherin.

Shouldn’t an actual Slytherin like, say, Draco? Get to do it?

He looks up at Draco and finds his friend staring at him intensely. From that look alone Harry knows that if he were to decide not to shoulder this burden, Draco would take it as a personal rejection.

That Draco wouldn’t accept that Harry doesn’t find himself worthy. No, he’d see it as Harry saying Slytherin isn’t worthy of him.

Harry opens the box.

The ring is platinum, making is sure to stand out even more amongst the other two. On the face of the ring there is an creature in the shape of an ‘S’ formed in dark emeralds. To the uninitiated it would look like a snake but Harry knows it’s actually a basilisk. The amber eye and notches on the back of her head give it away.

He slides is onto the ring finger of his right hand.

“Now, grip your wand and introduce yourself. Be sure to state all of your titles.” Ragnok prompts.

“This is when I can change my name?”

Harry has two big objections with his name as it stands now.

First of all, ‘Harry’ isn’t a name. It’s a nickname. Like naming your kid ‘Steve’ instead of ‘Steven.’ There is no way to shorten his first name into something special for his friends and he actually finds the permanent lack of formality grating.

Second, there is a well established tradition in the Potter family of fathers giving their sons their father’s first name in the middle. That means that Harry’s middle name should be Charlus, not James.

Departing from this tradition to give Harry his own name as a middle name implies a worrisome level of ego in a man Harry has never met and makes Harry not willing to carry on the tradition himself with his own children.

Harry wants to carry on the tradition. He needs to. And maybe he would feel differently if he’d grown up with his father but he didn’t and he can’t change that. He can, however, make changes that will increase his own comfort and help him with the future he wants to achieve.

“Yes,” Ragnok confirms. “The name you give yourself now will be your name from now on.”

He draws his wand in his right hand and speaks. “I am Hadrian Charlus Potter, Lord of the House Pendragon, Lord of House Potter, Lord of House Slytherin.” Sparks of gold, red and silver shoot from his wand.

“Before you continue, you need to be aware that by completing the proposed adoption not only will your friend possibly gain gifts from your various Family Legacies but the gifts of the le Faye will enter your Family Magic.”

They’d already discussed this. Why is Ragnok bringing it up again? Harry frowns and raises a single eyebrow at the goblin.

“You need to be aware that not all of these magical gifts are compatible. For example, the Parsel Magic inherent in the Houses of Slytherin and Pendragon conflict fundamentally with the photographic memory and mental structure inherent in the House of le Faye. This could cause extremely volatile family dynamics for generations to come. You need to be aware of this both now and especially when choosing your mates in the future.”

Harry visually checks with Hermione. She’s nervous but nods back her willingness to continue.

He glances over his shoulder at Neville. Neville doesn’t even have to think about it before he nods but then the Green Magic that his family is famous for is a powerful force of balance. Green Magic is good at providing a grounding effect for other, more volatile gifts.

“Thank you, Director. We will continue.”

“The ritual, milord.” Ragnok used the time they were consulting to float the table, his chair and all of the papers off the platform, leaving the area clear for their ritual.

They are obviously becoming predictable.

Harry turns to Hermione and they stand face to face in the center of the platform. She plants her feet and raises her chin, indicating her readiness.

Using his wand he cuts his thumb and starts drawing runes in the air between them, in line with her seven chakra points.

The first three are for their magical relationship – sister, brother, family.

The second three are for their Family’s values. Since he’s adopting her into three Families, that leaves one virtue per family. For Pendragon, he chooses integrity. For Gryffindor, he draws strength. For Slytherin, cunning.

The last chakra point gets a rune that a sentiment that adopter feels towards the adoptee. Typically it’s some sort of love but Harry forms the sigil for hope without having to think about it because that’s what she is. She is his best friend and his only family. She is everything he has fought for every time he has gone into battle. She is his hope.

He pushes his magic into the runes. They flash silver and then back to red before tuning a molten, flowing gold.

For a moment the word seems to pause and he feels connected to Hermione in a way he cannot even begin to describe.

Then the world is beating again and they begin to work their magic together. In truly fascinating, once in a life time, synchronization he begins to magically push and she pulls the runes into her aura, and into her chakra points until they settle on her core.

Magic swirls around them, touching everyone in the room three times before coalescing into a huge dragon. The dragon breathes magical fire over the two ritual participants.

When the smoke clears, Harry and Hermione are holding hands facing the door. For some reason there is a charred, broken-tipped quill in their joined hands. Harry allows Ragnok to take the item without any discussion and turns to present his sister to the crowd.

“Ladies and Lords, may I present to you Hermione Jean Potter, Heir of House Potter, Member of House Pendragon, Member of House Slytherin.”

The crowd gasps because the moment Hermione is presented and introduced her eyes turn from their natural brown to Potter Green.

The round of applause that follows is truly thunderous.

Somehow, probably while everyone else was distracted by the dragon, at least 100 house elves managed to sneak into the ritual hall.

As one Harry, Hermione and Neville turn to the three house elves on the platform.

“And who are you?”

“I be Crow.” The center-front of their little elvish formation speaks. He is large, almost goblin sized and has some sort of ear buds hanging over but not tucked into his bat wing like ears and plugged into a boxy contraption that looks like a Walkman, if Harry’s not mistaken. He’s wearing a old but well maintained band t-shirt and trousers made out of towels.

“Dis be Zabi.” Crow points to the elf to on his right, an elf that Harry recognizes from the Hogwarts Kitchens. She is smaller, more the normal size of a House Elf and has a full head of riotous rainbow-colored curls. She’s dressed in a sundress made of curtains straight from the 1970s and has a thick black belt cinched around her middle with a shiny skull-shaped belt buckle.

“Dis be Azure.” On Crow’s left is an elf that everyone more than passingly familiar with Amelia Bones has also met. She, too, is the average size for a house elf, maybe a bit on the small side, with short and wispy blue hair. Just like Zabi, she is wearing a dress but for her the ‘above the belt’ area is some sort of Madonna-inspired conically-cupped bikini armor made out of a dull silvery metal and the below the belt area is made of layers of scarves, handkerchiefs and strips of bed linen in various shades of blue.

“I be the Head Potter House Elf.” Crow continues. “They be my daughters. They tells me what to do.”

Harry tries not to laugh at the put-upon sound of the male Elf’s voice.

“So what have you been doing?” Because there have been times he could have really used a House Elf over the last 15 years. Mostly to bring him food.

“We bes following the last instructions we was given before Master Char dies.”

“Are you happy with those jobs?”

Crow opens his mouth to speak but Ragnok clears his throat, subtly reminding them of what they are actually there for.

“Right, you three, coordinate with Hermione. I want a list of all Potter Elves and their assignments. Prioritize any Elves that are in dangerous jobs or don’t like/aren’t comfortable with the people they work for to be found new assignments. Then, list me those that love their jobs or need more help in them.” Harry stands to speak to the assembled group of elves. “Any of you that feel you are in danger either from your assignment or those you work with will go to your current boss, inform them that you have been recalled by the House of Potter and go to the -” Harry glances at Neville and Neville nods. “Longbottom Keep to await a new assignment.

“You can all stay and watch the rest of the ceremony before you go, though.”

The House Elves cheer. Several pop away and come back with food for the spectators elvish, human and goblin alike but they all settle in to watch.

They move on with the traditional round of handshakes for both the new Lord and his heir and Neville finds himself alone on the platform with the Chieftain of the Goblin Horde.

At least temporarily.

Hermione is leaning bodily against Draco with his arm across her shoulders but Harry is standing near the platform steps, waiting for his signal to return.

At Ragnok’s prompting, Neville pulls the brown leather ring box out of his pocket, runs a finger over the Longbottom family seal on the lid and opens the box. Sitting inside the box is a beaten and stained, antique looking ring.

He knows from when his grandfather wore it that the ring is mithril. The face of it is flat and wide, shaped like a rectangle with the corners cut off. Pressed into that face is the paw print of a bear, a nod to the Longbottom Familial animagus form. On one side of the band, below the face, the family crest is carved. On the other side of the ring and in the same position a run-inscribed, oval-shaped, piece of jade is set to magically aid mental and emotional stability in the wearer.

He slides the ring on the middle finger of his right hand so that the stone is nestled against his ring finger and the bear’s toes point toward his finger nails.

Neville draws his brand new cherry wood wand, holds it in a grip so tight that he can feel the band of his new adornment dig into three of his fingers, and speaks. “I am Neville Xavier Longbottom, Lord of House Longbottom.”

Sparks of green and gold shoot from his wand.

Neville reaches out with his right hand, inviting Harry back on to the stage.

Since Harry is senior in their betrothal and his family magic is already settled, he can initiate the ritual they are about to engage in and participating in and completing said ritual will settle Neville’s family magic.

They stand facing each other, holding both of each other’s hands between them. Right hand in right hand, left hand in left.

“I, Hadrian Charlus Potter, in accordance to the will of our families and of my own choosing, ask you, Neville Xavier Longbottom, to be my husband and request that you take me as yours. Do you accept?”

“I, Neville Xavier Longbottom, in accordance to the will of our families and of my own choosing, accept you, Hadrian Charlus Potter, as my husband and gladly accept my place at your side as yours.”

Thick bands of magical light from each of their lordship rings wrap around their wrists, hand fasting them with layers of magical chords. A stream of liquid silver magic that somehow evokes thoughts of water and swords pours out from the Pendragon ring. A band of dancing flame shoots from the Gryffindor ring. A bright green snake with black markings slithers out of the Sytherin ring. Thick, ancient looking roots creep out of the Longbottom ring.

Without intent or practice both young men speak in unison, guided by Magic.

“You cannot possess me,

for I belong to myself,

But I will give you that which is mine to give.

“You cannot command me,

for I am a free person,

But I will serve you in those ways that you require.

“Through this life and into the next,

I vow to you the first cut of my meat

And the first sip of my wine.

“From this day,

only your name will I cry out in the night

and it will be into your eyes that I smile each morning.

“I pledge to you my living and dying,

equally in your care.

I will be a shield for your back as you are for mine.

“Our marriage is sacred between us,

when we quarrel we will do so in private

and tell no strangers our grievances.

“This is my wedding vow to you.

This is a marriage of equals.

“May Magic Herself bless our union.”

“May Magic Herself bless your union.” The gathered witnesses call back as the hand-fasting ribbons dissipate.

A comforting warmth fills Neville’s core and flows out from him to touch each member of the assembled group like a warm, late spring breeze. The wooden platform under Neville and Harry’s feet is temporarily transformed into a grass and alstroemeria covered hillock.

At least four shades of the flower are temporarily thriving around them and Neville can’t help but smile at and be reassured by the subtle blessing from Magic Herself.

Among other things alstroemeria symbolizes friendship and lasting devotion. It can also be used as a gift given to wish the recipient success on a new venture.

-*-

It’s well after four o’clock in the morning when all of the Potter-Longbottom guests are gone and Ragnok finally finds the time to seclude himself in his office to study the unexpected magical object Harry Potter made during his first ever magical ritual.

On the surface it’s a common place item. A quill. There must be hundreds of them in the bank alone. It’s writing tip is broken, evoking imagery of all things useless in his mind. And it’s thoroughly charred, fitting for something created in the breath of a magical and spiritual dragon.

But what is it?

It isn’t a portkey.

So far as Ragnok can tell it isn’t a key of any kind.

There is no message hidden in it.

It’s damn near indestructible. The cracked core simply refuses to have its separation completed and even the wispy little bits of burnt feather will not yield to any methods of removal he can attempt while alone in his office.

The aura of the thing is truly black. Blacker than the blackest ink. Darker than a night without stars.

It’s cold to the touch, too. So cold that it burns.

It’s closer to seven than six in the morning when he calls for an Unspeakable to assist him. He uses their confidentiality codes to guarantee the Croaker himself will respond and that he will do so quickly.

Ten minutes after his message should have been received by the Ministry, Croaker is walking into his office, hooded and cloaked, with Hecate at his side.

Ragnok doesn’t bother with greetings or any of the other pleasantries he would normally have to indulge his human visitors with, he just waves them over to the object. This is business, pure and simple.

Besides, when an Unspeakable is summoned to examine a magical object, most of them don’t want and actively resent being spoken to until after they have completed their assessment.

The two humans start with a physical examination.

It’s interesting to him to see that neither of them touch it. They levitate it. They magically rotate it. They pull out various looking glasses and gaze at it through them. But they don’t touch it and they don’t allow either their wands or any their looking glasses to touch it either.

Both Unspeakables are wands out and chain casting for a surprisingly long time before Croaker finally speaks, “Where did you find it?”

“It was created during the course of Lord Potter claiming his title.”

“Harry Potter?” Hecate asks.

“That’s correct.”

The Unspeakables share a long and silent look before Croaker asks, “Did you notice any physical changes in the young lord?”

“No.” Wait. “Yes, his scar changed.”

“In what way?”

“In my experience, his scar is normally a black lightning bolt with the skin around it raised and irritated, as if it has just been cut and should start bleeding at any moment. After the rituals but before he left I took note that it looked healed, a healthy whitey pink and more it’s actual age. In fact, if I didn’t know it was there I wouldn’t have seen it.”

Both Unspeakables nod, unsurprised.

“You know what it is?”

“We do.” Hecate confirms and stops.

He glances between them but they might as well have been made of stone for all the feedback they gave him. “Well?”

“We cannot interfere.” Hecate explains. “No matter what he calls himself Harry Potter is a Child of Prophecy. He must find his path on his own. That is the will of our Lady Magic.”

“If you are referring to the Riddle Prophecy, it is broken.” Hecate shifts like she’s about to argue with him but he continues. “Harry Potter is a child of the Line of Pendragon that has drawn the sword. The moment his hand landed on that hilt all previous prophecies involving him fell to dust. Only those about the Once and Future King can touch him now.”

The two Unspeakable do that silent consult thing again and, once Croaker nods, Hecate speaks.

“It’s a horcrux.”

 

 

Chapter 9 – August 1, 1996

 

“There are 42 seats in the Wizengamot with permanent voting rights.” Augusta Longbottom tells Harry, Neville and Hermione as she prepares her tea.

Tomorrow Dumbledore is going on trial for his ‘Crimes Against Harry’ as the Prophet is calling them. Judge Crane is going to be sitting in judgment before the Wizengamot who will not be rendering judgment but will be asked for their opinions before the Judge renders his verdict.

Harry and Neville are claiming their seats for the first time specifically just to take part in this event, so Augusta is giving them a crash course in what they need to know.

“The Chief Warlock has provisional voting rights in the event of a stalemate.

“Lords may have more than one vote. In fact most do, depending on their House’s age, services rendered to the Realm, and ‘quality’ of the House.

“Seats or votes are claimed based on a hierarchy. At the top of that hierarchy are the Ancient and Noble Houses of which there are three remaining – Black, Longbottom and Potter. Each of these Houses has the right five seats.

“However in the summer of 1993 and again just a month ago the House of Potter was voted additional seats for Services to the Realm taking the Potter total up to seven.

“One step down from the Ancient and Noble Houses are the Founders. Each of the Heirs have the right to three seats apiece. Now, I have never seen them claimed. Not by Charlus Potter and definitely not in the last 200 years but they are your legal right and if you ask for them, they cannot be denied to you.”

“And that would give me 13 seats?” Harry asks. “Seven for Potter, three for Gryffindor, and three for Slytherin? What about Pendragon?”

“Pendragon is very special. Much like the Chief Warlock-” a knock at the Library door interrupts.

Algernon Bones pokes his head through the door and Augusta waves him in.

He enters, followed by Gaia Fitzgerald, Professors McGonagall and Flitwich, and two people Harry doesn’t know.

They all stand while furniture is adjusted to fit all the new comers. Algie claims the chair on the opposite side of the coffee table from his sister and summons another chair from the library’s office area for Gaia. They settle it to Algies left, just to the right of Hermione’s station on the long three-seat couch she’s sharing with Harry and Neville. The two strangers take opposite ends of the couch across from the teenagers and the two professors conjure themselves chairs on either side of the strangers’ couch, obviously not intending to stay long.

“We’ll finish this later,” Augusta assures her teenaged audience as everyone settles. “We need to discuss not just your options as Lords but the current system with its rankings and priorities so that you can make the best possible choices for the future.”

She cedes to conversation to her brother with a nod.

“You know most of our guests.” Algernon tells the trio. “The two you are unfamiliar with are representatives from the International Magical Education Agency. In response to what Dumbledore did as your so-called guardian, Harry, while sitting as Headmaster to your family’s school and due to falling academic standards at Hogwarts, they reached out to the Bank and Gaia for permission to do a full audit on the school.

“This is Madame Isabelle Chevalier, the Head of the IMEA and former educator and Headmaster at Beauxbatons Academy of Magic in France.” Madame Isabelle an intimidating but well put together woman with a head of solid white hair and shell-framed glasses.

“This is Mr. Lee Scoresby, the American representative of IMEA and a former educator at Area 51 School for Boys in Colorado.” Scoresby takes off his hat and nods at them. He looks like a cowboy from an old movie complete with hat, fringed leather jacket and bushy mustache.

“We have requested permission to present our findings before the Wizengamot tomorrow.” Madame Chevalier cuts in. “So, of course, we must first present our findings to you as the school has been owned and operated by your family since its inception and our findings indicate horrible and possibly embarrassing abuses of the school and therefore your family.”

“I don’t feel the need to be embarrassed by the often criminal failings of others,” Harry tells her. “But I appreciate the consideration and would be glad to hear what you have to say before the rest of the world learns of it.”

“First and foremost we unearthed a copy of the Hogwarts Charter.” She picks up her large bright blue purse, drops it in the middle seat of her couch and pops the silver clasp on top. She pulls out a bamboo rod that is 18 inches long and a little more than an inch in diameter.

There are six metal bands spaced equally along the length of the rod and either end is capped with the Gringott’s seal done in miniature. “It seems your previous account manager did his best to lose it but this a magical document bound to your House. As long as your House survives so does the document and so does the school.”

She takes out her wand and taps one of the metal rings twice. A thin metal bar that runs the length of the rod appears complete with a little pull-knob. Madame Isabelle pulls on the knob to reveal the top of a hand written document on old but sturdy looking parchment.

A few inches below the bar ‘Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy’ is drawn large in lovely calligraphy, arching around the Hogwarts seal. Several inches below that are a few lines of writing in black ink followed by line after line written in red.

“One of the fascinating things about the magic of this type of document is that it automatically changes the color of the ink for any sections that are not being adhered to. As you can see red indicates a complete violation of the Charter. In other places there is purple ink which indicates a partial violation.

“That isn’t to say you, Lord Potter, cannot amend this document. The Bank has assured me that you access the master copy in the Gryffindor Vault. I’m told, though I cannot enter the vault to verify this myself, that there is a podium with a book within that vault which will allow you to write out your changes. The document would then update the changes into the body of its text and replicate your changes in any magical copies. Your changes would then be logged in Amendment Record of which there is a copy in this scroll case.”

She hands Harry the case and with Neville and Hermione steadying the edges he pulls the document out as far as he can. At least half of the document is red.

At. Least.

“As you may expect,” Scoresby drawls. “Director Ragnok was might bit upset when we found and read that scroll. Gave us every bit of help we needed and then some.”

“There are a number or things that Dumbledore’s Hogwarts fails at completely when compared to the Founders’ Hogwarts.” Isabelle steps back in. “An appalling number of classes have been cut from the roster including classes on etiquette, culture, magical theory and basic subjects like reading, foreign languages and fine arts.”

“I was wondering about that.” Hermione interjects. “Classes for the basics, I mean. Do you have any idea how many of our so-called ‘pure-blood’ brethren don’t know how to structure an essay? Something we are assigned literally every class period? They are being set up to fail!”

“I imagine you are exactly right.” Lee Scoresby trades a significant look with Madame Isabelle. “At Area 51, we have a pre-First Year session every spring semester where we cover many basic things – proper ways to use a library and how to do research, how to structure various kinds of papers, converting the world’s various units of measurement, using wizarding measurement tools, techniques for preparing potion ingredients and even flying.”

“That’s brilliant!” Harry says, feeling more than a little jealous.

“That’s an idea we got from Hogwarts,” The cowboy asserts causing three chins to drop.

“When did they stop doing that? Why?”

“It stopped in September 1939. That is when Dumbledore fired Alexandra Lyons, the Student Transition Coordinator. She was the one that used to contact all eligible 10 year olds to start to prepare them for Hogwarts. The Coordinator’s job was to contact and educate parents, especially those of Muggleborns, about magic and to begin the privacy protocols that are used everywhere else in the world to safeguard Magical Secrecy.

“She would also take mixed groups of children on field trips throughout the Fall Semester to introduce them to the larger Magical World and so that they could start building social connections with their peers.”

“Wait, fired? In 1939?” Hermione tilts her head with a frown. “According to Hogwarts, A History he had just started teaching in 1938. He wasn’t made Headmaster until 1956.”

Madame Isabelle nods along with Hermione’s little lecture. “Exactly right but he fired Ms. Lyons and according to the DMLE record reported her for suspected Dark Arts use and sympathies to Grindlewald’s Army. Accusations that got her killed before they could be proven one way or the other.

“On our second day in the castle one of the curse breakers working with us found and opened her office. Inside we found her work journal. Her notes raise several flags on Dumbledore’s behavior – including questioning how he managed to get himself named Deputy Headmaster in less than a year and her intentions to report him to the DMLE – but he got to her first.”

“The Deputy Headmaster can fire people? How did he get to Deputy in a year?”

“We aren’t sure.” Chevalier admits. “Ms. Lyons’s notes mention potions and curses that could have been used but Horace Slughorn, the Deputy before Dumbledore is a world-class Potions Master so we, and she, think Slughorn was cursed. The DMLE is currently investigating the matter and I know they have placed Slughorn in the care of several advanced healers but I don’t know why.”

“Shouldn’t the school have been audited at that point?” Hermione asks. “If Hogwarts was known to have had a supposed Dark Lord sympathizer in a position with such direct and influential contact with children, shouldn’t there have been an internal investigation? By the Board of Governors at least?”

“There should have been.” The Head of IMEA answers. “But you need to realize what the world was at the time. This was five years before the defeat of Grindlewald. His Army had just given up peaceful, political methods of achieving their goals and we were in the process of escalating into all out warfare.

“The Potter Patriarch and his Heir were focused on the war and had left the school in the hands of the Board and the Headmaster the year before.

“Armando Dippet, the Headmaster at the time, was 302 years old. From many reports, he was fantastic with children, formed strong rapports with them and was a role model to many but towards the end relied heavily on his Deputy for even the most basic administrative tasks.”

“I think we all accept that Albus Dumbledore is manipulative and controlling of things that are and should remain far beyond his reach, Madame Chevalier.” Harry says. “Tell us what’s wrong with our school, so that we can fix it. Please.”

“Fair enough. Other than the classes that were cut, the thing that bothers me the most, personally as a professional educator, about the situation at Hogwarts is that only two of your professors are actually trained teachers and certified by the IMEA. Of those two only one has completed the highest certification available and is therefore qualified to be Headmaster and Andromeda Black just finished that certification last month.”

Harry looks to his Head of House, not even trying to hide his horror.

McGonagall just nods to him. “We’ve failed you, Lord Potter. We won’t offer you excuses but Filius and I have come to negotiate with you on behalf of the staff.”

“I can’t knowingly have unqualified teachers in my family’s school. No matter how I feel about them.”

“Of course not, my lord. Fillius, myself, and several others will manage to have the testing portions of our certifications completed before the end of the calendar year. We can then use our spring semester classes for the required observation hours to gain full certification.

“I have approached each member of the staff personally. The majority of us are already working on adhering to this schedule and we have agreed to accept any oversight you and the IMEA decide is necessary.”

“I have a very good idea about why you don’t have the necessary certifications,” Harry assures his Head of House. “So I am willing to agree to a year’s probation while the staff gets their certifications together but you all have to realize that any employment contracts signed by Albus Dumbledore are no longer binding.”

“Of course.”

“Contact Gaia tomorrow. She’ll arrange three way meetings with the IMEA, the House of Potter, and each staff member individually for negotiations. Now, if you don’t mind?” Harry stands and gestures toward the door. “I don’t believe either of you need to be here for the rest of this meeting.”

“Of course,” Flitwick pops up and dismisses his conjured chair. “This discussion will be easier with a smaller audience.”

Without being called a house elf pops into the room and shows the two professors out.

Hermione is scribbling as hard and fast as she can with a quill. Harry pokes her in the side just once and she unfolds to show him her parchment with a list of tentative requirements of offerings for use at the bargaining table.

At the bottom of the page she has ‘TRELAWNEY’ written large and underlined several times.

“I don’t think we can allow someone we both know is an alcoholic to remain in the castle.” He looks to Gaia who frowns her surprise and dismay, then nods her agreement. “Is there magical rehab? Does regular rehab work for magicals?”

“I think the better question.” Neville volunteers for the first time. “Would be ‘is she actually a Seer?’ Is it possible to test for the Sight? The class needs to be taught either by someone that has the Sight and can lead students into properly accessing their own Gifts or as a completely theoretical experience by someone that knows they don’t have it and won’t claim otherwise with a side of meditative practices to help control and focus your mind.”

“It is possible to test for the Sight.” Isabelle Chevalier confirms. “Every Department of Mysteries is supposed to have the tools to do so. It is not unreasonable to require your divination instructor to be certified by the DoM.”

“And, no, rehab doesn’t work for magicals.” Scoresby adds. “Addiction to potions, recreational drugs, alcohol or Dark Magic – addiction to just about anything really- is a sign of weakness in their magic. By the time they turn to these ‘helpers’ it’s almost always too late. That’s why a yearly magical check up with a full healer is so important and that leads us to another problem we have with the school. You don’t have a full healer. You don’t even have one on call or on retainer. All you have is a mediwitch and that stupidly dangerous.”

“Madame Pomfrey is very capable.”

“That she is,” Madame Isabelle agrees. “But she is also incapable of taking the full Healer’s Oaths due to conflict with her wedding vows to her deceased husband. Without those Oaths she can never be taught the highest Healing Arts and will never be a full Healer. The school charter requires a full Healer.

“The charter also requires the school’s Healer to do physical and magical checkups on each student at least twice a year. It is a condition off attendance that every single parent has to sign their agreement to before sending their child to Hogwarts. It’s actually a standard requirement in schools worldwide regardless of classification.”

“Classification?” Hermione asks, ready to get deep in her usual reactionary mode of information gathering. “How are magical schools classified?”

“Magical schools are classified based on several factors – day school or boarding school, single-gender or multi-gender, minimum magical potential of students. Hogwarts is an Unum school, a multi-gender boarding school with minimum potential requirement of Enchanter/Enchantress.

“The other schools in this class are Beauxbatons, Durmstrang Institute, Machu Picchu Magical Academy and Mahoutokoro School of Magic.”

“Is Area 51 Unum-class?”

“Nah, little lady,” The cowboy answers. “We’re Duo-class because we are single-gender like our sister school on the coast, Salem Witches Institute. Both are boarding schools that require minimum Enchanter-level potential, if you’re curious.”

“Why?” Neville suddenly asks the room at large and blushes when they all look at him. “Why did Dumbledore do this? Why bring down the school? Why didn’t the Board of Governors stop him? Do we know?”

“Dumbledore hasn’t spoken since his arrest.” Algernon Bones tells them, speaking up for the first time since he made introductions. “So we can only guess based on what we do know.

“We do know that as a boy Dumbledore was very good friends with Gellert Grindlewald. Journals recovered from his house and office all mention making choices ‘For the Greater Good’ which was Grindlewald’s personal mantra. It could be that Dumbledore was taking us down the same path with a different army-building method. Corrupting a school rather than-”

“Yes, yes, he could be Dark. He could be insane.” Madame Isabelle interrupts. “But, honestly, the simple answers are usually the most accurate, so it was probably financial.”

“We have the world’s leading Magical Forensics expert examining the Hogwarts accounts financial ledger. The Bank had her going over the Potter books and put her at our disposal.”

“Embeth is working for you?” Algie almost sounds surprised but Harry doesn’t buy it.

“Embeth Gwendoline Lemarr? Yes, she’s been invaluable. She has a keen eye for magical manipulation and disguise. How do you know her?”

“She’s the Matriarch of my husband’s family. They’ll be able to claim Nobility soon so I’ve been teaching her the duties of a Head of House in Avalon. She’s also working on a Mastery in Curse Breaking with through the London branch of the Bank. She’s actually up in my office right now, should I have her called down?” At their nods he calls out for an elf, “Jack!”

A male house elf pops into the room. He’s bald as an egg and barefoot, dressed in simple black slacks and a white button down with a snow flake-riddled, dark blue tea towel draped around his neck like a scarf.

“Jack, please ask Lady Embeth to come down. Tell her Lord Potter and the IMEA are here.”

The little elf just sort of bobbles awkwardly in place for a moment and pops away.

Several minutes later, a set of arms wrapped around two large ledgers walk into the room on a pair of skinny legs. The arms set the ledgers face down on the coffee table and reveal a small Asian woman, probably in her early 20s, with long red hair and bright brown eyes.

“Harry, Hermione, Neville, this is Embeth Lemarr.” Algie introduces even though it’s pretty unnecessary. “Embeth, this is Lord Potter, Ms. Potter and my nephew Neville.”

“Good to meet you!” She says with a grin as she plops down carelessly between Madame Isabelle and Scoresby. “I was hoping to get to speak with you today but Master Bones didn’t think it would happen before dinner. I take it you want to know what I’ve found?”

“Please, Embeth.” Lord Bones cedes the floor with a wave. “Just the Hogwarts Accounts for now.”

“Alright,” She flips over her ledgers and pokes at them a bit.

“This one is the Potter Family Accounts.” She passes it off to Harry and holds up the other for everyone to see.

Someone, probably Embeth, has either added 4 inch margins on three sides of each page or copied the ledger into a larger book to create blank work space around it. The work space is filled with runic and numeric equations and notes. The ledger’s pages themselves are marked with so much red that they look like they’ve been graded by Severus Snape.

“When the Bank gave me the original copy, they had noticed that the numbers were not adding up page-to-page. That is to say, that individually the pages look fine but when you compare the final total on one page to the final total on the next the difference between the two pages is not the same as the second page’s total deductions. The math just wasn’t working out.”

“Using a number or techniques, I’ve found several notations on each page, hidden behind layers of overpowered Notice-Me-Not charms and secrecy hexes so new and varied that I’m having to unravel them all individually as I go. It’s not easy but the spell work is fascinating and the Bank is giving me everything I need to document both the spells and the magical signature.

“Someone with physical access to these documents is very powerful and very paranoid. If these weren’t duplicates or if the duplicates had been made by the original caster, it is entirely possible that we never would have found his changes.”

“His?” Hermione asks.

“The magical signature is male.” Embeth explains. “It’s slow going and I’ve only made it through the last five years so far but I would recommend arresting the Hogwarts Board of Governors and Molly for bribery and embezzlement. Possibly fraud.

“Whoever altered these books is paying them all off. For what, I don’t know but in the hidden disbursements there are payments to every current and several past members of the Board of Governors in excess of their actual pay that cannot be justified by the Bank and Molly is getting paid as much as all of the current governors put together through these hidden transactions into an account that is only hers and not her family’s.”

“Molly?” Harry is a little shocked but probably not as shocked as he should be. “You mean Molly Weasley?”

Embeth wrinkles her nose at him adorably and answers. “Molly, mother of the Weasley children, yes.”

“How long has she been on Dumbledore’s payroll?”

She rolls her eyes and again sidesteps naming the former Headmaster. “She received her first payment from the Hogwarts Accounts in August of 1991, if that’s what you mean.”

It’s like a slap in the face.

Molly Weasley climbed into Dumbledore’s pocket the month before Harry met her family. Just weeks before Ron became Harry’s first ever friend. It can’t be a coincidence, can it?

“Do we know why?” He asks.

“There are no notes in the ledger.” Embeth says apologetically. “So, you’d have to ask her.”

“Will you reach out to the DMLE and have them start on the arrests?” Harry asks Algernon Bones who just nods and stands to leave right away. “Since I’ve claimed… my other House do their crimes against me and my family count as treason?”

Algernon pauses in the doorway, considering. “I’ll have Amelia check. I will send you an update on that and the arrests before dinner.” The older man huffs and turns to face them. “You’re going to need to publicize this, Harry. Putting the Board’s arrests and why they were arrested out in the Prophet will ease the way and keep parents from protesting any changes you make to the school.”

“Not that they have the right to protest any changes I make to my school.”

Algernon nods in that ‘yeah, fair’ kind of way. “Consider it a preemptive strike against potential Howlers.”

“Alright, get that guy Amy likes to cover it. Max Crane.”

Algernon leaves with a, “Very well, milord.”

“Now, I need a new Board of Governors. Any suggestions?” He glances around the room and his gaze settles on Augusta Bones.

“It entirely depends on your intentions.” She tells him. “What do you want the school to be?”

“I want it to be everything my ancestors designed it to be. I want a year transition period for incoming students. I want to make sure everyone starts on the right foot so that everyone can succeed. I want students to have advocates on the Staff that they can rely on and trust to help and believe in them. I want the school to be secure and to have enough Staff not have to resolve to student-Prefects doing rounds when they should be studying or sleeping. And I want two full healers on staff, one male and one female.”

“I’d prefer it if we could have a consistent Defense education but what can we do about that? Is there really a curse on it?”

“I actually have a few suggestions.” Embeth jumps in. “Yes, there is a curse on the position but when I was working with the curse breaking team – I’m working on a second Mastery and my Master is on the team- they came up with several ideas.

“The curse itself was set by a bastard of a secondary Slytherin bloodline. We think that if you, as rightful Lord of Slytherin and rightful Lord of Gryffindor, physically and magically claim the castle and inhabit it along with others that are allied with your Houses, it will break the bastard’s influence on the magic of the school and possibly break the curse.

“If you have the school’s wards updated, that would speed the process. The Goblin Horde is so indebted to you right now because of the crimes they allowed to be committed against you that you could probably get them to update the wards on the Castle, the Forest and Hogsmeade for really cheap, if not for free.

“We also think that if you changed the name of the course and the classroom it’s held in, the curse won’t be able to find its target, which would be a cheaper alternative if updating the wards is not possible.”

“Let’s do all of it.” He glances back to Augusta Longbottom. “Will you head my Board of Governors and make sure it gets done?”

“I hesitate to say it but I don’t think I am the right choice to meet your goals, Harry.” She says honestly. “I would be proud to be your official liaison but I think a team of outsiders that are IMEA-certified educators would be more likely to adhere to the school’s charter without giving way to any of the traditions past Hogwarts graduates are prone to.”

“I can see that.” He turns to Isabelle Chevalier and raises both eyebrows.

“I cannot sit on your Board and lead the IMEA. It would be showing favoritism to one school over the others and that would violate my Oath of Service. But Lee could and my daughter, Apolline Delacour, has already expressed interest in helping Hogwarts out. I can also pull together profiles of eligible IMEA educators and make suggestions for the Board and for any empty teaching positions you end up with.”

“Alright. If you would work with Madam Longbottom to help form my Board and fill in the staff?” Isabelle nods and to Augusta he says, “I know you don’t want to be on the Board but if you are going to be my liaison you might as well start from the beginning. The two of you can get it down to seven choices, then I’ll meet with them and give them the final approval. I’d prefer this be done by the end of the week but I want you to put greater priority on a Student Transition Coordinator.

“We have less than a month for the Coordinator to get everything done so he or she needs to get to work on this year’s First Years. Maybe we can do a summer camp or something and jam the pre-First Year session into it? We need to make a plan for and get started on next year’s First Years, too.”

“I have the perfect candidate,” Madame Isabelle tells them. “He is an IMEA certified child caregiver and advocate, his wife is a full healer and he has two Hogwarts-aged children. Can you meet him tomorrow?”

“Dinner tomorrow? I’d like to meet his whole family. Would his wife be interested in a position at Hogwarts?”

“I’ll floo him when we’re done here and get back to you.” She makes a note on a pad she had pulled from her purse when he started handing out assignments before. “You still need a Headmaster.”

“You said I had two qualified people already on staff?”

“You have two certified educators on staff.” Madame Isabelle corrects. “Pomona Sprout has been at Hogwarts almost 50 years and is certified as an educator by the IMEA but she has expressed that she is not interested in being Headmaster. On the other hand, Andromeda Tonks has all three certifications the IMEA provides for educators and school administrators and is willing to take the job but she’s only been at the school three years. Your charter requires professors to work at the school for 10 before they can be considered for Headmaster.”

“She’s a Hogwarts graduate so, in a way, she has ten years of Hogwart’s experience,” Harry responds. “And I think my ancestors would agree that the proper education is a more important qualifier than seniority or favoritism.” He turns to Augusta. “Give Tonks the job and have her get started. I’ve had classes with her for three years, so while I’m sure we’ll need to talk before the term begins, I don’t feel the need to interview her.”

“I’ll firm up employment packages with Gaia and contact Andromeda. It will probably be tomorrow before we get that settled, though.”

“That’s fine. I’d like to have employment packages for the Coordinator and the Healer before dinner tomorrow as well.”

She nods and stands, everyone stands with her. “With your permission, we’ll get started.”

Harry nods.

Gaia verifies that he doesn’t want her to stay and turns to leave but not before Hermione hands her a roll of parchment which the lawyer takes with a smile.

“I’m sorry.” Neville speaks up again. “I got a little lost in the Potter Inquisition. Did you say that we, Lord Potter and his allies, need to live at Hogwarts?” He asks Embeth. “No one lives at Hogwarts.”

“You are correct, no one lives at Hogwarts. Hogwarts is a school. The castle is Peverell Keep and it is the ancestral home of the Potter Family. There are heavy Familial Wards all over the place and there are several floors and a large wing, if not an entire building, hidden behind them strictly for Potter use. They haven’t been accessed in a long time, but it all belongs to Lord Potter and he can definitely live there along with anyone he likes.”

6 Comments:

  1. I’m just kind of in love with your author note and it seriously jumpstarted my mood. Now I need to go actually read…. 😉

  2. This fascinating and kind of fantastic. 🙂 I’m really loving this story, and I’m so excited that I’ve still got so much more to read!

    Thanks so much!

  3. I’m in love with your self-indulgence right now. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Fascinating read!

  5. You’ve got NO IDEA how happy I was to find this here so I can read it again. WOOTWOOT!!! And it’s really fun coming up against the subtle changes and tweaking you’ve done since this was on FB. I’m LOVING IT!!!!!

  6. Great story

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