Oathbound – Chapter 17-20

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:
33,617

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.


Banner by Myan Mystic Moon

Chapter 17 – August 9, 1996

 

Harry’s castle has been overrun with Blacks.

And not just Blacks with the Black name. No everyone alive that has been sired by, birthed by, adopted of, or married to a Black. Apparently, Lupin took on the task of tracing down and contacting all living branches of the family tree for Sirius while Sirius was in the mind-healing trance. Cool. Awesome. Family reunion, yeah!

The problem is Blaise. Well, not specifically Blaise and it isn’t Blaise’s fault but after discovering that Blaise is Sirius’s child. The problem is that Sirius sequestered with Dorian and Nyota Zabini as well as Gaia for legal representation to hammer out a marriage contract, so that Sirius could Claim Blaise. All well, good, and honorable, to ensure his son can claim his rightful inheritance complete with heir-position. Except for the fact that it leaves Harry to play host so almost 100 people he has never met before.

They are an eclectic group, Harry can confidently testify, but having breakfast at the same table as both a clan of werewolves and clan of werewolf hunters is not an experience he would ever like to repeat.

Thankfully Blaise has some sort of conflict-soothing magic because every time someone starts to get pissy, he’s there and he settles the whatever-it-is before it actually becomes a problem.

Draco is the opposite. He seems to have lost the little bit of tact he had since claiming his lordship and has no problem telling any of them when they are being stupid. Harry’s fairly certain the old, male hunter… Gerald? Gerard? is actively planning Draco’s cold-blooded murder.

Moody is sure of it too, based on the amount of time he’s spent hovering in either Draco or Gerard’s general vicinity.

Fortunately, they’ve foisted off arranging Sirius’s Ascension to Draco. Normally they would just make an appointment and everyone go to the Bank but Floo travel with this many people? This many new-to-the-Wizarding-World people? Not happening. They do not make portkeys large enough for this group.

Also exposing an entire Pack -or two? Harry isn’t exactly clear on all the social lines here- altogether to portkeys for the first time goes firmly under the heading of ‘VERY BAD IDEA!’ That’s definitely an individual event, not a team sport.

Besides the Director, his retinue, and his security are a much smaller body than the Black Family conglomerate.

Now to get said conglomerate into the East Ballroom on time without the maiming. Or the blood.

-*-

The Hen, also known as Ms. Dottie, has adopted Tom.

It’s below his dignity and he knows he should hate it but she’s mothering him. It’s something he’s never had. It’s fascinating. She woke him with whip cream-covered chocolate chip pancakes. He didn’t even know such a thing could be real. Served breakfast in bed style on a sterling silver service set embossed with the Riddle Crest.

Ms. Dottie’s pancakes are more magical than all the unicorns in the Forbidden Forest and that’s a fact!

In the interest of maintaining his source for whip cream-covered chocolate chip pancakes, Tom allows himself to be taken on a tour of the manor house, it’s gardens, and the extended grounds complete with chicken hutch, duck and goose pond, and the field in the far back end currently empty of any grazer-type animals.

They make it back to the house for lunch and after a round of sandwiches he gets Ms. Dottie out of the house with a question to her husband that Tom can’t even really remember. Something about the roof, maybe? And throws up a mild muggle repelling charm that will keep her and anyone else that decides to visit remembering urgent appointments anywhere else until at least sundown.

He inspects his work for a moment and then nods. It’ll do what he wants and not encourage negative feelings towards him. Perfect. Never mind that it’s the best he can do wandless.

Not that he’ll be wandless for long.

He makes his way up to the second floor to his grandfather’s office, the muggle equivalent of what would be the ‘Lord’s Library’ in the wizarding world. He moves the leather upholstered chair around to the front of the desk and starts rolling up the carpet. When he.. enchanted the Ring, about 53years ago now, he made a secret compartment in his grandfather’s office. A hidden magical lock box to hold his trophies and journals.

By the look of it he lived quite a while after making the Ring because the compartment now has expansion charms on it giving it at least three times the original capacity.

Inside the compartment are a few dozen trophy wands. Wands taken from both fallen challengers and from those that stood in the way of his path to his rightful place as ruler of all. Tom pulls them out and reviews them. Several of the wands had had unicorn hair at their cores which died along with their original masters, those he discards immediately. Very few of the remaining have experienced any dark arts but very few of the wands with still-living cores seem to have any great loyalty to their old masters.

After probably too much internal debate he pockets the one that feels best in his hands and puts the rest back, taking care to keep the dead wands separate from the rest. Wouldn’t want the live wands to get any ideas.

Also inside the compartment are stacks of journals. How his previous incarnation had so much time to write… well it might explain why he didn’t achieve their goals.

Or, he had a master journal that he wrote in and disbursed his entries by subject through the subordinate journals, as he reads on the first page of the first one he picks up. The master journal was separate from his horcrux journal. It could evaluate his entries by subject or subjects, then it would duplicate them into correct sub-journal(s) while keeping the entries in the sub-journals in order by date for easy retrieval. The original entry would be removed from the master journal, leaving him with plenty of space for future writings.

Rather ingenious but it left him with a lot of possibly very redundant reading ahead of him.

Tom takes the lot to a nearby seating arrangement and sorts the journals, grouping them by subject and then sorting the subjects by importance. Picking up the first book in the most important subject -his immortality- Tom settles in for a read.

-*-

Sirius walks into the East Ballroom in Peverell Keep with only Moony at his side.

For a room so stunningly full of family and goblins, it is eerily quiet. There is a lot of distinct grouping going on as well. With Moony just a step behind, Sirius makes his way up and onto the platform the goblins have set against the interior wall.

In the center of the platform is a tall desk with two writing stations at the right height for an average full-grown wizard – hilariously, there are a too little high to be comfortable for Sirius and a too little low to be comfortable for Remus. Standing on a bar chair on the other side of the desk is Director Ragnok. The leader of the Horde is holding a shot of potion out for each of them.

With a nod and remembering both Harry and Healer Len’s admonishments to try to not taste the potion, Sirius throws it back. He fails a little and learns that the potion is indeed nasty. He manages not to gag but he’s pretty sure he can hear a few mean little snickers in the audience anyway.

The quill he has in his non-dominant, right hand writes out the expected –

Inheritance: Lordship, House of Black – by right of Blood and Magic.

And accepts the poiso- er, potion’s antidote.

He and Moony sort of lean on each other while the Goblin verifies that Remus’s two older male cousins have more right to carry on his father’s line than he does and that his mother’s line isn’t anything to write home about.

Remus, or rather Remus’s wolf, has been needy and constantly touching Sirius since they met again in the Three Broomsticks. It’s expected and counter to popular opinion it’s not remotely sexual. The wolf has been alone for 16 years and suddenly got a pack mate back, so he’s touching Sirius to make sure Sirius is real and to make sure their scents mingle as pack-scents should.

At this point the Wolf’s attention could turn dangerous for outsiders trying to getting close to Sirius but everyone that’s tried recently has either been smart enough or instinctual enough to include Remus in snuggle time or has actively and honestly agreed to join the Remus’s little pack.

It doesn’t take long for Ragnok to verify that Sirius may adopt Remus.

“The Bank has magically verified the right of Sirius Orion Black to the Lordship of House Black.” The goblin tells those gathered once he’s good and ready. “Do you wish to accept the title today?” He asks Sirius.

“I do.” A slightly battered ring box pops onto the platform. They write out a little statement about his lordship together and once the goblin has it sealed, Sirius opens the Black ring box.

Inside is his grandfather’s ring. It’s a thick white gold band that’s kind of flattened on top. Running the width of his finger at the of the top of the ring is a black band of some stone Sirius has never known the name of. Bisecting that black band not quite in the middle is a large diamond set so that it is cradled by the black all around it.

Not waiting for the Goblin, Sirius slipped the ring on the center finger of his right hand, took up his wand, and spoke. “I am Sirius Orion Black, Lord of the House of Black!” Silver and gold sparks fly from his wand.

Now time to settle the Family Magic. Sirius turns to Remus, Harry isn’t the only one with a best friend in need of protection. “Ready, Moony?”

Remus nods so Sirius cuts his thumb and starts drawing runes. Brother, brother, family – he established their new magical relationship. Cunning, intelligence, strength – the virtues of their family. Acceptance – the emotional definition of their relationship, Sirius accepting Remus as a werewolf and Remus accepting that Sirius isn’t everything people say about his family.

Even in the light of the Ballroom both Sirius and Remus’s shadows deepen until they look like pools of ink on the ground dancing on the ground. Shadow-Sirius embraces Shadow-Remus like a brother. The shadows pull apart and they transform into ink blots of Padfoot and Moony. The two canines then proceed to race in opposite directions around the room and touch every member of the family present before meeting in a headlong collision once again in front of Sirius and Remus and exploding into brightly colored ticker tape that rains down over their family.

-*-

He wakes in pain and immediately starts taking stock.

He’s alone. He’s in bed. He’s wearing that silly, frilly sleep shirt that makes Narcissa laugh every time she sees it. He’s hot. He’s cold. He’s sweating and his chest hurts. No, not his chest. His core.

He’s never really thought about that term before. Core. Magical Core. He’s always known he has magic inside of him but he’s always thought of is as a reservoir. A pool. It’s definitely a core. Both the foundation of who he is and a support rod running through the center of his body to hold him upright.

Right now it is trapped is a furious black chain of magic. Or a chain of Black Family magic? The chain is slowly heaving tighter as if tugged by a team of men- no, a team of Giants!

Tight. Tighter. His core shatters like glass in a storm. A cold wind tears through his soul, leaving him empty and shaking.

He’s in pain. He can barely feel the left side of his body. He’s dizzy and his heart is pounding. He can’t get enough air. Sound is returning but words are stolen by the rushing in his ears. Tones happen. Narcissa is upset. Scared.

Narcissa should never be upset. It’s not allowed.

He opens his eyes. A strange woman is leaning over him, instructing someone behind him that he can’t see. His world tilts, they’re sitting him up. The stranger puts a vial to his mouth, he refuses to drink. He knows better. He won’t take anything from a stranger!

Narcissa leans forward over his shoulder, takes control of the vial, and nods to him encouragingly.

He drinks. The world goes dark.

“What the-!” The healer exclaims as both women work to rebalance the overwrought wizard. “That was a calming Draught! With a bit of pain relief! It shouldn’t -!”

Narcissa giggles, it’s watery and weak but still a giggle. “Lucius has always been a dreadful light weight.”

-*-

“Now,” Sirius addresses the assembled, rubbing his hands together. “In case there was any doubt in any of your minds, there used to be a bunch of asshats in our family that cut up our family tree like they were making paper dolls. I gathered you here because it was my intention to reclaim the people cut out unfairly but not all of them are alive and, of course, our family tree has spread so we’re going to so a Family Claiming ritual.

“Similar to an Heir Claiming ritual which allows a Lord to declare a biological child as their heir through magic, we’ll run down the family lines. I’ll identify your place on the family tree and you will accept it or not. Should you accept, our family magic will start actively working with you and you will all be connected to me as your Lord.

“Many of you are new to Magic, so I want to explain to you that Magic is in every living thing. Magic is intelligent. You cannot lie to Lady Magic, she sees the truth. Always. Most of the people in this room are marked by Magic. You could say we’re her favorites. That means Magic will defend you, your homes, your loved ones, your dog. Everything. And she can be vicious.

“Many of us either have training or are getting training to control our Magic. Many of you need magical training and it would be my pleasure and my duty to provide that to you as your Lord. Training your magic allows you to focus it through certain tasks and guide it into helpful paths rather than just blowing up the boy next door that annoys you or that clerk that won’t sign your form.

“As we are all related and from one of the older magical families in addition to personal magic, we have something called Family Magic. Family Magic is pool that strengthens us mentally, emotionally, and magically as individuals. It also connects us to each other for protection, for learning, and for our everyday human needs and support.

“The Black Family Magic, in particular, is powerful and protective. It can become lethal with very little cause and it is unforgiving. If you choose to accept me as your Lord, I can focus it. I can direct it. I’ll be able to use it for your protection and the protection of those you care about.

“However, being your Lord also gives me many magical and legal rights over you. It will give me insight into who you are magically, mentally, and emotionally so that I can make good decisions on your behalf and behalf of our family. I can also use it to punish wrong doers both within and against our family.

“Before you accept me as your Lord, I want to be very clear. I will accept no bigotry. If you have a problem with muggles, muggle-borns, half-bloods, or werewolves, you can leave right now. Our family already has all of these and we will be taking on more. In fact, I’m considering tracking down a vampire and a veela so that we have the set, got it?”

He takes a moment to look in each individual’s eyes. They all nod, some reluctantly, some looking like they might start clapping.

“Alright,” He pulls out the scroll Remus prepared for him. “We’re just going to do the modern parts of our family starting with the children of Lord Arcturus Ursus Black because, honestly, if we went back any further we might as well invite the whole island and a few countries besides.

“Arcturus Urus had four children. Sirius the First was the oldest but he died at age eight leaving the lordship to his younger brother Phineas Nigellus. Phineas Nigellus was famous for being the least popular Headmaster Hogwarts ever had. He had five children all together but we can trace the Lordship through Phineas Nigellus’s son Sirius the Second to my grandfather Arcturus Phineas, skipping my father Orion Arcturus, and coming to me – Sirius Orion. I have two brothers. My first brother Regulus Arcturus is dead and I adopted Remus John into our family just minutes ago.

“My father Orion had a sister, Lucretia, who married Lord Ignatius Prewett. While she lived my aunt bore three children, twin boys Fabian and Gideon, and a daughter who shall not be named or ever accepted by the Family Black. After the loss of his children, Lord Prewett accepted his grandson William Weasley-Prewett as his heir in blood and magic.”

Sirius looks up and speaks directly to the man in question. “Lord Prewett, you are Head of your own House but you may accept the touch and aid of the Black Family magic and renew our blood-alliance. Do you accept?”

Lord Prewett stands tall as he walks into the open area directly in front of Sirius with Bill Weasley in his shadow. Despite his advanced age, he uses his cane more as a dramatic prop than a physical aid. He answers Sirius with a nod. “I do. Shall I owl you to discuss terms?”

“That will do. Be welcome in our Family.” Sirius returns to his scroll as the two mean disappear back into the crowd. “My grandfather Arcturus Phineas had two siblings, a sister named Lycoris and a brother named Regulus. All have passed through the Veil, including Regulus’s two children and Lycoris’s son Elphinstone, however Elphinstone Urquart’s beloved wife Minerva McGonagall is still with us. Madame McGonagall, you have not remarried. Do you wish to maintain your position within the family Black as wife of Elphinstone Urquart?”

“I do.” She answers and pulls a small blond haired boy closer to her like a mother bird pulling her child under her wing. “I also request, my lord, familial protection for my nephew John Hamish Watson. He is the only son of my squib sister and quite magical. He will be starting Hogwarts in September.”

Wow, proof that Minerva McGonagall didn’t spring from the ground whole and knowing everything. Sirius nods with a grin. “I welcome you and John Hamish Watson to the House of Black through a daughter of the primary line, Lycoris Ilsa Black. Be welcome in our Family.”

Minerva curtsies and John bows with a pair of “Thank you, my lord”s.

“The second child of Lord Phineas Nigellus was Phineas the Second. Phineas the Second was removed from our family tree for marrying a muggle-born and for his fierce belief in the equal rights of all. Unfortunately, his entire family was wiped out in the war against Grindlewald and there remains no one to reclaim.

“The third child of Lord Phineas Nigellus was yet another Arcturus. This Arcurus, middle name Regulus, sired three daughters -Callidora, Cedrella, and Charis.

“Callidora wed Lord Harfang Longbottom and provided him with two children, a son Xavier and a daughter Enid.” He doesn’t hold back a smile as Callidora leads the Longbottom contingent into the open space. She doesn’t look a day over six-, er, fifty-five in her lovely deep green gown. “Xavier Longbottom was the grandfather of the current Longbottom lord, Neville Xavier Longbottom.”

Looking his godson’s husband right in the eye, Sirius asks. “Lord Longbottom, you are Head of your own House but you may accept the touch and aid of the Black Family magic and continue our blood-alliance. Do you accept?”

“Of course, we’ve already negotiated the terms.” And they have, last night. The renewed Black-Longbottom alliance is a good chunk of the reason the mother of Sirius’s heir-to-be agreed to marry him.

“Callidora’s younger sister is Cedrella. Cedrella was removed from our family for marrying to so-called ‘blood traitor’ Lord Septimus Weasley.” Sirius shoots the older, seated woman a warm look as her descendants gently levitate her into the clear area. Standing up against pureblood politics in the old House of Black would have been incredibly difficult, especially for a daughter. “Cedrella, you bore your lord three fine sons, including Lord Bilius Weasley, and your sons have provided you with seven grandchildren so far. Please know that you are always welcome in the house of your fathers.”

Cedrella Weasley nods regally, accepting his acknowledgements and reinstatement as her due.

“Lord Weasley, as Head of your own House you may accept the touch and aid of the Black Family magic for all who follow you. Do you wish to initiate a blood-alliance?”

“I believe it would be wise.” The world-famous Chaser agrees. “Perhaps a meeting at Gringott’s?”

“We will make arrangements. Be welcome in our Family.”

“Charis was younger sister of Callidora and Cedrella. She was wed to Lord Caspar Crouch and provided him with three children. Her son and grandson, Bartemius Crouch Senior and Junior respectively, have both passed but her daughters Sabryna and Jenae remain with us.” The two ‘maiden aunties’ step forward. “The lordship of Crouch is now defunct. Do the two of you wish to maintain your status as protected members, as daughters of the House of Black?”

“We do, milord.” They say together.

“Very well. Be welcome in our Family.”

“The fourth child of Lord Phineas Nigellus was a daughter, Belvina. Belvina married Herbert Burke who was not a lord but a respected business man, maintaining the domain of House of Black over her and her children. I still have to introduce you for the sake of the ritual, though.” The three children, two grand Children and two great grand children of Belvina step forward along with another man. “Belvina and Herbert’s first born son is Caractacus Burke, co-founder and proprietor of Borgin and Burke’s. Who is this with you?”

“This is my… business partner, milord, Severus Borgin.”

“You do know you can marry him, right?”

“Excuse me, milord?”

“You can marry your partner.” Sirius says a little slower, taking care to enunciate. “I know past lords have been asshats but I believe we’ve covered the part about bigots not being allowed in the family? I meant all bigots, not just blood purists. You can marry him, if you want, and if anyone has a problem with it, they can leave.”

The older man pales and his eyes grow to the size of saucers. “Th- th- thank you, milord.”

Sirius tells them to “Be welcome in our Family,” with a single nod and moves on. “Nigellus Burke married Rhianon Owen and you have one son, Rama Burke.” The three in question nod. “Be welcome in our family.

“Elizabeth Burke married Edmund MacDougal and bore Christof MacDougal, father of Morag and Isobel MacDougal.” Sirius looks up at Edmund. “I understand your line will be eligible to claim the House of MacAlpin with your grandchildren.”

“If there is a son, yes, he will be the first head of House MacAlpin.”

“Alright.” Sirius glances at the two resentful looking little girls. The older one must be in Harry’s year, if not the year before it, and younger one looks to be about a Fourth Year. The younger one actually seems more resentful of having to have a little brother than the older. Weird. “Be welcome in our Family.”

The lot of them bobble respectfully in place and step back.

“Finally! The youngest child of Lord Phineas Nigellus was Cygus Aurelius. Cygus Aurelius had four children. His oldest son Pollux was my grandfather through my mother, his daughter Walburga.”

“Pollux’s first son, Alphard Fidelus Black was disowned when he refused to repudiate his wife after she and their daughter were attacked by a werewolf. A werewolf who killed his daughter and changed his wife. Alphard, along with other disowned members of the family, invented the New Moon Amulet to make her safe for society. After the invention of the Amulet, Alphard and his wife had a son Deucalion who was born a werewolf.” Alphard and his tall but haggard looking son Deucalion move to stand together before Sirius.

“It probably didn’t help my family membership that I helped you when you ran away.”

Sirius grins at his uncle. “Probably not. All the more reason to bring you back into the fold, if you are willing?”

“We are.”

“Be welcome in our Family.”

Alphard and Deucalion bow and fade back into the crowd.

“My grandfather Pollux had a second son, Cygus the Second. Cygus the Second was another man in our family with three daughters.

“His oldest daughter, Bellatrix, ran away from home after a betrothal with a known wife-murder was signed on her behalf. To save face her parents falsely reported her death in a swimming accident. I reverse that declaration of death and welcome Bellatrix back into the fold.

“We also welcome Bella’s adopted son, Valerian Rae Evans-.” Sirius frowns at the child. This child can’t be a- a Pendragon? Sirius looks to his godson who shakes his head and the silent question. Sirius raises an expectant eyebrow to indicate he is due an explanation but moves on. “Into the House of Black.”

“Additionally, when Bella ran, she was found and eventually adopted by Sergei and Natalia Krum. By virtue of their good deeds on behalf of a young and vulnerable member of our house, I welcome Sergei and Natalia Krum as well as their children and grand children in perpetuity into the embrace and protection of our family magic. Be welcome in our Family.”

More bows and “thank you milords” and Sirius moves on.

“Bella has two younger sisters.

“The older of Bellatrix’s sisters is Andromeda -the current Headmistress of Hogwarts- who was disowned for marrying a muggle-born wizard named Edward Tonks. I bid Andromeda and Edward as well as their children Nymphadora and Theodore to be welcome in our Family.

“The younger of Bellatrix’s sisters is Narcissa who married Lucius Mafloy in an agreement that made House of Malfoy subordinate to House of Black for the next three generations. Narcissa is mother of the current Lord of Malfoy, Draco. Draco, be welcome in our Family.”

“Cygus Aurelius’s next child was a daughter, Cassiopeia. Great Aunt Cassie lived a nice long life publishing books under a variety of pseudonyms and generally having a grand old time being a busybody and gossip. May she rest in peace.

“Cygus Aurelius’s third child was a son named Marius. Marius is a squib and he was disowned for being a squib. What the bigots refuse to acknowledge is that Marius and his wife Athena who is also a squib are two of the cleverest magical inventors in the last three hundred years and were instrumental in the creation of the New Moon Amulet which allows werewolves to be safe and fully functioning members of our society.

“It is my pleasure to bring Marius, his wife Athena, and their sons, Jonathan and Andrew into the House of Black. Be welcome in our Family.”

After that lot does their bow-y bit and moves back into the crowd, Sirius smiles over at his godson.

“Cygus Aurelius’s last child was Dorea. Dorea married Charlus Potter, the grandfather of the current Lord of House Potter, Hadrian. Hadrian is my godson and Hermione Potter is his sister. The Potters and the Blacks have a powerful mutual-defense agreement active. Be welcome in our Family, Harry.”

“Those are all the children of Phineas Nigellus, son of Arcturus Ursus. Arcturus Ursus had two other children, both daughters.” That Sirius hadn’t even known had bred before Remus did his little research project.

“The elder daughter, Elladora, married Lachesis Gaunt and provided him with one child. That line ended in the Autumn of 1981 with the death of Elladora’s great grandson, Tom Marvolo Riddle.”

His sharp ears picked up Harry’s gasp and Sirius adds it to his mental list of things to question Harry about later.

“Arcturus Ursus’s youngest child was Isla. Isla was disowned by the family for marrying a muggle-born wizard, Robert Hitchens. Isla and Bob had two children. The first was Aphrodite Hitchens who moved to the United States and whose only daughter Marguerite was bitten by a werewolf. She mated with Daniel Hale and together they eventually ascended to alpha-pair of the Hale Clan.” This time Remus gasps but Sirius doesn’t need to ask why. He’s well aware that the Hales are pretty much werewolf royalty. And, yeah, these are those Hales even if Moony didn’t seem to recognize it before. “It says here that Marguerite had three children but I only see two of you?” Sirius looks up, aiming the question at the female standing center front and being deferred to unquestioningly by the rest of the group.

“I am Olivia Hale.” She introduces herself so that everyone can hear. “My parents Marguerite and Daniel Hale as well as my youngest brother Gage, our middle sibling Archer’s wife Paula, and Archer’s son Jason were murdered by hunters two years ago.” Her eyes flick furiously over toward the last group that he hasn’t introduced to the rest yet. “While doing the very threatening act of harvesting apples from the orchard on our family’s private land.”

Angry rumbles sound from numerous throats behind and around Olivia.

“This is my daughter, Talia.” Olivia says, obviously trying to change the subject. “And her husband Erik. They currently have three children -Laura, Derek, and Cora- but I’m certain I can get at least two more out of them. My older son Peter and his two children – Jackson and Malia. And these are my babies, Sophia and Samuel.

“My brother Archer and his human wife Paula had three sons. Now he has two, Matthew and Jacob – Jason’s twin. This is Jacob’s son, Gavin.

“This is my second brother Gage’s wife, and my fellow Alpha, Satomi Ito. Gage and Satomi have three children, Elizabeth, Tiberius, and Stephanie.”

“We’ll need to have several conversations, Alpha Hale.” Sirius says carefully as he has to walk the line between ‘I am your Lord, obey me’ and ‘don’t piss off the werewolf queen’. “There is a great deal of magic in running through the veins of the descendants of Marguerite and Daniel Hale. It would be very dangerous for it to remain untrained. If you wish, I can treat you as the Head of another House and we can initiate a blood-alliance. You can accept the touch and aid of the Black Family magic as well as legal and magical protection of House of Black. What say you?”

“I say I look forward to our negotiations and I want more information on these New Moon Amulets.”

“At the very least, we will get you New Moon Amulets for every family member that wants one and we can ward your homes against Hunter intrusions like the one that stole your parents from you.”

“Then we have a preliminary accord.”

“Be welcome in our Family, House of Hale.”

Now Sirius turns to face the very last family group involved in the ceremony and for the first time he feels uneasy in his choice of how to strengthen the Family Black.

“The final branch of our family.” He tells the room. “The second child of Isla and Bob Hitchens was a son named Sirius. He left England for Spain and married Telma Calavera, a female in a family of hunters that at the time specialized in a variety of coastal boogey-beasts. Their daughter Hazel was given in treaty-marriage to the French hunter family that to this day specializes in werewolves, the Argents.

“It is my hope that by bringing you together with the Hales and that by showing you that you are both related and not all that different from each other, you will stop this foolish war you are indulging in.” Sirius eyes the two senior Argents pointedly. “You are killing innocent people based on the bad acts of one long ago person driven insane by catastrophic loss. What say you?”

The fifty-something year old female speaks first. “I am in the business of protecting innocents. All innocents. No matter their affliction. If you say there has been a… misunderstanding, I will set aside this feud and hear your evidence.” She pauses and then adds, “These are my children, Alexander, Charlotte, and Alain.” Then, as almost an afterthought she adds. “My lord.”

Right after that the one that Harry hates and has marked as trouble speaks up loud and angry. “I will not be family to dogs! I am not! The very idea is vile and preposterous!”

“Then you may go. Alastor will escort you out.” And promptly obliviate you when you get there.

“Come, we’re leaving.” The old man, Gerard, moves to take the hand of the little girl in the group but the girl’s father gets in his way.

“No.” The girl’s father pushes his own father away from his little girl.

“Chris, what are you doing?” The woman that had been peacefully hanging off Chris’s arm asks him sharply.

“Did you not listen to what he said?” Chris asks. “We’ve been killing innocents but more than that there is magic in our blood and it is dangerous. I will not allow any one’s closed minds to endanger my daughter. She will be evaluated and then I will make the best choice for her.”

“I am a woman, a leader, in the Argent Clan. I am descendant of the primary Argent line. You will not talk to me that way.” The red-haired Harpy tells her husband. “Allison is the next Argent Matriarch and I will not have her corrupted by a bunch of dog lovers. We will go. Now.”

“No.” Chris says again, more strongly this time. “I will protect our daughter. Even from you.”

“If you refuse my orders your placement in the Argent Family will come into question. You will lose our daughter’s inheritance for her. You- ”

“Mother.” The nine year old speaks up. “Daddy’s right. I am magic. I know I am. No one is as lucky as I am all the time. I need to learn to control it. I might hurt someone on accident or something. You do what you think is best but daddy and I will stay with Auntie Desiree.

“Besides, Grand-Mere Adi thinks I’m the best thing on Earth. She’ll get mad at you if I tell her you stood in the way of training I need.”

The Harpy makes a displeased noise but doesn’t argue further. She just walks over to Alastor. She is quickly joined Gerard and a saucy blonde woman with the crazy smile.

Once the doors to the ballroom are again closed Sirius turns to Chris. “You’re well shot of her. You realize she was cheating on you with your sister. Right?”

-*-

Frowning, Tom reviews his list.

Five Horcruxes. He’s at the higher end of Mage-potential so he should be able to make one more but his instincts are screaming at him not to. Why? He has the magic to support it. Maybe because he just doesn’t have a living enemy worthy of severing his soul for? That must be it.

Well, no matter. He’ll be making worthy enemies soon enough once he resumes his climb to the top. He will be King of All and no one will stop him this time.

Still. It would probably be wise to invite his disembodied soul-self to inhibit the Ring. No need to be careless.

He flips to the right page of his Immortality journal. The ritual looks simple enough. He mastered the making of blood candles years ago. He can get dragon blood from any apothecary and he definitely has control of the market for his own blood. The Unicorn blood will be tricky to come by but that’s what minions are for.

Thinking of.

He walks out into the garden and searches the exposed rocks around the various ponds until he finds a garden snake resting in the sun. Holding the snake so that it’s chin rests on the pad of his thumb and it’s body wraps itself around his wrist, he focuses on the snake’s eyes and reaches into the animal’s spirit.

There, he can feel them. Snake spirits sunk into the arms of wizards and laced with his will. There are more of them than he intended to mark, which is strange, but then more Knights fighting for his cause is a good thing and -.

Oh, that’s why. He’s linked his Knights to feed himself magically. That is brilliant. Not only do they make him stronger just by existing, it guarantees they can’t back out and that they can’t betray him. Would they even be able to lie to him at all? Tom knows himself to be very difficult to lie to but if he’s also holding their very Core in the palm of his hand, ready to crush it at any moment, sensitive to every tremor and change? Not bloody likely.

It’s glorious! It’s brilliant! He needs to focus.

He sends his anger through the little physical snake and into the other spiritual snakes around the globe. He lets it burn through him, through the snake, and through his followers for at least ten minutes. Then he follows it up with a warning. A single word.

“Soon.”

-*-

Sirius kisses his brand new wife’s cheek and turns to their assembled families. “May I present to you my wife, Lady Nyota Kestrel Black!” Their witnesses all clap, some understand the meaning of these events more than others but that’s okay, that’s expected.

“Just a few announcements and we can all adjourn to the hall next door for a well-deserved meal.

“First of all, it is my honor and my duty to claim Blaise Orion Black formerly Zabini as my son and the Heir to the House of Black.”

A second round of applause sounds.

“Second, I want to make it clear that our House serves no one. We stand united under a Lord of our blood but no bigot and no dictator will have any say in our actions. We will work at the dictate of our own conscience to help those that cannot help themselves  I hereby call on Lady Magic to judge all those in the embrace of our Family Magic and marked by the will of another,” AKA Lucius fucking Malfoy. “May our Lady decide if those Marked may stand among us as Blacks or if they will be cast out as slaves to another.”

“Third,” This time Sirius looks at the Goblins still in attendance. “We have a number of family members that will be visiting for quite some time. I would rather we not wear out our welcome at Peverell Keep but I am aware that there are numerous curses and dark objects in and on the various Black homes. I wish to hire your curse-breakers to cleanse these properties and make them livable again.”

“Of course, milord.” Ni-ogg, son of Ragnok says with a nod that is almost but not really a bow. “Have you considered updating wards as well?”

“Good idea. Please do the Raven’s Nest on Grimmauld Place in London first and then Black Keep in Aberdeenshire. Cleanse them completely and update the wards. Then I’d like estimates for the cost to do the same to the rest of them.”

-*-

Molly sits alone. Abandoned! Under the glaring interrogation lights of the DMLE. She probably sits there for… Only Merlin knows. Minutes? Hours? She can’t tell. The light is disorienting and it’s the only thing she can really see.

The clink of a tray being set on the table pulls her from her light-induced stupor. Lunch? No some sort of implements and a few vials. She chokes on air when she recognizes Veritaserum.

“You can’t do this to me!” She shouts at the light. “I am a pure blood! I have rights!”

A hooded Unspeakable and a man in Auror battle robes step into the edges of the light.

“Actually,” She can’t really tell but she thinks it must be the Unspeakable talking. “You were born to a pure-blood family, that we have record of. However, since that point, you have been completely disowned and striped of the Name you were born to. No other line or lordship is willing to claim you so, legally, that makes you a muggleborn.”

“As a muggleborn,” Now the other is speaking and steps forward. It’s Shacklebolt! “The evidence provided to us from the Account Manager of an Ancient and Noble House showing illegal payments from the Potter Accounts into your private one by Albus Dumbledore, gives us all the right we need to question you in front of a Judge using Veritaserum.

“Now, you can open your mouth and stick out your tongue or we can force feed it to you. What’s your choice?”

 

 

Chapter 18 – August 10, 1996

 

It’s still early Tuesday morning when Bill Weasley leads a group of two other human and two goblin curse breakers into the Raven’s Nest. With a signed and sealed order from the Lord of Black, Bill is Black enough to gain admittance through the blood wards on the Grimmauld property for himself and his party. Thankfully. Because the.. penalties on the blood ward start with a thoroughly illegal-level or permanent maiming, proceed to death and seem to have afterlife-curses worked in.

If he had ever had any doubts he was clinging to that the Blacks were not nice people, that doubt is gone.

What he wishes was gone, though, is the smell. It hadn’t been that strong in the entrance hall while he’d been pulling the members of his party through the ward but once they made it to the stairwell, it was bad. Like someone had murdered a colony of mice and left them above ground to rot.

They searched for the source of the smell.

The House Elf heads mounted on the walls of the stairwell were correctly preserved so the smell isn’t coming from them. Still, Bill points them out to the team because they are number two on the list of things Lord Sirius wants removed posthaste. They also take a moment to stun and petrify the portrait of Walburga Black because that’s the number one thing slated for removal.

There isn’t much on the ground floor other than the formal dining room. It doesn’t have anything scary in the unless you count the spiders but they’re just tiny little things that aren’t even venomous, so Bill doesn’t. No smell-source there either.

Bill isn’t keen on them splitting up so they pick a new floor together. One of the other humans in the group, Geri, is of werewolf heritage and he insists that the smell is coming from down stairs, so they go down.

There seems to be a single level below ground level and it is mostly one chamber. A kitchen. A huge kitchen that must be larger than the townhouse’s actual footprint and at least two stories tall. The cabinetry is a rich cherry wood, or it probably would be without the dust and cobwebs. There is a long, thin table of cheaper construction than the cabinets running through the center.

On this wooden table is a house elf. A dirty, broken little house elf that seems to have choked itself to death on a golden chain holding a cursed locket. It was a messy death, too, poor thing. Wrecked the kitchen and no one is going to want to eat of that table ever again but at least they found the source of the smell.

The goblins, seemingly not bothered by the death of their fellow creature, start casting. They quickly progress from verifying the cause of death to cleaning up the mess and containing the locket.

“This needs to go to Ragnok.” Boulder, senior of the two goblins tells Bill. Bill shoots him a questioning glance knowing he can’t really ask once the Chieftain’s name is used. Boulder gives him a very goblin answer to his not-question. “The magical signature.”

Not satisfied but not willing to push it, Bill nods and walks him to the door with a nod. Once there he pushes the goblin back out of the wards and watches him pop away.

-*-

The Unspeakable code-name: Dolos is not having a great day.

Yesterday afternoon his Master, the one that owns his magical soul but not his loyalty, returned. The strength of his Master’s fury had knocked him on his ass and left him full of dread. This, of course, lead to Croaker suggesting he spend the next week maintaining his cover in the Publishing Overseer’s Office.

Which, yeah, should be more restful than his actual workload down in the DoM and could help his magical recovery and emotional equilibrium but is also puts him where other Death Eaters can approach him. Dammit.

Not that many approach him. There may be ‘no masks before our lord’ but that doesn’t mean Death Eaters all know each other.

It was thoroughly frustrating for Dolos back when he tried to write a list for his bosses only to realize he couldn’t remember names. And faces were hazy too.

Only the most senior Death Eaters know names, faces, and the assignments of others. Small fish were only allowed to remember their assigned tasks, said task’s necessary personnel, and their lord’s general emotional state, specifically if they had disappointed him somehow or not.

Dolos, or -as he is currently unhooded- Augustus Rookwood, could of course remember Leupold Yaxley from the Minister’s office who had recruited him to the Masked Cohort and Auror John Dawlish who he himself had recruited for the same company. Not only because of their ‘relationship’ within the company but because, before October of 1981, he’d worked his way up into cell-leadership. It meant he’d been allowed to remember the same two men as his cell-minions and that there were two other such cells in the Ministry but he only knew the leader of one.

Both men walk into his office after lunch. He’s managed to avoid them for most of the day but his free time is now over, time to be a full-time spy again.

At least the two of them have grown smart enough to make it look like they are visiting him for work. Dawlish enters wielding pro-muggle-born pamphlets like both weapon and shield. Yaxley enters clutching a book to his abdomen like armor that someone will be by at any moment to fasten on.

Augustus immediately takes control of the conversation. “You felt him?”

Both men nod.

“I heard him.” Dawlish says in a rather small, nervous voice.

“He’s back,” Yaxley agrees. “And he’s pissed. What do we do?”

“We appease him.” Dolo- Augustus tells them. “We are his eyes inside the Ministry. If we get him valuable enough intelligence or special enough items, and have them for him when his summons comes, he may spare our lives.”

“But what?” Dawlish asks them both.

Augustus Rookwood shakes his head. Hell if he knows. What’s worth his life? Or better to ask, what’s his life worth to Lord Voldemort?

-*-

Sapphire-Jade is a Goblin Matriarch. Like all Matriarchs, her was abilities were identified at a young age and she was promptly taken in by her peers.

Unlike other Matriarchs, mature Matriarchs, she is unbonded. She has no clan to watch over, no cavern of her own.

When she’d been identified, all Matriarchs were either quite young or had already chosen and were training their heirs. There was no clan for her so her existence was taken as Lady Magic’s instruction for a clan-split. There were two clans at the time large enough to consider a clan-split and both had promptly started scouting new caverns, getting a bit rough with each other over who was going to get the honor, and of course the most enjoyable for her, they started courting her interest in their clans.

Then ten years into her training a second ‘extra’ Matriarch was identified, settling down the rough stuff and ramping up the courtships.

Five years later a third was identified.

Three years after that a fourth.

There are not four clans ready to split. There are no Matriarchs about to knock off. Not through natural causes, anyway. Which of course leaves unnatural causes. Like war. But even in the last blood war the wizards indulged in only one Matriarch had given her life for her clan and they have four which means four deaths since the clans are no longer entertaining the idea of a split.

Could a civil war be on their horizon? War is primarily the domain of he-goblins but a civil war is a different beast. And could only come if, say, the Chieftain was assassinated. And only if he was assassinated by a goblin.

Needless to say the atmosphere in the Hill is quite… tense.

So Sapphire-Jade is quite ready to quit the place when she’s called above for a reprieve. It’s horrible but she’s grateful that another soul-anchor was found. Not because that leaves just one waiting around to cause what they are all certain will be a horrific war but because it lets her out.

She is quickly becoming addicted to Above and fiendfyre is a powerful emotional release.

-*-

It hurts! It hurts!

Tom wakes up by flailing right off the couch he’d fallen asleep on.

Something is wrong. What, he can’t say but it’s wrong. No, it’s gone!

Tom takes a deep breath and forces himself to think. Something connected to his magic is missing. No, it’s been destroyed.

What connected to his magic is not under his supervision and can be destroyed?

His wand? Surely if whatever evidence lock-up it could be in was going to destroy it they would have done that 15 years ago? Would he feel feedback from the destruction of his first wand? Especially after he’s laid claim to another? Yes, his first wand was far superior but it is an object, just a tool, and none of his journals indicate he bound it to his core. Considering the sheer mind-boggling quantity of minutia his old self put down, it would be in there if he had done such a thing.

One of his Knights? No, they are bound to his core, yes but the connection is one way. In. From them to him. The only way a loss of one would cause this level of a response in him would be the lost follower was if they were really powerful. Like two or three Dumbledores powerful. He’d only notice then because the incoming magic would be an ocean tide compared to the little trickle-brooks the rest give him. Surely he would have killed such a creature if it existed for the potential threat of it alone.

He touches the place inside him where the.. feeds come in. Every single one he had when he woke is still there. Can’t be that.

What’s left? His horcruxes? His greatest weakness but also a strength. His greatest secret. Something he told no one. Something he destroyed all the source material on. But he scattered them, hid them in the months going up to his final journal entry.

At that point the Diadem had been hidden in the school for years in yet another chamber that no one else knew existed or how to enter. The Ring he put in the cursed shack not long after he left Hogwarts, before he even took his first job. But in those last months he’d sent the Cup to the LeStrange’s Vault to be protected by the oh-so-feared goblins themselves, the Diary had gone to hide in the coveted Malfoy Library, and the Locket had gone to the Cave by the Sea.

If anyone had found one of his objects and, of course, survived the taken of it, they probably would have used it. Most magicals would have used it or sold it.. which would lead to it getting used and he would have resurrected earlier which means someone didn’t happen upon a horcrux.

Could they know? Could Dumbledore or someone in the Ministry know? Could whoever this mysterious they is be on a crusade to destroy his horcruxes? But how would they know? Knowing leads back down the path of finding, selling, using, and resurrecting that he’s already eliminated.

Betrayal, maybe? They boy that lent him the House Elf went missing not long after but that leads back to the whole ‘why wait 15 years?’ thing.

Whatever happened it would be wise to step up his plans to re-enchant the Ring. Tom leaves the office sitting area for the desk and picks up the note he signed and sealed with Lord Voldemort’s  personal seal the night before. To make sure they really know it’s him he needs a snake so he heads out into the garden. A venomous one would be preferred.

There are no snakes in his garden. He probably should have taken more care than to turn one to ash in the garden while taunting his Knights the previous night but it couldn’t be helped now.

Accio Adder.”

A green and black snake zooms into his hand from the direction of his own back forty. Good, it had probably been in a burrow or something.

He takes the snake back inside and enchants it into a living portkey, one of the ‘Dark Lord’s’ signature spells, wraps the dazed snake around the note, and sends it off to the most reliable apothecary in Knockturn Alley.

Sure, it’s been 15 years but these things don’t change. Not in Wizarding England.

-*-

“So that’s Hogwarts.” Sirius says to the parent and grandparent he’s leading to the Three Broomsticks for lunch. “This is Hogsmeade. Starting in Third Year, students in good standing are allowed to visit the village one Saturday a month.

“My Uncle Alphie used to visit the village on the weekend closest to my birthday and treat me and my friends to lunch, so you can use Hogsmeade weekends to sneak family visits in if you want.

“Or if the kids end up needing any additional supplies, they can get them themselves rather than owling for them. The village has everything,” Sirius proceeds to point out everything of interest just like he did at the school. Instead of it being the Library, the Owlery , and the Grand Staircase, he’s pointing out the local Ollivanders, the quill shop, and the Tomes and Scrolls bookshop.

“Students are eligible to start Hogwarts the September the 1st after the student turns 11. I’ve already spoken with Headmistress Tonks and Harry, so that Laura can be included in this year. Derek, Jackson, and Allison will all be eligible and, of course, welcome to attend in two years. The timing is really good because Hogwarts is going over an overhaul to improve academic standards right now, including many core classes, like reading and writing and math, that it have been left to parents to cover for many years now.

“Also on the 12th, the school will be doing a two-week pre-First Year session. I’ve already gotten Laura included, if it’s something you’re interested in. It will be much longer and mandatory starting with next year’s First Years but for now it’s completely optional. It just goes over things like magical culture and etiquette, how to properly use the Library and do research, the various measurement units the Wizarding World uses, and riding a broom. Basic things that will help your children and grandchildren in this world.”

“Like this New Moon Amulet? You said werewolves are different in the Wizarding World.”

“Right. It’s an interesting balance. We don’t have hunters in the Wizarding World because we don’t need them.” Chris Argent makes a sound like he’s being stepped on. “No, honestly,” He tells the hunter. “She couldn’t be this close to me if didn’t allow it. Which I have because we are family and I trust her. And even with her being this close, she won’t touch me. She can’t. I have four ways to keep her off of me, before I pull my wand. Because I have magic.

“A werewolf is no threat to a trained witch or wizard. Unless they are completely stupid.”

Chris Argent sits back with a severe frown but nods once, obviously willing to think about what he’s hearing.

“We are safer from werewolves than mundane humans but we’re also more vulnerable. While only an Alpha can infect a mundane and even with a full Bite isn’t a guaranteed conversion, the smallest scratch from any werewolf can convert a magical. We won’t die from a failed Bite but we may take on some traits; usually increased metabolism, carnivorous cravings, or increased agitation monthly.

“Magical Werewolves have different vulnerabilities than Mundane ones. Things that would kill a mundane-wolf a magical one would laugh at. And in some cases the opposite is true.

“And this has to do with the Amulet?” Olivia asks, almost seeming bored.

Sirius does not huff at her. He’s tempted but he doesn’t. Yes, Werewolves and their rights are basically his soapbox. There was a time in his life, before the war broke their trust in each other, when he thought he was going to marry Remus Lupin, so it was in his best interest to know and he figured if anyone was interested in Werewolfy things it would be a Werewolf. Obviously not.

“It has to do with an amulet because while Werewolves are no threat to an adult Witch or Wizard, our children are more vulnerable to them. Or if you’re married to and live with one, your vulnerable to them. It’s hard to love someone if you’re afraid they’ll get upset and rip your face off.

“So, yeah, if a Werewolf wants to be around people and be accepted they bond with an Amulet. Once bonded, the wolf keeps the healing , senses, and strength but rather than a werewolf shift, the amulet forces it’s bonded into wolf form via animagus transformation, making them an actual wolf. Far less dangerous than a werewolf.”

“Wolves are still dangerous,” The werewolf almost-queen argues.

Sirius shrugs. “Unless it’s instantly fatal, common physical damage isn’t worrisome with magical medicine.”

-*-

What does one give to the Dark Lord who has everything?

Technically speaking, Auror John Dawlish is inspecting the Incoming Evidence Lock-up. He’s a senior auror and randomized spot-checks are key to security.

In actuality, he’s shopping. Because, honestly, what does one give to the Dark Lord who has everything? Even honest-to-Merlin immortality? What won’t scream ‘I would do anything to save my own skin’ but still have the same effect?

“Oh, that’s perfect.” He hears himself say as his eyes land on an object of nightmares. Quite specifically a magical object from his nightmares. His Crucio-laden nightmares.

Lord Voldemort’s wand.

It’s just… laying there. Innocent as could be. Tagged like, well, evidence.

Thirteen and a half inches, Yew, Phoenix tail feather.

Green tag means it’s already processed. Just about everything else on the shelf is red tagged, not processed.

Would returning his own property be enough to appease the Dark Lord? Yes, He-who-must-not-be-named takes -used to take?- a great deal of obvious pride in all things his. In all the things he made and how magic they, and therefore he, are but would be returning his own property be enough? Even if he plays up the danger of stealing from the Ministry’s ‘unlawful possession’? Assuming he could do it so that his lord actually believes him?

Maybe if he returns it along with the person that stole it in the first place?

John’s eyes search further down the shelf until he finds the vessel holding Peter Pettigrew. Animagi are hard to contain compared to other magicals. That’s why they have to register. That’s also why, when in custody, the DMLE keeps them in special containers that keep them in stasis in animal form.

Now to come back and secure his list when he isn’t the only one signed into the Lock-up.

-*-

His snake-portkey is a smashing success! The shop owner even paid him for his business, going so far as to send a thank you note and asking if there is anything else the shopkeeper can do for the Dark Lord.

Tom doesn’t giggle but he might have been tempted.

His original note is gone but Tom isn’t worried. Despite the tracking charms someone had foolishly tried to stick to the snake, there’s just no way the shopkeeper would take it to the DMLE. In all honestly the apothecary probably burned it. To do otherwise would be to admit to not just having but selling Unicorn blood, a class-three illegal substance, but also telling the world that he’s been contacted by the Dark Lord and really that’s not the kind of thing you admit to before said lord makes an announcement. It just isn’t done.

He makes his blood candles. Three from unicorn blood, four from dragon blood, because seven is the most powerful number.

He draws the containment circle in his own blood so that only he, his body and soul, can cross into it. Within the contained area, he draws two more concentric circles with his blood and in the center he places a small, silver bowl upside down so that it’s little footie-base can hold the Ring and a shallow pool of his blood. He places the Ring inside the contained area because, honestly, there is no place safer for it but he doesn’t add his blood yet. He places the three unicorn candles equal distance around the circle closest to the Ring and the four dragon candles equal distance around the circle one step out from that-

No, he changes his mind. Three dragon candles in the second circle, the fourth will sit in the blood pool with his Ring. That way he still gets the grounding effect of the number four with four candles but he gets the balance of the dragon -a creature of the ground that is at home in the air and spits fire. The particular breed’s blood he was sent predominately eats fish and is therefore just as capable in the water as it is in the air. Hopefully the alteration with give his soul fragment and himself the balance and capability of the dragon.

The last step before he can burn the candles and start the ritual is to paint a series of runes just inside the outer most/containment circle. He chose to draw them using a potion that is more like a snake compote than any kind of ink, as a nod to his ancestry. To give the ritual stronger roots.

Now he just has to wait for night to fall.

-*-

He wakes.

Cold and under water but not wet. The magic in the lake is holding the water back.

Holding his thoughts back, too. Miring them. Bringing them almost to stillness.

He shakes his head. Well, he tries. Nothing happens.

The last thing he can remember is the inferi, grabbing his legs, his arms, his wand, and dragging him into the water. There was a Locket. And an Elf.

He remembers screaming for his brother.

The magic holding the water back breaks. Icy, salty water comes flooding in.

He screams for his brother. Again.

-*-

Croaker, erm, Algernon Bones doesn’t stop into his cover-office as Senior Assistant Publishing Overseer until Rookwood’s regularly-scheduled day is almost over and he doesn’t waste a single second slipping into his boss’s office.

“I need a Mystery.” He tells the older man.

“No.” Croaker shoots him down without bothering to look up at him. “You heard Ixtlilton and Kamrusepa, you are on light duties for a week. Besides, I need you up here where you can deal with your.. masked associates.”

“I’ve already spoken with them.” He tells the senior Unspeakable. “All three of our marks are the same, sore, bloody, as if fresh. Brand new. The skin around the area agitated.

“Dawlish insists he heard the Dark Lord’s voice.

“I need a Mystery to save my life. We each hope that, if we can give him gifts powerful enough, then when we are finally summoned we can keep our lives. Mine needs to be pretty fantastic. He knows what I am. Or, well, he suspects because he knows I don’t really work in the Publishing Overseers Office and I am unable to speak about what I actually do.”

Croaker remains silent for several minutes. Dolos is just starting to despair when his finally speaks. “Take Dumbledore’s core taps. The trial’s over and he’s in custody for ever. We’ve already taken the magical signature for every… living donor so that we can help them recover. And the chances of Voldemort ever being able to actually use them are very slim.” Croaker pauses and thinks for a moment then nods to himself. “The risk is acceptable. Take the taps.”

Dolos doesn’t agree but, “Alright. Now, I need you to tell me exactly what I can say. What rumors have I heard? Do I know about his horcruxes? Lay it out for me.”

-*-

“I am not certain I can allow Laura to come to Hogwarts for school.” Olivia informs Sirius. “She is the heir of my heir. If bonding this Amulet will keep her from being able to do the most basic of an Alpha’s duties, fighting as a werewolf or to give the Bite, it would compromise our line of succession and I can’t allow that.”

“Once the Amulet settles it can tell the difference between an intentional shift and an accidental one. Alphas straddling both worlds wear them and still do their duties. Just ask Uncle Alphard’s son, Deucalion.”

Olivia Hale tilts her head and frowns at him for a moment. “Deucalion Black, leader of the Alpha Council, is bonded to a New Moon Amulet.”

It’s not a question but Sirius answers it with a nod anyway, “Yes.”

“I will speak to him when we return to the Keep and then consult with Talia. Laura is already in love with the entire idea of Hogwarts but her mother deserves a say.”

“Thank you. Chris?”

“Allison insists on going to magic school but we don’t think Hogwarts would be a good fit for her. Is there a French school? Her first language is French and while she is proficient in English, she sometimes struggles with it. I think she would have enough to worry about learning magic and we shouldn’t add a language barrier on top of them.

“We also prefer one that would be closer to our family lands. Just in case.”

“There is Beauxbatons Academy of Magic in the Pyrenees which I believe mundanes consider to be in the south area of France?”

Chris nods.

“You would lose her a year earlier. Beauxbatons starts at 10, even if they don’t allow students wands until their second year at 11.”

“I’ll discuss it with her but I don’t think it will change her,” The man frowns and starts looking around. “Mind.”

Olivia shoots out of her chair and pops her claws. Her eyes and face are completely normal so other patrons probably just see a woman standing and tense but Sirius can see her sniffing and listening hard, alert for what Sirius isn’t sure.

Whatever it is, Sirius can feel it, too. Something is stirring their family magic. Something strong and highly protective. It’s probably not dangerous. Well, not dangerous to them, members of the family. It could be dangerous to the other people in the pub though.

Sirius tries to stand but he can’t. He tries to shout but he can’t do that either. He just sits there, hands palm up in the arms of his chair. The magic is like a weight on his lap.

Chris is standing now. He’s looking around, uncertain. The kind of uncertain that becomes angry and dangerous really quick. In his hand is a big black thing that Sirius can remember muggle police men carrying back when he was an Auror.

Olivia’s eyes are on crimson and centered on Sirius. “Alert the castle.” She says to someone behind him, Madame Rosmerta from the smell of it. “We need help down here, something is wrong.”

A ghostly silver horse sails through Sirius’s vision and out of the taproom and he relaxes. It’s Rosemerta’s Patronus. Sirius saw it often enough back in school when the Marauder’s Hogsmeade mischief didn’t go quite as planned.

The magic keeps building until Sirius can barely hear the Thestral Carriage he had arranged for his outing’s return trip skid to a stop outside the Inn.

Alastor Moody and the new DADA professor Wil Something are the first in through the door. They are followed by Harry, Minerva McGonagall, at least half of the adult Werewolves currently staying up at the castle, an equal number of the recently hired security wizards, and all three Healers in Potter’s employ.

“We feel it, Sirius.” His godson says as he closes in on Sirius’s chair. “What can you tell us?”

He just looks up at his godson helplessly. Harry kneels in front of him, sliding his hands palm up under Sirius’s, unsticking them from the armrests.

“Is it dangerous?” Harry asks, his hands warming and sending strength into Sirius.

Sirius does his best to think “I don’t know!” at Harry as loud as he can.

The smaller man smirks at him, looking for the moment exactly like James, and Sirius wonders for a crazy moment if it worked.

“Clear the room.” Harry orders in a quiet voice imbued with magical authority that a boy his age shouldn’t have. But no one thinks twice about it, taking orders from a 16 year old, like he’s the King himself. Patrons scurry out of the building like ants before water. The ex-Auror security people act as the water and secure the building.

The pressure builds just a little bit more, making Sirius feel like he’s about to pop, and Harry ramps up whatever the hell it is that he is doing to magically support Sirius.

The pressure pops like a giant soap bubble, splashing them all in the face. A cold, wet weight settles in Sirius’s lap. It’s smaller than Sirius but larger than Harry. Which is a really specific size, now that he thinks about it. About the size of his brother, really.

Sirius can hear the Healers moving in. He tilts his lap load. It looks like his brother. Just like his brother the last time Sirius saw him including that Slytherin colored non-Hogwarts issue tie that Sirius got him for Christmas. Merlin, was Fifth Year? Had to be twenty something years ago. It still looks brand new.

Of course this, this, whatever it is, can’t be Regulus. Regulus is dead.

Len’s pulling Harry away, the back of his hand going to Harry’s forehead before the young lord is completely untangled. The new guy-Healer Florence is pulling the person-thing-bundle off of Sirius with the help of a werewolf and a security wizard. The female Healer Pillar is putting the back of her own hand to Sirius’s forehead and speaking to him but he can’t hear her. His focus is on the person-thing-bundle.

The person-thing opens its eyes. Huh, the same darker than Black-standard blue with the little silver flecks. Just like his brother had.

Someone’s good. Horrible and cruel but very good.

 

 

Chapter 19 – August 11, 1996

 

Neville Longbottom is excited.

He is so, so incredibly excited that he basically vibrates through his morning routine. He has no attention span for breakfast, which they’ve taken to having in the Great Hall with the new, still expanding Hogwarts Staff and the many Blacks.

At any other meal, he and Harry would be smiling and quirking eyebrows at what Harry calls ‘The Subtleties of Children.’ The title is intentionally ironic and hilarious because it references Laura Hale’s completely obvious fascination with John Watson. Young Watson is oblivious, of course, because he only has eyes for his hero Healer McCoy who seems to embody everything the boy wants to be.

Laura’s little brother Derek is more subtle in his fascination than Laura but that’s probably because his fascination is in Herbology, not a person.

Normally, based on the last day or two, Harry and Neville would do their best not to laugh at John and Laura, and Neville would have a book recommendation that would send Derek scampering off to the Library but today he just can’t.

Thankfully Harry is the best husband ever and not only runs interference to save Neville from other people’s concerns but he also clues Derek into Wischard Ostberg, a Durmstrang graduate and Hogwarts’ new Master Herbologist as of last night. The kid practically teleports to the end of the table where Ostberg and Madame Sprout are discussing what to do with the completely overgrown green houses that were revealed when Harry claimed the Keep’s wards.

The Herbology trio have just left the Hall when Uncle Alastor stomps in and right up the Harry and Neville. “They’re here.”

Neville is up like a shot, heading to the Family Infirmary. This is what he’s been waiting for. For the first time in him life, his entire family will be under one roof. He is so excited he can barely think.

But he is a little, just a touch, annoyed at his Gram and her ‘Lords don’t‘ hippogriff shit. Specifically, ‘Lords don’t do their own fetch and carrying, not even their own parents.’

The way he figures it, he’s the King’s Consort, he should get to do whatever he damn-well wants to but then Gram reminded him to not embarrass his husband so, well, he compromised. Some might say cheated.

Rather than have his husband’s various minions get his parents discharged in the regular way, he owled the hospital requesting a transfer to a private facility.

Saint Mungo’s had tried to force the standard discharge because Peverelle Keep Infirmary is not a recognized health care provider, only to get treated to Healer McCoy’s scowl and scathing temper in person.

Neville is the first person to the Infirmary, followed quickly by Healers McCoy and Lyons.

Healer Nightengale looks to have traveled with the security minions, based on the presence of his traveling cloak. Not a this it was necessary considering the instructions and the number of Healers and Mediwitches Saint Mungos sent along with his parents but Neville’s finds himself okay with it. He’s pretty sure Healer Nightengale is sleeping with at least one member of the security team, so he probably just went along with his lovers.

The presence of McCoy and Lyons pulls the hospital healers away from their patients and they promptly begin to debrief. The mediwitches continue settling his parents. Well, two of them are. The other two are cooing over the enchanted privacy curtains that can temporarily turn into walls with the use of a password. Like he would get anything less than the best for his parents’ care.

Neville wades right in to help settle his mum. He shows her the supply of her favorite gum in the bedside table and they have a brief almost-conversation about the fact that her hair is getting too long and they will have to trim it soon.

It’s the closest to a two-sided conversation he’s had with his mother, well, ever and there is something in her face that he’s never seen before. Not really an emotion but there is definitely something more about her. He can’t really pin point it so he calls out for McCoy.

The healer immediately sees whatever it is that Neville sees and calls for his colleagues. Both of his minions and the healers from the hospital come to his call, pushing Neville over to where Harry, Hermione, and several of the various Blacks are watching.

“What’s wrong with them?” Young Watson asks only to get tutted by his Aunt Min.

Neville answers anyway. “They were Aurors for the Ministry. They were tortured at the end of the War by a bunch of Death Eaters.”

“With Magic?” Laura Hale asks, horrified.

“With magic.” He confirms. “The Crutiatus Curse.”

“The people that did it,” The girl continues. “They’re in jail?”

“For the rest of their lives,” Neville assures her. “The Crutiatus Curse is unforgivable because,” He just gestures to his parents, both of whom are being swarmed by magical medical professionals.

“What have you tried?” Olivia Hale asks him. “For healing them.”

“Everything.”

She must hear something in his voice because she tentatively puts a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Have you tried the Bite? If it takes it cures the new wolf’s physical issues, including problems with the brain. We just took in an epileptic girl. I Bit her and she was cured. She’s completely healthy.”

Neville hesitates. He has nothing against Werewolves but would his parents? It’s not like they could consent in their current state and he would hate to get them back only to have them hate him for the treatment plan he picked.

“What about music?” Hermione asks.

“What about music?” He asks right back.

“My parents get doctors periodicals. Doctors are muggle healers. Muggles have a study going on where they are healing mental damage like dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease with music.”

“I read that study.” McCoy speaks up from just a few feet away, frozen like he’d been about to approach them. “We can try it. It will either work or it won’t so there’s no harm in it. If it doesn’t work it won’t damage them in any way and if it works we can start a potion regimen to boost their mental and physical-brain health. We have two of the finest Potions Mistresses in the world on staff so we can make anything we need.”

Neville nods and looks to his husband, it’s his house after all. Harry just raises an eyebrow at him, snorts, and nods.

“Missy!” Neville calls for his elf and she pops into place with a little dip of a curtsy. “We need music for my parents. Bring a record player and any disks you can find.”

Within moments a record player pops into place just to Neville’s right, followed by the tiny female elf with a crate of records. Missy holds up the top one. “This be Miss Allie’s favorite. Should I plays it?”

He nods, not knowing his mother had a favorite but willing to learn.

A strong beat comes out of the horn-thing on the top of the player. Neville thinks he can hear drums and something he can’t identify. Could it be a horn? Or a muggle guitar or something? He’s never heard anything quite like it.

By the time the singer starts telling the story of Steve walking warily down the street, there is  definitely someone home in both of his parents. His father is bouncing along with the beat and his mother is sort of singing? She starts out getting one out of every ten or so words? Not very many, right but by the time the singer starts listing the ways you can ‘hurt a man and bring him to the ground’ she’s getting more words right. Maybe one in three. She’s definitely grunting along with where there should be words but most of the noises she makes are indistinguishable.

There is a pause between songs and his mother’s right hand starts spasming. The healers are all exchanging worried looks.

Healer McCoy asks him. “Your mom played piano?”

She did but Neville doesn’t get to answer because the next song starts and the sounds of the instrument match up with the dance of his mother’s hand.

-*-

Just after noon, Tom decides he’s ready.

He’s memorized his Knights’ seating chart. He’s got wards up to keep the muggles out and to keep him followers in and to make sure no one can track his Knights to his haven.

He’s also got his ‘birthday gift’ from his Pancake Provider.

Merlin only knows how the Hen got her hands on a nose-horned viper but he’s a gorgeous fellow. Just short of three feet long, his body is a dark concrete-gray with black markings and malicious, copper-colored eyes. He isn’t magical but he is quite substantial physically and there’s an energy to the viper that that local snakes that Tom’s been using have been missing.

Hopefully this snake won’t fall to dust by the time he’s done with the summoning spell. It would be a pity to lose Khan so quickly.

He casts the spell. Thankfully he was his thoughtful, thorough self when he created it so he doesn’t have to focus or channel a great deal of energy into it even if the effects are long term. Once activated the spell tells the summoned person’s magic, not their conscious mind, where to go and gives them the compulsion to go. If they aren’t in his presence within five minutes, the spell starts tugging on their Core. Ten minutes is when the pain starts. By the time they reach a half-hour after the summons without coming to him the pain is so intense that all the Knight will be able to do it lay there and writhe until his Lord chooses to relieve him.

Not that Tom is likely to relieve a disobedient servant.

The room is set out quite specifically. He sits in the lone chair in the chamber and said chair is a single step up from the floor. He’s tall enough that even seated he will still be at the same height as most of his Knights. The chair is simple. It has a tall back with dark green upholstery on the back and seat which don’t meet in the back. Around the edges of the upholstery plenty of dark, polished wood with detailed but not distracting scroll work is visible. It’s a throne without being a throne. A nod to his goals but not overbearing. Not tasteless.

His look is also quite specific. He had to adapt it from the half-moth eaten muggle clothes in his father and grandfather’s closets but he did a good job, if he says so himself. He’s going for a sort of simplified royal-military, not overdone, and definitely not muggle look.

To that end he’s wearing thick leather boots and gauntlet-length gloves. They aren’t dragonhide because dragonhide only comes from dragons and cannot be successfully transfigured, but he’s turned the leather into higher quality leather than most magicals have ever seen just for the subtle I’m-better-than-you factor. His pants are black and of a sturdy fabric Tom can’t name but they are well-fitted and comfortable. His outer robe is a coat of his own design, something like a muggle-Navy or Auror officer’s coat with two rows of carved black buttons but it goes down to around mid-thigh. It’s a dark gray, a shade or two darker than Khan with an attached black cape that he’s pulled around to drape in front to look like a scarf.

His whole get-up would glow under mage sight for all the protective charms and tailoring enchantments he’s woven into, if anyone cared to look.

His Knights arrive quickly, well within the five minute mark and in rapid succession like a small chain of fireworks.

He is rather horrified. They are clearly in some sort of uniform but this isn’t the dress of Knights!

The masks are cool. They look like the bastard child of a mask for a ball and a mask for a dungeon. Black and white ivory with eye holes and decorative slits over the mouths. Stark and imposing but still graceful with individualized patterns traced in whatever the opposite color of the mask-base.

But what use has a Knight for these floaty, gossamer black robes? And they are wearing layers upon layers of the stuff. How can they move? Isn’t that hot?

And what they hell are those cone-hat-stole things? The hats are at least half as tall as the people wearing them and they look heavy. Maybe they are supposed to be some kind of neck protection? Can they even move with those things on? What a horrible outfit. It can’t work out well in a fight.

His old self had problems.

He sits in his pseudo throne and takes in the gathering before him. His knights stand in a U shape before him, if you can call it a U-shape. There are several empty slots. Actually, there are barely more Knights than empty slots.

Of the seven in his inner circle, only two remain. None of them are among the three he ‘tested and rewarded’ with the safety of horcuxes. Severus, Lucius, and Regulus must all be dead because he can’t feel their magic any more. The le Strange brothers are alive, though. Why they didn’t return he does not yet know but if any of the gathered are aware, then he will find out soon.

Of the eleven in the next rank, six remain. Three older Lords -Nott, Parkinson, and Gibbon. MacNair whose bloodlust in inspiring even if his position in the Ministry is useless. And, of course, Rookwood who may or may not be an Unspeakable in the Department of Mysteries. He’s probably the most useful person on his tier for his arcane knowledge and Ministry-insider information, even if Tom has to be careful about how and what he asks because of what the man can actually say.

The third rank of trust is only about a third are missing, nine of fifteen remain. Third tier aren’t the most interesting or powerful of his Knights but they are a step above general recruits. Still counted among his more important followers even if they are considered junior. Mostly minor Lords, an Auror or two, and an odd Ministry grunt.

All in all, his core of 33 Knight-officers is down by 16. It’s a problem he’ll have to fix to in order for his future efforts to be effective.

His contemplation allows them to take in his new physical self. He knows he’s younger than they expected. He was just about 17 when he made the Ring Horcrux so that’s the age he appears now even though he was considerably older than that when he ‘died’. He can’t say he’s anything other than delighted by their awe and confusion.

“Sixteen years,” Tom says into the tense silence. “Sixteen years since last we met and not one of you looked for me. Even now, you stand there shocked that I am alive. I told you I am immortal. Have you so little faith in your Lord? Do you still doubt my power? Doubt who I am? Who I will be?”

“My Lord,” Alecto Carrow speaks as she goes down on both knees. “We looked for you, milord. Had we any leads, we,” Her bother Amycus hits his knees, making it clear which we she means. “Would have been there at your side in a moment.”

“In your… absence,” Amycus continues. “We have been preparing for your return. We have many powerful mysteries gathered for you. Gifts to aid your quest.”

Grudgingly he nods to them. “Show me.”

-*-

Neville runs a frustrated hand over his face.

It’s been hours. Literally, hours.

They have played more different types of music than Neville knew songs existed for. Everyone has either ran away or been sent off to tend other duties with the exception of himself, Harry, Hermione, the head healer from the group Saint Mungo’s sent over and two-thirds of the Potter healing team.

They’ve made great progress. Certain kinds of music seem to be helping in certain ways. Unfortunately different types of music didn’t seem to help his parents in the same ways. For example, muggle ‘glam rock’ helps his mother remember her own identity but, as far as they can tell, doesn’t do much for his father while ‘folk rock’ helps his father regain lost memories but doesn’t do much for his mother.

Muggle music definitely seems to work best but their needs are very different unless the music being played has powerful magical memories attached to it.

No matter what Harry tries to claim, Neville would never roll his eyes at his parents waltzing about, reenacting their one and only Ministry Yule Ball as a married couple. It’s adorable, alright?

“How do we get them past this?” He asks the room.

His parents’ improvement has been rapid and dramatic but not permanent. When the music stops for long enough – even when they just delay too long while changing the record – the improvement starts to fade. So they’re stuck, listening to the most bizarre mix of music with improvement that can’t seem to complete and won’t stick enough for them to call it ‘recovery’.

“The problem,” Healer McCoy tells the three students. “Is that we can’t be sure what is affecting their improvement so we don’t know where to boost their treatment. Yes, the music is the most obvious answer but we’ve experimented with that rather thoroughly and it hasn’t gotten them off the plateau.

“Other things that could be factors include: Family Magic – we can’t ignore that they are in the presence of their Lord for the first time in a long time and this time it is not just their lord but their son and therefore powerfully connected. Magically you are a huge influence on them. We could bring in more members of the Family or a cluster of Legacy Stones to increase their saturation and the Family Magic influence.

“But.” The healer pauses and looks at them individually all for emphasis.

“The key factor could be the ambient magic of Hogwarts, which is powerful and extremely positive in order to help students succeed.

“Increasing their Family Magic saturation could cut them off from the school’s magic entirely, which could cause them to revert. Possibly catastrophically revert. So we have to be very careful.

Or it could be-” The healer is cut off by a small bamf-noise and a puff of smoke.

Neville can’t say he’s terribly surprised at Fawkes’s sudden appearance. Nobody has seen the bird since Dumbledore’s arrest but he’s been part of the school since at least its inception, if not earlier, so Neville figured he was still around. Probably flitting about the grounds or something.

Neville can definitely say he is surprised when the swan-sized red and gold bird lands on his shoulder. These sorts of things are supposed to happen to people like Harry, not people like him.

Still, he finds he can’t deny the connection creeping into his mind. It’s alien and kind of fuzzy with a bit of a fire-like crackle to it but friendly none the less. He doesn’t really think twice about accepting the mental connection after the bird lands on him and welcomes the bright presence in his mind.

The bird’s loneliness is so stunning that Neville has to sit down for a moment.

In the wake of the connection, once the loneliness subsides, comes knowledge.

“We need Legacy Stones for Longbottom, Potter, and Black.” He tells the gathered. “We are going to need to get my parents laying down, so that they don’t fall. One bed is preferable so we only have to set this up once. And we’ll need a few potions. They’re going to be pretty heavily modified potions so get me the Headmistress and the new Potions person. Fiona, I think?

“And keep the music playing until we’re ready.”

-*-

Blaise is sitting in the Family Library of Peverell Keep, discussing the magical potential and training of three adult werewolves and one adult werewolf hunter when a rather familiar looking raven makes his way through a pane of Pigeon Glass and drops a missive on his lap.

The majority of the Wizarding World upgraded from Pigeons to Owls centuries ago. Owls are more durable, much more reliable, and can withstand much more magic exposure than their fellow birds. Unless, of course, one has managed to bond with a semi-magical murder of crows. Bonding increases the birds’ intelligence, focus and dedication.

Like Theo Nott’s senior male Regis, here.

Blaise’s father shoots him a confused look but allows their conversation to be put on hold while Blaise opens his letter. Draco just calls an elf to get Regis a bowl of water. Draco, of course, recognizes the bird just as readily as Blaise does and helpfully distracts Sirius with a question.

After a quick read of the missive and a slower, more thorough read because it made absolutely no sense at high speed, Blaise decides it would be best to enlighten them both. Immediately.

“Theobald the Heir of Nott, writes. He returned from his daily ride with Daphne Greengrass -the Greengrasses breed Granians- to find his mother in tears outside of his father’s private study. Lady Nott was apparently hysterical and wailing ‘he’s back’ and ‘he’s going to get killed’ which, of course, made no sense to Theo.

“Because their supply of Calming Draught was out of date, he pushed a mild sleeping potion on his mother before she hurt herself so he promises to send us more information when he gets it but he checked his father’s study and several very magical items are missing, including three cursed canopic jars and Nott Senior’s Death Eater mask.”

Draco and Sirius shoot up out of their chairs so quickly that they knock their chairs over.

“We have to tell Harry,” Draco declares and tries to take the missive from Blaise’s hand. “Right now.”

“Why did this boy tell you these things?” Sirius demands of his son. “Does he know your connection to Harry?”

“Theo,” Blaise answers his father while avoiding Draco’s grabby hands. “Is in my year, in my House at Hogwarts. He is one of the only two people I confessed my paternity to before you claimed me.”

The other, of course, being Draco.

“So he knows of my connection to you and everybody knows of your connection to Harry. Now, unless they’ve been living under a rock, everyone knows of the existence of Death Eaters and their connection to He Who Must Not be Named. All of these same non-rock-living people know about the connection between Him and Harry. It only makes sense to pass the information through his closest connection.

“He’s my friend. He is very nearly Harry’s friend, too. He sent us this information so that we can protect ourselves.”

“He needs to report it to the Ministry.” Sirius counters his son. “They need to know so that they can prepare. So that they can protect everyone.”

“And get his parents arrested for being Death Eaters and for harboring dark objects? No way!”

Father and son hold each other’s gaze unflinching. Neither of them is truly angry and Blaise is 90% sure that his father sees the validness of his point but he’s not going to give up because Theo has the right to defend his parents.

“Could Lord Voldemort really be back?” Draco asks, breaking the staring contest.

“I don’t know.” The older lord and former active-duty Auror huffs and looks at Draco. “A single letter about an old woman’s freak out is hardly conclusive.”

“Good thing we have a Death Eater to question in the infirmary.”

-*-

His knights request that he set up an area to which they can summon his gifts.

They admitted that they felt bringing magical weapons and unexpected people directly into his presence would be unwise and he can’t help but agree. He would have definitely taken extra people being brought into the gathering without his express invitation as a threat.

Once the summoning area is set up, Tom steps back and allows them to prepare and present their gifts to him one at a time.

First up, of course, are the last of his inner circle. The Carrow Twins should probably count as a single entity – they definitely move and cast as one and their goals always align but their methods and genders are different, so he sticks with his old self’s decision to let them stand separately.

Together they summon a number of interesting and quite literally shiny boxes to their side. Once that’s done, they conjure large wooden table not far from his throne even though he’s abandoned it in favor of watching them in his curiosity. With a few almost absent wand waves they have a cache of treasures start to lay itself out on the table.

Across the length of the table a trident stretches, it’s blue and silver and it’s points just might be laced with poison. Before he can investigate that, a recurve bow with three… puzzling arrows attached to it using some sort of a clip joins the trident. Then two swords, one’s a Gladius that might actually be from the original period and the other is a much longer, distinctly Asian style that he can’t actually name. Finally two each of three different types of magical collars are put on the table.

“The weapons were my idea, my Lord.” Amycus Carrow says with a very nod-y bow. “We have documentation detailing their provenance and magical traits to go with them, most of the documents go back to their original makers.

“What I felt was the most interesting on the group though was this sword.” The male twin picks up the Gladius and half-unsheathes it. The pommel of the sword is an fist-sized emerald. The leather wrapped around the hilt looks brand new. The blade itself is some sort of black steel the glistens Avada Kedavra-green, sort of like an oil slick after the rain. “It’s called Nero’s Justice. Forged in 55 A.D. It has many magical properties but one of the most interesting is that it takes the truth from anyone it cuts.

“The deeper the cut the deeper the truth and the harder it is for the victim to shield their mind against the sword’s magical intrusion.”

Sounds like a real good way to crazy, Tom thinks. But still, if anyone can withstand it’s use it would be him. He holds out a hand for the sword.

Amycus shoves the weapon back in its sheath and hands the whole thing over, belt, scabbard and all.

After a brief inspection -that’s really more for show than anything else because he simply cannot allow someone else to have such an artifact- he buckles the belt around his waist. Amycus bows as his lord gestures him back into his spot within the Knights’ formation.

He turns to Alecto, thereby giving her permission to speak. She gives him a little bow as she gestures to the selection of collars on her section of the table. “While my brother’s gifts are all about personal defense and making war, mine are about control. Three levels of control.

“The first level of control are Marriage Torcs.” She gestures at two of the collars. One looks like a thick twisted rope made of platinum. The ends are large, decoratively carves loops that don’t touch. The other is very similar but made of gold and instead of loops it has snake heads. The snakes’ eye sockets are empty and Tom can’t help but think that they would look lovely filled with Slytherin green emeralds. “They can only be bonded to one master at a time. Once bound to your magic, these Torcs protect the virtue and physical person of the wearer in regards to everyone but yourself. A bound Torc can also keep the person they are bound to updated on the location and status of the wearer and alert their bonded if the wearer is in any sort of danger.

“The second level are Prisoner Transport Collars.” His only female Knight gestures at the set of two plain, dull silver-colored metal collars. They look like solid rings so he’s rather at a loss as to how they would be used until she picks up one of them and pulls at it. It opens and then snaps back into place. “They are just like the collars many justice services around our world use.

“They lock with a password. They subdue the wearer’s magic so that they have to do as instructed and so that they can’t escape. This one,” The one she’s holding. “Can only be bound to magic but it can be bonded up to five at one time, giving the team of Aurors or whomever is handling the prisoner equal control. The other one is much the same except it can also be blood bound to someone, in practice it would generally be blood bound to a senior Auror/team leader.”

That explains the little pointy thing in the middle of the front. It’s to prick your finger.

“The last with the most extreme level of control are Debtor’s Collars.” They are very similar to the Prisoner Transport Collars only they are a shiny blue metal and they all have the finger-prick thing. “They are no longer legal, of course, and have mostly been destroyed around the world but they date back to the time when it was acceptable to give away family members to settle scores or debts of any kind. These blood bond to one person at a time only. They don’t suppress the wearer’s magic so much as harness it. The wearer’s magic is of course subjugated to the will of their master. They also offer wearer’s mind a rather unique level of protection to prolong their service. For example, with these you could crucio an enemy for hours and the knowledge you are seeking would never be lost because the collar protects their brain even while the body is torn apart.”

“I could just cut them with my sword.” He pats the weapon hanging on his hip.

Alecto’s posture doesn’t change but her can feel her deflate a little bit through her Mark. “Or you can cut them with your sword.” She agrees.

“Still, it’s always best to have multiple methods to do anything worth doing.”

She bows, yet again, when he gestures for her to return to her place within the horseshoe of Knights.

Once she’s back in her place, he climbs back on his throne and reviews the second rank of Knights. He starts on the left side. The spot closest to the front and his throne is empty. This is not new, though. It has been empty for a long because it belongs to one of the spies he had within Dumbledore’s Order of the Phoenix, a man no one in this room has ever known the name of. A man they’ve never seen.

A man that is alive, likely lead his Lord to his death, and didn’t answer his Lord’s summons.

May he writhe to death in agony.

Behind the Rat stands Gibbon, a staid older lord, who turns over the ownership of a breeding pair of House Elves, Jax and Lyn. Boring. Useful and definitely something he deserves but boring. He accepts their bonds, orders an evening meal prepared, and moves on.

Behind Gibbon stands MacNair, an executioner for the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures. The man looks like he’s swallowed something horrible as he gifts his lord with a variety of rare potions ingredients. Many of the things presented, from a vial of Acromantula venom to a string Yeti claws, aren’t even legal to have but interesting. They would be more interesting if Tom still had a Potions Master among his minions to make the most of them but that will be fixed in due time.

Behind MacNair used to stand Dolohov, who is missing, alive, and by now in a great deal of pain. To the right of Dolohov’s spot, Barty Crouch Jr. used to stand but he is dead and, obviously, missing.

To the right of Crouch’s spot, in the center of his rank, directly behind where Malfoy used to stand in the place of highest trust stands Mister Unspeakable himself, Augustus Rookwood.

Tom nods to let Rookwood know he’s allowed to approach.

Rookwood doesn’t go to the summoning area like all the others, he just walks straight up to his lord and takes a knee. He pulls out what looks like a inch-square of deep red velvet and hands it over to his lord without a word.

Tom, for his part, inspects it.

It’s a magical-containment device like he’s never seen before. Curious, Tom enlarges the tiny cut of fabric to its original size. It stops at about six inches wide, nine inches long, and multiple layers of cloth thick. Once Rookwood presses his thumb on the little pearl holding it closed the device unfolds itself – top, both sides, and then bottom.

Inside is a necklace. A rather poorly made chain with a series of tiny gold and silver coins on it. It’s gaudy as hell and looks like something only Albus Dumbledore would wear but each of the coins radiate magical energy. Some of them radiate a great deal of magical energy but none of them seem to have any sort of form or direction to their enchantment. Like they are just holding the magic. Why would anyone do such a thing?

“I’m not sure how much you have followed recent events during your… rest, milord.” Rookwood starts. “But Albus Dumbledore was arrested, convicted, and jailed for a number of crimes that basically boil down to child abuse heaped upon Harry Potter.”

Tom stiffens and then relaxes and smiles more than a little meanly. Albus Dumbledore in jail and Harry Potter damaged, possibly dead? It’s like Christmas and his birthday.

“When he was arrested, Dumbledore was wearing that necklace. We-.” The knight hesitates. “In my department it was discovered that Dumbledore’s magic has been broken for quite some time and he’s been using Core Taps to continue practicing magic. The coins on the necklace in your hands are the reservoirs for those Taps.”

“Fascinating.” Tom gives it one last look and drops the necklace over his head, making sure to tuck it under his clothes, not just to hide the ugly things but so that they get contact with his skin. He’s never been tempted to make Core Taps. He’s always seen them as an admission of weakness, but he knows just what to do to win their loyalty and bind them to himself so that he make the most out of someone else’s dirty work.

He gestures to Rookwood to return to his spot. As the other man crosses Malfoy’s old spot Tom orders him to stop and turn around.

Rookwood does as ordered and raises both eyebrows at his lord, tilts his head just a bit.

Tom just nods, letting him know that that is his new spot.

The Ministry-man goes white and bows deeply, accepting his new place as chief among the Knights of Walpurgis, second only to Tom Riddle.

To the right of Rookwood’s old spot is the vacancy that used to hold Avery Senior. The bastard is alive but not present even though his son is in attendance. Avery Junior better have a good excuse for his father when it’s his turn otherwise he’ll pay for his father’s disrespect with his own life.

To the right of Avery Senior stands Lord Nott. At Tom’s nod Nott goes to the summoning area and calls forth a cherry-wood and glass box shaped like a triangular prism. Ignoring the Carrows’ table, Nott activates something on his box that starts it growing legs. It makes its own display pedestal, how clever.

Inside the box, standing in about an inch of sand are three canopic jars. The tops are all cobras with their hoods displayed instead of the standard four deities.

“Cursed Canopic Jars.” Nott tells Tom before he can move past is shock and awe at the gift. “I have been assured that at least one of these contains a young Necobra, a creature that a man of your gifts deserves, my Lord.”

A creature that only a man of his gifts could use or contain.

Necobras are exceedingly rare magical creatures from Egypt. Accounts differ but they are supposed to look basically like the skeleton of a cobra made of either precious gems or high-quality metal. They don’t eat physical food and are completely reliant on a magical bond with a witch or wizard for sustenance. Horrifically smart and thoroughly magical. Depending on the strength of their human they can produce between three and seven different kinds of venom on an unpredictable rotation that many theorize is generated based on their human’s mood.

They can spit acid, when that is their venom, up to 13 feet. Twice as far as a mundane cobra. They can also generate a powerful paralytic venom or an anticoagulant venom or a venom that is the most powerful poison in the Wizarding World or a venom that will take ten years to kill their victim or a poison that will turn it’s victim into the shambling thrall of the cobra’s human.

He doesn’t think he would want three of such a creature but one is definitely a life-altering, highly meaningful gift. This kind of gift deserves a promotion. He approaches the box, takes the ward stone key from the older lord, and waves him back to his fellow Knights, “Right of Rookwood, behind Alecto.”

He keys himself to the display box’s wards and opens the glass lid. He runs a hand through the air right above the jars and then manually shifts them one by one. The jar on the right definitely holds a infant cobra. The center jar definitely held a snake at one time. It feels hollow and there’s a trace of parsel magic on it but Tom can’t feel any bonding magic so he thinks the snake left it’s jar to die, which kind of sucks but really the first jar has his snake, so oh well. The jar on the left probably holds an infant snake, too, but it feels wrong. There’s something weak about it, like it’s nearing the end of the time it can hibernate without bonding and is about to die.

Enough fondling. Tom closes the lid, throws some of his own magic into the box wards, and removes Nott’s access permissions from the wards. He also takes a moment to reposition the display case so that it’s on the throne stand and within his reach when sitting. He tries to play it cool but he gets a little stupid over the face that he can magically adjust the height the case stands at. He has to firmly order himself to move on.

Coming to the final leg of the middle rank ‘U’, Praxiteles Parkinson stands in front of Nott’s old spot. When Tom nods to Lord Parkinson, he moves over to the summoning area and finds a woman in it.

She’s got to be about 16 or 17 but she is definitely not a girl. She’s wearing a knee-length dress that fits her like a sheath and makes the most of her curvy assets including her large breasts and generous hips. Her skin is an alluring tan that looks completely natural. Her hair is chocolate brown with streaks of golden caramel and mostly piled on top of her head except for a few graceful tumbles that accentuate her long neck.

For the first time in his life, Tom knows what it is to need to adjust himself immediately at the sight of a woman. The feeling is confusing but he finds he likes it, this arousal thing.

“My lord,” Parkinson says. “This is my daughter Pansy and I offer you her hand in marriage. While your immortality proves false the standard need for an heir, magical children have many uses. They strengthen the well of your Family Magic, they can be formed into your most trusted of lieutenants, they can be used as bargaining tokens to build alliances, and they can gain you access to other Family Magics.

“If you choose to take my daughter and only child to wife, you will gain access to the Parkinson Family Magics upon the birth of your first child. At that point, I would also be able name you as my heir giving you sole domain over all Parkinson Family holdings and our Wizengamot seat.”

Tom nods, doing his best not to pant for the girl. “There is wisdom in what you say.” He holds his right hand out to Pansy.

She takes his hand and kneels at his feet without the slightest complaint or hint of worry in her face.

He holds out his left hand and firmly pictures the first marriage torc the Carrows gave him in his mind. The rope of twisted platinum floats lazily to his hand. He forces his magic on the Torc, binding it as deeply as he can but not altering the protections it offers. Whoever last controlled this particular Torc was a right controlling bastard, the kind Tom can really get behind.

Pansy bows her head to indicate her acceptance of the torc and he slides it around her neck, taking care to make sure the large metal knobs don’t flail around and damage her.

“You may sit at my feet.”

She nods and moves so that her back is against his throne with her butt is on the same level as the chair. Her head is just in front of his right arm rest and her legs folded together so that her knees rest on the lower level.

“You will stand in front of Alecto.” He tells his, well, father in-law? and turns to the last mid-ranked Knight as he allows his fingers to sink into Pansy’s hair.

Igor Karkaroff was, before Tom’s death, his primary international contact and one of the few people alive that could be considered a Master of Blood Magic.

Through the man’s Mark Tom can feel that Igor Karkaroff is almost unspeakably nervous, possibly feeling guilty? As he approaches the throne and takes a knee a respectful distance away from Pansy.

“In your absence, my lord, I worked my way up to Headmaster of Durmstrang and dedicated myself to training young people into taking the upright path of pure-blood pride. Your path, milord.

“My gift to you is a permanent new face taken from another through my Blood Arts and a new identity with your education accredited through my school so that you may walk amongst your enemies and engineer their defeat unseen.”

The need for a new name is obvious. Physically he looks 17, even in the Wizarding World no one would believe he’s over 60 years old. And using the name of a ‘dead’ man? That’s a good way to end up in jail and wouldn’t that just put a damper on his plans?

Why would he need a new face, though? Dumbledore’s out of the way. All of the other people that would recognize his 17 year old self are either dead or bear his Mark and are unable to betray him.

So he asks, “Why do I need to change my face?”

Karkaroff goes white and mouths the air a bit. “Rumors, milord. Rumors.” The man collapses forward, both arms shaking and barely keeping him from hitting the ground as some sort of panic grips him.

“Rumors?”

“There are rumors, milord.” He doesn’t recognize the melodious voice than answers but relaxes when Pansy looks up at him and continues. “Twice around school there have been rumors that Harry Potter has defeated you. This last time Dumbledore tried to convince everyone that he defeated you and a basilisk.”

Tom smirks at her and rolls his eyes but inside his guts are clinching. He doesn’t think he’s panicking but he doesn’t have much experience with it so he might be.

The only way someone could have killed a basilisk in the school would be by opening the Chamber of Secrets. The only way someone could have been opened the Chamber would be with his Diary.

Additionally the odds of a non-parselmouth defeating a basilisk are so ridiculously slim. Well, they are as long as you don’t count Dumbledore in the statistics and would that long-bearded meddler honestly let someone else take the credit for killing a basilisk if he had actually done it himself? Tom doesn’t think so. Especially not a child he was already abusing.

Tom shoots a look at his gathered Knights. “Have any of you heard anything to corroborate these rumors?”

Runcorn with the Office of the Wizengamot Secretary, Yaxley from the Minister’s office, Rookwood, and Parkinson all take one knee.

“Runcorn.” He calls, keeping his voice as cold and emotionless as he can.

“My lord,” He is answered. “In the last meeting of the Wizengamot, Harry Potter claimed the Seats of Slytherin by Right of Conquest.”

Tom does his best not to grind his teeth. Rite of Conquest means three defeats – once for Tom’s original death, maybe one in the Chamber, when was the third? At Hogwarts somehow but how? Why? When? “Yaxley.”

“Harry Potter, as Lord of Slytherin and Gryffindor, has taken leadership of Hogwarts school and is currently inhabiting Hogwarts Castle.”

“Parkinson.”

“I was in the Session when Potter claimed his seats. As reported, he claimed Slytherin by Right of Conquest. He also claimed the seats for Gryffindor and Potter through blood right, and the seats for Black through his godfather who was at the time unable to hold the seats himself.”

Sixteen seats. The primary obstacle to his goals has 16 seats in the Wizengamot. He’s going to have to come out swinging and swinging hard.

“Rookwood.”

“I did not see it for myself but there is talk around my department of a diary that Harry Potter destroyed with a basilisk fang. Some say the diary was yours but it was tossed through the Veil so there is no way to find out for sure.”

And there’s what he’s been missing.

Lucius must have sent the Diary to the school before he died in a final bid to save the world and his lord. Whatever wonderful, lucky, pure-blood child got it, used the Diary to open the Chamber and continue his good work. Said child was probably murdered by Dumbledore so that Potter could kill the House-champion basilisk and claim House of Slytherin.

Which makes this ‘Right of Conquest’ claim a complete lie. Which, of course it is.

The destruction of the Diary must have triggered the resurrection protocols on the next horcrux, the Ring.

At this point Karkaroff is once more kneeling properly, steadier and no longer panicking even if he looks like he’s about to lose his lunch. Tom knows he’ll take the man’s offer. They can probably even get him into Potter’s year at Hogwarts. Transfer students aren’t common but they happen. He can pretend to be 16 and allow Parkinson to pretend to be his legal guardian by right of betrothal.

“Return to your spot.” He orders the queasy Knight.

Finally they move on to the outer most rank. The least of his Knights.

Rosier, Crabbe, Goyle, and Flint summon their sons and give the young men’s service to their Lord.

Wow, something even more boring and predictable than the gift of house elves.

And, in the case of Crabbe and Goyle, completely useless. What use does he have for Knights so magically weak they weren’t even invited to Hogwarts? They should have been exterminated young. Like all squibs everywhere.

Though, apparently Gregory Goyle has a gift for Potions and young Vincent Crabbe is very gifted with Rune Warding. Whatever, they can live. For now. Though, honestly, Tom would be surprised if Crabbe can even read.

Avery Junior gives him a check for half of his family’s assets. A check. Money. He didn’t even try! And he offers no explanation for his father’s absence.

Furious at the worthless creature’s rampant disrespect, Tom kills him with a single spell. It falls, dead at his betrothed’s feet, still holding out the check.

“The money is yours my dear.” He tells Pansy even as he calls an elf to clear the body.

A woman after his own heart, she giggles, leans forward, and takes the check. With a saucy grin at him, she folds it and slips it out of sight, under the edge of her dress’s plunging neckline.

He nods to Yaxley to let him know it’s his turn and is surprised when Yaxley and Albert Runcorn kneel before him together.

“We worked together for your gift, milord.” Yaxley tells him. “As you know a number of our brethren, many of your most loyal servants, were condemned to a Azkaban when the Ministry thought you died.”

Actually, he didn’t know that. Oops. He decides to give the benefit of a doubt and cancel the torture charms on the living Marks that aren’t currently in front of him. It’s not like he won’t be able to reapply them later if he changes his mind.

“We got you the blueprints,” Runcorn starts.

“And the warding scheme,” Yaxley finishes. “For Azkaban. So that, should you decide you want them back in your service, we can retrieve them for you.”

“Have their locations been labeled?” He asks because that’s better than asking who, exactly, went to jail for him.

“We have not,” Runcorn answers. “But I can update that information for you.”

“Do so. Then you may return to your fellows.” Once the map of Azkaban in updated and they are both back in place he instructs them each to take a single step forward, promoting them to mid-level Knights.

Two Knights left!

Throfinn Rowle turns over to him controlling interest in the largest Owl Post services in the world which is useful, very useful for spying, but boring.

Maybe he should have gone outer most to inner most to make sure everything ended for him on a high note? The outer Knights are the lowest ranking and least talented so he should have expected their gifts to be utterly unexciting.

Last and probably least, it’s Auror John Dawlish’s turn. Like only Rookwood before him, the man walks right up to Tom’s throne, takes a knee, and pulls something out of his pocket.

Two somethings.

The first one thrills Tom to pieces. He can hardly even speak for it when he takes his first wand right out of the Auror’s hands and runs his fingers over it. It’s the real thing. Thirteen and a half inches. Yew. Phoenix feather.

He could kiss the man! But he manages to refrain as he clutches his wand and takes in the second object.

It’s a pentagonal prism with a five-sided pyramid at either end. The entire thing is made of blue glass with shiny brass fittings. It’s an animagus containment unit and it has a rat inside it. A rat animagus. Could it be Peter Pettigrew?

“Word around the DMLE is this Rat, Peter Pettigrew, betrayed the Potters for you but the way I see it there were Potters still around when you weren’t. Which means maybe he betrayed you, too.”

“I agree.” Tom stands and takes up one of the blue Debtor’s Collars. He stabs his finger on the collar’s barb and watches the whole little arm it’s on retract and be replaced with a purple-colored piece of glass.

Anticipating his lord’s need, Dawlish opens the containment unit, stuns the Rat just to be sure, and holds it up for his lord to collar.

“You may return to your place.” He tells the Auror. The younger man leaves the Rat and it’s carrying case on the floor at Tom’s feet and returns to his fellows. As almost an afterthought, Tom adds, “You may move forward a single rank.”

Sitting back on his throne, Tom pushes his magic into the collar and forces the Rat into human guise.

He’s surprised by how well-kept the Rat looks. The DMLE must have done a lot of work on him because even in the simple white robe of an Accused he looks… attractive. Mid-thirties, pale with sunny blonde hair, dazed blue eyes, and a nose that has obviously been broken more than once.

This arousal thing is getting confusing. Honestly, did he have this problem before his resurrection? He can’t recall.

Rather than deal with it he re-transfigures the man into a classic grey tabby cat and floats him into Pansy’s arms. She takes him gladly and starts to coo over the damn thing.

He tugs on the tether he has on his male house elf. Jax appears with a bow and informs the room that, “Dinner is served.”

More grateful than he wants to think about, Tom stands and leads the entire group to the formal dining room.

-*-

It’s just starting to get late when Binny, the House Elf assigned to the Hogwarts Infirmary, pops in to tell them Regulus Black is awake.

And he is Regulus Black. Two Aurors, two Unspeakables, and the Bank have all verified his identity, so the denial Sirius seems to be in is no matter. Well, no, it matters for Sirius, obviously. It doesn’t matter for Harry other than having to work with Sirius and everyone else on Sirius’s issues.

They’re all family, they’ll work it out.

By the time Harry and Neville make it to the school infirmary, Sirius is sitting as far from his brother as he can and still be considered in the general area of Regulus’s bed. Regulus is putting way too much attention into finishing a cup of light soup.

Harry holds in a sigh and looks to Healer Pillar. He’s pretty sure there’s been an argument and she’s wearing that face, the one that screams ‘We need a permanent Mind Healer on staff!’. Again. Which makes him totally believe he’s right about the fight… and she might be right about the Mind Healer.

No doubt she’ll bring it up to McCoy in the morning. Again. He tells himself to just let them go for it when they bring him the request.

Harry walks right over to his… god uncle? Is that a thing? when the man sets down his soup cup.

“I’m Harry Potter.” He introduces himself.

The ‘older’ man chokes and looks up with him with wide eyes as Draco and Blaise enter the Infirmary. “It really has been 16 years.”

“It has,” Harry agrees. “But you apparently haven’t aged a day. Can you tell us how you came to be here?”

Regulus nods and keeps his focus on the tray in front of him, talking directly to his soup cup. “I took the Dark Mark the day after I graduated from Hogwarts. They – my parents and Voldemort – coached as a gift but I just wanted-” He sighs and flips over his right arm.

There’s actually no Dark Mark there, which is puzzling, but there is a brand. The initials LV stylized in a circle, like something you’d see on cattle. It looks raw, painful. Regulus doesn’t seem to notice. “It was a mistake. The biggest mistake I’ve ever made. And I’m sorry.

“But. At the time, because of my name, my power, and my blood status, I stepped right into a spot on the Inner Circle. It made me feel powerful. So powerful that I didn’t see it at first but those people are terrifying. So casually do they talk about committing rape or murder or burning down people’s homes while they’re in them.

“I didn’t belong there but I couldn’t get out. Once you’re Marked He owns you. I might as well have put on one of those slave collars and given Him an all access pass to my magic and family legacy.

“When I turned to our Lord-grandfather for help and he refused my letters, I didn’t know what to do.

“I knew I couldn’t approach Sirius for help. I was afraid because he was so furious when he found out about my Mark. And he’s a Black, he was already under suspicion from everybody. I didn’t want to do something that would hurt him.

“I thought about approaching the Unspeakables but there was already a Death Eater Unspeakable. I couldn’t be sure who’s side he’s really on and if he told our Master I would have been killed, so I couldn’t do that.

“I thought about going to the Aurors but there’s two of those that are Death Eaters so that’s a no.

“I knew there’s no way Dumbledore would take me in. He thinks of all Blacks as garbage. Something mildly useful that he can get rid of whenever he feels like. He’s at least half the reason people suspect Sirius of all kinds of horrible things.

“So I was stuck.” Regulus looks up and locks his eyes on Harry. Something passes through his eyes and he frowns. “No, before that.

“The Dark Lord came to me. I’d only been Marked about two weeks and he tells me that he needs assistance from someone he can trust. That he’s going to trust me above all others. I figure it’s a test because I’m so new and he never asks for help. He’s not the type. He just commands and expects it to be done.

“Anyway, he says he needs a discrete and powerful house elf. Well, Kreacher is the most powerful house elf I’ve ever met so I order him to attend the Dark Lord for a week. On the third day I felt something weird in our bond, so I call Kreacher to me. He pops in half-drowned and poisoned.

“My elf is there on the floor, crying in pain and muttering the most terrible things. So I call Severus. He’s the best potion’s maker I know, he has to be able to cure him. Severus takes one look at Kreacher, curls his lip, says some horrible things, and storms out of the house.

“That was my wake-up call. I joined the Death Eaters for him. Because I just wanted his attention, but Severus doesn’t see me. He doesn’t care about me. He doesn’t value my things, my Family, or my pure-blood legacy. Neither does Voldemort. Nobody in that inner circle wants anything other than to gift everyone that’s ever told them no with the worst possible deaths they can manage and they’re using blood politics to do it. They’re nothing more than a bunch of homicidal, genocidal brats!”

Healer Pillar intervenes at this point to stop the screaming and slow her patient’s breathing. She slips him a small shot of calming draught and orders. “You will stay calm. No shouting. No stress. If you can’t do that then the next thing I give you will be Dreamless Sleep and you will take it.”

She looks at each one of us until we all nod agreement with her mandate. No stressing her patient, got it.

She takes Regulus’s tray with her when she back off to unobtrusive monitoring distance.

Eventually the younger Black brother continues. “I called mom’s elf Broot and got Kreacher healed up. Severus had reported seeing Kreacher in my care though so I had to lie and say I couldn’t save him. Lord Voldemort laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed. He loved that he’s killed Kreacher. That my elf had died a death so horrible that I couldn’t even talk about it.

“So I waited. Just a few weeks, until Kreacher was healed, and I had the elf show me what he and Voldemort had done.

“We ended up in a cave by the sea. I was careful, and thorough. It took hours. The cave had a blood-warded door that sucks on your magic for as long as you’re in the cave. We had to cross a foul-smelling lake full of inferi on an invisible boat that would only carry one person and won’t return to the starting point as long as there is someone at its final destination. The final destination is an island in the middle of the lake. It’s barely more than stairs with a magical basin at the top. In the basin was a locket sheltered by a potion, the poison my elf drank.

“I don’t know what it is but it’s a potion that you can’t reach through – you can’t touch at all. Can’t vanish it. Can’t transfigure or charm it. The basin is indestructible and goblin-made, so you can’t just blast it and let everything pour out. The only way to manipulate the potion to get to the locket is with a shell that sits on the basin and once the shell gets filled you still can’t do anything to it. You can’t even poor it out. You have to drink it.”

For the first time since Harry entered the Infirmary, Regulus looks directly at his brother. “The locket’s a horcrux, Sirius. And not a first one either, it’s vile. I could feel the aura of it through the potion.”

“He’s insane!” Sirius hisses at the news.

Harry looks to his classmates, they look just as clueless as he feels. “What’s a horcrux?” He asks for them all.

“The darkest of arts.” Sirius tells them. “The blackest, darkest thing I have ever heard of. It’s a soul anchor made through murder and the ritual splitting of the maker’s magical soul. To violate yourself once in this way is madness. To do it more than once?” He trails off, just shaking his head until he drops it into his hands.

“How?” Blaise asks reluctantly, his voice breaking a bit. “How do you know about these things?”

“Our great-grandfather Sirius the First,” Regulus answers. “He brought one home from Egypt. To study it. It was on display in the parlor of the house we grew up in forever. Supposedly it belonged to Imhotep, advisor to the pharohs of the Old Kingdom’s Third Dynasty. First magical architect, first and most gifted of magical inventors, and first recorded magical healer.”

“It was our mother’s pride and joy.” Sirius concludes bitterly.

“So what happened?” Harry asks, getting them back on track before Pillar follows through with her threat of sedation. She might just dose them all as punishment if they cause problems for her patient.

“I drank the potion.” Regulus answers simply. “I had Kreacher fetch my locket and some stuff so I could write a note. I put a note in my locket to take credit for destroying his horcrux because I wanted the Dark Lord to know exactly who betrayed him. Then I ordered Kreacher to help me drink the potion, to make the switch as soon as he could, and to take the Dark Lord’s locket home and destroy it as soon as possible. The little bastard drank some of the potion before I could correct him. He knew I meant for him to feed it to me when I told him the ‘help’.

“I have no idea how long the whole thing took but I remember Kreacher popping off. I remember crawling down the stairs to get some water and an inferus pulling me into the water before I got my hand to my mouth. I remember wishing I had gone to my brother for help.

“Next thing I know, there’s a great deal of noise and heat and I’m waking up in Sirius’s arms in the Three Broomsticks.”

Harry leans back, trying to process everything. Sirius looks close to tears at his brother’s confession and can’t seem to do more than cup his hand over his mouth and not cry.

It’s rude enough that Gram would spank him for it but he’s too furious to speak so Neville, Draco, and Blaise have to introduce themselves, tell Regulus where he is, and get him up to speed on key recent events. He tries to focus on them but his might keeps gravitating to Voldemort, to his parents’ murderer.

Their murder is alive and they aren’t and it’s so unspeakably foul to him but he can’t say he’s surprised. He’d killed the Volde-wraith that had possessed Snape at the end of his second year and then there was that Diary last year that claimed to be the soul of Lord Voldemort. And Dumbledore refused explain either situation to him which automatically made everything more suspect for him.

…The Diary must have been a horcrux.

And that quill-thing from his ascension at the bank. It has felt a lot like the Diary, what had happened to that?

That crown thing, too. The one that Alastor had found in the Room of Hidden Things.

“How many horcruxes can a person make?” Harry asks and pretty much destroys the comfortable conversation the others are having.

“It depends on how powerful they are.” Sirius answers.

“Six.” Regulus asserts. “Voldemort had to be a mage. Based on the level on enchantments in the Cave alone, he wouldn’t have survived making it if he wasn’t a mage and a mage can make up to six.”

“What do they feel like?” Harry asks. “A cold that burns? Make the air feel like your swallowing ink or oil or something when you breath?”

Regulus nods along with his ‘symptoms’ and adds. “They make you doubt yourself. Make you feel weak and know that you are a horrible person.”

“That no one could ever love you.”

“Yeah.” Regulus rubs his hand over his chest. “You’ve met one?”

“Three, I think, actually.”

“All for the same person?”

“I,” Harry pauses to consider this. “Don’t know. How can I tell?”

“It’s not really a smell,” Sirius is the one that answers. “It’s a pressure behind your nose.”

Harry nods and thinks about it before answering, “All for the same person.”

Neville’s hand slips into Harry’s and he looks up at his husband. “The quill, the crown, and? What?”

“A Diary. The basilisk I killed at the end of last year, fifth year. It was controlled by a spirit in a diary claiming to be Tom Marvolo Riddle. Voldemort.”

Neville swallows hard, nods and holds Harry’s hand tighter.

“Do you know what Moody did with it? The Crown? He said he would take care of it.”

“He was calling the Unspeakables,” Neville answers. “Destroying that kind of thing is what they do.”

“So the Unspeakables know.” More to the point, Algenon Bones knows, Harry thinks angrily. “They’ve been in and out of my castle and haven’t said a word to me about this.”

“They probably don’t know he’s back.” Neville tries to soothe.

“They have reason to suspect he could return. They know he’s not completely dead. I have a right to know. He’s my enemy, he’s an enemy of the Realm! They have no right to keep that from me!” He takes a deep breath when Pillar magically appears with a tray hold several single-doses of a potion.

It’s a deep purple potion that glows kind of pink, the promised Dreamless Sleep. She raises a single eyebrow at him, her mouth is set in stubborn line.

“Crow,” Harry calls his head elf as he picks up one of the tiny silver-bottomed glass cups to show his compliance. When his elf appears he instructs. “Tell Croaker and Hecate that I want a meeting. First thing in the morning. Here, in the Family Library. Tell Alastor Moody to be there, too.”

The house elf thanks him for the order and pops away.

Harry and Neville together throw back their potion and silently march off to their bedroom before it can put them to sleep.

 

 

Chapter 20 – August 12, 1996

 

Croaker is not ashamed to admit that he is having a rather emotional day.

A roller-coaster of a day.

It had started out on a high as he’d woken up to a message from Dolos.

Dolos had not only survived the meeting with the Dark Lord but he’d been promoted. Dolos is now a member of the inner circle and had been kept late into the night to satisfy the whim of a reborn mad man. A man, he reported, to be greatly different from his last incarnation with some interesting gaps in his memories.

Croaker could hardly wait to debrief the man. It’s been quite hard to let him sleep, despite knowing that his agent must be in dire need.

There are so many theories around the Department about resurrecting via horcrux and the effects on the returning subject that they’ve never been able to answer -for obvious reasons- and getting new data on the subject was almost enough to make him forget other matters.

Except for a summons from the King. Harry might not have publicly announced his position but that doesn’t change the facts. Magic doesn’t wait for political announcements. The truth is.

Algie is on another hand, excited to learn what the King has to say. To find out what important, forgotten thing the Pendragon has discovered to prompt a pre-breakfast meet. He sincerely doubts it will hold a candle to what Dolos will report later in the afternoon but it will probably help him forget his portkey problems.

As head Unspeakable, he has an indestructible, untraceable, multi-destination portkey activated by his magical signature. It’s a very rare and expensive magical device that has not once failed him in almost 20 years but somehow, this particular morning, his portkey wouldn’t work. There’s nothing obviously wrong with it so he was forced to owl it off to the department’s enchanters for evaluation and repair.

He doesn’t bother trying not to frown at the large number of guards around the landing zone as he releases Hecate’s portkey and steps through the gate on the Keep’s family side. It’s not like anyone can see it through his hood anyway.

He remains passive, allowing the private security his husband hired for the Pendragon to run through all the various checks his husband requires for everyone upon entry. The gate guards seem a little pissy but then they’ve probably been outside all night so he can’t really blame them.

They don’t attune his or Hecate’s wands to the wards to allow advanced casting while within the grounds, a courtesy they have been afforded on every other visit to the Keep. That’s fine, though. He’ll just have to remind Alastor when he sees him.

Four additional security personnel show up to escort them to Harry. Alastor is not among them which is… strange. Algie’s gut is knotting up but he pushes it aside. Alastor has probably just beefed up security. It’s probably a sign that they are making the announcement soon. He should really put more effort into listening to his husband’s late night ramblings.

They walk for a surprisingly long while. They’re actually escorted right past the Family Library, where he was told they would be meeting, and into an office.

It’s a very interesting office with solid wood furniture and gray stone walls. The walls somehow manage to reflect a great deal of sunlight despite the room having no windows.

Harry is sitting at a desk that has a layer of glass over the wooden surface. Behind him is a fire place too small to be a regular floo but could probably work as an emergency floo. There is no fire in it. On the wall above the fire place, or maybe it would be more accurate to say ‘in it’? Is a stone mosaic of the Pendragon crest done in black and red stones that contrast nicely with the room.

A powerful statement that.

Hanging from the mantle below the mosaic are three pennants with the crests of Gryffindor, Potter, and Slytherin.

Alastor is off to one side sitting in a chair. It’s truly strange but Alastor doesn’t stand when they enter.

Alastor always stands when people enter the room. He even does it when he’s injured. It’s one of his foremost rules of his constant vigilance philosophy. He would honestly have to be physically and magically bound to a chair to stay in it when people enter his space.

Algie is starting to get worried. Could his husband be disarmed and bound? He’s doing his ‘I’m not furious face’ which actually means that he really wants to gut someone and his wand and his staff are both nowhere to be seen.

What. Has. Happened?

What could his husband have done to would get the Unspeakables called in to deal with? No, that’s stupid. Even if Alastor had done something illegal or horrible, he would never leave behind any evidence.

“Sit.” Harry orders as he waves the security detail out of the room but doesn’t actually dismiss them to other duties. The boy is looking at them in a manner that seems almost cold, calculating. Like they are the enemy.

Croaker looks to his second. He can’t see her face but he can see the tension in her shoulders. She doesn’t like their situation any more than he does.

Slowly and without any sudden movements he draws his wand and sets it on the glass with the grip toward Potter before actually sitting down. The chair set out for him is padded but it has no arms. Normally that would annoy him but now it just makes it easier to splay his hands and grip each kneecap, wordlessly showing he means no harm and will not fight his King.

Just seconds behind him, Hecate does the same.

“Take off your hoods.” The Pendragon orders.

“My lord!” Algie protests. “Our identities-”

“Are not secret from me.” The Pendragon interrupts. “I know exactly who you are and I have since the first day of our acquaintance when you sat on the couch with your daughter and husband and explained the panic my running away caused in the Ministry. When Amy mentioned Croaker throwing a fit and bringing in the ICW, you reacted. Internally. Just like everyone reacts to their own name.”

Well. That’s a little bombshell. And he doesn’t even know what to do with it, his mind just fills with static.

“Hoods.” Potter orders again.

Croaker reaches up and tugs on his pendant so that his hood fades away. At his nod Hecate does the same, leaving Embeth at his side.

“Now,” Harry glances between them to make it clear he’s talking to them both. “What do you know about Tom Marvolo Riddle,  also known as Lord Voldemort and/or He Who Shall Not Be Named and/or You Know Who and/or the Dark Lord?”

Dammit, someone has coached Harry for this conversation. Algie glances at his husband who, upon second thought, probably isn’t furious for the reasons he first assumed. He’s not even sure what to think. It never once occurred to him that his husband might be mad at him.

Algie just clenches his lips together and shakes his head.

Harry’s eyebrows shoot up. “You are going to actively deny me this information?”

Well, of course he is! The Unspeakables have a handle on it and too many chefs spoil the soup… With a huff, Algie chooses not to answer.

Potter looks to Embeth.

Algernon’s second shift and he looks at her. She seems quite uncomfortable. Her mouth works a few times and then eventually she says. “I cannot speak of it, my Lord. I am oathbound to follow Croakers orders. If I tried to do otherwise my life would be over.”

Harry nods once. “So, how many horcruxes have you destroyed?”

Oh, wow, maybe it would be better– No. He’s made a decision, it’s a good decision and he’s sticking with it. Still, it’s a rather simple question and it won’t give anything away really. “Four.” Going for the distraction, Croaker adds. “Though, technically you destroyed one, we’ve destroyed three, and have located a fifth.”

“I destroyed the Diary.” Harry says with a solemn nod. “The Quill and then Crown have been destroyed.” It’s not a question so Croaker doesn’t answer. “I suppose as long as you swear to me and have documentation to back up the destruction of the other two what they are doesn’t matter.” Still, not a question. “Tell me, have you identified  Lord Voldemort’s sixth horcrux?”

A question and an order. “No, sire.”

“Is He alive?” Harry asks. He continues before Croaker can supply a not-answer. “Is He physically walking the Earth and inhabiting a body of his own at this time?”

It’s a question but not an order so in the name of operational security Croaker doesn’t answer.

“You realize that you owe me this information, don’t you?” Harry asks with a frown. “I am your King. I should not have to ask. I should not have to beg you for information on an Enemy of the Realm, you are bound to report it to me – morally, legally, and magically.

“It’s my job to meet Him,” Harry continues. “On every battlefield, and it’s your job to make sure I have all the information I need to do so and win.”

“No, it’s my job to protect the Realm.” Croaker counters. “That includes protecting her King.”

“You, obviously, need to review the Monarch Section of the Unspeakable Handbook. I’m sure your replacement would be glad to provide you one so that you may educate yourself on the nature and scope of your crimes.” Harry taps something on the underside of his desk that Croaker can’t see and stands. “Hood up, please, Hecate.”

She follows the Pendragon’s order and stands along with him.

Croaker is shocked. Beyond shocked. Is this why his portkey wasn’t working? Is he? Did he? No, no, he’s done the right thing! He has!

“Now, Croaker.” Potter continues as the guards pull Algie from his seat. “In case that wasn’t clear enough for you, you are fired. You are also an oathbreaker, in dereliction of duty, and horrifically lucky that I am fond of both your husband and mine. I was all for sending you to Azkaban but they convinced me to house you here. That said, you will serve 10 years in my dungeon and, if you were to somehow get out without my direct permission, you and anyone who helped you do so will spend twice that long in Azkaban.”

-*-

Hecate watches in mute horror as her boss and personal hero of the last year is escorted from the room by his own husband’s men.

“Thank you, milord.” Said husband, her cousin, says to the Pendragon with a bow. “Considering the health problems Lucius has been having since his core broke, sending him to Azkaban would have been a death sentence.”

“A long and slow one,” Potter agrees, sounding more than a little disgusted. “If I wanted his death it would have been treason, not dereliction.

“Now, you may watch them process him to make sure no one gets unduly rough with him but you may not speak to him until after McCoy has completed his health check and he is in a cell. You will not touch him until the day he is released. If there are any problems -with his handling, with his cell, with the guards, with anything at all- I want to know about them immediately. Am I clear?”

“Yes, milord. Thank you.” Alastor bows and stomps out once Potter dismisses him with a wave.

Once the door closes, she lowers her hood.

“Have you read the Monarch Section of the Unspeakable Handbook, Ms. Lemarr?”

“I have, your Highness.”

“I actually prefer ‘sir’.”

“Of course, sir.”

“Who is your second?”

Technically, Ourania but the older woman is much more of a theorist and researcher. She’d be wasted in organizational leadership and even the possibility of her in doing fieldwork is a total nightmare.

The Rowan would be after that, and she would be a very suitable pick. If she hadn’t gotten herself retired to take care of a child that isn’t even hers.

That leaves. “Tomanak. Adair Eames. He’s a brutal field asset, especially when facing someone charged with crimes against children, and so good at undercover he could convince you he’s your Great Aunt Essie.”

“I don’t have a Great Aunt Essie.”

“That’s completely irrelevant, sir.” She shoots her King a significant look. “He’s been running all fieldwork training and the lower-level fieldwork operations for about eight years now, so he knows everyone. Even if it’s only by codename.”

“Alright, I have a meeting with the Goblins this afternoon. They requested a secure meeting during Sirius’s Ascension but they refused to discuss why. I imagine they are going to tell me all the stuff Croaker has kept from me. I want you and Tomanak to attend.”

She nods, hopefully she’ll have enough time to update the roster and explain things to her new Second.

“Now, who is your spy in the Death Eaters and is Tom Riddle alive?”

“Dolos. Dolos is our spy within the Death Eaters and I don’t know. I do know Dolos had a big meet up last night which is unusual because he is primarily a researcher. He’s quite gifted at reading large quantities of disparate information and making connections. Most often correct connections that others have missed.

“I’ll need to return to the Department to get Croaker’s notes, the Head Unspeakable is required to leave very detailed records in the event they do not return. May I have an hour?”

“Make it two. While you’re there, update Tomanak, and make sure every member of your Department reads and understands the Monarch Section of the Unspeakable Handbook.”

“Or course, sir.”

-*-

Harry does his best to keep things casual yet indisputably magical as 60 soon-to-be First Years enter the Great Hall.

He’s holding a conversation with the Hat, leaning against the Head Table in a gigantic room lit only by a ceiling enchanted to look like the current sky. The eleven year-olds excited little gasps are very rewarding. And a little funny if the faces of the 30-something child advocates and four new Heads of House are anything to go by.

They had barely managed to get all of the Student Transition Coordinator Rene Lyons’s advocacy staff hired and IMEA certified before the pre-First Year session but they did! Now, it’s the first morning but technically not the first day of their session.

Coordinator Lyons had gathered them in Hogsmede yesterday afternoon and set them on a scavenger hunt to familiarize the students with the magical village. They’d eaten in town and crashed out in the Hogwarts Guest Quarters fairly early in the evening.

They’ve already been fed in one of the meeting rooms near the Guest Quarters, so the first order of business for the day is health checks. Twenty of the students are werewolf cubs from around the world so they’ll be getting their New Moon Amulets and getting attuned to their Amulets during their health checks. Ten of the students are children that Dumbledore implanted with Core Taps much later in life than Dudley.

So, yes, health checks first. Werewolf heath checks first.

“As you may remember from yesterday, I am Rene Lyons. I am the Student Transition Coordinator for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. That means it is my job to make sure that you have everything you need to be successful here,” The man holds out his arms. “At Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!

“I want to introduce you to our fine school’s owner, Harry Potter.” Rene gestures in Harry’s direction and he waves to the crowd. “And the very magical Sorting Hat. Every night, after dinner, we’ll all gather up to hear stories about the Founding of our fair school from the Storing Hat, himself. He is the most reliable source we have in regards to the Founding, since he was there.”

About three children’s jaws drops, the rest probably just don’t get it but that’s okay. They will.

“We have a full day ahead of us so we’re going to divide into three groups to get everything done.” Rene continues. “One group will head outside and have flying lessons, one group will get what we are calling the ‘classroom tour’ of the castle and have a session with our very own Professor of History Louis du Lac, and the third group will be going to the Infirmary for health checks. This is nothing to be afraid of, it’s just a check-up and it is an international requirement for students is a non-home-school environment. It’s mostly to make sure you have all the immunizations you need and to make sure the school will meet your dietary needs so that we can keep you healthy.

“All of the older students will go through it as well once they are back on campus.

“Before we split up for the day, I’m going to have the first of the Advocate Team introduce themselves to you all. We’ll start with the Heads of House today and do another advocate for each House every day until we get to them all. Starting us off will be Remus Lupin, Head of Gryffindor House.

Remus stands and delivers a prepared talking bit that includes his name and his favorite class(es) when he was at Hogwarts, as well as his favorite memory of his House and his favorite memory of the school in general while he was attending. His two memories come out as little short stories that manage to avoid admitting to the number of school rules he must have broken and make everyone laugh.

Cedric Diggory, the Head Boy from two years ago, stands as the Head of Hufflepuff House and gives the same set of personalized facts. No one laughs but the kids all seem to relax and smile in the face of Diggory’s easy warmth. It’s obvious now why Madame Sprout picked him personally and took the time to talk him out of his position within the Ministry despite his father’s protests.

Penelope Clearwater, the Head Girl from the year before Diggory, stands and delivers the same factoids. Harry doesn’t really take it in though because the pendant he’s wearing – not his Seed necklace but a locket with a tiny magical portrait of Lady Ravenclaw in it- warms and vibrates where it hangs just below his collar bone. Casually as he can he tugs the chain so that the locket tumbles out from under his shirt. Once it’s laying above his shirt he hears it snick open.

“Her, Harry.” Lady Rowena Ravenclaw’s portrait says with soft excitement. “It’s her. She’s my heir. Bring her to the Master Portrait for confirmation.”

He tugs the chain once in to acknowledge her demand but doesn’t close the locket, as much as he wants to.

‘Grandmother’ Ravenclaw has given him so much good advice lately that he’s gotten rather proprietary of her. When she claims her heir, he’ll lose access to the necklace he’s currently wearing because it will go to the heir along with control of the Ravenclaw Magical Legacy.

But he won’t lose all access to Grandmother. He’ll still have physical access to the master portrait in his office and of course her heir will take up the duties of Lady Ravenclaw so he’ll have a surrogate, kind of?

Lady Ravenclaw is primarily supposed to be the King’s most broadly-minded and honest advisor. Though one historical Lady Ravenclaw established a guild of mediators known for their neutrality. And a later one took that a step further and pretty much became the patron saint of lawyers in Avalon.

Lady Ravenclaw is, in many cases, the only one the Pendragon can trust completely with all of his secrets due to the heavy magical vows she has to take to take on the Ravenclaw Legacy.  Basically the heir’s job boils down to ‘King’s BFF’ which is good! And valuable! But that’s not the same as the all-access pass to Grandmother herself that he’s been enjoying.

So, no, he won’t lose Grandmother and he has no business hoping Ms. Clearwater won’t take the heir-position but he kind of does. None the less, he signals her that they need to talk later as she sits down and is replaced by Slytherin’s new Head of House, Narcissa Malfoy.

-*-

By the time Tom makes it down stairs for breakfast, Pansy and Karkaroff are sitting at the end of the dining room table furthest from the food at head of the table, going through a stack of scrolls.

Several appear to have already been rejected, based off of the haphazard handful scattered across the floor.

Rather than sit at the far end and eat, Tom sits at the right hand of his woman and asks, “What is all this?” as he signals a House Elf to bring him breakfast.

“We are going through the faces and identities Karkaroff has available to see if there are any good enough for you.” Pansy answers him promptly and without guile. “Most of these are the wrong age, or the wrong gender, or they have no magical legacy or Name that would explain the alliance between you and House Parkinson.”

“Most? So you found some?”

“One.” She says with a nod. “Karkaroff found another one that’s close to what you said you wanted but he’s a little old and wouldn’t get you into Hogwarts with me.”

“Your pick?”

“Tomis Basileus. Heir of Family Basileus. Sixteen. Home-schooled. Karkaroff assures me that he, along with his parents who are his only family, has been missing a month and no one has reported it or become suspicious yet.”

“Chances of the family being recovered?” He has to ask, because that would put a huge kink in his plans and he really doesn’t have the time for a manhunt right now.

“The boy and his parents are quite irrecoverable, milord.” Karkaroff assures him.

So probably dead but possibly in stasis.

“Tell me more,” He orders them.

Pansy grins at him, seemingly excited that he didn’t shoot her down right away. “He’s rather pretty and very tall.” She hands him a picture. “He looks similar enough to your natural face to not be jarring when you see him in the mirror but what appeals to me more than that is his Name. Basileus is a Greek title for King which, of course, is what you will be and Family Basileus are the only living incarnation for the reborn line of du Lac which would give you access to an Avalonian Legacy.”

Tom finds himself nodding along. He likes it. It’s clever and multi-faceted. The new face is rather pretty, even if it has an overly long chin. He’ll be taller than Pansy and better than that he’ll be even taller than Potter. His woman has good taste.

“How do we do this, Karkaroff?”

“We’ll need to go to my workspace at Durmstrang. I have a portkey that can get us there, so that will be handled easily enough.

“You’ll need to come up with a middle name that will connect current you to the new you.

Tom frowns. Marvolo is really too unique to keep, so, “What’s the Russian word for ‘riddle’?”

“Zagadka.”

It’ll do. Tom gives the Headmaster a sharp nod.

“Tomis Zagadka Basileus?” Karkaroff confirms.

Tom nods once again.

“Very well. The ritual should take about two hours because I’ll need to sacrifice the boy and his father to transfer the blood legacy.

“You may want to call Lord Parkinson to come with us. Gringotts doesn’t have branches that far north so most families, the Basileus’s included, keep Wills and Betrothal contracts and those kinds of things on file at the school. Parkinson can alter the documents to fit the reality we choose to create.”

Tom nods his agreement, everything’s going to plan. Some of it’s going a little better. He’s getting his new face. One with a surprisingly fitting Legacy that will open so many doors for him. And Dawlish will have Dumbledore’s location by the time they finish and that old bat will be permanently out of the way.

With a mean smile he mentally tugs on Parkinson’s Mark, they better get busy.

-*-

The door is too far away for him to actually hear it but the Wards of his Lord’s Library tell him when there’s a knock at the door and who’s doing the knocking.

Penelope Clearwater’s knock comes much sooner than he expected. Much sooner than he’s ready for.

He opens the door and she smiles down at him. It’s a gentle smile, almost shy. His nerves must be showing.

“Please, Penelope Clearwater, be welcome in my Lord’s Library.”

“Thank you.” She enters the room and takes his arm when he offers it. He leads her down the center on the library towards his desk. Unlike most she’s only about an inch taller than him so their strides match up rather nicely, especially when compared to his and Neville’s because Neville is over half a foot taller than he is. It’s nice to be able to escort someone somewhere and it not be awkward.

Of course, part of the not-awkward-ness is probably due to her natural social grace. In the entire time he’s known her, Harry has never seen Ms. Clearwater wrong-footed.

“You’re here more quickly than I expected.” He almost-asks in lieu of anything else to say.

“I’m here more quickly than I expected.” She tells him honestly and then continues with a bit of a teasing smile. “I suppose the math was rather simple -three groups, four Heads- and we weren’t as subtle as we thought. The other Heads sent me right off. I was afraid Narcissa might have me spanked if I refused.

“But, if may I ask? What I’m doing here?”

“You’re here to meet someone. Someone very important to me.” He tells her and gestures up at the larger than life portrait of Rowena Ravenclaw.

Penelope looks up and gasps, her eyes going wide. “Lady Ravenclaw!” Almost in a trance she drops Harry’s arm and walks around his desk, her eyes never leaving Grandmother’s.

Grandmother Ravenclaw for her part is smiling. Her eyes are positively swimming with emotion -pride, hope, excitement and her hand low in her portrait, like she’s waiting for Penelope to take it.

Penelope reaches up and touches Lady Ravenclaw’s hand. At first just the tips of her fingers rest above the canvas, on the very tips of Grandmother’s fingers. Penelope can barely reach thanks to the height of the fireplace and the width of the mantle. Slowly more of her hand slides over Lady Ravenclaw’s until the tips of their fingers are touching the end of each other’s palms.

Penelope’s hand sinks into the portrait, taking on a strange flatness but somehow growing larger. Her arm keeps feeding into the portrait.

Harry notices Penelope stepping upward on air. Like she’s on a ladder that only she can see.

Penelope and Lady Ravenclaw grasp each other’s wrists at the same time and Lady Ravenclaw pulls Penelope into the portrait. The moment the trailing edge of her robe swishes its way into the portrait, the picture’s two occupants embrace.

Harry watches them whisper to each other and hold each other’s faces and giggle like a pair of long lost friends, and he feels terribly left out.

He swallows hard and sits at his desk, his back towards them. He didn’t ask for it but Hecate sent him a complete copy of Croaker’s journal and he should read it before their meeting. Yes. That is what he should be doing-

“Harry,” Penelope and Rowena call to him.

He turns his chair and looks up at them.

“Thank you.” Penelope says simply.

He’s not really sure why she’s thanking him or what for but it makes him feel a bit better so he nods once and watches them disappear back into the painting, through a door he’s never seen Grandmother use. He goes back to his reading feeling a bit lighter.

He knows the exact moment Penelope takes on the Ravenclaw Legacy because he feels the locket handing around his neck seal. For a moment he’s adrift. He knows he won’t be alone. He always has Neville and now he’ll have Penelope but he doesn’t know Penelope and he won’t have Grandmother actively in his life any more.

No. That’s stupid. They’ve been over this. Of course, he’ll have her. He’ll just have her at one remove? Through Penelope?

He shakes his head. He needs to wait and see. It’ll work out. It should work out.

For a selfish moment, he wishes Neville was with him. Merlin, these things are easier when Neville’s with him. But Neville is off where he should be, hanging out with his recovering parents. By now all three of them are probably elbow deep in the private Family Greenhouses up on the roof.

‘Green Therapy’ as Neville calls it. It frustrates Harry but it does amazing things for Neville and it will probably do amazing things for his parents.

The Library’s Wards ping him again. The ward alert prepares him for the sight of Ragnok, Ni-oog, Hecate, and Tomanak all standing there together but he still takes a moment to wonder who exactly is spying on who or how else they could have arranged to all get here together.

He invites them in, one by one. Ragnok first for King-to-King reasons. Then, Hecate because she’s the head of her Department. Followed by Ni-oog to keep the idea of human-preferential treatment to a minimum. Last Tomanak, who is the lowest ranking because he’s the most recently promoted.

He leads them to conversation nook under the windows but only makes it about half way there before Neville shows up. He’s a little sweaty and he has dirt under more than one finger nail but Harry is so grateful to have him there that he takes one of the love seats for them rather than sitting in one of the chairs at the ‘head’ position on the grouping like he’s supposed to.

He arranges his husband exactly how he wants him and then settles in beside him and under one of his arms.

The other four take this with great aplomb and not a single raised eyebrow. Unless it’s under a hood.

Ragnok and Hecate take the couch opposite Harry and Neville. They are on opposite ends but still might as well be cuddling for their normal boundary standards. Tomanak takes the ‘head’ chair on Hecate’s left and Ni-oog takes the chair on Ragnok’s right. It completely upsets the normal power dynamic in such an arrangement and Harry finds he rather likes it.

“Director Ragnok,” Harry gestures for the smaller being to begin.

The goblin nods and sits forward on the couch. “Thank you for agreeing to this meeting. I’m afraid I have some terrible news.”

The goblin pauses, seemingly unsure for just a moment. “What do you know of horcruxes?”

“I know they are vile, probably the darkest magical objects a human can create, and I know that Voldemort made at least three.”

“Good.” Ragnok nods again. “We believe he made six. We -that is the Horde and the Unspeakables- have seen five and have destroyed three.”

“I know of the Diary, the Crown-thing, and the Quill,” Harry tells the older being. “The others?”

“The Cup of Hufflepuff was located when the le Strange Vault was consolidated into the Slytherin Vault.” Ragnok answers. “It was destroyed using fiendfyre and then the ashes were tossed through the Veil.

“Both events were thoroughly documented by the Unspeakables, just like all the other horcruxes we’ve gotten our hands on, if you wish to review the incidents.

“The other is a Locket. A curse breaking team found it within one of the Black Family Properties. The Locket is under a Parseltongue ward that has blocked our attempts to destroy it.”

“That’s why you need me?” Harry finds himself questioning. “That’s why we’re having this meeting? Would you have ever said anything if you didn’t need a Speaker?”

“We argued that you should have been told about this when we found the Cup five days ago.” Ni-oog speaks up before his father can. “We were overridden and didn’t have any access to you until your godfather’s Ascension three days ago. We asked for this meeting on that first chance we got.

Ni-oog frowns. “We found the Locket two days ago but only accepted that we can’t break the parseltongue ward last night. We mention it because it is pertinent and you deserve the information but it is not the motivation for the meeting.”

“And who overruled you?” Harry questions even though he knows the answer.

“Croaker.” Ragnok says bluntly. “Due to the various Treaties, the Head Unspeakable is our path to reach out to the government. The King is part of the government.”

“Unless we reach out to you first, I take it?” Harry asks with a sardonic eyebrow.

Ragnok nods.

“Does Harry have to open the thing?” Neville asks. “Can’t you just toss it through the Veil?”

Silence fills the room.

“The magical theory of that hasn’t been explored.” Hecate eventually says. “And it deals with the definition of Death and the questions we have never been able to explore in regards to the Veil itself.

“I honestly can see how it looks like a viable solution but I really don’t think it is because a horcrux is an enchanted, physical anchor of a mortal’s soul. Throwing it through the Veil will not damage the link between the soul and the item, it will just move the item to a realm where we have absolutely no chance of destroying it.”

“Right but if he dies, having the anchor in the Lands of Death will draw him over. Won’t it?” Neville asks.

“Is that something we can afford?” Hecate asks back. “If he’s anchored in the afterlife, he can never be reborn and he will never pay his karmic burdens for this life, which is unfair to those he has wronged. Not only that but it could break the cycle and possibly damage or destroy existence as we know it.

“Or, if you don’t believe in karma and rebirth, there are other theories about Death. Some feel Death is the natural next step on the road to the Heart of Magic. With this theory, His dying would bring Him closer to Magic and make Him more powerful. Powerful enough, perhaps, to allow Him to traverse back into the Land of the Living. Then we would be stuck fighting him forever. Never permanently rid of him because his soul would be anchored in a place we cannot reach.

“We have hundreds of theories on Death, there is an entire Hall in the Department full of theories on Death and the Veil. Not all of them lead to situations as horrible as I mentioned but many of them do and we have no safe way to test any of the theories. So, let’s suffice it to say I think it’s a bad idea and we should stick with what we know works.”

Harry glances at his husband who takes being shot down with the greatest of ease. They nod to each other in reassurance and Neville drops his arm onto Harry’s shoulder, bringing them tighter together.

“Have any of you gotten confirmation that He is resurrected?” Harry asks the room.

Ragnok shakes his head. “The account we have in His name is stagnant with a very low balance due to fees. Another year or so and it will be closed. He may have accounts under other names but we have yet to locate them.”

“Alright,” Harry nods. “I’d rather be sure so if your people would keep looking, I’d be grateful.”

Ragnok nods firmly and sits back against the back of the couch.

“Our Spy confirms He lives.” Hecate tells them. “The wards around the meeting and vows our spy has had to take limit what he can tell us about the man himself but he was able to provide us some less than exact details about Voldemort’s new physical person as well as a list of every Death Eater of lower rank than him due to his recent promotion to the Inner Circle. So we have a current list of names for all but the Inner Circle.”

Harry nods at them. “I have received confirmation of Death Eaters being called to attend their lord and staying out quite late last night in a meeting with Voldemort himself but I have receives no details of that meeting.”

Silence reigns once again, every mind working furiously on the problem.

“Azure.” Harry calls for the Potter elf attached to the DMLE. Well, specifically, the Potter elf in the service of the Head of the DMLE.

She pops into place, looking a little uncertain.

“I need Amelia Bones. Immediately. It’s very important. Tell her where I am. You may also tell her who I am with.”

“Yes, Master Pendragon sir.”

“If she wants to bring her Second she may but I will need their name to let them in.”

“Yes, Master Pendragon sir. I go now?”

“Yes, thank you. You may go.”

“We brought with us a copy of the Spy’s preliminary report,” Tomanak says to the room. “He’s already been called away again but we can pick the report over in his stead.”

“Alright.” Harry agrees as he stands. The rest of the group stands with him. “Neville, call Moody up here and order us a meal. I’m going to adjust the Library’s wards. Hecate, Tomanak, make copies of the report for everyone. Ragnok, Ni-oog, what options do we have to help maintain the secret? I’m thinking personal mind wards and perhaps secure document carriers of some kind?

“I’m not particularly interested in vows because I don’t want to risk impeding the DMLE or the Unspeakables in their duty but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to require my personal permission to spread certain information that we deem classified.”

A round of nod-bows and “Of course, sir”s later and they are disbursing.

Tomanak moves directly to the shelf with blank parchment behind Harry’s desk and uses said desk for his task.

Hecate, Ragnok, and Ni-oog sit back down and start discussing their options including Occlumency amulets or changing the wards so that certain topics can only be discussed in that room or within a certain distance of Harry.

Neville calls Missy and Zabi. Zabi is sent off to fetch Alastor and a meal. Missy helps Neville adjust the furniture in the reading nook for the new bodies they are expecting even though it would probably make more sense for them all to just move to the table on the other side of the room.

Harry takes a slow walk around the edge of the room. He doesn’t need to do it to change the wards. Honestly, he doesn’t need to speak out loud to adjust the wards any more but moving helps change his perspective, helps his mind make connections to improve problem solving.

It was Grandmother’s idea. Normally it’s just one lap around the Library helps tremendously but due to the enormity of the problem he starts weaving in and out of the shelves to make it last longer.

His companions do him the courtesy of pretending not to notice.

Moody shows up and immediately joins Hecate and the goblins working on security concerns.

Amelia Bones shows up alone which surprises Harry but then, upon reflection, really doesn’t. She doesn’t have a specific Second.

She has her apprentice, Gawain Robards, who sometimes serves as a Second. But she then again she has her Head Auror Rufus Scrimgeour who is loud and misogynistic. Neither she nor Harry can stand the man but she can’t be rid of him due to inner-Ministry politics. Or there’s her Head Legal Counsel Pius Thicknesse, who runs the Legal subsection of the DMLE that includes the Prosecutor’s Service, Auror Internal Oversight, and Contract Review Service, but he’s outspokenly pro-pure blood. He’s probably not a Death Eater because he’s a total coward and pencil-pusher but definitely a bigot, so he more than likely wouldn’t be helpful in this situation.

Maybe Harry should have just told her to bring Kingsley Shacklebolt? Who could support her better than her fiancé? Then again, she’s got her father who is a former Auror here so she’s not exactly alone.

By the time they’ve reconvened and broken the news about the horcruxes and Voldemort’s confirmed reincarnation to Amelia, Zabi and Missy have dinner laid out on the marble-topped table on the other side of the room.

Harry sits at the head of the table. Neville sits on his right and Moody sits at his left hand. Ragnock sits at the opposite end of the table as the most honored guest. Hecate sits at Ragnok’s left and Ni-oog sits at the chieftain’s right. Tomanak and Amelia sit across from each other between the two groups, Amelia is between Moody and Ni-oog and Tomanak between Neville and Hecate.

The Ravenclaw Locket heats against his chest. With a frown Harry watches as some invisible force pushes Alastor towards his daughter and pops an empty place setting into being between Moody and Harry. Not sure what else to do, Harry stands and moves to the Ravenclaw portrait.

Once again the room stands with him, so everyone is standing as Penelope begins to emerge from Lady Ravenclaw’s frame. Harry holds out a hand to her and she takes it for support as she once again walks down that invisible step ladder that only she can see.

She’s dressed differently. Rather than her semi-casual robes she was wearing before, now she’s in a bright blue dress with bronze fittings and black over-cloak with white embroidery around the edges that’s lined in the same blue as the dress. Tied around her neck is a cameo that is obviously Rowena Ravenclaw.

“May I introduce Penelope Clearwater,” Harry says formally to the group as they approach the table. “Lady of Ravenclaw and the hand-picked Heir of Rowena Ravenclaw herself.”

Penelope smiles at the group even though most of them start with surprise or just stare at her.

When they reach her chair, she gives him a curtsey and he gives her a bow. They both sit, followed closely by the rest of the group.

They all wait as she serves herself and only start eating again when she picks up her fork.

Amelia Bones is covertly observing Penelope, probably curious what her fellow Ravenclaw did right that she didn’t.

Harry’s pretty sure Tomanak is openly staring but he can’t be sure because, well, hoods.

And, yes, both Unspeakables are eating through their hoods.

It is so strange to see their forks disappear into the black hole that is the mask-area of the hood covered with food and come back out clean. Intellectually, Harry knows that the food is just going into their mouths. That nothing truly mystical is happening, they’re just eating, but that missing middle bit of the action is so… fascinating. It’s fascinating.

They’ve finished the meal and are serving themselves dessert when Penelope turns to him and very seriously says. “Harry, considering the threats we all know are currently looming large, why haven’t you reset the Table?”

-*-

The house looks like something from a television show about a picturesque little family just flawed enough to be interesting. Like it’s picture should be in the dictionary next to the definition of ‘suburbia’ with all of its mostly matching little friends around it.

Obviously it’s nothing like anything Tom’s ever lived in. He’s only lived at the orphanage and then Hogwarts… that he can remember, at least, before the his current habitation of Riddle Manor.

Tom has read all about House Arrest domiciles since he found out Dumbledore was placed in one. There are only two in the islands. Both are in London but only one is occupied. They are an interesting, layered combination of contributions from several different fields; Potions, Magical Creatures, Charms, Runes, and Warding.

For example, the house in front of him.

From the street it matches all of the ones around it – that’s a glamour charm because there is no way it’s yard is the same size as its neighbors but there it is. The fence appears to be white painted brick on bottom with black wrought iron grates on top. It has a nice little iron gate.

As Tom approaches, he can feel the repelling wards comparing this yard to his own and not only finding his own lacking but trying to drive him off to correct the situation. When he touches the gate he can feel the runes worked into the iron redoubling their efforts to send him away. He tightens his mental shields and moves through.

Once the gate falls closed, he feels his Disillusionment charm ripped away from his person and an intruder alert fly off to the DMLE.

He can’t help but smirk. Thanks to his contacts, he knows it will be at least an hour before they respond. Plenty of time for what he’s about to do.

About five feet inside the first fence is a second one. This one is over twice as tall as the outer fence which is disconcerting since it’s invisible from the street but, then again, magic.

The second fence is constructed of the same materials the house will be made from because it’s job is to contain the occupant while allowing him to go outside. It’s just as ugly as he figured it would be and he takes a perverse joy in Dumbledore being stuck here.

The fence is green and red like a year-round Christmas nightmare. The bricks are large, like cinder blocks but green because made of a special gray clay mixed with crushed emeralds to enhance the properties on the inside of the wall. Inside the wall, working as form guides and foundation are Erumpent bones.

Erumpents are large rhinoceros-like creatures that are highly magic-resistant. When treated properly, their bones not only resist magic but they can contain it and in some instances, like these, reflect it.

In this case, the bones reflect whatever stray magic they find into the mortar that surrounds the bones and connects the bricks. The mortar is a potion based on Nundu blood that feeds off the magic it encounters to keep everything it touches from aging. Which especially good for the structure, since magically repairing something that eats magic just wouldn’t work.

Staying as far from the second fence as he can while still being hidden by the glamour fence he calls his chosen Knights to him. Just his inner circle; Amycus, Rookwood, Nott and Alecto. As previously arranged Parkinson arrives with his daughter at his side, she quickly leaves her father to take Tom’s arm.

At Tom’s nod, Amycus immediately puts his shoulder to the heavy, rune-carved Ironwood door. The other Knights just watch him struggle for a few moments before Rookwood chuckles and moves forward. Rookwood pokes the younger man out of his way and, once he’s clear, pulls a single black glove out of a belt pouch and pulls it onto his right hand. Once he buttons the wrist clasp, the glove starts glittering and swirling like a galaxy woven into fabric.

Tom has no idea what it is but he wants one. Desperately.

With a single hand, with a single finger, Rookwood pokes the door and it moves. It just swings open without a single sound.

Tom really likes the casual way Augustus makes a total mockery of Amycus’s efforts. It’s horribly amusing but then Amycus is an idiot and wouldn’t have made it as far in his life without his sister.

The younger knights go through the gate on Rookwood’s heels, followed by Tom and Pansy and then Nott and Parkinson.

Once inside they see a large yard almost overgrown with non-magical plants that hide the wall they just walked through. Off in the distance Tom can hear running water but standing alone in the center of the yard is a hut.

As Tom expected, the hut’s walls are constructed of the same materials at the inner wall.

He did not expect it to be such a small thing with a roof made of what has to be Erumpent hide. He knew from his reading that Erumpant hide was used in the making of this place but he had figured it was used to lash the bones together, not as a roof!

The hut doesn’t even have glass in the window holes or doors in their openings. There’s no signs of weather damage so the place must have weather wards in place but damn, he never pictured it as this primitive… is that an outhouse?

When Tom enters the tiny hut he finds Dumbledore sitting on the floor at a low table. There is no real furniture in the room, just the small table, a reed mat with a small leather log that is probably supposed to be a pillow, and a few dishes. There’s a crate of fresh produce and dried meat off to one side but no obvious way to cook anything.

Hallows and Horcruxes, he’s about to do Dumbledore a favor.

Dammit.

Dumbledore looks up at him dispassionately and without any signs of recognition. Good, that means Karkaroff’s ritual completely worked.

When his masked Knights move into the windows and doorways to watch, Dumbledore looks them over. His whole body tenses and he looks back to Tom, recognition and understanding now shining in his eyes.

“So,” The older man’s voice is gravelly from disuse. “You’ve returned.”

“I have.” Tom confirms smugly.

“You’ve come to kill me.”

“I have.” Tom smirks and pulls the chain of Tap Anchors Dolos gave him out where Dumbledore can see them and they can see Dumbledore.

The Old Goat just blinks and gives him placid eyes. There might be a little fear in there somewhere but it’s probably more Tom’s imagination and expectations than reality.

It really pisses him off.

He’s imagined this moment since he was 11. What he would say. How he would gloat. How Dumbles would react. The look on the Goat’s face as he dies.

He’s imagined the infinite combinations of his victory and Dumbledore’s crushing defeat.

He’s imagined the catharsis and the freedom he would feel. Not just while watching the light fade from Dumble’s eyes, but in the moment that Dumbledore realizes his defeat is complete. That his death unavoidable.

This moment is not anything like what he’s imagined. Dumbledore is already defeated. Harry Potter defeated Dumbledore before Tom got to him. Before he was even alive again.

Tom doesn’t huff, even though he really wants to.

He doesn’t change his mind either, even though it would be joyfully cruel to let this horrible creature helplessly watch his rise to power from such a horrible abode.

No, he has to kill Dumbledore to earn the Tap Anchor’s loyalty. While he’s not going to use them for himself, he has plans for them. Delightfully cruel plans that they will only power for him if they are loyal to him.

As emotionlessly as he can, Tom pops the fastening keeping his sword in its scabbard and pulls Nero’s Justice.

Dumbledore doesn’t react. He sits there and blinks in a detached way, like he’s watching some sort of experiment.

Tom rests the tip of the sword against the center to Dumble’s chest. Still no reaction.

He pushes it in, slowly. Dumbledore’s eyes widen and he coughs a bit be he doesn’t move. He doesn’t struggle. There is no fear in him.

As promised Dumbledore’s secrets start spilling into Tom’s mind. All the horrible things Dumbledore has done that no one knows about. All of his plans to do even more. The truth about Grindelwald and Harry Potter and all the little things Dumbledore suspects but has never proven.

Tom twists the sword, reaching deeper for more information. He drags it through the Headmaster’s chest and into his heart.

With a whimper and a sigh, the bane of Tom’s childhood dies.

Tom takes a cloth out of his pocket and allows it to soak up some of Dumbledore’s blood while he takes off the Tap Anchors. He wraps the anchors in the cloth and rings it a bit so that they are all touched by their previous master’s blood. Then he cuts his own hand and allows some of his own blood to seep into the cloth.

He stuffs the whole thing into one of the pouches on his sword belt as he leaves the hut and quietly allows Pansy to heal his hand.

All together they file through both the inner and outer gates. When they are on the street, they all turn back to the house. At his nod the Twins move.

Amycus stands at the front-left corner of the property, Alecto stands at the front-right. With their inner arms they reach toward each other. With their outer arms they point their wands toward the sky. Together they shout “Morsmordre!” and twin balls of green light shoot for the sky. Directly above the house the two balls meet, explode, and create the largest Dark Mark anyone has ever seen.

Perfect.

-*-

Augusta Longbottom watches her brother through thick bars.

He’s sleeping. Or pretending to.

And she’s furious. How could he be so stupid? If Harry valued their family any less they would be planning his beheading right now!

She’d been shocked when Neville had personally called her into a room full of very important people to discuss reseating the Table.

She’d been expecting a summons to discuss the Triwizard Tournament because the IMEA was convinced that they should show off all the changes they’ve made to the school for the sake of its reputation. She though Hermione was going to mention it tomorrow but still, she was prepared for that discussion. She had books and scrolls and letters about the Tourney itself and its various historical incarnations. She had ideas for tasks and how they could make the whole thing safer and how they could increase the ‘international cooperation’ part of the program.

But The Table. The foundation of their government. The strongest and deepest root of their culture. The earliest incarnation of the Wizengamot. Arthur’s Table.

That was not a conversation she was prepared to have.

It’s not a conversation a modern magical could be prepare to have.

Still. When asked she gave her honest opinion about each person she knew and referred them to her brother for anyone she didn’t.

The flinches every time she said her brother’s name should have clued her into something being horribly wrong but they didn’t and she really didn’t have an excuse for it.

Imagine her surprise just minutes ago when Harry called for a meal break and a hooded.. creature came up, introduced itself as Hecate, and broke the last news Augusta would have ever expected in her life. News that her brother, Algernon Bones, not only was Croaker but that he is in jail for withholding Top Secret information from the Pendragon. Information that may have allowed the Pendragon’s archenemy, Voldemort, resurrect.

The Pendragon is much more merciful than she could imagine being in his position. Their blood connection would not have saved Algie from her if he’d put her in the same position he’d put Harry in.

Algie chooses that moment to roll over and look at her. Cautiously, he stands and walks to the bars.

She steps as far back from the bars as she can. Harry ordered her, ordered them all, not to touch Algie and she’s not about to add to their Family’s failures.

Algie’s shoulders drop. “Sis?”

She only has one question, really. “How could you?”

“He’s a boy. I wanted to protect him.”

“Protect him? By lying to him? By breaking his already damaged faith? By taking yourself out of the war effort?”

“The situation was contained. We were one step away from Voldemort’s complete destruction. One step, Augie.”

She shakes her head. She can’t discuss that with him, it teeters too close to information she’s not allowed to have -and that she doesn’t want to have- for her own protection.

“Amelia’s been called out,” She tells him, balantly changing the subject. “I’m going to go collect Susan and bring her here. Ragnok’s here so he can handle her Ascension. Not that this is how any of us have ever imagined is would happen for her.” She starts to leave but then stops. After a second, third, and fourth thought, she turns back to her brother and tells him exactly what she’s thinking. “I swear to you, right now, as the most senior Bones in our Family Magic that if you set one more foot out of line -If you attempt to escape or even just misbehave and make more work for your keepers here.- I will end you.

“Harry has already promised that he will not keep you safe from me.”

-*-

Excited Pansy curls into her seat with a fresh copy of the Evening Prophet.

She’s never been one to chase down the Prophet and read it as soon as it’s available but then she’s never had such a personal announcement in it before.

The front page is plastered with a large picture of the Dark Mark and headlines screaming about Dumbledore’s murder. It happened in a muggle neighborhood so there are no reliable witnesses, shrouding the whole thing in an exciting mystery that would make her shiver if she hadn’t been there.

Not that the truth isn’t enough to make her shiver every time she recalls it.

Whatever. That’s not what she’s looking for. She flips through to the social section.

No matter when a betrothal was initiated, it’s a social standard for them to get announced during the month before the participants’ sixth year.

Sixth year is the earliest most parents will consider allowing courtships for the non-betrothed to be initiated, so announcing the betrothal contracts was originally just something to help those poor souls find each other during the school year. These days the Announcements are a month long event surrounded by vicious rumors, frivolous parties, and all kinds of social jockeying for things like the best days or best articles.

As a girl, she had dreamed about her Announcement but Pansy doesn’t care about that anymore because she has the best betrothed.

Still, she can’t help getting a little excited and she finds her article. The article about her father marching into the Prophet and announcing the happy news! Written by Rita Skeeter, of course, only the best for her Announcement!

She settles in to read but her excitement quickly sours into hurt and then ignites into fury.

That! That! Muck snipe! That snaggletooth fustilug!

Rita ‘I Don’t Value My Own Life’ Skeeter turned her announcement -turned the announcement of Lord Voldemort’s own betrothal!- into yet another article about Draco and the Beaver! This time she goes on and on about how smart Draco must be to reject Pansy in favor of that filthy little mudblood with ‘more powerful’ connections. About how Pansy obviously can’t keep the interest of a real Avalonian wizard and had to import her own in order to get someone to marry her. Rita even goes so far as to speculate about Pansy’s dowry and how much it inflated to pay the man to marry her, to buy him from his parents.

Small-minded, short-sighted, wrong-sided-

“Something wrong?” A bored voice breaks her unintentional rant.

She glances up sharply to see Tom leaning in the doorway. She flushes and looks away from him, holding up her page of the Prophet to him. She doesn’t look up until it’s tugged gently out of her hand. She watches his eyebrows dance as his beautiful eyes race across the page.

He looks up at her, outwardly unaffected, “Hermione? That’s Potter’s little pet bookworm?”

Wordlessly she nods.

He grins at her. It’s gorgeous and murderous and awe-inspiring. “It occurs to me I owe you a betrothal gift.”

Pansy raises both eyebrows at him in surprise. She had assumed being betrothed to The Dark Lord himself was her betrothal gift.

“She took your first love from you,” He drawls. “So, let’s take her first love from her.”

She doesn’t even try not to, she just scoffs at him furiously. “What? Books? What are you going to? Charm her to get lost every time she tries to go to a library?”

“Don’t be silly. We’ll take her sight.”

She looks at him sharply. When just he nods to assure her of his seriousness, she grins right back at him.

“Have you ever heard of the Lesson of Amphissa?” He asks her.

Pansy just shakes her head. What is it? A charm? Or a curse? Or a Potion? No idea.

“It’s a rather ghastly potion. It takes a year to brew but I’m sure it will make a wonderful Christmas present for the- What did you call her? The bushy-tailed squirrel? Next year.”

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2 Comments

  1. Oh dear, now I’m terribly worried for Hermione. OT – I keep forgetting to say how I love your choice of Len McCoy as Harry’s personal healer! Love! Also, Nyota being Blaise’s mother – there must be an interesting story there. 😉

    Thanks so much!!

  2. So… much…. DRAMA!!!!! ACK!!! Off to the ending. I’m still doing a dance over finding this here! Later, Doll. ChaChaCHAAA!

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