Sirius was chuckling to himself as he walked down the stairs.
“You look far too happy with yourself. What have you done?” Remus raised an enquiring eyebrow as the other man entered the kitchen.
“Me!” Sirius responded faking taking offence. Despite everything with Harry, joking around with Remus like they once had was becoming easier. “I have done nothing, apart from leaving Harry and Percival gazing deeply into each other’s eyes.” he raised the back of his hand to his forehead and pretended to swoon, melodramatically. “Quite frankly it was all getting a bit sickeningly sweet. They didn’t even see me leave!”
“You don’t think it’s strange?” Remus asked curiously.
“Think what’s strange?” Sirius asked in return. “Is that tea fresh?” he indicated the teapot sitting on the table in front of the werewolf.
“Just boiled,” Remus nodded pushing it across the table. “Don’t you think that it’s strange how close those boys have become in such a short period of time? The year I was at Hogwarts Harry never seemed to be the type to form close attachments, especially not so fast. He didn’t seem to be close to anyone apart from Ron and Hermione. That was one of the reasons I believed Albus when he said that Harry just wanted to be left alone.”
“Pft,” Sirius snorted, as he prepared his cup. “Why were you even asking Albus if you could write to Harry in the first place?”
“I wasn’t,” denied Remus. “I was asking for his address so that I could visit! I’d asked before, but I figured that since Harry had met me it was time to……”
“And you let Dumbledore put you off again. You know you really should have just talked to Harry. He’s fairly slow on the uptake with some things but I’m quite sure he knows his Aunt’s address,” Sirius grabbed an apple from the bowl on the counter and set his cup down joining Remus at the table. Finally, he answered Remus’ original query, “I don’t think that it’s strange at all. Remember Lily and Alice Longbottom, after they got caught up in that Diagon raid. They ended up holed up in front of Fortescue’s with only a table between them and six Death Eaters. That and shared pregnancy tales is what made them best friends. The boys are close but, they went through a life-threatening experience together. That tends to bring people closer. Especially when it occurred at the same time, in Harry’s eyes at least, that Hermione and Ron were shutting him out. You know we would never have to James regardless if Merlin himself came and told us too.”
Sirius took a bite of the apple, savouring its taste, “Hmm, I wonder where Kreacher got these, I’ll have to ask him to get some more. Anyway, back to the point. Percival has also been a lot more supportive of Harry, then just about anybody, including Ron and Hermione. Showing him things, guiding him….”
“Yes that!” Remus interrupted. “That’s what’s bothering me. Harry is allowing this….stranger to guide him. Why didn’t he come to you……or me?”
“I don’t think you have any right to feel jealous. How exactly would he have ever known that you were willing to give him any sort of guidance?” Sirius starred at his friend.
“I …with the dementors, I taught him the patronus. I helped him then,” Remus protested.
“Sure. If you had bothered to follow that up with conversations about his parents, and letters the following year, he would have bonded to you quicker than he can say Expelliarmus, but instead you gave him a year of silence. As for me?” Sirius scoffed, self-depreciatingly. “I wrote, but I can admit now that I was not right in the head. He knew he could come to me for advice, maybe not always wise advice but still. Then, just like everyone else when the chips were down, I did exactly what Dumbledore told me to, and I left him all alone.”
“You didn’t,” Remus denied.
“Yes, I did,” Sirius shook his head sadly. “After that wretched tournament when he had just been tortured and seen a school mate murdered in front of him. I left him lying in that hospital bed, to go ‘round up the old gang’ just as I was instructed to, Remus. When that boy needed me, I left! That makes twice. I won’t be making that mistake again.” Sirius pushed back and stood up abruptly and tossed the apple core in the bin. “I can’t blame him for going to Percival for guidance, Merlin knows he hasn’t gotten it anywhere else.” He turned and went to stalk out of the room.
“Wait,” Remus called out. “But what about the looking into each other’s eyes bit?” he asked. “I though Harry liked…well Ginny or at least girls in general.”
A smirk arced across Sirius’ face, “He’s allowed to like both Remus. I would have thought after that incident in sixth year with Doc Dearborn that you would have realised that by now.”
“You promised never to mention that again!” the werewolf protested, cheeks pink. “And yes, I do know that, but he’s never showed any interest in boys before. Molly assured me that he’d shown interest in….”
“Remus,” the blonde was interrupted. “You really need to start making your own observations. Let’s ignore the fact that the boy is, may the Gods bless him, exceedingly oblivious for the moment. Has Harry really had any time to have any sort of romantic interactions with …well anyone? Sounds like his school years so far have been hectic. In his letters last year he mentioned a….” his eyes closed for a moment as he tried to recall the name. “a Cho Chang? But that seemed to die off after the Yule ball. Like you said he hasn’t really formed any close attachments outside of Ron and Hermione. He’s just turned fifteen. He probably isn’t quite sure what he wants yet but give him time and he’ll figure it out for himself.”
“So what, you’re happy for him to start experimenting with a stranger?” Remus asked incredulously.
“Well you did! Why should Harry be any different?” An elegant black brow arched in challenge.
Leaving the blustering blonde behind Sirius made his way to the library, through the parlour and passed a quietly reading potions master, who he greeted with a nod. He thought to himself that it was amusing, and somewhat hypocritical, that Remus was so tied up in knots over Harry’s potential romantic liaisons. When in reality the boys had probably, stared into each others eyes for a moment and then when the moment had passed, ended up awkwardly blushing and trying not to look at each other for an hour.
Two hours later, Sirius had made no further headway in finding a ritual to help rid Harry of the Horcrux. He had discovered another potions text and the duplication spell, so the time hadn’t been a complete waste. Despite giving Snape his own copies of the books the minute he had found the spell, the man was still seated in the Parlour happily reading. It was very odd! Though as he said, it was a lot warmer and more comfortable in the magically restored Grimmauld place than it was in the dungeons. Snape apparently really liked the wing backed chair that was positioned to the left of the fire. It was hidden by the door when it was opened so he was often left un-disturbed, something that was very rare indeed, when he was trying to read in his office.
What Sirius really needed was a Catalogue of all the books in the library, he thought as he arched his back and stretched with a groan. Maybe another cup of tea would help.
“I can’t read, when you keep making that infernal noise, Black,” the potions master grouched from his chair.
“Sorry Snape,” he clearly wasn’t. “I didn’t realise you were still here. When do you have to return to haunting your dungeon of gloom?”
The glare he received, would have turned water into ice. “What has you groaning?”
“There’s something I desperately need to find,” the shaggy haired man sat down, head in hands. “But it is nearly impossible to find anything in there.” He nodded towards the door to the library. “Because the library is so old, there has been no cataloguing system put in place. Everything has just been placed on the shelves in the order it was purchased, it is completely un-organised.”
“What is it you are seeking?” Snape closed the book he had been reading, using his index finger to temporarily hold his place.
Silver eyes observed the dour man through the gaps in his fingers. As he reached his decision, elegant hands raked through his hair and Sirius straightened. “You know what it is I seek. When I asked if you would look after Harry’s potions. You knew Dumbledore’s reasons for keeping him in that house, for not watching him, for not treating him. I figured it out. I need to find another solution.” He leaned into the back of his chair, his eyes closed.
Black eyes widened as the dour man sat bolt upright, “You imbecile! It isn’t safe to talk about it so openly. Anyone could hear you!” Snape hissed.
“I have been receiving help. My barriers are nearly repaired, and this room will protect the secrets of the Lord of the House. No one can listen to what is said in here without my permission,” Sirius reassured calmly.
Snape tipped his head ever so slightly to the side, “And yet the order meetings are held in the kitchen.”
“Yes well,” Sirius grinned cheekily. “It’s amusing to watch both the adults try to ward the room, and the children try to get into it.” Seeing Snape’s face darken like thunder, he admitted, “Until I took on the Lordship, I didn’t know. By then the habit was set.” With another groan the Animagus placed his hands on his knees and pushed himself up from the chair. “I had best continue looking.”
“There is a spell that can be used on a book,” the velvet tones of the potion master halted his exit from the room. “It is in use at my residence. The titles and authors are stored in the book, you can then request what you want by subject, title or author and the codex will tell you the shelf and position number. The problem is that I had to enter all titles by hand.”
“A project for the future then,” Sirius sighed. “But to late to help me now. Thank you anyway.”
“I don’t believe Madame Pince would enter all the titles in the library at Hogwarts into her catalogue by hand,” Sirius commented silkily.
“No, I don’t suppose she would. Mooney got along well with her perhaps he could ask,” Sirius mused.
“Or I could,” Snape smirked. “For a fee.”
The Lord of the House looked appraisingly at the man beside him, “And what would this cost me? Bear in mind, Mooney will probably do it for free.”
“Yes, but he would have to enter the Castle, at which point…”
“Albus will know somethings up,” Sirius concluded with a sigh. “You make a good point.”
“Indeed. And while the wolf may be able to conceal his true purpose, the Headmaster will become aware that you are searching for information. Given that you are no longer as close to the him as you once were, and with the history of your House. I believe at the very least, he would become suspicious that you know about the …..receptacles.”
“What do you propose?”
“I will seek out Irma, requesting advice on ordering my personal library. If anyone asks further, I shall tell them that I recently acquired a large shipment of books from a dealer on the continent and that I do not want to go to the trouble of entering them into my catalogue individually. A fact which is true should anyone wish to check.”
“And you use the knowledge you find out yourself as well. You think of everything don’t you?”
“I certainly try.”
“Alright Snape,” Sirius conceded. “What is it that you want?”
“I want basilisk venom to experiment on.” He lifted the book that he still had in his hand. “There are several potions, that require various components from a basilisk. The most intriguing of them uses the venom. I would like to take up the challenge of first trialling and then improving them.”
“Why bother, if only to ask an unachievable price? Fleamont said there hadn’t been basilisk parts sold on the open market since 1917. So unless one was discovered while I was in Azkaban, where on earth am I expected to find basilisk venom?” Sirius asked in complaint.
“Ask.Your.Godson!” Snape said in staccato opening the book, in a clear dismissal.
“Fine!” Sirius huffed.
As he stood on the landing outside the Master bedroom, Sirius wondered whether Percival and Harry were still inside. He should probably check in to see what had happened. Just in case he needed to have the little witches and wizards talk with Harry.
“Kreacher!” Sirius, did not shriek (no he was far to refined for shrieking).
“Mistresses Disappointment is wanting something?” Kreacher hummed. “He is wondering what Littlest Master is up to Yes?”
“No! I mean…well yes, I guess. Can you just tell me if it is safe for me to go in there? I don’t want to be interrupting anything?”
“You won’t get hurt,” Kreacher grinned, as he popped away.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Sirius complained. Then taking a deep breath he pushed open the door.
The room was empty. Sirius hit his head against the door.
“Ruddy, stupid…” thump, thump.
“Um. Are you alright Sirius?” Harry’s hesitant voice came from behind him.
Sirius straightened abruptly, “Yes!”
“O….kay. Then why were you doing that?” Harry looked at him dubiously.
“Doing what? I wasn’t doing anything!” said Sirius taking a step away from the door.
“You know what, never mind. I don’t think I want to know,” Harry shook his head.
“So, Harry,” Sirius started, he was unsure now which question to ask. The Basilisk, which quite frankly he was terrified to know the answer to or the ‘Talk’ which he was also terrified to know the answer to. He wondered if he could pass the ‘Talk’ off to Arthur? Arthur had experience after all. No. Probably not. After all, even his own Father had given him the pureblood version of the ‘Talk’ as limited as it was. Then there was the one Euphemia had given to James! Now that had been hilarious, she’d transfigured fruit into anatomically correct body parts, James had been traumatised for a month.
“Sirius. Are you sure you’re alright?” Sirius realised that he had been staring into space while having his internal debate. The “Talk’ could probably wait, if it hadn’t already happened, and if he waited long enough, he was sure Percival would take care of it.
“Ok…Yeah, I’m swell.”
“Swell?” Harry giggled. “Who says that. You’ve been holding out on me Sirius I thought you were only forty, but it turns out you’re ninety!”
“I’m thirty-six you little bugger!” Sirius spluttered. Though in all honesty he was just glad that Harry could still laugh. “I actually have a favour to ask.”
“Now Harry!” a stronger voice echoed across the landing. “We have got to work on that. I know it’s Sirius, but you need to start finding out the details to things before you go agreeing anything! Your agreement is seen by magic as ….well not a vow exactly, but kind of like a promise or pact I guess. And if you then back out on it you may be punished.”
“Oh! I didn’t know.”
“I know, that’s why I’m telling you now,” Percival said as he joined them. “Also your conversation is not unobserved,” he added much more quietly, eyes flicking to the door of Ginny and Hermione’s room which was ajar.
“Right,” Sirius frowned. “Let’s…let’s head back in to see Buckbeak then,” he said it loud enough that it would be heard by those in the room.
“You didn’t tell anyone that you are moving rooms yet?” Percival asked as the door was pulled shut.
“Nah. If they think Buckbeak is still in here, they’ll avoid it like they have so far and I might be able to get some peace and quiet.”
“Well what is it you need?” Harry asked.
“I can’t find a damn thing in that library. There is no cataloguing system in place, so I am having to search each individual shelf and then go through every book, one by one. I have to read every one that I haven’t heard of before. At this rate it will take me until your children graduate before I find out if there is anything useful in there.”
“So, you want us to help look?” Harry guessed. Ignoring Percival’s shaking head.
“No. Harry there are some books in there that…. well I don’t want to know about. Magic….” he sighed. “I really wish your mother was here to explain this to you. She had this way with words….” he sighed again. “Ok, Magic is all encompassing Harry. She doesn’t discriminate between dark, light, black or white. Those are names that witches and wizards came up with. Magic is magic. It’s like a wand…”
“A wand?” Harry tipped his head to the side in confusion, frowned brow and lips parted. Percival had to look away.
“Yeah, a wand sitting on a shelf in Ollivander’s, isn’t good or bad. By itself it is nothing, it could be used for either or possibly both, but what decides if the things done with it are good or bad…”
“Is the wizard who uses it,” Harry finished as the idea formed.
“Yes. Most magic follows the natural order of things. For example wingardium leviosa, it lifts things up, however it doesn’t change them in any significant way, and what goes up must come down. Transfiguration, Lily used to say it was something it just rearranged how the atoms look. Now some magic deals with things that are against the order of the world. Really, it’s only necromancy. Now these we have to be careful of. By themselves, like all magic they are neither good nor bad, but because they go against the natural order they have a certain, pull. They are addicting, so once they are used it is easier for a wizard to use them again and they are less easy to control. So, things can go…wrong.”
“Like the horcruxes?”
“Perhaps like that? I don’t know what Riddle was like before hand but….. in the last war he had started to create an army of the dead.”
“What like Zombies?” Harry frowned.
Sirius stared at Harry, “I’ll be honest, I have no idea what that is.” He turned to Percival.
“Don’t look at me I’m a Pureblood too, I don’t know!”
“They are dead people, but they can move and they eat people’s brains. Dudley had a computer game about them once. I wasn’t allowed to play it,” he finished a bit lamely.
“Kind of…” Sirius shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. Inferi are re-animated dead bodies. No, they don’t eat brains. They only do what the one controlling them directs them to. The point…the point was that it is a form of necromancy. Healers came up with the spell so that it was easier to teach new healers about the body. They could sit the inferi in the corner of the room and the body wouldn’t deteriorate, then when it was needed they would order it to do whatever they needed to show the trainees. Voldemort, he used it stack people, there is nothing more terror inducing than being attacked by your Great Aunt. When you know she died last wee. Same spell different intention.”
Harry nodded, “I think I understand. But what does that have to do with me helping you?”
“Oh….. Sorry, I got a bit off track.”
Percival rolled his eyes, “we were talking about the types of books in the library,” he said helpfully.
“Types of books? Ah.. right. So, a lot of the books in the first part of the library are about what we call Black magic or magic that goes against the natural order of things. Though again that is just a name that some random ministry official came up with about two hundred years ago. I don’t want you to read it just yet. I don’t want to read it just yet! Some of them are covered in spells designed to trap you into reading them, because you haven’t been exposed to these things before you might not be able to detect if they start influencing you. Rather than risk you being hurt, I don’t want you in there just yet.”
“Okay. So, what did you want then, because, I’m kind of confused right now?”
“Yes, well like I said, your mother was much better at explaining these things. Snape told me about a solution. There is a spell that can be cast on a book it creates an index which can be asked to list all the books in the library on a subject, or by author. He uses it in his personal library, though there he has to enter each title individually. He believes that Madame Pince might have an easier method, because she has so many books arriving for the Hogwarts library every year.”
“I’m still confused why you need me.”
“Yeah, I’m coming up to your part. Snape is willing to ask Madame Pince for the spell she uses. However, he is a Slytherin and they don’t anything without wanting something in return.”
“Sirius why can’t you go and ask Madame Pince yourself?”
“Ah well, apart from being a suspected criminal. At some point in the seven years I was at Hogwarts, there may, or may not, have been an incident, or two, which may or may not have led to an explosion in the restricted section of the library, and it may, or may not, have destroyed several desks, two shelves of books, a window and part of the ceiling,” Sirius blushed.
Harry blinked in surprise, “What did you do?”
“Never mind that now! The important thing is Madame Pince, possibly understandably, is unlikely to look favourably on any request I have.”
“So, you have to bribe Snape into doing it for you?” Harry asked.
“Yes. Though if it works it would be worth it. However, I don’t know if the price he has demanded is too high or if it is even possible to attain,” Sirius said solemnly.
“What does he want?”
“Where are we going to get Basilisk venom?” Percival demanded. “The last basilisk parts available on the free market was in 1917. When the Newt Sc…”
“It’s ok Perce,” Harry said softly, placing his hand on Percival’s forearm. “I know where there is a dead Basilisk. I’m not sure if I want to go back down there and it will have to wait until we go to school, but it is doable.”
Percival stared at Harry for a moment, his eyes un-focused as he remembered something, “When we were at Gringotts, you mentioned a Basilisk fang.” The fingers on Percival’s hand twitched as if he would dearly like to set that hand on the back of Harry’s neck.
Harry nodded. “How do I get the venom out of the Basilisk?” he asked.
Sirius’ mouth fell open, “I don’t actually know.”
“Perhaps we could ask Snape?” Percival suggested. “Or the Goblins might know.”
“Snape first,” Sirius agreed. “He should be in the parlour still, he didn’t look like he was in a hurry to move.”
Indeed, when they entered the Parlour, Snape was still sitting in the same chair he had been in earlier.
“Snape, Harry was wondering how one would go about retrieving the venom from a Basilisk. Any Ideas?” Sirius asked the dour man.
“You haven’t had it harvested yet?” Snape asked aghast, his book falling to the floor.
“Ah…um..I..” Harry stuttered.
“Eloquent as ever Potter,” Snape sneered, he bent forward elegantly to retrieve the tome he had dropped.
“Excuse me Professor,” Percival stepped in front of his friend. “First of all how was Harry, who was raised by his No-Maj Aunt, supposed to know he was allowed to harvest the beast, or what parts were useful given he was….?” He turned to Harry.
“Twelve, I was twelve,” Harry said quietly, eyes on the floor.
“You were twelve! He was twelve!” Percival ground out. “What kind of ridiculous school is Hogwarts? Don’t bother trying to defend it,” he glared at Sirius, who just raised his hands chest high in surrender. “Would you expect a Pureblooded twelve-year-old to be able to just up and harvest such a beast, after the trauma of fighting it?” His glare was turned on the potions master, who scowled. “No, I didn’t think so. Then, when was Harry supposed to arrange someone else to do it? Hmm, not in the summer when he was confined to his Aunt’s, so how about during the year when he was hiding from a killer or the next year when he was dumped into a dangerous tournament with no support!?”
“Be that as it may,” Snape’s tone was just as clipped as usual. “Are you telling me the whole cadaver is still under the school?” He looked at Harry, who nodded without raising his head. “If you are willing Mr Potter, when we get to school, you will take me down to the beast. The venom should still be preserved so at the very least we will be able to retrieve that, and I will assess if anything else is usable. If it is I would be willing to harvest it for you, for a fee of course.”
Harry mumbled something, head still down. It was the position more than anything else that struck Severus. He had never seen Potter senior take up such a pose, maybe they weren’t so alike after all.
“Head up and speak again. You are a man not a mouse, Potter!”
“I want Percival to come with us, please,” Harry asked timidly.
“Of course,” Snape agreed, as he looked into those green eyes. Something fell into place with a click. Lily had looked like that once. Severus had gone to the park in Cokeworth to try and apologise to her but stopped when he saw her sitting on the swings, her posture slumped, eyes on her feet. He stayed in the distance watching her, until Petunia had come to call her home. The older sister had hit Lily over the head and called her all sorts of foul names as they left the park together.
“Do you know how it can be sold? Could you take your fee from that Professor Snape?” the boy asked meekly.
“I suppose I might be able to arrange it for you,” there was an up lift in one corner of Severus’ mouth, not that anyone noticed. “In fact, it might be best. I can arrange for the funds to be transferred into your vault.”
“How much would you charge for managing all that for me?”
“It would depend on the size of the beast,” Snape stated.
“It was half again as tall as I was at twelve and about three quarters the length of the Great Hall,” Harry quite enjoyed the shocked expression that his statement forced onto his professor’s face and gave a little giggle which he hastily suppressed and hid with a cough.
“You are saying the beast you killed was six foot high and sixty feet long!” he gasped.
“To be quite honest professor, I spent much of the time running away from it, so I’m not really sure exactly how big it was. Should we wait until we look at it to make a decision?”
“Yes, I believe we should,” Snape said somewhat faintly, before he rallied. “However, for the venom sacks should be intact…” he paused as he noticed Harry’s eyes drop again and his hands grasped at the untucked hem of his shirt. “Mr Potter?”
“Um, one may not be.”
“And why is that?”
“Because when it bit me, the fang came out into my arm.”
“When it bit you!” Sirius’ sounded hysterical. “It……I agree with Percival, you aren’t going back there! You’re staying here with me forever, where I can keep you safe.”
Harry gave an awkward laugh, though there was a part of him that was quite happy that someone cared so much about his safety, even if it was years after the fact. “Really I’m fine Sirius you know I have to go back,” he said in the end.
Sirius collapsed dramatically into a chair. “How did you survive?”
“Fawkes cried on my arm,” Harry admitted shrugging one shoulder.
“But wait,” Severus swallowed around the lump the formed in his throat, “If Fawkes could come to you, how come Dumbledore wasn’t…”
“He’d been expelled from the school remember,” Harry prompted.
“Yes, but Fawkes is his familiar, so it wouldn’t matter if he were Headmaster or not.”
“I never thought of that at the time, I was just happy that Ginny hadn’t died.”
“I suppose you would be,” Severus sighed, Merlin save him from Gryffindors! “In your first potions lesson of the year I will give both you and Percival detention. We will use that as an excuse to go and examine the carcass. Do you agree Mr Potter?” Harry nodded. “Good. I will see if I can’t find Irma and enquire about that spell this weekend. Black, make sure you have acquired a blank book that is solid enough to withstand the enchanting. Now if you’ll excuse me I had better return to the castle.”
They watched him leave. The silence was broken by Harry asking, “I’ve always wondered how he got his robe to billow that way.”
It was only four days till the end of the Holidays. The whole house was waiting for the arrival of school owls carrying the book lists. The shadow of a bird swooped in through window announcing the arrival of Hedwig.
“Hello girl,” Harry cooed. “Was it a successful hunt?” She hooted at him imperious and lifted a foot that was clasped around a roll of parchment. “Oh, I see not hunting then. Thank you. You’re the best,” he praised her, not seeing the bemused smile on Percival’s face. “You know you really should go and hunt. I find flying is so relaxing and you need time off from looking after me,” he coaxed. She hooted at him again, he was such a good wizard, and turned wide eyes on Percival in expectation.
“She’s probably waiting in case you need to send a reply Harry.” Hedwig chirruped her agreement, her wizard had chosen such a clever nest mate.
Harry un-rolled the missive. “It’s from Seraphina, reminding us that both Healer Addison and Striknott want to meet with me before school goes back.”
“I was hoping we would be able to do it at the same time as we did our school shopping.”
Harry shook his head, “It’s going to be bedlam, if every student gets their list at the same time. We’ll never make it through Alley, now that everyone knows you are Madame Picquery’s godson.” The news had hit the papers not long after Harry’s trial. “How will we arrange it without anyone noticing?”
Percival thought, “First let’s ask Snape for the book list, then we’ll head out today. If the lists come today the earliest they will get everyone organised to go shopping is tomorrow. People will already have plans for today so there won’t be as many people about.”
“The professor hasn’t stopped in this morning, and it will take an owl too long to reach him,” Harry pointed out.
“We’ll get Sirius to send him a patronus.”
Harry was back lying on the rug in front of the unlit fireplace in the library, deep in his mindscape. He’d began to construct a foundation. It was curious though there was a sludgy ooze coming up in one corner. He’d tried to dig through it, under it and around it but it was tenacious and kept coming. It seemed that this was why his walls kept falling over. He’d need another idea. He glanced up and noticed the perfectly fluffy white wisps of cloud floating through the sky…..huh, well that might just work!
Sirius’ gasp disturbed Harry and he slowly emerged from his meditative state to the smooth chocolate tones of his professor’s voice.
“What’s wrong Sirius?” the lingering glow of a patronus was just disappearing.
“Nothing,” Sirius looked up from where he had been jotting down the list of books and potions ingredients. Harry noticed his fingers shook just a little.
“If you don’t want to tell me that something is wrong, that’s fine Sirius. Just don’t lie to me. You’re pale and shaking. Even I can tell something is wrong.”
Sirius shook his head, “Nothing is wrong. I was just surprised by the form of Snape’s patronus, it reminded me of someone else that’s all. You don’t need to worry about it. It was just a bit of shock. Well, we’ve got the list now and you boys can head into Diagon Alley with Seraphina whenever you like. I’ll leave the list out for Molly to find later this evening.”
Harry nodded, as Percival stuck his head out from between two rows of shelving, “Harry, Snape mentioned you needed a hand with Potions. This might help,” he said as he emerged. He came and placed the brown leather-bound book into Harry’s lap, Potions Preparation Explained by Corvus Simple. There was a second volume, Potions Agitation De-mystified. “They’re from the turn of the century but….”
“Anything is better than the nothing that Snape has told us so far. I think if I understood why we did things, I would have better luck trying to remember what to do. Mind you it would help if I didn’t end up with extra ingredients in my cauldron.”
“Yeah, the Slytherins usually,” Percival raised an eyebrow, “Well a particular Slytherin anyway, likes to throw things into my cauldron. I think he has stopped throwing them into Neville’s because it usually makes his potions explode.”
“What is his name Harry? Perhaps we can ask Snape to get them to stop?” Percival asked. Sirius snorted, and Percival glared at him.
“Draco Malfoy,” Harry shrugged. “Snape isn’t going to do anything. He is close with Malfoy’s parents. He might even be his Godson. I don’t know.” Harry shrugged, resulting in Percival reaching out a hand to press lightly on his shoulder.
Sirius was quiet for a minute, “You mean Narcissa’s boy?”
Harry went to shrug again, but Percival pressed down firmly, earning a sideways glare from Harry. “I think that’s her name. I’ve only seen her the once. At the Quidditch World cup last year.”
“Well if it is her, then I might be able to get him to stop once I am cleared,” Sirius smoothed his beard.
“In the meantime,” Percival said. “There is a small ward spell that will prevent things being added to your cauldron by anyone except you.”
“There is? Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Harry whined.
“I don’t know if it is used any…here. And anyway I’m telling you now. You can also engrave a sequence of runes onto some stones and place them at the corners of your table which will do much the same thing. We’ll practice both when we get back. I’ll just send a message to Aunt Sera.”
Fortunately, Healer Addison had been available when Seraphina had contacted him, and they were both waiting for the boys when they emerged from the floo.
Addison spent half an hour with Harry talking about how he felt about returning to Hogwarts and leaving Sirius behind. This was the first time he was leaving someone behind. He would miss Sirius and the Healer thought he would feel some homesickness for the first time.
“Is there some way, other than by owl, that we can talk when I’m at Hogwarts?” Harry asked. “I think if I knew that I could talk to Sirius when I wanted, it wouldn’t be so bad.”
Addison smiled, “Well yes. I’m not sure if they are available here, but there are pairs of books where you can write in one and it appears in the other copy. When he replies it appears in yours.”
Harry went pale and shook his head, “No…no thanks. Isn’t there anything else?”
“When we get time. I want you to explain to me why that concerns you so greatly Harry.” Healer Addison said softly. “For now though, there are also mirrors, which work a bit like the floo where you can see and speak directly to the other person, but I haven’t seen a pair of those around for years. You’re most likely to find a set in one of the second-hand shops in Diagon. They went out of fashion because they are very fragile and tend to break.”
Harry sighed they sounded ideal, if he could find a set. “If I can’t find a them would I be able to make set?”
“Hmm, it’s a tricky bit of enchanting. You might be able to achieve the same thing with runes though. If you are studying the subject,” Harry shook his head. “Perhaps Percival could help you.” Harry glanced over to where the older boy was seated next to Seraphina, they were laughing over something.
Addison observed the expression on Harry’s face and decided that was something else that they would talk about later. “Now Harry, I think we should sit for the next bit.” He led Harry over to the chairs near Seraphina and Percival. “Firstly, I am pleased with the improvements in your health so far, though you must keep up with your potions regime for the time being. I will review again at the Yule break at which point we may be able to start cutting things back. And you can now start the exercise program we discussed. I mentioned last time that I had your blood results. They were most curious.” Here Addison took on a lecturing tone, “Most toxins have what Healers refer to as a half-life. This is the amount of time it takes for the toxin to be absorbed, processed or otherwise eliminated from the body. It seems that you have come into contact with a substance that does not have a known half-life.”
“Basilisk Venom,” Percival muttered. Seraphina gave a small gasp.
Addison nodded, “Indeed. One of the reasons that the venom from a Basilisk is so potent is that when it is exposed to the blood it does not break down. It binds to the haemoglobin and displaces the oxygen. Leading to chemical suffocation,” he said matter of factly. “You however are obviously still alive. The venom is not processed by the body at all, when the haemoglobin degrades the molecule of venom falls off and binds to another. Now in you it appears that another component has bound to the Basilisk venom preventing it from binding to the haemoglobin.”
Harry nodded, “Phoenix tears.”
Addison looked thoughtful, “I had wondered what it was. The two seem to be in perfect balance in your body, neither being absorbed or processed. So they don’t seem to be doing any harm. Though I will need to keep a watch on you. The muggles have a blood filtration process, that can be used later if we need to remove them from your system.”
“There’s no spell for it?” Harry asked curiously.
“No. It is not something that is usual in the Magical world, so there has never been a need.”
“Will having these things in his blood hurt him?” Seraphina asked.
“I don’t believe so, but I am intending on monitoring the situation. I will check again at Yule after which once yearly should be enough I believe.”
“That’s good then,” Harry nodded, after gulping a few breaths.
“So, care to explain how you got both the venom and tears in your blood?”
Having heard the shortened addition of the story already, Percival encouraged the others to stay seated while he made the tea. He returned levitating a tray, with a wave of his wand he sent cups and saucers drifting to each person. Harry had reached the finale.
“So, I pulled the object out of the hat. It was a silver sword, with ruby studded hilt. Then the snake struck again, and I raised the sword in both hands leaning all my weight on it as I drove it through the roof of its mouth. But it’s fang pierced my arm, splintered off a piece as the Basilisk fell to the floor. After that I simply stabbed the diary with the broken piece of fang.” Well that explained the aversion to diaries then.
“What happened to Ginny? and how did you get out of there?” Percival asked.
“Ginny came around after Tom Riddle faded away. We walked back to where Ron had cleared some of the rocks. That was when we found out that Lockhart hadn’t improved any after being hit with the spell that back-fired from Ron’s broken wand. Fawkes flew us up to the bathroom so we didn’t have to climb back up the slide.”
“So which Healer reviewed you, after this….incident?” Healer Addison asked unclipped tones. There should have been some investigation, and the data on the amount of toxin in his bloodstream. If he compared the two then he would be able to see if it had changed at all.
“Um….none.” Harry coughed. “Mrs Weasley took Ginny to the infirmary and Ron took Lockhart, but I stayed behind to talk to Dumbledore. When he’d finished telling me that I can only speak Parseltongue because of my link to Riddle, he sent me to the leaving feast. The next day I was on the train back to London.”
“So, let me summarise,” Seraphine pursed her lips. “Albus Dumbledore was a teacher at the school the last time this beast struck, killing a student. He knew that the half giant that was blamed for that incident was actually innocent but did nothing to prove it and allowed an un-qualified student to continue to use the pieces of his broken wand. Yet when a cat was petrified, followed by both a ghost, then several students, he still failed to close the school or investigate. In fact the governors themselves failed to act until a further three students were petrified. Then it wasn’t until a student was kidnapped, with a murder note left behind that the decision was made to evacuate the school. Leaving it to two students to solve the puzzle and save the day.”
“Yeah,” Harry swallowed. “That sounds about right.”
“I think I need to review my thoughts on Mr Dumbledore. Perhaps he isn’t as light as I thought.”
“Yes, well wait until he tells you about his first year,” Addison muttered earning a sharp look from Seraphina. “Part of my job is to ensure that Mr Potter is healthy, that includes both his physical and mental health. Each of the events he has experienced has left an imprint on him, that is larger than the physical consequences. I have sworn not to discuss the things he tells me, so you will have to wait until he is ready to talk about them. However, I can say that you are right in reconsidering your opinion of that man. At best he is a dementing fool, at worst….. Well let’s just say that it would shake the very foundations of Magical Britain.”
Harry stumbled as he made his way out of the floo, nearly running into one of the chairs that sat in front of the desk. He was grateful that Seraphina had somehow managed to convince Striknott to allow the group to floo directly into his office. It would save them one trip through the Alley, decreasing their chance of being discovered.
“Careful Mr Potter,” Striknott said. “Madame Picquery, Mr Graves,” he inclined his head to the new arrivals.
“Firstly, Mr Potter, are you happy for me to discuss your financial dealings with…..” he waved his hand to encompass Seraphina and Percival.
“Yes, and could you call me Harry, please.”
There was that parody of a smile again, all sharp pointy teeth, “I am afraid Mr Potter, given the state of your holdings it is best if I keep this formal. So you will just have to put up with it for the time being.”
“If you will be seated I will explain,” he opened the tome that sat on his desk, holding it out for Harry to take. “You will now see a number of columns, the first is income generated by the estate as per the last Lord Potter’s instructions. This was in actuality your Grandfather Fleamont Potter.”
Harry nodded remembering the name from the tapestry in the parlour at Grimmauld place. “Why not Dad….Oh the war.”
“Correct Mr Potter. Fleamont passed in the June of 1979, at which time the Wizarding World was at war. A short while later your mother fell pregnant with you and your family went into hiding. Your father did not come into the bank to make any changes. In some ways this has worked well for you. As you can see in column one when he sold the company that made Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion, Fleamont invested the money heavily, both in the Muggle and Magical worlds, those investments have been providing you with a steady income. Now the next column is for deductions that have been authorised. This primarily consists of the money that has been sent to your Aunt for your care. This money was mandated in your Parents wills, and as such even though it has not actually been spent on your care, we at the bank can not retrieve it. However, I have some doubts about the account into which the money has been being deposited. I would like you to contact your Aunt and confirm which bank she has been using and if she has been receiving the payment. If it has been diverted to an account other than her own, we will be able to retrieve it and ensure that it is directed to the proper recipient.”
Swallowing his anger at the years of being told how much of a financial burden he was, Harry nodded. If Aunt Petunia had never received the money….. “What bank has it been going into?”
“I will let you know. If I tell her to write to you at the bank, will she be able to send it by Muggle post?”
“Indeed, she will. If she wishes to post letters to you via us, we can put them through your post box.”
“Um….Striknott, before you go on. Do you know why my Parents didn’t hide at the Manor?”
Striknott peered at Harry over his long nose, then he gave a huff,“In certainty no, in assumption yes. If I tell you, you must be aware that I may be wrong.”
“I understand,” Harry said quietly, “But I would still like to hear your thoughts, please.” At least the boy was respectful.
“Very well. You may have noticed that I mentioned your Grandfather passing but not your Grandmother. That is because she passed two months before he did. Usually when a magical illness occurs it does not mutate or change in the way, I have been led to believe, that Muggle illnesses do. One such illness is Dragon Pox. There has a been a vaccine available to prevent and cure it in all species for nearly one Hundred years. For some reason in the late 1970’s this one magical disease changed. It became much more virulent, those that contracted it had only a fifty percent survival rate, fortunately it didn’t appear to be particularly contagious or virulent amongst the general population only the elderly. There was a group of elderly witches and wizards who after banding together to fight Grindelwald, still met regularly, every Sunday afternoon. Euphemia, your Grandmother, used to joke that she should invite me one day to stir up the old Fuddy Duddy’s,” Striknott cleared his throat. Harry wondered if the Goblin was getting emotional at the memory. “The entire group caught the illness and over half of them had passed before your Grandfather managed to create a new vaccine as well as a cure. He had a blood sample of your Grandmother’s which he had been using to test the cure, somehow during the process of his testing, he was exposed to the virus and contracted the disease. The cure which worked for everyone else, failed to work for him. The romantics say that he just gave up so that he could join his beloved Mia. Fearing that the Pox had mutated again, the Ministry ordered that Potter Manor be cleaned by House Elves and then quarantined for a period of ninety days. Which was the assumed incubation period of the disease, by the time it was released your Parents were already in hiding. It may have been too much trouble to try and move after that.”
“Doesn’t that seem a little odd?” Harry had his head tilted to one side, a frown marring his brow. “In the muggle world, even if a whole group is exposed to a virus, not all of them get it. Then what is the mechanism of transfer? Droplets, blood contact…….how would an entire group become exposed?”
“There are many things about it that were unusual Mr Potter. Including how your Grandfather passed. Alone in his house with the cure in front of him, and only two marks of the disease on his body, neither one in the active stage of the disease. Your Grandfather, ensured that recipe for both the cure and the vaccine was sent to the Guild of Potioneers, with a note that all profits were to go to furthering the art of potion making. After the war the Guild however decided that a small portion of the funds should go to yourself. You can see the entries in the first column of your book of accounts.”
Harry ran a finger down the column, until he came to the entry, wondering what it would have been like to know the man behind it. Why was he so bad at potions when his Grandfather was so smart? Was his Dad good at potions too? He wanted to cry and scream and rage at how unjust it was that he had to find out information about his family from his ruddy Account Manager of all people. With a huff he raised his eyes to meet Striknott’s, in a silent acknowledgement that the past could not be changed, they could only move on towards the future.
“Now the third column is for un-explained withdrawals of items from the Potter properties and vaults. The books that had been removed from Potter Manor are listed here, as was the Potter Invisibility Cloak. They are listed in order of removal date, the second date is the date the item was retrieved by your House Elf. As you can see the Potter Grimoire, was the first removed and the only book currently not returned. There are several other items including a number of family wands that have also not been returned. Your House Elf has been most generous with his time and worked diligently to find all of the other books and most of the items. He is still searching for the remaining objects. The tallies I am about to give you do not include any item that was returned prior to our meeting. In total three hundred and nine books were removed, one hundred and thirty-nine of them being located at the private residence of Hermione Granger in an enlarged trunk in her bedroom. Another hundred and fifty-seven were in Headmaster’s private chambers at Hogwarts. Ten in the Hogwarts library. The last three were found at Hogwarts, on the coffee table in the Potion Master’s quarters with a note, that was being used as a book mark, from Albus Dumbledore, that stated that he had found them in a second-hand shop and thought that Snape might find them interesting.”
The warmth spreading through his neck told Harry that Percival knew how upset he was getting.
“Forty-two items were located in the Headmasters office. Ten of these were magically linked to you in some way. Your Elf has replicated these, and retrieved the originals. The rest were found in a variety of private residences including McGonagall, Diggle, Weasley, Moody, Jones, Fudge, Woodhaven….there are more. With only one item being located at each abode.”
“He gave them away as presents or something didn’t he?” Harry asked quietly.
“That was the conclusion that we came to as well,” Striknott agreed. “Finally, the last column is the list of financial deductions of unknown origin. This includes the payments to The Order of the Phoenix. Now we haven’t stopped making these payments as yet,” he paused waiting for the explosion from Harry. It never came, though he did receive a glare that clearly communicated that he had better explain himself quickly. “After talking to your previous accountant, we know that these payments were authorised by Albus Dumbledore, who at no time in the past 14 years has been your guardian, despite what the man himself thought. Your accountant knew this, and yet made the payments anyway. We have been questioning the Goblin concerned and his response is troubling. He is missing memories from several years and his life partner noted that his personality has slowly been changing over the last 13 years. I do not believe this to be a coincidence. However, I need evidence. If we stop the payments a protest will be made, but it will be known that we have discovered something, so we lose our chance to catch the culprit.”
“It can only be Dumbledore, can’t it?” Harry asked.
“We believe so however, with the missing memories it is impossible to prove. Perhaps it was someone under polyjuice, or glamour. We are tracking the funds, and we will send out a letter at the end of the year, stating that a bank wide review has led to some discrepancies being uncovered, with a request for attendance to confirm the continued transactions. At that point, the payments will stop, and we will start to retrieve the lost finances. Any payment made without authorisation will be returned. There are other payments that have been authorised in a similar fashion, though each appears to be a once off. There are several that went to Millicent Bagnold the previous Minister for Magic in the November of 1981. These weren’t picked up at the time, as your Grandfather had on two previous occasions authorised a donation to the Auror department at the Ministry to assist in the providing of battle robes. And yearly sum was gifted to St Mungo’s in the second week of November 1981. Again, as both your Grandparents and Parents had made donations to St Mungos before, these were overlooked despite being for a far more significant sum. I am trying to correlate the times of these donations with events of the time, but it will take some time. We have of course noted that Sirius Black was remanded to Azkaban not twenty-four hours after the donation to Bagnold.”
It took several minutes of deep breathing combined with Percival’s thumb rubbing circles on his neck and whispered voice in his ear before Harry was able to speak, after all it wasn’t the Goblins fault. In truth they hadn’t been anything other than helpful. “Thank you Striknott. I believe that the donation to St Mungos can stand as long as it has been used appropriately, though next year we can decrease it to a more reasonable level. It seems like I have created a lot of extra work for you. Is there anything that I can do in recompense?”
The pointy teeth were on display once more, “Are you aware Mr Potter that Goblins view the items we make differently to wizards?”
Harry shook his head with a frown. “We do. When we are commissioned to make an item. The price of the item is the cost to make it plus the use of the item for the lifetime of the individual who requested it. Wizards believe that the price conveys ownership. Therein lies the difficulty. I know that the Potters have a few items that were crafted by members of my own clan, we would like them returned.”
“Take them!” Harry offered immediately, voice rising in pitch. “In fact, take back all of the Goblin made items! I don’t want to have anything that is stolen! Do you remember why they were made? Is it possible to have a list of the items with why they were commissioned?” Harry asked, it wasn’t much, but it might tell him something about his family.
Teeth gleamed at him once more, “I can only speak for my clan, Mr Potter and we will provide you with any information that still exists.” Reaching into his desk drawer he removed two pouches of Galleons. “Now I believe you and Mr Graves have some shopping to do? You may draw your wand to disguise them Madame Picquery.”
Minutes later the three of them were on the street looking exceedingly different. Seraphina, had conjured herself a walking stick, with her now white hair and drab grey robes, she looked every inch the wizened old Grandmother she was pretending to be. Harry giggled as he threw sideways glances at the now blond Percival, who had grumbled slightly at the bright blue robes he had been forced to wear. Blonde hair didn’t suit Percival at all, but at least he didn’t look like a pig in a wig. Harry had been glamoured to be a slightly smaller sized copy of this version of Percival, though his robes were burgundy.
“Oof, I’m so sorry!” Harry said as he recovered from his fall. Turning a blind corner in Flourish and Blotts he had run straight into Neville Longbottom; the formidable Augusta Longbottom was just behind her Grandson.
“No it’s ok, I should have been looking where I was going,” Neville responded looking at the small boy he had landed on in embaressment.
“Neville!” snapped the Longbottom Matriarch. “Get up! As if your results last year were not bad enough now you have to be rolling around on the floor.” Neville flushed bright red.
“Sorry Gran, but I can’t help it. I don’t think I have much magic,” Harry heard Neville whisper, and turned his green eyes to Percival, who was interestedly checking both Longbottom’s cores.
“You have plenty of magic,” Percival said out loud.
“What!” Neville gapped.
“Don’t get involved in things that do not concern you young man!” Madame Longbottom snapped.
“But I can see it. His core has an affinity for grey magic, so should be able to equally manage both the light and the dark spells and the reservoir is huge.”
Faster than Harry could blink, Neville was grabbed in a vice like grip and hauled to his feet, “So he has been slacking then! I am ashamed to have given you your Father’s wand, you will clearly never…”
“Why would he have his Father’s wand? Ollivander told me that the wand chooses the wizard, and Neville’s Dad’s still alive so why would it choose an other wizard?” Harry asked head cocked curiously. “Was his Father good at Herbology because Neville’s absolutely brilliant at it, and he’s excellent at charms as well.”
Augusta twitched so violently that the vulture on her hat wobbled precariously and the boys were struck by the wicked desire to see it fall off, “That is none of your business! Who are you anyway? I have a good mind to have a word to your parents about your poor manners!”
The boy at her side had been starring throughout the exchange when suddenly there was a flash of recognition in his hazel eyes and he silently mouthed a name.
“My brother and I are the wards of a visiting envoy from the Americas Madame, and we schooled for a brief while last year at Hogwarts,” Percival improvised.
“Hmpff. It would be best in the future, young man if you kept to yourselves. We do not go sticking our nose into other peoples business in this country! Come Neville!” She took a swooping turn and left the shop. Green eyes followed their path and Harry could just make out Neville saying, “Could we stop by Ollivander’s Gran? Please.”
“Fine. But don’t be complaining to me when no wand will have you!” she snapped in reply.
“Could you really see his core?” Harry asked Percival.
“Mmmm, it’s something of a talent I have , almost like the gifts that Sirius was telling you about,” Percival murmured. “Though we shouldn’t talk about it, in a place like this.” He gestured to the crowded shop. “Let’s just get our books and get out of here.”
Coming into the kitchen that night Molly found the book list on the table.
“Who left this here?” she demanded, glaring around the room.
“I did,” Sirius said as he wandered into the kitchen. He had started seeing double when looking though the shelves so decided it was time for a break in his search. “Do you need a hand? I tend to blow things up in the cooking, but I am a dab hand with the chopping.”
Snap, Molly flicked a tea towel at the Animagus, “Get out of my ki….” he raised an eyebrow at her. “The kitchen while I am cooking Sirius Black. Though if you go and find Harry I’ll gladly accept his help.”
“He found an interesting book in the library, but I’m sure he will be along shortly, Sirius said. Seraphina had sent a Patronus advising that they had finished their shopping and the boys would make their way back in the next few minutes. The books and things would be posted in the morning.
“I was worried that the lists were so late this year, so I asked Se….Snape if he could let us know what was on it so that we could make arrangements.”
“Are you sure it’s reliable?”
“Of course. He’s a teacher at the school, why wouldn’t it be reliable?”
“He’s never liked Harry much. And I think that it is something he would do, give out the wrong books. We’ll wait until the lists come. They can’t be too far away,” she reasoned.
“Suit yourself,” Sirius shrugged.
On the very last day of the holidays Harry was cleaning up Hedwig’s owl droppings when Ron called up the stairs “Hey Harry, booklists are here.”
Harry and Percival emerged from their room and peered over the balcony to see Ron standing on the landing outside his room with several envelopes in his hand. He threw one at them as soon as he saw them, and it hit Harry in the middle of his forehead.
“Good shot Ron!” Fred complemented sticking his head out of his room.
“How did he even know?” Harry complained. “I’m never going to live this down!”
“I won’t hold it against you,” Percival smiled as he reached out a hand and plucked his out of the air, Ron having thrown it as well.
“Seriously, I was expecting you to catch it! You’re the youngest seeker in century!” Ron smirked.
“Shut up!” Harry grizzled as they joined Ron in his room and fell on to the bed.
He prised open his envelope. It contained two pieces of parchment; one the usual reminder that term started on the first of September; the other containing the book list. As expected it matched the list that Snape had given them.
“Just two new ones,” he said.
Fred and George apparated right next to Harry. He was so used to them doing it by now that he didn’t even flinch.
“We were wondering who set the Slinkhard book,” said Fred conversationally.
“Because it means that Dumbledore’s found a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher,” said George.
“And about time too,” said Fred.
“What d’you mean?” Harry asked sitting up to allow the twins the space to join him on the bed.
“Well, earlier this summer we were rather keen to find out what was going on in the Order Meetings, so we created these,” George held up what looked to be a flesh covered piece of string.
“Oh yeah, you showed them to Percival when we first arrived. Extendable Ears right?”
“Yeah. So a few weeks back we overheard Mum and Dad talking,” Fred told Harry. “And from what they were saying, Dumbledore was having real trouble finding anyone to do the job this year.”
“Not surprising is it when you look at what’s happened to the last four?” said George.
“One sacked, one dead, one’s memory removed and one locked in a trunk for nine months,” said Harry, counting them off on his fingers. “Yeah I see what you mean.”
“What’s up with you Ron?” asked Fred.
Ron did not answer. Harry looked round. Ron was standing very still with his mouth slightly open, gaping at his letter from Hogwarts.
“What’s the matter?” said Fred impatiently moving around Ron to look over his shoulder at the parchment. Fred’s mouth fell open too. “Prefect?” he said, staring incredulously at the letter. “Prefect?”
George leapt forwards, seized the envelope in Ron’s other hand and turned it upside-down. Harry saw something scarlet and gold fall into George’s palm.
“No way,” said George in a hushed voice.
“There’s been a mistake,” said Fred, snatching the letter out of Ron’s grasp and holding it up to the light as though checking for a watermark. “No-one in their right mind would make Ron a prefect,” The twins turned their heads in unison and both of them stared at Harry.
“We thought you were a cert!” said Fred, in a tone that suggested Harry had tricked them in some way.
“We thought Dumbledore was bound to pick you!” said George indignantly. Harry shrugged uncertain what they wanted him to say.
“Winning the Triwizard and everything!” said George.
“I suppose all the mad stuff must’ve counted against him,” said George to Fred.
“Yeah,” said Fred slowly. “Yeah, you’ve caused too much trouble, mate. Well at least one of you has got their priorities right.” He leaned back to clap Harry on the shoulder while giving Ron a scathing look. “Prefect…..ickle Ronnie the Prefect.”
“Oooh Mum’s going to be revolting,” groaned George, thrusting the prefect badge back at Ron as though it would contaminate him.
Ron, who still had not said a word, took the badge silently, stared at it for a moment, then held it out to Harry as though mutely asking for confirmation that it was genuine. Harry took it. A large ‘P’ was superimposed on the Gryffindor lion. He had seen a badge just like this on Percy’s chest on his very first day at Hogwarts, he smiled at the memory.
The door banged open. Hermione came tearing into the room, her cheeks flushed and her hair flying. There was an envelope in her hand, a jagged slit up one of its sides.
“Did you - did you get it?” She spotted the badge in Harry’s hand and let out a shriek. “I knew it!” she said in a tight voice, that Harry was convinced meant that while she had thought it, but hadn’t liked it. She brandished her letter, “Me too, Harry, me too!” he could tell her excitement was forced.
“No!” Harry said, wanting to put an end to charade as quickly as possible, pushing the badge back into Ron’s hand. “It’s Ron, not me.”
“It - what?” sounding doubtfully hopeful.
“Ron’s prefect, not me,” Harry said.
“Ron?” said Hermione, confusedly. “But….. are you sure? I mean…” she turned red as Ron looked round at her with a defiant expression on his face.
“It’s my name on the letter,” he said defensively.
“I….” said Hermione, looking thoroughly bewildered now. “I…. well…. wow! Well done Ron! That’s really…”
“Condescending,” muttered Fred under his breath.
“Unexpected,” said George more loudly nodding.
“No,” said Hermione, blushing harder than ever. No it’s not….. Ron’s done loads of…he’s really….” She sounded relieved.
The door behind her opened a little wider and Mrs Weasley backed into the room carrying a load of freshly laundered clothes.
“Ginny said the booklists have come at last,” she said glancing round at all the envelopes as she made her way over to the bed and started sorting the robes into three piles. “If you give them to me I’ll take them to Diagon Alley this afternoon and get your books while your packing. Ron I’ll have to get you more pyjamas, these are at least six inches too short, I can’t believe how fast you are growing…. what colour would you like?”
“Get him red and gold to match his badge,” said George, smirking.
“Match his what?” said Mrs Weasley absently, rolling up a pair of maroon socks and placing them on Ron’s pile.
“His badge,” said Fred with the air of getting the worst over quickly. “His lovely shiny new prefect’s badge.”
Fred’s words took a moment to penetrate Mrs Weasley’s preoccupation with pyjamas. “His… but….. Ron you’re not…..?”
Ron held up his badge as evidence. Mrs Weasley let out a shriek of joy.
“I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it! Oh, Ron, how wonderful. A prefect! That’s everyone in the family!”
In her excitement Mrs Weasley didn’t notice the way half the rooms occupants froze following her statement nor did she hear George’s indignant mutter of, “What are Fred, Ginny and I the next-door neighbours?!” She merely pushed the twin aside and flung her arms around her youngest son.
“Wait until your Father hears! Ron, I’m so proud of you, what wonderful news, you could end up Head Boy just like Bill and Percy, it’s the first step! Oh, what a thing to happening the middle of all this worry. I’m just thrilled. Oh, Ronnie….”
Fred and George were making faces behind her back, they succeeded in making Ginny laugh, though it didn’t hide their hurt. Mrs Weasley still did not notice; arms tight around Ron’s neck, she was kissing him all over his face, which had turned a brighter scarlet than his badge.
“Mum…. don’t.… Mum… get a grip,” he muttered, trying to push her away.
She let go of him and said breathlessly, “Well what will it be? We gave Percy an owl, but you’ve already got one, of course.”
“W-what do you mean?” said Ron, looking as though he did not dare to believe his ears.
“You’ve got to have a reward for this!” said Mrs Weasley fondly. “How about a nice new set of dress robes?”
“We’ve already bought him some,” said Fred, not that Mrs Weasley noticed.
“Or a new cauldron? Charlie’s old one’s rusting through, or a new rat, you always liked Scabbers-” Again, half the room froze, had she not believed Ron when he had told her that Scabbers was Pettigrew?
“Mum,” said Ron and the hopefulness in his voice, touched something in Harry. It was the hope that just this once he would get something that was just for him, something the had never belonged to anyone else. It was a hope Harry knew very well. “Can I have a new broom?”
Mrs Weasley’s face fell slightly, brooms were expensive.
“Not a really good one!” Ron hastened to add. “Just - just a new one for a change.” Harry decided then and there that he would have a word to Sirius to see if they could contribute to broom.
Mrs Weasley hesitated, then smiled, “Of course you can…. well I’d better get going if I’ve got a broom to buy too. I’ll see you all later……little Ronnie, a prefect! And don’t forget to pack your trunks. A prefect! Oh I’m all of a dither.”
Harry glanced quickly at Percival and with an incline of his head, indicated that he wanted a diversion.
“Um, Mrs Weasley,” Percival spoke, distracting her from kissing Ron’s face again, the red-head sighed in relief, earning a snicker from his siblings. “About the school things.”
“Oh yes, if you can just get me the key to your vault, I’ll look after it for you dear. I’ve already got Harry’s.”
Did she really expect him to just handover his key, and why on earth did she have Harry’s? Instead of questioning her he said politely, “Oh no thank you. I just wanted to let you know not to worry about ours. You see when Professor Snape gent the list to Sirius the Harry and I ordered ours by owl. Our things arrived the other morning. So Harry would probably like his key back.”
She frowned and looked at him closely, “I told Sirius that the list was wrong! Why would you order off it. Now I’ll just have to get everything that was missed or incorrect. It was a complete waste of money!”
“Actually Mrs Weasley,” Percival rebutted calmly. “I’ve already checked and the list was correct. And Harry’s key?” he held out hi hand palm up.
She snorted this time saying derisively, “I’m not giving you Harry’s key. Who knows what you would do with it. If he has all his books, which I doubt. Then I will return it to Professor Dumbledore where it belongs. Harry is much to young for the responsibility.”
Well now wasn’t that curious! And didn’t it lead to a number of questions, like why the Headmaster should have Harry’s key? He made a note have Harry write a letter to the Goblins to cancel that key and to check that any withdrawals for school were only for Harry’s purchases.
“Don’t you have your own key Hermione?” Percival turned to the witch. Who flushed under the scrutiny but reluctantly nodded. “So then why is it ok for Hermione to have her key and not Harry?”
“I’m not her Mother!” Mrs Weasley stated firmly, “and I don’t get to make decisions for her otherwise, she would not yet have a key. None of my children received a key before they left home.” Fortunately Fred and George were standing behind her so she couldn’t see the shit-eating grins that swallowed their faces.
“It has already been established that you are not Harry’s Mother either,” Percival challenged.
“Be that as it may, this is a decision that has been made by his guardian!”
“I hardly think his Aunt would allow his finances to be in someone else hands. I gather that even in the Non-magical world that is not the done thing.”
“His Aunt is not his guardian in the Magical world because she is just a Muggle!” Mrs Weasley screeched.
Percival realised that Mr Weasley had not been present after the trial when Dumbledore was told he was not nor had he ever been Harry’s Guardian. Deciding that continuing to argue would give too much away, especially when the Goblins could just recall the key anyway, Percival changed tack. “So if No-Maj’s can’t be guardians, who is Hermione’s guardian?”
The girl in question, as always had an answer, “Professor Dumbledore,” here she puffed out her chest in pride. “In most cases, the Head of House takes on the duties of guardian for anyone who doesn’t have one. However, Professor Dumbledore choose to take me on.”
“Yes, well you are the brightest witch of your age,” Mrs Weasley agreed, before Percival could point out the obvious hypocrisy. “Now be sure to pack while I’m gone. A prefect!” she finally bustled out of the room.
Not a minute later Harry slipped back in and sat on the desk. Looking at the three piles of clothes on the bed, he wondered, where Mrs Weasley thought he and Percival were sleeping.
“You don’t mind if we don’t kiss you, do you Ron?” said Fred in a falsely anxious voice, cutting Hermione off as she opened her mouth.
“We could curtsey, if you like,” said George, just as Hermione drew breath.
“Oh, shut up,” said Ron, scowling at them.
“Or what?” said Fred, an evil grin spreading across his face, Hermione was turning red again, it seemed she had something to say and didn’t appreciate being thwarted. “Going to put us in detention?”
“I’d love to see him try,” sniggered George.
“He could if you don’t watch out,” Hermione snapped angrily.
Fred and George burst out laughing and Ron muttered “Drop it, Hermione.”
“We’re going to have to watch our step, George,” said Fred, pretending to tremble. “With these two on our case……”
“Yeah, it looks like our law-breaking days are finally over,” said George, shaking his head. And with another loud crack, the twins disapparated.
“Those two!" said Hermione furiously, staring up at the ceiling, through which they could now hear Fred and George roaring with laughter in the room upstairs. “Don’t pay any attention to them, Ron. They’re only jealous!”
A snort from the other side of the room, drew her attention. Her brown eyes glared and Percival, “You have something to say?”
“It seems highly unlikely that those two have ever aspired to be prefects, therefore it is doubtful that they are,” he answered as inoffensively as possible.
“Yeah,” agreed Ron. “They always said only prats became prefects….. Still,” he added on a happier note “they’ve never had new brooms! I wish I could go with Mum and choose…….She’ll never be able to afford a Nimbus, but there’s a new clean sweep out, that’d be great……Yeah, I think I’ll go and tell her I’d like the cleansweep, just so she knows…..”
He dashed from the room leaving Harry, Percival and Hermione behind. Harry studiously avoided looking at Hermione, instead turning to pick over one of the piles of clothes, re-sorting them correctly.
“You!” Hermione spat at Percival. “How could you talk about Professor Dumbledore like that?”
He held up a hand forestalling the rant she was about to launch in to, “First of all even if Dumbledore…”
“Professor Dumbledore,” she spoke over him sternly.
He continued ignoring the interruption, “were Harry’s guardian he should be treating you both the same. It is also a safety concern that he has kept Harry’s Gringotts key from him, one that the Goblins could take great offence to. If they were to find out they could freeze Harry’s accounts. Meaning he would have no access to his vault until they change their minds.”
Percival had been going to continue explain the foibles of Dumbledore but looking at the girl in front of him, her head was lifted as she looked at him down her nose with a scowl, he realised two things. The first being that she wasn’t going to listen to him anyway, so any arguments were a waste of time. Secondly, there was every chance that she would be reporting back to Dumbledore and if that was the case he had already said too much. So he stopped.
Fortunately, Harry spoke in an attempt to break the tension, “Well congratulations on making Prefect Hermione. I’m going to pack. So Hermione, as I’m sure you don’t want to see all of my undergarments, if you could please leave that would be great.” Harry moved over to Ron’s trunk and deposited the red-head’s clothes inside.
She opened her mouth, but Harry began shoo’ing her out the door. Once the door was closed, Percival said, “You know for the someone who is allegedly the brightest witch of her age, she sure is dense at times.”
Harry grinned and gestured to two remaining piles of clothes on the bed, “How she and Mrs Weasley haven’t figured out that we don’t sleep in this room anymore I’ll never know.”
“Ah, I spoke to Sirius about that, apparently he told them that he has been having Kreacher pop the extra beds in and out every morning and night, so that there is more space during the day.”
“Poor Kreacher! All that extra work!” laughed Harry.
“Are you ok?” Percival asked Harry softly.
“With what?” Harry asked.
“With Ron being prefect? Everyone seemed surprised.”
“Yeah. I …I don’t know. I guess I was kind of upset and a bit jealous at first, just for a moment, but I spoke to Sirius about it when I went downstairs. Neither he nor my Dad were prefects, it was Remus and my Mum. Sure Ron and I have done everything together and my marks are a little better, but you know I think it means more to him then it would to me. He’s always wanted to have the attention on him and I hate it. This lets him have that. Besides he’ll have to go to meetings and do patrols. If I’m trying to catch up on Runes and Arithmancy, I’ll probably have enough to be going on with, don’t you think?” It was strange to think he really was ok with it. If he hadn’t had Percival and Sirius around giving him the recognition he desired maybe he would have wanted it more and been jealous.
Percival crossed the room in three steps and wrapped his arms around Harry, resting his chin on the top of the shorter boy’s head, “That is a very mature attitude and I’m proud of you.” A warm feeling spread throughout Harry like the slow flow of Honey.
“I..I don’t think anyone has been proud of me before,” he sniffed. “At least not that they’ve ever told me.”
“I’m sure they have, just they have never said it,” Percival squeezed him tighter for a second before letting him go.
“Now we have a small problem,” Harry huffed.
“If we walk passed the girls room on the way to ours, while carrying our clothes we’ll give away that we aren’t sleeping in here.”
A bundle of clothes was pushed into his arms, and there was the warmth of Percival taking his hand, “Fortunately for you Harry. I remember how to apparate. Hold on this won’t be pleasant!”
Harry gripped his hand tighter.