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  Percival Graves knew he was, for all intents and purposes, dead. D.E.A.D, Dead. That is to say he would shortly be deceased. An ex-human being. In but a matter of moments, he would kick the proverbial bucket, shuffle of this mortal coil and simply cease to be. It had been weeks since Grindelwald had come to taunt him or feed him for that matter. Say what you would about the bastard, he took his villainy seriously. Hell, Percival was sure, that hideous moustache of his was grown just so he could twirl it and surely, he had charmed his bi-coloured eyes for a more sinister appearance. Still the man was surprisingly conscientious about the whole ‘keeping his prisoners fed regularly’ thing. Of course, to fit in with the ‘ evil Dark Lord’ persona, those meals were watery gruel and stale bread, but Graves had passed beyond the point of caring after a few days. In fact, right now, he would have actually really liked some.

 

    And that was the whole point really, Grindelwald had not shown up for…… Graves actually didn't know for sure how long it had been (somewhere along the line he had lost the small stick he had been using to engrave lines in the stone floor with and he was usually so good at keeping track of things), measuring time had become rather meaningless once his life had descended into an endless cycle of: sitting in the dark, rounds of torture, villainous speeches (wizards finally taking their rightful place yaddah, yaddah, yaddah; muggles doing their bidding, blah,blah,blah), and food being delivered.

 

    But back to the point, Percival knew that he was dying. He could no longer feel his limbs, he was more distractible, and his mind felt hazier than normal, -- or at least, what passed as normal these days. At this point he held out little hope of anyone finding him, or even recognising that he had been replaced. It was a bit sad really, Picquery hadn’t even noticed! (So Grindlewald had said the last time he had visited, the bastard seemed rather smug about it to be honest) For Merlin’s sake he worked with her every day! Three years ago, they had even dated briefly, before he had been offered his current position. The couple of lack lustre meals and trip to the museum just didn’t seem enough to turn down his dream job for.  Picquery had agreed that they worked better as friends. In hindsight his habit of isolating himself and being married to his job hadn’t done him any favours, if a miracle happened and he did happen to get out of this hell hole, he would have to change that. 

 

    Unexpectedly the door opened, flooding the small cell with light and making him turn away with an arm thrown across his face to protect his vision. His heart echoed in his ears. Had they finally found him? By the time his eyes had adjusted two figures had stepped into the cell, wearing matching expressions of disdain at the filth and smells. Perhaps it was another level of torture, his traitorous mind whispered as his heart went still.

 

    "Dear me, how do you manage to live in this squalor?" the male said with a sniff. He was rather short, had messy black hair and green eyes. "Then again, I suppose you don't; that is after all the reason we are here.”

 

    "You and your gallows humour," the female sighed. She had brilliant red hair and eyes the exact same shade as the male. "And please stop wearing that face, with what we have planned it will make it very uncomfortable for him.”

 

    "But I like this face!" the other whinged (No, he did not! He was entirely to dignified to do such a thing). "This one is so much better than my Dementor-esque form. Or that one where I look like a gaunt corpse walking around in the swirling black robes, though I do rather like the scythe.”

 

    "I don't care, take it off.”

 

    He pouted before his features shifted to that of a middle-aged man with sandy brown hair which swept back from his face and reached to his shoulders, curling at the ends. He now wore a black turtle neck shirt with a black blazer. "There. Are you happy now?”

 

    Graves finally found his voice, even if it was raspy with disuse and broken from far too much screaming. "What are you? What do you want with me?”

 

    The female tilted her head as she examined him and hummed, “Well now this just won't do." 

 

   Suddenly Graves found himself levitated off the floor and lowered delicately into a seat set at a table. With a nonchalant wave of the male’s hand the table was laden with a veritable feast and the being immediately helped himself to a slice of pizza. A goblet filled itself with water and a plate appeared in front of the prisoner, holding a plain bread roll, an apple and a small bowl of a thin soup. Graves eyed it warily. 

 

"Percival, honey, we swear that none of this food or drink will be harmful to you,” the female reassured.

 

    Percival was a bit surprised to feel magic wrap around him in response to such an unspecified oath but relaxed slightly just the same. It had been so long since he had last eaten. Picking up his spoon he asked, "So what do you want with me? It's unlikely that you just stumbled across me and decided to feed me.” 

 

    The male paused in the middle of the burger he was now consuming, to point a greasy finger at the man in front of him. “As I am sure you have realised, you were in the process of dying, but you were not yet dead. Not quite. You only had one foot in the graves as it were, pun inten-dead,” he smirked and waggled his eyebrows, the woman looked like she would very much like to hit him. “The moment you commenced dying you crossed the boundary into my realm which, fortunately for you, leaves you under my jurisdiction and therefore I can…. well to be honest, I can do whatever the hell I like with you really,” he grinned, plucking a handful of hot chips off a plate and dunking them in sauce.

 

    “Your...realm?" Percival placed his spoon down beside his plate, his appetite had disappeared.

 

    "We are what you would call Gods," the female said plainly. “Generally speaking, we manipulate the worlds around us as we see fit and this provides us with endless millennia of entertainment. It also works as a sort of diversional therapy. Sometimes we get bored and mess with things just to see what will happen; Fate more so than the rest of us. Really has a short attention span that one. We all have our favourites of course. The ones we like to play with the most. Death's for instance, is the one whose form he was wearing earlier. I myself have selected a few out of those who honour me. The form I am wearing belongs to one of them, a woman by the name of Lily Potter, and interestingly enough related to Death’s favourite. We have Fate to thank for that, as usual! Even with Lily’s non magical upbringing she strove to learn all she could of my gifts. She was so dedicated that she even studied things that the government of the time had deemed to be illegal. It was this knowledge combined with my blessing that allowed her to save her son at the cost of her own life.”

 

    “It took my blessing as well, I’d remind you. Her son is my favoured,” Death cut in, picking up a hotdog. “You have to realise that there isn't just one world that wouldn’t be anywhere near enough to keep us occupied. There is actually a vast multi-verse of infinite possibilities: each decision branches off into its own little universe and those spawn yet more. In fact, in one we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all because you were rescued 2 days into your confinement by your long-term partner, Alfred Biffle. Apparently….” Death looked around gleefully, “He was the secret head of a muggle crime syndicate. Came in while Grindlewald was torturing you one day and filled him full of lead.”

 

  Percival’s brain froze, Alfred Biffle! The 93-year-old janitor at MACUSA, who always appeared to be covered in scale rot!

 

   His shock was interrupted by Death clearing his throat, “But I digress. Regardless of the universe, my favoured has always managed to unite my Hallows. You know of my Hallows right? Like the story, there was once three brothers…..” he waited for Graves to nod before he continued. “Of course, only one of them has the full powers of the Master of Death. It would be a madhouse if I had Masters running all around the multi-verse, hopping dimensions and time. I don't even want to think about it! It’s bad enough with that mad fellow in the blue box, changes his appearance every time like he changes his socks. But the rest do carry the title and some of the powers. And each and every one of them willingly accepts dying, in order to accept me.”

 

    "Not a healthy mindset, that one," the female - he now knew to be Magic-- said, daintily eating a pastry. "Then again, I suppose we can blame his horrible upbringing for that. Every universe, you would think that Fate would change it in at least one.” 

 

  Death nodded, agreeing while he spooned some curry and rice into his mouth. "That headmaster of his sure didn't help," he said.

 

    Percival observed the verbal tennis match with a slightly bemused air, feeling much more alert. He sat back and folded his hands over his stomach, which ached slightly now that he had eaten some soup, "Now why do I feel like I'm in a department meeting, listening to a presentation for a proposal that the presenters think I won't like?” 

 

    Magic's mouth twitched upwards (ah, they had his attention), but it was Death who put aside his pie, wiped his mouth on a napkin and said bluntly, "We want to de-age you, toss you into the future, and let you flail about, causing untold mayhem and upsetting innumerable plans, while helping my favoured and bringing down a Dark Lord.”

 

    Percival choked a little- he’d had more than enough of trying to combat Dark Lords, it hadn’t turned out all that well! Surely he deserved a break.

 

   "What Death means to say is we want to de-age you, place you at a point in time where you would be in a position to help teach and protect others, well one, very specific other, and, yes, help bring down a Dark Lord...and perhaps a Light Lord too…."

 

    Percival blinked. "And why, pray tell, would I need to be de-aged to achieve that, surely I would be more help…..?”

 

    The two immortals shared a glance, which silenced him. Magic replied, "To fit in of course.”

 

    Percival tilted his head and glared at them. It was not every day a mortal could make two Gods sweat but Percival Graves, even half dead, could be rather intimidating. They knew his response would only get worse the more their plans for him were revealed. Especially the ones for his interactions with Harry Potter, maybe they should just keep some of the.…finer…..details to themselves.

 

    Death, still acting the part, put on his Big Gods Bloomers and said gruffly, "Because we said so." 

 

  Then promptly cleared his throat as Magic covered her face with a hand and shook her head before she added, "It's better if you are around Harry's age because he will trust you more.”

 

  “He doesn’t trust adults at all, and it is not without reason,” Death interjected. He shook his head sadly, “It’s because of his upbringing. His Godfather left him with a half-giant the night his parents were killed. The giant then left him on his relatives’ doorstep. Those relatives absolutely hate magic. Numerous neighbours and teachers were aware of the neglect and stood by doing nothing. Or if they reported it they were removed from his vicinity and their complaints quashed, so any promises they made to the boy were not kept.  His Head of House at school has never listened when he has raised issues. Yet another teacher at the school spits vitriol at him every chance he can get, due to a failed relationship he had with the boy’s mother. His best friend’s parents are aware that at the very least he doesn’t get regular meals and is locked up, but they have not acted. A friend of his parents, barely spoke to him the year they were in close proximity and then left without further contact. No word on where he had been all of the boys life or why he was not hanging around. When his Godfather came back into his life, he was a solid presence for a while but after the boy had been tortured and had seen a friend killed in front of him, on the word of the school’s Headmaster, he was left behind again. And currently, again on the advice of the Headmaster they, adults and children alike, are all refraining from contacting him. To put it simply if you were an adult he would not trust you at all. As a child of his own age, you have a chance, particularly if we weight the odds in your favour."

 

  “And most people won't be as suspicious of you when you pop up from seemingly nowhere. Plus, as despicable as it is, the main fighters in this particular war are children. Or at least they are on the Light's side,” Magic finished. It was a horrible thought.

 

    "And either way," Death said, “I have decided that I am giving you as a gift to my favoured. He needs someone that will always be on his side, who will teach him and care for him. It doesn’t matter which universe we are talking about, the headmaster just won’t do it. The Godfather might step up but will need a kick in the right direction. And his friends don’t have the experience. You, however, will do perfectly.”

 

    "And if I don't want to go?" Percival raised an eyebrow, trying to stare down the immortal, as if he were one of the newly graduated Aurors straight from the academy.

 

    “WE. ARE. GODS. CHILD.” Death suddenly dropped the charade. His eyes glowed blue with the knowledge of eons, a cold blast of power radiated from him drowning Percival in the smothering sensation.

 

    Magic's eyes began to glow too. "The Magical World has stagnated. They have lost their way and are losing their connection with me. Already feats of magic that were commonplace in your time are near legend. You. Are. Needed. If I am to survive on this world. And without me the world will fall. Gone will be the wonder of a child, love, hope, happiness, all will be lost,” the sound of her voice reverberated in his chest. "Would you give up this second life? This chance to save and change the world, to protect it from harm!”

 

    And that sealed his fate, Percival needed no time to consider the question. He already knew his answer. It was written into the foundations of his very soul. It was, more than anything, the reason he had chosen to become an Auror in the first place. The need to protect.  To fight for those who couldn't fight for themselves. "I will protect him,” he agreed.

 

    All at once the pressure that had thickened the air disappeared letting him draw breath once more. With a painful boom, he felt his heart beat once more.

 

    "In that case, there are just a few more things to do. First we will heal your body. Even if you're going to keep those scars; it wouldn't do for you to walk around all skeletal. We need you in fighting condition. And then there is this," Death reached out and cupped his hand over the right side of Percival's neck. He tried to jerk away as an intense burning pain seared the sensitive skin. It lasted no more than a second, then Death withdrew, and Magic conjured a mirror. Graves choked, there tattooed on his neck was the mark of Gellert Grindelwald.

 

    "Now, now," Death reprimanded, instantly aware of Percival thoughts, “that is not Grindelwald's mark; it is mine. Or rather, it's the mark of the Deathly Hallows. I told you I was giving you to my favoured; this is his mark, as their Master, even if-- strictly speaking-- he hasn't mastered them yet in this universe. Anyway, it will show those who know of such things who you belong to and will be a delightful red herring for a certain meddler. That man needs more mysteries to occupy his time and distract him from using my favoured as a pawn in his games,” he muttered. Feeling the man’s objections building and an argument about humans not being possessions on the horizon, he continued, “You will be his and he will be yours to protect and watch over. Actually you can think of that as your reward for taking this….assignment.” He gave another smirk, “You’re welcome!”

 

    Magic humpffed then waved a hand and healed Percival. "In the vein of Death’s distraction, a wand," she handed him a black wand with vine like swirls of silver reaching from grip to tip. "Elder wood,” she informed him. “11 and 3/4 inches, unyielding, with a core of thestral hair. Let the man think of that what he will. You'll need to get to Gringotts as soon as you can manage, preferably with Harry, though I have no doubt it will take time and some finagling to manage. You'll be in a spot of trouble when you arrive, I'm afraid.”

 

    With that Percival felt a tug not unlike a portkey and then there was darkness. 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Percival regained consciousness in a children’s park. The type of park where you might expect young mothers to meet on a Saturday morning. There were swings, a slide and even a little child-propelled merry-go-round. It had all seen better days. Over near the one unbroken swing on the far side of the dehydrated grassy area, a group of youths had gathered. A half dozen boys, who looked to be in their mid-teens, stood in a semi-circle surrounding a smaller boy with dark hair. The two boys that were standing at the ends held the shorter boy by the arms as he faced what was, by virtue of his size if nothing else, presumably the leader. Percival couldn’t hear the angry words that were being exchanged but could see that the interaction was building to an inevitably violent conclusion. 

 

  As the group surged and moved, they pulled apart and Percival suddenly saw the smallest figure more clearly.  Although the boy was physically identical to the form that Death had taken initially, he exuded a completely different aura. He was brimming with Life! It was as if there was a fire inside him. He burned so brightly that Percival could feel the heat from where he stood on the opposite side of the park. The emerald eyes hidden behind circular spectacles flashed with defiance even as the whale-child bore down on him and the rest of the gang jeered. 

 

"Who’s Cedric then? Your boyfriend?" the leader taunted, as Percival moved within range of hearing. “I hear you yelling out all night,” here the curly haired blonde put on a high-pitched whimpering voice. “Don’t Kill Cedric!” His face fell into a sneer as he began to laugh.

 

“Leave it alone. It’s none of your business!” was the snapped reply.

 

“It’s not my business he says? We’ll see whose business it is, when I tell Dad that you’ve been waking me up every night crying out for your boyfriend, you scum sucking…” the whale-boy cocked his arm back with his fist clenched. Those gathered around stopped breathing, eyes bright, grinning in their anticipation.

 

    Percival turned his stride into a run, only his auror training allowed him to notice the rapidly falling temperature and darkening sky. He could hear Magic's words echoing in his head, ‘You'll be in a spot of trouble when you arrive, I'm afraid’. Goddess of Magic, Pah! Apparently, she was also the Goddess of understatements!

 

  Over the years Percival had found that even a completely non magical being had a  sort of sixth sense for the supernatural, possibly due to an over-developed sense of self-preservation. Because of this he was not surprised when the group suddenly dispersed like an intrusion of roaches exposed to a bright light. In less than a minute only two others remained in the playground, Whale-boy and Death’s Master. The green-eyed boy (Had the immortals called him Harry?), was looking warily up at the sky, tugging the bully’s, arm urgently, and with far more concern than Percival felt was warranted given the previous situation. 

 

   “Come on, Dudley. We have to get out of here!” Harry’s fear bleed through his tone.

 

  Surprisingly the large one followed Harry as both boys broke into a run. Percival followed after them, years of training as an auror making it easy for him to draw even with them. 

 

  “Who….who…are…you?!” the one now identified as Dudley managed to gasp out, between heaving breaths, several minutes later when he realised they had company. 

 

   “Innocent bystander,” Percival replied without a hitch in his breath.

 

  “Never…seen…you…before.”

 

  “Just got here; names Percival Graves.”

 

  “Interesting tattoo,” Harry said suspiciously, not having nearly as much trouble as his cousin, considering he was rather used to running for his life. “I feel like I’ve seen it somewhere before. What’s it they call it…..deja vu?” 

 

   Percival gave a noncommittal hum, following as they took, what he presumed to be a short cut, an alleyway between Magnolia Crescent and Wisteria Walk. The world suddenly became pitch black and lightless. The sky was devoid of both stars and moon and there were not even any streetlights visible in the distance. A pervasive chill swept in and Dudley began to panic. 

 

“Sto…stop… whatever it is you’re doing, stop it! What are you doing?!” he started shouting at Harry as Harry tried to deny having done anything at all. 

 

   Before things could degenerate completely, Percival cut in, a hint of parade ground steel in his voice that promised retribution if his next order was not followed, “Shut up!”.

 

  Perhaps it was the tone or maybe it was being reprimanded for the first time in his life, but one of them had the effect of stunning Dudley into silence. “Since you are obviously blaming him, I assume you know about magic, yes?” Dudley stuttered the affirmative. “You live with him?” Again, a nod and stuttered reply. “Good, that gives me some leeway,” Percival said before nodding and unsheathing his wand. “Lumos maxima,” he said as he flicked his wrist like a whip.  Dudley’s eyes grew round, and he stuttered in protest again. 

 

   A ball of light left Percival’s wand floating away from them to hover at the midpoint between the walls, illuminating the surroundings and the two Dementors who had entered the opposite end of the alleyway. Dudley made a weird gasping squeal as Harry drew his wand, from his back pocket. Percival spared a glance and raised eyebrow for the blonde as he firmly told Harry not use his wand, unless the dementors got passed him.

 

  Already Percival could hear the echoes of his memories. His own agonised screams reverberating off the walls of his cell. The sadistic laugh and Grindelwald’s taunting voice with its harsh accent mocking him and telling him how none of his colleagues had guessed, had even suspected for a moment that the man wearing his face was not, in fact, their boss but was the Dark Lord Grindelwald. He could feel his bones breaking and his nerves raw, as if they had been shredded with a razor, from the Cruciatus.

 

  The other two weren’t much better. Dudley had started whimpering. Though Harry impressed him, Percival could tell he was preparing to cast, eyes closed, and wand extended, despite his pale face. Percival with his decades of experience shutting down his emotions in favour of lightning fast responses, and channelling nothing but determination was quicker. Pushing the memories to the side he raised his elder wand and incanted, ‘Expecto Patronum’ before the boy could utter a word.

 

   A stream of light exploded from the tip of his wand and coalesced into a panther, which proceeded to attack with all the viciousness one would expect from a large feline predator protecting its young. The Dementors gave way shudderingly, if they had voices they would surely have been shrieking as they turned and fled.

 

   Moon, stars and street lamps burst back into life. The panther padded back to its conjuror and rubbed its face against his legs before making its way to inspect the two boys. Before the panther reached him, Dudley tried to pull away. Shrinking back as if he was trying to make himself disappear into the wall of the alley. It wasn’t long before he was affected by the presence of the patronus and he slowly calmed. Finally, his trembling ceased, and he reached down hesitantly to pet its head. It moved on to Harry, staring into his eyes for a moment before standing up on its hind legs to plant its front paws on Harry’s chest, rubbing its face against his and finally swiping up the side of his face with a rough tongue. Task complete it dropped down on to all fours and twined itself around his legs like a house-cat. Percival could only try and hide the red that was making its way across his face by burying his head in his hands. Finally, the patronus dispersed into wisps of smoke as the sound of hurried footsteps made their way towards them.

 

  An old woman, who smelt of the essence of crazy cat lady and had the appearance to match, hastened around the corner huffing.  She caught sight of Harry who, assuming he was now in the presence of a Muggle, was in the process of stowing his wand back in his pocket.

 

  “Don’t put it away, idiot boy!” she shrieked. “What if there are more of them around? Oh, I’m going to kill Mundungus Fletcher!”

 

  “What?” said Harry blankly. “Who?”

 

  “He left!”  said Mrs Figg, wringing her hands. “Left to see someone about a batch of cauldrons that fell off the back of a broom! I told him I’d flay him alive if he went, and now look! Dementors! It’s just lucky I put Mr. Tibbles on the case! But we haven’t got time to stand around! Hurry, now, we’ve got to get you back! Oh, the trouble this is going to cause! I will kill him!”

 

  Many thoughts flashed by Harry’s mind: his batty old cat-obsessed neighbour knew what Dementors were, a man named Mundungus Fletcher was…supposed to be watching him?! He had had absolutely zero contact with anything or anyone magical all summer and yet there were people watching him! Mundungus must have been who Harry had heard disapparating earlier, this was going to cause a lot of trouble. And apparently a cat makes a better guard than a wizard. But first: “You’re—you’re a witch?”

 

  “I’m a Squib, as Mundungus knows full well, so how on earth was I supposed to help you fight off Dementors? He left you completely….” It was at this point she caught sight of Percival. “Who are you and what are you doing here? I know everyone in Privet Drive and I’ve never seen you even once,” she peered at him in short-sighted suspicion.

 

   “Oh, I was just passing through. Now, shall we go?” His comment seemed to have stunned her speechless but since she couldn’t really do anything else Mrs Figg nodded and turned to go. As Dudley still seemed to be having difficulty walking Percival heaved one of his arms around his shoulders and nodded for Harry to take the other.  The woman could be heard muttering and ranting to herself as she led the way however there was one word which caught Harry and Percival’s attention.

 

  “You know Dumbledore?” Harry said, staring at her, his feet momentarily stalling.

 

  “Of course, I know Dumbledore, who doesn’t know Dumbledore? But come on—I’ll be no help if they come back, I’ve never so much as Transfigured a teabag.”

 

  Harry went to put his wand away again before she said, “Keep your wand out. Never mind the Statute of Secrecy now, there’s going to be hell to pay anyway, we might as well be hanged for a dragon as an egg. Talk about the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery… This was exactly what Dumbledore was afraid of.”

 

  They were getting closer to Number 4 and Harry felt his chance of getting answers slipping through his fingers. “What do you mean it was what Dumbledore was afraid of? Why didn’t you tell me you’re a Squib? All those times I came round your house. Why didn’t you say anything?”

 

  “Dumbledore’s orders. I was to keep an eye on you but not say anything, you were too young. I’m sorry I gave you such a miserable time, but the Dursleys would never have let you come if they’d thought you enjoyed it. It wasn’t easy, you know…. But oh, my word,” she said, wringing her hands once more, “when Dumbledore hears about this! How could Mundungus have left! He was supposed to be on duty until midnight. Where is he? How am I going to tell Dumbledore what’s happened, I can’t apparate.”

 

  “I’ve got an owl, you can borrow her,” Harry offered.

 

   “Harry, you don’t understand! Dumbledore will need to act as quickly as possible, the Ministry have their own ways of detecting underage magic, they’ll know already, you mark my words.”

 

  “But I didn’t even use magic!” Harry protested.

 

  “You didn’t….what! Then how did you get rid of the Dementors? My goodness boy, this isn’t the sort of thing to lie about! What would Dumbledore and your parents think!”

 

  “But I’m not lying! It was Graves that cast the Patronus,” he said with an apologetic look for throwing the boy to the proverbial dragons. Percival just shrugged, not at all put out, being more interested in the information that was being revealed.

 

  “I did indeed cast the Patronus, and a Lumos Maxima. Since I’m not a citizen of Britain….” he trailed off. Percival’s words silenced the woman yet again, which he considered to be rather a good thing; he was alarmed by many of the things she had said. Not least of all was that she found it hard to treat Harry so miserably! As if that was any consolation to Harry! 

 

  Then there was Dumbledore. Percival thought he might have heard of Dumbledore back in his own time. There had been some papers on Transfiguration, possibly he had been a teacher and had some connection to the Flamels, and maybe some family trouble with the muggles……Oh that was what it was, he had been friends with Grindelwald. The International Confederation of Wizards had interviewed him at the start of Grindelwald’s rise to power! What position had he accrued to have the authority to deny Harry knowledge of, not only his his heritage but, his magic? And to have people watching over Harry? Why did he need watching over? Who exactly, other than Death’s favoured, was Harry Potter? At this point Percival was beginning to kick himself for not asking more questions of Death and Magic while he had the opportunity, it was a rookie error to head out on a mission without all the relevant details. Still there were times when no details were to be had, he would just have to treat this as one of those missions and take every precaution he could.

 

  At that moment a loud crack reverberated down the street, swiftly followed by an overwhelming reek of stale tobacco and alcohol as a squat, unshaven man with long straggly ginger hair, short bandy legs, bloodshot baggy eyes that gave him the doleful look of basset hound, wearing a tattered overcoat appeared. He was promptly assaulted by the woman after giving an irreverent greeting of, “’S’up, Figgy?” 

 

  Percival was not at all inclined to intervene, instead he nudged Harry and tilted his head in the direction they had been walking. Harry looked torn for a second, glancing between Number 4 and the pair that were now bickering before realising he wouldn’t be getting any more information from Mrs Figg while she was arguing anyway. He nodded resignedly and continued to help manoeuvre his cousin. The only part he really cared to hear, and he was sure the whole street could hear them at this point (so much for the Statute of Secrecy), was that Fletcher was going to go tell Dumbledore.

 

  Arabella Figg huffed as the dilapidated man left, then glanced confusedly around wondering where the boy had gone. She spotted them down the street and hurried to catch up. “Good,” she said, as she reached them, “finally showing some of that intelligence they told me you had. Goodness, such a disaster. You having to fight off Dementors: in Little Whinging of all places! And Dumbledore said we were to keep you from doing magic! Well, no use crying over spilt potion,” she said, seemingly forgetting Percival’s involvement and the fact that Harry did not actually use magic. “Now, I’ll walk you to the door but then I’m going straight home; have to wait for instructions, after all.”

 

  Percival suppressed a snort, yes clearly it was more important for her to tell this Dumbledore than to ensure the teen was ok. 

 

  “So, Dumbledore’s been having me watched?” Harry asked, trying to get a sense of how long and how closely he had been observed. They couldn’t have been watching too closely or surely, they would have done something about Vernon’s beatings.

 

  “Of course, he has,” Mrs. Figg gestured to the door impatiently. “Did you expect him to let you wander around after what happened in June? Good Lord, boy, show some sense. Right, get inside and stay there. I expect someone will be in touch with you soon enough.” 

 

  Job done she turned and left them standing on porch, she was gone before Harry could even yell for her to wait. So instead the three just made their way to the door. Harry put his wand away and rang the doorbell. They could see Aunt Petunia’s outline growing larger and larger, oddly distorted by the rippling glass, before the door was opened with a, “Diddy! About time too, I was getting quite—quite—Diddy, what’s the matter?”

 

   Harry glanced sideways, then ducked out from under his cousin’s arm and darted away with reflexes honed from years of quidditch just in time as Dudley’s face went a pale green before he promptly vomited all over the doormat.

 

  “DIDDY! Diddy, what’s the matter with you? Vernon! VERNON!”

 

  Harry’s uncle came barrelling out of the living room like a rampaging walrus, moustache twitching and puffing as he always did when he was agitated. Seeing his Nephew standing off to the side he grunted and lifted an arm ready to take a swing at Harry, rumbling out a threat.

 

   “Excuse me!” Percival’s voice cut through Petunia’s hysterics and Vernon’s threats, easily dropping into the parade ground commanding voice again. Though his tone softened once he had their attention, “Your son is going into shock. If you would, Ma’am get a warm blanket and take him to sit on the couch; the adrenaline is just wearing off and he’s suffering some slight symptoms from the attack earlier.” He handed Dudley over to Vernon, as Petunia raced to the upstairs linen closet. He stepped closer to Harry and said in an undertone, “Would you please make some hot chocolate for the three of us.  You and I might not be feeling the after-effects just yet but believe me, they’re there. I’ll deal with your… aunt and uncle?” He guessed.

 

   Harry nodded. “My Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon Dursley.” He hesitated before admitting, “Be careful. They’re… not very fond of magic and Vernon well.you saw what he’s like…” He wouldn’t have said anything, but Percival had been so helpful, Harry thought it only fair that he should be forewarned.

 

  “I can handle it,” Percival assured him. Harry looked him in the eyes to gauge his truthfulness before nodding and making his way to the kitchen.

 

  Percival strode through the doorway that he had seen Vernon carry Durdley through.  It appeared that the shock of the evening had caught up with the boy and he was huddled on the couch, shivers wracking his body, slowly rocking. Petunia came in with some blankets and gently laid them over her son. Both adults were trying to cajole answers from him, but he was stuttering so badly they could hardly make anything out.

 

  Vernon turned, when a floorboard creaked and saw Percival enter the room. “You!” he boomed, “What happened to my son? You said he was attacked!”

 

  “Indeed, I did,” Percival answered calmly, not responding to the aggression. “And whether you want to hear it or not, the attack was magical in nature.”

 

  Petunia gave a horrified little shriek, her hand springing to cover her mouth. Vernon however, just swelled even bigger and roared, “I WILL NOT HAVE THAT NONSENSE IN MY HOUSE!”

 

   Percival was not impressed. “You became part of the magical world the moment a member of your family was born with magic. Whether you want it in this house, or don’t want to believe it exists at all, is a moot point. Your son and your nephew were attacked. Your nephew is magical and living in your house. Magic exists, and you will have to deal with it. But that isn’t important right now. Your son was attacked by a being known as a dementor….”

 

  “And what in the ruddy hell is a dementor?” Vernon interrupted. 

 

  Surprisingly, it was a deathly pale Petunia who answered, just as Harry entered carefully balancing a tray laden with five cups of hot chocolate, “They are the monsters that guard the wizard prison, Azkaban.”

 

  Harry jerked into stillness, brain overloading from how many times his world had turned on its axis in the last few hours. He barely noticed Percival as he took two of the cups and placed them next to the adults, he was so wrapped up in trying to comprehend that Aunt Petunia knew what Dementors were. No matter which way he thought about it Harry just couldn’t understand it, he just had to ask. “How d’you know that?”

 

  “I heard—that awful boy—telling her about them—years ago,” she said jerkily, eyes still on her son.

 

  “If you mean my mum and dad, why don’t you use their names?” he said snidely. Petunia ignored him. He was about to continue to goad her more, when a sharp look from Graves, as he took another cup off the tray, made him close his mouth.

 

   Graves went over to Dudley and held out a cup to him, “Chocolate cures the effects of a dementor. Drink this, it should also help with the shock.” Dudley took the cup grateful for anything that would help and cradled it between his hands, taking a sip and nodding in appreciation. Percival grabbed the second last cup from the tray, drinking from it before he said to Harry, “You should drink yours too.”

 

  Vernon seemed, by some miracle, to be subsiding as the obvious tremors in his son lessened and the colour returned to Dudley’s face. Perhaps the hot chocolate he had consumed had helped him too. Petunia set her cup on the side table and ignored it. This small bit of peace was destroyed however, when an owl flew in through the open window with a screech, barely missing Harry’s head, as it dropped an envelope neatly at his feet before wheeling gracefully. “OWLS!” Vernon bellowed, “OWLS AGAIN! I WILL NOT HAVE MORE OWLS IN MY HOUSE!” He waved his arms around violently, completely missing the bird as it made its exit.

 

  Harry wasn’t listening (no one was actually), he was already ripping open the envelope with his heart somewhere in the vicinity of his throat, his stomach somewhere near his feet and a giant ball of nerves and dread in the location recently vacated by his stomach.

 

Dear Mr. Potter,

  

  We have received intelligence that you performed the Patronus Charm at twenty-three minutes past nine this evening in a Muggle-inhabited area and in the presence of a Muggle.

 

   The severity of this breach of the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery has resulted in your expulsion from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Ministry representatives will be calling at your place of residence shortly to destroy your wand.

 

 As you have already received an official warning for a previous offence under section 13 of the International Confederation of Wizards’ Statute of Secrecy, we regret to inform you that your presence is required at a disciplinary hearing at the Ministry of Magic at 9 A.M. on August 12th.

 

  Hoping you are well.

 

  Yours sincerely, 

  Mafalda Hopkirk

  IMPROPER USE OF MAGIC OFFICE

  Ministry of Magic

 

   Harry read through the letter twice sure there was some sort of mistake. He couldn’t be expelled. Could he? How could this happen? Hogwarts was his home. He hadn’t even done any magic! The line ‘Ministry representative would soon be by to destroy his wand’ kept playing over and over in his head. His breathe burnt his throat as he inhaled harshly. He barely noticed when Graves reached for the letter; letting it slip through numb fingertips. A hand on his shoulder grounded him as he swayed precariously, and he reached up a hand to grasp it like a lifeline.

 

   Graves kept his gaze on Harry for a moment longer, expressive black eyes showing concern, when he was sure that the boy wouldn’t fall he looked down and read the letter. He was silent for a beat before asking, “Previous offence?”

 

   Harry tonelessly replied, “Also not me; it was a house elf named Dobby. He didn’t want me going back to Hogwarts my second year because there was a dangerous plot by his former master. He levitated a cake, and dropped in on a guest’s head, in attempt to get them to stop me from returning to school by locking me in my room. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Muggle guests were still here when an owl dropped off the letter and the wife had ornithophobia.”

 

   “If they were so concerned about the Statute, they would make sure the birds didn’t deliver missives where there were No-Majs present. It’s not like it is particularly difficult to arrange,” Graves grumbled. At Harry’s questioning look he clarified, “No magic; you call them Muggle. I also don’t quite understand how this whole magic detecting thing is supposed to work. In America, we have a much more efficient system. One that doesn’t confuse one minor’s magic with another’s, much less a completely different species. Quite frankly that’s ridiculous.”

 

  “But what do I do? Hogwarts is my home.” Harry said tearfully. Unbeknownst to Harry (and it would remain that way) that was the moment the severely weakened (and since the resurrection of Voldemort) practically pointless blood wards fell.

 

  “If they do come to destroy your wand, you have the right to…..” Percival was cut off by an almighty CRACK as another owl missed the open window entirely and flew full speed into the glass. Harry ran over as his aunt screeched in surprise, Vernon started yelling about owls again and Dudley blinked slowly with a dazed sort of bemused expression on his face, he was obviously doing much better than he had been earlier.

 

   Harry took the small roll of parchment from the bird and brushed his hands through the feathers, straightening them as best he could before it took off. The note said:

 

  Harry, 

            

 Dumbledore’s just arrived at the Ministry, and he’s trying to sort it all out. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR AUNT AND UNCLE’S HOUSE. DO NOT DO ANYMORE MAGIC. DO NOT SURRENDER YOUR WAND.

                

Arthur Weasley

 

  Dumbledore was trying to sort it all out.? The man had that kind of power in the Ministry? Did that mean… he might be allowed back into Hogwarts? Harry felt a small kernel of hope as he passed the note to Graves. Then he panicked. How was he supposed to refuse to surrender his wand to a ministry representative?  Who would undoubtedly be an adult wizard with the law on their side! And do it without magic! His breath had started to quicken again when a hand gently squeezed the back of his neck, bringing him back to the present. Graves didn’t even look at him as he read the missive and then stared thoughtfully into space.

 

  What a colossal mess, Percival thought. Adding the information, he had gathered from Figg’s offhand comments about Dumbledore expecting something like this to happen, the Ministry’s swift action to expel Harry and Dumbledore’s influence…. Well it was becoming evident that he needed some connections in the political world, if he was to be any use to Harry. But… just who did he have…? He was out of his time by a good 60-70 years, surely everyone he knew was..… ‘Seraphina Picquery is alive and still has the clout you will need in an ally’, a voice whispered through his mind. Well, he decided, it would be somewhat challenging, and possibly entertaining, that was sure to be a draw card for Picquery.  However, the last thing Picquery would remember of Graves, was Grindelwald waltzing around wearing his face. Percival wondered if they ever found his old body or even discovered that it wasn’t really him? He sighed. There was only one way to prove it, he would have to write in blood.

 

  “You said you have an owl?” he asked turning to Harry, who nodded. “Think they’ll be up to a trip to America?”

 

  “She’s never been that far but you can ask her,” Harry replied quietly trying not to draw any attention from his Aunt and Uncle.

 

  Percival raised an eyebrow but didn’t comment. He stopped briefly to check on Dudley again, who seemed almost back to normal except for shadows in his eyes. They would never completely disappear, a permanent mark of one who has seen terror, been faced with horror and survived. 

 

  “Finish the hot chocolate and you’ll be good to go; I’ll need to talk to you later though, okay?” Dudley nodded, he owed the new boy his life after all. Then Percival followed Harry up the stairs only to stop and stare at the multitude of locks and a…..was that a cat flap? On the door?! The inside of the room wasn’t much better: broken furniture, a cot, and an overall depressing atmosphere that spoke of misery and more recently, nightmares. Harry was standing in front of a cage, gingerly coaxing a magnificent beauty of a Snowy Owl out of the cage. And if Percival caught sight of some lock picks laid on the desk next to it, well, it wasn’t any of his business.

 

   “Hey girl, I know it will be a long way, but this is Percival Graves. He saved my cousin and me tonight. There were dementors out near the park. Would you mind taking a letter to America for him?”

 

  The owl turned amber eyes on Percival, then sort of bobbed her body forwards prompting Harry to take her closer to Percival. The piercing gaze at the much shorter distance felt like it was weighing and measuring the trustworthiness of his soul and his intentions towards her wizard. She apparently was satisfied with the judgement as she hopped onto his shoulder and nuzzled his face, nipping at his hair.

 

  “Huh. She’s only ever done that to me before,” Harry said. Hermione and Ginny would be jealous!

 

  “She’s a beauty; what’s her name?” Percival asked as he handed her back.

 

  “Hedwig. Do you need parchment? A quill? Ink?”

 

  “Do you have an empty, and clean, ink pot, parchment, quill and knife? A pen knife will be fine, as long as it’s sharp.”

 

   “Um, I think so,” Harry said a bit unsurely before retrieving the required items from his trunk. He set them before Graves and took his first real chance to observe the new arrival. The other boy was handsome, tall, and broad-shouldered, his eyes were black and expressive. There was a scar curling under his right eye, along his eye socket and another which travelled vertically down his jaw from his lower cheek to under his chin, they were both pale and well-healed and did not detract from his looks at all. He looked to be around Harry’s age, maybe a year or two older, if you took his height as an indication, standing several inches over Harry’s meagre 5 foot 4 frame.  His hair was black as well, just a touch longer on top and cut so close it was nearly shaved on the sides; it had obviously been slicked back earlier but now was falling freely down into his face. Harry had seen the tattoo on the right side of his neck as they were running from the park but could now see it better; it was a strange design, one he was sure he had seen some where before, a plain black triangle with a circle in it and a line bisecting them. It evoked a strange response in him, something akin to recognition and there was a strange feeling of wanting to grab hold of Percival and never let go. To be quite frank, it was weird. Harry gasped, reaching out involuntarily, when he saw Graves cut into his palm and hold it out over the ink pot, collecting the blood. “What are you doing!” his voice came out an octave higher than usual.

 

  Percival just calmly continued decanting his blood into the ink well as he explained, “Blood is powerful, especially the blood of a magical being. Something written in your blood can not be a lie, otherwise your life and magic is forfeit. Never let anyone take your blood and never leave your blood just laying around; you’d never believe what someone can do if they get a hold of it. They can do terrible things: control your mind, track you anywhere, tailor-fit potions to you, access your vault and home; you give someone your blood—you give them your life.”

 

  “That’s… I never knew that.” Harry suddenly felt very, very ill. He was about to ask about the implications of the ritual he had been part of in June but was interrupted as Percival continued.

 

  “Some people do, some people don’t; it’s not really spoken about aloud. Just one of those things you’re supposed to instinctively know. Since it’s so embedded into the culture, no one really thinks to say it.” Was it possible Voldemort didn’t know what he had done? 

 

  “Do you mind if I ask who you’re writing to, that you need to do it in blood?”

 

   Percival just let a “hn” noise as he inspected the quill nib before waving his hand over the penknife, cleaning it, and then expertly shaved the nib down. Harry was stunned at the casual use of wandless magic. He would have to ask Percival if he would teach him.  Graves replied, “Seraphina Picquery. She… knows me but would be more than unbelieving if she received a letter from me out of the blue, so I need to prove who I am.”

 

  Before Harry could respond to either the statement or the wandless magic another owl came through his window, dropped a letter, and skedaddled. Harry was getting pretty sick of official looking owls at this point but dutifully opened the letter anyway.

 

   Dear Mr. Potter,

    

  Further to our letter of approximately twenty-two minutes ago, the Ministry of Magic has revised its decision to destroy your wand forthwith. You may retain your wand until your disciplinary hearing on 12th August, at which time an official decision will be taken.

 

   Following discussions with the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Ministry had agreed that the question of your expulsion will also be decided at that time. You should therefore consider yourself suspended from school pending further inquiries.

 

   With best wishes,

   Yours sincerely,

   Mafalda Hopkirk

   IMPROPER USE OF MAGIC OFFICE

   Ministry of Magic

 

  Well, at least he wasn’t expelled, yet. He handed this letter over to Graves as well. It was strange that Harry felt comfortable to do so, maybe it was because Percival came across as so competent and had actually been willing to help Harry deal with the evenings mess.

 

  “So, explain to me: who exactly is Dumbledore? He seems to have a lot of power for just being the Headmaster of a school,” Graves asked carefully as he reread the letter.

 

   “He’s the best Headmaster Hogwarts has ever seen. According to his chocolate frog card, he defeated the Dark Lord Grindelwald in a duel. He’s been warning the Ministry for years that Voldemort wasn’t really dead and now Voldemort’s back, and they don’t seem to want to listen.” Graves made another small noise, if he discovered it wasn’t warranted he would have to break through that hero worship! He turned back to his letter.

 

  Percival was trying to think of the easiest and most believable way to tell Seraphina what had happened to him. He quickly came to the conclusion that, that aspiration was a pipe dream. So he tried to get his needs across as succinctly as possible.

 

   Picquery,

       

   I am sure you have already figured out who this is and receiving this letter from beyond the grave will, no doubt, have come as a surprise. To be honest I should be dead and I would have been, had it not been for the interference of two….I can only call them, Gods.  The tale is so fantastical that I have written the entirety of this letter in blood instead of just my signature. I barely believe it myself and it happened to me!

      

    As my life started leaving me I was transported to the realm between Life and Death. They offered me—or ordered me to take, however you want to consider it, a second life.  Why though chose me over anyone else I am unsure. However, they wanted me to help change the Wizarding World, starting with Britain and to fight in the war that seems to be brewing here. To that end, I am once again in my fifteen year old body, and am in England, at the residence of one Harry Potter.

    

  Earlier, minutes after I arrived here in fact, Harry Potter, his cousin, and by extension, myself, were attacked by two Dementors. I cast the Patronus Charm, to protect us using the wand that Magic had gifted to me my original one being taken by Grindlewald. However, it was Mr. Potter who received a letter from the British Ministry informing him that for producing a Patronus Charm in a No-Maj area, in front of a No-Maj (his cousin who was quite aware of magic before this evening), he was expelled from Hogwarts and his wand was to be snapped forthwith.

    

   There is, of course several things wrong with this, starting with the aforementioned fact that as the spell was cast in front of a member of his family that he lives with, there would be leeway given and finishing with the fact that HE DIDN’T CAST MAGIC AT ALL. Not to mention I have cause to believe the cousin is a Squib.

    

  Perhaps, the most disturbing thing about this event, is the involvement of one Albus Dumbledore. It seems that the only legal authority Dumbledore has over Harry is as Headmaster of the school he attends. And yet, I have learned that the man has arranged to have a constant ‘guard’ keeping watch on Mr. Potter all summer. He apparently has also had a Squib watching Mr. Potter from a young age, forbidding her from telling the boy of magic and his heritage, giving the explanation of him being ‘too young’. There seems to be even more suspicious going-ons, considering his relatives are anti-magic, in the vein of the Second Salemers, but I digress.

    

   Mr Potter soon received a second note telling him that Dumbledore had arrived at the Ministry and would ‘sort it out’.  A little while later he received another official owl informing him that he could keep his wand until the disciplinary hearing on August 12th and ‘following discussions with the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’ the Ministry agreed to revisit the expulsion and to consider himself suspended pending further inquiries.

     

   What sort of power has Dumbledore managed to accrue since I was locked in that blasted cell, Picquery? Mr. Potter tells me he defeated Grindelwald in a duel? He seems to have amassed a large amount of political power, and from what I’ve seen, I’m not sure he’s been using it properly. Why is he so fixated on Harry Potter, surely, he wouldn’t do this for every student?

     

   More than anything else I need information. All the relevant history from my disappearance until now, the most up-to-date law books for Britain and anything from the ICW that could override whatever the British Ministry decides. I need an ally Picquery, and I need your silence on my past. I would also like a friend.

    

  I’m staying with Harry Potter, the town we are in appears to be called Little Whinging, though I am unsure where it is within England exactly. My place is now and will be by his side for the duration of this war. I can only assume we are going to be moved to a more secure location soon and the likelihood of a letter getting through is slim. Though Mr. Potter’s owl seems unusually intelligent, it would take too long for correspondence to be passed between us often. As magnificent as she is, I feel I shouldn’t use her too frequently as she is very noticeable.

     

In the name of our friendship and all that I’ve been through, I need your help, Phina.

 

Percival Graves

 

   Percival took a deep breath and leaned back as he waited for the blood to dry. An owl came through the window making Harry groan in exasperation.

 

  “I think I know how Uncle Vernon feels. I’m really getting sick of strange owls showing up this evening,” he said as he took the note.  Hedwig hooted in agreement, as the bird stopped and drank from her water dish. He read it and his entire face twitched before he snorted out, “That’s rich, coming from him.” 

 

  At Percival’s questioning noise he explained, “My godfather writes ‘Arthur’s just told us what happened. Don’t leave the house again, whatever you do.’ He and Mr. Weasley, my best mate’s dad, the one that sent the letter before, act like I’m misbehaving, and they are saving up their scoldings for when they can see me in person. Sirius, my godfather, has been telling me all summer to ‘keep my head down,’ ‘be good,’ and ‘don’t do anything reckless’.” Harry huffed, "Which is more than a little hypocritical as he is rather famous for chasing after my parent’s betrayer instead of taking care of me, his godson. That led to him being framed and subsequently sent to Azkaban without trial. He then broke out of prison twelve years later to go commit the crime he was accused of, killing Pettigrew, and spent a year on the run from the Aurors, who had a a Kiss on Sight order issued for him. Only to finally get caught at the end of the year. With some assistance he managing to get away again, this time on the back of a Hippogriff, that was also ordered to be executed. He is currently supposed to still be in hiding.  And here he is telling me not to be reckless! What would I have to do to be more reckless than him? March off and challenge Voldemort to a duel?! When I’ve been stuck in this house all summer without the slightest connection to the Wizarding World or magic at all? Maybe if they would just tell me what is going on I wouldn’t be so desperate! I’m the one who faced Voldemort in June! Who was forced to watch as Cedric was killed! Who was forced to help bring my enemy back using my own blood! And they tell me not to be reckless, that they aren’t allowed to say anything, that I’m, and this is the kicker, that I’m too young to be told anything! As if my age and not knowing anything is going to save me! Voldemort attacked me when I was fifteen months old, I doubt he is going to wait until my seventeenth birthday before he attacks again.” 

 

    Harry laid down on his bed, panting from the released emotional stress. He had been holding it in all summer, with every nightmare, with every letter telling him nothing, with every day that the Muggle news shared nothing useful, and with every Daily Prophet smearing his name. He almost felt hollow now, almost all the things building up had been let out, like a boil that had been lanced. He felt better. He turned his head back to Percival to see his reaction to the outburst. Percival’s face was blank but there was a hint of compassion in his eyes, nothing like pity, but an understanding of feeling helpless.

 

   After a long moment Harry sat up with a sigh and said, “We should probably talk to my Aunt and Uncle, I don’t think anyone’s had dinner yet.”

 

  Percival nodded then folded his letter up and put it in an envelope, heating the wax and sealing it magically. He passed his hand over it again, laying some enchantments and wards so that no one but Picquery would be able to handle the letter or envelope. Hedwig landed on the desk and waddled excitedly over. Percival smiled at her enthusiasm. “This is for Seraphina Picquery; I’m not sure where she lives but I would think somewhere in New York. Would you mind if I cast some charms on you? A Fly-Easy Charm, Water-Repelling Charm, and one so that you can’t be intercepted or tracked?”

 

  She looked a bit offended at the last but agreed to it anyway. Then she was on her way and Harry and Percival headed to the parlour. The Dursleys were sitting around the room. Dudley and Petunia on the couch and Vernon in an arm chair, they seemed a bit lost. It looked like Dudley was drinking Petunia’s hot chocolate.

 

    “Aunt Petunia, I don’t think Dudley and I have eaten dinner and I’m not too sure about Percival here. Have you and Uncle Vernon eaten?” he asked with more gentleness than he ever had used when addressing her before.

 

  “N..No, we haven’t. I should…I should make dinner. Is your…” she stopped unsure of how the other boy knew Harry. She turned to address Percival, “Will you be staying for dinner?”

 

  “I would very much appreciate being able to stay and to eat with you and your family, Ma’am,” he replied. “If it eases your mind any, someone will likely be here within the next few days to collect Harry and I will be going with him.”

 

   Vernon grunted a ‘good riddance’ but Petunia barely glanced at him as she stood and nervously wiped her hands on her dress before making her way to the kitchen. Harry followed her.

 

   When he reached the kitchen, he saw his Aunt holding herself up by the kitchen counter almost seemingly on the brink of tears. Harry had seen a lot of his aunt’s emotions: happy when with her husband and son, proud of her son, jealous of the neighbour’s new car, prideful whenever anyone complimented her on her garden, angry at him, frustrated, scared, cold, haughty, pretentious. But never had he seen her looking so… vulnerable, so human. It occurred to him for the first time that she was his mother’s sister. He had always known she was his aunt, that she had grown up with his mother, despite the fact that she never talked about it, but never before had he realised that… this woman’s sister had been murdered and tonight the same world that had killed her sister had almost killed her son.

 

   Petunia abruptly straightened and raised a hand to wipe under her eyes. Catching sight of him she cleared her throat and said, “Harry, I didn’t see you there. Was there something you needed? I’m afraid I simply must get dinner started. I was thinking something hearty, with potatoes.”

 

  With that she turned and started rummaging through the pantry and the refrigerator taking out what she needed and laying it on the counter. Harry came closer and said quietly, “I… I thought I’d help you make dinner.”

 

  “That’s… that’s not necessary, Harry.” Any other night he would have been pleased, and probably slightly suspicious, at not being forced to cook dinner, but tonight Harry sensed something was different. It was an unlooked for opportunity.

 

  Harry reached out and gently caught her wrist where she was readying to slice an onion, forcing her to look at him. “I want to help you.”

 

   She took a deep shuddering breath before nodding and sliding the chopping board over to him. “Then you can cut up the vegetables and I’ll put the potatoes on to boil and cook the meat. I thought I’d try out that cottage pie recipe that I saw in a magazine; it’s supposed to only take about 40 minutes.”

 

   The kitchen was silent except for the sounds of food preparation before Petunia asked in a quiet vulnerable voice, “Why do you think there were Dementors here? They couldn’t have been after Dudley and… and it seems that you would be the most likely target.”

 

  “I don’t know; I hadn’t thought about it. But… Voldemort probably sent them.” There was a clatter where Petunia almost dropped her spatula. “He’s back. He came back last June. I was there; I saw him. He killed a classmate right in front of me.”

 

  Understanding suddenly bloomed in her eyes, “That’s why you’ve been so desperate to watch the news: you’re looking for signs of him. Has there been any news from… from your friends, and that newspaper you subscribe to? Don’t think I don’t know about that mister.”

 

  Harry shook his head as he passed her the chopping board with the now diced onion on it, for her to sauté with the meat. Taking the board back he began chopping the carrots and other vegetables (potions perfect too) not that he really noticed and answered, “No, they just keep telling me ‘they aren’t allowed to say anything’ and ‘it’s really busy here but we’ll tell you when we see you’ but they won’t even tell me when that could even be. It’s part of the reason I’ve been so…”

 

  “Such a little git?” Petunia suggested lightly. “I don’t imagine the lack of sleep from the nightmares is helping.”

 

  “Angry. I was going to say angry,” Harry gave her a little smile.

 

  Then his Aunt Petunia did the something that had hitherto been unimaginable: she chuckled. “That you have been. You always did give us more lip when you were angry. Your temper has been more volatile of late. You get that from…” She paused and gulped before continuing on a little hoarsely, “You get that your mother, from Lily, I remember her having fits of anger when she was tired or stressed. She stopped coming home from school at Easter because of it.”

 

  Harry nearly took the tip of his finger off from the shock of hearing the name. There was none of the venom in his aunt’s voice that she usually had when talking about his mother. Instead there was a long-buried pain and an even more deeply buried regret.

 

  “I need the mushrooms,” Petunia said. He handed them over and quiet reigned again. This time the silence had somehow relaxed a bit. Harry finished the vegetables and his aunt said quietly, “Drain the potatoes, then combine them with these.” She pushed some ingredients and a bowl towards him. “Yolk only; the recipe is written down on the notepad near the wall.”

 

  Harry mashed and mixed the potatoes. It was strangely soothing to work in tandem with his aunt, moving around in synch with hardly any need for words. That same long-forgotten part of himself that had taken this chance, now felt like a plant finally being watered and opening up to the sun. When he was little, Harry had dreamed of working beside his family as he had seen Petunia try to do with Dudley when she had been attempting to teach his cousin to cook. When Harry was a little older than that, standing lonely on a stool managing an entire meal on his own, he had wondered what it would be like if his aunt had actually taught him how to cook, showing him with love and care, making it into something for the two of them to share instead of just another chore he had to do for a family that wished they had never heard of his existence.

 

   “When… when your mother and I… when we were younger… before that awful boy taught her all about… about magic… before magic came between your mother and I, we would sometimes cook together. On Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we would make breakfast and serve it to our parents in bed. We would make elaborate picnics for the two of us and spend the day at the park. That was where she met that boy you know, that Snape boy, he took her away from me. When our parents were too tired or had had a hard day at the hospital, we would beg to cook. Only once in a blue moon did we ever order a pizza or have food out.”

 

   “Hospital?” Harry asked, the first thought out of his mouth. He had always wondered about his grandparents, about any family he had really. His already spinning mind had jagged on the fact that his mother had apparently known, and might have been friends with, Snape. But he pushed the thought hurriedly to the side as he decided, this was a day where the world was just not going to make sense. At this point the only thing he could do was he roll with it and see what happened next.

 

  “Our parents, John and Camellia Evans, were doctors. Our mother was quite famous for it really, being a doctor instead of a nurse. She fought tooth and nail for that right, she was an amazing woman. They died in a car crash, a drunk driver drove them off the road. It happened when I was three months pregnant with Dudley; I never even got to tell them. We’d had a fight you see, the last things I said to them were so hateful; I hadn’t been able to face them afterwards.”

 

  Harry didn’t know what to say. She was almost talking to herself at this point, Harry wasn’t even sure she remembered he was there, but then she looked at him. “If you take off your glasses… you have your Grandad’s ears and Grandmum’s eyebrows. Lily got her eyes from our Mother’s Mother; I’m sort of surprised you inherited them.”

 

  “I was at your parents’ wedding, it would have been the last time I saw your Mother. Your dad and that Godfather of your’s were right bastards; Lily had warned them Vernon was iffy about magic and what do they do? Prank him! Vernon was in the hospital for three weeks with that broken leg! The red and gold hair didn’t go away for a month and the random lion roars didn’t stop for a good six months! It was utterly humiliating! He was fired from his job for unprofessional behaviour. Then he got the job at Grunnings and had to start at the bottom again.”

 

  She let out a disgruntled huff at the memory. “But anyway, I had meant to say that you got your father’s hair, the…style anyway, and his jawline. Those cheekbones looked more like your Godfather’s though, and the hair colour. I think I heard something about your Grandmother or maybe great-Grandmother being a Dory… Dorris… Dorea! Dorea Black, that was her name. Now, I need the red casserole dish, then this will be ready for the oven, well, broiler but…”

 

  She spooned the meat and gravy mixture into the dish then spread the potatoes evenly on top and slid it into the broiler. She went to the fridge and got out the juice and poured two glasses, sliding one over to Harry, “So what has that newspaper of yours been reporting if not evil Dark Lord activity?”

 

    “A bunch of lies. They’re smearing my name and reputation, making me out to be an attention-seeking liar who is a danger to himself and others,” Harry said with derision.

 

  Petunia tilted her head. “And they’re just… allowed to do that? To ruin a young boy’s life with hearsay?”

 

   “What do you mean? I thought they could just say anything they wanted; it’s not like I have parents or anyone to kick up a fuss about it.”

 

  “You should look up the journalism laws, surely they can’t be that different. Your father was quite wealthy, they had a lawyer on retainer I believe.”

 

  Harry shook his head. “I saw the vault they left for me. I’ll be stretching it to make sure I have enough for the rest of my schooling and a year or two after, if I’m really careful.”

 

  “Hm. That doesn’t sound right. Have you talked to your goblin?”

 

   “My…goblin?”

 

   “When they came to take Lily to get her things in first year, we went to the bank and there were these scary little creatures at the tellers. Your father slipped up once when he was bragging about being rich, he told Vernon that he would never have to work if he didn’t want to, as his goblin was looking after his accounts. I presumed, all the old families have their own account manager, just like us and our bank.”

 

   She checked on the pie and hummed in satisfaction before putting it aside to cool a bit. “Help me set the table?” Harry nodded and soon five place settings were laid out and the cottage pie was sitting enticingly in the middle. They exited the kitchen to find only Vernon. 

 

  “I’ll go get Dudley and Percival,” Harry volunteered.

 

  

When Harry had followed his aunt into the kitchen Percival had stood quietly, contemplating his options before saying, “I would like to speak to Dudley. Privately please.”

 

  Vernon was about to make a big production of it, but Dudley quickly slid off the couch and simply said, “We can talk in my room.”

 

   They had reached the second-story hallway when Percival said, “Actually, it would be better to talk in your cousin’s room; we’re going to need some things and the desk.” Dudley followed him into what, he now remembered, had been his second bedroom (and god, how that thought made him feel sick).

 

   Percival stood before the camp bed and gestured for Dudley to take the desk chair. Once he was seated Percival sat down and steepled his fingers, resting his chin on them and observing Dudley intently. The blond had the strangest sensation of being in a police interrogation room.

 

   “I want you to tell me the truth. When the light came on, you gasped. Why was that?”

 

   “What do you mean, why? There were these… floaty cloak things coming towards us. Their fingers looked all… water-decayed and skeletal and…And they were horrible, they made me feel awful, like I’d never be happy again!”

 

  “Thank you,” Percival stopped and thought about what he was going to say next. “I… know that you did not grow up… liking magic,” he said slowly, “but… your two worlds, your cousin’s two worlds magical and mundane have merged and there’s no going back, do you understand?” 

 

   He waited for a nod and continued, “From what I’ve learned… there is war coming and your cousin is a key player. For this reason and others, there will be those who fear him, those who will worship him, those who will wish to use him, those who will want to drag him down, and those who will want to kill him. This ‘disciplinary hearing’ is more than likely an attempt to bring him down before he can gain any real power or support. For this reason, he needs an air tight case. I will of course be there next to him, but it will be easier if we compile evidence. Which is why I would like you to make a statement, like a police statement, just write down what happened in your own words. Unlike a non-magical police statement, this one would be magically binding. To do this you would write at the beginning of the statement, ‘I so swear that everything here written is true to the fullest extent of my knowledge,’ then write the statement and sign in your blood. The blood is needed because only you, acting under your own power, can sign it. If someone were to fake either the statement or your signature, they would be punished by magic and the ink would turn liar-blue. It is unmistakable in the Magical World, there’s no other shade like it. Likewise, if anything you write is untrue after swearing it to be true, Magic would punish you appropriately and…”

 

    “Hold on. You’re talking about magic like it’s… like it’s alive or something.”

 

  “That’s because it is. It is both a tool and a gift, an energy and a force. It has form and intelligence and she blesses… her… people accordingly.”

 

  “That’s…that’s so cool.”

 

   “I’m glad you think so. Will you write a statement?”

 

   “Yeah. Why… why did you ask what I saw?”

 

  “A No-Maj wouldn’t be able to see Dementors. Therefore, you are what is called a Squib. It means that you are in a way, magic-born. You have the ability to see things mundanes can’t. You won’t ever be able to use a wand, but you could make most potions, if you wished to learn. And I’ve heard tales of Squibs being able to harness other types of magic, where the magic comes from an external source, though I myself have never seen it. It also means a child of yours could have magic too.”

 

    “Would you tell me more after I write this? Even though Mum and Dad are so… anti-magic… I… well, what kid doesn’t wish that magic was real or that they had it?”

 

   So Dudley wrote out his statement and barely flinched when Percival cut him with Harry’s pen knife and explained the importance of blood to him, just as he had to Harry earlier. And that was how Harry found them when he checked upstairs: Dudley leaning forwards with an eagerness and a child-like innocence Harry had never seen before, listening as Percival spun fantastic yet educational stories about Magic, traditions and his school days.

 

   Dinner was a surprisingly pleasant affair, every time Vernon looked like he was getting ready to puff up, Petunia glanced sharply at him and he subsided. Conversation was light and about the magical world, not Britain’s Wizarding world, but the greater world, the one less prejudiced against blood. Petunia slid in a sly comment to Percival about maybe taking Harry to check his vaults and to see what could be done about the journalism situation, not that she said it so bluntly.

 

   It seemed that all his Uncle’s good will disappeared with the plates. As they were put away. Vernon protested loudly that he would not be allowing a ‘freak’ to sleep in the guest room and no amount of Petunia glaring or Dudley pouting would convince him otherwise, so Percival followed Harry up to the smallest bedroom at the end of the night. Harry had offered to sleep on the floor but Percival, being used to cramped and much less hospitable sleeping environments said not to worry about it.

 

   That night was the first night since the events in the graveyard that Harry didn’t wake himself, and everyone else in the house, with his screaming. He also didn’t dream of a long, dark corridor. Instead in the morning he woke up with his legs tangled with Percival’s and a hand resting on that strange tattoo.

 

Chapter Text

 

____________________________________________

 

 Harry was surprised when the congenial tones of that first dinner with Percival continued over the following days. It seemed that, that one evening had begun to re-build a previously neglected bridge between himself and his aunt, and the traumatic event had certainly influenced his cousin. The little family would sit in the conservatory for hours while Vernon was at work, and Percival would tell them all about magic; the different kinds, like magic drawn from the environment, light magic, grey magic, dark magic, black magic, even white magic (Harry was somewhat shocked at the amount that he didn’t know). He talked about the different ways to harness and use magic. He described rites and rituals that wizards used to practice to give back to Magic and the traditional holidays they had celebrated to honour their culture and heritage, watching as Harry’s enthusiasm grew. He explained what was expected of a young Lord and the political pull Harry would one day have.

 

   Three days after the Dementor Incident a spectral cheetah suddenly appeared in the centre of the breakfast table, it looked at Percival before saying in a voice like velvet, “I’ll be there. I’m sending the documents through Gringotts, along with the owl. To better manage the situation, I have decided to relocate to London. Contact me when you can…. It’s good to hear from you, Percy.”

 

  A triumphant and savage grin split Percival’s face as the cheetah disappeared. Oh, with Phina’s backing this was going to be fun.

 

  “Percy?” He heard Harry exclaim with a hint of incredulity. “Who was that? And was that, was that a patronus? How did it talk?”

 

   “Phina, Seraphina Picquery, has called me that on occasion since our school days. That wasn’t quite the standard Patronus Charm; it was a variation called a Messenger Patronus. It can only be cast by one who can produce a corporeal patronus and the incantation is different; it’s Custos Expecto Loquentes meaning, ‘I await a talking guardian’. Just as Expecto Patronum means ‘I await a guardian’.”

 

   “What did she mean, ‘I’ll be there’?”

 

    “Picquery used to be the President of the Magical Congress of the United States of America, or MACUSA as it’s called, during 1926 and she still has a lot of political influence. One way or another, she’s going to man-handle the British Ministry into being able to attend your hearing. She always had a flair for dramatics,” he sighed in envious anticipation, “It’s going to be magnificent.”

 

    Harry did not like the soft smile that now graced the other boy’s face, at all, though he wasn’t sure why.  He understood the need to get help from someone more powerful then they were, but Percival’s reaction and the use of nick-names just rubbed him the wrong way. It made his jaw clench and something like anger settle in his stomach. After a minute he was distracted from these new emotions as his brain caught up with what had been said and his Slytherin side put the clues together. “You said… you said you and she were school mates…and that she was President in 1926. How can that be?… How…just how old are you? Is this another wizard thing I haven’t been told about?”

 

   Percival had known this question, or at least one similar to it, was coming since he hadn’t made any effort to hide it. He hadn’t even considered, lying or hiding it from Harry, not after what Death and Magic had told him. But what exactly should he say? And should he say it in front of Harry’s aunt and cousin?

 

  Before long anyone and everyone, would know where he had been staying since the attack. If you knew how the No-Maj world worked it was not difficulty to find anyone living it it. Therefore anyone wanting to know about him would just need to come here and look into their minds, as No-Maj they had no way of preventing it. So no, he could not tell Petunia and Dudley his origins. It would be better to obliviate this last bit of the morning from their minds, but he wouldn’t do that to them or Harry. Not when Harry and his family were just now making amends. He would ask Picquery to commission protective amulets from the goblins to protect them and their minds but as it was, he couldn’t risk this information.

 

  “I’m fifteen just like you,” he said to appease Harry’s Aunt. “I’ll explain how I know Picquery but, let’s go up to your room,” he told Harry before turning to Petunia and Dudley. “I’m sorry but this information…. It would be too easy for someone to retrieve it from your minds and I can’t chance someone using it to try to gain control of me or Harry.”

 

   They nodded in understanding as Percival and Harry stood and made their way to his room. Percival set up secrecy wards, making sure to do it wandlessly since he was in such close proximity to Harry, and who knew how the British Ministry actually detected underage magic, before they sat on the bed facing each other.

 

   “What did you mean, someone could get it from their minds? Can wizards…read minds?”

 

  “It’s called Legilimency, a Legilimens practices Legilimency. The opposing mind art, the practice of closing one’s mind from external attack, is Occlumency. One who practices it is an Occlumens and are Occluding. It would be a good idea for you to learn to Occlude. Amongst other things, it helps you keep control of your emotions…and makes detecting when you’re lying harder to do.”

 

   Harry nodded, clearly mulling this over. Looking back over his interactions with Malfoy and Snape he could see the benefit in having better control of his emotions.  Then he set those thoughts aside for the time being and stared at Percival, waiting for him to answer the question he’d asked earlier. In the quiet Harry observed Percival and it struck him suddenly, that by the gods, the other boy was handsome. The clothes he was wearing, that he’d arrived in, only emphasised that fact. The slacks, button down shirt, and vest… he’d discarded the tie since the first night but remembering it…. Harry snapped his eyes back up to Percival’s face. However, it was only a second before his eyes wandered of their own accord to the tattoo on the side of Percival’s neck, drawn to it irresistibly. His hand twitched with the desire to settle over it, but he stifled that feeling and pulled his eyes back to Percival’s face.

 

   Percival had been staring at Harry while he was distracted. Harry was thin but had lean muscles that spoke of regular physical activity, and by the tight stretched look of them he appeared to have gone through a fairly significant growth spurt recently, not that he could be considered tall by any means. His hair, as Percival was coming to find, was an absolute mess and Percival honestly wasn’t sure if either cutting it short or growing it longer would help with that. The scar on his forehead looked impossibly fresh and Percival had noticed that it would on occasion looked even more irritated and raw, like it was about to burst open. It was very strange. The scar prickled every one of Percival’s Auror-trained reflexes. He had spent a long-time handling and hunting down Black Magic artefacts and that scar gave Percival a really bad feeling. Harry’s eyes were a brilliant green, but those glasses needed to go if Harry was going to be going into battle. Even if Percival would rather Harry didn’t, he knew it would be naïve to expect or even hope that the boy would stay on the side-lines of the approaching war, certainly not when Death and Magic had intimated that he would have a major role.

 

   He took a breath and finally began to speak, “Physically, I am actually fifteen years old. However, I’m out of my time. Before I was… de-aged, I was 39 years old and the Director of Magical Security at MACUSA. I worked closely with Seraphina Picquery and my Aurors. In… late in 1926, I was ambushed and held captive by Gellert Grindelwald. He assumed my identity for reasons I still don’t know. I can only guess he needed the freedom to work unquestioned and the power to give orders to the whole of the MACUSA Security Department, but I digress. He held me for… weeks, months maybe. But a few weeks ago, in my time, he just stopped coming to feed and torture me. Slowly I began to starve. Then one day I realised I was dying. Every cell in my body, my soul, was telling me that it was time. And that’s when They came. They didn’t really introduce themselves to me, but I learned who, or rather what, they were. They appeared as a man and a woman, and told me they were Gods, showed me it too. The male’s identity was Death and the female was Magic. They… ‘offered’ me a second life. But I would be taken out of my time, to help in the fight to bring down another Dark Lord. My main… goal, I suppose you could say, is to bring Magic back. She told me that Wizarding Britain had stagnated, and Her people were losing their connection to her. I’m to help with this, and to cause problems and general mayhem for a lot of people including, as they put it, ‘a certain meddler’.”

 

   “Is that what your tattoo is? A sign of them doing…whatever. Or you working as their agent?”

 

    What a time for Harry to start asking discerning questions, Percival thought, and yet he was still so naïve and oblivious. “Not as such. Death marked me with it. Said it was a red herring for the meddler, to keep him distracted. And that I was… a… gift… to his favoured and that for those who knew of such things, it would tell them who I belonged to.”

 

   If the thing with Picquery had settled a fire-like anger in his gut, the idea that Percival belonged to someone was like a bucket of ice water dumped over his head. “And who… do you…belong to?” Harry asked icily.

 

   Percival really didn’t want to answer. He didn’t really want their dynamic to change so soon. What they had, what they were building, whatever it was, would change irrevocably if Harry knew that Percival was, for all intents and purposes, his. But refusing to answer would also… break the fragile little trust that had developed. It would be best if Harry figured it out on his own, but Percival couldn’t see that happening, not with the way this was playing out.

 

   “It’s the Mark of the Master of Death, who…technically hasn’t…taken up the mantle yet?” Percival hedged.

 

   “That’s not really an answer, Percival. And I don’t know who or what the Master of Death is,” Harry replied tonelessly.

 

   Percival winced slightly. “There are three magical objects: a Cloak of Invisibly, the Resurrection Stone, and the Elder Wand, said to have been gifted to three brothers by Death itself. There is an old Wizarding story that says that the one who unites and masters all three is the Master of Death. Death said that in every universe it is the same person who becomes this Master. This person is Death’s favoured. He said I was a gift because his favoured needed someone that would always be on his side, to teach him and care for him.”

 

  Harry mulled that over, only slightly appeased. So… it didn’t necessarily have a romantic connotation, did it..? Wait… what was Harry thinking? Romantic…. Was he? No. He couldn’t be… attracted to Percival like….like that, could he? He….he liked girls…like…like Cho Chang and….and…and he couldn’t really think of any other girls at that exact moment. Sure, Harry knew that he thought some guys were good looking like the Tom Riddle from the diary, Oliver Wood and even Cedric Diggory but that was just…that was because it was a fact, everyone knew they were handsome right? Not because he liked guys. His brain shut down and suddenly he didn’t want to know more about the Master of Death situation.

 

  “Harry?” Asked Percival, concernedly. Harry’s face had shifted through a multitude of emotions and Percival honestly didn’t understand what he was thinking right now. He was afraid of what it meant though.

 

   Harry cleared his throat and stopped thinking. “I’m… I’m fine. Just…thinking….. something.”

 

   Percival nodded cautiously. “Well, there’s… not much else to the story. I accepted their offer and when I got my bearings I was in the park right before the Dementors showed up.”

 

   “So, you came from 1926? What was that like? You said you were the Director of Magical Security. Is that anything like being an Auror?”

 

   And just like that an uncomfortable topic was avoided and they whiled away the rest of the morning talking about American life in the 1920’s. At midday they returned to the dining room for lunch with Petunia and Dudley and spent the afternoon playing board games.  Petunia totally wiped the floor with them, even when Harry and Percival teamed up together and Dudley began cheating shamelessly.

 

  Shortly after dinner, two owls and the Muggle mail carrier showed up, never mind that it was getting late. The first owl was a magnificent beast made for speed and hunting, it was wearing an official Gringotts’ messenger harness and was accompanied by Hedwig, who looked rather put out at not having anything to deliver.

 

   Percival let the bird bite his finger to draw blood and smeared it on the flap of the letter carrying compartment. It glowed golden and unlatched. He waved a hand absently to clean off any remaining blood and reached in to lift out the thick bundle of parchment inside. He looked down at the note in Picquery’s hand-writing that lay on top.

 

   Percival,

 

   Just in case someone tries to separate you from young Mr. Potter, you can bring up Section 13 subsection 26-A, commonly referred to as Cases of ‘No Coincidence’ in ICW Rulings of 1557. It states that if a Temporally or Dimensionally displaced being (here after referred to as the Displaced) arrives in the local Time or Dimension at a location and time which expedites them saving another being (here after referred to as the Saved) from mortal peril, then it is assumed they have been placed at that exact time and location due to divine action. The Saved is then legally responsible for the integration and general well-being of the Displaced. Attempts to separate the Saved from the Displaced are considered sacrilegious. The placement cannot be overridden by any government or entity or establishment. 

 

   However, for added protection since you are now bodily underaged, I believe it would be wise if you would accept to be under my guardianship. I will help you in any way I can, please know this.

 

   Seraphina Picquery

 

   He looked up when he heard the triumphant noise Vernon Dursley let out. “Look here, Pet! We’ve won the All-England Best-Kept Suburban Lawn Competition! Take that, Number Seven! This calls for our Sunday best!” And with that he clambered up the stairs.

 

  Petunia’s hands were fluttering nervously up near her mouth. “Oh dear,” she was saying. “You know he won’t allow you to come with us.”

 

   Even though she was talking to Harry, it was Percival who answered, “Considering the time the letter came and the utterly long and ridiculously mundane name, it’s probably a ploy to get you all out of the house so that whoever it is can come pick up Harry without being worried about breaking the Statute of Secrecy.”

 

   “So we didn’t actually win a competition?” She asked, a little disappointed; Number Seven really did need to be taken down a few pegs about their lawn.

 

   “Probably not but it is in London, so you could turn it into a nice dinner. It’s early enough that you book a hotel for the night if you wanted. Think of it as a family outing.”

 

   “That… that does sound nice,” she nodded vaguely.

 

   “Not to mention if we’re gone when you get back, it will be a nice surprise for your Husband. You should go get ready. Harry and I will do the same. They probably won’t come before it’s completely dark.”

 

    Harry didn’t have a whole lot to pack, just his parchment, writing utensils, some books, the summer homework, that he had been so bored he had actually started doing, and his clothes. It only took one look at the latter for Percival to decide that none of them were in any condition to be kept (he had already expected this after seeing the clothes Harry had been wearing around the house). He promptly announced that Harry would be getting new clothes, mundane and magical as well as a special set of robes for the hearing. When Harry tried to convince him it wasn’t necessary, that his clothes were fine, Percival told him that he was the Heir of a Noble House and he needed to start acting and dressing like it, which did not include wearing ragged hand-me-downs and school-standard robes. After a short argument Harry conceded the point.

 

  When the family were ready to leave Vernon tried to lock the boys in Harry’s room, he only stopped when Petunia finally cried, “For heaven’s sake, Vernon! They aren’t going to burn the place down! We are not going to lock a guest in a room simply because we are leaving! Those two are responsible enough to house sit and I won’t hear a word more on this matter, unless you want to sleep in the guest room for the next month?!” Vernon promptly stuttered a syrup-sweet apology and agreed with his wife and then they were out the door.

 

   Harry and Percival just looked at each other before Harry said, “So, should we wait for them in my room or down stairs?”

 

  “Down stairs would probably be better. It will be hours yet before they arrive. We can take your things to the conservatory. I have some reading to do while we wait, so we’ll be more comfortable in there. By the way, did you keep all the magical newspapers from this summer? I would like to read those as well.”

 

   So, they sat, Percival catching up with significant events and the current political climate and Harry re-doing bits of his summer homework. Percival’s arrival had sparked the Slytherin side of him that he had buried deep inside during the years in the house of lions; he found himself questioning things more deeply.  The ambition that had died a painful and slow death in primary school roared back to life with a vengeance. No longer did he wish to just coast through his classes. No. He would learn. He would achieve, and he would do himself, and his family, proud. So along with the usual homework, he was going back over his textbooks from the previous years, it was frankly astonishing just how much he had missed or only half understood, primarily magical theory.

 

   At one-point Harry got up to make tea, Percival joined him, and made sandwiches for them before they returned to the table with the drinks and food. A comfortable silence settled over the room, it was peaceful in a way that Harry had rarely encountered except for when he roamed the halls at Hogwarts at night by himself. He had nothing against Ron and Hermione, but they had… very loud auras. His mind and aura were battered by the rough sea that emanated from them even if they were only sitting near him being quiet, or as quiet as Ron ever got. Percival’s presence wasn’t intrusive at all, it was just steady, like the smooth flow of water in a stream, it seemed to offer silent support if he wanted it.

 

   Percival felt his spine stiffen as he felt several magical beings enter the garden. “Someone is here,” he replied to Harry’s questioning look. They packed up as quickly as possible and were waiting across the room at the doorway to the hall, slightly hidden from the view of the back door before the lock of the back door clicked open.

 

   Voices drifted towards them and Harry couldn’t help but mutter, “They’re not very quiet, these escorts.” Percival let out a silent snort and Harry grinned back. 

 

  Percival smirked before saying, “Get behind the wall; they might let off spells,” as his hand started inching towards the light switch giving Harry plenty of time to understand what his plan was and duck behind the corner.

 

  With a click light suddenly flooded the kitchen.  The intruders erupted into shouts, it was pandemonium, and there was indeed a light show. Harry doubled over in silent laughter as Percival grinned like a cat that caught the canary. They schooled their expressions, but Harry’s eye suddenly sparkled with mischief. His blank face lost its fight briefly with his smirk, before he wrestled it under control and adopted a look of wide eyed innocence. He led the way, raising his wand, after all even if they were expecting someone to pick them up it could have been anyone actually entering his house.

 

   “Lower your wand, boy, before you take someone’s eye out. You already damn near blinded us,” a low, growling voice said. Even though Harry had never actually met the man, he’d recognise that voice anywhere.

 

   Harry maintained his innocent face despite the surprise, “Blinded? Really? It’s just the kitchen light. However, using my own experience with you as an example, with a bit of polyjuice potions you could literally be anyone, Professor Moody.” He could practically feel Percival smirking at his back.

 

   Moody threw his head back and released a great booming laugh. “Good lad, CONSTANT VIGILANCE! Though I don’t know much about the ‘Professor’ part; didn’t get around to much teaching, did I?”

 

   “It’s all right, Harry. We’ve come to take you away.” Harry’s hackles raised, he knew that voice too, though he hadn’t heard it for more than a year. He had been a bit distracted with Moody to really pay attention to the rest of the people gathered in the kitchen but yes, there was Professor Lupin.

 

   In all, there were eight wizards and witches. A young woman with violently violet hair was talking about how Harry looked exactly like she thought he would. The sentiment was echoed by a bald black wizard standing in the back who, like pretty much everyone else commented that Harry looked like his dad with his mum’s eyes. It was a statement which had once made Harry happy but by now was becoming tiresome. No one seemed to see him as himself, they only saw how much he was or wasn’t like his parents. And after the talk with Aunt Petunia about where all his features came from, he found the usual comparison to be somewhat lacking.

 

   “Are you quite sure it’s him, Lupin?” Mad-Eye suddenly growled. “It’d be a nice lookout if we were to bring back a Death Eater impersonating him. We ought to ask him something only the real Potter would know. Unless anyone brought any Veritaserum?”

 

   “And how do we know you aren’t the ones doing the impersonating? It would make much more sense for this to be a plot to kidnap Harry, than for it to be a plot to get Death Eaters into…wherever it is you’re taking us,” Percival said bluntly, as he stepped fully into their view.

 

  Wands immediately rose, focused on the two of them. As Harry and Percival hadn’t really lowered their wands in the first place it was a bit of a stand-off. “And who… might you be?” Moody growled even more deeply than before. As if that could intimidate Percival Graves.

 

   “He’s the one that drove the Dementors off. He produced the Patronus and saved my cousin and me. And he’s coming with me. He’s not leaving my side,” Harry was adamant.

 

   If anything, the statement made Moody more suspicious. He moved his wand to point solely at Percival’s heart. “Just showed up out of the blue, did he? Just in the nick of time to come to your rescue. Think, boy! It could’ve been a plot to get him into your good graces, make you feel indebted to him. Looks like it worked too!”

 

    Percival’s eyebrow rose. “If it eases your mind any,” he said, raising the tip of his wand so that it pointed heavenwards, “I, Percival Graves, swear that I mean Harry Potter no harm. Only in his best interests will I act. So mote it be.” 

 

   During the time he had spent with Harry his magic had been pushing him to make a vow of protection, but he would not, could not, say the words he wanted to in front of Dumbledore’s people. He didn’t want to contemplate what Dumbledore would do if he realised that Harry had someone loyal completely to him. As it was, swearing to act in Harry’s best interests was pushing the line, it did relieve some of the pressure though. Thankfully most of these people would only take it as a reassurance and comfort.

 

   “So, Percival Graves, is it? How did you come to show up at the exact place and the exact time to save Potter?”

 

   “Now that would be telling,” he started like a cheeky fifteen year old, before noticing the frowns  after which he added more blandly, “Seriously though it was just a coincidence that I happened to be there.” 

 

  Percival holstered his wand. He’d taken the time to analyse their magic and they were all light except for: Moody, who verged on dark—though there was a steel to his magic that spoke of strong morals, he had felt this before, often in aurors (Percival himself was deeply grey), the man with the prematurely greying hair and scars, whose core had a creeping Dark that spoke of creature magic. And finally, the violet-haired woman whose core was interesting: it spiked and twisted, morphed and flowed in a multicoloured kalidescope, never settling; he wondered what her abilities were.

 

  Harry, following Percival’s lead, went to tuck his wand in his back pocket when Moody yelled, “Don’t put your wand there, boy! What if it ignited? Better wizards then you have lost buttocks, you know!”

 

   “Who d’you know who’s lost a buttock?” the violet-haired woman asked Mad-Eye interestedly. His response, a ‘never you mind’ elicited chuckles and worked wonderfully to break the lingering tension.

 

  “Remind me to get you a wand holster, you really do need one. Did no one tell you about them?” Percival asked Harry softly.

 

   Harry shook his head. “I didn’t even know about proper wand care until last year. As in, I didn’t know we were supposed to clean it or that there was such a thing as wand wax in the first place. No one’s ever really told me anything.  They just kind of explain things once I encounter them and ask otherwise I’m obviously oblivious.” Percival frowned but nodded anyways and turned back to the group.

 

  Some of them were riffling through the kitchen drawers and opening the cupboards. Harry’s face twitched, “Could you please not mess around in a home that isn’t yours, simply because you happen to be standing in it? It’s not a curiosities’ museum,” he said loudly.  

 

  The ones doing so stepped back, their faces going red. Harry shook his head exasperatedly. Percival’s lips twitched.

 

“So,” Percival said, “we’re leaving. How are we getting wherever it is we’re going and why are there so many people escorting us there?”

 

  “We’re the advance guard. You never know what information’s been leaked to the enemy, boy, and we weren’t going to leave Potter unprotected,” Moody continued to scowl obviously deeply unhappy that Percival was there.

 

   “So, you planned this! How are we getting there?”

 

   Lupin cut Moody off when he looked to be getting ready to shout, “Brooms. Only way. Harry’s too young to apparate, they’ll be watching the Floo Network, and it’s more than our life’s work to set up an unauthorised portkey.”

 

  Percival refrained from yelling at the placid man and thought about the words he wanted to say very carefully. If this idea had been proposed by one of his Aurors for the transportation of a V.I.P.  he would have very concisely told them exactly what he thought of the plan and demoted them to wand permit for a month.

 

   “Brooms,” he said carefully, slowly, weighing each word, “in a Muggle-populated area, on a clear night, with the moon bright and full, eight guards—in the advance guard only, doubtless, because this is the advance guard, there is at least one more team—all planned ahead, without informing Harry when? There are…so many holes in this plan that it is ridiculous. The whole plan is ludicrous actually. You see, a large group of people only draws attention. The chance of a Muggle sighting people flying on brooms is so phenomenally high that I wonder if you even gave a passing thought to the Statute of Secrecy.  Instead of a quick in-and-out operation, you’ve wasted time by not informing Harry to be ready and packed, not to mention we’re wasting time right now just talking but I digress. Harry being too young to apparate? Sure, but that is literally what Side-Along Apparation was made for—to transport a minor using apparation. This… is not even the sort of thing you need a plan to pull off. You could have sent a short note saying, ‘get ready to leave’ and at any time after that you could have simply been struck by the idea of, ‘oh I think now is the perfect time to collect Potter.’ No one could possible intercept that plan since there was no plan, just going…and getting him. It would have taken only one person. I really don’t think his relatives would have put up a huge fuss over not having to deal with him for the rest of the summer if you had approached them in a No-Maj fashion instead of rubbing magic in their faces.”

 

   Everyone seemed to be a bit gob smacked by his cool use of logic to completely shoot down and obliterate the plan that had been the culmination of all their work over the last four days. Harry was fighting not to laugh. He, himself, once he gave the plan some thought and put away the excitement of getting to fly, had to agree that their plan had all the dramatics and unneeded flair of a plot that would make Voldemort proud, or perhaps even Gilderoy Lockhart.

 

  “Plus,” Percival tacked on, “I don’t have a broom.” 

 

  That was the last straw, Harry couldn’t hold it in anymore and he bent double with tears streaming down his face as laughed.  Finally, he brought himself under control, still occasionally gasping as he tried to straighten up. 

 

  “Fine,” Mad-Eye grumbled. “We’ll Side-Along the two of them. I’ll take Graves, Lupin will take Potter. Vance, Diggle, Doge, Podmore go back to headquarters. Jones, tell the rear guard the change of plans. Tonks, Shacklebolt you’ll accompany us. I want at least five jumps—from everyone!—before heading to headquarters.”

 

   They all nodded. Moody went to grab Graves, whose body reacted before his mind could catch up with what he knew Moody was about to do, as the memory of seeing a different pair of hands grabbing for him scoured his brain. Suddenly Moody was on his knees, Percival’s knee in his lumbar spine, arm twisted up behind his body in a controlling hold and wrist broken. The others were shocked; they’d barely even seen Graves move.

 

  Harry walked up to the pair. “Percival,” he said quietly. 

 

  The other boy didn’t seem to have heard, his eyes far away and clouded by shadows. He looked like a cornered man. Or at least his eyes did, to Harry, his face was utterly emotionless. Harry reached up letting instincts guide him, ignoring Lupin who was trying to tell Harry not to touch his friend, that it was dangerous, and rested his hand on Percival’s tattoo infusing it with his magic. Percival gave a shuddering sigh, his eyes cleared, before the lids fluttered closed. He immediately stepped back and dropped to his knees beside Moody, in front of Harry, still not completely in control of his bodily responses. They didn’t notice Moody get to his feet, nursing his arm. Harry gulped, and a shudder made its way up his spine, he didn’t really understand what was starting between them. He also wasn’t quite sure how to break the tableau they had formed either, so he followed his instincts again, brushing the back of his fingers over the Mark, his fingers gently trailing up to the underside of Percival’s chin, silently raising his head and urging him to his feet. Percival followed the cues flawlessly. When he was on his feet, Harry allowed his arm to fall to his side.

 

  “Percival,” Harry said quietly again, a little magic infused his voice.

 

   Percival open his eyes to gaze down at Harry until someone—Lupin—cleared their throat. Harry turned his head, eyes still on Percival’s until he had to pulled them slowly away and saw the people watching on in various states of embarrassment and interest. Still following his instincts, whatever it was that had happened, was between himself and Percival, it was not meant for others. 

 

   Harry let magic fill his voice as he said, “No one may speak or communicate in any fashion what has just happened. So, I’ve proclaimed, so Magic mote it be.” 

 

   They felt the magic binding them to Harry’s words and were stunned once again. “So, mote it be,” echoed Percival as did Moody.

 

   “Well,” Lupin awkwardly cleared his throat again. “We should—we should get going.”

 

  “Good reflexes on you, laddie,” Moody grunted getting to his feet. “Auror-level, at least. You can protect with that.” He nodded towards Harry. Percival inclined his head in acknowledgement, not quite ready to talk yet.

 

   Lupin fixed Moody’s wrist with a quick Episky and a conjured bandage, while the others went about their tasks. They apparated a total of seven times before coming to stop in an alleyway. “Stay put,” Moody ambled forwards and took a small silver device from his pocket and flicked it open. The closest street lamp went out, then the subsequent ones as he repeated the action, until the whole street was dark. “Come on out now. Potter, Graves, read this and memorise it.”

 

   Harry was handed a small slip of parchment, tilting it for Percival to read. Written in narrow somewhat familiar handwriting were the words:

 

    The Headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix may be found at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place.

 

   Harry opened his mouth to ask just what the Order of the Phoenix was when Percival squeezed his shoulder and shook his head slightly.

 

   “Got it memorised?” Moody asked. “Good.” He pulled the parchment from Harry’s hand and set fire to it with his wand-tip. “Now come on.”

 

  They exited the alley and came to a stop between Number 11 and Number 13. Harry looked up at Percival who whispered into his ear, “think of the parchment; they wouldn’t have handed it to you for no reason. Sometimes you get more answers by not asking and just observing.”

 

   Harry nodded his understanding, trying not to be distracted by the heat of Percival’s body pressed so close to his or the sound of his voice being spoken directly into his ear, and concentrated on the words he had read earlier. It was as if an extra house had been inflated between 11 and 13. An extremely unkempt, dirty old house.

 

   Moody nudged them forwards. The door was black, peeling paint with a tarnished silver knocker fashioned as a serpent. There was no keyhole or doorknob. Lupin merely tapped it with his wand and it opened.  All in all, the inside was just as grimy and depressing as the outside. He saw Percival look around in mild revulsion and tuck his hands closer to his body to avoid touching anything. Harry couldn’t help the small curl at the edges of his lips or the way he brushed the back of his hand against Percival’s. When Percival looked at him he just shrugged and followed as the group began to tip toe down the hall.

 

   Mrs. Weasley bustled in from a side door and caught sight of the group. Harry was immediately swept into a bone-crushing hug before she pulled back and whisper-exclaimed, “Oh, Harry! It’s so good to see you dear! I thought you wouldn’t be here until much later. You’re looking a tad peaky. Not to worry, dear, I’ll soon have you sorted out. In the meant  time you look like you could do with something to eat, I’ll get you a sandwich real quick dear. Dinner won’t be for a while yet I’m afraid, but a single sandwich won’t hurt your appetite. Now, the others are upstairs if you’ll just follow….”

 

   At that moment she caught sight of Percival and her verbal barrage stalled. Before she could recommence with a long string of questions, Harry made the introduction, “This is Percival Graves, my friend. He saved me from the Dementors.”

 

  “Oh. Well, then. I suppose we’re all in your debt Mr. Graves. I’m sure my children will be delighted to meet you.” 

 

  She started to turn to lead them up the stairs when Percival said, “Actually, Ma’am, Harry and I have something we need to discuss in private first.  Is there anywhere we could do that?”

 

   She looked at them, scanning their faces and body language with all the skill of a mother of seven, looking for signs of anything…amiss. Finding nothing that would indicate imminent shenanigans, she nodded and turned a sharp left to deposit them in a parlour-like room. As she left, she told them to come and find her in the kitchen, which was straight passed the stairs on the ground floor, when they were done and warned them not to make too much noise in the hall. When asked why, she told them there was a portrait, which no one had been able to remove, that when woken made an unholy racket.

 

   Finally, they were left alone. Percival set up privacy and anti-eavesdropping wards. Since Harry didn’t really know what Percival wanted to talk about, except maybe the whole thing that happened in the kitchen, he just stayed silent and waited.

 

   Percival wasn’t quite sure how to start or what exactly he wanted to say. He just knew that his magic was still pushing him, that his instincts hadn’t fully settled and there was only one thing to do. He and Harry both needed the added protection that the full vow would offer them. 

 

   So, he took a deep breath and looked at Harry. “You know what happened earlier in the kitchen. I mean you might not understand it, but you know what happened. Well because of that we are… irrevocably bound. When making the oath earlier, my magic was pushing me for something deeper but as I am sure you felt at the time, what’s between us is meant only for us, and that wasn’t the right time to delve into it. But what I’m about to do will be an added protection for the both of us, which is why I wanted to do it as soon as possible. Because some, if not most, of the people here will not like it that a virtual stranger has appeared out of nowhere and is suddenly beside their boy-saviour. They won’t like that I have your trust and that you listen to me. So please, follow what your magic tells you to do next.”

 

  And with that he knelt and, letting his magic fill and guide his words, intoned, “I, Percival Ezra Graves, swear my life and loyalty to you, Harry James Potter. I will act as your Sword and as your Shield. Ever in your best interests will I act.  I will follow you in life and to death. So, I have Sworn, so Magic mote it be.”

 

   Harry’s eyes glowed with an unearthly power as he laid a hand upon Percival’s Mark. “I, Harry James Potter, accept your life and loyalty, Percival Ezra Graves, and vow loyalty and truth in turn. Never will I turn from you and never will I betray you. When you speak I will listen. You will be held above all others, as an extension of my will and my body. So I have Vowed, so Magic mote it be.”

 

    Magic filled the air, binding them together with heavy cords of silver, gold, and crimson.  There was a peal of a clear bell, then a wave of power swept through the house and Magic showed her Blessing by cleaning and repairing the place top to bottom. She left the magics intact since all, even the Blackest of Arts, were Hers. 

 

  Percival got to his feet and looked around at the now pristine room, “Thank you. That was unexpected,” he said. The words ‘You’re welcome’ seeped into his mind. 

 

   Harry laughed, half in incredulity at the understatement and half from the rush of adrenalin that was released with the pulse of magic, “At least now you won’t have to keep your hands practically glued to your sides to keep from touching anything.”

 

   “A good thing too. Could you imagine trying to sleep in a place that was as filthy as this house was?”

 

   “I’ve slept in worse. Not much worse, mind you, but yeah.”

 

  “I’ve slept in worse too. Much worse. Which is why, if I ever have a choice about it, I never will again.”

 

  They grinned at each other for a moment before the door banged open and a familiar face with long black hair frantically entered the room. “Harry! Molly told me you and your friend were in here. Are you alright? Nothing bad happened? You’re safe?”

 

   The rapid-fire questions were enough to make Harry’s head spin, when added to the hug Sirius gave him, he couldn’t even think how to reply. Percival’s eyebrow was twitching though.

 

  “I’m fine. Just a bit confused about the sudden cleanliness of the place. What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be in hiding?” Harry was a little stunned that Sirius was asking after him and not scolding him like his letter had implied.

 

   “Hasn’t anyone told you? This is House Black. Since I’m the last one, it’s is all mine. I offered it to Dumbledore as headquarters for the Order. About the only useful thing I’ve been able to do,” he added bitterly.

 

   Harry didn’t really know how to respond to that. After all, Sirius was an adult; it wasn’t really his job to comfort an adult about the choices he’d made which had led to him being in a rather shitty living situation. So instead he just turned to Percival and said, “Sirius, this is my,” -Sword and Shield, was what he wanted to say— “friend, Percival Graves. Percival, this is my Godfather, Sirius Black.”

 

   They sort of looked each other over and Harry had the distinct impression of two territorial cats circling each other before Sirius held out a hand for Percival to shake.

 

   “Now, you kiddos should be hungry, yeah? Molly said she was making some sandwiches for you and since the meeting hasn’t started yet, you two can come to the kitchen, grab them, and then go say hi to the rest of your friends. Assuming you’ve finished your talk.” 

 

  He gave them a look that said he clearly didn’t believe much talking had been involved. Harry and Percival just levelled unimpressed looks his way. Sirius shrugged and held up his hands in a ‘hey, if you don’t want to admit it’ way. Harry rolled his eyes and followed him.

 

  The basement kitchen was a large, cavernous space mostly lit by a large stone fireplace at the end of the room. Or it would have been if the previously undiscovered chandelier and wall torches hadn’t ignited as they walked in. Harry noticed that there were a quite a few people seated at the table, including Mr. Weasley, Bill Weasley, their ‘advance guard’, and Severus Snape. The latter of whom sneered when he saw Harry, though his eyebrow almost canted upwards at the sight of Percival.

 

   Percival was busy cataloguing the items in the room that could be used as possible weapons, the different cores of the people seated round the table, as well as who seemed trustworthy or useful, when he felt it. As Harry’s Sword and Shield he could feel any who were sworn in some way to Harry and the man with the lank, greasy hair and large, crooked nose was definitely sworn to protect Harry, at least…some…facet of him. It felt as if he had sworn to a title of Harry’s and not to Harry himself but an idea of him. And there was also some other magic tied in to it. Was that… a… an inherited life debt? How interesting.

 

   But he was glaring and sneering at Harry and that just wouldn’t do so Percival subtly placed his hand at the base of Harry’s neck in a protective and possessive gesture and stared the man down. His gaze promising that he would beg for mercy long before Percival granted it if he didn’t stop it this instant.  The man’s eyebrow rose further but their staring contest was broken when Molly Weasley started shrieking. 

 

   “Sirius Black, exactly what do you think you’re doing?”

 

   Sirius gave her a nonplussed look. “Bringing my godson and his friend to the kitchen so they can get those sandwiches and go upstairs, Molly. Why, did you think I was intending for them to sit in on this Order meeting? The one that isn’t supposed to start for a good half hour yet, I might add.”

 

   “Oh,” she stopped for a second before continuing as if she hadn’t just been yelling. “Well, then. In that case, Harry, Percival, here are the sandwiches; I just finished them. I can take you up….”

 

   “I’ll do it, Molly.” 

 

   She seemed unimpressed and vaguely doubtful but turned back to her culinary work, preparing snacks for those seated and for the meeting later. 

 

    “Come on boys.”

 

   When they got to the hallway Sirius motioned them to be quiet. They stopped in front of a pair of heavy velvet curtains and Harry’s Godfather explained in little more than a breath, “My mother’s portrait. When there’s any noise the curtains fly open and she starts screeching. She was a pureblood fanatic and towards the end, utterly insane. So, whatever you do, don’t make loud noises especially in the hall. Gods, I can’t believe I’m saying that.” He shook his head sadly. “I used to make as much noise as I could in this hall just to annoy her.”

 

   As he approached a series of doors he said, “We had planned on you and Ron sharing a room, Harry. But I guess we should redo the sleeping arrangements.”

 

   “I would prefer to room with Harry,” Percival said. At the smirk beginning to form on Sirius’ face he added, “after all he is the only person I know here.”

 

   “Sure, sure that’s all it is, sure. Well, I suppose we can move Ron to the Twins’ room and try that but that might only last a few days. They’ve been experimenting and will probably use Ron as a test subject, willing or not. My guess is he’ll last a day, maybe two. Then you’ll have to share with him. There’re only two beds though…” he trailed off leadingly.

 

   “We can always get someone to transfigure an extra bed,” Percival deadpanned.

 

    Sirius pouted a little before stopping in front of a door. “Well yes you can though that it will make it rather crowded. Well, here it is.” 

 

    Sirius twisted the handle and pushed, revealing the room behind. Percival and Harry managed all of one step inside each before Harry was assaulted by a giant ball of brown frizz….wait, no, that was a girl with very bushy hair. Percival scanned the rest of the room before his gaze was caught on a portrait. He grabbed Sirius by the elbow as the man turned to leave and asked him, “Whose portrait is that on the wall?”

 

   Sirius made a humming noise as he considered it. “That’s Phineas Nigellus Black. Least popular Headmaster of Hogwarts. Why do you ask?”

 

  “Just curious as it seems an odd place to have a portrait,” Percival said, letting go of the man and turning back to Harry. 

 

     Sirius shrugged and left the kids to it. Even in his time Percival knew, after being on the receiving end of a tour of his friend Theseus Scamander’s, alma mater, that there had been portraits of all the previous Headmasters of Hogwarts in the Headmaster’s office. He also knew that all of one’s portraits were linked together, such that a portrait could visit the frame in one’s ancestral home and previous work office. What was peculiar was that this portrait was in a bedroom. It made considerably more sense when one recognised who they had planned to stay in this room. Percival had no doubt that it was placed here to specifically spy on Harry and to a lesser extent his friends.

 

   Speaking of Harry and his friends, the fluffy haired girl was going on and on about how they had wanted to tell Harry everything, but Dumbledore made them swear not to tell him anything. He could see Harry getting steadily angrier, as he was reminded of his recent frustration regarding his friends and being completely cut off from anything in the magical world. What really caught his attention was when the girl said, ‘Dumbledore didn’t want Harry to know anything’. Percival thought Harry’s question of, “So why’s Dumbledore so keen to keep me in the dark?” sort of hit the nail on the head. But Harry exploding at his friends wouldn’t be much help at the moment, he had just put those feelings of frustration to rest after all, so Percival made a move that he thought would nicely derail the conversation, startle Harry out of his anger, state a subtle claim, and bring attention to his existence. 

 

   He walked up behind Harry, pressing his front against Harry’s back and draped his arms over Harry’s shoulders. As he had thought, Harry jumped slightly, looking up and back at him. He tilted his head, briefly catching Harry’s gaze before turning back to his friends, whose jaws had dropped a bit. 

 

    Harry’s tense muscles relaxed before Harry said, “Uh, Guys, this is Percival Graves. He saved me from the Dementors.” Percival stepped back, lifting his arms from Harry and came to stand beside him. “Percival, these are my best friends,” his tone made it clear to Percival that their status was currently under review, “Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.”

 

   Showing all the manners his pureblood upbringing demanded, Percival shook Ron’s hand and kissed Hermione’s knuckles which caused a blush from her and jealousy from the other two teens. Though who they were each jealous over was up for debate.

 

   They all stood around a bit awkwardly for a minute before Harry made his way over to a bed and sat down, Percival following him. “So… what’s been going on? You said in your letters you’d tell me when I got here and now I’m here.”

 

   Ron and Hermione exchanged nervous glances. Dumbledore didn’t want Harry to know anything indeed, Percival thought. “Well, we’re not allowed to attend to meetings, so we don’t really…” Hermione trailed off.

 

   Harry sighed heavily. “I meant, what’s going on, that you can tell me about? How have you been? What have you been doing? That sort of thing.”

 

   They blushed and started talking about how they’d been trying to decontaminate the house when a loud crack echoed through the room. Hermione shrieked while Ron and Harry jumped but Percival had his wand drawn and had it trained on the two who had just appeared in the bedroom. They had been grinning before they noticed the deathly stare and wand on them. 

 

   “Um, Harry?” they said worriedly, eyes flicking towards their friend.

 

   Harry was on Percival’s left but reached an arm behind him and soothingly dragged his fingers across the Mark. “Percival, these are the Weasley twins. A bigger pair of menaces you’ll never meet. This is Fred,”—he pointed to the one on the left—“and George.” He pointed to the one on the right. When they tried to protest that the other was Fred/George Harry said quietly to Percival, “Don’t let them confuse you; I was right. If you pay attention, you’ll know who is who. I just provided the baseline for you.” Percival nodded and committed the slightly different feeling cores to memory, so he could tell them apart later.

 

  “How many times have I asked you not do that!” Hermione said weakly.

 

  The twins ignored her and plunked down on the bed on either side of Harry and Percival. It was a tight fit, but the twins seemed to take pleasure from causing most everyone around them discomfort. The door opened and yet another redhead entered the room, a girl this time. 

 

     She, let out a sort of squeak when she saw Percival, but she entered the room anyway with a “Hi, Harry. I thought I heard your voice,” as she moved to the less crowded bed where Ron and Hermione were sitting.

 

   “Hey, Ginny; this is Percival Graves. Percival, Ginervra, or Ginny Weasley. She’s a year below Ron, Hermione, and me at Hogwarts.”

 

   “Oh?” Hermione said suddenly interested in the boy. “Are you going to Hogwarts this year?”

 

  “Yes, I will be. I’m fifteen but my birthday is November 13th, so I will be in fifth year with Harry.”

 

   “Any idea what house you’ll be in? You do know the houses, right? Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin; the houses of knowledge, courage, loyalty, and cunning, respectively.”

 

  “Come on, Hermione, why would he want to be a slimy snake? Everyone knows they’re evil little Death-Eaters-In-Training.”

 

   “A whole House, a quarter of the entire school, is evil?” Percival asked with incredulity and barely concealed scorn.

 

   “Well, yeah!”

 

   “And I suppose… all wizards that ‘go Dark’ are Slytherin and none from the other houses at all?” the scorn was no longer veiled. 

 

     Harry thought that maybe he should stop this before it turned into a row, with Ron red-faced and refusing to talk to Harry because Harry’s friend had spoken to him that way and Harry should always take Ron’s side and have his back, even if Ron rarely if ever did the same for him. But Harry was getting more in touch with his Slytherin characteristics and Percival’s unbiased views were helping him to realise that being cunning and ambitious wasn’t something to be ashamed of, and neither was being fully himself.

 

   The whole ‘all Slytherins are evil’ spiel that he had fallen for at eleven no longer seemed to hold true. Why vilify an entire house, which included eleven-year-olds, as evil just because of one Dark Lord? Sure, there was also a legend, that was so old it could have started out as anything before it turned into the basis for the pureblood fanatic fever, through a game of generational chinese-whispers.  And while it was true that many of the traditional pureblood families that supported Voldemort came from that house, how many had been tricked or pressured into supporting him? There were plenty of other pureblood families that weren’t associated with Slytherin and Harry was sure at least some of them were also pureblood supremacists. In addition, not all of Voldemort’s followers were from Slytherin, a prime example being that rat, Pettigrew.

 

   A thought suddenly came to his mind and he abruptly interrupted Ron’s well-ingrained prejudicial rant before he could really get going, “I wonder if all those proud pureblood supremacists know that they’re bowing down and kissing the hem of a ‘halfblood’. At least my mother had magic. Tom Riddle’s father was actually a Muggle. So by their logic, his blood would be even dirtier than mine,” he mused. “It would be a right laugh to be there if any of them ever found out.”

 

    The others, minus Percival seemed stunned, before the twins burst out howling. “Oh Merlin!” they exclaimed between laughs, “Can you imagine what Proud Peacocking Malfoy’s face would look like as he found out he was branded by a ‘mudblood’! It would be priceless! We could probably sell pictures of it!”

 

   They all had a good laugh, Percival looking amused, even as Hermione tried to scold them for their language. 

 

    When the laughing petered out Harry asked, “So, how’s the rest of your family? I saw Bill in the kitchen.”

 

    George answered, “Yeah, Bill and Charlie are both in the Order. Bill took a desk job, so he could be here and do more. Of course, it might not be being closer to home that’s a benefit for him.” He gave an exaggerated wink.

 

   Fred cut in, “He seems to be giving Mademoiselle Fleur Delacour an awful lot of private English lessons these days after she got a job at Gringotts to ‘elp eemproove ‘er Eenglish.”

 

   George took over again, “Charlie’s still in Romania. Dumbledore said he wants as many foreign wizards as possible, so Charlie’s trying to make contacts on his days off. Mind you there aren’t that many wizards near the Reserve, so it’s tough going.”

 

   “Couldn’t Percy do that?” Harry asked since the last he knew Percy was working in the Department of International Magical Cooperation. Harry instantly regretted asking as the others in the room exchanged darkly significant glances.

 

  “Whatever you do, don’t mention Percy in front of Mum and Dad,” Ron told Harry in a tense voice.

 

   Harry hated to ask, but one doesn’t walk onto a battleground without trying to find out where the landmines are first. “Why not?”

 

   “Because every time Percy’s name is mentioned, Dad breaks whatever he’s holding, and Mum starts crying,” Fred answered.

 

   “That…must have been…some row…. What happened?”

 

   “It was the first week back after term ended,” Ron said. “We were about to come and join the Order here. Percy came home and told us he’d been promoted. He was really pleased with himself, even more pleased than usual if you can imagine that, and told Dad he’d been offered a position in Fudge’s own office. A really good one for someone who is only a year out of Hogwarts, especially with the mess with Crouch last year; Junior Assistant to the Minister. I think he expected Dad to be all impressed.”

 

   “Only Dad wasn’t,” Fred said grimly.

 

   “Why not?” Harry asked, slightly surprised. “It’s just the sort of job Percy’s always wanted and that your Mum has been pushing him towards.”

 

  “Well, apparently Fudge has been storming round the Ministry checking that nobody’s been having contact with Dumbledore,” said George.

 

   “Dumbledore’s name is mud with the Ministry these days, see,” said Fred. “They all think he’s just making trouble saying You-Know-Who’s back.”

 

   “Dad says Fudge has made it clear that anyone who’s in league with Dumbledore can clear out their desks.”

 

   “Trouble is, Fudge suspects Dad. He knows he’s friendly with Dumbledore, besides he’s always thought Dad was a bit of a weirdo because of his Muggle obsession. And Dad reckons Fudge only wants Percy in his office because he wants to use him to spy on the family and Dumbledore.”

 

   Harry let out a low whistle. “Bet Percy loved that.”

 

   Ron let out a hollow laugh. “He went completely berserk. He said, well, he said loads of terrible stuff. He said he’s been having to struggle against Dad’s lousy reputation ever since he joined the Ministry and that Dad’s got no ambition and that’s why we’ve always been, you know, we’ve not had a lot of money. I mean….”

 

   “What?” Harry asked in disbelief, as Ginny hissed like an angry cat.

 

   “I know,” Ron said lowly. “And it got worse. He said Dad was an idiot to run around after Dumbledore. That Dumbledore was heading for big trouble and Dad was going to go down with him, and that he, Percy that is, knew where his loyalty lay, and it was with the Ministry. And if Mum and Dad were going to become traitors to the Ministry he was going to make sure everyone knew he didn’t belong to our family anymore. Then he packed his bags and left. He’s been living here in London ever since. Mum tried to go and talk to him, but he just slammed the door in her face.”

 

   Percival spoke up for the first time, “I think you might be judging him a bit too harshly. I mean, sure he said some awful things, but he was hurt first. Think about it,” he said over the protests. “He was all excited. He got a great job and it pays well, gives him status and prestige, influence, and he comes home to tell his family, particularly his father, the great news. Only, the man who he sought to impress, to make proud, tells him that the only reason he got it was because his employer wanted to use him to betray him family and to spy on his enemies for him. That must have hurt on a lot of different levels. Not the least of which, the unspoken assumption that Percy would betray his family by spying on you. So, he’s hurt. His natural response is going to be strike back at whoever caused him that pain, to hurt them back, and the truth is often the sharpest weapon one can use. He probably has been fighting against your father’s reputation. You said your Father’s into Muggle things, well we all know how a lot of Purebloods react to things like that and who makes up the majority of ministry workers? The money thing might just be his point of view or something he said in anger. As for the being loyal to the Ministry thing? You do know that the Ministry, as foolish as its current Minister is, is actually the lawful entity in this land, right? And that Dumbledore and his Order are vigilantes, right? In Percy’s eyes, he’s just being a good citizen, a productive member of society.”

 

   The Weasleys all had a mulish look on their faces, whether from their Headmaster-Idol being spoken of as being unlawful or from the hard logic that they didn’t want to hear, Percival didn’t know. Hermione had a scornful look on her face. She surely had a superiority complex, he’d bet his grandfather’s silver pocket watch on it. Harry didn’t say anything from where he had been sitting with his knees drawn up to his chest and his arms crossed around them, but by the way he tilted his head back, laying it on Percival’s shoulder, looking up at the ceiling over the bed and occasionally glancing at Percival, it was clear he was deeply considering what had been said.

 

   They sat in silence until there was a knock on the door and Molly poked her head in. “Percival? The Headmaster would like to talk to you.” She looked a bit surprised and faintly disapproving when she saw Harry’s head on Percival’s shoulder, but she didn’t say anything.

 

   He nodded in acknowledgement and shrugged the shoulder Harry’s head was leaning against, as a signal for the younger boy to sit up. When he was in the process of sitting up Harry twisted around and brushed his thumb firmly over Percival’s Mark. Percival blinked owlishly, the touch acting as a firm reminder of who he belonged to, though he doubted Harry was consciously aware that that was what he was doing or how the Tattoo tied into their relationship. To be fair, he hadn’t fully figured it out himself yet.

 

  Percival gave a brief reassuring smile to Harry, who was watching him with concerned green eyes, before he turned and walked out the door, following Mrs. Weasley down the hall. As he went he consciously erected his strongest Occlumency shields and readied himself for the verbal warring and interrogation that was sure to occur once he sat down at the table of the Order of the Phoenix.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Percival Graves was seated at the end of the very long, aged wooden table in the kitchen at the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. Which was, as defined by one Hermione Granger, ‘a secret society that Dumbledore was the leader of, that he founded back during the First War to help fight against You-Know-Who’. All available seats were taken and at the other end of the table sat Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore himself. The greasy haired man from earlier was seated just short of half way down the table and was watching him even more intently than the Headmaster seemed to. The rest of the table was looking at him like he was some bizarre creature in a zoo.

 

   The Headmaster was looking very aged these days. Of course, the last pictures he had seen of him were from 70 years ago and he had not been exactly young then either. His hair was solid white and long, though it had nothing on the ridiculous length of his beard. Percival absently wondered how he kept it clean since any sort of cleaning charm left hair unmanageable. The man’s blue eyes were twinkling, rather distractingly so, which Percival found more than a little disconcerting. Any person who could keep an amused and merry twinkle in their eye in a serious situation was not a person he was going to trust. Not that he was going to trust Dumbledore in the least anyway, especially with the shady goings-on of his actions involving his Harry. He wondered what approach Dumbledore was going to take with him: would he act the part of one of the leaders in this war and dictate terms or would he go with the benign grandfather routine? From what he had heard so far it could go either way.

 

   “Welcome, Mr. Graves, to the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. Though your arrival was a bit unexpected I have to say, My Dear Boy,” Dumbledore greeted him kindly, though the last sentence had a vaguely inquisitorially disapproving tone that Percival supposed was meant to induce answers and guilt. Grandfather routine it was then. Percival wondered if people actually fell for it, especially adults. Did they really allow this man to chastise them like unruly children? Though he supposed when you were over one hundred and ten years old most of the world could be considered children.

 

   When Percival failed to respond to the bait, the man hadn’t asked a question after all, Dumbledore’s face fell in apparent disappointment and sorrow before he seemed to rally and start again, “Now, My Boy, I need for you to tell me a bit about yourself. My colleagues tell me your accent is American. What was it that brought you to England? And your guardian, where are they?”

 

   Now…what to say? Should he engender sympathy by telling them he was… Yes, that seemed like the perfect plan. Parents names… Whatever you decide, a voice whispered to him, the records will appear. Well, that was certainly convenient.

 

    “I’m fifteen-years-old, born November 13 th . My parents recently died when they were attacked at a charity event. My guardian’s work recently allowed her to relocate to London and she thought the change of scenery would do me good. She worked with my parents organising charities and such, fighting for the rights of others.” Phina wouldn’t mind; from what he had read, she had spent the last few decades doing just that. He thought that she would appreciate the opportunity to turn this Ministry on its head and ‘drag it out from its ass-backwards medieval outlook’ as a note scribbled in the margin of a newspaper clipping about creature rights put it.

 

   “And what brought you to Little Whinging at just the right time to help our Mr. Potter?” There was a tone of distrust seeping in at this question, those gathered at the table appeared to feel the vibe and began eyeing him with suspicion.

 

   Percival forced himself to blush and look down to the floor towards his left as if self-conscious, giving Dumbledore the first clear view of his Tattoo. He heard the ever so slight intake of breath and fought not to smirk. 

 

     Still acting like he was about to die from embarrassment, he said, “Well it was a bit of an accident you see. I...I had decided to try the No-Maj version of transportation. But I… I got rather lost. And I didn’t know how to get back or...or even when the next… ‘b…u…s’,” he sounded it out carefully, as if the word was unfamiliar, “would come, so I decided to walk around, hoping I would come across someone who could help. I eventually found myself in a park. There… was a group of boys that appeared to be around my own age and I thought maybe they could help. As I was walking up to them, I saw the sky darkening and the felt temperature drop. Everyone started running in different directions, so with a lack of any better options I just followed the last two, who seemed to be going to the same place, unlike everyone else.”

 

   “And then, My Boy, what happened then?” 

 

      Dumbledore’s voice had changed in a way Percival didn’t think most would note. He looked back to the table, most Order member were in various states of sympathy and/or slight horror. The greasy-haired one was watching him but was also carefully side-eyeing the headmaster. Apparently, he had noted the change too. The Headmaster himself seemed to be filled with an energy he could barely suppress, his eyes were twinkling madly, his lips were twitching, and something in his overall facial expression said hunger. If Percival were the type to be intimidated by creepy facial expressions, he would have shuddered. As if was he felt his face automatically blank of any deeper expressions.

 

   “We ran and found cover in some sort of concrete overhang before everything went completely black. I pulled out my wand and had seen the black-haired boy, as I thought of him then, do the same. Because I’m American, I’m subject to their laws and I wasn’t sure of all the…nuances of your laws for underage wizards, so I told the boy not to use his wand. I cast a Lighting Charm, which was when we caught sight of the Dementors. I had read about them but never seen one before. However, my tutors had insisted that I be prepared for every eventuality, especially considering my… talent in Defence. So, I cast the Patronus Charm and drove the Dementors away.”

 

    “Oh!” he added, as if just remembering, “I nearly forgot, when we stopped in the alleyway, the blonde boy, Dudley was blaming the other boy, Harry, for what was happening, so I asked him if he lived with Harry and knew about magic, which he said he did. In America, there’s a certain amount of leeway given when performing magic in front of family members that you live with since it isn’t a direct violation of the Statute. You can imagine my surprise when Harry got a letter from the Ministry about underage magic use when he didn’t cast any magic whatsoever, not even a lumos. How does that even happen?” his voice unintentionally gained a subtle edge of steel at the question, lifting the veil of a semi-normal teenage boy ever so slightly and allowing a glimpse of the hardened warrior underneath the façade. Only one of those at the table noticed as judged by his gaze sharpening, it was the greasy haired man, he had to be some sort of spy, given how observant of everything as he was.

 

  “I’m afraid I can’t disclose such information to a minor or citizen of another country, suffice to say I am doing all I can to help young Harry.” Dumbledore affected a mien of regret, that was distinctly insincere, before moving on, “But, My Boy, why did you not return to your guardian? Surely, she is worried sick?” he said as he brought forth his patented ‘Disappointed and Disapproving’ look over his half-moon glasses.

 

   Percival shrugged, continuing his disaffected teenager routine, “I called her from the Dursleys’ phone. She was glad that I had made a friend and agreed that if it wouldn’t be any trouble for the Dursleys, that I could stay with Harry until the hearing. That way I can speak about what had happened, if Harry needs me to. She talked to Petunia who agreed it would be no trouble for me to stay. In fact, my guardian was rather relieved. When we got here she discovered her work was going to be much busier than she’d thought, and she hated the thought of leaving me all alone for so long. We were lucky to manage one meal together the week we arrived, so she thought this arrangement was sent by the gods.”

 

  “And I suppose this was the reason you and young Harry insisted that you come with him?” Percival nodded. “My colleagues tell me that you made an oath that you meant Harry Potter no harm?”

 

   “What else was I to do? They were all awfully suspicious of me.” He heard Moody snort.

 

   “Still,” Dumbledore said rather condescendingly, “oaths and vows are a very serious matter in the magical world, My Boy. Surely you cannot promise to always mean no harm to Harry, one cannot know what the future will hold. Perhaps someday you might find that you and Harry disagree. Harry for one, harbours no ill will towards those that have… shall we say… ‘lesser blood’, and you, as a pureblood,” he raised his eyebrows questioningly and Percival nodded, “are sure to disagree with this,” Dumbledore subtly probed.

 

   “I don’t see why. Harry is my friend. As for those of… as you put it ‘lesser blood’… I’m not sure what it’s like here in Britain, but we make no real distinction between those from magical families and those from No-Maj families. Beings with magic are all the same.”

 

   “I see,” Dumbledore nodded sagely. “Sadly, there are those here in Britain who believe that to come from a family of magic makes them superior to those who do not or those who only have one magical parent. The vast majority of these ‘pureblood supremacists’ serve a man named Voldemort,” almost all those gathered at the table winced and a few gasped, “who has recently returned and is using his time to gather followers and re-establish his power-base. It is the goal of the Order of the Phoenix to fight him. We are always looking for those of talent, whose inborn sense of justice will not let them sit idly by as the innocent are killed for a madman’s idea of blood purity.”

 

   The majority of people sitting at the table obviously couldn’t hear how he was pitching the line of his little recruitment speech, since they were all puffed up with pride from the implied compliments their leader was bestowing on them. There were four exceptions, the tall dark man who had been identified as Shacklebolt whose face was carefully blank, the Spy’s was as well though Percival could read the disgust in his eyes, Tonks the violet haired auror was looking a bit disconcerted and Moody was scowling in disapproval. From what he had understood, from the little that Ron and Hermione gave away when they were still tripping over themselves to explain to Harry why they ‘simply couldn’t tell him anything’, the Order only accepted wizards and witches who were of age and had finished their schooling. That Dumbledore was trying to manipulate him into wanting to join the Order, lest he be seen to be a selfish and unconscionable person, who would stand aside as innocents were murdered before him, told Percival that Albus Dumbledore really wanted him. Or more precisely, wanted access to the power he presumably had as the Master of Death. Percival mentally shook his head. Death had told him the Tattoo would be a wonderful red herring, and if it kept Dumbledore from concentrating too heavily on Harry, well, all the better.

 

   “On that note, what are your intentions towards young Harry? As I’m sure you are aware, he is very important to us. Not only to the people in this room,” Dumbledore gestured to those gathered at the table, “who see him as a dear family member, but also to the war. He is, after all, the Boy-Who-Lived. It is his destiny to fight against Voldemort,” everyone except the spy, who winced, flinched again, “and I fear that Voldemort,” flinch/wince, “will never stop trying to kill Harry.” He shook his head sadly.

 

   “My intentions?” Percival asked slowly, with a hint of incredulity. “You make it sound like I’m trying to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage. Harry’s my friend but I think it would be a bit presumptuous to be asking for his hand after the short time we’ve known each other. Besides if it comes to it, assuming he isn’t opposed to the idea, isn’t it his Godfather’s permission I should be seeking?” Percival quirked a wry smile which when combined with his teasing tone made those around chuckle, though Snape fought valiantly against the impulse to take points for cheek and Minerva was trying but failing to look disapproving since her lips kept twitching upwards. “As I said, Harry is my friend and I stand by my friends.”

 

   “Very well,” Dumbledore said, briskly changing the subject, “will you be attending Hogwarts this year? Your age and birthdate would put you in young Harry’s year.” He beamed happily at the coincidence.

 

   “Yes, my guardian and I had made arrangements for me to be enrolled at Hogwarts. We’ve readied the necessary paperwork. Actually, it should have been sent some time in the last few days, so you should be receiving it soon.”

 

   “Good, good. Now I must ask you, my boy, about the mark on your neck. Unfortunately, tattoos are not allowed in Hogwarts,” he said even as he moved forwards imperceptibly in his chair in anticipation.

 

   With attention brought to it, Percival found himself with everyone’s attention on the Mark. One witch with black hair tied back into a strict bun gasped and said, “That was the sign of the Dark Lord Grindelwald. Why would you tattoo such a thing on yourself?!”

 

   Percival shook his head. “I didn’t, it was a gift. And I was assured that although Grindelwald used it, it’s origin is far older than he and it is not, in fact, his Mark.”

 

   “Gifted, My Boy?” Dumbledore asked, practically vibrating. “Would you mind telling us who gave it to you?”

 

   “I’m not at liberty to say.” 

 

     Percival met Dumbledore’s eyes evenly for the first time. He could feel Dumbledore’s mind trying to gain access to his, seeking his memory of receiving the Mark. The presence was subtle at first, trying not to draw attention to itself but as more time passed by the attempts focused more on power than finesse. 

 

      Finally, Percival grew tired of it and broke the gaze saying, “I hope you don’t make a habit of performing Legilimency on minors, Headmaster. Not only is it a gross violation of privacy and misuse of authority but at least in America it is also illegal.

 

   The black-haired witch gasped, in outrage this time, and exclaimed, “Albus! You didn’t!”

 

   Albus lifted his hands in a placating gesture, “Now, Minerva, I had to see, what if he had been marked by a sympathiser or follower of Grindelwald. We needed to know. As it was, I did not see anything; I suspect whoever did it, obscured the information.”

 

   Minerva sat back, still bristling but willing to accept his excuses. Dumbledore turned back to Percival, “I’m sorry, my boy, but since tattoos are prohibited at Hogwarts, you will need to cover it up. At all times.” 

 

   Dumbledore did not want anyone to know about this tattoo.   His mind had nearly shut down with shock when he had first caught a glimpse of that tattoo. The sign of the Deathly Hallows! The sign of the Master of Death! But how could this boy, this child, have collected all the Hallows? Dumbledore had been so sure, Gellert had been sure, that the wand that they had tracked to Gregorovich, the one that Gellert had stolen and Albus had eventually won, was the Elder Wand.

 

   If this boy was indeed the Master of the Hallows, then he must have the Elder Wand. Albus would need to examine it. And if it was, well, accidents happen to wands all the time and the boy could easily get a new one, a less powerful one, from Ollivander’s. Albus had thought he already had two of the Hallows: the Wand and the Cloak (which he kept in a special hidden room behind his office) as if he would give such a priceless item to a child who could barely cast. No, he had given him a regular invisibility cloak and put detection spells on it so he would know when the blasted boy was around. But now, if this new pawn was indeed the Master of Death, he would need to keep him close. Close and under his control.

 

    “May I examine your wand? It is standard procedure for all incoming students,” Dumbledore said, mentally rubbing his hands together in anticipation.

 

   “I was unaware of any school rule saying I must surrender my wand to be examined,” Percival said coolly.

 

    Dumbledore was about to answer when Minerva said, “That’s because there isn’t.” She looked at Dumbledore disapprovingly, “Really, Albus!”

 

   “I’m afraid I will require your wand nonetheless, Mr. Graves. Underage magic is restricted after all and it would be best to remove the temptation. I assure you it will be completely safe in my care.”

 

    Percival wanted to raise his eyebrow at the blatant misuse of power, not to mention the fact that no one gathered at the table, save a very select few (and it was a bit of a relief to see the deputy Headmistress questioning the old man), saw anything wrong or at all amiss with this situation. “I am a citizen of America, thus not subject to British Law. Furthermore, I have a special permit for the use of magic this summer. And since you are neither my guardian, and are not yet my Headmaster, you have no authority to confiscate my wand.”

 

   “Now you see here,” Molly Weasley butted in, “you don’t talk to the headmaster that way! He deserves your respect!”

 

   Percival stayed silent, refusing to point out that her brood all had their wands. There was nothing more to say; he wasn’t letting the clearly power-obsessed old man get his hands on his wand, much less for an undetermined amount of time. However, since Magic had said the wand was a continuation of the red herring he decided to throw the headmaster a bone, “If you must know it’s 11 and ¾ inches, unyielding, elder wood with a thestral hair core.” 

 

     Dumbledore’s eyes lit up with a rapacious gleam.

 

   “One more thing: What are the names of your parents and guardian? I remember a Percival Graves, he went missing during the War with Grindelwald. I believe his body was never found. Are you perhaps related to him?” The question seemed innocent enough, if one ignored the dark gleam in Dumbledore’s eye.

 

   “He was my namesake. My grandfather’s brother. One day they discovered his name on our family tapestry had gained a date of death even though they never managed to recover his body. My parents told me stories of that time.  There was a huge upheaval. Turns out he had been abducted by Grindelwald and held captive while Grindelwald used human transfiguration to take his place. When Grindelwald was caught… well, they never found him did they. He must have died so horribly. He was the Director of Magical Security at the time, similar to your Head of Department of Magical Law enforcement. My parents thought he was a brave and good man, so they named me after him. My parents were Thomas Amery Graves and Andrea Callista Graves nee Walsh. You’ll have to forgive me for not giving you my guardians name however as she always prefers to make her own introductions,” he ended with a wry chuckle; it was certainly the truth about Phina.

 

   “But surely she would like to know you are all right? One of my colleagues would be glad to meet with her and assure her of your safety,” the Headmaster wheedled.

 

   “Oh that’s not necessary. She said she would meet me at the Ministry on the 12 th so that she could make sure I’m alright and check if I’d rather go back home for the rest of summer or stay with Harry.”

 

   Dumbledore subsided, disappointed but seemingly resigned. “Well, Mr. Graves, thank you for answering our questions but I’m afraid we, as adults, have some more to discuss so if you could please re-join your friends upstairs….” 

 

   By the Gods could the man be any more condescending? Add to the fact that he had just lumped Harry and the children together and called them his friends, as if it was a foregone conclusion. It was irritating. But Percival got up and gave a respectful head nod to the table and left the room, all the while feeling two pairs of eyes burning into his back.

 

   On his way back to the room he would be sharing with Harry, after stepping around some small balls he suspected of being dung bombs, he stopped by the portrait that everyone seemed to hate and considered it. If they were reduced to using Silencing Drapes, then they must not be able to remove it from the wall. He had some ideas, but he’d have to know more before he could approach this problem in the most effective way. It was interesting that it was still in place after the cleanse.

 

   As he opened the bedroom door, the loud roar of noise that burst out of the room ceased suddenly. It was a bit suspicious but was not something he was unused to. His aurors had always gone silent when he’d entered the room. And, yes, he was used to all eyes fixing on him as well.

 

  What was more interesting was that Harry was completely red-faced and had been as he walked in. Ron’s ears were red and he was blustering. Meanwhile Hermione was blushing lightly and looked as if she felt the soul-deep need to apologise to an authority figure for inappropriate behaviour. The twins were grinning maniacally, moving their gaze from Percival to Harry and back again. Ginny looked begrudgingly amused but also had some sort of deep seated… something that was not quite anger….

 

   He could guess what, no… who they had been talking about, and no doubt they had been teasing Harry mercilessly. Ah! Teenagers! Percival would gladly throw Harry under the bus for this. The Shield thing only went so far. It did not include sibling like heckling. So he merely raised his eyebrow at them and gave them the same look he gave to rookie aurors who were gossiping instead of working.

 

  “And you would be talking about, what , exactly?” he asked coolly. 

 

     And didn’t it feel good to stop pretending to be a somewhat easily cowed fifteen-year-old and show the steel and authority he had worn like his favourite coat (a coat that Grindelwald had stolen, the bastard!).  Harry, Ron, and Hermione all went redder. Ginny’s grin took on a sadistic sharpness and the twins’ grins went downright wicked.

 

   They answered, switching between each other so fast it was almost one person speaking, “We were just worried,”

“for our ickle Harrykins here.”

“See, we think, that poor,”

“innocent,”

“maidenly.” Ron snorted at the word, but the twins continued on.

 “Harry might have had,”

“his sweet little head turned,”

“by the big, strong,”

“mysterious knight,”

“who showed just in,”

“the nick of time to,”

“save Harry and,”

“sweep him off his,”

“virginal,” both Ron and Ginny chortled this time.

“feet.”

 

   By now Harry had become so red in the face Percival was almost worried he would pass out. Harry jumped up like a scalded cat and hollered, “STOP IT! JUST SHUT UP THE TWO OF YOU!”

 

   To which Ginny with an almost hidden dark gleam in her eyes said, “But Harry,” in a mock simpering voice while batting her eyelashes, “surely you can admit that Percival is,” here she added a fake American Southern twang, “ever so handsome. Why, even you can’t be strong enough to resist a dashing hero with such a pretty face.”

 

   Harry sank down on the bed to have a minor breakdown and Ginny smirked and exchanged high fives with the twins.

 

   “Yes, well,” Percival coughed, deciding to save Harry, by this point he couldn’t have had much blood left anywhere except in his face.

 

     He walked further into the room and closed the door, nudging Harry to one side so he could sit on the bed. Harry shuffled over but continued being curled up like some weird shell-less hermit crab. Percival couldn’t help the reassuring squeeze he gave to the back of Harry’s neck or how he let his hand trail down Harry’s spine before removing it. He resolutely ignored the resultant looks. 

 

   “What else have you been talking about?”

 

   “Nothing much,” came Harry’s muffled voice from where his head was imbedded in the pillow before the younger boy decided to sit up. “Just how the Ministry and the Daily Prophet, and people in general are just being stupid. We covered the Dementor attack and what we’ve been doing. And before the last subject,” he coughed, “We had gotten desperate enough to start talking about our summer homework.”

 

  With a huff the fuzzy haired girl began talking immediately. “I’m still surprised by how much of the homework you say you’ve completed, Harry. I mean, Ron didn’t get even half of that done and he had me to nag at him to do it. I should take a look at it, just to be sure you’re doing it properly,” Hermione said chidingly, leaving Harry confused as to what he was in trouble for.

 

     Percival didn’t particularly like the way she was talking down to Harry, as if he wasn’t smart enough to do his summer homework or that he’d lie about how much he did or that because he had completed so much of it, he must have done it wrong and it was Hermione who could tell him if his work was right or not, even though she was a student in the same year as Harry.

 

   But it seemed that Harry could defend himself when he pushed hard enough, and he proved it by opening his mouth and saying indignantly, “I had nothing else to do for four whole weeks, Hermione. Four! There was no news, no letters from friends,” here his glare encompassed both Ron and Hermione, only Ron looked slightly abashed. 

  

   “The Dursleys didn’t even give me any chores to do. I was locked in my room, with my school trunk. Is it that much of a surprise that I got so bored that I did my summer homework? After all, it was the absolutely only connection I had to magic, the only thing I had to remind me that magic was real . So yeah, I did my homework. And do you honestly think that I’m so stupid I can’t figure out how to write essays after the last four years doing it? Do you think I’m so stupid that I can’t understand the lessons without you working over my shoulder correcting me every step of the way? Maybe, you think you know so much more about magic. Or that I could never do anything, much less learn anything, without you? Need I remind you that you are in the same year as me? For all that you’re top of the year, they haven’t let you skip a year? And despite not having access to my books every holidays, I still manage to do well in all the summer homework, including Snape’s. I’m sorry for using such harsh words, but maybe you shouldn’t just assume that you’re so much better than me or so much smarter than me and that if it wasn’t for you I would utterly fail. Because it’s not true, I’ll tell you that now. If it wasn’t for you, maybe I would have relied on myself much sooner instead of being content to coast in my classes like Ron.”

 

   Ron squawked and said, “Oh no you don’t, you leave me out of this! I am staying out of this row!”

 

   Hermione had tears in her eyes. She sniffed and said in a stiff voice, “Fine. See if I ever offer to help you with your homework again. We’ll see who’s right when your grades start slipping even lower. Come on Ginny. Let’s go.” She got up and Ginny followed with a sort of apologetic glance back.

 

   Fred whistled, “Wow, Harry. Tell us how you really feel, mate.”

 

   George added, “yeah, it’s not good to repress your emotions that way.”

 

   Fred nodded, eyebrows raised, looking very impressed. “I mean, she sort of had it coming, with her I-know-more-and-better-than-you attitude but did you really need to be so harsh?”

 

  Ron nodded, agreeing with them completely but still hoping Hermione wouldn’t stop helping him with his work. If he was being honest, he didn’t really need her help either, he just didn’t like doing it by himself. His brain really didn’t like it when he sat still, except if it was for chess. But during chess, his brain was always jumping around, going from strategy to strategy and playing scenarios out in his head, so it was hardly like concentrating at all. When he did homework, he just couldn’t seem to focus on it for any length of time, so Hermione’s help was actually beneficial in keeping him on task even if her condescending way of teaching grated on his nerves.

 

    “Weeeell, I probably could have worded it better,” Harry answered. “But all my life people have accused me of lying, particularly about academics, and… and she’s supposed to be my friend, to believe in me. That she was undermining my newly resurfaced need to do my best just hit the wrong nerve. I know she didn’t know that I’d decided not to slack or coast in my classes anymore but…” Harry sighed and leaned back against Percival’s side so that he was laying against Percival’s left arm. “The fact that she thinks I’m so much less smart than she is, even if it is subconsciously, really irks me. I can’t stand people thinking I’m stupid, I never could. Being thought of as a liar, I don’t like but can take ‘cause I’m kind of used to it. After having to play dumb for so long, I really can’t stand being thought of as stupid.”

 

   The three Weasleys nodded, that, they could understand. Fred gave the pair of them an assessing look and said, “But in all seriousness, what is going on with you two? I’ve never seen you so physically relaxed with anyone else, not even Ron and Hermione or me and George and we’ve known you the longest.”

 

   Harry just shrugged. “It’s comfortable,” was all he said as he wiggled slightly against Percival’s warmth.

 

   “Are you two like… going out?” Ron asked curiously.

 

   Percival looked over at the portrait on the wall who was looking very interested and trying very hard not to show it. “I think,” he said slowly, “that whatever might happen or might not happen between Harry and I, should stay between Harry and I. I’m sure that if the situation should change you will be told about it. Until then, it’s our business and no one else’s.”

 

   The twins nodded, “We can respect that.” They exchanged a look with each other before they somehow, although they hadn’t moved in the slightest, started to loom over Percival. “However, if you ever hurt him—”

 

   “Let’s just say—”

 

   “That we have a lot of products that—”

 

   “Need testing and we’re sure—”

 

   “At least one of them could help in—”

 

   “Hiding a body,” they finished together.

 

    Their entire countenance changed as they bounced up, smiled at Harry with what Percival was sure was feigned innocence and gentleness (surely those demons didn’t have anything so pure as that in their souls) and said, “We’ll see you at dinner, Harrykins. For now, we have products to plan and experiments to conduct.”

 

   Ron shuddered as the door closed behind them. “I’m glad I’m not rooming with them.”

 

   Harry cleared his throat, reticently, “Uhm, actually Ron, you are. Percival didn’t have a room and he doesn’t really know anyone but me, certainly not well enough to sleep soundly in the same room as the twins and you are their brother.”

 

   Ron gave a very loud, and very pathetic groan, it was the sort of mournful noise an animal made when trapped and the only way it was escaping was through death. “But Harry ,” he whined pathetically. He didn’t say anything else though because he knew it wouldn’t change anything and he wasn’t going to force his brothers on some poor innocent bystander. He just wanted his objections known!

 

   “Fine,” he pouted. “But you tell them not to test any more than… two! Products on me in a day and they can’t do it while I’m sleeping or otherwise unaware. And no pranking me if they’re testing products on me. You tell them that; they’ll listen to you.” He scoffed. “They’d probably go so far as to pledge their eternal loyalty to you. It would be more likely than me becoming a prefect.”

 

   “Wow, Ron. That was... those conditions are very mature for you.”

 

   “Well it’s not like I’m naïve enough to think I wouldn’t be their guinea pig, anyway. At least this way it won’t be in my sleep, without me knowing, or countless times a day. Plus, I won’t be pranked. So, yeah, this way I come out on top. Well sort of anyway.”

 

   They sat in contemplative silence for a bit before Ron got up saying that he ought to move his stuff. Percival nudged Harry and looked down at him. Harry nodded and said, “Ron, since your stuff’s already unpacked, why not just leave it here. You can get your night stuff and some clothes for the morning before bed but leave the rest, that way there’s less chance your stuff will get booby trapped or pranked.”

 

  Ron blinked. “Really? You wouldn’t mind it?”

 

   It was Percival that said, “As long as you knock before coming in, and wait for a response. Neither of us would mind you keeping your stuff in here.”

 

  Harry tacked on, “Plus, in all likelihood, you will end up rooming back in here. Sirius gives it a day or two, but I think it could be longer with those restrictions. Still, we do have most of the rest of the month.”

 

   “Then why am I even bothering to move in the first place.”

 

   Percival said, “I suppose you could say for propriety’s sake. We have to at least give it a try, because when you come back, Harry and I will have to share the bed. Or transfigure one but….” He trailed off, anyone could see the room was crowded as it was.

 

   “Oh,” Ron said. “Then I guess I can give it a go.” He looked between the two of them. “Though somehow, I don’t think the two of you mind the idea of sharing a bed, even if it is as small as that one.”

 

   Harry shrugged. “Uncle Vernon wouldn’t let Percival use the guest room, so we had to share my bed and that one is really small. This one is half again as wide.”

 

   “What a git!” Ron exclaimed. Harry nodded in agreement.

 

   “But at least my aunt and cousin were better. Turns out Dudley’s…..” he cut off as Percival shook his head sharply and subtly indicated the portrait, who quickly tried to appear uninterested and on the verge of sleep.  Harry’s brow wrinkled in confusion and Percival tapped his ear and eye in an off-hand way. “Turns out Dudley’s actually quite decent once he’s been exposed to soul deep terror and made to relive his worse memories.”

 

   Ron raised his eyebrow and pretended to twist some kinks out of his spine, so he could look at whatever it was that made his friend so cautious and had elicited a warning from Graves. He blinked slowly at the portrait. He hadn’t really paid attention to it before, because in Hogwarts portraits were everywhere. They were also a common thing in most Wizarding houses. But… now that he thought about it… what was a portrait of a Black doing in a bedroom. Usually landscapes or pictures of animals were placed in bedrooms and the portraits of family went in the hallways or parlours.

 

   He turned back to Harry and Graves, nodding his understanding, then continued the charade of stretching out kinks by rolling his neck and shoulders, sighing in satisfaction when they popped and smirking when Harry grimaced. “Well come on then, we can go tell the twins about the restrictions. They probably have loads of stuff they’d like to show you anyway.”

 

    They spent quite a while in the twins’ room. Percival had been very impressed by their ingenuity, most of their creations also had practical value that could be used in a variety of ways including guerrilla warfare. He made a suggestion to them in a low voice that maybe they could try to develop a way to trap and secure a person so that they were unable to move, particularly their arms, like a permanent petrificus totalus, until the legal authorities arrived. Those would have been very useful if they had, had them back in his time. The proximity wards the twins had set on their room went off and everything was put away, just in time, as Molly Weasley swept in and told them the meeting was over and that she needed help with dinner.

 

   When the group had arrived in the kitchen, Percival was formally introduced to Arthur, Bill and Mundungus Fletcher. Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, and Tonks were also present for dinner. While the others were cooking, Harry and Percival sat at the table.

 

   Sirius was seated across from Harry. “Had a good summer so far?”

 

   “Not really, it was quite lousy,” Harry replied.

 

    Sirius grinned, slightly maniacally. “Don’t know what you’re complaining about, myself.”

 

   Percival’s eyebrow rose, and his lips twitched downwards even as Harry let out an incredulous, “ What?”

 

    “Oh yeah,” Sirius nodded bitterly, “Personally, I’d have welcomed a Dementor attack. A deadly struggle for my soul would have broken the monotony nicely. You think you’ve had it bad, at least you’ve been able to get out and about, stretch your legs a bit and get into a few fights… I’ve been stuck inside for a month.”

 

   Harry had stiffened at the beginning of Sirius’ little speech and was almost distracted by the last part. Before Percival had arrived, Sirius had been the only one he felt he had left in the world. To hear Sirius, speak as though fighting for his life was just a fun little jaunt, like the things the Marauders had gotten up to in their youth, while Harry had truly experienced what fighting for your life meant, left a bad taste in his mouth.

 

   “Need I remind you,” he said coldly, “that the last time you had a ‘deadly struggle for you soul’, not only did it get to the point where your soul had literally left your body , but you were then captured and would be dead right now if I hadn’t driven off a hundred dementors and Hermione and I hadn’t broken you out of your cell? Two thirteen-year olds!”

 

   “I was fourteen Harry!” Hermione hissed.

 

   “Yes, thank you Hermione,” Harry acknowledged absently before rounding on Sirius again. “You seem to think that facing death is some sort of fun little adventure you go on to stop your boredom and to give you stories to tell when you’re havin’ a pint with the lads down at the pub,” Harry drawled sarcastically. “But it’s not. It’s not fun and it’s not something to go looking for. You seem to have forgotten that it’s frightening, your mind feels like sludge, your limbs shake, your brain screams at you to run, to go, to escape and most times you can’t do any of that and it’s so terrifying that the fear of it seems to freeze your very soul and you’re a fool if you think staying in a house for a month is any sort of reason to face that, much less seek it out.  Sirius, for god’s sake, YOU are the only thing remotely resembling family I have left. You’re supposed to be my Godfather. I am supposed to be important to you. Why would you want to futilely risk your life? And I expect a better answer than, ‘because I’m bored’ or ‘because I don’t like this house’ or ‘because I’m going stir-crazy and feel useless’ because that, that is not good enough, Sirius,” Harry gulped back tears.

 

   Everyone seemed stunned by his outburst, except for Percival who had known it was coming as soon as he felt Harry stiffen at his side and had seen it building in the moment before Harry’s incredulous exclamation.  He was actually rather impressed though, especially with Harry’s opening statement. This must be how it felt to watch as Percival, at the height of his power, had lambasted aurors who had made stupid mistakes and risked lives. He wanted to sigh in satisfaction.

 

     Sirius didn’t seem to have an answer of any sort and Lupin looked torn between trying to make excuses for Sirius, agreeing with Harry and feeling hurt by Harry saying that Sirius was the only family he had left. Bill looked a bit amused while Arthur appeared to be very impressed. The twins had expressions somewhere between constipation and smirks, Ginny was just smirking but trying to hide it. Molly looked concerned, as if she wasn’t quite sure what to do with a Harry who spoke his mind unreservedly. Hermione looked like she had been reminded of the earlier tongue lashing she had received and was trying to blink away a tear. Mundungus who had been passed out the whole time hadn’t even noticed and was still snoring away quietly with his head laying on the table and Tonks was both concerned and bemused; she had, after all, only met Harry earlier that evening and thus didn’t know if this was normal for him or not. Ron had his eyebrows up, a small bemused smirk on his face.

 

   “Don’t worry, Harry,” he said, “Nothing could stop this idiot from rushing into certain death. But maybe your boyfriend could save you the grief and just knock him out before he falls through a set of deathly drapes or something.”

 

  Harry just looked at his best mate who gave him his most ‘I’m an innocent in all this’ look, finally he snorted. “I don’t think I’m going to be dating a guy any time soon, Ron.” Harry frowned.

 

   Ron shrugged. “It’s not like you’ve had much time to think about these things and who knows maybe you’ll get dosed with a love potion, you are a rather eligible bachelor after all.”

 

     The conversation sort of stalled then until Molly announced that dinner was ready. It turned out that dinner was a lovely rich ox tail stew, prepared in a giant cauldron, served with freshly baked bread. Both of which almost ended up on the floor and likely would have if Percival hadn’t sneakily supported the twins’ spells with his own magic. His fifteen-year-old stomach thought that it was worth it even if it did make the twins give him calculating and intense looks.

 

   “This looks wonderful, Molly,” Lupin said, ladling stew into a bowl for her and handing it to the next person around the table.

 

   It truly was good stew, Percival thought. The herbs and spices were different from what he was used to, but he could practically taste the love it was made with and it seemed to warm him down to his very bones in a way he hadn’t realised he still needed from his time as Grindelwald’s guest. 

 

    “This truly is wonderful stew, Mrs. Weasley. Not even my Mother’s was this good.”

 

   At Percival’s sincere words and the best cooking complement anyone could give, that it was as good or better than their mother’s cooking, Molly went beet red. “You’re,” she cleared her throat, “you’re very welcome, dear. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. Have some more you’ve only had one bowl! You and Harry look like you need it.”

 

   Ron who was sitting next to Harry said in a voice that was only loud enough to carry to Harry and Percival, “Yeah, if you mean they look like they just got back from weeks of confinement and some torture.” Harry and Percival both stiffened but Ron just continued on eating as if he hadn’t said anything at all.

 

    After which there was too much eating and banging of cutlery against plates for much to be said as everyone concentrated on utterly demolishing the frankly intimidating amount of food. When the initial flourish had settled down somewhat, Mrs. Weasley turned to Sirius and said, “I’ve been meaning to tell you, I think there’s something trapped in the writing desk in the drawing room, it keeps rattling and shaking. It could just be a boggart, but I thought to ask Alastor to have a look at it before we let it out.”

 

   “Whatever you like,” Sirius said tonelessly, indifferent to anything to do with anything in the house he hated, and thoroughly distracted as he thought about Harry’s words.

 

   “Of course, with the house suddenly being cleaned, the boggart might not even be there anymore. I checked the curtains earlier and the doxies are gone, which definitely clears up whatever plans I had for us for the next few days. But I suppose we can keep searching for any Dark items hidden around the place so we can get rid of them.”

 

   Percival blinked. “Excuse me, uhm, what did you mean by ‘get rid of them’?”

 

   “Oh, well, the Blacks were an infamously Dark family, so we’ve been clearing out the house of all the potentially dangerous things.”

 

   “These… ‘potentially’ dangerous things… they wouldn’t be family heirlooms and artefacts, wouldn’t they? Priceless pieces of the family’s history?”

 

   “So?” Asked Sirius, an ugly sneer on his face, “the whole lot of them were rotten and I’d burn down this house if I could.”

 

    Percival twitched, a lifetime of being taught ‘family above all else’ caused a deep fury to ignite in him. Percival would say he got angry about as often if not less than the average person. But his fury was something altogether different. Seraphina would agree that, as long as it wasn’t directed at you, it was an awesome sight to behold. But this was Harry’s Godfather, disrespectful, ungrateful, immature whelp that he was and not an enemy. So, he would do as Harry had done and keep it verbal.

 

  “You have no respect for this House,” he stated. “No respect for the ones who came before you and you would leave the ones to come after you with… absolutely…nothing. Nothing of their roots, of their family, of their heritage. Nothing to use to retrace the footsteps of the ones that had led them here. Does your irreverence and immaturity know no bounds?”

 

   Sirius’ mouth gaped opened before his face reddened and he spat out, “And what would you know?! My parents were horrible, monstrous people. And what ‘ones to come after me’! I’m the last one of this wretched place! You know nothing, you pureblooded bastard! Are you going to start killing Muggle-Borns too, and start talking about being proud of your blood!”

 

   He would have gone on, except Harry was suddenly on his feet with his wand pointed unwaveringly at Sirius’ forehead. “Don’t…” Harry said with death in his tone, “insult him ever again.”

 

   “Whoa, now,” Lupin said, getting up and holding his hands in a placating manner. “Whoa now, Harry there’s no need for you to pull your wand, put it away, Harry. Put the wand away.”

 

   Harry didn’t listen, just continued holding his Godfather at wand point and staring at him with a look no one at the table had ever seen before. But of course, they had never seen it before, this was the look of a Harry who had survived a childhood of abuse and neglect, who had survived on Slytherin cunning and spite. A Harry that hadn’t been needed since Hagrid has knocked down the door of that shack on his eleventh birthday. His eyes were cold and there was absolutely no expression on his face.

 

   “Last of the Blacks, you say,” Percival’s fury had always been a quiet thing; he never raised his voice when he was truly angry; he just got quieter the more furious he became. “What about Harry! I suppose it never occurred to you that Harry has a right to everything, all the history in this house. That even if he didn’t want the history of it, that selling it would be worth a fortune. No, instead you just… throw it out like it’s garbage, without thinking of anything except your… petty, pathetic, mummy issues.”

 

   Sirius opened his mouth again but closed it as Harry shifted his stance minutely and his expression became, if possible, even colder.

 

   It was Hermione who asked, “Harry is related to the Blacks?”

 

    Sirius answered in a tone that was just shy of contempt, “All purebloods are pretty much interrelated.”

 

   “So you knew this, and still decided to deny Harry his heritage. Knowing him as his Godfather, the man he looks up to in the absence of his actual father, you presumably knew that Harry’s greatest desire is to have a family. Given his circumstances it’s not all that hard to understand. How much of the history of the Potter’s is left? Who is there to teach him? And yet you would deny him the chance to learn this part of his history? You might not appreciate where you’ve come from, but I can guarantee Harry does not share your view.”

 

   “Doesn’t matter; most of that stuff is cursed anyway.”

 

     Percival answered coldly, “Then place it in a vault at Gringotts until a curse-breaker can work on them or until Harry decides what he wants to do with them, if you absolutely don’t want them.”

 

    “I don’t understand why you would want all those Dark artefacts,” Molly said, shaking her head.

 

   “I know practically nothing of my family’s past,” Harry said evenly, not taking his eyes off Sirius. “I’d like to learn who my family was and what they’ve done, where I came from. There might be a lot of dark history, but there are lessons that can be learned from that and surely there were others like Sirius.”

 

   Sirius’ face went dark before he snapped out, “Fine! Fine! If you want that Dark junk, we’ll put it into a Gringotts vault for when you’re older.”

 

  Percival spoke again a little louder this time, “Good. It might stop them from being stolen and sold for another’s gain,” as he side-eyed Mundungus, who, when all eyes turned on him, sniffed and cleared his throat before extracting a silver goblet with the Black crest from his coat.

 

   “You little thief,” Sirius said. “If I’d actually cared, I’d have skinned you alive for stealing from me in my own house.”

 

   Harry finally took his wand off Sirius and sat down, still glaring at him while he unconsciously reached out to touch Percival’s Mark. Bill’s eyes took on a calculating gleam, one that was identical to the twins’. Then Harry took a breath and removed his hand from Percival’s neck, his entire face relaxing as he started to serve himself and Percival seconds unconcernedly. It really was good stew, and he never got the chance to eat fresh bread at the Dursleys, just left-over store bought that had just begun to grow mould. Hm, maybe that would be something to suggest. It could be nice, spending the day baking fresh bread of all different kinds together and making a stew to go with it. He smiled a small smile to himself. Yes, that was something he wanted; maybe he would write his aunt and ask her what she thought of it. He would even send the letter through the Muggle post to give her a bit less trouble.

 

   Eventually everyone got back to eating their seconds or in some cases, thirds, and in one case, ‘Ronald!’ fourths were asked for before Molly brought out the dessert, apple and rhubarb crumble and custard. By the time they had finished Harry thought he would explode and Percival couldn’t help but smirk down at Harry’s stomach. Harry just leaned back in his chair and laced his hands over his distended abdomen. He noticed Percival’s look but the sight of Percival’s eyes glittering in mirth made the breath catch in Harry’s throat before a smile reluctantly pulled at his lips and he shook his head slowly, pushing the feelings aside to be dealt with later.

 

   “Nearly time for bed, I think,” said Mrs. Weasley with a yawn.

 

    “Not just yet, Molly,” Sirius said, pushing away his plate and facing Harry, the disagreement from earlier forgotten in his changeable mood. “You know, I’m surprised at you. I thought the first thing you’d do when you got here would be to start asking questions about Voldemort.”

 

   There it was again, Percival noted idly, that flinch. “Why is that? Why is it that every time someone says that name, ‘Voldemort’”—cue flinch— “that everyone flinches? How…exactly…does a wizard… cause such widespread and deep fear of a name that, even with a ten-year reprieve, a whole society flinches at the mere mention of the name?”

 

   The adults were silent until Lupin said forlornly, “You have to understand, those were dark times, desperate times. You could never be sure who was on whose side.”

 

   “Now, I would believe that if I didn’t know that war is like that. All war is dark and desperate with each side trying to get a leg up on the other anyway they can, even if it means turning lovers or family members against each other and using spies. Spies are essential to warfare. So, what made this war, that name, so terrifying? The real answer, if you would.”

 

   This time it was Arthur who answered, he went unnaturally still before seeming to make his decision to answer in truth. “During the war… people who spoke his name disappeared. So many people were going missing and into hiding back then that it took a while for the pattern to develop and longer still for us to realise the correlation between the two; that saying the name would bring the Death Eaters. You see, we believe that You-Know-Who had placed a Taboo on his name; to catch any who were brave, or perhaps foolish, enough to say it. It somehow told him and his Death Eaters right where you were.”

 

  Molly had been trying to get her husband to stop talking the whole time he was giving his explanation, but he ignored her, in the end she collapsed into her seat. “They’re too young to hear about war, Arthur; any of them.”

 

   “Something like this is vital to know,” Percival said with a crinkle in his brow. “What would happen if they, we, didn’t know about this, and got into the habit of calling him Voldemort thinking it was just a silly fear held over from a war that happened before our births, and he re-established the Taboo? Which he can do now that he has a body again. We’d be hunted down, young as we are, Muggleborns too,” he nodded at Hermione, “with no defence at home. Not telling us something like this is just hindering our chance at survival. Age doesn’t matter when a war is being waged; no one is unaffected.”

 

  “You’re still too young,” she said in a desolate tone.

 

  “Victims of war always are,” Percival agreed solemnly. 

 

   “Still,” Sirius said, “Harry has a right to know what’s been going on.”

 

   “Have you forgotten what Dumbledore said?”

 

   “Which bit?” Sirius asked politely, but with the air of someone readying for a fight.

 

   “The bit about not telling Harry more than he needs to know .”

 

   “I wonder, how much there is that he actually doesn’t need to know, given that Dumbledore said he would be an integral part of the war,” Percival said idly. “And I wonder why, exactly, Dumbledore has any say in what Harry needs to know at all. As far as I am aware, he is neither Harry’s parent nor his guardian. So, what authority does he have to decide what Harry needs to know? Which, I might add, seems to be as absolute a bare minimum as he can get away with.”

 

   Hermione sputtered. “He’s the Headmaster! The greatest wizard in the world, the only one You-Know-Who was ever afraid of!”

 

   “Woooow. That’s some powerful propaganda you’re spouting over there. How long have you been indoctrinated? What proof do you have that Voldemort,” seeing the flinches he thought quickly for a substitute, what had Harry called him earlier? Ah yes Riddle, “the Dark Lord Riddle ever feared Dumbledore? That sounds like the type of thing Dumbledore would spread around to create a sense of false safety in his presence. And ‘greatest wizard in the world’ is quite subjective. Magical Britain is very small and rather isolated. You don’t even use books from other countries, how could you possibly know who the greatest wizard in the world is? So what if he is the Headmaster of Hogwarts? Harry is not currently at school, it’s summer vacation. His authority over Harry should begin and end with the school term and be strictly limited to his school work.”

 

   Hermione and Molly both looked absolutely outraged and indignant and on the verge of shouting, but the others could reluctantly see the logic in Graves’ argument.

 

    Hermione rallied, “He’s the Leader of the Light!”

 

   “I don’t recall Harry having already joined the Order or this war, officially. In fact, I believe you said that the Order only included ‘Of Age’ witches and wizards, ones that have graduated. Ergo Harry hasn’t joined, and it doesn’t matter who their leader is. Sure, Riddle keeps attacking him and he would never side with Riddle, but whoever said there were only two sides to a war.”

 

  “What do you mean? Of course, there’s only two sides, the Light and the Dark!”

 

   “Hm, I thought it was more Riddle and his followers versus Dumbledore and his followers. Besides, you’re all ignorant to what Light and Dark even means, you’ve stagnated in your own little corner of the world and lost your knowledge of Magic. I don’t care to explain it to those who are so blinded and certainly not right now. My point was that Dumbledore has no authority to make any decisions concerning Harry, aside from those directly relating to his schooling and only in the capacity of a normal Headmaster and student.”

 

  No one said anything to that.

 

   “So,” Harry finally said, “what’s Riddle been up to? You know, other than laying low… and probably recruiting.”

 

   “How’d you know he was recruiting?” Lupin asked suspiciously.

 

   Harry shrugged one shoulder. “Because Dumbledore is doing the same.” There was a disquieting silence following his statement.

 

   Sirius cleared his throat. “Yes, well, in any case, gathering followers is only one thing he’s interested in, he’s got other plans too, plans he can put into operation very quietly indeed, and he’s concentrating on them at the moment.”

 

   “What’s he after apart from followers?” Harry asked.

 

   Lupin and Sirius exchanged the most fleeting of glances before Sirius said, “Something he can only get by stealth.”

 

   Harry studied the pair of them, then looked over at the adult Weasleys. Mrs. Weasley looked angry that Sirius was telling Harry. Mr. Weasley looked vaguely uncomfortable and Bill looked… at anything that wasn’t Harry. 

 

    “Let me guess,” he said bitterly, “the specifics of which I don’t need to know. ” Harry stood up and started out of the room, Percival at his heels. He stopped in the middle of the room and said coldly, “If you’re not going to tell me anything useful, you might as well not say anything and get the satisfaction of being good little sheep, that way at least one of us happy. I hope it the feeling comforts you when I die because I don’t have all the relevant information.”

 

   When they reached their room, Percival had Harry wait as he took the portrait off the wall or tried to anyway. “Someone” had put a Sticking Charm on it so Percival took out his wand and to use it to disable the charm (there was no way he was going to display his skill in wandless magic to a portrait that no doubt reported to Dumbledore). Then he lugged the indignant painting out of the room and threw it carelessly into a room that had a….was that a hippogriff?! Shaking his head, he returned to their bedroom.

 

    Harry was still standing in the middle of the room, staring, regretfully, off into space. “I was much too harsh back there wasn’t I? Arthur, Bill and Tonks didn’t deserve those words. I don’t think they would hold back as much as Molly or Lupin or even Sirius. And I… I was so mean to them.”

 

   “You were, a bit. But you wouldn’t want to waste such a dramatic exit by going back down and apologising,” Percival smirked.  “Besides, you can say you’re sorry to the Weasleys tomorrow if you feel like it and I’m sure that you can convince one of the twins to let you borrow their wand so that you can send Tonks a Messenger Patronus, or you could just apologise when you see her next. It’ll be fine, Harry. You’re allowed your teenage rebellious and angry phase.”

 

   Harry let out a breath that was almost a laugh and wiped his eyes with his sleeve. “We should go to bed; I’m beyond tired. God, I chewed out so many people today. I never do that.”

 

   “At least you didn’t have to deal with Dumbledore trying to interrogate you. I swear he tried to make me feel guilty by giving me this Grandfatherly Disappointed face at least five times.”

 

   “Yeah?” Harry said, “I hate how he does that.”

 

   “He also tried to use Legilimency on me. In a room full of people. It’s highly unethical by the way, and when used on a minor, very illegal. And he managed to get away with it. In a room full of people, including three aurors. Even after I called him out on it.” He shook his head. “And that is why I want to start teaching you Occlumency.” Harry nodded so Percival continued, “I’ll explain the basics and we’ll start you on meditation. The real teaching won’t start until after the hearing. We’ll have enough on our plates in the meantime.”

 

   They had just finished changing into night clothes (Harry accidentally getting a view of Percival’s naked back, which caused him to blush) when Ron knocked and was told to enter. He had just grabbed his clothes when a silvery cheetah burst through the wall and said, “I will be expecting you two the day after tomorrow.”

 

   Ron raised his eyebrow. “I am curious but… Mione told me about this muggle law thing called, ‘plausible deniability.’ At a guess you two will need someone to cover for you, just in case someone asks?”

 

   Percival nodded and decided to explain so that Ron knew it wasn’t anything frivolous, “My guardian, we need to meet briefly at Gringotts. I need some changes of clothes and Harry needs clothes appropriate for the Wizengamot. Actually, you’ve seen what he’s got, Harry just needs clothes! Not to mention, she’s going to be going over the legal stuff with us for the trial, so we really needed to meet before the hearing.”

 

   “I understand. I’ll see if I can get the twins to help me, maybe we can develop something to make Ice Mice change colour and say that you two got sick from eating them,” he said as he walked out the door.

 

   Both Harry and Percival  sighed heavily as exhaustion settled over their shoulders. Though they would honestly rather sleep in the same bed, they knew they would need to get used to sleeping apart by the time they got to Hogwarts, especially if they were in different houses so they each went to their separate beds and fell asleep before their heads hit their pillows.



Chapter Text

     It was late. By the time he was leaving his office the moon was just a sliver in the sky, not that it was easy to see in such a built-up area. And by the Gods, he was exhausted. Three of his aurors would be out on medical leave for the next two months after an undercover operation had gone very, very wrong.  He didn’t know what made that bilge-swipe of a civilian believe that he should be able to take his personal grievances directly to the Director of Magical Security, regardless of the fact that he was in the middle of the aforementioned mission. Nor how the man had managed to track him down at all! All in all, it had been a very trying day in an exceedingly long week. All he wanted was to bathe, change the dressing that covered the wound on his side, fall into his bed and not move for the next twenty-four hours.

 

    Later he would realise that the civilian who interrupted the day’s operations hadn’t been one at all. It had in fact been the most wanted criminal of the time and he had used the contact during the operation to chose a victim and place a tracking charm or similar on him.  He had just turned the corner into the hallway outside his apartment, when he was struck over the side of the head with a heavy object and felt the skin tear above one eye. It was only by the grace of the Gods that he hadn’t been killed instantly. For a brief moment he had thought he was being mugged by a No-Maj and had thrown a punch, hitting a solid jaw that he hadn’t been able to see through the blood dripping down his face and the black spots dancing in his vision.

 

    “You really shouldn’t have done that, Mr. Graves,” a cold, oddly accented voice said. Percival registered the press of a wand tip at his neck, not a No-Maj then, a second before the voice spat its spell, “crucio,”.  Percival collapsed stifling his scream, not wanting to give the bastard the satisfaction. “You know, this wasn’t meant to be personal, Mr. Graves,” the man said casually as if they were conversing on the street. “All I wanted was the access that being you would grant me. Not that I would have had a use for you after I had taken your place of course, and there couldn’t be two of us wondering around wearing your face.” The man slid his wand across to the other side of his throat. “However, I do not appreciate violence against my person, I’m sure you can understand that I must now correct your manners.” The man tutted sadly.

 

    The last thing he saw before waking up on the floor of a small stone windowless room was a pair of mismatched eyes. They were the also first thing he saw when he regained consciousness. 

 

  Grindelwald tilted his head and said, “You’re awake; that’s good. This would be no fun if you weren’t conscious. I think you need further lessons in the appropriate way to treat a house guest. Shall we begin?” He flourished his wand and all Percival could feel was…..

 

Pain!

 

    Percival awoke with a start and suppressed the scream that was fighting its way out of his throat as he was catapulted out of his memory.  He reminded himself that, it was just a nightmare. A carry over from a long distant past in another life! It took a conscious effort for him to unclench the grip his fingers had on the sides of the narrow bed he was lying on. For all that it was small, it was still comfortable, and it was most definitely not a cold stony floor. Parallel to him, was another similarly sized bed, in which a dark-haired boy lay deeply asleep. He watched the boy next to him sleep and frowned at how large the bed looked around the diminutive teen. He also deduced from the way his Harry was twitching that the other boy was also suffering in the throes of a nightmare.

 

    The surprising amount of light that the gibbous moon streamed through the narrow window was disrupted by a swooping shadow. In the state of heightened awareness that had followed his nightmare it caused Percival several moments of alarm before he realised that it was just Hedwig.  He scrubbed his hands across his face wearily and rose from the bed to open the window and allow her into the room. She landed on his shoulder.

 

    “Hey, girl,” he said tiredly,extending a finger to gentle stroke the feathers on her chest. “Harry was wondering what was taking you so long. Apparently you usually arrive wherever he is going before he does, even if he forgets to let you know where it is. He seems rather proud of the fact, you know.”

 

    Hedwig bobbed her head in agreement before bending to nibble at his fingers a bit. She then extended a leg, showing the letter attached. “Oh? So, you had work to do? Well that explains it then. And let me guess… it’s from…” he turned it over to look at the familiar writing, “yes, it’s from Picquery. So… after we left the Dursleys, you tracked down Picquery and decided to let her borrow your services before making your way here?”

 

    Hedwig bobbed her head up and down for a moment, before flying the short distance to perch on the backrest of Harry’s bed where she tucked her head underneath her wing, having obviously decided to have a quick nap near her wizard. Percival shook his head, smart girl he thought, smiling wryly. He flicked open the seal to read the note.

 

      Percival,

 

      I am not sure where you came across her, but I must ask if the bird is part Seer? She is a beauty is she not? I had just finished placing the appropriate protections around my apartment when the thought that I would have to advise you of the address crossed my mind. The moment that I had made up my mind to write to you, the owl appeared outside my window. She hooted at me imperiously. Have you ever seen a bird act like it’s a queen and you’re one of her subjects? I can now say that I have. Considering over the course of my career I have dealt with actual royalty on a number of occasions, it’s behaviour I am acutely familiar with. Now, please ensure that she receives the treat she deserves for pre-empting my need.

 

      To confirm the information, you received in my Patronus. I expect to see you and Harry the day after tomorrow, at my apartment, preferably before 8 am. For a short breakfast before I take you both shopping.  In your last correspondence you mentioned that Mr Potter was raised by muggles, this concerned me, so I have arranged for a Healer. As I also figured you would appreciate ridding him of the potential hazard of his glasses, this particular Healer also specialises in optometry. He is quite renowned on the continent and though usually only works out of his offices in Switzerland, I have persuaded him to come to us. For an additional fee, he has agreed to be sworn to Absolute Secrecy. He will Floo in at 8:30 am.

 

       After much consideration, I believe mundane cosmetics will be the best option for covering Mr. Potter’s curse scar, and I have purchased a variety of these in preparation for our excursion. With the removal of his scar and glasses, I am hoping we can prevent anyone from recognising the child. Though I will reserve the right to apply a glamour as well if his features are still too unmistakably Potter-ish. I am concerned that members of Dumbledore’s group, did you call it ‘the Order’? What a ridiculous name! Regardless they might be able to identify you as well, so I am afraid you will also have to submit to having a glamour applied before we venture into Diagon Alley.

 

       We will have to sort something out with regards to finances for you both, which will work in nicely with your desire to visit Gringotts first. I have made appointments with both the Graves’ family accountant (who was most surprised and suspicious at hearing from me) and the Potter family accountant (who only by the grace of the Old Ones didn’t cut the Floo on me when I asked for a meeting with him), at 10am. The interaction I had with his accountant leads me to believe that there might be interesting transactions to uncover in young Mr. Potter’s financial dealings, so I have ordered them to audit both accounts in preparation for our visit. Hopefully Mr Potter won’t feel that I have overstepped any boundaries, if you could please advise him in advance I would be appreciative.

 

      I have already had our papers processed at the Ministry including your application to attend Hogwarts and your request for a permit for a summer wand license (which was approved). In addition, I have arranged for both your animagus registration papers and OWL results to be quietly entered into the ICW archives. While on the subject of documents, a rather strange bundle of information, papers, and various forms appeared earlier, all properly back dated, and indeed properly aged, informing me of my long history of dealings with Mr Thomas Amery Graves and his lovely wife, Andrea Callista Graves nee Walsh. It was a most enjoyable read, apparently, we were very close. Oddly enough I seem to have received a number of visions of these events, I assume these were gifted to me by your benefactors. In the end I was most disheartened by the time I read through it all to the pages containing the details of their deaths. Not long after, your family Tapestry appeared in my sitting room and it seems that my dear schoolmate, Percival Graves died on January 1st, 1927. The only surviving Graves being my godson, Percival Ezra Graves. I have had the tapestry placed vault for safekeeping.

 

       Now it is time that I should mention the British Ministry. Once British politics were the pinnacle of honesty and integrity, but it seems over the last seventy odd years they have lost their way. Everything is very weighted towards the Purebloods from the Wizengamot down. To be honest the justice system is a joke, that is, when it isn’t entirely non-existent.  I’ll be there for the hearing, at the proper time too. It seems as though there is more than one person who doesn’t want Headmaster Dumbledore’s interference, and so they have arranged to change the time in hopes of avoiding his presence (it is now two hours earlier). Fortunately, my dear friend Amelia, who holds the British equivalent of your old position, appreciates my sense of dramatics and has promised to keep me posted as to the hearing.

 

      I’ll save the rest until we meet.

 

     Sincerely,

     Seraphina Picquery

 

    There was a small strip of parchment on which Seraphina’s new address was written. Percival gazed at the writing for a moment longer before he folded it up with the letter, tapping the bundle gently against the palm of his other hand. 

 

    “First things first,” he said aloud, turning to Hedwig, who pulled her head out from under her wing to blink at him slowly. “Picquery, was most impressed with you and asked me to ensure that you received the treats that you deserve, so where does Harry keep your treats?”

 

    Hedwig flew to her perch and tapped a small drawer underneath it. Percival opened it, pulled out a couple of treats, dropping them into the dish and then filled up the water bowl from the jug that had been placed on the desk that stood under the window. Hedwig gave a pleased chirrup, in gratitude. 

 

   “You have such nice manners,” he complimented her. The look he got back was clearly an indignant, ‘My Mother didn’t raise an ill-mannered fool’. Percival raised his hands in surrender; he was man enough to allow the owl to have the last word.

 

    Percival cast a wandless ‘tempus’ which showed that it was 6:45am. Not bad for a night full of nightmares; he must have managed almost 6 hours of sleep. His attention was drawn back to the occupied bed as Harry muttered something in his sleep and shifted restlessly. Back at the Dursleys he had warned Percival that he’d had nightmares every night since the end of the Tournament. Though he had noticed that they had stopped once Percival arrived and they had started sleeping in the same bed. Similarly, Percival hadn’t had anything remotely like a full night’s sleep in years, until he met Harry. Interestingly he had noticed that no matter what position they went to sleep in when they woke up, one of Harry’s hands would invariably be touching the Tattoo. 

 

      Over the last few days Harry had started touching the Mark a lot. In fact, even since the Order members had shown up in the Dursleys’ kitchen he’d been much more....tactile. It wasn’t restricted to just touching the Tattoo either; it included laying against him, brushing his hand, even resting his head on his shoulder. Of course, Percival had been touching Harry more as well, he wasn’t sure if it was a way to stake a claim or if it was just a means of reassuring Harry. It could be that being around the others made them both more territorial and as a 39-year-old Percival didn’t want to think about that too deeply. Of course, he was inhabiting a fifteen-year-old body, and it certainly felt like he had the hormones to prove it. Think of it as being a fifteen-year-old with the skills of a thirty-nine-year-old. You will need those skills to be his Shield- the dusty voice whispered into his mind.

 

    Despite what the voice said, Harry was still only fifteen.  A naive and oblivious teen, who had been given no time to contemplate the more intimate facts of life and, Percival was not at all sure where their relationship was heading. Harry… was so vibrant and would only become more so. He was like fire and shadow. He flashed, and hid in unpredictable shifts, like the flickering of firelight. He’d been hidden by the shadows that the others had lain over him, but Percival could see he was shedding the darkness with every day that passed. And it was beautiful! Percival felt as if he could almost glimpse the man Harry would grow to be and it left him aching in a way he never had before.

 

    He was drawn out of his thoughts by a noise from Harry who had begun twisting in his sheets, hands clenching and perspiration beading on his brow. His dream seemed to have progressed from ‘restless’ agitation to ‘violent’ nightmare. Percival took the two steps required to reach Harry’s bedside and knelt down. He reached out a hand to touch the other boy to wake him but paused as Harry vocalised again. It took him a moment to identify the noises that Harry was making in his sleep. They weren't the typical muttering of sleep-talkers instead it sounded almost like...hissing. "Well, that's interesting," he murmured to himself. "Harry," he called softly, "wake up.” The boy moaned and hissed again.

 

    Percival laid his hand on Harry's shoulder, about to shake him awake when he thought better of it. Instead he cupped one cheek and picked up Harry's hand, raising it to his own neck. As he thought, Harry immediately calmed, relaxing into the mattress. 

 

    "Harry," he called again, caressing Harry's cheek with his thumb. 

 

    Harry's eyelashes fluttered briefly before his hand pressed more firmly against Percival's neck, there was a moan and his eyes opened for a moment. Those green eyes were still clouded with sleep when he whispered, voice sleep-rough, "My own," and tugged Percival down on the bed with him. Percival went but held himself stiffly, uncertainly, ensuring minimal body contact, wanting Harry's full consent for whatever might happen. But when Harry simply rubbed noses with him and twinned their free hands together he relaxed and closed his eyes.

 

    That was exactly how Ginny, who was coming to wake them, found them roughly ten minutes later. She had knocked softly on the door and peeked inside, just managing to suppress her surprised gasp at seeing the two lying together on the bed, though the hand resting on the door handle twitched  as her face became emotionless a second before she called out softly, "Breakfast is ready. Come down to the kitchen once the two of you have dressed." Without waiting to see if the boys stirred she turned and left.

 

    Percival sighed and looked down at where Harry had sort of burrowed into his chest. "Harry, wake up, breakfast is ready.” Harry snuggled in further. “If you don't wake up, I'll invite the twins to make sure you get out of bed.”

 

    Harry lifted his head away from Percival’s chest, hand still resting on the Mark. "Now that's jus' evil; why ‘ould you do that to me?" He whinged, sleepily. "Thought you were supposed to be my Shield and protect me, not throw me to those….. those demons." His jaw cracked open with a yawn as he finally opened his eyes fully. Harry looked up at Percival with a confused frown. “Weren't we supposed to be sleeping in different beds?” he asked, cheeks pinking in a way that they hadn’t since about the fourth morning at the Dursley’s.

 

    Percival sat up, dislodging Harry's hand and replied, "We were, however, it looked like you were having a nightmare, so I came over to wake you up. You dragged me into your bed. That was only about fifteen minutes ago, I wasn’t sure if you were fully awake.”

 

   Harry nodded slowly, flushing more strongly. Eyes failing to meet Percival’s. "I had thought I was. Having a nightmare that is. I vaguely remember something about a long corridor though the details are all blurry. More importantly what was that about breakfast?” 

 

   "Hm?" Percival hummed, “Ah, the youngest Weasley, Ginny, knocked, peeked in, and said breakfast was ready and to go down to the kitchen after we've gotten up.”

 

    "Ginny? Not one of the boys or Mrs. Weasley? That’s weird, I would have thought Ron would have been in here trying to escape the twins the minute he woke up. I suppose we shouldn't keep Mrs Weasley waiting; she really will come up after us," Harry commented, subconsciously brushing a small kiss over Percival's cheek as he got up. He staggered slightly on his way to his trunk to retrieve some clothes before departing for the bathroom. Percival blinked and shook his head, dismissing the absent-minded action as the reaction of a sleep addled Harry.

 

   Surprisingly breakfast wasn’t as uncomfortable as might have been expected after the events of the previous evening. Sirius, who was doing everything he could to make up for his perceived failings, dragged Harry in to look at the tapestry on the wall of the parlour as soon as they had finished eating. He explained how it displayed the entire Black family and who they were related to, all the way back to their origins. He pointed out the branch that showed where Dorea Black had married Charlus Potter.  Apparently, they were Harry’s great-great-Grandparents. Dorea hadn’t been disowned for marrying a Potter, because not only was Charlus a pureblood but also a keen businessman and exemplary dueller. Rumour had it that the only person who could best him was Dorea herself. Then they followed the connections down to where there was a tiny picture of Harry. Further up the wall there were other intersections between the two families but that was the limit of Sirius’ knowledge.

 

   Harry reached out a hand to gently touch the blackened place that had once held a picture of his Godfather’s face.

 

  “It must have hurt you so much!” he said sadly. “Having them turn their backs on you.”

 

   Sirius let out a bitter laugh, “honestly by that point I didn’t even want to be on here anymore. I didn’t even feel it when they ripped the family magics from me, I felt like I was more Potter than Black by then.”

 

  “The family magics?” Harry asked curiously.

 

  “Hmm. History or perhaps legend says that back when magic was new to the world, some families performed a task of great value to magic and so each were given a boon or gift. Well I say gift, but some would say they were curses. The Blacks were represented by a set of twins. One was gifted with the mind arts, and the other with the ability to change form, the metamorphmagi. But each gift had a cost.  Blacks are just as likely to go mad or as you have seen with Tonks, metamorphmagi are particularly clumsy. It’s always like that, magic is about balance.”

 

   “So, if the Tonks’ mum was disowned, how is it that Tonks got the gift?”

 

  “Well, that’s one of the unknown mysteries of life I’m afraid,” Sirius shrugged.

 

  “Or she was never disowned at all,” Percival commented, from his position behind them.

 

   “Is that possible?” Harry asked curiously, glancing between the pair.

 

   Sirius ran a hand over his scruffy beard, “I suppose, if magic didn’t agree with the decision, or if the Head of House didn’t do it. I was disowned by dear ‘ole mum, who wasn’t the head of the House, I just assumed that my Grandfather did it later.”

 

  “Is there a way to check?”

 

  “Well, I suppose,” Sirius mumbled as he thought out loud. “I can enter this house because of the Black blood in my veins, but if I wasn’t disowned by magic, then with everyone else being dead I would be the Head. And if I were Lord of the House I would be able to repair the tapestry with a simple….Reparo!”

 

  Just like that several holes on the tapestry filled themselves in.

 

  “Huh! Would you look at that! Uncle Alphard made it back on as well!” Sirius seemed pleased.

 

  “What was the Potter’s gift,” Harry asked eagerly.

 

  Sirius frowned, “I can’t say with certainty as I’m not a Potter, regardless of the fact that they welcomed me into their home. But if I had to guess I would say inventiveness or perhaps creativity. James was always coming up with new pranks and his father invented SleekEazy’s Hair lotion.”

 

  “And the curse?”

 

  “I think that you’ve felt that one already Harry,” Sirius smiled. “You guys have the most damnable luck I have ever borne witness to, it can change from good to bad and back again in half a minute, you need creativity to cope with it.  Maybe that was the gift. Luck the good and the bad.”

 

  There was a crash out in the Hall.

 

  “Tonks! Little Nymphie! Come here,” Sirius yelled, ignoring his Mother as her portrait started its wailing.

 

   The currently red-haired auror walked in, fully dressed in her battle robes, “How many times do I have to tell you- Don’t. Call. Me. Nympho….”

 

   “I didn’t, I called you Nymphie,” Sirius denied with a smirk, to elated to be overly concerned about her hexing . “More importantly look.” He gestured at the wall in front of them.

 

  Tonks’ eyes followed his pointed finger right to the spot on the tapestry where her name was now written in an elegant scroll joined by a line that extended down from her Mother and Father’s names.

 

   “Holy Shite!”

 

  Harry snorted as her hair went white.

 

   “You’ll have to tell Andy, magic never disowned her, it was only my bitch of a Mother!” Sirius crowed.



  When Harry quietly approached Bill and Mr Weasley before they left for work to apologise for his behaviour, they both smiled at him understandingly and told him to ‘think no more about it’, before they headed out the door. Though Harry had found it awkward and embarrassing to talk to them, the warm proud smile that Percival rewarded him with made it worthwhile. 

 

    After breakfast, Hermione and Ginny immediately retreated to the girl’s bedroom to work on their homework, taking a henpecked Ron with them. Hermione made sure that Harry saw her glare as she looked down at him from the stairwell. Harry didn’t know what the twins were doing but supposed that as long as they kept it in their room all was well. With everyone else busy and the house now clean, Percival and Harry were left without much to do for the day, so they grabbed a few things from their room and headed back to the Library.

 

   While Harry finished the last bits of his homework, Percival wandered through shelves, marvelling at some of the titles, being sure to keep his hands in his pockets. Sirius hadn’t been wrong when he said that his family was into the blackest of Magics, at least for the last two centuries. The books were covered in all sorts of curses! However, stepping between the next set of shelves was a revelation.

 

  “Harry!” he called.

 

  “Hmm, where are you?” Harry called back.

 

  As if they were playing ‘Marco-Polo’ Harry followed Percival’s voice until he located the right set of shelves.

 

  “It just keeps going, doesn't it?” Harry questioned, glancing back at the innumerable rows behind them.

 

  “Yeah it appears to be some sort of stacked never-ending extension charm, so that each time a new set of shelves is added to the front a new extension charm is as well.”

 

  “It looks as if you followed it in far enough, it would join up with all the libraries in the world, doesn’t it? There’s so many rows!” Harry said a little wistfully. Once upon a time the library had been a safe place for him to hide from Dudley, that was until the old Librarian left and the new one was in the book club with Aunt Petunia.

 

  Percival suppressed the urge to reach out and squeeze Harry’s arm to disrupt whatever thoughts had put such an expression on his face. “It looks to be roughly a row per every twenty years. At least for the first ten rows Sirius is right, there’s some really nasty dark stuff in there and I don’t want you going near it.”

 

  If Percival hadn’t sounded so deadly serious Harry would have protested just on the principle of not being told what he could and couldn’t do, but this was obviously the Shield speaking so he nodded his acceptance instead.

 

   “The interesting thing is,” Percival continued, “that from here back it looks much more even in representation.” He carefully removed a book from the shelf to show Harry the cover- A Treatise in the Exploration of Healing Charms - by Morgan Asclepius. “They don’t come any lighter than that!”

 

  “Right,” Harry set his jaw and turned on his heal.

 

  “Where are you going?” Percival called after him.

 

  “To get Sirius!” Harry called back.

 

  He found Sirius ensconced at the kitchen table, receiving an ear bashing from Mrs Weasley. Fortunately, Harry, alerted by the voices that he could hear through the closed door, didn’t go barging straight in.

 

   “You need to do something with that boy! He’s being so disrespectful. It’s clear to see that he gets it from you, you need to set him a better example. Staying up late! Dri……”

 

  Harry pushed the door open and interrupted calmly, “Please explain to me Mrs Weasley, how exactly Sirius has been a bad example for me when I have literally seen him less than 5 times that I can remember.”

 

  Mrs Weasley paused in her diatribe, stunned that Harry had spoken to her in such a dreadful way once again. She turned to face him straight on, with her hands on her hips.

 

  “That is exactly what I mean Harry, you can’t speak to me that way. It’s completely disrespectful and how you spoke to the Headmaster last night is just not on! I won’t have it in my house.”

 

  “Well it’s lucky that this isn’t your house then isn’t it!” Harry said snarkily before she could get up anymore steam.

 

  “Well I never! You do not speak to you Mother that way young man!” she raised her hand….

 

   Harry flinched violently before gathering himself turning his momentary fear into anger and roaring at her, “YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER!”

 

    Mrs Weasley yelled back without pause, clenching and unclenching her hand threateningly, “I’M AS GOOD AS YOUR MOTHER, NO ONE ELSE WAS THERE FOR YOU. I TOOK YOU INTO MY HOME, I FED YOU, I RAISED YOU….” 

 

   “YOU TOOK ME IN FOR LESS THAN TWO WEEKS EACH OF THE LAST THREE SUMMERS, AND FOR YOUR INFORMATION I WAS RAISED IN A FUCKING CUPBOARD!”

 

   Smack! 

 

   Mrs Weasley bought her open palm down hard across Harry’s face, his head jerked roughly to the side.

 

   The world stopped. Then pandemonium broke out as Harry slowly folded in on himself and crumpled to the floor. Sirius stood up not caring that his chair slammed backwards onto the floor as he charged to place himself between the pair, arms akimbo. Percival came sprinting into the room and skidded to a stop on his knees with his arms around Harry, his back to Mrs Weasley. There was the thunder of footsteps as all of the children burst from the upstairs rooms and ran down the stairs.

 

   “You will not lie to me again Harry James Potter,” Mrs Weasley spat at the child who was cowering in front of her.

 

    Harry turned his red-marked faced away from her. 

 

    It was Ron who ground out through clenched teeth, “In my first letter home from Hogwarts I told you! I told he was too thin, he knew nothing of magic and he wouldn’t get changed in front of anyone.”

 

   The twins took over, “Before his second year we rescued him from the Dursley’s and we told you that they kept him locked up, there were bars on the windows, deadbolts and a cat flap on the door….”

 

  “See he was in a room,” Mrs Weasley began vindicated!

 

  The twins spoke over her, “WE TOLD you that we had to recover his trunk from where it was locked up in the cupboard under the stairs, where it sat on a thin cot mattress, with a small broken top and a picture labelled Harry’s Cupboard stuck to the wall.”

 

   Ginny added barely louder than a whisper, “I told you in his third year, that I snuck into the quidditch change rooms to wish the twins good luck before a game and saw the scars on his back.” She glanced over at the boy who was huddled on the floor, “Sorry Harry.”

 

   Ron summarised, “We told you mum. They starved him, they beat him and yes, they raised him in a cupboard! A couple of weeks every year does not make up for that no matter how much we wish it could. Maybe if you had stood up to the Headmaster and actually taken him in like we all asked you too, even Percy. Maybe then, you could claim to be as good as his Mother. But Mum think about this, his Mum died for him, literally died for him and I know, without a shadow of a doubt that you would do that for any of us, even when we’re being prays, like Percy is at the moment. Would you do it for Harry?”

 

  The answer was written her eyes for them all to see.

 

  “Well then don’t try and act like his Mother,” Ron reached out a hand and placed it on her shoulder. “To be honest Mum, he doesn’t need that from you. He needs people who are there for him, who can give him advice and guidance when he asks for it, not people who berate him for having his own thoughts and feelings. I didn’t stand by him last year like I should have, and I’ll always regret that. So, I’ll stand by him now.”

 

  With a sob Mrs Weasley turned and fled from the kitchen. None of them knew where to look, as a strained silence fell over the group. It was the twins who broke first.

 

  “Uh…right,” said Fred.

 

  “Yes well,” added George.

 

  “On that note I think we…”

 

  “Have an experiment that is….”

 

   “About to blow at any……”

 

   KABOOM

  

   “There it goes,” they finished together and bolted out of the room.

 

    Hermione, Ron and Ginny looked around a little awkwardly before making their excuses and following the twins. When the room was empty Sirius turned to join the two boys on the floor. With teary eyes, he reached out to touch Harry, but Percival intercepted his hand and said “Don’t!”

 

    It was then that Sirius truly looked at his Godson. Harry was curled up in a small ball, muttering to himself, a barely audible litany of ‘I didn’t do it,’ ‘please believe me,’ and ‘stop it, it hurts’.

 

     “Oh Merlin! Harry,” Sirius ignored the waterfall of tears streaming down his face and reached for his Godson once more.

 

  “He’s having a flashback,” came a quietly spoken voice, making Sirius freeze again. “I could see that things hadn’t been good in that house, just from the few days that I was there. After the incident with the Dementors his Aunt started to come round, but his Uncle……”

 

   “Aunt and Uncle?” Sirius asked.

 

   “That he’s been living with,” Percival supplied. “His Mum’s sister.”

 

   “He’s been living with Petunia and Vernon!” Sirius squawked. Percival nodded. “Oh Harry, I’m so sorry!”

 

   Percival ignored him in favour of gently prising one of Harry’s hands away from his chest and rubbing circles on it so that it relaxed enough that he could press it to his Tattoo. “Come back to me Harry,” he muttered.

 

   “Why do you do that?” Sirius asked indicating the hand when Percival glanced up.

 

  Percival just shrugged, “I don’t actually know. It just helps.” 

 

   True to his word, Harry’s breathing was slowing, and his body was relaxing, a minute later and they were able to sit him up leaning against Percival’s chest, arm still bent up against his neck, while Sirius conjured a glass and charmed some water into it.

    

   “Here Harry, have a drink,” Sirius coaxed. Harry absently reached out his free hand to take the cup and sipped the water. Several more minutes passed before he had fully returned to himself and Sirius felt he should break the tension.

 

  “Now Harry not that I am not grateful for you defending my honour like the damsel in distress that I am, but what was it that you actually wanted?”

 

  Harry stared at him blankly for a minute before he remembered, “Oh, Percival discovered the most amazing thing in the library Sirius, and it proves that you are a world class prat!”

 

  Sirius raised an eyebrow, “Well I’m sure that Moony could have told you that if you’d just asked but come on you’d better show me.” He helped haul both boys to their feet and followed them to the library.

 

  Sirius had never been more stunned in his life. He was a hundred percent sure that this area hadn’t been there the last time he had entered the library, just the afternoon before the boys had arrived. He wasn’t sure whether it had been the magic that had cleaned the house or his act of renewing the tapestry as Lord of the House that had done it. Either way he was impressed.

 

  After half an hour’s quiet exploration he turned to Harry, “I believe I owe you an apology.  To think that I almost caused you to miss out on all of this! This might just be a history we can both be proud of!” He wrapped an arm around his Godson’s shoulders as they stood looking at the shelves. Then Sirius grinned, “Moony is going to flip!”

 

   “Yeah Hermione…” Harry stopped and swallowed.

 

   “Yeah. About that, what’s up between you and Hermione?” Sirius asked gently. Percival backed away slowly, if Sirius was going to step up and start acting like an adult that Harry could rely on, he certainly wasn’t going to stop him, but Merlin help him if he let Harry down again.

 

    “I’m just…..she…argh,” Harry stopped and took a deep breath. “First of all, she practically called me a liar when I told her how much of my summer homework I had managed to get done at the Dursleys. I get, that me having done so much is unusual, but this summer they locked me in my room with my trunk instead of locking it in the cupboard, which I explained. And I kind of had time to think, it sounds like Mum and Dad were brilliant, you know? And part of me wants to live up to that, but until I went to Hogwarts no one cared how well I did, or rather they just believed that if I did better than Dudley that I must have been cheating or lying. So, it really hurt for her to imply that. Then on top of that she told me, didn’t ask me mind you, told me, that she should check over my summer homework to make sure that it was done right. As if I didn’t know how. I know I haven’t put in my best effort before now, but I was worried what the Dursley’s would say and Ron never wanted to study, and he was my first friend. Then with everything that has gone on with Voldemort, it’s hard to keep track of everything.”

 

   Harry took several breaths, “She doesn’t listen to me, when I try and tell her something. I know I shouldn’t have snapped at her the way that I did but…..”

 

   Harry startled as arms wrapped him up in a hug. Sirius’ voice spoke from above his head, “You’re frustrated and angry. It’s ok to feel that way.” He raised his hands to Harry’s shoulders as he pulled away to look into the green eyes, “It’s ok to want your friends to support you and to tell them that too. What you have to decide is what you want to do next. Are you just going to wait and see if she gets over this? Are you going to apologise but still be firm about what you said? Or are you prepared to let this friendship go? Your Mum had a fight with her best friend in our fifth year and even though he apologised she refused to forgive him, by the time she realised that she had forgiven him and didn’t actually want to let him go it was all too late. I know she came to regret it. I’m not saying one option is right and another wrong, just think about what you want.”

 

  Harry, considered everything that Sirius had said, “She’s one of my only friends, I…I don’t want to lose her, but I don’t want her acting like my mother either,” he grimaced. “I’m not sure how to tell her that though.”

 

  “Sometimes straight up is the easiest way.” Sirius shrugged. “Now let’s explore, who knows what we’ll find in here!”



  It was several hours later that they noticed something odd, no-one had come to find them. In that time Harry had found several interesting books that had assisted with revising his homework. Percival was curled up in a comfortable chair, that had suddenly appeared, reading an ancient Tome on defence charms and Sirius had found a journal belonging to Hardwin Black a spell crafter from the 16th century which was as deep as they had managed to progress into the shelves. Harry’s stomach rumbled and there was an echoing growl from Percival.

 

  Sirius looked up, “Surely we haven’t been here that long?” 

 

  Percival quickly checked the time, it was 2 o’clock in the afternoon!

 

  “Well goodness! No wonder you boys are hungry! Kreacher.”

 

  “Ungrateful Master, Mistress’ disappointment, breaks her heart he does,” the house elf muttered.

 

  “Stop that!” Sirius snapped.

 

  “Sirius!” Harry cried out aghast. “Don’t speak to him that way.”

 

  “Harry he’s a …” 

 

  Harry could see that Sirius was about spew forth insults, “He’s a product of his training, just like Dobby.”

 

  “Master Harry Potter called for Dobby!” a voice squeaked.

 

  “Dobby! I don’t think you’re supposed to be here,” Harry exclaimed in surprise.

 

  “Harry, a house elf can always find his master regardless of the wards that separate them,” Percival stated. “Only a house elf can ward a dwelling against other elves.”

 

  “But I’m not Dobby’s master. Dobby is a free elf,” Harry stated emphatically. Percival raised an eyebrow at the small elf.

 

   “Wait a second, I know you,” Sirius said. “You’re the Malfoy’s elf, why are you here?” his voice was gruff, and Dobby cringed away.

 

  “Stop it Sirius! I tricked Malfoy into freeing him in my second year,” 

 

  Meanwhile Percival was still staring at the elf, Dobby was trying not to look abashed. “Dobby is there something that you would like to tell Harry?”

 

  Dobby let out a high-pitched giggle and twisted his hands in his tea towel, “Mr Harry Potter Sir. Dobby hasn’t told the truths exactly. Dobby did wants to be free from the old Masters but House Elves be no goods as free elves. They gets depressed like Winky.”

 

  Harry was horrified, “But you’ve been free for two years! Are you alright?”

 

  Dobby just smiled in his beatific way, “I’s been waiting for my Wizard to wants to have a House Elf.”

 

  “Well who is it then? We have to tell them!” Harry asked anxiously. Sirius burst out laughing, while Percival rested his forehead in his hands. How was Harry so oblivious?

 

  Dobby reached out a hand palm forward, “Will yous be my Wizard Master Harry Potter Sir?”

 

  Harry was gobsmacked, “You want me?” Dobby nodded. “You’ll have a wear a clean uniform and have a wage,” Harry stated firmly, Dobby grimaced, “And days off,” Dobby pulled his ears, “There’ll be no punishments,” Harry warned, Dobby gave a squeak and dropped his arms to his sides, “and if you’re ill you’ll tell me, and you’ll rest until you are better!” Harry finished. 

 

   Dobby nodded and raised his hand again.

 

   Harry looked to Sirius, “What do I do?”

 

   “Just raise your hand and press your palm to his and ask Magic to bind this elf to you.”

 

  “Can Magic say no?”

 

  Sirius shrugged, “I suppose so, though I can’t see why.”

 

  It only took a moment to perform the little ritual and the change that washed over Dobby was instantaneous, his skin took on a healthy glow and he grew a whole inch.

 

  “What dids Master Harry want from his Dobby?” 

 

 “Oh, um, we were just wanting some lunch?” Harry asked unsurely. Dobby popped out of the room.

 

  “Well Kreacher,” Sirius said uncomfortably. “I guess unless you can tell us why no-one has found us since we’ve been in here, I’m sorry to have interrupted your morning.”

 

  Kreacher looked at Sirius and stopped his mutterings to answer, “Master and Half-blood bast….”

 

  “Stop! Kreacher you will not call my Godson that horrible word,” Sirius ordered. “Just answer the ruddy question!”

 

  “Black library is only for Black Lord and Heir.”

 

  “So how come Percival could come in?” Harry asked curiously.

 

  Kreacher looked the visitor up and down, “Touched by the Gods he is!” was all he muttered before popping out.  

 

  Sirius was stopped from questioning Percival by the appearance of Dobby with a tray of sandwiches, fruit and butter beer.

 

  “Thanks Dobby, this is great,” Harry praised the elf, who squeaked and disappeared with a pop much to Sirius’ amusement.

 

  “So, I guess at least one of us should make an appearance this afternoon,” Sirius commented as they finished their lunch. Percival and Harry glanced at each other. 

 

  Harry obviously lost the non-verbal argument as he sighed, “Fine I’ll go and speak to Hermione.”

 

  “Buckbeak is in my parent’s bedroom if you need somewhere to talk!” Sirius called out as Harry walked away. 

 

   Sirius turned around to face the dark-haired boy, “So do you want to explain what ‘Touched by the Gods’ means?”

 

  Percival sighed, “How good are your Occlumency shields?”

 

  Sirius pulled a face, “They got ripped to shreds in Azkaban. I’ve been working on improving them since Harry set me straight last night. I didn’t realise how bad they were.”

 

  “Well to put it bluntly, it will have to wait until you are sure that not even Dumbledore can get through them,” Percival said firmly.

 

  “Well I suppose that’s fair…..Wait Dumbledore? Surely you mean Volde…. ah, what was his name again, Riddle?”

 

  At least Sirius was thinking about the things that he’d been told. Percival shrugged, “I don’t know about Riddle, but the Headmaster made obvious last night that he has no qualms about using legilimency, and I doubt I would have been able to hold him out too long if I hadn’t called him on it.”

 

  “Hmmm, what about Harry, does he know?”

 

  Percival nodded, “Yes he does, as does my guardian. However, we need to teach Harry occlumency as soon as possible. I’ve started teaching him to meditate but anything more will have to wait till after the trial.”

 

  “Perhaps it’s something he and I could work on together,” Sirius said consideringly.

 

   “Another thing, have you had a health check since you escaped Azkaban?”

 

  Sirius shook his head, and gave a bitter bark, “Ha! There is actually a dearth of healers in the Order. Not that I could convince them to look me over anyhow, none of them trust me. Despite being happy enough to come into my family home and use my funds to cover their expenses.”

 

  Seeing that the older man’s anger was building again, Percival cut in, “And have you talked to anyone about it?”

 

  “Only Moony, but the trust we once had is gone. He believed I was the spy and I believed he was. We’re repairing things slowly, but it will be a while before I feel like I can tell him everything.”

 

  Percival studied Sirius. “I’m sneaking Harry out tomorrow,” he said quietly, throwing a hand up to stop Sirius from interrupting. “We’re going to see my guardian, she’s arranged for a healer to come and look over Harry. I don’t like that he’s so thin, and there’s something very wrong with that scar. I doubt everything for Harry will be addressed in one meeting, so I can ask if they would mind seeing you as well, if you’d like?” he offered.

 

  “I…I…don’t know what to say,” Sirius was genuinely touched by the gesture.

 

  “You’re important to Harry. You’re his family. Returning you to health will help stop him from worrying, and if you are more stable then you can help him as well. I think we both know that he needs all the help he can get.”

 

  Sirius nodded, “Then yes please, I would appreciate it if you could have a word to the healer.” He glanced to the side, as another thought occurred to him. “Actually, while you’re out could you also get Harry in touch with a lawyer, I think the Potters had one on retainer, it might help him with the trial. It was McMillans I think.”

 

  Percival nodded. He would have to send Hedwig back to Picquery with the name. Percival wondered if they would also take on the case of a Lord who had been imprisoned erroneously, there was no harm in asking.




   After leaving the other two bickering behind him, Harry headed back towards the kitchen. Discovering that it was empty, he retraced his steps to the stairwell. He stopped for a moment on the first-floor landing to listen to the noises coming from the twin’s bedroom, at least it sounded like they were making the most of the Triwizard money. Ignoring the dread that was pooling in his stomach he gathered himself to climb the set of stairs to the landing outside of the room the girls were sleeping in. Once there he politely tapped on the door, pushing it open when there was a response but not entering the room. The three in the room looked up at him from their positions on the beds, Ron was sat next to Hermione on one and Ginny had her legs stretched out on her own bed. When she saw who was at the door, she tucked her knees up and patted the bedspread with a coy smile.

 

   “Come in Harry,” she invited.

 

  “Ah, thanks Gin, but I’d like to have a word with Hermione if I could,” he was proud of how he kept the tremor out of his voice. He was still trying to convince himself that there was no need for him to be nervous, she was one of his best friends after all. 

 

  Hermione, nodded face blank.

 

  “Um,” Harry started, “Instead of disturbing Ginny and Ron’s work,” he gestured to the papers spread out in-front of them, Ron grimaced, “Sirius mentioned Buckbeak was here as well, perhaps we could go and visit,” he suggested.

 

  Hermione nodded sharply again and rose without saying anything. Harry stepped back to let her through the doorway and followed her, to another room on the same floor. Buckbeak stirred as they opened the door, Harry bowed low and waited for the Hippogriff to reciprocate before they entered.

 

  Scratching the animal’s head, he murmured, “I wondered how you were doing, Buckbeak. I bet Hagrid is missing you.” Buckbeak chirruped and nuzzled into Harry’s hand. Harry continued patting until he noticed a tapping noise, it took him a moment to realise that an otherwise silent Hermione was standing with her arms crossed leaning against the door, tapping her foot impatiently, frowning at him.

 

  “Ah sorry,” Harry blushed. He swallowed, “Right well, first things first. I have a bit to say to you and I don’t want you to cut me off. Do you think you can be patient and hear me out? Because if you can’t there’s no point me even starting,” he asked in the gentlest voice he could manage. 

 

    Hermione scowled but nodded.

 

  “Right, good, thanks for that,” Harry babbled a bit nervously before stopping, he noticed Hermione’s lips twist slightly upwards before she stopped them. “Ok, Hermione, you are…..one of my very best friends and that friendship means the world to me. I know that I didn’t speak to you well yesterday, I was extremely stressed over a few things but that is no excuse for how I spoke to you and for that I apologise.” 

 

   She gave him a half smile that stalled a bit as he continued to speak, “What I don’t apologise for is the points that I made.” Harry continued speaking quickly as he saw Hermione take a breathe in and her lips start to move. “Let me explain, growing up any time I actually did well at school I got accused of lying and cheating so I stopped trying at all. So, to have just come from that house and for you to imply that I was lying about the work I had done was very hurtful. I understand that I don’t normally get to do any homework before I get on the train, but I thought you were aware that it has always been because the Dursley’s lock up my trunk at the start of the Holidays, especially as I had specifically made the point that they had locked my trunk in my room this year.”

 

  Hermione’s look of shame spoke volumes, but Harry continued on, “Hermione, being in that Graveyard and seeing Cedric die, had a huge impact on me. It changed everything. Riddle isn’t going to stop, no matter what I do, if I’m to have any chance of surviving this war or whatever it is, then I need to up my game. I can’t afford to not put in the work now, or I’ll die the next time I face him. The luck that I’ve had so far isn’t going to be enough. So, I have been working through all of my text books. I have re-done everything starting at first year, including reviewing every assignment I’ve done for the teachers notes. I know you’re intelligent, there’s no doubt about that, but I am not dumb! Which was another thing that the Dursleys always called me. I need to have the teachers provide me with feedback and make mistakes on my own so that I can learn from them. I would have thought that, that was something that you could respect.”

 

  He raised shy green eyes to meet her brown ones.

 

  With a smug nod she said, “I accept your apology Harry. And I must say that I am pleased at your new focus. I trust that you’ll be joining us to finish off your homework?”

 

  Harry coughed, slightly embarrassed, “Um actually I finished the last of it earlier today. I’m going to leave it now until after the trial, because I’ll be too nervous to pick up any errors. But I’m intending to proof read it again before we go back to school, assuming that I’m not expelled.”

 

  “Well, ok then,” Hermione huffed. “Where were you today? You didn’t come to lunch! You can’t afford to miss meals you know….”

 

  Harry interrupted her in a quiet but firm voice, “I’d like to remind you that you’re my friend and not my mother Hermione. Percival and I ate with Sirius, we just got distracted and were late.”

 

  “But what were you doing?” 

 

  By this point they had returned to the landing outside the girl’s room, they continued speaking as they descended to the ground floor.

 

  “Hermione, you know it isn’t actually any of your business and I already told you, I was finishing my homework,” Harry said flatly.

 

  “But you didn’t say where you were, and I know it wasn’t in your room, because we checked.”

 

  Harry’s face went blank, “Are you telling me that you entered our room without permission?” He only had one safe place at the Dursley’s, his cupboard because Vernon couldn’t fit, and no private place at Hogwarts. The room here had felt like it was both, despite sharing it with Percival. He couldn’t his finger on why he didn’t want Hermione in there, but it felt like that space had now been violated.

 

  “Harry,” she snorted dismissively, “why should you care if we go in there? Besides, Ron’s stuff is in there too.”

 

   “So, you’re telling me Ron went into the room and invited you in?” Harry confirmed, he could see that happening. That wasn’t so bad, Ron’s stuff was in there after all.

 

  “No, of course not, as if Ron would miss a meal, he went down to lunch, but I’m sure he would have if we’d asked.”

 

  Harry huffed, but still tried to explain, “That’s not the point Hermione. It’s just plain rude to go into someone’s room without asking, especially when they aren’t there. How do you know I wasn’t in the bathroom?”

 

  “Because I checked of course,” she stated as if that was to be expected. “Ginny doesn’t like the shampoo you’re using at the moment, did you know? You’ll have to change it.”

 

  Harry blinked at her, he couldn’t even comprehend all the things that were wrong with that statement, but it started with how did they know what his shampoo smelt like, and ended with why should Ginny get a say in his bath products. “Hermione, I have no words for what I am feeling right now. In future please respect our privacy and don’t come into our room again unless you have been invited.”

 

  “Of course, you have no words Harry, you’re a teenage boy. You’re probably a little confused most of the time,” there was that patronising tone again.

 

  Harry blinked at her again, “I mean it Hermione. Think about it, we are teenage boys! Who knows what we could be getting up to in there?” Harry tried to make his voice heavy with innuendo, like he had heard the twins do.  Maybe it was because he wasn’t a hundred percent sure what boys could get up to himself but Hermione still wasn’t getting it.

 

  Suddenly Fred, stuck his head over the balcony, “Yeah Harry could be blowing things up.”

 

  “Or he could just be blow…” Ron appeared suddenly and wrapped a hand around Fred’s mouth, pulling him back into their room.

 

   Harry blushed, “Right. Oh, and just so that you know. Ron’s in with the twins, we’re only letting him keep his stuff in our room, so they don’t prank it. So, it actually isn’t his room at all!” 

 

  With that last comment Harry stepped off the last stair and pushed passed her so he could enter the parlour. He shut the door behind himself quickly and listened to her walking away as he leaned against the door with his eyes closed.

 

  “It went that well then?” Sirius asked looking up from his book, as Harry entered the room through the door on the other side.

 

  Harry gave a wry smile, “I’m not sure how it went, actually. I think I’ll call it a work in progress. On one hand she was pleased with my new attitude to study, on the other hand I don’t think she understands personal boundaries.”

 

  “Personal boundaries?” Sirius quirked a brow.

 

  Harry nodded, “Uh-huh, like how she shouldn’t just wander in to a teenage boy’s bedroom, because you never know what could be going on in there.”

 

  Sirius chortled. “And have there been things going on in your bedroom Harry?” He laughed again at Harry’s blush, and caught the cushion that was thrown at him. “Would you like there to be things going on in there Harry?” he waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

 

  “Sirius stop it!” Harry complained blushing a furious red.

 

  “Is that it then?” Sirius asked as he settled down.

 

  “She also can’t seem to understand that I don’t need to tell her every little thing about my life, like what I had for lunch and where I’ve been all day. And that she doesn’t get to dictate those things for me either.” 

 

  “Did you lose your temper?” Percival asked coming into the room.

 

  Harry shook his head a little proudly, “Nope.”

 

  “Well done.” Sirius looked thoughtful for a moment, “Kreacher!” he called.

 

  “Yes, Mistress’ disappointment,” the elf grumbled.

 

  Sirius frowned but ignored the comment, “Does Regulus’ room still have a lock?” Kreacher nodded. “I had been trying to avoid using Reggie’s old room, but it might just solve one problem. Kreacher I am allowing Harry and his friend to use Regulus’ old room, please move their things into it.”

 

  Kreacher began to mutter, “Poor Master Regulus! His room desecrated.”

 

  “Kreacher!” Harry called stopping him, “We promise that we will respect Regulus’ room, we will take care not to break anything and we will disrupt it as little as possible. Please remove anything that is valuable or otherwise precious and store it away carefully.”

 

  Kreacher eyed the pair sternly, then gave a nod and popped away. 

 

  Sirius was stunned, “That was the most polite I’ve ever seen him act towards anyone who wasn’t my Mother or Brother, and I’m Sirius.”

 

  Harry turned to look at him, “I cannot believe you just said that!”

 

  Sirius grinned, “So what are you two going to do with the rest of the afternoon?



Chapter Text

 

  Harry and Percival whiled away the afternoon hours in the library before emerging into the, now, brightly lit, parlour where they found Ron sitting on the couch staring at the place where Cedrella Weasley, nee Black, had been burnt from the family tree. Unfortunately, she hadn’t been restored when Sirius had repaired the tapestry. It was odd to see the normally gregarious boy sitting quietly by himself. He blinked rapidly as they emerged into the room with him.

 

  “This is where you’ve been hiding? Seriously all that fuss and you’ve been in ruddy the library the whole time!” 

 

   Harry grinned sheepishly. “Is Hermione still trying to find out where we’ve been?” Ron nodded, grinning at Harry wince.

 

  “Yeah, she wouldn’t stop going on about it.  It was ruddy annoying actually. Which is why I’m hiding in here. They checked the library earlier and couldn’t find you, so they left. Even your bedroom isn’t safe Mate.”

 

  “Yeah about that Ron,” Harry rubbed a hand through his hair absent mindedly. “Sirius has come up with another option for us. He’s convinced Kreacher to move us into the room next to his.”

 

  “Blimey. Really?” Harry nodded, “That House Elf hasn’t let anyone near that room since we arrived!”

 

  “Yeah well, he’s been convinced now, so if Percival and I move up there, you can move back to your old room and have it to yourself again.” 

 

  Ron grinned, “And the girls won’t know where you’ve gone at least for a day or so, so that you’ll get some peace and quiet, yeah?”

 

  “And see that right there is why you’re my best mate!” Harry tried to sling an arm around Ron’s shoulders but due to the height difference couldn’t reach and ended up with it wrapped around his friend’s torso instead. Ron pushed the arm off, grabbed Harry around the neck, bent him forwards and rubbed a hand harshly over his hair, making it messier than usual.

 

 “Oi, leave off!” Harry a squirming complained.

 

  Ron released him, and moved to the door, before he turned the handle he glanced back at Harry, “You still on for tomorrow?” he sked quietly.

 

  Harry nodded, and Percival replied, “Yeah we have to be out of here before eight. We’ll need to use the floo.” 

 

  The three teens poured through the doorway and led by their growling stomachs headed straight for the kitchen.

 

  Unusually the kitchen was shrouded in silent darkness, there was no fire in the grate and the sconces weren’t lit. Mrs Weasley was nowhere to be seen. Harry looked at the floor guiltily, correctly assuming that this was a consequence of the argument that had taken place that morning. Percival reached out a hand and rubbed Harry’s neck, murmuring that it wasn’t his fault.

 

   Harry frowned determinedly, he’d caused this he could at least deal with it! “Dobby, Kreacher!” he called, his voice only catching a litte. 

 

    Sirius entered and stopped as he heard Harry’s voice. The House Elves popped into existence before the boy.

 

   “Master Harry called Dobby?”

 

  “Halfblood,” the rest of what Kreacher was going to say devolved into inaudible mutterings at a sharp look from Sirius.

 

  “Ok, Kreacher first. What food is there in the house to prepare for dinner? There needs to be enough to feed at least a dozen.”

 

  Kreacher muttered a little while longer before answering, “There be fish, and lettuce, tomatoes….”

 

  “Fish and salad then, would you mind placing the ingredients out on the bench for me? Later I would like it if you’d show me where to find everything, please. Dobby would you mind helping me make dinner?” Dobby nodded happily. Harry paused in thought, “What do you eat Dobby?”

 

  “House Elves eats leftovers of Master’s foods or special berries growing in magic places.”

 

  “Do you have enough?” Dobby nodded. “Ok, just let me know if you don’t, so that we can fix that ok?” As expected Dobby burst into tears, Harry patted him gently on the head and directed him into the kitchen.

 

  “He really is incredible, isn’t he,” Sirius said proudly watching the boy prepare their dinner. Ron and Percival hummed their agreement.

 

  “I’ll need help with the charms to keep the food fresh if you know them Sirius. Bill said he’d be late today and who knows when Mrs Weasley will feel like eating,” Harry said as he plated up the last servings, ensuring that he had two small plates set aside for the Elves. 

 

   Sirius approached the bench, “Now it was your Mother that taught me these charms Harry, so I want you to pay close attention. You can look them up when you get to school and practice them there.” 

 

   He waved his wand over each plate, carefully designating which areas were to be kept cool and which warm, Harry watched him avidly. Just as Sirius was finishing, the floo flared green and Mr Weasley strode out. Grabbing two plates, Harry began to carry them to the table.

 

  “Dobby could you set out the cutlery please? Ron could you let the others know that dinner is ready? Sirius, Percival would you find the cups and water jugs please? Mr Weasley, I think Mrs Weasley would appreciate it if you visited her first.” Mr Weasley nodded and hurried up the stairs in search of his wife.

 

  A thundering down the stairs heralded the arrival of Ron with the twins, Ginny and Hermione all following him. Ron entered the room and without any fuss took a seat at the table while the other teens, stopped on the bottom stair in confusion.

 

  “Where’s Mum?” Ginny asked, looking around curiously.

 

  “Not sure,” Sirius stated, elegantly raising one shoulder. “However, it was getting on to tea time and it’s only fair that she should have a rest, so Harry volunteered to cook.”

 

  The twins crossed their arms and looked at Harry clearly doubting the statement, “You made this Harrykins?”

 

  Harry, hummed.

 

  “Really Harry!”” Hermione admonished, “It’s not even a funny joke.” She scowled at Sirius as she pulled a chair out from the table not bothering to lift it fully and making the legs screech against the floorboards.

 

  “Well believe us or not, it’s up to you,” Sirius frowned at them. “Regardless this is dinner and it’s all that will be provided so you might as well sit down and eat it.”

 

  From his place between Percival and Ron, Harry sat looking at his plate, a sour feeling growing in his stomach, “I think I’ve lost my appetite.” He reached a hand out to push his plate away, but Percival rested his hand on Harry’s forearm and Ron gripped his shoulder on the other side.

 

  “Just eat a little, who cares what they think? We all saw you make it.” Ron stated quietly.

 

  Harry pulled back his plate and encouraged by Ron and Percival began to eat, ignoring the various comments made by Ginny and Hermione. Not long after that, Bill appeared and sat down without ceremony to begin his meal.

 

  “This isn’t Mum’s food,” he said after a few mouthfuls. Inspecting the piece fish, he had speared with his fork. “And it hasn’t been made by House Elf magic, so who do I have to thank for dinner?” He glanced expectantly towards the girls.

 

  Ginny raised her hands in the air, “Don’t look at me, you know I’m useless with house hold charms.”

 

  The twins glanced consideringly at Harry, “Harrykins said earlier….”

 

   “That he cooked…..”

 

   “But we want to know….”

 

  “If he can cook, then why…”

 

   Harry slammed his cutlery down onto the table and pushed back his chair with a sharp scrapping sound. Not making eye contact with anyone he left the room.

 

   “Seriously, you know how they treated him. You’ve seen how thin he is at the start of each year. Is it any stretch of the imagination to assume that they would make him cook and then deny him food?” Ron said sharply.

 

   The twins winced.

 

   “Really Ron, you shouldn’t be encouraging his behaviour. You’re enabling him!” Hermione crossed her arms and rocked back in her chair. “Of course, dinner was made by your Mum. Bill can’t possibly tell who made it! That’s ridiculous. She obviously knew she would be busy and made it earlier, preserving it under some charms until it was time.”

 

  Bill looked at her with a raised eyebrow but didn’t say anything. Clearly there was something going on here that he wasn’t aware of, he would have to ask one of his brothers later.

 

  Ron scowled stubbornly, “Hermione you didn’t grow up with Bill so you don’t know what he can and can’t do. And you weren’t in the kitchen when dinner was made, so again you didn’t see what happened. Just because you didn’t see it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.”

 

  Hermione huffed and got up leaving her empty plate and dirty cutlery behind on the table as she retreated to her room. Ginny followed her.

 

  Turning to Ron, Bill asked, “So what’s going on?”

 

  Ron groaned and dropped his head to the table with a thunk, “To make a long story short, Mum and Harry had a fight today, the twins and I sided with Harry. So Mum’s spent the entire day in her room. At least with think she is as we haven’t seen her. Dad went in to talk to her.”

 

  “Was she honestly in the wrong?”

 

  “She got mad at him for speaking to his ‘Mother’ poorly.”  Bill could hear the inverted commas. He loved his Mum a great deal, but she did try to mother anyone that entered the house whether they wanted it or not.

 

    Bill winced, “I bet that went over well.”

 

  “About as well as can be expected, especially when she followed it up by telling him not to lie about how he is treated at the Dursley’s.”

 

  Bill was a bit confused by that, as the subject hadn’t come up in any of the letters his brothers had sent him over the years, so Ron had to explain a little of what he had seen and observed about Harry’s home life.

 

  “I notice that third member of your trio doesn’t seem to be siding with Harry?”

 

  Ron groaned, straightening up enough to put his elbow on the table and rest his chin in the palm of his hand, “That’s another thing. Harry and Hermione had a fight too.” A raised eyebrow encouraged him to continue. “Normally Harry doesn’t get much if any of his homework done in the summer and he has to do it on the train. This year was an exception. Only Hermione didn’t believe him, so she told him to stop lying. And then when he wouldn’t back down she insisted that she should go over what he’d done to fix it for him, because he obviously hadn’t done it right. He admitted that he’d been a bit rude, but he’s apologised for the way he spoke to her. Only now he’s started noticing other things that she does. Like wanting to know where he is all the time, what he’s eaten, everything. She’ll just wander into our room at any time, even the bathroom. It’s a bit much.”

 

  Bill reached out and ruffled his youngest brother’s hair. “Geroff Bill!”

 

  “Seriously though Ron. How are you doing?”

 

   The younger boy shrugged, “It’s hard, I like Hermione. I really do. The things she’s been saying, I’d never thought about it before, and well Harry’s right. She wouldn’t say those things if she thought he was smart. She really shouldn’t be telling him what he can and can’t do, she’s a friend not his mother. It’s hard ‘cause I’m stuck in the middle, and she talks to me the same way but what can I do?”

 

  The taller boy reached out and gave his brother a hug, “Be calm, be patient, be the voice of reason,” he advised.

 

  “Bill, this is me you’re talking to, be serious!”

 

   “You’ll figure it out Ron.”

 

  A footstep sounded and Mrs Weasley entered the kitchen, “Right well, I know it’s a bit late, but I’ll just get something started.” She bustled over to the stove.

 

  “It’s all right, love,” Arthur said in a calm voice as he entered the room behind her. “Dinner’s already been done, you can take the night off.”

 

  “But I…..” she looked around at the two places still set at the table.  “But who….?”

 

  “Harry cooked,” Bill said. “It’s all under preservation charms. Come on Mum, you deserve a night off,” he encouraged her over to the table. 

 

  

   Percival had followed Harry out of the kitchen, unsure what the other boy was feeling. After a brief search he found his friend had retreated to the Master bedroom and was grooming the hippogriff. Harry looked up as the door opened.

 

  “The first thing I want to know,” Percival began as he shoved his hands into his pockets, “Is why is there a hippogriff in the main bedroom?”

 

  A surprised smile emerged on Harry’s face, it gave way to a chuckle and then a somewhat hysterical laugh. Eventually he calmed, “In my third year there was an incident in class, the result of someone ignoring the teacher’s instructions that meant that Buckbeak was slated for destruction and as my Godfather escaped from Azkaban. Sirius was re-captured at Hogwarts, when the real culprit escaped.  They were arranging for him to receive the dementors kiss, when the Headmaster told Hermione that we needed more time. She revealed that she’d been given a time turner in order to attend all the available classes that year. Yeah it’s kind of shocking that isn’t?” Harry correctly interpreted the expression on Percival’s face. “Anyhow we used it to go back three hours to rescue both Buckbeak and Sirius and sent them on their way to freedom together. I guess he didn’t know what else to do with him and given he was feeling slightly irreverent towards his parents when he moved in,” Harry shrugged. “I guess we should look for somewhere more suitable for Buckbeak to stay now.”

 

  A hand reached out and pressed Harry’s shoulder down, “I really need to get you out of that habit. You’ll be the Head of a prestigious House, you should be elegant…..” 

 

   Whatever else Percival was going to say was lost amongst Harry’s laughter, “Me elegant!”

 

   A pleased ‘Well done’ was fed directly into Percival’s mind. “We’ll have to work on it.” He paused just for a moment, as Harry resumed patting the beast. “You should know it’s ok to be angry. Or sad. Even though she’s your friend it’s ok, not to like her very much right now, and you can even change your mind about it again later, if you’d like.” He received a nod in response. “Come on, say goodnight to Buckbeak, we’ve got a new room to check out.”

 

 

   Hedwig was very pleased with the new room. It had a specially charmed window that allowed her to pass through it without the need to bother her wizard, not that he had ever minded being woken to let her in, but she knew he needed his sleep.  She appreciated the new bed as well; the headrest was just the right size for her to grip and the dark green canopy and curtains created a nice dark nest. It was ideal for sleeping any time of the day. Yes, this room was much more acceptable for her wizard, certainly better than the cold bare nest where she was locked up in her cage. She was also glad that he had a new nest mate, his old ones were far too loud. She couldn’t sleep during the day because the bushy-haired female chirped non-stop and during the hours of darkness, well if the noises that the red-haired one emitted were anything to go by, there was something very wrong with him! The new one gave her treats. Yes, this quiet nest mate, was much more acceptable. With that last thought Hedwig tucked her head under her wing.

 

   The morning light sluggishly flickered across the face of the boy on the camp stretcher disturbing his sleep. Beside him on the canopied bed, a smaller dark-haired boy was caught in the throes of yet another nightmare.

  

  “Oh Harry,” Percival sighed as he rolled onto his side and pushed himself off the mattress. It was almost second nature now for him to lift Harry’s hand and place it over the Tattoo. If one of his Aurors had presented like this he would have had them to the mediwitch before they could say Quodpot! It was a miracle the boy could even function. He added it to the list of things to discuss with the healer. 

 

  “Perce?” Harry said in a sleep slurred voice, that drew a smile onto Percival’s face.

 

   “You know Seraphina is the only who has ever given me a nickname before.”

 

  “Nearly 40 years and no nickname, ‘ats terble,” Harry teased sleepily. 

 

  “Come on up you get,” Percival encouraged. “You get to meet ‘Phina today and she has all sorts of things planned so we can’t be late.”

 

  Despite Harry trying to bury himself in the pillow again, they managed to get changed, and be down to the kitchen before the rest of the house was awake.

 

  “I wonder if Mrs Weasley will be cooking again today?” Harry mused. He looked over at Percival and suggested shyly, “I could get breakfast started if you like?” 

 

  Percival smiled softly, “I actually know how to cook. I didn’t ever have a House Elf.”

 

   “Should we make enough for everyone? Or do you think Mrs Weasley would be upset?”

 

  “I…..” Percival didn’t bother continuing to reply as Harry had bent over and was rummaging through the cupboards. When Harry reappeared he said, “let’s just make something for us.” The messy head nodded, without looking up from where the thin hands were busy cracking eggs into a pan. The hob lit automatically as soon as the pan was placed on the stove top.

 

   “That’s awful convenient,” Harry commented. 

 

  Percival grinned fully this time, “That’s magic.” A poked tongue was his only reply.

 

  By the time the boys were seated at the table consuming their eggs on toast, they could hear stirrings higher up in the house. They had nearly finished eating before the first person made their way into the kitchen. Unsurprisingly it was Mrs Weasley. She starred at them for a moment but continued on to the kitchen cupboard and began taking out pots and pans. Harry slipped passed her to put the plates into the sink, which he began to fill with hot water.

 

  “Kreacher, could you point out where the dishwashing liquid and a sponge is please?” Harry asked the air.

 

  With a Pop a small glass bottle appeared on the bench with a wash cloth beside it. Harry picked it up and read the label, then added three drops of the potion into the water and stirred vigorously for ten seconds as per the instructions. 

 

  “Thank you Kreacher,” Harry said as he began cleaning the dishes. He left them on the dish rack to dry.

 

  The silence in the kitchen was an uncomfortable prickling on his skin and Harry decided it would be best to address the issue with Mrs Weasley before anyone else was present. 

 

  “Mrs Weasley,” she froze at the sound of his voice. “I just wanted to tell you that I am sorry for the way that I spoke to you yesterday. I really have appreciated the things you have done for me, taking me into your home and sending me gifts, but no-one will ever replace my Mother.”

 

   “Oh Harry. I’m sorry love. I didn’t mean it like that….I….,” she burst into tears and threw her arms around his neck. 

 

   Harry didn’t know what to do, this was just as uncomfortable as the silence. He looked over her shoulder at Percival with doe-like eyes. Percival was grinning at him wickedly, but eventually mimed giving her a hug. Harry wrapped his arms around her awkwardly. 

 

“Just so you know Mrs Weasley, I may be able to throw a meal together, but it’s nothing to compare to your cooking, Bill knew right away you hadn’t made dinner.” 

 

  The compliment didn’t have the desired effect as she began sobbing again. When, to Harry’s relief, the tears subsided she said, “None of my children have been interested in learning how to cook,” as she dried her eyes on the corner of her apron.

 

  Harry couldn’t help but interrupt, “Not even Ron?!”

 

  She gave a tear stained smile, “As if that boy would take on extra work. If you would like, I could teach you?”

 

  He took it as the olive branch it was intended to be, “I think that would be nice Mrs Weasley. It isn’t fair that you have to do all the work cooking for everyone.”

 

  “I don’t mind the work, but with so many mouths to feed, I can admit it would be nice to have a hand.” She gave him a tight squeeze, pulled a handkerchief out from the front of her dress and wiped her face. “Now I’d better see to breakfast for the rest of them.” With that she returned to bustling around the kitchen.

 

As the room filled Harry wondered what Ron had planned as a distraction to enable them to escape the house un-noticed. In the end whatever it was, it wasn’t needed as there was a loud crack by the front door and a wizard ran into the kitchen.

 

   “Molly there was an attack last night,” Shacklebolt said.  “Hestia Jones was injured. Did you clean up a room to act as an infirmary yet?”

 

  Throwing the tea towel over her shoulder Molly nodded and bustled Kingsley out of the room. When Ron glanced up he noted that Harry and Percival had already disappeared, and tucked the dung bombs he had stolen from the twin’s trunk back into his pocket.

 

 

 

  Percival stepped out of the floo, after three other stops, into the parlour of Seraphina’s apartment. Despite being one hundred and eight years old Seraphina Picquery was still as elegant as she had been on the last day that Percival had seen her.  He couldn’t stop staring at his old friend, as she sat a cup on the side table and stood up to greet him.

 

  “Percival,” her voice still held the rich tones it did in her youth but had mellowed a bit with her age.  “I am sorry.” She wrapped her arms around him and gave him a hug.  “I knew something wasn’t right but, you were pulling so many hours looking into, what we later discovered was an obscurial that I put it down to tiredness and stress, in fact the man avoided me mostly.”

 

  “Obscurial?” Percival choked out. Now the thought had been put in his mind he wondered how close Harry had come to becoming an obscurial. He pushed the thought to the side and returned his attention to his friend.

 

  “Yes, the attacks around the city,” she drew back to look him in the eyes.

 

  He shook his head, “the last thing I remember from the streets was the day the Christoferson case went wrong.”

 

  Her face dropped in horror, “that long? Percy that was months!”

 

  “I know,” he responded dryly as he stepped away from her to turn and look for Harry, who was now standing in front of the fireplace covered from head to toe in soot and blinking owlishly.

 

  With a laugh, Seraphina produced her wand and waved it to clean away the dirt, “Hmm,” she considered the shorter of the two boys. “We’ll have to practice that. You should be able to manage a wandless cleaning spell, they work easier on oneself. Now how about some breakfast?”

 

  Harry’s gaze dropped immediately to the floor. Seeing this Seraphina glanced at her old friend, who stepped into Harry’s personal space.

 

  An index finger was inserted under the boy’s chin and his face was raised, “Harry,” Percival said gently. “It’s ok, ‘Phina will understand, besides we’ll be here a while, there’ll be no waste, she won’t be angry.” Green eyes flickered to their host, who nodded her agreement, even though she was unsure why the boy was acting ashamed. Percival turned back to her, “I’m sorry to admit I forgot about breakfast and we ate before we left, though it was early, so I expect we’ll be hungry again by the time the Healer is done. I recall fifteen was a rather hungry age.”

 

  The ex-president of MACUSA, laughed, “You look exactly as you did at school you know, it’s rather startling.”

 

  With a nod Percival said, “I could say the same, except for the grey hairs.”

 

  “At least come and join me for tea,” Seraphina indicated the tray that she had placed her cup on earlier.

 

 

  A chime sounded interrupting their chatter, with a quick tempus Seraphina checked the time, “Ah that would be the healer.” They all stood, and Harry took an instinctive step back behind Percival. 

 

  The man who entered the room, wore a long black fitted frock coat with two rows of silver buttons down the front, his hair and beard were dark with a smattering of grey and trimmed close. All in all, he exuded a confidence that made Harry relax, just a little bit, in his presence.

 

  “Is this my patient?” he stopped in front of Percival and looked him up and down. “No? You mentioned glasses.”

 

  With a sideways step Harry made himself visible, “It would be me you’re here to see Sir. I am sorry for the inconvenience,” he said softly as he found himself being scrutinised.

 

   “Yes well,” there was a barely perceivable eye flick towards Harry’s scar, “I can now see why the extra precautions have been taken,” and without further preamble the man pointed his wand at the ceiling. “I, Addison Baldric Hedgerow swear, that no information with regards to my patient Harry James Potter, will be passed by me through word, deed or thought to any other human, being or creature. All information given to me by Harry James Potter will be included in this sacred vow, so I swear, so mote it be.” 

 

  The magic of the vow began to wrap around the pair. 

 

  “I, Harry James Potter, swear that all information that I give to Addison Baldric Hedgerow, will be the truth as I know it, neither will I conceal any information that is pertinent to my treatment from him. This shall last until he deems me healed. So, I swear so mote it be.” There was an audible click as the vow locked into place.

 

  “Right then,” Addison appeared a bit startled by Harry returning his vow. “I will get you to lie on the couch, on your back if you would.” Addison conjured himself a low stool as Harry lay down.

 

  It had taken more than an hour for the healer to complete his examination, and another for him to create a holistic treatment plan. It started with him giving Harry several critical vaccinations that he should have had his first year at Hogwarts. A lot of the treatment would be managed with potions, so he had written out a long list for Seraphina, who as the only adult present had to arrange delivery.  It appeared however that Harry’s scar was more than a simple curse scar. It was revealed to be a very small piece of someone else’s soul! Into the shocked silence that followed the diagnosis Harry was made to recount the events of the night his parents had died. Addison had also taken a copy of the memory to examine, as Harry sat clutching desperately at Percival’s hand. The healer was fairly sure that he had heard of a ritual that could be used to remove it, but he wanted to be absolutely certain before suggesting anything.  

 

   The discovery also changed the plans Percival had for teaching Harry occlumency. Shields for defending against external attack were one thing (and still very much required as evidenced by Dumbledore’s actions) but half Harry’s problems could be originating from that soul piece, especially if it maintained any connection to the active component of the soul.  Harry swallowed and stuttered his way through admitting that he was sure some of the nightmares he suffered were actually visions, and how he had weird emotional outbursts that seemed not to come from anything he was feeling. Healer Addison listened quietly taking in every word that Harry said. In the end he admitted that the situation was unusual, and he would need to research it further before they could fully comprehend all the affects it was having on Harry, (though he thought that distractibility, visual impairment and diminished comprehension might be included) and what the best course of action might be. Just to rule out anything else he took a sample of blood to check for potions, with an additional vow covering its use and destruction.

 

  As he was packing up, Percival pulled the Healer aside, so he could discuss potential treatment of Sirius Black. With discerning eyes, Addison inspected Percival’s face. “So, this man survived a dozen years in Azkaban, and appears sane?”

 

  “Not so much fully sane, but mostly. He seems quick to anger and confuses Harry with his father at times. Though I don’t know what he was like beforehand. Physically he hasn’t recovered much as he has been on the run. He and Harry had a disagreement which has caused him to focus on his actions and he says he is working on improving his Occlumency, I believe both are helping.”

 

  “And you feel this criminal is safe to have around Britain’s Saviour.”

 

  Percival gave him a flat look, “It is as if the whole world has forgotten the vow that a man must make to become a Godfather.”

 

  Addison stilled, “You are correct, I had forgotten. That raises the question of whether he took the vow, performed the ritual or is Godfather in name only.”

 

  “There is also the fact that before the attack that night, the man had been responsible for apprehending nearly a dozen Death Eaters, even with Dumbledore’s no harm policy. There are many things about the situation that are suspicious,” Seraphina said as she joined them. “Including why Dumbledore vouched for Severus Snape and not for Sirius Black who was known to be a member of his ‘Order’ and from all appearances had been James’ brother in all but blood since their first year in school.”

 

  “Are you implying that the wizard who captured Grindelwald, is….”

 

  The elegant woman shook her head, “No, I have had dealings with Dumbledore before through the ICW and he is very much a supporter of light magics. He is very good at looking at the whole picture, and I rather think that there was a reason….”

 

  “A reason for leaving me in that house?” a deathly quiet voice spoke from behind them. By Harry’s hurt expression, Percival knew he needed to intercede, or Seraphina would have lost the small amount of trust Harry had given her.

 

  “She is not saying that you deserved to be there,” he said softly.

 

 “Absolutely not!” Seraphina was indignant. “Harry there is no excuse for the way that you were treated. I’m saying that Dumbledore made his decisions only looking at the possible effects on the British wizarding world and not considering what the possible consequences for you were.”

 

  “Yeah after all what does it matter if one boy is raised in a cupboard if the rest of the world is okay!” he muttered bitterly.

 

    She nodded sadly, “And he is very wrong about that. I have always found that it makes him more than a little short-sighted, as the bigger picture is made up of all the little pieces. I guess what I am saying is that he didn’t make the decision deliberately to hurt you, however I still do not believe that he was right. There are simple spells that can be used to monitor a child’s health. It should have been easy for him to keep an eye on you and make sure you were well and being looked after.  I have no idea what his reasons for not checking on you were, but it doesn’t matter they were not good enough!” She held out an arm and invited Harry into a half hug. Percival was happy to see that after a moment Harry stepped to her side and accepted it. 

 

    “Regardless, understanding why something happened doesn’t negate the consequences, Picquery so be sure to get onto the apothecary. If you can arrange for him to be here next week when I come back with Harry’s other results, I’ll see the Godfather too,” Addison said before stepping into the floor and whirling away.

 

   “Now it’s half past ten. I called Gringotts and let them know we were delayed so they have moved our appointment back until eleven. That gives you boys enough time to eat the pastries I bought for breakfast and apply glamours before we face Diagon Alley.” She shook her head while looking at Harry, “We had hoped to rid you of those glasses, but….” they became gold rimmed and rectangular.

 

  Harry took them off to peer at them, “Wow they're so light, and,” he slid them into place, “I can see more, like at the sides!”

 

  She smiled at him, “I’ll have to transfigure them back before you go home, however I’m sure one of the adults in the house could change them for you again. Something like this would be a better option for the trial. If you work hard enough you can probably transfigure them yourself.”

 

  She continued to buzz around them as they devoured the treats set out on the table, only taking a minute to eat a croissant herself, and then finally she was done.

 

  “There is one last thing Harry,” she said.

 

  “My scar?” The small teen guessed with a barely concealed grimace.

 

  She nodded then instructed, “face me and sit still.” Very carefully she covered the scar and blended the foundation in at the edges, then she took out her wand.  Harry went cross-eyed trying to follow the movements as she set and waterproofed the coverup. “If you boys have finished eating, we are ready to go!” she nodded again, satisfied with her handy work.

 

 

  The walk through Diagon Alley, had to be one of the most enjoyable that Harry had ever experienced. No-one gawked at him. They were too busy looking at Seraphina, in all her elegant glory. Harry made sure to walk several steps behind her so that it seemed he was merely walking in the same direction and wasn’t with her. The charade came to an end at the top of the steps into Gringotts as Seraphina waited for the teens to join her and then herded them towards a side door, that Harry had not noticed on his previous trips to the bank. 

 

  “We are expected at eleven, most Senior Guard,” she addressed the Goblin by the door, with a nod of respect. 

 

   He inclined his head and knocked once upon the door with the butt of his spear. A moment later the door opened, and a Goblin dressed in a grey pin-striped suit stepped through.

 

  “Madame Picquery and guests,” he greeted, “Follow me.” 

 

  They followed him back through the door into the dim internal tunnels of Gringotts. The atmosphere was so sombre that Harry was afraid to make a noise. The Goblin led them to an oak door set into the passage way. He rapped on it once, before stepping backwards out of their way.

 

  “Enter only when called,” he instructed.

 

  “Many thanks Honourable Guide,” Seraphina acknowledged. He inclined his head again and then ambled off disappearing into the gloom.

 

  The tunnel floor was smooth, and the ceiling was low, certainly not as low as Harry’s cupboard. Harry’s mind stuttered and caught on the memory. The darkness wasn’t helping, nor the musty smell of earth that saturated the still air. With a sharp inhale Harry tried to focus on taking slow breaths but they seemed to be getting away from them. He couldn’t catch them to slow them down, like a bolting horse. The walls pressed in, he thought he could hear footsteps on wooden floorboards.

  

   A hand on the small of his back made him jump, though fortunately he didn’t cry out. Vernon wouldn’t tolerate that! He sucked air into his lungs again, but couldn’t halt his rapidly accelerating heart rate, nor the blackness at the edges of his vision. Someone took his hand, he flinched and tried to pull away, with a whine. Vernon wouldn’t like it if he moved, but he didn’t want to feel the cane striking his hand again! He would be punished more, at least an extra five hits, for not holding still. He whined again as his hand was grasped firmly but was lifted and not turned palm up as he had been dreading. What was Vernon doing?! The hand was still moving on his back. Vernon had never done that before! Was some new punishment about to be inflicted upon him? The thought terrified him. He was gasping now, there was only a small dot of vision left!

 

  And then there was…..warmth…. spreading down his arm from his hand towards his elbow. His throat which had seized closed, relaxed. The hand on his back moved slowly in circles. The blackness receded and finally he could hear something other than his own heartbeat. His body became boneless and the hand moved from his back to support him at his waist so he wouldn’t fall.

 

  “You’re safe, we’re with the Goblins. It’s dark because we’re in the tunnels. You are safe. I’m here with you. I’m here,” a voice whispered into his ear. Warm air moved against the side of his face at the words and made his skin tingle.

 

  Harry choked out a half sob, and took a ragged breath in, “safe, you’re here?” 

 

  Percival began the rubbing soothing circles on the back of the hand that was pressed to his Mark, “I’m here, Seraphina’s here, the Goblins are here, we won’t let anything happen to you,” he reassured.

 

  The door beside them opened spilling light into the passageway and illuminating Harry’s pale face. Seraphina stepped in front of the boys and spoke to one of the Goblins in the room.

 

  “Master Accountant, I thank you for your forbearance for our delayed arrival and my charges appearing under glamour. I thought it prudent for them to avoid detection in Diagon Alley. If I may draw my wand, I will remove the disguises now?” Seraphina asked as she ushered the boys through the doorway and into chairs that were placed in front of the desk.

 

  The Goblin seated behind the desk, waved his approval indifferently, while the other two, standing on either side of the desk, scowled on. Seraphina quickly removed the effects of the spells, glamours and re-transfigured Harry’s glasses. She had even thought to bring a damp cloth to remove the makeup from his scar.

 

  “Well they certainly look the part,” growled the goblin to the left.

 

  The one to the right had bared his teeth however, “As we have just seen, looks are easily created. Their magic needs to be tested.”

 

  “Right you are Sharptooth, Grippound if you could bring forth the crystals.”

 

  “That’s all well and good Striknott, however due to the unfortunate state of the world at the time, the Potter Heir does not have a magic sample on file,” he glared at Harry as if this was his fault. 

 

  “We’ll start out with Mr Graves then and sort Mr Potter out after. I rather suspect Mr Graves’ result will be rather interesting.”

 

  A moment later Grippound returned holding an ice blue box, inside nestled on a dark blue velvet cloth rested a glowing orb. He opened the lid in front of Percival, “Well go on lad, take it out, let’s see if you are who she said you were.”

 

  Percival reached out cautiously and removed the orb from its cushion, the moment his fingers wrapped around it there was the sound of a clear bell being struck. 

 

  “Hmmm,” Grippound seemed pleased as he took back the crystal examining it closely.

 

  “Well?” demanded Striknott impatiently.

 

   “As you thought, Sir. He’s the genuine article, though how he was de-aged and travelled seventy years through time is a bit of a mystery. There is a touch of Death and Magic in his new reading too,” he added squinting into the orb.

 

  “Care to explain Mr Graves?”

 

  “Not without oaths,” Percival stated flatly.

 

  While Sharptooth, snarled the other two Goblins, laughed. “It’s definitely him,” Grippound said.

 

  “An oath we shall make then,” agreed Striknott.

 

  “I’m not making an oath to this lying wand waver!” Sharptooth growled.

 

  “Hmmm,” Striknott steepled his fingers and examined the younger goblin. “As is your choice, you will leave now, and I’ll call you back when the claims are being made for young Mr Potter.”

 

  Sharptooth, looked like he would protest, but a guttural growl from the eldest of the Goblins, sent him scurrying out of the room.

 

  “To the oath, I Striknott, Master Accountant of the Gringotts Goblins swear, that I will not reveal the knowledge granted to me by Percival Ezra Graves. From now until the end of this meeting. In magics name, so mote it be.”

 

  “So mote it be,” echoed Grippound. A cord of green wrapped around them both.

 

  “Grippound you may remember in mid-1926, I came to see you to ensure that the latest copy of my will was on file. Not long after that I was part of an undercover operation, we didn’t know at the time, but it was all a set up. As a result, I was captured by Gellert Grindelwald.”

 

  The Goblins nodded this was information they already knew.

 

  “Some months after I was imprisoned, he stopped coming to feed me. I slowly starved. When I was on my death bed I was visited by the gods- Death and Magic, they prevailed upon me to accept a second life. It seems Magic is dying, and it won’t be long before she is gone taking all magical life with her, if we fail to act. I was also charged with providing support for Mr Potter in the upcoming conflict.”

 

  “Good, I see you have already started using oaths. This will this remind people of her presence and draw on the magic in the ley lines refreshing those who use it.”

 

  “I have also started discussing with Harry the old rituals that used to be followed and which have fallen out of practice. However, his health needs to be more stable before we start practicing them, though he has performed one small one in the last few days with no ill effects.”

 

  “We have been concerned about Mr Potter. Many letters have been sent to his Guardians attempting to arrange an appointment, but we have yet to receive a response. Can you explain this Mr Potter?” 

 

  Harry, stuttered underneath that strong gaze. Percival took pity on him and answered in his stead.

 

  “I believe that may be Dumbledore’s doing.”

 

  “Explain!”

 

  “Mr Dumbledore, placed Harry with his Muggle relatives. When he did so he knew that they did not like Magic at all. I think he may have re-directed Harry’s mail to another location, or maybe placed a banishing ward on it, so they wouldn’t be inundated.”

 

  “But I get letters from my friends!” Harry protested. “Who else would write to me.”

 

  “Harry, you’re a celebrity in this world. I haven’t been the president of MACUSA for nearly fifty years and I still received over 200 letters a week from the public, and that triples on my birthday and other special occasions. I would be very surprised if there isn’t a mountain of letters and presents somewhere.”

 

  Harry was stunned. 

 

  “We had best get Sharptooth back in here, to confirm your identity Mr Potter,” Striknott, pressed a small button on the side of his desk. Nearly instantaneously the door burst open and Sharptooth re-entered the room.

 

  “Shall we test this fraud then?” he challenged.

 

  “Sharptooth, your behaviour is unseemly. Be warned if it continues you will relegated to the carts!” Striknott growled.

 

  “There is no orb, for Mr Potter, we will have to test his blood,” Sharptooth said with marginally less aggression.

 

  “That is a simple matter,” Stricknott, opened a drawer in his desk and pulled forth a plain white bowl and a small bottle of potion. “The heritage parchment, please Grippound.” 

 

   From seemingly out of nowhere Grippound produced a single sheet of parchment and placed it beside the bowl.

 

  “As is the way of wizards I assume you wish to use your own blade?”

 

  Seraphina nodded and withdrew a dagger from inside a small pouch attached to her wand holster. “When we are done may I drew my wand to clean off the remaining blood?” she queried.

 

   “Of course,” Striknott said. “Now seven drops of blood into the bowl lad, use the index finger of your left hand. The line of magic for that finger comes straight from your heart so it will give us the best reading.”

 

  Harry took the offered blade and put a small nick in his finger as requested. He became so absorbed in watching the swirling pattern the blood made in the potion that he didn’t notice Percival grab his hand and heal it or Seraphina clean off the dagger. Striknott turned the bowl three times to the left, and then deeming the contents ready, stuck a quill into the bowl, when all the liquid was taken up in the nib, he passed the bowl to Seraphina for cleansing, much to Sharptooth’s disgust. The Quill was then placed at the top edge of the parchment and it began to write.

 

Name: Harry James Potter

Date of Birth : 31st of July 1980

 

Born to 

Father: James Fleamont Potter

Mother: Lily June Potter nee Evans

 

Inheritance

Potter - Lord - Paternal

Black - Heir - Godfather

Peverell - Heir Secondus - Paternal

 

Oaths

Loyalty - Freely Given- Percival Ezra Grave

Protection - Godfather Ritual - Sirius Orion Black

Protection - Coerced - Severus Tobias Snape

 

Life Debts

Severus Snape- Inherited Paternal

Peter Pettigrew

 

Quests

Vanquish the Dark Lord Tom Riddle

Collect the Deathly Hallows

 

Bonds

Familiar- Owl- Hedwig

 

Investments

Weasley Wizards Wheezes 1000 G 

 

 

  Harry was intensely curious as to how the Goblins knew he had given his Triwizard tournament winnings to Fred and George, but the they looked so fierce he didn’t dare ask. Perhaps the twins had done something, he would have to ask them later.

 

  “Well that’s that then,” Striknott said. “Gentlemen produce your ledgers.” Grippound passed a thick book, bound in black leather to Percival.

 

  “He is underage Striknott, only his Guardian has the right to see the Potter Ledgers,” Sharptooth protested indignantly, as the senior Goblin gestured for the book to passed to Harry.

 

  “His Guardians are muggles Sharptooth. As the only Heir of not one but two Houses he has the right to see the ledger for his own House. Lord Black will have to come in and see about his own finances of course.” The two Goblins were now engaged in a weird staring contest. 

 

  “Ah hum,” Grippound drew the attention of the humans away from the building disagreement to himself. “As you can see Mr Graves, we here at Gringotts had no indication that you were actually deceased even though the ministry did declare you so.” He opened the heavy Tome and gestured to an entry.

 

  “Sorry about that Percy,” Seraphina muttered. He just smiled at her in understanding.

 

  “Because of this,” Grippound continued. “We did not enact the will you had filed with us, instead we kept going with the last financial recommendations we had discussed. Because of this your account has not been idle and has accumulated a reasonable sum in the time you have been…….in transit.” 

 

  What followed was a brief financial overview, during which Harry and Seraphina conversed quietly. Percival was quite happy with the work the Goblins had done and so authorised them to continue, with only a few minor changes in adjustment for the new times. 

 

  Bang!

 

  The groups attention was returned abruptly to the desk, where an enormous, brown book now sat. Sharptooth was unconscious, completely wrapped in ropes and leaning stiffly against the wall like a length of timber. Striknott, was still seated calmly at his desk.

  

  “My apologies, I lost my temper for a minute there. Mr Potter…..”

 

   “Please Sir, could you call me Harry?” the boy asked somewhat hesitantly.

 

  The Goblin showed all his teeth in a parody of a smile, “Certainly young man. Now Harry, I must regretfully inform you that your account manager has been stood down for the foreseeable future. I will act in his stead for the time being. If that is acceptable to you?”

 

  What else could Harry do? After a quick glance at Percival and Seraphina he nodded.

 

  “Good now first things first, as per your parents will, there has been a stipend meant for you guardians coming out of the accounts going to a Mrs Petunia Dursley nee Evans for the last 14 odd years. I just need to confirm that this is who you have been living with?” Harry nodded again, suppressing the anger that his relatives had been receiving money for his care when they had told him an infinite number of times how much of a burden he was. “Good. Please note that the will merely stipulates that it is to go to whomever you have been living with as that criteria has met there is nothing we at the bank can do to recover the funds,” his eyes flicked to Seraphina for a moment, whatever the message was, Harry hadn’t understood it. “Though should your circumstances change then the recipient of the stipend will change as well.”

 

Harry took a small measure of comfort in that, and maybe he should talk to Aunt Petunia about the money, to see what had happened to it.

 

  A long-crooked finger ran down the numbers at the side of the page, suddenly it paused and tapped in place a number of times. “Mr Potter…..Harry, do you know an organisation called the Order of the Phoenix?”

 

  Harry nodded again.

 

  “Are you a member of this organisation.”

 

  Harry shook his head.

 

  “Have you at any time agreed to provide funding for this organisation?’

 

  “No!” Harry blurted out. “I only learned about it a few days ago, and they don’t take members who are underage!”

 

  “Hmmm, someone has arranged a fortnightly withdrawal of two hundred galleons. It started in November 1981.”

 

  “I was one!”

 

  “Yes I suppose you were. It definitely wasn’t authorised by you then. So that will be being cancelled! Rest assured Harry, if a Gringotts Goblin,” he passed to glanced at the bound figure. “Has been in anyway responsible for fraudulent activity on your account, there will be reparations paid to you and the consequences for the ones involved will be severe.” 

 

  He left the impression that not only would the consequences be severe but also terminal.

 

  “Now articles and antiquities. It appears that the Potter Heirloom Cloak is currently in the possession of one Albus Dumbledore.”

 

  “No, it’s not,” Harry interjected. “He returned it to me at Christmas my first year at Hogwarts.”

 

  “Sorry Harry but it appears in the ledger.  This is an ancient magical device and has never been deceived before. Could you retrieve the cloak you have and bring it in for authentication?”

 

  “Um, now?”

 

  “Yes now. There is a note here under business transactions that says you have engaged a House Elf.” the accountant prompted.

 

  “Oh!” Harry blushed. “Dobby!”

 

  “Master Harry calls Dobby.”

 

  “Yes, sorry to interrupt whatever it was you were doing Dobby, but would you mind, grabbing my invisibility cloak from out of my trunk and bringing it here please. Make sure no-one at the house sees you though. I don’t fancy being on the receiving end of another lecture from Hermione!”

 

  Dobby grinned and disappeared with a pop. Two minutes and another pop later and the House Elf returned.

 

  “Here tis.” He proudly passed over the silky material.

 

  This time Striknott produced a crystal rod from his drawer and passed it over the cloak, watching the iridescent colours change. Solemnly he looked at Harry, “I’m afraid to tell you that this is a fake.” He paused for a moment, “Well no I suppose it isn’t, it is an invisibility cloak and a reasonable quality one at that, but it certainly isn’t the Potter Cloak. You see the Potter Cloak has a magical signature that very nearly matches that of the Potter family themselves, with just a hint of something else,” here he gave a significant glance at Percival. “This reads most like hide-behind crossed with demiguise.”

 

  Harry was gutted, he was angry, he felt betrayed…there were so many emotions he couldn’t name them all. “Why?” he finally managed to rasp out from his clenched throat. “Why would he do this to me!” Percival wrapped the smaller boy in his arms.

 

  “I cannot say,” Striknott replied. “Though if any of my staff have been involved I will find out.” He again glanced sharply at the Goblin leaning against the wall.

 

  “Dobby can you tell where the real Potter Cloak is?” Harry asked.

 

  “Dobby’s not sure Master Harry, but many hidden things in old Bumblebee’s office.”

 

  “Can you look for it, without being seen, or heard or harmed?”

 

   Dobby nodded and made ready to disappear once more.

 

  “Wait,” Percival said. “If you find the cloak you will need to replace it with something. Go and buy the cheapest invisibility cloak you can find, then disguise it to look identical to Harry’s. So, you can leave it in its place.”

 

  Dobby disappeared.

 

  “Is there anything else?” Harry asked tremulously.

 

  “Yes, though these seem to be less suspicious. Books that have been borrowed and not returned, your House Elf should be able to gather them up.  I will just mention that a large number of these are in the hands of one Hermione Granger. I assume that these were your doing as the young lady concerned is in your year and house.”

 

  “I’ve never lent Hermione any books! The only books I own are the books I have purchased for school. She would already have the same ones,” Harry protested.

 

  With a frown on his face Striknott, surveyed the list. “These all appear to have come from the Library at Potter Manor. Is that not the property you have been residing in with your family? Or were you in the cottage in Wiltshire? Or…”

 

  “I have a manor?!” Harry gasped. “I live in little Whinging, in Surrey. My relatives are muggles who absolutely despise magic, so it is a perfectly mundane house.”

 

  “Right,” the Goblin growled. “There has been a serious infraction. Someone has been able to gain entry into the Potter properties! When your parents passed on the properties wards would have all locked down, except for the property that was your residence. Once locked down they can only be opened again by using your blood. Therefore, only someone who has gained access to that could have passed the wards. Do you know anyone who could have achieved this?”

 

  The goblin looked so fierce that Harry gulped, then nodded.

 

  “Who!”

 

  “I don’t think I even know them all,” the boy admitted in a whisper.  “That night, the night my parents died, I had a wound on my head.” His hand lifted to cup his scar. “I don’t know how I got from the house we were in to my Aunt’s, though I do know at the very least that Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall and Hagrid were there. I have been injured and unconscious a number of times at school, including speared with a basilisk fang, so anyone could have taken blood from me or my robes while I was there. Then last summer,” Harry swallowed roughly, and looked at the Goblin, through the hair which fell across his face. “Tom Riddle used my blood to create a new body for himself.” Harry dropped his face into his hands.

 

  An odd puffing noise, drew Harry’s attention away from his inner turmoil and back to the seated Goblin, who was taking deep breaths. “Right, well as much as I am very,” he rolled his ‘R’ “interested in discussing the Basilisk incident. I’ll leave that for now. The good news is this that the first item was removed a mere two weeks after your parents died and there have been no new incursions since last June. So, the likelihood is that it was one of the first three. I doubt the half-giant would know either how to use blood to enter the wards or the location of Potter Manor, so it is safe to rule him out as a suspect. The other two though……..We will be able to secure the properties again with the appropriate ritual, which if Grippound, will agree to oversee, we can have sorted this afternoon. It shouldn’t be particularly taxing if it is performed here. We can close off the manor again or, we can make it accessible by you and possibly a limited number of others. You would have to be onsite to allow anyone else admittance and it wouldn’t matter if they were carrying a bucket of your blood.”

 

  “Yes, the second one please. I would like to be able to see it.”

 

  With a nod Striknott, wrote some instructions on a piece of parchment and ordered Grippound to start the preparations.

 

  “After your Elf sorts out the Cloak I suggest you have him retrieve the books, especially the Potter Grimoire. Which I will leave Mr Graves to explain to you.” He forestalled any further questions. “Or we will never finish here. Lastly, I believe Mr McMillan who is a Lawyer from McMillan and sons wishes to know if you would still like to have them on retainer. They have received advice that you don’t feel that their services are required, but as it wasn’t directly from you they would like confirmation and they want to present a case for your keeping them on.”

 

  Harry glanced at Percival, “My Aunt suggested I talk to a lawyer so I would very much like to keep them on. Can you manage the contract for me?”

 

  “Very astute Mr Potter. I will send a response while the ritual is being performed and will advise him to contact you via us. As you appear to have some sort of mail….ward or similar in place, I will offer you this. Given what has been discovered here today I will waive the usual hire fee.”

 

  He pulled a small wooden box from out of the drawer (Harry was beginning to wonder exactly how big the insides of the drawer really were). “This is a post box. To send a letter via Gringotts place the letter inside and depress this button,” he demonstrated. “If there is mail for you, the button will glow and when you press it, the drawer will open so you can retrieve the letter.  Letters can be received by you at no cost. For you to post out will cost a single knut for each letter. You can receive and send larger parcels for the same price but these will need to be shrunk to fit in the box.”

 

  “That seems very fair, thank you.” Harry didn’t even consider bargaining.

 

  “I will audit your accounts more deeply and contact you with the results as soon as I can. Now if you will proceed through the door Grippound should be waiting and I will deal with…… this,” he hissed at the figure leaning against the wall. 

 

  When the humans had departed, he turned to face the now conscious Sharptooth with a snarl. “That right there,” he gestured wildly at the closing door, “is the holder of the biggest account in this bank. And by your actions you have dared to jeopardise not only his life but his inheritance. You will tell me exactly what you have done and what you have gained out of it and I might grant you a swift death,” seeing the stubborn scowl on the other Goblins face he changed tack, “Or I might just refer you straight to His Majesty instead. I’m sure he would love to hear how you nearly lead to the end of the most financial family that this bank serves!”

 

 

  The first step in the ritual was covering another one of the crystal orbs in Harry’s blood. This required a surprisingly small amount of blood, merely a few drops which were absorbed in a matter of seconds.  An added bonus of the ritual was that Gringotts would now have a sample of Harry’s magic. Next he had to meditate, while holding the orb in the palm of his hands, in order to locate his magical core. Which was something he had never done before, but Percival said it was the next step in learning occlumency, and very similar to the meditation they had started to practice each night. It took ten minutes before Harry was able to confidently locate the golden pool of light that hovered in line with his solar plexus.  Then he had to pull energy from the pool and push it into the orb, until he was told to stop by Grippound, this step also only took a few seconds. 

 

  The glowing orb was then placed in the centre of a circle, the outside delineated by miniature standing stones. Grippound proudly told them that Gringotts was built over a convergence of ley lines which ensured that there was always free flowing magic for the Goblins, or in this case Harry, to use, regardless of the ministries law that restricted them from carrying wands. As Harry had decided that he wanted Sirius, Percival and Seraphina to have access to the properties, they each had to create orbs as well. Dobby, who had returned after successfully retrieving the Cloak, which was returned to the Potter vault, had been diverted from retrieving the books in order to take one to Sirius. The three supplementary orbs were arranged in a triangle around Harry’s. From there it was a simple process of a little bit of chanting by the Goblins and Harry asking Magic’s blessing to cleanse the Potter properties and strip access from any who had it, giving admittance only to those who had provided blood and magic. 

 

  Looking around at the end of the ceremony, everything in the room seemed brighter, and cleaner than it had before. Harry’s skin felt supercharged and his hair was standing on end, moving in a non-existent breeze. There was an amused twinkle in Percival's eye as he looked at Harry.

 

  “Oi, just because your hair likes to behave, I swear the Potters must have been cursed!”

 

  Percival laughed out loud at that. Seraphina again asked permission to draw her wand in order to re-transfigure the boys into the disguises they wore entering the bank so that they could continue with their shopping. Anticipating their need, Grippound produced a money bag for each of them as they were leaving.

 

  “I am sure that you and your charges will hear from us soon, Madame Picquery,” he said as he bowed them out Gringotts.

 

 

   Harry couldn’t say that he enjoyed the hours they spent in the alley that afternoon, though it was an eye-opening experience. Never before had he been able to choose all his clothes. Never before had he owned clothes that fit! Because he had always had Dudley’s oversized and over used hand-me-downs, he had never really cared how he looked, so he had never developed a sense of style for himself. By the end of the afternoon he was fairly sure that he had driven both Seraphina and Percival mad with his indecision. In the end it was easier to let them choose, especially when it came to the robes for the trial. 

 

  He had avoid thinking about the hearing in the most part, but faced with those sleek, silk robes in dark navy, it began to weigh him down like a lodestone tied to his neck. Then there were the shoes!  He’d never owned so many pairs and wasn’t at all convinced they were all needed. Percival insisted that he got shiny black leather dress shoes, comfortable soft house shoes, shoes for exercising in and even a set of dragon leather boots! (from a naturally deceased dragon, they were assured). Well Harry supposed it was better than wearing Dudley’s old shoes with the black tape covering the holes in the toes.  

   

  “Um Perce?” Harry asked as they unloaded their bags into Seraphina’s living room.

 

  “Mmmm,” the older boy groaned as he stretched his back.

 

  “How are we going to get these into the house? I mean obviously we could shrink them and have Sirius enlarge them again, but then I would need to explain how I came by them all! And where am I going to put them all.”

 

  “Well the majority of it is going to go straight into your trunk,” before Harry could protest he added, “which I will enlarge. Normally school trunks have several compartments to keep things separate so that potions ingredients don’t become contaminated and vials and ink pots are protected. However, I’m sure I can come up with something, but for now, I grabbed some owl order catalogues for both formal robes and a day clothes, which we can leave lying around the house. Most shops owl order you see. You can say that I bought the brochures with me, showed them to you and you ordered. We’ll have Seraphina send us the first package tonight and then the rest spread out in a few packages over the next couple of days. Okay?” He reached out an arm to wrap around Harry’s shoulders. 

 

  “Do you think Dobby would just pop us back into the library at Grimmauld, to save Ron having to create another diversion and organising the timing?” Harry looked up at Percival.

 

  Black eyes, stared into green for a long moment, before lips split in a wide grin, “Harry that sounds perfect.”

 

  They sorted out the packages and, after making arrangements for the next visit with Seraphina, called for Dobby.

 

 

  “I guess we’d better let Sirius and Ron know we’re back,” Harry said as he finished re-arranging his trunk. There was now a pile of rags on the floor beside it. “And I guess we’d better banish those so that we don’t upset Kreacher with the mess. Will you show me how to do it wandlessly?”

 

  With a beaming smile Percival separated a shirt from the pile, “the incantation is depulso, the hand action is like so,” he gave a demonstration. “And the most important thing is to visualise exactly where the item is going to end up. If you don’t, this happens. Depulso.” He demonstrated.

 

  The shirt shot away from them and landed on the other side of the bed.

 

  “Which isn’t very useful if you are trying to tidy up. For the purposes of these…..rags, imagine a big bin somewhere.”

 

  “Depulso.” Harry’s first effort was less than stellar, with the shirt merely flopping over. The second was somewhat better as it landed on the bed. Harry finally had true success on his third attempt. He doggedly practiced using each item of clothing individually, and not the whole pile at once. Leaving Harry with only the set of clothes he was wearing, at least until the first package arrived. By the end he was confident that he had gotten it correct. After that they emptied the entirety of Harry’s trunk on the floor and sorted the contents. Percival solved the problem of space using several smaller single compartment trunks that Dobby had liberated from the attic and performing a spell on each to enlarge the space inside. Essentially this gave Harry individual compartments for: potions ingredients, breakables (vials and ink pots), stationary, books and clothes. 

 

  “Thanks Perce,” and for once Harry initiated a hug.

 

  The door to their room banged open, to reveal Hermione.

 

  “Harry James Potter! What are you doing?” she asked shrilly, eyeing them shrewdly.

 

  “Hermione Jean Granger, what are you doing?” Harry asked in intense but faux interest in return.

 

  “Me?! We were talking about you!” The brown eyed girl was taken aback by the sudden attention.

 

  “But you always want to talk about me, I think it’s time you had some attention,” Harry said coming close and wrapping an arm around her shoulders, staring intently at her forehead. “So, Hermione, what have you been up to today? Hmm, I haven’t seen you anywhere? What did you eat for lunch Hermione? We can’t have you missing meals and I want to be sure you’re eating a balanced diet.”

 

  “I don’t have to tell you anything!” she replied indignantly, shaking off his arm and stepping backwards. This meant she was just slightly on the outside of the doorway.

 

  “Yeah well, neither do I,” Harry flicked his hand at the door and banished it closed with a bang, after a moment of silence they could hear the sound of footsteps stamping down the stairs. Harry started giggling. “I….I…can’t believe I did that. It felt kind of good!”

 

  Five minutes later there was a polite tap at the door, “Who’s there?”

 

  “Just me,” Ron’s voice replied.

 

  “Come in then,” Harry called.

 

   “What did you do to Hermione?” Ron asked curiously.

 

  “Just asked her what she had been doing today why?”

 

  “She’s absolutely wild mate, I’d suggest avoiding her for a while if you can. How’d it go today? You don’t have to give me details.”

 

     “Mostly it was good.” A thought crossed Harry’s mind, “Hey Ron, have you ever seen Hermione with some really old books. Like really old ones, ones that aren’t from the Hogwarts library?”

 

  Ron shrugged, “Only every day. There’s been some odd ones too, definitely not things that would have been kept at Hogwarts! Not just recently mind, even in the summer holidays between second and third year, can’t remember before that really.”

 

  “Hmm, I saw a Healer today, so don’t be worried if you see me drinking random potions okay. And I’ve ordered some new clothes to replace Dudley’s as well. We’re going to pretend I owl ordered them.”

 

  Ron nodded, “It’s about time too. The twins have a couple of catalogues I can get them to show you tonight, if that helps.”

 

  “Yeah it would. Thanks mate.”

 

  The door banged open again, but this time it was Ginny, “Mum said it’s dinner time, the last one there has to eat rotten eggs.”

Chapter Text

   The clothing reveal went off without a hitch, though there were a few side comments about Harry spending his inheritance frivolously from Mrs Weasley, especially after she saw the dragon hide boots. These complaints were quickly quashed by Sirius who insisted it was well past time that Harry had decent clothing. Lily and James would be quite happy to ensure that their son was properly dressed, he knew that both would have been horrified to see Harry in Dudley’s cast offs, (not second-hand clothes per se but ones that were so ill fitting and worn out) and had a decent set of boots. In fact, Lily would insist that the boots were a safety requirement for anyone studying potions. Other than that, the next few days passed in relative harmony. 

 

   Each night Percival and Harry retired to the library after dinner to practice meditation, with Sirius joining them when there were no Order meetings. Focussing on repairing his occlumency shield combined with the meditation helped Sirius to address the grief and guilt he felt over the deaths of Lily and James for the first time, as opposed to the daily cycle of reliving the memories he had experienced care of the dementors. On the whole the practice appeared to be helping the shaggy haired man as much as his Godson, it had been several days since he had last referred to Harry as James.  

 

   Late one evening when the house was quiet and all the other occupants were in bed, Sirius wryly confessed that there was a part of him that was hoping that Harry would be expelled from Hogwarts so that they could spend time getting to know each other. He had a fantasy of the two of them leaving Britain and hiding out in Australia. With a bit of prompting from Percival he was able to acknowledge it wasn’t necessarily healthy or the best option for Harry (though it might seem safer initially) and he promised to talk to Healer Addison about it once Harry returned to school. There was no doubt in Sirius’ mind that Dumbledore would not allow his Golden Boy to be thrown out of Hogwarts. 

 

   In some ways Sirius’ confessing his struggles with grief, guilt and visions of the past, encouraged Harry to admit to his own issues. Sitting in front of the flickering fire he finally revealed the contents of some of his nightmares (Percival decided that after the trial, Vernon was another issue he was going to raise with the Lawyer). Harry ran his fingers over the rug he was sitting on as he admitted his fear that the Horcrux would be able to fully possess him.  Then there was also a long discussion over how Harry felt about Remus Lupin. Sirius was curious as to why he still referred to the man as ‘Professor’ and why he didn’t consider him family. Finally, Harry was able to voice his anxiety that the ministry would just use the trial as another excuse to discredit and slander him further. This last fear was allayed somewhat by a letter they received from Samuel McMillan who arranged to meet them, along with Madame Picquery the day before the trial.

 

 

 Of course, the time spent bonding didn’t go unnoticed for long. Inevitably it was Molly who noticed Percival and Harry’s daily disappearances into the library. When she brought it to the attention of the Headmaster, Sirius was challenged by Dumbledore at the next meeting of the Order. They had gathered as usual in the evening after dinner.  The Headmaster sat at the head of the table and twinkled over his glasses at Sirius.

 

  “Sirius can you tell me why you have been keeping Harry separate from his friends since he arrived?”

 

  “I really don’t know what you’re talking about Albus?” Sirius replied calmly. Very briefly a wrinkle creased the Headmaster’s brow, when had Sirius started to call him by name? He might have to take steps to bring Sirius back into line!

 

  “Come now, Molly tells me you have been sequestering him away in the library, and yet no one has been able to find you once you have entered. You cannot keep encouraging the boy to hide away. I understand that you want to get to know him, but I can’t condone you keeping him from his friends. It is important that he maintains contact with them so that he can recover from the dementor attack. You wouldn’t want to stand in the way of his healing, would you?” the long pointed nose dropped so that mournful peering over the glasses could occur.

 

  “As far as I’m aware Headmaster he hasn’t been hiding away, I’ve been able to find him every time I’ve looked for him,” Sirius answered airily, ignoring the guilt inducing look as he poured himself some tea from the pot on the table.  “I understand, from the discussions we’ve had, that he’s taking the opportunity to be a little more studious this summer,” Sirius pretended he didn’t see the lemon-sucking face that Snape pulled, turning to filling the cup Minerva held out in a silent request for tea instead. He thought the restraint he showed in not commenting was admirable. “He mentioned that he felt like he was letting his parent’s down by the lack of effort he’d put in thus far and he wants to make amends for it.”

 

  “That would be good to see,” Professor McGonagall, smiled. “I always thought that he had a lot of potential that he hasn’t been using. I did wonder why he took Divination instead of Arithmancy or Runes, like Lily and James.”

 

  “It seems no-one thought to tell him anything about his parents, so he didn’t know what they studied. I told him in a letter last year. He had no-one to advise him on what courses to take, so he just took the same ones as Ron. I believe Percival is intending on tutoring him in both subjects, and if he does well he will….” Sirius was interrupted from saying more by the Headmaster. 

 

  “Now, now, Sirius the library is a small room,” Albus focussed on the topic he wanted discussed. Honestly who cared what the boy studied, it wouldn’t make any difference in the end. “You can’t tell me that he can stay hidden in there all day. It is easy to see that there are no hidden corners, the others say he isn’t in there when they look for him. Where have you been taking him?”

 

  Placing his cup on the table, Sirius glanced at the Headmaster for a moment, contemplating how much to reveal, “Well Albus if you must know. The other day I was encouraged to make an attempt to restore the family tapestry. Miraculously it worked! It seems that I was not magically disowned after all.  That act has allowed myself and my heir to be accepted by the house and it revealed a portion of the library that had been previously concealed by the family magic. Looking at it I dare say that no one has been able to enter the deeper areas for as many as two hundred years. Harry has spent a great deal of time exploring and using the resources to completely review his homework.”

 

  Somber blue eyes, peered at Sirius over the half-moon spectacles, “Do you think that is wise Sirius? We all know the dark depths of depravity to which your family has descended. I don’t believe that Harry should be exposed to such things, much less without supervision.” Sirius stifled his chuckle at the predictability of Albus’ condescending tone. 

  

  There were many hums of agreement from around the table and a murmur about finding some way to lock the children out of the library. 

 

  Leaning against the back of his chair, Sirius crossed his arms, and stared down the table, being sure to engage his occlumency shields. “Here’s the thing Albus, it appears that what everyone knows about the Blacks isn’t the truth. I will readily admit that most of the recent books, that is to say, the last one hundred and fifty to two hundred years’ worth, are indeed of a darker nature. However, these have been spelled to prevent anyone under age or not related to the family from removing them. I was going to bring out the worst ones and ask Bill if he would have a look and check the protections after the meeting.  The older books, that we have just gained access to, are not what I expected. It certainly surprised me. We have even found a copy of A Treatise in the Exploration of Healing Charms - by Morgan Asclepius. Which is hardly a dark book!”

 

  A rapacious look crossed Dumbledore’s face though he was quick to suppress it, “If that is the case, then I’ll have to insist that you allow me to examine the books. Who knows, we might find something in there….” He began eagerly.

 

   “Did you not hear me Albus, the House will only allow myself, as Head of the House, Harry, as my Heir and for some strange reason Harry’s friend Percival,” there was an odd twist to Dumbledore’s face that Sirius did not miss, “to access the deeper sections. Books can be removed to the parlour for a short time by the Head of the House,” he raised a hand to forestall Albus’ interjection, “however if they are in anyone else hands they immediately return to the shelves. It is impossible to take anyone else in there, which is why Harry’s friends haven’t been able to find him. They already know this, and Ron at least seems to understand and support Harry’s new interest in studying. Besides, he is a boy, not a pet, Albus. “Snape snorted. “And as such he is allowed to spend his time where he chooses. You cannot dictate what he does.”

 

  When Dumbledore spoke, it was clear that he was ignoring Sirius’ last comment, “Well I must insist that Harry, spends some time with his friends it’s no good for him to be cooped up for too long. Nor to spend his entire holidays working on his homework,” Dumbledore paused as if considering things further.  “I also understand that Harry has been receiving a series of potions. He needs to stop immediately and as his Godfather I must ask you to tell him. Who knows what he is consuming?”

 

  “What?!” Lupin exclaimed, turning to his friend. “Sirius, did you know about this? What’s he taking?” There was concern in those pale green eyes, golden flecks just starting to break through.

 

  “Pftt, Remus, don’t start acting like you care about him now,” Sirius scoffed.

 

  “What?! I have always cared about him! He’s part of my pack, he’s my pup!” Remus denied with a shake of his head.

 

  “I will tell you now that, that’s not how Harry sees it. And before you become all self-depreciating it’s not about the wolf. If you want to know why then you will have to talk to Harry,” Sirius reached out to take up his cup once more.

 

  Remus opened then closed his mouth before taking a deep breath and pushing the hurt aside said, “That’s beside the point Sirius, you can’t support Harry in this….potion taking behaviour!’

 

   There was a mirthless laugh and the cup paused just short of Sirius’ lips, “Did you ever stop to consider that there might be a very good reason for Harry to take these potions?” He glared at the adults gathered around the table sternly. “Did any of you ever wonder why, when Lily and James were as tall as they were, Harry’s so damn short? Why is he as thin as he is?  I know that I did the moment I laid eyes on him!” Albus opened his mouth, but Sirius kept going, pointing a finger at the old man. “Do not even consider telling me he’s a fussy eater or some other rubbish! We have all observed that Harry will eat anything that is placed in front of him without complaint!” Sirius paused and made an effort to moderate his volume and tone to make them less confrontational. “Now I know, that Molly will have told you about some of the arguments that have gone on in this house recently, but the main point to take from them is that my Godson, has not been treated as he should have while under the care of his relatives.”

 

  “Oh Please, so Prince Potter was not pandered to at every opportunity!” scoffed Snape.

 

  “Shut it Snape!” Sirius snapped. “I mean, he was locked in a cupboard, fed one meal a day if he was lucky, forced to do more chores than one would reasonably expect a person twice his age to be capable of and was beaten if he didn’t finish them or made a mistake. Before you deny it, he has the scars to prove it. If you must know I have approved the potions he is taking.”

 

  There was quiet around the table for minute before a chorus of protestations broke out. 

 

  “Now Sirius,” And there was the patented look of Disapproval and Disappointment again. “You really shouldn’t encourage these delusions. It’s true Harry hasn’t been as loved as we might like, but Vernon and Petunia…..”

 

  “You left the boy with Petunia!” Snape choked out, through a horror clenched throat.  “By the Gods we’re lucky he’s not an obscurial!”

 

  “Now, now, Severus there’s no need for the dramatics. Harry is fine, he’s just exaggerating in order to get attention,” Dumbledore dismissed Snape’s concerns. “Potions are certainly not warranted.”

 

  Severus failed to acknowledge the Headmaster and continued talking, “I insist that I check the potions that the boy is receiving!” He looked directly at Sirius, who nodded his acceptance.

 

  “I would appreciate that Snape,” Sirius inclined his head. The rest of the room had devolved into bickering over whether the claims were true, with almost half agreeing with the Headmaster and Rita Skeeter, that Harry was a disturbed boy prone to exaggeration and making up stories. 

 

  It was a few minutes before Albus could re-gain control of the meeting and seeing that he wasn’t going to stop the current disagreement he turned the discussion to the more suitable topic of guarding the item in the Department of Mysteries.

 

 

     Now that they had Dobby’s help and Dumbledore’s acceptance of the restricted access to the deeper parts of the library, they found it easier to escape Grimmauld Place for their meeting with Samuel McMillan. Mr Samuel McMillan was a distinguished gentleman of indeterminable years who’s calm deep voice and stoic demeanour went a long way to easing Harry’s fears.

 

  “First of all, Mr Graves here has provided a written statement from a Dudley Dursley. Who is your….?”

 

  “He’s my cousin.”

 

  “And do you reside with your cousin?”

 

  “Yes.”

 

  “Does your cousin know about magic? Or rather, did your cousin know about magic prior to the events on August the Second?”

 

  “Yes, he did.”

 

  “Good. Now on the night in question, were there any other witnesses to the performance of the patronus charm?”

 

  “Not apart from Percival, everyone else had gone home and we were in a dark alleyway.”

 

  “Excellent. Now there is a spell that will show the last spells that were cast by your wand. Do you know it?”

 

  “Yes. Prior Incantato.”

 

  “Good. Do I have your permission to perform this spell on your wand at the trial tomorrow?” He hardly waited for Harry’s nod before continuing. “There are two other means of confirming the events that happened. The first is the use of veritaserum, which is potent truth serum and the second is with the extraction of the memory. Now the first would require your guardian’s approval, which given she is a muggle, should be fine for a hearing. However, given the current political environment, I believe that they will escalate the situation to a full trial, and it would then not be admissible. Memories can be modified, so are generally not accepted as a reliable means of evidence in court. Though an argument could be made that due to your age, you’re unlikely to have the ability to manipulate them, so I will keep that one up my sleeve for now. Be assured though that in this the law is on your side.”

 

  “Mr McMillan,” Percival said gaining the lawyer’s attention. “If you look at the statement written by Dudley, you can see evidence that he is actually a squib. Is it not possible that Harry’s Aunt could be the same? In which case if she signed a declaration would it not be possible to use it in the trial? If not, I am sure that my guardian would be willing to give permission for me to take veritaserum, instead of Harry.”

 

  Mr McMillan rubbed a hand over his chin, “Excellent thinking my lad.” He glanced at Harry, “do you think she would be amenable?”

 

  “Perhaps, if you approached the house as a muggle, and only arrived after my Uncle has left for work?”

 

  “Right well if you’ll give me the address, I’ll follow that up this afternoon. I will be waiting for you in the Ministry foyer tomorrow morning.”

  

   Harry jotted down the address on a scrap of parchment while asking Magic to bless the meeting between Aunt Petunia and Mr McMillan. As he passed the address over, his Lawyer gave him a last piece of advice, “tomorrow, be confident in your answers. Do not let them cut you off. You are the Heir of House Potter, one of the most distinguished houses this country has ever seen and that means you can command their respect. You will have Percival and myself on your side, and if all else fails,” he gave a sly glance at Seraphina, “I’m sure our ex-Lady President here can move you to America to complete your education.”

 

  “I’m sure that won’t be necessary,” Seraphina said shaking his hand and sending him through the floo. “Now boys, how about some lunch and you can tell me all about those fascinating books you’ve been finding in that library of yours.”

 

 

  Unsurprisingly Harry woke early the next morning, a quick tempus revealed it to be before 5.30. He rolled on to his back with a groan. There was no way he was getting back to sleep now. A snuffle from beside him had him rolling back onto his side so he could see Percival. The older boy was resting peacefully for once and Harry didn’t want to disturb him, so he spent a few silent minutes just observing the outline of his roommate’s body under the covers.  

 

    Finally, Harry huffed out a breath, he really should get ready. It wouldn’t do to be late but lying in bed was so much more preferable to facing the upcoming trial. Seraphina had advised them to arrive at the ministry before eight, because eight was the absolute earliest that a trial could start as per some obscure law written in the 1700s, after one member had called a session at two o’clock in the morning. Apparently half the Wizengamot had been un-impressed at being woken and the other half were drunk. They had passed a law that it was illegal to wear purple feather boas on Saturdays.  Seraphina wouldn’t be meeting them with Mr McMillan, instead she would be joining her friend Amelia in order for her entrance to have the most impact.  

 

   Scrubbing a hand over his head, Harry decided to have a shower to start the day and shuffled into the ensuite. It seemed Mrs Weasley had been in at some point during the night as there was a set of freshly washed and pressed jeans and a tee-shirt for him to wear hanging over the towel rail. Well wasn’t she going to be surprised! The shower steamed up the mirror, obscuring Harry’s pale reflection. 

 

  Fortunately, by the time he had finished Dobby had hung his formal clothes and robes from a hook on the back of the bathroom door, so he was able to dress without disturbing Percival. After trying to make some order of his Eventually Harry emerged from the bathroom, to find a sleep addled Percival sitting on his bed rubbing his eyes.

 

  “Morning,” he greeted the taller boy.

 

  “Morning Harry,” Percival’s jaw split in a wide yawn. “Wait for me I won’t be long.”

 

  Harry moved to sit on his bed and Hedwig, fluttered over to his shoulder. He reached up a hand to stroke her chest. 

 

  “Even with all the help, I’m still worried,” he admitted. “What if they don’t allow Mr McMillan to speak? I don’t think I could do it on my own.” Hedwig coo’ed at him and butted her head against his cheek.

 

  Percival, true to his word, emerged from the bathroom not even ten minutes later wearing formal robes and joined Harry in traipsing down the stairs to the kitchen. Surprisingly Mrs Weasley, Sirius, Remus and Tonks were all already sitting at the table, cups of tea present in every hand. Much to the annoyance of the others, as indicated by the irritated glances he was receiving, Sirius was nervously tapping his fingers on the table. He stopped as soon as he saw Harry.

 

  “Did you sleep alright….?” the Animagus began only to be cut off by the Weasley matriarch.

 

  “Now what are you wearing Harry?” Mrs Weasley huffed derisively. “I laid your clothes out for you. I want you to run upstairs and change. We discussed this at the Order meeting and Professor Dumbledore feels that appearing in a thoroughly non-magical fashion will give the best impression.  You don’t want to start the hearing off on the wrong foot now do you? Arthur will walk you down and take you through the visitor’s entrance. He’s a bit excited that you’ll get to catch the train, just like a muggle.  Now what would you like for breakfast, I’ll put it on while you’re changing.”

 

  “Um,” Harry was a little bamboozled by her verbal barrage. “Um, just toast thanks,” he said in the end as he sat down next to Sirius, who was now jigging his leg. He decided to ignore her comments about his clothes for now. A moment later Arthur walked in.

 

  “Now Harry, you’ll come to work with me. The hearing is on the same floor as my office,” Mr Weasley stated as he finished buttoning up his robes. Mrs Weasley put a plate of kippers and toast in front of her husband.

 

  “What about Percival?” Harry enquired, wondering if he could get away with having a cup of coffee.

 

  “What?” Arthur paused with a forkful of food, halfway to his mouth.

 

  “Percival?” Harry pointed at his friend. “He will be my key witness, so he needs to come with me. We’re meeting …”

 

  “Huh, well I guess he’ll make his own way there,” Arthur shrugged dismissively, and continued eating.

 

  “No,” Percival, could not remain silent in the face of this farce any longer. “And quite frankly this ‘non-magical’ thing you’re trying to arrange here is utterly ridiculous and quite likely to put the judge off right away. We’ll floo Harry,” he stated flatly. “Mr McMillan, is expecting us at 7.40 near the fountain of Magical Brethren.”

 

  Arthur gulped like a fish, “Now you see here, Dumbledore made these arrangements, I think we can all agree that he knows best about these things. We know that the floo system is being watched!”

 

  Sirius snorted, “Arthur the house is under fidelius so anyone watching won’t be able to tell where he has come from and it doesn’t matter if the someone is watching the floo, because they already know where Harry is going to be today.”

 

   “Sorry Mr Weasley, but I’m with Percival on this one,” Harry cut in. “I have no doubt that the ministry is going to bump this up above a simple hearing for under age wizardry to a full trial, so I’m going in prepared for a proper court case. Which is why I won’t be changing clothes. I’m sorry if you were put out Mrs Weasley,” he added with an apologetic smile.

 

  “Is that why you’re meeting McMillan?” Sirius asked.

 

  Harry nodded, “He got in contact with me recently.” Harry mentioned offhandedly to make it seem like a coincidence to those listening in. “Apparently the Potters have had McMillan and Sons on retainer for the last three generations. Given the circumstances I thought it would be good to get appropriate legal advice. And after the trial we’re going to discuss with him what can be done about the slander in the prophet and those books that someone has published in my name, I never gave permission for anything like that.” That conversation had actually already happened, but they didn’t need to know that. This way it wouldn’t be unexpected when it all came out.

 

  He turned to look at his friend, “Are you ready Perce?” With a nod the other boy rose from his place and the two made their way over to the fireplace. “Wish me luck,” he said fatalistically.

 

  “Before you go Harry,” Sirius grabbed him by the shoulders and gave him a quick hug before pulling back and looking him in the eye. “Amelia Bones is going to be in charge. She was in Hogwarts years before I was, so we haven’t met, but the word is that she’s fair. So you shouldn’t need to worry. She’ll hear you out. Stay calm and listen to McMillan. Look after him Percival,” he glanced at the other boy who nodded. He gave Harry another quick hug before stepping back so Harry could move over to the floo.

 

  “Thanks Sirius.”

 

  “Best of Luck Harry,” Remus Lupin, somewhat awkwardly reached around Sirius to pat Harry’s shoulder. Harry smiled hesitantly at him before grabbing a pinch of Floo powder and stepping into the fireplace without another word.

 

 

 

   He whirled around in the green flames, stepping out calmly and confidently when they came to a stop (thank heavens they had spent an afternoon flooing between Grimmauld place and Seraphina’s apartment to practice). Harry emerged into a very long and splendid hall. One of the glossy black-green tile lined walls had a multitude of fireplaces set into it, through which dozens of workers were arriving to start their day. With a quick step to the side Harry cleared the way for Percival to exit the fireplace. A hurried inspection of their robes revealed the need for a wandless cleaning charm, fortunately there were no creases. Surprisingly Mr Weasley had followed them through.

 

  “Now boys,” the balding man said as he bustled up behind them. “I’m afraid you can’t…. I mean I can’t just allow you to meet this Mr McMillan. I…I mean..we…I mean…you don’t know him…”

 

  “Mr Potter, Mr Graves,” a confident baritone called. And they were both very relieved to see tall figure of Mr McMillan approaching. “I’m so glad that you’ve managed to get here on time, if you’ll follow me.” He turned to lead them away.

 

  “Now listen here!” Arthur said firmly, grabbing the man’s arm and turning him back around. “I don’t know what business you have with Harry but I …”

 

  “What business I have?” Samuel McMillan raised an eyebrow. Then looking the redhead up and down he continued, “Mr Weasley I presume? The business that I have with these young gentlemen, is that I have been employed as Mr Potter’s legal representative. As such, I need to ensure that they arrive at the appropriate location at the correct time for Mr Potter’s trial, so if you’ll excuse me.” He turned and headed towards the lifts with a flustered Mr Weasley following behind.

 

  “Now boys, I have been advised that the trial has been moved, we are headed directly there, so straighten yourselves up. And Mr Graves,” he made eye contact with the older boy, “I’m afraid your guardian will be arriving a trifle late,” he finished with a smirk.

 

  “Is that so, and she’s usually so prompt!” Percival smiled. 

 

  After registering their wands with the grumpy Welcome Wizard at the security desk, they paused in front of the fountain. Harry saw silver sickles and bronze knuts glinting up at him from the bottom of the pool. A small smudged sign beside it read:

 

  ALL PROCEEDS FROM THE FOUNTAIN OF MAGICAL BRETHREN WILL BE GIVEN TO ST MUNGO’S HOSPITAL FOR MAGICAL MALADIES AND INJURIES.

 

  “What do you think Perce?” Harry asked. “Is it like a muggle wishing well?”

 

   There were crinkles around Percival’s eyes as he smiled, “Well it can’t hurt Harry, especially not with a request for Magic to bless your trial.”

 

  A moment later Harry had his Gringotts pouch in his hand and was reaching into to it for a galleon, Mr Weasley blustering beside him not to waste his money, “Lady Magic, hear my plea, I ask your blessings on this trial, let the truth be known and justice done.”

 

  “Blessings be,” repeated Percival and Mr McMillan, ignoring the shocked expression on Mr Weasley’s face.

 

   “Now we’re going to courtroom ten,” Samuel said as they entered the lift, “If one of you could press the button.”

 

  “But, that’s not right, we were told it’s in Amelia Bones’ office” Arthur protested, as they were joined in the lift by a half dozen workers, a number of inter-departmental memos and Kingsley Shacklebolt, who slipped behind Arthur in the crowded lift and whispered in his ear. “Oh, ne…never mind. On to courtroom ten then,” he stammered, flapping his hand around his head in an attempt to ward off two memos that had started attacking him. Eventually he gave up and plucked them from the air, scrunching them up and pushing them deeply into one of his pockets to be read later. Fortunately, Harry had already pressed the appropriate button.

 

  “They haven’t used those courtrooms for years,” said Mr Weasley angrily. “I can’t think why they’re doing it down here - unless,” Mr Weasley stopped speaking as the lift was inundated with another stream of passengers.

 

  “Right then Harry,” Mr Wesley said as they arrived on the right level. He grabbed Harry by the elbow and propelled him out of the lift, leaving Percival and Mr McMillan to follow.  Mr Weasley bought them up to a plain black door at the end of an empty corridor. Half expecting to be herded through it Harry was surprised when Mr Weasley seized him by the arm and dragged him to the left where there was an opening leading down a flight of stairs.

 

  “Down here, down here,” panted Mr Weasley, taking two steps at a time, he seemed to be trying to run away from Percival and Mr McMillan, which Harry thought a little odd. “The lift doesn’t even come down as far as this.” 

 

  They reached the bottom of the steps and ran along yet another corridor. The doors they passed here were heavy wooden ones with iron bolts.

 

  “Courtroom…Ten…I think ….we’re nearly….Yes.” Mr Weasley stumbled to a halt outside a grimy dark door with an immense iron lock and slumped against the wall.

 

  “Not ominous at all,” huffed Percival as he sauntered up behind them.

 

  “Yeah it’d give Snape’s dungeon a run for its money,” Harry grinned, and he wiped his hands down his robes to settle them after the flight through the corridors,

 

  “Right I suppose we had best get in there,” Mr McMillan said and leading the way he turned the heavy iron door handle and stepped inside the courtroom.

  

 Harry had to suppress the urge to gulp, reminding himself to stand tall, as he entered a large dungeon which was strikingly familiar.  This was the place he had visited inside of Dumbledore’s pensieve, the place he had watched the Lestranges be sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban. 

 

  A cold male voice rang out across the courtroom, “You’re late.”

 

  Mr McMillan, instantly on alert replied, “I beg to differ. Not only are we early, as no trial may commence before eight am,” here he visually checked the time, the numbers glowing before him showing 07:55. “But court rules state that all attendees must be advised in writing of any changes to times of hearings and trials.”

 

  “That is not the Wizengamot’s fault,” said the voice arrogantly. “An owl was sent to you this morning.”

 

   But the Lawyer would not be cowed, “All notice must be received no later than twenty-four hours prior to the scheduled hearing time. As such if the owl was sent this morning then you are in fact in breach of the law, which would result in this hearing being declared null and void.”

 

  There was silence for a moment before the voice stuttered, “Y…Ye…Yesterday morning, advice was sent yesterday.”

 

  “You’re not very sure of that are you. I expect you to show me the delivery slips before I leave today.”

 

  “It doesn’t matter, we are all here now,” cut in another voice. “Mr Potter take your seat.”

 

  Harry dropped his gaze to the chair in the centre of the room, the arms of which were covered in chains. He had seen those chains spring to life and bind whoever sat between them. His footsteps echoed loudly as he walked across the stone floor. When he sat gingerly on the edge of the chair the chains clinked threateningly but did not bind him. Feeling rather sick he looked up at the people seated on the benches above him. In the middle of the front row sat Cornelius Fudge, the Minister for Magic. A broad, square-jawed witch with very short grey hair sat on Fudge’s left; she wore a monocle and looked forbidding. The seat on the other side of her was vacant. On Fudge’s right was another witch, but she was sitting so far back on the bench that her face was in shadow. It seemed that Percival had slipped into a seat off to one side as they had entered.

 

  “Very well,” said Fudge. “The accused being present - finally - let us begin. Are you ready?” he called down the row.

 

  “Yes, sir,” said an eager voice Harry knew. Ron’s brother Percy was sitting at the very end of the front bench. Harry smiled at him, ignoring the fact that he gave no response. Harry couldn’t blame him really. Not after the fight he had, had with his family. If you looked at it from a certain point of view, Percy was really just trying to protect his family, it could be seen in the letter that Ron had received the previous year and Harry couldn’t blame him for that.

 

  “Disciplinary hearing of the twelfth of August,” said Fudge in a ringing voice and Percy began taking notes at once. “Into offences committed under the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery and the International Statute of Secrecy by Harry James Potter, resident of number 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey. Interrogators: Cornelius Oswald Fudge, Minister for Magic; Amelia Susan Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Delores Jane Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister. Court Scribe, Percy Ignatius Weasley.” 

 

  “Lawyer for the defence, Mr Samuel Jonathon McMillan the third, with Witness for the defence, Mr Percival Ezra Graves,” Mr McMillan interjected in a strong voice, that had the Minister pausing.

 

  “I wasn’t notified of a witness,” exclaimed the Minister. “Permission for him to speak is denied.”

 

  “Uh hum,” Samuel cleared his throat and projected a copy of a form that he held in his hand onto the blank wall behind him for everyone to see. “As you can Minister, I have here a verified copy of my request to present both a witness and other evidence. Stamped, approved and filed within four days of the original trial date and time as per procedure.”

 

  “None the less. We don’t need to clutter this trial with what I am sure was to be a well-rehearsed fabricated story that Mr Potter has made up, and which one of his friends has agreed to support, either out of fear or some desire to obtain a little second-hand fame!”

 

  The chains clinked and moved as Harry stood and raised his wand to the ceiling, “I, Harry James Potter, swear that every word I speak in this courtroom from now until the end of this trial shall be the truth. On my magic so mote it be.”

 

  Red cords pulsed around him. The courtroom was stunned to silence. 

 

  Finally Fudge, who looked as if he had just swallowed a lemon, shuffled his notes and deciding to ignore the oath spoke, “Well then. So. The Charges. Yes,” he extricated a piece of parchment from the pile before him, took a deep breath, and read out, “The charges against the accused are as follows; That he did knowingly, deliberately and in full awareness of the illegality of his actions, having previously received a written warning from the Ministry of Magic on a similar charge, produce a Patronus Charm in a Muggle inhabited area, in the presence of a Muggle, on the second of August at twenty three minutes past nine, which constitutes an offence under Paragraph C of the Decree of Reasonable Restriction of Under Age Sorcery, 1875 and also under Section 13 of the International Confederation of Warlocks’ Statute of Secrecy. You are Harry James Potter of number four Privet Drive Little Whinging Surrey?” Fudge said, glaring at Harry over the top of his parchment.

 

  “He is,” answered McMillan though Fudge studiously ignored him.

 

  “You received an official warning three years ago, did you not?”

 

  “He did, though the details of that are currently being investigated Minister, as such they may not be used as evidence in this trial,” McMillan smirked.

 

  “What!”

 

  “Yes, you see it appears, that a house elf has actually confessed to having cast that piece of magic, which has raised the question as to the accuracy of the Ministries detection system. It seems to be unable to tell the difference between human Magic and Elf magic. An investigation has been started and the results at this stage…..”

 

  “That’s not the point,” huffed Fudge. “The point is that Mr Potter knew about the laws.”

 

  “Yes, he did,” agreed Mr McMillan.

 

  “Right. And on the night of the second of August Harry James Potter did knowingly produce a Patronus charm in front of a Muggle!”

 

  “He did not,” denied the Lawyer.

 

  “What!”

 

  “He did not produce the patronus charm on the night in question Minister.”

 

  Fudge looked around, then flipped hurriedly through the pieces of parchment he was holding “What name was it. Ah yes Hopkirk!” He pulled another sheet out of the pile and placed it on top. “Here is the document. It says right here! That you, Harry Potter, produced a patronus on the night of the second.”

 

  “I did not,” Harry denied strongly, it was the first time he had actually spoken, since giving his oath and his words were heavy with the weight of the vow, there was no mistaking the truth of them.

 

  “Th….the…then explain what happened!”

 

  Mr McMillan took over, “It is simple Minister. Harry was out at the park, in the presence of his cousin. Here he met with our witness Mr Graves, who was seeking some advice on muggle transportation, having become lost in the area. When a pair of dementors descended upon them. It was Mr Graves who, after first confirming that Mr Potter’s cousin knew of magic, cast the charm. An act which is not illegal in his country of origin.”

 

  “Hem hem,” the witch beside the Minister cleared her throat. “Are you implying that Ministry controlled Dementors were out of bounds roaming around in a Muggle neighbourhood Mr Potter?” For some reason she refused to direct the question to the lawyer.

 

  “They were,” Harry responded with words like lead.

 

  “I am not sure whether this tale is a result of your deluded mind, or if someone has pressured you into making these false accusations against the Ministry Mr Potter,” she said derisively ignoring the fact that he was oath-bound, “but I will not tolerate you deriding the ministry. And to convince this other poor soul to lie for you is the epitome of…”

 

  The door to the courtroom crashed open, and a woman swept in. It was the power of her aura as much as the glittering robe that she wore that drew the attention of the room. “I hope I’m not too late Amelia,” Seraphina’s dulcet tones echoed around the room.

 

  “What is the meaning of this! We are in the middle of a very important trial. You can’t just come waltzing in here. Those doors should be locked!” spat the Minister.

 

  The witch seated next to Fudge rose to her feet, “Really Fudge, is that anyway to treat Madame Picquery. Surely you recognise her. You remember the ex-President of MACUSA?” Amelia prompted, smiling at Fudge benignly. “She asked if she could visit, I told you about it on Wednesday, you agreed that it would be alright.” Seraphina took the empty seat, next to Amelia Bones.

 

  Wiping his now scarlet face with a handkerchief Fudge stuttered a greeting to their guest, before adding sharply, “If I may continue.”

  

“By all means go ahead, I have always wondered what the inner workings of the British Ministry were like. It seems rather odd, to hold a full criminal trial, for a simple case of underage Magic! It certainly wouldn’t happen in America.”

 

   A red-faced Fudge turned back to the floor, “Now tell us the truth Mr Potter, you cast the Patronus in front of the Muggle knowing full well…..”

 

  “As has been previously stated Minister, I did not,” Harry continued to deny, remembering to remain calm.

 

  “If I might clarify the situation Minister,” Mr McMillan picked up another piece of parchment and projected it onto the wall. “This is the written statement of the individual in question. He clearly states he could see the dementors therefore he is not in actual fact a Muggle at all but is instead a squib. This is also evidenced by his signature in blood, and if we cast the right charm,” there was a slight pause as Samuel, pulled out his wand and cast. “Like so, we can indeed see that there is a small amount of magic present. It is not all that surprising seeing as he is the nephew of Lily Potter. Therefore, no breaking of the International Statute of Secrecy occurred regardless of who cast the patronus. If that is not enough evidence…” He glanced up at the muttering Wizengamot and the scowling Fudge. “Then continuing on, I believe it is time for our witness to make a statement.”

 

  “I am not going to listening to some cock and bull story made up by a delusion teenager,” spat Fudge. “He’s obviously been taken in by Harry Potter who we all know is mentally unstable.”

 

  Samuel McMillan paused, glanced sideways at Harry, who had slumped slightly in the chair and decided that , yes this was time, “I will address your last point first, Minister,” McMillan stated solemnly. “Are you in fact a Healer?”

 

  “What?!” spat the Minister in disbelief, rising to his feet.

 

  “It was a simple question, are you a healer? Hmm, No? Well then you are in no way qualified to state that someone is or is not in their right mind. Such a statement is slanderous. A fact that I will be pursuing on behalf of Mr Potter will be pursuing at a later time.”

 

  “I am the Minister for Magic, you cannot speak to me this way. Mr Potter is lying!”

 

  A soft voice cut across the Ministers diatribe, “I have already sworn an oath to Magic, but as that appears not to be enough for you, I am willing to submit to questioning under vertiaserum.”

 

  With a gulping of air, Fudge bought himself under control, and said with a sneer, “Unfortunately Mr Potter. You are a minor and as such require your guardian’s permission. Given she is a Muggle, it is inadmissible in this court!” Fudge sat down triumphantly.

 

  

“Again, Minister Fudge,” McMillan projected yet another parchment and the Minister scowled. “Here we can see that Mrs Dursley nee Evans, as evidenced by her signature, is in fact also a squib, as such she is of magical descent and……”

 

  “Regardless,” Fudge sneered. “The fact remains that as a squib, her evidence is inadmissible.”

 

  “That point could very well be debated Minister, however this isn’t a statement of evidence. If you had taken the time to read it, you would have seen that it is in fact her permission for her nephew to be given veritaserum.  I think that you will find that following the trial in 1864 of Pollux Black against Renita Goldsworthy a precedent was set, that allows any Magical relative of a minor to give written permission for the use of veritaserum in a trial.” The smirk that graced McMillan’s face had definite shark-like qualities.

 

 “Minister Fudge,” Madame Picquery said in a deceptively demur voice. “The lads relative has clearly given permission. If you aren’t willing to accept it, I suggest you move things along. I have no doubt that the honourable members of this body have more important matters to attend to then this charade. In order to hasten proceedings, I will advise you now that I give permission for my ward to give his testimony under veritaserum. So, the truth will be uncovered regardless of your decision.” She smiled at him innocently.

 

  “Your ward?” Fudge choked out.

 

  “Yes,” she nodded sweetly. “The witness who is my Godson. You remember the one you were sayings was perhaps coerced into appearing or what was it that you implied…..that he was after a little bit of second-hand fame?!” Seraphina continued to smile at the Minister.

 

  “Ah….” Fudge stuttered.

 

  “Yes, perhaps you would like to consider the International incident that might result from your ill-considered words? Did you really think that I was interested in turning up to what is clearly a jumped-up farce of a trial, that has been designed to sate your vendetta against young Mr Potter?” she raised an eyebrow. Mr Fudge sank back in his chair. “Now make your decision wisely.”

 

  With a glance at Amelia Bones, who inclined her head. Fudge barked out, “Please bring veritaserum for Mr Potter.”

 

 An elderly wizard, wearing purple robes the same colour as the rest of the Wizengamot, but with no insignia, shuffled into the room, carrying a small green glass bottle on a cushion. Amelia descended the stairs to take the bottle from him.

 

  “As Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, I am delivering the dose of three drops of veritaserum to Mr Harry James Potter,” Amelia stated formally. She indicated for Harry to open his mouth and placed the drops onto his tongue, immediately his face became blank.

 

  “Test question one: Mr Potter what colour are your eyes?”

 

  “Green.”

 

  “What is your date of birth?”

 

  “31st of July 1980,” Harry could hear and understand the question it just felt like he couldn’t stop the emotionless words from falling out of his mouth. 

 

  “The veritaserum has been verified and I will begin the questioning. Mr Potter, what happened on the night of the second of August at approximately twenty minutes past nine?”

 

  “I was in the park and had been stopped by my cousin Dudley and his gang. They had me surrounded when suddenly the temperature dropped, and it started to get dark. All Dudley’s friends fled. Dudley and I ran to an alleyway near Wisteria walk. I noticed we had been joined by another boy.  In the alley Dudley stopped. Dudley was accusing me of causing it, and Percival asked if Dudley lived with me, he said yes. Then he asked if he knew about magic, Dudley again said yes. I had drawn my wand, but Percival told me not to use it and he cast Lumos Maxima, which revealed two dementors entering the alley. Dudley gasped and nearly collapsed to the floor. Then Percival cast a Patronus, it drove the dementors away. When they had gone, we helped Dudley up and Mrs Figg found us…”

 

  “That should do for the moment Harry?”

 

  “Hem, hem, surely you can’t mean to say that two Ministry Dementors were so far from Azkaban, Mr Potter. All dementors are under the Ministry’s control. Surely you aren’t implying that someone at the Ministry ordered such a thing? I mean why would anyone do such a thing?”

  

  There was a small part of Harry’s mind that decided to take the opportunity that was offered by this rhetorical question, despite it not being addressed to him and his mouth just answered, “Because Fudge or someone who supports him wants me silenced,” the monotonous words still holding the weight of his earlier vow, made the statement both more and less dramatic, there was a susurrus from the stands.

 

  “Why would Minister Fudge want you silenced?” asked Amelia Bones, Seraphina drew her wand, and keeping it hidden in the sleeve of her robe pointed it at Fudge ready to silence him if necessary, but he seemed to have been struck dumb.

 

  “Last June I witnessed the re-birth of Voldemort and at the end of my third year, I presented him with evidence that Sirius Black was innocent. He doesn’t wish for either event to become known.”

 

  “Sirius Black is innocent? You are aware that he is responsible for revealing the location of your safe house to Voldemort, resulting in the Deaths of your parents?”

 

  “Yes. He couldn’t have revealed that knowledge, as he was not the secret keeper and he is my Godfather.”

 

  “If he wasn’t the secret keeper, who was?”

 

  “Peter Pettigrew,” Amelia opened her mouth and then closed it again. “I think we will examine that later. After all Sirius was sentenced after his trial.”

 

  Despite there not being a question that small part of his brain that still seemed able to respond forced a reply to pass his lips, “He had no trial. He was taken straight to Azkaban.”

 

  The Wizengamot’s murmuring grew louder.

 

  Fudge banged his gavel, “Silence! Silence! Amelia that is not the focus of this trial, if you continue with this line of questioning, I will have you removed”

 

  Stonily Amelia raised a hand to stop Fudge from speaking any further, “I might remind you Minister,” her words were clipped. “That there is still information I need in order to be able to perform my job properly. Mr Potter, tell me about the events that happened in June?”

 

   It was if a tight spring in his centre had been released and in a waterfall of words, Harry told them everything. He told them about the end of the Maze, and the decision to take the cup together with Cedric. Of Pettigrew and the words ‘kill the spare’. The words spilled out of him, the potion, the ritual, and the man emerging from the cauldron. Then the fight and the joining of wands, seeing his parents and finally Cedric’s last request. There was a cry from the far corner of the room as Amos Diggory broke down once more as the boy in front of him recounted the last moments of his son’s life in an emotionless monotone. Finally, Harry spoke of his return to Hogwarts, the transformation of Alastor Moody into Barty Crouch Junior, the Dementors kiss being administered to Barty Crouch Junior at the Fudges direction and the Minister’s conversation with Albus Dumbledore.

 

  As the drops of the antidote hit his tongue and the veritaserum induced fog lifted from Harry’s eyes Harry glanced up at the stunned Wizengamot. There was a surprising mix of both shocked and disturbingly blank faces. He glanced sideways, Percival was wearing a decidedly pleased expression. 

 

  Just as Fudge was lifting his gavel to call the proceedings back to order, the door Harry had entered through opened to admitted Albus Dumbledore.

 

  “Witness for the defence Albus Wulfric….” He began to intone. 

 

  Snap. Fudge bought the gavel down, “I believe we are up to the sentencing. Raise your wands if you believe the accused to be guilty of the charges as stated.” A dozen or so of the blank faced wizards raised their wands.

 

  “Thank you,” then with a sigh in defeat at the foregone conclusion he said. “Raise your wands if you believe the accused to be not guilty.” A significantly larger number of wands were raised. “Cleared of all charges,” Fudge grumbled bringing down the gavel for the last time.

 

  “Shall I contact the Senior Undersecretary to make an appointment so that we can discuss the issue of slander Minister Fudge?” Mr McMillan. Fudge just winced and scurried out after the aforementioned secretary.

 

  “I would like to have a discussion with your client, Sam,” Amelia Bones approached the accused’s chair as Harry was standing up on shaky legs. Percival drew the younger boy into a rough hug. They didn’t see the Headmaster approaching.

 

  “Now Amelia,” twinkle. “I’m afraid that, that won’t be possible, besides don’t you think that Mr Potter deserves to enjoy his summer? Hmmm.” Twinkle. 

 

  “I will make the arrangements as necessary Amelia, though I will want to ensure the safety of my client,” Samuel McMillan responded ignoring Dumbledore.

 

  “Completely understandable Sam.” 

 

  By this time Seraphina Picquery had joined the group on the floor, “Percy.” She held her arms open for a hug, which was freely given. “And young Mr Potter, my Godson has told me a great deal about you.” She shook Harry’s hand as if they were meeting for the first time.

 

  “Percival is your Godson?” Dumbledore enquired as if he were only mildly interested.

 

  “Why yes Albus. I’m sure you remember his namesake, such a tragic loss. Now I have had about all I can stomach of the British Ministry for the time being, so we will bid you farewell, Sam. I am sure that if you are anything like my ward Mr Potter, you will soon be looking for something to sate your hunger.”

 

  “I’m afraid that won’t be possible Sera,” Albus began.

 

  “I believe that proprietary states that you should address me as Madame Picquery, Mr Dumbledore,” she responded sharply. “And as there is no doubt to the safety of my apartment, I believe the boys and I will leave.”

 

  “Be that as it may, Harry, cannot go with you Se….Madame Piquery, he is currently under my guardianship.”

 

  “Since when?” Harry asked, in confusion.

 

  “Why always my boy!” Dumbledore seemed surprised at the question. Percival surreptitiously moved his hand to cup Harry’s neck as he felt his friend tense. With some members of the Wizengamot still leaving (some were very elderly and moved slowly, others were covertly trying to spy on the group) it wouldn’t do to have Harry blow up at the Headmaster right this minute. He hoped Harry would forgive his intervention.

 

  “I am afraid that is not the case Mr Dumbledore,” Mr McMillan said, pulling out a piece of parchment from his never-ending pile and waving it briefly in front of the Headmaster. “The wills that Lily and James’ filed with us are quite clear. Harry was supposed to go into the care of Sirius Black with assistance and guidance from a Mr Remus John Lupin,” Harry tensed again, and Percival began to drew circles on the back of Harry’s neck with his thumb. “Failing that his guardianship was and is to be held by the Magical person or persons whose house in which he resides.”

  

  “Exactly,” Dumbledore smiled beatifically, this was just the opening he needed to get the boy back under his control. “As his Aunt is a muggle, then his residence for ten months of the year is Hogwarts and so I am his guardian.”

 

  “Even if that were correct Mr Dumbledore, it would be Professor McGonagall as his Head of House who would act in loco parentis as per Hogwarts charter. As it is I proved earlier that Petunia Dursley is a squib, and she has given permission for Harry to spend some time in the company of Madame Picquery and her Godson. In fact, she has asked Madame Picquery to take over Harrys guardianship in the Magical world for the foreseeable future. She signed the paperwork just yesterday, which includes permission for him to visit her residence and even to stay there while Hogwarts is in recess.” A look of annoyance crossed Dumbledore’s face.

 

  “Then I must insist on inspecting the protections…” Dumbledore started to say, yes if he could get in the house he could add some monitoring charms. The boy was just not behaving the way that he should, the issue needed to be addressed. Perhaps it was because of Sirius Black? Yes probably. It was understandable that Harry who had been denied the love of a Family for so long, when presented with one, would cling to it. Clearly, the boy idolised the man. That would have to be dealt with and soon! Surely there was someone he could use at Grimmauld place to drive a wedge between the two.

 

  “No. Dumbledore. The only thing I will tell you is that my place of residence in London is protected by the Fidelius, and the secret keeper is not on this continent. The other protections have been erected by the Head of Macusa’s Department of Security. I assure you that Mr Potter will be perfectly safe while he is visiting.”

 

  “But don’t you think Harry should spending time with his friends?” Albus tried a different avenue. Really the woman was infuriating! She had no reason to be interfering. What could Percival have possibly told her? He had only known Harry a couple of weeks. 

 

  “Headmaster, she isn’t kidnapping me!  We’re just going to have lunch. I’ll be back in time for tea. I promised Ron to let him beat me at chess tonight,” Harry smiled innocently. 

 

  “You really need to raise your goals Harry,” Percival dropped his hand so that he could elbow the shorter boy in the ribs. 

 

  “You can’t comment until you’ve played against him! Then remember I only learnt the game in first year! I can’t wait to get out of these robes,” Harry huffed suddenly, pulling at his collar.

 

  “Did you even bring anything to change into?” Mr McMillan asked curiously, as he hadn’t noticed either boy carrying a bag.

 

  “Um, no,” Harry groaned, dropping his head to his chest.

 

  “It’s alright I’m sure I’ve got something you can wear at Aunt Sera’s,” Percival reached out and messed up Harry’s hair.

 

  “Hey, don’t do that, it took me ages to get it that neat this morning!”

 

  “That was neat?!”

 

  “Well it was neater then it’s ever been before!” Harry protested.

 

  “Mr Potter, you do realise that your Grandfather created a potion, specifically aimed at controlling hair as wild as yours, don’t you?” Seraphine Picquery asked with a smile.

 

  “Uh, no. Does it work? Wait! Did you know him?” Harry turned his green eyes on her imploringly. 

 

  “Not well,” Seraphina replied, smile growing. “But we did cross paths once or twice. How about I tell you about it while we are having lunch. Amelia, I insist you join us. Come now boys.” With a brief nod to Albus Dumbledore and Samuel McMillan, Seraphina herded the boys out of the door.

 

  As they left they nearly ran into Mr Weasley who was standing right outside the doors, looking pale and apprehensive. “I sent an owl to Dumbledore as soon as I could. I hope it turned out all right Harry.”

 

  “Cleared,” Harry said, pulling the door closed behind him, there was no point mentioning that Dumbledore hadn’t helped at all, “of all charges!”

 

  Beaming, Mr Weasley seized Harry by the shoulders ignoring the boys flinch, he turned Harry and lead him away an arm still around his shoulders. “Harry that’s wonderful! Well, of course, they couldn’t have found you guilty, not on the evidence, but even so, I can’t pretend I wasn’t…” But Mr Weasley broke off, because there waiting at the lifts were Cornelius Fudge and the toad like witch. Fudge acted as though Mr Weasley and Harry were part of the wall, but the witch peered at Harry almost appraisingly. Percy was waiting at the lifts too, clutching a large roll of parchment and a handful of spare quills, his back rigid and his nose in the air.

 

  As they entered the lift Harry made sure to stand behind Percy on the opposite side to Mr Weasley. After the doors closed he leaned forwards slightly and whispered, “Congratulations on the new job Percy.” Percy ignored him but the tenseness in his shoulders seemed to relax a little bit.

 

  Finally, they exited the lifts and made their way back across the foyer. Harry stopped at the fountain once more and spilled the contents of his money pouch into its depths, with a quick ‘thanks’.

 

  “Why on earth did you do that Harry?” asked Mr Weasley in horror, as the ripples the coins had caused faded away. There had to be at least five Galleons there!

 

  “When we passed by the fountain on the way in, I asked for Magic blessings on the trial,” Harry explained calmly. “I don’t think it would have been possible for her to bless it any more than she did, unless maybe Sirius had gotten cleared as well, which would perhaps have been a touch unrealistic an expectation. There isn’t much I can do to pay her back, so this, is my way of saying thank you.”

 

  “But Harry, Magic isn’t a being! When we talk about Lady Magic it’s a concept, it’s not real!” Arthur was beginning to wonder if the boy was actually a little unstable, he would definitely have to mention it to Molly. There had to be something they could do, maybe a healer who focused on the mind. Now that he thought about it, that might help Sirius too, though he seemed to be doing a little better of late.

 

  “Either way,” Harry said, not wanting to argue in the middle of the ministry. “This is a thank you for her blessing. Regardless of whether she exists as anthropomorphic personification or not, it’s also providing support to St Mungos and you have to agree that is a worthy cause!”

 

  And there was nothing Arthur could say in response to that. He let it go with a sigh, the boy had always been generous with what little he had, never failing to offer compensation for food when he had stayed with them. 

 

  “Right,” he cleared his throat. “Now I know you are going with….” he nodded towards Madame Picquery.

 

  “Aunt Sera,” supplied Percival helpfully.

 

  “Y..Yes, your Aunt,” Arthur nodded. “But you need to ensure that you are home in time for tea, or I’ll never hear the end of it.”

 

  “We will Mr Weasley,” Harry promised cheerfully, and they waved him goodbye as they stepped into the floo.

 

 

   Plates of sandwiches and fruit were already laid out on the table when they arrived in the lounge room of Sera’s flat, but they were ignored as the four got themselves settled. 

 

  “Now boys, go and change into something more comfortable,” Picquery ordered. “Amelia, remove your outer robe and come and have some tea. You’ll want it, this is going to be a rather disturbing conversation.”

 

  “Well, I certainly feel unsettled now that you’ve started it off that way ‘Phina!” Amelia commented drily, hanging her robe on a hook beside the floo.

 

  “I don’t even know where to begin,” Seraphina mused as she lead her friend over to the couch. “Just realise this Voldemort fellow of yours, has dabbled in things that should have been left alone.”

 

  “Yes, well we knew that during his last attempt to take over Magical Britain,” Amelia huffed.

 

  “Perhaps we shouldn’t be calling him Voldemort!” Harry said softly as he re-entered the room, settling in an arm chair opposite the couch.  He was wearing a soft knitted burgundy sweater that he had borrowed from Percival but had decided not to change out of his dress pants.

 

  “I’m sure Dumbledore’s already told you that fear of the name increases the fear of the thing itself,” Amelia raised an eyebrow.

 

  “Yes, but he didn’t tell me that it was entirely possible that the name had a Taboo on it during the last war. Now that he has been returned to a body, there is every chance that he will do the same again.” Amelia’s skin turned grey. “However, his real name’s Tom Riddle. With Tom being such a common name, I can’t imagine he’d bother to put a Taboo on that.”

 

  “Tom Riddle, are you sure?” Madame Bones asked curiously. She had over heard her niece, Susan, gossiping about the things that Harry Potter had been up to at school. Perhaps this would shed light on some of the rumours. “How do you know?”

 

  By now Percival had also rejoined the group and sat it in the arm chair next to Harry’s. “It all start in my second year. You see Arthur Weasley and Lucius Malfoy got into a fight outside of Flourish and Blotts when we were buying our books.”

 

“Yes I heard about that,” Amelia nodded.

 

“Yeah it was the day that Lockhart was there signing books, so I think it made the Prophet.  In the kerfuffle Mr Malfoy slipped an extra book, a diary, into Ginny Weasley’s cauldron. Now I don’t want Ginny to get in trouble but, she did something that she should have known not to do. In her defence, that wasn’t a very good year for her. She was away from home for the first time in a strange place, so she started writing in that diary.  When the book started writing back instead of talking to one of her brothers, or to her parents, she kept writing in it. Susan may have told you that strange things were happening at Hogwarts that year. The caretaker’s cat, a ghost and students all got petrified.” 

 

   Harry raised his eyes from where they had been focussed on the coffee table in front of him to look at Madame Bones. She nodded, “Unfortunately she didn’t tell me until after the year was over, otherwise I would have come to the school myself to invesigate. She disappointed me that year Harry.” Harry’s eyes widened in surprise as Madame Bones continued. “I over heard her and her friend Hannah talking about what had gone on and that you had been involved. The mentioned something about you being the Heir of Slythering.” Amelia gave a dry laugh. “I told them they were ridiculous, that it was much more likely that you were the Heir of Gryffindor with your Potter and Peverell roots! They were supposed to apologise for the way they treated you, but looking at your expression now I can see that they haven’t. I am sorry,” she frowned. 

 

  He continued his tale with a shrug, dismissing the apology, “It was a mystery. At some point she became scared of what the book was telling her and the gaps in her memory after she had been writing in it. She threw it away and I found it. Not knowing any better I wrote in it too. It had belonged to a boy called Tom Riddle, he showed me the events that led to Hagrid getting expelled. A muggleborn student called Muggle Warren had been killed at Hogwarts fifty years ago, when Dumbledore was a transfiguration teacher. He implied that Hagrid was the cause of that death and the strange happenings. However, before I could find out more, someone stole the book from me. Not long after that Ginny was taken into the Chamber of Secrets. We figured out where that was and went to the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. He tried to obliviate us, so we took him with us at wand point.”

 

  “Us?”

 

  “Me and Ron Weasley. There was an accident down in the chamber, and we got separated so I went on alone. I saw Tom Riddle who had somehow gotten a body. He told me he was using the diary to draw the life out of Ginny to create a new one for himself. Eventually I destroyed the diary and we all emerged from the chambers a little battered but alive.”

 

  “The diary was draining her energy?” Amelia frowned. “There are a few dark objects that can do that but only one that I know of that could channel that force into a new body. The bastard created a horcrux.” She gasped in realisation, “and if he has now created a new body then he must have created more than one!”

 

   It was somewhat of a revelation for Harry, to have an adult with no other obligations, listen to him and believe what he said. Picquery had done it but that had been through her trust in Percival rather than in Harry himself. Healer Addison and Samuel McMillan were both being paid by Harry and so were obligated to, in the very least, act like they believed him regardless of their actual opinions. McGonagall had fobbed him off when he had bought the issue of the Philosopher’s Stone to her in first year. And Dumbledore? Well the less said about him the better. So it was nice to have Madame Bones, listen to him.

 

   Amelia herself was at a loss.  It had been clear throughout the trial that Fudge did not want to believe that Harry was telling the truth and he was going to do his utmost to discredit him, hopefully Harry’s lawyer would help contend with that. 

 

  “I think at least in the short term, it would be best if we kept this to ourselves,” she murmured, Harry’s heart sank. Seeing his expression, she added, “It isn’t that I don’t believe you, however there are a couple of matters we will have to contend with. The first being Fudge,  I will have to work behind his back and that will be easier if he doesn’t suspect I am up to anything. The second is that at this point in time we don’t know which of his old supporters have returned to him.  Finding his Horcruxes is going to take a lot of research, and that will be easier done if we aren’t being waylaid by his Death Eaters.”

 

  “I can give you a list of everyone who was there the night that he returned,” Harry offered quietly. 

 

  “Good,” Amelia nodded. “Though we must assume that there are other, lesser Death Eaters who weren’t there, or people who have joined since. The quieter we keep this the better.”

 

  “Um, someone else already knows,” Harry admitted.

 

  “Who?”

 

  “Healer Addison, you see we already know where one of the others is,” Harry lifted his fringe to reveal his scar. “But he has sworn an oath not to reveal the information to anyone.”

 

  “Oh Harry,” Amelia shut her eyes, she could not imagine what it felt like to be this boy. The boy who had saved them once already and now had such a heavy burden to bear. 

 

  “Healer Addison is doing some research, we’ll see him the day after tomorrow to see if he discovered anything. He thinks there is a way of removing it from me so that it can be destroyed,” Harry added trying to reassure her.

 

  “If you send me the time Phina, I’ll try to be here. Now,” she leaned forwards resting her chin on the tips of her steepled fingers. “What can you tell me about Sirius Black?”

Chapter Text

 

  The sombre mood that had descended during the afternoon was broken when the pair arrived back at Grimmauld place. It was nearly impossible for Harry to contain his excitement in the face of the reception he received when they spun out of the floo into the kitchen.  Apparently, Arthur had been busy at work and hadn’t had time to send word earlier, so everyone who had been staying at the town house was gathered in the kitchen anxiously waiting for Harry’s return.

 

  “I knew it!” yelled Ron, punching the air exuberantly. “You always get away with stuff!”

  

   “They were bound to clear you,” said Hermione who had looked positively faint with anxiety when Harry had entered the kitchen and was now holding a shaking hand over her eyes. “There was no case against against you, none at all.”

 

   It was quite the turnaround from the last few days of glares. Harry wondered for a moment if it would last, then he saw the sly sideways glance she was giving him, and he suppressed a groan behind his grin.

 

  “Everyone seems quite relieved, though considering you all knew I’d get off,” he said rather cheekily.

 

  Mrs Weasley was wiping her face on her apron, while Fred, George and Ginny were doing a kind of war dance to a chant that went: ‘He got off, he got off, he got off!’

  

  “That’s enough! Settle down!” shouted Mr Weasley who had arrived in the midst of the pandemonium.

 

  “Listen, Sirius, Lucius Malfoy was at the Ministry, waiting for Fudge when we got out of the lifts after Harry’s trial.”

 

  “What?” said Sirius sharply. 

 

  “He got off, he got off, he got off…”

 

  “Be quiet you three! Yes, I saw him talking to Fudge on level nine. Then they went into Fudge’s office together. Dumbledore ought to know. If the Minister is meeting known Death Eaters alone, there is the possibility he is under the imperius!”

 

  “Absolutely,” said Sirius, “we’ll tell him if you’re not here, don’t worry.”

 

  “Well I’d better go wash up, I’ve spent all day dealing with a vomiting toilet at Bethnal Green! And I have to head back later so I can cover for Tonks, but Kingsley might be dropping in for dinner –” he disappeared up the stairs. 

 

 “He got off, he got off, he got off…”

 

  “That’s enough – Fred – George – Ginny!” said Mrs Weasley, “Harry, dear, come and sit down, have some tea, you hardly ate breakfast.” 

 

  Ron and Hermione sat themselves down opposite him. Ron looking happier than he had done since Harry had first arrived at Grimmauld place, and Harry’s giddy feeling of relief, which had subsided somewhat at Mr Weasleys mention of Lucius Malfoy and the Minister, swelled again. 

 

  “So, Mr Whatsit? Your lawyer, was a big help then?” Ron asked as he chewed a mouth full of bread. 

 

   Harry nodded and swallowed before answering, “He was good! Even went and saw my Aunt to get permission for me to take veritaserum. Me lying seemed to be their biggest concern.  He’s also going to be talking to the Prophet and the Minister about the things they’ve been saying about me. He called Fudge….”

 

“That’s the Minister Harry!” Hermione interrupted leaning across the table to slap his arm.

 

  Green eyes flicked her way for a moment, taking in her supercilious demeanour, before they returned to the red-head, “out on calling me crazy, right in the court room!”

 

  “That’s so rude! Harry you need….”

 

  “Well, I suppose it was a good thing that he was there, but I do think you should have left it to Dumbledore,” Mrs Weasley commented. “You could have saved that money, Harry.”

 

  “Yeah well, as my family has been paying his firm for years, you could say I was just getting some use out of the money that’s already been spent. Besides Dumbledore didn’t even show up until the trial was over and they were giving out the verdict!” Harry snorted.

 

  “It’s Professor Dumbledore, Harry!” scolded Hermione, slapping him again. Seriously if she had been a guy he would have considered hitting her back.

 

  “Thanks Hermione, I didn’t realise we were at Hogwarts!” Harry looked around as if examining the room. “Oh, hang on that’s because we’re not!” he ended sarcastically. 

 

 

  Percival and Sirius snorted while the twins snickered. Hermione crossed her arms in front of her chest with a huff.

 

  “Really Harry, you should show some respect for the Headmaster,” Mrs Weasley huffed.

 

  “But I do, Mrs Weasley,” Harry looked at her with wide green eyes, the very epitome of innocence. “I am sure that he is an excellent Headmaster. Just as I am sure that he treats all students the same. For example, he calls me Harry, and yet he calls you what exactly Ron?”

 

  “‘E calls me Mr Weasley,” Ron supplied helpfully around another mouthful of food.

 

  “Exactly…. Mr Weasley. He calls me into his office for meetings that are unrelated to my schoolwork, which I am sure he does with all of your children as well?” Harry looked around the group, Mr Weasley was now frowning. Surely the twins had been called into the Headmasters office for their antics!

 

  “See,” Harry waved a hand towards Hermione, the only one who hadn’t shaken their head. “Hermione also has meetings alone with the Headmaster without any other teachers present.”

 

  “I am sure,” Mrs Weasley said primly. “That the Headmaster ensures that Hermione’s Head of House is present for any meetings.” Hermione looked at the table, redness staining her cheeks.

 

  “Yes, I will admit that sometimes he has the Head of Slytherin present for our meetings. Though I’m not sure why? Even though with me he discusses things like where I will be spending the summer, I am sure he only discusses your schoolwork right Hermione?” Harry wheedled, genuinely curious now. Harry was certain from the look on his face that Ron had never been called into the Headmaster’s office at all. Perhaps the meetings were how they had covered up her access to the Potter library?  Hermione’s cheeks turned darker.

 

  “Of course, he does!” Mrs Weasley sniffed dismissively. “There’s no other reason for the Headmaster to be calling a young girl into his office.”

 

  “Or a young boy! I don’t think gender matters who he has invited for a private meeting the rules are the same?” Sirius asked dubiously, looking at Hermione. “Regardless of what it is about, there should be another adult present!”

 

  “Harry,” Percival said quietly, while the others were distracted. “If the Headmaster Dumbledore ever calls you for a meeting, you can ask your Head of House to go with you and he can’t turn you down. It’s in the school rules.” 

 

  “Are you kidding she’s never listened to me before!” Harry snorted.

 

  “One of the others could go to,” Percival suggested, Harry shrugged. He doubted Sprout would stand by him after the way she treated him when his name came out of the Goblet of Fire. Maybe Flitwick would?

 

  “You can also request your guardian be present,” Sirius said from Harry’s other side. “And don’t think that I haven’t noticed that you’ve been ignoring me since you got back,” he added quietly as he elbowed his Godson in the ribs.

 

  Harry couldn’t help the grin that slid across his face, he bent closer and whispered, “Something else happened, but I want to tell you where no-one else can hear.”

 

  Sirius eyed him curiously, “In the library when we’ve finished here then.” Harry nodded and avoided further conversation by filling his mouth with food.

 

 

    An hour later Harry was lying flat on his back on the rug in the middle of the floor in front of the fireplace that had appeared in the library. His hands were resting on his abdomen, as he took slow deep breaths. Finally, he had reached a point where he was able to focus on one thought to the exclusion of all others and could locate his core, as he had done at Gringotts, in moments. Initially Percival had tried to get him to not think of anything, to empty his mind. That had failed spectacularly. Percival had not been surprised, apparently it was quite common, especially in teenagers, who had all sorts of thoughts, uncontrolled emotions and hormones floating around. Now though, he concentrated on that feeling of freedom he got when he was flying. Now that, he could focus on for hours!

 

  They had moved on to trying to develop some sort of protection, because while the flying was a great deflection technique, it had managed to prevent Percival from finding any memories, it did rely on Harry knowing that someone was trying to perform legilimency on him. Which a skilled legilimens was not going to do. Building a wall, or a building had failed, and Harry was in the process of trying to figure out why. First, he had to calm his mind, to settle all the errant thoughts of the day. On days like today there were a lot! 

 

  With a slow exhalation he focused deeper. Why did the walls he build fall down? What did it take to build a strong wall? Surely just brick or stone. He had tried fancier materials too, like titanium and steel, nothing seemed to work. Percival just knocked them over or dug under them. Hmmm, maybe what he was missing was a foundation? They just sort of sat on the ground that made up his mental construct, so perhaps he should dig into it, then start building, then cover up the base, then maybe some sort of support or strut? 

 

  “Harry?” 

 

  Green eyes popped open as Harry was pulled abruptly back into the present.

 

  “You know you’re not supposed to be sleeping, hey?” Percival poked the other boy in the ribs, encouraging him to sit up.

 

  “I was meditating!”

 

  “You’ve got some drool,” Percival pointed at the corner of Harry’s mouth. “Right there. Did you know?”

 

  Harry hurriedly swiped a hand across his mouth only to find it dry. Sitting up quickly he grabbed hold of Percival arm, and tried to force the taller boy onto the floor. The wrestling match finished, with both boys out of breath and Harry lying across Percival’s chest, trying to use his body weight to pin the other boy down.

 

  Sirius cleared his throat, lips twitching, “Uh-hum. I can see you boys are busy but Harry you did promise to tell me what happened today.”

 

“And I realised something the other day, about your Occlumency that I need to tell you, plus you promised Ron a game of chess,” Percival added. “Remind me to tell you so I don’t forget.”

 

 A blushing Harry pushed himself off his friend and made his way over to sit next to Sirius on the lounge.

 

  “You already know that Amelia Bones was there right?” Sirius nodded. “Well McMillan managed to get them to give me veritaserum. This woman sitting near the Minister said,” and here Harry put on a nasal whine. “Surely you can’t mean to say that two Ministry Dementors were so far from Azkaban, Mr Potter? All dementors are under the Ministry’s control. Surely you aren’t implying that someone at the Ministry ordered such a thing? I mean why would anyone do such a thing?”  

 

“That’s a terrible impression of Madame Umbridge!” Percival chided, poking his leg with a toe from where he was now lying on the rug.

 

  Harry rolled his eyes and continued, “So even though it was really a rhetorical question I was able to answer it. I said that someone wanted to keep me quiet. Which made Madame Bones ask why. So I answered, mentioning third year and the end of the tournament. Madame Bones commented that you’d already had a trial and even though it wasn’t a question I was able to say that you hadn’t, as I was under veritaserum they had to believe me. After that they pretty much went straight to voting but Madame Bones wanted to know more, so she came back to Madame Picquery’s.” Harry grinned.

 

  “She told you to call her Aunt Sera,” Percival threw a cushion at Harry, who caught it and threw it back.

 

  “Sorry Aunt Sera’s. While we were there Madame Bones asked me to tell her everything. To cut a long story short, she’s going to get a team together to investigate your lack of trial and whether you’re guilty or not. Though she agrees that because you’re my Godfather that Magic would have taken action if you were actually guilty.” His grin grew wider as Sirius shook his head in disbelief. 

 

  “Harry,” the man whispered almost reverentially. “Thank you.”

 

  “She thinks she’ll have some sort of result in about a month. Because it’s already been raised under veritaserum, if the evidence supports you, they will have to give you a trial. I’ve sent an owl to McMillan and he’s agreed he’ll represent you, as long as you’re happy with that.” 

 

  Sirius nodded and wrapped an arm around Harry’s shoulders, bringing him into a close hug.   Harry didn’t comment on the tear that made its way down the man’s cheek. 

 

  “Now you had better go and let Ron defeat you at chess!” Percival walked passed the couch and ruffled Harry’s hair.

 

  “Oi!” Harry tried to swat his hands away but was too slow.

 

  “Oh, Harry,” Harry turned back, at the hesitant sound of Sirius’ voice. “Remus’ relationship with you came up, during the Order meeting the other night. I expect he’ll want to talk to you about it at some point.”

 

  Harry frowned, “He had all of third year to talk, then he could have written!”

  

  Sirius stood and placed his hands-on Harry’s shoulders, looking the boy in the eye, “I know. I also know that Remus has the lowest self-esteem of anyone anywhere, and he holds the Headmaster in very high regard, because he allowed him to go to Hogwarts. Make no mistake,” he continued as Harry opened his mouth to protest. “That doesn’t mean he did the right thing. I think a lot of people have taken Albus’ word about you, without bothering to look any further and that has hurt you deeply. I will not follow him blindly any longer. I …I just wanted you to know that it had come up. You have missed out on so many of the things that your parents wanted for you,” Sirius shook his head. “The way things have turned out is not your fault and I am more than a little miffed that he didn’t make the effort to get to know you. But if nothing else he will be able to tell you more about your Mum and I don’t want you to miss out on that.”

 

  Harry nodded with a small smile and left.

 

  “I’m glad you’ve woken up and started thinking,” Percival said as he walked passed Sirius to the door.

 

  Sirius watched the dark-haired boy leave, before falling onto the couch with a groan.

 

 

  Harry was again lying on the couch in the ex-President’s apartment. Unfortunately between the new leads on Tom Riddle and investigating Sirius’ case, work at the DMLE had kept Madame Bones from being present. Healer Addison had finished examining Sirius and had been mildly pleased with his mental state and the fact that Sirius was now able to acknowledge how bad he had been. His physical condition was on par with Harry’s though, so he was also placed on a potions regime. They had also both been warned that once their bodies had recovered enough they would be put on an exercise program as well. 

 

  Sirius rubbed a hand across his face with a sigh, “It looks like I am going to have to apologise to Severus.”

 

  “I don’t know, I think you’ve both been as bad as each other,” Harry stated wryly.

 

  “Mmm,” Sirius agreed.  “If I’m honest, he has every right to be angry at me. We did not like each other at school. Don’t get me wrong, he and his little band of Death Eaters were just as bad as we were.”

 

  “But,” Harry looked shocked. “That means you were as bad as they were!”

 

  “Mmmhmm,” Sirius nodded, slightly relieved he hadn’t needed to spell it out for Harry.  “And more than a few times we took it all a bit too far. We were arses, jumped up on our own self-importance. Your mother was best friends with Severus up until our fifth year and we, your Dad, Rems and myself, were involved in the incident that led to them falling out. They’d been arguing for a while, over his involvement with the Death Eaters, not that we knew they were called that then. But there was event at the end of our exams that was the final straw.”

 

  “But, if Dad was such a horrid person why would Mum go out with him?” Harry asked with a frown.

 

  “It was two years later and he grew up,” Sirius replied simply.  “That event and another early the next year made him really think.”

 

  “What was the other event?”

 

  “Ah,” Sirius coughed. “I had kind of hoped you wouldn’t ask. I tricked Severus into going down to the shrieking shack on a full moon.” He said it really fast.

 

  “You what?” Harry jumped to his feet.

 

  “I know,” Sirius raised a hand in supplication. “In my defence I believed, and still do, that he already knew that Remus was a werewolf and was down there. He had bragged to me that he was the one responsible for taking my brother Regulus to meet V…. Tom Riddle. I was so angry,” Sirius dropped his head into his hands. “My baby brother, I had protected him his whole life, I took every punishment for him that I could, until I ran away from home, well I was kicked out really.” Sirius shook his head, bringing himself back to the present. “I honestly thought that Snape wouldn’t be stupid enough to go. He had been spouting off for months how he knew what Remus was up to on the full moon. I didn’t stop to think how it would affect Remus. I believe that’s the reason why he never stood up for me when I was sent to Azkaban. On some level he believed I was capable of selling out a friend.”

 

  Harry slumped back onto the couch, “What happened?”

 

  “Well, your father got wind of it. We were already down in the shack when I mentioned it to him, saying that Snape would have to be stupid to come down the tunnel. Remus was beginning to turn, when we noticed that the whomping willow wasn’t moving. James ordered me to stop Remus leaving the room while he ran back up the tunnel to stop Severus.  They didn’t speak to me for months after that. I was pulled off the Quidditch team and suspended for a month, when Dumbledore found out. Of course I told him the whole story and he promised to help Regulus.” Sirius shook his head again with a snort, “Something that he never did, another empty promise of his, I suppose I shouldn’t be too harsh, he did prevent Remus’ secret from getting out. That was about the time that I became friends with your Mum. When the others were giving me the silent treatment she started talking to me. I think she felt sorry for me.  She confirmed that Severus had thought Remus was a werewolf back in fourth year. Your Dad changed a lot after that, he became much more responsible for one thing and stopped with the arrogance. Once he knew that Severus had already known about Remus, he started speaking to me again.”

 

  “With all that history, why are you going to try and talk to him?” Harry asked softly.

 

  “Well that is actually simple Harry. I am going to apologise to him, for you. You need these potions, Severus can make sure that you get them while you’re at school. He already offered to check them once he heard that you had been living with Petunia.”

 

  “Oh,” Harry was somewhat humbled that someone would do something like that just for him. 

 

  “I’m hoping to ask him to make them for you. He might be a cranky bastard but he can certainly brew.”

 

  “I’m sure the ones from the shop are just fine.  You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to, he probably won’t anyway. He hates me.”

 

  “You are my Godson, and I love you Harry. Facing my demons may be difficult, but it’s worth it to help you.”

 

  “Good,” Healer Addison said, moving over to the pair. “He is going to need someone on his side. Now Harry, we were talking last time about your scar.” His solemn tone was the first sign Sirius had that something was wrong.

 

   Harry nodded and chewed his lip anxiously, which was the second sign. 

 

  “I did some investigating and taking into consideration your memories of that night and the incident with the diary in your second year, I can confirm we were correct. Tom Riddle has made horcruxes,” Sirius hissed, that was the third sign. “And given that he has managed to create a new body, it is clear that these weren’t the only ones.”

 

  “Wait, wait, wait!” Sirius said frantically, trying to catch up with the conversation.  “Weren’t the only ones? But you only mentioned the diary, right?”

 

  Addison shook his head solemnly, “Sirius, there is a part of Tom Riddle’s soul imbedded in the scar on your Godson’s forehead.”

 

  “No!” Sirius gasped out.

 

  “Perhaps a calming draught?” Seraphina suggested. 

 

  Healer Addison summoned one from his bag and removed the cork before handing the phial to Sirius, who downed the liquid in one gulp. It took several seconds before it took effect.

 

  “Now if I can continue. I don’t believe that he meant to create the one in your scar. I am unsure whether his soul was so unstable by that point, that the spell rebounding from your Mother’s protection caused it to break off, or if he had prepared for the ritual to create a new one before going to your parents’ house so that the piece was already partially separated, and the magic of your Mother’s protections bound it to you or perhaps as your soul was the only complete one in the room it acted as a lodestone and drew the fractured piece to you. In the end it doesn’t matter which it was, what we need to discover is what can be done to be rid of it and the others.”

 

  “There are others?” Percival asked.

 

  “Indubitably. The piece in Harry is infinitesimally small. The piece that has remained to create the new body must have been equally small at the time of the ritual. It is why he has lost most of his human appearance.”

 

  Harry paled and swallowed.

 

  “Harry?” Percival asked quietly.

 

  “I think he created another one.”

 

  “What! Why?”

 

  “Those dreams that I have. Do you remember Sirius I wrote you, last year? He was in that house and he killed that old man.” Harry turned horrified eyes to the Healer.

 

  “Did he have a proper body at that time?” Harry shook his head. “That’s good then. He wouldn’t have been able to create a new horcrux without one. The homunculus would have been ripped apart due to the stress of the ritual. So, no Harry, he couldn’t have created one then. Though you raise an important point, he has a new body now, so potentially he could create more. Though I would think that the number would be restricted, at some point the soul must get too small to tear anymore pieces away and leave a still functioning being.”

 

  Harry wasn’t sure if he should be relieved or horrified by the healer’s response.

 

 “So how do we get rid of it then?” Seraphina asked.

 

  “You must understand that most of the documents related to such things have been destroyed over time, making the research difficult and time consuming. I will need assistance and someone else will need to research what objects he might have used to store this soul pieces and how many there could be. So far, I have discovered that usually the piece of soul is placed into a non-living container. Meaning that destroying the receptacle beyond repair will destroy the soul piece contained within.” Four pairs of horrified eyes stared at the healer, who clucked his tongue at them indignantly. “Not that I am suggesting that we do that. I am in the business of saving lives not taking them, but you need to know this to be able to destroy the others. If they still exist so will Tom. I need to do some more research into removing one from a living vessel. If we can, we might be able to place it in a container of our choosing and thus be able to create a way of using it to locate the others.”

 

  Sirius tried to speak around the lump in his throat, eventually he managed it, “What have you found so far?”

 

  “Not a great deal, unfortunately. There is however a number of references to a ritual that will evict a soul piece, usually in the case of possession but I haven’t found the ritual itself yet.”

 

  “I’ll look in the Black library, though that could take time,” he mused. “Hermione likes the library, maybe I could get her to look?” he stroked his beard thoughtfully.

 

  “Don’t you dare tell…” Harry started before looking at Sirius’ face and realising he was only joking to try and break up the tension. “Sod off Padfoot!” He reached out and tried to push Sirius over. 

 

  “How did you discover it?” Sirius asked the Healer, there was a slight edge of suspicion in his voice as if he had just thought of something distasteful. 

 

  “I simply did an in-depth diagnostic scan. It is commonly used on anyone who is unconscious because it reveals their name, age and any injury that has occurred to them in their lifetime.”

 

  “What is it Sirius?” Harry asked at the Animagus’ scowl.

 

  “How is it that the world knew the next morning that you had survived the killing curse? When I saw you that night, your forehead was all swollen and bloody. There was no way to see what shape the cut would take. I thought you had been hit when the roof caved in. You were only fifteen months old. So, while you were speaking a little there is no way you could have told anyone what happened.”

 

  “What about Legilimency?”

 

  “It doesn’t really work on children under the age of five,” Healer Addison responded. “Babies and toddlers don’t really think the same way as adults do. Their memories are more made up of the emotions that are present, rather than an internal dialogue. I imagine if someone had tried it on you at the time, all they would only have felt something along the lines of fear, pain and tiredness.”

 

  “The only way anyone could have known, is if someone had performed that spell. Is it a spell just anyone can do?”

 

  Addison shook his head, “It is only taught as part of the training to become a healer. There are strict vows that must be taken with regards to its use due to the issues around patient confidentiality.”

 

  “So, who would I have been taken to that night?”

 

  “Hagrid had you,” Sirius rasped out. “He had pulled you out of the house before I got there. He let me hug you briefly before saying he was under orders. I gave him my bike so that he could take you to Dumbledore while I hunted the rat.”

 

  “Madame Pomphrey would know the spell, he must have taken me to Hogwarts. So, Dumbledore must have known this whole time!”

 

  “That raises an interesting issue,” Addison mused. “Of why Madame Pomfrey has not been looking for a solution. The oaths the healers take would compel her to.”

 

  “Knowing how she is with her patients, I assume that she has been obliviated. Which is a problem for another time. As much as I want to hex Dumbledore even more now, it won’t help us find a solution. Are there any books I should be looking for?” Sirius asked. 

 

  Addison shook his head, “Not specifically. But anything on soul magic, possibly blood magic, or healing. Possessions are a good place to start, though you are looking for rituals that will remove the extra soul and store it, not just banish it. We don’t want there to be even a hint that the bond is gone until we are ready. With him now sharing Harry’s blood there is a chance he could use it to forge another possession. Speaking of blood, you’ll be glad to note that your blood was free from potions, but there were a couple of unusual results that I want to speak to you about next time. Nothing that seems to be harming you for the moment. Well, I will leave you with that for now. I want to review you one last time before you head to school Harry. I’ll make arrangements with Sera, shall I?”

 

  Harry nodded, “Thanks for your help.”

 

  With a nod Addison disappeared through the floo.

 

 

  “Shite!” the Animagus swore. “How am I supposed to find anything in here?” Sirius had barely left the library and parlour in the two days since they had returned form Picquery’s. He desperately wanted to find a solution to the Horcrux problem. He knew he’d need to leave soon, his bladder was beginning to become a problem. Perhaps if he talked to Kreacher they could set up a water closet or an ensuite in here. Then he wouldn’t even have to leave to shower. Perhaps a stretcher, then he wouldn’t have to leave at all. The library did have a penchant for adding various bits and pieces every once in a while, like the fire place and the wing backed chairs, maybe it would add something. He scratched his head, in irritability, every moment outside was a moment he wasn’t looking for a solution, with that he turned the page on the tome in his lap.

 

  “Sirius!” Remus stuck his head into the parlour. 

 

  “Hmm,” Sirius called, not looking up from the book he had open on his knee. 

 

  “There’s an order meeting starting in ten minutes. You’d best come. What on earth has gotten into you?! You never even read this much when we were studying for our NEWTS. In fact, the only other time I have seen you like this was just after Lily told us she was pregnant.” He turned wide eyes on his friend. “Sirius?”

 

  “What,” Sirius looked up now. “No, I haven’t gotten anyone pregnant!” he scoffed indignantly. “I haven’t even left the house. To be honest I’m not even sure that all that works anymore, I’ll have to ask a healer as soon as one of the Order ones is willing to look at me. If you must know I wanted to know a bit more about the potions that Harry is taking.” Sirius lied. “Is Snape in tonight?”

 

  “Yeah, he should be through any minute.”

 

  Sirius marked his place in the book and banished it back into the library. 

 

  “Is that really necessary?”

 

  “Just trying to be a bit more responsible. It would only disappear itself if I left it out. Besides I don’t think the kids should have access to medical books do you. They might not be dark, but some of the pictures!” He shuddered.

 

  “Pictures?”

 

  “Yeah, descriptive for ailments or conditions like the werewolf transformation. Even having seen it in real life I didn’t need to see those pictures!”

 

  “Oh!” 

 

  “Have you spoken to Harry yet?” Sirius asked knowing that the other man hadn’t. The longer it went on the less likely Harry was to want anything to do with the man.

 

  “No. Dumbledore said not to worry. That Harry would come round.” Sirius’ face blanked. “What? You don’t think he will?”

 

  “I don’t think Dumbledore would know or care,” Sirius replied flatly. He really wanted to slap some sense into Remus at time. Sure Dumbledore had let Remus go to Hogwarts, but had he followed it up? No! To his knowledge Remus was still the only werewolf to ever have gone. Did no-one else find it odd?

 

  “But of course, he does. He has always had Harry’s best interest at heart.”

 

  “You think sending him to be abused, was in his best interest,” Sirius hissed. 

 

  “Dumbledore said, he was exaggerating.” Remus defended.

 

  “Do you remember sixth year?” Sirius said almost conversationally, and Remus was surprised by the sudden change in topic. 

 

  “Yes.”

 

  “Well then, you will remember that because you, James and the rat, were giving me the cold shoulder, and rightly so, I took up a new friendship.” Remus nodded. “You might also remember the night that you found Lily and I at the top of the astronomy tower. How you accused be of hitting on my best mate’s girl. Despite the fact that neither of you had talked to me for six months and Lily was a mess from crying. What you never knew was that she was crying because that was the first night back after the holidays and her sister had made her life miserable for the week she was home. Including trying to run her over in a car. Lily had to apparate to safety and got a warning from the ministry for it. Dumbledore sent Harry to live with that woman. I have had a healer see Harry, and the list of injuries inflicted on him, and I don’t mean things like he stubbed his toe, is longer than Moody’s!”

 

    Sirius glared at the werewolf, who stuttered, “But he said!”

 

  “He wouldn’t know, he never checked! He doesn’t care about Harry! He cares about his pawn in the game he is playing with Tom Riddle!” Sirius growled.

 

  Remus backed away from Sirius as his magic flared. 

 

  “What harm would it do to talk to Harry? You say he is your cub, part of your pack, but how exactly have you shown him? And don’t even think about starting the answer with Dumbledore said!” Sirius challenged the werewolf.

 

  Remus’ mouth which had begun to open snapped shut.

 

  “Just think about it Remus. Harry needs adults who see him for the fifteen-year-old he is not the weapon that Dumbledore wants him to be.” He opened the door and stepped into the hall, “If there is one thing that I wholeheartedly agree with Molly on it’s that the kids should have nothing to do with this damn war.”

 

  Mrs Weasley opened the door to the kitchen in time to hear that last comment, though she said nothing she nodded at Sirius with a small smile.

 

   

  

  The meeting was just as boring as Sirius had anticipated. He ignored the various snide comments about how little he was doing. Vindictively thinking that if they weren’t careful, they could find somewhere else to host their stupid bird club.  Though if he was honest with himself, he wouldn’t do that quite yet. Not until he had been cleared by Amelia and was Harry’s undisputed guardian or alternately they had set up an escape plan to get Harry out of the country, something he had discussed in depth with Seraphina Picquery, while Harry had been talking to Healer Addison about his childhood. 

 

  Two hours! Two whole hours and what had they covered? The surprising fact that Snape had not been called to attend Tom Riddle yet and setting the weeks roster for monitoring the Department of Mysteries. He waited until the group was breaking up before he spoke.

 

  “Snape!” the spy glared at him. “Could I speak to you a minute. In the parlour.” Away from listening ears was implied.

 

  Severus gave a small nod and followed him from the room. They entered the parlour and Sirius waved a hand activating the magic that would prevent anyone else from entering the room or listening in. He paced while he decided the best way to handle the situation. Discarding several options before deciding that  while Severus was a Slytherin, but he was a Gryffindor so…..

 

  “Whatever it is you’ve got to say, just say it!” snapped Snape, after two minutes of watching the other man pace, as impatient as ever. “I don’t have all night.”

 

  “Of course,” Sirius wiped sweaty palms on his robes. “I’m sorry!” Severus raised a single brow though the rest of his face remained blank. “James and I, we were, right little gits.” Sirius huffed out a laugh, “Lily was quite right, we were arrogant, bullying toe rags. Harry… he’s made me see it. Unsurprisingly he doesn’t like bullies.” 

 

  “If this is some belated attempt at assuaging your conscious, please put it aside. I don’t believe you.”

 

  Sirius nodded not taking offence, “Yeah, I’m not surprised. But I must say I thought you already knew Remus was a werewolf, so I never thought you’d go. I was so angry at you for taking Regulus to see……. him that I….” Sirius stalled.

 

  Severus remained silent for a long minute, “Yes. That is something I regret,” he acknowledged with a nod.

 

  Well, that was a better response than Sirius had expected so he forged ahead. “I also have a favour to ask of you.”

 

  Severus pursed his lips, before spitting out derisively, “I should have known better. Don’t waste my time with false platitudes in order to manipulate me into giving you what you want! Clearly there was a reason you were in Gryffindor.” 

 

  “No!” Sirius raised a hand. “That was a sincere apology that was long overdue. I intend to pay you for what I am about to ask you to do.”

  

  Severus sneered, “What is it that you want?”

 

  “The potions for Harry. We are both aware that for some reason Dumbledore doesn’t want Harry to have them,” Sirius glanced at Snape who now looked like he had swallowed a pebble. “You know why! Will you tell me?”

 

  “Regulus was taught Occlumency, I assume this was a family tradition.”

 

  Sirius nodded, “Yes, but my barriers were ripped to shreds by Azkaban,” he said honestly. “They are improving again, but they are not what they were. They would not stand up to Dumbledore.”

 

  Severus raised his brow again at that, “Then it would not be prudent for me to tell you at this time. Though I might be inclined to divulge the information if that situation changes.”

 

  “That’s fine,” Sirius accepted the rejection with far more grace than he would have even a week prior, it was certainly better than an outright refusal. “I was hoping that you would agree to either making Harry’s potions, or supervising him making them as detention or something so that he can continue taking them at Hogwarts.”

 

  “He has seen a healer?” Snape confirmed.

 

  “Yes, Addison Hedgerow.”

 

  “And you?”

 

  “Yes.”

 

  “You were given a similar list of potions?” Sirius nodded. “What payment?”

 

  “Oh, you’re going to think about! That’s good, hang on, just wait there!” Sirius babbled before running into the library. He returned a moment later carrying a thick tome. “I remember, when I moved in with the Potters, Fleamont telling me about this book. He had read a copy of it in his youth and apparently it completely changed the way he made his potions and lead him to be able to develop several new potions.”

 

  He passed the book to Severus. The Formidable World of the Potioneer by Corvus Black.  

 

  “You would give this to me?” Severus’ eyes devoured the book.

 

  Sirius shook his head, “I can’t. This is the original, so the spells won’t allow it to leave the library or parlour. Though I might have lied to Dumbledore, just a little bit, about how the spells work. You can read it as long as you are in this room.” He grinned nervously, “But if you tried to take it with you it would return to its shelf as soon as you left the room. I know that I have seen a copying spell that works on the Black library and there is no restriction on the copies. So, I was going to offer you a copy, of this and A Treatise in the Exploration of Healing Charms. You can read them in here until I can locate the book the spell is in.”

 

  “This acceptable,” Severus held out his hand for the list of potions. “If you happen to find other potions related works of this calibre, I might be willing to make yours as well. You will of course be covering the costs of the ingredients and my time.”

 

  “Of course,” Sirius had expected no less. Severus left and didn’t even slam the door! Sirius sighed in relief, it had gone so much better than he had expected. It took him half a minute to write a quick note to Seraphina, so she could cancel Harry’s potions order at the apothecary,  and send it through the floo.

 

  

  

  For once Percival and Harry were not in the library, they had decided to take the afternoon off, and were in the master bedroom grooming Buckbeak. Ron was seated on the floor, with A History of Magic open, leaned up against a cushion, and a roll of parchment on his knee.

 

  “Hermione hasn’t badgered you into finishing yet?” Harry asked with a smile.

 

  Ron huffed, “She has, and I even gave her a copy to edit. This,” he waved the sheet of parchment in Harry’s direction. “Is the one I’m going to hand in.  It’s all my own work.” He looked a bit sheepish as he continued, “You’re my best mate, and it seems like Riddle isn’t going to stop coming after you. I can’t do anything about that, but I can learn as much as I can so that I’m not holding you back.”

 

  An awkward silence followed Harry’s quiet, ‘thanks’. 

 

  “We probably should find somewhere else for Buckbeak to go, it can’t be good for him to be stuck in here,” Percival said as he watched the Hippogriff eat another ferret.

 

  “Not to mention it might improve things with the House Elf if we cleaned up the room,” Ron added without looking up from his work.

 

  “Do you think Aunt Sera might know someone who can help?” Harry asked Percival.

 

 “Maybe,” he shrugged. Hedwig arrived the minute after they finished writing the letter on a piece of parchment that they borrowed of Ron. She landed on Harry’s shoulder and patiently groomed her wizard’s hair. Seriously every time she had just got it sorted to her satisfaction he came along and ran a hand through it. She had a good mind to nip him the next time. As soon as they had finished she flew off out the window with the missive.

 

 

  After lunch the boys retreated to the Main bedroom once more. Hedwig was already perched on the back of chair, with her head under her wing. 

 

  “Hey Hedwig,” Harry cooed. She cooed back staying still as he ran a gentle finger over her feathers and cooed at her again. 

 

   And didn’t Percival think that was just adorable. Ron grinned wickedly when he caught him staring. 

 

  “Did Aunt Sera send a reply already?” Hedwig extracted her head and blinked at him, with a chirrup. Then with another coo she lifted her leg displaying the message she carried.

 

  “Thank you,” Harry stroked the crest of her head. “Have a rest now, I’ll make sure there are some treats out in our room later. Thanks for coming back so fast.” Hedwig hooted and her head disappeared again. He was a good wizard, she had trained him well.

 

  Dearest Percival and Harry,

 

  You always have the strangest requests for me. Housing for a Hippogriff? I swear I have never known someone to get into as much trouble as you! Well that is not strictly true. Percival you may remember Porpetina Goldstein? She would have been a junior Auror in the 1920’s. She was always getting into trouble. She ended up married to a British fellow by the name of Newton Scamander. He wrote some magizoology text book that all the schools are using these days. I have been in contact with them since my arrival in England and am in fact meeting them for dinner tomorrow evening.  I vaguely remember that Newton’s Mother used to breed fancy hippogriffs, so I will ask if he knows anyone who may be able to care for the beast.

 

Yours

Aunt Sera

 

   “Well Buckbeak, what do you think? Would you like going to see all the fancy hippogriffs at the Scamander’s? He’s famous you know, he wrote Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Harry continued to smooth Buckbeak’s feathers while talking.

 

 

  

  Two days later a new message came with the reply. Apparently, Newt Scamander would be absolutely delighted to re-home Buckbeak and he had included a portkey to take the hippogriff directly to the farm. 

 

  “Here we go Bucky!” Harry gave the hippogriff a last pat. “I guess this is Goodbye. Don’t be causing too much trouble with the other Hippogriffs! Did you want to hold the portkey for yourself or do you want it tied on?” Buckbeak reached out and took the portkey in his beak. “Alright then. Freedom!” With a whirl the beast disappeared.

 

  Harry looked around the room and crinkled his nose at the smell, “So Ron, want to learn the banishing charm?”  

 

 

Forty-five minutes later, Harry stretched his back and looked around. “You would think that sometime in the last month and a half, Sirius would have thought about cleaning up Buckbeak’s mess! Aunt Petunia would have thrown a fit at the state of this room.”

 

  “To be fair, he was pretty crazy when we got here. I honestly don’t think it would have crossed his mind,” Ron said. “He’s been heaps better since you arrived, he barely calls you the wrong name anymore.”

 

  Percival walked behind Harry and ran his hand up the shorter boy’s onto his shoulder to give it a squeeze.

 

  “What is halfblood Master doing to Mistresses bower? She would be horrified she would,” the oily voice of the resident House Elf asked.

 

  Harry whipped around at the sound, almost running into Percival who had drawn his wand. “Oh, we were cleaning up,” he replied seeing it was only the Elf. “It wasn’t right for Buckbeak to be kept in here, so we arranged to send him to another home. But he made such a dreadful mess.”

 

  “You is cleaning?” Kreacher asked doubtfully.

 

  “Yeah. See so far we have gotten rid of Buckbeak’s…….um, well you know and all the bones left over from his …dinner. Now we have to cleanse it.”

 

  “After that, I think this room is going to need a full purification ritual,” Percival stated.

 

  “You is teaching halfblood Master, rituals?” Kreacher’s ears lifted at the sides of his head. He had heard of rituals when he was a wee Ellfling, his Mother had talked about them and how they made wizards and witches strong, keeping the magic fresh and alive. She had lamented that over her two hundred and fifty years of life they had fallen out of practice. 

 

  “Yes, Kreacher,” Percival said solemnly.

 

  “You is fixing Mistresses disappointment?” he turned his baleful eyes on Harry.

 

  “He’s much better already but well he will always be Sirius….”

 

  “No!” Kreacher interrupted harshly. He moved close and raised a finger which he waggled at Harry. “You is fixing.”

 

  “He’s getting better,” Harry protested.

 

  “No. Young Master be going away to Hoggywarts and be coming back all different and disappoints. Something be’s happening to him there. Pushes little Master away. Fighting with Father.”

 

  “Not fighting with his Mother?” Harry asked curiously.

 

  “Young Master and Mistress always fighting.” Kreacher shrugged. “Mistress tries to make young Master into thing he’s not. Young Master and Father, no fighting. Letters came home from school after the sorting. Only Mistress was disappointed. Old Master, not happy but knows young Master finds own way, always different, always questions, always rushing about.”

 

  “Is that why you call him Mistresses disappointment then? Shouldn’t you be calling him Master now that he is Lord Black.”

 

  Kreacher sniffed then said slyly, “Young Master put frog spawn in the stew, likes pranks. Prank him!”

 

  “Wait so it didn’t change till the end of his first year? Do you think someone did something to him?” Harry asked.  

 

  Kreacher just shrugged, “Kreacher not there. Kreacher only knowing brother helping brother, then goes to school, then ignores. Listens to Father, then not listens.”

 

  “I guess it is possible, but first years are young and impressionable, and they get segregated off into little groups, where everyone else in that group tells them how their lot is the best.” Percival rationalised. “Look at Hermione. I wonder what she was like before and after first year. Her family are No-Maj so she wouldn’t have been influenced by them into which house was best and look at her now. She didn’t argue when Ron said that the entirety of one house was evil. She claims to be intelligent yet didn’t acknowledge that where people are concerned there are no absolutes. Even Ron who was raised as a Gryffindor could acknowledge that wasn’t right, once it was pointed out to him and all he heard growing up was Gryffindors are good, Slytherins are evil’d.”

 

  “So, what he was brain washed?” Harry asked.

 

  “Argh, Harry! That’s gross,” Ron blanched.

 

  Percival raised a brow at Ron, “He means that due to the recurrent exposure to a particular philosophy, perhaps with reinforcement of some kind, that he has taken on the particular belief, or world view. Such as all Slytherin’s are evil.”

  

  Meanwhile Harry was frowning, “But……”

 

  “What is it Harry?” 

 

  “On the train, Hermione asked us which house we thought we’d be in. She told us that she thought she would be in Ravenclaw or Gryffindor, but that she thought that Gryffindor sounded like the best house, because it was the one that Dumbledore had been in. I think she said that she read it in ‘Hogwarts a History’. But in there it also mentions that Merlin was in Slytherin, Newt Scamander was in Hufflepuff and Ignatia Wildsmith (the inventor of Floo powder) was in Ravenclaw.” 

 

  “So back in first year, she already thought that Dumbledore was the greatest wizard in the world.”

 

  Ron put his parchment to one side and jiggled his legs a bit to try and get some feeling back after sitting cross-legged for so long, “Don’t think I didn’t notice that you just confessed to reading that book Harry. We had a deal! But I’ll ignore that for a moment,” he said with a grin. “You’re right though I was too excited to notice at the time, it was strange how much knowledge she had for a Muggleborn.”

 

  “How long before the start of the year are first year letters sent out?” Harry asked Ron curiously.

 

  “Generally, unless they’re late, like this year, they come out the last week in July,” Ron said.

 

 “Remember she told us on the train that she’d memorised all the course books. Did she really memorise eight books in just five weeks?”

 

  “There are people who can memorise something at little more than a glance Harry,” Percival commented.

 

  “Yeah, but I know that Hermione can’t. She reads every chapter before class, writes out her notes, reviews the chapter with her notes afterwards, then writes out new notes. Which she copies out again before exams. Last year I asked her why she went to all that effort and she told me it was so she could remember it better. And she still needs to find the passage in the text when she is writing out her essays. She spends ages reviewing things.  Remember she makes up a study timetable at least ten weeks before exams start. So she definitely doesn’t have an eidetic memory. And on top of the eight texts she had also memorised ‘Hogwarts a History’.”

 

  “So, she either did nothing but study, for those five weeks, or she had access to the books a lot longer.”

 

  “Does it matter?” Percival asked.

 

  “No, I supposed not. It’s just that I wonder what else she got told beforehand. It would have been nice if someone had bothered to tell me anything about the magically world and my family before Hogwarts started, so I wasn’t blindsided. I mean Hermione already knew who I was……..” he shook his head, quashing the rising anger. “You’re right we can’t change it now, so it doesn’t matter. Back to Sirius. How do we find out if something happened to him? He mentioned protecting his brother when they were growing up, so I guess that rules out him being obliviated.”

 

  Percival thought for a moment, “He could have been confounded or been given potions some of those would change how you act but you would still remember it as if your did it. To be honest after being in Azkaban for twelve years, any enchantments or compulsions would have broken by now. If he had been obliviated it could have also been broken when the dementors broke through his occlumency shields, but he still retained the anger at his family, so that is also an indication that it was not that. Potions are relatively short lasting, unless they have an alchemical base, so would have worn off years ago. He’s also been checked by the healer. Addison would have picked up anything else then. So, he is probably clean now, which is why he is not only listening to our arguments but thinking about them too. I guess we just need to keep an eye on things to ensure it stays that way.” 

 

  Kreacher who has been listening quietly nodded in satisfaction, “Good. Littlest Master will take care of Mistresses Disappointment.” Then he popped out of the room leaving the boys to their cleaning.

 

 

  Several hours later, both Harry and Ron had well and truly mastered, the syphoning, cleaning and sterilising charms and the room was now spotless. Kreacher had popped back at one point with a tray of freshly baked cookies and three glasses of juice. He also retrieved the white sage and selenite crystals for the purification ritual. They now stood looking at their handiwork.

 

  “So, what do we do with it now?” Ron asked. “Would Sirius really want to stay here, when he has so many bad memories of his Mother?”

 

  “Mmmm,” Harry tipped his head to the side thoughtfully. “What if we re-decorated. I’m sure he wouldn’t like all the green or the snake decorations but….? Maybe we should ask Kreacher?”

 

  “Littlest Master called.” Kreacher popped into the room.

 

  “Would it be alright, if we re-decorated this room so Sirius could move in?” 

 

  Kreacher eyed them warily, “Mistresses Disappointment wants the Lord suite?”

 

  “Well, we haven’t asked yet, but we just thought if we got it looking more…. masculine, he might.”

 

  “Spare furniture in attic,” the wizened Elf nodded before popping out.

 

  “Well I guess we’ll take that as a yes then,” Ron chuckled amusedly. Harry giggled. Which was so endearing that it made Percival grin earning him another look of amusement from Ron.

 

  “Perhaps we should practice shrinking and enlarging charms next then, because there is no way I am carrying that up the stairs,” Ron pointed at the large heavy wooden four poster bed, with the yards of heavy drapes.

 

 

 

 Pockets full of furniture they traipsed up the stairs to the attic. Pushing open the door they entered the dusty room. Harry pulled the sheet off the top of one of the piles spilling dust into the air and making them all sneeze. They rifled through the stacks and found a less ornate bed with a solid oak headboard, it had matching side tables and even a desk and chair. Everything seemed to be stored at half its original size. A quick cleaning and polishing spell and it was ready to go.

 

  Percival had them practice the colour changing spell on the linen, with Ron insisting on turning everything a vivid red until Harry over-ruled the decision and they settled on a much more calming midnight blue. A few spells later the curtains were repaired and matched the rest of the linen, the floorboards had been polished, and a fresh rug laid over the floors. Even the ensuite had received a make over. It barely resembled the room they had started in.

 

  As they were standing surveying their work there was a knock on the door.

 

  “Act cool,” Ron said nervously.

 

  Percival snorted, “We haven’t done anything wrong Ron.”

 

  Sirius stuck his head through the door, “I just came……” he paused as he took in the room. “What in Merlin’s name have you been doing!”

 

  Harry took a shy step forward, “We um, we got in contact with someone who was willing to take Buckbeak. He went this afternoon. Then we didn’t want to leave the room in the mess that it was in so we….cleaned up a bit. We thought you…..you might like to use it now.” He looked up at Sirius through his fringe.

 

  Again, Percival was struck by how shy and meek Harry could be at times and he could have throttled the Dursley’s. Well not so much Petunia now that she seemed to turn over a new leaf, but definitely Vernon. 

 

  Sirius stepped fully into room and turned around. “This is amazing, you boys have done so well. Thank you! Kreacher.”

 

  “Mistresses Disappointment wants Kreacher?”

 

  “Kreacher could you move my things up here….” Harry cleared his throat, causing Sirius to start, “Wha….Oh yes. Please.”

 

  “Master wishes to move into the Lord suite?” Kreacher asked, seemingly stunned.

 

  “Yes,” Sirius nodded. He glanced around the room again, with a sigh. “This was Father’s furniture. Regulus and I used to play on it in the attic on rainy afternoons before it got too crowded up there and everything need to be shrunk. He would have laughed to see it in use again.” Sirius moved over to sit on the bed, slowly running a hand over the freshly polished wood.

 

  “What happened to him? To Regulus?” Harry asked.

 

  Sirius starred at something in the distance and seemed lost for a moment before he replied, “I don’t know. He disappeared towards the end of the war. There were a number of rumours that he was doing something for Riddle and either got cold feet or betrayed the man and so was killed.” Sirius looked down at his clasp hands. Harry moved to sit next to him on the bed as Ron quietly ducked out of the room, not wanting to intrude on such a private moment.

 

  “And nobody ever found out?” Percival asked quietly.

 

  Sirius glanced up, before returning his attention to his hands, “No. Those on the light side didn’t care, after all he was the enemy. Those in Azkaban, never said.”

 

  “Surely if his death was a punishment, Riddle would have wanted witnesses,” Percival said.

 

  There was knock, and they all looked up to see Kreacher standing up away from the chest of drawers. He bent forward at the waist suddenly and rammed his head against the wood.

 

  “Kreacher stop!” Harry cried jumping up and moving towards the Elf. “What are you doing?”

 

  “You know something!” Sirius’ voice grew in volume.

 

  “No Sirius! Stop please!” Harry placed a hand in the middle of his Godfathers chest, preventing him from rising.

 

  “He knows what happened, Harry!” Sirius protested.

 

  “He might, but he can’t tell us if he was ordered not to,” Harry grabbed the Elf by the shoulders. “Don’t punish yourself Kreacher!” he pleaded. 

 

  Sirius settled himself and looked sternly at the Elf, “Kreacher were you there when my Brother died?”

 

  “Kreacher cannot say, Master!” Kreacher pulled at his ears.

 

  “Why you little…….”

 

  “Sirius!” Percival interjected, “he said he cannot say. He’s probably been ordered not to.”

 

  “Who ordered you?”

 

  “Regulus,” the Elf croaked out.

 

  “Is it just Sirius you can’t tell? Can you tell me?” Harry asked, trying to think of a way around the problem.

 

  Kreacher was silent. 

 

  “Kreacher I want you to answer any question that Percival asks you,” Sirius ordered.

 

  “Kreacher,” Percival moved to kneel in front of the Elf. “Who did Regulus order you not to tell.”

 

  “Kreacher cannot tell the family.”

 

  “Ok, were you there when Regulus died?” There was really no gentle way of asking the question, but you didn’t become the Director of Magical Security by avoiding asking the difficult questions.

 

  “Yes,” Kreacher wept. Harry joined Percival on the floor and gave Elf a quick hug.

 

  “And how did it happen?” 

 

  The story emerged, slowly at first then all in a rush, interrupted by hiccups, coughs and tears. The youngest son of Black was asked a favour by the Dark Lord and Kreacher was taken into a dank cave, made to drink an abominable potion and left to be consumed by the grabbing hands that burst from the freezing cold water. Only the love of a favoured son and orders to return had saved Kreacher. The son of Black grew despondent as he nursed the Elf back to health as if something in that task had opened his eyes to the nature of the one he was serving. Regulus began to question everything he had thought to be truth. Late one winters night the young Master called his Elf and demanded a return to the cave. Kreacher wailed and sobbed and tried to deny the boy but he had been given orders, so he went taking his Master with him.

 

  The story became so disrupted by Kreacher’s tears that Harry insisted that tea be made, and a rest taken, causing a fresh bout of wailing at how like the young Master, Master Harry was. Eventually the sobs subsided enough for the tale to be continued. Before the pair left Kreacher was ordered that should anything go wrong he was to take the trinket that the Dark Lord had hidden, leave, and destroy it. He was not to tell anyone in the family. 

 

   Having already been taken inside Kreacher was able to pop Regulus through the defences and straight to the island at the heart of the cave, where the basin stood that held the potion of despair. He fully expected to be made to drink it once again, so that his Master could retrieve the locket that rested in the bottom. To his shame Kreacher was wrong. Master Regulus drank the potion himself then begged and pleaded as visions of nightmares appeared in his head. But Kreacher, poor Kreacher had to follow the orders he had been given. He left his Master gasping on the shores of the lake.

 

  The Elf sat wrinkled and forlorn, on a footstool that someone had conjured during the tale. Tear tracks marring his face.

  

  “Reggie, by the Gods Reggie!” Sirius sobbed. “Why didn’t he come to me.”

 

  “And what would you have done?” Percival asked. The astute question sounding harsh in its bluntness.

 

  “I….” Sirius stopped.

 

  “You would have told Dumbledore, thinking that he would have helped. And he would probably have done nothing,” Harry said drily.

 

  The Dog Star bowed his head. How things had changed in such a short period of time. Harry had been in the house only a matter of weeks and had opened his eyes to a great many things. He desperately wanted to close his eyes and go back to the way things were when he and James had nothing more to worry about than how James was going to ask Lily Evans out this week. Honestly, he hadn’t even felt this way during the height of the last war because he always had James and Remus by his side, and as long as they were together everything would be alright. Now though, now he had a responsibility to his heart brother’s boy and so many things were wrong with the world.

 

  “You are…right,” he lifted his head and straightened his shoulders. “I had asked him to help Regulus years before and what did he do? Nothing. He would have done nothing again.”

 

  Percival turned intent eyes back to Kreacher, “And what happened to the locket? Did you manage to destroy it?”

 

  “Kreacher dids not!” he pulled at his ears, and Harry had to take his hands to make him stop. “I trieds everthing!”

 

  “Is it still here Kreacher? What did you do with it?” Percival asked slightly horrified, who knew what the effects of living for ten years with only a Horcrux for company would be. No wonder the Elf was a little strange,

 

  “Fat Blood traitor takes it and puts in bag of rubbish. But I finds it and takes it.”

 

  “Where is it?” Sirius demanded.

 

  “Sirius calm down,”

 

  “Kreacher,” Percival spoke authoritatively over the other two. “Go and get it and bring it here, please.”

 

  With a pop he disappeared. It was only seconds before he returned a black and silver locket dangling from his grip. The three wizards drew back as the miasma it exuded reached them. 

 

    A physically shaking Sirius swallowed the bile that was trying to push its way out of his throat, as a green faced Harry clutched at his forehead. “Percival, you help Harry,” Sirius said as he determinedly pulled himself together. “Kreacher, Father had a lead coated iron box that was lined with velvet. Leave the locket here and go and find it. If you are seen, do not tell anyone what you are doing or what it is for.”

 

  With a nod Kreacher disappeared once more, as the locket fell onto the carpet.

 

   “What’s the matter with him?” Sirius asked Percival quietly, watching his Godson with concerned silver eyes.

 

  “At a guess, I would say that the locket is another horcrux and the one in Harry is reacting to it. But we’ll have to check with Addison first,” Percival replied. “We really need to find that ritual and soon.” 

 

  “I’ve looked through the first ten shelves, because that seems to be where the books are darkest, but apart from a mention of Herpo the Foul, there has been nothing on Horcruxes,” Sirius sighed. 

 

  “What about muggle methods?” Harry asked from where he was lying on the floor, his head in the Americans lap, eyes squeezed tightly shut.

 

  “What do you mean?” Percival, ran his hand through Harrys hair as the younger boy winced again.

  

  “I’m sure I heard Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon talking once. One of Vernon’s clients had a heart attack and a neighbour looked after him until the ambulance got there. They reckoned he had been dead for about three minutes which was lucky, because anymore and he could have had some brain damage. There are drugs, they're a bit like potions, that will stop the heart or start it,” Harry swallowed.

 

  “What are you saying Harry?” Sirius asked in a low voice.

 

  “What if they gave me a drug that stopped my heart. They could leave me essentially dead for three minutes and then restart it again, once we know that the horcrux is gone.”

 

  “No!” Sirius shot to his feet and began pacing. “No, no, no, no, no. That is a bad idea Harry. Bad!”

 

  “But Sirius just think,” Harry sat up with a struggle, pressing a hand hard against his scar.

 

  “No Harry. What if it went wrong? What if they couldn’t get you back?” He had stopped beside the boys and dropped to his knees, hands on Harry’s shoulders. “I can not lose you too!”

 

  “But Sirius, what about Riddle? Wouldn’t it be worse if we can’t kill him because there is a horcrux in me? What is the other option that I let him kill me?”

 

  Silver eyes shot wide in horror, “Merlin! By the Gods that’s what he meant!”

 

  “What who meant Sirius?” Harry leaned back against Percival’s chest.

 

  “Snape. When I asked him about your potions I made an offhand comment about not knowing what reason Albus could possibly have for not wanting your injuries from the Dursleys treated. I could tell by his face that Snape knew. He all but promised to tell me once my occlumency was back to normal. I’d bet my wand that Albus’ knows about the horcrux and he is planning to get rid of it by allowing you to die.” 

 

  Percival was fuming. That Albus Dumbledore dared, that anyone dared, to threaten his….his…….(Your Harry, the voice in his mind sounded smug this time) Harry. He shook the feeling off and tried to examine the situation objectively. When looked at individually every event in the last fifteen years could be passed over as the decisions of someone who was looking at the bigger picture, but when added together they equalled something greater and far more concerning. Perhaps Dumbledore was not the beacon for light that he claimed he was. It was certainly worth keeping in mind.

 

  “Kreacher found it in the Master’s study,” the wizened Elf said as he reappeared.

 

  “Excellent, I’ll hold it open Kreacher and you place the locket in please. I don’t want you boys touching it,” Sirius justified as he saw Harry about to offer. There was instant relief the moment the locket was shut inside the box. 

  

  “Thank the Gods for that!” Harry sighed in relief, finally able to sit up on his own again. 

 

  “If he was close by, I would get Healer Addison to look at that scar again,” Percival murmured as he turned Harry’s head towards him, so he could have a closer look. Ever so gently he brushed Harry’s fringe away from his forehead. The scar was puffy again, and angrily red. “I wonder if we could use the Horcrux in the locket to leech the one out of the scar.” He ran his fingers across the line of the scar and down Harry’s cheek. Harry was barely breathing, it seemed as if the whole world had just…..stopped as he glanced up into those dark eyes.

 

  “I…um, I’ll….I’ll just….head back to the library then. Don’t mind me,” Sirius said quietly, tucking the nondescript box into a pocket.  There was protected drawer in the desk in the Parlour that even Moody couldn’t see through. He’d leave the locket there for the time being. Sirius turned and looked at the boys a last time before shutting the door gently with a smile on his face.

 

   Harry and Percival never even noticed Sirius’ departure.

Chapter Text

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. 

 

  Pop

 

  “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.”

 

  “Anything!”

 

  “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?”

 

  “Basilisk venom.”  

 

  “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.”

 

  “Extra ingredients?” 

 

  “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.”

 

  “Oh…”

 

  “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?”

 

  “Lloyds.”

 

  “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.

 

  ‘Crack’

 

 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.

 

  “Mmm?”

 

  “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.

Chapter Text

  The first thing that Percival did once the pair had appeared in their room, was to inform Harry of the conversation that he had missed while he had been talking to Sirius. Then he explained in minute why Dumbledore having his key was not an ideal situation. Harry confessed that Hagrid had taken it back from Griphook after taking him to Gringotts in first year and being thoroughly overwhelmed Harry hadn’t noticed. He had only held his key between second and third year, when the Goblin on the carts had given it to him, while Mrs Weasley was distracted by visiting her own vault. Then at the start of third year it had mysteriously gone missing from his money pouch, he had meant to write to the Goblins about it but had forgotten in amongst the excitement of the start of the year and the terror of hearing there was a wanted criminal chasing him. He hadn’t realised until fourth year when Mrs Weasley had collected his school things that she had held his key. Together they drafted a letter to Striknott and sent it through Harry’s post-box. Not ten minutes later the button was glowing, indicating a reply. Harry was relieved to see it was not a howler.

 

  Harry opened the box just a touch apprehensively and withdrew his Accountant’s missive. As expected he was thoroughly scolded for being so careless with something so valuable (and didn’t he realise that giving someone his key was tantamount to giving them his vault! Just how would he have felt if someone had removed all of the family heirlooms that were stored in there? Hmmm? The bank wouldn’t have been able to get them back if that was the case. Wasn’t he lucky that while not being the sharpest tool in the shed, Hagrid was honest to a fault) and warned that should such an event happen again his accounts would be frozen and only accessible if he was in the company of his guardian as he would have clearly demonstrated his lack of maturity. It then went on to assure him that they had checked the tally’s and since first year, the withdrawals matched the amounts he stated had been used, so despite having the key, Mrs Weasley had only used it for its intended purpose. Striknott promised that the key had been deactivated and so they could safely let Dumbledore have it as it would be of no use to him. A shiny new brass key also lay in the bottom of the box, it was attached to a silver chain, which Striknott said, came from the Potter vault. If he placed a single drop of blood on the clasp, and the key, then the key would return to him should it be lost or stolen, and he would be the only one able to remove the chain. 

 

  “That’s a relief,” Harry sighed, sliding the chain over his neck and falling back onto the bed. “I know we haven’t been getting along, but I didn’t think that she would steal from me.”

 

  Percival hummed noncommittally. It was funny after having been the head of Magical Security for so many years, he really wouldn’t have been surprised if she had been stealing from Harry. Over the years he had seen it all. He was slightly concerned that his old memories seemed to be fading somewhat. They’ll never disappear- the crotchety voice said. They are just becoming less important to you. Well that was reassuring at least.

  

  “Perce….” Harry called softly to get his attention. “Do you think you could….um…would you mind…”

 

  “Mind what Harry?” Percival looked at the younger boy who was fiddling with his chain.

 

  “Well is there a spell so that no one else can see it?” Harry finally asked.

 

  “There is. And I suppose you would like me to cast it on your chain?” he gave a long-suffering sigh.

 

  “Or could you…maybe ..teach me how to do it?”

 

  “Sure, let me do the chain to begin with then we’ll practice on a few things. Like that new wand holster we bought you.”

 

  Percival reached out a hand and pulled Harry to his feet. “Now the trick here is that a simple charm, similar to the disillusionment charm, is easily overcome with a finite. So, this is the one I want you to practice. Ab oculus abscondere.” He gently tapped his wand onto the key.

 

    Harry looked down at his chest, “I can still….” he reached up a hand and curled his fingers round the key.

 

  “Yeah, so can I, but I assure you no-one else can.”

 

  “Really?” Harry asked looking up at Percival, through his fringe, the amazement showing in his eyes. “I know I’ve been doing magic for a while, but every now and then it just………”

 

  Percival’s dark eyes softened, “Yeah, me too.” He took a half pace forwards and lifted a hand to push the hair out of Harry’s eyes. Harry tipped his head up to better look at the taller boy.

 

   Hurried footsteps coming up the stairs caused the pair stepped apart quickly as Ron burst into the room. 

 

  “Just caught her!” he said happily, puffing slightly from running up the stairs. “She says she’ll get the Cleansweep if she can.”

 

  “Cool,” Harry said, pushing away the odd tension that had been developing, to focus on his internal grin at knowing that Sirius would badger Mrs Weasley into letting him pay at least half as a thank you for her contribution to the household, over the last few weeks. “Well done, mate.” Harry slapped Ron’s back and pulling the taller boy down beside him as he sat on the bed.

 

  “I never thought it would be me,” Ron said meekly. “I…I thought it would be you…”

 

  Harry snorted, “The twins were right, I’ve caused too much trouble, besides can you see Snape allowing that? I believe all the Heads of House have input into the decision. To be honest I actually thought it might be Dean. He’s quiet but gets similar marks to us in everything accept defence.”

 

  “Don’t you think I deserve it?” Ron asked insecurely.

 

  “That’s not what I mean, Ron,” Harry said firmly.  “It’s just you’ve been in most of the scrapes with me. To be honest after our arrival in second year, I didn’t think either of us would get it. And of the others, Neville’s too shy, and Seamus blows shit up all the time.  Which don’t get me wrong is an impressive talent all of its own but is probably not what they are looking for in a Prefect. So, while I’m a little surprised, I do think you deserve it and I am happy for you.” It was that statement which finally allowed Ron to relax and enjoy the feeling of achievement.

 

 

 

  “Harry,” Percival said, looking over at the boy who was lying on the bed beside him lazily. 

 

  “Mmm.”

 

  “I never told you what I needed to tell you about Occlumency,” there was something in his tone that made Harry, open his eyes and roll onto his eyes to look at Percival.

 

  “No, we haven’t really had much down time.” Harry watched as Percival sat up.

 

  “It’s about the Horcrux. We’ve been practicing Occlumency, the whole point of which is to stop someone else from looking through your mind, the problem is…”

 

  “He’s already inside,” Harry finished. “When I was building my defences, I found something……It’s like a black oozy quick sand. I couldn’t figure out what it was, until I noticed the feeling it gave me. It felt just like that diary. I’ve tried to build a wall around it but I’m afraid he will just be able to push up from underneath, so I’ve tried to hide my memories elsewhere. I’ve fenced that area in so I should get a warning if he breaks through.”

 

  “Oh.”

 

  “You sound surprised,” Harry smiled.

 

  “It’s just that you haven’t been exposed to things like this before.”

 

  “Yeah, well, some crazy bloke just came along, and he’s been making me do horrible things like thinking.”

 

  “He sounds terrible,” Percival smirked.

 

  “Yeah, he is,” Harry nodded solemnly, before a gentle smile crept across his features. “I suppose we should pack. If we aren’t done by the time Mrs Weasley’s back, we’ll never hear the end of it."

 

 

 

  It was odd how widely their possessions seemed to have scattered themselves since they had arrived. It took them most of the afternoon to retrieve all their books and belongings from all over the house and stow them back inside their school trunks.  Harry chuckled when he noticed that Ron kept moving his prefects badge around, first placing it on his bedside table, then putting it into his jeans pocket, then taking it out and laying it on his folded robes, as though to see the effect of the red on the black. It was only when Fred and George dropped in and offered to attach it to his forehead with a Permanent Sticking charm that he wrapped it tenderly in his maroon socks and locked it in his trunk. 

 

   Seeing Ron’s single compartment trunk Percival took pity on the boy and demonstrated the enlarging spell and as with Harry’s trunk (this time using empty crates from the attic) created four removable compartments.  Ron’s eyes boggled at the amount of space, he now had. Unfortunately, Fred and George apparated into Ron’s room just as Harry and Ron were practicing the spell on the last two crates (no one had yet checked the desk drawers to see the results of the mis-cast spell) and wanted to learn it too. Later they pulled Percival aside and got him to show them a couple of concealing spells and warding runes as well, which they engraved onto two of the boxes that they added to their trunks. Slapping him on the back they thanked him and then asked him to ensure that Harry’s trunk had better protection on it than the usual automatic-locking charm. Percival glared at them as they disapparated. He had done that just yesterday, just because Harry was oblivious didn’t mean he was. Fifteen-year olds couldn’t have changed that much in the last seventy years, could they? He vividly remembered catching Dorinda McCarthey searching through his underwear after breaking into his trunk. That would not be happening to Harry!

 

 

 

 

  Mrs Weasley returned from Diagon Alley around six o’clock, laden with books and carrying a long package wrapped in brown paper that Ron took from her with a moan of longing. 

 

  He frowned as he held it. The Cleansweep, if that was what she had purchased, was thirty-seven inches long and the longest of the brooms currently on the market. He was sure that this package was shorter than that. Both Nimbus’s and the Firebolt were thirty-six inches but there was no way she would have been able to afford either. Maybe the Cleansweep had also been too much, his stomach dropped. How much was a Comet Two Ninety? It was thirty-five and a half inches and would probably have been cheaper. Still it was a reasonable broom, it could only reach sixty miles an hour, but it could turn on a sickle. Yes, that must be it, it would have been the cheapest option. Ron pushed away the slight sting of disappointment, after all it was still a new broom, and he didn’t want to use all the money his parents had saved on a broomstick, that would be selfish. And the comet would be just fine for a keeper.

  

  “Never mind unwrapping it now, people are arriving for dinner.  I want you all downstairs,” Mrs Weasley said, but the moment she had left the room Ron took a deep breath and started to rip aside the paper in a frenzy and before stopping abruptly. He tipped his head to the side in confusion.

 

  “It……it……”

 

  “I think he’s broken Fred,” said George, nudging his brother’s shoulder.

 

  “Easy to do,” replied Fred. “I’ll just fix him.” He reached out a hand and slapped Ron in the back of his head. Ron’s head tipped forward until his chin hit his chest.

 

  “Owwww! What was that for?” Ron whined, scrubbing a hand over the back of his head.

 

  “Going to show us your new broom?” George reached out to take the paper.

 

  “It’s a Nimbus 2001…” Ron said reverentially.

 

  The twins’ jaws hit the floor, “She’d never have been able to afford that!” Fred huffed.

 

  Harry looked up, wondering if he should say something before the twins’ jealousy turned to anger. “I think Sirius may have helped,” he said quietly.

 

  “But why would he help Ron!” George spat angrily.

 

  “A lot of reasons,” Harry spoke more firmly this time, bringing out the arguments he had used to persuade Sirius. “First he’s my best friend. Second, he came with me to protect the Philosophers stone and he sacrificed himself so that I could continue on. Then he came with me to the Chamber of Secrets to help rescue Ginny, and while we got separated he kept digging at the rocks until a space was cleared for us to get back through. Lastly,” Harry looked at them sternly, “it makes it fair.”

 

  “Oh,” said George deflating slightly.

 

  “Right you are,” said Fred.

 

  “Though other people should know that it wasn’t expected that they advise the Goblins about such things…….”

 

  “What are you talking about Harry?” Ron asked.

 

  “And Sirius might be interested in making a similarly valued contribution to the enterprise if it is required.”

 

  “Well, alright then,” a completely mollified George agreed happily. 

 

  “Harry! What are you talking about?” Ron whined. 

 

  “Boys! Get down here now!” came a scream from the bottom of the house.

 

  Harry grinned and bolted out the door.

 

  “Harry!”

 

 

 

  Downstairs in the basement Mrs Weasley had hung a scarlet banner over a heavily laden dinner table, which read:

 

Congratulations

Ron and Hermione

New Prefects

 

  She looked in a better mood than Harry had seen her all holiday.

 

  “I thought we’d have a little party, not a sit-down dinner,” she told the teenagers as they entered the room. “Your father and Bill are on their way, Ron. I’ve sent them both owls and they’re thrilled,” she added, beaming.  

 

  Fred rolled his eyes, while George who was hidden from his Mother’s view, pretended to vomit.

 

  Sirius, Lupin, Tonks and Kingsley Shacklebolt were already there, and Mad-Eye Moody stumped in shortly after Harry had got himself a butterbeer.

 

  “Oh Alastor, I’m glad you’re here,” said Mrs Weasley brightly as Mad-Eye shrugged off his travelling cloak. “I’ve been meaning to ask you for ages - could you have a look in the writing desk in the drawing room and tell us if there is anything inside it? I know the house got cleaned up, but I haven’t wanted to open it in case there was something still in there.”

 

  Sirius smirked as Moody’s electric blue eye swivelled upwards and stared fixedly through the ceiling of the kitchen. One of these days the woman would listen to him. He had checked the desk himself and found nothing more than on old missive from his Mother to her lover, and hadn’t that been an eye opener! He had of course then refilled the drawers with stationary.

 

  “Drawing room…” the auror growled, as the pupil contracted. “Desk in the corner? Yeah I see it…..three quills….14 sheets of parchment…..two ink pots… a wax seal with the Black shield on it…..another with the Potter shield…..four sticks of wax in midnight blue…”

 

  “And a fwooper in a pear tree…” the twins began to sing.

 

  “Shut up,” snapped their Mother.

 

  “and a deck of cards, with pictures of indecently dressed ladies on the front.” Moody finished, Mrs Weasley seemed slightly disappointed. “If there was a Boggart in there it might have moved somewhere else in the house. Do you want me to look for it? Tonks and I can investigate after dinner?”

 

  Mrs Weasley grimaced as she imagined Mad-Eye conducting a search through the house, which was already in a state due to the children’s school preparations, “No, no I’ll do it myself later,” she tried to arrange her features into a beaming smile. Harry thought she looked constipated. “You have a drink. We’re having a little celebration, actually…..” she gestured to the banner. “Fourth Prefect in the family,” she said fondly, ruffling Ron’s hair.

 

  “Prefect, eh?” growled Moody, his normal eye on Ron and his magical eye swivelling around to gaze into the side of his head. Harry had the very uncomfortable feeling it was looking at him and he moved away to where Sirius was standing near Lupin.

 

  “Well, congratulations,” Moody continued, still glaring at Ron with his normal eye. “Authority figures always attract trouble, but I suppose Dumbledore thinks you can withstand most major jinxes or he wouldn’t have appointed you….”

 

  Percival, who was standing near Harry, grunted at the Auror’s words and muttered “that’s one way of looking at it.”

 

  Ron looked rather startled at this view of the matter but was saved the trouble of responding by the arrival of his Father and eldest brother.  Mrs Weasley was in such a good mood she did not even complain that they had bought Mundungus Fletcher with them. Though Harry did see Sirius did pull his wand and cast a monitoring spell on the man, it would alarm should the thief attempt to steal anything.

 

  “Well I think a toast is in order,” said Mr Weasley, when everyone had a drink. He raised his goblet and opened his mouth to speak, “…”

 

  “Thank you, Arthur,” Sirius stepped forward and raised his glass. “Ron and Hermione, being a prefect is a great responsibility, that I am sure you will both live up to. You will need to be a friendly and accessible role model for the younger students. Guiding them through their formative years. Some,” he nodded at the twins, “will provide you with challenges, may you meet them with grace.  To Ron and Hermione, the new Gryffindor Prefects may Magic’s Blessings be on you. Oh, and if you want advice, that’s Remus’ job because neither your parents nor I were Prefects,” he finished cheekily, and downed his drink. Arthur just grinned while Molly scowled.

 

  Ron and Hermione beamed as everyone drank to them and then applauded.

 

  Sirius moved to place his glass down on the kitchen bench and Harry realised that for the first time he was standing alone with Professor Lupin.

 

  “Harry,” his old Professor started.

 

  “You were Prefect then,” Harry cut across him hurriedly. Percival leaned against the fireplace behind them, monitoring the situation.

  

“Yes….yes I was,” the werewolf acknowledged awkwardly.

 

  “I was never prefect myself,” said Tonks loudly approaching the group from the side. Harry had never been so grateful for an interruption in his life. Today the metamorph’s hair was tomato red and waist-length, she looked like she could have been Ginny’s older sister. “My Head of House said I lacked the necessary qualities,” she winked at Harry.

 

  “Like what?” said Ginny who had been listening in from where she was standing near the table, choosing a baked potato.

 

  “Like the ability to behave myself,” said Tonks.

 

  Ginny laughed; Hermione who was standing at the table next to the youngest Weasley, looked like she didn’t know whether to smile or not and compromised by taking a large gulp of butterbeer and choking on it.

 

  “What about Harry’s Mum?” Ginny asked Remus.

 

  “Yeah, Lily was,” he nodded.

 

  “She must have stuck to the rules and studied hard then? I bet she listened to the teachers,” Hermione asked, giving the werewolf a pointed look.

 

  “For the most part, though she wasn’t afraid to step outside the rules if she felt the situation warranted it,” Remus answered much to Hermione’s obvious disappointment. He then launched into a story about Lily, stopping a group of Slytherins from attacking a lone Hufflepuff third year in the library, by using Wingardium Leviosa to tie their shoe laces together. 

 

   Harry slipped away into the parlour at the end of the story.  It was funny, he had waited for years to be told more stories about his parents and the first one that Lupin spilt, was at the behest of Hermione and in front of a group of his friends. He felt a little silly, but he had wanted that moment to be one that was just for him. Quite frankly he was more than a little jealous and he knew it.

 

  Noise drifted up the stairs and in through the open door, Harry registered Ron talking about the flight statistics of his new broom, Bill and Mrs Weasley were arguing over Bill’s lack if haircut and Hermione was trying to get Lupin to talk to Harry about his study habits. Why couldn’t she just let things be? With a sigh he flopped into the arm chair and drew his feet up onto the seat, wrapping his arm around his knees. A minute later Fred and George tumbled into the room followed by Mundungus Fletcher.

 

  “It’s ok,” Fred said as he saw that the room was already occupied, “we can trust Harry he is our financial backer.

 

  “Look what Dung’s got us,” said George, holding out his hand to Harry. It was full of what looked like shrivelled black pods. A faint rattling noise was coming from them, even though they were completely stationary. “Venomous Tentacula seeds. We need them for the skiving snack boxes but they’re a Class C Non-Tradeable Substance, so we’ve been having trouble getting hold of them.”

 

  Harry wondered if Snape was planning on using Dung to sell of the Basilisk parts, assuming they were still usable. He hoped that the Potions Master had a more reliable contact.

 

  “Ten Galleons the lot, then, Dung,” said Fred.

 

  “Wiv all the trouble I went to get ‘em?” said Mundungus, his saggy, bloodshot eyes stretching even wider. “I’m sorry lads, but I’m not taking a Knut under twenty.”

 

  “Dung likes his little joke,” Fred said to Harry.

 

  “Yeah, his best one so far has been six sickles for a bag of Knarl quills,” said George.

 

  “Be careful,” Harry warned them quietly upon hearing a thump from down stairs.

 

  “What?” said Fred. “Mum’s busy cooing over Prefect Ron, we’re Ok.”

 

  “But Moody could have his eye on you right now,” Harry pointed down at the floor.

 

  Mundungus looked nervously over his shoulder at the open door. “Good point that,” he grunted. “All right lads, ten it is, if you’ll take ‘em quick.”

 

  “Cheers Harry,” said Fred delightedly, when Mundungus had emptied his pockets into the twins’ outstretched hands and scuttled off down the stairs in search of more food. “We’d better get these upstairs…”

 

  Harry watched them go, he felt slightly uneasy about helping them purchase such things, especially as he knew that Mrs Weasley would most certainly disapprove. However, he was sure that they wouldn’t do anything truly dangerous with them, and honestly with Riddle around, well they all needed a bit of a laugh. Besides Percival had pointed them in the direction of several creations that would be great for defence and they had to start somewhere. It was inevitable that Mrs Weasley would find out that Harry had given them their start-up money and when she did she would not be pleased. He shook his head to clear his thoughts, it didn’t really matter after all, the twins were adults and Mrs Weasley was not his Mother. 

 

  Leaning back in his chair Harry closed his eyes and spent a few moments trying to meditate, until he caught the sound of his own name.  Kingsley Shacklebolt’s deep voice, emerged from the stairwell rising above the rest of the chatter from the floor below asking why Harry hadn’t been made prefect and he snorted. It seemed like everyone else cared more about it then he did.

 

  “You all right there Potter?” grunted Moody, entering the room.

 

  “Yeah, fine,” well what else could Harry say. 

 

  Moody took a swig from his hip flask, his electric blue eye staring sideways at Harry.

 

  “I noticed you wandered off after Lupin’s story.” Harry hummed. “Sit up, I’ve got something that might interest you,” he said. 

 

  Harry twisted in the chair, put his feet on the floor and looked over.  From the inner pocket of his robes Moody pulled a very tattered old wizarding photograph.

 

  “Original Order of the Phoenix,” growled Moody. “Found it last night while I was looking for my spare invisibility cloak, seeing as some bugger seems to have lost my best one…..thought people might like to see it.”

 

  Harry took the photograph. A small crowd of people, some waving at him, others lifting their glasses, looked back at him. Harry stared hungrily. There in the front row were two people he wished more than anything he could see for real. The echo that was produced in the graveyard that few months ago was a cruel reflection of them and he tried not to dwell on it, apart from acknowledging that his parents loved him and had tried to protect him even in death.

 

  The Moody in the picture was unmistakeable, though his hair was slightly less grey and his nose still intact.  Sirius stood with his arm round an attractive brunette.

 

  “That was Marlene McKinnon, she was killed two weeks after this was taken, they got her whole family. Voldemort himself killed her,” Moody said when he noticed where Harry was looking.

 

  “Sirius…” Harry didn’t ask but Moody answered anyway.

 

  “Yeah, they were engaged. She’d been the only one to manage to get him to settle down. He received the alarm that her house had been attacked and went straight there without waiting for back up. Idiot boy. They reckon he saw her body and magic just exploded out of him. Spent four weeks in Mungos.  After that he became more ruthless, he didn’t always abide by Dumbledore’s ridiculous order not to harm the Death Eaters.”

 

  “But what if they’re firing curses that would kill you, like a blasting curse and you block them it. The block would bust apart and they might get hurt or even killed by the shrapnel?”

 

  Moody grimaced, “Dumbledore, would look down at you over his glasses, shake his ridiculously long beard and tut in disappointment, before going into his lecture about the sanctity of life.”

  

  “Sound like you might have been on the receiving end of it a time or two.” Moody grunted. “This lady looks like Neville, is that his Mum?” Harry asked, pointing at a figure in the back row.

 

  “Aye, and that beside her is Frank, poor devils,” growled Moody. 

 

  Moody continued pointing out the people in the photograph and explaining how they had died. It was a rather grim conversation and one that Harry wasn’t quite sure he wanted to participate in. Though he did appreciate that Moody gave him a copy of the photo.

 

  “Why are you showing me this Professor?” 

 

  “Not a professor! That was a ridiculous notion. I’m an old man Potter,” he huffed. “Never married, only family was my sister who passed away last year. This man,” here he pointed to Harry’s Father, “And that brat with the multicoloured hair downstairs are the closest I’ll ever get to children. Regardless of what happens Harry, you can count me to be on your side. I didn’t know Lily had a sister, and I placed too much trust in Albus! Which I regret.” He huffed again. “Bloody imbecile, didn’t even pick up that man wasn’t me! We’ve ruddy well known each other nigh on seventy years! Some friend.”

 

  “Yeah?? Thanks….” Harry blinked away the emotion he was feeling. “Say Prof….” Harry gave in to Moody’s glare, ”ah….Moody. Did you know them well? My parents that is?” it came out in a rush in the end.

 

  “Aye, your Dad more than your Mum.”

 

  “Do you think…..would you mind…. telling me, or even writing…. some of the things that you remember about them?”  he turned hopeful green eyes up to look at the gnarled man. “The only memory I’ve got is the night they died.”

 

  Moody froze, “Yeah,” he swallowed roughly. “I reckon I can do that for you lad,” he answered gruffly, clapping Harry on the shoulder.  “I need a fire whiskey……” he muttered as he stuffed the photo back into his robe pocket.

 

  Harry watched Moody stomp back out the door and listened to his footsteps slowly fade as he descended the stairs. Curling back in on himself Harry rested his forehead on his knees and closed his eyes. He wondered how long he needed to wait before he could make his way up to bed.  More than anything he longed for the peace and quiet that the room offered, and maybe Perc…..

 

  “Harry?” Remus enquired as he entered the room, gently pulling the door closed.  “Um, I know it might be disappointing not to be Prefect, but your Father wasn’t, and he still managed to be Head Boy. I’m sure that Alb…..”

 

  Harry raised his head and stared at the werewolf, with glittering green eyes full of anger, causing him to pause. “What makes you think that I wanted it?” Harry asked.

 

  “Well you’re up here hiding away while everyone else is down there celebrating.”

 

  “Oh, I see. So, the fact that after my Dad’s best friend tells a story about my Mother for the first time, I want to spend a couple of moments sitting quietly by myself. Is reflective of me being jealous of my best mate, for getting some attention for himself for once. Interesting……….”

 

  “That’s not what I…..”

 

  “Do you even know me at all Mr Lupin?”

 

  “Harry call me Remus, or Mooney.”

 

  “Why should I? I don’t know you and you obviously don’t know me.”

 

  “I was one of your Dad’s best friends.”

 

  “Really, that’s nice. Mr Lupin where were you when I was being stuffed in a cupboard?”

 

  “I was suffering too Harry, you have to believe me. I believed three of my friends had died, and the other had betrayed us. Wolves don’t understand betrayal Harry. I fell apart.”

 

  “My parents had died Mr Lupin, and then after spending a night out on the porch, wrapped in a light blanket, I was shoved in a cupboard on a cold floor and starved. It was dark, lonely and cold and I was fifteen months old. I didn’t understand what was going on. But I guess, it must have been harder for you, seeing as you were an adult! And clearly that made it much more difficult for you to process the loss. Clearly I was the one who was better off!” Harry spat.

 

  “Harry, that’s not…”

 

  “I don’t want excuses Lupin. I needed you and you weren’t there. Sirius needed you and you weren’t there. I know there are other issues there, but you didn’t even try to help him or find me…”

 

  “I did….I did….” Remus protested in desperately. “Once the Aurors left I searched the house and pulled out the things I knew that you would want. Things that Lily and James would have wanted preserved and I took them to Gringotts for the Goblins to put away for you. Just ask them they’ll tell you. Then I went and saw Albus and asked to be told where you were. Being what I am, I knew that the Wizengamot would never allow me to look after you, but I thought I could visit. He….” Remus stalled in the face of Harry’s glare. “I know that it wasn’t the best decision now, but at the time, Harry he had always held all the answers for me. So, when he told me that you were safe and protected. I was reassured and I….I allowed myself to grieve. I went feral and it took two whole years before I returned to myself. That first day, I cleaned myself up and went to Albus again demanding to be allowed to see you. I argued that Lily and James would have wanted it. He told me that your guardians were looking after you well and didn’t want you to have contact with the Wizarding world just yet. That it was far too dangerous to expose you to a dangerous creature such as I am. I asked to be allowed to send presents and write, Albus said I didn’t need the address for that, so I did. I never got a reply.”

 

  “I never received any letters from anyone before my Hogwarts letter,” Harry said quietly. “Why didn’t you tell me about my parents when you were at Hogwarts.”

 

  “Albus said that I could only have a professional teacher- student relationship with you. I couldn’t show you any preference or meet you outside of lessons. It was actually written into my contract. I was cutting it fine with the patronus training and some of the things that I said. I believe it is in several of the other teacher’s contracts as well. By the time he offered the contract I was desperate Harry. I’ve never had much money just enough to get by, but I had been unable to find work for months. I didn’t read the contract before I signed it, I trusted Albus to look out for me.”

 

  “What did he tie the contract too?”

 

  “My magic,” Remus lowered his head.

 

  “What would have happened if you lost your magic?”

 

  “I’m a werewolf Harry. There’s a reason why Muggles don’t become werewolves, magic is needed to survive the curse. If I lose my magic, I will die in the first transformation that I had after it happens.”

 

  “Oh,” Harry thought for a moment. “Why didn’t you write during the tournament.”

 

   “I tried again Harry. That was when I started to suspect that my letters weren’t getting through, so I went to Albus again and asked if I could have your address to visit, now that you knew me.”

 

  Harry snorted, “Let me guess…”

 

  Remus nodded, “yeah, he turned me down again. He said that you needed space to process what you had been through at the end of the Tournament. I’m sorry that I believed him. He said that your Aunt looked after you well. it was at that point, I put it together and realised that you were at Petunia’s. I had come here to let Sirius know I had figured out where you were and was going to visit you, when we received the advice about your warning from the ministry.”

 

  Still scowling Harry hugged his legs tighter, shoulder slightly towards Remus, “You know,” he paused for a moment wondering if he should say anything. Still he might as well get everything of his chest all at once. “You know, it might have been nice if ….I would have liked to hear the first story that you told me about my Mother privately and not in response to something one of my…friends had asked.”

 

  “Oh,” Remus said. “So that’s the reason that…..” he waved his hand around the room.

 

  Twisting further away, Harry, leant his head against the chair so that his face couldn’t be seen. 

 

  “I’m sorry Harry, I didn’t think….”

 

  “Seems to be a lot of that going around.”

 

  “Yeah, there does,” Remus agreed. “Albus has been the leader we’ve all followed for so long, that somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten to think for ourselves. And you’ve paid the price. Be honest with me Harry, were the Dursley’s really all that…..”

 

  The boy leapt to his feet and faced the man fists clenched tight in anger, “why is my word not good enough for you. What will it take for you to believe? You’ve just as good as admitted that Dumbledore doesn’t know anything and then in the very next breath you accuse me of lying!”

 

  Arms raised, plans forward in surrender, Remus tried to explain, “No Harry, that’s not what I……”

 

  “Then what did you mean Lupin?”

 

  “My family, they didn’t cope well when I became a werewolf, they didn’t love me and nurture me.  My Mother in particular was afraid and my Father, well I think he felt guilty every time he looked at me, so he pushed me away. I was wondering if that was what your experiences were. Albus promised that you were never beaten or abused.”

 

  The sneer that slid onto Harry’s face was worthy of Snape, he turned his back on the werewolf and grasped the hem of his shirt ripping it off over his head exposing his naked back and the pale criss-crossed lines on it, standing out starkly, highlighted by his still prominent ribs. There was a gasp behind him, that definitely didn’t come from Lupin. Harry flipped around again, holding his shirt up in front of his body.

 

  Mrs Weasley was standing in the doorway with her hand still on the doorknob.

 

  “Oh Harry!” her hand came up to cover her mouth, “Ginny didn’t lie,” she whispered, before shaking her head. “Let me look and see if there’s anything that can be done,” she transitioned from shocked observer to caring Mother in a heartbeat. 

 

  Harry backed away shaking his head, he hadn’t meant for anyone else to see, sure Percival knew but that was Percival, which made all the difference in the world, “It’s ok Mrs Weasley. They’re old, I doubt there’s anything……”

 

  “Nonsense,” she clucked at him. “If I can’t do anything then I will have a word with Severus.”

 

  “No!” Harry jerkily pulled his shirt back on. “No! I don’t want anyone else to know!”

 

  “But we can help,” she coaxed.

 

  Distrust in his eyes he asked, “why would you help me now?”

 

  “Because I was wrong to dismiss the things I was told, and I am an adult. If you won’t let me tell Severus, let me tell Sirius, he’ll have enough scars from Azkaban that he could probably do with the same treatment.”

 

  Someone was taking the stairs two steps at a time, as Harry’s body began shaking out of his control. He didn’t like this, he didn’t want anyone to know! It was mortifying that he had allowed this to happen to himself, that for all his magic he couldn’t stop it. Logically he knew it wasn’t like that. Aunt Sera and Sirius already knew what had happened, but they hadn’t seen the scars. Only Healer Addison, Percival and Ginny (though he didn’t want to think about that) had. That was still too many. There was no noise, only his stream of consciousness. Every feeling amplified. He wanted to vomit! His chest felt like it was weighed down by bricks, every breath coming in a gasp of monumental effort.

 

  Warm arms encircled him, and a hand firmly grasped the back of his head, tucking his head under their chin, with his face into their neck. He took a breath in…..Perce! Oh! thank the Gods Perce was here! Hearing returned.

 

  “It’s alright, they haven’t seen anything that they didn’t already know about. It’s not ideal and it’s not what you wanted but it will be ok.” The hand moved in a circular pattern on his back spreading its warmth. “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”

 

  “I’m a freak!” Harry whispered.

 

  “No!” the calm voice suddenly went gruff, and Harry shrank into himself. “Don’t speak about yourself that way. You are a survivor. You are strong. Those scars show that. The only reason I hadn’t mentioned a potion to try and get rid of them yet, is because they don’t change who you are, and I didn’t think you were ready to talk about them just yet. I thought when you got to that point Addison would help.”

  

  “I deserved it! They didn’t ask to have me dumped on them! Destroying their perfectly normal lives.” The arms around him tightened.

 

  “You didn’t deserve it, it should never have happened to you. Nothing you did caused it. Petunia knows it! She was trying to make up for it. Dudley’s learning to do better. And Vernon’s just a pig! You are wonderful Harry. In all my life I have never met a soul as beautiful as you.”

 

  Harry broke into a million pieces.

 

  Perce looked up and around the room, noting that Remus and Mrs Weasley had left, pulling the door closed behind them. Scooping Harry up with an arm under his knees and the other behind his back, he made his way over to the couch. The boy was still too damn light!

 

    It took several long minutes for Harry to calm. Percival sat with the other boy in his lap, continuing the flow of verbal reassurance, as he reflected that perhaps Harry’s break-down was overdue.  Sure, in the three weeks they had been at Grimmauld, he’d had the flashback in Gringotts and the other after the fight with Mrs Weasley, but there had been so many shocks, challenges and confronting situations. Really it was amazing that Harry hadn’t had a magical outburst from the stress, or spontaneously combusted in anger. Finally, he looked down at Harry who had his hands fisted around the edges of Percival’s robes, face pale and tear stained, eyes red. It was truly heart-breaking. He lifted a hand to wipe away the last tear that was rolling down that pale cheek.

 

  The door slammed open, making them both jump. Percival had drawn his wand and had it pointed at the doorway in less than a second.

 

  “Harry!” Hermione barged into the room. Percival lowered his wand tip. “We need to talk about your homework situation. I know that you said that you had it all done, but I really need to check on it before we get back to Hogwarts. If you’ve done it by yourself it’s guaranteed to be all wrong. Don’t be expecting that I’ll look over it for you on the train, if that was your plan. I’ll be too busy with Prefects duties and then where will you be. I know you said you didn’t want any help, but I’ve decided to be generous and offer you a last chance. You know you won’t be able to get it done without me, so if you apologise now all will be forgiven and we can deal with it tonight,” she hadn’t seemed to take a breath as she spat out her words, nor had she noticed that the boys were staring at her in shock. 

 

  “Harry! This is your last chance,” she clicked her fingers sharply twice, then blinked and seemed to take in the room for the first time, still not registering Percival’s wand, which was still in his hand, as a threat. “What on earth are you doing? Harry, get off him at once! I can’t cover this up Harry. I’m going to have to tell Ginny. I know you like her and she is expecting you to ask her on a date by the end of the year, around Valentine’s day should be good, if you can wait that long.  She won’t take kindly to this. If you come with me now and confess to her yourself, you’ve got the best chance of gaining her forgiveness….”

 

  As she drew breath to continue her rant, Percival spoke, “Get. Out. Granger! Harry has as much desire to date Ginny as you have of failing Arithmancy.”

 

  She glared down at him, “What would you know? You’ve only been here half a minute. I know your type! The minute you get the opportunity you’ll betray Harry and be laughing behind his back.  Come on Harry,” clearly she thought she was coaxing him gently, but it came across as more of an order.  “Get away from him, I know you don’t like boys that way and you don’t want to spoil things with Ginny, do you? You know it’ll make everyone happy if you two go out, it’ll by just like your parents!”

 

  Zing.

 

  “Ouch!” Percival’s stinging hex, hit her outstretched hand. “What did you do that for?! You’re a barbarian! See Harry! He’s violent! He’s no good for you. He just….”

 

  “Get. Out,” Percival repeated, wand still pointing at the girl.

 

  “I will not until you un-hand my friend!” she stomped her foot.

 

  Harry raised a hand, (Woosh. Thud.) and banished Hermione from the room, slamming the door closed. He buried his face back into Percival’s collar and couldn’t suppress a hysterical giggle. 

 

  “She just doesn’t shut up!” he said when he was back in control. “I thought you were very controlled. After all I’m sure you have lots of Auror grade spells you could have used.” He giggled again.

 

  Percival hugged the smaller boy tighter just for a moment, then pulled back so he could look into the green eyes, “Yes there are but I didn’t think any of them were appropriate. You’re getting better at your wandless magic too.” 

 

  Harry snuggled into his chest for a moment then groaned, “You’re very comfortable you kinow, but I guess she had a point. It probably isn’t appropriate for me to….”

 

  “Apart from the fact that your backside, feels like it’s made from Goblin steel daggers, why isn’t it appropriate?”

 

  Harry wiggled a little at that just to make Percival wince, before he spoke, “You’re….you’re …not…I’m not…at least I don’t think I……” his cheeks turned pink.

 

  Percival slid his wand away and raised his hand to cup Harry’s cheek, “It doesn’t need to be defined. What you are, what I am. What matters is what we feel. And I feel that this is ok. It’s right. Though you might want to stop wiggling so much,” he added voice tightening.

 

  “But only guys who are…”

 

  Percival ran his thumb across Harry’s bottom lip to silence him and shook his head, “Does it matter if you are a guy who like other guys Harry?”

 

 Harry hadn’t thought about it really, he’d always just assumed that he liked girls because that was normal, wasn’t it? But maybe he did. Certainly being around Percival made him feel…….something. So, what if he did? Was that a problem? From what Percival was saying it sounded like it didn’t really matter in the Wizarding world. However, in certain circles it did in the Muggle one. Internally he cringed, Aunt Petunia probably wouldn’t like it, well old Aunt Petunia wouldn’t have. Uncle Vernon definitely had views on the matter, if his muttering about the ‘pansy’s’ who acted in the local theatre group was any type of indication. What about Ron?

 

  “Talk to me Harry?” Percival enquired. “Where have your thoughts gone?”

 

  “I don’t know what I am. And I wonder what the Muggles will think, and the Weasleys. Is it ok in the Wizarding world to be….whatever?”

 

 Percival smiled gently, “Back in my day, yeah it was. These things weren’t talked about as such as the whole subject was more taboo then it is now. No-one ever knew what anyone else’s preferences were. I guess the only way we will find out what people think is by talking to them. Though I don’t suggest writing it in a letter to your Aunt, because we both know that your Uncle will only approve of Heteronormative relationships.”

 

  Harry relaxed against Percival once more, before sighing, “I suppose we should go up to bed now anyway.”

 

 

  Despite a night full of dreams of the deaths of his parents and Hermione turning into the monster book of monsters and chasing him around a room he couldn’t escape from, Harry woke feeling reasonably refreshed.  Hedwig hooted at him from where she was perched on the back rest of his bed.

 

  “Morning Hedwig,” he reached out a finger and ran it down her chest gently. 

 

   She nipped at his finger lightly, with no intention of harm and fluttered her wings. It was a big day today; her boy would be making his way to that enormous cold nest. Usually she would sit in her cage for the journey but this year, having had a taste of freedom himself, he hadn’t had the heart to confine her. It always worried her when he was out of her sight. The journey took several hours this was the first time she would be separate from him. Hedwig let out a hoot of annoyance. Perhaps this year she would sneak into his nest in the sky. Surely his clever new nest mate would find a way to let her in. 

 

  “I don’t like the idea of you travelling in you cage Hedwig. I hope you don’t mind flying to Hogwarts. It’s just it’s such a long way and I worry about you,” he voiced his fear. 

 

  She chirruped her agreement. Yes, he was good her wizard. He knew she didn’t like to feel trapped. After all the time that they had both been locked in, he understood.  Maybe she would peck at the older wizard that seemed to care about her boy until he gave her a letter to take, so that he had something to greet him when he arrived. She ruffled her feathers, yes that was an excellent idea.

 

  There was a sharp rapping on the door, “Harry, you had better get up. Mrs Weasley is going ballistic saying that you are all going to miss the train if you don’t hurry.”

 

  Harry blinked, had they slept in! He glanced over to where Percival was just pushing himself off the camp bed. 

 

  “Harry, when you’re dressed I’ve got something I want to give you before you go.”

 

  Hedwig bobbed her head and cooed in contentment. It was a relief to know that she wasn’t the only one looking after her boy anymore.

 

  A quick shower later, and Harry left Percival shrinking their trunks so that he could meet Sirius in the library.

 

  “I ….I was thinking Harry,” Sirius started. “At first, I wanted to go with you to the train, as Padfoot. You’ve never had someone to see you off before, but I ….when I thought about it, it’s not a wise idea. The rat could have told anyone that I’m an animagus, there is a part of me would be happy with the risk…but, I also thought about what you were saying when you first arrived. So, I hope you won’t be too disappointed if I don’t go,” he grimaced.

 

  Harry took a couple of stumbling steps over to his Godfather, “I’d have loved you to be there, Padfoot but you’re right. It would be worse if something happened to you. I don’t think I would ever recover from it. Especially seeing as you’re so close to being free, Madame Bones is investigating, and you should hear about a trial date soon. McMillan said he’d know something by the second week of school. Thank you for not rushing in.”

 

  “It got me thinking as well. Your Father and I, we found these in a second-hand shop when we were in sixth year and bought them, so we could talk to each other whenever we had detention.  I’d hidden them in my old flat. Kreacher went and got them for me as soon as I remembered. Luckily no-one had discovered them in the meantime.” He held out one of a matching pair of ornate silver hand mirrors, Harry took it carefully. “All you have to do is say my name….”

 

  “Sirius,” Harry said quickly.

 

  “And it will vibrate,” finished Sirius, glancing into the buzzing piece of glass he held. 

 

  Harry looked into his mirror to see his Godfather staring back at him.

 

  “This way we’ll be able to talk, without sending owls. The things that the ministry was saying about you at the start of the summer concerned me. I wouldn’t put it past them to have someone at Hogwarts, besides I’ve just gotten used to having you around. I’ll want to know what you are up to. And you can keep talking to Healer Addison when I go to see him.”

 

  “Is Aunt Sera going to stay around even though we are heading to Hogwarts?” Harry wondered how Sirius was going to arrange to meet Addison.

 

  “She’ll be here for the next week, but she has told me she has to make a trip back to the States for a couple of charity events. She should return around Halloween. I’ll schedule my visits around her.” He wrapped Harry in a tight hug. “Go on. You had better finish getting ready before Molly blows her top.”

 

  Noise was the first thing they noticed as they stepped out of the parlour, both Mrs Black and Mrs Weasley were screaming at the top of their lungs. Percival was standing in the kitchen and handed Harry a couple of slices of buttered toast.

 

  “I meant to do something about that portrait, but I forgot,” the American whispered.

 

  “You’ll get another chance at Christmas time. I wonder if she is really that bad, or if being trapped in the house with the….well you know…. affected her portrait.”

 

  “Hmmm,” Percival, grabbed Harry by the hand and dragged him to the entryway. He examined the portrait while they waited, but couldn’t see anything overtly affecting the painting. He’d have to wait for a better opportunity for a more in-depth look. It wasn’t long before all the teens had gathered in the entryway, with their school trunks. 

 

  “What are we waiting for?” Fred asked as he stood on Ginny’s toes for the third time, due to the overcrowding, she elbowed him in the ribs in retaliation.

 

  “We’re waiting for the guard to arrive,” Mrs Weasley said.

 

  “Why do we need a guard to go to the platform?” George asked.

 

  “Not you, Harry!” Mrs Weasley huffed.

 

  There was a knock on the door, opening it revealed a smiling Tonks.

 

  “Right Harry, you, Percival and Ron are with me and Tonks, Hermione and Ginny you’re with Remus and Kingsley, Fred and George you help Alastor with the trunks,” Mrs Weasley ordered. She quickly counted and then shook her head. “Which pair of you hasn’t bought their trunks down, two are missing.”

 

  “It’s alright, Mrs Weasley,” Percival said respectfully. “I asked Kreacher to shrink ours, so Harry and I are all sorted.” He tapped his pocket.

  

  “Oh,” she blinked at him. “That’s actually rather…”

 

  “It’s slavery, that’s what it is!” a piercing voice interrupted causing the twins to roll their eyes. “Harry, I am so disappointed in you, after all that work we did last year on SPEW…”

 

  “Sensible,” Alastor’s gruff voice cut across the diatribe. He pulled his wand and promptly shrunk all of the trunks giving them back to their owners. “Now, if we’re ready?” His magical eye swivelled around to glare at them all.  

 

  Mrs Weasley pulled open the door and stepped out into the weak September sunlight.

 

  “Are we, walking to the station?” Harry asked. “Isn’t that a bit…..?” He looked at Percival in confusion.

 

  The Weasley matriarch stopped and turned to look at the group who were staring at her curiously, “Well the ministry hasn’t provided cars this year, come on!”

 

  “Why not apparate?” Fred asked.

 

  “That’s alright for you, but not for the others and you can only take one person along sidealong. We’d have to be apparating all over the place and there would be no-one to keep an eye on you while we popped back to get the rest.”

 

  “I can do two,” Tonks said, “As can Moody, Fred and George can take themselves. So, Percival and Harry with me, Ron with you, Hermione and Ginny with Alastor, and Fred and George can meet us there. It’ll literally be a one-hop stop.”

 

  “Well….. I suppose, but Dumbledore…..” she seemed a bit flustered.

 

  “While we could all probably use the exercise,” Percival said politely, “I think perhaps the Headmaster has been a little too busy to think about the logistics of the operation and this will save us time. Aunt Sera was saying that there is an apparition point just outside the station beside the cafe’. If we go now, we can stop in and grab something to eat for the train. Have you got your Muggle money Harry?”

 

  Harry stuck a hand in his pocket and drew out his velvet money bag, “I’m sure I had a couple of twenty-pound notes in here somewhere.” He reached in and grabbed the note he could now feel and pulled it out. “Yup.”

 

  “Oh, alright then….” Mrs Weasley seemed a little deflated.

 

  “Do you boys know where it is?” Tonks asked.

 

  The twins just grinned and disapparated.

 

 

 “Oi! Harry,” called a tall boy with dreadlocks as he and Percival emerged onto Platform nine and three quarters. “Who’s your friend.”

 

  “Hey Lee, this is Percival Graves. Percival this is Lee Jordan, best mate to Fred and George,” he introduced as they moved away from the entrance to allow space for Mrs Weasley, Ginny and Hermione.

 

  Lee looked over at the group, “Are Fred and George…never mind there they are. See ya Harry.” He sauntered over to join his friends.

 

  “Well,” said Fred, clapping his hands together, “can’t stand around chatting all day. we’ve got business to discuss with Lee. See you later.” After a quick goodbye to their Mother, they each threw an arm around Lee’s shoulders and heads together speaking very quickly they made their way onto the train.

 

  “I guess we had best find a compartment as well,” Harry said. “Thanks for everything Mrs Weasley, if you could pass the message onto the others that would be appreciated.”

 

  “Thank you,” Percival echoed.

 

  She gave them all one last hug before shoo’ing them away.

 

  “Right where do you want to sit?” Harry asked as they boarded the train.

 

  Ron and Hermione shared a glance.

 

  “Well Ron and I are supposed to go into the prefect’s carriage,” Hermione said pompously.

 

  “Yeah, I know. I just thought you might have wanted to sit with us when you were done, but if you don’t…” Harry shrugged one shoulder, resulting in Percival’s hand reaching out to press it down again.

  

  “Get the usual one Harry, and if you can’t we’ll come find you. I spoke to Bill, we’ll have to do a patrol at some point, so if we haven’t found you before that, we’ll find you then.”

 

  “We might have to stay in the Prefects carriage for the whole journey Ronald, the letter from the Head Boy and Girl wasn’t very clear. I’m not going to let you shirk your responsibilities! Especially not on the first day,” she began another rant, which Ron ignored as he manoeuvred her in the direction of the other Prefects. Quite frankly Harry was impressed with how tolerant the red-head was being, and once again felt relief that it wasn’t him.

 

  “Maybe we should have wished him luck?” Percival mused watching them go. 

 

  “Come on,” Ginny said. 

 

  As they walked passed compartments that were already full, Harry couldn’t help but notice that a lot of people stared at him with great interest and several pointed him out to their neighbours. In front of the very last carriage they met Neville Longbottom, Harry’s fellow fifth year, his round face shining with the effort of pulling his trunk along and maintaining a one-handed grip on his struggling toad, Trevor.

 

  “Hi Harry,” he panted. “Hi Ginny….everywhere’s full…I can’t find a seat…”

 

  “What are you talking about?” said Ginny, who had squeezed past Neville to peer into the compartment behind him. “There’s room in this one, there’s only Loony Lovegood in here -“

 

  Harry frowned, “Who names their child Loony?”

 

  Ginny giggled, “Don’t be silly Harry, her name is Luna, she’s just a bit crazy is all.”

 

  Neville mumbled something about not wanting to disturb anyone, but Ginny was already sliding open the door. “Don’t be silly, she’s alright. Hi Luna, is it ok if we take these seats?”

 

  The girl beside the window looked up. She had straggly, waist-length dirty blonde hair, very pale eyebrows and protuberant eyes that gave her a permanently surprised look. Harry thought she reminded him of someone from the photo album Hagrid had made for him in first year and made a mental note to check. The girl gave off the distinct aura of dottiness. Perhaps it was the fact that she had stuck her wand behind her left ear for safekeeping, or that she had chosen to wear a necklace made of butterbeer corks, or that she was reading her magazine upside-down. Her eyes ranged over Neville and came to rest of Harry. She nodded. 

 

  “Thanks,” said Ginny smiling at her.

 

  Harry shrunk Neville’s trunk for him so that he could stow it in his pocket.

 

  “Had a good summer Luna,” Ginny asked.

 

  “Yes,” said Luna dreamily, without taking her eyes of Harry. Which Percival found slightly disconcerting. “Yes, it was quite enjoyable, you know. You’re Harry Potter,” she pronounced.

 

  “I know I am,” said Harry.

 

  Luna turned her eyes on Percival, “And you are ……interesting…..the original Percival Graves.”

 

  “Was my Great Uncle,” Percival said firmly. Yes, she was a very disconcerting individual.

 

  With a slow blink, she turned to stare at Neville instead.

 

  “And I don’t know who you are.”

 

  “I’m nobody,” said Neville hurriedly.

 

  “No you’re not!” Harry and Ginny said sharply at the same time.

 

  “Neville Longbottom - Luna Lovegood. Luna’s in my year, but in Ravenclaw,” said Ginny.

 

  “Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure,” said Luna in a sing-song voice. 

 

  She raised her upside-down magazine high enough to hide her face and fell silent.  

 

The train rattled onwards, speeding them out into the open country. It was an odd, unsettled sort of day; one moment the carriage was full of sunlight and the next they were passing beneath ominously grey clouds.

 

  “Guess what I got for my birthday?” said Neville.

 

  “Another Remembrall? said Harry, remembering the marble like device Neville’s Grandmother had given him in first year.

 

 “No, though maybe it would help. I lost the old one ages ago….no look at this…”

 

  He dug the hand that was not keeping a firm grip on Trevor into his schoolbag and after a little bit of rummaging around, during which Percival took Trevor and transfigured him a terrarium from the handkerchief he carried in his pocket, Neville pulled out what appeared to be a small grey cactus in a pot, except that it was covered with what looked like boils rather than spines.

 

  “Mimbulus mimbletonia,” he said proudly.

 

  Harry stared at the thing. It was pulsating sightly, giving it the rather sinister look of some diseased internal organ. A sudden premonition, had Harry cringing, this was not going to end well.

 

  He tuned back in just as Neville was saying, “My Great Uncle Algie got it for me in Assyria. I’m going to see if I can breed from it.”

 

  “Does it do anything?” Harry asked.

 

  “Loads of stuff!” said Neville proudly. “It’s got an amazing defensive mechanism.”

 

  He drew a quill from his school bag, Luna’s eyes appeared over the top of her magazine again, to watch what Neville was doing. Neville held the cactus up to his eyes, his tongue between his teeth he chose a spot and gave it a sharp prod.

 

  Liquid squirted from every boil on the plant, thick, stinking dark green jets of it. They hit the ceiling, the floors, the windows and splattered the front of Luna’s magazine which she had quickly raised to cover her face. Ginny who had flung her arms up just in time, merely looked as if she was wearing a slimy green hat. Percival had managed to cast a shielding charm in front of himself and Harry, protecting them both, though they did have the goo, dripping off the ceiling onto them. It smelled like rancid manure.

 

  Neville, whose face and torso were also drenched, shook his head to get the worst of it out of his eyes.

 

  “S - sorry,” he hasped. “I haven’t tried it before…didn’t realise it would be quite so…you know….explosive…don’t worry though, Stinksap’s not poisonous.”

 

  “It’s alright Nev, Percival here taught me a handy spell this summer.” 

 

  Harry dropped his wand from his holster into his hand and began syphoning the tenacious fluid off his friend. With a soft splat, a large blob off the stuff, gave in to gravity and fell onto Harry’s head.  At that precise moment the door to their compartment slid open.

 

  “Oh …hello Harry,” at the sound of the soft, nervous and very feminine voice, Percival’s head swivelled from where he had been carefully cleaning sap off Luna’s robes to look at the very pretty girl with long dark hair who was standing in the doorway. “Um….bad time?”

 

  “Oh…hi Cho,” Harry said blankly. “Yeah it is a bit, sorry.”

 

  “Um….” said Cho. “Well just thought I’d say hello…..bye then.” 

 

  Rather pink in the face, she closed the door and departed. Harry turned back to Neville.

 

  “So, want to learn the charm?”

 

  Neville grinned and pulled his wand from the bag, “Look at this Harry, after I saw you in Diagon. Great disguise by the way. Gran took me to Ollivander’s. You should have heard the fuss he kicked up! Just because she didn’t take me in first year and made me use Dad’s wand. Completely unsuitable he said. It was nearly the best part of my summer I can tell you and….” he raised his new wand for inspection. “Cherry wood and unicorn hair!” he said in awe. “I can feel so much more with it. Thanks!” he looked over at Percival.

 

 “No problem,” Percival. “Right back to it then.”

 

  By the time Ron and Hermione turned up an hour later the compartment had been returned to its original pristine state.

 

  “I’m starving,” said Ron placing Pigwidgeon’s cage in the luggage rack. “Hey Harry, where’s Hedwig.”

 

  “I sent her on ahead,” Harry said.

 

  “All pets are supposed to be transported in ministry regulation cages!” Hermione chided.

 

  “That’s only if they are aboard the express, Hermione,” Ron said. “Percy commented on it when he got his owl in fifth year. It is perfectly acceptable to allow owls to make their own way to the castle. I don’t know why I didn’t think if it myself to be honest.”

  

“She hates that cage, I wasn’t going to confine her to it for eight hours when I don’t have to,” Harry agreed.

 

  “Guess who’s the fifth year Prefects for Slytherin?” Hermione asked looking disgruntled.

 

  “Malfoy,” replied Harry at once. It was obvious really, his grades were really good, by far the best in his year in Slytherin and he was Snape’s favourite. 

 

  “And that cow Pansy Parkinson,” said Hermione viciously. “How she got to be a prefect when she’s thicker than a concussed troll….”

 

  “Can’t say I know her other than she went with Malfoy to the Yule ball last year,” Harry shrugged.

 

  Hermione ignored him, “We have to patrol the corridors every so often,” she said with a great deal of self-importance. “And we can give out punishments if people are misbehaving.”

 

  “Yeah, I can’t wait to get Crabbe and Goyle for something,” Ron snickered.

 

  “You’re not supposed to abuse your position Ron!” said Hermione sharply, before going on to scold him more fully. He just stared at her amusedly.  

 

  When Hermione had left the compartment to patrol the train, dragging Ron with her, Harry asked Luna if he could borrow her magazine when she’d finished. She promptly handed it over saying, “I’ve read it all, already.”

 

  It was an interesting and amusing read. Harry was particularly fond of the headline:

 

Sirius Black - as he’s painted?

Notorious mass murderer 

or innocent singing sensation?

 

     Sirius would get a laugh out of that he was sure, at any rate Percival was chuckling as he was reading over Harry’s shoulder.

 

  “Anything good in there?” Ron asked as he re-entered the carriage and Harry looked up from the magazine.

 

  “Of course not,” said Hermione scathingly pushing past Ron to take a seat, before Harry could answer. “The Quibbler’s rubbish, everyone knows that.”

 

  “Excuse me,” said Luna, her voice had suddenly lost its dreamy quality. “My Father’s the editor.”

 

  “I - oh,” said Hermione, looking embarrassed. “Well…”

 

  “It’s alright Luna,” Percival said, “Harry and I enjoyed it immensely. Especially the article about Stubby Broadman. I reckon we’ll have to send him a copy.”

 

  “Oh,” the dreamy voice was back. “If you think he’d like it, you can keep that copy.”

 

  “Thanks Luna,” Harry smiled. “I’ll be sure to tell him to get a subscription.” She smiled back at him softly.

 

  As usual they were visited by Draco Malfoy, though Harry didn’t rise to his threats. Instead he smiled at him placidly when he tried to goad him.

 

  “Tell me, how does it feel being second-best to Weasley, Potter?” the blonde had asked.

 

  Green eyes twinkling, Harry replied, “Ron, will make a rather good Prefect I should think. I mean he already knows how to cope with the twins. I guess the question you have to consider is do you? I can only imagine what they would do if you tried to give them detention. Congratulations though, I’m sure you’ll survive.”

 

  Draco froze for just a second as he considered Harry’s words and then with a huff, he signalled his bookends and they departed.

 

  “Harry!” Hermione began to scold. “You can’t threaten the prefects…..”

 

  The dark-haired boy tuned her out, he needed to talk to Percival. There had to be a better way to deal with the Slytherins. The animosity and fights had to stop. Harry leaned his head against Percival’s shoulder and watched as the rain drops slid down the window.

 

  “You’d better change, we’re nearly there,” Hermione said breaking the silence. She and Ron pinned their prefect’s badges to their chests. Harry grinned when he caught Ron checking his reflection in the black window.

 

  At last, the train began to slow down and they heard the usual racket up and down it as everybody scrambled to get their luggage and pets assembled ready to get off. Harry patted his pocket, reassuring himself that he hadn’t misplaced his trunk.

 

  Ron and Hermione disappeared from the carriage again to go and supervise the students as they disembarked the train, leaving Harry and the others to look after Crookshanks and Pigwidgeon.

 

  “I’ll carry the owl if you like,” offered Luna, as Neville picked up Trevor’s terrarium.

 

  “Oh - er - thanks,” said Harry, handing her the case and hoisting Crookshanks carrier more securely in his arms.

 

  They shuffled out of the compartment feeling the first sting of the night air on their faces as they joined the crowd in the corridor. Slowly they moved towards the doors. Harry could smell the pine trees that lined the path down to the lake.  He stepped onto the platform and looked around, he couldn’t see Hagrid or hear his familiar call of “firs’-years over ‘ere….’firs’-years…”

 

  Instead they were met with the sight of Professor Grubbly-Plank herding the new students towards the boats.

 

 “Where’s Hagrid?” he wondered aloud.

 

  The group became separated as they were jostled along the platform, Harry only managing to stay near Percival by grasping on to the back of his robes with a firm grip, the other arm securely around Crookshanks’ carrier.  As they approached the coaches he looked around for Ron, wanting to know what he thought about the appearance of Professor Grubbly-Plank, but the lean red-head was no-where in sight, so he followed Percival on to the dark rain-washed road outside of Hogsmeade station.

 

  Here stood the hundred or so horseless stagecoaches that always took the students above first year up to the school. Harry did a double take. The coaches were no longer horseless. There were creatures standing between the carriage shafts. If he had had to give them a name, he supposed he would have called them horses, though there was something reptilian about them too. They were completely fleshless, their black coats clinging to their skeletons, of which every bone was visible. Their heads were dragonish, and their pupil-less eyes white and staring. Wings sprouted from each wither - vast, black leathery wings that looked as if they ought to belong to giant bats. Standing still in the gloom, the creatures looked eerie and sinister.

 

  Everyone else seemed to ignore them. Letting go of Percival’s robe Harry moved closer to the creatures and reached out a hand, wanting to check if they were real.

 

  “It’s ok,” Percival said softly. “I can see them too, they are thestrals. You can only see them if you have witnessed death and understood it.”

 

  “Mmm,” nodded Luna. “They look a bit scary, but you’ll find that they are actually rather gentle. They let me visit them in the forest sometimes.”

 

  “What are you looking at Harry,” Ron asked as he approached.

 

  “Thestrals. Oh, here,” Luna passed Pigwidgeon’s cage over. “He’s rather excitable, isn’t he?”

 

  Ron, took the cage and they turned from the thestrals and entered the carriage.

Chapter Text

 

 The first of September had never quite meant the same thing to Petunia Dursley as it had to her sister. Lily, at least in her youth, had thought that it was one of the most magical days of the year. After all it was the day that she got to return to the world of Magic and what could possibly compare to that? Petunia thought of it as the day that she lost her sister forever. 

 

   Petunia had nothing to do! Just yesterday they had driven Dudley to Smeltings to get him settled in for the start of the new term, and to speak to the nurse about his continued diet and exercise plan, apparently the boxing instructor was very pleased with him. And this morning Vernon had departed for work very early for an important meeting. All the other housewives in the street were out and about leaving Petunia with nothing to do and no one to visit, such that when the post was pushed through the slot in the door and fell onto the mat with a soft plop she went to pick it up immediately.

 

  The last four weeks had been exceedingly strange she mused as she placed the bundle of letters on the table and put the kettle on to boil. Starting with the night that Harry bought home a nearly unconscious Dudley and a…. friend. Vernon, of course had been the same as always but both Dudley and Harry, and, even if she wouldn’t admit it, Petunia herself had been changed by the events of that night. The magical world had invaded her life, in what should have been the worst possible way, but she could only see the positive effects of it.  Dudley, had shown a curiosity that he had never displayed before, he hadn’t transferred the fear of the dementors onto Harry, but maintained a respectful wariness for magic and become oddly determined to improve his fitness. Harry’s friend Percival, had explained several aspects of magical life while still respecting the muggle way, unlike Harry’s father. Petunia felt like she understood so much more now. Looking over her old family photos with Dudley, did not hurt in the way it used to anymore.

  

  Which left Harry, the boy that she remembered, now to her shame, was too small and shy. He had neither the bright and bubbly personality of his Mother nor the arrogance of his Father. She had squashed both out of him. However, even after all the years of torment, the beatings, the starving and the confinement, the moment she had offered one hint of approval, and …it wasn’t love….companionship, camaraderie? Maybe it was the acknowledgement of mutual understanding of shared loss. Whatever it was, the minute it was offered, he had dropped all defiance and spite, opening up, accepting it, and her, with open arms. It was truly amazing. He should have resented them. She knew she would have.

  

  Finally settling down, with her cup of tea. Petunia turned to the letters and there in a scrawl she remembered from his homework was a letter from her Nephew. Sent by perfectly ordinary mail, a single stamp in the correct corner, and addressed as it should have been. She pushed the nail of a slightly shaky finger under the flap and opened it.

 

 

  Dear Aunt Petunia,

 

  I hope you don’t mind me writing to you. I just thought I’d like to maintain some form of communication while I’m away and figured this would be best. In the event that things become worse with…you know…well anyway, I’ll make arrangements for you to be taken to safety.  But don’t worry at this point everything still looks pretty normal, so I’ll try and figure something out by the end of the school year. 

 

  I wanted you to know that I really enjoyed the time we spent together this holidays, particularly cooking, and I had the thought that maybe next summer we could learn to make bread. I know you don’t like to eat too much of it, especially buns and things but we could do savoury rolls as well. What do you think?

 

  I took your advice and spoke to both a law wizard and my accountant at Gringotts. They have taken steps to stop the newspapers from printing horrible things about me, and they helped sort out the charges of underage magic as well. Though I suppose you are aware of that already as Mr McMillan had to come to speak to you. Thank you for the advice, it’s been extremely helpful. Thank you for also signing my guardianship over to Madame Picquery, she has promised that she will keep you updated and understands that normal channels of communication are the best. She’s very smart and knows a lot about the muggle world. I think you’ll like her.

 

  The accountant at Gringotts wanted me to ask, which bank you are with? Don’t worry it’s not because he’s a sticky beak or trying to get into your accounts. Apparently, Mum and Dad left instructions for a fortnightly payment to be made to whoever was looking after me, so that they weren’t out of pocket. It’s been going to some account at Lloyds. If that isn’t your account and you haven’t received it you can either, send a normal letter addressed to “Master Accountant-Potter” care of Gringotts London. Send a normal letter addressed to me care of school, or if you wait outside with a letter and say ‘I have a letter for Harry Potter’ an owl should be along to collect it within ten minutes or so. The last is the quickest means to contact me, though I understand that you might not feel comfortable with it. However, if something happens just know that you can contact me that way if you need to. 

 

  How has Dudley been? I hope he has a good time at Smeltings this year, I think I’m going to miss him. We’ll have to set up a board game tournament again, and see if we can’t beat you.

 

 Best Wishes

Your Nephew

Harry

 

  With a tumultuous surge of emotions Petunia, re-folded the letter. She wasn’t sure whether to be pleased that the boy had thanked her, wanted to spend time baking, and wanted to ensure their safety or angry that the money that they were supposed to have received had obviously been paid to someone else! Oh, how much easier life would have been in the beginning if they had been receiving some sort of assistance. They had struggled in those early years before Vernon had gotten his promotion, and admittedly had taken the stress of it out on Harry. Was it the banks fault? That just wouldn’t do! Who should she reply to? Harry to let him know? Or the bank to correct the fault? Both? Yes, both. She quickly pulled a pen and a lined note pad from the kitchen drawer.

 

 

 

  

 Meanwhile at Grimmauld place, Sirius was also writing a quick missive to Harry, while Hedwig watched on.

 

  “You’ll have to hurry, if you want to get there by the time that the train gets in. You know Harry won’t be happy if you exhaust yourself.” 

 

   Hedwig let out a defiant bark at the gentle scolding. She knew he cared for her boy, but he was a silly wizard at times. There were only two opportunities for her to deliver the message tonight, right when the students were hopping off the train (and she didn’t fancy trying to get to him in all that hullabaloo), or after the feast when they made their way to the dormitories. If she timed it right, the boy she was beginning to think of as her other wizard would be able to let her into the nest. And as the feast went for a couple of hours she had plenty of time to get there.

 

   “Alright, I suppose you know best,” the silly wizard conceded. “Here, let our boy know we’re thinking of him.”

 

  With an indignant hoot Hedwig jumped into the air and took off, the roll of parchment clasped in one claw.

 

  There was a flash of green from the fireplace and a single sheet of parchment was spat out onto the flagstones of the kitchen floor. Sirius pushed himself up from his seat at the table to retrieve it.

 

  Severus had done it! He had managed to get the spell from Madame Pince, though it had taken some bribery and Sirius now needed to reimburse Severus for two bottles of Elf-made raspberry wine. Ordering Kreacher to retrieve the wine from the cellar and deliver it to the Potions Master at Hogwarts he hurriedly made his way to the parlour and pulled out the book he had bullied Remus into purchasing for him. Glancing back at the letter he drew the wand he had been using (his Grandfather had placed several family wands in the hidden drawer in the mantlepiece in the parlour) since he had arrived at Grimmauld and etched a complicated series of runes into the leather. He had just finished casting the spell when Remus walked into the room.

 

  “It seems rather quiet without everyone here doesn’t it?”

 

  “Mmm,” Sirius didn’t take his eyes off the book, just as Severus had said there was a gauge on the side, it indicated that it would take just over two weeks to complete the spells first stage which was compiling a list of titles and authors. Then a further month to catalogue them by type.

 

  “Sirius!” Remus said sharply.

 

  “Yes,” the Black acknowledged distractedly. Would it be soon enough? He supposed there was nothing he could do about it now, and at least it would never have to be done again, as each subsequent addition would automatically be catalogued upon passing through the library doors. He sighed, well even if they found something sooner they wouldn’t be able to remove the Horcrux until the Yule holidays anyway.  He looked around and realised Remus was glaring at him. “Sorry what was it you wanted?”

 

  “I came to see if you were alright, now that the house is empty. To be honest I’m beginning to worry about you, you’ve been staring at that book for ten minutes.”

 

  “I’m fine.” Sirius waved away Remus’ concern. “The house is quieter, which is a bit of a relief to be honest. I’m rather pleased that Arthur and Molly have returned to the Burrow. Don’t worry about me, I’ve never been better.”

 

  “Good, I’m glad. I’ll be heading off soon myself.”

 

  “Where are you going?”

 

  “Dumbledore wants me to try the wolf packs again,” Remus shrugged. With a jerk the silver eyes turned to stare at him. “What? You don’t think it’s a good idea?”

 

  “I know it’s not!” Sirius snapped. “What can Dumbledore offer them? He’s a glorified teacher, not a policy maker and they know it. Has anything in the Wizarding world changed since last time? No! This might as well be a suicide mission Remus!”

 

  “No nothing has changed Sirius. But what else should I do? Sit here doing nothing while I slowly go mad?”

 

  “You think I am mad?” Sirius challenged.

 

  “I…..”

 

  “Don’t give me Dumbledore’s answer?”

 

  The werewolf took a slow breath in, “No. Honestly you seem more sane than I have ever seen you.”

 

  “I’m getting help Remus,” Sirius admitted. “I have been speaking to Harry’s healer. It’s helped a lot.”

 

  “You can’t leave the house, Sirius! What if someone finds you?” Remus’ voice squeaked in his shock.

 

  “I have it covered. There’s no risk of me being discovered,” Sirius reassured. “And Harry needs a Godfather he can rely on so it’s worth it. Speaking of Harry. Did you ever bother talking to him?”

 

  “Yeah. I did. He ….well, he hasn’t forgiven me I don’t think, but he understands now. Hopefully I can make it up to him, in time.”

 

  “Good,” Sirius sighed in relief. “I would have hated having to cut you out of my life. You’re the only friend I have left.”

 

  “You would have done that to me?” Remus asked sadly.

 

  “There’s not much I wouldn’t do to protect Harry," Sirius replied honestly. “Besides after each of us believing the other was the spy, things haven’t been quite the same have they?”

 

  “I suppose not. Well….I guess…I’d better go then…” Remus sounded disappointed.

 

  “For the record. I still want you around, and I trust you with most things. Just like you and Harry, I’m sure it will get better with time.  I’m not kicking you out of here, your room will still be waiting for you when you come back, if you decide to go off on Dumbledore’s ridiculous mission. Just do me a favour. Even if he hasn’t forgiven you fully. If Harry understands even a little of what you went through he will be getting attached to you so don’t get yourself killed.” Sirius gave Remus a wry smile, “he frowns on that sort of thing you know.”

 

  Remus walked to the door.

 

  “Wait! I just thought of something!” Sirius hurried over to the fireplace and depressed a decorative floret to reveal the hidden drawer. After a couple of seconds of rummaging around he withdrew a plain platinum bracelet. He waved his wand over it “ab oculus absconder.” Then another wave, “portus!” 

 

  He walked over and grabbed Remus’ left wrist, “Here, no-one else can see it, just you and me. If you need to escape just clasp your other hand over it and say - there’s no place like home!”

 

  A laugh burst from Remus, “Really Padfoot! There’s no place like home?!”

 

  With a cheeky grin and a wave Sirius saw him out the door.

 

  

 

 

  The carriage bounced over the un-even ground as the children inside discussed the missing half-giant and pondered where he was. It was clear if Professor Gubbly-Plank was around then he wouldn’t be arriving any time soon. They disembarked out the front of the castle. Unusually Professor McGonagall was waiting for them.

 

  “Quickly Mr Graves, I need you to come with me,” she waved him over. “You’ll need to be sorted. Rather than leave you standing there while all the little ones are done, we’ll sort you first. Though the Headmaster insisted that it be done in front of the rest of the school just like everyone else. Something about getting the full experience.”

 

  “Of course, he did,” Percival said amiably. He turned to the group, “I’ll see you after then.”

 

  He watched with a concerned frown as Hermione grabbed Harry roughly by the arm and pulled him into the hall, before turning and following the Professor. 

 

  “Now Mr Graves,” she said as she led him into the antechamber. “Just wait here, I’ll be right back with the first years.”

 

  Percival looked around at the stone walls of the room. It wasn’t all that strange that they practically shimmered with magic, after all the place had been a magical school for over a thousand years. No, it was a little more surprising that it hadn’t developed sentience as yet. Or maybe? He reached out a hand and laid it on the cool stone, getting the distinct impression of approval. Huh! He wondered who else knew.

 

 

  “Let. Go. Hermione!” Harry wrenched his arm out of her grasp. “That bloody well hurts.”

 

 She just tutted at him, “Now that you’re away from that….boy I need to talk to you about him. Harry there’s something very wrong with him,” she whispered.

 

  “Oh yeah, like what?” Harry enquired, speaking normally. 

 

  “You’ll see, when he’s sorted into Slytherin you’ll know what sort of person he is,” she said eyes turning to the table at the front of the room. “Who’s that?”

 

  “At a guess that would be the new Defence against the Dark Arts teacher,” Ron rolled his eyes when she turned to him in surprise. “What? It’s the only position free!”

 

  “She was at my trial,” Harry said to Ron in an undertone. “She’s one of Fudges lackeys. Umbridge I think her name was.”

 

  “Nice cardigan,” commented Ginny making Lavender and Pavarti who were sitting two seats further up the table giggle.

 

  The buzz of talk in the Great Hall faded away as a long line of scared looking first-years entered the Hall led by Professor McGonagall, with Percival at her side. She set the sorting hat upon its stool and took a step back. 

 

  The whole school waited with bated breath. Then the rip near the hat’s brim opened wide like a mouth and it began its song. The retelling of Hogwarts founding was not new, though the drifting apart of the Founders and its musing on its own existential crisis were. As was the warning. Well it was new to most of those in the hall though the ghosts confirmed that it wasn’t the first time that the Hat had spoken about such events when it felt the situation required it. Sir Nicholas was prevented from giving more details by Professor McGonagall calling the first student’s name. 

 

  “Graves, Percival.”

 

  There was a strange feeling of nervousness in watching his friend be sorted, Harry observed. The wish that the sorting hat would place Percival in the House that suited him best, warred with the desperate desire for him to be in Gryffindor. On reflection there was every chance he would be sorted into Slytherin, he was after all very ambitious and cunning. What was taking the Hat so long? Harry’s stomach swooped as the split on the brim opened.

 

  “Gryffindor.”

 

  Hermione pursed her lips and turned away when a smiling Percival, walked over and sat down between Harry and Ron.

 

 

  After the feast Albus Dumbledore stood to re-introduce Professor Grubbly-Plank and to introduce their new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Delores Umbridge. Not satisfied with his words Delores herself got to her feet to make a speech.

 

  Her voice was high-pitched, breathy and little-girlish. She gave a little throat clearing cough (‘hem hem’) “Well, it is lovely to be back at Hogwarts, I must say!” She smiled, revealing very pointed teeth and Harry wondered if she had any Goblin blood. Though he did make a note not to mention it to Striknott, whom he was sure would be very offended. “And to see such happy little faces looking up at me.

 

  Harry glanced around. None of the faces he could see looked happy. On the contrary, they all looked rather taken-aback at being addressed as though they were five years old.

 

  “I am very much looking forward to getting to know you all and I’m sure we’ll be very good friends.”

 

 “I’ll be her friend as long as I don’t have to borrow that cardigan,” Parvarti whispered to Lavender, and they both lapsed into silent giggles.

 

  Professor Umbridge cleared her throat again (‘hem hem’) but when she continued, some of the breathiness had vanished from her voice. She sounded much more businesslike and now her words had a dull learned-by-heart sound to them,

 

  “The Ministry of Magic has always considered the education of young witches and wizards to be of vital importance. The rare gifts with which you were born may come to nothing if not nurtured and honed with careful instruction. The ancient skills unique to the Wizarding community must be passed down the generations lest we lose them forever. The treasure trove of magical knowledge amassed by our ancestors must be guarded, replenished and polished by those who have been called to the noble profession of teaching.”

 

  At this Professor McGonagall exchanged a significant glance with Professor Sprout as Umbridge gave another little ‘hem hem’ and went on with her speech.

 

  “Every Headmaster and Headmistress of Hogwarts has bought something new to the weighty task of governing this historic school, and that is as it should be, for without progress there will be stagnation and decay. There again, progress for progress’s sake should be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering. A balance, then, between old and new, between permanence and change, between tradition and innovation…..”

 

  By this point all but the most attentive Ravenclaws, Hermione and oddly enough Percival had ceased to listen. Most of the students around the room had commenced quiet discussions of their own, not that Professor Umbridge noticed. Harry had the impression that a full-scale riot could have broken out under her nose and she would have ploughed on with her speech. Over at the Ravenclaw table Harry noticed that Luna had pulled apart her necklace and was constructing a sturdy tower out of the corks.

 

  “…pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited.” She sat down wearing a triumphant smile.

 

  Dumbledore clapped and the staff slowly followed his lead. Most of the student body had been taken unawares by the end of her speech and continued talking for a minute, before turning to stare at the teachers table where Dumbledore had risen to his feet.

 

  “Thank you very much, Professor Umbridge, that was most illuminating,” he said bowing to her. “Now as I was saying Quidditch tryouts will be held…..”

 

  “Yes, it certainly was illuminating,” said Hermione in a low voice. Harry wouldn’t have paid much attention except for the shocking fact that Percival hummed in agreement.

 

  Turning to look at his friend he asked, “Why? I thought it was mostly….you know…a load of waffle.”

 

  With a condescending sigh Hermione spoke, “There was important stuff hidden in that waffle.”

 

  “Was there?” Ron said blankly.

 

  “Yes,” she said leaning across the table as if she was revealing some salacious gossip. “The Ministry’s interfering at Hogwarts.”

 

  There was a great clattering and banging all around them; Dumbledore had obviously just dismissed the school because everyone was standing up ready to leave the Hall. Percival waited while Hermione pushed Ron towards the first years before speaking.

 

  Quietly and without drawing attention he said, “In some ways what Hermione said wasn’t wrong. It’s just that it was incomplete.”

 

  “What else did that woman say? She’s nearly as bad as Binns, I almost fell asleep,” Neville asked from where he had walked up to the other side of Percival.

 

  “She implied that the Ministry won’t be making any changes for Muggleborn and that the ways of Pureblood families will be upheld. She all but said that the only way for magic to passed on is via pureblood lines.” He thought for a moment “I don’t know what it is, but I feel like she’s hiding something.”

 

  “Maybe Aunt Sera or ….” Harry quickly glanced at Neville, “Ah, Snuffles could investigate.”

 

  With a laugh Percival said, “Snuffles, really? He lets you call him that?”

 

   Harry just grinned, then turned back to speak to Neville but noticed his friend moving away quietly with a blank look on his face. 

 

  “Nev!” he called. 

 

  “What?” Neville paused and allowed the other two to catch up.

 

  “Why’d you take off?”

 

  “You were talking about things that you obviously don’t want me to know about so….” he shrugged.

 

  Embarrassment flooded Harry, “Nev…it’s not that….”

 

  “Ha,” Neville gave a wry chuckle.  “Yeah it is Harry. You guys have never been bothered with me before. You’ve always had Ron and Hermione and now you have Percival as well, you don’t need me. It’s ok I understand why.”

 

  “No Neville!” Feeling like a right git, how could he not have realised that Neville had been the odd man out in the dorm, Harry reached out to grab his arm. “You’re right. I’ve not been a good friend till now, and I mean to change that. I struggled for so long trying to figure out what was going on in this place. I only found out about magic when I was eleven and it was overwhelming. Ron was my first friend, and I guess, I found it easier to stick to him, then trying to make new friends. But I’m getting better at understanding things now, Percival’s been explaining them to me. So please, don’t think I am shutting you out. It’s just that this secret, well, it’s not mine to share. We have to write some letters and I’ll ask if I can tell you.”

 

  “Really,” Neville seemed a bit stunned but the offer, but his mind jagged on one point, “No-one told you about magic!”

 

  “Not until I got my letter no.”

 

  “Which teacher bought your letter?” 

 

  “None,” Harry shrugged.

 

  “That’s not right,” Neville frowned. “It’s in the charter, all Muggleborn and raised students are to have their letters delivered by an appropriately trained teacher.”

 

  “Well, when I finally got given mine, on some little island, it was delivered by Hagrid.”

 

  “Harry, that’s just not right.”

 

  They had come to the end of the corridor and were standing before the portrait of the Fat Lady.

 

  “Erm….” Harry said blankly. 

 

  “No password, no entrance,” she said loftily.

 

  “It’s all right Harry I know it. Guess what it is? I’m actually going to be able to remember it for once,” he waved the stunted little cactus he had shown them on the train. “Mimbulus mimbletonia!”

 

  “Correct,” said the Fat Lady, and her portrait swung open towards them like a door, revealing a circular hole in the wall behind.

 

 

 

  Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan had reached the dormitory first and left the bed between Harry’s and Ron’s free for the newcomer. They ceased talking abruptly as the other three entered the room. Harry wondered whether they had been talking about him, then whether he was being paranoid.

 

  “Hi,” he said moving across to his bed, removing his trunk from his pocket and placing it on the floor before enlarging it.

 

  “Hey Harry,” said Dean, “Better than Seamus’s anyway, he was just telling me.”

 

  “Why, what happened, Seamus?” Neville asked as he placed his Mimbulus mimbletonia on his bedside cabinet. Nodding his thanks to Percival who enlarged his trunk for him.

 

  Seamus didn’t answer immediately, he was making rather a meal of ensuring his poster of the Kenmare Kestrels, Quidditch team was quite straight. Then he said, with his back still turned to Harry, “Me mam didn’t want me to come back.”

 

  “What?” said Harry, pausing in the act of pulling off his robes.

 

  “She didn’t want me to come back to Hogwarts.”

 

  Seamus turned away from his poster and pulled his own pyjamas out of his trunk, still not looking at Harry. 

 

  “But - why?” said Harry, with a sneaking suspicion, of why his pyromaniac roommate, might be acting as shiftily as he was. The general Wizarding populous were sheep after all.

 

  Seamus didn’t answer until he had finished buttoning his pyjamas.

 

  “Well,” he said in a measured voice. “I suppose…because of you.”

 

  “Ah, I see,” Harry didn’t quite manage to hide all of the hurt in his voice. “I suppose she’s been reading the Daily Prophet then. They weren’t very complimentary, and I had noticed that they hadn’t printed a retraction yet after they were issued with the cease and desist order.”

 

  “The what?” Dean asked. 

 

  “They were printing so many lies about me that a Law firm has taken my case on, and they are being charged with slander amongst other things. If they don’t print a retraction and apology within the next thirty days they will be required to pay a ten thousand galleon fine,” Harry said, quietly.

 

  “Oh! Look…just…tell us…what did happen that night when…you know, when….with Cedric Diggory and all?” 

 

  Seamus sounded nervous and excited at the same time. Dean, who had been bending over his trunk trying to retrieve a slipper, went oddly still and Harry knew he was listening hard. Harry was sick of it, sick of being the person who was stared at and talked about all the time. It made him furious that they all felt like they had the right to know every little thing that he went through.

 

  “What are you….” he began angrily, until the warmth of Percival’s hand seeped through the cloth on his shoulder.

 

  “Gentlemen, you already know the relevant details. However, you should be satisfied knowing that Harry’s memories of the events were taken by the auror department, in evidence of his case against the Daily Prophet. Amelia Bones deemed it sufficient to uphold the case,” he glanced at them sternly, it had been a while since he had bought out parade ground Percival.

 

  “Besides,” Neville’s voice spoke up from beside them. “That’s a bit crass really, asking Harry to recall witnessing someone’s death!”

 

  Both boys had the good manners to blush and turn away again, though Seamus did mutter something under his breath that sounded a bit like ‘reckon Dumbledore’s still a nutter’.

 

  “Seamus,” Harry spoke calmly. “Believe whatever you want, it won’t change the truth. And you are probably right about Dumbledore.” The other boy disappeared behind his bed hangings. Dean sighed and went to bed shortly after.

 

  Harry looked over at the teens who still stood at his side, “Thanks guys.”

 

  Percival squeezed his shoulder and they all finished getting ready for bed.

 

 

    “Look at today,” groaned Ron as they sat around the table eating breakfast the next morning.  “History of Magic, double Potions, Divination and double Defence Against the Dark Arts.”

 

  “I see what you mean,” Harry nodded, “though you are on your own in Divination.”

 

  “What! No, mate you can’t leave me,” Ron begged. “Who else am I going to make up predictions with?”

 

  Ignoring the tut from Hermione, who was sitting primly on Ron’s other side, Harry said, “Sorry but Perce is going to tutor me in Runes and Arithmancy during those times. You’ll have to bug Neville.”

 

  “Nah, I dropped it as well, waste of time. Gran arranged for me to be tutored in Runes.”

 

  The boys continued to ignore Hermione’s disapproving clucks.

 

  “Did you see the sign on the notice board this morning? Looking at this schedule I kinda wish Fred and George’d hurry up and get those Skiving Snackboxes sorted…”

 

  “Do mine ears deceive me?” said Fred arriving with George and squeezing onto the bench opposite Harry, pushing Hermione up closer to Ginny. “A Hogwarts prefect surely wouldn’t wish to skive off lessons? And on the first day no less?”

 

  “Look at what we’ve got today,” said Ron grumpily, shoving his timetable under Fred’s nose. “That’s the worst Monday I’ve ever seen.”

 

  “Fair point, little bro,” said Fred, scanning the column. “You can have a bit of Nosebleed Nougat cheap, if you like.”

 

  “Why’s it cheap?” asked Ron, previous experience making him more than a little suspicious.

 

  “Because you’ll keep bleeding till you shrivel up, we haven’t got an antidote as yet,” said George, helping himself to a kipper.

 

  “Cheers,” said Ron moodily, pocketing his timetable, “but I think I’ll take lessons.” He caught a movement from Hermione out of his eye and spoke quickly before she was able to. “And about your call for testers.”

 

  “Yeah, what of it?” Fred challenged defensively, sitting back folding his arms across his chest.

 

 “Look I know you test everything on yourselves first, so the risk is limited, however I think you need to add a few more precautions.”

 

  “Like what?” Fred frowned.

 

  “Like not testing more than two or three products a day on one person and they need to be spaced out to prevent interactions between them. The testers shouldn’t be first or second year, you know they won’t be reliable in telling you about side effects, like headache and nausea. And you need to provide the testers with a description of what you actually expect the product to do and a list of what could go wrong. Finally, you need to check all testers for allergies.”

 

  “There are times where we need to test the interactions between different products, Ron,” George said.

 

  “In that case, you need to let them know what to look out for, and that it is a specific test to see if the products would be ok to be taken together.”

 

  The twins exchanged a glance that went on for several moments, before agreeing with a nod, “Right you are Ron. We’ll take them on board they all seem like sensible precautions.”

 

  “And If you don’t abide by them, I’ll inform Mum,” Ron said sternly.

 

  Two pairs of betrayed blue eyes turned on him, “Why would you do that! Ron….” they stood in a huff and moved up the table to sit with Angelina Johnson.

 

  “Ronald,” a piercing voice cut through Harry’s congratulations at reigning the twins in. “How can you condone them advertising for testers in the common room! It’s completely un-ethical.”

 

  “Yeah, and I just negotiated with the twins so that it will be much more regulated. Look most of the products they are testing have already been tried on the twins and myself. So one, they work and two there were no…..un-intended side effects. What they now need to know is if that holds true for a wider target group. If they do it in a controlled fashion, the testers are aware of the things that might go wrong and are compensated appropriately then this isn’t a bad place to conduct those tests. Should all else fail, Madame Pomphrey is on hand to fix up any mistakes. To be quite honest, if we just went and yelled at them all that would happen is that they would move it out of sight and keep doing it anyway. So at least this way there is some sort of guideline.”

 

 

 

  Forewarned about Professor Binns before they did their school shopping Percival had suggested that they pool their resources and purchase a high-quality auto-dictation quill, like the one used in the Wizengamot, while they were in Diagon Alley. He had set it up on the outside edge of his desk as they organised themselves at the start of class. Instead of listening to Binns and trying to stay awake through his soporific monotone, he cast a silencing ward around himself and Harry so they could work on Arithmancy which Harry was struggling with.  They had offered Ron the opportunity to join them but, he had looked over their text books and decided that he wasn’t all that keen, though he’d join on the days that they studied Runes. In the meantime, he could use the extra time to sleep.

 

  Throughout the lesson Hermione shot filthy looks at them out of the corner of her eye.

 

  “How would it be,” she asked them coldly, as they left the classroom for break (Binns drifting away through the blackboard), if I refused to lend you my notes this year?”

 

  Her eyes narrowed as she saw, Harry’s lips twitch upwards slightly. She must honestly think that they couldn’t survive without her.

 

  “You don’t think I’d do it, do you! You don’t even try to listen to him, do you?” she continued scolding.

 

  “We do try,” said Ron. “We just haven’t got your brains or your memory or your concentration - you’re just cleverer than we are - is it nice to rub it in?”

 

  “Oh, don’t give me that rubbish,” said Hermione, looking slightly mollified, having not picked up Ron’s sarcasm.

 

 

  “You know,” said Harry glancing through the notes. “I think if there was a reasonable teacher, this actually might be interesting.”

 

  The boys sat side by side in a secluded alcove in the courtyard, each holding their own copy of the notes. Unable to tolerate Hermione anymore they had let her and Ron wander ahead and had ducked out of sight as the pair had turned a corner. Harry knew he would have to find a way to make it up to Ron later. Maybe they could give him a copy of their notes, so he wouldn’t need to ask for Hermione’s.

 

  “Hello Harry!” a voice startled Harry from his work.

 

  It was Cho Chang and most unusually she was not surrounded by a giggling group of girls.

 

  “Hi,” said Harry, looking up briefly.  

 

  “You got the stuff off, then?” Cho asked awkwardly.

 

  “Yeah,” said Harry, giving her an embarrassed sort of smile. It hadn’t been his finest moment. 

 

  It was odd, if she had come and talked to him the previous year he would have been nervous and excited, but now….so much had changed. Sure, she was an attractive girl but…those butterflies in his stomach just weren’t there anymore. The crush had long since passed. What do you say to the girl you once had a crush on?

   

  “So, did you…er…have a good summer?” he could just about feel Percival shaking his head beside him, and he wished he could have taken the words back. After all Cedric had been Cho’s boyfriend and his death must have cast a terrible pall over her holidays.

 

  Unsurprisingly something in her face seemed to pull taut, but she said, “Oh it was all right, you know….”

 

  “Um, well, we’d best go…..we’ve got Potions,” Harry hurriedly pulled Percival to his feet and scurried away towards the dungeons.

 

  Once they had cleared the courtyard, Percival pulled back on Harry’s hand, practically dragging the smaller boy into an empty classroom. 

 

  “What was that all about, Harry?” Percival asked in a flat tone that Harry didn’t like very much.

 

  “That’s Cho….. we saw her on the train, remember? She…ah…she’s the Ravenclaw seeker.”

 

  “And you just randomly have conversations with members of the opposition Quiddtich team?” he raised an eyebrow.

 

  “Well, no….I don’t know why she’s started talking to me actually, we’ve never spoken much before, apart from that once when I asked her to the Yule Ball last year, she said no.” Harry frowned. “Heck if we don’t hurry will be late for Potions.”

 

  

  As it turned out they just managed to slip into the classroom and slide into their seats before Snape arrived.

 

  “Settle down,” said Snape coldly, shutting the door behind him.

 

    Snape commenced the lesson with a warning about the up-coming OWLs. Glaring at everyone in the room that he presumed would not do well. Harry suppressed a snort, as he wondered how much of it was an act. Sure, the Potions Master would never be the soft and cuddly type, but he wasn’t as hard or mean as he made himself out to be.

 

  Black eyes fell upon Harry and his lip curled. Harry decided he had best help Snape keep up the act and glared back.  They were tasked with brewing the Draught of Peace, and Snape could hardly have set them a more difficult, fiddly potion.  Harry, took deep steadying breaths and reassured himself that Percival had told him he was improving. The tips and explanations they had found in the two books from the Black library were invaluable.

 

  Briefly Harry caught a movement out of the corner of his eye and was glad that he and Percival had cast the warding spell over their cauldrons, as he saw something leafy ricochet off it and onto the floor. 

 

 

  “A light silver vapour should now be rising from your potion,” called Snape with ten minutes left to go.

 

  Harry, who was sweating profusely, looked around. His own cauldron was issuing copious amounts of silver, nearly grey vapour, while Percival’s had a light mist rising from it.  Harry was happy, it was not perfect, but was much better than he had expected. Ron’s cauldron was spitting green sparks, as was Neville’s. Snape paused in his circuit of the room just in front of the table Harry was sharing with Percival. He looked down his nose and the only sign that he had noticed the improvement in Harry’s work was a raised eyebrow. Taking a step forward he slipped on something on the floor, all the Gryffindors froze as they watched him slowly bend down and pick it up.

 

  “Potter!” he spat, as he lifted the object to eye level.  “What is this?”

 

  The Slytherins at the front of the class all looked up eagerly; they loved hearing Snape taunt Harry.

 

  “Ah, looks to be a fern frond Sir,” Harry guessed.

 

  “And what is it doing on the floor?”

 

  “I couldn’t say, Sir. Though perhaps you might like to ask Nott as he’s the one who tried to throw it into my cauldron.”

 

  “Indeed,” Snape turned his eyes on his own students for a second.  

 

  Nott, merely raised his hands palm forward and said innocently, “Sir, you know I would never risk interfering with someone’s cauldron in such a fashion.”

 

  “I should hope…”

 

  “Liar,” said Percival flatly.  “You are the only one with the correct trajectory for an object to have bounced off, the cauldron ward, onto the floor, all other angles would have landed the ingredient on the table. Besides I saw you! You still have a sprig of frostbite fern on your desk, and it is most definitely not required in this potion, as it would react negatively with the moonstone.” He raised his eyes to meet Snape’s.

 

  “Five points off each, for back chat, and you can both attend detention with me this evening for lying,” Snape snapped. He turned sharply to the front of the classroom. “Those of you who have managed to read the instructions, fill one flagon with a sample of your potion, label it clearly with your name and bring it to my desk for testing,” said Snape. “Homework: twelve inches of parchment on the properties of moonstone and its uses in potion making, to be handed in on Thursday.”

 

   Harry sighed as he decanted his potion, pitying Seamus who was trying to chip a section of his potion off his cauldron where it looked like it had hardened into rock. At least the detention hadn’t cost Gryffindor too many points. He shouldered his bag and he and Percival headed to the library.

 

 

 

  Surprisingly the rest of the day passed without incident.  Though Defence Against the Dark Arts hadn’t been great. Harry had only resisted responding to Umbridge’s vitriol by recalling Amelia Bones’ statement the now was not the right time for the Ministry to admit that Tom Riddle had indeed returned, and Percival judiciously placing a hand on his thigh, in the middle of her diatribe. The warmth bleeding through the leg of his pants, made all thoughts in Harry’s mind freeze.  It was a wonder he didn’t gasp out loud. The circles being rubbed into his pants leg distracted Harry enough that he barely even noticed the passage of time and was surprised when the bell rang, signalling the end of classes.

 

  “Mate, I was sure you were going to have a go at Umbridge!” Ron said as they walked up the corridor towards the Great Hall. “Don’t you want the truth known?” Neville was nodding in agreement beside him.

 

  “Here,” Percival gripped both boys by the shoulders and pulled them into a classroom. He quickly froze the portraits. 

 

  “Ron, you’re a great strategist, right?”

 

  Ron cocked his head in confusion.

 

  “It’s like chess right, you’re good at planning several moves in advance. So, what do you think would happen right now if Madame Bones, announced that her department was chasing down Tom Riddle and his Death Eaters?”

 

  “People would panic and the Death Eaters…….They’d go to ground, create alibis……Yeah I get it.”

 

  “Exactly, so I already know that the Ministry isn’t saying anything. One reason is Madame Bones is making plans. The other is the Fudge is an idiot. I’m not going to change either of those things by arguing with the pink toad. And honestly, we’ve just got to get through the next ten months then the curse will take affect and she’ll be gone. Meanwhile I’m sure the twins will be only too happy to play.” They shared a wicked grin.

 

 

  

  “Right,” Harry said as he stared at the sink in front of him. “I can do this.”

 

  “Come on Potter, we haven’t got all night,” their dour Professor chided. Somehow it lacked its usual level of derision. “I have put a monitoring spell on my classroom, however we will never return to it in time should someone seek me out there. There were enough protests at you having detention on the first day that we might expect visitors.”

 

  “Just tell them we were looking for ingredients in the Forbidden Forest, Sir,” Harry said, without looking away from the image of a snake that had been scratched on the side of one of the copper taps, trying to visualise a live snake.

 

  “And what pray-tell do I tell them, about the distinct lack of ingredients?” Snape raised an eyebrow.

 

  “Just tell them we didn’t find any, the flowers finished blooming early this year, I’m pretty sure it’s due to the heat.” Snape was positively stunned, how on earth did Potter know that, it was a conclusion he himself had come to upon noticing the increased prices of ingredients over the summer.  “Alternately you can show them the snake skin that you’re about to find, though that might raise questions of its own. Open,” it came out as a hiss.

 

  The tap glowed with a brilliant white light and began to spin. Next second, the sink began to move. The sink, in fact, sank, right out of sight, leaving a large pipe exposed, a pipe wide enough for a man to slide into.

 

  “By the Gods, I would never have believed it,” Snape muttered. “What are you doing?” he snapped suddenly as Harry prepared to slide his legs into the pipe.

 

  “Um, well you see this is the entrance…”

 

  “You expect me to believe that the great Salazar Slytherin, sat on his backside and slid into his chambers?” 

 

  “With all due respect sir, he lived a thousand years ago, I doubt any of us know what he would or wouldn’t have done. And as I’m pretty sure that plumbing hadn’t been invented yet, I’m guessing the entrance didn’t look like this back then.”

 

  “Have you tried asking for stairs?”

 

  “Asking for stairs? You think it’s that simple,” Harry cocked his head to the side.

 

  “Why would it not be? After all, you just said open and it did, surely stairs would have the same affect.”

 

  “Ah, the problem Sir, is that snakes don’t actually have a word for stairs, which makes that request rather impossible. Good idea though.”

 

  “We could try asking Hogwarts,” Percival suggested.

 

  “Hogwarts is a building you dunderhead!”

 

  “After a thousand years of absorbing excess magic, Hogwarts is a sentient building Professor,” Percival said respectfully, by which point Harry already had his hand on the wall and his eyes closed. With a great grinding of stone, the opening squared off and a set of steps could be seen descending into the dark.

 

  “Mind your heads, you’re both taller than I am,” Harry said as he led the way.

 

  The descent took a lot longer than the first time he had entered the chamber and Harry was just beginning to wonder if maybe Hogwarts had a sense of humour and was taking them somewhere else when he stepped off the last stair into a damp stone tunnel, that had featured in many of his nightmares.  

 

  “Lumos,” three wands were raised at the same time illuminating the space as with a crash the opening far above them shut, blocking out the little light it had provided.

 

  The myriad of dead animal bones still lay across the floor, all sharp points and cracking noises when stepped upon.

 

  “Just round this corner Professor, should be a shed skin,” Harry swung his wand light across the first evidence that these tunnels had housed that large beast.  

 

  “It’s twenty feet long at least!” Snape, knelt next to it.  “If the way this is preserved is any indication, the cadaver should be in good condition Potter. This area is quite damp, yet, I can see no spores or mould, nor is it showing any signs of decay.”

 

  “Did you want to take this with you now Sir?”

 

  Snape looked longingly at the skin, then shook his head, “No, let’s press on, shall we?”

 

  “Here’s where the others stopped,” Harry indicated the rock fall in front of them, we were only second year and Ron had a busted wand, so we didn’t know what to do.”

 

  “Reparo!” Snape roared, all of the blocks flew up to slot into their original place like a giant jigsaw puzzle and the tunnel opened up before them.

 

  “Thanks Professor.”

 

  They walked on, finally coming to a solid wall on which two entwined serpents were carved, their eyes were set with great, glinting emeralds. Harry swallowed, this was it.

 

  “Open,” he hissed again.

 

  The serpents parted as the wall cracked open, the halves slid smoothly out of sight. They were standing at the end of a huge chamber. Everything was just as Harry remembered it.

 

  “Perhaps we should have bought a rooster!”

 

  “Really Potter, why a rooster?”

 

  “Well according to Newt Scamander, the cry of the rooster is fatal to a basilisk. I’d hate to think about there being a second one in here.”

 

  “Well if there is I guess, you’ll just have to call Fawkes and hope for the best again!” Snape sneered, if Harry didn’t know better he would have thought that his professor was nervous.

 

  “I’d really rather not!”

 

  They walked further into the room and as the sconces around the room lit they could finally see the beast, head flat on the floor close to the bust of Slytherin and the tail curled in a great loop. Halfway up its body a white fang stood out in stark relief to where the floor was stained black, and Harry shuddered, at the memory.

 

  Snape was completely absorbed in the beast, muttering to himself, and sending a measuring tape that he had conjured from the tip of his wand around it, jotting down the results every time it drifted back to him. As he carefully pressed open the jaw to examine its teeth Harry turned away and walked over to the statue.  

 

  “That’s some snake there,” Percival spoke quietly from beside him.

 

  “I always wondered what made her follow him you know. I wanted to try and talk to her, but…..I think she may have been mad anyway.”

 

  “Did you ever,” Percival pointed ahead of them to the arch made by Slytherin’s mouth.

 

  “No. After I rescued Ginny I was too worried about getting back to Ron.”

 

  With a glance behind Percival said, “No wonder she thinks you’re her knight in shining armour.” He bumped shoulders with his friend.

 

  “I don’t know. I think if she thought about it she’d realise she’s strong enough to do the rescuing herself. Do you want to….” 

 

  “What exactly, do you think you are doing Mr Potter?” a stern voice interrupted.

 

  “Ah, um I thought we might as well go and see if there is anything else through here, Sir,” Harry shrugged.

 

  “Your thoughts Mr Graves?”

 

  “Well, Sir. Looking at the dampness around us, either the area has flooded, or it is beneath the lake and the wards keeping it dry are in the process of failing.  Either way there is a risk of potential cave-in, or inhalation of some type of spore that has been incubating in there for the last Merlin knows how many years.  It would be best to have an adult accompany us and to investigate the wards first.”

 

  “Yes, and unfortunately that will not be happening tonight as curfew is just about upon us. Let us return to the stairs, I will attempt to request Hogwarts provide us with egress into my office. We will need to have another discussion, when I have had a chance to review what I have assessed of the body. You understand that there will need to be more detentions to cover our activities.”

 

  “Of course Sir. Sir?”

 

  “Yes Potter.”

 

  “Are you going to be able to manage it all by yourself? It actually seems even larger than I remembered it being.”

 

  “It is indeed a large beast. With careful preparation I will manage though it will take some time.”

 

  “Sir I have a House Elf, who, well, he doesn’t really have much to do. He’s a bit odd, but would he be helpful?”

 

  Harry just about ran into the back of Professor Snape who had stopped abruptly and whipped around.  “Of course, you have a House Elf!”

 

  “I didn’t mean to, Sir. I didn’t realise. You see he said he wanted to be free, and so when I found out that Mr Malfoy was abusing him…I well, I set him free. Last year I found out he was working here, at the castle, but I didn’t realise that he had actually chosen me as his new master, so when he asked, of course I couldn’t say no. Well, not after seeing Winky. She’s got a problem with butter beer, apparently it’s from her depression, because she was freed by Mr Crouch. Anyway I said yes but now I don’t really know what to do with him and….”

 

  “Stop your blabbering Potter. Yes, his assistance would be helpful as long as he can follow orders.”

 

  “Dobby!” Pop. “Um, Dobby, this is Professor Snape, Professor Snape this is Dobby.”

 

  “Professor Snakey sir,” Dobby nodded.

 

  “Um, Dobby. Professor Snape has a big job he needs assistance with. I won’t make you do it if you don’t want to, it might be a bit gross really, and possibly really smelly, but if you would….”

 

  “Get to the point Potter.”

 

  “Uh….right, the Professor would like some assistance breaking down the dead basilisk, in the chamber back there. Would you like to help?”

 

  “Dobby cans help Professor Snakey.”

 

  “Great. Thanks Dobby, you’ll need to listen carefully to what he tells you to do, some of it might be a bit tricky or dangerous.”

 

  Dobby nodded and disappeared with a crack.

 

  It turned out that Hogwarts could make the stairs lead directly to Snape’s office, so after a much shorter climb they emerged and Snape saw the boys out the door, with instructions that if anyone asked, they had been dissecting flobberworms.

 

  Closing the door behind them Snape had the urge to scream.  The bloody beast was eight feet in diameter and nearly ninety feet in the length! Potter had been, and still was, the shortest in his year. He would have been lucky if he had reached four feet by the age of twelve, and he’d been even scrawnier then Severus himself had been at the same age.  Why were the Gods testing him so?! He glanced at the table and saw the two bottles of wine that hadn’t been there when he had left. Two steps later he stepped into the floo.

 

  “Mutt, you had better be there!”

 

 

  

  “Listen Harry, you can’t just drop one of your subjects. You need to be taking at least two electives all the way through to OWLs. It says so in Hogwarts a History.”

 

  “That’s nice Hermione,” Harry said as inoffensively as possible. He had hoped that when they returned to school, she would get distracted by her schoolwork and not bother him so much, unfortunately it appeared he was wrong. “How about you check what it says in the Hogwarts Charter. Because Hogwarts a History is exactly that, a documentation of the History of Hogwarts and not an actual list of the rules in place for the school.”

 

  “Don’t be ridiculous Harry. Now come and see Professor McGonagall with me, and we’ll get you back in to Divination,” she turned as she saw Neville walk in sit at the table and sleepily pull a cup and a tea pot towards himself. “You’ll be next Neville!” she said sternly as she grabbed Harry’s arm and yanked it. Neville blinked at her slowly, before mouthing to Seamus ‘what did I do?’.

 

  “Leave. Me. Alone. Hermione!” Harry said raising his voice a little, trying to twist his arm out of her vice like grip. “I don’t have to see the Professor, I sent her a letter explaining it over the summer.”

 

  “Look Harry, I understand that you’re trying to be all independent or something but….”

 

  “No. Hermione.” Harry snapped a bit louder. “Just let me eat my breakfast!”

 

  “Harry!” Hermione said, seemingly making a decision. “I don’t know what that boy has done to you, but you are coming straight to the Hospital wing with me, so that Madame Pomphrey can remove whatever spell that disgusting boy has put on you. Clearly, he has confunded you or something. Maybe he used the imperius curse, to make you believe you can do all this stuff by yourself. But you just can’t Harry! He’s evil.”

 

  “First of all, Hermione, he’s fifteen it would be next to impossible for him to cast the imperius. Second I can throw off the imperius curse. Lastly, how dare you! You don’t know Percival at all, he has far more integrity than you.”

 

  “Oh Harry, grow up! He’s using you Harry…”

 

  “Enough. Hermione!” Harry shouted.

 

  “What is going on here pray- tell?” the silken tones of Professor Snape washed over them. Hermione automatically blushed and dropped her eyes to the floor. Harry turned glaring green eyes on the Professor for just a heartbeat before realising who it was.

 

  “Just a difference of opinion Professor,” he ground out.

 

  “Really? Try again. Miss Granger….”

 

  “Well you see Professor, both Harry and Neville have dropped divination to self-study Runes, however Hogwarts a History clearly states that students must continue at least two electives all the way through to OWLS, so I was encouraging him to see Professor McGonagall and correct…”

 

  “That is enough, Miss Granger. While Mr Potter is correct in that he can drop a subject as long as he self-studies another I do not believe he has the necessary qualities to be able to tutor himself. I will address the issue with his Head of House. And Mr Potter five points from Gryffindor and detention with me this evening for yelling at another student."

 

  

 

  This time there were four of them in the chamber. Dobby was proving to be an enormous help to Snape. For a start he had cleaned up all the dead bones, sorting them into boxes of individual species, (who knew that animal bones could be used in potions) and removed the slime from the walls. He was also able to seal the chambers wards, point out where the holes in the original wards had formed, and dry out the area. Snape had said he thought that this section had been warded by Slytherin himself, separately to the rest of the castle, so when the Founder had died they had slowly started to deteriorate, rather than being renewed by the extra magic in the castle. He would need to investigate to find a way to link them to the rest of the wards later. Dobby’s solution would work for now.

 

  Snape had requested a fifteen percent cut of the sale of the Basilisk, which Harry had agreed to.

 

    Harry turned to look at the Professor, who had been showing him precisely where to make the incision to remove one of the Basilisks giant rib bones, “Why are you doing this? The price doesn’t seem enough.”

 

  “What do you know about Basilisk parts Potter?”

 

  Harry shrugged, “Not much. There hasn’t been any available for years.  The skin is resistant to spells, so makes good boots and armour. The poison is toxic and,” here he remembered what Healer Addison had said, “it has no half-life, or rather its half-life is infinity.”

 

  “Every part of the Beast is a class B non-tradeable material. As such the only means of acquiring any is from a newly deceased animal which it is prohibited to breed.”

 

  “Wasn’t it a bit pointless to negotiate a percentage, if we can’t sell it then?”

 

  “It could be a percentage of the materials Potter.”

 

  “What am I going to go with eighty-five percent of a dead basilisk?!”

 

  “You mentioned boots…” Snape’s lips twisted upwards slightly, as Harry snorted.

 

  “That’s an awful lot of boots, Sir.”

 

  “Yes well. For an additional fee I might know someone who can assist us in selling what we don’t want on the black market. There is still a demand for the parts by Potion Masters across the globe.”

 

  Glancing sideways, Harry said, “I might pay an additional fee, but that would depend….Were you intending to use Mundungus?”

 

  Snape glared his nose at Harry, for a long moment before turning back to make the next incision.

 

  “Well that’s good then.”

 

 

 

  “Neville,” Harry grabbed his friend by the shoulder and prevented him from leaving the dorm with the other boys.”

 

  “We’ll be late Harry!” the round-faced boy protested.

 

  “It won’t take a minute. So I got onto Snuffles last night, and he said that if you studied Occlumency then I can tell you, otherwise it will all be out in two weeks and I can tell you then.”

 

  “What? How did you…?”

 

  A grinning Harry was holding up an ornate mirror.

 

  “Oh! Um…. Gran didn’t teach me,” Neville shrugged despondently. “So….”

 

  Harry frowned, “Damn we were sure that as The Longbottom you would know. Hey, do you want to learn with me? Percival’s been teaching me.”

 

  “I don’t know Harry, I don’t think I’d be any good.”

 

  “Neville,” Harry tilted his face so that he could look his friend in the eye. “Your Gran wears a hat with a stuffed vulture on it. Even I can tell she doesn’t know anything about fashion, so there’s every chance that she doesn’t know enough about you for this.  Percival said you had a huge reservoir of magic, and even if you didn’t this isn’t about power.”

 

  “You really think I can?”

 

  “Yep, it’s helping me, I really think it can help you too.”

 

  “W-well, I suppose there’s no harm trying.”

 

  “That’s the attitude, Nev. Now we had better get to breakfast before Ron eats it all!”

 

 

 

   “For the Gods sake Hermione, if I have told you once I have told you a thousand times. My homework is up to date!”  Harry spat.

 

  The fuzzy haired girl had been waiting for him in the common room and had followed him to breakfast again, nagging him all the way down the staircases until just as they reached the Great Hall the boy had snapped.

 

  “But Harry. I know you’re struggling, there’s no way you can be completing it to any sort of reasonable standard without my help. You might think you’ve done a good job, but I just know that you haven’t. At least let me check it for you!” she wheedled.

 

  “No!” Harry flopped down in his seat and pulled a random book from his bag and slammed it up in front of his face, so he didn’t have to look at her. Why did Perce have to get sick today?  In the six weeks he had known the other boy he hadn’t been ill at all, but today he had woken looking shaky and pale, Harry had helped him to the hospital wing before returning to the dorms to dress.

 

  “What on earth! Is that the Arithmancy text book? Why are you reading that? Put it down and talk to me Harry it’s not like you can understand it anyway!”

 

  “Go. Away. Hermione!”

 

  “Harry, this behaviour has to stop…”

 

  “Shut Up Hermione!” Harry finally yelled over the top of the book.

 

  “Detention, Mr Potter!” Snape said from behind them.

 

  Harry dropped his head onto the table with a thud.

 

 

 

   “You and Miss Granger, don’t seem to be getting along,” the Potions Master commented as he dropped the heart string of the Basilisk into the glass jar that Harry was holding. Percival hadn’t been given a detention tonight so was spending the evening helping Neville with his Occlumency.

 

  “Noticed, that did you?” Harry said drily.

 

  “I don’t think anyone hasn’t noticed.”

 

  “Haven’t been keeping it a secret. Has she always been this bossy do you think or is it getting worse?”

 

  “She has always been bossy, Potter. Though she does seem to be taking it to extremes at the moment. Seal that up with the wax Dobby. Get a fresh Jar for the valves next Potter, if you grab the biggest one they should all fit.”

 

  Harry searched through the box of supplies and pulled out a jar. 

 

  “Yes, that’s the one,” Snape nodded, as he cast a preservation charm over the jar that Dobby had just sealed.

 

  “How long do you think it will take to harvest and preserve it all?”

 

  The older man looked at the remains of the beast, “It should be quicker going once we have finished with the internal organs. Maybe a month in total.”

 

  “I’m kind of enjoying this, you know,” Harry said thoughtfully. “It seems potions isn’t so bad after all.”

 

  “You have improved.” There was that odd lip twitch again. Harry wondered whether it was Snape’s smile or if he was just having a minor stroke at having to admit that a Potter wasn’t that bad at something.

 

  “Yeah, Percival found a couple of texts in the Black Library, on how to prepare ingredients and the basic guidelines for brewing. It helped me understand it much better.”

 

  “If you had read the ones on the list in first year, I am sure they would have been adequate.”

 

  Harry looked at him oddly, “Um Drafts and Potions was the only Potions text book on the list Sir.”

 

  “What of Ingredient preparation 101 and brewing for the beginner?”

 

  Harry shook his head, “I actually found my first-year letter and book list when I was re-packing my trunk this year. I can show you if you want.” 

 

  Obsidian eyes stared at him for a moment, “That won’t be necessary. It explains so much,” he sighed. “I will give you the details, as I am sure that the ones you have are out of date.”

 

  “I expect so,” Harry stated with a wry smile. “They were written in 1898 and 1901.”

 

  “In that case your performance in class is nothing short of miraculous. It’s just about curfew. There is a box by the stairs, it has your potions in it, make sure you pick it up on the way out.”

 

  “Thank you, Sir, and don’t stay up to late, we don’t need you to be grumpy in the morning,” Harry grinned as he rushed towards the stairs.

Chapter Text

The librarian at Smeltings was most surprised, of all the students at the school the one that she could see sitting at the table at the back of the library was the one she would least expect to be there. By all accounts his attitude had taken a turn for the better this term, and the boy had been applying himself in all his classes. The poor dear would never be the brightest but it looked like he might actually make something of himself after all.

 

  The blonde curly haired boy had his head cocked to the side and tongue protruding slightly through his pursed lips as he concentrated on the letter he was writing.

 

Hey Harry,

 

Was pretty stoked to get your letter. Hope everything is going alright. Schools ok. Coach reckons I’ll be fit enough to enter the comp this year, so long as I practice. He’s made it a requirement that I have to get at least B’s in all my subjects, or I won’t be allowed to go. It’s at Plymouth this year. Should be exciting.  I signed up for tutoring which starts next week so I’m hoping that’ll help me get across the line. 

 

Mum said you were keen to do some more cooking in the summer hols, maybe you can teach me. Coach says maybe if I understand what goes into food better, it might help me make better choices. There isn’t much choice with college food, but I’m doing my best, and trying to keep up the exercise. I never want to feel as unfit as I felt THAT night ever again!  

 

Well best go. Mum says if I just address this to you at your school it will get there, so fingers crossed.

 

Dudley.

 

  Yeah that seemed about right. His Mum had said he could post it the normal way or he could just stand outside and ….  What was the worst that could happen? He’d look like a fool.

 

  “Um…Is there an owl about? Ah…I’ve got a letter for Harry Potter?” he said querulously to the trees feeling like a bit of a twit.  Dudley jumped when a brown barn owl hooted at him from the lowest branch on the closest tree. He could have sworn it hadn’t been there a moment ago.

 

  “Oh…um…right, well that was unexpected. Would you mind awfully taking this to Harry? Ah…..please? He’s at Hogwarts.” The owl deigned to lift a leg so that Dudley could give it the note. “Um……thanks?” He watched as with an imperious hoot the owl flew away.

 

  Right. Well. That just happened!

 

 

  

 Two weeks into school and the rumours still followed Harry. 

 

  “They say that he was there when Diggory was murdered…..”

 

  “If he was there, why didn’t he save him?”

 

  “Yeah if he killed…..”

 

  “Do you reckon he actually killed Cedric?”

 

  “Potter? nah, couldn’t hurt a fly……”

 

  “They say he duelled You-Know-Who…”

 

  “Who are they kidding, there’s no way he could have ….”

 

  “No more than an average student…..

 

  “Would have been killed if it was true…..”

 

  “He’s just saying it for the attention….”

 

  “Did ya notice he hasn’t said anything to Umbridge?”

 

  Harry dropped his head into his hands, he hadn’t even bothered to try and defend himself, and when he had gone to Professor McGonagall to complain (after being prompted by Percival)  she had just told him that she couldn’t do anything about it and to buck up.   

 

  “Do you reckon that they believed it when Dumbledore told them what happened at the end of the Triwizard Tournament?” Harry asked Percival and Ron.

 

  Ron shrugged, “Who knows Harry. Though I kind of wish you’d let us say something.”

 

  “No point mate. Like I said to Seamus, what they believe doesn’t change the truth and it will all come out in the end.”

 

  A soft hoot drew their attention to Hedwig’s approach. Harry lifted an arm to provide her with a perch.

 

  “Hey girl, you didn’t come in last night,” Harry crooned.

 

   Hedwig bobbed as she dropped the copy of the Daily Prophet she was carrying onto the table and settled herself more comfortably on his arm. Percival reached over and stroked her chest feathers. Hedwig cooed. Oh yes having two wizards of her very own was a very fine thing. Her second wizard was a fine choice indeed. It had only taken him a matter of moments to notice that she was waiting at the window on the first night, and another minute to find a way to let her in. Now her perch was set up between her boys’ beds, so she could keep a better eye on them.

 

  Percival picked up the newspaper and paused as he read the Headline.

 

Imprisoned without Trial, 

Lord Black to have his day in Court.

Justice Delayed

 

 He raised the paper to show Harry, who snatched it out of his hand. His eyes devouring every line. A frown slowly marring his brow.

 

  The paper hit the table with a loud thump as Harry stood, “Right I need to send a letter to McMillan.”  

 

 Neville grabbed his arm and unceremoniously pulled him back into his seat, while Percival merely pulled parchment, quill and ink from his bag and handed them to Harry. Who quickly scribbled a note, ripped the offending article from the paper and gave both to Hedwig. 

 

  “I know you just got in Hedwig, but would you mind?” She hopped up his arm to his shoulder and head butted him. “Thanks, it is about Snuffles, they probably already know but…” She gave a reassuring hoot as she took wing.

 

  Percival raised an eyebrow at him, “The headlines seemed fine.”

 

  “Yeah until you read the article which is all about receiving justice for the people. And that the House Lords are all subject to the same laws as the common man and under such he should have been kissed. The date is set for next week. Do you reckon Dumbledore would let me go?”

 

  “It’s Headmaster Dumbledore,” Hermione said as she slid onto the seat next to him. “Now what are you talking about.”

 

  “Whether Harry would be allowed to attend Lord Black’s trail,” Neville responded helpfully.

 

  “Oh Harry,” Hermione looked at him sympathetically. “Do you really want to go and see him given the kiss. After all, regardless of anything else he escaped Azkaban, and was an unregistered Animagus, so it will either be straight back to prison or the kiss for him.  I don’t think it’s a good idea, besides you shouldn’t miss out on classes to go to something like that. Headmaster Dumbledore would be well within his rights not to let you go.”

 

  “Actually,” Percival said. “I believe that it would be up to Aunt Sera, as your guardian, whether or not you can go Harry. So, we just need to send her a note and see what she says.”

 

  “Don’t be ridiculous, some random Yank can’t possibly be Harry’s Guardian, everyone knows that it is the Headmaster!”

 

  Swinging his bag across his shoulder Harry stood up, “Not that it’s any of your business Hermione, but Dumbledore has never legally been my guardian. Come on Perce, I don’t want to be late for Potions.”

 

  They four boys left before the fuzzy haired girl could get in another word, heading to another lesson for Harry to get detention in. To be honest it was becoming a bit of a game.

 

 

 

  “But Sirius,” the dark-haired boy pleaded. “Sera can just come and get me from school. I want to be there for you.”

 

  “We talked about this Harry. The four of us and we don’t think it is a good idea. The most important thing is that you are safe, and by staying away, if it goes pear shaped then you won’t be dragged into it.  We already know that they are intending to bring up my Animagus status, but Sera has lodged the forms with the ICW, so that should be covered. I have already signed the paperwork to request Veritaserum and with the memories that you gave to Amelia, it should be fine.”

 

  “But…” Harry looked away from the mirror. “I just…”

 

  “I know, I would love you to be there, but I’ll spend most of it in a Ministry cell anyway. Both Addison and Sera will be there to support me. If you like I can give them my mirror so that you can watch when you aren’t in classes.”

 

  Harry nodded, “How do they decide if you’re innocent?”

 

  “A Lord can only be tried before the entire Wizengamot. Dumbledore has been trying to be made chair, but as his status as both Supreme Mugwump and Chief Warlock were revoked over the summer, I don’t think he’ll succeed. Sera is pushing for Babajide Akingbade the new Supreme Mugwump who should be impartial. Though Fudge is fighting that, stating that he wants to keep it all internal. He has nominated Lucius Malfoy. Which will obviously be denied as he isn’t a member of either the Wizengamot or the ICW. The other options appear to be Tiberius Ogden, Amos Diggory and Augusta Longbottom.”

  

  “I just, want this to work, I want you to be free Padfoot,” a soft hoot sounded from behind the boy.

 

  “Is that Hedwig?”

 

  “Yeah,” Harry reached up an arm to pet her, moving the mirror so that Sirius could see.

 

  “Owls can’t get into the dorms, there’s a spell on all the windows!”

 

  “Yeah well, Perce found out that Hogwarts is sentient and apparently if you ask her really nicely, she’ll let your owl in.” Harry grinned. “She also made stairs into the Chamber of Secrets which Snape was grateful for. I was a bit disappointed as I was looking forward to seeing him go down the slide.”

 

  “How’s that going? I think Severus might have been a bit shocked initially.”

 

  “You should have seen his face” Harry giggled.

 

  “What’s so funny Harry?” Perce asked, sticking his head around the curtain. “You need to remember the silencing charm Harry!” he scolded half-heartedly. “Hi Sirius,” he greeted the older man.

 

  “Right!” Harry waved a hand to apply the charm. “I was telling Sirius about our first visit to the chamber and Snape’s face when he saw the basilisk.”

 

 “Snape’s face! What about mine? We will have to show you the memory Sirius, that thing is enormous. They’ll be lucky to have finished it by Sauin!”

 

  “I think I caught a glimpse of it. He popped in here afterwards, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen him have a drink, I’ve never been so shocked. Have you explored the rest of the chamber?”

 

  “He won’t let me,” Harry pouted. “I cannot spare the time to supervise you gallivanting through the unknown depths of the castle Potter. Perhaps if you work hard enough, I might be able to spare an afternoon sometime around Yule,” Harry tried to make his tone replicate the Potions Masters.

 

  “That was awful Harry,” Percival snickered.

 

  “Dobby’s liking the extra work anyway, and it’s been really interesting. It’s surprising how relaxed Snape is when he’s not teaching. I’ve managed to pick up a few tips, and we discovered that my Booklist for Hogwarts in first year was short five books. It’s amazing the difference the extra information has made.”

 

  “What? Harry everyone should receive the same booklist. It all gets addressed by a magical quill. The House Elves pick them up and then give them to the owls.”

 

  “Yeah, well not mine. It also raises some issues about who knew….”

 

  “Who knew what Harry?” Looking at the grumpy face before him Sirius guessed. “This is something that the Dursley’s did isn’t it. The pen addresses the envelopes to the room you spend the most time in. Lily once told me hers was addressed to ‘the kitchen’ 42 Hencamp Street, Cokeworth. James was very proud that his was addressed to ‘the quidditch pitch’ Potter Manor. So where did you spend most of your time in that house Pup?”

 

  The scowl lessened slightly at the information about his parents before returning full force, “thecupboardunderthestairs.”

 

  Black and Silver eyes stared at him.

 

  “Forgive me Pup, but I do not want to believe that I heard that right!” Green eyes looked away.  “That’s it! I’m going to go and strangle them! And that old bearded codger too. An address like that would have even the House Elves taking the letter to the Headmaster.”

 

  Percival wrapped an arm around Harry and tucked him in under his chin, “Sirius! You are upsetting Harry.”

 

  “Oh! Harry Pup. I’m not mad at you!”

 

  “I know, but don’t go hurt them. They’ll put you away for real this time….and Aunt Petunia is getting better…….”

 

  Sirius smiled gently at Harry’s rambling, “Harry, I promise, I won’t go after them.  For starters we will need a plan before we go after Dumbledore, but mark my words if Vernon hurts you again. I will hurt him….using perfectly mundane and normal means that can’t be traced back to me.”  The smile turned evil.

 

  “Ok, Padfoot.”

 

 “No detention tonight?”

 

  “Nah, I think Snape needed a night off, either that or he really wanted to experiment with the scales he managed to lift off the skin last night,” Harry grinned. “You should see him, he’s like a third year in Honeydukes! It’s weird.”

 

  “Righto Pup,” Sirius was thoroughly amused. “How’s everything else going?”

 

  “Really good, Neville and I have been meditating at night, and then Percival helps with Occlumency just before we go to bed. Ron’s even joined us a time or two, says it helps him concentrate better. Hermione’s getting annoyed because, Percival beats her in all the classes, and Neville, Ron and I are catching up fast.  Ron’s talking about starting up a chess club and a study group for the firsties to help them settle in, which he wants us to help with. Perce will take magical theory, I’ll take defence, Nev will take Herbology. We’re looking for someone to help with Potions, transfiguration, charms and history.”

 

  “I think the twins could help with Potions and Transfiguration, and I hear Lee is good at History,” Percival added. “Though maybe we don’t want them influencing the kids.”

 

  ‘Mmmm. I think Fay Dunbar, is good at Charms too, and do you think we need to stick with Gryffindor, maybe we could make it a school wide study group?”

 

  “It’s worth thinking about.”

 

  They finally turned back to the mirror to see Sirius smiling at them, “I guess I’d best go so you can get that meditation done. Oh! Harry before I forget, Neville’s Mum was your Godmother. Your Dad chose me, but Lily chose Alice. Remind me to tell you the story of how they met. I’m not sure but Lily may have been Neville’s as well.” And dropping that bombshell, Sirius said good night and the mirror returned to showing Harry’s own face.

 

 

  “Neville!” Harry roared, ripping the curtains apart.

 

  The tall Gryffindor froze in the process of changing into his pyjamas, “What?”

 

  “Were you ever going to tell me?” Harry accused.

 

   “T-t -tell you what?” Neville stuttered in the face of Harry’s attack.

 

  “Harry,” Percival’s voice was a warning of its own. “He doesn’t know what was discussed and…” he gestured to the other beds, where three boys all in various states of undress were watching curiously.

 

  “Um,” Harry turned bright pink as his anger receded. “R….ight, sorry. Neville, I have something I need to discuss with you in private, if you would like to join me in the common room after, you’ve changed.” With as much dignity as he could manage Harry fled the room.

 

 

 

  “Harry, what’s going on?” Neville’s hesitant voice reached the boy sitting on the couch starring into the fire.

 

  “Sorry Nev, that wasn’t very fair of me to attack you like that. I guess I understand why you did it……after all I wouldn’t have wanted to be associated with me either….so I get it. It just hurt, you know, to think that we could have……that I could have known……if you’d only said.”

 

  Neville frowned as he sat next to his friend, “Harry, you’re not making any sense. Should I go and get Percival? He said this was something we needed to sort out but…. Well, I don’t understand.”

 

  “Were you ever going to tell me Nev?”

 

  “Tell you what Harry?”

 

  “That you’re my Godbrother, of course.”

 

  “I’m you’re what!”

 

  “Godbrother. My Godfather just told me that your Mum was my Godmother. And he thinks my Mum might have been yours.  Why…” he paused as he took in Neville’s shock slackened features.

 

  “I didn’t know,” Harry barely heard the whisper. “Honestly Harry, I didn’t know.” His voice grew stronger. “I wonder if Gran knew and didn’t tell me? No, she wouldn’t have. Maybe she didn’t know?” He frowned. “I’ll send a letter to ask, but if find out that she knew and didn’t tell me, then I’ll cut her off as soon as I’m Lord Longbottom!”

 

  Both boys sighed.

 

  “I’m sorry,” they said simultaneously and laughed, flopping back on to the couch.

 

  “I wish I had known,” Harry said. 

 

  “It would have been nice,” Neville agreed.

 

  They sat their next to each other, only making their way up to bed after the fire had burnt down to embers.

 

 

 

 Harry was fidgeting, it took him slipping with the filleting knife and nearly removing his own thumb for Percival to move him away from the basilisk.

 

  “No more sharp objects for you until we hear how it went today,” the ex-Auror told his friend seriously. “Go sort out the jars with Dobby, I’ll help Snape.”

 

  With a sigh, Harry said, “with all the work you’re doing here I feel like I should give you a percentage of the basilisk too. It’s almost a full-time job looking after me!” He wandered over to the House Elf.

 

  “He’s a menace when he is like this,” Snape stated.

 

  “Mmmm, we’ll work on it. If he wants to be a Auror he’ll need to be able to concentrate under pressure.”

 

  “Yes. However, I don’t think he will need to make exact incisions in a poisonous beast though. Do you actually believe he wants to be an Auror?”

 

  “I believe that is what he thinks everyone else wants him to be. Eventually I hope he will realise that he can choose for himself. Despite his talent at Defence I can tell he actually prefers charms, and the rate at which he is picking up runes is quite something.”

 

  “Like his Mother,” Snape nodded. “She was immensely talented at potions but hated the dissecting of ‘slimy things’ and much preferred Charms. I had heard that she was going to be apprenticed to Professor Flitwick before they went into hiding.”

 

  Percival stared at his Professor for a moment, “Harry would appreciate it, if you told him stories about her.”

 

  “Mmmm,” Snape turned back to the beast, looking decidedly uncomfortable. 

 

  “Another week will see this portion complete. I have already spoken to my contact and he has disseminated news of the sale, there is much interest. He is expecting, given what I have told him about the volume and quality of the materials that he will need to stage at least four separate sales over the next five or six years. He will take a one percent commission.”

 

  “So that is twenty percent for you, five percent for Percival, and one percent for the seller. Do you think I should give some to the people who were attacked? And maybe Myrtle’s family? What about Hogwarts?” Harry commented as he approached them with the next jar.

 

  “That is a difficult thing Harry.  We can investigate Myrtle’s family, though they are muggles and may not appreciate hearing from this world again. And any money given to Hogwarts is under the purview of the Headmaster.”

 

  “Could you ask the Professors what they need then and I could arrange to have it ordered? Like how the school brooms needed replacing when I was in first year and it still hasn’t been done. I’m sure there are lots of other things which are needed?”

 

  Obsidian eyes, gazed at him thoughtfully, “I am sure Madame Hooch would appreciate new training brooms, perhaps even brooms for each of the Quidditch teams.  The potions classroom could use new benches. I have seen some in Potions Masters Quarterly that come with a warding charm over the table, it vents the gases, and prevents un-intended ingredients being thrown into the cauldrons.” Snape looked positively misty eyed at the thought.

 

  “Right well we’ll get those, and maybe Professor Sinistra would like a projector, that way her classes won’t have to be taken at night.  Hagrid’s Hut needs an upgrade. What about the Merpeople and the Centaurs?”

 

  “I will ask Harry,” Snape promised. “Though I certainly think you are right about the brooms. Now you had best make your way back to the tower before curfew, Dobby and I will finish up here.”

 

  

 

  Despite it being only mid-September the night was surprisingly cold. Harry rubbed his hands together as they hurried on their way. It was as they were passing the tapestry of the Three Fates that they heard it. A faint sniffling noise.  Careful inspection showed the tops of a pair of shoes just peeping out from under the tapestry. The boys stopped and looked behind it.

 

  “Dennis? Are you alright? What’s happened?” Harry asked, squatting down, to be eye level with the boy who was sitting behind the tapestry, arms curled around his knees.

 

  “What d’you care?” the small boy whined and rubbed his hand under his nose.

 

  “Well, of course I care. Why wouldn’t I?”

 

  “You let her get away with sayin’ that You-Know-Who isn’t back. You don’t care that she calls you a liar!”

 

  “Umbridge,” Harry groaned. “What did she do?”

 

  “Gave me detention!” Dennis, was making odd movements with his hand, hiding it under the sleeves of his robes.

 

  “Right, Dennis, let’s get you up to the tower then we’ll have a talk about this, ok?” He looked at the boy soberly. With another sniff Dennis hauled himself to his feet, and the trio emerged from the tapestry.

 

  “Why don’t….”

 

  “Shhh, Dennis!” Percival interrupted as they walked passed a seemingly sleeping portrait.

 

  “But…..”

 

  “But patience is a virtue, Dennis,” Harry said calmly, making Percival snort and murmur ‘hypocrite’ earning a glare in return.

 

  Eventually they made it back to the common room, and the older boys, sat Dennis down on the couch and cast a silencing charm around themselves.

 

  “Ok, Dennis,” Harry said looking straight at the younger boy. “It’s not that I don’t care about what she is saying, it’s just that it isn’t useful for me to fight her just at this moment.”

 

  “I don’t understand. We’re Gryffindors we stand up for what we believe in, we…”

 

  “Yeah, I know, but we’re also not stupid. There are a couple of things going on at the moment that you don’t know about. Some within the ministry. The right people at the ministry know the truth and are acting on it. Umbridge is not one of those people.”

 

  “You’re saying I should let her get away with it?”

 

  “I’m saying you should ignore her because her opinion is un-important, and everyone will know the truth in the end.”

 

  “So, he really is back? Just some people are saying that because you aren’t standing up to her, that you must have been lying.”

 

  “Yes, he is back Dennis, I just know that nothing I can say or do is going to change her mind. In fact, I believe she is more likely to side with Voldemort than not.”

 

  “So, I shouldn’t say anything?”

 

  “Not if you don’t want another detention.” Seeing the crestfallen expression on the boy’s face Harry continued, “Look, thank you for standing up to me Dennis. It actually means quite a lot to me. You know both last year and back when I was in second year, I didn’t have a lot of people who were on my side, so I really do appreciate it.”

 

  “Ok, Harry,” Dennis looked slightly happier.

 

  “Good. Now off to bed.” He reached out and ruffled Dennis’ hair.

 

  Opening their bags to pull out their homework, Harry and Percival watched Dennis, climb the stairs to his dorm.

 

  “Did you notice he was doing something funny with his hand?” Harry asked.

 

  “Yeah, I couldn’t see what the problem was though, he kept it hidden in the sleeve of his robes.”

 

  “Do you reckon Umbridge is using the cane or something?” Harry rubbed his hand in remembered pain.

 

 “The cane isn’t something that is used in the Wizarding world Harry. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t doing something like it with stinging hexes or similar. We’ll have to keep an eye on it.”

 

  “Yeah I’d hate for him to be hurt, defending me.”

 

  “Well there’s not much we can do at the moment and talking about it won’t get our homework done.”

 

  With a groan, Harry opened his text books. It was going to be hard to focus on his assignments tonight, when tomorrow they would find out how the first day of the trial went.

 

 

Trial of the Century 

Lord Black to Countersue Wizengamot for False Imprisonment

 

  “I’m glad you listened to me,” Hermione said as Harry was reading the paper. She tried to take it off him, but he gripped it tighter and pulled it out of her reach.

 

  There wasn’t much in the article, however Aunt Sera had snuck in with the mirror enabling him to speak with Sirius that morning before breakfast. According to The Black, the trial was going well. All the evidence was in his favour. Kingsley had managed to dig through the evidence archive and find Sirius’ wand, which under priori incantatem had revealed its last spells to be a simple healing charm, followed by several point me charms, and finally an expelliarmus. Harry’s memory of Peter Pettigrew’s confession was presented as an indication (rather than evidence of Sirius’ innocence) of the man’s survival (which had caused the elderly Mrs Pettigrew to faint in the visitors’ gallery). Statements from the Aurors on duty, noted that when taken into custody Sirius was hysterical, and did not offer any resistance to arrest. They also noted that their orders were to take him immediately to Azkaban, even though all the other Death Eaters were remanded to Ministry cells for trial, though none could remember where these orders had come from. Today would be the day that Sirius presented his own testimony. 

 

  Hermione made another snatch for the paper, and Harry leant away from the table so that her hand clutched thin air.

 

  Thump.

 

 “Ow, for crying out loud Hermione!” Harry rubbed his arm, certain that was going to bruise later.

 

  “Well, you weren’t listening to me!” she said indignantly as if that justified her actions.

 

  “And I’m not likely to start now!” Harry’s eyes returned to the article in the paper.

 

  “Good Morning!” Luna sat down next to Harry and poured herself a cup of tea, just as he finished reading.  “Ah is there anything in the paper on Stubby Broadman? Could I read it please?”

 

  “Yeah, sure!” Harry passed her the paper without complaint, causing an indignant squawk from Hermione.

 

  “Oh, see that, the Blibbering Humbingers are going to be bothering him today.”

 

  “I expect they will,” Harry replied solemnly.

 

  “Not to worry Harry, a few songs should clear them right up.”

 

  “Harry, she’s just making things up. Now give me that paper!” Hermione demanded.

 

  “Ah, is that today’s paper?” Neville said as he sat down next to Luna, “I was wanting to look at the finance section, if you don’t mind?” She passed him a couple of pages out of the middle. “Thanks.”

 

  “Oi, Harry, can we have sport please,” the twins called out in chorus, making grabby hands. The last few pages were separated, and a section passed down the table. “Ta.”

 

  “Thanks for holding politics for me,” Percival said as he sat down beside Harry, taking the remain sheets of parchment out of Luna’s hands. “Have you read what you wanted?”

 

  “MmHmm,” she nodded as she spooned a bit of porridge into her mouth.

 

  “No! I wanted the paper! Give.It.To.Me!” 

 

  “Um, Hermione, if you want the paper perhaps you should order your own,” Ron suggested as he walked up to the table and sat down beside her. Harry felt a little mean at deliberately goading the girl, so he stifled his snicker. “Oh, and don’t forget we’ve got a prefects meeting at lunchtime.”

 

  “I already have a meeting at lunchtime,” she protested.

 

  Ron shrugged, “Don’t tell me, I can’t do anything about it. This was the only time that everyone was available. You agreed to it at the last meeting. So, you’ll have to cancel whatever else you’ve got.”

 

  “I can’t cancel, it’s with the Headmaster!” she hissed.

 

  “Well, that’s up to you, but you’ll need to tell the Head Boy and Girl.”

 

  Hermione pushed herself to her feet and stomped away angrily. 

 

  “What’s got her hippogriff?” Fred asked as he sauntered up and passed the sports pages to Ron.

 

  His youngest brother sighed, “Not sure what was going on before I got here but someone needs to have a chat to her, or she isn’t going to have any friends left before too long.” With a groan he placed a couple of pieces of buttered toast into a napkin. “I think I’ll go and give the Head Boy a warning. No one deserves to encounter Hermione on a warpath this early in the morning without warning.” 

 

  As Fred and George moved to sit further up the table with the Gryffindor chasers, Percival leaned across to say quietly into Harry’s ear, “Don’t you think it’s odd that she’s meeting with the Headmaster?”

 

  “Yep. And that she’s neglecting her Prefect’s duties. He’s got to have been the one who gave her the Potter books. Hey, you never told me about the Potter Grimoire!”

 

  “Oh, when a family has been around long enough, all members begin to have magic that has a similar…..resonance, vibration, I see it as a colour. That makes it easier for them to perform certain groups of spells. Over time specific spells are developed that only that family can do or only the family knows about. These are written down in the Grimoire. It is also used to keep a record of important events in the family’s history.”

 

  “You mean….” Harry turned hopeful green eyes at his friend. Then he frowned, as a rush of anger swelled through him, and he burned with the desire to strike the boy who had failed him.  “And you didn’t think to tell me this before now!” Pushing away from the table Harry surged to his feet and stamped out of the hall.

 

  “What did you do?” Neville asked Percival curiously.

 

  With a frown on his face Percival said, “I forgot to tell him something about his family.”

 

  “Ah. Seems a bit over the top, like last night.” 

 

  Yeah, maybe…..but it seemed more than that. I’ll check later. Come on, I think we have transfiguration first. He’ probably just gone there.”

 

 

  Meanwhile Hermione had stormed off to the Headmasters Office.

 

  She practically shouted the password at the Gargoyle, “Mint Humbugs!”

 

  “Come in,” the Headmaster’s voice filtered through the door. She yanked it open and strode into the room.

 

  “What seems to be the matter, Miss Granger?”

 

  She noticed the formal use of her name immediately and glanced quickly around the room. Severus Snape was standing beside the stone cabinet that she knew usually stored the Headmaster’s pensieve. It was empty.

 

  “Headmaster, where has your penseive gone?” despite the firm shake of his head, she couldn’t stop the words from tumbling out of her mouth. 

 

  “Do you think it wise Headmaster that Miss Granger should be aware of such antiquities?”

 

 “Now, Severus, there is no harm. It is an interesting artefact and one who is so curious as Miss Granger is, wouldn’t fail to notice it.” 

 

  Snape sneered in his disapproving way, “Playing favourites again are we Headmaster. What did you need Miss Granger?”

 

  “Oh,” Hermione was nearly thrown for a moment but quickly recovered. “I was just asked to advise the Headmaster that the Prefect’s meeting was at lunchtime today.”

 

  Blue eyes flashed for a moment before the Headmaster responded, “I see. Well any missed meetings will need to be made up for at the first available opportunity.”

 

  Hermione nodded, “Well…..um, I’d better go….” she hurried out of the room.

 

  “Have you thought that she might be the culprit Albus?”

 

  “Miss Granger……no.”

 

  “Then what about Mr Potter?”

 

  “I would know if either one of them had been in my office unannounced Severus.”

 

  “They both knew of it! And very few do.”

 

  “Knowledge of the item isn’t proof of the crime Severus, otherwise I could also cast the blame on Minerva and…….you,” his voice dropped at the last word.

 

  “You think it was me!” Severus hissed. “I am a master occlumens and have no need for such a thing.”

 

  “You do have a ….chequered past Severus.”

 

  “I swear, that I have never taken a single item from your office Albus!” Snape vowed, in a quick flash of silver.

 

  “Ah……” the Headmaster seemed disappointed. “Well I guess if it wasn’t you then you may go,” he dismissed his potions professor. 

 

 

 

  Worryingly Harry was not at transfiguration. During the break that followed, Percival returned to the Gryffindor common room. It was empty. He took the stairs two at a time. Pushing the door to the dorm room open, he noticed Harry’s curtains were pulled around his bed.

 

  “Harry.” He walked over and pulled them slightly apart. 

 

   Harry was lying on his side facing away from the opening, legs pulled up, and head buried under his pillow.  His jagged breathing gave away the sobs that Percival could not hear. Slowly he climbed onto the bed and pulled the curtains closed behind him. A hand was ever so lightly placed on the smaller boy’s shoulder. The chest stopped for a worryingly long period of time, before another silent jagged inhalation was seen. 

 

  “Harry,” this time Percival gave that thin shoulder a gentle shake.  When there was no response he reached out and tugged on the pillow. It gave way revealing a devastatingly tear stained face. Percival crawled over the boy to lie on the other side of his friend.

 

  “Want to tell me what’s wrong?”

 

  With a wave of a hand sound was returned to the small space.

 

  “Do…do…you hate me now?”

 

  An arm snaked around the boy’s neck and pulled his head into Percival’s chest, “Never.” It sounded like a promise.

 

  “I’m sorry that I forgot. We’ve had so much on,” Percival whispered into Harry’s hair. “I can understand why you’re so angry.”

 

  “But that’s the thing, I’m not!” 

 

  “Then do you want to tell me what happened?” He squeezed tighter trying to offer reassurance.

 

  “I…I….just felt so angry. I wanted to …..I wanted to bite you or something. It seemed to come out of no-where. This is what I was trying to tell Addison. I…I’m scared. I feel like I’m going crazy. I came back here to try and call Sirius, then I remembered that he would be at the Ministry and anyway I don’t want him to have to worry about this as well.”

 

  With a quick roll out of bed Percival went to his trunk and retrieved two crystal phials, before lying back down again. 

 

  “Think about what happened,” he instructed and placed his wand to on Harry’s temple, drawing forth the silver strand of a memory which he deposited into one of the phials. He then repeated the process himself. “We can send these along with a letter to Addison through your post-box. I believe it is probably feedback through the horcrux. You’ve missed the last couple of nights of meditation, haven’t you?”  

 

  The head which was resting against his chest once more nodded.  

 

  “Been so tired, I’ve fallen asleep without meaning to.”

 

  “How about we talk to Snape and see if he will let you off…”

 

  “No!” The black head shot up and red-rimmed eyes locked onto black. “No. He already thinks I’m arrogant and lazy!”

 

  “I think that is a long way in the past.” Seeing the bitten lip and the clear ‘I’ve got something to prove’ look in the green eyes, he offered another suggestion. “What about Quidditch? Can we talk to Angelina about you taking a couple of practices off, just until the harvesting is finished?”

 

  “Can’t,” Harry dropped his head back onto what he now noticed was a rather warm firm chest. “First game is in two weeks.”

 

  “They could get someon…” Percival nearly laughed at Harry’s horrified expression. “Or maybe not. I guess I could always remind you every night.”

 

 Placing his hands on Percival’s chest Harry pushed himself away and rolled onto his back. “McGonagall is going to be mad isn’t she?”

 

  “She did notice your lack of attendance. Though you can probably get away with claiming to be ill. I can let Snape know if you need more time.”

 

  With a groan Harry dragged himself up into sitting.  “Can’t miss potions.”

 

  “Go wash your face, I’ll sort our bags.”

 

 

 

 

  Harry and Percival slipped into the dungeon classroom just before Snape slammed the door shut.

 

  “Cutting it fine gentlemen,” he murmured barely moving his lips as they moved passed him. Louder he said, “Five points each and detention this evening for tardiness. Once again, I must remind you that the joyous occasion of those who score less than an Outstanding on the Owls leaving us, is fast approaching. Such lack of regard for this class will only diminish the likelihood of you achieving that a lofty goal.” He turned his patented sneer on the two boys who had just entered the room and were sliding into the vacant seats at the table next to Ron and Hermione, at the back of the classroom.

 

  With a flick of his wand, words began appearing on the blackboard at the front of the room.

 

 “The instructions for today’s potion are on the board.  Ensure you follow them exactly, failure to do so is likely to have detrimental effects to the health of everyone in the room!” the stern professor warned.

 

  Harry leaned towards Percival, “I can’t read it from this distance, his writing is too small.” The whisper earnt him a glare from Hermione.

 

  A moment later a list scribbled on a piece of parchment was passed to him, “I’ll get the ingredients from the store and you set up the cauldrons.”

 

  Harry moved to do as he was bid. He quickly lifted both cauldrons onto the table and bent to Percival’s bag to retrieve his tool kit. A glance at the list showed that today they needed the crystal stirring rod which was less reactive than the pewter one they usually used. As he placed Percival’s bag, back down he noticed a battered copy of Advanced Potion Making sitting on the top of Hermione’s book bag. It was odd as the text they had been using was one book earlier in the unimaginatively titled series, Intermediate Potion Making. He made a note to discuss it with Percival.  

 

  The rest of the class passed without incident as even the Slytherins weren’t willing to risk their own health merely for the pleasure of sabotaging the Gryffindors Potions grade.  For once even Neville produced a passable potion. It was actually rather relaxing, especially as Snape didn’t say a word about Percival helping Harry by writing out the instructions. 

 

 

 

  With the anxiety Harry felt waiting to hear something from Sirius the peace achieved by a calm potions class didn’t last. By that afternoon Harry couldn’t sit still.

 

  “Really Harry you need to calm down, you’ll hear something when it’s over.” They were all sure that Ron was trying to be reassuring, the awkward thumping on Harry’s back was the giveaway.

 

  “He’s been stuck in the ministry cell for a week now. If they take him to Azkaban, I’ll never see him again. We won’t even be able to say goodbye. Last time they just took him away with no warning, what if they do that again? What if they have him kissed right there? What if someone sneaks in and hurts him? He can’t protect himself, they’ve still got his wand!”

 

  “Breathe Harry,” Neville said. “Your Aunt Sera’s letter said it all seemed to be going well.  They’ve looked at all the evidence so now we just have to wait for their decision.”

 

  “I’d feel better if I could just talk to him,” Harry pouted.

 

  Ron and Neville each threw an arm around Harry’s shoulders.  

 

  “We wish we could help mate, but….” Ron shrugged, “it’s illegal to break into the Ministry.”

 

  “Here, Harry,” Hermione spoke from beside Ron, making Harry jump. “I wanted to talk to you.”

 

  “What’s the matter, Hermione?” 

 

  “I’m worried about you,” she actually sounded concerned which made Harry pause. “I…I know I’ve been kind of pushy, with your homework and everything. I see now that the way I’ve been handling things is wrong. I wanted to apologise. It’s just this is a big year. I know you want to go on and be an Auror. But to achieve that you’re going to have to work really hard, especially because you need to be able to take your Potions NEWT, which you’ve never done really well at. I guess I was just trying to make sure you didn’t fall behind.”

 

  “Thanks Hermione,” Harry smiled at his once best friend.  “I actually seem to be doing a bit better this year, and I’ve not turned in a single assignment late, and Snape hasn’t banished my potion once.”

 

  “You were late for class today though,” she pried. “And you missed transfiguration.”

 

  “Yes, I wasn’t feeling well. Actually, that reminds me, I’d best go and see McGonagall. Ron do you want to come with me?” Harry changed topic and hurried away with the red-head in tow. Neville watched through narrowed eyes as Hermione also turned and walked away.

 

 

  Hermione ducked around the corner and leaned against the cold stone wall. Closing her eyes. Where had it all gone wrong? She had been doing so well. The books she had been given allowed her to stay ahead of the rest of the class, not to mention they were interesting even if they were becoming darker. Lately there were more serious books like the Macabre book of Monsters, and Hexes of the Nineteenth Century, which had a dark oily feel to it. Still she just couldn’t put them down, and Dumbledore obviously thought she could handle them. She had felt so great, so important as the guiding light in Harry’s life. So clever, even Lupin had called her the smartest witch of the age.  

 

  Hermione sighed, then something had happened. It started with the books in her trunk, the ones she had been warned not to leave at home, they had mysteriously disappeared one day. Some of them had only been on loan and she had had to try and explain the loss. That had been an awful conversation. The one today was just as bad. She could practically feel the disappointment dripping off the Headmaster and had vowed to do better, next time she would skip the Prefects meeting. Most annoyingly, Harry just didn’t seem to want to cooperate anymore. Normally he had been completely compliant, willing to do whatever she asked and to go wherever she led. Now he wouldn’t listen to her at all and he argued! He argued well, even she had to admit that some of the things he said made sense, but Albus Dumbledore had said that Harry was lying and so that was that.

 

    It had all started with the arrival of Percival Graves. There was something going on there, his appearance right at that moment in time was decidedly suspicions. Personally, Hermione thought he must be a Death Eater, and controlling Harry some way. While Harry’s arguments against the Confundus and Imperius curses were valid, there was more than one way to control a Wizard. In fact, a note on the side of one of the pages of potions book she had been given that morning, hinted at a potion that was the equivalent of a liquid imperius. Perhaps that was it. She would have to find some way of slipping Harry a cleansing potion, the way he had been acting he would never take one voluntarily.  

 

   Now that she thought about it, Percival had been around when her books went missing. Hmm, that might be worth looking into. The one thing Hermione did know was that continued disappointment wasn’t going to be tolerated.  Soon, very soon, there were going to be consequences and they were likely to be severe.

 

 

 

  “How are you going with the latest History Assignment Harry?” the feminine voice drifted over the group. Harry looked up from where he had been talking Dennis through one of the spells in his text book. Things had warmed between them slightly but the friendship they’d had was definitely lost.

 

  “Sorry Hermione, I’m busy at the moment.” Harry turned back to the task at hand. “So, the wand action is a circular motion that ends with a forward jab.”

 

  “Like this?” Dennis demonstrated.

 

  “Not bad, relax your grip slightly and again,” Harry encouraged patiently. Percival looked up from the arithmancy notes he had been going over with Dennis’ older brother, Colin and couldn’t help smiling at the sight. 

 

  “Harry, your homework is important,” there was a thready tension in her voice now. “You need to get yours done first, before helping anyone else.”

 

  “My homework is done Hermione, and I am helping Dennis with his at the moment. We’ll be finished in about half an hour, if you want to hang out then,” the dark-haired boy explained patiently.

 

  She sat on the couch with a huff, at least it wasn’t a complete rejection. Percival glanced up again and caught the calculating expression on her face as she watched and waited. They had puzzled over the extra text book but couldn’t rule out the possibility that she was just studying ahead. As the assigned text for sixth and seventh year, there had to be spare copies in the library. So, while it was unusual it wasn’t inherently suspicious. Besides a quick check with Dobby reassured the boys that it wasn’t a book from the Potter library. He wondered what exactly she was up to, the sudden change in attitude seemed out of character.

 

  “There you go Dennis, you’ve got it now. Just write up what we talked about and reference the text book and you’re done. Twelve inches is just one sheet of A4 paper, which is hardly anything.” The excitable boy bounced up, squeaking his thanks and hurried over to his friends who were gathered around a coffee table on the other side of the room. They bent their heads together and chatted excitedly as they did their work.

 

  “Do you really think it’s wise for you to be helping Dennis with his Homework Harry? I mean, what if you get it wrong and he fails because of you? How would you feel then?” Hermione asked, thinking she had a valid point as from what she knew Harry’s marks hadn’t been all that good in the past.

 

  “Thanks for your confidence in my abilities Hermione,” Harry said drily. A reflexive smile blossomed on her face, and Harry couldn’t help but remember the times that she had stood beside him when no one else had. Perhaps there was something worth saving there after all., if they could just crack the attitude. 

 

  “How have you been Hermione?” he asked to break the awkward silence that had fallen. “How’s being a prefect?”

 

  “It’s such a good opportunity,” she started enthusiastically, and she began extolling all that was good about her prefects’ duties.  It lasted for all of five minutes before she began to complain. “But Allison Duchovny, you know the Head Girl? She’s a Ravenclaw. Anyway, you’ll never believe this, she got angry at me for having an appointment with the Headmaster, it’s not like I can just rebook that you know. But she wouldn’t listen. I ended up having to make my apologies to the Headmaster and he wasn’t pleased. Just because that was the only time that everyone else was available for the next two weeks. We weren’t even meeting about anything important, just the schedule for rounds. And that’s another thing, how do they think we are going to have enough time to study if we are always doing rounds. I mean what are the teachers doing at that time? Surely they should be doing them instead!”

 

  “Hermione,” Ron interrupted. “The teachers do rounds as well, they just take the late ones, so that we can all make it back to the common room by curfew. They also have to mark all our assignments. It’s not like we have to do rounds that often, its only once a week for us this year. The sixth years cope the brunt of it.”

 

  Hermione sniffed, “It’s still two hours I could be studying. And what’s this I hear about you forming a study group?”

 

  Ron blushed, “Well I saw what Harry went through in first year and realised, that there really is nothing to help the Muggle born and raised students to acclimatise. The boys in our dorm were talking and we realised just how little Harry knew about the way things work. That’s what started it.”

 

  “If Harry had bothered to pick up a book before the start of school, he wouldn’t have had a problem,” Hermione said dismissively.

 

  “Oh, you mean the books that the Dursleys confiscated the moment I got home? I managed to hide one in my backpack before they were locked in the cupboard under the stairs. However, exactly which of the first-year text books would have helped me learn about how the Wizengamut works, or told me about the floo, or which vaccinations I needed to have?”

 

 That caused the fuzzy haired girl to pause, she had to be careful now, her list of books hadn’t exactly matched the one given to everybody else, “I don’t remember Harry that was five years ago! Still you could have looked it up any time since.”

 

  “Yes, I’m sure between finding the stone, the basilisk, the dementors and the tournament that I had plenty of time to look up the things that I never knew I needed to know. Anyway, it doesn’t matter, I mentioned it would have been nice if someone had taken me aside and let me know where to find that information.”

 

  Ron nodded, “Yeah, so I spoke to the other prefects…..”

 

  “When was this? Why wasn’t I invited?” Hermione demanded.

 

  “You were invited,” Ron snapped, before taking a deep breath and continuing more calmly. “You said you had study to do and as it wasn’t a set meeting for all prefects you weren’t interested. It was just the Gryffindors, but we have discussed it with the other houses as well. They already have something in place, and they were willing to give us the format that they use. After the first session with the first years they requested study groups, it grew from there.”

 

  “Why didn’t you ask me to help? I’m the brightest witch of the age!”

 

  “Yeah, your real smart Hermione,” Ron ignored her preening. “But you have also been unavailable, every time we’ve had a meeting about it, you have either, already had something on or have declined in favour of studying.”

 

  She frowned, so that was what all those meetings were about, she had talked to Cho Chang who was the sixth-year prefect for Ravenclaw and been told that they didn’t have extra meetings, so she had assumed that they weren’t important and were just something that the Gryffindors were making up. “Well I want to be included next time,” she demanded.

 

  Ron nodded genially, “No problem. Have a think about what subject you’re happy to tutor the first years in.”

 

  “First years?” she raised an eyebrow. “But Harry’s been helping Dennis?”

 

  “Yeah,” Ron shrugged. “After we started working with the firsties, the other grades started asking if they could set one up too. But they had much more specific questions, so it was decided that we would have a list of mentors, based off marks and a willingness to assist. Harry does Defence and is back up for Charms, Neville does Herbology. Well I could go through the whole list but it’s posted on the notice board. Each mentor has listed the times they are available to help.”

 

  “But….but I wasn’t asked. I always score the best.”

 

  “Yeah, you used too, but the second component is willingness to help, and we haven’t been able to find you to ask,” the red-head shrugged.

 

  “Oh, well sign me up.”

 

  Ron stood and removed the list from the notice board. “Right think about what subjects you are willing to help with and when you are free to offer assistance. Just write them in the column next to the subject.”

 

  Hermione eagerly grabbed the parchment and after scanning it briefly with a frown, started writing. It was really lucky that she had become involved, this would go a long way towards proving she deserved to be made Head Girl when the time came, and she couldn’t believe the others already on the list. Clearly, they had just been letting anyone sign up as a mentor. Well that would be stopping now!

 

 With a barely concealed snort Harry, turned back to the game of chess he had been playing with Ron. He was losing again, but that was hardly unusual. Four moves later and he had lost.  Ron grinned and moved away to challenge Dean, leaving Harry with Hermione. She completed the list and walked over to pin it back on the notice board. As she sat back down, Harry wondered if she had finally understood what they had been trying to tell her. His thoughts were interrupted by the mirror vibrating in his pocket. “Um Hermione, it’s been good to catch up, but I really need to head to bed.” He faked a yawn. “After feeling unwell this morning, I should really have an early night.” He haphazardly stuffed all his work into his bag and practically ran from the room.

 

  Hermione leaned back in her chair, with a huff. That interaction had undoubtedly been better, but it still wasn’t back to what it was. Maybe she should hold off on the plan to give Harry the cleanser. One thing was certain, if he found out that she had spiked his morning pumpkin juice with a potion, he would never trust her again. 

 

 

 

  As soon as he was in the dorm Harry, threw his bag onto the ground, jumped on his bed, pulled the curtains and cast a ward to prevent anyone overhearing. He ripped the mirror from his pocket and looked into it hopefully only to see Seraphina Picquery looking back at him. His stomach dropped like a stone.

 

  “No!” he cried out, water pooling in his eyes.

 

  “Harry, wait!” Aunt Sera called out, trying to distract him.

 

  “Ah Shite Pup!” a more masculine voice broke through his despair.

 

  “Sirius?!”

 

  “Yeah, sorry Pup. I didn’t think. I thought it would be funny to have Sera break the news to you. With all the evidence we had I didn’t consider for a moment that you would assume that the verdict hadn’t gone the way we wanted.”

 

  “So, it did?  Go the way we wanted I mean,” Harry asked hopefully.

 

  “Yeah, Pup,” Sirius reassured. “I am a free man. There will be an announcement in tomorrow’s prophet. The Ministry is paying me some compensation and covering my continued treatment by Addison. I had a chat with McMillan, and he reckons that I shouldn’t try for custody until treatment is finished. We will get my recovery signed off by an independent Healer before taking the paperwork in. That is if you still want me to, I know you’ve been getting on better with Petunia and Dudley. But have a think about it.”

 

  “Ok,” Harry said softly. “So, you’re really free? No joking? Really?”

 

  “Yeah Pup, really, really.”

 

  The water that had cleared gathered again and ran down Harry’s cheeks. “Harry, Pup! Why are you crying?” 

 

 “I’m so happy!”

 

 “Yeah me too.” Neither one mentioned the tears that flowed from Sirius’ eyes either.

 

 “Could….do you think we could….um….I want to see Aunt Petunia but maybe I could……” Harry sniffed, and swiped his hands across his face. “I think I would like to live with you, I just want to be able to see want Petunia and Dudley sometimes.”

 

  “Sure, thing kiddo,” Sirius’ face split in a grin.  “I’ll get Sera to mention it in her next letter.”

 

  “Aunt Sera has been writing to her?”

 

  “Yeah, just general stuff. Now tell me what has been going on?”

  

 

  Harry was glad that Percival had started teaching him Occlumency. It had taken an hours’ worth of meditation before he stilled his mind enough to finally manage to fall asleep. Which meant that despite the excitement of the news he was able to get up early the next morning and sitting in the Great Hall, waiting eagerly for the owls to fly in with the mail. Harry had of course let Percival in on the secret before going to bed, but Sirius had said that it would be announced in the mornings paper so today was the day that they could finally tell Neville that Sirius was Snuffles.  Ron and Neville had still been deeply asleep as Harry had made his way out of the dorm, but Percival had stirred and had promised he would come down as soon as he had showered, knowing that there was no way Harry would have the patience to wait for the others to be ready. 

 

  Harry looked around, it was rather peaceful sitting in the Great Hall, watching the rose-coloured sunrise.  He wondered what everyone would make of the announcement. At least Ron and Neville would be pleased. Dumbledore would surely be glad he had another wand available in the fight against Riddle and Hermione would be pleased that justice had finally been served.

 

  “Dobby, could I have some tea please?” Harry asked politely. With a soft clink a teapot and mug appeared in front of him. “Thanks.” It only took a moment to pour then he sat, starring into the brown liquid with his hands wrapped around the cup. He closed his eyes and inhaled the fragrant steam rising from his mug, trying to still he whirling emotions.

 

  “You are out and about early Potter,” Harry startled, and nearly spilled his tea. 

 

  “Morning Professor,” his green eyes lifted to meet the obsidian ones.

 

  “If I didn’t know better, I would assume you were up to something,” Severus arched an eyebrow. 

 

  Harry smiled good naturedly, “Perhaps I am Sir, but if only pranksters are awake at this hour. What have you been up to?”

 

  “Unfortunately, it falls to myself as the responsible adult present to try and stop Dunderheads from harming themselves in their blatant disregard for the rules.”

 

  “Oh, I didn’t realise there was a rule about being up so early,” Harry frowned. “I’m usually awake at this time at home, so I just came down here. It’s so much calmer than the common room.” 

 

  For a moment it looked as if Severus was going to say something.

 

  “It is indeed,” Professor Dumbledore’s booming voice interrupted them as he pushed open the double doors to the hall. “Now Severus I think we can forgive Harry if he acts out a little this morning.” He frowned sadly, “I believe that we shall hear the results of poor Sirius’ trial. If you need to take the day off Harry, just make sure you catch up on your work.” 

  

  “Um, Professor, there is every chance that Sirius was cleared,” Harry said.

 

  “A positive attitude, that’s the ticket!” Dumbledore flashed a grin for just a moment before resuming the sad expression. As he turned to walk away, he muttered, “Poor deluded boy, tut, tut.”

 

  “Potter,” Severus started hesitantly.

 

  “It’s okay Professor, I spoke to my Godfather last night.”

 

  “Last night?” the slight tightening around Snape’s eyes made him seem momentarily shocked.

 

  “Yeah,” Harry confirmed, before calmly taking a sip of his tea.

 

  Black eyes flicked towards the head table where Dumbledore was seated, humming to himself as he took a pancake off the stack that had appeared in front of him and liberally anointed it with syrup. 

 

  “Perhaps a detention is in order?” 

 

  Harry nodded, “Sure, I’ll figure something out for potions, we should probably include Percival.”

 

  “Indeed.”

 

   Not long after that the room began to fill with students. As he drank his second cup of tea, Harry watched them. It seemed that the later it became the rowdier the students were. At some intervening time, Percival had joined him, placing a plate loaded with bacon and eggs in front of Harry with a pointed look. 

 

  “Thanks,” Harry returned to student watching as he began to eat.

 

  By the time the owls flew through the windows, Harry was surrounded. Percival and Ron sat on either side of him, with Neville, Dean, and Seamus on the opposite side. 

 

  Hermione who was sitting next to Ron said, “You’ll be happy to know that have I now got a subscription to the Daily Prophet.”

 

  “Good for you,” Ron shovelled a spoonful of scrambled eggs into his mouth. 

 

  Hedwig landed in front of Harry, she was carrying both a copy of the Daily Prophet and a letter. Harry praised her and relieved her of her burdens.

 

 “Thanks, beautiful girl. Are you going hunting today?” she cooed in response. “Ah tonight. That’s fair. Go and have a sleep now.” She hopped over and butted him with her head, before flying off.

 

  A quick glance identified the sender of the letter to be Dudley, so Harry tucked it into his bag to read later and unrolled the Prophet.

 

  “Pftttt!” A spout of tea was spat across the table.

 

  “’Ermione!” Seamus complained, reaching for a napkin to mop his face.

 

  “Sorry Seamus,” the bookworm blushed.

 

  “What’s so shocking?” Dean asked.

 

  “Sirius Black was cleared of all charges!” 

 

  That she seemed baffled, confused Harry. Had she not pay attention in Third year? He glanced quickly at the teacher’s table. Dumbledore was as still as stone and paling fast. Harry nudged Percival and nodded in the Headmaster’s direction.

 

  “Do you think he’s having a stroke?”

 

  Percival, glanced up and then back to Harry with a look of confusion on his face, “Stroke?”

 

  “Oh, maybe Wizards don’t have them. We learnt about them at school. Um, it’s an event which stops blood getting to areas of the brain leading to parts of it dying.”

 

  The explanation didn’t help Percival at all. “He certainly looks shocked. Which is decidedly odd, as he knows that Sirius is innocent. One thing is for sure, something deeper is going on here. If the Headmaster had plans that involved Sirius being incarcerated, who knows what he will do now.”

 

  Harry looked at him sharply, “You don’t think he would hurt him, do you?”

 

  “I don’t know, but perhaps it would be wise to warn him to take extra care.”

 

  “Maybe we can get Snape to pass a message on for us when we get detention tonight?”

 

  Percival nodded his agreement as they stood and made their way to class.

Chapter Text

 It started as a soft glow, growing in brightness gradually until it would have eclipsed a small sun. That was when Sirius noticed the shine spilling out of the library, through the parlour and into the hall.

 

  “What the…” the knut dropped. “It is done.” He grinned. “Kreacher it has finished!”

 

  He walked briskly (for The Black Lord would never be so crass as to run) into the library, where the leather-bound book was innocently lying open to the first page. With a shaky hand he grabbed a quill and wrote a single word onto the page, watching as the ink was absorbed into the parchment, disappearing entirely.

 

  The glow flared again briefly before a short list, merely five books, appeared. With a word they were summoned from the shelves. Another short phrase was inscribed. A pause. Glow.  A dozen more books were summoned.

 

  Sirius retired to the wing-backed chair that was positioned in front of the library fireplace, a spare roll of parchment, quill and ink on the side table.  Kreacher was called and asked to provide chocolate, and an array of light foods, like fruit, and water.  It would not do to read these books unprepared.

 

  The dark-haired man paused as he opened the first, forewarned by the black miasma it exuded, and quilled two missives. Sending them off with the Elf.  Now at least if something went wrong, someone would know where to find him.

 

 

‘Clink’

 

‘Pt’

 

  With a swish of skirts Petunia made her way to collect the letter.

 

  “Anything interesting Pet?” Vernon asked from the kitchen, where he sat reading the morning paper.

 

  She paused for a moment before hastily tucking the letter into a pocket. “N..nothing dear just a letter from Veronica, apparently they are planning another trip or Majorca.”

 

  Vernon grunted.

 

  “Now what would you like for breakfast dear? There’s some of the muesli that the Doctor recommended, or perhaps you’d like some greek yoghurt, with the berries I got at the market yesterday?”

 

  “Bacon and eggs on toast. I need the kind of food that fills a man not that rabbit food you eat,” he sniffed.

 

  “The Doctor says it’s good for your heart dear.”

 

  Vernon merely grunted again, sipped his coffee and returned his attention to the paper.

 

  For the first time in her married life, after her husband left for work that morning, Petunia did not stand gossiping over the fence nor did she make any attempt to talk to the other ladies in the street and enquire how their children and families were. Instead she retreated to her kitchen, made a fresh pot of tea and withdrew the letter from her Nephew from her pocket.

 

  Sipping her tea, she wondered at how odd it was that she felt proud of the boy. His life at school sounded so normal, she knew he must have been editing some things for her and she appreciated his effort. There were complaints about grumpy teachers and too much homework.  There was a comment about him tutoring some of the younger students.  It could easily have been a letter from her Dudley.  She let out a disgruntled snort, now he would be getting a phone call if he didn’t write to his mother soon!

 

  Petunia rifled through the kitchen drawer to find a notepad and pen.

 

Dear Harry,

 

  Thank you for writing. If you write to Dudley, feel free to remind him to contact his Mother occasionally.

 

  All is well here in Surrey, though I am having some difficulty keeping Vernon on the diet that his Doctor prescribed.  He seems so irritated all the time lately, that I don’t dare tell him about your letter.

 

  I can’t remember much about Lily’s time at that school, but I know that a lack of tutoring, especially in the early years, was something she complained about heartily.  Along with not being able to continue with her normal school lessons like maths and science, because they didn’t offer anything of the sort.  I don’t suppose that has changed over the years as the community did seem rather insular.  She used to come home in the summer and pinch my books, if you can believe it.  If you wanted to do the same, continue with your studies that is, I could send you a copy of Dudley’s book list and the brochure from the bookshop we purchased his from. I believe they do mail order. It’s just a thought.

 

  Well I must go and arrange something suitable for Vernon’s dinner.

 

 Take Care

 

Aunt Petunia.

 

  With a click of the pen, Petunia tucked the letter from Harry away in the box she kept his correspondence in that was hidden under the sink, then she folded her letter and slid it into an envelope. She would post it while she was at the shop.

 

  Perhaps the butcher would have a leg of lamb she could roast for dinner. That would surely pick up Vernon’s spirits.

 

 

 

  Harry groaned and stretched his back. He was sitting cross legged on the floor of the common room, books and parchment spread out on the table that he was using as a desk.  He wondered if he had taken a bit too much on, trying to catch up on both Runes and Arithmancy. It was Runes that he had a problem with at the moment.  He would have asked Percival for assistance, but he was up in the dormitory helping Neville find his magical core.

 

  “You’ve made a bit of a mess there, Harry!”

 

  He looked up at the Gryffindor chaser, Katie Bell, with a smile.

 

  “Yeah, it seems to have grown a mind of its own and gotten away from me.”

 

  “I seen you helping some of the third and fourth years. You know it’s alright for you to ask for help as well.”

 

  “Yeah. I normally ask Perce, but he’s a bit busy tonight.”

 

  With a glance she asked if she could look at his work, he shrugged and passed her the page that she was working on,

 

  “Do you do Runes?” Seeing her nod, he continued, “I’m having a problem linking this rune chain….” he pointed at the parchment.

 

  “Hmmmmm.”

 

 

  Percival stood at the top of the stairs, starring down into the common room, Harry was sitting close to a dark-haired girl he knew was on the Quidditch team.  They were practically leaning on each other, their heads bent together as they talked quickly, etching figures onto the parchment in front of them.  He squashed down the bile rising twist of possessiveness from his gut. For goodness sake, he was a thirty-nine-year man and Harry was a fifteen-year-old boy!  Harry would hardly be interested in…… ‘You are fifteen years old in body and mind it is only your soul that is older, can you say that my Master is any different?’  That made him pause and re-examine the situation. He had never thought of Harry this way before.  As an object that could be owned, possessed and one that he did not deserve.  Why was he starting to now? Percival spun on his heel and re-entered the dormitory, quickly isolating and warding himself within the confines of his bed. Fortunately, it appeared Neville must have fallen straight to sleep after his Occlumency practice, as the room was utterly silent.  

 

  He turned his wand on himself, “……..revelare.” Nothing.

 

  Closing his eyes, he felt for his magic, noting the silver of his core was now edged in gold. It took a close inspection of each individual vessel that channelled the magic from his core before he found it. There! A thread of grey, that was camouflaged against the silver.  He looked at it closely……..a compulsion? No, it wasn’t that strong. A suggestion nothing more, just enough to manipulate his thinking. He inspected it thoroughly from all angles before griping it with a tendril of his magic and tugging it free from where it was hooked into his core. As it came away it dissipated into the ether.  It would have taken a very knowledgeable and powerful mage to have attached that spur to his magic without him noticing. Which given he had been in contact with so few adult witches and wizards, left him with a limited number of options. Only two came to mind. Though Sirius could have been a third if it hadn’t been for his long incarceration. And if they had tagged him, what were the chances that they had also tagged Harry? Percival came back to himself with a frown and a sigh, apparently there was another skill he was going to have to teach Harry.

 

  A moment later he retraced his steps out of the dorm, pausing at the top of the stairs to note that he was able to watch Harry interact with his friend without jealousy tainting his perception. Admittedly there was a slight twist still there when he heard her ask, “Harry, did you want to come to Hogsmeade next weekend?” 

 

  Though the blush and stutter that the question induced was adorable. Harry looked so utterly uncomfortable.

 

  “Ah….ah….”

 

  Katie laughed, “Not like that Silly!” She slapped him gently on the arm, Percival’s gut unwound. “The team is going together. We noticed how much study you’ve been doing and I’m afraid if you don’t come voluntarily, Fred and George are planning on kidnapping you, possibly by turning you into a parrot. You need a break.”

 

  Percival could practical hear Harry’s sigh of relief.

 

  “Oh no, I’m Ok Katie. Really.”

 

  “Harry, not even Oliver worked as hard as you have been and then you’ve had all those detentions with Snape. Don’t think we haven’t noticed that. Maybe you should talk to Professor McGonagall about it, it just isn’t right.” 

 

  Harry huffed a laugh, “When has she ever done anything to intervene with Snape’s treatment of anybody? It doesn’t matter anyway, they’re finished now, and I’ve been getting tutored in potions so I should be able to avoid too many more.” It was an easy lie to tell as it was partly true and it hid the fact that he and the Professor had actually been working together.

 

  “Good. But you still need to relax a bit. Madame Rosemerta does a basket of food. We were going to get one and take it up into the hill overlooking the town and have a picnic.” She grinned suddenly, “Come on, you can even bring Percival!”

 

  “I…I…,” Harry dropped his head, giving in to his team mate. “Fine, I’ll see if he wants to come.”

 

  “Excellent, well with a project like that I can’t imagine you’ll have any problem with your Runes OWL.”

 

  “A break would be good for you Harry,” Percival’s baritone fell over the pair. Harry raised his eyes and smiled. “I would be happy to come with you. I haven’t had the chance to see Hogsmeade as yet.”

 

  “I thought you…” Harry flushed pink at having been caught talking about his friend.

 

  “We finished early. Neville has got to do the next stage on his own. Though to be honest I think he just went to sleep.”

 

  “Right, well…..” Katie said awkwardly. “I’ll just goooooo,” she practically bolted over to the couch where the other chasers were sitting.

 

  With a quirky smile Percival crossed his legs and sat down. “How is the study going?”

 

  Harry passed his work over for approval, nervously running his fingers over the hem of his shirt, while Percival checked. 

 

  “Harry…..”

 

 “Mmm..”

 

  “This is brilliant….A ward that is not only a shield but translocates the attackers to another location…it’s incredible.”

 

  “And see here,” Harry pointed out an inverted rune, “I think by adding this, it will convert the power of the attack into the force of the eviction, so to speak. So the harder they attack the further away they’ll be transported, for a given value of power. Below that power level it will be converted into additional strength in the shield. Potentially it could be overloaded. Which would hypothetically cause a catastrophic failure of the ward resulting in a rather large explosion which could kill everyone within a five-mile radius.” Harry grinned happily.

 

  “Um..Harry?”

 

  “Yeah?”

  

  “How much power would it take to overload the ward?”

 

  “Well that depends on the substrate that the runes are engraved into and the power of the person setting up and activating the ward. It could potentially be increased by the addition of magical blood as well, turning into a pseudo-ritual, which I think would at least triple the amount of power required. I should think if it was used to protect a family home, embedded into the foundations of the building, using blood and family casting to activate it that it would nearly impenetrable.”

 

  “On average how much power Harry?”

 

  “Well I would expect with runes inscribed on granite and an average witch or wizard casting that it would take the power of ten average wizards casting simultaneously to collapse it. If it was engraved on crystal that would increase to twenty, obsidian about thirty and diamond roughly forty. Obviously, the cost of a large enough piece of diamond to engrave the runes into would be prohibitive.”

 

  Percival continued to stare at the parchment, “What’s this?” he tapped a diagram in the top right-hand corner of the parchment.

 

  “Well, I had the thought that if you created a secondary ward structure within and totally separate to the first, with its own ward stone. It would protect anything inside the first should the first one fail. The explosion would be mostly an outward force. They would of course need to be slightly seperated, but I should think a distance of a yard or two would do. You see…”

 

  “Huh. Harry, you are not thinking of submitting this for your OWL project, are you?”

 

  “Well….”

 

  “Harry this needs to be tested and protected. It could have a very real impact on the war. If the wrong person gets a hold of it however, they will be able to find a way around it or worse, use it as a weapon. Heck even after the war, you could set up a warding business.”

 

  “Well I do also have this,” Harry passed Percival a second piece of parchment.

 

  After perusing it for a minute, he frowned, “It is a flashing light.”

 

  “Yeah,” Harry smiled, “but by tapping the stone or whatever you are using it can turn the light on and off.”

 

  “Harry the Wizarding world already has lights that work that way.”

 

  “Yeah, that’s partly where the idea came from. However, these project the light up to two hundred yards and produce a signal which can be picked up on the matching device and converted to an audible beep.”

 

  “So, it is an annoying light?”

 

  “And this,” he flipped the page over. “Is the receiver so that if it is within fifty miles of the sender it can detect the signal sent out by the first signal and will mimic it. Though potentially the range could be extended but I haven’t figured that bit out yet.”

 

  “So, it is a pair of annoying lights?” Percival really didn’t get the point.

 

   Harry nodded with a grin, “Yes and they are on their own dedicated channel so to speak, so that they can’t be picked up by the Wizarding World Wireless, Muggle radio stations or any other device, except the sender receiver pair.

 

  “Very clever, but what is the point Harry?”

 

  “Have you ever heard of Morse code?”

 

 

 

  Percival stared at his friend, “What….you don’t think I should use that one either?” Harry looked disheartened.

 

  “Tell me this, can you have more than one receiver per sending device?”

 

  “Yes, I can s