Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Action/Adventure, Family, Fantasy
Content Rating: PG
Warnings: Death-Minor Character, Discussion-Child Abuse, No Beta, Violence-Canon-Level
Author Notes: Shout out to my artist, Krani, who was awesome. Notes on warnings in the summary post.
Word Count: 50,534
Summary: A fortuitous encounter with Narcissa Malfoy on Diagon Alley changes the course of Harry’s life and his future in the magical world.
Harry peered up at Hagrid, who looked a little green about the gills as Uncle Vernon would say, as they walked out of Gringotts and into the bright summer morning. Thank goodness it didn’t decide to rain again. “You alright there, Hagrid?”
“Those ruddy carts always do me in. I hate the things,” Hagrid mumbled, rubbing at his stomach and making a pained expression. “You got yer list?”
Harry nodded and pulled his list from his pocket to look at it. “Uniforms, books, and a few supplies.” It seemed to him that it was a rather sparse list. Not even such things as notebooks, paper, pens, or anything useful like that. Did the Wizarding World even use those types of things or did they use something else? He was about to ask but Hagrid spoke first.
“Madam Malkin’s is right across the way there.” Hagrid looked down at him. If anything, Harry thought he was getting greener. “I think I may need to go down to the pub, see about getting me something to settle my stomach. I need a drink and maybe some toast or something. Otherwise, I think I might clean pass out. Think you’ll be alright for a bit?”
Harry felt a little unsettled about being left alone in a strange place where he was completely out of his element, but it wasn’t an uncommon occurrence. Aunt Petunia did it all the time. He could get on with only a bit of guidance. “Sure, Hagrid. I got my list and my money bag.”
“Alright then. I’ll come looking for ya soon. I promise.” He patted Harry on the shoulder lightly and nearly sent him sprawling onto the cobblestones.
Harry righted himself and watched Hagrid lumber off, and then he looked down at his list again with a frown. It really did seem sparse to him. The lists from his old school were longer than that and usually prompted complaints from the Dursleys about having to spend their hard earned money on him even though most supplies were paid for by the school. Did Hogwarts supply things like paper and pens, or did he need to buy them himself? And really, how was he to manage to carry what was on it, since Hagrid went off for who knew how long? Did he need something in particular? Why wasn’t it on the bloody list if there was?
“Is something amiss?”
He jumped at the sound of a soft, female voice and turned to find a beautiful blonde-haired woman peering down at him with kind, concerned eyes. “I just… I have my Hogwarts list here, but I don’t know how I’m to carry all this. It doesn’t make mention of any kind of bag or luggage I might need.”
“Did one of the professors not come with you?” she asked as she guided him closer to the wall of the bank so they were out of the way of traffic after someone bumped into him and nearly knocked him off his feet. The wizard didn’t even have the decency to apologize for it, prompting the woman to throw the man’s back a dark glare before turning her attention back to him.
“Hagrid brought me, but the cart ride in the bank made him sick and we hadn’t talked about anything not on the list. And the list isn’t very big.”
Harry nodded and handed over the list to her, watching her frown as she turned the paper over.
She hummed softly. “This is a very sparse list. My son’s list is at least twice that long. I’m not certain why yours isn’t the full one.” She handed it back and smiled at him. “I have not introduced myself. Please pardon my rudeness. I am Lady Narcissa Malfoy.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lady Malfoy,” Harry said in his most polite manner. “I’m Harry Potter.”
She looked shocked as she looked him over. “Well, I can’t say I was expecting that. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Heir Potter.” Her eyes and smile became even warmer. “Did you know that we are distantly related?”
Harry frowned and shook his head. “I thought my only relatives still alive were my Aunt Petunia and her family.”
“Definitely not,” Lady Malfoy said softly. “Your grandmother was Dorea Black, who was a third cousin of my mother’s. Your godfather, Sirius, is my first cousin.”
He startled. “I have a godfather?” Why had he never heard of this before? Where was he? Why didn’t he visit him? Why couldn’t Harry have lived with him instead of the ruddy Dursleys?
Lady Malfoy paled. “Oh, dear. No one’s told you about him?”
Harry shook his head. “I didn’t even know I was a wizard until last night. My aunt and uncle knew but they kept it from me and they weren’t going to let me go to Hogwarts, but the letters kept coming and then Hagrid found us in the place Uncle Vernon took us to hide in and brought me here today.” Seeing that she wasn’t happy with that, and in fact looked like she was angry that it was kept from him, he added, “I don’t even know why you called me Heir Potter.” He may as well go all in if he was going to end up causing the Dursleys a bit of trouble. It was the least they deserved.
She blew out a breath and made a noise that had the two wizards near them practically fleeing in terror if the looks on their faces were any indication. “Oh, that is just absolute nonsense. I am going to have a long talk with my husband about this.” She smiled at him then. “But first, let me see if I can’t help you get started with the list you have.”
“What about the stuff that isn’t on it that you said was on your son’s?” Harry asked curiously as she escorted him down a lane to the right of the bank, which led to more shops. He didn’t want to show up at a new school without what he needed to do well. Not to mention how embarrassing that would be.
“We’ll get you what’s on your list for now but once I speak with my husband, we’re going to see about getting you the rest of it and explain everything to you. Right now he’s with Draco, who is currently being fitted for his uniforms. I do want your address so that we may come and retrieve you sometime in the next few days.”
Harry shrugged. Lady Malfoy was nice and seemed like she wanted to help him. And he honestly needed all the help he could get. If she could get him out of staying with the Dursleys anymore, he was good with that. “Okay. Do you have paper and a pen?”
She pulled a pen and a small notebook out of her bag and he wrote down the address. He grimaced when he handed it back. “I don’t know how agreeable my aunt and uncle will be when you show up. My cousin may have accidentally sprouted a pig’s tail on his bum.”
Lady Malfoy pressed a hand to her mouth briefly, clearly trying to hide a laugh. “Things like that happen sometimes when magic is involved. We can fix it for him if it will calm them down a bit.”
“I don’t know that anything can calm Uncle Vernon down. He’s the angry sort,” Harry replied as he followed Lady Malfoy. “Where are we going?”
“There is a shop down this way that specializes in trunks and bags for educational purposes. They’re much better quality than you will find in the shop on the main thoroughfare. Those tend to be much less expensive, but they’re far simpler than what one really needs and they tend to require replacing every other year unless you’re very easy on them or charm them extensively yourself. The trunk you buy here, while costing more, will last you not only through Hogwarts but through the World Academy of Magic and any Masteries you might wish to pursue as well. Unless, of course, you decide to do something completely ridiculous to it.”
“Well, I can see how a trunk that will last that long would be preferable,” Harry said with a nod. It sounded perfectly reasonable and practical to him.
He followed her inside, only briefly peering up at the sign above the door that announced their entrance into Primrose’s Emporium. His mouth dropped open at the rows of trunks and bags and other storage available. “Wow. There’s so many to choose from.”
“Yes, it can be a bit overwhelming regarding the variety of options,” Lady Malfoy said, winding her way through the rows to the back of the shop. “Hello, Mr. Primrose.”
“Back already, Lady Malfoy? Did young Draco forget something?” he asked cheerfully.
“No, he’s all set. I did, however, bring you another customer.” She motioned to Harry, who waved shyly. “He’s going to need a trunk, a daily school bag, and the kit bags for both Potions and Herbology for beginning Hogwarts students.”
“Of course, Lady Malfoy.” He looked at Harry then. “Would you like the standard color charms on them?”
Harry frowned. “I don’t understand what that means.”
Lady Malfoy smoothly stepped in, much to Harry’s relief. “I’m afraid Heir Potter here wasn’t brought up as most assumed, and he’s quite new to the wizarding world.”
Light of knowledge brightened Mr. Primrose’s eyes. “Ah, I see. Well, Heir Potter, the color charms will allow you to change the colors of your trunk, bag, and kits, should you desire a favorite color or if you want them to match the colors of the Hogwarts House you end up in.” He motioned to a trunk. “All you would have to do is touch it with the tip of your wand and designate the colors verbally.”
“Oh! Well, yes, I think I would like that very much,” Harry told him, and he watched as Mr. Primrose retrieved a trunk, a book bag, and two shoulder bags that were more square-shaped.
“Now let me show you what you’re buying,” Primrose told him. He placed his hand on the trunk. “There are several compartments in this. One is for your clothing, and it comes with sub-compartments so you can sort your clothing by type. It comes with a small booklet that explains everything in detail. There is a compartment to organize your schoolwork over the years by subject, a library compartment so you can create a personal study library, one for your tools and equipment that aren’t in your kits or in your bag, and a food storage area so that you can carry snacks and such with you. It also has sub-compartments, and it has various charms so any food won’t go bad and so that you can keep cold things cold and frozen things frozen.”
Harry’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. He wondered if he could get some food for it before he went back to the Dursleys so he wouldn’t have to worry about them being angry enough not to feed him. “That’s brilliant.”
“Thank you,” Mr. Primrose said, practically bouncing on his feet. “I created this trunk myself. Now, the bag has sections so you can separate your supplies and books for each class. It allows for the core classes, three elective classes you can take beginning your third year, and two more compartments in case you’re completely insane and take more than three extra classes, or you want to do independent study in subjects not offered at Hogwarts.”
Feeling a bit overwhelmed at the idea of so many classes and options, Harry simply nodded. He’d think more on that later when he actually knew something about this strange new world he found himself in.
“These two kits are for all your Potions and Herbology needs. They will hold your tools, your jars of ingredients, any potions you may make, any plant parts or seeds you need to keep, and so on. If you find you have an affinity for either subject and want to pursue them beyond Hogwarts, we have much bigger and elaborate kits available if you decide to go that direction.”
“I’ll remember that, Sir. How much do I owe you for these?”
“Seventy-five Galleons. It’s a special Hogwarts price when you purchase all four,” Mr. Primrose told him.
Harry pulled out his money bag and Narcissa showed him how to use it in order to only have the desired amount come out of the bag. Once that was done, she showed him how to shrink the trunk and he put that and his shrunken kits into his book bag.
“We should probably get you back to the main area before Hagrid comes looking for you,” Lady Malfoy said as they exited the store. “You shouldn’t need anything other than what’s on the list until we come to see you since you shouldn’t be trying any magic at home without proper supervision. But do ask Mr. Flourish about a set of introductory texts to the wizarding world. It would be best to start with those before delving into your Hogwarts textbooks.”
Harry nodded. “Okay, I’ll do that. I do need to get my uniforms.” He looked down at his clothes and made a face. “I need some new clothes too.”
“You can see about a basic set at Madam Malkin’s,” she replied as she guided him out of the alley and across the street to the robe shop. “She sells very basic shirts, trousers, and undergarments. Just get one or two sets though. We’ll outfit you properly for your station after we come and get you, so no use in wasting Galleons on more than that. Now, you take care of yourself, and I will see you soon. And I promise I will explain everything.”
Harry’s face went hot when she leaned down and placed a kiss on his forehead, much like he’d seen Aunt Petunia do to Dudley on occasions when Dudley would allow it. “Bye, Lady Malfoy.”
He watched her briefly as she met up with a handsome blond man and a blond boy around his age, and then he slipped inside the robe shop.
The rest of the day went without an issue, at least to Harry’s perception, with the exception of when he went into Flourish and Blotts. He did as Lady Malfoy had asked and requested the introductory texts, but Hagrid overheard and insisted that Harry didn’t need any such thing, that it would be taken care of at Hogwarts and that he was only to get what was on his list.
Even Mr. Flourish had tried to argue with him, but Hagrid was big and kind of scary when irritated, even if he didn’t mean to be. Still, Mr. Flourish had slipped the texts into the bag when Hagrid wasn’t looking and gave Harry a little wink.
At least he managed to get Hagrid to allow him parchment, quills, and ink when he pointed out that he couldn’t do anything in school without writing tools and surely they expected them to buy their own since he’d need some to do homework outside of classes, even if they did supply in-class. Not that he had the foggiest idea of how to use a bloody quill. He sure hoped that Lady Malfoy was able to come soon because he didn’t have money for non-magical supplies and Hagrid had drawn the line at him getting the notebooks and what looked like fountain pens that were in the magical stationery shop.
Ollivander was a little weird and creepy, and Harry wasn’t too sure he was happy his wand was the brother wand to Voldemort’s. He didn’t know quite what that might mean, and he made a note to ask Lady Malfoy about that when he next saw her because it struck him as rather peculiar.
He did allow Harry the treat of going into the sweet shop and into the grocer’s there to get some snacks for home, allowing that the ‘Muggles’ weren’t likely to be too kind about the whole pigtail thing and might not let him eat too well as punishment. Which was Hagrid’s fault in the first place and got Harry into that potential predicament, so he did manage to get some sweets, snacks, pre-made sandwiches, and drinks to last him the month if he was careful. He smartly didn’t mention that he might not be there all that long if Lady Malfoy had her way. He didn’t think Hagrid would like that at all for some reason.
After a late lunch, Hagrid and Harry headed to train station where, much to Harry’s consternation, Hagrid held out a ticket.
“You’re not coming with me?” Harry asked, a little scared at the idea of taking the train all by himself. Granted, the train ride couldn’t be more than an hour since it wasn’t that far by car, but then he’d need to find a way to get home from there.
Hagrid shook his head. “I need to be getting back. Got some business to take care of with Dumbledore and then I need to feed my animals. You’ll be fine.”
“How am I to get home from the station? It’s five miles from the nearest station, and I haven’t any money for a bus or a taxi.”
“Oh, yeah! I almost forgot.” Hagrid pulled out an envelope. “I got your ticket for the train right here, and after I came back from the pub, I remembered I was to get you some Muggle money for the trip home.” He handed him the envelope. “It’s all in here.”
Harry opened the envelope and his eyes nearly bugged out at the amount. “Uh, thanks,” he said, realizing he could go into the shops in Little Whinging with what was left and buy him some clothes, food, and school supplies.
Hagrid nodded and beamed at him. “Now, you best be off. All the information for the Hogwarts Express is on your ticket. I’ll see you in a month!”
Harry nodded and he climbed onto his train, waving at Hagrid. By the time he reached his seat, he looked out and Hagrid was gone. With a sigh, he sat down and rummaged about in his bag. He found his Introduction to Magical Theory book and began reading while waiting for the train to leave.
Lucius spent the better part of the day both amused and concerned, watching his wife walk around in a snit while pretending there wasn’t a little storm cloud over her head. Draco seemed to notice as well since he’d given Narcissa more than a few odd looks and was particularly careful about not grating on her nerves.
He hadn’t said anything to Narcissa, knowing she would tell him in her own time just what had her robes all twisted up in her knickers. He also thought that it was probably something she didn’t want to air out in public or in front of Draco, who was eleven and excitable enough to let things slip accidentally on occasion, if the matter were delicate.
After dinner, once Draco had retired for the night and Dobby had served them a far stronger nightcap than they usually drank – apparently, even he could see she was fuming about something – Lucius cleared his throat. “Are you going to tell me what’s wrong, or am I going to have to start guessing? I can promise you, my guesses will start with the ridiculous and quickly fall into the realm of the insanely absurd.”
Narcissa’s smile was small but genuine. Then she sighed and the fire he loved so much about her lit in her eyes. “I ran into Harry Potter today.”
Lucius’ eyebrows shot up. Well, that was certainly unexpected. “He’s an eleven-year-old boy. I can’t imagine what he would have done to infuriate you and have you in a day-long snit.”
“Oh, he didn’t do anything. He was actually very polite,” Narcissa replied. “He has also, contrary to all that we’ve been told, been raised in the Muggle world by Lily’s sister and did not know he was a wizard until he was told yesterday.”
Lucius stared at her, unable to keep the horror from showing, he was certain. “What? How is that possible? He was supposed to be at an undisclosed location with the magical guardians James and Lily designated. From what I remember Severus saying during the time we were in school together, Lily’s sister hated magic and anyone who was magical. That she was horrid to Lily.”
“Yes, Lily said as much as well. She also said that Petunia was the last person she would ever trust her child with.” Narcissa waved her glass around as she spoke, sloshing the liquid over the side in a manner so unlike her that he knew she was going to explode sooner rather than later if something wasn’t done posthaste. “Harry informed me that he discovered they knew he was a wizard but had never had the intention of telling him and were attempting to keep him from receiving his letter.
“Apparently they sent so many that his horrible uncle forced them to flee and Dumbledore sent Hagrid, of all people, to track him down and take him to Diagon Alley!”
Lucius’ eyebrows shot up. “You’ve never had a great objection to Hagrid.”
“As the groundskeeper at Hogwarts? Of course not,” Narcissa said, huffing when he finally took the glass from her hand since half of it was now staining her favorite rug. “He’s a kind, gentle soul, if more than a little led about by the nose by Dumbledore, and he’s good with the children. But he is not the one I would send to retrieve a child and introduce him to the wizarding world. Besides, isn’t that the job of the Deputy Headmistress or one of the Heads of House, if there is a need to go to the home?”
“It’s supposed to be, as per the charter,” Lucius concurred. “What else? It’s not just that that’s got you all worked up, Cissa, though Merlin knows it should be enough.”
Narcissa’s eyes went dark with rage. “The boy was dressed like a street urchin, Lucius! His clothes were worn and frayed, so who knows how old they were. They were so ill-fitting that the neck of his shirt was falling off his shoulder. He was practically swimming in them. They are clearly hand-me-downs and were the garments of a much bigger boy.
“And he has no idea why I called him Heir Potter.” She scowled at him. “He is also the Heir to the Black title, in addition to the Potter. Prior to Sirius’ incarceration, he and Arcturus made Harry Arcturus’ successor and Sirius was supposed to stand in as Lord Black until Harry was of age to take the title. Both the Black and Potter estates and fortunes are likely stagnating unless someone is doing something horrifically untoward with them.”
Lucius, who knew which end of his cauldron cake was iced, pulled out his notepad and a self-inking quill. “Tell me what you want me to do.”
“I want you to go to Fudge tomorrow and do what you must to get us custody of Harry, both physical and magical guardianship. I want to see an official goblin-certified copy of the Potter will and whether or not it was executed properly. I don’t believe for a second that Harry was supposed to go to Lily’s sister.”
She growled under her breath. “I want you to get Fudge to figure out why the hell my cousin is in prison when he should have dropped dead by betraying the vows he made when becoming a godfather. Something about that whole thing is rotten to the core, and Arcturus died two months ago. I know he looked into Sirius’ circumstances more than once. And considering he was healthy as a horse, I find his sudden death a little circumspect, but that’s a matter for another time. There are things more important right now. You go through Fudge. I don’t care how. Bribe him, blackmail him, threaten to portkey him into the nundu preserve. But he will look into it or he’s going to have to deal with me, and I shan’t be nice about it.”
“I’ll get started on this first thing in the morning.”
“Yes, do so, because I told Harry that we would be picking him up in a few days. Something is going on,” Narcissa said, pointing one perfectly manicured nail at him. “That boy was missing half his school list. Draco’s was at least twice as long. Someone is messing with that boy and his future. I want to know who and I want to know why. But more importantly, I want him here with family who actually cares!”
Lucius swallowed and nodded. “Of course, dear.”
He almost felt sorry for the unfortunate sod who just stepped directly into his wife’s line of sight.
Lucius sat in the chair outside the Minister’s office, looking down at his list while he waited for the Minister to have time for him. Patiently, considering he didn’t have an appointment and he needed the man on his side in this.
He’d already been to the bank earlier that morning along with Narcissa. As an adult member of the Black Family, she’d exercised her right to inquire about the Heir’s status, and as the closest living blood relative to the only surviving member of the House of Potter available, demanded a certified copy of the Potter will.
The goblins had watched in awe as Narcissa had a complete meltdown after she realized that they were in line to care for Harry behind Sirius Black and Alice Longbottom. Lucius honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if his wife had started to breathe actual fire right there inside Gringotts.
That was certainly one thing taken care of – the will had not been executed at all, at least not the true Last Will and Testament. Prior to his arrival at the Minister’s office, he did discover that there was a will on file within the Ministry itself. They couldn’t tell him who had filed it due to confidentiality, but he had his suspicions regarding who would be that high-handed.
“Minister Fudge will see you now,” the secretary told him after she came back out of his office a few minutes later.
Lucius gave the woman a sharp nod and a cool, detached little smile as he stood up. He never bothered to learn the names of the Minister’s secretaries. Fudge changed secretaries every six months like clockwork. Lucius never cared enough to figure out why, and there was little point in attempting to get on their good side when they weren’t around long enough to make it worthwhile.
He raised an eyebrow when he realized that the Undersecretary was in the office as well. Lucius hated the woman in a detached sort of way since he hadn’t had any personal interactions with the simpering moron. He’d seen her in action enough to know she was a horrid little toad and had all the finesse and cunning of a mountain troll. Hardly the person he wanted involved in his personal business.
He turned his attention instead to the Minister, who he could count on to suck up to him properly. The man was all about politics and Lucius could count on him to do what was best to keep himself in power and good standing. Lucius didn’t like him either, but at least he was useful to him, unlike Umbridge. “Good morning, Cornelius,” Lucius said as he took off his gloves.
“Lucius,” Fudge greeted. “What brings you here this early in the morning? Did we have an appointment that didn’t get written down properly?”
“No, we didn’t have anything scheduled. I do, however, have some rather…delicate business. If we could be alone?” Lucius replied, looking pointedly at Umbridge, whose face soured.
“Yes, of course. Dolores, if you will excuse us,” Fudge said, putting away whatever it was they were working on and jerking his head toward the door.
“Certainly, Minister,” Umbridge said in her childish, saccharine-sweet voice that never failed to set Lucius’ teeth on edge, and she picked up her files and left the room.
Lucius pulled his wand. “If I may?” he asked, motioning about the room.
Fudge’s expression went curious and he nodded. Curiosity quickly shifted to fury when Lucius’ set of spells revealed multiple illegal surveillance charms all over the room. Lucius rendered them temporarily inert and then put away his wand.
“The spells I placed over them will last twelve hours before they dissipate and the charms re-activate. You may wish to have Director Bones and her people come down to discover what they can about the offenders.”
“Of course,” Fudge said, sitting down with a little huff of fury. “Now, what can I do for you?”
“My wife is currently so angry that her fury could quite possibly set the entirety of London on fire.”
Fudge’s eyes went wide. Unsurprising, since the Black Family temper was legendary in the wizarding world. “Oh, dear. What has her so angry?”
“The current circumstances of Hadrian James Potter, Heir of Pomorum and Heir of Oclaros. He is her future Lord, and from what I understand, his circumstances are dire.”
“Whatever do you mean? From what I understood, he was well-cared for and being educated as is proper.”
Lucius sat back and told him briefly of what transpired between Heir Potter and Narcissa the day before, and what her inquiries had revealed. “We also retrieved a goblin-certified copy of the Last Will and Testament this morning.” He passed it over. “After Sirius Black, whose circumstances also have my wife nearly breathing fire, and Alice Longbottom, Heir Potter was supposed to come to our custody.”
Fudge stared at him, dumbfounded. “Then why didn’t that happen? You are a most respectable family and could have raised him properly for his station. And what do you mean, Black’s circumstances?”
“Sirius Black was Heir Potter’s blood-sworn godfather. Heir Potter was also to be his Lord upon Arcturus’ death, as decided by both Sirius and Arcturus. If he had betrayed the Potters in the way that it has been said, if he had been the Secret Keeper and revealed it to Voldemort, he would have dropped dead the moment he had done so for the utter betrayal of Heir Potter.”
Lucius raised an eyebrow. “Someone else was the Secret Keeper. And considering who Sirius Black was chasing that day, it was likely Peter Pettigrew. I can’t say for certain, as I was never a Death Eater so know little about any who followed Voldemort, but I had thought it would have come out in the trial. Unless, of course, those in charge of that time placed Sirius Black in Azkaban without a trial or even a cursory questioning. I can’t imagine what the fallout of that would be if he were to be innocent and left in Azkaban, and my wife should discover it. She is…quite determined to know Sirius’ exact circumstances. Which means she’s not going to stop until she’s satisfied. I, for one, wouldn’t want to be in her way.”
Fudge went pasty white and he practically flung himself at his Floo. “Director Bones!”
Amelia Bones’ face appeared after a few moments. “What can I do for you, Minister?”
“I need all information on Sirius Black. Copies of everything regarding his arrest, trial, and incarceration into Azkaban. Notes on evidence and interviews. Everything! And I need it yesterday!”
“Of course, Minister. I’ll bring it right up.”
As soon as she was gone, Fudge called for any information regarding the will of James and Lily Potter on record for the Ministry, and any and all records from the Child Services department on Hadrian Potter.
“Oh, this is an utter nightmare. If that man is in prison without having been actually guilty… If someone tampered with the Last Will and Testament of a Peer. Of the most ancient and noble house of the Ancient and Noble Houses….” Fudge sat down heavily. He was beginning to sweat and breathe rapidly.
“Calm down, Cornelius,” Lucius said soothingly. The last thing he needed was for the man to have heart failure or a stroke. Fudge was hardly useful if he dropped dead. “It was hardly your fault even if the worst was to come to pass. You’ve only been in office for two years. This all happened a decade ago. You yourself will not be at fault.” He smiled a little. “In fact, you will be praised, I’m entirely certain, for bringing to light such horrible injustices and setting them to rights. You may even be, I daresay, a hero to both the House of Potter and the House of Black.”
Fudge calmed considerably and began to smile as he conjured a handkerchief and mopped his brow with it. “Yes, of course. You’re absolutely right. I did not mess this up, but I can fix it. We’ll investigate Black’s incarceration and we’ll compare the two wills, see what’s happening there.
“Clearly the goblin-certified will is the true one, so we’ll go by that one either way.”
Lucius handed over the copy. “I would prefer to take care of this quietly. We have no idea who may have done this, and they will likely try to circumvent us if they can,” Lucius told him as Fudge unrolled it.
Fudge nodded distractedly as he read, and then turned purple when he reached the salient point. “He was never to go to those Muggles! It says right here that they hate magic and would treat him dreadfully! How dare they put that child in that house!”
“Which is why Narcissa and I would like to take custody as soon as possible,” Lucius cut in smoothly before the man could work himself into a frenzy again. “It is a month before school starts and he is woefully behind where he should be. He wasn’t given the elementary wizarding schooling that he should have had either at home or in one of the magical primaries. He will have no knowledge of the basics. I doubt he knows how to use a quill at all since it’s not a standard writing tool within the Muggle world.
“We need as much time as we can possibly have to get him outfitted properly and teach him at least the very basics of what he needs to know to thrive. We also need to get him to our personal Healer so that he can begin to correct the no-doubt many issues he has with his health. Narcissa told me this morning that he is incredibly small for his age and doesn’t look as though he’s been fed well at all. He also mentioned his uncle had anger problems, and the man was furious about the circumstances surrounding the arrival of Heir Potter’s letter. I would much prefer to see him out of that house as soon as possible.”
Fudge was back at the Floo yelling at the Child Services department about the paperwork he needed immediately within moments, and Lucius sat back, satisfied that Narcissa would soon be pleased with his results.
Lucius exited the Floo in his study a few minutes after one. He quirked an eyebrow when he saw Narcissa staring pointedly at him from behind his desk and he smiled, amused. “Been waiting long?” he asked as he cleaned himself of the bit of soot that had settled upon him.
“About half an hour,” she replied. “Well?”
He handed her the folder he flicked out of his store. “Full custody to us, both physical and magical. I already presented the paperwork to Gringotts, and they’ve instigated a full audit of both the Black and Potter accounts and will be doing a mandated recall of all Potter and Black property posthaste. Which means, unfortunately, we’ll have to retrieve the entailed items we have from the Black vault after it’s done.”
Narcissa waved a hand dismissively as she perused the paperwork. “Who cares? It just means rummaging around those dusty old vaults. Perhaps we can work on organizing it. I despair of finding anything in it, it’s in such disarray.”
Lucius simply nodded and sat in the chair on the other side of the desk. The moment he had taken the family title, Narcissa had blown through the Malfoy vaults like the tornado she was, except that when she was done, it was so organized that they were able to shrink their holdings from six vaults to three, which had saved them the fees for the three extra vaults they no longer needed. And all without getting rid of a single thing.
“When can we take physical custody?” she asked him after a few moments.
“We can go now if you so choose. I would much prefer it. I’ve already asked for a warding team to accompany us, in case whoever placed him there had wards erected. I would hope he would have had some sort of magical protection all these years.”
Narcissa snorted indelicately. “We both know it was Dumbledore, that bastard. He’s the only one high-handed enough with that kind of power to have done something like this. Half the people of Magical Britain thinks the sun shines out of that man’s arse and he can do no wrong. It allows him to do whatever he bloody well pleases.”
She pointed a finger at him. “I bet he has one of his own men in the Potter seat.”
Lucius nodded. “That Doge fellow. But that will change come the next full seating of the Wizengamot on October 1st. If Sirius Black is still not well enough to take the Black and Potter seats, I will claim them as is my right as magical guardian.”
“Good. Now let’s get going. I don’t want to give Dumbledore time to find out what we’ve discovered and attempt to interfere.”
Lucius stood. “He won’t stay in the dark for as long as I wish. Sirius was placed in Azkaban without even being questioned. He wasn’t tried and all the ‘evidence’ was never processed. Amelia Bones is spitting basilisk venom as we speak. She was on her way to remove Sirius from Azkaban as I left the Ministry.”
“Dobby!” Narcissa called out.
“Yes, Mistress Narcissa?” Dobby asked cheerfully as he smoothed down his robe.
“Please tell Draco that Lucius and I have gone to retrieve Heir Potter. We will be back as soon as possible.”
“Of course, Mistress.”
Lucius cleared his throat. “Also, contact Healer Whittemore. I want him on hand when we arrive so that he can assess Heir Potter’s health and get him on any kind of regimen needed immediately.”
“I will do so, Master Lucius.” Dobby popped away and Lucius followed his wife to the bank.
Lucius made a face at the obscenely dull house in front of them. So much like the others on the crowded streets of the neighborhood. There was no character, no charm. No real life in the Muggle homes of this area.
“This is where he lives?” Vegard, the Head of the Warding Guild, asked, raising one eyebrow. “How dreadfully boring.” He motioned for the others to spread out. All of them were disillusioned so that no Muggles could see them.
Vegard turned to Lucius. “We can feel the wards here, though on first notice there’s nothing special other than the standards. We’ll know more once we investigate them thoroughly. It will take us some time if you want to go ahead and retrieve your charge. You may come to the bank for a full report either later this evening or in the morning.”
Lucius nodded and guided Narcissa to the door. He knocked on the door with the head of his cane, uncaring that it left little dents in the wood.
A few moments later, a pale, thin woman with a rather long neck opened the door. “Can I help you?” she asked quietly.
Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt popped up behind her and smirked at Lucius over her shoulder. “They’re Harry’s rightful guardians. They’ll be taking him now.”
The woman Lucius presumed was Petunia Dursley nodded and backed away, allowing them inside.
Lucius glanced around to see three other Aurors poking about the place, casting spells and whatnot. One of them down the hall, who was currently peering and casting into a small cupboard under the stairs, puffed up with rage and called for Shacklebolt.
Not wanting to interfere, Lucius turned to the woman. “Heir Potter?”
“Upstairs. Second door on the right,” she told him, slipping into the living room.
“I don’t even want to know what they’ve discovered, at least not while I’m within cursing distance of those horrible people,” Narcissa told him as they ascended the staircase.
They found Heir Potter in the room indicated. He was talking quietly to another Auror, who had clearly been interviewing him. All of his things seemed to be ready to go and he was wearing Muggle clothes that fit him.
The Auror smiled at them. “We’ve got what we need from him for now. We may call for further interviews if necessary at a later date.”
Lucius nodded and he moved out of the way so the Auror could leave the room. Then he leaned against the door frame and watched Narcissa sit in the chair the Auror had vacated.
“Hello, Heir Potter,” Narcissa said, smiling at him.
“Hello, Lady Malfoy,” the boy said. “Will you call me Harry, please?”
“I can do that, Harry. Lucius will as well. You can call us Lucius and Narcissa, or Uncle Lucius and Aunt Narcissa if you prefer.”
Harry nodded and bit his bottom lip. “I don’t quite know what’s going on.”
“We did some digging and discovered that your parents true Last Will and Testament was never executed,” Narcissa told him. “In doing so, we discovered that you should have been with me and Lucius all along. So we went to the Minister for Magic and he helped us to right the wrongs that were done with regards to you. We’re here to take you home with us.”
Harry’s eyes lit up. “You mean I get to go home with you? I won’t have to stay here?” he asked, practically bouncing in his seat.
Narcissa smiled and shook her head. “No, you don’t have to stay here anymore.” She looked around and frowned. “Well, this place is a right mess.”
Harry nodded. “I know. It was Dudley’s second bedroom until my aunt and uncle got scared because the letters were addressed to the ‘Cupboard Under the Stairs’. They were scared they were being spied on by wizards.”
Narcissa hummed in that way that boded well for no one and then smiled. “Well, you’ll have your own suite at Malfoy Manor, instead of this horrid little room. Do you have all your things together?”
Harry nodded and motioned to his shrunken trunk and the birdcage it sat next to. “Hedwig is out hunting. How will she know how to find me?”
“Magical owls are quite intelligent, and she’ll have a small tether to you,” Lucius explained. “She’ll know immediately that you’re not here and will come for you there.” He pulled out his wand and shrunk the cage for Harry.
“Thanks,” Harry said, slipping both into his bag and then slinging it across his body. Then he tilted his head. “Why are all these people here, asking questions?”
Lucius knelt down in front of him. “Because when you were brought here, you should have been monitored by the Ministry’s Child Services department. More specifically, the Child Welfare and Placement Unit. Not only were you not monitored, but you were also placed here illegally. Due to their failure, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement is required to assess your home life and any problems that might have occurred due to your illegal placement.”
Narcissa smiled and stood, holding out her hand. “There’s nothing here you should worry about. If your aunt and uncle treated you well, then they’ll be fine. If they haven’t, then they’ll be at the mercy of our laws. They took you in knowing you were magical, and so agreed to care for a magical child by our laws.”
Harry scrunched his nose for a moment, then shrugged. “Can we go now? I don’t want to be here anymore.”
Lucius smiled and stood back up. “Of course.” He led the way downstairs and looked into the parlor area where the Dursleys, all three of them, sat, pale and clearly terrified. Then he looked down at Harry, who stared at them with obvious dispassion and a little calculating gleam.
Then Harry turned to the nearest Auror and tugged on his robe sleeve. When the Auror knelt down, Harry said, “They didn’t feed me last night when I got home, or at all today, as punishment for getting my Hogwarts letter and going to Diagon Alley.”
“Thank you for telling me, Heir Potter,” the Auror, the same one from upstairs, said and turned an icy glare onto the two adults sitting on the sofa.
Lucius bit back a laugh and guided Narcissa and Harry out of the house.
Healer Whittemore accepted the tea Narcissa offered him and sat back. “I suppose I could ask you if you want the good news or the bad news first, but the fact is, the only good news is that all the bad news can be eventually fixed.”
“Just…tell us,” Lucius said tiredly. “It’s been a very long day, the boys are snug in their beds, and I just want to try and sleep before things start exploding around us in the days to come.”
“I will say that considering some of what Harry has told me, he could and probably should be a lot worse off than he is. We can thank his magic and whatever his mother did to protect him that night for it. Lily Evans’ magic resonates all through that boy, as much as the Potter and Black Family Magic do. Whatever she did, it was powerful and based on her intense love for her child and her will for him to survive.”
“What do you think it was?” Narcissa asked him.
“Personally, I think it was some sort of self-sacrificial ritual that activated in him the moment she died for him,” Whittemore said. “I couldn’t tell you what ritual, but it has that feel. I’ve seen similar in other people before, which isn’t surprising considering the Dark Lord problems the wizarding world in Europe has had over the last several decades.”
“So how is Hadrian, really?” Lucius asked.
“He’s severely malnourished. His family’s magic – all three of them – helped to keep him alive and from permanent damage. Considering he lived in the Muggle world, some malnourishment wouldn’t have been unusual, since magical children require more food, vitamins, and so on than a normal Muggle child would. My guess would be that he got maybe a third of what he actually needed over the course of the last ten years, with bouts here and there of maybe getting half to two-thirds. Likely when he was in school, as I know Muggle schools provide breakfast and lunch and it would have looked odd for his relatives to deny him the food that the school would expect him to eat.”
Whittemore sighed and rubbed his forehead. “His bones are somewhat brittle due to the lack of nourishment, and his organs aren’t performing as they should be. As I said, this can be fixed, but there are a couple of other problems that tie into it that makes this more troublesome.”
Narcissa stared at him in horror. “What could possibly be more horrible than knowing those horrid people habitually half-starved him for most of his life? I know that’s the reason he has to be so small.”
Whittemore nodded. “It is. But luckily with magic, we can right that. If he were a Muggle, he’d likely be small all of his life. At any rate, the lesser of the issues are the blocks and bindings on his magic. They’re usually of no real concern since they’re often placed on highly magical children living in the non-magical areas, and they’re usually removed right after they arrive at Hogwarts as they should have a complete listing there and they’d be called to the hospital wing for that and for the usual immunizations. The problem is, with Harry’s damage, they can’t be removed right away.”
“He can’t use magic with them on. It can damage his core,” Lucius murmured as he frowned at the fireplace.
“This is true, but some of the work can be done during this month, and I believe if we get to work as soon as possible, I may be able to remove some of the ones that can be most damaging to him prior to going to Hogwarts. There are three bindings that need to go as soon as possible. The blocks on specific abilities aren’t really dangerous to him at this time since they’re abilities he likely wouldn’t train until later.”
“If they can’t be, we’ll just have to make certain that the professors of his core classes are informed that he won’t be able to perform certain magic until he’s cleared,” Narcissa said. “Was there something else?”
Blowing out a huge puff of air, Whittemore nodded. “Whatever happened that night that James and Lily died and Voldemort was disembodied – and he was disembodied and not killed considering what I’ve found – he had to have been attempting Harry’s murder. Whatever Lily Potter did, it completely bollocksed up all the magic in that room.”
He rubbed his temples. “There’s no easy way to say it. Harry – within his scar specifically – is housing a Horcrux created by Voldemort himself. Very likely by accident, but it is there without any doubt.”
“Oh, dear Merlin,” Narcissa whispered.
Lucius pulled his wife close as she began to cry. “Are you certain?” he asked hoarsely.
“As certain as I can be. The goblins are experts with this kind of thing, as it was something of a fad with the Ancient Egyptians and can make their magical tomb excavations rather…unusual and terrifying,” Whittemore replied. “I’d like to take Harry there tomorrow and have them give a second opinion on both that and his health. I personally don’t believe that the Horcrux can be removed until he’s healthy and the blocks and bindings are removed, which means it will likely have to remain in him for another year or two since that’s how long it will take to heal him properly.”
“How can we ask him to live with that in him?” Narcissa snapped. “That’s the blackest magic you can possibly do. To do so is to render your soul beyond redemption.”
“He’s lived with it since he was fifteen months old and it’s not harmed him. I think it would be highly dangerous in normal circumstances, but his mother’s sacrifice renders that thing inert. While technically it’s tethered to his core – which is why he must be as healthy as possible – it’s not actually doing anything to him.”
“I hate the thought of him having to live with it a moment longer,” Lucius said after several moments of silence, “but I don’t think we’ll have any choice if the goblins concur. We’ll just have to see if there are any further protections they can offer him in the meantime.”
He nodded to Healer Whittemore. “Do what you need to heal my charge. We’ll all go to the bank tomorrow, as I need to also inquire about Hadrian’s estates.”
Lucius settled in the chair opposite Filrig, the Potter Account Manager, after exchanging the traditional goblin greetings. “Harry should be along soon. My wife insisted that we let him sleep in as long as possible, as he didn’t have a very good night. He woke up several times due to nightmares. He was just starting breakfast when I left.”
Filrig nodded and pulled over two thick folders. “Whenever he arrives we will do the inheritance ritual to ensure he receives all that is coming to him. I know only of the two titles, but I know that other, lesser estates have been left in his name as the families died off or all that was left were Squibs in the Muggle world.”
“It’ll be interesting to see what he’s been left. How do the Potter and Black estates fare?”
“Very well, unsurprisingly. Both Arcturus Black and James Potter were proactive in protecting Hadrian’s inheritance. The previous magical guardian on record, Albus Dumbledore, had attempted several times to gain access to his funds and property based on his guardian status, but the terms logged with the bank were ironclad and could only be circumvented with a goblin-certified will.”
Filrig smirked. “As you can probably guess, he never attempted to request a reading of the Potter will.”
“Of course not. It would have revealed that the one he presented to the Ministry was forged. Fudge called me last night in a snit and ranted at me all about it. I believe the only reason he hasn’t rushed to Dumbledore and beat him about the head with it is that he’s keeping things quiet until he can ensure the safety of Sirius Black.”
Filrig hummed. “As a member of the House of Black, he is entitled to a trust vault, and we’re quite capable of dealing with the physical and mental healing he’ll need due to the damage a place such as Azkaban causes.”
“I will inform Fudge,” Lucius told him. “So no one has stolen from Harry’s estates. Good.”
“No. Currently, only Hadrian is allowed to access the money in the trust vault. The only other funds to be made available without the reading was his Hogwarts tuition, which was paid three days ago.”
Filrig opened the folder. “The readings of the will for James and Lily Potter will officially happen next Tuesday. Notifications to the appropriate parties are being sent out today. As to the retrievals of the Potter and Black property, we will activate that once we do the inheritance ritual, which will be today. Everything is ready for that and all of the property will return to the appropriate vaults.”
Lucius nodded. “Has Healer Whittemore contacted you?”
“Yes, he is currently in a meeting with Healer Martok regarding Hadrian’s health issues and the Horcrux. She’ll want to do her own assessment before they make any final decisions.”
A knock on the door caught their attention and then a goblin poked his head in. “Sir, Lady Malfoy and her sons are here.”
“Let them in,” Filrig said, pushing the papers aside and setting up the parchment for the inheritance.
Lucius beckoned them over. “Come, Harry. We need to do your inheritance ritual before Healer Martok looks you over.”
Harry stood next to Lucius and peered at the items laid out on the desk curiously. “It won’t hurt, will it?”
“No, Heir Potter, it won’t hurt at all,” Filrig told him. “You will simply allow me to prick your finger with this knife. It has a spell on it to prevent pain. You will drip three drops of blood into this vial. Once it turns blue, you’ll pour it on this piece of parchment and say this phrase.” He slid a scrap of paper over to him. “Did Lady Malfoy help you with the pronunciation?”
Harry looked at it and nodded as he held out his finger. “We went over it many times last night, and then again this morning during breakfast. I’m ready.”
Lucius watched as Filrig pricked Harry’s finger and the requisite drops of blood fell into the vial. It took several moments for the potion to turn blue, and Lucius took that time to heal Harry’s finger.
Once the potion was ready for use, Harry picked it up. “Sanguine meo, indicate mihi primogenita mea,” he recited as he poured it onto the parchment.
“This will take a bit of time,” Filrig said, sliding off his chair. “Why don’t we go and visit Healer Martok, Heir Potter? It should be done by the time we get back. Draco is more than welcome to come along with you and keep you company.”
“Can I, Father?” Draco asked him.
“Go on, both of you,” Lucius told him. “We’ll be right here when you return.”
Harry nodded and they headed out.
“I take it everything is fine with his accounts since you don’t look like you’re prepared to gut someone,” Narcissa said once he was gone.
“No. Arcturus and James were both very thorough in regards to their estates. All attempts for access were summarily refused.”
“Good,” Narcissa said, plucking her notebook out of her pocket.
“What are you working on now?”
“It’s the preliminary list for what Harry is going to need in addition to what he just bought. Those horrible people gave him nothing. He doesn’t even have Muggle toys or games befitting his age.”
“By all means, spoil him rotten,” Lucius said with a smile. “The poor boy deserves it, considering what he’s been through.”
He flicked out a few business folders from his wrist store and proceeded to work on them while they waited the hour it took for the others to return.
Healer Whittemore was with them. As soon as they sat down and the boys had turned to each other and started talking quietly, he looked to Lucius. “Martok agrees with me on the regimen I’d like to put Harry on, and the timetable for his healing.”
Lucius sighed softly, knowing it meant Harry would have to live with that horrific thing in his body for some time yet. “Whatever is needed to make him well again. Please get him on it as soon as possible.”
Whittemore nodded and took his leave, and their attention turned to Filrig, who was looking at the inheritance document with a great deal of interest.
“Care to share with the rest of the class?” Harry asked cheekily as he swung his feet slightly in the too tall chair. Next to him, Draco snickered.
“Only the two titles, as we suspected,” Filrig told him after he’d made a face at Harry, who grinned. “But it’s the non-titled estates you’ve inherited that are quite interesting.
“I’m not wholly surprised by the Gryffindor estate, because it’s well known that it survived down the Potter line. Same with the Peverell, other than the family magic of the two estates have been remarkably reticent to accept someone as the head of those families.”
“Well, that certainly is interesting and prestigious, but I’m guessing that it’s not what’s intriguing you this much,” Narcissa said.
“No. He’s been given the Emrys and Slytherin estates as well. I honestly didn’t think there was anyone left that could claim the Emrys estate. That thing’s been sealed tighter than a frog’s arse.”
The two boys giggled and Lucius looked over at them. “You two are not to repeat that.”
“Apologies,” Filrig said, sounding completely unrepentant. “I’ll have to give that estate a closer look to see why he qualified for it at a later date. The Slytherin, it says here that it was through a tertiary line and conquest of the last Heir of the first line in 1981.”
Lucius hummed and nodded. “That would have been when Voldemort attacked Godric’s Hollow and was defeated by whatever happened there.”
“Yes, in spite of the supposition and theories of the books out there, no one really knows what happened that day,” Filrig murmured. “At any rate, we’re going to have a lot of fun prying into these estates, I wager. Ragnok will be thrilled with so many accounts being re-opened.”
Filrig pulled two rings out of a box on his desk. “I had these sent for because we knew for certain they were his. I’ll have to see if there are any rings for the other estates, or we’ll have some made.”
“Why do I have to have rings for them if I don’t have titles?” Harry asked curiously.
“Rings also act as seals for anything you need to do in an official capacity for each estate. Your Head of House rings for Potter and Black will do the same, though those you’ll want to wear all the time. If you have a wrist store, you can place the others in there and remove them when you need them.”
Lucius peered over at the document. “There’s a lot more listed on there.”
Filrig nodded. “These were expected as well. Family lines who have died out due to the wars and whatever other reasons have frequently bequeathed their estates to Harry as a thank you for ending Voldemort’s reign of terror in 1981. They’re of varying size, but none are noble and there is no family magic left.”
“So basically money and items, maybe some properties?” Lucius asked.
“Yes. I’ll have to gather the information for them. I can do that today. I realize we were to do the retrieval spells today, but it would probably be best to wait a day or two before doing so until I can discover if any other is going to need it done.”
Lucius nodded and stood. “Then we will leave you to do your work, and we can take the boys to get the rest of what Harry needs.”
Filrig nodded and waved them out.
Lucius looked at his pocket watch and saw that he was ten minutes early, so he slowed his pace as he headed toward the bank. He wove his way around the multitudes of children and parents doing their school shopping. He barely contained a sneer when he caught sight of a familiar, ginger-haired family.
He didn’t have any particular problem with the children. It was more the parents that he couldn’t stand the sight of. Arthur may play the innocent, kind, caring, doting father, but the man was a complete arse to anyone who didn’t agree with his personal views.
Though he wasn’t the worst by far. Molly Weasley, formerly Prewitt, was a shrill, high-strung, and uncouth loudmouth who didn’t care how she presented herself and her family. She simply battered her way through social situations like a series of Bludgers hitting a single point until they bashed their way through. She had absolutely no sense of decorum at all and made any event they attended unpleasant if she weren’t distracted by someone who was willing to kiss her arse.
Add in the blood feud between the two families because of the murder of Cassandra Weasley nee Malfoy, and it was a recipe for disaster.
Lucius sped up when he crossed in front of the shop they’d filed into and continued on, nodding to the few people he knew and tolerated.
He was still five minutes early as he climbed the steps and went inside, where Kurnok, Filrig’s apprentice, was waiting for him.
“Lord Malfoy. Filrig is waiting for you in his office. Sirius Black should be here within the next ten minutes. We were told they departed the Ministry ten minutes ago and were taking an auto to The Leaky Cauldron.”
“That’s fine. I’m sure Filrig and I have plenty to discuss in the meantime,” Lucius said dryly.
Kurnok snorted. “That’s a fact. He was shocked by how many entailed items were missing from the various estates. I’m fairly certain someone or many someones went through the Godric’s Hollow property and just stole everything that wasn’t magically nailed down.”
Lucius made a face at that, but he couldn’t say he was surprised. Many people didn’t care about anything but their own selfish needs, and they clearly didn’t care that they were stealing from an orphaned infant. “That’s really terrible, considering the murders that happened there.”
“Horrible,” Kurnok agreed. “Filrig had much to say about the kind of people who would do such a thing. It was highly entertaining.”
Lucius laughed. “I’m sure it was.”
“Fair warning. All the activity stirring around Duke Potter-Black’s estates has caught Ragnok’s interest. He’s very likely to stick his nose all up in his and your business. He’s nosey like that.”
Lucius laughed again. “You’re lucky you’re his favorite nephew. Most people wouldn’t be able to speak of the Chieftain of the Horde in such a manner.”
“He’s a smart-arsed little shit, but my wife adores him beyond belief, so he gets away with murder,” Ragnok said as he walked down the hall. “Lord Malfoy.”
Lucius bowed. “Chieftain Ragnok. You honor us with your interest.”
Ragnok snorted and waved his hand. “Please. You’re giving me something interesting to do. Listening to complaints of the bank employees bores me to tears. Let someone else listen to them bitch and whine for a while.”
Shaking his head and chuckling to himself, Lucius followed them into Filrig’s office. “Well aren’t you the busy bee,” Lucius said as he found Filrig surrounded by stacks of files, ledgers, and parchments.
“I’m going to be here weeks getting all this in order, just so we can begin to get Hadrian’s estates properly investing and earning again,” Filrig told him. He waved them over to an empty table on the other side of the room.
Lucius made himself comfortable along with Ragnok while Kurnok and Filrig spoke and sorted through a few ledgers. He looked at them expectantly when they joined them a few minutes later.
“We don’t have much time before Black arrives, but we can go through my recommendations for the bequeathments,” Filrig told him.
He handed Lucius one of the ledgers. “This is a complete list of the properties attached to the lesser estates. There are several and include quite a few properties abroad. Some of these are located in places where there are also properties for the Potter or Black estates.”
Lucius nodded. “I’ll go over them with Narcissa and we’ll inspect them over the year while Harry and Draco are at Hogwarts. Once we know their condition, we’ll talk with Harry and see what he wants to do with them.”
“I’ll get you ledgers for the other estates as well. The Gryffindor, Peverell, Emrys, and Slytherin all have major land holdings in addition to several smaller ones, but all the significant ones are in the UK and unplottable. Except for Gryffindor Castle. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is currently occupying it as given permission in the charter.”
Lucius hummed. “So Harry owns the castle and the grounds?”
“And the land surrounding it, including Hogsmeade, which popped up after the estate went dormant. They decided next to the school was an ideal spot to create a small magical enclave, and did so with no regards to the fact that the land wasn’t theirs to build upon. But that’s something we can deal with when Hadrian is older. No need to set that kind of problem in his lap at such a young age. It’ll keep.”
A goblin popped his head in before Lucius could respond. “Sir, Director Bones is here with Mr. Black.”
“Bring them in.”
Lucius stood up and waited for his wife’s cousin and a good friend in his own right to enter. First came Amelia Bones, as stern as ever, followed by a tall gaunt-looking man. He was cleaned up and his eyes seemed clear.
When he caught sight of Lucius, his eyes brightened and a familiar grin spread across his face. “Lucius!”
Lucius strode over to meet him halfway and pulled him into a tight hug. “Thank Merlin you’re out. I’m entirely certain Narcissa would have murdered me otherwise.”
Sirius laughed and patted him on the back. “I hear you’ve got my boy with you. I agreed with James and Lily that you two would make a good choice.”
Lucius raised an eyebrow in Bones’ direction and she shook her head. He sighed and guided Sirius over to the table. “We have a lot to discuss in regards to Harry. I’ve only had him a matter of days, Sirius.”
Sirius frowned. “How is that possible? It stated in their will that he was to go to you if anything happened to me or Alice. And I was told that the Longbottoms were tortured to insanity after I was thrown in Azkaban.”
“There was a fraudulent will filed with the Ministry and the official one was never unsealed. We didn’t realize that was the case until Narcissa met Harry in Diagon Alley on his birthday.”
Sirius scowled. “Tell me everything you know, Lucius.”
“How is he?” Lucius asked two hours later.
“Sedated,” Healer Martok told him, frowning at him. “He nearly went into magical upheaval. In hindsight, we probably should have kept him in the dark until some of the healing went on.”
Lucius sighed. “When will he be fit for company? I think he’d like to see Harry for himself soon.”
“I’d leave it until just before Harry is scheduled to attend Hogwarts, though I’m amenable to them exchanging letters. Black is going to need the time to recuperate. He’s exhausted himself magically. Physically he’ll need to spend at least three months here under our constant care. We’ll also see to his mental healing.”
Bones cleared her throat. “I need to tell you that Dumbledore now knows Harry Potter is in your custody and he’s already trying to make waves about getting him back to his other relatives. Fudge is currently stonewalling him, but you need to be prepared for that particular battle.”
“There is no battle to speak of,” Lucius replied. “Their official will was very clear in regards to custody. He has absolutely no hand in it.”
“You know that and I know that, but Dumbledore often acts as if the laws don’t apply to him,” Bones said with a scowl. “And people let him get away with it because he was a big damn hero that one time.”
Lucius himself had some thoughts on that but kept them to himself since he had no proof. Instead, he shrugged. “Let him call the Wizengamot early if he so wishes to bring this in front of them. Harry’s taken his titles and has placed me as Regent until the time that Sirius can take over. All it will do is force the nobles to dig their heels in and give me the opportunity to not only oust Dumbledore’s pick in the Potter seat, but also add the four votes to our block that were once dormant.”
Filrig snorted. “I think Dumbledore will find himself bitten in the arse if he does. Sounds like a fun time to be had by all.”
Bones nodded. “Well, that’s it for me. You have Sirius, and I’ve told you about Dumbledore. Now I just have to go and continue investigating the arseholes involved in all of this mess. Oh, joy. Oh, bliss.”
Lucius laughed and then turned to Filrig as she left. “We were discussing the lesser estates.”
“Yes. I gave you the land properties.” He handed over another ledger, this one much thicker. “This is a list of all the inventoried items from the vaults. It doesn’t count anything that is at the actual properties so those will have to be added individually if you so wish. We’ve merged them so that similar or identical items are listed together.”
Lucius opened the ledger and skimmed a few pages. He hummed. “It will definitely make it easier to figure out what all he owns and what to do with the extras. I’ll look through this and make some notes. I won’t worry too much about going through this with Harry until next summer. He has enough on his plate at the moment.”
“None of this is a rush situation. All of it will keep until he’s ready,” Filrig told him. He handed over another ledger. “I separated the books so you could look through it. You may want to put together a study library for him and Draco to use.”
“True. The Ravenclaws are historically notorious for hoarding books and Hogwarts doesn’t believe in setting aside most of the essential books for reference only,” Lucius said, mentally putting it on the top of his list. He chastised himself for not thinking of doing so for Draco already.
“This is just an overview of the monies each account hold. I recommend consolidating all the monies from these estates and then putting together an investment portfolio to get these funds active again.”
“Should we put it along with the Potter or Black estate?” Lucius asked.
“All of these were given to Hadrian specifically, not the Potter estate. We can put them with the estate, but as of now, they don’t have the limitations that the family estates do. This would give him access to money outside his trust fund in case he wants or needs something and he’s removed his limit from the trust fund.”
Lucius pursed his lips and nodded. “Probably a good idea. I’m capable and willing to purchase him anything he needs or wants, within reason of course, but there’s no reason for him not to have money if he wants to buy his friends gifts for their birthdays or during Yule.”
“Think on it and get back to me. Maybe ask Hadrian what he thinks. It will make him feel as if he has some control, even while we’re trying to keep him from overstressing himself.”
“I’ll do that.” Lucius flicked all the ledgers into his store. “From what Kurnok said, the retrievals were done?” He suppressed a smile when Filrig growled.
“Someone or several someones stole that boy blind in regards to entailed items outside the vaults,” Filrig told him, pulling over a file and opening it. His finger skimmed down the first page. “Half of the Potter Library was at Godric’s Hollow when it was attacked. Every single book was stolen. I don’t know who hand them, but over ten thousand Galleons worth of books were returned to the vault.
“There were many standard items found in any noble home that were taken and returned, but the most notable of items were two pensieves and an invisibility cloak. As invisibility cloaks and pensieves are rare items, we went to have them checked. They have Dumbledore’s magic all over them. They’re currently with a curse-breaking team to remove the charms and tracking he had weaved into them, as well as other spells that attempted to circumvent or mask the entailment on them.”
Lucius laughed. “No wonder Dumbledore figured out something was amiss. He was missing priceless items he’d stolen.”
“That, and he was probably most concerned that the soul imprint portraits of James and Lily Potter were also missing from wherever he’d hidden them,” Filrig continued. “They are also with the curse breakers. He tried to destroy them, but Lily Potter was extremely powerful. We did discover why that was.”
“Really? Do tell,” Lucius said, sitting forward.
“The Emrys line was rekindled in her. She’s the descendant of Myrddin’s first son, who was a Squib. She was apparently the first magical to come from that line since then. Why it waited until now is a mystery that will never be solved, but at least we know why Hadrian got the estate.”
Lucius sat back. “Huh. That does explain a lot about him, and about why Lily Potter’s family magic resonates in him. It was odd that she would have family magic as a Muggle-born. It takes many generations for it to build.”
“Yes, and now Harry has access to the Emrys Family Magic. His maturation should be entertaining.” Filrig turned the page. “Many things returned to the Slytherin estate as well, including a locket containing a Horcrux. They’ll be removed to a separate container and the items cleansed and returned to the vault.”
“The Emrys vault had nothing returned to it, but I didn’t expect it would have because of its age. The Gryffindor had several items return, but nothing significant. Then again, items belonging to him that are in the castle wouldn’t return here as its already on his estate.”
“And the Peverell?” Lucius asked.
“Two items of significance. A ring that was known to be the Gaunt Family Ring. The stone, however, was entailed to the Peverell estate itself and never should have been used as part of a ring. But more importantly, it’s a Horcrux.”
Lucius stared at him in horror. “How many of those things did he make?”
“I don’t know. The most we’ve ever seen was four. We’ll have to research how many are actually possible. I’ll put someone on it.”
“And the other item? Don’t tell me it’s another bloody Horcrux.”
“No, but it was the wand that Dumbledore is well known for using. It was entailed to the second Peverell son and that line died out some time ago. At some point, the wand must have been stolen and there hasn’t been anyone to do the entailment spell in some time.”
“He’s going to be really unhappy about that,” Lucius murmured. “I feel just terrible.”
Harry blew out a frustrated breath as he glared at the quill in his hand. “Why do they use something so difficult and messy to write with?”
“Because they’re ridiculous,” Draco said, finishing his own practice sheet.
Harry peered over at it. “Yours is loads better than mine.”
“I’ve also been practicing longer,” Draco told him and he picked his paper up and blew on it. Then he looked at Harry’s. “You’re getting better though. Not as many blotches where you hesitate and no more drips.”
“Can we work on something else for a while? My hand is cramping.”
Draco nodded. “Why don’t we go over the Potions flashcards? I’m glad Mother found them for the different subjects and different years. They’re really helpful.”
“I know. I don’t know why they don’t offer them in any of the shops on the main alley,” Harry said. “That shop was way in the back. How many people really go there?”
“They’re the shops owned by Muggle-borns,” Draco said with a shrug. “They get the worst slots because the pure-bloods and half-bloods snap up all the prime real estate. Or that’s what Father says about it.”
The two got down to business, going through the first year flash cards for Potions, Charms, and Transfiguration, and had just started on Defense Against the Dark Arts when they heard a throat clear.
Harry looked up to see Lucius standing there. “Hi! Did Sirius get there okay?”
Lucius nodded and sat down with them. “We have a couple of things to talk about.”
“He’s okay, isn’t he?” Harry asked worriedly. Lucius and Narcissa had both told him all about what happened when his parents died and what had happened to Sirius. They’d also informed him of what it was like around Dementors.
“He’s as well as can be expected, which is still not very good. But he was on his feet and not nearly as insane as one would think.” Lucius smiled sadly at him. “But he didn’t take your circumstances very well. He lost his tenuous control on his magic and nearly went into upheaval. Remember what I told you two about that?”
Harry nodded and Draco replied, “That an upheaval can lead to core fractures. Some fractures are minor, but if you already have health problems it can cause severe fractures. That’s why Harry has to be careful and can’t use magic right now.”
“That’s right, Draco. Luckily, Sirius only caused himself some minor fractures because we were able to subdue him and sedate him right away. He’s with the healers now and they’ll take good care of him. He did, however, magically exhaust himself and won’t be fit for visitors until just before you leave for Hogwarts.”
“We’ll get to see him before we go, won’t we?” Harry asked worriedly. He didn’t want Sirius to think he didn’t want to see him or anything.
“Of course. Martok said you can come a couple of days before you leave. We’ve already put it on the calendar. And you can write him letters in the meantime.”
“What was the other thing, Father?” Draco asked after silence stretched for several moments as Lucius seemed lost in thought.
“I want to talk to you two about Albus Dumbledore.”
Harry frowned. “The Headmaster? He’s the one who left me with Aunt Petunia, wasn’t he?”
“He was,” Lucius said. “And he wasn’t supposed to. He’s discovered you’re here with me and he’s trying to get you returned to your aunt. It, however, won’t work. He has no authority and no one is going to allow you to go back with them. For one thing, they’re in a lot of trouble and will likely go to prison for at least a few years. But even if they were to remain free, you are a Peer of the Realm and no noblemen are going to allow your rights to be circumvented in such a way.”
Harry tilted his head as he thought through the problem. “But Dumbledore is going to be at Hogwarts, right?”
Lucius nodded. “Yes. He’s being investigated, but that takes time and until they can charge him he’ll keep his position there. The goblins are working on some protections for both of you, but if he ever wants to talk to you, you are to request that your head of house or another teacher go with you. Do not see him alone, and if he insists, you leave immediately and you contact me. I’ve already commissioned a set of communication mirrors. You will each have one, and both I and Narcissa will have one, as will Sirius.”
“I understand, Uncle Lucius. I can’t trust him, can I?”
Lucius shook his head. “I don’t believe so. His actions concerning your life have been questionable at best. I don’t think he has your best interests at heart. I don’t know what his agenda is, but I want you to be wary around him. Both of you.”
Harry nodded and smiled when Lucius patted him on the shoulder.
“Now, I’ll let you two get back to what you were doing. Don’t work too long. Remember we’re supposed to have a flying lesson this afternoon.”
Harry grinned at Lucius. “I can’t wait!” He was especially excited because it was one of the few things that the healers had cleared him to do, provided he didn’t get too crazy and only flew for half an hour a day.
As soon as Lucius left, Harry turned back to Draco. “What is the incantation for the Disarming Spell?”
“Hi, Healer Martok!” Harry said cheerfully as he walked into the healing chambers with Healer Whittemore.
“Good morning, Hadrian,” Martok replied, pointing to the examination bed. “Hop on up there and we’ll get your checkup over with. Sirius is about to drive me spare with his excitement about you coming to visit him today.”
Harry laughed as he got up on the table with a little help from Healer Whittemore since it was too high for him to actually hop up on it. He swung his feet and waited patiently for them to start.
“Lay down,” Healer Whittemore told him.
Harry did so and a moment later Martok was casting over him.
“You excited to be heading to school in a couple of days?” Healer Whittemore asked him while she worked.
“I am,” Harry said. “Draco and I have been trying to figure out how they sort us by house, and what house we think we’ll be in. We’ve got it narrowed down to Ravenclaw or Slytherin for Draco, and Slytherin or Gryffindor for me.”
“Because of your familial affiliations?”
“Yeah. I figure they would be the most likely. I wouldn’t mind either of the other two, though.” Harry shrugged. “We decided we don’t care all that much though we’d be excited to be in the same house.”
“And are you happy living with the Malfoys?”
“I am. They’re really nice and they’ve been really helpful. Dumbledore tried to get the Wizengamot to interfere like Uncle Lucius expected and just like he said, they wouldn’t let him do anything about it, so he’s stuck. And they’re going to let Sirius stay with them when he gets better and can leave the bank. That way he can be there with me during holidays and I don’t have to choose between them.”
Healer Whittemore hummed. “Are you ready for your classes?”
“As ready as I can be, I think. My penmanship with a quill isn’t perfect but it’s loads better than it was. I don’t smudge or drip or make blots anymore. Aunt Narcissa sent a bunch of practice sheets she bought with us so we can continue on. She said she’ll look over our progress at Yule and then if we’re far enough along she’ll get us the practice pages for proper writing like she and Uncle Lucius do. She says that most don’t bother with the fancier writing but that my station requires it, especially for formal documents.”
Healer Whittemore nodded. “Yes, that’s very true. My twin brother, Antonius, is the Head of our family, and as the Lord, he has to do the fancy writing thing. I, however, am allowed to write like a chicken scratched at the paper, because I am a Healer and it’s expected.”
Harry laughed at that.
“Alright, Hadrian, you can get down now,” Healer Martok said. “Head on back to Filrig’s office and Marius and I will be right down.”
“Okay,” Harry said, half-skipping down the halls and waving at the red-haired man with the ponytail and a fang earring when the man smiled at him.
He pushed into the room. “They’ll be down in a minute. I think they wanted to talk about me behind my back.”
Lucius smiled at him and guided him toward a man sitting on the sofa. “Harry, this is Sirius Black.”
Harry looked the man over. He was really thin and looked tired and weak, something he knew a lot about since he often felt and looked that way when he was with the Dursleys. But the man’s eyes were bright and he seemed happy to see him. “Hi.”
“Hi, Harry. I’m so happy to see you again. You have no idea,” Sirius said softly, his hands twitching and moving like he wanted to reach out to him.
Lucius and Narcissa had taken many times to talk about Sirius so that Harry understood what happened and what his condition was, and what he could expect when they met. They also told him that it was his choice as to how much physical contact he wanted since he was still unused to physical affection.
Taking the last few steps forward, Harry wrapped his arms around Sirius’ neck, not protesting at all when Sirius clung to him and pulled him onto his lap. “I’m glad you’re out now.”
“I am too, pup. You have no idea how much I’ve missed you,” Sirius told him, his voice all hoarse like he was going to cry.
After several moments, Sirius loosened his hold and Harry slid down and sat next to him. “How is your healing going?”
“Martok says it’s going really well,” Sirius told him. “I know it probably doesn’t look like it, but I’m feeling much better than I did when I got here. She said that if I keep working hard and don’t do anything stupid to set myself back, I can spend Yule with you at Malfoy Manor.”
Harry grinned. “I’d like that. Did Uncle Lucius give you a mirror?”
“He did, and I’m looking forward to getting to know you through it.” Sirius wrapped an arm around Harry’s shoulders. “Lucius told me that he’s taught you how to fly. Did you enjoy it?”
“I did,” Harry nodded eagerly. “He says I’m a natural at flying, and that if I want, I can try out for the Quidditch team in third year. He doesn’t want me or Draco to play before then.”
Sirius hummed. “It’s best. You wouldn’t be able to play this year anyway, since it’s extremely rare for a firstie to even be allowed to try out, much less make the team.”
“I know they don’t usually let first years try out,” Harry said. “But I don’t think the healers would let me try out even if I could.”
“Certainly not,” Healer Martok said as she and Healer Whittemore walked in. “You are in no physical condition to do any such thing.
“You are, however, well enough that this afternoon we can take the bindings we needed to off. You’ll have to stay the night here so we can monitor your magic, but once you get to Hogwarts, you’ll be able to participate in practicals in a limited fashion.”
Healer Whittemore sat down at the table and pulled out writing implements. “I’m going to send several letters to the mediwitch and professors, stating that until Yule, you can only attempt spellwork three times per class. Even with the bindings off, your body needs time to heal. You are not to practice magic outside a classroom setting until we give you leave.”
Filrig approached Harry and held out a pendant. “I already gave Draco his. Once you put this on, only a goblin can touch it, let alone remove it. This will deflect most spells and curses. Martok impressed upon us how important it is that you not be cast upon, especially in regards to hexes or curses.”
“It will also protect you from mind magic I know Dumbledore practices,” Lucius told him. “It’s called Legilimency and it’s the ability to read another’s mind. With this, Dumbledore won’t be able to get into your mind. Nor will anyone else.”
“Good. I don’t like the idea of someone looking around in my head,” Harry said, looking down in surprise as the pendant disappeared once it was on.
“No one will be able to see it,” Filrig told him. “Now get over there and visit with your godfather. I’ve already ordered lunch to be brought down for you lot in a couple of hours.”
“Thank you,” Harry said to his account manager and two healers, and then he half-ran over to where Sirius was. Draco joined him and they proceeded to grill Sirius about his time at Hogwarts, questions that Sirius answered happily.
Lucius hummed softly to himself as he filled various bags with Potions ingredients. The boys had used a lot of theirs during their lessons once they’d mastered the techniques with the practice kit they’d bought them, since working with real ingredients was a little different than with the inert practice pieces they provided.
Luckily all the wasted ingredients were the most common and cheapest, so they were easily replaced. Hence why he was here while the boys visited with Sirius once more before they had to leave for Hogwarts in the morning.
“Lucius. I’m surprised to see you here.”
Lucius glanced over and nodded his head in greeting. “Severus. I’m just restocking Harry and Draco’s potions kits. They’ve been diligently practicing their techniques and needed several items replenished.”
Severus gave him an incredulous look. “Somehow I doubt Potter’s brat would bother with practicing prior to the first day of class. He probably hasn’t even read the book introduction.”
Raising an eyebrow, Lucius turned to him fully as he placed the full bag in his basket. “On the contrary, he’s a diligent student. He’s also not a brat. He’s quite delightful and friendly actually, which is surprising considering his upbringing.”
“Astounding. Considering he sat around being served hand and foot, being given everything he wanted, I’m surprised he’s not a nightmare.”
It was Lucius’ turn to be incredulous. “Where in the world did you ever get that idea about him?”
Severus waved a hand. “Albus told me. He’s kept an eye on the boy and has told me how indulged he is at home and has informed me that he’ll need a bit of a firm hand in classes to get him to work at all. Says he’s unfortunately very lazy due to his upbringing. I can’t even imagine what getting titles this early is going to do to his ego.”
Lucius narrowed his eyes and grabbed Severus by the arm. He dragged him over to the side of the shop and cast a silencing ward. “Let me tell you a few truths, Severus, because you’ve been extraordinarily misled with regards to Duke Potter-Black.
“After Dumbledore dropped Harry off at Petunia Dursley nee Evans’ house in the middle of a cold night in November with only a note, like he was a bottle of milk – which is apparently how Petunia found out her sister had been murdered by the way – Harry was forced to endure years of neglect and borderline starvation.”
Lucius huffed. “Until he was eleven and the Dursleys feared retribution, Harry’s room was the cupboard under the stairs. A bloody broom closet. He was forced to do all the chores and cook the food he wasn’t allowed to have for the Dursleys, while they indulged their son who habitually bullied Harry and was abused himself since they allowed him to eat and eat until he’s morbidly obese for his age, the poor boy.”
“No. Albus wouldn’t allow that to happen. You must be mistaken,” Severus said. “Potter is far too important to him for that.”
“We discovered this when Narcissa found a confused Harry in Diagon Alley, with a list from Hogwarts that was less than half the size of Draco’s. Alone because Dumbledore sent Hagrid to introduce Harry to the wizarding world and he left Harry alone in the Alley while he went to go and get a drink. We’re lucky someone didn’t try to abduct him, the way Tom at the Cauldron said Hagrid was going on about Harry being there.
“Harry was wearing clothes that were ratty and clearly belonged to a much larger boy. We looked into it and found that Dumbledore illegally placed Harry with the Dursleys. He was supposed to go to us.”
“Why would he do that?” Severus asked, sounding confused. “Why would he send him to Petunia? She hates magic with a passion. He told me the boy was in hiding with a magical family.”
“He didn’t know magic existed until his eleventh birthday,” Lucius replied. “He had no idea about his titles, he had never seen photos of his parents until Sirius Black retrieved his photo albums from his personal vault. He knew absolutely nothing. We’ve done very little but try and catch him up on the basics and get him healthy enough he can do minor magic in class settings. There are other issues I cannot talk about.”
Severus had paled and rubbed his face with a shaking hand. “I had no idea,” he murmured. “Albus has repeatedly pressed upon me that I need to be cruel to be kind to him, to toughen him up for what’s he’s sure to face in school.”
“Dumbledore is a lying son of a bitch who needs to be hung by his own entrails,” Lucius snapped. “The only thing you would be doing, Severus, is abusing an abuse victim.
“I will say this to you. It’s your decision how you want to treat him. But know this. If you abuse him, if I hear one word about how you’re treating him worse than anyone else because he’s James Potter’s son…” Lucius gave him a bared-teeth smile. “Let’s just say it’s not Sirius Black you’re going to have to worry about.”
Lucius patted Severus on the shoulder, chuckling a little when the man went even paler than he already was. “Have a good day, Severus.”
“Are you all packed up?” Narcissa asked as she sat on the bed and watched Harry fiddle with his trunk. It was endearing how seriously he took putting everything away just so. It infuriated her that it was likely due to him not having anything of his own to take care of, so he took extra special care with anything he received.
She put his former life right out of her head because if she didn’t, she’d hunt down those bastards and strangle them with her bare hands at this point.
“I am,” Harry told her. “Just finished refilling the potions kit with what Uncle Lucius brought home. I think I now have enough ingredients to last me for two years at Hogwarts. Is Draco all done?”
“He is. And I sent Argos and Hedwig on ahead to Hogwarts so they’ll be waiting for you there. An eight-hour ride in a cage is a dreadful thing to do to a poor owl, especially when they can simply fly there on their own.”
Harry nodded and then blew out a breath. “You’ll make sure Sirius is okay while I’m gone? That he’s not lonely and doesn’t feel abandoned? He was alone for so long in Azkaban. I don’t want him to feel like he doesn’t have anybody to talk to or be with him.”
“I’ll make sure of it. Lucius is also trying to track down one of his friends from his school days. Sirius asked us if we could find him and send for him. For some reason, he didn’t show up for the will reading.” She smiled at him. “We’ll make sure he doesn’t do something stupid because he’s bored.”
Harry laughed at that. “He probably would too. Or maybe not. Martok would be cross with him.”
“And we don’t want to make her cross,” Narcissa said, getting up again. “You and Draco can play for a while if you want. I’ll send Dobby to come and get you when it’s dinner time.”
“Okay, Aunt Narcissa.”
Harry stared in wonder as he stood still and let Lucius clean the soot from his clothes and hair. The Hogwarts Express sat before them, huge and gleaming red, gold and black, without so much as a dent or a speck of dirt. He knew it was one of those old types of steam engine trains that Muggles didn’t really use anymore, but it still looked brand new.
“Impressive, isn’t it?” Lucius asked him as he turned his attention to Draco.
“It’s brilliant,” Harry said, pulling his eyes away from the engine and looking around at the people.
It was early so the platform wasn’t too crowded yet. There were maybe a dozen families seeing off their children. Most of them seemed to be older kids, which made sense to Harry. For them, something like this was routine by now. They also didn’t seem to have large families, as the most he saw was a family with two kids.
“Which car should we sit in, Harry?” Draco asked as he grabbed Harry’s hand and pulled him toward the train.
“Maybe somewhere in the front? Doesn’t the trolley start up there?” He looked over at his guardians.
Narcissa nodded. “It does, and it has the best selection of treats available the closer to the front you are. They run out of some things before they get toward the back.”
“Then let’s sit in the front of the second car,” Draco said, tugging him in that direction.
At the entrance to the car, they turned to Lucius and Narcissa. Narcissa smoothed down each of their hair and brushed their shoulders. “I want both of you to behave on the train, but have fun and don’t forget to meet some of your year mates and try to make friends. Dobby will be popping in with your food basket at about two, so don’t overindulge in sweets. You know you both need balanced meals.”
“We’ll be good, Mother,” Draco said with exasperation. “And we’ll write you first thing tonight and tell you what house we got into, and whether or not he does or says something stupid.”
“You do just that,” Narcissa said, giving them hugs and kisses on the forehead.
Lucius took his turn and gave the boys hugs. “If you need anything. If Dumbledore or any of the teachers give you trouble or you have problems, you let me know. I will come immediately.”
“We will, Uncle Lucius,” Harry promised.
Draco tugged him toward the train. “Let’s get a good compartment before all the good ones are gone.”
Harry followed him up the stairs and into an empty compartment on the side facing the platform. They opened the window and waved at Lucius and Narcissa.
“Be sure to write often,” Narcissa called out. “And use the mirrors to call us once in a while or in the case of an emergency! We’ll see you at Yule.”
“Bye,” they called out, watching them Apparate away.
They unshrank their trunks and put them up on the rack since it was expected and then they sat with their bags and people watched.
“That’s Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe,” Draco told him, pointing to two large boys once they arrived. “They’re really not very bright, and don’t seem to have very strong magic, but I guess it was enough to get invited to Hogwarts. Their fathers used to be business associates of my father’s, but he stopped doing business with them when he discovered they were making illegal trades.”
“That’s Pansy Parkinson over there.” Draco pointed to a snooty looking girl who was rolling her eyes at her mother’s attention. “Her father tried to get Father to sign a betrothal agreement for me and Pansy, but Father refused. Which I’m glad because she’s rather obnoxious.”
Harry watched the girl sneer at a few students passing by. “She doesn’t seem very nice.”
“Definitely not.” Draco continued to point out different children he knew and told them something about each of them, speaking of some more favorably than others.
Harry was just glad that all of them didn’t seem to be complete gits. As it came closer to time for the Express to leave, his attention turned from the weird vulture hat some stern looking older woman was wearing and blinked. “That’s a big family.”
Draco, who had lost interest, looked up from his book and peered out. “Who?”
“All the redheads.”
“Ah,” Draco said, sitting back. “That’s the Weasley family. Seven children and a fairly poor family. Our family has a blood feud going on with them. Not sure what it’s all about, but the few times I’ve met the boy in our year he’s been rude and obnoxious. I didn’t like him. One of the older ones of the lot – that one right there with the badge on his robe – he’s rather a pompous snot. Thinks he’s better than the rest of them and everyone else around him from what I’ve seen of him when he was in Diagon Alley. Don’t know much about the twins there.”
“Hmm,” Harry said, frowning when the mother of the group kept craning her head all around as if looking for someone. He shrugged and closed the window, then sat back and pulled out some of his notes.
The warning whistle sounded and the door slid open and a boy with dirty blond hair, the one he’d seen with the woman with the vulture hat, looked around uncertainly. “Is it alright to sit here?”
Harry nodded. “Yeah, of course. Let me help you with that,” he said, reaching for one side of the boy’s trunk.
Draco got up as well and the three of them managed to get his trunk up on the rack. Draco looked at him expectantly. “I’m Draco Malfoy and this is Harry Potter-Black.”
“I’m Neville Longbottom,” the timid boy replied.
“Oh!” Harry said with surprise. “Is your mother Alice Longbottom?”
Neville bit his lip and nodded. “She is.”
“She’s my godmother. They told me she’s at St. Mungos in the long term care ward. I’m sorry your parents were hurt so bad.” Harry gave him a sad smile.
Neville nodded. “Thanks. Your Mum was my godmother too, you know. I wish I’d known her.”
Harry nodded and cleared his throat. “Met my godfather though. Sirius is brilliant and a little crazy.”
“Azkaban will do that to you,” Draco replied dryly. “But he is really nice and he likes having us around.”
The whistle sounded again and the train lurched as it moved forward. All three of them looked out the window to see the last of the parents waving. A little red-haired girl was running alongside the train and waving as she wiped her eyes.
“May as well get settled in,” Draco said. “It’s a long ride. Father says it takes eight hours to get there.”
Harry looked over at Neville. “Have you looked over any of your books?”
Neville shook his head. “Gran didn’t let Uncle Algie take me to get my supplies until yesterday. I don’t know why. I asked her if we could go weeks ago, and she said it wasn’t important, that I didn’t need to read them anyway until I got to school. It didn’t sound right to me, but she wouldn’t be swayed. And our library didn’t have any copies of the first year level books.”
“I wish we had a table,” Harry muttered as he rummaged in his bag.
“Oh! Father told me the other day while you were in with the healers,” Draco said, leaning over and fumbling with a set of runes under the window. A few moments later, a tabletop slid out from the wall and stopped three-quarters into the compartment. “Most students don’t even realize it’s there. Father stumbled across it by accident when he was a student.”
“Brilliant,” Harry said, pulling out all his copies of his first-year books and the supplemental books. He pulled out a spare notebook and a pen and slid them over to Neville. “Here. You can go ahead and get started on reading and notes if you want.”
“I haven’t studied any of this. How should I start?” Neville asked, looking a bit overwhelmed.
Draco hummed and arranged them in a specific stack. “Magical Theory is the best book to start with. It’s not a big book since it’s just an introduction into Magical Theory, but it will help with understanding some of the other subjects. For the regular classes, I’d go through each of these, one chapter at a time.”
“What about note-taking? I’ve never done that before,” Neville said. “I was taught at home. Gran didn’t want me going to one of the day schools.”
Harry pulled out his notebook for Potions. “I just made note of the information that seemed important, and I made lists of words I didn’t know. If the answer wasn’t clear in the book, I went to one of these over here and found the information and put it in.”
“Can I look through this?” Neville asked. “To get a better idea.”
“Of course,” Harry said, sliding the notebook over.
The three spent a couple of hours working on their studies and chatting about various things and were having a quiet moment when Neville suddenly gasped.
“What is it?” Draco asked curiously.
“Trevor is missing!” Neville said, peering under the table.
“Who is Trevor?” Harry asked him as he looked around for something out of place.
“My toad. Uncle Algie bought him for me even though I wanted an owl. He was in my pocket.”
“You didn’t have a bowl for him?” Draco asked. “Where are you supposed to keep him?”
“Uncle Algie wouldn’t get it for me, and I didn’t have money of my own,” Neville admitted. “Algie is a bit of a nutter, I think.”
Draco shrugged. “Well, perhaps one of the teachers can help us at school with something to hold him in. We’ll help you get him sorted out, but we need to find him first.”
They moved all of their books off the table and retracted it and spent ten minutes searching.
Draco blew out a breath. “Well, he’s not in here.”
“I know he was in my pocket when I got on the train,” Neville told them. “He could have jumped out while I was at the door there.”
Harry nodded. “We’ll just have to have a look around, see if anyone’s seen him.”
The three left their compartment and proceeded to search the train, splitting up to cover more ground.
Harry knocked on a compartment door and opened it to peer inside. There he found three boys, one of them one of the redheads he’d seen earlier. “Hello. I was wondering if any of you had seen a toad?”
The three boys looked at each other and then shook their heads. “No, we haven’t seen anything like that around here,” the pale, freckle-faced boy with dark hair said.
“Okay, thanks,” Harry said, backing out of the compartment.
“Oi, you! Wait a minute!” The redhead called out.
Harry poked his head back in. “Yeah?”
“Have you seen Harry Potter around anywhere?” he asked.
“Why do you want to know?” Harry asked him curiously. He knew he was famous around the wizarding world for a profoundly stupid reason, but he was curious as to what the boy wanted.
“I’m Ron Weasley. We’re supposed to be best mates,” Ron said, puffing up with pride.
Harry tilted his head. “How do you figure?” he asked. “You don’t even know what he looks like. How are you supposed to be best mates if you haven’t met him before?”
Ron huffed and looked at him with irritation. “We have a lot in common, and my mum told me that we were going to be good friends, that he’s not been around the wizarding world much and he needs someone like me to guide him to being friends with the right people.
“So,” Ron concluded, talking to him in a slow voice, like he was a toddler, “have you seen him?”
Harry grinned and shrugged. “Every bloody day.” Harry wandered back through the train to the cars they hadn’t checked because they were where the prefects were. He knocked on the door.
It seemed to be the day for redheads because the snotty older one answered and looked down at him with a frown. “Yes? What do you want?”
“One of the students lost a toad. I was wondering if any of you had seen it?”
One of the other prefects grinned and pointed upwards. Lo and behold, there was Trevor, sitting on the luggage rack between two trunks. He croaked at Harry.
“Oh, don’t give me that, Trevor. You’re giving Neville fits already, and he’s had you less than a day,” Harry told the frog, reaching up and pulling him down. “Thanks,” he called out absently.
He saw Draco and Neville heading back. “Found him!” he called out, holding up the escape artist.
“You’re a menace, Trevor,” Neville said with a sigh as he took him. “I wish we had something to put him in.”
Draco hummed. “I’ve got an extra-wide flask in my potions kit he should fit into for now. We’d just need some kind of lid to place on top.”
“Oh, I know!” Harry pulled an elastic band out of his bag and ripped a sheet of paper out of his notebook. “Cover it with the paper, then place the elastic around it. We can poke holes in it for him to breathe.”
“Might need a bit of water down in the bottom,” Draco said, taking the flask and running to the bathroom.
Trevor was squared away in short order and they went back to work.
The rest of the trip was broken up by the trolley and then lunch, and soon enough they were rolling into the station just outside the little village of Hogsmeade.
The three boys got off the train and headed toward Hagrid, who was calling for the first years. They shared a boat with a girl with bushy brown hair who started spouting facts about the lake they were crossing and the castle itself. Harry thought she might be a bit nervous from the babbling she was doing, so he didn’t say anything about it and just let her natter on at him.
Their first look at what Harry knew to be Gryffindor Castle was amazing. Light shone out of all the windows and far off to the right, they could see the horseless carriages rolling up a path illuminated by dozens of torches.
They got out of the boats without incident, though Ron Weasley had nearly gone down face first in the mud and was saved only by Hagrid’s quick catch. They strolled up the walkway and were met at the massive doors by Professor McGonagall, who showed them into a side room to wait.
“Where’s Harry Potter?” Ron blurted loudly behind them. “He’s gotta be here.”
Neville and Draco looked at Harry and rolled their eyes. He’d told them all about their brief encounter on the train earlier. Harry didn’t answer, just continued to ignore him.
After a quick visit from the ghosts that inhabited the castle, they were led into the Great Hall, which prompted more of a history lesson from the girl they’d ridden with in the boat. On a stool at the front sat a weird looking hat.
Harry started when the thing began singing some long rhyme about house unity and what not. Harry was only half listening to it as he looked at all the teachers.
He recognized Quirrell, whom he’d met with Hagrid in Diagon Alley. He’d never seen any of the others before, though he knew the old man with the glasses in the center had to be Albus Dumbledore.
Names started to be called one after the other. Neville was the first of their trio to be sorted, and he went into Gryffindor, which seemed to surprise him. Draco went into Slytherin a few moments later, the hat taking absolutely no time to make a decision. The bushy haired girl, Hermione Granger, had gone into Gryffindor as well after a minute or so of deliberation.
Soon enough it was his turn.
“Harry Potter-Black!” McGonagall called out, and he stepped forward.
He smirked slightly when he heard a loud ‘hey!’ erupt behind him. He sat down on the stool and waited for McGonagall to plop the hat on his head.
“Ah, Duke Potter-Black, I thought this was your year. Heir to both Gryffindor and Slytherin I see. Makes quite the conundrum of where to put you. You’d do well in both Gryffindor and Slytherin.”
“I don’t care where you put me,” Harry told the hat silently. “I thought it would be either of them.”
“Hmm, in that case, it better be… GRYFFINDOR!” Only the final word was called out. Harry pulled off the hat and put it to the side, giving Draco a grin and a shrug as he walked to the Gryffindor table.
Draco merely laughed at him and shook his head.
Harry sat beside Neville, ignoring the students further down yelling about ‘getting’ him. He elbowed him gently and grinned. “At least I was going to be with one of you.”
The rest of the sorting went quickly, with Ron Weasley entering Gryffindor. Thankfully Dean Thomas had sat beside him so Ron was a couple of people down.
After Headmaster Dumbledore’s weird introduction and the food appeared on the table, Ron leaned over and glared at Harry. “Why didn’t you tell me you were Harry Potter?”
“You didn’t ask me who I was. You asked me if I had seen Harry Potter. And I told you I saw him every day. And I do, every time I look in a mirror,” Harry said as he served himself a meal that his healers would approve of. He pulled a potion out of his store, downed it, and then flicked the empty vial back into it.
“What was that?” Hermione asked him.
“A potion I’m required to take,” Harry told her as he cut into his chicken.
“Why do you have to take it?” she asked.
“Because my healers told me to,” he responded glibly, hoping that she would get the hint and stop asking.
Hermione rolled her eyes and huffed. “But why?”
Harry looked at her and frowned at the demanding tone she adopted in her questioning. “Is there a reason you should be privy to my medical information?” he asked.
Hermione flushed. “I was just curious.”
“Well, it’s personal,” Harry replied. “And we’ve just met. I’m not comfortable discussing my personal health problems when it doesn’t affect anyone but me.”
He looked at Hermione and saw she was mulling that over and then she nodded. “You’re right. I apologize for being nosy.”
Harry smiled at her. “That’s okay.”
Ron huffed, and he guessed Ron was annoyed by being ignored. “You still should have told me. I was looking for you.”
“Not very hard since I was on the train for eight hours,” Harry replied. Then Harry turned his attention to Neville and his dinner.
After dinner came the announcements. The one about the third floor really caught his attention, and he was still musing over it as they headed out of the hall.
“What’s wrong, Harry?” Neville asked as they followed the Prefects up to Gryffindor Tower.
“That announcement about the third floor. Why is there a floor where you can die a painful death in a school?”
Neville made a face. “It does seem odd, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t a school be safe?”
“Well if the students just stay off the third floor, there won’t be any problems,” Hermione replied from next to them.
Neville and Harry gave each other and then her incredulous looks. “Do you really think it’s going to stop them from going up there?” Neville asked her.
Harry snorted. “He may as well have waved a cape in front of an angry bull.”
Hermione shrugged. “I’m not sure there’s anything to be done about it. I don’t think it could be that bad. It is a school. I think they’re probably just trying to scare the students or catch out those who don’t listen.”
Harry exchanged another look with Neville, who nodded.
After a brief confrontation with the castle poltergeist, Peeves, they headed into Gryffindor Tower. The common room was a large, round room filled with tables and chairs for study, comfy looking sofas and plush chairs for lounging, and a sea of red and gold. Harry thought Narcissa would think it rather garish, but he kind of liked it, in a loud sort of way.
Percy the Prefect led them up to the boys’ tower and showed them into a room. “Your trunks are on the ends of your bed. Breakfast starts at seven in the morning and runs until half past eight. Be down by seven though if you want an escort to the dining room. If you’re late, you’ll have to find it on your own or ask one of the older students who are still about.”
He left them with a warning to get to bed soon, and Harry looked around until he found his trunk at the end of one bed near the door, with Neville’s trunk at the foot of the bed next to his.
“Oi, Longbottom, trade with me,” Ron told him as he reached down to drag his trunk over.
“I’m not going to trade with you,” Neville replied indignantly. “What in the world for?”
“I should have the bed next to my best mate,” Ron told him.
“You didn’t even know who he was until McGonagall called his name,” Neville replied snippily as he pulled his pajamas out of his trunk. “I’ve known him for longer than you, so I’d have to say he’s my best mate if he’s anyone’s best mate in this room.”
“Even then, Neville’d be my second best, since Draco is actually my favorite,” Harry told Ron as he gathered his own night things as well as the basket of bathroom products Narcissa had bought him.
Ron stared at him, horrified. “Why in the world would you be friends with that evil git?”
Harry scowled at him. “Draco is not an evil git. Watch how you talk about my family, Weasley. Come on, Nev.” He pointed at Ron. “You leave his things alone or I’ll have a talk with McGonagall.”
When they returned fifteen minutes later, their things were still in the proper place. Harry sat down at his desk and wrote Lucius and Narcissa a letter, and one to Sirius as well. He had considered calling for a moment, but they’d said it was tradition to write home that first night.
“Harry, can you send this letter to Gran? It’s about… you know.”
Harry nodded. “I’m sending Hedwig to the bank with the others, and they’ll send them to the proper places with their owl service. I have a contract with them, since Sirius is going to be in their clutches for some time yet, and it saves Hedwig from flying all about the country.”
“Thanks,” Neville said with a yawn. “So tired.”
“Me, too,” Harry said, giving his letters to Hedwig, who was sitting on the windowsill. “Here you go, girl. Take these to Kurnok, please.”
Hedwig hooted and took off, and then Harry climbed into bed and was asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.
The next morning Harry woke up to his personal alarm going off at 6:40. He yawned as he sat up, smiling when he saw Neville sitting up and looking at him blearily. “Breakfast time. Supposed to get our timetables too.”
Neville grunted and slid out of bed. They gathered their things and headed into the bathroom, coming out fifteen minutes later.
Dean and Seamus were already in the bathroom, but Ron was still snoring away in his bed. He didn’t look like he was planning on stirring anytime soon either.
Harry huffed. “I suppose we should try and get him up.”
“Dean said he already tried, but Ron wasn’t having any of it,” Neville said with a shrug. “I don’t particularly care if he gets up or not. He’s the one that will have to go hungry if he misses breakfast.”
“And we’re the ones who will probably have to listen to him whine if he does. You saw how he ate last night. I’d rather not have to listen to it. I don’t know any hexes and am only allowed limited use of magic.” Harry walked over and shook Ron’s arm. “It’s almost time for breakfast, Ron.”
Ron grunted and rolled over, burying himself under the blankets further.
Rolling his eyes, Harry tried again. “Weasley! Breakfast starts in five minutes! We need to be downstairs if you don’t want to get lost.”
“Go away,” Ron grumbled, flinging his arm in Harry’s direction. “Ten more minutes.”
Harry looked at Neville and shrugged. “Well, I tried. You’re my witness.” He looked back at Ron, making a face. “Suit yourself, best mate,” Harry retorted and walked out of the bedroom.
Dean and Seamus caught up with them right at seven, along with Percy, who looked around. “Where’s Ronald?”
Seamus spoke up. “He’s still abed. We all tried to get him up, but he was having none of it.”
“He told me he wanted ten more minutes and I needed to go away,” Harry added. “That was five minutes ago.”
Percy looked up as if looking for some kind of guidance – Harry had seen Aunt Petunia do that quite often when dealing with Vernon – and then looked over at the twins and raised an eyebrow.
They grinned, saluted their older brother, and charged up the stairs. Percy sighed and gave a sharp nod. “That’s him sorted. Everyone else here? Let’s go then! Follow me!”
While they headed down, Percy gave them insight into getting around the castle properly, what to do when the staircases suddenly moved on them and cut them off, and pointing out various castle landmarks along their route. He also pointed out which classes were on which floor and down which corridor.
They’d been in the Great Hall twenty minutes when a disgruntled Ron trudged in with two smug brothers flanking him.
“You coulda woke me up,” Ron grumbled at them when he sat down and started shoveling food on his plate.
“We did,” Dean told him as he helped himself to some more bacon. “We tried more than once. You weren’t listening to us.”
“It’s not their job to get you up, Ronald,” Percy told him from a little further down. “Mum told you before you started that you weren’t going to be able to get away with sleeping in like you do at home and it was your responsibility to set up your alarm and get yourself up.”
Ron glared at him but didn’t say anything, something for which Harry was grateful because Ron had a mouthful of food.
He turned his attention back to his own food and only looked up a few minutes later when McGonagall started calling out names.
Harry took his class schedule and looked it over, comparing it with Neville’s and Hermione’s since she was sitting on his other side. They were all the same, so he reckoned all of them were for first year.
Hermione hummed next to him. “History of Magic is first. I wonder what the teacher is like?”
Harry made a face. “Uncle Lucius told me about him. Name is Binns, and he’s a ghost. He, Aunt Narcissa, and even Sirius gave us pointers on how to deal with the class because Sirius says he has a droning voice that can put you to sleep.”
“Well, what did they say?” Hermione asked him impatiently when he didn’t answer right away.
“He said, and Uncle Lucius and Aunt Narcissa agreed, that Binns follows the same patterns of teaching. The first thing he does is tell you your reading assignment for the next class and the essay you need to write. Or if there’s questions to answer, he has papers we can pick up from his desk. They said to write down the assignment, write down the topic for the day, and then either work on the homework or the notes on your own. He teaches straight from the history book, and honestly, he doesn’t teach anything other than what he had in his curriculum at the time of his death. Which means all modern history is ignored.”
Hermione blinked. “Surely it can’t be that bad. Why would they keep him on otherwise?”
“Free labor,” one of the twins replied. “I’m Fred Weasley, by the way. This is George. I’m the handsome one.”
“You keep tellin’ yourself that, brother,” George told him. “But he’s right. Binns is free and my guess is that if they had to pay someone, the small amount they require for tuition would have to be raised quite a lot.”
“It’s why some of the classes they used to teach have been discontinued,” Fred said with a shrug. “You can still take the OWLs and NEWTs for them, but you gotta do it through the Ministry or the ICW.”
Hermione frowned. “I’m going to have to look into that. I hate the idea there are OWLs I won’t be studying for.” She pulled out a piece of parchment and a quill and started writing down notes. “Are there topics on the OWL for History that aren’t covered in class?”
“Anything after 1921,” Percy told her. “There’s a topic list in one of the reference books in the library. There’s a set of OWL books for the Ministry and the ICW that lists the topics of import. You can’t check them out, though.”
Hermione nodded. “I’ll have a look at them as soon as ever I can. It will give me something to work on during the holidays.”
Harry understood the need, but didn’t think now was the time to worry about something that wasn’t needed to be known for another five years, but he kept that sentiment to himself. He didn’t think his input would be appreciated too much.
History was as dull as he’d been warned. He and Neville did as he’d been instructed, and Harry worked on the question sheet Binns had told them to take, while Neville attempted to but ultimately drifted off because of Binns’ monotonous tone.
He promised himself he was going to look into some kind of earplugs, whether magical or not.
Defense Against the Dark Arts was profoundly disappointing. Quirrell spent so much time stuttering and being a bit paranoid and jumpy that he kept losing his train of thought. Plus the heavy stench of garlic was distracting. Harry could barely understand half of what he was talking about since he mumbled when he wasn’t stuttering, and it was an all-around dud of a class. He could only hope that it was nerves and Quirrell would be better in his others.
He didn’t have much hope though. And from the look on Draco’s face, he was thinking the same thing.
His third class for the day was Herbology, which was held out in the greenhouses. It was nice to have a bit of time outside, and Neville seemed to be right at home in them.
Their last section was free time, so they’d taken the time to look around the school, getting a feel for where the classes were. At least, Harry and Neville did. Hermione had made a beeline for the library’s reference area, and Ron had gone with Dean and Seamus to play Exploding Snap.
They all met up in the Great Hall at dinner, where Harry was promptly approached by Professor McGonagall. “Mr. Potter, the Headmaster would like to see you.”
Remembering Lucius and Sirius’ instructions, he said, “I don’t mind Mr., but it’s Potter-Black, ma’am. And I will require having you with me for the conversation.”
“Whatever for?” McGonagall asked him, peering over her glasses at him in the stern manner that seemed to be normal for her.
“Because my family won’t allow me to be alone with the Headmaster, considering he spent much of the last month trying to take me out of their custody and put me back in an impossible situation. I can’t talk about most of it, because it’s a matter of the business of the Ministry and my Houses, but I cannot meet with him alone. If you aren’t willing to do it, I can ask another professor.”
“No, I will escort you, Mr. Potter-Black,” McGonagall said, nodding at him and walking back toward the head table.
“What was that all about?” Hermione asked him before anyone else could, though he could see they were all curious.
“Just personal matters,” Harry said with a sigh. “I don’t want to talk about it and can’t talk about some of it anyway.”
“But he’s the Headmaster.”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “And?”
“And he’s Chief Warlock and the Supreme Mugwump of the ICW! Did you think maybe he’s right about whatever it is?” Hermione asked.
Harry frowned and decided that blunt was probably the way to go if he didn’t want to get in a verbal dance with her like the night before. “I know he’s not. And since you don’t know anything about it, you don’t get an opinion on it.”
Hermione made a face but nodded and went back to her dinner.
Seamus sighed. “Defense was terrible,” he griped as he poked at his shepherd’s pie. “Tell me I’m not the only one who thought so.”
“You’re not,” Neville said, shaking his head. “It was a big letdown. I was looking forward to it, too.”
“Maybe it will get better,” another girl, Lavender Brown Harry thought was her name, said. “I mean, it can’t get worse, can it?”
“I hope not or I’m gonna fall asleep like I did in Binns’ class,” Ron replied.
“Herbology was great, though,” Neville piped in. “Professor Sprout really knew what she was talking about. I think it’s going to be an interesting class.”
“Yeah, if you like digging around in the dirt,” Ron muttered.
Neville made a face at Ron and Harry snorted.
Harry met McGonagall outside the Great Hall after dinner and followed her to a stone gargoyle standing in front of a staircase.
“Lemon drops,” McGonagall said, sounding long-suffering like Aunt Petunia did when Marge came for an extended visit and she had to deal with her every waking moment.
Harry bit back a smile and followed her up the stairs after the gargoyle slid out of the way. A quick knock on the door and they were bid enter.
He took a moment to look around the Headmaster’s office. It was rather large and round, with many shelves and bookcases along the walls. The bookcases seemed to be rather sparse on books. He found it odd because he figured someone Dumbledore’s age and being the current headmaster and a former teacher, he would have loads and loads of books, even more than would probably fit on the shelves. He had to wonder if maybe the Headmaster had taken some of the books from his parents’ house after they’d died.
There were, however, lots of trinkets scattered here and there. In a small alcove, there was a perch for a bird, a large perch, complete with food and water dishes, but no bird seemed to be around. And on the walls above the bookcases were dozens of paintings of witches and wizards. Some were sleeping, others waved at him when his gaze brushed over them, and other paintings were just plain empty.
“Welcome, Harry,” Headmaster Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling merrily when Harry finally turned his attention to him.
Harry felt the pendant warm a bit and he knew that meant someone was trying magic on him. He moved further away from Dumbledore and kept from looking in his eyes like he was taught and it dissipated. “It’s Duke Potter-Black or Mr. Potter-Black. Protocol does not allow you to be familiar with me as I don’t know you.”
“Oh, come now, Harry. You adored me as a baby.” Dumbledore sat down in his chair and motioned for Harry to take the opposite seat. “You may leave now, Professor McGonagall. Harry and I will be just fine. We just need to have a little talk.”
“I cannot do that, Headmaster,” McGonagall told him. “Duke Potter-Black has requested my presence as he’s been ordered not to be alone with you because of the events of the past few weeks. If you do not wish me to be here, Duke Potter-Black will have to leave with me.”
Dumbledore frowned at that but nodded. “Very well, then.” He turned his attention back to Harry. “Now, there have been some grave misunderstandings and your exaggerations of your home life have caused some very unfortunate events. You must understand it is of the utmost importance that you remain with your mother’s sister. Your removal from her care could prove disastrous.”
Harry frowned at him. “My parents were very clear in the official and legal will that I was never to even meet them, let alone stay with them. It was also quite clear who was to care for me. It had a list that made sure there was no confusion as to where I was supposed to be. I am now in the care of those my parents trusted to raise me. I don’t know why you think bringing me here and lecturing me is going to change anything, or that I would listen to you.”
“Because there is much that you don’t understand about our world and your place in it, your duty to it,” Dumbledore told him. “You need the right sort to guide you properly. You must not put your trust in the wrong people. And someone your age cannot possibly understand what makes a person the right sort. You’re just too young. You need someone like me to help you.”
Harry frowned at him, finding that he didn’t really like the man. He looked away briefly when he felt another flare of heat from the pendant. “But I wasn’t guided, was I?” he finally asked after mulling that over for a minute. “I was stuck in a cupboard under the stairs and not fed properly and given my cousin’s hand-me-down clothes that practically fell off me.”
Harry tilted his head. “Lots of people are wondering why none of the teachers of my school or the neighbors kicked up a fuss about my life. If it were someone else, I have to think that someone would have said something, but everyone acted like their treatment of me was normal. Even I thought so until I met the Malfoys and they showed me what it was like to be properly cared for.
“And if I don’t understand the wizarding world or my place in it, or my duties, well then that’s your fault too, isn’t it? I was with the Dursleys for ten years. I don’t remember you ever showing up. Not once. I didn’t even know I was magical until my birthday. That’s your fault too.”
Harry stood up. “I haven’t done anything to warrant being called here, so unless you have something about school to talk to me about, I want to go. Where I live and who I live with isn’t your business.”
“We’re not done talking, Harry. You need to understand what’s expected of you.”
“Then you can tell it to my solicitor,” Harry told him. “Uncle Lucius has hired Lord Antonius Whittemore as our solicitor. Good evening, Headmaster.”
The next morning even Ron managed to get himself up on time, with an extra little friendly shove from Seamus when he attempted to roll over after turning off his alarm, so they were all in the Great Hall bright and early.
They were almost finished with their meal when the front doors of the castle creaked and groaned, and the morning light shone suddenly into the Great Hall. Harry hummed when a group of adults came in, led by Lucius and Madame Bones. Neville’s grandmother was there as well.
Harry would like to say he was surprised to see his uncle, but he really wasn’t. Not with the letter he’d sent him. His hair was already practically on fire what with all that had happened to Harry and Dumbledore’s interference in business that wasn’t his. So Harry just sat there, nibbling on some bacon and watching to see what was going to happen.
Dumbledore stood. “Hello, ladies and gentlemen. What can we do for you on this fine day?” The man was at full twinkle again, Harry noted with amusement. He wondered if it were some sort of charm, because human eyes, magical or non-magical, didn’t seem to be able to do so on their own.
It was Neville’s grandmother who answered the question, looking as if she were about to throw a strop at any moment. “You can tell us what is the bloody meaning of this!” she said, waving a bit of parchment around. Harry reckoned it was Neville’s letter. “You’re telling a school full of students to not go onto part of the third floor or they’ll have a painful death?”
Lucius hummed and nodded. “I received letters from both of my charges stating the same thing.”
“As did I,” Madam Bones added. “And I’ve also received several letters from concerned parents demanding I investigate what is going on.” She withdrew a scroll from her robes. “I have all the proper permissions to investigate this third floor and find out just what it is that’s going to kill these students if they come across it.”
Bones glared at Dumbledore. “And telling them not to go there unless they want to die? Why don’t you just give them an engraved invitation? I wonder how many have already been up there investigating in the last two days, just because they can’t resist their curiosity.”
“Now, there is no need for this, I assure you. And we should take this to my office where we can discuss this all in due course.” Dumbledore walked around the table and tried to prod them out. “I really must insist. The children don’t need to worry about this.”
“And I must insist you desist in trying to manage us, or I will have you thrown into the Ministry’s cells for interfering in an investigation,” Bones retorted as she glared at him. “We’re going up to the third floor and investigating it thoroughly and I don’t particularly care what you have to say regarding the matter. You are not invited to join us.” She motioned a group out before her, leaving Lucius, Mrs. Longbottom, and a couple of other people Harry thought were probably board members, in the Great Hall.
Harry glanced over to Fred and George, who were looking far too innocent and being way too quiet. He hadn’t known them long, but long enough to know not to trust them when they looked like that. “You know something, don’t you? About what’s up there?”
“Who? Us?” Fred asked him, staring at him with eyes so wide Harry knew he was full of it.
“Whatever do you mean?” George peered at him earnestly. “We’re angels, I tell you. Angels. Pure, like freshly fallen snow.”
“You know what’s up on the third floor, don’t you? You went up there,” Neville said, pointing at them with his fork. “Probably snuck out that first night, after Percy went to bed and wasn’t there to berate you into behaving.”
“Maybe,” Fred said after several moments. “I mean, I’m not saying definitely, but it seems like something I would do. I can say that I have some theories as to what might be there.”
“Why don’t you share your theories with the house then?” Harry asked him. “We want to know.”
“I would like to know the answer to that as well,” Lucius said, smirking a little when they jumped.
Fred and George looked at one another, clearly having a conversation in a way only they could, and then Fred shrugged and placed more bacon and eggs on his plate. “We may have more than theories. At the end of the corridor to the right of the main staircase, we found a door that had some weird noises behind it.”
“We decided to peek into the room, but it was locked. So we unlocked it with a simple unlocking charm. Which we found kind of odd since if it was something that could kill us, why would a simple ‘alohamora’ work on it?” George told him. “There was a three-headed dog in there. Huge. Mean. Tried to eat us, so the painful death part wasn’t an exaggeration. But it was leashed so it couldn’t actually reach the door. We closed it immediately and ran. Didn’t want to find out what might happen if it broke its restraints.”
Fred nodded. “We’re too pretty to die in such a horrific manner.”
Lucius rubbed a hand over his face and then thrust two letters and two shrunken packages at Harry. “For you and Draco. Give his to him, please. I need to catch up with the Aurors before they inadvertently become Cerberus food.”
Harry watched his uncle run off in a most undignified manner. “That dog must really be dangerous. I honestly didn’t think it was going to be as bad as all that.”
“It wasn’t in the book that I bought, called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Hermione said with a frown. “It seemed rather too small to be a comprehensive list of magical animals, but I would think something like a giant three-headed dog would be in it.”
“It’s not comprehensive at all, nor does it go in great detail about any of the animals in the book, but that wasn’t really its intention, I suppose,” Percy told her. “I’m not certain there is a comprehensive academic encyclopedia of all the magical creatures in the world. No one has thought to put together one, I suppose. It would be dead useful.”
Harry looked at his watch and sighed. He couldn’t believe he and Neville had forgotten their bags for class that morning. “We should head up to the tower to get our books. We have Transfiguration first thing,” he told Neville.
As they walked out of the Great Hall, they were nearly mowed down by a running Hagrid.
“What’s that all about?” Draco asked as he walked up to Harry.
“No idea, but I bet it has something to do with the Cerberus in the school,” Harry replied as he pulled the letter and package out of his pocket. “Uncle Lucius asked me to give this to you.”
“A Cerberus?!” Draco’s mouth dropped open. “Well, that’s terrifying.” He looked down and raised an eyebrow. “A care package already? We’ve only been here two days.”
Harry shrugged and grinned. “Aunt Narcissa did promise to spoil us in that regard. We’ve gotta go and get our bags. See you in Transfiguration!”
“Bones! Wait!” Lucius yelled when he found them heading toward the last door down the hall of one of the third-floor corridors. The very one that the Weasley twins had indicated.
“What’s wrong, Lord Malfoy?” Bones asked him after halting her people’s progress.
“The Weasley twins already discovered what’s up here and told me about it,” Lucius said, coming to a stop.
Bones huffed. “Of course it would be them. If there is trouble those two are going to find it. Arthur says they’re a handful at best and they were relieved once they came of school age and could be Hogwarts’ problem for a good portion of the year. What is it that’s going to cause death to the curious?”
“A Cerberus. Full grown from what I understand.”
“Are you serious?” Bones asked, staring at him in horror. “Who the hell keeps a Cerberus in a school? Why is there even a bloody Cerberus in the UK? They’re not supposed to leave Greece except with special permissions and strict guidelines!”
“There’s a locked door down here,” Kingsley Shacklebolt said, holding his wand at the ready as another Auror unlocked the door with a simple unlocking charm. Just as the twins had told him.
Lucius shook his head and closed his eyes. Part of him had hoped they were exaggerating. But of course, they weren’t.
Vicious barking echoed down the hall, practically causing the air around them to vibrate, just as soon as the door was opened a crack, just enough to get a peek inside.
Shacklebolt threw several different spells at the door as soon as it was slammed shut. Then he leaned against the wall and blew out a shaky breath. “That is definitely a Cerberus. A full-grown one. And he’s not particularly thrilled to see us.”
Bones ran a hand over her face. “We’re going to have to call the Grecian authorities to come and get this animal.”
“Wait! Don’t hurt ‘im!”
Lucius groaned and looked skyward. “Of course he would be involved. It’s probably his creature. He seems the sort to keep this kind of thing as a pet,” he murmured to Bones.
Bones raised an eyebrow at Hagrid as he lumbered to a halt. “Is this your Cerberus, Hagrid?”
Hagrid nodded as he tried to catch his breath. “Dumbledore gave ‘im to me for me birthday five years ago. Got special permissions to have ‘im here and everything.”
“You have paperwork permitting you to keep a Cerberus?” Bones asked incredulously. “Where in the world is his habitat?”
“He runs about the Forbidden Forest. Wears a charmed collar so he don’t go where he’s not supposed to,” Hagrid told him. “He’s never caused any troubles.”
“You have a Cerberus running about Gryffindor Forest, where children often go sneaking about when no one is looking?” Lucius asked flatly, horrified at the prospect of his children getting eaten by a huge dog. Draco and Harry were both good boys, but they were children and he didn’t expect them to always make the best decisions. “A forest that runs right up against Hogsmeade. The forest isn’t protected against people getting into it from that way, either.”
“Headmaster Dumbledore said it was fine and gave permission,” Hagrid told him, frowning at him.
“Dumbledore is the Headmaster of this school. He’s not the owner of the castle or the land, nor does he make the rules and guidelines for the school,” Lucius said smoothly. “Cerberus require a special habitat, and the forest doesn’t qualify. For one thing, it’s far too cold in this country for them to run about naturally. Second, they’re not to be locked up in a confined space such as a room. Too small a space irritates them and increases their aggression.”
“But Dumbledore said -”
“I don’t care what Dumbledore said!” Lucius snapped, losing his patience at the thought of what could have happened had the students kept Dumbledore’s announcement to themselves. “Two boys that I know of, third years, have already seen the dog and were nearly attacked. You’re lucky they managed to get out of there without injury!”
Lucius turned to Bones. “I am the Chairman of the Board of Governors and I am demanding that this poor creature be removed from the grounds of Gryffindor Castle and held until we can review the paperwork Dumbledore gave Mr. Hagrid here. As you know, there’s precedence for him forging legal papers as he sees fit.”
Lucius turned to Hagrid. “If the paperwork proves legal and the Cerberus -”
“Fluffy. His name is Fluffy.”
Lucius blinked and behind him, he heard more than a few choked off laughs and snorts at the ridiculous name for something so vicious. But he tilted his head in acknowledgment. “If Fluffy is indeed here legally, I will speak with the owner of the property and see if there’s a place where we can build him a proper habitat without the children potentially coming to harm, and that will keep him safe and healthy. His kind aren’t meant to be trapped in a forest.”
“I would appreciate it, Lord Malfoy,” Hagrid said, rubbing his forehead. “I really didn’t know it were a problem.”
Bones nodded. “Thank you, Lord Malfoy. Now if you will excuse us, I need to talk to Hagrid about… Fluffy and what he’s doing inside the castle.”
Lucius bowed his head. “Very well. The Board would like an update in regards to what is going on and whether we need to take action, as whatever is happening is happening in the school. We’re responsible for the students and their safety.”
“I’ll let you know as soon as I figure it out myself,” Bones promised.
Lucius nodded and walked away, glad he wasn’t the one who had to deal with the irate demon dog.