Title: Turn a Page of Fate
Fandom: Harry Potter
Content Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Verbal Abuse-Child, Discussion-Abuse, Mental Abuse of an Adult, Manipulation, Canon-level Violence
Author Notes: I do not own Harry Potter or any other characters invented by JK Rowling. Only the words are mine. Okay, some of the words belong to Ms. Rowling, because there are some minor quotes from the Potter books.
Beta: Morganna and Andy—Thanks so very much!
Word Count: 95k
Summary: After a horrifying bout of Accidental Magic, Harry Potter runs from his aunt’s home to seek refuge in the Wizarding World. A chance encounter in a mysterious shop changes Harry’s Destiny completely.
Artist: daisylise—Thanks for the Beautiful Art!!
July 1-2, 1993
Harry Potter propped an over-stuffed pillow against the headboard of the bed and leaned back on it, exhausted. Hedwig, his beloved snowy owl, settled onto his raised knee, and he busied himself by petting her gently. It was a comfort he needed right then.
The room he was in was quite cozy, and Harry was relieved to be in it, as he’d originally thought he’d be seeing the inside of a prison cell right about now. For a long time, Harry had thought his life was over, which would have really sucked as he was just shy of his thirteenth birthday.
The summer began innocently enough, really, with the end of classes at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and a long train ride back to London. Harry was quiet on the trip, mostly listening to his best friend, Hermione Granger, bemoan the fact that she had spent most of the previous term petrified and how was she supposed to make up all that class time, anyway? His other best friend, Ron Weasley, shared an eye-roll with him, but he kept his opinions to himself—for once. Since Ron’s younger sister, Ginny, was inadvertently the cause of the petrification, he felt it wise to not join in any conversation.
Hermione wound down in her complaining the closer they got to London, and she started to wonder what kind of family vacation she would have with her parents during the coming summer. With that change of subject, Ron began talking about pick-up games of Quidditch with his brothers and de-gnoming the garden.
Harry kept silent. He had no summer plans, beyond avoiding his cousin Dudley and his friends, and doing all the yard work for his aunt—as well as all of the indoor chores. Just like every summer. Of course, Harry had planned on trying very hard to be extra good and quiet, because Professor McGonagall had handed all of the Gryffindors Hogsmeade permission slips before they left the castle and he really wanted his Uncle Vernon to sign the permission slip so that Harry could visit Hogsmeade Village with his friends during the coming school term. It was going to be a hard sell, Harry knew, because it would mean Vernon doing something nice for Harry, and his uncle would never willingly do that. There would be a catch, somehow, and Harry would have to roll with it, no matter what it was.
The catch, however, turned out to be Aunt Marge, Vernon’s obnoxious sister.
When Harry casually mentioned the permission slip on the ride from King’s Cross Station, Vernon smiled cruelly and said that he would have no problem signing it—for a price. And while Harry knew he would be willing to do almost anything to get that slip signed, the price was almost too high: Harry would have to be nice to Aunt Marge during her visit, which was going to begin in just a few weeks. Harry gritted his teeth and agreed to the terms, and then he sat back and resolved to constantly remind himself of what he had to gain, because it would be the only way he would be able to deal with his circumstances.
Aunt Marge arrived on the afternoon of June 18th. Harry had been the one to carry in her heavy bags, trying to avoid her nasty bulldog, Ripper, who had been nipping at his heels the whole while. At that moment, Harry resolved to do as much as he could to avoid Aunt Marge—no relation, really—and the horrid dog as much as possible, if he could.
Of course, he couldn’t. Uncle Vernon made sure of that. While Aunt Petunia might have been happy to allow Harry to remain outdoors the whole summer, except for chores, of course, Uncle Vernon seemed to want Harry around just to torment and abuse him, and his vile sister was always willing to pitch in with the abuse. Petunia would often shoot worried glances at her nephew when the Dursley siblings started in on him, as if she feared what Harry might do in retaliation. Petunia feared Harry’s magic as much as she hated it, even if Harry was forbidden from using magic outside of school. Vernon, on the other hand, was going to take complete advantage of the Restriction For Underage Magic Statute by pressing Harry harder and harder in an effort to force Harry to do something, hoping, Harry was sure, that he would be arrested and taken away.
So Harry cooked the meals and cleaned the house and trimmed the garden, all the while barely avoiding getting bitten by a bulldog or swatted by an overweight Aunt Marge, and he gritted his teeth and kept muttering ‘Hogsmeade’ under his breath to keep his head in the game.
Harry couldn’t do his summer homework while Marge was in residence, so he knew he would suffer for that, and he hadn’t heard from his friends since the beginning of the second week of June, when Hermione informed him of her family’s vacation plans—promising post cards—and Ron sent a copy of The Daily Prophet with his family’s photo on the front page and explained about a surprise trip to Egypt. Harry was happy for his friends, really, but he knew that he couldn’t count on them for any kind of salvation during the summer. Once he learned of Aunt Marge’s visit, Harry did the only really sensible thing he could and sent Hedwig off to Hagrid for the rest of the summer, promising her all sorts of treats once he was back at school. She hadn’t wanted to leave him, and Harry did appreciate her loyalty, but it simply wouldn’t have been safe for her to be in the same house as Aunt Marge and Ripper. Harry wouldn’t have put it past Vernon to release Hedwig from her cage just so Marge could have Ripper attack her, and Harry could not have borne that.
His days were boring, so Harry felt that he might be okay with the whole thing. Dudley was on his best behavior, if only so he could reap the many rewards bestowed upon him by Marge. Every time he got a gift or sweets or money, he’d give Harry a smug look and Marge would offer a challenging expression, as if daring Harry to protest unfair treatment. He wouldn’t, and she knew it. Still, it gave Marge some sort of sick satisfaction to have Harry basically wait on her hand and foot, and Vernon was happy to enforce her proclivities. Marge couldn’t eat the ‘regular’ breakfast that the Dursley’s enjoyed every day, so Harry had to fix something special for her each morning. Then Harry had to walk Ripper through the neighborhood, hoping like hell that the dog would stay on the right end of the leash while he did his business. But the worst thing that Harry had to do by far was to sit quietly in the parlor while Marge waxed poetic about the short-comings of Harry’s parents—and how generous Vernon and Petunia were to take him in when he only proved to be trouble for them.
With each word, Harry fumed silently, not daring to say anything so as not to jeopardize his permission slip. Petunia would wring her hands, glancing at Harry with fear and a bit of pity in her eyes, and Harry came to realize that she didn’t really like Marge any more than he did, but she never intervened on his account. Her one, slightly reasonable, stipulation was that there be quiet time during the evening news, so that Petunia could hear the farm report and plan her autumn planting, and Marge agreed to sit and pet Ripper while the Cricket scores were reported. Since Harry was ‘permitted’ to sit and listen to the news, he was present when a general alert was announced regarding an escaped dangerous criminal named Sirius Black. That report led to a small discussion about criminals in general—and Harry in specific.
Still, he gritted his teeth and mentally repeated, ‘Hogsmeade, Hogsmeade, Hogsmeade’, over and over.
Finally, the day he had been waiting for had arrived: It was July First, and Aunt Marge was leaving. Harry didn’t quite breathe a sigh of relief, because she wasn’t gone yet, but he had one final dinner, and then one last breakfast, and then she would be gone, with her little dog, too.
In honor of a successful visit, Petunia took over preparations for the dinner, and Harry was permitted to go out for a bit that evening. For some reason, Marge wanted to spend more time doting on Dudley, so he remained in the house and Harry had a rather pleasant trip to the local play park, where he sat quietly on the swings and imagined how nice Hogsmeade might be. He rather thought it should have streets lined with gold and diamonds for all the trouble he went through just to get there. Still, the permission slip still wasn’t signed and he had until lunchtime the following day before he could breathe a sigh of relief.
Harry sat on the swing until dusk began to fall, randomly nibbling on a few digestive biscuits that he’d managed to sneak out of the house. He still hadn’t managed to eat much during summer break because Marge seemed as determined as Vernon to starve the ‘criminal’ out of him, so he had taken to stealing food as he cooked, small bits that he could shove into a pocket and eat while on a bathroom break. It wasn’t very nutritious, but it was what he could manage, and he did get a somewhat generous portion at dinner—not as much as Dudley—because Marge knew he’d need his strength to wait on her. He never got pudding, though, so stealing small sweets was sort of a revenge for him, even if they never found out.
Especially if they never found out.
Harry figured he’d better make his way back home before it got too dark, because Petunia would want him to serve the dinner even if she didn’t want him to cook it. Harry sighed and leapt gently from the swing and made his way to the entrance of the park. Movement from the shadow of a large bush caught his attention, and Harry turned to see if anything was there. And there was. A large black dog, fur matted and ribs clearly showing as it breathed harshly, was cowering under the bush, keeping a wary eye on Harry.
Now, after his encounter with Dobby the Mad House-Elf before the end of summer the previous year, Harry was hesitant to approach a bush with sad eyes watching from under it, but Harry knew all about being abused and starved, and this dog, big as he was, had been abused and starved.
“Hey, boy,” Harry said cautiously, “I don’t have much, and I really can’t take you home with me, but do you want a biscuit?” Harry held out a barely shaking hand with the last of his biscuits. The dog poked his nose out of the shadows and sniffed once, then once again, before gently reaching to take the biscuits from Harry’s hand with huge, sharp teeth. The dog didn’t seem inclined to attack, so Harry breathed a sigh of relief.
“I’m sorry I don’t have more to give you, but they don’t exactly feed me well where I come from.” Harry dusted his hands on the seat of his pants and stood up. “I have to go now. You’d best not hang about here, you know. The local neighborhood watch group might call the authorities on a loose animal like you.”
With one last look, Harry backed away and headed home.
Harry made it back well before full dark, and in plenty of time to wash up before setting the table. Wearing a clean shirt, Harry entered the kitchen in time to see Aunt Petunia placing the lamb roast on a serving platter. To Harry’s eye, it looked a bit dry and over-cooked, but he was smart enough not to say anything. Instead, he busied himself by carrying dishes of vegetables to the table before returning for the roast.
Petunia had removed the apron she wore to cover her ‘company’ dress and cast a wary eye to Harry. “Harry,” she said softly, “I know these weeks have not been easy for you….”
Harry offered a wry smile. “What am I supposed to do, Aunt Petunia? And anyway, things will be back to normal tomorrow, right?’
Petunia made a move that might have been to gently touch Harry’s shoulder, or might have been to cuff him upside the head. Either way, Harry quickly ducked to the side and motioned her into the other room. “You’d best be seated, Aunt Petunia. Dinner shall soon be served.”
With an abrupt nod, Petunia wiped her hand on the apron again and left the kitchen, leaving Harry to lift his eyes to the sky and ask for patience.
Dinner passed reasonably well. Dudley preened openly under the praise of his father’s sister, even as Harry saw him roll his eyes when Vernon and Marge were not looking. Harry was savvy enough not to grin to himself, but at least he had proof that Dudley was suffering in his own way, even if he was getting paid for it.
After all, Harry would be getting paid as well, wouldn’t he?
If Harry had been more observant, he might have seen the trouble coming before it really began. While the food was well-prepared—if just a bit over-done—and Vernon had decided that the occasion merited some wine—three bottles of it. Since Harry had never had wine, and the Dursley’s rarely drank outside of holidays, he had no way of knowing that Marge’s intake was much…larger than usual. In fact, while Vernon and Petunia each had a few small glasses, Marge finished off two bottles by herself, and her eating got gradually sloppier as she went along. By the time pudding was finished and Marge was complimenting Petunia on her efforts, her words were quite slurred and she sounded very sleepy and stupid.
Petunia rose to make coffee for afters, and Dudley got permission to watch television in his room, so Harry kept quiet and began clearing the table. By the time he had filled the sink with soapy water for the washing, Petunia had prepared the coffee tray—and Vernon had produced a bottle of brandy.
When Marge almost put her elbow firmly in her salad dish, Harry was beginning to wonder if the brandy might not be such a good idea. Of course, he could not say anything, but the concern on Aunt Petunia’s face mirrored his own, and she kept trying to shoo him into the kitchen.
Of course, that meant that Marge kept trying to keep Harry tableside.
And she kept criticizing Harry in the baldest manner. She called him skinny. She called him weak. She called him runty, and ratty, and ‘under bred’. She compared Harry to a litter of pups that she’d had her friend drown because they were of weak stock.
“It’s all down to blood, of course,” slurred Marge as she hefted a third (fourth?) glass of brandy. “Blood always tells, I always say! Not that I blame you, Petunia dear, but your sister was clearly of poor stock!”
Harry squeezed his eyes shut and repeated his mantra, but Marge just kept going.
“It’s a shame she ran off with that bum and got herself killed, you know, and you’re certainly a saint for taking in the garbage she left behind >hic<, but perhaps it might have been better if he’d gone the way of his parents. That Potter,” Marge directed to Vernon, who had begun to look distinctly uncomfortable, “you never told me what he did for a living.”
Vernon’s eyes slid sideways toward Harry as he said, “He…didn’t work.”
“As I suspected,” slurred Marge loudly, “he was a good for nothing, no account….”
“He wasn’t!” declared Harry, finally having had enough.
Marge leveled her unsteady gaze on Harry, eyes narrowing dangerously. “What did you say to me, boy?”
“MORE BRANDY!” shouted Vernon in an effort to distract, but Marge was suddenly like Ripper with a bone.
“No, Vernon,” said Marge, suddenly sounding quite sober, “I want to hear what this…boy…has to say about his worthless parents that got themselves killed in a car crash and left him to your tender mercies.”
Harry took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. “They didn’t die in a car crash!”
“They did die in a car crash, you ungrateful little liar,” Marge screamed, her face growing redder and redder, “and they left you to be a burden….”
Marge had stopped speaking very suddenly. For a moment, Harry thought she might be having a stroke—or maybe passed out from drink. But no. Marge began swelling. First her face, which was reddish-purple with rage and brandy, began to fill out like an over-ripe plum. Then her arms began to swell, then her legs, and then her body—all began to fill like a balloon. She began to lift from her chair, also like a balloon, and Ripper began barking and nipping at her feet in distress. The buttons on Marge’s waistcoat began to pop off as she swelled even more, and they pinged off the walls as Vernon and Petunia scampered to move from the table to recover Marge—who was rapidly floating toward the open French doors that led to the back garden.
Vernon grabbed one of Marge’s feet to pull her back into the dining room and Ripper sank his teeth into Vernon’s calf, causing him to scream with pain and almost lose his hold on Marge.
Harry stood, stupefied for a moment. Then the gravity of the situation hit him hard, and Harry ran to his room to grab his wand and hidden schoolbooks and Hedwig’s cage. Then he ran to the boot cupboard under the stairs, and the door burst open with a wave of accidental magic. Harry grabbed his trunk and, after stuffing his belongings—sans wand—into it, ran to the front door.
“GET BACK HERE AND PUT HER RIGHT!!” Vernon bellowed as Harry opened the front door.
Harry stopped and turned, looking his uncle in the eye. “I’m done here,” he said with amazing calm. “I’ve put up with a lot, just for one little thing, but I’m done.” And Harry opened the door and ran into the night.
Harry was several streets away when his actions finally caught up to him, and he collapsed against a low stone wall and began to cry. All he wanted was permission to leave the school on odd weekends with his friends, and he put up with the regular abuse from his aunt and uncle and he put up with extra abuse from his uncle’s sister. He gave what he could, and he stayed silent and hopeful until they pushed him too far—and then he blew up his Aunt Marge!
A low whine from behind him made Harry turn, and he saw the big black dog from earlier that day. Harry sobbed again. “I don’t have any food, boy,” he said, sniffing and wiping his eyes with his shirt sleeve. “I don’t have anything anymore. So I can’t help you, I’m sorry.”
Harry curled into himself, and the black dog crept closer slowly, reaching out to nose Harry’s hand gently. Harry sobbed again and wrapped his shaking arms around the dog’s neck, hugging it close. “I was in trouble last year for doing magic that I didn’t even do, and they said they’d take my wand and leave me behind,” Harry sniffed. “But I actually did the magic this time, so I know I’m in trouble. But I just couldn’t take it anymore! And now I’ve run away, and I don’t have anywhere to go. I don’t have any money, except in Gringotts, and that won’t do me any good here! I just don’t know what to do!”
Harry held onto the scraggly dog and wept, feeling sorry for himself. And the dog? Just allowed it. After a few moments, the dog nosed under Harry’s elbow and thrust his arm high into the air. Harry found that he was still holding his wand, and he looked at it with wide eyes. “I don’t…look, dog, I can’t do more magic….”
In a flash of magic and a loud BANG, a large, luridly purple triple-decker bus appeared from nowhere and parked right in front of him. The door to the bus slid open and a skinny young man in a purple uniform stepped out and said, “Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard. Just stick out your wand hand, step on board and we can take you anywhere you want to go. My name is Stan Shunpike, and I will be your conductor this eve—-here, now! We can’t take dogs on the Bus!”
Harry, amazed, stood up straight and again wiped his sleeve over his eyes. The black dog slunk backwards into the shadows, whining softly, and Harry watched as it disappeared around a corner before turning to face the Bus conductor again. “He, um, actually wasn’t my dog. Can you take me to the Leaky Cauldron?”
Stan Shunpike stared at Harry for a while, making Harry wonder if his scar was showing, before saying, “Sure! Hop aboard! The trip to London is eleven sickles, but for firteen you get chocolate, and for fifteen you get an ‘ot water bottle an’ a toothbrush in the color of your choice.”
Harry shook his head and began to gather his belongings. “No thanks, just the trip, please.” He was certain that he had a few coins in a bag in the bottom of his trunk, left over from his last trip to Diagon Alley the year before. Harry opened the trunk and rummaged around a bit before finding a handful of loose coins rolling around, and he grabbed them and counted them out quickly before shoving some at Stan and climbing onto the Bus. Stan carried his trunk and Hedwig’s cage onto the Bus and Harry looked around to find a seat.
There weren’t any seats, actually; just rows of beds with candles burning in sconces beside them. The walls of the Bus were paneled in dark wood, and the interior looked…odd, but cozy. Many of the beds were occupied by sleeping wizards or witches, and Stan whispered to Harry when he showed him to an empty one right behind a squashy armchair. “This here’s our driver, Mr…?”
“Evans,” Harry answered quickly. “How long will this trip take?”
Stan shrugged. “We have a few stops ahead of you, but we’ll be there before morning. Take ‘er away, Ern!”
With a loud BANG, the bus lurched into motion and Harry found himself thrown flat on his back from the speed of the bus. Harry tried to remain seated upright, but the lurching of the bus made him a bit queasy and the inconsistent scenery outside of the window didn’t help much. Harry found that he had an easier time of it if he just lay flat on his back, so he did, and the journey sped by much quicker. With each stop, the conductor announced the area of arrival and a random witch or wizard staggered toward the front and off the bus. To Harry, they all looked rather ragged around the edges, but that could have been because of the journey. It may have been an efficient way to travel, especially if any of the passengers might have been too tipsy to get home on their own, but it was by no means a smooth way to travel.
Finally the bus again lurched to a stop, and Stan Shunpike announced, “Charing Cross Road, London”, and Harry gathered his meager things together and climbed down from the bus. It was rather late, so the street was empty, but lights could be seen from the windows of The Leaky Cauldron. Harry hastily thanked the conductor and driver and made his way to the entrance of the pub that only Magicals could see. Once inside, with the door closed tightly behind him, Harry heard the BANG of the bus disappearing again—and then another POP, much like Harry heard the previous summer that Dobby the Mad House-Elf made when he appeared and disappeared. Harry inched the door of the pub open a crack to look outside, and found an older gentleman wearing a lime-green suit and cape, clutching a matching bowler hat and pacing in front of the pub. Harry recognized him as the British Minister for Magic—the horrid man who arrested Hagrid the year before for opening the Chamber of Secrets—and Harry at once knew that the man was looking for him because of what happened to Marge.
He was in deep trouble.
Harry quietly closed the door again and turned to make his way to the bar, where the pub-keep was polishing glasses. “Hello,” Harry said softly. “I’d like a room, please, but I won’t be able to pay until tomorrow, when I can get to the bank.”
The pub-keep smiled and opened his mouth to speak when the door slammed open and the oddly-dressed man stormed in. “Tom,” he demanded, “are you sure Mr. Potter would make his way here?”
Harry gulped nervously and turned around. “Were…>cough<…were you looking for me?” he squeaked.
A large warm hand landed gently on Harry’s shoulder, and Harry turned his head to see the pub-keep smiling gently at him. “Minister Fudge,” Tom said softly, “this is Harry Potter, just as I said, and it’ll be my honor to keep an eye on him this summer—also just as I said.”
Fudge straightened slightly as he swept a careful gaze over Harry’s face. He smiled in what may have passed as a genial manner and Harry stepped backwards slightly.
“Harry, my boy, you’ve gotten us all in a tizzy!” Fudge exclaimed. “We’re so glad you’re safe!”
Harry’s eyes narrowed. “Why? So you can safely snap my wand and leave me in the Muggle world? That’s what they said would happen last year, when that House-Elf did all that magic at my aunt’s house and I got blamed. Well, I’ll go, and I’ll not cause any trouble, but I’d like it if you could maybe wait until I can get some money out of my vault tomorrow and change it over to Muggle currency, just so I have something to live off.”
Fudge frowned. “We’re not going to snap your wand, Harry. We’re just glad you’re safe! You’ve caused a bit of bother tonight, but the Ministry has it all in hand. Your uncle’s sister has been deflated and Obliviated, and your aunt and uncle have been soothed. We only wanted to make certain you were safe. There’s a dangerous criminal on the loose, you see, and you won’t be safe on your own.”
Harry frowned, confused. “I don’t understand,” he said. “When I didn’t actually do anything, you threatened to snap my wand, and when I did accidentally do something, you just want to make sure I’m okay.”
Fudge shifted his stance, obviously uncomfortable. “Yes, well, accidents happen, you see. In times of great stress…. In any case, we’ll be happy to give you lodging here for the remainder of the summer, and the Ministry will foot the bill for your stay. You’ll have plenty of time and space to finish your schoolwork, and then you’ll be safely seen to the train station on September First. Will that suit you?”
Harry warily nodded his head. “Yes, thank you, sir.”
Fudge popped his bowler hat on top of his head and clapped his hands together. “Good, good. Now, Tom, what say you get this young man some tea and see him settled into a warm room. I’m certain he’ll feel better after a good night’s sleep. I’ll just be going, now that he’s in good hands.”
Harry watched, bewildered, as Fudge disappeared into a fireplace before following Tom the Pub-keep up a narrow staircase to a wooden door on the third floor. Tom produced a ring of old-fashioned keys and used one to unlock the door before slipping it off the ring and handing it to Harry. Harry pushed the door open and dragged his trunk inside, stopping when the soft hooting of an owl caught his attention. Harry turned to the window and grinned widely as Hedwig flew from a perch and landed on his shoulder.
As Harry happily greeted his first friend, Tom smiled warmly and tucked his hands into his trouser pockets. “That’s a good owl you have there, Harry. She turned up here right after we got word that you’d gone from your home tonight. I got her some water and treats, but she refused to leave the room. I think she was waiting for you.”
Harry breathed a sigh of relief. “Thanks for that, sir. I don’t know what I’d have done without her.”
Harry softly petted Hedwig’s chest and allowed her to ‘groom’ his untidy hair, and he never heard Tom leave—or the door closing behind him.
2—The Light of Day
July 2, 1993
When Harry woke to a sunbeam warming his eyelids—and a soft pillow under his head—he was momentarily confused as to where he was. It was only after he put on his glasses and glanced around the room that the memories of the night before came back to him, and he again began to panic. It was only when Hedwig lit upon his knee and began to ‘groom’ his messy hair that he began to calm.
He was safe. He was in a warm, comfortable room in the Leaky Cauldron. For some reason, the Ministry had dealt with the issue at the Dursley’s home, and Harry didn’t have to go back—possibly not until after the end of term the following summer. He was, for a short time anyway, free.
He was free.
Harry sighed in relief and gently petted Hedwig’s head. “I’m okay, girl. I promise. I just forgot for a moment where I was.” Hedwig hooted softly in response and flew to her perch, allowing Harry to rise from bed and begin to get ready for his day.
First on his list was a long, hot shower, something he was never allowed at the Dursley home. Certainly he could shower while at school, but he was indoctrined to take quick, barely warm showers, so he rarely indulged until well after Christmas, and then he had to quickly get out of that habit before returning to Privet Drive at the end of term. After a mostly scalding shower, Harry dressed in somewhat clean clothes and mentally noted that he should gather some money from his vault and possibly buy some casual clothing that he wouldn’t mind being seen in while residing in Diagon Alley. Dudley’s hand-me-downs were not the sort of things he was actually proud of, and Harry couldn’t fathom wearing his school uniforms during the rest of summer. The last thing on his list was to find an appropriate place to do his summer homework. He didn’t want to stay cooped-up inside the pub all the time, no matter how comfortable his room; there was sunshine to be had on the Alley, and plenty of open-air cafes that might allow a student to spend a day or so.
Harry ate a meager breakfast of bacon and toast with jam, followed by a cup of strong tea. He wasn’t really feeling up to eating more, and Old Tom seemed to understand because he didn’t nag the way Mrs. Weasley might have. Of course, thinking of Mrs. Weasley made Harry think of Ron, and then of Hermione, and Harry decided right away that he would definitely NOT be writing to his friends to tell them of his situation. Hermione would nag at him to go home, because he was supposed to be there, and Ron would see things as a grand adventure—and then would be jealous that Harry got to be on his own for most of a summer and Ron did not. There would, Harry figured, be time enough for moaning and lectures once aboard the Hogwarts Express on September First.
“Thank you for the lovely breakfast, Tom,” said Harry as the old man gathered his empty plates. “I’ll be going to Gringotts this morning. I know that the Minister said he would be footing my bill, but I don’t feel right about that, so I’d rather pay my own way.”
Old Tom winked at him. “Fancy being independent for a while, Mr. Harry?”
Harry shook his head. “Not exactly. I remember seeing Minister Fudge arrest Hagrid without cause last year, and I’d rather not be beholden to him in any way. He seems a bit…fickle to me.”
Old Tom nodded seriously. “Politicians often are, Harry. All right, I’ll accept your payment over the Ministry’s, and I’ll stash that aside to return after the summer has passed. Mind, you’d best keep an eye out while in the Alley, and do your best to stay safe. I doubt Sirius Black would show himself around here because there are Aurors about, but I’ll be worrying over you all the same.”
“Thanks,” said Harry, red in the face, “I appreciate that.”
Harry kept his head down as he made his way to the bank, knowing full well how people would react upon seeing his scar. He’d have to get a hat or something when he got his new clothes, because he really didn’t want people fawning over him—or lecturing him—all summer.
Once inside the bank, Harry waited patiently for an available teller, mulling over in his mind how to best address the goblins to make a good impression. Hagrid obviously was very brusque and business-like, but he also obviously used Harry’s name, and Dumbledore’s, to make himself seem important, and Harry was not with Mrs. Weasley in the bank the year before, but he’d rather thought the woman might have talked-over the goblins in their own institution. Harry didn’t want to do either; he wanted to be taken seriously and to be respected, but he also wanted to be respectful. The patron in front of him was called, and then it was Harry’s turn. Harry approached the teller window and cleared his throat softly.
“Hello and good-day to you, sir,” Harry said softly but clearly. “My name is Harry Potter, and I’d like, if at all possible, to see my account manager—if I have one.”
The goblin stared at him shrewdly for a moment before stepping back from the window. “One moment, please,” was the only verbal acknowledgment of Harry’s request before the teller moved away completely. Moments later, the teller returned with another goblin beside him, this one dressed all in black rather than the black-and-white pinstripe of the regular tellers.
“Mr. Potter?” asked the second goblin. Harry nodded, and the goblin said, “My name is Sharperock, and I have the esteemed honor of being the Potter Account Manager. If you would come with me, please.” The goblin turned and walked away from the window, leaving Harry to follow quickly.
Sharperock led Harry down a brightly-lit corridor and into a richly appointed office. Sharperock took a seat behind the large oak desk and motioned for Harry to be seated in a comfortable leather chair in front of him. “I’ve been trying to reach you for some time, Mr. Potter,” Sharperock said sternly. “Since shortly before your eleventh birthday, in fact—around the time you should have received your first Hogwarts letter. Our inquiries went unanswered.”
Harry flushed deeply. “It’s just as well, Mr. Sharperock, sir. I live with my Muggle aunt and uncle, and when I got my Hogwarts letters, they hid them at first and then they took me on the run to escape them. They hate magic, you see,” Harry said hurriedly at the incredulous look from Sharperock, “and they want nothing to do with it. If they’d had any idea that I had an account, any account, they’d try to bleed me dry and then I’d have had no money to pay for school supplies—assuming they would have let me attend after fleecing my vault.”
Sharperock glowered and sat back into his large chair. “I see. At any point did they indicate that they had received any letters from a bank in regards to you?”
Harry shook his head. “No sir. And I never noticed any at all, either, and I was the one to bring in the mail every day.”
Sharperock scowled again. “That means that any bank inquiries may have been misdirected by a Magical Guardian. Are you aware of whom your Magical Guardian might be, since your godfather was incarcerated?”
Harry’s eyes widened. “I have a godfather? And he’s in jail? No, sir, I’ve no idea.”
Sharperock waved his hand in negation. “It is of no consequence at the moment, Mr. Potter. As you are underage, I shall continue to maintain investments as I have, if you wish it. Your affairs are in order at the moment, and you continue to receive dividends and interest in a healthy manner.” Harry boggled at what he was hearing, but Sharperock seemed not to notice as he continued speaking. “Your account is quite healthy at the moment and the vaults are in no danger of falling void. So, how can I help you, Mr. Potter?”
“Vaults?” Harry squeaked. “As in, more than my school vault?”
Finally sensing Harry’s bewilderment, Sharperock leaned forward behind his desk. “Mr. Potter,” he asked carefully, “am I to understand that you are only aware of your school trust vault, and have no idea about any of your family’s other holdings?”
“No, sir,” Harry stammered, “I don’t. I thought the school vault was all that I had. That’s why I came in today: I wanted to make sure I had enough to cover a long stay at The Leaky Cauldron and to buy some new casual clothes so that I don’t have to wear my cousin’s old stuff while I’m here.”
This time Sharperock’s eyes widened. “I dare say, Mr. Potter, that you could buy The Leaky Cauldron in its entirety many times over, and I shouldn’t worry over clothing at all. But this is a shock to you, I can see, so why don’t I have Griphook escort you to your trust vault, and you can take the money for clothes and a bit of rent, and then you can have a day or two to mull this over.”
Harry gulped and nodded, before frowning. “That’s another problem, sir,” he said hesitantly. “I don’t have my vault key, you see.”
Sharperock made a notation on a piece of parchment. “I see. And where did you last have it?”
“I’ve never actually had it,” said Harry softly. “My first trip here, Hagrid had my key somehow, and last year, Mrs. Weasley had my key. I don’t know how or why, but I’ve never had it. Which is, I suppose, a good thing, you know, considering my aunt and uncle.”
Sharperock frowned and made another notation on the parchment. Once he was finished writing, he waved a hand over the parchment and it glowed orange for a short moment. “Mr. Potter,” said Sharperock as he placed the parchment directly in front of Harry, “may I prick your finger for a drop of blood? Doing so, in this manner, will recall all vault keys in your name, preventing anyone but you access to your vaults.”
Harry gamely offered his left hand for the draw and asked, “Do you think someone would steal from me—or has stolen from me?”
Sharperock frowned as he produced a rather sharp dagger. “I think Gringotts’ security protocols would prevent direct theft, as they have always done, but anyone with access to your keys is suspect, especially since you have no direct knowledge of your familial holdings. You should have been…but that’s something for another day, I think.” Once the single drop of blood hit the parchment, it glowed orange, then green, then bright gold. Once the glow had faded, Harry saw three golden keys sitting on the parchment. “Hmmm,” said Sharperock as he examined the keys, “all seems in order here.” Then he picked them up and placed them into a stone bowl and set them on fire, melting them completely. Harry watched, mesmerized, as the molten metal was poured from the stone bowl into a blank mould, and then hardened into a key—with liquid metal left over.
Sharperock threaded the new key onto a dull chain and handed it to Harry. “Keep this close to you, Mr. Potter, and allow no one else to handle it. Once you use it, it shall be keyed to your personal Magical Signature, so no one else can use it, so there shall be no problems there.”
“Thank you, Mr. Sharperock,” Harry said as he slipped the chain over his head. “Why did you melt the other keys, and what will happen to the rest of the metal?”
Sharperock grinned toothily. “I melted the other keys to rid them of foreign Magical Signatures. Because they were in the care of others in the past, those people could have used the keys again. It’s in you, at the moment, to trust indiscriminately, and that is a wonderful trait for a child, but allowing anyone outside of your direct family access to your family vaults is not a good idea. As to the remnants of the molten keys, that shall be used to make other vault keys to be used by members of the family that you shall create when you are older. They were originally created by Potter Family Magic, and that same shall be used once you marry and have children so that the Potter Family Magic shall not be wasted.”
Harry had a lot to think about when he left the bank, that was certain. At the moment, he had a pouch full of coins and a shopping list in his head, and he headed to a clothiers that he had noticed long ago but had never visited: Twillfit and Tattings. From the display in the window, everything inside was more casual that what he would find in Madam Malkins, and Harry had no desire to spend the summer in formal—or even semi-formal—robes. They were fine for school, but he really didn’t want to think about Hogwarts just yet.
Opening the glass-paned door, a chime announced Harry’s presence, and a smartly-dressed middle-aged wizard came from the back room to greet him. “Welcome to Twillfit and Tattings, young man. How may I be of service?”
Harry grinned at the racked displays of casual trousers, buttoned shirts, and soft-looking jumpers. “I’m in need of a decent wardrobe, good sir.”
Several hours later, Harry was relieved to be informed that his parcels would be magically delivered to his room at The Leaky Cauldron, and he left the shop empty-handed but wearing clothing that actually fit, including a nondescript black cap that Harry could wear low over his forehead, covering his scar without looking odd or out of place. Twillfit even provided comfortable leather shoes and the shop-keeper offered to special-order trainers for him if he wanted.
Harry’s next stop was Flourish and Blotts. While the next booklist hadn’t been mailed yet, Harry was sensible enough to know that several of the books would be easy to find: Standard Book of Spells, Year Three, for instance. Harry figured that, if he got his regular summer homework done soon enough, he could start reading ahead for the coming term.
While those books were easy enough to find, Harry spent a good amount of time searching for books on Parseltongue and Parselmagic, to no avail. He’d finally had to ask Mr. Flourish about them, and that’s when Harry found out that the British Ministry had declared Parselmagic a Dark Art. Harry wouldn’t be able to buy the books there, as Flourish and Blotts was a Ministry-Sanctioned bookshop.
Mr. Flourish was happy to suggest that Harry might ask his account manager at Gringotts to order them for him, as the goblins were not beholden to the Ministry in any way. Harry said he’d consider it.
By that time, several hours had passed since breakfast and Harry was becoming quite hungry. There were several cafes and sandwich shops along the Alley, and a few of them had outdoor tables, so Harry bought soup and a sandwich and sat watching shoppers walking from shop to shop. That simple black cap certainly was a good investment, because nobody paid him any mind as he sat there, and Harry was happy to enjoy the anonymity of the moment. There were no other older school-aged children visible, and the children that Harry did see were still young enough to be holding their mums’ hands.
But Harry didn’t feel lonely. He might have been alone at that moment, but he had Hedwig back in his room and he may have had a new ally in Sharperock. He knew that once school began, Hermione would no doubt berate him for running off, and Ron would moan about Harry’s ‘adventure’, so Harry was just planning on enjoying the quiet of the now.
After his lunch, Harry felt like having something sweet, so he meandered over to Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour for a treat. Florean Fortescue was a large genial man with an easy smile, and he took time to chat a bit with Harry after serving him a peanut butter sundae. When Harry mentioned that his least-favorite classes were Potions and History of Magic, and both because of the instructors, Mr. Fortescue declared that he was a rabid history buff and amateur Historian, and that he would be happy to allow Harry to sit at his outdoor tables to do his homework.
July 3-7, 1993
The next few days were easy ones for Harry. He had breakfast in the pub common room, alongside several of the Alley business people, then he wandered a few of the shops just to see new stock (and possible birthday gifts for his friends), and then he spent his afternoons at Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, sitting in the sun and doing his reading and essays while slurping over-flowing sundaes delivered by Mr. Fortescue personally. During that time, Harry could ask questions about things in his History text that he didn’t quite understand but could not ask his professor about, and Mr. Fortescue would offer interesting tidbits for Harry’s essays that were not mentioned in detail in the texts. Once dinnertime approached, Harry returned to The Leaky Cauldron for a hot meal—and to listen to the other patrons discuss noteworthy subjects—before retiring to his room to spend the evening with Hedwig.
Harry did not receive mail, not even the promised postcards from Hermione, but he did receive the Daily Prophet, which he read every day to keep up with the news. From what he could gather from that, the Ministry Aurors were no closer to capturing Sirius Black, so everyone was warned to be on the lookout and to inform DMLE officials if they spotted anything. There were unsubstantiated ‘sightings’ in various places, but nothing concrete, and Harry thought they were too widespread to be really taken seriously. Harry was curious, of course, because the escape of Sirius Black was being covered on the Muggle news as well, but nobody was saying anything specific besides that the man was ‘dangerous’ for some reason. Harry remembered that Azkaban was supposed to be impossible to escape from, so he was also curious as to how it happened, but he certainly wasn’t going to go out of his way to find out.
Harry also took some more time, after some deep thought, to visit with Sharperock about the Potter accounts. Sharperock always seemed happy to take time from his busy day to answer any questions Harry had about the accounts and vaults, but he seemed reluctant to offer any personal information about Harry’s family. This merely led Harry to believe that he just hadn’t asked the proper questions yet. Harry wasn’t concerned, really. He had plenty of time to consider what the ‘right’ questions might be, and besides—Harry was almost finished with his summer homework. He’d only been on the Alley for a few days and he’d finished essays for all of his classes but Potions, and he’d soon be picking up the extra books he needed for that by the end of the week. Finishing all of his homework before July was half gone would have been a great birthday present to himself.
Another good gift to himself would be to learn how to care for the Potter Estate. Harry would not have been able to do much while he was still in school, but he could begin learning now so that he’d be better prepared for when he left Hogwarts. Another visit to Flourish and Blotts to order books on estate management, and another visit to Sharperock to learn which investment books to order, and Harry was getting ready to grow up—all at the ripe age of almost-thirteen.
“It’s good that you’ve finally asked about your investment planning, Mr. Potter,” said Sharperock one bright afternoon. “I can teach you so much. Much more, in fact, than your father was interested in learning.”
Harry was stunned. “My father was never interested in the family accounts or estate?”
Sharperock shook his head. “Your father was happy to leave everything in the hands of your grandfather, Fleamont, who quadrupled the family fortune by creating and marketing the Sleakeasy Hair Tonic. He made even more money for the Potter Fortune when he sold the patent at his retirement. I am, of course, an excellent investor, Mr. Potter, and Fleamont Potter worked alongside me to build the Potter fortune up from what his father had left. The Potter Family is an Ancient and Noble Family, of course, but several hundred years ago the fortune was allowed to languish. The name Potter had always carried a certain prestige, and the Potter Family was held in great esteem in the Wizengamot, where they held a great deal of political power, but until 1930, they merely lived within their means.”
Harry brightened a bit. “I didn’t know my grandfather created Sleakeasy. I know a lot of the girls in my House at school use it, because they talk about it in the Common Room. Don’t you have to be good at potion work to invent stuff like that?”
Sharperock nodded. “Yes, Fleamont was a noted potions master. I think his journals are in storage in the main Family Vault, should you be interested.”
Harry bit his lower lip gently, considering his words carefully before asking, “Do you think there might be other types of journals there? About, oh, odd…magical…abilities?”
Sharperock stared at Harry for a long moment. “What possible magical abilities are you interested in?”
Harry gave Sharperock an earnest look. “I can talk to snakes, Mr. Sharperock, but I didn’t know it was a real magical thing. The first time it happened, I just thought I was making it all up in my head because, you know, I was lonely at the time and had no friends.”
Sharperock nodded sagely. “Parseltongue and Parselmagic are indeed rare abilities, Mr. Potter, and are almost unheard of in Britain.”
Harry blushed and nodded his head. “Everyone at school was quick to tell me that Parselmouths are all Dark; that the Dark Lord Vol…um, that you-know-who was a Parselmouth and that everyone would say I was Dark like he was.”
Sharperock sneered and began scribbling on a piece of parchment. “Mr. Potter,” he said without looking up, “you will find that Britain is a bit…backwards, when it comes to some of the Light Arts. Parselmagic, for example, is a very Light Art, and Parselmages are revered in many parts of the world. However, as with any spellwork, spells that are historically Light may be used in a Dark manner.” Sharperock looked up and captured Harry with his glittering eyes. “You can, you see, kill with a piercing charm, if it’s done correctly, and that is not a Dark spell at all. The problem comes with Parseltongue, which very few understand. So when a Dark wizard who can speak Parseltongue kills with a spoken spell, which could actually be a Light spell used darkly, the general public will brand all of Parselmagic as Dark.”
Harry nodded slowly. “So, for instance, Dark Lord Whatsit could Accio, oh, every kitchen knife in a house toward a target, but if he did it speaking Parseltongue and others overheard it, they’d think it was actually a Dark Parselspell to conjure knives?”
Sharperock grinned meanly. “Yes, that it what I mean. In other countries, Parselmouths are respected. Parselhealing is a worthy Light Art that only a very few can practice. And yes, before you ask, Parseltongue is an inherited attribute.” He passed Harry the parchment, on which was written the titles of several books. “These books will not be available through Flourish and Blotts, of course, but if you are interested I shall attempt to procure them for you. The first three were written and published in India, but I believe there are English translations available for a price, and the last two were written in Australia. Importing them into Britain may be difficult, but shipping them from one Gringotts branch to another may be merely…expensive.”
Harry pocketed the parchment quickly. “Thank you, Mr. Sharperock. I’ll think on it for a bit. What other abilities run in my family? Do you know?”
Sharperock leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers together over his chest. “Well, from all accounts your family was very fair-minded. The Potters traditionally married for love, with no regard for bloodlines or inherited wealth. And one of your forefathers was known to have publically denounced the sitting Minister for Magic of the time for refusing to help Muggles during World War One. That is, I personally believe, a legacy to be very proud of. Once you have reached your second Magical Maturity, around age fourteen, I can take you into your main Family Vault and you can chat with any magical portraits that are in hold there. Unless, of course, you manage to find a reputable Magical Guardian to take you before then.”
That was another thing that rankled for Harry: there was no official Magical Guardian on record for Harry, and yet Albus Dumbledore had gained access to Harry’s vault keys somehow. There was also the matter of the Potters’ wills, which were never read officially, and which may have mentioned who Harry’s parents intended to be Harry’s Magical Guardian. Since learning about the sealing of his parents’ wills, Harry had been wondering what else Dumbledore was hiding from him. Certainly Harry hadn’t known about a Potter Family fortune, or any of the many investments and patents that he now held thanks to Sharperock and the other Gringotts investors. Now Harry understood that there might have been other Parselmouths in the Potter family, and that was something else Dumbledore hid, implying that Harry had ‘absorbed’ the ability from Voldemort when his parents were killed.
And Harry had believed him!
Harry chatted with Sharperock for another half an hour, until Sharperock’s next appointment was due, and then Harry headed out to the Alley for a bit of window shopping. He had plenty of time to find birthday gifts for his best friends, but it never hurt to plan and to make lists. Hermione taught him that.
4—A New and Different Shop
July 9, 1993
Harry had been spending practically every day on Diagon Alley for over a week, since he had run in a panic from his aunt’s house after blowing up his uncle’s sister, Marge, and he’d been into just about every shop there was—excepting the shops that specialized in women’s clothing—so Harry was certain that he knew every shop there was on the main street, Diagon Alley, and the main side-street, Hexagon Alley—but definitely not Knockturn Alley, because Harry didn’t need that hassle again—but as he left Quality Quidditch Supply his eye was caught by a flash of a sign in the window of a shop he’d never noticed before.
The sign read ‘Planning Logs 4 Sale’, and the shop seemed to be a bookshop, but not one Harry had ever noticed before. Since Harry knew that Hermione enjoyed a good planner—she was, for a word, obsessed—he decided to check out the shop immediately. His homework was finished finally, even the Potions essays, and he wasn’t really ready to start reading ahead on the new books, so he figured he could see what he could find in this new place.
There was no name on the front of the shop, but the window display was filled with ledgers and planners of all sizes. Once inside, Harry saw rows of shelves filled with books, and each row had a hand-lettered sign listing what might be found there: History, Romantic Fiction, Noble Families and History, Potions and Potion News, Periodicals. Harry wandered the rows, browsing unencumbered, and he found several books that were on the list Sharperock gave him—the books that he wouldn’t be able to find locally about Parselmagic. In fact, Harry found three of the five books that Sharperock had recommended on that topic, as well as a book on the history of beauty and grooming potions and several on Potions in general that could only help him with his Potions homework, should he decide to revise the essays before handing them in.
“I see you’ve quite a large load there, young sir,” said a wavering voice behind Harry, causing him to jump slightly. Harry turned to find an old, stooped woman wearing a dark house-dress, white apron, and sparkly shawl, a black snood holding back her wiry steel-grey hair. “Would you possibly be needing a basket?”
“Um, yes,” Harry stammered, “I think I just might. I’m not usually one for buying books, but there’s a lot of interesting stuff in here.”
The wizened woman cackled softly. “Aye, there is, indeed, a lot of interestin’ stuff about in this shop. Were there anything in particular you might be looking for?”
Harry set his haul on the small counter at the back of the shop and thought for a moment of the two other books on Parselmagic that he didn’t find. “Perhaps there are some things. I got a list from a friend, but they’re not books I’d normally be able to find around here. But you had most of them….” Harry laid his hand on the cover of A Delicate History of Snakes by Azeem Byatshani, and the shopkeep cackled again.
“Do you speak, or are you merely curious?” The shopkeep hissed softly, and Harry started because he understood clearly the words that were said, even though they were definitely not English.
Harry again looked at the cover of the book, and the artful illustration of a snake on the cover. Concentrating on the snake, Harry returned, “I speak, but I long to understand.”
With a soft pat on the back of his hand, the shopkeep pulled a basket from behind the counter and placed Harry’s haul into it. “If you’ll let me see that list, I’ll see if I have the rest of them—or any others that your friend might not have known about. There’s not many who would look for those books, so there’s not many I would sell to.”
Harry narrowed his eyes at her. “I won’t let anyone know where I got them, if you’re worried about that.”
“Oh,” she cackled again, “I’m not worried about that. If you weren’t a Speaker, you’d not be able to read them, so they’d be of no use to you.”
Harry quickly opened A Delicate History and read a few passages from the middle of the book. The printing was…different…for some of the passages; the words were quite legible, but they looked slightly odd.
“Aye, young sir,” said the shopkeep, “that’d be what Parselspeak looks like when it’s wrote down. I can see that you can read it, but to anyone else it’d be just scrawling scribbles. Now, why don’t I take a look at that list, and you can prowl about to see if anything else interests you.”
Harry handed over the note written in Sharperock’s tidy scrawl and watched as the shopkeep read it and bustled off to the far side of the shop, where crates and chests of books were piled rather haphazardly against the wall. Harry shook his head slightly and turned back to the shelves. Harry studied titles on the spines of books, occasionally pulling the odd one from the shelf to flip through, and he actually found two on the history of the Wizengamot that he thought Hermione might enjoy. He also found a copy of The Illustrated Guide to Quidditch for Ron. Harry was almost certain that Ron didn’t actually have a copy of it, because if he had, Harry would have seen it when Ron was trying to explain the game to him during First Year.
While Harry perused the shelves, the clouds outside shifted and a shaft of late-afternoon sunlight came through the window and caught something in the corner behind Harry—something quite glittery. The reflected shine caught Harry’s attention and he turned to see a sparkly black curtain covering a doorway. Curious, Harry made his way toward it and pulled it back to reveal another room full of bookshelves. Those books, however, had no names or titles on the spines as far as Harry could see.
“Oh, young sir,” said the shopkeep from behind Harry, “I’d be very careful going in there to shop.”
Harry looked over his shoulder. “Why is that, if you don’t mind telling?”
The shopkeep gestured toward the alcove. “All the books in there are highly personalized. They come in sets, you see, and each has a personal meaning to the reader. If a set calls to you, of course I can’t prevent you from buying, but you must be certain that you really want them. And I can’t just sell because you want them, you must understand. Each of those books is meant for someone, but each someone is not necessarily meant for those books. It can be dangerous to have those books, y’see.”
Harry frowned and returned his attention to the room behind the curtain. “Is, um, would it be okay if I looked? I mean…there’s something…in there….”
“Oh, dearie,” the shopkeep sighed. “Go on, then. Just be very careful and heed the warnings and rules: you are not beholden to any books you find, so don’t let them pressure you.”
“What are the rules?” Harry asked as he pulled back the curtain.
The shopkeep sighed again. “You can only read one book at a time, and you can’t start a later book until the earlier one is finished. Also, if there’s a set, I have to sell the whole thing. They live together, you see, and they can’t be split apart.” As Harry stepped one foot beyond the curtain, she said, “And you might not be able to read none at all, if they weren’t meant for you.”
The room behind the curtain was not as large as Harry once thought. It really was little more than an alcove or closet, and all of the walls were covered by shelves—even the one that contained the curtained doorway. Harry started to the direct left of the door, running his fingers lightly over the darkened spines of the bound volumes. There was no dust on any of these shelves, unlike the rest of the shop, and there was an odd energy around the books. In fact, by the time Harry was a quarter of the way around the alcove, he’d been physically repulsed by several of the small collections. It was a curious feeling, Harry thought, to feel ‘life’ under the bindings of the books. It was quite unlike the brief time he’d spent in the Restricted Section in the Hogwarts library; in there, the books that didn’t want to be read screamed at him rather than pushing him away. In fact, several of these books even willingly came when he pulled them from the shelves, but none of the covers opened.
Harry was almost back to where he started when he saw them: a set of books, bound in black leather, adorned with a single silver lightning bolt on the spines. There were seven of them: two rather thin, two rather thick, and three in-between. And they all just seemed to…call…to Harry. They didn’t repulse him when he touched them; rather they seemed to warm at his touch. As an experiment, Harry pulled the first book from the shelf and it came easily enough. The cover even opened, which didn’t happen at all before. Harry swallowed dryly before closing the cover without turning a page, and he turned to see the shopkeep standing in the curtained doorway wringing her hands. “I think, perhaps, that I should also buy these, if you don’t mind.”
An odd sad expression crossed the lined surface of the shopkeep’s face. “Remember, young sir, you’re not beholden to them. You can take what you’d already chosen, and you can walk away now, and there’ll be no harm.”
Harry nodded. “I understand that, ma’am, I really do. But I think I need these. So I’ll take the lot, if you don’t mind. I understand that you’ve tried to warn me, but I think it’ll be alright.”
The shopkeep smiled sadly and stepped back into the main part of the shop. “Of course, young sir. Shall I wrap your purchases, or would you rather buy a carry-all?”
5—A Life Laid Bare
July 9-11, 1993
The late afternoon sun was beginning to set when Harry left the odd little bookshop with his featherlite basket of books. He hadn’t realized that he’d spent so long in there, and vowed to never tell Hermione about it because she’d feel incredibly validated over the whole thing, since she was always pressing him and Ron to spend more time in the library at school.
For some reason, Harry felt compelled to open one of the odd books he found in the alcove behind the shimmering curtain, and he reached into the basket as he rounded the corner to Quality Quidditch Supply. Pulling it from the basket, Harry carefully used the thumb of his left hand to flip open the leather cover, only to see a blank title page. Several blank pages, actually, and Harry was wondering if he’d somehow been scammed into buying a set of blank journals, at least until a light breeze kicked up and ruffled a few of the pages, and Harry saw words.
Words that Harry never would have thought to see in a book.
The Boy Who Lived
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
Harry stared at the page in front of him for a long moment, reading the words that oddly detailed events that must have happened before he was born. Or at least happened before his parents were killed.
Harry knew there were books written about him. Hell, Hermione Granger brought that fact out in the open the very first time he ever spoke to her. Harry even looked up some of them—the ‘history’ books, not the pure fiction children’s books. Harry had been fascinated by what the Wizarding world claimed to know about him, so he’d looked, and all of those books had one very important thing in common: none of them knew about where he lived outside of Hogwarts, or with whom. He’d told Ron and Hermione, of course, but only after they’d become friends, and while Ron and his brothers did rescue him from Privet Drive the previous summer, Harry very much doubted they knew enough about his aunt and uncle to be that specific about their proclivities—or crass enough to have them published.
Harry leaned against the wall of a shop, out of the way of late shoppers on the Alley, and read more; read about how Vernon barely noticed strangely dressed people on the street the day of November First, 1981, or how Vernon steadfastly ignored all of the owls flying about—owls that the evening news had remarked upon, along with fireworks too early for Guy Fawkes Day. Harry had only just got to the point where there was an odd cat sitting at the end of Privet Drive, a cat that Harry suspected might be Professor McGonagall, when the light breeze increased into a slightly-strong wind and Harry’s hair was blown into his face. Harry closed the book and reached to adjust his cap when he found it missing from his head.
Harry groaned, thinking he probably lost it in that odd shop, so he gathered his basket close to his chest and backtracked around the corner, hoping at the very least to be able to ask the shopkeep about the books.
The shop wasn’t there. Harry stood in the spot where he thought it was, but there was no bookshop. His black cap, however, was lying on the cobblestones of Hexagon Alley, in front of where Harry thought the entrance of the shop should have been.
Harry quickly checked his basket, but all of the selections were there, including the seven mysterious books with no titles, so he hadn’t imagined the whole thing. Harry dug to the bottom of the basket until he found the receipt listing all of his choices, and all titles were there—except those seven—and the total of the purchase, which was rather a lot for Harry to have spent on just books, and the name of the bookshop, Augury Books and Sundries.
Harry sighed, thinking about the strangeness of his life, and placed the cap back on his head, adjusting it to cover his forehead and scar, and then made his way back to The Leaky Cauldron. Harry decided to take his dinner in his room, to spend time with Hedwig, and to read that freaking book.
Harry’s eyes were dry and gritty. He’d been reading all night long, sometimes out-loud to Hedwig, mostly silently to himself, and he finished the first book and was quite disturbed. There were chapter titles like “Letters From No One”, “The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-quarters”, “The Mirror of Erised”, and “The Man with Two Faces”, and all of the chapters were very, creepily detailed, and they told the complete story about Harry’s life just before and during his first year at Hogwarts.
As there was no book title, nor even a copyright date, Harry had no idea where that book had come from. There was also no author listed, so he couldn’t even begin to think how he’d go about looking it up.
But he was completely drawn in, and as dawn began to lighten the sky outside his room window, Harry found himself reaching for the next book. It was hard to find, really. At first, Harry tried one of the thicker books, but it wouldn’t open. Neither did the medium-thick book he chose next, but the second thin book did open for him, and there were words printed on the pages.
It began with the words, The Worst Birthday, and many hours—and snacks and bathroom breaks—later it ended with the words, “And together they walked back through the gateway to the Muggle world”, and it was even more horrifying because all of that stuff had just. Freaking. Happened. To. Him!
Every bloody word was Harry’s second year at Hogwarts—and part of the summer before—including meeting Dobby the Deranged House-Elf, the losing argument with the Whomping Willow, and pulling the Sword of Gryffindor out of the Sorting Hat in a dank sub-dungeon deep under Hogwarts.
Harry’s whole body was shaking and he was absently rubbing the place on his arm where the basilisk fang had sunk in, and Hedwig was hooting softly in distress because she couldn’t calm him. In a fit of desperation, Hedwig flew to the bathroom and retrieved a wet towel and dropped it on Harry’s head.
Harry shook the towel off and took a deep breath, releasing it with a shudder. “Thanks, girl, I just wasn’t dealing with it very well. I’m sorry I worried you.” Harry returned the towel to the bathroom and washed cool water over his face. In the mirror, he could see the reflection of the basket of books in the room behind him, and he wondered which was the third one—and what was in it. Both of the previous books began in the summer right before the start of the school term, and that would be right about now.
And right about then, Harry realized that those books could hold Harry’s salvation or doom, and that he needed help to deal with them. Harry needed to find someone he could trust. Grabbing a notebook and pen from his trunk, Harry quickly and carefully penned a letter to Sharperock, explaining that he had found something possibly dangerous, and that he felt they could be somehow dangerous to him. Harry said the item might be magical in some way, and that he needed someone he trusted to help him deal with them, and would it be possible to meet with Sharperock very, very soon. Once the letter was finished, Harry signed it and rolled it into a scroll and handed it off to Hedwig.
“I need you to take this to Gringotts, please. You know who to look for, and I’d like you to wait for a response. Mr. Sharperock is the only one I think I can trust right now.”
Hedwig hooted sadly, but accepted the letter and flew out the window into the bright afternoon.
Harry, in the mean time, decided that he needed a shower, a meal, and a nap, so he took immediate action on the first point and ran a shower as hot as he could stand. Twenty minutes later, Harry was eating fish and chips in the pub common room and watching people Floo in and out of The Leaky Cauldron. Old Tom, the publican, could tell that something was bothering Harry, but he wisely decided to leave Harry alone. Harry had, after all, looked quite troubled when he showed up many days prior, and everything seemed to work out just fine, so Tom figured this would as well.
When Harry was finished, he thanked Tom for the food and returned to his room for a much needed nap. Hedwig had not returned, so he just figured that Sharperock was busy or not available, and he toed off his shoes and climbed onto the comfortable bed. He was asleep before his head hit the pillow.
6—Turn the Page
July 13-14, 1993
Harry woke, ironically enough, as the sun was setting on another day. He had managed a long nap of several hours and was now very hungry. Again.
Hedwig was still not back in his room, so Harry donned his shoes and tidied his hair, taking care to secure his cap over his brow, and he headed downstairs to the pub. As he reached the bottom of the stairs, Harry changed his mind about eating in the common room and exited out the back of the bar area to the entrance of Diagon Alley. There was a café near Fortescue’s that Harry had become fond of, and he was suddenly in the mood for their soup and sandwich meal, already visualizing the layers of roast beef on the soft bun.
That café had the added bonus of being adjacent to the best ice cream Harry had ever tasted—not that he’d tasted much in his lifetime.
It was full dark when Harry was finished eating his evening meal, and the gaslights were lit all along the Alley. The effect was quite charming, and Harry wondered how many of his friends from school had ever seen Diagon Alley in the dark. He even wondered how it would look at night and covered in snow. Probably like an old-fashioned postcard.
The evening was warm and slightly foggy, and the gaslight was flickering warmth on the street as people bustled from shop to shop for last-minute items. Harry smiled as he entered Fortescue’s, holding the door open for a mother and two young children. Inside, the staff worked quickly to serve a room full of customers, and Harry patiently stood in line debating with himself what choice he would make when it was his turn at the counter. Harry had, over the last week, tried many of the regular Fortescue selections and had at least tasted many of the new concoctions that Mr. Fortescue came up with, all in an attempt to find a ‘favorite’ thing. Harry was quite fond of the peanut butter and raspberry cone that Hagrid had originally bought him on his first visit to Diagon Alley, and that was his regular choice for when he was doing essays on the patio, but Harry wondered if he liked it because Hagrid gave it to him, or if he really liked it because it was his taste. Fortunately, Harry took his time with his essays, so he’d had plenty of chances to try new and interesting flavors.
“Good evening, young sir,” said Mr. Fortescue when Harry reached the front of the line, “and what can I get for you tonight?”
Harry liked how Mr. Fortescue didn’t say his name out loud, even though he was quite friendly and familiar when Harry was asking him questions about historical events. “I think I’d like a strawberry and hot fudge sundae with chopped nuts, please,” Harry replied with a smile. He handed over a few coins to pay and received his sundae, which he took to the patio so that he could watch the shoppers dash to and fro before the stores closed.
Every now and then, a wizard or witch dressed in black robes with red armbands would cross the Alley slowly, and Harry recognized them as Aurors on patrol. And then Harry remembered the fact that there was still a dangerous criminal on the loose. Harry looked up and down the Alley, realizing that he’d never been outside of The Leaky Cauldron this late before, always taking his evening meal in the pub common room or his own private room upstairs. Fortescue’s was not actually far from the public entrance to Diagon Alley, which was good planning on Mr. Fortescue’s part because this shop was one of the first seen by customers. It was also lucky for Harry, because he was suddenly nervous about walking outside when it was so dark.
Harry finished his sundae quickly, and then fought the ice cream headache the whole way back to The Leaky Cauldron. He found a small group of middle-aged women who were obviously headed in that direction and he stuck close to them as they travelled, staying close enough to be safe but not close enough to look creepy. Harry kept his head down, but his eyes were darting everywhere, looking for hidden dangers. His breath caught when a black-clad Auror joined the group, but the man only said something about making sure the ladies were safely escorted and Harry just tagged along.
Once safely inside the pub, Harry nodded to Old Tom, who was tending bar as usual, and headed upstairs to his room. Harry was pleased to find Hedwig waiting for him, resting gently on her perch under the open window. There was a letter in a Gringotts envelope on the desk beside the perch, but Harry was too keyed-up to read it, so he quickly undressed and slid into bed. The stress and anxiety of the day had finally worn off, and he fell asleep quickly.
In the morning, Harry was woken early by Hedwig grooming his hair. He chuckled softly and petted her feathers to return the favor before rising from the bed and heading to the bathroom and the shower. Once Harry was dressed for the day, he opened the letter and saw that Mr. Sharperock had made time to meet with Harry for several hours after breakfast, and he asked that Harry bring ‘all of his concerns’ with him. Harry took that to mean that he should bring the books with him, so he carefully tried to open each of the remaining five until one opened and had words on the pages. That one began with The Owl Post, and opened with Harry doing what little homework he could manage before Marge’s arrival at the Dursley house.
Harry tucked that book, and the first two, into his school satchel, and he headed downstairs for his usual breakfast spot near the Floo. He had a bit of a nervous stomach, knowing he was going to reveal the books to a relative stranger, so he didn’t really feel like eating. So he managed with some toast and strong tea and resolved to eat more after his meeting.
“Are you doing well this fine day, Mr. Potter?” asked kindly Old Tom, and Harry smiled up at the man who refilled his teacup.
“I’m okay, Tom,” Harry said. “Thanks for asking.”
“I see you’re off to do more shopping today.”
Harry laughed. “I know I must seem like a shopping addict or something, but really I’ve been doing a lot of looking for the perfect gifts for my friends. Once I find them, then I’ll do the actual buying. One friend has a birthday in September, and one has one in March, and there’s Christmas in between, so I have time to pick something almost perfect.”
Tom smiled and patted Harry on his shoulder. “You’re a good man, Mr. Potter.”
Harry smiled back and swallowed the rest of his tea before shouldering his satchel and heading for the entrance of Diagon Alley. The morning sun was bright and Harry pulled his cap low over his forehead to shade his eyes. The Alley was not very crowded that morning, so Harry made it to Gringotts quickly, and there were very few banking customers inside, so Harry didn’t have to wait long before he was escorted to Sharperock’s office.
Harry greeted his account manager with a short bow before taking the offered seat in front of the oak desk. Harry sat and placed his bag between his knees before saying, “Thank you for taking time for me again so soon, Mr. Sharperock.”
The goblin inclined his head in a brief nod. “I shall always endeavor to make time for you, Mr. Potter. However, your letter to me indicated that you were in some sort of distress, and since I met with you only two days ago, this has me concerned. Have you been confronted by anyone, or threatened in any way?”
Harry swallowed and shook his head. “No, sir, there was nothing like that. This has to do with something I found in a shop on Hexagon Alley, just behind the Quidditch shop.”
Sharperock nodded sharply. “I see; this was a cursed or poisoned object, I assume?”
Harry shrugged. “I’m not sure if it’s cursed or poisoned, sir. The shop…the shop wasn’t there, when I went back to it, and just…I don’t know, sir.”
Sharperock stared at Harry shrewdly for a long moment before sitting back in his chair and folding his hands together on top of the desk. “Mr. Potter, perhaps you should tell me what has happened, and then we can make a decision as to what should happen next.”
Harry nodded sharply and began to tell Sharperock about his visit to the strange, never before seen bookstore. Harry tried to describe the interior of the shop, what the shopkeep looked and sounded like, and the odd, glittery curtain over the alcove. Harry told about finding all of the Parselmagic books that Sharperock recommended, as well as a few others that were not on his list. Harry told about finding books that both of his friends would like as gifts—even the one friend that didn’t really like books.
And then Harry told about walking into the curtained alcove, and the weird books he found within; how some just sat on the shelves while others shocked and pushed him away. And how others actually called to him, like a tugging from deep inside of him.
All the while Harry was speaking, Sharperock was making notes on parchment, but never once did he interrupt Harry’s tale. When Harry told about reading the first page of the first book, and then turning to find that the shop was gone, Sharperock looked up sharply but still did not interrupt. Only after Harry described reading the first two books, for a day and a half straight, and then sending the letter to Gringotts, did Sharperock speak.
“What was the name of that bookshop again, Mr. Potter?”
Harry reached into his bag and retrieved his receipt. “It says Augury Books, sir. Is that important?”
Sharperock nodded. “It is, indeed, Mr. Potter, and for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that there has never been a shop named Augury Books anywhere in this shopping district since Diagon Alley was formed. We at Gringotts direct mortgages and leases for all of the businesses on Diagon, Hexagon, and Knockturn Alleys, as well as businesses in other magical communities, and Augury Books is not on our logs or accounts anywhere.
“The second reason that name is important is that ‘Augury’ is simply another name for oracle, omen, or prophecy. I believe that is an important distinction considering what you’ve told me about the contents of those books. But before we discuss how those books might affect you in the long run, I wonder if I might be able to read one, or if they are truly meant for your eyes only.”
Harry sighed a little in relief. “That’s why I brought the first three with me, even though I haven’t read the third one yet. I was hoping to see if anyone else could read them after I did, and I’d really like advice on what I should do.”
Sharperock stood and rounded the desk to stand next to Harry. “Very well, Mr. Potter, then I do have a suggestion. I have set aside a few hours for you this morning, so I suggest we spend that time in one of Gringotts’ special Time Chambers so that I can read the first two books. During that time, many hours will pass inside the chamber, but only moments will pass outside of it. This will give us the time we need without wasting the entire day, Mr. Potter, and it will give us time to come up with a plan of action.”
Harry nodded. “That sounds good, sir. Thank you.”
Sharperock led Harry away from the private offices and deeper into the caverns of the bank, until the gleaming marble of the walls and floor gave way to rough-hewn stone with veins of glowing minerals lighting the way. Harry realized that he was being led away from the part of the bank that leads down into the vaults—and that very few wizards probably ever saw this area. Harry felt humbled and grateful for the consideration he was given.
The ‘Time Chamber’ was like a hospital room, with a small table in one corner, two cushioned chairs, a cot covered with a sheet and a blanket folded on the end, and a buffet along one wall that had a pitcher of water with several glass tumblers sitting on top. The walls were paneled wood, rather than stone, and the floor was carpeted with a spongy material that was soft to walk on, but probably held up to a lot of wear. There was also a folding partition in one corner of the room.
Harry got settled into one of the cushioned chairs and placed the books on top of the table, while Sharperock called for plates of fruit and breads to be brought into the chamber. Suddenly Harry realized that, even though no time would pass on the outside, they would need food on the inside because time would pass in there.
Once supplies were brought in, Sharperock settled into the other chair and took the book that Harry indicated was the first. “I suggest, Mr. Potter, that you find something to entertain yourself with. While I am a quick reader, I shall be taking notes so that I might ask questions later, and you shall be quite bored.”
Harry smiled and pulled another book from his bag. “That’s okay, Mr. Sharperock; I have two of the books I’ll need for next term with me, and I think I can read ahead for a while. It can’t hurt to get some of the information early.”
Sharperock nodded brusquely and opened the book, holding a notepad and muggle fountain pen close to him on the table. Following suit, Harry grabbed a pencil from his bag as well, and used it to practice wand movements described in The Standard Book of Spells—Grade Three. If Harry couldn’t actually use his wand, there was still no reason for him to not perfect the motions as he learned the spells.
Time passed, but Harry wasn’t certain how much. Several times, he or Sharperock got up from the table for a bit to eat or some water to drink. Harry didn’t drink much, because he didn’t want to leave the chamber for any reason, but after a while Sharperock showed Harry the private chamber pot behind the partitioned area in the far corner of the chamber, and Harry was relieved to find that there was a way to become…relieved.
Harry was well into the Third Year text for Potions when Sharperock closed the second book and shuffled his notes into some sort of order. “I have some questions for you, Mr. Potter, and depending on your answers, I may have to insist that we read the third book together.”
Harry closed his textbook and slumped into his chair. “Okay, Mr. Sharperock. I’ll answer honestly, I promise.”
Sharperock grinned slightly. “I only expect you to answer as to what you actually know, Mr. Potter, so don’t fear telling me that you don’t have an answer. Now, to the best of your knowledge, why did Rubeus Hagrid have the key to your vault before your first year, and what happened to it after that first visit to Gringotts?”
Harry frowned. “I don’t know why he had it, other than he must have gotten it from Professor Dumbledore. I suppose he must have given it back to him, because I didn’t actually handle it during my first Gringotts visit and Mrs. Weasley said Dumbledore gave it to her before second year.”
“I see,” grumbled Sharperock. “That begs the question of what you were supposed to do this summer, before your return to Hogwarts. Next question: At any time, do you recall seeing Lucius Malfoy slip that cursed diary into young Miss Weasley’s basket?”
Harry snorted and shook his head. “Honestly, that day was so annoying! The whole Lockhart mess in Flourish and Blotts, followed by a fist-fight between Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Weasley—it was all so ridiculous! If Malfoy started the fight to distract us from seeing him slip in that diary, then it worked, because I didn’t notice much of anything else that day, and I spent so much time trying to avoid Lockhart at school that I didn’t think about much else.”
Sharperock nodded again. “That is perfectly reasonable, Mr. Potter. Back to your first year, then—you said your scar hurt when you were in close proximity to Professor Quirrell?” Harry nodded. “And you thought it was Professor Snape that you were reacting to?”
Harry shrugged. “Not exactly. It’s just—Professor Snape seemed to have had it in for me from day one, you know? And Hermione said that his mouth was moving the whole time I was trying to stay on my uncontrolled broom, but I was too concerned with actually staying on that broom to think about much. Still, it’s easy to believe that he might have been trying to keep me in the sky rather than splattered on the green, and Quirrell was sitting right beside him. It still doesn’t explain why Snape hated me before I even got to Hogwarts.”
“No, it does not explain that, Mr. Potter. I do, however, think the answer to that may be found in one of the other books. Has your scar hurt you since Quirrell has been…dealt with?”
Harry paused to consider the question. Had his scar hurt recently? So much had happened lately, what with the Chamber of Secrets and the basilisk, and then Aunt Marge and the run to Diagon Alley, but Harry really didn’t remember the last time his scar hurt. “No, sir, it hasn’t. Not at all since then.”
Sharperock nodded again and made another note. “Dumbledore maintains that Quirrell was possessed by the essence of Voldemort, is that correct? And that it happened while Quirrell was travelling through Europe doing research for his new teaching position?”
Harry winced, thinking the whole thing sounded ridiculous. “Yes, that’s what he said.”
“Hmm. And Dumbledore insists that your mother’s love is what saved you?”
Harry squinted at Sharperock. “Isn’t that a thing, really? I mean, I’m just learning about magic and the Wizarding world, but it’s possible, right?”
Sharperock looked up with a slight scowl. “Mr. Potter, with magic many things are possible. Certainly the sacrifice of your parents did lead to your personal survival; of that I have no doubts. And there is no greater magic than a mother’s love for her child, even if that mother is non-magical. That being said, a mother’s love can, in no way, have been the cause of Voldemort’s disembodiment. I have a theory, but I’ll need to bring in one of our specialty healers to make certain, so I won’t worry over it right now. You have enough on your mind for one day, and Healer Stonewall is not available today.”
Sharperock sat back in his chair and crossed his gnarly hands over his lap as he considered the young man in front of him. “Mr. Potter, it is clear to me, at this moment, that you need someone other than me who is completely on your side. Your birthday is coming up, yes?”
Harry nodded. “Yes, at the end of the month, sir.”
“Goblins have a great deal of power in the Wizarding world, but much of it is purely financial power. Human magic users do not trust us because they cannot use, abuse, or control us. Many wizards in Britain are distrustful of non-humans in general, feeling that we are inferior. You and I, Mr. Potter, know this to be untrue, or else you never would have chosen Gringotts to come to for help. In fact, everyone who has tried to harm you recently has been human, is that not so?”
Harry nodded reluctantly.
“Very well, Mr. Potter. Perhaps this is the time we should read that third book, yes?”
Harry again nodded, and he pulled the slightly thicker book from his satchel. At first he offered it to Sharperock, but the goblin demurred, insisting that Harry read the first chapter aloud. Harry complied, and read the entire first chapter, which told of Harry doing homework on the eve of his birthday—and remembering a disaster of a phone call from Ron, and the resulting letters from Ron and Hermione on his actual birthday. That chapter also showed Harry receiving the letter from McGonagall about the Hogsmeade permission slip, the clip from the Daily Prophet about the Weasley family winning a lottery draw and going to Egypt, and a letter from Hermione, all of which happened at the beginning of summer, just after school let out, and Harry receiving a biting book from Hagrid, which had not happened yet because his actual birthday was still some time off.
Since the next chapter title was Aunt Marge’s Big Mistake, Harry was fairly certain that chapter would detail the blowing up of Marge and Harry’s flight from the Dursley house.
Harry frowned in confusion.
Sharperock grinned toothily. “Mr. Potter, this is something important that you should make note of.”
Harry looked up. “Really? Because I don’t understand.”
Sharperock leaned forward slightly. “This chapter means that, while events in those books may definitely happen, there is a way to change them, even slightly. I have an idea that the events in those books did happen to Harry Potter, but not necessarily this Harry Potter. Not necessarily you. There is much about magic that we do not understand, Mr. Potter, and you should never forget that. These books may have come from another reality, somehow, and the events within most certainly mirror events in our current reality.”
Harry snorted before forcing himself to sober quickly. “I’m sorry, Mr. Sharperock, but this sounds like an episode of one of Dudley’s fancy shows about space travel.”
Sharperock nodded. “Yes, I am familiar with Star Trek and the mirror universe plotline. Do keep in mind that that particular show aired that plot in the late 1960s, and there is a slight chance that a witch or wizard actually worked on the storylines. There was much about magic in the storylines in Muggle television programs of that time, after Grindlewald’s reign of terror but before Voldemort tried to overtake Magical Britain. The Americans were always quicker to internalize that which they did not understand, and so fantasy and science fiction genres of fictional writing and television became very popular there. That does not mean those genres did not have Magical origins.
“In any case, Mr. Potter, it is obvious that events in these books may be changed, so I need you to think very hard and tell me if there is anything, even a small thing, that was different in reality than it was in the first two books.”
Harry wrinkled his forehead and thought, very hard, about the first two years of his Hogwarts life. Were there any differences? Harry tried to recall as much as he could about his first year, not really thinking about the book account that he had just read. Letters had come to the house, that was certain, and Uncle Vernon was not happy about them. Loads of letters had come. To the house. But….
“Oh, yeah,” exclaimed Harry, “there is this one particular thing. The letters from Hogwarts—they came to the house for three days, but there weren’t tons of them like in the book, and they came through the mail slot like normal mail. We didn’t get any in a box of eggs, or flying down the chimney, or anything like that. And Uncle Vernon did go a bit wonky about them, because by the third day we had received ten of them, but they weren’t waiting for us in a hotel lobby after we left the house. And Uncle Vernon didn’t take us to an island shack out in the sea, he took us to a seaside hotel that was mostly deserted because of a heavy storm. That’s where Hagrid found us.” Harry kept silent about Dudley’s pig-tail, because that actually did happen.
“Good,” said Sharperock. “Is there anything else? Even a slight difference?”
Harry thought some more before saying, “Yeah, something different happened here, at Gringotts. Griphook tried to give me my vault key after we returned to the surface from the vaults, but Hagrid took it before he could. The same thing happened second year with Mrs. Weasley, and I still didn’t get my key. Oh! And I heard the basilisk in the walls long before Halloween last year, and it wasn’t talking about killing until well after Halloween—so, long after Mrs. Norris was attacked.”
Sharperock smiled, satisfied. “Well, then, Mr. Potter, this may prove that, while things may be very similar in those books, some circumstances are changeable. Perhaps we should continue the third book, so that we might have an idea of an ally that can help you. Once we have a possible ally in mind, and after we finish that book, we’ll work out a plan of action, yes?”
Harry nodded. “Okay, that sounds good. Should I keep reading, or will we take turns?”
“I think, in an effort to save your throat some irritation, we should alternate chapters. We should also take notes on the various chapters so that we can discuss them after we are finished. We are two brilliant minds, Mr. Potter, and I think between the two of us we shall be able to find a way to ease your troubles.”
Relaxing back into his chair, Harry began to power through Aunt Marge’s Big Mistake and The Knight Bus, pausing to make notes about what actually happened versus what was written in the book. Surprisingly, there was very little different about those two chapters. Harry did make note that the strange stray dog was the one that thrust Harry’s wand arm into the air rather than it being a result of Harry falling over his trunk. And, of course, the time difference, because everything in the book happened after Harry’s Birthday.
Sharperock took over reading The Leaky Cauldron, and Harry was quick to point out the obvious differences, such as the Weasleys and Hermione not being there and the book list having not arrived yet, and the obvious similarities, like Harry’s daily argument with his bathroom mirror. Before Sharperock began the next chapter, The Dementor, he pointed out to Harry that from that point on, the two of them should concentrate their notes on important milestones and things they definitely wanted to change.
“In fact, Mr. Potter, it may be important to note that some occurrences should be allowed to happen, if only so that the world continues to revolve. It might be fine to change minor important things, so that you are not continually persecuted during your lifetime, but any remarkably major changes could affect more than just you. Disrupting all of mankind is not the way to go, do you understand?”
Harry nodded. “Yes, sir, I do. If changing something so that nothing bad happens to me, but something downright horrible happens to someone else, well—that sounds like a rotten thing to do. I’m pretty strong, I guess, and I can put up with a lot—like Draco Malfoy and his lot, but I really wouldn’t want to force someone else, especially someone I care about, to deal with their worst nightmare just so I can go through life without challenges. That being said, if there’s a way to stop Voldemort in those books, I say we take that seriously.”
Sharperock grinned widely. “Very well, Mr. Potter.”
7—The Goblins’ Deal
July 14, 1993
On they went through the third book, alternating reading after three chapters each, and with each chapter they took notes. Sharperock had a thick pile of parchment in front of him and two of Harry’s spiral-bound notebooks were full—all pages, both sides. Harry stared, aghast, at the detailed notes and silently thanked Miss Gatsby from his second grade class for forcing everyone to learn penmanship and tidy handwriting. It might not have stuck with Dudley, but Harry internalized those lessons and they helped him write essays at Hogwarts, where they measured length as well as neatness and content when considering grades.
By the time Sharperock read the final words of Owl Post Again, ‘And, grinning broadly at the look of horror on Uncle Vernon’s face, Harry set off toward the station exit, Hedwig rattling along in front of him, for what looked like a much better summer than the last’, Harry was horrified. Dementors forced him to remember the sound of his mother’s murder? A Divination professor was going to keep predicting his death? A middle-aged man disguised as a rat regularly slept in Harry’s dorm?
Sirius Black was incarcerated for betraying Harry’s parents and killing Peter Pettigrew, but he was sent to Azkaban without a trial and was really innocent and was Harry’s godfather and….
“Oh, Mr. Sharperock!” Harry exclaimed with wide eyes. “Oh, that is something that we seriously have to change! We can’t allow that man to be on the run for his life if he didn’t do anything! I don’t care if he gets a trial and moves away and I never, ever see him again, we have to do something!!”
Sharperock looked grimly at his own notes and nodded in agreement. “Yes, Mr. Potter, I do agree. A grave miscarriage of justice occurred twelve years ago, and the Heir to an Ancient and Noble House was allowed to languish in prison, and the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot allowed it to happen.”
Harry slumped in his chair and he ran a hand over his face. “Oh, yeah, I didn’t think about that.” Harry looked at Sharperock with devastation on his face and said, “Do you think any of the professors at Hogwarts can be trusted? I mean, I went to McGonagall my first year, for help about the Philosopher’s Stone, and she totally blew me off. And Dumbledore seems to have been working against me my whole life, keeping my godfather away from me and forcing me to live with the Dursleys. And Snape has something against me, and I’d never even met him before first year.”
Sharperock studied the diminished boy in front of him for a long moment before speaking. “I think this new professor, Remus Lupin, may be someone you can trust. Of course, he is a werewolf and may not see that he has any advantage at the moment, so we must show him otherwise.” Sharperock gathered his notes into a neat pile and pushed away from the table, signaling to Harry that it was time to leave the Time Chamber. “Mr. Potter, I suggest you go back to your room at the inn and get some rest. Do not, at this moment, attempt to read further in those books, though you may by all means read ahead in your school texts if you wish. I shall, when I have finished my business for the day, send inquiries and invitations to Messrs. Remus Lupin and Sirius Black, entreating them to come to Gringotts any way that they feasibly can. If Sirius Black can, in fact, transform into a large black dog, then I shall specify that any large canine shall be welcome to my office, should it seek sanctuary.
“What most of the Wizarding world is unaware of is that, once within the walls of Gringotts, the general populace no longer exists within the world of humans. Gringotts is a nation apart, and Ministry Aurors have no authority here. If Sirius Black can get to me, then I will be able to use considerable influence to obtain an ICW solicitor so that he shall be able to sue the British Ministry for a trial. If they refuse, and if Minister Fudge attempts to force his way into Gringotts to arrest Black, then I shall push for an international trial, and Fudge’s name shall become a world-wide disgrace. Since there is plenty of time between now and September First, Remus Lupin should have no trouble getting here before the start of term. Once we have them here, I shall assist you in explaining about the books, if you so choose, and then you shall have two human allies that may be able to help you change the worst of your destiny.”
Harry finished packing his books away and sighed deeply. “I think that’s a good idea, sir, but I have another idea. I mean, I don’t know how magical people deal with mental trauma, but I’ve been having nightmares about bloody huge snakes since the Chamber of Secrets, so I can’t imagine what spending twelve years surrounded by soul-sucking demons might do to a person. You might want to look into getting a therapist for Mr. Black, because his head must be a very scary place after all that.”
Sharperock stilled as he considered Harry’s words. “You may be correct in that assessment, Mr. Potter. I had not thought about the implications of constant exposure to Dementors. Thank you for reminding me of that.”
Harry shrugged his satchel over one shoulder. “Well, I’ve been thinking about what that shopkeep said about the books being for someone that had a particular destiny, you know. If I do have a destiny to fulfill, then I’d like to have my allies be healthy and sane. After what happened with the Philosopher’s Stone, I think whatever path I’m headed down just might lead me into danger, and I’m just a kid and in no way prepared for that. I need to level the playing field, you know?”
“I do know, Mr. Potter,” said Sharperock as he opened the door to the Time Chamber. “I am privileged that you chose to come to me for help, and I vow that I will do anything in my power to help you succeed in whatever destiny you have ahead of you.”
Harry scowled a bit. “Yeah, well, considering what’s all happened the last two years, I’m just afraid that my destiny might mean being attacked by Voldemort until he finally kills me. And if I leave things to Dumbledore, then I might not survive it.”
“That shall not happen, Mr. Potter. Not on my watch.”
July 14-15, 1993
After Sharperock made sure Harry was safely on his way back to The Leaky Cauldron, he carefully closed his office for the day and made his way deeper into the private wing of Gringotts and knocked for entrance to the office of the General Manager—Goblin Horde Chieftain Ragnok.
Ragnok was, in fact, the General Manager of all branches of Gringotts, and had been for many decades, and one of the duties of the General Manager was to see to the health of the relationship between the Goblin Nation and Wizardkind. It was a relationship that remained mutually respectful since the last Goblin Rebellion of 1906ce, when most of the Wizarding World agreed that the goblins, because of their ability to handle and grow the wealth of the wizards without engaging the Muggle world, needed to have representation in Magical Government. It was only in Great Britain that the Goblin Nation had no such representation, and in fact was seen as an inferior inconvenience by most British Pure-Blood Wizards. Ragnok had maintained that the Goblin Nation needed a patron among Wizardkind in Britain; someone with a lot of political and social influence that could reinvent the goblin relationship with wizards and give the Goblin Nation the political power they deserved and held in the rest of the world.
Sharperock was certain that that patron could be, with very little prompting, Harry Potter. Though he was little more than a child, Potter held a lot of wealth and influence in his hands, and he only really needed someone to show him how to use it.
A sharp call beckoned Sharperock into the richly-appointed office, and he entered wearing a huge, toothy grin.
“You have good news?” asked Ragnok with interest.
“I have unexpected news,” Sharperock replied. “An opportunity was literally dropped into my lap, and it could offer great advantages to us.”
Ragnok steepled his long fingers and studied his most diligent employee. “I thought you were working with Heir Potter to help him gain his rightful place in Wizarding Society.”
Sharperock settled into the chair he was offered and nodded abruptly. “When Heir Potter came to Gringotts with the simple request for a hotel bill, I was astounded at how little he knew about his heritage and ultimate social status. That he seemed genuinely interested in learning about his accounts and Family Legacy was a lucky happenstance, as so many young wizards rely on their fathers for such education and never really appreciate their positions.
“I have always made time to answer any little question from Heir Potter, and today my efforts paid off in spades. Heir Potter brought to me a conundrum that may bring him even closer to the Goblin Nation.”
Ragnok looked very interested. “What has he brought you, and how might that help us gain an ally?”
Sharperock held out the pile of notes he had made during his time with Harry. “Augury Books has made an appearance in Wizarding Britain, and Heir Potter found himself searching for gifts in that mysterious business.”
Ragnok’s eyes brightened. “Augury Books, you say? That is…unexpected.”
The Goblin Nation was peripherally aware of the mysterious bookseller that travelled through all known and unknown realms of reality. The woman who had the misfortune of running the shop was a cursed Fey, banished from any anchor point and forced to lead the Destined to their Destiny. History and Myth failed to record what had actually led to the curse, but legends abounded in the Magical Realms, telling her story. Some said she had held someone back from Destiny out of selfish love, and so she was cursed to roam forever, forced to watch from a distance as the Chosen were led to their fates, unable to protect or fully inform them of the future that waited for them.
She never appeared twice in a generation, and rarely twice in one realm until a century or more had passed, but all Magical peoples—goblins, light fey, dark fey, light elf, dark elf, centaur, even human—all had legends and stories of the cursed being who tried to warn the Chosen away from their destinies, but was forced to watch as they were inevitably drawn in. A bookshop always featured in those stories, though nobody knew why or how.
And now, in this Realm and Generation, a young boy somehow had wandered into a mysterious bookshop to look for rare and interesting books, and somehow found a Greater Destiny, and that Destiny could possibly include giving the Goblin Nation proper representation in British Wizarding politics.
“Yes,” agreed Sharperock. “Apparently the bookshop appeared on Diagon Alley several days ago, and the window display caught Heir Potter’s eye. One of his friends is very studious and organized, and there was a display of organizational journals. Of course, once inside he found several books that catered to his own taste, as well as a hidden alcove filled with untitled books—one set of which ‘called to him’.”
“And those books are his destiny?”
Sharperock shook his head. “I’ve only, with Heir Potter’s permission of course, read the first three books. There are conditions to reading them, you see, and the proprietress was very specific on that point.”
“And what are the conditions?” asked Ragnok. “And can anyone read the books?”
Sharperock inclined his head in thought. “I assume that anyone can read them, after they have been read by the Destined. The specific condition on that is that they can only be read in a certain order, and one book may not be read until the previous has been. After acquiring the set, of which there are seven, Heir Potter said he felt ‘compelled’ to read the first. After reading that one, he moved on to the second before contacting me for advice. Today I took him into one of the Time Chambers, and we read the third together. Heir Potter allowed me to take notes and to question him about events in the first two books.”
“I see,” said Ragnok after a moment, “and what were the events in those books, exactly?”
Sharperock grinned. “The first two books detailed the exact events of Heir Potter’s life before and directly after he entered the Wizarding World. With some minor differences, of course. And the third seems to have detailed the events that led Heir Potter to Diagon Alley, again with minor differences. The rest of the book seems to be a telling of Heir Potter’s thirteenth year. As he is to have his thirteenth birthday at the end of this month, I have advised Heir Potter to treat this and the rest of the books as a sort of prophecy—one that he can change to his advantage once he has a full complement of advisors that he can trust.”
“And does the boy trust you, Sharperock? Fully?”
Sharperock considered the question carefully. “I believe he has had very few people in his life that are truly on his side. He has school friends, but they are young and inexperienced. His instructors have proven to be…inconsistent, and he is beginning to doubt the Headmaster of Hogwarts. His family life, according to him and those books, is cruel and abusive, and he is largely ignored when he’s not being mistreated. I think the fact that he chose to come to me for advice is very telling, but I have managed to convince him that I can find other allies for him in this situation. I believe that if Gringotts is actively helping Heir Potter with his Destiny, then he will become the advocate that we need in this country.”
Ragnok considered Sharperock’s words carefully. He had worked all his long life to make sure goblins were treated with respect and equality in regards to wizards. In the Americas, goblins were afforded great consideration when it came to the passing and enforcing of laws. Goblins were treated as close associates—even friends—of powerful wizards, and had been since just after the time of Grindelwald. In Asia and North Africa, Goblins were much sought-after for investment advice as well as personal counsel, and several Goblin Elders sat on judicial councils in those countries because they were seen as fair and wise. Goblins all over the world were asked to perform as arbiters in contract work for personal and business purposes—except in Britain, where the wizards looked down upon them as ‘creatures’ and only worked with them if they needed banking business done. Goblins were a powerful Magical Race, capable of great empathy and respected by most other races in the Magical Realms, especially because they chose not to leave the Mortal Realm when other Magicals feared the encroachment of magical humans. Only the goblins swore to stay behind and protect, to their best abilities, the magical creatures and small pockets of magical land and energy that were left behind when the Realms closed borders.
Goblins deserved more respect. The Rebellions were necessary, but the total bloodshed was not, and wizards feared what could happen so much that they ignored what should happen. And what should happen is that the Goblin Nation should be afforded an equal voice in the happenings of the magical world, in Britain as in the rest of the world.
“Would it be possible,” Ragnok said finally, “for me to review your notes before you tell me your final plans?”
“Of course, my Chieftain,” said Sharperock. “Shall I leave them and set a time to meet with you tomorrow?”
Ragnok eyed the stack of parchment with interest. “I think that would be best. I’ll take my time with this, and perhaps between the two of us, we can come up with something that will benefit us all.”
Early the following morning, Sharperock was summoned to Ragnok’s office before the business day began. Ragnok was again seated behind his large desk, and Sharperock noted that the stack of notes he had left with the Chieftain the evening before had been read several times, and that additional notes were scribbled on the pages.
At Ragnok’s direction, Sharperock again took a seat in front of the desk. “Have you come to any decisions, my Chieftain?”
Ragnok nodded before sipping from a fine china cup. “Yes, I have. But first, I should like to hear what plans you have tentatively made with Heir Potter.”
Sharperock inclined his head as he leaned forward slightly. “I informed Heir Potter that he should hold off reading the other books for a while, so that we could find honorable humans to act as his advocates. I believe that Heir Black would be best for this position, because of his role as godfather, but first he should receive the trial he was denied a dozen years ago.
“A second choice for advocate would be Remus Lupin, as he is slated to be in constant contact with Heir Potter during the coming school term. As you can see by my notes, Mr. Lupin is a werewolf, and as is British rule, he is currently beholden to Wolfsbane Potion to remain in his right mind during the transformative time of the full moon. In my opinion, this is untenable, as he shall be in constant contact with young children, so I would suggest sending for a Moon Charm for him before the term begins.”
Ragnok nodded in agreement. “That would be an optimal choice. One of the things we can work on in the future is having the government supply the charms in Britain, so that werewolf citizens can again become productive and welcome members of society. In regards to Mr. Lupin, what are your suggestions?”
“I think,” said Sharperock after a moment, “that I shall suggest Heir Potter send an invitation to the man, so they might meet before boarding the train to the school. Heir Potter can intimate that he’s recently come to understand that Mr. Lupin knew his parents and that he is eager to learn more about them. It is not a lie, and it is a story that Mr. Lupin should find compelling. In the meanwhile, I shall send a covert message to Sirius Black, entreating him to seek sanctuary with Gringotts until we can obtain a trial for him. I shall also send a message to Whipsnatch and Crumplepott in Germany, seeking counsel to represent Sirius Black in the Wizengamot—or in the World Magical Court, if it is necessary. Heir Potter is very interested in making certain that Black is vindicated because he seeks the familial relationship that he has been missing his whole life. Heir Potter also suggested that we find a mind healer for Black because of the devastating effects of the Dementors over the past twelve years.”
Ragnok smiled. “He seems very compassionate for such a young person. Very well, send the missive to Black right away. Since he apparently was responsible for Heir Potter calling for the Knight Bus, he may be staying close to the boy while he is away from school. I shall not intrude on the boy’s privacy by insisting on reading the revealed books at this moment. However, I think you should suggest that Heir Potter allow Mr. Lupin to read what has already been discovered, so that he is aware of what is going on in the boy’s life. Forewarned is, as they say, forearmed.”
9—Hedwig Takes a Message
July 15-17, 1993
Harry was reading in his room after breakfast when an unfamiliar Scopes owl flew through the open window. Hedwig hooted softly to alert Harry to the owl’s presence, and Harry offered one of Hedwig’s treats to it before he accepted the letter it carried.
The letter was from Manager Sharperock, of Gringotts Wizarding Bank in Diagon Alley, London, and looked very official.
“What do you think, Hedwig,” Harry asked as he stared at the envelope, “is Mr. Sharperock writing to tell me that he thinks I’m a loony and should take my business elsewhere?” Hedwig barked a rebuke and flew to sit on Harry’s shoulder and Harry laughed softly. “Yeah, I don’t think so, either. Let’s see what he has to say, shall we?”
Harry deftly snapped the crisp wax seal and opened the envelope, pulling out the official stationary bearing the Gringotts Crest.
Dear Heir Potter:
After conferring with the Chieftain of the Goblin Horde, who is also the Head of the Bank, it was determined that it would be wise if you personally sent an invitation to Mr. Lupin, requesting that you meet before the start of term so that you can learn more about your family. Do not, at this time, give information about the books that you have recently acquired or their contents, as we shall be able to address that issue in a secure conference room here in the bank. You may tell him to ask for me by name, as I shall be your contact within Gringotts.
Also per our discussion yesterday, I have personally sent a secure message to the other person of interest, guaranteeing safety if he appeals to Gringotts personally. Inquiries for a confidential Mind Healer have also been made, for you as well as for him, as I believe that you also could use their services.
I shall await the outcome of your inquiry, and should you have need of me, my office door will be open to you.
Senior Manager Sharperock, Acct. Manager—Potter, Black, Longbottom
“Huh,” said Harry incredulously. “Looks like Mr. Sharperock is also the Black account manager. Maybe that’s why he’s so eager to help Mr. Black.”
Hedwig barked her agreement before returning to her perch and hooting sharply. “You’re right,” Harry agreed. “I need to write a letter. I’m sure you can find Mr. Lupin pretty easily, can’t you girl?”
Hedwig hooted again.
Harry grabbed his notebook from his satchel and began writing a brief letter of introduction to Mr. Remus Lupin, explaining that he’d recently learned that the man would be teaching at Hogwarts and that he knew Harry’s parents, so could he maybe find time to meet Harry on Diagon Alley for a conversation before the start of term. Harry didn’t ramble, as he often did during his school essays, and he thought he’d made a good point in his own favor for not waiting until the term began to meet the man.
Harry also gently stressed that the meeting be just between the two of them, just in case Mr. Lupin got an idea of mentioning Harry’s letter to Dumbledore. After realizing that Dumbledore, as Chief Wizard of the Wizengamot, could have forced a trial for Sirius Black—but did not—Harry wasn’t entirely sure that the old man was working with Harry’s best interest in mind. Surely having his godfather, who supposedly loved him, raise him after his parents’ deaths would have been better than having his aunt and uncle, who most definitely did not.
Satisfied with what he had written, Harry secured the letter to Hedwig and bid her a safe journey, watching with trepidation as she flew off into the horizon. Not wanting to spend the rest of the day cooped up in his comfortable room, Harry then grabbed his satchel and made his way onto the Alley, searching for ice cream and more interesting tidbits for a revised History essay.
Meanwhile, back at the bank, Ragnok prepared to declare a sort of small war against the British Ministry of Magic. Under the guise of an official audit of languishing accounts, Ragnok sent a request for all official records of the trial of Sirius Black, heir to the House of Black and potential Earl of Blackmoor. Ragnok made it clear that the Earldom was being potentially compromised, and the disruption could cause catastrophic financial ripples throughout Wizarding Britain, and possibly the world, and that Gringotts was prepared to suspend all business in Britain until the records were received and a proper Heir could be found.
Ragnok grinned toothily as the official Gringotts Owl headed out to the Ministry, certain that the DMLE offices would soon be in a frenzy as the wizards tried to gather the necessary information. If you want to see quick results, Ragnok thought, all you needed to do was threaten their money. The best part, of course, was that it wasn’t a total ruse. The Head of the House of Black had many vaults in Gringotts that were long inactive, causing stagnation in several businesses, and the Earldom of Blackmoor employed thousand of witches and wizards, in several countries, and Gringotts could not be expected to oversee that Earldom in perpetuity, so an heir must be found to take over the day to day business. It was only because Sharperock was so efficient and trustworthy that the audit hadn’t needed to be done before this time.
Sirius Black, once he was fully healed and proven to be mentally competent, should be very grateful to Gringotts for taking such care of his Legacy. Since the House of Black, and the Earldom itself, carried great influence in the Wizengamot, Ragnok was certain that everyone would benefit from Heir Potter’s Destiny.
Two days had passed since Harry had sent Hedwig off with an invitation to Remus Lupin, and while he missed his friend, Harry knew she not only had to find the man, but she also had to wait for a reply. He knew she would return, healthy and happy, once her mission was over, and he tried very hard not to worry too much at the time that was passing. After all, He did not know where Mr. Lupin was residing while he prepared for a teaching job, or if he really would be willing to meet with a child he had not seen for twelve years.
Harry was happily sipping a hot cocoa with whipped cream at Fortescue’s Parlor when Hedwig brought him a reply to his letter. Harry offered his friend the cherry from the cocoa while he read that, yes, Remus Lupin would be very pleased to meet Harry for lunch on July 22, as he was going to be away on important business until then, and would it be possible to meet in the lobby of Gringotts before they chose an eatery.
Harry slumped in his seat and sighed in relief. This, he thought, was really going to happen. This close to his birthday, Harry considered that a gift! Harry looked at his owl casually and asked, “Do you think you’re up to a return trip tonight, Hedwig? Only as I think I’d like to set an appointment now before I begin to freak out about it.”
Hedwig merely hooted softly before using her wing to knock Harry’s pencil closer to his hand, so he used the return letter to set a specific time and date for the meet. He was certain that Sharperock would be able to facilitate a proper meeting space if he asked, and he might even be able to provide refreshments for the whole thing. Harry gave the note to Hedwig before he could talk himself out of it, and watched her fly away. Hopefully she would not be gone as long this time, as she now knew where Mr. Lupin could be found and did not need to wait for a reply. Now all he had to do was be patient.
“That’s one fine-looking owl you have there, Mr. Harry,” said Florean Fortescue as he brought out more whipped cream for Harry’s cocoa.
Harry looked at the kind man and smiled. “She really is, isn’t she? She’s actually my very first friend, and as much as she likes bringing me mail, I really hate when she’s gone.”
Fortescue patted Harry genially on the shoulder. “You’ve a good heart, my boy, to care so much for such a wonderful creature. And she cares for you, as well. It’s obvious by the attention she pays to you.” He reached out and gently plucked a stray feather that had been left in Harry’s hair while Hedwig groomed him.
Harry laughed and took the feather, pressing it gently between the pages of the book he was reading—one of the potions texts he found at the mysterious disappearing bookshop. “I think she thinks I’m her baby or something. But that’s okay; it’s nice to be cared for like that, even if she’s an owl.”
Fortescue’s eyes narrowed a bit. “I think she may be more that ‘just an owl’, Harry. You might want to research familiars and familiar bonds. Not every wizard finds a familiar, you know, so that might make you a very lucky young man, indeed.”
Harry pondered that statement after the man walked back into his store, and made a mental note to look for a book on familiars when he next visited Flourish and Blotts. He also made a note to find more books on Wizarding culture, as it appeared he was sorely lacking in that regard but only noticed when someone mentioned something that clearly he should have already known. Harry had a feeling that his friend Hermione would really like a book like that—but that she’d also probably find something wrong with it and complain loudly about it.
One day after the time of the meeting between Sharperock and Ragnok, a tired, bedraggled dog wandered through the darkened street of Diagon Alley long after all the businesses had closed, and made its way to the doors of Gringotts Wizarding Bank. It held in its teeth the carefully folded ‘invitation’ from Sharperock for “any large, black dog to find sanctuary within the walls of Gringotts”, and it gently offered the parchment to the goblin guard at the door. When the goblin read the note, he did not hesitate to open the shining, gilded door to admit the frail creature, nor did he utter one word to anyone who might have been just inside the bank. Rather, the guard escorted the dog to one of the teller desks and activated a chime rune before leaving the dog alone to return to his post outside the bank.
The dog collapsed on the cool marble floor, exhausted and hungry, and laid its muzzle on top of its forepaws, and just waited.
The wait was not long. Very shortly, Sharperock himself came bustling from the private office area and cautiously approached the dog. “Heir Black, I presume?” he asked, and the dog lifted his head and cocked it sideways. Sharperock nodded abruptly. “Follow me. I shall have a meal and a hot bath prepared for you, as well as a warm place to sleep. Once you have rested the night, we shall speak at length about why you were asked to be here.”
The tired black dog stood on wobbly legs and shook itself, raising a bit more energy to move from the front lobby. Back in the secure office, Sharperock was as good as his word, and the dog wolfed down a plate of plain boiled chicken in a bland broth before curling into a thick wool blanket in a corner and dropping into a deep sleep.
Sharperock watched for a moment before leaving the office, locking it behind him. He would need to be up early in the morning to speak with Ragnok about this development, but at least part of his mission had been completed. Heir Potter’s birthday was in a scant two weeks, and Sharperock was determined to make Sirius Black presentable for the boy to meet at that time at the very latest. Hopefully the werewolf would also follow through and plans could be made to read the rest of those books so they could all try to change the world for the better. At least a small part of it.
10—Ministry on Defense
July 16-17, 1993
Amelia Bones, head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, stared at the parchment in her hands with wrinkled brow. Apparently Gringotts Bank was demanding a full account of the Sirius Black trial—and all records pertaining to—or else they would cease all Wizarding banking business until a trial could be proven.
It seemed to be a bit of a drastic move, in her opinion, but it was a demand that she thought she could easily meet. Before she could send for the trial records, however, her office door burst open and the Minister himself, Cornelius Fudge, stomped in waving his own official parchment.
“Ah, Amelia,” he said once he saw what she was reading, “I see they’ve sent you a copy of this farce.”
Amelia raised one eyebrow. “Farce, Minister? Do you think that Gringotts would bluff on this demand?”
Fudge scowled. “Of course they’re bluffing! Why should they care about a murdering Death Eater, anyway? And there is no way they would risk losing revenue over something as silly as this. It’s just a ploy, and I’m here to make sure you don’t give in to this unreasonableness.”
Amelia sat back in her chair and stared at the Minister for a moment. “I see,” she said finally. “So your official position is that we should ignore this official request from Gringotts?”
“Of course it is! It’s not like this is public information, after all, and the Ministry can’t be seen to give into pressure by goblins!”
Amelia huffed and picked up her copy of the morning edition of the Daily Prophet, offering it to Minister Fudge. “Then I suppose you haven’t seen this yet?”
Fudge accepted the paper reluctantly, only to frown at the headline:
Gringotts Demands Ministry Trial Records; Threatens to Close for Public Business
The article was succinct, if nothing else: A bare-bones official request for compliance during regular audits, with consequential bank closings if the British Ministry could not comply for any reason. Amelia had, of course, seen the paper before entering her office, so she was actively looking for the request on her desk when she arrived in her office. Fudge, it seemed, had not been so fore-warned.
“It’s a bluff!” he insisted again.
Amelia again raised her eyebrow. “You’re that certain?”
Fudge huffed and puffed out his chest haughtily. “I am very certain! Ignore this mess and get on with your regular business!”
After Fudge left her office, Amelia sent a carefully-worded memo to the Hall of Records, requesting every detailed record of every trial any member of the House of Black had been involved with in the past twenty years. It was, in her honest opinion, better to be safe than sorry.
By mid-day on July sixteenth, Sirius Black was well-rested, as well-fed as he was going to get without much recovery time, well-washed and groomed, and reasonably-well-dressed, and was sitting on a comfortable chair in his private ‘recovery room’ across from a Mind-healer that specialized in trauma. Once the goblin, Sharperock, made it clear that he wanted to help Sirius heal and recover his good name, Sirius was incredibly compliant. Of course, Sharperock did have to mention that he was offering help at the request of Heir Harry Potter before Sirius agreed to the treatment, but once that was understood he was all for being attended by the Mind-healer.
The ‘recovery room’ was actually one of Gringotts’ Time Chambers, so Sirius was able to get all the restful sleep that he’d needed in a very short time, and Sharperock provided light but nutritional meals that did not upset Sirius’ delicate stomach. The Mind-healer was introduced after the morning business meeting, when Sirius had received what seemed like days of rest and food (but was only actually eight hours), and he was relieved to meet the woman who promised to help him heal.
The conversation never veered toward the subject of Harry Potter directly. Instead, Healer Argossi opted to focus on the events that led to the Potters going into hiding and who was responsible for their safety. Using memory-enhancing charms, Healer Argossi helped Sirius realized that nothing that happened directly to the Potters was actually his fault. They took a brief break for food and rest, with Healer Argossi moving to another Time Chamber so that Sirius Black could have time alone to process his progress.
He used the time to cry over everything and everyone that he’d lost.
After several more ‘hours’ had passed, Healer Argossi returned for another session, this time concentrating on Sirius’ time in Azkaban. This session was rougher, as the trauma inflicted by the Dementors was harsher and more intense and Sirius had to deal with those horrible beings every single day for the last twelve years. Healer Argossi used memory-enhancing charms, memory-reducing charms, and old-fashioned Muggle hypno-therapy, all designed to force Sirius to confront the mental terrors that the Dementors fed to their victims and that Sirius had tried to avoid by ‘hiding’ in his Animagus form.
By what should have been the normal close-of-business hour, Sirius Black was more rational and mentally collected than he’d been since he stood as Best Man beside James Potter on his wedding day. Healer Argossi promised that they would need more sessions over a series of weeks—or even months—but that they would not need to be in a Time Chamber in the future because the super-concentrated time would not be needed.
Sirius Black cried again—this time in thanks and relief.
While Sirius Black was meeting secretly with a Mind-healer deep within Gringotts Bank, Chieftain Ragnok and Account Manager Sharperock were watching both a clock and the mail, patiently waiting for the British Ministry for Magic to comply with Gringotts’ request. Business had, to that point, been brisk and profitable, with customers coming and going at the usual pace early in the morning until after the delivery of the Daily Prophet—and then there was a huge rush of customers vying for the attention of all the present tellers, rather in a bit of a panic.
When the lunchtime lull had arrived, but the missive from the Ministry had not, Ragnok gave a subtle signal to the Security Goblins, and every human customer within the lobby was ‘escorted’ to the front doors briskly. Those customers that were deep in the vault area were quickly brought to the surface and removed from the bank as well, with all their protests ignored.
And then the bank doors were locked.
By two o’clock in the afternoon of July sixteenth, not only was every branch of Gringotts in Great Britain closed to the public, every branch of the bank in the world was closed to British customers all over the world.
By three o’clock, the Atrium of the Ministry Building was full of disgruntled people shouting and waving copies of the Daily Prophet, causing a ruckus and general brouhaha and leaving the Minister cowering in his office behind locked doors. While Cornelius Fudge was hiding from his constituents, Amelia Bones and several of her clerks were sorting through the piles of trial files, searching frantically for any record of Sirius Black’s arrest and trial—and finding none.
Trying hard to ignore the crowd that was moving away from the Atrium and toward the Administrative Offices, Minister Fudge was Floo-calling Aurors for crowd-control and protection, and demanding that Gringotts be appeased because “obviously there weren’t bluffing, Amelia, so why didn’t you do anything?”
Amelia managed to keep from rolling her eyes hard enough to produce a head-ache. In the end, Amelia Bones had to admit defeat and place a Floo-call to Gringotts, respectfully requesting forgiveness for the tardiness of the response and explaining that no record of a trial for Sirius Black could be found anywhere in the Ministry records. She offered to personally question Bartemius Crouch, who was the Grand Inquisitor at the time, to see if he had personal records of that time. Chieftain Ragnok agreed that that would be a proper course of action, and that she had until eight o’clock the following morning to produce any result, either in compliance or failure.
By five o’clock that afternoon, Chieftain Ragnok had Floo-called the Director of the World Magical Court and explained the situation with Sirius Black’s illegal incarceration and the possible lack of an official trial, and requesting a World Court Trial to either prove guilt beyond a doubt or definitively admit to the world that the man is innocent of all charges. Chief Magical Justice August Feirtini agreed to bring the matter before the World Magical Court, and promised to respond to Gringotts London by early afternoon the following day.
At six o’clock that evening, Amelia Bones wanted to bang her head against a wall. Floo calls to the Crouch home were unanswered, even by a house-elf. When she took the time to Apparate to the property, the sturdy War-Wards repelled her from even knocking on the door, and she was forced to leave a message-stone behind. Bartemius Crouch eventually returned the message just before six, but only to tell Amelia that he did not have any records of those trials and he had no idea where any records might be if they were not filed properly.
At seven o’clock that evening, Harry Potter, having received a private message from Sharperock, sent Hedwig off with a letter to Remus Lupin, explaining that although the Bank would be closed to the public because of official reasons, he would be admitted to meet with Harry in a private room. Hedwig arrived back in Harry’s room just after midnight with Lupin’s affirmative reply.
July 18, 1993
“I’m not doing your dirty work, Minister, so you’ll just have to hitch-up your britches and deliver that message yourself!”
Amelia Bones stood her ground, glaring at Minister Fudge when he practically demanded that she be the one to approach Gringotts to explain that no records for Sirius Black could be found. She absolutely refused. Since she was only an Auror at the time of Sirius Black’s arrest (not to mention being one of Black’s friends who had serious doubts of his guilt when he was arrested), Amelia had had no hand in his arrest and was not present for the trial—if there even was one, and there was no way that she was going to be the one to admit that to the Goblin Nation. Since former Minister Bagnold had passed-on long ago, that duty fell to the current Minister, coward that he was.
“Amelia,” Fudge simpered, “as your superior, I must demand that you carry out this duty.”
Amelia’s eyes narrowed dangerously, her monocle close to falling to her chest. “Let me make one thing perfectly clear, Minister: you are in no way superior to me or any of my Aurors! I hold my position based on merit and past performance, and not on the whims of wizards who think I can do them favours, and I’ll not be talked-to in this manner! Now, since the Goblin Nation issued the official request to your office, then your office needs to respond. And if you want some decent advice on the topic, you’ll do this yourself, in person, rather than sending one of your lackeys to do it, because I think the goblins might execute anyone who would insult them in their own bank—and you know who I’m talking about!”
Minister Fudge glanced around the office, but none of the present Aurors would meet his eyes. The Atrium was again filling with disgruntled people and the grumbling was getting louder, and Fudge was understandably not eager to walk through the crowd. Or appear in front of it. Or even admit that he was in the building.
Finally he wilted, shoulders drooping noticeably. “Fine,” he said petulantly. “In that case, might I use your office Floo to travel to the Leaky Cauldron?”
Amelia merely waved him in the direction of the fireplace.
“Heir Black, may I present Arbiter Johannes Van Der Salk from the World Magical Court.”
Sirius glanced from Sharperock to the human wizard at his side and inclined his head in greeting.
Van Der Salk extended his hand in response. “I would say that I am pleased to meet you, Heir Black, but the truth is—I find the reason for our meeting repugnant. I have been asked to act as your legal representative for your official trial in the World Magical Court.”
Sirius frowned slightly. “My trial?” He looked at Sharperock and said, “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
Sharperock grinned toothily. “We at Gringotts take our responsibility to our clients very seriously, Heir Black, and it when it became known to us that you had been unjustly imprisoned without an official trial, our first move was to get the British Ministry for Magic to admit that injustice. They have failed to admit wrong-doing in this matter to our satisfaction.
“Therefore, our next move was to prove your innocence beyond any doubt, in as public a manner as we could manage. In our position as your account manager, we have contacted the International Confederation of Wizards and the World Magical Court and explained the situation. It was agreed that you would have your trial, and your chance to testify about your actions long ago, and that this would happen in an international forum so that the British Ministry could not gloss-over their actions toward you.”
Sirius gaped at the goblin and Van Der Salk chuckled softly. “You see, Heir Black,” said the foreign wizard genially, “this will cause much embarrassment for the Ministry, which could have been avoided if they had just admitted that you received no trial in the first place. Everyone involved with your incarceration shall be forced to admit their actions in the World Magical Court. Subpoenas are being sent as we speak, and declining is not an option. I do understand that the Minister at the time of your arrest is long deceased, but she will be mentioned.”
“So,” Sirius said after a moment, “my name will be completely cleared?”
“Yes,” said Van Der Salk, “but only if you are actually innocent of all charges. Veritaserum shall be used during questioning, as well as several Goblin-designed truth charms. We will, of course, ask test questions to get a base-line for truthfulness. I am here now to prepare you for the trial, which will be held in Geneva on the twenty-ninth of this month.”
Sirius’ brow furrowed. “Is that…soon? I mean, it’s been a very long time coming of course, but….”
“We feel that it will be best for your future as Lord Black if your trial is soon,” explained Sharperock. “The fact that your Heir ring is still on your finger and not in the main Black vault is very telling for anyone with sense, but you’ll not be able to claim the Lordship ring until after your official trial—even if it apparent that you are not guilty of those particular crimes.”
Sirius looked down at his hands, thin with malnutrition and still slightly dirty from Azkaban, and stared at the brilliant obsidian stone bearing the Black crest on top of the ring. He huffed a laugh and said, “I almost forgot I was wearing the damned thing.”
Sharperock curled his lip slightly and said, “Yes, well, it is the presence of that ‘damned thing’ that proves to Gringotts your innocence beyond all question. No noble Lord or Heir can hold title or Heirship if guilty of such base crimes as cold murder or dishonorable betrayal. Had that ring been recalled to the Black Vault, there would have been nothing that I could do for you as your account manager, and a new Heir would have had to have been found for the Black title. I believe your cousin married a Malfoy and bore an Heir to that name?”
Sirius wrinkled his nose in distaste. “I might not be completely proud of my family, but I’ll be damned if I allow the Black Title to fall to a Malfoy!”
Chieftain Ragnok stared blankly at the gaudily-dressed man who emerged from the private Floo in the empty public area of Gringotts lobby. His arrival was long past-due, as far as the goblin was concerned, but the man merely stood there silently, wringing his hands in distress.
“What can I do for you, Minister Fudge?” asked Chieftain Ragnok with a sneer.
Fudge swallowed dryly before puffing up and offering a pompous posture. “I, er, am here to answer personally to your request. For information. Um…about Sirius Black.”
Ragnok blinked. The written request for proof of trial had been issued several days prior, and the Ministry had not answered promptly at all. In fact, the bank had been closed to the public now for two full days in direct response to the lack of Ministry attention. “And how, exactly, do you propose to answer our request for information about Heir Black’s trial?”
“Well, you see,” stammered Fudge uncomfortably, “we…the Ministry, I mean. We don’t have records of that trial. So—now that you know, you can open the bank again.”
Ragnok blinked again.
“I think,” said Ragnok slowly, “that you are under some impression that Gringotts works for the Ministry, and that could not be further from the truth. However, since you have not produced any sort of record of a trial for Sirius Black, and you have not admitted to imprisoning him without a trial, then Gringotts shall have to move forward to produce justice for one of our most prestigious accounts. Very well, Minister Fudge, you may go back to your precious Ministry building, and I shall move forward with the ICW and the World Magical Court. Once a verdict has been reached, you shall be notified. Only then shall Gringotts be opened for business for British customers.”
Fudge stood there, stunned, as the goblin Chieftain dismissed him. Finally, he stammered, “What do you mean by moving forward with the World Magical Court?”
Ragnok merely raised an eyebrow. “I mean that, if the British Ministry for Magic refuses to acknowledge Heir Black’s innocence, then Gringotts shall be moving to have an official and very public trial within the World Magical Court. I’ll be contacting them now. Good day, Minister Fudge.”
Ragnok turned to move out of the empty bank lobby, as the guards began to usher Fudge out the doors. Before he was forced completely outside, Fudge yelled, “But—what about my image in the World Magical Court? What am I supposed to do here?”
Ragnok turned slightly and sneered. “That, Minister Fudge, is in no way my problem.”
11—A Confused Werewolf Enters, Stage Right
July 20, 1993
Remus Lupin walked to the gleaming entrance to Gringotts Bank and spoke hesitantly to the guard in front of the locked door, explaining that he was supposed to be meeting someone within that day. The goblin guard took the message—and a copy of the letter that Remus had received from Harry Potter—and entered the closed bank, leaving Remus waiting on the marble steps. He was uncomfortable standing there, because there were a few hopeful people walking along Diagon Alley, watching to see if the doors would finally be opened to the public.
Minutes later, a goblin dressed sharply in a black suit with a blue pocket handkerchief approached and introduced himself to Remus. “Mr. Lupin? I am Manager Sharperock. I thank you for coming in today. If you would please follow me.”
Without waiting for a reply, Sharperock turned and headed down a dimly-lit corridor, well away from the lobby, leaving a stunned Remus to follow quickly or be left behind. Behind him, the goblin guards again closed and locked the front doors of the bank.
Sharperock led Remus to a private office and offered him a seat. “Mr. Lupin, I’m sure that you have many questions this afternoon, but before we truly begin this meeting, I must ask you several inappropriate questions. Shall I begin?”
Remus gaped at the goblin for a moment before stammering, “Y-yes, of course. Please, by all means.”
Sharperock grinned. “Are you currently under any sort of loyalty oath to the wizard known as Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore?”
Remus frowned slightly. “Um, no, I’m not. I mean, I am, of course, incredibly grateful to Albus because he allowed my education when I was a child, but I’ve largely been on my own for the past ten years and have had nothing to do with him. Of course, I shall probably be asked to take some sort of oath before I begin teaching at Hogwarts, but that is still a short time away.”
Sharperock nodded abruptly. “Very well. Are you currently up to date with the Wolfsbane Potion, or have you let it lapse between full moon cycles?”
Remus gaped. “Um, I usually take the potion right before the full moon, but not constantly during the entire month.”
Sharperock nodded again, settling down in his own chair. “One last question, Mr. Lupin, and this one is the most important: Would you be willing to keep a completely open mind about things that have no logical explanation, volunteering to give a magical oath of secrecy before such things may be revealed to you?”
Remus mulled the question for a long moment. It was certainly odd, that was true, but then so was the whole reason for his presence in Gringotts that particular day. In truth, Remus was not supposed to be anywhere near Diagon Alley at all that month. He had originally been scheduled to travel to acquire teaching materials for the Defense Against the Dark Arts classes that he was going to be teaching. There were creatures that he had wanted to take custody of in several locations in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and while he had originally wanted to collect them in person, Remus supposed that they could be shipped.
The fact was, as soon as he had received a letter from Harry Potter, son of his late friends, James and Lily Potter, Remus dropped all of his plans. He had been trying in vain to make contact with the boy for almost a decade, and Albus Dumbledore had kept blocking the way, mostly by insisting that Harry was fine and any contact with Remus would disrupt his life in a detrimental way. When Albus offered the teaching position, Remus jumped at the chance, knowing that he would finally be able to speak to the boy. But Harry himself had made contact, with no urging from Remus, and the chance to meet him outside of a school environment was too tempting. At the very least, Remus was hoping to meet the boy at a pub or café for lunch, but he was instead directed to Gringotts for the meeting. That was the most perplexing thing—and the most compelling—because the bank was, according to the Daily Prophet and several foreign newspapers, closed to the public due to audits and Ministry complicities. The first news article that caught Remus’ attention mentioned missing trial records for Sirius Black, and that, plus the invitation from Harry Potter, made Remus very curious to see what was happening inside Gringotts.
After a long while, Remus finally nodded in agreement. “I’ll keep as open a mind as you need me to,” he said, “and I’ll swear any oath you require to keep the information private.”
Sharperock grinned again. “I will hold you to that, Mr. Lupin. Especially because I may require you to take an oath of loyalty to Heir Potter that will supersede any oath that you will take for your employer. Also, I would like to point out that your employer is actually Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and not Albus Dumbledore, so you may want to consider that before taking an employment oath of any sort.”
Remus blinked, obviously stunned. That…was not something that Remus had considered before.
“And now,” continued Sharperock, standing, “we should move to our specially prepared meeting room.”
Remus blinked again. “We’re, uh, not meeting here?”
Sharperock shook his head. “No, Mr. Lupin. I was merely using my office to gather minimal information about you personally. If I found that you could not be open-minded, or that you could not be trusted with Heir Potter, then you would have been escorted from the bank and left alone.”
Remus nodded. “I understand. And I thank you, personally, for the care you are taking with the son of my late friend.”
Sharperock shot a short glance at Lupin before opening the office door and leading the way deeper into the bank. “Frankly, Mr. Lupin, someone should be showing care for the boy, as it is long past due.”
Remus glanced around as they moved deeper into the bank, noticing how different the private areas were from the public ones. “Um, I was wondering,” he said when Sharperock stopped in front of a stone door, “if you could tell me anything about what is going on with Sirius Black? The Daily Prophet is a bit scant on the details.”
Sharperock grinned. “That may be explained later today, Mr. Lupin. Now, please follow me.”
Sharperock pressed a plate next to the stone door and an orange light shone briefly through the slight gap around the door before it swung open. Remus followed the goblin inside and found a comfortable apartment inside, furnished with soft-looking chairs, sturdy tables, functional bunk-beds, and a wash-station. There was a stoneware tea set on a low table in the seating area, with steam gently flowing from the teapot, and it was there that Sharperock bade him to sit.
“You’ll need to make an Oath now, Mr. Lupin,” said the goblin shrewdly. “Likely, you’ll be asked to make several, but this one is most important as it is meant to protect valuable information.”
Remus nodded seriously. “I understand. Will I be permitted to use my wand to seal the oath, or do you have another preferred method?”
Sharperock grinned. “It is good to meet people who understand our rules and regulations, Mr. Lupin. In this case, you shall be permitted to use your wand to seal your oath, as it will be sealed with your personal Magical Signature.”
Sharperock handed a slip of parchment to Lupin and watched carefully as the man brandished his wand in hand before reading the parchment. Lupin’s eyes widened dramatically and he looked up to the goblin, who only nodded and gestured to the parchment in his hand.
Remus swallowed deeply and took a deep, cleansing breath before pressing the tip of his wand to his own chest, clearly reciting, “I, Remus John Lupin, so swear on my life and magic to hold secret the true story of Harry Potter, the true story of Sirius Black, and the true story of a Destiny that nobody asked for. So Mote It Be.”
The magical oath took hold with a blinding white light, and Remus drooped dramatically into a chair with the effort of the oath. Sharperock calmly poured a cup of strong, hot tea for the man before moving to another, unnoticed door and knocking sharply three times. Remus sipped the bitter brew slowly as the door opened, revealing a skinny boy with dark hair, green eyes, and round-framed glasses. Remus almost fumbled the teacup as he set it on the table in his hurry to stand. “Harry!” he rasped. “It’s really you!”
The boy, Harry, blushed and shrugged his slender shoulders. “I wouldn’t have tricked you, Mr. Lupin. I really do want to hear about my parents, and I really was excited to learn that you’ll be teaching this year, because I think you’ll be an incredible teacher.”
Remus looked at the boy, bemused. “That’s very kind of you to say, Harry, but how would you know if I’ll be an incredible teacher? Even I’m not sure how I’ll do.”
Harry nodded to Sharperock, who moved to the doorway and activated some sort of switch, and then took a seat across from Remus. Harry turned his intense emerald gaze on the older man, who suddenly felt very exposed. “I’ve recently come across some interesting information,” Harry said after a moment. “Mr. Sharperock has been very helpful to me since I ran away from my aunt’s home, and he was very helpful when I came upon this information, and now we’d like to share this information with you.”
Remus stared at the boy who looked so much like his old friend. Finally the words Harry spoke sank in and Remus jumped to his feet. “You ran away! On your own? You could have been hurt, Harry! Why did you run?”
Harry sat back in his chair, alarmed. “I’m fine, Mr. Lupin. I had a bout of accidental magic, and it was bad, and I ran because I thought I’d get into trouble.”
Remus took a breath and regained his chair. “But surely your aunt is worried about you!”
Harry shook his head. “I very seriously doubt that, but I’ll be checking with them—possibly around the Christmas holidays. I’m staying…nearby, until I have to leave for Kings Cross and the train back to school, and I’m perfectly safe. If things get dicey for me, then Mr. Sharperock said I can come stay at the bank until September first, so I’m really not worried.”
Remus looked doubtful but let it all slide. “Alright, Harry, I believe you—for now. Now, why did you want to meet in the bank?”
Harry shrugged. “Because this is the most secure place I could think of. I have a huge secret, Mr. Lupin. A really huge secret, and Mr. Sharperock said it would be good to share it with two people who can help me. You were one of those people, so we asked you to come so I could tell you all about it. Also, I figured you might be curious about me, and I know I’m curious about you and everything you know about my parents, so we’ll have lots of time to share stories.”
Remus picked up his teacup and sipped more of the cooling brew. “Just how much time will we have, realistically?”
“We are in a Gringotts Time Chamber,” answered Sharperock. “I’ve set it for a long ratio, so for every hour that passes inside this Chamber, only five minutes will pass outside. We shall take no more than three hours inside for now, so that Heir Potter can fully describe the situation we find ourselves in. Then we shall take an extended meal break before meeting with Chieftain Ragnok. After that meeting, you will be given the choice of entering this chamber again at a later date, with Heir Potter and another person of interest who may be of assistance to us.”
Remus’ brow wrinkled as he sipped more tea. “Okay,” he said finally. “That sounds…very involved, but I promised to keep an open mind, so count me in.”
Harry immediately brightened. “Excellent!” He reached into his book bag and pulled out three leather-bound texts. “Now, first I need to explain some stuff, and then you might need to read these. Don’t worry about being rude or anything, because I have stuff to keep me entertained, and Mr. Sharperock has a lot of reports to work through.”
Remus sat back, holding a fresh cup of tea that gradually grew colder as Harry spun a tale of emotional and mental abuse, physical bullying, and starvation all through childhood, culminating with a violent expression of accidental magic that led to him rushing from his aunt’s home and straight onto the Knight Bus. Remus noted the brief mention of a shaggy, emaciated black dog, but he quickly forgot about it once Harry described the strange bookshop and the collection that ‘called’ to him.
The tea in his cup was practically stone-cold when Harry finished his story and Sharperock asked, “How quickly can you read, Mr. Lupin? We have two hours before our scheduled meeting with Chieftain Ragnok.”
Remus let his gaze fall on the three sturdy books that Harry had placed on the table between them before turning it to the boy in front of him. “Your life is really in there?”
Harry shrugged slightly. “More or less. I mean, there are some slight changes—stuff that didn’t happen or happened a bit differently. When Mr. Sharperock read them, he made notes and asked me questions, so he noted the differences, and we noted the recent differences when we read the first part of the third book together. After that—I’m not sure. That’s what we have to figure out, you know?”
Remus nodded and turned to Sharperock. “And you really believe it was Augury Books that was there?” Sharperock nodded and Remus blew out a sharp breath. “That’s almost the stuff of dreams and nightmares. I’ve heard legends from almost every country—from many different Magical Races!”
“Then you can understand the seriousness of this situation, Mr. Lupin. Should this information fall into the wrong hands, even hands of someone who thinks he’s doing the right thing…the results could be disastrous.”
Remus nodded. “Yes, I completely understand.”
Sharperock shared a knowing look with Harry, and the boy asked, “So, are you completely loyal to Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, or are you willing to take an oath of loyalty to help me right many, many wrongs?”
An expression of clarity crossed Remus’ face as he realized that Dumbledore would indeed be very interested in books found in Augury Books, regardless of whether they were meant for him or not. Remus also realized that within those very books may be Dumbledore’s motivations for sending James and Lily into hiding in the first place—an act that ultimately led to their deaths.
Without prompting, Remus again withdrew his wand, pointed it at his own chest, and declared, “I, Remus John Lupin, do so swear unwavering loyalty to Harry James Potter and Sharperock of Gringotts, vowing to never reveal what they tell me, or what we learn together, unless both specifically give me leave to do so, and to only share this information with people they both decide are worthy of holding it. So Mote It Be.”
This time, the flash of magic as the oath settled was much brighter, even giving off some heat.
Satisfied, Harry gently nudged the books across the table, saying, “They’re in order, top to bottom. The papers piled between the books are our personal notes about the differences between those books and my actual life. I have a spare empty notebook and pen if you want to make your own notes.”
Remus smiled. “I think I’d like that, Harry. Thank you for thinking of that.”
Harry returned the smile. “I figure you’re a thinking man, and thinking people like to write stuff down so they can process better. I learned at least that much from my friend Hermione.”
When Remus opened the first book, Harry pulled out a book about Parselmagic—written in Parselwrit—and Sharperock moved to the larger table and opened the first of a stack of folders and began reading and scribbling notes. By the time Remus had finished the third book—and all of the accumulated notes—he looked completely wrecked, Harry was hissing softly to himself, and Sharperock was closing the final folder.
Remus closed the book and stacked it neatly before turning to Sharperock and asking, “Is there a possibility of Firewhiskey with lunch today?”
Sharperock smiled as he deactivated the Time Chamber and said, “You might wish for Firewhiskey, but I rather think strong tea or perhaps chocolate would be a better choice considering what we still have to accomplish.”
Remus nodded absently and rubbed his face with both hands. “So Sirius was really innocent, and did not betray James and Lily?”
“No,” said Harry. “But Peter Pettigrew did. And I know where Peter Pettigrew is, and so does Sirius Black, and now—so do you.”
Remus eyed the young man carefully. “Is this one of the things you want to ‘fix’?”
Harry nodded seriously. “Don’t you think it’s important to fix? I mean, at the moment we’re not sure if Pettigrew should be allowed to go free or to be captured by Aurors, but at the very least Sirius Black is being declared innocent in front of the entire world.”
Remus gaped at him. “Really?”
Harry smirked. “Really. Chieftain Ragnok sort of forced the issue when he closed the bank while he waited for the Ministry’s records to be delivered. When Minister Fudge failed to bring proof of a trial, and refused to admit that he was put in Azkaban without one, Chieftain Ragnok went global—to the World Magical Court. The international trial is at the end of the month. I can’t go, because I’m underage and currently without a guardian, but I bet Sirius would like it if you were there.”
Remus smiled and said, “Let’s go to lunch and I’ll think about it.”