Things didn't entirely get swept aside after the conclusion of the TWT. Dumbledore doesn't get his way. Riddle or Fudge don't either.
Ships – Not a significant aspect of this tale. This is a story about the adult characters. The teens only have minor roles.
Book compliancy – The story begins during July of 1995, the summer between 4th and 5th year. Except for the last chapter or two, almost everything in books one through four can be assumed, except for Harry's living arrangements. In this story he had been adopted by the Grangers after second year. My Susan Bones is an orphan, taken in at a young age by Amelia Bones. Almost everything after grabbing the cup can be tossed out the window. This story is not a sequel to any of my other stories.
Please note – No Weasley students were knowingly killed or damaged in this story. Actually, Igenerally prefer to ignore them. There's a nice blend of humor, action, titillation, death and situational ethics. One of the characters mentions that something bad happened several years in the past. This story is intended for adult readers who understand that bad things can happen to good people.
Disclaimer - JKR's sandbox, not mine. I'm having a blast pushing some of the piles around a bit and rearranging them. I'm beyond grateful that anyone would spend their time reading my twisted thoughts.
Wizarding etiquette – This and most fanfiction stories are written strictly on a hobby basis. Two fantastic guys agreed to look at it, but there may have been beer involved. I make no claim that it is error free. If you enjoy my little stories and are willing to accept the quality level, please read on and leave a review every few chapters. If you don't care for the content or style, just walk away. I don't want to hear that you don't like the way that I write my stories.
Please note: There are a handful of O-Cs in my story. I would prefer to have heard from you before I find them in your stories. I made use of a non-canon spell, Percutio. I believe that Mike first detailed it in his epic tale.
Finally, I'd point out that this story is here because of my friend and fellow scribe, Robst. After finishing his fantastic tale, Harry Crow, I promised myself that if he started posting another story, I would too.
Part one – It Started with a Shove
Chapter One – Leave or Bleed
Saturday 3 July, 1995
The thirty-eight year old dentist could hardly believe his ears. As his nearly fifteen year old adopted son, Harry and his daughter Hermione relayed the events following the final task of the Tri-Wizard Tournament to his increasing disbelief, the bile that was building in his stomach was offset by an ever-increasing dose of righteous anger. With a glance to Emma, his wife of seventeen years, he confirmed, "Do you mean to say that the Minister for Magic completely blew off your report as some sort of delusional story? Didn't they at least go check the scene? There must have been loads of physical evidence."
Harry recalled the giant cauldron and shattered headstones before replying, "er…"
Reminding himself to focus on his driving, Dan asked, "Harry, what the hell happened?"
"Professor Dumbledore and Minister Fudge asked me a question or two when Cedric and I, I mean Cedric's body and I got back. Then they went to talk with Mr. Diggory and the fake Moody took me up to the castle and tried to kill me. Professor Dumbledore stopped him, then he turned into a different guy; Barty Crouch Junior. Dumbledore asked him a few questions, but then Fudge and Mr. Malfoy came in together with a dementor that sucked Crouch's soul out. I don't understand; I'd seen him at the graveyard just minutes before. That albino turd tried to kill me."
"What? The Minister of Magic is mates with…?"
Hermione piped up, "They were sitting together, until you and Cedric were portkeyed away. Then I saw him talking with Minister Fudge for a few minutes while Professor Dumbledore was talking with Mr. Diggory."
"Em, get the notepad out of the glove box. Harry, think carefully; exactly what did you see in that graveyard?"
The confused teen briefly explained what had happened, while Dan barely kept the car on the road.
Disbelief on his face, the adoptive father asked, "He did nothing? What about the police, I mean the aurors? What did they do? Didn't they arrest anyone? I've hardly read anything about it in the paper in the last week. They made it sound like some kind of sporting accident." He couldn't remember that last time that he was so angry.
Unfortunately, his rage was turning into cold fury and with his son's limited experience with family matters, he was taking it wrong. The lad muttered, "I don't know. I'm sorry I got you in this mess."
Emma stopped his line of thought in its tracks and declared, "Harry, we've never regretted adopting you, not for a moment. This isn't your fault. I'm certain that Amelia Bones feels the same way for being magical guardian to both of you." She gave Dan the look and added, "That's enough for now. We'll talk more about this later."
… - …
While Harry and the Grangers were driving to their home, Amelia Bones had finally gotten Fudge to agree to hear the preliminary investigators' summary that Head Investigator Connie Hammer and Investigator Anna Daily had prepared. When Bones entered Fudge's office, she was disappointed, yet unsurprised, to see his primary lackey, Senior Undersecretary Dolores Umbridge seated in one of the guest chairs.
He began, "Good afternoon, Amelia. We are most anxious to hear the preliminary findings regarding Amos' boy's tragic death. Hopefully, your report will put an end to all of the wild speculation that I've been hearing and we can return to business as usual. Please begin."
"After finishing the Tri Wizard Tournament at roughly the same time, Cedric Diggory and Harry Potter mutually agreed to grab the cup together; theoretically ending the contest in a tie. Barty Crouch Junior admitted to turning the cup into a two-way portkey, that took both the boys to a cemetery in Little Hangleton, a small village near Leeds. They arrived at 8:30 PM on 24 June."
Fudge nodded, and she continued. "Harry stated that Cedric was murdered almost immediately, by Peter Pettigrew, who was ordered to by an unseen person. Cedric certainly died as a result of being hit by the killing curse and rigor-mortis was absent, when the body was recovered, at 9:05 PM. The broken wand that was found and recovered by Connie Hammer and photographed at the scene by Anna Daily was identified by both Professor Sprout and Amos as having belonged to Cedric."
To Amelia's profound annoyance, Umbridge simpered, "Perhaps I misheard you, Amelia; you stated that Peter Pettigrew murdered Cedric. There's no evidence that he's alive."
Amelia already suspected that Fudge was more interested in an effective cover-up than in the truth. Umbridge's comment only confirmed her suspicion. She elected not to argue the point and continued, "Potter stated that he was tied up and bound to a headstone that faced another stone marked as Tom Riddle. Anna photographed a grave where the grass was flattened down next to a stone marked Tom Riddle Jr."
Fudge responded, "The grass could have been trampled down by picnickers, or a grieving widow."
"True," admitted Bones, polishing her monocle for effect, "Though Riddle's date of death was 1945."
"Inconclusive," declared Umbridge, as if her proclamation made it so.
Amelia pressed, "Connie and Anna documented and photographed nineteen spell marks, freshly cast, mostly A-Ks, piercing hexes, cruciatus curses or blasting hexes."
Umbridge challenged, "Potter could have cast those spells."
"I suppose he could have," reflected Amelia, hoping that her toad-faced colleague would have gone down this path. Bones continued, "But there is ample evidence that he didn't. The last five spells that were cast on his wand were checked immediately after he was freed from Crouch Junior. Except for an Expelliarmus, they match the last spells displayed on the screens during the Tournament. You were there watching, Minister; what did they say before they grabbed the cup?"
"I, er…" stammered Fudge. In fact, he had been more focused on worming more gold out of Lucius for improvements to his vacation home in Spain than on a school contest that had already been disgraced.
"Inconclusive," restated Umbridge, coming to his aid. "Sirius Black could have fired those curses, chasing Potter around until he managed to reactivate that blasted portkey."
"Ironic that you should mention that, Dolores. When Dumbledore and I interviewed Harry that night, he stated that the Death Eaters apparated to the graveyard, at the reborn Voldemort's command. Potter counted the Death Eaters and Voldemort named some of them as he spoke individually with them. Shall we review the names now?"
Potter could have gotten those names off of old trial records," shouted Fudge, clearly not wanting to hear Malfoy's name mentioned.
"I suppose he could have," admitted Amelia in a soft voice, as she strived to lower the tension for a moment. After a sip of her tea, she added, "Of course I haven't mentioned who he named yet. Was Lucius with you the entire time that the boys were gone?"
"I, er… didn't notice in all, all of the…" stammered Fudge.
"He must have been," declared Umbridge.
"I wasn't aware that you were at the Tournament, Dolores. Where were you sitting that you could see the Minister and Mr. Malfoy the entire time?"
Dolores thought fast. She was at the Fox and Hound at the time, half-baked and wanting nothing to do with a contest that involved foreigners and half-breeds. She recalled that too many people had seen her that night and replied, "I was on Ministry business. Potter could have made all of that up."
Amelia simply inquired, "True, but why?"
Umbridge shouted her conclusion, "Because he's a filthy half-blood liar, who's seeking attention."
Even Fudge backed away from that declaration. He gave her a startled look.
Amelia suggested, "Perhaps we should review his memory of the evening."
"Inadmissible," declared Fudge.
"I wasn't aware that anyone was on trial," replied Bones, looking at the man to see where he would take this.
Umbridge remarked, "He could have modified his memories."
Bones observed, "Alejandro Croaker perhaps, but not a fourteen year-old boy."
"Enough!" shouted Fudge. "Director, turn the investigation over to someone else."
She raised her eyebrows and asked, "Are you suggesting that the lead investigator of the DMLE is incompetent or somehow biased?"
"No; simply that there may be more than one interpretation of the preliminary evidence. No one is disputing the Diggory boy's death, yet who is to say that it wasn't a tragic accident resulting from the Tournament, something plotted by Crouch Junior, or perhaps Sirius Black may have been behind it?"
"Potter's statement was that Peter Pettigrew was responsible."
"Peter Pettigrew is dead. He died a hero's death, killed by Sirius Black."
"Black was never convicted of that, or even tried. Besides, no one ever found a body."
"For Merlin's sake, Amelia, they found a finger."
"True, but someone found Mad-Eye's leg and he's not dead. There's no evidence whatever that Black had anything to do with this."
"Please understand, Minister, there's nothing in the evidence collected that disputes Harry's statement."
"Again, that's open to interpretation. Perhaps another opinion is in order, one less involved; perhaps John Dawlish should review the evidence."
"Hit Wizard Dawlish couldn't give an unbiased report about the time of day."
"He's the captain of my guard."
"Exactly my point, Minister. While I'm certain that he's good at protective detail, he's not an investigator. I understand your point, given Harry's involvement. How about Rufus? He's had nothing to do with the Tournament. He can review the evidence that Connie and Anna collected. We can meet again next week and present it to the Wizengamot, if needed."
Fudge glanced at his assistant (even he privately agreed with those who called her toad face) whether her saw her nod, or suppress a belch was inconclusive, but he took it as an affirmation and declared, "Acceptable. Contact Scrimgeour and we'll meet next Saturday at three."
Amelia nodded in resignation. Her public argument to Dumbledore last October that he should relinquish his magical guardianship of Harry Potter and Hermione Granger due to conflict of interest was turning on her in this situation. He had reluctantly signed the guardianship over to her, rather than Arthur Weasley, primarily due to a poorly timed burst of independence on Harry's part. Now Harry was the last person known to have seen Cedric alive and objectively, her role with the distressed teen placed her at less than an arm's length distance from the investigation of Cedric's murder. She knew that Rufus had political ambitions, but believed that he could objectively review the evidence. "She replied, "As you wish, Minister. Believe what you want. I'll take my leave now. I'll talk with Connie and Anna and direct them to provide Captain Scrimgeour with a copy of all of the documentation and evidence." With that, she closed the door behind her.
Her attitude could become a problem, thought Fudge.
"She's not the problem," declared the toad-faced women as she pulled down on her cardigan. "The first problem is Dumbledore. He'll never keep quiet about this; regardless of what you direct him to do. He'll have to quickly be discredited and placed on a short leash. No, the real problem is Potter. We have no leverage on him." More to herself, she added, "Something will have to be done to stop the boy's lies."
… - …
The creature once known as Tom Riddle sat in a high-backed, ornately carved chair pondering his situation. After the ignoble gathering following his rebirth, Lucius had offered the use of his Wiltshire manor house. However insincere the offer, Voldemort took the blond aristocrat at his word. He correctly surmised that the Aurors would soon begin investigating that boy's murder, and his own home would be unavailable for use. Riddle took over the north wing of the large estate. It had several outside entrances, so covert access would not be an issue. He directed Lucius to block off the inside passageway to the rest of the estate and not to mention his presence to either Narcissa or Draco; telling them that they were hosting an important foreign visitor, who did not want to be disturbed.
Malfoy also provided the Dark Lord with 500,000 galleons in coin for his use; hoping that he would use it as seed money and not demand more. Additionally, he provided the services of Binks, the house elf; secretly hoping that he wouldn't get called upon to run common errands for his Master.
That accomplished the first evening there; Riddle hadn't spoken with Lucius in the last week; instead relying on Binks or Wormtail to do his bidding. He had used the time to summon each of his marked followers individually and speak with, or to them. Some, like Snape, were spoken debriefed extensively – in that case, it was a combination of testing the young wizard's loyalty and gathering information. Satisfied with Snape's explanations and groveling, Riddle sent him back to the castle to resume his real position at the school. Snape was given an extensive list of potions to brew in the next two weeks; a small sack of coins to purchase ingredients and strict instructions 'not arouse suspicions on the part of the Old Fool.' Others, such as the elder Avery and Parkinson were advised of the amounts and timeframe of their expected contributions.
Of the forty marked Death Eaters that stood in Riddle's service as of October 1981;
* Twenty-two stood with him in the graveyard
* Six had died, or previously been killed
* Six were in Azkaban
* Karkarov had deserted him
* Snape had returned into the fold
* and Barty Junior had been captured and given a Dementor's Kiss
The other three were known to be loyal, but were currently out of the country, beyond the reach of his Mark. He could also call on the services of several dozen unmarked witches and wizards aligned to his cause – Borgin, Burke, and Felsenthal in Diagon Alley, Edgecombe, Amslowe, and Thicknesse at the ministry, a few others, as well as a handful of spouses and older children.
Riddle was realistic enough to realize that while twenty-five to thirty witches and wizards formed a nice core of followers; especially those possessing substantial amounts of readily available gold, they were, for the most part, out of practice, overweight, and far better suited to making back-room deals than delivering death and mayhem against any competent advisories.
In the short-term, he needed to engage the most capable or expandable of his marked followers to engage against a few soft targets. In the intermediate term, he needed to recruit a majority of the older students at Hogwarts and those who recently finished. In the long term, once his general ranks were restored, thugs and hired muscle could be rented to extend his reach.
Riddle planned to remain unseen by the Ministry as well as ordinary witches and wizards. Instead he would direct small attacks against outmatched opponents. The attacks would have several benefits – removal of small obstacles, reconditioning of his out-of-shape followers and milk-runs for new recruits to either prove themselves or be killed.
As good as he felt that strategy was, Riddle admitted that he needed to quickly retrieve his most loyal and most capable fighters – the Lestranges, Dolohov, the sadistic torturer Travers, and the extraordinarily gifted near-genius, Rookwood. They were the ones would could deliver death. They were the ones who could inspire and competently train the young recruits. They were the ones who could be counted on to plan the detail of an operation, point the hired muscle at an enemy, and emerge victorious.
Azkaban would be breached by year-end.
As of yet, his fear that Potter would widely report what he'd witnessed and that the identified Death Eaters would quickly be captured hadn't materialized. Apparently the boy either hadn't reported what he'd seen, was insufficiently convincing, or Lucius' speculation that Fudge would simply stick his head in the sand had come true.
… - …
Sirius Black looked around the shabby room and all but concluded that Dumbledore's reconstituted Order of the Phoenix was worthless. As he finished his second lowball of Ogden's, he realized that with the possible exception of Alastor Moody, no one was battle ready. Scratch that, Black recalled that Moody had spent the last ten months locked in an unlit 5x8 foot compartment in his own trunk. He wasn't ready either.
Fifteen years ago, they had been an adequate covert force, supplementing a rapidly failing ministry. Yet the losses had mounted. The McKinnens, the Prewetts, the Bones had fallen. Wormtail turned traitor, James and Lily were cut down and Frank and Alice were worse than dead. By any measure, the Order had lost its best people.
In their stead sat Arthur and his harpy of a wife, a wounded warrior, a squib who couldn't even keep little Harry from being beaten, Sturgis Podmore, who Sirius didn't know well, but believed that he was a bookkeeper, Remus and McGonagall. Nine – nine people making up a group who didn't even need to sit in the musty dining room. They easily fit around the scrubbed oak country table that sat in the kitchen.
To make matters worse, his old enemy, Snivellus walked into the room, looked around, sneered and declared, "Have you lowered your hygienic standards to those that you'd grown accustomed to on the island, Black?"
Dumbledore wouldn't even give him the satisfaction of fighting his own battles and responded, "Now Severus, you must realize that the home that Sirius has so graciously made available for our use has been unoccupied for years and will take some time to return to its former glory. Perhaps you'd care to assist?"
"Headmaster, I have more important tasks to accomplish than light housekeeping for a criminal and his pet wolf. Perhaps if the mutt were housebroken, this… facility would at least smell better next time."
Black lurched forth and shouted, "You sniveling coward, son of a bitch," but was held back by Lupin.
Dumbledore bypassed the unpleasantness, stating, "Now that we are all here, we can be seated and get started. Severus has informed me that Lord Voldemort had indeed returned and has a nearly human form."
Having heard this a week ago, Black demanded, "And what is being done about it? Where is he? Have the Auror force and the Hit Wizards been informed and mobilized? Are they recruiting? Why is nothing in the Prophet? When can we go after them?"
As Molly looked scandalized at Black's rudeness, Dumbledore simply evaded his questions, declaring, "At present, we are ill-prepared to directly confront either Tom or any of his followers. We need to focus on gathering information. Arthur and Sturgis, you need to be on the lookout for signs that the ministry had been subverted. Alastor; please do the same with your former colleagues at the DMLE. Minerva, perhaps you could identify and speak with a few of the recently finished students, who might be willing to take up our cause. Molly, may I impose upon you to assist Sirius in making this fine home a bit more hospitable. Remus, can you check with your contacts to see if Tom had contacted Fenrir to rejoin him?"
"What about the Ministry?" interrupted Sirius. "Was Amelia given budget to begin recruiting? Who is going after the current Death Eaters?"
Dumbledore sighed at Black's inconsiderate behavior and admitted, "Unfortunately, Cornelius was unreceptive to both Harry and myself at the end of the tournament. Barty Junior was Kissed before we could get any meaningful testimony."
"If Snivellus hadn't interfered last year, Pettigrew would have been brought to justice. Instead his stupid story about Harry and his friends being confounded has started the ball rolling again."
"Perhaps," admitted Snape, in his silky voice, "But if true justice had been served, you would have been Kissed that night for your crimes as well and I wouldn't be sitting in this filthy dump."
That was one step too far for Sirius, who declared, "Snape, you'll leave this house and not return. Kreacher." With a pop, the greasy potion master had vanished.
Looking disappointed, Dumbledore admonished, "Sirius, your action was uncalled for. Severus has a difficult role to perform and you're not making it easier."
Sirius shot back, "Bullshit, Dumbledore. Did he confirm any of the Death Eaters' names, or report any of that monster's current plans? Has his information ever been timely enough to have been acted on? Did he capture Wormtail? No, no and no. He's done nothing, and you still walk around with a semi every time that his name comes out of your lips."
Gathering up steam, he continued, "You have no plan. Even if you did, you'll never tell anyone. Be gone! Go back to your castle or your crappy home and cook dinner for your brood on your own. Aside from Remus, Mad Eye's the only one here that's worth a damn in a fight. You haven't even found me a properly fitting wand. Molly, your brood's never moving in here. Out. Now."
… - ..
As he sat down on his ornately carved high-backed chair, the old headmaster reflected. That could have gone better. He'd contact the members individually and confirm their assignments.
Reflecting back on the big picture, he lamented "Harry's relatives are in prison (for child abuse) so that safe-house is lost." He now regretted signing guardianship of Harry to Amelia. Not that she was untrustworthy; rather it closed a door of access to ready funding and the old professor knew as well as any general that waging war was expensive – both in terms of gold and blood.
There were an unknown number of horcruxes to find and his absolute belief remained that young Harry would need to sacrifice himself to allow Tom to finally be finished off. He dwelled on the words that Sybil had uttered that October night … and either might die at the hands of the other.
Dumbledore knew that quietly destroying the horcruxes was the key to defeating Riddle. Yes, he had put off searching for the abominations for the last two years, since Harry's return from the Chamber of Secrets with a destroyed diary – time that in hindsight could have been used to train Harry, find and destroy another of them, or at least coerce Horace and confirm the quantity that Tom had set out to make, but there were always other priorities. As the muggles were fond of saying, that was now water under the bridge. He popped another sherbet lemon into his mouth and opened an unexpected letter from the ICW.
… - …
While Sirius was pointing out Dumbledore's hard support for his Potion Master, Harry and the Grangers had finished their welcome-back dinner at the local Asian restaurant that the teens liked and arrived at their home in Crawley.
As the magicals found their way back to their respective rooms, Emma asked, "What should we do, Dan? Harry doesn't sound like Professor Dumbledore's got a plan to actually fight those men and Hermione's too awed by authority figures to see anything but sunshine."
Dan replied, "I think Harry should invite Amelia and Susan over for lunch or dinner tomorrow. They need to finish their conversation and Amelia needs to be able to ask her questions without any reporters hovering around them."
Harry picked out a video cassette movie to watch for the night. Hermione gave him a sour look when he picked out The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It clearly wasn't her favorite, but she was glad that they were all home together.
… - …
The two Bones women arrived at the Granger/Potter home at one o'clock the next day. In spite of the perfect weather, Amelia's news wasn't pleasant. While the three teens were enjoying each other's company in the pool, she stated, "In short, Fudge won't budge. He's so indebted to Lucius that he'll never publically announce Riddle's return."
Dan asked, "So you absolutely believe Harry's version of the events of that night?"
Amelia replied, "Absolutely, but…"
Emma declared, "The Minister controls the purse strings."
"And this Malfoy fellow controls the Minister," added Dan. "He's one of the Death Eaters that Harry specifically mentioned that he saw there that night. Aside from deciding your overall budget, can this Fudge fellow make a lot of trouble for you? Do you report to him?"
"To your questions, yes and no. The Minister sets and can change my budget, but I report to the head of the Wizengamot."
"Dumbledore," grimaced Dan. "That puts you between See-No-Evil and Do-No-Thing, resulting in a completely defensive posture. You'll never win a war that way. The only thing worse would be if half of those followers had diplomatic immunity."
Amelia rubbed her eyes and admitted, "That's the short of it. Malfoy Avery, Nott, Goyle, Parkinson and Flint have seats in our Wizengamot – a one-house version of your Parliament that also serves a judicial function. They and their cronies have a solid one-third voting bloc. Given the conservative nature of the others, they can stall just about anything that they wish."
Emma asked, "What about the kids? What can they do? What can we do to help them? Are they at least allowed to defend themselves? Can they get a permit to use magic?"
"To answer your questions, they're all targets and need to learn to defend themselves. Officially, a Trace is placed on their wands to monitor underage magic cast until they turn seventeen. The trace is on the wand itself. A further trace can be placed to monitor a location. For example, I know that Fudge had placed on Privet Drive when Harry turned eleven. To my knowledge, there isn't one monitoring your home. To be honest, I'm certain that it is not widely known within the Ministry that you adopted Harry two years ago."
Emma replied, "After he fought that gigantic…" she searched a moment to recall the word, "Basilisk that had petrified Hermione, removing him from those horrible people seemed like the absolute least that we could do."
Amelia filed her comment to ask about later and continued, "An underage wizard or witch is allowed to use magic to defend themselves, but doing so will almost always result in a disciplinary hearing. Finally, it is all but impossible for an underage wizard to obtain a use of magic permit, while it is fairly easy for a witch to do. The rational is to allow an underage witch to cast contraceptive charms on herself."
Ignoring the inequity, Dan inquired, "Hermione mentioned something about warding to keep a property protected. How could we check into that?"
Amelia replied, "Warding of properties is only lightly regulated by the Ministry. Generally, the work is performed by Curse-breakers – almost all of whom are employed by Gringotts bank, which has their own policies. That said, I think it would be a very prudent idea for you to add them to your home, to the extent that you can afford them."
Dan replied, "Thanks. We'll go there tomorrow and find out what they can do to help us."
… - …
Sunday 4 July
As the adults were discussing a small list of options, Hermione and Susan had taken it upon themselves to mercilessly tease Harry. Pointedly glancing at Susan's wet, white bikini top, an innocent voiced Hermione inquired, "Do you like what you see, Harry?"
Harry stammered an affirmative reply, then gathered his courage to add, "Very much. Thank you both."
It had been their mutual intent to raise his spirits. Glancing at Harry, who was standing sideways from her, Hermione concluded that they had been successful.
… - …
When the teens were done swimming, and everyone had finished their lunches, Amelia brought out her pensieve and asked Harry if he would be willing to share his memory of that night. With a a quick wand-tap against the requisite runes, she projected the memory atop the bowl for all to see. Emma and Susan were physically sick when they reached the point when Cedric was so senselessly murdered. Hermione joined them when the newly reborn Dark Lord commanded, "Robe me."
Dan watched carefully as Riddle addressed the circle of Death Eaters, and began putting to most of them. Many of the men were unmasked. Amelia identified most of those unmentioned by Riddle and was pleased when her tally matched Harry's previously reported estimate of twenty-two.
… - …
Monday 5 July
The sun shone brightly through the kitchen window early Monday morning, as they reviewed the plans for the day while having a light breakfast. Emma had two patients scheduled for morning appointments. Their number 15 and 18 molars needed work, so Dan was the designated taxi service for the day. He remarked, "Let's leave at half seven and try to get to the bank by nine."
After they cleaned up and got ready, Hermione came down the stairs wearing a white blouse and faded jeans, while Harry wore his wool school robes. She asked, "Won't you be too hot in those? Besides, we might do a bit of shopping outside after." Outside meant being out of Diagon Alley.
"I'll be fine," he insisted, even though the forecast was for a very warm, humid day. After an uneventful drive, they found a spot in a car park and Dan fed the meter for a three-hour visit.
As they walked into the Leaky Cauldron, Harry failed to notice some of the looks that the various patrons were giving the three of them. They ran a bit wider than the usual range from adoration for the Tri-Wizard champion to annoyance for the obvious muggleborns, to a very dark look given to Harry from a man who was acquainted with Amos Diggory. Hermione suddenly felt underdressed, with no easy recourse.
"Come on," encouraged Harry as he tapped the bricks to the Alley in the correct order.
As they walked the length of the Alley, Dan noticed that several of the shops had signs posted on the front windows, indicating rooms for rent – presumable the space above the storefront. Passing one of the robe shops, he asked, "On the way back, would you like to stop in and get a set of everyday summer robes? Everyone seems to have one on and your winter wool set must be dreadfully hot on a day like this."
The teens replied in unison, "Yes, Dad/Dan."
Finally, they walked up to the marble steps, nodding politely at the two guards holding their halberds, standing ramrod straight. Dan reflected, "The tower guards could take lessons from these guys."
As they reached the counter, an old teller with long stringy orange hair put down a ruby that he was examining with a jewelers loupe and inquired, "How may Gringotts assist you today, Mr. Potter?"
Dan felt slightly affronted that his still fourteen-year-old adopted son was the one being addressed, but said nothing. Harry replied, "I'm interested in getting information and pricing on getting a home warded."
The old goblin, replied, "My name is Sneerwell. I can assist you. Step into the Bronze room over there and I'll be with you in two minutes." He pointed to the conference room at the other end of the spacious lobby, placed the next window placard in front of his counter window and went to get some documents.
"So far, so good," quipped Dan, as they took places on the octagonal conference table.
Sneerwell joined them within a minute, sat down and asked, "Which of your properties are you inquiring about, Mr. Potter? The cottage in Godric's Hollow is uninhabitable, Potter Manor is inaccessible to you until your seventeenth birthday, the property in Spain is leased out…"
Hermione interjected, "We're referring to our home in Crawley," and recited the street number.
Sneerwell wrote the address on a parchment and seconds later another, much younger goblin handed Sneerwell a document. He looked at it, reflected for a moment and replied, "Per British Wizarding law, warding assistance is unavailable to nonmagicals. The property that you spoke of is titled to a Daniel Scott Granger and still has a mortgage." Sneerwell pointed his long finger at Dan and declared, "You've no magical blood. Our hands are tied in this matter. Do you have other business today, Mr. Potter?"
Hermione, almost in tears declared, "That's not fair!"
Sneerwell replied, "Please accept that there is little in life that is fair, Miss Granger. You might wish to examine the property regulations brochures in the information racks back in the lobby. Mr. Potter, did you have other business?"
Inspired by an idea, Harry replied, "Yes, please. I'd like to visit my vault."
Sneerwell nodded encouragingly and replied, "Griphook will meet you in the cart queue."
Dan added, "I'll walk with you, Harry. Hermione won't be long."
Hermione was certain that Sneerwell was being more helpful than he'd initially seemed. She walked across the lobby to the information racks and began gathering up brochures. 'There had to be something there.'
She started collecting a copy of each pamphlet.
… - …
Outside, Draco Malfoy and Marcus Flint were walking up to the bank. Draco came to withdraw the summer allowance that his parents had set up for him. Marcus came to gold for more firewhiskey. After two years he was still playing reserve beater for Birmingham – a job that his father had landed for him upon completing Hogwarts, but at least it was work. The team was on a three game losing streak, and Marcus was well on his way to becoming a mean drunk.
They reached the doors of Gringotts and sneered at the two guards. Draco muttered something about animals. As they passed, they didn't see the two guards tightening their grips on the fearsome looking pole axes.
… - …
Down at his vault, Harry quickly counted the stacks and filled sixty-thousand galleons into six sacks and brought them to the cart, one at a time, while Griphook waited. When he was through, he calculated that he had about twelve thousand galleons remaining. As the four thousand galleons for his fifth year had already been paid, Harry estimated that if he was careful with his remaining gold, he'd be all right until he finished school.
While his adoptive parents insisted on providing him with the everyday essentials and a loving home, Harry had insisted over their protests of paying for his Hogwarts education. They compromised and bought him his books, uniforms, supplies and the like. In return, Harry saved them a considerable amount each year by acting as their currency exchange broker; four percent of twenty-five thousand in sterling saved per year added up.
Like Hermione, he concluded that what Sneerwell hadn't said was as important as what he'd actually told them. He stuffed fifty loose galleons into his pocket and placed the last of six sacks into the oar cart. Griphook stepped out, closed Harry's vault, handed the teen back his key and asked, "Any other business, Mr. Potter?"
Harry replied, "Please. I'll need to exchange these for pound notes when we get back to the lobby."
… - …
The mean drunk-in-training was still half lit from the night before and quickly spotted the teen in muggle attire bent over to pick up a brochure that was on the floor. With Draco firmly in the backup role, he followed Flint as the twenty year old homed in on his prey.
Flint shoved Hermione with his foot and in a too-loud voice began deriding the now fearful teen. "Hey bitch, here to be the joy-joy girl for the goblins? That mouth of yours never stopped when you were at school. You can try it out here; I've got a few spare knuts."
In an attention grabbing loud voice Hermione spit, "Leave me alone, you animals." She got up but Flint pushed her down again; simultaneously drawing the attention of two of the indoor guards and an enraged father.
Fortunately, the guards got there first and in an instant, cold steel was pressed tightly against human flesh. "Insolent humans," declared the smaller of the two guards. "You will obey our laws on our land. Leave now, or bleed."
Dan wisely did nothing, recalling the military axiom; never interrupt your enemy when he's making a mistake. The blond boy did not disappoint him. In a completely disrespectful tone he drawled, "I'm here on business, Goblin. Get lost."
The guard was not amused and in a dangerous voice declared, "For the last time insolent human, leave or bleed." The other guard pressed the razor sharp pole-ax against the blond fool's collar, slicing through the silk fabric and announced, "You can come back in a month after you have learned some common manners. Until then, you are banned from the bank."
"When my father hears this…"
The first goblin cut him off, staring him in the eye for a long moment before stating, "He'll be quite angry to learn that your poor behavior is the reason that your entire family is banned from the bank for thirty days. Good day, Mr. Malfoy."
Draco made a move to argue and the larger guard asked, "Would you like to make it sixty days? You too, smelly one." He gave the two troublemakers a slight push toward the door.
With that, Draco muttered, "You'll get yours, Mudblood."
… - …
At the other end of the lobby, Harry was handed a brushed aluminum case filled with fifty-pound notes. He looked at Griphook, who explained, "Sixty-thousand galleons converted to pound sterling at the preferred customer rate of five point five pounds per galleon is three hundred thirty thousand sterling, gross - times the conversion fee of four percent is thirteen thousand two hundred pounds, discounted seventy-five percent, nets to three hundred twenty six thousand seven hundred pounds. That gives you sixty-five bundles of fifty-pound notes and some loose bills. The case is complements of Senior Teller Sneerwell. Mr. Potter, do you have any other business with us today?"
Harry had given up trying to work out the math, but remembered the words preferred customer and discount, replied, "Not today, Griphook. You've been very helpful. Thank you."
"The pleasure was indeed mine, Mr. Potter. I believe that Miss Granger and her father are by the front entrance, waiting for you. Return when you are ready and we'll be happy to further assist you. Good day."
… - …
When Harry reached Hermione, she was clutching a thick wad of brochures and was red-faced. He asked, "Did you find what you needed?" The next thing that he knew, he was engulfed by his best friend, who let out a sob. He quietly asked, "All right?"
Hermione sobbed, "Malfoy and that oaf, Flint were bothering me." He gave her a reassuring squeeze and she continued, "He's such an arse. I wasn't even looking at them. How could I have offended him? I never even talked with him in school."
"Don't know," replied Harry. He looked her in the eye and stated, "You didn't do anything wrong. They're just mentally defective. Let's go get new robes and say hi to Mr. Fortescue. Maybe he has some new flavors." He wiped the remaining tears from the sides of her eyes.
Hermione smiled and said, "Thanks Harry, thanks Dad." Dan glanced pointedly at the two guards who were maintaining a respectful distance and the teen witch surprised them by hugging them both.
As they were gathering their things, Sneerwell walked back to them and offered, "Mr. Potter, I took the liberty and had these made for you; they are reusable portkeys." They were beautifully crafted platinum wristwatches. "Upon activation, they will take you from anywhere into either the bank lobby or just outside the front door of Mr. Granger's home. Reliable transportation is always useful. To activate them, place your hand over the watch face and say either Crawley or lobby. As your needs change, you can bring them back and get more locations added."
He handed one to Harry, then Hermione, then Dan and said, "They are yours for your lifetime. I took the liberty of charging your main vault. It is five hundred galleons for the set. Before Hermione could ask, the old goblin smirked as he handed Harry another of the ladies watches and said, "For Miss Granger's mother. These are dangerous times, Mr. Potter; as you've witnessed. Wear them well."
Harry looked at the old goblin for a moment, nodded and replied, "Thank you, Sneerwell. You have done us several great services today. Thank you again."
Sneerwell added, "I knew your father slightly and your grandfather more so. They too were men of honor. Good day." With that, he walked back to his window.
As they exited, the larger of the guards motioned Dan over and said, "There is no honor in attacking a young female, Mr. Granger. Those men have no morals, no honor. Do not fear them, but do not ignore them either. They are sick animals."
Dan nodded again in agreement and walked his teens out the door.
ooo ccc ooo
The leaves were red and gold as Professor McGonagall fondly reminisced of reading reports written by old friends. As if in answer to her thoughts, she heard the familiar rumble of the old Harley V-Twin slowly coming up the road.
Happy memories flooded her mind and she smiled. Then she recalled the missing student and indecent attire and her lips thinned. As the door to her office opened she gave him a piercing look and sighed, "Good afternoon, Mr. Crow. It's been three years. What brings you back?"
The old scribe recalled the promise that he'd made to himself after his Scot friend finished his series of reports on Harry Crow.
After he left, the gray haired professor noticed the slip of paper that read west of here – 10015981. She recalled that the numbers meant something and decided to study it.