It was about ten o'clock when everyone was introduced and settled down. Ms. Anthony and Mr. Black [who had asked Harry to start calling him Uncle Regulus] were still glaring daggers at each other, but no harm was done.
Well, Ms. Anthony was a bit confused when George came down and pretended to be Fred, and Aries and Rigel tricked her into thinking there was only one of them…but all in all it was good. Ms. Anthony had asked Madam Bones how she could handle three sets of identical twins at a time, to which the laughing witch had no answer.
"I suppose you get used to it," she said. "But if it makes you feel better, Black has to deal with them more than I do."
Gideon had reminded Harry of the owl which Hagrid had bought for him. Susan led him to the Owlery and showed him how to take care of the bird.
When they came back to the kitchen, Uncle Regulus returned from a Floo call he had been making. He looked rather ruffled, and there was a light flush to his pale face.
He told Harry, who was telling Ms. Anthony about the owl, "I've taken the liberty of calling my cousin Andromeda Tonks to take you shopping today for some proper clothing. Her daughter, Nymphadora, might be coming as well. She—"
"At this time?" Fred interrupted.
"You're joking, right?" Rigel continued.
George agreed, "Tonks never gets up before noon when she doesn't have to."
"And don't call her Nymphadora," Aries said.
They all finished in unison, "She hates that."
Everyone stared at them.
"And that," Susan said finally, "is why twins shouldn't grow up with other twins."
"How do you know the Tonks's so well?" Uncle Regulus asked suspiciously.
"These two figured out she was their cousin," George answered, throwing his thumb towards the Blacks. "So they got to know her at Hogwarts."
"Plus, she's a metamorphmagus," Fred added reverently.
"A what?" Harry asked, just as Fabian asked, "What does that have do to with anything?"
"A metamorphmagus can change the way they look without magic," George answered humbly. "Which is brilliant, because she can do pranks and never get caught!"
"Hold on," Susan said. "I thought Malfoy was your only immediate cousin? Or is this another second cousin five times removed on your mother's side, fifth cousin twice removed on your father's, sort of cousin?"
The Black twins looked slightly uncomfortable.
"Andromeda was born a Black," Uncle Regulus answered. "She was disowned for marrying a Muggle-born, but I welcomed her back when I took over the headship. I haven't really spoken with her since, however."
"What's she like?" Harry asked curiously. "And can Ms. Anthony come too?"
He was surprised when Uncle Regulus scowled deeply in Ms. Anthony's direction. She ignored him, and turned to Madam Bones.
"Should I, do you think? I didn't bring anything with me, and everything I have anyway is Muggle."
"I think that's a fine idea," Madam Bones replied cheerfully. "Black?"
It dawned on Harry that the women were teasing his new uncle. He didn't understand why, though—but then he remembered Gideon saying that Uncle Regulus didn't appreciate Muggles. That didn't mean Ms. Anthony though, right? She was so nice and smart, and she had rescued him from the Dursleys.
"Andromeda won't mind," Uncle Regulus said stiffly. "However, do try your best not to stand out too much. Most wizards don't appreciate Muggles poking about the Alley."
"Would those be the same wizards who have 'second cousin five times removed on the mother's side, fifth cousin twice removed on the father's', then?" Ms. Anthony asked, raising an eyebrow.
Harry wondered what had happened at the Dursleys. Ms. Anthony usually tried to be somewhat civil, unless someone was unduly mean first. What had Uncle Regulus done? And what was the talk about cousins?
"I—" Uncle Regulus spluttered, his cheeks warming up. "Old pureblood families often prefer to keep magic in the lines. Because there are only so many truly pure families left, most are related by either blood, marriage, or both."
"And what about you?" Ms. Anthony asked sweetly.
Harry watched as Uncle Regulus snapped his mouth shut, his pale cheeks flushing lightly again.
"He's his own third cousin," Fabian said cheerfully. "And people wonder why the Blacks are known for inheriting madness."
"You know, this is stuff that Harry really should have learned growing up," Madam Bones said. "Shall we start now?"
"Sure," Harry answered dutifully as Ms. Anthony gave him an impish look. He didn't know what she was doing, but she obviously had it out for Uncle Regulus.
"All right," Madam Bones said, her lips twitching as she tried to hold back a grin. "Let's start simple. Black's parents were second cousins; they even had the same last name. Not that that's too uncommon. He's first cousins once removed by marriage with the Prewetts—his aunt Lucretia married their uncle Ignatius. He's first cousins twice removed with Fred and George's father, Arthur, because Black's first cousin once removed, Cedrella, married Septimus Weasley—and was disowned for it, by the way. You're my third cousin…and I'm pretty sure that covers the basics for now."
Ms. Anthony's eyes widened as Harry's jaw dropped.
"H-how is that possible?" he asked shakily.
The wizards in the room only grimaced.
"Let's just say that between arranged marriages, blood purity, a small community, and love potions—anything is possible," Gideon said.
"Am I related to any of you? Besides Madam Bones?"
Uncle Regulus answered, "Yes. Your aunt by marriage, Dorea Potter, was my great aunt. There's also a few Blacks in your line, but they're far up. I think the last one direct to you was five generations or so back. You're related to the Prewetts somehow too, but it's far back enough I can't quite remember."
Harry's eyes lit up. He had family? Real, actual, magical family? That was great! He—wait a minute.
"If my aunt was a Black…and some of my great-something grandparents…" he said warily.
"Oh yeah, kid," Fabian said with a laugh. "You're related to just about every pureblood wizard out there. Welcome to the family."
Harry swallowed uncomfortably. If he was related to all those people…did they really count as family, or just relatives? The Dursleys sure weren't his family, even if he was related to them.
"Question," Ms. Anthony, looking a tad green, cut in.
"Can we hear more about the dark wizard Harry supposedly defeated?"
Everyone stiffened. Harry shrugged when Ms. Anthony looked at him questioningly. He had realized yesterday and this morning that people, even ones like the Prewetts, who weren't afraid to say Voldemort's names, didn't really like talking about the war.
"Voldemort appeared in the mid-sixties. No one has any idea where he came from, or who he really is, but he claims to be the heir of Slytherin, one of the founders of Hogwarts," Gideon said. "He's extremely powerful, and hates Muggles with a passion. Most people originally joined up with him because he advertised blood purity and magical supremacy."
"What he actually did," Fabian continued, "was attack and torture anyone, Muggle or magic, who openly defied him and his rules. Everyone learned the hard way that he wanted to rule the world, and didn't care about the old traditions."
"People stayed quiet. It was terrifying; you couldn't trust anyone, not even your family. There were spells and potions that could be used to control or imitate people—completely illegal, but Voldemort didn't care. He could force someone to slaughter their own family if he wanted to."
"Most people ran when they could, but he realized pretty quickly what they were doing and stopped it. He had control of most of the Ministry, and was at the height of his power."
"One night, he attacked the Potters. He killed Lily and James, but his the killing curse seemed to backfire when he used it on Harry. When we went to St. Mungo's—the wizard hospital—it turned out the scar was because there was a bit of the curse lingering in Harry's head."
"You can see it's fading now." To everyone's surprise [except Gideon and Fabian's], the scar was indeed fading. There was only a pale pink line where before it had been a deep, dark red.
"Anyway," Fabian continued. "Only Harry survived the encounter, but somehow news got out and everyone started making theories."
"Point is, though," Gideon said darkly, "Harry's a hero, one way or another. Whether it was his parents or him, the world is safe from that lunatic."
"I—I don't know what to say," Ms. Anthony said, shocked.
Harry nodded mutely.
"What about his followers?" she asked tentatively.
Everyone stiffened again.
"Some ran as early as they could, once they realized what he was," Madam Bones answered quietly. "Most stayed with him out of fear, but returned to normal life after he fell. Most, though," she scowled angrily, "stayed loyal to him and just turned tail, but they'll go back to his side if he comes back."
"I thought you said he was dead?" Ms. Anthony asked, alarmed.
"We don't know," Uncle Regulus answered grimly. "He was definitely banished from his body, but there's magic—dark magic—that can tie his soul to the earth. We think he made several of these anchors."
Gideon, Fabian, and Madam Bones all snapped their heads around to stare at him. A surprised growl was heard from under the table. Uncle Regulus tossed a muttered 'shut up' to the dog.
"We'd decided not to tell anyone until we knew for sure," Gideon said slowly, still looking at Uncle Regulus. "And even then we might not. If people think there's a chance he could come back…"
"There'd be a mass panic across the country," Madam Bones finished, realization crossing her face.
"What would cause a panic? Oh, hello everyone." Someone had entered the kitchen, making the room officially full.
"Andromeda!" Uncle Regulus seemed relieved. "Fantastic. Would you mind taking his Muggle friend as well?"
"Of course not." Andromeda Tonks had light brown hair and warm brown eyes. Her back was straight and tall, and she carried herself with sort of regal bearing. She smiled warmly at Harry and Ms. Anthony. "I'm Andromeda Tonks. It is an honor to meet both of you. Please, call me Andromeda. Or Aunt, if you'd like, Mr. Potter. We are, after all, related, although distantly."
"Harry Potter." Harry said, offering his hand, which she shook. "You can call me Harry."
"Ava Anthony," Ms. Anthony offered.
"Wonderful. You're both coming with? That won't be a problem." She looked curiously at Ms. Anthony for a moment. "Regulus mentioned you raised him? Never mind—not my business. My daughter won't be able to come with us, I am afraid."
The four teens snorted at that.
"Still sleeping, I'll wager," Fred muttered.
"How long do you imagine you'll be gone?" Uncle Regulus asked.
Aunt Andromeda titled her head as she thought. "Before dark. Probably around seven. I imagine we'll have to get him a full wardrobe, and Miss Anthony will need several sets of robes as well. You mentioned a trip to an optometrist, and of course he'll need a trunk to carry it all. Make that four, perhaps five stops. More, since we'll be needing lunch."
"Sounds fine," Gideon said with a shrug. "Regulus? Forgetting something?"
Uncle Regulus blinked. "Oh yes!" He reached into his robes and started searching through his pockets. "One moment, Andi…"
"Don't call me that," Aunt Andromeda said with a very calm but cold voice.
"Here!" Harry and Ms. Anthony watched in confusion as Uncle Regulus pulled out a small black card about three inches square. "It has about a thousand galleons on it—do please try not to use it all in one store, cousin."
Harry's eyes widened as he heard the amount. A thousand galleons for a shopping trip?
"What's the card do?" he asked curiously.
"It holds a certain amount of credible money on it." Aunt Andromeda explained. "It works exceptionally well for large purchases, so you don't have to carry around a large bag of money."
"It works like a Muggle credit card," Fabian explained to Ms. Anthony.
"Oh." She nodded her head. "I see." She paused. "May I ask why the two of you seem so familiar with my world, and the others not?"
Aunt Andromeda and all the children looked slightly baffled at this insightful observation, while the other adults seemed to realize the confusion.
Madam Bones let out a laugh. "These two were determined to learn everything they could about Muggles after they caught their brother-in-law asking a Muggle-born about the use of rubber ducks."
"You don't want to know," Gideon said. "Anyway, we'll be out on business for most of the day ourselves, and Amelia needs to go too. Anything else you lot need?"
Harry realized they would be leaving soon, and asked Uncle Regulus, "Why are you paying for the trip? I could—"
"No," the older man interrupted, causing Harry to stop midsentence with his mouth hanging open. "You're as much as my ward as Aries or Rigel. If you see a toy or book that you like, I will expect you to use your own money for that, but not for clothes or school supplies."
"But—" Harry didn't know what to say. Ms. Anthony had been the only person to ever care for him or get him things, but that was ok because he knew her. Uncle Regulus had only known him for a day, and he was willing to pay a thousand galleons for a shopping trip? The Prewetts had mentioned that the Blacks were rich, but it still didn't feel right. Harry could pay for his own things—he didn't need charity.
"Harry," Ms. Anthony reprimanded. "He's supposed to do that. He's your guardian now."
Oh. Harry had forgotten that. Uncle Regulus was taking care of him because he was expected to, so he was making sure to do a good job of it. Well. If he was supposed to, Harry supposed it was ok.
It was what the Dursleys were meant to do, and didn't, after all. Harry just needed a little time to realize that it wasn't only Ms. Anthony who was taking care of him now.
"Thanks," he mumbled, lowering his eyes.
Uncle Regulus nodded once, seeming to understand. "If that's all, we'd better go our own ways. Bones, I'd appreciate having you with us today, if you don't mind."
Madam Bones raised an eyebrow. "Again?"
She sighed. "Exactly how many times have I stopped you three being arrested?"
He spread his hands innocently. "It's not me I'm worried about, Bones."
The Prewetts looked up. "Oi!"
"What will you do with the other kids?" Ms. Anthony wondered.
Fabian brushed the question aside. "Fred and George'll head home to their parents, Aries and Rigel will go to their cousins, and Susan'll go to her friend's house. The Malfoy kid is a brat, but he doesn't bother them any, and the Abbotts are nice folk. They're used to the four of us going off together."
Aunt Andromeda clapped her hands together excitedly. "Well then. We'd best be off, or we'll run out of time. Shall we?"
Regulus needed to talk with Regent Longbottom about Harry. Obviously the boy was under his guardianship, what with Sirius being his sworn godfather, but the Longbottoms had an equal say with Alice being his godmother.
He hoped that, with the twins and Bones there, she'd be reasonable about talking with him.
Augusta Longbottom had not spoken with the House of Black since Bellatrix and the Lestranges tortured her son and daughter-in-law into insanity.
"So…" Gideon said. "You sent Kreacher over to the Longbottoms last night saying you wanted to meet to talk about Harry."
"Yes," Regulus agreed. He was hopeful for input from his clever friends. Input which would hopefully make this talk much easier.
He had of course sent Regent Longbottom half of the seized Lestrange vaults in compensation for what had happened, but there was still an odd feeling in his stomach whenever the Longbottoms were mentioned. Gideon and Fabian insisted that it was completely normal to feel horrified and guilty at the situation. After all, that could have been him, being tortured or doing the torturing, who knew? But Regulus didn't think that was it.
He had turned away from that path early. He was never going back.
So why was he so nervous?
Augusta May Longbottom nee McMillan, Regent to the Most Ancient and Noble House of Longbottom, Ally of the Light, was waiting.
Last night she had received a notice from a [very old and decrepit] house elf that the Lord Black would be arriving sometime around eleven o'clock with the Lords Prewett and Regent Bones to discuss the matter of Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, heir to the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter, heir to the Lost House of Peverell, ward of the House of Dumbledore.
She quite honestly had no idea as to why those four would be interested in Heir Potter so much as to ask an audience of her. Nor did she have any idea why they would wish to speak with her.
She, however, was a proper pureblood with excellent manners, and therefore would accept them and see what they wanted.
Her grandson, however, was not as happy about it.
"But Gran! Black—"
"Lord Black, Neville."
"Lord Black was Be—Bel—her cousin!"
Augusta sadly gazed at the young boy before her. Her grandson had lost his parents at such a young age, only to wonder for years if he had any magic at all. It was shock enough to be dropped out of a window, and it was only by Merlin's good will that the boy was so overjoyed at having magic that he never even wondered about his great uncle's dubious act.
Honestly, she thought angrily. Unspeakable or otherwise, if she caught Algernon Croaker doing something like that ever again…
And of course, Neville was too young to understand anything more about Lord Black then that it was his cousin who took Neville's parents.
"Neville, I need you to understand something, so pay close attention."
"Lord Black may be related to Bellatrix No-Name genetically, but the minute he found out about Frank and Alice he not only dissolved her marriage, but disowned her as well. You do remember what that means, don't you?"
Neville nodded, looking a little shocked. Good. She didn't want any animosity between the House of Longbottom and the House of Black. Granted, she had at first had qualms about Lord Black adopting the Lestrange twins, but they had grown up to be very nice and proper lads, so she had heard, not at all like either of their parents.
"I want you to be very polite, Neville. The House of Longbottom cannot afford to start a feud with the House of Black."
"I understand, gran."
"Good. They should be here any moment now, so straighten your sleeves. Good lad. Now come."
Fabian really hoped Regulus knew what he was doing.
Yes, legally he had to inform Regent Longbottom about Harry, since she had just as much legal control over him as Regulus did, but he didn't see why they couldn't use a sneaky Slytherin/Ravenclaw way to undermine that. The Longbottoms were a light family! What if Augusta turned Harry over to Dumbledore?
They shouldn't risk it.
And yet they were.
Why? Because Regulus obviously had some sneaky plan cooked up. Like he had a sneaky plan for hiding a wanted criminal in his kitchen.
Yes, Fabian thought darkly. Sneaky Slytherin plans indeed. Regulus was apparently thinking up moves as he went along, and that was not smart.
It was things like that which would give Dumbledore an opening into all their hard work. That was the very last thing they needed right now, just when things were finally moving along.
Still, though, he had to wonder; what was Dumbledore playing at? His plans had no real predictability, no motivation behind them. And yet he obviously had something he wanted, or he wouldn't have tried so hard to kill everyone in the Order, or endanger the Potters, or control Harry!
Fabian had no idea what Dumbledore had intended to accomplish by leaving the Potter Heir with the Dursleys. They'd have to talk to Zipnip—maybe the old bastard had tried to get to the Potter fortune?
Oooooh, Fabian hoped so. Then they could really nail him.
Regulus tumbled gracefully out of the Floo, the twins and Bones following close behind him.
He stood up and dusted himself off before facing his host. He smiled, though his stomach still felt odd.
"Regent Longbottom," he said, bowing respectfully, ignoring the ever-present vulture hat. He turned to the boy—Neville, he thought—who was sitting stick-straight next to his grandmother on the couch, looking absolutely terrified. "Heir Longbottom." He nodded cordially to the boy.
"Lord Black," Regent Longbottom said regally, regarding him curiously. "Lords Prewett. Regent Bones."
"Please, ma'am. Call me Regulus today—I come with good news."
She raised an eyebrow. "Very well. Would you and your companions please sit? Perhaps I could offer you something to drink. We have tea and milk."
"Tea for all of us, please," he replied, seating himself directly across from her. Gideon and Fabian sat on either side of him—like bodyguards, he thought idly—while Bones sat on his far left, nearest the heir.
A house elf appeared laden down with a tray of tea cups. After they all took one and drank, Regulus having thanked the elf quietly, Longbottom looked at him expectantly.
"You said you have good news, Regulus?"
He sipped at his tea. "Indeed, ma'am."
"About Harry Potter, I presume?"
"What is it?"
He hid a smile. She was direct and straight to the point—he liked that. "There is much to discuss, but I shall tell you the important part first. It has recently been discovered that Heir Potter's sworn godparents were Alice Longbottom and Sirius Black."
There was a moment of shocked silence.
"Beg pardon?" Longbottom asked, shocked.
"You and I have guardianship over Harry Potter," Regulus answered gravely. "I had hoped we could come to a suitable compromise."
She blinked several times, and then recomposed herself. "Yes. I do hope so as well. Sirius Black was his sworn godfather?"
Regulus raised an eyebrow. "He never did get that trial."
She frowned. "Indeed not. And now he's escaped—poor man, I truly cannot blame him."
Bones leaned forward slightly. "The Auror reports say that he was caught talking about Sweden. There is plenty of opportunity for a trial, now, since he was clearly unable to send Voldemort after Harry."
Neville gasped at the name, but Longbottom just smiled thinly. "Good. Now, I assume you have met the boy?"
"Yes. He spent the night, and is now shopping with my cousin Andromeda. However, there is bad news to bitter the good."
She frowned. "What?"
Gideon answered. "Dumbledore—illegally—placed him with his horrid Muggle relatives…"
Harry was having fun, which he supposed was strange, since he was shopping with two women.
Aunt Andromeda had quickly explained the purposes of Floo travel to Ms. Anthony, who had thought the idea absolutely wonderful. She had then led them to a supposedly high-end shop called Twilfitt and Tatting's in Diagon Alley.
Twilfitt and Tatting's was a large, quiet shop with huge windows and dark wooden walls. It was well lit, but some of the corners were still dim, and it was impossible to see into the number of rooms leading off the side. The shop itself was stuffed full of racks and racks of robes of all sorts and sizes; long robes, short robes, dark, bright, black robes, white robes, and robes every color of the rainbow. There were capes and cloaks and hats—oh, the hats! Harry saw one with a kitten on it that sat up and meowed!—and purses and so many things to look at!
Aunt Andromeda quickly pulled them over to the sales counter and asked the lady there for Madam Tatting. A young girl about twenty came out immediately.
"Mrs. Tonks!" she said, clapping her hands delightedly. "What can I do for you today?"
Aunt Andromeda motioned to Harry and Ms. Anthony. "We need two complete wardrobes, one woman's and one heir's," she said.
The girl became even more excited, not even noticing Harry's scar or Ms. Anthony's Muggle attire. "Oh, I know just the thing!"
She quickly led them into one of the side rooms, where they stayed for hours trying on all sorts of clothes. The attendants would bring in different things, and critique how it looked.
Ms. Anthony was not usually very find of shopping, and Harry had never even had the chance. Aunt Andromeda finalized the decisions of the shop girls and Madam Tatting, accepting some and discarding others, until they each had a towering pile.
"It's very important that Harry look the part of an heir," she told them. "People will look at him and expect to see someone who's used to being a famous hero with a lot of money and prestige. If you show up in anything less than they expect, they'll be forming opinions of you which we don't want. I can't imagine what would've happened if you showed up at Hogwarts in ratty Muggle clothes!"
Hours later both of them had about three dozen robes each, varying from casual to dress, several capes and cloaks, and two small bags which Aunt Andromeda had bought from a neighboring shop called Stowe and Packers Magical Bags. Harry thought they must have been bigger on the inside, because they fit everything into them with no difficulty. He was about to stick his head into one to see how big it was, but Aunt Andromeda pulled him to the Floo.
"Occult's Optometrist is all the way down the Alley, so it'll be quicker just to Floo. Then, of course, school robes, and a wand."
Regent Longbottom looked completely flabbergasted, and Gideon didn't blame her one bit. Even after living through it and seeing it all happen personally, it was still hard to take in.
"Heir Potter was abused by his relatives, his true lineage hidden from him, and welcomed to our world by Rubeus Hagrid, the half-giant?"
"And saved by a Muggle," Fabian added unhelpfully.
Longbottom looked at Amelia. "I assume the legalities are being dealt with?"
"That's correct," Amelia said. Gideon tried to pay attention to the conversation, but she was sitting with her legs crossed again, and her robes fit against her curves so beautifully…
Concentrate, he chided himself. Merlin's ruddy wand, he felt like a schoolboy. Eighteen years of asking, and she'd never said yes. Gideon didn't want to admit it, but Amelia would never be anything other than his friend.
Regulus nudged him subtly, forcing Gideon to snap out of his thoughts. "Will weekends work?" his friend was asking.
"I think that will do just fine. Neville will enjoy the company, and we certainly have the room. I'll even accept that Muggle you mentioned; Anthony, was it? They'll both have to learn our customs. Might as well teach them together."
"Harry will also need to start on his tutoring. It's too late for beginner potions, but he can start on Latin, history, and basic theory. Genealogy as well."
Gideon blinked. That was a lot of work for one month, especially as everyone would be bouncing back and forth from Wizengamot meetings and the upcoming welcoming party.
"Did you have anyone in mind?"
"Andromeda has a daughter in Hufflepuff entering her seventh year who intends to become an Auror. I hoped she would be willing to tutor him during the school year, as well. I also expect my nephews to assist, should he need it."
Regent Longbottom nodded. "Very well. That will work splendidly. How were you planning on announcing his return?"
Regulus was more relaxed than he had been when they first Flooed in, although Gideon doubted anyone other than he and Fabian noticed. "I was thinking something along the lines of a Welcoming Party. Nothing too fancy—wouldn't want to scare the boy, after all—perhaps just invite the families with children around his age. Perhaps the Minister."
"I see." Regent Longbottom pursed her lips. "Where shall it be held? Here, or at the Black Home?"
Gideon perked up. If the Longbottoms were willing to hold it here, then they wouldn't have to reset the wards on Grimmauld place. He lightly kicked Regulus, who was apparently thinking the same thing.
"Holding it here would be wonderful, Regent. I am afraid my home is not the most welcoming place for such a party."
The Regent's eyes glittered with amusement. "I see. Very well, then. Shall I make the invitations as well?"
"If you would."
"Excellent. Heir Potter shall be here this weekend, then?"
"I shall have him Floo over Saturday, if you wish."
"That would be fine. Around ten?"
Gideon, who was widely considered to be the slightly more mature of the twins, was really trying very hard to pay attention. However, small talk was never his strong suit, not even after Regulus' long (very, very long) lessons on basic etiquette. The Prewetts' mother, Lady Ginevra Prewett nee MacMillan, had usually caved to their childish demands and let them run about the Folly instead of doing their lessons, and Gideon had always been bored silly about this sort of thing.
Fabian appeared to be nodding off. Come to think of it, so did Neville. Apparently Fabian's skill of napping while sitting upright was more common than his brother had thought. Gideon's lips twitched as he watched the two of them. Longbottom was sure to be furious if she caught her grandson like that—Amelia and Regulus, while still upset, were used to Fabian.
"If I may?" Gideon, positive Regulus was wrapping up the guardianship issues, interrupted the conversation. There were other things he wished to discuss.
Regulus glared at him.
"Yes, Lord Prewett?" Regent Longbottom waved him on.
Gideon quickly glanced over at his still dozing twin. "There were a few other things we were concerned about on Harry's—Heir Potter's behalf."
She pursed her lips. "I see. What would those be?"
"We think there may be a mail-redirection ward on him," Gideon said. "Also, there's the matter of the press and Dumbledore."
Amelia stepped in. "I can look into the mail, of course."
"Naturally," Regent Longbottom said. "As for us sending letters to the boy, it appears we shall simply have to mail them to his place of residence, or someone who can hand them off. For the press, I recommend making sure that Skeeter woman stays far away. As for Dumbledore—"
"Hold on just a moment," Regulus said. "Skeeter writes scandals to pay well, but scandals or not, everyone reads her."
"Oh…" Gideon didn't know where his friend was going with the thought, but Amelia gasped in recognition. "You can't be suggesting you hire her full time?"
Regent Longbottom looked impressed. "That is actually a good idea. Expensive and risky, but a good plan."
Regulus looked relieved. "You agree to it, then?"
"I do. We shall have to speak with the boy so he understands exactly what to say. We'll have to owl Skeeter and meet soon. Will you handle that?"
"I'll do it today and inform you of what happens."
"Excellent. Now, Dumbledore: the man is a narcissistic imbecile, but Albus is no fool. Do you have any idea, any at all, why he is so interested in Heir Potter? The man can't be infatuated simply because he's the boy-who-lived."
"No. No, he can't be," Regulus said, frowning deeply. "There must be something else. I can ask around, see if anyone knows anything."
Regent Longbottom nodded. "Very well. I can do the same, of course. I assume he will try to take over custody of the boy—I'd rather like to be present during that conversation, if you don't mind. It will no doubt be amusing. Neville!"
The boy jumped. "Yes Gran! Er…"
She huffed. "Neville, Harry Potter is your god-brother, and he's going to be living here during the weekends. I'll tell you everything later, since you felt it was appropriate to nap during our discussion."
The boy's round face turned pink.
"Regent Longbottom, don't bother your heir on our account—he wasn't the only one." Regulus slipped his wand out and cast a stinging hex at Fabian, who woke with a yelp and crashed to the floor, knocking over a side table in the process.
Regent Longbottom sniffed snobbishly, but the corner of her mouth was twitching. "Yes, well. Shall we go to Gringotts?"
Gringotts looked exactly as it had the night before, Gideon thought, if a bit brighter from the sunlight filtering in. Even the goblins at the doors looked the same. The five of them strolled in (Neville had stayed home), still brushing off soot from the Leaky's Floo.
Zipnip barely glanced up as they were ushered into his office. "Lords Prewett, Lord Black, Regent Bones, Regent Longbottom. To what do I owe this honor?"
Gideon sat down with a thump in the offered chair, leaving the others to conjure their own. "We're here about Harry's vaults."
"I see. Lord Black and Regent Longbottom, is this true?"
Regulus nodded stiffly.
"Very well. I unfroze the accounts last night and have been going through them all day. They are…disappointing."
Amelia's eyes widened. "Why? Did Dumbledore try to embezzle?"
The goblin harrumphed. "No, Regent. He did not."
Fabian muttered a curse under his breath.
Gideon frowned, silently agreeing with his brother's assessment. "If Dumbledore hasn't done anything with the vaults, we can't accuse him of stealing, embezzling, or anything else, which is a right shame. That would've given us plenty of right to get him off the Wizengamot, at least."
"It doesn't matter now," Regulus said, scooting his chair forward so he was level with Gideon. "Might we see the accounts?"
Zipnip passed the file he was holding to Regulus, who read it, frowned, and passed it to regent Longbottom, who also frowned before handing it off to Amelia. This process continued until Gideon finally had it.
"So," he said after a bit. "The Potters are rich, but most of it—what does this mean? It's in assets, right? Not galleons."
"You're quite right," the goblin said. "They own five a total of five houses, two of which they gave away in their will, and one of those was turned into a war memorial by the Ministry. That leaves them with the Wheel, Potter Retreat, and Lily's Flower."
Everyone blinked at the name.
"It used to be Sweet's Retreat, but James Potter renamed it," Zipnip explained. "They have several stocks in popular—and successful—Quidditch teams and a few shops, mostly in Diagon Alley, a few on Horizant, two in Vertic, and one in Hogsmeade. Carkitt Market has a few, as well, as you can see. A share in the Daily Prophet, also, but only 2 percent."
"And the boy's trust fund?" Longbottom asked.
"Quite fine, quite fine. Two thousand nine hundred ninety-nine galleons, sixteen sickles, and twenty-eight nuts."
There was a pause.
"Potter always did like specifics," Fabian noted.
Longbottom asked, "Anything else we should know about?"
The goblin shuffled through a few papers. "If Lord Black and Regent Longbottom would sign here, here, and here, please. Just proper guardianship papers to send to the Ministry. It is things like this which make Madame Bones' job easier." The goblin smiled, showing off his crooked teeth.
"Thank you," Amelia replied curtly. "What about the will?"
"It was read last night."
"Stop being difficult," Regulus snapped. "Why don't you—"
"Regulus!" Gideon frowned at his friend. "Settle. Zipnip, did you execute the wills?"
"Not yet. Invitations have to be sent to certain people to come to an official will reading. Both Potters also wrote some letters to be released into the hands of the addressee after their deaths. I sent the latter but not the former. You will have to have a reading before September first."
"Yes, I know," Regulus, his ire having vanished, rested his chin on his hand. "Regent? How about…the eighth?"
Longbottom pursed her lips again. The vulture wobbled as she nodded. "Yes, that will do. That will do. Anything else? Has the condition of the lands been checked? Any house elves?"
Zipnip checked his notes. "I can send in teams to cleanse the lands of any dark magics and check on the conditions while they're there. As far as I can tell, the Potters' last house elf was killed during the Death Eater raid which killed Fleamont and Euphemia Potter."
Longbottom harrumphed. "Fine. Regulus? Would you send in a team, or would you go yourself?"
Regulus was quiet for a moment. "I say send in a team to check the condition and remove anything too dangerous. However, I'd like William Weasley to be one of the members."
The goblin frowned. "Mr. Weasley, eh? Well, I seem to recall that name. Curse breaker, is he? I'll see what I can do."
Gideon nodded graciously. "Thank you, Accountant. Your help is most appreciated." By some, anyway.
"Hmmm." The goblin didn't seem so sure. "What about alliances?"
Zipnip continued. "Black and Longbottom should ally if they're sharing a ward. And if you ask me, it's about time Bones allied itself to Prewett and Black. I do read the news, you know."
Amelia coughed. "Yes, well…"
"Well get on it with then!" Longbottom demanded. "Come on now, the beast's got a point. I, Regent Longbottom, do hereby declare the House of Longbottom allied with the Houses Black, Prewett, and Bones." She noticed the odd looks. "Oh, don't give me that. If one comes, the other two are soon to follow. Go on, now."
And so the Prewett/Black alliance gained two more.
Buried deep in the cold, draft-filled dungeons as usual, Severus Snape was busy scribbling in a potions textbook. All was ready for those dunderheaded students to arrive in a month, and the hospital wing didn't need any more potions, or so Pomfrey had told him. He was therefore taking some time to himself to enjoy trying to better the recipe for the babbling draught and its antidote.
The Weasley twins had taken it upon themselves to dose everyone in the school with said potion last term, never mind that it was a third year spell and technically a year above them. All the same, Severus did not enjoy babbling nonsense—even if it had been for only a few moments until he sipped down the antidote. He was trying to be more prepared.
A large tawny owl flew into the windowless room and landed next to his elbows on the desk, barely missing the inkpot.
"What are you doing here?" Severus challenged. "Go to the Owlery and wait. I'm busy."
The bird didn't budge.
"Go on, shoo! Get out of here, beast!"
The bird dropped a letter onto the desk and took off.
Severus peeked down at the letter—not out of curiosity. No, not that—paranoia. Not curiosity.
The penmanship was awfully familiar…
He dropped the book and the quill and ripped open the letter. Moments later, paler than any ghost in the castle, he whispered, "That bastard."
In a little rundown shack off the coast of Whales, Remus Lupin was curled up trying to read a battered old charms book. He was absolutely miserable, hungry, and even less lucky than usual. It had been three months since he'd last had a job. He couldn't get one in the wizarding world, obviously, nor did he have the credentials for one in the Muggle world.
Maybe he could try and become a librarian or something. A shop worker? Something, at least. Again.
A small, fluffy brown owl darted through one of the broken windows. It landed on his head and fell off onto his book.
He gently picked the poor thing up and accepted the letter.
The poor little owl was dropped to the floor as Remus finished the letter and growled, a deep, primal sound which caused the poor owl to collapse into a dead faint.
"Must get cleaned," Remus muttered, not noticing the owl. "Must talk to someone about this…no, I'll just go."
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore pondered the unfortunate news which had been told to him.
It seemed that Hagrid had left young Harry Potter in the eager hands of the Prewetts and Blacks. That went against all his plans! Harry was supposed to realize the true danger and evil cunning of Slytherins from Hagrid, so that he would be safe from any Death Eaters, like Black.
Of course, Harry would never be in Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff, but he simply had to keep the boy out of Slytherin.
Then again, even if he was in Gryffindor, a day with the Prewetts would be enough to unravel all his carefully-laid plans. Dumbledore sighed regretfully and sucked on a lemon drop. Fawkes crooned in the background.
Gideon and Fabian Prewett. There had been such hope for those two. Then, of course, they had gotten hooked up with Bones. That couldn't be allowed, so Dumbledore had arranged a little accident to occur. The Prewetts had survived, but the harm was fixed.
Until they had allied themselves with the dark, that is. Dumbledore was certain that Black had managed to convince them both to become Death Eaters. Bones wasn't, of course, but she was still far too close with those two—three, now—for comfort.
Molly Weasley had raised the young twins, Fred and George, quite well, but not well enough. They were far too close to the Prewetts for his liking. And of course, there was the matter of the Lestrange/Black twins. They reminded him far too much of Tom Riddle—kind, charming, well learned, and clever. He had to make sure they didn't go down that path, but he feared he was much too late.
He hadn't liked leaving Harry with the Dursleys—they were truly horrible people, but he had hoped that they would be kind enough to family.
The reports he had received from Arabella Fig had thrown that hope in the mud and stomped on it like one would a month old pastry when one had a sweet tooth. Then came that delightful little Muggle lady, the harmless, caring librarian. Arabella had said that she made sure Harry was well fed and loved, and so the boy at least had one person to truly rely on.
And Muggles were easy to convince of certain matters, if things went wrong. He just had to keep her from the Prewetts and Black until Harry was firmly under his guidance.
After all, he was Albus Dumbledore, Defeater of Grindelwald, Leader of the Light, Chief Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, Headmaster of Hogwarts. All he did was for the greater Good.
He was always right.
AN: Sorry about the long update! Life has been crazy busy the last few months, and it's not going to stop from the looks of it. Reviews always welcome, as is constructive criticism. Also, please check out my one other story, An Incorrect Summoning and a Whole Lot of Weasleys. Thanks!
All typos are my fault, please don't be afraid to point them out. They can't be fixed otherwise.