Harry Potter and all associated characters and situations are the property of J.K. Rowling. I make no claim to ownership.

CHAPTER 13: Back to School (pt 1)

7 August 1993
The Headmaster's Office at Hogwarts
9:00 a.m.

"Cockroach Clusters," Severus Snape said with an affected irritation. When he'd first returned to Hogwarts as a professor, he'd been annoyed by Dumbledore's quirk of basing all his passwords on types of candy. Then, sometime around his second year of teaching, he finally realized that the old man's "quirk" was deliberately chosen for the purpose of reinforcing the perception that he was simply a dotty old man and not one of the most powerful wizards alive. The epiphany surprised Severus at the time, but he quickly decided it would be best to continue being irritated over the matter so that if it ever became an issue, he would have a reservoir of staged memories showing his "contempt for the doddering old fool." Dumbledore invited Snape in before he even could knock, and the Potions Master took his customary chair and declined the customary offer of a sherbet lemon.

"Well now, Severus," Dumbledore said amiably. "You asked to see me first thing this morning to discuss some matter of importance that you were unwilling to discuss over the floo. Which is actually somewhat convenient because I also have a somewhat sensitive matter that I need to discuss with you."

"Oh, Headmaster? What about?"

"Now, now, my boy. You asked for the meeting first, so it's only fair that we discuss your business first."

Snape wrinkled his nose slightly. Honestly, he didn't know how that made things "fair" or what "fairness" even meant in this context. Gryffindor sentimentality, he assumed. Or perhaps the Headmaster thought his own "sensitive matter" was more controversial than Snape's and he believed that granting a request before making one would make Snape more inclined to assist.

"Regrettably, Headmaster, oaths limit me from being too free with background information, but I have a personal request to make, and since I cannot tell you very much about what's going on, I can only hope that I have earned a measure of your trust."

"You have my complete trust, Severus," Dumbledore said earnestly.

Snape nodded his head and suppressed his instinct to sneer at such earnestness. It was never wise to sneer at one's superior, but especially so when you were about to ask him for a favor.

"As you know, I sometimes work during the summers under a pseudonym as a freelance instructor of Occlumency and Legilimency. I have been asked to perform some work related to those two skills during the coming year. I would not normally even consider accepting such employment during the school term but there are ... unusual circumstances. You see, the prospective employer was a suspected Death Eater during the War. And while I cannot at this time provide you with any detailed information, I believe that through this side job, I can gain valuable information that will be extremely helpful to your own primary agenda."

Dumbledore nodded. His "primary agenda" was one of Snape's preferred euphemisms for "finishing Voldemort for good."

"How much time off do you need?"

The quick response caught Snape by surprise. He had not expected Dumbledore to acquiesce so easily. "Obviously, the favor he wants from me is bigger than I'd thought."

"Not much," he said aloud. "Roughly one weekend every few months. I had thought that I could schedule this work during Hogsmeade weekends, since the school will be relatively empty."

"I don't foresee a problem with that. I do trust you, Severus. And if you say that this work may be of benefit to us all, you certainly have my permission to accept this opportunity so long as it does not interfere with your official duties here."

With that, the Headmaster paused as he considered how to proceed with his own request. "It is ... interesting that you should raise the issue of trust, Severus. I suppose to be fair I should ask you the same. Do you trust me?"

Snape blinked twice at the question. "I ... am not a trusting person, Headmaster. But I suppose I can say that I trust you as much as I ever have anyone else in this world."

Dumbledore considered that response for a few seconds. Then, he reached into a desk drawer and withdrew a parchment which he handed over to Snape who studied it intently. "Please do make sure not to let anyone else have access to that. To call it a terrible secret is a gross understatement."

On the parchment was what appeared to be a potions recipe. Snape's eyebrows shot up in surprise.

"This is a Damocles Belby potion!" he said in amazement.

"You recognize it?" Dumbledore asked cautiously.

"No, but he did oversee my apprenticeship for nearly three years. I would recognize Master Belby's handwriting nearly as well as my own." He studied the recipe more closely. "And yet, despite having authored three monographs on the late Master Belby's work, I find that I do not recognize this potion at all, nor have I any idea what it might do." He looked again. "Aside from killing whoever drank it. Fifteen drams of monkshood is enough to poison a horse!"

"It will not be fatal to anyone, Severus. And yes, that potion is indeed an unpublished formula of Damocles Belby's invention. And since your former master passed away five years ago, I can think of no one more qualified to brew it than his most accomplished student."

Snape rolled his eyes at the flattery as the Headmaster continued. "I will require that potion to be brewed at regular intervals for the coming school year. Approximately once per month. As you can see from the instructions, brewing must commence at dawn on the day of the full moon and it takes at least eight hours to complete. I will need the finished potion delivered to me no later than two hours before sunset."

The Potions Master nodded. "But you cannot tell me what this potion is? Or anything about its function or purpose?"

"No, Severus, but I promise you it is not a matter of trust, but rather one of ... plausible deniability. The potion is not illegal per se as no one even knows of its existence save myself and ... and a few others. Nevertheless, there are a great many important people who would be profoundly disturbed if they learned of its existence, even more so if it ever became widely circulated. If it ever becomes an issue, it is my wish that you be able to honestly say that I ordered you to brew it and gave you no knowledge of its nature or purpose. Indeed, you may even wish to say that I forced you to brew the potion and made whatever threats against you that you consider most plausible. I will be happy to help you fabricate any memories you think might be useful."

Snape crooked an eyebrow. "This may well be the strangest conversation you and I have ever had."

Dumbledore laughed softly. "Perhaps."

"So you can truly tell me nothing about," he gestured distractedly towards the recipe, "all this?"

Dumbledore looked down at his desk for several seconds. "I can tell you this much. There are things I have done in the past for which I wish to make amends. This potion will help me to do so, if only in a small way."

Snape was silent for several seconds, and then he sighed in resignation. "Very well. If it is that important to you, I will brew your potion as requested. I only hope you know what you're doing." With that, he rose and left the office.

As soon as the door closed, Dumbledore pulled another parchment from his desk and read over it once more. This one was not a potions formula but rather a letter he'd received the day before, one that had flown halfway around the world to reach him. "So do I, Severus," Dumbledore muttered to himself as he started writing his response. "So do I."

9 August 1993
Longbottom Manor, Sirius Black's room
11:00 a.m.

When Harry stepped into Sirius's room, he was surprised to find Regulus already there. The two brothers were back on speaking terms, but things remained tense between them. At the moment, Regulus was standing over Sirius's bed, handing off a succession of wands to the bedridden man who was flicking and swishing each in turn.

"Good morning, Harry!" Sirius said cheerfully, only to frown when his latest wand fizzled impotently. He tossed it onto the floor to Reg's obvious annoyance. The younger man just shook his head and handed over another wand.

"Good morning, Sirius, Regulus. Where did the spare wands come from?"

"My little brother agreed to go on a spot of grave-robbing for me," Sirius replied with a cheeky expression.

Regulus actually sputtered at that to Sirius's amusement. Harry just crooked an eyebrow. "Grave-robbing?"

"Ignore Sirius. He's just being ... himself. The wands of deceased Black family members are kept in a display case in the family vault. So far as we know, Sirius's own wand got snapped upon his conviction, though obviously neither of us are inclined to actually confirm that. So now, we're seeing if he's compatible with any other family wands."

And as soon as he'd said that, the very next wand that Sirius shook gave out an almost jubilant display of purple and blue sparks.

"Eureka!" he shouted.

"What?" the boy asked in confusion.

Sirius grinned over at him. "Eureka. It's Greek for 'my bath water is too hot," he joked, which earned him another eye roll from Regulus. "Or perhaps more accurately translated as 'I have found it.' And it's Uncle Alphard's old wand too! Makes sense. He was about the only member of my wretched family I ever could get along with."

"Pot. Kettle. Black." Regulus muttered as he walked around the bed to Harry. "Anyway, now that Sirius has a functioning wand – which he will no doubt use to engage in idiotic pranks and whatnot – let's get you sorted out."

"I already have a wand," Harry said with some confusion.

"Yes, one you can't use unless you're either at school or in the presence of Mad-Eye Moody. And in light of who we have locked up in Lady Augusta's basement plus your own well-known propensity for attracting trouble, I don't want you to be completely helpless if something unexpectedly awful happens while you're away from Hogwarts." He nodded in the direction of Sirius. "After all, you're not going to be able to charm every rabid dog you encounter. And besides, Sirius has some ... house-keeping matters to go over with you so you'll need a wand you can use without setting off the Trace."

And with that, Regulus reached into his jacket pocket and produced a 10-inch wand made of what looked like the purest, darkest ebony.

"Wait a minute," Harry said in confusion. "You mean all you need to get around the Trace is to just get a new wand?"

"Don't be silly. The Trace is put on the wand initially, but when it chooses you, the Trace attaches to you personally so you can't use any wand without triggering it. Except for this one."

Sirius spoke up from his bed even as he waved Uncle Alphard's wand about to get a feel for it. "You see, Harry, our great-great-great-great-grandfather Licorus Black was on the Wizengamot when the Reasonable Restriction on Underage Sorcery law was passed. He was a strong proponent of the law, mainly because he saw a way to hamstring his rivals' children while giving his own kids a leg up. Right before the law went into effect, he secretly went to Germany and hired the Gregorovichs to custom-craft a wand that could be used by a minor without triggering the Trace, so that Licorus's descendants could freely practice magic at home during the summers. The result was the Black Wand, an ebony wand with ... well, honestly, I don't know what the core is, and I'm not sure I want to find out. I do know it cost him an arm and a leg to commission."

"Quite so," said Regulus. "In today's galleons, you could buy Puddlemere United for what this wand cost. And it can't be used by just any minor either. Only someone with Black blood can even hold it safely." He paused and looked suddenly thoughtful. "You are 100% certain that you're the son of James Potter, right? No chance that Lily had a bit of fun on the side that James didn't know about?"

"Regulus!" Sirius exclaimed in a scandalized voice.

"Don't get your knickers in a twist, Sirius," Reg said blandly. "You know as well as I how distinctly unpleasant it would be if someone without Black lineage were to even touch the Black Wand."

"It's okay," Harry interrupted before the two Black brothers got into another argument. "I've had a full genealogy work-up from Gringotts. I am definitely the son of James Potter and therefore the grandson of Dorea Black Potter."

"Fair enough." Regulus flipped the Black Wand in the air, caught it, and handed it off butt-first. As soon as Harry took the wand, an angry jet of inky black smoke shot out of the wand and then dissipated. To Harry's surprise, he actually sensed what almost felt like ... disdain emanating from the wand, as if it faintly disapproved of him but not enough to refuse his commands.

"Good," said Regulus. "You didn't die horribly."

Harry looked up sharply. "Was that a thing that could have happened?!"

"Probably not," Sirius said. "Most likely it would have blown your hand off or something. Nothing too permanent. And luckily, we even had a DADA instructor on hand if anything went wrong."

Regulus grimaced. Already, he regretted letting Lady Augusta tell Sirius about his Lockhart escapades. "Anyway, Harry, just remember. This wand doesn't leave the Manor. It is beyond illegal for you to have a wand that is immune to the Trace. Getting expelled and having your own wand snapped would probably be the least of your concerns."

Harry nodded solemnly. "I understand." Then, he looked over at Sirius. "So, house-keeping matters?"

Sirius sat up, suddenly full of nervous energy. "Yeah. You see there's something that, well, I was supposed to have done back when you turned eleven, but we all know what happened there. Now I still don't fully understand what's been going on between you and James, and I promised you I wouldn't press the matter, at least for the time being. But when you were born, I swore an oath to James and Lily that I would serve as your godfather. Traditionally in our culture, when a godchild turns eleven, the godparent renews that vow directly to the child. I, obviously, couldn't do that when I was supposed to, but if you'll permit me, I'd like to do so now."

"Um, what exactly is involved in that?" Harry asked somewhat suspiciously.

"Nothing that can be a negative to you, I should think," Regulus said reassuringly. "It will not give Sirius any power over you, nor will it obligate you in any way to him."

"But," Sirius continued, "it does mean that if James can't ... or won't act as your father, I will be honor bound to do so. Furthermore – and I can't believe I'm even suggesting this as a possibility – if James ever does kick you out of House Potter or if you decide to leave on your own, then for as long as I'm alive, you'll be considered an honorary member of House Black and even be able to use that as your surname. If that happens – and assuming I can get out of my current legal limbo – I could even adopt you as my son and heir. You know, if you wanted that. Completely your decision that." He barked out a laugh. "Mind you, it would be good to have someone reliable who could take over the family's affairs if something happened to me."

At that, he gave a big stinkeye to Regulus who was unimpressed. "Do as you want, Sirius, it won't bother me. In case you've forgotten, I'm an independently wealthy best-selling author."

Harry chuckled. "Okay, Sirius. I'm in. And I would be honored to formally accept you as my godfather. Now what do I do?"

"Nothing terribly complicated. Just hold the Black Wand out and let me touch my wand to it." The two crossed their wands, and Sirius began his oath. "I, Sirius Orion Black, Lord of the Ancient and Noble House of Black ..."

Thirty minutes later ...

His business with Sirius complete, Harry returned to his room in an unusually good mood. He was still getting to know the mercurial Sirius Black, but the man certainly seemed bent on serving as the father figure Harry had never had before. Granted, Black could still let him down somehow – most grownups had, after all – but it felt good to have someone else in his corner, even if it was an escaped prisoner.

Harry removed the Black Wand from the pocket into which he'd placed it and set it down on his nightstand. He took a few steps away in the direction of his writing desk only to suddenly spin around and thrust his open hand towards the Black Wand.

"ACCIO WAND!" he exclaimed. The Black Wand didn't even twitch and seemed as immune to the boy's attempt to wandlessly summon it as his regular holly and phoenix feather wand had been so far. Harry made a sour face and turned back to the writing desk to start his homework for the day. Moody had given him a rather long list of exotic spells to review, after all.

Meanwhile at 12 Grimmauld Place ...

With a soft pop, Dobby arrived in the entry hall to 12 Grimmauld Place. He sniffed delicately and then grinned in delight. There would be a lot to clean here. Softly, he padded down the hallway. As he neared the painting of Walburga Black, the insane old witch started screaming behind her curtain. Dobby silenced here with a snap of his fingers. He would not be able to do so as easily when Master Harry and the other wizards came here, but for the moment, he would enjoy the quiet. There was another pop from a room nearby. Dobby moved to investigate and found another house elf waiting for him.

"Ah yes," he thought. "This must be poor Kreacher. The elf driven mad by his owners. Dobby can sympathize."

"Dobby, house elf to the Great Wizard Harry Potter, bids you good morning," Dobby said cheerfully. "Dobby assumes you are the one called Kreacher."

"Not the one called Kreacher!" the other elf snarled. "Kreacher IS Kreacher!"

Dobby shrugged diffidently. He rather doubted that was entirely the case, but he was not here to heal the broken servant of House Black, only to assist him in cleaning up 12 Grimmauld Place. Master Harry's friend Neville would be returning to Longbottom Manor before too long. And while it was agreed that the captured Death Eaters could sit and rot in the Longbottom dungeons (which Neville didn't even know about), Sirius and Regulus would need to relocate, and their family home was the only plausible option. Unfortunately, it lacked dungeons for holding the Death Eaters, who would have to remain behind. It was a source of great amusement to Sirius that the fine upstanding Longbottoms had an actual dungeon in their basement but the dark sinister Blacks did not.

"To be honest, Dobby does not actually care. My master and his dogfather have commanded Dobby to come here and help with cleaning up this dwelling. Or if necessary, to undertake the cleaning by Dobby's own self if Kreacher is not up to the task."

Kreacher gave out a low hiss. "The House of Black is Kreacher's to maintain."

Dobby looked around the filthy, cobweb-infested room. "Obviously."

"Grrr. Kreacher will not clean up this house so that it can be defiled by filthy, stinking, unclean blood traitors. Kreacher is loyal to the true House of Black. Let the blood traitors come. Kreacher will end them in their sleep."

Dobby was silent for a moment and then spoke in a soft but precise voice. "Dobby sincerely hopes that was not intended as a threat from the Kreacher elf towards Master Harry and his dogfather. If it was, Dobby might obliged to respond in kind. The Kreacher elf is not the first elf to have threatened the Great and Wonderful Wizard Harry Potter in Dobby's presence. Dobby knew another elf not long ago who also wished Master Harry harm."

He took a step towards Kreacher and narrowed his eyes. "Dobby broke that elf, left him undone, and sent him back to The Other Place. Nothing was left behind but leaves and twigs. Will the Kreacher Elf learn from Dobby's counsel? Because Dobby suspects that his master would be quite relieved to never see or hear from Kreacher again. It is a terrible thing to return to The Other Place when it not yet time. The point loss alone ..."

"Bah!" Kreacher exclaimed dismissively, but it was clear that Dobby's words troubled him. After a moment, he made a nasty face but then nodded in submission. "Kreacher will not harm the filthy Halfbloods and blood traitors, nor even condemn them. Kreacher will remain out of sight. And perhaps stay drunk on butterbeer until the Dark Lord comes and kills the Halfbloods and blood traitors."

"Well, that will do, Dobby supposes. Now, if the Kreacher Elf will excuse Dobby, there is much cleaning to be done."

Kreacher hissed again, and then apparated away. Dobby clucked his tongue and then started looking around for a mop and bucket.

10 August 1993
Three Broomsticks Inn and Pub, Room 3, Hogsmeade
Inside Mad-Eye Moody's Trunk

Harry moved cautiously down the ladder into the trunk as he pondered Alastor Moody's instructions. When he arrived at Moody's rooms for his regular tutoring session, the former auror cast the spell that authorized his young charge to legally use his wand for the next few hours. Then, Moody descended into his labyrinthine trunk after telling Harry to count to thirty before following. He also said that he would not target Harry with any spells until after the boy had cast his first one. During his silent countdown, Harry considered what he knew and what he'd been directed to study and concluded that Moody would be laying traps and altering the environment inside the trunk to his advantage. That wouldn't violate his promise to refrain from targeting Harry directly.

Harry's suspicions were confirmed when he made it to the bottom of the ladder. The level of the trunk that Moody had prepared for him was filled with a thick impenetrable fog, almost certainly the product of the Fumos Charm. The spell created a smokescreen that the caster could see through easily but which would completely obscure the vision of anyone else in the area of effect. Harry could dispel it with a Ventus Maximus or an overpowered Finite Incantatem, but doing so would count as his first spell and would leave him wide open to attack before the mist cleared enough to spot his opponent. Slowly, Harry crept forward, listening intently for any sounds that might give a way Moody's location. From experience, he knew the room he was now in to be a large open training area with plenty of room to move around in even if he couldn't see his hand in front of his face. He also knew because of how Fumos worked that while he couldn't see Moody, the man himself could see Harry clearly.

Then, from somewhere about twenty feet away and to his left, Harry heard a soft creak from the floor. He decided to make his move. "FUMOS MAXIMUS!" he cried out before dropping and rolling out of the way just as an Expelliarmus passed through the area where he'd been standing. He continued to roll, dodging spellfire the whole way as his own magical fog filled the room. If he was right about the nature of Fumos, there would now be two overlapping smokescreens in place. He couldn't see through Moody's, and Moody couldn't see through his. The odds would be even.

"Unless that damned eye of his can see through my fog," Harry thought bitterly. But after a second, the spellfire stopped, which indicated that Moody's eye couldn't pierce Harry's own Fumos. Still on the ground, Harry whispered the incantation for the Muffliato Charm that Hermione had gotten from Snape. From the far side of the room, he heard Moody cast another Disarming Jinx in his general direction, but it went wide. If Harry's understanding of Muffliato was correct, Moody's efforts to listen for him would ensure that he would only hear a buzzing sound from an indeterminate direction. Hopefully, the ex-auror was now effectively deaf as well as blind. Slowly, Harry rose to his feet. No spells came his way but he could just barely make out the sounds of movement somewhere on the far side of the room.

Harry smiled as an idea came to him. "If it worked against a Voldemort-possessed Ron, maybe it will work just as well here." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a galleon and tossed it towards the far side of the room. It clattered on the floor and a split second later, an Expelliarmus shot out in that direction. The flash of light was barely visible through the fog, but it was enough to give away Moody's position.

"AVIS OPPUGNO!" Instantly, a flock of birds blasted out of Harry's wand and flew towards Moody. The instant the birds left the protection of Harry's Muffliato, their squawks alerted Moody who quickly cast a Vestimentarum shield around himself. Suddenly, the area around the man was lit up by blue electrical sparks as the conjured birds impacted against the shield Harry had learned the year before in "Lockhart's" first class. "EXPELLIARMUS!" cried the boy, his arm pointed at the heart of the electrical light show.

Unfortunately, before he could complete the Disarming Jinx, there was a soft pop from the area under assault by the birds, followed by a second pop a millisecond later right behind the boy. Harry turned as fast as he could, but it wasn't fast enough. Moody's own wordless Disarming Jinx hit him before he could identify the man's location, and his wand flew from his hand. Seconds later, Moody's Finite had cleared the room of both fog banks and the flock of angry birds, leaving nothing but a dejected boy and his tutor.

"Right!" Moody said. "Critique time. Why didn't you use the Supersensory Charm?"

"Because it wouldn't have let me spot you before you took me down," Harry grumbled as he took back his wand. "Also, if you'd realized I had the Supersensory Charm up, you could have just shot off some fireworks and deafened me."

The ex-auror nodded. "Exactly right. I was waiting for that and you never fell for it. Well, that's it for the critique."

Harry did a double-take. "Um, it is? Only one negative comment?"

"Yep. Well done, laddy!" Moody exclaimed jovially. "Very well done, indeed!"

"It didn't feel very well done, sir, since I lost for about the thirtieth time," Harry said.

"Aw don't be such a sourpuss. You kept your head and used the spells you knew creatively and innovatively. You had a good plan and you executed it, a plan that was as good or better than most of the auror trainees demonstrated when I used to put them through this same exercise. It's not your fault that I had an insurmountable advantage."

Harry thought about that for a second and then groaned. "Your eye can see through Fumos. You could see me clearly the whole time."


"In other words, I never actually had a chance at all."

"Not really. There are upper level glamours and illusions that can fool my eye, but you probably won't be exposed to them until 6th year. Or perhaps sooner. You've already got a pretty decent doppelganger spell. Maybe some independent research into illusions is in order. The point of today's exercise, however, is to fairly evaluate your progress, and that's hardly something I could do if I couldn't even see you."

The boy nodded but then looked pensive. "Mr. Moody, based on what you've seen of my work so far ... do you think I could possibly pass my OWLs early? As in, next summer? Not with any O's obviously, but at least Acceptables?"

"And why in Merlin's name would you want to take your OWLs ... Oh, wait, never mind. You're looking to get emancipated?" Moody frowned almost angrily. "Are things that bad with you and your old man?"

"No, no," Harry said shaking his head. "To be honest, things are better than I ever thought they'd be a year ago. But, well, you never know what the future holds. Constant vigilance, and all that."

Moody snorted. "You really lose the effect if you don't bellow that out at the top of your lungs. And if you're serious about sitting your OWLs early, then yes, I think it's definitely possible. I'd be willing to work with you over the school year if you want."

"When? And how?" Harry asked in surprise.

"Hogsmeade weekends, of course. Come on, I'll take you on a tour of the village. As you'll see for yourself, once you've had Madam Rosmerta's shepherd's pie and eaten your fill of Honeydukes candy, the village quickly loses its charms, at least until you're older and can actually go on dates and such. When you come to the village this term, take care of your business early, and I'll work in a three-to-five hour tutoring session that will be specifically geared to your OWLs."

Harry grinned excitedly. He was still grinning when he and his tutor climbed out of trunk and headed down into the common room of the Three Broomsticks. His smile faded into a far less happy expression, however, as he and Moody headed out onto the streets of Hogsmeade while trying diligently to ignore the legion of Dementors that floated in eerie silence above the Forbidden Forest barely a mile away.

11 August 1993
from the Daily Prophet Society Page

As faithful readers of this page know, a minor scandal erupted when Tiberius Nott of the Noble and Ancient House of Nott, using an obscure and nearly forgotten ritual, banished his son Theodore from the House of Nott and took away his very name. There has been much speculation about what Theo No-Name might have done to warrant such a punishment, but one possibility that has risen its nasty head is that the outcast might have been cast out for never having been a Nott at all! Interestingly, it seems that the eviction of the boy in question roughly coincides with another remarkable scandal – the unprecedented divorce by Narcissa Black-Malfoy of her husband, Wizengamot leader Lucius Malfoy. Rumors abound that before entering into marriage with the youngest daughter of House Black, the future Lord Malfoy had been living sinfully in Paris with a young woman by the name of Christina Fenwick. The same Christina Fenwick who entered into an arranged marriage with Lord Nott barely two months after Lucius Malfoy's own marriage to Narcissa Black following a whirlwind courtship. Indeed, the same Christina Fenwick who was the mother of Lord Nott's two children, the younger of whom is the outcast Theo No-Name!

Connections, connections, connections. What can it all mean? This reporter doesn't like to speculate or offer innuendo. We here at the Daily Prophet just present the facts and let our readers decide for themselves.

Malfoy Manor
9:00 a.m

Lucius folded the paper and set it to one side, a look of smoldering anger marring his patrician features. He toyed with the idea of arranging the Skeeter witch's death but then squashed it. Aside from the pettiness such a move would demonstrate, it wouldn't even solve the real problem. Rita Skeeter would never have printed something as salacious as that and which implicated both Tiberius Nott and himself unless she'd been put up to it by some other more powerful faction. He would investigate first and then revenge himself on the appropriate party.

As he considered his options, Lucius was distracted by Draco entering the room for breakfast. With Narcissa out of the house, Lucius had dispensed with the thirty-foot-long dining table, and breakfast was usually had in the sunroom.

"Good morning, father," Draco said as he sat down to eat.

"Good morning, Draco," Lucius said after a brief pause of indecision. "Before you start your breakfast ... we need to talk."

12 August 1993
1:00 pm (GMT)
Part of a three-way conference call connecting London, Cardiff, and Hamburg

It was a lazy Friday afternoon, and the three Hogwarts students each sat in their respective bedrooms. In London (Chiswick, to be precise), Kevin Entwhistle was making his way through a particularly challenging level of Legend of Zelda on his Game Boy, his wand safely stored away so that no ambient magic might damage the device. In Cardiff, Sue Li was sitting on her bed painting her toenails black while listening to Robert Smith on her radio reassure her that if it was Friday, he was in love. And in Hamburg, Germany, Anthony Goldstein was reviewing passages from a religious text and making personal notes, a kippah in Ravenclaw colors perched on his head.

Luckily, the distance between the three and their competing activities did not prevent them from talking freely, for they had the benefit of three-way international calling with speakerphones, a mode of communication that would have baffled the majority of Pureblood wizards who couldn't have even recognized a phone let alone known how to use one.

"Seriously, Ant," said Kevin as he tried to maneuver Link past another danger. "I still don't even see why you want me involved in your little project. You know I don't have the grades you guys do."

"Your grades are perfectly solid, Kevin," Anthony replied. "And as a Muggleborn, you're more grounded in Muggle technology than the typical Hogwarts student, even Halfbloods like Sue and me."

"Speak for yourself, Anthony," Sue said irritably as she tried not to spill her nail polish on her bed. "I've been spending the summer learning to code."

Anthony scoffed. "Well, I'm sure that will be very helpful when you try to use magic around your computer and it melts. How far have you gotten?"

Sue sighed. "Not very. It's been a busy summer. In addition to witchcraft and computer programming, I'm considering becoming a Goth chick."

"Are you now," said Kevin with some amusement. "A Chinese-British computer geek Goth witch? Isn't that a bit much?"

"Oh shut up, Entwhistle. You're just jealous that you don't have anyone who speaks to you the way Trent Reznor does to me."

"Hey, I'm distantly related to the bassist for The Who. Does that count?"

There was a brief shocked pause from the other two. "Are you really?!" Anthony said in amazement.

"Yeah. Well, I think so. I'm from his hometown and we're both named Entwhistle. My dad says we're like third cousins or something. Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. But we've drifted from the topic, which is 'why do you want me to join your experimental research group?' Didn't you Claws get enough of that with Lockhart last year while I was out running laps around the castle at the bloody crack of dawn?"

"Honestly, Kevin," said Anthony. "We want you because you can bring a purely Muggle perspective to our work, while Sue and I were both raised in a mixed Muggle-Wizarding background. And also, you're a Puff, and you can keep us flighty and eccentric Ravenclaws grounded when we get too far out there."

Kevin snorted. "So why don't you just get Justin?"

"Mmm. I dunno about Justin," Sue Li said doubtfully. "He's been hanging with a bad crowd."

"Oh come on, Sue," Anthony said irritably. "That 'bad crowd' consists of exactly one Slytherin who actually started acting nicer while under Justin's influence. Well, he was acting nicer but his father is sending him off to Durmstrang, so he'll probably come back as some kind of magical skinhead."

Kevin sniggered despite himself at the thought of Draco Malfoy with a shaved head and tattoos and dressed like a football hooligan. "Um-hmm. So what about Harry Potter or Hermione Granger? He's Muggle-raised and she's Muggleborn and they're both at the top of our class."

Anthony flipped a page as he spoke. "Harry says he's interested in helping but has a very heavy academic year ahead of him, though he was cagey about what extra work he's doing. Hermione, on the other hand, was very open about the fact that she's basically taking all the electives, plus she's starting a club of her own."

"All the electives?" Kevin exclaimed. "Can you even do that? You know, without using time travel? ... Actually, can you time travel with magic?"

"No," Sue said with authority. "Time travel is impossible due to the Fifth Principle Exception to Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration."

Kevin rolled his eyes. "... Of course it is. Have I mentioned how outclassed I feel academically with you two Claws?"

"Repeatedly," said Anthony. "And you shouldn't be. Sue's dad is a Transfiguration master, so she's ahead of us all in that area. Anyway, Granger just has a very complicated schedule with no breaks or free periods for the whole year. Honestly, I'm afraid she'll have a breakdown before Christmas."

Kevin spat out a curse as poor Link died once again. "Nah. She'll handle it, or else her friends will stage an intervention and get her to drop some classes. I mean, we can literally take an elective the whole year and drop it without penalty any time before the final, right?"

"So long as you take exams in at least two electives, yes. By the way, Anthony, what's this club she wants to start?"

"I'm not entirely sure, Sue, but it's something to do with protesting against abuses of mind control magic. I think she's upset about what happened to that Theo No-Name kid."

"I don't blame her!" Kevin exclaimed somewhat angrily. "Bad enough this one particular kid is getting screwed over by his own dad, but why is it no one else is up in arms about how magic can be used to brainwash half the country?"

"I hear you," said Sue. "I nearly got into an argument over it with Cho Chang. She didn't even know this Theo kid's name, and now she's ready to believe all sorts of rumors about how awful he is. Everyone I know whose family has any sort of Ministry or Wizengamot connection is like that. It's kinda creepy actually."

Kevin paused to think for a moment. "You know, if opposition to this Sanction thing is going to be mainly a Muggleborn or Muggle-raised thing anyway, it seems to me there should be some overlap between Granger's group and what you guys want to accomplish. Why don't we just join her group and then get her to help you with your experiments as a condition to staying in?"

"That's very cunning, Kevin!" Sue said mischievously. "Are you sure you're not a Slytherin in disguise?"

Kevin snorted as if affronted. "Hufflepuffs can be cunning when we need to be, Sue. We're just not prats about it. Anyway, we can talk about this more at school. What do you guys have planned from now until the 1st?"

"Enjoying black fingernails and eyeliner and functioning CD players while I still can," said Sue.

"Homework," said Anthony rather grumpily.

Kevin laughed. "The Ravenclaw hasn't finished his homework yet? You're slacking off, Ant!"

"Different homework, actually. I have to read from the Torah this Saturday as part of my bar mitzvah. And in front of all four of my grandparents plus a whole synagogue of Jewish Muggles. I'm more nervous about it than I ever was about answering Snape's questions in Potions class."

"You're having your bar mitzvah!" Sue said excitedly. "That's so cool! The Brit-Chinese community doesn't do anything like that, Magical or Muggle. I mean, maybe a Sweet Sixteen, but that's another three years from now."

"Honestly, I don't know much about what a bar mitzvah is beyond what I've seen on TV," said Kevin. "I'm Anglican, which in my family means we go to services on Christmas morning and my grandad stands and salutes during the Queen's speech, but that's it. Actually, I never even realized you were Jewish. I've never seen you wear, um, that hat thing."

"Kippah. Or yarmulke, depending on who you're talking to. And my family is Reform Jewish, so I only wear it when I'm praying, reading the Torah, or actually in a synagogue. I almost never wore it at Hogwarts." He paused and frowned. "Actually to be precise, I'm Magical Reform Jewish, which makes things even more complicated.

"Still, I know bar mitzvah a big deal for you, so congratulations!"

"Thanks ... I guess. My parents have never been terribly observant, but the bar mitzvah is important to my grandparents, and I want to make them happy, so ..." He trailed off but then changed the subject..

"Any way, when we get on the Hogwarts Express, find our cabin. Nana Goldberg is making a truly ridiculous amount of food for my bar mitzvah party, which none of my school friends will be coming to because it'll be in Hamburg." Anthony practically groaned at that. He'd hated his parents move to Germany and missed Britain terribly during the summers. "But on the bright side, I'll be bringing plenty of leftovers."

14 August 1993
A fishing boat on Lake Jindabyne
New South Wales, Australia

"COME ON YOU BLOODY BASTARD!" yelled Buck MacMillan as he struggled against the massive trout that was on the other end of his fishing line. For a brief instant, he thought about simply pulling out his wand and summoning the blasted thing, but no, that would be cheating. Finally, with a roar and one final pull, the trout flew out of the lake and landed on Buck's boat. The retired auror was delighted – the thing must have weighed at least twenty-five pounds.

But then, Buck's delight was replaced by a twitch of recognition at the sound of something moving fast towards his location. He whirled around, his wand instantly appearing in his hand and pointed at the figure flying towards him on a broom. The rider slowed on approach though, and when Buck could make out the traditional auror's robe, he lowered the wand but did not put it away. Seconds later, Senior Auror Nguyen Park landed competently if not exactly gracefully on the fishing boat.

"Auror Nguyen! This is a surprise. And here I thought you hated brooms."

"I do, but I wasn't about to apparate to a boat in the middle of a great big lake. The sheer embarrassment if I'd been off by even a few feet would have been the end of me." She stepped forward and gave her friend and former mentor a hug. "And I think you're allowed to call me Park now that you're off the force."

Buck laughed and returned the friendly hug. "Pshaw. I called you Park when I was on the force. You know I was never one for formalities. Speaking of which, you want a beer?"

"No thanks."

"Suit yourself," he replied as he walked over to a metal chest upon which a permanent cooling charm had been cast and removed a can for himself. "So what brings you out here to interrupt my fishing vacation."

"You're retired, Buck. You've even sold the bar. Every day is a vacation for you." Nguyen paused and looked away for a second. "I need a favor, and I think you're the person for it."

"What sort of favor?"

"The British DMLE has asked us to send someone over their to act as an advisor on some law enforcement-related matters. We don't really have anyone to spare at the moment, so I thought of you."

"Did you now?" Buck asked suspiciously. "And why did I pop to the top of your list?"

"Frankly, Buck," she answered somewhat cautiously, "I think you might have a bit of a personal interest. Do you remember that British author who wrote that book about the Wagga Wagga incident? The one that got most of the facts wrong and painted him to be a big hero?"

Buck took a long swig of Foster's. "I seem to recall him."

"Well, his name's Gilderoy Lockhart. And apparently, a few months ago, he confessed to a bunch of crimes and then used the Tabula Rasa to lobotomize himself. Or so the Brits believe. They want someone to come over and confirm whether it was really Tabula Rasa and advise them on whether it's reversible or not."

"You and I both know that Tabula Rasa is irreversible."

"Yes, Buck. That's why it's a capital offense to use it without official sanction." Buck didn't respond, and Nguyen started to get angry. "Dammit, Buck! Fine. Let's stop beating around the bush. We both know that I covered for you and Rusty back in 1985. And I'm still covering for you both. That's why I recommended you for this assignment when the order came down from the Chief. But if you won't go, the Chief will send someone else. And who knows what sorts of rocks that someone is going to kick over!"

Buck grimaced but finally nodded his head. "Alright. Tell the Chief I'll go. I need a few days to get my affairs in order here since I don't know how long I'll be gone, but tell him I'll owl him about international portkey arrangements as soon as possible."

Nguyen exhaled. "Good. Thanks, Buck." Without another word, she mounted her broom and took off. Once she was a half-mile away, there was a loud crack as she apparated away. Buck finished his beer in solitude.

"Dammit Rusty," he thought ruefully. "What the hell kind of mess have you gotten into now?"

14 August 1993
Longbottom Manor
9:00 p.m.

Harry stared down at the Marauders' Map cautiously. It was an amazing piece of magic, one that still showed the movements of people in the castle even though Longbottom Manor was hundreds of miles away. But that wasn't the most remarkable of its enchantments, for the Map contained not one but four artificial personalities based upon the Marauders themselves, all apparently frozen in memory and emotional development at some point around their Fifth Year. And after several weeks of discussion, the Marauders finally agreed that it would be possible for Harry to psychically enter the Map and talk directly with those artificial personalities and even to relive some of their memories. He was a little skittish about the idea, particularly since Jim had told him that Tom Riddle had nearly trapped his mind inside the Diary through a similar process. Still, this would be his best opportunity to learn more about the Marauders and especially his own father. At this point, Harry figured that if he would ever learn the source of James Potter's irrational hatred and fear of Harry being a Slytherin, this might be the best way to do it.

"Okay, guys," he said to the Map. "I'm ready. Let's do it."

"Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs are all eager to start as well.
We'll see you on the other side.
Well, one of us at least."

Harry frowned at that last cryptic remark, but before he could respond, there was a glowing light that sprang forth from the Map that engulfed his face and body. He had a sudden sensation of falling forward into a deep hole, but it soon passed. Harry shook his head and looked around. He was in what seemed to be a Hogwarts common room, Gryffindor's if the crimson wallpaper with a lion motif were any indication. The boy looked around for the four young Marauders, but he was surprised and a bit concerned to see only one. Specifically, the only one that he really didn't want to be alone with while stuck in an enchanted map of dubious provenance.

"Wotcher, Harry Potter!" exclaimed a portly fifteen-year-old boy in Gryffindor robes and bearing an unfortunate mullet. "Peter Pettigrew's the name! Glad to meet you!"

Harry swallowed and then put on his best fake smile.

Next: Back to School pt 2. Lucius relives some painful memories. Neville returns. Sirius and Regulus talk family. And the train ride to Hogwarts is interrupted by an uninvited and unwanted guest.

AN1. The part of Anthony Goldstein will be played by Finn Wolfhard (IT, Stranger Things).

The part of Kevin Entwhistle will be played by Tommy Knight (Luke from Sarah Jane Adventures).

I am open to suggestions as to who should play Sue Li. The only Chinese actress of the right age that I've found is Kelly Leung, who is already Cho Chang.

AN2. Lots of comments after last chapter theorizing that the Selwyns (or Grandfather, at least) are vampires. I will offer two spoilers. (1) Grandfather Selwyn is a vampire. (2) The fact that Grandfather Selwyn is a vampire is not remotely the most disturbing thing about the House of Selwyn. :)

AN3: Edited on 10/1/7 to remove an apparently inaccurate reference to the Torah and also the scandalous suggestion that anyone in Australia drinks Fosters. :)