Chapter 36 – Getting Your Affairs In Order
AN: Many thanks to my Beta, Trey of the Rebellion, thanks for the hard work going through the chapter to get it to this stage.
I hope you all enjoy this gift, on this fan appointed special day :P
BN: Happy Star Wars Day!
Harry looked up and down the incredibly generic road, the morning sun shone down on the two of them, the Force echoing with the sparks of curiosity from the curtain twitching neighbours. The oddity of seeing the suited woman beside the local troublemaker would probably fuel the rumour mill of the estate for weeks.
How he hated this place, words could not describe how much he detested it. But he needed his relatives to sign documents and to keep Dumbledore off his back, he could suffer a short period of this for the start of his vengeance.
Motioning to Jane, he waited as she turned to keep watch over their surroundings, her eyes jumping from window to window as she fiddled with the wand hidden in her grasp, ready to cast if required.
He knocked politely on the door and waited for it to open to show his mother's sister who sneered at the sight of him, before confusion began to fill her features at the clothing he was wearing and the woman beside him.
"Hello Aunt Petunia," Harry said in an obviously fake happy voice, "I'm home."
Before she could respond, he pushed the door open further, driving the shocked woman back in surprise at how close he got to her but he hadn't even finished a single step into the house before he twitched and leapt back, Jane only just managing to get out of the way. He rubbed at his arms with a look of horror on his face. "What the fuck was that?!"
Jane glared at Petunia in warning before drawing her wand fully and quickly cast a notice-me-not on the doorway to hide the flurry of spells that followed. She raised an eyebrow in confusion at the results before repeating the spells at a slower rate, shifting to a different language for a third wave of spells, this time flicking a spell at Harry and his aunt. Closing her eyes a moment she tapped at the joints of her fingers with her thumb on her off hand as if counting before nodding at her findings.
With a glare at the doorway, she sighed in annoyance, "Should have expected something like this from your comments. There's a ward on the building. No idea what it does but it's keyed to your blood, which is a problem. Blood magic isn't technically illegal but is heavily frowned upon in this country. I'm no cursebreaker which is what you'd need to even start working it out."
"It's up to you, we can go back to Diagon Alley or we can stay here." She coughed nervously at that, "Gotta say, my place isn't an option, too many saw me with you and know where I live. So, if you want it kept quiet, I'm gonna have to call in some markers to hide us."
Harry nodded at that, "Do you know a cursebreaker who you can trust? Preferably, not one from Gringotts."
Jane hesitated before nodding, "I... do. But I'd rather not call upon them if I can. She's not an official one, she's more of an... acquisitions specialist with... exotic... tastes? Plenty of experience over the years, she keeps to her word, although, her prices can be... odd. She's a complete bitch too."
Harry raised an eyebrow, "Okay, we can discuss this... specialist later. Right now, can you tell if we're safe going in?"
Jane shrugged, "Yeah, we should be good, there are only three hooks in this scheme, you will be weakened but not stopped. The Wards are drawing on you as a power source, but it's already begun, the moment you crossed the threshold it started again. It's an old bond that's been drawing on you for years, so it's nothing you shouldn't be able to handle in the short term. But, like I said, it's up to you. If we stay, the moment you feel off, we should leave."
Harry frowned in thought. "I don't want to draw too much notice, we're expected to be here tonight. I want this ward checked in full so contact this specialist, use Hedwig if you need to and I'll cover the costs. How long will it take you to get a response?"
She squinted as she thought through the problem, "Guessing, a couple of hours, maybe, to get a message to her, depends where she is at the moment. She won't be here before dark though."
Harry glared at the house for a moment before nodding, "Do it, I want this sorted as quickly as possible. You said three hooks?"
"That's what it looks like to me," Jane answered, gesturing into the house, "they've been draining the others in there on a lower level than you. Pretty vicious trick to use, but it requires a long time to take a noticeable effect. Whoever set these up knew what they were doing."
She glanced at Harry and shivered at the thought of such a drain, "The boy might have had enough power to be a wizard given the chance and no outside interference. But he's lived near his entire life with that hook bleeding him dry, never got the chance to really develop. Your aunt was already a squib, a strong one too, but what little she had is practically gone now. Guessing no other kids?"
Harry frowned in confusion as he shook his head and Jane hissed in sympathetic pain at the answer.
She shook her head and continued explaining, "Damn thing was too much on her, any pregnancy that held a spark of power would have been snuffed out by the drain. There's a reason shit like that isn't allowed anymore."
Harry frowned at that, his disgust at Dumbledore rising with every new discovery, he took a deep breath and stepped through the doorway, as Jane had said, he felt no different. "Jane, could you have the Dursley's moved into the kitchen, I need to have a chat with them."
She gave a jaunty salute, "Sure thing boss. I'll send the letter when we're done." With a wave of her wand, she motioned for Petunia to move out of their way and grinned as the pale woman practically ran and hid in the corner, trembling in fear at an adult witch being present. Harry could practically taste the fear in the air and could practically hear her thoughts without even trying to use the Force, her mind was that loud.
Stepping into the kitchen, Harry frowned and began to move chairs around until he nodded in satisfaction, he gestured to his aunt and pointed at one for her to sit in and when Jane escorted Dudley into the room, he pointed to the one on the opposite side of the table. "Aunt Petunia, Dudley." Harry began as he sat at the head of the table, having swapped his own chair for Uncle Vernon's. "Let's set some ground rules, shall we?"
Jane simply leaned back against the kitchen side and watched, her wand in her hand, tapping it against her arm.
Petunia looked concerned at the witch's presence behind her, whilst Dudley just looked terrified of the woman, his eyes never leaving the moving wand.
Harry took a deep breath before he began, "Now, I'm going to speak, you're going to listen; and you can ask questions afterwards. Okay?"
Dudley nervously nodded as Petunia growled out her answer "Yes."
"Excellent," Harry said, "So. I'm going to live here until I can leave. My bodyguard is going to be here as well to make sure nothing goes wrong. She'll take the spare room for herself. There will be no chores, no cooking, no cleaning, nothing. I will in return stay out of your way as best I can and supply my own food and drink. Jane can use magic with no problems and will protect me to her full ability."
He looked to Dudley, "That means if you start 'Harry Hunting' again, she won't mess up like Hagrid did." Dudley simply paled even further and a sharp smell of urine came from him.
Jane sneered in disgust at that and glared at the boy, quickly flicking her wand at him and cast a cleaning spell.
Ignoring the reaction, Harry turned to Petunia, "I want you to know that the only reason I am here is Dumbledore. I'd happily leave and let the protections collapse so I can put a full-page advert in the magical paper with my old address and an explanation of what has been done to me."
"You wouldn't..." She stammered, "You wouldn't dare!"
"Look at me aunt Petunia, look me in the eyes when I say this." He waited for her to do so, but frowned when she looked away in silent rebellion, Jane growled and grabbed Petunia by the hair and forced her to look at her nephew as he had instructed her.
Harry's eyes seemed to glow with his emotions, "I am not lying," he stated, "I mean this with every fibre of my being. I would happily provide a memory of everything that you did to me, no matter the cost to myself, to burn everything you care about to ashes. I would live with the shame of my entire history being known by everyone. All the looks and stares that would cause, all that pity and disgust, to bring you just a fraction of my pain."
His glare intensified as the green seemed to bore into her eyes, "Am I lying?"
She shook her head as best she could and Jane let go as she stepped back.
Harry sat back with a sigh, "Jane, can you explain to me why you did that."
Jane nodded and gestured towards the stairs, "It's the start of the full moon tonight, my senses are much stronger, which means I can smell the stench of your blood and fear from that cupboard. Its old, but deep stains like that last a while. From what you just said, I can guess the rest."
Harry nodded at that and looked towards Dudley, "Do you understand me as well or do I need to make it clearer?"
Dudley shook his head in terror as those burning green orbs seemed to sear his soul and he felt icy fingers grasp his hammering heart. "No. I understand."
Harry nodded at that and the pressure around Dudley's heart faded, "Good."
He looked at Jane, "No letter regarding the adult magic being cast, so that's been fixed at least. Time to test mine." He drew his wand and quietly cast a spell, "Lumos." He waited a moment before dispelling the spell, "Nox."
Harry counted to ten and then recast the spells with the same amount of effort and timing, "Lumos. Nox." He then returned the wand to its holster on his forearm, ignoring the fear on his relative's faces at the blatant magic used before them, he then lifted his hand and gathered his power into his grasping fingers, "Lumos."
Jane straightened up in shock at seeing the ball of light appear in the air, Harry caught a glimpse of respect and awe in her gaze at his simple spell. Dudley fell backwards in horror as Petunia paled even further as her gaze locked onto the ball of light.
Harry chuckled as he let the spell fade and then gestured with a finger and a strand of the Force to the kitchen and smirked as the kitchen knives floated towards him and began to hover in the air before him. Releasing them, he placed them down gently in the middle of the table, having turned them to point at Petunia and sort them into order by length of blade.
Harry leaned back in the chair, "Now we wait and see what they can detect, if anything." He looked at Dudley and sneered slightly, "Go get yourself cleaned up Dudley, you're embarrassing yourself." As Dudley scrambled to his feet and hurried away, Harry called out, "Oh, yes. Dudley, before I forget. I think it might be a good idea to warn your friends to leave me alone and behave, don't you?"
Dudley just shakily nodded and ran to his room; Harry raised an eyebrow in surprise at how quickly he got away. Apparently, he had been getting some exercise, or perhaps it was just the fear.
Harry turned to look at his aunt, "Do you think I need a repeat of this conversation with Vernon or do you think you can control him? I'm just thinking about how far I could go in explaining things and still claim self-defense."
Jane chuckled at that, "If he's a muggle, then you can go pretty far. If he's a squib, less so. It depends on who turns up to investigate the matter."
"Excellent." Harry smirked at that, "I'm pretty sure he's not a squib, so I'll be fine. Isn't that great Aunt Petunia? As long as Vernon is nice and doesn't cause me trouble, he'll be safe."
Petunia just shakily nodded at that and Harry's smirk turned into a smile. "I'm glad we had this chance to air matters between us," Harry rose from his chair and and made to leave, before pausing and turning around. " Oh, and Aunt Petunia, your plan would have failed and I'd have been perfectly happy to slaughter you all. It would have been terribly traumatic experience where my magic lashed out to protect me. Completely understandable and perfectly legal."
Harry nodded politely to her and headed up to his room.
Jane let the filth before her relax slightly before leaning close to her ear, her whispered words adding to Petunia's terror, "He's being nice. I'm not as nice as him. Fuck up once and… well, there are fates worse than death. You're a squib, you'll survive. Your son? He might just have enough magic left to survive. Your husband? I imagine he'd make a wonderful feast for you." She placed a hand on Petunia's shoulder, squeezing painfully, "Please choose to run, I'd love to see how far you make it before I get to you."
With a pat on the now bruising shoulder, Jane strolled past Petunia and whistled as she went upstairs to investigate the rest of the house. She needed to get the spare room to her liking and send a letter.
In the spare bedroom that had been turned into a library for the family of bibliophiles, Hermione hummed to herself in thought as she finished up the first version of her summer homework at the desk by the window. She would review it when she returned from the holiday in France and update it with any new information she had learned in the meantime.
It was rather frustrating to be given only a few feet of parchment to use to write on, even with her small and neat handwriting, she barely managed a decent essay. She'd done the math, measured the parchment, and realised that a foot of parchment was practically a sheet of A4 paper, but it wasn't ruled to guide handwriting. Just giving two or three feet of parchment for an essay seemed rather….. lacking to her. How Ron or Harry managed with the state of their handwriting, she did not know. Ron, given half a chance would probably manage a paragraph or two and that would be it.
She chuckled slightly as she could imagine him writing a two-foot essay about how a spell worked with two words, 'Because magic.'
Harry at least would make an attempt, but his chicken scratch handwriting and his habit of his sentences curving as he wrote them would also mean that he wouldn't get too far. Although, his handwriting had improved dramatically in the last few weeks.
Sighing, she rubbed her eyes, remembering to put the quill down before she jabbed herself with it again. Carefully, she closed the ink well as she allowed her mind to wander.
Something had deeply changed with her best friend whilst she had been petrified.
And it hadn't been the fact that he had fought a near mythical creature and barely survived.
His gaze had always been sharp and any motion on the edge of his vision caught his focus. He never initiated contact with anyone, always avoiding being touched if he could help it and flinching if someone managed to sneak up on him and entered his personal space. She'd also seen the way his eyes snapped up to look at any raised voices as his shoulders tensed up and his hands clenched. She had been researching the signs and from some of the comments from the Weasley's she began to believe that the Dursleys were abusing her Harry.
As her anger rose at the very thought, she tried to clear her mind, emotions would distract her, logic would guide her. A flash of Snape trying to act like a Vulcan made her smile before it faded and she slowly breathed out.
But Harry had changed.
His gaze, once wary and nervous, was now sure and sharp. His posture was no longer hunched, but tall and confident. He no longer flinched at sudden noises or people's presence, but she had caught him reaching for something at his waist when surprised before stopping. He had stopped carrying his wand in a pocket, but now it was in his sleeve, he had also stopped sneaking food from the hall when he thought no-one was watching. She had caught him looking at an apple the other day, almost examining it whilst deep in thought, before he had smirked and taken a bite.
From a scared and nervous child, Harry now acted much more mature and confident, and that damn smirk. It was as if he knew something no-one else did and he was waiting for someone else to work it out.
It was frustrating.
It was fascinating.
Then he had hugged her and kissed her on the cheek at Kings Cross! Harry never did that. Then he had joked with her parents, showing confidence and intelligence and they had been pleased by the conversation.
So, what was going on?
She grabbed a notepad and a pen and began to note her observations, she would have to think carefully and see what her observations would bring up, perhaps there was a pattern she was just missing.
She was so deep in thought as she was detailing her notes that the cough at the door behind her made her jump and drop her pen.
Her Mum grinned and waved the bowl of popcorn at her, "I'm all set up, so we can get started whenever you're ready."
Hermione giggled slightly at her Mother, "I'm not sure who's looking forward to this more, you've already seen it." She picked up her pen and closed the notebook, she would come back to her theories later.
Helen laughed at that, "Actually, I haven't. I've recorded the episodes and avoided spoilers as best I can. I wanted to watch it with you at the same time. Your dad is hiding in his study as usual, complaining that we aren't watching something better. Plus, we have most of the new spinoff recorded as well."
Hermione smiled and hurried from her desk to hug her mum, "Thank you, it means a lot to me that you'd wait for me to get home. I know how much you love the show." She stepped back and looked her mum up and down, "Nice uniform by the way, can I get one as well?"
Helen smirked at that, "Depends. If you're going to wear it around Harry, you might want to get an original series uniform." She laughed as her daughter started to blush, "Perhaps we should get one for him too, to go with yours. I'm sure he'd be quite dashing wearing gold. Does he have the figure to wear a torn shirt?"
Smirking, she guided her daughter downstairs, chuckling at the growing blush and confused smile at the thought on Hermione's face.
Jane knocked politely at the door whilst staring at the locks and bolts on the door, the catflap was an… interesting addition. "Boss, your Uncle just got the warning from your Aunt and I made sure he knew I was here, man, he should be careful at his size, gonna give himself a heart attack or something." She shrugged at that, "Guessing no big loss there."
Harry looked up from the photo album he was looking through, "Did he listen or did he try and bluster through?"
"Oh, he listened after I waved my wand a bit and let off a few sparks. He calmed right down at that." She answered with a chuckle. "Anyway," she said as she placed a letter on his desk, "Owl just arrived with a letter about the two lumos and nox you cast, they said that both were detected and recorded, the first has been ignored as agreed, and whilst the second will be on your record, there won't be any criminal charges, warnings or fines as it has been guessed that you were making sure the detection worked. No comment about my casting or the wandless lumos and the knife trick. Which was bloody impressive, I must say."
"Thank you," Harry smiled at her, "it's pretty easy if you know the trick. At least we know that I'm being watched properly."
Jane nodded at that, but needed to ask her question, "Trick?"
Harry smirked, "The trick is that there is no trick. Its just accidental magic taken to its natural conclusion. Magicals didn't need wands before they had been invented, so why do we need them now?" He gestured to the desk and an apple leapt into his hand, "A wand is made of an organic conductor from a magical source contained within a shaped structure to assist focus and flow of magic. Are you not magical? You have a finger that points, don't you? So how is that any different?"
He leaned back and smirked at her as she realised what he was saying, "Not that its easy mind you, it's not a simple spell that you learn and have a wand to focus for you. You need to reach out with your magic and will it to act as you wish. Children do it as accidental magic because they're driven by wants and desires. Adults don't do it because they're told its difficult and requires greater power than they possess, so they hamstring themselves with their own beliefs and doubts." He waved at her, gesturing for her to carry on, "Ignoring that, what's up?"
Jane chuckled, "Yeah, ignoring the mind-blowing knowledge that a twelve-year-old just dumped on me. As you know, I'm not going to be able to be around for the next three nights, so I'll help set up defenses for you before I go, we should be good this time, but I'm not so sure about next month. I'll be here during the day, so need to worry on that front."
Harry frowned as he gently closed the photo album and put it on the bed beside him, "I'll be safe. Where do you go?"
Jane snorted at that, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure you'd be good without me around with your little display with the knives." She sighed as she leaned on the doorframe, "Depends on who can host me, I'm usually good around the Whitby and Cardiff packs, might call the Peaks pack if I'm short of time, plenty of space to not cause fights. If they can't manage me being there, I'll drop onto Dartmoor."
She sighed in frustration at the thought, "Dartmoor used to be Greyback's territory, but his pack's been in Europe for the last decade, so I should be good. Me against a normal pack isn't good odds, but me against Greyback's pack? I'm dead or worse." She shuddered at that thought, "I'd rather die than let Greyback get his claws on me."
Harry frowned and motioned for her to take the chair at the desk, "If you don't mind, would you expand on why you aren't part of a pack?"
"I'm a freak." Jane shrugged as she sat down, "A born werewolf. I shouldn't exist at all. It's really rare for a female pregnancy to take due to the changes we go through, too much stress and trauma to the mother and child. Never heard of it happening to be fair, but you hear stories. There's always a chance of course, but the odds are pretty much not there."
Harry frowned and looked at Jane in confusion, "But..."
Jane chuckled, "I know, I'm unique as far as I know." She sighed and stared at him for a moment before nodding to herself, "I wasn't going to explain much, but with the show at the Ministry, you deserve to know more. From what I've managed to dig up, my mother was near nine months pregnant when she was attacked by a 'feral dog'. They had to cut me out of her to save me in the ambulance and I was infected during all that. Luckily, they shunted me across to the maternity ward from the A&E, so the Obliviators missed me in the rush."
"Now, first lesson about Werewolves is this, you need magic to become one. The Wolf can tell if it can infect someone and just treats Muggles as prey. It'll bite a Muggle, but only with the intent to kill and eat it. Squibs, like my mother, have enough magic to be turned. So given the chance, they are."
She rubbed the back of her left thumb without thought, "So, anyway, I get dumped at an orphanage. I'm too young to be a threat to anything other than the Teddybear they put in with me." She chuckled at that, "Still got Mr. Stitches at home. He's been stitched up and patched so much, not sure if there's any of the original left. Looks like a Teddybear version of Frankenstein."
"Anyway," she continued, "I was good until I got to about four or so, the Wolf and I, we ran and hid in the cellar. There was an old coal chute that had got sealed up and I was small enough to squeeze in as a girl. As a werewolf, I was too big to get out. Spent the next few years there, too angry to be fostered But I didn't want to hurt anyone, so I did my best to not get the good sort of attention."
She sighed in frustration, "I was fine until I got too big to get in the chute and I had to widen the gap to get in. I must have broken something during a change, 'cause I damaged the entrance to the chute, broke free and ran into a nearby wood. I have one big edge over other Werewolves. I might be a monster filled with rage, hate and hunger when I change, but I'm also in control to some extent. I can guide the wolf, and to a degree affect it's decisions. A choice between a dog and the person walking it, I pick the dog and the human gets away."
"I was really fucking lucky, let me tell you." She rubbed the bridge of her nose in tired memory of those days, "I killed a bunch of pet dogs, a few slow cats and a cow once, but didn't harm a human. I was still small, so the Muggles thought there was a feral dog on the loose. But there was too much attention and that caused the Aurors come looking for a werewolf because of the stories and the news. They started asking questions of people, questions that they don't remember being asked later on. So, I ran, that's when I met Old Bones."
Harry leant forward slightly, "Old Bones?"
"Heh," Jane said with a smile, "Crotchety old bastard he was, great uncle to the current head of the DMLE, not that they ever acknowledged him as kin. The Aurors planned to arrive after midnight on the full moon, let the wolf out in the open and track it back, take it down if they could, if not put it down when changing back to human."
"Bones," she tapped the tip of her nose, "He knew better. Came like the Aurors hearing the rumours, but watched and waited, placed a few wards up to let him know if someone was running around at night who shouldn't be. He just waited in the pub for his ward to trigger not long before sunset, followed and found a scared kid."
"Admittedly, a great bear of a man comes out of no-where and grabs you when you're a scared little girl about to turn into a monster. Not a good mix." She laughed at that memory, "Not helped by being pulled through a straw and puking your guts up either. Barely managed to get my wits together when the moon did it's thing and the Wolf comes to the front. Gave him a few new scars when I attacked him, much to his annoyance."
"He was the Alpha of the Exmoor Pack, kept the others off me and vice versa until we changed back. He took me in and raised me as his own, taught me what he could," She pulled out her wand and smiled sadly at it, "even let me use his wand. He thought I was an Alpha, even at my stupidly young age. None of the rest of his pack had the signs, so he was grooming me to be his successor."
"So, Jane Doe is?" Harry asked.
"The name on my birth certificate." She grunted in old annoyance, "Old Bones thought it was funny for a Werewolf to be named after prey. So I stayed Jane Doe as my way to remember what he did for me. He also kept an eye out for Greyback sniffing around, didn't want that bastard trying to claim me for his own."
Harry leaned forward slightly in interest, "Were either of them your father?"
"Nah," Jane shook her head, "Old Bones never had kids, the Pack were his children. Greyback may have made me what I am, but I'm not kin to that thing. I found my father a few years ago, he was actually pretty high up in Muggle crime. He caused Voldemort some trouble with supplies and territory when he was building his faction before the war, so Greyback was sent to give him a warning. It's not that Greyback wouldn't have tried to claim me like the others he made if he'd realised I existed, 'cause he would have."
"Anyway, like I was saying," She glanced out the window with a wistful look that rapidly grew pained and faded, "The only way I've heard of for a female werewolf to get pregnant is with a male werewolf and then you give birth to wolf pups, not humans. Not sure how that's even meant to work. It's really, really rare, heard there's meant to be some up near Hogwarts, another pack out in Russia somewhere, but that's it as far as I know. Plus, the werewolves have to stop trying to kill each other and actually fuck to even have a chance, so a pack Alpha would need to be one of those involved. A Male werewolf is just as fertile as a normal human, but I've never heard of it being carried on in a kid unless they're bitten."
She chuckled and shook her head at something she remembered with that, "But like I said, I'm a freak. The wolf and I have grown together, we don't fight each other like others do, we're more in tune, she's always been there at the back of my mind. It also means that when I change, it's easier for me, more natural and so is my other shape. The more you fight the wolf, the weaker and more painful the change is."
She held a hand up at his frown, "Oh, don't get me wrong, you can't give in completely, the best you can do is accept it for what it is and work out a balance between you. Most Alphas of a Pack are like that, lets them lead a group rather than just be one rage beast amongst others. A Pack will be much calmer with an Alpha leading them."
"Then there's what happens if you go too far and revel in it." She shuddered at the thought, "You might as well be the Wolf wearing a human skin suit at that point."
Harry frowned, "Is that what Greyback is?"
Jane snorted in disgust, "Greyback is a monster, gone deeper into the wolf than anyone I've ever heard of, even his father. That he's still mostly sane is honestly terrifying, but don't ever doubt that he needs to be put down. But he's still not a Draugr… yet."
Harry paused at the new term, "Drow-grr? Whats that?"
Jane sighed in frustration and rubbed her face as she pondered how to answer, "Fuck… Okay. A Draugr is a werewolf that's given into the Wolf inside them completely, given up what remains of their humanity over to the Wolf. Basically, all that rage and hate and hunger let loose and no longer bound to the moon, so they can change at will. The Wolf has learned enough over the years to hide itself, but can't use magic so it has to do everything the Muggle way. Some call it a story, a parable or warning about giving away too much of yourself."
Harry looked at her through the Force, sensing the disgust, fear and pain festering at the core of her being, "You've seen one."
Jane barked a dark laugh and snarled at the memory, "Yeah, seen one all right. Was bloody there when it…" She sighed and let the anger flow away from her, "Fucking Unspeakables. When the pack found out I'd never been bitten, someone squealed to the Ministry. Thought they'd be rewarded or the like."
She growled as the anger returned, "Unspeakables tagged the traitor with a tracking spell, waited to the moment the full moon rose before attacking. In the few moments after changing, werewolves are confused and unfocused due to the pain of the change and the Wolf getting control. That, and the change back, would be the safest time to attack us. We expect it changing back, but what sort of crazy idiots attacks us when we're able to fight back?"
"So, they pop up out of thin air, surrounding the pack, and immediately start casting. Catching people in ropes and holding them in place while a second person casts a charm to detect age and gender. Not a teen girl or younger and it's just a quick killing curse for you. Unfortunately, I was the only one like that, so they were just slaughtering the pack to find me."
"Old Bones being an Alpha, meant he shook off the pain faster than others, and I'm what I am, so I was just a touch behind gathering my wits. He led the charge into their ranks, tore a few down and made a gap, that some of the others managed to stagger through. I got out, but most didn't… The Exmoor pack used to be one of the biggest in the country, and now its gone, I think there's maybe four or five us left from that Pack, and they probably don't remember everything that happened."
She sighed before continuing, "The Unspeakables were chasing us at this point, silver spears conjured in our path to try and corral us, Old Bones turned and I saw the moment he made the decision."
She pulled a small flask from a pocket and took a sip, hissing at the taste, before putting it back in the pocket, "He sold his soul to the Wolf, just to save as many of us as he could. The Wolf took over and all that was in his place was the Draugr. You ever seen a werewolf in those Howling movies?" She watched Harry shake his head in the negative, "Fuck, they've got nothing on a Draugr."
"See, a werewolf turns and their body shifts to try and take on the Wolfs shape, but it can't go all the way, 'cause we're in there too and we're not meant to run on all four limbs. So you fight it and you have a skinny runt of a Wolf, no fur, barely holding its shape together. Me, I get a bit of muscle mass and fur, but no tail and I top out at about seven and a half foot tall."
She stared off into her memory, "A Draugr? That's… something else. Take a wolf, ramp it up to nine or ten feet, make it a biped thats just as fast on all fours, bulk up the muscle mass to that of a bodybuilder, then give it razor sharp fangs and claws that carve through dragonhide. Plus, it grows a tail which helps it keep its balance. Fucker's are fast too. Real fast, like blink and your guts are on the ground fast."
She shuddered in memory, "I ran as far and fast as I could, managed to hide and wait it out. Snuck back to our cottage when I changed back, grabbed Old Bones' wand and what I could manage for myself. I went back to the hill overlooking the area we changed each month, and looked down. It was a battleground, and there in the center of the pile of bodies was what was left of Old Bones. The Unspeakables were torn apart and scattered, but I'm guessing one, maybe two got away after killing him.
Jane rubbed her eyes to wipe away the tears, "Fuck. It was a stupid thing to do, but he made the damned choice to save himself or save as many of us as he could from them. He did more than just that for me, I haven't seen hide nor hair of another group looking for the me since then."
Jane glared at her hands, "Its also why I know that Greyback isn't a Draugr. If he was one, a Grand Moot would have been called and every Wolf would have hunted him down rather than risk him making more of them. Tales say that a Draugr bite doesn't make a Wolf, but another Draugr, the human doesn't get a choice in it, they're consumed by the Wolf in the process. Even turn a Muggle into one of them too."
She looked out the window in thought for a minute before continuing, "Anyway, from one bad subject to another. You asked about the Wolfsbane at the pub and I said I'd tell you later. Well, its later."
Sighing, Jane shuffled in her seat slightly, "First of all, a clean and well brewed dose does exactly what its meant to. The problems are that it's a damned difficult potion to brew, one mistake and it turns poisonous, really nasty one too. On top of that, the ingredients aren't cheap either, especially those ones rarely used in other potions. This means, you have to gather your own ingredients or buy it in a bunch of apothecaries if you want to hide what you are. So, there's that too."
She tapped her fingertips on the arm of her chair for a moment before continuing, "The biggest problem is that if you're like me, you never managed to study potions, so you can't make it yourself, which means you have to go to a ministry appointed potioneer which is, of course, even more expensive." She paused before rushing forward, "You have to understand that it's not all of them, but... Belby had to provide documentation on all his experiments and research." Jane sighed, "That includes earlier versions that worked, but had... side-effects."
She motioned out the window, "Theres no proof that we can get hold of, but every so often, a bad batch turns up for long enough and then it's too late. By the time we spread the news, the damage is done."
Harry frowned and sat back at that and motioned for her to continue.
Jane twisted in her seat slightly and did as she was bid, "It's not instant either, it's got to build up for a while, you need about a full thirteen moons worth, with no breaks for it to become permanent. We heal most of the effects in each change as the effects build, and if you don't take the full thirteen, it takes about three months to be out of your system." Jane said with a harsh look on her face as she struggled to say what it did.
"It makes us sterile," Jane said in a pained rush, "there are other side effects, but that's the one that's most desired. Better to stop our numbers growing if we can't breed, which is stupid as anyone with a bit of a brain would realise it doesn't work that way. But it's one of the reasons that most in the packs avoid the stuff. It's hard enough to have kids for those of us who can as it is."
Harry nodded and moved over to his desk, placing his book in a draw, "Fair enough, no potion for you or any others who work for me. Thank you for the lessons and warnings, I won't forget them." He gave her a smile and blatantly changed the subject, "By the way, do you know if the goblins invest in the Muggle world? I forgot to ask while I was there."
She shrugged, "No idea, never asked them." She slapped her thighs and stood up from the chair, brushing imaginary dust from her legs, "Anyway, time to get your relatives secured for the night so I can leave you alone without worrying too much."
She disappeared downstairs and Harry chuckled at the screams as the Dursleys ran into their rooms, clutching at various body parts as Jane followed them back up with an evil smirk on her face. At his questioning look, the smirk became a grin, "Stinging hex. Just to get them moving, like herding cattle."
Jane pulled a knife from her sleeve and motioned him over, to watch as she made sure Harry could see as she began to slowly and carefully carve a series of Futhark Runes in a strange combination sigil on the door frame. In a few minutes, she placed the tip of her wand on the centre of the sigil and Harry watched as a faint light bled out along the lines.
"That'll hold them." She turned to look at the amused Harry, "Won't keep them quiet, but if you need to let them out, just push magic into the middle of this formation and the sequence will collapse."
Harry nodded as he noted which one to disrupt, "Thank you Jane. So this will keep them in?"
She chuckled at that, "Nope. Not if they don't want to be. This only seals this door; they have a window they can get out of if they want. But that would mean climbing out a window and dropping into the front garden, if they even think of that. I'll set up the same sequence for the doors downstairs as well once I'm done with your cousin." She waved him back as she moved to the mentioned door and began carving the same sigil composed of a number of runes.
"So only a magical can let them out, what if they try to break down the door?" Harry asked as he paid attention to her work.
Jane snorted, "The passage is sealed, even if they destroy the door, they couldn't pass as long as the sequence is charged. I'm only putting a bit in, just enough to cover you until I get back in the morning." She looked up in thought, "Actually, I'm not sure what would happen if someone broke through the wall to escape, might have to give that a try sometime." She stepped back and tapped the sequence with her wand, a faint glow began to emit from the sequence as it worked.
"Come on," she said as she led the way downstairs, "Your turn to give it a go. We'll use a window frame for you to practice on while I deal with the doors." Flipping the knife around, she passed it to him hilt first, "Use this, we'll get you a good one later."
"What about you?" Harry asked as he took the blade and examined it.
Pulling another from her sleeve, Jane smirked, "I've got plenty of spares. Give it a go and call me before you try to charge it. We don't want anything to go wrong."
Harry nodded and began to badly carve the rune set into the frame as he had been shown. Three purposefully failed attempts later, he allowed himself to succeed. "Jane." He called, "I'm ready."
She came into the room and examined the carving, "Not bad. Rough as hell, but that will just take practice." She ran a finger over them, "Not bad at all, you might have a talent for this. So you know, the seal is built of a set of runes from the Futhark, the pattern is to reinforce the effect and is much easier than trying to write in the damn language. That's something you can do as well, or you can use a sequence focusing on the meanings of each rune and the concepts behind them. Both those ways will work just as good as this, but I prefer this way," she smiled at him, "Its prettier and also looks better as a tattoo if you're interested."
Harry laughed at that, "I'm a bit young for a tattoo yet, maybe when I'm older."
She playfully nudged his shoulder, "Not my thing either, but I've designed a few for friends in the past. Now let's give this a test." With that, she tapped the sequence with her wand and it began to glow. "Good." She leaned closer to examine the runes, "Holding up pretty nicely, not bad for a beginner."
She pulsed a touch of magic into the sequence to disrupt it, once it was empty, she motioned to Harry to step forward, "All you need is to push magic into the sequence, the runes will do the rest. Don't worry about a warning, this isn't a spell, it's just a... flow of magic. That will sneak past the trace."
Harry paused a second in thought at the new information about the trace, "So, hypothetically, if you made a rune sequence to do a spell, then it wouldn't be detected?"
Jane snorted, "Quick aren't you. Better than that. Runes and Enchantments don't trigger the trace, certain wards also disrupt the Trace, that's why rich Purebloods get away with using their wands in the summer." She glanced at Harry, "I only know a few tricks in Futhark that I've picked up or adapted, but I can show you some of what I know if you want?"
Harry smiled at her, "That would be great. Thanks." With that, he braced himself and touched the sequence with his finger and purposefully poured too much power into it.
A few minutes later, he blinked back to consciousness on the sofa, a dull ache echoed through him as if he had been hit by a car. "What happened?" Apparently, too much had turned out to be way too much in his current state.
Jane was laughing as she continued to repair the damage. "Bloody brilliant was what it was. I'm Bad Arse Harry Fuckin' Potter, I don't need a puny wand to do this. Boom!" She wiped the tears of laughter away and smirked at the look on his face. "Before you start, shut it. I've fixed the damage, never dropped the Muggle repelling ward from earlier, so we're good. Take it as a lesson, you got to learn how much power to use. We'll practice later, see if I can't teach you a few tricks that they won't teach you at Hogwarts."
She waved towards the stairs, "Go on, go get cleaned up and get ready for bed. I need to be clear before the moon takes me." She shook her head and chuckled at the memory of the explosion, "Don't worry, you'll be safe tonight and I'll be back at first light. We can sort out Genevieve tomorrow night at the earliest, no fucking way am I leaving her alone with you or the walking happy meals upstairs."
Shaking his head in fake annoyance, Harry did as he was bid, heaving a sigh of frustration as he passed Jane to go upstairs and take a shower.
He let the water soak and warm him as it rushed over his still healing flesh. He would kill for a bacta tank right now, even with the aftertaste, but he would live. He frowned at the acting he had just done, he didn't like lying to Jane, but he needed to know he could trust her first. And there was no way that he should know runes and how to carve them until the coming year. It was frustrating, but he could now honestly say that he had been given a few lessons over the summer to stop people questioning his knowledge and skill too deeply.
He stretched his spine to pop it with a groan, wondering how much he would need to fake to cover his leaps of ability and knowledge. Well, with Hermione as his friend, he always had the excuse of trying to get ahead so he could keep up with her.
Just as he was drying off, Jane called from downstairs, "Okay, boss. I'm heading out before it's too late. I should be back bright and early, so don't freak out if I'm in the kitchen when you come down."
Harry opened the door to the bathroom, "Thank you and keep safe."
Jane laughed at that, "Will do. Oh, don't forget you have an appointment with the Minister Monday morning, so make sure your robes have a chance to hang and lose their creases. I'll pick up a household charms book at some point, plenty of handy shit in there for you."
As soon as she Apparated away, Harry moved to his room, smirking at the muffled noises from his relatives contained in their rooms. It was a small measure of payback right now, but he would enjoy it. He wasn't a saint after all.
Shutting the door to his room and sitting on his old bed in the dark, Harry released a deep breath and began to relax. The weight of his goals and plans falling from his shoulders for the moment while he was alone and could finally let the masks drop.
With a pop of displaced air, that feeling of relief ran and hid under his bed to cry in despair.
He hadn't been this busy even as an Emperor of over a thousand star systems.
He needed a break and it had only been a few days since his plans really started rolling.
Before him stood Dobby, an expectant and hopeful look on his face as he held a bundle of parchment with what at first looked like scribbles on it before Harry realised, he had been trying to write Malfoy's secrets as instructed.
Harry raised a hand to stop Dobby beginning to talk and motioned him for silence. "Thank you for coming Dobby. I do appreciate your service." He motioned towards the papers, "Is this the information you can provide?"
Dobby nodded wildly and opened his mouth to speak when Harry motioned for quiet again, "I need you to be quiet Dobby, you are my secret weapon. I'm going to let my bodyguard know about you later, I just need to make sure I can trust her enough first. My relatives mustn't know about you."
Dobby nodded much more calmly and glanced around the room as if expecting spies to suddenly burst into being. "Dobby understands, great master Harry Potter. Dobby will keep as quiet as a sleeping mouse."
Harry smiled at the image that flashed through his mind of Dobby trying to be that quiet, "Thank you Dobby, now, I have a mission for you, so give me a few minutes to write a letter and then I need you to deliver it for me." He sat at his desk and readied his quill and the parchment before stopping and chuckling to himself. Putting them aside, he grabbed a pen and paper before he began to write.
Dobby looked around the room and frowned, silently, he began to gesture towards items and began to tidy the room up. The Great Masters best robes were quickly set to hang and their creases fled before the righteous fury of House Elf magic. He nodded in approval at the glorious image his Great and Amazing Master would display to the inferior wizards around him.
That only took a few moments, so he placed the papers he had written the Malfoy's secrets upon on the bed and began to sort them into separate piles for his Amazing and Wonderful Master. He glanced at his still distracted Master and hurried downstairs to set a few charms to work on the house cleaning and dishes, it wouldn't do for his Master to have to lower himself when Dobby was here to do his duty.
Harry snorted in amusement as he quickly drew a few diagrams and formulae that he remembered from his lessons with... He paused for a moment and let out a pained breath before allowing his thoughts to continue, those lessons with his Father. "Let's see what they get from this." Chuckling, he also put down a partial process to growing lightsaber crystals but left a few key points blank, just to whet their appetite and see if they could complete the process. If they could, then that would bode well for future discussions.
As he was about to sign the letter, he stopped and chuckled again, having almost written Evan Jade, instead, he used the Sith Alchemical sigil for a Scholar of the Alchemical Arts instead.
He looked over and found Dobby ready and waiting by the door to his room as Harry used some parchment for a makeshift envelope for his letter, running a finger along the edges to seal them with a weak wandless sticking charm.
Looking at the blank envelope, he drew the alchemical symbol for the Philosopher's Stone in the centre and turned to pass the letter to Dobby, not releasing it from his grasp as Dobby took hold of it. "This is a mission of great importance Dobby, it is to be kept secret from everyone except myself and the recipients of this letter. No-one else is to know from you that I have written to them, nor are you allowed to tell them who sent it to them. Not even if they claim that I said it was okay to do so. I have to tell you personally and give you a letter with the information to deliver, no other method will be acceptable. Do you understand?"
Dobby nodded as he whispered, "Dobby understands completely."
Harry smiled at the elf, "Good." He let go of the letter, "You are to search for and find Perenelle Flamel. You are to give her the letter and explain that it is for both her and her husband to answer, and wait for a response to my questions. You may inform them that you have been ordered to wait for a response and that I will allow only yourself to act as a messenger between us. Explain that if they dismiss you with no response, I will not attempt to contact them again, nor will I accept further contact should they trace it back to me."
Dobby bowed and held the letter close to his chest, "Dobby understands Great Master Harry Potter. Dobby will find them, give them the letter and then explain that Dobby is to wait for a response. Dobby shall remain silent as to his Oaths. Then Dobby will return to the Great Master Harry Potter with an answer."
With another pop, the elf was gone and Harry moved to his bed to look at the small piles of parchment Dobby had left behind. With a wince, Harry picked up a sheet and tried to read the scrawl.
Dobby's handwriting was... unusual. The only way he could describe it was either a doctor had written this in a hurry or an epileptic spider fell into an ink pot and then scrambled across the paper whilst having a fit. Either way, he would need a translation, even with the enchantment from the ring that had burnt into his being. Luckily, Dobby was a much better artist than writer. The diagrams and drawings that mapped hidden doors and storage spaces in Malfoy Manor were detailed, even if the lines were shaky.
Also, some of the angles and perspectives drawn were odd, at least until Harry realised that they would be perfectly normal to a being of Dobby's height. Harry had been wondering about some of the nasal sizes of the busts of Malfoy's ancestors on display until he realised the issue. Although, with the way Malfoy always looked down his nose at people, it wouldn't have surprised him if it were actually the case.
He sighed and carried the parchment to his desk to try and translate the scrawl before him into something he could read. It would at least be an interesting puzzle.
In the late evening sun, Neville sat in the cool shadows at the feet of the bear statue in the garden. It towered above him on its hind legs as if about to strike an enemy and by all accounts was the real size of a Brown Bear, carefully carved in tiny detail, it almost looked like a real bear had been transfigured to stone. Strangely, he had always felt safe and at peace near it, no-one had disturbed him when he was here.
The bear had been there since before his family were first called Longbottom, they had claimed the valley and lands around them for themselves. His Gran had told him a bedtime story that the statue was really their ancestor turned to stone and waiting for the time he would once again be called to protect his kin.
He remembered asking why the Bear hadn't saved his parents. Gran had gone silent, and she'd never told him another bedtime story since.
He sighed and leaned back against the stone, he was nothing like his ancestors, they were a long line of warriors who fought the monsters in the dark since Bjorn the Lost himself. Both his parents had been Aurors, his family had been Aurors since the title was made, and they had fulfilled that same duty before they were called that.
The only one who hadn't been like that was Bjorn's wife, Aelfgifu the Wise. She had been a great healer and herbalist, said to have been so in tune with the land that she could call upon nature itself to fight on her behalf. No plague or disease could resist her, and her touch could take the pain from others as she healed their wounds and sorrows with her gifts.
Neville was never quick, skilled or powerful. He had practically been a Squib until his magic saved him. He shuddered at the memory, almost drowning in the dark water at the end of the pier was worse than being thrown out the window and watching as the ground rushed towards his face.
He pulled out the wand Harry had given him. The wand that felt like it was part of him, like he had been missing a limb all his life and now it suddenly appeared.
He knew, in a way that he couldn't explain if anyone asked him, that he was more powerful now. Actually able to do real magic, not the broken fumbling he had been doing previously.
He could fight and destroy his enemies; he could get vengeance and justice for his family.
He could follow in his parent's footsteps, stand as a Light against Dark Wizards.
He could stop the next Bellatrix Lestrange from harming others as she had harmed him.
But still, it didn't feel right to him.
He groaned as he rubbed his eyes and thought back to the train to London. Harry had faith in him, thought he could do anything he wanted. Hermione had even been right there and hadn't done anything to make him think her opinion was any different than Harry's.
But what could he really do? Who was he? What did he want to be?
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, letting his magic flow through him, let it do as it wished and hoped that it would show him his path. Not forcing it, as he had tried to with his father's wand, but now letting it pour from him as it wished.
For an age and a moment, he sat there at peace, letting the magic sing around him. A smile grew on his face as he felt it touch him, as if dancing, reaching deep into the earth around him, so full of life and growth. Until, a sharp explosion of noise woke him from his drifting.
Neville jumped up and looked around, shocked by what he saw around him.
The entire garden had gone crazy.
Once it had been carefully manicured, guided and shaped by the hands of generations of elves and their Masters. Ordered and controlled, not a leaf was allowed to be out of place, but now... Now it was wild and free.
It was as if every plant had had a few years of wild growth and been free of the shackles of civilization.
He turned to look at the statue behind him and froze in shock and rising horror.
A great crack rent the bear open, from its hind paws, up through its chest to its shoulder.
From within, a young tree had burst forth, as if half merged with the stone of the bear.
Its roots were loose and could easily be uprooted from the rich soil, but he knew deep within himself that they would grow strong and deep given time. A few leaves rustled gently in the breeze and Neville realised, that rather than ruin the statue, it looked like it should always have been there. As if the tree had been missing from the statue all these centuries.
As horror faded to awe and peace, for just a moment, he thought he heard a whisper on the wind of a young girls voice, but couldn't understand the word she said before it was gone.
He looked down at the wand in his hand and blinked in shock.
Where once, it had been a dull almost lifeless brown, with the grip rough that appeared like it had been untouched when the rest had been shaped, now, it looked like it was a living branch of a tree, twisted with a slight spiral, but with no bends. Almost as if it had grown that way, untouched by any of Ollivander's tools. He half expected leaves to start appearing over it. It was still a wand and retained its previous length, but it was no longer Harry's old wand.
Now it was his.
The way it was always meant to be.
He smiled and looked around once more.
He was not his father, nor his mother.
He would not be forced into that shape, no matter how much he loved his Gran.
No matter how much pain she was in every time she looked at him.
He was Neville of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Longbottom, Heir to Aelfgifu of the line of Natanleod, who had taken Bjorn the Lost as her husband and her blood flowed through his veins more than his. He would not be a warrior like those before him, but he would fight in his own way and he would heal.
He was one with the land and the land was with him.
On a shelf in the headmasters office, a small silver trinket sputtered and shook for a moment. Rather than its usual twirl of motion it suddenly froze and made a popping noise. With a shriek of torn silver, a small plant tore through the metal, settling amongst the trinkets, small leaves budding and trying to find the light.
Fawkes leant over to see what was happening from his perch before he suddenly straightened up and sang a trill of song, welcoming what had been born from the blood of one of the Champions.
He carefully plucked the plant free of the metal and the shelves with a talon, before disappearing in a burst of fire.
With only two days before they went on their holiday using the Lottery winnings, Ronald Billius Weasley stood in the shadows of his room and stared at himself in the full-length mirror and he hated what he saw.
Hand-me-down clothes wrapped around a too tall and thin child. His hair was scruffy and unkempt, his eyes a blue too weak to stand out beyond his pale skin and freckles. His wand was in his hand, broken and useless, a hand-me-down from his brother. There was nothing he had which was his own, no prize, no trophy, no title.
He was nothing and nobody of worth. One of many sons of Arthur Weasley, each of which stood proud and strong with their gifts, shining as they stood on their own merits. All except him. Even Ginny had her name whispered, the first Weasley daughter in centuries. What had he done to be known?
He was just the sidekick to Harry Potter and even then, he had been left behind as Harry had saved his sister.
Not him, not any of his brothers.
Harry had saved his sister.
Ron closed his eyes and tried to separate his own perceptions from what people would see when they looked at him.
Taking a deep breath, he let it out slowly and opened his eyes to look again. He had to be honest, he couldn't allow his vision to be distorted by his hate and fear.
His arms were thin and long, but he was still growing, he could grow to be tall and strong. His hair was unkempt yes, but he could neaten that, cut it short to make that easier. Better to cut it than gel it, he'd end up looking like a redheaded Malfoy if he wasn't careful. He snorted, he'd rather spend an entire year locked in a room doing potions with Snape than look like a Malfoy.
His eyes did get ignored, but he was always looking down, as if ashamed unless he was angry. If he was strong and confident, he would hold his head up high, then his eyes would shine and be remembered. He brought up the image of Malfoy sneering at him in his mind and he watched as his anger rose and the blue seemed sharper. Huh… they almost seemed to glow like that.
The clothes could be replaced, could be tweaked and repaired. He remembered the looks Bill got in his clothes as they walked down the street. He could dress and walk like that. He could be seen and admired as he moved. Perhaps he could see if Bill had left some of his own clothes in a box somewhere. Hand-me-downs could be useful if you were willing to accept them for what they were. His eyes took in his wand. Mum and Dad had said that they would be going to Ollivander's to get a new one for him.
A new wand. For him and only him. New, not second hand. It would match him and then he would be better at magic. Stronger, more powerful.
But would he really?
He thought over the questions Harry had asked once again and frowned. His mother was playing a game and she was using her children as her pawns. He doubted whether that plan would work now or not, but he remembered the look in Harry's eyes when he came back covered in blood and gunk. It was the same one that had bored into him on the train.
What did he want?
Ron gazed into the eyes of the weak boy before him and demanded an answer in his glare.
What did he want?
And what would it cost to get it?
Whilst Ron stood in his room examining himself, Ginny sat at her desk and looked at her collected notes from her first year of school with a numb horror.
Here and there, her handwriting twisted into something that looked more like Toms than her own. How much of her was Ginny and how much was Tom now?
She froze and began her breathing exercises again, trying to calm the panic before she lost control once more.
The first session with the healer had been odd and they had tried to get her to ignore what happened and dismiss the matters that were important to her. They had also focused on when things started and kept going further and further back until she was talking about her father's fight with Mr Malfoy. It had been bad enough with her mother sitting there and babying her, she hadn't needed to repeat and expand on memories that weren't what she was there for.
Thankfully, Auror Savage, Victoria she had said to call her when not on duty, had been waiting for her when she arrived and was still there when she left. Victoria had offered to show Ginny around the ministry and take her to her father once they were done. To give her a break and let her settle herself after everything whilst her mother could get home to look after her other children.
Mum hadn't been able to deny matters, especially when Victoria had said that Arthur was looking forward to introducing Ginny to his peers. One Floo call later and it was settled.
Once alone, Victoria had asked if everything had gone okay and if it had helped. She instead explained her confusion to Victoria, she had simply nodded and told her to follow her. The Healer she had then introduced her to was a gruff old man, but he had listened and taught her the breathing exercises. She would be seeing him next time instead of the stupid healer.
It would be just Ginny and the Healer. Her Mum wouldn't be present, and if she tried to stop Ginny, the Healer said he would publicly ask her if the love potion had worked on Arthur Weasley.
Ginny had stared in awe at the man, amazed that anyone would stand against her mum with so little fear. Apparently, he had been best friends with her grandfather and had not been impressed with Molly Prewitt when they met. "You have your Grandfathers eyes." the Healer had said with a smile, even as he refused to mention his own name, saying that it wasn't important at that time.
When she had asked how she would be brought to him next time, he smirked and told her to just knock on his door, he would always have time for her and would hear the knock, no matter where he was and would be there as quickly as he could.
Much calmer at the memory of her session, no matter how embarrassing it had been, Ginny moved the notes aside and opened the draw of her desk, pulling out the two scrapbooks she was putting together.
One was old and covered in hearts and glitter, clippings from the Daily Prophet and copies of her favourite sections of the boy-who-lived books had been stuck within.
The second was new, a gift from Percy when she had asked for his help when she got home from Hogwarts. The cover was blank and would likely remain that way. She pulled the piles of newspapers from the box her father had dug out from his shed, never one to throw something that could be useful away, a habit he had acquired from his own father who had kept the papers himself to review old information and jog his memory.
She had never met the man, but Daddy had once described him as a stern and uncompromising man who loved his family dearly while he tried to rebuild from the losses his own father had caused his kin.
Carefully, she began to go through them, from the oldest to the newest, copying the sections that mentioned Auror Savage or her parents. These fragments, she stuck into the book and she began to craft an image of these heroes.
And they were Heroes, with a capital H and all, there was no doubt about that. Auror's Julia and Rupert Forest, foreign magicals who appeared in England at the end of the First War and joined the Aurors after Grindelwald was defeated. Their daughter was a Hufflepuff who married a Jonathan Savage after Hogwarts and was made a widow in the War against You-Know-Who. There was no sign of any children in her life.
At the thought the adult Tom, she began to shake again, taking a deep breath she let it out slowly before continuing. "Tom. His name was Tom."
Auror Victoria Savage had a reputation that she had earned, she was afraid of no-one, she would face down anyone who stood before her and shield the innocent from the Long Night. Like her parents, she was a Hero of old reborn in the modern times.
She was everything that Ginny wished she could be. The complete opposite of Molly Weasley.
Copying a story about Auror Savage's first arrest and carefully sticking it on a new page, Ginny pondered her future. Tom had marked her, tainted her with his touch. The little innocent girl called Ginny had been killed down in the Chamber, she was just Ginny's revenant.
Grabbing a sheet of parchment, she began to practice her signature in an attempt to distract herself.
Harry wouldn't want her now that she was touched by Tom, who would want something as broken and tainted as her? Tom's corruption has stained her soul, so she would have to cleanse herself through her actions and thoughts, she had to earn the attention of the Boy-Who-Lived, be worthy of the presence of her Savior.
And there were few as worthy as Auror Savage was.
The girl who had once been called Ginny, took a deep breath and slowed her quill and began to force her hand into writing her real name, one she would be worth something with.
Ginevra Weasley promised to herself, that she would never be weak again.
Luna stood just outside her garden gate, a single step into the countryside and away from civilization. The lights of the Burrow finally dimmed just over the hill while the Rookery stood behind her, like a sentinel in the dark. She looked up at the stars and her namesake shining brightly above and smirked. The silver of her light coloured the fields around her to appear like a sea of silver grass.
She sighed as she returned to the thoughts that had woken her from her sleep. The Paths she had seen for those she cared for had already shifted. some were expected, others less so.
She blinked in surprise at the sudden twisting of the Weasley's Paths. Well, that was new, their Titles in the story had changed.
No longer the Ink-Stained Rose and the Twisted Shadow of Glory, they balanced on the edge of becoming the Bloody Hand of Judgement and the Red Death.
Frowning, she searched along their threads, looking for any sign of interference, a tangle or twist in their tapestry's.
Nothing, which meant that the changes had been made by mortal hands. A subtle change, perhaps of words easily ignored. How interesting, it had been many cycles since something like this had occurred. She would have to keep an eye out and see what ripples this would cause to this cycle.
She hummed a lullaby and golden fire flared into being above the gate, Fawkes flew down to the ground and trilled a burst of song to her, before he used his beak to carve into the earth with his talons opening to drop the small plant into its new home. He gently pushed the earth back and cried a tear onto the leaves of the plants.
Luna watched in curiosity, until her friend was done and she felt the power in the tiny plant. Smiling, she tugged on her own power to shield the plant from harm, such a gift should be protected, and this way, she would see part of her Consort every day until she re-joined the others at school.
This would help explain things, The Lost Lion had broken free of at least some of his shackles, now the Bear Crowned in Leaves grew in his place. It would also possibly explain what else had happened. Harry had talked to the others, made them think and start to change themselves.
Even Vasuki's First Heart had shifted. She now balanced on the edge of the Scholar Crowned in Gems and Script or the Tyrant Carved from Sanguine Ink. Obviously, Luna would prefer one of those over the other, but it was not her place to make such a choice.
She followed Ginny's threads back and found a thread that had begun to gently weave around it, looking deeper, she recognised the name of the thread. Ah, that would explain another part of it, the Daughter of Legends had chosen an Apprentice. Or was that, an Apprentice had chosen the Daughter of Legends.
Either way worked for her.
Laughing, Luna danced in the light of night and the fire of her friend as he flew around her, singing songs which had never been no would be written to each other as they enjoyed the moment.
For there would be so few moments like this in what was coming.
Within the dry and badly lit cave, Dumbledore looked over the runes carved into the stone around the altar, shaking his head in disgust at what the cultists had been trying. It was lucky he and his allies had arrived when they did. The sacrifice was weeping in the corner of the chamber, the blood painted on her flesh was flaking now, the sigils broken and too far gone to be empowered. Her mind was shattered by what she had experienced and witnessed.
The cultists remains were being carried outside to a pyre to be burnt, before their ashes would be scattered to the seas. The weapon had been recovered and contained, the blade formed from the Monster's bone would need to be stored in purified salt and a stronger set of wardings would be required than before. A better place to store it would also be required.
He frowned in thought, perhaps his allies in MACUSA could contact their Muggle equivalents, it would be much harder to find hidden in that department. They would indeed bump back at the things that would try to claim it.
From behind him, the Sword of Rome stepped closer, "We were lucky." He said, his harsh voice croaking from his scarred visage.
Dumbledore nodded, "Another hour and we'd have been too late."
"Indeed," the Sword agreed, "The girl?"
Dumbledore sighed, "Too tainted to be saved. She drank the blood and her lineage is too pure. Thankfully, she is too young to have born a child yet. Not that that was an option with this ritual."
The Sword nodded at that, "A small mercy that they required a virgin for it. Her parents?"
Dumbledore sighed, "My agents are hunting them down as we speak. Hopefully she was an only child."
"Agreed, I detest spilling the blood of children." The Sword gently gestured towards the girl, "Would a life of seclusion and celibacy be sufficient?"
"No," Dumbledore shook his head sadly, "her soul is primed and will be forever, she will be driven to rebel against such a life and the first sexual act with another will trigger what remains of the ritual and then we'd have to hunt down what was born from her."
The Sword nodded, "I will pray for her soul then… I can handle this, if you would rather-"
"No." Dumbledore said, "No…I shall deal with it."
The Sword nodded, "As you wish Albus. I hope one day to meet you where we are not having to save the world." He groaned as he stretched out some bruised muscles, "I'm getting too old for this."
Dumbledore sighed, "We haven't managed to meet for our promised drink in the last 40 years, we'll just have to share one with the others grave at this rate."
The Sword nodded at that, "I think mine before yours, old man." he tapped Dumbledore on the shoulder, "I'll organise the artifacts transfer to a more secure site, worry no more on it for now." He sighed and glanced back at the girl, "I'll leave you to... your duty."
Dumbledore nodded and walked away from his colleague, sitting down beside the girl and smiling gently at her, he held back a wince as her open and once innocent eyes stared up at him, "Somnus." he canted and caught her now slumbering body, laying her down to rest on the cold stone floor. He stroked her hair back from her calm face, a gentle and small mercy in the scheme of things.
"The things I do for this world," he muttered before placing the tip of his wand over her heart, "Avada Kedavra."
At least it was painless and she was at rest now.
He conjured a sheet and covered her before sighing and motioning some of his agents forward to deal with her remains, time waited for no man, and he had so much still to do.
Perhaps, he should wrangle a break between hunting for a new Defense tutor and saving the world. He could use it to have that chat with Augusta he planned and get her to let him start working on his new apprentice. As his cohort had implied, he was getting on and he had so little time before the next crisis.
Genevieve was an interesting woman, Harry could feel the magic saturating her blood and animating her body. A Vampire who was an elder amongst her peers, but too rebellious to serve any of the rulers of her kind. Jane was on edge the moment she neared the house.
"So, what can you tell so far?" Harry asked with open curiosity as they sat at the table in the kitchen.
Genevieve smiled at Harry in a manner that was sultry and had a distinct smugness to it that grated on him. "I can tell a lot already, but it depends entirely on what you offer me for my knowledge."
Harry nodded at that, "I'm guessing money at least, what do you want?"
Genevieve smirked at that, "Smart boy, pretty too, and I can practically taste your power in the very air." She tapped a long nail on the table as if in thought, but Harry recognised the play for what it was. "For just an answer to what's been placed on this house and its inhabitants, a thousand galleons. For the enchantments to be broken, another nine thousand. For the Enchantments to be twisted so that they wither slowly enough that whoever cast them doesn't notice until it's too late... Now that would take something special."
"Define special," Harry asked, curious to the cost.
"I sate my thirst upon you." She waved away the threat to him as if it were nothing, "Not enough to kill you of course, but it will not be a small amount." She grinned at him, "I can also promise it would be an exquisite sensation for you. Like nothing else in this world, no lover or drug could match it."
Harry raised a hand to stop Jane as she began to raise her wand, her rage burning in the Force. "Are you sure you could handle it? As you said, I am quite powerful. How about a wager then? I will bleed into a glass, if you can handle drinking it, then I will pay you your price in full, all ten thousand and my blood to twist the enchantments on this house and its inhabitants. If you cannot drink it all, then I will pay you a thousand alone for the same end result."
Genevieve snorted, "Is this meant to be some kind of trick? What will you do, poison the glass to taint the blood?"
Harry shook his head, "You can conjure the wineglass, and make the cut, I will use no magic, I will just bleed into the glass and then Jane can heal me. No words, no wand, I give you my word that I will not tamper with the blood you drink from me in any way this night."
Genevieve glanced at the angry werewolf before nodding, "Ill heal the wound as well, Jane can put your wands on the table near me so I can be sure no tricks are made. But if that's agreeable, then I agree to your wager. Hmmm…. I must say, this is the most interesting thing that's happened to me in the last two decades."
Harry simply rolled back his sleeve and placed his wand on the table, motioning to Jane to do the same. With a snarl and a glare, she did as bid and then stormed away to stand behind Harry, a hand on his shoulder to pull him clear if she needed to.
Genevieve just blew Jane a mocking kiss before conjuring a fine wine glass and a small straight razor. She placed the glass under his wrist and licked her lips as she ran the blade through Harry's flesh, watching as his bright blood fell into the glass until it was nearly full, and smirking as she licked the wound closed, her magic sealing the injury. Lifting the glass to her mouth, she greedily drank in Harry's lifeblood.
Harry smirked and sat back watching as the look of almost sexual pleasure at the taste of his blood rapidly turned to horror as the vampire tried to scream, vomiting the blood onto the floor and staring in horror as it hissed, melting into the floor tiles. She was made to sob as she kept vomiting the bright red blood up until a black tar like version followed. Her jaw practically gone, destroyed by the violent nature of Harry's blood.
Harry smirked at the sight of the whimpering elder vampire as she rushed to the sink and began to try and wash her mouth out with water. He twitched a finger and the wands jumped into his hand. Passing Jane hers, he motioned her towards the stairs, "Bring Vernon. I think he will be enough to get our conversation back on track."
He waited for the walking lump of flesh to be pushed to the table in front of him. Vernon, confused as to what was happening, turned to demand answers from Harry when a spell slammed into the back of his head, his head in turn slamming into the table as he began to snore.
Harry glanced at Jane who shrugged, "I don't fancy hearing his screams." she answered his silent question.
He chuckled before flicking a finger at Genevieve, the Force stabbing at her shoulder and she turned to look at him, the bottom of her face a twisted maw of bone and fangs as she tried to heal the damage, and her eyes stained by bloody tears. He gestured at Vernon, "He'll likely taste like shit, but he's all we have available, just don't kill him."
She growled and, in a blink, she had bitten deep into his blubbery neck and began to guzzle down his blood, her ivory flesh gaining a touch of colour as she sated herself. Vernon began to twitch and moan in a way that Harry decided that he would never want to hear again from the man until he began to pale too much and his twitches weakened until he was barely breathing. With a slash of his hand, the Force slammed into Genevieve's face and she backed off with a snarl.
"Get him some blood replenisher before he dies on us." Harry said as he gestured Jane to save his uncles life. She moved next to him and healed the torn flesh on his neck before pushing his head back and pouring the potion down his throat.
Jane glared at Genevieve before dragging the groggy man from the room and dumping him on the sofa before returning.
Harry glared at the vampire as well until she managed to calm herself, her blackened and ruined jaw, slowly pulling itself back into shape as the pale flesh slowly spread across the ruined muscles to restore her appearance.
"Well played Mr Potter. Well played." she croaked as she swilled another glass of water around her mouth before spitting it out into the sink. "I made the deal and will abide by it. A thousand galleons and I'll play with the blood bound to this building and those within. Whoever set it up won't be able to tell its fading until they look at it directly and if that happens, it will be the least of your troubles."
Harry nodded at that, "Half when you start, half on completion? When can you start?"
She grimaced at that, "I'll need time to look everything over and then to twist the enchantments, I'll need the full moon. So, I can begin seven nights before then. Ill return in a few nights to begin my investigations, I need to recover fully and prepare some equipment before I even get started on this."
Harry nodded at that, "Good. And I presume you will be discrete about all this?"
Genevieve sneered at that, "I'm already going to be doing this at a loss Mr Potter, do you imagine I enjoy letting my rivals notice any such weaknesses?"
Harry smirked at that, "No. I imagine that weakness is, pardon the pun, like blood to a shark amongst Vampires?"
"You could say that Mr Potter." she answered as she washed the normal blood from her face and sneered at the now blood-stained dress she was wearing, "Damn, I liked this one."
Harry silently pulled the needle from the vile womans flesh, taking a seat against the windowsill as he watched his victim in the dark room. It wouldn't be long he mused as he watched her shiver and breath slow as her body struggled to deal with the large dose of insulin, he had injected her with.
It was a mercy really, for her to die in her sleep like this. Painless and gentle. Nothing at all like he had imagined so many times over the years. It had taken a while for Dooku to show him that his rage at the woman was a waste of effort. Not that he had believed that Harry would return here.
Harry had thought of so many plans for her.
Transfiguring her into a cat and leaving her at a Muggle pet sanctuary to live out her life, aware of what she was but never able to tell anyone. Sending her by portkey to a werewolf pack on a full moon. A variant of that being a different destination, perhaps a giant encampment, or to a dragon sanctuary, the Merfolk village at the bottom of the lake or the Acromantula nest in the Forbidden Forest.
Then there was his personal favourite, dosing her up with Veritaserum and using her collection of Blood Quills to make her write a confession of all she's done, with a confundus to make sure she kept spilling her vile secrets until she died of blood loss.
So many ideas, but he could only choose one of them.
He sighed in annoyance as her body rapidly failed. The problem was all those ideas would have caused an investigation, any spell residue on her or the house would have provided clues to find him. He had used entirely mundane means to enter the house and his training to silently reach his target.
The only magic used had been to conjure a needle in Diagon Alley and the actual theft of the insulin from a Boots Chemist on a Muggle highstreet. Oh, and apparating to the location. But he had presumed that the Aurors could track that and arrived a few miles away and walked the rest. Admittedly, a few Force fueled mind tricks had gotten him her address, but that wouldn't be a problem either.
He felt it happen as the Force churned for a moment before calming with her passing.
He nodded to himself and waited for a further five minutes before he left the house, no need to give anyone a chance to revive her. He shut the window behind him as he began to walk away from the House, throwing the gloves into a bin at the house at the end of the street.
A mile or two, then a jump to... Cardiff, dismiss the needle conjuration, then another jump to Dover and then back to Diagon Alley, then a quick walk to London Bridge to drop the insulin bottle in the Thames before Nocturn Alley and then finally Privet Drive.
He should be done by three in the morning or so, plenty of time to sleep in a bit before Jane returned from her run under the full moon.
It had been a month of building a routine for Harry as he meditated in his room and reviewed what had happened so far. The nutrient potions were doing their job, strengthening his body as he trained daily with Jane, other potions repaired some of the now minor damage in his body as Harry called upon the Force to heal his body as he progressed.
Already, he could feel the difference in his muscles and stamina. Where before, he had been a malnourished young teen, who's only strength was in running away, now, he could feel the muscles firming and strengthening under his skin. He had never had much in the way of fat, but now, he was at an even healthier level.
The Dursleys were behaving, he allowed them their routine and their own space as long as they obeyed his rules, he was a benevolent lord after all. No need to upset them more, although their pitiful hatred and fear were a delicious sensation to breath in as he went about his own day.
His gentle nudges from his meeting with Cornelius had already born fruit. They had lunch publicly twice so far in the Ministry and a separate meeting in his office. What was the most disappointing was that Cornelius was so weak willed, that the little touches he had used with the Force to get the man thinking along Harry's chosen lines, had settled much too easily into his mind.
It hadn't taken anywhere near as long as he had expected for the man to begin questioning him and taking his advice rather than thinking as an adult and trying to guide Harry to his own viewpoints. It was rather embarrassing actually. Then again, the look on the elder Malfoy's face when he had arrived for his lunch with the Minister only to be dismissed, because Harry was already there, were worth the ineptitude that was Cornelius Fudge.
The last meal had been amusing when he complained about the problems with a career in Healing or the Aurors, blaming the lack of new recruits on Snapes useless and flawed teaching methods. A little comment of wondering if Snape was sabotaging the number of people available got Fudge concerned, and a nudge about the lack of trial records for Severus Snape, supposedly reformed Death Eater and Spy for Dumbledore got Harry the result he wanted. Dumbledore would be distracted spending political coin on keeping his pet Death Eater protected while, Harry could play with a few things in the background.
He had mentioned the idea that he thought it unfair that werewolf children were prevented from attending Hogwarts. After all, if a vampire could attend Hogwarts and rise to a media sensation as a singer, then why not werewolves? If it was a matter of funds, then Harry would supply enough for the few test subjects and would even purchase a building that could be warded for the children to change inside for everyone's safety. It would also reduce Greyback's support among the packs and would likely increase the number of voters for Fudge in the next elections.
Fudge had of course countered by saying that the majority of magicals wouldn't vote for him if he supported such an idea.
Harry had simply countered in turn, that the majority of the population of magicals were Muggleborns, therefore, if the majority voted for him, then why worry about the Pureblood families complaining about losing their control over the Wizengamot. After all, if Muggleborns had more rights and influence in society, more would remain in the country and bring more riches into the economy. Then there was the PR boost of Fudge having the support of the Boy-Who-Lived as a boost to his popularity.
Fudge had said he would consider it, the ideas given a little extra support in the form of the Force, but it would be a long-term project. Harry hoped to have the first children joining in his fourth year for an added boost to the worlds view of Britain when people were watching.
Harry had already gotten a few tidbits from him. Apparently the Tri-Wizard cup had been a project long in planning, they had originally been planning for it occur in the coming year, but the chance to have it in the same year as the Quidditch World Finals was too tempting a PR stunt for Cornelius to ignore. Harry had already offered to act as a sounding board for the Minister on that Tournament. If all went well, then he would be able to avoid it all together and have a better display for the audience to watch than previously. And finally, Cornelius Fudge would be visiting Azkaban to perform his annual review of the facility sometime soon.
Harry had been sorely tempted to ask to go along as well, but he knew he would be too tempted to break Sirius out if he saw him in there. Or just go on a killing spree toward Death Eaters held there. Sirius had survived so far; he would survive a little longer. That and it had reminded what he had missed on the train.
He needed to visit the Ministry again anyway, to reinforce the werewolf ideas, and perhaps he could see if he could get matters rolling without Dumbledore's interference. Maybe, he could even get his hands on the Prophecy now, rather than later. He had long wondered what it contained, he had been so close to knowing when he had fallen through the Veil.
Actually, that sounded like an excellent idea, he'd have to get Cornelius to let him have a look. Perhaps a tour around all the ministry departments to see what they all did? The chance to show off Harry asking Cornelius for advice for a career would bind them closer in the public eye. And with Umbridge's unfortunate death in her sleep, there were fewer threats to his influence over the Minister.
So many things to do and not enough time. Xora and Riyo's previous discussions, or more accurately, rants at him, reminded him that he could delegate things. But who could he trust to get things done? There was so much to do and he only had so much time.
That and the only person he could really trust at the moment was himself. Harry paused for a moment in thought, a mad scheme popped into his mind and he chuckled at the insanity of it.
It was so insane; it might actually work…
"Good afternoon Mr Longbottom, I see the summer has done you good." Dumbledore said with a twinkle and smile as he watched the young teen enter the parlour.
Neville nodded, "It has Headmaster. How can I help, Grandmother didn't tell me anything more than you wanted to talk to me."
Dumbledore smiled and gestured to the seat opposite him, "Please, sit. Your elves have provided us a very nice-looking tea and I would like to talk to you about your future."
"My future?", Neville frowned as he sat, smiling to the elf as he poured them some tea before disappearing as elves do.
Dumbledore nodded before taking a sip, giving a pleased sigh at the taste, "Wonderful as always." He sat back and placed the tea to the side as he gently probed Neville's mind with a silent and wandless Legilimens. "It has been brought to my attention that I am getting on." He raised a hand to calm Neville's reaction, "I know, but I have passed a century already my young friend and while I am powerful, I am only mortal. And all things end."
He tapped the arm of the chair as if in thought, "Tell me, Mr Longbottom, I have seen your choices for your electives, what career do you wish to pursue?"
Neville frowned in thought, "Gran wants me to follow my parents and be an Auror. But I would like to be a Healer or at least a Herbologist."
Dumbledore raised an eyebrow in surprise at that, "A fine and noble choice to make young man. Both are difficult paths to follow, skill and study are required, a diligent and hardworking attitude will get you far in both paths. However, I am aware that both require a good grade in Potions in your NEWTS. And to get a suitable grade there, requires an Outstanding in your OWLS."
He took another sip as the flare of fear or anger at Severus did not appear in the boy's mind, instead, he felt himself rebuffed as the boys will firmed. Smiling, Dumbledore continued, "I wish to make you an offer, Mr Longbottom. I am in search of an Apprentice. I would like to offer you that position."
Neville blinked in shock and awe at the unexpected offer. "Me?! But..."
Dumbledore laughed at that, "Indeed, Mr. Longbottom. I am not joking, I am perfectly serious and sure of this. Do not imagine it will be an easy path to take, in fact, should you accept I will expect your best. You will work harder than anything you have ever done before in your life. You will curse my name many times before we are done, but I would teach you everything I know."
He leaned forward and fixed the boy in an icy blue stare, his magic flooding the room, forcing the breath from the boy before him, "Everything Mr. Longbottom. Think on that. All the joys of the Light and all the nightmares of the Dark I have witnessed in my long years. This knowledge will change you, etch itself upon your very soul."
He sat back and pulled his power back inside him, calmly taking another sip as he watched as the boy gathered himself, the fact that the boy hadn't fainted was a definite mark in his favour.
Neville took a deep breath as he focused on the offer and looked at the man before him, his gut twisting as he realised that the man was not telling him everything. "Theres more than that, isn't there?"
Dumbledore gave the boy an honest smile, pleased at his response, "Indeed. I have spent nearly all my life protecting others. There is a curtain that hides magic from the Muggle world. It is every Magical's duty to protect that barrier and in doing so, we protect the Muggles from things they are not ready to know. But beyond the Wizarding world, there is another curtain. Our numbers are small, but my peers guard that curtain to make sure both are kept safe and that the world beyond does not intrude upon ours."
"Indeed," Dumbledore continued, "The sheer knowledge of a fraction of what resides beyond has driven many to madness and worse. I say this to warn you Mr. Longbottom. The first step is the hardest of all, and I will only allow you to walk it if you are willing and aware of the danger."
"You say madness," Neville asked as he frowned and swirled his cup of tea in thought, "What do you mean?"
Dumbledore sighed and took another sip before continuing, "I mean no offense when I say this, but your parents are an example of a merciful result if the knowledge is too much. Others... well... like I said, merciful."
Neville blanched at that, but felt his wand warm in his pocket as if supporting him, "Why not Harry?" He looked up and examined Dumbledore's reaction to the question.
Dumbledore nodded at that, "Harry would be a good choice. Many would ask why I wouldn't ask him, after all, how can the Boy-Who-Lived be anything but an excellent heir and successor to my mantle. But that's the problem, they don't see him as Harry Potter as you and I do. They see a saviour, one who will lead them to a golden age."
"Tell me Mr. Longbottom, would you describe Harry as a wise and humble man? Would you say he is calm and controlled? Can you honestly say that there is no darkness in his soul?"
Neville frowned as he thought back over Harry's shifts in attitude, calm and meek one moment, furious rage the other. It was only in the last few weeks of the year that Neville saw a balanced focus in the boy. "He's getting better, he's trying to sort himself out and he's looking to better himself. He offered to help me as well with some exercise and training."
Dumbledore nodded sagely at that, "Good, that is a good sign. I was worried that his anger and rashness would grow along with his pride. But my issue, Mr. Longbottom, is that where he is getting better and sorting his mind out, you are already there. You stood up to your friends, doing what is right rather than what is easy. You watched and remained calm, assisting Professor Sprout marvellously in the events of the last year."
He gestured to the greenhouses he could just see from the window, "You are dedicated to your studies, your memory is a weakness, but we can conquer that. You have talent and power; a calm voice and you are humble. All aspects to be admired." He waved a hand to signal the boys physique, "By all means, join Harry and improve yourself, I would have suggested such a matter myself. A strong and healthy body while focusing your mind will only strengthen your magic."
He sat back and took another sip, placing his now empty cup on the table, "So, Mr. Longbottom. I offer you my hand to take you as my Apprentice. My secrets and knowledge will be yours; my allies will be yours and the burden of my duty to protect the innocents of this world will be yours. I would have your answer before the full moon. If you do not feel you can handle this, merely say the word and we shall act as if this conversation had never happened. In fact, I would admire your self-awareness to not take on such a burden."
Neville frowned, "I don't want to fight, but I want to help people. Can I take your offer and do that?"
Dumbledore stared at the boy for a moment before nodding, "I have many agents who act in my stead. There are hunters and fighters among them indeed, but some of my peers prefer the more physical focus. I am a teacher Mr Longbottom, I deplore violence, but I wield it when I must and have no other choice."
Neville nodded at that, "Then I would accept your offer Headmaster, I will do my best to prove you right."
Dumbledore smiled at him for that, "Good, Mr... Neville. Thank you for honouring me with your trust." He pulled out two books from the pocket of his robes, placing them on the table by the tea set, "Make sure you keep silent on these books Neville. The Ministry would call them illegal and punish you severely, should they discover you have them at this time."
He tapped the first book, "This is a guide to meditation and a primer for the Art of Occlumency. Read this first and practice its exercises diligently. I will test you when I see you next and will keep doing so until you can withstand my intrusions."
He tapped the second book, "This one focuses on Occlumency techniques. Once you have the basics, I recommend reading this one to refine your mindscape and decide which defences suit you best. Pick one, or take something from them all. You are the one who has to live with the decisions."
"We will unfortunately have to restrict those who know to just us and your Grandmother for the moment, at least until you have reached a suitable level of Occlumency so that you can protect our secrets. Fear not, I shall assist you diligently to reach such a status, the first year will likely be preparation for what follows." He chuckled, at that, "I will remind you that I said you would curse my name. This year will be that time."
He smiled as he looked into the distance, "I remember well the times Nicholas drove me to the brink and beyond. I assure you, you will look back on that time with fondness when you take an Apprentice for yourself."
He stood and bowed to the boy with a smile, "Thank you Neville, truly. Now, stand and I shall bind us with the traditional Oaths of a Master and Apprentice. Then, we can inform your Grandmother of the excellent news."
In his room, Harry stared at the letter before him in surprise, he could practically feel the power warding the parchment before him. Dobby was cleaning the house and wouldn't disturb his master.
He ran his finger over the lines drawn over the broken pattern and laughed as he realised what it was. Taking some ink, he began transposing the Nigredo process and poured a touch of power into the ink, watching as the envelope turned black and turned to dust which faded away, leaving a pristine white parchment within, the writing in a rich yellow ink with a sheet of parchment with a blood red alchemical circle drawn on the back. It was so detailed and of such skill, that Harry could barely make out all the markings contained within the design.
Putting the circle to one side, he began to read the Flamel's response.
'Dear Fellow Scholar,
First of all, may I give my humblest thanks to look upon a process of alchemy that I have never seen before. Whilst some aspects are familiar to me, the process is one that I am uneducated within. Seeing as I have spent centuries studying the Art to a level few can compare to, that I say that this is new to me, is a welcome surprise.
I also note that your mark is one I do not recognise, presuming it to be your chosen sigil, I believe that I can say that you have either developed your own Path or discovered one long lost to us.
But I must also note that your process is flawed and inefficient, aspects that I would presume that a founder of a new Path would have recognised and refined as is our way. As such, I would suggest care to be taken until you find either other lost fragments of lore to complete the process or in exploring such matters. Sometimes the earliest lesson is the most important.
However, I have waxed on too long over trivialities and must say, that I am intrigued in your hints and comments.
From what I have discussed with my husband and know of recent events in the homeland of your servants chosen language, I would like to meet with you personally and at your discretion. We have much to discuss and whilst my husband acts to shield me from the buzzing of old nuisances, I would like to see if we would be meeting as equals or as a something more profound.
As such, please find included the results of your most entertaining puzzle and one of my own to peruse. Your answer will tell me what I need to know.
To your health and enlightenment,
Harry chuckled as he put the parchment down and began to examine the alchemical circle. He copied the design to another piece of parchment and enlarged it, looking at it in awe before he realised something. Perenelle apparently liked puzzles and thought he was potentially an early scholar. She was testing him.
It was just a pretty pattern. The true circle was a simple design woven amongst everything else, one of the circles surrounding the primary circle.
Touching the four cardinal points of the real circle on the original document, he carefully pushed some magic through the circle and smiled as the parchment burned away to leave a red crystal and a tiny scroll in its place.
Enlarging the scroll with a further touch of magic and his finger, he opened it to read the single sentence written on it.
'I expect great things of you, Mr Potter, do not disappoint me.'
Picking up the crystal, he allowed the Force to flow through it and smiled as it began to glow before it shattered under the strain.
Harry laughed at the result, joyous at finding someone who could help him advance in the Alchemical Arts.
Dumbledore's mind would probably explode if he knew.
With Petunia at the shops and Dudley hiding from him, it was time to strike at Vernon. They thought he was out for the day and Harry relished the glimmer of horror that Vernon did his best to hide behind a mask of hatred.
Harry mentally snorted, as if the walrus knew what true hatred was.
"Uncle Vernon," Harry said with a smile as he stepped between his prey and the TV, "I think we need to have a chat."
As Vernon began to turn red in rage, Harry waved a hand and imbued the Force in his words, "You should calm down."
Vernon became a more normal colour as he relaxed in his chair, "I should calm down."
Harry smiled at the amount of effort this took, "I have some questions for you," He waved his hand again, "You will truthfully tell me what I want to know."
Vernon nodded at that, "I will truthfully tell you what you want to know."
Harry grinned as he felt the Force suggestion settle on Vernon's mind, "Excellent. Now, tell me how you would embezzle as much money from Grunnings as you can as quickly as you can."
Harry stared at the woman before him, tapping a finger on the kitchen table in thought as she struggled to move from her bonds. Jane stood behind her, waiting for his instructions, her eyes wary at what was unfolding before her.
Nodding to himself, Harry stopped tapping and began to speak, "Dearest Aunt Petunia, the time has finally come to have my revenge on you and your family. I've thought long and hard about this, I've had so many ideas, Ive spent years, honing them in my cupboard, the imagination of a child, tempered by my experiences in the magical world. Can you imagine some of the stuff I thought up?"
At her look of fear growing, he chuckled, "My favourite three ideas were to pay a werewolf to bite you; make it so you were unable to speak of certain things and dump you somewhere in Africa; or curse you to insanity and keep you bound to this house, the Mad Woman of Privet Drive."
He sat back and sighed in frustration, "Luckily for you, I am a merciful wizard. So, we won't be doing any of those. Theres no balance to them, they were just me acting out petty revenge fantasies on you. No justice, and I so want justice for all those years of pain."
He smirked at her and leant forward again, taking her frozen hand and giving it a gentle squeeze, "We're family, we share my mother's blood, so I'm going to balance the books between us. I would have made you my servant, but you treated me much worse than that, so I'm going to bind you to be my slave for the years you have and would have stolen from me. I'll add a day for the poetry and magic of it. Seventeen years and a day, has a nice ring to it doesn't it?"
Petunia licked her dry lips as she tried to think of a way out of this, "What about Dudley? And Vernon?"
Harry cocked his head to one side as he looked at her before shrugging, "Not that it will change anything, but Dudley will be given the same chance he gave me, should he succeed, he will be free and clear of any conflict with me." He grinned at her, " You should hope he does not fail."
"As for Vernon, well," Harry waved a hand as if the matter was irrelevant, "apparently he is embezzling the funds of his company on behalf of his mistress. They are planning on running to Colombia for a new life in order to escape punishment, I imagine he can live well there for many years should he behave himself. But really, how long do you think he'd last there? Personally, I doubt it will be a month before they kill him or give him back to the UK government, but he may surprise us yet."
"Mistress? But..." Petunia stammered out in shock.
Harry chuckled at that, "Don't worry, there isn't one, one of Vernon's only redeeming points is that he has never betrayed you. Never even thought about it, even when you were just starting together. The moment he saw you, that was it," Harry, pantomiming and mimicking his uncle, "'Vernon old chap, she's the one!'"
He tapped his temple, "I was so amazed by that, that I checked as far as I could, dug so deep, I know him better than he knows himself. He actually truly loves you and Dudley. He'd die for you both, if he had to choose between you, he'd choose to save you over Dudley. That's why I have been so merciful to him."
Harry leant forward and stared into Petunias eyes, they seemed to dive deep within her to examine her very soul. "So, shall we begin?" He waved Jane forward, "Jane here will be our Bonder for our Unbreakable Oath. Fair warning before we begin, the name is very important, break the Oath and you will die. I will ask you for three things, you will agree to them, failure to do so will end the spell and I will be very annoyed. Your answers must be of your choice and spoken clearly."
He twisted their hands around and took her wrist in an iron grip, "Lying when you agree to the Oath will not protect you, if you say you agree, then you agree, no ifs, no buts, it's a dangerously simple spell and very literal in its effects. The spell will warn you if you come close to breaking the Oaths, so you can't claim that it will punish you unexpectedly."
He nodded to Jane to signal her to begin, as soon as the first golden wire rested on their flesh, he began to speak the Oath, "Do you, Petunia Dursley nee Evans, agree to be my slave for seventeen years and a day?"
Petunia struggled to move from his grip and remain silent, but Harry began to clench down on her wrist, her bones starting to grind together in pain from the pressure, "Yes!" she gasped out and the pressure receded.
Harry smirked and continued, "For your time as my slave, will you perform no act in word or deed that will bring harm to me or my Household?"
"Yes." Petunia hissed out between her teeth.
Harry nodded at that, aware that he had provided a loophole for her to use against him, not that it would help her, but it would distract her from causing too many problems, "And will you keep safe, the secrets of my Household and I, for as long as you draw breath?"
Harry could hear Petunia's teeth grind as she forced herself to answer, "Yes."
Harry nodded at that, "Then I shall offer that the day after Petunia Dursley nee Evans is released from my service, she shall be appropriately rewarded for her years of service by appropriate coin and a home to call her own. The better her service, the better her reward. Once released of her service, I shall offer to never darken her doorway, or call upon her unless invited by her to do so. Should she die before she can complete her service, I shall transfer these boons to her next of kin as appropriate to her service. Is this acceptable to you?"
Jane raised an eyebrow in surprise at the addition, but kept silent as Petunia frowned but nodded in agreement, "Its acceptable." she growled at him.
They watched as the golden threads sank into their flesh, Harry's fading to leave a single line around his wrist, while Petunia watched only one fade, leaving three pale lines around her hand and wrist.
Harry grinned at her as he let go and sat back, releasing Petunia from her chair, "So, dinner will be at six and I think I fancy Lasagna. Tomorrow, you will go shopping and get me some better furniture for my room. Oh, and don't forget the rest of your chores while you're working at that Petunia."
Marjorie Dursley awoke to see the roof of her kennels.
Around her she could hear the noises of her dogs investigating her as she lay on the floor. She snarled as she moved to stand upto find who had done this to her when it turned to a confused whine and then a whimper, as she found herself unable to move in the shadow of her hated nephew.
"Hello Marge. You have no idea how happy seeing you like this makes me. Now, whilst I would love to watch how this goes, I am afraid that I have little time to spend with you. I have paralysed you, motion only I'm afraid, you will feel everything, hear it all and see only that which comes into your vision. I have ensured that you will receive nutrition and fluids to sustain you for however long this takes."
Harry pulled a chair up to sit beside her in her line of sight, "Now, I remembered something you mentioned one time when Ripper had a go at me, I realised that you breed some of your dogs for fights, so I did some research. It turns out that several people, who do rather well in the fights, come to you for their dogs. So, I've separated off the dogs that can be salvaged from those that can't. The salvageable dogs will be watered and fed, looked after and cared until the RSPCA arrives to investigate. The other dogs, well, they are in here with you."
He squatted down to look her in the eyes and read the fear in them. "I wonder how well fed you keep them? Maybe just enough to be strong, but hungry enough to give them an edge in a fight. That desperation to drive them to victory and to fill their bellies. I wonder when their fear and obedience to you will fade before that hunger?"
Then he stood up and began to leave, "No matter, I imagine you'll find out soon enough."
He stood at the door and turned back to look over the room, nodding to himself as she began to scream and wail as much as her locked jaw would allow. "Goodbye Marge."
Dobby sealed the door behind him, "Master is sure?"
Harry smiled at his little friend. "Don't worry Dobby, only the monsters will be hurt, the innocent will be saved, you have my word, now, you know what to do?"
The elf nodded rapidly, "Dobby remembers Great and Powerful Master, puppies and good dogs are looked after, bad dogs aren't. When Bad Dog Lady dies, Dobby calls the number on the telephone and Dobby says the words exactly, then Dobby leaves and Dobby makes sure no sign of magic remains."
Harry nodded along with the instructions, "Excellent Dobby, when it's done, come find me and I'll find something else for you to do for me."
Dudley awoke in confusion. His comfortable bed was gone, as was his room. He was in a wire cage and he could see bushes around him blocking the view, but everything felt wrong, everything was much bigger than he remembered. He blinked and waggled his ears trying to find what was happening when his tail got tugged slightly from behind.
Turning slowly, he whimpered as he saw a large red-brown furred tail that was his and there, much larger than normal, was Harry, grinning at him.
"Big D! How are you? No, don't bother, you can't talk. Now, let me tell you, this is going to be fun. I've had a lot of ideas for you but I think this is the best one I could come up with. First of all, you are you, I just did what Hagrid tried but actually finished the spell. You have all your mental abilities but physically you are a fox until you either win, or you don't."
He checked his watch and smirked, "Now, in about three minutes, you'll experience what I suffered from you. Well not exactly, but you'll get the drift."
Harry pushed a bowl with a red liquid in it into the cage. "I'd drink it all if I were you, you're going to need it for what comes next. Now the rules are simple. You need to run, you need to escape. If you last long enough and reach the finish line, then you will be free and get to live your life. Don't and well, let's just say I don't advise choosing that option."
He gestured towards a gap in the bushes, "I've marked the finish line with a mix of ground black pepper and aniseed powder; it's something that you cannot miss. You won't want to cross it, neither will your pursuers, but you will have to if you want to win, which you really do. That line has an enchantment on it, one that will restore you back to being human, so there's an added incentive for you."
Harry looked at his watch again, "Oops, best drink up, you're almost out of time. And one final thing Dudley, call it… a gift." He pointed to the north, "You're looking for an old stone bridge in that direction, you might want to head that way, fast."
Dudley frowned in confusion before he heard the call of the horns and the baying of dogs behind him, he ignored the cage opening as Harry walked away, he was too busy drinking the red liquid as fast as he could.
Harry looked up from his book as the woman entered the private room of the Leaky Cauldron, Jane nodded from the doorway behind her and shut them in for privacy while she waited outside to guard the door.
"Cousin!" Harry said as he stood and kissed the air over the back of her hand before motioning to the table and the chair waiting for her. "It's a pleasure to finally meet in person. Please, sit."
Being the perfect gentleman, Harry helped her to sit and motioned at the tea set causing it to make her a cup of tea before they began to talk. A selection of her favourite biscuits sat beside her cup.
Narcissa Malfoy nee Black, smiled at him politely, hiding her disgust at the filthy halfblood, and took a sip and a small bite of her biscuit before speaking, "Mr Potter. I must admit that I was rather surprised at your invitation to meet, you implied a matter of importance regarding my son and I."
Harry nodded at that as he took a sip of his own tea, "I do indeed, now first of all, I need to ensure you believe me when I tell you what happened. Do you acknowledge me as bearing the blood of House Black through Dorea Potter nee Black?"
Frowning slightly in confusion, she slowly answered, "I do."
"Good, now," he drew his wand almost from the air before passing it hilt first to Narcissa, as she frowned and touched the handle as if to take it from him he nodded. "I, Harry James Potter, swear under the Family Traditions of House Black, that everything I speak of in the time I remain in this meeting with my kinsman to be true to the best of my knowledge. Should I be found willingly lying, I shall offer my blood in recompense for my lack of faith in family. I am at your mercy."
"As a daughter of the House, I understand and accept your formal promise." Placing the wand on the table beside her, she sat back in her chair and stared at him for a moment. "Pretty words to use Mr Potter. There is nothing to stop you lying bar your promise to me that you will not. But you know the words of a family tradition with no obvious way to do so, therefore you have my curiosity and I shall take you at your word."
Harry nodded at that, "Thank you, cousin."
Striving to gain an edge in the conversation, she forced herself to smile gently at him, "Narcissa, if we are family, then no titles should be between us today."
Harry gave her a slight smirk with an agreeing nod, "As you wish Narcissa, please call me Harry then."
At her nod, he continued. "Tell me, how much have you been told about the previous school year?"
"Very little, I was distracted by a number of deaths in the family, I was the only one available to handle those, so I was unfortunately rather distracted from events." she answered as she looked at him in curiosity.
"My condolences on your losses," Harry responded, "I am afraid that I have only recently discovered my connections to the Blacks, otherwise I would have done what I could to support you."
"Thank you for your condolences, I appreciate at least hearing them over silence." Narcissa answered, raising him mentally up in her view, apparently someone had somehow drilled some surprising manners into the boy.
Hary nodded and took another sip before continuing, "Would you please tell me what you know of the school years events and I shall expand upon them as best I can."
She raised an eyebrow at that but nodded in acceptance, "Very well. Apparently, there was a dangerous beast running around the school targeting mu... muggleborns and the Headmaster failed to deal with the issue. Then everything was fine and dealt with, Dumbledore had returned and my husband was in a rage about something."
Harry smiled at the last part. "I imagine he was, would you like to know what actually happened?"
She let herself fiddle with a biscuit for a moment before placing it in the saucer of her cup, "I would indeed like to know what occurred from your viewpoint."
Harry nodded at her barbed comment, "My viewpoint, well said. So, this story begins last summer during the Lockhart fiasco in Diagon Alley. There, the Pater Familias of Clan Weasley and your husband began a common brawl in the street. I, in hindsight am amazed at the animosity between the two families, but I shall research that later."
"Do not bother," Narcissa interrupted, "you'll not discover the matter. I know why if you are interested and do not mind the diversion?"
Harry sat back at that, open curiosity on his face, "I am indeed interested, please go ahead."
"Ignoring the recovery of gambling debts from the Weasley Clan Pater's grandfather, which brought it to its current impoverished state. In its simplest terms, the entire issue began over a marriage between the House of Gaunt and the House of Leomhann. The Gaunts were promised a daughter to marry their heir and they would offer a daughter to the Leomhann heir in return. However, the daughter of Leomhann eloped with a Lovegood instead."
Seeing that he was following her story with interest, she continued, "The Lovegoods were a powerful but small line, little political power and wealth, but strong in exotic lore and magic, never mind their capacity for summoning nightmarish entities to fight on their behalf. The Gaunts demanded the marriage annulled one way or another and the girl returned to them as promised. The Leomhann refused outright, the Lovegoods just laughed and said that the Gaunts were welcome to try and take her."
She took a sip of her tea to wet before continuing, "Ignoring the Lovegoods for fear of them unleashing some monstrosity on them, the Gaunts wrath fell upon the Leomhann in full. They declared a blood feud and Cursed the Leomhann line so that they shall bear no more daughters for as long as Gaunt blood flows. They then bribed the Wizards Council and called in nearly every favour they had to remove the rights and name from the family for weaseling out of their Oaths. Everyone now looked down on them as Oathbreakers and began to call them Weasels. Thus the Weasley Clan was born."
Seeing the amusement in his eyes she allowed herself a chuckle as she nodded at his understanding, "The Gaunt's conquered the new clans ancestral lands and drove the survivors away with the Councils aid. As an added insult they refused to touch the land, claiming it poisonous and tainted. Only the Weasley's new allies amongst the Lovegood's allowed them to resettle in their current home."
She finished her biscuit and continued, pleased at the rapt focus on her story the boy was giving her, "The Gaunt daughter was married off to a Malfoy, a newly arrived family from the continent as part of the negotiations with the Wizards Council. She had truly loved her previous betrothed, but the betrayal and his broken promises to her shattered her. Love quickly turned to hate and she poisoned her children's minds against the new Clan. Over the centuries that hate has festered, both sides having forgotten the origins of their feud, the records purposefully lost, until only a few remember why."
She gestured between them, "The Blacks throw little away, especially knowledge about scandals like that, so their records contain a rather detailed account of the matter. As the Gaunt's fell, the Malfoys rose and about two hundred years ago claimed what remained of the Gaunt fortune and lands through the debts owed to the Malfoys. They drove the remnants of the Gaunts north and the Leomhann lands were left abandoned and unused, you can see the forest which resides there now from the highest tower of the Malfoy estate."
Harry nodded at that as he finished his tea and motioned an offer to refill hers as he did his, "And yet there is a Daughter of Weasley now, the first in generations."
Pushing her cup towards him, she nodded, "Indeed, this means one of two things. Either the last Gaunt has finally passed beyond the Veil, or she isn't a Weasley. My money is on the first rather than the second. Molly Weasley nee Prewitt is a proud and loyal woman, she would not risk her family's position in such a manner should such be discovered."
"Interesting, and possibly useful to us later, but returning to my tale." Harry said as Narcissa took back her now full cup, "Following the afore mentioned brawl, your husband placed a cursed object amongst the possessions of one Ginny Weasley. I imagine he expected her to be discovered and disgrace to fall upon the Weasleys, ruining any political action Arthur Weasley was undertaking at the time. However, this object was more than a mere cursed item. It was once the Diary to a Tom Marvolo Riddle."
Narcissa frowned at the name. "I know that name, some of my father's papers mentioned him. My aunt Walburga was fascinated by him whilst at school, kept an eye on him even whilst married to Uncle Orion and then one day he just disappeared."
"Interesting, we'll come back to his disappearance later." Harry answered before taking a sip, "Now, this was no mere diary cursed to protect the secrets within, but a very dangerous item. Over the year, it possessed Miss Weasley and used her to release an incredibly dangerous beast into the castle. A Basilisk."
She blinked in shock at the calm statement he had just made before casting decorum aside and yelling her question at him, spilling her tea as she stood, "There was a what!?"
Harry waved her back into her seat, cleaning up the mess with a wave of his hand and refilling her cup, "Calm down Narcissa, it's been dealt with, but we will come to that. Now, it was controlled by the possessed Miss Weasley and used to bring terror to the school. Your husband, chose to focus on Dumbledore and removed him from his position as headmaster through his usual threats, blackmail and bribery. Now, do you think your husband an idiot or a blind fool?"
Taking a deep breath and calming her mind, she focused on the boy's question, "Neither. He is an intelligent and focused man, politically savvy and a skilled debater."
Harry nodded in agreement at that, "I concur, which leads me to believe that he chose to purposefully ignore the fact that his actions had brought about the release of this Basilisk in the school. A Basilisk which through only sheer dumb luck did not kill anyone this time, a creature which did not care about the purity of its victims. Imagine then that the Basilisk arrives in the great hall during lunch, how many do you imagine would have looked up as the doors were smashed open, looking it straight in its eyes?"
Narcissa paled as she considered that event, "Everyone."
Harry nodded, "Indeed, everyone. Including your son. Now, on that, you know your husband, you know his mindset and the way he thinks. Would he have cared at all, or would he have just required a new heir?"
"He would have cared," she cried out in anger at the boys presumption, "he cares for Draco!"
Harry snorted at that, "He has a strange way of showing it then, doesn't he?" he waved her back into her seat again, "Immediately upon Dumbledore's dismissal, he left. He didn't return until Dumbledore did. He knew the threat was there and did nothing. Personally, I would have immediately called in the DMLE and requested an immediate search of the school and students' belongings."
He took a sip and put down his cup, "The diary would have been found, the danger averted and the Weasleys publicly shamed with no way to avoid the fallout, perhaps even ruined beyond repair. He would have appeared a hero with the children's best interests in mind. He would have been lauded and praised for acting and removing the threat whilst the great Albus Dumbledore dithered and did nothing."
Harry leant forward slightly, his gaze pinning Narcissa in place with its unnerving intensity, "He could have tainted Dumbledores golden image, possibly painting him as a knowing accomplice to events. After all, should he not have known about the dangerous beast within the walls of the school, it's strange how one of his most loyal followers brought such danger into the school he defends. A little digging and you could have found enough to query the reason for a cerberus being on the school grounds in my first year with only a warning to stay away from it on risk of a most painful death. A warning almost designed to draw attention and curiosity about it."
He gestured towards her, "Do you see now? He allowed a weapon of mass destruction to live amongst the next generation of the wizarding world. How many bloodlines, how many lives, would have been ended with just one. Bad. Day?"
Shakily she nodded, "I see your point. But there is no way he could have known that it was a Basilisk."
Harry snorted at that as he leant back in his chair, "Not knowing does not change the fact that it happened. And here is the part that shows his hunger for victory over his family's survival. May I use my wand?"
She nodded and once it was in his hand, he quickly began to repeat the Diary's trick with the burning letters in the air. "This is a lesson I learnt just before I fought the Basilisk and killed it. The Diary contained a piece of Tom Riddle, a copy or fragment of him." Looking her directly in the eyes, he motioned to the letters and reordered them to the damning phrase. "Do you see now, what he did?"
Narcissa stared at the burning letters in horror.
Harry continued without letting her gather her wits, "The diary was a reward from Voldemort to your husband. One he was meant to keep safe and secure from any threat. One he gave to a girl, the daughter of a personal rival, for his own political gains and one which was destroyed by myself. How do you think Voldemort will react when he finds out?"
Her eyes snapped to his at the last question. "When? You think he's alive?"
"No," Harry denied her comment, "I know he still exists, alive is not the right way to describe him. I've faced him three times now Narcissa. Twice at Hogwarts, ten years after his supposed death. He has been seeking a way to restore himself and return. How do you think he would react when he asks for the diary back?"
As she paled further at the image, he continued. "How do you think he would deal with such treachery, such lack of respect, such a personal insult?"
He let that settle a bit before hammering more nails into her possible arguments, "On other matters, do you think Voldemort will let your son just walk free, or would he shackle him with the same slave markings as his father. Do you imagine he will let any of you go? No. As far as he is concerned, you belong to him. You are his cattle to use as he desires."
He waited for a few breathes to let it all sink in before hitting her with his hardest blow, "So, I am here to offer you a way out, a way to protect you and your son if you wish."
She paused as she focused on him, this was no mere boy, this was a dangerous and focused individual, more aware and skilled than she had accounted for. She recognised that she was being played, but could not deny how effective he had been. "And Lucius?"
Harry snorted and waved aside the comment, "Why would I save my enemy from his own mistakes? A man who willingly raped and murdered to acquire his slave brand. A man teaching such values to your son. I am not Dumbledore, I will not allow innocents to suffer when I can save them. And Lucius is no innocent. But Draco, for all his Gryffindor bluster is still young enough to change, innocent enough to be protected."
She settled her shaking hands in her lap, clasping them tightly at the information she had acquired in this eventful meeting, "I... I need to think on this. I can't make a decision like this without thought. Without research to confirm your claims."
Harry nodded and smiled gently at her as if afraid that she'd burst into tears or attack him after his reveal, "I accept that Narcissa, but we have a little further to go. I want you, as your son's parent and guardian, to relinquish his claim to the House of Black. I will inherit without dispute and become Pater Familias of the House of Black. Once this has happened, I will accept your petition for an annulment of your marriage to Lucius Malfoy, your son may choose his own path."
He placed his wand back in the place she had originally placed it, signifying his honesty and promise, "He can follow you with no baggage and be acknowledged as my heir until I have one of my own to inherit the title, or he can remain the heir to Malfoy with all that entails. Either way I shall treat him as a new person with no history between us, I will give him the choice others would not."
She frowned at this in confusion, "But Sirius is the heir, you would need him dead to inherit."
Harry smirked at her statement, "Do you know the terms of the Wizengamot treaty with Azkaban?"
Still confused, she shook her head, "I do not, I was not that interested in those Laws or the details of ancient treaties regarding that place."
"A pity," he said with a chuckle, "there's some wonderful loopholes within it. Now, under the section regarding the rights of the prisoners, there is a small paragraph about succession of family lines. I am paraphrasing here, but in the occasion that an Heir of a Noble House is a prisoner, then they lose all rights to claims of inheritance for the duration of their stay."
He picked up his tea again and took another sip, "Thus, historically several second sons inherited over their elder brothers due to political allies aiding them. I do believe the Malfoys managed a fourth son, a bastard son in fact, to inherit in that manner following the Queen Elizabeth issue. I would imagine that's why they are so adamant on only having the one son, stops problems like that happening again."
He smiled at her, "With all that in mind we can remove Sirius from the line of succession, Draco's withdrawal will leave no other claim that I am aware of other than my own, and your support for this would be greatly appreciated. Due to Sirius' current abode, the position is in a technical limbo and cannot be progressed further as matters stand. Were anyone to request with sufficient claim however, then things can progress."
She internally grimaced at leaving her heritage in the hands of this boy, no matter how her thoughts had changed over their conversation so far, "As I said, I must think on this."
He nodded at that and put his cup back on the table, "I understand Narcissa, but I require an answer by Monday. I need to know your decision before I can move forward with some of my options. So, four days is all I can give you."
He stood and accepted his wand back from her, moving to open the door for her as she left. While she was part way through, he quickly took her hand and placed a box in her palm. "Should you need me, simply whisper my name to the pendant and I will come."
She frowned at him, "And if I choose to turn on you and use it in a trap?"
He smiled at her and she felt the edge of his power ripple across her own, "Are you sure it would be a trap for me?"
Harry looked over the short hand version of the Ledger before him, ignoring the neat but plain walls of the stone room around him, the only furniture, being the table and chairs the human and Goblin were sat at.
"Are you able to tell me how much the Lestranges owe to others?" Harry asked the goblin before him, still reading the details of his own account values.
"I do not write their ledgers, so I do not know. I do know how much they owe the Potters." Greyshield answered as he stopped writing and paid attention to his powerful patron.
Harry nodded at that as he put the paperwork to one side and focused his attention of Greyshield, "Thats a start I suppose. I presume that most Magi think you need to talk to the Wizard or Witch in question to recover any debts?"
The goblin nodded at that, "I do not claim to know how Magi think, but it would seem that way from what I've seen and heard."
Harry smiled at that, but made sure not to show his teeth, "Excellent, I'm guessing by your comment, that this is not the case?"
Greyshield smirked, "The stupidity of humans is not my concern. Only the flow of gold through your vaults and my clans share of it."
"Can you get the goblin who deals with their ledgers to answer a few of my questions?" Harry asked as he nodded to himself.
Greyshield stared at the warrior before him for a moment, "I can try, may I ask what you wish to know Adas?"
Harry smirked back at the goblin, "I wish to know how much the Lestrange's owe and to who they owe it. Once I have that information, I wish to quietly purchase those debts at half their value at most, preferably less, then once I have everything I can, I wish to call those debts in for their full value. If I need to, I will do it in waves, use their own money to buy more of their debts."
Greyshield snorted "While the British Lestranges are very wealthy, they are not the main family. If they are like many of the other Pureblood Houses, then they will be hard pressed to have enough coin to repay such debts in full. I would also expect to have issues with the clan who manages that ledger."
Harry smirked at that, "In that case, I would accept holdings or items of worth to clear the debt as best we can. I doubt I'd be able to acquire everything, but I should get the majority. As for the other clan, if their only ledger is the Lestranges, then either offer to absorb their clan into yours, take another ledger or they can bring it up with me directly."
Harry watched as Greyshield pondered the ideas for a moment before he added the goal of his plan. "If the Lestranges owe the Potters enough, claim their estate first, I'll need a good place to live in shortly. I'm sure their house will be big enough for me."
Greyshield barked a laugh at that, "That depends on how many children you plan on having." He tapped his claws on the desktop in thought, "I shall offer them the McLaggen and Pettigrew Ledgers in exchange for the Lestrange's with a warning of your plan."
"Not Pettigrew, that will just cause problems in the future." Harry snarled.
Greyshield raised an eyebrow at that, "Very well, not the Pettigrew Ledger, the Chang Ledger instead. Which means that we won't have to deal with those damned Yokai anymore, which is always a good thing, but the Greyshields will lose prestige in the eyes of others for it. Then again, absorbing the Lestranges into the Potters will mitigate that somewhat."
Harry grinned and showed his teeth this time, "Greyshield, who said anything about just the Lestranges? If all goes well, we'll shortly have the Blacks as well."
Greyshield blinked in shock at that, "Adas, are you trying to start a goblin civil war?"
"No," Harry answered before pausing and leaning forward slightly, "Would it help if we did?"
"No," Greyshield sighed at the young and apparently very goblin human, "No, it would not."
Harry's return to Privet Drive brought with it a surprise for him. Sitting in the living room was a dishevelled Dudley, looking at his hands in horror, bandages and some stitches over his skin showed where he had been injured.
Petunia glared at him in hate, from the Kitchen, but kept silent and out of the way as she performed her duties.
Jane raised an eyebrow but moved to the side as Harry took Vernons seat and looked at the boy, fragments of years to never come floated in his memory, the image of Dudley trying to defend Harry from his parents when the Dementors attacked flickered across his vision, "You're back." he said.
Dudley nodded, "The police brought me back from the hospital, said I was lucky to not be more hurt trying to stop a hunt like that. Gave me a warning after seeing how the dogs had attacked me."
Harry nodded at that, "I know you don't believe me Dudley, but I'm glad you are alive." He motioned to Jane, "Jane will sort out healing your injuries and make sure there's no infection, I presume that there's not going to be a reason to repeat the lesson?"
"No." Dudley flinched and seemed to shrink on himself, "No more lessons."
"Good," Harry said with a smile filled with dark promises, "We're family Dudley, Family looks after each other, no matter their differences. So, as long as you are Family, I'll protect you." He paused for a moment, "Look at me Dudley."
When the boys' eyes snapped up in terror of him, Harry nodded, part of him felt sick for enjoying the reaction, the rest of him crowed in victory of breaking him, "There are going to be some changes around here, you will probably hate them. But I promise you, that when I'm done, you'll look back and sneer at the weak and pitiful lump of lard you had been. Once I'm done Dudley, you will be a force to be reckoned with."
He motioned to Jane, "Tomorrow, you will join us in our training, you will have a new diet, you will study and learn many things from us. But this is all your choice to make." He offered the broken boy his hand, "You can take my hand and I can make you into something amazing. Or, you can refuse, and I will organise a foster home for you to live in. A fresh start, no history or background to hold you back. It's entirely your choice."
Dudley stared at the offered hand, "Will the fear and pain stop?"
Harry smiled sadly at him, "No. Not with either choice. Life is pain, Dudley. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something. But if you take my hand, I'll teach you to use it to protect yourself.
Dudley looked at him for nearly a minute before he made his choice.
Narcissa sat at her writing desk, her quill hovering over the parchment. Looking out of the window, she watched as her son flew in the small pitch, chasing the glint of gold. He was not as good at his age as she had been, but there was still potential. Returning to her letter, she nodded to herself and wrote her answer. Quickly she sealed it and tied it to the waiting owl before sending it away.
Lucius' drawl from the doorway broke the silence, "What was that?"
She smiled at the sight of him, her doubts fading as to his potential errors, "A letter to family."
He frowned, "I thought they were all dead or in Azkaban?"
Her warmth rapidly faded to cold indifference and with a raised eyebrow she answered, "Not all of them Lucius, not all of them."
Looking up at the regal owl as it offered the letter, he put a touch of his power in his words, "Stay and wait for a response."
Harry opened the letter and smiled at the two words. 'I accept.'
Quickly he wrote his response, 'Tomorrow. 9am. Department of De Jure. Bring only that which matters to you.'
Tying it to the owls leg, he nodded as he moved his plans around slightly. "Go back to your mistress."
He leant back and looked at Jane, "Send the letter for the department of De Jure, 9am tomorrow."
She nodded to that and filled in the last parts of the letter before sealing it, "Do you want me as a brute or in a suit?"
Harry pondered the question before nodding, "Suit, under hardy robes, let's make an impression."
Using his father's cloak, Harry walked through the doorways of the ward and silently moved to the bed he was looking for.
He picked up the medical chart before shrugging when he could make little sense of it. He removed his cloak before sitting in the visitors chair and nudged the sleeping patient to wake him.
"Huh, wha? Who's there? Oh. It's you. Did the old professor get to talk to you?" the blonde patient sleepily asked.
"I'm afraid not Mr Lockhart. But I'm here to talk to you." Harry answered with a gentle smile.
"Okay, I don't remember anything before that day, but I'll help you as best I can." Gilderoy said, shuffling himself up the bed to better face his guest.
"That's excellent," Harry said as he gently relaxed in the chair, "Now, have they told you what you did? Before that day?"
Gilderoy nodded, "Yes, one of the nurses explained things to me, I was a thief and liar, but the angry Auror lady with the monocle says they can't charge me with anything as technically I never did anything. The old Gilderoy did and he's dead now. I'm the new Gilderoy." He glanced down and twiddled his thumbs in nerves for a moment, "But I do feel guilty about it. He must have hurt a lot of people."
"He did indeed." Harry sadly agreed, "I'd like to make you an offer Mr Lockhart, a chance to pay for the old Gilderoy's actions and to help people. Now would you like to do that and how far would you go to do it?"
Gilderoy innocently smiled, "I'd love to help people and make up for what he did. How can I do that? I'd do anything to make up for what he did."
Harry leant forward, a sly curiosity in his voice, "Anything?"
Gilderoy nodded, his mind too innocent to understand the undertones Harry made, "Anything. What do you need me to do?"
Harry smiled as he carefully slid his wand into his hand so as to not startle the man, "A… friend of mine needs a home, it would make things much better if you were able to help him with that."
Gilderoy frowned in thought, "I probably have a house, if we can find out where then you are welcome to use it."
Harry chuckled, "Not quite what I had in mind Mr Lockhart." He raised his wand and pointed at the now confused target, "Legilimens," he hissed, pushing more power than necessary into the spell. The moment he broke through the instinctual barriers, he reached back along their connection and took hold of Darth Abaddon and poured everything that made him into Gilderoy Lockhart's fractured mind. He blinked in shock at how hollow he felt, as if a comforting presence that had always been there was lost to him.
Darth Abaddon unravelled and looked around at the mess surrounding him, sighing in frustration, surged forward, grabbing hold of what remained of Gilderoy and gently pried away the autonomous memories to keep the body functioning.
The higher memories, he placed in a mental construct, a world within his mind that let Gilderoy live a peaceful existence, free of the burdens of the real world. Eventually, he would drift away and fade from existence, returning to the Force to be reborn.
He opened his new eyes, trying to get them to focus on his former body. He tried to speak, but only a slurred mess came out. Frustrated, he yanked on the mental connection between them to speak with Harry. "Well, it's a fixer-upper, but I can make this work."
Harry nodded a little drunkenly as he tried to reorder his mind, having to take on that burden in full for the first time in years. "Good. Good. You know where I stored the gear, get used to the body and then escape, you know the plan."
Abaddon did his best to nod at Harry, speaking through the link again in frustration, "You do realise that you will need a new title, we can't both be Darth Abaddon."
Harry shrugged, "I'll use the name I gave the Goblins, Adas."
Gilderoy's body managed a basic smirk as Abaddon spoke along the link. "I think that suits you nicely. Go. I'll get used to this flesh and begin our plan. I will contact you once I am ready."
Harry smiled as he placed his hand on Abaddon's shoulder, "Be safe. Strangely enough, I think I'll miss you."
Draco Malfoy walked beside his mother as they moved deep into the ministry, he had never been in this area before and the wealth of the furnishings was discordant with the simplicity of the surrounding departments. "Mother, why are we here?"
Narcissa strode along at a pace almost unseeming for someone of her position. He watched as she fiddled with her gloves, a sign of nerves in public. "Hush Draco, today is important. I have been given an offer by a family member which will protect us."
Draco frowned at that, indignant confusion filling his tone as he hurried to keep up, "But father keeps us safe from the rabble. No-one would dare harm us. And why isn't he here with us?"
"He's busy with other matters. Now, you must be on your best behaviour Draco." She glanced at him in concern, "Nothing but your best, do you understand?"
He frowned at her, "Yes mother."
Entering the room he froze at the sight of the dangerous looking woman at the door, her amber eyes practically shone from under the hood of her robes, looking him over like a juicy steak. Glancing around as he passed her to enter the room, he saw a very nervous official sitting behind a large desk and four chairs arrayed around it in a semicircle. A robed and hooded individual was sitting in the furthest chair, with his back to the wall.
Seeing Narcissa enter, the figure stood and bowed politely to her and her son.
Narcissa curtsied to him and guided Draco into the seat opposite; she then took the seat next to her son, leaving an empty space between them and the hooded stranger.
The official looked rather distressed at events, before he shuffled through his parchment one more time and then took a deep breath before speaking. "As per the request of the individuals involved, we will bypass the majority of the process and move directly to the required matters to resolve today's query. Therefore, Draco Lucius Malfoy, do you accept Narcissa Malfoy nee Black to act in your stead during these negotiations?"
Confused, he looked to his mother, trusting her reassuring nod, "I agree."
The official gave a resigned sigh at that, "Very well then, Narcissa Malfoy nee Black, do you, acting in your sons stead and as his source of his claim to the Black Line, relinquish his claim upon the Ancient and Noble House of Black?"
Placing a hand on Draco's wrist to signal him to not react, she nodded to the official. "I do so relinquish his claims upon the Ancient and Noble House of Black on the behalf of Draco Lucius Malfoy."
The official turned to the robed individual, "Then, as there are no legal rivals to your claim, congratulations Pater Familias Black, may you lead your family for many years to come. Please sign here, here and here. I will make the adjustments to the Orchard immediately. You will need to provide a vial of blood and use your blood as the ink on the documents."
Whilst this was done, Narcissa's iron grip on her sons arm never wavered.
Having finished the signatures, the figure waved a wand to heal the back of his hand. He then held out a letter for Narcissa. Nodding politely to her as she took it, the figure left, the woman guarding the door following in his wake.
The official saw the look of thunder on Draco's face and passed the document across to Narcissa, who flicked her wand to cut the back of her hand and signed the document herself. Once done, he quickly sketched a bow to them and fled into the back offices to file the documents and perform his duties in the Orchard.
She healed and cleaned her hand before checking the letter to find a simple instruction and address before vanishing the letter. Swiftly she began to leave, "Come Draco."
Seething, he barely kept his anger inside and followed her.
"And?" Gerald Hightower demanded without looking up at the nervous minion before him.
"There was a complication sir." the minion said trying not to quake at the stern glare he received from his master.
Gerald managed to not sigh in frustration as he straightened up and gave the minion his full attention, "Do you believe that I am running to your schedule?" At the minions panicked shake of his head, he continued, "Then perhaps you should continue your report until I give you a sign to be silent."
The man practically bowed in terror, "Of course sir! As instructed, I was the ministerial representative sent to attend the claiming of the Black Tree. Four attended, the first was of no consequence, Jane Doe, the Potter Bodyguard, the second was Harry Potter and the third and fourth were Draco and Narcissa Malfoy."
He gulped down a breath and continued, struggling to keep his report calm and controlled, "The Malfoy's rescinded their claim and Potter was acknowledged as the new Pater Familias of the Blacks. He provided a vial of blood as standard and I witnessed the Keepers perform the inheritance ritual. That's when things went... strangely."
Gerald leant back in his chair in interest at this, motioning with his quill for the minion to continue. "How so?"
"The blood melted the athame sir." the minion rushed out.
Gerald blinked slowly in surprise at that, managing to maintain his appearance of calm control, "Your attitude suggests there is more. Carry on."
The minion nodded, "Yes sir. The blood ruined the blade but did nothing to the tree, it absorbed it as usual and the cut sealed leaving no mark which was a good sign. The Branches twisted as expected and Lord Pot... Lord Blacks flower grew and shined clearly… but then the core branched. The main branch is short and unmarked, but the second has a strange flower and a fruit has grown from it, emerald green and slightly scaly to the eye, its barely budded and has not grown since. And that's not all sir."
Gerald raised a hand to signal the minion to stop as he grabbed a new sheet of paper and rapidly wrote a few notes down. He finished and tapped the paper, watching as it folded into the shape of a bird and flew away. Focusing again on the minion, he nodded, "Continue."
"Yes sir," the man said, "Two other trees reacted to the ritual, Potter which was expected, but also Peverell."
Gerald managed to not flinch at that, "Peverell?"
"Yes sir." the man nodded, "It reacted the same as the Black and Potter Trees."
Gerald picked up his wand and flicked it, slamming a red flash of magic into the minion. He grunted in annoyance as the minion fell, stunned, to the floor.
There was a knock at the door and Gerald called out "Enter."
A Keeper entered the room, their heavy, dark brown robes hid their appearance and gender from others. A gloved hand gestured to the unconscious man on the floor.
Gerald didn't even look at the minion on the floor, "He is of no consequence, have someone Obliviate him, I believe that Filing was complaining about a lack of staff in the last meeting, we'll assign him there." He leant forward, "I want all our brothers and sisters to secure the Orchard, no-one in or out except us. Memory charm the ministry worms to believe they witnessed any further rituals until I say otherwise."
He leant forward, "Did any of the other trees react?"
The Keeper shook their hooded head and Gerald hissed in annoyance, "Damn. Make sure, check all the other Core Trees, we must be close if Peverell reacted. Wake the Stones, I imagine we'll need them soon enough. I'll be down in an hour, I want to see the Trees for myself, I'll talk to the Unspeakables personally once I've seen the flower and fruit."
The Keeper bowed and gestured to the minion who floated behind them as they left.
Gerald sighed as he glared at the ministry seal by the door, "I won't let you or Dumbledore get this one, you bastards."
Draco followed his mother into the old building at the corner of Knockturn alleys entrance onto Diagon Alley. Quickly they moved to the second floor and entered a large dining room. There, standing before the large windows overlooking the corner of the Alleys was the robed figure, but this time with the hood down and Draco could not hold back his surprise at recognising the wild hair of his nemesis.
Harry turned and smiled at them both, waving a hand towards two of the seats at the large table. Please sit. We have a few things to discuss. Tea?
"Potter?!" Draco cried out in confusion, "Whats going on here?"
"Going on? Why, many things Draco, but the most important here today, is your future." Harry gestured and the tea was prepared to his guests' preference by an invisible Dobby, "Today, you get to make the most important choice of your life."
He took a sip of his own tea and sighed in pleasure, "On one hand, we continue on as we have these last few years and eventually you will push too far and I am forced to do some very violent but likely very cathartic actions. On the other hand, we bury the hatchet and come to an accord. We make peace and start again from scratch."
He gestured to Narcissa, "My Cousin here has already come to an agreement with me and asked that I make this offer to you. I have done so, the choice and its results, are entirely yours."
Draco sneered at that, "And what exactly have you agreed with my Mother?"
Harry paused and glanced at Narcissa who sighed but nodded, "Your mother will be returned to the House of her Birth and her marriage to your father broken due to his breaches of the Contract signed by Abraxas Malfoy and Arcturus Black. Your father was meant to have a second child, if not a third through your mother. He was to have upheld several business arrangements between our Houses, repaid certain debts and he was never to raise his wand against the House of Black."
Harry leaned forward and his glare froze Draco in his seat. "Now, I can forgive him his fertility issues, that's just bad luck and Narcissa has confirmed that they have tried. I can even admire how he upheld the business arrangements until he twisted certain contracts to only favour his family and bought out the House of Black."
Harry took another sip of tea and straightened in his chair, "Lucius Malfoy has actually repaid the debts the House of Malfoy owe the House of Black in full, so I cannot claim that he has betrayed his father's oaths. In fact, for the most part, he has upheld his part of the words of the contracts perfectly, maybe not the spirit, but I can forgive him his ambitions."
"But what I cannot forgive," Harry hissed as the room seemed to cool around them, "Was when he lied about his allegiances and not only fought a Black in battle, but he conspired to have that same member of my House imprisoned in Azkaban without a trial."
Harry jabbed a finger at Draco who flinched at the motion before he could stop himself, "Bellatrix fucking Lestrange gets a trial, but not Sirius Black. And why did that happen? I find it rather interesting that the main beneficiary of such an event is you. If I hadn't made my claim, you would likely have become the Lord Black on your majority."
Harry snarled as the cup creaked in his hand, "If he wanted it so bad, then he could have done the honourable thing and just killed Sirius, but no, he had to have his damned plots and manipulations."
He slammed the now frozen tea onto the table beside him, "That and forcing me to kill Slytherin's Basilisk is what I class as unforgivable." He sighed and let the anger fade away. "So, that is why I am returning Narcissa to the House of Black. Now, it is your choice Draco."
"Take my hand in peace," Harry said as he offered the boy his hand, "and our skirmishes are over, you will be accepted into the House of Black as my heir until I have a child to hold the position, at which point I will split the House and its assets equally and make you the founder of a cadet branch." He gestured to the door with his other hand, "Or walk away as Draco Malfoy and we keep going until I very likely end you. The choice is entirely yours."
Draco stared at the Boy-Who-Lived sitting opposite him, Potter was calm and confident, acting like he knew he had won already and this was just a game to force Draco to give everything up. The fear and confusion boiling within was twisted into anger. To lose the power and prestige of the Malfoy name to be just another Black, to have wasted all that power and influence in the school, to spit on his fathers lessons. To serve under this thing who called blood traitors and mudbloods equals?
Draco Malfoy allowed his wounded pride and anger to rule him and sneered as he slapped the hand aside, "No." He snarled at Potter, "When my father..."
A flash of red from behind Draco slammed into the back of his head and he collapsed like a puppet whose strings had been cut. Jane just shrugged at Harry's raised eyebrow, "I had the drop on him."
Harry gave Jane a nod and sighed, "I'm sorry," he said as he looked at Narcissa, "I tried."
"I know," Narcissa sighed as she gently stroked her son's cheek and pushed him back into a comfortable position in the chair. "He has too much pride. I coddled him too much and let him believe his father is a great hero who cannot fail." She sighed as she took another sip of her own tea, "Thank you Dobby." she quietly said to one side before focusing back upon her host and Lord, "So, how will you progress from here?"
Harry smiled gently at her, "As Lord Black, I will accept your Oaths and return you to the fold. I already have the paperwork prepared. Then you will perform a tour of the Black estates and businesses, we will meet at a Hogsmeade weekend and you will inform me of everything that you learn. Then you will take your place as my proxy in the Wizengamot for the Black seat."
He held a hand to one side and Jane passed him a file, which he passed across to Narcissa, "Here are your new bank details, the dowry will be recovered in full and the value placed in that vault. It is yours to do with as you wish." Harry glanced at the unconscious Draco slumped in the chair, "If he honestly and without deception, ever changes his mind, then I will make the offer once more to him with the same terms and conditions, although the cadet branch is unlikely if he continues his attitude."
Narcissa closed her eyes and nodded at that, "Understandable and more than fair. I honestly hoped he would be able to look forward and let go of the past. But I can hope and watch, I still love him and will do what I can to help him, but I won't betray your trust in me."
Harry smiled and nodded at that, "I know you won't Narcissa. I have every faith you will serve our House brilliantly."
He turned slightly to look at Jane, "Best get your contact in here to do Draco's Obliviation."
There was a knock at Vernons hotel door and a womans voice called out, "Housekeeping." He sneered at the thick accent on the word, but what did he really expect in Colombia. Hadn't they already done his room today?
He opened the door, ready to yell at being disturbed, but froze as he found the tip of a wand pointed at his face, held by a blonde wizard with a rather menacing but shiny grin. The woman simply stood there with a glazed look on her eyes as if unaware of events happening before her.
"Return to your duties as if nothing has happened." The blonde wizard's wand never wavered from being pointed between Vernon's eyes.
The woman turned and walked away as the wizard gestured behind Vernon, "Invite me in Vernon old chap, we have something to discuss."
Vernon staggered back, pale as the fear flooded through him, until his legs caught the edge of his bed and he fell onto it.
The wizard strode in, glancing around with a look of interest."Not bad, better than mine in fact." He nodded to himself before he flicked his wand at the door and it closed quietly with a squelching noise. "Don't worry, thats just so we wont be disturbed."
He grabbed a chair and sat on it, facing Vernon who had pulled himself up the bed as far as he could go.
The wizard smiled at him, "I was going to scare you witless, maybe torture you, carve you up and heal you over and over. But seeing you like this, I just cant be bothered. You are so far beneath me that its not worth the effort." He sighed as if annoyed at himself, "Now, where is the box?"
Vernon stammered and shook his head, "I don't know what you mean?"
The wizard smiled at him and the menace had returned to that jovial grin, "Yes you do Vernon old chap, you know exactly what I mean. Dearest Harry gave you a small box and told you to bring it here, so where is it?"
Vernon stammered and tried not to say anything but his eyes flickered to his suitcase.
The wizard smiled at him, "Thank you Vernon, now stay right there." A flash of grey struck him and Vernons limbs slammed to his sides and he fell rigid on the bed.
Opening the suitcase, he dug around until he found the box the size of a pack of cards hidden in one of Vernon's shoes. "Really? Well, I'm just glad the muggle repelling charm on the box lasted long enough to get here."
He returned to his seat and gestured with his wand, turning Vernon so he could see what he was doing. He tapped the box to return it to its full size and opened it to display all the money Vernon had embezzeled. "Marvelous, this will really help the cause Vernon, thank you for your assistance."
He shut the box and shrunk it again, placing it in the breast pocket of his suit. Pulling another box out of a different pocket, he enlarged it and then muttered a spell and with a wave of his wand, a set of womens belongings flew around the room to settle in the draws and in the bathroom.
He breathed deeply and savoured the taste of the mans fear, sighing in enjoyment. "Now, let me tell you a sad and unfortunate story Vernon, one that will be very important to your future."
"Very early this morning, the police found the body of a young woman. The coroners report will say that she was strangled by a large and strong man, her throat crushed under his grip. Heavy bruising and a number of fractures will tell them that they were abused and heavily beaten before she died. The fact that her body was badly dressed will suggest to their minds that the attacker dressed the victim after she was killed. Skin samples will be found under her nails from trying to defend herself."
The grin faded to a simple smirk, "They will canvas the area and a homeless man will tell them that they saw a fat blond man messing around near there, looking worried about something. Yelled at him to 'Piss off!', spoke with weird accent. A prostitute who works between this hotel and that drain, will tell the police that she saw a fat man carrying a large bag in that direction, he scared her, so she kept away from what was happening."
He barked out a laugh at the horror growing in Vernons eyes, "Indeed, you can see where this story is going can't you. So, the police will go to the nearby hotels, they will come here, looking for a fat white foreign man with blond hair, of which they only have the one guest. They will be informed of the fact that you booked this room and shared it with a woman who will match the victims description."
"They will come up here and ask to speak with you," he continued, "There won't be a response, but they will hear a noise and break in to investigate. They will find you struggling to hang yourself but will stop you, but not before you damage your throat. During the investigation, they will find traces of blood on the mattress that matches the victims. The sheets will be found in the trash when checked, with her blood there as well."
He laughed again as Vernon continued to struggle to free himself, the horror turning to anger, "Of course, thats not whats actually happened. It took me a while, but I found a young lady who had died of a drug overdose in the edge of the city, a bit of work, and a few curses will make her fit my description. A few memory charms and the staff here will swear that she was with you in this room. It took a bit, but I've managed to get everyone who saw you to remember that they saw you together. You, a dominant and loving man, her a timid and nervous young woman."
He jabbed his wand carefully at Vernon and hit him with a pulse of pale green light. Vernon winced in his mind as he felt scratches appear on his upper body and arms, a deeper one near his eye. A flicker of a grey that was almost white and his knuckles ached as they had when he was a young man and boxed.
The wizard checked him over and nodded, carefully placing some fragments of Vernons skin into a small container and pocketing it. "I've tweaked the paperwork and spent most of yesterday at the airport setting up that end of matters. There won't be the records for the flight or departure from England, but it will be too late to do anything about that by the time they bother to look." He sat back in the chair and sighed in tired amusement, "The coroner was tricky, but I got him before he logged the autopsy report and had him rewrite it to how I wanted." He tapped his pocket which held the fragments of Vernons skin, "Ill deliver this to him before I leave Bogota."
The Wizard stood and began to tie a belt to the fan in the room, casting a few spells on it and the belt before nodding in approval, he flicked his wand and gave it a swish at the end to lift Vernon up and have him float into place. Carefully, he tied the belt into a loop around Vernons neck, with the buckle over his thorat and placed the chair under his feet.
Looking around, he nodded to himself and made eyecontact with vernon, "I want you to understand. Harry was happy to just send you away, he expected you to get yourself killed or something, but I cant risk you returning. I won't let you avoid the justice he deserves for your crimes. So, as Harry won't act, I shall on his behalf."
He carefully began to push the chair back until Vernon's toes were resting on the edge of the chair, "We've never met in person, you and I, but my name is Darth Abaddon, and today, I am the destroyer of your world."
His wand rose and he grinned as he pointed it at Vernon, "Imperio. You will remain here until the police bang on your door, then you shall kick the chair under your feet back and away from you."
He stepped back and grinned at the glazed look in Vernons eyes, "Now, if you will excuse me, I have a few errands to run. Enjoy your time in prison Vernon, I'll try and swing by later and have a word with some of your new friends. Im sure it will be an enlightening experience for you."
With that, Darth Abaddon twisted and disappeared with a crack of rushing air and Vernon cried in terror in his mind, praying that this was all a terrible nightmare, that the wizard was lying and this was a way to scare him.
Then there was a banging at the door and he knew his suffering was only beginning.
Andromeda Tonks stared at the letter on her desk, reading it again for the seventh time in a row, completely confused as to how this had happened.
"Dear?" Ted called from the doorway, "What's the matter?"
Andromeda opened her mouth to answer but couldn't find the words and simply passed the letter across for him to read.
Ted sat in his seat and took a sip of his coffee as he began to read, wondering who had sent it. The parchment was high quality and the penmanship was exquisite, a feminine hand from what he could guess.
He almost choked as he realised that this was notifying Andromeda that she was asked, and not ordered, to present herself to the new Lord Black and swear her Oaths of Service and retake her birthright. The fact that she was also being provided the dowry owed to her no matter her decision on taking the Oath or not was amazing and more than he expected from the young Malfoy.
Then he actually started choking at the part that stated that if she accepted the Oaths, her first duty would be to act as the Proxy for House Potter in the Wizengamot.
He managed to recover his breath and carried on reading to see a different handwriting proclaiming Harry Potter as the new Pater Familias of the Ancient and Noble House of Black.
Ted stared at the letter for a few moments before looking at his wife, "What the absolute fuck?"
Andromeda just blinked and looked at her husband, still lost in her shock, "Thats Narcissa's handwriting. Theres a code in the writing and word choices from when we were little, she always did love her hidden secrets. She's claiming its real and swears it on Mr Bitey's memory."
Ted just stared at his wife in confusion, "Mr Bitey?"
"Bellatrix's favourite pet," Andromeda replied, "a very, very aggressive pet rabbit that Aunt Walburga ended up killing when it bit her. Bellatrix never forgave her for it."
"So..." Ted responded as he chose to ignore his wifes strange childhood once again, "Its real and Harry Potter is offering to make you the Potter Proxy, restore you to the Black Family and all you have to do is swear an Oath of Loyalty to him and let him give you a dowry?"
Andromeda just nodded at that, "I think I need a drink."
"Yeah," Ted sighed as he put the letter down, "That sounds like a good idea."
Harry stood watching with an odd smile on his face as the crowd surged around him. Jane stood behind him, looking for any threat to Harry's safety, the scent of another werewolf putting her on edge.
The children for the most part were innocents; Harry chuckled at the wide-eyed awe the Muggleborn's showed at the sight of the great scarlet train before them. Tears fell and goodbyes were said as promises were made and support was given. The Force rippled with the cacophony of emotion around him.
Harry just let his mind drift amongst the storm of sensation, until he felt the tainted and furious presence of Draco Malfoy appear, the twisted and bloodstained presence of Lucius preceded him by a heartbeat.
A smirk broke across his face as he whispered "This should be interesting."
He moved along the carriage with Jane as his shadow until he reached his usual cabin and paused at the sight of Remus Lupin sleeping in it, he was about to open the door when Jane caught his wrist.
"Not that one," she growled. "Thats the Runt, didn't even respond to my letters earlier in the year, so fuck him."
Harry snorted at that and looked into the next cabin to find it empty, "This one then. We should have a few guests join us soon enough."
Jane smirked as she sat by the door, "Don't worry sir. I'll protect your virtue."
Harry chuckled at that, "My Virtue is the least of your problems." He smiled at Jane's bark of laughter at that, knowing a little levity would be good compared to what was likely coming this year.
The doctor looked over the notes and pictures again, the sun shining in from the window beside him. The sound of sea birds and the waves crashing on the pale sand was so to him it didn't even register, but it seemed to relax many of his patients. He made a few notes before looking up at his patient. "And you're sure this is what you want? To look like the actor, Christopher Lee?"
"Indeed." Darth Abaddon agreed with Lockhart smile number four, "You could say that I am a great admirer of his work, hence my desire to look like him."
The doctor frowned, "You do realise it will never be perfect. Your facial structure isn't similar enough for that. I would need to make extensive alterations to even come close."
Abaddon's smile shifted to a knowing smirk, "I am aware of this. Your reputation precedes you and I have only heard sterling comments about your work. I just want you to get as close as you can with it. If people look twice to confirm what they see, I will be happy."
The Doctor nodded and smiled back, "That I can do, Mr Dooku. That I can do."
In answer to a few reviews, Harry acquired his new wand (Blackthorn 11" firm with a Thestral Hair core) from among those lost and stored in the Room of Requirement by sending Dobby to find them. I completely forgot to include that in the last chapter and missed the plot hole until it was pointed out to me. Apologies for that.
I began to write a section to be attached to the start of this chapter or as part of shards just to have that included, but I lost myself in the writing and when I was done, I was unhappy with what I had written. While I don't think it was badly written, it was not a pleasant work which would have been a whole set of trigger warnings for people and I was not comfortable publishing it.
There are the innocent ways someone could lose a wand without it being broken beyond repair in Hogwarts, but then there are the stories no-one would talk about over a thousand years of history where the world is no-where near as nice as it is now.
So, I won't be publishing the section, nor will I be providing snippets to those who ask.
As for Petunia's punishment, I originally was going to give Petunia the three options and make her choose the one to be punished with. I asked my wife for advice and she suggested the punishment I've used as an alternative for her as I thought it more appropriate than my ideas which fell more into a revenge fantasy style.
She said Harry should be more honourable in her punishment, there should be a balance in what she suffers for what he suffered at her hands.
Personally, I think her punishment is more evil than my own :P
To pre-empt the questions as to why Harry didn't use magic to silence his room when talking to Dobby or to keep the Dursleys silent in their rooms:
Harry knows the Silencio spell, a charm that makes the target silent. It is noted to only work on beings and beasts, at no point that I remember was it used in canon on an object. I could be wrong though. Theoretically it could work, but it would only stop that one item from making sound.
So using it on the door, floor, roof, walls and window of his room would stop them making noise, and even possibly stop them carrying the noise further through vibrations, but they wouldn't stop the air moving around and through them from vibrating with the noise. It might be a little muffled, but you could still overhear things.
As for Muffliato, Harry learned the spell in his 6th year from the Halfblood Princes potions book. Therefore, Harry never learned of it in his first timeline. Hence why he doesn't use it at this point in time.
If spells existed like Muffliato before this point, then they would likely be used habitually by the Slytherins and Trelawny's prophesy would never have been overheard as it would make sense that you would keep interviews private, especially during a war and in a pub like the Hogs Head. There wouldn't have been a need for Snape to invent the spell in the first place.
Thank you to all my reviewers:
Jdannyboi; ; Hankton; AvidReader2425; TheScottishLegend; Seth A. Mincberg; Black Magic99; red demon161; tf330129; Bearmauls; Blackholelord; Veredis; amaromarn; starboy454; carbon1923; Ariadne Venegas; mwinter1; Mirrors Cracked And Broken; Lawbringer; AnathemaRising; Thyrann; EP; The Shadows Mistress; sanyal; AnthonyR89; Darth Bayes; orion0905; Fraewyn; Stars90; jc; Firescout; Peachx89; willam and jack and jake; Llew444; Lycan01; Moozga; Vearn; Jhsilver123; TypeVos; Terrahsims; Loll; Dolph25; Lioth; Pyrophoricity; Xechu.s; AviciiFrvr; max ghe; Stijn1boy; RowanStarfire; WolkaiserDrake; Jon 'Fatjon' Umber; EmperorVanquest; JollenStollen97; s-k-f-f-f
Thank you to all my guest reviewers as well, there were a lot of them for the previous chapter...
Aceron: Thank you for your comments, they are well received. Once complete, I intend to go back through and neaten up the story, grammar and plot wise to bring it into a much more acceptable format. I actually cringe at reading some of my earlier chapters. But when I do so, I will likely take your advice and split the story up into "books" as you note for ease of reading and following. I also plan on publishing this story on AO3 as well, so I will do the same there. I may even start on that already, when the inspiration hits me to do so, no promises on how long that will be, I know my issues with gaps between chapters as it is :)
Comodo50: Thank you and in answer to your question, time flows in each setting at the same rate, so a second or a year is the same in SW as it is in HP. In regards to the deaging, Harry's body was destroyed with the events that occurred on Dar'Yaim when he fulfilled the Prophesies holding him there. The issue of Time versus Death and Prophesy should have snapped him back to the point of departure, but a certain ally of his had already knocked him slightly off course on his return. So, his older Essence returned early and Harry technically possessed his own body at the point of dying in the Chamber. This Paradox will be relevant later :P
HorusRa: He might have forgotten to claim the Dragon, but I assure you, his account manager did not :) Although he will have been charged for the replacement Dragon that is now required, its still a gain in matters, but it will take time to resolve and by that point, its less of a problem for his finances. As for enhancing Jane Doe with Sith Alchemy, that's not something Harry would be tempted to do, the side effects and costs would be greater than the gain. Better to train her up and use her as an emblem of what a werewolf can become with the right backing. As for the Prophesy, its not an issue right now and to be fair, it wouldn't actually change anything if Voldemort found out the full wording. He already plans to kill Harry, he would just try and research this power Harry knows that he doesn't. Its more useful as a distraction than anything else.
Marc the Unruly: I don't know that book, I'm going to have to look it up.
Tony McNucklz: I've noted the wand issue in the AN's as it was something I had missed including in the last chapter. Harry has indeed learnt a lot of lessons from Palpatine, but he has no interest in being in charge, listened to and consulted? Well that's just common sense :) Harry is also already working on the werewolf rights front as noted in this chapter, but you cant rush something as decisive as that, he has to prep for pushing his ideas.
Black Doberman: I understand completely and those characters are still running around in my head with their stories. I will be expanding on events on the SW setting as things progress in the Echoes of Imperium. As noted previously in the review responses, when I transition this to AO3, this will be neater for people to read.
Kaioo: Harry is aware of this, as are most of those present, he's just messing with them and showing what he thinks of the laws by using the wording as a loophole. In a court of law, it wouldn't hold up, but this is the Boy Who Lived, he'd get away with this in the wizarding world at that time. Plus, the Minister of Magic himself hasn't done anything about the werewolf in his presence, so he obviously has no problems with the situation. Although, to be fair, it's not like anyone's told him that Jane is a Werewolf either.
Suziq968: This is an Au, where Harry didn't lose his interest in studying, he just kept quiet about it and learnt bits on his own time with Hermione's help.
Philmeyering: I'm sorry to hear that, I hope you find other stories that you enjoy more.
Thaliak: The Rakghoul originate on Taris in the first KOTOR game, their backstory has been expanded to be a Sith Alchemical Disease bound to serve the wielder of a Sith Amulet. As an AU aspect for my story, one of Dooku's ancestors killed some and got hold of an innoculation for the disease as you can acquire in the Old Republic MMORPG.
Seros109: Harry could use a crystal in a lightsaber instead of a khyber crystal, it's a matter of size and purity of material. Those types of gems are not cheap. Plus, he is aware that a lightsaber doesn't block spells, so he will be looking at alternatives. The difference between them is that Sidious knew he's a bad guy and wants to rule directly, while Dumbledore displays a fear of ruling directly, but through proxies is fine and thinks he's the good guy.
Venus4279: Thank you for your kind words. Hubris is a very good word to choose. Harry's fight with the Dragon was his arrogance and overconfidence biting him in the arse. He's fought a Dragon before, forgetting that he didn't actually fight it, he outflew it and only just. He got away with it and now he's more powerful. He's a being of action, so plotting behind the scenes isnt his focus, but he didn't think it would be that hard, and one slip could have cost him everything. He's realised now that he is too weak physically to cash the cheques, he thinks he can write, so he's going to get stronger and then see if he can back up his viewpoint more.
IncandescentOne: I play on going over the earlier chapters to neaten things up when Im finished with this story (Whenever that actually happens...) But I plan on fixing a number of plot holes like that, perhaps in side stories or expanded chapters.
Old-crow: First of all, I'm a big fan of your work :) It was originally meant to be a short diversion into the Star Wars setting and then back to the Potter setting. Unfortunately, my muse ran off with the characters and kept telling me to sod off and let it work... I hope it doesn't hit a million words, but part of me would love to see it hit such a landmark. I'll just have to see where it goes in the end. I'll have to put together a list of the characters at some point to make it easier for my readers as there is a very large cast involved in the Star Wars section.
Lutherknight: The Star Wars story is still being written, so there will be more to events on that side of the timeline. There were a few points to bring Harry back, the same point he left, his 2nd year and the third year. The flaws with the point he left was that he would be someone different wearing Harry's skin as far as his friends would see, lots of drama and angst I didn't want to write about. The third year when he was almost kissed was a good point, but Ive read a few stories like that and wanted to do something different, but it was a close call not to choose that point. Therefore, I chose the 2nd year where it was a point that I could see Harry on the brink of death, I'm not aware of having read anything with that moment used like that, so that's why I chose it. Spoiler wise, Harry will return to the Star Wars setting, but he has his part to play in the Potter setting first. As for midichlorians, I view that they gather around strong presences in the Force, they are not the source or connection to the Force. Accidental magic and wandless magic are very similar to Force abilities, but in the Star Wars period, the wild aspects of the Force have calmed and slumbered, Harry began to wake them back up. In the expanded lore of Star Wars, some of the Force powers out there are pretty easy to call magic, the Nightsisters abilities, Sith alchemy, some of the obscure Force Wielders abilities...
Pottersparky: Jane was actually built randomly using a bunch of different rpg character generation tables. Starting with gender all the way to her clothing tastes. Her name was random, but when I got Jane Smith, I decided to tweak that to Doe as a bit of a joke and it suited her background. I hope you liked the fragments of Jane's backstory in this chapter.
davidiscoolya113 (Guest): The issue with the trust vault concept is that it isn't called a trust vault to my knowledge, its just his vault. Theres a lot in there, but there is no mention of any other vault in the canon that I am aware of. The other vaults are a fanon thing which is very popular. I could be wrong, but this is how Im going with my story.
ItMeYaGril: Thank you, I love the fact that I have inspired people to use my work for their own. I'd like to hear which characters you've used and how that went. Personally, I prefer the fantasy flight Star Wars rpg system, as DnD can be problematic once you pass 10th level when it comes to things like bases full of stormtroopers. Although part of me is tempted to write the characters up for that system now... Damn you :P As for GRRM time scales to finish it, he's got a 19 year headstart on me, so I think Im good for now with catching up with him.
Combination of some of the Guest reviews:
The Dolores Delores issue is likely either a common spellcheck issue or just people writing the name and missing it during checks, it's easy to do when you read the same text over so many times.
The goblins in canon are barely fleshed out and have a number of unfortunate stereotypical connotations that I'm unhappy with, so I decided to do my own take on them for this story. I have a different take that I have for another story, but this is how I'm taking it here.
The Sword of Gryffindor is safely stored in Hogwarts, waiting for Harry to return or for it to get bored and wander off as it does in the film. Its most likely where he left it as it's where it needs to be for the moment. After all, it stayed in the Headmasters Office for a while but then returned to the Sorting Hat under its own power to be drawn in battle. Personally, I wonder if Godric Gryffindor had a bad habit of losing his sword and he enchanted it to always return to his hat, where he stored it, because that makes perfect wizarding sense...
What I want to know is what else is stored in there... I was going to explore that a bit in my Saint granger story, but it didn't get any further than a partial one-shot. I might come back to that one day.
The thing Harry forgot was that Ron still had Scabbers at this point, don't worry, that's already occurred to Harry. As for what Ginny got up to, well, let's say she was more aware of Toms shenanigans than she admitted to.
As for the Acromantula nest in the Forbidden Forest, well Harry isn't going to let such a training opportunity go to waste.
Padme's fate will be expanded on in the Echoes of Imperium side story when I get those sections done.
As for containing the Rakghoul plague, you are indeed correct that this is not an issue that will disappear overnight. Any ship found drifting, any spacestation that's gone quiet, any world where communication has been lost, any of those could be infected by the Plague. Pirates, smugglers, scavengers and explorers are going to have a really hard time of it now, with the new risks to their lives. Plus, the Plague doesn't die off that easily, it can lay dormant and wait for a very long time.