I'm alive; the rumours of my death were rather exaggerated. Some of the plot points written before my recent illness seem a bit... bland to me now, and several chapters already written down that plot line felt unsatisfactory. I felt I had to rewrite part of the plot for second year; sorry for the delay everyone. Hopefully, I can add a little bit more mystery where the canon storyline is butchered by Iris' foreknowledge.
Disclaimer: Was Harry ever taught any household magic during his years in Hogwarts despite it apparently being highly useful in any magical household? If not, I do not own Harry Potter; it belongs to JK Rowling and this story is entirely free and for fun.
"Two extra large chocolate chip ice creams with treacle tart flavour for the young lord and lady, one extra large vanilla and raspberry for their chaperone." The long-bearded, brown-haired, middle-aged wizard said with a smirk, handing over the gloriously huge desserts. Kept perfectly solid but not too cold via mild freezing charms, and with an engorgement charm that faded as soon as you swallowed ensuring one could enjoy a truly enormous dessert without fear of excess calories, Florian Fortescue's creations more than lived up to their name.
Harry was surprised and overjoyed at the treats and the brief escape from his indoors confinement, and rather overawed at the kind and quantity of sweets available to wizardkind. Having gone through said period of awe in a previous lifetime herself, Iris understood how Harry felt. Besides, her increased sensitivity to magic and knowledge of spells allowed her to appreciate the benefits of household magic in everyday life, even if her skill in it was rather abysmal.
"This... is absolutely perfect!" Harry shouted and took another bite out of the chocolate mound. "Dudley would kill for the taste, let alone the size. How could it possibly be so good?"
"Magic, pup." The middle-aged man with the light brown hair and green eyes said fondly. Iris snorted and rolled her eyes at Sirius' quip and decided to elaborate. Harry needed to know how magic applied to everyday life if he was to avoid struggling with it later like Iris had. Hogwarts' curriculum was even worse about it than it was about Muggle Studies.
"Padfoot is essentially correct, if brief. One can store perfectly fresh materials indefinitely by simply changing them to something inert. Preparing, mixing, and cleaning them can be done automatically with animation charms. Cooking at the exact right temperatures and times is easy if you can produce and control fire and heat." She smiled at her counterpart's dubious expression. "Witches and wizards can learn spells in days or weeks that can do more than a machine that costs months' worth of savings to a muggle. Besides, Mr. Fortescue doesn't only have more cooking options than any muggle chef could dream of; he probably invented a few potions to improve his products beyond what muggle science can do. The most obvious example of such improvements would be Every-Flavour Beans and the taste-altering charms they have."
"On the other hand, many witches and wizards don't bother with household magic." Sirius said oh-so innocently. "Why, some mix a few leftovers from last night's dinner, transfigure them in whatever food they'd like to taste, and call it a day. They sometimes forget to check if the leftovers are spoiled, which bites them in the backside when the transfigured food reverts to its original composition after they eat it." He raised his eyebrows suggestively, the arse, and it didn't take Harry very long to start laughing at Iris' expense.
"How hilarious." Iris mock-growled but then her expression cleared. "Speaking of food transfigurations Padfoot, remember the Midas Curse?"
"The one where the victim dies of starvation 'cause everything they try to eat or drink transforms to fake gold?" Her former Godfather idly scratched his magically altered mane of brown tresses. "What brought this up?"
"An old friend and I developed a nonlethal version years ago; it turned all food to slugs, similar to the Slug-Vomiting Curse." She smirked as the three of them made for Flourish and Blotts to buy hers and Harry's new textbooks for their second year. "Never had a chance to test it though. Would you like to be volunteered?"
"Come on, you two, break it up!" Harry said, laughing out loud. "Let's go find Ron and Hermione; they promised they'd meet us in the bookstore." With that, the young Gryffindor ran ahead. The two Blacks let him go; he deserved a bit of happiness. Besides, he was both disguised and Iris was holding a Blood Magic tracker and a heavy Shield Charm on him.
"Excitable tyke." Sirius commented, his tone wistful. "Reminds me of James at his age. If only..."
"Oh, not this again!" Iris complained before her cousin could even give voice to his worsening mood. "We've been over this a thousand times, Siri. None of it was your fault... or mine. It's all on Riddle and those that foolishly followed him. And we, the entire House of Black, will make sure history does not repeat itself."
"Maybe. It still hurts though." The physically older man laughed mirthlessly, sounding almost like a dog's mournful bark. "I don't understand how you can be so calm about it."
"Because being anything else is pointless." Iris lied. The memories still hurt - more than Sirius could possibly imagine. She had far more things to be regretful about than he ever did, Sirius' own death among them. Drawing more heavily on her Occlumency, she quashed the feeling brutally. She could feel whatever she wanted about any given topic, and regret was useful to no-one. "Come, Siri, enjoy the day. You can even amuse your captive audience with stories of Padfoot's silver tongue convincing old man Arcturus to give us a day away from his watchdogs."
"Huh." Sirius paused, his unnaturally green eyes fixed on the gathering crowd of witches and wizards without really seeing them. "I thought that was your doing, actually. Especially when aunt Cassiopeia suggested we vacate the premises, mumbling about her young people tolerance being exceeded."
"I didn't talk to them and they didn't talk to me." Iris denied as they started pushing through the line with mild aversion spells cast non-verbally. "In fact, they've been surprisingly tight-lipped since the incident."
"Ah yes, the famous incident." Sirius chuckled. "Rumour has it that Andi annoyed you and you nearly blew up St. Mungo's; Bella was thoroughly amused when she told me. What happened, exactly?"
"I am not sure." Iris replied slowly. The question had plagued her the past few days, but no answer was forthcoming. Her older relatives were avoiding the subject for some reason, and actual information was nowhere to be found. Perhaps Sirius had an idea? "I don't quite remember, you know." She admitted, hoping her ex-godfather had some idea.
"What do you mean you can't remember?" Apparently not.
"Exactly that, Siri." Iris sighed. "I don't have any memories of the event, not even with Occlumency. Everything before waking up in Grimmauld Place three days later is a blank and nobody wants to explain. They're behaving oddly, too."
"You're right. Old man Arcturus would never have approved this little get-together with Harry, especially since I'm supposed to be dead." He twisted his long hair around a finger, an expression of intense concentration making even his disguised face hard and distant. "We Blacks are weird, cousin. You should know that, being one yourself. Maybe you were memory-charmed? Wouldn't be the first time Mind Magic played a part in the family's plans."
"Memory-charming an Occlumens doesn't work, not unless you're willing to cause lasting mental damage." She considered the possibilities but didn't get anywhere; not enough information. "I should know; I've used the spells on Snape."
"Really?" A childish smirk appeared on her ex-godfather's face, half-banishing his worries. "I'd like to know that story sometime. For now... do you want me to dig into it? Bella might know something we don't."
"I don't know... this whole situation is fishy. It is as if the rest of the family is trying to keep us out of the family business." Which was decidedly odd. Not only did the Blacks have no problems with using family members to promote the interests of the House, but many of the family's current plans were put into motion by Iris' actions to begin with!
"Well, if you do decide let ol' Padfoot know." Sirius said and winked at her. "Now let's go save my godson from Lockhart's fans."
"Lockhart's fans?!" Iris stared at the huge crowd of people around Flourish and Blotts that had practically swallowed her temporal alternate. Merlin, she'd all but forgotten about Lockhart's book-signing or his getting the Defense position in Hogwarts! And there was a certain Diary to deal with, too...
"Don't pout dear. It's hardly becoming of someone of your station." Narcissa Malfoy told her husband. Her healing spells had taken care of most of his scrapes and bruises from his latest idiotic escapade... except for this rather persistent black eye. She considered for the umpteenth time whether to deliver an impressive tongue-lashing but once again decided against it. Lucius must have had his reasons for engaging in Muggle Dueling with Arthur Weasley of all people, even if she could not see them. On the other hand, he'd better explain or he'd wake up after a sudden and inexplicable unconsciousness to at least four black eyes; human Tansfiguration was so very good in expressing one's... displeasure.
"Arthur Weasley and his misbegotten horde of redhead brats!" Lucius growled when the healing ointment his wife was spreading over this most recent indignity stung a bit more than expected. "But he'll get his just desserts soon enough; I've made sure of it."
"Are you sure you should be engaging Weasley now, Lucius?" Narcissa asked with some worry. "The Blacks are proving to be a greater danger."
"They are, are they?" He chuckled and patted her cheek fondly; she'd always been a worry wart. "Don't be alarmed by our recent setbacks; the Blacks have actually overreached themselves in their attempts to corner the market. My contacts in Gringotts assured me Arcturus doesn't have the capital to solidify his position before every other faction unites against him to defend the former status quo and their profits."
"This goes beyond merely economic warfare, husband." Narcissa commented shrewdly. The two of them were alone in the vast and impressive Malfoy manor; they could afford to talk openly for once. "You're entirely too smug every time the Blacks or the Weasleys are brought up, especially when you bring them up yourself."
"Indeed? Perhaps you just know me too well, dear." His smile widened, becoming decidedly nasty. "Let's just say the Weasleys will soon realize what Dark Magic is capable of... and the Blacks will take the blame for it."
"You never were the best of actors, husband." She cautioned him as she often did about his wilder schemes. "Even a student could tell something was off about your performance in Flourish and Blotts this morning if they looked hard enough. If someone puts two and two together..."
"They'll blame the Blacks, of course. The... instrument did bear the Blacks' particular brand of magic in its aura and everybody knows how law-abiding we Malfoys are. Why, we give so many Galleons to charities every year." He chuckled and kissed his wife on the cheek, easing her worries with words and deeds. "Who would suspect us upstanding citizens when a more convenient target is available?"
"Dumbledore's block do see the Blacks' rising power at least as alarming as we do, but I don't trust this turn of events." Narcissa applied the bruise-removing paste for the fourth time and tried some healing magic too. "One miscalculation and the Blacks and Dumbledore's minions might unite against us."
"It will never happen; those muggle-loving fools hate all things Dark and the Blacks are as Dark as they come." Lucius snorted. "Arthur Weasley would never lower himself to using dark magic, no matter how desperate he might be. Dumbledore's little Order will oppose the Blacks at the first sign they're trying to regain their power by all means - which just shows how stupid they are. By the time they have evidence, the Blacks will be well on their way to overwhelming them... which will be when we'll strike."
"Funny you should mention that, love." Narcissa said drily, finally lowering her wand and Potions kit. "The black eye Weasley gave you? It's been subtly cursed to resist all forms of healing. The curse is powerful, too; just beyond my ability to lift. Are you sure you don't want to reconsider your plans?"
"Severus?" Albus Dumbledore asked rhetorically as soon as Snape Flooed into his office. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be keeping an eye on young Harry?"
"The brat is safe enough for the time being, both behind defensive enchantments and a magical disguise." Snape said, ignoring the Headmaster's disapproving expression for once. "And this could not wait."
"Really?" The ancient sorcerer wondered. "Intriguing, if true. What could bring you here during the summer, Severus, cutting short your precious research time?"
"More research." The Potions Master said drily, his uneven teeth forming a not-so-charming smile. "Whatever happened to the Dark Lord's wand in Halloween of '81?"
"What brought this up?" Almost immediately, the Headmaster's genial and honestly curious expression turned cold and distant and unreadable. "Especially after all these years, Severus."
"Its not being mentioned for those same years." Severus Snape said with his usual sneer, one he hardly ever used in his private conversations with the Headmaster. If not for an anonymous Christmas gift of a rare treatise on dark magic and immortality, he'd never have realized the discrepancy, which was odd in itself. Add a brief conversation with Ollivander after a couple of Firewhiskey shots and odd went straight through interesting and all the way to suspicious. "How come the Dark Lord's... remains were identified if his body was gone but for an empty cloak and robes, and his wand was never found? The Ministry has no record of it - I checked."
"Magical residue on the scene and his presence being registered by both the house's magic and the Trace on Harry picking up Killing Curses of a power only very few wizards would have been capable of and only one of which would have reason to cast. The Trace working at all was what informed the Ministry the Fidelius had collapsed, as well as what notified them Harry survived the Killing Curse. Cast from a distance of a mere five feet as the Trace picked up, it couldn't have missed."
"I see." Dumbledore was far too accommodating of his questioning, Severus was sure of it. There was something odd going on... maybe... ah, this could be it. "Did the Trace pick up any more magic before Hagrid's arrival then? Because Hagrid did not find the Dark Lord's wand either, and the dog did not enter the house that night."
"No, it did not." Dumbledore said with a frown. "Why this sudden interest in Tom's wand? Why now?"
"It's a personal project." Snape responded with another sneer. "If it was not removed from the scene magically, and none of those we know were present physically removed it, what happened? Did it, too, melt away like the Dark Lord's body?"
"I do not believe so." The Headmaster's expression shifted from cold indifference to mild worry. "What are you insinuating, Severus?"
"A third party removed it, Dumbledore. Nothing else fits." The older wizard had already guessed as much, of course. Sometimes Dumbledore's apparent infallibility and ability to make accurate guesses on very little evidence grated on Severus Snape's nerves. The other man's single failure ever he could not use against him, for it was far more his own than anybody else's. "And if they knew to be at the cottage almost immediately without the Ministry registering magical travel..."
"That is a very interesting theory, Severus." The ancient wizard was once again the epitome of tranquillity. "You've yet to explain why the wand is so important to my satisfaction, though."
"Right." Snape said curtly, both annoyed and exasperated at all the secrecy and twisted words for the first time. "I had a talk with Ollivander."
"Yes, Dumbledore, ah." It wasn't Snape's own reason for wanting to uncover that wand's whereabouts. It couldn't be. But it could be a reason the Headmaster would believe. It wasn't as if the older man had not used this technique on Snape (and everybody else) before. "Brother wands. You cannot claim that isn't important!"
"I must admit the issue of the wand always troubled me, though no answer was ever forthcoming." Albus Dumbledore finally confirmed. "It was, perhaps, the first sign that Lord Voldemort did not truly die that night... for had he perished, his wand would have been of little practical use to anyone who had not defeated him and claimed its allegiance. My best guess is that Voldemort himself or one of his closest followers ensured it would not fall into the hands of the Ministry. It is one of the many questions I would have liked to ask of mister Black, but Bartemius Crouch thought otherwise. Alas, with him and Bellatrix long dead there are no answers to be found."
Snape doubted that. Someone knew; they had sent him the book with that obscure lore about shades and Priori Incantantem, knowing it would draw his attention. He was beginning to suspect they'd even directed his entire search effort to have him ask these questions in the end. The real questions were who, and why, and Severus Snape would not rest before he found the answers.