Disclaimer - I do not own Harry Potter
A Different Professor
Chapter 35 – Choices
It was a tired and happy Hogwarts that gathered on April second to watch the second round in the Dueling Competition. Students from every house were laughing and regaling about the previous night and the truly epic prank pulled by the Weasley twins. Muggleborn students who had known about the 'wonderful' Macarena before the prank were teaching the dance to their friends and hoping to find a recording so they could dance once again to the Latin beats.
The visiting students were also in good spirits. Most realized quickly that the prank was not meant to humiliate but for the enjoyment of all; how could it possibly be malicious when the pranksters allowed the prank to affect themselves? Some, like Fleur, were still embarrassed and a handful, Karkaroff, were angry but all in all the prank was a roaring success.
"I quite liked your birthday present, Fred and George Weasley," Luna said with a bright smile when she joined the group in the stands to watch the duels. "That much joy and unity is a great way to ward of Wrackspurts. The castle is much less fuzzy minded this morning."
"We are glad you enjoyed yourself, little Luna," George said with a grin while his brother stared open mouthed trying to figure out what Wrackspurts were. "You should thank the brainy Miss Granger as well, she is the one who told us about the song and dance."
Luna bounced on her toes before lunging for Hermione and hugging her tightly, "Thank you, Hermione Granger. I had so much fun and you just keep making my life better!"
Hermione smiled a bit bewildered and patted the enthusiastic girl's back. "You're welcome, Luna. I was hoping to make more than those two smile with my suggestion." She studied the girl and was happy to see most of the wariness that used to be the norm gone from her big silver eyes. "Why don't you join us to watch this round of duels? We can talk about anything you like, perhaps even the effects of unity on magical fields."
Luna sat down next to Hermione with a squeal, "I knew you would understand! Unity is a very important concept in Arithmancy and can cause any number of changes to the world in general…"
Harry, who was sitting on Hermione's other side, smiled fondly as his girlfriend and the happy Ravenclaw fell into an in-depth discussion of principals of unity when applied to various subjects of magical theory. It should have been surprising how quickly he lost all notion of what they were speaking of but he was used to Hermione out thinking him, it really wasn't odd that a young Ravenclaw could out theory him too. Luna really was a smart girl, it was too bad her class-mates judged her before getting to know her.
"Hey, Harry, Neville," Draco said while plopping down into the seat directly in front of Harry. "Where might Fay be this morning?" he asked with a wicked smile.
Neville rolled his eyes, he liked the Draco that didn't follow his father's teachings but sometimes his 'sibling rivalry' with Fay was ridiculous. "You know exactly where she is."
"Ah, yes, I see," he glanced toward the Durmstrang dueling team to see Fay standing very close to the youngest member of the team. "Our little Fay is so cute with her new crush. Should I go warn him what will happen if he breaks her heart?"
"Oh, shut up, Draco," Theo rolled his eyes. Theo had been spending a lot more time with Draco and his Gryffindors, as the rest of their house had started calling the group. Certain members of their house were getting much more hostile the more vocal Theo was about his disgust with his father. Pansy, Vince and some of the older students had been giving him very threatening looks, and in some cases just outright threatening him. Spending time with the Gryffindors made his life both livable and enjoyable; he should have sought out non Slytherin friends years ago. "You didn't threaten me when I asked her out so why would you threaten someone who could flatten you in a duel?"
"He couldn't beat me in a duel, Theo."
"Actually," Harry said butting in, "I am fairly certain he would wipe the floor with you. He is supposed to be the second strongest dueler on the Durmstrang team, according to Viktor. In fact, Viktor and Alek said Ilya could probably beat Grace half the time, and she is the best duelist we have."
"Yeah, Draco," Fred leaned over the blond Slytherin's shoulder, "about the only person in the school who would be a challenge to tuff little Ilya is Harry."
"Are you sure you can call him little, Fred?"
"Well, if he is going to be with little Fay doesn't he have to be little Ilya, Georgy?"
"Do you plan on using that as a pet name for him, Freddy boy?"
Fred tilted his head in thought, "I see your point, he would really not appreciate the cute name and would probably hex me. BUT I retain that Harry could beat all the Durmstrang duelists with his eyes closed and one hand tied behind his back."
"Um, no I couldn't. I doubt I could beat any of them if they had their eyes closed and one handed. I'm a fourth year!"
"Sure, you could, Harry," Fred insisted, "you face off against Professor Snape all the time, no one is scarier than he is."
"Dragons," Neville said simply.
"Basilisks," George added a bit guilty that he was challenging his twin.
"Self-named Dark Lords," Draco grimaced.
"Moony during a full moon," Harry added in reference to the night of Grayback's attack, not that anyone but Hermione and Fay would know exactly what he meant.
"My mother," Draco swallowed.
"Okay, good points everyone, especially Narcissa, but I still think Harry could take him."
"I would be willing to test that if you would like," Ilya smirked having just walked up to the group while holding Fay's hand. One thing everyone always forgot was how quietly werewolves could walk, even if they were in human form, not to mention their exceptional hearing. "I would be honored to duel Harry Potter; Viktor says you have much power and great potential."
"At least we can all agree that you would wipe the floor with Fred," Fay grinned at the twin's pout. She turned to Ilya and kissed his cheek, "Show these idiots what you've got." He kissed the hand he still held in his own before bowing slightly to the group and returning to his team.
"Do I need to remind you that you are a student of Hogwarts, Little Fay?"
"No, you do not, Little Dragon. Need I remind you that you continually cheer for Viktor's team when he is facing anyone but yourself and Harry? Or that you cheered for Bulgaria at the World Cup despite being from the British Isles?"
"You are too young to date."
"You didn't think so when I dated Theo for about three months."
"He is too old for you."
"He is five months older than me, his birthday is in August, making him a fifth year and mine is in January, making me a fourth year. If you have a problem with our age difference then you need to have a problem with Harry and Hermione's relationship; I don't think you are brave enough for that."
"At the very least, he isn't stupid enough for that, Hermione would kill him and then his mother would lock his remains in his room for the entire summer" Theo whispered to Harry, who was chuckling like most of their group.
Draco looked away for a second trying to find the right argument to scare his sparring partner, "What would Moony and Accalia think of your association with a foreigner such as he?"
Fay scowled at him, "I have already had discussions to that affect with Accalia and she encouraged me to pursue any feelings I had as long as they were genuine. And if Accalia suggested that, you know Moony would agree." Fay leaned down and stepped closer so that she could speak quietly, "I would be very unhappy with you, Dragon, for being so lose lipped about the affairs of Moony, Accalia and Faolan if I did not know for a fact that Theo had already discovered that secret. They do not want to be outed before they are ready and the government just isn't there yet. If certain elements were to discover that secret, part of this family would be forced to flee to other countries to continue the lives they wish to live. There is only one school that openly allows people like Faolan to attend school and it just so happens to be Durmstrang and that is only under the conditions that the current student does well and there are no incidents."
Draco's already pale complexion had gone nearly transparent during her whispered dressing down. "I am so sorry, Fay. I completely forgot that Theo isn't part of the original group. I am so used to him in the dorm that it felt like he had been here the whole time. I like not being the only snake in a den of lions."
"I understand that, Draco," she hugged him. "I just ask that you be more aware of your surroundings, particularly when you are tired like today; it makes your brain slow and your tongue loose. Though I do find it a bit disturbing that you haven't mentioned the fact that you felt guilty for saying such things in front of Luna."
Draco once more turned white. He swiveled in his seat, coming face to face with the odd Ravenclaw.
"Fear not, Draco of Black," Luna said with a distant smile. "I have seen the inner self of Fay and our defense professor since the beginning of my second year. Their secrets are not mine to share and I do not fear that which is bonded within them." With that, Luna dove back into her discussion with Hermione.
"Sometimes, she scares me," Draco said with a shocked expression on his face. Fay could only nod.
Before anyone could comment further, a group of first-year students ran up to Fred and George and started dancing the Macarena while humming the beat. As one they all shouted, "Hey Macarena, Oi," and ran off giggling.
"Did you see that Durmstrang boy?" Marietta Edgecombe said with a dreamy sigh to her best friend as they walked toward the front doors of the hall.
Hogwarts had put up a good fight but had not been able to beat the Durmstrang duelers. Unfortunately, they had only won the second and last duels, Grace refused to be beaten by the pompous Durmstrang captain. Sixth year, Terrance Cumberbatch, had been embarrassed to lose to a girl from Beauxbatons so had managed to prove his skills by beating his large and skilled seventh year opponent.
Ilya had won his duel easily but had let it go longer than needed to show both his school and the students of Hogwarts, particularly a certain Gryffindor, that he deserved to be there. For a fifth year he had quite the repertoire of spells combined with speed and accuracy that wasn't often seen in so young a duelist. The speed was understandable, if you knew what he was; the other two, however, proved that he had worked hard to get to his level of skill.
"He is in our year and yet he is that good a dueling. He is dreamy. I wonder what it would take to get his attention and get him to snog me."
Fay growled deep in her throat hearing Edgecombe speak of Ilya that way, surprising herself. She had never done something that animalistic so far from the full moon, a day on either side sure but not around the new moon.
Chang and Edgecombe looked at the Gryffindors, wondering who had made that strange noise before shrugging and starting to walk toward the exit again. "Mari, I think Ilya is dating the Dunbar girl, or at least considering it. He was her date to the dance last night and they were holding hands before the event. I think I even saw him kiss her hand!"
"Why would that matter? They haven't announced anything and I am far prettier than she is, I mean she really hasn't developed at all, guys like a girl with something on top. Plus, he is my age and won't need to dumb anything down when he talks to me."
"I am not even going to touch the first part of that, just know that you have irritated me because I think she and I probably wear the same size bra." Cho gave her friend a look, "She is only a year behind us and is friends with some of the smartest students in her year, I don't think she is stupid and it is highly insulting to think that someone a year above would have to 'dumb down' to talk to a younger student; do you think Cedric dumbs everything he says down to talk to me?"
"We are Ravenclaws, we dumb down to talk to non-Ravenclaws."
Cho Chang stopped in her tracks, really regretting spending the morning with her friend instead of her boyfriend. "I don't think I can be around you right now. Everything you just said was highly insulting not just to Fay Dunbar, but also to nearly everyone else in the room including the foreign boy you were just professing to like. Grow up, Mari! Cedric talked to me earlier this year about my attitude and I am now immensely embarrassed for myself. We are OWL students and we need to act like it." Cho stormed passed her friend and left the Great Hall without waiting for a reply.
"Cho, get back here," Marietta ran after her completely forgetting everything else.
"Are you alright, Fay?" Hermione asked concerned.
"She is just surprised by the lengths her inner self will go to show her displeasure," Luna said dreamily. "Marietta was laying claim to one who may very well belong to Fay."
Fay blushed, "He isn't mine. I mean, I like him. I like him a lot and he understands me and my issues better than everybody but Moony and Accalia. And he makes me feel safe, which is weird because I barely know him. But he still isn't mine, you can't claim someone just because you want to. And things like this don't happen that fast. Even if one day he was mine, I couldn't possibly know that now, that would be insane."
"Excuse me, Harry Potter and friends," Ilya stood just behind Fay as she rambled on, "I am going to borrow her for a moment, I will return her in a hopefully calmer state." He grabbed her hand and tugged on it lightly, "Come lyubov moya, we should talk."
Come and Go Room
"I very much like your castle, Harry," Fleur said while examining the room he had led them to. "That is one thing that is truly missing at Beauxbatons, the building itself is not inherently magic."
Harry smiled with a shrug, "I do like the hidden rooms and secret passageways, though the moving staircases can be annoying from time to time."
"Like the time it shifted and put us on the third floor in first year when that area of the castle was out of bounds," Hermione added with a shake of her head.
"You ended up on the forbidden corridor?" Cedric said with some surprise. "I can see that from the Weasley twins, but from what I have come to understand neither of you go looking for trouble." He paused for a second, "though, trouble does seem to follow you around. What was in there anyway?"
"A giant Cerberus standing over a trap door that led to some minor obstacles that guarded the philosopher's stone."
The trio of seventeen-year-old students blinked at the younger duo. Hermione had said that with such a deadpanned look that it was impossible to refute its accuracy. "The philosopher's stone was hidden in the school?" Cedric wondered.
"Cerberus are dangerous creatures," Viktor added, "What was one doing in a school?"
"Why would someone hide the philosopher's stone in a school, guarding it with minor obstacles and a Cerberus?" Fleur wondered logically. "How do you know they were minor obstacles?"
"I have yet to get a good answer for that," Harry said with a shake of his head. "Apparently it was a trap for our defense professor, who just so happened to be possessed by Voldemort."
"The truly odd part is that three first year students were able to get past each of the obstacles under that trap door, very telling don't you think. The only one that would have caused us any trouble would have been the troll, but it was unconscious when we arrived."
Cedric let out a short, incredulous laugh, "You three had already face a troll and won."
Viktor and Fleur shared a look, "I think we are missing quite a bit of information, Viktor."
"I would agree, Fleur. Why would you have to face a troll?"
Cedric put a hand up so he could answer, "Let me guess, our possessed defense professor let it in?"
"That he did, and as luck would have it, the troll was not in the dungeons like that 'fainting' professor claimed, it ended up in the girls' restroom Hermione just so happened to be in at the time."
"You continue to surprise, Harry. You know more than one your age should, and you are more capable than many that are years older. On that thought," she had a curious look on her face, "I would like to know when you learned the Patronus charm." Fleur was still coming to terms with what exactly Harry Potter was. There were just so many peculiarities when it came to him. "Aimee said you preformed it to prove your magic had not been removed when you made the vow about not entering the tournament and then we all saw it again during the third task, which means you learned it before this year."
"Fenrir Grayback was on a war path last year and left clues that his target was in the area, so someone smart at the ministry thought it would be a good idea to increase security around the castle grounds by using Dementors."
Fleur blinked, there was a lot in that statement too. "But research suggests that werewolves are not affected by Dementors during the full moon. It was widely known that Fenrir Grayback was only dangerous during the full moon because that was the only time he ever attacked."
"You are correct, Fleur," Harry said, "they are not. Hermione and I were stunned and taken to the werewolves on the last full moon of the school year. Grayback and his loyal followers were not affected when the Dementors showed up but we certainly were."
"Some of our professors decided to teach the students most affected by the Dementors how to defend themselves," Hermione added. "The professors were waiting at the train station when everyone returned to the school after the Yule Holiday and watched every student's reaction."
"I have some bad memories and according to the professors, had one of the worst reactions to the dementors that night." Harry shrugged and continued, "so they offered to teach me; and what I do, my closest friends insist on doing."
"Tell them about your second year," Cedric said with a grin. He was enjoying the fact that his fellow champions were finally seeing that Harry was actually rather prepared for the tournament despite his age. His performance was actually less surprising when you knew what he had faced in the past.
"Oh, the Chamber of secrets. That actually wasn't that impressive on my part." Harry shrugged. "A student was being controlled by outside forces and opened Slytherin's fabled chamber. In the chamber there was a centuries old Basilisk that was sort of attacking others. No one died because they didn't look at its eyes directly, there was always something lessening the effect of the killing gaze so they were only petrified. Anyway, in the course of the year I discovered I was a Parselmouth, the school thought I was evil because I could talk to snakes, Hermione was petrified and helped me deduce where the chamber was. I went to Professors McGonagall and Snape with the information instead of Lockhart, who was the defense professor, like Ron suggested and Professor Snape killed the Basilisk."
"But you saw the giant snake, right?" Cedric grinned, "that's how you knew what one looked like to create the illusion of one in the first task."
"Well, yeah, but it's not like I killed it with a sword or anything. I hid by a pillar with the twins while the professors dealt with the danger."
"I feel even more foolish for my 'little boy' comment now."
"I have been wondering if we should just hand Harry the trophy."
"You are a worthy opponent in the air and on the ground." Viktor looked around the room, "Now I believe we were going to discuss the so-called clue left by the organizers for the next task."
Harry nodded and pulled the small chest from his bag. He once again opened the chest to reveal the feather and twig that lay inside. "Does anyone have any ideas? Because honestly the first thing I thought of was cleaning the owlery."
"What kind of feather is it?" Cedric wondered. "Does it belong to a magical creature or is it just a normal bird feather?"
Harry handed the feather to the older Hogwarts student, "It looks like a normal owl feather to me. It could have come from any number of school owls as far as I can tell. It doesn't feel inherently magical and I couldn't detect any magic when I scanned it."
The Hufflepuff pulled out his wand and cast a few of his own spells on the feather, each one telling him exactly what Harry had just explained. "Well, that gets rid of the idea that we might have to craft a wand or something."
"I suppose you could find no magic on the twig either?"
Harry nodded while handing the twig to Viktor. "It looks a bit like a twig off a school broom but could have come from anywhere, and as you guessed, I couldn't find any magic on it but I would appreciate if someone checked my work."
While Viktor scanned the twig, Fleur knelt down next to the younger champion and examined the chest. "I wonder if there is something hidden within the chest itself."
Harry tilted his head in thought, "Like a false bottom, why didn't I think of that?" he wondered to himself. "I used to hide things in the floor boards at my aunt's house so that I had food or my homework over the summer." Harry started examining the chest without realizing that his fellow champions had frozen in shock. This was not something they expected from the young man. They did not comment, however, because of the quick headshake from the young man's girlfriend. "I don't see any physical indication of a false bottom or hidden side compartment but that doesn't mean there isn't one hidden magically. Wizards tend to be lazy so they probably wouldn't think to make a physical hidden chamber anyway." He pulled out his wand and tapped it against his lip in thought. "I wonder if a Revelio would be enough or if it would require something more complicated."
Shrugging, he cast the revealing spell at the chest, letting out a whoop when the bottom, lid and two sides flashed indicating hidden compartments. "Nice, suggestion Fleur," Harry grinned. "I need something more than a Revelio to open the hidden chambers but they are there." Harry tapped the lid portion with his wand as a test, "I wonder what it is going to be. Do you think that it is some sort of unlocking charm or runes or something connected to the task it was acquired from?"
Hermione knelt next to him, "Alohamora."
Fleur knelt on his other side, "Perhaps it is something to do with the elements like in the last task. There are four compartments and there were four keys, four chests and four elements." She truly regretted her early attitude toward the younger champion. The only female champion had been hit with a rash of bad luck in the tasks, added to Karkaroff's obvious bias that he still got away with for unknown reasons. Harry Potter may not have the knowledge base they did due to being two to three years behind them but he was smart and quick. His assumptions and plans were exceptional for someone his age. She knew that luck played a part in everything but Harry Potter's success so far was much more than luck, he had skill and power to back him, not to mention his friends.
"I think Fleur is on to something, Harry," Cedric leaned down over Harry's shoulder. "Now the question is which element for which compartment and how do we activate them."
"We will need to use the Ogham symbol, like in the task," Viktor added quietly. "Try writing it on the side first, if that does not work we can carve it."
"I think the lid and bottom are most likely air and earth respectively, it is the most logical arrangement so we should see what reveals the compartment for those first and then we can tackle the sides. Does anyone have a quill or perhaps a brush and ink?"
Hermione, ever prepared, produced a quill and ink from her bag almost before Fleur had finished her thought. "You should do the honors, Harry has terrible handwriting," she grinned at the older girl and winked at Harry's mock outrage.
Fleur looked to the two older male champions and then nodded in accent. Quickly but neatly, she wrote the Ogham symbol for air on the middle of the inner portion of the lid. "Who would like to activate the rune to see if that is enough?"
Cedric leaned a bit farther down, putting a hand on Harry's shoulder to prevent himself from falling and touched his wand to the air rune. The rune flashed white briefly before the panel faded away to nothing. Behind the panel was a poem of sorts:
On an Island of sky, you must fight
Facing many while standing alone
In a course of cloud, you take flight
Dodge and weave, keeping time
On a floating archipelago, step light
Watch your balance as they shift and sway
In the habitat of air, chose right
A partner you need to take wing
The group of five could only blink. "Well, that is informative," Harry said with sarcasm. "all I really got from that is that we are going to be competing up in the air."
Hermione scribbled furiously on a sheet of parchment, making sure she copied down the verse properly before copying the sheet and handing on to each of the champions. "To my thinking, there are different fields in the air that you will have to compete in. A singular island, some sort of obstacle course, an island chain and then some other air habitat; none of that is particularly informative but it does suggest that your competition will be varied in this one."
"I agree with, Hermione," Fleur nodded. "Each area will have a specific task that must be completed and if the first section is correct, we will be alone in the arena or competing in separate arenas at the same time."
Cedric nodded, "Do you think the second section suggests flying through an obstacle course?"
"That was my conclusion," Viktor nodded, "the question is how do we fly? By broom or creature? If by broom, will we have that provided or do we need to bring one with us?"
"It would even the field more if a broom was provided or it was by creature," Harry added, "though I think the creature aspect may be more likely in the fourth section as flying creatures have wings and people generally don't, even if they are animagi."
"True," Cedric agreed, "Harry and Viktor both have Firebolts, which are better than any broom on the market so it would be to their advantage if they had to bring it or summon it; if they provided brooms we could all be stuck on old Cleansweeps or Nimbus brooms."
"It would be more likely for the Firebolt company to provide another Firebolt Junior for the task."
All of them agreed with Fleur's assessment.
"Let's see what else this chest is hiding," Hermione suggested, knowing they could come up with numerous theories with so little information. "Earth next?"
Once again Fleur wrote out the Ogham rune and Cedric activated it. This time the chamber revealed the incantation for two spells, Expelliarmus and Stupefy.
"Two spells used when facing an opponent in non-lethal combat," Viktor mused. "Do you think we will be dueling someone when we 'stand alone'?"
"That's all that comes to mind for me as well," Cedric agreed. If the nodding heads of their companions were any indication then that was the best explanation any of them could come up with.
"Let's just jump ahead to the next chamber, shall we?" Fleur suggested. She looked to the sides, "Does anyone have any idea which side should pertain to Fire and which to water? If not, I am going to place the rune for water on the left as it usually stands for west and water and west both start with W."
"Try it, if it doesn't work we can remove the symbol and switch runes."
Placing the water rune on the left side seemed to be correct as the panel disappeared and revealed a map of sorts. This map showed islands of many sizes clustered and lined together. At one end of the map was initium, the other finis, the Latin words for start and end. There looked to be many paths that would lead to the end, the question was, which would be best. To chose the shortest route, which would certainly have more challenging obstacles or the long way, which would most likely be the easiest in terms of skill and danger.
Lastly, the rune of fire hid a passage of choice.
A choice must be made
One provides safety but no challenge
One favors honor but takes time
One generally unseen but quick to act
One breaths danger but high reward
A choice must be made, safety or score
"Would you mind telling me why we are having a meeting of the House of Black?" Narcissa hissed. She did not like surprises, especially ones planned by Sirius. Her cousin was as likely to cause disaster as anything else.
"The meeting is about to start, Cissy," Sirius said with a smirk, "everyone is here and I really only want to explain this once."
"Why is it, cousin, that your advisor does not know what you wish to discuss?"
"She does not know because she does not think in the same way I do."
"Thank Merlin for that," she replied quickly, "I certainly hope I never think in the same way you do. The world would probably come to an abrupt end if I did."
"There is no need to be cruel, Cissy."
"I spent the morning regurgitating my breakfast, I am not feeling particularly kind at the moment."
A sad smile fell over the proud man's face, "Lily complained about morning sickness all the time when she was pregnant with Harry. James and I felt useless and the healer said there was little she could do, sometimes babies just cause their moms to be sick. If there is anything I can do, just ask me, alright?" He took her hand in his and squeezed it slightly, "I didn't call this to undermine you, I called the meeting the way I did because I didn't want to add anything to your plate right now. You are doing more than enough already. Your research into to laws and the Wizengamot families is extensive but then you are also extremely involved with Evans House, Remus's wedding, the kids and your own future. This meeting is to bring everyone up to speed and hopefully give you a little help."
She nodded, "Thank you for that." Narcissa glanced around the room and saw that all of the House of Black, save the children, were indeed there. "What of the Nott boys?"
"Sebastian is down in the lad researching potions, trying to determine what that version of the Dark Lord is brewing. He is hoping to find out what it will do and what counter measures we might need to take to reverse, remove or neutralize whatever 'improvements' the potion will make to his newly formed body."
"A sound plan, if he finds anything, get me a copy of his notes and I will give it to Severus, he may have additional ideas."
Sirius nodded, "Ralston is looking though the library." A frown crossed over his face, "He wants to find a way to remove his father's control over them all through the family magic."
"I thought the only way was for the Head to disown the individual through ritual means."
Sirius sighed, "I told him as much but he is determined to free his brothers at the very least. He makes me ashamed to be an older brother. Ralston is risking himself for his brothers, while I abandoned mine."
"Sirius," Narcissa sighed, "Regulus was too cowed by Aunt Walburga. There was nothing you could have done. He didn't ask for help and didn't appear to be against the Dark Lord even to me. Yes, he was often afraid but what sheltered little lord isn't when thrust into the world. You couldn't have saved him even if you had stayed, your mother probably would have killed you, that is why you left after all."
"He shook his head, "While that all sounds like a good excuse, it is just that, an excuse. I failed Regulus and I envy the relationship Ralston has with his brothers."
"At least Regulus wasn't a mass murderer," Narcissa gave him a rye smile, "Bellatrix is my sister and I know without a doubt there is nothing anyone could have done for her."
"Sirius," Andromeda peaked out of the meeting room into the hall that Narcissa and Sirius were still standing in. "Could we perhaps get this started? Dora has work later today and while the ministry is understanding about certain things, family meetings don't tend to be good enough excuses for newer employees to be late for work, especially in the DMLE."
"Sorry, Andy," he looked at his pocket watch, the one James's father had given him when he turned seventeen, "You are correct, I should have started more than five minutes ago." He gestured for Narcissa to proceed him into the room and shut the doors behind him.
"I have called you all here today for a very serious reason," he gazed at the members of his extended family sitting round the table. Pureblood, halfbood and muggleborn, it was all the same to him. Magic was magic, family was family. "The House of Black is at war and will be announcing Blood Feud against the House of Riddle, also known as Lord Voldemort."
As it was the House of Black, there were no gasps and they hid their surprise well. He did see fear in the younger eyes, confusion in the muggleborn spouses. "Our ally, the House of Potter is also entering into Blood Feud with said false Lord. Once this is announced at the next Wizengamot meeting, I expect the Houses of Greengrass and Longbottom to also enter into Blood Feud or at least offer support in our war with the being."
Andromeda stood, "I, Andromeda, daughter of the House of Black, lend my wand to this Feud and will protect the family first and foremost."
The others stood in quick order, lending their wands, minds and bodies to the war he had just announced. "I thank you, my family for your support." He shook himself, allowing the formal façade to fade, "I do this for many reasons, the most important one being that I don't think my godson should be the one we all look to for protection against this rising darkness. I also do this because of the momentum that we have in the Wizengamot. The people believe in the world we are attempting to create, this is one more example of combining tradition and progress. I may not be able to stop this before my godson is called to arms but I will do everything I can, including begging you to act to prevent it.
"That being said, there are others who will be protected just as surely as we protect the children." Sirius looked at Narcissa, "Cissy is pregnant and I will not allow her to be placed in a position that could harm her or the baby. Children are far too precious in this and every family to let harm come to one before it has taken its first breath. Andromeda, I would like you to accompany Cissy any time she leaves this house without Severus, Remus or myself; the two of you were always lethal together."
Sirius turned his attention back to Narcissa, "I do not want any arguing from you."
"You will get none, cousin, though I do wish you would have discussed this with me before calling this meeting."
Sirius nodded and continued, "Dora, sorry love but it is your name and you are less hostile with that then the full thing," the young woman scowled at him and her mother, "I would like you to coordinate with Amelia in guarding the Nott brothers. They can't be taken by their father while here or in the interrogation rooms and they have direct Portkeys so there is no fear in transit, but that doesn't mean Nott wont blackmail someone into removing them from the ministry during a disturbance of some sort."
"Will, do. Madam Bones has been edgy, I think she has been worried about that sort of thing lately. It is hard to know who, in the department, might have ties to Tiberius Nott when Nott had so many connections before his illegal actions came to light. Not to mention the rest of the ministry's unknown loyalties."
Sirius continued to dole out tasks for his family, covering all bases and taking advice where needed. He would not fail his family the way he did in the past. Harry would not be the one to face this darkness if he had anything to say about it.
Nymphadora Tonks had always wanted to be an Auror. Though the memories were fuzzy now, she remembered her 'uncle' Sirius from before she went to Hogwarts. Sirius had been a great uncle, goofy and loving but he had also been a great family member to her mother. He had always stood for being true to one's self, sighting the divide in the Black family as his reasoning. Sirius had also told her stories about his job as an Auror. She knew the stories were not as fantastic and grand as he made them seem, but his belief that his job was to protect people from the darkness had always inspired her.
Andromeda and Nymphedora had never believed Sirius guilty of the crimes he was incarcerated for, because of this injustice and the stories of bravery from her childhood she knew there was no other choice for her but to become an Auror. If she became an Aurur then innocent people would not get placed in Azkaban for crimes they didn't commit. She always believed that if she became an Auror that people like Lucius Malfoy would have never been able to escape their crimes with the 'Imperious' excuse.
Now she was now an Auror, well a Junior Auror but that was still an Auror. She had been picked by 'Mad-eye' Moody himself for special training. It seemed that Mad-Eye had seen through her 'clumsy' act. Most assumed that she was clumsy because of her Metamorphamagus abilities; her ever changing form meant her center of gravity changed too. That may have been the case when she was young and stayed around until she was about sixteen but after that she really didn't trip over her own feet anymore, unless she wanted to that is. It was so much easier to trick someone if they underestimated you and what better way to prove them 'right' then to stumble around like an oaf? Moody saw through that though, and so did Kingsley. Moody had trained her first, helping her to hone that clumsy act but since he was at Hogwarts acting as security every day, Kingsley was leading her now. She was getting the best training because she had proved herself to be a good investigator with great potential and a well-honed code of honor.
She just needed to get to know her new assignment.
Tonks walked down the hall toward the library at Grimmauld Place. She wanted to officially introduce herself to the Nott brothers as she would be keeping track of them when they were outside Grimmauld Place and she was sure that Madam Bones would approve Sirius's plan to have her guard them while at the ministry. Tonks knew she was low level, still technically training, so guard duty would not be out of place or draw attention and with her connection to House Black and Harry Potter it would be unheard of for her to betray the ministry by allowing harm to come to their new witnesses.
"Ral," she heard someone sigh, "I think Lord Black is right, there is no way to break his hold over us; only the Family Head can remove someone from the family."
"There has to be a way," the other said with what sounded like angry frustration. "I know heirs have gotten out from under the thumbs of their Heads."
"I'm fairly certain all the cases you are thinking of were when Heirs killed the Head to gain control of the family. That option won't work for us because our Head is currently living with the reincarnated Dark Lord."
"I have to figure this out."
"I know how you feel but I don't know what you expect to find. Lord Black told you there was no way that he knew of and if he doesn't know of a way then there probably isn't one. If there was a family that could do what you want it would be the Blacks but they don't have any record of how it could happen."
"How am I going to protect Theo?"
"By doing exactly what you are doing," Tonks said stepping into the room, her hair maroon as apposed to her usual pink. "the Black family will help you and your brother. We may not be able to get you away from the family magic, not without sentencing from a full trial bound by magic but the wards we are keeping you under protect you for now." She turned to the older Nott sibling, "If Uncle Sirius doesn't know of a way to remove oneself from the family there isn't one, trust me he tried when he was a kid and he was running from this family's crimes." Turning her attention to the younger of the two she continued, "You are lucky that you and your brothers stand on the same side of this conflict. My mother and her sisters were wrenched apart because of this conflict.
"Anyway," she grinned, her hair changing back to her signature color, "I'm Tonks, don't let my mother tell you differently."
"Greetings, Miss Tonks, I am Ralston and this is my brother Sebastian. I saw you at the ministry when I spoke to Madam Bones, correct?"
"That you did, Ralston," she nodded, "I am a Junior Auror and my partner is working closely with Madam Bones on this case. I will be with you whenever you move between here and the ministry and I will also always be on hand while you are at the ministry. Madam Bones and Lord Black don't want to leave anything up to chance." She turned to leave but paused, "I have to be heading to work but I want you both to remain cautious when outside this house. If you see, hear or feel anything off let me know immediately. You were raised in an environment that forced you to be on edge; your instincts are good and will be very useful. If you think something is off, it probably is. I can protect you better if we are all watching." Then she grinned, "but don't be afraid to have fun and feel free to prank Sirius mercilessly."
The House of Weasley had always stood for what is right. They were aligned with the light against every dark lord that arouse during the history of the family. A Weasley would always be an ally for the general population, an ally for children and hope. It was easy to see why a Weasley would defend a child with their life, they had so many and always did tend to have large families.
Bill Weasley was proud to be a Weasley. The Weasley name may not say wealth and political power but it did say honor, and trust. He had worked to increase the image of his family, working hard to prove his worth to his peers and he was sure he was succeeding; being a curse breaker for Gringotts showed his skill and knowledge without him having to say a word. His brothers, most of them at least, were proving themselves too.
Charlie was moving up the ranks of the Romanian Dragon reserve. The second oldest Weasley boy had been ecstatic to be chosen to help transport the four dragons used for the Triwizard Tournament. His excitement was twofold; he was overjoyed because his appointment to the team meant that despite his young age, he was proving his worth and knowledge and could one day reach his ultimate goal. Additionally, this meant he could see his family much sooner than anticipated and would get the opportunity to see his new 'brother.'
Percy. Bill had been more than a bit worried about Percy in recent years. He had not been worried about Percy achieving his goals, no, his worry was more about how he got there. Percy had been showing a drive to achieve and to prove that bordered on the callous. Bill worried about what Percy would have been willing to do, or who he would be willing to forget, to achieve his goals. It seemed the inclusion of one Harry Potter had changed Percy for the better.
The twins, there was honestly no one Bill was prouder of than his outrageous twin brothers. The wizarding world, and his mother, didn't seem to realize that there were many ways to find success in life. Success didn't mean fitting into a mold and working at the ministry or becoming a healer for everyone. True success was finding your own way; it meant using your strengths to find your way, not following someone else's plans. Bill had chosen the goblins because they didn't care what he wore, or how long his hair was, all they cared about was his work. The twins knew no one would appreciate their brand of genius so they were making their own way, forming their own business. Bill's biggest point of pride with the twins was their actions toward Harry Potter.
Ron and Ginny were another story. His youngest siblings were still healing. Their childhood had been different than the rest of the kids. Molly Weasley had been scared by the death of her brothers during the last war against the Dark Lord Voldemort and had taken protective parenting to a new level. With how young Ron was at the time and the fact that Ginny was only months old at the end of the conflict meant that she was already focused on them like a mother bear just out of hibernation and unfortunately, she basically never left that state of mind for her youngest two children. Ron would be best friends with the Boy-Who-Lived and Ginny would marry him. The combination of Lockhart and the cursed diary had turned life around for them and it looked like they may just live up to the Weasley name; hopefully Ron used his brain for something other than quidditch and chess.
Four Weasley men sat around the kitchen table, the other members of the Weasley family were at school, save Molly who was shopping, which was why they were meeting then. Arthur Weasley had been taking more notice of the events at the Wizengamot, something he had forgotten about since his children were born. Now that all of them were at school, and things were actually changing he was once again taking note of the trends and changes. As such, Lord Black's announcement of Blood Feud caused Arthur to think about his families stand and actions in the coming darkness.
"I have asked you, the children of this house that have graduated Hogwarts, to discuss the Weasley family's response to the Blood Feud against the House of Riddle." He met his sons' eyes one by one, assessing, "Traditionally, Weasleys have stayed away from familial Feuds because the reason for such Feud is often unknown or for reasons that have no bearing on this House. That is not the case in this instance. This Feud was announced because of Thomas Riddle's past and future attempts to rule Magical Britain. It was brought forward because of his crimes against House Potter and House Black. We, the members of House Weasley, have given our loyalty and love to the Heir of House Potter; the sons of this house have adopted Harry Potter in heart and action. The question I bring to this table is, do we keep with Weasley tradition or do we answer the call to Feud?"
Bill stood from his seat, carefully looking at both of his present brothers and his father before answering, "I am not one to stand by and let darkness grow. I am also not one to join a personal grudge. In this case I can see only one path that will appease my conscience, and that is to answer the call and announce that this House declares Blood Feud as well." He waited a moment, letting his meaning and wording settle, "I believe I speak for Fred and George when I say that Tom Riddle has wronged a member of this family; Harry Potter may not be a brother by blood but he is a brother by heart and I will do all I can to see that he survives this battle. Let us also not forget what his diary did to Ginny."
It was Percy who stood next, "I too think that the House of Weasley should join this Feud. Harry Potter has done much for this family, he has accepted each of us for exactly who we are and helped us grow. I am a better person now than I was and the main reason I am the way I am now is because of Harry; he showed me that there is more to life than being successful and respected by all, he showed me that family is what matters." Percy let out an almost tired sigh, "I am a little ashamed of the way I acted when I was given my Prefects badge, it took Ginny being lost and then saved for me to see the error in my ways. I can now see the things I probably would have missed because of my need to prove my importance. If they were here, Fred and George would demand to throw their hats in the ring against Riddle, I vote this way to honor Harry, the twins and myself."
Charlie stood with a rye smile, "I am a Weasley, so my vote should be obvious. I will always do what is right over what is easy. It would be easy to follow tradition, but the right thing to do in this situation is to oppose the Dark Lord who won't stay dead." He glanced first at Bill then at Percy, "I may not know Harry as well as the rest of the family but I do know my brothers; if the twins, Bill and Percy side with Harry Potter then he is deserving of my allegiance."
Arthur nodded solemnly, "I am proud of my sons. I too think that the right thing to do would be to join forces with the Houses of Black and Potter against this darkness. The House of Weasley has taken the easy route for far too long simply for the sake of tradition."
"What will mom say?" Percy asked.
"I am sure your mother will not be pleased but in this she is outvoted."
Bill nodded, "Dad's right. We can't let mom stop us from doing what we know is right. To be honest, whether the Weasley's chose this path or not, I would be joining forces with the Houses of Black and Potter." There was understanding in his father's eyes. "Gringotts and her employees have been at war with Tom Riddle since just after the diary incident; as an employee I am duty bound to help bring an end to this man. Outside that, I would fight for Harry regardless. I would do it to protect the boy that Fred and George call brother, I would do it for the kid Percy is protective of, but most importantly I would do it because I care for Harry."
"Well said, brother," Charlie rolled his tense shoulders. "I can't give you all of my time but I will speak to my superiors about this situation. There may be a way for me to take some time off when things start to get dicey."
"Thank you, Charlie, but we don't want you to jeopardize your carrier."
"I won't, dad. My bosses know that family is important and they know just how much mine means to me; plus, they were rather impressed with Harry at the first task. He would be an asset for the reserve so they may just suggest it in hopes I can further interest him in Dragons.
"You have my wand father, as well as anything I can learn from my work."
Arthur nodded and looked to the youngest of his present childern, "I think it is time to share our fears with your brothers.
Percy bit his lip, unsure how to begin. "There have been some strange things happening in my department at the ministry. As you know, I work in International Affairs, under Mister Crouch; in recent months, Crouch has been making odd choices."
"Like the world cup?" Charlie asked.
"Exactly," Percy took a sip of his water, "Crouch's plans for security were faulty so Madam Bones adjusted them to more consistently guard against incidents. On the day of the event, Crouch moved forces around so that there was far too much security around certain areas, particularly those that rich or powerful people would be and little to no security in the areas housing the general population; this change made stopping the attackers that much more difficult when things went sideways.
"Then there is the missing paperwork. I have had to redo a number of forms that Crouch claimed were already done but later either came up missing or the department they were meant for never received in the first place."
"He has also been even more antisocial than usual. Bartemius isn't a nice man on his best day, but he does at least pretend to have respect for department heads. He has missed a number of meetings or shown up so late that there is only a few minutes of slotted time left for the meeting."
"Then there was the way he insulted the Bulgarian Minister at the World Cup."
"He insulted the Bulgarian Minister?" Bill was astounded.
"Apparently, he forgot how to speak Bulgarian. Instead of greeting him and congratulating him on his teams' success, he told him his wife looked like a donkey."
"Who do you confuse those two sentences?" Charlie wondered.
"I haven't a clue; I looked up all possible ways to greet someone in Bulgarian but could find no way for it to remotely sound like you were insulting someone's wife."
"The odd thing is," Arthur continued, "that sometimes he is the Bartemius everyone knows and tolerates. One day he is the same old hard-ass, then next he is rude and licks his lips far too much."
"He has been ill a lot too," Percy agreed with his father. "Half the time his eyes are glassy or bloodshot."
"Does it look like he has been drinking?" Charlie wondered. Bloodshot eyes to him tended to mean the wizard in question had a few too many and was out of hangover potion.
Percy shook his head, "No, I wouldn't say that. He just seems distracted and inattentive; the red eyes seems more in line with lack of sleep."
"I still say it sounds like he's had too much to drink."
"If it were anyone else," Arthur looked at his second oldest, "I would agree with you, but Barty has a very strict one drink maximum and event the that is only on Friday or Saturday nights. He became even more strict with himself after finding out exactly what his son was up to in the last war; he had known about the drinking and partying his son got up to, he did not know about his allegiance to the Dark Lord. In a way, Barty blames the drinking for his son's downfall."
Bill ran a hand through his unbound hair, "I would say that Crouch bears watching but I know you are already doing that. Have you brought your concerns to anyone else?"
"Amelia and I have spoken a few times about his odd behavior," Arthur nodded. "Of course, Crouch has never really liked Amelia because she replaced him, even if there was a temporary head between his transfer and her appointment. He thinks she stole his chances at Fudges office, not his son's illegal activities. I have been relaying anything Percy notices to her but with him at the castle most of the time she can't corroborate or observe for herself."
"And Crouch has avoided Moody like the plague while he is at the school," Percy added.
"Would my observations help?" Bill wondered. "I am at the school from time to time and I could potentially find a way to make my being there more often explainable."
"I would feel better having you there. I know Professor Lupin is there all the time and Professor Snape is a force to be reckoned with but you are my brother and you can do things they can't."
"I'll be at the school for all tournament events."
"To be fair," Percy grinned, "you basically are there for everything."
"I didn't attend the last dueling event, and I really haven't been paying any attention to Crouch. I assumed, despite his poor attitude most of the time he would be the one person who would not cheat or endanger a student. He is a known stickler for rules and regulations."
Arthur observed his sons, "Bill, I think the most important thing is for you to be around Harry during his tasks. I don't think anything is going to happen outside the major Triwizard tasks but it wouldn't hurt for you to be there for the rest of it. Percy, continue to observe, document and report. Charlie, I know your wand will be there when it is needed." He reached his hand out and touched each of his sons on the shoulder. "I am proud of my sons. Together, we will help bring an end to this evil."
A Manner House
Lord Voldemort sat in his thrown, staring down at his followers with contempt. There was much in this life that was disappointing and his followers were currently at the top of the list for his disappointments. Tiberius had become more of a problem in his old age. Voldemort remembered him being much more cunning and intelligent when they were at school. There was little that could surprise the Tiberius of his youth, he was always one step ahead and could manipulate just about anyone into doing something that would help him. His recent failures proved the old adage that the mind was often the first to go. At least Tiberius could still talk his way into or out of just about anything, within reason.
The other man at his feet was another story. Lord Voldemort had been surprised when Tiberius led Yasley into his 'throne room' that morning. He didn't really remember Yaxley, he honestly wasn't sure if he knew him at all before the ring Horcrux had been created, but he was described as useful in his notes. Yaxley was a loyal little idiot, as well as an observant one. It should have concerned the resurrected Dark Lord that Tiberius's little helper had no loyalty to his other self but with the actions that had been described to him so far, his disloyalty was almost understandable. What was concerning was that Yaxley appeared to be more loyal to the Nott Head than himself.
Both men would need to be watched.
"Yaxley," he glared down at the sniveling man, "what are my shade's plans for Potter and this tournament?"
The man gulped, "The tournament was a convenient way to bring Potter to him. Barty Jr is in a place that allows him to alter things to their advantage and the most important one is to change the goal of the final task. Apparently, the Triwizard cup is supposed to be a Portkey that takes the winner to the judges to receive the other prizes; Crouch will alter the Portkey to take Potter to a different place. They need Potter to give him a body."
"Have you heard anything about the method?"
"It is supposed to be a potion ritual. It didn't sound particularly complicated, Crouch should have the skills to make the base potion with the shade's guidance. Most of the ingredients necessary for the base, which takes three months to prepare, are readily available at any apothecary, I believe only one was concerning but with access to Crouch Snr that worry is all but negated. The final part of the potion requires three specific ingredients and Potter's blood is one of them, and the only one they don't have access to right now."
The Dark Lord straightened slightly, "Why was Potter chosen? What makes his blood the only blood that works?"
Yaxley bit his lip, wondering how to word this. "Well, from what I heard, the potion requires the blood of an enemy, or was it the enemy? Anyway, Potter is his greatest enemy apparently."
"Blood of the enemy," the Dark Lord mused. "Blood of the enemy. Perhaps they intend that potion." He returned his attention back to Yaxely and Nott, "Did he perhaps mention the bone of the father and the flesh of the servant as well?"
"He did, my Lord."
"That was the conclusion I came to as well, My Lord."
The Dark Lord glared down at Nott; there was no need for him to be in the conversation at the moment and his inclusion was really just to make him seem important.
He needed to think. Perhaps creating Horcruxes hadn't been the best idea after all; the potion his shade was using was not the best option for recreating a body. That particular ritual potion was almost as useless as drinking Unicorn blood to sustain life. The potion did not return the host to its original or last body, it created something almost new and the body required much maintenance over the first year or so to sustain complex magic. If this succeeded his counterpart would not be able to do much in the way of attempting to rule the magical world for the first nine months because of the instability of the body the ritual would provide. "Interesting. What animal was chosen for the base?"
Yaxley blinked, "Animal, Sir?"
"The base requires an animal sacrifice. This sacrifice is the last step of the base potion before the primary ritual can be performed; an animal's life blood is to be drained over the potion slowly for three hours, ending at the stroke of midnight. The animal chosen will influence the appearance of the produced body if the ritual succeeds. A poor choice in sacrifice will also decrease the body's longevity; certain animals can conduct magic better than others."
"I am not positive, my Lord, but I believe there was a discussion about finding a suitable serpent. I believe his, your snake familiar had much to add to that discussion."
"There are worse choices. Snakes are one of the most magical species that have a mundane version so that is a plus to the choice, especially when combined with the fact that we are Parselmouths. The biggest problem is that snakes are genetically more different from humans than is advisable in this situation, the body won't be as stable and it will make him appear less human than other options."
He finally turned his attention to Nott fully. It was too bad he had a need for the man at the moment, it would have been much more amusing if he could leave him in a state of insecurity. "Tiberius, how long did it take you to figure out what I had done?"
"I had my first clue while Malfoy ranted about what he had done with your diary from school. A little research into the oldest texts and I verified what had been done. All told, it did not take me long. I spent more time finding where you hid the ring than I did researching the possibilities." He paused, apparently to collect his thoughts, "It was lucky that your magical signature is tied to the mark or I would not have made it out of that shack in one piece. Might I ask why you want to know this?"
"I wonder why my shade chose this method of resurrection as opposed to the method you used to bring life to the piece of my soul that was in the ring. There is a method to return a shade to a body using a Horcrux that is far less complicated than rituals and takes less time than the one used to create this body. Using the shade and Horcrux also has less complications with the body once it has been created." He glanced at his nails, wondering if he should share the last bit, he saw no reason not to share the problems his other self would face with the two minions before him; they were loyal to him and they really had nowhere else to go because they were both wanted by the ministry. "If the shade is combined with a Horcrux the pieces of souls are joined once more and a bit of sanity will return to the individual who originally split himself. Creating a Horcrux has many benefits but there is one great disadvantage, splitting the soul can lessen the abilities of a sane mind and it seems to me that my shade has lost much of his rational mind."
"Why do you say that, my lord?"
"The choice of Potter as THE enemy is foolish. Potter is a child and, to my thinking, had little to do with the destruction of my mortal body. It was probably some old magic his parents researched as a last resort. No, my greatest enemy has been and will always be Albus Dumbledore. That man did not trust me when I was eleven and trusted me even less after I left Hogwarts. I am powerful, as you well know, and there are few who can match me in strength of magic; far fewer can match me in experience with different types of magic.
"If Potter is powerful, which seems reasonable to assume if you read about his success in the Triwizard tournament, but he cannot match me in experience and knowledge. There is only one man who could hope to match me in this way and it is Dumbledore. The ritual potion does not care which enemy you chose and in this case Dumbledore's magic would be a boon to the shade. Dumbledore's core is at its greatest, Potter's is still maturing so is still growing and may not add the amount of magic needed to sustain the body properly once created."
"What should we do about this, my Lord?" Tiberius wondered.
"I think for now we will wait. If my other half succeeds, then he may be a useful distraction." Voldemort rose and walked to the nearest window, "I will also be doing a great deal of research into whether or not I can use his magic to increase my own."
"You would oppose yourself?"
"Do you question me, Tiberius?" he saw the man tremble in fear. "There can be only one ruler of magic and that will be me. Of the two versions of me, I hold the greater part of our soul. My mind is less damaged by the creation of the Horcruxes and my reasoning is not clouded by nonsense. I will be the ruler here. I think it is time to find my other Horcux and return the pieces of my soul to me." He glanced at the men around him, "I need you to find me a suitable sacrifice. We will be taking a trip to a place from my childhood."
Hello ladies and gentlemen. Sorry for the delay in getting anything out here. Life, as I sure you know gets away from you. I will attempt to focus and get something out more regularly. I do not plan to abandon anything.