Whispers in the Night
Disclaimer: I'm just playing in JKR's sandbox and make no money from this. Please enjoy the story and feel free to leave comments and critiques, it's the only way to get better at this. I'm writing this story for my own enjoyment.
Content Warning: This story will contain mentions of abuse and scenes containing but not limited to swearing, violence, smut and other Adult Content.
Author's Note: 1. Read the author's notes, or skim for information from them, I don't care. I've answered many reviews in author's notes that answer questions I've heard a ton of times. So please, read the damn notes when I put them in.
2. I have made extensive progress since first posting this story and I've decided to add in a few summaries in specific chapters. I don't relish this, as I prefer you read the entire work so you completely understand everything. However, this change is made, primarily, because I know some people don't want to read everything or would rather get to certain events over others. Below you will find a list of chapters as related to years/arcs of the story. Treat these as books themselves or just as year markers for the entire story. Each "marker" chapter will have a brief summary of what came before, so you will miss some important details relying on them alone.
Current Marker/Summary Containing Chapters: 22 and 51.
Third Year: Chapters 1-21
Fourth Year: Chapters 22-50
Fifth Year: Chapters 51-?
3. I'll be the first to admit this isn't the greatest starting chapter. Everything that follows, however, is MUCH better than what I have here so please continue reading!
4. A few things you need to know about the story. This story is labeled drama/romance for a reason, and there's plenty of Family/Angst/Fluff involved along the way. This is a fair warning right here and now that this story is focused primarily on characters and their interactions rather than the overall plot for much of the first 21 chapters at the least, even up to 50.
5. I say this in the story but I'm going to make it clear: Everyone starts Standardized Magical Education/Academies/Schools at age 13 in this story. So when Harry is 15 in 3rd year, this is normal for this particular universe/story/setting and his peers are roughly the same age etc. This is based on the fact that I'm looking to write a more mature story and I want/need older/more mature characters in order to do that. In character, reasons for it vary, but one established rule is a certain maturity is necessary/desired to handle magic given that it can be an extremely volatile force.
6. I answer reviews via PM instead of adding reviews to my own story. So if you have questions, criticism, suggestions etc, please review and if they make me think/seem interesting I'll do my best to answer. Thank you for your time and please enjoy the story!
Chapter One: Up to the Challenge
At a lone table in the leaky cauldron, a pair of men sat in contemplative and comfortable silence after talking about their summers. The pair had met only recently, that afternoon in fact. One had recently escaped confinement with his relatives, the other had returned from a trip abroad for work. Both of them, however, were well aware the silence had gone on long enough.
"Kinda funny isn't it?" The shorter of the two men began.
The raised eyebrow of his companion was question enough. He didn't quite understand, not yet, but he soon would.
"At age thirteen I'm out in the middle of nowhere, dodging letters from a mysterious benefactor because my relatives don't want me getting involved. There efforts only lasts until a half-giant breaks down the door, ties my uncle's shotgun into a noose, hands me a letter, gives my cousin a pig's tail and starts cooking, of all things, sausages," the black-haired teen mused aloud with a smile. "Looking back on that I realize that last bit was actually psychological torture. And they say Hagrid's a gentle soul."
The tall, well-built redhead next to him laughed at the thought. Of all his family he was, perhaps, the most down to earth, the most calm and collected of the bunch. As his laughter abated he couldn't help but try to wipe the smile from his stubbly face with his hand given the somewhat serious history he was being told, only to fail miserably.
"But it doesn't really stop there," the younger of the two men continued. "I'm told of a whole new world, a world that, to my ears, sounds like the most wonderful thing there could possibly be. There are dragons and goblins, house elves and owls, wizards and witches, potions, wands, broomsticks, and above all, magic. I learn what I am, what I was all along, a wizard, only to learn I'm some vaunted savior just because my parents died protecting me and some villain died from a rebounded curse. I hear my parents' names for the first time..."
"Harry you don't have to-"
"I do," Harry cut across suddenly. "Someone needs to know, Bill, and right now you're the only one I feel comfortable talking to."
Bill could only offer a solemn nod in return and watched as the thin, dark-haired, jade-eyed teen told him a story. Ironic how the roles were reversed from his time telling stories to his siblings. They had only really known each-other for a few hours, but in those few hours they seemed to have connected. Bill had shown Harry some of the more exciting places in the alley, gave him a few tips on how to handle goblins and had discussed any topic Harry brought up with an open honesty that was rare to find. Harry, in turn, had opened up to the older man, glad to have someone to talk to, at least for a short while. Now they were in the Leaky Cauldron about ready to share stories very few had heard before. Regardless, Bill listened intently as Harry continued his story.
"I get on a train and make my first friend my age. I meet my second and third within hours of that only to be confronted with a side of the world I never wanted to see." Harry paused to take a long drink of his butterbeer and sighed. He didn't know why he had started his story way back then, but it all had some bearing on the present, one way or another.
"But I ignored it," the fifteen year old third year growled. "I ignored that part of this world because I wanted to believe this place was better, that this world was better in every way than the one I had come from. So I go to school, and my sorting happens."
"You got put into Gryffindor," Bill added in quickly as he took a greater interest in where this whole conversation was headed. "Ron said something about you asking to be put there."
"No, he thinks I asked for it but really that wasn't it at all," countered the younger wizard as he leaned back and his eyes darkened. "'Not Slytherin' I told the hat. It wanted to put me there, after everything I've been through, been forced to learn, it saw what was inside me and wanted to put me in a place it thought I would thrive."
The teen shook his head at the thought of his own sorting, of how long it had taken and what he had done to convince the hat to alter its choice. "I had heard so much from others, made friends with people that wouldn't like it if I ended up there. I didn't want to go either simply because an arrogant blonde put me against the idea. I didn't want to spend my seven years of school surrounded by him or those like him. Honestly, I think I might have arranged for all of the bullies to fall off of the astronomy tower if I'd been forced to deal with them on a daily basis. So I told it not to put me in Slytherin...
"I'm not sure if that wasn't a mistake now," Harry mused as he lowered his eyes to his butterbeer bottle and sighed. "I've lied, Bill. I've been lying to myself, and more importantly my friends, for a long time. I didn't want to lose friends so I held myself back in classes after a month or two..." He admitted with a blush. "I didn't want to lose Ron because I was doing better than him or lose Hermione to some naive competition for grades that it might have turned out to be."
"You were trying to fit in at a school you were stuck in for nine months a year. You wanted to find a place in this world. There's nothing wrong with that, Harry." Bill set a hand on his brother's friend's shoulder consolingly. It was a gesture of trust, of comfort, one he noticed Harry flinched from slightly before he settled in with a slow, calm nod. "I know what that kind of pressure can be like but it's not something you can do forever. The truth will come out and it's better that you applied yourself than never try it at all. It's a white lie, but one that your friends can deal with."
"But I still lie to them. Even after everything we've been through; smuggling dragons, and killing Quirrel, a rogue house elf and making polyjuice, giant spiders and three-headed dogs, a deranged fraud and saving Ginny from a basilisk, after experiencing that together I still haven't shown them that side of me... The real me." Harry shivered as he took a large gulp and finished his butterbeer even as he beckoned for another from Tom the Barkeep.
"The side of me that befriended a shade of Tom Riddle. I really am a lot like him. It was only after months of writing in that diary that I actually learned Riddle was actually Voldemort… And I destroyed him because he threatened another friend," Harry admitted softly. Bill sat unwavering in his seat while his jaw and fist tightened. Harry appreciated that he didn't flinch or wince at the name. There was no fear in the curse breaker, just anger. "My friends have never seen the side of me that knows every spell that Hermione does, that knows the theory behind magic as much as anyone my age does because I study in secret and fake my average performance because magic is too incredible not to learn more about. The side of me that wonders how much I could get if I found a way to sell the remains of a dead basilisk.
"My friends know me, Bill. They know me very well, but they never see what I don't want them to see and it terrifies me they might not like what they find out if I really put in the effort to just... be me this year. I've been playing the part of the Boy-Who-Lived for two years, not Harry Potter."
"I see you," Bill said softly, his expression solemn and honest. "Right now I see nothing wrong with the young man in front of me. Fifteen years old and you have already killed a basilisk with a sword. You killed a man in self defense and remained sane enough to not hate yourself and spiral out of control. I see a young man that saved my sister. What's more you know what you've done and you live with it. I can respect that..." The older of the two paused as his glass of fire whiskey was refilled and nodded thanks to the bartender before he continued.
"What I can't respect is someone not being themselves. You need to step out of your shell, Harry," Bill said earnestly as he caught the young man's eye. "You need to take charge of your life and live how you want to. Don't hide in the dark and let something like fear hold you back from showing your true intelligence and personality. Take the classes you want to take, be who you want to be and never look back. I know Ron might end up disgruntled, maybe even a bit jealous of what you're able to accomplish, but he'll get over it. As for Hermione? I don't know her that well but I'm sure she will be thrilled that you're taking your studies seriously for once, or so it will seem to her.
"You need to do what's best for you, Harry. I know I did," Bill added in a far more somber tone. "There's a reason I got a job at Gringotts, became a Curse Breaker and left for Egypt as soon as I could. I couldn't be myself around my family and I needed a change. I took that opportunity and I've never looked back, not once. I'm happy with my life, living it the way I want to without any interference from my family. I'm back early from Egypt because I have a job to do and want to enjoy some time in Britain again with a few friends. Don't feel bad about trying to be yourself, Harry, you'll only betray yourself in doing so."
It took a moment or two for the sentiment to sink in, but the shy smile in Harry's lips was all Bill needed to see to know he had done right. The young man before him could be greater, far greater than anyone thought if someone nursed that desire for change, knowledge and acceptance in him. While he was not close to Harry, not yet anyways, Bill knew he had found another sort of curse to break in the young man next to him.
"I'm glad you understand," the curse breaker said finally as he received another firewhiskey. "The rest of the family is making a side trip to Romania to visit Charlie before returning to England but even now I can tell you I'm back because I want to be. I don't necessarily approve of using all of that lottery money on a trip, but my family deserved some fun."
"I found that to be a bit off myself," Harry put in politely, a hint of nervousness in his voice. "Ron's always going on about not having money on the Express and at school. I know your parents mean well but why didn't they just save it up and stay home?"
"One last gasp of extravagance maybe? They were quite happy to be on the trip and spend a fair amount," Bill said with a shrug as he gave a thankful nod to their waitress for his refill. "Either way I think they just wanted the kids to have a good time visiting their brothers in remote places. I enjoyed it, I really did, but I was a little put out they spent so much just to visit when they knew I'd be back this month."
"I guess that makes sense... Just... It makes me uncomfortable sometimes, you know? I have thousands of Galleons in my vault and yet your family has so little. Ron doesn't help by making me feel bad for getting him something he can't afford for Christmas each year. If only he knew how much I really had..." Harry finished uncomfortably as he worried his butterbeer bottle between his hands.
"I know it's not my business, even if I do work for Gringotts, but if you don't mind me asking..."
"It's alright, Bill, I trust you," Harry said with a smile to ease the older man's uncertainty. "I've enough to live off of for a few years after school, and that's with being a little spend happy. My parents... Family, House, whatever, they were a major contributor to the war effort last time. All that's left of the Potter Fortune is in my vault or my trunk upstairs. Nothing but a cloak, a photo album and some cold hard gold..."
Harry hesitated. There was something he wanted to say but wasn't sure if now was the best time. Then again, when was the next time he might get another chance to ask someone who might know a thing or two about stuff like this?
"Something strange came up when I visited Gringotts last time."
"Stop right there," Bill cut in quickly as he set a hand back on Harry's shoulder. "You don't have to tell me anything, Harry. I'm glad you trust me but I don't need to know everything."
"Well I want you to know. I'm decent with money but it always helps to have a second opinion, right?" Harry's question was logical, and the young man could practically see the wheels turning in Bill's head before the curse breaker sighed and nodded in agreement. "Well they gave me a ring belonging to the Black family, said they had been notified that I was made Heir, or one of them, and handed me a bunch of journals. I already have the Potter Ring but I keep that in its box at the bottom of my trunk. So technically I could claim I am, or will be, Lord Potter-Black... Ugh sounds a bit pompous doesn't it?"
Bill snorted in amusement with a nod. "Add one more name and we'll have another Dumbledore around."
"That's not funny, Bill!" Harry said as he reached across to slap the man's arm futilely. "Hell, the fact that people are called 'Lords' just because they're heads of Most Ancient and Noble Houses in our society strikes me as odd, but it makes some sort of sense considering they're all involved in the Wizengamot. I'm tempted to just go by Lord Black when I take the Lordships. Everyone knows I'm Harry Potter, might as well just throw them off balance by claiming a different title."
"That's a little devious, I like it," said the oldest Weasley boy with a grin. "But you're right," Bill continued more somberly. "It's a rather odd set of circumstances. I only know so much about the last war considering how young I was. Why would Sirius Black make you the Heir of his family when he's trying to kill you?"
"I don't know." Harry shifted in seat in frustration. His hands were chilled by the butterbeer as he gripped it tightly. None of this made sense, but it might if he had the courage to dig. "The journals might give me a clue."
"They might, or they might just be basics on Lordship and the like. For now I say put it out of mind and focus on school." Bill took a long sip of his fire whiskey and peered contemplatively at the young man in front of him. "You mentioned a basilisk you wanted to sell. Want some help with that?"
"Why are you asking?" Harry peered back just as carefully at the eldest Weasley. He did trust the man but that trust could be broken very easily.
"Because I'm a curse breaker. You think the tombs we enter are all just traps and wards?" Harry offered a shrug and Bill shook his head after he sipped his drink. "Well they're not. The last one I cracked was full of Acromantula. Fortunately they're useful for a number of things, silk and venom not the least of which, and we earn a percentage on every single one that we send to Gringotts. They render and sell everything you can think of... A basilisk could earn you a lot of money. If I helped you I'd earn commission," explained the curse breaker.
"What percent is your commission for bringing it in even though I killed it?" Harry questioned curiously.
"Not much, five percent, but that's mostly for making sure Gringotts gets its own percentage. They'll earn another ten, and you keep the other eighty-five percent."
"And in Galleons, how much is that for me specifically?"
"Well let's see, how big of a basilisk are we talking?" Bill curiously wondered.
"Three feet between the eyes, hundred and fifty feet long, its eyes are gone and one tooth was pulled out though," Harry explained as he remembered with vivid clarity the beast he had managed to kill.
Bill let a long low whistle escape him. He had known Harry had slain a basilisk but to hear the real size of the thing. Bill shivered at what might have happened to himself if he had faced the beast. He could not fault the hat for putting Harry in Gryffindor, the kid had bravery in spades. Still, his mind went to work on what he knew about basilisks and he could only shake his head in appreciation.
"Basilisk themselves are incredibly rare to begin with because they require what's essentially a dark ritual to create. Given the rarity they're constantly studied and the ingredients they can give someone are highly valuable. If it's in good condition since you left it... Given its size and the fact these sort of ingredients are usually auctioned off… I don't think you will ever have to worry about money," Bill ventured a guess. "The goblins will offer you a lump sum before they sell it over time… You would probably get ten million galleons, easy, and that's just with what I know. It could be far more."
Harry sat stock still in shock. Ten million galleons? One near death experience and shoving a sword through the thing's skull had potentially earned him millions of galleons? Mentally the boy converted that into British pounds and shook his head. That was already in the hundreds of millions of pounds and he knew he was only estimating. Part of him wanted to say it was too much while another, quieter part of himself yelled and screamed for joy. It warmed something inside him and the teen couldn't help but let a wide grin slip across his face.
"And you'd earn a portion, Gringotts would get its cut... Everyone comes out happy," Harry breathed as a plan began to form in his mind. "Can we open a new account for me for just the earnings from the basilisk? Something only I can access?"
"That's easy," Bill said offhandedly, though a curious expression worked its way into his face as he peered at the young man next to him. "Why though?"
"Because for once I actually earned it..." Harry said softly before he took a drink of butterbeer.
Bill offered a wistful smile and pat the younger man's shoulder. He knew what that felt like and he understood all too well what it meant to those that had come from nothing. "And because you earned it, it's actually yours. I get it. You feel you accomplished something, you earned what you have and that makes you proud of it, right?"
Harry's shy nod was shortly accompanied by a small smile. For once he actually had found someone that understood what he was going through, partially anyways. The eldest Weasley boy knew what it was like to earn his own way, how good it felt to earn what he had. The pair shared an understanding nod before Bill spoke again.
"I'll take care of the arrangements and get you a few things that will help you retrieve it. Don't worry, Goblins may be greedy but they are fair in their dealings... Most of the time." Bill grinned as he said that and Harry couldn't help but smirk in return. Unfortunately for the green-eyed wonder it wasn't going to last. "So out of curiosity, what classes are you taking? I want to know if I'm interviewing a future colleague or not over these drinks"
"That's not helpful, Bill," Harry groaned as he practically threw himself back into his chair in defeat. "McGonagall is already on my arse about picking classes. I told her I would decide over the summer when I had a chance to look at the books for each class."
"Looked through the books? Yes. Decided on classes? No." Harry sighed as he set his butterbeer on the table and leaned back in his seat. As he crossed his arms, the teen wondered just how the hell he was supposed to decide something that would help define his future so soon. "But even then, I don't know which ones I should take."
"Think of it from a different point of view," Bill advised before he sipped his drink once more. "You're fifteen and entering your third year, electives chosen now can affect what jobs you're able to have in the future. What would you like to be when you're older?"
"Besides left alone?" Harry asked with a smirk as he nodded toward eavesdroppers, who quickly turned away at being noticed. The pair of men snickered at the sight before Harry let out a sigh of resignation. "Teaching appeals to me a little bit... But I thought working as an Auror, Curse Breaker, or Healer might be a good idea. I like a good mystery and Poppy is nice enough when you get on her good side... You may have turned out alright but the jury's still out on that one."
The gentle swat of his elbow made Harry laugh as Bill muttered something that suspiciously sounded like "Cheeky Bugger."
"You're keeping your options open though, that's good," answered Bill with a grin. "While Arithmancy and Ancient Runes aren't required for Auror work they're dead helpful when pursuing someone past wards or when investigating cursed objects. Dad uses both when dealing with items in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office actually. Both classes are not only required but also very effective in the field for curse breakers and healers though. Care of Magical Creatures will be useful for all three considering you'll learn about animals of the magical world, and in turn more about our world itself. Muggle studies... Well, I'm sure you don't need that considering what I know of your home life and I'm not sure divination would help you much."
"Fair point..." Harry had plenty to think about, but as he listened to Bill he really understood what the man was getting at. If he wanted to be the best, he had to take some of the harder classes. Plus, it would be a shame to put Hagrid's gift to waste if he didn't end up attending Care. Still, as he thought of all of the opportunities he might have, he knew what he was going to do.
"Do you have-"
Bill had already set a self-inking quill and some parchment in front of him. All the while, Bill had a cheeky grin on his face. "Looks like you made a decision." The man's grin grew more mischievous than the twins as Harry wrote out his note. It worried Harry for a moment that Bill was so perceptive but then again, having someone with such insight around wasn't a bad thing. Hedwig flapped her way down the stairs, snatched up the note as soon as Harry was finished with it before she flew out the window on her way to Hogwarts. The moment Hedwig was out of sight the curse breaker leaned in.
"So tell me, what are the girls like at Hogwarts these days?"
Bill's victorious laughter rang through the Leaky Cauldron as Harry flushed bright red and cursed the man under his breath. Inside, however, Harry couldn't help but smile at the advice and affection Bill had given him. Maybe, just maybe, things were turning around.