A/N: A line in bold without quotation marks is something written. Thanks for reading and/or reviewing this story. Special thanks to Shygui for helping to make this worth reading. Here is the final chapter.
If you can't change your fate, change your attitude. - Charles Revson
Cyrus Greengrass was ambivalent about this day. He suspected he would be drawn deeper into whatever was going on than before but he was also proud to be Harry Potter's support on this day. He couldn't help but feel a little bit like a father to him. He even felt a bit of pride to see the boy standing calmly in his new robes while he waited to go. It was rather obvious he was using Occlumency but it was still impressive with as little experience as the boy had.
Other than a few glamours on Harry to avoid attention, it was a rather routine visit to Gringotts until Harry greeted the goblin leading them to where they needed to go. First, it had never occurred to him that they might use the same goblin as an escort for certain wizards. Second, he was surprised that Harry recognized him at all. Cyrus could recognize his own account manager but the tellers and escorts were all nameless to him.
He immediately saw the value in such recognition though, the goblin had been rather friendly for his kind for the rest of the trip. Next, he was surprised by what appeared to be personal interest in Harry by the Potter account manager. He had a good working relationship with his own account manager but they'd never expressed any personal connection at all. Perhaps it was not just him being taken in by this boy and his effect could even cross species lines.
Again, he was impressed with Harry's control as he pointed out two emotionally-provocative passages in his parents' will. It had been one thing to speculate that Black might be innocent, it was quite another to see proof. This was the sort of proof he needed to get him a trial but now that blasted man had gone and escaped and destroyed their plans. Still, it was important to have a copy just in case as one never knew when one might need a contingency plan.
Then there was the vindication of his decision to take Harry Potter into his family. It had been the choice of his parents and he now had proof. He'd known they'd been asked if they were willing, of course, but that didn't mean they'd made it into the final will. Now he might even have the means to obtain official guardianship so he ought to speak to the boy about it. He'd have to wait though, this was already a tumultuous day and they'd only begun.
He waited after Harry asked the question about Dumbledore reading the will but apparently he was too busy with the answer to ask any more questions. Cyrus decided to bring up his greatest curiosity about the Potter affairs at Gringotts. "Does Heir Potter have access to any vaults other than his trust vault?"
One Fang looked at him momentarily but turned back to Harry to speak. "Would you like Lord Greengrass to be your guardian for your Gringotts transactions, Heir Potter?"
That seemed to brighten Harry's mood. "If we could do that it would be great, One Fang."
"As you wish, Heir Potter." Another form was filled out and when Harry signed where One Fang had indicated, his question was answered.
"Heir Potter has had access to the artefacts vault of the Potters since he turned eleven."
"Do you know if his family grimoire is in that vault?"
"Most likely but allow me a moment to verify."
As One Fang was going through papers, Cyrus looked at Harry and Harry smiled weakly at him when he noticed. Harry was doing as well as could be expected then. Obtaining the grimoire was the end of their business here as far as he knew so that was somewhat of a relief. However, their visit to the Department of Mysteries would almost certainly include more challenges this day.
"Yes, both grimoires are available in that vault."
Both? As in TWO?! The only explanation for that that Cyrus could think of is another family being folded into theirs. Harry having two grimoires was very good news indeed. The boy would have a lot of family magic available to him, making him a more powerful ally and a better protector for his lady.
"We will need to retrieve those before we go."
"Certainly, I can arrange that while the certified copy of the will is being produced and we'll have it ready upon your return. Was there anything more?"
Harry merely looked to him and Cyrus had nothing more for now so he said, "No, One Fang. That will be enough for one day."
One Fang gave them a somewhat unnerving smile and then rang a bell. While they waited he spoke to Cyrus. "Lord Greengrass, I must caution you to not attempt to enter the Potter artefacts vault on your own. You may only enter if Heir Potter leads you in by physical contact. Any other manner of entry would have unfortunate results." After a few tense moments, there was a knock on the door. Cyrus thought it might be the same goblin and the exchanged nods between him and Harry confirmed this.
"Griphook, take these two to the Potter artefacts vault, number 101."
"As you wish, One Fang." With that, Griphook bowed to One Fang and led them away. The ride in the cart was refreshing in a way as it gave him time to think. So far, the day had gone better than he expected even though it brought up some bad memories. He hoped their next visit went as well.
They arrived at the vault and he went with Harry about half way and stopped well short of the door. He took the warning very seriously as he strongly suspected the 'unfortunate results' would include his demise. He didn't have a good angle on the goblin's face but he was pretty sure he was smirking at his caution.
Harry stopped by the door uncertainly but Cyrus was familiar with the design of the door. "Harry, do you see that small Potter coat of arms on the right side of the door? Put your hand there, it will know you by your blood."
He saw the small flinch as Harry's blood was sampled but that would never happen again. For all future visits, he'd be recognized by his magic. The door swung open as Harry stepped aside and Cyrus saw a huge vault filled with chests, book cases, furniture and he also saw some jewellery boxes. He had suspected that the Potters were very rich and here was proof. Harry stepped back towards him and held out his hand.
"Aren't you coming?"
How could he say no? He answered by walking over to him and taking his hand and together they entered the vault. Cyrus couldn't help but feel that their roles had reversed for a moment with Harry leading the way.
When he looked now, he saw a pedestal that hadn't been visible from outside the vault. The two books on top of it made it rather obvious why it was there. The problem was he found it hard to look at the top book. It seemed to glow like the sun, too bright to look at directly. Harry seemed to have no such issue as he went up to the book and peered at it.
Harry then picked it up, flipped through a lot of pages but only spent time on what might have been the first page. It was hard for Cyrus to tell with how bright it was. When Harry looked at him he asked, "What's wrong?"
"I can't look at that book, it must be family magic. The other book isn't as bad for me. What do you see?"
"On this book, I don't see much. On the cover is only a name and on the first page there are some Arithmantic equations and that's it, the rest is blank."
"What is the name?"
He had a book from one of the famous Peverell brothers? Ignotus was the youngest if he remembered his history correctly. The magic in that book must be amazing, no wonder he wasn't allowed to look. "That is a very valuable book, Harry. Take good care of it. For some books, you have to pass a test to read it. That might be what the Arithmancy is for."
Cyrus chuckled, apparently Harry didn't appreciate surprise tests. "Harry, I am certain that the book will be worth whatever it takes to read it. Here, I brought a bottomless bag, you can put anything you want to take in it."
Harry put that shining book in it and Cyrus was freed from the blinding light. Harry held up the other book and said, "The Potter Grimoire" before putting it in as well. A nearby bookcase caught Harry's eye and after a few moments he eagerly announced, "My mother's journals!" A series of books followed the first two into the bag. Harry looked at a notebook and put that into the bag as well. He grabbed another book and after perusing it, he added it to the bag and mentioned, "It was written by my father."
As Harry continued to study the books in the bookcase Cyrus looked around and realized that they'd be here for days if Harry wanted to look at everything. He might have to encourage him to cut off his perusal soon. Harry obviously reached the same conclusion himself when he found only one other book of interest and then gazed around at everything else.
"There's plenty for other days, I guess. Should we go?"
"I agree, Harry. It will take days to go through everything and we have another stop to make today."
When they reached the main building again, a young goblin was waiting and handed something to Griphook when they debarked from the cart. After a look at it, Griphook presented it to Cyrus. "This is the certified copy of the will that you wanted, Lord Greengrass."
"Thank you, Griphook."
It was hard to tell but he thought the goblin appreciated being called by name. They bade him farewell and then Cyrus announced it was time for lunch and Harry seemed to agree so he led them to a small restaurant that Cyrus liked. Once they had ordered, Cyrus put up a privacy spell and turned to Harry as he seemed to be thinking very hard about something.
"Is there anything you wish to discuss, Harry?"
"Since we now have some proof that my godfather is innocent, can we have the Dementors called off?"
He had wondered when that would come up but he had waited as his answer wasn't a good one. "If this were a normal case, I am sure that Madam Bones would be reasonable and approachable on the issue. Unfortunately for us and your godfather, this is not a normal case as it is being driven by the Minister of Magic himself and he is being very unreasonable. I approached him about the lack of a trial as part of my Wizengamot business and he refused to listen. He's acting like this is critical to his administration and was dismissive on the issue. I doubt I can convince him to even look at the will if I hold it in front of his face."
Harry looked appalled and the silence continued until they were served. Harry ate slowly but eventually quietly asked, "Is the privacy spell still up?"
"Yes, we're free to talk until we leave here."
"Are you going to approach Madam Bones?"
"Of course, I'll make an appointment with her as soon as I can. I doubt she can stop anything but having the head of the DMLE know of the issue may help. I'll even attempt a meeting with Fudge but given how our last meeting ended, I doubt he'll see me."
Harry looked depressed but continued to eat well even though he wasn't enthusiastic. After finishing their meal, they went to the Leaky Cauldron and flooed to the Ministry. Harry automatically kept near him as he clutched his bag and looked around. They checked in at the security desk then headed for the lifts.
When they reached the DOM level, Cyrus hid his smile when he saw his friend. He was using the same glamours and never disguised his voice but then, he wasn't trying to hide who he was from Cyrus. He just didn't want to be connected to his job and it would suffice for anyone who didn't already know him.
"Hello, Cyrus and this must be… your ward."
He appreciated his friend's discretion as his friend shook hands with Harry. His friend then continued, "Let's go to where we'll have some privacy."
He led them to a circular room with many doors and with a silent spell, he chose a door and led them through it. They ended up in group of rooms that seemed like they'd belong in a hospital. He chose a room seemingly at random and after he closed and silenced the door, he spoke to them both.
"Cyrus has asked me to examine your scar. Now, I may not be a healer but I do know a lot about magic and I am going to examine the magic in and on you and given how you got that scar I believe that is critical to determining what is going on."
He then turned and looked for something in a cabinet and came back with what looked like a hand mirror with knobs attached to it. He held it up and explained to them both, "This is what we call Zelazny's Mirror, don't ask me about the name, it's an inside joke from one of the ones who developed it. Apparently it's some Muggle fantasy author who wrote about a wizard who could see magic, I'm sure he got it all wrong. Anyway, it allows me to examine magic visually and the knobs let me focus on different aspects of it. Now, let's have a look… Merlin!"
Cyrus watched his friend in alarm as he looked surprised and then stood back to get a more overall look at Harry through his contraption. Robert continued to examine the results by turning different knobs and the silence got to him. "What's wrong?" He could tell from Harry's face that he was as concerned as he was.
His friend looked amazed and mystified as he gave a distracted response. "Nothing is wrong, per se…. It's just… unusual."
That vague response wasn't satisfying at all but at least it took the edge off of his concern. Now, he could wait until his friend was finished with his analysis. After a minute of tinkering, he finally lowered his device with a thoughtful look. When he became aware of his environment again, he must have seen their questions written all over their faces.
He chuckled briefly before he began to speak. "It appears I have made you wait too long already. I was surprised because you, Mr. Potter, are positively glowing with magical energy. It isn't your aura as I examined that too, it's larger than normal, like your magical core but this is something different. It's like a ward surrounding you but it is not from your magic, it's different but not too different so it must be from a relative. Are you aware of any spells that your parents may have placed on you?"
Cyrus could speculate on that but he could see that Harry was ready to answer so he remained silent. "That would be my Mum's protection, she sacrificed herself to save me."
Robert's eyes stared into the distance, unseeing, as he slowly spoke. "Sacrificial magic, that's amazing and still powerful after all these years – about twelve now. Amazing."
His eyes finally focussed on Harry again and he seemed to startle. "Oh, I'm sorry, I've become distracted and this isn't what you were in here for. Right, let's have a look at the scar then."
Robert seemed a bit flustered until he settled into an examination of Harry's forehead. He was quite thorough as he looked from different angles and made numerous adjustments of the knobs. He sighed when he was done and looked at the two of them contemplatively before speaking.
"The scar is due to dark magic but it's not something I've seen before. I recorded the examination, which cannot be tied to you. All I saw was the magic, not your head and nobody could identify you from it. I'd like to show it to a colleague to get another opinion before I can say anything specific with confidence. All I can give you are some generalities right now. Is it OK for me to share this with a colleague?"
Harry looked at him so he went with trusting his friend. "Go ahead, we just don't want anyone to know who is involved."
"Don't worry, all of us who work here understand discretion. I doubt he'd ask but if does, I'll just say that it is confidential and he'd drop it immediately. Anyway, any discomfort you might be feeling, Mr. Potter, is due to the fact that whatever is in the scar of yours is interacting with your mother's protection on you. I can also say that whatever is in your scar is losing. The magical energy is being drained from your scar and there is some sort of mental connection as well. All that said, though, I can't tell you what that is in your scar. It's magical but it's not just magic but what else it is I cannot say for certain. I promise to get back with you after my discussion with my colleague. I am not giving up. Any questions?"
Cyrus had questions but nothing he would ask in front of Harry so he shook his head no. Harry did the same so his friend then approached Harry with his mirror. "I'd like a private word with Cyrus for a minute or two but while you are waiting, I thought you might like to try this yourself. Just look through the mirror at your hand and you will see the protection I was talking about, you can't miss it. You can try the knobs too but do not press this button." He pointed to something on top and Harry nodded his understanding.
"All set then?"
Harry nodded and smiled back at Robert then Robert signalled Cyrus towards a corner. While his friend cast a privacy spell, Cyrus maneuvered himself so he could look over his friend's shoulder to see Harry and saw that he seemed fascinated with what he saw in the mirror. Cyrus then looked at his friend's anxious face and his heart fell a little as it was obvious that there was bad news.
"I'm afraid that we now appear to have confirmation that that madman has made a Horcrux. I am fairly sure that what is in his scar is a soul fragment but I've never seen the like before so I want to confirm it. The good news for Harry is that I doubt we'll have to do anything about it. His mother's protection is attacking and overwhelming it. It's only a matter of time until whatever it is will be gone."
Cyrus felt a jolt of relief go through him and he hadn't felt anything like this since the birth of his daughters. He could now admit to himself that he had very much feared losing Harry. Although he'd miss the boy, he knew that would be nothing compared to the reaction of his oldest and for her sake he was extremely glad.
"I have other good news. I also have recorded the magical signature from that scar. With that, I hope to be able to construct something that can detect that signature to help us find if there are any others. That diary must have been one and it is possible that only that fragment in Mr. Potter is keeping him on this plane of existence. However, the man was mad enough to do it once, he may have done it again. It is in everyone's best interest to make sure all of those abominations are destroyed."
"Agreed. Is there anything I need to do for Harry?"
"Not at this time. Let me know if there are any changes. A healer can help with side effects but they wouldn't know what to do with what he has in that scar of his. Well, let's check out that prophecy, shall we?"
Cyrus wanted to shake his head at how his friend was able to put these revelations aside. He did not look forward to explaining this to Roxanne but he didn't dare try to shirk that responsibility. He didn't want to get in that much trouble ever again.
Harry seemed reluctant to give up Robert's mirror contraption and that almost was enough to make Cyrus smile. They then went through a few doors and ended up in a huge room with glass containers held in row after row of shelving. He led them to a particular spot as if he'd been there many times. He then pointed at one particular globe and told Harry to take it.
"Only the subjects of the prophecy can take down the globe, anyone else trying would not like the results. Let's take it into a private room and you can play it there." Robert led the way to a room and held open the door and waited while the other two went in. "Mr. Potter, I'd like to hear the prophecy too, if you don't mind."
Harry looked to him for guidance as he thought furiously, considering the pros and cons. "I would suggest you allow him to hear it. Prophecies usually have multiple possible meanings, he might help us interpret it."
Harry then looked back at the unspeakable and nodded his assent so he entered. "This room is warded for privacy already. You can tap the globe with your wand anytime and we'll be able to hear it." Harry took a deep breath and tapped the globe and they heard an ethereal woman's' voice.
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies..."
The silence was nearly overwhelming, all he could hear was the soft breathing of the three of them. He couldn't see Harry's face as he was staring down at the now-silent globe but he could well imagine the anguish he must feel. He wasn't the subject of the prophecy and he felt plenty of anguish himself.
He exchanged a look with Robert and felt he was thinking the same as him. The linking of their lives by that soul fragment must part of the reason for the odd part of not living while the other survives. As he feared, the victor was not declared in the prophecy. There was one thing that bothered him though and he wanted to break the silence anyway.
"I'm a little surprised that he attacked Harry like he did. He made the part come true about marking him as his equal and he should have been more careful about the 'power the Dark Lord knows not'."
Robert responded, "Perhaps he only knew the prophecy existed or didn't know the whole thing. We already know he's mad as a hatter, maybe he's too arrogant to be careful."
Cyrus nodded. "All are possible I suppose."
Robert cleared his throat before saying, "There are no obstacles to leaving and you can leave the globe on the shelf there. You can stay here as long as you want. This will point you the way out, just throw it away when you get out as it won't last long once you leave here. Well, I'll consider what I heard and try to find out more about the scar and get back to you, Cyrus. It was a pleasure to meet you, Harry." He handed a small stick to Cyrus.
The only response from Harry was a whispered "likewise".
Robert gave Cyrus a sympathetic look and he quietly left them alone in the room. At first, Cyrus waited to see if Harry would say something but the silence became too intense for him. "Remember Harry, you are not alone in this. House Greengrass will stand with you, I swear this as Lord Greengrass."
Harry sniffed and looked up at him briefly before looking down again and whispering, "Thanks."
"Like he said, we can take our time. We can wait, we can talk if you want and we can leave for home when you want. I'll leave it up to you." Cyrus buried his frustration of not knowing what else to do. His wife was so much better at this than he was. On the other hand, he saw no advantage in hurrying the boy so he'd wait here with him as long as it took.
His experience at Gringotts made Harry think that perhaps he'd worried too much about today. He had found out his Godfather was innocent even though they couldn't do anything about that now. He had confirmed that he should have been with the Greengrasses all along. He even had gotten some precious books from his family and especially his parents. Sure, it had been an emotional time but overall it was good, not bad.
Even the start at the Department of Mysteries was good. Seeing his mother's magic for the first time was amazing. He may not be able to remember seeing her but he'd never forget seeing her protection around him. It was a beautiful golden aura completely surrounding and protecting him. It was astonishing and it was beautiful and it was a gift from his mother. If only she'd not had to die to give it to him.
Hearing the prophecy was devastating at first. Him against this guy with decades of experience on him? How was this fair? But as he sat there feeling sorry for himself, two things finally solidified in his mind. First, did this really change anything? He'd already known the old maniac wanted him dead, no difference there. This only told him why and it was vaguely reassuring that it wasn't random chance and there actually was a reason.
The other thing he realized is that his promise to not be a grumpy git should include not being a mopey git. If he was serious about becoming better, and he was, he had to buck up and take this on. What good did feeling sorry for himself do? None, that's what. He couldn't let Daphne see him like this and it was time to accept his challenge and go home. He felt a flutter of warmth when he realized that home was Greengrass Manor now, a place where people actually cared about him.
He used that knowledge to buoy his mood and he thought he did pretty well. On the other hand, he had not missed the fact that Cyrus's Unspeakable friend had talked privately with Cyrus just as Cyrus and Roxanne were doing now. There might be something they were keeping from him but he refused to be paranoid about it. These were people who cared about him and Roxanne had proven that to him abundantly and now he was getting such reassurance from Cyrus as well. If he had to know something, he felt they would tell him.
He had told Daphne, and her little sister who insisted on being present, about everything although he didn't try to recite the prophecy and spoke of it as little as he could get away with. He knew he wasn't fooling Daphne but she was nice enough not to call him on it. His favourite part was how they ooohed and aaahed about him seeing his mother's protection. A close second was when he revealed that their parents had been listed as guardians and that he should have been with them all along and he grinned as both girls celebrated.
Soon it was time for dinner and although he tried to keep things light, a gloom seemed to take over the table. Harry didn't think he was responsible for it but couldn't be sure as he sometimes did things without realizing it. He kept trying to pretend but after the pudding, Daphne had apparently had enough.
"What's wrong Harry?"
Harry stared at his empty plate and realized at least his appetite hadn't failed him. He felt fully responsible for the mood pervading the room though. The only thing he could think of is to face the prophecy head on. He turned to Cyrus and asked, "Can I borrow your Pensieve, Cyrus?"
"What is it that you want to show, Harry?"
Harry did his best to appear resolute. "The prophecy."
He saw Cyrus and Roxanne exchange glances and then Cyrus turned to Astoria. "This will be private, Astoria. You can do something else."
Harry saw her turn red and open her mouth to protest but surprisingly, she shut it without a sound and quietly left. Her gait was a bit stiff and she was still red so she was still upset. Harry's heart went out to her but this was clearly her parent's decision, not his. Besides, he sort of wished he hadn't heard it himself, although she'd disagree, she was probably better off this way.
Harry then turned to look at Daphne and was shocked at seeing her flat stare at him. Her face softened marginally when she said, "Come on, Harry. Let's face this together."
She was trying to be strong for him or at least that is what he thought that meant. She led the way towards Cyrus' den and oddly it was the parents who trailed behind. Cyrus shut and sealed the door as Harry stepped up to the Pensieve and focussed on just hearing the prophecy. He wanted his reaction and what Cyrus and Robert said out of it as much as possible.
When he had deposited the memory, Cyrus came forward, touched some runes with his wand and the scene appeared above the device and Harry heard it for the second time. His progress with Occlumency had ensured he remembered the whole thing word for word. Seeing and hearing it again didn't really change anything but it brought his feelings out again anyway. He tried to appear strong but he was sure his attempt was failing rather spectacularly.
When it ended, he cut his eyes toward Daphne and he saw she was staring at him with sorrow in her eyes and tears streaming down her cheeks. He couldn't bear to see her crying so he looked down but that may have been a mistake. He flinched in surprise when he heard her hard voice.
"Did you listen Harry? Did you listen to what we told you in the Gryffindor study room? Did you listen to the prophecy? Let me remind you of the highlights!"
He looked at her in mixed awe and trepidation, she seemed like a force of nature as she advanced on him and got in his face. "Did you hear the part 'the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord'? Did you? That was YOU Harry!" She poked him in the chest to emphasize her point and although she still had tears on her cheeks her eyes looked angry. It was all Harry could do to not take a step back.
"Did you hear the part 'mark him as his equal'? Did you?" She poked him right on his scar that time. He understood her anger now. He wasn't facing this like he should and he was disappointing her. He couldn't have that so he straightened and looked her straight back in the eyes as she finished her rant.
Her voice lost some of its force as she finished. "You aren't alone. I'm with you, Tracey is with you, Neville is with you, Hermione is with you and even that git Weasley is with you!" Then very softly she added, "The Greengrass family is with you. You're part of us now. You'll never have to be alone again."
With that she engulfed him in a hug and he did the only thing he could, he pulled her into him as tightly as he dared. She was giving in to her tears again but he took what she said to heart and just focused on his feelings about what she'd said, his new sense of belonging. He then looked towards the Greengrass parents and although his eyes were a bit watery, he could see that they looked gobsmacked. Apparently, even they were very impressed by their daughter.
It was one thing for her to hear her husband recite the prophecy, it was quite another thing for her to see Harry's memory of it. She saw how it affected him then and how it affected him still and she wanted to do nothing more than go over and hug and comfort him. Before she could move though, her daughter had started in on him. She was appalled and even started to move to stop her when she remembered two things.
First, her daughter cared for him at least as much as she did, if not more. Second, she knew him better than she did. Their talks, their writing to each other, they had each bared themselves to the other. Maybe, just maybe, her daughter knew how to handle this better than she did.
She relaxed when she saw him straighten and look right back at her as she wound down. Her guess had been right, Daphne did know how to handle this better than she did. He wasn't an overwhelmed mess, he was now standing up for himself, facing what he needed to face. Daphne was turning this boy into a man right before her eyes and turning herself into an incredible woman at the same time. She couldn't think of a moment when she was more proud of her daughter than this one.
Her eyes swam with unshed tears as she watched the two of them comfort each other. There was no doubt about it, they are and would be a formidable pair. As they slowly recovered and then began to release each other from their hugs, she decided that they still needed some alone time. She knew just what to suggest.
"Harry, Daphne, why don't you two take a walk. See which flowers are blooming now, maybe watch the sunset. Take your time."
Her daughter gave her a grateful look and they murmured thanks as they slowly left to go on their walk. She turned and hugged her husband, their daughter was growing up and she was pretty sure she knew at whose side Daphne would spend the rest of her life.
Sirius left the house at number 4 Privet Drive and ambled back towards the small plot of woods where he would hide. He'd heard that Harry was living with Muggles and given how the top two in the custody list in the Potter will had fared he decided to see if he was with his bint of an aunt, which hadn't been the least bit encouraging about his welfare. If he hadn't already known her husband's name and approximately where they lived, he'd never have found this place. He whimpered at a sharp pain, his right rear paw was still hurting, he'd have to take another look at it tonight.
He laid down by a tree far enough into the woods for him to be hard to see in the gathering gloom. He'd wasted a day and a half here and he had to decide what to do. He'd been desperate to see Harry after all of these years and was somewhat relieved to not find him here. His scent was here but it was old, as in at least a year old. He wasn't there and it seemed unlikely that he'd ever be back. He searched for wards or other protections and found nothing, this place was abandoned except for the Muggles still living there.
He'd come very far south to see Harry and now he had a long trek back north to get to Hogwarts. He really ought to get started on that. He would have liked to go west and seek out Peter but the article had been clear, they'd be out of the country until just before school. His chances of getting to Peter before Hogwarts started were bad and not worth pursuing.
He was tempted to head north but he still wanted to see Harry, just once. It would reassure him so much but where was his godson? He forced himself to focus on old memories when he and James had discussed Harry's guardianship. He remembered the slight sting of coming in second to Alice but he had understood. She was married and had a child of nearly identical age, they had the familial alliance and she was a logical first choice. He was a bachelor who couldn't focus on just one woman, at least, not since Marlene had died. He whined in renewed grief, after all these years he still missed her.
He'd known Alice and Frank's fate for years, he wasn't going to waste his time going there and obviously his dead friends' second choice didn't have him. That left Roxanne Lannister/Greengrass but where did she live? He'd never really known Cyrus well so he had no direct knowledge of where he might live. He forced himself to older memories, of his childhood in the Black home. He had seen Cyrus' father there but again, he didn't recall any mention by him of where they lived.
Then a fragment of an overheard conversation came to him. Something about the Greengrass family starting out as farmers and successful ones at that. That was a clue, but where? He knew that East Anglia was renowned as the best farming area, could they be there? Then a word popped back into his mind: Norfolk. Yes! His grandfather had mentioned Norfolk as connected to the Greengrasses and Norfolk was part of East Anglia!
Although he'd have to head east, it was to the north of where he was now. It may not be on his direct route to Hogwarts but it was somewhat on his way. He realized that he was facing a choice he'd had before: take care of Harry or go for revenge? He'd made the wrong decision then and he wouldn't repeat it. It may end up as a wild goose chase, but in the morning he was headed for Norfolk.
Draco had been distracted for months now. His father losing his seat on the board of governors had been bad enough but then he'd been thrown into Azkaban! He'd felt abandoned and powerless, he'd always felt his power was derived from his father's and that his destiny was to become like him. Now his power base and idol were torn from him, only to be seen on their infrequent visits to Azkaban.
His father was forced to live in a disgusting hovel of a room, with hardly anything there. His mother had had to ask for chairs for them! His father looked thinner and older, it was so very disheartening to see. Why was he there? For the death of some insignificant man that the world was better off being rid of! Instead of sending him here, they should have given his father a medal!
His private talk with his father had been very eye-opening, he had been dealing with what was going on around him as a student rather than as the heir of a prominent family. This probable coalition against them had galvanized his determination to grow up and become a force in the magical world. However, it seemed to his father, and him, that the most dangerous component of that coalition was Greengrass.
Now he had a mission but it was only partly what his father had told him to do. He suspected the Greengrasses and Longbottoms of plotting to put him where he was so yes, he'd watch Neville, Daphne and the little sister too if she showed up. But he wasn't going to just watch, he was going to have his vengeance. His father had given him access to an account and he was going to use that money and he was going to have revenge. He'd once thought Daphne might make a decent wife for him but she'd continually dismissed him. Well, for that and for what her father had done to his, she was going to pay and pay dearly. Draco Malfoy would see to it!
Evenings had definitely become Daphne's favourite time of day since the terrible day they'd found out about the prophecy. Ever since her mother had suggested it, they had made it a point to end their days with a walk outside. Even that evening two days ago when it rained, they had still taken their walk underneath umbrella shields cast by her mother.
Harry's mood had improved each evening as well and so had hers for the most part. However, there was a downside to her decision to touch him more to reassure him. It had worked but the unfortunate side effect was that she found it rather addictive. The more she touched him the more she wanted to do it and, well, other things.
For instance, they were now holding hands just like boyfriend/girlfriend and it made her heart beat faster. The sad fact, however, was that they were not boyfriend/girlfriend. As much as he was becoming more accustomed to touching, there was nothing in word or deed from him that he was ready to be a boyfriend. She valued her friendship and this newfound intimacy far too much to risk it by pushing him for more. She would have to remain patient, as much as she disliked that.
However, she couldn't stop her idle wondering, if she could hold his hand, why couldn't she put her arm around him and snuggle in? Why couldn't she kiss him? Why couldn't she feel… well, erm, OK, maybe she wasn't quite ready for that part herself. It happened in her dreams though and one day she wanted it to be real. However, it would never be reality as long as they were just friends. She felt a little bad for putting the word 'just' in front of 'friends' as his friendship was very important to her. She just wanted more!
She suddenly realized that he seemed to have caught on to her mood, he was becoming more perceptive, which was a good thing really, it just forced her to be more careful sometimes. She needed a distraction and then found it just ahead of them where a butterfly fluttered over some flowers. She pointed at it with a big smile and got a smile back while he glanced from her to the butterfly.
She was content for now, she really was and even these quiet times when they just walked together were precious. She could be strong for him just as he could be strong for her. He was her friend, her good friend and it was enough for now.
Harry was sort of at loose ends that morning. Since it was a Saturday they had no class and Astoria had left to visit a friend just after breakfast so that distraction was gone. It looked like a nice day and he hated to waste that by reading the family grimoire. He'd decided to read it front to back and the older stuff was hard to read and so far, there'd been no cool new spells. He had learned some old family history though.
He was looking out at the surrounding fields when Daphne came up beside him. "How about a morning walk for once?"
He had fun on walks with her even if they didn't talk so he didn't have to be convinced. "Sure. Can we try a new direction this time?"
"Sure, let's go west."
At first she walked close and he thought she'd take his hand but then he was just thinking of taking her hand when she moved farther away and it became impractical. She'd been doing that lately, getting close and then backing off and he couldn't figure out why. He'd gotten more accustomed to her touches and was really starting to enjoy it, which was very new to him.
However, Daphne had always seemed to have some boundaries and he didn't want to push. He owed her a lot and invading her boundaries seemed like a poor repayment. He looked around, admiring birds and butterflies, whatever was moving around. There weren't as many flowers this way, it seemed to be crops here. He looked more closely, was that wheat? Oats? Something else?
They'd been walking for a while when he was surprised to hear a bark. There was a dog here? He looked around and spotted a large, black dog cavorting in the distance. "Hey look! Let's go see the dog!"
Daphne didn't answer and was instead looking at the dog with a frown but she kept going with him so he didn't worry about it. Maybe she didn't like dogs, some people were like that. He noticed an old stone fence that the dog was behind but couldn't figure out why. The dog could either jump over it or walk over it easily. Why was it pacing on the other side of such a minor obstacle?
He could see how excited the dog was as they got closer but then Daphne suddenly stepped closer to him and grabbed his arm and they both stopped. "That's a Grim!" She looked really scared and Harry was trying to figure out what she was talking about.
"It's just a dog, Daphne."
"No, I think it's a Grim but…." She paused and looked around and then peered more closely at the suddenly quiet dog. She looked over at Harry who was still trying to figure out what she was talking about. "A Grim is a large spectral dog, usually near churches. It's a harbinger of death."
That sounded like a myth to Harry but he was in a magical society so had to consider the possibility she was on to something. He looked at the dog again, who although still excited was sitting rather calmly and giving them an almost pleading look. "He doesn't look spectral to me."
Daphne's response sounded reluctant as she said, "No he doesn't. They are also supposed to rather bear-like and have yellow eyes and his seem to be – grey? Plus, there's no churches anywhere near here. I suppose he just might be a big, black dog."
The dog seemed to respond positively to that and barked at them again. Harry's smile faded as he looked more closely at the dog. "Look! The poor thing has burrs in his fur and look how skinny he is! Isn't anyone taking care of him!?"
The dog whined at him as Daphne started to slowly approach but she still kept her hand on Harry's arm as if she were afraid he'd bolt forward or something. Harry thought it was sort of nice she was protective and all but he was really wondering what had her so spooked about a dog.
"Look at him! He needs some food! Why is he staying on the other side of that little wall, he should be able to jump it."
"Harry, that wall is also the edge of our outer wards. A strange dog wouldn't be allowed in and this dog must have tried as he is staying on the other side."
"Oh. We can at least feed him though, right?"
She finally looked at him and smiled. "Sure, I'll have Mipsy get something for him. Mipsy!"
"Miss Daphne is calling Mipsy? What can Mipsy… Eek! Grim! Get behind me Miss Daphne and Mister Harry! Mipsy can protect!"
Daphne quickly tried to calm the distraught elf. "No! it's fine, Mipsy. I thought it might be a Grim too but it's not. It's just a big black dog but it's hungry. We were wondering if you could bring him something to eat."
Mipsy looked uncertain but then seemed to consider her request. "Mipsy can find some meat for him. A big dog will need a big bowl. Mipsy will fetch and be back soon. Stay away from big dog, Mipsy not trust big dogs."
Harry found their reactions to the dog humorous but decided it was better to keep that to himself. "He looks like he's starved for attention." Harry began to walk closer but Daphne grabbed his arm again.
"It's probably a stray, it might bite you. Stay on our side of the wards."
"I think his right rear paw is hurt, he seems to favour it a little."
"That doesn't mean he was mistreated."
Harry gave her a quick look but then replied calmly, "It doesn't mean he wasn't either."
She moved closer and encouraged him to turn and face her. "He doesn't seem beaten down, he's not afraid of us so I doubt he was mistreated. However, he might just want food from us and might misunderstand your attempt to pet him. He might bite you, Harry. So please be careful."
"He seems glad to see us."
"All we know is that he's excited. There's some diseases they can carry and he's big and can hurt you by accident. We can feed him but there's no reason to take a risk. We can talk to him, there's no harm in that."
Harry sighed in frustration, she had a point. He just felt so bad for the dog and wanted to comfort him but like she said, it wasn't worth the risk.
He looked at the dog and said apologetically, "I'm sorry, boy. We can get you food and water but you'll have to stay on your side for now, OK?"
"He really seems to like you. He even seems like he might understand you."
Harry turned to look at her. "Dogs can be pretty good at understanding commands and they're usually eager to please. I wish I could pet him."
In the next moment, they were startled by the reappearance of Mipsy holding two large bowls. "Mipsy has what big dog needs. Let Mipsy do this." She then proceeded to levitate the two bowls, one with meat and the other with water over to the dog. The dog immediately drank some water and then hungrily dug into the meat.
Harry watched with interest as the dog ate quickly, he'd been right, the dog was nearly starving. "If he stays around, we should feed him." When Daphne didn't answer he looked at her and she looked at the dog dubiously but when she saw him looking she gave him a reluctant smile.
"Agreed, we can come tomorrow and if he's here, we'll feed him. OK?"
Harry smiled back and just said, "Thanks."
Daphne blushed and looked away.
Daphne nearly took his hand when they started their morning walk but then decided it was a bad idea. If she held his hand this soon, she want to do more than that later and she couldn't afford that. She just enjoyed the quiet companionship as they walked.
When she thought it was a Grim, she was very frightened. She couldn't afford to lose him this soon but then she realized that she had seen it too. Were they both doomed? It took her a few moments to calm down and realize she had misinterpreted what it was. It could still be dangerous though and it wasn't easy to convince him of it.
She knew what he was seeing, of course. Given his background, he would see any stray or injured dog as being mistreated and needing help. It was part of his nature due to those damned Muggles that raised him. She had no objections to his big heart, she rather liked it in fact, but she couldn't allow him to endanger himself.
She'd gotten a little suspicious as the dog seemed to focus so much on Harry but then she realized that it probably realized that Harry was the one with more sympathy and the one more likely to give him a handout, nothing more. Still, it was best for each of them to stay on their own side of the wards.
She looked at him as he watched the dog and talked to it. He was so cute that she just wanted to hug and kiss him. She felt like a hopeless case, pining for something that she couldn't have, at least for now. She'd have to find some way of giving him what he needed without making herself want too much. What a balancing act she was setting herself up for.
Sirius was very tired and hungry and was trudging his way across the county again, hoping to find something. He didn't know how much longer he could keep this up. He needed food and he needed some rest but he also needed to find Harry. He was approaching a low, stone fence when he suddenly sensed the presence of wards.
He studied them as his father had taught him, one of the few useful things he'd ever learned from his parents. These were very powerful wards, they must be tied to ley lines to have such power. They were also old wards that didn't advertise their presence. Some careless fool could wander right into them and hurt himself badly. Sirius Black was not so careless. There were probably Muggle repelling wards that didn't affect him but he was too tired to check.
He looked around and saw what must be a large manor way in the distance. However, he could tell that it was very unlikely anyone would hear him at that distance. Even if they did, why would they pay attention to a stray dog?
He looked at the position of the house in relation to the fences he could see and it seemed to be about in the centre. It didn't look likely he could get any closer but he'd eventually try. For now, though, he needed rest. It also had been a while since he'd crossed that stream so he was thirsty too. He collapsed where he was and looked at his paw again. It seemed to be trying to heal but he was walking so much it never got a chance to finish. He quickly fell into an exhausted slumber.
He suddenly awoke and wondered why when his ears perked up. He heard people walking so he quickly sat up to look for them. There they were, a boy and a girl. Could the boy possibly be – yes! He looked so much like James that there was only one possibility of who that boy was. He jumped up and ran along the fence to reach the point he was walking towards. He was so excited that he just couldn't stay put and paced on his side of the wards.
Then he checked out the girl, she must be Roxanne's oldest but what was her name again? He had to resist the urge to try to leap the fence to get to Harry but knew that would be a very risky move. Then he heard him call her Daphne. Yes, he remembered now, she was definitely Roxanne's oldest and now that he looked at her, she did resemble Roxanne. He was pleased and amused at how careful she was about Harry. As a matter of fact, he got the distinct impression that she fancied him, a lot. His godson was so lucky! She was quite pretty and would likely end up a beauty like her mother.
He got a little desperate when she got the idea that he was a Grim. He seriously considered transforming but that would start up a whole new can of worms that might make Harry permanently unavailable. He had to try to act like a friendly dog and settled down as she realized her mistake.
He was so hungry that he couldn't suppress his canine reaction to the mention of food. He wasn't going to be fussy, he'd eat anything. As it turned out the house elf gave him some very good scraps and he really needed the water too. He also soaked up the attention from Harry. He felt like he could run all the way to Hogwarts now!
His godson was healthy, seemed happy and was under the care of a kind woman. Sirius couldn't ask for more than that for his godson, he was very happy for him. However, how she talked about Harry assuming that he was an abused pet gave him pause. The only thing he could think of was that Harry's time with that bint Petunia might have been as bad as he'd feared. If he found out that they had abused their nephew, he'd show them how a Black dealt with someone who wronged their family. He refused to hate them for being Muggles like his family. On the other hand, he would hate them for what they probably had done to Harry.
He was sad when they turned to leave for lunch but Harry seemed anxious to see him the next day. However, he had thought that once he checked on Harry, he'd head to Hogwarts. Now he wasn't sure what to do so he'd have to sleep on it.
Harry walked beside Daphne as they took their customary late walk in the Greengrass garden. She had been acting oddly for a few days and it seemed to get worse since they encountered the stray dog earlier that day. He began to question his decision to wait her out. He was now thinking that you shouldn't let some things fester or they could become worse. Whatever was wrong with her seemed to involve him as he hadn't noticed any difference in her interactions with her family, just with him.
"What's wrong, Daphne?"
She gave him a guarded look. "Why do you think there is something wrong?"
"Because you are acting differently towards me. Have I done something wrong?"
Mild alarm flickered across her face before she answered. "No. You haven't done anything wrong."
"Then what is it?"
She turned away and sighed. "I've just been thinking. It's nothing for you to worry about."
"If something bothers one of my friends, it bothers me too. I'd be glad to listen."
That earned him a quick smile but she turned away just as quickly so he was still concerned. However, he didn't want to badger her so he just waited. They got to her favourite place to sit so he sat beside her as usual but this time, he turned toward her and waited. At first, she just looked towards the horizon but slowly it became obvious that she had noticed that he was watching her and he gradually became aware of signs of nervousness from her.
Suddenly, she groaned and said, "You're not going to let this go, are you?"
She started to glare at him but she apparently couldn't hold it so she looked away from him again. "I was thinking about firsts."
"You know, the first time something happens in your life."
He thought he knew what she meant but decided to be sure. "You mean like the first time you saw Hogwarts?"
"That's a good example."
She did not continue so he prodded her. "And?"
She huffed and lowered her head so her hair hid her face completely from him. "I was thinking of a first that hasn't happened yet."
"Is it something I can help you with?"
She made a strange sound, something like a cross between a laugh and a groan.
He waited a few moments but she had no other reaction. "Are you OK?"
She simply nodded her head so he decided to wait. When she spoke, it was so quiet that he wasn't sure he heard it correctly. "My first kiss."
He swallowed nervously and this time he looked away. She wanted to kiss somebody and it made his stomach feel like it was tied into a knot. He had no idea what to say and the silence became tense for him. When she spoke again her voice was clearer and louder so he looked back to see her looking at him with her normal public icy façade.
"A first kiss is important for a girl, she wants it to be special."
He wanted to swallow again but his throat refused to work. He was embarrassed when his voice cracked during his response but he was grateful that she didn't react to that.
"Do you have the lucky bloke picked out?" He felt better for a moment when a small smile finally appeared on her face.
"Yes. I've wanted to kiss him for a few months now but I was afraid of his reaction."
Part of him was wondering why she was telling him this. He was starting to feel sick as if the subject was tearing him up inside although he wasn't sure why. His voice betrayed him again during his answer.
"I don't think you have to worry. Whoever it is, is very lucky, he should b-be happy."
She suddenly moved over and sat right up against him. Her whole side was pressed tightly to his and he found it hard to breathe. Her voice was sort of breathy and soft when she asked, "Do you really think so?"
Her face was really close to his, he was pretty sure he felt her breath on his face as she spoke. He couldn't take his eyes off of hers and his lungs seemed to have taken a vacation. He could only nod mutely.
She slowly began to turn towards him and her shifting shoulder encouraged him to turn towards her too. Her face was coming even closer to his and she was staring into his eyes just as he stared into hers. He felt like he was frozen in a moment of time, unable to move. Suddenly their lips touched and he closed his eyes as she did the same. He felt a band of heat on his back where her arm was holding him and he felt her back with his hand as well.
At first it was a tentative touch of lips but then they touched again and she moved her lips against his. Some sort of instinct kicked in and he tried to kiss her back. As it continued, he began to think that this was better than he had ever suspected it would be. Kissing a girl was sort of nice.
She moaned into his mouth and he felt her tongue move against his partly open lips. Nice? Scratch that. It was bloody incredible!
Roxanne lowered her omnioculars with a grin and a wistful sigh. She had been watching the signs and she just knew their first kiss would happen during one of their evening walks. She felt a little guilty for spying on them but she had wanted to be sure that this important step was taken. She'd never forget her first kiss with Cyrus.
She thought of her friend Lily and hoped that if she had been able to look down on them a few moments ago that Lily felt as happy as she did. She wouldn't plan the wedding yet but the hope was blossoming in her heart, she felt they had a very good chance at the happiness a loving marriage could bring. The hard part now would be acting like she didn't know.
A/N2: This is the end of this story but not the end of the series. Stay tuned for Harry Potter and the Unexpected Dogfather, the next in the Unexpected series but there will be a delay until I start posting it.