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Chapter 2 - A Return to Normal
Charlus sat in his study rereading the last letter he had gotten from his son. James had gone on for three pages about how little Harry, Charlus's grandson, was doing. 'Harry is already walking,' 'Harry can fly better than he can walk,' and 'Harry called me Pongs, I know he was trying to say Prongs but Sirius heard it and has taken to calling me Pongs,' were some of his favourites to reread. The letter was only three days old, but it already looked like it had been batted around his desk for months because of how much he and his wife liked to read the letters their son sent home. It was a pity that they wouldn't be able to see them tonight for Halloween this year, but there was a war on. It saddened Charlus just how many times he had been able to say that in his life. With the muggles declaring war on Germany twice and Grindelwald getting involved, and now the so-called Lord Voldemort, he had been around for too many wars.
A bell sounded out, indicating that they had a visitor. Maybe James had brought Lily and Harry for a visit anyway, or maybe Sirius had come by. It had been a few weeks since he had heard from the boy he had all but adopted, but Sirius was busy with Dumbledore's burnt chicken club. Charlus didn't like that Sirius had followed Dumbledore, the headmaster had some very funny ideas about how to fight a war, ideas that would get people on his side killed. But with word that Voldemort had marked James, Lily and little Harry for death, Sirius was never going to rest on his laurels. He was determined to protect his brother and godson, and nothing that Charlus had said had dissuaded him.
Charlus froze as a scream filled the house. It was his wife's voice and she wasn't screaming in surprise or in joy at seeing her grandson, it was a scream of terror. She would only scream like that if there was real trouble. "Dorea!" Charlus shouted as he started to rush down the stairs wishing as he went that his old knees weren't slowing him down so much. There was the sound of spell fire, and now the screams of his wife changed to shouted spell incantations, and screams of pain were added to the noise. His wife may be as light as any Potter, but she had been raised as a Black, and when it came to defending her home there was no way she would hold back.
Charlus got to the bottom of the stairs that lead up to the family floor and to the balcony looking down into the entrance hall, where he saw his wife exchanging spells with six masked Death Eaters. He drew his wand and started to fire bone breakers down at the enemy. Dorea was using a decorative marble column as cover, and a number of the Death Eaters fell.
Suddenly, there was a shout from the doorway. "OH MERLIN HELP!" Charlus looked at where the shout came from and saw Peter Pettigrew, one of James's friends, and someone who James had convinced him to add him and people he brought with to the ward list in case of an emergency. Charlus then realised that Peter must have brought the Death Eaters here, that's how they had gotten through the wards with only a visitor warning rather than an assault warning.
However as Charlus suddenly understood the truth, his wife just heard a cry for help from someone she had known as a boy, someone she had mothered when he and her son's other friends had stayed at the manor for the odd week here or there. Charlus shouted for her to stop, but her maternal side didn't let her listen. She strode out from her cover, and in a flash of green light three more bodies littered the entrance hall, two Death Eaters and his beloved wife.
"Excellent, it's just the old man left now. The Dark Lord wants them both dead, and I am being given the manor for providing our Lord with the location of the rest of the Potters." Charlus felt his blood run cold. His son had made Peter his secret keeper; Charlus was one of only a handful of people who knew that, meaning that he realised his son and what was left of his family were in terrible danger. With that in mind, he decided to run. If he could get back to his office then he had an escape. His old legs screamed in pain as he pushed them to go faster. He was at the top of the stairs and one of the Death Eaters was coming up behind him. A simple tripping jinx took care of the pursuer, and judging by the crunch of bones when the man fell down the stairs he wasn't going to be killing anyone again.
Charlus made it to his office and pulled out his old time turner. The plan had been simple: if Death Eaters attacked the manor, they would lock the place down, preventing all travel and communications from leaving the building. Then they would start to assault the wards, chipping away at the maker's protections until they could get in. During this time, the people in the house would be trapped, unable to do anything. But Charlus had planned for that. He had intended to use the time turner to go back in time and leave the manor before it was put in lock down. Simple, but it relied on the delay that the wards would have on any attackers, which was something Peter had ruined. Now he had to get out of here and warn his son that his house wasn't safe.
He slipped the chain of the time turner around his neck.
There was banging outside the door.
Charlus fumbled with the time manipulating amulet looking for the little North spin.
The door opened and Charlus looked right into the face of Peter.
Charlus spun the time turner, not bothering to count the turns.
Peter fired a curse at Charlus, but instead of striking the man Peter somehow managed to hit the time turner.
The sands of time, now free, went wild.
It took about ten minutes of Sirius holding onto the man who had been a father figure to him in order for both of them to calm down enough to be able to speak.
"Sirius? Is that you? What happened to you - no, we don't have time. We need to warn James. Peter is the traitor you have been looking for. James and his family are not safe, we need to get there now!" Charlus was half frantic.
Sirius didn't let the man up but instead hugged him closer. "It's too late, Voldemort already got to them. James and Lily are gone," he told his uncle. It took a few moments for the words to register to the old man, but when they did he broke. With no goal to focus on, his mind turned to what he had lost, and Charlus Potter started to mourn the loss of his wife, his son, and his daughter-in-law, all of which had happened in the last few minutes from his point of view.
Sirius suddenly found that for the first time in over a decade he had to be the strong, put-together one. The last time he remembered being in that role was when Lily went into labour and James couldn't think straight. It had been a lot easier then, he wasn't fighting his own demons, he had just had to focus on pointing James in the right direction. Now, he was having to hold together the man who had held him together when he had run away from his mother.
The two men spent the night grieving, shedding more than a few tears as they cremated their aunt/wife on the manor's grounds. The Death Eater bodies were just thrown in a pit and incinerated like trash. After their little service, Charlus insisted on Sirius filling him in on everything that had happened over the last twelve and a half years. Sirius told the old man how he had found James and Lily, how he had gone after the rat, and got sent to Azkaban without a trial for Pettigrew's crimes. About discovering that Pettigrew was hiding in Hogwarts near Harry, breaking out of the prison, finding Harry in the muggle neighbourhood. About trying to catch the rat, how Pettigrew had slipped from his fingers at the last moment, and how Harry had saved him from the Dementor's Kiss twice.
To say that Charlus was angry was like saying the Atlantic is a body of water: accurate but a complete failure to grasp the scope of the issue. The man was livid that someone could send one of his boys to the Dementors without a trial; it was clear that if Charlus had his way then heads were going to roll.
A little over a week after freeing Sirius, the trio of Harry, Hermione and Ron were sitting in their compartment aboard the Hogwarts express as it steamed its way south towards London and discussing their summer plans.
"The Quidditch World Cup is this year and Britain is hosting. Dad said he might be able to get tickets for us all, you two as well," Ron was excited at the prospect of getting to see world-class Quidditch.
"Well, my parents and I usually take a trip to the continent for a week or two, but I'm sure if it's after that they wouldn't mind. They tend to be busy with patients a lot and don't have a lot of free time to spend with me."
The conversation was interrupted by a tapping at the window. They all looked and were rather surprised to see a small pygmy owl beating its wings as fast as it couldn't trying to keep up with the train. Harry opened the window, reached out, and quickly but gently took hold of the owl that was small enough that it could sit on the palm of his hand. "OK, let's see who you are looking for," Harry said as he flipped over the small envelope, only to find his own name in a neat hand he didn't recognise.
Harry untied the letter, and the owl, evidently excited that it had completed its job, started flying around the compartment and disturbing both Hedwig and Crookshanks. Harry ignored it and broke the seal on the small envelope, which then grew in size to one that was a little larger than the normal ones he got. Inside wasn't a letter, though, but three more envelopes the size he was more fAmeliar with. He pulled them out, hoping that Fred and George hadn't heard about Russian nesting dolls and set up a prank. He found that one envelope had his name on it, one had Ron's, and the other was addressed to the Dursleys of all people. Harry tossed Ron's letter to him and opened his own.
I hope this finds you before you reach your aunt and uncle. I know your aunt has a rather negative view of magic and it's best not to rub it in her face if you want a quiet life.
Firstly, Buckbeak and I found somewhere we can rest up and recuperate. The Dementors may still be looking for me, but I can promise you they can't get where I am now. I can't say much here, but I got in contact with an old associate and we think that it might be possible to clear my name. If all goes well, I should be able to come and get you from the Dursleys in a week or two, three tops.
Speaking of your relatives, can you tell me how you ended up there? I know that it was in your parents' will that you were never to be placed in their care on a long-term basis. Your mother added an exception that you could stay for short times if you developed a good relationship with your cousin, but permanently living with them was outright banned. Any information you can send me on that would be helpful.
There is something I never got around to telling you during our brief meeting. It was I who sent you the Firebolt. -
"Ha!" said Hermione triumphantly, who had been reading the letter over Harry's shoulder. "See! I told you it was from him!"
Harry sighed before saying. "Yes, you did. And you know what, I agreed with you, but before I could say anything or make a decision you went behind my back and got the broom confiscated. It wasn't getting the broom checked that was the problem, it was going behind my back. Now I really don't want to fight any more over this, so can we please drop it?"
Hermione's triumphant look dropped from her face and Harry saw her lose a little of that energetic spark of passion, a major part of his girlfriend's personality, as it dimmed when she withdrew into herself a little. Harry wondered if he had gone too far, but it was important to him that Hermione needed to talk to him first before making decisions for him. If she had spoken about her worries and how she wanted to get the broom tested with him first and he had disagreed, and then she went to McGonagall, that would have been one thing. It would have been Hermione protecting him from himself. However, going behind his back from the start had basically said that Hermione didn't think he could be trusted, and trust was important in friendship and even more so in a relationship.
Harry still didn't want Hermione to feel bad, so he pulled her into the seat next to him, put an arm around her, and gave her a little peck on the cheek. "Just at least try to talk to me first next time, OK?"
Hermione blushed a little at the kiss but snuggled into Harry and they went back to the letter so they could both finish reading it.
There is something I never got around to telling you during our brief meeting. It was I who sent you the Firebolt, but it's not the first broom I bought you. I was also the one to buy you your first broom. Well, toy broom, it barely flew high enough to keep your toes from dragging on the ground and only reached five miles an hour if you had a good gust of wind at your back, but you loved it. As soon as you got on that broom you took off around the house. It took your mum bribing you with a bar of your favourite chocolate, a Milkybar, before you gave up the broom.
I watched you in your ĺast game, and your father would have been amazed at the skill you have in the air. James was a great flyer himself, he played chaser, and I don't think he could have pulled off even half of what I saw you do in the air. You should give some serious thought into going pro when you graduate.
Anyway this letter is getting a little long and I will hopefully be seeing you relatively soon, so take care until then.
P.S: I included a letter for your aunt and uncle telling them that I intend to have you come live with me, just so they aren't blind sided by this.
"Well, that sounds hopeful," Harry concluded. "Hey Ron, what does your letter say?" he asked out of curiosity.
"Apparently Sirius bought the owl and he's giving him to me, he says he feels a little guilty over depriving me of a pet. I don't get why he feels guilty though. Now that we know what Scabbers actually was, I feel sick every time I think about that thing sleeping in my bed. I'm glad Sirius drove it off, I just wish the rat hadn't escaped," Ron grumbled.
The little owl saw that Ron was feeling down and started to fly around Ron's head as fast as he could, doing little loops and hooting in an attempt to cheer up the boy. Ron tried to ignore it, but soon he smiled and put out his hand for the little owl to perch on, and grinned widely when the little owl settled there, gripping his finger tightly.
Once they got to King's Cross, Ron grabbed his trunk and rushed off to see his family, leaving Harry to help Hermione get her trunk down from the overhead rack. Being so full of her books, it was rather difficult not to drop it. While Harry struggled with her trunk, Hermione tried to convince Crookshanks to get into his carrier. "Please Crooks, it's only for a little while. I promise you can have a tin of sardines as soon as we get home." Hermione bribed her cat, and Harry was surprised to see that it worked. He set her trunk on the floor of the compartment, and then realised that he and Hermione were alone for what would probably be the last time until September.
He stepped over to her and placed one hand on the small of her back, and as she turned to him to see what he wanted he wrapped his other arm around her and gently pulled her to him. He paused for a moment, making his intentions obvious and giving his girlfriend the opportunity to turn him down if she wanted to, but instead she just smiled at him, inviting him without words to continue. Harry pressed his lips to hers and Hermione learned in, pressing herself against his body as the kissing started to heat up. The two stayed together like that for a few minutes, until they remembered that they had people waiting for them. Hermione rushed off to get a couple of trolleys while Harry got his own trunk out of the rack. Soon the two walked through the barrier and they were back in the normal world.
As it happened, Vernon Dursley was standing about two metres from the two dentists that Harry had met briefly just before his second year. Hermione abandoned her trolley, leaving Harry to grab it and follow as she rushed her parents and pulled them both into the rib bruising experience that was one of Hermione's more enthusiastic hugs. Harry was just going to leave Hermione's trolley next to her and slip off with his uncle, but Hermione grabbed his arm and pulled him over to her parents.
"Mum, Dad, you remember Harry, right? You met him when we were getting my school supplies two years ago," Hermione reintroduced him to her parents. "Well, since my last letter home, Harry and I started dating." Hermione sounded really excited to tell her parents that bit of news.
Hermione's father started to give Harry a once over, while her mother smiled and reached out to shake Harry's hand. "It's good to see you again Harry. Hermione has told us so much about you in her letters home that I feel like I already know you."
Harry didn't know what to say to that, so he fell back on introducing his uncle, whom he could see was starting to get annoyed at the delay. "It's nice to see you again. This is my uncle Vernon Dursley, he's a director for the drill manufacturing firm Grunnings. Uncle Vernon, this is my girlfriend Hermione and her parents, Doctors Dan and Emma Granger, whom Hermione tells me are both dentists." A lot of tension that Vernon was holding in suddenly vanished, he had likely assumed that Hermione's parents were magical like Harry and Hermione, but once he learned they were "normal" and had a good respectable job like dentistry, he was far more willing to talk with them.
Vernon put on what he obviously thought of as a winning smile and shook the hands of the other two adults. "Pleased to meet you." The five of them chatted for a few minutes, Vernon using it as an opportunity to see if the two dentists needed new drills for their practice. As the answer was a maybe, Vernon was rather upbeat as they drove back to Surrey. He had even encouraged Harry to exchange phone numbers with Hermione, though he pocketed the Grangers' number as soon as they were in the car, obviously planning to use it to try and sell them expensive dental drills. Harry was left with a little hope, though, as Hermione still had the number for the Dursleys and Vernon couldn't afford to be rude to Hermione when she called if he wanted to sell to her parents.
Once they got back to Privet Drive, Harry's Aunt Petunia managed to destroy what little good mood he had in minutes. Apparently this year Harry was home the day before Dudley was to get home from Smeltings, so Harry was instantly given a whole bunch of chores to do, the worst of which was to scrub the barbecue grill with wire wool until his aunt thought it was clean enough. All of this because Dudley had apparently asked to have a barbecue with all of his friends from Little Whinging the day he got back so that they could all catch up.
Charlus Potter was not having a good day. He had been to Gringotts three times, the Ministry of Magic four, and even St Mungo's once. In a way he could understand the security, you didn't want just anyone to be able to claim they were a dead man and get access to rights and property that weren't theirs. On the other hand, he wasn't the one who had messed up and declared him to be dead when he was still alive. The fact that it was entirely reasonable to think he had died in the attack on his home was irrelevant. Over the course of the day he was slowly able to prove to person after person that he was Charlus Potter, Warlock of the House of Potter, and that he was (despite whatever bits of parchment they had that may say otherwise) still very much alive.
One side effect of this that he was very much going to enjoy was that warlock McLaggen (who was a bit of an upstart as far as Charlus was concerned) was to be stripped of his seat in the Wizengamot. Seats were appointed for life, and there were only so many seats available, so Charlus's seat had been allocated to McLaggen after Charlus was declared dead. It did, however, mean that McLaggen would automatically get the next available seat if he was still eligible for it when one became available.
Things had been both easier and frustratingly harder with the goblins. The goblins had a much more streamlined test and set of parchment work to declare someone alive again. However, their system assumed that you had probably faked your own death to get out of a debt or to commit tax fraud. Which, while probably true for most people they had to deal with 'coming back from the dead', just put a bunch of red tape between him and regaining control of the family wealth. It didn't help that the wealth in question had passed to Harry. As a well-known figure and a minor, Gringotts had acted to put a freeze on the Potter family accounts to keep people from trying to steal from the Boy-Who-Lived. Getting the freeze removed and granting access to Charlus was going to take some time, but the process had started.
Now, Charlus watched while disillusioned as the students got off the Hogwarts Express. It was easy enough to spot Harry when he stepped off the train with a young woman, he looked so much like James did at that age. He followed the boy and the girl through the barrier to the muggle side of the train station and watched as the young pair met up with their families. As he watched Harry being introduced to the girl's parents, he couldn't help but remember the time James had brought Lily to meet him and Dorea, and he Apparated away to be alone for a while with the memories of his lost son.