The remaining three weeks of the summer fell into a predictable routine. Harry awoke promptly at 5 am every morning, took the portkey to Aberforth's Island as he now thought of it, and was soundly thrashed for five hours before returning nearly exhausted to the Burrow.
These weeks of summer were possibly the best Harry ever remembered. So on August 31st when he awoke, he wasn't as excited about returning to Hogwarts as in the past. It didn't help that today was to be the reading of Sirius's will. Afterward, he, Ron, and Ginny would be meeting Hermione in Diagon Alley and doing their shopping for school today, while escorted by the Order of the Phoenix.
Normally after training he'd have lunch with Ron before he flooed to Weasley Wizarding Wheezes. The afternoons were spent flying, swimming, or just hanging out with Ginny, although they didn't manage to sneak away on the motorcycle again.
All in all, Harry found his afternoons with Ginny a more than pleasant surprise. He knew she was a brilliant flier and she displayed uncommon patience helping him learn to swim in the pond near the Burrow. She had a quick and wicked sense of humor, but at least when teasing ihim/i she was never cruel nor took it too far. It was obvious she was curious about his morning lessons, but never really asked about them, although she hung on his every word whenever he discussed a new use for a common spell he'd discovered.
Ron, for the most part, was just Ron. He demolished Harry unmercifully at chess, spent their time flying, speculating about the Cannon's chances of winning the cup, or demanded Harry try to toss an old muggle football through a make shift hoop in the paddock while Ron guarded it. The only time his easy going nature seemed to slip was when Harry suggested Ginny join them to help him practice. Ron's ears turned red and he stiffly responded that it wasn't a good idea. This apparent rift between the siblings bothered Harry, but he couldn't for the life of him understand the cause or figure out a way to help them work it out.
The only real break to the routine was the Saturday after he arrived. That day Molly and Ginny, with Remus and Tonks as escorts, took Harry clothes shopping. Overall, it was enjoyable in spite of the fact that Ginny and Tonks essentially treated him as a dress up model all day long. Nothing was purchased without their consensus. Inwardly, Harry was delighted that they found his new clothing attractive, but he didn't understand why. Unbeknownst to Ginny or Mrs. Weasley, however, Harry had Tonks help him pick out a couple of outfits to give Ron, Ginny, and Hermione as Birthday and Christmas gifts. In addition, he picked up a nice dress as a gift for Mrs. Weasley.
He started the day, as he did on any day he wasn't training with Aberforth going through the combined Tai Chi and Shaolin routines he'd been taught, working up a good sweat and feeling relaxed afterward. While he did the routines he remembered the day, one week into his training that prompted them being combined.
Breath in, breath out.
From day one, Miss Bristol, a diminutive woman of Asian descent who reminded Harry very much of Cho Chang in appearance if not action, drilled proper breathing into his head.
The current exercise had Harry attempting to track and subdue his instructor, while she did the same to him, in the tropical forest behind Aberforth's summer home. As usual, even at this early hour, Harry felt as if he had just stepped through a sauna. He tried a cooling charm during the first exercise like this the previous week only to find it made him an easy target in this game of cat and mouse as Miss Bristol was able to sense his magic and find him.
Instead, he counted on a bandanna to keep the perspiration out of his eyes. His glasses proved to be too much of a liability, fogging up at inopportune times, so they were sitting on an end table in Aberforth's sitting room.
To Harry's ears, each careful step produced no sound, but he knew that each step probably sounded like thunder announcing his position to his opponent if she was nearby. He paused and listened something wasn't right.
The only sound was the pounding of his pulse in his ears. She had to be nearby. The only way he could ever tell she was near was the preternatural silence that seemed to surround her.
The bushes to his left exploded with a white blur and a ringing, "Hyaahhh!"
His right arm went numb as a kick slammed across his wrist and his wand went sailing from his limp fingers.
Instinctively falling into a defensive stance, the forms of defense drilled relentlessly came to him. Each parry and block sent sparks of pain up his arms and legs. Helplessly, he resisted, hoping for some opportunity, some break, to allow him to go on the offensive.
Finally, it came, Miss Bristol lunged a fist towards his face and instead, of parrying it using the form she had taught him, he used a Tai Chi form of Aberforth's, grabbing her wrist and using her own momentum to unbalance and throw her.
His advantage was short lived, instead of an ignominious fall, she tucked into a roll, springing off her feet into a flying spinning kick, her foot brushing the hair sticking up on his head. With barely a thought, Harry continued dropping and spun, sweeping his leg out, not expecting to actually make contact.
Instead, his sweeping leg caught his instructor before she touched ground. Instead of rolling or spinning as she always did in the past to land on her feet or in a crouch, she crashed with a dull thump flat on her back, the wind being expelled from her lungs with the impact.
Elated, at the thought of victory, Harry moved to finish her. Suddenly stars burst across his vision, his teeth clacked together, and his chin exploded in pain before darkness claimed him.
He awoke, as usual, in Aberforth's sitting room, the familiar pain itonic/i awaiting him. Fighting nausea as he rose, Harry managed to reach a seated position, his head hanging between his knees.
"You have shown, much improvement, Mr. Potter. Today, you nearly had the advantage." Miss Bristol chimed in her dulcet tones. "Can you tell me why you failed?"
Pinching the bridge of his nose, using a technique he learned the second day to relieve head pain, he feebly grasped the glass and downed the entire lot in one go, gritting his teeth as the Fire Whiskey burned its way down.
Blowing out a heated breath, Harry slowly leaned back until he was resting against the cushions. "When you were down, I attacked recklessly, assuming you were defenseless?"
"Exactly! However, you first student to come this close so fast, you sure you never study before?"
Harry nodded his brain simmering in the warm fuzziness of Aberforth's creation.
"The only type of fighting I learned before was to be my cousin, Dudley's, punching bag when he could catch me."
She shrugged her shoulders and responded, "You must have natural gift then. I must ask, where did the throw come from, I know you not learn that from me."
He grinned sheepishly, "It was from the Tai Chi Aberforth is teaching me, I know it's mostly for meditation and relaxation, but he started discussing some of the martial aspects with me a couple of days ago." He felt his cheeks heat up a bit, "I don't know why, but I just iknew/i doing the grab and toss would work."
She sipped at a mug of green tea before answering, "Indeed it did! This changes things, given how quickly you are picking up both forms. I believe we need to begin integrating the two together before your time with me is done for the summer."
It all sounded daunting to Harry, but then again, at the end of the school year last year, if someone had told him he'd be able to stand up for any length of time against a master martial artist such as Miss Bristol he'd have called them barmy. For some reason, ever since his little holiday as he now called it, things just seemed to make sense or come to him so much easier than ever before. At first he thought it was some fluke, or luck, on his part, but now he was beginning to accept it, his only fear was that somehow whatever made his ability to learn improve so dramatically would vanish as suddenly as it came.
After he finished the last part of the routine he slipped quietly into the shower. While the warm water cascaded upon him and soothed the last bit of tension from his muscles, he considered Dumbledore's insistence that the Order be on hand today.
It annoyed him to have minders, especially since his training was progressing much better than anyone anticipated. By the third day, Aberforth had declared Harry's Occulmency shields impenetrable and devoted that time to improving his dueling technique and teaching him to apparate; a skill that they both agreed would be very useful. True to Aberforth's word, Ms. Bristol thrashed him on the second day, but he could hardly be upset, because as he began incorporating what she was teaching him into his practice duels he saw a dramatic improvement. Part of him was secretly hoping Malfoy and his goons would try to pick a fight like they did at the end of term last year so he could give his new skills a go.
Including his sudden mastery of Occulmency, there were a few other mysteries with his training. He already could cast all but the most complex spells wordlessly now. According to Aberforth, most witches and wizards struggle during their last two years at Hogwarts to master wordless magic. Additionally, any fire based spell he used seemed to be amplified dramatically. A simple incendio charm actually incinerated the log he was aiming at. Since then, a large number of the new spells learned involved fire in some way. The most important he finally was able to control the previous day.
"Explain to me again why I'm learning a spell the Ministry classifies as a Dark Art again?"
Harry was standing in the shallow surf of the beach he arrived on every morning, sweat pouring down his bare back and chest. The ever-present bandanna kept his eyes clear and he was ever thankful to Mrs. Weasley for teaching him the sunscreen charm after he returned to the Burrow with a severe sunburn last week. He just wished it would keep him cool as well as protected.
Aberforth, for his part, was standing off to the side, wearing one of his Bermuda shirts and khakis, stroking his chin thoughtfully, before he answered, "Fiendfyre isn't technically a Dark Art, the only reason the Ministry classifies and regulates it as so is because very few witches and wizards have the necessary power and skill to control it."
"It's much easier for them to all but outlaw it, rather than clean up the messes that result from failed attempts, such as the London Fire of 1666."
Harry stared his mouth agape momentarily.
Jerking his head to the side and snapping his mouth shut, Abe glared momentarily at Harry for a moment as his long hair swung around. "Why so surprised? Of course this spell is bloody dangerous. Why do you think I have us standing in the ruddy ocean practicing it?" He took a deep breath before continuing. "All the same, you might not want to mention to either Albus or Alastor that I've taught you this one, they both tend to have some narrow-minded notions concerning what is Dark Magic. Now let's give it another try."
Harry took a deep breath, aimed his wand, concentrating hard on channeling his magic. "Animalis Flagro!"
His arm and hand felt warm as the magic coursed from his chest and through them. From the end of his wand, a jet of fire shot out and at a distance of twenty meters begin coalescing, forming a shape of some sort of four legged animal. It hadn't been distinct enough to identify, but whatever it was, it was going to be huge!
By the end of his training session that day, Harry managed to get the form to become corpeal. To say he was surprised by the final form was an understatement. It was a pity he couldn't show it to anyone.
As he stepped out of the bathroom wrapped only in his towel he was met by a wide eyed Ginny. He felt himself flush from head to toe. He sputtered out, "Um... yeah... all free."
She didn't speak, but her face was almost as red as her hair. She quickly looked down. "Erm... yeah." As she passed by, Harry couldn't help but noticed that she was wearing nothing but a long Quidditch jersey that reached nearly to her knees.
With a gulp he tore his eyes back towards her face, hoping she hadn't noticed where he was staring, only to find she was still looking down. Although her lips were moving in silent words.
"Uhm... yeah... see you at breakfast?"
Her eyes snapped up to meet his and her voice was slightly breathless as she responded, "yeah... right." She then quickly closed the door.
Harry walked down to the room he was using trying to understand her behavior and finally decided it must be because he saw her wearing so little. Even if she probably considered him like one of her brothers this probably reminded her that he really wasn't.
The morning was spent anxiously. Ron had asked Harry if he wanted to go flying after breakfast while they waited, but Mrs. Weasley nipped that idea quickly, ordering Ron to his room to pack. Harry had hoped that meant he could spend some time with Ginny and hopefully get a chance to apologize for ogling her that morning, but she immediately shut herself away in her room for the remainder of the morning.
Finally the eleven o'clock hour arrived, and the floo erupted spitting out Lupin, Tonks, and Moody, in quick succession. A couple of minutes later, Bill Weasley and his girlfriend, Fleur Delacour, arrived through the back door, having apparated into the one area within the wards that allowed apparation.
Moody gripped Harry by the shoulder, "Come with me, Potter, into the sitting room. We need to discuss how this is going to work. The retired Auror stumped into the Weasley sitting room and everyone else followed. Harry plopped down on one of the sofas, sharing it with Lupin and Tonks.
Moody edged over to the front door and leaned against it casually, although Harry could tell he was more focused on watching the front yard. Satisfied with what he saw he turned back, "is this everyone that's going?"
Mrs. Weasley called out, "Ron, Ginny, get down here now, it's time to leave."
"Okay mum," Ginny's voice chimed as she slipped into the sitting room from the stairwell. Harry found himself doing a double take. Instead of her typical cut offs or jeans and a t-shirt, Ginny was wearing a deep blue summer dress that reached the tops of her knees. Instead of wearing her hair back in her typical messy pony tail, it was hanging lose around her shoulders with just a pair of hair clips keeping it out of her eyes.
His stupor was interrupted by Bill's wolf whistle. "My, my, little sister, you are certainly dolled up today, what's the occasion?"
The question reverberated in Harry's mind, but before Ginny answered, Ron came stomping down the stairs, "Okay, I'm here!"
Not wasting any time, Moody started. "Potter and the kids are going to floo from here to the Leaky Cauldron. Sturgis Podmore and Emmeline Vance are already there with Granger and ensuring that no one is watching the floo. The rest of us will apparate, understood?"
Everyone nodded their heads, "Once there, we will head straight to Gringotts." He turned to face Harry. "Potter, you, Lupin, and Tonks will head inside, I'll be standing watch outside with Podmore and Vance. Once you are done, we will escort you to the various shops you need to visit."
He turned to the Weasleys, "Molly, Arthur, you and your son and Miss Delacour will escort the other children while Potter is at the reading. We will meet up at Florean Fortescue's at three o' clock and, as a group, make our way to the Leaky Cauldron so the kids can floo home." He looked around, "Any questions?"
There were none. "Good, all Order members are carrying an emergency portkey made by Dumbledore that will transport you back here if something happens. If Death Eaters appear, grab the kid nearest to you and go. Be watchful!"
Moody led everyone to the floo. "Okay, you first, Weasley," he said, gesturing to Ron. In a handful of powder and a flash of green flames, Ron was gone. "Your turn." This time Ginny vanished into the floo. "And now you, Potter."
Harry took his place in the grate and was seized with sudden nervousness, remembering what had happened the last time he tried to floo to Diagon Alley from the Burrow. Steadying his breath, he dropped the floo powder and enunciated clearly, "Diagon Alley!"
As usual, the sensation of spinning through the grates was disorienting and nauseating. Just when he thought he couldn't take it anymore, he felt himself being ejected. Given everyone that was watching, he was pleased that instead of falling, he managed only to stumble slightly.
A pop behind him announced Moody's arrival. "C'mon, we have a schedule to keep."
Harry glanced around to see Mrs. Weasley using her wand to clean the soot off of Ginny. Again, he wondered why she was so fancied up.
Harry felt a blowing against him and turned to see Lupin pointing his wand at him, "All right, Harry?"
Swallowing, Harry nodded his head and smoothed out his school robes which he wore on Mrs. Weasley's suggestion.
The group began drifting towards the exit, and Ron and Hermione fell in beside him. "Are you okay, Harry?"
"I'm fine," he responded automatically.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Hermione frown slightly before taking a deep breath. "You know it's okay if you aren't, Harry." Her voice was soft.
They stopped, waiting for Moody to open the entrance. Harry turned and faced her and almost gasped at her appearance. Hermione had looked tired three weeks ago when they were able to visit him at Hogwarts, but today she looked almost ill. Her skin was pale, and she had bags under her eyes, from lack of sleep most likely. She looked thinner than he remembered and her hair seemed to droop a bit. Immediately he blurted out, "Have you been sick?"
Hermione looked down and shook her head. "No, not really, just been a bit of allergies, I think."
Harry didn't really believe her, but was prevented from following up by Moody, "All right, straight to Gringotts."
As they passed through the arch, the Order members spread out surrounding the kids. Diagon Alley was much as he remembered it the summer before his third year, with a few exceptions. There were fewer shoppers than he remembered and those he did see tended to hurry from shop to shop only pausing to look around warily. Additionally, stationed every block or so were Ministry Aurors, wearing the same type of uniform he was given for his birthday with magenta cloaks. Suddenly, for no reason he could understand, Harry wished he had worn his boots and coat instead of his robes.
The group arrived at Gringotts with nothing more distracting than the occasional passerby pausing and pointing at him, usually followed by hushed whispers.
Moody turned around to face the group, "This is where we part ways. Arthur, Bill, you four take the kids to do their shopping." He turned to face Harry. "Lupin and Nymphadora," Harry saw Tonks stiffen, "will go with Potter to the reading. Vance, Podmore, and I will wait here and escort you with Lupin and Tonks to do your shopping, then we'll all meet at Florean's before you head back to the Burrow."
Hermione began dragging Ron towards Flourish and Blotts, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley following along, while Bill and Fleur escorted Ginny back towards the Leaky Cauldron. Again Harry wondered why Ginny was all dressed up, but figured he would find out sometime after the reading of the will.
With Lupin's hand on his shoulder, Harry turned and climbed the steps to the entrance. As always, the cavernous inside left him with a sense of wonder. Instead of approaching one of the tellers like he'd done in the past, Lupin and Tonks steered Harry the opposite direction towards a corridor flanked by a pair of surly goblins.
Tonks stopped then and nodded towards the goblins. "We are here for the reading of the Black will."
The goblin on the right nodded, while the one of the left announced, "through the corridor, third door on the left; you are the last to arrive."
The trio briskly walked through the door and down the corridor. Lupin opened the door and Tonks led them through. She stepped off towards the left and Harry found his hand twitching towards his wand. Seated on the left side of the table were Draco Malfoy, his mother Narcissa, a pair of men he had never seen before, and iBellatrix Lestrange!/i
Before he could pull his wand, Remus restrained his hand. "Easy, Harry."
iBellatrix/i stood, and she and Tonks embraced. "It's wonderful to see you Nymphadora."
Her hair changing from bubblegum pink to red, Tonks responded. "Mum, I've told you over and over not to call me that!"
One of the heretofore unidentified men quickly stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Tonks. "C'mon now, my butterfly, can't you cut your dear mum some slack?"
Finally, it dawned on Harry that he wasn't looking at Bellatrix Lestrange, but instead, Sirius's favorite cousin, and fellow outcast Andromeda Tonks, and the unknown man must be her husband, Ted Tonks. He quickly stepped forward and offered his hand. "Pleasure to meet you Mrs. Tonks. I'm Harry, Harry Potter. Sirius always spoke so highly of you."
"I believe the pleasure is all mine, Harry." She smiled, but it wasn't a smile that quite reached her eyes. "It's a pity that it had to come to this for Sirius to get the vindication he deserved."
A lump formed in Harry's throat, and he remained silent, fearful of showing weakness, in front of enemies such as the Malfoys, who were watching the interaction keenly.
Harry felt a tug on the sleeve of his robe, it was Lupin. "Come, Harry, it's almost time to begin." He led Harry to sit at the table opposite of Andromeda and her husband. Surprisingly, instead of sitting with her parents, Tonks chose to sit next to Remus.
Harry, as surreptitiously as he could, took in the appearance of the Malfoys. Narcissa was affecting a bored expression, as if she needed to be anyplace but here. Draco seemed to be trying to ignore Harry, but several times Harry caught him casting baleful glares in his direction, his eyes filled with utter loathing.
Suddenly the hair on the back of Harry's neck stood up. Glancing around the room for any potential signs of danger, Harry found only that the unknown wizard sitting next to Malfoy was staring at him intently, as if trying to figure out a puzzle.
Harry returned the stare, inviting a challenge. Eventually the wizard blinked and leaned over Draco to whisper something to Narcissa.
The whispering came to an end when a door on the wall opposite the one they entered through opened revealing a goblin, with grey hair, and immaculately dressed, and a witch dressed in pinstripe robes, her brown hair pulled back into a severe bun of the type favored often by Professor McGonagal.
Everyone stood, so Harry followed suit. Once the goblin seated himself everyone returned to their seats. The witch opened up a brief case, pulled out some parchments and what appeared to be a pensieve. "I call to order the reading of the Last Will and Testament of one Sirius Orion Black, Ragarnock, Senior Vice President of Wizarding Affairs presiding."
She glanced around, "the following people are required to be in attendance, one Harry James Potter, one Remus John Lupin, one Andromeda Black Tonks, one Theodore Arnold Tonks, one Nymphadora Electra Tonks, furthermore, anyone else directly related to the Black bloodline are allowed to be in attendance."
She then turned to the yet to be named wizard sitting with the Malfoys, "and who might you be?"
The wizard stood, his chest puffing in self-importance, "I am Jonathon Urquhart, Wizarding Solicitor, representing both the interests of Narcissa Black Malfoy and Bellatrix Black Lestrange, the rightful heirs to the Black fortune."
Harry glanced back at the witch running the proceedings, but paused when a toothy grin split the face of Ragornock. The witch glanced his direction and he nodded. "I see. Unfortunately for you, Wizards from the Solicitors Office at the Ministry have already been over this will. You have no grounds for challenge."
Urquhart's cheeks reddened, and his lips pulled back into a thin smile that resembled a grimace. He sat down, muttering something under his breath.
"Very well, if there are no further comments or objections, let us begin." She slid the pensieve into the center of the table and tapped it with her wand.
Emerging was a three dimensional image of Sirius, judging from the length of his hair, Harry judged that this was done sometime last year before he arrived at headquarters. His musings ended as the image began to speak.
I, Sirius Orion Black, of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, hereby affirm before the following witnesses, one Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbldore, Grand Sorceror, Order of Merlin, First Class, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, one Alastor Moody, retired Auror, and one Anne Elizabeth Hutchinson, Solicitor General for Gringott's Wizarding Bank, that I am of sound mind and not under the influence of any mind-altering curses, hexes, jinxes, or potions. This is my last will and testament.
First of all, the sad necessities. According to the family charter, I am unable to cut-off any direct blood descendant of the Black family less than three generations removed from the surname Black.
With that in mind, I hereby bequeath unto one Bellatrix Lestrange nee Black the sum of 1 knut to be transferred immediately to the Lestrange Family Vault on the condition that all Gringott's transfer service fees be paid for by the Lestranges' out of their own personal funds.
Additionally, I hereby bequeath unto one Narcissa Malfoy nee Black the sum of 1 knut to be transferred immediately to the Malfoy Family Vault on the condition that all Gringott's transfer service fees be paid for by the Malfoys out of their own personal funds.
Finally, I hereby bequeath unto one Draco Abraxas Malfoy the sum of 1 knut to be transferred immediately to a special trust vault opened in his name, all fees being paid out of Malfoy personal funds and for his inheritance to be held in trust until he reaches his majority at age 17.
There, now that the unpleasant business of acknowledging my blood relationship with the preceding beneficiaries is complete, I move onto bequests for my true family.
To one Andromeda Tonks nee Black, I leave the sum of 5000 galleons to be transferred immediately to her personal vault, with transfer fees paid out of the Black family assets.
To one Nymphadora Tonks, I leave the sum of 5000 galleons to be transferred immediately to her personal vault, with transfer fees paid out of the Black family assets.
To one Remus John Lupin, I leave the sum of 100,000 galleons to be transferred immediately to a new vault opened in his name, with all opening fees paid out of the Black family assets. This bequest is contingent upon Mr. Lupin spending a minimum of 25 galleons per month for the next ten years. If at any time during the next ten years he fails to spend the minimum then the remainder of his inheritance will be donated to Minister Fudge's re-election campaign.
Finally, I come to my principal heir and Godson, Harry James Potter. To Harry I leave the remainder of the Black assets as well as any real or personal property. This bequest is contingent upon Harry spending a minimum of 25 galleons per month for the next ten years. If at any time during the next ten years he fails to spend the minimum then a sum of 100,000 galleons will be donated to Minister Fudge's re-election campaign.
After speaking, the image of Sirius looked down at his feet before fading away to be replaced by three visible signatures of the three witnesses of the original giving of the will.
Urquhart immediately stood, "This is absolutely ludicrous. Pure-blooded daughters of the Black family being denied their rightful claim, while the lot is divided up between half-bloods, blood traitors, and half-bre- urp!"
The witch overseeing the proceedings was pointing her wand in the air. "Mr. Urquhart, this will was validated by both the Ministry and Wizengamot and is in full effect. Furthermore, if you cannot demonstrate the ability to control your actions and speech, I will have you forcibly removed!"
At that, Narcissa Malfoy stood and sniffed rather loudly. "Come, Draco, it's not like we need the pittance that is the Black fortune anyhow." Draco stood stiffly beside his mother and, after shooting Harry one last hateful look, followed her out, Urquhart in tow.
Ragornock, for the first time spoke, his voice a gravelly rumble. "Now that the trash has been dealt with, Miss Hutchinson will hand out the paperwork you all need to sign to complete the transfers. Furthermore, Mr. Potter, I believe Mr. Black had Mr. Dumbledore transfer several items from your parents vault to your trust vault, if you like I can have those items brought up."
Harry knew that there must be an expression of shock on his face, but he nodded. "Yes, thank you, sir, that would be much appreciated."
"Very well, Mr. Potter, I bid you good day." Ragornock stood, nodded ,and then exited.
Harry turned to ask Lupin if he knew what the items might be, but stopped at the look of utter bewilderment on his face. "Professor, is anything the matter?"
This broke him out of his bewilderment. "Harry how many times must I ask you to call me Remus or if you prefer Moony?" When Harry didn't immediately answer, he resumed speaking. "As for if anything is the matter, no, it's just not often that one of the Senior Vice Presidents sits in on a will reading, in fact it is nearly unheard of, the goblins just don't respect any wizard or witch enough to give them that sort of honor."
Harry mused for a bit, "Well the Black fortune is rather large, perhaps they do this standard whenever it involves one of their larger account holders..."
Tonks cut in at that moment. "I don't think so, Harry, my mother seemed quite surprised to see Ragornock as well ,and she was at the reading of Walpurgia's will. It's more likely he was here because of you, Harry."
Harry felt his face heat up and again the words of the prophecy flashed through his mind. Now that he knew the prophecy, the interest that Firenze took in him during his visit to the Forbidden Forest his first year made more sense. Given how attuned the centaurs are to divination it's entirely possible they had arrived to the same conclusion that he was destined to face Voldemort on their own... and if the centaurs and their magic were able show glimpses of his destiny then there was little doubt to Harry that the Goblins as magical as they are might have similar insights.
At that moment a quartet of goblins entered behind them carrying a pair of school trunks, depositing them by the door.
Harry approached, noting that both looked similar to his, one was in Gryffindor colors with the initials JHP on it, while the other was black with silver trim and the initials LAE. "I'll be, these are James and Lily's school trunks. Sirius said something about having Dumbledore get them out of storage for you, but I didn't know that he'd done it." Lupin's face held an expression of deep longing. "I'd say you might find some of the notes in their old textbooks quite helpful the next couple of years."
Lupin drew his wand and wordlessly tapped both trunks. "There, a Featherlight Charm and I'll spell them back to the Burrow once we exit." He reached inside his robes and drew out a pouch that clinked. "We had Bill withdraw some money from your vault a few days ago. That way if any Death Eaters were watching they wouldn't be able to pinpoint when you'd be here to do your shopping."
That made as much sense to Harry as anything. His thoughts dwelt upon the two trunks he and Lupin were pulling as they trudged back through the lobby.
As they exited, Moody, Podmore, and Vance took up positions around them. Lupin waved his wand and vanished both trunks. "There, the trunks will be waiting for you in your room at the Burrow."
Moody growled out, "Let's make this quick Potter, you need to go to the Madam Malkin's, Flourish and Blotts, and the Apothecary, before we meet everyone at Florean's." His spinning eye momentarily paused looking to their side before resuming its spinning. "Podmore, Vance, and I will wait outside, while Lupin and Tonks escort you inside."
Harry nodded, but rolled his eyes right after. This was supposed to be an outing with his friends. Somehow in all the fuss, his friends had their outing all on their own and he ended up parading about with an honor guard.
What Harry did find was without having to wait for his friends that his shopping went quickly. At each stop Professor Lupin would banish his purchases to the Burrow, so he was unburdened by any packages, and now he and his entourage was approaching Florean Fortecue's.
Already, he could see Ron and Hermione sitting at a table, holding him a spot, and Ron's parents were sitting one table over, speaking with a pair of wizards Harry recognized as Hestia Jones and Elphias Doge. Sweet Merlin, is the entire Order of the Phoenix here? Occasionally, one of them would scan the area, and Mrs. Weasley's face brightened when she caught sight of them.
When they reached the premises, Moody barked orders, "Okay, fan out, keep your eyes open."
Tonks interrupted, "Alastor, we are in the middle of Diagon Bloody Alley, there are at least ten Aurors spread out, and we have almost that number from the Order. The last thing we need to do is draw attention to ourselves by looking like the Queen's guard! Now step inside with everyone, order yourself a nice ice cream, and enjoy yourself."
Moody's spinning eye froze as he glared in response. The rest of the guard followed her advice and sat down, Podmore and Vance at one table, Lupin at another. Finally, Moody jerked his head and stumped in and took a seat at the table with the Weasleys. Tonks winked at Harry before joining Professor Lupin.
Harry flopped down in the seat Ron and Hermione saved for him and joined Hermione in watching Ron devour the largest bowl of ice cream. He counted at least six scoops of different flavors with the whole thing smothered in chocolate sauce, caramel, and nuts.
"Hmph mph," Ron greeted.
"'Lo Ron," Harry looked around, "Where's Ginny, Bill, and Fleur?"
At Harry's question, Ron's face darkened almost to the maroon of the jumpers his mother always made him. He muttered something under his breath before taking another bite.
Surprised, Harry looked to Hermione, pausing again at her tired appearance before she explained, "Ginny met up with Dean, Seamus, Parvati, and Lavender. We saw her and Dean holding hands."
Before Harry could comment or really think about how he felt about it the group in question appeared. Ginny barely acknowledged him with a nod and a small smile before she and the others sat at their own table. Bill and Fleur joined Tonks and Lupin.
Harry's attention was brought back to Ron when he jabbed his spoon into his ice cream so hard some of it spilled over the side. So that's why they've been at each other all summer, he doesn't like her going out with Dean.
"Honestly Ron, she old enough to go out with whomever she wants. Besides, I thought Dean was your friend." Hermione shook her head as she spoke.
Ron growled out. "That's before he decided he wanted to paw all over my sister, stupid git."
"He's not pawing her, he's just holding her hand, like normal boyfriends do with their girlfriends." Her voice was higher, an edge developing.
Harry glanced around, hoping to find some sort distraction or a way to head off the fight building. What he did note was Ron wasn't the only one not happy with the circumstances of Ginny and Dean. Both Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were watching them intently, with Mr. Weasley uncharacteristically scowling.
He looked over at the table to see if perhaps Dean was doing something inappropriate, but saw nothing more than the two of them splitting an ice cream and talking to the others. The only unusual thing he did note was both Parvati and Lavender shooting glances towards his table, both blushing when they realized he was watching.
Any musing on what ithat/i meant stopped when a series of explosions erupted at various points down Diagon Alley. The entire area darkened and a chill descended. Everything was lit in an eerie green glow and no less than five Dark Marks appeared.
Immediately there was a tug at his shoulder. "Time to go Potter!"
Harry stood and jerked away from Moody. He understood this chill, knew what it portended... Dementors.
He heard the screams coming from the direction of the Leaky Cauldron where the darkness seemed the deepest. He scrambled out into the street and saw them descending, hundreds of them.
Just ahead of him, an Auror stumbled backwards, silvery mist spurting from his wand. In moments people would begin to be kissed. A sick feeling welled up in his stomach, and he knew he had to act.
Whipping out his wand, an image of being surrounded by his closest friends caused a feeling of warmth to swell in his chest, he could feel the warmth spreading down his arm to his wand.
Instead of Prongs erupting from his wand something enormous and winged bore down on the Demontors. It was silver, but it had silvery flames swirling within it.
A moment later his Patronus was joined by a dozen others. Darting around his idragon/i Patronus were a dog, a weasel, a wolf, an elephant, and a horse. The darkness parted considerably and the temperature began to rise. A second wave of Patronus sailed in, including a lion, a rabbit, a fox, a pair of hyenas and several others he couldn't make out.
A loud voice boomed out with a Sonorous Charm in heavily accented English. "Potter is here, whoever brings him to the Dark Lord will be rewarded!"
"Potter!" Moody barked out, once again reaching for him. Harry deftly side-stepped him and took aim with his wand at a dark cloaked figure dueling furiously with an Auror. His blood pounded as he focused on his target.
He felt the recoil from his wand and a glob of light slammed into the Death Eater, sending him sailing from view behind other witches and wizards scrambling for safety.
The hair on the back of Harry's neck rose, instinctively he side-stepped and a red beam of light shot past him. He heard a grunt and the thump of someone falling to the street behind him.
He twirled his wand in a triangle pattern, Protego! Three more red beams of light slammed into his shield from different angles. Miraculously it held.
Briskly wiping the sweat from his brow he took careful aim before concentrating on a return spell.
Five globs of light spiraled out from his wand before curving in on his target. He was satisfied as two of the globs smashed the wagon the Death Eater was hiding behind, before the final three volleyed him into the wall of the shop behind him. He seemed to hang momentarily before slowly sliding down, blood trailing from the back of his head on the wall.
From around him various spells and hexes rocketed off into the direction that the other spells previously came from with similar spectacular results.
Again someone tried to step between him and the battle, this time Professor Lupin.
Harry growled in frustration. He knew he could help if the damned Order would just get out of his way. It was that thought that led him to dart across the street towards Madam Malkin's where two Death Eaters were overpowering a beleaguered Auror.
He arrived a moment too late, a flash of green light and the Auror crumpled to the ground. His stomach lurched, trying to bring up his breakfast, before he controlled it using the breathing techniques Miss Bristol taught him. Harry slashed his wand across his body.
Heat washed over him as a spread of flaming darts shot from his wand. Neither Death Eater knew what hit them. One moment they were gloating over a fallen opponent, the next each was struck.
The smell of burning flesh temporarily overpowered the other smells.
Suddenly, the left side of Harry's body erupted in pain and he felt himself thrown harshly to the ground. Clenching his eyes shut and gritting his teeth Harry staggered to his feet. The shop beside Madam Malkin's was in shambles, the door hanging awkwardly by one hinge, the front glass windows shattered, and pieces of the wall missing. Flames licked from the holes and casting a green glow was the Dark Mark hanging over it all.
"Harry!" Hermione's voice screeched out!
Without thinking he dropped to a knee and spun. The hairs on the top of his head stood up as a purple flame shot through the space his head had occupied. Automatically Harry swung his wand in an arch followed by a triangular twirl.
Everbero! Everbero! Everbero! Everbero! Protego!
The four bludgeoning spells sailed from his wand like a fan causing the Death Eaters they were aimed at to raise shield spells. The first two had their shields collapse and were tossed by the impact of the spell across the street. The third ducked and returned fire, while the shield of the fourth managed to hold. Again Harry's shield held as several spells struck it from various angles. The interaction of magic sizzled, and he could feel the heat.
Harry was momentarily distracted by Ginny's voice. "Let go of me Dean! We need to help!"
He turned to his left to see Dean tugging forcefully on Ginny's arm while she dug her heels in and refused to budge. She finally tugged her arm loose and Dean made another attempt to grab her.
Unfortunately, at that moment a purple colored spell hit Ginny in the arm causing her to let out a blood-curdling scream and collapse to her knees, clutching her wand arm, blood dripping between her fingers. Dean, like an idiot, just dropped to his knees in front of her and continued to try to tug her to her feet, oblivious to another spell sailing at them. Harry, his stomach twisting, acted instinctively.
The spell impacted upon the shield that formed around them. Harry began moving their direction when suddenly Arthur, Molly, Bill, and Fleur were there. Arthur scooped Ginny up and Molly touched something on her robes while at the same time holding tight to Arthur. If a flash all three were gone.
CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!
All around Diagon Alley more Aurors began appearing and the tide of the battle which had been slowly turning against the Death Eaters turned to a rout.
A moment later a volley of spells of various types began restraining and incapacitating the Death Eaters.
Again the heavily accented voice boomed out, "Dumbledore's here, time to go!"
Throughout the Alley the dark robed Death Eaters vanished, either with a CRACK of Apparation or with a flash much how the Weasley's vanished.
As suddenly as it began it was over, except for the burning of buildings and the moans of the injured.
Suddenly Remus was in front of him. "Are you okay, Harry?"
"Uh... yeah sure, why wouldn't I be?"
In answer, Remus reached up and wiped the side of his face and came away with blood on his fingers.
Only then did the pain of glass embedded in his arm and face register. "Oh that, must have been when that shop beside Madam Malkin's exploded."
He waited patiently has his former professor, carefully extracted the glass and then cast a series of healing charms.
"What the bloody hell do you think you are doing Dawlish?" Moody's growling voice cut through the other noise around them.
"I'm taking Potter in for questioning, there are several questions the Ministry needs answered, and only he can provide them." Over Lupin's shoulder, Harry witnessed Moody arguing with an Auror he recognized as John Dawlish, one of Fudge's boot-licking lackeys who tried to arrest Dumbledore last year.
He shoved past Moody, stalking towards them when he was intercepted by both Tonks and Kingsley, who tried to direct his attention to the motionless forms of a couple of Death Eaters.
"Time to go, Harry." Lupin gripped his arm tightly and touched a phoenix pendent on his robes. The familiar tug behind his navel pulled him away from the sights, sounds, and stench of battle.
When Harry arrived at the Burrow he was immediately engulfed in a crushing hug by Mrs. Weasley.
When he finally extricated himself from her he looked around the sitting room of the Burrow. Remus looked just a bit worse for wear with a couple of scorch marks on his threadbare robes. He was quietly speaking with Mr. Weasley who other than a couple of tears in his robes appeared to be unhurt.
Ginny was sitting by the fire in one of the overstuffed chairs with her eyes shut as she was tended to by Madam Pompfrey. The cut on her arm wasn't bleeding, but it seemed like her dress was ruined from the large bloodstain on the side.
A thump on his shoulder caught his attention. "All right mate?" Harry turned and looked up to see Ron sporting a black eye, but otherwise appeared okay.
He nodded, "Yeah, just got hit with some hot glass when that one shop exploded." He nodded toward Ron, "how'd you get that?"
Reaching up to touch the tender flesh, "Oh, when the first volley of spells was exchanged someone shoved me to the ground and I hit my face on the cobblestones." He sighed, "I didn't really get that many spells off, mum and dad kept trying to pull me back into Florean's along with Hermione." He ran his hand through his hair, roughing it more than it already was. "Bloody lot of good the D.A. is doing me, first I summon a ruddy brain onto me and now my folks don't trust me to take care of myself."
Harry didn't have a response to that. He looked around feeling awkward before asking, "Is Ginny going to be okay?"
For a moment Harry was sure asking about Ginny was a mistake as Ron's face darkened, "She'll be all right, no thanks that that wanker Thomas. Got mad at her because he couldn't get his Patronus to work and kept trying to drag her away from the fight." He ran his hand through his hair again, this time leaving a tuft right in the center sticking straight up. "I don't like her being in a fight any better than anyone, but the worst thing you can do is distract her in the middle of it."
Inwardly, Harry seethed. Before the Department of Mysteries Harry would have never considered Ginny someone he wanted watching his back. That was before he saw how well she could take care of herself in a scrap. Had she not broken her ankle she likely would have still be standing by his side when he reached the Death Room. For Dean to treat her like she was some fragile damsel was ridiculous and proved to Harry just how little Dean understood her.
Before he uttered something revealing his thoughts Mrs. Weasley got everyone's attention. "Supper will be ready in a trice." She then began barking out order. "Ron, Harry, set the table. Remus, conjure ice for everyone's drinks."
Harry snorted as his professor scrambled just as obediently as any of the Weasley sons.
Later that night Harry was sitting alone in his room with his parents school trunks. He wasn't sure what he had expected to find inside, perhaps some letters, old photos perhaps.
Instead he found old textbooks. He almost resealed the trunks immediately, until he realized that the title of the Potion's text, which was sitting on top Advanced Potions Making by Libatius Borage.
Merlin's beard! Do they ever update the textbooks?
He opened the book and was stunned to find the cover page covered with a delicate flowing script. He began skimming and quickly realized it was his mother's handwriting.
He began flipping through the book and found page after page of notes in the margins. It seemed that in nearly every recipe she had scribbled out various instructions and replaced them with her own. Furthermore she often left notes explaining why the new instructions worked better. Over the next thirty minutes she skimmed through various recipes and learned more about Potions in his opinion than in the previous five years of study.
He gently placed the book aside and begin flipping through more of his mother's books. He found similar notes in each of her Potions and Charms texts as well as her copy of One Thousand Herbs and Magical Fungi.
His heart began thumping in his chest and he felt a swelling inside. For the first time he had something tangible to connect to his mother.
Eagerly he moved to his father's trunk, hoping to find more of the same and he wasn't disappointed. He knew from talks with both Sirius and Remus that his father wasn't nearly as studious as his mother, but that he was particularly talented in both Defense and Transfiguration.
While his father's early textbooks had nothing in them beyond some random doodles, starting in his NEWT Level Advanced Transfiguration text that his father began keeping similar notes. While his Defense textbook wasn't the same he'd been assigned for NEWT Level Defense, there were copious notes in it as well. His father apparently had thought long and hard about how to use Transfiguration in Defense.
He made a snap decision. He pulled all the new textbooks that he purchased earlier that day and set them aside and replaced them with his parents old textbooks. This is going to be an interesting year for certain.