Chapter 14 - Paradigm shifts for all…Part 2
After escorting Harry to a chair, Griphook moved to the head of the table to speak with Swiftrock. Harry watched them while he slid his satchel to the floor next to the chair, put his hippo next to it and tried to decide if he should take off his cloak or not. He felt silly keeping it on inside, but he was more than a little embarrassed by the costume he was wearing underneath. The older goblin appeared to be asking questions; Griphook was showing him his copy of Harry's list and the notes he had been working on when Harry came out of the Vault.
Swiftrock, distracted by the child simply standing there, rested his eyes on Harry before he spoke. "Is something wrong Mr. Potter? You may remove your cloak and take your seat. We will begin shortly."
After chewing on his lip and shuffling his feet, Harry decided he might as well tell them. They'd see the horrid thing anyway.
"Well, the cloaks the only wizard clothes I have right now. I didn't want to just wear muggle clothes and then stand out and have everyone look at me oddly, so I found a Halloween costume that looked a bit like what I read about wizard robes. I think it looks right stupid, but it was the best I could do, and it's somewhat embarrassing for you all to see me in it. I know it's silly." He added softly.
The goblin across the table spoke up. "I do not think it silly to wish to be properly dressed when meeting the team managing your family's accounts. I believe we all understand that living as you have in the muggle world, there hasn't been an opportunity to acquire proper attire."
Swiftrock broke in. "Indeed. You have taken action to resolve the problem at the first opportunity available to you." He glanced at the other goblins. "Mr. Potter has appointed Griphook to arrange two sets of clothing appropriate to his station as well as reading materials to begin his education as an heir to a magical House. He even supplied a list of books, quite an appropriate list." He added pointedly.
An expression of surprise crossed the other two goblins faces as they turned to look at the child. Harry thought it was best to say nothing, so he quietly removed the cloak and laid it across the back of his chair. A light blush over his cheeks, he raised his eyes to the room.
"Not a bad choice Mr. Potter. Somewhat old fashioned and of an odd fabric, but it wouldn't have drawn a great deal of attention. If you are comfortable in the muggle clothes underneath, feel free to remove the costume before taking your seat." Swiftrock nodded to Harry before turning back to Griphook.
"You are authorized to contact Wila to manage the library search. Your plan is sufficient. You may return here once you are certain the tasks are at a point where you are comfortable turning them over to the clerks for completion." He paused and exchanged looks with the other two goblins before turning back to the waiting junior. "Well done, Griphook. You are excused."
Griphook bowed deeply to his supervisors. Harry had removed his costume and watched as Griphook straightened and left the room. He couldn't help but notice that he'd seemed awfully pleased.
Swiftrock gestured to Harry, and he took his seat at the table. "Did you complete your business at the vault?"
"Most of it, yes. I still need to exchange some galleons for pounds before I leave and, well…" Harry reached down and retrieved his hippo, placing it on the table. "I wanted to take this with me. Griphook told me about the charms on the moneybags so that muggles won't see them or be able to steal them. Could someone put charms like that on this? When I get home I don't want anyone else to be able to see him or take him away."
"You want us to put protection charms on a cheap stuffed toy?" The middle goblin spoke incredulously.
As Harry stared down at his hands, instinct came to the fore and he instantly knew it was important he didn't appear weak. If he didn't demand respect, they'd never give it to him and he'd fail at being a Lord, one just like his dad was, before he'd even gotten started. He may be a little boy, but they couldn't treat him like one, he knew that deep inside like one of those clicks Draco'd talked about. He remembered how Draco had behaved in the Alley, and he could almost hear his voice in his mind as he'd told him about the act he was expected to use because of his rank, a rank Harry now knew he shared. Although he was scared inside, he put on the mask he used with Uncle Vernon and remembered how Draco spoke.
Face calm, he raised his head to gaze impassively at the goblin and tried his best to mimic Draco's posh tone. "No, I'd like you to put protection charms on a sentimental gift my father gave to my mother. It's the only thing I've ever had that was theirs together and I don't want anything to happen to it when I take it home. My cousin doesn't always respect other people's things and I'd rather not take chances."
Swiftrock cleared his throat loudly and everyone turned toward the head of the table. The goblin's gaze evaluated the boy for a few moments. Harry's face never changed while inside he thanked every moment of practice he'd had standing in front of his Uncle. Swiftrock's eyes glinted with something Harry couldn't identify. "That will not be a problem, Mr. Potter. The charms will be placed before you leave. This does bring up a topic that we would like to discuss with you later, perhaps over lunch."
"Alright." Harry nodded. "Where do you think we should begin? The list on the parchment?"
Swiftrock declined Harry's suggestion. "There are other area's we should cover first. I was not aware your muggle relatives knew your mother's vault information."
Harry said nothing. He didn't really know what to say, and staying quiet had always worked well for him.
"Has your Aunt told you much about the magical world or your family?"
"Did she give you the vault number?"
The goblins all shifted and looked at each other. Swiftrock finally sighed and leaned forward.
"How did you find the vault information?"
"My mum wrote it down." Harry worked at keeping his 'Vernon' face on, but he wanted to laugh at the goblin's frustration with his short answers. He wasn't normally a vindictive child, but the one goblin's dig about the hippo hit him hard, coming as it did after the emotional time in the vault, and a part of him didn't want to make anything easy for them. These goblins weren't Griphook, who had answered his questions, helped him, talked to him nicely and said nothing about Harry crying. These goblins were the ones that sent him out of the room so they could talk about him. Although quite often mature for his age, he was following an urge that definitely belonged to an eight year olds sensibilities.
"It must have been difficult finding the bank and Diagon Alley. Did you have help from your Aunt or perhaps someone else who told you about the magical world? Or, was everything written down with your mothers vault information?"
Harry smiled. Swiftrock reminded him of Aunt Petunia when she was using her favorite gossip digging method. She called it going fishing. He decided to end the game.
He tilted his head. "Why don't you just ask me?"
"I am asking you, Mr. Potter."
"No, you're going round and round, fishing for information. You're looking for something specific; you want to know if I know something. Rather than trying to find out if I know, why don't you just be honest with me and tell me what's really going on. Ask me flat out, it involves me after all. I may be young and small, but I'm not stupid. Size has nothing to do with smarts - I would have thought goblins of all people would know that."
The middle goblin snorted, the end one snickered behind his hand, and Swiftrock grimaced and nodded. "Yes, well, we thought it might be best to see what you already knew, your sources, and then build on that. It appears I was wrong." He sighed. "Have you ever heard the phrase The Boy Who Lived?"
Harry shook his head no.
"The Dark Lord?"
"No, not that one either."
"We'll start at the beginning then. This may sound fantastical, Mr. Potter, but trust us, it is true. Much of this is in history books."
Harry sat quietly listening, slowly becoming numb as he was told a story about a Dark Lord who started a war and the supposed savior of the Wizarding world, The-Boy-Who-Lived. At least now he knew why his parents had moved everything into the vaults to keep it safe.
After Swiftrock finished, Harry found himself thinking that Aunt Petunia was right. He was too young to know this, to know his mum and dad were murdered on purpose and that people wanted to kill him, Harry. He wished he didn't know, that he wasn't scared… but it was too late for that. He stared at the hippo, desperately wanting to pull it off the table and clutch it closely. He didn't dare, that would really make him look like a baby - he might as well put one of those sucky things in his mouth.
He cleared his throat in the hopes his voice wouldn't quaver. "What happened to my godfather, Sirius? Why aren't I with him?" He thought of the dark haired man who'd hugged him in the photo. Very quietly he asked, "Did he die too?"
"Your godfather, Lord Black, is in Azkaban, the wizard prison on an island up North."
Harry couldn't keep the surprise off his face. "Why? What did he do?"
"That is uncertain. He was accused and sent to Azkaban, but from everything we, and the previous Lord Black, were able to ascertain, he was never tried and convicted. When the then Lord Black tried to interfere, he was blocked at the highest levels of government. His health failed and he was unable to use his influence properly. He used his remaining energy to safeguard the estate for his heir and his heir's heir."
"They can do that? Just lock someone up and never give them a trial? That's illegal in the U.K., isn't it? Don't magical people have to follow the laws?" Harry was shocked. It distracted him from his earlier fear.
"There are different laws for the magical community, but keeping someone locked up without a trial is also illegal under our laws."
"How can there be different laws? We're still in the U.K.!"
"The magical community separated itself many centuries ago. There is a separate government, law enforcement, banking… everything. Most magicals live in homes and communities that cannot even be found by muggles. There is no one to enforce muggle law and the magical government ignores advances and changes in muggle society. Wizards and witches are completely ignorant of muggle law and the rights British muggles enjoy that they do not. We do need special laws to account for magic, but we goblins have noticed that, as the years pass, more and more muggle raised are showing dissatisfaction with some of the archaic legal structures. There are times when magical human laws seem to show a distinct lack of common sense."
"That's….." Harry didn't know what it was, but he knew he didn't like it. Wait a minute…
"You said that it was illegal here too, so why is he still locked up?"
"Somehow, the commonly held belief is that he was tried and convicted, even though there is no evidence of a trial, no records at the ministry and no one who claims to have actually been present at a trial. There has been no one to wield the power of the family and speak for him, to push beyond those working to keep him imprisoned."
Harry gnawed on his lip. This all sounded way over his head. "What do they say he did?"
Again, all the goblins looked at each other. Swiftrock straightened the papers on the table. "They claim he betrayed your family to the Dark Lord, that he is responsible for your parent's deaths and that he killed another friend, Peter Pettigrew and a dozen muggles when confronted."
Harry paled, and this time he did pull the hippo onto its back in his lap where he tightly gripped its stubby legs and stared down at the grey fuzz. His dad's best friend? He wanted Bran, or Miss Matson, or even Aunt Petunia. He wanted someone. He wondered what that loud sound was and realized it was his own fast breathing. Swallowing over and over, he worked to slow his breathing back to normal.
"Di…Did he?" Asking that question had to be one of the hardest things Harry had ever done. All he could think of was his mum's diary always talking about Sirius & James, James & Sirius, and it was always the two of them, together… and how she talked about him in her letter and the picture of the man sitting next to his dad and how they had played together with baby Harry.
Swiftrock spoke gently. "Harry."
He looked up -- face bleak.
"We do not believe that he did. If he were guilty, they would have published the trial details everywhere. There would be no reason to pretend there had been a trial if it would have backed up the gossip and claims. It makes no sense, especially combined with the strength of the bond between your father and Sirius Black, and even yourself. We believe it suits various people's purposes to have him out of the way."
Harry stayed silent, not yet trusting himself to speak, although he felt a little better that they thought his godfather hadn't killed his dad and mum. He was feeling quite overwhelmed.
The goblins all looked significantly at Harry. "Peter Pettigrew's will has never been activated."
The confusion on the child's face was obvious and spurred the younger goblin to speak.
"The lad has no idea of what that means, he's been raised a muggle. We must be specific."
Swiftrock nodded. "Gringotts takes client confidentiality very seriously Harry. The business of one client is never passed on to another and it rarely leaves the account management staff assigned to the client. But, there are some pieces of information that fall within the realm of publicly available knowledge and we can pass along that information and draw conclusions from the contents. I can see how that would be difficult for you, not knowing much about magical society."
He paused and caught Harry's eyes. "In our world, a will is a magical contract that is activated when someone dies, when their soul separates from the body permanently. When a will activates, it is read and followed. The triggering of that process is a matter of the public record, although the details of a will are private."
They sat back and stared expectantly at Harry.
He thought about what he'd said. There was something they wanted him to know, but it sounded like they couldn't say it because of confidentiality; he had to figure it out on his own. It took him a few minutes to push back the fear and confusion so he could concentrate. Once he was concentrating, it didn't take long before he understood. He looked up with a large smile.
"If his will hasn't been activated and read, then he must not be dead. If he's not dead, then Sirius didn't kill him, and if that's wrong, then there's a good chance it's ALL wrong! Right?"
Swiftrock smiled and nodded. "Exactly young Master Potter. Exactly. Once the idea of Pettigrew being alive is added, we must also wonder why he is hiding. Why is he afraid of being questioned? We, and the Black Estate team, believe he holds the information that would clear your godfather."
Harry felt a huge weight lift. Sirius may be in jail, but they didn't think his dad's best friend had killed he and his mum and there was something real that supported that idea.
Swiftrock's tone lightened and he tapped the papers on the table.
"I believe we have discussed enough weighty topics for now. We will have lunch here and speak of the pleasanter aspects of your inheritance. We will return to heavier issues this afternoon. Do you agree?"
Harry nodded; he could do with a break. After gawking at the house elf Swiftrock called to bring lunch, Harry put hippo on the floor, retrieved his satchel and began setting out his own lunch.
"Mr. Potter, we have called for lunch. It will be here shortly." Swiftrock smiled at him.
"Alright." He finished organizing his baggies and closed his satchel.
The middle goblin spoke up. "That includes lunch for you, lad."
"Oh…" Harry looked at the table. "Well, my Aunt packed me this, I really should eat it. I've been snacking on it this morning, so I can eat some of both. Would that be alright? My Aunts kinda picky about what I eat. I'm supposed to have lots of fruit and vegetables and I've already had something today I'm not supposed to."
"You may eat whatever you like."
"Thank you. What was your name?"
"I am Greldac." Harry turned his head to look at the third goblin. "I am Stonefist."
"Nice to meet you. You can all call me Harry."
A group of elves appeared and with snaps of their fingers, the table was quickly set and a lovely lunch appeared.
"What did you eat today Harry, that you weren't supposed to?"
"I had a fizzy drink at the train station." He wrinkled his nose. "It was nice at first, but really sweet and I couldn't finish it." He poured his milk into a glass provided by the elves.
"You aren't allowed that muggle beverage?"
Harry began transferring items from his baggies onto the plate the elves had given him.
"No. I'm only supposed to drink milk or water. Sometimes I get a little fruit juice or lemonade, but not often. Aunt Petunia says that since I'm small, I need to make sure and only eat things that are healthy so I can grow." He sighed heavily, with all of a child's weariness at grown-up strictures, causing Swiftrock to hide a smile by looking down. "She's very particular about me drinking milk; my thermos has to be empty when I get home."
He pointed to his plate and shrugged. "This is the kind of stuff I'm supposed to eat. I don't mind, I like it." He picked up half of his ham and cheese sandwich, looked around the table and smiled. The goblins were having ham as well. He preferred his. It was leftover from dinner and Aunt Petunia had put on the really good mustard and his favorite cheese. He checked to see what else they had that he might like. They didn't have many vegetables and there were several things he didn't recognize, but he was allowed nuts.
"Are those almonds?"
Stonefist nodded and passed them to Harry. "Would you like to try your pumpkin juice? I understand it is very popular among schoolchildren."
Harry obediently took a sip of the orange liquid in the goblet by his plate. He couldn't stop from wrinkling his nose and put the cup down quickly. "That's awfully sweet, much sweeter than that fizzy was." Suddenly embarrassed, he looked around at the goblins; he hoped he hadn't insulted someone. "I'm sorry; I'm not used to sweet things."
Swiftrock laughed. "No need to apologize, Harry. We goblins feel the same way about pumpkin juice. Most human children we've seen like sweets, it does not bother us that you do not." He called for more milk for Harry and they settled in to eating and talking about the Potter family inheritance.
Harry learned that over the last several generations, the Potter family had gotten smaller -- the main branch was down to Harry -- so he had inherited all the different houses and flats around the world that all those people used to live in. He had enough money not to worry about ever having a job or profession, indeed, Swiftrock felt that his job as an adult would be overseeing the family investments, businesses and properties. He had a trust vault in addition to family vaults, but he couldn't access the family vaults without officially claiming Lordship of House Potter. That would happen automatically when he came of age at 17, but he could claim it early. Except they said he shouldn't, there were issues.
It seemed there was this man named Dumbledore. He was the headmaster of Hogwarts, and Harry remembered his mum mentioning him in her diary. It also seemed that he had been trying to take control of the Potter family finances. He had a lot of power through the magical government - the Ministry, the Wizengamut, the International Confederation of Wizards -- and he had an inordinate amount of interest in Harry and control over his life. He'd been the one to place Harry with his Aunt instead of with some of the magical people listed in his parents' wills. Dumbledore had made a fuss saying Harry had to be with blood relatives and he wouldn't say where Harry was so they couldn't change it, and he used his power in the government to make sure nobody tried to force him to tell.
Dumbledore had also been trying to take over as the Potter Regent. Seems a Regent was someone who oversaw things when the real person couldn't. Harry's Regent while he was underage was his godfather. Since he was still alive, the magic wouldn't accept anyone else. That was something else they explained. In the muggle world, being a Regent was just something legal on paper, but here it was a magical appointment. Dumbledore hadn't been able to get around the magic and make it recognize him. They said that the previous Lord Black, Sirius' grandfather, had helped out in protecting Harry's inheritance because Harry was also a Black through his paternal grandmother. When he died two years ago, things had gotten worse and Dumbledore had been able to gain oversight of Harry's Trust vault because it was for school expenses as well as personal spending. If Harry accessed his trust, Dumbledore would find out, same as if he became Lord.
They didn't trust Dumbledore; it seemed there were some odd entries for Harry's trust. Swiftrock had only been able to make sure every withdrawal was documented with a valid sounding explanation, but he wasn't able to verify the explanations without Harry himself or his Regent to lend the extra authority. They wanted to go over the suspect transactions with Harry in detail at the next meeting, but wanted a cap set on the account today just in case. After making sure the cap wouldn't apply to Harry himself, he signed the form and asked why Dumbledore was involved.
Swiftrock said he didn't want to overwhelm Harry with too much information all at once that he wouldn't remember, especially since they had more time sensitive things to talk about, but he said it was really important that Dumbledore not find out about Harry's visit or that Harry now knew about the magical world and his family legacy. He said the details could wait a few weeks for another visit, but Harry shouldn't tell anyone he'd been to Gringotts, especially his family if they didn't already know.
While Harry tried to make sense of everything he'd been told, the elves returned and cleared the lunch dishes from the table. Swiftrock began moving some papers and things from the desk over to the table so Harry took the opportunity to visit the loo. Everyone settled down once Harry returned. Stonefist quite nicely charmed his hippo and temporarily shrunk him until 8pm that night and Harry was able to fit hippo easily into his satchel. Then things got a little sticky.
"Harry, there is something serious we must discuss. Because of your situation, I'm sure you understand that it will not be safe for you to move about alone in the magical world, especially Diagon Alley. If you were seen by a follower of The Dark Lord, it could be disastrous. They might attempt to harm you, kidnap you, or simply follow you home so they could harm you at a later date. You must not put yourself in any situation where a Death Eater could have access to you or find your home. We also do not want agents of Dumbledore's to notice you moving about."
After chewing on his lip, Harry reluctantly agreed. He could see that, after all, the Death Eaters did want him dead; he shouldn't make it easy for them by wandering around alone exactly where they were likely to be.
"All right, but if I can't come to Diagon Alley, how do I meet with you again or get into my mum's vault?"
"We have a special portkey here." Swiftrock gestured at the small boxes on the table. "You will wear it at all times. It can be used in an emergency to escape, or simply to come here for a meeting."
"What's a portkey?"
"A magical transportation device. It will bring you to a secured antechamber in my offices and you will be escorted here. No one will be able to see it, nor will anyone be able to remove it. Not even you."
As he'd been speaking, Swiftrock had retrieved a pendant necklace from the box and was holding it out to Harry.
The child simply sat and stared.
"Ummm, it really can't be removed… even by ME?"
"Correct." He held it further towards Harry, and Harry leaned back a bit away from it.
"Do I have too?" There was a slight note of dread in the child's voice.
They were all confused by his reaction.
"It is for your own protection, it's just a portkey. Many humans carry them. They are immanently useful in escaping dangerous situations before they become life threatening. Personal portkeys are quite common; the only difference here is that it brings you to the bank instead of a safe house. If you are ever in need of medical care or in danger, this could save your life. As you live in the muggle world separate from all things magical, no one will expect you to have one."
"But it can't come off… and what if …" Harry felt trapped. "You've just been telling me how many people want to hurt me and now you want me to put some magical thing around my neck that won't ever come off. What if it does something bad? I mean, I don't know you…"
Swiftrock and Stonefist began bristling, but Greldac grinned one of those horrible toothy grins and chuckled.
Everyone's eyes focused on Greldac. "The lad is right to be cautious." He looked at Swiftrock, "You wouldn't want him willing to accept magical devices from everyone who offered one and claimed it was for his benefit! He was raised muggle, he doesn't know."
"What don't I know?" Harry was now curious, but glad someone saw his view.
Greldac leant forward. "Our wellbeing is tied to yours. We need you to stay safe, alive, and well. We need you to grow up, marry, and have children to carry on the family and maintain the accounts here in Britain. We would never do anything to harm you, lad. To do so would jeopardize our jobs, our futures, our families, and the future of every Goblin working on the Potter accounts in this country."
That made Harry sit up and think. He'd no idea that others depended on HIM for their income; that idea was, well, daunting…but it didn't make sense. If Harry was gone, the money would still be there, it would just belong to someone else.
As the boy still looked a bit confused, Swiftrock took over the explanation.
"If something were to happen to you Harry, the next in line to inherit the Potter accounts is a very distant relative of yours named Huan-Jin Potter. It's quite the coincidence that the two of you have the same initials. He lives in Asia, a member of a branch that moved there centuries ago. If he were to inherit, the main accounts -- and their management -- would be moved to Asia, leaving only minor ancillary accounts here to maintain the British properties. The accounts would go, but not the staff. Most of us would lose our jobs to our counterparts in Asia that currently work with Huan-Jin. We would not be welcomed on other accounts here, except at the most menial levels."
He waited a few moments to let that sink in. "It is in our best interests to protect you during your childhood until you are able to do so yourself. That will always be our goal." He gestured to the portkey. "This ensures that you can always come to us where we can protect you if something happens. It cannot be removed so that no one can remove your protection, not even yourself. There are magical ways to force you to remove the pendant, this safeguards you from that."
Spending years eavesdropping on Uncle Vernon's business talk, gave Harry an understanding of what they meant. It sounded like that sales contract last year, when another salesman lost a big account to a company in France and some people lost their jobs in Surrey because the work was gone. He sighed; he guessed he could trust them. They weren't helping because they liked him, but they did need him around and that was probably more reliable than someone liking him.
He slowly reached out and took the pendant. They spent the next few minutes teaching him the activation codes before he placed it around his neck and tucked it inside his shirt. He thought he could see them all relax a bit.
"Remember Harry. It's best if you never use it where muggles will see. You should use careful judgment. Do not use it to escape a schoolboy fracas, but if a situation turns dire, it is better to make up explanations later, than to risk not being alive to explain at all. Choose your return location carefully before you set it. Tempting as it may be to use your room at home, please do not. It is likely that the wards are set to notify Dumbledore, or the ministry, of portkey usage and we wish to avoid their notice. Part of the reason this portkey will be so useful as a safety device, is that nobody expects you to have it. If it became known, that benefit would be gone."
"So I need to pick somewhere out of sight, near home, but not too close, right?"
"Yes, then once you set that location; the portkey will return you there every time."
"Okay, I know just the spot." And Harry did. In an alley around the corner, there was a nook between a fence and garage. He used to hide there from Dudley.
"Now that that is settled, we have a couple more safety issues to discuss. We spoke of the followers of the Dark Lord; you do understand that you must do your best to avoid a Death Eater?"
Harry nodded, "Yes, I said I would."
"Then you will agree that you must avoid Draco Malfoy."
"Why? He's just a boy -- he's my age. There's no way he could have been a Death Eater!"
"Obviously, he himself was not, but his father was -- although he managed to stay free -- and his Aunt and Uncle definitely were and are now in Azkaban. The Lestrange's are very well known Death Eaters."
Harry tilted his head as he spoke to Swiftrock. "He shouldn't be blamed for what his father did."
"He is not a safe companion and is to be avoided at all costs. He will likely grow up to be as his father, with the same beliefs, and he will be your enemy. Even now, he must be telling his father all about how he met the famous Boy-Who-Lived. And Lucius Malfoy will not miss a chance to advance himself. He may do nothing now, but he would the moment he could gain an advantage from handing you over to those who would do you harm. We also believe Lord Malfoy to be one of those working to keep Sirius Black in Azkaban, for reasons we will discuss later."
The look on Harry's face was one that Sophie would have recognized. It would also be familiar to Mrs. Browne and other adults, although they seemed to make the same mistake Swiftrock was about to make, they fell for it. Harry was an expert at letting adult's expectations and assumptions do his lying for him.
He smiled and nodded as he responded, "I see. I should probably tell you that I never got around to telling my name. He doesn't know I'm the Boy Who Lived. But I understand."
He truly did understand their point -- he simply had no intention of doing what they said. He wasn't going to lose his first friend just because Draco's dad was a jerk. He and Draco had already talked about avoiding his dad because then he'd see Harry was like Draco.
"I'll do my best to stay away from Death Eaters."
Yes, he would stay far away from Lucius Malfoy. He just hoped Draco understood about the whole being famous bit. He also hoped Draco wasn't like they said. He didn't think so, after all, he met Harry on the other side and he knew he had muggle relatives. The snake said he smelled balanced, just like Harry. Draco didn't seem to care about all that blood stuff. All he cared about was that they were the same -- magic wise -- and how they were supposed to be friends.
Harry wasn't going to lose his only friend just because grownups didn't like it; he and Draco had a club and everything!
While he was thinking about Draco, they started up on the next safety issue. They wanted him to move out of the Dursleys next week and into a house they had prepared for him. Since he wasn't supposed to be there anyway, the goblins all thought it made sense for him to leave and go somewhere they could use better protections. The Dursley home was too visible and open, with people coming and going all the time.
Harry was stunned into silence, unknowingly somewhat similar to his Uncle Vernon earlier that morning. Swiftrock continued describing what he believed to be Harry's new home. Also somewhat similar to how Petunia had kept speaking, thinking Vernon's silence meant agreement. Like Petunia, Swiftrock was due to be surprised, but unlike Petunia, he wasn't going to win.
He told Harry all about the house; he called it The Hunting Lodge. It would be very safe because it hadn't been used since his great-great-great-grandfather's time so people had forgotten about it and it was in a very remote part of Wales. They had put many special wards up around the house and grounds, including what they called a Fidelius that would mean nobody could find it unless Swiftrock told them where it was. They said nobody could make a goblin talk if they didn't want to and they wouldn't want to because they and their families well being was tied to Harry's. Besides, nobody would suspect what they had done as everyone would think he was still with the muggles.
The Lodge had house elves to take care of him and they would even provide a tutor three days a week to oversee his education until he went to boarding school at 11. They went on and on about how it would be better for him to live in a Potter home surrounded by magic, but all Harry could think of was he didn't want to leave his Aunt, especially since they were getting along now. If he left, he wouldn't see the garden with all the things they wanted to plant next year. They were going to work on the plans this winter. If he left, he wouldn't hear any more stories about his grandfather Evans. No more Sunday's with just the two of them chatting while they worked. And what about those kids that were being nicer to him this year, the boy in his class that he hoped would become his friend? The Lodge sounded cool, but Harry would be alone. No kids to play with at school or the playground -- and no Aunt. Just Harry and a bunch of elves.
These thoughts tugged something in his memory and he could hear Draco's voice saying how his dad controlled people. That 'divide and conquer' bit that Draco said meant that people alone were easier to control. Harry felt a chill run up his spine. This was the kind of situation Draco warned him about.
"No thank you, sir."
The goblin paused mid-sentence. "What did you say lad?"
Harry started speaking quickly and used one of his Aunt's favorite ploys - redirection.
"No thank you. I don't want to move, although I wouldn't mind visiting The Lodge. But I'll stay where I am. It's been safe so far right? There must be some of those ward protections you talked about already there right? When Dumbledore left me there, he would have put some up, right? You can check and if there aren't, you can add them without my relatives even knowing you were there."
The goblins all looked at each other.
"This ties back to some of what we told you about Dumbledore, but we believe he has wards setup around your current home to tell him if any wizards, witches or goblins come near. We don't want him to know we are involved, so we can't go to the Dursley home."
Harry thought for a bit then he had an idea. It made him smile.
"What about elves? House elves have magic, could they check? Would Dumbledore have put up wards about elves?"
The goblins looked at each other and began to join Harry in smiling. Swiftrock laughed, a deep barking sound.
"Indeed. That would work well, wizards never think about elves and they would be able to tell us about the various wards and other magic in the area. Especially if we used some of the Potter elves, they can't be kept from you Harry, so would be able to pass through even if elf wards existed. If Dumbledore notices, the elves can say they just wanted to look in on you, their master. Yes, that would work well and not expose anything, no matter what happens."
The other two nodded and agreed. Just as it looked like they might start back on Harry moving, the door opened and Griphook came in followed by another goblin. He stopped a few feet from the table and waited to be acknowledged by Swiftrock.
"Sir, the young master wished to exchange galleons for pounds sterling. I've brought a clerk to handle that transaction."
Harry smiled at Griphook and began digging through his satchel for his moneybag. Thank God, perfect timing for an interruption! He was beginning to feel tired, he knew it hadn't really been all that long, but it sure felt like this day had been going on forever! He wanted to leave; especially now he was worried they wanted to control him, and began trying to figure out the best way to get out of this meeting and get back home where it was quiet and nobody had any startling news that would affect his life.
As his hand brushed against his mum's diary with the letter and picture hidden inside, he smiled as he remembered that not everything he'd learned today had been bad or scary. He now had a sort of memory of being cuddled by his dad and knew his mum called him munchkin and they had loved him.
The currency exchange went quickly and Harry found himself with a bundle of notes and a small pile of coins on the table in front of him.
"Yes, Master Potter?"
"The clothes and books, are they going to be ready soon?" He looked around at the other goblins. "I shouldn't stay too much longer. I have to leave enough time to get back to the train station and then the ride home; and we may have to wait a while for the right train. So, I should leave in half an hour or so or I might be late and get in trouble. Do we have a lot still to do that can't wait?"
"Griphook, Status?" Swiftrock asked.
"I chose the fabrics and placed the clothing order myself while the elves searched the libraries. A clerk is waiting at the shop and I expect him back soon with the completed order. The books are packed. Wila was gracious enough to retrieve a family owned Traveler's Bookshelf and assist in loading young Master's books. All those from existing libraries are appropriately marked and I took the liberty of marking the new books as belonging to the Lodge library. The only unfinished business was the currency exchange."
He handed some documents to Swiftrock, "Here are the transfer authorization papers for the purchases, Sir." then placed a cube on the table next to Harry. "And this is your bookshelf."
Stonefist spoke up and gestured to Swiftrock and Greldac. "Perhaps in the interest of time we three should discuss…"
"Yes. Griphook, you may stay. Take a seat and explain his bookcase to Mr. Potter."
Eyes large, the young goblin quickly took a seat and enlarged the case to its normal form, a smallish three shelf unit perfect for a tabletop. While the other goblins mumbled together, he instructed Harry to prick his thumb and press it into the emblem on the front, then state his name. This would set the case's ownership to Harry and only he would be able to use it from then on, an important safety feature for someone who may want to travel with expensive books.
They went through the commands to shrink the case, enlarge it to this size, and one to give it legs so it could stand next to a desk, chair, or bed. Harry found his mood much improved after playing with his case. His favorite part, besides watching it grow legs, was how the shelves only showed the most recently used books, the rest were hidden away in some special magic space. There was a special index book chained to the top shelf. It listed all the books in the case. All Harry had to do was tap a listing and say 'retrieve' and the book would appear on the top shelf. This case would make it real easy to hide his magic books, he could hide the whole bookcase under a hat if he wanted to! He could keep his mum's diary in it as well.
When he put the shrunken cube into his satchel, he saw his ledger and decided to update it with the money he'd exchanged into pounds before he put it away in his moneybag. The other goblins were still talking, so he opened the ledger and began counting. He didn't really know how much he'd gotten for his 40 galleons. It seemed a lot.
Griphook slid a piece of parchment over to Harry.
"This is the amount in Pounds Sterling, if you'd rather count it later. It's an even amount, but I had the clerk include some coins in case you might need them."
Grin on his face, Harry thanked Griphook and made his entry. After putting the money in the bag, he remembered about the money he lent Draco for the guidebook. He dug the receipt out of his pocket and made that entry as well. There. He didn't think he'd spent any other money, but he'd figure it out tomorrow. He tucked both the receipt and the parchment from Griphook into the envelope Aunt Petunia had attached to the inside back cover just for that purpose.
"Yes Mr. Swiftrock?"
"Just Swiftrock lad. What is that you are doing?"
"I'm updating my ledger. Aunt Petunia says I should always keep it up to date with my money, so I was putting my new money in the ledger." Frowning, he mused, "Guess I'll have to figure out a way to put galleons in here as well. I can ask on Sunday how to track two things, I don't have to tell her it's galleons."
Pleased to have a plan, he closed the ledger and put it away, then placed his satchel back on the floor.
The Goblins stared. Once again, Harry wasn't what they had been expecting.
"How long have you been keeping a ledger? And why did you start?"
"Only for a few months now. Aunt Petunia said I had to learn how to manage money. I figure she must have known about all this and wanted me to be ready when I was older. I use it to track the money I make weeding. I'm a very good weeder, three different neighbor ladies pay me to weed their flower beds!"
Harry was understandably quite proud to have three customers and to make his own money. He completely missed how horrified the goblins were at the idea of young Lord Potter working as a gardener for hire, a laborer.
"Well, at least you don't have to do that any longer."
"I like it! Besides, otherwise I don't have any excuse to have money and I wanted to go to the cinema a few times. I've never been and now I've got the money to go whenever I want."
Before Swiftrock could start back in, Greldac interrupted with a reminder. "Time, sir."
"Yes." He stared at Harry and then shook his head to clear his thoughts. "In the interest of time, we'll cover only the most critical issues and handle the rest with letters and in another meeting." He pushed a thin black box over to Harry. It had the scales insignia he was becoming familiar with on the top.
"This is a Gringotts letter box. It can be used for communications between you and I. The mate of this box resides on my desk. What you place in your box will appear in mine and vice versa. You lock it to yourself just as you did with the bookshelf. Any urgent questions about the box?"
"No Sir, I'll try it out later."
"Good. Moving along, next you must meet the head Potter house elf. Dasman!"
An older elf appeared. He wore a simple tunic with a crest and a blue sash across his chest. At the sight of Harry, a huge grin spread over his wizened face.
"Master Harry! It is so good to see you again!"
"This is Dasman, Harry. He is your head elf in charge of all your other elves worldwide. He also oversees the upkeep of your properties. If you have questions, he will most likely be able to answer them. He will assign your personal elves, those at the Lodge, and introduce you to the others as needed. He will answer to your summons, simply state his name with the intent to call him and he will appear. As you can guess, he knew you when you were a babe."
Harry looked over to find the old elf nodding and smiling. A small hand slowly reached out to pat Harry's arm.
"It will be good to have you back with us young Master. We have missed you."
Harry's smile grew; nobody had ever missed him before. It felt good, but strange that it was an elf he didn't even remember.
Swiftrock cleared his throat. "We are running short of time, Dasman. It would be helpful for you to stay for the next part, if you can spare the time from your duties."
The elf smiled, snapped his fingers and settled down on the small stool that appeared.
The last box on the table was pushed to Harry and opened. This one contained a ring.
"This is your heir ring; it also functions as a portkey to the various Potter properties, including the Lodge. We've already masked it so Muggles can't see it. Other magicals won't see it either, unless you've told them yourself or they are in this room when you first put it on. You can remove this one, but we recommend you do not. It won't matter since others cannot see it and, as a magical ring, it can't easily be damaged. There is no logical reason to remove it. Most heirs never do as it identifies them to the house and family magics. It will grow with you, so there are no worries about size."
Harry accepted this one without complaint. He liked it. It had a blue stone shaped like a shield with a silver sword crossways over the stone and what looked like a small animal at the shield's top. It was too small to see what the animal was. He put it on quickly. There weren't any more boxes left and he hoped this meant they were done.
"How does it work?"
"You say the activation phrase for the property. The first time you use it for each property, you must press the crest while you speak, but from then on, the phrase alone will suffice along with intent. The lodge is 'Cymru Hunting Lodge'."
"Now, another reason why it is important you meet Dasman. If you somehow accidentally trigger the portkey and end up somewhere you've never been, it is vital you immediately summon Dasman. Many properties have been closed for generations and have strong protection magics in place. It may not be safe for you to explore unaccompanied. So, if that happens, call Dasman. You should also call him if you ever portkey in front of a muggle. He can let us know and we can arrange for the muggles memory to be modified quietly".
Harry looked over and saw the elf nodding.
"Any questions about these last items?" Swiftrock shuffled through his papers in a quick review.
"No. Are we done? Can I go?"
"Not yet lad. We have one of the most important items of business left. We'll try to go as quickly as possible but we need to take a short break. The Black Estate team needs to speak with you and it will take a moment to gather them."
Suppressing a groan, he dropped his head to the table and watched Swiftrock move to his desk and push something. Dasman touched his arm and he turned, raising his head to look at the elf.
"Hi Dasman. Did you need something?"
"No sir. I just wanted to tell you goodbye Master Harry. I'll see you soon. Welcome home Sir!" and with a smile and a popping sound, he was gone. The office door opened and the goblins that had been in the room this morning returned, followed by someone carrying a package who could only be the clerk with his new wizard clothes. Harry felt a tinge of excitement. He couldn't wait to get home and see what they looked like.
The package was given to Griphook; he shrunk it and handed it to Harry, describing how he was to enlarge it once he got home. It would only take a touch and a word. The package could not be re-shrunk, but Harry was certain he could hide the clothes under the landing, behind the book box.
While the other goblins took their seats around the table, Harry prayed this wouldn't take long. He couldn't see why it should; his godfather was Lord Black, not him. Harry wasn't even a Black; he was a Potter and an Evans. He couldn't stop the groan when he saw the oldest goblin place more of those boxes in the center of the table.
'His' goblins smiled slightly. "This won't take long Harry; we can skip many of the explanations as most of these are duplicates of what you already have."
"But I'm not a Black, that's my godfather."
"True, your godfather is Lord Black, but you are a Black as well. Your paternal grandmother, Dorea, was a Black of the main line. More importantly, you are your godfather's heir, just as you are your fathers."
The older goblin sitting next to Swiftrock slid a box over to Harry. "This is your Black heir ring. You should wear it on your left hand."
"Does it work like mine, can nobody see it and is it a portkey?"
"Yes, but the portkey feature has been temporarily disabled. It would not be safe for you to access the Black properties as of yet. Many members of the Back family were followers of the Dark Lord. At this time, we cannot be certain that the properties are safe."
"Can't the elves tell you?"
"There are issues with the elves. It would take a while to explain and I am told you are under a time constraint."
Harry quickly put the ring on, then said "Right. Next meeting or in a letter. What's next?"
The goblin looked scandalized. Luckily, Swiftrock spoke up quickly in Gobbledegook and calmed him down. Harry was glad it worked, but couldn't see what made him upset. He would later discover that the Black goblins were as stuffy about protocol as the Malfoys.
Harry would have been embarrassed to realize Swiftrock was reminding the other goblin that Harry was only 8 yrs old and a little boy experiencing his first day in the magical word, an emotional, confusing and difficult day. The two account managers would speak about things later and organize the next meeting carefully to give the Black team more time.
Swiftrock brought out the piece of parchment from earlier that morning. The one that verified he was Harry, no, Harris Potter.
"Remember this parchment Harry?"
"I told you we would speak of it later, that time is now." He passed it over to the child.
"I'm sure now, most of that makes sense to you. We need to speak about the last line."
Looking at the parchment, he re-read everything and realized he did get most of it now… except that last line.
Harris James Potter, age 8.
Imminent Lord of House Potter. Potter Regent is Sirius Black, Lord Black.
Sole Heir of James Potter, Lord Potter (deceased)
Sole Heir of Lily Evans Potter (deceased)
Designated Heir to Lord Black, House Black.
Regent for House Black.
"How can I be a Regent? I'm just a boy. You said Regents were people who took care of things when the main person couldn't, mostly cuz they were too young. If I'm so young I need a Regent, how can I be a Regent?"
They all smiled smugly, even Griphook. "With a great deal of cunning, some trickery and a loophole in the law."
Swiftrock again cleared his throat. "The law never actually states an age requirement for the Regent; it simply states that the Regent will act when the legatee is unable to do so. It is assumed that all Regents are of age as the alternative is ludicrous and appears, on the surface, to defeat the purpose. It is assumed, never explicitly stated. Now, unless you wish to stay longer, a full explanation of the legal twists will have to wait. The how isn't very relevant at this point. What matters is that you are. The parchment never lies. Magically, you are the Black Regent and it is vital that you sign this document accepting that appointment as the Regent Black."
The other older goblin slid a document over to Harry with one of those weird quill things.
"Is there a short explanation about why this is so important?"
Surprisingly, Stonefist spoke up.
"This was done to safeguard the estate for your godfather -- if he is ever cleared -- and for yourself as his heir. The previous Lord Black, Arcturus, spent the last years of his life searching for a way to safeguard the inheritance and then implementing that plan. It was necessary, very necessary as the wolves were already gathering at the door before his death -- a fairly suspicious death at that. This has been one of the main factors saving the estate from being controlled by others, namely Lord Malfoy and the Ministry. Lord Malfoy has been trying to claim the estate for his son, Draco, as the boy's mother is a Black. Just as Dumbledore tried to make himself Regent over House Potter, so has Lucius Malfoy tried with House Black. They have failed for the same reason. The magic would not accept them. For the Potters, this was interpreted as someone else being the Regent. For the Blacks, the cause was uncertain, although there were some murmurs that the magic recognized Lucius did not have the best interests of House Black in mind. Without access to either you, or your godfather, for testing, we have not been able to verify that the plan worked and that the magic recognized you Mr. Potter as the existing Regent. That is until today. We are quite relieved to see that last line, but it is vital that you complete the appointment and close the loop. By signing, you will prevent anyone from taking over your Godfathers own inheritance, as well as what eventually will become yours if he has no other issue and designates no other heir."
The other goblin spoke up. "At this time, we believe few, if any, are aware that you are your godfather's heir. Most believe Sirius Black to have been too irresponsible to have designated an heir and created a will. No one realizes that his Grandfather, Arcturus, Lord Black, required it of him when he bypassed his own son. Arcturus personally approved you as the next heir and signed documents attesting such, especially if Sirius is never released from Azkaban. The flow of inheritance is clear and uncontestable. Lucius Malfoy is under the assumption that his son is the only Black male in this generation and that he automatically inherits after Sirius. Either Narcissa has never mentioned Dorea's marriage or she herself is unaware of the relationship with the Potters. This is another reason you must avoid the Malfoy family. If he believed you were standing in the way of his control of the Black Estate, your life would be in immediate danger."
"But if Draco's mum is a Black, isn't he closer? You know, mum vs grandmum?"
"Not really, it doesn't work that way, especially in the Black family. You are a Black by blood descending from the mainline. Narcissa, Draco's mother, comes from an ancillary line. She was only distant cousin to the old Lord -- you were Great-Nephew as Dorea was his younger sister. As well, you are the godson of the current Lord. The relationship between godparent and godchild is a special magical one, a quasi magical adoption, or appointment you might say."
"Like what was said about Sirius being my Regent?"
Yes, somewhat. When your parents died, you became the ward of Sirius Black. Since he was your godfather and had already designated you as his heir, and you come from the same branch of the family, magically you can be seen as his son. The Black family only inherits through the magical male line. Lord Malfoy is attempting to apply his own family's inheritance rules to the Black's and that will never be accepted by the family magic, regardless of whatever laws the Wizengamut may pass. If Lord Black were not your custodial godfather, things would be different, and neither you nor Draco would be in line and the heir would be an American wizard."
Huh? The confusion on his face was obvious. Harry thought he'd never understand all they were saying.
"What that means, is that as far as the Black Family magic is concerned, you might as well be the legitimate blood son of Sirius, Lord Black. And, in this world, that is all that matters."
The goblins all nodded smugly. Harry felt like his head was going to explode.
"Okay, I'll sign. Do I have to use that quill? I've never used one before; I have a pen, is that alright?"
"Yes lad. Sign this document with your full name, Harris James Potter. This document should only be signed as Regent Black. If you would like to practice a moment on this spare parchment… it would be best if the Regent Black signature looked as adult as possible."
Tension was thick as Harry practiced signing until he had a version they all agreed upon. Once done, everyone relaxed and they all began congratulating each other. Harry leaned back in his chair hoping that now they were done and he could leave. What had started as an act and only partial reality had now become complete reality. He was far into that mood many parents recognize as the 'are we there yet' terrors. Information overload and emotional ups and downs had completely exhausted Harry.
"Are we done now?" He tried hard not to whine, he really did.
"Just this." Another thin box was pushed his way. "This will allow you to communicate with the Black Account Manager. It works just as the one for Potter business."
"What do I need that for? I'm too young to really do much aren't I?"
"Normally, yes, but as Regent, you have the ability to direct the accounts, as well as the Potter accounts. Something we greatly need as the Ministry has frozen the Black Estate while Lord Malfoy has been attempting to wrest control. You see, Sirius, Lord Black has the authority to direct and oversee the Potter Estate. You, as his Regent have the authority to direct the Black Estate, and through his authority, your own. He is your Regent and you are his. This allows you a small measure of control over your family business that Dumbledore cannot see, as you will be exercising it under a different name. Otherwise, you would have to wait to do so until you claimed Lordship. We, the goblins, could choose to fight this, but as it works in our favor, we will not."
The child's confusion was again obvious.
"It is more roundabout logic Harry; we will explain everything in letters you can review in quieter moments. Simply take the boxes and remember to check them regularly, at least every day at first." Swiftrock took back control of the meeting and tried to calm Harry before closing.
"Alright, it doesn't make much sense to me, but maybe the letters will. Thanks."
"You are welcome, and now, Harry, we are done. Griphook and the guards will escort you to your meeting place. Don't worry; they will wear glamours to make them appear human."
It didn't take very long, although it seemed forever to Harry, before the goodbyes were said and he was once again wearing his costume and cloak ( hood up ) and following his glamoured goblin escort. To his surprise, they stayed with him all the way to the bookstore, including the side trip to the alley to remove wizard clothes. Outside, they told him they would follow behind, without his friend's knowledge, until he left the train at his home station.
Normally, the thought of all these people following him would drive him batty, but after everything he'd learned today, he couldn't help but be a little bit glad. He was oddly nervous about running around on his own now.
Back in Swiftrock's office at the bank, the goblins were discussing the boy that had just left.
"His manners are atrocious!" The Black Account Manager was still in a huff.
"Simak, he is a child, only 8 years old. By the time you joined us, he had been overwhelmed. He hadn't known who he was; he knew nothing about the Dark Lord or his parent's deaths. There was simply too much information to get through." Swiftrock and Simak had clashed on how to handle today's meeting. Harry's crankiness towards the end had born out Swiftrock's opinion, making Simak cranky.
Greldac spoke up. Unlike a human adult, who would be insulted by a child talking back, the goblin had been impressed and saw that moment of fuss over the toy as a positive sign of future strength.
"He's muggle raised as well, by a family of no rank. He's had no opportunity to learn better manners. He did well enough, especially earlier. He seems bright and showed he is quite capable of standing up for himself. Although, he wasn't what I had expected."
"No, he isn't much like James at all, except in looks. I was quite surprised." As the goblin assigned to a young James, Stonefist knew him better than the others. "James would never have allowed me to select and purchase clothing. He was much more aware of his rank and position in the world. Harry was quite familiar with Griphook; they seemed to get on well. Harry didn't behave much like a Potter, or any ranked pureblood for that matter. We should chat with Griphook once he returns. His insight into the lad would be most helpful."
"I disagree." Swiftrock startled them all. "Yes, we should speak with Griphook, but the boy is like a Potter, just not much like recent Potters. He resembles one you would not remember. I saw something in his face and eyes that I had not seen in a Potter since I was a youth. It is still young, not fully formed, but the potential and beginning is there."
Simak's gaze sharpened as he locked eyes with Swiftrock. With a very toothy grin, Swiftrock nodded and Simak's eyes widened and he began to chuckle.
"Who?" asked one of the young Blacks.
"The human who was Lord for many years when I was a young goblin. Gwilam, Lord Potter."
Greldac joined them in their toothy grins and laughs, while Stonefist and the younger Black goblins still looked confused. Swiftrock explained.
"A very worthy Lord, for a human. He was a most faithful friend, a most vicious enemy, and an even better businessman. Extraordinarily strong willed, able to throw off the Imperious as if it were a tickling hex. If the lad takes after him, woe betide those who cross him when he grows up. Gwilam Potter never forgot a slight, ever, and he always made them pay…..in the most intriguing ways…he was almost goblin like in that regard."
Simak stopped laughing to add his viewpoint. "If you are right, he will lead Dumbledore in such a dance that has not been seen in many a long day…perhaps we should be his dance instructors?"
Swiftrock and Simak nodded to each other. They would leave off their own turf battle in favor of watching Dumbledore dance with the descendent of Gwilam Potter. Their aid, of course, would only be available if the boy proved capable of providing a worthy spectacle.
Harry opened the door to the shop hoping that Bran and Sophie wouldn't ask a lot of questions. He just wanted to go home where it was quiet. He was looking forward to tomorrow's simple routine with his Aunt.
He found them sitting in the squashy chairs with another older man he didn't know.
"Hi. I'm back."
Sophie noticed he was subdued, not the boy she was used to seeing when he was away from his family.
Bran sat forward and reached for Harry, pulling him next to his chair and wrapping his arm around the quiet child. Harry leaned against him, accepting the comfort.
"Are you ready to go back?"
Harry simply nodded. It was beginning to feel like a dream, except he could see a couple of the guards in the bookstore and some of the others on the street.
"Well then, we should be on our way." Sophie stood up and gathered up a shopping bag.
Bran took Harry's hand then stood, keeping hold of Harry. "This is my friend Gerald. We ran into him here earlier."
Gerald smiled. "Nice to meet you lad. I'm going along to keep Bran company on the return train ride, keep him out of trouble."
Harry smiled. "Hullo." He looked up at Sophie. "I'm ready. Can we go?"
She nodded and led the way out of the shop.
On the sidewalk, Bran picked up Harry and settled him on his hip. "It's a bit crowded, don't want to lose hold of my buddy." He grinned over at Harry, but only received a small smile in return.
The Tube trip in reverse seemed longer than Harry remembered, but eventually they were riding up the escalators into the main train station. Gerald offered to go get tickets for he and Bran while Bran and Harry tried to guess which train on the reader board would be theirs.
When he returned, Gerald handed a ticket to Bran with a laugh. "Either I got the same teller as you did last time, or there's a plot to send you to Greater Whinging."
"Perhaps I should stop by some time, see what's there." Bran smirked a bit.
"Nothing." Sophie shook her head. "It's just a slightly larger version of Little Whinging. Nothing to recommend it. Right Harry?"
He shrugged. "It's alright. Aunt Petunia goes to the shops there sometimes. Our nursery is just outside there."
Harry perked up a little. "The place we go to for our plants. The man's going to grow seeds for us for our vegetable garden this spring. We're going to have a brilliant garden next year."
The adults queried Harry about his garden plans while sharing relieved glances behind his back. His quietness had had everyone worried and they were glad to see a spark come back to his eyes and color in his cheeks.
Unlike last time, they had to wait quite a while for their train, but they occupied themselves talking about Harry and Petunia's garden plans and other gardens the adults had seen. A good 15 minutes were spent on the greenhouses of Kew alone. Harry never realized they were very skillfully keeping his mind occupied with simple, pleasant ideas.
By the time the train arrived, Harry's emotions were much calmer, but he was completely exhausted, the emotional drain had hit bottom. They took seats in the back section with Harry and Bran's backs to the rest of the car. It didn't take long for him to fall asleep leaning against Bran. Sophie and Gerald, from the facing seats, watched as Bran shifted slightly sideways and adjusted the small boy across his lap and against his chest. Harry fell deeper into sleep to the feel of Bran's fingers idly sifting through his hair. Bran stared down at Harry's hand resting against his chest, smiling.
After several minutes of watching the man stare at the boy's hand, grinning like a loon, Sophie was dying to know just what was holding his attention. She sat upright in her seat as she noticed a slight glow coming from Harry, his chest and his hand, or maybe it was from Bran or both of them, she couldn't tell.
Gerald grabbed her arm. "Don't interrupt!" he whispered.
Bran was murmuring something, she couldn't quite hear, but it sounded vaguely Gaelic or maybe Latin. Good God! He's doing magic on the Train! Sophie glanced around in shock, but nobody seemed to be able to see over the seat to the pair, or notice the glow. Bran kissed Harry's brow, whispered one more phrase and the glow faded. He smiled as he looked up.
"You took quite a risk." Gerald sounded angry.
"Not as much as you think, the train is moving. Besides, it will help keep him safe. It needed to be done." Bran was definitely not sounding or looking repentant. In fact, he was quite smug as he took the child's hand in his and shifted him into a more comfortable position.
"We will discuss this later."
Bran held Gerald's eyes for a moment, and there was no sign of the flustered, boyish man of earlier. "Perhaps, but this was my call, and our Lord will agree with me when we do discuss today back home."
"We shall see." His words and tone were ominous. Gerald was truly angry. Sophie was dying to ask what he'd done, but didn't dare take the risk with Gerald's temper, pus the public venue.
They were silent until the train arrived in Little Whinging and Bran carried the sleeping boy out to the platform before waking him. The goblin guard watched them leave; they would exit at the next station then take a return portkey. Griphook was very thoughtful. He'd noticed the glow and it shouldn't have happened, he'd been under the impression that Bran Connely was a squib.
"Harry." Bran very gently shook him. "Harry. Time to wake up. You'll need to walk home. Somehow, I don't think your Aunt would be happy if I carried you home asleep!"
Harry opened his eyes as Bran laughed at his own joke.
"No, she wouldn't be happy at all!" The boy stretched, looked around and then slid his legs to the ground and stood yawning and blinking sleepily. "I slept the whole way?"
"Yes, you sure did. Are you alright to head home alone?"
"I'll walk along with him. I do live here and have an excellent excuse to walk home any of my students from the park." Sophie spoke up and exchanged a challenging look with Bran. To her surprise, he just smiled back.
"Yes, you do at that." He ran his hand over Harry's hair. "You don't mind, little man, do you? If Sophie walks part of the way back with you? Not to the door exactly, but just down the street close to home?"
"No, that's alright." He took a few steps and grasped Sophie's hand.
"Are we still on for next weekend, or did you change your mind?" Bran asked hopefully.
"Yep, it's still on. OH NO! We forgot to look at the train schedule for next Saturday!"
"Don't worry. I've got Sophie's number. I can check when I get back and then give her a call and she can let you know at school sometime this week. How's that?"
Harry broke free of Sophie so he could hug Bran.
"Great! I'll see you Saturday! Bye! Bye Gerald, nice to meet you."
Grabbing Sophie's hand, he dragged her down the stairs. Harry wanted home, now. He'd see Bran on Saturday, so felt no need for a long drawn out goodbye.
Like before, Bran moved to watch them leave the station. He grimaced as he thought about next Saturday.
"I was hoping the goblins would have explained about the Malfoys and discouraged that."
"Perhaps he's waiting to drop the other boy face to face. It's not like he can call him up on the telephone and cancel things."
Bran looked hopeful at Gerald's words. It made sense.
Harry went straight to his cupboard once he got home. After retrieving hippo, he tucked his satchel deep under the stair landing. He'd deal with everything inside later. He curled up around his pillow, wishing he could expand hippo himself instead of waiting until 8pm. He looked at his hands, at the rings on his fingers. He'd left this morning just Harry Potter, the penniless orphan that lived with the Dursleys in the cupboard under the stairs. He came home the wealthy young heir to a title, two titles actually, and owner of his own homes.
Everything he'd learned today was so much more than he'd thought possible. He felt a bit like he was drowning. He heard Aunt Petunia come down the stairs and go into the kitchen. It sounded like she was starting to organize dinner. Wanting a distraction, Harry left hippo on the bed and went to join her. He didn't want to think about it for a while.
That night at dinner, Dudley pulled out of his self-absorption and noticed his parent's oddly quiet behavior. What's up with everyone today? Even Harry was out of it and didn't react when Dudley made a face at him earlier. Dudley spent the rest of the evening watching everyone and wondering what he'd missed that made everyone else so quiet.
AN: Hope you enjoyed! The next chapter will show Sophie and Gerald's talk through Gerald's report to his superior - yes, you'll find out about Bran and Gerald. J What isn't covered in the report, will be covered through Sophie thinking back in later scenes. That scene just didn't work well in this chapter and I decided to break it up and move it. I have an outline and a bit of a few scenes for the next chapter, but that's all, so it's going to be a while for the next update. I'm not sure which story will be updated next, this or Twist. My Twist muse has been tickling….