Sympathy for the Devil
After he woke up, Harry's stay in St. Mungo's had been short. After all, no one could identify a single discernable malady that kept him unconscious for those weeks in the first place. He walked out the doors under his own power only to find a gaggle of reporters lying in wait – apparently, someone in the ward had tipped them off that the "Potter Party" was leaving… or perhaps they had simply been camping out for the past two weeks. Harry admitted he was paranoid, but given the events of "the previous night", he felt he should be allowed some degree of leeway where his "protective instincts" were concerned. Ginny, for her part, seemed to need him as much as he needed her.
He sat alone on the camp bed in Ron's bedroom at the Burrow, saying he needed to have a kip but instead replaying what events he could honestly recall in his mind. To be fair, there wasn't much. He remembered the red light from the stupefy that had been cast as he walked through the door… and then he remembered Ginny lying there on the floor, dead. He had never felt so sick in all his life, as he had at that moment. The sight of her limp, cold body flooded his thoughts and he shivered the memory away – it was not real… it had been a boggart, he knew. He kicked at his trunk next to the bed in frustration at the feeling of being weak.
Worst of all was hearing about what had happened after the fact and not knowing the whole truth himself, as though he were being told a story he already knew parts of. Molly and Arthur still hadn't told him what they had seen in the house; he'd had to corner Percy to get any answer at all. "You killed them, Harry," Percy had said very quietly (noticeably, without any edge of accusation in his voice).
The answer did not satisfy Harry – he knew that much already, but he could not even obtain a copy of the official report from Kingsley, and to make the matter worse, the one time Harry WANTED a copy of the Daily Prophet, it was being kept from him – "it's still too sensationalized, Harry," Arthur had said, "just give it time and it will blow over and everything will be right as rain again."
But Harry had never been patient. Certainly he had matured over the years, but patience was not what anyone would consider a defining characteristic of Mr. Harry James Potter. Harry knew there had to be a way to find out what was going on around him while appearing to be doing something else. But what?
Oh yes, Mr. Weasley, I feel a sudden and overwhelming need to start working as an Auror and I simply cannot be convinced otherwise. No one was that stupid – except… no… no one was that stupid.
Mr. Weasley, I'd rather fancy just going for a fly for a while. No.
Mr. Weasley, I'd like to go to Hogwarts and see if I can help. Harry couldn't even convince HIMSELF he would go there at the moment.
Mr. Weasley, I need to sort out this issue with Gringotts. Shouldn't take but an afternoon. Harry sat in silence for a moment as the idea rolled around in his head. It was true; he did need to resolve several matters between himself and Gringotts and some of them should be attended to immediately (and it certainly didn't make him feel bad that he would be putting the Weasley family on his list of lieutenants). Plus, he could not deny he wondered what inheriting the Peverell vault meant. At least, he had wondered before… well, before now.
If he was going to attempt to go out into public, he knew now was the time. He felt a tinge of guilt about knowing that he would take his ulterior motive to a man who had done so much for him, but Harry needed to know… to know what... he had done.
It had been some time since Harry felt anything like this. Two years to be exact. The death of Sirius had made Harry feel hollow as though he had himself betrayed the man and now here he was, wishing for all the world that the feeling of sickness would be taken away from his stomach. He chuckled bitterly, remembering another lesson from two years ago; it was tragically amusing to him that the Cruciatus curse really did require some skill to cast, as well as the intent to harm.
Harry felt that he had the skill in the Department of Mysteries, but as Bellatrix said, "you have to mean it!"
He was certain that the Snatchers who captured him desired nothing more than to see him in pain, but there was a marked lack of magical skill – just like a thug loudly cracking his knuckles, they were all bluster without the ability to back it up.
The confluence of the two was certainly…
Harry shook himself of the thought and strolled down the flights of stairs, finding Mr. Weasley in the kitchen, smiling sadly at him. Harry steeled himself to tell a half-truth to a man who meant more to him than almost any other in the world. Arthur nodded sadly as Harry explained what he would be doing, as though every word dripped left a foam of lies on his lips, but rather than try to argue with him, Harry was pulled into a gentle hug by his father figure; "Go do what you have to do, son."
The words hurt Harry's heart – he knew that Arthur knew he had not told him the truth, but he still had the older man's blessing. He nodded, ran back upstairs to collect his invisibility cloak, and returned to the fireplace. He looked once back to the kitchen and saw that it was empty. Feeling a tinge of regret, he picked up a pinch of floo powder and said loudly and clearly, "Gringotts Bank!"
Sticking his head in the fireplace, he waited until a small goblin's head appeared in the flames. "Ah, Mr. Potter. We've been looking forward to your call," the goblin said with a grim smile on its face. "My name is Broadnax. How may I be of service?"
Harry cleared his throat and tried to keep his face as neutral as possible. "Very well, Broadnax, I will be arriving shortly and would like to meet with the Chief Executor as well as Mr. William Weasley, it matters little in which order. Also, I would appreciate it if I would be able to meet with Griphook first, before either meeting."
The goblin eyed Harry carefully before nodding. "Very well, Harry Potter. Griphook shall be available momentarily, and you will meet with the Chief Executor thereafter. Mr. Weasley will be available when you have finished with the Chief Executor." Harry nodded his assent. "Will there be anything else, Harry Potter."
Harry began to shake his head, but quickly said, "Yes, actually. I will be invisible upon my arrival so as not to draw a crowd. I would appreciate it if Griphook could be in the lobby when I arrive to lead me to someplace more private for these meetings."
The Goblin cocked an eyebrow appreciatively; "Very good, Mr. Potter. We shall expect you momentarily." Harry let the goblin's face disappear from the fire before grabbing another pinch of powder and flooing to Diagon Alley.
Harry arrived at Gringotts under the cover of his father's cloak, winding through the masses of people trying to return to their normal lives before the past hellish year. Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes was still closed, but it wasn't too surprising – most shops were. Furthermore, George wasn't likely to be in much condition to be running a shop at the moment. As he slinked in behind another wizard before the heavy bronze doors closed to him, he looked around the building, looking as though it had never been touched by an escaping dragon and wandfire.
The large lobby was bustling with activity, and to avoid someone running into him, he walked over to a wall and stood against it, trying to spot Griphook among so many people. A door in the back opened and closed and after a moment, Harry saw Griphook appear from behind the large counter. He made his way towards the familiar goblin, snaking between people, careful to avoid contact. As Griphook looked straight ahead in wait, Harry approached from his side.
"Hello Griphook," he said quietly. The goblin, for his part, did not draw attention to the fact that a voice was coming from seemingly no-where. "Thank you for agreeing to meet me out front." Griphook smiled as genuinely as Harry imagined a goblin could smile.
"Indeed, Harry Potter," Griphook said quietly. "If you would follow me." Griphook then turned and walked back behind the counter, allowing Harry to follow through the warded gates and doors. Gringotts was very interesting from this side, Harry decided. The goblins sat on very high stools and Harry had to stifle a chuckle as he watched some of them swing their legs idly through the air.
Harry was led into a large office with several goblins at several short desks, and on the side of the room were two large double doors with the words "Chief Executor" on a large plaque on the door. Harry looked through the room in awe of the large windows and the way Diagon Alley seemed to drive itself to the very point where Harry now stood, as though he himself were at the center of Wizarding London. Looking at his feet, several lines did in fact converge beneath him – it struck Harry that at that moment, he was at the center, and he had never before felt what he did then.
The view out the windows was, for lack of a better word, complete. He could see the shops bustling and people coming and going, quite certain that even if they could see in the windows, they would not be able to make him out. Harry liked the feeling – as though he was removed. He was not involved in every minute incident that he saw and at the same time, he felt as though nothing was out of his vision, as though he were standing on a hill overlooking some great valley.
His reverie was interrupted by the croaking of a deep, ugly voice. "Ah, Mr. Potter, I see you are enjoying the view. I would encourage you to relish it now while you can – only a very, very few ever see it at all and of those, fewer still will see it again."
Harry turned to see a fat goblin smirking at him in a way reminiscent of Uncle Vernon as he prepared to hand Harry a particularly bad thrashing. It was not a pleasant sight for Harry, especially as he was quite certain that his face was showing the full scope of the awe he felt. The goblin's reaction confirmed it, as his smile grew even larger and, if it was possibly, more predatory. Oh yes, Harry thought, here comes a wolf right now.
The goblin waddled forward and extended its clawing hand toward Harry. "Mr. Potter, it is a singular pleasure to meet you. I must say that when I received notification regarding Vault 2, I was quite surprised, but then when I discovered that it was you that I should be contacting… well, it was much less surprising. You do seem to have a knack for accomplishing the impossible, Mr. Potter," he said with a cocked eyebrow as Harry took his hand loosely and shook it limply, his head still unclear from the view he had just taken in. "Please allow me to introduce myself – I am Dietzel, the chief executor of trusts and estates for Gringotts."
"At any rate, Mr. Potter, you will please follow me and we may discuss the business at hand." The chief executor turned and walked back through the double doors and Harry followed, the spell of the window broken as his vantage changed. The goblin cleared his throat unceremoniously and began.
"Mr. Potter, it is my duty to explain to you the terms by which Vault 2 was opened and the assets not only contained therein, but also the real assets which will now belong to you as well." Harry had heard things like this before at Gringotts, and then in Griphook's letter to him. Frankly, he was not interested in what new trinkets he had accrued but rather how they had come to him. The why and how of the thing was more important to Harry now than the what – Hermione would have been thrilled if he had applied that same thought process to his studies.
"Mr. Potter, part of the process for the disbursement of Vault 2 is that I am to read to you a letter from the previous owner." Harry's mind shot in an instant to Ignotus Peverell – it only made sense that the Peverell Vault would have been last owned by him. Dietzel opened a drawer in his desk and drew out an old sealed scroll tube. "Mr. Potter, if you would be so kind, you must press your finger to this seal to confirm that you are, in fact, the proper inheritor of Vault 2. Harry looked up to see Dietzel extending the tube to him; he took it and pressed his finger to the plain red wax seal as instructed, only to have it unceremoniously fall away, leaving him somewhat disappointed that what was sure to be a momentous event had no magical warmth or glow or vision to accompany it. He handed the tube back to the goblin, who shook out a small scroll with another, more familiar seal on it – the mark of the Deathly Hallows, or as he had come to understand it now, the mark of the Peverell family.
"When I break this seal, Mr. Potter," Dietzel began.
"Harry," Harry exclaimed, locking eyes with the goblin. Becoming very self-aware that he had just yelled at an extremely influential figure, he turned his eyes away and said, "I'm just Harry. Please don't stand on formality on my account."
The Chief Executor appraised him for a moment before continuing, "Very well, Harry. When I break this seal, I am magically bound to keep whatever secrets may lie within. Unlike your Unbreakable Vow, I am unable to reveal what I read to any other person at any other time, even under Veritaserum or other methods of coercion." Harry looked at Dietzel in slight disbelief, but the goblin simply waved his hand. "We are in the business of keeping secrets, Harry. Banking is largely ensuring that things do not disseminate to those to whom they do not belong." The seal was snapped away by Dietzel's finger and he unrolled the scroll and began to read.
My name is Ignotus Peverell and you, whoever you are, have accomplished what I consider to be my life's work. Even now, during my lifetime, the legends have spread about "The Three Brothers", and I find it amusing that the tale of my death is being reported even before my time has come. I do hope that it will be as simple and painless as casting this cloak aside and greeting an old friend – that does sound simply wonderful at my age.
In any event, it is important that I explain to you what I have done and failed to do and what your success in this matter means. My brothers and I did, in fact, meet Death on that night of legend – the legend itself is surprisingly accurate, I might add – and we did gain the tools to become "Masters of Death", but my brothers were as arrogant as the legends claim and sought to humiliate Death, which I thought wholly unwise myself. The instruments themselves, though, are not cursed, contrary to popular opinion. As I have observed the Elder Wand as it has made its way (and indeed I have observed it), it is the arrogance of those who wield it that leads to their untimely demise. Inevitably, the "unbeatable wand" is beaten, but not because it was not powerful enough, but because the wielder believed that it was they who were powerful, not the wand.
Upon my brothers' deaths, I endeavored to recollect the artifacts to return them to their maker, thus absolving any offenses my brothers and I committed against Death. I have been unsuccessful. It is my thought, for I daren't say belief, that Death may be mastered insofar as one's fear of it is concerned. Death, as I am sure you now understand, is inevitable. It comes for us all, and while some cleverer wizards may take steps to cheat Death, Death will come for them as well in due time.
Reuniting the Deathly Hallows has made you what I can only describe as the closest thing Death has to "a friend". Death follows you, or perhaps you follow Death, but nonetheless, the two of you are inextricably intertwined. You will find over the course of your life that your relationship with Death is very much what you make of it. I will leave it to you to determine how you will interpret that thought.
So now, I leave this to you – my second will such as it is. The Vault I have in Gringotts will forever house the Hallows. While the items themselves may be elsewhere, they shall never be denied to the Master of Death should he desire them. Furthermore, I leave to you the considerable wealth gained by my brothers. I do not believe that I have any claim to it, nor do my children. I believe that it is only appropriate for the person who has, in effect, reunited my brothers and me to benefit from his efforts.
Finally, I give to you the only honor I have to bestow. I do not know what the future holds for my family line, and so I, as head of the House of Peverell, do hereby abdicate that title. You, the Master of Death, are now head of the Ancient and Honourable House of Peverell and you will find within my Vault the ring which bears our seal. If you are as journeyed as I would expect, you will be familiar with it.
Hold within your heart the knowledge that you are enlightened far beyond the capacities of most. Do not use this knowledge for ill, but rather take cares to ensure that when Death does finally come for you, you may await him peacefully and embrace him as an old friend.
Dietzel looked up at Harry as he finished the letter. "Harry Potter, I am now to read for you a summary of contents… Harry Potter?" Harry's face was buried in his hands – it was already too much to process. Harry simply nodded, encouraging him to continue reading, but Harry no longer listened. He did not need to hear a full summary of the new things he had. He did not want things. He wanted…
"Mr. Potter, unless you have other business for me, I believe that we are concluded for the day. I'm sure you can imagine that there is no key necessary for Vault 2 and I've taken the liberty of sending a copy of your portfolio to Mr. William Weasley, with whom I understand you are to meet when we have concluded our affairs."
Harry looked up from his hands to see the Goblin looking down at him, somewhat officiously. Harry's time was up and now it was back to business as usual. How did the world work that way? As far as Harry was concerned, his world was grinding and there was very little to be done to get it moving again. Nonetheless, Harry rose from his seat, accepted the Goblin's hand, and with one last shake, turned to walk back out the door.
Sitting on the edge of a desk in the outer office was Bill. When he saw Harry, his face cracked into a sympathetic smile. "Alright there, Harry?" Harry nodded and tried to crack a smile back, but simply could not. Bill quickly made his way across the office to him, leading him gently out of the large room and down another hall. Pushing a door open, he sat Harry in front of a small desk with papers coming at odd angles from their stacks. A map of the Earth was pinned to his back wall and many different-colored pins were pushed in different places, presumably places Bill had worked.
"So, Harry," Bill said, drawing his attention again, "I've got your portfolio here… and honestly, I don't know where to start." Bill walked behind his desk and picked up the top binder of several large, bursting folios. "I've never worked with a client with so many assets. Frankly, I don't think anyone at Gringotts has." Bill scratched his scarred face thoughtfully, "but I am glad that you thought of me. And while we're on that subject, I wanted to get your opinion on handling this." Harry sat down as Bill gestured to a chair in front of his desk. "As a financier, Harry, I have been trained to disburse assets as deemed appropriate by the client, but to be frank with you, this will be quite a lot of work." Harry's expression blanched, feeling guilty that he was imposing upon Bill, who quickly raised a hand to silence him in a decidedly-Arthur Weasley fashion.
"It is not more than I can handle Harry, do not worry about that, but I believe that it would serve your better interests if you had two advisors. Obviously, I thought of Fleur, but if you would prefer, I'm absolutely sure that I can find another who would be willing to help me with your account." Bill looked hopeful that Harry would quickly assent to his suggestion, but Harry had to process... had to talk this over.
"I…," Harry began before the words died in his mouth. Bill looked concerned and even disappointed that Harry did not immediately agree. "Bill, before I agree to anyone else, I need to speak with you about my needs. Is that fair?"
Bill nodded understandingly, "of course, Harry. I'm sorry that I got ahead of myself. What is it that you're hoping to do with your assets?"
Harry looked around the office uncertainly. He didn't know. He couldn't know. What on Earth does one do with trillions of galleons? "That's just it, Bill. I have no idea. I mean, I could buy the Quidditch League outright. I could buy multiple Quidditch leagues, probably." Harry froze as the realization worked through his mind. "Fuck, Bill. I really could, couldn't I?"
Bill, for his part, remained impassive as he had since Harry had asked him to hear out his needs. He considered the question for a moment before nodding his head. Harry sat back in his chair, sighing tiredly. "Bill, I'm sorry, but I can't do this just this second. It's too much and I underestimated how hard this would be."
Bill nodded again, this time with sympathy etching his face. "I understand, Harry. You can always make an appointment. But do bear in mind that nothing will happen until you say so. This cannot be left alone."
Harry gave a small jerk of the head in something resembling assent. Bill walked around his desk and put a hand on Harry's shoulder. "While you're here though, Harry, there's something I think you should see." He looked up at Bill wordlessly, but curiosity filled his brow. "Come on then, Harry. To the vaults."
Harry followed Bill down the hall of doors and through the one leading to the track to the vaults. The sloping path was shorter than Harry remembered it, but with all the adrenaline pumping through his brain the last time he was here, it was more impressive that he remembered the hall at all. As they reached the end, Bill approached a goblin waiting in a cart; Harry could not hear him over the din of carts thrashing about on the rails beneath them, but Bill turned and signaled for Harry to join him. They sped off, deep into the vaults, though not so deep as Harry had ventured recently, until they jerked to a halt in front of a vault of reasonable security.
"Harry, this is your family vault," Bill began and Harry's throat dried immediately. "Here is your key. Would you like to see inside?" He handed Harry the small golden object as Harry nodded slowly, a look resembling fear spreading across his features. What if…
His thoughts were interrupted by the goblin that steered the cart for them snatching his key and toddling up to the vault, inserting the small, otherwise non-descript piece of metal and stepping into the door. Gears and pistons swallowed the small creature whole as the door itself seemed to come to life with cogs and presses clanking and turning as it swelled almost all the way to the edge of the track. Finally acknowledging the goblin and sliding aside, revealing the goblin to be, as expected, unharmed, Harry got the first look at his family vault.
Shelves and chests and rows of tables piled high with galleons and trinkets of various sorts all flanked the sides, but one thing drew Harry's eye, straight ahead of him against the back wall. A proud tapestry hung on the wall in full Gryffindor colors, gold on bright red and as Harry stepped out of his cart and walked slowly into his vault toward it, he could see more detail. Not unlike the wall at Grimmauld Place, this tapestry detailed the Potter family, but for many more generations than he had seen of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black. It was the center, though that he was focused on. A stag and a lion rampant on either side of a golden shield with a red chevron, beneath it an unfurled scroll. Harry finally reached the wall as Bill looked on sympathetically. This was the first time Harry had seen anything of his family's, after all.
Harry turned to him with tears in his eyes. "Potius Mori Quam Foedare, Bill. That's my family motto… what does it mean?"
Bill thought for a second – having been behind a desk had put some dust on his languages – before looking back at Harry, calling out, "Rather to die than to be dishonored."
Harry snorted, thinking back to Remus – "No, I think you're like James, who would have regarded it as the height of dishonor to 'mistrust' his friends." He took off his glasses and wiped at his eyes for a moment while Bill and the Goblin looked on in respectful but uncomfortable silence, which the goblin took upon itself to break by clearing his throat quite unceremoniously. Harry turned around after a moment and walked out of the vault, not bothering to look at anything else.
"Would it be possible for me to get a catalogue of the contents before I leave today," Harry asked quietly, his eyes still looking at the ground a few feet in front of him. Bill looked at the goblin, which shrugged, but nodded.
"Sure Harry," Bill said, putting a hand on his shoulder and guiding him back into the cart, which quickly rocketed back up to the surface.
Harry sat in silence on the trip up and remained so on the trip back to Bill's office. When they arrived, Harry sat heavily in the chair in front of Bill's desk, staring into space at the papers on his desk. Bill remained quiet, but could not realistically afford to be sitting in his office doing nothing, even with the man who was going to become, for all intents and purposes, his only client. After a moment, Harry spoke up,
"Between you and Fleur, who is more versed in properties? Houses and the like?" Harry's eyes were still fixed on the non-point on Bill's desk.
"Probably me. Are you thinking of buying or selling?"
"Maybe both," he said, his voice leveling out again. "For now, though, I just want to have some work done on some of my properties and I'd like to have some curse-breakers have a go-through just to make sure that they're safe to be renovated."
Bill nodded approvingly – this was a good first step: assessing current assets. "Which properties? "
Harry looked up at Bill, "Grimmauld Place and my parent's house in Godric's Hollow." Bill managed to stay impassive, but his heart broke for the man sitting in front of him.
"Very good, Harry. Will there be anything for Fleur?"
Harry considered all the things he could do with the money: founding charities, spending ridiculous amounts on lavish vacations, before he finally smiled whimsically at an idea.
"Every member of Dumbledore's Army through Hogwarts. Robes, books, brooms, even the sweets on the trolley. Have her establish a fund. And their children as well." Bill smirked at him.
"You know Harry, that's very generous of you, but that's not exactly what an advisor would consider a sound investment. Some might say that you're showing too much favoritism…"
"What can I say, Bill," Harry responded shrugging, "I'm a man of wealth and taste."