AN: My attempt at compromise. Okay, so from the reactions, some people really liked the turn this story took… and many people hated it. So here is the compromise: I will continue this as two different stories, each with a different take on this chapter. A warning: updates for both could take a while. But nonetheless, I do not want to alienate you, the readers, who have many valid reasons for feeling disenfranchised by my decision. The first half is the same as the other version. Thank you for reading and giving this a chance. I don't own Harry Potter, and it's still good to be back.
ALTERNATE- Chapter Eleven: Coming Home
"Good evening, Severus," Dumbledore greeted merrily as the sallow-faced man strode into his office. Despite having fired the man, he still needed to regularly converse with his spy; what else was a spy good for if not information? Incredibly, the fact that he had been fired as a Hogwarts professor had gone a long way towards opening the mouths of many of his former Death Eater Comrades. Perhaps it was the assumption that with Albus Dumbledore no longer keeping him close, that the former professor must have gotten on his bad side, and thus, could be trusted. Or maybe they thought that they knew their old colleague well enough to know that bitterness would pry his mouth open in many situations that it was formerly closed. Of course, the company he was forced to keep these days did nothing to extinguish Severus's rather nasty temper, but sacrifices had to be made for the Greater Good.
"Headmaster," his former colleague bowed courteously. "I have news for you- news that you need to hear. Much more so than the usual drivel, anyway," He added as an afterthought. Dumbledore sat up immediately- this must be serious.
"By all means Severus," Dumbledore said as he waved his wand to conjure a teapot and a matching set of teacups. "Tea?"
Snape shook his head as he took a seat. "Lucius is actively plotting against you." Dumbledore's raised eyebrows berated Snape, as if telling him that this was a well-known fact of life. Which it was. "What I mean is that Lucius has been making "trips" to all the other Hogwarts governors, undermining their support in you. He plans to have you ousted." Snape took a breath. "His plans are contingent on some kind of disruption or tragedy or likewise during the school year that convinces the other govenors that you are unsuited to continue running the school. Fortunately, he did not have himself positioned well enough to use the Quirrell incident to enact his plans, but it seems as if he is prepared to… manufacture his own. Unfortunately, I do not have access to more of the details."
Dumbledore was silent for a long moment, considering the implications. "I am curious, Severus: How did you come by this vein of information?"
Snape deliberately looked away from the Headmaster, suddenly feeling very guilty. "Lucius recruited me to act as Hogwarts Headmaster in your stead."
Dumbledore's eyebrows rose. "Really, Severus? Already missing the glorious life of those on the Hogwart's staff?"
Snape glared at him. "That wasn't amusing. With my experience as a tenured Hogwarts professor, and my well-publicized firing which Lucius has publicly attributed to you as ousting a threat to his position, his backing could make me interim Headmaster, the last thing I ever wanted. I have half a mind to thank Potter's demon-child -before I squash him like a bug- for getting me out of this infernal hellhole. The only reason I signed on to Lucius's plan was to gather more intelligence. I think I'd much prefer getting down on my knees and kissing Potter's robes then being subjected to another year of teaching talentless dunderheads!"
"Egads, Severus: Please, tell me what you really think," Dumbledore fired back. He settled down and looked out his window thoughtfully. "Lucius trying to oust me is nothing new. The fact that he is capable of and willing to endanger students, as I imagine his plot will involve, to oust me is rather disturbing. But enough about that: I will monitor the situation, or rather, you will, and I shall act accordingly."
Snape grudgingly accepted the dismissal of the topic as he drank some tea. "How's Potter doing?" Snape asked hesitantly.
Dumbledore frowned. "I was truly blind, Severus. I thought that Harry was to be possessed, that his death was inevitable. I was wrong. With the training I, Alastor, Remus, and Sirius have administered, he is capable of matching most, if not all, of Tom's lower ranking minions. A duel with an inner circle member…" Dumbledore shifted his position. "Suffice it to say, Harry is quite powerful after all the hard work he has put in. Perhaps powerful enough to be considered the Albus Dumbledore of his generation."
Snape snorted quietly. "Considering that he is destined to battle with the Dark Lord, he needs to be. And the Albus Dumbledore of his generation? Piling on a wee bit, are we, Headmaster?"
Dumbledore frowned. "I am quite confident in Harry's abilities. He has accomplished more than I ever imagined." Dumbledore sighed mournfully. "Sadly, I am not the only one who thinks so highly of his skills. Harry's accomplishments have reached ears I'd rather they hadn't. Cornelius himself was here the other day asking to arrange a "test" of his abilities. The Daily Prophet has even featured articles about his talent once or twice. Unfortunately, all of this attention may prove to be a hindrance in the future." If only Dumbledore had known how true his words were…
-Above all, Harry, be on your guard. Goblins are prone to acts of deception, especially in their dealings with wizards. It is a Goblin norm to "Steal with a smile," or, in other words, to use past dealings as a bridge to "put one past" an unsuspecting wizard not on guard against treachery. The fact that they were so cordial during the settling of the Lordship and Emancipation matters may indicate an attempt to do just that. As always, tread carefully.
Advisor to the Potter Family
Harry folded up the most recent letter from Ollivander and deposited it back into the envelope. He sighed and went back to his breakfast. He couldn't explain why, but he had a feeling that something was going on, and he'd have to be careful. A feeling Ollivander was only too happy to confirm.
Harry got up and headed back to his dorm room. Ever since he'd woken up this morning, he'd been beset by paranoia, and he didn't like it at all. He had no reason to think anything was up. After all, the Goblins had never been less than honorable in dealings with him. Still, he had a funny feeling…
"Which came first, the Pheonix or the flame?" sang the musical voice of the Ravenclaw guardian.
"A circle has no beginning," Harry replied dully. The portrait opened to admit him, and Harry charged upstairs to finish packing. It was a very depressing task, repacking all of his books and robes, and actually admitting to himself that he had to leave Hogwarts, his first real home, if only for several months. The prospect of completing this task was made all the more depressing by the fact that he would be leaving Hogwarts for a long three months- to stay with the Weasleys.
He sighed in disgust. He was really regretting that olive branch he'd offered to Dumbledore. At the time, he really felt he needed to win the man over, but now, the price was proving to be very high, very high indeed. Fred and George were kind of cool, but Percy was much too pompous and arrogant, as Harry had had several run-ins with the unpleasant prefect, and Ron had a very off-putting sense of entitlement coupled with a complete unwillingness to work hard to achieve his dreams. Or maybe it was the fact that the youngest male Weasley seemed to have no dreams that didn't involve Quidditch or playing chess. Add in the twins tales of their sister and her "Harry Potter shrine" and he was definitely regretting making this deal. When he finally told Ollivander what he'd done, his advisor had only told him that he had made a poor decision, and to look before he leapt next time.
After gathering up all his stray things, he was finally finished packing for the Express. Closing and locking his trunk, and leaving it for the staff to bring down to the train, Harry left the first year dorms. In the common room, everyone there was apparently scrambling to make sure none of their precious items were left behind. Harry sat down in his favorite chair to watch the chaos unfolding around him. In a weird way, it was very soothing, knowing that he wasn't the only one the end of the school year had crept up on. After a few minutes of first and fifth years collide with each other as they tried to catch pets and recover stray books, Harry reached into his robe pocket and pulled out the day's edition of the Daily Prophet. He scanned the first page, as was his habit, and picked out another article on the bottom of it once again proclaiming him as the next Albus Dumbledore.
He should have been on guard for something like this, he really should have. But the fact remained that Slughorn had been a little too vehement an advocate. That was to say that the man routinely went on about Harry's impressive abilities to visiting guests, so of course word got out. Soon, others, like Rufus Scrimgeour, were backing up his accounts, hoping to receive their due for training the next Merlin. Or at least, that was a possibility Ollivander suggested. This led to now, where the Daily Prophet had become a mouthpiece proclaiming him the new hope for his generation, though much of the credit was undeserved. Still, the loss of the element of surprise concerning his abilities was a huge negative for his eventual rematch with Lord Voldemort, and was a thought that never failed to bring a scowl to his face. If Voldemort went in knowing Harry could be a challenge, though not nearly on the level of Alastor Moody, then he would be caught in between a literal rock and a hard place; the Dark Lord strong enough to not take him for granted, but his being so weak in comparison that Voldemort tossed him around like a fly before finally stomping the life out of him. With a grimace, Harry put aside the first page and began skimming through to the sports section.
A few hours later, Harry, Hermione, Hannah, Susan, Anthony, and Neville were in their own compartment on the Hogwarts Express. On their way to the compartment, Harry once again had to maneuver past Davis and Greengrass. He had no idea what had destroyed their one time friendship, but he didn't care; he washed his hands of those two. That meant that giving them another opportunity to provoke him was something to be avoided at all costs, hence the sneaking around.
It was a peaceful train ride, despite Harry's apprehension towards his meeting at Gringotts. Hermione, Susan, and Hannah were quite content to chat the train ride away while Harry, Anthony, and Neville rotated chess matches. Soon talk turned to summer plans. Neville had been quite vocal at his dislike towards traveling to France with his Gran, mostly due to the fact that the relatives they were visiting didn't like him because they still thought he was a squib. Hannah and Susan were talking quite happily about heading to the coast for some sun and sea, as their families normally did in the summer. Harry tried to keep the disappointment from his voice while he explained the awful deal he made that had him spending his summer with the Weasleys. Hermione, while wincing at his stupidity, told him that the next time he had to negotiate with anyone, he should leave it a lawyer, or even a janitor; surely they couldn't do any worse on his behalf. She then talked about how her summer was going to be pretty quiet, just sitting around the house and studying, mostly. Finally, Anthony finished by talking about how he and his family were headed to the Highlands for a business meeting at the end of July, and that his summer would include some sun and sea but be otherwise be quite calm.
At this point, the lady who sold snacks came around, and Harry treated all his friends to lunch. As they happily munched on the many snacks he'd purchased, their compartment was subjected to a series of invasions. First it was Draco and grunts, who proved quite thoroughly that they could not fight properly in a battle of wits, and then it was Ron, who barged in to their compartment and half asked/half ordered Harry to come to his compartment. When Harry declined, Ron stormed off in a huff while saying some very unflattering things about others in the compartment, like Neville. Once he left, Hermione once again sighed in his direction, right before a group of giggling upper year Ravenclaws came by and issued another invitation to him, only for him to politely decline once again.
Soon, much too soon for Harry's liking, the train was slowing down, and King's Cross was approaching. When the girls left to change, he removed his robes and slipped on regular clothing while slipping his wand into his pocket. Now wearing a grey tee-shirt and jeans, he began readying himself for his upcoming meetings. Before long, the train began slowing down until finally it came to a complete stop and they had arrived.
"Did you have a nice term?" Mrs. Weasley asked as he exited the train. Percy and the twins were making their way towards them with their luggage in tow.
"Fine, Mrs. Weasley," Harry answered politely as he pulled his trunk along with Hedwig's cage resting on top. And then he noticed the twins were at his sides.
"Mum, Ginny, we'd like to formally introduce you to Harry Potter-"
"Slayer of Dark Lords-"
"Master of magic-"
"You know, this feels so unpolished," Harry interrupted. "Maybe if you had some instruments so you could build a drumroll or something-"
"Quiet Harry, we're on a roll. Where were we?"
"Ah yes, prodigy extraordinaire-"
"Best student in his year-"
"That's enough, you two," Mrs. Weasley scowled. She turned towards Harry, her scowl transforming into a smile. "How are you feeling, Harry dear?"
"Fine, Mrs. Weasley," Harry repeated. He suddenly felt very nervous. "Um, did professor Dumbledore inform you that my presence was required at Gringotts?"
"Yes dear," Mrs. Weasley answered kindly.
"Well, then, I hope you won't mind if I leave you here. Fred and George already told me how to travel to your home, and I doubt the goblins are willing to wait much longer," Harry said.
"Not at all, Harry. We'll see you later?" She asked.
"Yeah, I don't expect this will take too long," Harry replied. "Here's my trunk and my owl, Hedwig; I doubt I'll need them for my meeting. Thanks, and I'll see you soon."
Harry walked away from the pack of Weasleys before he spotted Augusta Longbottom with Neville. With a sigh, knowing he was now obligated to say greet them politely, Harry walked over.
"Good Evening, Madam Longottom, Neville," Harry said politely.
Madam Longbottom turned in a flash to smile at Harry. "Good evening, Mr. Potter. Ah, such rumors I've heard about you since we last met." She gestured at Neville. "We'll be in France for most of July, but once we return at the beginning of August, you are welcome at Longbottom Manor."
"And Bones Manor," piped up a voice from right next to him. Harry turned to see Madam Bones with Susan and Hannah in tow. "You are of course welcome to come over, and I'm sure these two would be delighted to see you."
"Thank you Madam Longbottom, Madam Bones, I will be sure to keep your invitation in mind. For now, I must take my leave, for I have an urgent matter that needs attending to." Harry said his goodbyes and walked off, only to stop once more when he realized Hermione and her parents were standing right beside the barrier.
"Good Evening, Hermione. I assume these are your parent?" Harry asked politely.
Hermione wheeled around and smiled at him. "Oh yes. Mum, dad, this is my friend, Harry Potter."
"Dan Granger," said the father curtly holding out his hand, which Harry shook.
"Emma Granger," the lady, who looked a lot like Hermione, also held out her hand to receive another handshake.
"Well, I must say it was a pleasure, but I have to get moving, so I'll see you soon Hermione, and maybe we can get together over the summer. Goodbye Mr. and Mrs. Granger," Harry said as he walked off.
He walked past the Grangers, through the barrier, and into the designated disapparation point before turning and disapparating. He arrived with a crack in the middle of his advisor's shop. He smiled for a moment upon once more seeing the familiar dusty interior of his mentor's store.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Potter," came Mr. Ollivander's voice from right behind him.
"It's nice you to see again, Mr. Ollivander," Harry replied, holding out his hand. He was used to this, so unlike others, he didn't jump when his advisor's voice issued from the shadows. "How have you been?"
Ollivander shook it firmly. "I can't complain. Are you ready for your meeting?"
"Yes, do you have the dress robes I ordered? I figured I could wear them over this so I could easily go from the meeting to the Weasleys," Harry explained.
"Right there," Mr. Ollivander pointed to the small, rickety chair in the corner with a brown bundle on top of it. Harry quickly walked over, unsealed the package, and pulled on his black dress robes with the Potter Crest emblazoned on the back.
"Thanks again, Sir. I'll be back soon," Harry declared as he left the shop.
The walk up the Alley was rather peaceful. Even with all he had experienced over the past year, the Alley was just as magical, just as new, as it had been on the day when he arrived. And each shop he saw had memories, good and bad, that came to forefront of Harry's mind. The trunk store, where Uncle Vernon's magical clone worked, Madam Malkin, where the Madam always picked on Harry's taste in clothing, Flourish and Blotts, and the store manager losing all the ordered copies of the Invisible Book of Invisibility; the Alley was just as much his home as Hogwarts. As he walked, he saw some of the shops begin to close up for the day; store owner's rearranging their stocks and sweeping their stores. For some reason, this seemed to make Harry's paranoia return in force, and he began quickening his pace to be done at Gringotts by dinner time. Finally, in the backdrop of the setting sun, Harry finally arrived at Gringotts.
He walked inside the pearly white building, and to the nearest teller. "Excuse me, Master Ripnok, but I received an urgent summons from Gringotts in regards to the Potter Accounts." Harry handed his copy of the letter over.
"Ah yes. You are expected Mr. Potter." He signaled to another nearby goblin. "Mr. Potter has an urgent meeting with Ragnok. Take him to conference room 313. You know what to do," Of course, the conversation between goblins was missed by Harry as he didn't speak a word of gobbledygook, but he realized he was being beckoned to follow the new arrival, so he hastily accompanied his goblin escort to wherever this meeting was to be.
"So you see, Mr. Potter, it really is a simple matter," His accountant, Gladrock was saying.
"A Simple Matter?" Asked Harry hollowly, "Then why the-" He caught himself. "Why exactly am I being audited?"
Gladrock sighed. "Unfortunately, Mr. Potter, since your taking up the Lordship, several groups have filed for payment." He saw Harry's smoldering look. "These are not groups trying to swindle you, sir. Rather these are people who have been working on your behalf for thirteen years without any payment."
Harry flipped through some of the paperwork in front of him. Charity associations, business investments, political action groups… incredibly, Gladrock was right. If he'd had the power to do so, he would have done it. Still, it ticked him off that the choice was taken out of his hands. But such was life.
"How much is this expected to cost me?" Harry asked.
Mournfully, the goblin jotted down a figure and passed it over to Harry. Harry took one look at it and nearly fainted. He looked up at the goblin, his mouth agape. "Please tell me this is a joke!"
"Unfortunately not," the Goblin replied. He smirked conspiratorially. "The beauty of this, Lord Potter, is that your finances are such," He passed over Harry's big red book of finances, "That such a loss only leads to more gain." Gladrock pointed to the appropriate numbers.
Harry sighed. "Just for clarification: This will not bankrupt me?"
Gladrock laughed. "If such a thing were possible, it would be up to your great-great-great-great grandchildren to do so."
"It's still going to wipe me out," Harry grumbled.
"Only in the short-term. Though the payments should be much bigger to reflect such a long lapse, due to the error in our accounting, the bank is prepared to foot half of the bill. You will still be quite well off, and by the time you graduate Hogwarts, you should be well on your way to financial recovery. Above all, this way avoids a significant amount of litigation. I trust that not only do you not wish to pay more, you would also like for your name not to be dragged through the mud. If that is the case, then this is the only recourse available to you," Gladrock explained.
"Fine, let's do it," Harry sighed. "When will my presence be needed?"
"Here," The goblin passed over a calendar. "Most matters can be settled without your presence, but these five will need your personal attention."
Harry studied the dates. "Please make sure to send a reminder well in advance," He sighed.
"We will, sir," Gladrock promised.
"Then our business here is concluded?" Harry asked with a small measure of hope in his tone.
"Yes, sir," Gladrock answered. "My assistant shall guide you back to the atrium. I apologize for the urgency of this matter, sir, and I hope your financial experiences are pleasanter than this particular adventure."
"Gee, thanks," Harry muttered under his breath as his "guide" beckoned him to follow.
He stood on the outskirts of his home for the next three months, still shaking his head slightly. Hermione was right; he apparently couldn't negotiate for shit. Still, he was here, and there was nothing he could do to change that. Besides, he could still have a quiet and relaxing summer here, right? Maybe? Please?
Either way, the Weasleys seemed like nice people. Or at least, some of them did. Fred and George were cool after all, and some of the genes had to have carried over. And Ron wasn't that bad- okay he was a bit unmotivated and lazy, but that didn't make him a bad person. Besides, Ron liked playing chess, he liked playing chess; he could make it work. Their sister, the one with the rapid crush on him; well that could be a problem. But what was life without a little stress? And Percy might be a bit of a pompous git- correction: might be a pompous git, but how annoying could he really be?
If nothing else, it was quiet a scenic walk up to the house. The rather lopsided house, now that it finally came into his view. Okay, clearly an architect hadn't been hired here. It was kind of cool that a house was held up completely by magic, though. Okay, they hadn't hired a landscaper either. It was a nice change of pace from his Aunt and Uncle, wasn't it? And definitely from Dudley. Steeling his resolve, Harry walked through the front door, completely full of trepidation for what awaited him.