Chapter One – Lesser of Two Evils
"We have scorched the snake, not killed it:
She'll close and be herself, whilst our poor malice
Remains in danger of her former tooth." Macbeth, Act 3, Scene 2
Sun was setting behind the forest that surrounded the Potter Manor on the bitter winter evening. The Manor looked almost empty, as only a dull light coming from the small, glass window on the ground floor of the manor showed that it was in fact occupied. The vast grounds were covered in the pure white snow, with only a single path of footsteps disturbing the haunting calmness of the place.
The Gothic-like manor stood at three storeys high, with the concrete gargoyles scattered around the edge of the roof, wearing hats of snow. Each floor of the manor had beautiful, ornate windows; the ones on the ground floor being complex designs made in coloured glass portraying various designs of magical creatures and scenes of bravery.
A young boy was battling his way through the knee-high snow. He didn't look much older than seven years old, which was a rather strange age for a child to be outside without adult supervision. The boy was wearing a thick, black coat with a white fur trim around the edge of the hood. His hands were in his pockets and his pale skin was flushed on his cheeks from the cold. The mop of ebony black hair had a faint layer of snow on it, as if he was outside for quite a while since it stopped snowing a while ago; only the chilly air was stopping it from melting on top of the seven year old's head.
He was a beautiful child; he inherited his father's hair and the shape of his face but his mother's high cheekbones and her mesmerising emerald eyes. Although beautiful, he looked troubled, only his eyes expressed the emotion, his face set in stone. He shook the snow off his hair as he walked down the three steps that lead to the back entrance of the Manor. Not wanting to be outside for longer than necessary, he opened the door and stepped in quickly. Closing the door, he slid the coat off his shoulders after unzipping it.
His muscles relaxed a little when he walked into the pleasant warmth of the Manor. He was in a small, cosy kitchen that was only used by him and his mother; his mother, Lily Potter, was currently sitting in the kitchen, sipping at her cup of pleasantly warm coffee.
Lily was a witch that equalled her son in beauty. Tall and willowy, she had long fiery red hair and eyes that she shared with her son. Her milky skin was soft and unmarred, contrasting with the vibrant colour of her eyes and hair.
"Back already, Harry?" Her soft voice asked. The boy – Harry Potter – placed his coat on the chair next to the fireplace which had the red and orange flames licking the wood within it and sat down opposite his mother.
"Yes mother." Harry replied. "I have decided to leave the Longbottom Abbey after father did not to turn up to pick me up. Lady Longbottom had apparated me just outside the wards."
Lily sighed and took a slip of her coffee. James never liked Harry although that he was his flesh and blood, and the Heir to the Potter Family Name and Fortune. He always spoilt Sam, not Harry. In fact, Harry was maltreated by James in every way that was not physical. James sneered, criticised, ignored, and denied many things from Harry.
It was painful for Lily to watch, as a wife and a mother. Many times she tried to stop James and talk some sense into him but she had very little luck. The muggleborn witch guessed that it was only her presence that stopped the abuse from becoming physical. She even threatened him with divorce – which her husband did not take lightly; there was still some bad blood between them even through it had been years since the incident.
Yet, Lily loved James. She loved Harry and Sam too. It was difficult for her to choose between them. Also, she feared that Sam would become too much like his father without a woman's influence. James was a good man but sometimes he took it too far, and it seemed to Lily that her younger son was easily influenced by his father's bad characteristics.
While watching Harry fix himself a cup of steaming hot chocolate, Lily recollected the memories of Harry and Sam's younger years, when the two were inseparable like twins should. She could still hear their laughter as they learnt to fly on their childish broomsticks and could see their grinning faces as they turned Sirius' hair electric blue when he denied them blueberry muffins. However, that was before Lord Voldemort attacked their home in Godric's Hollow and before Sam became the famous Boy-Who-Lived. It was before James' sudden and unexplained change in behaviour towards his heir.
"Mother, is Father busy right now?"
Lily blinked at the sudden question. Curious of why he asked, Lily replied. "I think he's in one of the Practise Rooms, teaching Sam some basic spells, why do you ask?"
Harry shook his head. "It's nothing mother. Just a few things I was suggested while I was at the Longbottom Abbey."
Lily frowned at that. "Harry, please tell me what you were told. If you want to speak to James about it, then tell me. I have a right to know, as your mother." She hated using that excuse against Harry, but it seemed necessary. Her son was a very independent and secretive child, and would not say a word willingly.
"I..." He hesitated. "Lady Longbottom has said that it wasn't proper for father to treat me like he is. She told me that I had potential to become quite a wizard but I was denied the chance to grow into one at home. Lady Longbottom suggested that I was to live elsewhere to flourish, even if it was only temporary."
Lily knew that Lady Augusta Longbottom had a soft spot for Harry. She said herself that he was good influence on young Neville – who was very close to being a squib when speaking magical cores ever since both his parents were tortured to insanity before his eyes by the Lestranges. When Harry and he had play-dates throughout their childhood, Harry always tried to pull out the little magic Neville had in him and try to find something that his peer was good at, as he refused to believe that the Longbottom Heir was good at nothing.
However, the fact that Lady Longbottom had Harry's best interests at heart did not mean that she was right. True, James might not be the most loving parent (the understatement of the century) but it did not mean that Harry should move homes because of that. He still had her, for crying out loud!
"Harry, I don't think it's a good idea. You still have me."
Harry's eyes darkened slightly in colour. He sat back down with his hot chocolate and watched his mother with his piercing green eyes. She was not affected by the gaze, seeing the same one many times when she looked in the mirror, but anyone else would be flinching uncomfortably.
"Mother, I personally think it's a good idea. Lady Longbottom and I spoke to some people and they would be willing to raise me and teach me. I would visit you, of course. Mother, it will give me a chance to go to Durmstrang." The last sentence came out of his mouth more as a plea than anything. He always wanted a chance to go to the Bulgarian School, ever since he read up on all the European Magical School. It seemed fantastic and one of his close friends would attend it in a year's time.
"Durmstrang? Harry, everyone in your family has always gone to Hogwarts, don't you want to go there? It's a fantastic school and Dumbledore..." Lily stopped there. She just remembered that her oldest did not like the aged wizard and openly showed his dislike towards the man.
Harry sneered, it reminded Lily of her previous friend Severus Snape when he was going off in a strop during their years at Hogwarts. "Mother, there is nothing wrong with Durmstrang. It's a great school. Also, Sam wouldn't be going there, Father wouldn't let his precious son go to a school that openly has Dark Arts as an elective subject." He hissed. "It is my opportunity to get away from them!"
"Don't raise your voice at me, young man." Lily said coldly. "So that is why? You want to get away from them?"
She got a nod in reply.
"Why?" The question was followed by a pregnant silence. Lily refused to break the eye contact with Harry, who was sitting as still as the stone statue in the Potter Manor's garden.
After much though, Harry had formed a decent answer in his head. He opened his mouth to speak.
"Father has never liked me, he only cares about Sam. It hurts, Mum." He said, in a perfectly calm voice. "I'm just fed up with it; I want out Mum. I can see when I'm not wanted, Mother. I just...I would jump at the chance as much as it would hurt."
Lily nearly choked. First off, Harry hasn't called her 'Mum' for a long time – it sounded weird leaving his mouth. Secondly, Harry had never said a bad word against his family; he never actually said that he knows that James didn't like him. Now, when those words left his mouth, Lily acknowledged in just how much emotional pain her son was in. It, quite frankly, scared her.
In fact, it scared the muggleborn mother so much that her eyes began to water. She bit her lip not to start crying, it wouldn't do for Harry to see her like that.
"I'm so sorry Harry." She whispered, trying to gain control over her emotions once again. "I have never realized that you felt like that. It's just – I tried so much – I can't stop James, but I still care – Oh Merlin!"
At that moment, the fiery headed woman couldn't take it anymore and broke down crying. She sobbed into her hands, unable to stop. There was a sharp pain in her heart that wouldn't leave.
Harry did not know what to do. He was never in a situation when someone broke down crying in front of him. He felt a weird feeling of emptiness in his gut, and he was not sure what to make of it. Harry simply froze, waiting for his mother to calm down, at least a bit.
Lily took a little over ten minutes to calm down. She smiled sadly at Harry, who just sat there. She wiped the tears off with the back of her hand.
"Are you okay, Mother?" Harry asked hesitantly.
"I'm fine now. Thank you for asking, dear." She sniffed. "Now, we need to decide on what to do. Harry, are you completely sure that you want to move? We could think of something else, if you're not completely certain."
He nodded. "I'm certain, Mother."
Lily took a deep breath. "Then I can only allow you to do so, but you will visit me frequently. However, that is only if I approve of the people you'll live with – so who is it?"
"Well, I guess its fine. Would you like to go and send them a letter about our decision?"
Nodding, Harry stood up slowly. He then glanced at his mother and bit his lip, as if contemplating on telling her something. Lily cocked her head to the side, wondering what Harry was thinking.
"Is there something else that you wanted to tell me?" Lily asked, careful not to take her eyes off Harry. She knew that he might use that talent of disappearing he has, if she does.
"Well." He regained his usual confident stance before continuing. "I was thinking of stripping Father of his title as my legal guardian."
Lily almost went mental at her son. Only her patience and calmness that came with years of brewing potions stopped her from unleashing her wrath. Stripping James of the title was what seemed like a good move, but it would also strip her of it too. Lily couldn't let him do that, no, just no.
"Harry, I think you don't understand the consequences -"
"It would stop you being my legal guardian too. I know. It's a sacrifice I am willing to make so Father won't get to me." Harry spoke confidently and calmly, making sure that there was no hesitance detected in his voice. "I would rather not have Father have the ability to do something that could put me at a disadvantage when I make a choice that he does not agree with."
"Don't you get what you're asking?" Lily glared her self-control slipping. "I don't think that James can do something awful enough for you to do this!"
"He can put me at odds with the goblins. He can strip me off all my money, disown me. He can make it so I can never get a decent job in the wizarding world. Those are only a couple possibilities, Mother." Harry answered immediately. "As for if he's capable of it. After what he's done already, I wouldn't be surprised."
She did not know what to say. Harry had a valid point but it didn't make it any easier. Her own son was asking her to sign a document that would transfer the guardianship over him to someone else. It was bizarre at the least.
"Mother, I think we would all benefit from it." Harry continued, his voice softening. He took out some parchment from his pocket. "When Lady Longbottom helped me edit this, we made use to mention that when I become of age, under either of my biological parents' permission or my brother's , I would be brought back to the family."
It was strange and completely irrational of Lily, but she found herself agreeing with Harry.
Lord James Potter was sat in his study, smiling brightly. He has just finished teaching Sam the Alohomora spell with success and he didn't see his other son since he left him at the Longbottom Abbey. He has spent an enjoyable day with Sam and wouldn't mind at all if he could do the same tomorrow.
Suddenly, the door to his study opened and revealed his beautiful wife. She walked into the room confidently and holding some parchment. Curious of why, James sent her a questioning look. All he got in return was the parchment getting shoved into his face.
"If these are what I think -" Seeing the Gringotts Bank crest, James glared at it.
"These are not divorce papers, James." Lily replied monotonously.
"What are they..." He stopped mid-sentence. His unfinished question was answered by the first paragraph of the document. A wicked glint appeared in his hazel eyes. He immediately took out a quill to sign the document, not bothering to read the rest of it.
As soon as James took the quill off the parchment, it disappeared with a soft pop, probably going to the archives of Gringotts Bank. There was no turning back. Leaning back in his armchair, James grinned at his wife – who had a solemn look on her pretty face.
Lily forced herself not to do anything as James carelessly singed the document. It was scary to watch, how easily he gave away the right to his son. His firstborn.
Three days have passed since the moment when Harry was no longer his biological parents' charge. His letter to the Krums was sent and he got a reply rather fast. They were expected to arrive within the next hour or so and Harry was simply ecstatic.
He already packed all of his belongings into the three brown leather trunks that stood in his now empty bedroom. It was dark and haunting, unlike the rest of the house. The wooden floor was worn and pale with age, the walls a gunmetal grey and the iron furniture gave it a prison-like look.
Harry walked up to his desk, where thirteen candles were lit and stood in a half-circle. Each was burning with the unnaturally green flame. One by one, he blew each flame away.
By the time the last flame disappeared, Lily appeared in the room and was in the process of shrinking the three trunks.
Harry turned to face her and with no emotion on his face, he slipped on the same coat as he wore three days ago. Straightening the hood of it and bushing off any dirt, he walked towards the three shrunk trunks and placed them in his pocket.
Neither he nor his mother spoke as they walked down the stairs to the Entrance Hall, where the Krums appeared a few minutes before.
Mr Krum looked like a typical Bulgarian rich wizard. He had broad shoulders and raven black hair neatly combed back. He wore a thick travelling cloak made from finest materials and held himself in a confident stance.
His wife was a beautiful woman. She was petite and frail-looking, which was the opposite of her big-boned husband. Her long, black hair was pulled into a plait and she wore a vivid green travelling cloak over her black Victorian-era grown. Her face was kind-looking with large blue eyes and a soft smile.
Their son, Victor, was stood between his parents, waiting patiently for Harry's arrival. A big grin was plastered on his face; he had to stop himself from jumping up and down.
"Mr and Mrs Krum, good day. Hi, Victor." Harry said as he walked in.
"Hello Harry, Mrs Potter. Are you ready, dear?" Mrs Krum asked politely.
"Yes, Mrs Krum." Harry replied. He then turned to Lily, who stood slightly behind him silently. Sensing his mother's sadness, he embraced her in a hug. "Bye, Mother. I shall see you soon."
"Goodbye Harry, take care." Lily said in a voice that was almost a whisper. Harry released her from the hug and gave her one last smile.
"Shall we leave then?" Harry asked the Krums, just when James Potter stepped into the room. He looked at the Krums with diastase before speaking.
"Can I speak to Harry before he leaves? It won't take long." James asked.
Harry looked at James with indifference before nodding and following the older man into the room directly connected to the Entrance Hall. James walked in after Harry and closed the door with a wicked glint in his eyes. Harry has not moved an inch, knowing fully well that James would try to degrade him for the last time.
"When I signed the papers, all I could think of is when you will leave. It's a miracle that a person as stupid as you finally realized when they are not wanted. Stay away from my real son. My only son, you filthy thing." James snarled. "Or I will not stop at verbal abuse next time."
Harry snorted. "Is that a threat I'm hearing?"
"I'm not going to repeat myself for such a slow bastard. You heard me the first time, and if your stupid brain did not understand it, then it will only bring more pain upon you."
"I'll keep that in mind." Harry answered his voice calm and collected. He did not seem fazed by James' words. He walked towards the doors and opened them, shooting a daring smirk at his father before leaving the room.
That single movement, that smirk, sent James fuming for hours afterwards. Luckily, he did not have Harry in sight to take his anger out on, and won't have for many years.
A/N: Hello old and new readers! As you probably know ( or don't) this is a rewrite of my fanfiction 'Return to England'. The plot will stay relatively the same however, I changed the things that I, and a few readers, were not so happy about. The pairing will still be Harry/Daphne, so no worries there.
Thanks to my wonderful Beta - moonlightskymist – for beta-ing this chapter for me! You're just amazing.
I don't think there is anything else to say apart from – please tell me what you think! I would appreciate it.