(A/N All Harry Potter characters belong to JKR I'm just having fun with them)
Harry sat lost in his own thoughts; this day was shaping up to be absolutely dreadful. Not only was he currently sitting through a mind numbing discussion between the goblins and Ian, as they examined all the loot that had been acquired and assigned a value to it; but Belle was already gone, and so were Barns and Lone Feather; the former taking another assignment, and the latter heading home.
Not to mention that Ron and Hermione had been annoying this morning. Hermione had been ranting all through breakfast about the Wizarding world being so far behind the Muggle world, he had been tempted to tell her to live there if she thought it was so much better. Ron had only grumbled and complained a bit, wanting to play Quidditch all day, and something about trying out for Keeper. Harry could do little but focus on the reason for Hermione's rant- a letter had come from Cyrus Greengrass, detailing how to get to his home, and when a meeting should take place. Ron had quieted down at this point; realizing the importance of what Harry was dealing with, but Hermione had exploded, and was uncharacteristically insulting about Daphne Greengrass. He would have to look into why.
Currently, Harry accompanied Bill to the meeting with the goblins at Ian's request, to wrap up the expedition. The reason was crumpled up in his hand; a letter from England found in the jungle of Central America, Ian had passed it to Harry just an hour ago with a warning. It was a lot to take in. Later that same day, he had a meeting with Bloodcurdler to go over his accounts, and THEN after dinner, it was off to the Greengrass meeting. Harry didn't know what to do, both Molly and Dumbledore seemed to be trying to teach him to be some Pureblood prince, but Mr. Weasley had just said to be polite, and to be true to himself, and that's-
"Harry…HARRY," Bill called loudly.
"Huh?" Harry asked, everyone was looking at him. Ian, the Goblins, Bill, and Annalisa each seemed to be holding an object from the loot.
"Hurry up Harry, you need to pick before the goblins lose patience," Bill said, gesturing to the tables stacked with their loot. Harry got up quickly, a little embarrassed and flustered. 'We must get to choose an object as a bonus,' he thought wildly. Looking around, the first table seemed to hold all the bits that had been broken. Some nice gems were there, but he walked past it. The second table held small items with cards labeling their use. Clearly these were enchanted items. Near a silver flask was a tag that said: "Enchanted to provide unending cool fresh water". Next to it was a small carved jaguar made of Chechen wood tagged: "Summons nearby wildlife to the bearer when activated". Harry quickly stepped away with a shudder, recalling his intimate experience of summoned insects. Moving on, Harry saw a mottled metal ring the color of ash tagged: "Makes the bearer immune to the heat of normal flames". Harry walked slowly along the table; the goblins were grunting and fidgeting. "Hurry up boy!" One of them growled out, letting Wizards have a pick of their treasure was not pleasing to them, not in the least.
Startled, Harry reached out and picked up the object in front of him, a small gold medallion on a leather thong so he could read the tag.
"Very well then," said Griphook quickly, "now your deposits will be placed into your vaults, have a nice day."
Harry barely had time to read the tag of the item he had apparently chosen, as the tables were being carted off by several grungier looking goblins. It read: "Allows the wearer to understand both the written and spoken languages enabled within the enchantment. Which languages are enabled is unknown". Harry was a bit disappointed, but hid it well; he would have liked to have had more time to select something, but as his luck would have it, the first thing he touched was what he got. Maybe he should have stopped the daydreaming and paid attention.
The meeting broke up with farewells and an agreement to keep in touch. Harry watched as everyone went their own way: Annalisa to France with the use of the Gringotts International Floo, Ian returning to his manor for a couple months to plan and prepare for his next expedition.
"Hey Harry, you alright?" Bill asked, dressed in casual robes of dark blue, he was relaxed and quite cheerful.
"Just a lot on my mind… you know I'm kind of nervous about that meeting later." Harry explained, he was also in full robes, yet his were a dusty sort of deep green.
"I expect you are, but remember that you are the heir to two Ancient and Noble Houses, so don't let them push you around." Bill walked on with Harry for a few minutes in silence before he stopped.
"Here is where I turn off, I'm off to check the job board and see if I can't find a short job locally while I wait for Ian's next expedition. Good luck tonight."
With those words, Bill headed off into the employees section of Gringotts, while Harry continued on to the lobby.
A little while later, Harry was brought to the office of his account manager. The room was a little intimidating: there were no windows, and it was dimly lit, yet it became an informative meeting for Harry. First, he learned that the Blacks had their family account set up as a trust; each member was paid an allowance for personal use, and all other expenses were to be used strictly according to the Charter. A personal vault for each female member was set up, and deposits were made yearly unless it was directed by the Head of House not to do so. For the males, a ledger was created allowing them to draw their balance right from the family vault. Currently Sirius, Bellatrix, and Narcissa were all drawing an allowance, and now Harry. He was unable to stop any payments as Heir, and was appalled to learn who Bellatrix was; and thought that as Draco's mum, Narcissa was only a little better. He had been excited at first to meet some of Sirius's family, but that was quickly squashed. Next, he learned of the properties he owned under both Houses, the only one that was in good condition was a large plot in the Fens used as farm land by the Potters in times past. The Black Family manor was the only property that was his directly, there were several rental shops in Diagon Alley and Nocturne Alley that were controlled by the Black Family Trust, which he would take over running in a few years. The Potters had a cottage in Godrics Hollow that had been declared a National Monument, and a one Galleon compensation had been paid by the Ministry for it. Harry had fumed about this, until he learned it would be an expensive legal battle to reclaim it, and all the contents of it, as well as the ruined Potter Manor House in the Herbicides, were stored in shrunken crates in the Potter Family Vault.
Harry was confused, not quite knowing how to handle all the information. Bloodcurdler, his account manager, sat behind his desk, eyes glittering as he observed the wizard.
On his desk sat two books, they were the same thing-yet vastly different. One was bound in black leather with silver gilt trimming it. The other was a rich gray, with the purest of snow white trims, and quite thin in comparison to the other. Yet both had a magical energy about them, and the exact same runic markings in the middle of the front cover.
"Mr. Potter…these are the Family Charters and Grimoire. To complete the ritual of claiming your rightful place in the family, and preventing it from going into the hands of another, simply press the corresponding ring to the runic symbols in the center, while wearing it."
"What does that do?" Harry asked cautiously, not completely trusting or liking this goblin.
"It binds you to the House through the Charter, and allows you access to the family magic." Bloodcurdler replied in the deliberate way goblins had of speaking, as if every word had multiple meanings.
"Can you explain that?" Harry asked, his hand running through his hair.
"It means that you will know the rules set in the Charter instinctively, and it will make it impossible for anyone to take the position away from you. It also performs the same effect with the family Grimoire." Bloodcurdler explained patiently, repressing his irritation, he needed the wizard to bond both Houses. It was best for the goblin nation after all, a final measure to prevent the Malfoy family from gaining any more power.
"Ok, I get the Charter bit, but what's a Grimoire?" Harry questioned, he was feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. This was taking longer than he thought. Bloodcurdler's shock nearly showed through, what a stupid wizard this was!
"The Grimoire of an Ancient House is one of the reasons a Head of House is respected so much. I am not an expert, but within the pages of these books," the goblin's bony hand gestured to the two books on his desk, "is more than just the rules governing each House. Every bonded Head is allowed one page to do with what they will: to explain a spell or describe the brewing of a potion, the transfiguration of an object, the setting up of a ward, or the enchanting of an object; whatever magic they can describe on a page. That knowledge is taken from them at death, and placed in that very page that they wrote, so when you read these pages, that knowledge is impressed upon your own memory."
Harry asked no more questions, his newly found desire for knowledge and a longing to know the kind of magic his family had known, were too much for his little bit of caution to even register as he boldly pressed first one ring to its book, and then the other. Magic flowed through Harry, and drew from him as well. The tightening of his eyes was the only indication that it hurt. After awhile Harry's eyes opened, a headache was now forming behind his eyes.
"Are we done now?" Harry asked, his tone slightly sharper than he intended.
"Two more things, as of now you are irrevocably bound to these two Houses as Heir. At the time of your majority, you will be eligible to become the Head of House, and the knowledge of the Grimoire will become available to you."
Harry sat back deeper in his chair, his eyes boring into the goblin across the table. Anger was beginning to creep up over him; he realized that in some way he had just been manipulated. Before Harry could protest, Bloodcurdler continued.
"The second thing, is that Gerald Abbot has a shipment of seedlings that his now ex-partner was unable to provide land to plant on. It represents a formidable amount of his wealth." Bloodcurdler looked at Harry as if waiting for something. With a grunt he continued, "it would be a profitable venture for you, you have nearly twenty acres of farmland sitting empty."
Harry just stared; his mind was too busy processing these latest events to make any connections. Bloodcurdler grunted again, and laid out a plan that provided a lease paper with the going rates and commissions, and sent Harry on his way with the papers; a meeting was arranged with Gerald Abbott today for just before dinner time.
Harry returned to the Burrow with bloodshot eyes, his hair standing on end, and his robes crumpled in the rear from sitting on them.
"Hey mate, all done at Gringotts? Ready for some Quidditch?" Ron asked from the table, as Harry walked in.
"No, not today Ron, I just need a nap before I go to the Abbots' before dinner and then the Greengrasses place after." Harry said to Ron, "my head is pounding."
"Alright, I can wait until tomorrow," Ron replied, trying to hide his frustration, and feeling lucky his brother got saddled with the Prewitt Headship. Harry grabbed a bit of bacon and headed up to his room.
Bill watched Harry come in from his place at the table, and talk with his brother. He watched as Hermione twitched in her seat and looked at the stairs where Harry had gone. She began eating quickly, no doubt to hurry after him and question him. Bill looked at Ron, on the surface he had taken it well, but Bill knew he was irritated that Harry wasn't playing with him.
"Hey you two, I can see we need to have a little chat," Bill began.
"Oh well, I was going to go talk to Harry." Hermione interrupted.
"I know, that's one of the things we need to discuss."
Hermione's eyes narrowed as she looked at Bill. "Whatever do you mean?"
"Look guys, I know you three are best mates, and I don't expect that will change. However, what you need to understand is Harry has been changing all summer. He has learned lots of magic this summer and gone through some perilous ordeals. Things will be different around him now." Bill explained, not noticing Molly in the doorway behind him.
"What kinds of changes?" Ron asked.
"Well, he has accepted that he will never be just Harry, a normal fourteen year old wizard. His fame wouldn't allow it, so he has decided to live up to his reputation, so he can feel that he earned it. Also, he now has responsibilities that will take up a lot of his time. Responsibilities that you, Ron, allowed Percy to shoulder for you, but Harry not only has those responsibilities for the Potter family, but for the Black's also. He will have to spend time with Miss Greengrass, as well as find a witch willing to become Mrs. Black. It's no easy task to sort out the ones after the title, and find one who likes him."
"Ughh, this world is so backwards, but you're right Bill, Harry needs our support." Hermione said, getting up to go talk to him.
"Yes he does, but he will also need some space at times, like right now." Bill said firmly, watching Hermione. She was a nice girl, but sometimes she could be really annoying.
Ron and Hermione walked past Molly on their way outside, talking in low tones. Molly just looked at her oldest for a moment before entering the kitchen to begin the after lunch clean up, then stopped short. Everything was spotless, even Ron's place setting. What was going on? Shaking her head slightly, she looked to Bill.
"You've grown up, William. Now tell me about this new job you got, it is local right?"
"Yeah, Madam Bones put out some contract work; it seems she is trying to access her brother's manor house. It's been locked down ever since his death, back in…"
"March of 79' dear, I remember it quite well. Dolohov led the Death Eaters that got Edgar, same as my brothers. Anyway," Molly put in a little too brightly, "are you ready to tell me the truth about Cursebreaking?" All color drained from Bills face as he faced his mother.
Harry woke from his nap feeling better than before, his mind was as clear as it had ever been. The use of Occlumency helped a great deal. Molly gasped as Harry entered the kitchen, it was a little before four in the afternoon.
"Oh Harry dear, you look very dashing." Molly gushed, looking at Harry in robes of pewter grey with the trim a crisp snow white. The Potter Crest stood out in the same white just over his heart. "Isn't it a bit early to go to the Greengrass' place, dear?"
"Yes, but I have to meet with the Abbotts' first." Harry said, slightly distracted.
"Oh, well at least let me charm you so the Floo doesn't dirty up your robes."
"Thanks," Harry said, before vanishing in a flash of green flame.
"Was that Harry that just left?" Hermione asked, just entering the room.
"Yes dear, he just left to go to the Abbotts'. I wonder…is there a girl Harry's age in the Abbott family?" Molly asked.
"Hannah…Why?" Hermione questioned, a frustrated air about her.
"Oh, I was just wondering if that was why he was going there. Such a nice family, the Abbotts." Molly said, turning back to peeling potatoes.
Hermione just stared at the fireplace where Harry had gone, in the past he would have come to her for advice; now he had barely spoken to her, not that he had the time.
Harry came out of the Floo with a quick stumbling step. As he looked around, his first thought was of brandy and cigars. He was clearly in a man's study: rich oak wood floors, several trophies on the walls, a modest bookshelf with titles like "Plants you can Eat and Plants that can Eat You", caused Harry to chuckle a bit. A large desk dominated the room, and two comfortable sitting chairs were in front of it.
"Ah, Mr. Potter I presume?" asked a slightly portly man with a thick shock of iron grey hair. He had a pipe in his left hand, and his right was reaching out to greet Harry as he walked into the room.
"Yes sir, pleasure to meet you." Harry replied.
"Gerald Abbott, the pleasure is mine Mr. Potter." Gerald was impressed; this young man had a firm grip and stood straight looking him in the eye, but in a friendly and disarming manner.
"My account manager forwarded your request to meet; I admit I am at a loss as to why?" Gerald said, taking a seat behind his desk and gesturing to a chair in front for Harry.
"To be honest, it was my own account manager who suggested I meet with you. I understand that you are in need of additional farm land?" Harry stated, preferring a direct approach. Gerald sat up straight, looking suddenly more intent on the conversation.
"I admit that I could use some." Gerald was keen to not let it show just how much he did need land.
"I have twenty plots of one acre each, connected by stone paved paths and bridges." Harry replied, looking at the property description.
"Are they permitted by the Ministry for magical crops?" Gerald asked, hiding the shock he felt by the size, it was rare to find land locally in such quantity.
Harry looked to the description while mumbling, "let me see." Gerald watched as Harry fumbled through the pages, it dawned on him that he was unfamiliar with this process, and just a boy his daughter's age trying his hardest.
"Here let me take a look, I can explain these things as we go." Gerald said as Harry flashed a grateful smile.
"Thanks, it's a little overwhelming."
It didn't take long before they covered everything of importance and Gerald realized it was a prime property.
"I'll level with you Harry, this is the perfect property. The only fault is it needs to be warded again. The goblins are currently working their own brand of magic to keep it concealed, but once I take over they will stop. Naturally growing crops of this nature, I need Muggle repelling wards, a perimeter alert, and Notice-Me-Not wards. Those don't come cheap." Here he paused, debating with himself, "the truth is, it is worth the price you are asking and more. You didn't take into account the crops that can be grown to the canals and wetlands, and the fact that some plots are isolated to islands is an added bonus."
"I sense a 'But'… in there" Harry asked.
"Yes there is. I can't afford to pay the 200 Galleons an acre, I'm up to my ears in the cost of the seed and seedlings, and furthermore the cost of the wards would break me. What I could pay is 150 an acre and 4 percent of the profit after harvest, per plot."
"How much is that 4 percent?"
"It could be anywhere from 10 to 30 Galleons per plot, depending on the crop and going prices."
"So I would be losing a little, and that doesn't count the aquatic plants you could grow. Although you didn't have to tell me about that, you have been quite fair. How about this, I pay to have the property warded and we increase the harvest profit to 10 percent?" Harry offered, thinking he and Bill could ward it.
"8 percent, and we have a deal, and that includes all crops." Gerald stated.
"I agree." The lease was changed and signed, Harry placed it back in the leather folder he had gotten from Gringotts.
"Would you join my family for dinner, Harry? We are hosting the Longbottom's tonight, and there is certainly room for one more." Gerald invited, with a smile on his face. It was a relief to him to be able to plant his crop after all.
"That would be great, but I may have to leave early. I am meeting with the Greengrass Head at seven tonight."
"Well come on then, can't have you meet Cyrus hungry."
Dinner was good if a little awkward. Neville and Hannah had both greeted Harry, yet he could tell they were mostly interested in talking to each other. So Harry sat between them and the adults, occasionally adding a comment to their discussion, but mostly dwelling on his pending meeting. He must have been quiet too long, because Neville's gran addressed him.
"Sorry Mr. Potter, you'll have to excuse Neville's manners," she shot a look at Neville. "He and the lovely Hannah have only recently been contracted."
"Oh, it's nothing, I understand. I probably wouldn't be good company right now anyway. I admit, I'm a little nervous about meeting the Greengrass's and can't help but dwell on it." Harry replied hoping to get Neville out from under her glare.
"The Greengrass's…well that's interesting. Are you looking to meet one of the daughters then?
"Yes Madam, for House Potter." At this Augusta Longbottom raised an eyebrow. That comment had implied he was Heir to more than one house. She was too well schooled in social decorum to ask which, however.
"Blimey Harry, are you Heir to more than one house too?" Augusta grimaced as her grandson asked a rude question, and gave away too much information all in one go.
"Yeah," Harry said, "I'll be Head of both Potter and Black." Harry said, figuring it was a done deal now, so what could it hurt?
Augusta, Gerald, and Judith, Hannah's mum were quietly thinking of the political ramifications, and personal. Things were definitely going to be changing.
Gerald's chuckle cut into the quiet, "I don't think Lucius will be too pleased with that."
"No he won't, you need to keep this quiet. Harry, you should use caution with who you tell this to, if Mr. Malfoy found out, he would take steps to interfere before the Heir Test." Augusta stated.
"I'm bonded to both Houses, so from what I understand, he can't do anything." Harry interjected.
Augusta looked grave, "Do you have a will or heir yet, Mr. Potter?"
"No," Harry swallowed; he knew first hand how ruthless Lucius could be for his political agenda, images of the Chamber and Ginny flashing through his mind.
"Let me give you a brief rundown on our politics," Gerald interrupted. "As it stands, there are three factions in the High Seats. First is what's called the Light Side. Dumbledore leads this faction, and they have the most influence what with Madam Bones's position as Head of the DMLE and Dumbledore himself with all his titles. In his group are the Houses Potter, who he votes proxy for, Vance-with their money, Crouch-a high ranking ministry official and Department Head himself, and then Prewitt and McKinnon both being unrepresented at this time."
"Prewitt is going to be filled by Percy Weasley," Harry added, just because he knew.
"Well, I'm going to be the Head of McKinnon and Longbottom," Neville added.
"So you can see, things are already going to change. In the Traditionalist Side, lead by Lucius Malfoy, are the Houses of: Rookwood, Montague, and Parkinson, they all are very wealthy. Now Lucius has a proxy vote for LeStrange, but he lost the Rosier vote last spring when the old man passed away with no living Heir, and the house Black, which sits empty."
Harry had seen where that was going. "Well he lost that vote."
"We had guessed he was after it due to his son's family ties, and that he would have the Rosier seat declared void to bring in the next senior house, which would be Nott. That way he would gain votes and influence."
"What about you guys, and the Greengrasses?" Harry asked, relieved they weren't allied with Malfoy.
"We are the last group, the Neutrals… Cyrus Greengrass is our party leader. We consist of Boot-known scholars, and the Brocklehursts have all been architects and builders, Macmillan with their old money, Longbottom, and us the Abbotts'. We take a middle road between the other groups, mostly with Muggle Relations and magic that is prohibited."
It was a lot to think on and Harry was grateful for the knowledge, but it was drawing late and he needed to head out if he was going to make his meeting on time.
"Thank you, this has been both informative and profitable. Mrs. Abbott, thank you for dinner, Madam Longbottom thank you for the advice, and Mr. Abbott, a pleasure doing business with you."
Murmurs of agreement and nods were heard, as Harry excused himself to leave.
"How are you traveling Mr. Potter?" Gerald asked.
"Oh, I was planning to take the Knight Bus; all I have is a street address."
Augusta sputtered, looking indignant, Gerald smoothly stepped in.
"I will take you by Side-Along Apparition, if you will permit me? It's not fitting for you to take the Knight Bus, particularly when going to court a young lady. Why, if Neville had arrived in such a manner, I would have sent him on his way with a hex."
"Oh, I didn't realize…" Harry added, he would have to watch his step.
"Just allow me to retrieve my cloak."
They arrived with a crack at the front gate of Greengrass Manor, Harry shaking his head to clear it of the dizziness. It was still light enough to see a large smooth lawn, with sculpted hedges and a marble fountain on the grounds. The Manor house itself was made of brick, and quite large.
Just then they were greeted by a cool cultured voice. "Ah Gerald, I didn't know you knew Mr. Potter. Good Evening to both of you gentlemen." The speaker was tall, with dark hair, and had a relaxed appearance.
"Just met him today in fact," Gerald was speaking, "had a meeting for a business deal, and quite a successful partnership we'll have at that. Of course I invited him to stay for dinner, and offered to escort him here after."
Cyrus processed his friend's words, reading between the lines clearly. Gerald had both respect and admiration for the boy. He also noted the fact that he had made a good deal and alluded to the fact that a partnership would be profitable.
"Mr. Potter, may I introduce Cyrus Greengrass, Cyrus this is Harry Potter."
Gerald stepped back and nodded farewell as the two greeted each other.
"This way Mr. Potter."
Cyrus led him through the gate and up the winding path to the front door. As Harry followed, his mind flashed back to one of the distractions he had received first thing this morning, in the form of a note. It had been wet and muddy at one point, but Ian had handed it to him with a warning.
"This stationary comes from Diagon Alley. That means Harry that somewhere, maybe even nearby, someone wishes you harm. I'm sorry I hadn't given it to you sooner, but my elf found it in some discarded robes, but I remembered Barns saying he had found it after the raiders attacked."
It was a detailed note, scheduling their departure, and who was included. The chilling part was that at the end was an offer for a bonus, an extra thousand Galleons if a certain dark haired young man vanished as well.