Where the Wild Things Bank
an HP fanfic by canoncansodoff

A/N: (1) The goblin society and working environment within Gringotts in this AU is sexist, patriarchal, and demeaning to women...an amped-up version of what it was like fifty years ago on Madison Avenue for "Mad Men" and their secretaries. Needless to say, the attitudes expressed are nowhere close to those held by the author. (2) This stand-alone story (and yes, I've made that decision) is just as much about goblin society as it is an alternative version of how Harry is raised. His upbringing is going reflect choices/decisions/arguments made both within Gringotts and between the goblins and external parties (i.e. Dumbledore). So you can expect a subequal split of scenes involving topside wizards and the goblins below ground. (3) A warning/heads-up that this chapter has some big emotional/angsty swings. It's hard to write (and, perhaps, to read) a humor/adventure retelling of the night Harry lost his parents. (4) Those wondering about my characterization of Voldemort…please recall that he was human before Halloween 1981. (5) Big thanks to ironchefor, mariusdarkwolf, and clell for their help with earlier drafts of different sections of this update.

Disclaimer: Not my characters, no money being made, etc., etc.

Chapter 2: The Dirk of D'oh!


Nottingham Caverns
13 October, 1981

Two wizards walked out of a portkey's rainbow-spray of lights and into a large excavated area located one-hundred feet beneath the city of Nottingham. The dirt floor had been previously cleared to form a circle of ninety-foot radius, with the remains of an early nineteenth-century Muggle tannery operation piled up high along its perimeter.

"Come along Jensen, no time to dawdle," said He-Who-Once-Was-Named-Tom, as strode towards the center of the cleared area.

"Yes, My Lord."

Once Voldemort reached the middle, he reached into his pocket and pulled out two pieces of dollhouse-sized furniture. Cancelled shrinking charms returned the chair and table to original size.

"Have a seat, Jensen," the Dark Lord ordered. As his minion complied, Voldemort asked, "You did tell me that your favorite pudding was treacle tart, didn't you, Jensen?"

"Yes, My Lord."

"Good, good," said Voldemort, as he pulled a string-wrapped cardboard box from a different pocket and set it down on the table. "Now, I've brought you here to test your loyalty."

The Death Eater was about to protest and profess his unwavering support for his master, but held his tongue when he remembered what happened the last time a minion did that. So he chose instead to place his own wand on the table, and to bow his head in subservience.

"Such good manners, Jensen!" said Voldemort. "I'm sure you'll be up for this test."

"Thank you, My Lord."

"You're welcome, Jensen. So here is the test. Inside that box is a double-sized serving of what I've been assured is the most delicious treacle tart in all of England. I want you to open that box, but I do not want you to take a bite…understand?"

The minion tried not to cock his head in confusion as he complied with this request and gently lifted the pie-shaped pastry out of the box.

"Doesn't it look tasty, Jensen?"

"Yes, My Lord."

"But that is my treacle tart, Jensen," Voldemort stated. "I will Crucio anyone who tries to eat it…do you understand?"

"Yes, My Lord."

"Excellent…now, then…I want you to put this hat on your head."

The minion found himself even more confused, and found it even harder not to reveal that emotion, when the Dark Lord handed him a flattened, metallic triangular-shaped hat. Had the minion not been a Pureblood, he might have wondered why the Dark Lord had given him something fashioned out of Muggle tin-foil. That hat still looked odd, though, even if he did not know its composition… but he was a good little minion, so he did what he was asked.

"Excellent, excellent," said Voldemort. He then pulled out a dagger in a jewel-encrusted scabbard and set it next to the treacle tart.

"I want you to pull that dagger out from its sheath, but not until I tell you to," the Dark Lord warned.

"Yes, My Lord."

Voldemort turned away from his minion, and paced off a distance of sixty-feet, placing him much closer to the edge of the cleared circle than its center.

"Still not planning on eating my treacle tart, Jensen?" he called back.

"No, My Lord."

"Why not?"

The minion looked at the tart sitting in front of him and winced.

"Because you told me not to, My Lord, and said that you would curse me if I did."

Voldemort acknowledged this response with a head nod, then pulled out and expanded his own chair. He took a seat, and then said, "You can now unsheathe that dagger, now."

Jensen glanced down at the jewel-encrusted scabbard and followed instructions. He didn't notice his master cast a Tempus charm…but what he did immediately notice once the goblin-blade was exposed was an irresistible urge to eat some of that tart.

He resisted, as best he could.

"Don't do it, Jensen!" Voldemort yelled, as he watched his minion's hands begin to tremble and eyes bulged. "Keep your wits about you!"

"I'm…..I'm…trying to…My Lord!" Jensen hissed.

The minion struggled mightily to retain his common sense, only to see it eventually slip through his fingers.

"Gah!" Jensen yelled, as he grabbed the dagger and used the flat its blade to scoop up a generous portion of the tart.

"Bollocks," hissed Voldemort, as he cast another Tempus charm. "Still less than a minute."


"Yes, My Lord?"

"Whose treacle tart is that?"

"Yours, My Lord."

"And what did I warn you would happen if you ate my tart?"

"You're going to Crucio me."

"So why are you eating my pudding?"

"It is my favorite, My Lord...and this is the best tart I've had in my life."

"Ah, I see. You know, there should have been a fork in that box, Jensen."

"Oh, so there is! Thank you, My Lord."

"So why don't you wipe off that dagger blade and slip it back into its sheath?"

"As you wish, My Lord."

Voldemort rolled his eyes as he watched his minion continue to scoop pudding with the flat of the blade. It wasn't a big surprise…after all, it was common sense for a Death Eater to obey his simple commands.

Jensen eventually proved that he had more willpower than any of the other test subjects by sheathing the dagger after Voldemort's third request. His response, once hilt met scabbard was as predictable as it was immediate.

"Oh, bugger!" he gasped, looking down at the half-eaten tart.

"Why did you eat my treacle tart?" Voldemort asked, as he began walking towards the table.

"I don't know why, My Lord! I knew that not eating it was the sensible thing to do, but then…it just didn't matter."

"And now?"

"Now I know that it was the stupidest thing I've ever done in my life."

The Death Eater left both wand and dagger on the table as he pushed away and dropped to his knees in front of Voldemort.

"Forgive me, My Lord…I know not what magic ensnared me."

Voldemort snorted. "Well, Jensen…I don't know if eating my pudding really was the stupidest thing you've ever done in your life… but I do know that it was the last."

"No, My Lord, I beg you…"

"Avada Kedavra!"

The Dark Lord waited until the corpse hit the dirt floor before reaching down and retrieving the tin-foil hat. He regretted the fact that he had to kill his test subjects…not because he regretted killing, but because a much better method would have been to use the same test subject after each experimental adjustment. But he couldn't afford having anyone else know about the cursed dagger…nobody else could know that even the strongest Occlumency shields couldn't stop the exposed blade from magically absorbing all common sense within a fifty-foot radius.

They couldn't know that the blade worked against the Dark Lord as readily as any other witch or wizard. And while Voldemort never really needed a reason to kill, protecting that secret was a better reason than most.

"Forty-five seconds," he muttered, as he walked back to the table and pocketed the cursed blade. "Good, but not good enough."

The Dark Lord sat at the table, pulled out a leather-bound notebook and a self-inking quill, and jotted down his experimental observations. He was almost out of ideas on how to lengthen the resistance time of the charmed hat, and was beginning to think that he might have to rethink the type of mission for which "The Dirk of D'oh!" would prove useful.

Once he was finished, Voldemort reached out and scooped out some treacle tart with a finger.

"Hmmm, that is good," he moaned, as he licked that finger clean. The Dark Lord turned towards the corpse and snorted.

"Well, Jensen," he told the lifeless body. "Let it not be said that I didn't give you a decent last meal."


Gringotts Wizarding Bank, Division of Investment Management, Accounts Section
15 October, 1981

A thin smile formed on the lips of Potter Trust manager as he sat in his stone-walled office and reviewed a balance sheet. He had done well in the first thirty days as Senior Account Manager for the Potter Trust…made money for himself, for Gringotts, and for his clients. About the only thing that hadn't gone his way were his plans for extending the tunnel network from Bristol out to Godric's Hollow... his boss was in the cart, but getting approvals from managers in the other departments that would be involved was proving to be a challenge.

The smile that reflected the balance sheet's bottom line faltered only a fraction of an inch when the goblin felt the silent alarm go off...if an attack was coming, best that the assailant not realize that he'd been discovered.

Chokebar reached for the dagger that he kept underneath his desk drawer, and pressed the outside of his knee against the handle of his war hammer…fixing its position should he need to greet his visitor with something more than a six-inch long blade. He looked up to confirm that his office door was still closed, and then shifted his gaze towards a desk-mounted crystal that was charmed to show what might be lurking on the other side. He relaxed marginally when he spotted the reflection of the female office manager within the largest crystal face. She was definitely a threat, but not the immediate kind of peril that involved lethal accidents or extreme physical violence courtesy of those he had defeated in the Arena, the disgruntled former Potter account manager, or mischief-makers from the "Dark" faction of account managers.

He called for the female to enter when she scratched on the office door. She was content to stay within the doorway once she'd done so.

"Well, look who is working late tonight," she purred. "Shouldn't you be home by now?"

The Potter Trust manager shrugged, keeping a hand on his hidden dagger hilt. He flashed an innocent smile towards the doorway and shrugged.

"My first thirty-day report is due on Spleenchewer's desk tomorrow."

"But I thought you had little to worry about, Chokebar?"

"The day a senior account manager stops worrying is the day he gets marinated, Miss Moanhard."

The female goblin pouted, and placed her hands on her hips.

"It's Moan, Chokebar…you're not a junior executive anymore."

The account manager snorted, trying hard not to let his gaze drift down the barely-there dress that his dangerous guest was wearing.

"Sorry, Moan… the chisel marks are still rather fresh on the walls."

"They are, aren't they?" the female goblin replied, as she strode into the room and glanced around. "Nice job on the office decorations, by the way."

"Erm…thanks, but that's my secretary's doing."

The female goblin chuckled, and asked, "So Malice can do more than suck and stand sentry?"

"I wouldn't have picked her out of the steno pool if she couldn't."

"Well it certainly wasn't based on her age or good looks," the office manager replied. "Your choice raised a few eyebrows.…newbie managers typically pick the young girls with more tits than teeth."

"And how many of those little-head thinkers survive longer than a few quarters?" Chokebar asked. "A prudent account manager needs a secretary who can bury a blade just as easily as she can swallow a hilt."

Moanhard's eyes twinkled. "So you don't think you can have a knife-wielding, deep-throating secretary that's easy on the eyes too?"

"Not unless I'm willing to kill a boss to get her."

Moanhard winked as she glanced out into the empty reception area. Not seeing anyone, she said, "Why, thank you, Chokebar...I'll take that as a compliment."

The male goblin snorted and shook his head…reactions meant to disguise quick glances at both the opened door and his desk-mounted crystal.

"So, Moan…what can I do for you this evening?"

"Oh, quite a few things, I imagine," the female goblin purred.

Chokebar choked back a retort, thinking it better (and far healthier) to wait patiently for a different answer.

His guest sensed that she would need to provide that answer, so she tried again.

"I was just walking by, and noticed that Malice wasn't at her desk. But was still a light under your door, and since that almost never happens...thought I'd better check in on you and see if you were still breathing."

"Thank you for your concern. As you can see, I am fine."

"You certainly are…so where is the old battle-axe, then?"

"At home putting our son to bed, I imagine."

"No, I meant your secretary."

"Ah…I sent Malice home an hour ago."

Moanhard smiled.

"So sending the sentry off…guess you're feeling a little more secure in your shorts?" she quipped. "I suppose that a four-week 1.6% increase in the Potter Trust might have something to do with that."

Chokebar shrugged. "She did make sure that my strongest rivals had all signed out for the night before she left."

The female goblin pouted. "So do you think I'm a threat, Chokebar?"

"Why do you ask, Moan?"

"Because you still have a hand hidden under your desk…you're either holding a knife or I caught you in the middle of a wank."

Chokebar snorted, and shook his head.

"Are you sure you weren't rubbing off?" she asked. "Because that's what most account managers would do if they had that kind of balance sheet in front of them."

The other goblin chuckled, but didn't move his hand.

Moanhard pouted, and said, "Here…just to prove that I'm not here on a hit job."

Chokebar sucked in a deep breath when the female goblin reached down and pulled a very long weapon out from underneath a very short skirt.

Moanhard set this dagger down on the far edge of the desktop…out of her reach once she sat down in the chair that sat in front of Chokebar's desk. She spun it halfway around, so that the tip of its twelve-inch long blade faced towards her, and the butt end of eight-inch long handle faced Chokebar. Although "dick end" would have been a better description; the carved dragon's-tooth that formed the hilt was, by design, meant to be distracting. It was also designed to provide pleasure, given its life-like phallic form.

"Okay, Chokebar, I showed you mine…" teased Moanhard as she took her seat.

"Erm…right," he replied nervously. His guest had followed tradition and protocol, and was forcing Chokebar to do the same. He pulled his own dagger out from underneath his desk and leaned over to the opposite edge of the desk, placing the weapon butt-forward and out of his reach.

"Mine's bigger," Moanhard quipped.

Chokebar shrugged, wondering what kind of cowardly acts he must have committed in a prior life to place him in this situation. Sitting in his new office late at night…with the boss's mistress sitting across from his desk, and her razor-sharp dildo staring up at him from the edge of his desktop.

His eyes shifted from the dagger's bulbous grip end to the thigh-baring hem line that had ridden up above Moanhard's hips when she sat down and crossed her legs. There was no way that she could have hidden that weapon, unless it had been some kind of wizard magic…or it had been both hidden and ridden.

"Admiring my weaponry, Chokebar?"

The Potter Trust manager blushed…more in fear than in embarrassment. He looked up across the desk and said, "Sorry, I was just admiring…from a professional standpoint, mind you…your ability to conceal something that big under your dress."

Moanhard smiled in triumph as she glanced over towards the dagger. "Oh, it's really not that hard to hide that bad boy…so long as you're equipped with the right kind of sheath."

"Well, guess that rules me out, then," Chokebar quipped.

"Really?" Moanhard teased. "I thought you were in the Army?"

Chokebar's eyes narrowed.

"Army life isn't something to joke about," he growled. Gripping the edge of his desktop with both hands, he then added, "At least not within polite goblin society, and certainly not by a female who hasn't served."

Moanhard winced, realizing her mistake. Her high-ranking lover might have allowed that kind of question if it had been pillow talk, but being retired military himself meant that the Division Manager would also back Chokebar in this situation.

The female goblin dropped her gaze towards her barely-covered lap.

"I'm sorry, Sir. Would you like to spank me for my bad behavior?"

Chokebar thought for a moment, and then shook his head.

"That's something that is definitely above my pay grade."

Moanhard bit down on the inside of her cheeks to keep from smiling as she stood up, walked around to the side of Chokebar's desk, and bent forward, leaning low enough to cause her breasts to spill out of her top.

"But I deserve a spanking!" she teased, jiggling those breasts and wiggling her half-exposed bum.

Chokebar stared at what was being dangled before him for a few moments, then hissed, "You are such a distracting temptress!"

"Purposely distracting an account manager from his duties is cause for even more corrective action," she purred.

Chokebar snorted, then shook his head, "There's just one problem, though."

"What's that?"

"It's my testicles."

Moanhard rested her forearms onto the desk top which then allowed her to rest her breasts on her forearms (thrusting even closer to Chokebar's face).

"Something wrong with your testicles, Hun?"

"Yeah…I'm rather attached to them, and I'd like them to stay that way."

"Stay which way?"


Moanhard giggled hard enough to cause some serious jiggle.

"Oh, don't worry, Hun…I wouldn't gnaw on them that hard."

Chokebar sighed and shook his head. Then he walked out from behind his desk (along the side opposite of the prostrate temptress), and crossed over to the doorway. He looked out into the reception area, and seeing no one about, turned back inside.

The account manager leaned against the threshold and said, "It's not your teeth that I'm worried about…it's Spleenchewer's."

Moanhard laughed.

"No worries there...he lost his front teeth in battle."

"Didn't lose his axe blades, though…did he?"

The office manager held Chokebar's gaze for a moment, then shook her head.

"No, he still has those, alright," she replied. She smiled, and asked, "Come on back here, Chokebar. It's not safe for you to be that far away from your weapons."

The account manager shook his head as he gestured towards his office guest. "That may be so, but it is definitely not safe for me to be that close to your weapons."

Moanhard glanced down at her chest and giggled.

"Would it help if I holstered them?"

"That'd be a start."

The female goblin chuckled as she pushed herself up off Chokebar's desk and tucked herself back in. Then she walked over to his side table and poured out two stiff drinks from a crystal decanter.

"Come, have a drink with me," she asked. "We can toast your success."

Chokebar cautiously asked, "My success doing what, exactly?"

Moanhard smiled as she placed the two glasses onto the desktop, then leaned back against the front.

"Why…your successful return on investment, silly!" she teased. "What else have you succeeded in doing over the past month?"

"Well, I've managed to stay alive…up to now at least," he snarked. The account manager eyed her with caution and glanced back over his shoulder. Making sure that the office door remained wide open, Chokebar walked back behind his desk and sat down. Moanhard spun off the edge of the desk and took her own seat.

The nervous account manager sipped from his drink, and then casually asked, "So where is my Division Manager tonight?"

"Home with his family," Moanhard said wistfully. "It is rather late, you know."

"Yes, that's how our conversation started, isn't it?"

The female goblin sat quietly, trying to think of what they could talk about now that sex and spankings were off the table. Her eyes drifted over towards a framed picture that hung on one of bare rock walls. She gestured towards it with her drink glass.

"He knew that you would win."

Chokebar looked over towards the picture, which had been taken on the night that he had been named Potter Trust manager. It showed him standing bare-chested in the center of the Arena, triumphantly holding his blood-stained hammer in one hand, and the kind of gold silk vest favored by Gringotts' senior executives in the other.

He reached down, reflexively rubbed his still-healing thigh wound, and sighed.

"Well Spleenchewer must have been one of the few who thought I would win, given my longshot odds."

"Made him even richer when those odds paid off," Moanhard noted.

Chokebar nodded, and took another sip from his drink as he thought back to that day. The Division Manager (a.k.a. Moanhard's lover) had called Chokebar and three other junior account managers into his office, and informed them that Gringotts was about to take over a very lucrative and important account. The four goblins were told that from a financial standpoint they were all qualified to manage the Potter Trust…so equally qualified that Spleenchewer couldn't decide whom to select. So he left it up to them to settle the issue…in the Arena…battle royale style.

"Now I just have to prove that I can provide more than just entertainment value," Chokebar stated.

The female office manager smiled, and shook her head. "Well, you're well on the way…extend those 1.6% four-week returns out on a compounded annual basis, then figure our take…three percent of total Trust value, plus 20% of any net profits? That's millions."

"Just short of a million, actually," Chokebar noted. "But I'm not going to count my basilisks before they're hatched." He then added, "Besides, any goblin…or wizard…smart enough to invest in the Muggle world could get that kind of return, given the absurdly high interest rates being offered by their banks."

"But only if one risks everything on the Muggle economy," the female goblin countered. "And the Potter Trust could never do that…it's got too many galleons tied up in businesses and other investments in the wizarding world, and a sizable portion of the Trust's assets are sitting in illiquid real estate holdings."

Chokebar's eyebrows arched towards his hairline. The female goblin, whose office responsibilities required absolutely no knowledge of investment strategies or financial planning, had just succinctly summarized the fiscal position of the Potter Trust.

Moanhard blushed and held her drink glass up to her lips to hide this reaction.

"What?" she asked. "So I hear things sometimes?"

Chokebar snorted. "Well, then…if that's the case, what have you heard about me?"

The female goblin chuckled. "That you're savvy, strong and incredibly well-hung?"

"Should I wonder just who provided you with that intelligence report?"

Moanhard laughed out loud. "Well, I do oversee the secretarial pool, don't I? Although, I should note that your secretary hasn't been one to shag and tell."

Chokebar nodded. "I told you that I had my reasons for pulling her from the pool."

"Both lethal and tight-lipped...unless, of course, those lips are wrapped around her boss. My, doesn't that sound like someone else I know?" Moanhard teased, as she licked her own lips.

"What did I say about keeping my testicles attached?"

"Fine," the female goblin pouted. "But don't think that I'm not going to keep my eye on you!"

"From a discreet distance, I hope?"

Moanhard laughed. "Well, you know that old saying about never shagging the boss's secretary?"

"A maxim I intend to follow religiously."

"That doesn't apply once you become the boss, though…right?"

"No, I don't suppose that it doesn't," Chokebar replied. He glanced up at the wall clock and added, "But until that day…"

"Right, I should go," the office manager replied, setting her drink on Chokebar's desk and retrieving her dagger.

Chokebar stood when she stood, and reached for his own dagger. He apologized for not walking her to the door. She smiled, and said that she understood. And she did…it would look marginally worse for Chokebar if someone spotted him by her side as she left his office, and he had a stronger defensive position from behind his desk.

Not that she intended to let the account manager off easy.

When Moanhard reached the opened doorway she looked out, then she glanced back over her shoulder and said, "All clear."

Chokebar nodded. "Thanks for the intel."

"You're welcome," Moanhard said with a wink. Then she turned to face back out the doorway and squatted down.

Chokebar proceeded to choke on some spittle as Moanhard sheathed her long-handled dagger. He couldn't see exactly how she did this, since her back was turned to him, but he did have a very active imagination. And she did have both a very long weapon and a very short skirt.

Once the blade disappeared, the female goblin stood back up, spun around and held out her arms, putting both her dress and her concealment skills on display.

"Ta-da!" she quipped. A smile formed on her lips as her eyes drifted over the front of Chokebar's trousers.

"Looks like I'm better at hiding big things down there than you are!"

Chokebar snorted. "So you're assuming that I'm trying to hide my big thing?"

The office manager pursed her lips seductively, then broke the pose and laughed.

"Like I said, Chokebar…once you're the boss, you don't have to worry about shagging the boss's mistress."

"I'll be sure to keep that in mind."

"Is that all you'll be thinking about once I close this door?"

Chokebar dared to waggle his own eyebrows as he lifted a piece of parchment from his desk.

"Well, somebody seems to think that I have a wank-worthy balance sheet in hand."

The female goblin giggled, and said, "You know, I've still got a couple of girls from the pool here…in case you're a little…stressed…and kicking yourself for sending Malice home early?"

Chokebar snorted, and shook his head.

"Thanks, but I should be heading home."

Moanhard shrugged. "Well, if you change your mind about slumming some steno alongside the junior execs…"

Chokebar nodded. "I can remember how to get poolside…hasn't been that long since the promotion."

"And I'm betting that it won't be that long before your next promotion, either," Moanhard replied.

The account manager chuckled. "Maybe not, now that you've dangled some lovely incentives in front of me."

Moanhard smiled. "So they were motivational, then?"

"Oh, hell yes!"

"Good to hear," the female goblin replied. She grabbed the doorknob and asked, "Should I leave it open or…"

"Closed, please."

"Want me to sit at Malice's desk and guard the door for a few minutes, while you…?"

"While I pack my briefcase?"

"Well, that too…you do have two hands."

Chokebar snorted as he waved his hand and said a sing-songy, "Good night."

The departing guest giggled, then did the same.

The Potter Trust manager sat back down behind his desk as his boss's mistress closed the door behind her. He then spent the next five minutes cursing his own lack of proper focus, keeping a close eye on the desk-mounted crystal as he tidied up his office and packed up for the night.


Potter Manor, Rowan Hill
22 October, 1981

James and Lily Potter tried not to wear their emotions on the sleeves of their robes or to stare too obviously at the wall clock as they ate in the formal dining room of the Potter ancestral home. Dumbledore had brought them into his office at Hogwarts that afternoon and passed along information from a reliable source: Barty Crouch Sr.'s authorization for his Aurors to use Unforgivables had enraged Voldemort, and there were plans for retaliatory attacks on a massive scale. And those who had thrice defied him (and then some, since the birth of their son Harry) were at the top of the target list.

It was time to go to ground.

Once they finished the pudding, James let out a deep sigh, and then turned towards House Potter's head elf. The diminutive chief-of-staff wore a tunic that bore the family crest, and a red velvet hat that was trimmed with white fur.

"Santa, please have Clarice bring Harry to the sitting room, then summon all of the staff and ask that they meet us there."

"Yes, Master James," the head elf replied with a smile. He popped out for a few seconds to give instructions to the female house-elf who spent the most time minding the Potter scion, then popped back and cupped his hands to his mouth.

"On Dasher, On Dancer, On Prancer and Vixen!"

Lily frowned. "Why can't we stop pretending that he has to actually call their names out to summon them?"

James shrugged and smiled. "But what's the harm?" he asked.

"The harm will come when your son is old enough to realize that his father was silly enough to name the family's house-elfs after Father Christmas and his nine Yank reindeer!"

"Hey, it's a Potter family tradition," James protested. "And it was the easiest way for me to remember their names."

Lily shook her head. "I still don't believe the story of how a six-year-old British Pureblood boy…a Scion of an Ancient and Most Noble House, mind you…was exposed to Muggle stop-action animated television shows from the States."

"I guess the proof is in the Prancer, isn't it Dear?" James quipped. "And like I've always said, it could have been worse."

Lily snorted. "Thank your parents for little favors," she replied. "There's no way in hell that I would ever call for a house-elf who was named 'Poopy-head,' or 'Eye Farted' or 'My Pee-Pee'."

Her husband snickered.

"Oh, to be a six-year old again, and think that the funniest thing in the world would be to hear his mother ask where her pee-pee was."

"So when did you become mature enough for that joke to lose its humor?"

James pouted. "Would you deprive anyone the opportunity to smile in these dark days?"

Lily sighed, and muttered, "Merlin help the newborn house-elves that Harry gets to name. Every one of them will be called 'Wild Thing'."

"No problem…we'll just give them nicknames like 'Thing 1' and 'Thing 2'," James joked.

"Not unless we start reading more Dr. Seuss stories to him," quipped Lily.

That James had been given the opportunity over the years to borrow more than just the names of Santa and his nine reindeer was made clear when the head-elf called for Frosty, Charlie-in-the-box, and Burgermeister Meisterburger. The fact that young James Potter had been exposed to more than just Muggle Christmas programming was made clear when house-elves named Gumby, Pokey, and Peter Cottontail were summoned.

A total of nineteen house-elves answered the call from three different locations. A handful popped in a near-instant in from other parts of the Manor House. Two traveled the longest distance, being caretakers for the Potter beach villa in the Cyclades. The rest came from the estate in Burgundy, where they had been finishing their post-harvest work in the vineyards.

James and Lily's son went wide-eyed when Clarice brought him to the sitting room, dressed in his favorite hooded "wolf-suit" pajamas. He was just as excited to see the gathering of house-elves as they were to see him.

"Wumpus!" he cried, dashing towards the crowd of servants who weren't that much taller than he was.

A few of the less-disciplined (and more eager) house-elves responded to the toddler's call. Most, though, turned to James and Lily for instructions. Husband and wife looked towards each other and conversed wordlessly with facial expressions. Lily ended the conversation by shrugging and rolling her eyes at the same time. James hissed, "Yes!" then turned towards the assembly and loudly announced, "Let the Wild Rumpus Begin!"


Santa put his foot down (sort of) and declared that there were other reasons for the gathering besides this Wild Rumpus. As a result, there were no vines hanging from ceilings or walls becoming the world all around. But this didn't stop the self-transfigurations or illusions that produced tails and beaks and feathers and horns.

And they roared terrible roars and gnashed terrible teeth and rolled terrible eyes and showed terrible claws.

Tears formed in Lily's eyes as she watched the house-elves take turns dancing with Harry, or carry him on their back while they yelled, "Woo-woo-woo-woo!"

"Hey now…none of that," said James, as he squeezed his wife's hand. "There's nothing final about what we'll be doing tonight…give it a few weeks, and then we can see about at least sharing the secret with Santa and Clarice."

Lily nodded, and tried to put on a brave face with a tight-lipped smile. That resolve was tested when her over-tired toddler fell asleep in his house-elf nanny's arms.

"Shall I put the young master to bed, Mistress?" she asked.

Harry's mother reached out her arms and shook her head.

"Thank you, Clarice, but I'll hold him for now."

The house-elf did as she was requested, then followed the lead of the others, who were reverting skin and clothing back to their less-wild forms.

There is nothing within a house-elf's range of magic that allows for clairvoyance or divination. That said, the gathered Potter servants didn't need those skills to know that something was wrong when both Master and Mistress began to thank them all for their years of devoted service. The ill-ease grew stronger when immediate plans were meshed with worst-case scenarios.

"The day that we had planned for but hoped wouldn't arrive has, in fact, arrived," said James. "Lily, Harry and I have to go away for a while."

"Oh, no!" was the general response, conveyed in a dozen different phrasings.

"Now we wouldn't be doing this, if we didn't think that it was the only way for us to stay safe," James continued. "And we've got a pretty good plan…but we just wanted to confirm that you are all willing to go along with it."

"Of course we are!" was the general response.

"No, no…we really want you all to think about this," said Lily. "You all know what would happen to you if something bad were to happen to the three of us."

"We won't let that happen!"

James nodded. "We know…we know…but we also care about each and every one of you too much not to worry about what has happened to other house-elves…what the Ministry did when the last McKinnon was killed by the Death Eaters."

The Potter's house-elves calmed down with this statement.

"You won't have any say over which family bought you," said Lily. "The Headmaster has promised us that he would try to bring you all to Hogwarts, but there's no guarantee…"

"So we have talked with a few families that we know will treat you the way you should be treated," said James. "The Bones family, the Abbotts and the Lovegoods have all expressed willingness if any of you would like to work for a lower-profile family."

The house-elves were quick to remove any doubt in the mind of their Master and Mistress that any of them considered this a viable option.

James pursed his lips. He hadn't expected any of the servants to ask for this option to be exercised, but that didn't make their decisions (and the associated risks) any easier to stomach.

"Very well, then," he stated. "We will need you all to carry on as you were…to act out each day as if it were no different than the rest. Those of you assigned to the Manor will act as if we are still here, even if we are not, so as to confuse any who wished us harm."

"Yes, Master," the house-elves replied as one.

"If something happens to me while we are away," continued James, "such that you need to renew your bonds with the next Head of House Potter…"


"We must plan for the worst," James countered. "If any of you have problems renewing your bonds with Harry, make your way to Gringotts and ask for the goblin named Chokebar. He will, hopefully, be able to help you."

The house-elves reluctantly agreed to do as they were directed.

It then took a little more than one additional hour for Lily and James to talk with each of their house-elves, offering reassurances and providing comfort as necessary. The house-elves weren't at all eager to let their family go away without them, but were both smart enough to realize that it was the best of many bad options, and obedient enough to let the Potters leave without a fight.

James and Lily both let tears drip onto the ethereal plane that evening, as they apparated with Harry to Godric's Hollow, and into a very uncertain future.


23 October, 1981

Voldemort was too shocked not to say the first thing to come to his mind when the tip of Peter Pettigrew's wand lit up.

"Well, fuck me!"

"Yes, My Lord," Peter replied, rising up off of his knees.

"No, I didn't mean that literally, you arse!" Voldemort hissed, as he planted his heel in the center of his minion's chest.

"Erm, yes, My Lord…sorry, My Lord!" Peter gasped, as he scurried back into a prostrate position.

The Dark Lord's response would have been far less scatological and far more magical had he not been caught so far off-guard. The claim had been so outlandish…so outrageously fortuitous…that he hadn't believed it, even after Peter had voluntarily sworn a magical oath attesting its veracity.

"So the Potters really did make you the secret keeper for their Fidelius Charm, Pettigrew?"

"Yes, My Lord."

"You…rather than the blood-traitor Black?"

"Yes, My Lord."

"And they did this without asking you to bare your left arm, or swear a loyalty oath, or even swear a magical oath stating that you weren't one of my followers?"

"Yes, My Lord."


"Erm…Yes, My Lord."

Voldemort lifted his wand and hit Pettigrew with a strong stunning charm. He then dismissed the two minions who had been standing back by the room's entrance, and locked the door behind them with some of his strongest security charms. Only then did he reach into his robe pocket and pull out the goblin-enchanted weapon known as the Dirk of D'oh!

It was still there. It was still in its scabbard.

The Dark Lord half-expected the Dirk of D'oh! to have somehow made its way into enemy hands, minus its sheath. Why would the Potters blindly trust Pettigrew...when they suspected that there was a spy within their Order's ranks…when they had the magical means to test whether he was worthy of their trust?

It was rather disappointing, actually…to have to accept the possibility that someone you thought was such a worthy adversary had done such a stupid thing.

Unless it was a trap?

Voldemort was tempted to test this most likely explanation by testing his minion's loyalty with another oath. But he resisted that temptation… someone like Pettigrew might fail that test and lose his life or magic for thinking that he had betrayed his master in some inconsequential, petty way. There was a different question, however, that was worth putting his minion to the test. It was too much of a coincidence that the Potters went into hiding the day after he had announced his intention to add their names to the list of terminated family lines. He also thought about demanding that Pettigrew swear an oath that he had not revealed the targeting of the Potter family to either the Potters or Dumbledore. But Voldemort decided against this course of action as well…at least not until the secret had been shared.

The thought of Peter sharing the secret with the Dark Lord prompted him to ask a different question...once he cast an Ennervate spell on his minion.

"So who have you shared this secret with, Pettigrew?"

"Just the three Potters, My Lord."

"Just those three?" Voldemort asked. "Not Sirius Black? Not Dumbledore?"

"Yes, My Lord…just those three."

"So have you simply not gotten around to telling them the secret?"

"No, My Lord. They said the whole point of switching Secret Keepers at the last moment was to keep Sirius from knowing…so that he could truthfully say that he didn't know their location if he was captured."

"What about Dumbledore?"

"I asked about him, My Lord. They said that they wanted to take a wait and see approach before telling the Headmaster."

Voldemort snorted. "That's interesting…very interesting. So if the Potters were attacked at their secret location, Dumbledore couldn't come to their rescue…not even if they sent him an emergency message."

"That's my understanding, My Lord."

"As if what you do or do not understand could serve as any kind of reliable benchmark," scoffed Voldemort.

"Yes, My Lord…do you wish me to tell you the secret?"

"Hmm…not right now, Pettigrew," said Voldemort. "They could come back and ask you to tell them if you shared the secret, and I wouldn't want you to lose your life if they demanded an oath to back up your response."

"Thank you, My Lord."

"In fact…best that nobody even know that you told me that you're the Secret Keeper."

"Yes, My Lord."

Voldemort rolled his eyes at his prostrate minion.


"Yes, My Lord?"

"This is the point where you display a bit of intelligence, and look me in the eye."

"Oh…sorry, My Lord."



Gringotts Wizarding Bank, Division of Investment Management, Accounts Section
31 October, 1981

Chokebar locked up his office just after ten in the evening, giving himself plenty of time to get home and get ready for his clan's traditional Fortisnight midnight dinner. Figuring that track traffic would be light, (given the holiday) he took a slight detour on his way to the employee cart house and stopped by his division's risk management center.

The goblin guarding the entrance to that specific cavern was friendly but thorough as he challenged Chokebar to provide his name, corporate rank and identification gemstone. The Division of Investment Management guarded the value of its secrets just as highly as any of the other divisions within the Wizarding Bank (while there was a good deal of interdepartmental cooperation that cooperation always came at a negotiated price).

Chokebar paused just on the other side of the heavy steel-reinforced portal, so that his eyes could adjust to the light that was radiating from the hundreds of foot-long, luminescent crystals that made up the "The Big Wall"... the Divison's first-alert system for tracking significant fluctuations in the accounts that it managed.

Each charmed crystal could be magically programmed to change colors or vary in brightness based on specific triggers. A common program resembled a Muggle stop light; if the investment was gaining value and/or profit it would turn green, and if it was losing value it would glow red. Crystal brightness could reflect the magnitude of change (either good or bad). They could even flash for specific triggering events. Or they could stop flashing if something good or bad was happening. Or glow red for good news and green for bad. Or strobe like a Muggle lighthouse lamp.

That there was no consistency or commonality in how each tracking crystal was programmed was intentional. There were thirty-seven Senior Account Managers with crystals growing out of "The Big Wall," and each had clients and investments that that were in conflict with at least a few of the other manager's clients and investments. Gringotts Wizarding Bank managed the financial system for the entirety of magical Britain; investment management services were available to all , irrespective of politics, lineage, or the kind of tattoos you might have on your forearm. With all of the tracking crystals growing on the same cavern wall, in full view of all of the other account managers, it was critical that each manager keep "the other side" from gaining valuable information about the health of their portfolio. Coming up with complex and secret combinations of colors and glow levels was one way that they accomplished this goal.

Of course, the down side to not having a common platform of interpretable colors and glow levels was that it was hard for individual managers to receive timely alerts whenever there was a material change in their portfolios. The division had at least two staff members monitoring the crystals night and day. These junior level employees had no idea what the different colors or glow intensities meant…they didn't even know which crystals an individual account manager controlled. Their job was to notify their non-partisan non-commissioned overseer (NCO) whenever there was a change in an individual crystal. The NCO, who knew which manager was linked to that crystal (but not the code or associated investment) would then send out a generic notification message to that manager, regardless of time or day.

Because knowledge is power and time is money, some account managers pooled their resources and paid staff salaries for their own independent monitors. These junior-level goblins would watch specific crystals on behalf of their patrons, and usually knew enough about each crystal's code to send out alert notifications that were both quicker and more detailed than what the Division's minions could provide.

There were only a dozen Gringotts clients that had investment portfolios that were large enough (and, more importantly, profitable enough) to warrant a dedicated Senior Account Manager. The smaller accounts were bundled together, with individual managers minding the portfolios of anywhere from two to twenty-two individual accounts. The goblins avoided most potential conflicts of interest by bundling based on a client's politics and social affiliations; the Lestrange brothers, for example, shared an account manager with the Nott family and Augustus Rookwood (that Rookwood was lumped in with other Death Eaters despite his "undercover" status just underscored how well-informed Gringotts was with respect to their clients).

This kind of bundling to avoid conflicts of interest also took place when groups of managers pooled their resources to pay for independent crystal tracking services. Nobody was surprised when Chokebar joined the "Light" faction of account managers after he won his promotion in the Arena; his clients were allied with other Light faction clients like the Longbottoms and the Abbotts. The Potter Trust's investment strategies also lined up… for example, families like the Longbottoms and Potters tended not to invest in the kind of Knockturn Alley businesses that formed the core of the Malfoy portfolio.

That Chokebar was one of the four employees offered the chance to fight for the Potter Trust was also no accident; he had aligned himself with the Light faction managers soon after his transfer into the Division four years previous, and had been mentored by Light faction senior manager. Chokebar had even been one of the faction's Big Wall monitors in the two years prior to his promotion. It was a common enough career path, which is why the Potter Trust manager wasn't at all surprised to find his protege tracking that evening.

"Brainbleed…how are things going?" he asked, slapping his own protege on his back.

The other goblin took his eyes off of the wall of brightly colored crystals just long enough glance up at Chokebar.

He smiled, and dryly replied, "Situation's normal, Sir."

"So…all fucked-up, then?"

"Not so much after you got your sorry arse promoted….Sir."

Chokebar laughed at the insubordination of the junior executive. A month ago he might have drawn his blade for the slight, but he had worked closely with Brainbleed over the previous weeks and come to think of him as a trusted colleague.

The laughter was loud enough to catch the attention of the other goblins that were in on-duty. Their reactions varied; the senior NCO that helped manage the junior executive corps gave him a respectful nod, while one of junior executives growled and reached for the hilt of his short sword. A harsh bark from the former brought the latter reluctantly into line.

"So," asked Chokebar, "Mossbreath is your Dark faction opposite tonight?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Nice to see that the traitor isn't harboring any ill-feelings over the arse-thumping I gave him in the Arena," Chokebar quipped.

Brainbleed grinned. "Oh no, Sir… he's had nothing but positive things to say about you."


The on-duty nodded. "Yes, Sir…like how he is going to go positively medieval on your arse, and how he is positive that you're going to be sacked in the first quarter, and positive that you're grabbing your ankles for Spleenchewer and the more senior Light faction managers."

Chokebar shook his head. "Lucky for him that it's a holiday and there isn't anyone around to cover his station. Otherwise I'd provide him some strong negative reinforcement for that kind of talk."

"Yes, Sir."

"Not like I didn't beat him fair and square in the Arena…and I didn't take any of his favorites out of the pool."

Brainbleed chuckled. "It's the fact that he still has to use the pool that he gripes about most."

Chokebar snorted. "Well that's asinine, if he likes the variety. Senior execs can still abuse the pool when they don't want to use their own girl."

The junior executive nodded. "Most of us figure that it is where he has to abuse them that bothers Mossbreath the most. It's your office he wants, Sir, not your girl."

"Why's that?"

Brainbleed smiled. "A few of us have been swimming at the same time with him," he explained. "Mossbreath is always dragging his girl into the darkest corner, furthest away from the rest of us."

"So, what…does he have performance anxiety, or a really small dick?"

Brainbleed snorted. "Are you assigning me the task of finding an answer to your question, Sir?"

Chokebar chuckled, and shook his head.

"Nah, I'll save that one as an alternative sentence for the next son of a bitch that is destined to become a dragon snack."

"Think I'd walk willingly into its mouth, if those were my only choices, Sir."

"You and me both, Brainbleed," Chokebar said with a laugh. He then changed topics by leaning a little closer to the wall of crystals.

"So…has anybody's portfolio lit up tonight?" he asked.

The younger goblin shrugged, keeping his gaze focused on the crystal-filled alert wall.

"Been pretty quiet, actually… for both factions. Not a surprise, given that it's also a human holiday."

"That sounds counterintuitive."

"It is, until you consider the fact that Riddle and his Deathsuckers are whores for publicity; the intelligence unit is convinced he's got something planned for tonight."

"Yes, well….let's hope that that something doesn't involve my portfolio."

Brainbleed nodded as he glanced at Chokebar's cluster of tracking crystals. They were all tied in some way to the Potter Trust…having only a single client allowed the senior account manager to track individual aspects of his portfolio (those managers with more than a handful of clients sometimes had to pick and choose which portfolios they tracked).

Being both a Light faction tracker and Chokebar's protege meant that Brainbleed knew more about the manager's crystals than most. But he was still learning.

The junior executive leaned towards his superior and lowered his voice. "Most of your exposure is with Nimbus and one of their Quidditch teams… the Tornadoes, isn't it?"

Chokebar shook his head. He pointed towards one specific crystal and whispered, "Catapults, actually…the tracker blinks every time they have a home sellout."

"But not all of them are investments, right?"

Chokebar nodded. "Most of my exposure is with the health of my primaries…everything else is not even secondary…more like tertiary."

The younger goblin nodded as his eyes darted towards three specific crystals that sat side-by-side halfway up the wall.

"Those two linked to the wills are as quiet as ever, Sir," he replied. "Have you figured out why the third went black?"

The older goblin shook his head. "No…we know it's supposed to track a real estate asset, but beyond that? I get an axe-splitting headache whenever I try to remember what and where it is located."

"Aren't you worried that Spleenchewer will rip you a new one over that, Sir?"

Chokebar shook his head. "We've already been over that discrepancy with the auditors… even brought in a couple of curse breakers from Mergers & Acquisitions on a consulting contract. They are pretty certain that it is a Trust-owned property that is protected by a wizard's Fidelius charm."

"So if the tracking crystal isn't working, why don't you reprogram it to track a different asset?"

Chokebar sighed. "Because I know it is important, somehow," he replied. "Just the fact that it isn't working at the moment is valuable information."

"About an asset that you don't know anything about."

"That's right."

"Why don't you just ask your client?"

The senior account manager snorted, and shook his head.

"Just be sure to watch those three crystals for me," Chokebar replied, as he worried about the health and well-being of clients who had gone to ground.

Brainbleed waited for the higher ranked goblin to elaborate, but wasn't at all upset when nothing more was said. He wasn't even curious, having been well-trained to both know his station, and to expect that Chokebar would also know his station well enough to keep the secrets that came with it.

The Senior Account Executive wished his protege a profitable night, and made his way out towards the employee cart house. It wasn't until later that evening that Chokebar realized that he might better have wished Brainbleed a night that was more uneventful than profitable.


Godric's Hollow

Two wizards walked out of a portkey's rainbow-spray of lights and into a small wooded glade located on the edge of Godric's Hollow.

Voldemort took stock of his bearings, and complimented his minion on his choice of arrival points…secluded enough to avoid notice in the mixed community of magicals and Muggles, but close enough to their final destination to cover that distance in short order.

Peter Pettigrew led his Master through the darkened streets, to a point twenty feet away from the front gates of the Potter's hiding place. The betrayer pointed towards a small wooden post set on the said of the narrow road, and whispered, "The first alert ward is just past that post, My Lord."

Voldemort nodded. "The one that is triggered if someone casts a spell?"

"Yes, My Lord. The second ward…the one that is triggered when a witch or wizards crosses… is just a few feet past the first."

"Clever," said Voldemort. "So getting close enough to the perimeter to identify what type of wards are present will itself trigger an alarm."

"Yes, My Lord."

"So those are the only wards that protect the cottage?"

"Yes, My Lord…they said something about hiding in plain sight."

"Too smart…and too trusting…for their own good," said Voldemort, as he pulled a flattened metallic hat from beneath his cloak.

"Yes, My Lord."

"And Dumbledore…he still hasn't been told the secret?"

"No, My Lord."

"Fools!" Voldemort declared, placing the tin-foil hat on his head. Wormtail was too scared to notice (much less comment on) this action.

The Dark Lord judged the distance between the identified ward line and the front door of the cottage. If what Pettigrew said was true, he could simply apparate directly to the front door…or even appear suddenly within the cottage. But Voldemort wouldn't have put it past the Potters to add a nasty ward or two without telling Peter…and there was something to be said about making a memorable entrance.

"Wait back by that fence post for my return," Voldemort instructed Peter, pointing towards a spot further down the path.

"Yes, My Lord."

Voldemort waited until Peter withdrew the sixty-foot distance before he stepped out into the open, and walked up to the first ward line. He unfastened his heavy cloak and let it drop to the ground. The Dark Lord next drew out his wand, and cast a ward detection charm. The diagnostic spell confirmed what his minion had told him. It also triggered an alarm inside the cottage.

When Voldemort crossed the ward first line, and got close enough to the second to cast a second detection charm. Again he found it to be as Pettigrew described. He laughed out loud at the foolishness of the Potters, and then touched his wand tip against his belt buckle at the same moment that he pulled the Dirk of D'oh! out from its belted sheath.

The belt buckle was charmed to beep once every ten seconds for the first four intervals, then every single second for the five seconds after that. There hadn't been time to further test Voldemort's tin-foil hat, and while he was certain that he could resist the cursed dagger's effect for a longer period of time than any of his minions, this visit was important enough to act conservatively.

Forty-five seconds to spit in the face of Prophecy…without fear of Dumbledore mucking things up.

Voldemort blasted the front gate wide open with an overpowered curse, and walked with confidence towards his destiny.


James was in the front sitting room reading a book when the noisy alarm went off. He rolled his eyes… it was the third time it had been tripped that evening. Not a great surprise, since it was Halloween night and their ward line was halfway out into the lane, and they were in a village that was inhabited by more than a few magical families. Adjusting those wards to cut down on the false alarms was something that was high up on his "honey-do" list.

"Will you check that, James?" Lily called from the bath.

"Yes, Dear," he said with a whiney tone of voice. He walked over to the front window, took a look out towards the street, and snorted.

"Now that is strange," he called back. "Lily…why would a wizard be wearing a tin-foil hat?"

Whatever answer Lily might have given was lost as the front gate was loudly smashed to pieces.

"Oh, Shit!" James hissed. "Lily! It's Voldemort! Go get Harry!"


James Potter was an Auror. James Potter was authorized to use Unforgivables. James Potter was more than willing to cast Avada Kedavra if it would protect his family. And he might had done so, or cast any of a dozen different lethal spells out the window towards the unwelcomed house guest, had he not been within the range of The Dirk of D'oh!

Instead, he drew his wand and magically reinforced the front door.

Lily Potter was a smart witch, who had gamed out this exact emergency situation with her husband. Well, almost exact…she hadn't imagined the possibility of Voldemort paying a visit while she was in the middle of a relaxing bath.

The cottage's ground floor bath was located on the back side of the building, exactly seventy-four feet away from the property's front gate. This meant that Lily was outside of The Dirk of D'oh's influence when she first heard her husband's warning. With a clear mind and a mother's focus, she jumped out of the bathtub, grabbed her wand and ran naked out the bathroom door.

Lily was halfway up the stairs when Voldemort bypassed the magically reinforced front door by blowing a hole into the cottage wall.

Being deprived of his common sense meant that James didn't rush up behind her with his fingers clenching the emergency portkey that was pinned to outside of his robes. But even someone without an ounce of common sense can love, and protect those that they love with their life.

James stood his ground, and dueled the Dark Lord for eighteen long seconds before he fell dead.

The emergency portkey that Lily always wore pinned to the outside of her robes was right where it should be…pinned to the outside of the robes that she had left hanging on a peg on the downstairs bathroom wall. But there were three different emergency portkeys located within the nursery at the time of Voldemort's arrival…a pin fastened to young Harry's toddler-sized cloak, his favorite stuffed creature, and the one thing that always seemed to be within the young boy's reach…his favorite book. Lily could have grabbed her son and activated any of these emergency portkeys…had the nursery not been located thirty-feet away and ten-feet above the spot where Voldemort stood as he dueled her husband: within range of the Dirk. So she didn't.

The Dark Lord hadn't set up any anti-apparation wards, so she could have grabbed her son and apparated away to safety. She might have alternatively thought to grab her son and escape using the broomstick that was propped up against the nursery window in case someone had overlapped anti-apparation and anti-portkey wards. But again, she was within range of the cursed dagger's area of effect.

Now, it could be argued that given the situation that it was common sense for a mother to hug her child, and tell him that his mummy and daddy loved him so very, very much. It also made sense for Lily to then place her child back inside his crib, so that she was free to begin casting an ancient spell powered by a mother's love and her willing sacrifice. That Harry's mother did do these two things, despite her proximity to The Dirk of D'oh!, just showed how much love can triumph over common sense (or the lack thereof).

Voldemort's belt buckle chimed to announce the end of the third ten-second interval as he climbed the stairs towards the nursery. Fifteen seconds should have been plenty of time for him to kill the child of prophecy, and then drag the mother back to the minion who had asked his lord for a boon. But the Dark Lord hadn't counted on walking into the nursery, only to find himself face-to-face with Lily Potter's drip-dry full frontal nudity. Or to be distracted, for that matter, by a toddler who was standing in his crib dressed his wolf suit…a toddler who was roaring terrible roars in Voldemort's direction, and gnashing terrible baby teeth, and rolling terrible eyes, and showing terrible claws.

The switch from a ten-second beep interval to consecutive one-second beeps pulled Voldemort half-way out his state of distraction.

"Get out the way!" he yelled.

"No, not my son!" Lily shouted, placing her naked body in between Harry and Voldemort.

She fell dead to the floor just before the belt-buckle beeped for the final time, announcing the elapse of a full forty-five seconds.

Young Harry cried out for his mother. His mother's murderer, having been recently stripped of most of his common sense, had a different reaction to her lifeless nude form.

The last Potter took offense, and roared a terrible roar that was strong enough to bring the Dark Lord back to task. Voldemort looked up towards the toddler and, now ignoring what he had heard Lily chant or the spell that she had just cast, pointed his wand towards the dead witch's child.

Harry Potter looked straight into Voldemort's eyes, reached his terrible claws over the edge of his crib, and shouted, "I EAT YOU UP!"

Which is pretty much what happened when the Dark Lord cast the killing curse.