The pub was a hive of activity on this early Friday evening, with smoke curling high amongst the rafters. Every seat was taken, every table occupied with patrons; yet more still continued to stream in by the dozen, undeterred by the crowd. Beyond the door that led to muggle London, Harry spied the relentless downpour that had enveloped the entire countryside for the past fortnight. The rain was seemingly never ending, the winds howling in their intensity and only the careful placement of charms kept the water from encroaching any further than the doorframe.
Wizards and witches alike lined up at the bar, eager to let down their hair after a week of work. Tom was in constant motion, hands and wand moving with practiced precision. Chatter blended together in a dull rumble, everything from politics to sport making the rounds as the roaring fireplace only added to the genuinely friendly atmosphere. Pints of mead and bottles of hard liquor floated above head, moving quickly to their destinations, much to the pleasure of the paying customers. Even a group of Hags occupying the back corner looked to be enjoying themselves now that they were indoors, away from the cold, wet winter of the British Isles.
Harry would feel similarly content, if not for the fact that he was alone; alone when he shouldn't be.
Someone was late.
Nursing his third glass of fire-whiskey, he idly took a sip as he counted the minutes he had been forced to wait beyond the agreed upon time.
He was not amused.
A copy of the Daily Prophet lay discarded before him, his very face occupying the front page of the national wizarding newspaper. The moving photograph captured him perfectly, surrounded by a gaggle of reporters as he was leaving the Ministry for Magic the day before. In bold lettering above the photo, it read, "Boy-Who-Lived Quits Ministry."
It had caused quite the uproar; and not only with the public.
Hermione had not been impressed. Unfortunately for her, that meant little to Harry at the moment.
It had been five years since the death of Lord Voldemort and four since he had joined the Ministry as an Auror. In those early days, things had still been relatively hectic and the Ministry had needed all the help they could get. While most of Riddle's Death Eaters had been caught during and right after the battle that had raged on the grounds of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, many had also eluded the authorities. Dark wizards on the run aside, they also had to deal with giants, dementors, and dozens of people claiming they had been under the Imperius Curse.
The clean up had lasted years. Weeding out the corrupt bigots had probably been the most difficult, the ones who kept their heads down after the collapse of Voldemort's reign. Even today, there was no guarantee that they had all been removed, but with Kingsley Shacklebolt now Minister for Magic, the future was looking brighter each day.
And just last month, the last confirmed Death Eater had been captured and imprisoned at Azkaban. After that, Harry had felt that his work at the Ministry had been complete.
After getting all his affairs in order, he had promptly handed in his resignation.
People all over had been baffled by the move, including those closest to him. Hadn't he always wanted to be an Auror? He was practically born for such a job; a dark wizard catcher, cleaning up the world one spell at a time. Harry was the first to admit that he had a 'saving people thing', as Hermione had put it once, and he had plenty of motivation for a job that allowed him to see such vile human beings put behind bars. His entire life had been shaped by perhaps the most sadistic, psychotic Dark Lord of the past thousand years, so it was almost fated that he would take up such a cause within the Ministry.
However, Harry was sick of fate. He had only ever chosen to become an Auror because of the situation at the time. It was a smart choice, all things considered, and really, he hadn't really considered his career after Hogwarts in those days. In those days, he hadn't been sure he would even see the end of his schooling to begin with. And really, after everything he had been through, he felt like doing his own thing for once, on his own terms.
The next chapter of his life was about to begin.
And that is why he was sitting in the Leaky Cauldron, alone, waiting. But not for much longer.
Harry watched as a thin, balding man entered from the Diagon Alley entrance, blue robes completely soaked through from the horrendous downpour. The man looked startled at the amount of people, before his wide eyes moved back and forth, searching. Harry raised a hand, waving him over a tad impatiently.
"You're late," Harry said as the man nervously sat opposite him. He flinched when Harry raised his wand, only to blink in surprise when his soggy robes dried out with barely a wave.
"Thanks," he muttered, flushing slightly.
"No problem. So... why were you late, Sam?" he asked, pocketing his wand and taking another sip of his drink.
The man sighed. "Goblins held me up at the bank. They didn't like the fact that I was closing my account and withdrawing all my money."
Harry nodded. He could see that, greedy little buggers that they were. Greedy little buggers that weren't too keen on Harry these days – not after he broke into Gringotts and then successfully escaped, stealing a dragon in the process. He suspected that the only reason he was still allowed a vault in their bank and they hadn't tried to take his gold was because of that very fact. It wasn't common knowledge – only a select few wizards knew about it, two of whom had been with him at the time – and they feared this information getting out. It had been bad enough when Quirrell had done the same during his first year, but he hadn't taken anything because Hagrid had already removed it, something the goblins had taken great lengths to ensure that everyone knew. Two break-ins in seven years, and this time something had been taken?
Oh yeah. Harry found himself in a unique position. He had leverage over the goblins of Gringotts.
It wasn't as good as it sounded. He had enough enemies as it was.
"Got the deed?"
Sam – or rather, Samuel – reached into his robes and removed a roll of parchment. Smoothing it out on the table, he turned it towards Harry for his viewing. Placing his glass down and leaning forward, he scanned it quickly, before nodding, satisfied. A quill appeared in his hand with a mild flick of his wrist, and a small inkwell settled on the table in the same manner, causing the older man to gape slightly in shock.
Harry signed the scroll with a flourish, before vanishing both quill and inkwell without a thought. His signature sat next to Samuel's own in glistening black.
"There you go and," reaching into his pockets, he retrieved a bulging leather pouch. He dropped it between them with a heavy clank. "There is your money."
Samuel pulled the pouch open and peered at the pile of galleons inside.
"You can count them, if you want."
He shook his head, pocketing the money swiftly. "No, no. I trust you, Mister Potter."
They sat in silence for a moment, Harry finishing his drink in the meantime.
"Would you like one?" he offered, inclining the glass slightly for emphasis.
Samuel shook his head. "No, I better get going. I have a long trip ahead of me."
"Australia, right?" Harry inquired.
They stood up and shook hands.
"It was good doing business with you." Harry said.
Samuel turned, ready to leave, and then hesitated. "If you don't mind... what are you going to do with that place, anyway?"
Harry briefly glanced down at the roll of parchment still on the table. As of this moment, he was now the official owner of a property in Hogsmeade.
He then smiled at the older man. "Oh, I don't know. I have a few things in mind."
The weather wasn't much better in Scotland, Harry would soon find out. After paying the barkeep, Harry had quickly and quietly left the packed bar, vanishing with nary a sound and reappearing shin high in snow. The temperature was beyond frosty, frigid or freezing, and only the swift application of a heating charm prevented the young wizard from becoming an ice block. Even still, he pulled his robe tighter around his body as he moved, slowly making his way down the main street of Hogsmeade. All the stores were closed for the night, the only sound coming from the creaking pines and the few wizarding pubs just off the way.
They were probably just as busy as the Leaky Cauldron, and he made a note of visiting Aberforth Dumbledore sometime in the coming week. It had been awhile since he had visited the brother of his late mentor.
It wasn't long before he came to a stop in front of a rather large house, perhaps one of the last true houses that remained on High Street. It was fairly large, built of dark, strong wood, and had two floors. The front alone had four windows, two on each side of the door and two above, an old brick chimney running up the outer wall on the right hand side. Because of the location, there was no front yard at all, and Harry knew that there was very little, if any room at the back either.
He approached the door, tapping the door handle with his wand. With a soft creak, the door swung open to reveal a large room and Harry stepped inside, closing the door behind him. Unable to see much in the dark, he gave his wand a light flick and several candles lit with a small whoosh, casting a warm glow upon the hardwood floors. Nearly the entire first floor was a single room, the staircase to the upper level situated in the back left-hand corner. Only two other doors were present, one which lead outside to the back, and one that lead to the kitchen on the right. All the bedrooms were upstairs, as was the bathroom.
A few pieces of furniture remained, things that Samuel and his family no longer wanted. A chair here, a desk there; nothing of importance, but things he could use. The chair looked especially comfortable, with a high back and plush upholstery. Everything was spotless, having been cleaned recently, and all it needed was Harry's personal belongings to make it complete.
Giving his wand a twirl, a large sack appeared with a pop, thumping against the floor where it landed haphazardly. A few more flicks and the sack opened, miniature sized chairs, tables, beds and all floating out in single file, like some sort of demented conga line. Then they began expanding, returning to their original form, until the room was filled with everything he needed.
His bed began making its own way upstairs, while the filing cabinets he had purchased the day before settled down in a corner. His set of drawers joined his bed, as well as his trunk and a group of suitcases containing all his clothing. A coat rack walked over and plunked itself down next to the front door, and the chair and desk left behind by the previous owners carefully manoeuvred towards the centre of the room, with another chair setting down on the opposite side. A few paintings stuck themselves to the walls with permanent sticking charms, including one particular portrait he had brought over from Grimmauld Place.
Phineas Nigellus Black peered down at Harry in annoyance.
"So this is where you have brought me, hm?"
A couple of rugs unrolled and found places to lie down, and his kitchenware marched like a small platoon into the kitchen, lead by a rather burly spatula.
The quirks of magic never ceased to amaze him.
"I'm talking to you, Potter."
"Sorry," Harry answered, nodding at the former headmaster of Hogwarts. This seemed to appease the man – at least a little bit. "I thought you'd like a change of scenery, you know – like the old days, travelling around the country with us, hunting Horcruxes-"
"You kept me in a bag! A bag!" the portrait interrupted, glaring at Harry.
"Oh," Harry paused. "Right."
They stared at each other in silence.
"Why am I here?"
Harry shrugged. "I need someone to watch the place when I'm out."
"I am Phineas Nigellus Black, former headmaster of Hogwarts – I am no ones watchdog!"
Harry shrugged again. "Can you honestly tell me you'd rather stay at Grimmauld Place?"
The portrait looked like it wanted to say something, yet could not find the words.
"I know you can travel to Hogwarts and all," Harry continued. "But wouldn't you rather have a place you can come to with a little life? Must get boring, even in the headmasters office. Professor McGonagall still teaches, after all – I bet she is hardly even there."
Phineas grunted. "Fine – I'll watch your... new home."
"New place is upstairs," he replied, pointing up. "This here is my... office?"
That garnered a sneer. "You sound unsure, boy! Hah! What is it that you are doing, exactly?"
Harry pulled out a small card and held it up to the painting. It was white and rather unremarkable, his full name and the words 'Wizard for Hire' were imprinted dead-centre in emerald ink. On the back in the same colour ink was the current address, as well as business hours.
"...is this a joke?"
Harry rolled his eyes, pocketing the card. "I'll be taking clients here in this room, so you better be good. If not, I'll gag you."
He looked particularly incensed at that remark, but settled for leaving the frame instead of replying.
"Oh you big baby,"
After a little more interior design, he decided to call it a night. Making his way up stairs, he quickly found the master bedroom. All his things were in perfect order and he briefly admired the large room. It was much bigger than anything he had ever claimed as his own at the Dursley's, and bigger still than his corner of the dorm room at Hogwarts. His room at the Noble House of Black came closest, yet still fell behind in general space. Even with the king-size bed, some bedside tables and a large drawer, it still felt relatively bare. He was really starting to like this place.
Shrugging off his robe and removing his underclothes, he got dressed in a pair of blue woollen pyjamas with moving golden stars. His fallen robe and clothes slithered their way into a wicker basket down the hall after a flick of his wand. Settling into bed, he pulled on a matching bed cap and extinguished the light throughout the entire house, complete darkness enveloping him. Removing his glasses, he placed them and his wand on the small wooden table to his left before rolling over to get comfortable.
Tomorrow was going to be a long day.
Authors Note: Rather short chapter to start off with; they will get longer with each new release. This story will be fairly light hearted with darker moments thrown in, but mostly non-serious antics. Been writing scenes for this story for awhile now and mainly using it to shake any writing rust. I intend to get back onto Fictional at some point, but feel like writing a pure Harry Potter story for the moment. Anyway, not much in the way of interesting stuff happens in this chapter, just some explanations of what is going on in the world and setting the groundwork. If you want to read ahead a little, I've posted several pieces of this story over at DarkLordPotter, but they aren't in chronological order – nor are they guaranteed to make it into the story, as things change constantly in my head. Still, it might be worth a look if you're bored. They are in the Work by Author section and you can't access that without an account.