Antoinette rapped sharply on the unadorned door and waited. Little to no time passed before she heard a distinct pop. She was able to tap her feet twice before the door opened. Imogene, Hadrian's house elf stood at the threshold to Prongs' Batcave as Hadrian affectionately called his apartment.
She didn't know where the "Prongs" part came from, but it pleased her cold, black heart to see Hadrian still had some of his childhood despite the Dursely's best attempts.
Which reminded her, she needed to make a trip to Surrey.
Imogene darted a cautious glance up and down the hall before speaking. "Miss Antoinette, little Master Hadrian is not home right now. Imogene can take a message for him."
Antoinette smiled at the house elf. She knew Hadrian was off visiting his Slytherin friend – whoever that was. Hadrian had been very tight lipped about his name, especially after he found out she'd been a Gryffindor in school. As though she'd judge a child based on the color of his tie.
"Actually, Imogene I was hoping to speak with you. We have a very sweet boy in common. We are each doing our best to protect him. I think it would behoove us to work together."
Imogene pursed her lips and looked up at Antoinette out the corner of her eyes. "You are right. Little Master Hadrian is a very special child. Sweet too. Too sweet. Yes, come in."
Antoinette stepped into the apartment and as usual, the place was sparkling clean. One thing did draw her attention. There was a mound of letters, old wizard letters judging by yellowed parchment envelopes.
"Thieving elf tried to steal little Master Hadrian's letters to you. Little Master ordered him to return all his mail." Imogene swept her hands to indicate the mound. "This is part of little Master Hadrian's mail."
Antoinette turned slowly to her. "Someone's elf was stealing his mail? Do you know for how long, Imogene?"
She grimaced. "Imogene didn't think to ask that question when she was punishing the thief."
"Do you know when the oldest letter is from?" Antoinette asked. The pile she was looking at appeared to be years old and if Hadrian hadn't had access to his mail for years, there was no telling what he was missing out on.
"Little Master Hadrian has found letters from November of 1980."
Antoinette's gut dropped. Like most British witches or wizards she knew when Hadrian was born. He was a modern wizard celebrity and icon after all. Hadrian was born July 31, 1980. Someone had been hiding his letters from him when his parents were alive and he was a little as four months old. What. The. Hell?
"Miss Antoinette came to speak to Imogene about protecting Hadrian, not letters."
Antoinette couldn't help smiling at the little elf's sharp rebuke. She was familiar with the magical beings and Imogene had to be the sharpest and most assertive among her kind. Briefly, Antoinette wondered how the Potters managed to grow that steel spine. She would love to replicate such an elf and hand it to Malfoy. If the man hit on her one more time... "You're right of course, Imogene."
Imogene nodded once and then led the way through the apartment to a sitting room. "Please take a seat," she said before taking one herself. Antoinette barely stifled the urge to arch an eyebrow in disbelief. Elves taking seats. The Potters were awesome!
"I'm sure you know about Hadrian's horrible childhood," Antoinette brokered.
Imogene nodded her head. "Disgusting muggles. Filth."
"Right," Antoinette nodded in agreement. Child abusers were disgusting filth. "I fear they didn't feed Hadrian well."
"Yes, he is smaller than Little Master James was at his age."
Antoinette's mouth tightened at that. "I discreetly checked Hadrian over and found out our little wizard wasn't treated as well as I – no, we – would have liked. Unfortunately, these will be needed." She pulled her purse off her hip and slipped her hand inside. Half of her arm disappeared into the little bag. She rummaged in there for a bit before her fingers brushed across her goal. She pulled a quartet of large potion vials. "These are healing and nourishment potions." She held them out to Imogene.
The elf took them. "Imogene has been adding nutrient potion to little Master's breakfast drink since he came to Prongs' Batcave. Thick fruit juice hides the taste but does not affect potion."
"That is good to hear. I want Hadrian to grow big and strong. Those potions are actually my friend's recipes. They work better than the standard one. These correct more of the past harm than the normal nutrient potion. She's labeled them. They too can be mixed with most fruit juices. Emily has noted which ones can't be used." Imogene pulled out a short sheet of parchment. "These are the directions. One is for bones, one for the muscular system, and the other two are for the organs."
Imogene's ears flopped up and down in excitement. "Thank you, Miss Antoinette."
"You're very welcome, Imogene. Now, can we return to those letters?"
Hadrian flopped on the couch and then rolled over unto his belly. He lay there for a few moments before releasing a huff and turning right back over. He stared at the ceiling.
He was bored.
He was so very, very bored.
This never happened to him before. At their house, from the moment he woke until he slept, he had chores and tasks and jobs to complete. Now, it was summer, school was out, and there were no Dursleys to tell him to clean the kitchen or wash the car or weed the garden. There wasn't even a garden to work on.
When he first arrived, he was very excited about being in his father's apartment and seeing his dad's stuff. He was too tired to really explore the place then, but he had in the next coming days.
He found his dad's old textbooks and his personal library. The books kept his attention just long enough for him to realize he couldn't understand most of them. Still, he liked to pick them up and run his fingers over the pages and imagine his father doing the same years earlier, and if he stumbled across notes written in the margin, well, it wasn't his fault if he read them over and over again until he knew the words by heart.
But he could read for only so long. He'd even done his summer homework. The essays were surprisingly easy to complete with all his books and his father's first-year books. His dad didn't have the exact same books, it seemed Hogwarts tried different authors over the years, but they did contain most of the same information. Best of all, his father's books had notes in them and those handwritten comments made it easier for Hadrian to understand the topic. Reading his father's book and notes, before reading the one Hogwarts made Hadrian buy actually resulted in Hadrian understanding more than any of his teacher's lectures.
After doing way more reading than a kid should, he'd explored the apartment itself. That was cool for a few hours, before he discovered the television. He hadn't even thought the apartment would be able to run a television considering how much magic was used to make it larger on the inside than it appeared. Imogene tried to explain it to him, but her words were longer than anything Hadrian heard from anyone but Professor McGonagall. After a moment, she sighed and ended the conversation.
So, he'd spent hours upon hours watching TV. All the shows he could hear from his cupboard were his new best friends. He watched cartoons and old episodes of shows Dudley used to watch. However, even that didn't keep him occupied for too long.
He really wished his friends didn't live so far away.
He didn't want to be anything like Dudley, but he had to admit he really wished there were some children nearby. Piers and Dudley became friends just because the two lived near one, and well, both were bullies.
He rolled over again and the television caught his attention. He forgot he even had it on. A commercial was on at the moment advertising a sale at some kind of clothing store. Hadrian sat up. There were some kids on the telly around his age and he couldn't help noticing their clothes and comparing it to his.
"I want new clothes," he muttered.
"Would Little Master Hadrian like me to order some robes for him?"
Hadrian jumped at Imogene's voice and then turned to glare at her. "Hey!" he yelled as he tried to get his heartbeat to return to normal. "Would you stop doing that?"
It was the third time in as many days. Hadrian was really starting to wonder if Imogene was frightening him on purpose. He wouldn't put anything past her. She was crafty like that!
"Little Master Hadrian has not answered Imogene's question."
"Uh, well, I meant normal clothes, but I wouldn't mind some robes," he admitted. He and Theodore hung out in the muggle world and he hadn't seen either Ron or Hermione so he hadn't really thought about getting more everyday robes, but he guessed he needed some. He sighed. He bought some normal clothes in the beginning of the summer, but he'd grown a lot since school ended and most of his clothes were getting a little uncomfortable.
"So, you must go to a muggle store."
A pensive look came over Imogene's face at his reply. "Imogene must not be seen by muggles, but Imogene can not let Little Master Hadrian go to muggle store by himself."
"I've been on the street by myself," he cried. He didn't mind that Imogene took care of him. He loved it actually, but there was no need for her to treat him like a child. He wasn't a baby.
"You've had engagements with your snake friend in London. Little Master Hadrian was not alone."
She had him there. Then there was the look on her face. He'd seen it before when he tried to eat too much pizza and not enough vegetables for dinner. Things hadn't gone well for him.
He sighed. "Doesn't matter anyway." He flushed. "Uh, my parents didn't leave me a lot of money so I have to be careful. Thanks to them I know how to mend. I'll just do that to my stuff...or hey can magic make my stuff fit better?"
"It is possible. Charms can do many things and elves can do more, but Master Hadrian is a silly boy to think the Potters don't have money. Who told you this lie?" she demanded, hands on her hips.
"What?" Hadrian peered at her in confusion. "The goblins at the bank. My accounts, well, the Potter Accounts..." he trailed off when Imogene started nodding her bulbous head at his words.
"Yes, Imogene understands. There is confusion. Potter family never leaves all of their money with the goblins. They always revolt, have rebellion, and money is stolen," she paused and sneered. "Sorry, lost," she corrected, though it was clear from her tone she didn't believe she misspoke the first time.
Hadrian thought back to the countless goblin wars Professor Binns droned on and on about. "Right. That makes sense." Then something occurred to him. "But that's wizard money. I need muggle money." And he didn't really want to go through the trouble of changing his newfound wizard money into pounds.
"Potters have muggle accounts."
Hadrian blinked at that. It seemed so simple, too simple really, and... "Why didn't the goblins tell me that when I asked about my accounts?"
Imogene sighed. "Gringotts is goblin bank. They are magical beings and only work with other magicals: wizards. They can not keep track of muggle banks or accounts." Judging from her tone this wasn't the first time she had to explain that truth to someone and she didn't think much of his level of intelligence for not realizing such a simple thing.
"Come. Imogene will show Little Master Hadrian where Little Master James kept papers for muggle accounts." Then she turned and walked out the room. Hadrian had no choice but to follow her.
When they were in the hallway headed to what he suspected was his father's office, he asked, "Imogene, what about the wizard funds. I mean galleons and stuff?"
Hand on the door, she stopped in front of his father's office. "Imogene will show Little Master Hadrian the Potter Vaults later tonight, when we have returned from visiting muggle London. They are beneath Potter Castle and Manor. Which would Little Master Hadrian like to see first?"
"Manor? Castle? Later? We?" he questioned, dumbfounded. There was so just so much information there, he wasn't sure how to pull it apart and take it in. First there was a Potter Castle and a Pottle Manor? Why didn't anyone tell him about this? Then again there wasn't anyone left to tell him about his family. Also, didn't she just finish saying the muggles couldn't - shouldn't - see her?
He was very sure the International Statue of Secrecy was explicit about muggles not finding about magic and something told him a house elf appearing was way more dangerous than a little wand waving.
She rolled her eyes and pushed the door. "Yes, Little Master Hadrian. Did Little Master think Imogene was going to let him visit alone? Of course not. Imogene will be invisible. Just in case. Never too careful, like Mistress Dorea used to say."
"My grandmother?" he called thickly, voice tight with emotion. He'd been reading about his father and a little about his grandfather from their journals, but his grandmother and mother were mysteries to him. Imogene didn't seem to talk much about either woman. He thought it might be because she was a Potter elf, first and foremost, and both women married into the family.
Imogene snapped her fingers and stepped into the room, but held the door opened for him. She waited until he entered and closed it behind him. Golden firelight lit the room. "Imogene will show Little Master Hadrian the immediate access funds for the household and then we will talk about Mistress Dorea. She was a regal woman, very smart and very kind. She was very nice to Imogene."
Then Imogene proceeded to show him a hidden compartment in the ceiling to wall bookshelves. There were two small chests. Both were less than a meter and a half long, and half as wide.
She explained that the Master of the house or the Head of the family, depending on the home in question, kept such chests for the elves mostly and to a lesser extent for the family members so they didn't always have to go to the bank to make a withdrawal or venture down into the family vaults whenever they wanted to make a purchase. Then she showed Hadrian how to unlock the chests. As a Potter elf she had direct access to the vaults, but as a human he needed Potter blood to open it.
Slowly, as though he was afraid of what was inside, he lifted the lid and looked down into the carved wooden box. His heart hammered in his chest because looking back at him had to be at least several thousand pounds. He saw the familiar faces of Florence Nightingale, William Shakespeare and even Christopher Wren. 10, 20, and 50 pound notes. He picked up a fifty note and found it was actually a stack bound together by a paper band that was falling apart. Using both hands he held the notes and counted them and ended on a hundred. 50 times a hundred was...
"Bollocks," he cursed. He could clearly see at least three different 50-pound stacks. There was at least fifteen thousand pounds, not even counting the 10 and 20-pound stacks. Suddenly, a weight he didn't know he carried on his shoulders and held him down, lifted.
He could buy new clothes; didn't have to worry about mending his current clothes and trying to make them fit his growing his body. He could even buy a VHS system. The commercials and the new movies that were out seemed like a dream he could never have, but now... He could even buy some video games! Hadrian dropped the pounds back into the chest and threw his hands around Imogene. "Thank you, Imogene."
"You're very welcome, Little Master. Now, come on. Let us go see London. It has been some time since I last saw Big Ben."
Theodore eyed the potion dispassionately. It was going to taste horribly. He just knew it would. He mail ordered a potion from one of the other Potion Masters in the British Isles. He would be damned if he took any potion Snape made. No telling what the bastard put in it just to torture his clients. He was more than smart enough to do it without affecting the potion's effectiveness. Theodore released a heavy breath, grabbed the potion and knocked it back. "Merlin, that is nasty," he groaned and slammed the vial on the table. He stuck his tongue out and almost dry heaved.
Either the Aging Potion was incredibly disgusting or he was just getting more sensitive as his heritage slowly revealed itself. Theodore wished it was the former, but he knew it was the latter. He had a few years, but soon he wouldn't be able to hide what he was.
He straightened and almost immediately felt the change. His body felt incredibly uncomfortable, completely alien, like it didn't belong to Theodore, but he was just borrowing it for the day. Slowly, his limbs lengthened and his chest and hips broadened as his fingers and toes grew until he was an adult sized version of his self.
He turned around and walked across the room to stand before the full-length mirror on the bathroom door. The potion worked. Theodore looked as he would if he was twenty-five years old, the age he specified to the potioneer. Still, he didn't feel right. He glanced in the mirror again hoping to find the problem. Did one of his limbs age quicker than the rest?
Then he saw it – the simple brown eyes and hair and normal pale skin. He still wore his glamour. It didn't react well with the potion. Reluctantly, he dropped the charm to reveal his actual visage.
Gold eyes lightly streaked with lavender stared into his. To a human the color of the iris was just a few shades short of amber. His hair was an unnatural honey color. It wasn't quite blond, nor was it brown. Theodore knew that while his hair color appeared uniform, it wasn't. He had strands of black, brown, red, gold, and silver hair in his. They could only be seen in the proper light and by the right eyes. He undid his tied back hair and allowed the luminous strands to fall around his face. Humans might not be able to see his unusual hair color, but they would quickly notice his pointed ears.
He made that mistake once and got asked about someone – or thing – called Spock.
He looked back at the mirror. A very handsome dark blond stared back at him. He grimaced. To be honest he was being way too flattering when he called himself handsome. He was well aware of the curse of his kind. He was freaking pretty, beautiful even. How embarrassing.
He felt like his balls had dropped away and disappeared. Thankfully, no one from the magical world saw him like this, in his natural form.
And if he had anything to say about it, no witch or wizard would see him like this for years, not until he had the right protections in place.
Jacket straight, shoulders back, he looked one last time at himself. "Right. Good enough."
Theodore hailed a taxi at the main road. Fifteen minutes and several pounds later he reached his destination. The building was much nicer than he pictured it would be, but the sharp architecture couldn't hide its nature. A cold austere blanket seemed to be draped over the lot. Whether it went by the title of foster home or orphanage, there was no denying the bleakness of a building filled with children no one wanted. He knocked briskly at the door.
Two and a half hours later, after giving the muggle director an absurd amount of proof of his identity, really were muggles at war with trees, and telling his heartbreaking tale over six times, Theodore was presented with his niece, Elizabeth.
Liz's mother was long gone.
Theodore suspected she'd gone to the Americas as he had a hard time tracking her down, even with all the mothers' help. He was only able to find Elizabeth because her mother gave the little girl her proper last name, Nott. Even then there were quiet a few Notts in England, but none, but Elizabeth were the right age.
"Mr. Nott, this is your daughter, Elizabeth," the matron whispered softly before handing the infant to him. He cradled her in his arms. She was a beautiful thing, a true testament of her mixed heritage. Her complexion was a clear middle between her mother's South East Asian gold and his brother's sallow white. "Thank you, Madame. Thank you very much."
Another two hours later, Theodore's chartered car stopped in front of the converted manor home. Ms. Maryanne Sandé stood on the steps. The driver opened the door and Theodore gingerly stepped out cradling the tiny form in his arms. He no looked like an adult so it was a little harder to balance Elizabeth.
"Here, let me." Maryanne deftly took the baby from his arms in a manner that spoke of experience. Elizabeth woke up and started to whimper. Maryanne rocked her arms and the child settled down.
"You'll take care of her?" he asked.
She smiled. "Almost as well as you've cared for me."
"If you need anything –"
"We will be fine, Theodore. Return back home before your father actually stops drinking and notices your absence. No more trips until the summer is through. I don't want you taking chances. We will keep looking for the others. Ginger, Heather and I have agreed on this. We don't want you taking any more chances."
"Okay." He might have to cancel some plans. He'd send them a letter of what he'd investigated so far. "Bye, Maryanne."
She kissed his cheek. "See you later, Theo."
"Sir?" The driver asked softly. The poor muggle was probably wondering what was going on. The manor could not be seen by anyone who didn't know its secret so it probably appeared that Maryanne was standing in the middle of an empty, manicured field and that he, his patron, just handed the woman an infant.
"Please, take me home." He slipped back into the vehicle.
As they were driving down the long pathway leading up to the home, Theodore turned to look back at the house. Maryanne stood near the bottom steps and waved to him. Surprised, he waved back and watched until she disappeared from view. He turned back and wondered if this was what it was like having a real family.
Antoinette took a sip from her peach tea. It was light on flavor. Perfect. She eyed her friend. "How are you?" she asked.
Emily ran her fingers across her bangs, sweeping the dark hair to the side of her pale, high forehead. "Tired. Tired, but good. I'm making some progress."
"On which one of your experiments?" Antoinette asked with a small smile. Emily Li was her best friend. They went to Hogwarts together and stayed friends after graduation. As early as their first year, Emily's talent at potions and inquisitive nature was already evident. She tended to have anywhere from three to seven projects she was working on at a time. Sometimes she was simply brewing, but most often Emily was experimenting with different ingredients trying and succeeding to come up with different cures for magical maladies.
"The scar cream," she replied softly.
A fist wrapped around Antoinette's heart at the answer. This was a very personal experiment.
Emily was a muggleborn witch, the first in her family to do magic. Her parents weren't taken with her gifts. They tried to deny her acceptance into Hogwarts, but McGonagnall would hear nothing of it and made her view clear to her muggle parents. That just made things worse, and every summer Emily was forced to return to them. Each year she returned to school with physical and emotional marks. She accepted their treatment until another Hogwarts entrance letter arrived, this one for her younger brother, Daniel. Fearing all their children were demonic freaks, her parents had thrown out all three children.
Sixteen-year-old Emily hadn't known what to do or where to go, but she knew she needed to talk with her best friend, Antoinette.
Antoinette knew Emily didn't have the best family, but she never once suspected what horrors her best friend endured every summer. There was no way she would have let her return to that house if she knew. Once Antoinette told her father about Emily and Daniel's situation, he quickly accepted them into his home. Now, Emily lived in a three room flat with her three siblings. Her younger sister, Su just finished her first year in Hogwarts.
Antoinette wondered if Hadrian was friends with the Asian Ravenclaw. If not, she might need to do something about that. The Lis, at least the magical Lis, were good people.
The improved scar cream was the chance for Emily to truly leave her past behind her. Antoinette prayed she succeeded. The woman deserved the right to move on. "Good."
"Thanks," Emily replied with a tender smile. "How was your lunch date?"
"What do you mean?" She wasn't dating anyone. Finding a decent man among wizards was like looking for a needle in a haystack. With blinded eyes and one hand tied behind her back.
At least that was Antoinette's experience.
Muggleborn and half-bloods wanted to be with purebloods and purebloods were all too willing to fuck a muggleborn or half-blood witch, but dating was out of the question. Antoinette's last name didn't make things easier. Her family was renowned for all the right and wrong reasons.
"When I called to schedule our meeting you said you couldn't because you had a prior engagement, and I know you don't work weekends."
Antoinette thought about the fun she had with Hadrian earlier. This time she took the piglet out to the zoo. It wasn't his first time at a zoo, which was a little bit of a disappointment, but he did admit he had fun this morning and afternoon, and hadn't when he first went. That train of thought made her think about Hadrian's relatives. There had to be a way to pay them back for the way they raised him.
"You left a name off the Twist Special list. Just want to warn you that I raided our stores for the growth/nourishment potions."
Emily blinked at her in confusion. "Did I? I'm pretty sure I didn't. Who did I leave off the list? And thanks for letting me know. Won't have to accuse Daniel of messing up again."
"Potter? Harry Potter?"
Antoinette rolled her eyes. "I don't know why everyone knows him by that name. His given name is Hadrian and he hates being called Harry, but yes, that Potter."
Emily paled. "There was no way I would leave that name off the list. I thought, well, everyone talks about how well he is being raised and Dumbledore..." She trailed off and a red flush climbed up her neck and spread across her cheeks. "Right, that bearded bastard," she growled. "Well, the boy must have ordered his ingredients when I wasn't there and of course, my stupid boss never bothered to let me know. It's not like I'm not the one actually running the shop."
"It's okay, Emily. There are no relatives to check up on."
"Explain," Emily bit out. "Tell me you haven't finally given in to that Adelu bloodthirstiness," she asked softly. Antoinette thought back to her father and grandfather and pictured how either man would have reacted to Hadrian's relatives. The coroners would have a hard time picking their body parts out of the walls and furniture.
"I haven't. The boy ran away from his relatives and they haven't filled a missing person report." Antoinette went on to tell Emily what she knew about Hadrian's family and how he grew up with them. The little boy hadn't told her much, but she learned over the years how to read a child, especially an abused one.
Since the two women graduated, they'd done their best to make sure that all muggle-raised children were treated well by their families – or at least ignored. The Twist Special recipients provide them with a list of children to watch. It was not optimal, but since there were no wizarding children's services dedicated to muggle raised or born children, it was the best they had.
"Really I should be making sure Hadrian returns to his family, a little boy shouldn't be living alone, even if he has a damned capable house elf to boss him around, but I saw what happened to you when we were in school, and I won't pull a Dumbledore or worse, McGonagall." Antoinette lifted her teacup and took a sip. It was getting a little cold.
Emily grimaced. Both girls were gryffindors in Hogwarts and left the school with no respect for Dumbledore or McGonagall. "True. They pretend to care so damned well, but she's the worst. If that man asked her to bend over, grab her ankles, and grin, she would."
Antoinette coughed and spit her tea across the table. "That is a disgusting image. Thanks for that, asshole."
Emily grinned broadly. "That, my dear, is what friends are for."
Antoinette shook her head and laughed. "Yes, I suppose that's why I keep you around." She grabbed a hand full of paper napkins and wiped down the table. "You know you and Hadrian have another thing in common."
"Beside hateful family, you mean?"
"Yes, you both happen to speak the snake tongue."
Minerva turned slightly, tight smile on her face, wondering which one of her former classmates called out to her. Really, could she go anywhere without being noticed? She was in the middle of shopping for the upcoming winter. Wool thick enough to handle Scotland's winters and attractive were so hard to come by.
A few feet away stood a pale blond witch. The woman was in her mid to late twenties, maybe early thirties depending on the strength of her magic. Minerva didn't recognize her or her family features so she guessed the young woman wasn't a Gryffindor... or Slytherin to be honest. She did tend to take notice of the latter because of their actions against her House. "Hello, dear. How are you?"
The woman smiled brightly, flashing even white teeth before striding over to Minerva. "I'm well, madam. Brionna Smith, former Hufflepuff. My nephew is Zacharias."
"Of Hufflepuff." A honest smile filled Minerva's smile. She remembered a blue-eyed little girl with a sunny disposition, a sharp mind, and an understanding of the benefits of hard work.
Minerva remembered being dismayed that the smart girl wasn't in her House – for all seven years. "It's been some time, my dear. I remember you, Ms. Smith. Even as a first year you were talented at transfiguration. I hope you haven't allowed your talents to stale."
"No, madam. I actually got my mastery in Transfiguration. Well among other subjects."
Minerva blinked in surprise at that. She was sure she would have heard about Brionna's academic success, especially in her own field. She tended to keep a close watch on the former members of her house, but she always made it a point to follow those gifted in transfiguration regardless of what House. "Congratulations, my dear."
Something of her surprise must have shown because the woman's smile became a smirk. "I studied abroad, Madam. The Athens Institute of Magic."
"Greece. How was that my dear? I've always wanted to travel there."
"Lovely. The country is gorgeous. Wish I could say the same for the people." She pursed her lips and clasped her hands over her stomach. "Actually, Professor McGonagall, I have a question for you? A delicate one."
Minerva blinked in surprise, but nodded her head in acceptance, lowered the bolt of wool she was holding and stepped closer to Ms. Smith. "Do you mind, dear?" she asked and nodded toward her hand. Minerva wanted until the blonde gave her acceptance before pulling out her wand and setting up a privacy bubble around them. "Continue, Ms. Smith."
The woman waited for several, tense seconds before releasing in one long breathe, "I wanted to ask you about Master Quirrel."
"Poor Quirrel passed on at the end of the school year."
Smith shot her a look Minerva couldn't decipher. "Yes, I'm aware. I am interested in the reason for his passing."
Minerva blinked in surprise. "The curse? Child, that is just folly. It doesn't actually exist."
One light eyebrow lifted. "While I haven't been in the country all these years, I have kept a close watch on my alma mater. Not one man or woman who's taught Defense of the Dark Arts has left under his or her own power. Many have had terrible accidents, some fatally, before the end of the final semester. Forgive me for continuing to believe that something is at fault. No, what I speak of is the supposed fight between Quirrel and Hadrian Potter."
"Hadrian?" Minerva asked as she fought back the anger that surged at the name. She still remembered the way the boy had corrected her in front of the whole school when she called his name for the sorting. The worst part was the child was right. Only proper names were supposed to be on the list. She'd waited until the feast was over to speak to the Sorting Hat, Hogwart's voice, to find out what had gone wrong. Apparently, the list had been changed. Minerva didn't need two guesses to identify the culprit.
A sneer curled Smith's mouth. "Or as the unwashed masses call him Harry."
"Yes, well, Quirrel was ill. Had been for months now. Hadrian had nothing to do with his passing."
"Really? So, the tale I was told about a gauntlet for children, Flamel's stone, and a fight with Potter wasn't true?"
Minerva blanched and then forcefully released a light laugh. "Really, Miss Smith. I thought better of you. Of course it's not true. Where did you hear such a thing?"
"Zacharias. He claims he was told the tale from one of the children who participated in the gauntlet."
Minerva swallowed thickly. She wondered which one of her stupid lions had spoken. She knew Hadrian wouldn't be the one. The boy was so very shy and he didn't associate with kids outside his house. There was an equal chance of either of the other children speaking. In their own ways, both Ronald and Hermione were braggarts. "Right, well, you know children and tall tales. They go hand in hand."
An uneasy look passed across Smith's face, but only for a moment before it was smoothed out. "So, true. You should hear Zacharias talk about his own accomplishments."
"My brother, Demetrius, his father didn't believe a word he spoke, but well, I figured it was best to ask, you see."
Minerva reached out and lightly patted the young woman's shoulder. "I understand, my dear."
"I'm currently researching an interesting topic in transfiguration at the moment. If I should need any aid or have any questions?"
"Feel free to owl me, dear." Minerva followed up with a smile. She loved researching and experimenting in her field. When the chance came, she was always willing to aid those seeking answers to the hows and whys of magic.
"Thank you, Professor. I'll allow you to continue your shopping."
Morgana's left tit! She needed to talk to Albus about the rumors that were no doubt floating around about the Stone's protections and Quirrel's demise.
Using her forearm, Petunia Dursely swiped the sweat off her forehead. It was an unusually hot summer and she was feeling it. She knelt outside in her garden and felt every ray of the sun though she'd chosen to work on her award winning roses on a cooler week. It'd been raining the last few mornings and that morning was no different. Still, it was too hot to be doing yard work – at least for someone with her delicate constitution but that stupid boy ran away and left her and poor Vernon to deal with all his chores.
Well, that or hire someone to do the tasks for them. Vernon had to take his car to the car wash just the other day since the boy was missing and he was still in a bad mood about the pounds spent.
She considered hiring a gardener to maintain their land, but decided against it. As far as the neighborhood knew, she and her family had been doing all the yard work for years. The ladies of her tea club were convinced that boy was a lay about like his father and only did yard work when he was being punished for his bad grades and poor behavior. As far as they knew she alone worked on her roses.
Plus, money was short now that she and Vernon had to pay rent for the house they lived in and worse, had to pay back rent.
She still hadn't figured out what to do about that. A letter was sent to that crackpot Headmaster of the freak school the boy went to, but the man hadn't replied. She wasn't even sure if he received the letter. It wasn't like she had one of their abomination owls to send it off. She'd just placed the note in the mail like a perfectly normal person.
Lily had made her aware of a doorway to their world in London, but she wasn't sure she could find it and if she could, did she want to try?
If only that boy –
The small shovel she was using dug a little too deeply into the soft ground. With a grimace on her thin lips, she pulled it out and threw it back into the plastic tub that held all her other gardening tools. They were a new purchase, money she and her family really couldn't afford, but she wasn't about to use the same tools that boy used. There was no telling what his freaking fingers had left on them.
She shuddered and stood before slowly peeling off her gloves.
If, no, when that boy returned she was going to make sure Vernon punished him until he never had a disobedient thought. Then she was going to make him write a nice, long letter to those freaks who ran his kinds' bank and get them to retract their back rent bullshit. Then and only then might she allow him to –
The doorbell cut off her thoughts.
With dismay, Petunia looked down at herself. She was in her oldest dress, her hair wasn't done, and she was very, very sweaty. She considered not bothering to answer the door. She was outside anyway and really it was a miracle she could even hear the ring. A thought intruded though. Vernon ordered some work items from a professional catalogue and they were supposed to arrive this week or next. Vernon would be very angry is she somehow missed the delivery despite being home the whole day, and his temper had become more volatile since the boy left, and finding out they owed a freak bank money for the home he thought Petunia owed hadn't made things better.
Petunia turned around and marched inside the house, muttered curses on her tongue. She stopped a few feet in front of the door and pushed a hand down her front and over her hair. A quick check in the nearest mirror, confirmed she looked ghastly. The bell rang again. Reluctantly, she opened the door and froze.
The person standing on her front step definitely wasn't the postman.
Tall, dark skinned with atrocious hair, the woman was the totally opposite of their white, portly male postman. Her first instinct was to say, 'wrong address' and slam the door in her face. There was no doubt she had the incorrect door. None of Petunia's acquaintances looked like her.
As she noted upon first glance, the woman was relatively tall for a woman, several inches above Petunia's 5'7" own height. She was exotically attractive, if one liked that kind of thing, but she would have looked more presentable if she didn't have such thick, kinky hair. A rich, purple jumpsuit covered her large form. The fabric was linen and the cut was designer. Expensive.
Petunia plastered a bright smile on her face. "Good morning, how can I help you?" she asked, while her gaze wandered up and down the street. It wasn't yet noon so her fellow housewives may or may not be out and about and she didn't want them to see her talking to this person. Her social capital was low enough as it was after everyone heard about the letter from that bank.
Her pale blue gaze landed on a gorgeous, bright blue vehicle. It was parked on the street right in front of her house. She guessed it belonged to the woman on her step. Petunia didn't know cars, that was Dudley's passion, but she did know expensive and high class and the sedan screamed both.
She took another look at the woman. High quality gold earrings in her ears caught and held the sunlight and a large sapphire ring glinted off the ring finger of her right hand. Though there was no visible designer label on her leather bag, she new that was at least a thousand pounds of Italian leather on her hip.
"Morning, my name is Antoinette Adelu. Are you Petunia Dursely?"
Petunia's smile softened, becoming more natural. Well, her name sounded French. She might not be one of the Dursely's kind, but there was nothing wrong with the French. Especially rich French. "Yes, I am."
"Lily Evans' older sister?"
Her smile shattered. "Yes," she bit out, and then blanched.
Normal people never asked Petunia about her. Lily had effectively cut herself off from the normal world when she went to Hogwarts. The only people who even knew she existed where those freaks. She stepped back, grabbed the door and attempted to slam it right in her froggy face. A well-shorn foot prevented that.
She, Ms. Adelu, pushed the door opened, forcing Petunia to step back or get smacked in the face.
"I think you and I need to have a conversation. It would be best if we did this the easy way. Let me in, Mrs. Dursely."
"Get off my property, you freak! Your kind isn't wanted here."
Her pretty face tightened. "I only want to talk to you, Ms. Dursely," she said softly, but there was something in her tone that spoke a warning. If Petunia pushed her, Ms. Adelu could and would hurt her.
"Just talk, right?" she shakily asked.
The freak tilted her head in agreement.
Petunia stepped to the side and gestured her into the house before closing the door behind her. She folded her arms across her chest. "Well, what do you want?" she bit out.
"Mind if I take a seat?" she asked instead of answering and glanced pointedly at the living room seats. Petunia tried to hold back her flush at her blunt actions.
Her mother's training kicked in. "Of course. Please take a seat. Would you like something to drink?"
This woman was nothing like the other freaks she was forced to interact with. Most of them were too confused about normal people, muggles, to point out her rudeness. They probably thought all normal people acted as she did. Then again, if the normal people forced to interact with them had any sense, they should.
She shook her head. "No, thank you. I had a late brunch. Feel free to get something for yourself."
Petunia considered her words. Normally, well, there was nothing normal about this meeting and good cup of tea would quench her thirst and calm her nerves. "Okay, I'll be right back."
Fingers wrapped around the heated cup of porcelain, she felt a thousand times surer when she stepped back into the living room. She took a seat across from the witch. "How can I help you, Miss."
"Not too long ago I ran into the most delightful little boy, your nephew, a Mr. Hadrian Potter."
Petunia's stomach dropped. "Really?" she croaked. "Did you meet him in the neighborhood?" she tried. She hadn't told anyone the boy ran away. As far as her neighbors were concerned the boy was visiting with a relative on his father's side that recently returned to Great Britain.
She sat back and crossed one expensively covered leg over the other. "I think we both know there is no way in hell I would ever meet Hadrian here, well, or visit this little... community, right Mrs. Dursely?"
Petunia's gaze snagged on a large, gold medallion resting right above her large breasts. Jealousy curled deep in her stomach and threatened to choke her. The witch's necklace alone could cover a few months of their mortgage. Freaks like her didn't deserve that kind of money. No, it belonged to good, hardworking people such as herself and Vernon. And the way she spoke. As though she thought she was so much better than them. Just because they didn't have her demonic power. "What do you want?" she snarled.
"I want many things, Mrs. Dursely. Let's start by getting your signature on these documents." She sat up and placed her purse on her lap before snapping it open and pulling out a stack of papers.
"Put them on the table." Petunia didn't want to chance accidently touching her. There was no telling what a witch of her caliber could do.
With an amused smile on her mouth, she did as demanded. Petunia picked them up and slowly read through them. They were guardianship papers. The freak wanted to take the little freak off her hands.
"What will you do for me if I sign these papers?"
The witch smiled at her and Petunia's sense of preservation had her pressing back into the chair, trying to get just a little farther away from the woman. There was something decidedly unsettling about that grin.
"I'm sorry. You must have me confused with someone else. I don't bargain with child abusers."
Petunia leapt to her feet. "How dare you? I would never -"
The witch held up a hand and Petunia froze in fright before she realized the freak didn't carry a wand.
"I'm a half-blood." Her gaze tightened. "Yes, I see you understand what that means. I have lived in both worlds and have two masteries and am actually a doctor in the normal world. I know the signs. Don't lie to me, woman. I'm trying very hard not to curse you where you stand. As it is, I still might before the end of this meeting, so sign the papers, Mrs. Dursely before your husband becomes a widower. Today."
Darkness swam before Petunia's eyes but the thought of what this witch would do to her if she passed out kept her from fainting. There was something about this woman that reminded him of that boy, but it was sharper, more dangerous, and discreet. She dropped into her seat and swallowed thickly. "Do you have a pen?"
The smile she received in return was practically vulpine in nature.
There you go! Another chapter. You know the deal.