In the green hills of Scotland, at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the troubled green eyes of Harry Potter stared blankly into the canopy above his four post bed. He had hoped that he might finally have a normal school year, but his name coming out of the Goblet of Fire naming him the fourth champion of the Tri-Wizard Tournament had smashed those hopes to pieces. Through no fault of his own, Harry now found himself ostracized by most of his classmates while the rest, save one, congratulated him on cheating his way past the cup's defenses. Even his so-called best friend Ron Weasley had refused to believe his claims of innocence. Luckily for Harry, he still had one person he knew he could turn to who would help him as much as she could.
Harry couldn't help but smile thinking about how his bushy-haired best friend Hermione Granger had never left his side since he rescued her from a troll in their first year. This year she had been the only one to believe that he didn't enter himself in the Tournament, and he swore to thank her for her support the first chance he got.
Finally giving up on going back to sleep, Harry grabbed a quick shower before heading off to the kitchens for a quiet breakfast. As the door to the common room swung open, he found himself nearly colliding with the very witch he was hoping to find.
Clutching a plate of bacon and eggs and a glass of pumpkin juice, Hermione gave him a warm smile that made his heart do a back flip. Taking the offered meal with a whispered thanks, Harry made his way over to the couch in front of the fireplace with Hermione taking a seat beside him.
"I figured you would want to avoid the great hall today," she said, and Harry grinned at how well his friend knew him. Her smile quickly dissolved into a look of concern before she continued. "Oh Harry, I'm so afraid. I can't believe they're making you compete in this dreadful tournament! There has to be a way to get you out of having to compete. When you finish eating we'll go to the library and read anything we can find on magical contracts. If there's a way, we'll find it."
"I'm not sure how much good it will do. Nobody seemed too concerned about it last night, not even the headmaster. Even after Moody mentioned that someone probably entered my name in an attempt to hurt me, nobody could tell me anything but that I had no choice but to compete. Snape said something about trying to draw whoever it is out into the open." Harry showed his frustration with a particularly vicious stab of his fork. He continued eating for a few minutes before he noticed that his companion had grown strangely quiet. When he looked up he was shocked at the look of fury building on her face.
"Bait," Hermione ground out in a tense whisper. "They're making you take part in one of the most dangerous tournaments in the wizarding world just so they can use you as bait!" Her voice had continued to increase in volume until she was practically screaming. "Just what the bloody hell are they playing at?" Harry stared at her like she had grown a second head. In four years of friendship he had never heard her curse. He realized that his best friend was quickly working herself into a towering rage. He knew he needed to cool her off before she marched up to the headmaster and hexed his beard off. Thinking quickly, Harry reached out and drew the girl into a tight embrace, whispering soothing words into her ear. Slowly he felt her relax in his arms until she gave a sigh and snaked her arms around his chest, returning the hug.
"I don't think I've ever told you how wonderful you are Hermione. You always stick by me no matter what, and I'm sorry I've never thanked you before for all the times you've been there for me. I promise I'll be a better friend to you in the future." Hermione was now gently crying into his chest, her anger washed away by his heartfelt words.
"Oh Harry, you don't need to thank me. You're my best friend; where else would I be than by your side?" The teens sat together for a while in silence, each taking comfort in the other's presence. Reluctantly, Harry released the embrace and stood, drawing Hermione up with him.
"Come on, let's take a walk. I think we could both use some fresh air." Smiling brightly and nodding, Hermione followed him out of the common room and through the castle, eventually making their way to the Black Lake. Finding a comfy enough rock, the pair sat together and began discussing the preparations Harry needed to make to survive the tournament. As they listed useful spells to study, Harry's thoughts began to stray to their wayward red-headed friend. Once again showing how well she knew him, Hermione answered Harry's unspoken thought.
"Don't worry Harry, he'll come around eventually." Hermione chuckled at his gobsmacked expression. "Honestly Harry, you're not exactly a closed book you know. Not to me anyway." She added the last part in an undertone, but Harry still heard her and grinned to himself. "He just needs some time to get over his jealousy. Things will be back to normal in no time, you'll see." She tried to give him a reassuring smile, but Harry noticed that it didn't quite reach her eyes. Harry decided to think about what that could mean later.
"I don't know Hermione. He's been my friend as long as you have, and yet you're here and he's not. After everything we've been through, I would hope he knows me better than to think I actually entered this tournament myself." Both teens were surprised when a voice behind them spoke.
"Any idiot could see you didn't enter yourself, which explains Weasley's refusal to believe you." Harry and Hermione jerked their heads around to find themselves under the impassive gaze of Daphne Greengrass, the so-called Ice Queen of Slytherin. Looking at her it was easy to see where she picked up the nickname. Long blonde hair cascaded down her back, framing a pretty face with eyes the color of rich sapphires. Her green-trimmed school robes hid a deceptively slender figure which few had seen outside of her sister Astoria and her best friend Tracy Davis. Beginning in her first year she quickly gained a reputation for being nearly unapproachable, even by members of her own house, and rumor had it that she had an impressive knowledge of curses and hexes to enforce it.
"Greengrass," Harry greeted her coolly. "What brings you here?" If Daphne was bothered by his icy tone or the suspicious glare she was receiving from Hermione, she didn't show it.
"I was in the great hall when I suddenly needed some fresh air. Between Malfoy's senseless prattling about Victor Krum and Weasley's complaints about the Boy-Who-Cheated blaring across the hall, it seems they managed to fill the room with hot air." Both Gryffindors had to fight back the smirks they felt at the Slytherin witch's deadpan delivery. Neither one had any cause to dislike the girl, but they were both still wondering why she was talking to them now after having not said a word to them for the last three years. "You know I could never tell what either of you saw in that oaf. The smartest witch of the age and the most powerful student in the school hanging around the boy who does more thinking with his stomach than his brain; it's no wonder he lets his jealousy get the best of him. You two are a tough act to beat." Both teens felt a strange mixture of indignation at the insults directed at their friend and pride at their own compliments. The friends shared a puzzled look, both unsure of how to proceed. Daphne noticed their confusion and decided to redirect it to more pertinent concerns.
"I noticed that you don't wear your Head of House ring, Potter. Is that due to Weasley's jealousy too?" This had the desired effect of bringing the conversation around to where Daphne wanted it.
"What do you mean? What Head of House ring?" A quick glance at Hermione showed him that she was just as lost as he, which led to them both turning their attention to Daphne.
"You are the last living member of the Most Ancient and Most Noble House of Potter, one of the oldest and most influential families in the wizarding world. You should've been notified of your status as Heir to House Potter at age 11, and received your Head of House ring at 14, granting you the title of Lord Potter as well as access to the Potter Family Vaults. This should've been explained to you before you set foot in Hogwarts. If I may ask, who took you to Gringotts for your first visit?" Harry's nervous reply that Hagrid had been the one to take him caused the Slytherin witch to raise a delicate eyebrow, which was more emotion than Harry or Hermione had ever seen from her. "Hagrid? Dumbledore sent the groundskeeper to collect the Scion of House Potter? Someone of your station should've had the Deputy Headmistress at least!"
Professor McGonagall took me," Hermione said. "She answered every question my parents and I could think to ask. She even knew things that aren't in Hogwarts: a History."
"You were lucky. Almost every question I asked had Hagrid telling me that he wasn't the person to answer it. He even forgot to tell me how to get onto Platform 9 ¾!"
"It would appear that someone didn't want you to know of your rightful place in our world," Daphne said. "This would cause a massive public outcry if it reached the press. You might want to keep that in mind Potter, you might be able to use it to your advantage one day. In any case, you should plan a visit to Gringotts at your earliest convenience. If the goblins give you any trouble, try telling them that by allowing your participation in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, both Hogwarts and the Ministry recognize you as being of-age and therefore entitled to your inheritance. I doubt they will need much convincing, however."
"You seem to have given this a lot of thought," Harry said after a moment. "Not that I don't appreciate any help I can get at the moment, but why are you telling me all this? What's in it for you?" The slight upturn of the corners of Daphne's mouth told him that she was impressed that he had asked that question.
"I admit that my speaking to you is not entirely altruistic. I was actually asked to approach you on behalf of my father, Lord Cyrus Greengrass. He suggested that by helping you, you may be more inclined to return the favor as they say. My father is a shrewd businessman; he realizes that an alliance with House Potter would be quite beneficial. Nothing is asked or expected of you now, of course. I was asked to simply open the door." Even though his hackles rose at the thought of being manipulated for financial gain, after some thought Harry realized that Daphne had been completely up front with her father's request. He decided to ignore his mistrust of Slytherin House and give her the benefit of the doubt, for now.
"Thanks for being honest with me. I have to admit that until now I never had much reason to trust anyone in Slytherin. Malfoy made sure of that first year." Daphne made a sour face at the mention of the blonde ponce.
"That's no surprise. Draco and his goons seem to pride themselves on making the rest of the school hate our house. In fact, most of the students in Slytherin can't stand him. The way he talks about riding his father's coattails as if it's the greatest accomplishment of the century makes one wonder how he wound up in the house of the cunning." Both Gryffindors' opinions of the Slytherin witch rose dramatically at her jibe against Malfoy. Looking at his watch, Harry realized that they had been there for almost three hours and had deviated widely from their original purpose.
"Thanks for the heads up Greengr… Daphne. I'll stop by Gringotts during Christmas and ask about this lordship."
"Why wait so long? Next weekend is a Hogmseade weekend; you could just floo there from the Three Broomsticks. From what I hear neither one of you are strangers to a little rule breaking." Harry and Hermione each looked away sporting sheepish grins.
"I guess that would be possible," Harry said, "although I'll probably need from now till Christmas to learn enough goblin customs to not accidentally kick off the next goblin-wizard war. Besides, I still have the first task of the Tournament to survive."
"I believe I can be of some help with both of those," Daphne said. "This time, however, the offer is strictly personal. You see you're a bit of an enigma, Harry Potter, and I would like to get to know you better. From what I can tell there's much more to the Boy-Who-Lived than most people get to see, and that intrigues me. I can tell that you don't trust others easily, not that I blame you. I believe we both have felt the sting of betrayal from those we called friends." Harry's dark mood threatened to return at the mention of Ron's recent actions, so Daphne quickly pressed on. "Anyway, I would be willing to tutor you in goblin etiquette as well as wizarding customs befitting a Lord and Head of an Ancient and Noble House, as well as help you train for the Tri-Wizard Tournament. All I ask in return is the chance to prove that not everyone who wears the silver and green is a pureblood bigot like Malfoy. So, what do you say?" Daphne waited patiently while Harry thought it over.
"Well, the truth is I don't know the first thing about goblin or wizard customs, and like I said before I'll take all the help I can get at this point. Making a new friend in the process doesn't sound like a bad idea either." At his mention of friendship, Daphne's stoic expression relaxed, and a genuine smile lit up her face.
"I think I would like that… Harry." Daphne turned to Hermione. "What do you think about all of this?" Hermione was shocked to be asked her opinion.
"I…uh…well, yes, I mean anything that helps Harry is great. If he trusts you, then I trust you. I hope the offer of friendship extends to me as well." The return of Daphne's smile eased the other girl's sudden attack of insecurity.
"Of course it does! It would be nice to have another girl to talk to sometimes besides Tracy and Astoria. Besides, I always knew that the two of you come as a package deal, so I'm glad that you're willing to give me a chance, Hermione." Noticing the time, Daphne rose and slipped smoothly back into her Ice Queen persona. After seeing what they figured to be the real Daphne, Harry and Hermione realized that what they were now seeing was a defense mechanism she used to keep others from getting too close. They each felt privileged to have been allowed to see the girl behind the mask, and they both liked what they saw.
"Now that our business is concluded," the Ice Queen said, "I think it would be best to avoid further contact in public. I fear that some members of our houses would not take kindly to our interacting in a social setting. If it would be acceptable to you, I shall meet you in the library every evening after dinner to further discuss our mutual business. Good day Potter, Granger." At the others' mock-stern nods, Daphne took her leave. Neither Harry nor Hermione missed the glint of amusement in Daphne's blue eyes.
The next week passed in a blur for the trio. Daphne proved to be nearly as intelligent as Hermione and the two of them became fast friends. They quickly fell into a routine. After dinner, they would meet in the library where a few quick privacy spells would let them work undisturbed. While Daphne tutored Harry on goblin customs and etiquette, Hermione would research spells for his use in the tournament. After an hour or two the trio would move to an empty classroom that Professor McGonagall had set aside for Harry's use and practice the new spells Hermione had found. Daphne would often teach spells from her own repertoire, and while some were somewhat darker than what was normally learned at Hogwarts, Harry and Hermione both recognized their usefulness in the tournament. Anytime Harry and Hermione saw Daphne in class or in the hallways, they didn't acknowledge each other except for the smallest of nods. While all three of them hated hiding their new friendship, they each knew the deception was necessary. The Gryffindor pair found themselves looking forward to their evening study sessions more and more, and by the end of the week they were barely giving Ronald Weasley a second thought.
Saturday morning found Harry and Hermione slowly making their way to Hogsmeade in the November sunshine. Upon entering the Three Broomsticks they quickly made their way over to Daphne, who greeted them with a curt nod. Moving to a dark corner, Harry made sure there was nobody watching them before throwing his invisibility cloak over all three of them. With a quick pinch of powder and a whispered word the three teens were off to Gringotts completely unnoticed.
Picking himself up off the polished stone floor, Harry stowed his cloak and straightened his robes before striding confidently up to a goblin teller. When the goblin looked up, Harry surprised him by giving a low bow.
"Greetings, Master Goblin. May your vaults overflow and your enemies cower at your feet." Harry finished his greeting with a toothless smile as Daphne had instructed him.
"Greetings to you as well, young wizard. May your gold flow like a river and your enemies flee before you. What can I do for you today?"
"Master Goblin, my name is Harry Potter. Through no fault of the bank I was not made aware of my Head of House status at the appropriate time. I have come today to hear of my inheritance and take my place as Head of House Potter."
"I would be glad to be of assistance Lord Potter. Before we begin, I will require a few drops of blood to verify your identity." Taking the ornate dagger from the teller, Harry sliced his thumb and allowed a few drops of blood to fall into a stone bowl as indicated by the goblin. With a wave of the goblin's hand the cut healed, and Harry watched as his blood mixed with the liquid in the bowl for a few moments before glowing green. The goblin nodded and stepped off his stool, indicating for Harry to follow him. After receiving nods and reassuring smiles from the girls, Harry followed the goblin through an ornate stone door and further into the bank. He was led into a richly decorated office, surrounded on three walls by tall bookshelves containing hundreds of priceless tomes and artifacts. The room was dominated by a large wooden desk in the center, with two comfortable looking chairs in front of it. Seated behind the desk was a particularly fierce looking goblin who was scribbling furiously on a piece of parchment. Bowing to the teller as he took his leave, Harry stood patiently and waited to be acknowledged. After a few moments, the goblin put down his quill and looked up at Harry with a piercing gaze.
"Thank you for waiting Lord Potter. How may I be of service?" As he did with the teller, Harry gave the goblin a deep bow.
"Greetings Master Goblin, may your gold multiply and your enemies tremble at your name. I wish to be informed of my inheritance and to take up the mantle of Head of House Potter." The goblin smiled at Harry's formal greeting.
"Well met, Lord Potter. May your fortune be borne on the blood of your enemies. I believe I can be of assistance." Opening a drawer on his massive desk, the goblin withdrew a portfolio of parchment and a small wooden box. The box was presented to Harry, who opened it to reveal two beautiful signet rings. The Potter ring featured a wide golden band set with a large ruby in the center, flanked on either side by two intricately crafted griffons. The other ring, which Harry didn't recognize, was a silver band containing a stone Harry guessed to be onyx. The black stone, held in the jaws of a silver Grim, seemed to absorb the light around it, giving it the illusion of a deep pool of ink. Noting his confusion, the goblin spoke.
"Allow me to explain the second ring. A few months ago we received a visit from someone with a most unusual set of circumstances. It seems that this man had spent the last twelve years in Azkaban for a crime he did not commit." Harry's eyes widened as he realized who the goblin was speaking about. "When we looked further into the matter, we discovered that he had, in fact, never received a trial. His name was Sirius Black, your godfather." Harry leaned forward in his chair, listening intently. "Lord Black approached us about setting up a will naming you his sole heir. It seems that his time in Azkaban left him unable to bear children. He knew that when word of his condition was made public, the laws of family succession would consider him effectively deceased, passing control of the Black family to the nearest male blood relative. I believe you may have knowledge of one Draco Malfoy, son of Lucius Malfoy and Narcissa Malfoy nee Black, Lord Black's cousin." Harry nodded grimly. "By naming you his heir, he prevented the family fortune from falling into… less than favorable hands. As you are eligible to take your place as Lord Potter, you may therefore accept the title of Lord Black, granting you the title of Lord Harry James Potter-Black, head of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Houses of Potter and Black. You will have access to the Potter and Black family vaults as well as any properties owned by both families. Of course, in order to continue both family lines you must take a wife for each line. Considering the power and wealth commanded by someone at the head of two such influential families, I doubt that finding two witches willing to enter such an arrangement will be a problem." The goblin smirked in amusement at Harry's suddenly red face. He allowed the boy to fidget uncomfortably for a few moments more before continuing. "Not to worry my Lord, such matters are better handled in a few years, and there is no rush. I was merely informing you as a courtesy. Now, to accept your lordships, simply place the rings on your finger and the family magic of the rings will do the rest." With a deep breath and a resolute nod to the goblin, Harry picked up the Potter family ring and slid it onto the ring finger of his right hand. With a flash of magic, the ring automatically resized to fit snugly on his finger. As the Black family ring joined the Potter ring on his finger, it too resized itself as the flash of magic signified Harry's acceptance as the new Lord Black. As Harry watched with wide eyes, the rings seemed to melt together until only the Potter ring was showing.
"The rings are charmed to become invisible on command, as well as to show either ring with just a thought. Congratulations, Lord Potter-Black. Now, would you like to review your holdings?" Tearing his eyes away from his new rings, which were cycling back and forth between the two to Harry's great amusement, it took a moment before Harry processed the goblin's question.
"Actually I have a question if I may?" At the goblin's nod, Harry continued. "Who was responsible for notifying me of my inheritance?"
"That would be your magical guardian, one Albus Dumbledore." Harry added this to his growing list of complaints against the headmaster to be brought up later.
"Thank you Master Goblin. May I visit the Potter Family Vault?" With a nod, the goblin led him through the bank to the carts which led to the vaults. After a much longer ride than he remembered from his first visit, the cart stopped in front of a large door deep under the bank.
"Place your family ring in the door to open it," the goblin said, indicating a small indentation in the center of the door. "Take as much time as you need. I will wait here until you are finished." After thanking the goblin, Harry placed his ring in the hole. He shuddered as he felt a wave of powerful magic pass over him as if searching for something. As the magic faded, the huge door gave a massive jerk before swinging outward slowly. Harry's eyes were as wide as saucers as he gaped at the contents of his new vault.
It was almost the size of the great hall at Hogwarts. Piles of galleons, sickles, and knuts were stacked almost to the ceiling, but Harry only had eyes for the other treasures lining the walls. Much like the goblin's office in the bank above, the Potter Family Vault contained thousands of books on towering shelves along the walls. Harry chuckled, imagining Hermione's reaction to seeing a magical library that was easily three times the size of the one at Hogwarts. Knowing that his time here was limited, Harry began scanning the nearest shelf for anything that looked useful. Taking a few books on defense and potions, Harry noticed a couple of leather bound notebooks that caught his eye. Tears sprang to his eyes as he read the covers of the personal journals of James and Lily Potter. Gently placing the precious tomes on top of his pile, Harry was turning to leave when another slim volume made him pause. The title, Portkeys: Their Creation and Use, piqued his interest. Harry remembered the portkey trip he and his friends took to get to the Quidditch World Cup that summer and thought about how useful it might be to know how to make one. Adding the book to the ones he was taking with him, he left the vault and spent the cart ride to the surface going over the events of the last few hours in his mind. After withdrawing a few hundred galleons from his vault, Harry and the girls donned the invisibility cloak and flooed back to the Three Broomsticks, where they ordered lunch and three butterbeers before taking a table in an out of the way corner. Throwing up their usual privacy charms, the girls sat with baited breath as Harry recounted his experience at the bank. The girls were incensed upon hearing that it was Dumbledore who had kept his inheritance a secret from him. Daphne's eyebrows disappeared into her hairline when Harry showed them his Black Family ring and told her the story of his innocent godfather, and Hermione had to be restrained from dragging Harry back to Gringotts to get lost in the Potter library. Both girls were impressed with Harry's book choices, and neither of them missed the longing glances he kept giving the books written by his parents.
The three friends spent the rest of the afternoon talking and laughing, each wishing they were free to do so during the week at Hogwarts. Harry and Hermione found that behind the Ice Queen was a charming girl with a quick wit and a mind to match. She could easily hold a conversation about spell theory with Hermione or talk Quidditch with Harry, sometimes doing both simultaneously. She told them that she had explained their situation to her friend Tracy and her younger sister Astoria, who was a first-year in Slytherin, and that both girls had been very supportive of their newfound friendship. The Gryffindors were relieved that Daphne's friends had been accepting of the situation, but didn't hold out much hope of finding the same acceptance in their own house. Their friendship with Daphne meant more to them than the acceptance of their fickle peers however, so they didn't dwell too long on it. Much sooner than any of them liked, it was time to head back to the castle. Exchanging friendly hugs and goodbyes, Harry and Hermione waited five minutes after Daphne left before making their way to Hogwarts arm in arm. Daphne had advised Harry to keep their trip to Gringotts and his lordships a secret for as long as possible, but all three couldn't help but feel excited about the results of their venture. Harry was especially optimistic about his chances of surviving the tournament, as he now had the castle's two smartest witches helping him prepare. Hermione noticed the smile on Harry's face and tightened her grip on his arm, secretly thrilled that it had been she and Daphne that had put it there.