A/N: Well, there really isn't anything I can say to make up for the utter lack of action concerning this fic. I could give a bunch of excuses, life happened, I was completing university (I graduated woo!) and I went through jobs like they were going out of fashion, but the truth this I also had such horrible writers block concerning this fic that it took four years to get though this chapter. I can only say I'm very sorry, but I once promised I would never abandon any of my works and I'm sticking to that.
So yeah, its been four long years, but here I am, returned with a new chapter!
I cannot begin to express how grateful and appreciative I am that people are still reading this story, still reviewing and hoping for an update. Thank you all so so much and I promise, even if I don't update super regularly (life what can you do) I can promise I will never give up on a story.
To everyone who PM's about this fic, I'm so sorry if I never got back to you. It was never anything personal, its just honestly I'm terrible at communication.
Enough of my rambling – on with the show!
Have a double length chapter as an apology on my behalf
Disclaimer: I'm not J.K
Warnings: Maybe a bit of language,
Harry shot up at the sound of two voices shouting at him, he grinned as he saw his dad and uncle at the foot of his bed with huge smiles on their faces.
"I had almost forgotten," Harry admitted.
"Well we haven't and we have a busy day so up, dressed and down for breakfast. No robes." Sirius instructed brightly.
"Wicked!" Harry hopped out of bed and rushed off into his bathroom as the adults shared fond looks and went to set up. It didn't take the Black Heir long to be ready and run down to the dining room where there was a pile of presents in the middle of the table waiting for him to open.
"Come on then, cub, open your presents." Remus encouraged. Harry needed nothing else and happy began tearing in to the brightly wrapped gifts, exclaiming over what he found, especially the old scrolls from Zygmund Budge.
"Where did you even get them?" Harry whispered and Sirius grinned mysteriously.
"I have my ways."
"Thank you," Harry told them both, as his elf popped in to take everything to his room and the table filled with a breakfast feast. The wards chimed just as they were about to start breakfast and a blond blur, identified as Harry's best friend Draco, came running in to the room.
"Happy birthday!" He called, jumping in to the seat next to Harry, who grinned.
"Thanks! What are you doing here?"
"You didn't think we'd go out on your birthday and not invite the Malfoys, did you?" Sirius said with a roll of his eyes.
"Where are we going?" Harry asked and Sirius grinned.
"It's a surprise."
Harry pouted but shrugged it off in favour of accepting the gift Narcissa handed to him when she entered the room with her husband.
"Happy birthday, Harry dear." She said.
"Thank you, aunt Cissa." Harry told her gratefully, once he had opened his gift. All of the adults watched amused as both Draco and Harry rushed through their breakfast and were all but bouncing in their seats in an effort to control their excitement.
"Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad," Harry whined, "You can't be mean to me on my birthday."
"I suppose you have a point." Sirius decided, "Come on then, to the entrance hall for the portkey."
Harry and Draco were gone before he had finished speaking, much to all of their amusement.
"Do you think they are looking forward to the day out?" Lucius wondered and Sirius nearly snorted.
"No, not at all."
Sirius withdrew an envelope for everyone to take hold of and muttered the activation word, there was the familiar hook behind their navels before they were thrown in to a world of blue and slammed back on to the ground. Both Harry and Sirius fell in to the person next to them leaving Moony and Draco to right them else the four of them ended up on the floor. They landed inside a simple room that had blue walls, an open door, and a single window which Harry could see lands for miles and mountains in the distance.
"Harry, Draco, welcome to the Welsh Dragon Reserve." Sirius announced grandly. Both of the boys' eyes went huge and they broke out in beaming smiles.
"Oh Magic herself." Harry crowed, "This is going to be so cool!"
"I can't believe we get to come here!" Draco exclaimed, "I was ill the time father managed to get tickets."
"I've never been able to see a real dragon." Harry said excitedly, bouncing over to the two male attendants who appeared to be waiting for them, Draco hot on his heels.
"House of Black party?" One of the men asked.
"Yes, that's us." Sirius confirmed, handing over the letter they had used as a portkey.
"Wonderful. If you would like to follow us, we will collect V.I.P package and go over everything that needs to be discussed before you enter the reserve."
The two men led the group out of the arrival room and through to a large room, which was decorated to match the outside views, that held a set of French doors opening out in to the park.
"Good morning, I'm Jason and this is Matt-," He, Jason, indicated the other man, who had come back over to the group with a folder of some sort. "We'll be briefing you on what to expect before taking you out in to the reserve."
"What you must understand is that the regulations and rules are there for your safety as much as ours and the dragons. This reserve, and its staff, will be, in no way, responsible for any injuries, property damage, or loss of life should any of you deviate from instruction." Matt told them seriously, looking more at the two younger ones as they were the most excited.
"We understand." Sirius said, "The boys will listen clearly."
Said boys hurried to nod their acceptance.
"Good. Now the unpleasantness is out of the way, we can begin." Jason said with an easy grin. "The first half of the tour is guided by us; we'll be taking you through the main terrains of the sixteen fully grown dragons we have here. At no point will you leave the designated path, nor shall you enter the next terrain without us. Also, there is to be no use of magic until you reach the very end of the tour."
"The second half of the tour is self-governed." Matt picked up, "You'll be able to see the younger orphan dragons that we keep closer to the base. And you've come at rather a good time as we've recently brought in a baby Antipodean Opaleye, which is in the nursery at the very end."
"Wicked!" Harry and Draco exclaimed.
"These-," Matt handed over the folder to Sirius, "are the gift certificates included for V.I.P's as well as the badges for the group so you can be identifies as guests during the second half of the tour."
"So are you ready to get going?"
The two dragon handlers grinned at their enthusiasm and led them out to a court yard where eight brooms were waiting for them.
"Now, we'll fly in two lines with me and Matt leading." Jason told them, as he passed out the brooms. "We'll be flying for about ten minuets before reaching the home of the Welsh greens; it is the largest territory we have as this is the dragons homelands."
"Once we have reached the territory, we will descend to the designated landed area and commence with the beginning of the tour. We shall continue in this pattern until we reach the end of first half; as long as you follow us, you will be perfectly safe." Matt assured them. Harry and Draco shared excited looks as they mounted their brooms and kicked off just enough to hover about the ground waiting eagerly for their tour guides to go.
As soon as they took to the air, Matt and Jason began to tell them the history of the reserve and there was obviously some magic at work because they could be heard clearly by all of their party. They regaled the group with the facts as well as mixing it up with some funny and scary anecdotes that seemed to come from personal experience. Once they landed in the Welsh Green enclosure, the talk turned to focus on that species of dragon as they were led through a heavily warded pathway through the mountain pass; everything from the habitat they preferred to their mating habits. Matt was just telling them of the recent clutch of eggs they had had when there was a great roar and a burst of flame above them in the mouth of a cave, it was followed by a louder roar and two dragons burst from the cave grappling at each other as they soared through the air.
"Ah, that would be Akira once again trying to get at Kamala's eggs." Jason said while shaking his head, "I don't know why he still tries."
Both Harry and Draco had a million questions after such a display and both tour guides were happy to answer all of them with great detail before they moved on to the next territory. They group went through territories belonging to the Hebridean Black, Ukrainian Iron Belly, Peruvian Vipertooth and Norwegian Ridgeback and by the end of the first half Jason and Matt had even Lucius avidly engaged in the discussions of each of the dragons; Harry and Draco were all but vibrating as they left the nesting Ridgeback.
"So this is where we leave you." Matt told them, grinning when both the boys made noises of complaint. They had come to a halt outside what looked to be a large barn.
"From here on you'll be seeing our babies and you are free to look at everything at your own pace." Jason said to them, "The further you get in the smaller the dragons will get and our nursery staff will be happy to answer your questions."
"Wicked!" The boys chimed together.
"Enjoy the rest of the tour."
"Thank you! And thank you for a brilliant beginning." Sirius said to the men, shaking their hands.
"Yes, it was incredibly more informative than I thought it would be, and I had high hopes already." Lucius admitted, also shaking their hands, "You both are incredibly knowledgeable."
"Thanks, it was our pleasure."
The group said goodbye to their tour guides and entered the barn, which became very apparent had been magically expanded on the inside.
"Holy Merlin!" Draco exclaimed, eyes wide as he took in the sheer expanse of the inside. There were a mix of different habitats that were cleverly blended together on each side of the barn and a path that went roughly through the middle, though there were a few pathways that seemed to go further into the habitats and there appeared to be rope cordoning off the actual dragon enclosures but Harry could feel the sheer amount of magic stopping anyone not allowed from crossing the ropes.
"Come on, I wanna see the babies." Harry grabbed Draco and pulled him over to the first path that went further in.
"Boys, don't go to far without us." Narcissa called out in warning.
"We won't." They promised, without stopping. The largest dragons they got to see inside were the size of horses tumbling about and they only got smaller, they saw the handlers actually working with the dragons and they answered all the questions thrown at them with ease. Harry and Draco were able to feed a toddler Welsh Green much to their delight as the handler responsible for it explained that the baby had been orphaned by its mother while still in its egg.
Finally, they got to where the newly hatches dragons were and were treated to the rare sight of the baby Antipodean Opaleye, they all listened avidly as the handler told them how they had come to have the little dragon. It was with great reluctance the boys left the nursery, the adults smiling indulgently as they ushered the two out into a large gift shop. Knowing what their children were like, both sets of parents had already prepared a set amount they were allowed to spend and after Sirius had cashed in their gift certificates for a beautiful collection of moving, full colour dragon figurines and some posters for the pair, they were released into the shop.
Both the boys got a photo album of the dragons while Harry got himself a dragon bag, a couple of embossed notebook that had a different dragon watermarked on each page and a dragon claw dagger, Draco got himself a robe with a dragon spitting flames on the back, a broach and a crystal that would project dragons on to his ceiling at night. By the time they had gotten out of the shop it was well into the afternoon and everyone was ravenous so they were taken to Cildraeth y dewiniaeth, the small shopping area in the centre of Wales for a delayed but light lunch, where the boys barely stopped to eat as they discussed everything they had seen on their trip.
"So you've enjoyed yourselves then?" Sirius asked them amused by their excitement.
"Are you kidding? This day has been the best!" Harry cried, "Dragons are so cool!"
"Right! I'm named after the best animals ever!" Draco agreed vehemently.
"Well how about we have a browse around this area before we go home and you can prepare to tell everyone how great everything was at Harry's birthday dinner this evening?" Moony suggested.
"Ooo I get a birthday dinner too?"
"Of course, pup, it is your day after all."
"Wicked! Let's go then, I've never been here before so I want to explore."
Lunch was paid for and then they were off, darting from shop to shop looking around the small shopping cove and if Sirius indulged Harry's whims more than usual no one said a thing on his birthday after all. The cove wasn't that large so it wasn't too long before the Blacks were saying their goodbyes to the Malfoys and apparating back to their manor.
"That was the best, dad, uncle Moony!" Harry told them, all but beaming, "Thank you!"
"Happy birthday, Harrison."
"I'm going to have a super long soak in the back after all that walking and climbing on the mountains." Harry said with a grin, "I'll see you later."
Harry took the stairs two at a time as he rushed up to his room. His birthday and reserve gifts had been brought to his room by his elf, who had kindly put a bath on for him, so Harry was quick to organise his items where he wanted before stripping of his clothes and sinking into the bath with a happy sigh. It had truly been a great day; he never would have expected his father to organise such an awesome experience for his birthday. He must have been planning it for some time because Draco had mentioned it was hard to get access to the reserves due to the high demand of dragon parts on both the legal and the illegal markets. Not only was it an incredible sight to see but it had been a long time since Harry had learned so many new things, and he had an all new appreciation and fascination for dragons.
Walking and being on a broom for so long had its downsides and the bath was doing wonders for his sore limbs. Harry stayed relaxing in the bath for a good hour, more than happy that magic allowed the water to stay hot during the whole time, before scrubbing himself over and pulling himself out to get dry and dressed. He put on something casual as he knew he would be changing before his birthday dinner even if he didn't know who would be attending other than the Malfoys, of course. Then he went to find his dad and uncle. He was surprised not to find them in the library as that was usually Moony's go-to place and Sirius would normally follow his other have in eventually, despite all the complaining he would do about it. Instead they were hunched over a table in the sun room in a deep animated discussion over what seemed to be a very complex Rune sequence.
"Shall I leave you to it?" Harry wondered, interrupting them when they showed no signs of stopping. The pair of them jumped much to Harry's amusement.
"Oh, hello Cub." Moony greeted.
"What are you discussing?" He asked, moving over to the table.
"Back in school the Marauders adapted a set of two-way mirrors so all four of us could communicate when we were separate. We've been trying to replicate the effects on the grander scale, but the runes we used to connect four are too unstable to add any more than that." Sirius explained somewhat frustrated but grinning at the same time. "We haven't had a challenge like this in years."
"I believe when you charmed your bike to fly and added a bunch of unnecessary features." Remus reminded him and Sirius barked out a laugh.
"It definitely needed the dragon fire accelerant." The Black Lord insisted.
"That sounds concerning." Harry decided and Remus nodded, somewhat wide eyed in remembrance.
"Oh trust me, it really was."
"You were fine." Sirius waved and Remus scoffed.
"I aged a decade in that half an hour."
Harry snorted at that, dropping down on a nearby chair.
"Wow, almost killing your mate; way to go dad."
"I didn't nearly kill him, he's exaggerating." Sirius huffed, "besides, you're the biggest speed addict I know so don't tell me you wouldn't want to ride on something that went faster than any broom available."
"Ok I definitely would it sounds amazing." Harry agreed with a laugh. "Can I see what you're working on?"
"Of course, kiddo." Sirius pushed over some of the parchment and Harry couldn't help but blink at the complexity of the runes scrawled over the pages. He could only read so much before he became completely lost as they expanded further and further into sequences he couldn't comprehend let alone balance out. Even the original four mirror idea was pushing it, and Harry was very impressed by their work, even more so when considering they did it back when they were fifteen.
"Wow, you've lost me." Harry admitted to them, "I see Runes is a speciality for you both?"
"Sirius more than me," Remus confirmed, "Arithmancy was my better subject."
"We ended up splitting all the electives between the four of us so we could take them all. McGonagall's face when we were all there for all the exams was brilliant, more so when she gave us our timetables the next year showing that we passed." Sirius reminisced, "we switched up subjects just to really mess with her.".
"Honestly I'm surprised she didn't kill us during our time at school." Remus laughed only semi-joking.
"She seems alright. I haven't really interacted with her outside of class." Harry shrugged. "What time are we expecting the Malfoys back?"
"In about an hour because we can all be certain that Narcissa will arrive early." Sirius replied and Harry nodded.
"Who else. is coming?"
"It's a surprise."
"Not even a hint?"
"Nope." Sirius denied cheerfully.
"Play a game of chess with me, cub. It'll distract you until you go and change." Remus suggested and Harry agreed all the while huffing dramatically much to the adults amusement. Remus set up the board and it wasn't long until they were immersed in the game with Sirius chiming in "helpful" directions every now and then. The game became an absolute mess thanks to Sirius but Harry ended up curled over laughing so hard he was almost crying as the chess pieces shouted abuse at the Black Lord.
By the time they had managed to clean up the carnage it was time for Harry to get changed, he called his elf and asked him to have his prepared for him before making his way up to his room. He pulled on the blue and silver robes without any issue, running a comb through his hair and making sure he was presentable before making his way down to the ground floor sitting room in wait of their guest. Unsurprisingly, the Malfoy's arrived first, dressed well in their family colours, Harry went to greet them before moving to sit off to the side with Draco.
"So do you know who is attending this evening?" The blond questioned and Harry shook his head.
"No, they've been very quiet on the guest list." Harry replied pouting slightly, "actually, dad managed to keep me distracted enough that I forgot to ask."
"Ugh, mother hasn't revealed who is to be in attendance other than family either. But I'm guessing its more than that given the type of robes we are both waring."
"I really hope it isn't going to be a political dinner." Harry sighed, "I'm really not wanting to do that for my birthday just yet, we're going to have to that when we're older all the time."
"I doubt your father, of all people, would turn your birthday into a political event given how he was as a child." Draco pointed out and Harry nodded.
Harry felt the wards go again and rose with his father to greet their next guests, he found himself slightly surprised to see it was Severus and Lily, the red head being almost unrecognisable done up as a true pureblood Lady should be; she looked radiant.
"Happy birthday, Harrison." Severus greeted, his words echoed by Lily at his side. An elf popped in collect the gift that Lily was carrying and Harry smiled at the pair of them.
"Thank you for coming." He returned, "It's good to see you both. How is the manor?"
"It has come to suit my tastes." Was Severus' reticent answer much to Harry's amusement; Lily rolled her eyes next to the Potion's master.
"It's been wonderful. We've just begun some of the redecoration and the elves have been only too happy to help us."
"Nice! I am sure Severus has been overjoyed with furniture shopping." Harry joked, grinning at the vicious glare his Head of House shot him even as Lily laughed.
"Thankfully his tastes have not changed too much over the years so he had been able to get away with minimal selections." Lily said, and Harry barely stopped himself from snorting at the irony. Given that the red head was back by Severus' side he could imagine very much that the Potions Master's taste hadn't changed much.
He let the two of them move further into the room, easily joining the conversation between the adults as Harry went back to Draco. The elves popped into the room to serve drinks as Harry and Draco got into a heated discussion on the upcoming Quidditch season, Draco empathetically stating that the English team needed a compete overhaul if they were ever going to get anywhere in the next world cup. Harry was sorry to have missed it, but he had still been in the past when it was being held so there would have been no chance for him to have seen it even if he had wanted to.
He felt a slight tweak on the wards and it was different than the usual announcement of someone arriving, he was sure of that because even his dad looked up in confusion. That quickly turned into wide eyed shock when, due to his position in the room, he saw who had come through before Harry did. The pre-teen found himself blinking in surprise when Marvolo swept into the room without so much as a by your leave and headed in his direction.
"What are you doing here?" Harry blurted out and Marvolo levelled him with a flat stare.
"Do you, or do you not, become a year older today?"
"Uh yeah? What's that got to do with anything?"
"Oh for Merlin's sake!" Marvolo looked skyward as if praying for patience before thrusting a leather bound book in Harry's direction. "Here."
Harry took the book still with an expression of surprise, flipping it open and distractingly reading it over before his focus suddenly zeroed in on what he was reading and he jaw dropped.
"Is this what I think it is?"
"A collection of my personal magical studies in the field of Rune and spell craft – age appropriate of course." He added the last bit with a nod in Sirius' direction.
"Sweet merciful Merlin." Harry breathed, holding the book as if it was pure gold. "Thank you!"
"Happy birthday." He said simply and then he just turned and left. The entire room sat in silence for a few moments reeling from what had just occurred and eventually it was Lucius who broke it.
"Did he really just give you his personal works for a gift?" The Malfoy Lord asked incredulously and Harry nodded slowly.
"He really did." He said amazed.
"That was the Dark Lord, right?" Lily confirmed and got multiple forms of confirmation from around the room.
"How did he even get in?" Sirius exclaimed.
"You hadn't added him into the wards?" Narcissa questioned shocked and Sirius looked at her as if she was insane.
"No! He's the Dark Lord!"
"So how did he get in?" Remus repeated. The adults all seemed to pause as they thought about that before Harry snorted.
"Dark Lord?" He offered, bursting out laughing at the looks on their faces. He called an elf to take the book to his room determined to read it through as soon as possible, the only thing stopping him from doing so now was because he had his dinner and he knew if he started reading he wouldn't be able to put it down.
"Well that broke up the evening nicely I guess." Sirius muttered, downing his glass and shaking his head. The rest of the guests slowly trickled in and Harry was pleased to see Blaise and Theo with their respective family members followed by Ares and Aunt Cassie. The true surprise for the evening was the arrival of the Weasley twins, who were staying with their great Aunt Muriel for the rest of the summer as punishment for their behaviour and was only two happy to see her great nephews cultivating strong alliances with the House of Black.
"Honestly, we might spend more time with her from now on." Fred was telling the four Slytherins.
"She updated our entire wardrobes and allowed us to practice our magic once she saw the work we put into our prank items." George picked up.
"It's been the best summer we've had in years."
"Are you speaking of Muriel Prewett?" Cassiopeia questioned, looking at the twins curiously and they nodded.
"Hm, she is a good friend of mine; I shall have to write to her and organise a luncheon. It is pleasing to see that she has two promising young gentlemen to take over the Prewett name in the future."
"Thank you, Madam Black."
"Your words are too kind."
Watching Fred and George pull out their pureblood manners, obviously taught to them by Muriel Prewett, was deeply amusing as well as slightly uncomfortable because it was so unusual for them to be like that. Harry and Draco, with Theo as a help for the things he was there for, were able to catch Blaise and the twins up surrounding the drama that had been happening during the summer. Given that Lily was sitting the other side of the room next to Severus, it wasn't as if they could hide the fact they had been in the thick of things even if they wanted to.
They didn't go too in to detail, not wanting to breach Lily's privacy given the heinous acts committed against her, but it was enough for the others to know a storm was brewing for Potter and the Light as a whole. Blaise cursed the fact that he often went out of the country during the summer, though Harry pointed out that it was bound to continue thought the next school year so he would be able to witness a lot of it first-hand. The twins filled them in on all the things they had overheard during their time at home, their parents having many meetings with Dumbledore and Potter and Rose had been staying at their house very frequently.
Apparently the old man wasn't pleased to be loosing ground within the Wizengamot and his move to overturn Rose' conviction had backfired in a way he hadn't been expecting. There were now, according to their father, more stringent security measures surrounding items to be used in trials as well as monitoring charms surrounding the archives so they could actively watch who looked at what. Why this wasn't already in place Harry didn't know, but the more he heard about the British Ministry the less impressed he was. Marvolo often ranted about the ministries incompetence. Sirius eventually called them to dinner, leading the party into the newly decorated dining room and to their seats.
"I thank you all for attending here this evening to celebrate my son and heir's twelfth birthday." Sirius said to the room before turning to Harrison, "I cannot begin to express how having you in my life has changed it so fundamentally. Everyone here knows how you came to be, but the only thing I would change would be to take you as mine sooner."
"Happy birthday, son."
Once Sirius had retaken his seat, the first course came into existence; it was a goats cheese and watercress tart. Light conversation started up as they began eating, all of the children has sparkling cider per Harry's choice as he wasn't fond of wine, and the adults had something from the Black cellars. The first course was followed by filet mignon with roasted baby carrots in a red wine roux and for desert they had panna cotta with a summer berry coolie which was enjoyed by all. After dinner, they retreated into the sitting room where drinks were passed out and Sirius called the elves to bring in Harry's cake. It was a huge chocolate monstrosity that Harry couldn't wait to dig into.
"As you can see, pup, Remus was in charge of the cake." Sirius laughed and the werewolf rolled his eyes even as he grinned.
"Everyone loves chocolate cake."
"It looks amazing." Harry told them both with a grin, his thoughts echoed by his friends. As it was his birthday, Harry was allowed to cut the first slice before the elves took over and handed out pieces. It was a gorgeous cake and the Black heir was overjoyed to see he had plenty left over for him to stuff his face on tomorrow. Harry was allowed to take his friend his friends to the sunroom and open his gifts with them once the pieces of cake were eaten, leaving the adult to their conversations.
He received a beautiful dagger from Blaise and his mother, a collection of rare potions ingredients from Severus and Lily, a book on Mayan Runes from Theodore and his grandfather, an enormous box of Honeydukes specials chocolate from Ares, a lovely leather bound endless page journal from Aunt Cassie and finally a collection of their completed prank products from the twins. Already the six of them were thinking up ideas on what they could use the twins products for, and Harry had to admit he was impressed by the potions that the Gryffindors has created already; he couldn't wait to see how far they would go in the future.
Out of sight from the adults, the six of them relaxed back shaking off the more strict behaviours they had used earlier and Harry spent the rest of the evening having and laugh and a joke with his friends. All to soon the night came to an end and Harry found himself in the floo room saying goodbye to his guests and thanking them for their wonderful gifts. The twins told him they were with Muriel until the end of the summer so any invites would be able to be accepted without issue much to Harry's joy, and Sirius agreed they'd be happy to host them again later. Once everyone had left, Sirius pulled Harry to his side in a one armed hug and led the way back up to the family sitting room where the three of them proceeded to flop on the sofas with no grace whatsoever.
"So pup, did you enjoy your first birthday with us?" Sirius asked and Harry beamed at him.
"It's been fantastic, thank you dad, uncle Moony."
"No problem, cub. I think your father had equal amounts of fun planning it." Remus said with a grin.
"Too right. Shopping for my puppy was great." Sirius agreed without an ounce of shame.
"I can't believe Marvolo turned up and gave me a gift." Harry said in disbelief and both Marauders scoffed in unison.
"Please don't remind me of that, Pup. I'm dying to know how he got in." Sirius groaned. "The Black wards are some of, if not the, most dangerous in the country. He should have never been able to do that."
"There has to be a reasonable explanation." Remus mused, "like you said, the wards here are powerful, and even as a Dark Lord he isn't able to just bypass them or the war would have gone in a much different direction last time."
Sirius shuddered at the thought.
"That's a horrible thought."
"I'll ask him about it when I see him next." Harry told them, "or you could, as Azkaban is coming up tomorrow."
"I think I'll leave that to you, cub." Remus said, "we'll focus on Azkaban instead."
"Oh Merlin, he's not that scary."
"Yeah well, until we get used to the man you're our ambassador."
"Wow, Gryffindors ladies and gentlemen." Harry deadpanned.
"Just because we're brave doesn't make us stupid." Remus told him without shame making Harry laugh. It quickly turned into a yawn much to the adults amusement and they shared a fond smile.
"You've had a long day, pup. Why don't you get to bed? Sirius suggested and Harry nodded.
"I think I will."
He got up and hugged them both before bidding them goodnight and heading to his room, he thanked his elf, who popped into collect his robes, and then happily climbed into his bed. He was asleep before his head hit the pillow; it had been a great day.
Magic was rich in the air for the first day of the new harvest as the date of the Azkaban breakout dawned bright and cheerful. There was an air of anticipation lingering within the manor, even Moony had been twitchy at breakfast. Harry found himself in his potions lab preparing a range of different potions and salves for the Death Eaters they were set to remove because they would need them during the time he was testing his healing elixir. He was hoping to have at least a weeks' worth of potions ready to take with him this evening when they went to Slytherin castle for Cissa to use as she cared for the Azkaban escapees. Harry also knew that Severus was also doing the same thing which left them in a good position to make more without having to worry about running out in the meantime. Of course, Harry was hugely confident in his elixir, so he doubted they would need too many, but it was always better to be safe than sorry.
Both his father and uncle were going over the Azkaban plans once more between them before putting them away until they were with the rest of their group. He worked through lunch, stopping only to eat some fruits, and got everything bottled up around an hour before he was due for dinner. They weren't expected at the Castle until the late evening given that it was summer and the daylight hours were longer. Of course, they didn't have to wait as long as the rest of the country for darkness, the dementors' presence made the sky dark most of the time anyway but they weren't going to risk it during in the middle of the day. Harry was set to bring his dad and uncle to the castle where Marvolo would bring them into the wards once they were there.
Harry wasn't actually sure what the Dark Lord was doing with his followers, they had discussed the actual break out, but not really the aftermath other than the fact that they would need to recover from their stay at the prison. Harry supposed he would have to ask later, if it wasn't already explained anyway. He also wanted to know what Severus was going to say to Lily in explanation as to what he was going tonight; she said she was willing to listen, but that was one thing and helping break out Death Eaters was another. Harry made his way up through the manor, he went to his rooms and headed for the shower to have a long soak under the hot water. When he was done he pulled on all black clothes and robes in preparation for later, not seeing the point in putting on something different just for a couple of hours. Both Sirius and Remus were already at the table and Harry flashed them a smile.
"Hey dad, uncle Moony." He greeted, "You two been busy?"
"Hi, Pup. Not really." Sirius admitted, "Thought it best I settle myself and review my Occlumency shields in preparation for tonight."
"Good plan. I've been through mine a few times over the past few days." Harry commented with a nod.
"I practiced my patronus this morning and then had a nap so I'll be fully rested." Remus answered, "I know my shields are solid, and I don't want to go too mad on the patronus practice else I be exhausted magically, or, Merlin forbid, end up failing later."
"Yeah, that would be a massive disaster." Harry agreed, "Actually, that would be the absolute worst."
"The wait is killing me." Sirius sighed, "I know why we have to wait, but it's really terrible."
"It does seem as if the time is going slower." Remus allowed, "But then again, when you're waiting for something it usually works like that."
"It's because we all know that we're going to be doing something really important later." Harry pointed out.
"I know that, pup, but it doesn't mean I have to like it." Sirius grumbled and Harry snickered.
"It's not long now, thankfully." Harry said, "We have to be at the Castle at eight O'clock so by the time we finish dinner it'll only be two hours."
"I think the worst thing is I really don't know what to expect." Sirius groaned, slumping in his seat. "Azkaban is considered Hades on Earth for a reason; Merlin only knows what the Death Eaters are going to be like. Circe, I don't even know if they'll be sane!"
"It is something we'll have to seriously consider." Remus nodded, "Obviously, physically healing them is going to be the priority, but their mental states are going to be severely shaken after spending ten years in there."
"I've been focussing on the physical side of things so I don't know. Surely, though, that being removed and slowly working themselves back to full strength will help their mental state. I mean, yeah, I should be able to fix their bodies, but they've still been inactive for ten years so they're going to have to work hard to get back to their best."
"I see what you mean. Having a goal to work on might be what they need to not focus on the horrors no doubt Azkaban would have forced on them." Sirius said and Harry nodded.
"It's only a guess of course, as I've never been nor have I ever been near a dementor, but it couldn't hurt." Harry shrugged, "I suppose we'll speak to Marvolo when we get there."
"There is that." Moony agreed. "Do you know any of the plans regarding after the break out?"
"Honestly, no." Harry replied, "I was thinking earlier that I would have to ask Marvolo. I know he said that he didn't want the Slytherin castle to be for all the Death Eaters, so I guess he intends to set up another base for meetings and other such things, but apart from that I have no clue."
"I wouldn't want a load of Death Eaters living with me either." Sirius joked.
"He'd have none left within a week." Harry threw back and Sirius released a bark of laughter.
"I can only imagine."
"Shall we go to the gardens until we have to leave?" Moony suggested, "It seems like such a waste to remain in the manor on such a lovely day."
"We'll follow you, Moony." Sirius agreed, "The sun is on them at the moment so we can bask in the sun."
"Sometimes, Pads, you can be such a cat."
"A snake then?" Harry tried, grinning as his dad became even more outraged. He stalked off leaving Harry and Moony laughing at him as they went after him.
"He does remember that lions are just big cats, right?" He wondered and Moony snorted.
They found the animagus sulking on one of the benches amongst the flowers much to their amusement. Moony saw fit to mention their upcoming bonding ceremony offhand when Sirius refused to speak to either of them and got a foul glare for his troubles. It didn't matter what was happening, Sirius was too overjoyed to be officially bonding to his mate that he couldn't stop himself from speaking about it. The Black Lord had all kinds of ideas even if he intended to keep it small like he promised Moony, plus he had Narcissa on his side, if he got lost as to what needed to be done she would be only too happy to come over and boss him around for hours.
"She would do that, too." Harry agreed with a shudder.
"It's the Black blood." Remus said seriously, "Makes them all crazy."
Sirius opened his mouth to protest before he paused, thought about it and then nodded in acceptance.
"Yeah, I'll give you that one."
"We're all a little crazy anyway, dad." Harry said with a grin.
"We have to be given what we're going to be doing soon." Sirius pointed out.
"Nah, its just a bit of fun."
Both adults scoffed.
"Remind me not to ever go with your brand of fun." Moony deadpanned and Harry laughed.
"Where's your adventurous spirit?" Harry wondered.
Sirius and Harry burst out laughing at the bland answer and Moony grinned.
"I'll remember that, uncle Moony."
"Be sure that you do or you'll have me grey before I'm forty."
"Such faith you have in me." Harry said proudly and Sirius snorted.
"It's not faith, it's acceptance." He countered, "Given what you managed to do within just your first year, I think we've resigned ourselves to crazy town for the next couple of years in the least."
"Well at least you have realistic expectations." Harry said pragmatically, and then he grinned impishly.
"Brat." Sirius said fondly.
"I don't know what you could possible mean, father dearest."
"Uhuh, and I'll buy that excuse when you state Potter is your best friend."
Harry looked at him in disgust.
"There's a line, dad."
"That's what I thought."
The three of them continued jokingly bickering back and forth up, getting so invested in their conversation that they were almost late despite their earlier impatience. Harry took them through the floo once he had collected his potions and then instantly swore he was never sharing a floo with more than one person ever again. He was spat out of the grate and he very nearly faceplanted the floor, he would have done so, too, if it wasn't for Moony grabbing the back of his robes. Sirius was a bit luckier than his son, managing to somehow wildly grab the mantle above the grate to stabilize himself, though he looked a little green around the edges.
"Well I think I can say for all of us that that was awful." Moony said brightly.
"I vote we never do that again." Harry put in and got duel nods in his direction.
"Ok, first; welcome to Slytherin Castle." Harry said, leading them out of the floo room and in to the entrance hall. Sirius gave a low whistle of appreciation as he took in the décor and Harry grinned proudly; Salazar had really done a great job. Harry took them to the formal sitting room where they were going to be meeting for the pre-break out discussion. Severus wasn't there yet, but the adult Malfoys were as was Marvolo.
"Good evening O Lord of Darkness." Harry greeted him cheerfully, dropping himself on the seat closest to said Dark Lord, while Sirius and Remus took the two seats next to him.
"Good evening, Harrison, Black, Lupin." Marvolo returned, used to the boy's antics by now so he didn't even blink. All four other adults were looking at him as if he was insane, but Harry only grinned in response.
"I brought potions for you, aunt Cissa." Harry told her, pulling out his potions case and handing it over. "It doesn't include my elixir as I'll be dealing with that one myself, but these should help tide you over until the elixir is administered."
"Wonderful, Harry dear," Cissa said pleased, "Many if not all, of them will need to be stabilized when they get here before you give them the elixir."
"That makes sense." Harry allowed with a nod. Severus chose that moment to enter the room with Izar Nott completing their group. The Potions Master handed his own potions case to Cissa as well, not looking surprised that there was one already there.
"I took it upon myself to make some strong Giggling Juice to counter the heavy set despair." He told her, "Chocolate will warm them, but laughing with make them feel real joy for the first time in ten years."
"Good forethought, Severus." Marvolo said with a nod.
"Yes, thank you, Severus."
"That seems a bit simple if dementors are so foul." Harry said, but his tone was nothing but curious.
"It hasn't been proven, but Giggling Juice makes the drinker feel genuine amusement, which is something that's been denied for a decade. It cannot make anything worse." Severus explained and Harry nodded.
"Thank makes sense."
"It is going to be impossible to guess the state in which the Death Eaters will be in." Cissa said, and then she frowned, "Both physically and mentally."
"Yes. Each of their mental states are going to need to be evaluated." Marvolo agreed.
"We were discussing earlier that despite what states their minds may be in it might be beneficial for them each to have a goal." Moony suggested, "Cub states his elixir will fix them physically but it doesn't counter the decade of idleness."
"Hm, that is a good idea." Marvolo mused with a slow nod, and then looked at Sirius, Severus and Remus, "As teachers, work with Cissa to create a schedule for them to work with to regain their strength and abilities."
"That shouldn't be too difficult." Sirius agreed easily and then he flashed a smirk at Cissa, "We can introduce them to the Black induction in to magic."
The Lady released a delighted laugh.
"That will amuse Bella if nothing else."
"Once they are on the mend it will give insight as to what is available to work with." Lucius pointed out, "I know for a fact that some went in injured. We do not know how they have healed over the years."
"And no doubt the ministry left them to rot without a healer." Cissa said in disgust.
"Of course they would have, they pushed through most of the trials in an effort to be seen cleaning up since they were mostly useless in the actual war." Severus sneered.
"Bagnold needed to. She knew her time was coming to a close and the last thing any minister wants is to be remembered as a failure." Marvolo said, "It is… displeasing, but altogether unsurprising."
"I wouldn't be surprised if we find some in there that didn't even have a trial." Remus commented, "The entire ministry was in a shambles during the clear up; I've seen battles with more organisation."
"That is the cold truth." Lucius agreed.
"The thought had crossed my mind." Marvolo admitted, "I've accommodated for increased numbers."
"Where are they going though?" Harry asked, "I know you really don't want all the Eaters here."
"Ah yes, that is why you are here so early. I have secured a location for all of the Death Eaters to rehabilitate and live in, it will also be the base of our workings. Many will seek outside locations once they are healed, but there are some with absolutely nothing to their name who will need housing. I intend for the Elite to be here once they are more themselves, but that is for a later date." Marvolo explained, as he withdrew a green ribbon. "We will be using the House of Morgana Le-Fey."
"You finally went!" Harry exclaimed excitedly.
"Yes. While not as large or grand as Salazar's castle, it has space enough for my people and room enough for our base." Marvolo confirmed, "I found a library there and spent time reorganizing it; I have brought all material that I did not recognise or was written my Le-Fey herself here."
"If it wasn't crucial that we do this tonight I'd already be up there reading." Harry sighed.
"You are not alone in your thoughts." Marvolo agreed.
"The Le-Fey property still stands strong after all these years?" Izar exclaimed amazing.
"Yes, and the magic surrounding it will keep our people hidden and safe." Marvolo told him. "I have also updated the healing hall and expanded it for your use, Narcissa, however I will be issuing you some house elves to collect anything that may be missing. I have never once claimed to be a healer."
"Thank you, my Lord. That will be most advantageous."
Marvolo nodded once before holding out the ribbon.
"The portkey will leave on my command."
They all stood and placed a finger on the ribbon, bracing themselves as Marvolo hissed the command word and they were whirled away in a swarth of colour. They landed in a gothic styled entrance hall that was dominated by a grand staircase in the middle of the room. Marvolo didn't give them much chance to admire the place as he swept up the stairs and lead them first to the healing hall where Narcissa immediately began setting things up to her liking and then down to a sitting room. It was decorated in rich purple which set nicely against the black and silver, there were multiple sofas and chairs placed neatly throughout the room and Marvolo indicated for them all to sit. When they got further into the room, Harry spotted what looked like several miniature dolls on one of the coffee tables and he looked at the Dark Lord in question.
"I, myself, haven't been idle during the run up to this break out." He told them all, picking up one of the dolls. "These are golems; they will activate once they have been resized. They cannot be resized until in the corresponding cells as they work on the latent ambient magics that would have been collected during our people's time in the cells. They should last years and using the ambient magic will mimic the behaviour of the person in the cell."
"That is an ingenious piece of magic." Remus exclaimed impressed, eyeing the dolls with much more intrigue.
"It truly is." Izar agreed, "will they appear to die or shall they simply fade away."
"Fade away." Marvolo replied, "two reasons: first, I do not wish to compromise the identities of our people. Many of them have Houses they need to manage and I don't want them to lose more than they already have in their service for me. Secondly, should we not have control of the ministry by that point, the amount of fear that will be prevalent will allow us to push through more things when people are to preoccupied by the apparent Azkaban break out."
"You want to mess with people." Sirius summed up, half amused half incredulous and the Dark Lord smirked but said nothing. They went over the final review of the plan as a group one last time before they were ready.
Marvolo apparated Harry out first. The information they had gotten from their sources said the wards would alert them of anyone apparating or disapparating directly to or from the Island, and the winds covering the ocean were too unpredictable and treacherous to fly over, so the dock with the boats would normally be the only way in or out and that was before reaching the wards themselves. However, they had an out. Harry's flames were able to easily bypass the wards and that ability was pretty much the only reason his father had relented and allowed him to go. They arrived at a boat, cautiously climbing aboard and setting forward, the Dark Lord easily overriding the magic directing the craft and steering it to a blind spot on the Island.
It was bitingly cold, and only when Marvolo cast warming charms in Parselmagic did they actually hold, though they didn't combat the bone chilling cold that seeped in to their bones as they approached the dementors lair.
"How close do you need to be the first time you go somewhere?" Marvolo asked the pre-teen, who's eyes were fixed forward.
"I just need to see where I'm going." Harry replied in a murmur, "once we're free of this fog and you point out where we need to be I should be able to get us there."
The trip on the boat seemed to take forever and yet no time at all before the fog cleared enough for Marvolo to indicate where they were going to go.
"Right, hold on to me and don't let go." Harry told him, preparing to fire travel.
"Remember, the feeling of the dementors will hit you as soon as you land within the wards. They are there as much to keep the dementors in as they are for the prisoners." Marvolo reminded Harry, who nodded.
"Got it. Ready?"
Harry took a deep breath and willed his flames to pull them to the shoreline Marvolo had indicated, they landed seconds later and Harry was almost brought to his knees by the wave of despair that hit him as soon as his flames went away. Marvolo didn't seem to be doing much better, the despair plus the feeling of flame travel seemingly making him nauseous as he hunched over regaining his equilibrium.
"Well that is deeply unpleasant." He stated and Harry snorted.
"For you may be."
"Come, let us not linger here." Marvolo instructed and Harry nodded, taking his arm and flaming back to Le-Fey manor. They landed in the sitting room the rest of their party was waiting in and Harry grimaced as he landed.
"I think it'll be best if I leave and return from a closer location. The dementors and the wards really pull on my fire." He told the Dark Lord. "From the docks maybe?"
"Yes, that shall work just as well." Marvolo agreed, "we shall then apparate back so not to tax our people too much."
Marvolo looked at Lucius and Sirius.
"Both of you are the only ones who have been to Azkaban docks previously; can you side-apparate?"
"Easily. I'll take Remus and Harry." Sirius confirmed, and Lucius nodded in agreement.
"I shall take Severus and Izar."
"Good. Conserve your strength; we shall be apparating many others back." Marvolo said. "Go now."
They apparated out and landed at a deserted dock, it was thick with mist and magic, giving it an exaggerated eerie feeling that made them shudder.
"Brace yourself and don't move." Harry warned them, going to Lucius and Severus first. He flamed them to the spot Marvolo had chosen, dropping them off and flaming back to the dock without pause. He repeated the process twice more in quick succession, stumbling slightly when he finally landed with Marvolo and Izar.
"You do not go more than a foot away from him." Sirius ordered Harry, pointing at the Dark Lord and looking completely serious. "You do not leave his side."
"I won't." Harry promised, not intending to break his word whatsoever. Marvolo nodded once at the Black Lord when the man looked at him in confirmation; he wouldn't let the boy come to harm.
"If things go wrong, send the signal and get yourselves out of here. It is better that some of us be around to safe guard our world than all of us fall." Marvolo warned them, before casting a disillusion charm over both himself and Harry as the others followed suit. It was Severus' doe and Remus huge dog patronus' that burst forward first, scattering the first comings of dementors, and they were quickly followed by a werewolf, a linx, a falcon and a snake from Sirius, Lucius, Izar and Harry as they moved collectively towards the prison clearing the path. Remus and Severus cleared the bottom floor of dementors and took up placement to secure the base perimeter making sure no dementors could enter from the base.
The first floor was clear of dementors, so they moved swiftly through the dank halls, paying no heed to the prisoners on the first floor as none were who they had come for. Lucius' linx shone brightly as they climbed up towards the higher security wings above them, making the cells for where the Death Eaters were being kept. He and Izar broke off to manage the medium security break out and swap and to keep the dementors away leaving Sirius to lead the way up to the high security cells. While most of the prison has been hauntingly silent, high security was the opposite, with loud screams and shouts from the prisoners locked there.
The chill that surrounded the island all but burned into them when they finally reached the high security wing, and Harry's snake and Sirius' werewolf was suddenly joined by a huge basilisk as a massive wave of dementors suddenly swarmed the corridor they were passing through, pushing the foul creatures back so they could enter the high security wing.
"I'll go ahead and mark the cells as I try and look for Bella. I don't think these Death Eaters will be appeared by anyone other than you." Sirius said to the Dark Lord.
Sirius nodded even though he couldn't be seen and moved as quickly as possible down the grim corridors. He'd been to Azkaban during the last war as he had worked at an auror and it never got any nicer, he hated to think of any of his family (except his mother) being locked away in here but especially Bella. Even back when they had been on opposing sides, it had always been great to duel Bella.
He spotted Dolohov and the Lestrange brothers first, then Rookwood who he remembered had been caught due to Karkaroff's betrayal before stumbling across a rocking Bellatrix near the very end of the final corridor. He had almost missed her, Azkaban reducing his fearsome cousin to a waif of her previous self, but her wild hair was impossible to not recognise and he sighed in relief. Sirius dropped his disillusion charm, bringing his patronus closer to his cousin as he crouched down in front to the bars. She blinked at him a few times, a look of confusion coming across her gaunt face before a spark of recognition lit up her features.
"Sirius." Her voice was gravely and hoarse with disuse and Sirius had to bite back a frown, very unhappy at her condition. Instead he pulled up a careless air and flashed her a rougish grin.
"I bet you never thought you'd see me here."
She glared at him at that, seemingly remembering that the last time they had met they hadn't been on the same side.
"Come to gloat?" She demanded, "the Dark Lord will rise again and break me out of this hell hole."
"Oh I don't doubt it." He agreed and then laughed when she opened her mouth to no doubt argue with him before registering his words.
This time he gave her a real smile, reaching through the bars to grab one of her hands in his.
"We've come to bust you out."
"What?" Bella repeated, eyes wide before she clenched them shut, gripping Sirius' hand as tightly as she could in her weakened state. "I don't-,"
"Just stay calm. He'll be here now, he's coming for you." Sirius assured her, "You're going to be okay."
"The Dark Lord, of course."
Bella gasped, looking at him as in disbelief and Sirius shot her a grin.
"I've come with him and a few others."
"You wouldn't!" She yelled somewhat hysterically, wrenching her hand out of his and rising to her knees to grip the bars, "You left us!"
"Hey, calm down, he'll have my hide." Sirius tried to soothe, "so many things have happened and there isn't enough time now, but they'll be explained soon. Trust me, as Lord of the House of Black, if nothing else."
She looked at him wide eyes and confused, with a touch of madness clinging to her even as she calmed down slightly.
"He is." Sirius assured before raising his voice and shouting down the corridor. "HERE! She's here, I've found her."
Sirius flinched back as the Dark Lord was suddenly right next to him as if he had apparated himself there, he ripped the bars clean from the wall and crouched down in front of Bella within a matter of seconds. Bella looked up at him as if he was a deity in human form, her breathing coming in sharp pants as she reached out as if to touch him before drawing back scared.
"M-My My Lord?" She whispered hardly daring to believe her own eyes. Marvolo reached out and gently laid a hand on her cheek, his red eyes incensed as he took in what has been done to her. She leaned into the touch and clutched his hand reverently, whispering 'you've returned' over and over again as she gazed at him unblinkingly.
"My beautiful Bella, what have they done to you?" Marvolo's voice was almost inaudible as he spoke.
"You came for me." Bella breathed.
"And you never doubted I would." Marvolo replied with a raised eyebrow. Her bloodless lips stretched into a beaming smile that still managed to transform her whole face even in her condition. The Dark Lord swiftly picked her up, rising to her feet and moving towards where Sirius had retreated back with Harry and the other released Death Eaters, Harry allowed his patronus to face and waved his wand to fix all the broken bars and doors once he had checked the placement of the golems.
"We leave immediately." The Dark Lord barked, directing his patronus to circle them as they made their way back down to collected Izar and Lucius. There was another group of Death Eaters behind the other two and they all moved, with the patronus' circling, towards where Remus and Severus held the base perimeter. As soon as they were clear of the prison, Harry immediately flamed Severus and Izar to the docks before going back and doing groups of the prisoners in four, leaving just enough time between jumps to let Izar and Severus to alternate the apparations.
Once he had got most of them out, he took Lucius and Remus to help direct the Death Eaters at the manor with Narcissa and then came back to grab the high security prisoners, and finally Marvolo, Sirius and Bella he took directly to the manor. The apparaters had been smart and went directly to the healing halls where the Death Eaters were being expertly managed by Narcissa, who turned and rushed forward to clear a space when the Dark Lord swept into the room with Bella in his arms.
"Set her here, my Lord." Narcissa instructed, a diagnostic charm rushing over Bellatrix before she had even touched the bed. Harry had taken a step back with Sirius and Remus, allowing the others to manage the Death Eaters as the three of them were either unknown or previously an enemy. Thankfully, both Lucius and Marvolo remembered Harry needed testers for his elixir to be safe so he had a two male and two female prisoner to use, two from each mid and high security.
They had been separated from the Death Eaters so Harry snapped his finger summoning his notebook and called for an elf for four phials of his elixir, the soft pink mirror sheen almost glowing in the low light. He immediately began documenting the day, the time, the gender and did a basic diagnostic charm to note the condition of the subjects. Once that was done, he fed them his potion and began noting down the instantaneous unconsciousness and the flush that came to their faces.
"So what's the plan now with these two?" Remus asked sounding intrigued.
"I've made note of all the important details and given them the potion; over the next week or two I'll be monitoring their condition daily to see how they react to the elixir, if there are differences between male and female and if the mid or high security makes a difference." Harry explained, "I'll also have to make some more of the potion but that can be done easy enough now I have the necessary cauldron and the right ingredients."
"Why so long the wait?" Remus wondered.
"Precaution mainly." Harry replied, "I've made enough medical potions to last the two weeks at least, and I'll probably have to make more because the prediction on how fast or well this will work isn't an exact time due to the multiple outside factors that are simply impossible to take into account."
"So better safe than sorry."
"Exactly. Besides, after two weeks the danger is probably gone but I'm not sure if the potion would have completed its course."
"Well then, there's nothing else we can do here and it looks like Narcissa is nearly finished. Let's go and have tea ready." Sirius suggested.
"Good idea." Harry agreed, "come on."
Harry led the way back to the sitting room they were in earlier and called for an elf to set up tea and a small snack for everyone to help replenish their spent magic. He was particularly feeling it now, having never used his fire to such a degree before as well as maintaining a patronus for as long as he had, actually the only reason he hadn't passed out just yet was because he had taken an Invigoration Draught while Sirius had been looking for Bellatrix. Harry knew that he was on borrowed time and he was going to sleep deeply and well as soon as he got home.
"Overall, I think that went rather well." Remus mused, sitting back after doctoring his tea.
"Other than the fact that it shows a glaring security problem with Azkaban that's basically a quarter of the whole Island." Sirius scoffed, "Merlin the Ministry is shit."
"I thought that was obvious when people like Umbridge gained any sort of power?" Harry pointed out and Remus snorted.
"Thankfully, we're having lots of fun digging into her past."
"Yeah, she's becoming more horrifying the more we look." Sirius agreed with a shudder.
"The Death Eaters look bad, but somehow not as bad as I was expecting." Remus picked up, "all but one walked out of that hell hole."
"And I think Bella would have been able to but apparently the terrifying Dark Lord cared way more for Bella than we realised." Sirius continued, "after all, we all knew that she was his right hand during the last war, but we didn't know it was more than that."
"Yeah, he's got a bit of a soft spot for her,"
"I still can't believe I'm saying this, but hopefully between Narcissa, Snape and you they'll all be fine in a couple of weeks."
"Thankfully, cousin, that shall be the case." Narcissa's voice interrupted as she came into the room looking drained but pleased.
"It went well?" Harry confirmed and Narcissa grimaced a bit but nodded.
"As well as could be expected." She allowed, "they're damaged, some of them suffering with injuries that happened long ago and were not treated and some of them have obviously injured themselves during their tenure in the prison and also haven't been treated."
"Once the best part of the Ministry is in better condition, Azkaban will need to be reviewed." Marvolo stated, his lip curling in disgust. "Prison itself it supposed to be a punishment, inmates are not then supposed to be harmed while there, nor are they supposed to be denied medical attention or food."
"Azkaban shouldn't be used as a generic prison anyway." Izar grumbled causing most people to raise their eyebrows at him.
"What do you mean?" Lucius questioned.
"Azkaban is considered one of the worst, if not the worst prison in the world and the ICW have brought up many discussions about changing or destroying the place in its entirety because of its excessive punishment for minor crimes." Izar explained, "Magical UK boast one of the lowest crime rates internationally because people would rather die then end up in Azkaban, and while it works as an excellent deterrent for crime, it also ruins the lives of people who have only committed petty crimes. Why are we sending an 18 year old who got too drunk and rowdy to Azkaban for a couple of weeks and possibly ruining his mind forever? There should be a different prison made available and leave Azkaban for the true crimes."
"That idea has merit." Marvolo mused, "we might even be able to buy back some international alliances if we open Azkaban to other countries' capital criminals while creating a less damaging place for our own regular criminals."
"It would have the best of both worlds; less damage on those who don't deserve it but with the deterrent of Azkaban hanging over people's heads if they go too far." Lucius said thoughtfully.
"That's something for future endeavours." Severus decided, "I will need a list of potions that need to be kept up while we wait for Harrison's elixir."
"I shall keep you informed, Severus." Narcissa assured him.
"Will you begin testing right away?" Marvolo asked Harry, who nodded.
"Already have. I've estimated a minimum of two weeks so far, which we have enough potions already made for that time, and I shall begin making more of my elixir so I have enough for every Death Eater once I can assess the testers." Harry informed him and then looked at Narcissa, "if you could leave the four nearest the door alone, I've got monitors up surrounding them and shall be here daily to asses their conditions. I don't predict any problems, I know my potion, however, this is the detail gathering stages and I'd like to collect as much information before giving it to people we actually want results from."
"I won't touch them." Narcissa told him.
"Bella?" Sirius asked and Narcissa sighed.
"She is strong, she will recover well if she has the patience to listen to me."
"I shall make sure she does." Marvolo stated firmly, "I won't have her recovery impeded."
"She'll listen to you if nothing else." Narcissa said relieved.
"Izar and I shall keep an ear on the ministry to make sure there are no suspicions about an Azkaban breakout." Lucius asserted, "Fudge won't speak about something like that without informing one of us."
"True enough," Sirius commented, "and if Amelia keeps it internal we shall hear of it though Ares."
"Good, keep me informed." Marvolo ordered, "Now, the floo is open to you all here and to Slytherin Manor; you may apparate out tonight but I shall be altering the wards to block apparation. Go home, rest, there is nothing else to be done tonight."
There were murmurs of agreement all around before the group dispersed, heading to the Entrance hall to apparate home for the night. Harry was only too happy to let Sirius side-apparate him back to Black Manor and it was lucky he did because a wave of exhaustion hit him causing him to stumble and he would have fallen if it wasn't for his father. Sirius hoisted him up into his arms with an amused huff.
"Let's get you to bed, pup. You've outdone yourself tonight."
"Flaming with other people always was worse than on my own." Harry grumbled into his dad's shoulder.
"I can only imagine."
"You did really well though, cub." Remus told him, waving his wand to change Harry's robes into pyjamas once Sirius had lowered him down into bed.
"Thanks. It was worth it though." Harry muttered, his voice starting to slur. "Just got to wait for the elixir."
"Don't worry about that now." Sirius hushed hum with a fond smile, pressing a kiss to his dark hair. "Sleep, puppy, you've got a busy schedule to keep."
He was asleep before Sirius had even finished talking much to the marauders' amusement. They shared a soft look before quietly leaving the room and heading to their own room and getting ready for bed.
"Did you ever think a decade ago we'd be helping break out most of the people we helped put in Azkaban?" Remus wondered, lying down and curling into Sirius' side. The Black Lord snorted, wrapping an arm around his mate.
"A decade ago I wouldn't have believed we had been so wrong about Potter and Dumbledore, let alone a full change in alliance."
"So many things have changed." Remus murmured, "I can't help but worry sometimes."
"I do to, Moony. But at the same time I can't help but feel excited." Sirius replied, "we learned the hard way that we were wrong, blinded about the so called Light side. What worse can we do in the Dark? Where you're looked at like an actual person, where they care about their children, where they actually care about their people."
"I think that's what it is. I'm still so used to the lies from the Light that being with the Dark seems too good to be true." Remus sighed, "tonight helped. Seeing the Dark Lord so concerned about his people made an impact. Dumbledore never showed that amount of concern even when we lost people."
"And isn't that disgusting. We lost so many people during the war, all so blinding by Dumbledore's words, refusing to return lethal fire simply because he said it was bad, and then continuing even when he brushed off death after death." Sirius shook his head. "Looking back, I can't understand why."
"There's a lot of things I don't understand looking back." Remus agreed, "let's hope for better this time."
"To a brighter future, eh Moony?"
"To a brighter future."
So here we have it. 12k of birthday and finally the Azkaban break out – figured if I was going to come back after 4 years then I had better bring something good to the table. As always, I love to hear from you guys so please let me know what you think. I'll try and work on the next chapter as soon as possible. Cheers!