Harry packed his trunk, disappointment and frustration thrumming beneath his ribs. Although he had never held Hogwarts' library in such high esteem as Hermione, he couldn't help but feel annoyed at the lack of answers he found there.
It had been a week since Harry became Master of Death, and he knew what had happened the second he had seen the Stone mending itself. After spending so much of his would-be seventh year obsessed with the Hallows, he was pretty intimate with the lore. He who masters, or possesses (for the lore was often equal parts conflicting and confusing, different sources claiming different things), all three Hallows becomes Master of Death. With the Cloak and the Wand secure in the mokeskin pouch around his neck and the Stone mending itself before his eyes, Harry had figured there was only one way that his fantastic luck would let the story end.
While most of the other volunteers at Hogwarts who were helping rebuild for the upcoming school year had a fair amount of free time, Harry was not so lucky. He was constantly badgered under the guise of congratulations, constant questions and handshakes and letters making him uncomfortable and giving him a constant migraine. He found he could only slip out to the library in the middle of the night, and even then he needed to use the Cloak and the Marauder's Map to make sure he didn't run into anyone. And while it was no problem to research in the middle of the night (he had had trouble sleeping for some time now), he wished that he could research during the day too, if only so that he could cover more ground.
But as it turned out, no matter how much ground he covered, there was nothing to find. Although he would never say it in front of his friends, the Hogwarts Library was unbearably Light. One could hardly find a reference to magic that was anything but sunshine and daisies, and Harry found it incredibly frustrating. Even the Restricted Section was of little help. It was full of vague theories, not actual spells or history, a few slightly odd potions books, and was only moderately Grey. The library was obviously meant to coddle, and Harry suspected it was Dumbledore's doing, as he knew that Riddle had found more questionable tomes in his time at Hogwarts. Didn't anyone understand that when you kept something away from children/teenagers, it only made them want to rebel and seek it out more? And as far as Harry was concerned, all the Light, Grey, and Dark magic crap was just that. But, of course, Saviors don't share such controversial opinions. Especially with their strictly Light friends.
His frustration and irritation grew, and he took a deep breath to make sure he didn't mangle any of the possessions in his trunk. Although in the case of his terrible clothes, it wouldn't be such a bad idea. Now that he was done with his part in the dirty task of repairing Hogwarts (lots of rubble, lots of dust), there was absolutely no excuse to be wearing Dudley's hand-me-downs. Did Gringotts convert galleons to pounds? He still found he preferred Muggle clothing, especially for lounging.
Oh no. Oh no. How did he not think of this before? He had totally screwed Gringotts over with the whole blind dragon thing! That was some major property damage, and he stole. Goblins hated it when wizards stole from them. They were never going to let him step foot in the bank again, much less answer his questions. And boy, did he have questions for them.
Harry dug around in his trunk, and drew out parchment, some ink, and a quill. He sat at the desk in his private room (thank you McGonagall, thank you), and chewed at the end of the quill. How to go about this? Well, he supposed honesty was always appreciated.
Mr. Head Goblin,
As you can probably tell already, I have no idea how a letter like this should be written. In fact, I have no idea if the goblin in charge of Gringotts is even called the Head Goblin. I am inexperienced in matters of Muggle banks, much less magical ones. However, while I may be clueless, I am sincere, and I do hope that you read this letter and do not simply throw it out.
I apologize for not knowing how to address you, or even who you are. I have honestly no idea how to find that information without asking a goblin, and the only place I know where to find a goblin is at Gringotts, a place I am most cautious to go at the moment. As you have probably already checked the bottom of the letter to see who is writing this awkward thing, you probably know why.
I wanted to express my sincerest apologies. I am aware that my actions caused a great deal of property damage to your bank, and may have also damaged your bank's reputation. I hope you know this was not my intention, and that my actions were necessary to defeat Voldemort. I am aware that goblins tend to keep away from wizarding affairs, so I know this may not mean much to you, but I also know that goblins are observant. Even if you have stayed out of the war, you know how great an effect Voldemort has had on the community, and it was only for something so important that I would be so bold as to even attempt to break-in to Gringotts. You also must understand that at the time I was on the run, and if there had been another way to get to the object I needed, I would have found it. But time was of the essence, people were dying, and I was desperate. I ask that you try to understand.
I admit that I am not very caught up on current events, as conversing with fellow witches and wizards is only tiring for me now, and we all know that the Daily Prophet is unreliable at best. I am unaware of how Gringotts is doing at the moment, but if there is anything I can do to help rebuild, or help in any other way in repayment for my actions, I would be happy to. I just wanted you, and the rest of the staff, to know that I am fully aware of my actions. I have not forgotten, and I am sorry for any trouble that I may have caused in a time that was stressful for us all, involved in the war or not.
If you accept my apology, please extend it to your staff, as I am sure that my actions affected them as well. Of course, I would also appreciate a reply, as I am most anxious about this matter. I apologize for taking so long to send this letter.
Well, it wasn't the best, but it would have to do. He was sure he sounded sincere, and that was what was important when it came to apologies, right? Harry hoped goblins shared his philosophy.
Okay, Owlery, then off to Shell Cottage. Hopefully things would work out.
Staying at Shell Cottage was probably one of the best post-war decisions Harry had ever made. Then again, the competition wasn't that fierce, as Harry's decision-making skills were slightly (er, very)questionable. The sounds of waves lapping at the shore was just as soothing as he remembered it to be, and the company was wonderful. After the second task of the Triwizard Tournament, he had always gotten along well with Fleur, and although before now he had not known the eldest Weasley sibling well, he found they were companionable as well. He loved the isolation of the cottage, there was nothing but earth and sea as far as the eye could see, and absolutely no traffic coming through the home.
While his stay at Shell Cottage was peaceful and relaxing, it was also educational. Bill and Fleur were fountains of knowledge on the wizarding world, and Harry learned about all the things he never knew, that people just assumed he did. They also both worked at Gringotts, and though Harry could have kicked himself for not waiting to ask their advice before writing his letter, he wasn't exactly known for his fantastic planning.
And though what he learned was educational, it was also disturbing. How could he have been left so in the dark? He was sure it had to do with Dumbledore. The man had always been overly fond of keeping important things from Harry. Fleur and Bill had both pointed out that Harry should really go to Gringotts to get his vaults in order, as he was now a legal adult in the wizarding community, and had been for over a year. They were appalled that he hadn't talked to a goblin before then, because even before he was old enough to control his vaults, as the last of the Potters he should have at least received a statement about his vaults, and made sure everything was accounted for. They seemed just as disturbed as he that no one had told Harry about any of this before now. As the last Potter, he might have responsibilities that he had been unknowingly neglecting.
Experiencing life in a wizarding home that wasn't the Burrow was also enlightening. Bill had a relatively well-paying job, and Fleur wasn't a stay-at-home mum like Mrs. Weasley, so the household wasn't wanting for money, and it reflected in how they lived. Harry was fascinated with all the magical artefacts in the house that seemed to be everyday items for the average wizarding home. All-purpose cleaner that simply needed to be sprayed on any surface and left to dry and the surface became spotless, brooms that continued sweeping by themselves after you started for them, frying pans that told you when your food was almost done or close to burning, mirrors that gave you fashion advice, and it went on and on. Harry loved it. This was what he had seen when he had first fallen in love with the wizarding world. He loved these inventions, these rare shows of imagination and creativity among wizards. This was magic.
Early on in his stay he had given Fleur a pouch of his galleons to exchange to pounds (which she had told him Gringotts did, indeed, do), and gone clothes shopping. Wearing new clothes that fit was one of the best things he had ever physically experienced. Chaffing that he had long-since ignored in his old clothing was now gone, the fabric was soft against his skin, the colors were saturated and unstained, his socks were smooth on his feet and in his shoes instead of overlapping in lumps due to being too big, so less blisters, said shoes fit and didn't have holes (so no blisters), and, perhaps most importantly, for the first time ever he didn't look like he was drowning in his clothes like a street urchin (random-mean-lady-at-the-grocer's words, not his). Which had done nothing but help people spread bad rumours about him, and constantly remind him of his status at the Dursleys (freak!) wherever he went. And boy, was it fantastic to have his own underwear. Thank Merlin for that.
A few days ago Harry had received a brief reply from Gringotts with an acceptance of his apology, and a request to meet him at 12:00 today. Bill had taken his measurements and gotten him a nice black robe in his general size that was self-tailoring so that he would have something to wear, as he had only owned his new muggle clothes, his school robes, and his dress robes from fourth year. None of which were fit for the occasion, obviously.
And so now here he was, fidgeting in front of Fleur before the fireplace as she applied glamours that he found incredibly itchy and irritating on his skin. He wished they could have just gone the route of dye and make-up, but Fleur didn't own any of the kind of make-up he would need (as a quarter-veela she had little need for make-up to begin with, and mainly used it for fun, not to hide blemishes), and no one had really wanted to risk screwing dye up. The glamour was necessary as Harry did not plan on getting accosted as soon as he Flooed to the Leaky Cauldron (Gringotts was not connected to the Floo Network for security reasons), and post-war Wizarding Britain was still wary of people with hoods up in the middle of a nice day. So itchy glamour it was. If only it was raining and gloomy.
"Alright, 'Arry, I am done. Do you wish to see?" Fleur asked, stepping back and lowering her wand. Harry nodded and Fleur gestured toward the mirror on the wall. Harry turned and was met with a different version of himself. His hair was a dirty blonde, his eyes were brown, his jaw was more broad and covered in light stubble, and his nose had a little bump at the bridge. Fleur had also changed the color of his glasses to brown, and manipulated their shape a little. His hair was, as always, in front of his scar, although it was messy as always. Harry's hair and his scar never cooperated, it was a fact of life. It was a miracle the glamour had been able to change the colour, although Harry suspected it wouldn't last long, and the glamour on his hair was noticeably more irritating than the ones on his face.
"Wow, Fleur. Well done! Even I can hardly tell I'm me," Harry praised, impressed. He grinned, "I'll definitely be able to get past the crowds now. Thanks, Fleur."
She smiled back. "You know zat it was no problem, 'Arry. Good luck with your meeting, I 'ope it goes well," the woman replied, as accented as ever, even if it was less pronounced than it had been when they first met.
"Thanks, me too." Harry grabbed a handful of the silvery powder, threw it into the fire, waved to Fleur, stepped into the green flames, and called out, "The Leaky Cauldron!"
The ride was as disorienting for Harry as it always was, as he spun quickly and held his breath, making sure not to inhale ash. He kept his eyes closed until he felt the spinning stop, and as per Bill's advice, began to step out of the fireplace just as he was about to stop spinning. There was a little stumble, but that was a vast improvement from the various rolling tumbles he had performed in the past, so Harry counted it as a major success, and mentally thanked Bill, while cursing everyone else for not telling him sooner. He supposed it was a little similar to getting the right rhythm to step off an escalator, or those spinny things Harry had seen Dudley torture children on at the local park. It was probably closer to the spinny things, as he had witnessed many a kid take a tumble when their grips slipped on the bars that stuck out of the round metal platform, and they were sent flying onto the unforgiving mulch. He took a deep breath while looking around the fairly busy pub, stepping away from the fireplace before drawing his wand and waving it over himself to get rid of any ash clinging to his robes (thank you Fleur).
Pleased by the lack of attention he was being given, Harry performed the standard brick-tapping to make his way into Diagon Ally. Spotting the tall white building immediately, he headed directly there. It wouldn't do to be late.
Harry entered the marble hall and approached one of the goblins sitting behind the high counter. The goblin appeared to be weighing precious stones, so Harry waited to be acknowledged. Finally, the goblin looked up and sneered, "what?"
"I'm Harry Potter, I have an appointment to see Gringotts' Head Goblin."
"Key?" The goblin sneered, and Harry slid his vault key across the counter towards the goblin. The goblin examined it for a moment before he passed it back to Harry, saying "follow me."
The goblin lead him to a side door and down a winding corridor with too many turns to an ornate wooden doorway. He knocked on the door, and an irritable "what?" was heard from within.
"Your twelve o'clock appointment has arrived, sir," replied the goblin, sounding much more respectful than before.
"Send him in," was heard from within, and the goblin pushed the door open, gesturing for Harry to enter. Harry thanked the goblin, got another sneer for his efforts, and entered the office. What looked to be a large ornate marble desk sat at the center of the room, with what Harry imagined to be a very old goblin seated behind it. Ornate tapestries and bookshelves lined the walls, as well as mounted weapons and armour. A wooden cushioned armchair was placed before the desk and Harry approached it nervously under the eye of the goblin. "Take a seat." Harry did so.
"Now, Lord Potter-"
"Excuse me?" Harry asked, baffled at the address.
"What?" The goblin waspishly replied, looking irritated.
"Did you just call me a Lord?" he asked, still feeling pretty unbalanced.
"Well of course, Lord Potter. It is your proper title, and this is a formal setting. What else would I call you?" the Head Goblin snapped, impatience coloring his tone.
"I, well, I don't know! Since when was I a Lord? What does that even mean?" Harry asked, still feeling off kilter. This was not what he had prepared for when he had given himself that little pep talk in the bathroom mirror this morning (and the mirror had encouraged him right back). Was he destined to be confused his whole life? He hoped not! And people were actually still Lords? Well, he supposed that the wizarding community was rather old-fashioned, but what did Lords even do? The only Lord he knew about was the Dark one, and Harry didn't fancy going crazy and ugly and commanding a bunch of idiots.
The goblin across from him looked at him as if he was an idiot. "You became the Lord of House Potter when you gained your full inheritance at seventeen. If I'm not mistaken, according to the will of Sirius Black, you can also claim Lordship over House of Black. As for what it means, well," the goblin gave a put-upon sigh and looked as if he really didn't want to be having this conversation. Harry figured this was probably a good time to jump in.
"Look, Mr. Head Goblin, sir, or however I'm supposed to address you, I don't know anything. My Muggle relatives weren't fond of teaching me life skills, and nobody in the wizarding world has told me anything. I've been spending all my free time up until now just trying to figure out the basics or staying alive, so I haven't even touched on the whole 'I have finances' thing until just recently. Honestly, I think that I should have had a teacher or someone explain stuff to me like they do with the Muggle-borns when they start Hogwarts, but I only got someone to show me Diagon Ally and get supplies with me. Which was a crap idea, because I hadn't even heard of magic except in Muggle stories until then. So I'm totally in the dark here, sir. I know it's probably really annoying for you, but you gotta pretend that I'm, I don't know, a five year-old Muggle-born that happened to get saddled with all this stuff and explain it to me. Because when I say I don't know anything, I mean it. I am totally clueless. But if you start with the basics and go from there, I should catch on fast. Please just explain. I don't even know who you are. I'm really tired of being left in the dark." Harry finished his mini-speech on a tired note. He really was sick of being left in the dark.
The Head Goblin looked at him in slight astonishment. "This is unacceptable! You know nothing about your financial or social status?"
"How has this come to be?"
"Dumbledore, probably," Harry replied sullenly.
The goblin humphed. "I am Rognarok, Head Goblin of Gringotts. You may address me by name as it is my responsibility that this problem was not dealt with sooner. Have you eaten?"
"Yeah, just before I came."
"Good, we are going to be here a while. You are going to learn everything you need to know. This is preposterous."
Harry's head felt like a great lot of pixies had decided to throw a party in it. In other words, terrible. When Rognarok said everything, he meant everything.
Over the many hours they had spent in the office, Rognarok had pulled parchment after parchment out of his desk drawer (which seemed to have some very complex enchantments on it) detailing Potter estates, Potter business holdings, Potter vaults, Sirius' will, Black estates, Black business holdings, Black vaults, not to mention both families' investments, proceedings that had occurred when Harry was absent, decisions made by the bank that needed to be approved, various other wills that listed Harry in some regard, and so much more that Harry never wanted to read or sign anything ever again.
They also discussed the warding of Grimmauld Place, which had been something Harry had been concerned with before the meeting. He was afraid that rogue Death Eaters might still know about the property and try something, or there might be traps waiting for him there. Bill had told him Gringotts had an excellent warding team that they occasionally loaned out. However this had lead to them discussing warding the rest of the properties Harry now knew he owned, and the fact that he had a team of house-elves he needed to talk to. It was no wonder Harry had a massive headache, what with the massive to-do list he could feel growing against his will.
At some point, Harry had apologized again for his break-in to the bank, which had ended up leading to a discussion about how he had done it, and how security could be improved. Rognarok had swiftly stated that Harry was extremely creative and maybe a little crazy, and someone with his point of view could be a useful addition to their security team. They decided that Harry would consult for Gringotts, trying to find flaws in their security and how to fix them, and doing anything else he could think of to improve the bank in general. It was a pretty loose agreement, but Harry was a pretty loose person in terms of rules and boundaries, and at some point Rognarok must have realized he would get the most out of Harry if he just let him do his own thing.
In these hours a strange friendship formed between the two. Harry found he liked the Head Goblin's dry sense of humor, and Rognarok grudgingly admired Harry's slightly crazy way of thinking, and the way he seemed to view every creature as equals. He seemed to have the ultimate morals. He was righteous, and Rognarok found that he didn't ever want to disagree with the wizard when he was indignant on behalf of others. He imagined this was what had let Harry defeat You-Know-Who when no one else could. He was strong. Goblins admired strength in every sense, not just the physical one.
They came to agree that Harry's consulting for Gringotts would be in exchange for the warding and any other services Gringotts would supply in the future. They were comfortable not putting a set price to their services. Both parties were rich (Harry was quite embarrassed and astonished when he saw the final figures), and they preferred to trade favors rather than money. Money was for business, and Rognarok had stopped addressing Harry as 'Lord Potter' hours ago. They were an odd pair, but neither cared. They both enjoyed each other's company, and that was all they were concerned with.
Harry left for Shell Cottage feeling extremely accomplished. He had achieved a lot today, and Grimmauld was going to be started on first thing tomorrow. He could get out of Bill and Fleur's hair when that warding was done, and start looking through the Black Library that was located in Grimmauld. He was taking charge of his life for once. The ball was rolling. The to-do list was massive, but just having a to-do list meant that he knew what he had to do, that he had a goal (other than survival, which was kind of a lame goal), that as he crossed each item off the list, he was one step closer to getting all his shit together for the first time ever. And that felt good. That massive list was a headache, but it also gave him a ridiculous amount of hope.
Harry collapsed onto his bed in Shell Cottage with a massive grin on his face. The house was empty, he had found a note on the mantle of the fireplace saying that Bill and Fleur were going out to dinner, and that they hoped his meeting went well. Well was an understatement. Harry was finally going to be his own man. No one was going to tell him what to do. He was going to make his own decisions, control his own destiny.
He felt fantastic.
Author's Note: As you can see we're still getting to the juicy bits, but this was a good place to end the chapter, and this way I update faster, so that's how it's gonna be. I'm not going to speed stuff up unrealistically so that we can get to the real meat of the story faster, because exposition is important and interesting (hopefully) if you let it be. I'm not one to write the entire back-story with flashbacks. That's boring. I'll probably use flashbacks, but I don't want that to be my only device. Diversity is important!