Chapter Two –

Borough of Islington, London; Outside Number Twelve Grimmauld Place

The cool summer breeze lightly caressed the trees and rustled them along its way. Amidst the slight rustling of trees and leaves drifting to the ground was Ferdinand, wearing black trousers and a tank-top with a white un-buttoned shirt over it. He stood just outside the black-gated park opposite to the houses, seemingly enjoying the breeze. It was almost like a cool refreshment in the warm heat.

"I wonder how much longer Albus will take." Ferdinand mused aloud, his head back as he leaned against the gate. "He did say to be here at eleven a.m. sharp and it's," He peered through half-lidded eyes to check for any other presence than himself before waving his wand, casting Tempus before watching the wispy letters coalesce in front of his face:

10:56 A.M.

July 31st, 1995

"Four minutes till eleven. It appears we have about a few minutes, Bones. You said you wanted to talk to me before, right?" He murmured quietly.

"Yes, I have. Master, I have not judged your actions as they have been generally the wisest course of action. But," Bones' voice paused, almost as if searching for the correct phrase. "I cannot help but question your actions by returning to the British Isles, especially on this specific date and your plans for Gringotts."

A sigh met Bones' question. "I figured it was finally time to do what they were telling me to do the whole time. It wasn't the Magical World that was the problem, only my perception of it that said it was. It was those people that were the root. Besides, I had no choice. You know where I'd normally be on today of all days. With Gringotts… I have to at least try; you know this as much as I do, possibly more." He buried away his sentiments about the significance of the day viciously. It wouldn't do – not at all if he appeared as if he wanted to be somewhere else or was surly and a right git.

Not at all.

"Very well, master," Ferdinand could almost see the agreeing nod in Bones' tone, "So long as you are certain of your ventures, I would accompany you to the ends of the Earth. My place is at your side, master."

Through the unwavering tone and shocking amounts of loyalty Bones exhibited towards Ferdinand, he smiled genuinely. "I guess your place is with me, Bones." He finalized Bones' sentiment. "Now then, I believe it's eleven sharp."

"To your left, twenty paces away under a Disillusionment Charm and steadily walking at a slow gait. Just arrived under silent Apparation." Bones murmured in a voice that Ferdinand strained his ears to hear.

Ferdinand turned towards the left and grinned widely before uttering, "I believe Albus has warned you of my arrival?"

"That he has sonny-boy." A gruff, rough voice grated out with light shock well-hidden in his voice before it disappeared immediately. "When did Albus meet you, and what were the terms of the agreement struck?"

"July 29th, 1995. I would assist in his underground and aboveground efforts at two-hundred and fifty galleons every six months for three years, including free legal excursions to Nicaragua, Greenland, Iceland, and nine others as well."

"Alright sonny," The man growled while canceling his Disillusionment Charm. The man – Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody – was a man in his older ages yet that diminished none of his skill and prowess, only seemingly to enhance them in a way. His hair was dark grey and grizzled and held two eyes, one a striking electric-blue that consistently swiveled in its socket, the other a dull brown that was firmly entrenched in staring down Ferdinand. He had part of a nose missing and his entire left leg was replaced with a wooden facsimile, adding to the intimidating factor. He walked with a gnarled walking-staff and his wand was pointed at Ferdinand.

"You've proved that you're at least the mercenary that Albus hired." Moody seemed to growl constantly, Ferdinand assumed.

"That I am, Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody." Ferdinand quipped in an unperturbed tone that Moody growled at. "Where's Albus?"

"He sent me to collect your sorry hide." Moody curtly growled and strode towards Ferdinand, wooden leg thumping against the ground with a dull thump. He thrust a paper into his hands. "Read it then burn it." The ex-Auror commanded.

Ferdinand did so, reading Number 12, Grimmauld Place. He watched as a dilapidated house in-between numbers eleven and thirteen sprung into place. "Quaint." He commented before wordlessly burning the paper with his wand.

They strode across the street and onto the steps leading up to the house before Moody stopped Ferdinand. "Sonny, if you cause so much as a single problem, I will personally skin you alive. This is not a place for games, or playing around. We are fighting against a Dark Lord, not a kneazle. Understand?" Moody questioned in his typical tone, staring down Ferdinand from his greater height.

He bristled in indignation but held his temper. "Crystal." Moody gave a frightening grin in response and opened the door to Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place.

Studying the hallway left Ferdinand in an uneasy state. It was dark, gloomy and lit with several barely flickering lights. The floor and rug needed major dusting as it appeared darker than the 'black' walls and there were umbrellas made from hairy troll legs. Along the walls sat beheaded house elves' heads next to a curtained off section near the hairy troll leg umbrellas.

Despite seeing worse, it still disturbed Ferdinand who was used to at least some cleanliness in households.

"Oh don't worry sonny," Mad-Eye's disturbing grin never faltered as he detected the unease from him. "The rest of the house is worse state than the hallway."

Of course Mad-Eye would like to disturb him. He was a mercenary that worked out of 'legal' parameters most of the time and he was an ex-Auror – one of the strongest in fact. Ferdinand sighed before following the dull thumps from Moody, carefully stepping around the umbrellas and curtained off section.

Nothing good would come of it and everything bad could go wrong, especially if this house had house elf heads mounted on the walls with their names and when they served. Not to mention their infraction for those that were still relatively young-looking.

There was a door at the end of the hallway; to the left of it spanned a staircase to the upper-levels of the houses. From what was seen already, the house was as bad as he said it was. As he approached the doorway, he heard voices talking.

It was a distinctly curt male voice that seemed to answer a question that was asked. "Maybe because he's Dumbledore and knows far more than what we do. If Dumbledore wants this so-called mercenary, then he will join whether we like it or not."

"I couldn't possibly imagine a time when I would actually willingly agree with the greasy git, but I do right now. If Dumbledore says he's trustworthy, then he's trustworthy." From the snarl that came after the low tone, it was implied that the two distinctly disliked each other. With a passion.

"Why you –"

"Severus, that's enough. We wouldn't want any untoward hasty words to mar an occasion that should be rather light-hearted as we gain another valued member for the Order." Albus' voice rang out, quelling all complaints with ease. And almost as if on queue, Ferdinand entered the room – kitchen. It appeared to be one of the more sanitary rooms of Number 12 Grimmauld Place, yet the walls still disturbed him. How could they possibly be that black?

In the middle of the room was a long table with wooden chairs that most of the Order sat or stood around, with several in various places of the room. Almost at once he recognized several prominent faces such as 'Mad-Eye' Moody, famous ex-Auror of the British Ministry of Magic; Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts; Sirius Black, well-wanted criminal; Minevera McGonagall, a well-known and significant Transfiguration mistress for several well-known theories used nearly world-wide; and Severus Snape, youngest Potions Master in the century.

"Ah, hello." Ferdinand felt uncomfortably self-conscious at how many eyes seemed focused on him. It felt odd and not so pleasant being the center of attention out of a room full of people.

"Oh my, you look like you're skin and bones dear!" Maybe the red-haired woman didn't notice his muscular frame? "We need to get some meat on yours bones if you're going to be helping the Order of the Phoenix. Come in, come in!" She bustled over and ushered him in. Before he knew it, he was sitting at the table eating a plate of steak and kidney with potatoes and gravy. Several sniggers were heard as they saw the Weasley matron bustling around the 'tough' mercenary.

How she managed to serve him so quickly was a mystery, let alone the fact she had that food available in the morning.

Soon the wondrous smell found him famished and he began to eat while being introduced to the members of the Order. He attempted to remember them all (including other occupants in the household) in an easy to remember list:

Deadalus Diggle – an excitable man with typical wizard clothing.

Hestia Jones – a laidback woman with an enjoyable outlook on life.

Severus Snape – a curt and to-the-point man that seemed to hold some respect for him.

Sirius Black – a man that was both joyful and amusing to be around that he liked quite a bit.

Minevera McGonagall – a woman with strict policies and a strong Scottish brogue that he shouldn't cross lightly.

Remus Lupin – a relaxed man that spoke when needed or to point something out that seemed friendly enough; seems to be on the nerves of a woman – Nymphadora Tonks from several distasteful glances.

Nymphadora Tonks – a cheery and fun-loving Metamorphmagus and Auror that shared a joking outlook on life with himself – also his new partner.

Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody – curt, strict and surly to a point, something he disliked (not to mention Mad-Eye's own dislike for him) – trainer of Nymphadora Tonks.

Kingsley Shacklebolt – an Auror who was trusting, calm, reassuring and believed in doing what was right, a trait he respected.

Mundungus Fletcher – an oily and slick man that was more suited to the back-alleys and under-the-table deals.

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore – a cheerful and enjoyable older man to be around with his numerous quirks, including a love of Fire-Whiskey that he shared.

Molly Weasley – a bustling and strict woman that can cook extremely well, married to Arthur Weasley and mother to seven children.

Arthur Weasley – a relaxed yet quirky man fixated on dismantling muggle inventions and finding how they work.

Fred & George Weasley – twins and troublemakers to the core that enjoy making random explosions in a closed off room that are amusing to be around.

Ron Weasley – a child that has quite a large stomach and is knowledgeable on the intricacies of Quidditch, close friends with Hermione Granger.

Ginny Weasley – a feisty girl that can seemingly control her older brothers, Fred, George, and Ron with simplistic ease and enjoys talking with the other adolescent girl in the house, Hermione Granger.

Hermione Granger – a girl that enjoys books immensely and is knowledgeable about a great deal of subjects, close friends with Ron and Ginny Weasley.

Kreacher – disturbed House Elf.

Crookshanks the Kneazle – haughty damn orange ball of fur.

Pig the Owl – excitable and overly hyper mini-owl.

Despite the lengthy list, he was certainly sure there were more that would arrive on that record. He watched as Ginny and Hermione laugh as Tonks (as she preferred to be called) morphed her nose to a pig snout to a duck bill with little effort.

"So, Ferdinand is it?" Sirius Black caught his attention, grinning widely at Tonks' show at the same time.

"Indeed it is."

"How do you like my humble abode?" Sirius jokingly asked, busting into laughter at the unease run across his face. "Ah, don't worry about it. It's rather… distasteful shall we say." Ferdinand sighed in relief as he didn't have to respond, merely agree.

"I could probably fix most rooms with a few waves of my wand if you want." He offered. Just as Sirius was going to respond however, Missus Weasley heard and responded.

"If you could do the hallway that would be wonderful, dear. I want the children to have something to do over the summer so we'll be cleaning like muggles for the majority of the rooms though."

"Alright."

Sirius eagerly jumped up at that point as he dragged Ferdinand along with him into the hallway to the curtained section on the wall. "Is there anything you can do for this atrocious painting of my mother, Walburga Black, behind the curtains?" He whispered excitedly. "The painting's stuck in place from a Permanent Sticking Charm and a right screeching banshee when the curtains are open." Sirius answered the upcoming question.

"Have you tried a Permanent Silencing Charm? It might take quite a bit of magic, but it could be a solution."

"Not exactly. We tried a regular Silencing Charm, but it only lasted maybe half a minute…"

"Naturally, you assumed the charm would dissipate rather quickly and I'm going to agree on that." Ferdinand let out a soft hum as he perused through several options. "How thick is the wall here?"

Sirius shook his head negatively to the forming idea, "Already tried cutting the wall out. We still had a terrible headache from the ruddy old hag several hours later and no closer to getting her bloody painting out of here."

"Tried burning it yet?"

"… Actually, not yet." Sirius sheepishly rubbed the back of his scraggly, long black hair. "We've had some pretty dark objects in the hallways for a while and only just cleared 'em out… yesterday I think. No one's done it yet."

"Is it an oil painting with really old canvas?"

"Yeah, why do you ask? Will it burn through the enchantments as well?"

A grin stretched across Ferdinand's face as he left the question unanswered. "Perfect. Think you can keep a steady Silencing Charm down for at least fifteen seconds? If anything, we can burn out a section of the wall with her with it if burning the oil painting doesn't work."

Nodding met the mercenary's question as they got into set positions. Off to the side was a mini-crowd of the house's occupants. They all had their hands at the ready to cover their ears.

They counted down to zero.

"Three."

Sirius' hand inched closer to the drapes.

"Two."

Both of their wands were at the ready.

"One…"

Sirius grasped the drapes tightly.

"Zero!"

The drapes flew open at the loud exclamation.

"FILTHY HALF-BLOODS AND MUDBLOOD –"The painting's voice was cut off by a Silencio from Sirius as Ferdinand brandished his wand back and whipping it forward, a large bluish-white fireball roaring to life as it flew towards the painting several feet away.

The intense flames licked and bit against the old canvas, somehow eating away at the old enchantments against fire and flame. Slowly it began to ignite the painting and Walburga thrashed angrily, the whites of her eyes wide in panic. After several more seconds the Silencing Charm faded away, the crackling of flame evident as they heard it.

It faded away after consuming only the oil painting, leaving only a gold-embroider behind that was lightly melted somewhat untouched. The drapes were ash on the floor and the wall was scorched black. A swish of a wand and the ash disappeared.

Ferdinand turned to see shocked faces at how easily the painting of Walburga was destroyed. "What? I'm good with spells involving fire."

Pale-blue eyes twinkled as he caught them hiding beneath half-moon spectacles amongst the crowd, Sirius clapping him on the back as if Ferdinand had given him his freedom back.

Maybe this wouldn't be as bad as Ferdinand had originally thought but the points he gained for burning Walburga certainly helped towards a better environment.

XXX-XXX

The Leaky Cauldron, Mid-Afternoon

"This place certainly hasn't changed since I was last here…" Ferdinand muttered in familiarity as storm-gray eyes swept over the rustic pub that acted almost as a muggle Bed & Breakfast, only serving more than just breakfast. Yet before his companion, Nymphadora could comment, he continued without pause. "Definitely hasn't."

Tonks wondered why she was with him. Oh right, Dumbledore wanted her to accompany him to Gringotts and to be honest, she wanted to get out of the house anyways to stretch her legs and be away from him. It helped that she had a convenient outlet to do so and productively as well.

"Hello Tom." He greeted the hunched over owner of the Leaky Cauldron as they stopped at the dark wood bar.

"By my beard, is that you, Ferdinand?"

"Indeed it is, Tom. How've you and Miranda done?"

Tom's eyes crinkled as a smile swept across his face. "We've done marvelously ever since you helped out our fine establishment. Those galleons you donated were very much appreciated after that terrible fight in the spring of 1992. After everything was rebuilt, since the wooden support and timber were magically shattered, we were left in pretty rough shape." He conversationally added for Tonks' sake, studiously rubbing a glass clean with a white rag.

"Wait, the bar-fight on the night of April 25th, 1992?" Nymphadora's eyes bugged. An amusing sight as her eyes did momentarily bug-out before returning to the warm hazel color and shape. At Tom's pleased nod, she continued in remembrance, "Several Aurors were actually called out that night to break up the fight apprehended the rowdy gits. I heard all about it from my teacher, 'Mad-Eye' Moody since I was just a trainee at the time."

She swatted Ferdinand's shoulder when he snorted at Moody's name and raised an accusing finger at him. "No snorting or bad mouthing my slightly insane, extremely paranoid and overall crazy mentor."

Gray eyes rolled at her weak swat. "If you want me to, partner."

"Are you two here on business, or do you have time for a meal – on the house?" Tom added with the same eye-crinkling smile.

"Ah, not for myself. Nymphadora?" He ignored her declaration of 'Don't call me that!' and continued to look expectantly at her, enjoying how her hair seemed to rotate between colors fit for her mood. "Well?"

After she brief spat of rage simmered down, she faced Tom then her eyes trailed down to the English muffins on display a few feet away then back up at Tom.

"Ah, very well… Here you go! Have a good day and Ferdinand," Tom's genuine smile never faltered as Ferdinand turned around, Tonks looking curious, "Do try and come visit. Miranda has wanted to see you for the longest time but she is regrettably sick at the moment in St. Mungo's." At their shocked look, he elucidated, "A mild case of Dragon Pox sadly. She'll make a full recovery, she's just highly contagious. Anyways, shoo! Go do your business and come back later for something to wet your throats." He kindly ushered them out towards a stone wall in a cupboard.

Tonks tapped a set of stones while barely looking at what she was doing while starting a conversation with her partner for possibly three years. She figured she'd at least get to know him. "So, how old are you exactly? I'm guessing nineteen or eighteen."

A mirthful chuckle responded, "I'm actually younger than that. Try six… teen…" He froze and his mind went a mile a second. Why was he willingly giving out information he wouldn't give a Head Minister? Was he that starved for attention to answer a question that he'd normally lie to? He couldn't fathom the answer, nor reason why.

Nymphadora stared with a bit of worry and shock behind the hazel eyes. Why did he go ramrod straight and stop moving and talking? Was it something she did? Tonks ran through a mental checklist that she would often go through at times:

Did I do an obscene hand gesture without knowing? No.

Is there something here to stop him? Not really – only an extremely small crowd bustling around.

Did I morph by accident? Not that I can tell – only my hair morphs to fit my mood really.

Are my clothes too revealing? Hell no – if anything, they're too conservative. Damn robe.

It must've been something he didn't want to say. He did say he was 'six… teen…' before cutting off. I wonder when he did turn sixteen – oh what the hell am I thinking?! He just said he was sixteen and he looks like he should be nearly twenty! Who are you really, Ferdinand?

He spoke up, breaking her out of her thoughts, "Well, I guess that cat is at least out of the bag… Yeah, I'm sixteen in two days." Nymphadora looked up and saw a pained grimace on his face. "I'd appreciate it if you didn't try to milk me for more information like that."

"My bad. I didn't mean the question to do any harm; I just wanted to get to know the person I'm going to have as a partner for a long time." Tonks glanced as she hurried to catch up to his already striding form and peered to see his face torn between accepting her words and distrusting her motives. Slowly, it seemed to be that he was accepting her words.

After several minutes of terse stillness, Ferdinand broke the silence, "Why is it that Diagon Alley isn't as packed as it usually is?"

"Didn't you know what day is?" Ferdinand inwardly flinched, growing silent at Nymphadora's almost saddened words, "It's a dead day for Diagon Alley and all over Magical Britain for the most part. Most of the community seems to think it's their fault for Harry Potter disappearing and give a sort of tribute or peace-offering on July 31st, the day he was born. The boy was found to be missing from his relative's house, the Dursley's, for about five years in 1990. That's pretty much the only thing Rita Skeeter has done productively is discover the fact that he was missing from the Wizarding World. She tracked him down to the Dursley's in 1990 and wanted to hold an interview, only to find he was gone, run away in 1985. That's why the majority of the… place isn't there and the ones there have made at least some peace with it.

"You alright there, Fred?" Ferdinand bemusedly glanced at Tonks when she used a nickname for him.

"Fred?"

Nymphadora snorted, "Of course. Why would I call you 'Ferdinand' constantly when I can just shorten it to 'Fred'? Besides, I prefer to call the twins Twin One and Twin Two."

"Good point." Ferdinand admitted with a quiet laugh. "I was wondering why there were children younger than seventeen in the Order, or at least the building."

"Not so loud, Fred!" Nymphadora warned him as he merely raised his hand and swept it across the Alley. There was no one in sight let alone hearing range. She huffed in annoyance. "But I do get your point. And besides, there isn't a magical soul alive that can trick my little secret." He bragged, getting an eye-roll in response. They were nearly at the white-marble built Gringotts.

"It's because Hermione knows the Weasley family, namely Ron and Ginny and wanted to spend part of the summer with them. It's funny that Hermione and Ron are friends though." She explained when 'Fred' raised an eyebrow. "Their first year Ron sent her crying to the girl's bathrooms for a few days from a few choice words. After hearing what he did, he actually went after her and apologized. From there, they became somewhat close friends. Friends with bad spats, but good friends." Tonks admitted.

"So what did you need to get from here?" Nymphadora questioned.

"I actually need to do some business regarding some vaults I supposedly own here. The goblins were trying to get me to come in for a while and I might have… Well, let's just say rather volatile words flew pretty quick at Head Manager Ragnok." Tonks boggled at the thought of offending the goblins, let alone the Head Manager; the head honcho of each and every single Gringotts branch in the world. It wasn't done lightly at all unless you wished to be joining the Headless Hunt.

Gringotts controlled the vast majority of gold in the British Isles, not to mention their few but important branches around the world. Add to the fact that they are a neutral country all onto itself and once you stepped onto the white marble of Gringotts, you are on their territory.

Opening her mouth, she said in a quiet and hushed tone as they crossed over the white marble, "You didn't, did you?"

"Actually, it's not as bad as you think." She heaved a sigh of relief before going deathly-pale. "It's worse…"

"I don't know you." Nymphadora prayed to any deity known to magical-kind that she would get out of this situation unscathed. Let it be known that she attempted to pray for him and failed in the worst-case scenario.

"I don't blame you."

Inside Ferdinand's clothing was Bones inwardly smacking his forehead at his master's foolish actions. They were going to get him in a rather precarious situation, and this was most likely that situation. All for several damn vaults that could hold nothing of importance no less…

XXX-XXX

Nymphadora sighed in relief as they passed another set of armored goblin guards. "Let's hurry the bloody hell up, Fred! I'm dying of anxiety!" She hissed at him in a quiet whisper. "I feel like a criminal in here and I need to get the few galleons I have to pay for my rent!"

"How the do you think I feel then?" He asked in a jovial tone. Nymphadora turned her head slowly, hair turning a vibrant shade of purple to suggest… something very strongly, Ferdinand assumed. She had a dangerous look in her hazel eyes as she caught his jovial tone.

"Like a ruddy insane git."

Holding his chest dramatically, he jokingly said, "Oh, how you wound me so!" They finally approached the teller sitting behind a raised desk.

"Yes?" He snarled in a snarky tone, "What is your business here?"

"My friend here, Nymphadora Tonks, requires a withdrawal and I myself need to access several vaults I have not done so yet." Tonks at least was thankful he was acting polite and diplomatic despite her hair turning a vibrant ruby-red as he talked for her. She wasn't a child by any means!

The goblin held out a gnarled hand expectantly. Tonks obliged and handed her dull bronze key towards the goblin. "Vault 891, correct?"

"Yep." Tonks popped the 'p' by force of habit, cringing ever-so-slightly at the fierce sneer she received.

"Will you be accompanying your little runt of a friend, or go by yourself into the deep, dark bowels of Gringotts?" It was official. In both Ferdinand and Nymphadora's eyes, this goblin was a right bastard and rotten git.

"I'll go down myself and meet up with him later!" Tonks hurriedly said, already rushing along with the goblin holding her key to the rocky bowels where the vaults were kept. "Good luck, Fred! Hope you last!" Tonks gave him a two-fingered salute before vanishing behind the great wooden door to the underground.

Ferdinand sighed, "Well, which office am I going to?"

"You think you're going to one of the Managers for such a pathetic and measly reason such as accessing some vaults? I think not." The goblin snorted in derision.

Ferdinand continued unperturbed. "Just call Head Manager Ragnok and tell him Ferdinand is coming."

"I will enjoy seeing your head roll, Ferdinand."

"Joyful little berk, aren't you?"

An obscene hand-gesture met his quip that left him astounded as the goblin padded away, snarling in Gobbledegook. He flamboyantly sighed with an amused grin and followed the diminutive form.

Bloody violent berks, I swear.

XXX-XXX

"You have five seconds to explain why you are wasting my valuable – YOU!" Head Manager Ragnok, a goblin short in stature and old in years, snarled with a passion at Ferdinand as he came into view, ignoring the goblin's fierce protests to 'Get Back!' The Head Manager jumped atop his expensive marbled desk with lips curled into a sneer. "Explain now or risk my ire losing its cap and losing your head you Oath-Breaker!"

Ferdinand crossed the threshold quickly and closed the door, seeing numerous goblins crowded around the closing door.

"Okay, Ragnok, we both know we were a bit hasty in our words the last time we spoke. Let's not do any too hasty here, okay?" Ferdinand raised his hands and made comforting gestures at the infuriated Head Manager.

"Hasty?!" Ragnok snarled imperiously, "I was full in my rights and you violated our contract! You fully and knowingly renegaded upon our accord and had the audacity to deny us the whelps that were going to replace our worthless Ukrainian Ironbellys! You have three bloody **** seconds or you will lose your impudent head!"

"Wow, violent." He commented on the expletive uttered in Gobbledegook. The glower he received from Ragnok increased in intensity making him feel the tendrils of anxiety. "Okay, okay. I want –"

"You even have the **** audacity to come into my office and demand something?!"

Ferdinand realized acting cordial wouldn't get him anywhere, and at the moment, it was time to change tact. Maybe the Head Manager would react better to the showing of strength. Or it could be the offer that was being bartered with. "Sit down and shut up, Ragnok! I'm offering seven bloody Ukrainian Ironbelly eggs including half of my Galleons in the unopened vaults, including any Goblin-crafted wares so shut the bloody hell up!" Ragnok's mouth opened and closed like a fish for several brief moments before becoming pensive when he pulled out a shrunken chest from his trouser pocket and enlarged. Inside were seven large steel-colored eggs with silver flecks spread around each one.

He probably liked the offer better than the showing of strength. Especially since the ruddy little git seems to be barely holding his temper in. Ferdinand noted the puce colored facial skin on Ragnok's old, gnarled and wrinkled skin. It is three more eggs than he ordered a year back and was conveniently misplaced. Ah well, it was for a good cause at least.

"Full control of one of the vaults liquidated assets, a fourth of the remaining vaults, along with the seven eggs and I will tentatively agree that the situation will be set in the past and brought up no more. Meaning your status as an Oath-Breaker will be null and void."

"If there are any Goblin-crafted wares in the vaults, they waiver the 1/4th requirement of the each individual vault. So one Goblin-crafted item and one free vault is free of the tax and so on."

Beady eyes glinted with greed. It was common knowledge that Goblins valued their hand-crafted wares ferociously and viciously. They would do anything to return them to their rightful owners and nation. "That is acceptable."

They finalized the situation with a strong clasp, a dull green glow encasing their hands. He turned and jumped back into his stair-back chair after the green glow concluded.

"Sit and let a steady amount of blood flow from the tip of a finger onto this paper for approximately thirteen seconds." Ragnok commanded in a fully professional tone, offering a sharp obsidian knife. "This is to ascertain your identity and vault holdings without a doubt in mind."

Can I really do this? Ferdinand asked himself, feeling unsure. Did he really want to do this? Was he even ready for his identity to be known? Couldn't he always just come back at another time? He shook his head. Ignoring the inner voice to continue, to plod onward, he stood up from the stiff chair, much to the ire of Ragnok. "I-I can't do this right now. I'll give you the eggs now as part of our accord… but, I don't feel like I can do this right now."

He turned and strode out of the office after leaving the chest on the Head Manager's desk, barely noting that Ragnok didn't bellow or roar at him to return. Away from the office in the main lobby of Gringotts was where his mind was mentally warring with itself.

Why can't I do this? It's not like it's hard to walk into a vault, but… I can't help but to keep running away from it. Damn it all! He felt like kicking himself. Why couldn't he merely accept his identity? That inner voice residing in the back of everyone's mind yet rarely spoke, whispered as if the voice was near his ear. 'Because you don't want to risk yourself. You've built all of these walls to hide behind, yet you can't tear them down to accept who you really are because –'

Ferdinand growled lowly, interrupting the seemingly salacious whisperings in their tracks. Leave me alone! I just want to live in peace without worrying about –

"Fred?" Tonks' concerned voice broke through the mental din. "Hey, are you okay?" She studied his facial reactions and his current state. As a Metamorphmagus, she was deeply in sync with her body and its reactions along with their subsequent branching affects. Naturally, she became adept and masterful at deciphering physical reactions such as muscular twitches that accommodate nervousness; minute clenching of the jaw to indicate whether one would be forthcoming with information; how teeth would grate amongst themselves to hint towards frustration and anger. When she saw Ferdinand's face, she froze for a second. It was the perfect cold, indifferent and metallic mask.

She could discern very, very little from his facial features. The only thing she could discern was from his dark gray eyes that held that smallest amounts of a raging emotional storm in them that shifted so quickly that it was hard to detect what he was feeling. It was honestly a first for Nymphadora to be stonewalled so easily.

Tonks cleared her mouth and licked her lips. "Hey, are you okay?" She repeated, only this time he finally responded.

"I'm fine." He said curtly, turning on his heels and striding towards the great marbled double-doors that marked the entrance and exit of the great Goblin bank. The Metamorphmagus blinked owlishly at his retreating form before shaking her head and rushing to catch up. In her mind, a single thought enveloped her brain.

Just who and what are you, Ferdinand?

XXX-XXX

They turned on their heels and apparated away to the base of the steps leading up towards Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place after a brief reintroduction and conversation with Tom, the barkeep and owner of The Leaky Cauldron. Ferdinand stepped in front of the door and waited for Tonks to catch up with his swift pace.

"Hmm – Oh!" Tonks was stuck in her thoughts and stumbled on the last step, heading on a one-way course towards the hard cement. She closed her eyes and awaited the eventual pain, yet it never came. Tentatively opening her eyes, she noticed that the ground wasn't remotely close. It was easily three feet away.

"Can't have you falling on the front porch steps of here of all places." Ferdinand lightly quipped as he helped her to her feet yet still held on to help steady her atrocious balance. "Moody would have my head on a silver platter if that happened."

"Hah!" Tonks snorted, enjoying the warmth before pulling away. Did her robe feel heavier? Doubtful, of course. Probably just a rock or some gravel. She dusted off her robes and grinned at Ferdinand whose mask seemed to drop somewhat. "Glad to see you're a bit more cheery now, especially since it's time for supper."

"Let's just say I wasn't ready for what I was trying to do." He offered as they crossed the threshold and Tonks proceeded with her customary tripping over the troll-umbrella where she was succulently caught once again. "Let's not make this a habit, hmm?" He teased, her faint red-cheeks remaining for the briefest of moments from embarrassment before it vanished.

Being a Metamorphmagus did have its perks. "So, I'll avoid asking you about it since you seem to absolutely adore my questions. And don't worry, Fred, I'll keep your age secret." He rolled his eyes at her teasing and mouthed 'thank you' silently. "Besides, it's my secret to unravel." She quipped with an impish grin before vanishing into the kitchen.

Gray eyes rolled before Ferdinand followed Tonks into the kitchen. The aroma did smell good after all.

"Ferdinand!" Sirius jovially greeted the mercenary and ushered him onto a chair next to his own. "How was your visit to Gringotts?"

"It was…" He had to find the right word, "Informing at the least."

"So don't tell me!" Sirius childishly pouted to which several people chuckled, sniggered, or outright laughed at. "But I've been meaning to pick your brain – figuratively of course," He rectified himself as eyebrows rose at his comment. "About how your fire managed to burn Walburga's portrait. I asked around and several Order members have already tried to burn her and it didn't work. The amount of charms and protections on it is utterly insane!"

Ferdinand appeared pensive, thanking Molly for the bowl of stew and rolls she placed in front of him. I guess they are allies and soon-to-be battle-comrades. Hmm… I'll stick with the overall basis of what my fire can accomplish.

"Alright. You know the basics of magic, correct?" At Sirius' tentative nod and Lupin's definitive nod as he pulled up a chair to listen to the explanation, he continued, "Then you both know and have at least familiarized yourselves with the fact that the flow of magic residing within your bodies can be controlled. For instance, casting an Incendio, a relatively simple and basic fire spell, can be controlled from a just a simple candle-light facsimile to a roaring inferno – providing the magic power is provided."

He awaited their slowly nodding heads to grasp the concept firmly to continue, only for Hermione to interject with rapid-fire questions, "Wait, you can control how one's magic can flow outwards? How would exactly work in certain examples such as healing? Wouldn't it overload the recipient and harm them further?" She flushed in embarrassment when he raised an eyebrow at her barrage of questions asked without a breath of air in-between.

Ferdinand grinned at the questions and began answering each question, signaling each individual one with a finger, "Didn't think you could manage to talk that quick without air. Anyways, one, yes, it is possible to control one's innate magical power through intimate comprehension of the frequency of your magical signature; two, it's typically used for dueling purposes. In a certain example I can picture in my mind for healing is when a Diffindo, an average,run-of-the-mill Cutting Hex hits its intended target and slices open an artery or vein. In that case, the blood is flowing judiciously and the Healer wants to immediately close the wound and repair it. Said Healer in question would control their Healing Charms to such an extent that it would flood the surrounding area with a large amount of magic and stabilize along with possibly completely healing the patient. But, that way is also dangerous and could do more harm than good. As such, only experienced Healers use such a method, and only sparingly."

Hermione's mouth gaped at the overload of information she had no idea about. Everyone around her laughed. After all, it wasn't often when Hermione Granger, one of the smartest witches of her year, was shocked to silence.

"Remus, Sirius," Ferdinand called out, grabbing their attention after a hearty chortle, "To continue from where I left off – magic can be controlled in various ways as many Wizards and Witches have shown. The way I manipulate my forte of arsenal of spells, specifically Fire, is done in such a way such as how you would control an Incendio. I went further with manipulating my magical frequency. Going on that idea, my flames can devour Shielding Charms, Flame-Freezing Charms, and a whole slew of other Charms that would otherwise cripple my specialty."

I might have said too much, but at least they won't be worried about my loyalties when I can suddenly decimate Shielding Charms along with specific Wards.

Lupin spoke up with a thoughtful expression upon his face, "That's an interesting way of hearing that subject being broached upon. I haven't heard it quite explained as you have. And to think, manipulating your own magical frequency to shore up your weak points. If I recall correctly, I believe you just disproved the Albatross Anomaly Theory."

"Albatross Anomaly Theory?" The room echoed, few faces lighting up in recognition.

Lupin nodded with a lopsided grin. "Indeed. The basis of it was that disrupting one's magical frequency would cause irregularities, even going so far as actually disrupting the flow of magic in one's body to the point of impeding magical usage, becoming a squib." A unified gasp filled the room, everyone staring in shock at Ferdinand's sheepish face. "Thus, the accurately named, Albatross Anomaly Theory."

"Well," Sirius' boisterous voice broke the din of silence, "I'm glad we have him on our side rather than the You-Know-Who's! Aren't you guys glad for that?"

"I have a unique and odd partner!" Tonks crowed happily and the room broke into laughter.

Several minutes later, everyone began clambering about; Hermione approached Ferdinand once more, Ron and Ginny in tow. "Um – Mister Ferdinand –"

"Just Ferdinand please, Hermione."

"Er – right. Um – if you don't mind my curiosity, why is your specialty Fire-based spells? I realize some wizards and witches tend to focus solely on one field of magic, yet I've never quite wondered 'why' because of assuming it was mainly only hard work and dedication to that specific field." Hermione hesitantly asked, hoping that her question wouldn't offend.

"I assume you're thinking of certain examples such as Dumbledore and his strength in Transfiguration?" Prompted by a nod, he continued, "Then I will impart some knowledge that most wizards and witches don't physically or mentally recognize. Every magical being has a specific affinity or strength in one or more fields of magic. The examples can range from offensive or defensive Defense Against the Dark Arts spells, Transfiguration, Charms – practically anything you can think of, including non-magical aspects such as Arithmancy and Study of Ancient Runes along with numerous others."

"So one of your affinities is Fire-based Defense Against the Dark Arts?" Hermione murmured, deep in thought.

"I will neither deny nor admit the answer to that question, Hermione." Ferdinand admitted with a wry grin on his face and stood up as he heard Tonks storming downstairs from going to the loo. "And that'll be my queue to leave for the night and to return to Hogwarts! Thanks for the wondrous meal, Molly. Everyone," He nodded genially towards everyone, even receiving a small inclined nod from Snape, "Till again!"

Ferdinand vanished in a flash of blue-white flame, just as Tonks jumped into the room. "Ferdinand!" She growled loudly, swearing loudly when she just missed him.

Immediately, the room was on guard. "Nym–Tonks – sorry – what'd he do?" Sirius asked quickly, changing names in an instant when she set her angered gaze upon him.

"The ruddy git charmed a bag of Galleons so it won't get off of my hand and I can't charm it off!"

The room blinked in quick succession at her response. They assumed Ferdinand had done something unthinkable – not that trying to give Tonks money wasn't a part of those parameters.

"Er – Tonks, dearie," Molly said, "When did he give you the bag of galleons in the first place?" Tonks blinked owlishly before remembering when she initially tripped after leaving Gringotts.

"That bloody git slipped it under my robes when he caught me after I tripped on the steps." Ignoring Molly's admonishment, she continued, "And now I can't pry it off of my ruddy hand!" She demonstrated by shaking her right-hand, the gold pieces in the hefty black bag hitting each other with numerous 'chinks'.

Sirius eagerly got up and attempted to pry the bag of galleons away from Tonks' fist, only to meet disappointment. He frowned. "He must've charmed it so only you can do something with it. Maybe he means you to do something with the money."

Her eyes lit up in recognition. "I did say when we were going to Gringotts that I was strapped for gold, but I didn't think anything of it. That ruddy git must've heard that and gave me this, charming it so I can't give it back…" Putting a hand inside the bag, she successfully grabbed a galleon and pulled it out. Immediately, she attempted to put it in Sirius' hands, only for a jolt of electricity shock both Sirius and Tonks lightly – enough quickly to jerk their hands away.

"Well," Molly bustled to clean up the kitchen, "I assume that he means for you to use it for your own purposes. And don't try to give him grief over it, you hear? He did something kind for you. The least you could do for him is accept it willingly and use it." She threatened with a wooden spatula before returning to clean the kitchen.

Nymphadora nodded numbly, mind still reeling in shock as she returned to her rather basic and low-end flat. Why did you give me money, Ferdinand? You're just adding onto the mystery that surrounds you – one moment a funny person to be around, the next a frigid piece of steel, followed by a scholar with information that isn't widely known.

Who are you?

It was there that Nymphadora decided to make it her goal to unravel the mystery and enigma that both surrounded and enveloped Ferdinand.

No matter the personal cost.


A short chapter compared to the last, but I felt it was prudent to stop at that point. Anyways, I will be going out of town, so don't expect an update for a while. I may be able to update there, but like I said, don't be waiting for it.

By the way, I fixed a bit of the galleons issue so that is more realistic. Also, on this chapter I tried to have Ferdinand (you all know who he really is) be shown as a person with the realistic troubles that anyone would have. Tell me if I nailed this correctly or if he's just an angtsy little bitch.

Have a good weekend~

-KuyouFox