Title: Ancient and Noble Houses

Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.

Pairings: Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione, past Harry/Ginny

Warnings: Angst, violence

Rating: R

Summary: Harry finds out that being the heir to the Black fortune—at least once he's of age and residing in Grimmauld Place full-time—is a lot different than just inheriting some vaults and property. Even with Draco Malfoy to help him, the chance that Harry can escape the consequences seems slim.

Author's Notes: This story came from wondering exactly what the house part of "The Ancient and Noble House of Black" might mean. This fic will have short chapters, and update every Friday and Saturday.

Ancient and Noble Houses

Chapter One—Strange Shadows

Harry leaned in towards the mirror and frowned at himself. Granted, the mirror was in what had once been Sirius's room, which meant it was ancient, dirty, and fly-specked, and not even a Cleaning Charm cast directly at the glass would help much.

But it did look as though he had changed, somehow. Harry ran a self-conscious hand down his face and through his hair.

His face looked thinner and paler than it had since he moved into Grimmauld Place for the summer before he returned to Hogwarts. And was his hair thicker and darker?

After a few cautious stares, Harry snorted and stepped back, shaking his head. No, he was probably imagining things. Besides, if there was a way to make his hair more manageable instead of the werewolf's lair it resembled normally, he ought to welcome that.

He turned away from the mirror and cast another Cleaning Charm at the cobwebs in the corners of the ceiling. There was so much accumulated dirt and grime here that normal spells wouldn't take at first application. Harry had to cast them as powerfully as he could, and concentrated, in layers on top of each other. The cobwebs he'd aimed at this time shivered and shriveled, hanging in long black strands that a Severing Charm made puff into dust.

Harry lowered his wand from that and turned around swiftly. He'd thought he'd seen something, either a shadow coming into the room behind him or one moving in the mirror. If there was a shadow in the mirror, he had no problem getting rid of it. In Sirius's room or not, Harry doubted it had any sentimental value for him.

But there was no shadow when he looked. Harry rolled one shoulder and snorted to himself again. Hermione would say that he was getting paranoid, living by himself and in a house that still seemed to hold the ghosts of house-elf heads, even though there was only one elf in it now, and he came and went between Grimmauld Place and Hogwarts all the time.

Harry sauntered out of Sirius's room. One of the things that Kreacher usually brought with him when he came in the morning was lunch, and Harry was hungry enough from all the spellcasting to need a big one.

Harry woke with a start from his doze in front of the fireplace in the main drawing room, and leaped to his feet with his wand drawn. He knew he wasn't imagining it this time, the shadow that ran around the corners of the room and up the floor, as though someone was rolling up a Muggle blind on an opposing window.

And this shadow stayed, instead of running away. It coiled in the corner of the floor and leaned against the wall, watching him. Harry bit his lip and stared when he realized how much like a snake it looked.

Despite himself, and what he knew was there, he checked over his shoulder. No snake. No snake to cast it, no snake to take it away.

When he turned around again, the shadow had moved closer, leaping from the wall to a place on a bookshelf where the firelight fell and provided illumination for it to take advantage of. Harry snarled and raised his wand. There was a charm in the back of his mind, one that Hermione had told him about when they were on the Horcrux hunt. She'd thought Voldemort might conjure creatures of pure shadow and set them on their trail. They were notoriously difficult to kill, since any strike would pass straight through their "bodies." But they could still hurt someone, and report back.

There was one spell that would work, though.

"Iubar!" Harry cried, and the radiance that leaped from his wand sent every shadow scrambling from the corners of the room, leaving it fully illuminated.

The snake shadow writhed in the middle of the attack for a second, before it withered like the cobwebs earlier that day. Unlike them, it left no physical residue behind. Harry walked over to the bookshelf and prodded the place where it had been with his wand, just to make sure. The shelf felt like ordinary wood.

Harry shook his head. He would have to tell Ron and Hermione about this tomorrow, and ask them for their help. He had no idea who might be sending shadows into his house, or why they would want to. Sure, there were Death Eaters still abroad, but Harry thought he knew all his remaining enemies fairly well, and none of them were the kind who would send shadows into the house to spy on him. If they knew where he was, and could somehow find a way around the renewed Fidelius Charm that Harry had cast on the house, then they'd just attack. No point in dancing around the issue.

Unless they wanted to drive him mad, maybe.

Harry thought about that, then shook his head again. No one left would have the patience for that kind of plan, either. Fenrir Greyback was still out there, but he was less subtle than any of them. Rodolphus Lestrange had escaped, too, along with Rabastan, but both of them had been driven more than slightly insane by Azkaban. No, he couldn't see them forcing a way into his house with this kind of spell.

Nor could he see one of them forcing Hermione to hand over the secret of his house's location, or Ron. Ron and Hermione traded the secret back and forth on random days, and not even Harry usually knew which one of them had the Secret-Keeper position at any one moment.

"No, I'll ask Hermione about it tomorrow," Harry whispered, and turned and walked up the stairs. He hated sleeping in front of the fire in the drawing room, anyway. He inevitably woke up with a crick in his neck. He would be better served going to bed and contacting Hermione in the morning.

Harry woke up to a heavy weight on his chest. The first thing he thought, before he opened his eyes, was that Kreacher had brought up a breakfast tray and left it there. He'd done that, more than once, before Harry's shouting made it clear that he didn't enjoy being awakened by having his lungs compressed.

But this was a book, instead. Harry picked it up and turned it around, staring at it. He'd taken books from the Black library, of course, and left them piled on the desk by his bed. One of them could have fallen on top of him.

But not Secrets of the Darkest Art. Not that one. Harry not only wouldn't have wanted to read it, he hadn't even known that a copy of it resided in the house library.

Harry swallowed and sat up, glancing at the desk next to his bed as he did. All the books piled there seemed to have something to do with the Dark Arts—and Harry hadn't removed any of them from the library, though he remembered seeing a few of them there.

He turned back, and the snake shadow was coiled at the base of his door. It bowed its head towards him and hissed before it faded.

The hiss had been a greeting, Harry realized numbly. In Parseltongue. "Hail, master."

Except he hadn't used Parseltongue since the fall of Voldemort, and hadn't even realized he still understood it. He had assumed Voldemort's powers would fade with the bit of Horcrux that had died.

Sweating, Harry threw back his blankets and the book and bolted for his dresser to retrieve some clean clothes. He wanted to contact Hermione, and even though it was early in the morning and most people in the Burrow would probably still be asleep, he would take the chance of waking them up.

He needed help. He was starting to think that either he was doing this in his sleep, or the house was somehow doing it to him.

Or else Voldemort was back, or not as gone as Harry had thought.

Either way, Harry needed his friends to face the possibility.