No Competition: 8 - Dragons as pets. Not exactly recommended.

The La Om Basin Reserve in Romania was just as it was named, a dragon reserve located in the basins of the Piatra Craiului Mountains. It was a beautiful broad green valley, and heavily warded to keep away any muggle hikers, or foolhardy skiers that tended to wander through the Carpathian Mountains. Occasionally, one slipped past the wards – but the dragon-handlers in La Om were quite adept at finding these folks - since inevitably they ran into a dragon and would start screaming their fool heads off - and dragon-handlers were all trained to obliviate any memories of the dragons in these screaming fools. All burns earned were converted to memories of a very good time with the game Twister done inebriated, and with poor coordination on a particularly ugly orange bit of carpet.

Natural thermal spas were located in the middle of the reserve, and were very well enjoyed by the dragon handlers and, in truth, the dragons themselves. The trick to it was that dragon handlers had to get the hell out of the thermal spas when a dragon was in-coming – no one was quite sure what would kill you first– having a dragon's full weight bear down on your body, or drowning, trapped at the bottom of the waters with a dragon on top of you. Sadly, none of the handlers had a scientific bone in their body, or a wish to find the answer to that mystery.

The mountains, rising high around the basin served the reserve by providing a wall, and offering up deep caves. Several species of dragons made their homes in those caverns, and though many a dragon-handler itched to go explore, none of them were foolhardy enough to do so.

For wizards that made it their duty to tend to and protect the dragons, they dwelled in wooden huts that were heavily fortified with runic protections against fire and pests. Those shacks spread to create a small circular village at the foot of Mount Lo Om, a bit away from the reserve, but near enough that a truly pissed off dragon could attack without too much trouble. The peace between dragons and handlers was, at best, fragile. Handlers served the dragons, and the dragons considered not eating them.

Given all that, and the proclivities of dragons in general, visitors to the La Om Basin Reserve were rare. As in, almost non-existent. Other dragon handlers, ministry officials, and the odd student from Scholomance, but overall… a dragon reserve was not a tourist attraction. Which was good. They certainly didn't have a hotel or a restaurant to offer. Though, they did have a heavily stocked bar.

And, of course, tourists who hopped on a broom and flew right up to the most temperamental of the dragons and started hissing at them were… uh, well, this had never happened before. And none of the handlers knew quite what to do, other than stare and gape.

"They'll eat him." Ally feared, wringing her hands as she watched Harry flit around the face of a particularly fierce Norwegian Ridgeback. "Oh, this is a bad, bad idea." She spun, the magazines that spoke of the reserve rolled in her hand, and using it to slap the Lich hard with it. "This is YOUR fault. What was wrong with taking him to Disney or some such?"

The Lich had accompanied them, but done so clad in a elaborate glamour. To any mortal eyes he appeared an Japanese gentleman, with long dark glossy hair tied back with simple black leather tie. and a strong, unusually taller-than-was-normal frame, just sighed. "Hadrian wanted to see dragons and to fly. Look at him, Allison, he's fine. The dragons are not being aggressive."

Jasper frankly didn't think directing his wife to watch Harry flit about on a broom, acting like an appetizer for these dragons, was what she needed to hear. "Here love," He pressed a vial into her hand.

Ally stared at the cloudy potion, and then narrowed her eyes at her husband. "What is this?"

"Calming draught." Jasper shoved his hands into his pockets, and rocked on his feet, eyes straying to watch Harry who seemed to be in a semi-serious conversation with the big black-scaled dragon. A second dragon, looking much like the first, but scarred flew over to join in. Merlin, Ally was right. This was a bad idea. Such a very bad idea. Where they hell were they going to stash dragons in Little Whinging? "Seriously, Love. You need to take it before you give me an ulcer."

Ally huffed, popped the vial and slugged it back, offering a grimace and a glare at Jasper. She tossed the vial back to her husband, and then turned and swatted the Lich again, for good measure. "If he dies," She warned ominously, "I will utterly ruin you. I shatter your skeleton into two hundred and six pieces, and will bury most pieces of your bony remains in scattered graves all over the world – after I feed some of the larger pieces to some very big, very hungry dogs who shall shit your remains out." She huffed her frustration – the calming draught apparently not nearly strong enough, and turned back to stare in vexation at her foster child.

The Lich had no doubt whatsoever that Allison Dorea Black would do just that. She was everything a woman of House Black usually was…temperamental, stubborn, and utterly insane. Mercifully, Ally's insanity manifested in the way she took dark creatures at par value. "Perhaps we should have left Ally exploring the town." He muttered sotto voce to Jasper.

"Maybe we should have sent her on an all-inclusive, all expenses paid cruise." Jasper replied dryly. "With me accompanying her. Just - for love of sanity, do not try to sleep tonight. You might find yourself waking missing everything from pelvis down."

The Lich snorted, but turned his unnatural gaze back to the young dark lord, that had taken as naturally to a broom as most birds did to wings, and was dancing in the sky above.

Around them, although, not within earshot, various dragon handlers stood about, like useless bumps on a log, staring in complete puzzlement at what they were seeing. Only the foreman for the reserve had the balls to step up to their… guests. "Err – yer boy not safe doing that. Dragon may just snap and bite 'im in half, if he ain't quick enough." He wrung his hat as he stared at a woman whose grey eyes were trying to light him afire. "Jest saying." He twitched like a nervous schoolboy having been caught pulling some girl's pigtails.

"I KNOW." Ally grit out, she spun and whacked the Lich, and then Jasper with her magazine. "This is a BAD idea!" she reiterated for the millionth time.

"Harry's fine. He's having fun. And really, I don't think the dragons are going to… uh… eat him." Jasper tried feebly, and then gave up. "Listen, love, would you like another calming draught or two?"

Her burning gaze swept to Jasper, and her husband to a nervous step backwards. "Right. Never mind."

Ally spun back to the foreman. "What happens if one of the dragons snaps at him?" She asked baldly. "What can the reserve do?"

The foreman blinked, his face and forearms scarred with many burns from his years working on the reserve. "Uh, if the dragon bites? Well, he gits eaten. Not much more to it den tha'!" The look on the woman's face had him too stepping carefully backward.

"Der boyd word nicht getten eaten. Der boyd is gut." The Lich put on a brilliant performance of German for the foreman's benefit. "Der boyd ist un parselmouth."

The foreman unravelled that string of slaughtered language, and blinked. "Oh! A parselmouth? Ah, well then, doesn't that explain it all. He's fine." He nodded, slapping his cap up on his head. "Likely, only problem you mighten git is keepin' dem damn dragons off of him. Parselmouths are like catnip to 'em. They'll want to cuddle up and keep him."

Ally utterly snapped at that, nearly screamed in rage. "This." She grit out between clenched teeth. "IS. A. WRETCHEDLY. BAD. IDEA!"

"Hadrian ist gut." The Lich stared at her hard.

"THIS ISN'T ABOUT HARRY!" Ally raved. "AND STOP with the FREAKIN German! You look Asian, you useless bag of bones, and your accent is utter rubbish. Speak one of those Asian tongues, if you have to babble in anything but ruddy English! At least then I won't have to hear your deplorable plebian accent!"

And really, it had been said before, but it was due saying again, there was nothing as cruel as a woman from the House of Black. But, Ally wasn't anywhere near done.

"And what do you think will happen, MUD?" Her arms were flying all over the place, and it was at times like these the men in her life took great pains to sincerely thank the powers-that-be that Allison Lockwood was NOT in any way, shape or form, a witch. God knew, she'd make Voldemort look like a mischievous puppy. The foreman, well experienced in caring for dragons, knew when danger was around him. And, as a foreman with decades of experience in surviving dragons and their rather shifting temperament, he did what a wise dragon-keeper did in the face of such rage - he fled.

Jasper frankly envied him. Clearly, that calming draught hadn't had enough punch. Either that, or she was developing a tolerance. He shuddered at the mere horrible notion.

"I think, Allison," The Lich said congenially, "That you demonstrate a terribly prejudiced attitude against Asians. It's deplorable, I must say. I'm utterly shattered. I frankly feel that the societal achievements of the Asian world and the evolved culture is incredible, and worthy of respect. Furthermore, I speak German flawlessly, and my accent was of high culture in the society of 1325, I'll have you know. Only my Romanian is better, but it is my preference that people in Romania have no idea where I'm from. The former headmaster of Scholomance is a well known legend, and I do hate pitchforks and torches. Besides, look up there- Hadrian is having a wonderful and educational time learning about the social strata of dragons."

"His name is HARRY." Ally growled. "And I don't care if he's chatting up dragons. They are significantly bigger than him… he's like a piece of shrimp being served as a flying appetizer. We don't want Harry fried to a crisp, do we?"

"Oooh." Lucifer's voice suddenly popped into the conversation, as did the devil himself. Stepping out from pure nothingness, he leaned forward to stand somewhere between Ally and the Lich, completely unconcerned about their little disagreement. "I love roasting people! The smell, the screams… it's the bestest kind of fun. For me, at least. And the demons. Not so much the people being roasted. Ooh, and look …dragons – do you know how awesome dragons are? Like, seriously, they have such a fascinating outlook on what it means to burn something up."

"Go to hell." Ally spat.

"Soon, darling. Very soon!" The devil sing-songed, checking his pocket watch. "I figure, I have eighteen minutes and forty-one seconds before dear ol' Dad figures out I've slipped my cage again. Being grounded for eternity really sucks" He tucked away the watch, looked around brightly, and grinned. "So. How's the tour going? I can see our little dark lord is having a gay old time of it with the dragons. Did he like the broom? I had it very custom made for him. Deceased broom-maker. Ruddy genius at brooms, but a bit of a pedophile, which is how I got him. Oh, but don't worry, he only preyed on little girls."

Ally turned sharply on her heel, and shifted her ire towards Lucifer, stared with utter and absolute disapproval at the devil.

The Lich took great comfort in having that look casted anywhere but at him, and quite enjoyed watching Lucifer squirm under that hard glare. Pain was best when it was shared, he mused absently.

"You know." Lucifer said slowly, taking a few broad steps backwards, and then circling around to hide behind Jasper. "I do think I should toddle off and see the world a bit. After all, I wouldn't want to make it too easy for Daddio to find me." He vanished in a puff of brimstone.

Jasper yelped, and spun around. "He pinched my butt!" He said in outrage.

The Lich closed his eyes, and sighed. "I'm utterly certain he was dropped on his head when the host was created." He muttered. "His Father, as much as he would like to pretend otherwise, is God. And God can find his child anywhere on Earth in the blink of an instant. Moving about doesn't help." Shaking his head, he moved closer to the rail, still muttering. "Ten thousand years, and the devil still hasn't learned a damn new trick."

"He pinched my butt!" Jasper repeated, still outraged, and still rubbing his sore butt. "I don't care if he learns that dear old Dad can stalk him anytime, anywhere – he needs to learn he can't molest me!"

Ally snorted. "That is scarcely molestation, Jasper. Do get your priorities… oh, my God… HARRY! Don't YOU DARE!" She shouted. The lad, in the midst of a wicked dive, with two dragons diving alongside him, didn't hear her. Her hands came up to cover her eyes, and then, when she couldn't keep herself from peeking, she spun and buried her face into Jasper's chest. "I can't watch."

"He's fine. Pulled out of the dive." Jasper assured her. He pulled out two of the calming draughts he had left in his pocket. "Seriously, love, take one of the draughts. You clearly need some calm. Probably by the bucketful."

Ally shuddered. "This trip is giving me grey hairs, I know it. I'm losing decades by the minute! This was such a bad idea. Horrible idea. Wretched idea. We should have gone with Pru's idea and visited her Auntie in Russia."

Now, both Jasper and the Lich stared at Ally as if she was a complete nutter. "Visit Baba Yaga?" Jasper sought clarification. "The one who tried to cook up Hansel and Gretl? You want to take our ten year old lad to visit a hag with a notorious affection for eating children?"

"Myth." Ally waved that off. "Hags are very misunderstood. Pru is a lovely example of such."

"Truth." Both Lich and Jasper replied. They gave each other a speaking look. Jasper fetched yet another calming draught from his pocket, and fisted it at the ready.

"Well, if not there… we could have taken him to…. The World Quidditch Cup." She personally thought Harry watching OTHER idiots diving about on a broom while he sat on terra-firma to be a far better exchange.

Jasper closed his eyes, and envisioned that madness that would result from Harry watching professional daredevils on brooms. Harry, whose love of being in the air transcended everything else. Harry, watching the likes of Rutger Hammon jumping off his broom at 3000 metres up in the air just to grab the snitch, and for the life of himself, Jasper couldn't fathom how not to anticipate everything that would fall out from THAT. Dragons showing up in Little Whinging was so the lesser evil. An expected evil, but the lesser one for certain. How could his little wife think watching the Quidditch Cup was a better idea than Harry flying with dragons? At least the dragons would be drawn to Harry as a Dark Lord, and make it their business to keep the lad from crashing into the ground.

It was official. His wife was nuts. "Love, have you ever been to a Quidditch Cup?" He asked carefully.

She hitched breath, as Harry did some aerial dive underneath a dragon, whooping in joy the entire time. "No." she admitted, once again turning to hide her face in his chest. "I really can't stand this." She moaned. "My heart is going to give out."

Harry, of course, chose this moment to give such a shrill "Wooohoooohoooooo!"

"Gimme that." Ally grabbed the two potion vials her husband had fisted in his hand, and slugged both down.

That made three calming draughts in twenty minutes.

Oh, dear sweet Merlin, but he really truly hoped she wasn't actually developing a resistance to calming draughts. This batch just had to be a weak one, or a bad run, or maybe some expired ingredients. Ally resistant to calming draughts would be the end of everyone in Little Whinging. Everyone liberally dosed her with the damn shit when they offered her tea or whatnot. What they needed, okay no… what Ally needed, was a good distraction. And it might as well be a self-serving one.

"So, wife, tell me – what do I have to buy you in order for you to tell Lucifer and Judas to keep their mitts and designs off of my body?"

"Nothin." Ally slightly slurred – and it was about bloody time the ruddy draughts hit her system. "Doan need nuthin. They're jist joshing."

"The bruise on my arse says otherwise." He told her wryly.

"Nah, is all good." She told him, reaching around him to pat his arse proprietarily. "Is nice arse. Verra hot arse. I can't fault 'em fer wanting to touch it. 'sides, sometimes, when dere drooling on you, I kin to'lly 'magine it all. Weally good kinky stuff. Is totally smoking hot. I'd watch."

"Ally!" Jasper gasped, completely horrified.

"Oh, pish. Is nothing." She assured him. "Pru writes 'rotic fiction 'bout you, y'know. Dat's real kinky stuff. An' you like Pru." She informed him with overdone confidentiality.

Jasper was turning green. "Pru writes porn? About me?" He squeaked.

"Yeah! Weally dirty stuff." Ally muttered wetly into her chest, drooling a little now. "Is so awesomely hot! Pru's ah-mazing writer. She lets me proof-read it."

"PROOF-READ?" He whimpered. "Whatever for?"

"Everything written needs proofread!" Ally slapped his chest. "'Specially if it's gonna be shared." She then turned around from abusing him to gently pat Jasper's chest soothingly when he whimpered. "Pru shares her awesome smut with lots of Hags and Squibs. It's been verra pop'lar! So that's why it needs proofreading." Her eyes closed for a moment as she leaned more of her weight against him. Reflexively, he wrapped an arm around her to hold her up. " Ohh, " Ally murmured patting his chest with one sloppy hand, "And Pru's readers all think you're a hottie too, by the way. Finger lickin' good." She burrowed closer. "But, Pru knows yer all mine. I don't share well.."

"Thank Merlin for the Black family penchant not to share!" He still had the powerful urge to puke. "Dear Sweet Merlin on a bike - stories of me doing the nasty with Hags?" He sought clarification, just so that he understood precisely what his nightmares would contain to traumatize his nights from here on out.

"Oh yes." Ally assured him somewhat muffled by his shirt. "Lots and lots of differin' hags. 'Course, is all Pru with different names, and hair colors, and stuff." (Jasper gagged). "Is very sad. You usually don't survive, though. Very black widowish." She patted significantly lower. "Made her delete part where a hag bites that off. It wouldn't go over well. There's a great many people fond of your dick, you know. Even if they've never seen it."

Jasper could only wish a dragon would sit on him.


Arcturus Orion Black, son of Sirius Cygnus Black, was, in his own right, a very old man. He'd weathered much in the last eighty-eight years, but until now, he'd never felt so old in body and soul.

His aging was premature, at least for a healthy and strongly magical wizard, and mostly caused by heartbreak compounded by further heartbreak as his family fell apart. He'd lost first his beautiful wife, Melania. Her death had been the first rendering of his heart, sending him into a depression that had lasted nearly a decade. That cold spot on the side of the bed she had once slept in just seemed to consume his ability to sleep, and the missing warmth of her smile over the breakfast table left his poor hard heart so chilled. Theirs had been a most unusual matching made by their parents, unusual in that their parents had actually approved of where his heart had led, and so matched him accordingly to the witch his heart had chosen. In his pained eyes, Melania should have outlived him, but… sadly, she had not. And in dying, she took a big part of his soul with her.

Shortly thereafter, he had lost his only son, Orion. Certainly, there had been suspicion on how his lad had died, but it was unconfirmed. Arcturus was never sure if those forays into mariticide were some kind of strange foreplay between Orion and Walburga, or something of more malicious intent. Merlin knew, the girl had been a Black through to her soul, and pairing his son with her had been a grave error. Regardless of the way Orion had died (by poisoning), there should have been a rule that no parent should live so long to bury their child. But, Orion had died, so young in Arcturus' eyes, leaving his poor heart-broken father and sister to bury him. And only after Orion had been interred had Arcturus then condemned Walburga for Orion's murder and bound her to the limits of Grimmauld House. The woman was a ranting madwoman with her husband's death, proof enough that she'd broken her marital vows and done ill upon her husband.

Sadly, at the end of it all, it wasn't truly her fault she was insane. Black women born into the family were all doomed by some strange family curse to that insanity. Could he fault Walburga for it? She wasn't the first, and she certainly wasn't the least – Bellatrix was proof of that. That insanity was why most Black men prayed for sons the way they did.

Still, the final straw that had pulled Arcturus from public life, and caused him to slowly rot away to death in his own home, was the loss of his heir and grandson, Sirius, due first to Walburga's machinations and then to Dumbledore's. Sirius, such a handsome magically strong lad, blessed with such a quick agile mind, and the stubborn tenacity to outlast the old codgers around him – Sirius was exactly what The Black of House Black was supposed to be – and they had utterly lost the lad.

Walburga's unchained cruelty to her eldest son had begun shortly after Regulus' birth. Oh, in retrospect, if only he had done more for the lad. Muzzled the bitch, or put the insane woman down like the rabid dog she was. But, he hadn't. Fool that he was, he hadn't caged the foolishness of his children when it came to rearing the next generation. Narcissa – vain as her name, and prissy as it got; Andromeda – a strong-willed rebel much like Sirius. Bellatrix – beautiful and a complete nutbar. Regulus and Sirius had been shining stars in the house. They had been the true future of the house. And yet, the delicate cards that built the house had fallen to dust when Walburga, Sirius' mother, had used the cruciatus curse on him in order to make him yield to Voldemort. Siri had chosen to flee instead. Regulus had knelt, and died for the sake of his yielding to the would-be Dark Lord.

Perhaps it was his training, at the hand of his demanding father, but Arcturus well understood Voldemort was no dark lord. Nor was Grindelwald. They were puffed up wizards, and nothing more. Maybe the mistake was in his generation, not teaching the truth of dark and light magics to the next generation the way they should. Or perhaps, it was as Dorea had once decried, in-breeding was going to be the death of wizarding kind.

Truthfully, some of his heart had survived the loss of Orion, and of Regulus. He'd survived Melania's death, and would have been more bitter had it not been Dorea who picked up the pieces of Sirius' life after he'd fled his birth family. His cousin had mended Sirius' wounded soul, smothered him with love, and sent pictures and cards speaking of Sirius to Arcturus right up until her death.

And then Dumbledore and his damn games happened, and Sirius became ensnared. There was no way Sirius had betrayed the Potters. He was the bloodsworn God-father of Harry James Potter. It would have cost his magic to forswear his oaths to that lad. Was everyone in the Ministry corrupt or stupid? Could they not feel the magic still in Sirius? Dumbledore had to have known who the real secret keeper was – but he'd done NOTHING to protect Arcturus' boy, and just tossed Sirius aside like dust when his savior had been found and chosen.

And so, the true heir to House Black was rotting in Azkaban, and no one in the bloody ministry would listen to him, Arcturus, requesting time and time again that the boy be given a damn trial.

Which all led to this moment, with him sitting cold and imperious in his study, feeling beyond ancient and weary as he stared impassively at that puffed up pretentious peacock his niece, Narcissa, had married. Small wonder such a vain little princess had picked such a peacock. Like to like and all. "Let me see if I can summarize your request concisely, Mr. Malfoy." He stressed the title. Despite all else that Malfoy might pretend, his house was noble, but far from ancient.

The house of Malfoy only been in the United Kingdom for the past one hundred years, and received Noble status when they'd married into the Black family. The absurd entitlements this young head of house openly entertained were frankly pure fantasy; perhaps no one amongst Lucius' peers was willing to school him, but Arcturus wasn't a peer, and was far from willing to indulge the puffed up peacocks delusions.

"You wish for me to disown my grandson, and rightful blood heir, Sirius Orion Black, and instead name your minor son as heir to House Black." He continued in that same laconic tone he had started with.

The blond peacock smiled slightly. "Yes, I think it would behove well for the Ancient and Noble House of Black to have my young son as heir. My ability to guide and mentor my son would lead the House of Black to a greater future."

Arcturus arched an eyebrow, but stayed his tongue. There was much he wanted to say, a caustic comment on the peacock's ability to mentor dragon dung being first and foremost, but it wasn't worth getting into a duel right here and right now about. "I see." He let his fingers steeple, and pressed them under his chin. "The House of Black has long prided itself on it's ancient roots, and connection to our beginnings of the magical world." He said carefully. "We understand the truth of dark and light magic, work to ensure that the heritage of our world is not lost, and are magically strong, stubborn, and politically sound. You believe you can mentor such?"

"Yes sir." Lucius preened. Arcturus could actually envision the fussy pretentious feathers of a peacock's tail fanning out behind the idiot.

"How?" Arcturus narrowed grey eyes, and made challenge of the word. "How would you guide the child into understanding the proud history of our world, and how to lead in it? How to maintain it? How to be the best representative of it?"

That flummoxed the moron for a moment. He railed, but in a dumb way, "My Lord, please, you're being argumentative unnecessarily. We wish for the same future, you and I. And your grandson, imprisoned in Azkaban, can never be a leader to such future. It is foolish to condemn the house to a lord that is going drooling mad inside of that prison."

Seriously, Arcturus missed the days when he could just kill the vapid idiots like Lucius Malfoy at a whim. Narcissa would make a lovely tragic widow, after all. And, killing this idiot would have been a boon to magic, Arcturus was certain. But, Malfoy had Fudge on puppet strings by way of healthy bribery, and killing him (while also very emotionally satisfying) would cause Fudge to send Arcturus to join his grandson in Azkaban. Dammit. He was between the fire and fry-pan, and didn't like this at all. "My grandson is not guilty of the crimes he's been blamed for. His incarceration is illegal. He never served YOUR Dark Lord. Nor did he betray his cousin and his cousin's wife to the Dark Lord. You know this. I know this. If Fudge hadn't gotten his head stuck so far up his arse, even he'd acknowledge this. Barty Crouch deserves to die for the cruel indignity he's given to the House of Black. But, furthermore, my grandson's godson is his heir."

Lucius sneered. "You are an old man." He said baldly. "And won't live forever. But, Sirius Black will rot for eternity in Azkaban, and the Potter whelp is under Dumbledore's thumb. Moreover, after you fall into your grave, when it comes time to divvy up the Black estate who do you think will gain under the laws I'm having Minister Fudge generate?"

The bastard.

"Your house, Malfoy, gained noble status as a cadet of House Black. I can cancel that." Arcturus said easily. "And, by that I mean, do not be so foolish as to threaten me in my own home. The wards would not take kindly to any action against me, the Head of House."

Malfoy snorted. "You think this threat?" He rocked on his feet. "I see this as prophecy. So be it, Black. I will patiently await the day you no longer breathe the same air your niece and I do." He turned with flourish, robes flying gracefully in the air behind him, and stalked back to the reception room and floo therein.

Arcturus closed his eyes, the moment he heard the floo activate, and let his head fall fully between his hands. What a fucking mess, and all of it, he felt, lay at his feet. If he'd only contained Walburga earlier. If he'd only forbidden any of the house from serving that puffed up would-be dark lord. If only he'd taught Orion and Lucretia the truth about the magical world. He'd left education his training to Melania, and his love for his wife blinded him from accepting Melania didn't have the heritage or knowledge that he did about the origins of magic.

Sighing, Arcturus stood up, wincing at the pain in his hips and knees. He moved away from his desk and took slow steps out of his office and across the grand foyer of his home into the library. It was a massive room, heated by warming charms and a elegant fireplace. The family tapestry hung massively above it, and all around the other three walls of the room were bookcases reaching up to the ceiling, and heavily loaded with old and rare tomes.

Libby and Furry, the two house elves that attended to his home, kept the library dust free and maintained the fireplace at all times. He'd no sooner stepped into the room than a tray with a teapot, a cup and a small plate of biscuits appeared.

He ignored the tea, choosing to bypass the large wooden table in the centre of the room, and instead stepped up towards the hearth, his eyes scanned upwards with trepidation, looking at the blackened line that listed Melania's death. It didn't need to be written on the tapestry, Merlin knew it was engraved in his being, being the day his very heart died. From that horrid line, his eyes flew down to his son's name, and again, the ache was keenly felt. He'd not shown Orion how precious his boy was to him, and as such, his son died without knowing just how much his father loved him. There were miles of recriminations that haunted his every conscious moment.

His eyes left the written suffering of his own direct bloodline, and strayed to the lines of his cousins. Of Pollux and his thrice cursed daughter Walberga, and Pollux's son, Cygnus who birthed Bellatrix. No one in recent history had cast as much shame on the family as Cygnus' daughter had. And then, from that shining silver name of 'Draconius Lucius Malfoy' Arcturus let his gaze sweep back up to the space Cassiopeia's name occupied. Cassiopeia who suffered from the family madness, but had mercifully never wed or produced children, and of Dorea, whose marriage to Charlus Potter had come as such a surprise, as had her son James. But no greater surprise was young Hergest Iacomus Morrigan, commonly known as Harry James Potter who had defeated the would-be dark lord.

Ah, Dorea would have been horrified at the books and news articles written about her grandson. The rivers of blood that would have flown from the Ministry over the matter of the lad if she had but lived so long… he supposed it was a mercy she and Charlus had died before her son and daughter-in-law had been slain. Outliving one's children was purely evil.

Sighing, he considered wee Harry, the only Potter left alive. Dumbledore had indeed hidden the boy somewhere, and he was growing up likely brainwashed into the Dumbledore cult, as Lucius claimed. And though the lad was Sirius' named heir, Arcturus feared what could happen if the wealth and history of family Black were left to lie in the Potter heir's hands.

There were literally three thousand years of magical history wrapped up in this library, and under Dumbledore's mentorship, a light follower would simply toss a match in and watch it burn.

He closed his eyes, wishing beyond all else, that the Lady of Magic were there to guide him. But, alas, there was no one in the room besides the grim specters of the past.

Heaving a heart-felt sigh, he opened his eyes, and his gaze fell on the blackened threads that should have read as 'Marius', his squib cousin, and Dorea's elder brother. Marius who had been struck off the family tree by Sirius Arcturus Black, for the simple crime of not being magical. Dorea had not spared any one sharp words against such action, blasting her great-uncle with her acid tongue just as freely as she had done her father, and her cousins. In the end, she had sworn they were all idiots and making a big mistake, and had rebelled when the rest of the family preferred to forget Marius existed.

Curiously, he noted that while Marius' name had been burnt off, his record continued to be updated on the tapestry. Apparently, Marius had married, and indeed had a son to follow him, and a granddaughter who had married a wizard by name of Jasper Lockwood. 'Huh. Fortwhitker's grandson?' Arcturus wondered. Fortwhitker had been a third year when Arcturus had graduated from Hogwarts. A bright young Slytherin, his family had been a part of the house for nearly a hundred years. He just couldn't recall the name of Forts son, for the life of himself, though he recalled the announcement of the lade's birth. He wondered if this was Forwhitker's grandson, or if the son had deigned to take a much younger girl to wed.

Well. Wasn't that interesting? A pureblood wizard marrying a Black squib. Brave man that. It made him wonder if perhaps this girl, Allison, was actually magical. It made him wonder if losing contact with the family squibs was a mistake. Arcturus groaned. Did Dorea have to be right about everything ALL the time, even after death?


In retrospect, the plan to take Harry to the bank, after letting the lad spend most of his day gallivanting around with dragons, was poorly thought out. As a result of the lad's normal good natured attitude, and cheerful willing compliance given freely to those adults he respected, those self-same adults tended to forget that the lad was, fundamentally, still a child.

Oh, Harry was certainly a mature child, being nearly eleven years old; his gravitas at certain times put the devil himself to shame. Everyone deemed that understandable, for in most certainly, Harry at ten and three quarters was infinitely more mature than Lucifer. (It was noted by the Lich, however, that a newborn goat was far more mature than Lucifer, so as a benchmark, that wasn't one to work by.)

Still, their normally obedient and complacent lad was so amped up from a morning spent flying with dragons, exploring caves full of dragons, and subverting young dragonettes with inane ideas of what was 'fun' (i.e. tormenting the dragon-handlers). Truthfully, they really had no proof of the later, seeing as none of them spoke parseltongue, but the lad had spent a good hour and a half just talking with young dragons before the little blighters had started dive-bombing the lunch-hall the handlers had set up. (The handlers were stupefied by that - dragons NEVER let a handler get near the young. Ever! And here the little monsters were scooping up their trays of eggs and sausage not five feet from the handlers!)

The portkey back to England hadn't fazed the lad as it normally did. He'd bounced up to the rope and seized hold of it when summoned, a backpack loaded with dragon scales, claws, and dragon TEARs (leaving the Lich envious), with his broom in his free hand, and then had bounced away from the rope on English soil, his green eyes wide and staring at everything in Diagon Alley. Not a stumble was to be seen in any aforementioned bounce. Frankly, the raw energy literally vibrating the child inspired pure terror in the two adults accompanying him. Nothing good, experience told them, could come of this.

"And, I was worried about the dragons." Jasper muttered.

"You were worried?" The Lich asked. "We had to send Ally straight home to bed after you overdosed her on calming draughts - I don't think, in the scope of all things related, that you get to say you were worried."

Jasper frowned at the robed skeleton. "I didn't overdose my wife."

"You were carrying eight calming draughts in your pockets. Did you think I'd need one?" The Lich persisted.

Jasper blinked. "Can you take potions? I mean - you don't have a digestive track."

The Lich snorted. "I got rid of that two millennia ago. Rotted right out, and I've never had a flu or digestive issues since!"

"Nor have you had prime-rib, or creme brulee, or strawberries with fresh cream." Jasper pointed out.

"Jasper," The Lich told him seriously. "I am over 3000 years old. We didn't HAVE creme brulee or prime rib to miss. Therefore, not a concern."

Jasper blinked. He thought about it. "No prime rib?"


"What about beef wellington?"


Horror welled in his devout carnivores heart. "Chicken? Salmon? Pork?"

"My mother was a streetwalker." the Lich informed him tartly. "I was fortunate to receive a single bowl of rice and a single ounce a fish a few days a week." He kept a weather eye on Harry who had come to a stop in front of Flourish and Blotts. "By the time I killed the bitch, I was enrolled in Scholomance - and meals there were… self-acquired. Prey and predator, for the most part."

Jasper stopped dead. "And you want to send Harry to school THERE?"

"Hadrian will never be considered prey at Scholomance." The Lich said, airily waving skeletal hand. "He IS a Dark Lord. He is the penultimate predator."

A passerby froze, and then scurried off in a panic, overhearing them.

Jasper rolled his eyes. "First, his name is not Hadrian. Second, why not just take an ad out in the Prophet and announce it to all and sundry?"

The Lich glanced up at the late afternoon sun. "I suppose you think his parents named him Harold."

"Does it matter?" Jasper asked acidly.

"Of course it does." The Lich cocked his head as Harry began to bounce outside the bookstore. The Lich frowned, insomuch as a skull lacking flesh or muscles could frown. The last thing he wanted was Hadrian exposes to Ministry propaganda, and that was all Flourish & Blotts was allowed to sell. "Dark Lord Harry. Good gravy, he'll have to slaughter thousands at Scholomance just to stop their laughing. And that's not acceptable - I spent far too long and invested far too much in training my replacement as Headmaster to actually see him slaughtered."

Jasper scoffed. "Harry wouldn't slaughter…"

The Lich snorted. "He's a Dark Lord. He won't have to actually wave his wand, or twitch his nose. MAGIC, the wild magic itself, will actively defend him. And if his feelings are hurt, or he stubs his toe as a teenager, well, someone might end up eviscerated."

Jasper spun about, "You're not serious?"

The Lich shrugged - that motion easy to see, thanks to his robes. "Well, it's' possible. Harry's a rather pragmatical lad. I doubt evisceration will likely happen unless his life is placed in any danger."

Jasper worried at a his index finger in thought. "Is it safe to send him to Hogwarts at all?"


"His magic could act up there?"

The Lich snorted. "Probably. But, more concerning is the brainwashing that Dumbledore will attempt. Or the Ministry getting their paws on him." He paused. "Mind you, if he kills the entire wizengamot, life will be easier for the Dark Creatures."

"Oh Lord." Jasper groaned.

Harry, himself, was paying them no mind, other than to turn and look at them expectantly, before turning to stare in the window of the bookstore. His lithe young body was still bouncing, even while standing in one spot.

"Hadrian, lad, there are better bookstores in Knockturn. There are even better ones in Rome. Come along." The Lich told the boy as they neared.

"They have books about ME!" Harry told them, pointing a finger. "Look!"

Sure enough, standing in the window was a tall display of at least eight different books proclaiming the Adventures of Harry Potter. The cover images, while somewhat but not precisely similar to Harry, showed him as young child of Light.

It was definitely enough to turn Harry's lip up in a disgusted curl. "Vanquishing the Werewolf?" He snarled. "Someone needs to die!"
The superior look that the Lich gave Jasper was pretty damn snotty.

"Yeah, yeah. No one stands a chance at Scholomance. I got it." Jasper sighed, tugging on the shoulder of the furious child. "Let's go see the Goblins, buddy. Maybe they can find out who the publisher is, and screw their thumbs to the walls."

Harry snorted. "Pru could torture them better than that."

"So can the Goblins." The Lich assured the lad, guiding him to the large white building at the top of a series of rather impressive stairs. Gringotts London looked like a Roman Fortress, hard lines of heavy marble and granite ensuring her strength, and warded to hell and back.

Harry peered around the Lich to get his first look at the Goblin guards, until the Lich and Jasper each dropped a hand on a shoulder of the lad, and steered him straight between them. The large bronzed doors opened as they approached, and they stepped into the gold gilt and marble bank.

Harry stared at the vaulted ceiling, and the chandeliers, his gaze swept to the row of tellers, and then behind, to the corridors that led to the executive offices. His mouth stayed closed only due to extraordinary practice. (Pru often tried shoving horrid concoctions into his mouth when it fell open.) "Wow." He murmured, instead of gaping.

"Yeah." Jasper grumped. "Nice to see where the bank fees go."

The Lich ignored them, steering their small party to the queue. The Asian guise had been dispelled immediately after the portkey had landed them on British soil, and instead, it was his hood that sheltered his face from most. A damn good thing, given the conservative nature of the Brits and their tendency to run screaming from walking skeletons.

That didn't mean, of course, that a few of the patrons weren't squinting at the skeletal hand curled around a human child's shoulder. But the trio ignored those looks all the same.

"Next." A goblin bellowed, and a matronly witch and her incredibly hag-like daughter scurred off to the teller.

The Lich pushed Hadrian forward. "Do let me do the talking." He advised both the werewolf and the wee Dark Lord.

"Sure." Jasper shrugged that off, unconcerned. It wasn't like he banked at Gringotts. His father hadn't left him with a knut, much less a galleon, and all his money came from the Bank of England anyway.

Harry just nodded, a bit wide-eyed.

"There is nothing to fear." The Lich assured the lad.

Harry blinked. "Oh, of course not." He agreed. "But, look at the enchantments on the tellers windows, and the ones on the walls behind. That is so awesome!" His finger waived in the general direction of what his mage-sight was seeing. "Oh, and that head teller…. He has a charm that lets him shut down the entire bank in a moments notice. It's all done by runes, Lich! I've never seen runes like those… I have to learn them!" He paused, head cocking to the side. "Oooh, it's done with a different language."

The Lich snorted at the wide-eyed look all the goblin tellers were now casting at the boy. Dark Lords, he mused. They always stirred up such trouble.

"Next." The head teller bellowed.

The Lich took the lead, Jasper and Harry following behind. The brass nameplate read "Lockjaw", and goblin in front of them had a pugnaciously large lower jaw, which likely earned him the name. "We wish to speak to the Potter account manager."

"Potter account manager doesn't see anyone but Potters." Lockjaw fair near snarled.

"How fortuitous." The Lich murmured, reaching behind him to fetch the only male Potter yet living. "I happen to have the account holder right here."

The goblin scoffed. "Do you know how many morons have come through our doors and pretended to have Harry Potter with them?"

The Lich dropped his hood, enjoying the squeak of fear that rippled through the bank. "Do tell," He purred.

Lockjaw blinked. His little beady eyes went up to the Head Teller, before skittling back to the Lich standing in front of him. "Ah." He swallowed hard, looking from the child to the skeletal being in front of him who could only possibly be one… uh… person in legend. "One moment please."

He vanished from his stool, and scurried up to the Head Teller. Immediately, a whispered argument in Gobbledegook ensued.

"Are there books on that?" Harry whispered.

"Probably. Somewhere." The Lich murmured, watching the conversation happening. Arms were flailing. Those were always the best discussions, when someone was so worked up that their actual body conveyed more than their words could.

"I'll ask my account manager." Harry sighed, reading the disinterest in the Lich's tone.

"You do that." The former head-master of Scholomance agreed, head tilting as he studied the Head Teller's body language. "Ah. Here we go." He turned suddenly back to the teller's desk.

Lockjaw scurried back to them. "If you'll step to the side by the Head Teller, a runner will escort you to Rotgut's office." He paused, eyeing Harry as the boy moved around to stand in front of Jasper. "Although, be mindful, we will be conducting a blood test to ensure you have the Potter heir with you. If you are trying to rob the bank, your lives will be forfeit."

"Excellent." The Lich snapped his skeletal fingers. "I love it when people try to kill me. It means I get to kill them, their families, friends, and pets."

"He doesn't mean that." Jasper muttered, as the Lich strode off.

The child nodded, and smiled cheerfully, as if not in the company of a serial killing Lich. "He'd never hurt someone's pets. That's just mean."

Lockjaw took a deep breath, and slapped the closed sign up on his till. "I'm not paid enough for this shit." He muttered, scuttling down one of the corridors behind the tellers benches.

Jasper snorted, and steered Harry towards the Lich. "He's a little excitable." He murmured.

The wait was short, a minute or two, before a goblin runner approached to escort them. They went through a large archway, and from there, down what felt like a glamorized mine tunnel. It was a good five minute walk, before the runner turned, and knocked on an imposing black lacquered door. "Rotgut's office." He told them, pushing the door open. "Please go through."

Harry, of course, now determined to have a book, or SOMETHING about Gobbledegook, bounces right on through. Jasper follows more hesitantly, and the Lich, well, he pauses at the door, casting a withering glare (complete with glowing red eyes) at the goblin runner. As there are no wails, screams or somesuch from Jasper, he follows more sedately.

Rotgut, it seems, was quite used to Potters, and Potter behaviours. Or, so the Lich had to assume, seeing as Harry had commandeered the goblin's attention to go over his private library within thirty seconds of being in the goblin's office. "Hadrian." He sighed.

"But, is there like a primer? For little goblins?" Harry persisted, even as Rotgut made a half turn to give the Lich a most puzzled look.

"Certainly. But, not in MY library. I'm well past primers." Rotgut assured the boy.

"Oh." You could almost see the disheartenment in Harry, his shoulders dropped, his cheerful smile drooped, and the wobegon in his green eyes was enough to send the entire pack in Little Whinging out to fetch the lad pizza.

Lord knows, NOBODY wanted to deal with that again. Eight hundred pizzas all dropped off on Jasper and Ally's door in the space of forty minutes. And none of them personal sized. Each damn one the party-platter. God, it had been a cheesy mess.

"Be at ease, young master. I could request one of our best primers for you, Lord Potter." The goblin assured him. "So long as you understand, such a book may not be found in the possession of any other wizards except you."

"AWESOME!" And just like that, Harry brightened up immediately.

"Hadrian, come, sit. Let's work through our agenda, and then we can return home to check on Ally." The Lich wasn't really thinking he had control of this meeting. He just preferred to pretend that when Harry was involved, he had some small measure of control at all.

The goblin again gave him a funny look. Jasper snickered.


"You persist in calling Young Master Potter by that name. He was not christened such." Rotgut informed him. "His grandsire brought him in and opened his trust vault on the very day, and had his name sealed by goblin magic."

"Hell save me - he wasn't actually named Harry, was he?" The Lich asked plaintively.

"No." Rotgut pulled up a large black ledger, and thumped it down on his desktop. "Of course not. His grandmother would have had his grandfather and father's balls in the palm of her hand had they done such. And Lilly Potter? Would have done even greater damage to their bodies." He gave a twisted sharkish smile. "Young Master Potter's mother was a fearsome witch. We had her blood and magic tested at least a half dozen time, but somehow it was always the same result. We were certain she was some foundling of House Black."

"She wasn't?" Jasper leaned forward, keenly interested.

"No. She was a daughter from the house of Fey."

The Lich snorted. "Of course she was."

"From who?" Harry asked.

Jasper heaved a sigh. "Harry, remember the book we read, Le Morte de Arthur?"


"Remember Morgana Le Fey?"

"She was the bad witch."


There was a moment. Just a few brief ticks of the clock, and then Harry brightened. "WICKED!" He cheered, turning to the Lich. "Hey, maybe I inherited my magic from my mum, then!"

"Undoubtedly. And your father. The Potters weren't always the sweet house of light that people assume they are." The Lich muttered. "So, what is not-Hadrian's name?"

"Hergest James Morrison Potter.


"Mostly. I did say the lad's name was sealed." The goblin muttered. "Now. Since you're here, I suppose you're wondering about the estate."


The goblin arched a rather rabid eyebrow. It certainly was bushy, and very wild. "There is three accounts in the Potter name, and 2 in the Le Fey name, 1 in the Black name that Heir Potter is claimant of. However, as neither of you are his magical guardian, I can release no further details."

Jasper exchanged a look with the Lich, and then at a very confused Harry. "Begging your pardon, then, but could you tell me WHO is the magical guardian of Harry?"

The goblin frowned. "You do not know?"


His gaze turned to Harry, who squirmed in his seat. "Young Master Potter, on your eight birthday, did you not meet with your magical guardian?"

Harry blinked. "Uh. No. On my eighth…" He cocked his head glancing at Jasper. "There was a full moon, on the night before my eighth birthday. So, we had a big howl-party the night before, rather than the day of. The vampires created a magical pool, complete with a twister waterslide, the wolves provided the barbecue, and the Lich but up noise wards, so the police didn't both us. In the morning, we had ice-cream cake for breakfast, and then slept until noon. Um. Aunt Ally gave us breakfast for lunch. And, I had tea with Auntie Pru and her Auntie Yaga." He squinted up at the ceiling. "I made homemade pasta with Jasper in the afternoon, and there was pasta for dinner." He frowned. "Nope. I mean, Lucifer popped in and all, but he was more there to cause trouble than anything else, and NO ONE would ever make the Prince of Hell a magical guardian."

"Amen." Jasper and The Lich both muttered.

"And at no time have you seen or met with Albus Dumbledore?"

The Lich's hood caught fire. That was the first warning that the ancient sorcerer was pissed. The second warning was the malevolent green that lit up in his eye sockets. "DUMBLEDORE? That blighted wart on a dessicated inferi's ass?"

Rotgut offered a sly smile, "The very same."

"How the hell did he get named Hadrian's.."

"Hergest," Jasper, Harry and Rotgut all chimed.

"... whatever… guardian?"

The smile shifted, becoming something truly evil, "Why, he sealed the will, so that only a direct heir in the will could open it, and then named himself magical guardian." Rotgut steepled his long fingers over the ledger.

"Hergest," Jasper smiled at Harry nastily, "Would you mind?"

"Account Manager Rotgut, I am Hergest James Potter. Could you unseal my parents will and have it read to me?" Harry smiled sweetly.

Rotgut's face lit up. It was truly gruesome. "Certainly, Heir Potter. One moment, please." He vanished out the door of his office.

"Hergest?" Harry muttered in dismay.

"Dark Lord Hergest." The Lich tested it out, and found it lacking. "Dark Lord Herg. Ugh."

"Ally will love it." Jasper mused. "Maybe we should lie to her."

"Yes." Harry agreed. "Let's tell her my real name is Harley."

"No." The Lich retorted.


"Oh hell no!"


The Lich dropped his head into his hands. "Where in Hell did you dream up that one? And, how is this my life?" He asked.

"That is a mystery only you know. Every other attempt by other mages to do what you've done - well you've gone off and slaughtered them." Jasper reminded him. "Something about patenting the process?"

"Shuddup." The Lich growled. He pointed a bony finger at the werewolf. "You I can live without."

"Eanraig will protect me." The werewolf smirked, pulling Harry out of his seat and into his lap.

"No. No Eanraig."

Harry was undefeated, "What about Heimirich, or Heinrich, or Henricus, or Henrick." H e paused for a breath, "Or… umm..Endika, or Enric Hey - Hynek, or Heiko, or maybe… Dark Lord Henny, or Lord Enzo, Mr. Anri, or Arrai, or… oooh… Enrico, or… I know… Dark Lord Herkulus"

"It's been done!" The Lich bleated. "So overdone! What about Hadrian!"

"Nope." The boy said cheekily. "Dark Lord Arrigo. How's that?"


"So, we stay with Harry for now." The child decided.

"Hadrian." The Lich immediately countered, obstinately.

"Nope. Nope. Nada. Nope. " The lad sang cheerfully. "You can call me that all you want, but when I turn seventeen, I'll legally change my name to Dark Lord Henny."

"Over my dead body!" The Lich roared.

"Dessicated body?" Jasper moderated. "Technically, you're all skeleton. I don't think we can really have a viable living body argument."

"Shut up, wolf!"

The door thumped open, and Rotgut returned with the Bank Manager, resplendent in furs and silks, in tow. "Lord Potter, may I introduce you to my manager, and the Chieftain of the Hord, Ragnock."

Jasper and the Lich rose to their feet, pulling Harry up as they went. "Hi!" The boy gave a grin and a wave.

The Chieftain gazed at the child for a long moment, appraising what he was seeing, before turning yellowed eyes to the Lich and Jasper, respectively. "Welcome to Gringotts, Headmaster, Lord Potter and Mr. Lockwood." He inclined his head slightly with the greeting. "I am given to understand that the Heir of House Potter has requested the formal unsealing of his parent's will."

"Yes." Harry nodded.

"Furthermore, that there has been no contact from Young Master Potter's magical guardian since his fifteen month."

"I can't say for sure prior to his fourth year," Jasper said steadily, "But, I do know Albus Dumbledore has not been in Little Whinging since such time."

"He did have an agent in Little Whinging, however." The Lich leaned back in his seat, now feeling more control when both gobins in front of him had been former Scholomance students. Still, as reclined and relaxed as he appeared, he watched the two goblins closely. They hadn't been students under him for a few centuries, and everyone changed if given enough time. "Once I realized that she was a squib, with an overabundance of kneezle cats which she sent out around the Dursley's property to monitor the family there, I captured and investigated her. She was a plant, though mostly harmless, and dealt with."

By dealt with, Jasper and Harry both knew that the Lich meant that Mrs Figg's mind had been closely examined, as if through a strainer. Some joker named Lockhart had scrambled her memories up something fierce, because once fixed, she'd cursed Dumbledore out in a blue streak, packed up and left for the Americas

Ragnock stroked his chin with clawed fingertips. "Well then, we will set up a formal will reading for July 31st, however, the most interesting part to my mind is that nowhere in the will is Dumbledore named as a guardian be it physical or magical, nor were these Dursleys that you name, though we, the nation, are aware of their relationship to the Potters."

Jasper's inner wolf perked up. Wasn't that a neat tidbit.

"If we open the will, this will jeopardize the custody structure for the young Master."

"Who should have had custody?" The Lich leaned forward, his casual ease disappearing.

"First, Alice and Frank Longbottom. Both are incarcerated in St. Mungos having been driven insane via the cruciatus. Mrs. Longbottom was the lad's godmother. Second, Sirius Orion Black, the lad's godfather. Hergest is also the heir to Mr. Black. Black was incarcerated in Azkaban without trial, and therefore unavailable. Third, Remus Lupin, excluded under Ministry Law for being a werewolf." Rotgut answered.

Jasper cleared his throat. "Would custody not fall to a near relative if prior candidates were not available for whatever reason?"

Ragnock smiled. "Yes."

"My wife is Allison Dorea Lockwood, nee Black. Grand-daughter of Marius Black, who was brother to current Lord Black."

Both goblins grinned. It was a gruesome display of small sharp teeth.

"Would your wife be available to attend the will reading?" Ragnock asked mildly, walking around to take the seat of Rotgut's desk. Manager prerogative, Jasper assumed.

"Yes. She already booked the day off for Harry's birthday." Jasper nodded. Would Ally be happy about having her schedule adjusted? Probably not. Such were the pains of marriage.

"I will prepare the necessary paperwork. WIll she serve as magical guardian?" The Chieftain of the horde pulled Rotgut's agenda out of his desk drawer, and made a note on it.

"No. I will." The Lich decided.

Eyebrows rose. "You… Will?" The Chieftain asked carefully, slowly.

The green in his empty eye sockets shifted to red. "Is that a problem?" The ancient sorcerer growled.

"No. But, when Dumbledore finds out, I do wish to be there." The Chieftain snickered nastily. He made a few more notes. "Excellent. Well then, when the young Heir arrives with Mrs Lockwood, and yourself for the reading, we can change both physical and magical guardians at that time." He looked up and over at Harry. "If we do it earlier, the Ministry can protest, but after his eleventh, by the time it's filed with the Ministry, it's far too late." He sneered slightly. "We file with the ICW, ensuring that it takes another thirty-one days before the British Ministry of Magic receives anything. And the British Ministry of Magic never reacts to anything with any degree of swiftness."

Both the Lich and Jasper smirked. And Harry dutifully fistbumped them both. If the Ministry didn't receive the notice of change until August 31st, then Dumbledore wouldn't find out until after September 1st. He would be in no position to fight, then. He'd be busy starting the school year, and would be trapped at Hogwarts. And after sixty-days of no contention, the guardianship would be inviolate unless the heir came to harm at the hands of the named guardian.

Ally would love that little twist.

But, the goblin chieftain wasn't done. "Also, as Heir Potter will be at his first stage of magical maturity, his core is deemed stable. We can therefore remove that little soul shard from his scar at the same time."

The Lich stiffened. "What?"

"The horocrux in the boy's head. You did know about that, did you not? We knew the moment he walked in the bank."


"Removing it would take nothing. We could do it now, but my potion-masters advised that we don't have the required potions ready. It's a simple potion, but doesn't keep very well. Our potion-masters have instructions to make it, and that plus a small five minute cleansing ritual will take care of it. It's just a wee bit of soul magic. Nothing big."


"It's just a wee bit of soul magic…" The Lich snarled nastily as they walked through the wards that protected Little Whinging from detection. "Nothing big. Nothing significant, just a little itsy bitsy thing like soul magic… those fucking little ground crawling…. I've taught goblins for over three thousand years, and did one of them mention the goblin nation specialized in soul magic? Those fucking little snotty…"

Jasper sighed, tightening his hand on Harry's shoulder as they walked through the darkened streets of Little Whinging towards Private Drive. They could have apparated. Hell, they could have taken a portkey home, but the Lich's foul mood required a bit more walking off than such immediately would allow.

"I've spent three years setting up the ritual to remove that shard, and they can do it in five fucking minutes? Those wretched…" The Lich descended into what Jasper suspected was Romanian. It was probably best the Lich used other languages. Harry had been fascinated when the ranting. had started, and was likely making mental notes.

"I thought they were really nice." The boy chimed, which just set the Lich off in more explosive, more exotic languages, rants.

"They're getting me a primer and a learning orb for Gobbledegook." He reminded the ancient sorcerer with a smile.

The Lich glared, a growl emanating from his throat.

Jasper stiffened. "Hey, now, don't go snarling at Harry." He said.

The baring of the teeth was less impressive when there wasn't a lip to curl up from it. Still, the Lich did a credible job of imitating a werewolf there.

Jasper huffed. "Look, isn't it better that they do this? They are EXPERTS in soul magic."

"WHICH I PIONEERED!" The sorcerer howled. "Those filthy little maggots could have told me they were expanding on my original work. They should have SHARED what they learned, instead of leaving us fumbling in the dark!"

"Oh." Harry said quietly, going to a dead stop, and driving Jasper to stop too. Jasper's gaze swung to the boy, and then up to where the boy was looking. HIs eyes widened.

"I spent centuries researching soul magic. Taught those filthy worms everything I knew at Scholomance, and they have the audacity to go behind MY back and…" Whatever else the Lich was going to say stopped abruptly when he walked right into the scaly side of a Hebridean black dragon.

The dragon, peered down at the skeleton assaulting it's flank, and snorted. Sixty-five other dragons all crowded up the streets of Magnolia and Privet drive huffed back in response.

Jasper sucked in a breath, and craned his head to look around. "Oh dear." He muttered.

The Lich, on the other hand, took one look at the dragon, cast a withering glare at Harry, and then spotted the rest of the herd from Romania. "Oh. Crap. Not again, Harry!"