SHAMELESS PLUG: Please check out my original fiction on Amazon. Strangers In Boston, by T.S. Mann.

Harry Potter and all associated characters and situations belongs to J.K. Rowling.

Harry Black
and the Resurrection Game
Chapter 25: Conversations at the Ministry

4 November 1994
The Wizengamot Chamber

As Artemus Podmore fiddled with the papers on his small desk in the Wilkes Box, Harry sat next to him placidly. The young Lord Wilkes was wearing his best formal robes, but as his solicitor and proxy was on hand to speak for his House, Harry himself was not obligated to wear the official Wizengamot attire. While Harry enjoyed the power that came from the Lordship of an Ancient and Noble House, he was not a fan of the "uniform" that was expected of those who actually sat in these chairs to cast votes. The plum-colored robes did not go well with his complexion, after all, and the hats were utterly ridiculous. And if Harry needed any confirmation of that fact, he needed only to look across the chamber to the Potter Box, where poor James Potter looked miserable in his own ill-fitting plum robes. For over a decade, Peter Pettigrew had been the proxy for House Potter, and Harry suspected the day of the rat's appointment might have been the last time James wore that outfit. At least the robes didn't look moth-eaten.

Beside James sat his Heir, Jim Potter, who looked just as uncomfortable attending these august proceedings while wearing his school uniform. Apparently, all of Jim's formal attire had been sold during House Potter's "downsizing," and a school uniform was probably the nicest clothes he had. The two siblings briefly made eye contact from across the room. Jim glowered. Harry sneered. But then they were both distracted as the court scribe (a much younger man than the utterly ancient fellow who'd been in office the last time Harry had been here) called for House Potter. James rose stiffly, adjusted his collar nervously, and responded.

"James Lord Potter speaks for House Potter." James grimaced slightly before adding "One vote."

Despite his best efforts at occluding, Harry still smirked. Then, shaking off the vindictive mood, he looked around at the rest of the assembly. There were quite a few absences on account of the limited notice of the special session (and perhaps because, unlike the last special session, this one didn't involve the escape of several high-ranking Death Eaters whose escape from Azkaban invoked issues of national security).

Sirius was in the Black box, with Archie Goodwin sitting beside him and his proxy, Hestia Jones, in her own plum robes. ("I will disinherit myself and give up my Lordship before I ever allow myself to be seen in that hat!" he'd said.) Down in the well of the Wizengamot, a special table had been set up for various witnesses to be called. The three real Triwizard Champions sat there. Fleur and Viktor were each accompanied by their respective Headmasters. While Maxime looked bored with the proceedings and disdainful of the medieval ambience, Karkaroff looked visibly anxious to be here. According to Sirius, the last time Igor Karkaroff had been in the Wizengamot Chamber had been in 1981, and he'd been chained up in an iron cage after three weeks in Azkaban, so the room obviously held unpleasant memories. Cedric sat nervously next to his father, Amos Diggory, who seemed almost thrilled at the attention his family was receiving even if it was at the cost of his son's life being put in danger.

The final seat at the witness table was taken by Alexander McAvity, who seemed neither frightened like Karkaroff nor excited like the elder Diggory. Instead, the face of the Muggleborn "Dark Lord" seemed utterly serene, and Harry realized the man must be an Occlumens. A very skilled Occlumens, it seemed, because when Harry focused his Legilimency on the Australian, McAvity immediately tensed and looked up in Harry's general direction as if to see who was scrutinizing him. Harry looked away quickly and filed that information away for future consideration.

Elsewhere in the area reserved for Lordship boxes, Andrew Parkinson took the opportunity to visit his friend and liege-lord, Lucius Malfoy, as their own Houses had already been called upon. Along the way, he passed by the Nott Box, which was currently occupied by Mortimer Renwick, Tiberius Nott's solicitor and now his proxy as well, it seemed. Parkinson sat down beside Lucius as the latter engaged the extensive privacy protections afforded to each House's box.

"Tiberius is still out sick?" Parkinson asked. "That's one bad case of Spattergoit, isn't it, to be out for over two months?"

Lucius glanced over towards the Nott proxy who was paying them no mind. Lucius, of course, knew that his old rival was not sick at all but was, in fact, dead and digested by his own Barghest.

"I suspect, my friend, that Tiberius's illness is a bit more serious than Spattergoit. And has resulted in a rather more permanent incapacity."

Lord Parkinson's eyes widened at that revelation, while Malfoy glanced back over towards the Nott proxy. Lucius had been assessing the best way to expose Tiberius's unlamented death so as to inflict the maximum damage on Narcissa Nott (the former Mrs. Malfoy), but he'd gotten side-tracked by the unfortunate incident a few weeks earlier that had ended with him burning his own arm off to save himself from one of Voldemort's Horcruxes. His convalescence from that incident was ongoing. Presently, his arm was in a sling (supposedly the result of a "potions mishap"), with his forearm replaced by a prosthetic concealed by an illusion and weakly animated with an obscure Charm. That, alas, did not stop Parkinson from noticing both his injury and his generally unhealthy pallor.

"Speaking of illnesses, what really happened to you? You look ghastly! And there's no way you hurt yourself in a bloody potions accident!"

"And you are so sure of that because …?"

Parkinson snorted. "Because I know how good you are with potions, Lucius. More importantly, I also know how egotistical you are about your own skills. If you'd really hurt yourself in a potions accident, you'd have lied and said it was because of something else. Something more dramatic like a Manticore sting or a Venomous Tentacula. Or perhaps just a dark curse from an angry ex-wife?"

"Very droll, Andrew," Lucius said languidly, though his affected boredom with the conversation was marred by a brief coughing fit. "My medical affairs are none of your concern. Kindly change the topic or else return to your seat."

Parkinson glared at Malfoy in annoyance. "Fine, fine. Here's a change of topic for you. Something I've been meaning to ask you for many months but never quite found the time or the nerve."


The younger Death Eater looked around as if afraid someone could hear through Lucius's impeccable Charms.

"What's the deal with House Malfoy and Hermione Granger?"

Lucius gave him an odd look. "I have no deal as you put it with Miss Granger. What makes you think I do?"

Parkinson snorted. "Oh, I don't know. Maybe the fact that she blackmailed me over the life debt Pansy owed to her and got me to remain in fealty to you even when Nott was offering a better deal. And even while you were intentionally letting the whole Wizarding World think that Narcissa had fleeced you of all your wealth!"

The corners of Lucius's mouth slowly rose in genuine amusement.

"Did she really? I shall have to send her a gift basket! But I assure you, Andrew, that was no machination of mine. Despite her youth, Hermione Granger is a gifted young woman who has powerful allies, a bright future, and doubtless some agenda of her own. While the resolution of that supposed life debt has cleared the slates, you would do well to reach out to her and try to develop a more positive relationship. If nothing else, at least encourage your youngest daughter to be more respectful to a peer who is, by all accounts, more magically powerful and more academically gifted than herself. And who also actually took the trouble to save your Pansy's life."

For a few seconds, Parkinson was literally speechless. "This is Hermione Granger you're speaking of, right? The Mudblood Gryffindor?"

Lucius clucked his tongue. "Andrew, Andrew. Times are changing. And we must change with them if we are to prosper. It is undignified for the Lord of a Noble House to use such vulgarity in the Great Chamber of the Wizengamot."

Then, Malfoy sniffed disdainfully. "Well, unless you're someone like Crabbe or Goyle, I suppose. Is it your desire to be like Crabbe and Goyle, Andrew?"

The younger Lord stared goggle-eyed at his long-time mentor, as he pondered just what sort of changing times Lucius Malfoy was now banking everything on. He also briefly wondered whether his using the M-word in front of Malfoy had just caused Granger's blasted magical swear jar to deduct money from his accounts. He would have to check his Gringotts records later to find out iMaf Lucius Malfoy now counted as someone he was no longer allowed to use blood status slurs around.

"I will … consider those suggestions and act accordingly." He started to rise but then paused and leaned in closer to whisper. "But I do have one final question. Another that I've wanted to ask you for a while, but I've been too afraid of the answer. Who the hell is Marcellus Frump?"

Lucius smiled in genuine amusement. "Really, Andrew! You were here in the Wizengamot Chamber last spring, just as I was, when the amazing truth was revealed! Marcellus Frump was the shapeshifting secret member of the Dark Lord's Inner Circle and the man responsible for our being placed under the Imperius Curse!"

Parkinson just stared at Malfoy for several seconds before shaking his head dismissively. "Fine, whatever. You can play your cryptic little mind games, Lucius."

Then the man stood but leaned in for one final remark before leaving the box.

"But let us not forget, old friend," he said bitingly. "We both know exactly who put me under the Imperius Curse!"

Soon after, Artie registered twenty-two votes for House Wilkes, and Corban Yaxley did the same for House Yaxley's one remaining vote. The roll call was complete, and the Acting Scribe informed Chief Warlock Dumbledore that the quorum had been met and that the Wizengamot's business could proceed. This was followed by a rare parliamentary procedure whereby Dumbledore called for the appointment of an Acting Chief Warlock to take his place for the session, as he was expected to testify in both his capacity as Hogwarts Headmaster and as Supreme Mugwump of the ICW. The motion was made by Artemus Podmore on behalf of House Wilkes and seconded by James Potter (Dumbledore had made arrangements with both houses before the rollcall began), and it was swiftly approved by acclamation.

The appointment of the Acting Chief Warlock, however, was complicated by the fact that emergency succession to the post went according to a strict gerontocracy. But the oldest member of the Wizengamot, Griselda Marchbank, had to recuse herself because she was a Triwizard Tournament judge, as was the next-oldest, Elphias Doge. Acacia Brown (cosmetics magnate and Lavender's "Nan") was out of the country on a business trip. So was Tiberius Ogden, the owner of Ogden's Finest Firewhiskey, which he was trying to expand into overseas markets. The next oldest was Uriah Travers, but after someone woke him up and asked him if he would accept the temporary position (the man was visibly still drunk from the night before), he yawned, mumbled something about declining for health reasons, and went back to sleep. Barty Crouch, after taking a moment to sneer contemptuously at Uriah, recused himself. And that was how Sam Macmillan (Ernie's grandfather) became Acting Chief Warlock at the tender age of 67.

"Right, then," said Lord Macmillan, as he gingerly took the gavel in hand. "Somebody point at me when it's time for me to bang this thing. Minister Fudge, it's your show."

It took over an hour for Dumbledore, Crouch, and a visibly terrified Bagman to explain (as best they knew) what had happened with the Goblet of Fire: Apparently, someone had tampered with its workings with some incredibly powerful effect not unlike a Confundus spell. Not a true Confundus, of course, because it targeted a legendary magical artifact with fantastic properties instead of an actual human being, but conceptually, it was the same principle. Dumbledore theorized that the Goblet had been made to believe that there was a fourth school participating in the Tournament. He had no explanation as to how both Harry and Jim had been entered on the same form, but he speculated that the Goblet became confused because of the presence of magical twins. There was historical precedent, he noted, for magical devices and effects to become confused by identical twin wizards or witches, and so it was impossible to know if Harry had simply been dragged along in a plot against Jim or vice versa. Or indeed if the inclusion of both twins had been intentional all along.

After a few more questions for those three officials from the assembled Lords and Ladies, Jim Potter was called forth to give testimony. Moments later, Jim was sitting uncomfortably and nervously in a chair that had been summoned to the center of the Well of the Chamber. A normal chair, Artie explained to Harry, as opposed to the magical chair adorned with writhing chains that was used when criminal suspects were interrogated. The present hearing was categorized as an inquiry, mainly because of the number of people involved in the Goblet's malfunction that either held Wizengamot seats or were related to those who did. Accordingly, Jim Potter merely swore a nonmagical oath on the honor of his House, a perquisite of such well-connected witnesses, whereas an ordinary citizen in his place likely would have been subjected to lie-detecting magic if not actual Veritaserum.

Jim's testimony was straightforward, at least until he got to the part about putting his own name into the Goblet. He admitted to doing so, but he swore that the form that came out of the Goblet which bore both his name and Harry's was not the one he entered. He reiterated Dumbledore's testimony that someone else had sabotaged the Goblet so that his name would have come out whether he'd entered or not.

"And, for the record," asked the Acting Chief Warlock, "how did you manage to defeat the Headmaster's protections to enter your own name into the Goblet?"

Jim glanced up in the direction of James Potter who simply nodded.

"I flew over it," Jim said confidently. "There's a small gap at the top of the Age Line. I … changed into a bird with my entry form in my beak and flew over it."

There was a commotion over that announcement, and Macmillan banged his gavel. Then, DMLE Director Corban Yaxley rose and claimed a point of inquiry.

"Just to clarify, Mr. Potter. Do you mean that you had an older student perform a human-to-animal Transfiguration upon you? Or that you did such high-level magic yourself? I ask because in the former case, whoever transformed you committed a serious crime since you, as a minor, cannot legally consent to such magic."

Jim frowned at the former Death Eater who was now the nation's top law enforcement officer.

"Neither … sir. Human-to-animal Transfiguration was not involved. I … am an Animagus. Specifically, a raven."

That revelation caused an even bigger stir. Even Harry was surprised. He, of course, knew that Jim was an Animagus, but he was not expecting Jim to admit to it in front of the entire Wizengamot. Though, in retrospect, he realized it was a perfectly Gryffindorish move. When in doubt, do something bold and unexpected.

Yaxley, who had not yielded the floor, looked up towards James with a cruel expression and then spoke again.

"Mr. Potter, you are only 14 years old, and Animagus training is a highly regulated NEWT-level course of study! I must ask you who illegally trained you in this skill. Was it your father, who was himself an illegal Animagus before his exposure last year?"

Jim's face darkened, but he held his temper, while up in his box, James's face was impassive.

"No one helped me, Mr. Yaxley," Jim said. "Least of all my father. I am a natural Animagus."

That blatant lie caused Harry's eyebrows to shoot up. He immediately realized Jim's goal: reveal his Animagus status under controlled circumstances and in a way that would take all the pressure off him for his illegal study and all suspicion away from James for illegally teaching him. Idly, Harry wondered who came up with the stratagem.

"Probably Lily," he thought to himself. "I can't imagine James even realizing that a lie might be necessary."

"Last summer," Jim continued, "I started having a lot of weird dreams about flying. Then, when those Death Eaters … or people dressed like Death Eaters, I suppose … attacked at the World Cup, there was a moment when I saw a little girl about to be run over and killed. And the next thing I knew, I had turned into a bird and flown to her defense. I didn't realize what had happened at first, but once Hogwarts started, I began researching the matter and soon figured out how to change at will. I assume the fact that my father is an Animagus and that my family has a natural affinity for Transfiguration, plus Boy-Who-Lived weirdness, all combined to give me the gift. But I didn't reveal it to my parents or to the Headmaster until after my name came out of the Goblet."

"Could you please demonstrate for us, Mr. Potter?" asked the Acting Chief Warlock. From his expression, Macmillan seemed more fascinated at the thought of seeing an Animagus in person than doubtful of Jim's claims.

Jim nodded and closed his eyes. A second later, he was gone, and a black raven took wing from the chair, flew once around the chamber, and returned to the chair before resuming Jim's true form. There was a louder commotion from the gallery at this sign of the Boy-Who-Lived's power. Up in his box, Harry almost rolled his eyes. Of course the masses would accept Jim's cock-and-bull story as just another part of Jim Potter's natural awesomeness.

"An impressive performance," drawled Yaxley. "But it raises yet another question: Why have you not registered your form yet?"

In response, Dumbledore rose from his own seat. "If I may be recognized by the Acting Chief Warlock, I would point out that new Animagi have a six-month grace period before they are required to register so that they can confirm the nature of their form. Jim still has until February to officially register. But since he is already here today, I understand that Jim plans to register immediately after the conclusion of his testimony."

Yaxley made a face like he was sucking on a lemon. "Based on that information, I withdraw my point of inquiry."

After that, Jim answered a few more questions before he was dismissed. The boy then headed towards the main doors of the Chamber, where Percy Weasley was waiting for him, apparently to escort him to the DMLE to register.

Once outside, Jim addressed Percy.

"You don't have to chaperone me, Percy," the boy said. "After all these years at Ministry events, I think I know my way to the DMLE offices."

"That's quite all right, Jim," Percy sniffed. "The Headmaster asked me to make sure that you made your way to register your Animagus form, and Mr. Crouch signed off on it. That makes it part of my job."

From his tone, the older boy did not sound as though he was happy about babysitting the Boy-Who-Lived being a part of his job. The two stepped together into the empty elevator reserved for official Wizengamot business, and Percy pressed the button for the Second Floor where DMLE headquarters was located. After a long silence, Jim spoke up again.

"Percy, are you mad at me for something?" he asked cautiously.

"Don't be ridiculous, Jim," Percy said in a clipped tone. "Why would I be mad at you?"

"I have no idea. That's why I asked."

Percy scowled. "It's not that I'm … mad at you per se. Although I do not appreciate how you went to such absurd lengths to get your name into the Goblet and thereby embarrass my boss in front of all Wizarding Britain."

"It's not my fault that I found a loophole to enter my name … which Ludo Bagman encouraged people to do!" Jim exclaimed hotly.

"Be that as it may," Percy replied somewhat pompously, "you were still the one who exercised that loophole. It's like I said to you two years ago …"

Percy stopped suddenly in mid-sentence.

"What?" Jim asked. "What were you going to say?"

Percy grimly shook his head. "Never mind. I just remembered. It wasn't you I was talking to at the time. It was Ron who was Polyjuiced to look like you while under control of You-Know-Who as part of a plot to frame you as the Heir of Slytherin."

Jim stared at Percy for a long moment before reaching over to press the elevator's stop button.

"Okay, it's me talking to you now. So say what you were going to say to me back then."

Percy returned Jim's gaze levelly. "Very well. If you must know, I told the other you that I thought you, the real you, were a bad influence on Ron and that I wish I'd taken steps to separate you two before you'd grown so close."

Jim's face burned as if he'd been slapped. "A bad influence? Seriously?!"

Then, he thought a bit more about what Percy had said. "Wait a minute! You thought you were calling me a bad influence! But you were really talking to Ron, who was possessed by Voldemort and who had spent most of that year trying to destroy my reputation! Who was really a bad influence on who there?!"

Percy winced at the word Voldemort but marshalled himself before responding. "Yes, yes. I am well-aware of the irony. But the fact remains: In my first four years at Hogwarts, I can think of only two incidents outside of Quidditch where school children were endangered. During my Second Year, there was a mishap involving a Venomous Tentacula in a Fifth Year Herbology class and three Ravenclaws spent a week at St. Mungos. And near the end of my Fourth Year, the DADA instructor tried to take sexual liberties with a Seventh-Year student but was caught and fired before anything came of it. That's it!"

By this point, Percy's face had flushed, and his nostrils were flaring.

"But in the three years and two months since you were Sorted, you have dragged Ron through a gauntlet that included a Cerberus, a Devil's Snare, and a death-dealing chessboard before bringing him face-to-face with a rogue DADA instructor! The next year, he ended up possessed by You-Know-Who's diary and also illegally flew my father's car at your behest and almost got my father into a Ministry inquiry that could have cost him his job! The next year, he was almost burned alive with sentient Fiendfyre during the Hogsmeade attack apparently orchestrated by your Death Eater godfather! And this past summer at the World Cup, he was menaced by Death Eaters and werewolves and nearly killed himself using a Parselmagic healing spell he learned while on a summer holiday with you in Shamballa! In just the past year, we've seen the three deadliest terrorist incidents Wizarding Britain has endured in over a decade, all of which featured either you or your family in the middle of the action: the Hogsmeade attack, Pettigrew and Rookwood's escape from the Ministry, and the World Cup attacks! It never ends!"

"None of that was my fault!" Jim yelled angrily.

Percy started to respond but then caught himself, ran a quick Occlumency exercise, and spoke more calmly.

"No, it wasn't. But you are a nexus for these happenings. Your status as the Boy-Who-Lived seems destined to draw strange happenings and to place your life and the lives of those around you in danger. And I know that's not your fault. I don't blame you for it. But what is your fault, Jim Potter, is this: Knowing full well the kind of life you lead—and based on your actions that led you here today, the kind of life you want to lead—you have made my brother Ron want to impress you. And that is why I don't trust you around him."

Jim swallowed painfully. "I notice you don't seem so protective of your other siblings who might also be in danger just from being around me due to my dangerous lifestyle."

"I worry about everyone in my family. But the Twins have grown up so much this past year. I'm proud of them both and trust them to look after each other. And Ginny has flourished in Slytherin and has a whole network of friends she can call on for help. But as far as I can tell, all Ron has … is you. And you … are reckless and irresponsible."

"I'm not reckless!" Jim snapped. "Or irresponsible!"

"No? So, answer me this, Boy-Who-Lived. If this fiasco over the Goblet of Fire hadn't forced the issue … would you ever have registered as an Animagus? Or would you have just stayed an illegal Animagus like your father did until you inevitably got caught because little things like following the law are for lesser beings?"

Jim fumed but didn't answer, in no small part because he and his parents had spent over an hour the night before debating whether there was any way around registration before finally deciding it was too risky. After a few seconds the two spent glaring at each other, Percy pushed the button to start the elevator back up again. Then, he took a moment to adjust his tie and make himself presentable. The two rode the rest of the way in silence.

After Jim had left the Chamber, Macmillan briefly addressed the other three Champions, all of whom were of age and thus did not engage in any unusual procedures to bypass the Age Line.

After about forty-five minutes, it was finally Harry's turn.

Upon his name being called, Harry rose from his box and strode down confidently to take his seat in the witness chair. After swearing the same oath as Jim had, the boy concisely answered every question put to him. When he revealed the spell he'd used to animate his origami spider—Piertotum Locomotor—there were expressions of shock. The spell was NEWT level and, historically, had been used for feats such as animating armies of statues or suits of armor to march in defense of a wizard's lands. Harry patiently explained that, while that was the primary function of the spell in the centuries of its usage, the actual requirements of the spell involved many factors, and the spell could be performed quite easily by a younger student if the goal of the spell was simpler. In this case, he needed the spell to manipulate a folded piece of paper from less than ten feet away while never giving it any instructions more complicated than "walk in a straight line and then drop when I tell you." Several Wizengamot members who were familiar with the Charm, Lucius Malfoy among them, rose to points of order to confirm Harry's description.

After about fifteen minutes of testimony, Harry returned to his box and then leaned in and whispered to Artie.

"Am I allowed to sneak out and run to the loo?" he asked.

Artie nodded in the affirmative. Harry then left the box and headed for the exit reserved for Wizengamot members that led to their private restrooms … and to their private offices.

Harry did indeed need to use the loo. But afterwards, he also needed to make a side-trip to the Wilkes Office while he could do so unobtrusively because everyone else was tied up in the special session. As he passed through the doors, he stuck his hand into his pocket and felt the reassuring weight of a simple brass key.

Moments later, Harry stood in front of an ornate wooden door and mentally prepared himself to reenter the Official Government Office of the House of Wilkes. As he grasped the door handle, the young Lord felt a tiny spark of magic, one that carried a hint of recognition. Like all the office spaces of the Noble Houses, the Wilkes Office was sealed with a biomagical signature. Now that he'd claimed the Wilkes Lordship, no one could get into these offices except for Harry himself or someone he had specifically keyed into the system. Not even so much as a bug, a fact which had become unexpectedly important in the days since he'd discovered Rita Skeeter's little secret.

Indeed, Harry had thus far not bothered to key anyone else into the chamber's wards other than himself. Sirius had turned the Black Offices over completely to Podmore & Associates because Artie and Hestia Jones (Sirius's own proxy) worked so closely together, and Artie had not minded at all Harry's desire to keep the Wilkes Offices vacant and locked up for the foreseeable future. Even experienced wizards were uncomfortable at the thought of being in the same room with Erasmus Wilkes's supposedly dormant portrait. But Artie's wife Elizabeth had died due to one of Erasmus Wilkes's cursed toys, and as far as he was concerned, the Toymaker's portrait could stay locked away forever. Unfortunately, Harry still had need of the dead man's vital knowledge.

Taking one last look around the empty corridor, the boy stepped into the antechamber. Like the last time, this small waiting room was empty save for a few chairs, a wall-mounted coatrack, and a full-length mirror. He spent a few moments carefully modifying his appearance (and, to an extent, his personality) into that of "Harry Wilkes," Erasmus's devoted and quietly psychotic only child. The Azkabal was at an impasse over finding the Diadem Horcrux (even assuming that it was really the last one), while Harry was personally just as flummoxed with the mysterious key that Erasmus Wilkes had left next to the Horcrux Ring in the container they'd recovered from the old Gaunt Shack. Lucius, Reg, and Harry had tentatively planned an excursion to see the Toymaker's portrait during the next Christmas break, but then this Goblet of Fire nonsense had struck, and they decided to take advantage of Harry's required presence at today's special session instead.

"Time flies when you waste it," Harry thought to himself.

Satisfied that his false identity was in place, Harry then stepped into the main office, closed the door behind him, and moved to face the Toymaker's portrait.

"Hello, Father. I'm back."

The figure in the portrait (who had been stretched out on a fainting couch napping) suddenly jerked awake and looked around wildly. Then, his eyes settled on Harry, and he grinned broadly.

"Harry, m'boy!" exclaimed the Toymaker in a delighted tone. "Back already?"

Then, he frowned in confusion.

"How long has it been, anyway? I've no one to talk to in here, so I tend to go dormant whenever I get bored, or else I'll go bonkers."

Harry crooked an eyebrow in a way that projected reams of sarcastic commentary. Erasmus noticed and snorted jovially.

"Yes, alright. Let us say that I don't want to go bonkers in unproductive ways. It's one thing to be a mad genius. It's another to go all …" He paused to strum a finger over his lips while making a burbling 'blblblbl' sound. "… out of having no one to talk with and nothing to do."

"Good to know," thought Harry. "Maybe once I have all the information I need from you, I can have you sealed away forever behind a brick wall somewhere."

"To answer your question," Harry said, "it's 4 November 1994."

"So only a few months, then," Erasmus noted. "You're obviously here for a reason. Any progress on what we talked about last time?"

Harry tossed the key up into the air and caught it easily a few times while smirking at the Death Eater. "A little, I guess."

The Toymaker's eyes widened, and he broke out into a raucous laugh as Harry continued.

"I actually took possession of your orichalcum hope chest and its contents late last summer, but after all the problems that ensued once I figured out how to open it, this is the first chance I've had to come see you."

"You figured out my little guessing game?" Erasmus asked delightedly. "Does that mean T... our Lord is back?"

Harry's eyes narrowed. He'd had suspicions after his last meeting with the Toymaker's portrait, but now he felt quite certain. Erasmus Wilkes (or his portrait, at least) knew Voldemort was really Tom Riddle. Which likely meant that the virulently blood purist Wilkes also knew that Voldemort was really the halfblood scion of an impoverished and inbred Pureblood family. More importantly, it meant that Voldemort himself trusted Wilkes enough to share a Secret which he'd hidden beneath a Fidelius. And since Wilkes already knew the Secret at the time of the Diary's destruction, his portrait (like Jim and Harry himself) was now a Secret Keeper.

"But who else knows?" Harry wondered. "I'd assumed that Tom was keeping his true history from all his followers. But if Wilkes knew? Knew and still willingly followed Tom Riddle? Who else from the Inner Circle did? I mean, just finding out that Voldemort was Tom Riddle was enough to give Tiberius Nott a breakdown!"

"Is our Lord back?" the boy repeated almost mockingly. "Oh, was that what was supposed to happen? Because all I noticed was Lord Goyle knocking me to the ground after I opened the box and then rushing to put that ugly ring on. And then screaming loudly as his arm rotted off before expiring messily all over a very nice Persian rug! At which point I picked up the Ring with a set of fireplace tongs—along with the remains of Goyle's rotting finger—and put it back into the box until I had a chance to talk to you."

Wilkes looked confused. "Hang on. The Ring killed Goyle but then didn't do anything else? But that's not right! Consuming a human soul should have given it enough magical power to animate the corpse to provide you with further instructions!"

"Well, it didn't!" Harry said, sticking to the false story that had been devised during a hasty Floo conference the prior evening. Inwardly, he was horrified to think that if he'd been just a moment or two slower, he'd have returned to face some kind of talking Inferius version of Lucius Malfoy, one ready to restore Voldemort to life! "It just killed him and turned his body into a stinking goo! Though I'm pleased to see you have so much concern for your son's welfare that you were happy to see me die in a failed effort to resurrect Voldemort!"

Wilkes clutched his arm and hissed. "Do not say that name!"

Harry crossed his arms over his chest defiantly. "Would you rather I call him Tom Marvolo Riddle?"

At that, the Toymaker was visibly shocked. "How …!?"

"Slytherin cunning," he snapped contemptuously. "I managed to eavesdrop on a conversation between the Boy-Who-Lived and some of his cronies. He's a bit of a blabbermouth, but then so was our Lord's Diary. I gather it monologued to the git before Potter destroyed it. And in the process, Potter became a Secret Keeper and could share the news with anyone who was listening!"

Harry lifted his chin defiantly. "Of course, Potter's not the only Secret Keeper now, is he? I mean, I have no problems sharing the information with you, and you've almost slipped up and called the Dark Lord Tom several times."

Wilkes glared at Harry before finally bursting into laughter.

"My, my, such a clever lad! Purely the result of my genetic heritage, of course. You shouldn't attribute it to anything special about yourself. But still quite clever. You know, I think I'm rather glad you didn't unintentionally sacrifice yourself to the Ring, no matter what an honor to your House it would have been. Yes, I was one of the few privileged enough to call our Lord by his birth name. Just as I was one of the few privileged enough to become part of his Pantheon—his True Inner Circle—and made privy to the Goal."

"… The Goal?" Harry asked flatly after deciding to ignore "the Pantheon" as more Dark Lord egotism. "Can you be any more cryptic and unhelpful? I really don't have all day, you know. If I get caught in here, we're all in trouble! You mentioned the Dark Lord's 'Goal' last time I was here." He added sarcastic air-quotes around the word 'Goal.' "But what is it?!"

"Nope. Sorry, son. But the Goal is something I cannot share with you yet. Some oaths transcend death. You need to get the Ring to Narcissa. Tell her it contains a part of our Lord's soul and can be used to resurrect him. I'll wager she'll be able to find someone who can repair whatever's wrong with it."

"Does she know about the Goal?" Harry asked sarcastically. The Death Eater winced.

"I … don't know. She did not at the time of my death. I wanted to tell her, but the consensus in the Pantheon was that she was valuable but too young and unpredictable to be brought fully into the fold."

"Well now she's fifteen years older and even more unpredictable. So, I'm not taking the Ring to Narcissa Nott. Not unless you tell me how to get into our vault first."

"Harry …!" Wilkes began before pausing in distraction. "Wait, Narcissa Nott?"

"Narcissa divorced Lucius, taking most of his money. Then, she married Tiberius Nott, and now he's missing, presumed dead, with her now controlling all his money. I am a wealthy but underage boy whose legal guardian just rotted to death because something went wrong with the Dark Lord's Horcrux. And now, you tell me that you don't even know if she's privy to the Dark Lord's true agenda?! But she does have a pattern of getting her claws into Death Eaters and then getting their money?! No, thank you! I'm not going to see Narcissa about this unless I'm doing so from a position of strength!"

Meanwhile, Wilkes had narrowed his eyes at something Harry had said. "Horcrux, you say? And just how do you know that word?"

Harry scoffed. "From risking my neck spying on Albus Bloody Dumbledore, of course! Father, he knows that the Dark Lord has made at least one Horcrux! He knows that the Dark Lord still lives and that there are schemes at work to bring him back! And now, the Diary has been destroyed and the Ring is apparently flawed in some way. Your precious Goal is in jeopardy! But the only one who you suggest I go to for help is Narcissa Nott, and I don't trust her!"

Frustrated, Erasmus sat back down on the fainting couch and began to massage his temples. Meanwhile, Harry tried another approach.

"Alright, are there any other Horcruxes out there we can use? Do you know how many he made? I assume he wouldn't stop with two."

When Wilkes spoke again, he was oddly subdued compared to his usual terrifying intensity.

"The plan … the Horcrux plan, that is, not The Goal … called for a seven-part soul array. Six Horcruxes plus his own primary soul. The Diary and the Ring were his own personal possessions. He'd acquired two Founders' objects, Hufflepuff's Cup and Slytherin's Locket. He had not set up a hiding place for the Cup at the time of my death, but Tom, Boruslav, and the Selwyns handled the security for the Locket. If there are any Lestranges or Selwyns you think you can trust, they might have more information. Tom and I did the Ring. Tom had also made another Founder's artifact into a Horcrux sometime in the early 1950s, but that one he hid himself. Said it was in an impregnable location and that he had 'a special use'for it."

Wilkes suddenly giggled loudly. "He said he wouldn't tell me what or where it was until after we'd finally won. But he promised me it would be hilarious!"

"I've no doubt," Harry muttered dryly.

"Anyway, the final Horcrux had not been created yet at the time of my death. Tom had not found a magical object whose properties he thought valuable enough to waste one of his six Horcrux slots on, and he was worried about the Arithmancy of going with a bigger number, so he decided to stop with a seven-soul array."

Harry nodded at that. "You mentioned Lestranges and Selwyns. What about the Malfoys? Didn't the Dark Lord entrust one of them with the Diary?"

The Toymaker snorted. "Entrust is not the word I'd use. Abraxas Malfoy was never truly a member of the Pantheon, though he and his sons were all Marked as Inner Circle Death Eaters. Useful idiots, the lot of them, though Tom thought Lucius showed potential. Anyway, Tom gave the Diary to Abraxas after making him swear an Unbreakable Vow to protect it with his life and to value it more than any of his family, which the ponce was happy to do. But most of all, he had to vow that, if Lord Voldemort ever disappeared for over a month without contact, Abraxas was to open the Diary and start writing in it for instructions. The fool had no idea he was being asked to sacrifice his own soul for the cause. But then, old Abraxas managed to get himself killed—and in a most undignified manner, I should say!—in the Spring of '79. Tom said he had Abraxas's boy Lucius under his control, and I never inquired after that. Since the Diary later fell into the hands of Dumbledore himself, perhaps I should have."

The man looked thoughtful for a moment before turning back to his putative heir.

"If and when the opportunity presents itself, be sure and tell our Lord all of that. I'm sure you'll get a kick out of whatever he ends up doing to any surviving Malfoys after losing one of his Horcruxes."

"I'll remember. So, to recap, there are no living people who we can trust to help us. Are there any books I can read about Horcruxes that won't get me expelled or sent to Azkaban?"

Wilkes looked at Harry with an appraising expression. "Weeeelll, there is one."

He turned and moved over to an ornate desk at the edge of the painting, opened a drawer, and removed a book which he held up for Harry to read. It was old and thick, and for some reason, it had actual chains and padlocks wrapped around it to keep it from being opened. But Harry could still read the cover.

The Anathema Codex.

"Well, that sounds … menacing."

"Oh, quite, quite. I had some good times reading this when I was a kid before my grandfather caught me. Got some wonderful ideas about pranks. Sadly, the humorless old goat didn't approve, so he locked up our family's copy of the book that we've had since before Noah came out of the Ark."

"Locked … up? In a way that you couldn't get it opened?"

Wilkes nodded. "There are spells in here designed to let the current Lord either seal it against some or all of his family members or even destroy it outright. He couldn't bring himself to do the latter, but he did ensure that I would never be able to open it."

"Where was your father during all this?"

"What, Daddy? Oh, I killed him and Mummy when I was around twelve or so. They took some of my toys away, so I had to retaliate."

"Well, of course you did," Harry replied. "I'd have expected nothing less."

Deep beneath his blasé exterior, Harry was really ready for this conversation to be over. Portraying a convincing son to Erasmus Wilkes always made him want to take a hot shower and just scrub. "I assume you killed your grandfather as well?"

"Nah, at least not directly. No, he was the one I framed for murdering his own son and daughter-in-law. I squeezed some juice from a Tears of Madness berry into his after-dinner coffee. Instant murderous senility. He was old, and he didn't last long in Azkaban. I wonder if he still remembered me at the end."

"Okay, these tales of your pre-adolescent precociousness as a mad killer are fascinating, but as I said, I'm on the clock here. Can I assume that your Big Book of Evil that has all the Horcrux information is also in the missing vault?"

"Assume away!" Erasmus said almost jubilantly.

"Right. Where. Is. It?!"

"Ah, Harry, my dutiful son! That is not a question that can be answered so easily. For, as the old Muggle proverb goes—It's not about the destination, it's about the journey!"


Meanwhile, up on the Second Floor, Jim was just finishing up the paperwork for his Animagus registration when a small paper airplane flew into the room and started orbiting Percy's head. Annoyed but not terribly surprised, Percy snatched the plane out of the air and unfolded it to read the message it contained. He grimaced.

"Bad news?" Jim asked.

"It's a message from the Romanian Ministry. They wish to send some sensitive documents pertaining to the Tournament in through the Transcontinental Floo in the DIMC office for Mr. Crouch. He'll be at the inquiry for hours yet, I reckon, and I'm the only other person in the building with the right security clearance to open up a Floo connection to Bucharest."


"So, the process will take about twenty minutes. Do you mind waiting downstairs in the DIMC for me to do that or should I get someone else to escort you straight back to the inquiry?"

Jim gave Percy a sour look. "Or, and hear me out now, there's a third option: I could just take the elevator back down myself since I know exactly where to go and there aren't any security checkpoints between here and there."

Percy looked like he was about to argue when Jim spoke again.

"Percy, come on! We've established that you think I'm reckless and irresponsible. But what sort of mischief do you think I can get up to during a short elevator ride and then a walk down a few corridors?!"

"I don't know," said Percy grimly. "But that is cold comfort. Life with Fred and George taught me it is impossible to expect the unexpected long before I ever met you."

Despite that mild paranoia, Percy's conscientiousness towards his official duties overcame his misgivings about leaving the Boy-Who-Lived unattended for even a few minutes. Reluctantly, he took Jim down in the private elevator but exited on the Fifth Floor instead of the Wizengamot level. Then, he turned and pointed his finger firmly at Jim.

"Straight down to the Wizengamot and back to the Chamber. Straight past two junctions, then left, then right at the next junction. Got it?"

Annoyed, Jim responded with a military salute. "Aye-aye, sir!"

Percy shook his head in annoyance and then headed off for Crouch's office, grumbling the whole way while the elevator doors closed behind him.

In the descending elevator, Jim folded his arms over his chest and fumed. He'd had no idea that Percy felt that way about him. But his indignance was balanced against his awareness of the truth of some of Percy's complaints. He remembered that meeting with Ron at Potter Manor in the summer before their Second Year. He'd just learned the Prophecy and was having a minor breakdown over it, and Ron's support had been a godsend. But he also remembered warning Ron that continuing their friendship might someday endanger the other Gryffindor's life. He'd been so grateful for Ron's unwavering support that he'd nearly cried.

And then, two months later, Ron had been scribbling away in Tom Riddle's diary, occasionally right in front of Jim, and the Boy-Who-Lived saw nothing. In part because he was too engrossed in his own cursed book that was rapidly turning him psychotic. Jim's face suddenly flushed, and he felt embarrassed all over again for reasons he didn't fully understand.

"I am not reckless and irresponsible," he muttered to himself as the elevator doors opened onto the Wizengamot level. "Well … I mean … I try not to be, at least!"

As Jim stepped out into the corridor and looked around to get his bearings, he could almost believe what he was saying.

Back in the Wilkes Office, Harry was still trying to get the Toymaker to give him any useful information about the missing vault, but the deranged portrait was still maddeningly evasive.

"I'm sorry, my son," Erasmus exclaimed piously. "But this is something you'll just have to figure out on your own to prove your worthiness for the glory that is the Ancient and Noble House of Wilkes!"

As he said that last, the Toymaker put his hand over his heart and assumed a reverent expression.

"At the moment, Dad," Harry snarled angrily, "the Ancient and Noble House of Wilkes consists entirely of yours truly plus the infuriatingly unhelpful portrait of a dead man."

At that last remark, Erasmus's eyebrows shot up and he gave a high-pitched giggle.

"Harry! Harry, Harry, Harrikins!" The man leaned over and put his hands on his knees so that his head was level with the boy's. "If there's one thing you need to know about me, about House Wilkes, about the Pantheon, and about The Goal, it's this."

Wilkes tilted his head slightly, and his eyes lit up. Despite his Occlumency, Harry shuddered. Something in the man's eyes suddenly reminded him of Walburga Black's from their last horrifying conversation.

"Death, Harry, is not the end," the Toymaker said in a breathy whisper. "It's just the last enemy to be defeated!'

Harry took a step back, unable to conceal his shock at what clearly sounded like a reference to the Potter Prophecy. The one about the Dark God whose rise Harry's appointment as Prince heralded for the world.

"What?! What did you say?!"

But Wilkes ignored his reaction. Instead, the Death Eater produced his wand and gestured wildly. Behind him, an old-fashioned Victrola record player that had been painted into the scene sprang to life, and music began to fill the office.

"Or to put that another way, Harry, in the words of the Great Songbird of the Wizarding World…!"

Erasmus flicked his wand again, summoning into existence a flat straw hat resting atop his head and a wooden cane that he began to twirl. He started to warble along poorly but enthusiastically with the music, which appeared to be a song by a young Celestina Warbeck.

"It's not where you start, it's where you finish! It's not how you go; it's how you land! A hundred to one shot, they call him a klutz, can out-run the favorite, all he needs is the guts!"

By this point, Erasmus Wilkes was totally engrossed in his performance and was now dancing and singing along with the songstress like an old Vaudeville performer. Concluding that further information-gathering was futile, Harry turned and left the office, while the Toymaker's impromptu performance continued behind him.

"Your final return will not diminish! And you can be the cream of the crop! It's not where you start, it's where you finish! And you're gonna finish on toooopppp!"

Nearby, an embarrassed Jim realized that he must have taken a wrong turn at some point while distracted over the sting of Percy's accusations. The Wizengamot Office section wasn't terribly large, so the entrance to the Chamber had to be nearby. He had just decided to backtrack to the elevator when he heard a door opening somewhere down the next corridor. The Gryffindor stepped forward and looked around only to jerk back in surprise. It was Harry, coming out of what must have been the Wilkes Office, and for some reason, Jim's twin looked rather upset.

Jim peeked around the corner in Harry's direction. The Slytherin was stalking away, presumably towards the Chamber, and was angrily muttering something not quite loud enough for Jim to hear. Then, Harry stopped suddenly and whirled around as if he'd sensed someone observing him. Jim jerked back out of sight just in time, and after a few seconds of silence, Jim heard Harry's footsteps receding down the corridor away from him.

Then, Jim took a moment to think about his own actions.

"Why am I spying on Harry?" he thought suddenly before scoffing. "Pfft! Stupid question! It's because my dad put me under the Imperius and made me distrust him!"

But then, Jim thought some more.

"Though, to be fair, Harry skipping the Wizengamot session to hang out in the Wilkes Office is kind of sketchy. I wonder what he was doing in there."

Shaking off his indecisiveness, Jim headed down the corridor following Harry's path. As he passed by the door to the Wilkes Office, though, he couldn't help but stop and look at it. He'd been here once before, on the day Harry had expelled himself from House Potter and claimed the Wilkes Lordship. That was also the day that Sirius Black declared Enmity against House Potter. Jim frowned as he remembered the look on Harry's face while the Enmity took hold and all the hateful things he'd then said before Jim fled the office.

"It's probably nothing," Jim said to himself softly. "And I am not reckless and irresponsible."

He continued to stare at the door.

"But if it is something, something important, something that Mum, Dad, and even Dumbledore might need to know about … well, it would be irresponsible not to take a peek, wouldn't it?"

Jim took another look around the empty corridor before reaching out gingerly to try the doorknob. To his surprise, he felt a slight tingle of magic, and then the door opened easily.

"Ha!" Jim exclaimed. "Whatever's in here can't be too secret if Harry didn't even bother to lock the door."

But without taking his hand off the open door, Jim hesitated and took stock of his feelings. He was resolved not to be reckless and irresponsible. He was resolved not to be a slave to the Imperius he was under. But despite all that, Jim was surprised to find a third impulse that finally tipped the scales. This unexpected impulse came from that part of his mind that wanted to take to the skies on black wings. Now that the door was open to him, Jim was curious. And he was of the very strong feeling that if his sudden curiosity wasn't satisfied, it would itch.

Jim pushed the door open and stepped inside.

Once within the anteroom, the boy was surprised to hear soft music coming from the next room. Cautiously, he stepped forward and eased the door open.

"Hello?" he called out.

"Back so soon?" called a jovial voice from further in the main office. "I'll stop singing if you really think my voice is that unbearable. Though that's a horrible thing for a son to insinuate about his dear papa, I must say!"

Thoroughly confused, Jim stepped carefully into the main office. It was as spartan as it had been last time. An old desk with nothing on it. A few chairs. And a portrait of an insane Death Eater, which Harry had apparently woken up at some point.

"…Lord … Wilkes, I reckon?" Jim said with a slight hitch in his voice.

"Well, of course!" the man said bombastically. "Who were you expecting? The Trolley Lady from the Hogwarts Express?!"

Wilkes snorted. "Mind you, if you were, I can understand your caution. Why the rumors I could tell you about her would curl your …!"

Then, the man in the painting paused, tilted his head, and blinked repeatedly. His attention was suddenly and fully focused on Jim's appearance and clothing. And especially his Gryffindor tie.

"Hang on! You're … you're not Harry … are you?"

"Uh, no. I'm Harry's brother, Jim."

There was a long silence as the Toymaker stood perfectly still.

"Jim … Potter, per chance?"

"Yeeeeeaahh," Jim said slowly. "Has Harry mentioned me? I mean … to you?"

Erasmus face lit up in a broad grin, but something in his eyes made Jim want to take a step back.

"Oh, only in the broadest outlines, m'boy. You're Jim Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived and the Slayer of the Dark Lord! A legend in your own time!"

The man gave Jim a speculative look. "And seeing you in the flesh, it's no wonder why your brother is so terribly jealous of you! Why, the awful things he said!"

Jim hesitated before he decided to keep talking with the madman's portrait. Maybe if he was clever enough, he could learn something about Voldemort's plans from this lunatic.

"Oh?" he asked. "What kind of things has he said about me?"

Meanwhile in the Wizengamot Chamber

Harry returned to his seat and immediately noticed the tension in the air. Down in the witness's chair sat Alexander McAvity, who bore a defiant expression as he responded to various baseless accusations.

"Now look," said McAvity, who was clearly growing annoyed with the insinuations about him from some of the more reactionary elements of the Wizengamot. "I have answered your questions, but I grow weary of these slanders disguised as an interrogation, so let me lay it out for you. My sole involvement with the Goblet of Fire consisted of reading a brief script—written for me by your Ministry—and then levitating the Goblet's parameters—again, drafted and provided to me by your Ministry—into the Goblet. Mr. Parkinson flatters me by proposing that I somehow managed to work a wandless, wordless Switching Spell on the Goblet parameters in front of Headmaster Dumbledore, dozens of Ministry officials, and scores of other wizards and witches without anyone noticing. But that ignores the fact that I didn't even know what role I would be playing in the Selection Ceremony prior to that morning! Even if I wanted to interfere with the Goblet and had the skill to do so, there simply wouldn't have been enough time."

He leaned back in his chair and sniffed. "And frankly, I resent these aspersions cast against me by this body simply because neither the Wizengamot nor the Ministry dares to look towards the obvious suspects."

There was a murmur among the assembly, and McMillan banged his gavel.

"Well please enlighten us, Mr. McAvity," said the Acting Chief Warlock. "Who are the obvious suspects we are overlooking?"

McAvity smirked. "Do I really need to say it plainly? From its arrival in this nation, the Goblet of Fire was under the complete control of the Ministry. It was on display at the Quidditch World Cup, which was the target of shocking violence perpetrated by individuals at least some of whom were dressed as Death Eaters. And in this latest incident, the Goblet, which had been sabotaged at some point while in Ministry care, selected the Boy-Who-Lived and his older brother, who is himself the Halfblood son of a Muggleborn but who nevertheless claimed the Wilkes Lordship, to participate a deadly tournament! So if you really want to know who's behind this, I suggest you take a closer look at anyone from the Ministry who had access to the Goblet and also has a funny little snake tattoo inside their left arms."

Immediately, McMillan began to loudly strike the gavel as the assembled Lords became irate at the suggestion of Death Eaters having infiltrated the Ministry.

"After all," McAvity continued while glancing up in the direction of the Malfoy, Parkinson, and Nott boxes, "even accepting their claims of innocence at face value, it's not like some people at the highest levels of your government haven't proven conclusively how hopelessly weak-willed they are in the face of the Imperius Curse!"

Harry looked around the room almost in amusement over the bomb McAvity had just thrown. Andrew Parkinson was up out of his chair yelling angry insults at McAvity, as were Goyle, Crabbe, and Yaxley, among others. (But not Lucius Malfoy, Harry noted, who was taking the opportunity to casually study the crowd and make note of who was reacting most vehemently to claims of Death Eater responsibility.) Even Uriah Travers had roused himself from drunken slumber long enough to start yelling obscenities at McAvity, who just sat back in his chair while bearing a smug expression.

But then, Harry's attention was diverted as he noticed Jim Potter enter the Chamber and quickly take a seat next to James. What drew Harry's attention was Jim's unusually shaken expression, as if something shocking had happened on the way back from registering his Animagus form.

"Hmm," Harry grumbled under his breath. He briefly wondered what new idiocy the Gryffindor had gotten into. "Oh well. Whatever it is this time, it's nothing to do with me."

Back in the Wilkes Office

Erasmus Lord Wilkes, aka Mr. Toymaker, stood in his portrait and leaned against the side of his frame giggling softly.

"He tricked me, hehehe," he whispered to himself with a painfully broad grin on his face. "The little shit lied to my face like a champ and tricked me, AH-HAHAHA!"

The Toymaker's belly laughs grew louder and louder before suddenly shifting into a scream of incoherent rage.

"HE TRICKED ME!" Then, he whipped out his wand and started firing off curses. Those which struck the edges of the portrait frame dissipated harmlessly, but those which struck furniture within the painting caused the fainting couch to smash against the back wall, set books on the bookshelf ablaze, and shattered the little writing desk that had sat off to the side.


Finally, the deranged Lord turned his wand towards the "front" of the portrait, the fourth wall that faced out into the Wilkes Office. With a scream, he fired off a curse that manifested as an intense and jagged beam of red light that struck the boundary between the painting and the world beyond it. As Wilkes's face twisted into a mask of psychotic fury, flecks of red energy dripped off the beam like droplets of molten steel popping out of a foundry forge, causing the rug on the floor to smoke wherever the drops landed. The surface of the portrait was suddenly tinted red, growing brighter and brighter until finally …


With a deafening crack and a wave of force, Erasmus Wilkes was flung backwards to crash on top of the furniture he'd just destroyed. Whatever spell he'd cast, however, had absolutely no effect on the exterior of the portrait, which had already lost its red sheen and returned to normal.

"GAAAH!" he screamed, and his face contorted into a mask of impotent fury. Then, he started slapping his hands against his temples, harder and harder.

"STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!" After a few seconds, the man's self-harm slowed, and his screams lost their intensity until he was merely talking to himself almost reasonably.

"Stop it. Stop it. Just … stop, Razzie. This … this is simply not the proper time for a homicidal rampage."

Wilkes jumped to his feet and looked over to the ruins of the writing desk which he had just smashed to pieces with a curse. With a simple flick of his wand, the desk reassembled itself and now looked as good as new. He strode over to the desk, jerked the top drawer open, and began to rifle through it quickly. After a few seconds, he found what he was looking for and held it up to inspect it. It was a large piece of pale green chalk.

With another wand flick, the ornate rug on the floor flew back to land on the wreckage of the fainting couch, revealing a hardwood floor underneath. Wilkes fell to his knees and began to carefully draw a series of runes on the floor in green chalk.

"Now is the time for cunning and ingenuity, Razzie, old bean," he whispered as he drew.





and Vohldo.

After completing the first runic sequence, Wilkes leaned back and carefully inspected the quality of his work. He snickered for a few seconds as he reached back down to start the next sequence in his array.

"The time for homicccidal rampage," he hissed in Parseltongue, a wild look blazing in his eyes, "will be here sssoon enough!"

Next: Imperius Lessons. The Weighing of the Wands. And Rita Skeeter drops by for a chat.

AN1: Check out the Sinister Man's web presence on the POS wiki, the POS TV Tropes page, and my Discord server (through which you can see advance previews of this story as it is being written). Also, the Sinister Man would be profoundly grateful if you checked out my P*****n page and supported my original fiction. Patronage is not necessary to get the free POS previews via Discord.

AN2: What the Sinister Man is reading:

Fils de joie by alexj11425. It starts as one of those "Harry finds out he's got all these lordships the summer before Year 5" things, but it's very well done. For one thing, instead of just being absurdly rich, he also has debts to pay off and mysterious unnamed business partners. IOW, a realistic take on a 15yo kid who inherits a family estate and does not have the benefit of improbably helpful goblins. Also, it has a great and supportive Hermione and Ron, and aside from Dumbledore, the adults in Harry's life do not have their heads up their asses.

The Other Side by lucky_katebishop. First, read the prior stories, all of which are complete. They detail the life of a Harry Potter in a WBWL universe where Dumbledore intentionally and systematically turns Lily and James against Harry and makes his life miserable so that when the time comes, Harry will be eager to die. And then this fic starts, and that traumatized Harry's post-Battle of Hogwarts suicide attempt causes him to wake up in Grimmauld Place in the canon universe during the summer before Fifth Year, alongside a very confused canon Harry.

AN3: The Toymaker's song is "It's Not Where You Start, It's Where You Finish," from an obscure American musical called Seesaw. For the purposes of this fic, assume Celestina Warbeck did a cover of it that caught Erasmus's fancy.

AN4: Special thanks to my Discord editors: darkphoenix31, Earwing, EssayOfThoughts | Aich, Farsight, Jiiti, justanotherrandomhuman, kean, Nemo's Flower Song, PrettyPinkCupcake, Sakkiko, Sakkiko, sehrrhes, skyari, and guys!

AN5: Vital Statistics: Reviews: 19,098. Followers: 21,113. Favorites: 19,417. Communities: 255 Discord followers: 5,630! Go Team POS!