Chapter 39 – Dangerous Days
So, first of all, Merry This Time of Year Holiday! I hope you enjoy the present :)
I'm currently torn regarding Ron. On one hand, I could have him be a loyal friend and ally of Harry, developing beyond the canon portrayal with Harry's guidance. On the other, his weak will and jealousy are an easy way to shatter the friendship and remove him from Harry's allies. I've read both types of stories, I've enjoyed both types as well.
So, as I am undecided on the matter, I am going to leave it to my readers to decide upon Ron's path. I have put a vote on my account and will use the results to decide Ron's future in this story. The vote will be active until I release the next chapter, when I will tally the results and use that to shape Ron's future in this work.
- Ron follows Harry and is shaped into a Sith lieutenant that is fiercely loyal to his Master.
- Ron can't handle the situation and breaks free of Harry, still being friendly, but is lost to Harry's Inner Circle. He tries to live a normal civilian life, but his emotions maintain a strong hold on him and his magic.
- Ron takes the canon path of jealousy and will never regain that trust with the Harry that has been training him. Knowing he cannot return; he begins to form his own Sith under his leadership.
- Ron is troubled by Harry's lessons and path. He joins Dumbledore as a spy in Harry's ranks due to his loyalty and faith in the headmaster, strengthened by how his mother raised him.
- Other suggestions
The next day dawned bright and sharp, clear skies predicted for the entire day and Harry wished for a moment that they were as overcast as he felt. When he had been younger, he had enjoyed the feasts, torn by the fact that it was the anniversary of his parent's deaths, but the promise of the feast and celebrations were something he had long desired before he understood what the day actually meant to him.
His time away had changed that, as he had no point of relation to the event, so missed it, neither mourning nor remembering. He had been too busy and it had passed without thought, yet another day among other similar days. Maybe it wasn't healthy, but he had years of not thinking about them in such a fashion. So, now that it was thrust back into his face, it had hit him harder than he had expected.
The only people that seemed to recognise his pain were Hermione, Luna and Jane. Although McGonagall had given him odd looks the last few days as well, so she probably realised what today was like for him.
Shoving his dour thoughts aside, he smiled as he walked into Hogsmeade to attend his appointment at the Hog's Head. Hermione was catching up with her homework and Ron was busy with his chess and writing to everyone he knew with Chudley to carry the small set of messages. Jane was with him as she should be, watching the public moving around them.
Entering the dark pub, a few nodded to Jane in acknowledgement and purposefully ignored Harry's presence. Harry had been surprised at meeting Aberforth, the younger Dumbledore, but the resemblance was mostly in the eyes and beard alone. Where Albus was soft in features, Aberforth obviously spent a lot of time outdoors doing hard work.
With a polite knock, they entered the room that had been hired. He was greeted politely by an attractive middle-aged woman who carried herself with an attitude of confidence and power that others likely tried to emulate and fail.
"Mr Potter," she began, "It's a pleasure to meet you in the flesh. How was my gift?"
Harry smiled and kissed over the back of her hand following polite protocol, "Madame Flamel, it was a good start, further along than I've managed myself, but I've yet to truly set up proper facilities to expand my research."
She nodded and smiled at that before The Force surged with warning as she flicked a finger and Harry slammed into a wall, his consciousness fading as looked down at Jane's crumpling body.
A moment or an age later he burst back to consciousness to find himself in shorts and a tee-shirt, ones that he did not recognise. He was stuck to a wall with his limbs spread to an almost uncomfortable point. Jane was similarly attired and stuck to the wall beside him, she was straining against the enchantment but going nowhere.
His wand and clothes were neatly folded on the table across the room alongside Janes. All their effects were organised beside them, and he could see she had missed nothing.
Perenelle Flamel, or someone pretending to be her, sat on the only chair on the other side of the room, away from any lines of sight from the door or the window, carefully examining Harry's invisibility cloak in her hands, frowning as he ran her fingers over its surface with her eyes closed.
She grunted in annoyance and pulled on a thread, slowly pulling it from within the weave and raising the lone thread to the light to look at it. Nodding to herself, she dropped it into a glass of what looked like whiskey before focusing on her guests. "Where is Harry Potter?"
Harry balked at that, and tried affirm his identity, but found himself silenced. Perenelle shook her head, "I don't have everything I require to forcibly reverse Polyjuice and I presume you had a master brew it so it could be hours before you change back. That wand doesn't match what I was informed is Harry Potter's. You acted too old for a child of his age, much too old, even with the thought patterns implied through our letters. Your soul is too old for the flesh you inhabit. Your bodyguard is a female werewolf who matches the description of Miss Jane Doe, so there's that in your favour I suppose. But there are ways to trick a werewolf that you are who you say you are."
She gestured towards the window, "We are currently several hours earlier than when you arrived, and in a different building, so we have time before your allies even realise that they need to rescue you. And then they would have to know where you are."
"So," she continued with a rather worrying grin on her face, "we are going to see who you are, and when I get bored of your lies, I'll rip the knowledge from your skulls and rescue Mr Potter and his bodyguard from your allies and scour any sign of your organisation down to the bedrock."
Harry simply raised an eyebrow and blinked at her, until she gestured and he began to hear his breathing again. "What would prove to you that I am Harry Potter?"
Perenelle's eyes flickered between them for a moment before she sat back, the cloak still in her hands. "I wouldn't believe your lies, I presume you've done your research on our correspondence, so you can't offer that. I won't give you your wand to make an Oath. That leaves your elf, if it is yours. Summon it by name and do not speak another word, if you do then it will be the last thing either of you do."
Harry grunted at that, calling out "Dobby" and adding a commanding tone to the word, so that the elf would know to come to him.
With a pop of displaced air, Dobby arrived but before he could do anything, Perenelle stamped down on a crystal under her heel and a large binding circle appeared and began to glow with a silvery light. As Dobby froze in terror, she smirked and held up a sharp shard of black metal where the elf could see it and she nodded when she recognised him. "Your name is Dobby, Elf to Harry Potter."
Dobby nodded at that, his eyes never leaving the black metal.
"Point to your Master and do nothing else." Perenelle snarled.
Dobby did as instructed and pointed at Harry.
Perenelle made a few hand gestures and Harry felt his muscles freeze solid but become unstuck from the wall as Perenelle floated him around the room and Dobby's finger followed him. With a grunt of annoyance, she stuck Harry back to a wall and held the black metal towards Dobby, "Swear upon the name of a Power that you are bound by that this is Harry James Potter, son of James Potter and Lily Potter nee Evans, bearing the blood of Black and Potter."
Dobby blinked at her and nodded, "Dobby so swears in the name of Harry Potter, in Medraut's name Dobby so swears, by the Prince of Cerulean Flames so Dobby swears."
Perenelle flinched at the last name, before sighing and sitting back, pocketing the black metal and scuffing her heel across the lines and breaking the binding. She gestured and Harry fell to his knees with Jane beside him.
"I won't apologise, so don't expect or ask for one." Perenelle said as she looked at Harry. "Get dressed, we can have breakfast and start talking. I'll be in the kitchen." With that, she stood and walked out the only door of the room, leaving them behind, Dobby shaking at what he had endured and Harry struggling to hold back his anger at being defeated like that so easily.
Minutes later he had dressed, given the still shaking Dobby a hug and let him know that he had done well and to not punish himself, before he had gone downstairs and entered a kitchen where Perenelle was sitting sipping a cup of coffee with a European breakfast on the table before her.
"Help yourself," she waved towards the food, "no poison, you won't have my answers as a corpse."
Jane leant against the door frame, ready to jump in to protect her charge as best she could, but her gut instinct told her that all she would do is perhaps inconvenience the woman, but that inconvenience may just buy Harry the time he needed to escape.
Harry nodded at Perenelle's comments and took a slice of toast and buttered it before quickly eating it and taking a drink of orange juice. "Pardon my language, but what the fuck was that?"
Perenelle chuckled at his anger, "That, was your elf vouching for you by calling on the title of a Concept you don't even want to think about never mind mentioning to protect you." She took another sip, "Never betray that elf Mr. Potter, he was willing to suffer unspeakable things to keep you safe."
"Such as?" Jane asked in curiosity.
Perenelle sighed and rubbed her eyes in exhaustion, "The Concept, had it been feeling merciful, would have annihilated the Elf if he had lied under such an Oath within a binding circle as that and threatened with cold iron blessed by the Sword of Rome. He also swore upon the name of the one who Sealed the Pact between the Kingdoms of Man and the Thrones of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts." She focused her annoyed glare at Harry as she continued, "Then there was the fact that he called upon your name in the Oath as a Name of Power."
Her glare faded to be replaced with a slightly haunted gaze, "I have no fucking idea what you did to gain such loyalty, but if you told that Elf to go to Hell, he would ask which one and lead a Crusade in your name." She chuckled slightly at that, "Probably win too."
Harry blinked at that, "There's more than one Hell?"
Perenelle snorted in annoyance at that, "All faiths have something like Hell to punish people, some simply have more than others. Many exist only because people believe they do." She sighed and put her cup of coffee down, "But metaphysics, the multiverse and theology aren't what we were meant to meet about."
Harry snorted at that, "We were meant to meet and talk about how we could share our skills to advance my knowledge and theories."
Perenelle just looked at him, "You have an Old Soul, Mr Potter, one that has seen and experienced things even beyond my understanding. Lies do not become us. You bear knowledge taught by others. What you lack is resources and refinement of the fragments you hold."
Harry chuckled, "As I said, knowledge and theories."
Perenelle sighed and rubbed at her eyes again. "Find somewhere to work from, we will assist you in setting up in the summer. We will go over the basics, a crash course if you will. Then we will discuss where we go from there. We have no interest in taking on an apprentice, but we'd be willing to help another Alchemist in their research." she sighed, "There aren't many of us left and most aren't worth the title."
Jane grunted at that, "And will you do what you did to us each time we meet?"
Perenelle looked Jane up and down, and smirked at her, "Depends if you're into it or not." she chuckled and waved the issue aside, "Don't worry, Have Dobby bring me to you, I'll trust that he won't try anything unless you command him to do so." she glared at her guests, "Just be aware, that trying to do as I did to you would end badly."
Jane glared at the woman before Harry interrupted, "You had the entire situation planned out and ready, that wasn't some spur of the moment thing you did. Why set that up?"
"I'm over six hundred years old, Mr Potter," Perenelle said with a knowing look at him, "My husband and I, discovered one of the Paths of Immortality and follow it. It's definitely not the only Path and do you honestly think we've lasted this long without enemies that are a valid threat and that we've had to learn how to deal with?"
Harry nodded at that, "What about Dumbledore?"
Perenelle snorted in dark amusement, "Dumbledore is no threat to us. We won't be drawing his attention to the fact we lied to him, it's not our problem that taking care of our final business would take longer than he has left to live. What our failure doesn't know can be used against him."
With that, she stood and walked over to a table to one side and pulled a set of papers out from a draw, spreading them over the surface, "So, Miss Doe, I suggest you get something to eat and drink, we'll be here a while. Mr Potter, let's get a check on how competent your tutor really was. You have an hour, tell me what you can work out from these."
Harry was mentally exhausted from the long day and the Flamel Incident, as he mentally defined it. Having eaten his fill to a barely comfortable point at the feast, he just wanted to go to sleep. The crowd before him milling around and getting in his way was very annoying and Jane wasn't helping with her amusement about how he was acting like a grumpy old man.
The twins or Peeves had likely done something to delay everyone and he was about to tell them to fix it, when Percy hurried past "Everyone move out of the way, Head Boy coming through, please move."
A few moments later, Percy's voice echoed down the corridor, in a sharp tone with more command in it than Harry remembered him being able to do, "Prefects, return everyone to the Great Hall, Fifth and Sixth years are to guard each of the entrances, seventh years, go together and get Dumbledore. Now!"
As the students began to be herded back towards the Hall, Harry blinked in surprise at forgetting tonight was the night of Blacks first assault on the castle. His thoughts were derailed as Jane pulled him to one side and let the rest move on ahead of them, her wand at the ready, Hermione, Ron and Neville stayed nearby with their wands drawn as well as they moved as a group to follow the others.
Dumbledore glanced at them as they passed in curiosity, before focusing on his goal of getting to the painting. McGonagall, Lupin and Snape were quickly following behind him.
Less than ten minutes after the Gryffindors had gathered in the Great Hall, the other Houses were escorted in to join them, confusion as to what was happening on everyone's faces.
Dumbledore smiled softly at them from the doors, "The teachers and I need to conduct a thorough search of the castle," Flitwick and McGonagall were sealing the other entrances into the Hall as he was speaking. "I'm afraid that for your own safety, you will have to spend the night here. The prefects are to stand guard over the entrances to the hall and the Head Boy and Girl are in charge while we are absent. No-one is to go anywhere alone, if you need the facilities, then you will be escorted by a Prefect." He turned to focus on Percy, "Any disturbances are to be reported to me immediately. Send word with one of the ghosts. They will be on patrol around the Hall as well."
He then turned to Jane, "Miss Doe. I am aware that your charge is your priority, but I would appreciate it if you could assist the prefects in their duties for tonight."
Jane gave Dumbledore a mocking salute and at a nod from Harry, she moved across to speak to Percy and the Head Girl to see how she could help.
Dumbledore turned to leave before stopping, "Ah yes, I do believe that the floor will be a tad cold, so you will be needing these." With a casual wave of his wand, the tables flew to the edge of the hall and stacked themselves, another wave resulted in hundreds of squashy purple sleeping bags.
"Sleep well." Dumbledore said with a smile as he closed the door behind him.
In less than a minute, the Hall was abuzz with rumours and questions about what was happening, the Gryffindors that had seen the painting described how ruined it was. Percy began to organise the students into groups to have clear pathways between them for the prefects to patrol, quickly sending an upset and embarrassed first year with two of the prefects for her house to a nearby toilet and spent the next ten minutes transfiguring a few items into cuddly toys for those who wanted them to help sleep. He didn't even slow down when he used his head boy pin to turn it into a stuffed horse for his sister, passing it across without bringing too much attention to her.
Harry was actually impressed by how much he had changed this year already with a few nudges to open his eyes.
Rumours were still whispered after Percy turned the lights out and the room was lit only by the constellations above. The most common and accurate was that Sirius Black had been in the castle and attacked a painting to get into the Gryffindor tower. The rumours of how he got in... much less factual or even possible. He drifted off slightly to the sound of Hermione grumbling about people being stupid and not reading Hogwarts: A History.
Harry slept through the night, knowing he was safe and wouldn't be bothered. Hermione told him about the conversation Dumbledore and Snape had nearby while he had been sleeping and Ron was thinking of more absurd rumours that he was using as part of a dream diary project for Divination.
It was two days later, while Sir Cadogan, the Fat Lady's current replacement, was arguing with Seamus Finnegan about the password with the Knight changing it every few hours and not telling people, that McGonagall motioned for Harry to join her for a moment in a side room of the corridor.
"Mr Potter, there's no point trying to hide this from you any longer..." she began before Harry cut her off to Jane's amusement.
"Sirius Black is after me and betrayed my parents to Voldemort." Harry said in a cold and blunt tone.
"Yes, well," McGonagall floundered trying to have a response, "It's good that you are already aware, but I hope you understand why we must put a stop to your training sessions..."
Again, Harry interrupted her, "I'm afraid that isn't likely to happen Professor. I don't mean to be rude, but if you stop my training sessions, then you will need to also stop the Quidditch training as well. Are you going to be the one to explain to Wood why we're not training?"
She paused in thought at that, and he could feel her temptation to just do it to keep him safe anyway. One that was surprising for Harry as last time she had caved in before he had to escalate to anything close to threatening to quit the team.
McGonagall sighed and turned to Jane, "I want to forbid him, but as long as you are present and that a teacher is also present during the training sessions at the pitch, we should have enough warning to keep Mr Potter safe."
Jane nodded at that, "No worries on that front, I'll do my job, you just keep doing yours. Are you able to tell me why the Aurors aren't swarming this place looking for clues?"
"They were here, but there wasn't anything they could use to track him." McGonagall hissed in frustration, "Everything he brought with him was taken and he didn't take any part of the painting with him either. They couldn't find a way in or out that wasn't already sealed or being watched."
She focused on Harry and then placed a hand on his shoulder and gave it a soft squeeze, "Don't worry Mr Potter, we'll get him. I won't let him hurt a hair on your head." she gave him a wistful smile and reached out as if to touch his hair before backing away and coughing politely to hide her embarrassment, "There's nothing more Mr Potter, do train hard and keep safe."
Harry stared after her as she hurried off and looked to Jane, "That... was weird."
Jane smiled sadly at him, "She cares for you Harry. No denying that, but she's caught between her job, her image and her wishes. It's not a happy place to be."
Petunia finally relaxed, there was nothing left to do. All the cleaning was done, the clothes all washed, dried and away, not a speck of dust remained within her home. The garden was in order and neatened to her exacting standards and for once she felt great. As if she had achieved something worth striving for.
Without Vernon, she would need to find work to pay the mortgage and the bills, but their savings would keep them going for a little longer. Deciding to reward herself, she opened a bottle of wine and sat at the kitchen table, trying to ignore the silence of the house while savouring the drink before the doorbell rang.
For a moment, she thought about ignoring it, but, with a deep breath, she felt the tugging within her that said her Oaths to Harry were starting to get agitated at ignoring visitors.
She sighed and put the cork back in and left her glass on the table as she moved to see who it was. She glanced at the clock and saw it was gone eight in the evening, there was no reason she wanted to think about for someone coming at this time of night.
She opened the door to face two women whom she had been provided pictures of, Andromeda Tonks and Narcissa Black looked at her with some shared amusement.
Andromeda smiled as Narcissa tried not to sneer, "Petunia darling, don't keep us out here, we have so much to discuss."
Petunia twitched as her hand clenched around the handle before she relaxed, "Please, come in. Would you care for a drink?"
As Narcissa grimaced as she looked around the living room, examining the photos on display; Andromeda strode through the room to the kitchen and examined the bottle, "No thank you Petunia, we aren't going to be here long." She gestured to the seat, "Please, sit."
As Petunia did so, Andromeda sat, having glanced at Narcissa who held up a magazine between her forefinger and thumb as if afraid it might contaminate her. Andromeda gave the muggle a small smile and got to business, "Now. We are both aware of the Unbreakable Oath you have made with young Mr Potter. As such, we are acting as his agents in preparing his new accommodations." She waited for Petunia to nod, signalling that she was following the conversation.
Narcissa moved behind Petunia silently, pulling a small vial from her pocket and began to cast a few silent spells, stopping when the vial began to fill with a thick red liquid. When the vial was filled, Narcissa twisted her wand, ending the spell and moved back to the magazine as she hid the vial and her wand back in her sleeves.
"Now, as part of those accommodations, you will have to be moved to perform your duties there." Andromeda paused as if thinking how to phrase things, hiding her amusement at the rigid posture Petunia took as her fear rose, "Now, I would suggest that you pack enough for a few days, the rest of your belongings will follow shortly. Dudley will be collected from the Station and brought to you in the summer and in any holidays, he may choose to come home for. Any mail will be collected or redirected to you, so you won't miss anything that is sent to you."
Andromeda smiled at the muggle, "I apologise for the short notice my dear, but we finally got the keys now that the majority of the curses, hexes and the like have been removed. Oh, and don't worry about being bored, there's a lot to do." She clapped her hands together to make Petunia jump, "Come, come, we don't have all night. Ten minutes should be enough, shouldn't it? We'll be leaving then, so don't forget anything you think you might urgently need."
She smiled gently as Petunia hurried off to her bedroom to gather clothes and materials as instructed.
Narcissa moved up next to her sister, "I have the blood and I can adjust the wards as instructed, but I noticed that you didn't mention that Lestrange Hall hasn't been inhabited in the last five years since the elves died. Nor did you mention that I would be living there as well and she would be... assisting me."
Andromeda grinned and, in that moment, Narcissa would swear that she was looking at Bellatrix, "Now, why would I spoil such a wonderful surprise as that dear sister?"
Dumbledore ignored the biting cold breeze from the window as the window howled past outside. He stood in the centre of the cell, slowly turning around as his sharp gaze looked over the few contents for any clue as to what Black could be planning. His wand carefully weaving a series of spells in a chain to provide more information.
Outside the cell, stood his Auror escort who kept swapping his attention from what Dumbledore was doing and staring at the Dementor that had been forced into a corner under the light of Dumbledores Patronus.
It had been such a pity to have to sacrifice such a useful asset as Black had been, a good and loyal fighter never mind that he was a symbol of breaking free of the darker paths a portion of society appeared dedicated to exploring. But Harry Potter needed to be moulded into the right tool for what was to come. Luckily Black did most of the work for him in that, Albus just needed to keep quiet and a thorn was removed. But now, that thorn was digging deep and causing problems.
He had remained in this cell for over a decade with no issues, why now did he escape? What gave him the impetus to do so?
The rooms contents were few and well used. In a corner, there was a grilled hole for waste to fall into the sea below. A simple clay bowl for the broth provided to the prisoners sat by the door, left to fester by the Dementors. The door bore scratches on the inside, dark brown stains within the gouges spoke of fingers torn by the attempt.
The outside of the door had a number of runic patterns for sealing the prisoner within dependant on their known abilities. Only a guard with a pendant keyed to the doors or a Dementor could open them. The door was recessed into the stone and opened out into the corridor to prevent prisoners hiding behind it or getting access to the hinges. A hatch was in the top half of the door, bars prevented an escape by that path.
The hatch was opened only in an inspection by the Minister or guards, or to allow visitors to see the prisoner during the conversation. Rich visitors could pay for a private room that the prisoner would be brought to, not that many rich people visited their imprisoned kin.
More scratches in the wall told a story of marking time, but it looked like either someone had repaired the wall, Black had lost track of time or he had grown bored of the routine. A few scratches around the stone seams and the bars showed a few escape attempts had been tried but either failed or he had given up. The damaged sections dulled with time and weathering from the damp and cold air.
As his spells displayed their results, he grunted in annoyance and frustration. The damn Aurors had ruined the scene with their investigations. The room was stained with their magic, obscuring anything Black had done to escape. The man had no wand, so he wouldn't have been able to use his Animagus form to protect himself. He had displayed no signs of any talent at wandless magic, so what little he could have developed or tried would have been smothered by the Auror's investigation.
He pushed his Patronus closer to the Dementor, letting it feels his frustration and rage at the things presence before storming off back to the fortress below and the boat that awaited him. He was done here, there was nothing of worth to find.
"Sir?" The Auror called out as Dumbledore started to lead them back to the entrance, "What about that?"
Dumbledore turned to see the guard pointing at the Dementor that cowered against the bleak stone as the Patronus floated before it.
"About what?" he asked, pointedly looking where the Auror had gestured and then back at the man himself, "I don't see anything wrong. Do you?"
He opened his mouth to answer before shutting it again at the look he was getting from the headmaster, "No sir!" he squeaked, "Nothing at all."
Dumbledore nodded sharply at that, "Come on then, my boy, I'm a very busy man and I have work to do." He carried on at a brisk pace as he planned on how to progress. This was taking too much time from his research on Horcrux as it was. Then there was Cornelius' little rebellion to deal with, the man was getting too many ideas and actually acting on them without asking for his advice. Neville also required further training, his skill with Occlumency had improved enough already to allow some of the more... exotic lessons to begin.
They finally reached the doorway of the fortress and Dumbledore looked out into the pouring rain and at the boat docked at the stone pier. For a moment he allowed himself the thought of burning the prison to the ground and salting the ash, prisoners and Dementors alike burning in the Fiendfyre he could unleash, before he cleared his mind and nodded politely in thanks to his escort before striding to the boat to leave this wretched place.
As he took a seat in the cabin away from the near stormy weather, he stroked his beard in thought. Neither his research, nor his predecessors' journals was giving him anything of value for his primary subject. All he had was that the vessel must be damaged beyond repair for the anchor to lose its grip on the mortal world. He could find no other record referring to a mortal host as an anchor beyond Gilles De Rais references to it being a foolish idea.
He may have been an absolute monster of a thing that had once been a man, but he did know his obscure occult theories. Either Harry Potter was a mad scheme of Tom's due to some incredibly obscure fragment of knowledge he had discovered in his travels, or Harry was an absolute accident. A million to one odds event.
But, as an experienced wizard and protector of this world, Dumbledore knew how often that actually happened. It was much too common for his liking.
As a large swell struck and the boat rocked in an uncomfortable manner, Dumbledore began to mentally write a letter to the Sword of Rome requesting access to the Vatican Library or to have one of his agents research the matter on his behalf.
Time. Time was the problem here; he did not have enough and could trust so very few to act on his behalf without falling to corruption. They lacked his own mental fortitude and abilities to hold back the Darkness from staining their soul.
Harry ignored the weather as it turned darker and more violent, the wind and rain hammering at the walls of the castle, cold winds tugging at thick robes as it rushed down the corridors and now... now, Snape was standing at the front of the Defence Class.
Memories of the last time this happened bubbled up and he hammered them down to where they belonged. Jane stood, not in the corner as she normally did, but directly behind Harry and she kept her eyes on Snape at all times, even with how crap she felt today with the full moon calling upon her, she kept her place watching the foul bully.
Snape looked around at the class before returning to look through the papers on the desk, before dumping a set of notes into the bin beside the desk, "It appears that... Professor Lupin has not left any record of the topics you have covered so far..."
"Please, sir, we've done Boggarts, Red Caps, Kappa, and Grindylows," said Hermione quickly, "and we're just about to start..."
"Be quiet," Snape coldly snapped at her. "I did not ask for information. I was merely commenting on Professor Lupin's deplorable lack of organization."
"He's the best Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher we've ever had," said Dean Thomas as boldly as he could manage against Snapes withering glare, and there was a murmur of agreement from the rest of the class. Snape looked more menacing than ever.
"Then you are easily satisfied. But with such previous examples as Quirrell or... Lockhart." Snape snarled with a physical shudder in memory of the previous year. Returning to the moment, he gestured to the displays around the room, "Lupin in comparison, is hardly overtaxing you. I would expect first years to be able to deal with Red Caps and Grindylows. Today we shall discuss..."
Harry watched him flick through the textbook, to the very back chapter, which he was well aware that they hadn't covered. Maybe he should suggest that Snape teach a class on Drama with how he kept acting.
"Werewolves." Snape said with a dark emphasis on the word.
"But, sir," said Hermione, seemingly unable to restrain herself, "we're not supposed to do werewolves yet, we're due to start hinkypunks..."
"Miss Granger," said Snape with deadly calm voice, "I was under the impression that I am teaching this lesson, not you. Perhaps you have a Mastery in Defence that you have kept quiet, perhaps years of teaching children that I was not aware of?" At Hermione look of fear and embarrassment, he continued, "No? Such a pity, then you will just have to listen and learn from me instead. And I am telling you all to turn to page 394." He glanced around again. "All of you! Now!"
With many bitter sidelong looks and some sullen muttering, the class opened their books as instructed. Jane's hand was resting on Harry's shoulder where it was clenched in his Robes so hard, her muscles were shaking. He wasn't sure if she was trying to stop him exploding at the brute, or to stop herself.
"Which of you can tell me how we distinguish between the werewolf and the true wolf?" asked Snape.
Everyone sat in motionless silence; everyone except Hermione, whose hand, as it so often did, had shot straight into the air. Harry deciding to prod the man further, raised his own hand into the air.
"Anyone?" Snape said, ignoring Harry and Hermione's hands. His twisted smile was back with a vengeance. "Are you telling me that Professor Lupin hasn't even taught you the basic distinction between..."
"We told you," Parvati interrupted suddenly, "we haven't got as far as Werewolves yet, we're still on..."
"Silence!" snarled Snape. "Well, well, well, I never thought I'd meet a third-year class who wouldn't even recognize a Werewolf when they saw one. I shall make a point of informing Professor Dumbledore how very behind you all are..."
"Please, sir," said Hermione, whose hand was still in the air, she gave Jane a soft apologetic glance before focusing back on Snape, "the Werewolf differs from the true wolf in several small ways. The snout of the Werewolf..."
"That is the second time you have spoken out of turn, Miss Granger," said Snape coolly. "Five more points from Gryffindor for being an insufferable know-it-all."
Hermione went very red, put down her hand, and stared at the floor with her eyes full of tears. It was a mark of how much the class loathed Snape that they were all glaring at him, because every one of them had called Hermione a know-it-all at least once, and Ron, who told Hermione she was a know-it-all at least twice a week, said loudly, "You asked us a question and she knows the answer! Why ask if you don't want to be told?"
Harry meanwhile followed the techniques from his mother's book and managed to barely restrain his rage into something more useful. Thoughts of defenestrating the oily man warred with not even bothering with a window and seeing if he could use the Force to test which could withstand the most damage, Snape or the castle walls?
The class knew instantly Ron had gone too far. Snape advanced on the boy slowly, as if stalking skittish prey, and the room held its breath.
"If you take one more step towards him, I'll give a demonstration as to why a Werewolf can be so dangerous."
Everyone, including Snape froze at the growling fury held in Jane's voice, one that chilled the blood of those that heard it.
Snape paused and turned to look at the woman that Harry suddenly realised the bully had been ignoring her all class, always looking around her and away from her, never at her.
"If you have a problem with how I teach, then you can bring it up with the headmaster. Until then, you will keep silent and not interfere any further in my class." Snape growled out in return before turning to look back at Ron.
"No." Jane snarled, and the class began to carefully move away from her, torn between awe at telling Snape of all people 'no', and fear for her suddenly changing into a Werewolf right then and tearing into the Potion Master.
"No?" Snape asked as he straightened and returned to looking at her, his wand in his hand and Harry could practically taste the bubbling rage, hate and terror within the man.
Jane smirked with her amber eyes almost glowing in the low light of the room, "Perhaps we should show them professor? Let them see what you are so afraid of?"
Harry touched her hand, sending a pulse of the dark side through her flesh to the spirit within, cowing it for the moment. "I think Professor Snape, that pushing such a subject in the presence of my bodyguard was a very ill thought plan. It was in fact rather petty and beneath someone who is meant to be the paragon of Slytherin House." He stood and gathered his books, "In fact, I think I will be the better man and leave the class with my bodyguard rather than allow you to attempt to provoke her in such a manner."
He gestured Hermione to follow his lead and Ron began to pack as well, "In fact, it's obvious that today is a tiring and stressful day for you as well." He paused as if realising something, opening the book at the correct section, he quickly ran his finger over the text. "Ah, this would explain so much Professor! I commend you on coming out to your class in such a manner, preparing them should they face one such as yourself on these nights. I had heard rumours that Dumbledore had allowed a Werewolf to study at Hogwarts previously, one of Greybacks victims at a guess from the ages involved. But I didn't realise that Dumbledore had employed him as well."
Harry smiled and gave an apologetic bow to the confused teacher. "I will still remove myself and my bodyguard, obviously we are distressing you and on such difficult days as it is. I will have to thank Professor Lupin for letting you handle such an important lesson as well. I'm sure all the parents will be pleased at your long years of service without harming a student. Have a good day now, Professor, you should get some rest. It's what?" He turned to Jane who looked confused but was playing along, "Three hours to moonrise?"
Jane frowned and twitched slightly and answered without having to look at a clock, "Four."
"Thank you, four hours." Harry said as he bowed and left the class to the confused murmurs of the others and Snapes apoplectic stuttering's as Hermione and Ron hurried to follow him from the room.
Harry sighed as he walked away, "Oh, that was so good."
"Harry, what just happened?" Ron asked in obvious confusion.
"Hermione, want a guess?" Harry answered with a wide grin.
"You implied that Professor Snape was a Werewolf in front of half our year." She blinked in surprise at that, "But he can't be, I've seen him at feasts on the night of the full moon."
Harry laughed, "He isn't, but Jane also attended a few of those same feasts." He patted Jane on the arm, "You best go get ready, I imagine it's going to be a harsh night with how riled up you got."
"Yeah," Jane sighed, "You keep safe tonight, you hear?"
Harry nodded, "I'll be safe and secure, Hermione and Ron will be with me all night. You keep safe, and you make sure he can't follow you. I wouldn't put it past him to try something."
Jane shook her head, "I've got a spot prepped for hunters to chase me. If he tries, he'll be in a world of shit."
"Oh?" Harry said in curiosity.
"Yeah," Jane answered as she gave his shoulder a little nudge, "a group of the packs are gathering to discuss some interesting news they've heard. Apparently, Fudge is making noise about improving the rights of Werewolves. Might even get students here officially soon. Mind if I mention that you are backing it?"
Harry smiled at her, "Feel free to tell them that I am not just backing it, I'm publicly supporting it."
Oliver Wood growled at Harry as he strolled into the changing room with just ten minutes to spare before the match. Marching up, he raised a hand to poke Potter in the chest when he stopped at the point of a wand at his nose.
"I hope you weren't going to do what I thought you were doing." Growled Jane.
Harry just looked at Wood and sighed, placing a hand on Jane's hand to lower her wand. "Let me deal with this Jane." Turning his attention to Oliver he sighed, "Let me guess, you're pissed that I haven't turned up to any of the training sessions?"
"Of course, I'm pissed," Oliver began to rant, "did you think I shouldn't be? How are you supposed to know the plays for the team if you don't turn up?"
Harry sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose, "Oliver, I'm the seeker. I have nothing to do with the rest of the team, especially in this sort of weather, except to catch the Snitch and end the game. The weather is absolutely shit by the way; in case you hadn't noticed. So, I want to go up there, catch the damned ball and get back into a nice, warm and most importantly dry castle. What about you?"
Oliver growled in rage as Harry changed his robes and began casting spells on them. "What are you doing?"
Harry glanced at him in confusion, "Oliver, seriously, are you alright? I'd have thought you would have done the same. We can't cast while were out there, but we can at least enchant our robes to be waterproof and warm, can't we? I definitely don't remember that being a problem in the rules." Harry shook his head in confusion at the teen, "I might want to look into getting some goggles for this sort of weather. Don't need the glasses anymore, but rain in the eye sucks."
Oliver shook his head and tried to focus on his anger than his confusion as to how Harry was so blasé about all this. "Look Harry, this is my last year and I need to win that cup. So, you need to attend training sessions with the rest of the team, or... or..."
Harry sighed at that and turned back to look at Oliver, "Or what Oliver? Or else? Because I don't think you want to say that right now. I get it, you're angry and frustrated. But if you try to use the or else option, I'm going to call you on it. And you'll be hurting you and the team more than me. I really like flying, but I can do it as a hobby and not as sport. For you, this is your future and your passion. You've just told me it's the most important day in your life. For me, it's a Saturday."
He gestured towards the door, "Just say the word and I walk out without any problems, its entirely in your hands. So, go, get ready and suck it up, or let your pride win and I'm off the team." He watched the poor boy's turmoil churn inside him, before patting him on the shoulder, "Good chat Oliver, let's go win this game."
A few minutes later, the Gryffindor team flew up into the storm to Lee Jordans comments and description of the players. Harry took one look at the rapidly bedraggled Slytherin team flying before them, allowing himself a smirk at their discomfort while the Gryffindor players had followed Harry's lead and enchanted their uniforms.
As the game began, even with that added protection, Harry was soon soaked from the rain that hammered down and got inside his clothes, the only thing stopping him from shaking from the icy chill was the warming charms that fought the cold. He was probably going to catch a cold from this, but the Slytherins looked so much worse.
He let the game play out for half an hour or so before he reached out with the Force and caught the sense of a glimmer of gold above him. Surging upwards, he followed that flicker up and above the pitch, readying himself for what was to come. He had to get rid of the Dementors from the school and if risking his life was the price, then so be it.
Malfoy had spotted his flight and followed, trying to race ahead and Harry was so tempted to let him do so. Unfortunately, it was too late, and he heard Malfoys scream of horror as the clouds parted slightly and the Dementors swarmed towards them. A flicker of green and silver from the corner of his gaze told him that Malfoy was fleeing back to safety.
Rather than follow the likely saner Slytherin, Harry roared a challenge back at the Dementors and drew his wand, casting his Patronus which surged up and into their number. A few dodged the silvery figure and rushed him to try and get him before he could defend himself, Harry flexed his hand towards one and emerald lightning burst from his fingers to strike it from the sky. The burning remnant fell to the pitch below as another grabbed his wand arm.
Harry jabbed it in the mouth with his wand and screamed his rage and hatred for the thing and his Patronus erupted from the Dementors skull.
A third grabbed his other arm and dropped, momentum pulling him from his broom as he followed the mass of rotting cloak. Harry grabbed hold of its hood and started hammering his fist into its skull, emerald lightning burning around his fist as he struck again and again until it let go, but by then, it was too late and they were too close to the ground.
The Force pulsed out of him, slamming into the pitch and pushing the rain away for a moment as he tried to slow his descent, but he was falling too fast.
Voices disturbed the darkness of his slumber.
Then came the pain.
He twitched and groaned at the surge of his muscles aching, the grinding of a few bones was a recognisable sensation that he could have done without.
Harry opened his eyes to find the quidditch team for the most part standing around him, Hermione and Ron by his bed in the chairs they had pulled across. His wand was being carefully cleaned by Hermione with a worrying fixation on it that suggested she was in shock.
Everyone looked rather bedraggled and covered in mud, Hermione and Ron looked like they had just climbed out of the Black Lake. Jane stood at the end of the bed with a look of absolute rage on her face, her amber eyes shining in the dim light as she clenched at her arms.
He looked at them taking in the details before he sighed and caught their attention, "Guessing we lost?"
"Harry!" they exclaimed in surprise as they were muttering between themselves.
"Bloody hell Harry, you fell off your broom!" Fred exclaimed as his twin continued, "Wicked though, punching a Dementor all the way down!"
Alicia had wrapped her arms around herself and was shivering, but Harry wasn't sure if it was cold or fear, "We thought you died."
Hermione made a small squeaky noise at that and glared at him with rather bloodshot eyes.
Jane meanwhile growled at the girls comment and glared at him with a look that promised that she wanted to throttle him for what he did, "If you're trying to get yourself killed, fire me and get on with it. If not, you need to knock this shit off."
Harry chuckled at that, before gasping and wincing at his ribs hurting for doing so, "Nope, got plans to live a long life. Get married, have kids, all that. Sorry about that."
The nurse strolled up and waved everyone away, "Out. I have work to do. You can all see he's awake and alive. So, go be someone else's problem."
Harry grunted at that, "You heard the lady. Jane." He nodded towards Hermione with a look of worry in his eyes.
She glanced and nodded, placing a hand on Hermione's shoulder, "Let's go get you dry and warmed up. Keep hold of the idiot's wand until you see him next. Teach him to scare us like that."
When they were all gone, the nurse swept her wand over him, "Your bodyguard is good. Likely saved your life. No idea what she cast that made the rain react like that, but she slowed you enough, so I only have to repair a third of your bones rather than use a mop to collect you. You're a lucky young man Mr Potter, any faster and we wouldn't be talking."
"The Dementors?" Harry asked.
"Banished from the grounds, Dumbledore was angry and went to the Ministry after forcing those monsters beyond the wards. No idea what's going to happen next, but you're safe for now." The nurse answered as she wrote a few notes.
Harry looked around, "Do you know what happened to my broom?"
She paused and looked to one side of the bed with a wince, "You'll need to replace it. Some of it's in the sack under your bed, not sure where the rest of it is right now. Went straight into the Whomping Willow, the end might still be in it."
"Bollocks." Harry sighed, "Tell me we won anyway or something?"
"Sorry again, Mr Potter. The match was cancelled, so no points to either side. Best you can get really, Hooch had to disqualify you for casting a spell with your wand. But I can ensure you that nobody caught the Snitch before the game was ended. You'll just have to play really well for the remainder of your matches to catch up." She smiled at him, "Professor Snape is rather upset about the score himself, so that'll be fun."
She tapped him on the hip, one of the areas he wasn't in pain from, "Now, I'm going to have to give you some Skelegrow, your records say you know how much fun that will be. I have to vanish a few bones as its better to replace them than see how they heal. Then while you are keeping that down, I'm off to provide a calming potion to my nephew. Apparently, he's trying to drown himself in the showers again. Too much of his father in him, that boy."
Harry settled back into the bed and sighed as he let the Force flow through him and speed up his recovery. He hated this, but hopefully some good would come of it.
Harry sat in the Room of Requirement, with his allies around him, each in casual clothing and tired from the workout he had pushed them through. Already they were stronger, faster and quicker to respond, their magic hummed within them, closer to the surface than before and the Force flowed around and through such potent individuals.
The group was not complete yet, but the final member would be gathered over Christmas and would likely not be interested with this part of the training.
He took a deep cleansing breath and released it before beginning, "This is a meditation technique which will act as the foundation to a series of defences I will guide you in building. When each of you has reached the next stage, I shall begin guiding you to starting to master Occlumency."
He almost paused at the slight flinch in Neville's posture, but continued on, wondering whether Dumbledore was teaching Neville the techniques already in their private meetings he had seen on the Map. He ignored Notts spike of curiosity as this was a different style than he had begun studying. Hermione's curiosity, he could cover with a long talk later, it wasn't like she would find much on the subject with how restricted it was by the Ministry.
"Many texts of the subject begin with the simple phrase, 'Clear your mind.'" He snorted in amusement at that, "The issue is how does one clear their mind? The very act of trying not to think is thinking about not thinking. Instead, I shall guide you in building an image, from this we shall expand until you can build your mindscapes for yourself and then we shall work on defending those mindscapes. It will be tested almost constantly by the Dementors very presence even as they remain beyond the wards, so we can take this twisted opportunity to strengthen ourselves."
"While this is one way to protect yourself from Dementors, it is a partial method that can be broken down given enough time, however, I will teach you the more effective method after Christmas." He looked around the group and nodded at their attention, "Now, close your eyes, block out everything bar my voice as best you can. Do not worry if you can't but focus on my voice and instructions."
When they had done as he asked, he continued, "Think of your favourite flower, its entirely up to you, don't say what it is, just imagine one in your mind. Now, think of the details and make sure they are in the image before you. How many petals? What colour are they? the shape and texture of the leaves, the scent of it. Keep adding more detail, step by step, until it feels real to you."
He let them work at it, feeling their struggles at visualising the image in their minds through the Force, he waited calmly for them to reach a suitable point where they held stable images in their minds. Some were better than others, Hermione was having trouble focusing on just one flower, where Neville kept trying to expand to the entire plant in full. Ron was actually the fastest at completing the image, a rose that Harry remembered that Mrs Weasley grew in her garden.
"Good, now, keep hold of that image, but think of where you are, find someplace that you feel safe and secure. Feel the ground beneath your feet, feel the air flow around you, the scents and sights you expect to see. Build the place up, fragment by fragment until you could swear that you were there."
Harry smiled as he felt them work at it for about twenty minutes, before he interrupted them, "Good, now focus back on the room we are in, let that image go to the back of your mind, do not let go if it completely, but just let it rest, a comfort and security that you can reach out and wrap around you without worry."
As they blinked and let their eyes adjust back to the dull lighting he had chosen for the room, Harry smiled at them all, "Good. Now the next step is easy. Every night, before you sleep, spend twenty minutes or so building that place. It will come faster and faster to you all, add details, change it to how you wish. It is yours and yours alone, sacrosanct, no other can enter it without your permission."
He carefully stood and stretched, "Over time we will move your thoughts and memories within that place, protecting them from others until you are able to have that structure working constantly in defending your mind. From there, we will work on building defences and learning to hide your safe place within a larger mindscape. Just before the end of the year, Ill test your mindscapes and provide pointers on how to improve."
He focused on each of them in turn, "With the physical training and this exercise, you will be better prepared to defend yourselves, when you can defend yourself from a casual attack, then I will begin to teach you some of my secrets and the knowledge I have gathered." He smiled at them, "I hope you can have the patience to work hard towards attaining that goal."
Harry smiled at Mrs Fudge as she bustled around to make sure everyone had a drink to hand, or a snack to eat, a house elf carrying two trays followed in her wake supplying her need to make sure everyone was comfortable. The scent of freshly made mulled wine and bread filled the house. Every so often she fiddled with the brooch Harry had given her as a present for Christmas, a soft smile on her face before she shook herself and hurried over to someone else.
If she had been a red head, he would have thought her related to Molly Weasley. With the way the pureblood families were all related, she probably was.
Cornelius leant around the door to his study and waved Harry to join him, quickly ducking back into cover when his wife wandered past muttering about something. Harry waited until she was gone and then entered the room with a chuckle. "Is she normally like that?"
Fudge laughed as he poured Harry a cup of juice and himself a shot of firewhiskey. "She is, but I just keep out of her way until after dinner, she calms down by then." He waved his glass towards the large room with his relatives all mingling, "We're used to it and you may have noticed that the children and I have all disappeared for now, to do important things."
Harry took his drink and sat in the offered chair, "Thank you for this again. It's been wonderful."
Fudge shook his head and took his own seat, "Nonsense, Harry, you are always welcome in my home. Did you work out who got you the Firebolt?"
Harry shrugged, "I'm not sure, I'm guessing it was McGonagall again, she bought me my first broom. I'll check with her when I get back to Hogwarts. Better to be sure before I try flying on it, merlin forbid someone jinxed it or something."
Fudge winced at that, "I should make it a crime to tamper with such a fine piece of enchanting. Let me know if it is untoward and I'll have the Aurors investigate. Are you still okay with the interview tomorrow?"
Harry nodded, "Absolutely, I think the photo will be good on the front page of the Prophet, especially with the start of getting that new Legislation in place. When are we having the meeting about the tournament?"
Fudge nodded at that, "The meeting is on the twenty eighth, so Tuesday. Bagman and Crouch will be there for our side. We will have two representatives from each of the Bulgarian and French Ministries. We'll be going over the contest ideas and start working out the logistics involved."
"So, other than interview tomorrow, the Triwizard meeting on the twenty eighth, the ball on New Year's Eve, and your Wizengamot session on the first. I'm pretty free. Yourself?" Harry asked.
Fudge checked his notepad, "Other than the same events, I am also pretty free. What do you suggest?"
Harry smiled and drank his juice, "Charity events. What do you say about boosting your popularity?"
Fudge leant forward "Go on?"
"You're the Minister of Magic," Harry began, "One of my friends at school was given permission to use a time turner. Would it be possible for you to use one?"
Fudge squinted as he thought through who McGonagall had requested that device for, "Miss Granger? She should have not mentioned it to anyone at all."
Harry smiled and waved the issue aside with the Force to emphasis his words, "Nothing to worry about, I found out about it when she was in a class with me and another class with a different friend at the same time. Pretty obvious like that, but it was not her fault, it was just the timing."
Fudge nodded with a glazed look for a moment, "Nothing to worry about." He shook his head slightly, "Well, yes, of course. But yes, I could authorise one, why?"
"I have an idea. We go back to very early this morning. Or even better yesterday. We go to a toy store and buy a lot of their toys, then we go to orphanages this morning and give them to the children." Harry saluted him with the glass, "We don't even mention it to the papers as when they find out what we're up to, and they will, it's not a publicity stunt, but just good will to lonely children." Harry leant forward, "Hell, I'd pay for the toys myself if needed."
Fudge swirled his whiskey around his glass for a moment, "Not a bad idea Harry, not a bad idea at all. And I'll match you knut for knut, no fear on that."
"Excellent." Harry grinned, "Shall we get going?"
Fudge finished his drink and grabbed his hat and coat from beside his fire, "We shall. Don't forget your coat, it was nippy out there yesterday."
As the band began another waltz, Harry finally spotted his target, "Lavender!" he called out as he approached the girl in question as she chatted with a few of the older boys while she twirled some of her loose hair around her finger. Well, you couldn't accuse her of being a late bloomer.
Harry came up beside her and smiled at the teen boys, "I'm terribly sorry, do you mind if I borrow her for a few minutes? No. Excellent." With that he placed her hand on his arm and walked her away from the group, ignoring their confusion and the fact he had dismissed them as not worth getting an answer from.
"Harry?" Lavender gasped as she was taken from the interesting people she had been talking to, "Why are you here? What are you doing?"
Harry smirked, "Saving you from making mistakes." he gestured to one side where her father was striding towards the still confused teen boys with a look that promised that they would be providing answers to his questions whether they wanted to or not.
Pulling her to one side, he took two drinks from the floating tray, thanking the air beneath it before passing her one, "In answer to your questions, I have invested in a specific business which you would be very familiar with, and was invited here. I'll be doing so repeatedly now, so it was good to see a recognisable face." He gestured with his glass to one side where Theodore Nott was standing beside his mother and grandfather, "Well another of them at least. Theo is a bit busy at the moment and I needed to talk to you anyway."
She took a sip of her glass to cover her confusion and found that he had somehow managed to get one with actual champagne in it and not the fruit juice that she usually was provided by the House Elf's quick reactions.
"So," Harry began as he turned slightly to look at her, but keep his face from the majority of the guests, "Let's be absolutely honest here. You are one of the queens of gossip at Hogwarts." He gently touched her arm to stop her answering, "There's no insult implied but there's no point trying to deny it. But you have shown little interest in your fathers work and your mother has devoted herself to the running of your household and to caring for you and your siblings."
Lavender blinked in confusion at that, "I don't have siblings, I'm an only child."
Harry frowned, "Really? I could swear... maybe you should ask them about it, can you imagine what it would be like to have a little brother or sister?" He sighed and shook his head for a moment as he was lost in thought, "Sorry. Anyway, I was going to ask what you wanted to do when you leave Hogwarts?"
She stared at him in confusion before answering, "I want to be in fashion, maybe makeup?"
"Ooh, that's a heard business to get into. Wizarding or muggle?" Harry asked, a look of genuine interest on his face as he looked at her.
"There's a difference?" She asked her confusion over the path of this conversation growing.
Harry laughed at that, "Oh Lavender, if you are asking that, then you have no idea." He chuckled slightly and glanced at his bodyguard as she came to stand nearby, shaking his head slightly with a smile. "Let's make a deal, shall we?"
She frowned at that, "What sort of deal?"
"I will organise a set of magazines with muggle fashions for you to look at, if you want to continue this plan and want to make your own business, then you will need funds and connections. I am going to offer you starter funds and a facility to work from to get you going, we'll discuss what share of the business I will hold later and we can have your father write the contract that we both agree to. In exchange, I want you to join my little group in training. None of the physical stuff if you don't want to, of course, you're a term behind, that will be a lot of ground to try and catch up over." He took a sip of his drink and glanced at it with a slight crinkle of his nose, "I'd also appreciate it if you would keep me up to date with the rumour mill, keep me out of the gossip as best you can and keep Hermione safe."
She blinked in surprise at the offer and requirements, "I can't keep you out of the gossip, but I can nudge it here and there. And Hermione is my friend, of course I'll protect her. But that's a lot of money to be talking about Harry."
Harry gave her a knowing smile at that, "Excellent, we meet at six-thirty for the physical training, you are welcome to join us or just wait for us to finish, then we can begin the other training I offered."
"And what if I decide to not join the training?" she asked, trying to cover her worries with teen bravado.
Harry simply gave her a knowing look and leant into her personal space and whispered in her ear, "If you wish to be rich and powerful, to have your name known across the world and have respect and be known by all, then you will join us, if only to learn how to defend yourself. I'll see you on the first day of term, don't be late."
She shivered as his soft breath caressed her ear and her hormones rushed through her body as her heart tried to explode in her chest. By the time she had opened her eyes and stopped biting her lip, Harry had left her to join a group by the Minister and was being included as if he was one of the adults.
She sighed and gulped the rest of her drink as she went to sit down, how Hermione could stand to be that close to the Boy-Who-Lived without turning into a puddle of goo, she did not know. But the offer ran around her mind and refused to not keep nudging her.
Theo sat beside her, having escaped his mother, and offered her a glass of juice, "I'm not expecting an answer, but I'm guessing he invited you to join us?"
She just looked at him and then at the glass before taking it and drinking it dry, placing the empty glass on a table and nodding to him.
Theo glanced around the room before nodding, "We've both seen powerful people all our lives, seen them attend these events and mingle. I want you to take a good look at Harry Potter out there right now, I want you to open your eyes and really look. Don't take the surface image, you know better, look at how the ripples are moving."
Lavender paused and did as Theo instructed, her gaze smoothly wandering over the adults present and recognised what Theo had already seen. "He has the minister on side, he has our parents and your grandfather on his side as well. Most of the Heads of Departments are watching each other and who Harry is talking to. Merlin, he's breaking the power blocs and building his own."
Theo nodded softly at that, "Now, look again and who don't you see?"
She did and froze as she realised that she saw the Parkinson's, Goyle's and Crabbe's in their usual group, but no sign of Malfoy. And as a terrifyingly intense pair, Narcissa Mal... sorry Narcissa Black and Andromeda Tonks were talking to people, but there was something odd about their dresses.
Theo sighed as he saw who she fixated on with her furrowed brow, "Madame Tonks is the Herald for Potter, Madam Mal... sorry, still getting used to that. Ms Black is the Herald for the new Lord Black. And Malfoy isn't here and neither is his father, it isn't that they weren't able to attend as he claimed. They simply weren't invited." He nodded to her, "Such a pity isn't it."
Lavender leant back on the sofa and looked over everyone again, then turned to Theo and looked him over as well. "Tonks and Black are wearing the Potter and Black colours respectively, but also their details suggest the other House. Black and Potter are allied and your grandfather is wearing simple black suit robes, but you and your mother are wearing your House colours. Congratulations on your new position as heir."
Theo gave her a polite nod, "Mother is now Mater Familias of House Nott, we will be confirming the shift in power at the next Wizengamot. But you missed something in the dance around us."
"Oh?" She asked, "What did I miss?"
Theo smirked at her, "A bet, if I may?" he waited for her to nod in curiosity, "I bet you three guesses as to the detail that you are missing. If you win, I will owe you a favour. If I win, then you will agree to accompany me to the next Hogsmeade weekend."
Lavender laughed out loud at that, "Oh Theo, if you wanted to take me on a date, then all you needed to do was ask. But I'll take your bet anyway."
Theo winced at that and tried to not look like he was sulking as Lavender looked around the room again.
"Well, let's play this out. Guess one, Parkinson is working the guests to find a new match for his daughter, if Malfoy is about to fall from power, he wants his daughter protected. Mrs Parkinson is doing the same to those mothers present. But we both know that's not what you mean." Lavender whispered conspiratorially to Theo.
Not waiting for him to answer, she continued, "Of course not, Pansy is as subtle as her parents, they may as well have just asked everyone out loud at the start of the night, it would have been less embarrassing. So, guess two, Mrs Zabini is on the looking for a new beau, hopefully one that will last longer than the latest before he died of whatever this one died of. But that's common knowledge, she's a widow, which means she's on the hunt again. Luckily for us, Harry is too young or she might have started with him."
Theo snorted his drink out his nose as he was taking a sip at that last sentence, Lavender gently passed him a cloth to dry himself with as she gave him a smirk, "Again, that can't be it. Every smart and eligible bachelor in England will have gone abroad on holiday or business until she declares her latest engagement."
She tapped her lips as if in thought before grinning at him, "I do so love our bets Theo, you always make them entertaining. But my third guess is that the Blacks and Potters are in alliance, not because their Paters are in agreement, but Potter is both the Pater Black and the Pater Potter. How was that as a third guess?"
Theo stared at her and then snapped his head around to look at Potter, then to the two women touring the room as a pair, before snapping back to Potter. "Merlin's balls, I thought... How?!"
Lavender smirked at him and patted his cheek as if comforting a child, "My mum loves studying the Houses genealogies. She has a theory about the Muggleborn that she's researching. Father is a lawyer, and even though I might not be interested in following his footsteps I have listened to him when he was running his ideas past mum. Narcissa Malfoy's marriage was annulled by the Pater Black before Sirius Black, the current heir had escaped Azkaban, so it wasn't him. She was immediately allowed to return to her maiden House and was made its Herald to the Pater Black who is a figure of mystery at this time."
She waved a tray over and took a glass of juice before sending it away again as she continued her explanation, "Arcturus Black, the last Pater Black, died a few years ago and no-one claimed the position until this summer. The next Wizengamot session, Narcissa Black provides the documents to act as the Herald of the Pater Black. In the Wizengamot session after that, Andromeda Tonks nee Black is declared the Potter Herald by the new Pater Potter, who can only be Harry. Harry Potter is the grandson of Dorea Potter nee Black, sister to Arcturus Black, With the Black heir in Azkaban, he cannot inherit as per the Treaty, therefore the two best options are Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter."
She savoured a sip for a moment as she watched Theo gather his thoughts, "I'm guessing you were going to say that the answer was that the Pater Black had taken Harry under his wing and was acting as the Potter Regent until he came of age?"
At Theos nod, she nodded in agreement, "I did too, until you made me doubt myself, then I realised. If Draco Malfoy was to be the next Pater Black, why is he not here? Why is he still just a Malfoy and not taken the name for himself as well? Do you imagine he wouldn't be lording it over us with being Malfoy-Black right now? No, that leaves Harry to be the Pater Black, that means that he is an adult in the eyes of the law and as such can claim his position as Pater Familias of House Potter."
She fiddled with her glass slightly before she nodded to herself and stood, offering him her glass, which he took automatically, "There should be two questions in your head right now Theo. One, everyone likely knows this but doesn't want to prove it or bring it to light. So why don't they? The second is to think long and hard about where you will be taking me on our date to Hogsmeade. Make sure not to disappoint me Theo, I'm looking forward to it."
With that Lavender gave him a slightly mocking curtsey and wandered off into the party to join her family. Theo stared after her and emptied her glass in one go, blinking at the taste on his lips from the lipstick from where she had sipped from it, "Strawberry?"
DEA Special Agent Miguel Rodriguez rubbed his face to remove the sweat as he watched the targets estate. He had been in the country for three weeks with his team gathering intel on the new rising power in the region. The rumours said that he had simply walked into his predecessor's facility and calmly killed everyone in a single night. No army, no minions, no support at all.
On his own.
Of course, that was likely an attempt to build his rep and legend to scare any potential rivals trying to take his spoils for themselves. They had also heard whispers that he had a Witch working for him, or was one himself. Rodriguez snorted at that; the man was probably playing up to that theme to scare off the superstitious.
According to the analysts, there was no record of this Count Dooku. The few visual shots they had taken showed a Caucasian man of indeterminate age with a rather striking resemblance to Christopher Lee when he played a bond villain. Audio had picked up a cultured English accent which matched that of the actor as well.
Either this man was an immense fan, or something very weird was going off.
They had contacted Interpol and there was no record of a Count Dooku that they could find. No passport, no education, no bank or any other kind of records that they could find. Odds were very good that it was a fake identity, but there was no sign of any other one that could be found.
They were observing him now to see what he was doing, trying to find a clue as to who he actually was and from there, who he was working for. Whoever it was, they had a very weird way of taking over a drugs production and distribution facility.
The fields of drugs had been burnt to the ground, what stocks remained were still being processed, but new plants were being grown in their place. Strange ones that none of his squad could recognise. They'd sent photos back to the analysts for investigation, but nothing had come back yet.
The workers seemed a lot happier than before and the nearby villages had become rather close lipped about their new employer. The guards were former villagers, focusing on the surrounding jungle rather than the farmers at work.
Another group moved along the edge of the field, digging up the ground and placing a pale stone every seven feet or so, burying it a few feet down and then moving to the next point and repeating the action.
He hunkered down as a patrol passed not too far away, but rather than continue on, they stopped and held up a small object that seemed to be making a noise. The one holding the device began to move it towards the fields and then towards the jungle, waving it in smaller and smaller arcs, until Agent Rodriguez began to realise that they were looking for him and they'd almost pinned his hiding spot down.
Carefully, he grabbed his things and bugged out before they could catch him.
Rodriguez stood at attention before the commanding Agent, the CIA liaison sitting in a corner, watching. Bartlett was a real hardass, but he was also a veteran of the drug wars, surviving for a decade in the field, going after the worst of the monsters. Ex-army sniper, the man seemed to be more alive in these jungles and could shoot the balls off a fly at a hundred paces.
Agent Smith, because of course the CIA goon was a Smith, was a paper pusher of the highest calibre. But at least he wasn't there to fuck up their jobs. Unlike stories about other regions, this CIA agent seemed pretty focused on crushing all the drug lords he could get his hands on. It all had a taste of someone with a personal vendetta, but that was well above his paygrade to even think about.
Bartlett dropped the photos on his desk and gestured to them, "Any idea what they were burying?"
Rodriguez shook his head, "No sir. I couldn't get a good shot of them, but they looked like they were made of stone. I thought at first it might be mines or the like, but they weren't careful with burying them, just measuring the distance between the holes. That, they were careful about."
Bartlett hummed as he picked up another report and read it. "O'Neill said that they were doing the same on the north side. They also looked to be tearing down a section of the compounds wall."
Smith frowned as he checked his notes, "There was a delivery of glass and metal yesterday. Greenhouses maybe?"
Bartlett hummed as he stroked his chin in thought, before focusing back on his agent, "You say they spotted you?"
"No sir." Rodriguez answered, "But they had some sort of device that seemed to detect me. No idea what it could have been. My radio was off, no lasers or recording devices. It was just me and a scope, but they somehow detected me and were trying to hone in on my location."
Smith hummed as he put down his papers, "Describe the device."
Rodriguez grimaced, "Sorry sir, didn't get a good look at it. All I could tell is that it could be held in one hand and made a noise. It seemed to get louder as it was pointed towards me and they used that to close in on me. The patrol winced when it went off, so it was an obvious alert, not likely to be missed. I think it's got a range though as they only stopped at the closet point between the road and my spot."
Bartlett growled as he sat back, "Never heard of anything like that before, some new invention? We'll send Graham and Hernandez tonight to scout out, see if they can get more intel."
Smith nodded, "Ill contact a few of my informants, see if they can find out more about the devices when the guards go to town for a drink. Who knows what they will let slip?"
Rodriguez opened his mouth when an immense pressure slammed into his head, he fell to the ground, trying not to vomit as the pressure kept building as if a car was slowly rolling over his skull, until, with a sensation like a broken egg running down his spine, it was suddenly gone.
Gasping, he struggled to his knees, panicking at the smell of smoke in the air.
The local map on the wall was gone, burnt to ash, as were any photos of... something. He blinked in shock as he stared at his hands for a moment, struggling to gather his thoughts.
Smith swore as he tried to rescue the hard drive from his smouldering laptop. Cries of anger from Schmidt's section told him that something similar had happened there.
Bartlett roughly checked his papers, swearing as pages were burnt and destroyed, not all, but a lot of them.
Smith rushed to a case in the corner and yanked it open, snarling in anger as he dropped the case in anger. The hard drives sitting in storage were also destroyed, shattered and molten in places.
"What the fuck just happened?" Bartlett demanded of Smith as he threw the ruined papers to the desk.
"I don't fucking know!" Smith shouted back, "Dooku must have done something, but I have no idea what or how." He rubbed his face in frustration before freezing, "We need to get out now. They must know we're here and watching."
Bartlett didn't freeze, he just opened his draw and pulled out his pistol, rapidly checking it and loading a magazine, before placing it in his holster, "Rodriguez. Get Schmidt to call in our evac. Ten minutes and we were never here. Get Hernandez to set the incendiaries."
Rodriguez saluted and ran for his team, only catching Smiths comment before he was gone.
"I'll contact Section M."
Dooku stood at the centre of the ritual circle and sighed as he felt the Fidelius settle on the compound and within his soul.
He opened his eyes and spoke the secret to his new right hand, "Sofia. The Serenno Estate is within Valle de Flores, due south of Puerto Maríamanteca in the Cahuinarí National Nature Park of Colombia."
She let out a deep breath and sighed in relief at the sudden loss of the pressure in her head. "Senor Dooku, that was much more draining than you said."
Abaddon bowed his head towards her to acknowledge her point, "Ademar, my dear. I have told you a number of times to call me by my name. How many more times must you ignore my request, Sofia?"
Sofia gave a soft chuckle, "Always once more, Senor Dooku. Any less would be a disrespect."
Abaddon coughed into his hand to hide his own amusement, before returning to their ritual, "Yes, well, the Fidelius is a powerful and difficult enchantment to weave my dear, only we fuelled it to cover an entire valley from outsiders. Personally, I expected a greater drain on us than occurred, even with using the leylines running through the valley. You must be powerful indeed to have taken such a burden so easily."
Sofia blushed as she glanced away, "Senor Dooku, I am but a hedge witch, taught only by my mama and her by hers and so on since the before the Old Pact was made. We have little power of our own compared to you."
Abaddon smiled at her as he gently used his fingertip to lift the gaze of the pretty young witch to match his own, "My dear. A lack of education does not mean a lack of power." He gave her a smile, "I only have a short time before I must turn my attention back to my homeland, I was worried about finding a worthy successor." He stepped back and away from her, pleased as she held back from following him.
With a smirk, he walked past her to return to his rooms, a hand gently caressing her shoulder, "A worry I no longer have."
She shivered at his touch and turned to watch the powerful man leave the room, the moment the door closed and she felt him move away, she allowed herself a sigh of pleasure at being surrounded by his power.
She practically skipped to her own room; bigger than the small hovel her family had long lived within. Here she was free and treated as if she was the lady of the house, like in the few books she had gathered with what spare money she had treated herself with. No-one insulted her for being a witch, the men who worked for Senor Dooku, Ademar, she allowed herself in her own mind, looked at her in respect and not a little fear at her new power and position.
Tomorrow, at dawn, she would go with Senor Dooku and tell the secret to the workers, letting them return to their duties while keeping his enemies at bay. And then, when he returned to England to find his nephew, she would rule in his place with all the power and knowledge that he bestowed upon her.
Harry looked at his future acolytes and Empress as they meditated and practiced their occlumency lessons, the Force and their magic flowed through them cleanly and their bodies had grown in strength and endurance over the short months he had been training them. Apparently, a Magi would adapt to the physical aspects of the training at a speed on par with a Force User. It still amazed him how the Force and magic sped up the healing and adaption of the wielder's body at such a pace without causing more harm than gain.
He stood and clapped his hands to get their attention, "Everyone is doing excellently. Lavender, just spend a little more time each evening to practice and you will soon catch up with the others." He stepped away from them and gestured with his hand and a gentle push of the Force, to move the chairs against the wall and clear them a space in the middle of the room.
"Okay, we're going to begin studying the Patronus now. This is a spell that requires a pure emotion to fuel, memories help provide that to begin with, until you eventually become adept enough with the spell that the very act of casting it will draw that emotion to the fore. In the presence of a Dementor, it is difficult to focus enough to draw on such emotions as those... things will bring other, more darker and painful thoughts and memories to mind. This is where your occlumency will give you an edge, the ability to keep those things out of your mind long enough to cast the spell could save your life." He nodded at seeing that he had their complete attention and drew his wand.
"The verbal component is simple, 'Expecto Patronum'." He then raised his wand to point at a wall, "The motion of the wand is even simpler, a jab towards the threat." Which he displayed to them before he continued, "As you make the jab, you release that emotion through your wand alongside your magic. It is the... Lightest spell of magic that I am aware of."
He gave them a smile, "To modify the Patronus into a messenger, you perform a quarter clockwise twist as you jab, the Patronus will appear and you can then tell it the message and the person who it is to be delivered to."
He motioned to the chairs against the wall, "Sit down and think of what memory you can use, the one that brings you the purest happiness or joy. Once you have one, move here and try casting it at the wall, don't worry if nothing happens, just sit back down and think of another memory and we'll keep trying for a bit." He began to walk to a chair before he stopped, "Oh, keep the memory to yourself, what works for you may not work for someone else, it may be an intensely private memory so don't ask them what it is, unless you are willing to share your own with everyone else." Harry made sure that he kept eye contact with Ron as he said that.
Jane straightened up from her place by the door, "Perhaps, an example would help them?"
Harry glanced at the others and saw their obvious curiosity, he gave a small sigh before nodding, "I suppose that's fair." He raised his wand and did as he had instructed them, fueling the spell as he normally did, "Expectro Patronum!" he incanted. With a rush of power, the Light Side of the Force flowed through him and manifested as a guardian, the Hawkbat silently screeched before flying around Harry and dissipating before the others could get too clear a view of it.
Last time, he hadn't noticed the pain as the light fought the darkness within him, but in a safe situation as he was now, he allowed himself to pay attention to it. His nerves burned in a minor fashion, but he could imagine how painful it could be if he had been seeped in the Dark Side. The resemblance to the pain from a Phoenix' song implied that the bird was a natural channel of the light side of the force, perhaps even a living aspect of the force.
His attention returned to his audience as Ron verbalized the question that they were all thinking, "What was that?!" Harry glanced at them and saw a series of confused faces looking between Harry and where the Patronus faded.
Harry gave a soft smile at them, "That was an Archaeopteryx, some call it the first bird." Hermione eyes narrowed at that as the others accepted his explanation, Harry wasn't surprised that as the only Muggleborn in the group, she likely knew that he was lying or at least doubted his claim. Thankfully, she kept quiet about it, while Jane just sent him a confused look, also keeping her silence on the matter.
Harry gestured at them, "That was my Patronus, now we are going to see about yours."
The brute gestured to the sleeping man in crumpled clothes on the floor of the plane, "Senor, may I introduce Professor..."
Abaddon raised a hand, "I am already aware of his name. His demise?"
The brute nodded at that, "Many apologies Senor. The good Professor died in a car accident, drunk behind the wheel."
Abaddon raised an eyebrow at that, "Will it match his habits? And who took his place?"
The brute smirked, "Just divorced by his wife, the bitch..." at Abaddon's glare, he paused before continuing, "his ex-wife took everything, even the dog. No-one will see anything odd with such a man drowning his sorrows. As for his replacement, a homeless man with Polyjuice, a bottle of cheap alcohol to wash it down and a Imperio to drive and crash into a tree."
At Abaddon's raised eyebrow, he continued, "Ma brews a good batch of Polyjuice, got three hours from it and he died in the car."
Abaddon motioned to the unconscious scholar and watched as he carefully levitated it from the plane to his truck. Once done, he turned back to his agent, his wand jabbing forward with a harsh "Imperio!" Smothering the brutes will and saturating the spell with the Force, "You will return home and make sure there are no loose ends. Once complete, you will hunt down..." he paused as he pondered the best target, "Mundungus Fletcher, attack him in public and hurt him badly, but do not kill him. If the Auror's try to arrest you, attack them and force them to kill you."
He watched as the brute joined the Imperio'd Muggle to fly back to Bogota, before climbing into the back of the truck and placing a hand on the Professors forehead, "Apologies. But I am need of your knowledge and skills, especially your years of study at university. It is a field that I find myself sorely lacking in."
With that, he used one of many forbidden techniques of the Dark Side to rip the knowledge, skills and experiences of his victim, from his mind, burning them into his own thoughts, leaving a drooling husk in the place of a man who had once been a brilliant doctor and a rising star in the field of Genetics. His students would mourn for his loss... well, some of them at least, the man was an absolute bore.
Abaddon stretched and apparated them to a deep region of the Jungle, dumping the body in the hunting grounds of one of the local predators, before apparating back to the compound. The truck he had transfigured would have reverted to a log by now, ensuring that there was nothing to trace him if someone managed to glean anything from his agents before their demise.
He needed sleep, to let his mind settle the new information amongst its fellows. When Count Ademar Dooku of Serenno returned to England, he would be known as a well-educated man with a fascination in the genetics of Magi. Next, he just needed to get the correct records in place for when he was investigated. There was no way Dumbledore would not do so when he entered the game.
Albus Dumbledore stared down at the poor bureaucratic minion who stood before him. The office was badly lit and small, but not a sheet of parchment was out of place, "And might I ask why you cannot provide me that information?"
The clerk gulped as the cold gaze bored through his mask of indifference, he had spent his entire time at Hogwarts doing his best to avoid the headmaster's attention, and here he was, suffering under his entire direct focus. Sometimes he wished he hadn't asked his cousin for such a comfortable and easy position in the ministry. Right now, he would love to be somewhere else, somewhere safer. Perhaps Dragon Wrangling?
Realising that the headmaster was waiting for his answer, the clerk managed to gather enough courage to answer, "The identity of the current Pater Black has been sealed with the authority of the Department of De Jure. All documentation and procedures have been taken and authorised correctly, there is also a confirmation letter with the Black Seal to acknowledge the action taken by the Department. There is nothing out of place that could be used to claim that the sealing is incorrect or untoward."
Dumbledore nodded at that, his surface Legilimancy told him that the man was telling the truth, well at least as much as he knew. "I understand that you are a knowledgeable individual, some say that there is no-one in the ministry who could dispute that you are the most knowledgeable about the Wizengamot's history and authority."
The clerk nodded as he shuffled under the headmasters unrelenting gaze, "My family takes pride in having such knowledge taught to us. I have kept up to date with such matters, how may I assist you sir?"
Dumbledore gestured and sat in the comfortable chair he had just silently conjured, "Is there any way or precedent that you are aware of that I can use to open such a seal?"
The clerk blinked in confusion for a moment before he began to think, "I would need to research the matter properly, but I believe that as Chief Warlock, you have a number of rights that would over-rule such a Seal if it was relevant to the business of your post's duties. Unfortunately, the Department of De Jure rivals the Unspeakables for its age and unique rights. I am unsure how these issues would all mesh together. I am also unsure if there is a precedent to break such a seal."
Dumbledore stared at him for a moment longer before nodding and moving to leave the office, the chair disappearing with a pop of displaced air. "Then I suggest you find such a precedent."
The clerk blinked in shock as he watched the headmaster leave his office, "But sir, what if there isn't one?"
Dumbledore just glanced back at him, "I suggest that you find one."
With that, Dumbledore left the office, closing the door behind him calmly as he let the clerk stew in his fears. He would dig deep to find what Albus required or the clerk would either mistranslate some obscure ruling or fabricate it. With a sigh, he turned to his next possible source of information.
Normally, he would have used Mundungus to dig into the Pater Black, but he was still laying low after that unfortunate incident with one of his rivals. From a pocket of his robes, he pulled a small sheet of parchment and a self-inking quill, rapidly writing instructions on it before tapping it with his wand and sending off the small paper bird.
He then went to the cafeteria and gathered some lunch to wait his contacts arrival.
Less than twenty minutes later, one of his Auror agents came to his table, "Apologies Chief Warlock, do you mind if I take a seat?" He gestured around the full cafeteria, "There's very little space available."
Dumbledore smiled as he gestured to the seat opposite him, "Of course, please sit. Enjoy your lunch." The moment the Auror had taken his seat, Dumbledore cast a personal variant of the notice-Me-Not spell and immediately got to work, "Derkaz. I am in need of some information."
Derkaz nodded as he began to eat his sandwich, aware that the spell would hide their words, but not their actions, "I serve as always. What do you need?"
"The new Pater Black," Dumbledore began, "I require their identity. De Jure have sealed the records. I want them unsealed at the earliest opportunity. I would appreciate discretion on the matter, but am aware that we cannot plan for every event."
Derkaz rubbed his chin in thought for a moment before nodding, "I will begin hunting for information immediately. I'll get the Fletcher case assigned to me, it'll give me time to look into matters for you, I would presume that the man is currently incredibly hard to find?"
Dumbledore shrugged at that, "Mr Fletchers recent issues aside, I haven't heard from the man in some time. I imagine that he will be avoiding notice for a while yet."
Derkaz nodded, "Then I should have the resources and time to look into matters of the House of Black until Mr Fletcher comes in for an interview of the attack on him. It's a pity as the case is pretty much already solved as it is. I believe that his interview will corroborate our findings and close the matter. It's such a pity that it will take so long for us to contact him with him hiding from possible attacks from his peers."
Dumbledore chuckled at that, "I imagine he will be pleased to hear that when he finally gets back in contact."
Derkaz stared off into the distance for a moment before nodding, "Sirius Black could be involved with the attack on Mr Fletcher, it would be remiss of me not to investigate all avenues. Do you think he would resist arrest or come quietly if I manage to find him."
Dumbledore looked sad for a moment, "Unfortunately, I imagine that Sirius Black will fall to the wands of the Aurors. I cannot imagine him letting you capture him without great danger to yourselves."
"I understand completely, is there anything else at this time I can help you with?" Derkaz asked as he finished his lunch.
"No, not at this time." Dumbledore said as he finished his own, "Actually, Sirius Black was a highly skilled caster, while his skills may have atrophied, desperation and natural talent would make him a highly dangerous threat. Might I suggest that when you find and arrest him, that you take only those you can trust to do the job and get home safely."
Derkaz wiped his mouth with a napkin before flicking his wand at his rubbish, vanishing it, "I will have my best assigned to assist me on the hunt, I'll take no chances with such a dangerous individual."
Dumbledore smiled as he stood and vanished his own rubbish, before dismissing the charm ensuring their privacy, leaving those who tried to eavesdrop on his conversation aware only that they had discussed the weather and recent Quidditch scores. "Have a good day, Auror and thank you for the conversation."
With that, he turned and walked to the Floo access, striding through at his usual pace and bypassing the queues tom travel to his next location. The moment he entered Arabella Figg's home, he quickly transfigured his robes to something more suitable and neatened his appearance. Then he cast a Patronus, "Mundungus. Remain in hiding at this time, I will contact you when it is safe to return to civilization."
Arabella was nowhere to be seen, which was good as it was about time that he finally took action and fix the Potter bodyguard issue, with Petunia's agreement, he could act in the ministry and remove such a danger from the presence of the boy-who-lived. Perhaps replace them with an Auror who would act appropriately.
Moving to number four, he allowed himself a moment to relax. A moment which was shattered when he saw the new state of the front garden and the young woman sitting on a bench as she watched a small child play on the grass.
"Apologies for disturbing you," Dumbledore began, "I am looking for Petunia Dursley, she lives here."
The woman blinked in confusion before answering, "Oh. I'm sorry, that must be the woman who used to live here before us. My husband handled all that, so I didn't recognise the name. We moved in, in mid-November."
Dumbledore managed to hide his horror and confusion behind his mask, "That's a pity," He gently waved his wand where the muggle couldn't see it and layered a subtle compulsion to assist him into his words, "I was friends with her parents and lost contact with her when I moved abroad. I'm just here for a visit and thought she still lived here. You wouldn't happen to know where she moved to?"
The woman smiled sadly at him, "I'm very sorry, we don't know. Perhaps you can talk to the agent who sold the house to us?"
Dumbledore smiled at her, "Any assistance would be appreciated."
She smiled and picked up her child, "One minute, I have a card in my purse."
The moment, the woman and child left his view, Dumbledore took the opportunity to cast a few spells to check the wards. His devices at Hogwarts had told him that they were still active and valid, Petunia should still be here. His spells made contact with the wards as he had expected, but the moment he began to try and draw information from them, the weave unravelled and collapsed leaving nothing behind. In a blink, the house was as muggle as it appeared.
He blinked in shock at that, no-one should have been able to do anything to the wards without his knowledge or approval. Who had done this? How?
Before he could do anything else, the woman returned and he covered his emotions with a smiling mask. She passed him a slip of paper with a number and name on it. "This is what I have, sorry I couldn't help you more."
Dumbledore gave the woman a smile, "You've helped greatly already. Thank you very much."
Walking to the nearby underpass, he reviewed the information. Pater Black was more dangerous than Dumbledore had estimated, he was either a blood mage or had one in his employ. Petunia was either dead or had been relocated to a secure location since November! He allowed his mask to shatter under his rage before he took a deep breath and refocused. Harry could not be allowed to grow stronger or to learn the despicable and tainted rituals that was blood magic.
With a twist and burst of power, he returned to Hogwarts and began to adjust his plans as well as restore his robes to their usual appearance. He wouldn't have long before he would need to be the kindly and eccentric Headmaster once again.
He needed to acquire other agents to act on his behalf, he frowned as a name popped into his mind. Nymphadora Tonks was a Auror trainee, her father was a lawyer of a minor firm and Andromeda Black was the Potter Herald. With her recent public interactions with her sister, she had to know who Pater Black was. The best path he could take would be to use Nymphadora to acquire the information he required from her mother.
He nodded to himself as his mask was rebuilt and he entered the quiet halls of the castle, the distant murmurs of studying children in the classrooms a pleasant background noise to his musings.
He had work to do.
'Don't call me' Nymphadora Tonks sat in the dark of her parents living room, her hands wrapped around a chipped mug of hot chocolate. Her eyes stared off out the window to look upon the lights of the small town they lived in. If anyone would ask, she would deny that she was brooding.
Andromeda had been watching from the kitchen door, for five minutes so far according to the clock on the mantlepiece. In all that time, all her daughter had done was sit and stare, breath and blink. She was also drinking hot chocolate from her old unicorn mug. This was obviously worse than the Charlie Weasley incident, but not yet as bad as the Reindeer Impression of Eighty-two.
With a sigh and a few flicks of her wand, a mug floated into her grip from the kitchen, the hot chocolate a pleasant and relaxing series of sensations. Careful to not make her daughter spill her own drink, Andromeda sat beside her daughter.
"So, what's on your mind that's got you so worried?" she asked before taking a sip.
Nymphadora just stared ahead but now, Andromeda could see the small frown on her forehead.
Andromeda nudged her daughter's shoulder with her own, "Come on. Out with it. I can't help if I don't know what's the problem."
Nymphadora finally broke her staring contest with the dark, "I'm not sure." At her mother's raised eyebrow, she continued, "I was called into a meeting with my trainers today." She finally took a sip of her lukewarm chocolate and glanced at it in annoyance, her mother tapped the mug with her wand and it became the right temperature again. "Thanks. Moody said I was adequate for where I am in the course," she grunted at that, "High praise from him. But the chief trainer brought up that I had been given a promising reference from Albus Dumbledore, one that requested that I be available to assist him in the coming year."
Andromeda sat back and gave her daughter a nod, "You don't know why he did that."
Nymphadora shook her head, "No. I haven't asked for one from Hogwarts. I barely managed to squeak through on my grades to enter, even with your help with potions, my ability has given me enough of an edge to actually pass the training so far. I don't understand why he did this."
Andromeda sighed as she patted her daughter's cheek, "My sweet daughter, perhaps I should have raised you more like a Black than I did." She put a finger on her daughters' lips to stop her speaking, "Hush. It's my fault, not yours. He wants something from you. He will likely be watching your progress in the Auror's with interest now, nudging things to either fast track you or to make sure you pass with a higher grade than you had expected. You'll probably have a few rather experienced Auror's offering to be your partner when you finish your training. People like Shacklebolt or Roberts, although if Savage makes the offer, take her up on it, she's not one for playing politics like that."
She sat back and took another sip of her chocolate, "The question, you should be asking yourself, is what can he gain from you?"
Nymphadora frowned deeper as she took a gulp of her drink and tried to think what she could offer Albus Dumbledore. "Mad Eye is retiring this year, he seems happy with me, perhaps it's to have someone in the Aurors?"
"He already has enough Aurors," Andromeda countered, "Although I must admit that a number of them would likely be moving to other departments through promotions or retiring soon."
"Maybe he needs a Metamorphmagus for something?" Nymphadora suggested.
Andromeda shook her head, "Then why now and not before. If he really wanted your ability, then you would have been a prefect. For all Slughorn's desire to collect interesting contacts, he has nothing on Dumbledore. He's had years to try and gain your loyalty already."
"If he wanted to influence a court case, he would just hire someone better than dad." Nymphadora froze at that, "Please don't tell him that I said that."
Andromeda chuckled, "Dear one, your father will be the first to say that he is a good lawyer, but he isn't a great one. But you are right. Dumbledore could get a better lawyer to stop or replace your father in a case he was interested in."
Nymphadora sighed and glanced at her mother, "Then it's something to do with the Blacks."
Andromeda nodded, "Why do you think that?"
"I'm your daughter, your only child." Nymphadora hid behind her mug as she tried to gather the right words and took a slow sip, "You're the Potter Herald. If it was about the Potters, Dumbledore would have gone to you or to Harry Potter directly, so that means it's about your family."
"Our family dear, and yes, he hasn't gone to either myself or Pater Potter about anything." Andromeda answered.
Nymphadora nodded, "Then he wants something about the Blacks and you are talking to your sister again who is the Black Herald. So, he thinks it's something you would tell me or that I know as well."
Andromeda just kept her silence as she watched her daughter think it through.
"The only thing I could possibly know, that he would want from me is who Pater Black is. But that makes no sense, why do so much for such a little thing?" Nymphadora whined in confusion as she turned to look at her mother.
Andromeda smiled sadly at her, "But it isn't a small thing at all. If you had sworn fealty directly to the Pater Black, if you could provide Dumbledore that information, it would be information that has been sealed within the official records. It's something he wants to know and can't find out without issues. To get that information from you is a simple way to do so, if you actually knew it."
She took a sip of her chocolate, before continuing, "If you told him that, what else would you tell him that is meant to be kept secret. You would become his unknowing spy in the House of Black, trusting him and answering his simple questions. A few comments from him, here and there and suddenly you get the high-profile cases, protection from your errors until you do not question him. Then he has a loyal agent in the Aurors. Ten years and suddenly you are in the running for a promotion that is too amazing for you to ignore or decline. Depending on how useful he finds your abilities, you become the second coming of Alastor Moody, a legendary Auror. Or by the end of your second decade as an Auror you either lead the Department or are the Chief Auror's right hand."
Andromeda finished her mug of chocolate, "You think of now and the next few years, you're still young and don't see that far ahead. Dumbledore thinks in decades and layers upon layers of plans. Moody has had a good run, but he's being retired due to his health and paranoia. Had he been more stable, he'd be chief auror given half a chance. If he hadn't been so bad, he'd have been kept on as a trainer or tutor for new Aurors for the next 20 years."
"That's all not presuming that he isn't setting the field for his actual target. Harry Potter is family to us, I am his herald and we have connections to the Pater Black." She flicked her wand and her mug hovered into the kitchen sink, "There's the possibility that he's grooming Harry to be an auror, and having one so decorated as a member of his family would allow Dumbledore to keep his control over Harry."
Nymphadora just stared at her mother in mounting horror, "What do I do? I don't want any of that."
Andromeda smiled at her, "The choice my dear is all in your hands. On one hand, you can keep to your path and hard work, become an Auror and earn your place among their ranks. You earn your promotions and decline any assistance from others. You make sure you are known as honest and can't be bought. This will get you a lot of respect and a good reputation but it will make enemies. Take Savage as an example, no-one tries to bribe her or similar, it's not worth the hassle of when she added more charges to your arrest. But she will never rise in the ranks, she detests the politics involved."
She gestured with her other hand, "On another, you walk away and take a new path in your life. Auror Nymphadora Tonks never happens, and you become something new. You haven't made any oaths as yet and any costs for your training as an Auror can be reimbursed to the department appropriately. You be your own person."
"Or finally, you accept that you have been bought and paid for and become Dumbledore's minion. Or someone else's agent should you get an interesting offer to do so." Andromeda took her daughters empty mug and stood to walk into the kitchen, "We will love you just the same, no matter what you decide to do. But I want you to think. And I mean, really think. All the options will cost you something, only you know what you are willing to pay to make them happen."
Nymphadora sat back and returned to her not brooding, but actually staring contest with the dark. Her mug floated back to her, with a fresh hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows this time. Taking a sip, she muttered her thanks to her mother and returned to her thoughts with more information than before.
Harry nodded in approval as his students ran through the kata's he was teaching them. While he didn't have lightsabers available, yet, an enchanted blade would fill the gap. Some would be served better with other styles than Shii-Cho, but he would not teach them anything further in the other forms until they were at least competent in this.
With a whispered command, Dobby arrived with the parcels for each of them to study and progress in their own time over the summer.
"Okay everyone, do the cool down exercises. Then come and get your presents." He called out as he sat at the waiting table.
A few minutes later, he had his students resting before him in kneeling positions. Picking up the first package, he nodded at the name and looked at the group. "I want you all to understand that your progress will be based on how well you push yourselves. I will provide the basics, master them and I will teach more, fail and I will not until you do. The higher arts and skills require these basics for building a solid foundation for what comes after."
He gestured towards the group, "You've all done well, improved physically to a good basic level, you've had the basic combat training for Shii-Cho, on which the others are built. To master all seven forms with the right weapon, would place you as one of the most dangerous combatants of this world, and I mean the mundane world as well as the magical. Mix that knowledge with the use of a wand and you will be formidable."
He raised the package in his grasp, "Each of these is aimed at getting you started on a field that would be suited to you. There is nothing that will stop you expanding your knowledge beyond this but focus on completing the material within before trying anything new. We don't have enough time before the end of the year to truly advance in these fields, so you will have to work on them through the summer yourself."
Harry looked at all of them in the eye with a harsh glare, "Do not share this knowledge with others, this is private to us. I will take it as a personal betrayal if I discover someone has done it. If you believe someone has, come to me and I will find out."
His glare shifted to a wide smile, "On that," he offered the first package to Ginevra, "This is for you." He smiled as she opened the package to show a pair of wooden daggers and a set of muggle books. "You are quick and small, the fighting style I will show you will use those to your advantage, the other books focus on stealth and survival techniques. You will have to use them as guides to practice with, then test yourself in the next year." He waved off her stammered thanks as she examined the daggers.
Grabbing the next package, he passed it to Millicent, "Here you go." She carefully opened the package to find a sword made from bound bamboo rods inside, at her confused look, he answered her unspoken question. "It's called a shinai, a training sword. You are to use it to refine your abilities with Shii-Cho, then you are to use your other hand to repeat the training, finally, you are to be able to do the kata in either hand with your wand in the off hand, able to switch as needed."
Millicent frowned before nodding to him, "Doesn't sound too hard."
Harry laughed, "It's harder than you think, you will need to ensure you have the strength in your offhand, never mind learn coordination to do the kata properly."
Grabbing the next package, he threw it to Ron who barely caught it, "Yours is similar." Ron opened the package to see two shinai inside. "Your training is to be able to use both weapons at the same time and complete the Katas without problems." Harry allowed himself a chuckle at that, "Good luck."
Ron snorted at that, "Thanks mate."
The next package was passed to Lavender, "You will need to keep that out of sight." Harry said as she opened the package to find a book on legilimency and another on psychology with some handwritten notes between them. "You need to refine your knowledge of how people think and learn to sense their surface thoughts. The notes will help with that."
Lavender raised her eyebrows in shock but nodded, "Thank you, I'll be careful."
"Ernie is next," Harry commented as he passed the next package across. Ernie opened it to find a book on chemistry and an old text on the basics of Alchemy. "Make sure you understand everything in there before the next year, I'm going to have to devote some serious time to getting you through the basics of that so you don't kill yourself by accident."
Ernie nodded as he skimmed the books, "I'll be ready."
"Good," Harry agreed, "It would also help you to pick up some actual Latin and Greek if you can." He looked up thoughtfully, "Maybe some German while you're at it." Grabbing the next package, he threw it to Neville, who was surprised at how easily he caught it. Opening it, he found a few texts on healing magic.
"You commented that you would help support and would prefer not to fight." Harry said as he pointed at the books, "That's the best way I can think of."
Neville smiled at him, "Thank you Harry."
Harry snorted, "Don't thank me yet, Neville." He threw the next package to Padma, who rapidly opened it in curiosity to find a pair of hand written notebooks and a basic Alchemy text. Quickly glancing at the harsh looking script, she looked at Harry in confusion, "What's this?"
Harry smirked, "Those are my personal notes on a parallel branch of Alchemy I've learnt from my mother's journals, written in her code. I've supplied a translation of some of the words, you will have to learn them to work through the journal properly. Fair warning, it won't be easy." He motioned to Ernie who was looking at Padma's package, "You will eventually cross over in the fields but I thought it best to get you started on the separate branches to start with rather than duplicate the material. It means that when you do get to work together, one can bring the other up to speed much easier."
He grabbed the next package and threw it to Luna, who caught it smoothly, but didn't move to unwrap the package, "Luna will be working on conjuring and controlling her creations." He glanced between her and Neville, "She will also be providing the test subjects for Neville's training, so prepare yourself Neville, that's going to be unpleasant."
At Luna's pleased smile, he gave her a nod and grabbed another package, throwing it to Theo. Harry smirked, "Theo here will be studying the ways of wandless magic in relation to moving objects." He glanced around the group, "This is not easy and will likely be one of the hardest paths to take amongst you all." He turned his focus back to Theo, "Within the notes is also a technique that is difficult to learn, but potentially very handy."
Theo grimaced at Harry's description of the wandless magic, "And what, pray tell, is this handy technique?"
Harry gave him a knowing look and raised his hand, allowing Force Lightning to burst into being around it before dissipating. "Just a little ability like that." He gave Theo a smirk that he could feel infuriate the boy, "Nothing too major."
Theo sighed before nodding in annoyance, "Very well, I look forward to showing you how easy it actually is."
Harry laughed before grabbing the last package, passing it to Hermione, "This is for you."
She opened it and found a scroll of papers around a shinai. She gave a confused look at Harry, "I would have thought that you would have given me something to study like the alchemy?"
Harry chuckled at that, "I could have," he gestured to the scroll, "Instead, there's some of the same notes Theo has about the... Telekinesis as well as the basics of Makashi."
Hermione glanced down at the scroll and smiled, while Harry was amused by the flares of jealousy in the Force from some of the others. Lavender, he was amused to see, frowned and glanced towards Millicent and Ron at that.
"Thank you, Harry, I will study them diligently. Do I call you Sensei or Sifu now?" Hermione asked in amusement and gave him a bow which he smiled at and returned to the Purebloods confusion.
"You're welcome, Hermione, and Harry is fine for now." Harry responded with a slight laugh. "Now, we're done for now. So Ill plan for the next lesson and see you tomorrow." He waited for them to gather their belongings and begin to leave before he called out, "Hermione, can I borrow you for a minute?"
She paused before nodding and moving towards him, "Of course Harry."
He waited for the others to leave, ignoring Lavenders amused chuckling. Jane just raised an eyebrow at him and he shook his head, so she dropped into a chair by the door and waited for them.
"What's the matter Harry?" Hermione asked.
Harry smiled to calm her, "I just wanted to offer you something, but it has issues." He waved to show that it was just the three of them remaining, "Hence the privacy."
Hermione nodded and gestured for him to continue.
"So, there are a few languages that would help you progress and advance with your training. I want to teach you them, but I have a problem. The normal way would take a while and a lot of effort." Harry took a deep breath and continued, "The other way, would be much, much faster. But the experience would be painful, intense and rather intimate."
Hermione frowned at that, "Define intimate."
"I would have to bypass all your mental defenses, so I may see or feel things that are very personal to you." he said with a wince before continuing, "I would put the knowledge into your mind through techniques that can cause major problems if something goes wrong."
Hermione rocked back on her feet at that, "How bad could it be?"
Harry shrugged, "I could burn away all the knowledge and experience related to another language you know, I could wipe all language from your mind, I could disrupt your connections to words and their meanings in your mind." He shrugged, "You know, absolutely nightmarish issues if it goes wrong."
She stared at him for nearly a minute as she processed that, "How likely would it be to go wrong?"
Harry sighed and wiggled a hand side to side to display that he had no clue, "It depends on if you fight me or not, it depends on how well your mind can absorb the new information. It depends on if we are disturbed while performing the transfer."
"And you?" She asked, "What risk do you have in this?"
Harry thought it over for a moment, "Nothing on my part that would be an issue. At worst, I'd lose the language, but I can learn it from you if that was the case or relearn it from my notes."
She closed her eyes and he recognized the frown she had when she was rapidly processing details. He let her do that and glanced at Jane who was reading a book by the door, giving them the occasional glance to make sure everything was okay.
"Okay," Hermione answered.
"Okay?" Harry asked in confusion.
Hermione smiled at him, "I trust you. We'll do it the fast way. How long would it take and do you need anything?"
Harry grimaced at that, "It would likely take a few hours, a day at most, plus you'll need time to recover afterwards. Maybe a day or two? So, it will probably be best at the start of summer. It'll give me time to fix things if they go wrong without needing to let the school know."
Hermione nodded, "I'm visiting my Yaya at the start of the holidays, perhaps after that?"
Harry smiled, "That's fine. Take the chance to rest and I'll work my schedule around you."
The moment that Dumbledore announced the recess, he turned to pin Fudge down before he could escape him once again. The annoying little man was becoming a rather thorny issue and needed to be brought to heel.
"Cornelius, a moment of your time if you would?" He called out and internally he allowed himself a smirk at the man's flinch as he tried to move away.
"Of course, Chief Warlock." The Minister answered as he waved away some of his aides, "What seems to be the matter?"
"I am hoping that you would be able to assist me on a matter." Dumbledore gestured to Narcissa Black as she sat in the Black Seat, "I would like your assistance in discovering the identity of the Pater Black, I feel it is a dangerous concept for such secrecy to surround one of the esteemed members of the peerage."
Fudge looked across to the seat and nodded as if in agreement, "I would also like to know the Pater Blacks identity, however, they have requested their privacy and taken all appropriate steps to ensure their legitimacy. There is nothing we can do unless you believe a crime has been committed by them or you can somehow get the Department of De Jure to agree with you." He glanced around the room before noticing a member of the ministry who could get him away from this conversation, "Perhaps Director Hightower could assist you?"
Dumbledore gave him a moment to think he was actually considering it, "There is also the fact that Sirius Black is on the loose, perhaps some of his old acquaintances or family members could assist us in our hunt?"
"Indeed." Fudge managed to hide his smirk at that, "Actually, I know of one who may be able to assist us further on that without needing to bother the Pater Black. Severus Snape is in your employ at the moment, perhaps we should summon him to attend and answer questions. He was a spy of yours among the ranks of the Death Eaters, was he not? With both of our authorities and that of Madam Bones, we would be able to use Veritaserum in our inquiry."
Dumbledore blinked at the sudden twist of the conversation, perhaps his impression of Fudge was wrong, and the man had actually gained some backbone to riposte on such a fashion. "Severus has my complete trust, Cornelius; I do not believe such an inquiry to require his assistance."
Fudge smiled at him then, confidence rising, "But you were just suggesting we do something similar to the Pater Black. Surely a member of the peerage is owed the same or better protections than a mere schoolteacher?" He tapped his bowler hat in thought, "Actually, I think we would need Director Hightower's assistance on this matter, I don't remember seeing the transcripts of Snape's questioning, nor his trial records. I'm sure it's just a clerical error and everything will be exactly where I expect it to be had I reason to look into the matter."
Dumbledore decided to cut his losses on this front and see about other avenues to find the information he sought. "Perhaps I have been a touch hasty in suggesting such a plan. The Dementors surrounding Hogwarts is obviously putting me on edge."
Fudge grunted at that, "You are not alone on that, let us put such unpleasantness aside for now. If you have some evidence of a crime, I'm sure Madam Bones will alert me immediately and you will have my complete support in pushing for the Pater Blacks identity, until then, we should let her do her job."
"Of course, Cornelius." Dumbledore nodded and moved away to get a drink before the next section of the session would begin, already planning on who he could try and push next.
Waiting for enough distance to separate them to allow him to politely raise his voice and be noticed by those trying to listen in, Cornelius chose his moment wisely and called out, "Oh and Dumbledore. You're looking rather tired. If all the strain is becoming too much with the Dementors, running a school, the Wizengamot and the ICW? Just let me know and I'll be happy to find a replacement for you in those roles."
Dumbledore spun around and opened his mouth to deny such an issue when a hated and sickly-sweet voice broke into their conversation. "Excuse me Minister Fudge, do you have a moment for little old me?"
Fudge smiled at the garish woman before him, "Of course, Miss Skeeter, I'm always happy to spend time with you."
Dumbledore rapidly used the interruption to escape but noticed that a number of the reporters present were watching him in a manner that reminded him of vultures seeing fresh prey.
Skeeter sneered at the old man's back, before focusing her attention on the Minister, "I was hoping to talk about the proposal you have put on the list to discuss this afternoon. The Werewolf Adjustments to our current laws."
Fudge smiled at her, "Indeed, much will be discussed shortly, so I cannot go into any depth at this time, but, Harry and I are both looking forward to correcting some of the errors of our peoples past."
Skeeter froze for a second in surprise before continuing, "Harry?"
Fudge nodded with an open smile, "Harry Potter, Miss Skeeter, why we both got into a lot of trouble with my wife when we holed ourselves up at my family's Christmas party to discuss the matter. We are both hoping to reverse many unfair and inhumane laws that restrain victims of the Werewolf Curse. Why Harry opened my eyes at just how ghastly we are in our laws. Why do Werewolves get so many restrictions and punishments while Vampires do not?"
He raised a hand to stop her further questions, "I suggest we leave it there for now Miss Skeeter, let us do the correct thing and bring my proposals to the Wizengamot and discuss the matter afterwards. I would be happy to provide you the findings Harry and I have gathered as evidence for our cases."
Skeeter stared at him for a moment, "Would it be possible to get Mr. Potter to join such a discussion? The Chief Warlock has denied any interview requests we have made over the years."
Fudge tapped his chin in thought before smiling at her, "I will write to him tonight and ask if he would be happy to join us at his earliest opportunity. I'm sure he would be happy to do so. I am concerned about your comment about the Headmaster denying you the right to even ask Harry, he isn't Harry's guardian and doesn't have the right to do that."
"Really?" Skeeter hummed in thought, "Perhaps an interview about the Werewolf matter and then a separate one with Mr. Potter and yourself?"
"I'll see what I can do for you Miss Skeeter." Fudge answered with a wide smile as he returned to his seat and waved an aide to bring him a drink.
Harry awoke in the middle of the night in his bed, still tired from his earlier victory against Ravenclaw. As much as things changed, many stayed the same, or it could be that his opponents were still children while he had experience and knowledge on his side. Never mind that he was a trained pilot with many hours of flight experience in combat. A child's game was no true comparison.
Pushing aside his random thought patterns and not knowing why he had awoken, he reached out with the Force and chuckled at the presence of the Mangy Mutt of his Godfather in the Common Room below.
He took a deep sigh and decided that it couldn't be put off any more than it already had been. He would need to capture Sirius and get him his trial; it wasn't like he could dispute Harrys claim as Pater Black now. That deadline had come and gone a while ago.
Pulling himself from his bed, he yawned as he put his feet in his slippers before frowning. Sirius had been jumping around the common room, not trying to get in the dormitory, why would he...
Pushing his senses out again, he found Jane in the same area, also moving around the common room as if they were...
Sithspit! They were fighting.
Grabbing his wand and the Invisibility Cloak, he snuck out of the room and crept down the stairs, frowning at the silence from below. Carefully he ducked his head around the corner and looked down on what had once been his common room. Now it looked like a bomb had gone off in it. The furniture was wrecked, splinters scattered around the room, paintings were scorched and the fireplace looked like a troll had been thrown into it.
In the middle of the floor, Jane had Sirius Black in a choke hold as he was trying to jam his thumbs into her eyes to break free.
Harry sighed and called out, "Dobby." He didn't wait for the elf's usual greeting as he arrived, "Take Wormtail to Andromeda. Get her to take him to the Auror's." Dobby simply nodded and popped away to follow his instructions as Harry crept forward and passed the silencing charm to hear the grunts and growls of the pair of them. Sirius managed to twist in the hold and bite down on Jane's arm, who screamed in pain before grabbing the broken leg of a nearby table and begin slamming it into Sirius' skull as he broke free of her hold.
Harry winced as he heard and watched Sirius' left arm deform from the impact as he shielded his head, with a scream of rage and pain, he lashed out with a foot and caught Jane in the knee, she fell back with a cry of pain and dropped the improvised club to catch her fall, crying out again as her wrist popped on the impact with the stone floor.
Sirius, backed off, his eyes wide as he clutched at his broken arm, grimacing in agony as he rapidly looked around for a wand. Jane growled and began to rise from the floor, her amber eyes shining in the low light and Sirius obviously decided that running was a good plan as he turned and headed for the portrait.
Having seen enough, Harry reached out and grabbed them both with the Force, lifting them from the ground. "For fucks sake knock it off!" he yelled as they both struggled against his hold.
Sirius turned his head to see who had shouted and Harry felt his spirit shatter at the sight of him, "James?" he whimpered as the fight left him. Jane meanwhile relaxed in his grip and nodded as Harry lowered her to her feet.
Harry looked sadly at Sirius before lifting his wand and slamming a "Stupefy" into Sirius, knocking him out. Lowering him to the ground, Harry cast a few spells to bind his legs together, "Jane. Go get McGonagall, I'll be fine. He's not going anywhere."
Jane growled but walked up to Harry, "No. Patronus message her, I'm not leaving you alone with him."
Harry sighed but nodded, "Accio Janes wand." he cast and caught the wand as it leapt into his hand before he passed it to her. He took a deep breath and readied himself to cast the Patronus when the portrait slammed open and McGonagall surged into the common room, to duck behind a decorative pillar by the entrance. Her wand swept the room for other threats as she noted the situation.
"Potter, Doe. Are you injured?" she snapped as she pointed her wand at the unconscious intruder.
Harry waved from his cover, "I'm fine Professor, I joined the fight at the end of it and ambushed Black as he tried to escape.
Jane rolled her shoulders and flexed her knees, wincing at the pain. "Still high on adrenaline so not sure, but I'm fine enough for now. No head injuries. Possible dislocated or broken wrist. Got a bite on my arm from him though, he needs to be checked to make sure I haven't infected him."
"Black?" McGonagall queried.
"Stunned and partially bound due to a broken arm at the least." Harry reported.
McGonagall nodded at that before hitting Black with her own stunning spell. "Better safe than sorry." Stepping closer to the man, she gave the room a quick scan, "Must have been an impressive brawl. I'll get the Elves to clean up before the morning. Mr. Potter, can you levitate Black to the infirmary?"
Harry nodded, "No worries there Professor."
"Good," she nodded, gesturing for him to do so. "Miss Doe, flank Black and stun him if he so much as twitches. Accio Sirius Blacks wand." As nothing happened, she frowned, "Accio Sirius Blacks stolen wand. Accio Broken Wand." As the fragments flew towards her, she caught them and pocketed them. With a sigh at the state of the fireplace, she nodded, "I will lead the way, Jane alongside Black, Potter at the rear if you don't mind. Ill summon the Auror's when we reach the Infirmary."
"And the Headmaster?" Harry asked in curiosity.
McGonagall snorted in annoyance, "Abroad tonight, he left after the game. An important meeting, he couldn't miss."
Harry chuckled at that as he sent Sirius floating ahead, "Sometimes I wonder about the headmaster and his priorities."
McGonagall glanced at him before returning her focus to the situation, "How so Mr. Potter?"
Harry gestured with his offhand at the floating body of Sirius Black, "Strange how the moment he leaves, an intruder is able to bypass the defenses of the supposedly safest place in the country."
Jane snorted and winced in amusement, "Think my ribs are bruised, don't make me laugh it hurts."
"Aye," McGonagall agreed sullenly with harry, "Does seem a mite odd at the timing. But that's for the Auror's to find out. Now we have the traitor."
Andromeda awoke groggily to see the grinning face of Harry's elf looking down at her. Managing to not scream in shock, or blast him across the room, she waved him back and got up, "I'm awake, what's wrong?"
"Dobby is happy to present Herald Potter a criminal that tried to harm the Great and Glorious Harry Potter Sir." He pointed to a rat in a cage on her bedside table, "Dobby found the miscreant sneaking around the Master's bedroom. Dobby be being told to deliver him to you to send to the Aurors."
Dobby glared at the shaking Rat, "Dobby had to knock him around a bit to capture him. Dobby doesn't think Rat man suffered enough though."
Andromeda sighed before pointing at the elf, "Wait here, make sure the... Rat man doesn't escape." Following the elf's nod, she left her bedroom to enter her study and grabbed an old transfiguration book from its shelf before returning to the bedroom.
Ted just looked up at her as she walked past, checked his watch and saw that it was nearly two in the morning and shrugged before getting back to work when she didn't say anything. Weirder things had happened in this house.
Andromeda returned to her bedroom and checked the book before casting a spell at the Rat, groaning in annoyance at the positive result. "Take him to the living room, I need to dress and Ill join you shortly."
Dobby nodded before grabbing the cage and swinging it around as he left, the squeaks of terror and pain were ignored by Andromeda as she quickly put on her Herald robes. A little pain for a thief or assassin trying to get to Harry was perfectly acceptable in her mind.
A few minutes later the guard at the front desk of the Ministry of Magic awoke as the public Floo flared up and Andromeda Tonks strode out of the connection with an Elf holding a cage behind her.
"Good morning..." she squinted at his badge, "Jonathan. I'm here to report a crime." Andromeda said in a much too chirpy tone for the hour of the night.
Jonathan nodded and grabbed a quill and parchment, "Might I enquire as to the crime in question?"
"An Animagus was just captured trying to enter the bedroom of Harry Potter, most likely with the intent to harm, kidnap or kill him." She smiled at the paling of his face as he realized this was way above his paygrade, "It might be best to summon the Auror in charge to take over."
Peter stared at his hands as he waited in his cell, the lights had dimmed for the night shift. Just enough to let him rest, but bright enough to easily see him in the cell, not that there was anywhere he could hide. They were letting him stew in here while they did their research and left him to make sure there was no dispute about his identity. He'd never heard of any Polyjuice lasting more than twelve hours, so twenty-four would make sure he was actually Peter Pettigrew.
His guard who had delivered his midday meal had amused himself telling Peter that they were preparing Black's old cell in Azkaban for his arrival. All they were waiting on was the interrogation to occur and then the trial, not that anyone believed that he would escape the punishment he was due to suffer.
He had sat there and sniveled about it all being a mistake before the guard had withdrawn in disgust. The moment he was gone, and Peter could smell that he was alone in the room, he had stopped the act, taking the opportunity to stretch and eat his food in peace. It was good to see that his acting skills hadn't degraded in his years of hiding.
Peter was a survivor; he had always been a survivor and it would take a lot more than this to get him. Thankfully, he was a Pureblood, so they wouldn't be able to dose him with Veritaserum as much as they wanted to, Dumbledore wouldn't allow it for fear of the Order's secrets coming out, nor risk what other information he had acquired over the years to come out.
His biggest risk was that Dumbledore would silence him. He just had to keep quiet about the Order and Dumbledore wouldn't act, if an attempt on his life was made and failed, then he knew Peter would spill everything to make sure he took him with him. No, if Dumbledore wanted him dead, he would have already done it.
Peter knew that there was no chance of an escape from within the halls of the Ministry, but there was a very small window of opportunity for an escape afterwards. The moment he was on the boat to Azkaban, they would have to unshackle him to bind him to the boat itself. In that moment, he would turn into his Rat form and escape in the confusion.
If that opportunity passed, then the moment his guard was distracted during that crossing, he would change and jump overboard. They would lose him in the water and he could change back and get away before they could get to him.
Until then, he would have to maintain the image of a scared and weak fool. Not a hard challenge, he had spent most of his life doing that after all. Sirius would hunt him down the moment he realized what had happened, so best to get out of the country. He grunted in annoyance; he'd have to sneak aboard a muggle ship heading for the America's. It wouldn't be hard to hide among the rats as he should have done originally.
He mentally berated himself for not going through with the plan originally, but he had lost himself to his revenge scheme. Never mind the rush of living under Dumbledore's very nose at Hogwarts, he was a Gryffindor after all, risk taking was part of his heritage. The secrets he had gleaned over the years as a pet of the Weasleys, the compulsions he had placed upon the children of his former tormentors, all sweet revenge that simply required the trigger phrase to be sent. Then he would be able to enjoy the weeping of the women who had sneered at him, the anguish of the men who had looked down upon him.
It would be exquisite.
Well, it would be when he got out of here.
The jangling of a key in the lock broke his reverie, he looked up in confusion as the door opened, to immediately be struck by a silently cast spell, locking his limbs in place and making him fall to the floor. As Peter struggled to bring his Will to work and break free of the enchantment, he watched as the guard from earlier entered the room.
The guard nodded to himself and cocked his hip as he stared down at Peter in a way that didn't fit right. A faint scent of Polyjuice wafted from the guard and Peter realized that maybe Dumbledore wasn't as lax as he had thought.
The guard nodded to themself before pointing his wand at Peter, "Lucius Malfoy sends his regards." Peter barely managed to blink in shock at that, before the assassin flicked his wand and "Avada Kedavra!" was hissed at him and Peter knew no more.
The assassin nodded to themself, quickly casting a medical charm to make sure the target was dead before dropping the wand on the body and walking away, locking the cell behind them. They walked back to the desk and dropped the keys onto their hook before walking past the potioned night shift guard and quickly entering the back tunnels of the Ministry. The Auror would wake in an hour or so and find his VIP guest dead.
In minutes, they had reached the lower halls and avoided a lot of witnesses. Waiting for the guard on patrol to move far enough away not to hear, they moved across the dark hall to the maintenance room. There, they carefully removed a section of wall, pulling a small pouch from within the small alcove.
Quickly, they opened it to withdraw their wand and then began to undress. Now naked, they drank a potion from the bag and shuddered as their form returned to their natural shape, then the assassin got dressed in a muggle uniform for the London Underground's engineers before placing the guards clothing in the bag and putting it one of her many pockets.
Carefully, she climbed up onto the table and opened the panel for the air ducts, making sure the string was attached to it. Then she pulled a small mechanical mouse from a pocket and tied the string to it and set it going down the duct. She checked her watch and nodded as she watched a set of lights rush past at the other end of the duct. The moment they finished, she twisted and apparated down the duct to arrive on a small pathway that ran alongside the underground line.
Breathing out in relief, she stepped back into the alcove and waited for the mouse to reach her. As it fell out the duct, she smiled and untied it, returning it to her pouch. Then she took the string and gave it a tug, closing the entrance on the other end.
Her escape almost complete and no sounds of alarm from the weak spot in the Ministries defenses, she walked away to reach the nearby station while whistling a muggle tune that she had heard on the radio that morning.
An hour later, Lucius Malfoy relieved the mundane post owl of its small vial, pouring the silver strand into the Pensieve before reviewing the mission. He watched as the memory began as the assassin walked down the corridor to the cell, silently casting a tempus to display the time, before using the keys to open the cell door and silently catching the target with a petrification charm. He nodded in approval as the message was given as instructed and watched with approval as Pettigrew was killed, the following medical charm to confirm the death was appreciated.
Lucius paused the memory as he reviewed the medical charm before nodding to himself, the reading looked as he had expected and the timestamp on the spells display matched the time he had estimated the mission to take from the previous tempus. There was no sign of missing time or modification to the memory to concern him. Letting it continue, he watched as the assassin left the cell and passed the sleeping guard to return the key before the memory ended.
Withdrawing from the Pensieve, Lucius collected the memory and threw it into the fire. Waiting for the silver to blacken and burn away, he then moved to his desk and signed the waiting document, before putting it into an envelope and tying it to the leg of the waiting owl.
Returning to his seat before the fire, he finished his drink as he pondered his next step. Pettigrew knew too much to be allowed to live, he would likely have pointed the Auror's at Lucius to try and mitigate some of his punishment, an issue that was now prevented before it became a risk.
The assassin was expensive but skilled and maintained their employer's privacy as well as they maintained their own secrecy. He had tried a few times to find out his identity, once to remove any loose threads, but later out of mere curiosity. All it had resulted in was a set of dead agents and the final one had resulted a letter on his sons pillow politely asking that Lucius stop disrupting business.
Curiosity aside, he could take a hint like that.
Looking up at the map of the Kingdom on his study wall, he carefully placed his enchanted reading glasses on to look at the details hidden in the weave. He held back his snarl as he saw that the details on the Black resources were hidden behind barbed thorns. The return of the Pater Black and his missive through the Goblins explaining his choice to withdraw from continuing business with the House of Malfoy told him that his schemes on that front were discovered. A pity, but he had squeezed nearly everything he could from them already.
His wife... former wife's return to her Maiden House was also a blow to his prestige and influence, especially with her acting as the Pater's herald. He may have never loved her, but he did respect her, Narcissa was a political animal of more than some skill, he would miss her advice. He would miss the funds of her dowry more though.
At least he could use the opportunity to improve connections with other Houses through a marriage rather than wait for Draco to come of age. He may even acquire a second child from his new wife. Either gender would be of use in the long term, a spare to ensure the family continued if something happened to Draco, or a daughter for a good marriage.
He took a sip of the wine from his family vineyards in the Homeland as his eyes wandered further. Several of his contracts had not been renewed, again annoying, but nothing major. What was more annoying was the loss of invitations to several parties that he was usually at the top of the invitations for. Narcissa had attended them with her sister, as reported in the Prophet with great glee. Some of the invites were for her before him of course, he would not begrudge those, but those that had claimed that they wished to avoid any issues of them both attending? No, they were trying to placate him and avoid his wrath.
He waved his wand and frowned as the image flipped to show the information hidden behind the map. Fudge had returned the gifts he had recently offered. Umbridge, issues aside, had been a useful agent in the ministry, her loss was unfortunately timed with Fudges sudden interest in improving werewolf rights. Pettigrew had been an unexpected issue, but that was now dealt with. No, this entire image was wrong.
He ran his fingers over the still faded scar on his forearm, with the Dark Lords return, there should have been more of a reaction, others should have come to whisper questions of him. Potter had obviously taken his position as Pater of his House, and if he was not mistaken, that of Black as well. His agent in the Department of De Jure had said nothing, so he had to presume that agent was either replaced or compromised. A pity, that had not been easy, nor cheap to acquire.
Why had Dumbledore not acted to restrain his ward? Why allow the boy his freedom in such a manner, there was no obvious gain, if he thought the boy was actually the Dark Lords Vessel, then he should have restrained him before now, not let this happen.
He flicked his wand to summon the reports from his Aurors, rapidly checking them for the details of Pettigrew's arrest. There, discovered and captured while attempting to gain entrance to a Family Estate, and in the corner, the Potter Seal. He dropped the reports on the side table and put his drink down as he stared into the fire in though.
The arrest of Pettigrew made no sense, if the Dark Lord wanted to punish Pettigrew, he would have done it personally, not given him to the Aurors to interrogate. Taking the House of Black made sense, but again, if the Dark Lord was displeased, Lucius would have been suffering under the Cruciatus already for his thefts, not merely removed from the contracts. Sirius Black was also an oddity; he would have thought having the Ministry kill one of Dumbledore's agents for him would have amused the Dark Lord. He hadn't expected to see Harry Potters name right beside Fudge's for organizing a trial for the man.
With a grunt of annoyance, he sat back and acknowledged the truth of the very rare occurrence. The boy had played him. Somehow, he had acquired knowledge from the Diary. Enough to pretend to be the Dark Lord himself in the presence of one of the Inner Circle.
He saluted the sheer bravado of the Potter Brat before throwing his glass into the fire. "Tanny!"
The elf knocked at the door and waited for the Master to open it before entering, "Master called?"
Lucius glared down at the elf before him, holding back his rage at the reminder of his loss to the Potter Brat. "Go to Walden Macnair, tell him I have a job for him and it may take some time."
The elf bowed before leaving the room to pop away.
Lucius restored the map to its usual appearance and took his chair at his desk before placing his glasses in their enchanted box. He gathered some parchment and a quill and began to write. First, he would need an unregistered portkey to Europe, Macnair would need funds and assistance, he would need his cousins on in the Homeland to provide any information they could for his mission.
Macnair would be his hunting hound, seeking out any trace of the Dark Lord in Europe. If there was nothing, he would need to call on others to search further afield. He paused as he tapped his lips with the feather of his quill, there had been the issue with Quirrell in Draco's first year. His sudden retirement had been of curiosity, especially with Dumbledore's coverup of it, perhaps there was a clue there Macnair could use. He stood up and moved to his filing cabinet, now where were the staff records, he had kept?
Madame Amelia Bones looked down on the corpse of the man she had wanted to interrogate when she was due to arrive in the morning. She stepped back out of the cell and looked at Scrimgeour, Alastor and Savage, "Report."
Scrimgeour nodded as he stepped beside her, "We're still testing the body. The Guard at the desk was potioned, witnesses noted an Auror who was on duty this morning as having entered the area around the time of the attack. The Auror was found at his home with no memory of the events. Obliviators have said that his memory hasn't been wiped, he was stunned and awoke only when the team broke into his home to arrest him."
Moody grunted from where he was watching everyone, "It's the damn Wraith again."
Scrimgeour grimaced at that, "I am not blaming this on an urban myth."
Savage shook her head, "Not a myth. They're good and very careful. Polyjuice was most likely used to get to the target. With the potioning of the guard at the desk, I'd say they're a more than adequate potioneer with no bias as to targets."
Amelia glanced at Savage, "Clarify that for me."
Savage nodded at the order, "If my list of victims is right, they've killed those from all heritages over the past ten years, possibly even earlier. Started after the Blood War, someone who survived an attack and was thought dead? Not a rogue Death Eater, Voldemort would have sent them after priority targets."
Moody grunted at that, "I've got over twenty cold cases I think was the Wraith. Got Purebloods, Halfbloods, Muggleborn, two hags and a Werewolf on the list. No bias or preference for victims. All found dead with no sign of a struggle or injuries. Potion residues in some victims, but not poisons or the like. I'm not even sure if it was medicinal or not. Presuming killing curse was used. No trace of an intruder at any of the locations. All targets are clean and quiet kills."
Savage gestured to Moody, "I've got seventeen that match the style. Likely got an overlap, but don't know how much of one. Although I spotted that a number of the victims have caused wealthy individuals' problems that were quickly sorted after the deaths. Nothing I can prove without being able to request an audit through the Goblins. So fat chance of that."
Amelia glanced at the room behind her, "What of the other guest. Any attack on him?"
Scrimgeour glared down the corridor, "Nothing so far. He's still in there alive and well. I checked before coming here. Food and drink have been handled by Savage here."
Amelia looked at the woman and raised an eyebrow at her.
Savage shrugged and checked her watch, "Still alive, looks like crap and the healer at Hogwarts fixed his arm well enough. No potions in his system we can detect. Been over twelve hours so unless a potion master brewed the Polyjuice, its him. He's answered identity checks correctly, although he is missing recent events. We're putting that down to Azkaban so far and there's nothing to cause concern."
Amelia nodded at that and tapped her wand holster in thought, "Scrimgeour, I want him interrogated completely, send a message to Narcissa Black, request authority from Pater Black to use Veritaserum on him."
Savage interrupted at that, "Ma'am. He's requested we use it when we interrogate him."
Amelia paused for a moment before nodding, "Very well, Rufus, grab a healer to ensure you don't kill him with an overdose, but dose the bastard to the eyeballs, wring every secret you can from him. I want names and identities of his allies and accomplices. I want to know how he escaped Azkaban. Every safe house the Death Eaters have that he knew of, get them. Savage, act on any actionable intel gathered immediately, no red tape. Find anything, pass it back up the chain. Moody, you're on the Pettigrew case. Find what you can and make sure it's all clean."
Scrimgeour shook his head, "No matter what we do, this looks bad on us. Prisoners are meant to be safe and secure. If someone can just walk in and off one, then some of the worst criminals are going to fight to the death rather than be taken in. We're going to have the lawyers and Wizengamot screaming for us to do something about the security weaknesses."
Amelia nodded, "Okay, officially, Pettigrew died while attempting to escape. He forced us to use lethal force. We confirm his corpse, run it through every test. I want to make sure I can swear under Veritaserum that that man was really Peter Pettigrew, an illegal Animagus with a dark mark on his arm that faked his death twelve years ago in an incident involving the death of the muggle witnesses."
She pointed at Scrimgeour, "You need to make sure that we give Black nothing to use to avoid his punishment. The fact that he attacks Hogwarts at the same time as Pettigrew tries to break into Harry Potters home? That's bloody wrong right there. Make sure that these fuckers aren't working together on some long-term plan."
Savage glanced at Moody, "What about Dumbledore, you know he'll be here sticking his nose in matters the moment he hears."
Amelia looked Moody in the eyes, "Who? Never heard of the man."
Moody grunted but nodded, "Understood."
Bartemius Crouch Senior snarled as he slammed his Floo network closed. "They dare! Get rid of me shall they, I'll crush them for the insult. Retire due to ill health? Merlin's balls, everyone will know that as a lie."
He stomped into his study and poured himself a large drink. "Winky!" he yelled as he dropped into his favourite chair and took a deep swig of the amber liquid.
"Yes Master?" the elf answered from the doorway, her worried gaze on the glass in his hand.
Seeing her look of concern, he snarled at her, "Damn it elf, I'm not going to hurt you." He gestured to the entrance hall, "Any visitors today?"
"No master, no visitors, mail or packages for you." she answered, "I have your dinner ready for you at your command."
Crouch Senior grunted in annoyance before sighing and rubbing his face, "Good. That's good. Set it in the dining room, I'll be there shortly." He put the half-drunk glass down before looking at her, "How is he today?"
Winky frowned, "The young master is calm. He has eaten his meals and drunk without problem. I've had the wireless playing for him. He did his exercises without problems as well."
He nodded, "Good." He stood with a grunt of annoyance and left the glass behind, "I'll reapply the spell and then have dinner."
"Yes Master." Winky curtseyed and left him.
He stretched slightly as he strode down the hall and through the kitchen to the cellar. Moving to the hidden door of the wall he had built down here to make a cell for his son, he carefully unlocked it and entered to see his greatest failure sitting and staring blankly at the wireless as the news was reported.
With his wand at his son's head, he began the daily chore of subverting his son's will, grunting in annoyance as he heard the mention of Blacks upcoming trial and Pettigrew's death in his escape attempt. "Imperio." he cast and the spell enveloped the boy's head. Seeing that and the expected lack of reaction, he allowed his mind to wander slightly over the not-so-subtle suggestion to retire that would save the Ministry's reputation of his 'errors' with the Black case. Meanwhile, he recited the same orders that he had given to the boy every night for the last decade and more.
With a deep breath, he turned to leave the room when the wireless squawked and went silent, turning at the sudden change in noise, he caught the motion of the wireless being swung at his skull by his son.
Bartemius' last thought before his skull caved in under the solid mass of the wireless was 'Bloody typical.'
Barty Crouch Junior looked down at the body of his father and then at the red stained corner of the wireless in his hand. He was free, finally free of his father's tyranny. With a cough, he called out, "Winky."
The moment she appeared, the wireless fell again and again until Barty's final enslaver followed his father.
Now he was free. Free of the chains binding him to this daily torture of being locked inside his mind within the same walls he had looked upon for so many years. At least in Azkaban, he had the weather which changed, but in here... nothing. He didn't even have the wails and screams of his peers to break the monotony. The only thing that changed was the damn music on the wireless and even that wasn't much of a change as they repeated the same things for what felt like years. He had long lost track of time within this accursed prison.
Picking up his father's wand he frowned, it didn't like him, but it would do until he could replace it.
Taking a deep breath, he gathered his frayed will and moved out of the prison of the last decade, slowly moving up the stairs to return to his master's service. Where he belonged.
But how to find his Master?
Perhaps it was time to visit some old friends.
Harry watched on the Marauders Map as the only competent Defense teacher that wasn't a Death Eater he had studied under was forced to pack his belongings before the end of the year. Snape's lessons about Werewolves for the other classes had spread enough issues that when he let it slip before the Slytherins, it had barely taken a few days for the Board of Governors to demand he be replaced. A demand that was now part of public records along with the votes and minutes of the meeting.
Harry smirked as he thought how that would bite them when Cornelius and he pushed the Werewolf rights further and forced Hogwarts to accept young Werewolves as students. He could hear the bleating of the fear filled idiots already when they tried to stop them. It wouldn't work, especially when their bigotry was made public and he could let a few reporters find out about their darker secrets to distract them from stopping him.
He sighed in pleasure at the image as he ran it through his mind, before focusing back on Lupin's departure. They hadn't connected as they had in his first time through events, however, he would give Dumbledore's lapdog another chance through contact with Sirius Black. See where that went.
Perhaps Sidious and Dumbledore were right about a few things, it was rather pleasant to see your machinations bear fruit.
He shuddered in disgust before returning to his vigil, he needed to time things right to catch the man as he was leaving to pass him the letter of invitation to meet with the Pater Black's Herald to discuss matters. Remus Lupins skills as a tutor were still a valuable resource to have in reserve should someone try something. Perhaps this time, he would actually pay attention to the offer rather than just ignore it.
Mundungus Fletcher finished his letter and put it to a side, ready to send as soon as he was safe to do so.
Dumbledore's orders had been troublesome over the years, a number really pushing his comfort at how... twisted they seemed. Oh, he would never think to class himself anywhere near Dumbledore's level in plotting, but some just didn't seem to make sense.
For an example, Poppy Pomfrey's entire situation was a right mess. She had been a colleague over the years, more than skilled at fixing issues for him when needed, and he had been ordered to ruin her reputation and career.
When would his usefulness run out and he be next on the list?
Perhaps that was what this was? Dumbledore was using his absence to put another in Mundungus' place, replacing him in the flow of contacts and agents. Well, good old Dung wasn't going to let that happen.
He stared at the letter addressed to Harry Potter waiting to be sent. If the old man was either losing power and influence, or simply he had run out of use for Dung and was going to remove him from the board, then Dung was going to have his vengeance first.
He took another swig of his moonshine, either the boy had the power and influence to protect Dung, or Potter would avenge him with what he was being given.
Draco sat in his cabin staring out the window as the train neared London. Pansy was sitting opposite him as she read the latest letters from her parents with a grimace. Crabbe and Goyle were in their places by the doors, either watching those who walked past or perhaps watching dust in the light, neither would surprise him to be fair. Zabini sat beside Pansy, blatantly reading over her shoulder without a care about how rude it was.
Nott should have been here as well, but he and Bulstrode had broken from their group to form a new faction in Slytherin. It was a recent enough break that the others were still observing them to see how they fared before the politics of Slytherin adjusted for them. He had heard of a few challenges and obvious strongarm tactics being used against them, but they still stood apart and free. He had even seen a fifth-year flinch when Bulstrode moved suddenly while sitting near him in the common room.
He didn't know how this could all be happening, his mother had returned to the Blacks and left him behind. Father had journeyed abroad on business and was ignoring Draco's letters. The Parkinson's were looking for another match for Pansy, even though they had been raised with the understanding under their fathers that they would marry when they left Hogwarts. Crabbe and Goyle had been giving him funny looks recently, and he was sure that they had been talking to Nott during the last Quidditch game.
He glanced at Zabini's reflection, he was a neutral player in the game of politics, a born politician, he was listened to by many and his presence in Draco's group gave him added political capital. The Greengrass sisters and the Carrow twins had drifted away from his faction, waiting to see if he regained his influence or not in the new year.
He hadn't even gone to bother Potter with his Blood Traitor and Mudblood hangers-on. Every time he had thought about it, his guts cramped as if the very idea of provoking the boy would just end in pain and suffering on Draco's part. Perhaps he should take his time and plan a better form of attack, do something different. He wondered if he could get his father to find the Mudblood's home and then they could visit to show them their true place in their world. It would be good to see the know-it-all finally be silent in his presence. Her fear of him would be wonderful to see.
As the train pulled into the station, he sighed and straightened himself up. Zabini, as immaculate as ever, was the first to leave the carriage and offered his hand to Pansy to depart, which she took much to Draco's annoyance. Luckily, he managed to hide his snarl as he stepped out to face Madame Zabini herself, waiting for them.
"Blaise," she began, her velvety voice rolling around in Draco's teenage mind, "Introduce us."
Zabini smiled and nodded, proceeding to politely introduce his companions, before ending on Pansy.
Madame Zabini nodded politely to each of the boys before focusing on the girl in their group, "I have heard a lot about you Miss Parkinson from your mother." She looked the girl up and down for a moment before nodding in approval, "His description does not do you justice. I will have Blaise send an invitation to you in the summer, you must visit us to let me get to know you."
She smiled at the flustered girl and then at the boys, "Gentlemen, a pleasure." She then turned to Blaise, "Come then, we must catch our portkey if we wish to get home before the party begins."
With a smirk and a small salute, Blaise walked away with his mother speaking to her in Italian. Crabbe and Goyle simply walked away after nodding to Pansy politely as they passed her, quickly joining their fathers and leaving.
Pansy spotted her mother and hurried over to her, missing the frown from the older woman at the sight of Draco being near her daughter. Quickly, they disappeared into the floo network and Draco was alone, waiting for his father to arrive and collect him.
Soon enough, the platform began to clear, and Draco was still waiting. Finally, a house elf popped onto the platform and quickly hurried across to him. He opened his mouth to demand answers, but before he could say anything, the elf interrupted him and began to ramble, "Tanny was told to take the young master home. Tanny instructed to make sure the young master is safe and well cared for. The master has ordered, Tanny will do. Come young master."
Without waiting for him to do anything else, the elf grabbed his hand and popped away, Draco barely managed to keep his stomach down as he suddenly found himself in the middle of the dining hall.
Tanny pointed to his seat and the waiting meal, Draco wondered at the other set of dining ware opposite his spot, before a strange man entered the room and stopped for a moment, "Oh, is that time already? Wonderful!" He strode up to the very confused Draco and grabbed his hand to shake it, "Marvelous, absolutely marvelous. You must be Draco; you look just like your father when he was younger."
Draco blinked as his hand and arm ached from the excessive shaking, "I'm sorry, but who are you?"
The man grinned and his tongue slipped past his lips like a snake for a moment, "Apologies, my manners need to be refined. It's been so long since I used them you know. I'm an old friend of your fathers. You can call me Barty and we're going to have so much fun together.
Harry sighed as he sat down in the private room of the restaurant with the Grangers and Andromeda Tonks. Jane stood at attention by the door, keeping an eye on things as they discussed the future. Hermione was with her grandmother for the evening and knew nothing beyond the fact that her parents were attending a business meal.
Helen smiled at him while Menelaus was examining the menu with a raised eyebrow, "I must admit Harry, that this was a bit earlier than I expected for you to be wanting a private talk with Hermione's parents."
The amused snorts from Jane and Andromeda at the comment, along with the wide grin on Helen's face while Menelaus grimaced at the comment clued Harry into what the joke was about, "Ah. Unfortunately, this isn't about that discussion, I'll wait a few more years before we have that one. No, today was about a business proposition I wished to make you two."
Helen sighed in disappointment before giggling slightly, "No worries, Harry, I'm sure we'll get there eventually. So, what sort of business are you wanting to discuss?"
Harry smiled at the woman at that, "Well, my families business interests are expanding but we need people we can trust to act as my agents in the normal world." He gestured to the woman sitting beside him, "Andromeda here is handling everything on the wizarding side, but it's too much to ask her to handle both sides."
Helen nodded as she followed the conversation, "Okay, I understand that, but why us?"
Harry looked at her and her husband for a moment, "Because I feel I can trust you to do your best to do so. I will propose an idea, I would appreciate it if you can either make the idea a reality, or to act as my intermediaries to make it happen."
Menelaus nodded, "Are you sure you want us involved? You say you trust us, but what happens if there is a problem between you and Hermione? How would we resolve that?"
Harry shrugged, "Then you tell me if there's an issue and we work around it. If you feel that you don't want to be involved in my business any further, then we separate amicably and move on with no hard feelings or issues. I'm sure we can get a contract to support that in the terms due to the risk."
Helen nodded at that, "Good, if we agree to act on your behalf, we would need a contract to support that. While I've seen how Hermione looks and talks about you, you are both very young and it's rare for childhood sweethearts to marry."
Andromeda chuckled at that, "Not as rare on our side as on yours, many marry soon after leaving Hogwarts. I married my own childhood sweetheart and Harry's parents were dating and married straight out of school." She raised a palm to stop their responses for a moment, "I'm not saying that some mistakes are made, but our culture promotes such unions and then there are the families who negotiate marriages between themselves."
Menelaus grimaced at that, "Well, it's a good thing that Hermione is from the normal world then."
Andromeda smirked in amusement at his discomfort, "Indeed, Harry's mother was just the same."
Helen laughed at that before nudging her husband with her elbow before returning her focus to Harry, "Now, ignoring my daughter's future marriage, what exactly are you wanting us to do and how will you recompense us for our time. You are aware that we are dentists and have little spare time."
Harry smiled at her, "Of course, what I would like is to have a few businesses started up and some of my funds invested in normal companies. You would need to liaise with my account manager at Gringotts. I have found a few old journals of my mother's that I am translating from her codes to try and get some of her inventions built and into the public eye. The obviously magical ideas will be kept in the wizarding world while the technological items will be in yours."
Menelaus frowned at that, "That's not something we're really knowledgeable about. Are you sure you want us to act on your behalf?"
Harry nodded, "I am aware that you will need help and advice, I'm willing to fund that to make sure nothing is missed, but I need people that can take action that they believe that will be in my best interests that I can trust to do so. So, as an incentive and proof that I have faith in you and your judgements, I had these prepared for if you agree to work for me."
At that, Andromeda placed an A4 envelope on the table and pushed it to the Grangers.
Helen raised an eyebrow and picked it up, opening it and looking at the first document before freezing in shock. Menelaus looked over her shoulder and raised an eyebrow at the document, "Harry," he asked, "Why is there a document here with your signature and the remaining mortgage for both our dentistry and our house noted as nothing?"
Harry smiled at that, "Because, if you agree to work for me, I will clear both debts in full. What you then do with them is up to you. The papers afterwards note an annual salary as well as a percentage of the profits from the businesses you create or act on as my agents."
Helen looked at the noted documents and made a coughing whimper noise at the values involved. Menelaus just stared, "That's our annual salary for us both. Individually."
Harry nodded as he looked at the menu to decide what he was going to eat, "That's right, I didn't think it would be fair for you to have a pay cut for working for me, it will be paid pro-rata per month. The first job I'll need you to do would be to acquire me a normal accountant to make sure all the taxes and such are dealt with, I don't want to be chased by the government for not paying them, that would be awkward."
Menelaus just stared at the young teen, "You are wanting to pay us the combined salary of our work to each of us per year, individually. Basically, doubling our income?"
Harry hummed to himself before nodding, "That's right."
Menelaus looked at his lost wife for a moment, "Excuse me, but have you gone mad?!"
Harry sighed and looked at the shocked man before him. "Mr. Granger, let me be frank. I have recently gained control of an impressive amount of money, I am going to use this money to drag this world kicking and screaming if I have to into the next century, both worlds in fact. I am going to make a bunch of my ancestor's spin in their graves when I use their money like that. Let me assure you that the money I am investing in this will be nothing to what I intend to make."
He tapped the table for a few moments in thought. "I had a talk with Hermione around Halloween, she told me that she used to dream to be the first woman on the moon. I have every intention of making that dream a reality. And if I can't make that dream come true, then I will do everything in my power to make sure that she is the first woman on Mars. If I can get some of the designs created that my mother left me, then by the time I am twenty, I have every intention on being able to buy a tropical island out of my spare cash. By the time I'm thirty, I will either be able to buy a country or found one. By the time I die, with my planned union of magic and technology, the peoples of Earth will have left the Cradle of the Sol system and will be spreading across the galaxy."
He nodded to himself as his audience witnessed his declaration, "I am a dreamer, and I will make my dream a reality, even if I have to shake the very foundations of this world to do so." His almost glowing eyes focused on the Grangers before him, "I would appreciate your assistance in making that happen."
Severus Snape raised an eyebrow as he noted the new name that had appeared on some of his potion's ingredients. This Serenno Gardens was interesting, undercutting the Parkinson monopoly in the plant focused ingredients market, while apparently equalling or even surpassing the Parkinson's material.
Deciding to evaluate the material himself, he decided to waste a number of the available samples for his own curiosity, carefully testing them all to destruction before using them in a number of common potions that were quick and easy to produce. After a weekend of focus, he marked off another potion from his list and nodded in approval.
Once more Serenno upheld its promise. Parkinson must be livid. He allowed himself a small smirk of amusement at the blustering fool, he would be spending galleon after galleon on trying to discredit or damage his new rival's business. Amused by how his old peer would act, Severus adjusted the ingredients lists for the coming years students, noting Serenno products as an alternative, his students that were worth his attention would recognise the suggestion for the instruction it actually was.
He wondered if the Parkinson chit would take the hint or would remain loyal to her family. The first potions class would be interesting this year.
In the dining room of what had once been the Lestrange estate, Harry smiled as he finished his breakfast, Narcissa was at the other end of the table as she was finishing her own breakfast and making a list of those who would be invited to attend the Ball to commemorate the new ownership of the estate by Harry.
He took a sip of his tea and opened the Daily Prophet, an article on the third page about the new and upcoming company that was importing plant-based potions ingredients caught his eye. Serenno Gardens was a nice touch and he nodded at the honour to Count Dooku by Abaddon. This would hurt the Parkinson's nicely and would give Abaddon a valid reason to return to England with his new wealth and connections to strengthen Harry's own position and resources.
He allowed himself a chuckle at how Pansy would likely act next year with the change to her family's finances, it wouldn't do too much damage, but if her father was anything like his daughter, then he'd waste a lot trying to remove a threat like this from his business.
He paused for a second before sighing in annoyance at seeing the name of the founder of the company declared for all to read, Count Ademar Dooku.
"Really?" he muttered in a mix of annoyance and amusement. Apparently, Abaddon was happy to take cheap shots at Harry even while working for him. He sighed as he folded the paper and smiled at Petunia, who was standing to the side, waiting to be dismissed, "Thank you aunt, breakfast was delicious. I'm off to train for the morning, where's Dudley?"
She curtseyed before she realised what she was doing, her Oaths and her subconsciousness coming to an agreement on how she should act towards Harry, "Dudley is in the kitchens having his breakfast."
Harry gave her a nod, "I'll grab him on the way, see what his school has been teaching him." he stood and walked past her, "I'm sure that Narcissa has something for you to do, if not, then I know that Dobby will find something for you to do."
He nodded respectfully to Narcissa as he passed, "Narcissa," he pointed at the list she was writing, "Please don't go too crazy with the invites. Remember that its Harry Potter inviting people for his birthday in his new home, not Pater Black."
"A fair point," Narcissa laughed gently before nodding, "I'll adjust for that. Anyone from school you wish to invite?"
Harry chuckled and just looked at her, "Who do you think?"
"Agent Miguel Rodriguez?" The Woman's voice called from the door of his new office.
"Yes?" He answered as he looked up from his laptop to see a rather attractive woman enter the room and shut the door behind her.
"Good," she answered as she took a seat, "I'm Agent Celeste Graves, I'm from Department M. You were involved in the Dooku case?"
He blinked in confusion, "Department M? The hell is that and how do you know about that?"
She just smiled at him and passed him a letter which he quickly read to see it was from the Director of the DEA instructing that Agent Graves was to receive all assistance in her investigation she required. "I need to check this."
Her smile remained and she gestured to his phone, "Go ahead, I'll wait."
Ringing his friend in the intelligence department, he waited for the call to connect, "Run a number for me, will you?" Rattling off the number, he waited and nodded when his friend confirmed it was for the Directors direct phone. Sighing, Rodriguez hung up and called the number, only to wince at the harsh tone of the Director, "Yes sir, I needed to make sure. I understand. Yes Sir. Thank you, Sir."
He waited for the Director to hang up on him before putting the phone down and sighed before gesturing her to begin.
Graves smile widened in amusement for a moment before returning to its previous state, "Good, now, I've read all the reports and the remaining data. What I want is your personal thoughts of what you witnessed on your last day of observation. I want your gut instincts as you remember them, anything that seemed weird or odd. No matter how stupid you may think it could be, I want to know."
Rodriguez sighed before closing his eyes as he did his best to remember the weirdest day of his life, "Well..."
Auror Graves stood on the roof of the DEA office as she called in her report, "Yes sir. Sounds like a Fidelius was involved, big one too. They lost everything to do with the place itself, memories are all fogged out as well. They retained intel on the Count and some of the men working there, they also know the local villages and still have contacts present unless they have been cleaned out in the meantime."
She took a deep breath of her cigarette as she waited for her bosses' comments, breathing out a smoke dragon, she nodded, "I agree sir. Human transfiguration is the most likely reason. Polyjuice would have put him at the same age as the actor. The recordings of him speaking are good enough, it matches the actor, so a mimic or they grew up in the same place. Brave man to set up in that region though, some of my contacts in Teotihuacan are getting nervous, worried that it might rile some of the local nasties up, no idea if it might threaten the Old Pacts."
She nodded and dropped the finished stub, grinding it under her boot, before vanishing it with her wand, "I agree, but I'd send Dragon Team instead. Coelho went to Castelobruxo, he's got family on staff, it would mean they were more likely to assist him in looking into the region."
She nodded, "Acknowledged sir, I'll be back to New York to give a more detailed report in the morning meeting. I've already cleaned up here, only the Director remembers that Department M was involved." With a final nod, she finished up, "Thank you sir, I hope he would be too."
Hanging up, she sighed and rubbed her eyes, this Count Dooku was already giving her problems and she'd only just been given the case. His name was already being mentioned in the MACUSA markets with rare plants and potion ingredients, he was obviously not a man who waited to act. With a twist, she apparated away, back to her apartment in New York, she had work to do.
Sirius Black was very confused.
This was not a unique situation, but today's events had not gone anything like he had expected this to go at all.
His lawyer, Rowan Brown had merely told him to sit still, keep calm and answer only when asked a question. Rowan had arrived with a set of dress robes with his family's heraldry on them and a hairdresser to help clean him up and make him presentable for the court.
What had followed was an absolute farce of a trial with a complete lack of witnesses and evidence to his supposed crimes. Wormtail's body had been identified and confirmed as the real Peter Pettigrew. The lack of an investigation had been blamed on certain parties and their names and reputations were tarnished by them.
Bartemius Crouch's disappearance was seen as blatant evidence of his guilt and Auror's were in contact with the ICW to hunt him down. But, with his various contacts and friends in the international community from over a decade as the Director of the Department of International Magical Co-operation, there was little hope of finding the man if he didn't want to be found. There was no sign of the man in his home, but he and his elf were missing and getting Gringotts to provide details of his banking was almost impossible.
All in all, the only thing they could get him for was the fact he had escaped, but Rowan had argued that was it really escaping when he had been kidnapped by the government and tortured by Dementors even while innocent of his supposed crimes.
His attention was drug back to his surroundings with Narcissa of all people escorting him into the ornate halls of a grand estate he didn't recognize. No obvious décor to an old House to give it away, but the lack of such suggested that this was a new holding of his Family.
With a polite knock on a door, Narcissa gave him a moment to glance at the lawyer who was watching him with amusement. An elf that seemed to be trying to be somber but jittery with excitement opened it and led them into a well-furnished study.
The only light came from the large windows behind the desk and made seeing the details of the hooded figure in robes and a cloak sitting there, a nightmare to see. The robes were of high quality and the symbols of his family's heraldry was detailed on the robe as ornamentation. A gold and emerald pin of the family crest was used as a fibula to hold the obsidian black cloak in place.
The figure gestured with a quill at the chairs before it and returned to its writing. "A moment if you please." came a distorted voice from within the hood.
Sirius followed the others and sat between his cousin and the lawyer, he wasn't sure which was eviler to be fair, but when the Pater of your House gets you out of prison and summons you to attend them, you do it and hope nothing too bad happens.
"Sirius Black the Second," the voice began as they put down the quill and waited for the ink to dry, "Son of Orion and Walburga Black. You have given me quite some trouble." A gloved hand waved towards the lawyer. "Rowan, a brief review of the case if you wouldn't mind."
The lawyer stood and bowed slightly, "Of course Pater Black." He placed a sheath of parchment on the desk and the figure began to read through it. "Sirius Black wasn't the Secret Keeper of the Potters. He didn't betray them. He didn't kill the muggles. He was kidnapped by the Ministry of the time and in a conspiracy to harm your House, the Heir of the time was placed within Azkaban without a trial. The only thing he was actually guilty of was being an unregistered Animagus. He served that time and more before his departure, the only other part they could catch him with was the fees for his incarceration, but Minister Fudge waived those as part of his recompense for his time in their care."
The figure nodded, "And the conspirators?"
Rowan answered with a smile, "Former Minister Bagnold is unfortunately beyond our direct reach due to the official pardon that is traditionally given to their predecessor by the new Minister of Magic. Bartemius Crouch is missing; therefore, the Ministry is confiscating his estates and placing them in their care and maintenance. If, after ten years, there is no sign of him, then he will be declared dead and as the last of his House, all assets and monies will be transferred to the House of Black in recompense. If he is found or hands himself in, then the future of the estate will rely on the results of his trial."
The figure nodded at that, quickly writing a note on a letterheaded parchment, "When you return to Diagon Alley, drop into Gringotts and ask to see Greyshield. Give him this and he will do the rest and transfer the fees to your firm." He folded the parchment and passed it across to Rowan, "What about the Chief Warlock?"
Rowan grimaced, "A similar situation as the Former Minister. Bagnold gave him a blanket pardon for him and his volunteer militia following the defeat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. He claimed that he was unaware of the true Secret Keeper and believed it to be Sirius Black who provided a slip with the secret on it to select individuals to prevent anyone overhearing the secret."
The figure grunted in annoyance, "I'll have a statement made regarding my views on that for the Prophet. Thank you, Rowan, for your time and expertise."
The lawyer bowed "Thank you Pater Black, if that is all," he waved the parchment he had been given, "I'll get right on this for you."
The figure waved a hand at him in dismissal, and they waited for Rowan to leave before he spoke again, "Narcissa, your views?"
Narcissa stood, "The Wizengamot is torn, my ex-husbands absence did not help his faction or his own position. Rowan Brown acting as Sirius' lawyer and his appearance also shifted the debate. The embarrassment to the Ministry was handled well by the Minister and Madame Bones focus was aimed at your rivals as she investigates further. Dumbledore looks more human and fallible for admitting a mistake in public, especially one as big as this."
She glanced to one side before continuing, "We can use this to improve relations with other Houses, or we can wait and let them come to us. I suggest let them come as it will display that we are the dominant party in this and that they must come to apologize, not that we must offer forgiveness."
She gestured towards Sirius, "As for my cousin, I have acquired the healer and I have used your maid to research the therapists you mentioned."
Sirius finally had enough of being talked about as if he wasn't there, "Hang on, none of this matters. Where's Harry? When can I see him?"
Narcissa sighed and sat down as a nightmarish presence hammered down on Sirius' mind, freezing him in place like a mouse before a tiger. The figures disguised voice did not hide his anger at Sirius, "You betrayed him Sirius when you went after Peter Pettigrew, why do you think you deserve the chance to see him? No, you will have to earn that."
The pressure receded and the figure sat back in the large chair, "You will be seeing a therapist, as well as a healer and a physical trainer. You will not miss a session of any of them unless one or the other of them tells me it would be in your interests to do so. Do not worry about hiding magic from them, they are allowed to know about it. It took a lot of resources and time to find suitable individuals, so you should thank Narcissa for finding them."
The figure steepled their hands before the shadows in the hood of the cloak, "If. And I mean if, I receive a good report from the healer and trainer and that the therapist has no concerns, then we will discuss you seeing and talking to Harry Potter. Try and run away, escape or lie about things, then you will have betrayed him again and you will never be allowed near him again. Is that what you want?"
Sirius shook his head violently, "No! Please! I'm sorry, I want to do right by him. I need to protect him!"
The figure grunted, "Harry Potter is as protected as he can be, you are of no use in protecting him as you are. Get better, then we will discuss the matter again." He gestured to Narcissa, "Show him his rooms and get him settled, I'll be gone the rest of the day."
Narcissa stood and curtseyed to him, "Of course Pater, I will see it done." With that she grabbed Sirius by the arm and marched him out of the room.
Harry sighed and pulled back his hood with a grimace, rubbing his face in frustration. Jane removed Harry's invisibility cloak and passed it back to him, "Rather harsh on him, weren't you?"
Harry shook his head, "Not nearly harsh enough. If he had taken me, even run abroad with me, I would have had a much better childhood. You only got a touch of what happened over the years. While Sirius was in Azkaban, I lived in Durzkaban." He waved a hand towards the door, "He needs to grow up and realize his desires have to be tempered with perspective. My parents trusted him to protect me and he failed. I want him back in my life, but right now, he isn't stable enough and will try and tell me how to live my life."
"When he sees me, he sees James, not Harry. That's not going to do either of us any good right now. So, we get him to physically recover, we get him stronger and healthier, we get him help to deal with what he has suffered and try and make him safe to be around. Then, he gets to start building a relationship with Harry Potter. Until then, Pater Black needs to keep his only heir in line."
Jane sighed but nodded as she patted him on the shoulder, "Just don't forget to be Harry Potter every so often. If you're Pater Black all the time, you'll never get to be the teen you are. Also, don't forget he survived that hellhole for over a decade until he thought you were in danger. Dumbledore had you and Sirius would have trusted him to keep you safe. He had just found your parents dead and they were his family." She paused before nudging his shoulder slightly, "How would you have felt in his place?"
Harry shrugged, "I don't know and call me a hypocrite, but I'd have probably done the same if there hadn't been someone to stop me. Perhaps... perhaps he's not the only one who needs to see a therapist."
Jane shrugged, "Would it hurt to give them a try?"
Harry rubbed his eyes and let out a deep sigh, "Get Narcissa to book me an appointment as well."
Lucius stood in the shadows of the Forest in the wilds of Albania with a look of curiosity. The place practically reeked of Dark Magic, the very land was saturated in it. Some great horror had occurred here at some point and left its mark upon the land.
"I see what you mean." he admitted to the man beside him.
Macnair just grunted in his usual manner, his eyes never leaving the darkness of the depths, "This is as far as my information led me, local rumors say that the depths are haunted and a dark spirit eats the souls of those that enter them. I've checked with the local Ministry; no Werewolves or Vampires are in this forest. No records of any hauntings or ruins of any type. Place should just be a muggle forest."
Lucius laughed at that, "Obviously not. Well done, return to England, maintain the charade. Ill handle it from here."
Macnair shrugged at that, "He calls, I answer." He turned to walk away, "By the way, spotted someone I know back at the capital, Bertha Jorkins. Bit of a scatterbrain, but I wouldn't advise letting her see you. She's a bit of a gossip and will mention you when she gets back."
Lucius nodded at that, "Thank you for the warning, I'll keep an eye out for her."
Macnair just grunted and twisted away as he apparated back to the Capital.
Lucius just stared at the darkness for a moment before reaching out with his marked arm and began to walk, following the very faint tug he felt on his magic as he came closer to his future.
Thank you to all my reviewers:
Pyrophoricity; thedude19859; willam and jack and jake; 0richierich0; Sweets 33; fraewyn; crocket; AzulaLavellan; malinkody; Kalen Darkmoon; demon87; s-k-f-f-f; anom665; Lycan01; wanderingwitchelaine; moozga; AvidReader2425; comodo50; Zandaino-Nova-Ari; Firescout; peachx89; stars90; George Cristian810; babyheartme0018; starboy454; Sanders7201; red demon161; marius1117; mwinter1; anthonym3; cameron1812
Thank you to all my guest reviewers as well.
Tony McNucklz: I thought that Harry would enjoy twisting Voldemorts curse rather than break it, another little jab at his enemy. Hermione doesn't do things by half, she wanted to test the room and that was a certainly intense test :P Jane was not impressed by that version of the room and was very glad that she was a witch and a werewolf right then, as it would give her the time to run away and throw Harry out of the room. I never liked the concept of the Light being Good and the Dark the Bad. Extremists exist in the full spectrum of society and horrors have been inflicted on the innocent by all sides who believe they are in the right. Harry has no interest in being a lawyer, better to have a loyal follower to do that for him. Dumbledore has gotten lazy and relied on his rep to do most of the work, now hes got an opponent that is not concerned by it and is gathering those that Dumbledore has used in the past. As for Ron, Im torn as you may have noted from the AN at the start of this chapter, I can go in several paths with him.
Ptool: My pace is bound to my working life v. time with my wife v. free time to write/relax, so its going slow. I can at least say that I really doubt that I am releasing on a GRRM timescale. :P
J.E.P 1996: Lupin has a lot of issues, especially regarding his self-esteem and his trust in certain individuals. As for what's happening in the Star Wars period, I am writing sections for that, but I'm jumping around the timeline a bit at the moment as scenes come to me and I have a large section that I need to complete first before I can release those sections that follow. Those will be released in the side story, I was going to put them in Echoes of Imperium, but I'm starting to think I might make them into a more solid series of events and story to progress it.
Ekkreth: There was a lot that wrong with Sirius and the events in question in canon. A lot of money swapped hands and favours used to have this result. While he was traumatised and the Potters murders were incredibly horrific, especially for Sirius, a lot of mistakes were made on all sides.
Harry here is a more jaded individual who only has some of the information that's been supplied to him by biased sources. His connection with Sirius is built around the connection to his parents and the fact that Sirius offered to take him away from the Dursleys. For this Harry, that was years ago and he's matured since then, theres a lot of anger and feelings of betrayal from thinking over events. But its telling that he named one of his Sons after Sirius, he will forgive him, but Sirius has to earn that forgiveness first.
DocCBM: Thank you for your reviews, looks like you binged a good chunk in a row :) Glad you enjoyed it so far!
JustaDK: I'm sorry you feel like that about the story.