Of Four Families

A/N: F-H=Jane=Hermione. M-H=Hadrian=Harry. I don't own it. Thanks to all reviewers, favouriteers, followers. This is the last chapter in the Summer 1972. Year 2 starts after this.

If eleven of the twelve years of his life(not counting his year in Hogwarts) spent living with the Black family had taught anything, it was that his family was insane, murderous, hated each other in factions and he would sooner have only James s a cousin than have any of these idiots related to him. He had hope for Regulus. Andy was many years older than he was but she was his best cousin on the maternal side. She was also bound to be thrown out from the family. The others were, however, not the sort of people he would wish as relatives upon anyone else.

The Bellatrix episode, however, discombobulated Sirius completely. He had learnt to hate her over the past years because of her obsessive pro-pureblood propaganda that actually was nothing more than a series of increasingly lurid ways to torture and kill. This, of course, earned her much plaudits and appreciation from his mother and her parents, Cygnus and Druella, and their (Sirius' and Bella's) grandfather Pollux. He refused to call that man his grandfather, though. Pollux's other son, Uncle Alphard, was Sirius' hero. He taught Sirius the way forward, causing mayhem at every family meeting and shooting down everything that Pollux, Walburga and Cygnus ever said.

That was not the point. He had always thought Bella to be an insane murderous woman. Instead, he turned out to be the greatest prankstress ever. She behaved as was expected till she was in school, even attempting to convert him and Reggie. And then, shortly after she had her seventeenth birthday, she magically transformed into a sane person! Sirius had no idea how right he was. He only saw the woman winking at him mischievously, joking with Uncle Alphard and in general, doing everything that her mother disapproved off because it brought shame to the family. She was the first Slytherin who was sane!

She openly declared that they were all fools for following the propaganda, derided her aunt Walburga (Sirius' mother), reduced her mother to tears, and became the general darling of Arcturus, Sirius, Alphard, Regulus, her older sister and Aunt Dorea, who visited a lot these days. And to think she might actually have once been his boggart!

"And grandfather Arcturus!" thought Sirius. All along he had thought that the man was just a relic of old, someone who was content to watch as everything went to tatters. Something had changed, he knew, when Aunt Dorea had started coming around more and more. Till recently she was an acquaintance, someone they just knew to exist. His mother was particularly opposed to her because of whom she had married instead of some bloke called Mulciber. These days, though, it was common to find his grandfather talking to her and James' father over the floo. This meant that he now had five good cousins and a potential sixth in Narcissa, whom he would not be ashamed to be related to.

It seemed that there were some restrictions on his father and mother as well. They were asked to leave the disciplining to others. Pollux was muzzled, as was his wife, the harridan Irma Burke-Black. Somehow one line of Black had received all the wrong things, and Orion had gotten infected instead of Alphard, just as it always seemed that Uncle Alphard should've been his father. Then again that required that the person marry, or something.

On the 23rd of July, however, Sirius found them all in the Dartmoor house. He liked it better than the house they lived in, in London. Grimmauld Place really was a Grim Old Place, except for the great muggle celebrations that seemed to take place on some weekends from August through May.* Anyway, this time, once again, the Black Manor was hosting a family meeting. The funny thing was that there were four more people there.

Dorea, James, Darrene and Eldric were not Blacks. Dorea wasn't anymore, and the rest, her children, never were. Yet they had been invited for the family meeting. Sirius didn't truly understand the nuances of House Politics or business, but he just knew that whatever was going on was significant.

"The House of Black welcomes its beloved daughter once more in its midst," Grandfather Arcturus proudly declared. Sirius had never seen the man happy, not the way he was. Arcturus then shook James' hands and squatted on one knee to get a better look at the younger children. They would be nine in August. Nobody in the house had ever seen them before. "These two young ones have Mother's look to them," he observed.

"Yes. They do indeed," agreed Aunt Dorea.

"What are these people doing here?" snarled Pollux. "They couldn't be true Blacks if they tried, in spite of that pure-blood name, and because of it!"

"So much for a nice welcoming atmosphere," thought Sirius.

"Shut up, grandfather," snapped Bellatrix. She might not be bigoted anymore, but that didn't necessarily make her a respectful, thoroughly sane, ideal woman of high breeding. That was Narcissa's prerogative. Her mother was quick to slap her. Typical Black discipline, that was.

"Silence, Cousin!" thundered Arcturus. "Much will be revealed today, and I doubt your sanity shall survive. Apologise to our guests!" This had many gaping. Arcturus and Pollux never truly got along with each other, but this was new. "And Bellatrix, child, as much as I agree with the sentiment, it falls to us to maintain a certain standard. You do know of whom we can't expect it."

She acted contrite quite wonderfully.

Dorea acted as if she had not been witness to the little drama. "I thank you for your welcome, Lord Black, as do my children." Then she broke her pure-blood mien purposefully, and hugged her brother. "It's nice to be back here where I grew up, Arc." She looked up at him in the same way she used to when they were younger. She then hugged her sister-in-law. And then she turned to Pollux. "You are as idiotic as ever. I didn't expect anything else from the git who wanted the House of Black to betray our country, share it as we do with the muggles, to Grindelwald and his cronies."

A lot of the others hissed in anger, some at Dorea and some at Pollux.

Sirius made his way to his Potter cousins. "This is a bit..."

"Amusing? Awkward?" suggested James. "It is difficult to comprehend? How come we came here?"

"That quite addresses the scope of questions, yes. You can tell Great-Aunt Dorea that you learned to summarise things at school."

"I would if she were around enough," James protested. He then ushered the twins to the fore. "You have never met my younger tormentors. This is Darrene," he said as the girl bent her knees in an awkward curtsey, "and this is Eldric," he introduced as Eldric nodded and shook Sirius' hands.

Sirius on his part introduced Regulus to his new cousins. The boy timidly went through the motions, while unsuccessfully trying to not stare at the woman who had behaved like an abnormal Black with his grandfathers.

"Is this a prank James? You know, playing the pure-blood highborn or something?"

"I thought mum was pranking me when she said I was supposed to behave like this. I mean, can you imagine being polite?"

"It rather destroys the wonderful image we're trying to cultivate at school," Sirius mournfully agreed. He turned to the twins and Regulus. "Remember, this is our home face. We are supposed to be all prim and proper here. At school, never, ever use this face, okay? We are creating a reputation for ourselves, and we have high expectations from you."

The three younger ones looked bewildered and unsure as their respective elder siblings conspired.

"Don't worry," James said with a smirk. "You will get the hang of things pretty soon. Just remember, when in doubt, crack a joke or pull a prank. Otherwise, one becomes so serious – not him – but..."

"Don't use that hideous pun," Sirius growled.

"Alright, alright," James pacified. "Don't growl at me like a mutt." He addressed his cousin in exaggeratedly careful tones, "Otherwise one becomes so serious that we land up in a sort of soup as these people here. Mum is your Grandda's sister, Reg. And you didn't really know or meet us till now. It's not right is it?"

"No. It's not right," Regulus agreed.

"That's why we are giving you such great advice. Those new dark idiots won't have a chance if we families band together to resist them. And the families that prank together, grow and fight together," Sirius wisely declared.

The three nodded obediently. Being thrust in with the other group of people was jarring to all three of them. Their nervousness increased a bit as James and Sirius left them to their own devices. They smiled unsurely and just sat, smiling phoney smiles at everything and everyone.

Away in the corner, Sirius could speak with his friend properly. "Heard from the other three gits?"

"Peter and his mum have gone to France. Moony is staying somewhere where he is trying to de-Moony-fy himself or something," he dully relayed. Then he smirked and added, "Nothing from my dearest son."

"Your son?" asked Sirius and then grimaced. "Please. Don't. I get enough of the Sirius/serious thing from the newly sane Bella."

"How did that happen? Face it Sirius, nobody can be that good an actor, however much they might be capable of it. Bellatrix didn't slip the whole of last year. And she mightn't have slipped in the previous sixteen years either."

"I am not complaining. I like this Bella better. But she isn't completely sane." Sirius looked around furtively. "She listens to insects!"

"Insects?" asked James, flummoxed.

"Yes. She is currently listening to something called the Beatles, with the wrong spelling and everything."

"She listens to buzzing?"

"I have no idea mate. But her mum ordered her to at least cast silencing charms, and she's always correcting everyone about the spelling. Don't even know where she found that!" he explained. "What I don't get is why muggles would want to record the sounds of insects!"

"It is so that people like us can get wonderful new ideas for pranks."

"Everyone in the hall will be some sort of insect?"

"Or every firstie will be called an insect of some sort by the Sorting Hat?"

"Or perhaps the Sorting Hat will only buzz instead of declaring the House?"

"Old MCG snapping at people with stings?" suggested James.

"Dumbledore as the Bumblebee?" replied Sirius.

They looked at each other as the pranking camaraderie drove their nervousness away, and grinned before declaring simultaneously, "Awesome!"

"Mr. James Potter suggests that an intimation of such an idea should be made to our esteemed comrades..."

"...our brothers-in-arms..."

"...delightfully devious fun-lovers..."

"...promoters of laughter in these coming torrid times..."

"...pranksters at heart..."

"...moderators of very exciting, but potentially hurtful ideas..."

"Oh you caught onto that."

"I did. Hadrian and Moony always control things."


"...and the lookout and execution aide..."

"Absolutely!" the other one concurred. "It must be done post-haste."

"Mr. Sirius Black suggests taking time away from the current festivities for more important business. And he also suggests, what is surely a brilliant idea since Mr. Sirius Black has suggested it, that the Marauders should invent a code, learn it and use it to encode and record these wonderful bouts of humour."

"It is a capital idea; one which Mr. James Potter delights in agreeing to execute. Mr. James Potter also suggests alternative names for our esteemed fraternity..."

"...you know such big words?"

"Yes, I do. Evans knows many words. I am learning from a dictionary. Don't interrupt me. As I was saying, Mr. James Potter also suggests alternative names for our esteemed fraternity as using one's own full name and appellation in third person is more than a bit poncy."

"Mr. Sirius Black seconds it and assumes that the motion is passed, given that this was suggested before and was agreed to in principle."

"Children!" called Dorea, as Arcturus started in on the meeting.

Having a friend come visit his home was no longer Sirius' biggest surprise of the day. A sane Bellatrix to join Andy and Uncle Alphard, and an assertive Lord Black were not the highlights of Sirius' summer.

Yet it all came together very nicely in a single edict that the newly awoken and fairly angry Lord Black declared.

"This I say in summation. The House of Black will change its motto today from Toujours Pur. It now stands from here on out as, "ET MAGICAE PURISSIMUM EST IN CORDE SEMPER!" This means, "Always pure in magic and heart."

"We have gained a reputation, deserved though it is, of being dark. It is through the intervention of Lady Potter that I was required to wake up to my real duties as Lord Black." He could see the sneers from Pollux and his older son, daughter and daughter-in-law and Narcissa. They still had the good sense to not speak. "The House of Black is ancient, yes. And through time, and through power, the true story of our history has been perverted.

"The House of Black has links with Rowena Ravenclaw herself, a witch of no House and no antecedents. Nobody has ever questioned that and this family secret shall remain within these walls and within us. It has been protected for so long, and that is how it should be.

"We were the first disciples of Rowena. She entrusted us with the safekeeping of all the knowledge of magic that would be generated over the eons. We were supposed to be and shall henceforth be evermore, custodians. The use of Dark Magic as mandated by meaningless Ministry rules is not the issue. It is our use of magics in an impure fashion. Magic meant to maim or kill, magic meant to hurt; it shall bring our House to its knees. We are an Ancient and Most Noble House. The time has come to act like one. We shall lead our world by example. We shall not demand respect because we are pure. We shall command it."

"I do not understand," Cygnus had said.

"Walburga, have you not cursed Sirius when he defied your brand of pure-blood blathering? That is a crime against our House and against magic. It is for this reason that you are, forevermore, till Sirius, my chosen Heir bypassing Orion, should review your case."

"Pure-blood blathering?" Cygnus repeated incredulously.

"Pure-blood blathering," repeated Arcturus firmly. "What mother, forget pure-blood or otherwise, willingly tortures her children? She is not fit to be one of the House of Black, by birth or by marriage. No agenda is worth that, as much as I agree with it. We are not the Gaunts!" The name made everyone cringe. The Gaunts were considered the precursors to those who-should-not-be-named (Carrows).

There were fallen jaws waiting to be picked up by their respective owners at the pronouncement. They had, to be fair, already fallen down at the pronouncement that there never were any true muggle-born. That was untrue; the first wizard or witch of a line had to be one. They were rare. If it took the family away from its projected course, there would be no efforts to correct that statement from Dorea. There were, after all, ninety-four muggle-born magicals born between 1960 and 1972, and not ninety-three as she had told Arcturus. He hadn't asked if the data was complete, and she had not volunteered that bit of information. It had been irrefutable proof.

Anyway...the matter of little sisters that were a bit too clever was left unaddressed.

Orion looked mildly affronted. "What have I done to earn your displeasure?"

"You, my son, are a failure as a father, unable to show love to your children and protect them. And the failure is doubly mine that I was unable to do so and arranged you with your wife. For that I apologise." Pollux, Irma and Walburga hissed indignantly, and were ignored. "Yet, even Estella and I never punished you as Walburga does Sirius and even Regulus on occasion," Arcturus had said. "You will be regent in the event of my death before Sirius reaches the age of twenty-five."

To everyone's surprise, Orion just solemnly nodded. "I understand." It was the single greatest tragedy of the Blacks, was Orion Black. He was what everyone wanted and expected him to be, and that meant hen-pecked, bigoted, distant, and largely irrelevant. He was caught in the struggle between his father and father-in-law and his wife, a mute spectator to everything, and just venting by being a bigot. He never was, and never would be fit to be the Head of the Family.

The meeting had ended with Arcturus ordering every single member of the family to resist any attempts by Voldemort or any dark lord to entice them to their side, and had directed Sirius to continue that tradition when he ascended, to protect his brother and cousins, from Bella to little Darrene and Eldric. He did not ask them to do anything more than that. It was not necessary.

The House of Black had only been primed the house for changes as they would come, surely, while ensuring that they all steered away from Voldemort.

"You may think that this is the onset of senility," Arcturus finally spoke gently. "It is not. I have never set much store by Divination, given that I have never had the talent. But there is something to say about the clarity of the vision that portended the utter destruction of our House and that of my sister's that has me taking the decisions I took today. I do not want our children murdered by that fiend Voldemort, the liar who will claim Slytherin's legacy. I have on that account refused the Malfoys and the Lestranges. We will never use marriage contracts ever again. By the vision, those marriages destroyed our House. If any attempts are made to disobey this, I will cast the person in question out of the House of Black in perpetuity."

And Sirius had never felt as close to his grandfather as he had felt then. It was rather obvious that Arcturus was not able to keep his anger, or more correctly, his terror at a possible outcome which included the destruction of the House of Black, in control – he was never as disjointed in his speech – and truly, passionately believed in the vision that he spoke of. This was as close to displaying some sort of despair as it would get for the man, something which nobody truly understood, and against which nobody could truly complain.

Lily Evans had written to every friend of hers from school. Catherine, Eleanor and Arwen, Mary, and even Remus had all written back to her. She had not yet written to Potter and Black, and intended to do so soon with the former. However, she had heard enough, and through Bellatrix, seen enough of what his family was like, so more than anything else, she believed that writing to him would make things risky for him. She would be in for a massive surprise to know what had transpired over the summer.

Two people whom she had written to, though, had not replied to her. Hadrian Jameson and Jane Bennett were the two most difficult to understand people that Lily had ever met, or she would ever hope to meet. They were nearly enemies at the start of the school year, chiefly due to Severus' jealousies and possessiveness, as Jane had scathingly named the behaviour of her best friend before Hogwarts. She had never understood the instant hatred the two had for Severus.

Speaking of Severus, he had brought a few books along. They scared Lily. She liked potions and charms the best, but even she knew to draw the lines when learning. Why would anyone want to know what a desiccation charm applied to a person's blood would do to him/her, or what boiling a person's heart in amniotic fluid would do? Moreover, he was avoiding her quite a lot these days, hiding behind those books.

As such, Lily felt quite alone, especially since Tuni was avoiding her too. Little Dennis, well not so little now, would be joining her soon, as they knew he was magical too. But he had his own friends and playmates and even his older sister was yucky at the moment.

Suddenly there was a knock at the window. Someone was throwing gravel at it. She opened the window to see who it was and promptly received a faceful of it.

"Phrak Phthroo!" she spat out in disgust, before she rubbed her face and eyes to get the dirt out.

"Sorry 'bout that Evans!" a cheery voice called out. "We thought you might have to be called again!"

It was the two people she'd been thinking of, Jameson and Bennett.

"What are you two doing here?" Lily asked in sheer surprise.

"We were passing through," answered Bennett easily. "Once you know how to slip past the matron after lunch and return before dinner..."

Lily's head disappeared from the window as she bounded down to the street. On the way out, she yelled out, "Mum! Some friends from school are out in the street! May I go?"

"Call them in, little flower," Rose called back. "I would like to meet them too!"

Lily only nodded though her mum couldn't see it.

For Harry, it was the first time he had visited his grandparents. The house was one in a small community that had small houses of two storeys standing wall to wall, either side of a cobbled street. Some had shops on the ground floor. As such, more often than not, a loud scolding in one house could be heard in the next, and probably the whole street. That explained Petunia's usual, "Don't let the neighbours see/hear!" admonishment.

As awkward as it would have been for Hadrian Jameson, it was a good thing that he could let Harry out sometimes. Nothing short of a slip like calling Rose, Lily, Petunia and Dennis by their respective prospective familial appellations would have caused much awkwardness really. And anyway, he wanted to know what his aunt was like before she became the sort of person he knew her to be.

For Hermione, though, this was her first time actually meeting someone from Lily's side of Harry's family apart from Rose and Matthew. Or, to be precise, it was her first time facing a girl who would grow to be a woman she hated as much as she hated Bellatrix Lestrange. Then again, there never would be a Bellatrix Lestrange. So she was required to dissociate Petunia Dursley she had heard and seen of, from Petunia Evans who existed.

So it was that they entered with trepidation. Lily plied them with some tea and was understandably excited. It was at such time that Rose came out to meet the guests with some homemade biscuits. She was pleasantly surprised to see the two children she loved and wasn't supposed to know as far as her daughter was concerned.

"Mum, this is Jane Bennett and this is Hadrian Jameson. They are my classmates," Lily introduced.

"I am very pleased to meet you, Jane, Hadrian," Rose greeted automatically.

"Very pleased to meet you too, Mrs. Evans," they replied, while Jane handed Rose a sheaf of papers, which, given the fact that Lily hadn't even noticed told her that they were for her and Matthew's eyes only. Rose's expression pinched for a moment out of reflex developed over the past year. Then she smiled and nodded.

"Do you live close by?" she asked. Obviously, the two visitors heard the unasked question, "What happened that you'd to come yourself?"

"No, Mrs. Evans," Hadrian replied, cutting his eyes surreptitiously to the papers in Rose's hands. "We slip out of our orphanage every now and then, and go about using the Knight Bus. We are exploring. A trip to Gringotts' and some galleons wisely used and we're even thinking of making a trip up to Carrow Road. We heard that there is a man running a small magical menagerie or something there." Jane displayed a wonderful copy of nervousness as she fidgeted with the chain around her neck.

Rose understood immediately. None of the grandparents had been involved in the planning and execution of the execution of the Carrows, but they had known of it. Well, everyone except Dorea had known of it, anyway. They had all been very careful and avoided mentioning the Carrows around the woman on Charlus' advice. The chain was that of the all-too-familiar Time Turner. Obviously, the operation was already underway even as they spoke.

They exchanged pleasantries for a while before Rose smiled and left, deftly taking along the sheaf. Lily, excited as she was, jabbered a mile a minute as she showed them her home, her and Petunia's room which Hadrian wouldn't enter because it was too pink, and introduced them to Petunia and Dennis. Jane flushed a bit as she remembered life as Hermione Granger. The parallels between Lily and her were never more pronounced than at that moment. She had only ever heard of the woman, but it had never truly registered with her how the descriptions of one often described the other.

Dennis was enthralled by his sister's friends.

"You are actually cool!" he enthusiastically declared. "I thought all magicals were idiotic gits like that Snape boy!"

"Why? What'd he do?" asked Hadrian coldly.

"He always tells me that I got magic by mistake."

Lily's eyes flashed at that. "Is that so?" she demanded. "You should have told me Dennis. He would know which way is up pretty soon," she half-snarled.

"You never liked to hear anything against him anyway," Dennis replied dismissively. "Sev is my best friend!" he squealed in a high-pitched imitation of his sister. "Sev, Sev, Sev... That's all you ever said."

I had been rather blind, it seems, mused Lily. Distance has certainly told me more about Severus than I knew about him.

"You don't worry about dear old Snivellus," Hadrian remarked. "He will learn the meaning of the word mistake pretty soon. You know where he lives?"

"Yeah," replied Petunia with a haughty sniff, entering the conversation for the first time. "Spinner's End is close enough. Third left down the street, and then take a right."

"I suppose you don't particularly like him either?"

"He has got Lily's head turned with all that freakish magic business," Petunia sniffed again, disdainfully this time. "If Dennis is better than her, he will reject it all and..."

"And he will become a bitter individual like you and Severus," snapped Jane. The word 'freakish' had affected Hadrian though only she knew him well enough to know that. "You know, you two should get together sometime. There's more similarity between you and Severus than anyone else we know."

"So rudeness and detesting us muggles," Petunia shot back archly with a sneer, "it that by default among magicals?"

"I would ask you a similar question since you behave just like the magicals we know who hate muggles. There's not much of a difference after all," Hadrian finally retorted. He turned to Lily and nodded to Rose who was standing behind her. Petunia, just like Severus, always knew where and when to show her distasteful behaviour. For Snape, it was when Lily wasn't around. For Petunia it was when her parents weren't around.

"Well it is freakish and it should be removed however it can be! Why should some have it and others shouldn't? That makes the few who have it unnatural freaks..." Petunia started, but Rose cut her off.

"That is quite enough. When Lily told on you, I had thought it was just a phase. You will not voice your opinions on all things just out of spite. Do you understand?" the mother asked in carefully controlled voice. "I will not have you picking fights with guests!"

Petunia looked at Lily and Rose scornfully as she rushed away.

"Lily, please wait outside."

Lily had rarely seen her mother dress Petunia down. She just had. So she obediently complied.

"Was it always like this?" Rose wearily asked.

"For a child less than two years of age it was considerably worse," bit out Jane. "She is just a muggle Death Eater - she and that fat bastard of a husband of hers!"

Hadrian placed a calming hand on her forearm. "Calm down love. She is still young. If we are giving everyone else a chance, we are giving her one as well."

"They hurt you!"

"She still is my Aunt. She still is mum's family."

"Yes. Then she should not have set your pig of a cousin and her husband on you to do her dirty work for her," Jane snarled. "I won't ever care what happens to her."

Rose knew she should be saying something in her daughter's defence. But then the accusations were from her grandchild – or someone who loved him.

"That's all I ask. We won't interfere in her life in any manner, Grandmother."

Rose only nodded in response.

"Anyway, I'd been working on this," he continued, changing the subject, and handing Rose what looked like a bunch of numbered stickers. There were four thousand and ninety six of them. She checked to see that they were rune-sheets. "Keep them somewhere with lots of paper, and when they run low, they will replicate. Stick these around the house on the outside and everywhere else in the area if you can find. These have a comprehensive intent-based wards based on the notice-me-not charm. Stick them around and the Death Eaters won't care. Works for imperiused people too. Don't affect the electricity and stuff. One of the schemes prevents people from noticing the stickers. If I may suggest stick them on electricity poles too. Riddle knows about electricity and targeted the power networks."

Rose nodded appreciatively. The construction and the muggle area meant that the usually cast wards were infeasible. These would work.

"Thank you, little ones," she said, gathering the two in a hug which was returned.

"So what is in those papers?"

"We have questions. We have a trip outside England to plan, but the political climate being so different from our time..."

"Where is it that you need to go?"

"The USSR," Jane replied. "Riddle's got some impressed there; apparently they are worse than he is. They are called the Cult of Rasputin."

The colour drained from Rose's face as she realised just how big a task they were planning for.

At the same time

While their time-displaced doppelgängers were visiting the Evans' home, the real M-H and F-H were taking on a pair of rather disgusting creatures.

As it happened, the Carrows really did live in Norwich, though nowhere close to the Carrow Road Stadium which served as the home for the Canaries. They lived on the borders of The Broads, on the outskirts of Wickhampton, on an unplottable 'farm'. They reared cattle there, but if people accused Aberforth of casting inappropriate charms on goats, then the very existence of whatever they called as a farm was thoroughly, disgustingly, immoral and illegal.

Breaking into the place, once they knew where to find them was easy. The place was unplottable, and not under the Fidelius. So once they kept an eye on the commercial centre of magical Britain, it was easy to find Alecto. She was no potions mistress and needed some.

The wards were nothing to speak of. Two wards, one that drove muggles away by confusion and another that burnt unwanted visitors attempting entry by force with a severity depending on how forcible they were being, were the only noteworthy obstacles. One more ward was there that worked as a very powerful detention spell for anything and everything.

"You want to bring the wards down completely?" M-H asked F-H. "I don't like the look of this last one."

"No need. I think it will be enough if we wear them out in a corner and slip in. Bringing the wards down will bring undue attention. We will have to redo this last thing, in fact. I never thought I'd agree with Death Eaters."

And that was a very valid point. The fifty-four-year-old Carrow Twins that the two had had the misfortune of meeting in 1998 were the dregs of the Death Eaters, so thoroughly incompetent and disgusting that even there fellows wanted to keep them away. There wealth had grown exponentially sometime during the mid-eighties when there was a perplexing boom in demand for various animal poisons. The Carrows had been there to snap up this demand and supply the poisons – including that of Acromantulae and basilisks. It was widely believed that the Carrows were privy to the special magics of magical cross-breeding. It was also known as flesh-forming.

It was also for that very reason why it was not wise to bring down the wards. As much as they kept people out, they also kept whatever there was a probability of there being within the premises in.

The easiest way to break a ward was to apply drains around the area that they intended to affect. The smaller the area they wanted to break the war at, the lesser the number of drains that were required. A drain was nothing more than any spell that could trigger the ward's response.

They opened a small hole in the scheme, just large enough for them to sneak in. They kept levitating on a pair of discs that had been enchanted for just that purpose. There was no telling what they'd step on.

Almost immediately, they were set upon by a buffalo crossed with a thestral.

It would have been a most singularly terrifying sight if they hadn't been expecting something similar or worse. An African Water Buffalo, with all its bulk and the horns, and with the leathery wings, blank eyes and the equine abdomen had rendered a very odd creature in its wake. Jane was the first to react and had shot three fireballs down the braying creature's throat, killing it from within seconds.


"...was grotesque," completed Hadrian, as he treated another of the Thestrals-Buffaloes to the same end.

It was only sensible that they use the Dead-Sense Spell and complete disillusionment while they redid the containment ward. This did not render them beyond the animals' senses, but it did confuse the animals as no other way apart from minute vibrations due to breathing, heartbeats and the sound of displaced air as the discs zipped towards the house, was available to pinpoint their locations.

The house was nothing larger than a barn – the sort of thing that seemed thrown together just because it was customary for humans to have something resembling a house when entertaining guests. It also had no lock, one ward to detect entry and that was it. It was a piece of cake to disable, particularly if someone was entering expecting something at least like that.

To say that the place was Spartan was an understatement. It was not furnished. Clothes were strewn haphazardly on various pegs and stands, presumably to dry.

Suddenly they were startled by an emaciated, bedraggled elf. Its ribs were jutting out of its thin, frail body.

"Master and Miss are being busy. Who is you being? Dicky tells master immediately."

M-H didn't need any prompting. The Elder Wand was snapped out and an overpowered "Obliviate!" put the pitiful thing out of commission temporarily.

"Animalium Revelare!" hissed F-H. There were no other beings in the house apart from two pulsing beings in the upstairs room.

The two slowly made their way towards their quarry and disabled the locking charms. They had caught their victims-to-be in a very horrible position. It took all their training to not even utter a protest in disgust at the act.

The Carrows were close; really, really close. And M-H and F-H found out just how close the two siblings were.

The first thing the two Hands did when they Imperiused the two...people, was to practically scream at them to stop their...business. A long interrogation that revealed the locations of an Acromantula farm, several documents on the animal experiments, aided and abetted by their late 'good friend' (their usual partner in group activities) Marcellus Rookwood and his son Augustus. Thankfully, the Rookwoods were not by any means promised anything from the Carrow estate after Marcellus' death. Then they were forced to sign on the new will. Stealing the gold was one thing. But there was also land – a very important resource considering their future plans.

They also verified the vault details. It always paid to double-check things.

Alecto and Amycus soon went around to the Ministry to register this new will. The stipulation was that the estate would go to anyone who could produce 'The Slicer', a magical artefact that was used in flesh-forming, and one that only they had, would be the next Heir. The Slicer was promptly confiscated. The inheritance could be handled in private. Following that Alecto was forced to give Dicky clothes. The poor thing, which only remembered that it was an elf, was left there for the little while it would take for them to go about their business of the day.

The Hands were required to be thorough.

The two heaven-sent mercenaries immediately made their way to Gringotts.

"So, what is the way to steal from Gringotts'?"

M-H smiled a feral smile. "Remember the Zarthrok's crystals? For the goblins, these are practically the lifeblood for their bank. This is not only because of them being excellent magical capacitors. They are the best emulators for Goblin magic."

"And?" prompted F-H, as they stood on a corner close to the bank while M-H checked his tools.

"And I may have had a meeting with old Pinch of the Hook clan, who coincidentally has a son called Griphook. Pinchhook may have revealed that this crystal is what works within the doors and that the crystal in the lock has a stored set of magical signatures which are matched when the goblins finger the lock."

"And I presume Pinchhook has no knowledge of the meeting and that his magical signature has been emulated, or that he has revealed that their most precious object is their most terrible dependency and could be their fall."

"None at all," M-H replied as he grinned back. "Come on."

In anticipation for this visit, the two had borrowed the Invisibility Cloak from Charlus. Both donned it, and with the discs which were now coupled and which only now F-H realised had the crystals embedded into them, flew down to vault 474, the Carrows' vault. She watched as M-H donned a glove with the fingertips and the palm area again affixed with the crystals, which he ran down the length of the lock, unlocking it. Once it was open, he carefully closed it behind him.

"Check for curses."

She did. There were none. She hurriedly shovelled the entire contents of the vault into her trademark Undetectably Extended Bags. M-H opened the door from within, and cast a powerful notice-me-not charm on the vault that would end in about thirty-five hours, and then they once again donned the cloak, and took off.

It was a successful heist. And it also told them that the goblins were in the habit of dipping into vaults as they were unimpeded. They had stayed within the bank to check if any alarms had gone off. They hadn't.

At the end of the hour, they returned to the Carrows' place, and ended up felling most of the beasts, keeping only a few specimens alive of each. Hagrid could be persuaded to study them. These specimens were trapped into stasis and ever-lasting ice and then shrunk. Dicky the house-elf was treated similarly. They were saving him from certain death, and all help was appreciated.

Then they turned their attention to the stunned Carrow siblings. A lethal alcohol-based poison, which would kill them in thirty-six hours of severe dehydration and would be effective till about a hundredth of its dosage value was left in the body, was injected.

They would visit the Alley in spite of their dehydration. The two would die just outside Gringotts' just after accusing the Hook clan of stealing their wealth. The complaint would be made to the joint complaints board consisting of one senior goblin from each of the seventeen clans. The poison would remain undetected as a large amount would evaporate through their sweat.

The anonymous tipper who informed the clans about the smuggling cartel and the theft would then trade the information that a goblin named Griphook had asked certain parties for help against the clans and would be offering the secret of Goblin-made items in return. An inquiry would be launched against the clan and since the last signature would be of a member of the Hook clan, and with the information about Griphook, Goblin justice would be served, internally, with reparations being made.

It was an elaborate execution-cum-revenge-cum swindling plan.

James was rocking on the balls of his feet as the muggle installed a whole bunch of wires and the telephone instrument in the new muggle-visible outhouse that father had had constructed. It was one of the set of three such connections in a place not belonging to a muggleborn – newblood, as Dad and Mum now called them. The Longbottoms had one, as did Hogwarts and so did they. James was unsure why it was so, but then he was excited. If nothing else, he could just call somebody just for fun.

It was not surprising. James Potter being James Potter, his mind would fly towards prank calls, and the idea of thousands of people, though only muggles and no other wizards or witches, on whom to pull pranks, made him shiver in anticipation. He would soon learn about telemarketers, however.

"Jamie?" called Darrene, tugging on her brother's sleeve.


"Why are we getting this thing?"

"So that we can talk to muggles," he answered. "They don't use Owls, and this is way faster."

"Really?" she asked, surprised. "They can make better things without magic?" Darrene had never been exposed to the other side of the Great Divide.

"Yes. I have got many muggleborn friends in my year. Lily told me they have aeroplanes which can fly many people through the sky in one aeroplane at the same time."

Darrene was suitably impressed. Then she had another question.

"Who will we talk to though? How do we send them the telephone?"

"We call them by punching the numbers. It is like they have a special number-name. I asked Da."

"But who do we call? We don't know people!"

"Mum does, actually. You know what Uncle Arcturus was talking about? Mum met many of the people and got the phone numbers of the people who have phones. Many do, now. There will be muggleborn in your year. You can talk to them as well."

"So you can talk to that Lily girl?" Darrene teased.

James scowled. "Are you teasing me? I won't tell you anything then."

"Touchy, you are," Darrene teased.

"Why you little..." started James. Darrene's laughter rang through the house as James chased after her.

* The Film Grimmauld Place is in the Borough of Islington.

^ Credit to Der-la-Croix for the term 'flesh-forming'.