Chapter 9: Good Things Come to an End

The land was nearly pure white. Blanketed in a snow so bitingly cold it might as well have been ice water. Fortunately, Pucas were excellent and swift burrowers. Having taken shelter and avoided what surely would have been a huge detriment to his HP levels, Harry carefully rose from his hidden hole. A stark contrast to his previous look, Harry now sported white fur that blended in perfectly with the waist deep snow that covered the area.

Now blind to the world thanks to his ability, Harry looked around and tried to find his adversary. To his confusion and worry, the Midnight Lady was not to be seen. As he began to look around, Harry's speed saved him when he heard sudden rustling coming from behind. The transformed youth still tripped over what he realized with a quick glance was an upturned root. Which was moving! Looking back, Harry realized that the large graveyard tree was moving back and forth as though it were an animate living being.

"Oh, crap!" were his thoughts at the snow-covered monstrosity that swayed back and forth.


Possessed Ancient Strangler – Puppet of the Moonlight Lady– Lv 24

HP: 4500

STA: 2200

MP: 1000

STR: 86

VIT: 150

DEX: 33

END: 78

INT: 24

WIS: 27

CHA: 15

SPI: 30

LUK: 25

DEF: 85

Specialization

None

Special Perks

Dungeon Boss [Lv 2]: All attributes and defence increased by 15, +25% Power, Speed and Effectiveness towards all skills, +750 HP, +250 STA and MP

Possessed: Possess some of the Perks, Special Perks, and Flaws of the one possessing you

Perks

Why You Little! [Lv 3]: +60% increase towards [Grappling Based-Skills], +30% increase towards Effectiveness, Power, and Speed towards [Martial Arts]

Slugger [Max]: +50% chance of causing [Dazed] related debuffs when using [Martial Arts]

Dark Enchanted Tree [Lv 3]: +60% towards [Physical Resistance], +30% towards [Magic Resistance], +30% towards [Stealth], +30% towards [Dark Arts Resistance], +30% towards [Earth-Tremor]

Titles

Master of the Cemetery: Grants the skill [Summon Allies], Allies gain +15% towards Attributes, Movement Speed, and Effectiveness, Power, and Speed towards Skills when in same area

Flaws:

Rooted: [Movement] disabled, [Evasion] disabled

Dry-Aged Lumber: -100% towards [Fire Resistance], +25% Critical Chance towards [Fire-Based Skills] for enemy, [Burning] debuff evolves to [Severe Burning] when afflicted

Description: Stranglers are large cursed sentient magical plant life that have been brought into being through dark means. Also known as Hangman Trees, Stranglers are a result of multiple hanging's occurring over the tree's lifetime and through dark forces and desire from those that were hung on its branches it became cursed and developed a negative personality alongside its longing for the lives of others. Remaining motionless for days or even months at a time, Stranglers wait for their prey to appear nearby and then strike with speed and suddenness that belies their hulking form with many suffocating their prey or squeezing the life out of them with their roots or branches. As a result of the dark reputation, Hangman Trees were hunted down and burned or chopped because of the threats they possessed to those living near them. When the practice of condemning those to the noose came to an end, these trees became very rare and many of them went dormant because the curse that gave them life was no longer being fuelled. This one in particular is possessed by a Wraith that was formerly a witch and while its abilities are still limited, it can perform feats none of its kind, or its distant relatives the Whopping Willow or Elderwood, can be associated with.

EXP Earned: ?

Drops: ?, ?, ?

Rare Drops: ?

Guaranteed Boss Drop: ?, ?


|Warning! Warning!|

|Ancient Strangler is currently being protected by the magic spell [Armor of Winter]!|

"Oh, figgs," Harry had an inkling as to what the spell did: grant armor, and/or reduce the effectiveness of fire related spells and skills. A quick duck and roll to avoid being impaled from the evil trees multi-fingered arms was performed by Harry before he countered with a slash from a fire coated dagger.

Which did nothing but prove his assumption.

With his superior speed, the transformed Harry was able to evade the tree's attempts at turning him into paste or skewer him into kabob. A few close calls occurred even then and more than once did a root suddenly rise from the ground and messed up his groove with a well-placed trip.

Having fallen once more, Harry slashed on reflex as the roots made another effort in grabbing his swift and elusive form. The roots were quick to rise but not so quick to nab him given Harry was much quicker. Surprisingly enough, cutting through the roots was relatively easy. Blinking at the broken pieces of the tree, Harry surmised that while the tree trunk and branches were safe thanks to the ice armor that cloaked its bulky form, the roots likely had no such benefit.

Testing the theory quickly, Harry mentally cried, "Coldfire Slash!" and watched as Will-O-Wisp sliced through the tree's many gnarled underground limbs. The roots caught fire and much like the corpse he had burned before the boss fight did the flames hungrily devour its target.

The trick proved true. What he didn't expect was seeing the main body of the Strangler being licked by blue flames. The boss thrashed and gave off its own version of a wail, deep and mournful. Harry compared the sound than came from the Strangler to the one given off by the moving trees from the Lord of the Rings movies. It was eerily similar.

|You have nullified the Strangler's [Armor of Winter]!|

|Massive Critical Damage has occurred!|

|Strangler now suffering from the debuff [Severe Burning: Lv 1]!|

Severe Burning, Harry noted, was a very nasty debuff that could take well over 40% of a person's health if depending on the right circumstances and if nothing was done. However, Harry didn't know if the debuff would last long with the boss perks or do that amount of damage and didn't know if the damn thing would now change tactics.

Moving in to take advantage of the opportunity that presented itself, Harry began dashing forward until he suddenly slammed into wall that made him see stars. Above him and circling him was a wall of ice as tall as a house. The imprisoning structure became the least of his worries as the snow began to shift and break apart. Rotting bodies crawled out of cold dirt and snow like hungry maggots, their arms outreached towards him as though he were easy prey.

"Cutting Wind!" the enchanted dagger coupled with Harry's speed and Cold-Fire Slash made dealing with the undead horde embarrassingly easy. The horde reanimated undead didn't last even half a minute and once they were gone, so too was the wall of conjured ice.

Running and then jumping, Harry raised his weapon high and with all his might sliced at one of the tree's branches that tried to knock him away. Even with his superior physical strength the act proved difficult. The branch was cut off but another took its place and Harry was knocked flat on his back onto the snow-covered ground.

Normally such pain would bring tears to the eyes of an ordinary ten-year old child. But Harry was far from normal and stopping himself from crying was something he had learned for a very long time. Instead, he merely got back up and attacked once again.

—}x|X|x{—

"Gaunter O'Dimm? Do you find yourself amusing?" of all the things to be said none were expected those words.

"You've heard of him?" Nicolas couldn't help but ask. Even O'Dimm looked curious.

"O'Dimm is a character from an old Polish fairy tale my grandmother once told me. The story has different versions but the basis remains the same. A man makes a deal with a being, something powerful, usually the Devil, and is granted three wishes in exchange for his soul. To outwit them, the man creates a special clause he believes will save him. Depending on the version, the tale ends with him losing his life or worse, or escapes the wish granter's grasp but ends up trapped with no means of escape," Minerva informed the group.

"Ah, you're referring to tale of Pan Twardowski and his deal with the Devil," Gaunter laughed, "That was easily one of my better deals."

"You can't seriously expect me to believe you're the Devil: the fallen archangel, the king of demons and monsters himself, the ruler of Hell of the Abrahamic religions. A mad man, I can believe, but the Devil you are not," her stance on the matter was resolute and it made Gaunter laugh, as though he had heard this before.

"On that, my dear, we can agree. Except for me being mad. I assure you, I have all my wits about me. Have I been called the Devil himself before? Oh, I believe I've lost count of how many times such circumstances have occurred. Have I done black hearted things that many would deem monstrous? Again, I've lost count. But believe me when I say that each and every individual I've dealt with always received what they asked for," O'Dimm smiled.

"And in return you take their souls," Nicolas give him a pointed look while Minerva looked at the ancient alchemist queerly.

"Like I've said countless times before 'a deal is a deal'," was all O'Dimm commented, "I've never forced anyone to accept any of my deals, nor have I gone back on the promises I swore to upkeep. If you're not interested, I will happily leave this place and take my business elsewhere."

"You mean locate Harry for someone else," Dumbledore frowned at his casual shrug.

And the man followed up with an equally casual answer, "I go where there's business to be had and I know that anything involving that boy certainly involves my line of work."

"Then why haven't you done anything before?" Albus asked the million galleon question, "It's no secret that countless many would love nothing more than to have their hand on the poor boy. If you've the means to do so, why come to us first?"

"Finally, an intelligent question," Gaunter applauded. But when he said nothing and he saw their expecting look, "If you're waiting for me to divulge my reasons as if I were a commonplace villain then you've all read too many fairy tales. I may or may not tell you my reasons. But that will be for another time, and another place."

"I still believe this is pure foolishness," was Minerva's rebuke, "How can we put our trust in a man who claims to be the Devil!"

"Believe what you want, Minerva but that man before you is who he claims to be. He's no demon. But he is powerful," Nicolas told the witch. At the same time, Albus was aware that the immortal wizard never said what he was either.

"You flatter me. The both of you. But, as I said, I'm not him, my dear. And for that, you should be eternally thankful. If you don't believe me then believe in your alchemist compatriot. Nicolas and I go back a very long time. A very, very long time," a cryptic remark if there ever was one, "However, it's abundantly clear that I'll need to show you proof of my capabilities. So, here it is. The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies," the man finished knowingly.

Albus said nothing but his eyes remained glued to the man before him. Minerva did the same but now bore a perplexed look whilst her mind was going a thousand miles a minute. Nicolas, on the other hand, summed up his thoughts in one word. "Fuck," crude and uncouth as it was, the word did the situation justice, "A prophecy, Albus! When were you going to tell me?"

"I thought it best that few knew about it. Not all secrets should be shared," Nicolas would have rebuked had it not been a piece of advice Albus learned from himself. But while it was dropped for now, Dumbledore knew he and Nicolas would be having a conversation later.

"Sorry to disappoint but knowing secrets none desire to have out in the open are part of my trade," he said; the meaning behind Gaunter's words left ambiguous, "But let me give you a piece of free advice. There will come a time when both adversaries must face the other. When that time comes, Albus, don't interfere and don't get involved. When Fate makes a proclamation you best stay out of its way. Much like with myself a price is always involved when it comes to ancient, powerful cosmic forces. If you try to trick your way out of it, or try and alter the fate of another, I guarantee you will long for something as sweet as death. And not just you. Oh, no, that would be much too easy. Fate is very vengeful. Depending on the severity, to deny its will is to bring a blight upon not just those you care for, but those around you and who they care for and those around them and so forth. Ever heard of the Great Pestilence?" also more commonly known as the Black Death.

Seeing their horrified looks and knowing exactly what they were thinking, Gaunter spoke before either of them could, "Before you ask, I was not involved in that. That was the doing of another more powerful chaotic force. And, unless you wish for such a travesty of similar devastation to occur in the future, you best leave well enough alone. Harry Potter and your Dark Lord are destined to fight. No double or interpretative meaning about it. They will face one another and when their duel concludes one will fall by the other's hand. Who shall fall and who shall be triumphant, I cannot say," Dumbledore could tell by the look in his eyes that O'Dimm was not lying. He was warning them.

On the other hand, "You can't be serious!" Minerva could not believe what she was hearing. Much of what she heard in this meeting was simply impossible for the Hogwart's Transfigurations Professor to fathom.

"Of course not. Sirius Black is in Azkaban," the man smiled as the response almost made the woman wince, an old memory of a happier time appearing in her mind.

"Prophecies are up for interpretation," Minerva deflected. Divination and seers were things the witch disregarded as absolute hogwash. Minerva had little patience for them, or for those who were foolish enough to believe in them, due to how imprecise they were and because most 'seers' now a days were disappointing charlatans, "What makes you so certain?"

"True. Some are indeed. But not this one, my dear. Either must meet their end at the hands of the other. They will fight and one will die. No ifs or buts. I've forewarned you all, but if you'd like to take your chances then by all means. As to how I know all this? Let's just say I have very good eyes," the cryptic reply almost earned him a hex from the irritated woman.

By now, however, Dumbledore was certain O'Dimm wasn't a man, or a wizard. But something else entirely. The Hogwart's headmaster had a sneaking suspicion that his deputy headmistress had some inklings also but the younger witch was often too skeptical for her own good at times.

"Now, I believe we have gotten off track. You wish the boy found, ask and I shall find him. My usual fee is quite ... extreme, shall we say, but the results are quite accomplishing. However, seeing as we aren't performing the usual genie act at the moment, I'll settle for something else to be named upon his safe return. Fear not, it will not result in me taking the souls of another or that little trinket you have on you Nicolas," here Gaunter produced an old scroll parchment and presented the writing medium to Dumbledore, "Now, do we have a deal?"

—}x|X|x{—

Harry honestly never felt more exhausted than he ever did right then and there. His body ached and his limbs felt like jelly from all the constant nonstop running he had to do. But it was worth it.

Behind him, the Strangler remained but was now more reminiscent of an ice sculpture than an actual tree. Frozen stiff and shining like illuminated glass, Harry watched as it began to crack and then shatter just like the brittle substance. The sound of broken crystal falling onto the ground and it striking each other as gravity took hold filled the area before Harry was greeted by a very welcoming message.

|QUEST COMPLETED!|

Where there be Dungeons?

Main Quest: Find the natural dungeons in the Little Whinging area! (4/4 ACCOMPLISHED)

Secondary Main Quest: Conquer the dungeons of the Little Whinging area! (4/4 ACCOMPLISHED)

Rewards: (4600 +10% = 5060 EXP), +4 AP, Dungeon Master: Lv 1 Title

Finding and attacking the core where the Wraith had settled at the roots of the tree during an escape attempt had been nothing but pure luck. This had easily been his most challenging boss fight. And, in all honesty, Harry had his fill of dungeons for the next little bit.

"Or, at least, I'm good with bosses," Harry laughed and watched as his cold breath danced in the air above him.

The boy smiled and would have welcomed a level up as his mind finally registered just how very much exhausted his body was by his efforts. Finally allowing himself to fall down on his rear for a much need break, Harry felt his Puca form revert back into his human one. Using the Minor-Grade Wiggenweld Potion he acquired a while back to restore his fatigue and stamina levels would have been an option, but with the dungeon conquered and him out of danger it would be a pricy waste. Instead, Harry opted to go in a meditative pose and then looked to his side and eyed the dropped loot.


Ring of the Moonlight Lady – Rare Quality

Item Type: Accessory

Durability: 85/85

Description: A ring belonging to the Moonlight Lady from before she became a Wraith. This ring was used by the witch to make spell casting both easier and more effective and could be used a medium to store magic in case of an emergency. In addition, some of her powers of her time as a Wraith have melded with the ring, slightly empowering the user further when fighting at night, and even more on the night of a full moon.

Buffs/Perks: +15% increase in Power, Speed, EXP, and Effectiveness towards [Spells], +15% increase towards [Ice Resistance]

Special Ability: Arcane Battery [Lv 1], [Power of Night: Lv 1], [Power of the Full Moon: Lv 1]


Spell Book [Frost Nova]

Item Type: Enhancement

Durability: One-Time Use

Description: An old and minor spell but a useful one nonetheless that causes a magical wave of cold and ice to explode from the caster. The spell doesn't cause any damage upon use as its main purpose is a means of hampering the senses of its victims as well as immobilizing them. The skill is best used in close quarters due to its limited range, especially in the beginning but mastering the spell and its advanced variants will lead to a truly effective crow controlling ability in your arsenal.

Buffs/Perks: Grants the spell [Frost Nova]


Emerald Dust – Uncommon Quality

Item Type: Crafting Regent

Durability: One-Time Use

Description: A fine powder made from lesser quality emeralds but still good enough to be used as crafting components in multiple branches of magic.


Harry sighed. Aside from the pouch of money he saw beside the powdered emeralds, all there was left was the dungeon key. It wasn't that what he earned was bad or anything. But Harry was hoping to get a focus from the Wraith given her ring pretty much proved she used to be a witch.

A focus would have been a welcoming addition since it would help him channel his spells more quickly and efficiently. Trying to find one outside a registered focus-maker, or one that would work properly, was a pain that persisted for months. Harry hoped that he'd find one in the dungeons but thus far his luck was working against him.

Tomorrow was another day, he thought. The boy getting up from his cold spot once he felt he recovered enough to at least stand without his legs threatening to buckle underneath him. Not by much, but it was tolerable now as he began grabbing his loot. Harry laughed at the irony of it all after he saw the last message and felt his body become lighter. All that time wasted sitting on his butt when all he had to do was pick up a bloody key.


|QUEST COMPLETED!|

Key Collector

Main Quest: Find the keys of the natural dungeons in the Little Whinging area! (4/4 ACCOMPLISHED)

Rewards: (2000 +10% = 2200 EXP), +1 OPP, [Secret Instant Dungeon Unlocked]


|Congratulations!|

|You have now learned the [Instant Dungeon Creation] and [Instant Dungeon Escape] skills!|

|Instant Dungeon Creation: Lv 1. 0% to Next Lv| Mastering Speed: E| Allows you to create and enter and add effects to illusion barrier-based dungeons as well as affect other dungeons. At your current level you're limited to only entering and exiting an Instant Dungeon at any time but can do so almost anywhere.

Can enter the following dungeons:

- Ancient Forest Dungeon: Version 1

- Secret Instant Dungeon: Version 1


|Congratulations! Your level has increased by one!|

Status Window

Name: Harry James Potter

Job: N/A

Level: 16 Next Level: 1169.1/12000

HP: 1000 + [25] - 1025

STA: 1075 + [25] - 1100

MP: 1300 + [50] - 1350

STR: 33 + [1] - 34

VIT: 40 + [1] - 41

DEX: 59 + [1] - 60

END: 43 + [1] - 44

INT: 37 + [1] - 38

WIS: 32 + [1] - 33

CHA: 30 + [1] - 31

SPI: 46 + [2] - 48

LUK: ?

Attribute Points: 51 + [2] - 53

OPP: 1 + [1] - 2

SPP: 1


(The Next Day)

"What's this?" Petunia asked the Hogwarts Headmaster, none too pleased to see him either. The fact that another one of his kind was with him only served to flare her anger even more. Vernon and Dudley being gone for the next little while was a blessing.

Truthfully, she'd rather not deal with the lord knows how old freak that was Dumbledore after the incident that destroyed her house and effectively ruined the holidays for her family. Nearly three months had passed since then and they had no contact with anyone from that freakish world ever since her sister's son went missing. Ever since that fateful night, Petunia sorely regretted ever taking him in. He was no kin of hers.

But then just minutes ago, the freak who ruled over that school of freaks her sister went to, arrived on her doorstop and had been very adamant in seeing her. A pulse of his magic and the tone of his voice had utterly silenced Petunia, making her feel like she was a little girl being severely punished by her parents. Not wanting anything done to her home again, or anything done to her family, Petunia had no choice but to let them in.

"That Petunia is a document stating that you are handing over your legal rights as guardian to Harry Potter to this woman, Andromeda Tonks nee Black. Your brother in law's first cousin, twice removed," Dumbledore's explanation was short, sweet and to the point. Accomplishing this had not been an easy task in the last three months, but at least he managed to acquire success in this difficult venture.

"What's the catch?" Petunia wasn't a very intelligent woman, especially when compared to her sister, but she wasn't stupid either. Or, at least not stupid enough to sign without knowing what it implied.

"Simple. Upon signing this document not only will you bequeath Harry to Andromeda, but you will also have no more dealings with the Magical World ever again. All knowledge you have of it, anything you've known about it, will be gone," he said.

"What! Like I'll let some freak meddle with my mind and free will!" the horse-faced woman looked insulted, "The last time I saw you did I learn my own sister's freak destroyed my house and your kind did something to my memories and that of my family and who else saw what happened. And now you're telling me to sign this and end up having you do God knows what to them even more? No! I won't do it! If not signing this means-"

"Oh, please don't. It'll give me great pleasure beating that horse shaped skull of yours like a Bludger," the dark brown-haired woman who had a regal but kindly look about her now threatened.

Petunia didn't know what a Bludger was, only paying to bits and pieces of information when her sister spoke of the Wizarding World, but the manner in which the woman spoke of and the way she described it didn't give Petunia a pleasant image. It sounded painful, excruciating painful actually, "Who are you exactly?"

Andromeda rolled her eyes at the stupid question. She had been introduced after all no less than a minute ago, "Andromeda Tonks, and I'm a woman who's beginning to lose patience and one who's sorely tempted to curse you within an inch of your pathetic life," Andromeda's voice almost turned into a savage snarl and Petunia had no doubt she'd follow through with it.

"You wouldn't dare! Your freak laws prevent you-"

"Our laws also allow us retribution by blood if the offence is great enough!" the woman's form rose much like her tone, "And believe you me, it's more than great enough in my eyes. Not only did you neglect and mistreat the only living heir and remaining member of a long and well-known wizarding bloodline, and the Boy-Who-Lived, but also your actions nearly caused the Statute of Secrecy to be broken. And you pissed me off something terrible, you pathetic excuse of human being," Andromeda stopped the woman in her tracks. "So long as it doesn't result in your death, legally the law says anything I do to you and your family as compensation for your actions against Harry is nice and legal. And I'm sorely tempted to do just that," here the woman gave off a look that made Petunia feel like she was staring into the eyes of a demon.

Dumbledore stayed silent between all this and let Andromeda play it out. The woman had been cast out of her family for marrying a muggleborn, but she was still finely tuned in the ways of a Black. It was both incredible and somewhat frightening to see how the woman could turn it on and off. For one moment she was Andromeda, the sweet nurturing mother and friend of many and the next moment when she brought out her colder half, the man swore he was looking at her older, mad sister, Bellatrix. It was something the woman had used many times and perfected during her career as a magical barrister. It had led to a lot of criminals to fess up and won her many cases as well. And earned her just as many adversaries.

Seeing Petunia shaking like a leaf, Dumbledore decided to intervene, "I'll be frank, Petunia. Due to no will being found or made before their deaths everything went to Harry due to British Wizarding Law. Additionally, because many believe I'm the one protecting and teaching him, much of the responsibilities of managing the Potter Family affairs have been pushed onto me when the previous executer of affairs and estate perished during the war," it had been much to the man's great reluctance of course, though better him than those who'd take advantage of it.

Dumbledore had made certain of that. Due to the lack of a will the goblins of Gringotts had tried to claim the Potter vaults for their own. As was the goblins' right in accordance to their cutthroat and archaic laws. It had only been due to Dumbledore's quick actions that their plan had been stopped, even then the man didn't doubt a good portion of galleons were gone. The man didn't doubt it would be more due to the bad blood between a previous Potter patriarch and members of the Goblin Nation since the man's hadn't been for allowing them to become Magical Europe's bankers.

Dumbledore didn't know the exact story, but he recalled Charlus telling him that the Potters were distrustful of goblins because of the incident. It was the reason why only a portion of the family wealth was in Galleons and the rest in other currencies with more reliable sources. During the past Goblin Rebellions many wizarding families found themselves with less wealth at the end of it as the goblins had total monopoly of the wizarding wealth in Europe.

The Potters didn't become a wealthy family without being frugal with their wealth; having developed several contingencies plans on the off chance another rebellion occurred or if the goblins suddenly decided they no longer wished to handle the finances of wizards. This meant that seventy five percent of the family wealth in galleons or the equivalent in goods owned became forfeit according to a clause in the treaty. The Potters had been smart compared to other older families who left their entire finances to many that were deemed as lesser beings.

Secretly it was Andromeda that was managing things until Harry was old and wise enough to manage it himself. As a law practitioner the woman was certainly qualified, "It was also the reason why Harry was to live with you in the first place. You are the closest living relative he has and therefor held the greatest claim on him. As result, the British Ministry of Magic was unable to contest it. Had I known all this would happen, I would never have left him with you. When word spreads about what happened here, your lives will be in danger."

"But you said we'd be protected! You swore we'd-"

"That is no longer my problem, Petunia," was the man's unusually cold reply, "You're a grown woman, not a child. I would have thought being a mother and knowing of Lily's demise would have curbed your jealousy. I honestly thought you would have loved the boy as your own. Instead, you saw him as a stygma. And you took out your anger and hate towards anything magical on Harry. You have proven to me that I was wrong, Petunia. I made the wrong choice, and I will forever have to shoulder it. I only met your parents a few times, but even I could tell they'd be deeply ashamed of you. Even Lily, who I know wanted to patch things up between the two of you despite your stubbornness, would be ashamed to call you her sister," Dumbledore stated, a long hard look framed upon his wizened features while Petunia looked stuck between outrage and tearful.

"This document is your only way out," he patted the form that was neatly placed on the table, "And in signing over Harry's guardianship to Andromeda, not only will it make seem as though your family knew nothing of the magic world, your sister, and your nephew but it will absolve you of any wrong doings formerly done to your nephew as well. It's either that, or you will face the wrath of the Wizengamot, and as a muggle woman who despises anything magical you do not want to deal with them. At best they'll imprison you and Vernon in Azkaban," the man saw the woman stiffen and pale at the very mention of the name.

"Good, you know what I'm referring to. At worst they will strip you of your memory and separate you from your family," in reality it was a bluff, but Petunia was ignorant of the British Magical World's laws and used this to his advantage.

The tactic ultimately succeeded as Petunia grabbed the paper document and with pen in hand, she began to flourish her signature. Ignorant of the fact that in truth it had been a law up until the late nineteenth century where it was then revoked by order of the former Minister of Magic. Many Purebloods who had little regarding for muggleborn and their mundane counterparts had not been pleased by the order, especially since the minister had been a half-blood, and many attempts to re-establish the law had failed.

"Here, it's done. Take it and be gone! The sooner you leave the better. Don't expect any help from us in finding the little freak," Petunia stated.

"Thank you, and with pleasure!" Andromeda eagerly took the signed document and promptly left the horrible place least she burn it to the ground.

"Now then, as for Harry's current predicament," Dumbledore began but was interrupted.

"What about him? Didn't you hear what I just said? He isn't my problem anymore. So, don't expect me giving him shelter if he rears his frostbitten head here," she practically screeched.

"Have you truly so little love for you sister and her son that you'd cast him out during winter if he came seeking your help?" the man couldn't help asking. Few people in his long life had the man ever considered soulless beings, and before him was one.

The thought of Harry out there alone, cold, hungry and scared and being denied help from his family caused a hard look to morph onto his usually kind and grandfatherly face and the room vibrated slightly, "If I hear word that Harry came back looking for your assistance and you turned him away, or if you attempt to do so in the future or attempt to treat him poorly if he does return, you will not like the results. Are we clear?" the woman could only nod and the vibrating stopped as a result.

"Very well. Should Harry come around, notify us immediately and someone will come and get him. Petunia. Goodbye," even though he said the word, the intent behind it didn't reach it, and Dumbledore left the shaken woman alone in her normal and average home.

Passing by Andromeda, who bore the look of a thrilled child, Dumbledore made some simple small talk with her before taking his leave with a pop. Upon him being out of sight, Andromeda smirked as she made to put her own plans in motion. The form Petunia signed absolved her of past wrong doings in the eyes of the British Wizarding World, not once did it say anything about the one the wretch of a woman lived in. If Petunia believed she and her family were going to get off scot-free for everything they put her future ward through, they had another thing coming. The Dursley family was about to learn the serious consequences when it came to crossing a mad Black woman.

Payback, as her husband said, was a bitch.

—}x|X|x{—

"Good day, Lucius," Cornelius Fudge said as his friend and confidante left the office.

"Good day, Minister," was the aristocratic looking man's reply as he made his way back home. The head of the Malfoy family knew he had some covering up to do thanks to recent developments. Things needed to be set up, people needed to disappear, and many things had to be sorted in a short amount of time. Luckily, Lucius was a very competent individual compared to other members of the ministry.

While it was true his positions as Advisor to the Minister of Magic and Governor of Hogwarts were due to his status and family name; Lucius, unlike others, was actually deserving of the positions due to his academic achievements and intelligence. Where others relied mostly on their family standing and money, the Malfoy patriarch had the intelligence required of his station to back himself up. His late father, Abraxas Malfoy, had taught him a long time ago that money and fame would only get one so far. It was one of the main reasons why the Dark Lord had chosen the man as one of his top Death Eaters and made him a part of the inner circle.

Lucius was many things, but stupid was not one of them. Arrogant and bigoted, quick to anger when wronged in a certain manner, very much so, but not stupid. One did not get to where he was in life by being incompetent. He was a very skilled duelist, a former British Duelling competitor that had frequently won his fair share of competitions in his youth in the local circuit. He was second only to Dolohov, an International Duelling competitor, and on par with his mad sister-in-law, Bellatrix. However, while she lacked his skill and versatility, Bellatrix more than made up for it by using a very dangerous and unpredictable duelling style that served to overpower her victims.

Unlike most Death Eaters, Lucius was also a very accomplished politician and businessman with the connections necessary to achieve the Dark Lord's plans. Lucius knew that with the Dark Lord vanquished, even if it was only temporary if rumours were to go by, he was of better use to him outside of Azkaban. It was one thing to be devoted and loyal to a cause, but it was an entirely different matter to be obsessed and blind when it was clearly becoming a sinking ship.

Those who went to Azkaban willingly were fools in his mind. Should the Dark Lord return, though a part of Lucius prayed he didn't, Lucius wanted to show him he had at least actually done something productive rather than wallow and waste away into madness in a cell filled with floating cloaked horrors. The man believed he and those who managed to escape their fate were better suited to help him in the ministry and weakening it from within. It was one of the reasons why Lucius supported Fudge and assisted the man in his election campaign when Bagshot announced her 'retirement'.

More like forced out of office when 'evidence' of bribes, abuse of power, the latter actually being true, among other things she was accused of. While the woman didn't support the Dark Lord, she, like many born from her time, did have a bit of prejudice against muggles and muggleborns. It was times like this that Lucius was glad the Daily Prophet was so easily bought and libel laws were practically non-existent in the United Kingdom. Though even he was not foolish enough to know it could end up as a double edge sword at times.

The woman knew that if she wanted to avoid Azkaban, and decrease the loss of what remaining influence she had to her name, she needed to get out of office. As such, her name still had worth in certain circles. Her replacement, Cornelius Fudge, was a decent minister, but that's if one wanted to be kind. He was not exceptionally intelligent, but he was intelligent enough for the post and for peaceful times. But Lucius knew the man was weak willed and not someone who should be in charge during times of conflict. Lucius knew the man hadn't taken to ill news very well during the war and wished to remain ignorant. Lucius surmised it was the man's way of coping with it all.

This only made it easier for him to manipulate, or 'assist him'. It was through patience and careful planning that many divisions in the ministry that could pose a threat, or hamper in the least, in the future were now ill prepared should they face opposition. Lucius had been careful by not suggesting the ideas to the minister himself, merely planting them into those he knew would bring it forth and claim it as their own. This merely worked in his favour in not only protecting his interest and name, but in weakening the ministry as well.

Not enough to make them utterly helpless, but enough to make it less difficult to deal with. "And now Bones and Dumbledore having slowly begun to set those plans back," the man frowned. Not by much but enough that it was noticeable. By his calculations, it would still take the two years to undo what it had taken him and others decades to without appearing in a negative light.

Even, then Lucius wasn't going to chance it and had prepared for such an eventuality, though perhaps the ministry would be slightly more ready than he hoped. But the man had learned long ago that one sometimes had no choice but to roll with the hand they were dealt when nothing could be done. Tomorrow was another day for better opportunities.

Upon arriving at Malfoy Manor, a structure easily dating back ten centuries but had a remarkable upkeep that most lacked – though the use of magic offered an unfair advantage – a pop to his left had the man turning around to see his ragged looking house-elf, Dobby, "What is it?"

"Letter arrived for you, Master Malfoy, sir. Letter from Mr.–" the diminutive creature tried to inform him but was cut off.

"Enough, Dobby," stupid as the house-elf was, Lucius saw that Dobby had enough intelligence to realize he was being reprimanded by his master. Snatching the letter from the elf's outstretched hand, the master of Malfoy Manor dismissed the small being whose departure left an audible pop in the air.

If House-Elves weren't in short supply Lucius would have replaced Dobby in a heartbeat. While the manor had wards, others had been put in place by the ministry whose function he was unaware of. Words had to be chosen carefully as a result.

Even though he was seen as innocent in the eyes of the Wizengamot for his actions in the last war, Dumbledore and others had taken advantage of the Dark Lord's demise in the beginning. Privacy wards weren't allowed to be erected as a result and surveillance based ones monitored by the Ministry of Magic were. While many of his fellow Death Eaters argued against the necessity of those wards being placed, Lucius knew well enough not to push his luck. And because of him willingly accepting this and with how close he was to Fudge and how well he positioned himself over the years, and greasing a few pockets here and there to ensure those who monitored his family could be easy to deal with, Lucius was able to gain assurances that those wards would be taken down by the time Draco left for Hogwarts. But until that day came, he couldn't afford any slip ups. Especially from a damn House-Elf!

As he made to enter his home, the aristocrat stopped just as he entered, barely taking a few steps inside before he quickly re-read the letter and its contents. Resummoning his servant, and tossing the letter back to him, Lucius gave an order, "Inform my family I'll be a bit late. If anyone else comes by you're to tell them some last-minute business required my attention. You know what to do with the letter."

Much as he enjoyed spending time with his son and Narcissa – even though theirs being an arranged one, it was a happy and loving marriage regardless – an opportunity had arisen that he needed to take care of before it eluded him once more.


(Meanwhile in Knockturn Alley)

Since its creation, Knockturn Alley had been a safe haven – although that honestly wasn't saying much given the raids that occurred on a regular basis – for all sorts of unsavory and prolific characters. While not all that resided in Diagon Alley's less than stellar twin were affiliated or partook in such actions prohibited by the law, the vast majority were. Hags, thieves, black market dealers and other sorts that dealt in the dark aspects of magic and society were right at home in the twisting umbral alleys that made up Knockturn. Almost anything one required that revolved around sinister or ill intent could be found here.

Borgin and Burkes was one such shop, and a successful one, that had been around since the late 19th century and dealt with powerful, ancient and dark artifacts few in Western Europe could lay claim to. Once operated by two shrewd and unscrupulous businessmen, of which many from non-magical backgrounds would compare them to Ebenezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley – only without the redeeming qualities that came thereafter – Borgin was now the sole owner of the store and was as cunning in his dealings as he was dodgy. Many artifacts or articles bought by the man were well below their face value, and he in turn sold them for even greater profit. For a price, the man would even safeguard the artifacts of others.

Unproven though it was, the most common rumor about Borgin was he no longer wished to share the wealth with his partner. Officially, Burkes was simply never seen again, with Borgin claiming the man had gone to settle a business venture in Central Europe but never came back. Many in Knockturn believed in the former, and that Borgin had used one of the many dark artifacts to become the store's sole proprietor.

But, regardless of which tales was true or not, even without his former partner, the decent wealth accumulated by the store over the years enabled them to get most Aurors or ministry officials to look the other way compared to other shops. And for those who didn't, Borgin was very skilled at hiding what shouldn't be seen.

It was for these reasons that Harry disliked coming to this store. It was dimly let, though his accessory took care of that, and pretty much screamed illegal or unethical activity. Another fantasy trope, he had noted. But it wasn't like he had the pick of the litter. Diagon Alley Harry seldom visited ever since he made the mistake of entering Ollivander's. It still baffled him on how the man knew who he was.

As such, rare were times he went there, as unlike in Knockturn, Harry needed a license to sell what he had and what he had would have raised unwanted questions given their rarity and restriction. The times he did was simply to buy the very odd item Knockturn didn't have.

Entering the store, Borgin immediately recognized him and began his customary greeting, "Mr. Woundwort! What a pleasure to see you again. How may I be of assistance? Have you come to sell me your wares? You really must —"

"Quiet," Harry's voice came off more as a growl; it was deep and guttural and he could see the look of fear behind the man's eyes. The first time he did that, Borgin had mistook him for another man by the name of Greyback. A man Harry learned was a vicious wizard afflicted by lycanthropy, a very ill-reputed individual and heavily wanted by many ministries, despite the local ministry's bounty not reflecting it.

Unlike werewolves, Harry learned that his Puca form, while severally limited in its vocabulary, could use simple words after much practice. The act and him being cloaked in dark robes that concealed everything but his eyes, eyes that pierced through the dark and shined like ignited floo powder coupled with him towering well above the man also worked in his favor. God bless Puca shapeshifting!

"Brought more," Harry simply said and took out several bits of loot that was of no use to him, but very useful to whomever Borgin sold it to. Liver. Nails. Teeth. Eyes. Heart. Even the tongue of necrophages and other creatures he defeated. Borgin would buy them without question. Apparently, from what Harry managed to learn, they were restricted ingredients and difficult to come by. Harry tried his best not to think about what they could be used for and only sold him the minimal amount.

"Ah, thank you, Mr. Woundwort. My buyers were wondering when the next batch would come in. Many are still curious as to how you can bring them in such pristine condition and asking if you -"

"Pay me," Harry ordered and the man wisely stopped talking. Grabbing a box from below the counter, Borgin produced seven gold coins and eight silver ones, easily over a hundred British pounds. When Harry made to take his loot back, Borgin painfully added another gold coin, five additional silver ones, and twenty-five bronze ones. Harry had a feeling that was still well below their value but silently took them anyway. Borgin's shop was the only place in Diagon where he could regularly sell them when he needed to, the others were sporadic and usually never in the same location.

"Will that be all, Mr. Woundwort?" the man asked after putting away his recently acquired wares.

"Info," was all Harry asked and the man knew to what he referred.

But Borgin merely shook his head, "I'm sorry, Mr. Woundwort. Try as I might, none of whom I've spoken with recognize the language in your book. The best one of them could discern is that it uses words similar to the Dutch language and Old High German, as well as something that predates Proto-Norse. Essentially, this is a very ancient and very forgotten language. I'm afraid to say all they were able to accomplish was translating the odd word or two."

The man slid a piece of paper that Harry took dramatically to emphasize his displeasure. Making to leave, Borgin stopped him.

"Mr. Woundwort! I've noticed you don't have a wand on you. My selection isn't much, but they are rather unique. They aren't Ollivander wands but two come from Gregorovitch Zauberstäbeand from South-Eastern Europe, which will be difficult to come by since he retired three years ago, and another comes from DuBois from Monaco. Not as old as the other two but it still holds the record for best wands in Southern Europe since the 12th century. While the others don't have the same pedigree as the other two, they are decent nonetheless. Care for a look?" the man asked. But when Harry didn't immediately respond, Borgin tried to find something else that might interest the disguised shapeshifter. It wasn't necessary.

"Show," was all Harry said and the man scurried as quickly as he could to fetch them.

If there was one thing Harry had initially regretted at the time - other than being discovered - was that perhaps he should have waited until he got a wand in his hands before making his escape from Ollivander's. But that had been the old ignorant Harry unaware of how things actually worked.

Forced to go back but wanting to make certain he wasn't seen by anyone else; Harry had discovered Knockturn. Rather than risk being in a similar situation as before, Harry had doubts anyone in Knockturn knew who he really was compared to the more upstanding Diagon, left him with little choice but to do find out what he was looking and perform his dealings in Knockturn in disguise. Hence his newest alias, Woundwort.

Despite dealing in many illegal activities, Harry was quick to learn that Knockturn Alley didn't have much of a market for wands or other foci. For one, they were tightly regulated in Great Britain. And two, and most importantly, unless made specifically for themselves - an art pretty much dead in this day and age in Europe after much digging - which was also much more difficult, and incredibly expensive, than it sounded, the best wands chose their wielders.

While the very odd wands found in the black markets of Knockturn Alley lacked the aspect that would activate what was known as the Trace the local Ministry monitored, since he was only just starting on spell casting, Harry could have stolen any of those wands and more or less all he'd have in the end was a fancy looking stick that would either fight him every step of the way or ignore his attempts. Had he years of spell casting experience under his belt it might have been a different story. But using a focus that would hamper him and reduce the effectiveness of spells, Harry believed he was better off.

"Here we are, Mr. Woundwort," Borgin said almost a minute later, laying them out before him. Harry said nothing but picked one up and to anyone watching him they'd believe he was giving every single one a careful look over. They would be wrong.

Through the use of [Observe], Harry discovered that wands had a [Compatibility Rating], which was ranked from F to S. For him to use his spells decently, the compatibility rating had to be a C or higher, any lower and his chances of casting a spell or it being anywhere as effective decreased by a fair bit. A higher rating didn't equate more power in the spells used, but as the rating went up the ease of casting spells, their effectiveness and time it took to channel spells improved. The only real thing wands improved where certain types of spells, but that was dependent on the wood and core used to fabricate it, and sometimes it also caused a disadvantage for them, too. And, due to wands being quasi-sentient, the rating could go up or down depending on circumstances. The exact reasoning behind it was unknown even to experts in wand-making and wand-lore.

Almost a month after the incident, Harry learned that trying to find another type of focus was an exercise in futility. European wizards only used wands and staves, and the practice of using the latter had pretty much come to an end sometime during the Renaissance Era. Even then, a staff was said to be even more picky than a wand - unless made specifically for themselves like wands - and less than one percent went without owners. If a wand was quasi-sentient, a staff was semi-sentient with the more powerful rumored to be darn near close to sentient.

Unlike wands, a staff did improve spells and greatly increased the effects and power behind them - much like wands, the exact reasoning for this was unknown, though some believed it to be due to the greater amount of materials and various components that made up a staff - but that also had its own set of a problems. What staves that remained in Europe today were not only incredibly rare - it was said that for every three thousandth wands there was one staff, and even then, those that wizards used today were only for show and not true staves - but easily more expensive and required much more control.

The amount of power they generated also meant they weren't that great when it came to beginner spells or those that revolved around finesse. It took one years, close to decades to be exact, of intense practice before it would allow one to channel a spell through them anywhere near as quickly as a wand would. It was for that reason that wands were deemed superior by most European wizards. A debated subject by other countries who used different types of foci.

However, it was for these reasons that Harry's constant spellcasting without a means of channeling his spells earned him the [Foci-Less Mastery Skill]. A very uncommon skill and not widely used now a days.

But having a focus would be good, especially if he wanted to learn other spells. Basic spells such as those he had were fairly easy to do, and, in these last three months, Harry had practically mastered all but a couple of them. Thank you, Gamer and dungeons! But it didn't take a genius to figure out that advanced spells requiring one would get progressively harder to perform.

"Useless," nothing more was said after going over each and every wand. Finding a [Compatibility Rating] no higher than a D+, Harry put them down and left. Not a second later did the door to Borgin and Burkes suddenly open and in came a man with cold grey eyes, a pale, pointed face, and just as equally pale blond hair. Were he not holding into certain items of his, Borgin's visage might have matched the color, but it did nothing to stop his heart from beating considerably more quickly.

Whilst Borgin was about to have an uncomfortable conversation with a soon to be irate wizard. Harry walked quickly, an easy enough feat given his current form, to a secluded area where his sudden shift in height caused the dark robe he wore to practically drag along the dirty stone pavement.

"Well, that explains why you're not an easy one to track," a voice suddenly rang behind him. Harry didn't have time to turn or mount a defense before his body and mind became heavy. Cushioning charms made the ground as soft as a pillow when his strength finally left him too weak to stand and register what was happening. All a defenseless Harry could do was watch as a bald man kneel down before a wave of his hand sent him off to sleep.

—}x|X|x{—

"How is he?" Andromeda asked her husband, an experienced healer, as he waved his wand back and forth upon Harry's sleeping form.

A quick scan and flicks of his wand gave Ted the answer he needed, "As far as I can tell he is well, and soundly asleep. Poor lad," both Tonks eyed the unwelcomed guest in the home as he finished. Near him, Dumbledore alongside Nymphadora, who have been given permission to be here given the circumstances, also stood in the room.

"Will Tiny be okay?" Nymphadora couldn't help herself.

"Nymphadora!" was Andromeda's reply.

"What? He's small!" the metamorph defended.

"Aye, he is. But given his family history he shouldn't be," Ted revealed and it served to silence his daughter. Smart and bright as she was, Ted's daughter didn't do so well in awkward situation such as these at times.

Dumbledore would have loved to inspect the boy himself but Gaunter apparently had other plans before he could, "Touching as this moment is, I do believe our accord has concluded. I've delivered onto you one Harry James Potter and, as agreed upon, do so solemnly swear not to turn him over or perform any dealings with his enemies. Now, are you ready?"

Resolutely and without waver, Dumbledore nodded and stood before the man, "I am. What is it you want of me?" if the man desired the Elder Wand – for the man had a suspicion that O'Dimm knew about it – Dumbledore wouldn't hesitate to give it. The wand was a great tool, but a dangerous one and not the Hallow he coveted.

Gaunter laughed at that, "Apologies, your question reminded me of someone from long ago. Beard is much longer, I'll admit. But that's neither here nor there. But back to your point on my price. What I want. Oh, well, it's quite simple, really. You can keep your little trinket. Much as I'd like to, I have no desire to incur Death's ire upon myself and have them upset any of my future plans."

The casual reveal of Death as an actual being had been a long topic of debate, one even Albus had been skeptical about despite seeing what none could lay claim to. To learn Death truly existed debunked his theory and that of others that the Hallows were the creations of the Three Peverell Brothers. Regardless of the situation, Dumbledore was still delighted to discover this bit of knowledge.

However, "Then, what is your price?" Dumbledore asked once more.

"Oh, that's rather easy. My price is him," Gaunter simply said. And with a snap of his fingers, Harry screamed as an unknown brand began to burn itself onto the side of his face. Andromeda screamed, Nymphadora shouted and Theodore Tonks tried to heal the boy as best he could but nothing happened; Harry never stopped screaming as the agony overwhelmed his senses.

Dumbledore's wand was on Gaunter's form within less than a second and was followed by Minerva and Nicolas who had stayed hidden from view just in case but the act was already done and in his place was a creature that made everyone in the room uneasy. His skin had become a dark cloudy gray but cracks had formed and he began to peel and flake like burning embers; his eyes red like a shining ruby but slitted like a serpent's; his cheeks sunken in while his jaw bones became inhuman; and his ears had become pointed like an elf's from various fantasies.

A dark portal with a small bit of white appeared behind Gaunter as he spoke in a dialect that none but one understood, "The deal is done. The board is set. I have my agent, Dark Lord. He comes for you now. The true game begins. Now your nightmare commences! Your steps forever haunted, your purgatory sempiternal, your doom near at hand! So, mote do I declare!"


So sorry for the huge delay! Not gonna bother with the details but let's just say it sucked big time and took away my desire to write when it should have been up about a month ago. Anyhow, he is the latest chapter. Just so you are aware, I'm not going for a super crossover. Angels and Demons and other myths and mythos will be mentioned but that's about it and will only really play a role in world building and myth building then a direct role. For those also wondering how Gaunter can claim Harry as his price, well, for one, the man is a master of deals and loopholes pretty much no-one can normally think about: I guess you can say he is the god of lawyers. More on that will be revealed later. Enjoy and happy long weekend!

On the plus side. I've completed the final chapter for this story. And, good news to you all, it will have a sequel. Later!