... It has been a long time for this story, hasn't it? I am so, so sorry about that. Life keeps happening, and then I get writers block, and then nothing gets written. Or I will be writing stuff for this one, and get an idea for a chapter on one of my other stories that has to be typed up before I forget it... Life.

If you have not already, I suggest going back and scanning through the previous chapter again, I added a brief scene that I meant to put in the first time, and forgot about.

Here is the current poll for the Muggleborns name:

Morgan (or Morganna)- 8

Allegra (Italian for Joyous)- 12

Allegra Morgan- 3

Rosetta- 2

Lydia- 2

Lydia Rose

I do not own Harry Potter. I really, really wish that I did, but I do not. The only character I own, is in the poll right above me. Please choose a name. The poll will only be open for one more chapter.

"Come in!" Sirius called out when somebody started knocking on his door.

"Hello, I have news on your custody request for Dudley Dursley." Ted said, walking into his room and making himself comfortable on the chair.

Sirius blinked. "Well, hello to you, too." He said, amused, before he shook himself. "News? And I thought the hearing was in two days?"

"Hm-mm. It seems that the Muggle Child Services managed to find a cousin of Lily and Petunia's, and as he would be the closest living relative, he has first rights to take Dudley in." Ted said bluntly. That was most of why they had the hearing scheduled for such a long time, to give them time to find a living relative.

Sirius blinked some more. He hadn't been aware that Lily had any other relatives. She didn't talk about her family often, beyond her parents, of course. "Does he know about magic? Because that seems to have been most of the Dursleys problem, and they taught it to their son. I would think that the hatred and fear they taught him would be too ingrained to simply make him forget." He said, concerned.

Ted snorted. "Actually, it seems that he married a Half-blood witch himself, and two of his children inherited their mothers magic, while his third is too young to really show signs of having magic or not. They are hopeful, though."

"There's no bitterness there? Because that would not help him come to terms with magic." Sirius asked, he was thinking about Severus' parents. From what Severus said, Tobias Snape had not reacted well at all when he found out his wife and son had magic.

"So far, there isn't anything that Child Services found that was really a cause for concern. They are still speaking with him, of course, and observing the family to see if it would be a good place for Dudley, on the chance they agree. They have, however, asked to meet Harry. While this cousin was actually quite close with Lily, all he knew was that her husband's last name was Potter, she'd mostly disappeared into the wizarding world by that point, and the war was at its peak, so she didn't want to endanger her Muggle family. All Petunia ever told the family was that Lily died in a car accident. He was never told of magic until after he was married, which was a few months later." After Lily and James died was the last any of the family heard from Petunia, so none of them knew of Harry, and if they did, they probably assumed that Harry died with his parents.

"So, he never knew Lily was a witch. All he knew was that she got married, and her husband's last name was Potter." Sirius said.

"Yes. He figured that Potter was a popular enough Muggle last name, and never thought that they might be one and the same family." Ted shook his head. "What little was even told of the Potter family and the Boy-Who-Lived's family, anyway."

"Well, what about Harry? Surely he put it together when his wife talked about Harry Potter?" Sirius asked. There was no way.

"He and Lily fell out of communication shortly after Harry was born. She didn't want to endanger her family. As you remember, that was about the time Riddle started really showing interest in them, and they started searching for a hiding place. He knew that she was pregnant, of course, but he doesn't remember getting anything afterward saying what the baby's name was, or even if the baby was born healthy. And, by the time he started really bringing his new fiance around to family functions, the Potters were already in hiding, and weren't able to go for fear of putting Lily's Muggle relatives in danger. So, she never met James as Lily's husband." In Ted's opinion, it was a slightly complicated mess that he didn't completely understand.

"Huh. Well, if this is the best place for the Dursley boy to be." Sirius said, frowning. He wasn't sure if he was disappointed or not. He hadn't really been looking forward to the disciplinary problems he was sure to deal with if Dudley came to live with him, but he had been looking forward to reversing the damage the boys parents caused. At least this way, he would truly be able to devote all his time to helping Harry heal and move past it.

"We don't know that yet, merely that they are a more desirable option since they are close living relatives. The Child Services are still checking them out." Ted pointed out. Because there was magic involved, they were having to be extra careful than they usually were.

"Alright, keep me updated, I suppose. And, I think I would like to meet this cousin, before introducing him to Harry." Sirius decided. He wasn't going to let just anybody meet his pup, not without checking them out for himself first.

Ted quirked a smile. "Of course. Here's a list of dates that he's free to meet with you." He handed it over, having anticipated Sirius's need to meet him first. Sirius grinned at him, before he circled a few dates and times on the list, when he was free and not getting treatment, check-ups, or in a therapy session (whether physical or mental).

By the time Halloween arrived, Harry already regretted rashly promising to go. He, Neville, Ron, and Hermione stopped by the feast long enough to grab food before putting it in containers provided by Hermione so they could eat it while at the party.

When Sirius wrote back, he'd echoed Severus' permission to go, along with the advice to either eat before going, or take food with them, much to Ron's relief and satisfaction. While they could always gather in Harry's kitchen afterward, they knew that it would probably be late by then, and they would much rather go to bed.

However, it was difficult to turn their backs on everybody else gathering in the Great Hall, happy and looking forward to the Feast. The Great Hall had been decorated with the usual live bats, Hagrid had grown giant pumpkins and they had been carved into giant lanterns large enough for three grown men to sit inside of with room to spare. The usual rumors were going around that Dumbledore had booked a troupe of dancing skeletons for the nights entertainment.

"You promised that you would go to the Deathday party." Hermione reminded him bossily when he looked like he was considering just staying here at the feast. While she had gotten much better about not demanding to know personal business since Severus' talked to her (shortly after the talk about her blind worship of authority figures), she still had her moments. Harry was pleased to see her wearing the choker necklace the Twins got her for her birthday. He'd noticed that she didn't wear the more expensive pieces all that often, she said she was afraid of losing or breaking them in everyday life.

With one last mournful look at the brightly decorated Hall from Ron, they descended into the dungeons.

"Man, I'm glad Sirius said to dress warm." Ron muttered, shivering a little despite the warm winter cloak he was wearing.

The others nodded in agreement. They hadn't even reached the hallway where the party was yet, and it was already freezing. They could see their breath and feel the cold through the warm cloaks they wore.

"Well, at least now we know why the party is so keep in the dungeons." Harry said with a frown while he eyed a side-hallway filled with cells and chains. It was certainly a fitting atmosphere for a 'Deathday' party. The dark looking candles certainly didn't help cheer the atmosphere up any.

"Yes, too many ghosts in one place would make a lot of students sick." Hermione agreed.

"Not what I meant." Harry muttered.

She blinked and followed his gaze."Is that a skeleton?" She demanded, alarmed.

"I doubt it. These cells can't have been used in centuries. They would have been cleaned out since then. And, this is a school. I doubt that any prisoners would have really been left here to rot like that." Harry reassured her quickly. All of them picked up the pace though. He did make a mental note to check with Severus, though. It was probably a fake. Or maybe leftovers from a year when Dumbledore really did have a troupe of dancing skeletons for entertainment.

The further they walked, the clearer the sounds of something that sounded like a thousand fingernails scraping on an enormous blackboard became. All four of them grimaced and rubbed their ears, not sure what they were hearing.

"That's not supposed to be music, is it?" Neville asked quietly, horrified.

"I think so, mate." Ron muttered quietly, now wishing more than ever that they hadn't agreed to come with Harry to this. Finally, though, they arrived at the right room. Nearly Headless Nick was standing at a doorway that had thick, black velvet drapes hanging on them and tied at the sides so people (live ones like them) could enter without having to try to move them out of the way.

"My dear friends," He said mournfully, with a touch of satisfaction. "Welcome, welcome. I am pleased you could come, Harry. And the rest of you as well!" He swept off his plumed hat, the one with the really big feather in it that he only seemed to bring out for special occasions, and bowed them inside.

It was incredible. Hermione gasped quietly while Ron breathed out a soft 'Merlin', Harry and Neville merely looked around in awe. The room was full of hundreds of pearly-white, translucent ghosts. They mostly drifted around on the dance floor, waltzing to the awful sound of thirty musical saws. The 'musicians' were seated on a raised platform with more heavy velvet drapes on it. The chandelier in the middle of the floor lit the room with at least a thousand black candles, just like the ones outside in the hallways. It gave the whole room a blue-tinted appearance. They could see their breath in the air, if they thought it was cold in the hallways, now it was like stepping into a freezer while dressed for a day at the beach.

(Harry later thanked his godfathers profusely for telling them to dress in their winter cloaks and shoes.)

"Should we go walk around?" Harry asked the other three, wanting to keep moving so they didn't freeze, despite their winter clothes.

"Keep an eye out so we don't accidentally walk through anyone." Ron muttered nervously while they started walking around the edge of the dance floor. It was the only area big enough for them to walk with the smallest chance of stepping through a ghost. Doing that felt like having a bucket of ice water dumped down your shirt, and was not fun. Not to mention rude.

On their way, they passed a group of gloomy looking nuns, a ragged man wearing more chains than the Bloody Baron, the Fat Friar who was talking to a knight with an arrow sticking out of his forehead, and a few other ghosts that looked like they would rather be anywhere but here. Harry wasn't surprised in the least to see the Bloody Baron standing in a corner and being given a wide berth. He absently wondered if he and Severus didn't spend too much time together at some point, because that was almost exactly what Severus had done at Hermione's birthday party, (with the addition of a charm to hide himself completely so the others didn't even know he was there).

"Oh, no. Turn back," Hermione suddenly stopped, causing Neville to run into her. "I don't want to talk to Moaning Myrtle-"

"Moaning who?" Harry asked while the boys hurried to follow.

"Myrtle. She haunts the girls bathroom on the first floor." She explained quickly and quietly.

"I'm sorry, a bathroom?" Harry asked, wondering. Of all the places to haunt...

"Well, one of the toilets, but yes. The bathroom is hers. It's constantly out-of-order because she keeps having tantrums and flooding it. I never go in there anyway if I can avoid it; it's awful trying to pee with her wailing next door..." None of the boys said anything to that.

"Hey! Want to go see what the ghosts consider food?" Ron asked, pointing at the table on the other side of the dungeon. It, like everything else here, was covered in black velvet. They approached eagerly, but with some caution, once they were close enough they stopped in horror. "Good thing we brought our own food with us." Ron muttered.

"Good thing we already ate while we walked." Harry murmured, wrinkling his nose in disgust. The smell was disgusting, Neville looked like he was going to throw everything he'd eaten right back up, and Hermione rubbed his back slowly to try and help.

Large, rotten fish were laid out on pretty looking silver platters; the cakes were heaped on salvers and burned charcoal-black; the haggis had maggots in it, the cheese covered in furry green mold. In the center of it all, an enormous gray cake in the shape of a tombstone, the icing was tar-like (Harry thought that it probably was tar) and spelled out; Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington died 31st October, 1492. Harry was amazed to see a ghost approach the table, crouch low, and walk through it, mouth wide open so that a rotten salmon passed through it.

"Can you taste it if you walk through it like that?" Harry asked, curious.

"Almost." He said sadly before drifting away.

"Ugh, if I ever decide to come back as a ghost, remind me of this." Ron muttered, pointing at the table. Neville nodded in agreement.

"They probably let it rot to give it a stronger flavor." Hermione suggested, pinching her nose and leaning closer to look at the haggis. Harry briefly wondered if the smell was getting to her.

"Can we move? I feel sick." Neville asked, and Ron agreed. Hermione gave a gentle smile before she agreed and they moved to leave. They barely turned around, though, when somebody appeared that made them all groan.

"Hello, Peeves." Harry greeted him cautiously. While Peeves' and his relationship had gotten better this year with the information that Sirius was out of Azkaban (Harry wasn't sure if he wanted to know that story or not), the Poltergeist did not hold the same regard for those around him. Unlike all the ghosts around them, the Poltergeist was very colorful and not at all transparent. He was wearing a bright orange party hat, a revolving bow tie, and a broad, wicked grin that made Harry even more on edge.

"Nibbles?" He asked sweetly, offering them a bowl of peanuts covered in fungus and moss.

"No, thanks. We ate already." Hermione said, offering a weak smile and trying to avoid looking at the bowl.

"Heard you talking about poor Myrtle," he said, eyes dancing and twinkling wickedly. "So rude, you was, about poor Myrtle." To their horror, he suddenly bellowed, "OY! MYRTLE!" Hermione's eyes widened, knowing this wasn't going to be good.

"Oh, no, Peeves, don't tell her about that, she'll be really upset." Hermione whispered frantically. Harry thought she should save her breath, she was just making things worse for both herself and for Myrtle. "I didn't mean it, I really don't mind her- oh. Hello Myrtle." She finished cautiously when Myrtle appeared next to them.

Myrtle had the glummest face Harry had ever seen, half-hidden behind lank hair and thick glasses. "What?" she asked, Harry thought she sounded sulky.

"Uh- how are you Myrtle?" Hermione asked, in a falsely bright voice. "It's good to see you out of the toilet."

Myrtle merely sniffed, clearly not impressed with Hermione's attempt.

"Miss Granger was just talking about you-" Peeves slyly whispered in her ear, the boys tensed, already not liking where this was going.

"Just saying... how nice you look tonight." Hermione said brightly, glaring at Peeves, daring him to say anything else. Harry made a mental note to ask Sirius for advice on how to make Peeves miserable for the foreseeable future. Myrtle eyed Hermione suspiciously.

"You're making fun of me," She finally decided, silver tears welling rapidly in her eyes.

"No!" Hermione said quickly, a little too quickly. "Honestly, didn't I say how nice Myrtle's looking?" She asked the boys, nudging Ron and Harry in the ribs, painfully. (They glared at Neville when he snickered) Honestly, Myrtle might have actually believed it more if she hadn't seen Hermione do that.

"Oh, yeah-"

"She did, alright-"

"Don't lie to me," Myrtle gasped dramatically with silvery tears flooding down her face. Peeves chuckled happily over her shoulder. "Do you think I don't know what people call me being my back? Fat Myrtle! Ugly Myrtle! Miserable, moaning, moping Myrtle!" Harry blinked in surprise.

"You've forgotten pimply," Peeves hissed in her ear. Harry's glare towards the Poltergeist deepened.

Myrtle burst into sobs and fled the dungeon dramatically. Peeves shot after her, pelting her with moldy peanuts and yelling, "Pimply!" over and over again. The other ghosts looked on or muttered in disapproval, but didn't do anything to try and stop it.

"Oh, dear." Hermione muttered with a sad grimace.

"Huh, so it's not just students he torments..." Neville muttered. The others nodded in agreement.

Nearly Headless Nick now drifted toward them through the crowd. "Enjoying yourselves, I hope?" He asked.

"Oh, yes. Great party." They lied, and without shame, too.

"Not a bad turnout, no, no..." Nick said proudly. "The Wailing Widow came up all the way from Kent... Oh, it's nearly time for my speech, I'd best go warn the orchestra..." He started to hurry off, but stopped when the orchestra stopped playing on its own at that moment, followed closely by the sound of a hunting horn. The other ghosts looked around in excitement. Nick, on the other hand, groaned quietly. "Here we go." He said bitterly.

Through the dungeon wall burst a dozen ghost horses, each ridden by a headless horseman. Harry briefly wondered how a horse could come back as a ghost, what did they have tying them to this world? The assembly clapped wildly; Harry started to clap, too (to be polite), but stopped quickly at the sight of Nick's face. The Gryffindor Ghost did not look amused in the slightest, he looked bitter and angry.

Not at all like the Nick those in Gryffindor Tower knew and loved.

The horses galloped into the middle of the dance floor and halted, rearing and plunging. "Show offs." Harry heard Nick mutter, just as bitterly as before. Briefly, Harry wondered why Nick even bothered to invite them, let alone want to be part of their group.

At the front of the pack was a large ghost who held his bearded head under his arm, from which position he was blowing the horn. The ghost leapt down, lifted his head high in the air so he could see over the crowd (everyone laughed), and strode over to Nearly Headless Nick, squashing his head back onto his neck. "Nick!" he roared. "How are you? Head still hanging in there?" He gave a hearty guffaw and clapped Nearly Headless Nick on the shoulder. Harry frowned, thinking that that was just plain rude.

"Welcome, Patrick," said Nick stiffly.

"Live 'uns!" Sir Patrick said dramatically when he spotted Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville, and gave a huge fake jump of astonishment. The jump made his head fall off again, much to the crowds amusement.

"Very amusing." Nick said darkly.

"Don't mind Nick!" Sir Patrick's head shouted from the floor, where he had yet to pick it back up again. "Still upset we won't let him join the Hunt! But, I mean to say... look at the fellow-" Behind him, Neville bristled.

Even Harry knew that Sir Patrick was being incredibly rude to his host, and knew that if he had been alive and behaved in this manner at any Pureblood's party, he would have been thrown out in a second, at the very least. If his insults were severe enough, he would have spent some time in the host's dungeons. There would have been nothing the Ministry could really do about it, either, as long as he left the dungeons in relatively the same condition as when he went in.

He absently wondered how long Sir Patrick had before Neville started scolding him for his rudeness. As a knight, he should know better, after all. (Absently, Harry wondered just what kind of knight he was.)

"I think," Harry hurried to say, but made sure he said it calmly and with a bit of a bite to his words. "Nick's very frightening, and..."

He was cut off. "Ha!" Sir Patrick's head yelled. "Bet he asked you to say that!" Harry bristled, but Nick interrupted before he could snap at the very rude ghost in front of him.

"If I could have everyone's attention, it's time for my speech!" Nick called loudly, striding towards the podium and climbing into an icy blue spotlight. "My late lamented lords, ladies, and gentlemen, it is my great sorrow ..."

But nobody heard anything else, because Sir Patrick and the Headless Hunt started a very loud game of Head Hockey, and the crowd was more interested in watching them than they were in listening to their host speak. Nick tried to get their attention again, but gave it up when Sir Patrick's head sailed past him to loud cheers.

By this point, Neville was shaking in rage at how rude they were being, and Harry was watching in disbelief. Why did Nick want to join them, again? If this was how they treated him?

"I can't stand much more of this. It's freezing." Ron muttered, and it was hard to understand him because his teeth were chattering, and Harry hoped that the blue tinge to his face was just the lighting. The orchestra ground back into action and the ghosts swept back onto the dance floor just in time, because Neville looked about ready to go give Patrick a piece of his mind.

"Let's at least talk to Nick first, and then we can go." Harry agreed.

"Hey, Nick." Ron greeted once they were closer to the ghost.

"Oh, I suppose you're leaving already?" Nick asked after he turned around in surprise. He sounded disappointed.

"Yeah, its really too cold for us to stay down here much longer, and the Feast upstairs should be over soon, which means curfew." Neville pointed out reasonably. They decided not to mention that they were kind of bored and the music was horrible.

"Ah... well, I hope you enjoyed yourselves, at least." Nick questioned hopefully.

"Oh, yes, it was fascinating." Hermione said with a bright smile. She'd had a few interesting conversations with a few of the ghostly guests while they wandered earlier, so she was in a good mood.

"Nick, why do you want to join them so badly? They're so rude, and they treat you horribly." Neville suddenly burst out, indignant on the Gryffindor ghost's behalf.

Nick merely sighed and smiled at the four of them sadly. "Go on, they should still be serving pudding."

"See you later, Nick." They all parroted at once, and turned to leave. As they left, they nodded and beamed at anyone who looked at them, but a moment later they were hurrying back up the passageway, relishing in the way it got warmer the further away they got from the ghost's ballroom.

"I hope Nick's right, and puddings not finished yet." Ron said hopefully, leading the way.

And then Harry heard it. "... rip... tear... kill..." He stumbled to a halt, clutching at the stone wall, listening with all his might, looking around, squinting up and down the dimly lit passageway. He couldn't see anyone, though, and when he stretched out his magic, he couldn't sense anyone nearby, either.

"Harry, what're you -?" Hermione had almost run into him when he stopped so suddenly.

"There's a voice- shut up a minute -"

"... soo hungry... for so long..."

"Listen!" He said urgently, and the other three froze, watching him uncertainly.

"... kill... time to kill..." The voice was growing fainter. Harry was certain it was moving away- moving upward. He was gripped with a mixture of fear and excitement as he stared up; how could it be moving upward? It could be a phantom or a ghost... but the others didn't seem to hear it.

"This way!" He shouted, and started to run up the stairs, into the entrance hall. It wasn't any good, there was too much noise from the Great Hall. Harry sprinted up the stairs to the first floor, Ron, Hermione, and Neville scrambling to keep up.

"Harry, what's going-"

"SHH!" He was trying to strain his ears to hear. Distantly, he could still hear it, but it was growing fainter by the second, it was clearly still moving upwards. "...I smell blood... I SMELL BLOOD!"

"It's going to kill someone!" He yelled, feeling sick. He ignored the others shock, and ran up the stairs three at a time, trying to listen and hoping that he could get there on time to stop whatever it was. It didn't even cross his mind that he might get killed himself, or any of the others. All he knew was that he had to do something. He raced through the second floor, following the voice as best he could, until they finally turned the corner of the last hallway, deserted just like the others.

"Harry, what was that all about?" Ron asked, wiping sweat off his face. "I didn't hear anything..."

But Hermione gasped suddenly and pointed down the corridor. "Look!"

Something was shining on the wall. They approached slowly, squinting in the darkness, because for some reason most of the torches in this section of the corridor seemed to be blown out. Foot-high words had been written on the wall between the two windows, shimmering in what little light there was from the torches that remained and the moonlight.

The Chamber of Secrets has Been Opened.

Enemies of the Heir, Beware

"What's that... hanging underneath it?" Ron asked, voice shaking slightly.

Edging closer, Harry almost slipped. There was a large puddle on the floor, and the only thing that kept him upright was Hermione and Neville's quick reflexes. Together, they all inched towards the message, eyes fixed on a dark shadow underneath it. All four realized what it was at the same time, and jumped backwards in shock.

It was Mrs. Norris.

She was hanging by her tail from a torch bracket, stiff as a board, eyes wide and staring.

After a moment, Neville cursed quietly. "We need to go, now." He said urgently, and started trying to pull Harry and Hermione away, helped after a moment by Ron.

"We can't just leave her up there." Hermione protested, resisting. "We need to find a teacher, or somebody!" She exclaimed.

"No, what we need is to not be caught around here. Trust me, that's the last thing we need." Ron said urgently. A second later, they realized it was too late.

There was a rumble that told them the feast had ended, and students started coming from either end of the corridor as students took different staircases to get up to the upper levels of the castle. There was loud, happy talk of well-fed people. That happy talk ended suddenly as the people in the front of the crowd spotted the hanging cat and stopped abruptly, causing the people behind them to crane their heads to see what made them stop.

Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville stood alone, in the middle of the corridor, as silence fell among the students, who started pressing forward to see better.

Then somebody shouted, "'Enemies of the Heir, beware!' You'll be next, Mudbloods!" It was Draco Malfoy. He'd pushed his way to the front of the crowd. His eyes were alive, and his face was flushed with excitement as he grinned at the sight.

"Shut up, Draco, we don't know who the Heir even is!" Harry shot back, looking disturbed.

"There's only one it could be, Potter, the Chamber of Secrets is known to belong to Salazar Slytherin." Draco grinned maliciously.

Harry decided that at the moment, revealing that he was the Heir of Slytherin would probably not be the best move. Instead, he narrowed his eyes. "That's Potter-Black, to you." He emphasized the Black, hoping to remind him of his place within the family hierarchy, hoping that it would make him back off so they didn't have a fight right here when they should be getting a teacher for Mrs. Norris. He rolled his eyes. "Can somebody go get a teacher?" He called in the crowd.

"No need, Potter. We're right here." Came the sneering voice of Severus Snape. Harry groaned quietly, he was in so much trouble now.

Albus strolled through the gate, the Imperiused guard opening it for him without hesitation. He hadn't been able to leave Hogwarts since his last visit to see Gellert, towards the start of the school year. He'd been too busy trying to get his plans back on track and smoothing things over with the wizarding public at large, not to mention the Ministry. He'd put in too much time and effort crafting his image, public, and political persona to let it all fall apart now, not when he was so close to his goals.

He must say, though, Gellert worked quickly.

The guards had all been Imperiused, quite expertly too, and the wards had been completely reverted back to the both of them easily, and disguised so that it appeared nothing was wrong. As far as the outside world was concerned, things as Nurmengard were continuing to operate normally.

Eventually, he wouldn't care if the world knew.

By that time, the two of them would be in charge anyway, and nobody else alive would know the name 'Gellert Grindlewald' in connection to Dark Lords. The only way they could make the connection would be if they had a copy of a book with the Dark Lord Grindlewald in it, but they would look up to him as one of their beloved leaders by then, so who cared.

He might speak with the publishing company, though. Have them make adjustments to the current books contents. He wasn't going to omit him completely, Gellert had earned his recognition after all, but maybe not paint him in such a bad light.

Walking into the study, he was pleased to see that his friend had a new life to him.

"Ah, Albus, I was thinking you'd forgotten about me." Gellert greeted. "You're dismissed." He told the two men who were in the room with him.

They were followers who'd been imprisoned here with their leader, and both glared at Albus, knowing he was the one who had them imprisoned within their own fortress in the first place.

They were out of their cells now, and back to sleeping in the barracks. The guards had replaced them in the cells, unless they were needed to man to door, patrol the rest of the prison and keep the rest of the inmates in line (those that hadn't joined Gellert once he took his fortress back), or their shift was over, at which point they were released from the Imperious, their memory modified, and they were allowed to leave. Allowing the new shift to come on, only for them to be Imperiused and the whole thing to start all over again. They weren't yet at the time when people could realize that the prisoners were anything but prisoners.

"You know, I'm still not pleased you lost the Elder Wand." Gellert frowned, fingering his old wand. He'd had to go back to his Manor in the Swiss Alps to find it the moment Albus released him from the confines of the study.

"You're not pleased." Albus frowned. How did Gellert think he felt!? He was the one it happened to! Not to mention that being frog-marched out of the Ministry like that had been utterly humiliating. "Don't worry, I know who caught it, it was John Dawlish. We'll be able to get it back without a problem." He waved it off. Then all he needed was to find out where Tom had hidden the Stone, because there was no doubt in his mind that Tom had it, and get the Cloak back from Potter once the boy had fulfilled his purpose and was dead.

Well, he needed to get his plans back on track before that could happen, but he would manage.

With Gellert rebuilding their army, quietly this time, their plans should go much smoother, especially with the ground-work Albus had been meticulously laying over the years.

He shook his head. "Well, at any rate, this is the first chance I've had to get away from Hogwarts. I've finally managed to smooth things over with the Wizengamot (someday, he would be more than happy to disband them)... I do have good news, though." He smirked, and Gellert leaned forward in interest.


"The Chamber of Secrets is opened again." He leaned back and watched the thoughts flit through Gellert's eyes.

"Tom Riddle is moving again." He murmured. "But how? I thought you said he retreated back to Albania after last year."

Albus grimaced. "Yes... and he's still there. No, I don't think its him in person, er- spirit, I should say. No, I think it's one of the Horcruxes I suspect him of making. I'm still trying to find out how many he made exactly."

Gellert nodded slowly. "It might be one of the first ones made if it can act on its own, then. Either way, when he does return, we can use this to further mould the wizarding world to our liking, using the fear he creates."

"Indeed, if he goes too slowly, I can always run a few Death Eater raids in his place." Albus shrugged. It wouldn't be the first time a 'Death Eater' raid or attack wasn't actually carried out by Death Eaters.

Gellert nodded thoughtfully. "And the funds?" He asked. Thankfully, the goblins had refused to allow any human government to claim his vaults, or his followers vaults, either. His followers families, on the other hand, had been required to make all kinds of oaths on their magic, and prove that they would not use their money to fund or further any dark lord's agenda before they were allowed access. That was then, though. That was only spouses and children. The grandchildren, nieces, and nephews that came after wouldn't have needed to do that, so he should still be able to access those vaults through them.

None of that would have happened, though, had Gellert not made the Goblins angry with him.

Apparently, guiding a Muggle bomb to land on a wizarding market-place was frowned upon, especially by the Goblins when one of their banks was destroyed in the explosion.

Compared to him, Tom Riddle's followers got off (financially) with barely a slap to the wrist. Those that were imprisoned, had their vaults still perfectly intact and fully accessible. He found it to be very unfair, but then supposed he should have been more careful about which buildings got caught in that explosion.

Albus scowled. "I still need to find out where they caught the drain, but the vaults I drained are now out of reach, they will be watched closely. The Goblins are also working to get those funds back, but I doubt they've managed to tie it to me, so no worries there." He waved off. "The Potter vaults are out of my reach until I get ahold of Black for now. The goblins will be monitoring them too closely for me to get them back through the brat."

"Hmm... we'll just have to work with what you managed to get and save away for now, then." Gellert said thoughtfully. "I will, of course, have to... speak with the Goblins to get access to my vaults again and plan how to get access back for those of my original followers that remain." He shot a small glare at Albus, who knew how many of his followers had died in here over the years. Died while imprisoned in their own fortress, dear Merlin.

"What I have will not last forever." Albus sighed, ignoring the glare. Especially since he wasn't the most frugal with it over the years. Ah, well, some smart investments would take care of it.

"I will start sending some men out in the next few days to start gathering information and begin recruitment." Gellert said after a moment. "Everything will need to be done quietly, of course, for now. However, I expect to have a decent following by Yule at least. There are sure to be many that will be eager to join..." Mostly those that were oppressed by the current governments, simply unhappy with their lot in life, rebellious teens, the lost and wandering... oh yes. There was never any shortage of potential recruits in the world for men like him.

Albus smiled. "Good, good. I have kept in touch with all the members of my Order, and I have scouted out or groomed potential recruits over the years..."

"Ah. Your position at the school... it really is quite perfect for you. You control everything that the children of the Magical United Kingdom learn, and how they learn it, even discipline." Gellert said with a small smirk.

Albus laughed. "Yes. And when things go wrong or something happens, parents can't stay angry with me for long, because children get into things they shouldn't be in all the time. It's a school full of magical children, accidents happen all the time. If I were to take the Ministers position however, something goes wrong and it's all your fault. Advising the Minister, on the other hand, is much better. Something goes wrong, he takes the fall, and nobody even thinks to blame anyone else for it, not even the one who advised him into taking that action in the first place." He said with satisfaction.

"Wasn't there an article in the paper, though?" Gellert asked with a raised eyebrow.

Albus scowled. "Yes... that is why it took so long to smooth things over again. Rita Skeeter has been taken care of, and the other reporters will be dealt with as needed as well." He dismissed. He was a little disappointed with Rita, though, getting caught like that. Her writing style and the way she always went after those in power made it so that nobody really took anything she wrote seriously, even if it was all true. Now that she wasn't able to write anymore, people would be more inclined to believe what was being written, because now it was all coming from more reputable sources.

"I had best be getting back." Albus said after a few minutes of sitting in silence. He couldn't be gone for too long, somebody might need something, and his absence right now might raise questions, especially so soon after an attack, and especially with the Board.

"Come again." Gellert joked.

Albus smirked when he left, things were starting to come along nicely.

Harry leapt up when he saw the package Hedwig brought him that morning had the Gringotts seal, these had to be the Family Journals he'd asked Sharpaxe to send him, hopefully one of them would have answers on the Chamber of Secrets...