Chapter 22 - Planning for the Future
The villa could, and probably should have felt empty.
The orphans had left Italy and taken up residence in their new, refurbished from top to bottom, London home. Their friends all loved holidaying with them, but also had to return back to Britain for the remainder of their summer break. The Potter Institute staff, with the exception of the Grangers, had moved into the almost completed new school. They would all be working flat out to get the Institute ready for the first of September.
The main reason their house didn't feel empty for Harry and Hermione, it actually felt more like a home than ever, was walking down to breakfast between the couple - and of course holding hands with both of them. The changes in Joan since she had found her forever family were nothing short of spectacular. Her confidence seemed to grow by the day, and she'd unleashed such a bubbly personality that it appeared to expand and encompass whatever space or company she happened to be in.
As had become the new norm after their training session, Sirius, Emma and Dan were quicker to the breakfast table - but they also had a visitor that morning. It only took a glance at Amelia's face to determine she was not here as a harbinger of glad tidings. She had brought along multiple copies of today's Prophet for the company to read, Harry and Hermione sat down to share one of Amelia's supplied newspapers between them.
Harry's chin was soon hitting the floor, he just couldn't believe what they were reading here. Hermione suddenly cut through everything with a sharp gasp over their bond, one that clearly wasn't directly related to the latest pile of manure that apparently passed for in-depth journalism in Magical Britain. Hermione was already moving as Harry lifted his eyes to see Joan crawl into a visibly shaken Sirius's lap. As Hermione enveloped his godfather in a hug too, Harry thought it was time to call for reinforcements.
"Dobby, could you ask Francesca to join us for breakfast. Apologise, but say it's urgent." With Emma now joining both girls trying to comfort Sirius, Dobby gave a determined nod before disappearing.
Sirius attempt at cracking a joke let them all know he was trying to recover from the severe shock of reading the front page. "Oh dear, the way Dobby left here, I hope Francesca is not in the shower. He probably won't even give her time to pull a bathrobe on..."
He was proved right on one point, Francesca - though fully clothed - appeared still wearing her slippers barely a minute later. Joan immediately jumped down off Sirius's knee, giving up that place to the person who could do her honorary uncle the most good. She received a kiss to her forehead from the lady most likely to become an honorary aunt for doing so. This drew a wide smile from the little girl. As far as Joan was concerned, you could never have enough family.
Amelia tried to apologise. "I'm sorry, Sirius. I should have realised how much this news would affect you."
Only having both arms around his wonderful girlfriend gave Sirius the strength and courage answer Amelia honestly. "That building should definitely be left untouched, but as a monument to the cruelty of Magical Britain. There would certainly be people locked in those cells who embraced their death as a welcome release from the never ending torture of the dementors. That this fire appears to have wiped most of their tormentors out too would be classed as the ultimate in cosmic justice being served."
He burrowed further into Francesca's embrace before continuing. "That's how I would have felt, until it hit me where my life is now...and I haven't been able to stop shaking since. The very thought that I could have lost all this - all of you - has left me as weak as a kitten. And for a dog, that's not a good feeling."
Dobby then arrived with Poppy, and she wasted no time in providing a mild calming potion for Sirius.
As they all sat around the table, with breakfast once more on the menu, Harry was the one who fired the first broadside into the utter drivel that passed as news in the Prophet. "This supposed account of events has more holes in it than the hull of the Titanic. Can Fudge really get away with this? What about these four missing guards? Didn't anyone learn anything from a body never being found for Voldemort, and one finger of Pettigrew? All these people basically murdered, and they get a burned out memorial instead of an investigation?"
"Harry, I totally agree. The problem is Fudge, and that one of those missing guards was his favourite nephew. He'd rather tell his sister her son died a hero than face the possibility that the truth could see his family at fault."
Just at that, Barchoke arrived by portkey. He was clearly in as bad a mood as Amelia, the newspaper clutched in his hand meant that they didn't need to ask the reason for his temper.
"Fudge is an idiot! That is now the official view of Gringotts, though I won't repeat the actual words used in front of Joan. Knowing everyone sitting here, including me, will be at the official opening of the orphanage tomorrow, I've been sent here specifically to make you all aware of information only Gringotts has. Amelia, this needs to be off the record - for now."
Getting a nod from the head of the D.M.L.E. had the angry goblin continuing to deliver his message. "A wizarding family's vault is magically tied to members of that family. When a family line dies out, that specific magic notifies Gringotts. Since all the remaining members of the Lestrange family were serving life sentences in the high security wing of Azkaban, Gringotts should have received a notification. That we didn't leaves only one conclusion - at least one of them is still alive."
Amelia stood and walked toward the portion of the terrace that protruded furthest over the cliff. Gripping the handrail tightly enough to whiten her knuckles, Amelia's scream of rage then rang loudly as it headed out over the Bay of Naples. A few kicks at the railings were also needed before her fury was once more under some measure of control.
She walked back to the table, being quite pleased that her hands didn't shake while pouring herself a coffee. "I know the Ministry has made great strides in the last month or so, but then Fudge will pull something so stupid that it beggars belief. I honestly don't know how much longer I can continue working for a Ministry that has him in charge."
While as shocked as Amelia at Fudge's latest level of idiocy, Harry was more focused on how this news affected them specifically - and had Hermione in his head to help.
"Ok, we have three massive events fixed on our calendars inside the next two weeks. We need to figure out if and how this could affect any of those, and us. First up is the official opening of the orphanage tomorrow. Since this was a former Black property, we have to assume any Lestrange left alive would at least know about the building."
This drew a sarcastic laugh from Sirius. "Bella was my mother's favourite niece, she adored the sadistic little bitch who was a frequent guest at Grimmauld Place. I don't know if her husband or his brother ever visited, I had left there for good by the time any Lestranges would have been on the scene. I'm certainly not worried about the children's safety though, the new wards are a work of art."
That comment garnered agreement from Barchoke. "The orphanage needs to be accessible to those who need it so the defensive wards are purely intent based. If you approach that building with the intention of doing harm, you will find yourself being painfully discouraged - whilst setting off alarms inside Gringotts and Amelia's department at the Ministry. Any non magical people could walk right past, and never know the building existed. We had to specifically add Dan and Emma to the wards, can't have board members not being able to even see the building."
The Grangers had been heavily involved in arranging the initial family visit to the Potter Institute of the potential new first years, so Dan felt confident dealing with Harry's concerns over this particular event.
"Until the families all get here, only we know exactly who's coming. I can't see a way for anyone outside the Institute to get that information. Also, when the wards on the building go live on Friday, that means it's only accessible by portkey - a portkey specifically made by the Institute. We all have worries about this weekend, knowing how much is riding on it, but this doesn't need to be one of them."
Emma though had another worry. "You said three events, Harry. We only know about two."
A smiling Harry instantly dispelled Emma's concern. "That's because number three is a secret, a secret I would ask everyone here to keep. Since you're all invited, I don't think that will be a problem. I made a promise at the start of summer, one I intend to keep. The entire institute staff will be getting invited to a night at Ambrosia's. Just a thank you for all the hard work everyone is still putting into getting us up and running."
This drew gasps from Amelia and Poppy, with a now smiling Emma offering her future son-in-law some advice.
"It's easy to see from some of the reactions here just how big an event this is going to be so, can I make a suggestion? I know you like the idea of surprising people with this but wouldn't it be better to give them something to look forward to? When going somewhere this exclusive, it's always a good idea to give us ladies some warnings so we can pick what to wear..."
A chuckling Dan interrupted his wife. "Oh, and us men don't need that notice?"
"Oh please! Chuck a suit on, pick a tie and shine your shoes. What's hard about that?"
Dan looked around for some support from his male colleagues, only to find Harry and Sirius laughing at how comprehensively Emma had shot down his argument. To see Sirius laughing, after the shock he received earlier, Dan decided to take one for the team and let his wife win this disagreement. Their bracelets ensured that Emma's smirk was one of understanding and agreement, rather than claiming any sort of victory over Dan.
She did get her victory though, as Harry gave out the date of their already booked evening at Ambrosia's - with Hermione asking if that news could be passed around. Dobby arrived beside Hermione with a pile of invitations already written out, those on top just happened to be the people sitting around the table. As Hermione handed those out, she asked Dobby if he would like to deliver the rest. Wearing a wide grin, the little elf popped away to distribute the happiness an invitation was sure to generate.
Looking at the invitation in front of her, a smiling Emma couldn't help but think she might actually enjoy her visit to Ambrosia's this time. One big change though, she and Dan would certainly be taking their guns to dinner too. Defending their family against attacks was something that both former dentists now took very seriously.
Amelia was also looking at an invitation, one that included Susan and Hannah as well. She'd heard the story of the phrase 'filthy muggles' being shouted at the Grangers the last time Ambrosia closed its doors for Lord Potter's guests. Seeing an astonished Barchoke drink his beef drink while staring at the invitation he'd received convinced Amelia it would be a good idea to increase the auror presence around the restaurant that evening.
She wasn't really concerned about the safety of those who would be invited, more the paperwork Amelia would inevitably be lumbered with if Dan or Emma shot someone with the guns they would surely be carrying. Amelia didn't even want to think about the forms involved if Barchoke had to pull a dagger on someone. It would take more than a few escaped death eaters to tackle even the company currently sitting around the table. When you then factored in the other invited guests, Amelia was confident any disturbance would be quickly brought under control.
Sirius's thoughts were also on his last visit to the restaurant, and how much all of their lives had changed since. He too was sure this would be a more enjoyable experience, especially since the beautiful young lady still comfortably perched on his lap was most definitely Invited along.
Poppy was hoping for the opportunity to pass on this good news to her colleagues, that hope evaporated with Dobby as he disappeared with the rest of the invitations. She wasn't really bothered however, seeing Ginny's name on her invitation hammered home how much her life had changed - in such an incredibly short space of time.
Hermione leaning over to Joan and saying they would need new dresses for this night saw her little face glow with pleasure. Both Harry and Hermione understood it wasn't the new dress as such, more that she would be going with them to pick it out. They wanted Joan to be happy, and all the proof needed was currently sitting right beside them. There were also plans afoot to ensure this was a night she would remember for the rest of her life.
At a derelict old crofter's cottage, a few miles inward from the east coast of the Scottish Highlands, food and plans were also on the menu. Like the discussion that had taken place earlier in Harry's home, the Daily Prophet would eventually become central to those discussions.
The cottage might only have half a roof, with not a window left unbroken, but the four people inside were used to much harsher conditions than these. Augustus had disapparated away to get them some supplies, the three Lestranges had erected Muggle repelling wards while trying to make the place more liveable - all without hopefully attracting the Ministry's attention to their use of magic.
Augustus returned with simple fare, their stomachs would take time to become accustomed to anything richer, and having hot tea again was such a treat for all of them.
Sipping on a mug of that rare treat, Augustus got the ball rolling on what he knew would be a very difficult discussion. "We have plans to make but, before we can, we need information. It's no secret why Carrick hung around Bella's cell. What you might not know was our Donald used to love to talk with me too. He was a failure as an auror, total failure as a prison guard, but actually dreamed of becoming an unspeakable. That wizard was a total fucking idiot!"
There was no disagreement coming from the others on that point. "For an idiot though, he was remarkably well informed. His uncle, the Minister, told the idiot what amounted to state secrets, and Carrick of course couldn't wait to try and impress me with just how important this supposedly made him. Some of the stuff he was telling me I thought utter dragonshit - he had to be making most of it up. That we were all about to be dragged to the Ministry and, after a show trial, be pushed through the Veil of Death tends to corroborate his tall tales."
Taking another sip of his tea, the former unspeakable laid out what he'd learned for them. "At the very start of summer, someone found a way to empty the vaults of our master's wealthiest supporters - property, businesses, heirlooms - all gone. Some took what they could scrape together and fled the country, some tried to fight back. Malfoy and Parkinson were killed trying to kidnap Potter's girlfriend from her Muggle home. I suspect your family would be one of those supporters, and that your vault is now completely empty too."
It took both brothers to try and calm Bella down as she appeared ready to murder anybody she could get her wand on. Rasbasten was trying to convince her what a bad idea that would be. "We have to keep our use of magic to a minimum, otherwise you'll lead the Ministry right to us."
That appeal didn't seem to be working but Augustus then stopped all three of them in their tracks. "The Ministry of Magic isn't even looking for us. You don't send Aurors out to look for dead people." With that, he removed a copy of today's Prophet from his transfigured robes and tossed it toward them.
It only took a moment for Rodolphus to ask the question he knew was coming. "Why didn't you share this right away? This puts us free and clear - free to do whatever we want."
"Yes, but more importantly it also buys us time. We need to use that precious time to recuperate and plan."
"What is there to plan, we need to find our master." Bella's words were issued like a challenge, one Augustus had a prepared answer for.
He removed a metal box from his conjured pocket and placed it on the floor. A few specific taps with his wand and the box became big enough to cram two not overly large people in. Another few taps and the lid opened to reveal rather a lot of gold.
"I never trusted those little goblin bastards, taking my gold from them the same day the Ministry paid it in. This is everything I have in the world, probably everything we have between us, and all I ask is we discuss any plans or moves before putting them into action. Without you, I would have died last night. Without my ideas, the Ministry would be combining the country searching for us."
There was no disagreement of those facts coming back at him, and Augustus didn't think there would be any over this next bit either. "We're stronger together, especially when playing to our individual strengths. We here are also quite possibly the last four followers our master has left in this country. Whatever we decide, we're only going to get one shot at it. We need to make it work. Our master has been gone for over a decade, with apparently none of his other sworn followers doing anything about it. I don't think he'll mind if we take our time to do what we need to, but do it right."
Picking up the repaired kettle they'd found, Augustus left to fill it from the little spring behind the cottage. He knew being here in the sunshine was a marvellous gift, he didn't intend to waste any of it. Their bodies couldn't handle alcohol, rich foods or even chocolate yet. Sitting in the sun while sipping a cup of tea was more than he'd had to look forward to for over a decade. That was more than enough for him - for now.
He'd absolutely no intention of mentioning what Carrick had claimed about their Master's origins, it certainly didn't matter to Augustus if their Lord had a Muggle father. Listening from outside as the two brothers tried to talk Bella down from her killing rage, he wasn't sure they could have been successful if he'd unveiled that fact too. Like their master, Bella had a tendency to punish the bearer of bad news. Unlike Carrick, Augustus wasn't a total fucking idiot. Bella had ripped the much larger wizard's throat out with her teeth. Only a moron would antagonise that witch when she had a wand in her hand, and they don't let morons become members of the unspeakable department.
Sirius stage managed the official opening of the new Black orphanage as if he'd been handling public events for years. After lavishing praise on Francesca and Jillian for making today possible, his invitation for both to join the orphanage's Board of Governors left each of them accepting while shedding a few happy tears.
This was all taking place in the large, light and welcoming entrance hall of the heavily redesigned and refurbished building - which was also currently full of invited guests and press. Hermione was holding Joan's hand and felt her grip get tighter and tighter as things progressed. That Joan's nose constantly twitching was also an indication that something was bothering the girl. Hermione's initial thought was Joan simply missing Harry on her other side. As the presentation progressed though, she could see Joan getting more and more annoyed.
With her parents in tow, the group of four moved back from the main event and Hermione threw up a privacy charm so their conversation wouldn't interfere with the official opening.
"What's the matter, sweetie?"
None of them had ever seen Joan angry, but she was today. "This place is brilliant, I've never seen Miss Jillian so happy, but that lot don't care. All they keep asking about is Harry, and if he'll be here today to talk with them. They make me so mad, I want to go over there and kick their ankles."
Trying not to laugh at the oh so serious little girl, with previously undiscovered violent tendencies, Hermione certainly understood where Joan's anger was coming from. "Harry knew this would happen. That's why he's hiding upstairs, while talking to the three girls whose families abandoned them when they fled the country. One of the girls will actually be starting at the Institute this year..."
The change in Joan was so dramatic that Hermione led her to another room, sat on a chair she found there and drew the girl onto her lap. A concerned Dan and Emma had signalled to the rest of their group that things were ok before following Hermione and Joan to offer whatever support they could.
Joan was now clinging to Hermione, as if she would drop off the side of a cliff if her grip slackened.
"Sweetie, can you tell me what brought this on?" Hermione sat and waited for Joan to speak, knowing a now equally upset Harry was listening in - and mere moments from rushing to their side.
When she started to reply, Joan's little voice was barely above a whisper. "When I was left on the old orphanage steps, I was just a baby. I was too young to remember anything, the orphanage was the only home I knew - before you and Harry took me in."
Hermione's arms wrapped tighter around the little girl, giving Joan the confidence to say what was really troubling her. "I get my parents couldn't keep me, that's why I was left at the orphanage, but I never knew them so..."
Looking at the three people in the room, Joan finally gave the reason her little heart was breaking. "Knowing you and Harry, our family too, how can those girls cope - how can anyone cope - knowing they're not wanted..."
Harry was suddenly kneeling in front of Hermione and Joan, wiping tears from both their cheeks. "I've spent the morning talking to those girls, trying to convince them this is not the end of their world. Yes, they are very upset but you know we'll help them as much as possible."
Hermione's smile seemed out of place, until Harry revealed to Joan what they had just been privately discussing using their bonded rings. "Family not wanting her is something Miss Joan Potter will never have to worry about. If I hadn't asked Dobby to pop me down here, he would probably have just done it anyway. You see Dobby is a Potter too, and he loves you nearly as much as we do."
This had stopped Joan's tears, but now it was time to put a smile back on her face. Still holding her tight, Hermione revealed their plans. "You know how Harry loves his surprises, well he has one arranged for you. The big party in Ambrosia that has everyone talking also has Miss Jillian invited. She'll be there as a special guest, and bringing the official parchment which makes you a Potter. There will also be a birthday cake large enough to make sure everyone there gets a piece."
Joan might still have tears in her eyes but the sparkle they contained lit up the room. "My new official fourth birthday!"
Dan, as usual, tied a joke. "Hey kiddo, you're missing a trick here. Instead of having another fourth, why not make it your fifth birthday?"
Looking him straight in the eye, Joan made a proclamation that couldn't have contained more authority if Her Majesty, The Queen had announced it while sitting on the State Throne. "I don't want to be five when my mum is only fourteen - that wouldn't be right."
None of them could refute logic like that, and none of them wanted too. There also wasn't a dry eye in the room as Harry leant forward and kissed a very emotional Hermione. He then kissed Joan on her forehead. "I better get a move on then and marry your mum, need to make her a Potter too."
Joan started giggling, and it was so infectious that everyone there soon joined in. "I also need to get back to three young ladies, who I had to leave in rather a hurry. Will you be ok?"
Harry took both girls throwing themselves at him and hugging as a yes. Joan kissed his cheek, and offering to act surprised when Miss Jillian brought out the official papers at the party had them all giggling again.
As Dobby popped Harry away, Joan's twitching nose alerted Hermione she had something else bothering her. They didn't have to wait long. "I hope Harry isn't upset I called you mum. I love him too. He just feels more like a big brother, a guardian angel even. When he marries you, he will certainly be my dad then though..."
Hermione couldn't answer, the wave of love she felt coming through their rings meant it took her a few moments before she could reassure Joan he wasn't in the least upset.
It also took the four of them a few moments, and a lot more shared hugs, before the family were ready to rejoin today's official event.
After quietly arriving back in Britain, and spending some time at Spinners End, Severus knew they couldn't put off returning to Hogwarts any longer. Both knew the confrontation that would be in their immediate future, once they set foot inside the castle. As expected, the new Mr & Mrs Snape soon found themselves in Dumbledore's office for a conversation with the headmaster.
"First, may I offer my congratulations on your recent nuptials. Secondly, if I say so myself, a rather elegant method of negating Potter's blood feud against the Malfoy family. That boy is amassing far too much power, with very few people now prepared to stand against him. I'm sure I can count on your support in any actions I take to curb his histrionic behaviour."
Severus mentality took the equivalent of a deep breath before setting out to debase Dumbledore of that notion. "Headmaster, it goes without saying that I despise James Potter's spawn. I also want to see the Dark Lord meet his permanent end. As a condition of our marriage though, I was obliged to make an unbreakable vow to Narcissa that I would never become involved with either of those wizards ever again."
Albus was now on his feet, leaning over his desk as he stared angrily at Narcissa. "Why would you do that? Don't you realise what you've done?"
Knowing Dumbledore wouldn't be able to penetrate her mental shields, certainly not without a wand in his hand, Narcissa stared right back at the old headmaster. "I know exactly what I've done. Between them, those two wizards were responsible for the death of my first husband. I'll not see Draco lose a second father to that pair. Severus has responsibilities now, a wife and a son, that's where his focus needs to be."
With everything that had happened lately, Albus felt his anger was always near the surface. He was not above letting it show, and intimidating people to get what he wanted. "You'll expect me to use my influence to protect your new husband from the Ministry, yet I get nothing in return?"
His attempt at intimidation was wasted on the Snapes though, and Severus defanged Albus in his own slick style. "While I will admit, being questioned under truth serum in front of the Wizengamot could be bad for my health, I also have plenty of knowledge that you wouldn't want them to be party to either. With Narcissa almost as accomplished in the mind arts as myself, obliviates and compulsion charms won't work for you against us."
"If you won't support my husband against the Ministry, then we will be forced to resign our teaching positions and leave the country immediately. I'm sure you still have time to cast compulsion charms on some more eighteen year olds - and call them Hogwarts professors."
This two pronged attack saw Albus slump back into his chair, though still pushing for concessions from the couple. "I need to know I have my staff's loyalty..."
Narcissa was all over that pitiful attempt. "You can depend on us to teach the children to the best of our abilities - this is a school after all and that's why we're here. Should the Dark Lord ever turn up at the gates of Hogwarts, you can rely on my husband and I to be standing right beside you - ready to defend the castle with our lives. As an employer, I don't see what more you could expect from your employees? I thought it was only the Dark Lord who made his followers swear life-long servitude, and then branded them like animals."
He certainly understood that the bottom of the barrel had been well and truly scraped to fill this year's Hogwarts teaching roster. Albus had no hope of finding replacement professors for the defence and charms positions before term started if these two were to walk out the castle. While they were still teaching here, Albus could always prod, probe and manipulate circumstances to try and manufacture a few concessions or changes in attitude from the newly married couple.
Tom had recruited Severus purely for his exceptional potions abilities. This was why his name hadn't been mentioned by any of the Death Eaters questioned under truth serum, as a person who had been involved or even accompanied them, when they committed the atrocities that saw the death sentence handed out by the Wizengamot.
You don't waste a valuable asset on raids when their time could be far more productively spent brewing potions no one else in the organisation was capable of. Albus understood revealing Severus was the person who had revealed the prophecy to Tom would condemn the man sitting in front of him to a judgement that could see Severus paying the ultimate price too - but the cost to himself might be severe as well.
Severus knew his past plans for Potter, and was also well acquainted with Albus's usual modus operandi for dealing with people who won't do what he wanted. Either of which becoming known to the Wizengamot could see calls for Albus Dumbledore to be the next wizard questioned under truth serum - and that just wouldn't do.
His decision now made, Albus called on a house elf to lead the Snapes to their married staff quarters. He also asked for their required book lists as soon as possible. That both pulled out the requested lists and left them on his desk before leaving just added insult to injury as far as Albus was concerned. He was supposed to be the grand manipulator yet, since the night Granger saved Black, it felt like everyone and their dog was getting one over on Albus Dumbledore.
Every day Augustus was adding to his shopping list - increasing the amount of food purchased, buying some clothes, and all the printed news he could get his hands on. He wasn't to know that Bella seeing multiple articles on the new Black orphanage would set off an eruption worthy of any volcano.
"That bastard Sirius - he shouldn't even be Lord Black. This orphanage is a deliberate attack on the family he hated. He's publicly pissing all over the proud Black Family legacy - it's a disgrace. Aunt Walburga will feel the shame, even from her grave. We need to make a stand and do something about this..."
Knowing the other two Lestranges wouldn't say anything, it was left to a reluctant Augustus to try and cap this eruption before it consumed all of them.
"That would have to be a no!" He calmly continued as Bella's wand appeared in her hand. "We are utterly committed to one cause, and nothing can interfere with that. Once our Master is back with us, he will decide which targets we attack. For us to go charging at this building could see everything we stand for destroyed, our Master - and even our way of life - dies with us. Nothing is worth that risk, certainly not a building full of children nobody wants."
"Are we supposed to just sit around here on our arses, waiting on our Master walking in that door?"
That Bella was engaging in an argument, rather than already firing curses, Augustus took as a definite win. With Bella though, the situation could change in an instant.
"I'm pretty certain our Master is no longer in Britain, otherwise he would surely have contacted one of his followers for assistance - before the Ministry culled them all. He will have traveled to darkest Europe - and that's where we'll have to go to find him. We'll have to bribe, threaten or torture to get any information - with fighting for our lives a distinct possibility too. None of us would last more than a couple of minutes in any fight - especially with the type of people we'll need to meet with for information. We simply need a little time to try and recover from Azkaban, before settling off on our mission."
"If you have a set time in mind, shouldn't that be something you discuss with us?"
Nodding in agreement, Augustus was relieved to see the temperature of Bella's anger lowering. "At the moment, all I've got is a suggestion. On the first of September, all eyes at the Ministry turn toward the little witches and wizards heading off to Hogwarts. I think that would be a good day to begin our mission, by getting out the country while their attention is focused elsewhere."
The atmosphere changed in an instant, with immediate approval from all to begin on that date. This also focused minds on places and people who might have the information they would need, with Augustus supplying the writing materials he'd bought today for this very purpose.
Even Bella understood that, though her mind was willing to charge right in there, her body simply currently wasn't up to the task. Sitting wearing a store bought robe, eating more than she had in a decade while helping plan how they would search for their Master honed her deadly focus to their task. Having an actual date now when they would set out made it real for all of them. As their plans progressed, Bella actually smiled.
"Hold on a little longer, Master. Your most faithful servants are coming for you."
News of the upheavals taking place in wizarding Britain was so shocking, it rapidly swept across the channel into magical Europe - being plastered all over their newspapers too. It wasn't only their European cousins who were desperate for the latest news from a foreign Ministry that seemed to actually court chaos and daily dance with disaster. A certain possessed British witch and wizard in the process of heading home were greedily devouring data on the latest developments.
The Wizengamot trials, and the severity of sentencing carried out, stopped Peter and Tom's journey home in its tracks. Seeing pictures of Azkaban being razed to the ground left the pair not knowing what to do next.
As Peter couldn't be considered the brightest of lumos charms, Tom was never going to involve Wormtail in any discussion concerning their current or future options. After spending ages considering this dilemma from every angle, there were a couple of circumstances that convinced Tom they really had to return home.
Since his Muggle father was buried in England, and this method was currently his best option for regaining a body, that right there was a very large incentive to continue with their planned journey.
By far the biggest draw home though was that each and every one of his anchors was stored within Britain's shores. This was something he hadn't considered as a weakness at the time of their creation, since his immense power base had been almost exclusively centred within the British Isles. Now that the Ministry had wiped out all his marked followers who hadn't fled from Britain, Tom would in all actuality be attempting to sneak into the country - with only Wormtail to aid him in any plans he made.
It was ironic that he reached the exact same conclusion as his four followers currently sequestered in the Scottish Highlands. Perhaps more ironic would be the fact that, due to that same conclusion, those four fanatical followers would be attempting to smuggle themselves out of Britain in search of their Master - the very same day Tom and Peter would be trying to sneak back in.
Everyone involved with the Potter Institute was immensely proud of their efforts, and the end product of all their work. Today though, for the first time, prospective first year students - and their families - would be arriving to spend time looking around PI - and experiencing for themselves just what the Institute was offering here.
They had already received enough applications through Gringotts to fill the Institute at least four times over - though some of those applicants would certainly never set foot in the building. Today would let them know if they were on the right track with their radical ideas - radical for British witches and wizards that is.
Their visitors would be formed into small groups before being given a guided tour of the Institute's facilities and professors, with some professors having already prepared demonstrations of what their first year students would soon be learning - if they chose to attend here.
The first family scheduled to portkey in was the Creeveys, and Harry instantly relaxed at their initial reaction to their first sight of the Institute - and Pomona's official welcome.
Hermione was actually giggling at his side. "Having the medical wing as part of the guided tour should pay dividends here. Poppy might need to hand out a few calming potions to the Creevey brothers. Do you know any spell that returns eyeballs to their sockets after they've popped out?"
Harry was trying not to laugh as the Creeveys were led away from the arrival spot, though his grin couldn't have gotten any wider when the second family arrived - and pretty much showed the same reactions.
The next couple of days was going to be an immense amount of work for everyone involved with the Institute, but they had all thrown themselves into the varied tasks with vast quantities of enthusiasm. Harry had to concede Emma had been spot on that the people involved would rather have something to look forward to than a surprise. It had been Dan though who had explained the wave of positive energy that had swept through the Institute after the distribution of the invitations to Ambrosia's.
"You're showing the people who work for you that you really value their contribution to this school. That this is something you don't even have to think about, but just do naturally, is a great indicator of exactly who the real Harry Potter is. This is a journey for everyone involved, including Emma and myself. Now, while we all know Pomona's in charge, we also know who's school this is - The Potter Institute kinda says it all. People are happy to work for you, Harry, and to be allowed a place on the ground floor of something we all think is going to be amazing and special."
Harry was knocked out of his reminiscing by the arrival of their third family, and Hermione pulling him round for a quick kiss.
"You wanted the Potter name to mean something, other than that 'boy-who-lived' rubbish. Today, you took the first step on that road. This is what you wanted, your legacy..."
Harry interrupted her with a kiss of his own. "Nearly right, love, but it's our legacy..."
It was Harry's turn to be interrupted. Since that interruption consisted of Joan's laughter as she hugged both of them around their hips, he wasn't complaining. Both he and Hermione reached their happy conclusion at the same time - the Institute would become the Potter family's legacy.
A/N thanks for reading and please stay safe!