Chapter 1: The Potters are Dead
Sunday 31st October 1981.
Dead eyes stared up at Sirius Black as he knelt over the still-cooling body of his best friend.
His brother in all but blood. The grief he felt in that moment was so profound it took him several minutes to realise the frantic sobbing he'd heard when he walked through the destroyed front door was now conspicuously absent.
Tearing himself away from James, he quickly bound up the stairs to see the nursery door in a similar state to the front one. Though without the assortment of ordinary debris around it this time. Only the jagged ripped walls where the hinges had held on surprisingly well against the onslaught. Without even stepping inside another spear of grief ripped through his body as he saw the still red hair cast across the doorway. Both of his dear friends were dead.
Struggling furiously against the desire to simply give in to his agony, Sirius finally entered the room and could not keep his eyes from caressing the lifeless form of Lily. She was still as beautiful in death as she had been in life, but there was no longer the fiery glow in her warm eyes.
Unable to fight any longer, Sirius collapsed to his knees and wept as the reality of his world came crashing down on him with full force. The rat had betrayed them, and now he was completely and utterly alone.
One thought pierced the grief and pulled Sirius from the brink of the despair he was so close to surrendering to.
Sirius dragged himself, barely crawling to the broken crib in the corner. He was all Sirius had left, and Sirius was all the boy had. He must be strong for Harry. As his eyes crested the deformed mattress he beheld the ruined bedding.
Shock set in as he realised the crib was empty, but for a few dark drops of blood. Harry was gone. Agony wrenched through his body as Sirius fell back against the now-useless child's bed and let everything wash over him. Tears fell, his chest heaved, and the weight of it all crushed him down into a tiny shredded ball of despair. Time meant nothing anymore and he would never again smile as he watched his dear friends holding their bubbly baby boy.
Hours must have passed before any semblance of rational thought managed to break through Sirius's mood. He, at last, noticed the ragged cloak and pale wand of the once-feared Dark Lord bunched over by the wall opposite the crib.
The unrecognisable lump of mangled flesh that oozed out from within like a morbid tube of toothpaste lit a tiny glimmer of pride in Sirius as he realised that at least his friends had managed to take that dark bastard with them.
Whatever had transpired tonight had destroyed not only Harry but Voldemort as well.
The glimmer only lasted a moment before a fiery need spread through his chest. There was one more thing that Sirius could do for his friends. He could give in to the anger his 'family' had so sought to brew in him. Yet they had never succeeded in aiming it where they wanted. Sirius was all fire without James to help temper his hotheadedness, and he knew exactly what he was going to burn now.
He would hunt down the rat and end him for good.
The spark was back in Sirius's eyes as he stood, walking from the room and back downstairs. He wished Lily and James goodbye as he passed them both. Reaching down and closing their eyes. Unable to let his last memory of their faces be these masks of death. Now they could be mistaken as sleeping.
"I'll make him suffer for this, Prongs. And we'll meet again when it's over."
Sirius knew his friend would have grilled him for that comment. But there was nothing but revenge to live for now. And once that need was filled, Sirius Black would not survive long in this world.
He stepped out of the cottage and into the cold night air. The chill seeped deeper than usual as he stood, and took a single deep breath.
Sirius closed his eyes and focused. And then, with a crack, he was gone.
The lungs on the lad were truly something to behold. Mipsy almost wished she were as half-deaf as Pops often pretended to be when they played up. Her large bat-like ears magnified the sound to a painful degree.
"Mipsy, sit him down in the rocker, please."
"Yes, mistress, of course." The house-elf replied.
"Harry, sweetie," the voice cooed, trying hard to be heard over the wailing boy, "Mummy's right here sweetheart. Please don't cry."
Bright green eyes opened, and Mipsy got her first good look at the young master. He had been kept away from her his entire life and now he was alone, but for her and the others. She had followed her instructions to the letter but had been unable to break through the enchantments Mistress had placed. She'd had to wait for them to fall before she could enter the ruined building.
"That's my brave boy. Yes, you are."
Mipsy looked at the portrait of the young couple, practically crying as they attempted to calm the young lad that Mipsy was now rocking gently back and forth, just as she had been in this very same rocker a few years beforehand.
"You must be so frightened and tired. Mipsy is going to watch over you and care for you now. But you can talk with me whenever you want, too."
Young Harry was transfixed by the portrait. He knew it wasn't quite his parents but was too young to properly tell the difference. The confusion and longing were written on his face as he reached out to the painted surface eagerly trying to touch the dead.
"I'm so sorry, my sweet baby. I so dearly wish I could hold you right now. But you need to rest. Tybalt!" A soft popping sound heralded the arrival of her brother. "Mipsy is going to take Harry to his crib. I want you to take us and place us on the wall above it. Do it at the same time so Harry can see us."
"Right away Mistress." Tybalt bowed, nose brushing the floor, before gripping the frame firmly and watching his sister closely.
A moment later and they were all in a different room, a much brighter room with snitches and brooms adorning the walls. The nursery the young master and mistress had been preparing before old beardy had suggested they go into hiding. The mistress had warded the new cottage so heavily that even the elves could not go there.
Such was the twin's coordination that Harry's eyes never left his mother.
"Perfect. Time to sleep now, my baby. I'll be here with you all night. Rest sweet child, for tomorrow, is a new day."
Mipsy lay Harry as gently as she could in the scarlet bedding and made sure he could see the portrait the entire time. Leaning over the wee figure, she pressed a delicate kiss to the boy's forehead, as she knew her mistress would want to do herself. Stepping back, she watched in silence as the painting sang soft lullabies and whispered kind words until Harry's eyes could resist no longer, and fell closed for the first night in his new home.
Tuesday 2nd November 1981.
The gamble had worked. Voldemort was destroyed. The prophecy appeared to have been fulfilled.
Both parties had died in the encounter, which was truly unfortunate. As was the loss of the Potters. They had been fierce and loyal members of the Order. While the two often spared little quarter to their enemies, Albus had to admit they were the single most effective fighting force in the Order after himself. Challenged only by the Longbottoms and Alastor.
It would have helped society heal faster if any of them had lived, to be a beacon for the people to rise behind as the dust settled, but no matter. Albus had steered them well these past several decades, this most recent disaster notwithstanding; and now resolved.
An old man could be forgiven a few mistakes. This result still meant peace and was a victory for all things good in this world. If only it didn't mean that he now needed to deal with them.
Albus Dumbledore would ensure the security of their world, but it was still the bastard goblins that maintained the security of what he now sought out.
For almost half a century he had held the first. The most sought-after and generally considered the most powerful. By lesser minds who never had to consider the true might of the others. Yet it had fallen into his hands by sheer happenstance. And now he was its master in ways he believed none before him had ever managed. Not even his friend. That these beasts had taken from him in his hour of victory.
Yes, their Nation had suffered somewhat under his friend's might, but to kill an unarmed man as he lay defeated in the arms of his lover…
The very memory of it made him fume as he sat in place. Why were these infernal creatures taking so long? He had other things that he needed to do with his time right now than sitting here waiting for a meeting.
Ever since James had revealed the second to him, Albus had pondered what else might lay within the depths of that family's vaults. And now pure chance had seen fit to allow him the opportunity to look.
The law was clear on this. Made so by some former Chief Warlock during a war that predated even Albus himself. The Chief Warlock would take control over any unclaimed inheritance as a result of wars that occurred within their borders. To ensure proper distribution was, of course, the reasoning given in the wording of the ancient law.
But it also meant he would have free reign to search for the third. The most important and in his opinion, the most powerful of the three. For no amount of magic could be channelled through the first that could reawaken the dead.
He knew that for a cold hard fact.
"Mister Dumbledore." The voice broke the old man's train of thought.
"Gragnar Ragnok will see you now." The goblin gestured at the enormous silver doors opposite his seat, a horrid grimace deforming its features.
"Very good. About time."
He straightened his bright purple robes and strode through the opening doors. He knew how to make an entrance, looking every bit the reincarnation of Merlin himself. Generally, he only did so because he enjoyed the way it discombobulated his enemies and spurred his allies. It also did give him quite the warm feeling inside to have people look up to him that way.
While he would never use his position for his own gain, it did leave most he met in a certain level of awe. If they weren't already so thanks to his many achievements in life.
He felt a spike of displeasure as the flair seemed wasted on these vicious creatures. The armoured goblins along the walls smirked maliciously and Ragnok himself seemed unperturbed as Albus sat opposite him at the ridiculously large stone desk. Perhaps he would take the concept for use in his own office at Hogwarts.
"Mister Dumbledore" Albus rankled at the goblins' continued use of the plain title. As if his lifetime of achievements were completely meaningless to them. Albus had worked hard, not to garner his many titles, most having been bestowed upon him by others in thanks. Yet these cretins seemed determined never to use them. "How can Gringotts help you today?"
Clearing his throat Albus drew himself up as he addressed the leader of the Nation. "I have come to peruse the contents of the Potter Estate, as per the law."
"I'm afraid that would be impossible." Ragnok gruelled back.
Albus concealed his shock well. "Whatever do you mean? That is the law. As Chief Warlock, I must preside over all unclaimable inheritances caused by this egregious war."
"Indeed." Ragnok stared him down, not moving an inch. "Despite that pretty trick you all slipped through over a century ago, the Potter Estate is not unclaimable."
This time he failed to keep the shock from his face. "And why is that?"
Ragnok smiled as evilly as it was possible for a goblin. "Because the beneficiaries of the Will still live. With legal inheritors, the Estate is to remain sealed until they can rightfully claim it."
"That makes no sense." Albus mused, confused by the matter. "I was present at the Potters' filing of their Will. I know that all who are listed upon it are now deceased or currently reside in a cell in Azkaban."
"Wills can change, Mister Dumbledore. And accidents happen." The glare directed at him by the Director of the Bank sent a cold chill down Albus's spine, even as he mirrored back a corruption of words that Albus himself had once said to Ragnok. While he was surely a very powerful wizard, raising his wand in these halls would see him cut down by the hundred beasts surrounding him. The unspoken threat bothered him.
Did the goblins somehow know what he sought in the Estate, and hoped to deny him out of spite?
"Very well then, as Chief Warlock, I request to see the adjusted Will so that I can see to its enactment." His usual serene look returned to his face as he considered the option that would still allow him to peek within, even if it was only during a change of hands.
"I beg your pardon?"
"I said, no! Are you deaf as well as daft?"
"How dare you. I have every rig…"
"You have no rights while seated in Goblin territory to demand anything of us if our clients see fit to keep it hidden. As the Potter Will was sealed by order of James Potter three days before his death, you have no right to overturn said decision. It shall only be opened by the executor and inheritors at the approved time."
Albus ignored the gnashing of weapons behind him as he glared back at the vile goblin scowling at him like he were vermin.
"Now see here…"
"If that is all, Mister Dumbledore, I have other matters to attend to." Ragnok waved a hand dismissing him.
A fiery rage overtook Albus at the dismissal by those who had wronged him so. As he stood and felt his fingers slipping up his sleeve.
"I wouldn't if I were you." Ragnok chided, without even glancing in Dumbledore's direction.
Albus grimaced again, reigning his temper in without giving any outward sign of it. "Good day." He spat as he turned on his heel and beat a hasty retreat from the room.
He would just have to come at the problem from another angle.
As the door swung shut behind the manipulative old goat, Ragnok was a blur of motion. #Buhgor, get your ass in here. And bring Farkor with you.# He shouted into an enchanted speaker on his desk. #Darkblade, watch that miserable coot closely. He will not give up at this. He wants something…# He called to his chief guard as the side door swung inwards bringing the requested goblins inside. #Sit.#
The two goblins quickly sat in the indicated chairs as Ragnok continued scribbling furiously on the documents on his desk. As he finished, he grabbed a silver blade from the desktop and sliced his thumb, allowing several drops of blood to hit each piece of parchment.
#You have 24 hours to complete a full audit of the Potter Holdings. I need it on my desk by this hour tomorrow, or your head will take its place, Buhgor.#
The aged goblin gulped deeply at the threat before taking the offered parchment and speeding from the room. Such was his terror that he forgot the customary nod as he left the office. Ragnok smiled to himself at his ability to strike fear into those he needed. There was a reason he was the unchallenged Gragnar of the Goblin Nation in this corner of the world.
He turned his attention back to the younger of the summoned goblins. #Farkor. You are proving most resourceful. I wish for you to contact the Potter Elves. I know several still live on their properties and suggest that they lock them all down as heavily as possible. The wizards may think young Harry dead, but magic tells us otherwise. Whoever has him will likely come for the same thing the stupid old bastard was after. You have five hours to have their response on my desk. Understood.#
Farkor clearly felt the same fear that had sent Buhgor sprinting from the room, however, he did not show it on his face. #Of course, Gragnar. Right away.# He calmly leapt from his seat and strode from the room, remembering the customary nod as he left.
#That lad is going places.#
A/N: #Indicates Rhovak speech#, otherwise known as Gobbledygook, GIbberish or Goblin Speech.