Hello gentle readers!

Welcome Back. I'm grateful to everyone who took the time to give this fic a chance and I hope you enjoy this chapter!


I had some free time so I thought I'd do some revisions-mostly grammar stuff, but also including changing the narrative from present tense to simple past tense. Hopefully, it's a better read this way.

The Heir-Apparent

"...Everyone?" Perenelle breathed in frightful shock.

After the Flamels gave their oaths, Harry explained enough for the couple to know he was from the future—there was really no way around that. Initially, Nicolas couldn't move past Harry's origins—not until his wife threatened him with sleeping on the couch if he didn't stop asking questions about the future. Harry refused to tell him what became of many people who he honestly didn't know, or the exact mechanics of how Horcrux-Voldemort used arithmancy, runes, and magic to travel back in time.

"Everyone," Harry grimly returned. "After he started putting the heads of muggle presidents and other leaders on the wall, I knew the war had extended past the magical world, and that the very little they could do with their weapons, didn't work."

Harry then told them how he was transferred to Azkaban after Voldemort's reign was secure. "Having already taken over my body, that's where the Horcrux in my head devised the plan to not only escape but to claim what he felt was rightfully his. It's funny. Voldemort's hubris is giving me another chance to destroy him," he added without a hint of humor. Fortunately, Harry didn't have to explain what a Horcrux was. Surprisingly, they knew Harpo the Foul, the creator of the Basilisk, Horcruxes, and his other many travesties upon magic.

"With the little resources available, Horcrux-Voldemort learned it couldn't do it alone," Harry stated, recalling the lowest moment of his life. "He... he imperiused me to control my help, but when that eventually stopped working, he tortured me with cruciatus. After that stopped working, he promised, he gave me his oath, to spare everyone I care for if I helped. Out of everything... with so much death... I couldn't not... I was responsible for it all and..." Harry took a break to calm down. "The reasons don't matter. I agreed to help, and we worked at it for decades. Now I'm here... without the Horcrux apparently."

The room was quite as tentative, horrified faces digested the world-shattering revelation. Nicolas' chair scraping the ground as he got up sounded like a cannon in comparison to the abject silence. Nicolas paced the room as he took it all in, while Perenelle was as still as a statue. Learning about their death or the deaths of everyone was very disturbing and clearly difficult for the pair to process but at some point within an hour, Nicolas stopped pacing and turned to ask Harry, "Why you?"

Harry wasn't sure what he meant and the confused look said as much. Nicolas endeavored to be more precise. "What I mean to say is, why you and not Hardwin Potter, The Boy Who Lived?"

"The boy who- ...What?" Harry inadvertently gasped before his reason kicked in. "Hardwin. Hardwin... That- that has to be a result of the ripple caused by breaking through to the past. The parasite theorized that breaking through and forcing existence in a space and time that was otherwise fixed might cause a ripple in the continuum, altering certain things or events." Harry's mind was reeling over that change in events. What all this could mean and how different everything could be was discouraging. "Just to be clear, neither of you have ever heard of a Harry?"

Nicolas had scratched his brow while Perenelle had tilted her head, both lost in thought. "I don't believe so," Nicolas said at last. "Many Harrys over the centuries, for certain, but none of note that could be connected to this."

"Maybe a surname?" Perenelle suggested, with a raised brow.

Harry huffed in turmoil. He had been careful with his words but did not want to give anything away needlessly. Still, he needed more information. The fact that he apparently did not exist changed everything. But he certainly had memories of a youth at the Dursleys that were fresh and different from his previous memories. 'So does he exist, or doesn't he exist?' he pondered to himself. Instead, he asked, "Did you lend Dumbledore your Philosopher's Stone, three years ago? And did it get destroyed?"

"Why, yes," Nicolas replied, his back straightening and his nod becoming stiff. "As a matter of fact, I did... and I never will again," he exclaimed. "For a former apprentice of mine to lose such a priceless magical item the way he did... Perenelle will tell you, I was incensed for weeks. Even now, just thinking about it-"

"Dear," Perenelle interjected, bringing him back from his downward spiral of anger.

Harry made a note to avoid that topic unless necessary. "Are you aware of any escapes from Azkaban this past year, or dementors stationed around Hogwarts?"

"I remember reading that a member of the Black family escaped," Perenelle answered, squinting her eyes as she tried to recall the article. "And the, quite frankly, idiotic decision to place dementors around a school full of children. It was almost a miracle some poor child didn't get their soul sucked out."

Harry only nodded at that, ignoring the memory it conjured up, to continue.

"Formerly of House Black, I believe," Nicolas corrected. "It's Lestrange-"

"Bellatrix Lestrange," Harry stated, and the older man nodded. "What about Sirius Black?"

"I'm certain he's the current head of the Noble and Most Ancient House Black," Nicolas easily answered. "Their history stretches quite far, you know, and until recently, a family mostly steeped in Dark Magic."

'Okay, so he never went to Azkaban,' Harry mentally told himself, trying as hard as he could to keep a straight face. "What can you tell me about Hardwin?"

Perenelle took that as her cue. "Heir of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Potter, whose family line can be traced well into the Middle Ages during the Norman rise and domination over the Byzantine Empire. We only heard of the Peverell-Potter union after the fact, however, it did whip up quite the bevy of excitement. Currently, the Head of House Potter is Lily Potter née-"

"My Moth-" Harry stopped himself from asking how his mother was still alive, but his shocked and stern expression did not go unnoticed by the couple. The concerned and curious look shared between Perenelle and Nicolas said as much.

Perenelle gently asked, "Is your name... Harry Potter?"

Harry remained silent, but his downcast gaze prompted the perceptive Perenelle to continue. "James Potter and Lily Potter nee Evans were Hardwin's parents, although James did not survive that fateful night. They were firmly aligned with the light and are close to Albus. Lily holds a seat in the Wizengamot, but I can't say what she does for work. Hardwin Potter is, of course, The Boy Who Lived, famous for being the only wizard in known history to survive the killing curse and end the rise of Lord Voldemort some thirteen years ago."

"Allegedly, it would seem," Nicolas chimed in. "Considering your depiction of the future, it's safe to say that the dark lord has not yet risen but most assuredly will. How he learned to create Harpo's foul abominations is beyond me, but I can easily see the calamity ahead, as clear as I can see you. Which means his rise from ruin is only a matter of time."

"He'll return in spring of next year—should everything remain unchanged," Harry said with a tone of dread, pushing past the emotional impact of discovering his mother was alive and well. "I have to stop him. Because if I don't, no one will survive him."

Perenelle turned to her husband, and he gave her a small smile and nod. Returning her gaze to Harry, she said, "You have our support."

"As much as I detest the senseless neanderthals that currently govern the magical world," Nicolas began. "We cannot ignore this. This is beyond all of us, and we will help in any way we can."

"…Thank you," Harry said uneasily. After considering the unstable state of affairs and unknown variables, some help would likely be for the best. He immediately moved to planning for the sure thing. "If we break it down, the first thing we need to do is find and destroy all the Horcruxes before we can deal with the main soul."

"How many are there?" Perenelle asked. "Herpo only ever made one, but you make it sound like Voldemort has many."

"If the diary was destroyed last year like it was in my timeline, then there should be six left," Harry answered, to the Flamels' great shock.

"Six!" Nicolas gasped. "How is he able to remain sane enough to speak, let alone be a Dark Lord?"

"Sanity was never his specialty to begin with, but, well—and I hate to admit this—he's legitimately brilliant," Harry said by way of answer. "Terrible, but brilliant. Besides Tom's Diary, there's Marvolo Gaunt's ring, Slytherin's locket, Hufflepuff's cup, Ravenclaw's diadem, Voldemort's pet snake, Nagini, and if Hardwin was the one who stopped him this time, then he has a scar on his forehead that's actually a Horcrux." Harry raised his hand and touched his own scar. Even now, it was still present but by some obscene fortune, free of his soul parasite.

"With the exception of Nagini, I know where the rest are," Harry stated. "The only ones I think I can get right now are Gaunt's ring and possibly Slytherin's locket." His mind was already formulating a battle plan, skipping ahead without realizing it. "Breaking into Gringotts to get Hufflepuff's cup will be difficult, but not impossible. Getting into Hogwarts unseen is going to be another challenge. I'd have to be able to do it multiple times too."

Nicolas interrupted Harry's whimsical musing, and asked, "Why Gringotts and Hogwarts?" He realized that Harry was losing himself to planning, and the elder easily attributed that behavior to Harry's decades of nonexistent human interaction. "Harry?"

Realizing the elder was talking to him, Harry answered, "Gringotts has the cup in Lestrange's family Vault. It was a challenge to get into before, but now that I know what to expect, it should be easier. And most of what'll happen this year will center around Hogwarts. It'll also be best if I stay near Hardwin until I figure out how to deal with the Horcrux in his scar... if he has one."

"I think we all need to take a moment to digest this information," Perenelle interjected. "For now, it's more important for your health that you rest. You're still not at a hundred percent, even with the elixir."

"The very last thing on my mind right now is rest," Harry flatly stated. "Nothing is more important than killing that Merlin forsaken monster. And I'm not crazy enough to think it's going to be easy, which means I need to start now," he stated adamantly, flipping over the covers to escape his comfortable bed.

Perenelle wasn't having any of that and stood as he did, deliberately stepping in his way to prevent him from moving. "I do not disagree that we need to stop this maniac, but even if you were at a hundred percent strength, you would still need a solid plan to kill a dark Lord, and there's still too much we don't know about each other's timeline. Take this time to gather your strength as well as the knowledge necessary to formulate that plan. Unless you think it's productive to run around like a chicken with its head cut off."

Harry could feel the gall within him to push her aside and leave regardless of her rational protest, but with great effort, he ignored the urge and returned to bed with a huff of irritation.

"Perenelle is right," Nicolas affirmed. "It wouldn't do to waste time on missteps going forward, for any of us. At the moment, it's best if we all apprise ourselves of all there is to know. Also, I think it's best if I reopen our London estate," he told Perenelle, who nodded in agreement. At Harry's questioning look, Nicolas answered, "Surely you don't expect us to assist you all the way from Sweden?"

For the week that followed, the three gathered as much information as they could, and with every new piece of the puzzle, it seemed to alter the loose form of a plan. Apart from information, they also needed to assemble their tools for the battles to come. The first thing Harry needed was a wand. Fortunately, the Flamels had two spare wands. Somehow, they had Merlin's first wand, before the legendary wizard switched to a staff, and the wand of a wizard named Prospero, of Milan, whose wand was made of pine but was deathly white. Harry hadn't heard of Prospero, but upon a single light touch to the wand's stem, his magic raged and pleaded to be free. It took a lot of will and occlumancy to retain control of himself.

At first, Harry practiced his wand work in his true-to-life mindscape. It had been so long since he held a wand, his hand movements were bound to be rusty. He spent several free hours every day practicing his wand work like he was facing Horcrux-Voldemort all over again. Considering their vast amount of time on earth, Harry expected Nicolas or Perenelle to be far better duelists than they actually were. They all quickly learned Harry could defeat them both without even using a wand. Still, there was enough data to note that wandless magic was harder for him to incorporate with great effect despite his heightened magic.

Nicolas pointed out that they were researchers first and warriors very much last.

Soon, it was frightening how quickly Harry could switch into combat mode—into an effective killer—due to his numerous battles he suffered at the cruel hands of the Horcrux. The parasitic tumor was gone, but its knowledge remained. It was not the only thing that was gone, he realized. After everything he had been through, Harry easily said goodbye to leniency, to tolerance, to Dumbledore's way, and embraced severity and most importantly, results—by any means necessary.

Where he came from, everyone died with the 'compassion for all' mentality Dumbledore preached. Harry was done with that. Now, he was going to be as hard and ruthless to Voldemort and his ilk as humanly possible. No more Expelliarmus, stunning, or Stupefy spells. If the enemy fought with cutting curses, blasting curses, and exploding curses, so would he, without hesitation.

Nicolas joined Harry on his first task; apparating to the Riddle's mansion and spending the entire day searching for clues, documents, items, or anything of note that could be used to locate Voldemort's current location or likely area to hide in. They found nothing but flimsy speculation.

Outside the mansion, in a familiar gravesite, Harry was buried in memories. Standing by the family plot in roughly the same spot Cedric Diggory was killed in, Harry had the strongest urge to set fire to the entire property, yet kept his head long enough to set a trap instead. Walking over to Thomas Riddle's grave, Harry banished the bones within, transfigured some rocks into bone, and placed them in the grave. Should all his other plans fail—and by some unjust horror they made it this far—Harry hoped the ritual would backfire enough to kill the lot. Harry banished the bones of every Riddle in the plot of land as well, just in case.

After Riddle's mansion, they apparated to Gaunt's shack. There they found and analyzed Gaunt's ring, and through the use of detection spells, determined it was sinister evil and the first of six Horcruxes. They stored it in a small lead box and turned their attention to the Slytherin's locket in Grimmauld Place. After attempting to call Kreacher, Harry diverted his attention to researching the current head of house Black.

Harry hadn't expected the emotional feedback of learning about Sirius and his 'new' life. Despite his strong levels of control, Harry still had to apparate to the top of a mountain under the night sky to truly allow his raging emotions an outlet of solitary expression. The daily prophet clutched in his hand reported the announcement of Head Auror, Lord Sirius Black, and Eve Davis' engagement for a winter ceremony. The article also mentioned Black's best friend, and mother of the Boy Who Lived, Lady Lily Potter, would be his best woman.

Freezing as it was on the mountaintop, Harry didn't cast a warming charm. In that moment, he felt so out of place, he could die, and literally no one would care. Ron and Hermione didn't even know him in this timeline. He could actually die, and not a single friend would even know. It was a diminishing and debilitating feeling that extended his freak-out in a major way. After an hour, though, it seemed no matter how much ice formed over him, burying him, his heart, magic, the elixir, or some combination of all three wouldn't allow him to disappear just yet.

Eventually, Harry felt emotionally stable enough to shakily brush himself off snow and cast a warming charm on himself before returning to the Flamels. At dinner that very night, Perenelle brought up another avenue of their goal that shocked Harry.

"You'll enroll in Hogwarts," she stated as a matter of fact.

"How do you propose I go about that?" Harry asked as he enjoyed his surprisingly good soup. Just a few days of her food, and Perenelle easily beat out Molly Weasley's culinary skills. She was now contending with Hogwarts' house elves for best cooking. "I'm sure you know I can't just say I'm Harry Potter," pointed out with a bit of a chuckle. "I'd be branded a loon, and ready for the psyche ward of St. Mungo's before they broke out the pumpkin juice."

"We've talked it over and agree with you. Using the name Harry Potter just will not do," Nicolas agreed with a smirk. "We thought of something else which will still draw lots of attention, but for far different reasons." Nicolas' smile made Harry curious and he put down his spoon.

Realizing what they were suggesting, Harry explained, "I can't use an alias either. It's too problematic. As soon as I'm within Hogwarts' wards, anyone smart enough to check will see I'm not who I claim to be. I know for a fact because there's a map I had in my timeline that uses the school's wards to track everyone within school grounds. If Hardwin has it, which he ought to by now, and takes one look at it, I'm done. He's going to wonder why there's a dot with the name Harry Potter under it."

Assuming that had squashed the idea, Harry returned to his soup, unaware that Perenelle was giving Nicolas a questioning look. Nicolas shook his head in response, and Perenelle turned back to Harry and said, "That shouldn't be a problem."

This time it was Harry's turn to be surprised. He raised his eyes to hers, and she continued, "While we didn't know about a map, we were aware of the wards and their ability to identify any soul within the grounds."

"That map sounds interesting though," Nicolas remarked with great interest. He then pointed out, "Getting in and out of Hogwarts will be easiest if you just go to school, so we thought of a solution."

Harry waited with bated breath until Perenelle comfortingly said, "You become our heir." His face was quickly one of bewilderment, but before he could respond, Perenelle continued. "The ring given to the heir of a Noble House has many functions. Because the heir-apparent of a great house isn't always a blood relative, one of those functions is to project your title upon wards that can read it. So, when we go to Gringotts to register you as our heir, along with a drop of blood, the name we provide will be ingrained into the ring, thus displaying Harry Flamel within the school's wards, instead of Harry Potter."

The three of them went back and forth that night, discussing the merits of the move, but eventually, Harry agreed. Aside from actually having to attend classes, there were far more positives than negatives. With Voldemort's knowledge and his enhanced magic, classes would just be a waste of his time. He also didn't like the idea of being near Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Luna again—no matter how amazing it would be to see them alive. He had apologized to their lifeless heads so many times that he didn't think he could hold it together in person. However, everything would be happening in Hogwarts, and Hardwin was there. He had no choice but to hold it together.

As discussed, the new identity would also help explain his past, or lack thereof. "You've obviously been living with us and have been home-schooled until now," Nicolas had mentioned at one point. "In this manner, anything magical you do beyond your years can just be attributed to homeschooling." Harry had to admit that would be helpful. He didn't like the idea of limiting his ability to that of a thirteen-year-old just to avoid drawing unnecessary attention.

Harry also agreed because it would give them a good reason to visit Gringotts and break into Lestrange's vault, but Nicolas later told Harry he had a plan to get the cup without having to break into a heavily warded vault.

"With the knowledge I've gained from the parasite," Harry argued, "I doubt it would take me more than two hours to break in, and that's only because I don't want to tip anyone off."

"Those are rune wards were created by goblin rune masters," Nicolas countered.

"The parasite figured out how to draw in natural magic using runes and warp back in time," Harry pointed out. "I don't think I need to worry."

"Be that as it may, I feel my way will go about better for everyone."

"Which is what exactly?" Harry asked dryly.

"To ask for it, of course," Nicolas answered with a smile.

He then explained his plan, and Harry had to admit it was better than his own plan. Perenelle wasn't thrilled about blackmailing goblins, but she couldn't deny that it was the best option. The next day, Harry left Gringotts with the heir-apparent ring of House Flamel on his finger and the Hufflepuffs cup in a lead case.

Nicolas had threatened the Goblin chieftain to use his famed stone to open up his own bank and give each account twice as much gold as they bring in, easily putting Gringotts out of business. As amazing as it was to watch Nicolas blackmail Ragnok, the manager and chieftain of Gringotts, into giving them the cup, it wasn't the most important detail to Harry. The one thing Harry couldn't put out of his mind was the name Nicolas submitted to fool the wards, the map, and everyone.

"Were you going to tell me about the name beforehand? Maybe ask me first?" Harry asked the moment they walked inside the comfortable Flamel home. He wanted to ask immediately after he heard the name Nicolas provided, but he couldn't appear bothered in front of the goblins or overheard arguing in public. "Ares Flamel?"

"What?" Nicolas asked with genuine curiosity. "What kind of Heir of the House Flamel is named Harry? As a Potter, it has a nice ring to it, but for Flamel? No, no. Ares is far more appropriate for you. Not only does it sound similar to Harry, but it's the Greek God of War, the very thing we are currently waging."

"Oh, did he actually go through with it?" Perenelle shouted from the kitchen.

"You knew!" Harry couldn't help but ask.

No response from Perenelle was all the response he needed. Harry rubbed the bridge of his nose in irritation. He wasn't offended, and considering the second Horcrux in his hand, not to mention everything else they still needed to do, Harry couldn't really make a big deal out of it. It was just a name, and the Flamels were helping out in ways that expedited the destruction of Voldemort faster than he had mentally calculated. A slight name change was a small price to pay.

He was brought back to the present when Nicolas asked his wife, "Is it ready?"

Harry wondered if they were referring to breakfast, but that couldn't be since they ate before they left.

"Just about," Perenelle answered before she walked back out through the back door. Nicolas smiled gleefully, like a little kid, like the fate of the world didn't depend on them. He waved for Harry to follow, which he hesitantly did after securing the lead box in their personal vault in the study.

Outside, in their spacious backyard, which was actually a hundred-acre forest, was a large cauldron atop burning wood. Harry recognized the runes painted on the side of the cauldron as Sun, Bird, Flames, Time, Resurrection, and Consecration. At the sight of him, Perenelle said, "Take off your shirt."

"Will someone explain to me what's going on?" Harry demanded with a touch of irritation. The only answer his knowledge could give him was a ritual of some sort, which likely now involved him somehow.

Nicolas gestured for Harry to remove his robe and black long sleeve. Harry reluctantly removed his clothing as Nicolas explained, "Well, thinking of Hogwarts wards, the wards prevented you from apparating—and we're aware you knew where all the secret ins and outs of the castle are—but that wouldn't help much if you had to, let's say, quickly get from the dungeons to the tower for whatever reason. You also mentioned the Chamber of Secrets. If you needed to be at another point in the castle in a hurry, you would have had to run, wouldn't you?"

"So this ritual would have allowed me to apparate within Hogwarts wards?" Harry asked with a twinge of levity.

"No," the older man flatly answered. "This ritual is to bond you to the phoenix ashes within."

Harry blinked at the entirety of the statement, and just for clarity, summed it aloud. "I'm getting a phoenix?"

"You're getting a phoenix," Nicolas repeated with a smile.

And Harry did get a phoenix. The ritual was certainly uncomfortable and long, but every moment he felt like complaining about the searing heat, he remembered the hours upon days, upon months of torture and agony at the hands of Voldemort. Fighting Voldemort in his mind with every sensation he would feel outside made sitting in a boiling solution until the salt of his body mixed with the ashes of the phoenix seem like a tepid bath by comparison.

At the end of the twenty-four-hour ritual, Harry had a baby phoenix the size of a pigeon sleeping comfortably in his hand. It was amazing enough on its own to have a legendary creature for a familiar—after all, Dumbledore was the only person he knew who owned one—but for his to be mostly black, with red highlights and feather ends—not unlike the look of a cardinal—really set him apart.

"They don't all look like Fawkes, you know," Perenelle expressed.

Realization dawned on Harry a lot slower than he would have liked. Or maybe his brain was only focused on any and all information related to ending Voldemort. Still, he said with educated guessing, "You gave Dumbledore his phoenix."

Perenelle nodded, stating, "Yes, but under the condition he never reveals where he received one and that he gives us the trace amount of ash left after every rebirth. Despite popular belief, phoenixes do die. It just takes nearly 1500 years. They leave behind a little bit of ash after every rebirth, and we use that ash in the ritual to create a new phoenix in which a witch or wizard can bond to."

"You'll need to name it," Nicolas said with a smirk. "Something good, too. Fawkes is just so..." Nicolas sighed instead of finishing his statement.

"Is it a him?" Harry absentmindedly asked.

"It's neither a him nor her," she answered. "Whatever you feel, it'll also feel, as well, and respond as such. But they do not mate, so gender is irrelevant."

"I think I'll name her Nova," Harry said, somehow confident the legendary bird would like it.

In one week, he had taken possession of two Horcruxes, devised a permanent solution to enter and exit Hogwarts, and gathered all the necessary information that distinguished each timeline. In disguise, they had navigated the archives of the Daily Prophet and learned that not a lot had changed. It was still unknown how Hardwin had survived the killing curse or how it had been reflected on He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. The only thing that was certain was what Lily and Dumbledore had claimed; that it had been a magical blessing—driving people to think of Hardwin as a blessed child and treating him as such. Judging by the photos of the savior of the wizarding world with his mother, the Blacks, and Weasleys at quidditch events, Hardwin seemed to be very happy. Harry had expected him to look identical to him, but it was more the opposite. Hardwin had Lily's face with James's eyes.

Not to say everything in the week had gone well. Harry couldn't locate Mad-Eye's home after days of searching—not that Harry had expected to find the veteran Auror's home listed where just anyone could find it or an owl to be able to track the evasive man. That wasn't Moody's way. But Harry had hoped to come across an old haunt of his or an acquaintance that might know something reliable that Harry could further investigate. Thus, warning the retired auror, or trapping Barty Crouch Jr. was out.

Additionally, a thorough search of the Riddle home had turned up nothing of worth. Harry was sure Voldemort would have already made a hideout elsewhere thanks to Pettigrew, but nothing in Riddle's home hinted at a possible location, nor did anything appear to be missing. It seemed to Harry that the majority of the fluid plan to find Voldemort would rely heavily on being in Hogwarts and catching Barty Crouch Jr.

Come July, Harry, with Nova lightly stuck to his shoulder—sleeping, despite the amount of movement—was adding layers upon layers of security to his brand new seven compartment trunk that came stock with all the latest features and functions. With Perenelle and Nicolas' help, Harry was filling the trunk with any and every potion or item they could think to need. With a large extension charm in the second compartment, Harry put as many books as they were willing to give or lend him from their massive collection. He was certain Hermione would have been extremely jealous of him if she were alive... Well, his-Hermione anyway.

To finish it off, he imbued the wood container with the best level of security Voldemort's knowledge had graciously left in his mind. Intent wards mixed with blood identification, mixed with magical signature recognition, mixed with his favorite, intruder neutralization. Harry had thought long and hard between knocking an intruder to sleep or cutting off a hand. Considering the number of children in a school, Harry opted to knock out the would-be thief with Drought of Living Death. It still disgusted Harry that the knowledge so neatly arranged in his mind was mostly all from the parasite, but he couldn't deny it was useful to have and poetic to use it against the very monster.

Harry found himself thinking of Hermione as he marveled at Voldemort's intellect. He wondered if that was how she felt all the time, but his thoughts were interrupted by an unexpected flash in the fireplace, alerting the home to an incoming Floo call. Harry immediately left the room and went into the kitchen, as Nicolas entered the sitting room. Harry tensed when he heard Dumbledore's voice through the fireplace.

Perenelle decided to let her husband deal with the headmaster and moved beside Harry to watch. She gave him a reassuring smile, but Harry didn't share her confidence. Sensing her master's distress, Nova chirped and sang a short but lovely melody of encouragement, to great effect. Though calmer, Harry was still not sure what to make of the prompt call from the Headmaster himself. After all, they'd only just sent out an owl two hours ago, and it didn't do anything more than inquire details about enrolling a transfer straight into fourth year.

"Nicolas, my dear friend, how are you?" Dumbledore started with a pleasant tone. "Everything well, I trust?"

"Who can say, Albus?" Nicolas embellished with a long sigh. "It's only due to good fortune that Perenelle and I are still here. What can I do for you?"

"It would appear it is I who can do something for you," Dumbledore sagely admitted. "I have a letter here, seemingly from you, inquiring about enrolling a student at Hogwarts directly into fourth year. Is this truly from you?"

"Well, of course it is, Albus," Nicolas snorted. "Why on earth would you believe otherwise?"

"Ah, to that, I ask if you recall a few of your, uh, well-intentioned pranks during my time as your apprentice?" Dumbledore's voice hinted that he was never a fan. Perenelle smirked beside Harry, who wondered what kind of pranks Nicolas had played on Dumbledore before.

"As you know, my boy," Nicolas winked at Harry, who held in his smile. "Time means not what it once was. I'm afraid my days of pranking, along with my many other frivolities, are over."

"Well, then..." Dumbledore seemed more at a loss than Harry had ever heard.

This bizarre and unexpected second chance to see this sagely wizard showed a much more critical Harry that Dumbledore was never the greatest man he believed he was. He was just an old man with old thoughts, not at all deserving of the pedestal Harry had once placed him on.

One of Horcrux-Voldemort's favorite psychological games was sifting through Harry's memories and showcasing just how much of a simpleton he was for ever believing he had any real choice throughout his life. Horcrux-Voldemort would point to examples of Dumbledore's mastery in manipulation, and no matter how much Harry would deny it—screaming—he couldn't dispute it. Leaving a baby on the doorstep of an abusive home with only a note for explanation, keeping so much about his or his family's history from him, doing nothing to help Sirius before Harry met him, never outing who Voldemort really was to the magical community, and finally, breeding Harry for slaughter, as if there was no other way. No, Harry no longer believed Dumbledore was as great as he'd like everyone to believe... as he used to believe.

"I'm at a loss as to the nature of your inquiry," Dumbledore continued. "Is this for the child of an acquaintance? Should that be the case, I'm not certain we'll be able to allow a transfer into a higher year without, at the very least, an in-depth evaluation."

"No, no, no, nothing like that my dear lad," Nicolas tuts with head shaking. "And if there is a single thing to worry about, I can guarantee you it is not Ares' magical competence. He's spent a number of years with professional instructors, myself and Perenelle included, and is quite gifted."

"That sounds... exceptional," Dumbledore slowly asked, and Harry could just imagine the old man's sharp mind going over the glossary of names in his memory while stroking his long white beard. "Ares, you say."

"Yes," Nicolas stated. "To be perfectly honest, he's well beyond the fourth year curriculum. The only reason Perenelle and I are considering institutional education is so he may gain more social experiences among young witches and wizards his age. We feel it would do him a world of good to form bonds with others."

Harry couldn't say he liked the sound of that. The last thing he wanted to do was waste hours upon hours of time mingling in the common room over inane, trivial topics, or playing games. He didn't have time for any of that. No one did.

"I have no doubt we can provide him with an educational challenge," Dumbledore proclaimed. "Our professors are among the very best in their field of study. However, I still do not understand your relation to the boy. You admitted to me before that you'd never take on another apprentice. Have you changed your mind?"

"No, no, I haven't," Nicolas answered. "I'm afraid I don't have much energy for that anymore... or time," Nicolas added, like a soft jab to Dumbledore's blunder with the stone. Harry had to smile at that one. "Ares Flamel is our heir."

"You're-" Dumbledore cut himself off and started coughing, making Harry wonder if he was eating one of his candies at the time. "I'm sorry, Nicolas, can you repeat that, please? I don't think I heard you properly."

"I'm terribly busy, my boy," Nicolas said, opting not to repeat his statement. "As you know time waits for no man. Shall I send you the details?"

"Yes. Yes, that would be most helpful, but if I may, this is quite surprising. An heir to your house is something I have never heard you express any interest in, much less consider."

"We are allowed heirs, Albus," Nicolas pointed out, like it's the most obvious thing in the world. "What could be so surprising about that?"

"It's only that you never mentioned an heir in any of our correspondence," Dumbledore returned. "How long have you had an heir? And why have you never told me?"

"I hardly felt the need to tell you everything that goes on in our lives, as I don't expect you to tell us intimate details about your personal life," Nicolas replied. "Ares is quite personal for us, and we felt a quiet life away from all the hubbub of the magical community suited us best. Of course, after the recent loss of our most valuable stone," Nicolas sighed for dramatic effect, making Perenelle snicker silently beside him. Even Harry's smile widened as he shook his head in mirth. "We thought it best to expand his social circle. You know, before our inevitable departure."

There were several moments of silence, where Harry thought Dumbledore was feeling remorse for how he had handled the Flamel's stone. Having shared the details about his first year with the Flamels, Harry couldn't believe Dumbledore had lied to them about the circumstances of their stone's destruction. With the article in the Daily Prophet about a break-in at Gringotts, they verified what happened in Harry's timeline matched with the current timeline, and the Flamels felt like fools for trusting Dumbledore's reason for using the stone to test poisons.

When Harry debunked the headmaster's false report of a dark wizard breaking into the school and destroying it in his attempt to steal it, the ageless couple did not react well to the revelation. Perenelle wanted to rip the beard off Dumbledore's face for endangering the lives of the students the way he had, keeping a Cerberus behind a door anyone could unlock, or tempting a dark wizard with their stone. Nicolas was angered all over again and went into his lab to brew all day.

When Dumbledore said, "I'd be happy to help guide the boy," in his grandfatherly voice, making Harry want to gag. He could almost feel the old man's manipulative tendrils trying to wrap around him, ready to move him as he pleased, like another disciple to his congregation. "And with your blessing, I can introduce him to some of our more exceptional students his age. If he's as advanced as you say, I'm certain he'll fit right in."

"You're a good lad, Albus," Nicolas said with a roll of his eyes that made Harry chuckle; Nova tweeted and cooed along with him. Nicolas gave Harry the distinct impression Dumbledore didn't like to be made to feel like a child, adding to the humor. "But that won't be necessary. I'm certain he'll find his way. He's quite headstrong."

'Damn right,' Harry thought to himself.

"It would be no bother at all, Nicolas," Dumbledore insisted. "As you may know, I happen to be delightful friends with the Noble House of Potter. Lily's son, Hardwin, will also be in his fourth year. This summer, they'll be attending the Quidditch World Cup. I'd be happy to make introductions."

Harry snapped his eyes to Nicolas and shook his head, indicating no. They had already discussed Harry going to the Quidditch match—not to watch the game, but to capture a Death Eater. Since he couldn't locate Moody or capture Barty Crouch Jr., Harry reasoned that the Quidditch World Cup was the next best place to capture a Death Eater and interrogate him for information on Voldemort. It was obvious that his targets needed to be wizards of value, which would be difficult as they all wore their stupid masks. With their faces covered, he could capture a leader just as easily as a foot soldier, and that wouldn't do. The goal, then, had to be taking one before they donned their masks, or else there'd be no way to tell.

For any of this to work out in their favor, Harry had to have the liberty to move without restrictions. He couldn't be held up by drunk idiots admiring Veelas or kids talking about broomstick maneuvers. Aside from all that, Harry was not there to make friends; he was here to save lives—his friends' lives—by killing Voldemort and his Death Eaters.

"I'll bring it up with him, but we've already planned on spending these last few days together," Nicolas said. "Can I assume he'll be welcomed at Hogwarts, then? Because if not, I can always reach out to my Beauxbaton contacts-"

"No, no," Dumbledore quickly interrupted. He cleared his throat and then said, "That won't be necessary. Hogwarts would be very happy to have him."

"Wonderful to hear," Nicolas replied. "I'll inform you if he decides to go to the Quidditch match. Now, I really must go. Good day, Albus."

"Ah, well if you must," Albus stated. "Have a pleasant day. I look forward to meeting young Ares. And give Perenelle my best."

As soon as the flames vanished, Nicolas huffed, "Not even one apology about the stone... I'm so grateful we never mentioned our spares."

Perenelle nodded. "Agreed. I have to say, it's difficult to continue thinking of Dumbledore as a genial and benevolent man. However, as someone who's seen the rise and fall of some of the worst humans to ever exist, there's little I could have expected Dumbledore to do to prevent it, save for drastic measures, of course. I can't blame Dumbledore for Riddle any more than I can blame Nicolas or myself for Harpo, or Merwyn, not to imply we were very close, mind you. The thing I just can't accept about his approach—this defeatist attitude and blatant manipulation over your life. How could he think it would be okay to keep so much from those the knowledge directly affects the most? Keeping so many in the dark about it is debilitating. How can you make informed decisions without all the facts? That's like a tree without roots. Let me stop myself before I start rambling."

"It's okay," Harry genuinely expressed.

Discovering and accepting that Dumbledore was little more than a normal wizard, complete with flaws and failures, was a hard day—or year, really—for the imprisoned Harry. Magically gifted, no doubt, but still only human.

"It's crossed my mind multiple times," Nicolas interjected. "There's no way of knowing if Dumbledore has, or had, the right idea of destroying Voldemort by sacrificing you, but I'm a firm believer that there's more than one way to skin a cat. You're clear proof of that."

"I still haven't figured out how the Horcrux was removed," Harry said. "And until I do, I can't be sure it's something I'd have Hardwin do... if it turns out he's a Horcrux as well."

"Still," Perenelle chimed in. "This is war, and we'll wage it with everything we've got."

You tell em Perenelle.

I always wondered if there could've been another way to remove the horcrux. Sure JK wrote it that way but did it have to be Voldemort shooting another killing curse at Harry and surviving again... or could it be something else. I mean Death... the actually reaper, exists in this world by evidence of the deathly hallows. My brain won't allow me to think, "oh, no Gray. You're wrong and there was no other way." I want to dig deeper, and positively vent :)

Thank you for reading. Please let me know what you think. I'd be happy to hear your thoughts.