AN: This story is basically a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, set in the Harry Potter world. It starts after the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry will essentially be Mr. Darcy and Daphne Greengrass will essentially have the role of Elizabeth Bennett. I am working on getting the entire story finished (all chapters have been written and I am editing them, rewriting them, and having my beta, Dorothea Greengrass who once again is an incredible help). It ignores the epilogue as well as The Cursed Child.
The prologue essentially introduces the changes I have made to the story and then I will begin the story that will essentially be the adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
2 June 1998.
One month had passed since the Battle of Hogwarts.
Harry Potter took a walk around the grounds of the famous castle, his head bent in deep thoughts. He needed to make a decision, and he needed to make it quick, as long as he still had a few moments of precious alone time.
The repairs of the devastation the proud castle had suffered during the battle one month ago were in full swing. Harry had returned to the castle right after the funerals of Remus and Tonks and Fred to contribute his share to the rebuilding effort. Today, however, he didn't spare a look for the vast progress the rebuilding crews had made within a few weeks after the battle.
Moments like this had become scarce ever since his defeat of Voldemort. These days everybody seemed to think they were entitled to a piece of him, if it was Headmistress McGonagall urging him to return to Hogwarts and accept the position as head boy for the next school year, or acting minister Shacklebolt wanting his endorsement for some piece of legislation to reverse the horrible laws of the past year, or something as simple as a parent or sibling of one of the members of the rebuilding crews who wanted to thank him personally for his part in Riddle's downfall.
And then there was Ginny.
Ever since the fateful final battle when Tom Riddle, also known as Lord Voldemort, was defeated, Ginny had been assuming that they were once again a couple. To be honest, to get back to her had been his deepest desire during all those bleak months of the Horcrux hunt. The dream of a future with Ginny was what had kept him going. It also turned out to be the biggest snag to his future happiness: it was a mere dream, he'd loved the ideal of Ginny he had made up in his dreams, he'd never seen the real Ginny.
He gave a rueful chuckle. The last weeks had been an eye-opener in that regard.
Over the past month he'd seen her flaunt her status as the girlfriend of Harry Potter. She'd treated other students like they were beneath her because she was dating the boy, no, the wizard who had defeated the Dark Lord. That had been a real turn-off.
He never would've thought the dream of a happy future with her would become stale a few short weeks after his return to her and the rest of the wizarding world, but stale it had become, staler even than a forgotten glass of butterbeer.
He gave an inward shudder as he recalled the many incidents that had made him uncomfortable: her repeatedly boasting to others about how he had saved her when she was a first year, her repeatedly going on about how he had defeated Riddle multiple times throughout the school years, how he won the TriWizard championship as only a fourth year, how he had saved so many students on so many occasions. She even boasted to others how she was dating the greatest seeker since Viktor Krum.
There was only one solution to his misery: he had to end things with her, no matter how apprehensive he was of her reaction, and Ron's.
His resolve made, he took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and looked up.
Ginny was making her way across the lawn towards him.
Harry uttered a heartfelt expletive under his breath and hoped for the best.
He'd tried before to talk to Ginny about his changed feelings, but never found the right words. This time, however, he had to go through with it. He couldn't lead her on any longer, for her and his benefit he had to make choices, although she probably wouldn't see it this way. However, he had his own future to consider, something which he didn't even think was possible a month ago, and for once he would be selfish about it.
Ginny ran the last few steps towards him, a broad smile on her face, placed her hands around his neck, and leaned in to give him a kiss.
Harry bent away and removed her hands from around him as gently as he could.
"What's wrong, Harry?" She frowned, and her chocolate brown eyes looked at him in bewilderment.
"We need to talk." He cleared his throat. Damn, why was this so hard? "Or rather, I need to talk, I need to tell you what I've been thinking."
Ginny's frown deepened, and she bit her lip. "You seem upset, or angry, or... I don't know what."
"I'm not angry, I'm not upset." Harry balled his sweaty hands into fists and his heartbeat sped up. It was now or never. "It's just... I don't think this is working between us."
There, the words were out! His racing heartbeat somewhat slowed down as he took in a long breath and slowly let it out.
Ginny gasped and backed away. She regarded him with utter disbelief in her eyes. "What's not working? You won the battle, you won the war. No one is after you anymore. We can be together! This time the hero gets to ride away into the sunset with the princess!" She tossed her fiery mane back and gave him another hurt look.
Harry sighed. "You don't get it, don't you? You don't even get me. You've been all about what I've done in the past, my defeating Voldemort, multiple times even, and my rescuing you. You seem enamoured with 'Harry the Hero' from all those stupid books you read about a fictionalised version of me when you were a child."
Ginny gaped at him, her eyes wide. "But they were great stories!" A reminiscent smile flickered across her face.
Harry suppressed another sigh. Could it be she still thought the Harry of the fictional stories to be the real article? His mind wandered back to the short time they had been together after the war. Who was he fooling? Of course she thought just that, now, after his defeat of Voldemort, even more than ever. Yet he tried once more.
"Ginny, you had a girlhood crush on the Boy Who Lived, the character in those outlandish stories. You developed an infatuation with me when you met me when I became Ron's friend. You saw me as your knight in shining armour, your personal saviour when I rescued you from the Chamber of Secrets."
Tears welled up in Ginny's eyes, however, there was also a belligerent sparkle in them. "But you did rescue me from the chamber!"
This time he didn't bother to hold back the sigh. "I would have rescued anyone down there if I had to. You were the unfortunate one who was 'picked' by the diary because Lucius Malfoy put the book in your cauldron."
Ginny's eyes lit up. "See, that was fate! We are meant to be together!"
Harry almost groaned. Now she was clutching at straws to salvage their relationship. "No," he said in a firm voice. "That was bad luck, and an evil man trying to destroy you and your family."
Ginny reached out to grasp his hands, but he withdrew from her.
"What about fifth year?" She came up with a new argument in favour of their relationship.
Harry shook his head. "We weren't dating in my fifth year, in fact, you had at least two different boyfriends, as I recall. And, yes, you volunteered to come help me and Hermione as we went to the Ministry to try and rescue Sirius, but that doesn't make us lovers. We barely dated during sixth year, and I broke up with you before I left last summer."
Ginny pouted, then she gave him a blinding smile. "Yes, yes, but now we can be together."
Harry's stomach hardened. He pinched his lips together and suppressed the urge to swear loudly. Merlin, hadn't she listened to one word he said? He took another deep breath. "You want to be with someone, but not with me. You want Harry the Hero, Harry the Quidditch star, Harry the Defeater of Voldemort." He spoke clearly and slowly, as if talking to a small child, in an attempt not to show his anger and frustration.
Ginny's head flinched back slightly, and she ran a hand through her hair. "So?"
Harry stiffened. Did he just speak in Parselmouth? He couldn't fathom why else she didn't understand. "All I want to be is Harry, and not have to be reminded constantly of what my parents did for me, nor what I had to do for everyone else."
Ginny's eyes darkened, and colour crept into her cheeks. "Wait, now I understand! There's another girl, isn't there? You want to be with Hermione!" The last words came out almost as a scream.
"No, there's no other girl. Not even Hermione. Hermione is my best friend, we're not into each other like that. And you, well, you're my best mate's little sister. You're a friend, a great friend. And you're a huge fan of my titles, but I don't think you really know me." His voice still was calm, and he gave himself an inward slap on the shoulder for staying calm, despite Ginny trying to turn their inevitable break-up into a drama with lots of shouting.
Ginny stared at Harry for a full minute, the colour of her cheeks deepening, and her eyes burning into his.
Harry's stomach gave another uncomfortable twist. Her expression was too bloody similar to when his uncle would get angry with him, although her face was only a little red, not turning a dark purple. This wasn't going to end well for him.
In confirmation of his thoughts Ginny lunged out and slapped him in the face. Hard. With a last, withering glare at him she turned around and ran back into the castle, muttering expletives intermixed with the words "Potter," "wanker," and "complete idiot."
Harry watched her retreating form, absentmindedly stroking his burning cheek. When she disappeared into the castle, he let out a deep breath. "Well, that could have gone worse."
Diagon Alley, outside of Gringotts
Bill Weasley stared at the letter in his hand, a frown on his face. The letter bore the crest of Gringotts and was short and to the point.
Mr. William Weasley,
Your presence is requested for a meeting at Gringotts this afternoon, four p.m.
Head of the Curse Breaker Unit
He and his wife, Fleur, both had lost their jobs at Gringotts due to the war and their lack of availability to show up at work. He hadn't counted on ever interacting with the Goblins once again, apart from anything pertaining to his and Fleur's vault at the bank. The Goblins never forgot - and never forgave - what they perceived as a neglect of duties.
He crumpled the letter in his hand and tossed it into the paper bin. There was no other way to find out what this was all about other than to keep the appointment. He didn't have anything better to do, anyway.
At the appointed time he walked into the bank and was promptly escorted into a small room. He'd just sat down when his former manager, Grabthar, walked into the room.
"Ah, Weasley, you came," Grabthar snarled and sat down opposite of Bill.
"Of course, sir, but I do not know the meaning of this visit," Bill said with a respectful nod. Good manners never hurt when acting with Goblins, so much he had learned during his years as a curse breaker for Gringotts.
"A simple task is all we ask of you," said the Goblin. "Just deliver this message to a wizard, someone you know, and you and your wife will have your jobs back."
The breath caught in Bill's throat. A simple delivery in exchange for his and Fleur's jobs, that sounded almost too easy. Where was the catch? "What kind of message?" he asked.
"It is a simple request for a wizard to come and meet with Ragnok, that is all."
Bill raised an eyebrow. Ragnok was the head goblin of Gringotts, he didn't deal with simple wizards. Whoever it was Ragnok wanted to talk to had to be rather high up in the food chain. "Ragnok? Who is this message for?"
Bill sat straight. Not a simple message, then, given the Goblins still had a score to settle with Harry for his break-in at Gringotts. Merlin grant that they did not know that he and Fleur had housed Harry, Ron and Hermione just prior to their successful attempt to break in to the bank. "Just deliver the message, that's all?" he asked, not able to keep the suspicion out of his voice. Their jobs be damned, he wouldn't let the Goblins turn him into a means to take their revenge on Harry.
Grabthar handed Bill a small scroll. "Yes. That is all, and no, the message is not cursed. Just a request for the wizard in question to attend a meeting. Goblin's honour."
Bill bit his lip. Goblins were honourable, yes, but it was their own special brand of honour. Even if Grabthar swore they only wanted a meeting with Harry, there was no saying they wouldn't turn it into a trial. Then again, Harry was the Saviour of the Magical World, even the Goblins were thankful to him for ridding them of that pest Voldemort. They might ruffle him a bit, but they wouldn't kill him, they were too shrewd to risk the wrath of the wizards and witches.
"With Ragnok?" Bill questioned once again.
"Are you going deaf? Too many accidents with curse breaking? Are you not qualified for returning to your work, Mister Weasley?" snarled Grabthar.
He had to make a decision. Oh well, beggars couldn't choose, he and Fleur needed their jobs to make a living. "No, no problems with returning to work," said Bill as he took the scroll. "And no problems with delivering this message. I'll see to it right away."
Ministry of Magic
"Percy Weasley," called out Bartholomew Belby.
Percy stepped up to the desk where the wizard who had summoned him was sitting. Percy was working for the ministry once again, but mostly as an aide, running errands for all sorts of department heads. Now he had been summoned to the Wizengamot offices. "What can I do for you, Mr. Belby?"
"You need to deliver a message," said Belby. "I've been told that your family is quite close to Harry Potter."
"Yes, we are, but why not send an owl?" Percy furrowed his eyebrows. Harry had done a lot for the wizarding world, but surely he wasn't that important that messages needed to be hand-delivered to him.
"Owls are scarce, and it was determined by someone higher than me that this needs to be delivered in person, and you have been identified as that person. Good day, Weasley." He handed the rolled parchment to the young wizard.
Thus dismissed, Percy had no other choice than to take the parchment and leave the office.
3 June 1998
Hogwarts, Great Hall.
Harry arrived early to the Great Hall for breakfast. Only a few members of the repair crew were up this early, and he sat down at the almost empty Gryffindor table, thankful to be able to enjoy some peace and quiet before the demands of the day. He'd actually had a decent night's sleep, too, the first in a long while. Probably that was due to him no longer stressing about his relationship with Ginny.
He hadn't seen Ginny since she ran off, most likely she was hiding somewhere and licking her wounds. He sighed as he reached for the tea pot; he'd never meant to hurt her, and he refused to feel guilty over the break-up. The decision had to be made, or they both would have become exceedingly unhappy in the long run. He filled his cup, put down the tea pot, and looked up.
Bill Weasley and his younger brother Percy stood in the door of the Great Hall. They both looked around as if searching for someone. When Bill's eyes fell on him, he nudged his younger brother and pointed into Harry's direction. The next moment they made their way directly towards where he was sitting.
Harry's stomach gave an uncomfortable lurch. Bugger! Now he knew where Ginny had been hiding, didn't he? She'd run to the Burrow and sicced her big brothers on him to take him to task. He took a deep breath and squared himself for the uncomfortable confrontation. No matter what Ginny had told them, and no matter how angry the Weasleys were at him, he wouldn't change his mind.
"Good morning, Harry," Percy proclaimed loudly. He planted himself in front of Harry, his chest stuck out and his standing tall.
The way he held himself and looked down at him reminded Harry of Lucius Malfoy, and the palms of his hands became moist.
"'Morning, Harry." Bill greeted him with an easy smile.
He didn't have the appearance of a man who was out for his blood. The squirming of Harry's stomach lessened somewhat. He gave them a cautious upwards glance, he'd better not yet let his defences down. "Good morning to both of you. What brings the two of you to Hogwarts so early?"
Percy threw his shoulders back and produced a scroll out of the pocket of his immaculate robes with a grand gesture. "The Ministry of Magic has requested that I hand deliver this message to you, Harry." He handed over the scroll with another pompous motion and gave a slight bow.
Harry took the scroll from his hand, careful not to let his relief show on his face. So, this wasn't about Ginny, but about something the Ministry of Magic wanted from him. Probably another self-important department head asking for the presence of the Saviour of the Magical World at some event that was designed to make himself look good. He'd had dozens of them ever since the Battle of Hogwarts and declined them all.
Bill looked down at his younger brother with a raised eyebrow and shook his head. "A little over the top with the dramatics there, Percy, aren't we?" Then he turned to face Harry. "Gringotts bank has asked me to deliver a message to you as well." He removed the scroll from inside his robes and handed it to Harry, forgoing any of the dramatic flair his brother had shown.
A jolt went through Harry, and he gaped. A message from Gringotts? There was only one topic he could think of the goblins would like to discuss with him - his break-in into the bank. The repercussions had not yet been settled, at least not that he knew; he'd made a point to stay as far away from Gringotts as possible ever since the end of the war. The squirming of his stomach returned with a vengeance.
The two scrolls in his hands, Harry gulped and closed his gaping mouth. He looked up at the two Weasley brothers, clearing his throat. "What is all this about?"
Bill answered first. "The goblins have a request of you, Harry. You need to read the scrolls, it's all in there."
"Yes, what Bill said," added Percy, "read the scroll. It should be self explanatory once you do."
That did nothing to quiet down his squirming stomach. At least neither one of these messages had anything to do with Ginny, thank Merlin for small blessings. Had Ginny even told her family that he had broken up with her?
The two Weasley men still looked down at him with expectant expressions on their faces.
His cheeks became warm. "Yeah, right." He first unrolled one of the scrolls; it happened to be the one from Bill, and his random choice brought a pout to Percy's face.
With a mental head shake Harry scanned the document. What a git! He read the words, and again his stomach seemed to lead a life of its own. He looked up at Bill. "I have to meet with Ragnok, the head of the bank? Later today?"
Bill nodded. "I was told that Ragnok was requesting a meeting with you. However, they did not tell me the specifics."
Yes, his stomach definitely was an entity of its own. Harry squelched the slight feeling of nausea. "I can't meet with them today, I've volunteered to help with the repairs of the castle, and as it is Hogwarts needs every capable wand to be ready in time for the next school year," he said.
"It is not a request, Harry, but an appointment that has been made," said Bill. "To not show up would be considered rude at best, a personal slight and an offence to the goblin nation."
"I'd better go in that case, I wouldn't want to offend anyone," said Harry honestly. Or make his situation any worse than it already was with the goblins. His heartbeat sped up. What were the goblins going to do with him? Somehow, he doubted they'd summoned him to that meeting to give him the goblin equivalent of the Order of Merlin for his defeat of Voldemort.
He shook off the morose thoughts before he would begin to panic.
Percy already bounced on his heels, his hands clasped behind his back, and growing impatience with waiting on Harry evident on his face.
He'd better appease the pompous git before he was in for another lecture of disregarding the authority of the Ministry, or other rubbish like that. Harry unrolled the scroll and read the short message.
This is to inform you, Harry James Potter, that you have been granted the titles of Lord Potter and Lord Black.
Harry read the message once again. The words didn't change.
He raised his head, a frown on his face. "It says here I'm Lord Potter and Lord Black. When did this happen?"
Percy gave a start and made a face as if he'd swallowed a lemon. "It should have happened when you turned seventeen." he said in a stiff tone.
"Probably as you were on the run last year, the ministry had no way to contact you," said Bill. "Nor did they have any desire last year to let you know about this, either, considering You Know Who was in control."
"Well, now, what do I do?" asked Harry. That was just what he needed, another two titles on top of all the silly monikers he had already gained during his short life.
"I would make sure you are at Gringotts this afternoon, at the appointed time," said Bill with emphasis.
Percy swallowed hard. "Well, you need to claim your titles. This would be done at the Wizengamot office." He turned and gave a smirk to his brother before he turned back to Harry and added with a forced smile, "You can go there at your leisure."
Harry turned to Bill. "Do I need to claim these titles before I go to Gringotts?"
"I'm not sure how much it matters, to be honest," said Bill.
Percy stood up straighter and puffed out his chest. "The title of Lord of two different houses would hold a lot of weight within the wizarding world. Particularly when they are both old and historically powerful houses. Perhaps you should make sure you have those titles prior to any meeting with the goblins."
Harry nodded in response to Percy's words. That made sense, and he would probably need any advantage he could get with the goblins. "Well, I guess I will have to head there this morning so I won't be late to my meeting with Ragnok."
Percy smiled slightly and gave another bow to Harry. "Very well, Harry, I shall now return to my work at the Ministry of Magic."
Harry and Bill watched Percy strut out of the Great Hall.
"Is he really all that important at the ministry now?" Harry asked.
Bill grinned. "I doubt it, but he feels too good about himself for some reason." He sobered. "I hope things go well with you at your meeting today, Harry. It must be very important, or you would not be meeting with Ragnok himself. Probably this has to do with what you and Ron and Hermione did just before the end of the war."
"Probably," agreed Harry. He took a deep breath. Why couldn't Bill and Percy just have come to give him a grilling about his break-up with Ginny? That would have been far easier than what he was facing now. Aloud he said, "I just hope they can be forgiving, I doubt they want to award me some sort of medal."
Bill snorted, though it didn't sound happy. "Goblins are not known for being forgiving."
Harry's stomach gave another lurch, Bill had just confirmed his apprehension. "No, I didn't think so." He raised an eyebrow at Bill. "So, why were you the one to deliver this message to me?"
"You've heard that Fleur and I had both lost our jobs?" Bill asked, and Harry nodded.
"Well, I was called in and my former boss told me we could have our jobs back if all I did was hand deliver this message to you. I hope you don't mind. Someone was going to have to give you the message. Believe me Harry, I do hope it all works out for you. I really do."
He gave a small wave goodbye to Harry, turned and left the Great Hall.
Harry stared after him, his apprehension of the meeting at Gringotts eating at him.
Ron Weasley was sitting at the kitchen table of The Burrow and munched on a sandwich of gargantuan dimensions, a broad grin on his face. Life was good, Minister Shacklebolt had offered him the option to attend Auror School, even though he hadn't the N.E.W.T.s to show for it. Now, why should he? He was Ron Weasley, he had helped Harry in their quest to defeat Voldemort, so that was his due, wasn't it? After all, a hero deserved a reward.
He tore off another chunk of his sandwich. Harry had joined the rebuilding crew at Hogwarts, and Hermione planned on returning for her seventh year. He, however, had no intention of returning to Hogwarts if he didn't have to.
He, Ron Weasley, was famous, he gained lots of attention and recognition, even if only for being friends with the Boy Who Lived. He could walk into a bar, and as soon as he was recognised someone would buy him a drink. Or two...
He shoved the last bite of his sandwich into his mouth. Hopefully, Auror School wouldn't be too hard. Then again, he was a hero, they'd think twice before chucking him out.
He eyed the cold cupboard. Still two more hours until dinner. Maybe he should prepare himself another sandwich to last that long.
He was just about to get up, when the Floo flared, and a tear-streaked Ginny stumbled out.
"Ginny, what happened?"
She threw herself right into his arms. "Your prick of a best friend dumped me. He might deny it, but I'm sure he's got something going with another girl, that two-timing bastard!"
Harry arrived at Gringotts with time to spare for his meeting with Ragnok. His meeting at the Ministry of Magic had been brief, even though he had to sign a veritable mountain of forms until his right hand hurt, and then he had to listen to a long-winded lecture about his responsibilities to the Wizengamot. He'd need to seek advice about how to deal with being a lord, but that was a headache for another time. His heart beat fast as he entered the bank, and he dried the moist palms of his hands at the sides of his robes. What would the goblins do with him? At least the guards didn't apprehend him as he walked into the bank, and he relaxed somewhat.
As soon as he had entered the lobby, a goblin approached him. "Arriving on time, if not a little early for your meeting, Mister Potter." The goblin snarled. "It seems at least someone taught you to mind your manners. Follow me!" He whirled around and marched deeper into the bank, and not once looked over his shoulders to make sure if Harry kept up with him.
Harry followed the goblin, who had not even deigned to introduce himself, with a sinking heart. This start didn't bode well for his meeting with Ragnok.
Soon they entered a large room with one large glossy-black chair in the middle, an even larger throne on a dais at the front of the room, and a couple of tables with stacks of parchment arranged around the chair in the middle. The goblin motioned Harry to the black chair in the centre of the room.
Harry took a closer look at the chair. It seemed to be made of a highly polished, black stone that shimmered like glass. Obsidian, if he wasn't mistaken. The seat was covered with intricate runes. What would the runic chair do to him if he sat in it? What were the magical properties of obsidian, and how could they be enhanced by runes? He had no idea about the latter, never having taken Ancient Runes, but he should know the answer to the first question from studying the magical properties of potion ingredients. However, the answer eluded him.
The goblin made an impatient sound at the back of his throat and once again motioned towards the chair. Harry understood, the goblin was not making a polite request, he was ordering him to take a seat.
Once he sat down, the door opened again. Harry looked over his shoulder; about a dozen elderly goblins came in and sat in the chairs behind the tables, and he hurried to get up from his chair and greet them with a polite nod.
They didn't acknowledge his courtesy, but exchanged meaningful glances with raised eyebrows.
Once the goblins were seated, a horn blew and the goblins all rose to their feet and snapped to attention. Was the horn announcing the arrival of Ragnok? Well, it wouldn't hurt to be polite to the goblin who probably held his fate in his hands, so Harry followed suit.
Six goblin guards armed with poleaxes marched from a hidden door onto the dais. They split into groups of three and planted themselves to the left and right in front of the throne-like chair. The horn sounded again, then a goblin in golden armour walked in, followed by another six goblin guards who looked as fierce as the first group and planted themselves to the left and right behind the throne-like chair.
Thus properly guarded, the goblin clad in the gold armour walked up to the throne, sat down, and removed the golden helm from his head, which he placed on a cushion on a small table next to the throne. Not sooner than he had done this the goblins all sat down.
Harry followed their example, his heart beating in his throat. If this performance was a demonstration of power meant to intimidate him, it had worked. The glistening blades of the poleaxes looked as if they could chop off the head of an offending wizard with one strike, and the goblin guards who held them gave the impression they would relish the experience.
At the table to the left of Harry, a goblin stood up. "We are gathered here today, in the presence of Ragnok the Second, the Most High Goblin, King of the Nether Realms, Director of Gringotts Bank, to hear the charges against the wizard Harry James Potter."
The goblin sat down, and another goblin stood up at the table opposite to the first goblin's. He unrolled a scroll of parchment and read, "Harry James Potter, you are charged with theft and destruction of property from the Lestrange Family Vault. Additionally, you are charged with trespass, theft of Gringotts bank property, deception of Gringotts bank employees, and damage to Gringotts bank property." He sat down.
Harry's stomach dropped. So, his apprehensions had been well grounded, the goblins were going to put him on trial for the break-in. He took a deep breath to calm himself down, if this was a trial, he could try to explain what he did and why he had to do it.
Behind him, a chair scratched across the floor, and he turned around.
A third goblin stood up and also unfolded a parchment. "Having been tried in absentia on the 25th of May, according to the calendar of the Ministry of Magic, Harry Potter has been found guilty of all charges against him."
An arrow of ice seemed to penetrate Harry at these words, and he froze. How could that be? He didn't know of a court appointment on that day, as surely as Merlin was a wizard he didn't get a summons for that. What kind of justice was that?
Goblin justice, Bill's voice said in the back of his mind.
Silence descended onto the room, the goblins all stared at Harry. His armpits became damp. Should he say something in his defence? But what? It seemed pointless, anyway, the verdict was already spoken.
A fourth, rather young goblin stood up, this time from the end of the row of tables to his left side.
Harry's eyes went wide. Now he'd hear what would become of him. He cast a surreptitious side glance at the stony-faced goblins to his left. Whatever they had planned, it wasn't good. Everything inside of him went ice cold as his eyes followed the fourth goblin march to the base of the throne, a scroll of parchment clutched in his long-fingered hand. Despite the coldness a drop of sweat rolled down his back.
The young goblin stopped, bowed deeply before Ragnok, and said something in a language that Harry did not understand, neither could he make out any words, the goblin spoke in such a low voice. Ragnok replied with what seemed to be a question for the young goblin, for the young goblin shook his head. With an impatient gesture Ragnok called the goblin forth. The goblin handed him the parchment, turned, and ran back to his table.
Ragnok examined the parchment for a long time. His expression did not let on if whatever stood on that parchment was going to help Harry's cause or was going to condemn him even more in the eyes of the goblin nation. At length, Ragnok stood up and walked towards Harry.
"You are Harry James Potter?" he asked.
Harry gulped and answered through dry lips, "Yes, sir, I am Harry James Potter."
"Harry James Potter is guilty of trespass, theft, deceiving the goblins at the bank, damage to bank property, theft of bank property," said Ragnok. He looked around at the other goblins, who murmured their assent, before his eyes landed on Harry again. They held more than a hint of steel when he opened his mouth and said, "The penalty of these crimes includes a death sentence."
A fist seemed to punch Harry's gut, the coldness intensified, and everything around him all of a sudden seemed to be unnaturally clear and bright. That it was, his fate was sealed.
His body became limp, and he pulled himself together with almost superhuman effort. He'd be damned if he turned into a whining mess in front of the goblins!
Ragnok cleared his throat. "However, our records indicate that Harry James Potter has died, that he died after these events took place, and the penalties are null and void."
Murmurs of disbelief ran around the tables where the other goblins were seated. Ragnok raised a hand, and the murmurs died down. He fixed his stare on Harry. "Why is that? Explain to me, explain to my people, how can this be?"
Harry swallowed hard and flicked his tongue across his dry lips. "Um, I did die?" It sounded more like a question than an answer.
Ragnok tilted his head to the side, as if pondering Harry's words. He shook his head and waved his arms wide in front of Harry. "Impossible, isn't it? Yet you are here, standing before us, while our records state that you have died. How can that be? Our records are never wrong."
Harry bit his lips. How was he supposed to respond? Should he tell the tale of the events of the night he defeated Voldemort, how the killing curse was cast upon him once again and he had survived against all odds because of the long chain of mistakes Voldemort had made in regards to him?
No, that was classified information, besides him, Ron and Hermione only Kingsley knew, and he had taken an unbreakable vow never to reveal that knowledge without Harry's assent. And yet, there was something inside of him that urged him to spill out everything in one rush. Was that the doing of the rune-covered chair? He clamped his mouth together and bit on his tongue to prevent himself from talking.
The third goblin, the one seated behind Harry, stood up again and cleared his throat. "Actually, your highness, this is Lord Harry Potter-Black."
Ragnok furrowed his eyebrows and gave Harry a long, hard stare. "You're a man of many surprises, Mr Potter, or Lord Potter-Black, I'd rather say. Did you not enter our bank on the first of May, taking with you an item from the Lestrange vault, taking with you our dragon, our vault guardian? Then how is it that you are dead, yet you are here? How is it that you are Harry James Potter, but now are Lord Potter-Black?"
He had to answer that question, silence would drag him even further into disaster. Merlin help him he wouldn't spill out everything.
"It is a long story, but I will try to be brief," Harry said. He tried to speak slowly, to think before he gave anything away. However, whatever that damned chair was meant to do, it worked. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he fought an already lost battle. The dam broke, and the words rushed out of his mouth.
"I was killed by Voldemort during the Battle of Hogwarts. I know the break-in was wrong, but to defeat Voldemort we needed to get an item from the vault, an item that was needed to be destroyed so that he would become mortal, so that he could be killed. After we had destroyed almost all of his items that kept him immortal, he cast the killing curse at me again, just like he did when I was an infant. I died, or at least I think I died, but I was given the choice by magic to return. It gets kind of complicated after that. I returned to the land of the living, and my friend, Neville Longbottom, destroyed the final piece holding Voldemort to this plane. In the end the monster died of his own rebounding Killing Curse when we duelled at Hogwarts."
He leaned back in the obsidian chair, breathing heavily, and wiped the sweat from his brow. Damn these nosy little buggers, if only they wouldn't ask for details about the items Voldemort had used, he wouldn't be able to keep the truth about the Horcruxes from them.
Ragnok's eyes became wide, he stared at Harry, then at the rune-covered chair, under the surprised whispers of the other goblins in the chamber. "One cannot speak lies while seated on the Chair of Truth," he said at length. Something like awe flickered across his face.
He looked down once again at the parchment in his hand. "It would seem that Goblin magic does not hold you guilty." A grumble escaped his throat. "You, Lord Harry Potter-Black, are free to go."
There was the sound of a goblin clearing his throat, and the entire chamber turned to face the young goblin who had handed the parchment to Ragnok earlier.
"Yes, youngling, what is it now?" asked Ragnok. His voice sounded impatient.
"This is an updated list of the vaults which Lord Potter-Black has at his disposal," said the young goblin. He held up another parchment. "Since Lord Potter-Black is already here, we should discuss the matters concerning his holdings with him, the Potter holdings as well as the Black holdings have been dormant and neglected for far too long."
Ragnok chuckled. "I agree, unfortunately, the Potter and Black account managers both have passed on, so you who are so bold, you will be Lord Potter-Black's account manager, until he tires of you." He made a gesture that dismissed everyone in the room, walked back to his throne, and grabbed his helm which he tucked under his arm. Flanked by his guards, Ragnok left the chamber.
The other goblins also left the room until Harry was left with only the young goblin, who introduced himself as Gandor. "It seems, Lord Potter-Black, that your good fortune today has become my good fortune."
"So it would seem." Harry smiled down at the young goblin and held out his hand. "Nice to meet you, Gandor."
Gandor gaped down at the offered hand, then caught himself. "I'm honoured, Lord Potter-Black," he said and shook Harry's hand.
Harry grimaced. "Scratch that Lord Potter-Black nonsense, will you? It will take me ages to answer to that name. I'm Harry, alright?"
"Right, Harry then," Gandor said, and a faint blush crept into his cheeks. He gestured for Harry to sit down next to him at the table. "Let's begin with the basics. We ought to review the value of the vaults you possess and the specific items that may be held in those vaults. Once we have established all of that, we will need to discuss investment opportunities, as I am sure that you do not desire that any of your vaults remain stagnant."
Harry smiled at the eager young goblin. "We can start by reviewing the vaults, and then we shall see. It seems that I may need to be working with you quite a bit going forward."
Gandor's eyes twinkled in response to what Harry had said.
Harry took a seat across from the goblin who pushed a parchment to him.
"It is quite clear that you have many vaults which you can access," Gandor said. "They are, as listed, the Potter family vault, the Potter trust vault, the Black family vault, the Peverell family vault, the Gaunt family vault, the Slytherin family vault, as well as the Lestrange family vault."
Harry's eyes went wide as he looked at the parchment. He blinked, shook his head, and took another look. "These numbers here next to the vaults, do they indicate just how much wealth the particular vault holds?"
Gandor shook his head. "Oh, no, Lo... uh, Harry. That is just the value of the Galleons and Knuts and Sickles, the number does not include the value of any gems or other items within the vaults. That's one of the things we still need to find out. We can tour the vaults at your pleasure and do an inventory."
Harry stared at the parchment. "So, does this mean I'm rich?"
Gandor pressed his thin lips together as if to hold back his laughter. "Perhaps one of the richest wizards in the world, Harry. We also will need to check the vaults to see which property deeds may be found there as well. I can have a full accounting of the first three vaults within the week. I am not sure how long the others will take to evaluate."
Harry grinned at the goblin. "Brilliant! Can I pick up some galleons now? I feel like a steak-and-kidney pie at the Leaky."
Harry sat at the kitchen table of Grimmauld Place number twelve, his arms propped up on the table top, and his hands buried in his hair. He had been able avoid the death penalty from the goblins because he had already died, at least according to magic. That not enough, he was now a lord, too, of not just one, but two bloody houses. He was rich and had plenty of gold to spare. He heaved a big sigh, that was a lot to take in.
He needed to learn about being a lord, he needed to learn about the wizarding world in a way he had never done before. Who could teach him what he needed to know?
Certainly not Hermione, she was a stranger in this world, too, and he'd relied on her too much in the past. It was about time he stood on his own feet.
A snort escaped him, no matter how sweet dear Luna was, for what he needed she'd be the worst teacher possible. So were the Weasleys; Mr Weasley might be held in high esteem at the Ministry, but he doubted he had a clue about managing vaults and estates, or what to do on the Wizengamot. His break-up with Ginny made it impossible to ask any of the Weasleys, anyway.
Come to think about it, there was only one person he could turn to. He got up and called through the Floo from Grimmauld Place to Longbottom Manor.
Three minutes later Harry sat at a table in an impromptu meeting with Neville and Neville's grandmother.
He ran a hand through his hair and looked at Neville. "You're a lord, or are about to be. You've grown up knowing you would become a lord. I know almost nothing about magical society and definitely nothing about being a lord, other than Sirius didn't want anything to do with his title and Lucius Malfoy was a pompous ass."
"Do not fear, Harry," said Augusta Longbottom. "I made sure that Neville's father understood what it meant to be a lord, and I will make sure that the both of you will learn your proper place in our society. After all, you would have grown up as brothers if it hadn't been for that… that Riddle fellow and his band of followers."
Neville and Harry exchanged a grin at her words.
She shook her head and gave them a stern look down her nose, although the twitching of her mouth gave her away. "Don't grin, you both have a lot to learn, and there will be no fooling around during lesson time. This won't be an easy class like Potions."
That had both young men snort, yet Harry nodded in understanding. His heartbeat sped up, the next weeks and months promised to be exciting.
Augusta stood up to leave the room, but hesitated and addressed her grandson. "You remember your Aunt Elaine and her husband, Donald Woodson?"
Neville nodded, a frown of confusion on his face.
"Elaine was Alice's sister. She and her husband left for France during the first war, before you and Neville were born. After what happened to Frank and Alice, they had no desire to return to England. They have a daughter, Cassandra, who just finished her fourth year at Beauxbatons." Augusta explained for Harry's benefit.
She turned back to her grandson. "They will be coming to stay for a short period of time, they may even return to England after Cassandra finishes her education in France." She gave them a short nod and left the room.
Harry turned to Neville."I didn't know you had relatives in France."
"Well, Gran never really spoke about them very much, and I hardly know them," said Neville with a shrug. "They are from my mum's side of the family, and Gran was not impressed with their decision to leave England, but who will blame them, considering how things were? I guess now that you defeated Vold..., er, Riddle, they are more comfortable with returning to England, at least for a visit."
Harry smiled at Neville. "You have family, a cousin, that's, well, that's great." Was it? In the light of his own experience with relatives Harry wasn't sure, but these relatives were magical, there was hope they wouldn't be as narrow minded as the Dursleys and actually this would be good for his friend.
The two friends agreed to head out to get a bite to eat. They had just left the house when an owl flew towards them in a strangely jerking manner.
Neville shielded his eyes from the sun. "Is that Errol? The Weasley family owl?"
Harry shook his head. "No, it's way too small, it must be Pigwidgeon, Ron's runt of an owl who can still barely fly any better than Errol."
Neville turned his head to Harry. "What's it doing here?"
Harry shrugged. "I guess we'll find out soon enough." His answer might be nonchalant, yet he followed the struggles of the bird to reach its destiny with a sinking feeling in his stomach. What if Ginny had vented her hurt and disappointment about the break-up to Ron? He wouldn't put his money on Ron wanting to hear out both parties' concerns before he made a decision and acted on that.
Pigwidgeon got closer, and Neville let out a slight groan. "Uh, oh, it has a red envelope in its tiny talons."
Harry's eyes went wide. Hadn't Ginny turned to Ron, but to Mrs Weasley instead? Was that one of Molly Weasley's infamous howlers that the twins and Ron would receive on occasion at school?
Harry and Neville exchanged a look and both stepped back.
Pigwidgeon made the last few yards, dive-bombed towards Harry, dropped the red envelope on his head and fluttered away as if its tail feathers were on fire.
Harry bent down and picked up the red envelope.
It burst open in his hands.
"Potter! How could you? Already cheating on my sister?" Ron's amplified, angry voice shouted. At least Harry supposed that was the meaning of the strangely distorted words. Had Ron been chewing on something while he spoke? The belch that followed the almost incomprehensible statement confirmed his suspicion. Ron said something completely incoherent, and then the red parchment burst into flames.
Neville looked back and forth from the ashes floating down to the ground and to Harry. "Was that, was that Ron?"
Harry's eyes were still wide eyed. "Um, I think so. The burp was kind of familiar."
Neville continued to stare at the remains of the ashes. "What. Did. You. Do?"
"Well, I broke up with Ginny. I think he was saying something about that. But I have no idea what that howler was really about. I told her I didn't think we would work together. She accused me of having another girlfriend." He looked Neville straight in the eyes. "I've been too busy to have any time for that."
Neville raised his hands. "Hey, it's not me you need to convince, I believe you." He watched the tiny speck of Pigwidgeon disappear. "What is it with Weasleys and howlers?"
Harry sighed. "I don't know mate. Maybe it has to do with their red hair."
The Woodson family arrived at the Longbottom estate the following week. Harry watched their arrival from the doorsteps.
Neville's Aunt Elaine was a little taller than his mother, based on the pictures he had seen of her. His Uncle Donald was a broad shouldered man with dark brown hair and an easy smile.
Neville's cousin Cassandra, however… Cassandra was tall for a young witch and had long dark hair that cascaded in waves past her shoulders, and her bright grey-blue eyes sparkled in the sunlight.
Harry let out an inward whistle. It surely didn't hurt to look at Cassandra, if she was half as nice as her looks, this visit was going to be a pleasant one. He had no intention to get himself a new girlfriend so soon after Ginny, he had too much on his plate for that, but hey, he was a not even eighteen year old male, nobody could blame him for looking.
Neville greeted his relatives, with a firm handshake to his uncle and a bow to kiss the hand of his aunt.
"None of that, now, Neville," said his Aunt Elaine. She engulfed him in a hug then held him by his shoulders at arms length. "I'm sure that your mum and dad would be so proud of you. We have read about how you helped Harry Potter win the war." She paused and looked over Neville's shoulder at Harry.
She stepped around Neville and gave Harry a hug and a kiss on his cheeks. "I knew you mother and your father, back in the day, before we moved away. Donald and I were just a year behind your parents. But as Donald here is a muggle-born, he thought, or well, we thought that it would be safest for us to move away from the war that took your parents."
"Er… Nice to meet you." Harry wasn't sure how to respond to this familiar greeting.
Aunt Elaine stepped back and waved to her daughter to come forward. "Neville, Harry, this is my daughter, Cassandra, she recently completed her fourth year at Beauxbatons."
Cassandra stepped forward and gave a curtsey to the two young men. "Cousin, it is wonderful to finally meet you," she said and she inclined her head towards Neville. "And you, too, Lord Potter-Black. I've heard so much about you, and all that you have done. One of my best friends at school is Gabrielle Delacour, although she is a year behind me."
"It is a pleasure to meet you," replied Harry with an inward roll of his eyes. A friend of Gabrielle Delacour? Merlin, hopefully she wouldn't turn out to be another fangirl.
Augusta Longbottom stepped forward, "Now, now, we'll have more time to chat later, let's get you all settled. As it is, the boys need to get back to their studies."
The visit with the Woodsons was brief, they were nothing like the Dursleys, and everyone got along. Much to Harry's relief Cassandra wasn't acting like a little fan girl and was able to carry on intelligent conversations with the two of them, although she did ask plenty of questions about the details of their exploits and about the Battle of Hogwarts in particular.
However, their visit was just a pleasant break in the summer, after the Woodsons had departed, Augusta Longbottom made good on her promise to teach them everything they needed to know, and it didn't take long that Harry and Neville both wished they had to deal with the easy topics of their school days again, like Potions or Astronomy.
Summer and autumn passed in a blur while Harry and Neville completed their training to become well-educated and well-bred young lords.
At Christmas, Harry and Neville had a small gathering with some of their friends. Hermione came by, as did a few friends from the old Dumbledore's Army group from their fifth year.
Hermione pulled Harry aside to get a chance to catch up with him; he had been so busy with Neville and their training with his grandmother that they had had minimal contact with their group of friends.
"Harry, I've missed you. It's been a busy fall with classes at school, I can't believe that neither you or Neville came back to finish your education. How are you going to take your N.E.W.T.s? You need to be sure you can get a job. What happened between you and Ginny? And with you and Ron? Why aren't the Weasleys here?"
Harry reached out and put a hand on her shoulder. "Slow down, Hermione, you need to take a breath. I can't reply to any of your questions when you don't even give me a chance."
Hermione's face flushed as she realised she had reverted back to her old habit of trying to get all of her questions answered at once. "I'm sorry, Harry, I didn't mean to. But you really need to work on your education."
Harry took a deep breath before he replied. "First of all, Neville and I have been working on our education, but not on the sort of things we would ever learn at Hogwarts. You remember I wrote you that we are both Lords of our houses?"
She nodded to that. "Yes, it's so exciting you're going to be a part of the Wizengamot soon, you'll be able to make real change, and you'll-" She ran out of breath and gulped for air.
"Don't forget to breathe, Hermione." Harry chuckled. "Well, then you'll understand that we have certain responsibilities which we need to be prepared for, responsibilities to our families and to the Wizengamot and thus to all witches and wizards in England and Scotland."
Hermione gasped. "Oh, well, yes, I can see how that would be important. But you still won't be ready for taking your N.E.W.T.s, you need to have those tests to get a job."
Harry shook his head. "No, Hermione, actually we don't. Well, we can take our N.E.W.T.s, but we don't have to. Neville plans on taking his N.E.W.T. in herbology. He has no need to take any of them. I don't need to take any N.E.W.T.s."
Hermione's eye went wide. "But Harry, how will you become an Auror without the N.E.W.T.s? You'll have to sit the exam."
"I'm not going to become an Auror."
Hermione gaped. "What?"
"Look, just because I had to take down Riddle doesn't mean I want to make a career out of hunting dark lords. There is so much more I can do, I don't need to be some sort of magical policeman."
Hermione pressed her lips together and lowered her head. "Oh, well, I guess I can see that." The slight quiver in her voice betrayed her disappointment with his decision.
Harry sighed, her fixation on academical education only was somewhat tiring, yet what made her Hermione. "No, you don't." He lowered his voice. "I don't flaunt it, but it will be public knowledge soon enough, I guess. I'm the Lord of house Potter and house Black. That gives me more responsibilities and it also gives me more resources. Hermione, the goblins estimate that I am one of the richest wizards in England. I have to learn to manage my families' wealth, and I will use it for the betterment of others, for our world."
Hermione's eyes widened again, and a tentative smile appeared on her face. "You, you have a plan? You're not just turning your back on your education?"
Harry shook his head. "You know me better than that, Hermione. When have I ever done things the way the magical world wants me to do them?"
Hermione's smile broadened. "Never, I guess. Running after a troll as a first year, facing a basilisk as a second year. You don't wait to be sure you're prepared for anything, you just run headlong into whatever it is you think you need to do for others."
Harry smiled and shrugged in response to her words.
Hermione bit her lip and wrinkled her forehead. "But how are you preparing for this, whatever it is that you are about to do, how will you be able to do these things?"
"Training, education," said Harry. "Neville's grandmother understands the politics of the wizarding world better than anyone else I have met, including Dumbledore. She has been tutoring us, Neville and me, and she has a plan for preparing us to learn more by travelling throughout the Continent to get even more knowledge so we can take care of all of responsibilities to our own families and to the magical society."
Hermione took a half step back. "I never thought about it all that way, Harry."
Harry put a hand on her shoulder. "That's okay, Hermione. You don't have to have an answer for everything. You don't have to know everything. You're a talented and beautiful and caring witch. You probably know more about the principles of magic than anyone. You are driven to succeed for yourself and to use your skills to help others. We just go about helping others in different ways."
Hermione smiled at him, and wiped an unbidden tear from the corner of her eye. "But, what about the Weasleys, what about Ron? Or Ginny?"
Harry took a deep breath. "The Weasleys have been the closest thing to family to me for so long, almost as long as I've known I'm a wizard. Ron was my first friend. But Ginny, she and I were not a good thing. I tried to explain that to her. Unfortunately she didn't see it the way I did. She saw me, probably still sees me as the Boy Who Lived, her childhood hero. She got upset with me, accused me of having cheated on her, of having another girlfriend. Then she ran to Ron, and he actually sent me a howler about the whole thing. We've hardly spoken at all, Ron and me."
There was a distinct growl in his voice when he finished. While he was unhappy that his break-up with Ginny led to another fight with Ron, the childish way his supposed best friend went about the whole affair bothered him even more. You should have thought he'd learned a lesson or two from their fight while they were on the run. Seemed he'd put too much trust into Ron's intellectual and emotional abilities, that ridiculous howler made plain he hadn't changed a bit.
Hermione wiped another tear and stepped forward and gave her friend a big hug.
Harry and Hermione then rejoined their friends in the simple gathering they had for a holiday celebration. Soon, the party was coming to an end, and Hermione thanked Harry for taking the time to explain to her what he and Neville were undertaking.
"Hermione, you will continue to do what you do well," said Harry. "Don't worry about me, Neville and I have a lot more to learn, but his grandmother will make sure we don't slack off and will be able to lead our families properly."
Neville's grandmother stepped up behind Harry, with a large smile she added, "And don't you young men forget it!"
As the new year started, Augusta deemed them proficient enough to put to practice what they had learned, and sent them on the journey on the Continent that was tradition for young men of their station and means, she said. During that journey they visited the properties both of them had in various countries scattered all over Europe, and visited the capital cities of each country.
The news that the Champions of Hogwarts, as they were called on the Continent, were taking the Grand Tour together travelled fast, and they were welcomed with open arms wherever they stayed. Augusta had warned them of enterprising mothers and their adventurous daughters, however, her worries turned out to be unnecessary. Both Harry and Neville were too reticent by nature to fall for the traps laid out for them, and without consciously knowing, they were both looking for more than these gold diggers had to offer. Still, they were hot-blooded, young heterosexual men, so nobody could blame them for sampling the goods that were offered that generously.
Harry didn't waste any time wondering what the Dursleys would think about what he was doing or how jealous they would be of his travels, or Ron, for that part. He was too busy enjoying himself and not having to worry about being chased down by Death Eaters.
AN: (added 5/30/2020): For clarification:
Harry = Mr. Darcy
Daphne = Elizabeth
Neville = Bingley
Astoria = Jane
other roles should eventually become more clear as the story unfolds...