Act I - Trials of Summer
Chapter 12 - Inheritances, Part 2
Harry had no idea what kind of scare Sirius had given the goblin with his words, but there were no further hiccups. In less than fifteen minutes, Ripclaw returned with two other goblins assisting him with what seemed to be a large, thick roll of parchment. By sheer size alone, it may as well have been a very fragile, expensive carpet. The goblins unfurled the large roll against the wall while Ripclaw placed a smaller, expensive-looking vellum roll from his desk over it.
Harry spotted the insignia of House Black at the very top.
"So…" he awkwardly began. "How does this work?"
"You sign here," Ripclaw pointed at a particular line, "and Mister Black," his tone sharpened for a split second, "will sign here. Once that is done, the both of you will swear a Vow with me as your Binder."
"You wizards, with your outlandish fantasies," Ripclaw snorted, baring his yellow, gummy fangs. Did you expect something more extravagant? Like drinking Mister Black's blood? Or perhaps evoking ancient magics through byzantine, outdated incantations?"
Harry blinked, looking between the goblin's irritated visage and Sirius's amused one. "Uh, no. I just thought it'd be more complicated than that."
"Sign your full name at the bottom," an assistant goblin interjected, handing him a strange, crimson-feathered quill. "You will feel uncomfortable using this, but it is part of the process."
Harry gently lifted the quill, hesitating as he edged it closer to the line at the bottom of the contract.
"Harry James Potter," Sirius helpfully suggested.
"I don't know what I'd do without you," Harry quipped. With a sharp breath, he pressed the nib against the vellum and began to write. Just like the goblin had warned, he felt an uncomfortable prick on the surface of his hand. A sudden itching sensation quickly overtook him, but before he could act, it was gone, as if it was never there before. Instead, Harry found a thin bruise on top of his palm.
"That's called a blood quill, Harry," Sirius assuaged. "It uses the writer's own blood as ink, to sign official contracts and such."
Harry eyed the quill with intense dislike, his fingers already itching to draw his wand and obliterate the damn thing. "It has my blood," he gritted out, glaring at the goblin. "What are you going to do with it?"
"The quill is enchanted to self-immolate once the process is over," Ripclaw easily replied.
"I'll believe it when I see it," he muttered darkly. Blood. It was always blood. Seeing a quill of all things draw blood from him to use as ink was creepy enough. And that wasn't even getting into his horrific experience at the graveyard, where Voldemort used his blood to forge a new body. That these bankers also used such hideous—
He glanced at the hand on his shoulders, then at Sirius. One look at his godfather's worried face, and he immediately realized he'd begun shaking. Again.
"Don't be," his godfather waved off, his concern not ebbing in the slightest. "Are you sure you're alright? If you're uncomfortable, we can postpone this."
Harry stared at him with disbelief. For the past few minutes, he'd just seen his godfather practically wrangle the right to do this test out of the goblin. And now, the same man was willing to toss it aside because his godson was feeling a little discomfort?
"I'm fine, I can continue." He looked at the quill with loathing once more. "That thing will be destroyed, right?"
"Absolutely," Sirius promised.
"Alright," he breathed. "Alright. Let's continue."
Without further prompting, Sirius grabbed the quill out of his hands and neatly signed his name on the other line. Harry noticed that his own signature looked like scratches on a wall compared to Sirius's beautiful cursive lettering.
"Don't worry," his godfather chuckled, shooting him a knowing look. "We'll work on that."
Great. More homework. Though, oddly enough, he wasn't at all annoyed about it.
"Next," Ripclaw twisted his fingers, and semi-transparent ribbon-like energies began emanating from them. "Both of you stand facing each other and grip each other's forearms. Do not let go until I say so."
Sirius shot him a supportive look as Harry grabbed his arm.
"Will you, Sirius Orion, Heir and Acting-Lord of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, accept Harry James, son of House Potter, by blood and magic, as a member of your House of your own will, without influence or coercion?"
Ribbon-like energies began to slowly entwine around their clasped arms.
"Despite knowing full well that Harry James Potter is a half-blood?"
The moment the goblin uttered the word, Harry knew something had gone wrong. Sirius let out a whimper, as if he'd been hit by nerve-wracking agony. But despite that, the man didn't release his hold on Harry's hand, instead only twisting his neck to glare at the goblin, who was staring at the both of them with cruelty and surprise in his eyes.
"I will," Sirius rasped.
"Sirius—" Harry began.
"I can—" his godfather coughed, "I can do this. Don't you— don't you worry."
"Knowing," the goblin continued, smiling all the while, "that this goes directly against the Black Charter, as laid down by Arcturus Sirius, the previous Lord of Black?"
Sirius screamed as he dropped down to his knees, his eyes bloodshot and globs of drool leaking from his now-open mouth. But his hand never budged. "I— I will."
Ripclaw's fangs gleamed in the light of the swirling energies, which began to sink into their hands. "Then by my authority as Binder, I hold this Vow sanctified by Magic. Harry James Potter," he met Harry's clouded eyes, "be proud to call yourself a Black, by both name and magic."
The goblin clapped his hands.
The spell broke.
And Sirius bonelessly collapsed to the floor.
Family Charters were tricky business.
It was the sort of thing that every Lord trained his Heir to recognize, understand, and appreciate. When used properly, a Family Charter could employ emotive magic to subtly guide the sociopolitical nature of a House in a direction predetermined by the Lord in power. Certain Lords of noble families often used this to bind their family into a small monarchy, with themselves in the sole position of power. Ultimately, it was ironclad— no one, not even the Heir, was able to change or resist an official order commanded by a sitting Lord. Any attempts had harsh penalties delivered upon them by the Family Magic itself.
But, like in all things, exceptions existed.
Like in this case.
It was true that when a standing Heir so much as resisted the wishes of a Charter laid down by a previous Lord, he would suffer for it. But when that same Heir was also the Acting-Lord of the family, the entire situation became a sort of grey area, one where he didn't necessarily have to die in the process.
It was this little loophole that Sirius planned to use to get his godson into the Black family. Of course, he'd forgotten one little thing.
Loopholes were like doors— they opened from both sides.
Just like he had taken advantage of them, so too had Ripclaw.
That was why he was lying on the floor, writhing in agony as the Black Family Magic, magic as black as his name, coursed through his body, sending immeasurable flares of pain through his nerves. He could vividly see his grandfather Arcturus standing before him, his dragon-heartstring wand in hand, punishing him for his insolence.
"You…" His words came out as a raspy croak. Breathing hurt, but speaking hurt even more. "You know— I'm right— grandfather!"
Arcturus said nothing. His wand twisted. Sirius screamed again.
"You taught— taught me— ARRRGHHH!" He could barely keep it together, but still he pushed forward. "You— you taught me that a Black never bows. To— to anyone!"
The wand twisted once more, and agony coursed through his veins like molten lava.
His heart threatened to explode out of his chest.
It was the cruciatus curse, in all its glory.
"A BLACK," Sirius hollered, "never bows to anyone. And I—" he forced himself onto his knees, supporting himself by his hands, "I am Sirius Orion. Orion after my own father—" he pushed himself up, "—Sirius after yours. The Black Magic. The Charter. They— they are mine to command."
He clenched his fists.
"Mine to rewrite."
The pain flickered away.
"Mine to tear away."
Slowly, Sirius stood up.
"My will is the Will of House Black. Toujours Pur, for I am Sirius Orion. The next Lord of Black."
The mirage of his grandfather dispersed into a fading mist, and Sirius found himself standing in the same room as earlier. His entire body felt like one giant bruise, and his mind was still reeling from the aftereffects of the pain. And in front of him, a strange, cold energy began to contort and take form. Appendages came first, and then a long tail with a sharp end, and finally the head. He gaped as realized what was happening.
This was— it was—
The Black Family Totem.
"Hedetet," Sirius murmured, his voice filled with surprise, awe, and more than a little bit of wariness. Totems were serious business. Using the Family Magic passively was one thing, but for a Totem to appear out of the blue like this—
He wasn't sure if this omen bode good or ill. But whatever it was, it was significant.
He met the scorpion's gaze, unflinching. Hedetet. Goddess of the Everlasting Night. Patron deity of the hashashin. The Scorpion Goddess. The Final Gatekeeper of the Du'at.
And most importantly, the Totem of the Black Family Magic.
After a few anxious seconds, the scorpion dispersed into moats of light that coalesced and swooped down towards his ring finger. Where their was originally an Heir ring now stood an ornate one with an engravement of the Scorpion itself. That could only mean one thing, and one thing alone.
Sirius turned, surprised at the source of the croaky voice. Standing a few feet away, his eyes filled with a strange pride, was Ripclaw.
"Lord Black," the goblin croaked again. "Allow me to congratulate you on your ascension."
"I thought goblins had a policy against wizarding titles," Sirius jabbed, arching an eyebrow.
"We use them, if only for the right sort of wizard."
"What does that—" he began, before being suddenly tackled by a black-haired missile that buried itself into his abdomen. Sirius laughed aloud, ignoring the aching pain in his ribs as Harry pulled him into a bear hug.
"Hey, it's alright," he soothed. "I'm alright."
Harry nodded and reluctantly took a step back. The boy looked awfully uncomfortable at expressing his emotions. It was a good thing he'd gotten the Bahamas trip all planned. Some air outside of Britain would do him a lot of good.
But that was for later.
Sirius glanced at his new ring, then at Ripclaw. "Explain."
"Aeons ago," the goblin quickly began, "a name was more than a mere sound bestowed at birth. Sometimes it would be a reputation, or his skill with magic, or perhaps his social standing. Names had power. They represented actions, deeds, feats. But today, wizards," Ripclaw snarled, as if the word was the worst kind of insult he could hurl, "brag about their families. Their names. As if just being born is an accomplishment."
Ripclaw's face softened as he turned his gaze back onto Sirius. "But you, my Lord, have shown defiance against the Charter, the Will of the Black Family Magic, and you triumphed over it. That in itself is a feat considered worthy to any goblin."
Sirius chuckled. Frankly, this was all still a little overwhelming. And fantastical. "Does that mean you'll be less of a pain in the arse?"
"Don't push it, wizard," the goblin snapped, though there was no bite to his words. "Being a pain in the arse is part of my job description."
Harry didn't really understand what had happened. Sure, he knew Sirius was signing something important, but then he suddenly collapsed and screamed as if he were held under the Cruciatus, only to suddenly get up and break free like nothing ever happened. Then there was a giant scorpion that just appeared in the room, which had his godfather looking like someone just told him magic was real for the first time.
And perhaps most unnerving of all, Ripclaw was being nice to them. Not nice by human standards, but probably by some goblin one— meaning, he didn't look like he wanted to tear out their throats anymore.
After that whole fiasco, the rest of the process continued fairly smoothly. There was some more legalese and some insults exchanged that flew over his head, but at the very least, Harry understood that Sirius was now the official Lord Black, at least as far as Gringotts was concerned. And his godfather had done it all in a manner that had impressed the hell out of the goblin.
Of course, Gringotts was still going to charge him a hefty amount — they were goblins, after all — but at least they were going to be polite about it.
Also, he was now a Black, something Harry still had a hard time wrapping his head around. Of course, he was still going to call himself Harry Potter— Harry James Potter on official records —but he would be registered as a son of House Black too. It would have been an absolute nightmare if he had to hyphenate his two family names together or something.
Introducing himself as Harry Potter-Black to people? It would've made him sound as pompous as Malfoy!
His inheritance test was, and much like before, it was a straightforward affair with no extravagant steps involved. The same two goblins from before unfurled another large roll of parchment, and Harry signed at the bottom where the goblin pointed out.
The last step, it turned out, was a test for wizarding genealogy. According to Ripclaw, the process was based on the same procedure involved in the creation of magical tapestries— or was it the reverse? Either way, magical tapestries were expensive enough to be considered a status symbol among the stuffy purebloods. Sirius had told him all about them when he'd introduced him to the Black Tapestry.
Tapestries used an immensely complex blood-based monitoring charm to keep track of all family members who descended from a particular person— usually the then-Lord of the House — as well as their spouses. Naturally, they were really useful for tracking distant relatives or even finding squib lineages for muggleborns, in the rare case that a House came close to dormancy.
Of course, with as bigoted as Wizarding Britain was, the latter was practically considered a fairy tale.
An inheritance test, in lay-wizard terms, was essentially a reverse tapestry. Instead of going downwards from a Lord, the tester's blood was tracked upwards for his ancestry in hopes of finding a suitable match in the established families of the Sacred Twenty-Eight, if not nobility. Quite naturally, the tests were rather expensive themselves to keep any random onlooker from waltzing into the bank and trying his luck at being a descendant of Merlin or some Ancient House.
Gringotts's policy of 'payment first, services later' was the perfect deterrent for it. Anyone wanting to perform an inheritance test would have to put his own money— an exorbitant seven thousand galleons —on the line first. And in a world where an average Ministry Department Head made around ten thousand galleons in a single year, it certainly wasn't something any muggleborn could do.
Not that it would even be useful for them anyway.
Even if someone were found to be from a squib branch of a still-present family, there was no guarantee that the existing members of the House would welcome those descendants back into the family. Sirius had expressed his suspicions of how Hermione could be a distant relative of the Dagworth-Grangers, possibly through some squib ancestor in the past.
It made him wonder whether Tom Riddle, self-proclaimed Heir of Slytherin, had ever attempted such a test for himself. In his mind, he pictured a sixteen-year-old Tom walking into Gringotts in the hopes of acquiring the Slytherin name and vault for himself. After all, Lord Slytherin definitely had a far greater effect than a self-styled Lord Voldemort.
But he hadn't.
Either because he wasn't a direct descendant of Slytherin, or perhaps he hadn't gotten the funds to perform it in the first place.
"So what happens now?" Harry asked Ripclaw, who looked inordinately pleased with how everything was turning out. It was something to do with the activation of the Black Family Vaults three weeks in advance.
Harry hadn't bothered to inquire further.
"Now," Ripclaw intoned, "we establish your ancestry." The goblin touched the bottom of the tapestry and dragged his clawed finger along the line. The border began glowing as strange sigils— runes, Harry quickly realized —began to appear along its entire length, forming some sort of archaic script.
Hermione would probably know what they mean.
His thoughts flickered over to his muggleborn friend. This was the first time in all their years of Hogwarts that he hadn't been on the train back to London. There had been no goodbyes, no promises to write.
But even so, he never expected that Ron and Hermione would write nothing to him for the past few weeks. And he doubted Dobby was stealing his letters again. So what the hell was going on?
His thoughts screeched to a halt as two thin streams, ink mixed with his own blood, crawled out of his signature and rose upwards, forming two names.
James Charlus Potter. Lily Jean Evans.
A third stream rose quickly to form a name on the side.
Sirius Orion Black.
Harry blinked. And then blinked again.
Sirius Orion Black.
Yep, it was still there. Confused, he looked up at his godfather who gave him an easygoing smile. It was oddly calming.
"Nothing to be worried about, Harry. When I adopted you, I brought you into the Black Family. Even if we don't share blood, I shared my family, and by extension, my magic. Magic that now flows through your blood. So while not by blood, I am still considered a parent by magic.
Harry shyly nodded before turning his gaze to the parchment once more.
The ink was moving upwards again. From his father's name came two more names.
Fleamont Potter. Euphemia Greengrass.
Greengrass? Wasn't there a Greengrass at Hogwarts? In his year, maybe lower? Not for the first time, Harry realized how limiting himself to his two friends left him ignorant of people in other houses, even many in his own.
Something to correct this year, he promised himself. That is, if they aren't busy blaming me for murder.
He frowned at the thought, before quickly dismissing it. As someone who'd never really had family before, this reverse-tapestry thing was oddly comforting to him. Seeing all the names felt like finding pieces of himself.
Nathaniel Potter. Elizabeth Carrow.
Harold Potter. Victoria Appleby.
"This is… strange," Sirius muttered.
Harry looked up at him. "What is?"
"The tapestry. It shouldn't still be going up. It's supposed to stop the moment it hits a Pureblood family. But it's continuing further into the Potter line, as if—"
"As if there is more," Ripclaw finished, his eyes affixed to the tapestry with poorly disguised interest.
Harry sighed. Then again, what had he expected? He'd always been a freak. Even that batty house elf thought so.
The names went on.
Abraham Potter. Josepha Edgecombe.
Ralston Potter. Cornelia Prewitt.
Charlus Potter. Illeana Macmillian.
Then, it happened.
The black ink seemed to pause, before extending itself to the right. But as it left the Potter name, its color immediately transformed into a deep, rich gold as it slowly began to etch out another name.
Both Sirius and Ripclaw inhaled. Almost at the same time.
The black ink seemed content to stop at Hardwin Potter, but the golden ink continued the genealogy test. Moving upward from Iolanthe Peverell, it began to etch out another name on top.
The new name suddenly became outlined in a radiant, golden sheen.
And then, everything stopped.
"This— this—" Sirius uncharacteristically stammered, "this had got to be a mistake." He and the goblin exchanged matching wide-eyed stares. "No family has ever been able to claim that descent."
"Gentlemen," Ripclaw whispered, fangs out in open display, "let's take a walk."
Harry and Sirius followed Ripclaw through the hallway, past several rooms filled with enough weaponry to wage a war. Racks of ash-wood spears stood side-by-side with metal scale scalemail, and he could see katana-style swords sharing a room with heavyweight broadswords. One shelving unit housed an evolutionary progression of weapons, including the heavyweight artillery he'd seen muggles use on television. Judging from the sheer variety, it was like looking at a museum— but from the quantities present, it could only be an armory.
He peeked towards the other two, who were walking in complete silence. After the fiasco with his genealogy test— which Harry was still in the dark about —Ripclaw had instantly asked them to meet with the current Overlord of Gringotts, who was currently holding office at the London Branch.
Seeing as how his normally talkative godfather followed suit without questions, it could only mean something significant. Or freakish. When it came to him, the two often had blurred lines.
Harry stepped into an elevator whose walls were a simple metal grid, letting him see out of it as they went up. He stopped counting after seeing seven floors of similarly equipped armories go by.
"Guess your boss believes in being prepared," Sirius chuckled.
Ripclaw smiled, his teeth prominently on display. "It is one of his many qualities."
"Though it's a bit extreme, isn't it?"
Harry took another gander at the weaponry. Yes, extreme was one way to put it.
"One can only have as much preparation as he has foresight."
He considered what Ripclaw said for a moment, before deciding that as far as cryptic statements went, this one was all kinds of bad. It reminded him a bit of Dumbledore, only there was a lot less love and humanity involved, and instead more… weapons.
The elevator continued to rise, and he continued to catch brief glimpses of other floors. One looked like an enormous gym full of sweaty humans, goblins and svartalves. The next was an expensive-looking legal office. The one above that was completely antiseptic white, bathed with a bit too much light and smelling of strong disinfectant. Another was lit by candles, and he could make out slight murmurs that sounded like chanting. Still another was some kind of enormous chemical laboratory. Next was a level filled with cells whose occupants were nothing more than shadowy silhouettes. And so on.
Harry couldn't help but marvel at just how many floors were in this edifice. Unlike Hogwarts, Gringotts seemed to be way larger on the inside than the outside. Still, something struck him as odd.
"What are svartalves doing inside of Gringotts?"
Sirius let out a soft hiss, but Ripclaw just laughed.
"For a celebrity, you are quite ignorant of the world around you, Mister Potter. Gringotts is one of the most premier institutions in the world, of which banking is one of many services."
"They are our most prized metalsmiths. They craft the most glorious weapons and artefacts, filling up our armories, and a very large source of Gringotts's revenue."
Harry wondered why the goblin was being so forthcoming, and whether he had made some kind of faux-pas with his sudden questions. Either way, it seemed as if he'd crossed some sort of line.
No going back now.
"What about curse-breakers?" At the goblin's inquisitive expression, he clarified further. "My friend's eldest brother works for Gringotts."
"I assume you speak of a certain William Weasley?"
Harry blinked. He certainly had not expected the goblin to know off the top of his head.
"Nothing to be surprised about, Harry Potter," Ripclaw gave a toothy grin. "Even among goblins, you are quite famous."
After rising through an enormous atrium housing a dozen stories of high-end corporate offices, the elevator vanished into a short tunnel, before opening into a rather novel reception area, one that had everyone to be expected in an office— a large table, several chairs drawn out, and a pair of couches.
With one significant caveat.
Everything, from the floors to the chairs to the table, was made of wrought iron. That was surprising, since wrought iron was magically inert, something McGonagall had taught them about during a lecture on material transfiguration.
That meant none of this was enchanted. No listening charms. No hexes. No magical manipulation. He idly wondered whether it was even possible to use wand-magic successfully here.
"You are to enter the office behind me," Ripclaw pointed a sharp fingernail at him before shifting it towards Sirius. "You are to wait until this meeting is over. Once we are done, we file the rest of the paperwork."
"I am his guardian," Sirius fought back.
"This is House business, wizard. Surely you know better than to involve yourself in such matters?"
Harry glanced at his godfather, awaiting his confirmation. Sirius scowled, but slowly nodded, prompting Harry to follow Ripclaw further.
At the end of the reception hall was another set of doors that soundlessly gave way to them, revealing another room completely furnished with wrought iron. Behind a massive desk was seated a wizened something, his chin propped up on the heel of his hand and his bright blue eyes staring directly at the newcomer.
The hairs on the back of his neck rose, and his instincts screamed at him, telling him that he was in the company of something utterly, utterly dangerous. Dumbledore always felt like a well of power hiding behind a benevolent façade. Voldemort reeked of wrongness, darkness and terrible power. But this… goblin?
He felt like a thundercloud. Something that was benign, but could hurl spears of lightning if angered.
Was this creature a goblin? An elf? One of the svartalves? Harry honestly couldn't tell, but one thing was certain. He was dangerous. And he, for some reason, wanted to meet with a fourteen-year-old kid like him.
Just my luck.
"Ripclaw," the 'goblin' said.
Ripclaw went down to one knee and bowed his head. There was no hesitation whatsoever to the goblin's movements— it wasn't simply a formality to be observed. He truly believed that the Overlord deserved such obedience.
"My lord," Ripclaw intoned. "I have brought the wizard." He looked back at Harry. "Wizard, you are in the presence of Eitri, the Overlord of Gringotts—"
"Leave us alone," the Overlord— Eitri spoke. Ripclaw stilled mid-sentence and bowed again before quickly deserting the room, leaving Harry alone with him.
"Erm, hello," Harry tried. Truly he was a master of eloquence.
"Tell me wizard," Eitri began, his voice deep and baritone, "do you know why you are here?"
Harry considered the question, even though there was no doubt he was way over his pay grade here. Sirius had filled him in on some of the basic know-hows of the Magical House system, purebloods, and the like during their evening sessions. He knew the Potters were an Ancient House and held a family seat— three votes —at the Wizengamot. The Blacks were Ancient too, and Noble to boot, and held a whopping seven votes to their name. Still, in all their discussion, the Peverell name never came up.
"Not exactly. But I'm hoping you'll tell me."
Eitri softly chuckled. "Humility. A good trait to have. But remember, wizard, all information comes at a price. And to answer your question, I wished to meet with the first descendant to claim the Peverell name in fifteen hundred years. A rather novel event, I'd say."
Harry raised a brow in disbelief. He'd thought the Ancient Houses were old, sometimes even going back by seven or eight generations. But something existing before the sixth century? That was practically ancient. More ancient than the Ancient Houses, at any rate.
"As your godfather should be able to confirm, the House of Peverell is a Noble and Most Ancient House, much like his. Forgive me," he smiled wolfishly, "now yours. Do you understand what that means?"
"Four extra votes in the Wizengamot?" Harry ventured.
Eitri stared blankly at him for a full two seconds, before snorting. "No," he replied with a small, quiet smile. "The repercussions are vast, more than either of you are able to conceive. Tell me young Potter, is it true you claimed the lives of fourteen of your kind last solstice?"
Harry gritted his teeth. It was back to that same thing, all over again. He opened his mouth to deny—
"I am not a Ministry bureaucrat, wizard. I know things, and if I don't, I can always find out. Much like yourself, from what I am told."
Harry had the decency to blush at that.
"I find myself quite… interested in your upcoming trial. Wizards fighting wizards— not always profitable, but entertaining if little else. Unfortunately, Gringotts has much to earn or lose depending on the results of some such conflicts. Your upcoming trial, as it turns out, is one of them."
He looked up, undisguised surprise coloring his expression.
"Perhaps some context is in order," Eitri chuckled. "By blood, one in every three witches and wizards alive may claim Peverell descent, and they would be speaking the truth. However, not one person in the last one and a half millennia has been able to claim the name, save for you. Can you tell me why that is?"
Harry slowly shook his head. The inheritance tests functioned on blood-based magical principles, tracking the inherent traits carried down by blood to track appropriate lineages. But if blood itself wasn't enough to claim descent for the Peverells…
He hadn't the slightest idea what was.
"It appears my hunch was correct. For a celebrity, you are rather ignorant of the ways of our world."
"You're only the hundredth person to point that out to me," Harry muttered.
Eitri ignored his wiseassery. "Your kind's Wizengamot was formed shortly after the Norman Conquest in 1066, bringing all criminal matters under the purview of the Ministry of Magic. Before that, crimes against Houses and clans were settled through blood feuds, in which the closest kin of someone who wrongfully died at the hands of another had a duty to retaliate against the murderer." The goblin-like creature peered at him. "Do you understand what I am saying?"
Harry slowly nodded, wondering where all this was going.
"All Houses— Ancient, Noble, or otherwise —that became a part of the Wizengamot after its formation accept the authority of the Ministry of Magic where criminal prosecution is concerned. This is why none of the family members of those you killed have shown up armed, ready to duel you to the death."
For what it was worth, Harry didn't know if that was a good thing or bad thing. If they attacked him outright, at least he had some chance in a fair duel. Dealing with the Ministry's shenanigans, on the other hand…
"The House of Peverell ended with Ignotus Peverell. Or, as he was infamously called, Ignotus the Betrayer. After his death, his daughter Iolanthe married Hardwin Potter and added whatever existed of the Peverell legacy into the Potter Vaults. To this date, Gringotts has no record of ever having a Peverell Vault within its walls. Adding that this all happened before the creation of the Wizengamot, it means—"
Something clicked in Harry's mind.
"It means," he replied, "that House Peverell doesn't fall under the prosecution of the Ministry."
Eitri's ancient face broke out into a small smile. "Correct. And equally true is the fact that the afflicted parties are thus completely in their right to exact vengeance upon you by blood feud."
Harry felt floored. On one hand, the Ministry wouldn't be such a pain in the arse. But on the other hand, the families of those despicable Death Eaters could very well publicly assault him, and he wouldn't get any sort of legal aid.
Then again, he couldn't even remember the last time he'd gotten legal aid in the first place, if at all. Not when Quirrell attacked him. Not with the Chamber of Secrets fiasco. Fudge's answer to the 'mass-murder Sirius Black' was positioning soul-sucking monsters around Hogwarts. And now, the whole Triwizard thing had been blamed on him.
It was a zero sum game. And more importantly, there was nothing of worth for Gringotts either way.
"Unless, of course, House Peverell willingly ties itself with the Wizengamot at the next session. Which, I believe, is on the winter solstice," Eitri finished.
Harry regarded him carefully. "Please don't take this the wrong way," he politely began, "but why are you giving me this information?"
"So cynical for one so young," the Overlord mused, looking him up and down. "But you would be. You would be."
"I'm still not hearing an answer."
Eitri laughed. "There is a way in which you can use this loophole to benefit your trial."
And that was the crux of the matter. The trial. As always.
The DMLE Director had all but outright told him to prepare for a Wizengamot hearing in the summer, whatever that entailed. But the entire murder accusation from Amos Diggory had been a nasty surprise, considering how it had been Cedric who had attacked him and taken him to that graveyard in the first place.
Still, Sirius had told him to chill out, and that he'd get him out of it. His godfather's word had been enough for him to drop the issue, but now…
Harry narrowed his eyes. "And what'll it cost me to find out?"
"If the afflicted parties are proven to be Death Eaters, then that ties them as vassals to the Dark Lord. The same Dark Lord that murdered your parents. By the blood feud laws, you as their sole descendant are within your rights to demand weregild— compensation, whether it be in life or gold or favors. Your right would hold legitimacy according to the Old Ways."
Harry goggled at the Overlord. Had… had Eitri just given him a way to save himself? For free? But… why?
"I—" he began, flabbergasted.
"Don't understand?" Eitri asked. "It isn't complicated, boy. I am on your side."
The Overlord raised his eyebrows.
"All information comes at a price," Harry argued. "That's the first thing you said to me. So if I'm not the one paying that price, then who is?"
"Perceptive," Eitri laughed aloud. "Yes, you will do, boy. Let us call this conversation a long-term investment and leave it at that. Especially if the legends hold merit."
He smiled. "Now that is information I am not willing to part with. But know this, Harry Potter, instrument of Fate. You have defied powers far greater than yourself. And for that, you have my respect."
Eitri rang a small bell on his desk, and Ripclaw came back into the room.
"This meeting is now over. Farewell, Harry Peverell."
Editor: Solo Starfish, the best goddamn starfish the world has ever seen.
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