A/N #1: I just updated and reposted chapter 65 on 1-1-23, so if you've been keeping up to date with the story till now, you'll want to go back and re-read the last chapter. If this is your first time through, you're golden.
A/N #2: Writer's block– its a bitch. And the muse, she is an incredibly fickle creature. This chapter was not a part of my original outline, but I've spent 6 months unable to progress the story because my brain wants to write this instead. So since I'm apparently not going to decide how to spit out the next chapter till I finish this particular bit, here we go: let's distribute the Potters' will. BFPRN is enough of a crack fic that we can just work the best details back into the actual out later, right?
February 16, 1982
Gringotts, London Branch
Plotrock had been in charge of administering the wills of prominent banking clients for nearly 87 years, and he was quite certain he'd seen it all: Wixen were, in addition to being weak and frankly irritating, absolutely eccentric creatures. (Once, Plotrock had had to find a way to ensure that a wizard's stuffed parakeet would inherit his substantial vault).
The elderly goblin had been incredibly busy over the past several years, and the Blood War's plentiful victims had incentivized him to do what no amount of nagging from his partner could: Plotrock had finally agreed to take an apprentice.
Young Jewelthorne was shrewd (appreciable), patient (required), fluent in wixen customs (unfortunately necessary), and quiet (the most important attribute of them all in Plotrock's mind). She had been unexpectedly entertaining to watch execute the Thwarpe-Dolby will (Gringotts had managed to obtain an extra thirty percent in fees!) and so it was with some small measure of confidence that Plotrock had allowed Jewelthorne to begin working alone in the evenings.
If that small measure of confidence was almost certainly buoyed by Plotrock's own enjoyment of a quiet evening around the fire, listening to his partner prattle about mining techniques…. Well, really, who could blame him?
However, on the evening of February 16th, Plotock found his quiet disturbed by a particularly disturbed Jewelthorne's insistent request for assistance with the Potter will.
"What could not wait till the morning?"
"The Hoard has sworn to execute the Potter will before the day changes, sir."
Plotrock frowned. That was not standard procedure– a particularly sizable amount of gold would have had to have exchanged hands for Gringotts to accept such a rushed order. Reviewing the request for himself, he noted not one but two account managers listed. "Why is Glinklok listed alongside Dewsword? He's the Black account manager."
"If you could read the custody section… The Potter child is to be claimed fully by House Black, sir."
Plotrock's long nose perked up at that– interesting indeed. "Begin retrieving those assets which are intended for immediate release at once. It was right to call for me, Jewelthorne. You must watch closely this evening– though it is my hope that this is one of the final messy wizarding wills from their ridiculous war."
February 16, 1982
Lupin Cottage, Wendens Ambo
Sirius and Remus were together when the Gringotts owls found them.
They'd been invited to the Lupin's for a celebratory dinner: Lyall was finally home from St. Mungo's after over a month of extensive magical therapy, inclusive of a freshly grown heart. Hope had spared no effort, and the table had groaned under the weight of a large roast chicken, whole green beans, new potatoes, crusty bread, and carrots. Lyall had beamed around the table at all of them, eating a hardy portion before reluctantly admitting that he was actually quite tired. Hope had led him off to get ready for bed, leaving Remus with instructions to provide Sirius a nightcap.
"Merlin," Sirius murmured, wide eyed as the pair now stared at the giant brown owls in the kitchen window. "I know they said it would be executed today, but—,"
"I couldn't picture it either."
Remus stood, carefully accepting brown paper wrapped parcels tied in heavy gold and silver twine from the owls, and offered each a bite of chicken before they flew away. "We should…"
"Maybe we should start with that drink," Sirius offered. "Let's pour one for Prongs and Lils, too."
"Good idea Pads."
It was a particularly solemn toast: the werewolf and the animagus wearing identical hang-dog expressions as they saluted their fallen family over a snifter of brandy. They weren't even twenty five years old, but the trauma they had lived through was enough to humble a much older wizard or witch. The remaining Marauders did not feel as if they had won a war– most days, they weren't quite sure they'd survived it.
When the brandy was gone they handed one another the proper packages, stamped with their initials. Remus' fingers shook as he undid the heavy knot of his first; uncomfortably aware of the absurdity of the situation, the weight of Sirius' eyes, and the horrible sense of finality that came with the execution of his dear friends' will.
On top was a thin letter- clearly a duplication, based on the parchment's faint magical signature– addressed to Sirius, Remus… and Peter.
Hello Remaining Marauders!
Lils and I have spent hours crying over this blasted will– fortunately, this variation of the letter is probably the least likely. So I'm going to skip over the mushy stuff that I wrote in the letters for if I'm the only one to take a leap off of this plane of existence, and skip to the important bits.
Lads, you've been better than my brothers for over a decade now, and I'm genuinely concerned you'll be lost without me around to nag you. Don't laugh, and don't tell me I sound like my mother— she had a point, with all of her lecturing, because none of you appreciate yourselves nearly enough. So here's my final orders, and since I'll be dead you'd better listen to them.
Pads: Don't do anything stupid or impulsive or self-destructive. If you do, I'll be yelling at you from wherever I end up, and Lily will probably hex you next time we see you. You're the most loyal sod around, and we all appreciate it, but you have to start valuing yourself even if I'm not around to yell at you to do it. Also, make up with Moony already if you haven't already. I shouldn't have to tell you you're being idiots from the grave.
Moony: Cause more chaos! We haven't seen you plotting or breaking rules in ages. I know you're blasted frustrated about the prejudice in England– and we're mad for you. Because you're a hell of a man, and anyone would be lucky to count you as a friend. As pack. Lily and I have talked about your future quite a bit lately: we like to think if it weren't for this war, we could use our fancy title to advocate for your rights and to install you as the teacher you've always wanted to be at Hogwarts. But we figure that if we're already done for, that specific future might be a lot more work and struggle than you should go through– Merlin knows you've already seen enough. We want you to go to France and start up a school there– work within the bounds of their infinitely more progressive legislation, and secure futures for kids who are like you were. Also, make up with Sirius. See note above on you both being idiots. You can't be this thick and be a teacher at the same time, mate.
Wormy: Step out of the shadows, mate. You're incredibly bright, and we don't know why you've become so quiet and shy about it lately. You've always had what you needed to stand out in a crowd, Petey, you just need to see it too. I've not met anyone who makes anyone feel quite as seen as you do, who is so willing to support their mates to the end of the Earth. We believe in you, and hope you follow your passions: you'll make a great chef one day!
And a bit of the mushy stuff, just in case: We love you lads now, and you can bet we loved you to the very end. Survive, and stand by each other, and if you wouldn't mind– make sure our little Harry causes all sorts of trouble, would you? With you lot around, we'll rest easy, because we know he'll still be so, so, so loved.
The best looking Marauder (admit it),
The writing was messy, but Remus had spent well over half his life deciphering James' messy scrawl. He touched his finger to where James had signed off, tracing the massive looping 'P' lovingly.
"That prat," Sirius said hoarsely, "Ugliest of all of us, really."
Remus nodded. "Not sure how Lily could stand him really."
"And if he thought that he was sparing us the sappy bits, Merlin– he must have absolutely left the other letters tear stained."
"Emotional prat, always was. Remember when he cried over how cute that kneazle litter was?"
"Mmmhmm. Right berk, that one."
They sat quietly for a long moment, the only sound Remus' finger still tracing the parchment.
"Do you think we could try to find those other letters in their Vault?"
"I think we'd better, Pads."
Sirius nodded resolutely. "Well then, best keep going– otherwise I'll have to pour another brandy, and your mum won't be pleased if we're sloshed before she gets back down. I do believe I promised her an incredibly competitive game of chess."
Remus squinted. "You're awful at chess."
Settled by the comfortable teasing, Remus sat the letter (and his feelings) aside, pushing through the package and staring, confused, at several particularly formal legal documents denoting ownership of Potter House in France, the surrounding farmlands and magical tenancies, and a portion of any goods/services created or sold there. "Merlin and Morgana…. Sirius, did you know?"
"Sort of– not really, not until I dug it up and actually read it all the way through– but I did know before now," Sirius gnawed at his bottom lip. "You wouldn't turn it down would you?"
"I bloody well can't, according to how they worded this. It's too much. It's too bloody much. I haven't done anything to deserve—,"
Frantically: "No Moony, no! It's exactly what you deserve. We've always known you would make an amazing teacher, an amazing leader. If anyone can make a place that everyone is accepted, where everyone can learn and thrive– Moony, if anyone can do it, its you."
Stricken, Remus stilled. "But Pads… France? You… you want me to leave y– you'd be ok with me going to….? Is it because of Harry? Do you not want me around him, or do you—"
Sirius shook his head vehemently, launching himself across the table to grasp Remus' hands in his own. "Oh Moony. I'm not trying to send you away! I just want you to be happy, and I think James and Lily were right. This is something you're absolutely made for. And I have an international Floo pass now, and we've both been in France a half dozen times in just the past two weeks to visit Aunt Cassie, and it's not like—"
Sirius paused and took a very deep breath. "I'm going to be very clear. I would never send you away to France, or try to get rid of you. I want you around for me, and I want you to always be there for Harry. Once we've got him. But I also want you to feel fulfilled, and I have a feeling that being my babysitter isn't going to cut it forever. Besides– this is what James and Lily have left you. The work you do, Remus Lupin, will be just as much their legacy as Harry is."
Remus took a deep breath, looking thoughtful. "This is not going to happen overnight."
"Of course not."
"And I can hardly get started until we get Harry settled."
"And you're going to help me out, because I find you lounging around being rich to be horribly annoying, and the Ministry can hardly afford to rehire you."
"Alright," Remus said determinedly. "I'll do it. We'll do it. James and Lily wanted a whole house full of kids. We can at least fill up Potter House for them."
February 17, 1982
Chateau Black, France
It had been two months- only two months!- since Andromeda Tonks had first begun overseeing the care of Frank and Alice Longbottom. She and her team- which now consisted of her sister Narcissa, Pandora Lovegood, occasional interference from Cassiopeia, and a dedicated nurse- had quickly brought their patients a level of comfort and calm that St. Mungo's had estimated they would never achieve.
Alice's ability to appear at Sirius' trial had seemed to many like the most tangible proof of their success, but Andromeda was certain that performance had been merely a representation of the power she, Narcissa, and Pandora could harness with their creative ritual circles. Instead, she preferred to track the Longbottoms' progress in a different way: Through their ability to interact with their son.
Neville's grandmother brought him to visit every evening. In the beginning, she had been religiously accompanied by Callidora— Andromeda suspected that Augusta felt out of place and wary at Chateau Black, and she could hardly blame the older woman for her discomfort. The war was barely over, and everyone in Britain remained on edge.
But while it had taken weeks for Augusta to stop flinching when she came through the floo, little Neville had never had any such qualms. As small and quiet as he was, Andromeda thought he was also on track to be very brave- the child was barely through the Floo before he was throwing himself from Augusta's arms and scooting himself across the floor in search of his Mummy and Da. Neville rarely spared a sidelong glance for anyone else in the room, regardless of how they tried to engage with him— he kept his wide brown eyes fixated expectantly on his parents, thumb in his mouth as he waited. Waited for….
No one was actually certain what.
After two months of therapy, the care team had established the following:
First: Alice and Frank had not, in fact, reacted the same way to their prolonged torture, despite being attacked with the same set of spells.
Frank seemed to be 'trapped' in his body– unable to connect his thoughts to actual movement. However, he was closer to the surface mentally: recently, they'd been able to capture wane, fleeting responses to the stimulus they provided during the intensive ritual circles they performed nearly daily.
Alice had retained a better grasp of her physical form from the beginning, and even now her progress was primarily in this area. Though she instinctively stuck to repetitive and comforting motions, she was able to be encouraged through a wider range of therapeutic exercises and even get out of bed without any assistance. Her mind, however, was much more closed off– even during rituals, she was only able to be pushed towards certain memories when prompted. So far, there had been no sign of new thoughts, feelings, or interactions.
Second: Neville was, somehow, key to both his parents' recovery. Andromeda connecting with Frank to tell him stories about Neville's time with Augusta had prompted the most clear new thought processes from the man, and put him into a more deeply relaxed state. Alice had begun tentatively stroking the child's hair when he visited, as fixated on him as he was on her– and when they tapped into her mind during these moments, the care team always heard the same thing: Our baby, Frank. Neville. Neville.
Third: They had rapidly determined that no one in modern history properly understood what the unforgivable torture curse did to those who experienced it.
The Black family had only ever promised to try to help the Longbottoms', and to make them comfortable. They had accomplished more than Augusta could've dreamed of already– they all knew that the Longbottom matriarch would not blame them for determining that Frank and Alice's current state was as good as they would ever get.
But this was no longer an obligatory task for Andromeda, or for Narcissa, or even for Cassiopeia. None of them were capable of backing down from a challenge– from a research project— of this size.
(Besides, if they quit now, Pandora Lovegood was liable to keep up on her own, and her methods were decidedly less gentle without Andromeda's oversight. Cassiopeia Black had met her match in the vaguely fae inventor.)
"The 9th will be the next full moon. I have some ideas for a new ritual for Alice that I want to work out before then– we'll need to test run it at least three times. I found a reference to the basis of it in an Eastern women's medicine book, and think that if we expand it, it will….," Pandora trailed off, tapping her quill against her bottom lip thoughtfully. "It's a bit coven-y for Britain, but I can explain it away according to French law I think."
Andromeda didn't bother responding. Arguing legality with Pandora had no point– she would just ask Narcissa to find a way around anything she couldn't herself, anyways.
"I think if we're going to do something 'coven-y', we ought to bring in more power." Narcissa brought her wand down, canceling the diagnostic charm she'd been running on Frank. "Anyone who knew– knows– or cared for Alice would be a good addition."
"Augusta, then, and Callidora. Aunt Cass will likely bring Madam Calderon regardless if she knew Alice or not. But who else?"
"We should likely ask Sirius who— is that a Gringotts owl?"
The rapid fire tapping against the window was, indeed, a Gringotts owl with a bulky paper wrapped package dangling from his beak. Andromeda paled as she accepted the mail and read the name on top. "They executed the will last night– I suppose we should have expected this."
"Do we… do we open it?" Pandora sounded surprisingly hesitant. "It seems…. crass."
"Why Pandora, I didn't realize you knew the definition of the word." Narcissa's barb was so off-handed as to avoid any potential offense. "But I do think we should allow Alice to open it, under observation. It could be…"
"It could evoke something."
As the other two began casting diagnostic charms, Andromeda carefully sat the package on Alice's lap where she sat up in bed, and untied the large knots for her. "Go ahead, dear. It's for you."
Obliging as ever, Alice gently tugged the brown paper aside and ran her hands over the contents: a bulky camera, several rolls of film (both new and undeveloped), and a half dozen small folders of photos.
"They aren't moving. Curious– is it a preservation charm?"
"No– it's a muggle camera, and their pictures don't move. They have a different type of thing that makes moving pictures with sound called… videos? I think videos."
"How odd. Sister, I would like you to show me one of these…. Videos…. At some point."
"Of course, Cissy."
It was silent for a bit as they watched Alice sort through the photos. According to their separate diagnostic charms, her heart rate was increasing, but so was her brain activity. A separate spell colored Alice's emotions: it glowed bright gold, for joy.
February 17, 1982
Ritz of Barcelona Hotel, Barcelona
Dorcas Meadows still remembered the first time she met Marlene McKinnon. Wild, unruly, and fierce; Marlene had been her perfect opposite. The sun to her moon, so to speak. Dorcas hadn't loved her then, not yet, but she was already viscerally aware that their fates were twined with a bright red string.
Dorcas had always seen things that those around her could not. Pale auras surrounding others, telling her who she should cross the street to avoid. Brightly colored strings dancing between friends, between lovers, between rivals. Her mother had seen the same things, had been able to teach her how to steel herself against the smothering scent of future pain and to capture beautiful moments like fireflies in a jar. These were gifts that had been passed from mother to daughter in their family for generations. But her mother had no idea what to do about Dorcas' other magical abilities, because for all that they Saw, they were technically muggles.
When her Hogwarts letter came, the whole family had been wary. Magical Britain felt cold and colonized and out of touch with the rest of the world, and the initial information provided about Hogwarts held no mention of their own particular strain of magic. At first, Dorcas blatantly refused to go. She could control her accidental magic, and she could See when she was in danger of using it. There was no reason for her to separate from her family.
The Ministry of Magic did not particularly care about how Dorcas felt about going. As far as they were concerned, an untrained young witch was a recipe for disaster, and the Statute of Secrecy was too strict to allow children to be judged on a case by case basis. There was a reason they gathered all of the highly volatile, hormonal teachers into one hidden spot: It kept them from having to spend massive amounts of money on damage control later. Dorcas was not going to be an exception to any rule– especially if she had some Seer blood in her.
Dorcas was silent and furious as she was loaded onto the Hogwarts Express on September 1st. Her mother had insisted that they arrive early, and she'd managed to claim a whole cabin to herself at the very front of the train. There were bare moments to spare before departure when Dorcas saw her through the window.
Long blonde hair streaming behind her, the girl was sprinting down the platform behind three older boys (brothers, Dorcas later learned). Their mother was concentrating fiercely behind them, levitating their luggage rapidly towards the nearest compartment- Dorcas'- and shouting parting affection in their general direction.
"Be good!" Mrs. McKinnon ordered, "Take care of your sister! We're so excited for you Marlene darling! Don't follow Aiden's example!"
Moving to peek out the door of her compartment, Dorcas watched as the boys snagged their trunks out of the air just as the train started moving, heading towards the other end of the train and leaving a breathless Marlene panting over her own baggage. The blonde looked from her trunk to her brothers' receding backs, sighed loudly, and shrugged. Then she turned towards Dorcas and—
Their eyes met. Dorcas' whole heart sang, just for the briefest moment, and she was too surprised to duck out of the door window as she Saw the thick red braid of chords that ran between her palm and Marlene's.
Marlene, of course, had no clue. She grinned fiercely, not faltering for a second even when Dorcas just stared with wide eyes. In the space of a second, she had dragged her trunk into the compartment and settled herself in with cheerful determination.
"I'm Marlene, and I'm a first year, and if you aren't and you know my brothers please pretend that you don't, and do you like Quidditch? And do you know where you want to be sorted? Or are you already sorted? And do you know how they do it? And do you like caldron cakes, because I've got a whole package of them that I nipped from Patrick."
Dorcas was offered Ravenclaw when she was sorted, but she declined— instead, she followed the loud, bright creature who was tied to her with red string straight into Gryffindor and their appropriately red and gold dorm room.
Marlene never changed: she was always loud, and vibrant, and in motion. She made fast friends with Lily Evans, who burned just as bright, and who could talk for hours about the hundreds of places around the world she wanted to see, to learn about. She stole brooms from her older brothers and snuck out to fly in the sun, whooping as she flew further and further from the ground. She antagonized Sirius Black for the fun of it, flipping her hair and mimicking his posh speech till he fell over laughing. She was quick to fight but quicker to forgive, and by their fifth year she was a star Chaser on the Gryffindor team and the favorite McKinnon of most of the school.
And she always, always gravitated back to Dorcas.
Dorcas had not changed either. She was still serious, and quiet, and often furious with the world. She had made close friends out of Remus Lupin, whose secrets she could read, and Mary McDonald, who was often too timid to stand up for herself. Confident, terse, and empathetic by turns, Dorcas had the strength and flexibility of a willow tree. She calmed down kids in the younger years, fought fiercely with bullies, and was slow to forgive and forget any slight. She judged those around her with her Sight, and burdened the heavy weight of Seeing more than she wanted to in a school of emotionally volatile children trying to survive a war.
At night, Dorcas and Marlene slipped onto the roof of Gryffindor tower, climbing carelessly out the window and leaving the wind to decide their fate. They lay there for hours, Dorcas listening to Marlene in a way that few others did– many thought Marlene flighty, but Dorcas knew otherwise. They grounded one another there somehow, finding peace as they lay upon their castle in the air.
It was nearly summer the first time Marlene kissed her.
The pair had always been casually affectionate– curling up together on the couch, linking hands to walk through the halls, running hands through one another's hair as they cried. But this was different, and was just as new as it was old and comfortable, and through half open eyes Dorcas watched the red chord around their entwined palms glow brighter, and she Knew, with absolute certainty, that they had always been meant for this moment.
Marlene and Dorcas moved in together right after graduation, covering their apartment in the bright blooming plants that Marlene adored and the smell of the incense Dorcas preferred. By day, they studied: Dorcas to be healer, Marlene to be an Auror. By night they fought, at Dumbledore's request, for the Order of the Phoenix.
For Dorcas, it was as much heaven as it was hell.
She Saw very few beautiful moments in her friends' futures. The positive was nearly always overshadowed by the heavy, dark weight of fate– fates that were so undetermined she could not even hope to unravel them, fates that were so set that she could not stop them. When the Prewett twins were butchered, Dorcas fell apart– she felt their deaths in a way no one could understand. She heaped the guilt upon herself till she was nearly mad, screaming and sobbing on the shower floor.
Marlene, terrified, begged her to stop. "Just turn it off baby, please, you can't live like this, just turn it off, just turn it off till this is all over," she repeated, again and again, until Dorcas finally tried.
Things didn't get better, exactly. But they did get numb.
It was the worst decision of Dorcas' life.
Dorcas did not feel the heavy dark fate spiraling around the McKinnon family. When Marlene went to visit her parents for their wild weekly family dinner– a dinner Dorcas normally attended, but which she was missing to see a patient– Dorcas did not worry, did not consider that it would be the last time she heard the love of her life say, "I love you! Be safe. I'll see you so, so soon!".
Dorcas blew a kiss, and waved.
The attack, reported by the papers as one of the most brutal massacres of the war to date, was completely unSeen.
When Dorcas Meadows' heart shattered in her chest in July of 1981, she left Britain with nothing but her wand and a single bag. In it, she carried the contents of her Gringotts vault, some muggle clothing, an amulet of her mother's, and the passport of Marlene McKinnon.
Marlene had wanted to travel so badly. Had dreamed fiercely of the day it was safe to leave her family and see the world. She and Lily had joked about dragging Dorcas and James around the globe. It would never happen now, not the way they planned, but Dorcas couldn't stay.
When the Gringotts owl arrived at her hotel room window in Barcelona, Dorcas quietly added Lily's passport to her bag. Now, she had the weight of both women's dreams on her shoulders– it was a weight that would keep her feet on the ground, keep her moving, for the rest of her life. And one day, when she had seen everything, and taken them everywhere, maybe, just maybe, Dorcas Meadows would unshutter her Inner Eye and allow herself to find peace.
February 16, 1982
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Scotland
Horace Slughorn was not a consummate Slytherin– really, he was more of a hoarding dragon. He measured those around him by their value, not to the rest of the world, but to himself. What- or who- could they connect him to? How- and when- would he benefit from their strength? Horace was incredibly aware that his own strength was connecting people, to those they needed, or wanted, or valued.
He'd developed an equally important strength during his tenure at Hogwarts: the ability to assess the raw potential of children. One would have an impressive pedigree and bank account, but limited magical ability or desire to work— Horace would connect them with people who'd likely need an investor in the future. One would have less than two knuts to their name, but be a rising Quidditch talent– Horace would connect them to people who'd sponsor their time at training camps.
One would be a muggleborn potions genius- and Horace would take her under wing, and grow to care for her far more than he did most of his collection.
Lily Evans, particularly when partnered with Severus Snape, had absorbed more of the theory behind potions than any other student Horace had ever taught. Their experiments concerned him, but their brilliance was too clear to ignore. Horace had not blinked before offering Lily access to the research labs, or Severus access to his books on spell crafting. In the beginning, he quietly supported the pair: a friendship between a Slytherin and a Gryffindor had become an unnecessarily rare thing. Didn't the children understand the value of balancing one's strengths and weaknesses?
They did not.
Horace watched young Severus choose a dark path, despite Lily's begging, and sighed over the wasted potential in the boy. Determined to not lose both, he sunk more and more time and energy into supporting Lily's experiments instead.
"You're going to be famous one day, my dear, and when you are, your photo will be the largest on my mantle."
Lily, in her seventh year, had laughed. "If I ever become famous, sir, then your photo will be on mine!"
Rarely did anyone give Horace anything remotely personal. There was, of course, the standard fare: his favorite crystallized pineapple, good wine, tickets to all sorts of events, invites to balls, and the like. And there were the more creative options: first edition books, signed jerseys, and references in political speeches. Horace enjoyed them all. But never did he appreciate a gift the way he did the small fish Lily gave him at graduation.
When it disappeared, Horace had felt the absence like a physical wound. He was always surrounded by prominent people, but he had never felt so alone. So unseen.
So afraid for the future.
He was absent from the celebrations that ensued. Instead, he spent the day writing his letter of resignation.
Horace had purchased a townhouse in London, large enough to throw parties in, but cozy enough to be maintained by a single house elf. Unwilling to allow others to paw through his treasures, he'd been working on unpacking since he left Hogwarts after Christmas, and on this evening was loving stowing away hundreds of bottles of ridiculously expensive wine in his newly enchanted wine cellar.
"Master Horace, there has been an owl delivery from Gringotts."
Horace's brows raised as he turned to his new house elf, a younger female who seemed to be greedier for his treasures than even he was. (They'd bonded over a long chat about proper security matters- Fillo's taste was just as dramatic as his own.) "At this hour? Merlin me, were we expecting anything?"
"No, Master Horace, we was not."
A bit concerned, Horace trudged up the steps to his office, where a Gringotts package in brown paper awaited him. He opened it slowly, pouring over the excerpt of the will that mentioned him by name, tears welling in his eyes as he paged through the dozens of notebooks with Lily's handwriting in them.
…to be handed off the most inspiring young muggle born potioneer he meets in the coming years, delivered with Lily's love and appreciation for his ongoing support.
Horace Slughorn's greatest strength was connecting people. Lily Evans knew that, and she had respected it in a way few others did. It would have been his greatest joy to connect her to her dreams, but Lily's future had been cut short.
Horace swore quietly that he would connect her to the living through her work.
February 16, 1982
St. Mungo's, London
Minerva McGonagall had been stuck in St. Mungo's for entirely too long. If asked by the general public, she had been instructed to say that her case of dragon pox was incredibly rare, and that the hospital had opted to keep her in quarantine for the public's safety. In truth, she was still restoring her memories.
The mind was a fragile thing. Restoring it was a horribly lengthy process. Minerva knew both of these things, but it didn't stop her from feeling frustrated, or bored.
As such, when an owl in distinctive Gringotts livery appeared in her window just after supper was delivered, Minerva was purely excited. Any news had to be better than no news, and any entertainment was preferable to reading Albus' letter about how he was messing with her plans for her Transfiguration classes. (A special course on learning your animagus form? Half the school would end up in the hospital wing! Had he forgotten when he tried this forty years ago?!)
At first, Minerva didn't know what the bulky brown paper package was. It seemed too large for any type of statement on her accounts, or even on Hogwarts. And was that… was that a faint buzzing? Was the package moving?
Suddenly suspicious, Minerva cast every diagnostic charm she knew on the package. There was no sign of dark magic, or malicious intent, or even a sign of life.
Slowly, Minerva unknotted the heavy multi-colored knot of the package….
Out shot a dozen– no, two dozen– no, more than that, if Minerva counted them fast enough there were….
THIRTY SEVEN SNITCHES?
And not just any training snitches— these were Gryffindor training snitches, stamped with the house crest and the letter "P" for "practice".
What on Earth?
Memory crashed over her.
James Potter draped across the visitor's chair in her office, cheek pressed against the cool wood of the desk, a dejected air hanging about him like a fog. He was 16 years old. "I don't see why she didn't like the flowers, Minnie! They were a pretty impressive trick, weren't they? That was NEWT magic! You said so yourself when you were yelling at me!"
Minerva pinched her nose and prayed to Morganna for patience. "Mister Potter, it seems to repeatedly escape you that Miss Evans has no interest in ridiculously flashy displays that embarrass other students. Turning all of the first year Hufflepuffs into her favorite flower was hardly romantic, and it was incomprehensibly reckless!"
"Aw, but Minnie, you said that—,"
"What I said, Mr. Potter, was that your remarkable skill in my subject does not excuse you from human decency, empathy, or the rules of this school! Transfiguring other students– I've never seen such insanity in the halls!" (This was patently untrue, but Minerva didn't need young James to know that– the boy only spoke in extremes. Why, oh why, had she wanted to be the Head of Gryffindor?)
"Do you think she means it, Minnie?"
It was a bit hard to stay mad at James when he looked at her from under those long, dark lashes. "Do I think she meant what, Mr. Potter? That you're an arrogant toe rag? Or that she'd rather date the giant squid?"
Morosely: "Any of it?"
Minerva sighed, sitting down firmly in her desk chair and steepling her fingers together. She let the question hang in the silence for a long moment before nodding to a tin on the corner of her desk. "Have a biscuit, Mr. Potter."
James very hesitantly selected a piece of shortbread.
"Mr. Potter, you are reckless, spoiled, impulsive, and inconsiderate. You use your brilliant mind and incredible skill to play pranks on the rest of the student body, pranks that are often cruel and cutting, pranks that can barely be defined as pranks. While I appreciate your confidence and ability to lead Gryffindor's Quidditch team, I am frequently disappointed by your lack of empathy or foresight. So when you ask me if Miss Evans thinks you are an arrogant toe rag, I find it hard to tell you no." Minerva watched James reel backwards in shock at her blunt assessment. "But you are also a child. I see in you the potential to become a strong man who I am proud to know one day, once you get your head on your shoulders. I see it in the way you fuss over your friends, and in the way you apply yourself to attempting– albeit unsuccessfully– to woo Miss Evans. I see it in the way you lead your team, and how you coach players individually and together. I see it in your work ethic for the things you care about, and in your kindness to those who others scorn. I think, Mr. Potter, that the day may come that Miss Evans will see those things too, if you don't take too long to grow up. And then– and only then– will I tell you that she likely wouldn't actually prefer to date the Giant Squid."
James, a young master of both Transfiguration and selective hearing, brightened. "Really? Thanks Minnie!"
"There's still the matter of your detention for traumatizing the Hufflepuff's, Mr. Potter."
"Of course, of course– what do you want me to do? Clean the locker rooms again?"
Minerva resisted the urge to pull out her bottle of scotch. "I do believe Mr. Black just did that yesterday, so it would hardly be a punishment. No, I have a better idea."
She must have looked properly menacing– finally– because James actually gulped. "Proper?"
"Certainly, Mr. Potter. It's only fitting that you make it up to the Hufflepuffs. You'll be cleaning their locker rooms—,"
"What?! They're our enemy on the pitch!"
"- And you'll be tutoring the first years three nights a week for the rest of the year."
"I expect to hear glowing reports from their Professors, Mr. Potter. And if I catch wind of you making Mr. Lupin or Mr. Pettigrew tutor for you…."
"I gave them a fun memory for their first year, you can't sentence me to this torture–,"
"I assure you, I can Mr. Potter. And I have."
James groaned, dropping his head heavily onto the desk. The motion knocked open the front chest pocked of his robes, and a small golden streak flitted out.
"Mr. Potter! Is that the missing— one of the missing– training snitches?!" Minerva swiped a hand through the air and caught it with catlike grace (she may have been a chaser, but Minerva McGonagall had been a champion at filling in for any position the team needed, including Seeker).
"Mr. Potter, you've been reporting them missing!"
"Well, they are missing. Objectively missing."
Minerva weighed the cost of replacing the practice snitches with the amount of energy it took to successfully shame James Potter into behaving. Shaking her head, she tucked the snitch into her own pocket and pointed through the door. "Out, Mr. Potter. But mark my words– I fully expect you to give back every snitch you've made me replace one of these days!"
James jumped out of the chair quickly, snagging his back and hurrying towards the door, where young Sirius Black no doubt waited. "Yes ma'am!"
He saluted sharply, starting to pull the door closed, only to be stopped by Minerva one last time. "And, James?"
"I believe Miss Evans leads the tutoring sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays."
James blinked at her. "Minnie, you're my hero! When Evans falls in love with me and we get married and have a bunch of kids, we are totally naming one after you!"
The door slammed.
Minerva pulled the snitch back out of her pocket and tossed it idly into the air. "Bloody menace."
In the present, Minerva reached out and snagged a single slip of paper from the ground. It had fallen out from amongst the wildly erratic snitches when she opened the package.
To Minerva McGonagall: All 37 snitches locked in our broom shed, because they were technically meant for training the Gryffindor team anyways.
"Bloody menace," Minerva murmured affectionately, and then she sat down and cried as bits of gold flashed through the air around her.
February 19, 1982
Gringotts, London Branch
A single owl returned to Plotock's desk, one with a package addressed to a Mrs. Petunia Evans Dursley.
"It is strange," Jewelthorne noted, picking it up to return to the main Potter vault, "How would a human without magic avoid our owl?"
Plotrock shook his head firmly. "We do not wish to question the oddities of the wixen, apprentice. Their business ought remain their own."
Jewelthorne still wondered though. Quiet as she was, she had plenty of thoughts. And she would have quite liked to know the story behind the returned owl. Perhaps the Dursley woman wasn't a muggle after all, or perhaps she was hiding behind strong wards. Perhaps she would visit one day, for her inheritance, or just to ask after her next-of-kin.
Across the country, Petunia Dursley slept peacefully, hidden by the Black family's magic and comfortably confident that magic did not exist.