Our Mutual Tongue

A/N

Drawing ever closer to the end now.

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Little Hangelton was a quaint village, would be charming to most, but not Harry. Beneath the veneer of peaceful living away from urban life, there was something rotten at its very core.

As benevolent and picturesque as it may be, it would never be anything more than the place that Voldemort used Harry's blood to aide his resurrection. It would always be the place that set the tone for the years that followed, the misery, the loss and hopelessness Harry had felt.

He pushed those thoughts aside.

He had not come here to dwell on the darker days of his life but to ensure there were brighter ones ahead. For that, he needed to find the Horcrux that was hidden here.

Despite knowing what it was he was looking, and even knowing where it could be found, her was nervous.

The very ring he sought played no small part in the death of Dumbledore when he had located it, his passing proving to be a slow and painful.

Harry had no intention of falling into the same trap as his former mentor, but he would still need to be cautious.

Would the compulsion charm still affect him if he was aware of it before the matter?

He couldn't be certain, and he would take no risks.

The rotting curse imbued into the ring was deadly. With only the lightest of touches, it could bring about the demise of the victim.

Harry had no intention of dying in such a way.

He had considered bringing the headmaster with him but decided against it. Having the man with him would likely benefit Harry little and would only give him further cause for concern.

Dumbledore had already been ensnared by the allure of the ring once before, and Harry did not need the additional worry that it just might happen again.

No, it was better he dealt with the horcruxes himself. The less people that knew of them, the likelier he would be in succeeding, however, it had been many years since he had been here last. Even then, he had only been to the Riddle Estate and had not seen the village below the manor for himself.

That hadn't come until Dumbledore had shared the memory of Bob Ogden which offer more insight to the layout of the place and where he could find the dilapidated Gaunt shack.

Still, he needn't waste time looking for it, not when his companion could do a much better job than him.

"Olin," he muttered.

The raven took to the sky silently, and in less than a minute, landed on Harry's shoulder.

"Death!" he grumbled.

"Then let's get this over with," Harry declared, heading in the indicated direction.

What remained of the Gaunt legacy had not fared well, the home of the once revered family having fallen into the same disrepair as the reputation of those that had carried the name.

Having been left to the elements, the foliage had grown beyond control and the house, if it could be called such, was seemingly on the verge of collapse. Harry could only guess what kept it standing.

With a shake of his head, he began clearing a path towards it, the urge to turn and flee growing stronger with each step he progressed.

This was Tom's magic, the repelling ward old but having not been dampened since he'd created some three decades prior.

Harry ignored it, but he could not do the same with the sudden presence of something malevolent lurking here. It was an odd thing, the magic attempting to deter him from continuing but also trying to lure him in, like a serpent poised to strike.

Here, he became cautious. He could simply reach out and grab the handle of the front door, but something told him doing so would be a poor choice.

It could never be so simple as merely entering the property. No, not with Tom. There would either be a series of complex spells protecting the place he'd housed one of his horcruxes…or something only he could do.

"Open," Harry hissed.

The door did so. With a click and a groan, it came away from the frame and the feeling of the magic trying to rebuff his approach vanished.

Harry snorted.

He doubted Dumbledore had such an easy task of entering the home when he had come to retrieve the ring, but Tom was arrogant enough for this tact.

To his knowledge, he was the only parseltongue remaining in Britain and he would not want the mundane task of undoing and recasting the spells here if he had need of the horcrux.

He would also need to have accounted for the fact others would need to be able to access it were he to fall. What good was a horcrux that could not be used when required?

Still, any other that happened upon this place would not have such an easy task in retrieving it. Not that it would be here if they came.

Tentatively, Harry nudged the door open with his foot and lit the tip of his wand.

The dust that coated the floor was thick, the home having remained undisturbed for many years. Everything else within was either broken, rotten or no longer of any use.

The Gaunts truly had fallen on hard times, and it showed with the state of the shack.

Even when occupied, it had been little better, as Harry had seen for himself in the memory's shard by Dumbledore.

Closing his eyes, he felt for the spiteful presence and anything else that could prove to be a threat and found nothing but the same malicious energy emanating from the below the floor where the ring had been concealed.

"What do you think, Olin?"

The raven said nothing but flapped his wings encouragingly.

Harry nodded, his mouth forming into a hard line as he stepped into what had once been a living room, the floorboards creaking under protest.

He removed the one he felt saturated with Tom's magic and a wall of despair slammed into him, something akin to the sense of misery a dementor would instil within someone, but Harry had grown used to this and resisting it took little effort on his part.

When it passed after a few moments, he levitated the small box hidden in the cavity and popped it open with a flick of his wand.

There it was, the very same ring that had been Dumbledore's downfall, the magic of which the man had spoken of compelling Harry to grasp it.

To him, it was a rather feeble attempt, but to those unexpecting, it would be difficult to ignore. Dumbledore had fallen victim to it, his desire for the stone housed in the centre of the ring making his own efforts to ignore its call all but futile.

Why would Harry need to grab it when he already possessed it?

Even so, there was nothing that could compromise his wish to see it destroyed, and though the ring began to fight in a bid to preserve itself, it could not overcome Harry's will and determination.

Carefully, he removed the resurrection stone and set it aside before turning his attention back to the remaining metal.

"Fiendfyre."

The scream of the soul piece was bloodcurdling, a mixture of unadulterated fury and agony as it was banished to where the cloaked figure would claim it for themself.

"Another one down, Olin."

"Death."

With the horcrux gone, Harry levitated the stone before him. Tom's magic had not corrupted this, but he still felt none of his own. For what it had once been, all that remained was a blackened stone, the symbol of the Peverells marred by the crack that had formed across the surface.

It was a stone, perhaps a chunk of obsidian, but nothing more. The magic had been gifted to him when he arrived, and as it had with the elder wand he had claimed from Dumbledore, the stone was no longer a hallow.

That, however, did beg the question if the same had happened to the cloak?

In truth, it was of no consequence. The cloak the Potters possessed was still a Peverell heirloom, inherited through marriage and it belonged to Harry.

He shook his head of those thoughts. It was something beyond his control and was not important.

As would have happened anyway, the cloak would still be passed on to his own children.

"Come, Olin. Let's leave this place."

With a gentle squawk, the two vanished in a plume of smoke with Harry's thoughts on the remaining horcruxes.

If he was right, only two were left; the cup that had been entrusted to Bellatrix and the locket, neither of which he knew the location of.

Had Bellatrix already stored it within her vault?

Harry had his doubts, but it was something he would need to ponder.

For him to live, Tom could not be allowed to survive in any form.

(Break)

Platform 9 ¾ would usually be a flurry of excited greetings as the students departed the Hogwarts Express to begin their summer. This year was different. The mood was subdued, the parents waiting for their children not mixing with others and eying each other with suspicion. It made for quite the tense atmosphere but served to remind James just what had been happening outside the school over the past months.

It was sobering to say the least and as he reached his own parents, he could see that they too were as on edge as the rest.

"Bloody hell it's grim here," Sirius commented.

James nodded his agreement, his hand grasping the wand up his sleeve, just in case he needed it.

"You will return home with your mother," Charlus instructed. "I will escort Miss Evans back to her parents."

"Have you decided…"

Charlus silenced him with a shake of his head.

"Not here," he said firmly. "We will discuss it when I return home. I promise I have given it thought and will explain everything, but for now, I need you to listen to me."

James nodded his understanding.

"Alright, come on Pads."

"No," Charlus denied. "Sirius will join you soon, but he will be going with his grandparents for the time being. There a family matters that need to be discussed."

"I'm not going with…"

Charlus cut him off with a glare.

"Albeit for me to tell you what to do, but you will be going with them," he instructed. "There are things you need to understand, Sirius. I will join you there."

Sirius looked as though he wished to argue with the man but thought better off it.

"You will return to the Potters when our meeting is concluded," Arcturus broke in, having approached from where he had been stood with Orion and Melania.

"Then I'm going with him," James declared.

"No," Charlus sighed. "This is Black family business, James."

"He will be back with you by the end of the day," Arcturus assured him. "You have my word as lord of my family to you, the future lord of your own."

"It's alright," Sirius placated.

James nodded reluctantly, his eyes widening as Lord Peverell appeared in a plume of smoke with Olin perched on his shoulder.

Those remaining stared at the man in awe and some with concern.

None had seen him after what happened to his wife, though judging by his expression, none would know he had experienced such.

"Thanks for coming, Harry," Charlus offered gratefully.

The man nodded, his cold gaze sweeping across those fixated on him across the length of the platform.

"DEATH!" Olin screeched, flapping his wings irritably.

Some murmured uncomfortably from the attention of the raven, but it served to stop them staring.

"I'm happy to help," Harry replied. "Hello, Miss Evans."

The redhead greeted him with a sad smile.

"I was sorry to hear about what happened, Professor," Lily said.

Harry returned the gesture.

"Death is only the beginning, Miss Evans," he returned cryptically, "and I am no longer your Professor."

"No, but you were the best one we had," Lily replied.

A smile tugged at the corner of the ominous lord's lips.

"Not such a feat considering those that came before me," he commented. "Shall we do this?" he added to Charlus.

The Potter lord nodded.

"You're going with my father?" James asked.

"I am," Harry confirmed. "Don't worry, James. I will make sure Miss Evans is safe."

James believed him.

If there was anyone he doubted the Death Eaters would want to mess with, it was Peverell.

"Come along then," Dorea instructed. "Your father will explain everything when he is home."

James nodded and offered Lily a smile.

"I'll see you soon," he promised.

"You will," she replied, placing a kiss on his cheek and eliciting a questioning look from Dorea.

The woman said nothing but led her son towards the apparation point and the two vanished with the Potter heir's mind awash with so many plaguing thoughts of what was happening and what was to come.

(Break)

Being escorted through the hustle and bustle of King's Cross by two of the most prominent lords in the wizarding world was an odd experience for Lily. Until the previous year when Peverell had taken up the post of Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor, she'd had little to do with the upper echelons of wizarding society.

She knew that both James and Sirius came from old, pureblood families, but had not understood the implications of it. As far as she was concerned, most of the other purebloods looked down their noses at her because she was not one of them.

To those, she was a mudblood and not worthy of wielding magic.

For the most part, she had ignored this side to wizarding culture. It impacted her little, but as she had grown closer to Marlene over the years and then James, she was compelled to delve into it further.

If truth be told, wizarding traditions seemed to be reminiscent of the days of old where lordships and other such titles held more standing than they did now in the muggle world. The lords and ladies were heavily involved in politics and all but ran the country.

To Lily, it was an outdated one, but having spoken to Marlene at length on the subject, she came to appreciate the tradition. Although she did not necessarily agree that such positions of power and influence should be inherited, it was not her place to question nor frown upon these traditions.

This was the wizarding way, different to how muggle life was but no less effective from what she had seen.

She frowned as Peverell placed a hand on her shoulder.

"What is it?" Lord Potter asked.

Peverell was watching an odd group of men that were congregated around a newsstand and he nodded thoughtfully.

"Just a moment," he muttered.

Lily watched as he approached the men, their eyes widening when they realised he was headed towards them.

They, however, did not flee. Either from fear or lack of, they stayed put and Peverell addressed them.

Seeing how distinctly uncomfortable they quickly became, she decided it had been fear that kept them in place, but they scarpered when Peverell gestured for them to do so, and the man returned to them only a moment later.

"Them?" Lord Potter asked.

Peverell nodded.

"They are waiting for their children, nothing more," he explained.

Lord Potter grunted and the three continued on their way to locate her parents.

They came upon them only a few moments later, her mother and father having opted to wait at a coffee shop for her, they too oddly tense.

"You must be Mr and Mrs Evans," Lord Potter greeted them.

"And you must be Charlus," her father replied as he wrapped his arms around her. "I must say, I was concerned and intrigued by your letter."

"As you should be," Charlus replied as he turned towards Peverell. "May I introduce Lord Peverell, he has joined me to explain the current situation and put your mind at ease."

Her former Professor had become tense, his eyes roaming over her parents as though he was drinking them in. It was not unusual to see the man doing so, but he seemed to be paying rapt attention to them.

"Lord Peverell?" her mother asked.

"Just Harry, Mrs Evans," the man returned, having been pulled from his thoughts.

"What does being a lord mean?" her mother enquired.

"Both of them are lords, mum," Lily clarified. "It means they come from pureblood families and oversee them. They are both on the wizengamot."

"Oh, the government thing you told us about," Mr Evans broke in. "Well, you must both be important people."

"They are," Lily replied before either man could. "Lord Peverell comes from one of the oldest families. Lord Potter's family descended from them."

"That's quite the knowledge, Miss Evans," Charlus praised.

Lily blushed slightly as she shrugged.

"These things are important to know."

Charlus scrutinised her for a moment before offering her a smile.

"Apologies for my impatience, but weren't you going to explain what you meant in your letter?"

Charlus nodded and discreetly drew his wand.

Casting a few privacy charms around them, he gestured for the Evans' to take a seat at a nearby table.

"I do not wish to alarm you unnecessarily, but there are some rather unpleasant things happening in our world."

Mr Evans nodded.

"Lily has mentioned it in her letters, but I fear we have little understanding. You said something about a war?" he added to his daughter.

"Indeed, we are at war," Charlus confirmed grimly. "A Dark Lord has emerged and is attempting to take over our government. For the past few years, he has been gathering followers and carrying out attacks. My son is concerned for Lily now that they have left Hogwarts. He has become very fond of her and only wishes for her to be safe."

"Your son?"

"James, dad," Lily explained.

"Oh, the boy you spoke of last summer," her mother broke in with a knowing look.

Lily nodded, her cheeks reddening once more.

"I'm sorry, but I fail to see what any of this has to do with us," Mr Evans sighed.

"This war is being fought under the guise of pureblood supremacy," Peverell explained. "There are purebloods out there attacking muggleborns and muggles for no other reason than they believe they are better than them. This Dark Lord is encouraging and taking part in this. We merely wish to ensure that Lily and yourselves are kept safe and protected from them."

Mr Evans frowned.

"Is it likely that we will be attacked?"

Peverell shook his head.

"No, but I have learned it is best to be prepared for any eventuality. There is no need for your lives to change in any way, but you should be aware of what is happening. Should you have need of help, I'd like you to know it is available to you. You need only call for my companion and it will come."

"Your companion?" Mrs Evans asked confusedly.

"Olin," Lily said.

The raven materialised on Harry's shoulder and began grooming the feathers on his chest.

Mr and Mrs Evans eyed the odd creature warily before the man cleared his throat.

"And how will he help us if we need it?"

"He won't," Harry replied, "but he will bring me to you."

Mr Evans frowned.

"No offense, but how old are you?"

"Dad!" Lily chastised. "Lord Peverell was our Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor. If anyone can help us, it would be him."

Mr Evans looked abashed.

"Apologies, I am just struggling to comprehend all of this."

Peverell waved him off dismissively.

"It's fine. I don't expect you to understand, but please do call for me if needed and I will be there to help."

"Thank you, Lord Peverell," Lily offered.

"So long as you're safe," the man replied as he stood along with Lord Potter.

"I do hope to see you soon, Miss Evans," the latter said warmly.

"I'm sure James will be in touch soon," Lily huffed good-naturedly.

"I do not doubt it," Charlus chuckled before he and Lord Peverell took their leave of the station.

"What was that all about, Lily?" her father asked.

"They're just looking out for me, dad," Lily answered. "It's mostly just James being protective."

"And just what is going on with you and this James?" her father pressed.

Lily blushed at the question and shrugged.

"I don't know," she answered honestly. "We've spent a lot of time together this year and it's been nice."

"But?"

"But he's a pureblood," Lily answered sadly. "I don't think it will lead to anything. They're different from us and have their own traditions. I don't really fit in with them."

"So, he's just your friend then?" Mr Evans probed.

"I suppose," Lily replied uncertainly. "We didn't really speak about it with everything else going on."

She had felt a sense of warmth at the care shown by Lord Potter and Peverell, but now her mood had been dampened.

She and James had not spoken about what would happen beyond Hogwarts, and she could only wish they had. She had grown to care for the boy; his charming grin and caring nature having become two of the things she had fallen for.

He had spent years making a fool of himself in the pursuit of a date with her, but this year had been different. He had made no grand gestures, had not declared his admiration for her as he had before.

Had he gone off her?

The thought was a bitter one. It would just be Lily's luck that he had given up the chase when she had unwittingly been caught by the boy.

The hold he had over her was firm and the realisation that he may no longer care for such was unpleasant. But what could she do?

They had left Hogwarts now and it was likely she would see little of him. They would grow apart, would move on with their lives, and Lily would be left wondering just what if things had been different.

She could only shake her head as that realisation set in.

James would write to her, may even invite her to spend time with him, but it would become less frequent and the thoughts she now tried to push away would come true.

Wouldn't they?

(Break)

With James, Dorea, Charlus and Peverell having departed, Sirius felt a sense of unease settle within him. He had not been alone with his family for over a year, not since he fled Grimmauld Place after his mother's last bout of cruelty towards him.

Without the assurance of the Potter lord, he would not be here. He didn't trust the Blacks. His grandfather nor father had never harmed him directly, but they had not curbed Walburga's actions whilst he had grown. For all the talk of the importance of family they did, none had looked out for him, and he'd had to endure the treatment he'd been subjected to.

That was until he had fled, and he vowed that he would not go back.

"Hello, Sirius," his grandmother greeted him warmly. "Look at you, you're a man now."

The Black heir nodded, his watchful stare on his father, brother and Arcturus. The two men were decidedly grim, more so than usual.

"So, what's this all about?" he asked.

"Not here," Arcturus murmured. "We will speak at home. Can you apparate?"

"I got my licence over a year ago," Sirius replied with a frown.

"Then you will not need any of us," Arcturus returned before vanishing with a gentle pop.

The rest of the family followed suit and Sirius shook his head.

"I haven't needed any of you for years," he muttered.

Nonetheless, he too disapparated, wanting to get this over with.

He couldn't remember the last time he had visited his grandparents, but it had not been since he started Hogwarts.

He used to come here when he was a boy to get away from Walburga when she was in a particularly bad mood, but that changed when he met James. The Potters were always happy to have him stay with them.

He had spent the past two summers there, though he did not know how much longer he would remain in their home. Would they insist he left now that he had left school?

He shook his head.

Charlus and Dorea wouldn't do that.

They were not like his own family.

Entering the house of his grandparents was not the same as it was with Grimmauld Place. Here, there were no unpleasant memories to contend with, no reminders of his mother nor what she had done to him over the years.

Still, he held little affection for this place other than the kitchen.

He remembered being a small boy and his grandmother had sat him on the kitchen counter whilst she cooked and snuck him biscuits whilst his brother and cousins were doing whatever they got up to.

He smiled unwittingly at the memory.

Melania made the best biscuits.

"Come, Sirius," his father called, pulling him from his thoughts.

He found them gathered in his grandfather's study, the man himself seated behind his desk, his expression not having shifted since they had been on the platform.

"Take a seat," Arcturus instructed.

His words were gentle, but uncompromisable and Sirius did as he was asked.

"There are many things we must discuss," Arcturus began. "Orion, these are your sons. Perhaps it would be better coming from you."

The man nodded and released a deep sigh.

Sirius could not help but notice how tired his father was, the bags under his eyes speaking of several sleepless nights.

"There's no easy way to say this, but your mother has been expelled from the family," he revealed. "She was caught plotting to murder your grandfather with Bellatrix. Her magic has been bound and she has been sent far away from here. I'm sorry, but there was little else that could be done. She has proven herself a traitor to the family."

Regulus accepted the explanation of his father with a nod.

Sirius was confused. What the hell was Walburga thinking of? His mother was a cruel and heartless woman, but not so obtuse. She had to have known she would be caught doing something so stupid.

He snorted at the thought of her alone and unable to use her magic.

"Fucking serves her right," he mumbled.

"Indeed," Arcturus agreed. "Bellatrix, as you know, was expelled for her actions against Lord Peverell and Narcissa."

"Poor Cissy," Regulus commented.

Sirius nodded his agreement.

"Speaking of which," Arcturus continued. "What you learn in this room is to be discussed no further. It is family business only because it pertains to Narcissa."

"Of course," Regulus replied.

"Narcissa is not dead, that is why there has been no announcement of a funeral."

Sirius's eyes widened and he shook his head.

"She was hit with a killing curse, lots of people saw it."

"She was," a voice sounded from the doorway.

Sirius felt relief wash over him at the sight of Peverell and Charlus.

"But she is not dead, and that is all you need to know. You will keep that information to yourself, for now."

"We will," Regulus assured him, a look of reverence plastered across his face as he looked upon the Peverell lord.

Regulus had been in awe of the man since he had first met him, and as Harry's reputation had grown, as had Regulus's admiration of him.

"Good. Apologies, Arcturus, continue," Harry instructed.

The Black Patriarch gave him an appreciative nod before turning back to his grandson's.

"Now, we need to discuss what happens moving forward," he declared. "Regulus, you are free to return home with your father for the summer, or you can stay here if you wish to. The choice is yours."

Regulus shot his father a concerned look before nodding.

"I will go home," he replied. "Father will need someone there."

Arcturus gave the boy a smile of approval.

"Good. You will spend the summer at home and return to Hogwarts for your final year, but I will warn you now. I meant what was said in the letter. Any notion you have of joining him, forget about it. I will cast you out of the family as I did with your mother and Bellatrix if you do, and you will become an enemy of the Blacks."

Regulus swallowed deeply.

"I won't," he assured the man.

"I know," Arcturus responded, "but it had to be said. Now, off you go. I need to speak with your brother."

"Come on, son," Orion urged, offering Sirius a nod of encouragement, an odd gesture from the usually pliant man.

The two of them left and Sirius once more felt uncomfortable as his grandfather's eyes rested on him.

"I failed you, Sirius," Arcturus said simply, confusing the younger Black. "I did not pay close enough attention to what was happening in your home. I knew that Walburga was an unpleasant woman, but I did not think she would dare to treat you as she had. At the very least, your father should have put a stop to it."

Sirius merely shrugged in response.

The words of the man offered him no comfort, nor did they justify his inaction.

"I will make no excuses, but I hope that we can move past this one day in the hope that our family will have the right person to succeed me and that you can find pride in the name you carry."

Sirius shook his head irritably.

"Why are you so determined for me to take over?"

"Because you are the right person to do it," Arcturus answered. "Ever since you were four, I knew it should be you. Even your father agreed to step aside."

"Since I was four?"

Arcturus nodded.

"You were strong even then, Sirius, uncompromising and willing to stand up for yourself. Now, you have grown into a strong man and one that can carry the responsibility of running this damned circus."

"What if it isn't what I want?" Sirius returned.

"Then the title will be passed on to one of your children. If they too do not accept, then a child of Lord Peverell and Narcissa will take it," Arcturus explained. "That is not what I want to happen. You are my heir, Sirius, the one whom the title should be given to."

"And a bloody good job you'd do too," Peverell interjected.

"Really?" Sirius asked confusedly.

"Come off it, Black, only you're stupid, stubborn and ignorant enough to put up with your lot. It must be you. Besides, if you make me take responsibility, I will make sure Olin haunts you every day."

"You can't do that!"

"I can and will," Harry promised. "Just stop being an idiot and accept your responsibility. Potter will be the lord of his family when old Charlus has had enough. Don't tell me you haven't spoken of how the two of you will take over the world when you become lords."

Sirius grumbled under his breath.

"I am not asking you to take the position now, Sirius. In fact, I was going to ask what you wanted to do now that you have left school. I want to offer my support until you have done what you would like whilst you are still young," Arcturus explained.

Sirius offered the man a look of disbelief.

"I was thinking about becoming an auror," Sirius answered. "Me and James have spoken about it since second year."

"An auror?" Charlus asked worriedly.

Sirius nodded, his eyes alight with excitement.

"Isn't that a little dangerous?" Melania asked.

Harry snorted.

"Compared to what the prats have gotten up to at Hogwarts, not really. Besides, if you want my take on it, I think they'd both be damned good at it. They've got talent, can handle themselves and it would give them something to work towards."

Arcturus nodded thoughtfully.

"You think they could manage it?"

Harry nodded sincerely.

"They could. I think it would do them both good."

Arcturus hummed and he and Charlus seemed to have a silent conversation as they stared at one another.

"Alright," he agreed, "but you will both spend an evening a week with me and Charlus. If you're going to do this, you will be sufficiently prepared."

"You're going to train us?"

"We are," Charlus announced, "we'll even drag Peverell in from time to time to put you through your paces."

Sirius swallowed as Harry smirked in his direction.

"Fine," he replied.

"Then it is settled," Arcturus declared. "I will support you with your efforts in any way you need, I only ask that you keep an open mind about the future, Sirius."

After a moment of pondering his grandfather's words and looking to Charlus for support, Sirius nodded.

"I will."

"Then the only other thing to discuss is where you will be living. I would assume you would want Alphard's place?" Arcturus asked.

"Alphard?" Sirius asked, a frown marring his features.

"Did you not read my letter? I sent it in March explaining that he passed away."

"No, I didn't," Sirius answered, saddened by the passing of his great-great uncle.

"Then I'm sorry you had to learn of it this way. I know you were fond of him and he you. Here," Arcturus said, opening a drawer on his desk and offering Sirius a roll of parchment. "He left everything to you."

"Even his flat in Diagon Alley?"

Arcturus nodded.

"Everything. If you like, we can visit his grave together, then you can say your goodbyes to him."

"Thanks," Sirius sighed. "He was so healthy."

"But very old," Arcturus pointed out. "He didn't suffer, Sirius. Lulu found him after he passed in his sleep."

"How is Lulu?"

Sirius had become fond of the elf when he was little and would see Alphard. She doted on his uncle and was a sweet creature.

"She is still there," Arcturus assured him. "She is waiting for you to visit."

"I'll go when I leave here," Sirius declared.

Arcturus gave him a nod of approval.

"Why don't you go now?" he suggested. "There is nothing else that needs to be discussed that can't wait. Take some time and I'll write in a few days."

Sirius could only nod before taking his leave from the house.

The passing of Alphard had come as a shock. It wasn't unusual for the man to go months without writing, but Sirius had not heard from him since the previous Christmas.

Although he did not see him as often as he liked, he would miss the old man, and the flat, the gold, and the motorcycle he had left him would be no replacement.

(Break)

For years, James had envisioned what life would be like when he left Hogwarts. He and Sirius would join the auror academy and make a name for themselves as the best there was.

He, however, hadn't considered just how he felt when his stint at the castle would come to an end. In truth, he felt a little lost, as though something important had been taken away from him.

It had in many ways.

There would be no more meals in the Great Hall with the rest of his housemates, no more lessons to attend and no more detentions to serve.

If he was honest with himself, he knew he would even long for the latter.

With his trunk unpacked whilst he waited for his father and Sirius to return, the reality that he was no longer a boy set in, a feeling he was uncertain of.

Yes, he would still see his friends and Lily, but it wouldn't be the same. The redhead was the lucky one of the group. She had been asked to return to Hogwarts to continuing studying charms under Professor Flitwick.

Not that James was bitter about this. Lily excelled in the branch and had earned the opportunity. He merely found that he would miss school life than he thought.

He was pulled from his musings by the sound of muffled voices coming from the kitchen below. Knowing that his father and Sirius had returned, he left his room to check that his friend was okay.

Sirius would never admit it, but he was wary of his family and feared they would seek retribution on him for fleeing.

James was taken aback when he didn't see Sirius but Lord Peverell speaking with his parents when he arrived at the kitchen.

"He's fine, James," his father assured him. "He's just taking some time to clear his head. He learned that Alphard passed away."

"Oh," James replied.

Sirius was very fond of Alphard so he would naturally be upset.

"We do need to talk to you too."

James nodded and took a seat at the table.

"Lily…"

"Will be fine," Peverell broke in. "If her or her parents find themselves in need, they will call for Olin who will take me to them."

"You?"

"Unless you can think of someone better?" Peverell asked.

James shook his head.

"I was just surprised."

"I will keep them safe if it comes to it," Peverell promised.

James nodded and turned his attention to his expectant father.

"So, the auror academy? Have you made your application?"

"No, I wouldn't have without speaking to you," James assured him.

Charlus offered his son an understanding smile.

"I'm proud of you," he said sincerely.

"Proud?"

"Of course. Being an auror is a great cause and you have my blessing to pursue it, but there are terms. Sirius has already agreed to them, so I don't see why you wouldn't."

"What terms?" James asked suspiciously.

"Only one, really. You will spend one evening a week with myself and Lord Black where we will train you in advanced magic you won't learn at the academy. That is not negotiable."

James nodded eagerly.

"That's fair," he agreed.

"Good, we will begin on Thursday."

"You're not interested in Quidditch?" Peverell asked.

"I am, but it isn't likely to happen overnight. I'll find a team like you did and play on the weekends. The aurors are accommodating for things like that," James explained.

"It would be a shame if your talent was wasted," Peverell mused aloud. "Anyway, I'd best be off, but I will see you on Thursday."

"You will," Charlus acknowledged, "and thank you, Harry, for everything."

The man offered James and Charlus a nod before kissing Dorea on the cheek and taking his leave.

"Poor Harry," James murmured. "Is he okay?"

Charlus nodded.

"Well, I suppose you should be told about what has been happening since you have been away," he sighed.

"What do you mean?" James asked, a frown marring his features.

"I think it best to start with Cissy, don't you?" Dorea suggested.

James could only stare at his parents in confusion as he wondered what else had occurred whilst he had been finishing the last weeks of his schooling.

(Break)

She had been told little but had heard of what happened at St Mungo's and to her younger sister at the hands of Bellatrix. From hearing the to the visit from her father telling her to not put much stock in what was being spread had been perhaps the worst Andromeda had ever felt. She had only reconnected with Narcissa and to learn that she had been murdered by their own sister nonetheless was more than she could take.

She'd been of the mind to find Bellatrix herself, but her father had warned her against such, had explained that Narcissa was not as dead as everyone believed.

Andromeda found that hard to believe, even more so when she ventured into Diagon Alley where the whispers of what occurred were unmissable.

The killing curse. No one survived that.

The past few days had her questioning the veracity of the tale and the survival of her sister, that was until this morning when Harry's raven had arrived with a note inviting her visit.

Eager to put an end to her own doubts and grief, she readily accepted and arrived at the home, sweeping her very much alive little sister into her arms the moment she laid eyes on her.

"I'm okay, Andi," Narcissa assured her.

Andromeda eyed her sister sceptically for a moment and nodded.

Perhaps Narcissa spoke the truth, but the older sister was not entirely convinced. Still, she was alive and that was all that mattered.

"I've been hearing all sorts of rumours, what happened?"

Narcissa shrugged.

"Probably exactly what is being said," she sighed. "Bella attacked the hospital and killed me."

"But you're not dead."

Narcissa snorted.

"No," she agreed, "but it was a close thing."

"Hello, Aunt Cissy," Nymphadora broke in, staring at the blonde worriedly. "I made you a card."

The little girl had drawn a picture of Narcissa, Harry, Helena and Olin with the words 'I missed you' scrawled sloppily beneath, though it brought a smile to her aunt's lips.

"Well, I think that it should go right here, don't you?" Narcissa asked, sticking the piece of parchment to a nearby cupboard door.

The metamorph nodded enthusiastically, her hair cycling through various colours as she did so.

"Perfect," Narcissa declared.

"What a way to be welcomed home," Harry declared as he entered the room.

"I was referring to Nymphadora's drawing," Narcissa replied dryly, eliciting a look of mock-hurt from the man.

"You used to be nice to me," he muttered.

"And you used to greet me with a kiss."

Harry grinned and did so, laughing as Nymphadora grimaced.

"You'll have a boyfriend one day, and when I see you kissing him, I'll give you the same look of disgust."

"Will not," the girl huffed.

"Will too."

"Will not!"

"For the love of Merlin, Harry, you're arguing with a three-year-old," Narcissa pointed out amusedly.

"She started it," Harry grumbled.

"You started it," Nymphadora fired back.

"Did not."

"Yes, you did!"

"Honestly, I'll put the pair of you on the step in a minute," Andromeda interjected.

Nymphadora was horrified by the threat and Harry laughed.

"How are you, Andromeda?" he asked.

"More stressed than before I arrived," the woman huffed. "Do you have to antagonise her?"

"She makes it so easy," Harry replied with a shrug as he scooped the girl up. "How are you doing, Dora?" he asked.

The girl scowled at him before the façade cracked and she smiled.

"Hello, Uncle Harry."

"Oh, so it's Uncle Harry today. Last time, it was smelly-naughty-lazy-pony."

"Yep," the girl agreed with a giggle.

Harry hummed.

"Well, whilst mummy and Aunt Cissy are talking, why don't you help me?"

"With what?" Nymphadora asked suspiciously.

"Oh, I don't know, maybe we can find a nice piece of treacle tart," he suggested as he carried her from the room.

"No, Uncle Harry," Nymphadora whined, "I want chocolate."

That was the last the women heard of the pair.

"She absolutely adores him," Andromeda sighed. "He drives her insane, but she always comes back for more. She's a glutton for punishment."

"She is half Black," Narcissa reminded her.

Andromeda nodded, watching her sister with concern.

"What's going on in that head of yours, Cissy?" she asked.

"What do you mean?" Narcissa returned defensively.

"I know you. When you're upset or worried, you bite your lip. What's bothering you."

Narcissa shrugged.

"Everything I suppose."

"Bella?"

Narcissa's expression darkened at the mention of the other woman.

"She will get what's coming to her," she hissed. "She tried to take me away from them."

It was not often Narcissa was prone to bouts of anger. In truth, she had always been the most level-headed of the sisters, but when given reason to, she would hold a grudge and neither Andromeda nor Bellatrix could get the better of their younger sibling.

"I'm just so angry all the time," Narcissa mumbled. "Thinking about what she did and what they tried to do to Helena. It's eating me up."

"Have you spoken to Harry about it?"

"He knows," Narcissa replied. "I'm worried about him and what he will do. I've never seen him like this."

"What do you mean?"

Narcissa released a laboured breath.

"For me, it was like I fell asleep and just woke up. I know what Bella did, but I didn't have to see what happened afterwards. I suppose that just makes me even angrier, knowing what he went through. But Harry, he thought I was gone. He's barely sleeping and he's boiling under the surface. I don't know how he's keeping it together, but I worry about what he will do to get to him."

"The Dark Lord?"

Narcissa nodded.

"Well, I imagine he will tear through everyone and anything to get to him. You know what he is like, Cissy. The man loves you and they almost succeeded in taking you from him. I almost pity them."

"I don't," Narcissa disagreed. "They deserve everything they get, I just don't want to lose Harry through it."

Andromeda nodded her understanding.

"So, what will you do?"

"What can I do?" Narcissa returned. "There is nothing that will stop him. When he finally snaps, that will be it. I just hope he remembers that we are here and that we need him."

"He won't forget that," Andromeda assured her. "No matter what happens, you and Helena are his entire world. He will do whatever it takes to protect you both."

"That is what worries me."

"Just as you would for them," Andromeda continued.

Narcissa could only nod her agreement.

(Break)

The Dark Lord was displeased. He had warned his inner circle that they were not to be captured by the Ministry, that they should flee before they allowed that to happen, and yet, Jugson had foolishly been caught.

He couldn't be blamed entirely, but that did little placate Lord Voldemort.

The Ministry had been unusually competent as of late, the raids they had been carrying out done so quietly and without warning. As such, Jugson had found himself at their mercy.

His gaze swept across the days' edition of The Daily Prophet where his mark was displayed prominently on the arm of the incarcerated man. The story gave no indication of the knowledge obtained about the mark. Not that any other could make sense of it.

To them, it would yield nothing.

The Dark Mark was a stroke of genius of his own, imbued with the magic of his ancestors. To those at the Ministry, it was indecipherable but having it discovered so soon into his efforts irked the Dark Lord.

The Ministry would now be looking for those that carried it, putting his plans at risk if they were somehow made to talk.

It was only a matter of time before a law was passed to indiscriminately use Veritaserum on his marked followers.

They would need to be more careful, but equally, it was of minor concern if they were caught.

He would see them free soon after.

Without the dementors guarding Azkaban, releasing his followers would be little more than a trivial matter.

Still, it was an inconvenience he could do without.

Having his followers apprehended only showed him to be incompetent and vulnerable.

The Dark Lord was neither, the latter having been assured so many years prior.

Unconsciously, his hand reached for the locket he wore around his neck, one of his most prized possessions.

If truth be told, he knew that it was not best to keep his Horcruxes with him. Lucius had been given one to keep safe, though the man knew not what it was he possessed.

It was better that way and the Dark Lord had been assured that it resided within the safety of Malfoy Manor.

He still had the cup in his possession and the Gaunt family ring was safely hidden where none could get to it so easily. Even if it was happened upon, so few knew of horcruxes and would be able to identify what it was.

At worst, they would be overwhelmed by the magic protecting it and would die.

The ring and diary were of no consequence, but he needed to find a better arrangement for the two in his possession.

Perhaps Bella would be a good choice to gift one to?

Her loyalty was unquestionable, and she was certainly not foolish enough to allow herself to be caught.

The Dark Lord nodded thoughtfully but decided to ponder the quandary he found himself facing later.

For now, he needed to show wizarding Britain that it mattered not if his followers were captured, that he would not be deterred, nor his efforts quelled by their inconsequential victories.

With thoughts of his horcruxes pushed to one side, he summoned his inner circle.

They needed a firm reminder of the importance of not being captured and the opportunity to remind wizarding Britain just what they were up against.

(Break)

"Good, Peverell," the cloaked figure praised. "Your work is becoming impeccable."

Harry merely nodded as he breathed heavily.

He could still not defeat his foe, but he no longer fell victim to or was overwhelmed by the figure.

The magic he faced was familiar, had truly become his own.

"So, I'm ready to face him?"

"Perhaps," the figure mused aloud.

"Perhaps?"

The figure stared at him for a few moments before bowing slightly.

"This Riddle is not the same as the one you have already defeated. He is not so tainted by the maiming of his soul. It makes him more calculatingly, more rational, and more dangerous."

"I know that!" Harry returned heatedly.

"Do you?"

"Yes," Harry sighed. "I just want this over with, I want him to pay for what he did to my wife, for what he tried to do to my daughter."

"And that is what he is relying on. He is in your head Peverell and wants you to act irrationally and be guided by your emotions. How did that work for him when you emerged victorious?"

"It didn't," Harry grumbled.

"No, it did not. You must remain composed Peverell, or he will defeat you. You wish to survive, to live. For that to happen, you must have clarity, you must remain focused on your task."

Harry released a deep breath.

"It is difficult."

"I never suggested this would be easy," the figure pointed out, "but I have faith in you. The anger you carry can be your greatest weapon but also your downfall. Choose when to implement it wisely. Not with him, Peverell. You will never defeat him with anger."

Harry nodded his understanding.

"I will try," he replied.

"Good, the opportunity to do so has arrived. You are being summoned."

"Now?"

The figure nodded.

"We will speak soon, Peverell. You are almost ready to visit my vault."

"Your vault?" Harry asked with a frown.

The figure nodded.

"The Peverells before you have been and emerged as one with the magic I gifted them. I suspect it will be the same for you."

"Wait, I thought it was the Peverell vault? That's what the brothers said."

The figure shook its head and Harry suspected it was smirking at him from beneath the hood.

"It once was, but without a Peverell to guard it, I took it back. Farewell, Harry."

Harry woke with a gasp, his mind awash with a flurry of thoughts, though he had little time to dwell on them as an ethereal phoenix arrived in the room he shared with his wife.

"Cornwall," it said simply.

Pushing himself from his bed, he dressed himself with a wave of his wand.

"Come, Olin," he instructed and the two vanished in a plume of smoke, leaving behind a slumbering Narcissa.

(Break)

The arrival of the aurors had come quickly, their reaction to the attacks getting better with the influx of foreign wizards into their ranks. Still, they were outnumbered by the overwhelming amount of the Dark Lord's supporters and were struggling to hold their own.

It was good practice for the Death Eaters. They would be unable to flee from combat forever and needed to learn to overcome adversity, but it appeared the rigorous training they were being put through was paying off.

They no longer resembled a ragtag group of disorganised witches and wizards, but something resembling more a cohesive unit.

Yes, they were making the needed progress, though it would not serve the Dark Lord well to allow them to overdo it.

Lord Voldemort was distracted from his duel with a rather keen French auror by the sound of screams before a dull thud drew his eye.

He looked down at the crumpled and broken form of Rabastan Lestrange as he gasped for breath.

Even more shocking than the sight of one of his most gifted and devout followers in such as state was the materialisation of Peverell who coalesced in plume of smoke, only to seize the younger Lestrange by the throat and life him from the ground.

"YOU FUCKING BASTARD!" Rudolphus roared as he levelled his wand at the Peverell lord.

The man merely smirked, his eerie white eyes unflinching as something smashed into the Lestrange heir's back, lurching him towards his target where Peverell's free hand took hold of him too.

"Do nothing!" the Dark Lord commanded, a grin tugging at his lips. "I see that you have finished grieving for your wife, Peverell."

His nostrils flared in response, but he did not take the bait to release to foolish brothers and engage him.

"Did you enjoy my gift, Tom?" he replied. "You know, I may even send Rosier's other eye to you. He won't have need of it for much longer, or maybe the corpse of his daughter. I'm sure you could find a use for that."

The Dark Lord felt his anger begin to boil but he held up a hand to prevent Bellatrix from attacking.

What had been done to her uncle and cousin had angered the unhinged woman but not as badly as the death of Peverell's wife would have affected him.

"I am always grateful for gifts. Perhaps I will return the favour and send a tribute to your late wife when you decide to bury her."

Peverell smirked cryptically, eliciting a frown from the Dark Lord.

"I'm sure she would appreciate the sentiment, but you made one horrific error with what you did."

"Is that so?" Voldemort replied.

Peverell nodded.

"You see, my wife was granted a quick and painless death, has been welcomed warmly to the other side. You and yours will not be given such mercy. Before I kill you, I will take everything you and you hold dear," he vowed, nodding towards Bellatrix and Voldemort in turn.

The Dark Lord laughed though the threat angered him.

"My dear Peverell," he sighed. "You have already proven yourself to be inept. You are no match for me, and you will join your wife shortly leaving your daughter alone in this world. Is that what you want? For her to grow without both her parents?"

Still, the jab failed to provoke an emotional response from the man.

"You will try," Peverell conceded, "but it will not come to pass. You cannot flee from Death, Tom Riddle."

"Very well," the Dark Lord growled, his temper getting the better of him, but aware that more aurors and Dumbledore had arrived with his irksome group. "We will meet again soon, Harry," he finished with a hiss.

"Sooner than you would like," Harry returned.

The Dark Lord's eyes widened at the use of parseltongue and even more so when Rudolphus and Rabastan began to choke before a large snake protruded from each of their mouths and the two men fell limply to the ground.

He was pulled from his shock as a fiery raven descended upon him and Bellatrix and he grabbed the woman by the robes and apparated them away, the smell of his singed robes filling his nose.

Much to his relief, he had escaped being burned, but that was the least of his concerns in this moment.

How? How was Peverell able to command the language of his line? It shouldn't be possible. The Dark Lord was the only surviving member of the Slytherin family, wasn't he?

This was indeed an unexpected development, an unwelcome one and something that made him feel distinctly uncomfortable.

It would need to be investigated. Somewhere along the line, he and Peverell had to be more closely related than the Dark Lord first thought.

Not that it truly mattered.

They would meet when the time was right and Peverell would die, but the use of parseltongue was unsettling to say the least.

What other secrets was the man hiding?