Disclaimer: This story is based on characters created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoat Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. Any original plots, ideas, and characters are mine.

AN:

Hello, I'm happy to present you with a rather quick update! Yay for me! ^.^

Now, there were many questions and doubts in the reviews, so I'm having a Q&A session attempting to clarify as much as possible.

Q: Harry is acting like he is good and with morals but does a lot of things behind everyone's back. Now that I don't like him, I don't care if he will suffer at all.

A: Harry is doing what he feels is right, but you can't expect him to attempt to derail Tom's plots without having to use some deviousness and trickery. I don't see how that would be humanly possible. A paragon of moral rectitude wouldn't be able to do a thing to thwart Tom's plans if he has to follow a very strict set of rules, and Tom would end up winning all the time. Furthermore, Harry has long ago stopped thinking of himself as 'good'. He's done nasty things out of necessity –he's killed, for starters- and he's come to terms with it, so he doesn't take the high horse. Though compared to Tom's morals, of course, it could seem so. In short, Harry's just managing as best he can.


Q: I'm really starting to despise Tom… All Tom's tried to do is change Harry, make him just as ruthless and cold as Tom.

A: I think we ought to be a bit more understanding of Tom, lol. In his view, he's trying to make Harry better, for Harry's own sake – and thus his own too. He views any compassion and kindness as dangerous weaknesses that can get you killed or taken advantage of. He values ruthlessness and a cold-heart because those, for him, are the recipe to be able to achieve one's ambitions. And since he's taken Harry as his brother, bettering Harry (in the ways he feels are the right ones) means Harry's continued survival and wellbeing, and benefits for Tom as well - not to mention having a Harry more akin to him, instead of always butting heads with him. So in a way, Tom is also doing what he feels is right and doing his best – he's just much more harsh and ruthless about it, lol.


Q: Since Santi has the power to travel through time, does he know how the future will go in the second timeline? Because from the way you've portrayed things, it seems as though he knows some of it, but not all. He's still surprised by events that happen, and I would think, guessing from how much he seems to adore Harry, that he would have lived and seen through almost every part of his (Harry/Antares) life. So why are there elements of Harry's future that still seem to surprise him (Santi)?

A: I think the best way to see this if you imagine yourself being Santi, and how you'd timetravel. You can jump back and forth in a timeline (from past, present and future), much like jumping from one country to another, but you can't be in all countries at the same time, can you? There's only one of you, so while you're in a country (an age/era) you're missing what's happening in another country. You can't split yourself and be everywhere at the same time, so you'll only have the knowledge of what you see and experience in that country. For Santi to know everything of the future, he woudl have to spent every second of his existence there, and if he was glued to Antares, he would still be missing what everyone else is doing and how it influences things. So, in short, Santi is continually travelling from one place to the other, where he feels he's needed, or where he thinks he must be to learn something important or the sort, but he's definitely not all-knowing.

Another important point, that we'll see when the story progresses and has already been hinted, is that Harry/Antares, given who and what he is, is a catalyst of change – changes that Santi cannot perceive unless he witnesses it (travels to that point in time and sees it, because he has no one like him that could tell him, so he has to do everything personally), meaning that it's hard for Santi to keep up.


Q: Does Harry's transformation to whatever Santi is happen linearly? I'm not sure how exactly to word this, but does the whole process defy time? Because if the transformation doesn't transcend time, and it is strictly confined to a certain time period (let's say, to Antares' time), then wouldn't there be a post-transformation Harry freely traveling from time period to time period like Santi?

A: I don't want to ruin the plot here, and in some chapter soon we'll see a bit of this. But the transformation is linear, meaning that Harry is already under it and displaying it's consequences –like his Magic-sight ability, the fact that he's solid to ghosts, can enter wizarding portraits where no living beings can, etc. And this transformation will continue and grow with the passage of time, and thus be in Antares too. The important point here is that it's caused by the Sands of Time that Grindelwald flung at Harry when he was a baby (to make him jump back to Tom Riddle's time), and since Harry's soul will be Antares', by the time he's Antares he'll have the ability that Harry has plus those that will show as Antares grows up. I will not make him all-powerful, though. We don't know how long it took in Santi's case to become what he is, but we can hazard a guess that it was a very long time, and Harry and Antares' joined lifetimes would just be a split-second in comparison.

On the other hand, Santi's transformation wasn't caused under the same circunstances as Harry's, so we can't expect a clear parallelism between how they changed nor the rate in which they did.

You must also remember that if there was an Antares in the future that can timetravel, it doesn't mean that he would be seen. Santi only shows himself to Harry and Julian, for instance, and only because he wants it so. He can lose his solidity and be completely ethereal and invisible the rest of the time.


Q: Did Tom just try to AK Harry?!

A: No. Harry didn't recognize the curse that Tom shot at him. Since they've practice the Avada Kedavra Curse many times before, he would have recognized it. I think it's safe to asume that Tom used one of those 'Parselspells' that he didn't intend Harry to know about – one very nasty, dismembering or gouging one, because we've seen before how out-of-control Tom can get when in a rage.


Q: Harry said ' and you will remember I am your brother'. That means that Tom will forget that they're not brothers?

A: Tom will keep knowing the truth, because he will remember the circumstances in which Harry said that – as per Harry's instructions. The Imperio isn't an Obliviating Charm – and even a very powerful one of those would be hard tasked to be able to wipe off all of Tom's years of knowing that they aren't brothers. The only thing Tom will never remember is that Harry can transform into a Griffin. And answering another associated question, he won't know that Harry kept the original Slytherin diares and Tom's translates notes. So Tom won't ever try that venue again because he believes all that information was destroyed.


Q: Trace Charm, I've never read a fic where adults can't do magic around underage kids bc the 'charm' would pick it up, and even in canon magical children can do magic because the ministry cant tell it apart from their parents', so why did you choose to write it this way in the story?

A: I'm following canon here. The Trace Charm activates always any time a spell is cast within the vicinity of a child with the Trace Charm. The Ministry can't know if the child cast the spell or an adult wizard did if they're close together (case of Dobby in Dursley's home in canon), so in wizarding homes they'll assume it's the adult doing the casting and leave it at that. But if the child is alone or with muggles, they'll know it's him.

The reason why Harry and Tom were very careful about this when they were in Norway with Tilly Toke was because if Toke did magic near them, the boys' Trace Charms would activate, giving the English Ministry of Magic the information of their whereabouts, and the Ministry would realize that there were Hogwarts students all the way in Norway, nevermind if it was them or a passing-by adult wizard casting the magic. They'd be in plenty of trouble for just being in Norway. And in the worst case, if they couldn't prove that it had been Tilly Toke (who died) casting magic and not them, they'd be expelled from Hogwarts to boot.

In the case of when they were in the orphanage and Mr. Jenkins appeared and then Konrad Von Krauss, they had to be even more careful, because the Ministry knows that it's an orphanage with all muggles except them two – so any magic cast around their vicinity would be blamed on them, and they'd be expelled (like case of Dobby in Dursley's home in canon, once more).


Q: Why did Harry destroy Slytherin's possesions! What a waste!

A: Harry didn't destroy the Slytherin diaries nor Tom's notes. All the originals were safely hidden in the hidey-hole under Fidelius Charm with Harry (his soul) as Secret Keeper. The only other 'possessions' were the furniture in the hidden study under the Chamber of Secrets, the cauldrons, and flasks of rotten ingredients – hardly anything important.


Q: Why did Tom want to tell Harry that they aren't brothers? Doesn't he want him by his side anymore? Does he want to cut all ties?

A: For this I'd like to quote a remark made by a reviewer because it hits the nail perfectly – "I think Harry really hurt Tom, in his twisted mind he betrayed him after all." This explains Tom's extreme reaction, in my view. He was hurt by the one closest to him, he lashed out in a fit of rage, and we've seen that he gets dangerously demented, reckless and impulsive in those cases. So when he began saying that they weren't brothers, he hadn't truly wanted or planned to – he was striking where he knew would hurt Harry the most, in revenge. I'm sure he's quite glad now that Harry misinterpreted his declaration. Even though there's no doubt that Tom has taken what he perceives as a betrayal very hard, he's a sly and practical creature when his temper is back to normal – he's perfectly aware of the many things he's accomplished and discovered thanks to Harry. I don't think Tom will be telling Harry the truth any time soon. He knows how their 'bond as brothers' is one of Harry's most precious things, how much Harry values it, and just what a convenient, strong tie it is to keep Harry close to him and of use for his goals.


Q: Why is Harry so oblivious and didn't believe Tom?

A: Well, put yourself in his shoes. You've had a brother for fourteen years, and one day during a fight your brother begins to yell that 'You're no brother of mine!'. Would you believe him? I certainly wouldn't. I'd just think my brother was having a nasty temper tantrum and I'd flip him the bird, lol.

Being Tom's brother is something that Harry has assimilated so deeply that I don't think that even if Tom one day decided to fully spill the beans, Harry wouldn't just simply snort at him ^.^

I hope this has helped, now on with the chappie, enjoy!


Part I: Chapter 64


All in all, Harry didn't know how to feel about the events unfolding during the following days.

'The Lethifold Rampage', as it was being called, having even reached the pages of The Daily Prophet, had wrought many changes in the school.

Moaning Myrtle had suddenly turned into some sort of celebrity, now regarded with interest by gossipy students who had before then spurned her at every turn.

Apparently, having a 'near death experience' was reason enough to attain a measure of popularity all of a sudden, and the Ravenclaw girl was now often to be seen with her own gang of hanger-ons.

It meant she no longer followed him around any more, though still acted towards him with much warmth and syrupy, sickly worship. But it also meant that he, as one of her 'heroic rescuers', had become a focus of attention once more, having clusters of girls sighing at his very sight in the corridors, fluttering their eyelashes, asking him to regale them with the story of how he had saved the 'damsel in distress' –or any other number of equally humiliating and ridiculous turns of the phrase.

The same had been happening to Tom, Harry had seen from afar, making him wonder how his brother was managing to present himself as gracefully and humbly accepting of the honor of being the recipient of the girls' worshipful adoration without cursing them black and blue.

Though, Harry hadn't had a chance to share notes on the matter with his brother, because Tom hadn't said a word to him – not since the following morning. It was as though Harry had utterly ceased to exist to him. Outwardly, that was, because Harry could very much feel how very present he was in Tom's thoughts.

Not a day had gone by when his scar didn't brutally pain him at all hours, to the point that he had resorted to stealing Headache Potions from the Infirmary under Charlus Potter's Invisibility Cloak.

Tom didn't seem disposed to talk about their confrontation, and even less forgive or understand him, any time soon.

Another person who wasn't too happy with recent events had been Hagrid. At first jabbering and sobbing with gratefulness and nearly crushing him to death in a bear hug, when Harry had taken him to the cupboard the following morning and presented him with a live and kicking Aragog, the half-Giant boy had been over the moon.

Feeling which had vanished quick enough when Harry had given him a piece of his mind.

"Aye, I know," blubbered Hagrid through a constricted throat, sniffling as he whipped his thick tears with a ragged, patched sleeve of his voluminous robes. "I know I can't keep 'im in her'. I nearly lost 'im last night, I did, if it hadn't been fer ye. They could've found Aggy – they could've killed 'im!" he added in a wail, peering down at Harry with a stricken and miserable expression on his face. "But I'm gonna miss 'im, I am! He's still so tiny an' innocent, ye see?"

"Sure he is," said Harry, as he eyed the increasingly immense Acromantula with a resigned expression on his face. "But he'll be better off in the Forest, Hagrid. For his own safety."

"Aye," echoed Hagrid in a thick, watery tone. "Ye're right, ye're, 'Arry." The boy shot him an imploring look. "Will ye come wit' me, to give 'im a farewell?" He cast the furry beast in his arms a soft, dewy-eyed look. "I know Aggy would like ye to come. He'll miss us both so much!"

Harry thought that the only thing Aragog would miss was the potential source of fresh meat they both represented for the creature, but kept his mouth shut.

Meanwhile, the Board of Governors had been pulled into the mess when outraged and angered parents had read about the events in a highly exaggerated, dramatized, and glaringly inaccurate article in The Daily Prophet, causing a deluge of letters and Howlers to reach the office of Headmaster Dippet. Sounds of shrieking voices and explosions had been heard coming from the tower at all hours during the following days, until the Governors decided to intercede themselves in the escalating situation.

It seemed as though the 'rampaging' of a highly lethal, dark magical creature had –in times of war, to boot- left parents highly alarmed, fearful, and furious.

Professor Galatea Merrythought was under probation, pending possible suspension, for having kept such a dangerous creature in an inadequately secured trunk, for starters.

Harry hadn't felt too guilty about it. If it was a choice between having their rather odious, harsh DADA teacher sacked, who was a bigot against all magical creatures in general and Veelas in particular, or having his own brother expelled or thrown into Azkaban for the attack or death of a student, he rather have Merrythought gone.

Perhaps this was the reason too why Abraxas Malfoy's frosty behavior towards him as of late had taken a sudden turn. It was well known that the boy despised Professor Merrythought, the feeling being palpably mutual due to Malfoy's Veela blood.

As a consequence of Slytherin House being the ones who had a faint idea of what had truly happened that night, knowing that Harry, Tom, and Alphard had been somehow involved in the releasing of the Lethifold and the chaos that had ensued, Malfoy had become almost graciously civil towards him.

Harry rather thought that it had all been Tom's doing, his brother's masterful way of manipulating any dire situation into an advantage for himself, since it had become quite clear that their housemates believed that the three of them had been attempting to carry out Salazar Slytherin's mission of using the Basilisk to rid the school of muggleborns, cleverly using the Lethifold incident as a smokescreen.

A rumor no doubt initially spread by Tom, and which explained their housemates' suddenly renewed attitude of relish, pride, and reverence towards them, making Harry grit his teeth and Alphard twitch nervously.

Indeed, one evening during supper Abraxas had even raised his goblet in the air, across the table from him, in a sort of salute, smirking as he sipped his drink.

Harry understood the further reason for it a few moments later, when he caught sight of many unfamiliar wizards and witches seated at the Staff's Table amongst the professors.

He recognized a few of them: Abraxas' grandfather Maximillian Malfoy, looking stern and imposing with an Egeriana Rose pinned on his lapels and his cane settled against a leg of his armchair; Felix and Felicity's father, Faustus Prewett, who seemed to also be there in an official capacity since the man was wearing his Ministry robes; and other men and women he recognized as parents to some pureblood children.

They had to be attending the feast in representation of the school's Board of Governors, and the reason became clear when Headmaster Dippet stood from his chair, hailing for silence as he magnified his voice with a flick of his wand.

"And finally, the very long awaited moment," Dippet's voice boomed cheerily, who seemed to be vastly enjoying his part in officiating a formal, festive ceremony. "This year's Quidditch Cup! Will the Slytherin Team come forth?"

Harry's groan was muffled by the loud cries and claps that thundered all around him from his housemates, as Alphard and the rest of his teammates quickly and eagerly sprung to their feet, accompanied by the polite applause of the Hufflepuffs, the loud boos and nasty glares of Gryffindors, and the gritted teeth of Ravenclaws.

Dorea Black was the first to reach the Cup, and hoist it up in the air, as was her right as the Captain, much to the joyous, proud shouts of their housemates, as the rest of his teammates either nodded in stoic acceptance or outright smirked with immense smugness.

"Smile!" whispered Alphard by his side, jabbing an elbow into Harry's ribcage as he wore a huge, face-splitting grin on his face. "This is the first time we've won in a decade – and it's mostly due to you!"

Harry grimaced at that, before he forced a wane, half-grin to stretch on the corners of his mouth.

Alphard chuckled under his breath a moment later. "Dorea's surely enjoying her triumph, at long last!"

Harry regretted shooting a curious look at the girl at those words when he saw the rather predatory and lewd expression on Dorea Black's face as she raised the immense golden Cup even higher in the air. Understanding the reason when he realized that her blazing eyes were fixed on Charlus Potter in the distance.

Indeed, the Gryffindor Captain had gone beet red, while his best mate James seemed to be snickering and patting him on the back.

Alphard had once told him that Dorea and Charlus had an ongoing bet on who would best the other in Quidditch every year. And given the current display, Harry was left in no doubt just how Charlus would be paying his dues to Dorea Black that night. He didn't think he had ever met a randier couple in his life.

How they were exactly managing it, since Alphard had told him about the Black Chastity Rings that the couple had been forced to wear when they had become publicly betrothed, was anyone's guess and Harry honestly preferred not to know.

Quickly averting his gaze from them, he caught sight of Maximillian Malfoy, whose hand was tightly gripping the head of his cane, his eyes narrowed to slits, a spark of fury in them, as they darted from Dorea to Charlus and back.

It didn't seem as though the odious, old wizard had forgiven Dorea for having spurned him in favor of Charlus, despite the unsettled 'bride-debt' that prevailed among the Blacks and Malfoys.

Harry shook his head, wondering about the bizarre pureblood traditions regarding marriage, though his musings were interrupted when he suddenly thought to have seen a brief jolt of light emanating from the silver head of Maximillian Malfoy's cane, striking Dorea on her lower back as she let out one more cheer in front of the students.

He blinked a split second later, confused, when nothing happened, as though it had all been a figment of his imagination. Old Maximillian Malfoy was wearing an indifferent, aloof expression on his face now, no trace of anger lingering, and Dorea and the rest of his teammates began making their way back to their table.

Bemused, Harry started to follow, but he was halted by a hand on his shoulder.

"Not so fast, Mr. Riddle," Headmaster Dippet whispered as he smiled down at him, only to then tap his throat with his wand once more, as he gestured for the students to become quiet. "It is with great honor that I have the pleasure to announce the bestowing of a very special prize that has rarely been given at Hogwarts."

The wrinkled, old wizard beamed at the assembled students, as he raised his voice, the hand on Harry's shoulder giving a fond squeeze. "Let us applaud Messrs. Tom and Harry Riddle and congratulate them for bravely and selflessly saving a fellow student from a horrible death!"

With mounting horror and dismay, Harry blanched when the Headmaster grandiosely flicked his wand, a huge, silver shield framed in wood suddenly popping into existence, with their names elegantly inscribed on it, just as Dippet waved Tom over.

"The Special Award for Services to the School!" continued the Headmaster in his booming, merry voice, just as Tom finally reached them, his expression one of shocked and humble gratitude.

Harry was yanked out of his stupefaction by a blinding, flashing light, only then catching sight of the group of people at the furthest end of the Great Hall, lingering by the doors, making him pale as he saw the photograph cameras and the Quick-Notes Quills scribbling madly.

An abrupt stab of pain in his scar made him shoot a jerky glance at his brother, seeing Tom piercing him with his eyes, a warning glint in them, and Harry seethed in his insides.

That was the first time his brother had deigned to cross glances with him since the fiasco with Myrtle, and apparently it was for the sole reason of making sure that Harry played his part.

Indeed, Tom was already taking hold of the trophy and smiling charmingly, and Harry was supposed to follow suit and look nice for the journalists and cameras.

The Ravenclaw Table had erupted into loud cheers, with Myrtle being one of the loudest, hailing his name, while Olive Hornby seemed to be competing with her, though her voiced admiration was for Tom alone.

The Slytherins were just as loud, though Harry knew it was for very different reasons as he caught sight of many of their highly amused, sardonic smirks.

Indeed, even Tom –despite his charming, humble countenance- had to be inwardly cackling. Being prized for saving a muggleborn when it was her death he had plotted in order to eventually resurrect none other than Salazar Slytherin himself - oh, the irony Tom had to be savoring.

When his scar gave him one more fierce stab, Harry gritted his teeth, shot his brother a nasty look yet finally placed a hand on the stupid, glittering trophy, just as a series of camera lights flashed.

He soon yanked his hand back and quickly scampered back to his table, in no mood to continue the charade.

"They're hankering for an interview with you," whispered Alphard by his side, his voice tense and low.

Harry grunted as he savagely speared a potato with his fork, his gaze darting from the journalists who looked like an excited pack of wolves, to Tom who was taking back his place in Slytherin Table as he shot the reporters a smile and nod of the head.

"I'm not giving any interviews," Harry finally groused under his breath as he felt his friend's insistent gaze boring into his skull.

"Good," said Alphard, a clear tone of relief in his voice. "That's for the best." The boy suddenly let out a rueful chuckle, as he added in a whisper, "Though I must say I'm enjoying my share of the attention. Dorea's quickly figured out that I must have used her gift. She didn't like that we were supposedly trying to let loose the Basilisk, but just the other day she congratulated me for having used her-"

"Dorea? Gift?" Harry halted in mid motion of stabbing another potato, staring at the boy as he felt a frisson of alarm. "What?"

Alphard gave him an exasperated look. "The gift she gave me for my birthday. Remember? I told you about it. A Black heirloom."

Harry stared blankly at him, trying to rake his brain. Every year his friend received such a gigantic pile of presents that it was hard to keep up, especially since all of Alphard's siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles seemed to like nothing better than swap family heirlooms between themselves for their birthdays – there seemed to be an endless supply of such.

"Which one?" said Harry with a frown.

Casting glances to all sides, Alphard slid closer to him as he lowered his voice, then pointedly glancing down as he partially revealed something hidden in his robes, "The pocket-knife Dorea no longer needed because now she doesn't have to hide to spend time with Charlus."

Harry blinked down at it, indeed seeing a small, shiny blade with a handle beautifully embossed and ornamented with the Black family crest. "Er… what did it do, again?"

"It has a powerful shape-shifting spell," answered Alphard with a hint of impatience. "It can open any lock and break through any wards without perturbing them. I told you about it before!" He threw him a pointed look as he added quietly, "How do you think I got into Professor Merrythought's office? I told you it was heavily warded, and so was the trunk where she kept the Lethifold."

"Oh, right," muttered Harry distractedly, his eyes fixed on his friend's pocket-knife, a sudden inspiration striking him. He raised his eyes to meet the boy's grey ones, a dawning grin of excitement springing to his lips. "Say, would you lend it to me for the night?"

"Tonight?" Alphard stared at him, looking taken a back. "Our end-of-year examinations begin tomorrow, what do you want to-"

"Exactly," interrupted Harry adamantly. "Tonight's my last chance before we leave for summer holidays. I've been wanting to do something, only I didn't know how to go about it…" He trailed off, glancing at the pocket-knife partly hidden in his friend's robes, before he added enthusiastically, "But that might solve much."

Alphard shot him a quizzical look, before he whispered under his breath with a hint of worry, "You're not planning on slipping out of school, are you?" He shook his head. "My pocket-knife won't be of much use if you do, it isn't powerful enough to break through Hogwarts' ancient wards-"

"I don't think I'll be dealing with ancient wards," interjected Harry with a dismissive wave of a hand. "Just some ordinary ones and some locks, hopefully."

Alphard skewered him with his gaze, as he demanded concernedly, "Where are you going?"

Harry sighed at that, settling his fork on the table. "It's best if you don't know. I don't want you to be involved-"

"Does it have anything to do with… what happened?" pressed Alphard, a grave expression on his face as he lowered his voice. "You know, with – um, Myrtle?"

"In a way," said Harry vaguely, beginning to scowl at him. "Look, Al, it's really best if you don't-"

"Then I'm tagging along!" snapped Alphard briskly.

"No, you're not," gritted out Harry, glowering at him. "It might be risky and you've already done enough-"

"Exactly," bit out Alphard, a determined and stubborn glint in his big, grey eyes. "If it's dangerous then I'm coming with you-"

"It isn't dangerous," said Harry swiftly, quickly backpedaling. "I didn't mean that. I lied, it's not even risky-"

"Either I'm coming along," interrupted Alphard mulishly, "or you go without my pocket-knife."

Harry shot him an irked look before he caught movement from the corner of his eyes. Many students had started leaving the Great Hall and he saw the reporters beginning to take the opportunity to swarm inside.

Panicked, he jumped to his feet, only pausing to scowl at his friend as he bent to whisper in his ear, snapping, "Fine, then, have it your way. Midnight. At the vanishing cabinet Ulysses found. Bring Charlus' Cloak."

And with that, Harry quickly fled the Great Hall before he gave the reporters the chance to pounce on him, only faintly hearing Alphard's anxious yelp in his wake, "At the what?"


"This is a very bad idea," mumbled Alphard in a quaking voice several hours later as they stood in front of the vanishing cabinet, before he rounded on Harry in a fit of agitation. "Didn't I tell you that these things are dangerous? They can rip a wizard to shreds if they're faulty and-"

"It works," stated Harry in a low, sharp voice, as he tapped The Three Musketeer's Map with his wand. "Adventure accomplished!"

Once the map folded itself, he stuck it inside a pocket and cast another round of glances at their surroundings. Finally certain that they were completely alone, he petted the Scorcrup perched on his shoulder as he opened the door of the cabinet.

"What do you mean that 'it works'?" whispered Alphard in a tone filled with alarm and anger. "Don't tell me you've already tested it yourself!"

"I had to," said Harry with exasperation, before his expression softened as he eyed his best friend. "Look, you don't have to come along. It's better if you don't, actually-"

"You've brought Ulysses along," interjected Alphard stubbornly as he pointed a finger at his former Scorcrup who was now calmly licking his front paw. "That means you expect trouble."

Harry sighed deeply. "It only means that I might need his guarding skills and good nose."

"Right. Two guards to watch your back are better than one, then," declared Alphard pigheadedly as he scowled, before he gulped, his voice dwindling with trepidation, "Where does it lead to?"

Harry cast him a toothy grin as he opened the door wider, invitingly. "You'll see."

Looking less than thrilled, and with a pale face, Alphard moved forwards, slowly sticking one limb after the other inside.

When Harry was about to close the door of the cabinet, the awkwardly cramped boy halted the motion with a hand, as he rambled in a quick succession of distressed words, "If I vanish from existence and you don't find me at the other side, owl my father but don't alert the Ministry or you'll get in trouble, and–"

"You'll be fine, Al," said Harry with a roll of his eyes.

"Yeah," mumbled Alphard in a release of exhaled breath, as he attempted to respond with a faint grin that turned out more like a grimace. "I suppose I will."

The boy then took a deep breath as though inflating himself with valor, and nodded at him.

Harry gave him a soothing, encouraging smile before he clicked the door shut.

A second later, Harry opened the cabinet to find it unsurprisingly empty and hastened to follow suit.

The moment he climbed out of what seemed like the exact same cabinet, he knew everything had gone without a hitch.

He was encompassed in absolute darkness, though he could hear what was undoubtedly Alphard's shoes scuffling on the floor, as he felt his skin tingling under heavy magical wards.

Giving a pat to the matching cabinet, Harry glanced around as he proceeded to settle Ulysses on the ground.

"Tch-" came an annoyed voice. "Lumo-!"

"No!" cried out Harry, flinging himself towards the voice. "We're not at Hogwarts anymore - we can't do magic!"

"Oh – right, sorry," said Alphard's voice sheepishly. "It's hard to keep track sometimes." His voice turned tensed, as he added with an audible shiver, "But I can't see a thing. I don't like it. I feel as though things are lurking all around me, watching, ogling me, you know-"

"Just hold your horses," snapped Harry as his thundering heart settled down. "Give me a moment."

Groping to find his way, he made it through several cluttered aisles until he reached the heavily draped windows of the store. When he finally yanked one of the dirty curtains aside, the moonlight revealed their surroundings just as Harry turned around to catch sight of his friend's expression.

With huge, round grey eyes and looking flabbergasted, Alphard breathed out tremulously, "We're at Borgin and Burke's?"

Harry quirked an eyebrow at that. "You know it?"

"What dark pureblood doesn't?" muttered Alphard distractedly, his big grey eyes shooting around in all directions. "I remember Father bringing Walburga here every year for her birthday so that she could choose one of her presents from this place."

"Lovely," muttered Harry, now not wanting to imagine just what artifacts Alphard's nasty sister kept in her school trunk.

Suddenly, Alphard spun around to stare at him with a panicked expression. "Harry, please don't tell me that we're here to nick something. Borgin has the nastiest of reputations, especially when dealing with robbers. I've heard he has the whole place booby-trapped with awful-"

"Not steal from here," clarified Harry quickly. "At least I don't think that what I want is still in the shop." He frowned musingly. "Though I reckon we should thoroughly check first."

Alphard swallowed loudly, as he mumbled, "What are you looking for?"

At that, Harry shot him a brief glance, before he sighed. "A golden locket. Big, with… er, emeralds."

Alphard stared at him, looking utterly bewildered. "Whatever for?" He shook his head, as he added softly, "If you want a piece of jewelry I'll give you one for your next birthday, there's no need for-"

"It's not for me!" cried out Harry indignantly, feeling hot around the cheeks as he cast his friend a heated scowl. "Since when have you seen me skipping around wearing necklaces and stuff? I'm not a bloody girl!"

Bemused, Alphard blinked at him. "Then what do you want a golden locket for?"

"That's my business," bit out Harry snarkily, throwing him a dirty look, still feeling highly offended.

"Alright," said Alphard slowly as his eyebrows climbed to his hairline.

In a few moments, the three of them got to work with the understanding that they all had to be extremely careful and avoid touching anything with any part of their bodies, for indeed the shop seemed to be filled with all sorts of dangerous, menacing items.

About a quarter of an hour later, it was clear the locket was nowhere in sight, and nothing eventful had happened except for when a mummy's severed and decaying hand had sprung on Ulysses in an attempt to strangle the little creature when he had been sniffing around.

The Scorcrup had made short work of it, hissing and spitting at it as his fluffy tail swiftly transformed into that of a scorpion, leaving the mummy's hand twitching on the floor, oozing with the varied venoms of Ulysses's tail. Harry hadn't bothered to clean up, let Borgin wonder at that when the man found it.

As the three of them convened back together in the middle of the store, Harry glanced around musingly. "They must keep a record of their sales. Hopefully there's some information there."

He clearly remembered Robert Hutchins doing so in his grocery store, always keeping a ledger with detailed accounts of his shop's revenues and expenditures, and every item sold, especially when giving credit.

"And he kept it by the cash register," whispered Harry under his breath as he approached Borgin and Burke's counter.

Once behind it, it took him a second to notice the large, black coffer under the battered and rusted cash register, and he grinned triumphantly.

"Can I have your pocket-knife?"

"Sure," said Alphard instantly as he fished it out of his robes and offered it to him.

Harry was about to grab it, when he paused, shooting it a wary look as he remembered his friend's description of some of his family's bizarre heirlooms. "Er, does it have any of those nasty curses meant to burn, cut off, or rot the hand of any halfblood or muggleborn who dare touch it?"

Alphard stared down at the seemingly innocent pocket-knife in his palm, intently scrutinizing it, and soon gave up with a sigh. "No idea."

"Good enough," mumbled Harry as he impatiently swiped it from the boy's hand.

Alphard made a half-choking sound from the back of his throat, spluttering, "You idiot – you shouldn't have-"

"Nothing happened!" said Harry, as he demonstratively held up his hand clutching the Black heirloom.

"But it could have!" gasped out Alphard, as he eyed him with eyes wide with agitation. "You shouldn't be so reckless, you dunce!"

Shrugging unconcernedly, Harry quickly stuck the small, thin blade into the coffer's lock, twisting it enthusiastically.

Finding the locket would resolve many matters for him.

Firstly, he had come to the conclusion that his brother's silence and icy indifference and avoidance of him could bode nothing good for his future wellbeing. Indeed, Tom was a sly bastard, he knew well, and was surely aware that he couldn't launch his revenge against Harry when in school, when Harry could use the crowd of students and the presence of teachers to ensure his safety.

Yet, far, far away, when they were stuck together in Von Krauss Castle, with only house-elves for company who would surely never dare to interfere, Harry would be free game.

But if he could offer Tom a peace treaty of sorts, presenting him with the last known Slytherin heirloom –especially since his brother believed the diaries were gone- he hoped he could smooth things over.

Harry certainly wasn't looking forward to having to deal with his brother's savage plot of revenge, whatever it might be, without an ace under his sleeve. Not to mention their first true encounter with Grindelwald.

Thus far, the only silver lining was the chance that he might see Julian Erlichmann once more. After all, Julian was Grindelwald's favorite who accompanied the Dark Lord everywhere.

He was hopeful he would manage to get a chance to speak with the wizard alone, to find out more about him and as much as he could about Santi, and even to ask for help – for the chance to escape a week or two from Germany to be able to scour the North of England for any traces of the Gaunts.

Which came hand-in-hand with his second reason for wanting to have Salazar Slytherin's locket in his possession. After all, only Morgon Gaunt's descendants could have sold it to Borgin and Burke's once upon a time, and perhaps the locket had an inscription, or some clue regarding the Gaunts' whereabouts, anything to narrow down the family's location and hopefully find their father.

"It's not working!" finally grunted Harry as he fruitlessly twisted the blade once more, hearing no clicking sounds ensuing.

"It could be it only works for a Black," muttered Alphard as he approached him and took over the task.

Releasing the pocket-knife's handle, Harry glared hotly at it, though any traces of annoyance vanished from his countenance when a sudden whirring sound echoed.

The three of them took a step back in alarm, though in Ulysses' case he also began hissing and spitting, when the sounds coming from the coffer seemed to multiply as though a trigger mechanism had been set off.

Harry and Alphard shared a panicked look just before everything seemed to explode around them the second the coffer's door swung open.

It was as though every artifact in the shop was raining down on them, as if wielded by an invisible army, or sprung by invisible threads of magic – Harry realized, as he saw the wards flashing all around them, blaring, letting out a caterwauling sound as if a pack of cats were being strangled, the sound so deafening that his eardrums ached.

They yelled in fright as bloodied daggers and swords flew towards them, as shrunken heads and skeletons violently pelted on them, as dissected body parts, howling books, lethally poisonous jewelry, potted, menacing-looking plants with jaws and teeth attacked them, along with every piece of furniture, the shelves, the glass cases, and even the vanishing cabinet, which all thumped and speedily hopped towards them as if intent of crushing them under their weight, like a Giant's stomping feet.

"The door – we must get to the front door!" Harry shouted as he employed his school robes to protect his face and the long sleeves to cover his hands, using his flailing fists and elbows as shields, knowing very well that if any of the items storming down on him barely touched an inch of his skin, he could very well end up dropping dead.

Ulysses seemed to be much better prepared, as his fur was raised in hackles, his scorpion's tail swinging madly in all directions, batting off any flying artifacts.

"The key!" shrieked Alphard in a hysterical high-pitch, who was protecting himself by the same flimsy means as Harry.

Realizing what his friend meant, Harry spun around and ran towards the forgotten coffer, but Ulysses had beaten him to it, the little Scorcrup jumping in the air to grasp Alphard's pocket-knife from the coffer's lock.

"Smart boy!" Harry cheered as Ulysses leaped towards the store's front door with pocket-knife clenched in between his small fangs, Alphard fast after him.

Harry was about to follow when he caught sight of something in the shadowy depths of the coffer: a thick tome, bound by worn, brownish leather.

"The ledger!" He instantly fished it out, pressing the heavy book against his chest as he broke into a mad dash after his friend.

Alphard was already frantically using the pocket-knife on the lock of the front door by the time Harry reached them, while Ulysses was watching the boy's back, flinging off any projectile-like items zooming towards them.

"Hurry!" Harry cried out desperately, knowing they would soon be overwhelmed by all the lethal things flying towards them, not even his Scorcrup's deflective acrobatics would be enough.

Not to mention, Harry realized with horror, that there were shouts coming from the street, a sudden cacophony of voices and rushing feet – the denizens of Knockturn Alley had been awoken by the caterwauling wards.

"Al-most-" panted out Alphard in between hitched breaths of effort, just as Harry dove for the boy's bulging pocket and frenziedly pulled out Charlus Potter's Invisibility Cloak.

It was just in the nick of time, there was a loud click, the front door flung open, Ulysses jumped to his shoulder and Harry threw the Invisibility Cloak over them, as people began to crowd around the entrance, peering inside with curiosity.

Hunching under the Cloak, they pushed their way through the crowds of downtrodden witches, drunken warlocks, nasty-looking hags, and even two or three cloaked creatures that Harry dearly hoped weren't vampires.

"How are we getting back?" wheezed out Alphard in a distraught whisper. "The vanishing cabinet – it was our only way back to Hogwarts! What are we going to do?"

"We'll figure something out," said Harry sharply under his breath as he pulled his friend faster towards Diagon Alley, keeping a firm grip on the Cloak enveloping them.

"Something out?" Alphard croaked numbly, as he shot him a look of utter disbelief. "Like what?"

"I dunno," replied Harry, grasping at straws. "I reckon we could get to King's Cross Station. It's not very far from here. We could walk there. But first I have to-"

"King's Cross Station!" Alphard exploded, halting in his tracks as he rounded on him, looking half-demented with hysterical frenzy. "We're in London – in England! Hogwarts is in Scotland! It takes the Hogwarts Express five hours to reach the school – and it's partly operated by magic. And you suggest – what? – that we take a muggle train? How long would that take!"

"About a day, I think," muttered Harry absent-mindedly, shooting an apprehensive glance over his shoulder, through the glowing fabric of the Invisibility Cloak, as he heard a loud roar far behind them.

"THIEVES! Where're the thieves? Apprehend 'em - FLOOCALL THE AURORS!"

Harry blanched, certain that one of the proprietors of Borgin and Burke's had just arrived in site.

"A whole day?" spluttered Alphard, who looked quite beside himself and utterly unaware of what was happening behind them, his grey eyes nearly popping as he stared at him. "We have our Charms examination at eight in the morning! Transfiguration in the afternoon! We won't get back in time!" He moaned, hunching over as he added wretchedly, "I'm doomed – Father will murder me. I don't think there has ever been a Hogwarts student who hasn't sat for their end-of-year examinations!"

"We must get going!" Harry said urgently as he began to hear the rush of footfalls behind them.

"Get going where?" cried out Alphard desperately, as Harry brusquely yanked him forwards, with ledger and Cloak along. "We don't even have money! We don't even-"

"We don't need money for train tickets – we've got the Cloak!" gritted out Harry as he pushed them into a faster sprint.

"And Merlin knows where the muggle train will leave us! In some dismal muggle town in Scotland, no doubt – and how are we supposed to get from there to the school? Hogwarts is in the middle of nowhere!"

"Calm down, Alphie!" snapped Harry as he brusquely yanked his friend forth, finally stepping into Diagon Alley.

Though he didn't think for an instant that they were safe. People were still chasing them from Knockturn Alley, and Diagon itself seemed to be awakening with all the noisy havoc, several candlelights flaring from behind the curtained windows of the flats above the stores.

"... if we had at least brought our broomsticks along," kept rambling Alphard frantically, "we could try to fly at top speed the whole night to reach Hogwarts in time, but…"

"We can steal broomsticks if that's what it takes!" bit out Harry impatiently, shooting another wary look over his shoulder as he attempted to make his friend run faster. "Now hush, beacause-"

"Are you mental?" yelled Alphard, rounding on him. "I'm not stealing anything again! We barely made it out alive from Borgin and Burke's-"

"Be quiet!" hissed out Harry as he slammed him against the nearest wall, slapping a hand over his friend's mouth, angered beyond measure. "Stop shouting, you prat, or they'll-"

Harry went absolutely still and silent when he heard them, a group of people spilling out of Knockturn Alley, into Diagon, mere feet away from them, and he was quick to press himself flat against Alphard as he drew the Cloak tightly around them, his body stiffening, as he felt Ulysses tensing on his shoulder, as though readying himself for impending battle.

At least, Alphard seemed to finalize realize their predicament. His lips had stopped moving furiously behind Harry's silencing hand, his grey eyes had widened in horror, and he had frozen in place, his breathing hitched.

The mob rushed past them, angered and glancing at all sides in an attempt to catch sight of the 'thieves', though at least Harry could distinguish no Aurors amongst them – yet.

The motley group of people didn't go very far down Diagon Alley, but at least they weren't within hearing range if he and Alphard talked quietly, so he finally shot his friend a pointed, heated glare.

Alphard had the grace to look guilty, and had clearly gotten a grip over himself, since he silently nodded his head in understanding.

Relieved, Harry removed the hand from the boy's mouth.

Alphard's grey gaze darted towards the group scouring Diagon Alley in the distance, as he whispered fretfully, "Did you see any Aurors?"

"No," murmured Harry, "but some will arrive soon, I reckon."

Alphard swallowed thickly at that, as he turned to glance at him, his voice shaky, "What do we do?"

"We stay right here for the time being," whispered Harry sharply, getting a firmer grip on the heavy ledger and a more secure one on the Invisibility Cloak draped over them.

"We need to get back to Hogwarts in time," pressed Alphard in a distressed tone. "If we don't-"

"We will," grumbled Harry under his breath, casting him a stern look. "There are many ways we can do it. You forget that my Animagus form can fly, and that yours is small. Small enough to be able to ride on my back."

Alphard blinked, before he shot him a doubtful look. "Could you fly all the way back to Scotland?"

Harry shrugged instead of answering. He wasn't as concerned about that as about the fact that he didn't know if the transformation could trigger their Trace Charms. No wand-waving or incantation of spell was necessary for the Animagus Transformation, but he would still be using his magic.

"I'm hoping it won't be necessary," he finally said, his gaze glued to the people who were beginning to retrace their steps back. "As soon as we can, we'll try to get into Ollivander's."

Alphard made a half-choking sound, and Harry quickly glanced at him, frowning.

"For what?" croaked Alphard the next moment, trepidation clearly written over his face.

Harry rolled his eyes. "Not to steal anything. Ollivander's was going to be the second place I visited tonight. I'm still here, so I'm still doing it. I've got some questions to ask him." He shot his friend a faint grin. "And I'm also hoping he will help us."

Before Alphard could express his confusion, Harry did his best to point a finger in the direction of the shop, from under the Cloak.

"See the light on the second floor? It must be where Ollivander lives. I hope so, at least. And he's clearly up."

"What makes you think he'll aid us?" whispered Alphard tensely, boring his gaze into Harry's. "He'll see our uniforms and know that we should be in Hogwarts."

"I don't think he's much of a stickler for rules," said Harry coolly.

Though the full truth was that he didn't think that Ollivander cared much about anything but himself and his wand-making.

He still remembered the day of the destruction of Leisure Alley. Ollivander along with many other shopkeepers of Diagon Alley had been more worried about warding their shops and fleeing in the off chance that Grindelwald's forces would be making an appearance, than helping the poor wizards and witches that had been buried alive under the rubble of the bombed Leisure Alley.

It had taken Harry shouting at Ollivander for the man to muster the will to help him rescue whom they could from the rubble.

Harry was hoping that it would count in his favor in the man's eyes. And if not, he was certain he could pique the wizard's interest with his questions.

"They're coming back," whispered Alphard apprehensively.

They both went absolutely still under the Invisibility Cloak as the group of people passed them by in their return towards Knockturn Alley, many with sour-expressions on their faces or grumbling under their breaths, their wands lowered.

As soon as they saw them disappear around the corner, Harry prodded Alphard with an elbow and they began their slow, careful trek towards the wand store, nearly on tiptoes.

"We should better ring the bell," murmured Harry under his breath the moment they stood before the shop's front door, as Alphard made a move to use his pocket-knife. "We don't want him to think we're trying to break in."

Alphard aborted the motion, nodding, and they had to wait in tense silence for long minutes in the street, before they heard movement in the ground floor of the house - by which time Alphard had been quick to cram the Invisibility Cloak into a pocket.

"Who's calling at this hour?" said a wispy voice with a twinge of annoyance, as the front door was parted a slit, Ollivander's strange moon-like eyes peeking out.

A second later, the door was opened widely, as the wizard stood in full view wearing a midnight blue nightgown and sleeping cap, staring at them, looking thoroughly startled.

"Um, we are -" began Harry in his most polite tone.

"A Black," muttered Ollivander, his gaze fixed on Alphard, his expression brightening. "Rosewood and unicorn hair, twelve inches! Correct?"

"Yes, sir," mumbled Alphard, looking taken aback.

"Ah!" Ollivander breathed out, as his gaze darted to Harry, his eyes, if possible, brightening even further, glowing as eerily as a cat's. "And Mr. Harry Riddle! I remember you well, child, from-"

"Leisure Alley," Harry supplied quickly, wanting to get off the street as soon as possible. "Yes, sir-"

"And from reading about you in The Daily Prophet, just recently," interjected Ollivander, gazing at him as though he was a strange, befuddling creature. "Regarding The Lethifold Rampage at Hogwarts you and your… twin were involved in. Very noble indeed." His eyes roved over Harry's face, lingering on the scar of his forehead, looking momentarily thrilled and intrigued, before he continued, the corners of his mouth hitching upwards as his eyes sparkled, "And how can I forget that you and your brother were chosen by two of my most interesting and peculiar wands! Wands destined for greatness – holly and Phoenix feather, eleven inches! Yew and…"

Trailing off, the man peered at either sides of the street, as though expecting to see Tom with them and finding himself vastly disappointed with the absence.

"Can we come inside?" pressed Harry, attempting to mask the urgency he felt.

"Inside?" Ollivander looked surprised at this, as he scratched his chin. "At this hour? I don't know if it would be-"

"We won't take much of your time," interrupted Harry swiftly, pulling his most pitiful expression over his face. "Please, sir. I just wanted to ask you some questions about Wandcrafting."

"In the middle of the night?" Ollivander's white eyebrows flew upwards, before he continued amusedly, "Well, you might as well come in, then."

Harry and Alphard shared a relieved glance as they followed him into the store, only pausing when the man shot over his shoulder, "Would you care for a late night cup of tea?"

"That would be wonderful, Mr. Ollivander," said Alphard with evident, sincere appreciation.

Ollivander nodded as he proceeded to the back of the store, soon beginning to climb a set of stairs as the boys trailed after him.

The man's living quarters were small yet warm and cozy, as they settled in a parlor, taking the proffered seats around a tiny, round table.

A kitchenette and stove stood at one side of the room, and Ollivander begun banging pans and pots, whilst using his wand to ignite a fire, as he cast them a look over his shoulder, his tone vaguely curious as his gaze lingered on their uniforms, "Shouldn't you boys be at Hogwarts?"

Alphard tensed, while Harry met Ollivander's gaze with a steady one of his one, as he replied simply, "Yes."

The man let out a raspy chuckle and momentarily returned to his work, before another glance was shot at them. "And I don't suppose you know anything about the caterwauling alarm that was set off tonight? From a shop in Knockturn Alley if my ears heard correctly, not long before you stood in my doorstep?"

Harry didn't miss how Ollivander's silvery eyes darted to the thick tome on his lap, making him grip the ledger tighter, making sure his forearm hid the words scrawled on its cover.

"Really?" Harry said innocently. "We heard nothing, did we, Al?"

"No," muttered Alphard thickly, who seemed to have gone even stiffer than before.

Ollivander wryly shook his head and returned to the stove.

"He knows!" whispered Alphard from the corner of his mouth.

"Yeah, but he doesn't care," murmured Harry dismissively.

Alphard shot him a quick, piercing look, as he leaned closer towards him. "How can you be sure? He could send for Aurors-"

"For a stolen ledger?" Harry whispered with a roll of his eyes. When his friend's anxiety didn't seem to thaw, he shook his head. "Relax. Besides, look there."

He pointed at one corner of the room, occupied by a fireplace, a sight made more beautiful by the pot sitting on the mantelpiece, brimming with purple powder.

Harry's face split into a wide smile as he nudged Alphard triumphantly, who released a powerful exhalation of relief as he caught on.

"Here we are," suddenly announced Ollivander in his frail voice as he settled hot cups of tea on the table.

Alphard instantly grabbed his and began quietly sipping with a grateful expression on his face, whilst Ollivander sat across from them, quirking a white eyebrow in interest. "You said you had questions regarding my craft, Mr. Riddle?"

Without further preambles, Harry brought up his holly wand, as he said quietly, "How many like this have you made?"

"Just two," replied Ollivander, looking a mite surprised by the question. "As you should well remember. I did tell you and your brother that the cores of your wands-"

"Are two of a kind - brother wands," finished Harry, nodding. "Each with a feather of the same Phoenix." He skewered the man with his gaze, as he added in a murmur, "The Phoenix, it was Fawkes, wasn't it?"

"Who?" Alphard's voice piped in with curiosity as he resurfaced from behind his cup of tea.

Ollivander stared at Harry with hitched eyebrows. "Yes, indeed. I didn't expect you to have heard of Professor Dumbledore's familiar."

"Dumbledore has a Phoenix?" interjected Alphard, glancing from one to the other, looking marveled and astounded.

"Yes," said Harry shortly, barely sparing him a glance before he focused back on the wandmaker, frowning. "Why not?"

Ollivander let out a wheezy chuckle. "Not many students at Hogwarts do. Phoenixes are rather private creatures-"

"Meaning that Fawkes spends most of his time perched in Dumbledore's office," muttered Harry, drumming his fingers on the table. "And has never showed himself around the school. Yes, I did notice that about him."

"You've known there's a Phoenix at Hogwarts," interjected Alphard, staring at him stunned, and then with a hurt expression on his face. "And you never told me?"

"That's not the issue," said Harry in a softer voice, not wanting to make matters worse, yet aware that he couldn't afford to deal with his friend's wounded feelings at the moment. "And the wand chooses the wizard, right?"

Ollivander nodded, looking more intrigued with each passing second, as though on tenterhooks to know where Harry's interrogation would lead to.

"Then, it's the wand that forges the first connection with it's chosen wizard," continued Harry musingly, pausing as he attempted to find the right word. "So, which is the… er, sentient part - the core?"

Ollivander's countenance perked up, his lips hitching upwards. "And here I thought you were a novice in Wandlore, Mr. Riddle! I see I was mistaken-"

"I am a novice," clarified Harry quickly. "It's just that I have some… speculations. So, the core chooses?"

"Yes," said Ollivander brightly. "It will feel drawn towards a witch or wizard with a similar nature to its own." He gestured at Alphard. "The hair in Mr. Black's wand core, for example, came from a rather rebellious male unicorn-"

Alphard proudly grinned at that, his chest inflating as he squared his shoulders.

"- who was also quite a young, kind, and awkward creature."

Harry shot Alphard an amused glance when his friend's smug look vanished to be replaced by a grimace, before the boy pretended to be wholly absorbed in sipping his tea once more.

Focusing back on the conversation, Harry frowned. "So you're saying that the personality traits of the donor creature are the key factor? They'll resemble the traits of the wizard chosen by the wand's core?"

"Precisely," said Ollivander with satisfaction.

Harry vehemently shook his head. "That can't be right." He shot the man a deep frown. "Not with our wands, at least. Phoenixes are creatures of Light, according to everyone. And my brother and I are Slytherins – er, sorted in Slytherin House, I mean-"

"That does not exclude the fact," interrupted Ollivander amiably, "that you both have qualities and traits similar to that of a Phoenix. Evidently compassion, generosity, nobility, and-"

A jet of tea suddenly shot from Alphard's nostrils as though coming from a hosepipe, as he spluttered, coughed, and hacked, looking as though he was choking on his own tongue.

Harry hurriedly pounded him on the back, wryly thinking that he knew exactly why his friend had reacted so to the wandmaker's proclamation.

Once Alphard had recovered himself –using a hankerchief to dab at his spilled tea- he gawked at Ollivander, glanced at Harry and then ogled back at the wandmaker, as he squawked, "I'm with Harry in this! If you knew his brother, you'd know that there is simply no way that a Phoenix feather would have chosen him!"

Ollivander blinked at them, before his expression turned stern. "I assure you, that is how it works."

Harry said nothing to that, preferring to finally tackle another vastly more important matter, as he leaned closer to the wizard. "Sir, are you sure you've never made other wands with Fawkes' feathers?"

"Of course I'm certain," retorted the man in a brisk tone. "I remember each and every one of my creations."

Harry frowned, as he murmured under his breath, "I thought there would be other wands. It would make sense…" He shot the wandmaker a glance, as he demanded, "How do you get the cores for your wands?"

"Well," began Ollivander in his wispy voice, "in the case of unicorn hairs, a wandmaker usually requests permission from the creature in order to take a few of its tail hairs. They must be willingly given for the hairs to retain their magical properties after plucked. The case of dragon heartstrings, as you can imagine, is quite more complex, as many dragons are regarded as protected species nowadays and the heartstrings have to be forcibly taken-"

"And Phoenix feathers?" interrupted Harry with a touch of impatience. "How do you get those?"

Ollivander gazed at him slowly. "As rare, vastly powerful, and immortal as they are, Phoenixes cannot be searched for, located, captured nor killed. Therefore, only those wandmakers who are approached by a Phoenix get to experience the pleasure of ever being able to create a wand with such a challenging and unique core."

"Why would a Phoenix choose to give its feathers to a wandmaker?" pressed Harry with a frown.

Ollivander chuckled under his breath. "Do not ask me to fathom the workings of the minds of such mysterious and magnificent creatures, Mr. Riddle. Indeed, there are few wandmakers in history who have been bestowed with the honor of being chosen." His eerie eyes sparkled and a faint smile tugged his lips, as he added fondly, "My father used to say that one simply had to be lucky enough to be chosen as a recipient of their generosity. In that, my family has indeed been favored frequently."

"What do you mean – 'favored frequently'?" said Harry confusedly. He shot him a scowl. "You told me that you have only ever made two Phoenix core wands – mine and my brother's!"

"I have," said Ollivander, quirking a white eyebrow. "But so have three before me – namely, my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Ollivander House has a long-time tradition of wandcrafting with-"

Harry had immediately jumped to his feet, as he said with eager breathlessness, "Do you keep records of all your sales? Of all those other Phoenix-core wands?"

"I ought to," replied Ollivander, staring up at Harry with a curious expression on his face.

"Can I see the books?" said Harry instantly. "Please?"

Ollivander mutely nodded as he slowly rose to his feet, and Harry felt he was nearly stepping on the man's heels as they began to descend the stairs.

When he finally found himself in a room on the ground floor, Harry glanced around with a gobsmacked expression on his face. It was evident that the room had been greatly enlarged by magical means, given how small and narrow the two-story house was from the outside.

Indeed, the room they were now standing in was so immense that he couldn't see the end of the shelves upon shelves of ledgers, as though they stretched to the sky and infinity.

"My family's wand shop has kept records of all our sales since our establishment in 328 B.C.," came Ollivander's raspy voice with a hint of pride.

Harry's wand was raised in his hand in enthusiasm before he knew it, though thankfully he checked himself in time, lowering it as he mumbled ruefully, "I shouldn't cast magic outside of Hogwarts, just to be safe. Could you-?"

Ollivander had already beaten him to it, muttering a series of spells as he slowly flicked his wand in the air.

Five enormous tomes came flying down from some diminutive point in the distance, showering them with clouds of dust as they plopped on the high, squared table in the center of the room.

Coughing and spluttering, Harry finally approached the ledgers, seeing that they had each landed already opened in a specific page. The pages were frail-looking and yellowish, though there was no doubt that preserving charms had been cast on them since the quillmanship and ink was clearly legible as if the words had been written mere moments ago.

To his immense relief, he even saw that every entry followed a chronological order.

As soon as he began to scan the pages of the five tomes, the names popped to his eyes, his mind working in a whirlwind of thrilled excitement.

Harry checked it all again, and let out a loud chuckle of sheer triumph.

The last piece of evidence, the very last piece of the puzzle had finally clicked into place and it felt profoundly satisfying.

"What's so funny?" said Alphard by his side, who was squinting down at the pages with a befuddled expression on his face.

Ollivander was soon by their side, peering down as well with an inquisitive look.

"Why are you sniggering?" Alphard shot Harry a puzzled frown when Harry kept chortling under his breath. "I only see-"

"You only see the names of five different Phoenixes who have given feathers to the Ollivanders, during different centuries," said Harry as he cast him a wide grin. "Right?"

"Yes," replied Alphard bemusedly.

"And look," said Harry cheerfully, as he tapped each entry with his finger, "each Phoenix was bonded to a Hogwarts member of Staff. Two Headmasters, three Professors." He remembered the words Santi had spoken to him long time ago, and added with a chuckle, "Each of them must have been the most powerful witch or wizard at Hogwarts, in their respective times."

"So?" Alphard frowned confusedly at him. "Is it strange that so many Phoenixes have been staying at Hogwarts throughout the ages?"

"Not at all, child," interjected Ollivander in his wheezy voice. "Phoenixes are known to be attracted to powerful sources of magic. It is only natural for some to have migrated to Hogwarts and chosen to reside there for a period of time."

Harry shook his head, grinning. "Is it also natural that these five wands, made with their feathers, all chose Slytherins as their masters?"

"Being sorted in Slytherin House," began Ollivander, casting him a partly concerned, partly reproving look, "does not preclude having traits worthy of-"

"Not Slytherin House," interrupted Harry, smiling widely as he tapped the names with his fingertip. "Slytherins. His direct descendants – the five most extraordinary ones of his line."

"I beg your pardon?" Ollivander blinked owlishly at him, before he avidly swooped down to peruse the entries.

Harry couldn't fault the wandmaker for having a faulty memory. If Ollivander had studied the records, it must have been ages ago, amidst the seemingly infinite number of other ledgers contained in the room. And even so, the man could have hardly discovered the pattern that had so easily become evident to him.

Those five Slytherin names had become as familiar to him as his own.

'I must admit that not many of our ancestors were bright. I've counted only five who truly made remarkable progress with the design of the ritual. Those were indeed astoundingly brilliant, like myself,' Tom had arrogantly said to him the one and only time his brother had deigned to tell him what he had discovered in the Slytherins' diaries – nevertheless still keeping much a secret, as Harry had later found out.

It hadn't been difficult to notice which those five Slytherins were, when he had been rereading his brother's translated notes, which Tom now believed to have been throughly destroyed. Their sections in Tom's notes were each countless-pages long, filled with intricate diagrams and potion-making phases and complex spell creations.

"Most extraordinary ones?" mumbled Alphard as he glanced down. "Their names do not ring any bells to me."

"Don't they?" muttered Harry, randomly pointing at one. "He founded the True Blood Alliance." He shot his friend a wry look. "That, surely, rings a bell."

Alphard's big grey eyes widened, as he nodded. "Abraxas' old codger of a grandfather leads it nowadays."

"Yup," said Harry dryly, before his finger found another name. "And she…" He faltered, a musing, fascinated expression spreading over his face. "She is probably the most brilliant of the whole lot. Sidony Slytherin."

Fascinating, and deeply entrenched in mystery, for Harry had soon seen that she had been the one who had contributed the most to the development of the ritual meant to free Salazar Slytherin from his Animagus prison. The brightest but also the most perplexing since she was linked to many other enigmas.

Harry still remembered how enthused he had been when Tom had showed him Salazar Slytherin's treeline, discovering that he was distantly related to Charlus Potter – through a witch by the name of Sidony Slytherin, one of the few Slytherins to have ever married outside of the family instead of following the tradition of incestuous bondings.

Married to an Ignatius Peverell, bearing one sole daughter, who had married the first Potter patriarch as Harry had later discovered, which explained why the treeline diagram had urged the reader to 'see Potter line' right under the linked names of Sidony and Ignatius Peverell.

Nevertheless, the connection that intrigued him the most was that her husband had been the descendant of Ignotus Peverell – that Potter ancestor Charlus had once told him about, the one who had supposedly made Charlus' Invisibility Cloak, whose 'family crest' Harry always saw in the magic imbued in the Cloak and which he had inexplicably briefly seen glowing on the handle of the Dark Lord's wand.

A family crest, which, until this day, no one seemed to know that Grindelwald had stolen and adopted as his own. That still puzzled him in the extreme.

The Slytherins thought that the symbol was the Grindelwald family coat of arms. While the rest of the students didn't even seem to know that the Dark Lord employed a symbol at all. There were only a few exceptions, like Myrtle who had researched the matter after having seen Tilly Toke's pendant dangling from Tom's neck when they had been saving her during the London Blitz.

Yet, not even Charlus Potter seemed to be aware that the Dark Lord was using what was allegedly the family crest of a Potter ancestor. And the Dark Lord's motives for this made no sense at all to Harry.

And just to top it all, Sidony Slytherin, probably the only Slytherin who had had the skills and capacity to be able to develop the ritual until its conclusion, had dropped it the day before her wedding day to Peverell. The entries of her diary abruptly halting on that very specific date, which Harry had double-checked with the treeline diagram.

It was as though she had simply decided to pack up and leave, tossing everything aside to start a fresh new life with her husband, Salazar Slytherin and his predicament be damned.

Harry shook his head, amused. She must have been quite a witch.

"What does it all mean, then?" piped in Alphard's voice, piercing through Harry's musings.

He glanced at his friend, seeing Alphard staring at him with an expectant, eager look on his face. At that, he also noticed Ollivander scratching his chin, the wizard shooting him a keen glance as he stopped perusing the ledgers.

Harry cocked his head to a side as he contemplated the wandmaker, finally voicing what he had been wondering for a while, "Why did you let us in?" He gestured at the ledgers, to clarify his point as he intently stared at the man. "Why give me all this information so freely?"

Ollivander straightened himself, his eerie moon-like eyes roaming over Harry's scar, his face, to his hands and finally his wand, before he gazed into Harry's eyes once more, as he said in his wispy voice, "I find myself curious to see what is to come."

Harry blinked at that rather cryptic response. Seeing that no more would be forthcoming from the man, he shook his head, sighing.

It didn't matter. He owed Ollivander a huge debt for the priceless information. He could at least repay him by satisfying a small smidgen of the deep curiosity he could see in the wandmaker's eyes.

He first glanced at Alphard and then at Ollivander, as he pointed at the ledgers. "The point is that all those Phoenixes are one and the same. Five Slytherins before us. Tom and I are the sixth and seventh. Chosen, I think." He shot the wandmaker a pointed look. "By the wands, by the feathers." He grimaced wryly. "Not due to our compatibility with the Phoenix's personality traits, but due to what the Phoenix was after." He rubbed his forehead tiredly. "Potential."

"Potential for what?" echoed Alphard confusedly.

'Potential for power. Potential for completing the ritual that could liberate Salazar Slytherin,' Harry inwardly thought. 'Wands through which he could keep track of us, if he wanted.' Though he certainly didn't voice it. He had already said too much.

Ollivander was surveying him with a deep frown on his face, as he stated, "A Phoenix cannot imbue in its feathers any other criteria but its own nature-"

"Do we really know what a Phoenix can or can't do?" interrupted Harry exasperatedly, before he waved a hand. "And anyway, I'm not talking about any random Phoenix, but this particular kind."

"Kind?" Ollivander's frown deepened. "There are no different species of Phoenixes."

Harry shrugged at that. Let the man make of it what he would. It was time to go home.

"Can we use your Floo connection to get to Hogsmeade?"