Title: In Crime
Author: Saydria Wolfe
Series Order: 1
Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Fix-It, Time Travel
Relationships: Harry Potter/Hermione Granger
Content Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Canon-level Violence, Dark Themes, Major Character Death (historic/discussed, implied), Minor Character Death (Ginny Weasley), Character Bashing
Author’s Notes: This story was written for my sister Melody Black who passed very suddenly on December 15, 2020. I was working on this fic before she died for the Quantum Bang but once she was gone it became part of my healing process. I started throwing all of the tropes my sister loved into it so the wordcount exploded. As a result, it has now become a novella series. I have no idea how many parts it will have, at least two that I’m sure of. We will see.
Beta: PN Ztivokreb and Claire Watson
Word Count: 35,706
Summary: When she woke up in her bed twenty years in the past, Hermione had a very clear to do list.
Step 1.) Get to Diagon Alley.
Step 2.) Bring her Harry back.
Step 3.) Utterly destroy the Weasleys.
“I did it.” Hermione’s sigh was followed by a brief, relieved laugh.
The potion stood on the worktop before her, glowing a clear silver with golden sands of time continually falling throughout the solution. It was exactly what she needed to send her memories—or soul, if one wanted to be romantic about it—back through time.
Over a decade of work and it was finally finished.
She was going to get her Harry back and the Weasleys were going to pay for everything they had done. Ginevra, Ronald, Percival, and most especially Molly. They were the authors of her misery and they would never know what hit them.
If her calculations were right—and they always were—she could save Sirius Black, which would thrill Harry to bits. Prevent Voldemort’s resurrection, save hundreds of lives. Skin a toady before she could begin her campaign of terror on a school full of children. Put a terrible, blind, senile old man out to pasture.
She could fix it all.
And she would get Harry back.
No one would take him from her this time. No one.
She dropped her head onto the worktop and gave a tired giggle. It was done. This bit, at least, was done.
Soon the real work could begin.
She sat up straight and focused. She needed to visualize when she wanted to wake up in the past, how she wanted to wake up. With that set firmly in her mind, she picked up the crystal vial holding her potion and downed it like a shot.
It tasted like lemon and sunshine and heat. Then there was nothing.
Until she woke up!
The bed was the most comfortable thing she had woken up on in over a nearly fifteen years. Since before she gave up her parents to memory charms for their own safety. Her duvet was the perfect silver-purple she had snuggled under for years.
She had all her fingers! And the world had depth. Not artificial depth, either. She scrambled up to her vanity to check and yes, she had both of her natural eyes. She giggled in relief. Her teeth showed large in the mirror but not the abnormally large things she remembered them being.
Ah, the perspective of adulthood. She giggled again. She was elated, success filled her tummy with the most glorious bubbles.
But she had work to do.
Hermione focused herself and went to find her mother’s stash of notebooks. She had a decade of inventions to write down. Saving the world cost quite a lot in galleons and while it was illegal to send physical things back in time, ideas and memories were not illegal—just, supposedly, impossible—but she was Hermione Potter.
Impossible was just a more rewarding degree of difficulty.
“Hermione?” she heard her mum called upstairs. “Are you up, dear? We don’t want to miss our flight… Hermione?”
“Down here, mum!” she called from her spot on the study floor.
“Hermione?” Mum frowned as she took in Hermione’s occupation. She was wearing her pale pink and white traveling suit—the one she always wore on aeroplanes because she hated it, but it looked neat and professional. “Your bags are packed but you don’t look ready to go.”
Hermione stood and looked her mother in the eyes. “That’s because I’m not going.”
“What do you mean, darling?” Her father asked as he entered the room behind mum.
“I have decided it would be better if I stayed in London, on Diagon Alley,” she told them more or less honestly. “I have a number of inventions I would like to trademark and potentially sell through the Bank and that is best done here.”
“You can’t do this in France?” her mum tipped her head to one side.
“Not if I want my inventions distributed here, where I live. With magical customs and import/export laws being as they are, many of my creations could leave magical Britain but they could not come in from the outside. Magical Britain is very isolationist. New inventions have to be patented here first in order to be sold here.”
“That’s the government for you,” her dad sighed. “Always making life ridiculous.
“Are you sure, sweetie?”
“Yes,” she said firmly but not in a mean or bratty way. Her parents had never known what to do with their uniquely intelligent child other than to treat her like a strangely small adult. If she said she needed to do something, there was no need to pull an attitude and remind them of her actual age.
Her parents exchanged a thousand words in a single glance.
“Very well,” her father agreed. “We can drop you at the Alley on the way to the airport?”
“That would be lovely.”
In the end, Hermione didn’t have to pay for more than two days in the Leaky Cauldron herself. The Bank, after they had trademarked her first invention, had been thrilled to pay for her stay as part of her fee for further innovations.
In another life, she had used a beaded bag to see her and Harry though a war but the lack of organization in it had driven her spare. Eventually she had invented several types of undetectably expanded trunks including library trunk and a flat-in-a-trunk—the kitchen was the hardest part of that. Shrinking trunks, shape changing trunks, trunks hidden in medallions, high security trunks that would only be visible if you already knew where and what they were. Combinations of all of the above.
Even a rather limited Trunk of Requirement.
The goblins were thrilled with her last life’s inventions, and that joy made them generous. They had given her a bonus in the form of two of everything in the Flourish and Blotts catalogue, minus the foolishly fictional books about Harry Potter. Those they had replaced—by number, not weight—with books on law, culture and history written from the goblin perspective.
It served two purposes, really, which most goblin gifts were because they never did anything with a witch or wizard without multiple driving factors.
First, it served as a bonus or gift for her. Second the collection of books would allow her to help test their newly invented library trunks before they began the mass production and marketing of the inventions.
“Miss Granger,” Griphook greeted her as she entered the Bank’s experimental areas that morning. He had been assigned as her assistant/guardian/watch dog within the Bank. She hadn’t been able to refuse and, honestly, by the time she had come back in time the fury at Griphook for betraying them during the war had been gutted. The Bank was covered in Karma Curses that targeted thieves. As he had stolen the Sword of Gryffindor from them rather than waiting for them to give it to him, Griphook had faced Goblin justice in the end.
But, if he had never stolen the Sword from Harry, it never would have come to Neville for him to kill Nagini with. The Sword of Gryffindor would never have left a chosen bearer, but it could be stolen and have to choose again.
In that way, Griphook’s theft had saved lives during the war.
“You asked to be alerted on the sixth of August?”
“Right.” She plopped down on her work stool as reality settled on her. Harry would be on the Alley that night. She would see Harry—alive—tonight. Well, tomorrow. She couldn’t just sit up to wait for him. Young Harry would never expect her, and she wouldn’t want to overwhelm him after he blew up his aunt, and he had the whey scared out of him by Sirius’s grim form, and he met the Knight Bus for the first time, and after he was ambushed by the sitting Minister for Magic.
“I need to take some time off,” she told Griphook. “I have school assignments still to do and it would be good to have some time to relax before I return to Hogwarts.”
“Do you wish to join your parents in France?” he asked immediately.
“No, I would rather stay on the Alley. There’s a cat I like the look of at the Magical Menagerie. I think…he’s for me.” Crookshanks. Merlin, she had missed Crookshanks over the years.
“The Bank has paid for your stay at the Cauldron through the first of September,” Griphook told her.
Hermione nodded her thanks. “I’ll finish the second commission before I leave today.”
“The artisans will have the first two medallion trunks ready before end of business.”
Hermione nodded. Those would be hers. She and Harry would be doing bit of field testing, as it were. They were tried and tested in another time and she was confident in them, but the Goblins had not yet made or tested them. Their reputation for selling only the most exceptional products was important to them.
“I’ll take them with me. If the Bank has any other commissions they would like me to develop, I would be glad to work on them in my spare time but we’ll need a secure way to communicate to protect the integrity of our work while I’m in school.”
“You have an idea,” Griphook guessed.
Hermione just grinned at him. “When don’t I?”
Hermione braced herself as she made her way down to the Leaky Cauldron’s dining room. Harry. Today, she would get to see Harry for the first time in much too long.
“Good morning, Miss Granger!” Tom called as she entered his dining room.
She smiled at Tom and pretended not to see the way Harry’s head shot up. “Good morning, Tom.”
“Eggs or porridge today?”
“Eggs, please.” She turned to see Harry grinning. She grinned right back and went to his table. “Harry!”
“Hermione,” Harry stood and pulled out a chair, silently inviting her to join him, which she of course did. “I didn’t know you were staying here at the Cauldron! Your last letter said you were in France.”
“Fairly certain I said my parents were going to France,” she teased, and he rolled his eyes. “I’ve been working on a few things with the Development Office in the Bank and I wanted to keep it private. Not from you, of course,” she said hastily when he frowned. “I mean Ronald. He always has the worst…expectations and I don’t want him to expect anything from me.”
“You mean like how he’s always hinting at wanting expensive things for his birthday,” Harry said after Tom had left her breakfast and juice on the table.
She… Hermione blinked. “I hadn’t realized you had noticed that.”
“I’ve lived with greedy people all my life,” Harry countered dryly. “And he’s not exactly subtle.”
Hermione had to agree with that. “Any plans for today?”
“I haven’t been able to do my summer assignments yet,” Harry admitted. “I would like to get them done.”
“Sounds good.” Then something occurred to Hermione. “I found a book about the different electives available at Hogwarts and the careers they open up for students after school. It has made me rethink my elective choices.”
“Which were?” Harry asked with a smile. “Last I knew you were thinking about taking all of them.”
Hermione had to blush. She had been a complete ninny to be honest. “I think Divination would drive me batty. And Muggle Studies is very nearly required if you want to work for the Ministry, but I don’t think I do. Private employ or working for the Bank is much more lucrative.”
“You would know,” Harry tipped his orange juice at her in something like a salute.
She had to smile. Working for the Bank even for a handful of weeks had been liberating after years of being very nearly conscripted into service by the Ministry after the War. “I would,” she agreed.
“Runes and Arithmancy would be useful in my work with the Development Office.” It had, in fact, been useful. “Care of Magical Creatures I could take or leave. I understand the last teacher is retiring to keep the last of their remaining limbs…I’m not sure I want to be involved in such a risky business but I’m willing to do it if you want to do it.”
Harry smiled at her in relief. “Care of Magical Creatures, Arithmancy, and Ancient Runes sound like a good blend of classes. And Care should get us out of the castle a few more times a week than Herbology alone has ever managed.”
“The castle can get rather stuffy,” she agreed.
“What are your plans for today? Working for the Bank?”
“No, I’ve taken the rest of the summer off,” she admitted and blushed when he grinned. She really needed to get a handle on that. “I was going to sort my library into trunks…would you mind carrying one?”
“What do you mean?” Harry frowned.
“I…invented a few rather interestingly enchanted trunks,” she told him. “That’s one of the things I did with the Bank—specifically library trunks. To test them, they gave me books from Flourish and Blotts. Two of everything and, since the Bank made the purchases, the age and blood status restrictions on purchases were ignored.”
“So, you actually got everything,” Harry said with some amusement.
“Except for some foolish books written about you taking a dragon as a pet and living in a grand castle as a child, yes,” she nodded. “I had intended one set of books to be my actual collection and the other to be my experimental collection—so that if anything happened in the experiment and I lost books, I would still have the first trunk—but I think it might be better to have two testers. I mean, if you don’t mind helping me with trying to break something?”
“So, you can make your product more reliable before you market it?” Harry asked.
“My aunt has said I have a talent for breaking things,” Harry considered.
Hermione hated his aunt. All of his muggle relatives, actually, and rather wondered if she could make her own version of the Bank’s Karma Curse and slip it through the wards on Privet Drive. It wouldn’t be harmful magic as long as the occupants were being good people and not doing harmful things.
Knowing them as she did, she expected they would be dead within the week.
Not that that would in any way be her fault.
“There would be hundreds of books for you to read,” she offered, knowing the Harry really was a bookworm despite Ron’s attempts to stamp the habit out. “You would have them with you everywhere, but they wouldn’t be in the way and there would be no weight to them.”
“How?” Harry asked with narrowed eyes.
“The trunks are transfigured into small wooden medallions. I had a triquetra carved into them because I quite like the design.”
“Can I see? Before I agree.”
“Yes, of course,” Hermione agreed, standing from the remnants of her breakfast. “You can even choose how to organize your library—should you agree.”
Harry just smiled.
“Harry,” Hermione called loudly enough to get Harry’s attention but softly enough to be ignored if he was unwilling to have his reading interrupted. “I have something I need to tell you.”
He looked up from the book he had picked for leisure reading—a dry but easy to read introductory to contract and inheritance law. The very idea of reading such a thing made her eyes burn but it did make her wonder exactly how early Harry had started musing on being a solicitor when he grew up.
“It’s private,” she admitted. “Can we head over to the park?”
Harry agreed and they left Diagon Alley through the Cauldron. They had to cross a few streets, but they found the hidden park area commonly used as an apparition or portkey point for magicals making their way to the Cauldron and Alley. It was mostly used by muggle-borns and half-bloods during busy times when both the Alley and Cauldron were crowded and direct travel was complicated, so it was utterly empty at their current date and time.
To one side of the landing area there were two trees that each had a branch grown to reach and combine with its mate from the other tree. Hung from the thick natural support beam were four sets of silver chains, each set held a comfortable, padded seat.
It was the magical version of a swing set.
She sat on the green and silver brocade swing and Harry sat on the red and gold. It was an old habit, one they developed in that other time as their friendship had grown romantic. The one of them that had been sneaky had to sit on the Slytherin swing and be completely honest while the one that had been an oblivious Gryffindor the entire time had to sit on their proper House swing and listen.
It said something about their relationship as equals that they had spent an equal amount of time on either swing.
The ritual of it was so integral to them that they had grown their own Hogwarts House-associated swing set on the property of Malfoy Manner when they purchased and completely refurbished it after the war. And that there was nowhere else she could imagine having the conversation she was about to engage them in.
“I swear to you,” she started, “that what I am about to tell you is the complete truth. I will make a magical oath on the matter if you wish.”
Harry waved her off and she wondered if that was because he didn’t understand, really, what she was offering. “Are you about to tell me something horrible?”
“Yes,” she said baldly.
“I trust you,” he announced like it wasn’t an amazing thing for her to hear. “So, tell me.”
“Not long after we returned home from school this year, my future self sent me her memories just before her death.”
Harry blinked at her. “When did she die?”
“About fifteen years from now,” she admitted.
“So, you…time traveled?”
“Not really?” Hermione frowned, trying to articulate what she was experiencing. “At first, it felt like I was her and I had come back in time, but everything I have done since…everything I have done because of those memories was a step away from the path she had taken. Each one made the differences clearer. I am not her. I am me but she gave me…perspective. From her I learned things like Goblin etiquette and that the Bank even has a Development Office where they innovate and make new products or invest in the new products of others should they choose. Give start up loans and the like.
“Sometimes, I see people and have information about them or what they have done even though I have never met them.”
“Okay, not really time travel, but you know what’s coming?” Harry nodded to himself. “I’m guessing it’s pretty bad. If your future self sent you, what, warnings?”
“It was so bad, Harry. Sirius Black, the escaped convict all over the news is your godfather and only legal guardian. He died with everyone thinking he was a criminal because he never had a trial, but he broke out of jail specifically to save you. There is a Death Eater living as Ron’s rat. Sirius left Azkaban to protect you from that man the moment he realized the Death Eater was close enough to hurt you.
“You’re Sirius Black’s heir, his godson. It was his duty to protect you and he did…and he died a criminal for it. Can you even imagine?”
“Is that the worst of it?” Harry asked.
“Not even close.” Hermione scoffed. “Voldemort came back from the dead—and that wasn’t even the worst of it.”
“No. We spent a year on the run trying to kill him, but we succeeded in the end so that wasn’t the worst, either.” She took a deep breath to fortify herself and said, “The worst part came after the war. Dumbledore died and the Weasleys just went…they went mad, Harry. Molly, Ronald, Ginevra, and Percival did, at least, but the others did nothing to stop them. They were stalking us so bad that Ron wound up in Azkaban for it. We had restraining orders on the family. It was mad, Harry.”
“There was a marriage contract between you and Ginny that no one told us about, but they knew. They demanded you to end your relationship with me—without ever telling us why—and of course we ignored them. Then you died. You survived the war only to die from violating a magical contract.”
“Why didn’t they tell us?” Harry demanded.
“Dumbledore had told Molly Weasley—who he signed the contract with—that he wanted to tell you himself and he had enforced the order magically on her,” Hermione told him. “But then he died, and she still couldn’t tell us. I guess she hinted enough to let her family in on it—I mean three of her kids cooperated to a disgusting degree, but… And we never thought to ask the Bank if there were any impediments to our merger, as they would have considered it.”
Goblins didn’t do marriage the way humans did.
Reproduction and love/life partnerships were separate matters as far as goblins were concerned. Their females bore and raised children with the help of their brothers. Sires were only tracked for bloodline purposes. As a species, they didn’t have a word for marriage and refused to use the human one because they were goblins not humans. Not that she blamed them.
She was stressed and mentally drifting, she focused herself back on Harry’s concerned face.
“I’m Sirius Black’s heir?” Harry’s brow wrinkled in confusion. “Like his son? Is James Potter not my…”
“Biologically, you are James Potter’s son,” Hermione said firmly. “But magically, with the oaths your parents made to each other and to you, he is also your parent. He’s your Lord and there were so many times having Lord Black behind you would have saved you so much stress—sweet Merlin, it would have been so helpful—but he never got to because…”
“He was a criminal,” Harry finished. Then he corrected himself. “Because they thought he was a criminal. But you said he never had a trial.”
“Right,” Hermione nodded once.
“…I was a Lord? You said I was his heir and he died.”
“You never took the title. You refused it, actually, and left it to your own godson who was a Black by blood but then you died and…”
“The Weasleys got it,” Harry guessed. “Since I defaulted on the contract.”
Hermione nodded glumly.
“That’s ridiculous. If I had taken the title, the contract would have been presented to me by the Bank.” Harry shook his head. “They would have had to give it to me, or it would have been legally void. And a new Lord has a year to renew and cancel magical contracts for himself or his magical house, it’s part of the protocols for the new lord reordering his House to suit him.
“It’s ridiculous that I wouldn’t protect myself with the rights and privileges of a Lordship. Especially if things were so bad that I had a restraining order against the Weasleys! Did someone spell me not to want the Lordship?”
Hermione blinked. “How did you learn about the rights and privileges of a Lordship? Because I didn’t learn about them until Percival started using them against me.”
“The book I’m reading?” Harry held out a hand and the book appeared in a flash—something she had definitely not enchanted the medallion trunk to do. “It’s an introductory text into contracts and inheritance in the magical world, but it’s all there. At least the basics. And it has a list of additional sources for more in-depth reading.”
“You never read that last time.”
“Not that I know of,” Hermione stressed. “We didn’t do the trunk…thing last time.
“The whole enchanted trunk idea came from a bag I had crafted and carried during our hunt for Voldemort’s immortality. I had enchanted a beaded bag to carry everything we could possibly need but looking back on it, it was dreadfully unorganized and unsecure. I had to fix it and honestly the lack of a Bag of Holding in the magical world was an actual crime.”
“You created a living Dungeons and Dragons prop for our actual, real life campaign?” Harry asked with some amusement.
“I didn’t hear you complaining about it after I pulled a fully stocked magical tent out of it,” she shot back haughtily.
“Do you know why they signed a marriage contract for me?” Harry asked.
Hermione bit her lip. This was going to suck. “It was…payment. For the Weasley’s befriending and managing you during school. The contract was signed before our first year started. Your out-clause—for non-nobles, obviously—could only be used after you purchased your wand and before you were Sorted.
“Their out-clause was entirely generous, should they have to use it because you were ruined. By, for example, Sorting incorrectly. It was ridiculous.”
“Wow.” Harry rested his forehead against the cool metal chain of his swing. She couldn’t blame him if he was feeling overwhelmed. Knowing that the person you thought was your first friend was actually being paid to deal with you was…hard
“What about the Life Debt?” Harry asked, looking up at her. “I saved Ginny from the Chamber last time too, didn’t I?”
“You did,” she confirmed, wondering when Harry was going to stop surprising her with knowledge he shouldn’t have. But then, she had been the one to give him books so he could get whatever knowledge he wanted for himself. She should not be surprised when he took the opportunity he had never been given before. “Arthur Weasley died when you did. The Debt had settled on him rather than Ginevra since she was so young when you saved her. Magic blamed him for your death because he had the information to save you in his grasp but he never gave it to you.”
“But you said Dumbledore kept Molly from telling me.”
“He did but Ginevra’s life should have been worth more than Arthur’s loyalty to a dead man and it wasn’t,” Hermione explained. “As Molly’s husband, he had the magical right to order her to tell him why she was so obsessed with you. Then he would have known, and you would have known, but he didn’t even try. He never questioned Molly’s crazy and Magic punished him for it.”
“So, I can’t trust any of the adults in my life?” Harry asked.
“No.” Hermione felt honestly helpless at the pain she saw in Harry. In the set of his shoulders and the line of his mouth.
“I wish I could remember,” he sighed. “I’m not…mad, or anything, that you do. I guess I’m grateful to know that you know but I wish I knew the things that applied to me. Like why Voldemort picked me for his enemy. I was a baby.”
“There was a prophecy,” Hermione answered absently. “You…could remember. If you wanted to. Future!Me sent me back the knowledge on how to get your memories from your future self before he died in that other time.”
“There’s a… potion. And since it takes a lot of magic to activate it, a ritual for you to drink it in.”
“How much magic and how would we get it?” Harry asked.
“It killed her,” Hermione said, trying for delicacy. “Taking the potion and getting it to work in the future cost her life.”
“Human sacrifice,” Harry said consideringly.
“There are other ways,” she hastened to tell him. “We could tie your taking of it to star movements. It would take some time, but we could do it. And no one has to die.”
“How long would that take?” Harry asked.
“The timing has to be calculated back from the moment you want the memories of. If you want the memories from half an hour before your death, we have to wait until Yule of our fourth year.”
“We could also invest ourselves in creating rune stones,” she offered. “With a properly formed conclave, it could take us six months. A year, with the time you need to be prepared to form a conclave and lead magical rituals.”
“But then we would have to explain to the members of our conclave what we were doing and why,” Harry said, “I don’t think we should expose your time travel that way.”
Hermione couldn’t say she disagreed. “And most of our year mates are arseholes.” She considered that. “Not Neville. Or Lavender, actually, we just need to show her she can do so much better than Ron.”
Harry snorted. “What about human sacrifice?”
“It would be the quickest method,” she admitted. “We could do it at literally any time, assuming we get a virgin sacrifice—someone that has never participated in a ritual before, I mean, but the other kind of virginity would add more power to it, too.
“Is that something you wanted to do?”
“I’m not opposed since I’ll probably have to do some dark things to get rid of Voldemort, I suppose?”
Hermione blew out a breath and considered. “If we take a life that belongs to you anyway— because of a Life Debt, for example—it wouldn’t count legally or magically as murder.”
“You mean for us to kill Ginny?” Harry asked in surprise.
“She’s twisted, Harry. The Diary ruined her, and the only way to fix it would be to spell her back into infancy and try again—and even that might not be enough.”
“And her mother would never agree to it,” Harry added sardonically.
It was amazing how Harry could see straight through to the true flaws in people sometimes. Not always. Not often enough, unfortunately.
“Would she be considered a virgin ritually?” Harry asked. “Tom tried to use her to resurrect himself. It didn’t have any of the formal trappings but surely that would…well, no, he never completed his objective.”
“Right,” Hermione agreed. “She might have been in ritual circumstances—I agree with you, it is debatable what Riddle did—but they never completed the ritual, so it doesn’t count as her having participated in ritual magic.”
“I think it would be best for me to remember that other future,” Harry admitted eventually. “I have no adults I can trust to tell me the truth and apparently several maniacs after me for…why are they after me?”
“Voldemort, because he is insane and there’s a prophecy that he only learned part of. Unfortunately, the part he received made it clear the subject could kill him and gave him the information he needed to identify you and Neville as candidates. He picked you.
“Molly is a threat because she wants the Potter money. You come from a long line of creative, talented, and wealthy people but they aren’t nobles, so their legal protections were easier to overcome. At the end of this year last time around, she decided her family needed Sirius’s title too and she wasn’t too fussed about how they would get it. You were the key to getting it and you already belonged to her daughter as far as she was concerned.”
“And Dumbledore?” Harry asked. “You haven’t mentioned him other than the contract and that he died but…he was the only one Voldemort feared, and it seems like he didn’t help me. Why?”
“Your relationship with Dumbledore was complicated, Harry. And I don’t know everything about it,” she admitted. “He started the hunt for Voldemort’s immortality with you but left it to you to finish with minimal information and resources. He also had the power to improve your situation at home, at school, and in the press and never bothered… But I know at one point you mentioned wanting to name your son Albus.” Hermione huffed indignant all over again about that ridiculous conversation. “You also wanted to name one Severus which was mind boggling. Snape tortured you for years. That he had a boner for your mum was not a redeeming quality, as far as I’m concerned.”
“I can’t see how it would be,” Harry frowned. “Maybe I need a therapist more than I need my memories.”
“Memories and then a therapist,” Hermione decided sharply. “Maybe one for both of us.”
Harry laughed a little helplessly but didn’t disagree.
“Can we get a hold of Ginny without anyone knowing?” he asked. “They might not be able to charge me with murder because of a Life Debt, but you’re going to be involved too, aren’t you?”
“I am,” she agreed. “And we can. They will come back on the twenty-fourth. That gives us time for me to brew the potion and let it age appropriately. We can be hidden when they arrive at the Cauldron and lure her away without being seen.”
“No one can suspect us if they think we didn’t know she was back in the country when she dies,” Harry nodded.
Hermione had to agree. That was why she wanted to do it that way, after all.
“Tomorrow we’re going to the Bank,” he told her. “I’m going to take my Heir Ring and we’ll get the Bank to look into Sirius Black’s trial.”
“When they find out he hasn’t had one, they will kick up a huge fuss,” she said in wonder. “They’re going to be furious. The House of Black is a major account holder and he’s the head of House, so the accounts have been dormant for no reason. No, not no reason—for a lie.”
“Exactly,” Harry agreed grimly. “No one will stop Sirius from getting a trial after that. Or they’ll risk a Goblin Rebellion.”
“With the noble portion of the Wizarding population on the goblin side because it’s in their best interest. After all, if it could happen to House of Black, it could happen to them, too. The Ministry would be destroyed.” Hermione shook her head. “That’s brilliant.”
Harry grinned. “Thanks!”
Of course, things weren’t so simple that they could go straight to the Bank the next day. Some Account Holders had such strong relationships with their Account Managers that they could drop in unannounced—and if any accounts had enough funds for such familiarity to be tolerated, it was the Black Account—but Harry was not associated with the Black Account yet. And neither of them knew enough about the current Potter Account manager to be sure he could help them.
So, an appointment had to be made—for early morning with the honest warning that their business might take some time.
There was also the question of how they would present themselves to the Bank. First impressions were important and while they had both been in the Bank before, neither of them had ever seen an account manager. That meant a trip to a tailor.
Madam Malkin’s wouldn’t do. Neither would Twilfitt and Tatting’s—not that either Harry or Hermione would patronize a place with a pure-blood agenda. They needed an actual tailor but, again, such things required appointments.
Unless one happened to have future knowledge of a tailor struggling to start his own shop and access to the most famous young wizard in Britain.
Hermione led Harry right into Taylor Pinn’s shop, on the far side of Diagon Alley from the Cauldron, where the lack of traffic made property cheap enough for a startup business to afford.
“Oh!” The young man at the shop’s counter dropped the spool he had been re-winding.
“Master Pinn?” Hermione greeted cautiously. She knew the young man had graduated from Hogwarts at the end of their first year—a muggle-born, sorted to Ravenclaw—and had served as Madam Malkin’s apprentice for a full year after that before opening his own shop.
“Hermione Granger,” he said with wide eyes. Then his attention flicked to Harry and he actually paled. “Harry Potter.
“How can I help you?”
“We have a rather important meeting with the Bank tomorrow,” Harry said. “We were hoping you could…”
“Help you make the right impression,” Taylor nodded, pulling himself together with remarkable speed. “Do you have any Houses you are associated with? Noble Houses, I mean.”
“The House of Black?” Harry said cautiously. “But not officially, yet.”
“We’ll need to fit you with formal robes, then.” Taylor grabbed his measuring tape and gestured them over to some fitting platforms. “The waistcoat will need to be as close to House of Black’s formal brocade as we can get without an acknowledged association.
“And you, Ms. Granger?” He looked at her expectantly.
“None, I’m sorry,” she flushed in shame.
“None, yet,” Harry corrected her and she flushed for entirely different reasons. Harry had not been shy about considering their future relationship valid even if he didn’t have any memories of it yet.
She did have the memories and he would but even while he didn’t, he trusted her implicitly and that was the end of it, so far as he was concerned.
“We’ll go with Gryffindor colors for you then, for the time being. They haven’t been an active noble House in several hundred years but, when they were, everyone Sorted into the House was considered a member at least until their majority.”
“Were all of the School Houses like that?” Harry asked as he watched the magical tape measure dance around him in the mirror.
“Yes, of course,” Taylor answered absently as he reviewed his own fabric selection. “It was part of the covenant the Houses made to the school itself to protect all of the students.”
Hermione had known that in theory. It was mentioned in Hogwarts, a History but she hadn’t thought about what that could mean in application. “What other promises did they make in building the school?”
“Gryffindor funded the whole thing—it was his castle, after all. Ravenclaw oversaw the administration and staff but she was married to Gryffindor so both of their responsibilities fell on their eldest son when their only daughter who was supposed to be her heir died before she did.
“Slytherin was in charge of the health of their charges. He ran the hospital wing. His grandchildren expanded his legacy by establishing Saint Mungo’s and the magical orphanage, so in a way those belong to the school, too.
“Hufflepuff handled the grounds and all that but she only had one daughter that wasn’t a squib and she married Slytherin’s son, so those duties rather combined too. Still, most of it falls on Gryffindor because he funded the whole thing and administration fell to his family too.”
“So, every Hogwarts student is a member of the noble House of Gryffindor?” Hermione asked, wondering how they could use that to protect the school as Dumbledore and Snape had failed to in her original seventh year.
“Basically,” Taylor agreed. “Are you ready for your measurements?”
Silently, she took Harry’s place on the fitting platform. “I have some ideas about my outfit. They are a little bit…muggle.”
“You’ll need to look at least a little Wizarding to fit,” Taylor offered cautiously.
“I think we can come up with something together?”
Taylor grinned. “Sounds like fun.”
It was fun and Hermione felt…pretty as they walked to the Bank the next morning. She had a Gryffindor Red skirt that was an A-line to mid-thigh where it flared into a full, twirly skirt. Her blouse was golden silk and over it she wore a Gryffindor Red elbow-cape similar to the formal Beauxbatons’ uniform but collared and held closed with a golden ribbon knotted into a neat bow.
Harry was positively understated next to her in his solid black formal robes, white shirt, and black and silver brocade waist coat.
Still, he took her arm like a proper gentleman and escorted her into the Bank with all of the gravity their situation was due.
Griphook greeted them in the bank’s lobby and led them back into the Account Manager’s section.
“Master Aggnar will be assisting you today,” Griphook told them as he bowed them into an account manager’s office.
“Your assistance has been invaluable,” she thanked Griphook with a smile.
He gave her a curt nod and left.
The goblin behind the account manager’s desk was surprisingly young—looking, at least. Goblins aged on a different scale from humans so judging him by their standards was deceptive, Hermione reminded herself. A goblin would look relatively the same from age forty—the age they reached full maturity—until they were generally a thousand years old.
A goblin that looked truly old to a human would be very near the very end of their lifespan indeed.
“Master Aggnar,” Griphook nodded to the goblin waiting behind the desk. “Allow me to introduce Mr. Harry Potter and his companion Ms. Hermione Granger. Mr. Potter, Ms. Granger, Account Manager for the House of Black, Master Aggnar.”
Harry led her into the office. Griphook closed the door behind them.
Master Aggnar gestured for them to be seated. “How may I be of assistance?”
Harry held her seat for her before he took his own and answered. “I have recently learned that I am Sirius Black’s heir and the heir to the House of Black.”
The goblin regarded Harry silently for a moment. “You are not Sirius Black’s heir,” he said gravely, and Hermione couldn’t help the gasp of shock. He continued before she could object. “You are Arcturus Black’s heir.”
Hermione blinked. But if he was Arcturus’s heir…
“Is this known?” Harry asked with a frown.
“It was announced in the Wizengamot, as is proper. As a result of that, it was published in the Daily Prophet, so it is known. Whether wizarding kind kept track of such matters, I could not say for certain.
“What is not well known is that Lord Arcturus completed several Family Rites that would enable you to claim the Black Lordship and emancipation as early as age thirteen.”
Which she took to mean that Dumbledore didn’t know Harry could claim his Lordship. If Harry took up his lordship…she wasn’t entirely sure what all the ramifications would be but certainly the balance of power between Harry and the headmaster would shift irrevocably in Harry’s favor.
“But,” she started, “Sirius Black?”
“Is the only adult in the House of Black line of succession,” Master Aggnar explained. “He could not be removed from the line or his son in magic—that is, Mr. Potter—would also be removed. Instead, Lord Arcturus assured his grandson was after Mr. Potter in line order.
“That said, as an adult where Mr. Potter is still legally a child, Mr. Black could theoretically perform certain Family Rites and take the Lordship for himself.”
“Unless I have already claimed the Lordship and been emancipated when he tries to complete these rights?” Harry asked.
“That is correct,” Master Aggnar agreed.
“So, I am the Lord of House Black.” Harry considered that for a moment. “I would like to see the documentation to verify that claim and to receive my ring before we officially do anything else.”
“Very well, we can verify the claim using the ring.” Master Aggnar stood from the desk. “If you cannot open the ring box, the family magic will have decided to deny or delay your claim and the situation will require further investigation. Please remain here, I will return momentarily.”
The goblin left them, and Harry held her chair as she settled into it. “He didn’t ask any questions,” Harry said softly, looking bothered.
“I told you,” she smiled at him to take some of the sting from her words. “The Bank’s business is not how you know but that you know and that it can be proven, what rights that gives you, and what that requires them to do for you.”
“I should know better than to doubt you,” Harry said teasingly.
“You really should,” she agreed haughtily, making him grin. “Do you have your list?”
“Our list,” he corrected. “And, of course.”
Master Aggnar returned to them then. “Your ring,” he held out a thick black leather ring box stamped with the House of Black crest in silver.
Harry opened the box without a hitch and touched the black diamond set in the stone. “It’s warm,” he told them, and Hermione felt something within her unclench as the House of Black accepted his claim. Harry pulled the ring from the box and slipped it on his right middle finger.
“Greetings, Lord of House Black,” Master Aggnar intoned formally. “How may the Bank be of assistance today?”
“I’m going to need more of these rings,” Harry said, still staring down at the one he had on his finger. “I understand it used to be the fashion to give every member of your House rings to protect them and mark them for all to see?”
“Indeed,” Master Aggnar nodded. “It fell out of fashion some two hundred years ago.”
“Well, we’re bringing it back,” Harry said determinedly. “I have never felt so safe as I do, now, wearing this ring and they remind the wearer of their first duty to their House, correct?”
Hermione wondered if House of Black would have fallen to Voldemort at all, if they had been wearing such rings.
“Blood relatives only?” Harry asked.
“There are special rings for intended partners to wear until a child of the Blood is produced,” Master Aggnar answered, looking between the two of them.
“Engagement rings?” Hermione frowned, wondering if they wanted to deal with the many and varied complete fits that would bring down upon them.
“And promise rings, for younger House members. They can only be given out with Head of House approval, but he is, of course, sitting before us.”
“I would like a House of Black promise ring for Hermione,” Harry said. “And a…half dozen House of Black family rings, please.”
“Of course.” Master Aggnar nodded and left them again.
“What are you thinking?” Hermione asked.
“I’m thinking House of Black is in a bit of a spot…and it might take some tough love to get them out of it,” Harry admitted.
Hermione inclined her head. She didn’t object to them saving Sirius’s House on top of saving the man himself. How could she? Even that utter twat Draco Malfoy didn’t deserve the terrible path he had been placed on Before.
“The promise ring,” Master Aggnar handed it to Harry directly then sat the other six ring boxes on his desk for later.
“Hermione,” Harry said as he pulled the promise ring from his resting place. “It is my intention to marry you when we’re older but even if our relationship does not develop that way. Even if I am only ever your very best friend, I want you to have the strongest protection I can magically provide you. Will you accept this ring and the promise of a place in my House in the future?”
“I will,” she agreed and held out her right hand. As a House ring, rather than a wedding ring, it went on her right hand. He slid it on her, and she shivered as it settled into place. She could feel the magic of the ring shielding not just her mind but her magic and her aura.
There were levels of protection between her and what any privacy-ignoring meddlers might try to take from her or make her do. It was more relieving than she could articulate.
“Now,” Harry turned to focus on Master Aggnar. “We would like to see a copy of the transcript of Sirius Black’s trial.”
Master Aggnar frowned.
Hermione hastened to explain. “We know we could, theoretically, request the transcript from the Ministry, but we want to keep Harry’s association with the House of Black private for now.”
“You will need to hire solicitors to serve as Proxies and make your will known, then,” Master Aggnar offered.
“Yes,” Harry agreed. “We want a strong and varied team of solicitors. We don’t care about gender, age, or species. We need a team with both international and local experience. There are some…terrible things going on with this country and I will not tolerate them. Any of them. Or any of the so-called adults that think they have the right to do what they want with my name and reputation.”
“If you want to control your image, you’ll need to control the Daily Prophet,” was Master Aggnar’s contribution. “Thankfully, the House of Black owns the Prophet outright and has for seventy years.” He pulled out a ledger and flipped through some pages. Then he frowned. “Hmm.”
“What’s happened?” Hermione asked, curiously. In the last timeline it had seemed like Lucius Malfoy and the Ministry had controlled the Prophet. To hear that it actually belonged to the House of Black was…interesting.
“It appears Lucius Malfoy has claimed control of the Daily Prophet as the Regent for the Heir Apparent of the House of Black—that is, his son, Draco Malfoy who has never been in the House of Black line of succession at all. He has given—for reasons unspecified—twenty percent ownership of the Daily Prophet to Minister Fudge and five percent ownership to his Undersecretary, Delores Umbridge.”
“Bribes,” Hermione muttered.
“He had no right to do that,” Harry said with a frown.
“No, he did not,” Master Aggnar agreed.
“Then how did he manage it?”
“It appears he had the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Prophet file the changes. As he files a number of forms with us routinely every quarter, it went unquestioned by my assistant. And, since the majority of the Prophet’s income still went into an account controlled by House of Black, nothing was investigated.”
“Well, clearly, he’s fired,” Harry glared. Then he huffed. “The Editor-in-Chief, I mean.”
“My assistant is, too,” Master Aggnar assured them.
“We should audit the House of Black accounts,” Hermione suggested. “To make sure no other funds have been placed in inappropriate accounts.”
“I would say the Potter Accounts as well but…I can’t say I know what my parents, you know, had.”
Master Aggnar looked flabbergasted. “You come from a long line of creative, innovative, and above all profitable persons, my lord. Inventors, investors, and businesspersons. Not nobles, but a galleon is worth the same no matter who spends it.”
“Was there a…Will? Or anything? That my parents left behind.”
“With your permission, I will need to go to the Head of Bank to see the Potter Accounts transferred into my care. Then I will be able to address all of your questions.”
“Is he…trustworthy?” Harry asked cautiously. “I mean no offense, but our privacy is important to us and…sitting here, I’ve gotten a feel for your magic and I trust you, but I doubt any sort of leader would allow themselves to be exposed to me magically in that way.”
“I wouldn’t assume such,” Master Aggnar cautioned him. “But yes, I trust him beyond all others. Ragnarok is my uncle. He was what you would consider a father to me. He raised me himself after my mother died.”
“Very well, I will…trust your opinion in this matter.”
“Very good,” Master Aggnar nodded curtly and left. When he returned there was a second, taller goblin with him. “Lord Potter of House Black, allow me to introduce my uncle, High Chieftain Ragnarok.”
Harry immediately stood and Hermione stood with him. “High Chieftain.”
“Yes, yes, pleased to meet you.” The high chieftain waved all formalities aside. “You know nothing about your accounts?”
“I—I know about the one? The one that Hagrid brought me to? The one that pays for my school?”
“None of the others?” Ragnarok demanded.
“And your parent’s Will?”
“So, they had one?” Harry asked.
High Chieftain Ragnarok growled. “Master Aggnar, I give you permission to take full control of the Potter Accounts and any other Accounts Harry Potter has controlling interest in.” Then he paused and turned to Harry. “Are there any other accounts you have controlling interest in?”
“How does one take control of the Gryffindor Accounts?” Harry asked. “I pulled his sword out of his Hat. In the muggle world, that means something.”
“If it makes you his heir in the muggle world, then it means the same thing here, as well. Can you prove your claim?”
“How can I do that?” Harry asked the high chieftain.
“Call the sword to you,” Ragnarok explained. “Imagine it appearing in your palm. It shouldn’t be dramatic or traumatic since you aren’t in mortal peril at the moment.”
Harry frowned and held out his right hand. It took a moment—long enough for her to doubt, unfortunately—but the sword appeared in Harry’s hand with lightning dancing over the blade.
“Someone tried to ward the sword against coming to your aid,” Master Aggnar growled menacingly.
“We will begin the audit of those accounts too, though it will take longer to dig up the full records of them.” Ragnarok nodded to them and turned like he was about to leave.
“What about the Slytherin Accounts?” Hermione asked quickly.
Both goblins froze and turned to her.
“The families are related, aren’t they? And Harry has faced the blood Heir of Slytherin in magical combat three times and won each time,” she explained. “Doesn’t that make him the Heir of Slytherin by Rite of Conquest?”
“Three times?” Master Aggnar asked.
“As a baby, as everyone knows. First year, protecting the Philosopher’s Stone. Second year, in the Chamber of Secrets,” Hermione counted them off on her fingers. “May twenty-ninth of this year, to be specific.”
“That’s when I got the Sword,” Harry agreed. “I used it to kill Slytherin’s Basilisk.”
“I will send those records, as well.” The High Chieftain actually bowed to Harry and left.
“Was that because I killed a basilisk?” Harry asked once the door was closed.
Master Aggnar grinned toothily at him. “That was because you just became the single most important patron the Bank has. Between Black, Potter, Gryffindor, and Slytherin, you have almost all the oldest, richest accounts we hold. There will be a great deal of profit made this day.”
“Does that make my plan to sue those arseholes that are using my name to sell foolish storybooks seem petty?” Harry asked with a frown.
“There is no petty reason to make a profit,” Master Aggnar corrected. “Every knut counts. What you don’t take from them, they will take from you.”
“Alright. So, I need a solicitor to sort out the Daily Prophet. A team to investigate Lucius Malfoy, Delores Umbridge, and Cornelius Fudge. A solicitor to sort out those foolish story books. What else?”
“What does the Potters’ Will say?” Hermione interjected.
Harry blew out a frustrated breath. “That will no doubt give us more to do.”
“And the School? As the Heir of Gryffindor, it is legally yours,” Master Aggnar told him. “The Ministry of Magic has been running it since Godric’s last granddaughter disappeared into Muggle France, but it is still part of the Gryffindor Estate.”
“And they’ve run it into the ground,” Hermione scowled. “Tuition was never supposed to be charged. And don’t get me started on the quality of the teachers. Or the curriculum.”
“The school equipment needs updating and upgrading, too.” Harry sighed. “But how can we wrestle control of it from the Ministry? Or the Board of Governors? People will throw a fit.”
“If it is legally yours, they have no right to throw a fit,” Hermione said just short of scathing.
“That won’t stop them. That has never stopped them so far as I and my property are concerned. Remember how many people expected me to let them ride my broom when I got it? Before I even got to ride it?” Harry shook his head. “They all think of me as something they own because my parents were famously murdered when I was a baby.”
Hermione didn’t know what to say to that but now that she was thinking about it, she knew he was right. Their fellow students had been even worse to him about the sanctity of his own property when Sirius had gotten him the Firebolt, even if you ignored her own fit and McGonagall taking it away there at the beginning.
She felt like shit for never thinking the way people treated Harry through and realizing why.
“There has to be a charter for the school,” Master Aggnar offered. “We can investigate all the ways the Ministry and the Board have fallen short of it and sue them for damages. Under the cover of that scandal, you can claim your rights to the school, and no one will think about it for even a moment.”
“Especially if there are any irregularities with the accounts,” Hermione scowled. “Lucius Malfoy has already been stealing from you through the Prophet, who is to say he hasn’t been doing it through the school as well?”
“The audit will say,” Master Aggnar corrected her gently. “One way or another.”
Griphook entered through the backdoor of the office and handed Master Aggnar a sealed scroll. He nodded to them and left but Hermione’s attention was on the Black Account Manager.
His face had gone stiff and fixed staring down at the scroll in something close to horror.
Silently, he passed the scroll to Harry.
Harry ran his thumb over the red sealing wax holding the scroll closed. The letters J and L curled together appeared on the wax in golden light. It pulsed once, twice, three times and went dark.
“This scroll still being sealed means something, doesn’t it?” Harry asked Master Aggnar.
“It means it has never been opened, read, or executed,” Aggnar answered bluntly.
“So, whoever placed me with my Aunt and Uncle as a baby…”
“Did so illegally,” Aggnar confirmed. “Do you know who did it?”
Harry glanced at her and she nodded. “Albus Dumbledore did it, from what I’ve been told. I don’t remember, of course.”
“Of course,” Aggnar agreed. “We will add him to the list of your enemies to be investigated.”
Harry opened his mouth, looking like he was about to protest, but then he glanced at Hermione. His eyes darkened in fury and she wondered if he was remembering the contract that killed his future self because Dumbledore hadn’t been bothered to tell them about it. Before she could figure out how to ask him, Harry nodded his acceptance of the decision instead.
“Go on, Harry,” Hermione urged. Upon reflection, she couldn’t remember the Potters’ Will ever being read the last time around either and that was an absolute shame.
Harry broke the seal. The scroll leapt out of his hands to unroll itself on the floor.
Once it was open, a life-sized image of Lily and James Potter projected out of the parchment in a way that made Hermione vaguely wonder if the very young couple were about to tell Obi-Wan Kenobi that he was their only hope.
“We are Lily and James Potter,” the projected memory of Harry’s father started. “And this is our last will and testament.”
“If you’re listening to this, then we died in Godric’s Hallow,” projection-Lily said. “And you need to know that Sirius Orion Black, Heir of the House of Black, was not our Secret Keeper. The traitor is Peter Andrew Pettigrew. We allowed the ruse of Sirius as our Secret Keeper to stand to deflect risk and attention from Peter, so you call your minions off of Sirius, Albus Dumbledore, and you put my baby where he belongs, you hear me?”
James put a calming hand on his wife’s arm. “On the matter of our son’s guardianship, our first choice is of course his godparents, Sirius Black and Alice Longbottom. Alice, Sirius, you are to share custody though we would prefer Harry’s primary home be with Sirius—it’s so Harry can keep Pads out of trouble, Alice. Yes, we are well aware of who the adult is between them and eventually you will be, too.”
Harry laughed a little sadly and Hermione patted his hand to comfort him.
“If neither of his godparents are…available to see to Harry’s care,” Lily said delicately. “We ask Amelia Bones to take him in. You’ve done an amazing job with Susan since she came to you, Bonesy, we trust you can do just as well with Harry.”
“And you’ll keep him safe,” James agreed.
“Safe and educated,” Lily corrected, “are two things we truly want for our son and that makes our fourth choice for guardianship of our son, of course, Minerva McGonagall.”
“If Professor McGonagall cannot take custody of Harry for any reason our last choice of guardian for Harry is Andromeda and Ted Tonks. Andy, we know you were thinking about a younger brother for young Nymphadora. Well, here he is.” James tried to smile and joke, but a tear ran from his eye that betrayed the gravity of the decision he was rendering.
Hermione slipped her hand inside Harry’s the same moment Lily took James’s in front of them.
“Under no circumstances is our son, Harry James Potter, to be place in the care of any of my muggle relatives,” Lily said firmly. “Especially not my sister Petunia and her vile, hateful husband Vernon Dursley.”
“We would consider it an act of war and Sirius has already sworn to declare a blood feud with whomsoever manages to do it,” James agreed dryly. “Yes, Albus, that includes you.”
“Looks like they had his number,” Hermione whispered to Harry.
“Is that why he killed them?” Harry asked in a dead tone of voice and Hermione was taken aback. What had made Harry say that?
“All possible guardians of our son must be certified Dark Mark and Imperius free by Gringotts before they take custody of our son,” Lily continued. “Only after that is accomplished will the guardianship stipend and Harry’s trust fund be made available to his legal guardians. All the details are on the parchment this projection is embedded upon.”
“In less dire matters, should he prove to be Dark Mark and Imperius free, we leave Remus John Lupin a million galleons and the country house in Scotland.” James grinned teasingly. “Write your books, Rem, and be sure to tell my son only the Marauder stories that make me look brilliant.
“And, Pads, teach my son to sit a broom, for Merlin’s sake!”
“Not too young!” Lily countered. “His age better be two digits before you put him on a flying stick, Sirius Black, I mean it. And if he plays quidditch—!”
James darted a hand over his wife’s mouth. “We’ll be so bloody proud of him! Go, Lio— Ow! You bit me!”
Lily pushed James’s hand away with an impish grin. “You earned it.
“Don’t make him into anything he’s not, Sirius, but let him grow and learn. You have great childcare instincts, trust them. We do.”
“And Harry,” James hunkered down, presumably to get on Harry’s eye level. Lily squatted with him. “We love you more than life itself. Things are scary right now. And loud and messy, too. But it will get better. Someday, this will all seem to be a half-forgotten nightmare, but we will never stop loving you.
“Until the very end.”
“Your father is right, baby. We love you. We want nothing more than for you to grow up strong and healthy and happy. We would love to be there—when you bring home your first report card from primary, when you board the train for the first time, when you bring that perfect boy or girl home. We want to give you siblings and your first owl and your first wand. But if we can’t, we’ll be watching and loving you as you accomplish it all and more.”
“And you better believe we’ll cheer every single quidditch game. Ouch,” James added, earning his ribs a poke from his wife. “We love you, son. Good luck!”
Harry wasn’t quite catatonic when the scroll rolled itself up and leapt back onto the desk, but he wasn’t far off it. Between Hermione and Master Aggnar, they got him moved to the squashy couch hidden behind a privacy screen to one side of the office and bundled up in fire-warmed blankets. Hot cocoa laced with calming potion completed the cure.
“You have enough to keep you busy?” she asked Master Aggnar as she crawled in behind Harry and pulled his head down on her shoulder.
“I do,” he confirmed. “Gathering the full documentations for his various accounts will take some time. I’ll need to organize and expand my staff to deal with all of the audits.”
“Bring in goblins from outside the UK,” Hermione decided, and he raised an eyebrow at her. “Not physically, we want to keep the audit as free from…Ministry meddling as we can. Having it conducted by goblins outside of the country that the Ministry can neither find nor locate would be most effective. Wouldn’t it?”
“It would be prudent,” Master Aggnar agreed. “Though it will slow things down…but not as much as…Ministry interference would.”
His tone made it clear to her that by ‘Ministry’ he meant ‘Dumbledore’ just like she did.
“And the family rings?” he pressed.
“They would be a good way to prevent more Ministry interference,” she allowed. She glanced down at Harry, but he was still not there so she took the decision as hers.
As much as she hated the idea of taking a play from the Weasley book, ensuring the loyalty of the House of Black to its leadership would probably prove essential to their plans going forward. “There are traditional oaths made when a family member takes up a House Ring, aren’t there?”
“There are,” Master Aggnar agreed.
“Can I get a book of some to reference?” she asked. “So, we can pick our own or use one of the traditional oaths?
“I’ll bring it to you personally,” Master Aggnar swore.
“While I figure out the oath, if you could find us our first solicitor?” Hermione requested. “We’ll probably need more than one, but we need one we can trust implicitly to be our go-between with the other staff we will eventually have to hire until we are secure enough to do these things for ourselves.
“As Harry said before, we don’t care about their personal statistics, but they need to be able to function locally, internationally, and within the Bank. And if you can find a right bastard with a mind like a dragon guarded vault to defend us, I would be eternally pleased.”
“I believe I know just the person, Ms. Granger.” Master Aggnar assured her. “Now, rest. If you get agitated, it will be bad for young Harry in his current state.”
Hermione took a deep breath and closed her eyes, resting her face on Harry’s hair. “I still want my book,” she called softly.
The goblin chuckled faintly as he moved away.
It was easy to forget, when you weren’t leading the charge, how long a proper investigation took.
Granted, they went quicker with magic than they did in the muggle world but waiting for someone else to do something you were perfectly capable of doing faster and more thoroughly was terrible.
“You’re just not used to having adults you can rely on,” was Harry’s opinion.
That was probably more true than she wanted to think about. “I’m used to being the adult I can rely on.” Harry raised an eyebrow at her and she added a reluctant, “sort of.”
Harry snorted and focused back on his book. It was one she had recommended, a beginner’s guide to meditation that would sometime in the future become the standard starting text on the road to various disciplines such as Occlumency, Legilimency, and Animagus Transformation worldwide.
“You know the same adults I do,” she told him, a little grumpily. “How can you be so comfortable with our current situation?”
“Because Goblins aren’t like any of the adults we’ve relied upon before,” Harry said simply. “Where their culture interacts with ours is all about profit, that’s true, but they’ve never pretended otherwise. And honest profit, as they will get with us, can be held on to longer term than illegal profit which is all our enemies offer them.”
“I would give Gryffindor five points for your uncommonly practical good sense, Mr. Potter,” a familiar voice said. “Unfortunately, school is not in session.”
“I’ll be sure to remind you on the second, professor,” Harry said, smiling.
Hermione turned around to see Professor McGonagall standing behind her on the street outside of the ice cream shop’s sitting area. For the most part, she looked like her normal stern self, but Hermione now had the emotional and historical context to see the older woman’s fond pride shining in her face.
“Can we help you, professor?” Hermione asked politely.
“Yes.” McGonagall opened the little gate and joined them at their table. “I have received your updated elective preferences and of course I have accepted them. However, Headmaster Dumbledore is insisting that you—specifically you, Mr. Potter—add Divination to your schedule. I am here because this would necessitate you dropping one of your other electives and I felt a direct conversation would be more effective than taxing Hedwig with trips back and forth.”
“Did the Headmaster say why?” Harry asked with a frown.
“He did not, and I did ask.”
“Can he change my schedule without my agreement?”
“Not without going to the Board and proving why a certain class would be harmful to you but, should they accept that a course could be harmful to even a single student, the entire class would have to be put under review for an entire year.”
Hermione vaguely wondered if the course review or explaining himself was what put Dumbledore off such a straightforward solution to what he had arbitrarily decided was an issue.
“What does Divination give me that Arithmancy doesn’t?” Harry asked. “They are both about telling the future, aren’t they?”
“One is considered more scientific and the other more magical,” McGonagall offered. “And theoretically, Arithmancy can be adapted for other types of magical model making. But, essentially, yes.”
“Does he take interest in every student’s elective choices?”
“Not that I’ve ever seen, no.”
“I am quite tired of being the target of old men that can’t mind their own business,” Harry said baldly and Hermione had to choke back a laugh. “I am quite pleased with my schedule the way it is, but I thank you for taking the time to discuss it with me, Professor.”
“Of course,” the Head of Gryffindor nodded. Then she paused. “What are you both doing here?”
“This patio gets the most constant light to read by,” Hermione told her, which was the truth just not all of it.
“No, I mean what are you both doing on Diagon Alley?” McGonagall corrected. “Especially with a mass murderer on the lose?”
“I assume it’s so the aurors watching us can follow us around without violating British stalker laws?” Harry shrugged.
Hermione blinked. She hadn’t realized Harry had spotted their tails. Though, honestly, in that other life Harry had had the most unexpected aptitude for knowing when someone was using an Invisibility Cloak around him. Perhaps he had developed the talent long before he had ever mentioned it.
“But why post aurors on you at all?” McGonagall pressed. “Why not simply place you somewhere secure enough that they are not needed, like Hogwarts? I and several other staff members are available, we could take turns chaperoning you for the rest of the summer.”
That brought Harry up short and he looked to her.
Remembering McGonagall’s opinion of Harry being forced to participate in the Triwizard Tournament the last time around, Hermione asked, “You don’t think they’re using him as bait to draw out Sirius Black…do you?”
“He’s a boy!” McGonagall jumped to her feet in fury. “Not a piece of meat!” And she apparated out of the Alley with a bang.
“Someone is going to regret that,” Harry observed idly.
“And it won’t be me,” Hermione declared.
Harry checked the watch he had returned from the Bank with the previous day and stood. “It’s time for my appointment with Master Aggnar.”
Hermione crushed the disappointment that she was clearly not wanted at the meeting.
“Of course,” she agreed and stood herself. “I’ll check Flourish and Blotts. Our books for the new school year should be in soon and I would prefer to get them sooner rather than later.”
“I’ll walk with you,” Harry agreed. He took her hand as they walked, and she gave him a smile.
She also made a list of all the things she needed to do.
She needed to finish her containment vessel for Wormtail. Taking him from Ron would be a toddle with all the running and hiding he had done this summer the last time around. She was confident that they would need him at some point in the future.
They would need Wormtail to get Sirius exonerated, to be sure.
She needed to put up Weasley Alerts so they would know for sure when the Weasley’s had arrived. Their plot to restore Harry’s memories depended on them seeing the Weasley’s before the Weasley’s saw them. She thought they had returned to England on the twenty-fourth last time, but she couldn’t be entirely sure.
And if what they had done got revealed before they were entirely prepared, Dumbledore would be sure to call the Weasleys home to manage them.
Either way, to be sure of the exact moment the Weasleys returned, she would put alerts up at…Portkey Park even though it wasn’t the usual landing spot for either international portkeys or purebloods. The usual place would be the Portkey Office in the Ministry, but she didn’t think she could get away with casting the charm in the actual Ministry building. The Ministry Portkey Office had a satellite site on the Alley, though, that she should be able to get away with.
There were also several apparition alcoves around the Alley she could charm in the event that they apparated to the Alley after they portkeyed to the Ministry.
The Weasley’s could portkey to the Bank. And they might, seeing as Bill was an employee and they were visiting him in Egypt, but charming the Bank would never happen and if she tried, she could damage Harry’s relationship with the Goblin Horde which was to be avoided at all costs.
“Here we are.” Harry held the door for her, and they entered Flourish and Blotts together.
A haggard looking assistant was wheeling out the cage of Care books, careful to keep his fingers on the outside of the bars. The books were in a violent frenzy, they did not like being on display.
Or in a cage.
Hermione studied the cage for several moments, amused and horrified that Hagrid had gotten his teaching position again. Hopefully, he wouldn’t venture into experimental animal husbandry this time—if they could keep the Hippogriff lesson from going off the rails.
She turned to the assistant. “Do you know the Freezing Charm?”
The assistant looked from her to the cage and back. “No, I don’t,” he sighed.
“I do,” a woman said as she stopped beside them. She was an older but lovely, a very classic English lady even with her square, stubborn chin and monocle. “Cast it at the cage?”
“Please,” Hermione agreed, nodding to Susan Bones and Hannah Abbot who were both standing on the woman’s shadow, staring at the cage in horror.
“Imobulus!” The woman cast the spell with a little poke toward the cage.
The books all went still, just like the pixies had in Lockhart’s first Lesson Gone Wrong™. Hermione opened the little door on the front of the cage and pulled out some books. She handed frozen books to Harry, Susan, and Hannah, and took one for herself.
“Treat it like the scared animal it has been enchanted to be,” she told them as she stroked the spine of the book. The book went from a furious, shivering mess to a happily rumbling—readable—book with just two strokes of her hand along its spine. “Pet it. Feed it. Calm it. Name it.”
“You’re a good girl, aren’t you?” she asked the book, still petting. “Yes, you are. I know you are. You just didn’t like that ugly old cage, did you?”
“Name it?” Hannah asked faintly.
“Mine is named Diana,” Hermione declared by way of answer. “She’s my favorite muggle goddess,” she told the book. “And just wait until I tell you about Dianna Prince. She’s amazing. A real hero.”
“Mine is named Polaris,” Harry decided. “A gender-neutral name, until they show me their gender. We can change it then, if they want.”
“It’s a book,” Susan Bones protested. “Books don’t have a gender.” Then she squeaked as the book in her arms growled and strained to bite the girl in their fury despite the charm still physically at work.
“The books are magic,” Harry told her gently. “Magic is sentient, and magic certainly has genders. Otherwise, we would attend a school of magic, not witchcraft and wizardry.”
“Quite right,” Madam Bones agreed. “How are you children faring this holiday? I understand you’re both staying on the alley.”
“We’re studying whatever we want, eating all the ice cream we want, and sleeping in,” Harry grinned. “We’re living the good life, honestly.”
Hermione and Madam Bones both laughed at his cheek.
“It can’t get much better,” Hermione agreed.
Harry checked his watch again. “I really must go. Can you finish getting our schoolbooks?” He tucked Polaris under his arm, clearly planning to keep the book with him.
“Of course, Harry,” she agreed.
Harry dropped a gentle kiss on her cheek and nodded to their companions.
The Care book was the last one the Bones party needed so they paid and left after a few more pleasantries. When Hermione was finally alone again, she gathered the rest of the books she and Harry would need for the year and carried them to the front.
“Anything new, Mr. Blotts?” she asked the man behind the counter.
“Not this week, Ms. Granger,” he laughed. “Will this be all for you?”
“This and a second Monster Book of Monsters,” she said. “Harry left with his copy.”
“I probably owe you at least one for showing us how to manage them,” he allowed. “Have you been to the used bookstore? They have a unique collection and you never know what exactly you will find there. People sell them things all the time that they don’t understand.”
“That the sellers don’t understand, or that the proprietors don’t understand?” she asked archly.
Mr. Blotts smiled. “Both. It was established by a woman that loved books as much as you or I, but it has fallen to her granddaughter who doesn’t really know what to do with it. Its kitty-corner to the entrance to Knockturn Alley, on the other side of the entrance from here.
“Normally, I would never suggest a girl your age wander that close to Knockturn Alley, but your auror escort should keep you safe.”
“To earn your tax money, if nothing else,” she agreed with a smile. She wasn’t worried about her own safety. She could defend herself and at her age no one would ever see her coming. “I wonder if they have books about parseltongue there?”
“If anywhere on the Alley does, it’ll be there,” Mr. Blotts agreed. “But if you can get me a title, I can try and order one, if you like.”
“I don’t even know where I wound find those titles,” she admitted. Her future self hadn’t researched the magic of snakes at all and that was short sighted. Things were changing and could possibly change enough that the path to Voldemort’s defeat would change as well.
Harry needed every tool available to him to win the day when it finally came.
“Perhaps the Bank could tell me?”
“That’s a good bet, Ms. Granger.”
“Hermione?” Harry started and then hesitated.
She looked up from her porridge to focus on him. “Yes, Harry?”
He cleared his throat. “Would you be willing to come to the Bank with me today?”
“Yes, of course.” Hermione smiled. “I’ve been hoping you would ask.”
Harry stared at her for a moment and then huffed. “I’ve been hinting that I wanted you to come every day.”
Hermione thought about that and then laughed. “We’re ridiculous.
“Harry, in the future, I ask that you be blunt about what you want from me. Please.”
“Only if you promise the same,” he countered.
“Deal.” They shook on it and it gave her the confidence to ask what she really wanted to know. “What have you been doing up at the Bank?”
Harry looked around furtively, so she reached out an activated the privacy rune in the middle of the table. Harry relaxed and smiled. “We’ve researched and verified my claims to the noble House of Gryffindor and the noble House of Slytherin. Because neither bloodline has had active households in several hundred years, I completed the rituals to claim both family lines and magics.”
“I would have liked to have seen that,” she admitted with a frown.
“I can show you the memory in a few years,” he offered. “But because the claiming was private, I couldn’t have witnesses other than my Account Manager who was only allowed to watch to verify the proper completion per Bank protocols.
“The privacy clauses expire on my sixteenth birthday, however, so you can watch it then…But we’ll also have to announce that all three Houses are mine at that time.”
“We’ll probably have to tell your Wizengamot allies that as well,” Hermione guessed.
“It’s up to me, really,” Harry told her. “They don’t have grounds to take offence to me not telling them because of the protection my age gives me, but House of Longbottom is allied with House of Slytherin—they have several joint business ventures as well. Even though most of them have been left entirely in Longbottom hands, they’ve never stinted on keeping their end of the deals, which I think speaks to their trustworthiness.
“They are distantly related to noble House of Hufflepuff which bred into noble House of Slytherin before they officially died out, so they’re family,” Hermione explained. “Neville is also your godbrother. His mum was your godmother, and your parents were his godparents.”
Harry’s eyes darkened with what she knew to be temper. “I wonder what Dumbledore had to do with them getting attacked as they did. It’s not like he couldn’t send everyone to Azkaban.”
“Have you confirmed that he had anything to do with Sirius going to jail?” Hermione asked. She didn’t doubt Harry’s magical instincts but none of her other self’s memories had suspected Dumbledore of anything to do with the Longbottoms.
Of course, they had each already acquired a good chunk of knowledge their other selves had never been exposed to.
“No proof, no,” Harry sighed and leaned back in his chair. “There is a pattern though, of his involvement in the Death Eater trials after the War. The records Director Crouch kept were thorough. Or, Crouch’s assistant’s records were, anyway. Dumbledore regularly demanded information about trial dates and evidence and even gave opinions on sentencing. He even argued that Bellatrix Lestrange should be in a mental ward, rather than Azkaban! But the records show none of that for Sirius.
“Dumbledore didn’t ask about trial dates or evidence or sentencing. None of it. Nothing. It was like Sirius Black died as far as he was concerned.”
“That…doesn’t match up with a man that got Severus Snape off completely,” she frowned. “Or, you’re right, a man that argued for human treatment of a violently insane woman. I remember her reading a history book that called him Albus ‘Second Chances’ Dumbledore.”
“And Sirius got none of that consideration,” Harry glared at the table. “Why? What was different with him?”
“You,” Hermione said even though she hated it.
“Me,” Harry agreed. “And he had me in common with the Longbottoms, too.”
“That’s not proof, though,” she reminded him.
“Short of him confessing, I can’t see what evidence we can get,” Harry admitted. “But my parents already declared Albus Dumbledore the enemy of the Potter Family, which magically makes him the enemy of the noble Houses of Black, Gryffindor, and Slytherin.”
“Because you’re the last Potter and the lord of all three houses,” she agreed and then thought about it.
…It wasn’t a bad thing, she decided. Her future self had intended on retiring Dumbledore because she had seen him as senile and ineffective. Many of his choices had not been thought through properly and the ramifications had been horrible. They had led to Harry’s death—at least twice.
Making him the Enemy of such powerful noble houses would not only force him to retire but it would deprive him of allies. He wouldn’t be able to be the High Warlock of the Wizengamot with three powerful Houses and all of their allies declaring against him. He couldn’t be Britain’s representative to the ICW if he had no position in the Ministry and that would remove him as Supreme Mugwump. And, of course, he couldn’t run Harry’s school or influence Harry’s hospital or newspaper if he was Harry’s enemy.
“Your parents declared Albus Dumbledore the Enemy of the Potter Family?” she asked. “Specifically?”
“They left me a journal full of letters,” he told her. “I found it in the vault their personal effects were stored in by the Bank. In the book, they joked that anyone that put me with Aunt Petunia would be the Enemy of our Family. But then they decided that was a good idea, actually, and made it a fact.
“The Bank has been quietly investigating the matter over the last week and a half. Dumbledore has been—illegally—acting as my magical guardian. He sent Potter money to Aunt Petunia to pay for my upkeep,” which she knew the Dursley’s never spent on Harry. “Dumbledore arranged to pay my tuition to Hogwarts, he arranged Hagrid to take me my letter and book shopping before First Year. And he placed me with Aunt Petunia.” Harry sighed. “Professor McGonagall and Hagrid were involved in placing me too, but McGonagall objected to it and has been periodically objecting to it since. Hagrid had no say in the matter but he’s…”
“Not the kind to question Dumbledore,” Hermione said. She was fairly certain that Hagrid was some variety of autistic. He had intensely specialized interests that he was utterly brilliant in, but his social and emotional intelligence was…she wasn’t sure. He thought Dumbledore was good, therefore everything Dumbledore did had to be good.
Unfortunately, Dumbledore placing Harry with the Dursley’s was not good.
“Madam Pomphrey treated me after Hagrid took me from Sirius Black but before he took me to the Dursley’s. She knew he was going to place me there and…well, then the Bank questioned her she told them to mind their own business.”
“So, she has to stay on the enemies list.”
Harry nodded. “Arabella Figg monitored me in the neighborhood for Dumbledore.”
“Meaning she knew exactly how you were treated and did nothing.” Hermione pinched her nose in frustration. They hadn’t talked about it yet—they would—but she was well aware of the nightmare living with the Dursley’s had been for Harry.
And she was well aware of how close that treatment had come to killing him at the end of Voldemort’s Second War.
They needed to talk about it and get him started on treatment soon.
“Mundungus Fletcher, Elphias Doge, Aberforth Dumbledore, and Dedalus Diggle were all confirmed to have shadowed me while I was living with Aunt Petunia.”
“And they did nothing to help you.”
“Never,” Harry confirmed. “Having seen their pictures, I know Doge and Diggle went out of their way to see me and shake my hand several times—normally in October—but they never said anything other than what an honor it was and then disappeared.”
“October,” she said in disbelief. “When your parents died?”
“Yup,” Harry drawled.
“Wow.” She didn’t know what else to say other than wow. It was heinous. To be so grateful to interact with a boy because he had lived when all others had died—when his parents had died—but do nothing to improve his living conditions which they had to be fully aware were not ideal. It blew her mind.
“Worse?” he asked. “Diggle authored the first book about my fictional adventures. He was watching me, knowing I was being starved and… And he started the fad of writing fanfiction about my life.”
“He made money off of his…fantasies? About your life, while he damn well knew you were living a life nowhere and nothing like his foolish books?” Hermione demanded.
Harry just nodded.
“I’m going to burn his house down,” she decided. “I’m going to challenge him to a duel and rip him limb from limb. I’m going to feed him still screaming to a dragon. I—”
Harry laughed. It sounded like it hurt. “I’m going to sue him. Because he is responsible for me being kept on Privet Drive and that makes him my enemy. He’s going to have nothing left. After that, you can embarrass him. We can make sure as he goes down in history as the adult that lost a duel to a Third Year.”
“I accept your terms,” she said with as much dignity as she could muster. Then they laughed—for real, laughed—together and she relaxed inside. “Plans for the day?”
“Master Aggnar has found three solicitors he likes. We need to interview them, decide if we like them, and assign them each a House to represent. There’s going to be oaths and House rings involved and then we have to assign them work.”
“Have you figured out where they are going to work?” she asked. Because they would need public offices to meet people and do work in.
“Family Potter owns several properties in Diagon Alley under a shell company,” Harry told her. “Several of the higher end buildings are empty because of the condition of the Estate. We’ll take one and then allow whoever represents the House of Black to hire a property manager to manage the rest. The origin of the shell company is sealed so no one will associate the Potters with House of Black through them. Not officially, at least.”
“Not yet,” she agreed, and he nodded. “Once we have a solicitor for the House of Black, we’ll need to sort through the family and officially disown or claim everyone. We need our boundaries to be clearly drawn before we open the door for any conflict, which you have to realize declaring Dumbledore as our Enemy could do.”
“I know,” he agreed. “The Goblins are already making armor for us both.”
“Good. We’re going to need it.”
They took a portkey to the Bank.
She hadn’t expected it. She knew Harry had been taking hidden entrances so that no one would suspect how much time he was spending there but taking a portkey was another level.
Unless their auror escorts were paying quite close attention, they would assume the two of them were spending the day in the Cauldron. She would have to make sure they left the same way they came since clearly Harry’s privacy meant a lot to him.
None of her future memories had prepared her for the passion with which he defended his privacy. It was exciting to know her knowledge of their alternatives’ future relationship hadn’t taken all of the learning and growing out of their current relationship. She was quite thrilled with it.
The room they landed in was gorgeous. If she had to guess, the central focus of the room was the couch not far from the landing point. It was made of glossy ebony wood and upholstered in a beautiful peacock blue leather with burnished copper fittings. All the colors in the room were either found on the couch or complimented it—from the hand-woven rugs to the lush fabrics lining the walls.
“You like it?” Harry asked.
That was when she realized she had been staring. “It’s lovely,” she admitted, “I want to steal this couch!”
“It’s ours,” he told her. “Because of…”
Mentally she supplied who we are or perhaps my accounts and nodded.
“Yeah, it’s ours,” he smiled shyly. “Only us and authorized members of our Houses can use it.”
“It’s fantastic,” she swore as Master Aggnar appeared in the doorway on the far side of the room. “I wish we had time to explore it.”
“Later,” Harry promised as he offered her his arm.
She took it and let him lead her forward without a care. She glanced around and noticed a curious cabinet full of potions. She was able to identify Felix Felicis, Pepper Up, a few other restoratives, and even Sleekeazy in the quick glance she was allowed and the cabinet itself looked like a buffet cabinet and a china hutch had a child going through a Steampunk phase.
“I see you have finally lured her into the Bank,” Master Aggnar teased as they walked through the halls.
Hermione and Harry both blushed. “Turns out we were having a bit of a communication failure,” Harry admitted. “We had a rather blunt discussion about it today and sorted it all out.”
The goblin grinned at him knowingly. “I believe I will mark this down as a win for the Goblin way of doing things.”
“Goblins are known for being blunt,” she agreed.
“I meant our whole raising children with our blood relatives, not romantic partners,” the Account Manager admitted.
“I have been reading the book the Bank slipped into my collection about Goblin culture,” Hermione said. “Have you heard of the Mosuo? They are a human culture group in China. I don’t know too much about them but on the surface your cultural arrangements sound similar.”
“There are some similarities,” Master Aggnar agreed. “But Goblins as a whole are not as…sentimental as the walking marriages of the Mosuo. Our reproductive arrangements are managed by the Councils of Elders for the various clans and sealed with contracts negotiated between the two concerned parties but approved by the relevant Councils.”
“Your leadership isn’t strictly matriarchal, correct?”
“It is not,” Master Aggnar agreed. “We practice absolute primogeniture, though every one of us has a say in who our heir is. Where reproductive issues are concerned though, females both initiate and finalize arrangements.”
“They are doing most of the work,” Harry agreed, and the goblin grinned at him.
“It sounds…logical,” she decided. “But also magical in its own way. It’s amazing to see how different we can be in some ways but still all be the same in others.”
“Agreed,” Master Aggnar said as he settled behind his desk. “The three solicitors I have for you are Javier Mondragon of Venezuela, Xiao Kai of China, and Ildiko Arany of Hungary.”
“Do you have profiles on them?” Hermione asked and Master Aggnar passed her a black leather folder embossed with Gringotts logo.
She was aware of all three names, actually. Javier Mondragon had led South American magical culture into forming a single state that was leading the way on blood-status equality in the world when her other self had died. Xiao Kai had been leading a very effective rebellion in Hong Kong against their world’s latest dark lord at that time as well. And Ildiko Arany was the youngest ever Lead Prosecutor for the World Court—her reputation was said to have caused many a criminal to beg for plea bargains and even accept time in Azkaban to avoid her.
All together they were fantastic finds because while they might not yet be who they were or could become, they had that potential, and Hermione thought it would be amazing to help them establish themselves on their future paths.
“Javier Mondragon is a pureblood,” she told Harry. “And a werewolf.” She hadn’t known that.
“Master Xiao is a half-blood,” Harry told her while he reviewed the page he had taken.
“And Mistress Arany is a muggle-born,” Master Aggnar finished.
“Considering the reputations we are trying to correct for the different Houses,” Harry started slowly, like he was feeling his way toward his conclusion, “I feel Mistress Arany would be the best choice for the House of Black.”
Hemione couldn’t argue with that one. “If we are going based on blood status, then Master Xiao should represent House of Slytherin.” With any luck, he already had his future tactical brilliance and could put it to good use in their service.
If not, they could always hire a public relations manager for their Houses. Or they could just hire him a public relations minion in the first place, he was going to have quite a bit to do.
“Which leaves Master Mondragon for House of Gryffindor.”
Hermione nodded. Javier Mondragon had been known for his very strong feelings on education and its role in reducing prejudice and violence within the human population. It had been part of his political platform that had gotten him elected the first Minister of Magic for his entire continent. She couldn’t think of a better fit to straighten out Hogwarts into an actual educational facility rather than a government sanctioned indoctrination site.
“You’ll want to meet them before you finalize your decisions,” Master Aggnar cautioned. “Your Family Magic will let you know if they are a good fit.”
“A handshake is all I need, right?”
Master Aggnar inclined his head. “Yes, Lord Potter.”
Harry made a face. “When will they be here?”
“I was notified of Master Xiao’s arrival just before I was notified of yours—his was the latest scheduled portkey. Griphook is handling the confidentiality contracts. As we discussed, this meeting will be magically sealed so they cannot speak of it should they not wish to enter your service.”
“And if they enter his service, they will be bound to keep our secrets by Family Magic and their employment contracts.” Hermione smiled.
“Quite,” Master Aggnar agreed. “Is there anything else we need to discuss before Griphook comes to retrieve us?”
“I would like to meet Neville and his grandmother,” Harry said. “As political allies. I would like to have a…peer in the know other than Hermione.”
“And you would prefer Mr. Longbottom to Mr. Weasley?” Master Aggnar asked.
He shot her a look and she shrugged. “Ron…was difficult this year when it was revealed that I am a parselmouth,” Harry admitted. “He also berated Hermione several times for supporting me despite my gifts when he thought I couldn’t hear him. It has made me…re-evaluate how much I can trust him as a friend and…” Harry winced.
“And you realized you can’t,” Master Aggnar finished. “Very well.” The Goblin made a note on the parchment in front of him and she wondered what it was for, but she couldn’t read it. She wasn’t sure if it was the language or if the paper was under some sort of privacy charm, but she decided to respect the boundary and didn’t ask.
A rune lit up on the Account Manager’s desk and he pressed it. The door opened in front of them and Griphook walked in holding three scrolls.
“Results?” Master Aggnar asked.
“All three solicitors signed and accepted the agreements as written,” Griphook reported. Hermione couldn’t say she was surprised. Master Aggnar seemed entirely competent in his Human Management and she knew the Bank had several standard confidentiality contracts that any solicitor worth their salt would be familiar with. “They are waiting in the secure conference room as requested.”
“Very good.” Master Aggnar stood. She and Harry stood with him.
“Your assistance is appreciated, Griphook,” she said. The young goblin nodded and left.
“You’re spoiling him,” Master Aggnar chided, and she laughed.
Harry again offered her his arm and led her from the room. It made her wonder if Master Aggnar had given Harry lessons in etiquette or something of the sort. In the future, Harry had always been considerate but never so…she didn’t have the word for it. Attentive? As he was currently being. Attentive might be the word she was looking for. She let the curiosity go regardless.
Master Aggnar led them deeper into the Bank and into a room holding three of the most foolishly attractive people she had seen in her life. The occupants all stood when the entered the room.
“If you would join us at the table?” Harry asked. He helped her get seated and the focused on the adults standing across from them. “My name is Harry Potter, and you are?”
“Ildiko Arany, Mr. Potter,” the female solicitor offered her hand.
Harry shook it and gestured to a seat. “If you would be seated.”
She smiled as sat down.
Harry offered his hand to the first man.
“Xiao Kai, Mr. Potter,” the man said. His accent was pure Chinese and Hermione found it comforting. Her parent’s business partners were a pair that had immigrated to the UK in their teens. They had been her honorary uncles for as long as she could remember. She had to remind herself sharply that this man was not family…yet.
Harry gestured for him to sit as well and offered his hand to the last man.
“A pleasure,” Harry said and gestured for him to sit. “I understand all three of you have Masteries in International Magical Law.”
“I do,” all three answered together.
“And Muggle degrees in International Law,” Harry continued.
This time the three all looked at each other. The men nodded to Mistress Arany and she answered. “We do.”
“And none of you are allied with Albus Dumbledore.”
“The current Supreme Mugwump?” Mistress Arany asked.
“The very same,” Master Aggnar agreed, setting three very different ring boxes in a stack near Harry’s right elbow.
The three solicitors silently conferred again and again the female among them answered. “We are not.”
“My maternal grandfather is the Chinese representative to the ICW,” Master Xiao said slowly. “From what I know of him, and what I know of my colleagues, I would offer that we are—most likely—undeclared enemies of Albus Dumbledore. Despite the stances he publicly claims, Albus Dumbledore has not used any of his power to…reduce blood-status tensions or prejudices. Here or abroad.”
“It is the same with creature rights,” Master Mondragon agreed.
“Good,” Harry said with an almost sadistic kind of cheer. “Because we’re going to ruin him.”
Mondragon and Arany gave Harry a pair of rather blood thirsty grins. Xiao was too dignified for such, proving—to Hermione’s mind at least—that he really was the best for House of Slytherin.
Harry picked up the three ring boxes. “Recently, I have claimed leadership of all three noble houses I have rights to,” Harry explained. “They are House of Slytherin,” he placed the green leather box in front of Master Xiao. “House of Gryffindor,” he placed the red leather box in front of Master Mondragon. “And, my great-grandfather’s house, House of Black,” he placed the black felt box in front of Mistress Arany.
“As leaders of my different Houses’ exclusive staff, you are each eligible to wear House membership rings and the protections found within the rings and that local and international law provide to the noble class.
“You’ll be the public faces of my Houses to protect my privacy and peace of mind. You’ll also be sitting on the Wizengamot as my proxies until I am old enough that I have to take up the duties myself.
“We will have to take service oaths? To wear these rings?” Mondragon asked as he picked up the ring box in front of him.
“You will,” Harry confirmed. “I’m sure you will find the salary and benefits packages you will receive upon making your oaths satisfactory.”
“Is there room for negotiation?” Master Xiao asked.
“In the oaths and payment packages, yes,” Harry told them. “On Dumbledore’s ruination, no. Though I am open to advice on how to handle our campaign going forward.”
Mistress Arany picked up the Black ring box and opened it. “You’re going to place a woman in the Wizengamot as your inarguable proxy?” She smiled. “I wonder how many of those old fools will have a heart attack at the news?”
“Not nearly enough,” Hermione muttered.
They all laughed.
“Now that that’s done,” Harry said once the oaths between him and his three solicitors were sealed, and the appropriate house rings donned. He was trying for brisk, but Hermione could tell it was a struggle. He cleared his throat. “Let’s go over the agendas I have set for each House.”
“Of course, my lord,” all three solicitors agreed.
“You can cooperate publicly as allies, as I have completed the paperwork to formally ally all three of my Houses. I prefer no one know that I am the lord of all three Houses before I absolutely have to tell them. Due to my age and my celebrity, many seem to feel they have the right to make decisions for me that I have to adhere to. I don’t want to open that can of worms—ever, if I can manage it.”
“Very good, my lord,” Master Mondragon agreed and the other two nodded.
“Over the course of completing the agendas we can establish our lord as being someone not to be trifled with,” Hermione added. “That should cut down on those issues later.”
“It is a hope.” Harry accepted three color coded leather folders from Master Aggnar and passed them to the appropriate solicitor. “I believe we should start with House of Black.”
Mistress Arany nodded and opened her folder. The two men leaned inward to look.
“You represent the lowest ranking of my Houses, but you are the most locally familiar and have the most pressing issues.”
“And those are?” Arany asked as she flipped through some pages.
“Sirius Black is innocent.”
“What?” all three solicitors demanded.
“Sirius Black—my godfather through oath and blood magic—never received a trial. He was neither a Death Eater nor was he my parents’ Secret Keeper.” Harry paused. “He also did not kill Peter Pettigrew—who was a Death Eater and my parents’ Secret Keeper.
“Is, I should say,” Harry said after a pause. “The Bank scried for him at my request. Peter Pettigrew is alive, if not currently in England.”
“Is this related to Albus Dumbledore becoming the Enemy of your Houses?” Master Xiao asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Yes,” Harry agreed immediately. “I cannot prove all of my suspicions, but I can tell you that I finally executed my parents’ Will only a week ago—the official reading will be this Yule. Sirius Black was the chosen Executor. Clearly, he was unable to fulfill this duty from within Azkaban, but Albus Dumbledore as Chief Warlock had the power to see the Will executed in Black’s stead. Yet, he never did. What he did do, however, was steal nearly a quarter of a million galleons, twenty-eight of my family’s private magical artifacts, and 342 books out of the Potter Vaults in the time my parents’ Will went unexecuted.
“Only one of these items was returned to me and it was sent as an anonymous gift.”
Hermione rolled her eyes with Harry. Neither of them believed Dumbledore would willingly give up the Cloak of Invisibility but it could not be denied that the cloak had been returned to the Family Potter.
“So, you can’t be certain if he returned it or if someone else did it for him,” Arany guessed.
“Before we handle the threat that is Albus Dumbledore, the House of Black needs to return to itself. There are several family members that have been invited to the Bank for meetings over the next several days. I’ll need you, acting as my proxy, to make it clear to them that they will either vow their loyalty to the House of Black and wear their House Rings or they will be excised from the family magic completely.”
“I cannot see how anyone in their right mind would say no to this ring,” Mistress Arany said, flicking a look to the ring on her finger. “This is more magical safety than I’ve ever heard of much less personally felt.”
“And losing their connection to the Family Magic would cut their personal magic reserve by a great deal,” Hermione added. She wasn’t even a full member of the House yet and wearing the promise ring Harry has given her had boosted her power levels closer to what her other self had been accustomed to as an adult. “They could lose access to ancestral bloodline gifts completely.”
“People make foolish choices and they have the right to them,” Harry told them all. “But that doesn’t make them immune to the consequences.
“Be aware and sure to advise them that should they decide to leave the family, they will never be welcome to return,” Harry said sternly.
“Of course, my lord,” all three solicitors and Hermione agreed together.
She wasn’t quite sure why she spoke other than the fact that…Harry was her lord. Between the ring and the promises they had made each other, his status in her life was entirely, magically true.
“Narcissa and Draco Malfoy have their appointment tomorrow. I went with them first because I am concerned that Narcissa may be in active danger from her husband. Lucius Malfoy’s crimes against the House of Black and me personally are many.
“While I wouldn’t say it would be impossible for him to earn a place at my table, it would probably take a miracle.”
“He is a Marked Death Eater,” Hermione agreed.
“He is,” Harry inclined his head. “I would like to see if we can remove the Mark from a volunteer because the last thing any of my mortal enemies deserve is minions, but I imagine that is years of study away from being possible.”
“We can always execute them for their crimes against our House,” Mistress Arany offered absently, still flipping through pages and making the occasional note. “Even if they weren’t on the scene at the time, they were at least accessories in your parents’ murders because of their fealty to the man that did it.”
Harry and Hermione shared a grin. The casual bloodthirstiness was such a refreshing change from Dumbledore’s greater good.
“Andromeda and Theodore Tonks and their daughter Nymphadora also have their appointment in the next few days,” Harry said, getting them back on track. “The timing hasn’t been confirmed for me yet but after reading the profiles on them that the Bank put together for me, I believe they could be ideal for Master Mondragon’s mission. Also, Nymphadora is set to finish the Auror Academy soon and those oaths of service conflict with the oaths required to take up a House Ring.”
“The Hit Wizard oaths don’t, though,” Hermione added. “If she is sincere in her desire to serve in law enforcement, we support that. Just not directly through the local Ministry.”
“Considering the level of corruption that must exist to have sent Sirius Black to jail without a trial, I cannot blame you,” Mistress Arany said.
“None of us can,” Master Mondragon seconded and Master Xiao inclined his head in agreement.
“We don’t believe he’s the only one not to get a trial,” Hermione said.
“The Bank is doing research on our behalf,” Harry agreed. “But it is slow going because we don’t want to raise too many flags before we’re ready to strike.”
“The Bank has proof that Sirius Black never received a trial?” Mistress Arany asked.
“Yes,” Harry agreed. “You will find copies of their findings in the second section of that folder.”
The witch promptly grabbed the divider and turned to the section.
“The Bank is working with their ICW liaison to file a complaint of their own about the Ministry’s illegal activity, but the protocols are ridiculous. Announcing Sirius Black never received a trial in the Prophet should help that along.”
Mistress Arany looked up at him. “And how will we do that? Internationally, your Prophet has a reputation as your Ministry’s propaganda tool.”
“House of Black owns the Daily Prophet,” Harry said bluntly, and all three solicitors blinked. “Lucius Malfoy filed a false claim in regard to the ownership of the Prophet after my great-grandfather died nearly three years ago. He has also stolen a great deal of money directly from the House of Black—a violation of his marriage contract—in that time. He has used House of Black assets to bribe government officials to work against the best interests of the House of Black, including negotiating the release of Dementors to hunt down my innocent godfather to protect his personal interests and, as Hermione said, he’s a Death Eater.
“The third section of your folder details his crimes and the evidence the Bank has already collected.”
“Is divorce on the table?” Arany asked. “Assuming we can’t execute him for one reason or another.”
“I’m not opposed to execution for any of my enemies,” Harry clarified. “However, I would like to have other crimes to point to other than being a Death Eater before we get there. I have no interest in the legacy of a tyrant and my feelings on magical Nazis could be spun that way very easily.”
“Understood.” Mistress Arany made more notes.
“As for Narcissa, unless she decides to leave the family, I would argue her divorce from Lucius Malfoy is mandatory,” Harry admitted. “He violated their marriage contracts several times over. Not just his theft but he’s been unfaithful to his wife, has sterilized himself without House of Black’s permission, and he’s cast Unforgivable Curses on his wife and son.
“Every member of my House deserves safety and the Black-Malfoy contract specifically indicates a desire for no less than three children. All things considered, that had to be Narcissa’s stipulation and I happen to think she should get to have the children she wants.”
“Agreed,” Mistress Arany nodded.
“I would encourage her to take back the Black name after her divorce, but I am unsure of the requirements of her husband’s title. If we do execute him, she will be her son’s regent, and that may require her to carry the Malfoy name unless we arrange for another solicitor to take up the duty.”
“Are you willing to arrange for another solicitor to stand as proxy for House of Malfoy should she wish to be free of her husband’s name?” Mistress Arany asked.
“Entirely,” Harry agreed, and Hermione felt a surge of warmth towards him. “They would have to wear a House of Black ring as House of Malfoy does not have such rings as far as I can tell, and House of Malfoy became a cadet branch of House of Black with the birth of Narcissa’s son Draco.
“In the name of his safety, I want Draco Malfoy to attend Beauxbaton’s Academy of Magic starting in September. I see a very public, bloody war coming to Britain and I want him and House of Malfoy to survive it. For that, he needs to be removed entirely from his father’s sphere before the man gets him killed.
“I’m also willing to enable his boyfriend, Blaise Zabini’s, transfer to the Academy if it will ensure Draco’s cooperation. And I would like you to make it clear to Draco that his homosexual preferences are not an issue with House of Black.”
“If the lad does not choose to continue his line through ritual reproduction or magical adoption, his family magic will be absorbed and preserved within the House of Black,” Master Aggnar interjected. “He should be made aware of that.”
“Ritual reproduction?” Hermione asked.
Master Aggnar grinned at her. “I’m sure you have books on the matter.”
Hermione took that as a hint to focus and sat back with a nod. She would look into it when they took a break later.
“Very good.” Mistress Arany made a note. “And the Daily Prophet? Do you want me to handle that directly or hire a separate solicitor to deal with those matters?”
“The paperwork for the shell company we are hiding the Prophet’s ownership under will be completed today,” Master Aggnar interjected.
Harry gave his Account Manager a nod. “You will hire a solicitor unassociated with any of you to represent the shell company—Atlas Incorporated—and set the Prophet straight. The solicitor will take directions directly from you and deal with Minister Fudge and Undersecretary Umbridge’s foolishness in accepting bribes in the form of stolen property.”
“We’ll have a number of stories to feed them that we will need to be covered as quickly and factually as possible,” Hermione added.
“Hiring a professional to manage our press campaign directly would prove wise,” Master Xiao added.
“I’ll leave that decision up to the three of you,” Harry decided. “I would prefer we use someone associated with one of my Houses so they can wear a House Ring and take oaths so that they have to work for our best interests.”
“The Bank had thoroughly reviewed the bloodlines for Lord Potter’s Houses,” Master Aggnar added. “That information was included in the back cover of your folders. I believe you will find a suitable candidate within the House of Slytherin.”
Master Xiao immediately flipped his folder and opened the back cover. Hermione did not know what he saw there but he seemed either surprised or impressed—possibly both.
“The agendas for the other two Houses are simple to discuss, though I suspect they will be complicated to execute,” Harry said.
“Very well,” Master Mondragon agreed for both of the male solicitors.
“House of Gryffindor owns Hogwarts, Durmstrang, and Beauxbatons. Management of all three were taken over by their local Ministries when the House of Gryffindor went dormant several hundred years ago.
“Beauxbatons Academy of Magic is the only one that has maintained the correct academic standards.”
Both of Mondragon’s eyebrows shot up and he nodded like he didn’t quite know what to say.
“Hogwarts has fallen the farthest,” Harry continued. “They aren’t even pretending to meet the ICW and IMEA standards. I would like you to personally focus on it.
“That said, Durmstrang Institute for Magical Learning’s High Master is a Death Eater and I believe we’ve established how I feel about that. They also entirely ban muggle-born students from attending. That will stop immediately.”
“My last apprentice is in need of a position,” Mondragon offered. “I can hire her to take care of it.”
“They will all probably need help managing the various House Trust and Wizengamot business,” Master Aggnar told Harry.
“Very well,” Harry agreed. “We will make a budget available for assistants for each of them.”
“Of course, Lord Potter.” The account manager made a note on his own parchment.
“Master Xiao, House of Slytherin owns both St. Mungo’s Hospital and St. Mungo’s Orphanage. Their standards have similarly fallen.”
Master Xiao inclined his head, accepting that.
“Both House Trusts have been the victims of embezzlement.”
“Of course, they have,” Mondragon sighed and ran a hand over his face.
“I do have one blood relative through my mother that could be invited into either House Gryffindor or Slytherin to help strengthen my family magic,” Harry added, catching Hermione by surprise. “He is too distant to be automatically considered a member of the House but closely enough related I could choose to add him and his offspring as a cadet line for either House.”
“But?” Hermione asked.
Harry looked at her and scrunched his nose. “But its Arthur Weasley.
“His daughter, Ginevra, spent the last year consorting with my mortal enemy and personally terrorizing Hogwarts,” he told the solicitors. “I won’t have her in my school, much less in my family.”
“Leaving Arthur Weasley to have to disown his only daughter in order to claim a spot in one of your Houses,” Hermione continued the train of thought.
“Right. And we both know him well enough to know he would never do that.
“That said, I am willing to evaluate his sons as they come of age for House membership.”
“But not the daughter,” Master Mondragon concluded.
“No,” Harry agreed. “And I won’t have her attending Hogwarts with me. But I am willing to allow her to attend either Beauxbatons or Durmstrang, as she and her family choose.”
Hermione tried not to let her confusion show. Harry was talking about Ginny Weasley as if she had a future.
Did that mean he didn’t want to do what they had decided to do in order to get his memories back?
They took lunch in the portkey room the bank had dedicated to Harry and his people. They had spent the last day and a half going over their agendas for Harry’s Houses—Hermione with Master Mondragon, Harry with Mistress Arany, and Master Xiao with Master Aggnar.
Taking a break was necessary and the portkey room they had been given was beautiful and soothing.
…And they couldn’t exactly leave the Bank for lunch or risk revealing they had previously unknown means of travel to their enemies within the Ministry.
“Harry?” Hermione was honestly not sure how to bring up her concerns, but keeping their conversation from the other day in mind, she decided to be blunt.
Harry set down his teacup and pushed himself off the floor and into a squashy blue chair. “Yeah?”
“Do you not want your future self’s memories?” she asked. “You don’t have to get them if you don’t want to, I wouldn’t be offended.”
“No, I want them.” Harry frowned at her. “I know you could tell me what you know about…my future but there have to be details the other me never told anyone.” Harry paused consideringly. “You said Dumbledore set up my path and that our relationship was complicated. I figure there have to be secrets there that only my future self would know and it’s not like Dumbledore is going to get to tell me this time.”
Hermione had to concede that Harry had several points, even she hadn’t articulated them quite that clearly.
“It’s just,” she hesitated, “you’re planning for Ginny’s future.”
“The one she won’t have,” Harry agreed.
“Right.” Hermione set her shoulders and asked. “Do you not want to kill her? We can do it another way.”
Harry stared at her for a moment before he slid back down to the floor, this time close enough that their shoulders touched. He didn’t look at her when he admitted softly, “I went down to the Chamber of Secrets planning to kill someone.” He flicked a glance at her then held her eyes after whatever he saw there. “Someone had tried to murder you and I was going to murder them right back. I didn’t care at all that they had used a basilisk to do it.”
“But you didn’t kill her,” Hermione said, trying to figure out how to phrase her concern. “You killed a basilisk, but you saved her.”
“I killed Riddle,” Harry said and she wasn’t sure if that was agreement or denial. “And his snake. I honestly thought Ginny was already dead until Riddle faded and she woke up. But I’d already been bitten by the basilisk and had lost the sword. Revenge hadn’t mattered much when I was dying.”
“But are you okay with killing Ginny? She’d be your first kill. You will become a killer with her death. That’s significant and I don’t want you to think that I require it of you.”
“Quirrell was my first kill,” Harry corrected sadly. “I’m already a killer.”
Hermione huffed because she…couldn’t argue with that and nodded. “He had it coming.”
“He really did,” Harry agreed. “But so does Ginny. I’m at war, Hermione. Maybe nobody else sees it but my parents’ murderer keeps trying to murder me. I don’t know how to end that war yet, but I’ll figure it out and…
“In terms of the war, Ginny tried to kill you, my best friend and strongest ally. She consorted and conspired with my mortal enemy. And she ran a campaign of terror in the school and was a big part of turning the entire school against me. Even if it was an indirect side effect of her other activities, she took the only place I’d ever felt safe away from me and I can never forgive that.”
“Okay,” Hermione agreed. Not reluctantly at all, actually. Killing Ginny was the fastest way to get rid of the contract that was a direct threat to Harry’s life and the best way to do it without tipping Dumbledore off that he had completely lost control of Harry. “But you are planning for her future.”
Harry gave her a tiny smirk. “I have to act like I expect her to survive until September. I can’t have anyone wondering what I knew before we act, especially if we don’t want anyone to know we were involved.
“Have you decided how we’re going to take her?”
It was Hermione’s turn to smirk. “I have some ideas.”
After lunch, they stayed in the portkey chamber to observe the meeting Mistress Arany was about to have with the Malfoys.
It was the first step they were taking to putting the House of Black in order and Harry wanted to watch. Hermione figured it was as much about watching Lucius get what he deserved as much as it was about Harry’s concern for Draco.
In the other future, Harry had admitted to her that he had had a crush on the boy for most of their time at Hogwarts—which hadn’t remotely surprised Hermione, looking back on it—but that the paths Lucius Malfoy and Albus Dumbledore had set them on had ruined any possibility of anything between them before Harry had even realized what romantic or sexual attraction was.
Still, Hermione wasn’t worried about Harry expressing concern for Draco. She was relieved, actually. Some of their plans were hard, nearly cruel if observed in a certain light. That he was still observably the young man with a saving people thing that she loved was a comfort.
Also, Draco hadn’t deserved the future he had gotten, and Harry was the person in the best position to save Draco from his father.
A large, drawered vanity had been brought into their portkey chamber and color charmed to match the rest of the decor because it would be dedicated to their service until Harry declared himself and could conduct his house business himself.
The mirror on the vanity had been paired to a matching vanity for communication like the mirrors she knew James and Sirius had made at school. Then the mirror on their vanity had been warded to prevent the transmission of sight and sound. That left the mirror in the room with their solicitor behaving as just a mirror but still allowing them to see and hear everything that happened in front of the other mirror.
Mistress Arany was sitting in front of the other mirror with her back to it. She stood when the door in her chamber opened.
Narcissa Malfoy nee Black entered the room with all the grace befitting a woman of her birth, holding her son’s hand. Lucius Malfoy flounced in behind them.
“I can’t stand that guy,” Harry admitted softly to her.
“We can kill him, too,” Hermione promised just as quietly.
Harry laughed. “No, the very public character assassination Master Xiao is planning will be much more rewarding.”
Hermione conceded that it just might. Master Xiao was everything a Proxy for House Slytherin should be—dignified, intelligent, educated, cunning, and vicious enough to make Voldemort look like a rank amateur. Salazar himself would have been thrilled to be represented by Master Xiao.
“Lord Malfoy,” Mistress Arany greeted the man coldly. “As I recall, your wife’s invitation to the Bank specifically banned your attendance.”
“The Bank cannot ban a nobleman from his rightful involvement in his wife’s personal business,” Lucius sneered condescendingly. “Surely you are aware of that, miss.”
Hermione felt her eyebrows shoot to her hair line and wondered what Mistress Arany would say to that.
“You may call me Mistress Arany, Lord Malfoy. I am the full legal proxy for the Lord of House Black.” Mistress Arany slipped her ring hand forward into her companions’ view. Lucius paled, Narcissa relaxed, and Draco frowned in confusion. “As you are aware, per the terms of your wedding contract, you have no right to interfere with my lord’s official business with the members of his House—such as your wife and son.”
“I was unaware this was official House of Black business,” Lucius tried.
“So, you did not read the private communication I sent to your wife?” Mistress Arany asked.
Lucius Malfoy did not answer.
Hermione turned to Harry, “You freed Dobby from his service to Malfoy, right? Did he bond with you?”
“I…don’t know.” Harry frowned. “There hasn’t been much about House Elves in any of the books I’ve read.” Then he muttered to himself, “That was short sighted.”
“No, you just had more pressing concerns.” It wasn’t like either of them could have expected all of this to happen this summer. “Call his name and see if he responds.”
“Dobby!” Harry called and the elf immediately appeared. Then something odd happened. Almost like they were in a trance, Harry and the elf reached out to each other. Their palms touched—their magic touched—and in a rush of golden sparkles, she knew the master/elf bond had been completed.
Harry looked at her with wide, surprised eyes.
She scooted forward in her chair. “Hello, Dobby.”
“Hello, Miss Grangy,” the elf regarded her with bright, curious eyes.
“I’m going to ask you some questions and give you some orders on Harry’s behalf, is that okay?”
The house elf turned to Harry who silently nodded his agreement.
“It be okay, Miss Grangy.”
“Thank you, Dobby. Did you bind yourself to his magic when he freed you from your previous master? Are you his elf?”
Dobby swallowed nervously but nodded. “I am, Miss Grangy. I did. The bond be settling right now but…Dobby be needing a bond to live!”
“And Harry has plenty of magic to support you,” Hermione agreed. She felt it was a little shady that he had taken a bond, knowing that Harry hadn’t understood, that he had given permission for it by tricking his old master into freeing Dobby but that would be something for her to discuss with Harry when the elf wasn’t around. “What have you been doing this summer?”
“Dobby been working at Hogwarts, cleaning the castle for my Master Harry Potter!”
“That’s good,” Hermione said to comfort the twitchy little elf. “Do you know the House of Black residence at 12 Grimmauld Place?”
“Dobby does, Miss Grangy. Dobby be House of Black Elf before he serve Mistress Cissa and Mean Lucy.”
“Good.” She hadn’t known that at all, actually, but Dobby had been dead by the time she would have had time to research it, so she wasn’t surprised her other self hadn’t wondered. “We need Grimmauld Place cleaned up. You may need goblin assistance. We want you to evaluate the House and report back to us within a week, okay? Make sure to keep yourself fed, hydrated, and rested while you complete your task. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Miss Grangy.”
“I hate those rags,” Harry said to her softly.
“And we require you to wear a uniform, Dobby,” Hermione added. “This is not clothes, but Harry’s station requires a certain appearance, alright?”
“Elves in other countries be wearing uniforms,” Dobby told them. “Dobby can be researching and make something?”
“Yes, do that first, but we need to approve your plans before you make something to officially represent Harry’s Houses, okay?”
“Yes, Miss Grangy. Dobby be going to the Colonies to see elf fashions, then he clean Old Grim Place and come to Goblins if he need help.”
“And you’re keeping yourself safe and healthy while you do your duties,” Harry interjected.
Dobby smiled. “Yes, Master Harry!” And he disappeared with a pop.
They shared a look and focused on the meeting in the mirror in front of them. Mistress Arany was nodding. She gestured to a chair separate from her table. “You may remain, if you agree to sit in that chair and remain silent until it is our turn to meet directly. This is the Will of the House of Black.”
“Very well,” Lucius sniffed and flounced over to the chair. Once he sat a field of visible magic sprang up to contain him.
“That’s better,” Mistress Arany chuckled to herself.
“What did you do?” Narcissa asked gently.
“He is petrified and silenced,” Mistress Arany told her. “He cannot react to our conversation in any way, but he can hear us. Our Lord wants him to see his doom coming for him.”
“His doom?” Draco asked, staring at his father with no little horror.
“Your father is in breach of contract,” Mistress Arany said, holding up a clearly labeled Marriage Contract. She tapped it with her wand and large sections of the contract went red—including Lucius Malfoy’s name, which was underlines indicating he was the violator. Other, lower, sections went gold showing the just consequences for his actions by the terms of the contract. “Per the terms of the contract, we have several options before us but there are decisions that must be made before we get into that.
“First and foremost, Lady Narcissa, would you prefer to return to your status as a full member of House of Black or remain in the House of Malfoy? Please be aware that you will be required to divorce your husband, swear your loyalty to House of Black, and take up a House Ring should you return to the House of Black.”
“House Ring?” Narcissa asked, looking almost excited. She glanced down at the ring Mistress Arany sported. “The Lord of Black is issuing House Rings to his family members once again?”
“He is,” Mistress Arany confirmed. “He is requiring all members of his House accept his full protection and work toward the best interests of the House or leave the House entirely. You are either with him or against him and there are no second chances to make this decision.”
“With, of course.” Narcissa slumped in relief for a moment before regaining her poise. “I understand the House Rings are a protection like no other.”
Mistress Arany nodded. “It gave me a personal ward for my mind, magical core, and aura. No one can read your mind or even find out what kind of magic you practice. It blurs your power levels as well, so no one can know what to expect from you.”
“It’s supposed to be difficult for others to tell if you’re lying while wearing the ring, too,” Narcissa added. “And makes the use of even the Imperius or modification potions nearly impossible.”
“I haven’t had it tested, yet, but I would believe it,” Mistress Arany agreed. “The protection of the ring is extensive. It has an anti-portkey and anti-apparition ward built in—no one can apparate you against your will and the only portkeys that will work while you’re wearing the ring are the ones our lord directly approves of.
“You should know, before either of you put on a House Ring, that our lord has had all of them enchanted to be emergency portkeys. Simply press a finger to the stone on the ring and say the new House motto and the ring will bring you to our lord’s secure portkey room within the Bank.”
“New motto?” Narcissa asked.
Narcissa smiled. “That is lovely.”
“Our lord also has zero tolerance for blood purity bias in general and Tom Riddle in particular.”
“Who is Tom Riddle?” Draco asked.
“He is the son of a squib and a mundane that became famous under the name Lord Voldemort.” She raised a jaded eyebrow when Draco gasped. “You may be familiar with him by that name.”
“Yes,” Draco said weakly, glancing at his father and then averting his eyes. “I am familiar.”
“Good.” Mistress Arany focused on Narcissa. “You’re decision, my lady?”
“I’ll make the oath,” Narcissa said simply. “Take the ring and the divorce. I would be a fool not to.”
“Would you prefer to take your maiden name back once again?”
“Very well.” Mistress Arany turned to Draco. “And you, young Draco?”
“I…” Draco blew out a breath.
“Per the terms of your parent’s marriage contract, House Malfoy is a cadet line of House of Black. My Lord is concerned there is a war coming and as the only other healthy and magically uncompromised male of the line, he has arranged for you to begin attending Beauxbatons Academy of Magic for your own protection. He has also arranged for your boyfriend, Blaise Zabini, to attend with you at his family’s request.”
Draco went deathly pale.
“Our Lord wishes for me to assure you that your preferences are of no difficulty to the House of Black. It would be most effective if you provided a child either through ritual reproduction or magical adoption to stand for your line, but he does not require it of you. The magic of House of Malfoy can be absorbed into the House of Black should you decide against continuing your line.”
“Wow,” Draco said softly.
“You’re safe, Draco,” Narcissa told their year mate. “This is what the Lord of House Black does. He protects us.”
“But Father never…”
“Not unless it was convenient,” Narcissa agreed. “You can trust this. Once the oaths are made and the ring is on, you can trust this.”
“Okay,” Draco said softly.
“As you will be in France, our lord has instructed me to find and install a solicitor to work as your proxy within the Wizengamot. Your father will soon be in no position to do so as he has forfeited all of the rights he had to his lordship of a cadet line by violating his marriage contract—including knowingly lying and pretending to Ministry officials that you were the heir of the entire House of Black. I am willing to take your preference for solicitor under some consideration.”
“Dorian Zabini,” Draco said immediately. “Blaise’s uncle is— He should be on the Wizengamot anyway, but Dumbledore blocked his ascension due to his Veela heritage.”
“If he proves to be a good ally, I am sure our lord will correct that,” Mistress Arany said. “Now, for the oaths—”
The door to their secure chamber opened. Masters Aggnar, Mondragon, and Xiao walked in, looking concerned. Harry and Hermione stood to face them immediately.
“What happened?” Harry demanded.
“Dumbledore just called an emergency session of the Wizengamot,” Master Aggnar answered. “No reason was given. It begins in an hour.”
“Ah, fuck,” Hermione cursed. No one reacted so she assumed they all agreed.
“Does the Bank have any more information they can share with us?” Harry asked Master Aggnar.
Masters Xiao and Mondragon both started and turned to the goblin in question. Master Aggnar raised an eyebrow at the wizards, then focused on Harry.
The Black account manager inclined his head. “The Bank is aware that there was an upset among the Ministry cleaning crew late this morning. The cleaning crew reported something as yet to be determined to the Minister who immediately called upon the Chief Warlock to consult.
“Dumbledore’s display of temper at the unknown object or event is already a thing of legend. No less than thirteen Ministry employees were said to have collapsed at the sight—including the sitting Minister for Magic.”
“What sort of thing could it have been?” Hermione wondered.
“There are several ancient relics contained within the Wizengamot,” Master Aggnar explained to them. “Some of them have the power and magical right to change the way the entire government is run.”
Changing the form of government could entirely invalidate the position of Chief Warlock, reducing Dumbledore’s power and personal importance. That was something the man would certainly object to. “Like Excalibur,” was what she said, and the Goblin inclined his head.
“Excalibur?” Harry asked incredulously.
“The Sword of the King,” Hermione told him. “If Magic has called forth a King, it would invalidate the Wizengamot and the entire Ministry unless the King decided they were necessary and empowered them directly.”
“I can see why Dumbledore would have a fit over such a thing,” Harry allowed. “But why would it come forth now?”
“Someone very special must have completed an advanced magical ritual,” Master Aggnar said with a significant look at Harry. “Such as claiming a magical inheritance long left dormant.
Something Harry had done twice or perhaps three times in the last few weeks, depending on the definition one used for long.
Harry groaned at the implication and Hermione rolled her lips to hide her inappropriate grin.
“It is not necessarily him,” Master Mondragon argued. “We can’t be sure he’s the only one that meets the criteria.”
“What are the criteria?” Hermione asked curiously.
“We cannot be entirely sure,” Master Xiao cautioned. “Magic has never given our kind a list but from observation, we know that magical rites such as the claiming of a title or the making of a magical oath can initiate the appearance of the Sword.”
“Assuming the Sword is what caused this issue with the Ministry,” Master Mondragon interjected.
“Chances it is not the Sword?” Harry asked her.
“Unsure.” Hermione blew out a breath. “I don’t know what all the options are so I can’t calculate the odds, but Dumbledore’s tantrum is a persuasive argument in favor.”
“Can they force me to step forward and attempt to claim the Sword?” Harry asked the group.
“Not with your claiming sealed,” Master Aggnar promised. “If it were unsealed, perhaps. As everything stands, the most they could attempt would be to have your Proxies claim—technically, they made magical oaths and meet the criteria as well—but it is doubtful.
“Do you not wish to be King?”
“Not on my life,” Harry scoffed. “I have enough to deal with and Hermione would do a better job anyway. She’s much more organized and driven to fix society than I could ever want to be.”
“Our reasons for sealing your proxies haven’t changed,” Hermione added, trying to ignore her own blush. Her Harry had never been so open and free with his praise—with anyone. Clearly, ruining Dumbledore’s hold on him had had unexpected side effects. “If anything, those same issues loom larger for a King than they did for a Duke or any of his other titles.”
“Agreed.” Harry crossed his arms stubbornly. “Now, how do we attend the Wizengamot meeting without giving the whole game away?”
“Hello, Tom!” Hermione called as they walked down to the dining room before the start of dinner service. “Anything exciting happen today?”
“Ale order came in on time,” the proprietor of the Leaky Cauldron offered gruffly. “Full order, too.”
“That’s rare,” she hazarded to guess.
“Don’t I know it.” Tom huffed. “Also heard about a bit of a dustup at the Ministry. Heard there’s an emergency meeting going on soon.”
“Emergency?” Harry asked.
“Aye,” Tom confirmed. “Almost unheard of those swanky gits to meet off schedule. Don’t like interruptions to their fancy things.”
“I wonder what it’s about?” Hermione wondered.
“You could find out,” Tom offered with a grin. “Meeting’s open to the public—I made all my kids go at about your age, watching can be a good lesson for kids like you.
“If you come back and tell me, I’ll even let you take my floo but you’ll wanna dress up, like. For the meeting.”
“Do you want to?” Harry asked her and she knew it was part of the script they had hashed out between them, but she still wanted to roll her eyes.
“How dressed up, do you think?” Hermione asked Tom.
“That red and gold number you had the other day should do,” Tom assured her. “You’ll need to get a move on. Only about ten minutes until they close the doors. They don’t let anyone in once the meeting’s started.”
“I want to,” she answered Harry.
“Then we will,” he agreed, and they stormed up the stairs to change. The appropriate clothes were already out and presentable thanks to Dobby’s silent assistance, so they were back downstairs in record time.
They let Tom explain the floo to them and followed the crowd through the Ministry building and into the Wizengamot chambers.
With the way the room was set up, the Lords of the Wizengamot were in tiered seating a lower chamber. The audience was in an upper chamber, also in tiered seating. The flooring between the chambers was clear and allowed two-way vision but it was also enchanted to enhance sight and sound so that, in a way, every seat was a front row seat for the audience.
Harry and Hermione took seats on the highest tier because she wanted to watch the crowd as well as the legislative body below them.
When the doors closed behind them, the chamber floor cleared. Hermione could see the Lords and Proxies seated below. More, in the center of the Wizengamot chamber, stood a white stone with a gleaming silver sword buried almost to the hilt within.
The Stone had to be at least seven feet high. She could not see how an average sized human could even grasp the hilt, much less pull it out of the stone. She wondered if that meant this was just a warning? Perhaps Magic was giving them a heads up that there would be a King so as a society they could get ready for it? Rather than a magical demand that Harry claim his crown right then.
Or it could be some sort of security measure. She honestly had no idea, but she was already rearranging her mental reading list.
Undoubtedly, she would need more books.
Dumbledore swept into the room with his magic snapping and popping around him in impatience. He flounced into the Chief Warlock position and took a deep, dramatic breath. His magic settled in what she figured was a manufactured display of discipline and Hermione had to struggle not to roll her eyes.
As it was Harry shot her a droll look and they both had to cough to keep from laughing out loud.
“The date is August the twenty-second of the 301st year after the Establishment of the Statute of Secrecy,” Albus Dumbledore announced down below. “The year is 1993 AD by the Gregorian Calendar. This is an emergency meeting of the Wizengamot,” Dumbledore banged his gavel on the little wooden round in front of him. “Chief Warlock Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore presiding.” He banged the gavel two more times.
“The matter before us, ladies and gentlemen, is the Sword known as Excalibur.”
The words hung in the air, probably not as grandly as Dumbledore had intended, but no one said anything regardless until one of the older lords huffed and slapped his desk. The seal on the front of his box lit up.
“Lord Tiberius Ogden is recognized by the council,” Dumbledore intoned gravely.
“Why are we meeting for this Dumbledore?” The man stood, movements jerky in his annoyance. “Whoever claimed their title last before it appeared just has to come grab it and the matter is done!”
“I am afraid it is not that simple,” Dumbledore frowned. “The discovery was made by the head of the Ministry Staff. However, she only checks the Wizengamot room once a month ahead of our formal meetings on the first. Her staff cleans these chambers twice a week and could not be sure of the date when the Sword actually first appeared.”
Another seal lit up.
“The head Unspeakable known as Croaker is recognized by the council.” Hermione thought she detected a bit of a grimace in Dumbledore’s face as he said the words and…she was interested. Anything that could put Dumbledore off could be useful to them.
“My lords and ladies,” Croaker said, his voice was indescribable. By the time she thought for certain it was that of a young woman, it switched to that of an elderly man, and then to that of a young boy cheering at a Quidditch match in short order. “I would like to take the opportunity to remind this body that the claiming of a title is not the only way to awaken the Sword of the King.
“That said—and considering we do not know for certain when the Sword came forth—I move that we allow our newest members to declare themselves now rather than waiting for our formal meeting on the first. Perhaps we may glean useful information from the Sword’s reactions to their claims.”
“Very well,” Dumbledore banged his gavel twice. “All those in favor of allowing our new peers to introduce themselves to this body outside of the scheduled meeting, say aye.”
As a quick estimate, Hermione would say ninety percent of the Lords and Ladies present lit up their seals and said, “aye.”
“The motion carries,” Dumbledore confirmed, not even bothering to check for nays. “We will begin with the first claim to happen after the close of our last meeting.” Dumbledore made a production of checking the roll in front of him. She could see the edges of his face of white before the Headmaster took a deep breath and looked up. “The records show that to be the House of Black.
“Who is here to represent the House of Black?”
Mistress Arany stood and waited patiently.
“By what right do you claim the House of Black?” Dumbledore demanded.
Mistress Arany raised an eyebrow at the man, and he sat back with more grace than Hermione expected from him.
“My lords, my ladies, my name is Ildiko Arany.” Mistress Arany bowed her head to her peers. “I am the sworn Proxy for the House of Black—chosen as proper by the Lord of House Black who claimed domain over his family magic in a private family ritual on August the twelfth of this year. As is his right, my lord has chosen to place his claiming under privacy seal until which time as he deems his identity necessary to the governing of the House of Black.”
“How do we know Sirius Black is not your lord?” Dumbledore demanded and several idiots screamed at the use of the name as they usually did at the name of no one but Voldemort himself.
“I would ask what concern this is of yours, Albus Dumbledore,” Mistress Arany returned evenly.
“The man escaped custody at the beginning of August and is a fugitive from the law. He has no right to be represented within this body.”
“Whomsoever the family magic of the House of Black chooses as their avatar has the right to be represented within this body,” Mistress Arany countered. “And no one within this body has the right to say otherwise. That is the entire premise that has formed and empowered this body since its inception.
“That said,” Mistress Arany cut Dumbledore off before he could argue further. “There is an urgent piece of House business that must been completed before this body immediately. Though I do apologize to the allies of the House of Black that were not warned in advance of this fact our circumstances cannot be changed and therefore must be addressed.
“I, Ildiko Isabelle Arany, Sworn Proxy to the Lord of the House of Black hereby declare Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore the enemy of the House of Black. May he know no peace from our House, no compliance from our friends, and no succor from our allies. So Mote it be.”
Gold magic swirled up around Mistress Arany before it exploded in a starburst above her head with the sound of a gong as Magic approved her very words.
An older, prettier version of Blaise Zabini stood from his place in the Malfoy Box. “I, Dorian Anthony Zabini, Sworn Proxy of the House of Malfoy, cadet line and ally to the House of Black through birth and marriage, hereby declare Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore the enemy of the House of Malfoy.”
“I, Javier Alejandro Mondragon, Sworn Proxy of the House of Gryffindor, ally to the House of Black through blood oath and mutual agreement, hereby declare Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore the enemy of the House of Gryffindor.”
“I, Xiao Kai, Sworn Proxy of the House of Slytherin, ally to the House of Black through blood oath and mutual agreement, hereby declare Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore the enemy of the House of Slytherin.”
And things avalanched from there. Greengrass, Ogden, even Longbottom declared their various allegiances to House of Black or one of her sworn allies and denounced Albus Dumbledore.
All live. All on the international wireless.
Hermione could barely contain her giggles. She was thrilled and Dumbledore’s gob smacked face was the most wonderful icing on a heavenly cake. Now, once they ended the contract that still threatened Harry’s life there would be no chance of a second contract to take its place because Dumbledore wouldn’t have the means to even try.
The Director of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement stood last of all. “I, Amelia Susan Bones, Sworn Proxy of the House of Bones, ally to the House of Longbottom through blood oath and mutual agreement, hereby declare Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore the enemy of the House of Bones.”
“Albus Dumbledore, you are officially remanded into Ministry custody until a full review of your work within this body and as our representative to the International Confederation of Wizards has been completed.” Amelia Bones pulled her wand as several aurors came to back her up.
Kingsley Shacklebolt was one of those at the Director’s back, which worried Hermione enough that she pulled her wand. Harry glanced at her questioningly but pulled his wand as well.
Madam Bones asked, “Will you comply?”
“No,” Dumbledore said softly even though it carried and pulled his wand.
“Expelliarmus!” Harry shouted before anyone else could react. The Elder Wand flew out of the Headmaster’s hand, through what Hermione had been certain was an intact floor, and into Harry’s hand.
Dumbledore had a moment to look utterly floored before he was hit with stunners from at least three directions and collapsed to the floor.
“We will begin with the House of Black’s direct complaint against Albus Dumbledore,” Madame Bones declared. “Lord Justice Crane?”
A middle-aged man with a lined face and a beaky nose stood from one of the lower lord’s boxes and bowed. “Should it meet the approval of the council, I will accept the temporary position of Justiciar of the Wizengamot until the complaints against Albus Dumbledore have been resolved in a suitable manner and we have verified that his work has served the betterment of the Realm or been reversed.”
“House Crane was one of perhaps three Houses that did not declare against Dumbledore,” Harry whispered.
“That doesn’t make him Dumbledore’s friend,” Hermione tried to assure. “It just means none of his alliances are tight enough to require him to declare.”
Harry nodded his acceptance of that.
“We need someone that at least appears neutral to run this process or it will be have to be referred to the IWC and be further delayed. And Lord Justice Crane is one of the few lords that works outside of the duties of his title—he worked first as a prosecutor and now as a judge within the DMLE.”
“That’s good.” Harry took a deep breath and relaxed.
“It is,” she agreed.
“House of Bones endorses the motion to have Lord Justice Crane serve as Justiciar of the Wizengamot until the matter of Albus Dumbledore is completed and a new Chief Warlock can be declared,” Madam Bones said once Dumbledore had been removed from his box and magically secured. “Does anyone second?”
“House of Black seconds,” Mistress Arany declared.
“Very well,” Madam Bones brought the gavel down once. “We will vote. All those in favor say aye.”
“Aye.” Hermione couldn’t see any seals that stayed dark on this vote other than that of Lord Justice Crane himself who rightfully abstained from the vote.
“The motion carries. Lord Justice Crane?”
The man in question left his box and took Dumbledore’s previous seat.
“The emergency Wizengamot session of twenty-two August 301 ES is hereby closed.” Lord Justice Crane banged the gavel twice. “The Wizengamot Justiciar Review of twenty-two August 301 ES is hereby opened.” Two more bangs. “Lord Justice Marius Alphonsus Crane presiding.
“Mistress Arany, as House of Black is the original plaintiff, you may begin.”
Mistress Arany stood. “Thank you, Lord Justice. Lords and Ladies of the Wizengamot, allow me to begin with perhaps the most grievous crime ever perpetrated with forethought and malice against the House of Black. This crime was initiated by Albus Dumbledore himself in conspiracy with Bartemius Crouch, Senior, and the compliance of both Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge and Minister Millicent Bagnold before him.”
There was a murmur of general confusion and fear from the audience and lords alike.
“The crime in question is nothing less than the deliberate placement of an innocent man within the walls of Azkaban and into the direct care of Dementors for over a decade without a trial. Without even being questioned.
“I say unto you, Sirius Orion Black is innocent.”
Chaos. All was chaos.
“So,” Harry said as he helped her clean off after she left the floo from the Ministry to the Cauldron. “That happened.”
Hermione sighed. It had, indeed, happened. “I should have seen that coming. Azkaban is an international human rights nightmare. Someone being imprisoned there for more than a decade without a trial would be enough to get it torn down to its foundations.”
It had, in fact, been enough to get Azkaban torn down to its foundations in her other life. She and Harry had originally led the charge in Sirius’s name. After Harry had died and Hermione had been forced into the service of the Ministry to protect herself from Percy Weasley’s machinations, Neville Longbottom had taken up the charge. Once the crusade had been over, Neville had bought the island and used it to grow potions ingredients strictly for St Mungo’s use.
She had helped him cleanse the island thoroughly and Neville had allowed her to live there under the layers of wards he had up to protect the crops. All she had had to do in return was monitor the house elves attending the property, which had been nothing, really.
She made it her home for that last half year, but she really did not want to think about that. She did not want to think about living and dying alone in the lands dementors used to roam, surrounded by nothing but house elves and mandrakes.
“Should have seen what coming?” Tom asked.
They stopped on the verge of the dining room and stared. The room looked like a hurricane had hit it. There was not a single piece of furniture—other than the bar, which she was fairly certain was warded to be both unbreakable and impervious—in one piece.
Tom left the pair of house elves that were helping him restore the furniture to talk to them.
“What happened here?” Harry asked.
“Brawl.” Tom frowned. “Broke out when Dumbledore got arrested. Never seen anything like it before. The fight or…”
“It was surprising,” Hermione allowed.
“Dumbledore becoming the Enemy of everyone was…”
“Historic,” Tom supplied as he led the pair of them to the bar. She and Harry stopped on the patron side and waited as one of the house elves fixed stools for them while Tom walked around to the back of the bar. “We’d have to check but I can’t think of a single instance of the Wizengamot declaring a collective enemy like that. I am certain that it has never happened to a sitting Chief Warlock. Especially not a Chief Warlock that was also Supreme Mugwump.”
“Is it common for Chief Warlocks to also be Supreme Mugwumps as well?”
Tom considered that while he poured them some juice. “No, that’s never happened before. Normally, if one leads one body and is in the other, they don’t lead the other.” Tom frowned. “It’s rather strange that they allowed him to do it at all, actually. Being Chief Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, and Headmaster of Hogwarts at the same time is…”
“Greedy?” Hermione offered.
Tom tipped his head. “How could anyone manage three full time positions? At his age, too? Something had to be suffering.”
“The school, probably,” Harry frowned. “If one of his more public positions was suffering, someone would have said or done something. You’d think, anyway.”
“You’d think,” Tom agreed. “Food? Dinner service was interrupted so I still got plenty of bangers and mash.”
“Yes, please,” Harry agreed for them both.
“Well, the Gryffindor Duchy is active again so anything Dumbledore made a mess of with the school will get fixed very quickly,” Hermione told them as plates magically appeared in front of them.
“We heard that part,” Tom agreed. “The Proxy declaring himself, at least. A legal proxy ain’t the same as a proper lord but it means there will be a proper lord eventually and that’s to the good.”
“Agreed,” Harry nodded once, mostly focused on his food while Hermione forced herself to not roll her eyes.
“Gonna be hard fixing the school this close to the start of the year,” Tom allowed. “Poor kids, things will be rough for you this year.”
“It would be nice to be challenged,” Hermione told Tom and the proprietor of the Cauldron chuckled.
“Now what had you children surprised before you ever saw my dining room?” he asked again.
“The ICW came and took Dumbledore. And Crouch Sr,” Hermione said.
“And Fudge,” Harry interjected between bites.
“And Fudge,” Hermione agreed. “When the Undersecretary tried to interfere—a woman named Umbridge—they took her, too, for obstruction. They ordered everyone hunting Sirius Black—aurors, hit wizards, and dementors—to stand down.”
“The ICW is investigating Azkaban,” Harry explained. Then he turned to her, “We need to make sure they know about Hagrid.”
“We can include proof that he was innocent of his so-called crimes and get his wand rights returned,” Hermione decided. When Tom looked curious, she explained. “Hagrid was falsely accused of opening the Chamber of Secrets last time. That’s why they took his wand rights from him. When the Chamber was opened again last year, Fudge threw Hagrid in Azkaban with absolutely no due process.”
“I still can’t believe they kept the school open,” Tom said with no little exasperation. “I would have pulled my children the first time a student got petrified! Thank Merlin my grandkids are too young yet. The oldest won’t start until next year.”
“The creature’s dead now,” Harry promised. “So even if someone finds the Chamber while your grandchild’s there, it won’t be so dangerous for the school.”
“We need to make sure the Duke of Gryffindor knows where to find it,” Tom decided. “So, he can evaluate it and its contents. It needs to be it truly safe for the school. Honestly, how has the IMEA not come down on Hogwarts yet?”
Hermione had to concede she was wondering that too. How had the international body overseeing educational standards never interfered with Hogwarts the entire time Dumbledore had been in charge of it? The sheer volume of bigotry coming out of the school spoke to gross levels of ignorance that the school should have been addressing.
Then she realized that Dumbledore had to be the reason. He must have interfered with the IMEA carrying out their duties while he was Supreme Mugwump.
She made a mental note to discuss inviting IMEA to evaluate the school—both before and after their changes—with Master Mondragon. The IMEA would probably be their best resource for the massive amounts of hiring they were going to need to do as well.
“I’ll see if he’ll give me a meeting,” Harry promised. “I know the location of the Chamber and how to get in, but I wouldn’t trust that information to a letter. I’ll see if I can get it added to his to do list.”
Which Hermione took as a gentle request for her to remind Master Mondragon of it at their next Fixing Hogwarts planning session.
“Hagrid had an acromantula, for the record.” Hermione gestured idly with her fork as she scouted her next bite. “The creature in the Chamber was a basilisk.”
“So, Hagrid didn’t get due process the first time, either.” Tom shook his head. “Acromantulas don’t leave bodies behind unless you kill the creature before…”
Hermione cleared her throat with a pointed look at her food.
Tom gave her a sheepish smile. “They would have captured the creature at the scene when they found her, is all I’m saying.”
“And yet, they found Myrtle, but the creature remained a mystery,” Hermione said. “Ergo, she wasn’t murdered by an acromantula.”
“Exactly,” Tom agreed. “Was the school being run by idiots or bigots?” he asked.
“Either way, those same people were still running the school last year and they were completely useless the entire time,” Hermione said. “And they’ll probably try to fight the Duke of Gryffindor to stay in charge of it, despite it legally being entirely his.”
Tom pursed his lips together and Hermione knew there would be a series of Madam Bea Bonnet articles in the Prophet about the true and legal ownership of Hogwarts. And probably another round endorsing better education.
She had learned—by accident, after the war—that Tom was the widely popular opinion slash advice columnist.
Madam Bea Bonnet had dispensed a great deal of common sense to their torn society after the War. She hadn’t been a proponent of healing because, in her words, that had just dropped them right back in the war cycle last time. She had been a proponent of advancement and education.
Hermione had written Madam Bonnet when her life had been terrible and Tom had responded to her handle—Alone in Exile—in the paper so often that they had had to take it to private correspondence, which was how she had learned Madam Bonnet’s identity. And several of his, though he claimed they were his wife’s, amazing cake recipes.
Hermione wondered if they could leverage Harry’s ownership of the Prophet to increase Madam Bea Bonnet’s visibility and popularity before the war. If the readers of the Prophet took to her again as they had last time, Madam Bonnet would be a huge help in changing the shape of their society.
Then she rolled her eyes at herself.
Of course, they could leverage Harry’s control of the Prophet to do whatever she wanted. All of the people that might try to fight them for control were either in ICW holding or…she actually didn’t know where Lucius Malfoy was. She glanced at Tom who was clearly not leaving them any time soon and decided she would have to ask Harry about it later.
“Yeah, things were rough tonight.” Tom was saying to Harry. “I’m not sure how violent things will be tomorrow. It worries me with you two kids staying here and all.”
Based on the bruising on his face, someone had to have thoroughly broken his nose and there were tiny cuts on his hands. She had no idea how rough off he had looked before his wife had forced magical healing on him, and she had to admit it was a valid concern.
“We can figure something out,” Harry offered. “We can eat in our rooms or…”
“You kids spend too much time in your rooms already,” Tom disagreed and Hermione almost felt bad for deceiving the man about being in their rooms when they were really in the Bank all day but there was nothing for it. Not with the auror escort constantly in their general vicinity.
“We’ll be spending tomorrow at the Bank,” Harry told Tom, much to Hermione’s surprise. “Dumbledore had unmonitored access to my parent’s estate for the last decade because the Will was never executed due to the executor going to Azkaban without a trial.”
Tom sputtered in outrage.
“Right,” Harry agreed mildly. “My parents weren’t noble, so the Potter Family account wasn’t assigned to the care of an account manager as a matter of course.”
“If anyone’s estate should have been assigned an estate manager, it was theirs,” Tom looked sympathetic. “They rendered our entire world a huge service, lad. It’s a crime how many people have forgotten that.”
Hermione blinked in surprise.
“You’re the first person to ever say that to me,” Harry admitted. “Most people assume I…”
“Yeah, Ministry propaganda said you killed the bastard and I used to believe it,” Tom admitted. “But the Ministry also said Sirius Black was a Death Eater from a long line of Death Eaters and Voldemort’s right hand.
“Learning the truth about that is making me…reevaluate.”
Hermione slid her hand around Harry’s under cover of the bar in silent support and he leaned into her for comfort in return.
“Dessert then bed,” Tom decided, wiping his hands on a white bar towel briskly. “The wife made a Lemon Drizzle Pound Cake just this morning. I think you’ll both enjoy it.”
“Ooh, yes, please!”
“Good morning!” Hermione called. She had been up and ready for nearly an hour when the wake-up knock had sounded at her door.
“Good morning, Miss Granger,” Tom responded pleasantly.
“Could you come inside for a moment, sir?”
There was a brief hesitation before the door to her room swung inward. “Anything I can help you with, Miss Granger?”
“Actually, I was going to help you,” she admitted. “You said last night that you were concerned about keeping the peace, so it was safe enough for me and Harry to eat in the dining room.”
“Aye,” he agreed with a nod.
“I made you these.” Hermione handed him two self-extending rolls of parchment.
Tom unrolled one and read the top. “All those who sign below agree to keep the peace while within the Leaky Cauldron. Those who refuse to agree or break their agreement will be immediately removed from the property.
“How are these pieces of paper going to manage that?” He asked, looking interested.
“The parchment is cursed.” It was a variation of the rather simple cursed parchment she had made for Dumbledore’s Army in that other future. Just slightly more complicated. “The first level is a warning—should any of the signatories decide to fight while in the Cauldron, their face will break out in magic-resistant acne that spells the word FIGHT. I could probably change it to LIAR, if you’d rather but the spell works best for single syllables. Two syllable words are more complicated.”
“No, FIGHT works,” Tom promised. “It tells everyone exactly what their failing was.”
“That’s what I was thinking,” she admitted.
“The second layer of enchantment stuns and removes any signatories that are actually fighting inside the Cauldron to the muggle side of the front door.”
“Brilliant,” Tom declared. “And you came up with this all in the night?”
Hermione shrugged, not wanting to lie. “I couldn’t figure out how to make them sign the parchment,” she warned him. “But I was thinking maybe your house elves could force the matter?”
“They can keep anyone out that hasn’t signed,” the pub owner agreed. “This was right clever of you.”
“Thanks!” Hermione grinned.
“Of course. Now, you get down for breakfast. I still need to wake your partner in crime.”
Hermione grinned and scampered down the stairs. Helping people was really its own reward.
“Any news?” Harry asked their three solicitors as they all settled in around him within his portkey chamber within the Bank.
“Yes, sir,” Mistress Arany started, pulling out a stack of parchments and handing them over to Harry. “After the Wizengamot meeting last night, I had the Bank reach out to this man. His name is William Augustus Tripplett—he prefers Trip. He’s an American. We worked as law clerks together for the International court until we were both chosen as apprentices for separate masters.”
“And you trust him?”
“I do,” Mistress Arany confirmed. “He is large and quite loud but harmless, unless one is endangering a child or a dog in his presence. Then, all bets are off.”
It was silly but Hermione was charmed by Mistress Arany’s description of the man. He certainly wasn’t someone she had heard of in her last life.
“As far as he knows, the Bank has called him here to interview for a position as a young man’s personal representation. Either you can interview him for hire, or I can.”
“And he’s your choice for my personal solicitor,” Harry said as he flipped through some of the papers.
“He is,” Mistress Arany confirmed. “It is fairly typical for men in your position to have one solicitor for their House and one for themselves. When you consider the secrecy around your claiming and your personal legal issues, it makes the most sense to hire another solicitor to deal with your personal issues.”
“Personal issues?” Hermione asked.
“He wants the fanfiction to stop being published, that’s going to require legal action,” Mistress Arany answered promptly. “Especially if he sues the authors for defamation of character, which I would highly recommend, and to get an injunction against all publishers using his name and image against his will. Such an injunction will have to be filed and accepted in multiple jurisdictions which will take a great deal of time. Mr. Potter needs someone to handle his press releases on these and other matters as well. And he needs someone to pursue his family’s personal complaints against Albus Dumbledore and his abuse of the Potter Estate.”
“My personal solicitor will need to know about you three?” Harry guessed.
“It would be best,” Mistress Arany agreed. “You are our lord. He’s going to have to deal with us and our staff.”
She meant Rita Skeeter, Hermione realized with amusement. They had collected, and the Bank had certified, all of their evidence against Dumbledore weeks before. All that had been left had been to craft the press release with the help of their Press Liaison—who was Rita Skeeter, of all people.
It had turned out that Rita Skeeter was a cousin to both the Boneses and the Greengrasses, making her an ideal candidate for starting a matriarchal cadet branch of House Slytherin, something Hermione was highly invested in. Both the House of Bones and the House of Greengrass were matriarchal houses that descended from the extended Hufflepuff and Slytherin families, respectively.
Rita hadn’t been interested in peerage herself, but she had agreed to join House Slytherin and kept the option open for any daughter she might have to start a cadet line in her place.
Hermione hadn’t been certain about allowing the woman into the shelter of their family magic, but a House Ring had accepted her. She was also wonderfully gifted at ruining their enemies’ lives. Hermione couldn’t imagine Salazar Slytherin himself doing a better job for them And, as a bonus, Rita enjoyed the work.
Hermione could almost imagine Salazar and Rita getting along as friends—drinking tea and sharing terrible, catty rumors for their own amusement.
She would have to remember to get Rita started on her Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore. It wouldn’t do to let their newest resource get bored.
“When will Trip be here?” Harry asked their solicitor.
“The meeting is tentatively scheduled for tomorrow morning,” Mistress Arany admitted. “The Bank wouldn’t allow me to arrange his portkey without your permission.”
“I don’t want him arriving in this room,” Harry said. “Not yet. He’s not one of mine, yet. Arrange a portkey to the Bank and give him time to adjust to our time zone, I’ll meet him the next morning, whenever that is.”
“Very well,” Mistress Arany made a note on her parchment. Then she pulled out a small box and opened it so they could see a glittering blue jewel and a miniature of a house elf asleep inside. “House of Crouch’s house elf, Winky, has been surrendered to the House of Black. The ICW has ordered all of House of Crouch’s assets surrendered to House of Black once the Crouch patriarch admitted control of House of Black was part of why he had Sirius Black—the heir of the House at the time—condemned to Azkaban without a trial.”
“Crouch Senior’s mum was a Black,” Harry said, which was news to Hermione. She would need to take a good look at the Black Family Tree and soon.
“Exactly,” Mistress Arany agreed. “With Sirius out of the way, the position of heir of House of Black was available to new candidates. But then Crouch Junior turned out to be a Death Eater like so many others of Sirius Black’s generation and your great grandfather skipped over all of them in favor of you.”
“And Senior couldn’t let Sirius out of jail without revealing what he had done,” Hermione realized.
“I sincerely doubt Crouch Senior would have ever considered letting Sirius Black out of jail,” Mistress Arany admitted. “From what I have watched of his questioning, he never considered it a bad thing to happen to our society despite its illegality.”
Harry lifted the tiny elf out of the box and held her in the palm of his hand. “And the crystal?”
“House of Crouch’s Family Magic. As they are members of House Black by blood, even if they were never formally recognized as a cadet branch, you can take their magic into yours and claim their title as well. It is all part of House of Black’s compensation for the abuse Sirius Black has been put through.”
“Maybe I’ll make Sirius Black the new head of House Crouch,” Harry mused as he pocketed the crystal.
“It would be justice,” Hermione agreed. “And also, hilarious.”
“Crouch Senior would hate it.” Harry and Hermione shared a grin. “How do I wake the elf?” He asked. “And will doing so return her to her natural size?”
“It will,” Mistress Arany assured him. “You just need to prick your thumb and put a drop of blood on her forehead. This will bond her to you and the House of Black.”
Harry looked at Mistress Arany sharply. “She doesn’t get a say in it?”
“Unfortunately, no,” Mistress Arany agreed. “If she were to awaken still bonded to House of Crouch, she would have to answer Senior’s demands to get him free, which would see her killed by the wards of Tartarus when she tried to complete the order. To save her life, the spells on her will not release her until she is bonded to someone else.”
Harry wrinkled his nose. “I get it but that’s ugly.”
Wordlessly, Mistress Arany held out a pin for Harry to use.
Harry took the pin and pricked his thumb. Then he pressed his thumb to Winky’s forehead. Golden light glittered over the elf and when it cleared, she was standing on the table in front of Harry.
She was dressed in a golden blouse and red skirt made from silken pillowcases. She also wore a sleeveless day robe of a heavy red and gold brocade that Hermione knew would have been heavy drapes in another life. It was the female version of the uniform they had approved for use with Dobby. The only difference was that Dobby’s had trousers.
“Master Sir?” she asked, looking somewhat confused.
“Welcome to the House of Gryffindor, Winky,” Harry said, rightfully referring to his highest-ranking House first. “I am your lord, Harry Potter.”
“Master Lord Harry Potter Sir,” she curtsied.
“This is Hermione, my future lady,” Harry gestured at her. “You will be her personal attendant and take orders directly from her as if they came from myself. Do you understand?”
“Yes, my lord.” Winky curtsied again and turned to Hermione.
Hermione held out her hand. Winky touched their palms together, directly binding their magic and they both shivered at the contact.
“Winky,” she addressed the elf, “both Harry and I have rooms at the Leaky Cauldron. You will go to the barkeeper, his name is Tom, and introduce yourself to him. Tell him you will be taking over maintenance of our rooms and ask him to show you where they are. Once you have access to our rooms, I want you to ensure they are clean and secure—our privacy is very important to us. I also need you to transform my cat’s travel basket into a proper home for him and, if you can, find solutions to my hair situation. As you can see, it’s not as well managed as the Duchess of Gryffindor’s hair should be.”
“Yes, milady,” the elf curtsied.
“You will also do all you must to maintain your health—properly eating, sleeping, and drinking are required. You will never sacrifice your well-being in favor of completing a task. Do you understand?”
“Very well, you may begin.”
The elf curtsied to both her and Harry and popped away.
“That’s all I have.” Mistress Arany told them as she sat back in her chair.
“I made my presence known at the hospital yesterday after the Wizengamot meeting,” Master Xiao replied. “I have ordered certified copies of the hospital’s books from every department and the head of the hospital. They will arrive today or those obstructing my duties will be fired without discussion. The Bank has already agreed to audit all books once they have been presented and certified.”
“Well done,” Harry commended. The preliminary books they had from the hospital had been…problematic already. Reviewing the individual departments’ books would allow them to pinpoint the source of the theft they were facing. “And the orphanage?”
“I will be spending most of the day there today,” Master Xiao told them. “Master Aggnar’s assistants do not require my assistance with the hospital’s books and I feel it would be the best use of my time.
“Do you still intend to offer every child at the orphanage magical learning?”
“Yes,” Harry confirmed. “And all adults that have aged out of the orphanage without proper training. I mean…” Harry hesitated. “As long as they can learn?”
“There are tests,” Master Xiao explained. “To verify that their magic is still flexible enough for magical training.”
“Unfortunately, untapped magic can atrophy after too long,” Master Mondragon interjected with a grimace. “Very few magicals live long after their magic atrophies.”
“And Dumbledore was blocking too many of the rabble at the orphanage from getting schooling at Hogwarts if they didn’t have family trusts to pay for it, even though it should have been free,” Harry said.
“We know that from the Board Meeting minutes, yes.”
“Can we add charges for their murder to Dumbledore’s docket?” Harry asked. “If he had allowed the training, as was his duty, they wouldn’t have…”
“We’ll see,” Master Xiao agreed. “At the very least, we can publish it in your paper to further ruin his name.”
“Good,” Harry nodded.
“Madame Longbottom approached me while I was at the Hospital last night,” Master Xiao said. “She wants to formally re-establish her House’s alliance with ours. She suggested a Winter Ball but considering the privacy of your claim, I think perhaps a private meeting between you and her grandson would be more appropriate.”
“With you and Madame Longbottom in attendance,” Harry guessed, and Master Xiao inclined his head. Harry turned to her and raised an eyebrow. “He is my godbrother. Ideally, we were supposed to be raised like brothers.”
“It would be a good idea to have another of our peers know at least something about your new circumstances,” she explained to Master Xiao. “So, Harry will have someone other than me to talk to when he needs one.
“We all know Ron couldn’t keep such a secret, even with magical inducement.”
Harry nodded his agreement. “Please arrange a private meeting for Neville and I,” he instructed Master Xiao. “And I like the idea of a Winter Ball. Even if I can’t go as Lord of Slytherin, Hermione and I should be able to attend as Neville’s friends.” Harry flicked a look at her. “If you want to?”
Hermione smiled at him. “I would love to.”
“That leaves me,” Master Mondragon took their focus with a sigh. “After the meeting last night, I too went to Hogwarts to establish our claim.
“When the ICW took Dumbledore, they bound his magic,” Master Mondragon told them. “By the time I had arrived at the school, Minerva McGonagall had collapsed. She had been burdened with decades of minor behavioral modifications. Dumbledore’s new magical circumstances had forced them all to shatter, leaving extensive curse damage behind.”
“Oh, my…Merlin,” Hermione covered her mouth.
Master Mondragon inclined his head. “Madam Pomphrey was clearly more interested in hiding the evidence than treating her patient. I stunned her and had her arrested. The Bank was kind enough to send a healing and curse breaking team to help Madame McGonagall. At this point, she cannot be removed from the school because of the damage. The magic of Hogwarts is keeping her alive.”
“Dumbledore will pay for that,” Harry said emphatically.
“Of course; the school nurse as well,” Master Mondragon agreed. “Several of the staff were suffering under mild modifications. I have agreed to take on a curse breaker as well as a healer supplied by the Bank for the school year. They will verify no one else at Hogwarts has been damaged in that way by Dumbledore—student or teacher.
“We may have to have every single student that has gone through the school since he became Headmaster examined, but for now and with the backing of the IMEA, I have reinstated the yearly physicals students were supposed to be getting all along. Depending on the results of those physicals we will expand the investigation.” Master Mondragon tipped his head to Harry. “Unless you object.”
“No, that sounds…reasonable.”
“We may want to get it out there in the Prophet, what Dumbledore’s done, and encourage people to check in with their personal healers or St Mungo’s,” Hermione offered.
“Let’s wait until we have more than just the staff so we know the tone of the full warning we should give,” Harry decided. “Chances of getting myself and Hermione seen by a private healer?”
“I will arrange it,” Master Xiao interjected, and Harry gave him an approving nod.
“Several of the teachers were cursed to remain in their positions at the school,” Master Mondragon continued. “Those cursed have had their afflictions lifted and the victims were given the choice to sue Dumbledore under the Gryffindor banner. Most agreed.”
“Good,” Hermione agreed. The shit Dumbledore was going to have to pay for was piling up.
“I also removed all the instructors without the appropriate IMEA certifications from their positions. Unfortunately, that means that the only instructors left at the school are Madame Sprout and Master Flitwick.”
“And Snape?” Harry asked, eyes hard.
“He was apprehended for being on your property while being your enemy. He has been confined with Lucius Malfoy.” Master Mondragon shifted uncomfortably. “I am afraid I stunned him and forced the potion on him. I rather lost my temper with him. He’s very disagreeable.”
“He is a raging arsehole,” Harry corrected with a huff.
“Potion?” Hermione asked. “And where is Lucius Malfoy?”
“The Chamber of Secrets,” Harry told her. “We tricked Malfoy into drinking Draught of Living Death, and I had Dobby pop him down into the Chamber. I figure the snake’s nest was the safest place I could put him.”
“Narcissa Malfoy surrendered all of her husband’s material possessions to me so he would have no resources if, somehow, he managed to escape,” Master Mondragon explained. “She included several of her less savory family members’ things as well.”
Hermione perked up at that. That…rather simplified her plans for dealing with Ginny. Assuming Narcissa surrendered things belonging to Bellatrix and her ilk, rather than things belonging Sirius.
“Dobby popped Snape down there for me as well,” Master Mondragon told them. “The Bank is going through his possessions and they will be added to the vault holding the belongings of the other Death Eaters when they are done.
“I also had the Headmistress we hired come in, Lady Hermione,” the Gryffindor Proxy told her with an incline of his head. “We have agreed, due to the brief time period we have available, to adopt the current Beauxbatons schooling model with minimal cultural adjustments for this next year. Master Flitwick and Madame Sprout are assisting Madame Maxime and the IMEA with the hiring.”
“And the School Board of Governors?” Harry asked.
“I expect they will come to the Bank and attempt to tell me off,” Master Mondragon admitted. “I had the letters informing them that they were fired sent last night. They should have received them first thing this morning.”
“Will they get anywhere with that?” Hermione wondered.
“All of the school’s vault keys have been recalled and they all had to sign contracts acknowledging the noble House of Gryffindor’s placement relative to the school when they took up their positions. They have no legal means to fight us, but does that mean they will accept it?” Master Mondragon shrugged.
“I look forward to watching you tell them off,” Harry told the man and got a grin in exchange. “And Durmstrang?”
“My former apprentice, Pillar Ochoa, has taken up residence at Durmstrang. High Master Karkaroff had fled the school before she arrived, but all of his personal belongings have been seized as he, like Snape, is an enemy of our House that has been working against the best interests of our House from within one of your holdings for years.”
Harry nodded, accepting that. “What about a new High Master?”
“Lady Hermione and I reached out to the former Headmaster of Mahoutokoro School of Magic in Japan, Yukimura Ryo, a while ago. He retired two years ago, and we were hoping he would be looking for a new challenge. He was, thankfully, quite bored with his retirement. He will be arriving at Durmstrang tomorrow with several representatives of the IMEA in tow.”
“Do we owe the IMEA anything for their assistance with these matters?” Hermione wondered.
“No,” Master Mondragon shook his head. “It is their job to see that schools of magic meet the international standard. That they have ignored all three belonging to the Gryffindor Trust is their failing and it is their duty to see them put to rights.” Master Mondragon winced. “The schools will probably face harsher oversight from IMEA for the foreseeable future but considering the lack of oversight before, I can’t truly hold that against them.”
“Not particularly,” Harry agreed. “Though it would have been nice if they had been doing their jobs in the first place. Their carelessness cannot be blamed entirely on Dumbledore. He’s not old enough to have influenced the Association when the Gryffindor family died out, so something else was the root cause here.”
“I’ll point that out and ask them to investigate,” Master Mondragon promised and made a note on the parchment in front of him.
“There is no proper orphanage in the Durmstrang area,” Master Xiao interjected. “Magical children are sent to the muggle orphanage which causes many understandable problems. Should I investigate establishing an orphanage over there in the name of the House of Slytherin?”
“Or see about getting their orphans brought over to our orphanage,” Harry agreed. “How many magical orphans are there? The magical population is relatively small, isn’t it? Do we need more than one in our world?”
“Is there a way to find magical children that are orphaned before they are invited to school and have them sent to our orphanage rather than condemning them to the non-magical one at all?” Hermione added.
“I will set up lines of investigation,” Master Xiao promised as he made some notes on the parchment before him.
“Check out the state of their hospital, too,” Harry suggested. “Everyone deserves healthcare, no matter where they live or who their parents are and the…Durmstrang area isn’t known to be giving or accepting of others in the magical world.”
Mistress Arany huffed. Harry and Hermione both raised eyebrows at her and she blushed.
“It is just vexing,” she admitted. “To know that if I had been born where I was raised, I never would have learned about magic—that I would likely be dead already from magical atrophy.”
“Young Pillar will be addressing that issue with Durmstrang, just as we are here,” Master Mondragon promised Mistress Arany.
“Make sure you check in on Durmstrang, regardless,” Harry ordered. “I know you have a great deal to do but I don’t want them to think they are less important to us than our issues locally.
“…does Beauxbatons have any issues we need to address?” Harry asked.
“The curriculum is somewhat out of date,” Master Mondragon answered. “We are adding several subjects—two core and six electives—and changing their daily scheduling scheme to allow students to take more classes. Hogwarts and Durmstrang will suffer similar circumstances.”
“But their staff is up to snuff?” Hermione asked.
“Yes, it seems their proximity to the IMEAs base in Greece has served them well.”
“Good.” Hermione smiled.
“Questions?” Harry asked the gathered solicitors.
“No, my lord,” Mistress Arany answered for them and all three solicitors stood. “With your permission, we will go about our duties.”
“Good luck,” Hermione told them as Harry silently dismissed them.
“So, we watch more meetings and get ready for our extracurricular plans,” Harry said as he dropped onto the couch she favored in their portkey room when they returned from lunch in a café on the Alley. “How exactly are we going to…?”
“Kidnap Ginny Weasley?” she supplied.
“Yes,” Harry agreed. “How?” he pressed, drawing out the word until it was at least three syllables—proof he had, in fact, learned something during their two years of potions tutelage at the hands of Severus Snape.
“I found some archived images of Death Eaters in their full regalia from the last war,” she offered, watching Harry for his reaction.
Harry grinned. “We’re going to frame Death Eaters for it?”
“Can you think of a better patsy?” Hermione shrugged. “We’ll need Ron as a witness.”
Harry looked baffled.
“Ron craves fame,” Hermione explained. “Attention. Being the sole witness to his sister’s kidnapping will give him that. And, when it gives him more and more attention, he will continually exaggerate the details.”
“Further throwing the DMLE off track.” Harry laughed. “That’s brilliant.”
Hermione grinned at him.
“Let me see these pictures,” Harry requested.
Hermione pulled her private folder out from under the couch and opened it so Harry could flip through. Which he did, immediately.
“They look like…color reversed KKK.” Harry looked at her in horror.
“With handmade carnival masks slapped over the top,” Hermione agreed. “The basically are magical KKK. If you’re uncomfortable calling them magical Nazi’s.”
“There’s not much of a difference, really,” Harry allowed. “How are we going to do this?”
“Dobby disguised himself and bought the appropriate fabrics for me,” Hermione explained, “the masks were just runically enchanted Papier Mache. None of it should have taken us too long to make, but…”
“But?” Harry asked.
“Well, we have the possessions of actual Death Eaters in that vault you mentioned earlier. Why not take the robes and probably wands of some of the less famous ones and save ourselves the trouble?”
Harry blew out a breath as he considered that. “Let’s go see what we have.”
It didn’t take long for them to find Griphook and for him to take them down to the vault.
“Come back for us in an hour,” Harry told the goblin. “That should be long enough to satisfy our curiosity unless Hermione finds some interesting books.”
Hermione blushed as Griphook shot her a grin. “The libraries have all been set out for display but the trunks the books came in will be in the back right corner of the vault, if you need to repack them.”
“Appreciated.” Harry turned to the vault door and opened it with his key.
There were a large number of books in the chamber.
“Is that…parsel script?” Hermione asked in shock.
“It looks like English to me,” Harry said, further confirming to her what it was, rather than denying it.
“Winky,” Hermione called, and the elf appeared before her. “I want you to go through the books in this vault and compile all books with script like this.” She handed Winky the first book she had found as an example. “Pile them in that clear spot over there so we can review them when you’re done.”
“Yes, milady,” Winky curtsied, again, and popped over to the closest shelf.
“Where do you think their robes will be?” Harry asked as they turned to look at the rest of the room.
“No idea,” Hermione admitted, then she thought about it. “In the other time, Draco had had a special trunk that held his robe, mask, and second wand intended specifically for Death Eater activities. She was there when he ritually burned it after the war.
“He had burned his father’s too. Lucius didn’t object because it became a fairly well attended event, but I have to wonder…” Hermione shook her head. “Both of their terror trunks were custom built. They had carved snakes all over them.”
“So, we look for trunks with snakes on them?” Harry asked. “That shouldn’t be too hard.”
“Famous last words,” she muttered, and he laughed.
It wasn’t actually hard. There was a small grove of trunks carved with snakes toward the middle of the right-hand side of the vault, not far from where the empty trunks were waiting to be reused.
“They all have initials on them,” Harry said. “This one is RAB.”
“Regulus Arcturus Black,” Hermione told him. She knew those initials well enough from all the time they had spent hunting them down in the last timeline. “Sirius’s brother.”
“WEB,” Harry read the next one, “Walburga Eridani Black.”
“ONB,” Hermione read. “Orion Nigellus Black. Sirius’s mother and father.”
“BDB?” Harry asked.
Hermione considered. “Bellatrix Druella Black?”
“Wasn’t she married?”
“To a man she never wanted, unless I’m remembering wrong.”
“So, she never had the initials on her trunk changed out of spite.” Harry nodded down at the trunk, “Good on ya.”
Hermione snorted and rolled her eyes.
“Third-letter-S has to be Snape and third-letter-K has to be Karkaroff,” Harry pointed at the relevant trunks.
“Third-letter-M has to be Malfoy,” she agreed.
“We can’t use any of those, they are too well known,” Harry said. “And the solicitors know we have them, so if their outfits were recognized…”
“It would put them in an awkward position.” She turned to the last two trunks. “There are two RALs. Those have to be Rodolphus and Rabastan Lestrange. They aren’t terribly famous, as far as Death Eaters go. More famous by their association with Bellatrix.”
“I’ve never heard of them,” Harry agreed.
They each picked a trunk and opened them. The insides were fairly identical. Long black robes and silver masks with matching marks but one had a black wand and the other had a silver. Below the robes were pairs of boots and bits of magical armor.
“We are way too small for these,” Harry said before she could. Then he looked at her. “What about that potion we took at Christmas?”
“We don’t have time to brew it.”
“No, but there has to be an apothecary that we can buy it from,” Harry said. “Dobby would know someone trustworthy.”
“We would need their hair but as long as Dobby was discrete…” She looked back at her trunk. “Accio Hair of Rabastan Lestrange.” Several hairs wiggled their way out of the robes and landed in her hand.
Dobby appeared at Harry’s elbow with an empty glass potions vial. Hermione took it and stuffed the hairs in it.
She repeated the process over Harry’s chosen trunk. “Accio Hair of Rodolphus Lestrange.” And, again, Dobby supplied a clean, empty vial for storage.
“Master Harry Potter need something from his Dobby?” the elf asked.
“I need you to go out of the country to buy two one-hour doses of Polyjuice Potion. Can you do that? Without giving away your identity or who it’s for?”
Dobby snapped his fingers and suddenly he was back in the dirty pillowcase he had worn while serving the Malfoys. “Dobby can do that. Should Dobby go now?”
“First shrink these and hide them under our pillows at the Leaky Cauldron,” Hermione ordered. “Then, yes.”
Dobby snapped and he and the trunks were all gone.
“Well, that’s done,” Harry checked his watch and stood. “And we still have fifteen minutes until Griphook comes back for us.”
“Let’s go see how Winky’s doing,” Hermione decided. When she turned to lead Harry back to the library area, she saw something that froze her in her tracks. It was a tiara. A diadem on display between the Death Eater equipment and the Library area. She knew, intellectually, that Narcissa Black had included all of the Black Family Jewels that Bellatrix had inherited in her surrender of Black personal effects but…
She hadn’t forgotten about Voldemort’s horcruxes per se.
She just hadn’t been prioritizing them as they were a less immediate threat to Harry than the marriage contract as long as Voldemort was still disembodied. And, of course, because Voldemort would be even less of a threat once the solicitors figured out how to make him devoid of followers without revealing the lordships Harry had claimed.
The horcruxes were still a problem, though. One she hadn’t even tried to address yet. And there was the spitting image of Ravenclaw’s diadem—made with black diamonds and obsidian rather than blue diamonds and sapphires—staring her in the face.
There was only one thing she could say about that, really. “Fuck me.”
Rabastan Lestrange stood only half hidden not far into the entrance of Knockturn Alley with his brother at his side. Hermione glanced at Harry who was wearing Rodolphus Lestrange’s likeness.
“I don’t know how you do it,” she huffed.
“Do what?” Harry asked absently, watching what they could see of Diagon Alley avidly.
“Walking around with one of these…things swinging between your legs.” She swung her arm around like an elephant’s trunk when Harry looked at her in confusion.
Harry blushed but he snickered, too, so she considered it a win. “You get used to it.”
“Most wizards seem abnormally fond of them,” Hermione allowed.
Harry opened his mouth to respond but then Dobby appeared in front of them. It had been his job to lure Ron and Ginny out of the Cauldron and toward Knockturn Alley without being seen.
“They be coming!” Dobby hissed as he slipped behind their Notice Me Not charm, confirming his success.
They didn’t have to wait long before two redheads were lingering in the mouth of the alley.
“You think anyone down there can help Scabbers?” they heard Ginny ask.
“I don’t know,” Ron started. Then he shot his sister an ugly look. “I dare you to find out!”
“I dare you to find out!” Ginny countered. “He’s your rat!”
“I dared you first,” came the objection.
“Your rat,” Ginny repeated. “I don’t care about what’s wrong with him, he’s an embarrassment. If it were me, I’d have left him in Egypt.”
“But he would have died,” Ron objected with a frown, clutching Peter Pettigrew to his chest.
“Hardly the worst thing that could happen to him,” Ginny shrugged. “Then he wouldn’t be sick.”
“No one is killing Scabbers!” Ron glared. He covered the rat’s ears like he didn’t want the rodent to hear his sister’s cruel condemnation of him.
“Fine,” Ginny rolled her eyes. “Then let’s go find something to fix him.”
“Fine!” Ron nodded and started down Knockturn Alley. “We will!”
“Maybe a nice poison,” Ginny muttered.
“Ginny!” Ron complained.
Hermione signaled Harry and they rushed forward. Harry stunned Ginny into a wall. Hermione petrified Ron and Peter in one slash of Rabastan’s wand. Ron teetered on his feet and she grabbed his collar pulling him up to Lestrange’s height.
“Where’s Potter?” she demanded in the most menacing tone she could manage.
“He pissed himself,” Hermione huffed and looked at Harry. He had Ginny under control, so she pulled Pettigrew out of Ron’s grip and stuffed the rat into the cage she had woven for him days ago from silver runes thread on copper wires.
“Winky,” she called, and the elf silently appeared. “Take this to the Chamber of Secrets and place it with the other Death Eaters.”
“The rat is an animagus and the cage is designed to keep him transformed and petrified. Do not take him out.”
The elf full-on bowed this time. “Yes, milady.”
Hermione dragged Ron closer to Diagon Alley and let him lean back against a wall. He’d be safe enough there. His brothers would probably even find him before too long.
She returned to Harry and squatted to grip Ginny’s free wrist.
“Dobby?” Harry asked and the elf took both his hand and hers, completing the circle.
With a squeeze of house elf magic, they were gone from Knockturn Alley. They reappeared in a ritual circle in Wales.
In the future, her other self had learned about this particular magical circle after the war. It was ancient and abandoned, except that Voldemort had used it twice during his first war. He had returned to it multiple times during his second war. Thankfully, Voldemort’s dark acts hadn’t ruined the circle yet, but they would eventually.
At this point, the circle had already developed a corruptive nature that, even after just an hour unattended, would obscure the nature of the ritual they were about to complete irrevocably.
This corruption was not strong enough to be a danger to her and Harry. Yet.
Hermione conjured a larger altar to stand freely over the current altar. The nature of the circle might not be a threat but that was no reason to interact with it directly.
Dobby levitated Ginny onto the new altar.
“You and Winky need to witness this,” Harry told Dobby, “so you can help us obscure the magic we’re going to do after.”
“We watch,” Dobby promised and he joined Winky outside the circle.
“What ritual did you choose?” Hermione asked.
“A simple cleansing and empowerment ritual I found in one of the private Gryffindor grimoires,” Harry answered. “You said that was what the potion needed, right? Empowerment?”
“It is,” Hermione confirmed. “How do we, um…?”
“Kill her?” Harry asked. “The family magic will do it.”
“She owes me a life debt and she committed crimes against our shared blood. She’s a walking dead person already.”
“You share blood?” she asked. He had mentioned being related to Arthur Weasley at the Bank before.
Harry grinned at her. “Do you want to research it, or do you want me to tell you?”
“I’ll research it, thanks.” She sniffed at him.
“Good luck.” Harry took a deep breath. “Are we ready?”
“We’re ready,” she confirmed.
“Stand there,” Harry pointed her to the place at Ginny’s feet, “so we balance each other. I have to stand at her head to render judgement.”
“Got it,” Hermione confirmed and moved into position.
Harry moved to his spot near Ginny’s head and drew his wand. He hissed his way around the circle, drawing a glowing red ward to protect them and the sanctity of the ritual they were about to conduct.
Back at his starting position, Harry holstered his wand and placed his hands on Ginny’s shoulders. “Blood of my mother, you have committed acts most vile. You have terrorized children and attempted to murder innocents in the pursuit of an obsession. Worse, you have consorted with and attempted to resurrect the murder of your blood kin, Lily Marie Potter nee Evans.
“For these crimes, Ginevra Molly Weasley, I, Harry James Potter, the only son of Lily Marie condemn you to die.”
Judgement rendered, the ritual Harry chose would begin, Hermione knew.
Harry unholstered his wand and drew a white rune in the air above Ginny. “Magic gives and magic takes away. Magic sees my plans, for good or ill. Magic judges my deeds, wise or folly.
“Magic, my lord, I claim what is mine to fulfill my duty. I claim what is mine to overcome my burden. In your name, I beg, let me claim the tools I must to meet my fate!” Harry looked down to Ginny one more time. “With justice done, your magical debt to me will be fulfilled. Go forth into your next life unburdened by the madness of this one.”
Ginny took a ragged breath and went limp. A wave of magic rose from her body and hit the white rune, turning it gold, and Harry drank the potion Hermione had devised for him in another life. The now-golden rune sank into Harry.
Harry staggered, clutching the altar to keep his feet, and Hermione could not go to him. Literally, could not go to him. It was as if someone had cast a sticking charm to her boots.
She watched in horror as a ghostly version of Ginny sat up on the altar. She smiled at Harry, “Thanks.” Then she frowned. She reached out and drew one finger along Harry’s scar. A shadow came loose, clinging to her shining form, and Ginny cradled it in her hand. She nodded to Hermione once and faded from view.
Hermione tore herself from her spot and raced around the altar. Harry was still reeling as she helped him sit up with his back to the altar. Winky and Dobby made it to him just after she did, both clutching different potions, so the circle must have collapsed when Harry did.
Hermione took Winky’s smelling salts and waved it under Harry’s nose.
Harry coughed, “Oh, wow.”
“Are you alright?” Hermione asked, feeling unspeakable anxious.
“Its…a lot,” Harry admitted and opened his eyes. “Merlin, I missed you.”
Hermione laughed and threw her arms around the man that both was and was not her husband. There might have been some sobbing involved so she pulled back to get a hold of herself.
“Dobby,” Harry reached out to the elf. “It is so good to see you.”
Hermione knew he meant it was good to see the elf alive, but she couldn’t blame him for not saying those exact words.
The elf—both of them, actually—started cooing nonsense and petting Harry’s face and hair in what she thought was an attempt to comfort him.
“I need more elves, Dobby,” Harry said almost drunkenly. “I need—I have plans—More elves.”
“We be finding more elves, Master Harry,” Dobby swore.
“The best elves,” Winky agreed.
“I need a bath before I go to sleep,” Harry said. “Privately, please.”
Dobby vibrated with excitement at a task to manage. “Dobby goes prepare it.” The elf disappeared before Harry could do more than shift his head in a vaguely affirmative motion.
“Sirius,” Harry called, holding out one hand.
The shadows shifted and Hermione could make out the form of a big black dog she would have sworn was not there even moments before. The dog stepped deeper into the shadows and stepped out a man—ragged and young, excited but wary.
“Harry?” Sirius Black managed, his voice was weak from disuse.
“Sirius,” Harry repeated as his godfather took his hand. “Come with us. You’ll be safe. And the Bank…” Harry let his head roll back against the altar, “heal you.”
“I will,” Sirius promised as Dobby once again appeared. “For now, let your elf put you to bed. We’ll clean this up and join you later.”
“Kay,” Harry agreed and closed his eyes. Dobby took that as permission and popped Harry away.
“Harry is Lord of House Black?” Sirius asked immediately after he was gone. “I heard it was claimed on the wireless.”
“And Lord of House Gryffindor,” she agreed, and Black shot her wide eyes. She shrugged. “And Lord of House Slytherin.”
Sirius Black sat back on his knees looking pale. “So, the Sword? Is Excalibur…?”
“He swears it’s not his,” Hermione told him, honestly a little vexed. “He won’t say how he knows, though, and he wants to keep his claimings secret until he absolutely has to reveal himself, so there will be no checking.”
Sirius Black nodded. “An underage lord? They are always the victims of ridiculous circumstances and demands. Better to keep it secret.”
“People subject him to ridiculous circumstances and demands everyday just for being The Boy Who Lived,” Hermione gestured toward the altar. “For example.”
“This was to protect himself,” Sirius realized.
“In multiple ways,” she agreed.
“Let’s get this cleaned up and get back to him,” Black said as he pulled a wand. She wondered where he had even gotten it. It couldn’t possibly be his own, the DMLE had that. “I don’t want to leave him alone for too long.”
“Dobby would die for him,” she promised Black because Dobby, in fact, had. Just like that other Sirius Black had. She wondered what she could do to ensure they both lived into old age this time around. Preferably with children and grandchildren for each “But I don’t like it either. He gets into too much trouble when left on his own.”
“Just like his father,” Sirius agreed sadly.
“At least he comes by it honestly.”