"So, how was it?" asked Dobby, the two of them now standing in front of the Shrieking Shack.
"Completion," Harry replied with a contented sigh.
"I'm happy for you, Harry," Dobby said, flashing a genuine smile.
"So am I, mate, so am I," he said, laughing. He had a feeling his shit-eating grin would be with him for at least the rest of the day. "Make sure to be there if she needs you."
"Of course," the elf replied. "You know, I just thought of something..."
"What?" asked Harry.
"Sirius is a dog Animagus and Lupin is a werewolf. They're supposed to have a good sense of smell, right?" asked Dobby, grinning.
"What are you...oh crap," replied Harry, realizing that both Marauders were going to tease him relentlessly once they detected Daphne's scent on him. Dobby laughed and popped away, leaving Harry alone at the entrance of the shack.
He just shrugged, thinking, "Oh well..."
Harry entered the shack and closed the door behind him. He cautiously walked towards the living room, where he felt the presence of two magical beings. All of a sudden, one of the presences had a surge in magic and started rapidly approaching him. Harry knew what was coming, and he smirked as he saw Padfoot come barreling around the corridor at full speed and leaping straight at him. Harry deftly dodged out of the way, and the shaggy black dog tumbled to the ground. Harry only had a second to laugh at his godfather, who quickly gathered himself to jump at Harry again, only to be immediately frozen by Harry's silent Full Body-Bind Curse.
"Hi there, Padfoot," Harry said, scratching him the ears. "Who's a good boy? Not you, that's for sure," he finished, feeling the sudden urge to change Sirius back to his human form, punch him in the nose, then hug the life out of him.
Laughter rang out from behind them, and Harry turned to see Remus Lupin standing in the doorway. Harry was hit by a pang of grief as he was suddenly reminded of his godson, Teddy Lupin.
Not this time.
"Hi Moony," Harry said, reining in his emotions and walking across the room to hug Remus.
"Hey, cub, how are you?"
"Better, but I think Padfoot may need to be neutered." The dog whimpered, and the other two laughed.
As soon as Harry removed the body-bind from Sirius, he instantly changed back to his human form.
"Damn pup, you have some good reflexes," he said, hugging his godson.
"Quidditch, and my new training partner," Harry replied, raising both men's curiosity.
"Really? And who would this new training partner be?" asked Remus, while Sirius grinned.
"I am willing to bet it's the Veela bird he mentioned," Sirius said, waggling his eyebrows.
"Well, you would be wrong. Why would I bother with the Veela, when I have someone much better than her?" Harry replied. Both men looked at each other with raised eyebrows, then simultaneously turned back to Harry with surprised grins plastered on their faces.
"Oh? And would this amazing bird of yours have a name?" asked Sirius.
"You'll find out soon enough," Harry replied, making Sirius pout and Remus laugh. Sirius looked like he was about to change the subject, but then he froze in place, his nose wrinkling. He leaned in closer to Harry and gave him couple of sniffs, then stood back up, smiling broadly.
"Remus..." he called, and Harry wilted. "Here it comes."
Remus sniffed the air a couple times and grinned. "My my, Mr. Potter, have you been in contact with a lovely young girl recently?" he asked.
"Yes," replied Harry, crossing his arms.
"And how long has this been going on?" Sirius asked with a grin. Harry shrugged.
"Twenty minutes, give or take. Maybe less," he replied, and his uncles looked at each other in surprise.
"Uh... you work fast," said Sirius, earning a glare from Harry.
"She's only been my girlfriend for twenty minutes, but we've been spending a lot of time together the last few weeks," he clarified, rolling his eyes. "Let's make one thing clear, Sirius, and this goes for you too, Remus. I like her. And I mean I really like her, got it? I don't want to do anything to mess it up, so whatever happens between us will stay between us. All I will tell you for now is that she's all I've ever wanted."
Both Sirius's and Remus's eyes widened at this.
"Oh Merlin, we've already lost the pup. He's lost I tell you!" cried Sirius, dramatically covering his eyes with the back of his hand and pretending to swoon.
"Well, he's his father's son, what would you expect?" asked Remus.
"What are you talking about?" asked Harry, almost positive he didn't actually want to know.
"Are you in love, cub?" asked Remus, and even Sirius seemed very interested in his answer.
"Ask me again some other time," replied Harry, making both older men laugh.
They went to the living room and sat down. Sirius was determined to give Harry "The Talk" right then and there, but he eventually agreed to put it off until later – but only because he lacked the firewhisky needed for such a bonding moment. Remus mentioned some diagrams of his that could be useful for the discussion, which made Harry shudder.
What really got to Harry was that he was actually reliving a moment from the summer before his fifth year, when he was actually dumb enough to ask the two older men about girls. Sirius had produced a bottle of firewhisky and got Harry good and drunk while explaining the birds and the bees. He even brought out Remus's visual aids, much to Harry's chagrin.
"So, cub, about everything has been happening to you..." Remus started, and the atmosphere in the room shifted. Sirius looked gravely at Harry, and the Dark Lord-turned-teen started telling them about everything that had happened since Halloween.
Sirius and Remus were appalled by the behaviour of Gryffindor house, and even more so by McGonagall's and Dumbledore's. They were completely shocked by Harry's explanation of how he had bonded with Dobby, and how the elf had changed into something else, something more powerful. He told them all about how he had been living in the Chamber of Secrets, and about all the books and old equipment he found there. He detailed how he had been using what he learned in the Chamber to study and practice his magic, and how much more powerful all the training had made him.
All of that, of course, led up to what happened in the first task.
Of course, the story was mostly a fabrication, but unfortunately it was necessary for Harry to lie in this case. There were a few points where Remus asked some difficult questions, but he was ultimately satisfied with the answers Harry gave them.
Sirius was amazed by the story, but also very concerned.
"But…how did you fly? Without a broom?" asked Sirius.
"Falling from the broom was an accident; I actually got blown off by the shockwave from my own spell. As for the flying, it's actually simpler than it looks. I was reading Slytherin's journals, and he had written about how he would sometimes levitate himself in front of his students, just to impress them. I'd already been working on wandless magic for quite some time, so I tried it out a few times in the Chamber." he said. "It's really just a matter of casting a wandless Levitation Charm on yourself, but it's really hard to control. The task was the first time I'd done it for even close to that long. My magic probably gave me a little boost, knowing the alternative was falling a hundred feet to the ground."
Again, Harry really had to stretch the truth here. In reality it had taken him several years and some spell modification to perfect the technique. They seemed to accept his explanation though, and they both just shook their heads in amazement. Parts of the story definitely sounded farfetched, even to Harry, so he ended up using a Compulsion Charm so they'd readily believe what he was telling them.
He told them about the aftermath of the first task, and they laughed spitefully as Harry recounted how he had humiliated the Gryffindors. They harshly declared that the lions had deserved every bit of it, and then some, and that it should be renamed the house of the rats. It struck Harry that all three of them had been betrayed by at least one Gryffindor who had once been close to them, which really made him think. At the end of the day, he was just relieved that the only two adults he trusted were firmly behind him.
"And now, you're a snake?" asked Remus.
"A proud snake, thank you," Harry replied stiffly. "Just so you know, had I not met Malfoy or Weasley on the train, I would've been a Slytherin from day one."
"I'm not trying to be insulting, cub, it's just..."
"It's hard to believe," Sirius started, sitting back in his seat, "and yet the proof is right here in front of us," he finished, with a wave in Harry's direction.
"Look I know you have reasons to distrust Slytherins, especially after growing up during Voldemort's rise," he sighed. "But honestly, it's not so bad. I've already been fully accepted by the house, and most of them seem to like me. I've made friends there. More friends than I had in Gryffindor, believe it or not, and better friends than those backstabbing idiots. I feel like I can actually be myself without worrying about hurting their feelings, and..." Harry trailed off, shrugging. "It's my new home, and I'm actually respected there. To the rest of the school, I am either the hero who killed Voldemort or an aspiring Dark Wizard. In Slytherin, they mostly just consider me another fourth year student. A particularly powerful and cunning fourth year, perhaps, but still only a fourth year."
Sirius and Remus nodded, accepting Harry at his word.
"What about Snivellus?" asked Remus, which made Harry chuckle.
"I don't think he's gotten over the shock of me being in his house yet," he replied, and the three shared a laugh.
"So, considering everything you've told us, do you actually need us for anything?" asked Remus. He was half kidding, but Harry could tell they were both still worried. He understood their doubts, and he knew that they really wanted to help him in some way, they just weren't sure how.
"Moony, I'm good but I'm not perfect. There's still lots of stuff you can help me with. Maybe we can even practice dueling one day, if you can keep up, that is," Harry quipped. "Keep in mind I've been training in the Chamber of Secrets since I killed the basilisk in my second year."
"What basilisk?" Sirius and Remus shouted in unison, which led to a full report of Harry's first three years at Hogwarts.
"Damn, pup, that's...hard," replied Sirius, not knowing what else to say.
"Do you need anything, Harry?" Remus asked again, and Harry handed him a folded parchment, having anticipated the question. Remus unfolded the list and read through it.
"Clay, silver powder, an assortment of ingredients... What the hell is all this for?" Remus questioned, and Harry smirked.
"The clay is for pottery; I'm thinking about starting a new hobby. The ingredients are for potions, of course, and the silver is for making permanent rune engravings."
"A new hobby?" muttered a highly confused Sirius, who thought it sounded like the craziest thing he'd heard today, which was saying something.
"You're going to make Potter Pottery?" asked Remus, barely able to keep a straight face.
Harry sighed. Apparently, he wasn't as funny as he thought he was.
"No, I was trying to make a joke. I read a book on enchanting, and I'm interested in trying it out. The clay can be used to make enchanted tiles, for example."
"Oh... I didn't know you knew runes," replied Remus.
"No offence, Remus, but there's a lot you don't know about me," replied Harry, and a look of regret crossed Moony's face. "Don't feel bad though, I don't blame you."
"That's true," mumbled Sirius. "Do you need any help with your second task?"
"Well, besides the Bubblehead Charm and gillyweed, do you know of any ways to remain underwater for extended periods of time?"
"You already know what the second task is?" asked Remus in surprise, and Harry nodded back.
"They're going to take the thing I would miss the most and hide it at the bottom of the lake. I'll have one hour to retrieve it."
"That's crazy!" said Sirius, appalled at the idea.
"Are you surprised? We're talking about people who thought it was a good idea pit students against nesting mother dragons," Harry pointed out.
"The only other method I can think of right now is human transfiguration..." said Remus, trailing off.
"I see. What about some sort of reverse Summoning Charm that would bring me to my target, instead of the other way around?"
"Well, there's a variation of the Four-Point Spell you could use..." Remus contemplated. "The spell was designed to be used like a compass, but it can be modified to point you in the direction of a particular target, as long as you have enough intent behind it."
"Teach me," Harry asked, and the three men spent a few minutes working through the finer points of the spell.
"Point Me at Sirius Black," Harry said, concentrating on his godfather, and he felt his wand moving of its own accord. Sure enough, the wand pointed itself directly at Sirius and started subtly pulling in his direction.
"Well done, pup," praised Sirius.
"Do you need anything else?"
"Actually, yes," replied Harry, removing a large, folded parchment from his pocket and speaking the familiar phrase, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
Sirius gave a low whistle.
"Damn, it has been years since I last saw that," he said, and Harry smirked.
"I want to place an alarm that warns me when anyone appears at Hogwarts who shouldn't be." Both men looked at the teen inquisitively. "What? We still don't know who put my name in the cup, right? It had to be someone from the outside, or at least according to Professor Moody." Harry's reasoning was obviously untrue, but he didn't know what else to say other than he really just wanted to learn how to do it.
"PROFESSOR Moody?" asked Sirius, wanting to laugh but not believing his ears. "Mad-Eye Moody is your professor?"
"Yeah, for Defense Against the Dark Arts… He's a scary guy, but quite knowledgeable. He's almost as good a professor as you were, Moony."
"Aw, thank you Harry, but I'm sorry to tell you we didn't build in a feature like that when we made the map," Remus regretfully informed him.
"Oh, well, it was worth a try," Harry replied with a shake of his head, then cleared the map and returned it to his pocket.
"I'm sorry, but I have to hurry," he said, noting the time. I have a practice duel with Viktor Krum at six. Would you fine gents like to come with me to Gringotts to claim my lordship?"
After a bit of explaining, Harry called for Dobby. After the older two shook off their initial surprise at Dobby's appearance, they let the elf pop them to Gringotts, Sirius in his Animagus form. Dobby brought them to the alley next to the bank and seemed as if he was about to say something, but he abruptly stiffened.
"Master, the Mistress calls," Dobby informed him, and Harry smirked and told him to go.
"Mistress, huh?" asked Remus, while Padfoot tilted his head at him curiously.
"One day, she might be. In the meantime, if Dobby wants to call her Mistress, then I'm not opposed to it if she isn't.
"It sounds like you already learned the first rule of marriage," joked Remus.
"As far as I can tell, keeping your woman happy is necessary for survival," mumbled Harry, and they all laughed (or barked, as it were).
The three entered the bank and walked up to a teller.
"How may I help you, wizard?" asked the goblin.
"Greetings, may your gold flow and your enemies be crushed. My name is Harry Potter, heir to House Potter. I wish to perform an inheritance test, claim the headship of House Potter, and meet with my account manager," Harry requested, his comportment taking all of them by surprise, the goblin most of all.
"Very well, Heir Potter. May your gold flow and your enemies fall before you. You shall be escorted to Grimjaw at once." The teller rang a bell and a young goblin appeared to escort the trio.
"Harry, how did you learn how to deal with goblins?" asked Remus, curiously.
"Salazar's journals described many of his interactions with their kind. I was interested to learn that goblins were a warrior race, before turning to banking," replied Harry. Remus nodded his head thoughtfully.
"We are still a warrior race, Mr. Potter," replied their guide, who had introduced himself as Swiftlock. "We still train our armies as we always have, but instead of open warfare we focus on the protection of our domain, and of the riches entrusted to us by your kind."
"Ah, thank you for the clarification, Swiftlock," replied Harry, remembering well the might the goblins kept hidden in the caves far beneath Gringotts. They were taken into the office of an older goblin dressed in a sharp, pinstriped suit. The goblin invited them to sit with a gesture, and then crossed his hands on the desk in front of him.
"I am account manager Grimjaw, and I welcome you, Heir Potter, to my office," the goblin said in a polite, but formal tone.
"Thank you, Grimjaw. May your enemies be crushed, your gold flow, and our joint ventures grow steadily and profitably. I am Harry Potter, heir of House Potter, and these two are my uncle, Remus Lupin, and my godfather, Sirius Black, who is an Animagus."
Sirius changed back to his human form, and both he and Remus glared at Harry in disbelief.
Ignoring their looks of betrayal, he continued, "It's my understanding that according to Gringotts, my godfather is still considered innocent of any crimes, and therefore I request asylum for him."
"Of course, Heir Potter. The vault of Peter Pettigrew is still active, and that alone casts doubt upon your Ministry's claims regarding Heir Black," the goblin said, drawing the attention of the older wizards.
"What do you mean Heir Black?" asked Sirius.
"You are the sole heir of Orion Arcturus Black, former lord of the Black family," Grimjaw replied matter-of-factly.
"How can that be true, when I was disowned by my mother?" questioned Sirius.
"The former Lady Black never had the authority to disown you, Heir Black," replied the goblin, as Sirius just shook his head and laughed. "I assume you wish to claim your lordship as well?"
"No, I don't think that's a good idea. I'd like to stand trial and be declared innocent by the ministry before doing anything," Sirius replied. Remus gave him a quick nod, agreeing it was a wise decision.
"Lily and James's will should be enough to prove my innocence," Sirius added.
"Unfortunately, Heir Black, the Potters' will was sealed by order of your Wizengamot and Albus Dumbledore," Grimjaw informed him.
"Why?" Harry inquired.
"That I do not know, Heir Potter. However, Mr. Dumbledore, acting on your behalf as your magical guardian, provided Gringotts with instructions to make the Potter estate grow and keep it well managed until you're ready to claim your headship. Only then would you be able to authorise the unsealing of your parents' will."
"Interesting," whispered Harry. "However, we come bearing news. By forcing me to compete in the Triwizard Tournament, the Ministry of Magic has recognised me as an adult. Am I correct in my belief that this is sufficient for me to claim my headship of House Potter now?"
"You are indeed correct, Heir Potter," replied Grimjaw. "In fact, I personally sent you letters in the name of Gringotts informing you of that very thing. It was a surprise when the letters were sent back unopened, unlike the usual statements."
"I've been experiencing some issues with receiving owl post lately. I assume that you've been sending the statements directly to my guardian?"
"There you have it," replied Harry. "I do believe that I need to have a conversation with Dumbledore about him being my magical guardian and managing my finances. What has he done, actually?"
"As I mentioned, Albus Dumbledore gave instructions to manage the Potter estate and make it grow. Only the head of house is authorised to know anything beyond that."
"Very well. In that case, I'd like to withstand the inheritance ritual," Harry replied. Grimjaw nodded and briefly ducked below the desk.
"Hey Moony, is just it me or is it kind of creepy seeing Harry acting like this?" mumbled Sirius.
"Cold and calculating? Somehow knowing exactly what to say and do?" replied the werewolf. "Yeah, I sure do."
"Good, I thought it was just me," replied Sirius, as Grimjaw produced a rune-covered basin and a steel ritual knife, which itself had several runes running along the blade.
"The procedure is simple, Heir Potter. Use the knife to draw blood and drop it into the basin. Magic will do the rest." Harry nodded and squeezed his hand around the blade, then swiftly pulled the knife across his palm, allowing the blood to flow from his wound into the basin.
Grimjaw was impressed by the young wizard, noting that he hadn't even flinched. Sirius and Remus, however, were appalled.
"Harry! What do you think you're doing?" exclaimed Sirius. "A few drops would've been plenty!"
"Don't worry," Harry replied, healing himself with his wand while he was still concentrating on the basin. As it absorbed the blood, the runes carved into the basin began emanating a soft golden glow, and with a flash, a sheet of parchment appeared on top. Grimjaw grabbed the parchment and read it aloud to the others.
Name: Harry James Potter
Father: James Charlus Potter
Mother: Lily Julia Potter née Evans
Heir of House Potter by primogeniture
Potential Heir of House Slytherin via maternal ancestry
"What does it mean by 'potential' Heir of House Slytherin?" Sirius asked through his shock.
"The tale is no longer well known, but we goblins have long memories. During his twilight years, Salazar Slytherin locked his vaults and hid the key away in a secret location. He informed his descendants that only a worthy heir would be able to discover the secret and claim the mantle of Lord Slytherin. It involved a test of cunning of some sort, at least according to him."
"I definitely didn't uncover that particular secret last time around," Harry thought to himself.
"But, how? Lily was a descendant of Slytherin? I mean, she wasn't even a Parselmouth..."
"You wizards..." the goblin said with a scowl. "Not all magical abilities pass automatically from parent to child. Gringotts was aware that Lady Potter was a descendant of Salazar Slytherin, and we also have the documentation. Her lineage can be traced back through a branch of squibs originating from the Gaunt family, which is known to be directly descended from Slytherin. While Lily Potter was the first from that line to have a fully functional magical core, it wasn't enough to reactivate all the inherent abilities of her ancestry. The infusion of magic and blood from the Potter line seems to have been enough to awaken some of those abilities in you, Heir Potter."
"But Lily was a powerful witch," mused Remus, but the goblin had no further answers. Sirius looked over at Harry, who was looking pensive.
"Harry, what do you have to say about this?"
"Did my mother know?" he asked, and Grimjaw nodded in the affirmative.
"She did, but she ordered for the information to be declared a secret of House Potter. I don't believe the former Lord Potter, your father, ever knew."
"I see," replied Harry. "Was Lord Voldemort, previously known as Tom Riddle, ever able to claim the House Slytherin lordship?"
"He was not," Grimjaw replied, and Harry nodded and looked away for a moment, pondering this latest mystery.
"In that case," he said after a moment, "I'd like to claim the Potter lordship, and then I'd like to see my parents' will."
"As you wish, Lord Potter." Grimjaw produced several forms for Harry to sign and ordered a goblin to retrieve the Potter will and ring, which was done within moments.
"I would now read the will, with your permission," Grimjaw announced, and Harry quickly assented.
This letter serves as the last will and testament of James Charlus Potter, Lord of House Potter, and the Lady Lily Julia Potter.
We are writing this now, having just gone into hiding under the Fidelius Charm, in hopes that it will never be read. If this is being read, then our plan failed and Lord Voldemort somehow got to our good friend Peter Pettigrew, who was our secret keeper for the Fidelius.
We're sorry, Petey.
Should our son Harry James Potter survive us, then our bequests are to be as follows. To Sirius Black we leave ten thousand galleons and guardianship of our son Harry James Potter. To Remus Lupin, we also leave a sum of ten thousand galleons. An additional ten thousand galleons are to be given directly to the Auror Corps, and five thousand to the organisation known as the Order of the Phoenix. The remainder of our estate shall be given to our son Harry.
Harry, if you're reading this then we want you to know that we love you more than anything. We want nothing more than for you to have a long, healthy life, filled with love and happiness. Whatever you do, know we are proud of you, and we will be watching over you. If your bouts of accidental magic are any indication, you will be a powerful wizard one day, and we know you will do great things. Inside the Potter vault is a collection of memories that include some of our most treasured moments with you. If we don't survive this war, we'd at least like for you to have something of us.
This is not a goodbye, son. We'll meet again, one day.
We are very proud of you, and we love you very much.
Should our son have died with us, I, James Charlus Potter name Sirius Orion Black and Remus John Lupin as heirs of House Potter, and they can do whatever they wish with the estate.
This is not a goodbye. One day, the Marauders will run together again.
We want you all to lead long and happy lives, and we hope you will take down those bastards for us. The three of you were the brothers I always wanted. We'll be waiting for you on the other side.
Farewell, friends. See you one day.
Authenticated by Account Manager Grimjaw
The goblin folded the parchment and looked up to see Harry sitting in his chair with his eyes closed. Sirius was wiping the tears from eyes, and Remus was solemnly looking at the ground.
"Grimjaw, would you please send a copy of that will to the head of the DMLE, along with a request that they ensure my godfather has a trial?"
"It shall be done, Heir Potter," agreed Grimjaw, magically duplicating the will and setting it aside.
"Why did they only add you as a possible guardian?" Harry asked Sirius, who shrugged.
"I was planning on going under the Fidelius too. They knew that, so maybe they assumed I'd survive if they didn't." Harry accepted the answer and turned to Remus.
"I'm a werewolf, Harry, I wouldn't be allowed to be your guardian," the man replied, and Harry sighed.
Stupid bigoted rules.
"And my lordship?" Harry asked Grimjaw, who extended a polished wooden box to him. Harry opened it to find a golden ring set with a sizable bloodred stone in the centre. Set within the surface of the stone was the enameled coat of arms for House Potter. He took the ring from the box, placed it on his finger, and was immediately enveloped by a golden light. The glow disappeared after a few moments, and Harry felt the ring adjust its size to properly fit his finger.
"The magic has accepted you, and from this moment forward you are the Lord Potter. Allow me to be the first to congratulate you, my lord."
"Thank you, Grimjaw," said Harry, earning a few supportive claps on the shoulders from his uncles. "I trust the director of the DMLE will know how to deal with the will and my godfather?"
"Gringotts will push its resources to see it done, I assure you. Heir Black shall be contacted as soon as possible," Grimjaw explained, closing his files. "If there is nothing else?"
"I'd like a statement of my estate please, and I'd also like to request a few words in private, if I may," Harry replied, which took his uncles by surprise.
"Of course, Lord Potter. Mr. Lupin and Heir Black shall be escorted to the lobby, where they can wait while you conclude your business."
"I hope you don't mind..." said Harry, turning to both men.
"Harry, are you sure you don't need our help?" Sirius asked, which seemed to amuse both Harry and Remus.
"Don't worry Sirius, I think I have everything well in hand," Harry told him with a chuckle. "Besides, if I do need help, I have Grimjaw. That's why we're paying him, isn't it?"
"Of course. Time is money, and I earn a fee for each of my clients' successful business ventures."
"You're scary, kid," said Sirius, shaking his head and chuckling. "We'll be waiting outside, go on then." Sirius changed back into his dog form while Remus gave Harry some parting advice, then they left the office together, leaving Harry and Grimjaw alone.
Grimjaw started explaining all of Harry's holdings to him. The gold in his vaults was more than Harry expected to spend in a lifetime. The goblins had clearly taken Dumbledore's request to make the Potter estate grow seriously. They reviewed the portfolio of business stocks and various properties, which included Potter Manor, his ancestral home, which had been in lockdown ever since the death of his grandparents.
Most of this wasn't news to Harry, of course, but it was good to take stock of his available resources.
"Is there anything else I can do to be of service, Lord Potter?"
"Indeed, there is," replied Harry, lifting his eyes from the parchment he was reading and handing it back to Grimjaw, who made copies for Harry to review at a later date. Harry gazed at the expectant goblin with a steely expression, reminiscent of his time as the Dark Lord Potter. It was time to put another piece of his plan in motion, one that did not concern Voldemort, but had a connection to Oberon and Titania. He was not about to wait almost ten years and risk countless lives.
"I'd like to hire the Goblin Nation to locate a specific group of wizards and witches. I do not wish to know anything about the individual members, I only need to know the location of their meetings and any potential safehouses."
Grimjaw stared back at Harry for a few moments with a contemplative look.
"This type of service will not be inexpensive..." the goblin started.
"I understand, of course," Harry interjected. "I expected nothing less." The goblin nodded.
"Very well. Tell me who it is you wish to find, and I will pass the information forward."
"All right then," replied Harry, leaning back in his chair and folding his hands. "I wish to know the location of the meetings of the group known as the 'Followers of Rhassel'Thoth' and the location of their leader, Varrard'Thoth."
That was the first time in several centuries that a wizard had seen a goblin looking frightened.
Harry arrived back at school and wanted to go meet Daphne, but he was already running late. Instead, Dobby popped him directly to the seventh floor, and he entered the Room of Requirement. It had been configured into the dueling room he used to train the DA all those years ago, which he still used with Daphne on occasion.
While he was waiting for Krum to summon Dobby, he knelt down on the floor and meditated on the happenings of the day.
Grimjaw had been appalled that Harry was searching for the Followers of Rhassel'Thoth. He had no idea how the young wizard had even heard of the group, whose only purpose was to worship one of the most powerful and dangerous necromancers of the ancient world as a god. The goblin was sure that no good could come from the recently elevated Lord Potter seeking out such a group. Anything having to do with Rhassel'Thoth would be exceedingly dangerous; even if the wizards had forgotten their history, the Goblin Nation hadn't.
Grimjaw wanted answers from Harry, but received none. All he got out of him was an order of five goblin warrior squads to support him when and if the Goblin Nation located the group. That alone helped to ease the goblin's heart, as it indicated the young lord intended to oppose the cult, rather than join them.
After finishing his business with Grimjaw, Harry had made a quick trip to the Potter vault to pick up an item he wanted for the Yule Ball, then went back up to join Sirius and Remus. The three of them went back to Hogsmeade and said their goodbyes, the older two promising to keep Harry informed of any developments concerning Sirius's legal status. By then it was almost six o'clock, and Harry had to hurry to Hogwarts for his duel with Krum.
At five minutes past six, there was a knock on the door.
"Enter," called Harry, and the door opened to reveal Viktor Krum, who stepped into the room and looked around in wonder. "Ah, Mr. Krum, welcome. I've been expecting you."
"Vhen you said you knew place, I thought ov classroom," the Bulgarian said, still in awe of the room.
"This room isn't known to many people, but it can take on nearly any shape and provide just about anything you need. This version of the room is one I have used before, for dueling and training."
"It is good, da?"
After some more small talk, they set the rules for their practice duel. Krum was surprised when Harry wasn't at all opposed to allowing dark curses, as long as they weren't immediately lethal, although he suspected that Potter wasn't as Light as everyone was led to believe. The rag the British called a newspaper seemed to share Viktor's assessment, at least.
Harry and Viktor took their positions and began their duel, at first trading simple spells to feel each other out and test their reflexes. Then, with a grin, Krum decided to raise the bar, and the pace of the fight increased dramatically. Both were doing their best to dodge each other's attacks, raising shields only as a last resort.
"It looks like Krum and I have similar dueling philosophies," he thought. "Why waste magic when we can use our quickness to avoid spells altogether? Harry reminded himself to suggest some physical training to Daphne later.
Harry snapped out of his thoughts when he had to leap out of the way of Viktor's spell, cursing himself for his lapse in attention. Even though Harry was much more powerful and had to hold himself back to keep it fair, Krum was fast enough that Harry shouldn't have let his guard down so easily.
For his part, Krum was having a great time. He had been a junior dueling champion in Bulgaria and was easily the top duelist at Durmstrang, and he was almost desperate to face a challenger strong enough to push his limits. He was intrigued by stories of the Boy-Who-Lived, who had supposedly defeated a most dangerous Dark Lord at age one. He suspected that his story was exaggerated, if not totally fabricated, but still, he was curious about the type of wizard Harry Potter would be.
The younger man hadn't disappointed. Krum redoubled his concentration, realizing as Harry did before, that he would lose if he didn't focus on the duel at hand.
They kept going at it for almost an hour, with no clear winner emerging. After a while, both had stopped trying to just beat or overpower the other, and instead started proposing exercises to each other to work on dodging and spell chains. They both had enjoyed themselves, but soon realised they needed to call it quits if they wanted to be on time for dinner.
"I need shower," Krum said from the floor, dripping with sweat. Harry laughed and pointed at the wall, where a door had just appeared.
"Another useful feature of the room," explained Harry.
"Vhat about clothes?" asked the Bulgarian.
"Dobby can clean them while you take your shower," Harry replied, and Viktor nodded and got up to do just that. Harry asked the room for another bathroom for himself and took his own shower, the warm water helping to soothe his tired muscles. Having an abundance of magical power is one thing, but continually dodging spells like that required peak physical fitness. Harry found that his fourteen-year-old body, while not in bad shape, was not quite as attuned to physical activity as he expected. He thought back to his youth and remembered that it was his fifth and sixth years when he really started training his body, and he resolved to start working on it right away.
After he dried off, Harry dressed in the new clothes Dobby had brought for him and waited for Krum. The room provided him with a chair and a book on dark curses, so he sat down and read for a bit while he was waiting. When Krum finally emerged from the shower fully dressed, they left the room together and walked back to the Great Hall.
"Are rumours, da? Dat you kill teacher on first year, basilisk second, and vaced dementors last?"
"All true, unfortunately."
"You should be at Durmstrang," scoffed Krum. "Better teaching and no danger."
"Had you made the offer before my resorting, I might have taken you up on it," replied Harry, even though he knew it wasn't true. "But now I have a very good reason to stay," he finished.
"Girl?" asked Viktor, and Harry nodded back. "I understand."
They reached the Great Hall, still in the midst of a discussion on curse variations, and as they entered the room they turned and walked towards the Slytherin table. The hall at once was filled with gasps and whispered conversations at the sight of Krum and Potter walking in together as if they were friends. Some of the students had heard rumours at breakfast, and most had discarded them, but here they were, amicably shaking hands before separating to join their respective groups of friends.
"Good evening," he said, the others greeting him in return. He sat down and kissed Daphne on the cheek, but she didn't appear happy to see him. Her posture remained stiff, and she mumbled something under her breath, but otherwise didn't acknowledge him. "What's wrong?" he asked her.
"Nothing," she replied, avoiding looking at him.
"She's been like that since she came to dinner half an hour ago," replied Millie. "What did you do to her?"
"I didn't do anything to her," Harry responded, but his eyes never strayed from Daphne. He tried to hold her hand, but she angrily snatched her hand away from his.
"Don't," she hissed, her voice dripping with anger. Harry peered into her eyes and saw feelings of hurt and betrayal there, and he felt his own heart breaking at the sight.
"Daphne, please, what's wrong..." he started, but his question was interrupted by Daphne slapping him in the face. Harry froze. The sound was loud enough that practically everyone in the Great Hall stopped what they were doing and turned towards the Slytherin table to try and see what was happening.
"Do you even need to ask?" she spat. "You said you wanted a partner. You said you would never lie to me, yet you've done nothing but lie, haven't you?" Daphne hissed, tears starting to pool in her eyes. "How can I ever trust you when you've been lying to me from the very beginning?"
"What are you talking about?" Harry pleaded, only to receive another slap from Daphne, this time even harder than the first. If anything, she looked even more betrayed.
"I saw the memory you left in the Pensieve, you bastard," she said, pushing him away and getting up from the table. "Don't you even dare speak to me again unless it's to tell me the truth," she said with a tone of finality, tears now running down her cheeks.
She walked towards the doors, ignoring the looks everyone in the hall was giving her. Harry remained in his seat, wide eyed and in a state of complete shock, as if he had been paralyzed. He replayed her words in his mind, "I saw the memory you left in the Pensieve, you bastard," suddenly reminding him of what he had done that very morning:
Harry sat down at the desk and rested his head on his knuckles, deep in thought. With a sigh, he picked up his wand and pulled a familiar memory from his head and placed it in the basin. Shedding a tear, Harry took a deep breath and went into the Pensieve.
This was bad.
He had never taken the memory out of the Pensieve. He had been distracted by his nightmares from the night before and had completely forgotten about it. The memory was one of his most happy moments, even though watching it always left him feeling melancholy. If she had watched that, without him to explain it to her…it was no wonder she was so upset. He made a stupid mistake by leaving the memory unprotected, a mistake that could cost him his plan and his Daphne.
"What the hell did you do, Potter?" asked Tracey, getting up to run after Daphne.
Furious at himself, he slammed his fist against the table and turned to where he saw Daphne quickly heading towards the exit.
"None of your business," he said, and all of sudden his body faded away and disappeared, only to materialize a few feet in front of Daphne, who was still making her way towards the Great Hall doors.
Everyone gasped at the sight of Harry Potter sort-of apparating inside Hogwarts. That was supposed to be impossible for anyone except house-elves; it said so in Hogwarts: A History. No one was more astonished than Daphne, whose eyes widened as Harry appeared before her, his green eyes blazing.
"But...how?" she mumbled.
Instead of replying, he wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her to him, and they both faded away from the hall.
After a brief moment of stunned silence, the Great Hall erupted into Pandemonium.