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The Raven's Cry

Chapter Text

Sirius laughed as Bellatrix shot a Stunner at him, dodging it easily. “C'mon, you can do better than that!” he called out at her with a grin. He caught a glance of Dumbledore out of the corner of his eye, mentally breathing a sigh of relief even as he kept his focus on Bellatrix. Good. The battle would be over soon and Harry and his friends would be safe.

He heard Bellatrix snap out another Stunning Spell at him, and was surprised to feel it hit him square in the chest. His heart stuttered due to the force-- though thankfully it didn't stop –as he fell backwards, his brain going fuzzy. He expected to hit the hard stone of the floor of the chamber, but instead felt something like thick cobwebs pass over him. The world went dark as the last words Sirius heard were Harry's screams of anguish.

Time went treacle-slow after that. Sirius wasn't sure how long he fell for, but as he did, he felt as if a great weight he'd been carrying around for as long as he could remember fell away from his whole body. After what seemed like years, Sirius came to a stop, drifting to rest on a solid surface. It was still dark all around him, but as time passed, the darkness grew lighter until it matched roughly what came just before dawn. Sirius blinked as he cautiously sat up, looking around to see if he could figure out just what the hell had happened to him and how he'd managed to get to what looked like the misty ruins of a castle.

“Ah, good, you're finally aware.”

Sirius turned sharply to look to his left, his hand reaching for a wand that wasn't there. “Who's there?”

A dry chuckle reached his ears, as did the soft click of heels against the hard ground. A figure stepped out of the mists, dressed in severe black robes. Sirius' brow furrowed as it stopped in front of him

“What? Come now, Sirius, you should know me by now. Your Grim side recognizes me, does it not?”

Sirius scrubbed a weary hand over his eyes. “I'm sorry, you're expecting me to believe that you're... Death? You're a little...”

“Short?”

“And female,” Sirius pointed out. That earned him a laugh and a smirk.

“You'd be surprised how often I get that.” Death held out her hand to him to help him up. Sirius took her hand, startled at the solid warmth coming from it. Once he'd gained his feet, Death led him away from his landing spot, down a winding staircase, and then into the castle itself. They ended up in a sitting room that had a fire crackling away merrily behind a decorative wrought-iron screen and tapestries lining the walls. Sirius sank down onto an overstuffed armchair while Death took the one opposite to him, settling back into it with every sign of enjoyment.

“So... I'm dead?” Sirius said after a long stretch of silence. Death waved an idle hand.

“More like in limbo,” she replied. “Falling through the Veil usually just kills mortals, but you... Well, you're not entirely mortal due to your Animagus form. That, and I wanted to talk to you.” Death snapped her fingers, making a whole tea service appear on the coffee table between them, complete with small sumptuous looking tarts. She reached out and poured herself a steaming cup of perfectly steeped jasmine tea, adding two cubes of sugar before stirring them carefully in.

“Go on. You'll need the tea and food before we're finished with this conversation,” she told him.

“I... The old stories always say never to accept food from beings in strange realms,” Sirius said cautiously. Death merely hummed before taking a sip of her tea.

“You're already mostly dead,” she replied. “Anyways, that's mainly the Fair Folk you have to worry about.” She looked sternly at him over the rim of her teacup. “Besides, you're already one of my Heralds-- or properly would have been if your mother hadn't been such an abusive and meddling bitch.”

Sirius stared at her in shock before numbly reaching out and pouring himself some tea. He wasn't sure if he should've been surprised or not when it came out as perfectly brewed Earl Grey, his favorite. He took a tart as well, biting into the sweet treat. If he was going to be doomed to live-- or exist, or whatever –in this gloomy realm, he figured he might as well enjoy it. Just like the tea, the tart was perfect, but Sirius was quickly starting to get used to the whole odd situation. It was better than being actually dead, in any case.

“So... What did you mean when you said that I was supposed to be your Herald?” he asked, setting his teacup down on the table once he was done. Death contemplated him for a long moment and then leaned back in her chair, her own teacup vanishing into thin air. She steepled her fingers as she watched him, her dark eyes unreadable.

“Heralds are just as they sound. They are the chosen mouthpieces of the higher powers in the magical world,” she said. “Death; the Lord of Magic; the Lady Fate, and so on. You were to be mine, but more importantly, you were to be the Dark Sentinel in the pack of the next Alpha Prime Sentinel of Avalon. That was stopped when your mother gave you a potion when you were ten.”

Sirius frowned. He couldn't remember his mother ever giving him potions. She usually left that to healers or the house elves if she could be bothered to even let them look at him or Regulus. In her mind, she'd done her duty to the House of Black in carrying and delivering them, so after she'd had Regulus, she'd immediately gone to the healers and gotten a potion that rendered her permanently infertile. Their father had been furious, naturally, but Walburga had pointed out that the marriage contract they had stated that only two children had to be born to them and nothing more.

Death got up from her chair and beckoned for him to join her sitting in front of the fire on the floor. “Here, watch.”

Sirius sat down next to her, settling in after grabbing a pillow to sit on. He was confused but did his best to hide it. Death flicked her fingers at the flames, making them flare and then meld into a continuous albeit flickering wall. As Sirius stared into it, he saw images form in the flames, and soon he was drawn into them as easily as if he had entered a Pensieve.

-/-

Walburga entered Sirius' room, watching him sleep fitfully. She knew what was happening. He was only a few weeks away from his eleventh birthday, and the first of three magical maturations in a witch or wizard's life happened at that age, with the second at fourteen and the third at sixteen, thus the reasons for why OWLs and NEWTs were given at fifteen and seventeen. Most unique magical gifts emerged at the second two milestones if they weren't active from birth, but this...

Walburga shook her head before drawing a small phial out of her pocket. The condition popped up in the Black bloodline at times, and it was traditional to ensure that it didn't come to full fruition. Blacks didn't need this particular 'gift', and hadn't for several hundred years, not since Polaris Black the First had ordered all those with it to be wiped from the family, and any future bearers of it to have the talent blocked so they didn't bring dishonor to the family.

There were no uses for Sentinels or Guides in the Black bloodline, especially since they were a traditionally Dark family and Sentinels and Guides were disgustingly Light. The sparkling gray potion in the phial would force Sirius' emerging gifts back to dormancy. Walburga drew her wand, tapping it against the phial before flicking it at Sirius' slumbering form. The phial slowly drained until it was empty, and as it did so, Sirius' restlessness eased until he was sleepily soundly.

Walburga watched him for several minutes more before turning on her heel and leaving his room, her duty done. Hopefully Regulus wouldn't turn out to be as much a disappointment.

-/-

The image on the flames faded away, making Sirius blink.

“What... What was that potion?” he asked, looking over at Death. The glow from the fire flickered across her face, creating an eerie play of shadow and light across its planes.

“A tasteless and scentless potion that's been long banned by the Magical Consortium of Sentinels and Guides,” Death said grimly. “They call it Mordred's Bane. It forces any Sentinel or Guide to go dormant, be they magical or not. Those who don't have a magical core tend to die because of how it affects them. You're not the only person it's been used on, nor will you be the last.”

She turned to look at him, expression serious. “After I show you this, I'll give you a choice. This choice will have two options, and you can take as long as you like to think about them. Both are equally valid choices. I won't pressure you into one or the other, but you will need to choose one of them. Do you understand?”

Sirius nodded. “Yes, ma'am.”

“Good.”

Death turned back to the flames, Sirius following suit shortly after. They coalesced into one united form once more, and soon Sirius was dragged into the images contained within. He watched in horror as the flames showed him Harry and what had happened after Sirius had passed through the Veil. The possession by Voldemort, the battle that followed after, and then...

Images continued to pass by, showing what happened to Harry in the last two years of his school career and then beyond. Sirius' heart kept up a rapid pace throughout everything, only settling down to a reasonable pace when Harry was finally out of the shadow of Voldemort-- or so it seemed. A frown pulled down the corners of his mouth when, a few months after the defeat of Voldemort, Harry was staying at the Burrow and Molly was making breakfast for everyone.

It seemed perfectly innocuous save for the fact that she added an achingly familiar shimmering gray potion to the bowl of oatmeal she set aside for Harry.

Oh, Harry,” Sirius breathed, watching as the kids came into the kitchen and took their places around the kitchen table. Molly set the doctored oatmeal in front of Harry, who thanked her with a tired smile and mumbled words before he started eating. The red rash that had been peeking out over the collar of his shirt started to slowly recede, and as it did, the images did as well, leaving Sirius on his pillow before the fire.

Why... Why would Molly do that?”

Death pursed her lips, looking like she'd just bitten into a particularly sour lemon. “Molly Weasley has always been focused on living on the successes of others- her parents, her brothers, her children... She wants to be able to say, 'Look at the accomplishments of others. Don't I come from such a wonderful family? Aren't my children great?' She is also rather unhealthily focused on her two youngest children. She wants to ensure that her precious babies want for nothing in life, and she'll do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.”

She waved her hand, making Harry's image form out of the flames. “Harry was never told or trained in his duties to Avalon or his House. He has no idea that he's the Earl of Gryffindor nor of the expansive and deep magical legacy that he has. He thinks that all he has is the trust vault that was left to him by his parents. He had no idea of the customs or rules of the Magical world beyond what he's managed to cobble together over the years. Dumbledore had a major hand in that. It's more than likely contributed to the view the British Magical world has of him, and why they'll turn at the drop of a Knut to either heap him with praise or abuse, depending on their mood. He never got any of the hundreds of letters, postcards, or gifts that were sent to him over the years due to Dumbledore's influence and mail wards on him, so that painted Harry as someone who either was too arrogant to reply or who simply didn't care; perhaps both. Regardless, Harry's reputation was set long before he ever stepped foot into the Leaky Cauldron for the first time.”

“But... Dumbledore said--” Sirius began, stopping when Death cut him off with a sharp gesture.

Albus Dumbledore was a master of saying one thing while meaning three others. He fancied himself the leader of the Light and Magic when he wasn't even a minor Herald for my brother. No, that title belongs to young Harry. He is the next Alpha Prime Sentinel of Avalon and the Herald of Magic, and you, my Herald, are his Dark Sentinel.”

Dark? I'm not Dark!” Sirius protested

Death's hand shot out and cuffed him upside the head just hard enough to get his attention.

Dark does not equal evil, contrary to what Dumbledore and Voldemort would have you believe. A Dark Sentinel and Guide pair are always part of an Alpha Prime's pack. They are their advisers, enforcers and protectors, their left-hand people who make sure that no threats can tear apart the pack. Think of them as a mix of Unspeakables and Hit Wizards, if you must. You are not evil, Sirius Orion Black. Voldemort was evil. Grindelwald was evil.

“Dumbledore was as well, though his evil was more insidious because he believed he was a good man who had to do bad things for the betterment of others. If what he's set into motion continues on, the last Bloodline of Avalon will be lost and Magic will drain from the world. In less than two hundred years, the last magic user will be born. The Bloodlines of Avalon act as anchors for my brother's gifts, and without the proper claiming and continuation of those lines, he will not be able to keep his hold on this world.”

She sat back and let him soak it all in before speaking once more. “This is where I am going to extend my offer to you,” she said, her voice gentling. “You can move on and join those who have gone before. No one will blame you for deciding to take your rest.”

“Or? What's behind door number two?” Sirius asked wearily.

“I return you to one of two pivotal turning points in your life, you claim your role as my Herald, and then continue on from there. The first would be after you escape from Azkaban in Harry's third year. You know what happens then. Instead of going straight to Harry, you would need to go to the goblins and claim sanctuary there. They would then force a trial for you after you're healed and then you could take up your role as Harry's guardian. It would be a fight, especially if the Weasleys come into play.”

“And the second option?”

“You return to the night of the Potters' deaths, take Harry directly to the goblins, and set them on the hunt for the Horcruxes after both you and he have gone through cleansing rituals and the Potters' wills have been read and enacted. The goblins may be many things, but they detest Infernal magics like nothing else, and will stop at nothing to eradicate them. Luckily, there will only be five to deal with after the one in Harry is extracted, and since you know where they are, you can direct the goblins to them easily,” Death continued on. “There will be those against you, of course, but that path will be slightly easier than the first.”

She smiled. “Either way, you'll meet your Guide, that much I can assure you. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. They are, after all, your perfect match.”

Sirius laughed dryly. “Thanks,” he said. “So... This Herald job. What does it entail?”

“Heralds are representatives of the higher powers, as I said before” Death replied. “I will contact you via dreams if necessary. Those who still respect and follow the Old Ways will recognize that title and assist you with your duties if necessary. I promise that the duties will not be onerous nor take you away from Harry too often, particularly when he is young.”

“Do I have to kill anyone?”

“No. If I needed an assassin, I would contract with one,” Death told him. “Your Grim side and instincts will be closer to the surface after you claim your title as my Herald, and you'll gain more of its abilities in human form. They will be useful talents to have, especially in your role as a Dark Sentinel. I will explain more as needed. So, do you know what path you would like to take?”

Sirius scrubbed his hands over his face, thinking. Going on was very tempting, especially given how exhausted he was, but to leave the rest of the world to lose magic... He wasn't sure he could let that happen. Naturally, that left only one choice, but which time to go to? He would be stronger when younger, but could he really raise Harry on his own?

Then again, he supposed that it would be better than going back to his time right after Azkaban. He'd be stronger and less... insane. Or at least, he hoped so. He figured that he'd have to go to a mind healer-- maybe one the goblins could point him towards –if he wanted to be an effective help and parent to Harry. He quietly made an oath to himself that he wouldn't make the same mistake of abandoning Harry as he had before.

He looked up at Death, determination in his eyes. “I know what I want to do.”

“And?”

“And I want to go back to... to that night,” Sirius said. “How do I claim my title as your Herald?”

“Merely say the following: 'I, Sirius Orion Black, claim my title as the Herald of Death, as is my right by blood and magic',” she told him. “Do it as quickly as you can, preferably before you go to the goblins.”

“Got it. Anything else?” Sirius asked.

Death shook her head. “No. Close your eyes for me and I will send you back.”

Sirius did as told, closing his eyes. He wasn't sure what was going to happen, but he wasn't expecting the gentle kiss on the center of his forehead. The world around him lurched as if he was in the middle of Apparition, and when it settled again, he found himself standing on the side of the road in Godric's Hollow next to his motorbike. Thinking quickly, he shrunk it down and stuck it into his pocket before speaking, though he kept his voice low.

“I, Sirius Orion Black, claim my title as Herald of Death, as is my right by blood and magic.”

The darkness thickened around him, blocking him from view of anyone who might be watching. Sirius fell to his knees, feeling almost like he was suffocating. The pressure lifted just before it became unbearable, leaving Sirius gasping. There was a pain on his right inner wrist that drew his attention to it. There, on his wrist, was a tattoo of a raven in flight, encircled in a wreath of cypress branches. He ran his hand over it, the pain fading, before getting to his feet and shaking it off.

Right. Harry. Time to focus.

Sirius headed down the street at a quick pace, arriving at the Potters' house just as the wards fell and the side of the house blew out. A soft growl left him when he saw the shade of Voldemort rush out of the hole. That would have to be dealt with later. For now, he had more important things to focus on. He hurried into the house, wincing sharply when he saw James' body on the floor near the staircase.

Knowing that James would prefer to be buried in the Potter Family Crypt rather than away from his ancestors in the graveyard of Godric's Hollow, Sirius quickly Transfigured James' body into a small figurine of a stag. He carefully put it in his pocket before heading upstairs, his wand at the ready. He smirked when he saw that Pettigrew hadn't managed to get there yet to steal Voldemort's wand. Good.

He snapped the Dark Lord's wand sharply in two before pocketing the pieces, making sure that they were in the opposite pocket than James' figurine. Lily's body-- transfigured into a doe figurine –joined her husband's in safety before Sirius went to the crib and picked up Harry. The young boy hiccuped in between sobs as he reached up for Sirius, seeming to be happy to have someone he recognized as safe there. Sirius cuddled him close, gently wiping away the blood that marred his forehead.

“Oh, sweet boy, let's get that taken care of for you,” he murmured before turning on his heel and disappearing from the ruined house. He appeared at the public Apparition point on Diagon, adjusting his cloak to help conceal Harry from immediate recognition before he made his way to Gringotts. Thankfully, the goblins kept a twenty-four hour work schedule, so the late hour wouldn't bother them.

Sirius went up the marble steps, adjusting Harry's weight in his arms as they reached the top and entered the building. Thankfully, a teller became free just at that moment, so Sirius took advantage of the fact and stepped forward.

“Yes, wiz-” the goblin began, stopping mid-word when they saw the tattoo on Sirius' wrist. Their eyes went wide before they quickly recovered. “Excuse me. It's been some time since we've seen a Herald. How can the Horde assist you?”

“I need to speak to the Black and Potter account managers,” Sirius said, keeping his voice low. “It's of utmost importance. I will also need to arrange a full magical and physical cleansing for myself and my godson.”

“Of course. Follow me.”

The goblin hopped down from their chair and then led him to one of the many doors that lined the walls. The hall beyond the door was far less polished than the lobby, the stone rough-hewn and lined with glass orbs that glowed with a steady golden light from within. The teller stopped in front of a door that had two gold plaques on it with the names of 'Black' and 'Potter' engraved on them, waiting a moment before knocking sharply on it.

“Enter!”

The teller opened the door, beckoning for Sirius to follow. Sirius did so, stepping inside. The office was spacious, holding two large oak desk on either side that faced one another. There was a sitting area at the center of the room with comfortable leather chairs set up around a round table.

“Roughclaw, what is it that you need?” the goblin sitting at the desk with the Black coat of arms on it asked.

“Herald Black has needs to speak to both of you, Kirak, Goldfang,” Roughclaw replied. “He says it's of the utmost importance.”

The two account managers exchanged looks before Goldfang nodded. “Very well. Is there anything else?”

“He has also requested complete magical and physical cleanses for himself and his godson.”

“Then set them up immediately,” Kirak said, taking over. “And Roughclaw? Go inform the king himself that a Herald has been Called. He'll want to know right away, regardless of how late it is.”

“Yes, Kirak.” Roughclaw bowed to the two account managers and then exited the room, leaving Sirius standing there.

“Sit, Herald Black,” Kirak said, gesturing to the sitting area as they got up from their desk. “You look like you need a rest and a strong drink. I suspect you have quite the tale to tell us.”

Sirius couldn't help but let out a bark of laughter, walking over and taking a seat in the indicated chair “Kirak, you have no idea.”

When the two goblins were seated at the table, Sirius began to tell them his story, not leaving a single thing out. By the time he was done talking, his throat was sore and there were several sheets of parchment spread out over the table. Kirak leaned back in their chair, steepling long fingers in front of them in a thoughtful gesture.

“Horcruxes and Heralds,” they said, shaking their head. “Times truly are changing. Very well. Let's get you and Heir Potter cleansed and sorted out.”

“I have Lord and Lady Potter's bodies with me, albeit transfigured,” Sirius informed the goblins. “They need to go to the Potter crypt before someone gets the bright idea of having them buried elsewhere. We also need the wills read.”

“We will take them to the crypt after your cleansing,” Goldthorn replied. “The wills will be read after that. You are a good man, Sirius Black, for taking on a burden such as you've been given.”

Sirius smiled crookedly. “Good? I don't know about that one at the moment, but we'll see about it. Enough talking. Let's get this Horcrux out of Harry and start the end of the Dark Bastard once and for all.”

That earned him twin sharp-toothed grins.

“The Horde is always pleased to make war with a Herald,” Kirak told him as they rose from their seat. “The cleansing chambers should be ready by now.”

Sirius got up as well, adjusting a now-sleeping Harry on his shoulder before following the goblins out of the office and into the depths of the bank. Above-ground, the magical world was only just waking to hear of the news of the defeat of Voldemort. Not all would be pleased with it, nor with the fact that the only people who knew what had happened weren't there to be asked.

Sirius didn't care. The only thing that truly mattered to him at the moment was currently fast asleep in his arms.

 

Chapter Text

The ritual cleansings were difficult to go through for both Sirius and Harry. Sirius insisted that Harry's ritual be done first so the Horcrux could be removed from him before it latched onto him any further than it already had in the short time it had been stuck in his scar. He watched from outside the ritual circle as the Horcrux was removed and caught in an enchanted containment crystal by the goblin mages. It would be used to map out and then retrieve the remaining Horcruxes without the goblins actually needing to physically gather the objects they were stored in.

The healers made sure that Harry was kept safely asleep throughout the ritual, something Sirius appreciated greatly. Two of the healers kept watch over Harry while Sirius underwent his own cleansing. It took an hour and a half for them to finish the cleansing, the spells on the ritual altar he'd been put on taking care of any waste. It was rather humiliating to be expelling things from various orifices or through his skin as he lay naked on his side, but the goblins were consummate professionals and didn't make any sort of crude comments or allow Sirius to feel any pain or be in any true danger.

Just as the ritual finished, Sirius swore he felt something like a twig snap in the back of his mind. Everything was suddenly brighter, louder, and he swore he could feel the very stirring of the air. As he breathed in, a scent and a soft whine caught his attention, making his head snap up. He pushed up from the altar and hurried over to where Harry was laying, not caring that he was entirely nude still. He cradled Harry against his chest, a quiet gasp leaving him when he felt a warmth settle into the back of his mind.

“You have a parental bond with him already,” one of the goblins noted, draping a soft blanket around Sirius' shoulders the best they could. “Good. That will make things easier.”

“James and Lily had me adopt him in blood and magic when he was seven weeks old in addition to taking the godfather oath,” Sirius murmured, adjusting the set of the blanket a little with his free hand. “I never felt either of the bonds that strongly and always wondered why.”

“Likely because of the Mordred's Bane you were laboring under,” the healer mused. “It breaks a Sentinel or Guide's connection to the psionic plane, which in turn keeps one from properly making any sort of magical bond with any being. Focus your senses carefully on him and make a parental imprint. The chamber is psionically shielded so you won't be able to go into a sensory fugue. We will provide you with a pendant to keep you from going into a fugue until you train your senses more and gain full control over them.”

Sirius nodded before bending his head and carefully pressing his nose against Harry's soft hair. He breathed in his scent, the bond shifting and strengthening. He continued on with the imprint, kissing Harry on the forehead over where his infamous scar had once been and sealing his taste imprint. Sight, touch, and hearing followed soon after, and with the last, the parental bond settled completely between the two of them. Sirius would be able to find Harry in the middle of a crowded room with ease now if necessary.

“Now that you're done, it's time for you to dress and then lay the Potters to rest in their family crypt,” Kirak said, stepping forward with a set of black robes and matching trousers draped over their arm, a pair of auto-sizing boots, underwear, and socks held in their free hand. “Here. These are made with Sentinels in mind. The robes and undergarments are made from Acromantula silk and have spells on them that will keep irritants away from your body.”

Sirius reluctantly handed Harry over to one of the healers for long enough to get dressed, conjuring a diaper and a set of clothing for Harry. One of the healers handed him the surprisingly lightweight black opal pendant on a platinum chain that he slipped over his head, tucking the pendant under his robes. Once the two wizards were clothed and ready to go, Kirak led the way out of the ritual room.

The second they were out of the range of the psionic wards, a harsh croaking cry rang out in the hallway. A glossy black raven appeared out of thin air, circled around the group, and then landed on Sirius' left shoulder.

Finally,” she said, gently tweaking his ear with her beak. “Do you know how long I've been waiting for you?”

“It wasn't exactly my fault, Hela,” Sirius pointed out before pausing. “How did I know your name?”

“You're my Sentinel,” Hela said simply. “You've always known it. It just... took a while for us to meet properly.” She peered down at Harry, who looked sleepily up at her, his thumb stuck halfway into his mouth. “So this is Harry, huh? He's a little... squishy.”

“He's a baby,” Sirius said with a laugh. “He's supposed to be squishy.”

Hela ruffled her wings, her feathers brushing against Sirius' cheek before she went still again. “If you say so.”

The small group continued on, returning to the Potter/Black offices where Goldthorn was waiting with a Portkey that would take them to and from the Potter Family mausoleum, as well as the velvet-lined cedar box that held James and Lily's figurines. Sirius adjusted Harry in his arms, making sure he was secure before taking hold of the large wooden ring that Goldthorn held out to him. Goblin Portkeys were far smoother than Wizarding ones, something Sirius was glad for. He didn't want Harry to get sick so soon after the cleansing, assuming the little guy even had anything left in his stomach.

That was something he'd have to take care of soon enough; it was getting on in the morning and was definitely time to get some food into the both of them. When the Portkey stopped its smooth motions, they'd landed in front of the mausoleum tucked away in a grove of stately alder and oak trees on the grounds of Potter Manor. The mausoleum was made out of locally-sourced stone, with marble statues of solemn-faced griffins flanking the heavy stone door.

Goldthorn pressed their hand against the large and ornate Potter coat of arms that was carved on the center of the door. The coat of arms lit up after a brief wait of several seconds, the heavy lock disengaging and the door swinging inwards. A set of stone stairs led down into the crypt itself, torches springing to life to illuminate the way. The crypt was eerie to Sirius, though free of dust and cobwebs due to the wards on it. The chamber had been greatly extended due to Wizarding Space, allowing for as many burials as were needed.

Marble statues of past Potter Earls and Countesses lined the walls, going all the way back to Godric Gryffindor himself at the back with his wife. Godric had married one of Percival's granddaughters, thus tying his line to that of one of Arthur's most loyal knights. The Black bloodline had been rumored to come from Sir Lamorak's line, but the family tapestry didn't go back that far, making Sirius wonder if whoever had commissioned the tapestry from the high elves before they'd returned to their own realm had decided to omit that little detail. Either way, he was sure the goblins could find out-- for a price, naturally, but one he was starting to think would be worth it.

Two waist-high six-foot long slabs sat on plinths in the center of the room, awaiting the placement of James and Lily's bodies. Goldthorn pocketed the Portkey before opening the box and setting the figurines on the center of the slabs with the utmost care.

“When you're ready,” they said, stepping back. Sirius nodded before drawing his wand. He reversed the transfigurations one by one, starting with Lily. Harry made a whining noise when he saw his parents, but Sirius shushed him gently. He changed Lily and James' clothes to the traditional battle robes all Potters were buried in before putting his wand away in the dimensional store in the bracelet on his right wrist. He drew Lily and James' wands out of the bracelet and then laid them in their respective right hands, making sure they were armed for the afterlife.

When he stepped back, Goldthorn drew a bronze and amethyst staff from their own dimensional store and then placed the base in the small divot in front of the two slabs. The amethyst started glowing with a deep purple light from within, the light gathering before leaving the staff and then covering James and Lily's bodies. Sirius watched as the glow solidified around the two of them, coalescing and then shifting hue until it turned the pale white of the marble of the rest of the statues, which shimmered before taking up their places in the recessed alcove nearest to the door, the two of them standing side-by-side in eternity.

Their physical bodies had been transmuted by the spell into the stone, and due to the differences between wizarding and goblin magics, as well as those imbued into the crypt and mausoleum, kept their remains from being changed back and then used in Infernal rituals. Goldthorn stowed their staff back in their dimensional store and then bowed to James and Lily's statues in respect before doing the same to Sirius and Harry.

Sirius inclined his head in response, a bittersweet smile curving his lips. “Thank you, Goldthorn, for your service today.”

“As I said, it is an honor to make war with a Herald,” they said solemnly, “and unfortunately the deaths of good beings are a necessary part of said war. The Earl and Countess Gryffindor were amongst those ranks. Now, we should return to the bank so that their wills can be read and that you can take up your role as Earl Blackmoor and Regent Potter before anyone can complain.”

Sirius blinked in surprise. “What do you mean, Earl Blackmoor? I was disowned and thrown out of the family. The title should technically go to my mother since she's still alive.”

“No. Your grandfather never disowned you,” Goldthorn replied, “but that story is for Kirak to tell.”

They turned and headed out of the crypt, leaving Sirius little choice but to follow them. The stone door swung shut once they'd left the mausoleum, the coat of arms glowing golden briefly before going back to plain stone. Goldthorn produced the Portkey from their pocket, holding it out to Sirius, who took hold of it with a sigh.

They returned to the office to find Kirak standing there and looking rather annoyed.

“Is something wrong, Kirak?”

“That idiot Dumbledore has already been here asking about the location of Heir Potter and his parents' wills,” Kirak grumbled. “I don't know how he found out about what happened, but I've already heard from several tellers that the main topic that the wizards are talking about today is the defeat of the Dark Lord.”

Sirius frowned, brow furrowing. “That's weird. Maybe...” He trailed off when a thought occurred to him. “Maybe he had some sort of notification charm or something similar that would let him know if and when the Fidelius fell.”

“Perhaps. Still, taking up your titles and enacting the wills should keep him from doing anything particularly stupid,” Goldthorn said. Sirius nodded.

“Yes, about that. Kirak, Goldthorn mentioned that I can take up the title of Earl of Blackmoor?”

“Yes. Your grandfather specifically named you as his heir. He was unable to contact you in regards to it before he passed away,” Kirak said. They waved toward their desk where two ring boxes and three scrolls were waiting. “I have the rings and wills here. The Black ring has been cleansed of any enchantments that might have otherwise punished you for being a Sentinel. One of the runners will be bringing food for everyone to have while the reading is going on.”

“Good, because both Harry and I need to eat,” Sirius said as he went over to the desk and took a seat in the chair before it. Harry snuggled into him, watching Kirak round the desk and sat down in their chair. He opened the Potter will, using a silver dagger to cut the ribbon keeping the scroll closed. The will automatically updated until the moment of James and Lily's deaths. It was tied to the rings they wore that signified their statuses as Lord and Lady Potter.

Nothing in the will surprised Sirius. It listed the beneficiaries as well as giving all custody of Harry, both magical and mundane, to Sirius. It also made sure to list Peter as their Secret Keeper and that Sirius was innocent of any wrongdoing against them; an announcement would be sent to the Wizengamot and the Daily Prophet stating as such, as well as announcing a reward for Pettigrew's capture if he eluded the Aurors.

Sirius put the two rings on, the Black Lordship ring going on his right ring finger and the Potter Regent ring on his left index finger, as was traditional. Two waves of magic rushed over him, the first slightly chilly and the second warm and welcoming. Sirius felt much better with the rings on, as he knew they would protect him against quite a few compulsion spells and other means of attempted control. He'd have to get something to help protect Harry before they left the bank. Either the Potter or Black jewelry vaults likely would have something to fit his small wrist, though it would be better to go with something from the Potter vault as the inherent Family magics would recognize him and be more invested in protecting him.

Hela showed up again just as the food arrived, having disappeared just before the Portkey trip to the Potter mausoleum. She eyed the rings on Sirius' hand in a contemplative manner before hopping down to the arm of chair that Harry was sitting on, the young wizard eating a selection of finger foods that was cut into small enough pieces so he wouldn't choke but large enough that he could handle them easily. He was having great fun eating the bits of grapes, cheese, and ham cubes from the plate that floated easily within reach in front of him.

The chair had been quickly charmed to keep Harry from falling off, as well as to keep him comfortable. He kicked his little feet idly as he ate, seeming to have recovered fully from the ordeal and subsequent cleansing he'd undergone. Time would tell if he would remember that night as strongly as he had in the prior timeline, but Sirius would be keeping an eye on him as he grew just in case.

Sirius smiled as he watched Harry eat, making sure to eat a few sandwiches of his own. Just as he finished the last of his food, there was a knock on the door. Kirak checked an enchanted mirror on their desk and then called for the runner outside to enter.

“Managers Kirak and Goldthorn, the wizard Dumbledore is insisting that he speak with one or both of you,” the runner said, looking rather harried. “He has brought several Ministry employees as well as some from the ICW.”

“That's odd. The ICW doesn't usually bother with Britain since Dumbledore insists on handling everything here,” Kirak mused. They looked at Sirius, who shrugged.

“No one can take Harry from me,” he said simply. “He's my son by blood and magic. We can bring the will with us to prove it. The fact that the Potter Regent ring accepted me should be more than enough proof for anyone in regards to custody if they question that.”

“True,” Goldthorn agreed. “Very well. Griphook, take Dumbledore and his group to the...” They hummed as they thought, drumming their long fingers against their desk. “... Copper conference room. Make sure that you give them refreshments.”

“What level of refreshments?” Griphook asked.

“Oh, a pitcher of fresh water and some Ginger Newts,” Goldthorn decided. “Nothing too fancy, but nothing overly offensive. Are any of them with the Consortium?”

“I wasn't able to tell, Manager, but I'll make sure to assume that there likely are. The ICW tends to hire Sentinels and Guides for their Inspectors, so they may have sent some along,” Griphook replied. They bowed to Goldthorn and Kirak. “I'll go get that taken care of right away.”

“Good. Don't tell them that Lord Black is here just yet. Just let them know that we'll be with them shortly,” Kirak told them. “Send a message to us when you're ready for us.”

“Yes, Manager.” Griphook headed out of the office, shutting the door behind them. Ten minutes later- during which a child's protection bracelet had been brought up for Harry from the Potter vault by another runner, which now rested on his left wrist -a soft chime sounded and a scrap of parchment appeared on Kirak's desk. Kirak picked it up, read it, and then nodded.

“Time for us to go.”

Sirius quickly cleaned Harry up, making sure there weren't any bits of food left on his face or clothes before gathering him up in his arms once more. Kirak and Goldthorn led the way out of the office-- with Goldthorn bearing the Potter will and the results of Harry and Sirius' cleansings --and to the conference room with Harry looking around in interest, as he'd been asleep most of the time when he'd been brought in. Sirius knew that he'd have to put his son-- and didn't that both thrill and hurt his heart at the same time –down when they got to the meeting room, but a high chair wouldn't be too hard to request and/or conjure if he asked permission first, so he'd still be able to keep Harry close and safe.

It was unlikely that anyone would try anything in the conference room, but Sirius' instincts were running high, even with the shielding pendant he now wore. He wasn't going to let anyone he didn't trust near Harry, and at the top of that list was Albus-bloody-Dumbledore. He didn't trust Dumbledore further than he could Banish him, and he sure as hell didn't want him or anyone slavishly devoted to him close enough to cast on Harry or give him any kind of controlling potion.

Kirak pushed the door open to the conference room when the group arrived, their formerly affable expression shifting to the usual grumpy one most wizards were used to dealing with. Dumbledore sat at the head of the large oval table, looking for all the world like he was the one who'd called the meeting. Six others sat around the table. Two Aurors, who Sirius recognized as Mad-Eye Moody and Kingsley Shacklebolt, though the latter was still a junior Auror at the moment; a Ministry official who looked either hungover or still slightly drunk from celebrating the Dark Lord's downfall; and three people he didn't recognize.

They were all dressed in similar clothing of plain but well-tailored robes. All three wore the crossed wand-and-sword of the ICW embroidered on their robes over their hearts, something Sirius recognized, but they also wore visible pendants that were of two crossed swords behind a round shield that he didn't. Two of them had matching gold pendants while the third had a silver one resting against his chest; he also seemed to be the youngest of the three, looking to be around Sirius' age while the others were around ten years older or so.

When Sirius caught his gaze, for the second time that day something within him shifted, a tentative bond settling butterfly-light in his soul, mind, and magic. The other man blinked, smiled a little, and then inclined his head in acceptance before leaning over and murmuring something quietly into one of his companion's ears that Sirius purposefully didn't use his enhanced senses to hear.

Goldthorn kindly conjured up a highchair for Harry when Sirius asked them to do so, the young Sentinel setting him near the ICW representatives before taking a seat at end of the table directly across from Dumbledore. Goldthorn and Kirak sat down in the remaining chairs, one on either side of the table. Kirak set the scrolls neatly on the table before clearing their throat.

“Before we begin, under what authority are you calling this meeting, Albus Dumbledore? Your role as Supreme Mugwump or Chief Wizard? Surely you can't be calling it as Headmaster, as your authority does not extend beyond the purview of Hogwarts,” they said, giving him a piercing look. “Or are you just here as a concerned citizen?”

Dumbledore looked briefly flustered before quickly recovering. “I am here to make sure that young Harry is safe and sound. He is, after all, the defeater of Voldemort.”

“That wasn't what I asked. And besides, how do you know that he defeated Voldemort?” Kirak asked. “Were you there? If you were, perhaps you can tell us how a fifteen-month-old child managed to defeat one of the more powerful Dark Lords of the past century?”

“He was the only survivor. Naturally, he must have had something to do with it,” Dumbledore said smoothly.

“And not his parents who actually had full training in your magics and rituals? I find that hard to believe. Now, why have you brought along so many of your Aurors and Inspectors? Surely you don't think a crime has been committed here?” Kirak continued on.

“They're here to make sure that Harry is truly well and then assist me in taking him to his remaining family,” Dumbledore replied with an idle wave of his hand.

“There's no need for that,” Goldthorn interjected smoothly. “Heir Potter is already under the authority and care of his Regent, who is both his godfather and second father by blood and magic.”

Dumbledore's attention snapped over to Sirius, who merely smiled and then held up his left hand to show the Potter Regent ring.

“I see,” Dumbledore said slowly. He looked liked he was thinking quickly. “I find it curious that the Regent ring accepted you, Sirius, when everyone knows that you were the Potters' Secret Keeper.”

“Are you suggesting that the Earl of Blackmoor betrayed his brother and sister in all but blood? Their will states otherwise, and his first actions upon retrieving his son from the ruins of his house were to bring him here to ensure that no harm had come to him and then to lay Lord and Lady Potter to rest in their Family crypt, thereby ensuring that their remains could not be used in any Infernal rituals,” Goldthorn said, handing the will and healers' report to the lead ICW inspectors.

The Guide took the scrolls, reading them over before passing them off to her Sentinel, who read them as well before looking up at Dumbledore, her eyes narrowed in annoyance.

“You came to us saying that Heir Potter was in danger and had been kidnapped by followers of the Dark Lord Voldemort,” she said, her voice tinged with a mild Slavic accent, though Sirius couldn't pinpoint what country she was from exactly. “You said you needed the full force of the ICW and the British Ministry of Magic to find him, and were authorizing us to cross the border into Britain to help track him down. And yet here we find that he is safe and healthy in the custody of his legal parent and guardian, not to mention the fact that the will of his birth parents specifically mentions that Lord Black was not their Secret Keeper and this...” She glanced at the will. “...Peter Pettigrew was. He is obviously the one we need to be searching for and capturing so we can bring him to justice. Why are we wasting our time here with this?”

She tossed the scrolls onto the table and then turned to Sirius. “Lord Black, we apologize for disturbing you and your son in your time of grief and mourning. We would like to speak with you privately after this meeting for reasons I'm sure you can imagine.”

Sirius nodded. “Of course. I would be happy to meet privately with you afterwards,” he agreed. He'd have to make sure that they weren't hit with any eavesdropping spells or charms by Dumbledore or his underlings. He didn't have any doubts that Dumbledore would have someone cast in the bank, even with the goblins' restrictions on the action.

“If that's everything, Dumbledore, can I go back to my home?” the Ministry official asked peevishly, giving Dumbledore a side-eyed look that was decidedly bloodshot. Dumbledore sighed and then nodded.

“Yes, yes, thank you for being here, everyone,” he said. “I'm glad that Harry is safe and sound and in good hands. Alastor, Kingsley, I'm sure you can return to the DMLE and start spearheading the search for Peter.”

“We will be speaking with the Head of the DMLE ourselves, Dumbledore,” the ICW Guide said firmly, her accent similar to her Sentinel's. “You do not have any authority here. Aurors Moody and Shacklebolt, you will accompany us personally to the DMLE. You will stay here until we return for you. If you do not, then you will be subject to review. Do you understand?”

Kingsley and Moody exchanged looks before both of them nodded. “Good.” She turned her attention back to Dumbledore, who looked rather put out at being so swiftly cut off from manipulating the situation to his advantage. “As for you, if you try to interfere any further with either the capture of Peter Pettigrew or with the business of Lord Black and his son, we will not hesitate in bringing the full force of the ICW against you. You hold no power over either of them outside of the limited power you have in the Wizengamot when it's in session as Chief Wizard, or when Heir Potter is at school at Hogwarts as Headmaster, assuming he even attends that school when he comes of age. Do you understand?”

Dumbledore tersely nodded before getting to his feet. He left the conference room at a quick pace, his brightly colored robes swishing around him as he went. Once Dumbledore was gone, everyone save for Moody, Kingsley, and the guards who had been standing on either side of the door left the room, heading back to the Potter/Black office. The wards there indicated that a few listening charms had been cast on Sirius' robes and shoes, something that must've been done when Dumbledore had had his hands out of sight.

Once they were dispelled and everyone else checked over just in case, the ICW Sentinel gave Sirius a small bow. “It's an honor to formally meet you, Lord Black,” she said. “I am Tereza Suková, and this is my Guide and wife, Veronika.” She gestured at the man who had captured Sirius' attention from the very beginning. “And this is Lord Guide Nasir Shafiq, Inspector for the ICW.”

Nasir smiled warmly at Sirius, looking rather pleased to finally be able to speak with him. “It's a pleasure to meet you, Lord Sentinel Black.”

Sirius held up a hand. “I'm going to stop you right there,” he said. “If we're going to be spending as much time together as I feel we are, then you can call me Sirius unless absolutely necessary. In fact, I insist on it. That goes for all of you.”

Nasir chuckled softly. “Formality would get tiresome very quickly,” he agreed. “You are my Sentinel, after all.” A jackal appeared next to him, its tail wagging slowly from side to side when it saw him. “This is Sufia.”

“She's beautiful,” Sirius said as Hela appeared on his shoulder, looking curiously down at her fellow spirit guide.

“Thank you,” Sufia replied, her tongue lolling out as she gave him a canine's version of a smile. “You're quite good looking yourself. Nasir is lucky to have you.”

“Sufia!” Nasir protested, his cheeks flushing a little in embarrassment.

“What, it's true.” Sufia looked up at Sirius again. “He is handsome. For a human, anyways.”

Hela let out a cackling laugh at that, making Harry, who Sirius was holding once more, giggle as he reached for her. She leaned down and very gently nipped at his fingers, being ever so careful as she did so. Harry grinned at that, his smile adorably gap-toothed.

“Now that you've met, I'm sure you've got plenty to talk about,” Veronika said with a sly smirk. “Tereza and I will deal with the Aurors. Perhaps you should move to a more comfortable place that will not affect these good beings' work?”

She gestured at Goldfang and Kirak, neither of whom looked particularly fussed about the fact that their shared office was being temporarily taken over.

“That's probably a good idea,” Nasir agreed.

“Probably.” Sirius turned to the goblins and bowed to them. “Thank you for everything you've done for us today, Kirak, Goldfang. Please take a ten percent bonus from the main Black vault in addition to the fee for the cleansing rituals.”

“We didn't charge you for those, but we will take the bonus regardless,” Goldfang replied, returning his bow, Kirak echoing the motion shortly after. “As we told you earlier, the Horde is honored to do business with you.”

“Agreed. Now, I suspect Albus Dumbledore may either be waiting personally or have people waiting for you when you exit the bank, so we will allow you to use the private Apparition or Floo points to leave,” Kirak said. “I doubt you want to deal with him any more than you already have today.”

Sirius was surprised at that. He knew the private Apparition and Floo points were reserved for the most elite of the bank's customers, and as a Herald, he supposed he'd become one of those. “Thank you. Apparition would be the best, most likely. I don't want to force Harry to go through the Floo right now. He's still a little young for it.”

Of course. I'll take you to the Apparition point and then you can leave from there. Lord Shafiq, will you be accompanying him?” Kirak asked.

“Of course,” Nasir said. “That is, if that's alright?”

“I would prefer it,” Sirius admitted. “I'd like to get to know you and Sufia better.”

Both Guide and spirit guide looked pleased about that, as most people tended to treat the latter merely as extensions of the former and not their own separate entities. Kirak led them to the Apparition point after they said their goodbyes to Veronika and Tereza. It took a moment for Sirius to figure out where they should go, as he didn't want to go to a place Dumbledore or one of the other Order members could access. Potter Manor's wards needed to be updated, Grimmauld Place was entirely out of the question since his mother was still alive, and... Sirius hummed thoughtfully as Kirak said goodbye and then returned to their office. Yes, that could work.

“Knut for your thoughts?” Nasir asked, his tone light.

“Oh, just thinking of where we can go,” Sirius replied. “I've got a place of my own. I'll have to quickly adjust the ward book to allow you in.”

He gave Nasir a serious look before carefully handing Harry to him. “Be careful with him. You're holding my heart in your hands right now.”

Nasir nodded, adjusting Harry in his arms so he was more comfortable. “I will guard him with my life,” he said solemnly. Sirius looked at him for a long moment before stepping into the alcove and then turning on his heel, vanishing from the bank and reappearing in his apartment. He went to the fireplace and pushed his magic into the portrait of a lion that hung over it.

The portrait swung forward, revealing an alcove behind it. A book lay within, as did a black quill. Sirius took both out, going over to a desk in the corner. He sat down at it, opening the book and crossing out Peter Pettigrew's name, as well as Dumbledore and any of the other Order members, including Remus, for the time being. He added Nasir to the wards-- Harry was already added, though his parents' names had gone gray with their deaths, something that pained Sirius to see –the red ink going dry almost immediately.

Sirius rubbed at the back of his hand, the redness already fading as his magic healed him. He shut the book, returning it and the quill to the alcove behind the portrait and then closed it, a low snick sounding when the portrait closed fully. With that done, Sirius returned to the bank, using his bond with Harry and the tentative one with Nasir as a beacon. Harry reached out for Sirius when he saw him.

“Pads Pads Pads!” he said happily, squirming a little in Nasir's arms. Sirius laughed as he took his son from Nasir.

“Silly little pup,” he said. “Were you good for Nasir?”

“Yes,” Harry said with a few quick nods. “Nice.”

“He's nice? That's good. Ready to go?”

Harry nodded again. Sirius shifted Harry to rest on his hip before extending his elbow to Nasir. “Shall we?”

Yes.” Nasir took Sirius' arm, tucking himself close to him. Sirius made sure he was holding on tight enough before turning on his heel and Disapparating, leaving the bank behind. Once they were safe behind the blood-based wards on the apartment, Sirius breathed a sigh of relief. They were in his territory and no one could touch them.

He slowly but surely relaxed, setting Harry down on the floor so he could investigate. The apartment was already thoroughly baby-proofed and warded, so he wasn't worried about Harry getting into anything dangerous. Sirius turned to Nasir, who was looking around curiously.

“So,” Sirius began, feeling unsure of what to do next. “What now?”

Nasir smiled. “Now? Now we learn more about one another, and eventually, bond,” he replied. He gestured to a nearby pair of armchairs that would allow them to relax while still being able to keep an eye on Harry, who had found the stash of toys Sirius kept in a basket in a corner.

Sirius nodded, an answering smile curving his lips. He took a seat in one while Nasir took the other. They sat and talked for quite a while, only stopping when the shadows grew long and Harry started making hungry noises. They got up and made dinner, continuing their conversation as they worked. It felt almost like they'd been working together for years rather than a few hours, and bit by bit, Sirius felt the crushing weight of the guilt and grief he'd carried around for so long lift away.

 

Chapter Text

Sirius and Nasir ended up quietly bonding three months after they'd met, taking a weekend to themselves once Potter Manor had had its wards updated and they'd moved there, wanting Harry to grow up at the seat of his Family magics. The apartment had been hard to let go since Sirius considered it part of his territory, but Nasir had convinced him to do so since it wasn't necessary to keep it and live at the manor. With the blood-based wards on it harvested and then added to the ones at Potter Manor, it was easy enough to move the furniture and other furnishings to the manor and then break the lease.

Harry seemed happy enough with being there, though he'd really only consciously known the house at Godric's Hollow as home. Remus, who had contacted him after Peter had been captured attempting to cross the French border at Calais via ferry, had watched Harry while Sirius and Nasir bonded. The capture and subsequent trial of Pettigrew-- which had ended with a verdict of the Kiss –had been heavily reported on by the Daily Prophet, as well as some international news sources, which meant Remus had heard about it and had returned from the Continent where Dumbledore had sent him in an attempt to curry favor with the werewolf packs there before Voldemort could. He'd contacted Sirius via owl first, eventually setting up a meeting at a time and place of Sirius' choosing.

They'd met at a cafe in Diagon Alley, Nasir keeping an eye on Harry at a nearby table while Remus and Sirius talked. Remus' gaze often strayed to Harry, and Sirius knew that his friend was confused and likely more than a little hurt that he wasn't currently being allowed to be near Harry. That changed once Sirius had pressed him about his true loyalties, particularly those in regards to Dumbledore.

Much to Sirius' surprise, Remus seemed to be rather disillusioned with their former headmaster for the time being, especially with the casual way Dumbledore continually sent him and others into danger with seemingly little regard for their safety or lives. The disillusionment shifted from moderate to severe when he heard what Dumbledore had tried to pull in regards to Harry's placement, a low growl leaving him.

“That son of a bitch,” Remus snarled, his eyes flashing amber. Even though he knew Remus was in full control of himself and the full moon nowhere near, it still set Sirius on edge. He reached out and placed a hand on Remus' arm.

“Calm yourself, Moony. Harry's not going anywhere.” He grinned before continuing on with, “My Guide and I have already made sure of it.”

That caught Remus up short. “Wait, Guide? You're a Sentinel?”

Sirius nodded. “When I took Harry in to the goblins to get him cleansed, I figured it wouldn't hurt to get one for myself.” He sighed. “It turns out I was given a potion when I was young that blocked my gifts. The goblins say that I was given it before I was eleven, so it was likely either my parents or the family healer. Ten to one it was my mum, but we'll never really know. Still, it's all taken care of now, and Nasir and I are planning on bonding soon.”

“Congratulations,” Remus said, sounding genuinely pleased for him. Sirius relaxed back in his seat, pleased at Remus' reaction. He used his senses to scan him, glad for the training he and Nasir had been doing together over the past few weeks. Sirius wasn't at full capabilities yet-- that would only come with time and the full bonding with Nasir –but he was quickly getting better with simple sensory scans.

“Thank you,” Sirius said. “Now, we are still worried about Dumbledore, even with the reprimand that the representatives from the ICW gave him.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah.” Sirius ran a hand through his hair. “Nothing definitely, unfortunately, but we've had a few people linked to him try to cozy up to us, either subtly or blatantly. Molly Weasley, for one. She keeps offering to babysit Harry if we ever need it and that sure as hell isn't something we're going to let happen.”

“Definitely not,” Nasir agreed. “Her husband is nice, but her... I don't trust her at all. She sets all kinds of alarm bells ringing when she's near us, and that's not something I want Harry exposed to.”

“Well, you won't have to worry about that with me,” Remus said firmly. Before either Sirius or Nasir could suggest anything of the sort, Remus drew his wand and vowed on his magic to serve as a bonded vassal to the Houses of Potter and Black for as long as Sirius, Nasir, and Harry allowed him to do so, the action negating any prior vows of fealty to any other organization, person, or House save for a future spouse.

Sirius felt the vassal oath settle over their small group and was very glad for the heavy-duty privacy wards Nasir had insisted on setting up before the meeting had started. They kept all but the most powerful Sentinels from listening in, as well as any unapproved Animagi from getting past them, which would keep the currently junior reporter-level Rita Skeeter out of their private business.

“You didn't have to do that, you know,” Sirius said faintly as Remus put his wand away.

“No, I think I did,” Remus replied. “It will keep all of us safe if Dumbledore doesn't have any sort of access to you through me.”

Sirius contemplated that before a slow grin curled his lips, one that Remus would recognize from their many pranking planning sessions. The idea would hopefully keep Dumbledore from recruiting any other werewolves as well as bettering Avalon in a way that the older wizard could lay no claim to even if he tried.

“Say, Remus, as a vassal for Houses Potter and Black, you are required to be under my employ somewhere within those two estates. How would you feel about running a highly warded sanctuary for other 'wolves to use on the full moon? We could call it something like 'The Lunar Sanctuary'. Both the Potters and the Blacks have plenty of land just sitting around unused, and I'm sure the goblins would be more than happy to undertake such a large and profitable job. We could even set up a fund for those who want to take the new version of the Wolfsbane Potion like you and--”

“Wait, you're taking the Wolfsbane Potion?” Nasir interjected, looking shocked. Sirius and Remus exchanged glances before the latter nodded.

“Yes, when I can afford it. Why?”

“Why? Because you're poisoning yourself each month with that sh--” Nasir broke off before changing what he was going to say to make it safe for little ears to hear. “--swill. You'll be dead within a decade, maybe fifteen years at the most if you keep taking it, even if it's sporadically.”

“It's the only thing that helps, though,” Remus protested. Nasir huffed sharply.

“Europe doesn't have a monopoly on werebeings, no matter how much you might think so,” he said. “We've been dealing with them in Egypt for millennia, far longer than the Romans and Britons ever had to deal with lycanthropy. Why do you think most of our gods have animal forms?” He shook his head. “Honestly, all you need is to wear an Amulet of Khonsu and you will keep your mind when you transform under the moon's light, not to mention feel far less pain when you do so.”

Remus looked stunned. “I've never heard of this before. Why not?”

Nasir rolled his eyes. “Because the British Ministry of Magic is a xenophobic rat's nest that refuses to even look at the innovations the rest of the magical world is producing. It's been that way ever since the Ministry was founded. It's part of the reason why my parents decided to move to Egypt when I was ten, even with the titles they held here. That, and they weren't liking the rumblings abut a new dark lord that were starting to sound even then. Working with the ICW has allowed me to go many places I likely never would have seen if I'd stayed here in Britain. The way werebeings and creatures are treated here would be considered criminal in most other places.”

He sat back, idly running his fingers through Harry's hair. “The idea for the sanctuary is a good one, Sirius,” he continued on, looking over at his Sentinel with an approving smile, “but instead of the potion, maybe some alternatives could be looked into instead?”

“If it means Remus and other 'wolves can be safe and sound and healthy, then I'm all for it,” Sirius replied. “Do the amulets cost a lot?”

Nasir shook his head. “Maybe five Galleons at the most, if that. Most magical markets in Egypt have them. We can make a trip before the next full moon and pick one up so Remus can see how they work for himself.”

“If it can do as you say, then I'll take it gladly,” Remus said, still looking amazed that he might be able to undergo his monthly transformations with minimal pain and fuss due to such a small thing.

“Wonderful. Now, Sirius and I will need at least a weekend to fully bond, so we'll need someone to watch Harry. Think you'll be up for the task?” Nasir asked, earning a warm smile from Remus.

“Of course, if you don't mind me taking up a room for that time.”

“We insist,” Sirius said. “In fact, why not just move in? Potter Manor's got more than enough rooms, after all, and I'd rather have you close so Harry can grow up with his Uncle Moony nearby.” He lowered his voice, even though it wasn't necessary. “He's a latent Sentinel, Remus. He needs all the pack he can get, just like a 'wolf.”

“You're already providing me with a job and...” Remus trailed off when he saw the twin looks of determination in Sirius and Nasir's eyes, sighing as he did so. “You're not going to let me say no, are you?”

“Not a chance, Moony my old pal,” Sirius said firmly. “You deserve to be happy, healthy, and whole, just like anyone else. It's time to stop thinking you're unworthy and show the world who and what you really are.”

Once Nasir and Sirius returned from their weekend of seclusion at one of the Black family holiday homes, they registered their bonding with the Consortium, the Ministry, and the ICW. Not wanting to disrupt Harry's life any more than he had to but also not wanting to leave his work, Nasir transferred to the London branch of the ICW. A small announcement in the Society portion of the Daily Prophet about the bonding- which the Magical world viewed as a valid type of unbreakable marriage -caused a flurry of mail to arrive.

Any malicious or otherwise dangerous were immediately transported to Gringotts due to clever wards on the Potter estate, the senders' names and magical signatures were recorded by the goblins. They took a rather vindictive pleasure of sending the information to Sirius' lawyer to deal with. Marjorie Stowe was a vicious witch when it came to harassment, particularly of women and children, and since Harry could have been around when any of the Howlers or booby-trapped packages had been opened, she took extra delight in going after the perpetrators.

One letter that was unwelcome but unfortunately let through the wards due to its inert nature, was from Sirius' mother. The letter was short and to the point, demanding that Sirius come immediately to Grimmauld Place, and not to bring Nasir or Harry along. Nasir had vetoed that immediately. Sirius quickly agreed, and as Remus was busy working on getting the Lunar Sanctuary set up, he asked the Longbottoms to watch over Harry.

He'd made sure to warn the Longbottoms to keep their war wards up for a little longer just in case, and it had paid off as the Lestranges and Barty Crouch Jr. had attacked their manor-- or at least, had tried to do so. The war wards had immediately neutralized them, knocking all of them unconscious. Frank had wanted to set the wards to a lethal level, but Sirius had argued that capturing them would be better politically. He'd made up a mostly convincing story about how he'd heard rumors of the Lestranges planning on attacking people they knew were in the Order, and who better than the parents of the other possible candidate of the prophecy?

Sirius wasn't entirely sure if Frank believed him fully, but they were safe nonetheless and the Lestranges and Crouch had been sent off to Azkaban after full trials. He knew that it was messing up the timeline even more, but he'd already fucked it sideways and backwards with everything that he'd done so far, so allowing Neville to grow up healthy and happy with his parents was a small detail in the grand scheme of things. The Longbottoms were more than happy to keep an eye on Harry after that, especially when Harry immediately started playing with Neville as if it'd only been a day since they'd seen one another rather than only a few times as small babies.

Leaving Harry in the safest place they could think of-- the Longbottoms were no fans of Dumbledore, not after they'd heard what he'd wanted to do to Harry –Sirius and Nasir made their way to Grimmauld Place via Floo. The second Sirius stepped into the house, he felt the wards transfer to him due to his status as Lord Black. He smirked before snapping his fingers.

“Kreacher, come here.”

Kreacher popped into the receiving room, scowling up at Sirius. “Nasty traitor. What are you doing here?” He looked at Nasir. “And a strange wizard as well. Are they a Mudblood? They look it.”

“Kreacher, enough,” Sirius commanded sharply. “We're here to visit my mother.” He went to one knee in front of Kreacher, startling the old elf visibly He lowered his voice. “I know Regulus gave you something to destroy. I want you to know that the goblins are working on a way to cleanse it and destroy the evil within permanently. You've done all you can to fulfill Regulus' orders, and I release you from the geas of his orders. I have a new set of orders for you.”

“What does Lord Master want Kreacher to do?” Kreacher asked cautiously.

“First, I want you to clean yourself up. You're supposed to represent the House of Black, and you can't do that in that ragged pillowcase. Second, once you've done that, I want you to go join the other Black elves at Blackmoor Bastion,” Sirius told him.

Kreacher glanced over his shoulder at the door before turning back to Sirius. “What about Mistress Black?”

Sirius smiled crookedly. “Don't worry about her. She'll be taken care of properly,” he assured him. “Leave the locket here for now. I'll tell you when it's safe to come fetch it.”

Kreacher hesitated before reaching out and brushing his fingers over the Black Lordship ring. Sirius felt the elf's bond shift from his mother to him, joining the five others that were bound to the House of Black generally rather than to a specific member. Once the bond settled, Kreacher disappeared with a small pop, vanishing to parts unknown of the house. Sirius got to his feet, made the bits of ash and dust vanish off his and Nasir's robes with a bit of wandless magic, and then took his Guide's hand.

“Shall we?”

“Of course. You were kind to him,” Nasir said softly as they left the room. He shivered. “I can feel the taint on this house like a heavy cloak.”

“It's the various artifacts here, but the locket in particular,” Sirius said grimly. He shook his head. “Once the goblins finish their part in the whole thing...” He sighed. “My dreams have been... informative lately. I feel like we're building to something big, and soon.”

Nasir hummed thoughtfully as they approached the sitting room where the meeting was supposed to take place. Sirius had shared his unique magical circumstances with him during their bonding, unable to keep it from him for any longer. Nasir had listened to him patiently before telling him that he believed him and would be standing beside him no matter what. That had rather overwhelmed Sirius, and it had taken him a while to recover from that unwavering acceptance. It wasn't something he'd experienced often in his life; the last time that had happened was with James and the other Marauders when they were young, and later with Lily.

Walburga was seated before the small fire that crackled away in the hearth, dressed in severe dark robes and a black lace cap that lay flat on top of her curls like a rather unfortunately macabre lily pad. She stiffened when she saw that Sirius wasn't alone.

“Sirius. I told you to come alone,” she snapped out, setting down the cup of tea she'd been drinking sharply down on the side table next to her chair. “I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that you're continuing to be a disappointment to me and this family.”

“That is enough, Mother,” Sirius said, holding up his hand to silence her. “Do not test me.”

“Test you? You're testing me with your foolish choices, and have been ever since you Sorted into Gryffindor!”

“I don't regret that, and I certainly don't regret bonding with Nasir. You should be pleased with me. He's the Lord of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Shafiq, after all, and an advantageous match that most would .” Sirius grinned dangerously. “He's also my Magic-given Guide, something I'm very aware you didn't want happening. Does the potion 'Mordred's Bane' mean anything to you? Because that's what the goblins found was given to me just before I was eleven, and there are precious few people who had that much access to me before Hogwarts.”

Walburga merely sniffed disdainfully. “The Black bloodline has no need for that sort of idiocy. The potion is easy enough to get if you know the right people, so I took care of that issue before it got out of hand. You didn't need to be a Sentinel.”

“No, just a Pureblood heir that listened dutifully to every hateful word that was spewed from your mouth like the worst poison,” Sirius snapped. Nasir wrapped his hand around Sirius' wrist, projecting calm across their bond. Sirius sent him a quick smile in thanks before taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. He focused on his mother once more, his expression going harshly neutral.

“What you did to me was unforgivable,” he said. “I can't--” He sighed sharply before pulling his wand and Stunning her, unable to listen to her any longer. He turned towards Nasir, a conflicted look on his face. “I don't... I can't...”

“I know,” Nasir said, pulling Sirius into his arms. “She was your mother.”

“She gave birth to me, but I don't know if she ever was my mother,” Sirius mumbled, burying his nose in Nasir's hair. “Not in the ways that it counted. We got her confession. Let's get her to the Consortium and get it over with.”

Nasir nodded, letting Sirius scent him for a while longer before moving over to Walburga and locking a steel bracelet around her left wrist. He tapped the runes on it in a specific order. “Justice,” he said firmly. The Portkey whisked Walburga away, taking her to a holding cell at the Consortium. The statute of limitations on crimes against a magical Sentinel or Guide never ran out, particularly for grievous ones like Walburga had visited against Sirius.

“I wonder if she did the same thing to Regulus,” Sirius mused, still staring at the chair his mother had been sitting in. Nasir turned to look at him with a sad smile.

“We'll never know,” he replied. He held out his hand to Sirius, who took it and pulled him close.

“I suppose not,” Sirius agreed. He looked around them. “I'm going to get the house elves in here to remodel and clear out all the horrible artifacts and everything else that can harm someone. It needs to be cleansed thoroughly.”

“Definitely. Now that your mother is taken care of, the house elves can have free rein on the place and make it a home rather than just a place to live,” Nasir said. “Let's go home.”

Sirius smiled at that. “Home. Yeah, let's go.”

They left the way they came, going through the Floo and returning back to Potter Manor after getting Harry from the Longbottoms. Sirius' dreams that night and for the next week or so were visited by Death. She spoke to him of the ritual he and Nasir would have to undergo to send Voldemort permanently to her realms. The fact that Nasir would have to be in the ritual circle with him worried Sirius, but Death assured him that the Guide wouldn't be harmed.

“He's your equal in everything,” Death told him. “While he isn't one of my Heralds, he's a necessary part of the ritual.” She smiled mysteriously. “His spirit guide is a jackal for a reason, after all.”

Sirius pondered on that for a goodly while, but Death refused to elaborate even when he asked politely. Things came to a head the day before the Summer Solstice a month before Harry's second birthday. The goblins requested that Sirius and Nasir come to the bank an hour before midnight. Kreacher, who had taken a shine to Harry the likes of which Sirius hadn't seen since Regulus, would watch over him and get Remus from his bedroom down the hall if needed. As it was a new moon, they didn't have to worry about Remus not having opposable thumbs. The Amulet of Khonsu had helped with the monthly changes immensely, leaving Remus far more happy and healthy after each transformation over the past few months. He actually looked more his age than at least ten years older.

Sirius left a note with Kreacher for Remus just in case before he and Nasir left for the bank via the Floo. Kirak met them in the receiving room before leading them to the most secure and heavily warded ritual room in the whole of the bank. Before they went in, Kirak turned to look at them with a serious expression on their face.

“Are you ready for this?” they asked.

Sirius and Nasir exchanged looks before they nodded in sync. Kirak smiled, the expression near-feral on their face as they opened the door to the ritual room. “Good. Let's take care of this Dark upstart once and for all.”

-/-

Voldemort wasn't sure where he was or really what state of being he was in. That state of confusion had started after he'd attacked that wretched child who had been prophesied to defeat him. It had been foolish, perhaps, not to send one of his Death Eaters as his proxy to kill the Potter spawn, but going that route had felt... wrong. Fate and magic had tied the two of them together, and Voldemort had decided to see it through to the bloody end.

That decision had brought him here, wherever that might be. He wasn't sure. It was dimly lit that much he could tell, and seemingly small, as his smoky form was unable to leave a circular space no bigger than six feet in total area. He'd be there for.. days? Weeks? He didn't know. What he did know was that once he escaped, he would visit his wrath on his captors once he got the chance.

Suddenly, what looked like a wall of thick black smoke sprang up three feet outside of the boundary of Voldemort's confinement area. He settled near the center of his prison, gently turning on the spot to see if he could spot who- or what -was coming. The smoke was disturbed as two beings passed through it, but they certainly weren't human, or at least, not entirely. Both struck fear deep in Voldemort's being.

The one on the left had the head of a Grim and a long cloak clasped around his body that looked to be made of raven's feathers. His eyes were a glowing silver from corner to corner, with the pupils and irises darker shades of silver than what would normally be the whites. His companion, in contrast, had the head of a jackal and was bare-chested, the only clothing he wore being a loose pair of linen pants. The jet-black fur from his head spilled down his neck and across his shoulders, stopping just below his collarbone.

“Thomas Marvolo Riddle, also known as the Dark Lord Voldemort,” the Grim intoned, his voice a deep rumble that Voldemort swore had echoes of coffin lids and mausoleum doors slamming shut. “You have hidden from my Mistress for far too long. She is not pleased with you.”

His companion had circled around to Voldemort's other side on silent feet, his coal black eyes fixed on the smoky spirit. “You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting,” he growled, echoes of distant hounds howling sounding in his voice. “You have been a blight on this world for far too long. You will pass beyond the Veil for a final time.”

“You cannot defeat me!” Voldemort retorted triumphantly. “It is ordained by Fate that I can only die by Harry Potter's hand, and you are not him!”

The Grim laughed darkly, making Voldemort turn to look at him. “We are the Left Hand of the next Alpha Sentinel Prime of Avalon,” he said. “That, for your information, is destined to be Harry Potter. We act in his stead in all things, including this.”

He drew his wand, the ebony wood shimmering faintly in the dim light. His companion drew his own wand, the pale wood one Voldemort didn't recognize. The two of them began to chant, magic visibly flowing off them in rippling waves. The language they were using was not one Voldemort knew; it was somehow both lyrical and guttural at the same time. He barely had any time to try and figure it out when the thick waves of magic washed over him, freezing and burning him simultaneously.

Escape was impossible, no matter how hard Voldemort tried. The magic wrapped around him and then dragged him out of the physical plane. As he fell, he felt five impacts hit his spiritual form. He barely had time to contemplate what that meant before he found himself slamming into a hard surface. Voldemort groaned before gathering his wits. He pushed himself up with shaky arms, reveling in having a physical form again.

The sound of footsteps against stone coming from behind him had Voldemort whirling around, his hand going for his non-existent wand. He sneered at the approaching figure, not finding any threat in her slight form.

“Where am I?” he demanded, drawing himself up to his full height. Death arched an unimpressed eyebrow at him.

“My domain, finally,” she replied. “I have been waiting a long time for you, Thomas Marvolo Riddle, and I do not like being kept waiting.”

-/-

The ritual took a lot out of Sirius and Nasir. They stumbled out of the ritual room supporting one another with arms around each other's waist, the goblin healers waiting to whisk them away to the healing chambers. When the healers were done pouring magic restoring and revitalizing potions down their throats, they went to Kelak's office for one last talk.

The goblin looked at them contemplatively before leaning back in their chair. “So, he's fully and completely dead,” they said. They laid a scroll on their desk and pushed it towards Sirius. “That is his official death certificate. I would suggest you go to the Department of Mysteries and present this to them, as well as request a copy of the fulfilled prophecy. Our seers rejoiced when he passed through the Veil, but knowing the habits of wizards, they won't take a goblin's word as fact and will only trust the words of their fellow men.”

Nasir nodded. “We will.” He looked at Sirius. “The Hall of Records should still be open.”

Sirius smirked, remembering the ease that Harry and his friends had had getting into the Department of Mysteries in their fifth year. “I think you're right. Thank you, Kirak, for letting us use your ritual space.”

Kirak nodded. “Thank you for finally removing the taint of Voldemort from the world.”

“Someone had to get rid of the Dark Bastard,” Sirius said with a shrug, “and we weren't about to allow Harry to deal with him. No child deserves that kind of destiny.”

The two of them stopped by the Ministry of Magic and the Hall of Records, retrieving the copy of the fulfilled prophecy from the Records Keeper on duty. They were only able to do that since they were Harry's legal guardians and parents; anyone else would have been turned away by the Keeper immediately. With the copy of the prophecy and Voldemort's death certificate in hand, the bonded pair returned to Potter Manor to catch some sleep before the day truly began.

-/-

The next day, Albus was finishing up the last of the parchmentwork he had until the Summer Meet of the Wizengamot when the notification chime that alerted him someone was at the gargoyle guardian at the bottom of the spiraling stairs that led up to his office sounded. He glanced at the enchanted mirror on his desk, surprised to see that his caller was none other than Sirius Black. Minerva had accompanied him to provide the password to his office, it seemed, but she didn't go up the stairs with him after the gargoyle leapt aside.

Albus sat back as his door opened, giving the other wizard his best grandfatherly smile when he saw him. “Sirius, dear boy. Please, come in. To what do I owe this visit?”

Sirius silently drew the dark prophecy orb and the death certificate from his dimensional store and then set both on Albus' desk, making sure that the enchanted wax seal showing the Gringotts' seal on the death certificate was facing upright so Albus could see. The Headmaster gave Sirius a curious look before picking up the scroll. He opened the scroll with a letter opener, scanning briefly over it before going pale and then rereading it more carefully.

His eyes darted to the orb on his desk, watching the dark gray smoke swirl around in it before he sank down heavily in his chair. He looked up when Sirius cleared his throat pointedly.

“As you can see, Voldemort is dead,” Sirius said. He placed his hands on Albus' desk and then leaned forward, eyes narrowing. “If you try anything to either bring him back or insist that my son is some sort of chosen one who needs to defeat Voldemort, then we will bring the full weights of House Black, Potter, Shafiq, and the Consortium down on you. You are not as important to the world as you think you are, no matter what you may have done in the past. It's time to stop living in it, Headmaster, and look towards the future.”

He straightened up, his expression going deceptively pleasant. “It's a pleasure to see you as always, Albus.” Sirius dusted an invisible bit of dust off his neatly pressed robes, gave Albus a small nod, and then swept out of the office, the door shutting firmly behind him. Albus stared blankly ahead for a while, startling when he heard one of the portraits of the prior Headmasters and Headmistresses speak.

“Well, he put you in your place, didn't he? My great-great-grandson is truly coming into his own as Lord Black,” Phineas Nigellus Black commented, a smirk on his face. “Perhaps he's not so much of a disappointment as I thought.”

Albus scowled at him before slumping back in his chair, his plans for the future ruined. He didn't dare try to revamp them, not now. Somehow, Voldemort had been truly and thoroughly defeated and Harry Potter no longer someone that Albus could guide and mold into a savior for their world. He ran his hands over his face before picking up one of the small ornaments on his desk and throwing it at the far wall. It shattered into many pieces, the sudden noise causing Fawkes to jerk awake from his nap and let out a questioning trill.

Albus ignored him. He had no need for his familiar's platitudes and questions. He needed to find a new way to keep his relevance in the British Wizarding World before its people decided that he wasn't worth keeping around any more. It might take some time, but he was sure he could do it. Somehow.

As he plotted, Sirius had returned home to his Guide and son, reveling in the fact that Harry's future was the young wizard's alone to determine. Fate and Death had both been satisfied for the time being and the future seemed bright. Falling through the Veil had turned out to be a blessing in disguise, even if it hadn't seemed like it at the time.

Sirius scooped Harry up and kissed him all over his face, earning bright, happy giggles. Nasir looked on with a smile, basking in the pure joy the two of them were giving off. Remus was drawn into the room by the laughter, curious to see what was going on. The small family celebrated their victory, the room filled with love, laughter, and hope for the future.