Minerva McGonagall was relaxing with a cup of tea and her favorite biscuits in her office in Gryffindor tower. It was a Sunday afternoon, and she was looking over her lesson plan for the next week, enjoying the rare quiet moment while it lasted.
She knew soon enough one of her lions would need her attention or some other matter would present itself. She could only hope any new calamities would keep until the morning. A teacher’s work was never done, and this was especially true at Hogwarts.
She looked up as a small tawny owl flew through her window and landed on her desk less than gracefully, skidding slightly before coming to a stop. She recognized the bird as one of several the Leaky Cauldron kept on hand for customer’s convenience. The bird bounced excitedly and held out one foot, where a note was tied with a blue ribbon.
Curiosity peaked, Minerva removed it gently from the owl’s leg and then opened the top drawer of her desk and took out the small bag of owl treats she kept for just such an occasion. She held out the treat, and the owl took it daintily, hooting happily. Adorable, Minerva thought with a smile.
She tapped the tea tray next to her with the tip of her wand once. “Water for an owl please,” she requested politely, and a moment later there was a pop, and a small bowl of water appeared next to her teapot. The house elves in the kitchen were very efficient. Minerva placed the bowl next to the owl, and he drank deeply, hooting his thanks.
“You are welcome to stay here and rest, or you may go up to the owlery if you prefer,” she informed the owl.
In response, the bird buried his head under his wing to rest, content to stay where he was for the moment. Minerva allowed herself a smile at the sight. The owl having been seen to, she turned her attention to the letter. She did not recognize the handwriting, and she was quite curious as she couldn’t think of anyone who would write her from the Leaky.
Minerva examined the letter carefully, checking for hexes. Finding none, she opened it. It was written with a pen of all things, on ordinary muggle stationary. How odd; she didn’t know anyone who used muggle pens. What in the name of Merlin was going on? Minerva read, frowning first with surprise, and then with rapidly growing concern, at the content. She stared down at the note in her hand for several moments, lost in thought, before reading it a second time to see if she’d missed any vital clues.
I hope this note finds you well. Please forgive me for skipping the pleasantries, but I fear there is no time to waste. I am gravely concerned about Harry Potter. I have not seen him at all for a week. I have told Albus, but he seems certain there is nothing to worry about. He assures me he would know if Harry was hurt.
However, I believe there is great cause for concern. I dare not put my suspicions in writing, as one never knows who might be watching. You are one of the few people I know I can trust implicitly. I implore you to come to Privet Drive at your earliest convenience. You can enter the usual way, it will be open for you.
Minerva let the letter fall to her desk, shocked to hear from Arabella Figg in regard to Harry Potter. She wished she was equally surprised at Albus’ unconcern for Harry’s well-being, but Albus had always had a strange attitude when it came to the boy. Harry was almost two years old, and he should be in a loving environment Minerva feared his home life was anything but loving. The news that he hadn’t been seen outside the house in so long was troubling to say the least, but not that surprising, unfortunately. Minerva had been concerned about Harry’s current living arrangements from the very beginning.
Minerva pursed her lips in disgust at the thought of the Dursleys. Lily had told her terrible stories about her sister Petunia and her husband. After Lily had died, Minerva had gone to see them for herself.
From the moment she’d first observed the Dursleys, she’d been convinced they weren’t suitable guardians for any child, let alone a magical one. Minerva had feared the Dursleys would mistreat Harry, and it appeared her fears may have been well-founded. Great Merlin, she hoped Harry was alright.
She hadn’t wanted to leave little Harry in the muggle world at all, but Albus had insisted it was the only way to keep the boy safe from death eaters. She’d argued for Harry to have more than his anonymity to protect him, insisting that an order member be assigned to Harry. Only when Albus promised to do so had Minerva reluctantly agreed.
She had foolishly assumed Albus would assign a strong magical person to the task. Instead he’d chosen Arabella, much to Minerva’s ire. It wasn’t that Minerva didn’t like Arabella Figg; she was a good person, and would do her best, but if death eaters attacked there was little a squib could do to protect Harry from being kidnapped, or worse, murdered. Not to mention it would be quite difficult to keep an eye on those horrible muggles raising Harry from a distance.
Now, it seemed her instincts had been correct. Damn Albus and his overinflated ego, always so sure he knew best. Wasn’t it just like a man not to listen to anyone but himself?
Minerva knew she would have to see to the matter immediately. She wrote a quick note telling Arabella she would arrive at her door later in the afternoon. The owl hooted in a displeased manner at being woken, but he held out his leg readily enough.
“I’ll have no cheek from you,” she told him sternly, petting him softly before sending him on his way. Once he delivered her message he would return home where he belonged.
Then she stood and made her way through the connecting door into her private quarters. Once inside she walked over to the small altar and casting circle she kept in a corner of her room. It was a small space, but adequate for her everyday needs.
In casting it was the strength of a person’s belief that mattered most, after all. She chose to worship Lady Magic in the old ways like her mother had done before her. They were mostly frowned upon now, but Minerva had never let that bother her. She’d always felt strongly connected to the Great Lady and felt that the Lady had often guided her life. She would have preferred to do this in her own ritual space at the Ross estate, but there was no time. A small offering would have to do for now.
She stood in front of the altar in the center of her ritual circle and carefully lit the candles. Then she took out the small piece of paper on which she’d written her request for assistance. It would act as a focus for her ritual request. Finally, she picked up the ritual knife from the box where she kept it and carefully cut one finger, allowing a few drops of blood to fall on the paper.
Minerva knelt down in front of the altar and made her request. “My Lady, I have often spoken to you of my concern for Harry Potter. Lily Potter was one of my favorite students, and I can’t help but feel that I have failed her. I am truly afraid of what I am going to find today when I visit the Dursley home. ”If I cannot trust Albus Dumbledore then these are dark times indeed. I am alone without anyone to help me. I fear whatever decision I make will have severe repercussions not only for myself but for little Harry as well. I humbly ask for your assistance and guidance in this matter.”
For several seconds there was no response, and Minerva felt her heart sink with disappointment, but then she felt magic rise around her, prickling her skin, and the piece of paper and the blood disappeared from the altar in a puff of smoke. Minerva sighed with relief as the offering was accepted. Lady Magic had heard her plea and had agreed to help. Though Minerva had no idea yet what form the assistance would take, she was relieved to know that Lady Magic was watching over her, and approved of her plan to help Harry. It was enough for now.
An hour later, Minerva was stepping out of the floo in Diagon Alley. She had arranged to be away from Hogwarts for a couple of days easily enough. There was no reason for anyone to doubt her story about a problem with the wards on her family’s estate. The wards were old and sometimes needed maintenance.
She’d taken care to dress carefully in an elegant pantsuit under her robe and long hooded cloak. She’d put her wand in its holster and made up a small suitcase. Thanks to her muggle father, she was quite comfortable in their world.
Her worry for Harry was increasing as each minute passed; she had been concerned for a long time, but had chosen to ignore it. If Harry was hurt she’d never forgive herself, or Albus. There was a chance the boy was sick, in which case he might need magical medical attention.
Muggle medicine wouldn’t hurt him, but it wouldn’t do much to help either. Minerva could only hope Harry wasn’t severely hurt or mistreated. The idea made her breathless with anger. If those muggles had hurt Lily’s child in any way Minerva would see they lived to regret it. She knew she needed to resolve the situation as expediently as possible, preferably without Albus knowing; she couldn’t have him interfering until she had time to assess the situation. Although she was a war hero in her own right, she knew she could never hope to match his influence.
She made her way quickly to the Leaky Cauldron and out into the muggle world, careful not to be noticed. Out on the street, she removed the cloak and robe and cast a shrinking spell before placing them carefully in her pocket. She wanted to do her best to blend in; the last thing she needed was to draw attention to herself. She took her animagus form and then apparated to Wisteria Walk, landing neatly in the bushes outside Arabella’s home.
Most wizards and witches couldn’t apparate in their animagus forms because they needed their wands to cast. However, Minerva had trained herself to do the apparition spell wandless. It had given her an advantage in the war and still came in handy.
The house was small but well kept; it looked exactly like all the other houses on the street. The only real oddities were the three kneazle cat mixes that were wandering around the front yard. Minerva knew that Arabella did her best to blend into the neighborhood, but it wasn’t always easy, even for a squib. Muggles weren’t very tolerant of anyone who was different, and life here must be stifling at the best of times.
As Arabella had suggested in her note, she made her way around to the back where the door had been left wide open for the cats to wander in and out at will. This method of entry had been occasionally useful when she’d needed a hiding place during the war.
She entered and delicately wrinkled her nose at the smell of cats and overcooked cabbage permeating the air. Minerva detested cabbage.
Arabella came bustling into the room and her face shifted into a relieved smile when she saw Minerva standing in her kitchen.
“Oh Minerva, I received your message only a few moments ago. I’m so glad you’re here. I didn’t know what else to do. I’m very worried about poor little Harry.” Arabella wrung her hands in distress.
Minerva smiled slightly and placed a calming hand on Arabella’s shoulder, leading the other woman gently over to the kitchen table. “Sit down and calm yourself, Arabella.”
Arabella gave her a chagrined look. “Please have a seat, I’m so sorry. Where are my manners? Can I get you some tea, Minerva?” she asked.
Minerva shook her head. “Not to worry. I’m fine for the moment. You did the right thing sending for me. Tell me what has you so concerned,” she said encouragingly.
“Well, as you know, Albus helped me buy this house so I could keep an eye on Harry Potter. I was honored to be chosen. However, I did mention that being part of Harry’s life might prove more difficult than Albus realized. Muggles don’t just allow strangers into their homes.” Arabella gave Minerva a quick nervous glance.
“I’m sure you’ve done your best,” Minerva reassured her.
Arabella nodded, and a small smile lit up her face. “Thank you. I did what I could. I managed to convince Petunia Dursley to let me babysit Harry on occasion. It was distressingly easy to gain her trust I’m afraid. Petunia hates her nephew and doesn’t do a good job of hiding it, at least not with me. She is usually eager to leave him here. Almost immediately I noticed issues with his care. He was always given to me with a clean nappy, but he often had rashes that didn’t seem to clear up, and he’s thinner than is healthy. I wrote to Albus about what I was seeing, but he simply told me not to worry.”
Minerva felt a rush of bewilderment and anger toward Albus; this made no sense. How could he simply ignore Arabella’s information? Clearly the Dursleys were neglecting Harry at the very least. Why had Albus done nothing? The thought of Lily’s sweet little boy being hurt made Minerva’s heart ache.
“I’m sure Albus did what he thought best,” Minerva said carefully. It wouldn't do to let her doubt or confusion show. “However, that isn’t the reason you called me, is it?” Minerva steeled herself for whatever she was about to hear.
“No, that’s true, I didn’t like Albus’ decision, but I accepted it. Only last week Petunia dropped the boy off here, and there were bruises on his little arm as if someone had grabbed him so tightly they left a mark. I was furious when I saw them, and I confronted Petunia. That horrible woman told me it was none of my business and I haven’t seen Harry since. I’m very worried about him.”
Minerva’s worry deepened as Arabella spoke; this was disturbing news indeed, particularly because there was only one logical reason for Harry being bruised in such a manner, though Minerva fervently hoped she was wrong. It seemed the more she learned, the worse the situation became. Clearly, she needed to check on Harry’s welfare this instant.
Minerva wished for a moment that she had someone to help her. Meddling in the lives of muggles was no simple matter, but there was no one she could trust. She dared not alert the ministry to the situation. The ministry was hopelessly corrupt, and Minerva knew she couldn’t trust anyone to put Harry’s best interest over their own, apparently not even Albus.
The thought saddened her as much as it stoked her already simmering anger. She had believed Albus had all their best interests at heart, even if she didn’t always agree with his decisions. She had trusted him implicitly, and it looked like her trust had been given in error. The knowledge was quite painful to bear. Minerva turned her thoughts to the matter at hand. There would be time to worry about Albus Dumbledore and his plans later.
Minerva stood. “Thank you, Arabella. Please wait for me here. Your position mustn’t be compromised. It’s time I checked in on Harry for myself.”
“They might not be home,” Arabella pointed out. Her hands fluttered nervously before she dropped them back onto the table.
Minerva shrugged. “I’ll wait if I have to, but I’m not leaving without seeing Harry Potter with my own eyes.”
Minerva marched briskly to number 4 Privet Drive. If possible, the houses here were even more alike than those on Wisteria Walk. Minerva truly did not understand the appeal of suburbia. What was it about all this bland uniformity that muggles found so comforting? Her own father had preferred the more eclectic fast-paced life that was London.
When she reached the door Minerva took a deep breath and forced herself to relax before ringing the doorbell. While she waited she fixed her most severe expression on her face, the one that she used when she needed to scare a confession out of an ill-behaved student. It had always served her well.
A few moments later Petunia Dursley came to the door, looking as plain and unpleasant as ever, carrying a rather fat blond boy who was currently red-faced and screaming. The noise was most unpleasant to the ear, but Minerva kept her face neutral, refusing to show any discomfort.
“Mrs. Petunia Dursley?” she asked calmly.
Petunia’s eyes narrowed as she looked Minerva over, taking in her expensive clothing. After a moment she seemed to decide Minerva was worth talking to because she said, “Yes, that’s right. How can I help you?”
“My name is Minerva McGonagall. I am a government official, and I’m here to talk to you about your nephew Harry Potter.”
Petunia’s expression turned sour. “How do you even know about Harry?” She spat the name with obvious disgust. “You’re one of those freaks aren’t you? I won’t have any of your filth in my house. Leave now!”
Minerva felt her ire rising at those vile words. These muggles really were beyond the pale. However, Minerva strove to remain polite for the time being. She was very conscious of the fact that she was on her own in this situation and Petunia’s cooperation was imperative, so simply using a body binding spell and stepping over her was out of the question, no matter how satisfying it might be.
“There is no need to be rude, Mrs. Dursley, I am simply here to talk to you and to verify Harry’s well-being. It has come to the attention of our ministry that no one has seen him since he came to live with you. Naturally, we grew concerned. As someone quite familiar with your world I was chosen to visit you today. May I come in please?”
“No, you may not. The audacity of one of your kind showing up here is not to be believed. It's bad enough we got stuck taking my sister's freakish spawn, I am not going to put up with you people traipsing in and out of my home as well. Leave here now,” she repeated forcefully.
Petunia tried to close the door, but Minerva reached out a hand to stop her. Petunia jumped back away from Minerva’s hand as if it were diseased. Minerva stifled the urge to roll her eyes; she had little patience for drama.
Being pleasant clearly wasn’t working so perhaps a little show of force would be more beneficial. She pulled her wand out of the holster on her arm but didn’t point it at Petunia. At the sight of the wand Petunia froze in horror, eyes wide with fear. Then the idiot woman screeched loudly and pulled her son closer against her chest as if to protect him from Minerva. If this was any indication, the situation was going to be most trying. The silly woman really believed that Minerva would hurt her. Not that she wasn’t capable of doing what needed to be done, but Minerva did not believe in using magic on muggles unless the situation was dire. Still, Petunia didn’t know that, and if intimidation got her into the house to see Harry then she would use it.
“Please Petunia, I am not here to hurt you, but I am not leaving here without seeing Harry Potter so it’s in your best interest to let me in. Otherwise, I will have to force the issue. I would really rather not do that.”
Petunia’s eyes widened again. “Now see here, you can’t just force your way into my home. My nephew is fine, he’s got a bit of a cold, and I don’t want you or my Dudley exposed to anything,” Petunia said in a trembling voice. She still looked frightened, but Minerva suspected her fear might have a different cause.
Minerva frowned sternly. “If he is ill then I’m afraid I really must insist on seeing him; stand aside please.” She was able to push past the door rather easily, as Petunia moved away, her need to be as far away from Minerva as possible outweighing her desire to keep her out of the house. Really, the woman was ridiculous.
Minerva had never seen the inside of the house before. She entered the foyer and took a look around. She noticed absently that the small cupboard under the stairs had a grate built into the door, with a padlock that was currently hanging open. It was quite odd.
Entering the living room, the first thing she noticed was how neat everything was; the living room was so clean it sparkled. How did Petunia manage this with two small children in the house? She appreciated tidiness, but the Dursley’s home made her uncomfortable somehow. This was not a welcoming place at all; the house felt cold and artificial. The warmth of Minerva’s own family home was missing. She hated to think of Harry growing up here.
There were several pictures of Petunia’s son on the walls, but Minerva’s stomach twisted when she realized there was not a single one of Harry that she could see. In the corner of the room was a playpen with some stuffed animals inside. She looked around, but she could see no sign of Harry.
She turned to Petunia, who seemed to have recovered from her fear if the angry expression on her face was any indication.
“Where is Harry, is he upstairs?” she asked quietly.
“Never you mind where he is. You just wait until my husband gets home. That old man promised me that if I took Harry in, there wouldn’t be any interference from you people and that I could raise him as I saw fit. I’m sure he wouldn’t be happy to hear about this,” Petunia said.
Minerva raised an eyebrow at that. “What old man?” she asked. She already knew the answer, but she wanted confirmation.
Petunia heaved an exasperated sigh. “That man with the long white hair and the crazy clothes, I don’t remember his name. I think it started with a D. He worked at that horrid school that ruined my sister. Harry won’t be attending, I can promise you that,” Petunia snapped.
“Dumbledore?” Minerva asked.
Petunia nodded. “Yes, that’s it.”
Interesting. Despite what he’d told Minerva, Albus had had contact with Harry’s family at some point, even though he’d promised not to interfere in Harry’s raising. Yet more lies. Albus, where does your deceit end? That was quite worrisome but not that surprising. No wonder he’d never wanted anyone to check on Harry directly. Minerva filed the information away for later.
“It doesn’t matter what he said. I’m not leaving here without seeing Harry, and if you keep stalling I will simply find him myself, and I think we both know you can’t stop me.”
Petunia opened her mouth to speak but before she could a weak cry came from the direction of the hallway.
“What’s that? Is that Harry?” Minerva asked, moving quickly back into the hallway with Petunia following behind her.
“It’s nothing,” Petunia said nervously. As if in direct contradiction of her words she heard the cry again, stronger this time. Minerva looked around; the sound was too close to be coming from upstairs, but for the life of her she could not figure out where the cries were coming from. There was no sign Harry was even in the house. Perhaps it was coming from the kitchen. Minerva began to make her way there, calling Harry’s name.
There was a long moment of silence, and then a little voice called out, “Mama, Mama!” in a frantic but pleading tone.
The sound was heartbreaking, and Minerva realized it was coming from the direction of the stairs. Suddenly she remembered the strange cupboard under the stairs, and the blood froze in her veins. “Great Lady,” she murmured. “Please let me be wrong.”
She turned to Petunia, an expression of disgust on her face. All pretense of politeness gone, she pointed her wand at Petunia. “You will stay right here and not interfere or I will make you sorry. Am I understood?” she asked.
The vile woman squeaked in fear, but she nodded, holding her son even tighter. Grimly satisfied, Minerva mentally dismissed her for the moment and turned her attention back to the matter at hand.
She rushed over to the cupboard and opened the door, her heart pounding. Despite what she’d already learned about Harry’s current living situation she wasn’t prepared for what she found. Harry was lying on a mattress that had been crammed into the small cupboard, covered by a single blanket. The only light was a bare overhead light bulb. Minerva reached up and turned it on, gasping as she good her first good look at Harry Potter in over six months.
The first thing she noticed was that he was far too skinny for his age, just as Arabella had indicated. Obviously, no one had been feeding him properly. It was a truly horrible realization and particularly infuriating when one considered that the Dursley boy was dangerously close to obese. The Dursleys could obviously afford to keep both children well fed if they’d been so inclined. They had kept food from Harry simply to be cruel; it was horrific.
She bent down and leaned forward into the cupboard; as she got closer to Harry the sour smell of a dirty diaper and unwashed skin hit her. Her stomach churned with anger as she gently picked Harry up. The boy was staring at her, eyes wide with fear. “Mama?,” he asked uncertainly again.
Minerva did her best to smile reassuringly at the boy as she pulled him close and stood up. “No Harry, I’m not your mama, but I’m not going to hurt you, I promise. My name is Minerva, and I was a friend of your mama’s.”
Harry’s expression was still confused, and he didn’t show any sign of recognizing her. Minerva wasn’t really surprised. She hadn’t spent much time with the Potters after they’d left school, and they’d rarely brought Harry to order meetings.
She took a quick look at his arms and frowned at the finger-shaped bruises she found there. These look fresh perhaps only two or three days old. She could see no sign of older bruises, and there should have been. She seriously doubted that Petunia had treated Harry’s injuries. Minerva wondered if Harry’s magic had helped heal him if so he was quite powerful.
“Everything is going to be alright now, Harry,” she said firmly, willing the child to believe her.
Harry’s big green eyes were staring at her intently, and Minerva wondered if he would begin crying again. She wouldn’t blame the child if he didn’t trust her. Much to her surprise and pleasure, he didn’t cry; instead he stared up at her curiously and tried to pluck her spectacles off her nose, an act Minerva gently discouraged. After a moment’s thought she removed a pin from her hair and transfigured it into a toy snitch. She remembered how James had boasted about Harry's supposed skill on his toy broom.
She held it out to Harry, encouraging him to take it. After a long confused moment he did, shaking it and giggling at the swooshing sound it made. He stared in awe as the wings moved by themselves.
“First things first young man, we’re going to get you cleaned up and changed and get you something to eat hmm. Would you like that?” she asked softly.
Harry looked over at Petunia, but she ignored him, so he nodded uncertainly “Milk?” he requested softly.
Minerva felt tears well up, but she quickly blinked them away. “Yes, absolutely milk and anything else you’d like,” she promised.
Harry still looked uncertain as he stared up at Minerva but after a moment he nodded and sagged forward, resting his head on Minerva’s chest trustingly.
Minerva tightened her arms around him, squeezing gently. The few times she had seen Harry, he had always been such a sweet boy, and the fact that he’d found no care or love here proved that these muggles were monsters. Minerva knew she couldn’t leave Harry here, not under any circumstances.
For a moment Minerva felt overwhelmed; what was she going to do with him? She couldn’t keep Harry Potter with her, it would never be allowed, and once Albus found out he’d have Harry living with the Dursleys again in the blink of an eye, unless Minerva could persuade him otherwise.
Minerva rubbed at her aching head. If anyone had told her yesterday that she was probably going to commit a serious crime, and in the process act against Albus Dumbledore, she would have had them sent to St. Mungo’s, but that was exactly what she was contemplating. Albus was not a cruel man, and he must have had a good reason for insisting Harry live with his mother’s family. She wanted to believe he had no idea how terribly Harry had been treated by his relatives. Still, Albus had much to answer for. She needed more information. She would have to have a talk with Petunia, but first, she needed to take care of Harry.
She turned to Petunia, noticing that Dudley had fallen asleep. He must be quite heavy. “Bring me fresh diapers and clothes for Harry, and his blanket, the one he came here with, it was his favorite. You can leave your son upstairs in his room if you like,” she offered. Petunia rushed to do her bidding.
Fifteen minutes later Harry was looking much better; he was clean and greedily drinking down a bottle, clutching it tightly, and every now and then looking from Minerva to Petunia as if he feared his aunt would take it away. A child his age really should be eating more solid food, but Minerva wasn’t sure what his tummy could tolerate. She really needed to have him seen by the healer, yet another thing to add to her growing list.
She turned back to Petunia, pinning her with a glare, striving to get control of her anger. “I have a few questions I need to ask you.”
Petunia’s eyes narrowed. “Why should I tell you anything?” she demanded.
Minerva stifled the urge to hex the horrible woman; this muggle made her contemplate violence like few others ever had. She wanted to know how she could abuse her own nephew but she needed her cooperation for a little longer. “You clearly don’t care about your nephew or want him living with you. If you cooperate with me I can remove Harry from your home, and you will never have to see him or anyone magical ever again,” she offered.
Petunia’s eyes lit up with interest and fervent hope. “Do you really think so? The old man told me Harry had to live here with me. Something about my blood protecting him from danger. I couldn’t really follow what he was saying, but it sounded like nonsense to me. Still, he offered to pay us for our trouble, and my Vernon generously agreed to have the fre—” Petunia paused at the thunderous look on Minerva’s face. “He agreed to have Harry live with us. I had to promise never to throw him out no matter what horrible thing he did.”
Minerva had honestly thought she couldn’t get angrier, but she’d been wrong. Albus had paid them, and they still hadn’t been able to treat Harry decently due to their unjust hatred of magic. The idea a child could do any real harm with magic was ludicrous.
Then what Petunia had said sank in. Blood protection? That didn’t make any sense to Minerva. Wards could be anchored using blood magic, but they were notoriously unpredictable unless grounded in the appropriate rituals. Unfortunately, they were considered dark magic and were illegal to perform these days, not that the distinction would bother Albus. There were no such wards in place. Certainly, if the wards had been properly in place, Minerva would have felt them as she neared the house, but she had felt nothing at all.
It could be Albus had been lying about setting up wards, but then what was keeping death eaters from killing Harry outright? Surely Albus would not have left him so unprotected. The more she learned the less sense the situation made to her. Still, if Albus really believed Petunia’s blood was protecting Harry, it explained why he was so determined that Harry remain in the muggle world, and why he’d gone as far as to have the Potter will sealed. Minerva wished that she didn’t find the idea completely insane.
Given the information she currently had, Albus could not be trusted to do what was best for Harry. Finding a trustworthy person to take Harry in and keep him safe would not be easy. She couldn’t trust the ministry to act in his best interest and while there was no shortage of people willing to take Harry in, Minerva couldn’t trust most of them not to use Harry for their own gain or treat him like a savior instead of a little boy.
If only Sirius hadn’t gone and gotten himself arrested. Minerva had never really believed he had murdered all those muggles, but he had been convicted. Minerva privately thought there was something fishy about the circumstances; Sirius was no cold-blooded murderer, but nothing could be done about that now. No, Wizarding Britain was not the answer. She’d have to get Harry out of England, and quickly. The question was where should she take him? Albus had almost unlimited power in Britain and considerable influence in Europe. Another family member would be the best option, but it seemed unlikely.
She turned to Petunia. “Do you have any other blood family?” she asked, without any real hope. “Is there anyone else who could take Harry in?”
Petunia hesitated but then shook her head. “No, my parents are dead. Lily’s death killed them. They always did love her best,” Petunia added bitterly.
Minerva sighed; it was as she feared. “Damn it,” she muttered under her breath. Still, Petunia had hesitated; perhaps she was holding back information. Minerva thought for a moment then smiled at Petunia pleasantly. “It seems he’ll have to remain here then. However, he won’t be under your care. I will hire a magical nanny to care for him or send one of my personal house elves, and if you mistreat him in any way, you will regret it, I promise you.”
Petunia gasped. “No, I will not have any more of you people living in my house. There is no other person you could ask?” she added somewhat desperately.
At that moment there was a flash of light, and a muggle photograph appeared at her feet. Minerva felt the soft touch of Lady Magic as a gentle wind ruffled her hair. She bent down to pick it up. It was a picture of teenage Lily with a slightly older boy, their arms around each other’s shoulders; they were laughing together, frozen in a happy moment.
Minerva had never seen him before so she knew he wasn’t a British wizard. “Who is this?” she demanded, showing the photo to Petunia.
Petunia’s lip curled up into a sneer as she gazed at the photograph. “Our first cousin Anthony DiNozzo, he’s American and normal like me, but I know he and Lily were always thick as thieves. Last I heard he was a police officer. He might be willing to take the little brat in,” she added spitefully. “I can’t say for sure. I haven’t seen him in years.”
Minerva’s heart sank a little at the news. Anthony DiNozzo was a muggle, and worse, an American. She hated the idea of Harry going so far away, but perhaps it would be for the best. He was Harry’s only other living family, and Minerva’s best hope to remove Harry from Albus’ influence.
She also hated the idea of leaving Harry with yet another muggle no matter how irrational it might be. However, The Lady seemed to approve of him as she’d led Minerva in his direction, and Minerva could not argue with her will. She would follow Lady Magic’s lead and trust in her as she had always done.
This Anthony would have the best claim on Harry even in a magical court. After all, discrimination against muggles was technically illegal and certainly frowned upon at the World Magical Court and the ICW as they were much more progressive than their British counterparts.
As the parent of a wizard, he would be welcome in Europe. The trick would be bypassing the Wizengamot and getting a hearing with the International World Court. Minerva still had friends the war who could help her.
Harry’s safety could still be an issue; a muggle was not equipped to fight death eaters, but he was her best option. She would simply have to make sure Harry and his guardian were safe, if the man was even willing to take Harry at all.
A plan began to form in Minerva’s mind. She needed help from someone who could take on Albus and win; there was only one person she could think of who fit that description, and she could only hope her old mentor would be willing to help her. Once she was safe, finding this Anthony DiNozzo would be her top priority.
There was another flash of magic, and a set of papers appeared in front of Minerva; she caught them before they could fall to the floor. Minerva looked them over and realized they were custody papers carrying the official ministry seal, giving her temporary custody of over Harry. Custody she would then be able to legally turn over to Anthony.
A feeling of peace fell over her, and she knew she was doing the right thing. She sent up a silent thanks to the Great Lady.
“I will be taking custody of Harry. You will sign him over into my care. You will never have to worry about Harry again. If anyone comes to your door tell them that Harry no longer lives here.”
Petunia nodded. “Good. I never wanted him anyway. Do you promise my family will be safe?”
“Yes, I promise no one will harm you. I am going to modify your memories to better protect us all.”
Petunia looked frightened again. Minerva sighed. This would go easier with Petunia's willing participation. “I promise you, it will be painless, and afterward you will be free to live your lives. No one from my world will bother you again. You’ll never have to think about magic again.” She did her best to sound reassuring.
It was safe to assume Albus would come to interview her, but she saw no reason to tell Petunia that. Hopefully, by then Harry would be safe with people who could protect him from Albus’ machinations.
Petunia quickly signed the papers and Minerva took them with satisfaction. She tapped the papers and murmured a duplication spell for legal documents. One set would have to be filed with the Ministry or with the ICW, which is what Minerva planned to do with them. The other she would keep for her records.
“Is that all?” Petunia asked.
Minerva nodded. Then she held up the photo. “Now tell me, where can I find Mister DiNozzo?” she asked Petunia calmly. There was no turning back now, and she needed to learn as much about this man as she could before proceeding any further. Lily had never mentioned her cousin to her. However, Minerva knew the Great Lady would not have pointed this man out if he wasn’t a suitable guardian for Harry. Goddess willing, Harry would soon be safe and sound with his new guardian. In the meantime, Minerva would see he was well-taken care of.
An hour later, Minerva watched with satisfaction as Vernon Dursley hit the ground with a loud thump. He was watching her with wide, terrified eyes. “It’s the least of what you deserve,” Minerva informed him.
The man was even viler than his wife. Minerva wouldn’t have thought that was possible. He had come home, and as soon as he’d realized who Minerva was he’d turned an unattractive shade of purple and started yelling obscenities. Minerva was not about to stand for that. Minerva sighed and got to work; she would be thrilled if she never had to deal with the Dursleys again. Still, obliviating someone even partially was never a pleasant business and a part of Minerva regretted having to violate even the Dursley’s minds in this manner, but she accepted that there was no other choice.
Vernon and Petunia would remember nothing about Minerva’s visit. All they would remember was that another family member took custody of Harry, something Petunia was more than happy to approve. Minerva had the temporary custody papers safely stored away. She felt a dark satisfaction as she imagined the look on Albus’ face when he realized his hero had disappeared without a trace. He would try to track her magical signature, she was sure, but Minerva knew how to cover her tracks. With luck her actions wouldn’t need to remain hidden for long.
After modifying the Dursley’s memories, Minerva cast a disillusionment charm on them and let herself out of the house. Minerva didn’t believe in using magic on Muggles unless necessary, but she couldn’t deny it had been satisfying to watch Vernon Dursley freeze and hit the floor due to her body binding curse. He was a terrible and disgusting man; he and Petunia were perfect for one another.
Minerva carried only some clothes for Harry and his photo album, which she had found when she’d summoned all of Harry Potter's possessions, but it had saddened her greatly to realize nothing else in the house was Harry’s. The Dursleys had done their best to pretend Harry didn’t exist. She thought about the bruises, and her anger spiked again. No child deserved that kind of treatment. Minerva could only imagine what it would have been like for him to grow up in this house; he would have been treated a little better than a house elf in his own home.
As she reached the gate she turned to take one last look at number 4 Privet Drive. She looked down at the boy in her arms, who was watching her sleepily. “Well, good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. Say goodbye, Harry. If I have my way, you won’t ever be seeing this house again.” Harry waved his snitch as he was bid and it was telling that he didn’t offer a protest or cry as Minerva carried him away.
They reached Arabella’s home without incident, and Minerva locked the door behind her, using a spell to pull the blinds shut. The last thing she wanted was to be seen with Harry and the less information Albus was able to discover after she left the better. She called Arabella’s name, and the other woman came quickly down the stairs. As soon as Harry saw Arabella his face lit up with happiness, suddenly much more alert as he held out his arms to her.
“Bella,” he called out joyfully.
Arabella smiled in return and took Harry into her arms, bouncing him gently. “Hello angel,” she said, and her voice trembled with emotion. “I’m so happy to see you’re safe and well; I was so worried.” She kissed Harry’s cheek loudly, and he giggled.
Minerva allowed herself a small smile as she watched them. Harry really was a joy, and she was glad that Harry had Arabella in his life. They were good for one another, that much was evident.
Arabella turned to her, smiling. “I’m so glad you were able to get him out of there,” she commented.
Minerva sighed heavily as she felt the weight of the situation heavy on her shoulders. “They were worse than you feared, Arabella. They were keeping him in a cupboard, and I’m sure no one had bothered to look in on him for hours.”
Arabella gasped. “I didn’t know it was that bad. Good heavens, how could anyone treat a child that way?”
“It’s clear that they don’t consider magical people to be human. That woman kept calling us all freaks. Harry will never be going back there if I have anything to say about it. I got Petunia to give me temporary custody. She didn’t even blink an eye at giving him up once I assured her that her family would be safe,” Minerva said seriously.
Arabella looked worried as she gazed down at Harry, who looked ready for a nap. “That horrible woman.” Arabella shook her head and sighed heavily. “This is a good thing you’ve done. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. I’ll do whatever I can to help. Leaving him there would have been unforgivable. I never should have trusted Albus. How could he let this happen?”
Minerva shrugged, not really wanting to discuss what she’d discovered in detail. “I have some ideas, but I’m certain he’s doing what he thinks is best. I think he’s allowed his desire to stop Voldemort to overwhelm his common sense.” Arabella flinched at Voldemort's name, but she said nothing. Minerva pretended she hadn’t seen; she refused to apologize for using Voldemort's name. Refusing to say his name only gave him more power. She and Albus had always agreed on that.
The thought hurt, and for a long moment her grief threatened to overtake her, but Minerva had learned the importance of maintaining a calm façade during the war, and she was skilled at hiding her true feelings. Albus had been a good friend and though she was sure that she was right, betraying him wasn’t easy, nor should it be. Minerva knew things would never be the same. Still, now was not the time, and she forced herself to think about the matters at hand.
“I’ve modified Vernon and Petunia Dursley's memories and made sure they’ll have very little to tell Albus. Harry isn’t safe in Britain, and we need to leave as soon as possible.”
Arabella nodded, looking grim. “I thought you’d decide something like this.”
Minerva hesitated, “I’d tell you where we’re going but the less you know the better.” Minerva felt as if she was abandoning Arabella to Albus’ mercy and she didn’t like it.
Arabella squared her shoulders and took a deep breath “You have to obliviate me, too, at least the information about you taking Harry,” she said, her voice shaking slightly.
Minerva could only stare for a long moment, as she had not expected Arabella to arrive at that conclusion on her own. I am forever underestimating her. Minerva could admit she was relieved. She knew it was the safest course of action, though she hated to do it. However, having Arabella’s cooperation made it easier.
This might keep her safe, though there was no guarantee. There was no way Arabella could keep information away from Albus; she would be an open book to him, and Minerva couldn’t allow that. Still, Minerva wouldn’t be able to live with herself if she didn’t at least offer the only other alternative that had occurred to her. It wouldn’t be easy, but she had to offer.
“You could come with us. Or start over somewhere new. Harry and I would be glad of the company,” she suggested.
Arabella was already shaking her head. “I have nowhere to go, and you’ll draw less attention to yourselves if it’s just you and Harry. No, I’ll stay here. You can make sure I behave as normally as possible. I can buy you some time; as far as I know, Albus depends solely on my reports. If I send one telling him I finally saw Harry and that he’s as well as can be expected, Albus won’t expect another for two weeks. He might even let three weeks go by.”
Minerva thought carefully. She feared they wouldn’t be that lucky, but if she gave Arabella the memory of seeing Harry recently, then it could be several days before she would think to check on him and find that he had mysteriously disappeared. Albus’ negligence would work in their favor, at least in the short term. Minerva had no doubt Albus would be content with Arabella’s assurances.
Minerva knew she was the real problem. Once Albus realized Minerva had disappeared he would most likely check on Harry as a matter of course, but Arabella might be able to throw him off track and buy her a few days in which to maneuver without interference.
Minerva rubbed her temples; she felt a headache coming on. “It would be for the best. I am so sorry,” she added earnestly.
Arabella held up a hand to stop her from speaking. “No, don’t be sorry.” She looked down at Harry, who had fallen asleep while they had been talking. “I always wanted children you know, but it wasn’t to be. I love Harry like he’s my own; you just keep him safe, that’s all I ask.”
Minerva nodded and reached out to squeeze Arabella’s shoulder, hoping to offer comfort. “I’ll protect him with my life,” she promised solemnly.
Arabella nodded as a tear ran down her cheek and Minerva pretended not to notice it. “I’ll put him down upstairs, and then I’ll fix us something to eat. My mother always said using a lot of magic so close together eats up a lot of energy and you still have a long day ahead of you.”
Minerva remembered the cabbage, and her stomach turned, but right now if Arabella put it in front of her she’d eat it no questions asked. She did need to keep her energy up, and it was very kind of Arabella to offer despite what Minerva was going to do to her in a short while. She smiled gratefully. “I am hungry. I’d be grateful for a meal.”
After a very enjoyable couple of hours, during which Harry slept, much to Minerva’s relief, she and Arabella had a lovely meal. She was grateful for the respite. She wasn’t used to entertaining such a small child, though Harry was very little trouble. Arabella wrote a report for Albus and gave Minerva instructions to send it off the next day. “He won’t be suspicious that I wanted to share the good news,” Arabella assured her. “I’m ready, where should we do this?” she asked.
Minerva felt a little ill at what she was about to do, but she told herself it needed to be done. Steeling herself, she suggested they go up to Arabella’s bedroom where she would be comfortable. There was always a period of intense disorientation after the spell took effect.
The bedroom was surprisingly large and very feminine, with white lace curtains and a floral print bedspread. On one wall was a copy of Arabella’s family tree and on the other a Muggle portrait of her parents. The room, though not to Minerva’s taste, suited its owner nicely.
Once Arabella was comfortable Minerva raised her wand with a steady hand and cast the spell. Watching Arabella’s face go blank as she lost the last weeks’ worth of memories was even harder than she had anticipated. At that moment, she hated Albus just a little bit more.
It was early evening when Minerva entered Gringotts Bank with Harry in her arms. Harry was looking around with wide-eyed fascination. He saw a goblin and pointed, babbling excitedly to himself. Minerva walked past the front desk and instead headed straight for the floor manager’s office, where she knew she would find the person she was looking for.
She knocked on the door, and when a middle-aged goblin opened it, glaring crossly at being interrupted, Minerva simply raised an eyebrow and held out her key. The Goblin looked mildly surprised, instantly recognizing it as a key given to a noble family, but he got control of himself and efficiently scanned it. As soon as the information appeared before him his expression changed and a terrifying smile crossed his face. “Lady Ross, I apologize. I did not recognize you. I am Grimlock, Griphook’s personal secretary. What can I do for you this evening?”
“I need to speak to Griphook immediately please.”
Harry giggled and pointed. “Ogre!” he declared, clapping his hands.
Grimlock looked deeply offended, and Minerva had to work hard not to burst out laughing at his expression. “No Harry, this is a goblin. They are a noble race full of great warriors.”
Grimlock looked mildly appeased by her statement, but he was still glaring at Harry.
Harry scrunched up his nose. “Goblin,” he tried.
“Yes, that’s right. Good job!” Minerva said warmly. She was finding it harder to maintain her usual stern demeanor around Harry. Perhaps I don’t need to. She found she enjoyed showing affection to the boy. Harry looked pleased by the praise. “Goblin,” he said again and clapped his hands when she smiled and nodded approvingly. Or at least he tried to as the stuffed snitch she’d given him got in his way, but Harry did not seem to mind.
The Goblin shook his head. “I’m sorry my Lady, Griphook is not seeing anyone else tonight. We are closed for the night, it is getting rather late,” he said pointedly. “I’m sure I can help you with whatever you need,” he added more graciously at Minerva’s stern expression.
“I assure you if you tell him I am here, he will want to see me. Please get him for me,” she demanded.
Grimlock was shaking his head but before he could argue Minerva straightened up to her full height and said in her most commanding tone, “I am a Lady and the last heir of a noble house. You will do as I ask right this instant or I will simply go find someone who will and I promise you Griphook will not thank you for delaying my business.”
One should never show any weakness to a Goblin, and Grimlock was no exception. He was watching Minerva, reluctantly impressed.
“Grimlock, that’s enough,” a voice floated from a door down the hall. Goblins had excellent hearing. “While I admire your devotion to your duty, I can tell you this particular witch is extremely determined. You will not scare her away. If I didn’t know better I’d think she had some goblin blood in her veins.”
Grimlock jumped to do as he was bid, and he ushered Minerva down the hall with a low bow. “My apologies my Lady, this way.”
Minerva smiled genuinely at Griphook as she came to a stop before him. Griphook gave her a toothy grin. “I apologize for my assistant, he is new and somewhat overzealous. It is an honor to see you, my Lady, no matter the time. Gringotts is always happy to help in any way we can.” He looked at Harry, who waved at him from the safety of her arms, and raised an eyebrow. “Hello, young man,” he added.
“Hi!” Harry said with a wave.
Minerva bowed slightly. “May your enemies cower before you and your coffers never be empty of their gold.”
Griphook grinned widely, “That is a fortuitous blessing indeed, and I wish you the same. Come into my office, and we’ll talk.”
He turned to his assistant. “Grimlock, bring tea and fairy cakes to my office. .” Grimlock scurried away to do as he was asked and Griphook led Minerva into his office. It was a large room, richly appointed, and many of Grimlock’s battle trophies were proudly displayed over the fireplace. A portrait of his wife Marna and their thirteen children hung in pride of place behind the desk.
Once inside with the door closed Griphook visibly relaxed, and a wide smile lit up his face. “Minerva,” he said warmly taking her hand. “It is so good to see you. You are looking more like your mother every day.”
Minerva returned the smile, “It’s good to see you too, Uncle. I’m sorry to drop by unannounced.”
Minerva had called Griphook uncle for as long as she could remember. Her mother had been one of the best curse breakers of her generation. Curse breaking was a very complicated art, and most wizards didn’t have the talent or the disposition for it, which is why it was rare for wizards to practice it. Her mother Agatha had shown a rare talent for it early on, and she had caught the attention of the Hogwarts’ headmaster, a man named Dippet, who had introduced her to Griphook. Those students who showed an aptitude for curse-breaking were often sent to train with the Goblins, but few witches or wizards lasted more than the required eight weeks.
Agatha had been a different story. Griphook had taken an instant liking to her and had shocked both Wizarding and Goblin society when he had taken her on as his apprentice fresh out of Hogwarts. An apprenticeship was a great honor among the goblins; a goblin taking on a witch instead of a wizard was almost unheard of.
Agatha had gone to work for Gringotts as soon as her training was done. In time they had become good friends, and later as close as father and daughter. As a result, Griphook had eventually claimed her mother, and by extension Minerva, as honorary members of his clan. Minerva knew she could trust Griphook unquestioningly.
Grimlock brought in a tray, and Griphook fixed them some tea. Minerva gave Harry some milk and a very small piece of cake, which he seemed to enjoy a great deal.
Once Grimlock retreated, Griphook looked at her carefully, responding to her apology. “Nonsense, you are always welcome, my dear. If I may observe, you look weary and furious. I want to hear all about what has happened, but I do have one question for you. Why do you have Harry Potter with you?” Griphook asked curiously and motioned toward the boy in her arms.
Minerva looked at Griphook with surprise, “How did you recognize him?”
Griphook motioned toward Harry. “The scar is rather unique, I believe,” he said dryly.
Minerva looked at Harry. The scar wasn’t visible at the moment; she’d made sure of that. It was hidden under a charm. A charm Griphook apparently had no problem seeing through. Minerva felt distinctly annoyed by this. Damn secretive goblins.
Griphook knew what she was thinking. “I can see it; this particular bit of wizard magic has no effect on me. The scar is peculiar; it is far less faded than it should be. I am more concerned, however, that it is a mark of dark magic. I can sense it emanating from the scar even now.”
“What do you mean?” Minerva asked, alarmed. She remembered what Petunia had said about blood wards. “Albus believes Harry has some sort of blood magic protecting him,” she offered.
Griphook looked troubled. “No, this is not blood magic. Blood magic can be light or dark depending on the caster’s intentions. This is something far darker and more dangerous. I’m not sure what it is. It will have to be investigated further. However, I am no healer. I am not qualified to work with living beings, but I may know someone who can help us. I can tell you that the darkness does not touch him; it is as if he is protected from it somehow, but I cannot explain it. It is quite the puzzle.”
Minerva shook her head, feeling overwhelmed by the news. “I’m afraid I can’t let you investigate right now. We don’t have the time for it, though I wish we did. I have to get Harry out of the country as soon as possible.”
Minerva was rather distressed by what Griphook had told her about the scar, but she did her best to hide it. The dark Magic inside Harry’s scar was troubling. Had Voldemort done something to Harry? It was an upsetting possibility. Harry seemed fine; she could only hope the magic wasn’t affecting him. If Griphook did not find someone to help Harry then she would have to find someone to take a look at him and clean the dark magic from his system. Yet another thing to add to the list of tasks she needed to accomplish. The thought made her weary.
Griphook raised his eyebrow in disbelief, “What have you gotten yourself involved with, child?” he asked, clearly concerned. “Why do you need to hide? Don’t tell me you have kidnapped this child?”
Minerva couldn’t help but flinch; she had not allowed herself to think of her actions in those terms though she knew many would see it that way. “No, Harry’s aunt and legal guardian have given me temporary custody, but I can’t risk Albus interfering with my plans. I must leave England.”
“I’ve saved Harry Potter from his abusive relatives, and I need an untraceable portkey to the ICW offices in Paris. I plan to ask Agnes for help. You know the British Ministry cannot be trusted, and I’ve recently realized Albus cannot be trusted with his safety either. I must do what is best for the child.”
Griphook sighed heavily. “Minerva, you know I can’t get involved in Wizarding legal matters unless it has something to do with the bank,” he said disapprovingly.
Minerva nodded, sighing heavily. “I know, but I didn’t know where else to go on such short notice. I need to get out of England without being monitored. Please, I need your help. I wouldn’t ask if the situation wasn't dire.”
Griphook was silent for a long moment. “You say young Mr. Potter was being abused?” he asked gravely. Among goblins, putting a child in danger was a great crime.
Minerva nodded. “His relatives hate magic. They were starving Harry and keeping him in a cupboard. I am willing to swear on my magic that what I say is true and I know for a fact Albus knew and did nothing.”
Griphook nodded, looking furious. “I believe you. My wife would never forgive me if I did not put the child’s safety above all, even the law. Very well. I will do my best to help, but I can make no promises. The final decision will not be mine. I won’t give you a portkey. Those are monitored by the Department of Mysteries, even the untraceable ones for security purposes.”
That was news to Minerva. “Then how will I get out of England?” she asked, feeling a bit desperate. Griphook smiled, “Leave that to me; do you need anything from your vault?”
Minerva forced herself to relax. Things had not gone the way she had anticipated, but her uncle was going to help her. Minerva did not like feeling out of control, but she knew it was necessary. For the moment she would follow his lead in this, and if she didn’t like where things were going, she’d speak up. She had to believe that if necessary the Great Lady would intervene to assist her.
Minerva nodded. “As much money as I have readily available and a few family heirlooms.” Minerva really wanted her mother’s portrait and the Ross family grimoire more than anything else. She did not know if she would ever return to England.
She might never stand on her family’s land again. The enormity of what she was about to do made her stomach churn and bile rise in her throat, and she swallowed hard. She looked down at Harry, who was quietly playing, and felt her determination reassert itself.
Griphook returned quickly with a Gringotts’ pouch full of Minerva’s requested items.
Minerva thanked him. “As it happens, I do have some other business with you. As Harry Potter’s legal guardian I’d like to see a copy of the Potter’s will. I know Sirius was named as the first choice to be Harry’s legal and magical guardian, but I’m hoping to see if any other family members were named.”
Griphook shook his head. “I anticipated your request; as you know, the Potter will was never executed and has been sealed by order of the Wizengamot. I’ve discovered the copy we had on file has been confiscated, and I can’t access it at all.”
Minerva raised an eyebrow at him. “That is very irregular,” she said quietly. The bank was usually given access to the will as they handled matters of inheritance. “What about the Potter family solicitor?”
Griphook shook his head . “No, I’m afraid not. The copy he held was confiscated as well. I have little doubt Dumbledore is behind this.”
Minerva nodded. “Yes, clearly, he must have decided to ignore the Potter’s wishes in favor of his own. As long as the will is sealed and no guardian has been officially named he can do whatever he wants with Harry.” She squeezed the little boy a little tighter to her.
Griphook sighed. “The silver lining is that since the will has not been executed, the majority of the Potter vaults remain locked. Dumbledore tried to gain access to Harry’s personal vault, but was denied.”
Minerva sighed with relief. “That’s something at least. I must find a way to get the Potter will unsealed. As a possible legal guardian Mr. DiNozzo can request it. I’m sure Agnes will help me get my case in front of the world court.” It might be possible that as his godfather Sirius could put in a request as well, even from prison. Convicts did have some rights when it came to their families.
Griphook gave a toothy grin. “I’m sure Agnes will help you make things right, as she is as formidable as any goblin. Now I will show you how you can get to Paris without needing a portkey.”
Minerva smiled; that was a great compliment to Agnes, one she deserved.
Griphook stood, and Minerva followed suit, adjusting Harry in her arms as she did. Griphook laid his hand gently on her back and motioned toward the door.
“This way, child.” Griphook led her calmly out another door into a long hallway Minerva had never seen before. They walked for a bit and turned several corners; Minerva found herself quickly lost. She didn’t think she’d be able to get back on her own if she had to at this point.
They finally arrived in a hallway full of doors; each one looked indistinguishable from another, but were labeled in the goblin language which Minerva couldn’t read. Minerva had no idea what they were doing here. Griphook touched one of the doors which lit up and opened silently. Griphook led her through the doorway. On the other side, she was surprised to find herself in an identical hallway. Minerva looked at Griphook, confused; it seemed to her that they hadn’t gone anywhere at all.
Before she could say anything Griphook spoke .“Welcome to Gringotts Bank Paris branch, Minerva.”
Minerva could only stare at him in shock. When he saw her expression Griphook gave a hearty laugh.
“Close your mouth dear. Goldfish is not an attractive look for you,” he informed her, still clearly amused. Minerva glared at him, but he ignored her blithely. “This way,” he added calmly, and gestured for Minerva to follow.
Minerva snapped her mouth shut and glared before her curiosity got the better of her. “We’re in Paris?” she asked. “How is that possible? I felt nothing as I walked through the doorway.”
Griphook shrugged. “Goblin Magic,” he said simply. “We don’t feel the need to share the secret with other magical folk, particularly witches and wizards.”
It was a startling and awe-inspiring bit of magic. Minerva had many questions, but she knew she’d get no answers. Perhaps it was some sort of portal. The closest thing to instantaneous travel wizards had was apparating, but this had been completely different.
She followed Griphook down several more hallways to another set of offices that looked almost identical to the one they had just left in London. Minerva wondered why Gringotts always looked the same no matter the office. It certainly wasn’t for the comfort of magical people. Perhaps it was just easier. Griphook knocked on the door but didn’t wait for permission to enter.
A goblin stood as they walked in, but Griphook impatiently waved him away. He led them over to the inner door and knocked. When a deep voice bid them to enter he opened the door and waved Minerva and Harry through.
Another goblin, seated at the big desk in the corner, stood as they entered, frowning in displeasure.
The goblin looked annoyed as he glared. “Griphook, there you are. Took you long enough. What was so important it couldn’t wait until tomorrow?”
Griphook bowed, “Lord Ragnok, I thank you for seeing us on such short notice. This is Minerva McGonagall, the Lady Ross and an honorary clan member of my house,” Griphook said firmly, but with obvious deference.
Minerva was shocked to find herself in the presence of the Premiere Chieftain of the European hordesand the Supreme Head Goblin of Gringotts. She had heard of him, of course, the goblin was a legend, but very few wizards ever got to meet him personally. Damn Griphook for not giving her a heads up.
Ragnok inclined his head toward Minerva, “Well met, Lady Ross,” he said gravely. “I heard you came to us with a request and I wished to speak with you personally. Asking us to interfere in wizard affairs is most unusual.”
She came back to herself, and handing Harry over to Griphook, she bowed deeply to the goblin. As was the custom she did not rise until he motioned for her to do so. “The honor is mine, Lord Ragnok. I’ve heard of you as well. I would not have approached my honorary uncle if that matter was not of grave importance. A child’s well-being is at stake, as well as my own life.”
“So I understand from Griphook. I must tell you I have grave concerns about involving Goblins in this business.”
Harry did not like being away from Minerva, and he began to cry, making his displeasure known. Griphook and Ragnok looked displeased at the noise. Minerva wasn't surprised; goblin children didn’t cry the way humans did.
Minerva quickly took him back. “It’s alright, Harry. I’m right here. Griphook is our friend.” Harry hiccupped and buried his face in Minerva’s shoulder.
Griphook interjected himself quietly but forcefully into their conversation. “I believe Minerva’s cause is a worthy one. If you allow her to exit through the bank, she and her charge Harry Potter will be staying in Paris for the foreseeable future, and they may need our assistance. I ask that you take a look at the boy. He bears signs of abuse, and of greater concern is the very dark magic emanating from him. I do not believe it is his own.”
Ragnok looked concerned as he came around the desk. “So this is the savior of the Wizarding world.” Minerva bristled a little at his mocking tone. “It is a huge burden you wizards place on this child. I hope you don’t come to regret it.” He looked at Minerva, and she felt as if he was looking into her very soul.
“Tell me Lady Ross, do you plan to use this child for your own ends?”
Minerva felt a wave of fury at the Chieftains words. “No, sir. I can assure you I do not. I only want what is best for Harry. I want to see him safe and happy above all else.”
The answer must have been the right one because suddenly Ragnok smiled and it was a rather terrifying sight. “Well said, my Lady. I am glad to see your intentions are good. I would not have helped you otherwise.”
“I am quite grateful for your assistance, Sir.”
Much to her shock, Ragnok winked at her. “Gratitude is not necessary. Anyone who is blessed by Lady Magic herself will have any help I can provide. I can see her mark upon you. I have not seen such in several hundred years. Normally I would not involve myself in Wizarding politics, but I sense you have justice on your side; if needed, the goblins will help you hide Harry Potter. Though I hope it will not be necessary.”
My goodness, would the shocks never end? Minerva had never felt so off balance in her life. She had not realized that anyone else would be able to perceive the Great Lady’s blessing upon her. She was grateful once again for the gift the great Lady had given her. Without it she suspected this venture might have ended before it had even really begun.
Minerva cleared her throat and was pleased that her voice was steady when she spoke. “I have been fortunate to have my Lady’s favor, but I did not realize it was apparent to others.”
Ragnok inclined his head. “Most magical creatures can feel her touch in one way or another. It does you credit that she holds you in such high regard. Most witches and wizards have long since turned their backs on her. It is very unfortunate.”
Minerva nodded “I agree. I have always felt I benefited from her guidance in my life.”
Ragnok inclined his head approvingly. Minerva felt that perhaps this more than anything else had earned her some respect from him. Then abruptly he dismissed her and turned his attention to Harry. He reached out and gently raised Harry’s bangs to get a better look at the scar on his forehead. Minerva expected Harry to cry or pull away but instead he seemed fascinated by Ragnok, and he held still.
“Lady Magic protects this small one as well.”?
Minerva nodded at the news, not surprised but very pleased to hear it. She had suspected as much. Harry had survived much that should have done him great harm. The Great Lady was known to protect children, and Harry was a victim in all this.
Ragnok was still examining Harry. “This scar is most unusual,” he murmured to himself. He reached out and touched the scar, and he gazed at Harry intently for several long moments before he let out a hiss of anger. “Yes, I see it is dark magic indeed. I have only felt something similar once before, a long time ago. I hope I’m wrong. However, I’ll need some time to verify it. If I could run some scans for my own reference?”
Minerva hesitated. She didn’t like the idea; leaving information about Harry, even with Ragnok, didn’t sit well with her. However, she knew that if Voldemort had done something to Harry she needed to know. She also didn’t want to offend such an important person as Ragnok. That was never a good idea.
Griphook saw her hesitation, and he patted her shoulder reassuringly. “Ragnok is one of the best dark curse specialists we have. I promise you can trust him, and if anyone can help Harry, it’s him,” he said gravely.
Minerva nodded. “Yes, I did not mean to be rude. I am simply concerned about Harry’s well-being and privacy. Thank you for your assistance. I had no idea there was anything unusual about the scar. Please, do whatever you feel is necessary.”
Ragnok nodded, still looking grim. He walked over to the far wall behind his desk and waved his hand, and the portrait of his family melted away to reveal shelves filled with all sorts of strange and fascinating objects, most of which Minerva could not identify. He picked up a small golden box. . Ragnok saw Minerva’s interest.
“We goblins do not use wands, but there are many ways to channel magic. This will not hurt him, I promise.” He opened the case and removed a bracelet, putting it on his wrist. As he spoke a spell in the goblin language the green stone in the middle began glowing, and Minerva was surprised she could feel the magic emanating from it. A light shot out and engulfed Harry, who giggled as it touched him. “Hmm, very interesting,” Ragnok murmured absently.
Minerva felt her frustration rise. The last couple of hours had been fascinating, and she’d seen more goblin magic today than in her whole life. The academic in her had many questions, but she knew she wouldn’t be getting any answers, and as much as it galled her, she would have to accept it.
A few seconds later the light faded away, and the stone grew dark. “Thank you. I’m going to look over the information, and I’ll be in touch when I have something. For the record, the child is malnourished and needs to be put on a special diet until his weight comes back up. Any healer can help you with that, but luckily I see no other major health issues. He apparently wasn’t in the care of his abusive relatives for long enough to be extremely damaged. I get the feeling their treatment had worsened of late.”
Minerva wasn’t surprised that Griphook had told him the whole truth about Harry. She was quite relieved to know that Harry would not suffer any lasting consequences from living with the Dursleys.
Minerva nodded. She hoped they could truly figure out what Voldemort had done to Harry. Trust that monster to still be wreaking havoc from beyond the grave. The poor boy had suffered enough, and she would not let anyone hurt him, particularly not that monster.
“Thank you Lord Ragnok, I appreciate all your help.”
Ragnok nodded. “The hour grows late. Do you have somewhere to stay the night, my Lady?” he asked.
Minerva hesitated, suddenly feeling exhaustion weighing her down; it had been a very long day. “I have an old mentor who lives in the city, and I hope she will be willing to help me, but at this particular moment I admit that I don’t,” Minerva said quietly.
Ragnok nodded. “I assumed as much. You are welcome to stay here for the night. We keep quarters for our night staff or those who work late.”
Griphook grinned “Or for those who wished to spend the night away from their spouses,” he added teasingly.
Despite the situation and her growing exhaustion, Minerva laughed. Goblin marriages were rumored to be quite volatile; Goblins were, after all, a very passionate race.
She looked down at Harry, who was chewing on his toy; his green eyes were clouded with tiredness, and he must be hungry as well. He had not asked for food; Minerva could only assume the Dursleys had trained him not to. They were safe here and refusing a goblin’s hospitality wasn’t something to be done lightly. Still, she did not want to cause any problems for the government; wizards tolerated them, but the law rarely came down in their favor. Most wizards had nothing but contempt for goblins and other magical creatures. The Wizengamot wouldn’t take their assisting Minerva well at all.
“I appreciate the offer,” she said carefully, “But I don’t wish to cause you or the goblin horde any trouble.”
Ragnok nodded approvingly. “Your concern does you credit, my Lady. But we goblins take the protection of children, regardless of race, seriously. The wizards have lost their right to interfere in this matter as far as I am concerned. The dark magic inside young Harry is troubling and I cannot allow him to continue carrying it long term. It is best for all that I determine what has happened to him, and I’m sure the Goblin King will agree with my assessment.”
Minerva let herself relax, and with great relief, she nodded. “If you could also provide us with some appropriate food for Harry, I’ll gladly take you up on your officer,” she finally said. Tomorrow would be soon enough to visit the head of the ICW’s war mage’s division and request asylum and assistance.
Ragnok smiled and bid them farewell, promising to let her know what he found out about Harry’s scar.
Griphook led her down several more identical hallways until they arrived at her quarters for the night. Griphook waved her in, and Minerva couldn’t help but smile in pleasure at what she found. The room was much bigger than she had expected. There was a small seating area with a table, where a meal was already waiting. There was a fireplace against one wall and a large bed in the middle of the room. It looked very comfortable. A much smaller bed had been placed next to it for Harry.
“I hope this is satisfactory,” Griphook said softly.
“It’s wonderful,” Minerva replied honestly.
“Good, then I’ll leave you to get some rest. I must return to London tonight but someone will show you out in the morning, and you know how to reach me if you need me. You should come for dinner soon.”
“Thank you for everything,” Minerva said, and on impulse she gave Griphook a hug, something she hadn’t done since she was a small child.
Griphook started, but after a moment he returned the hug, squeezing her tight. He looked at Minerva fondly. “You have chosen a difficult path, child, but I would have expected no less. May the Great Lady protect you on your journey.” Then he turned and swiftly left, closing the door gently behind him.
Minerva looked down at the young boy in her arms. He gazed back intently. “Well, young man, I don’t think either of us expected to be here when we woke up this morning, did we? Life can be very strange, can’t it?”
Harry grinned and held out his stuffed snitch to her in answer. Minerva smiled tenderly. “No, that’s yours, sweetie. Are you hungry?”
Harry’s eyes lit up. “Milk!” he demanded instantly.
Minerva laughed softly. “Well at least you know what you like. I think there are some other things for you to eat, shall we see?”
Harry looked uncertain at this, but he didn’t complain as she walked over to the small table and sat down. Minerva’s mind was spinning, and she was overwhelmed as she tried to process everything that had happened today. How was it possible it had only been about eight hours since she’d left Hogwarts? It felt like a month had passed instead.
Minerva watched Harry as he took a mouthful of strained carrots from the spoon she offered him. “Mmm,” Harry said before he swallowed and opened his mouth for more.
Minerva watched him eat, intensely relieved. This more than anything let her know she had earned his trust and that most likely he was going to get past what the Dursleys had done to him. He knew she wouldn’t take his food away. She felt blessed to have his trust when he had every reason to fear her and any adult that came near him.
“We’re going to be okay, Harry,” she promised, and she’d do whatever it took to make sure she spoke the truth.
The next morning Minerva woke early, feeling well rested and ready to begin the fight anew. After breakfast and a bath for her and Harry she opened her door and was startled to find a young female goblin waiting for her outside of her room.
“Minerva, it’s so lovely to see you,” the girl said excitedly.
It took a moment to recognize her, but then Minerva realized who the goblin was. “Okla?” she asked, quite pleased. “My goodness, I haven’t seen you in a few years; you’ve grown so much,” she said to Griphook’s youngest daughter.
Okla was several inches taller than the last time Minerva had seen her, but she still had some growing to do and her black hair was just like her mother's. Okla hugged her, careful not to squish Harry, and Minerva returned the hug eagerly. Harry reached out and grabbed Okla’s ear and tugged.
“Harry, no,” Minerva chastised, making sure to keep her voice low. She didn’t want to yell at the boy. “Grabbing someone’s ear isn’t nice.”
Harry’s eyes welled with tears. “Sorry,” he whispered. Minerva tried to harden herself against that look, but it was difficult.
“It’s alright, Harry. I just want you to be more careful, please.” She wasn’t sure Harry fully understood, but he nodded eagerly.
Okla laughed, “It’s alright, my nieces and nephews do it all the time.” Okla removed her necklace and handed it to Harry, who seemed fascinated by it. He smiled brightly at Okla and Minerva sighed in relief that there would be no tears.
“He’s adorable Min, really.” She held out her arms and much to Minerva’s delight Harry went to her. “I start my apprenticeship next month,” she said proudly. “I’m here to make sure you get the ICW offices safely.”
Minerva was grateful; she had never been there so she couldn’t apparate and she was a bit nervous about apparating with such a young child anyway. She said as much to Okla.
Okla nodded. “It’s no trouble. We’re going to use a transportation door, and we’ll be there in a matter of moments. It simply isn’t safe for you to wander around our back offices without an escort. Wizards are not normally allowed back here.”
“I gathered as much,” Minerva said drily. She understood why the goblins were so reluctant to share their secrets. Wizarding kind had done little to earn their trust or their respect. She wondered if her mother had ever been allowed to see any of this. She liked the idea that her mother might have learned to navigate around these halls as well.
Okla led Minerva back to the hallway of doors as Minerva had come to think of it. Minerva was more easily able to follow the path they took as she recognized the symbols above some of the doors and she thought eventually she could learn to navigate the bank without assistance. She decided to keep that information to herself.
Okla kept up a friendly chatter throughout the journey, catching Minerva up on her nieces' and nephews’ latest exploits.
She finally stopped at the door at the end of the corridor. “Here we are. Once I calibrate it this will take you directly to the atrium at the ICW.” Okla held her hand against the door, and it glowed brightly for a moment before opening. Griphook had not had to do this the night before. He had simply opened the door that had brought them here; perhaps those inside the bank were left open while others were kept locked until needed? Minerva was dying of curiosity, but she knew better than to ask.
“It was lovely to see you again, Min,” Okla said. She squeezed Minerva’s shoulder. “Good luck.”
“Likewise,” Minerva said warmly. “Good luck with the apprenticeship.” The two hugged goodbye and then, with a deep breath, Minerva stepped through the doorway into the atrium of the offices of the ICW, and she couldn’t help but marvel again at how ordinary it had felt. She started when she realized the door had deposited her behind the security check so she would not have to submit her wand for inspection. “Goblins are clever and make excellent allies. You remember that,” she told Harry.
Harry smiled. “Goblins good,” he agreed, much to Minerva's amusement. She favored him with a small smile before making sure his glamour was still in place. It would not do to be seen arriving with Harry Potter.
As she entered the lifts that would take her to Agnes Gueron’s office Minerva felt a sliver of doubt. She had come up with her plan on the fly, and she hadn’t allowed herself to think of the possibility of failure, but right this minute her situation seemed more precarious than ever. She wished she’d been able to contact Agnes ahead of time. She hadn’t seen her friend since the night the war had ended, and poor Harry’s life had been altered forever.
Minerva stepped off the lifts on the floor that housed the war mages division and made her way to the front desk.
The young man sitting at the desk gave her a friendly smile. “How can I help you, Madame?” he asked pleasantly in French.
“Hello, my name is Professor Minerva McGonagall, I’d like to speak to Chief Warlock Gueron, please. It is a matter of some urgency," she replied in the same language.
The man’s friendly smiled dimmed. “Do you have an appointment?" he asked politely.
Minerva got the impression he already knew she didn’t, but she smiled and said firmly, “No I don’t, but she will see me, I promise you.”
The man shook his head, giving Minerva a regretful look. “I’m very sorry professor, but Chief Warlock Gueron is very particular about her schedule; she won’t see you without an appointment."
Minerva hid a grin; particular was an understatement. Agnes had high standards, and the Great Lady have mercy on those who failed to live up to them. It was a trait they shared to a certain extent, and one Minerva admired.
Agnes was also one of the few people who could take on Dumbledore and win, and Minerva was counting on her to do just that. She was confident Agnes wouldn’t turn her away without a fair hearing, but she also knew there was a small chance she would turn Minerva in; she was sworn to uphold the law after all.
Minerva took a deep breath, giving the secretary a stern look. “I know you don’t know who I am, but Agnes and I fought in the war together. She will be glad to see me. Please let her know I’m here.”
The young man seemed to realize she was determined. “Chief Warlock Gueron is in a meeting, but I’ll let her know you’re here when she’s free. You can wait over there,” he added, gesturing toward a row of uncomfortable looking seats. Minerva frowned in distaste. Clearly comfort wasn’t the priority.
“That will be fine.” She was relieved; honestly, she’d wait as long as necessary, but there had been a small part of her that feared she would be forced to leave the premises without seeing Agnes. She turned down refreshment and made her way over to the seats to wait.
She transfigured a soft cushion from one of the other chairs, ignoring the disapproving stare the secretary gave her; if she was going to wait then she would be comfortable.
After about fifteen minutes Harry began to fuss and nothing Minerva did seem to appease him. He wasn’t wet, and she doubted he was hungry. After a few more minutes he was wailing in earnest. Minerva wished she could cast a silencing charm, but she knew the spell would not work within the building’s public areas unless she had permission to use it, a holdover from the war when being able to control the flow of information had often been vital. It made Minerva a little sad; people just didn’t trust each other the way they used to.
She sighed and thought for a moment, and then she pulled her wand from her holster and quietly said a Lumos. The wand lit, not very bright in the well-lit room. She looked down at Harry to see that he was still crying, but now he was staring at her wand. She extinguished the light and then lit it a couple more times. Harry was fascinated and staring, eyes wide.
Harry reached out to grab it, and Minerva gently held it away, but before he could get upset, Minerva said another spell and little sparkles flew out of her wand. This time Harry laughed and clapped. “More,” he demanded confidently. Minerva complied with a small frown.
She didn’t chastise Harry for the demand this time, grateful he wasn’t afraid to ask for things, but at some point they would have to begin working on his manners. If he’s still with you. The thought came unbidden, but it saddened her more than she expected. Don’t be a goose. She had grown much too attached to the boy, and she must remember Harry wasn’t hers.
“Now there’s a sight I never thought I’d see,” a familiar voice said dryly, but Minerva could hear the humor in it. She looked up to find Agnes watching her and Harry carefully, her shrewd eyes missing nothing.
Minerva smiled. “Agnes, it’s so good to see you.” She held out her hand, and Agnes grasped it, squeezing back. They had fought in the war side by side many times and had become good friends as a result.
“This is quite the surprise. Not that it’s not good to see you too," Agnes assured her. “Who is this?” she asked, looking at Harry intently. Harry looked back quietly, seemingly unconcerned by this new person. Minerva wondered if Agnes recognized him at all. He looked very much like his parents, after all.
“I’m so sorry to arrive unexpectedly, but I need to speak to you about an urgent matter.”
Agnes looked her over carefully; their gazes met, and Minerva held it without flinching. After a long moment Agnes nodded. “This way, old friend,” she said, gesturing to the office door behind her.
Minerva followed her inside the spacious though sparsely decorated office and waited politely until Agnes invited her to sit. Minerva looked around; the office was elegantly appointed but geared toward efficiency, much like its occupant.
Minerva smiled at her. “It’s so good to see you again, truly. I know my presence here must be a bit of a shock."
"I’ve ordered some tea for us. It’s a little early for lunch, but I can have some pastries sent in if you’d like,” Agnes offered.
Minerva shook her head. “No thank you. We just had breakfast.”
Agnes was looking at Harry, and she was smiling. Though to Minerva, it looked a bit sad. “He has his mother’s eyes."
Minerva wasn’t surprised. “Yes, he does,” she agreed simply.
Before they could say anything else, a house elf wearing a neat uniform popped in with a tea tray. In France the rules governing house elves were different. They were allowed to wear clothing without fear of being dismissed. Minerva found it quite sensible. The house elf popped out again after being assured she wasn’t needed anymore.
Agnes took her time preparing them tea, and there was a carafe of fresh orange juice as well. Minerva gave some to Harry in a special cup that was charmed not to spill, and he drank it happily.
"Might it surprise you to know,” Agnes began, “that I am not surprised to see you here today? In fact I was expecting you sometime very soon.”
Minerva could only stare. “How?” she finally managed to ask. "Did Ragnok?” She cut herself off at the displeased look on Agnes’ face.
“No, he didn’t say a word, though he should have. That goblin knows better than to open portals into this building without my prior knowledge, as if I wouldn’t be able to tell, honestly,” she huffed.
Of course she’d known. Minerva really should have known better than to underestimate her old friend. Minerva grinned. “You knew they had this particular ability?”
Agnes nodded. “Though they refuse to share it,” she said, sounding annoyed by the fact. She waved her hand dismissively. “Never mind, about that. The goblins can keep their secrets. As for how I knew you were coming.”
“You know the sight runs in my family. What most don’t know is that I inherited it as well. Last night I had a dream where you arrived here looking as you do now, with Harry, and I heard the voice of Lady Magic herself telling me to help you, so I want you to tell me everything that has happened and leave nothing out.”
Minerva nodded; the revelation explained a few things about Agnes, actually. Minerva told her tale from the beginning, leaving nothing out as requested. The more she spoke, the stiffer Agnes became. Though her face remained impassive, Minerva could see the fury burning in her eyes.
“I noticed Albus' obsession with saving us all at any cost, his narrow focus and belief in his own infallibility worried me more than a little, but I thought once the war was over he would relax. I never imagined he would go this far.”
“Do you know why he abandoned Harry this way?” Minerva asked. “It really doesn’t make sense to me. I can only assume he thinks he’s protecting Harry from death eaters and the ministry, but I have never known him to intentionally harm a child.”
Agnes sighed heavily. “I don’t know. There was a prophecy, it’s true, but we both know prophecy can be very unreliable. I for one do not believe for a second that this child killed a full-grown wizard, but it would seem Albus is certain of it. Likely he will listen to no other opinions on the matter.”
“Still, Voldemort is gone, and there is no reason to force the poor boy to live in an abusive home. I’m not sure what Albus has planned, but I’m concerned. That man never does anything without a purpose.”
Minerva felt a shiver run down her spine. Albus’ behavior still made no sense to her. “I’m beginning to think he might be insane,” she admitted quietly.
Agnes snorted. “He is obsessed for certain, and obsession can be very dangerous.” Agnes took a sip of her tea before continuing.
“Albus is very powerful, but I am more than a match for him. His actions in regards to Harry Potter are reprehensible. Perhaps you shouldn’t have removed Harry Potter from the country without official permission, but his guardian has turned custody over to you, and more importantly, the Great Lady has made her will known. I am duty-bound to help you. Harry has suffered enough in his young life. It will do me good to see him safe and happy.”
“We need to have everything in order. The ICW cannot act without sufficient cause. The British Ministry will raise hell over all this eventually. I think it's best we keep this quiet for now. I’d like to take a statement from you and make an official copy of your memories for the record.”
Minerva smiled, relieved. “Thank you, Agnes. I’ll cooperate fully, of course. I accept whatever consequences I will suffer personally for my actions. I don’t expect special treatment on that front. I will submit my memories as evidence as asked,” Minerva assured her friend.
“There’s no need for thanks Minerva dear.” Agnes smiled. “I will help you find this –Anthony DiNozzo, and we will bring him here if he’s willing. I will not see you go to prison, don’t worry. I believe your actions were justified. I know you intended to talk to him yourself, and I think it would be best for Tony to come to us. We will only have so much time before Albus realizes Harry is gone. It would be best to have Harry safely in Mr. DiNozzo’s hands by then.”
Minerva was startled. She had assumed she would be taking Harry to his future guardian, but she saw that Agnes was correct. What was she thinking? She knew she couldn’t leave Harry with a stranger.
“Yes, you’re right, of course. I’d rather stay here with him. Harry’s had enough upheaval in his life.”
Agnes smiled approvingly. “I’d thought you’d say that.” She opened her desk and pulled out a piece of parchment and quill. “Write down everything you know about DiNozzo, and I’ll set someone to work finding him. I know just the person. For now, you and Harry can stay with me.”
Agnes reached out and patted Minerva’s hand. “Don’t worry, you have right on your side. I have to believe everything will work out."
Minerva nodded and sent up a silent thank you to Lady Magic. She was so relieved to have found an ally who could protect her and Harry and help them navigate the dangerous waters they found themselves in. With luck DiNozzo would prove to be just what Harry needed, and with him on board they could begin to set things right. What she would do if DiNozzo wasn’t interested didn’t bear thinking about.
“As for the will,” Agnes continued. “We will have to help Mr. DiNozzo or whoever takes custody of Harry to petition to have it unsealed. Even with Dumbledore dead set against us, I’m sure we’ll be able to manage it. We’ll talk about it more once Mr. DiNozzo is with us.”
Minerva nodded and stood. She was relieved that she and Harry would have a safe place to stay, and with Agnes in their corner the odds of success were high. She would have to be patient. For now, all she could do was take care of Harry, lay low, and wait.
Tony arrived at his apartment, happy for a change of pace, as the case they’d caught today had been easily solved, and Gibbs had let them all go home early. Tim had invited Tony out for a drink, but Tony had declined in favor of fresh pasta and a good movie; all he wanted to do was relax for the night. Between serial killers going after Ziva and Jimmy crashing his car into a suspect, things had been crazy lately.
Tony poured himself a glass of wine and started working on dinner. Tony’s grandmother had taught him how to make pasta, and to this day he felt closer to her when he made it. There was something soothing about forming the pasta, and he let himself relax into the task. He was almost ready to eat when there was a knock at the door. Tony sighed, and after making sure he could walk away from the stove safely, he went to answer it.
He was surprised to find Kelly Gibbs standing on the other side of the door. He hadn’t seen Kelly in three months, since she’d gone abroad for some sort of research program in Paris. Kelly was strong and brilliant, and the entire team was proud of her. Tony had no doubt she’d do some amazing things with her life.
Tony was thrilled to see she was home. Gibbs had acted like a bear with a sore paw after Kelly had left for Paris. Tony had been expecting it, of course. Even though she was an adult, Gibbs still hated letting his little girl out of his sight. Dealing with a grumpy Gibbs was a huge pain, and Ziva and McGee were no help, so it fell to Tony to do damage control.
Thankfully, Gibbs didn’t get like that very often, and he had calmed down. After the first weekend, Tony had gotten over the urge to punch him. Now that Kelly was back for a visit, Gibbs would be in a much better mood, and Tony was looking forward to it.
Kelly grinned brightly. “Hey, Tony.”
Tony grinned in return. “Hey, kiddo. Long time no see.” He got a quick glare for the nickname, which only made him smile a little wider. They hugged, and as he stepped back Tony took a good look at Kelly.
Kelly looked much the same, though Tony noted there was a new confidence in the way she met his gaze. She was wearing a jacket and skirt, and an emerald green robe over her clothes, which was a little odd. She looked like an Oxford student, except Tony was pretty sure they wore black robes.
Kelly sighed a touch dramatically, “I don’t know why I bother reminding you, but I’m not a kid anymore,” she informed him primly, but her tone was warm.
Tony pretended to be shocked. “Lies,” he said firmly “terrible, terrible lies, I’m surprised at you,” he added teasingly.
Kelly grinned. “You are still so annoying. I really need to find myself a better big brother figure,” she added with mock seriousness.
Kelly had been seventeen when they’d first met and much to Tony's, and Gibbs', chagrin, she’d developed a bit of a crush on Tony. Tony had been careful to let her down gently, and in time they had become friends of a sort. Kelly treated him very much like an annoying older brother and Tony enjoyed teasing her whenever he could. Over time he’d become almost as protective of her as Gibbs was, something that annoyed her no end.
Tony pouted, and Kelly laughed, as he’d intended. “I know you don’t mean that. Come in. I’m kind of shocked Gibbs didn’t mention you were here. I have pasta if you’re hungry,” he offered.
There was the sound of someone clearing their throat and Tony looked up to find a man standing behind Kelly. Tony would have sworn there had been no one there a moment ago. It wasn’t like him to miss a full grown man standing in front of his door, but he had; maybe he was more tired than he’d thought.
He was watching Tony intently, and Tony suspected he was sizing him up. He was also wearing a long black robe over a suit, similar to Kelly’s. Tony wasn’t sure what to make of him.
“Tony, this is my work colleague Andre Langdon. We’re here to talk to you about something important.” Work colleague? This man was a researcher too, apparently. That made sense at least. Maybe the facility made everyone wear robes for some reason.
The other man nodded and held out his hand for Tony to shake. “Agent DiNozzo, I’ve heard a lot about you." Tony noted the faint French accent that softened his words.
“All good I hope,” Tony quipped. He gave Langdon his best professional smile.
Andre smiled slightly in return, and it softened his face. “For the most part,” he said diplomatically, glancing at Kelly.
“I’m not sure I believe you.” Tony raised an eyebrow at Kelly.
“I was nothing but complimentary,” Kelly assured him.
Tony snorted. “Well, in any case, come in.” Tony waved them in and closed the door behind them.
Kelly and Langdon came in and followed him back into the kitchen. Langdon was looking around intently, as if cataloging everything he saw. If Tony didn’t know better he would have thought Langdon was a cop.
Kelly looked a little nervous. “So, about dad. He doesn't know I’m in town. I didn’t tell him I was coming home. It was kind of last minute.”
Tony frowned, instantly concerned. Gibbs and Kelly were extremely close; Tony knew for a fact they skyped as often as they could. Tony couldn’t imagine Kelly returning to D.C. and not telling her father she was home, even if only for a short time. For some reason Kelly didn’t want Gibbs to know she was in town, at least not right away. That sent up alarm bells for Tony. Something strange was definitely going on here, he could feel it.
Tony looked at Kelly more carefully, looking for any clues a sign of distress, but she looked fine. He decided to be blunt.
“Please sit down," he said to Langdon. “Kelly, could you help me with the wine?”
With a nod at Langdon, he pulled her away from the other man, into the living room, and spoke softly, so as not to be overheard. “Are you in some sort of trouble Kel? You know I’ll help you any way I can,” he promised sincerely.
Kelly laughed. “No, idiot. I promise I’m not in trouble. I just need to talk to you about something delicate, that’s all.”
Tony watched her for a long moment, but her gaze didn’t waiver, and Tony nodded, relaxing slightly. He believed Kelly was all right but the feeling that something was off persisted. There was something about Kelly’s work colleague that didn’t sit right with him either. As a result, a part of Tony remained on alert.
Tony grabbed a wine bottle, and he and Kelly walked back into the kitchen.
“Well, sit down and start talking. You have me really curious now. You look good by the way. Paris obviously suited you, but what’s with the weird get up?” Tony gestured toward the robe.
Kelly looked down at herself, she smoothed the robe down. “These are my work clothes. I’m afraid I’m here in an official capacity Tony.” Kelly, hesitating, bit her lip, letting Tony know she was upset. This night was getting weirder by the minute. 'official capacity' - what the hell did that mean? As far as he knew Kelly was doing research, what could that have to do with him?
“Kelly, what’s going on?” he asked, feeling impatient now. He turned to look at Kelly’s colleague, but the man’s face was as impassive as ever. He was watching Kelly intently, and Tony got the impression he was concerned for her. That was interesting.
She sighed. “I’m not doing this very well, am I? I argued to be allowed to be the one to tell you, but it’s a lot harder than I anticipated. I’m used to talking to strangers, not people I care about.”
Tony watched her, confused and more worried than ever. What could Kelly possibly have to tell him? She seemed worried he might be upset, but unless she was hurt he couldn’t imagine that whatever she had to tell him was information that would upset him or that he wouldn’t be able to handle. Whatever it was couldn’t be that bad.
At that moment the pasta that Tony had totally forgotten about boiled over. Tony spent a minute dealing with the mess and turning off the stove.
“I think we should talk before we eat. I’ll order some pizza.” Then he motioned toward the living room. His stomach rumbled in protest, but Tony ignored it. “Let’s go sit down, and then you can tell me what you need to say. I promise I can take it.”
They entered the living room, and Tony called for a pizza. Kelly sat down, but Langdon took a moment to examine Tony’s photographs. Tony didn’t have very many. There was one of him and his mother, one of the team at NCIS, and a photo of his cousin Lily and her family, the three of them smiling happily for the camera.
Kelly was sitting on the sofa and Tony wasn’t too shocked when Langdon sat next to her, a little closer than necessary, Tony noted. Langdon touched Kelly’s shoulder. “This is upsetting you. Maybe it would be better to let me take over,” he offered.
Tony hid a smile; Kelly wouldn’t like that. She usually bristled at any indication that she couldn’t do what was needed, but much to Tony’s genuine disbelief she nodded, albeit with obvious reluctance.
Langdon looked at Tony seriously. “Mr. DiNozzo, I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but your cousin Lily Potter and her husband James are deceased. In fact, they died over six months ago,” he said calmly, but there was sympathy in his eyes.
For a long moment the world seemed to freeze and nothing made sense. The words Lily and dead kept running around in his head. He felt numb as he tried to make them make sense, but he couldn’t. Then suddenly reality crashed in as the first wave of grief washed over him. There was a part of him that wanted to believe it wasn’t true, but he knew it was. He might have trouble believing a stranger, but Kelly wouldn’t lie to him.
Lily dead for months and he’d had no idea. If only he’d checked on her sooner maybe she’d be alive now. The grief receded in the face of his sudden fury. He found himself shaking with it. He wanted to scream and throw something across the room, but instead he held himself still and took a few deep breaths. Now was not the time to give in to his feelings; he needed to think clearly.
He realized that Kelly was at his side, one of his hands in her own, calling his name.
“Tony, are you okay?” she asked gently. She was holding out a glass of water to him. Tony took it and took a long drink. He wished he had something stronger, but he knew that drinking right now wouldn’t be a good idea.
The grief came suddenly in a rush, overwhelming even the anger as the truth sank in. He swallowed his mouth feeling suddenly dry, and he felt tears prickle his eyes.
“I haven't heard from her in eight months. She was living in an artist community in a remote area of Scotland. She told me that communication would be difficult and not to worry if I didn’t hear from her for several months. I got a letter around Harry’s birthday, with that photo in it.”
He motioned to the photo on the wall. He didn’t look at it because he didn’t want to see Lily’s smiling face at the moment. She’d been so happy to be a mother, and she’d told him she’d enjoyed being able to paint all she liked. The scenery near her home had been very inspiring, she'd told him.
“She said she was doing well. I didn’t worry. I assumed if something bad happened I’d be notified. She’s been dead for months, and I had no idea,” he murmured, more to himself. That didn’t seem possible. Shouldn’t he have known that Lily was dead? He should have sensed it.
Something else was niggling at his mind, but for once his mind was slow to make connections. Then a light went on: Harry. Langdon had said James and Lily were dead, but there had been no mention of little Harry at all. If Lily were here she would have punched him for forgetting her baby for even a minute. Please let him be okay, he thought desperately. “Harry, Lily’s son, is he alright?” Tony demanded. His voice sounded harsh to his own ears.
Kelly nodded quickly. “Yes Tony, Harry is fine I promise. He’s safe now.”
Relief crashed over Tony. Thank god Lily’s little boy was alive. Tony had never gotten to meet him in person, but Tony knew how much Lily and James adored their child. Tony registered that Kelly had said he was fine now. That implied he hadn’t been before. And he was definitely going to be asking about that, but there were other things he needed to know first.
“How – How did it happen?” he bit out. The fury inside him was building again. Lily was dead, and Harry was God knows where and Tony had been living his life. How could no one have told him? Petunia must know and yet she’d said nothing. She had always been mean-spirited and cold, but Tony hadn’t thought her capable of being so heartless.
“That’s a long story, I’m afraid,” Langdon said gently. Tony looked over at him, and he was watching Tony with a surprising amount of sympathy.
Tony glared at him; he would get the whole story, and soon. "They died six months ago. Why am I only hearing about this now? For that matter why are the two of you here telling me?”
Kelly sighed. “This isn’t going to be easy to hear. They were murdered, Tony.”
Tony gasped, feeling like he’d been punched. This was too much. “Murdered?” he demanded. “By whom?”
Kelly sighed heavily. “There’s something I need to explain. All I ask is you keep an open mind. What do you know about James' and Lily’s lifestyle?”
Tony shrugged. “Not much. I know they had joined some sort of artist colony. Lily was a talented painter. She told me that there were no phones and no internet because the people there believed in living as naturally as possible. I thought it was weird, but she promised me it wasn’t a cult. She seemed happy. I haven’t heard from her in a long time, but she told me that might happen.”
Langdon nodded. “She was part of a special community. We belong to it as well. That’s why we were sent, instead of the normal authorities. As for why you weren’t notified, I’m afraid the Potters’ will was never executed, and no one knew to inform you of her death until a couple of days ago.”
Petunia had to have been aware. She should have notified him; instead she had kept him in the dark. Tony had never hated her more than at that moment. A terrible thought occurred to him. “Where has Harry been all this time? Don’t tell me he was in foster care.” That was the better of the options, unfortunately.
This time Kelly answered. “No, he was placed with his Aunt and Uncle,” she said with a wince.
Tony's stomach plummeted, and his heart started hammering in his chest. “They left him with Petunia.” Tony fought to keep his voice calm despite his anger. That bitch hated Lily. Lily didn’t want her anywhere near Harry. He thought about what Kelly had said about Harry’s safety. “She hurt him, didn’t she?” he asked quietly. He already knew the answer. Tony was going to find out what Petunia had done, and he was going to make sure she was brought up on charges, he promised himself grimly.
Langdon nodded. “Yes, but he’s going to be fine, I promise. No one knew that Lily had any other family. I have to ask, Tony, are you willing to take care of him? Be his legal guardian? If not, we’ll find someone else, but you would be the best choice.”
Kelly smiled sadly and squeezed his free hand. “You don’t have to, Tony. I know you wanted children someday, but this is very sudden.”
That wasn't exactly true. Tony had never really given much thought to having children. He didn’t hate the idea, but it had never been a priority for him. He wasn’t sure he knew how to be a good father. Senior hadn’t exactly been a model parent. He had assumed that he and Wendy would have kids someday, but then she’d left him at the altar, and that had been it. Tony had never gotten that serious with anyone again.
Lily had informed him that he was listed as a potential guardian in her will although he was not their first choice. Tony had been fine with that. Relieved, if he was honest. He wondered what had happened to James’ friend, but it could wait; clearly he wasn’t an option in any case or Kelly wouldn’t be here. He didn’t have any proof of Lily’s intentions though. He knew he’d have to prove to a court that he’d make a good father, and he was ready to do that. He wouldn’t let Harry or Lily down.
He thought about Lily; the knowledge that he’d never see her again was agonizing. As far as Tony was concerned, she had been his only real family after his mother's and grandmother’s deaths. The thought of being a father terrified him, but he knew he couldn’t leave Lily’s son alone.
He wouldn’t let him be dumped into the foster system. It was out of the question. He wanted Harry to grow up knowing he was loved, safe and secure. Tony hadn’t been able to help Lily but had no intention of letting her down again. Tony was simply going to have to figure out how to be a good parent. He was determined not to let Harry down either.
“Of course I’m going to bring him to live with me. You’re sure he’s alright?” Tony needed to be sure. He hadn’t even seen Harry yet, and he was already worried. Strangely, the thought made him smile.
“Yes, he is,” Kelly assured him quickly. “There were issues with his home life, but I don’t know the details.”
Tony frowned in thought. He needed to get to Harry as soon as possible. However, something was still off about all this. There was much that didn’t make sense. “Kelly, I appreciate you coming to tell me this, but why you? Why aren’t the police here? Isolated community or not, the police must be involved.”
Kelly smiled affectionately. “I was wondering when you’d ask. There’s a really good reason I promise, but you’re going to find it really hard to believe. I need you to trust me, though. I swear what I’m about to tell you is the truth.”
Okay, that wasn’t alarming at all, really. The suspicion that Kelly might be in some sort of danger rose again. Something was fishy about this situation. Tony mentally made a list of what he knew.
Kelly apparently belonged to whatever strange community Lily had, and Lily had been murdered while living there. If there was something dangerous going on that would explain why she hadn’t told Gibbs the truth about what she was doing. It also might explain why no one had notified him of Lily’s death; perhaps they didn’t want anyone investigating the community. The question was, what were they hiding? Tony pushed his turbulent emotions aside with the ease of long practice; he needed his mind clear for this.
“What do you mean?” he asked carefully.
“Tony, Lily, and James were special. They were wizards. They could do magic. Just like Andre, and just like me.”
Tony stared at her, his anger exploding at her glib answer. She had to be joking, and it was really inappropriate. “That isn’t funny,” he snapped. “Why would you be joking like this?”
Andre leaned forward. “I understand you’re upset Agent DiNozzo, but I assure you Auror Gibbs is telling you the truth. We are magical beings, as were James and Lily and young Harry Potter for that matter,” he said sharply. “If you allow me, I can provide you with proof.”
They were staring at Tony, their faces serious. They really believed this, Tony realized, dismayed. What the hell? Auror Gibbs. Tony filed that away for later. Maybe this weird society of theirs had special names for their followers or something. This was sounding more and more like a cult to Tony. He needed to tread extremely carefully here so as not to upset Kelly and her friend. Kelly was clearly in trouble, and it was up to Tony to protect her. He’d already lost Lily; he wouldn’t lose Kelly too.
The possibility that Kelly had been brainwashed was one he couldn’t ignore. The fact that Kelly and Lily belonged to the same community was mind-boggling. What were the odds? This was the situation he was dealing with, no matter how odd. Damn it, Lily had sworn there was nothing weird about her artists’ community. She’d promised she was safe. It appeared that Lily had lied to him, something he would have sworn was impossible just an hour ago.
The idea of Kelly and Lily being brainwashed was terrifying. Once they showed them their little magic tricks he was going to have to get Kelly and Harry away from these crazy people. If she really believed she could do magic then something was very wrong. It was best to play along for now.
Tony leaned back in his chair and took a deep calming breath as he made a sweeping motion with his hand. “Okay, dazzle me with your magical powers.” He kept his voice calm. He didn’t want to upset anyone.
Suddenly a long black stick appeared in Langdon’s hand. Tony stifled the urge to laugh inappropriately. They had magic wands; in other circumstances he would have found this hilarious. As it was he was impatient to get this over with so he could start trying to figure out exactly what was going on. He’d need to get in touch with Gibbs immediately.
Langdon flicked his wand and murmured something that sounded like Latin, and the tip of his wand lit up. He looked at Tony expectantly.
Tony was decidedly underwhelmed. He’d seen illusionists do much more incredible things than that. “A light. How dramatic. I assume you’re going to turn it off now?” he added drily.
Langdon looked surprised and looked at Kelly askance. “‘No maj’ have the ability to make things light up,” she said almost apologetically. “This isn’t as amazing as you would think.”
No maj, as in non-magical he assumed. How cute. Tony made a note of it though. Any information he could gather about what Kelly believed would help.
Langdon looked annoyed. He murmured, “Nox.” Tony knew that was Latin for night. That seemed a little pretentious, wouldn’t Latin for off make more sense? Unsurprisingly, the light disappeared.
Langdon was still watching him carefully. “I see. Well then, I’ll have to think of something more dramatic, shall I?” Langdon said, and his tone matched Tony's perfectly.
Langdon didn’t wait for a response. Instead, he stood, gave a flick of his wand, and disappeared with a pop. Literally disappeared. “What the hell,” Tony shouted and stood up. Tony looked all around the room for any sign of the other man but found nothing.
“Where the fuck did he go?” he asked Kelly. His voice squeaked a bit, much to his embarrassment, and Tony cleared his throat. He looked at Kelly expectantly, but she shrugged.
“Don’t worry, he’ll be back,” she said calmly, with a small smile. “I can tell you from past experience, so far you’re taking this better than most. Not that I’m surprised.”
For once Tony was at a loss for words. He just stared at the spot where Langdon had been standing.
A few seconds later Langdon popped back in, looking none the worse for wear. He sat down calmly and gave Tony a knowing look. Tony resisted the urge to poke him to see if he was really there. “So, magic," he said faintly. His mind was racing. This had been no illusion. Maybe I’m hallucinating he thought, but he dismissed that idea immediately. He didn’t feel drugged.
“Yep,” Kelly said, popping the p with a grin. When Tony didn’t respond, she grew serious. “Sit down, Tony. I know this has been a lot to take in. You’ve had more shocks today than any person should have to bear. Let me get you a drink.”
Kelly knew where his favorite scotch was located and she poured him a drink and handed it to him. Tony didn’t protest. He took a few sips; the alcohol was smooth going down, and the familiar taste calmed him down.
Kelly took out her own wand and showed it to him.
“Magic is real, Tony. Only people who are born with the power can practice it. We call ourselves witches and wizards. We live in a separate society, and our existence is a closely guarded secret. I am an auror, that’s a magical cop, and I work for the Division of Magical Law Enforcement for the governing body of magical people in the United States. I won’t bore you with the details, but it functions pretty much like the United States Senate on a much smaller scale.”
Kelly was a cop. Tony took another sip of his scotch. It actually wasn’t that big of a surprise, at least compared to all the other revelations he’d had today. Tony had always thought Kelly would make a great cop, not that he’d ever dared say as much to Gibbs.
He laughed at his own thoughts. This particular revelation was probably not the one he should be focused on right now. Magic was real. This was amazing, and if he hadn’t been so grief-stricken he would have been practically bouncing in excitement.
Truth be told, he was a little pissed at Lily for not telling him. She’d had phenomenal cosmic powers, so to speak, but she’d never said a word.
He thought they’d had no secrets from one another. He understood why they stayed hidden. He could well imagine what the government would do if they knew; it was enough to give him nightmares, but surely Lilly had known she could trust him with anything. She had lied to him, and the knowledge hurt, but Tony knew he needed to put that aside for the moment.
There would be time to sort out his feelings later. Harry was the most important person in his life now, and he needed to focus on him. He wanted to be a good dad to him. Then it hit him; he was going to be the parent of a kid with magic. How was that even going to work? What if Harry just disappeared into thin air one day? Panic started to rise, but Tony forced himself to relax. He’d figure it out. He had a feeling he’d need to have himself a bit of a freak out eventually, but he figured he’d earned it.
“Gibbs knows about magic, doesn’t he?” He had to know if he’d raised Kelly. “Unless you only manifest your powers as an adult?” he asked hopefully.
“No, sorry, I’ve had magic my whole life.” Kelly looked at him sympathetically. ”Yes, dad knows, but he isn’t allowed to discuss it with anyone not in the know already, so don’t be upset with him. It wasn’t easy for him at times, but he did fine raising me, and you’ll do fine too. He doesn’t know I’m a cop though and you can’t tell him. He’d have kittens.”
Tony snorted at the mental image. That was the understatement of the century. Tony didn’t like keeping something like this from Gibbs, but he supposed it wasn’t really his place to tell either. Kelly’s job choice was between the two of them.
“So my whole world has taken a turn for the insane but let’s say for now I accept all this without question. Though I reserve the right to ask the many questions I have at a later date. You and I, Auror Gibbs, are going to be having a long talk in the near future.”
Kelly smiled. “Yes, Tony. We’ll talk. We have a lot to catch up on.” She turned to Andre. “He sounds just like my dad when he uses that tone.” Andre chuckled.
Tony chose to ignore them. “What happens now? Obviously your father was allowed to raise you so does that mean I’ll be able to get custody of Harry?”
Langdon reached for his wine glass and took a delicate sip. “Yes, that’s exactly what my superior is hoping for. Though there are some legal issues we haven’t had time to explain yet. I think explanations would be better coming from my boss and Harry’s current guardian. They have more knowledge of the situation than either of us. How long will it take you to get ready? I’d like to get you to Paris as soon as possible.”
Tony nodded, “I can be ready in just a few minutes. I need to tell my boss I’ll be away though. Can I tell him about this?” Gibbs wouldn’t be happy, but he’d understand. It was a family emergency after all.
Kelly hesitated. “You know I hate lying to dad, but we’ve been instructed to keep this to as few people as possible for now. You can tell him it’s a family matter involving your cousin but keep the details to a minimum. I promise you there are some really good reasons for our secrecy and all that will be explained to you in time. Just know that we are doing our best to keep Harry and you safe.”
Tony rubbed at his temples; he was getting a tension headache. He was really sick of the cryptic comments. He couldn’t protect anyone if he didn’t get some answers. “What do you mean keep us safe? Is Harry in some sort of danger?” he asked sharply. Could be whoever had murdered Lily was after Harry too, but why would anyone want to kill a toddler? Harry couldn’t hurt anyone.
Langdon sighed. “I won’t lie to you. Harry is in danger. It’s a long story, and I promise we will fill you in, but again it would be better for you to hear the story once you reach Paris. We’re keeping Harry safe there. We thought it was best to get him out of Britain. I know it’s frustrating, but it’s for the best.”
Tony frowned; he hated being kept in the dark, and he really wanted to tell Gibbs everything. Gibbs apparently had some familiarity with this world. He trusted Gibbs to have his back, and he would have really liked to have his support, but he supposed he should go along for now.
“I’m going to hold you to that,” he warned them.
He got up and walked into the bedroom. He grabbed his go bag, but then he sat down on the bed.
His entire life had changed in less than an hour, and he needed a moment to gather himself. Lily’s face came to mind again, and a new wave of grief hit him. Tears welled up, and Tony let a couple fall before wiping his face. He had loved Lily so much, and her loss would always leave a hole in his life, but he had to focus on the task at hand. He would have plenty of time to grieve later.
The most important thing was finding Harry and figuring out how the hell he was going to keep Lily’s son safe and happy. Harry was his son now. It was a terrifying thought but a happy one despite the terrible circumstances. “I’ll take care of him, Lily,” he promised aloud. “No matter what it takes.”
It didn’t take long for Tony to get ready to leave. He had his go bag ready , and he quickly packed a few extra clothes since he didn’t know how long he’d be gone. He also took a couple minutes to grab a few of his pay stubs as proof of his income, and several other papers he thought he might need. He figured he might have to prove he was able of taking care of Harry and supporting him financially. Given how Harry had been effectively hidden from him, he wasn’t sure if he’d have a fight on his hands or not. Either way he wanted to be as prepared as he could be.
Tony snorted at the thought; how prepared could he possibly be to deal with a world full of magic? His life was just getting weirder and weirder, but Tony was determined to do his best to roll with it. Harry was depending on him, and Tony was not going to let him down. He’d stare down anyone who tried to stop him. He’d take on dragons if necessary, assuming dragons existed, of course.
He wondered it was a possibility and laughed at himself. He probably didn’t want to know. Tony sighed and ran his hand over his hair. He had so many questions to ask, and so much to learn about navigating this strange new world he found himself in. Tony trusted Kelly, but he found himself wishing he could talk to Gibbs about all of this.
Thinking of his boss made Tony grimace; he needed to let Gibbs know he was going out of town. That was a conversation he wasn’t looking forward to, but he knew Gibbs would understand.
After taking a moment to compose himself, he picked up the phone and called his boss.
Gibbs picked up on the second ring, barking out a greeting.
“Hey, boss,” Tony said.
“Tony.” He sounded surprised, but his tone warmed considerably as well. He had a habit of not looking at the caller ID before answering. “I just sent you home. Do you miss me already?” Gibbs teased.
Tony chuckled, which took him by surprise. He wouldn’t have thought he could laugh right now. “No, I think I’d need a few more hours away from you at least, boss. I’m calling because I need to take some emergency leave, starting immediately.”
There was a moment of silence, and then Gibbs asked brusquely, “Leave, why? Something wrong?”
Luckily Tony didn’t have to lie. He was leaving details out, but for the most part the truth would work just fine. He didn’t think he was ready to say the word magic out loud to anyone yet anyway. “Yeah, there is. Do you remember my cousin Lily? I’ve mentioned her a couple of times.”
“Yeah, she’s British and living at some sort of weird artist commune, right?”
Tony wasn’t surprised Gibbs remembered. Gibbs had told him once he was glad to know Tony had some family besides his father.
“Yeah, she was. I just got word she and her husband have passed away.” Saying the words hurt, but Tony was grateful his voice stayed steady.
“I’m sorry, Tony. What happened?” Gibbs asked.
Tony’s hold tightened on the phone as he spoke. “They were murdered. I don't have the details yet, but their son Harry was spared, and Lily has made me his legal guardian. I’m going to have a kid, Gibbs. I’ve never even met him.”
The grief was there just below the surface, but for the moment he had a handle on it; nevertheless saying the words hurt. He couldn’t let himself think about Lily too much.
“I’m sorry,” Gibbs said quietly. “The kid is lucky to have you. You know I’ll help too.”
Tony nodded even though Gibbs couldn’t see him. He realized his other hand was clenched in a fist too, and he forced himself to relax his fingers. He did know, but it was nice to hear. “Thanks Gibbs. I think I’m going to need all the help I can get,” he added wryly.
“It’s going to be okay Tony,” Gibbs said warmly. “You can leave immediately; I’ll handle the paperwork and the Director,” he added, back to business.
Tony rolled with it, accustomed to his Gibbs’ rapid-fire subject changes. “Thanks, boss. I’m honestly not sure how long it’s going to take. Some legal issues need working out.” That was an understatement.
Gibbs paused. “Got your six, do you need me to come with you?”
Tony smiled to himself. He appreciated the offer and part of him was extremely tempted, but he couldn’t drag Gibbs into this, not until he knew what was going on. It was somewhat absurd that they shared such an unbelievable secret, and yet Tony couldn’t mention magic to him. Not yet, he reminded himself, but eventually we’ll be able to compare notes.
“No, Gibbs, but thank you. I’ll keep you updated.”
“Alright, watch your back Tony; I’m looking forward to meeting...”
“Harry,” Tony supplied. “His name is Harry.”
“Harry,” Gibbs repeated softly before hanging up. Abrupt as always, Tony thought fondly. He felt a little better as he pocketed his phone and picked up his bags. It was good to know he had Gibbs in his corner.
Tony put his game face on and walked out into the living room, doing his best to appear calm and confident. He found Kelly still waiting for him. Andre was nowhere to be seen.
Tony looked at Kelly questioningly, and she answered easily, “He’s gone on ahead to prepare for your arrival.”
Kelly gazed at him intently. “How are you doing, Tony? I know this is a lot to take in,” she added, concerned. Tony wasn’t surprised. She was almost as good at reading Tony as her father was. Both Gibbs had an uncanny ability to see past his masks. It had been unsettling at first, but Tony could admit, at least in the privacy of his own mind, that he had grown to like it.
He reached out and hugged her gently. She returned the hug, squeezing tightly. “I’m not going to lie and say I’m okay,” he admitted. “I’m devastated honestly. Losing Lily is a huge blow, but I can’t think about it now. I need to be strong. There'll be time to fall apart later.” He grinned, and Kelly smiled in return.
“You aren’t the type to fall apart, but I get your point. I’m here if you decide you want to talk about her.”
Tony nodded. “Thanks, kiddo. I’ll keep that in mind, and don’t think I’ve forgotten you owe me a talk.”
Kelly sighed and bit her lip. “I haven’t forgotten. I know I owe you an explanation about my job and why I haven’t told my dad.”
Tony didn’t like seeing the defeated look on her face. He wasn’t going to do this now, but they might as well get it over with. He reached out and squeezed Kelly’s arm affectionately.
Tony shrugged, “What you tell or don’t tell your dad wouldn’t be my business normally, but I don't like knowing something this important when he doesn’t. I won’t say anything about you being a cop. I can keep your secret, but I think you should tell him. He’ll be pissed, sure. But he’ll come around, and then he’ll be incredibly proud. I promise I won’t say anything though. I’m looking forward to learning all about magic, and talking about it with both of you.”
Kelly nodded. “He’s just so overprotective. It never seemed like the right time, and then the more time that passed the harder it got. I don’t like lying to him either. He’s going to be so angry,” she added, looking sad.
“Yeah he will, but then he’ll forgive you, I promise. Your dad loves you more than anything.” Hopefully he’d forgive Tony too if he ever found out that Tony knew before him.
Kelly nodded, “I hope so. I’ll think about it okay?”
“That’s all I can ask.” Tony hoped she would talk to Gibbs at some point. “So, how are we getting to Paris?” he asked.
Kelly accepted the subject change gratefully. “We’re flying in a plane. How else would we get there?”
Tony felt a stab of disappointment. “Can’t you just magic us there? Like Andre did?”
Kelly chuckled. “It’s called apparition, and it doesn’t really work over long distances, not without numerous stops anyway. A magical person would have to be exceptionally powerful to make it. We do have another way to travel long distances called a portkey, but it isn’t really pleasant. It feels kind of like a rollercoaster, and very often people vomit at the end, especially the first time. I thought you’d prefer the plane.”
Tony loved roller coasters. The truth was he wanted to get to Harry as quickly as possible; if he could avoid a long plane ride he would. The fact that he thought it might be fun to try some magic was just a bonus. Two birds with one stone. “Is this portkey dangerous in any way?”
Kelly shook her head “No, it’s totally safe. Children use it all the time. Muggles just need to have a magical person with them when using it. The portkey can’t work without at least one magical core to interact with.”
Tony grinned. Magical cores. This was so cool. “In that case, I’d really like to give the magical rollercoaster a try. I mean I can’t believe you ever thought otherwise.”
Kelly smiled fondly. “I should have known. All right, it’ll take me a few minutes to make one. I need an object to enchant. Something you won’t miss.”
Tony thought for a moment. “Will an old t-shirt do?”
Tony retrieved the t-shirt and watched in fascination as she waved her wand and murmured some Latin phrases. Kelly was focused, and the spells clearly took concentration. As she gave a last wave of her wand, Tony was startled to feel a tingling rush over his body. Kind of like an electric current but he’d never felt anything like it before. What the hell? Could he be feeling Kelly’s magic? He didn’t think people like him could feel it. He hadn’t felt anything earlier, but it was obvious this spell had required more power.
Kelly looked up at him. “Okay we’re ready to go,” she said. “I’m going to shrink your luggage; it’ll make traveling easier.” She suited word to action and Tony was bemused to see his bags turn into doll-sized miniatures. They didn’t look real anymore.
Kelly tucked them into her pocket and then she held out the t-shirt to Tony. “Hold on tight,” she warned, “the portkey will activate now.”
As soon as she spoke, Tony felt a hook in his navel that seemed to pull at him, and the world around him literally began spinning as he was lifted off his feet.
An indeterminate amount of time later the spinning stopped, and Tony found himself sitting on his ass on a very hard floor. Tony laughed and leaned back, resting his palms behind him; he didn’t quite trust himself to get up yet without falling over. “That was awesome,” he cried. The portkey ride had been terrifying, but in the best way.
Kelly had been watching him with faint worry, but she grinned at his words. “That isn’t the word I would use,” she admitted. “Somehow I’m not surprised you enjoyed it.” She grinned teasingly at him.
The room had stopped spinning, mostly, so Tony got to his feet carefully. “I did, but I think I should wait a while before trying it again.”
Tony took his first real look around. They were standing in a large windowless room. A large circle was etched into the marble floor. One wall was dominated by a huge fireplace. Above him about two dozen candles were floating in the air. He must be getting used to this because he was only slightly startled. In fact, he thought the candles looked rather pretty.
On the wall opposite the fireplace was a large portrait, and the elderly woman in it was dressed in old-fashioned clothing. She appeared to be sleeping. It was odd that someone had painted a portrait of a sleeping person, but he supposed odd was his new normal. He was about to ask where they were when, much to his shock, the painting began to snore.
He turned to Kelly. “The painting is snoring,” he informed her.
Kelly grinned. “Yeah, it is; all magical portraits can talk and move. They aren’t alive, exactly. It’s hard to explain. It’s very old magic. This is Madame Gueron’s great-grandmother, Cybil. She tends to sleep a lot. Be grateful, she loves meeting new people. If she was awake she’d talk your ear off. You can meet her later if you like.”
A talking painting, that was awesome. Weird, but awesome. “I’d like that,” Tony said. “Where are we, exactly?”
“We’re in the receiving room at the Gueron family home, about fifty miles outside Paris. Madame Gueron brought Harry and Minerva McGonagall here to keep them safe. There are a lot of people in Britain would like to get their hands on Harry. There are still lots of things you need to know.”
Tony opened his mouth to respond, but before he could there was a pop, and a small ugly being with big ears appeared in front of them. It was wearing a black outfit resembling a butler’s uniform, though it looked old fashioned.
“Welcome, I am Blinky. Madame Gueron would like you to join her in her receiving room. If you’ll please follow me.”
Kelly nodded. “This is a house elf. They act as servants in the magical world.” Addressing herself to Blinky she said, “Our apologies for arriving at such a late hour. I brought us by portkey.”
Tony looked down at his watch and was surprised to realize it was after two in the morning here. He’d been so focused on getting to Harry as quickly as possible that he hadn’t given the time difference any thought. Was he keeping Madame Gueron awake? He felt a little bad about that. This wasn’t exactly a time to be visiting. Maybe they should have waited for a better time. Surely Harry was sleeping? Tony didn’t want to wake him, but he wanted to see Harry so badly.
Blinky nodded. “I understand, but Madame is often up at odd hours. She is looking forward to meeting you. This way.”
Tony and Kelly followed Blinky down several halls and up a winding grand staircase. The house was large and beautifully decorated in an elegant and classic style. He saw several more paintings and portraits on the walls, and many of them were indeed moving. There was one of several children playing in a field of flowers, and they all waved at Tony cheerfully as he passed. Feeling a little weird, Tony waved back at them.
They arrived at a drawing room and walked inside. An older but imposing woman was sitting in an armchair by the fireplace. She looked up as they entered, and stood to greet him.
“Agent DiNozzo, I am Agnes Gueron. It is a pleasure to meet you.” She spoke English with a faint French accent. She held out her hand. Tony took it, noting her firm handshake.
Tony trusted his first impressions and his gut said this was not a woman to be trifled with.
“Madame Gueron, Thank you for having us in your home. I don’t know everything that’s going on yet, but I appreciate you looking after Harry for me.”
Madame Gueron smiled. “Harry is a delight, and I’m happy to have him here. The woman who rescued him from those horrible muggles, Minerva McGonagall, is an old friend of mine. I trust her implicitly.”
Tony nodded. He was looking forward to meeting Professor McGonagall. The woman had not only saved Harry, but Lily had admired her professor a great deal. “I’m extremely grateful to her as well, and I’m looking forward to meeting her. I’m sorry to arrive at this hour, but I was very anxious to see Harry.”
Gueron smiled. “That is understandable. I believe Harry is sleeping, but I’m sure you can see him for a few minutes. We have a lot to talk about, but it is quite late. I simply wanted to meet you, and have a chat.”
“Please, Agent DiNozzo, sit down, and you too, Agent Gibbs. It is lovely to see you again, my dear.”
Kelly grinned. “You as well, ma’am.”
Tony sat in the chair opposite Gueron’s, and Kelly sat beside him. “Can I get you anything to eat?” Madame Gueron offered.
They shook their heads. “We are fine, thank you, ma’am,” Kelly explained.
“In that case would you care for a drink? Some tea, or something stronger, perhaps.”
“Actually, something stronger would be great,” Tony admitted. Kelly echoed him.
Agnes nodded. She turned back to the house elf and requested three whiskeys. The elf popped out and then back in a few seconds later with a tray. It still took Tony a little off guard, but he thought he was starting to get used to people being able to appear and disappear at will.
Once they all had their drinks, Gueron turned her gaze back to him and stared at him intently. Tony felt as if she was looking into his soul. He didn’t particularly care for the sensation. “Well Agent DiNozzo, how does it feel to fall down the rabbit hole?”
Tony laughed. “Tony, please. Well, Madame Gueron, I’m honestly not sure yet. I think I might still be in shock. It’s been an amazing and terrifying night. I can’t believe the things I've seen and done tonight, and yet here I am. I think focusing on Harry and his well-being has helped me a great deal. I’ll have time to figure out the rest.” He didn’t mention James and Lily or their deaths. He wasn’t about to share his feelings with a stranger. It was none of her business.
“Call me Agnes. I have a feeling we’ll be getting to know each other well. Your concern for Harry is to your credit. We all agree his well-being is paramount, but you should know that you are going to find that there are people who will not be happy with the idea of you raising Harry. Harry Potter is a very important figure in our world and, as such, anything concerning him is bound to cause a ruckus in our community.”
Tony shook his head. “I don’t really understand what that means. I know that Lily and James were murdered, and somehow Harry was spared, but I don’t understand why I wasn’t notified or why her will wasn’t read. Lily would never have wanted Harry anywhere near Petunia. Petunia hated Lily and James. I can only imagine the neglect Harry must have suffered at her hands.”
Agnes sighed and took a long sip of her drink before answering. “It is a very long story and a complicated one. You must know everything but the story will take quite some time. I am willing to tell you now if you wish or it can wait until we’ve all had some rest.”
Tony thought about it. “I hate to keep you up, but I don't think I’ll be able to sleep until I know why he has been kept from me, at least.”
Agnes sighed. “I’m afraid poor Harry has been used as a pawn. For the last several years the wizarding world has been at war.”
Agnes went on to tell him one of the craziest stories he’d ever heard. Lord Voldemort was apparently the magical version of Hitler, and he believed that only wizards without nonmagical blood should be allowed to live. Lily and James had been fighting him. It had been a losing battle, but they hadn’t given up. Tony wasn’t surprised in the least. Voldemort had killed them, but somehow Harry had survived, and Voldemort had been killed. Tony was glad the bastard was gone.
Agnes continued. ”A man named Albus Dumbledore is responsible for our current situation. He believes Voldemort will return and that Harry will be the one to defeat him once again. He claims that living with the muggles will keep Harry safe, but I personally believe Dumbledore was hiding him in the hopes of controlling Harry and making sure the prophecy came to pass.”
Prophecy. Lily and James were dead, and Harry was orphaned because someone had made a prediction. It was absolutely insane, and even crazier that this Dumbledore was using the same prophecy to justify manipulating and controlling a little boy. What was wrong with these people?
He’d condemned Harry to a life of abuse to suit his own ends. It was despicable and made Tony’s stomach turn. Tony really couldn’t wait to get Harry back to D.C., and away from all this. Tony was determined that neither Dumbledore nor anyone else would ever get the chance to manipulate Harry again.
“How could this be allowed to happen? Why didn’t anyone speak out against what Dumbledore was doing?” Tony demanded harshly.
Agnes suddenly looked tired. “I can only apologize for the way Harry has been treated. It might be difficult to understand, but Dumbledore is a war hero twice over. He is powerful and has a reputation for being brave and wise. No one would think to question his decisions; very few people even have the power to challenge him. No one knew the Dursleys were abusive, and his suggestion that Harry live with family seemed reasonable.”
“After Harry was placed, Dumbledore assured all the relevant authorities that Harry was safe and happy. There was no reason to think otherwise. Even now we must be careful when we challenge Dumbledore in this matter. Particularly because you are a muggle. There are those who will point to the Dursleys as proof that muggles should not be allowed to raise wizarding children.”
Tony nodded thoughtfully. The situation was clearly complicated, but it seemed to him that a huge part of the problem was prejudice, plain and simple. The Wizarding world suddenly seemed like a much uglier place, but Tony had seen a lot of abhorrent things, and in a way it was comforting to know that magical people had the same frailties as everyone else. It put him on more familiar ground. Tony understood people and what made them tick.
“Well, I can prove I can take care of Harry financially, and give him a good home. I love him. I only want what’s best for him. My job might be a problem. I’m a Federal Agent, and I work long hours, but lots of Agents have kids. I’m sure I can work something out.”
Agnes nodded. “That’s good to know. From what Minerva has told me, Lily trusted you. I hope it won’t upset you to know that I had you investigated. I needed to know more about who you are.”
Tony wasn’t happy, but he did understand. “I’m glad that I passed muster.” He took a sip of the whiskey, mostly for something to do. “I know for a fact Lily’s lawyer has a copy of the Potter’s will. She told me when we discussed my becoming a guardian for Harry. She didn’t give me a copy directly, and now I understand why.”
“There would be far too many items she wouldn’t have been able to explain. I am prepared to do anything I have to, to gain custody. What I don’t understand is why wasn’t the will honored?” It made no sense. He’d take Harry and run if it came down to it, but he hoped it wouldn’t.
Agnes grimaced. “Dumbledore had the Potter’s will sealed, supposedly to protect Harry’s interests. Again, if anyone found it odd, no one said anything, and they took Dumbledore's assurances that he had been named Harry’s magical guardian at face value. A magical guardian is a witch or wizard charged with representing a minor within the wizarding world and protecting the family magical legacy until the minor comes of age.”
Tony nodded, “You believe I will be able to challenge Dumbledore in court?”
“Yes, as Lily’s closest living relative other than Petunia you are the only one who can. However, I remain hopeful it will not be necessary. Tomorrow we will make sure you have custody of Harry.”
“Can I be considered his magical guardian as well?” Tony asked.
Agnes frowned. “It has never been done before. I’m not sure family magic would accept a muggle. However, we can see if the family magic will accept you. If you were accepted as regent to the Potter family no one could deny your claim to Harry. If in the likely event that it does not, I’m sure someone suitable can be found. Someone who will not fight you for physical custody of young Harry.”
Tony frowned. He didn’t like the idea of having to share Harry’s guardianship. Or that a magical guardian could possibly take Harry away from him. Then a thought occurred to him.
“What about Harry’s godfather? I know I wasn’t Lily’s first choice, and I was okay with that. Why can’t he be Harry’s guardian, magical or otherwise?”
Agnes frowned. “Sirius Black is currently in prison for murder. He supposedly killed a childhood friend of his in cold blood.”
“What do you mean, supposedly?”
“Minerva suggested we look into his case. There are some irregularities. It seems he might never have received a full trial. At least, we can’t find any public record of one.”
As a law enforcement officer Tony was horrified. Everyone deserved a fair trial in his mind. “Is it normal for a wizard to be incarcerated without a trial?” he asked.
“No, not at all. It is highly unusual. I believe Dumbledore had a hand in it. I’m not quite sure how he got away with it though. I suspect he convinced the other members of the Wizengamot, the governing body in England, that a trial wasn’t necessary. I think because Dumbledore claimed that Sirius was the one to betray the Potter’s location to Voldemort. Minerva is not entirely convinced that it’s true.”
Tony was horrified. Either an innocent man had been put in prison, or Lily had trusted someone who betrayed her. “We need to find out. If he betrayed my family I hope he rots, but no matter what he deserves a trial. Particularly if he is innocent.”
Agnes nodded. “Agreed. I have someone looking into it, but we have to tread carefully.”
“Good. Meanwhile, I could be stuck sharing custody of Harry with a stranger.”
Agnes looked apologetic. “Yes, quite possibly. It would make things easier for you if you were magical yourself; I’m afraid our world doesn’t make it easy for muggles, but Harry’s magical guardian doesn’t have to be an enemy. Think of it as back up. I’m sure the will lists a few possible choices; if not, Minerva has already agreed to act in that capacity. You couldn’t ask for anyone better.”
Tony sighed. He didn’t like it, but Professor McGonagall wasn’t a bad choice. It was too bad Kelly couldn’t do it, but he had a feeling the court wouldn’t accept her. She was also American for one thing, and quite young for another. “I’d be grateful for any help she could give me, though she’s already done more than I can ever repay.”
Agnes smiled. “I know she’ll tell you there’s nothing to repay.” Agnes reached out and patted his hand.
“I can tell you’re a good man. I think we should all get some rest. It’s been a long day. Tomorrow you can spend some time with Harry, and then we must go to Gringotts. Once we have the Goblin’s backing we can get the will unsealed. I’m hoping we can get a private audience with the Minister for Magic, and avoid open court. The less time Dumbledore has to prepare a challenge the better.”
Tony leaned back in his chair and drained his whiskey glass. He needed some time to think. Again, he wished he could talk to Gibbs about all this.
“I’d like to take Harry home as soon as possible. I think he’ll be far safer in the U.S.”
Agnes frowned. “A legal challenge from Dumbledore or someone acting on his behalf could keep you from leaving the country with Harry. As legal guardian, he will have custody of him. I’m curious have you given any thought to whether or not you’d like to adopt him?” Tony hadn’t given it any thought, but he already thought of Harry as his. He also couldn’t allow anyone else to raise him, especially not a man who had left Harry in the care of abusive relatives. “Yes, I would eventually. As far as I’m concerned Harry is my child now. Provided the magical guardian agrees I suppose.”
Agnes nodded and gave Tony a bright smile. It made her look younger. “Good. Though it’s a way down the road, to adopt Harry you will have to submit to home visits to prove you can provide a good home and have a judge sign off on the adoption, just like in your world. I have no doubt you will pass with flying colors.”
Tony smiled. “I can provide for him quite well. My mother left me quite a lot of money.”
Agnes nodded. “As Tony’s guardian you will have access to the Potter vaults as well. I assure you, you will never have to worry about money again.”
Tony frowned at that. He’d only use the Potter’s money if absolutely necessary. He’d rather leave it all for Harry when he was older.
“We can talk in the morning. You look quite tired. I know you’ve had a long day.”
Tony rubbed his forehead. “Some rest sounds good actually. First, I’d really like to see Harry. I don’t want to wake him, if he’s asleep. I just want to look in on him, please.”
Agnes didn’t look surprised by the request. She stood, and Tony and Kelly, who had been silently listening, followed suit. She led them out of the salon, and down a long hallway. “Of course, this way. He’s in the nursery. Generations of my family members, including me, have slept there, you know. There’s a silencing charm around the bed, so you don’t need to worry about waking him.”
A silencing charm. Tony assumed that meant Harry wouldn’t hear Tony. “Can someone hear him, if he cries?” he asked, concerned. Agnes nodded. “Oh yes, not to worry. The house elves are always keeping an eye out. If he cries they can hear him and, if necessary, they fetch someone.”
Tony smiled, relieved. He hated the idea of Harry being ignored. Tony had been ignored for much of his childhood, and he promised himself Harry would never know what that felt like again.
Kelly smiled. “I’ll wait here. I need to check in with my office anyway. After that I’m going to go home for a few hours. I’ll be back later today. If you need me you can send one of the house elves or someone will help you send an owl.”
Tony knew that was just an excuse to give him some time alone with Harry and he was grateful for it. He was distracted by the mention of the owl. “An owl?” he asked.
Kelly grinned. “We use them to deliver the mail.”
Tony stared. “Okay, now you’re having me on. Can’t you just make the letters disappear in one place and appear in another?”
Kelly looked thoughtful. “That’s an interesting idea. I’m not sure why no one has come up with a spell like that. I’m not kidding about the owls, I swear. They’re very smart, and a little magical. They deliver our letters for us.”
Huh. “That might be the craziest thing I’ve heard yet. How do you keep people from noticing owls carrying letters in their beaks?”
Beside him, Agnes laughed. “We tie them to their legs. You’d be surprised the things that muggles don’t notice. Owls make wonderful companions, Tony. Shall we go?”
“Of course. Lead on.”
Tony reached out and squeezed Kelly’s hand, bidding her goodbye before following Agnes out. He followed Agnes up another flight of stairs and down several hallways. If he were going to spend any real time here, he would have to learn his way around. He wasn’t sure how long it would be before he and Harry could go home. It sounded like he might be here for longer than he thought. He hoped Gibbs and the director would be understanding about him needing a longer leave of absence.
As they entered what Agnes called the family wing and drew closer to the nursery, the rooms became less opulent, and began taking on a more comfortable lived in look. Finally, after what seemed like a mile, they came to a set of double doors at the end of a hallway.
“Harry is in this room,” Agnes indicated the double doors they were standing in front of, “and Minerva is sleeping in what used to be the nanny’s room next door.” She pointed to a door a few feet down the hall. “I tried to give her better accommodations, but she insisted on staying close to Harry.”
Tony nodded, not really surprised by that. Tony was glad to know that she cared so much for Harry. He looked at the door but didn’t move to open it, abruptly nervous. What if Harry didn’t like him, or didn't know who he was. Why hadn’t that occurred to him before? Relax, he’s probably asleep. And we’ll have time to get to know one another.
Agnes was smiling at him knowingly. “Go on,” she encouraged. “He won’t bite.”
Tony smiled and, after taking a steadying breath, he opened the door, walking inside the softly lit room. A table with a lamp and a rocking chair sat in one corner. It took him a moment to realize the chair was occupied by an older woman holding a small bundle up to her shoulder. The bundle's head turned, and he realized they were watching him. “Min,” Harry said softly, sounding a little worried as he watched Tony warily with large green eyes.
Tony took a few steps toward Harry and stopped. He was struck silent by those eyes, so much like Lily’s, but then he remembered himself, and found a smile for Harry. “Hello, Harry. I’m Tony. You don’t know me, but I knew your mama. I loved her very much, and I’m so happy to see you again.”
“Mama?” Harry asked, looking around. Not finding her, he looked back at Tony, confused. Great going, Tony, he thought. Two minutes and he was already confusing the poor kid. He was going to be so bad at this.
He wanted to reach out and touch the boy, but he didn’t want to scare Harry. He waved, wiggling his fingers at Harry. It made Harry smile tentatively, and Tony couldn’t help but smile back. He knew it might take a little while for Harry to warm up to him, and he was prepared to be patient. He heard a throat clear and pulled his eyes away from Harry up to the woman who was holding him. He experienced a moment of sharp embarrassment. He had genuinely forgotten that there was anyone else in the room.
The room brightened. “I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to ignore you. I’m Anthony DiNozzo.” He held out his hand.
“It’s quite understandable. You’ve traveled a long way to see this young man.” She bounced Harry gently. “I’m Minerva McGonagall; it is a pleasure to finally meet you, Agent DiNozzo.”
“Please, call me Tony,” he said. “The pleasure is mine.”
“Very well. You may call me Minerva.”
She looked down at Harry. “Harry, this is your cousin Tony; remember I showed you his picture?” She walked over to a small table and picked up a framed photo, showing it to Tony. With a start Tony realized it was a picture of him and Lily when they were much younger. They had their arms around each other, and they were smiling goofily. Tony’s heart ached at the sight. Those were much happier times.
Harry smiled widely at the picture as he touched Lily’s face. “Mama,” he said. Then he touched Tony’s face. “Tone,” he said. He looked from the picture to Tony and back again.
Tony's heart skipped a beat as Harry tried to say his name. It was a great feeling. “That’s right, I’m Tony. I’m your family. Did your mama tell you about me?”
Harry cocked his head. “Family,” he repeated, then looked over to Minerva. “Min, too,” he said firmly.
“Yes, Min is family too,” Tony agreed quickly. He had no problem with Harry thinking of Minerva that way. She had already done so much for them, and she obviously cared about Harry. He was grateful that they had someone like her in their corner.
Minerva scoffed but looked pleased nonetheless, and she didn’t bother trying to correct Harry.
Suddenly Harry held out his arms and reached for Tony. Tony pulled Harry into his arms. It felt incredibly awkward at first. Tony had never been very good with children; they all seemed to hate him, and he had no idea how to hold a baby. After a little shifting he settled Harry on his hip. He couldn’t resist sniffing, taking in Harry’s sweet lavender scent. Harry patted his cheek and yawned widely, and then leaned his head on Tony’s shoulder. Tony’s heart melted at the show of trust. He really hadn’t expected this.
He looked over at Minerva to find her smiling slightly. “He’s been having some bad dreams. Why don’t you see if he’ll go to sleep for you? When you’re ready call for Blinky, and he'll show you to your room. If you need me you can just knock on my door. I’m down the hall.”
Tony looked down at Harry, who was blinking sleepily, and gave Minerva a smile. “Do you really think he’ll fall asleep for me?” he asked.
Minerva smiled. “I think so. I’ve been talking about you often in an effort to make him more comfortable. He seems to like you already. I think you’ll be fine.”
Tony nodded, and Minerva quietly left the room. After a moment Tony decided to sit down in the rocking chair. Harry had grabbed his shirt and was hanging on to it tightly. Acting mostly on instinct, Tony rubbed his back gently.
If someone asked him, he didn’t think he could describe how he was feeling. Harry was a warm, soft weight against his chest, humming quietly to himself. Tony recognized the song; it was a traditional Welsh lullaby called “All Through the Night”. It was one his aunt and his mother used to sing to their children. He began singing softly.
“Sleep my child and peace attend thee.” Startled, Harry raised his head and stared at Tony intently. Unsure, Tony stopped singing. Harry raised his hand and put his fingers against Tony’s mouth. “Sorry, buddy,” Tony said quietly. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I don’t have to sing.”
He fell silent, and Harry shook his head forcefully. “No stop, Tone. Mama’s song!” Harry said happily. “Sing for Harry!” he demanded, and Tony grinned at the commanding tone.
Harry hesitated, looking surprised, and then gave a small pleased smile. Tony wondered what that was about. Had Harry expected Tony to yell at him? Tony really wanted a few minutes alone with Petunia and her husband. Tony kept his smile firmly in place. Harry watched Tony for a long moment before adding tentatively, “please.”
“All right, your wish is my command.” He began to sing again, and Harry clapped his hands in delight. After a few minutes, Harry lay back down, relaxing against him once again. He hummed along, and it was adorable.
It wasn’t long before Tony began to hear little snuffling sounds. Tony grinned to himself as he brushed his hand gently over Harry’s soft hair. He looked down at the lightning-shaped scar Voldemort had given Harry when he tried to kill him. Agnes had told him the mark was dangerous. Tony would need to learn more, but he hoped they would be able to find a way to remove the mark from Harry sometime soon. He didn’t want anything to hurt Harry.
He knew he should probably put Harry to bed, but he found he didn’t want to let go just yet.
He leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes. It might not be that late back in D.C. but the long work weeks and the stress of the night were getting to him. He was surprisingly comfortable. Of course, he was used to sleeping at his desk, and the rocking chair was definitely better than that. Just a few more minutes and he’d get them both to bed. He continued to hum to Harry softly until he drifted off to sleep with Harry nestled in his arms.
Three days later, Tony entered the nursery to find a house elf helping Harry get dressed. Posey had been thrilled to act as Harry’s nanny, and Harry had taken to her quickly. Harry seemed to like all the house elves, and they liked him in return. He sensed when they were nearby even when they were trying to be inconspicuous. The house elves seemed charmed by it.
For his part, Tony was getting used to having people and things, even food, popping up seemingly out of nowhere, although the first time his breakfast materialized in front of him he’d jumped out of his chair. Minerva and Harry had laughed at him, though Minerva had tried to hide her amusement as best she could. Tony couldn’t blame them; it had been rather funny.
Harry looked up and saw him, his face lighting up. It was a sight Tony didn’t think he’d ever get tired of. “Tone,” he cried happily. “Good morning!”
Tony grinned. “Good morning, Harry.”
Posey gave him a little bow and Tony turned to smile at her as well. “Good morning Posey. I’ll finish helping Harry and then take him downstairs. You can go.”
“Yes, sir,” Posey said.
Tony sighed. “Are you sure you can’t use my first name?” he asked Posey in a teasing tone. At this point he’d just about given up, but he couldn’t resist giving it one more try. The house elves were rather strict about proper address and protocol.
Posey smiled. “No Sir, I’m afraid not. See you later Master Harry.” Harry waved and called out goodbye with another smile as Posey popped away.
Tony turned back to Harry, who held out his arms, wordlessly asking to be picked up. Tony grinned. “You want up, Harry?” he asked the little boy.
At the suggestion of a healer who had come to treat Harry before Tony arrived, they were gently encouraging Harry to ask for what he wanted, not only to improve his speech but to help Harry to feel more secure by teaching him that his needs and wants were important and that they would be taken care of.
Harry nodded. “Up please,” he said. Tony picked him up before lifting him high above his head, making Harry giggle in delight. Holding Harry carefully, he turned in a circle, making Harry fly.
He lowered Harry gently after a couple of spins. “Again,” Harry shouted. “Again, Tone!” Harry pleaded.
Tony shook his head. “Not right now, buddy. We have a big day ahead of us. We’re going out.”
They were going shopping for harry and for Tony as well. Tony needed clothing appropriate for the wizarding world. He needed robes appropriate for court. He and Minerva had had a long discussion about whether or not to take the risk. While it was true no one knew Harry was in France, and they should be safe enough, the idea made Tony nervous. Minerva promised she could do a spell that would hide Harry’s identity, and it would be good for them to get out and get some fresh air. Tony was not used to being cooped up for days at a time.
Tony quickly changed Harry’s diaper and got him dressed in jeans and a purple shirt sporting a Phoenix. It turned out that Phoenix were real, as were unicorns and many other magical creatures. It completely blew Tony’s mind. He was learning so much from the books he read Harry at night, and he’d just about driven poor Minerva crazy with his questions. The teacher in her must have appreciated his curiosity though, because so far she’d been very patient with him. Agnes had the house elves buy a few outfits for Harry, but he was painfully in need of an entire wardrobe.
Tony tried not to think about why Harry needed all new things. If he let himself focus too much on Petunia Dursley and her abusive treatment of Harry he wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to do her bodily harm. He would never normally ever think of slapping a woman, but for Petunia he’d gladly make an exception.
He was still learning about the magical world, but he did understand how important Harry was to these people. They believed Harry was some sort of savior even though Tony knew there was no way a baby could have destroyed a grown man, particularly one with magical powers; anyone who thought sweet little Harry could hurt anyone was a moron. The cop in him couldn’t help but run through all the possible ways Harry could be hurt if his presence here was discovered. He was determined that Harry would be safe, and that meant keeping him out of the public eye.
Tony felt Harry patting his cheek, and he realized he’d been lost in thought. He smiled down at Harry. “You hungry? It’s time for breakfast.”
Harry grinned. “Hungry,” he agreed with a nod.
“Good. Me too. We’re going to eat breakfast together.” Tony tickled Harry gently and grinned as Harry giggled with delight. “What do you want to eat, huh?”
“Milk,” Harry said immediately. He always asked for milk.
“You can have milk, but you need to eat something too. How about some oatmeal and blueberries?”
Harry seemed to give it serious thought before nodding. “Blues,” he agreed.
Harry was still a little wary around food, especially if Tony or Minerva weren’t present. He hesitated to ask the house elves for what he wanted sometimes, but he was growing more confident every day. Thankfully, the potion the healers had recommended was doing its job, and Harry had already gained some much-needed weight. He had also begun to eat solid foods, though they were introducing new foods slowly.
“Excellent. I think we’re ready, let's go.”
Tony started making his way toward the door when Harry turned in his arms. ‘Snitchy,” he said. “I forgot.”
The golden ball Minerva had made for Harry the day she rescued him was still his favorite toy. It was apparently from a game that was very popular in the Wizarding world. Harry refused to go anywhere without it.
Tony turned around to see the toy lying on the window seat, and then it was flying through the air and right into Harry’s waiting arms. Harry grinned happily and hugged the toy close.
Tony was startled but willed himself not to react outwardly. He was getting used to living in a magical household but it still often caught him off guard. Minerva assured him he was handling the existence of magic far better than most people would.
Harry was smiling up at him, and Tony smiled in return. He didn’t seem at all concerned by his bout of accidental magic Tony noted, pleased. “Good job, kiddo. You saved me a trip across the room.” Harry grinned and waved his snitch around, as if flying it.
Tony kissed the top of Harry’s head. Tony knew it was important to treat Harry’s magic as an everyday occurrence. Apparently accidental acts like these were just Harry learning to stretch his magic muscles so to speak, and in time he’d learn control.
Minerva was already in the breakfast room when Tony and Harry walked in. Harry got very excited when he saw her. “Min! Min!” he called out and reached for her.
Minerva tried to remain stern for a moment, but she couldn’t hold back the smile. She stood, and Tony handed Harry to her. Harry immediately put his arms around her neck, his attempt at a hug. “Good morning, young man,” Minerva said. “Did you sleep well?”
Harry nodded vigorously, making Tony chuckle. Harry’s high chair was waiting for him, and Minerva gently placed him in it. Tony felt the air warm, and a moment later a small bowl of oatmeal mixed with a little honey and blueberries appeared in front of him. Tony sat down and offered a spoonful to Harry, which he happily took. “Is it good?” Tony asked him, and Harry responded by asking for more.
Blinky appeared in front of him with a cup of coffee and Tony gratefully took a large sip before setting it on the table next to him. The house elf offered to feed Harry so Tony could have his breakfast in peace, but Tony politely declined. He wanted to take care of Harry as much as he could himself. His parents had never paid him much attention, and Harry was suffering from a lack of contact as well, something Tony planned to ameliorate as quickly as possible.
Minerva was watching them with a small smile. “I’ll finish feeding Harry while you eat,” she offered.
Tony finished giving Harry another spoonful and then set the spoon down and wiped his son’s face. He watched as Harry stuck his fingers into the oatmeal and then shoved them in his mouth. “Yum,” he declared happily. Tony stifled a laugh.
“I don’t know why I bother cleaning him up at all.” He and Minerva shared a smile. “Thanks. I’d rather finish myself,” he added.
Minerva nodded and sipped at her tea while Tony fed Harry. He offered Tony a smooshed blueberry, and Tony gently declined, making Minerva chuckle. Tony found that he really enjoyed feeding Harry his meals. He’d been so nervous the first time, but it had been far easier than he’d expected. He grinned as Harry offered Minerva a blueberry, and she also declined.
Harry often offered to share bits of his food, much of it smooshed beyond recognition. It was a bit surprising given how often they suspected Harry was denied food. The thought of Harry going hungry was incredibly painful. He had already learned to expect to be fed quickly, and he didn’t mind sharing, something for which Tony was grateful.
Once Harry was sitting in Minerva’s lap happily drinking his milk, Tony sat down at the table, and a moment later his breakfast appeared in front of him. Bacon, eggs, hash browns, and a small fruit salad. Somehow the house elves in the kitchen always knew what he wanted. He took a bite of his bacon; as always, it was cooked perfectly. Tony ate in silence for a few minutes as he listened to Minerva and Harry behind him.
He took a sip of coffee and turned to look at Minerva. “Agnes won’t be joining us?” he asked.
Minerva shook her head. “No, she had meetings early this morning. I do have some unfortunate news. As of yet, we have had no luck getting a copy of the Potter’s will through back channels. The goblin horde would like to help us but the will has been sealed by special order of the Wizengamot, and they cannot interfere. The consequences would be dire.”
“Once Dumbledore knows what we’re trying to do he will use all his considerable power to block us, which will make getting the ruling overturned, and the will unsealed, more difficult, though not impossible. As we discussed, the lack of a will makes things more difficult for us. I’m afraid you will have to go to court, and petition for the will to be unsealed and read. Preferably before anyone in Britain can try to interfere.”
Tony looked down at his plate, resisting the urge to bury his head in his hands. He’d been warned getting custody of Harry wouldn’t be easy, but Agnes had been hoping to use back channels to at least get a copy of the will. They had decided to be thorough. Minerva had taken him to Petunia, and she and Minerva had signed over custody to Tony, so he was Harry’s legal guardian, but that didn’t mean others wouldn’t try to fight him for custody. He knew they could prove the Dursleys were abusing Harry, but that didn’t mean that Tony would get custody, blood relative or not.
The wizard’s belief in their innate superiority could mean his petition might be denied in favor of a wizarding family. It was infuriating. Having a copy of the will proving he was listed as Harry’s guardian would go a long way toward smoothing the way for him. Minerva had dashed that hope. They had to get the Potter will unsealed, and that meant going to court, unless there was some sort of miracle.
Tony chafed at the delay. He wanted to take Harry home to D.C. as soon as possible. However, he didn’t want to have to worry about wizards popping up and trying to take Harry from him. It would get annoying very quickly. Tony would hate to have to kill a bunch of wizards, especially since there seemed to be so few of them.
“I understand why your world has to stay hidden. I’m all for wizarding kind protecting itself. I’ve seen firsthand the terrible things human beings do to each other. That being said, I hate the prejudices your people have against mine. Harry is my family, and I know I would be a good father to him. Just because I don’t have magic doesn’t mean I’m not the best choice for him.”
Minerva sighed heavily. “I know the intolerance that many of my people have toward muggles seems unfair, and it is. The truth is that muggles are perfectly capable of raising a magical child. While many people agree with me, there are those who believe witches and wizards should only be raised by their own kind.”
“However, you must understand that my people had to hide away for our own safety, and many witches and wizards go their whole lives without interacting with any muggles. This leads to misunderstandings and, yes, prejudice it's true, but it’s the system we have to work with.”
Tony nodded. “I understand; many people in the Muggle world have prejudices as well, whether they are based on race, class or gender, but that doesn’t make them right. In my world we believe in equality. We don’t always succeed, but we try. I am willing to do whatever it takes to prove I can take care of Harry. I just wish I didn’t feel like everything was stacked against me from the get-go.”
Minerva reached over and squeezed Tony’s shoulder. “I understand your frustration. Don’t worry, it won’t be long. We want to be as prepared as possible before we take on Dumbledore. The fact that you are a muggle might make things more difficult, but once the will is unsealed you will be given custody.” “The World Court will give you a fair hearing. Agnes has assured me they will be willing to hear us out once they have all the facts. Once we have the will and you’re his official physical guardian, things will be easier. I have no doubt you are the right person to raise Harry, and everything will work out in the end, you’ll see.”
Tony smiled at that. “How can you be sure?” he asked quietly. He was determined to do his best for Harry, and he already loved him wholeheartedly, but part of Tony wondered if there wasn’t someone better out there.
“First of all because it was what James and Lily wanted and I trust their judgment. I admit I had my doubts about you at first, but I can see how much you care about Harry. Anyone who spends any time with you can see it.”
Tony nodded. “But what if they decide to take him from me?” he asked quietly. The thought of losing Harry, of having to hand him over to anyone, even someone he trusted like Minerva, was terrifying. He wasn’t going to let anyone take his kid away if he could help it, but how did he hide from magical beings? He knew he couldn’t keep Harry safe without magical help.
“Tone, Min, all done,” Harry said to him. Harry had finished his milk, and he was holding out his arms.
Tony lifted Harry out of the chair and held him tightly. “You did a really great job eating all of your food. We need to get you cleaned up, huh?” He was careful to keep his voice upbeat. Harry was watching him closely, but he didn’t seem to realize anything was amiss.
“I will not let anyone take him away from me,” he told Minerva firmly. “I’ll take him and hide if that’s what I have to do.”
Minerva shook her head and sighed. She didn’t look surprised. She reached out and ran her hand down Harry’s back. “I pray it won’t come to that, but if it does then I will help you any way I can. I failed to keep Harry safe once; I won’t let him be hurt again.”
She patted Tony on the shoulder. “Let’s not worry for now. Agnes is making a last-ditch effort to get the British Minister to do the right thing. She has convinced the French Minister to try and intercede on our behalf; with any luck court will not even be necessary.”
Tony nodded. He knew the Ministers were the wizarding leaders. He couldn’t imagine being important enough to be able to approach such powerful people as the leader of the French Wizarding world for a favor, but he was glad to have Agnes Gueron on their side.
Tony grinned at her. “That’s a deal. I’m grateful for all the help you’ve given us so far.” It seemed like a huge understatement to Tony. He hadn’t known Minerva for very long, but he believed her. Minerva had already proven that she had Harry’s best interests at heart, but his gut also told him he could trust her. Tony was good with people, but he didn’t trust easily. He rarely felt this comfortable with someone he’d just met.
Minerva smiled. It lit up her entire face. “It was my pleasure, though I wish none of this had been necessary. I only wish I could stay, but I have to get back to the school. Albus is already getting suspicious. I sent him an owl this morning and let him know I’ll be home tomorrow.”
Tony nodded. “I wish you didn’t have to go.”
She patted his hand. “I know, but we can’t hide this from Albus forever. If I’m with him I might be able to help. When you need me I’ll be back.”
“Thank You, Minerva. Harry and I are lucky to have you in our lives.”
Much to Tony’s surprise, Minerva blushed slightly. She took looked at the antique clock hanging on the wall over the sideboard. “We’re due at the shop in a few minutes.”
A few minutes later Tony found himself doubled over and gasping for air. Minerva had said a portkey wouldn’t be necessary and instead she had done something called apparition. It felt like being squeezed through a pitch black tube and Tony worried all his organs were being crushed under the pressure.
Harry hadn’t liked it either, and he was crying loudly. Minerva, who had been carrying Harry in her arms, was trying to shush him.
“Oh dear, do you need to sit down?”
Tony stood and held out his arms for Harry. The boy came to him easily, and the show of trust never failed to make his heart melt. He rubbed Harry’s back and bounced him gently. “I never want to do that again,” Tony told Minerva seriously. “That was one of the most unpleasant things I have ever experienced.”
“Most people find it unpleasant at first, but you’ll grow used to it in time. It really is the best way to travel with a young child. I’ll get you some tea that will make you feel better.”
She led Tony over to a comfortable looking chair and urged him to sit down.
Tony looked down at Harry. “You didn't like it either, did you buddy? When we get home, I promise we’ll either walk or drive everywhere. Though I’m going to have to get an appropriate car.” Tony frowned. Thank goodness no one drove station wagons anymore. McGee was never going to stop teasing him for the rest of his life. “I promise I’ll get us the coolest SUV they have,” he told Harry. Harry smiled and shook his snitch in Tony’s face, making the little wings flap.
Minerva brought over a cup of tea for Tony. “Drink this. You’ll feel better.”
Tony took the tea and drank. Much to his surprise his stomach settled.
Tony imagined what it would be like to bring Harry home. “I’m going to have to buy you all kinds of new stuff, buddy. Clothes, furniture, and toys. We’re going to have to find a new place to live. I only have one bedroom at my place.” The list was overwhelming, but exciting too. Tony found himself looking forward to the future. He hadn’t realized how predictable and boring his life had become or how lonely he had been. He kissed the top of Harry’s head.
“Toys?” Harry asked hopefully, and Tony laughed.
“Yeah, buddy, okay. Let’s go.”
He took Harry over to the small toy section, and his little boy had a ball playing with all the different stuffed animals. The stuffed animals all moved, and some of them even talked. Tony even saw a little toy broom, but luckily Harry showed no interest in it. He didn’t care what the sales associate claimed, it couldn’t be safe for a child of Harry’s age to be flying around. Minerva came over and with a flick of her wand made several of the toys dance, making Harry and Tony laugh. Harry’s giggles were such a sweet sound; Tony hoped to hear it often. Harry’s favorite thing was a soft pillow shaped like a unicorn. He fell asleep hugging it close.
There was a brief argument over who would pay, one that Tony lost. The shop didn’t take his credit card. He finally agreed to allow Minerva to pay, but he promised himself he’d get his money changed to wizarding money as soon as possible. He wanted to argue about buying robes for himself, but in the end, he stayed quiet. “I’m going to pay you back,” he told Minerva firmly. She just smiled and nodded.
It was time to get Tony some robes. They left the store and walked down the street. Tony carried a still sleeping Harry in Harry. At this hour of the day, there were few people on the street. Most people he saw were wearing robes in all sorts of different colors, but there were a few wearing regular clothes as well.
They entered the small store, and, like the clothing store, it was free of other customers. Inside they were greeted by a very old man who introduced himself as Mr. Winthrop. He smiled brightly at Tony and Harry.
“Isn’t he beautiful? He’s the same age as one of my great-grandsons. You can lay him down over there.” He pointed to a small sofa in one corner of the store. It was far enough from the door that Tony was comfortable leaving him there. Tony sat? Harry on the small couch while he got measured for new robes. A younger man appeared to do his measurements and show him fabric samples.
He spoke to Tony in rapid French and looked very unimpressed when he realized Tony didn’t understand. The older man smiled apologetically and translated for Tony as they went along. Their professionalism impressed Tony, and he relaxed. Tony recognized a master craftsman when he saw one.
Tony wasn’t sure how he felt about the robes, but he had to admit they didn’t look too bad. Tony agreed to have a couple made; hopefully he would be leaving for home before he needed more.
Tony heard the bell over the door jingle, and grinned as Kelly entered.
“Kel!” he called out. “What do you think?” he asked, motioning to the deep gray robe he was wearing. “I look pretty good, don’t you think?”
Kelly let out a low whistle. “Looking good, DiNozzo,” she said with a grin. “What do you think?”
“I’m not sure. It’s different. It looks pretty good, but it feels weird. I feel like I’m wearing a costume.”
Kelly nodded. “It felt odd for me at first too, but you get used to it. Those really do look good on you.”
Tony grinned. “Thanks, kid. Not that I’m not happy to see you, but I thought you were busy today.”
Kelly grinned, and she bounced a little. “I was, but I have really good news, and I had to come to share it with you right away.”
Tony’s heart sped up. He suspected he knew why she was here. He hoped so anyway.
Kelly paused and grinned at him.
She was teasing him. Tony thought about waiting her out, but he knew he didn’t have the patience. “Well,” he said finally.
“Madame Gueron and the French Minister managed to get a copy of the Potter will. Apparently the Potter lawyer kept an extra copy he didn’t tell anyone about. He was more than happy to give it to the Minister, and he asked me to tell you he’s at your disposal if you need him. That way there will be no official record of the will being unsealed. At least not until we’re ready. Lily and James named you as one of Harry’s guardians and also named you as one of the managers for their estate.”
Tony closed his eyes for a moment. He had known this was the case, but having proof was a big relief. They would be ready for Dumbledore when he came after them and come he would, everyone agreed on that. The worry that had been with him since he’d heard of Lily’s death eased a little. This was a good sign. Having proof of Lily and James wishes, while not a guarantee that he would gain custody of Harry, did smooth the way for him quite a bit.
Minerva had assured him that just like in the non-magical world courts tended to respect the parents’ wishes in regards to the guardianship of their child. The fact that he wasn’t magical was still a problem, but he could certainly prove he could take care of Harry. He wanted to go back to D.C. That was his first choice. However, it was a relief to know if they had to stay in London he would have access to James' and Lily’s home here.
The issue of a magical guardian still worried him, but he could work with Minerva or Agnes. He knew Minerva intended to offer, and he hoped she was chosen. Apparently, the family magic would choose, though Tony didn’t yet understand how it worked. If it couldn’t be Minerva, he hoped the magic picked someone who would be willing to meet him halfway.
“Thanks, Kelly, for coming to tell me right away. It’s really good news. Now I can petition for permanent custody.”
Kelly nodded. ”Agnes already has her lawyers working on it.” She squeezed Tony’s shoulder. “I have a really good feeling about this, Tony. I just know it’s all going to work out.”
Tony nodded, but he didn’t respond. He fervently hoped she was right.
Suddenly wanting to be near his son, Tony went over to the couch where Harry was still asleep.
Tony picked up Harry for the trip home. Harry woke up despite his best efforts and grinned at him sleepily.
“Hi, baby. Did you have a good nap?” he asked Harry.
Harry frowned at him. ‘I not baby. I Harry,” he told Tony seriously.
Tony bit back a laugh. “My mistake. Harry, did you sleep well?”
Harry nodded. He yawned and leaned his head against Tony’s shoulder. “I hungry,” he said, looking at Tony curiously. “Tone hungry too?”
Tony's stomach rumbled in response. “I sure am. We’ll head home soon, and get some lunch.”
Harry grinned happily. “We both eat, and get ice cream!” It wasn’t a question. He was going to have to be careful, or Harry would have him wrapped around his finger. Still, the progress Harry had made in such a short time was wonderful to see.
Tony grinned. “If you eat all your lunch, then yes, we can have some ice cream.” He tickled Harry gently, and he giggled.
As Harry snuggled into him, Tony found himself smiling. This was all so new and yet it felt so right. There were still so many things to be sorted out. He had a fight ahead of him, will or no will. Harry’s people wouldn’t want to let him go, and he had to do something about his job. His vacation time would run out soon. Tony resolved not to worry for the moment. It had been a great day. He looked forward to many more days like today for many years to come.