Harry let out a less than quiet breath as the phone booth door clicked shut. He didn’t really think anyone was going to stop him, not yet at least. He was just walking down the street after all, and he doubted a stranger would recognize him. Honestly, he wasn’t entirely convinced someone who knew him well would recognize him right now. Not wearing his aunt’s broad rimmed black sunhat (he’d taken off the flower, but that didn’t really make it look that much better really), or with a very thick robe stuffed mostly into his jumper, though it kept falling out so the whole thing had to stuffed into his trousers a little. It felt weird just walking onto the bus in his robes. He probably would have done it anyway, but sneaking out of the Dursleys' in a bottle green set of dress robes wasn’t something he was really up for trying that morning.
What was the code for ministry entry again? Oh, yeah. It spelled magic. How absolutely original. 62442 and he was in. The air shimmered as the box he was standing in began to expand and decend. Harry hastily shed his jumper, nearly toppling himself and accidentally removing the robe as well. He scrambled to everything back on and had his jumper thoroughly caught around his face when a pleasant female voice echoed lightly around the now brass and wood elevator.
“Welcome to the Ministry of Magic. Please state your name and the purpose of your visit.”
Harry bit his lip and pulled the jumper down. He couldn’t very well say that he, the great and mighty Boy Who Lived, had come to see about the will of a man who most people didn’t even know was dead and possibly more importantly he was supposed to hate. Actually, it was really not an option to say he was Harry Bloody Potter at all. He didn’t have to be Hermione to puzzle that out. Might actually be a death sentence for him at this point, given his experiences with the ministry. Harry blinked, then snickered softly.
“Rigor Mortis, here to, uh,” Harry stumbled for a moment, “look at some things.” Hopefully that would be enough.
It was. A shiny badge shot of a small slot on the wall and presented itself, floating in front of him. Harry plucked it from the air and squinted. It read:
LORD RIGOURE MORTIS
LOOK AT SOME THINGS
“Have a wonderful day!” The voice chimed.
Harry blinked. Lord? He hadn’t said that. The spelling was odd too. The teenager shrugged, and pinned the little piece of brass to his robes. The elevator seemed to be going slower than he remembered, but that was okay. Harry rocked back and forth on his heels as he waited the last few moments for the brass box to reach its destination. His feet squished coldly in his soaked trainers, and Harry wondered idly if he should look into buying a new pair while he was in the city. He didn’t have much muggle money on him, but he might have enough to get a pair.
So lost in thought, he almost missed the little chime as the elevator door opened.
Harry blinked. He had to stop himself from doing something very stupid, like screaming in a public place or trying to run and plowing into a wall.
Waiting a small distance from the exit to the elevator were the absolute last people he’d wanted to see. There stood Lucius Malfoy, looking about as composed as ever, though the sheen of sweat on the edges of his brow and the way his faint smile looked like it could shatter at any moment somewhat soured the image of perfect pureblood Lord. Next to him Fudge, whose trembling hands squeezed each other white. There was a woman too, he didn’t know her but her stern and monocled form reminded him of a particularly cross McGonagall.
Fudge, the useless slimeball, stepped forward a single pace and bowed. At him. To him. Oh no. Maybe there was someone else next to him? Harry’s eyes swept all around. There was no one. The impressive entrance hall was impressively empty, unlike the last time when he had visited, when it was impressively loud and full and colorful. Oh no.
“Lord Mortis?” The Minister inquired, voice carefully steady and tone deliberately . . . Something Harry couldn’t exactly pinpoint. Something important. On either side of him the other two tensed, shoulders becoming impossibly straight.
A long squawking noise startled the minister from his mid afternoon grooming. Fudge sighed, set down his small tortoise shell pot of hair potion on his desk in between neat piles of parchment, and stood. He walked over to the tall, gilded grandfather clock set against the wall not five feet to the left of his desk. For all that the noise was truly obnoxious, the device itself was very helpful. After all, any competent minister should know when important people enter the building. Or at least when the name tag is made. It gave him a chance to meet and greet anyone worth knowing in person. Made a very good impression when the minister personally saw to the needs of whoever it was that day from the very start, no dillying or dallying.
The man wondered who it was this time. Maybe a diplomat of some sort he’d forgotten was coming? Perhaps some scholarly type he had never heard of before, here to unleash their newest discovery? He looked at the name written in the blank circle that replaced the clock face. He froze. Blinked. Rubbed his eyes. Looked again, eyes tracing the bold lettering, as if the ink might rearrange itself any moment now. It didn’t, the name printed above ominously still.
LORD RIGOURE MORTIS, it proclaimed.
Fudge felt his blood freeze, starting with his fingertips and spreading in a way that felt unbearably slow but could not have taken more than a second.
“Marissa!” He called, his voice a loud croak.
“Yes sir?” His secretary peeked her head through the door.
“Get me Lucius and Bones. Now.” He was still frozen, staring. “And clear the atrium.”
She blinked twice, opened her mouth once, closed it, and replied. “Of course sir.”
She closed the door.
Mortis. The name echoed in his head. There hadn’t been a single sighting of the family for over two centuries. And now one had walked into his ministry. His ministry. Heart beating in overtime, as if to make up for the ice still flooding his veins and pounding in his ears, Fudge stumbled back to his seat and collapsed into it. The large leather chair usually felt like a throne, but now it felt rather fittingly like a coffin. Mortis. The family was named so aptly. Necromancy was a whim to them. Death followed the Mortis name in what little of the family history was even known.
At least they were a secluded, paranoid bunch. Or so he had thought. If he was being entirely honest, it was the well held belief that the Mortises had died out. Perhaps it was more of a hope. Not that anyone dared breathe such a thing out loud. Now one had waltzed right through his front door. And he was not lucky enough to have it be a lesser family member, he had to contend with the Lord of them all.
For a brief moment it crossed his mind that maybe this was an impersonation. Perhaps a pretender or some joke? But no. That was impossible. No one would dare. The last impersonator had ended up splattered against a Diagon storefront two decades and some change ago. That hope was dashed.
He had no idea what to do.
He was very suddenly glad the charms controlling the speed the lift made the descent much slower for anyone of importance, so he could have some time to gather himself and get down to greet them. He had a little time, maybe a few minutes. It was something at least.
Amelia Bones marched into the office without so much as a knock. While she was a very important person in pureblood circles in her own right and the Department Head of the DMLE, that was not why he had asked for her presence here today. It was a little known fact nowadays that the Bones were a vassal family for the Mortises. It was barely a footnote to those who did know, at least on days not today, seeing as the family had been so quiet for so long.
Fudge lifted his head, hand pulling up with it to gesture weakly to the clock like an inelegant marionette. Bones looked annoyed, but didn’t comment and turned to the intricate golden pillar. She paled, a heavy breath pushing out of her. She turned wide eyes to the minister. Not a wise thing to do, he probably had less idea about what should be done than her.
Lucius took that moment to knock politely at the door, entering a half second later without waiting to be invited. The Lord took a moment to assess the situation, scanning the room for anything that could have frozen its occupants so effectively. It was obvious when his eyes caught the source. He choked on his own breath descending into a small coughing fit.
Fudge, sweaty and weak kneed, gestured for them to follow him and headed out the doors to the atrium. Three pairs of shoes clicked softly on the stone of the hall floors.
It was Bones who spoke first. “What . . . What are we going to do?”
An uneasy silence curled around the party. They reached a turn, only two more to the atrium.
“Maybe we should see why the Lord is here first?” Lucius suggested, having successfully wrangled most of his usual composure into place. Thee other two nodded to themselves, not having any better ideas. It would have to do.
The silence of the walk to the lift doors was tense. The silence waiting for it to open was bloody.
The gleaming doors parted with a pleasant “ting”. Fudge swore his heart nearly burst.
Standing there, eyes hidden in the shadow of a large cloth hat, was Lord Mortis. He seemed to loom over them all, back straight and shoulders hunched forwards just slightly. The Lord was shorter than he imagined, with dark hair wafting out from under the hat, brushing like feathers against unhealthy paled skin. Draped over the Lord’s frame were robes of obvious quality. Robes the poisonous green of the killing curse. Fudge held in a shiver and resisted the urge to dab at his brow with the kerchief in his pocket. The Lord stood deadly still, obviously waiting for them to make the first move.
Fudge strode forwards as confidently as his trembling legs were capable of. “Lord Mortis?” He enquired as politely as he could. Even though he could not read the brass nameplate the figure had pinned on, he was certain he was not mistaken as to the Lord’s identity. It was still polite to ask.
The figure twitched, but what they could see of Lord Mortis’ expression did not. Had he done something wrong? He had done something wrong.
Harry just knew he was in a deep, deep pile of dragon shit now. One that reached miles above his head. At least they didn’t know who he was? He was so dead.
Oh. They expected him to answer. If Lucius heard his voice he was screwed though. It would all be over. He tried to deepen his voice.
“I am.” Oh Merlin, did he sound lame. He had no idea what he was supposed to say. And he was sure he sounded like one of those seven year olds trying to imitate deep adult voices. He just knew it. Was he supposed to say something more proper? He already sounded like a massive, Malfoy’s Dad level git.
A wave of something . . . magical surged inside him, spilling out into the room with an almost physical force. It almost felt as it it was spilling into him and through him, something almost foreign but unmistakably his own. What the bloody hell was that? Great, just great. Absolutely fan frigging tastic. Just his luck he was some sort of magic fog machine and only now discovering it. He had the worst timing.
“Is there something we might assist you with, Lord Mortis?” Fudge looked like he was about to piss himself. Harry had to bite back a laugh. He might be completely, utterly in over his head and all of two seconds away from being discovered, but that was funny. He officially had another solid Patronus memory.
“I need to look at the will of Sirius Black.” There wasn’t really a way to just slip in and out quietly now, but he didn’t really know where to look in the first place so maybe this would speed things along. They could point him in the right direction and everyone could forget this ever happened. Yeah. Like that would happen.
The woman sucked in a soft breath. Fudge squeaked. Actually squeaked.
Harry crossed his fingers covertly behind his back and really, really hoped he wouldn’t be found out. Not after all this. Whatever this was.
“I am.” Mortis spoke, voice deep and menacing, seeming to boom out across the room despite the low volume of the words themselves.
Lucius pointedly did not twitch as powerful Death Magic oozed and curled out of the robed figure, sweeping through the room like floodwater. It would be impolite to react. Possibly. He was entirely unsure as to what the etiquette in this situation actually was. He just hoped he did not offend the obviously powerful Lord. This was really not his day.
Fudge wobbled forward, sweaty hands folded together tightly. Lucius prayed he didn’t say anything that would doom them all.
“Is there something we might assist you with, Lord Mortis?” Honestly, the man looked like he was about to soil himself.
At least it was a useful question. The Death Eater held his breath, hoping Lord Mortis might reveal some hint as to the purpose of his visit. Anything at all. Maybe they could get the immensely, impressively powerful Lord out of here without too much trouble.
“I need to look at the will of Sirius Black.”
Lucius did not outwardly react Merlin damn it al. He was supposed to have Draco quietly claim the Black inheritance without anyone the wiser. Next to no one knew the man was even dead. It was supposed to be a win for his family. Not that he was going to bring that up. He might work under a Dark Lord of questionable sanity and a penchant fot random violence, but he wasn't suicidal.
Bones sucked in a breath.
Damn it all to burning times and back again. Wills weren’t even dealt with or stored here. They would be with a close family member or the goblins. In this case he bet on the latter. It has to be some sort of test. Lord Mortis was testing them.
Lucius stepped forward before either of his companions could sentence them all to an early grave. “Right away Lord Mortis. If you would do me the honor of following me to a more comfortable waiting room, sir.”
Lord Mortis nodded slowly, the faintest waves of malice wafting off him like a perfume. Lucius started to sweat. Had he offended Lord Mortis? How had he offended Lord Mortis? Was there any way to rectify this before he and the rest of his living (and possibly dead) kin were turned to puppets to satisfy the Lord’s temper?
“Just this way, Lord Mortis.” Lucius knew he was visibly sweating now. He took a step back and half turned on his heel so he was more or less facing with his back to the lift, but with enough turn left that a he wouldn’t have to swing his head dramatically to catch sight of the Lord.
The soul wrenchingly terrifying waves of malice didn’t abate, but the did not increase either. Lucius almost sighed in relief, but that would have been uncouth. Impolite. Potentially fatal.
He started walking, carefully not too fast or too slow, in the direction of one of the ministry’s nicest and most comfortable sitting rooms. It was a very important place, where very important people discussed very important things. It was also likely a deciding factor in how dead he would be when this was all over. Lucius hoped it was good enough.
Lord Mortis’ footfalls were light, practically silent even in the empty atrium. The sound itself was a wet thing, one that made Lucius restrain a shudder.
An eternity later Lucius stepped up to the thick wood door and opened it with a slow grace, bowing deeply at the waist. He swung one arm across his body to present the open entrance to the Lord.
A snap of deepening anger cracked out from dangerous Lord and struck the bowing pureblood like a knife. Breath caught like a bludger in his throat. Lord Mortis stepped forwards. The Death Eater prayed it would be quick, but held little hope.
Lord Mortis stepped past him into the room.
Lucius’ tense muscles trembled in relief and he barely caught a whimper before it exited his throat.
Lucius straightened, pulling the last of his composure tightly around him. “Is the room to your taste?”He addressed the green robed figure.
“. . . Yes.” Lord Mortis spoke slowly.
“If you would excuse me, I will bring the will before you shortly.” The pale man swallowed around a sandpaper tongue as subtly as he could.
The seconds stretched by, then Lord Mortis gave him a single sharp nod.
Lucius bowed again and closed the door as quietly as he could, then slumped against it, knees all but giving out entirely. He let out a shaky breath.
“Is . . . ” Fudge trailed off, staring at his closest advisor with wide eyes, wringing his hands.
Lucius catapulted himself into a straight backed standing position, imaginary wrinkles from his robes with shaking hands. “I will be back with Black’s will as soon as I am able.” He strode forward and was in the lift before either of the other people in the room thought to open their mouths.
Harry had been waiting in that room for a long time, and as comfortable as the couch was it was very bare and he was left alone with his thoughts. Which lead to his current issue: Harry was confused. Very, very confused. Malfoy’s dad had bowed to him. At least, he was pretty sure that had happened. They couldn’t have known he has himself, could they? No. No, they thought he was someone important. Someone important enough that Lucius Malfoy had bowed to him. Well, shite.
He sighed heavily. At least he was getting Sirius’ will. After he had died, and damn did that still hurt to think about, Hermione had grilled Ron about how wills in the wizarding world worked. Ron hadn’t known a whole lot, and Harry hadn’t been paying attention as well as he probably should have been. He hadn’t really been in the mood to talk much, or do anything much really, but his friends did their best to make sure he could get anything Sirius had wanted him to have. He was glad they had gotten it right about where the wills were held. Neither Ron nor Hermione had been exactly sure where will were kept, but they decided it made sense that they were held in the main government building. All he had to do was touch the will and, well, he didn’t know what would happen exactly, but Sirius had to have left him something. He hoped.
Harry bit the inside of his cheek, eyes tearing up and the back of throat burned. Sirius wouldn’t . . . he wouldn’t want him to cry anymore. He’d cried so much, if he owed his godfather anything he owed it to him to stop that and try to be happy. One deep breath and Harry shook his head once harshly, as if he could physically dislodge the reaction. He just wanted to stop feeling so helpless, wanted to break something. Badly. So badly it snapped inside him like firecrackers. He grit his teeth against tears and anger.
Harry opened his eyes, blinking away the spots that came from screwing them closed like he had. What? He looked around, brow furrowed and lips drawn in confusion. He glanced down at his lap once he’d swept the room to stare at the hands resting on his knees.
There was a . . . Was that a dead mouse? On his lap, a mostly complete skeleton of a small mouse sat perched on its hindquarters. It’s little face snuffled up at him. It was moving, and he was fairly sure that wasn’t just a figment of his imagination. Any trail of thought he’d had before crashed violently to a halt, leaving confused static in it’s wake. The little jaw opened a crack.
“Squeak.” More subdued this time, but he’d definitely heard it.
Harry pulled his brows down and together and tugged at his lip with gentile teeth, head spinning dizzyingly. He took a shuddering breath in and closed his eyes against the sensation. His magic was swirling around him chaotically, as it had been doing every time he got particularly emotional since fourth year. It surged beneath his skin, itching the inside and outside of his skin simultaneously. Which had been incredibly unpleasant at first but he had gotten used to, a bit, over time. It was particularly bad today though, and he cringed from it. It seemed . . . More today as well. He couldn’t explain why or how it felt like that, but it did he was sure of it.
The mouse squeaked again and even with his eyes closed his attention was pulled towards it. His magic caressed it gently, he could feel it like his hands petting soft fur. That was new, and his eyes snapped open just as his magic surged past the fir to connect to the heart of the little creature. What was that?
It didn’t look any different, all bony and dusty, though it looked to him more alive. Another differentiation he couldn’t explain. Or even define properly. He could still feel his magic twining though the little thing, still feel phantom fur over hands that were nowhere near the skeleton. He wanted to know more, see more, as much as dread filled him at the sight in front of him . . . He was curious. His magic surged in response, curling and twisting and with it flesh began crawling up the little spine slowly, from the heart outwards. It was disturbing to watch, and after a second he blinked away the sight.
He groaned, perhaps a little loud but Harry thought it was impressive he hadn’t screamed, and dropped his head in his hands. He could no longer feel ghost fur on them, which was a plus at least, he thought. Why did it always, always have to be him? Where had this even come from? Had Malfoy’s dad done something to him? He dismissed that. Probably not, since even if the man was a grade a creep he wouldn’t give Harry a new ability, or whatever this was.
When he peeked between his fingers at the little thing, it looked almost like a living mouse, having finished growing all of it’s fur and flesh back. It looked just like any other little grey mouse, except for one thing. Failty glowing killing curse green eyes stared back at his own.
Harry squeezed a strangled noise from the back of his throat. Why him, he repeated desolately, why him. He could have been normal. He would have been happy being normal. But no, of course not, he had to be The-Boy-Who-Bloody-Lived and all this other nonsense on top of it. Or perhaps because of it. Damn it all.
The mouse squeaked again, twice in quick succession as if telling him something, high pitched and urgent.
He really wanted to break something now.
The door swung opened with the faint creak of hinges and a small burst of cold air. Harry snapped his head up to glare at whoever had startled him out of his . . . not . . . brooding. Lucius Malfoy flinched back violently. Harry immediately felt a little better, and then a bit bad, and then just generally a little cross after that faded a split second later. He stopped glaring though, and felt his magic settle under his skin almost reluctantly. What was going on with that.
Malfoy’s dad took one step forwards, then another after a small pause, then another with almost careful confidence until he was standing just a few feet away. What did he think Harry was going to do, kill him? He almost laughed thinking about it. As if he even could.
“Lord Mortis, the will you requested.” Malfoy’s dad bowed low and held the small stack of parchment out in front of him.
Harry took the papers awkwardly. He didn’t really want to thank Malfoy’s dad, you know with the whole Death Eater thing and the whole he didn’t like him thing, but . . .
“Thank you,” he said slowly, trying not to sound rude. It’s not like the man knew who we was, and he didn’t want to give whatever important person he was definitely impersonating a bad name.
The man righted himself carefully. “Thank you, Lord Mortis. Is there anything else you require?”
Harry paused. Something else? He didn’t really think so. “No.”
Malfoy’s dad bowed again and backed out of the room quickly. Almost desperately, he’d say.
A moment after the door was shut, the mouse thing on his lap squeaked again. Huh. He had actually forgotten about that. One sly glance down confirmed that, yep, it was still creepy as ever. He sighed through his nose.
The papers were the important thing though, and despite being a little scared to see what was on them, Harry started to read. His eyes scanned the pages, having to skip back to read a couple things more than once, just to be sure they were real. Sirius had left him everything. Literally everything. The Black Vaults, the Lordship, the Wizen-whatever seats, even Grimmuald place. He smiled a little even as he choked back tears. Maybe it was irresponsible of the man to leave a teenager in charge of all this, but he wasn’t sure Sirius had ever been called responsible in his life, and it felt good to know how much the man had cared about him.
He cleared his throat and tried to enunciate at best he could. “I accept.” His voice was still a little croaky, but it had been enough. The papers flashed, and a cover page slipped in in front of the rest. It was some sort of summary, but it was the very top line that drew his attention.
The complete possessions, lands, and titles of Heir Sirius Black are now passed to Lord Rigoure Mortis (Previously Harry James Potter).
Previously? Was he not himself anymore? What had happened? Did it have something to do with that stupid fake name tag? He took it off and squinted at the letters. Was that what this was all about? He hoped not. Hermione would just about hide him if a fake name tag had changed his name and caused whatever all this was.
Of course, he had to live to see her first, which meant now was the time to beat a hasty escape.