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Riddles, Politics and Treacle Tarts

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Chapter One

 

It was strange and surreal. Sirius was gone. And it was as if the whole world just moved on without him and nobody cared. Except for Harry. And it hurt so much, just thinking about it. Sometimes, Harry wondered if he truly cared about Sirius, or was it the idea of what Sirius could be to him that he missed so much. The idea of having real family. Either way, Harry hurt. And then, one horrible day in early July, that letter came.

 

Harry held the parchment in his shaking hands as he looked at the imposing closed door before him. He was at Gringotts, all by himself. He hadn’t told Ron and Hermione about this. He felt that he had to do it on his own, to do something privately that validated Sirius’ existence somehow. So here he was. He, Harry James Potter-Black, Boy-Who-Lived, and, apparently, blood-adopted son of Sirius Orion Black, sole heir to the many Black fortunes and estates, and now Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black. 

 

Somewhere, in whatever remote and obscure location she was buried at, Walburga Black was spinning madly in her grave.

 

“Ripgut can see you now, Lord Potter-Black.” 

 

Harry looked up- looked down at the goblin before him and stared for a bit. He was Lord Potter-Black now. Well. It was different. It was scary, unknown. But it was also exciting. To have something of Sirius’ that meant he would not be forgotten. Something that he would proudly carry till the rest of his life. 

He gave the goblin a tight smile and a nod, before getting up and entering the imposing office.

 

Ripgut had been the Blacks’ accountant, or that was as close as Harry could put it that made sense to him. In essence, Ripgut was so much more and the goblin made sure to put that particular fact into Harry’s mind before they got on with business.

 

“Lord Potter-Black. Your esteemed Lord Father, the late Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black, Lord Sirius Orion Black, has left you everything to his name, including his seat on the Wizengamot. Now, due to his status as a criminal among your kind, Lord Black had been unable to participate in the Wizengamot’s proceedings. You, however, Lord Potter-Black, you are capable of filling that unfortunate and unforgivable gap. Quite trying times are ahead of us both, Lord Potter-Black. You are now the Head of a Family that consists of a single member- you. I’d suggest you begin making alliances and connections as soon as possible. Someone in your delicate situation bears to lose a lot more than their life, if I may so tell you, Lord Potter-Black. After all, if such power lands in the hands of the less savory, it would be… tragic for your entire Wizarding community here on the Isles. Do I make myself clear, Lord Potter-Black, or is this overwhelmed and stupefied expression on your face your default state of being?” 

 

Harry stared. And stared. And stared. It was going to be a long day.

 

Three hours later found Harry at Madam Malkin’s shopping for what Ripgut called “the most expensive and stylish official looking clothes you can find. You must look better than what you look now. If even a shoelace is out of place, the sharks of the Wizengamot would ridicule you for years to come.” 

 

—-

Around 9 pm an irate Aunt Petunia found her nephew looking like somebody had kissed him and then slapped him with a 4 day old fish that had been left out to dry in the sun. In summer. Needless to say, the woman didn’t even bother berating him, as she was too tired with dealing with him and his kind on a daily basis. 

 

Send us a letter if you see him, they had said. Not even if her life depended on it!

 

Three days later and Harry figured he had a huge problem on his hands. Or, rather, on his head. Ever since he was a small child, his hair had been the topic of many of Aunt Petunia’s  rages. It does not set. It does not take to being cut. And, what was worse, it did not care that there was such a thing as gravity. Harry had tried cutting it himself, but it only made him look worse. Luckily, his magical hair grew back to that same bird’s nest overnight and now he was back at square one. Well, time to suck up his dignity and ask the one person in the household that has any idea about what looks proper - Aunt Petunia.

 

“And why exactly do I have to bother with you and your freaky hair, boy?”

 

“Uhm.” Harry looked down at his feet and shuffled for a bit, very uncomfortable by his aunt’s stare. He’d never been comfortable with attention, really. Sometimes he just wished he could breeze by people without them bothering him. After last year that feeling had intensified ten fold.

 

“Well? For crying out loud boy, if you expect to get anything in life you have to speak up. And look at me when I talk to you! It’s like you’ve never heard of manners! Straighten those shoulders and look at me in the eyes! Stop shuffling on your feet like a small child! There! At least I know you can listen and follow instructions. So, what do you want? And speak clearly!” 

 

“I need to be present for an official meeting and my hair is-”

“A bird’s nest. Yes, I am well aware of that. What do you want me to do? Unlike your unnatural kind, I can’t pull miracles out of my pockets left, right and center.” 

 

“ Can anything be done at all, Aunt Petunia?” 

 

She harrumphed and pursed her already thin lips to become an even thinner line.

 

“How important is this… official meeting of yours?” 

 

Harry contemplated for a few moments how to answer her. When he could not find the right words to appease her question, he ran upstairs and brought his official invitation to take part in the Wizengamot session this Friday. That was three days from today.

 

“You have a parliament? And they want you of all people to- A child! A child that cannot even look me in the eye when I speak to- Boy, eyes on me when I talk to you!”

 

“Y-yes, Aunt Petunia.”

 

“I have some idea what can be done. And do not for one second think I am doing this for you! You will be present in front of an entire assembly of gentlemen, freakish and unnatural as they are, and you will not embarrass my family with your...whatever you do on a daily basis.” 

 

“Mrs. Polkiss goes to this hairdresser in London. She has five hairs on a good day and that woman seems to do miracles with Mrs. Polkiss. We are having tea this afternoon and when I return, I expect the house and garden to be spotless. Do you understand me, boy?”

 

“ Yes, Aunt Petunia! Perfectly clear! Thank you, Aunt Petunia!” 

 

The woman rolled her eyes at her nephew. Harry, thank Merlin, did not have much to clean up as the house was always in a constant state of supreme cleanliness. The garden patch was a whole other topic altogether. So Harry did what he did best, he bit the inside of his cheeks so he doesn’t say something uncouth and he prepared himself for a few hours of grueling work in the sun. 

 

Aunt Petunia returned to find her home in a satisfactory enough state and with her nephew looking positively exhausted. She yelled at him for a good five minutes about the importance of personal hygiene and to pray she doesn’t find a single muddy footprints in the house or so help her.

 

Wednesday found Harry in London with his aunt and cousin. The hairdresser’s salon he had been taken to looked extremely fancy and expensive. All the more reason for him to feel uncomfortable and extremely awkward with his current surroundings. His hairdresser was a tall, lean woman with a platinum dyed hair held in a tight bun much like Professor McGonagall.

 

“Look at you, sweetie! Who do I have to kill to have hair like yours! It’s really thick and healthy! And all over the place! So, what’s it gonna be, honey?” 

 

“Uhm, something official looking, please?”

 

“You are so cute! Such a treat! Sandra over there usually gets the cute shy ones, but I guess it’s my lucky day today!” she smiled and winked at him playfully and Harry felt his face heating up. His blush reached his ears and neck.

 

Jane, his hairdresser, quickly figured out exactly what to do with this bashful boy’s hair. She spent a moderate amount of time working her fingers into his scalp, massaging and spreading whatever serum or concoction she had put on his head. Honestly, harry had very little idea how much time had passed because he fell asleep some 5 minutes after she began the treatment, the noises from the other hairdressers be damned. It was like he was a small black kitten being showered with pets and rubs, as Jane oh so smugly put it. 

 

In all honesty, he did not think his hair looked that different from before but now it was softer, there was some sort of order to the usually completely chaotic bird’s nest he had on top of his head and… dare he say it? Harry felt handsome.

 

—-

 

The next time Harry went to Diagon Alley, it was early Thursday morning. All of his clothes had been done by then and the lady of the store, Madam Malkin herself, had him try them on in case anything needed final adjustments.

 

“Mr. Potter. I must say the green robes look simply gorgeous on you. Now if only we could do something about those horrible glasses of yours. Can you take them off for a second, my dear? I would like to see how you look without them.” 

 

Harry smiled at the old witch and quickly removed his glasses. The world became a blur but Madam Malkin was close enough for him to see her smile like grandmothers smile at their children when they had done something right.

 

“Truly, Mr. Potter, you will be a heartbreaker. No! You are a heartbreaker! Say, do you have a girlfriend? No? A boyfriend maybe? That shy, bashful smile of yours will be the cause of murder one day! Oh, silly me, I really run my mouth sometimes, don’t I? Such trying times, what with You-Know-Who being back. But you have been saying this for such a long time. And the Ministry never apologized either!” 

 

“It’s fine, Madam Malkin. I, er, don’t subscribe to the Daily Prophet, so if I don’t read the articles, they don’t offend me.”

 

“Even so, Mr. Potter. A man must always protect his reputation. What if one of your friends were targeted? Would you sit idly and do nothing? I highly doubt a Gryffindor like you would leave such things as they are.” 

 

“You are right, Madam Malkin. I won’t. I just don’t like to cause trouble. It finds me on its own, you see.”

 

“Oh, you sweet, sweet boy! You really should try and apply yourself more! And you still have the strength within to keep on smiling like this. I always knew you were good, Mr. Potter. For all these years you have visited me for your school robes, never once did you strike me as a lying child. There has always been this thing about you, Mr. Potter. An innate nobility if you will.” Madam Malkin sighed and shook her head at him, looking wistful.

 

“You could become great many things, Mr. Potter. I am sure of it. And, if what my niece says about you, and no, Mr. Potter, I will not tell you who she is, then I know for certain you have honor and courage in spades. And a tremendous sense of justice. In these dark times, what with the Dark Lord back, you give us little people hope. Just be as you are, Mr. Potter. I will ask nothing more of you!” 

 

After such poetic and heartfelt declarations, Harry could not help himself but blush and stare at his shoes. He wondered where had people like her been when he needed them the most last year? When people called him a liar and a lunatic. It was a bittersweet feeling mixed in with something warm and hopeful. He left Madam Malkin’s with more questions in his heart and mind than he had before. And in all of this, he could not find it in himself to write to Ron or Hermione. Or the order. And… and there was Dumbledore, too! He was still angry at the man. He was still angry at himself. 

 

Hell. This whole Wizengamot thing was almost as overwhelming as the Prophecy had been. He felt helpless. But he also felt an ever so tiny sliver of hope within him that maybe, just the barest bit of maybe, he could be able to do something. He wasn’t just Harry. He wasn’t just the Boy-Who-Lived. He was Lord Potter-Black now. A lord patriarch of two practically dead pureblood family lines. He, a half-blood raised by muggles!

 

Friday came surprisingly fast for Harry. He wore his best clothes. Merlin! Even Aunt Petunia had helped him out with that. He could hardly associate the young man in the mirror with himself, even if he still looked like himself. Well. His hair was a stylish hurricane, his robes were crips and sharp, of the blackest, finest linen-cotton blend that Madam Malkin had access too and… he felt good about himself. He held his shoulders straight. He looked his mirror self in the eyes, kept his breathing even. 

 

He was Lord Harry James Potter-Black. He was Lord Patriarch of House Potter and House Black. He bore the legacy of two of the greatest wizarding families in Britain.

 

“Here goes nothing.” he said quietly to himself.

 

—-

 

Entering the Ministry had been just as easy as it had been a few months ago. A cold, numb feeling swept through him as he watched the now pristine halls, the cracks, the debris and the damage of the battle that was fought was only something his mind’s eye could see. As he passed by, the sounds of Bellatrix’s mad laughter haunted his ears, now merely an echo of a memory compared to the nightmares he had in the first few weeks. The Ministry’s halls left him quiet, somber and ever so slightly listless.

 

Harry looked around himself. The Session was to start in one hour. And he was all on his own in here. People were walking past him and everyone seemed to be in some sort of hurry. There was a tenseness in the air, a certain strain in everybody’s eyes. There was a feverishness that he could not solely explain with Voldemort. True, they, the Ministry, had finally started to move against the Dark Lord, but what was going on before him felt… panicky.

 

It was as if something had happened and he had no idea why. For the first time ever he bemoaned his decision to not subscribe to the Daily Prophet. Mayhap then he’d been aware of what was going on.

 

Harry walked forward slowly, almost leisurely but with a false purpose to his movements. He still had no idea where to go, but at least this way he wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb. It was a little trick he learned early on in life, back when he still went to muggle school. It had been a surprisingly effective tactic to mingle in large crowds in order to avoid Dudley’s gang.

 

Maybe he looked too refined compared to his usual self. Maybe his little trick kept people from taking notice. Maybe whatever was going on had been that much trouble that anything and everything else was to take second place and below.

 

“...those muggleborn fools!”

 

“The ICW have lost their…”

 

“...is Dumbledore doing with all of…”

 

“Are they out of their minds to accept that proposal!”

 

“That’s what we get for getting Dumbledore sacked from the ICW.”

 

“But wasn’t he all for muggleborn rights?”

 

Such snippets were caught by Harry’s ears as he passed people by. What had muggleborns done? What did Dumbledore have to do with all of this? Just what in Merlin’s name was going on? He needed to find out.

 

But first, he needed to find the Wizengamot courtroom.

 

For that, Harry followed the most fancily dressed official looking wizard he saw, still clearly remembering Ripgut’s words about the Wizengamot dress code. He had no idea who he had been following for the past 20 minutes. But it got the job done. Eventually. Somehow.

 

With Gryffindoor steel in his back, his heart in his throat and his wand in his brand new dragon leather holder attached to his wrist, Lord Potter-Black opened the doors leading to the grand chamber of the Wizengamot, ready to make history.

 

—-

 

“May Lord Harry James Potter-Black please step forward.” 

 

His heart was thumping in his ears, and he felt a bit faint with nerves. But he still held his head high and his back and shoulders straight. He kept his stride at a slightly slower than his usual pace, opting for safety more so than the risk of stumbling down these finely carpeted stairs and making a fool of himself on the first day. Harry still couldn’t believe he was doing this on his own. 

 

“I, Harry James Potter-Black, Lord Patriarch of the Noble House of Potter, Lord Patriarch of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, present myself to the Members of the Wizengamot to lay claim to the seats of Houses Potter and Black.” 

 

Silence reigned. Then murmurs exploded. Seeing as nobody was telling him to do anything, or not to do anything, Harry took his leave from the podium and walked back to his seat in the Potter cubicle, again with that same measured stride he had used on the way down. 

 

Murmurs grew into fervent talking.

 

“Order!” a wizard at the centermost seat yelled, sparks flying from his outstretched wand. Harry did not know who he was, but he was pretty certain the last time he had seen such a seat, it had been occupied by Fudge. Where was Fudge, by the way?

 

It took a few more powerful bursts of wand lights to settle the members of the Wizengamot. Was his presence here truly that strange? Was it a problem? He really could’ve used Hermione in here. Or Mr. Weasly. He would’ve known what to do. Well, it was too late for that now and Harry blamed his inherent Gryffindor impulsiveness.

 

The Potter cubicle seemed freshly cleaned and kept in proper shape, despite not having seen use in well over 18 years, if the ledger before him was saying the truth. The tapestry was red and gold, and a dark wood accentuated everything, from the floor, to the furniture, to the ceiling and fence decorative bits. He wasn’t big on understanding the qualities and colors of wood, but he fancied the wood to be mahogany.

 

“ May Lord Marvolo Gaunt please step forward!” 

 

Marvolo? Harry was taken from his musings by a familiar sounding name. 

 

“No way!” he exclaimed quietly to himself as he dragged his chair forward and leaned himself a bit as well, to see what was going on better. There was absolutely no way Voldemort was doing this.

 

No. He was doing this. He was doing this so well, as if nobody knew where the name Marvolo came from (and Harry realized they in all probability really didn’t). What were the chances the two of them would be doing the same thing, on the same day, really?

 

What Harry really should’ve been asking himself right now, however, was: What were the chances of him leaving the Ministry alive?

 

Lord Voldemort, under the guise of this Lord Marvolo Gaunt, began to speak.

 

“I, Lord Marvolo Gaunt, Lord Patriarch of the Noble House of Gaunt, Heir of Slytherin, present myself to the Members of the Wizengamot to lay claim to the seats of Houses Gaunt and Slytherin.” 

 

As he stepped down, the young man turned his calm gaze straight towards Harry. He seemed exactly like he remembered him, that day in the Chamber of Secrets. Only older. With wider shoulders, a bit more meat on him, like his Uncle Vernon would’ve said. There was a certain air of superiority and power about him that sent shivers down Harry’s spine.

 

That dark chestnut hair of his was perfect as always, with that curled lock of hair falling over one side of his forehead. His robes were impeccable as well, not that Harry had much experience judging people’s robes and fashions. The man down there, the man he just shared a second of intense eye contact. That was Lord Voldemort. And that man, that incredibly handsome and stylish man that made Harry feel like an inadequate fool for even being here… That man, Lord Marvolo Gaunt, made everyone gobble up that lie he had turned himself into straight from the palm of his hands.

 

What the hell had Harry gotten himself into?