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The Girl Who Lived In Three Castles

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It was an uneasy Vernon Dursley that walked into the dimly lit pub. He was no stranger to pubs, but this was his first time coming to do something that was...well illegal. He’d done shady before, but this was very different. There was a moment where he hesitated, then he shook his head bullishly. He had to though. This was important, he had to do it. For his family, for Dudley. So he walked towards the back corner, sliding into a booth across from the only man in the pub as large as he was. 

“Ah, Vernon, good to see you!” The large Russian boomed, grinning and sliding a beer across the booth.

“It’s good to see you too Boris.” Vernon said, a bit uneasy still but grateful for the beer. That wasn’t the man’s real name he knew, but it seemed to amuse his friend to be called such and he wasn’t going to get into a fight with a mobster over names. 

It was strange, in his opinion, someone like him being friends with a violent criminal (though more than a few of his employees would have disagreed with that assessment). The man’s...organization was fond of Grunnings’ drills, and he’d arrived one day to discuss with Vernon a large purchase, which he wanted at a steep discount. Nobody had bothered to tell Vernon what exactly the man did (he’d missed a discrete memo) and so he had responded with a less than pleasant attitude towards what he merely saw as a cheapskate foreigner. Boris had mistaken his ignorance for cheek though, and responded with genuine amusement at the ‘brave’ businessman. It’d be a stretch to say they were close, but Vernon spent a night at the pub with the man every few months. 

“What can I do for you my friend?” Boris asked as Vernon took a long gulp of his beer. “You said you needed a favor?” He raised an eyebrow at this. Generally the most criminal thing Vernon ever did was spend time with Boris. Asking for a favor was new. Vernon nodded quickly.

“Yes.” He said, resisting the urge to glance around the pub. Boris was careful with things, no need to look guilty. “My wife’s sister and her husband died recently.” He began. Boris inclined his head.

“My condolences.” Vernon jerked his head in thanks. It really wasn’t the time or place to get into Petunia’s issues with the late Potters. No need to complicate things.

“The problem is, my wife’s sister was part of a rather...insular and weird community. And they had a daughter. A one year old daughter. Their friends dropped her off at our house. Left her swaddled on the doorstep with a letter. A letter . We can’t take care of her, we’re having enough trouble with Dudley.” Boris raised an eyebrow at this again. He knew Vernon’s financial situation well, and that Petunia was a stay at home mother who was proud to be such. But he didn’t comment. It wasn’t his place, nor his business. “I...I know your lot does...adoptions. I want you to take the girl, find her a different family. Preferably on the continent, so they can’t find her and put her back with us.” 

Boris blinked a few times, staring silently at Vernon. Being asked to traffic a child was not the favor he’d expected to be asked. But, he could do it. If a baby was being placed on a doorstep to begin with, that made the whole thing easier. The girl being left with the Dursleys was illegal to begin with. She might not even have proper records. Much simpler than usual. 

“I can do this.” Boris said finally, nodding. “But you owe me. Moving a child like this, especially across borders, is risky, very illegal, harsh sentences.” Vernon nodded quickly.

“Of course, of course, I didn’t expect any less.” He assured the man. Boris hummed, then nodded, clapping his hands.

“Okay then! It will be taken care of. Now, let us drink, and speak of more pleasant things. How is Petunia, aside from this unpleasantness?”

 

One Week Later

 

Albus Dumbledore sank into his chair with a long sigh. It was the first time he’d been able to let himself relax since Voldemort’s death. Reconstruction was messy business, and victory didn’t mean normalcy was immediate. It had been difficult after defeating Gellert too, but he didn’t remember it being this hard. Perhaps his age was catching up with him, or perhaps it was just that he’d been more entrenched in this war overall. Regardless, the Ministry had picked itself up enough for him to take a short rest. 

He closed his eyes, then opened them again as something intruded on his mind. He hadn’t checked on young Harriet recently. It had been a week since he left her with her aunt and uncle, and while he’d glanced at his monitoring device a few times in the early days, he’d been distracted by the tragedy of the Longbottoms. He let out another sigh and stood up from his chair, walking to his devices, tapping one with his wand. His brow furrowed at the results, and he checked the device carefully for any problems before tapping it twice more. Each time however the results were the same. It couldn’t find Harriet. Either Lily’s protection had somehow adapted to block out his monitoring, she wasn’t with her aunt, uncle, and cousin anymore, or she had...died. He moved to another device, tapping it as well, and frowned as it reported that the protection had faded, gone dormant for lack of a better term. 

His first instinct was to go to the Dursleys’ himself, but he dismissed that. It was still morning, and he was aware that he stood out in Muggle company, even dressed as them. Appearing himself would only antagonize Petunia and her husband, and make it harder to get answers. No, he’d send someone else, and look into the possible culprits from another angle. He walked over to his fireplace, gathering a handful of Floo Powder. Minerva would not be happy about this.

And indeed, once she’d arrived in his office and heard the news, she was not happy. “What do you mean she’s gone?” She snapped, eyes blazing. Albus shook his head slowly.

“Something has happened. I do not know what, exactly. The protections placed by Lily’s death still guard that house, but they have gone dormant. That means she is still alive, but has gone quite far from the house indeed. She hadn’t spent long enough there for them to latch onto the house properly.” He rubbed a hand over his eyes. “I need you to go there, in Muggle clothing. Watch them in your animagus form for some time, then, if you do not see anything, confront them directly. We need to find out what happened to Harriet.” Minerva nodded shortly.

“And you Albus?”

“The protections should have kept the Death Eaters out, but I do not know how well they would have guarded against a Muggle they coerced. It would stop the Imperius, but perhaps not if the Muggle went in under threats. I will go to Azkaban, and speak to Sirius. He may know something.” Minerva scowled.

“And you think he will talk?” Albus gave a small shrug.

“Truthfully I do not know, but even if not I might still glean something from the encounter. He was never the most subtle person.” He paused, frowning. That was a point on its own. There was...something...off with Sirius’ betrayal, but he didn’t know what it was. Another thing to consider. 

 

One Hour Later

 

Albus scowled as he stood before Sirius Black’s cell, glancing at the Dementors. He twitched his wand, and his Patronus moved further afield, pushing the hooded entities away. Really he felt vaguely insulted by the insistence of the prison staff that he be accompanied by them. Did they really think he was in danger here? Surrounded by the weakened and dazed prisoners in their cells?

Though Sirius seemed...unusually stable, even for a man who’d been in his cell for a little less than a week. The young man looked at him. “What’s the matter Professor?” He asked dryly, voice weak but taunting. Dumbledore looked around, then flicked his wand, putting up a privacy barrier. This was not something that needed to reach the public ear. 

“Harriet has gone missing.” He said bluntly. “I was wondering if you might have something to say about that.” What blood had been in Sirius’ face drained, and he sat upright. 

“What?” Dumbledore frowned.

“Harriet was placed in a home after the events of this last Halloween. It was heavily warded, but she’s gone now. I was hoping you might be willing to offer up some theories as to how that happened.” He watched Sirius intently, stone faced as the young man grasped the bars of his cell door and got his face as close to Dumbledore’s as he could.

“You...how could you let that happen?” He demanded. Dumbledore sighed.

“I was rather distracted by your cousin’s actions.” He said. “As well as the general chaos that comes with cleaning up a war. They were the strongest wards I could imagine, and only two other people besides me knew her location. I thought I could leave her be for a short time. But clearly I was mistaken. I know she still lives, but not her location.” 

“You have to get me out of here Professor.” Sirius pleaded. “A trial, I need a trial. With Veritaserum!” Dumbledore paused, mind running through the events since Sirius’ arrest. He realized then that no, the man had not actually gotten a trial. It had been rushed through by Crouch, before his recent, disastrous drop in popularity and with it influence. Another addition to his increasingly large list of failures and mistakes. “I was willing to stay in here, but not if Harriet’s in danger!”

“If you’re innocent, why would you wish to stay in here?” Dumbledore asked carefully. Sirius let out a noise that could be considered laughter, if one were charitable.

“I’m not innocent. I’m the one who persuaded Lily and James to make that...that rat bastard the Secret Keeper instead of me. It’s my fault that they were betrayed, even if I didn’t betray them myself. This…” He looked around his cell and swallowed. “This is just. But not if Harriet needs help. I was an auror, and a damn good one. Get me out, and I’ll find her.” Dumbledore paused, staring deep into Sirius’ eyes, then nodded. 

“I’ll get you a trial, with Veritaserum. If you’re being honest with me Sirius, we will discuss where to go from there.” He said finally. 

“Thank you Professor.” 

 

Four Hours Later

 

Dumbledore sank into his chair once more. It had been a hard fight to get Minister Milicent Bagnold to allow a trial for Sirius, but at the end of the day he had more political clout than her, or anyone else in the Ministry for that matter, and she knew it. It had twisted his stomach to use such methods, but ultimately he knew it had been necessary. He’d managed to keep Harriet’s name out of it, focusing on the fact that if they were wrong about who Voldemort’s spy and right hand had been then there was still a potentially serious threat out in the world. The thought of being the Minister who let the Dark Lord’s spy walk free had spurred Milicent to agree to not just have the trial but to fast track it, and to approve the use of Veritaserum. As the head of the Wizengamot Dumbledore could do that himself, but it was helpful to have her support on such matters.

There was a flare of green flames, and Dumbledore looked over to see an unusually drawn and angry looking Minerva stepping through the fire. His concern grew as she ignored him, going straight for his liquor cabinet instead. He watched silently as she opened his oldest bottle of scotch, a gift from the Flamels, and poured herself a glass, downing it all before pouring a second.

“Minerva?” He asked cautiously. She turned and looked at him and conjured a chair, one as soft and plush as his own, much to his alarm. “I take it the news is bad then.”

“They...sold her.” Minerva bit out. “Or donated her to someone to sell rather.” She took a long gulp, and eyed the bottle like she was considering drinking directly from it. “Muggles still have a black market for adoptions, did you know?” Dumbledore blinked, dismay open on his face. He had kept an eye on the Dursley’s, for Lily’s sake. Petunia may have hated Lily, but the hatred was not mutual. At least, not enough that Petunia wouldn’t have been an adequate hostage to draw Lily (and likely James) out. And while he’d considered the Muggle couple to be unpleasant, he hadn’t considered them so much so that they’d do something so...unsavory. 

“They were reluctant to talk.” Minerva admitted. “But after I transfigured their couch into a tiger they gave me answers.” 

“You didn’t…”

“Neither of them were harmed.” She said, shaking a head. “Didn’t even let it swipe at them. But its presence was enough to get me a name, and that the...the transaction happened three days prior.” She made a strangled noise. “Apparently they paid extra to shuffle her around once she left the country, to make it harder for us to find her. They paid someone to hide their niece.” She shook her head and finished off the scotch in her glass. “What are we going to do, Albus?”

“Sirius...is quite possibly innocent.” Dumbledore said after a long moment of silence. “I have secured a trial for him, one that will be happening shortly. Should it go well, and he proves to be innocent, he’ll set out to hunt down and find Harriet. Possibly with Alastor’s help, if I can find a good excuse for him to join the hunt to tell the Ministry. If he’s innocent, we’ll let Sirius decide who tells Remus. But it has to be kept a secret beyond that.” 

“Because Molly will murder us in our sleep if she finds out?” Minerva asked dryly. 

“Because if the news gets out there’ll be a panic.” Dumbledore replied. Then he twitched his lips in spite of himself. “But also...yes.”

 

Three Days Later

 

The man Vernon Dursley knew as Boris was relaxing in his flat, watching television while nursing a glass of vodka and debating calling for a woman when his door was blasted down. He jerked, eyes wide, but before he could do more than begin to move for his gun his body went still. He collapsed back onto his armchair at an awkward angle, stiff as a board and helpless. He watched as the figure, a tall, well built, young man, waved a stick and the door went back into place, trapping him in the room with his attacker. The man waved his stick a few more times, muttering under his breath all the while, then walked over to Boris.

“Hello there Boris.” He said, with an unnerving manic cheer to his voice. The gangster watched as the young man twirled his stick, and thick black chains formed around his body. The intruder sat down on the ottoman, staring at him. “We’re going to have a talk about a baby you recently...relocated for one Vernon Dursley. I’m going to need to know everything you know. And, to avoid the bluster you might be boldly conjuring up…” 

The man waved his stick...his wand, Boris realized, this was some sort of wizard. He waved his wand, and casually set a stack of newspapers Boris had let pile up on fire. A second wave froze the paper and the flames. A third wave turned the frozen mass into a large, growling dog. A fourth wave somehow cleaved straight through the armchair Boris was on, barely missing him but leaving the mobster thinking of samurai movies all the same. The young man raised an eyebrow, then waved his wand one more time, and Boris felt the stiffness leave his body.

“I’ll talk. I’ll tell you everything.” He promised. The man grinned, and it sent as much fear through Boris as the displays of magic had. 

 

Six Years Later

 

Alessandro Brambilla, professional hit wizard for the Italian Ministry of Magic, cursed as he ran through the fields. Three trolls had been spotted leaving their normal range, out of the Alps and into the farm land at the base of the range. Two of the trolls were accounted for, dead before they could do more than ruin some crops and kill a goat, but one had been a bit faster, a bit craftier, and gotten away. That might have been the end of it, if they hadn’t heard the screams. 

He leapt over the fence, and stared with dismay at the sight in front of him. A young child knelt on the ground, shaking the body of an adult he assumed was her father, the body of what he guessed was her mother close by. He swallowed, then glanced around. Not seeing the troll, he nodded at his partner, Lorenzo. He’d comfort the girl, but somebody needed to keep looking for and deal with the troll. 

“Hey there little one.” Alessandro said gently, moving slowly at a crouch towards the girl. She stared up at him, eyes a vivid green behind her glasses. “Can you tell me what happened here?” She sobbed, then slowly nodded. 

“I was helping Mama in the kitchen when we heard noises and Papa shouting. Papa flew out of the field and landed here, and he didn’t move. Mama ran out...she told me to stay inside but then a monster came...and then it hit Mama…” She dissolved into tears at that point, shaking her head and shoving harder at her dead father’s body. Alessandro swallowed. This happened occasionally, being too late to save everybody, but it hurt him every time. Especially when there were children left in the wake. 

“Little one?” Alessandro looked up, frowning as he saw Lorenzo walking back to them. “What happened to the monster?” Alessandro wanted to yell at his partner for asking a grieving child what had happened instead of using his own senses, but something in the other wizard’s face made him stop. The young girl swallowed, and looked up at Lorenzo. 

“I...I followed Mama outside, and saw the monster hit her. I screamed, and I ran back for the house but it...it followed me. It scared me, and I didn’t want it to hit me. If it hit me I wouldn’t...wouldn’t be able to help Mama and Papa. So I...closed my eyes, and when I opened them, there was ice in the monster.” Alessandro blinked and stood up, trusting Lorenzo to keep an eye on and comfort the girl, and walked to the back of the house. Sure enough, there was the corpse of the troll, an icicle so large he could only think to call it excessive impaled through its chest. 

In spite of himself he whistled. Accidental magic could do some crazy things. Things that would require an immense amount of skill and power for someone to do consciously. Still, even by that standard this was impressive. He ran a hand through his hair as he considered the realization that the girl was a witch, despite her parents. As much as he hated to think it, it might be for the best. They wouldn’t have to alter her memories for one thing. Painful as they’d be, it’d be for her benefit in the long run to remember the death of her parents, memories like that had a tendency to fight obliviation and cause trauma subconsciously. For another, the Ministry could just do more for a witch child then they could for a Muggle one. 

He sighed and walked over to the girl, quietly pulling out his wand. “Come on little one, let’s get you somewhere safe.” He murmured, casting a sleeping charm before she could react. He wasn’t about to drag a child away, kicking and screaming from her parents’ bodies, but he also wasn’t about to try and logic her into leaving them to instead come with some strangers. He scooped up her limp body, nodding in thanks as Lorenzo began putting stasis and privacy spells on the bodies and the farm as a whole. They’d arrange a funeral and everything else later, when there was time. As he carried the little girl off, Alessandro noticed a lightning bolt shaped scar on the girl’s forehead and let out a small hum, wondering how she’d gotten such a uniquely shaped wound. It was far from the most pressing matter, but still, he couldn’t help but wonder it’s story.