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Metamorphosis

Chapter Text

The moon sat high in the sky, large and brilliant in the cloudless night. The soft light bathed the ancient forest in a gentle glow, illuminating the grass and white moonflowers that only bloomed at night.

This was one of Harry's favourite spots on Peverell Island, always calm and tranquil. The island had quickly become a place he could call home.

At first it had been strange, claiming a place for himself, building it up from the ground and nurturing it. Hogwarts would forever be his first home, the first place he felt like he belonged. But this island, it was truly his, somewhere he had set down roots, a place where he felt safe and happy. This was his home now, together with his family that consisted of both living and dead.

Harry laid down on the grass and closed his eyes. It was a pleasantly warm night and he enjoyed the quiet sounds of nature surrounding him.

Tomorrow he would be leaving for Hogwarts again, meeting old friends and enemies. As he laid there he thought back on the past month.

The letter he'd sent off to professor McGonagall had held more than just his acceptance of his place at their school. He had also reassured her that there was no need to send someone to introduce him to the magical world as they had done for his mother, Lily.

The reason for this was that his aunt still remembered where to find Diagon Alley, and as such had promised to take him before school was due to start.

This was of course a complete lie. Petunia Dursley wouldn't be caught dead somewhere so freakish, nor had she ever deigned to inform Harry that magic was real. In fact the word was a bit of a taboo at the Dursley residence, or at least it had been in his first lifetime.

Professor McGonagall didn't have to know any of that, however. Let her live with the belief that the Dursleys weren't as awful as she'd first imagined. The truth would come out sooner rather than later.

There had of course been a chance that Dumbledore would send someone, no matter what his letter said, but luckily that hadn't been the case.

When Hedwig returned, the reply from professor McGonagall had included the key to his trust vault. She informed him of the importance of keeping it safe and not letting anyone but him handle it aside from the goblins.

Neither she nor the headmaster had any idea that said key was void, nothing more than a pretty little chunk of gold.

Harry met every now and then with Kartaak, the Potter account manager, and during one of those meetings he had collected the heir ring for his family and deactivated any existing keys, that way making sure that nobody could enter his vaults. Not that there was much to steal.

The Potter family vault mostly contained furniture, weapons and books, the gold having long been spent during the first war.

It was only his trust vault that held large quantities of actual gold. Not a veritable fortune as he'd first believed when he set eyes on it at eleven years of age, but still a decent amount if spent wisely.

Harry didn't have to worry about that though. With his Peverell inheritance, not to mention all the investments he'd made as Lord Peverell, he was quite frankly filthy rich.

Harry looked up at the stars and thought back to how excited Sirius had been over the prospect of school shopping, only for him to sulk when Harry informed him that he couldn't come, and no, not even as Padfoot.

People had to see him alone. Even if he had written in his letter that his aunt Petunia would take him, that was clearly a lie, an intentional one.

The chances of Dumbledore having someone in the alley to keep an eye on him was too great, he couldn't make a mistake this early.

Before Harry could get on the train to Hogwarts he had to acquire everything from the list that had been included in his letter. He already owned most of the more practical items, and the school books were still the same as those he'd purchased second hand before he sat his OWL and NEWTs a few years back.

Regulus had wanted him to purchase new books just for the sake of his image, he was no pauper after all, but Harry thought it a waste of money. The books were fine , besides, he already knew their contents by heart and wouldn't be using them much, if at all.

That only left clothes and a wand, since he couldn't very well use the Elder Wand, nor the ebony wand that was tied to his Peverell persona.

To avoid most of the back-to-school rush, he waited until July had passed and they were well into August.

The day after his birthday, the Daily Prophet's front page was adorned with the infamous break in at Gringotts. Harry groaned.

"What's wrong?" Sirius asked, making his godson sigh and put down the Prophet.

"I forgot all about this." Harry replied as he shoved the paper across the table to Sirius, tapping the front page.

"Dumbledore is housing the Philosopher's Stone at Hogwarts this year, hoping to lure out Voldemort. He's going to be at the back of Quirrell's head the entire year." Harry despondently sighed and rubbed his temples.

Sirius frowned. "Are you sure it's the real stone? It sounds a bit… suspicious."

Harry snorted. "Trust me, the thought has crossed me more than once, but I have no way of finding out unless I steal it to run some tests." Which was tempting… Very tempting. Not because he wanted immortality or gold, he already had plenty of that, but because he was curious.

What made the Philosopher's Stone so unique? And if it truly was the real deal, how could Dumbledore be so incredibly foolish as to hide it behind traps that even a first year could surpass?

"So, are you gonna steal it then?" Sirius asked unconcerned as he buttered his toast.

Harry hummed. He hadn't originally considered that a possibility but now he did. "Perhaps."

In all honesty it would be ridiculously easy. The only thing that could have deterred him would have been the mirror of Erised, but seeing as he had no desire to use the stone, even that was a moot point. Dumbledore really had fucked up with the protections hadn't he?

~

Ollivander's wand shop was just as Harry remembered it, cramped, dusty and filled with wands from top to bottom.

The man himself, Mr Garrick Ollivander, hid in the shadows ready to surprise his newest customer.

"Hello Mr Ollivander." Harry said before the wandmaker could start his weird 'Harry Potter' spiel. He stared right at him.

Ollivander startled, not used to being detected before he got to make his entrance, and when he stepped into the dim light he eyed the young boy with shrewd scrutiny.

"Mr Potter, I thought I would see you soon." The wandmaker mused out loud.

The conversation went much like it had the first time around, with Ollivander detailing the wands he had sold to Harry's parents.

Next came finding the one most suited to him. Harry felt like he tried every damn wand in the shop. Some of them were usable but none were right. He wondered if it had taken this long in his past life before Ollivander mentioned the holly wand, or if it was just his perception of things being different.

He was so tempted to ask about the holly and Phoenix feather wand just to make things go quicker, but he kept quiet, there was no way he could have known about it after all.

Eventually, Ollivander went to the back of his shop to fetch said wand. Harry felt excitement beginning to build, it had been his first wand and he still loved it dearly. His faithful holly wand had been with him through thick and thin.

"Go on, give it a try." Ollivander said and held it out towards the young boy, eyes shining with anticipation.

Harry wrapped his fingers around the hilt. Warmth spread up his hand and he was sure he could hear Fawkes' beautiful song lift his spirit.

At first the warmth in his hand had been comfortable, but it grew hotter and hotter, so much so that he instinctively opened his hand with a yelp.

The wand clattered against the wooden floor and a bright red and gold flame burned through the holly wand until there was nothing left but a pile of ash.

Harry stared at it with wide eyes. He thought he could see something red poking out of the grey ash, and when he crouched down to pull at it, an entire feather followed. Like a baby Phoenix it rose from the ashes after a burning day.

He stood there holding the wand core in shocked silence. "I-I'm sorry?" He hesitantly said. He honestly had no idea what had just happened.

He was hit with a feeling of sorrow for the destroyed wand that had been like a faithful friend over many years, but perhaps it was still possible to use Fawkes' feather, Harry really hoped so.

Ollivander looked gobsmacked as well, and he struggled to take his eyes off the feather in Harry's hand. With a sharp intake of air the wandmaker turned on his heel and disappeared into the back of the shop.

Harry was left standing in bewildered uncertainty. "Mr Ollivander?" He hesitantly called out.

Sure he didn't really need a wand to perform magic, but Harry Potter couldn't be without a wand… the media attention would be massive, and not in a good way.

"Sir?" He tried again, a little louder this time as he peered over the counter, trying to catch a glimpse of the man.

He could hear faint muttering but was unable to make out what was being said. He had a niggling suspicion it was about him and what had just happened though.

The seconds ticked by and Harry wondered if Mr Ollivander planned on returning at all. He was just getting ready to walk into the wandmaker's workshop when the man himself returned.

His pale, blue eyes studied him in an eerie way that made Harry want to squirm. Thankfully he'd gained much better control over his own body and expressions than he had in the past, so outwardly he remained confused and innocent.

"It is most unusual for a core to reject a wood so resolutely after its successful creation." Mr Ollivander murmured, scrutinizing Harry and the Phoenix feather with keen eyes.

"I didn't mean for it to happen." Harry said with a frown. "Will you be able to fix it, sir?"

"Hmm, no I'm sure you didn't. And yes, seeing as the core is still intact and seemingly bonded to you, it is indeed fixable." Ollivander replied and turned on his heel back into the workshop.

"Come along Mr Potter, and bring the feather!"

Harry scurried after the wandmaker, listening to him mutter under his breath that holly probably wouldn't work a second time.

Ollivander's process of selecting a wand wood was entirely different from the one Madam Lavoie, the Canadian wandmaker that crafted Sirius' wand, had used.

Instead of a metal rod covered in runes, Mr Ollivander drew an intricate magical circle in chalk onto his work-bench. It was fascinating, and Harry could recognise some of the runes and how they connected to each other.

Inside the circle that surrounded the pentagram, were two smaller circles. And after placing five different blocks of wood at each point of the star, Ollivander instructed Harry to put the Phoenix feather into one of the smaller circles and his hand, palm down, in the other.

Harry did as he was told and watched in interest as the old wandmaker withdrew his own wand and began to chant. The runes and pentagram lit up but didn't burn the wooden work-bench like his own experiences with rituals, possibly because there was no blood involved, Harry mused.

Like with Madam Lavoie's process, Harry had no clue what was actually happening. Garrick Ollivander on the other hand seemed to gain information from the different colours the chalk had taken on.

Once the chanting stopped, the glow died down and the chalk was once again just chalk. Ollivander removed four of the wooden blocks and replaced them with new ones. The process repeated several times, and in the end, there was only one block left.

Harry had no idea what type it was. The wood was a creamy brown colour, and he wondered if perhaps it could be hawthorn. He expected Ollivander to reveal the wood immediately, but when he looked up at the man his face was ashen.

"Are you alright sir?" Harry asked. Because as a matter of fact, Mr Ollivander did not look alright, he had the appearance of someone who'd just had a meeting with a Boggart.

The wandmaker's eyes were glued to the block of wood and swallowed hard. "Yes, yes, I'm perfectly fine Mr Potter." He replied, but his voice was hoarse and distant.

"Leave the phoenix feather and come back in a week." The man murmured, ushering Harry out of the door with a faraway look in his eyes.

That had… not gone as expected. Harry blinked slowly at the sign Mr Ollivander had hung up on the door. The shop was closed for the next four hours… what on earth had startled the man so?

"I swear that man gets odder the older he becomes." Regulus muttered, just as confused about what had happened.  

Harry hummed quietly in agreement and figured he might as well get the rest of his shopping done since he was already in the Alley.

~

The following week passed quickly and Harry was once again back in Diagon, making his way over to Ollivander's shop.

As soon as Mr Ollivander spotted him, the man's face blanched and he stared for a second before scurrying into the back of the workshop. When he returned he looked both nauseous and intrigued, holding a long wand box like the ones piled up in the shop's tall shelves.

Ollivander's gaze was heavy, as if he was scrutinizing Harry's character, but in the end, he probably came to the conclusion that it didn't matter. He was a wandmaker, a neutral party whose job was to provide magical foci to both good and bad.

Pale, callused fingers lifted out a beautifully carved wand. The main part of the wood was lighter than its original block, with the natural grain showing through in places and having taken on a creamy tan colour.

There was a carved tendril wrapping around the handle that had been stained a darker shade of brown, and where the handle ended and the shaft began, the wood widened into a rounded bulb before continuing to a tapered end.

Harry eyed the wand with curiosity. It looked so unlike any of his other wands. It was a gorgeous piece of art.

"I think it is time you tried your new wand now Mr Potter." Ollivander said, his attention not once having strayed from the blackhaired boy in front of him.

Normally, the wandmaker would have regaled the wand in as much detail as he could, prattling on about its characteristics and components, but not this time. Harry didn't pay any attention to that fact however, too enchanted by the wand itself.

He reached out and softly let his fingers grasp the hilt. The warmth was there, stronger than ever. It raced up his arm, filling his entire body from head to toe with love and encouragement.

An invisible wind ruffled Harry's black locks, and a golden glow illuminated the tiny shop, emanating from the tip of the wand.

His blood and magic sang in unison with the new wand.

"How curious." Ollivander murmured, still looking rattled yet intrigued.

"What is?" Harry absentmindedly asked.

"Your wand Mr Potter. Yew and Phoenix feather, 13 inches, unyielding…"

Harry grew completely still. Yew… that was the wood Voldemort's wand had been. He didn't let his surprise show however.

"Yew wands are rare and have a notorious reputation in certain circles. Some think it is a wood for wizards with an inclination for curses and the Dark Arts, but it can just as easily be used by Healers and those who are a fierce protector of others. What is certain, is that yew wands never choose a weak companion. After all… He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named certainly couldn't be called weak. He did great things. Terrible, yes, but great." The old man mused, seemingly lost in memories of the past.

No, Voldemort didn't do great things, Harry thought, but Tom Riddle could have…

Mr Ollivander snapped out of his strange mood and continued to speak. He told Harry of Fawkes, the headmaster's Phoenix, and how he had only ever given two feathers. One now resided within his wand, and the other belonged to the Dark Lord.

Harry already knew this of course, but that was also where the known information stopped and the new shocks began.

"Not only is the core of your wand the same as the one who gave you that scar, so is the wood. Both wands were created with yew from the same tree and feathers from the same Phoenix. I think we can expect great things from you Mr Potter, great things indeed."

Chapter Text

It was September 1st, the day the train was due to leave for Hogwarts. For the longest time Harry had pondered whether going to Hogwarts was actually necessary, after all it wasn't as if he'd be learning much, if anything. But he wasn't really attending for the education now was he? No, Hogwarts was an important step for his many plans that had been years in the making. 

He didn't particularly wish to deal with children again after so many years, but it was a necessary discomfort. First there was the diadem that he wished to collect, second, he hoped to rehome the Basilisk onto his island if it was still sane enough, and third, the Philosopher's Stone. He didn't know if Dumbledore had actually gotten his hands on the real stone, but either way, Harry planned on stealing it. 

In addition, if he just didn't show up at all, then the wizarding world would have a fit of massive proportions. It would also leave the Potter seat at the Wizengamot unused. 

Harry considered himself lucky when he found an empty compartment on the Hogwarts Express. He had made sure to arrive slightly earlier than in his first life so he wouldn't have to bump into the Weasleys on the platform. He still held fond memories of them, but over the years he had been allowed to see the family from a different perspective. Oh he had nothing against them, in fact he still cared for them greatly, but he was no longer blinded by his desperate need for family and friends. 

As he sat down on the padded bench, Harry looked out the window of his compartment. Students and relatives milled about on the platform like a buzzy beehive. Mothers gave their children hugs and kisses, fathers patted their children's shoulders and siblings whined because they were too young to join. It was all very bittersweet. 

Harry could remember how, on his first train ride, he had been filled with longing and jealousy for the love everyone seemed to bask in except for him. Now though, now it was the complete opposite. He had a family who he loved fiercely, and they in return loved him just as much. He was no longer the neglected orphan but a cherished family member. 

Sirius had wanted to come and see him off but Harry had to deny the request. Even in a different body it would be suspicious of him to have someone follow him to the platform. Of course, he could have posed as Petunia, but that would have ruined part of his later plans. He did not want anyone to think he and the Dursleys were in any way, shape, or form on good terms. 

A soft smile played on his lips as he finally caught sight of a familiar shock of red hair that joined the sea of people. The Weasley family had arrived. 

Over the years, Harry had gotten the chance to watch them all grow, the twins more than the others. He was not ashamed to admit they were his favourite Weasleys this time around. He had kept visiting them as a crow, bringing gifts, and in return for their 'worship' he became their deepest confidante. 

They told him everything. How their father never had much time for them because he was always working, how their mother was disappointed with their mischief and poor grades, always comparing them to their older brothers. They confessed that the sorting hat had said they would do well in Slytherin, but that they had been too scared of what their family might think and so ended up in Gryffindor like the rest. 

The two of them had ambitions in life, they wanted to open up their own joke shop. That had been their dream for as long as Harry had known them, and he knew for a fact that one day they would accomplish that. For how could they not when Lord Peverell provided financial support? Of course they didn't know that detail yet, but soon they would.

It hasn't escaped his notice how Mrs Weasley kept looking around for something, or rather, someone, the entire time. The closer they got to eleven the more worried she seemed to become. 

Harry frowned. Dumbledore must have asked her to keep an eye out for him. It was the only logical conclusion. Just like in his first life. Because no intelligent witch, and Mrs Weasley was far from an idiot, would loudly speak about muggles and magic in a crowded non-magical area surrounded by those not in on the secret. He had come to the conclusion that she was trying to stand out and grab his attention, which had been a success since he knew nothing about the wizarding world nor how to get onto the platform. 

Still, if Mrs Weasley expected to see him this time she would be sorely disappointed. 

The Hogwarts express gave a loud whistle, signalling that it was about to leave the station. Harry looked away from the many family members waiting to see off their children and instead dug out the Gameboy he had purchased upon its release. 

For the first time in life he had the option of getting whatever he wanted, and if that was a silly, handheld gaming system then so be it. He remembered envying Dudley for owning one as soon as it was released in Britain, never once getting a chance to play on it himself. 

At first he had been hesitant about getting it due to how it might react with his magic, he clearly remembered how everyone had said magic and technology didn't mix. But that didn't make sense now did it? 

If magic made all electronics explode or go haywire, how come there were no such incidents in London? Diagon Alley was saturated with magic, down to every last cobblestone. If there was any truth to the theory, besides 'everyone knows it', then the magical district would have been found out by muggles a long time ago due to massive power outages.

Likewise, magic and muggle technology could be combined, Sirius' flying motorbike and Mr Weasley's Ford Anglia was solid proof of that. 

Harry wondered why the misconception had become so commonplace. He did by no means consider himself an expert on the subject, in fact he was rather poorly educated in that area, but he found it interesting. 

Unlike his first time on the Hogwarts Express, there was no Ron knocking on the door last minute saying everywhere else was full. Harry had cast a mild charm on the door that would keep away anyone who wasn't persistent in getting inside. This left him with hours of undisturbed peace where he played Tetris and nibbled on biscuits that Ditty had made for him. 

Speaking of the old elf… Harry worried about her. The magical boost he had given her when they bonded all those years ago had kept her alive and well until now, but her age was certainly showing. He knew she didn't have long left, it was sad, but such was the way of everything living, one day it had to end. 

He hoped he had been able to make her last years happy and comfortable though. Out of all the elves, she in particular was dear to him. Yes he cared about them all, but she had been the first to show him her undivided love and he tried his best to return it. 

Because of her age when she was introduced back to other elves, Ditty never had any elflings of her own. That was partially why she was so overjoyed when she got to be around the children of her kind that Harry had brought home to the island. All of the new elves had become part of her family. 

Harry's quiet playtime was interrupted by a knock on his compartment door. He blinked and looked down at his watch. Considering the time, it was probably the trolley witch. The elves had packed him both lunch and treats, but now the urge for a chocolate frog struck him. 

He slid the door open and was greeted by the trolley witch and her endless supply of Honeydukes confectionery. 

"Anything from the trolley, dear?" The elderly witch asked with a kind smile. 

"Ah, could I have five chocolate frogs, a box of Bertie Bott's and some treacle fudge please?" Harry politely answered. 

"Of course dearie. That will be 5 Sickles and 3 Knuts." The woman replied and placed all his sweets in a paper bag. 

"Thank you" Harry murmured as he fished out the correct amount of coins from his satchel and exchanged it for the bag. 

As the trolley witch moved on to the next compartment, Harry spotted a familiar little boy looking for a lost toad. He smiled softly to himself and quickly placed his sweets into his bag. 

"Excuse me, sorry to bother you, but I heard that you've lost your toad? Would you like any help finding it? I know a few spells that might do the trick." Harry kindly offered to the pudgy, blonde boy who looked like he might faint any minute from anxiety. 

"Y-you do?" Neville eyed him with hopeful nervousness, fidgeting with the hem of his robe sleeve. 

Harry nodded and kept smiling, trying to be as friendly and non-threatening as he could. "Can you tell me the toad's name?" 

"I-it's T-Trevor." The boy replied. 

Harry flicked out his yew wand, which he was still shocked about having, and proceeded to summon Trevor the toad. The two children, well one child and one adult posing as a child, waited in anxious silence for something to happen. 

"A-are you sure it worked?" Neville asked in almost a whisper, not wanting to offend Harry by saying he did something wrong. 

"Oh yes, I'm fairly certain, just give it a moment." Harry answered, and sure enough, a few seconds later a large toad zoomed through the air and smacked right into Harry's waiting hands. 

"Here you go!" The green-eyed wizard grinned widely and held out said toad towards Neville. 

The look he got was filled with admiration and awe. Had Harry been younger it would have made him uncomfortable, but now he was just glad he had been able to help out one of his friends from the past. 

"T-Thank you!" Neville stuttered out, tightly holding onto Trevor, afraid he would lose him again. 

"You're welcome." Harry smiled. "Do you want to sit with me in my compartment? It's just me so it would be nice to have some company. Obviously you don't have to, though." Harry quickly reassured, not wanting him to feel pressured or anything. 

But Neville's face lit up and he quickly nodded. "S-sure." 

The two boys entered Harry's compartment and he closed the door behind them to cut off the noise in the hallway, as well as keeping Trevor from escaping again. 

"How did you know how to do that?" Neville shyly asked once they'd sat down, his toad still firmly grasped. 

Harry shrugged. "I read a lot. Plus I practiced over the summer once I got my wand. It was a bit of a hit or a miss situation really. It might not have worked, but if it hadn't we could just have gone to an older student and have them perform the charm. Anyway, don't you have a terrarium or something to keep Trevor in? I'm sure he would feel more comfortable if he had the option to hide away. Toads are mostly nocturnal and like to hide and burrow under leaves." 

Neville looked a bit startled at the question, cheeks heating up. "I do have a terrarium, b-but it's in my trunk… uncle Algie wanted people to see Trevor. Said that people needed to see I was a proper wizard." He muttered embarrassedly and looked at the floor. 

Yes… uncle Algie. The man who'd thrown Neville out of the window just because he wanted to force the magic out of him. The urge to snap the man's wand and throw him out of the very same window was extremely strong, let's see if he bounced. 

"Your uncle Algie doesn't sound very nice." Harry replied with a frown, Neville on the other hand didn't have anything to say to that. Harry liked to think he was secretly agreeing though. 

"Well… I don't exactly have a terrarium you can use, but maybe there is something in my bag that can be a substitute for the train ride… just so Trevor doesn't escape again." 

"Y-you don't have to." Neville mumbled shyly, clearly not wanting to be a bother. 

Harry assured him that it was no problem and opened up his satchel. He dug through it, trying to find something that could be used. His hand bumped into the plastic box Ditty had placed his biscuits in, and an idea was born. 

"If we enlarge this and cut some holes in the lid for air, then it can work as a travel terrarium. I think Trevor would be much happier." Harry explained as he placed the remaining biscuits onto a handkerchief.

Neville looked curiously at the clear, plastic box with its blue handles on the sides that locked the lid in place. It was unlike anything they had at home, plastic wasn't a particularly wizarding thing. He knew of the material, but only vaguely. 

"Engorgio." Harry murmured, the spell making the plastic container and its lid grow bigger, until it was slightly larger than a shoebox. 

Next he made holes in the lid so Trevor could breathe. Obviously he could easily have transfigured a perfect terrarium for Trevor, but he couldn't show skills that were too far fetched, not yet anyway.

Still, the improvised habitat was looking decent enough. Now all it needed was some substrate and places to hide. Harry was reminded of the thick paper towels they had in the many bathrooms on the train so he told Neville he'd be right back. 

When he returned it was with slightly damp paper towels that had been ripped into leaf-sized pieces and covered about two inches of the box's bottom. 

"You can put Trevor inside now." Harry smiled and held the open container out towards the other boy. "It'll keep him safe until we get to the castle." 

Again Neville thanked him profusely and Harry just laughed it away. "You'd have done the same thing for me I'm sure." 

"I don't know… I-I'm practically a squib." The poor boy mumbled. 

"I don't believe that at all! You got a letter inviting you to Hogwarts, didn't you? If there is one thing I'm sure about, then it's the fact that all of us on this train are magical, you included." Harry replied firmly. 

Neville didn't look like he believed him, but that he would very much like to. Harry knew he'd just need time. Time and encouragement so he could grow into the kind and brave young man he'd known. 

"Anyway, I think we entirely forgot to introduce ourselves." Harry shot the other boy a sheepish look. Neville looked horrified by the social blunder they had made. 

"I'm Henry James Potter, heir to the Noble House of Potter as well as the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black, it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance." Harry smiled and held out his hand, the two heir rings now gleaming proudly on his fingers. 

Poor Neville seemed starstruck. His mouth was ajar, forming a slight o, and his eyes had immediately honed in on Harry's forehead. His cheeks flushed a deep pink when he realised how terribly rude he was behaving. 

"I-I'm N-Neville Frank Longbottom, heir to the Ancient and Noble House of Longbottom." 

Hands were shaken and Harry grinned widely once the introduction was over. 

"Would you like a chocolate frog or some Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans? I bought some from the trolley witch before we met." Harry offered, pulling the sweets out of his bag. 

Unlike Ron, Neville didn't ask to see the scar, nor question if he could remember anything of the night he got it. 

As much as he had cared for Ron over the years, he almost wished he'd been able to sit with Neville on his first ride. The boy was kind and gentle, and much more empathetic than Ronald had ever been. 

They talked, laughed and ate sweets together, undisturbed by anyone else. It was nice, and Harry thought he'd managed to coax Neville slightly out of his shell. 

"Which house do you think you'll be in?" Harry curiously asked as they traded chocolate frog cards. He already had a feeling of what the answer would be and he hoped to encourage Neville. 

The blonde boy sighed. "Probably Hufflepuff, I'm useless when it comes to magic." 

"There is nothing wrong with Hufflepuff." Harry replied, smiling warmly. "Personally I would love to be one. Who doesn't want to be surrounded by friendly and loyal people? Besides, I read that their common room looks like a warm and cosy cottage with lots of plants around since their Head of House is the Herbology professor!"  

Neville looked at him with wide eyes, and Harry hoped maybe he wouldn't dismiss the house of loyalty and hard work just because of what his horrible nan said. 

"What about you?" Neville asked quietly, appearing thoughtful. 

"Me? Oh either Slytherin or Ravenclaw I expect." Harry happily replied, ignoring how the other's eyes went wide with shock at the proclamation of Slytherin being a possibility. 

"B-but…" poor Neville appeared lost for words. "Slytherin?" He almost whispered, as if it was some horrible taboo equal with the name Voldemort. 

"Yeah! The sorting hat is going to place us in the house that matches our personality traits the best, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm very ambitious." Harry grinned. "But I also love learning and attaining knowledge so I'm not dismissing Ravenclaw entirely." 

Neville bit his bottom lip. "But Slytherin was His house." He quietly said, and Harry was relatively sure his mind was going to Bellatrix Lestrange as well. 

"I know that Neville." Harry replied sombrely. "But saying that just because one person from Slytherin did horrible things does not mean that all Slytherins are like that. We're just children, Neville, with hopes and dreams like everyone else, surely you can't think a quarter of all of Hogwarts' students are evil just because they wear silver and green? Ambition and cunning are not bad traits to have, nor is loyalty, bravery or creativity." 

Harry thought it amusing how once upon a time it had been Ignotus who gave him the same speech. He hoped Neville would think a little more on the subject instead of immediately folding into the mindset of the general public. 

"Just because one dog bites does not mean all the others of its kind will, the same goes for Slytherins. Will there be some who are mean and cruel? Yes, but that applies for all the other houses as well." Harry said before he paused, looking out of the window. 

"Do you think I'm evil Neville?" Harry asked, lacing his voice with insecurity. Was he being manipulative? Yes, but it was for Neville's own good. 

"W-what? No of course not!" The boy replied with wide eyes. 

"But you know that I'm expecting to be sorted in Slytherin. I'm no different than the rest, I'm not a hero, nor am I a villain, I'm an eleven year old kid who wants to make something out of himself. If you think all Slytherins are bad just because the Dark Lord was once a part of their house, then that means you think I'm bad as well..." 

Neville chewed at his bottom lip again, brows furrowed in a deep frown. "I don't think you're bad… It's just… " 

"You've been conditioned to think that way, I don't blame you." Harry smiled softly. "But if I do get placed into Slytherin I hope we can still be friends." 

The declaration of friendship seemed to shock Neville more than the entire conversation combined. It was sad, but Harry could deeply relate. He hadn't had any friends before he went to Hogwarts either. 

"I… I'd like that." The boy finally replied, voice quiet and laden with emotion. 

Harry beamed at him and the heavy subjects were left behind for another time. They spent the rest of the journey discussing Herbology and playing non-magical card games that Harry taught the pureblood boy. 

When they neared Hogsmeade station, Neville excused himself so he could go back to his original compartment to change into their school robes. He returned not long after, and together they left the train and followed Hagrid up the slippery path that led to the boats. 

Hogwarts was even more beautiful than Harry remembered. With her many towers and turrets she looked like something out of a fairy tale. 

The lights from hundreds of windows reflected onto the surface of the calm lake, and Harry heard gasps coming from several boats. He remembered reacting the same way his first time. Now, his heart swelled with affection. 

Oh how he had missed her, his first ever home. It was nostalgic and bittersweet, because although he had many wonderful memories within her walls of magic and friendship, there was also fear, death and war. 

Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath, knowing that it would never come to that this time around. Hogwarts and her students would be safe, he promised. 

~

After McGonagall left the first years alone to 'smarten up', the expected ghosts came crashing through the wall, startling many of the children into frightened screams. 

But unlike in his first life, the ghosts didn't chatter or show off, instead they went deathly still. They stared right in Harry's direction with blatant fear in their eyes. 

Thankfully there were so many children clumped together in that area that it was hard to tell exactly who they had been looking at, if there even was anyone in particular. 

The ghosts dispersed quickly after that, not a single word being said to the new students. 

Harry had a strong inkling they left due to his status as the Master of Death. He wondered if he had the power to send them to the afterlife and that was why they were so scared. It was definitely an interesting concept he would have to discuss with Death, not to mention keep them from talking to any of the living about it. Surely Death could threaten them a little to keep silent?

There was some talk going on about the odd behaviour of the ghosts, but it was quickly forgotten in favour of more important things, such as the sorting ceremony and what it entailed. 

"Calm down Neville, it's going to be alright. It's just a silly hat you have to try on, nothing more." Harry quietly reassured his young friend who looked like he might pass out any second. 

Ron had loudly regaled his brothers' story of having to fight a Troll for the sorting, and poor Neville had gotten so anxious that he quaked in his polished black shoes. The boy swallowed hard and nodded. 

"Besides, we'll be friends no matter which house we end up in, right?" Harry asked with a soft smile that Neville reciprocated. 

"Y-yeah." Was the nearly inaudible answer. But Harry knew the boy really meant it. There was a core of steel somewhere in there. 

McGonagall returned and brusquely told them to line up into neat rows and follow her into the great hall for their sorting. 

The ceremony itself went by without a hitch. Hermione was unsurprisingly sorted into Gryffindor as Harry expected. Just like he had convinced the hat not to place him in Slytherin the first time, he was sure she had argued fiercely in favour of Gryffindor. 

It wasn't that Harry didn't think she was brave or chivalrous, for she was both of those things, but Gryffindor wasn't the house that would make her happy. 

Hermione cared about books and marks, something that was not the case for the rest of her dorm mates. She would have fitted in much better with the Ravenclaws, at least they would have appreciated her talents instead of scorning her. Sadly she was in for some tough years ahead. 

"Longbottom, Neville!" McGonagall's crisp voice filtered through the masses and Harry gave the other boy a mild nudge and an encouraging smile. 

He was happy to see that Neville no longer seemed quite as frightened as he had been earlier. The hat sank down over the blonde boy's eyes and now all they could do was wait. 

It wasn't a quick declaration as it had been for some children, nor was it the long wait it had been for Hermione, but after a minute or so, the brim of the hat opened and shouted out "Hufflepuff!" 

The badger table clapped and cheered, happily bringing their new housemate into the fold. Harry smiled, relieved that Neville would be in a house where he might find some actual friends. 

He didn't know how hands-on Pomona Sprout was with her Head of House duties either, but he expected it to be better than McGonagall who had been next to non-existent. 

Hopefully they would pick up on him having his father's wand sooner than in Harry's first life. And if not, well, he'd just have to take matters into his own hands, wouldn't he. 

The rest of the sorting was uneventful, people went exactly where they had gone the first time.

"Potter, Harry!" McGonagall declared and the reaction was immediate. Students from every table stretched and murmured, trying to catch a glimpse of their new celebrity. Harry merely stood quietly and waited with a blank expression. 

"Potter, Harry!" She repeated, stern eyebrows knitted together in a frown as she tried to catch sight of him. But she was looking for a copy of James Potter, with wild, messy black curls and glasses, and he was not that. 

The students became even louder, meanwhile the remaining first years that had yet to be sorted, looked around themselves in obvious confusion. 

McGonagall said his name one last time before he decided to make an entrance. He raised a hand and looked at the woman with clear confusion, same as the other firsties. 

"Excuse me, ma'am. Do you mean me? My name is Henry Potter though… not Harry." He looked the picture of a perfectly polite young gentleman. 

The transfiguration professor's eyes widened when she looked at him, scanning his features and looking almost… disappointed. Clearly she had expected the familiarity of her favourite transfiguration student, not the strong resemblance to the Blacks.

"Very well. Step forward Mr Potter." She primly said and Harry did as he was told, calmly walking up to the stool and letting the hat be lowered onto his head. 

"Oh… Oh my! What an interesting life you've had Mr Potter." The sorting hat said inside his head, voice almost sounding breathless, no matter how impossible that might be when one didn't have lungs. 

"I suppose you are correct. Although interesting wouldn't have been my first choice of words." Harry replied.

"It is not often I get to sort someone twice Mr Potter, far less when they have become adults. I stand by what I said in your past however, Slytherin would have helped you on your way to greatness. But we are not here to discuss your past, or is it your future? No, I am here to sort you in the present. Hmm." 

Harry had lowered his Occlumency barriers just for this, letting the sorting hat have free access to all his memories. He wasn't worried about the hat spilling his secrets, for it was literally incapable of doing so. 

During the hat's creation there had been numerous privacy charms and runes in play. No family, noble or not, would allow their children's minds to be laid bare and possibly exposing their family secrets. 

"Although you have always shown courage in the face of what scares you most, I do not think Gryffindor would be right for you this time. And from their rambunctious nature I fear you would retreat back to your island before the year is over. No, not Gryffindor." 

Harry remained silent, letting the hat do its job. He agreed of course, no matter how much he loved the house of lions, it was not a good fit for him anymore, if it had ever been. He didn't want to be labelled a hero again.

"Hmm. I see that you are fiercely loyal to those who have earned your trust, and not one to shy away from dedicated, hard work, however your trust does not come easy, and is easily lost should you be betrayed. Still, Hufflepuff would greet you with open arms, and you would likely be happy there… if you were actually eleven." The sorting hat mused. 

Neville would probably have been overjoyed if Harry got sorted into Hufflepuff with him, but It wasn't the place for him. Sure, it would mean that people saw him as harmless, but that wouldn't be helpful for his plans, something the hat agreed with. 

"Ravenclaw and Slytherin are the most suitable candidates for your housing, as you are well aware. But which to pick! Oh you are a conundrum Mr Potter." The hat gleefully exclaimed.

"You thirst for knowledge, both for the sake of knowledge itself and also for how it might aid you with your ambitions. You are creative, a trait most sought after by Rowena's house. It's all in your head you see, your desire to create and learn. Yes, Ravenclaw would be a great fit." 

"Oh, of that I don't doubt." Harry replied. "But it is not the place I need to be to make connections. I think you already know which house I have planned and prepared for."

"Ah, yes. I do indeed. Very well, I look forward to seeing the chaos you are bound to create Mr Potter. Since you seem to have made up your mind, and I stand by my initial assessment of you, it better be…"

"SLYTHERIN!"

Chapter Text

Severus watched in horror as the Potter boy was sorted into the house of snakes. Once, the feeling might have been due to hatred, but now it was because it wasn't safe, the boy would be eaten alive! Slytherin was cutthroat at the best of times, he should know, but for someone like Potter it would be more than just tough, it would be dangerous.

A large part of the Slytherin population had parents or relatives that were on the Dark Lord's side during the war. They had felt the loss of their relatives, either to death or Azkaban, and were sure to hold a grudge against the one who vanquished their leader and in turn caused them to lose the war. 

Severus could feel a headache coming on. He had made an unbreakable vow to protect the boy, and now his job was just made ten times harder than it had to be. He wanted to close his eyes and sigh, but he had a role to play. 

A sneer found its way to his lips and he glowered at the newest addition to his house. The boy didn't seem to notice however, not once did he look up at the staff table, instead he calmly walked over to the Slytherins and sat down, right next to Draco Malfoy of all people. 

Severus found the boy's composure to be commendable. The Slytherin table had been deathly silent upon the hat's verdict, whereas several Gryffindors had shouted loudly that there had to be a mistake. And yet, despite all of that, the boy seemed unaffected, his expression one of polite disinterest rather than worry or discomfort.

Severus felt like the hat must have made a mistake as well, but the truth was right there in front of him. Harry, or was it Henry as the boy had said? Was a Slytherin, one of his little snakes. 

Through the corner of his eyes, he watched the brief, so brief that he doubted anyone else noticed, slip in the headmaster's composure and control of his magic. Like a stuttering heartbeat it flickered before once again settling down. Clearly he wasn't the only one who had expected the boy to go somewhere else. 

Dumbledore smiled magnanimously down at the gathered students, but the twinkle in his eyes was dulled with concern. 

Severus wondered what plans the headmaster had in store for the child, for he wasn't foolish enough to think otherwise. Albus was a cunning man no matter how he pretended otherwise, hiding behind his grandfatherly facade. He wasn't sadistic in the way of the Dark Lord, but he was no less of a dangerous foe.  

Albus cared about the individual, but he was a leader born to war, and in war sacrifices must be made… for the greater good. Severus just had to make sure that the greater good didn't come at the price of Lily's son. 

~

The Slytherin table was vastly different from what Harry remembered Gryffindor being like. Not to say that the table itself, or the food on top of it were any different, but the people were. The very atmosphere was tense and uncertain, perhaps even hostile from some places. 

Although he had no qualms about the house of snakes on principle, he almost felt like shuddering at how his life would have gone had he been sorted there as a child. 

He would not have been wanted. The older years especially would have made his life very, very difficult. At least… at least until his parselmouth ability was revealed. Then he suspected that they would have assumed that he was a Dark wizard and things might have gotten better. 

The feast laid out in front of them was as marvellous as ever. Harry, having been spoiled rotten by his own house-elves, didn't think it was nearly as good as the food he was used to, but it was still brilliant. It was a comfort that in this life he could eat whatever he wanted without getting sick. 

Starvation had not been a great thing. And as a young eleven year old, he had stuffed his face with all the delightful dishes he'd never gotten to try before, and ended up regurgitating it all once they got to the dorm. It was a lesson well learned. 

Dumbledore had given his warning about the third floor corridor and the 'most unpleasant death' that awaited those who tried to explore it. The fact that he was risking the lives of hundreds of children by practically inviting them into the maw of a Cerberus made Harry's blood boil. 

Outwards nothing showed. He ate his roast and treacle tart with perfect manners, never once looking up at the teachers table during the entire meal. 

A thing that had hit him one night while he planned and plotted for Hogwarts, was that his unique Occlumency barriers would be a dead giveaway for his second identity and prompt questions he'd rather not answer. 

As a result of that, Harry had taken the time to create a 'fake' mindscape so to speak. If anyone tried to enter his mind they would find moderate resistance from newly erected shields, but nothing strong enough to hold against the likes of Snape or Dumbledore. 

Once the intruder had broken through, they would find an entire childhood of fake memories. Or rather, the memories of his first childhood. His true mind and memories were hidden far beneath it all. 

And should someone actually be able to get past his fake mindscape, they would be caught up by his disturbing shield of nothingness. For if someone was as skilled and relentless as that, then the game was already up.

"First years follow me!" The voice of one of the prefects broke through his musings.

Harry could see the green and silver prefect badge gleaming on the girl's chest. He remembered having seen her a few times in his past life but never actually caught her name. 

All the first years, himself included, gathered around the girl and trailed after her like a flock of ducklings. 

She led them through the winding corridors, down into the dungeons. Eventually they reached a blank stretch of wall which Harry recognised from his second year. 

"The current password is Arnica." The prefect said, the patch of wall shifting and recreating itself to form an entrance to the Slytherin common room. 

"The password will change twice a month so remember to check the bulletin board in the common room every now and then." 

They walked through the stone passage, and into the mostly empty common room, apart from the small first years. Harry eyed the area with curiosity. 

He had been there once before with Ron, but seeing as they were Polyjuiced and trying to wrangle Draco for information about the Heir of Slytherin, he hadn't had the time to take in all the details. 

The room was beautiful in a posh, almost gothic kind of way. Black, green and silver were the most prominent colours, but instead of being gaudy it just looked luxurious. 

The wingbacks and black leather sofa in front of the fireplace looked especially comfortable and inviting. He had a feeling that the chair might end up being his spot one day. 

As he surreptitiously let his eyes roam, he noticed how there were snakes almost everywhere. Not real ones of course, but carvings, prints and paintings. Harry wondered if they could speak. It would be a marvellous tool for spying. It was something he'd have to explore later. 

"Settle down everyone!" The prefect loudly voiced once all the first years had made their way inside the common room. The children quickly fell silent, eyes glued to her. 

"Welcome to Slytherin!" She grinned widely. 

"My name is Gemma Farley and this is Daryl Morden. We are the sixth year prefects for our house." She gestured to a tall and lanky boy at her side who looked extremely bored. He gave a short nod but didn't bother to speak, instead letting Gemma be in charge.

Harry was surprised by how nice the introductory speech was. Gemma was clearly a good pick for the prefect position. She appeared warm and not at all threatening at first glance. 

She spoke of unity, of family, how Slytherin stood united in front of the other houses no matter who you were or what conflicts you had with each other. 

Regulus had given him a recounting of the so-called 'rules' of Slytherin before he arrived, and it didn't escape his notice how not much had changed on that front. 

"Before we show you to your dorms, professor Snape, who is our Head of House, would like to say a few words." 

Snape seemed to melt out of the shadows, startling several of the children who hadn't known he was there. Harry felt like rolling his eyes fondly. Snape always had to be such a dramatic prick. 

The room was entirely quiet as the tall and imposing professor stared them down. A few of the first years shifted uncomfortably where they stood, and one of the girls, he thought it might have been Tracey Davis, let out a tiny squeak of fright.

Harry didn't let it bother him. He stood calmly on his spot next to Draco Malfoy, his face a mask of polite interest. 

Snape would never be a warm person, but there was a sort of stern gentleness when he spoke to the new first years. It surprised Harry, even if it probably shouldn't. 

He wondered if the man had been like that in his past life as well, or if it was a change that had come with their deepening friendship over the years. 

"Being a Slytherin is not easy. You will be singled out, targeted, seen as cruel and evil for the green on your robes. And if there is ever an altercation between yourself and another student, chances are the odds will be severely skewed to your disadvantage once a professor or prefect of another house is involved." The professor's dark eyes studied them all with intense scrutiny, trying to get the severity across. 

"Once you leave the common room, stay together, do not wander off on your own. You must show a united front. For no matter what they might think, we are not easy prey. We are not weak. You are all Slytherins, resourcefulness, ambition and cunning is what brought you here. Use it for all that it is worth. For the next seven years, Slytherin will be your family. We take care of our own, you'll do well to remember that." He paused dramatically, letting the message sink in.

"If you face any problems or have any concerns, seek out the prefects. If they cannot help, or if it is something you do not wish to discuss with them, my office door is open after 5pm. Do not abuse that privilege." Snape's voice held a warning note and his eyes narrowed as he surveyed the gathered students. 

"Do I make myself clear?" His baritone voice was the only thing that could be heard in the large room. 

Harry watched the man closely and was pleased to see that the expected hatred geared towards him was more of a simmering disdain. He could deal with that. 

"Yes sir." He politely replied, seeing as the professor was waiting for a verbal confirmation. 

For the briefest moment, black eyes met green. Snape was assessing him, but there was no hint of Legilimency being used. 

A smattering of students copied Harry's approach, voicing their understanding out loud. Snape seemed satisfied with the response and continued on with his speech. 

"During your first week here, all of you will be subjected to a mandatory health check. Madam Pomfrey, our resident Healer, will be the one performing the check. The time for your appointment will be delivered along with your timetables during tomorrow's breakfast. If you fail to show up to your allotted time, you will regret it." The potion master's eyes were stern, and his demeanour imposing. There was no question as to whether he meant what he said or not.  

If it hadn't been for Snape telling his friend Peverell about the health checks, Harry would have been shocked by the declaration. Gryffindor had not had anything remotely like it in his first lifetime, and if they had, he most definitely would have been one of the students trying to weasel his way out of the appointment. 

During one of their meetings where they discussed potions theory and brewed in Harry's tent, Snape had confided that the health checks was something he'd introduced after he took on the job as Head of House. 

He had quickly realised just how many abused children ended up sorted in Slytherin. After all, ambition, cunning and resourcefulness were traits that often went hand in hand with those who came from less than ideal homes.

Snape had confided how once upon a time, he himself had been one of those students. Sadly, he might not be able to change what went on in their homes, especially not for those who came from rich and influential pureblood families, but with the health checks they would at least be given proper treatment during the school year. 

Harry may not like his childhood failings being exposed, not one bit, but it was something he planned to take great advantage of.

He might not be as malnourished and in poor condition as he was in his first life, but he still carried the scars from his early childhood. In addition, his amulet would make it easy to alter his body until it practically screamed 'abused child'.

He would be playing the sympathy card. And if the information about his poor health and ongoing years of abuse was leaked to the press? Well… no-one would suspect him to be responsible. After all, what neglected child would willingly spread their shame for all of magical Britain to see? 

As soon as the speech was finished, Snape turned sharply on his heel, his black robes flaring out dramatically behind him as he exited the common room with long strides. 

Gemma Farley and Daryl Morden, the two sixth year prefects, sorted the first years by gender and guided them to their dorms. 

"You'll be sharing this room until your fifth year. Only then will you get a private room with more space." Morden said, causing Draco to wrinkle his nose. The prefect quirked an unimpressed eyebrow. 

"And yes, Malfoy, not even you'll be able to buy your way to a private room until then. It's tradition." He said as he opened the door to a large, rectangular room. 

There were six, four poster beds placed with the headboards against the wall. The room was identical on the left and right, with three beds to each side. 

Harry marvelled at how large the room was compared to the cramped dorm room he'd shared with the other Gryffindor boys in his first life. 

Here, each student had his own wardrobe, bed, nightstand and a small desk. He wondered if the other houses were aware of how well furnished the Slytherin dorms were, or if it was just Gryffindor that was lacking. He'd have to ask Neville what the Hufflepuff dorms were like. 

The wooden furniture was stained black, a dark contrast to the soft green walls. Harry's eyes were drawn to the large and grandiose fireplace positioned at the end of the room. A slytherin banner hung proudly above the mantelpiece, the silver snake's tongue flickered out every now and then. It brought up the question, again, of whether all the snake motifs in the dungeon were sentient enough to speak. 

"If you don't think you'll be able to find your way to the great hall on your own tomorrow, wait for one of the prefects down in the common room. We leave at quarter past eight whether you're there or not, so don't be tardy." Morden gave them all a last, bored look before he wandered off to rejoin his own friends, prefect duties completed for the day. 

Harry stepped into the room and walked to the back where he could see his black dragonhide trunk resting at the foot of his new bed. He'd gotten lucky and secured himself one of the two beds that were closest to the fireplace, which meant that instead of being sandwiched between two of the other boys he had one side entirely to himself. 

The other boys followed suit, claiming the beds where their trunks had been allocated to. Harry made a mental note of who slept where. 

Theodore Nott was the one closest to him, having gotten the bed in between Harry and Blaise Zabini. On the left side of the room were Draco, between his two friends Crabbe and Goyle. 

Draco apparently thought he was being subtle when he glared at Nott for having been fortunate enough to get the bed next to the famous Boy-Who-Lived, nobody commented on it though. 

The room was mostly silent as they began to unpack, placing clothes in their wardrobes and books onto their desks. Harry had expected Draco to be the first one to open his mouth, but he ended up being surprised. 

"Why're you in Slytherin? You're a Potter." Goyle asked in honest confusion, having sat down on the bed across from Harry. 

Harry felt like laughing but that would be rude. Instead he quirked an eyebrow and smiled blandly. "The hat decided Slytherin was the place for me, just like the rest of you I presume."

"But the Potters have been Light for generations!" Goyle countered, still just as lost over how a child from a previous Light family could have ended up sharing a dorm with him. 

Harry did not look impressed. He had to remind himself that they were children, some more unintelligent than others. "I don't see how that has anything to do with my personality traits. After all, that is what the hat sorts you by, not your political leanings or family." 

The large boy frowned deeply, trying to correlate what Harry said with what he had been taught growing up, slowly opening his mouth to answer. 

"Well I for one think it's brilliant you're here!" Draco exclaimed with a big grin, cutting off his friend who closed his mouth as soon as the blonde boy spoke.

"Did you see the look on Weasley's face when you got sorted? It was glorious!" His young voice was filled with excitement and smug glee over having one-upped his new nemesis. It was ridiculous, and so childish Harry desperately wanted to roll his eyes and chuckle. 

"I'm afraid I didn't notice anyone in particular, although the Gryffindor table was rather loud in voicing their disappointment." He replied, putting the last of his socks into his wardrobe drawer. 

"Of course they were. Everyone was sure you'd be going to Gryffindor." Goyle said, still frowning and looking as if he was trying to solve a massive puzzle. 

"I find it rather odd that everyone, as you say, expected me to go into one house over the other, it isn't like anyone actually know me. I grew up in a non-magical area, I didn't even know of magic or my supposed fame until I got my Hogwarts letter." Harry mused out loud. 

The five boys looked at him with wide-eyed shock. Draco seemed horrified at him having grown up around muggles of all things. Nott on the other hand frowned and Zabini looked pensive. 

"What do you mean you didn't know about magic?!" Draco practically shrieked. "You had to! Dumbledore was training you in secret! That's what the books all said." 

Harry wrinkled his nose in disdain. "Well, if he did then that is certainly news to me. I have never met the man before the feast today. I had no idea he even existed before I got my letter. Besides, why would the headmaster of our school sequester me off to places unknown and train me? What gives him that right. As far as I'm aware he is not my guardian, nor related to me in the slightest. And even if he were, what kind of threat could he possibly want to prepare me for?" 

Nott and Draco traded loaded glances at that, both looking mildly uncomfortable. 

Draco cleared his throat. "Yes, well… that's…" he appeared at a loss for words. 

Harry took pity on him and smiled. "I don't think any of us has been properly introduced. I am Henry James Potter, heir to the Noble House of Potter as well as the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black." 

He held his hand out for Draco who looked flabbergasted.

"What do you mean Black? You're lying, you can't be!" Draco nearly shrieked. The Black Lordship was something his mother had told him would be his one day, they were just waiting for Sirius Black to die in Azkaban. Mother had promised. 

Harry cocked an eyebrow. He knew Narcissa had filled the boy's head with ideas of the Black inheritance, but he thought they'd given it up when the goblins wouldn't budge after Arcturus' death. It seemed that either Draco hadn't accepted that he wasn't due to inherit, or Narcissa had been remiss in telling him. Either way it caused an awkward tension between him and the Malfoy heir. 

"I do not take kindly to accusations of lying, Malfoy." Harry said, eyebrows furrowing in a displeased frown. 

He figured that there was only one way to settle the matter once and for all. Instead of holding his hand out to be shaken, he instead lifted it up with the back of his hand facing Draco, the Potter and Black heirship rings glittering in the light from the fireplace. 

Draco's grey eyes widened, even though he could see the ring on Harry's finger he still didn't want to face the truth. He had been promised that inheritance.

Instead of dealing with the obvious, the young Malfoy turned around without a word and stomped off to his own bed, roughly drawing the curtains shut without another word. 

It was rude, extremely so, a proper faux pas in the pureblood circles, especially since he had ignored Harry's greeting. 

Technically, with the Black heirship, Harry was of higher status than Draco, and if Harry hadn't been who he was, it might have ended up with severe social consequences for little Draco.

Luckily for Malfoy Jr, Harry was adult enough to understand that the boys in his dorm were just children, and they were allowed to make a mistake or two, for now…

"Well, that was rather rude." Harry softly murmured, letting his hand drop to his side. 

Poor Crabbe and Goyle looked severely confused at Draco's behaviour and were at a loss for what to do now. In the end they figured it was probably time to go to bed since their friend had seemingly called it a night. 

With them having gone to the bathroom to brush their teeth and change, that only left Harry and the two boys he knew the least about. 

"Do ignore Draco, he can be a bit tetchy at times. I'm Blaise Zabini, from the House of Zabini, pleasure to make your acquaintance." The dark skinned boy said with a charming smile full of perfect, white teeth. He was the first one to step up and offer his hand.

Harry shook it firmly, offering an amused smile in return. 

While the two boys formally introduced themselves, Nott eyed the heirship rings on Harry's hand with calculation. He had been ordered to stay away from the Potter heir by his father, but that was when they assumed he'd be in Gryffindor. That, combined with the Black heirship changed everything. After the two of them separated, Nott held out his hand as well. 

"Theodore Arsenius Nott, heir to the Ancient House of Nott, but please call me Theo, I don't like the name Theodore overly much." The young boy said, his thick chestnut hair nearly hiding his dark, intelligent eyes. 

"Well, if that is the case, please call me Henry." Harry replied in kind, shaking the proffered hand. 

Neither Theo nor Zabini questioned why he went by Henry and not Harry as they had been told all their lives, but he suspected that they would bring it up eventually. 

From what he could remember, Theo was a quiet boy who never seemed to pick sides. In his past life, the boy had never seemed to be particularly close with Draco despite both their fathers having been Death Eaters. In fact, Harry could hardly remember him at all. The boy was a non entity almost, so unassuming that he went ignored by those around him. That could be dangerous... but also beneficial. 

Harry decided that he would be keeping a close eye on the Nott heir, who was proving to be rather interesting. 

The boys all decided that with the introductions over and done with, it was time for bed. They had to get up early if they wanted to make it in time for breakfast. 

Harry closed the dark green curtains around his bed for privacy. Dealing with children was exhausting. It had only been a day and he already wanted to give up on all of his carefully-laid plans. 

With swiftness born from practiced ease, he threw up a silencing ward around his bed along with a proximity ward. If anyone tried to enter his area of the room he would be notified immediately. The curtains were also spelled to high heavens, making them impossible to open for anyone that wasn't him.

He waited patiently until he could hear the breaths of his roommates evening out, and once he got Regulus' confirmation that they were fast asleep, he stepped through the shadows and into the living room of his house on Peverell island.

Chapter Text

Harry let out a loud groan and ran a hand through his hair. He needed to talk to Death about the ghost situation at Hogwarts, it was paramount that they kept silent on the matter of his status as Death's Master and his abilities as a necromancer. He shuddered to think what Dumbledore would do should the information be brought to his attention. 

However, before he could get around to summon Death, he was bowled over by a large, black mutt, who wagged his tail furiously and slobbered all over his face. 

Regulus, the traitor, had not seen fit to warn him of the furry menace heading his way, and was instead snickering as Harry got covered in dog saliva. 

"Ew, get off!" Harry squawked and shoved at the massive canine who was easily twice his size. 

"You're back!" Sirius happily exclaimed once he had returned to human form. 

"You are absolutely disgusting." Harry grunted and used the hem of his pyjama sleeve to wipe the drool off his face. "And I told you several times that I'd return once the rest of my dorm mates fell asleep." 

At times Harry wondered if Sirius played up his doggy behaviour just to mess with people. Because currently he acted like a dog who thought its owner had left forever while in reality they'd just gone out for groceries. 

"Which house did you get sorted into?!" Sirius ignored his godson's grumbling and instead helped him back on his feet, before promptly pushing him down into his favourite wingback. 

"Guess." Harry replied with a small smirk, happily accepting the perfect cup of tea that appeared in front of him. Bless those elves. 

"Ravenclaw?" Sirius hopefully asked. 

Harry blew on his tea, smirk widening. "Guess again." 

"... Hufflepuff?" Was the more hesitant reply. 

Harry snorted. There was nothing wrong with Hufflepuff, it was a house just as good as the rest, but both he and Sirius knew that the badger house was not where he belonged. 

"Come now, you know me better than that, Sirius." Harry chided in clear amusement. 

Sirius sighed theatrically and plopped down in the second chair, one foot dangling over the armrest. "You became a snake didn't you?"

Harry flashed him a toothy grin. "I did indeed. Are you surprised?" 

"Not in the slightest." Sirius snorted and shook his head fondly, a smile spreading on his face. 

"So, what was it like? Being back I mean." His godfather asked. 

Harry pondered the question as he took a sip of his mint tea. "It was… strange… and utterly exhausting. I doubt I'll be able to complete all seven years." He sighed. 

"That bad?" 

"No, not bad I suppose, just tiresome. But I'll try to stick it out until I've taken my OWLs at least." 

A faint grimace marred his features at the thought. Puberty was rapidly approaching for the children in his year and he was not looking forward to it. Once had been bad enough. But, needs must. 

The two of them spoke for a little while longer until Sirius decided to go to bed. Harry might only need three hours of sleep after his sacrificial ritual, but Sirius was not as blessed. He needed at least seven hours to function properly, ideally more if he could.

With Sirius out of the room, Harry settled down for a chat with Death. Summoning had become almost second nature to him over the years, and the deity often appeared even before Harry had consciously made the move to call him. 

"Good evening, Master." Death's smooth voice said as the being materialised in the chair Sirius had recently occupied. 

"Hello Death." Harry replied with a smile. 

"I have a feeling you did not call for me merely to regale me of your sorting." The deity chuckled softly and took the second cup of tea that appeared, Ceylon with a cube of Ambrosia, the elves had learned how he liked it over the years. Of course, it helped that they were terrified of him, not that he had done anything to deserve that fear, but so was the existence of being Death. 

"No, you're quite right. It's about the ghosts at the castle. I hadn't given it much thought before, seeing as ghosts are quite rare outside of Hogwarts and other magically strong areas." Harry frowned. 

"They could see me, and I don't just mean physically. I fear it might be on a more abstract plane. I don't know if it is my soul, aura or what have you, but they could see something and it frightened them." Harry eyed the god closely to see if he understood. 

"Ah." Death hummed thoughtfully. 

"It is to be expected that they would feel your presence. Ghosts are souls who have not been collected, or 'moved on' as you like to say. They remain tethered to the living world through magic and strong emotions. Only in areas rich with ambient magic will you possibly be able to come across a ghost. For without the magic, the emotion aspect will not be enough to keep them here. As such, they are still a part of my domain, your domain. They can sense the power you hold over the dead, in fact… I wouldn't be surprised if they thought you were me." Death calmly explained before drinking his tea.

Harry's eyes widened. "What?" He almost sputtered. Being mistaken for Death was not exactly normal, even for Harry. 

He took a deep breath and rubbed his temples. "Well, no matter what they think of me, I need them to keep silent about my status. If anyone living finds out about it, it could ruin everything. Will you be able to keep them from talking?" Harry asked.

Death promised that he would have a word with them, which greatly eased Harry's worries. 

Before he returned to Hogwarts, Harry made sure to deal with any correspondence in his name as Lord Peverell. Thankfully there wasn't much, and he was glad that the Wizengamot didn't meet often unless there was a trial that demanded the entire court. 

At first he had been a bit concerned about how he was going to keep up his second life while at Hogwarts. He had a few plans for how he might sort that issue, a Time-Turner specifically, but getting his hands on one of those was not easy. 

In the meantime, Sirius had promised to cover for him should there be any emergencies. He trusted his godfather's ability to act, and he was in fact a rather good actor once he put his mind to it. 

With the help of the Resurrection Stone, Regulus would always be available to guide his older brother through the murky waters of politics should he need it. 

Harry's ebony wand had been left in Sirius' care just in case he needed to visit the ministry. The wand refused to work for him, but he only needed it as identification anyway. 

As a more permanent solution to his dilemma, Harry had hired someone to look for a Time-Turner on the black market. They were notoriously difficult to procure, understandably enough, and highly illegal to own without a permit. The amount of money it would cost to get his hands on one was quite frankly astronomical. But it would be well worth it.

Harry placed the last piece of correspondence in the outbound pile and stretched. The elves would collect all the letters come morning and have them sent out through the Owl Post Office. 

With one last look around his study, finding everything to be in order, Harry returned to his bed at Hogwarts so he could get his required three hours of sleep for optimum performance. 

At 7am the alarm function on his wristwatch woke him up, and he slowly took the time to disassemble the various wards he'd placed on his bed and surrounding area. 

The other boys were still asleep when he pulled aside his curtains, and for a brief moment he pondered whether he should wake them up. The idea was quickly culled in its infancy however, for no eleven-year-old child would be appreciative of being roused at 7am without good reason. 

Harry got dressed in his school uniform, spending a few seconds marvelling at the green and silver tie he was now wearing. It still felt strange seeing himself in anything but red and gold.

The amount of people in the common room surprised him once he made it up the stairs. Gryffindor had practically been empty at that time of day, most preferring to sleep the morning away. 

Slytherin was not the same in that regard it seemed. The students were mostly from older years, but he noticed a few younger faces, Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis among them. They were waiting along with Gemma Farley who yawned at odd intervals. They must be waiting for the rest of the first years to arrive before heading to the Great Hall as a group. 

Harry decided he might as well try to be social. He didn't think he'd ever spoken to either Greengrass or Davis in his past life. Come to think of it, he'd been rather secluded back then, strange as it might sound considering his fame. 

Gemma watched as the three children introduced themselves and began talking about idle things. Harry asked the girls which subject they were most looking forward to. For Daphne it was transfiguration and Tracey prattled excitedly about potions. 

The girls were decent enough, although Daphne seemed a bit aloof. He thought it might have to do with either his blood status or the fact that he was Harry Potter, but he didn't ask. 

Their little group was eventually joined by the other girls and boys in their year. Through the corner of his eyes, Harry watched as Draco, flanked by Crabbe and Goyle, finally made their way over to the group of gathered first years with only a minute to spare. 

The blonde boy seemed to still be in a mood about Harry's claim to the Black heirship, and went out of his way to act as if Harry didn't exist at all. The urge to roll his eyes was strong. 

"It's quarter past eight so we'll be heading to the Great Hall now." Gemma said as she scanned the firsties, doing a mental count of how many there were. 

"Good, you're all here." She nodded in approval. "There will be a prefect to guide you to breakfast every day this week at quarter past eight. If you feel like you know the way already, you are welcome to go on your own before or after 8:15" 

The house tables had all begun to fill up nicely, Gryffindor however was the one with the least students. Harry grabbed the teapot and poured himself a cup, dead set on avoiding the jug of orange liquid sitting next to it.

He found pumpkin juice absolutely disgusting these days. It was too sweet. Luckily there were other options, and so tea it was. 

The first years were mostly silent as they ate breakfast, everyone focused on manners and etiquette. Draco's avoidance of him hadn't gone unnoticed however, especially the girls sent surreptitious looks now and then. 

The upper years seemed to have picked up on the tension as well, but Harry ignored them for now, it wasn't as if any of them were a threat. 

By the time Harry had taken the last bite of his scrambled eggs and toast, the plates vanished. Not long after, Snape swooped down from the teachers table to deliver their timetables. 

He looked to be in as foul a mood as ever. Scowling and glaring left and right at the students. Harry didn't take it to heart, instead he scanned his timetable to see which classes he had for the day. 

Monday morning had a nice start. Herbology with the Hufflepuffs would be a calm affair and he was glad to note that he would be able to spend some time with Neville in a subject they both enjoyed. 

Herbology was followed by Defence Against the Dark Arts, then Transfiguration, Charms and History, with a nice, long lunch break in the middle of course.

There was a scribbled note at the bottom of the parchment in Snape's distinct cursive, informing Harry that his appointment with Madam Pomfrey was at 3pm that evening, fifteen minutes after his last class for the day. It was abrupt but he didn't mind, might as well get it over with. 

"Neville! Good to see you again." Harry exclaimed as he caught sight of the plump boy about to exit the Great Hall. He quickly made it over to his new friend. 

"How has Hufflepuff been treating you so far?" Harry asked with an encouraging smile. 

"It's brilliant!" Neville replied in rushed excitement, a big, happy smile stretching on his face, making him light up in childish wonder. 

"You were right about the common room. It's so bright and cosy, and it's filled with plants! There was a flitterbloom and cloves a-and-" he continued naming all the flora currently stationed in the badgers' common room, of which there were many.

Harry listened to him speak with indulgent amusement. Yes, Hufflepuff would do him good. 

"And… uh… how is Slytherin?" Neville hesitantly asked, shyly looking at Harry through the corner of his eyes as they made their way to Greenhouse One. 

Harry chuckled. "It's not so bad. I think I managed to upset Malfoy due to my Black heirship though, but otherwise it's been rather peaceful so far." 

Neville looked as if he wanted to say something but didn't know if it would be received well. Harry gave him some time and eventually the young boy took a deep breath and spoke with quiet solemnity. "Y-you know that many of their families are D-Death Eaters, r-right?" 

Harry hummed softly, finding it rather sweet that Neville was trying to warn him in his own way.

"I am aware, yes. However I prefer to pass judgement myself. Besides, they are not their parents, same as I am not mine, nor are you yours." He replied. 

"Thank you for the warning, Neville, but there is no need to worry, I can take care of myself." Harry softly reassured. 

The grim topics of Death Eaters were laid to rest once they reached the greenhouse. Professor Sprout was a short and plump witch with an abundance of energy and cheer. She enthusiastically told them to pair up, for they would be pruning honking daffodils and planting dittany seeds.  

Harry was a deft hand at gardening, and Neville even more so. The two of them got plenty of praise from their professor whenever she passed by and Neville was soaking it up like a dry sponge. Harry had a feeling that there hadn't been much praise or even kind words for the boy growing up. 

After Herbology, Harry and Neville walked to their Defence Against the Dark Arts class. It was surprisingly not as bad as he could remember. Yes there was still an overpowering amount of garlic to hide the rotting smell coming from the back of Quirrell's head, but the man himself, or rather, Voldemort, didn't seem interested in trying to use Legilimency on him. 

Of course, it helped that Harry was no longer a Horcrux, nor did he meet the man's eyes, both the ones up front and the ones hidden behind the purple turban. 

The day continued in the same vein. Seeing as they were all children with minimal knowledge of magic, the first few lessons of each subject were theoretical. The teachers didn't want them diving head first into spellcasting without some semblance of a foundation first. 

After the dreadfully boring Defence class, Harry separated from Neville and went to Transfiguration that the Slytherins shared with Ravenclaw. He arrived early, with nearly eight minutes to spare before the lesson was due to begin. 

Instead of a teacher, there was a cat, a silver tabby with distinct spectacle markings around its eyes. The cat sat on top of the desk, eying each and every student that entered. 

Harry of course knew that the cat was in fact their Transfiguration professor Mrs McGonagall. He gave her a curious look and a polite nod of greeting before he sat down at one of the desks in the back. He didn't like having people sitting behind him, call it paranoia from the war. 

Unlike in his first life, there were no latecomers. Seeing as it was a class filled with eagles and snakes, that wasn't all that strange, they were all eager to make a good impression and earn points. 

To Harry's surprise, Theo had asked if he could sit next to him during class. He had fully expected to sit alone for the time being, due to his tenuous position in Slytherin, but graciously allowed the boy a seat.

The same happened during Charms after lunch, and Harry caught Ron glaring daggers at him from across the room. He didn't know if it was because he was sitting with the son of a Death Eater, or whether it was because he had been sorted into Slytherin and therefore been proclaimed 'traitorous and evil' in Ron's immature mind. 

Harry found it sad, for as much as he'd cared for the boy in his first life, this version of him would never be the same as the one that had gone through trial after trial with him. 

Ron had always been a jealous person, to the point that Harry himself had downplayed both his abilities and newfound wealth in his first life, feeling content with the companionship Ron gave in return, no matter how fickle it might be at times. Despite that, Ron had always returned when it mattered most, and he had grown and matured as the years went by.

This Ron, however, was still a child, one who hadn't bled and suffered, one who hadn't lived and fought through a war. He was an innocent boy whose world was still painfully black and white, where Gryffindors were the paragon of good and Slytherins the root of all evil. 

From where he sat he could hear the redhead's scathing comments to Dean and he mentally sighed. Harry didn't have it in him to live through the boy's jealousy once again. Perhaps in a few years, once he'd had the time to grow, they could be friends again. 

Throughout the day, Harry's hand rose whenever the teachers asked a question they wanted the students to answer. They had been keen to see what their hero could do, and so, Harry earned a decent amount of points for his house, more than any other Slytherin in his year. 

Flitwick especially was eager to question the students, and had a tendency to pick Harry over Hermione, much to the girl's continued ire. She was fiercely competitive and glared frostily at him whenever he answered a question she knew the answer to. 

He loved Hermione, he truly did, she had been with him through thick and thin, but she had a lot of growing up to do. She was a sheltered child with too much reverence for authority figures. She still believed that anyone with an official position had to be good and trustworthy. 

There were parts of her he missed sorely, she had been his sister in all but blood. But like with Ron, this child would never be the woman he'd known. 

He'd try to guide her where he could, but he doubted she would listen, she was too stubborn and sure of herself and her worldview. 

~

The Hospital wing was white, annoyingly so. Harry had never liked being there, not because of Madam Pomfrey, who he secretly thought was a dragon incarnate, but because he had always been afraid of people discovering what went on at the Dursleys. When he thought about it, it was actually rather strange that they hadn't, considering how much time he'd spent inside the pristine room. 

"Mr Potter is it? Right on time as well, good. Have a seat." Madam Pomfrey crisply said and shepherded him into the clean bed that was separated from the rest of the room with large drapes. 

"What will you be doing?" He asked, playing his role as a suspicious young boy. 

"Just a general diagnostics charm Mr Potter. You won't feel a thing. Now, please sit still while I perform the spell." 

Harry frowned but let the matron do her job. She said he wouldn't feel anything but that wasn't entirely true. He could sense the foreign magic wash over him, running through every inch of his body. Of course, Madam Pomfrey had no way of knowing that he was sensitive to magic, it was practically unheard of for children his supposed age. 

The matron did not look happy with what she found. Her face was drawn in a deep frown as she studied the designs above Harry's head. She muttered a few choice words under her breath and told Harry to not go anywhere as she quickly strode into her office. 

He wondered exactly what it was she'd found. He hadn't seen a Healer since he came back in time, he probably should have, but he simply didn't trust anyone enough. For the most part he had self medicated himself with various potions. Mainly to help him be able to eat properly again. 

Pomfrey returned in a matter of seconds, with parchment and quill in hand, much to Harry's bafflement. 

"Is something wrong ma'am?" He hesitantly asked. 

"Not as such. But I will have to do a more in depth scan. I'm afraid it will take longer, but it should be just as painless." She offered him one of her rare smiles. 

"Remove your outer robe and lay down for me please." 

Harry did as he was told and let his black robes hang over the simple chair that was stationed next to the bed, before he laid down. 

"Again, Mr Potter, it is of the utmost importance that you lay still while I do this, otherwise the results might be faulty and we will have to try once more until we get it right. Understood?" 

"Yes ma'am." Harry confirmed. 

Madam Pomfrey nodded in approval.

The reason for why she had brought a quill and parchment became evidently clear a few seconds later. Before she began the diagnostics charm, the tip of the quill was dipped in a rusty brown potion that the writing implement greedily soaked up. Madam Pomfrey then proceeded to tap the quill with her wand and the charm began. 

For an entire minute she chanted, drawing patterns above Harry's body that he failed to recognise from the few magical healing texts he'd read in the past. Oh he understood what was going on, in broad strokes at least, but this was not a charm that he was familiar with.  

He eyed the patterns above him with curiosity, committing them to memory. The minutes ticked by and Madame Pomfrey left him alone with another stern reminder not to move. 

The infirmary was empty aside from him, the only sounds being that of the quill scratching away on parchment and Madame Pomfrey speaking to someone in her office. He couldn't distinguish who the other person was though, the noise was too muffled through the half closed door.

As Harry laid there, he allowed his mind to wander. 

~

Despite how much he'd wished for the opposite, Cornelius Fudge had still become Minister for Magic a year ago. The reason was that there had been no other viable candidates willing to run for office, and Harry certainly wasn't going to run for Minister himself. 

Once he'd realised where things were headed, Harry had slithered his way into an advisory position for Fudge, earning the man's trust. It was easier than he'd assumed, and honestly? Fudge was laughably simple to control, steer and manipulate. 

Lucius Malfoy had the same idea of course, but Harry had gotten there first, and as such was the one 'closest' to the Minister, his most trusted advisor so to speak. 

Fudge was a puppet and Harry was the puppeteer, well, one of them anyway. It was remarkable how much more he managed to get done with the minister on his side. 

Harry was a spider weaving his web, and Fudge was the poor fly getting caught. That being said, Harry still detested it all. Politics was something he would avoid entirely if he could, but it was a necessary evil. 

Sadly, due to starting Hogwarts, he didn't have the time to visit the ministry as much as he used to. His relationship with Fudge would surely take a big hit because of it, allowing Lucius, that pompous arsehole, to gain a stronger footing in the Ministry. 

To explain his prolonged absence, Harry had told them that he would be travelling abroad for a while, but would return for any Wizengamot meetings. 

He thought back to the last conversation he'd had with Lucius' wife before term began. 

"How are you faring now that little Draco is almost due to leave for Hogwarts?" Harry had asked, taking a sip from the pristine bone china cup in his hand. 

"I am afraid I am going to miss him dearly." Narcissa Malfoy replied, sighing wistfully. 

"I can't believe my baby is growing up so fast. It seems like just last year he was running around the manor in the nude, trying to escape the elves who were giving him a bath." She laughed softly. 

Harry joined her laughter, filing away that piece of information for future teasing material of the Malfoy heir. 

They were seated together in one of the more casual drawing rooms at Malfoy manor, drinking tea and chatting amicably. Something Regulus would undoubtedly call gossiping, but Harry purposefully ignored the spirit's opinions.

The two of them had struck a surprising friendship over the years, beginning with Harry's connection to Snape and interactions with her husband. It had been unexpected, but Harry couldn't find it in himself to be bothered by it.

Narcissa was cold and ruthless, yes, but she was also a fierce protector. Just like Lily, she would watch the world burn if it meant saving her son. Harry admired her for that.

Although she might appear the perfect pureblood wife who was polite and quiet, she was intensely intelligent, more so than her poncy husband, that's for sure. 

With her blonde hair and pale eyes, people tended to forget that she hadn't always been a Malfoy. For Narcissa was a Black, born and raised, their blood running thickly through her veins. 

Her husband was intolerable as always. No matter how often Harry had to deal with Lucius Malfoy, both at the Ministry and social gatherings, he still disliked him greatly. 

Although he was beyond thinking of the man as evil, he did not like him much as a person, nor did he trust him even a fraction. Narcissa seemed to know this and found it greatly amusing. She wasn't blind to her husband's ways.

Snape on the other hand merely rolled his eyes whenever Harry began to rant about the blonde prat. 

"Mr Potter?" 

Harry blinked slowly, realising that Madam Pomfrey had returned and was now speaking to him. 

The quill had stopped writing and laid still on the bedside table. The parchment however, was clutched in a white knuckled grip by the matron. 

"Yes ma'am? Was the charm successful?" He asked, eying the piece of parchment with curiosity. He wondered what it said. 

Pomfrey nodded briskly but Harry could tell that she wasn't happy. Still, she stayed professional nonetheless.

"I've summoned your head of House to join us Mr Potter. He should be here soon." 

Harry frowned. "Why? Am I in trouble?" 

"Oh heavens, nothing like that! But it seems you have missed a lot of important inoculation potions that wizarding children get when they are young. Professor Snape is our resident potions master and will therefore be brewing them for you." Madam Pomfrey promptly replied. 

That wasn't all though, he could tell she was hiding the more 'upsetting' news, or perhaps she merely didn't want him to bolt before Snape got there. 

"What kind of diseases do they protect against ma'am?" Harry curiously asked. The innoculations potions were sort of the magical equivalent of a vaccine. 

Madam Pomfrey detailed the many magical illnesses that children got inoculations for during their childhood, and by the time she finished her explanation, Snape had entered the hospital wing through the Floo in Pomfrey's office. 

Harry made a calculated guess that he had been the one she spoke to earlier. 

The professor looked over at him with a stern frown, probably wondering why he was still there and hadn't been let go. 

"Severus, I think you should have a look at this." Madam Pomfrey said, but even though it was phrased as a suggestion, it was clearly an order.

Harry watched as the matron handed over the results of the diagnostic charm. Snape raised an eyebrow, but as his eyes trailed down the parchment, his face schooled into an impressive blankness. He must be actively using Occlumency to calm his mind, Harry thought. 

The only thing betraying his feigned calmness, was the whitening knuckles of his clenched, left hand, as if he itched to punch someone on Harry's behalf. It was almost refreshing. He'd love to pick the man's mind about the issue. 

"Is everything alright, professor?" Harry asked, voice laden with hesitation and concern. 

Is everything alright, the boy asked, as if Severus hadn't just been dealt a figurative punch to the gut. 

He hadn't expected there to be anything wrong with the Potter boy, why should he? He was the Boy-Who-Lived, Britain's beloved hero… 

When Severus had asked, and it had only been once mind you, Dumbledore had said that the boy was safe and protected. At the time he had taken it to mean he was being spoiled rotten by some wizarding family, but now, that belief had crumbled to dust. 

Multiple scars along the back, brittle bones, wrongly healed breaks, stunted growth, mild organ damage… It painted a severely grim picture of the boy's home life. His sorting into Slytherin made all the more sense now. 

Severus' mouth felt dry and he wanted to punch, or preferably curse, whomever was responsible for the boy's pain until they begged for mercy. But that would have to come later, right now he had a small, abused child to deal with. 

And speaking of small… Potter was tiny, much smaller than the other boys in his year. Not even Lily had been that short and scrawny when she started Hogwarts. 

"Poppy, would you give us a moment?" He quietly asked the matron. 

Someone else might have worried about leaving Potter alone with a Death Eater, supposed spy or not, but Poppy Pomfrey was not like other people. She had seen the scars on Severus' back during his childhood.

The Marauders and their vicious pranks had made it so that he often ended up in the Hospital Wing, and hiding his previous injuries had been impossible then. 

So that was the reason why the matron knew he would never actually harm a child. And although his tongue could be sharp and scathing, he had tried to tone it down over the years. 

Poppy sent him a stern look that said 'be nice or else', giving Severus the urge to roll his eyes. 

He waited until the matron had made her way to her office before he slowly sat down in the free chair. The boy looked weary, understandably enough. 

"May I see the results of the charm, sir?" Potter asked, head tilted slightly to the side as he eyed him. 

Severus raised one of his eyebrows and held the sheet out for the boy, he didn't see the need to keep it secret. Potter already knew what had happened to him, and the parchment only listed his current ailments, nothing detailed about what had caused them or when. 

The child's eyes scanned the document in an almost detached matter. 

"You cannot tell the headmaster." The boy said with such fervent conviction that it startled him. 

"And whyever not?" Severus replied, cocking an unamused eyebrow. Of all the things he had expected the boy to say, that was not it. What in Merlin's name did the headmaster have to do with anything?

The child looked him straight in the eyes without fear, and where those green eyes would once have made him think of Lily, now there was another person who first came to mind. 

Henry Potter, the son of James and Lily, looked like a miniature version of Lord Harrison Peverell, someone Severus actually cared to call a friend these days. 

If he hadn't known better, he almost would have expected the boy to be his son and not James'. But Peverell wouldn't have been older than 13 when Lily conceived, not at all an age where one sired children, not to mention the fact that he lived in Canada back then. Still, the similarities between Potter and Peverell were almost eerie. 

"Because he was the one who left me with them. Like an unwanted bottle of milk I was put on their doorstep on a cold November night." The boy replied, getting a faraway look. 

"And how, pray tell, would you know that? You were only a toddler back then." Severus kept his tongue in check, speaking as calmly as he could. 

"I was cleaning the attic once, and quite by accident I came across the letter he left in the basket with me. He threatened the Dursleys to take me in, sir. Never in a million years would they have accepted a freak like me into their home otherwise." The young voice was scathing and full of dark loathing. Whether it was for the headmaster, the Dursleys, or himself, Severus couldn't tell. 

"But that isn't all. For you see, there is a spy in the neighbourhood." 

"A spy?" Severus dubiously repeated.

"Oh yes." The boy's smile was reminiscent of a goblin, all teeth and anger. Whatever the Dursley family had done to him had not cowed the boy, instead it had hardened him into something sharp and full of dangerous edges. 

"Mrs Figg, a dotty old lady that used to be my babysitter. You know who I speak of, don't you sir?" The child said. 

Potter must have read the surprise on his face for how else could he have guessed?

Arabella Figg had been a part of the Order of the Phoenix during the first war, not that she was particularly useful, being a squib with no connections or money whatsoever. He hadn't had much contact with her, his role as first a Death Eater and then a spy kept them in completely different circles. 

"I always had my suspicions about her, but now I know. The cats she is so fond of aren't normal cats at all, they are Kneazles. Or at least part Kneazle. I find someone of the magical world living so close to me in a purely non-magical part of Surrey fairly suspicious, don't you sir?" Potter said but didn't seem to expect an answer as he continued speaking right away, voice eerily devoid of emotion.

"She always looked out of place, you see. Clothes too old and strange, appearance slightly unkempt, and a garden that was overgrown. The house could have used some maintenance as well. I always found it odd, seeing as the rest of the neighbourhood was firmly set in the higher middle-class, always concerned about their reputation." Potter's eyes honed in on Severus' face once more. 

"The headmaster knew exactly what went on in the Dursleys house and did nothing. So no, you cannot tell him." The boy's voice was solemn. 

Severus stared at the pale child with calculation. He could recognise a plot when he saw it. And the fact that Mrs Figg was stationed that close to the boy was indeed a plot. For the chances of that happening on its own were astronomical. 

Arabella had no income aside from the benefits she got from the muggle government and the Kneazle kittens she sold. There was no way a woman like her could afford a house, least of all in the posh area of Surrey where Harry Potter supposedly lived. 

"I will not inform the headmaster, if you answer some of my questions." Severus replied.

"Very well. What would you like to know, sir?" The boy agreed, surprisingly amicably. He had expected at least some hesitation or perhaps defensive aggression, but there was none.

"You mentioned that you live with the Dursleys, who are they?" He calmly asked. 

If he were to guess, the look he got in return for his question was a curious one, as if Potter thought he should already know for some reason. 

"According to Dumbledore they are my only living family." The boy said. 

Severus felt his stomach plummet, surely he couldn't mean…? No, Potter senior probably had some squib relative squirreled away in the muggle world. That had to be it. 

"Their names?" Severus queried with increasing trepidation.

"Petunia, Vernon and Dudley Dursley." The child replied honestly, probably having no idea how hard those words hit him. It was like a punch to the sternum, leaving him breathless. 

Petunia?! Dumbledore put a magical child with her? Severus couldn't help but sneer. "I assume she is still a spiteful cow?" 

"If by that you mean bitter, jealous and absolutely horrid, then yes, she very much is." The boy said with much amusement, a mean smirk curling on his lips. 

Severus snorted. That sounded like the Petunia he knew. She had been a cruel and jealous child, and by the sounds of it, that hadn't improved with age and maternity.

"You sound like you know her, sir." Potter stated with narrowed eyes, probably wondering whether he was in on the headmaster's conspiracy to keep him with his relatives. 

If he wanted to regain the boy's trust he would have to tell him the truth, or at least part of it. He hated speaking about Lily because it still hurt. He had never been able to let go of his grief and self-loathing for being the one that doomed her to her death. It clung to him like a second skin at that point. 

Severus couldn't handle looking in those intelligent, green orbs any longer. He leaned back in the chair and crossed his arms over his chest in a defensive manner, scowling as he began to speak.

"Unfortunately I do have the displeasure of knowing Petunia. She and your mother lived in the same town as me growing up." Severus explained in an almost monotone voice. He was Occluding heavily to be able to get through the conversation. 

"Your mother and I were… friends. I knew she was special from the moment I met her. She was in the local park with her sister, and when she jumped down from the swings at the highest point, instead of falling she floated softly down to the ground. She was a witch, and Petunia was jealous of her sister's gift. Your mother told me that Petunia wrote a letter to the headmaster once Lily got her acceptance letter, asking if she too could get a place at Hogwarts. The answer was of course no, since there is not even a fraction of magical ability within her. Her jealousy and cruelty began to fester even more after that. By the time your mother was in her fourth year she had completely lost touch with her sister, they were barely on speaking terms." Severus elaborated, letting the room fall silent.

"For many years they tried to stomp the magic out of me, because apparently to them, that was a reasonable thing to do to a magical child. They said it was to make me normal, but personally I just think they enjoyed the power of mistreating someone weaker than them." Potter murmured quietly, eyes fixed on the wall across the room. 

"I was forced to sleep in a cupboard for years…my cousin had two bedrooms." the boy revealed, taking a shuddering breath. 

Severus had to swallow away the spike of nausea and rage that emerged at those words. There was more to that story, of course there was, but now was not the time to go digging. He had already dragged this out for long enough and he needed privacy to deal with what he'd learned. 

"Mr Potter… I want you to listen to me." He slowly spoke, looking at the child with intensity. 

"Whatever they did to you, it was not your fault. You did not deserve it. Punishing a child for accidental magic is like punishing a human for breathing. You had no way to control your outbursts and it was cruel and unjust. Their fear of magic does not make their actions acceptable." 

"I know." Potter softly replied, a frail smile on his lips. 

Severus didn't think he did. No matter what the boy might think himself, mental scars like that ran deep. It would take years for him to come to terms with the fact that there would probably have been nothing he could have done to make Petunia and her husband treat him better. 

He had to get Potter out of that household somehow. The situation wasn't at all like it was for most of the pureblood families, where their pockets ran deep and their influence stretched far. The boy lived with Petunia and it sounded like she would be more than happy to get rid of him. 

The only problem was Dumbledore. It seemed that the headmaster wanted Potter to remain with his abusive relatives for some inane reason. Severus wanted to wring the man's neck with his long, silvery beard, but he had more self restraint than that, for now. 

He had an entire school year to figure out what to do about the boy's relatives. Threatening them was an option he supposed, hurting them would not laden his conscience one iota. 

"Good. Madam Pomfrey will see to a treatment plan designed to mend as many of your ailments as possible. You are to follow it without question, understood?" Severus gave the boy a stern look. 

Potter thankfully nodded his head in acquiescence. 

"Very well, I will leave you in the care of Madam Pomfrey." Severus rose from the chair, but before he left, he paused and looked at the boy one last time. 

"If you have any issues, Potter, come see me." 

"Thank you, sir. I will." The child's smile was soft and gentle, easing something within Severus' chest. 

The boy would be alright, he'd make sure of it.

Chapter Text

The student body as a whole was not happy about Harry being sorted into the house of snakes, and the Slytherins themselves were not an exception. 

Glares and whispers followed him wherever he went, some malicious and some curious. He had years of practice when it came to ignoring it all. The wizarding public was fickle, children even more so. 

They talked behind his back but stopped whenever he got too close. A few times he overheard the whispers, and the 'older' students blushed heavily at being caught gossiping about him. Harry merely smiled placidly at them and moved along. 

His classes were laughably easy and despite downplaying his abilities, which was much harder than he expected, the teachers still thought him a prodigy. Even Quirrell had taken an interest in him, much to his own surprise.

"S-st-stay b-behind f-for a m-m-moment please, Mr P-Potter." Quirrell said as Harry was packing up his notes for the day. 

The Slytherins gave Harry and the professor a curious look, but didn't make any move to stay behind on his behalf. Neville, on the other hand, quietly said he'd wait outside so they could walk to History together. 

"What can I do for you, professor?" Harry calmly queried once they were alone. He wondered what Quirrell, or perhaps Voldemort, wanted with him. This interest had not happened in his first life, in fact, Quirrell had made sure to avoid him at every opportunity. 

"H-how are you f-finding H-Hogwarts so f-far Mr P-Potter?" Quirrell asked, looking more nervous than usual. 

Was this one of Voldemort's demands? Harry wondered if the two of them could connect mentally or if they had to speak out loud to communicate, he'd never figured that one out in his first life. 

"It has its ups and downs sir." Harry replied with a charming smile. 

"O-oh? A-any p-p-problems w-with your h-housemates?" 

"No, no, not at all. I am merely finding the first year curriculum to be… a tad bit slow if I'm honest." 

Quirrell eyed him intently, and when he next spoke, the stutter was all but forgotten. Voldemort might think himself clever, but the fraction of soul he had left did not do subtlety very well. Even Quirrell's mannerisms changed as the Dark Lord took over. 

"I was the s-same in my youth." The professor mused, looking at Harry as if he was trying to figure out a great puzzle. 

Harry wondered if Voldemort saw himself in the charming Slytherin student in front of him, if he had enough capacity to empathise with his situation.

"Professor, seeing as you understand what it's like, would you be able to recommend any extra curricular reading perhaps? The library is vast and I'm not quite sure where to start." Harry said with an easy going smile that he remembered Tom Riddle using on Slughorn. 

He wondered what Voldemort would do, if he would actually recommend anything interesting. His choice of book would say a lot. 

Quirrell stared at him, the seconds ticking by. By now, Harry was already late for History, but neither of them cared. It was a rubbish class, and professor Binns had no idea who attended or not. For most of his first life, Binns had called him Richard Hardwick, apparently Harry resembled one of his old students from the time the ghost was still alive. That or he'd just sat in Hardwick's seat.

"I think I can recommend a few books to help you integrate better in the wizarding world." Quirrell, or rather, Voldemort, said with a calculating gleam in his eyes.

The professor scribbled down a few titles on a piece of parchment and held it out for Harry to take. 

"The b-books are sadly in the restricted section, but if you hand this note to Madam Pince, she will let you borrow them. Please keep this to yourself though, Mr Potter, we w-wouldn't want anyone to think you are getting special treatment." Quirrell said, his smile looking awkward, as if he had to force muscles into use that he didn't have entire control over.

"Of course sir." Harry honestly replied. 

He looked down at the note. There were three books, all pertaining to rituals, pagan festivals and pureblood genealogy. The last one was something he had skimmed through once, but quickly put aside seeing as it was pureblood bigotry written by a fascist. It talked about non-magicals as cattle, meant to serve the superior race of pureblood wizards. It was quite frankly nauseating. 

True, a lot of the meaning was hidden in the writing, but at least to Harry it had been clear as day. It belonged in the restricted section for a good reason. He held no familiarity with the other two books but they sounded promising. He would have to read them before he could judge. 

~

"I think Hermione has declared me her arch nemesis." Harry said one night with a heavy sigh as he slumped in his favourite chair at home.  

"What?" Sirius dumbly asked. "She's eleven , can you even have an arch nemesis at that age?" 

Harry shrugged. "She doesn't like being second best. She's used to always being the most intelligent student in her class and now that she's not… let's just say she isn't taking it particularly well."

He gestured with his hand as he spoke, exasperation leaking into his voice. "She desperately tries to show how she knows everything, even without the teachers asking for input. She speaks out of turn, blurting the words out almost verbatim from the textbooks and expects to be praised. She has no social grace and is digging herself deeper and deeper. The teachers are getting more annoyed with her, I can tell, and the students… well, she has no friends as far as I'm aware." 

Harry frowned. He loved Hermione and it hurt to see her like that. She had been a steadfast and loyal friend over the years. He remembered her abrasive personality from his first life as well, but it had been… okay he wouldn't say that it hadn't been as bad, it was just that he'd chosen to ignore it due to his desperate need for friends. Of course, she hadn't had him to challenge her marks back then. 

"Have you tried telling her that? Well… in kinder words." Sirius suggested. 

Harry sighed and closed his eyes, sprawling out in his chair. "She takes everything I say the wrong way, despite how I'm trying to be friendly and helpful. At this rate I will have to keep an extra eye on her. The bullying she's receiving from her fellow Gryffindors might get worse. The Slytherins aren't being very kind either… although… Theo Nott and Blaise Zabini seem to be staying out of the mocking, at least when I'm around." 

"And the littlest Malfoy, is he still ignoring you?" Sirius questioned with a dark, amused little smirk, changing the topic. He found the entire situation with Lucius' offspring exceedingly funny. 

Harry opened an eye and glared at his godfather. "He is still upset, yes. In a way it is understandable. He sees me as an usurper to the Black inheritance. His parents, Narcissa in particular, has been filling his head with tales of him being the rightful heir since he was in nappies. Narcissa really should have informed Draco of the changes being made after Arcturus' death." 

"How the two of you can be friends I'll never know." Sirius muttered petulantly. 

Harry rolled his eyes. "Narcissa is perfectly good company, Sirius, as you're well aware. You are just upset that she married that ponce Lucius. Don't deny it, Regulus has told me plenty of stories from your childhood." 

Sirius crossed his arms over his chest and pouted. "She could have married Johan Clearwater but instead she chose Malfoy. At least Johan wasn't an arse." 

"Maybe not, but he was also a complete idiot who managed to drown himself in a glass of pumpkin juice." Regulus drily butted in. 

Sirius sputtered and Harry burst out into a hearty laugh. "Really?" 

"Yes, it was all over the Daily Prophet." His friend replied with a smirk. 

"And that is the type of person you wanted to marry your highly intelligent and ambitious cousin Narcissa?" Harry questioned Sirius who was pouting even more, looking like a petulant child. 

"Yes…No… MAYBE!" Sirius huffed, cheeks heating slightly due to Harry and Regulus’ mocking laughter. 

"And Snape, how's he treating you now that you're back to being a Potter?" Sirius asked, trying to guide the conversation away from his cousin Narcissa. 

"He's… actually, he's been surprisingly good. Of course, I don't think friendly is in his repertoire when it comes to children, but he's being decent enough. For the most part he lets me be, although I can tell he's keeping an eye on me." Harry replied. 

"Oh… well, I'm glad?" Sirius offered, sounding more confused than happy. 

Harry chuckled at his godfather's expression, even now, the thought of Snape being a decent person baffled the man.

~

Before Harry could enact his plans of stealing the Philosopher's Stone hidden on the third floor, or the Horcrux stowed away in the Room of Requirement, he needed to deal with an annoying little problem, namely the Weasley twins and their possession of the Marauders map. With the map, the two terrors would be able to see his every movement through the castle, something Harry simply couldn't risk. 

He didn't think they were keeping an eye on him specifically, but popping in and out of existence because he used his shadow travel would raise suspicion should they notice. 

He decided to do the heist during one of their detentions. He had no idea what the two boys had done to earn it so early in the year, but it made him smile and shake his head nonetheless. They were the very representation of chaos and mischief and he applauded them for it. 

Harry couldn't help but feel proud of their achievements. Unlike the Marauders, they didn't target specific groups or people, instead, they spread their mayhem and pranks equally. 

The pranks were constructed to be amusing for all, even the ones who fell victims of them, not horribly embarrassing or cruel as some of his father's pranks had been. 

The dorm room belonging to the Gryffindor third years was luckily empty once Harry got there. He had cloaked himself in invisibility and stepped through the shadows to reach their room. Lee, the twins' friend, was serving detention with them and the other boys apparently had somewhere else to spend their afternoon. 

The room was quite frankly a giant mess. Harry instinctively wrinkled his nose. He hated messes. It was something that had been knocked into him as a child, quite literally. Everything had to be pristine and spotless according to his aunt Petunia. He wanted to clean and tidy the chaos, but that was not his job anymore. 

Harry took a deep breath and slowly let it out. He had work to do, and that did not involve playing maid for a bunch of 13 year-olds. He made his way over to Fred's bed and located his trunk at the foot of it. He figured the map would be hidden in one of the pranksters' trunks. Bringing it with them to detention would be too much of a risk.

The many wards and prank spells layered on the trunk for protection were creative, but not particularly challenging for someone with his age and experience. He quickly disassembled them while Regulus stood guard by the dorm's entrance. 

Luck did not seem to be with him, and the map was not in Fred's trunk. He continued to George's bed and grimaced at the dirty underwear laying in a pile next to his bed. Teenagers… There was a perfectly fine laundry hamper in the dorm's shared bathroom, but did they use it? Of course not. 

He kept his distance to said underwear and repeated the process of breaking into the second twin's trunk. He had to rummage around clothes, old rubbish and plenty of prank prototypes before he finally hit gold.

The folded parchment appeared innocent next to the other loose sheets in George's trunk, but it wasn't enough to fool Harry. Still, it wouldn't do to leave with the wrong thing, so he said the pass-phrase and watched as ink spread over parchment, painting the interior of the entire castle within seconds. A grin split his face in obvious triumph. 

"Mischief Managed." He whispered, the ink vanishing just as quickly as it had appeared. He folded it back into a square and put it in his pocket. 

The map was replaced with a parchment of his own, an inconspicuous piece of parchment nestled among the others. Quick as he could, Harry re-erected the wards and spells onto the trunks, leaving them, and the room, in the same condition as he had found it, dirty underwear and all. 

"Harry, someone is on their way up the stairs." Regulus warned, having appeared from his guard post. 

Having gotten what he came for, Harry saw no need to linger, and as such, he shadow travelled back to the locked bathroom stall he had left from less than fifteen minutes earlier, no one the wiser of his intrusion into the Gryffindor dorms. 

~

"That was bloody gruelling." Fred groaned as he fell back onto his bed like a puppet with its strings cut.

Detention with professor McGonagall had consisted of hours writing lines. His hand ached from use, and he swore it would remain clawed for the next century. 

He heard his brother and Lee follow his example, matching groans reaching his ears. The three of them laid in silence for a few minutes, letting themselves recover from the tortuous detention.

"Do you wanna go have a look at what's in the third floor corridor?" George eventually asked, breaking the silence. 

Fred shot up in bed with a manic grin, his cramping hand all but forgotten in the face of more mischief. Calling something forbidden was a sure way to catch their interest. The fact that they had been caught trying to sneak into the forbidden forest was all but forgotten in the face of a new adventure. 

"Bring it on, brother mine!" Fred cackled and the three friends shared excited grins. 

"What d'you think they're keeping in there?" Lee asked as he made his way over to Fred's bed, sitting down next to the redhead. 

"Dunno, maybe some sort of powerful artefact?" George answered as he dug through his trunk to find the map they had stashed in there before their detention. 

"Could be Dumbledore's stash of muggle sweets." Fred countered, eliciting a laugh from the trio. 

"Aha!" George triumphantly exclaimed as he pulled the map out and joined Lee and his brother on Fred's bed. 

The three problem-makers stuck their heads together and discussed when the best time to strike would be. Lee suggested after curfew, which made sense as there would be fewer people around, even if the teachers and prefects patrolling would be more alert. 

"I solemnly swear I'm up to no good." George said as he tapped the map with the tip of his wand. 

Ink started to bleed onto the page, but it did not form the familiarity of the Marauders' map, instead there was a message. The three boys read it with wide, surprised eyes. 

"The hell?" Lee muttered. 

"The heir of Padfoot and Prongs most sincerely apologises for the underhanded trickery and subsequent retrieval of the most esteemed Marauders map." George read out loud. 

"May your trickster spirits not be diminished and keep spreading chaos to your heart's content in spite of this." Fred continued.

"Ps: A little bird told me of your desire to establish a business. As an apology for taking the map off your hands, I will give you some advice. Contact Lord Peverell, I guarantee it will be a fruitful correspondence." Lee finished. 

"Heir of Prongs and Padfoot…" Fred murmured, still in dumbfounded shock. 

"How did they manage to break in? Our protections are still in place." Lee muttered with a frown. 

The three terrors looked at each other with raised eyebrows and murmured "Impressive." In uniform assent. 

"What do you think about the advice of contacting Lord Peverell?" George asked, looking thoughtful. They were quiet for a short moment, thinking through what they had just read. 

"It can't hurt to try right?" Lee hesitantly voiced. 

The twins shared a look. Their family would not like it. Due to Dumbledore's dislike of the Peverell Lord, their mother was a staunch believer that the man was bad news. Fred and George couldn't say they agreed, however. From what they could tell, Lord Peverell hadn't done anything bad, the laws he opposed were usually horrible anyway. And the apothecary he'd opened was pretty much the only establishment they knew of that legally employed werewolves, hags and other Dark creatures. 

"I think we should do it." George said with determination, getting nods in agreement from his friends. They would write the letter and send it out come morning.

~

The castle was quiet, no children running through the halls or ghosts squabbling, even the paintings remained silent, sleeping the night away. 

Harry stood in the left-hand corridor on the seventh floor. Behind the seemingly innocent stretch of wall, laid the Room of Requirement. 

He swallowed hard, memories of raging Fiendfyre making his hands clammy and his heart beat faster. It had been years but this was the first time since the war that he'd returned.

He thought he could smell smoke, choking him, making it hard to breathe. He had to take several deep gulps of air to calm himself, Regulus speaking softly while Harry found his equilibrium. 

"I'm fine. It's fine." Harry said, breathing out slowly before he determinedly walked thrice in front of the wall. 

Harry opened the newly formed door and stepped inside. The room was massive, filled with all kinds of items that had been left or forgotten over the centuries the castle had been in use. It was an eclectic mix, everything from antique furniture missing legs or handles, books on every subject imaginable, broken quills, half-filled pots of ink and more.

Harry walked through the tall piles of junk, for although he was sure there were large treasures in the Room, a lot of it was also rubbish, like the cracked flower pot at the bottom of the pile that was shaped like a troll's head. He severely doubted anyone would find use in that.

Harry took his time looking at the items and doing some digging every now and then, being careful to use detection charms in case he came across something cursed. Which, unsurprisingly, he did, more than once. He would have found it more strange had he not found something cursed. 

He slowly made his way through the isles, stopping once in a while to pocket something or get a closer look. 

Was that a mummified head? Harry blinked slowly, watching the supposedly human head with morbid fascination. The entire thing was dry, the old skin stretched taut over the skull. It was very yellow, Harry thought. Yellow and dry. He wondered what had brought it there. Some child fascinated with ancient Egypt perhaps? 

"Well that's cheerful." Regulus muttered sarcastically. 

Harry couldn't help but snort. "I've seen the house-elf heads mounted on the wall in your mother's house, I hardly think this is worse." 

The spirit grimaced at the reminder. The house-elf heads were something he had hated as a child, he found them frightening back then, now, they were just ugly and macabre. He dearly hoped Harry planned on getting rid of them when he inherited the house officially. 

Sirius refused to even step foot on the property, which wasn't all that strange considering the childhood they'd had. The memories attached to the place were bad enough, but a talking portrait of their mother? No, Regulus could understand his brother's aversion and desire to wash his hands of the townhouse. 

"I find it fascinating to ponder what treasures might be hidden in here." Harry murmured. "So many years of history, forgotten and neglected. Imagine the stories these items could tell." 

He picked up what looked like a jewellery box made out of carved wood. It was a pretty little thing, with golden details and painted roses that had faded over the years. Harry pocketed it on a whim, not bothering to look inside. It felt empty but that was never a guarantee in the magical world. 

"Where did you say the diadem was hidden? This place is ridiculously large." Regulus huffed as another hour of Harry looking at random objects had passed. 

"We're almost there, no need to get huffy. It's not like I forced you to come." Harry replied, rolling his eyes. 

He hadn't rushed his trek to the Horcrux since everyone assumed him to be asleep in his bed. The nights were the only time he really got to be himself, where he didn't have to act like an 11 year old yet again. 

But Regulus was right, of course. The diadem was exceedingly important and Harry shouldn't dally much longer. He could scour the Room of Hidden Things later, when the Horcrux was safely stored on his island. 

Harry readjusted his direction and briskly walked towards the area he remembered first seeing the diadem. At the time he'd had no notion of what said headpiece might actually be. It was only later, after a year on the run, hunting Horcruxes, that he realised the diadem he had placed on top of the bust of an ugly warlock, to use as a marker while he hid Snape's potion book, was actually a Horcrux.

"I somehow expected it to be… well… grander." Regulus said in disappointment as Harry levitated Ravenclaw's diadem into the iron box he had prepared for the occasion. 

The diadem was old and tarnished, the shine of the silver having long since dulled over the years. There was a large sapphire in the middle, but even that lacked the proper sparkle one might expect from such a gem.

"I'm sure it looked regal once upon a time. But you have to remember that it's been over a thousand years since its creation. That, combined with the taint of the Horcrux within, is sure to have taken its toll." Harry replied. 

Regulus nodded and Harry checked the time, realising that the night was still young. He decided to drop the diadem off in his study before returning to the Room of Hidden Things with an enlarged trunk. He wanted to clear it out for anything useful and valuable. It would most likely take months of work seeing as he only had a few hours each night, but it was a fun project that would keep him from running up the walls with boredom and frustration.

Chapter Text

Albus clutched the letter in his trembling hands, face ashen as he read its contents. It had arrived earlier in the day and only now had he found the time to open it.

It was from Garrick Ollivander, and he expected it to be about Voldemort's brother wand, the one holding Fawkes' second feather. He hadn't been wrong.

The contents however, shook him to the very core. He'd mused that Voldemort's brother wand would most likely choose Harry Potter due to the prophecy surrounding the two, and he had been correct. Except...

The holly had rejected Harry, and instead been replaced by yew… just like Tom Riddle, like Voldemort. The boy's wand was frighteningly similar, both in components and rigidity. Unyielding is what Garrick had said. Albus drew a deep, unsettled breath and closed his eyes. 

Whenever he saw Harry in the Great Hall, he felt like he was seeing a ghost, or perhaps a memory of the past.

The child was well liked, charming, intelligent and powerful. The teachers sang his praises whenever he asked how the first years were faring.

Even Severus, a man he had expected to loathe the boy, didn't have anything particularly bad to say despite all his sneers. He called the child adequate, which was in fact high praise when James' son was concerned. 

The staff meeting being held at the end of the first school week had been enlightening as well as deeply unsettling for the old headmaster. He had feared for the boy when he was placed in Slytherin, assuming that he would be vastly unprepared for what would be expected of him in the house full of traditionalists. 

But Albus had been wrong. Harry fit in just fine, more than fine if truth be told. He appeared more stable and confident than the old headmaster had planned for. He had hoped for a child who was unsure of his place in their society, who would leap at the chance for some positive reinforcement and guidance by the right people, not a highly intelligent boy who charmed everyone around him. 

All was not lost, of course not, but his previous plans would have to be altered. Harry was not going to act the way he had planned, no matter how much he might wish it. Pushing him in the same way would only drive him further away, and it was imperative that he gained the boy's trust. 

He worried about the remnants of Dark magic still left in the boy's scar. Although he hadn't been in a position to check the scar since that fateful Halloween years back, he wondered if it might have influenced Harry more than he first thought. For who knew what kind of unspeakable magic Voldemort had performed in his final years of the war. 

Was the boy being possessed? There was a chance, however small. But if so… He hardly imagined Lord Voldemort would have accepted living with muggles for so many years, unkind ones at that. 

Because Albus wasn't blind to Petunia's dislike of magic, but the protection the blood wards provided was worth it in his mind. Harry might not have grown up particularly happy, but at least he was safe. 

He worried so much that the past was repeating itself. Was he looking upon the next Dark Lord? Or was this just his own paranoia? Albus sighed deeply and looked down at the letter. There were so many similarities that he struggled to see the differences. Tom Riddle had also been charming and beloved by his teachers, well, by all but Albus himself. 

There was a seemingly budding friendship between Harry and Neville Longbottom, and Albus didn't know if he should be happy or despair. Even though Neville's grandmother Augusta was a traditionalist, she was also a part of the Light faction politically. It would be good for Harry to have a friend like that.

His concerns on the matter didn't stem from that, but rather the fact that Neville had been the second child the prophecy could have spoken about. Was their friendship a farce orchestrated by Voldemort himself? No… no he shouldn't think like that. 

Harry was not Tom. He was not Voldemort.  Albus tried to convince himself of that but in the end, he didn't know if he succeeded. 

~

The weekend couldn't come fast enough for Harry. Although he wouldn't be able to slip away from Hogwarts during the day, he was at least spared the droll repetition of having to attend classes. For that very reason, Harry's mood was considerably lighter. 

He finished buttoning his grey waistcoat over a black silk shirt and tightened his green and silver tie. Seeing as it was Saturday he didn't have to wear the school uniform, that didn't mean he immediately dressed like a street urchin. He'd had enough years wearing Dudley's oversized cast-offs to last several lifetimes. 

When Draco approached him, he'd just slung his satchel around his shoulder and was about to leave the dorm and head for breakfast. 

"Potter… can we… start over?" The young boy gritted out, his face looking astoundingly pinched. 

Harry studied the Malfoy heir in silence. The other boys in their dorm were still asleep, curtains drawn shut around their beds since it was the weekend. Harry was an early riser and Draco must have gotten up just for this conversation, he wasn't even out of his pyjamas. 

"Certainly, heir Malfoy." Harry said, watching as the boy's shoulders lowered with relief. 

"As soon as I get an apology and a public acknowledgement as the Black heir." Harry finished, enjoying how the relief immediately transformed into tense anger. 

Draco was so prickly. He had been spoiled rotten by both his parents growing up and it clearly showed in the way he interacted with his peers. Narcissa and Lucius had done him no favours. 

"The apology does not have to be made in public but the acknowledgement will. The Slytherin common room sometime after dinner will suffice." Harry said, clarifying his conditions nonchalantly.

What Harry demanded of him right now was in fact rather mild for the snub he had received on their first night. 

The blonde boy clenched his fist and was severely struggling to get his emotions under control. Harry could tell that he was trying to emulate his father but failing badly. Draco still had a few years of personal growth ahead of him before he could successfully pull off anything remotely similar to Lucius Malfoy. 

Harry eventually had enough of the silence and turned around, continuing towards the door. The apology didn't have to come right now, Harry was patient, this was more of a social exercise for Draco than it was for Harry's own sake. It wasn't like Malfoy's snub had actually offended him. 

"I'm sorry!" Draco blurted out before Harry could lay his hand on the door handle. There was a deep intake of air before the boy continued.

"Heir Potter-Black, please accept my humble apology for my past transgressions, it won't happen again." Draco said, the words sounding rushed and slightly pained. 

It was abundantly clear that Draco didn't honestly mean what he said, but that was fine. Harry knew that the reason Draco reached out so soon, before having properly come to terms with the facts on his own, was due to his mother or father pushing him to make amends.

The Black family still held much power in certain circles, and Harry would end up with all of that one day. It was no wonder Draco's parents wanted to wiggle their way closer to him. He knew them both well enough to realise that Lucius wanted a close relationship between their families whereas Narcissa probably plotted ways to snatch the Black inheritance. 

Harry was of the firm belief that Draco would have managed to mend the gap between them on his own eventually, once he realised that making an enemy out of Harry was not something that was in his best interest. But now he had been robbed of that opportunity. 

"I accept your apology, heir Malfoy." Harry replied, giving the boy an encouraging smile. 

"I hope we can move forward without any enmity." Harry continued, holding out his hand for a shake.

There was a temporary truce formed between them and Harry felt rather pleased. Draco not actively ignoring him would make his life simpler. 

They settled their agreement with a firm handshake. Harry offered Draco to join him for breakfast but it was too early. Now that he'd gotten Harry's forgiveness, at least partially, the blonde boy crawled back into bed for a few more hours of sleep.

Breakfast was a rather solitary affair for Harry. Not many were awake that early on a Saturday morning, and those that were didn't deign to speak with him anyway. But that was fine. Harry wasn't a child starved for attention and approval this time around. 

He ate in comfortable silence, finishing the last of his tea before he left for the library. Madam Pince, the librarian, looked as pinched as ever, giving him a stern glare as he quietly walked up to her desk. 

"Professor Quirrell told me to give this to you ma'am." Harry said with a soft smile, handing over the teacher's note.

The librarian narrowed her eyes at the parchment but didn't comment on his new reading material, only caring whether the note was genuine or not. She tapped it once with her wand and seemed satisfied.

"Wait here Mr Potter." Her voice was just as stern, if not more than professor McGonagall's. The library was her domain and she seemed to know everything that went on in there. 

A minute or two later, Madam Pince returned, arms laden with three books of various thicknesses. The bigoted geneaology book was by far the largest one, and Harry did not plan on reading it again, once was definitely enough. 

"Return the books within two months in the same condition you got them in. Do not damage the books in any way, you will not like the consequences." Her dark eyes were as intense as Snape's, promising unpleasantness should he disregard her rules. 

"In addition you are not to share the books with any other student, the permission is for you, and you only." 

Harry nodded with a solemn expression, promising he would take good care of the books. The librarian didn't look like she fully believed him, but let him leave with her precious books nonetheless. 

He found a quiet and secluded area of the library, hidden deep in the runes section. He didn't plan on reading his new books out in the open, that would only be silly of him, no they were to be saved for later. Instead he walked along the aisles, pulling out a few books on Sumerian runes and Egyptian hieroglyphs. 

Hogwarts' vast library was one of the major pulls for staying as a student. There was so much knowledge stored in the seemingly endless expanse of books, scrolls and tomes.

Harry became engrossed with the fascinating theory, tuning out his surroundings for the time being. Regulus read over his shoulder, hovering behind him. They kept going like that until the book had been read cover to cover.

Five hours had passed and Harry nearly startled when he noticed the time. His stomach growled unhappily at being ignored. He wondered if he had enough time to reach lunch before the food was whisked away by the elves, but decided that he might as well just stay in the library. 

He had some edibles hidden away in his satchel that he could wolf down before Madam Pince noticed. She had eyes like a hawk and ears like a bat. Somehow she always seemed to know when someone was breaking the rules inside the library. 

A few handfuls of various nuts later, and Harry was ready to get his homework out of the way. It was ridiculously boring but he might as well do it now. 

He dug a notebook and fountain pen out of his satchel and began drafting an essay on the properties of porcupine quills for his Potions homework. Even though he didn't technically need his textbook to be able to write the essay, he'd brought it out just for show.  

"Your friend, Neville, is on his way over here." Regulus announced all of a sudden. 

Harry looked up from his notes, and sure enough, his Herbology-loving friend was quickly trudging over to his quiet little area. 

Neville was red in the face from exertion and he plopped ungracefully down into the nearest chair, breath coming in deep gasps. 

"Are you alright?" Harry asked, frowning. 

Neville needed a few seconds to catch his breath before he answered. 

"I've been l-looking all over the castle for you." He answered, making Harry's eyebrows shoot up in surprise. 

"I ch-checked the library first but couldn't find you, so I asked an older S-Slytherin if he knew where you were, but he just s-sneered at me and told me to get lost." 

"That was rather brave of you." Harry praised with a gentle smile. "I'm sorry you didn't find me sooner, I should have sat down in a different section of the library." 

Neville shook his head and returned the smile. "It's alright. It wasn't your fault." 

"Do you want to study with me?" Harry asked. 

The boy nodded and got his own books, quills and parchment out of his bag. Harry helped Neville understand the theory as best as he could, encouraging the boy whenever appropriate. 

"How did you find Ollivander's? I don't know if I told you, but a wand actually burned up in my hand!" Harry said with a chuckle. He wanted to get Neville thinking about his own wand and the fact that it didn't belong with him. 

Neville's eyes were wide with surprise. "It burned?" 

Harry nodded and unsheathed his wand, holding it out for Neville to have a look. 

"It burned because the wood did not resonate with my magic whereas the core did. Mr Ollivander said that it happens sometimes when the core bonds to their new owner but the wood simply isn't compatible." Harry explained. 

By then, Neville was frowning. "Your wand is supposed to bond to you?" He bit his bottom lip nervously, thinking about the wand in his pocket that he could hardly feel at all. 

Harry nodded with enthusiasm. "It's wonderful! It feels like… like warmth, like belonging. None of the other wands felt anything remotely like that, I could hardly do anything magical with them. It wasn't until I got to hold this wand that I knew what I had been missing. It feels like a part of you, like a friend who'll always stand by your side." He smiled softly as he ran his finger over the dark wood. 

"Mr Ollivander said that the wand chooses the wizard, and I think I understand what he meant. I doubt I would be able to perform my spells with your wand because it hasn't chosen me. It's loyalty lies with you and no one else. But enough about my experiences, how about you? How did it go when you got your wand?" Harry asked, looking at Neville with wide and curious eyes. 

Neville fiddled with the hem of his robe, muttering something under his breath.

"Pardon? I didn't quite catch that." Harry said, blinking slowly, not able to make sense of the boy's quiet mumbling.  

Neville took a deep breath. "I s-said that I d-didn't go to O-Ollivander's." He didn't look up. 

"Oh… did you go to one of Gregorovitch's shops overseas?" Harry queried. Neville shook his head.

"Well… where did you get your wand then?" He asked, lacing his voice with baffled curiosity. 

"My n-nan gave it to me. S-s-said that it used to belong to my...my d-dad." Neville's voice was but a whisper. 

"Really? That can't be right… isn't your dad… well, alive? It sounds like the wand is still bonded to him. No wonder you've been having trouble with your Defence spells." 

"H-how did you know?" The other boy asked, looking at Harry with wide eyes. 

Harry smiled gently at his nervous friend. "During my first trip to the library I looked up some old editions of the Daily Prophet. I wished to know more about what happened to my parents, and… well… I wanted to see some pictures of them if possible. I don't have any of my own…" Which wasn't entirely a lie. He didn't own any pictures of his parents, as adults that is, but that was because he could see and talk to them whenever he wished. 

"There was another article… about, well… your parents. I didn't mention it because I was afraid of upsetting you." Harry softly said. 

"Oh…" Neville drew a deep breath. "It's okay. I'm n-not ashamed of th-them or anything. I just…" he trailed off, looking forlorn. 

"Don't like talking about it?" Harry finished for him, gently patting his shoulder. "That's okay, you know." 

The two children lapsed into silence. Harry returned to his homework to give Neville some privacy. Eventually the Hufflepuff followed his lead and they both scribbled away on their parchment. 

They kept going until it was time for dinner, getting a large chunk of homework out of the way. While they were packing their things away, Harry touched upon the subject of Neville's wand again. 

"You should speak to your Head of House about your wand. I know your grandmother probably wants you to use your father's wand as a way to honour his memory, but it is destroying your education. As long as he is alive you will not be able to use it. And even if he were to pass away, that is no guarantee that it would be suitable for you. Please talk to professor Sprout about visiting Ollivander's. I hear they even have a branch here in Hogsmeade." 

"I-I'll think about it." Neville murmured with apprehension, but nonetheless smiled.

~

Dinner was definitely a louder affair than breakfast had been. That wasn't to say that the Slytherin table was rowdy, not at all, but there were hundreds of students within the Great Hall, the sounds combined added up. 

Theo asked him where he had been all day and Harry answered truthfully, saying he had been studying with Neville Longbottom in the library.

The look he got was one of incomprehension. He swore he could see the cogs turning in Theo's head, trying to figure out what he'd gain from spending time with Neville who was both shy and seemingly useless in classes. Harry knew the other boy wouldn't believe him if he told the truth, that he wanted to help Neville just because he could. After all, it wasn't considered a very Slytherin approach.

Harry and Theo were soon joined by Millicent Bullstrode for dinner, and the three of them chatted amicably about classes and their excitement for the next flying class. Well, Harry and Bullstrode did. Theo was not very fond of flying in general, however, he did enjoy watching Quidditch, surprising Harry entirely when he proclaimed his fervent support of the Falmouth Falcons. 

He watched with some shock as the usually well behaved children sniped at each other and their preferred Quidditch team. Bullstrode loved the Holyhead Harpies on a scale similar to Ron's obsession with the Chudley Cannons, and from the way she talked about Gwenog Jones, the Holyhead captain, Harry thought she might have quite the celebrity crush. 

After dinner, the two boys and Millicent, as she had asked to be called once the heated discussion had calmed down, left the Great Hall together, heading to the Slytherin common room for a round of wizarding card games. 

Harry had nearly forgotten about Draco and his promise of making amends, and so it almost took him by surprise when the blonde boy walked up to him with a determined expression as soon as they entered the common room. 

The entire atmosphere in the room changed, becoming charged with curiosity and anticipation. It hadn't escaped the older students' notice how the Malfoy heir had entirely ignored Harry for their first week. That he was stepping up to him now, probably with the intent of 'putting him in his rightful place', riled up the students whose families had followed Voldemort like a drop of blood amidst sharks. There were dark grins and satisfied smirks all around. 

"Potter." Draco greeted with a curt nod. 

"The Malfoy family formally recognises your claim as heir to the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black. On behalf of my family I, as the Malfoy heir, would like to extend my condolences for the loss of your Head of House last spring." Draco proclaimed, voice loud enough to be heard by most without being shouted. 

"Thank you, heir Malfoy. Although I never met the departed Arcturus Black, I am deeply honoured that he allowed me to one day help the family of my grandmother Dorea flourish." Harry formally replied, shaking Draco's offered hand.

The room was so quiet one could hear a pin drop. That had definitely not been the interaction they had expected.  

"You filthy half-blood! How dare you pretend to claim the Black name?!" Ambry Dolohov snarled from within the crowd. 

He was a sixth year student with ties to the Black family through his grandfather, and took great offence to Draco's revelation. Although his grandfather wasn't from the main branch, and in fact fell rather far out in the minor branches, he still held much pride in his family ties.

Dolohov's father had been a devout Death Eater that ended up killed in the war, and his hatred for Harry, and everything he supposedly stood for, was therefore great. 

"I've had enough of your lies and dirty blood! You have no right to such a prestigious House!" Dolohov growled with livid rage, and before his friend could stop him, he brandished his wand and fired a spell that glowed a sickly yellow colour. 

As soon as Dolohov stepped forward with his wand raised, Harry forcefully Banished Draco out of the spell's trajectory and into the gathered crowd. 

Without missing a beat, he fluidly moved out of the way of the Bone Breaking curse that was heading straight for his head. If it had hit, his skull would have cracked open like a melon, not a particularly nice way to go. It said something that Dolohov's first spell was cast with the intention of lethality. 

"That was rather rude don't you think?" Harry calmly said, appearing largely unconcerned about the gruesome death he'd almost faced. 

"If you wanted to challenge me officially, all you had to do was ask." Harry's smile was flat but his eyes gleamed with dark amusement. 

"So, is this a challenge then? Because if so, I accept." He continued. 

As a general rule, he didn't harm children, but Dolohov had cast first, with deadly intent one might add, that demanded action. The boy was almost an adult in the eyes of wizarding society, for him to try and harm a supposedly eleven year old child was not acceptable. 

This wasn't the first time he had tried either. Harry had noticed how Dolohov on several occasions had attempted to hex him in the back over the past week, but none of the spells were as bad as what he'd just tried to pull off. 

He wasn't the only one displeased with Harry's sorting of course, nor the only one who'd attempted to bully him, but this took everything a step further than Harry was willing to allow. 

The students had pulled away from the two combatants, forming a wide circle around him and Dolohov, not willing to interfere or get in the way of any stray curses. 

Dolohov shouted expletives and incoherent bigotry in a fashion similar to Bellatrix Lestrange, and if not for his dark eyes and light brown hair, he could almost have passed as her son, or perhaps a first cousin. 

Harry gracefully sidestepped every curse flung at him, silently mocking Dolohov with his complete ease and disinterest. But eventually it had to end. He tired quickly of their little game. 

With quick strides he slipped past the boy's defences, casting a murmured spell at him with his yew wand. 

A whip-like rope shot out of Harry's wand, wrapping tightly around Dolohov's arms, binding them together. Harry yanked hard, bringing the teenager to his knees in a fraction of a second. 

Dolohov's grip on his wand loosened, and as he made contact with the floor, so did his wand. In just a few short seconds, Harry had successfully disarmed a sixth year student with minimal effort.

Of course, that wasn't as big a feat as it probably came across as. Harry was a war veteran, not a clueless eleven year-old. 

However, not once did he cast a spell above the third year curriculum. He was fine with being seen as a prodigy who studied hard, but anything more was too revealing at this point in time. He had to keep his cards close to the chest.

Harry pressed his wand firmly into Dolohov's throat.

"Do you yield?" He asked in a cold and detached manner, sending shivers up some of the assembled students' backs.

Dolohov swallowed hard, Adam's apple bobbing uncomfortably under the wand. He was utterly defenceless and intelligent enough to realise that. 

"Fuck off Potter!" He snarled, but it was with less fervor than earlier, clearly feeling unsettled about the unusual situation. 

"Do. You. Yield?" Harry continued, punctuating each word. 

The conjured rope from his Incarcerous tightened at his mental command, and like a constrictor they wound tighter and tighter around their victim. 

Harry wasn't above using physical punishment to get his point across, and the scream that pierced the air when Dolohov's wrists snapped, echoed through the quiet common room.

It was a warning, a promise. Henry Potter was not easy prey. 

For some, their hatred of Britain's saviour only grew in that moment, but the message was still clear in their minds. If they wanted revenge they would have to be cleverer than Dolohov's brutish ways. They didn't know his true potential, and that was something they would have to puzzle out before they tried anything again.

For others, there was now an air of wariness and respect for the tiny slip of a first year. The amount of hexes aimed at his back would most likely lessen significantly in the near future. 

"YIELD, I Y-YIELD!" Dolohov shouted through painful moans, his face red and splotchy with tears and snot. 

"Very well. Please refrain from bothering me again in the future." Harry softly replied, a mockingly kind smile gracing his lips. 

Green eyes quickly scanned the crowd until he found the person he had been looking for. She had stationed herself next to the first years for protection, making sure none of Dolohov's spells hit them, either by accident or intention. 

"Miss Farley, I think Dolohov might need to see Madam Pomfrey. Perhaps someone should help him to the hospital wing?" Harry asked, voice dripping with feigned concern. 

The prefect eyed Harry with intense calculation. The suggestion wasn't anything she wouldn't have arranged on her own and so, she gave him a curt nod in acquiesce.

"Rogers, Hartland! Take your friend to see the matron. You know the rules." Her tone was stern, leaving no room for arguments.

The two boys quickly ran over to their crying friend, helping him to his feet as they guided him through the common room entrance. 

Dolohov's hands were sticking out at odd angles after the conjured ropes vanished, and if one looked at his right wrist, one could see bone poking through the skin in a nauseating way. Blood seeped out of the open wound, leaving a trail of red drops following the three teenagers as they escaped.

Both of Dolohov's wrists had been broken in a mocking imitation of the Bone Breaking curse he had sent at Harry at the start of the duel. The curse meant for Harry wasn't so kind as to just snap bones in two, no, it shattered and splintered the bones it hit. In comparison, the clean breaks Harry had performed was a kindness. Madam Pomfrey would have him fixed up right as rain before curfew. 

The room still felt tense and awkward, so very few wanted to remain. Slowly, the students dispersed. Some escaped the common room entirely, leaving for the library or various courtyards outside, while others went to their dorms for an early night.

Only a small collection of older students, and strangely enough, first years, stayed behind. Draco was one of those.

"You saved me…" Draco shakily said, face entirely drained of colour, making him look reminiscent of the spirits Harry summoned.

"I did. Although the spell wasn't intended for you, I have no doubt Dolohov would have hit you by accident. I'd rather not have a murder on my conscience this early in life." He replied lightly, giving Draco a wry grin. 

Regulus snorted indignantly in the background. 

"I swear I had no idea he would react like that!" Draco blurted out looking both guilty and worried, clearly concerned about Harry's reaction.

"I know." Harry's smile was warm and comforting as he patted Draco gently on the shoulder. The boy nearly slumped with relief. 

"Millicent, Theo and I were going to play some card games, you're welcome to join us if you'd like." Harry graciously offered, knowing very well that Draco was as good as incorporated into his little group of ducklings that he'd taken under his wing.

They all had so much potential, who knew what they'd one day achieve with someone helping them along the way. 

Harry looked back to where Millicent and Theo had been at the start of everything. Both were pale-faced but out of the two of them, Theo looked the worse for wear. His eyes were sightlessly glued to the bloodied floor and he appeared to be trembling just slightly.

"Theo? Are you alright?" Harry asked, a feeling of concern pooling in his gut, that reaction wasn't normal.

Theo wore a pained expression and it took only fractions of a second for Harry to recognise what was going on. Theo was having either a flashback or a panic attack, possibly both. 

Exactly what had been the trigger, or what the boy had experienced in the past, Harry did not know. But he was all too familiar with reliving old trauma. Slowly he closed the distance between them, making no sudden movements or noises. 

Theo's breath came in sharp little gasps, bordering on hyperventilation. Harry stopped a small distance away from him and pulled a round, crystal phial out of the side pocket of his satchel. 

"Theo, drink this for me, it will make everything better." He promised in a soothing manner, holding the phial out for Theo to take. 

It took a few seconds, but he thankfully listened and gulped down the potion without hesitation, surprisingly enough. The Calming draught took immediate effect and Theo's breathing evened out and his face gained some of the colour it had lost. 

"Do you still want to play cards with me?" Harry asked, deciding to ignore the episode for now. He would do some digging to find out what it was all about, but not that very moment. 

"I… no. I think I'm just gonna go to bed." Theo replied weakly. 

"Okay. Well, we'll be here if you change your mind." Before the boy could leave, Harry shoved an entire bar of chocolate into Theo's unsuspecting hands. "Sleep well." 

"Uh, thanks." Theo mumbled, clutching the wrapped up chocolate like a lifeline as he made his way to their dorm. 

"Anyone else want to play cards?" Harry asked the remaining first years. 

Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis were just about the only ones not there. Crabbe and Goyle hung around Draco at all times so they merely shrugged at Harry's offer. Pansy Parkinson and Lily Moon on the other hand looked more sceptical, but with a gaze thrown in Draco's direction and seeing that he was all too happy to join, they too complied. 

With the common room being nearly empty, they easily found a place large enough for all of them to sit. Harry took one of the armchairs while the others spread out in the remaining chairs and sofas around the table. 

He dug a pack of cards out of his bag and let them magically shuffle themselves. They were enchanted that way, so it wasn't particularly impressive. When it was done, he handed out cards to all that wanted to play. 

Crabbe and Goyle had opted out and instead just wanted to watch. Moon likewise shook her head when offered cards, preferring just to stay for the company. 

They were in the middle of a round of Snaps and Dragons when the fifth year prefect approached them. 

"So, Potter, you fought Dolohov and won." Farley casually pointed out as she took a seat next to the group of first years. 

"I suppose I did." Harry replied with just the tiniest of smirks. 

"Do you have any idea what that actually means?" She continued without missing a beat, eying him with close scrutiny. 

Harry blinked slowly as he looked up from his rather abysmal hand of cards. 

"Pardon?" He questioned, a frown finding its way onto his face. He didn't think winning a duel with Dolohov meant anything but… well… winning, and perhaps getting a slightly better reputation within Slytherin. 

"You are infuriatingly thick for someone so clever." Regulus grumbled in the background, but Harry was well versed in ignoring him and his sarcastic quips by now and didn't pay it any mind. 

"I don't think I'm quite following." Harry said, looking directly at Farley now. 

She raised an eyebrow but didn't seem surprised. "Thought so." She muttered before letting out a tired sigh. 

"Well, Potter, it seems you've somehow found your way into the Court. Do you even know what that is?" Farley asked in exasperation. 

Harry blinked, opened his mouth, closed it and opened it again, like a fish out of water. "I'm sorry, I did what?" 

That couldn't be right… becoming part of the Court was supposed to be difficult, not something he did by bloody accident of all things! No wonder Regulus had been so happy after he won that duel. 

"When you brought up the formality of the challenge, you made it official. Your intention might not have been to take Dolohov's place in the Court, but the moment you won the duel, indisputably I might add, you replaced him." Farley patiently explained. 

The other first years stared at him with open shock. Harry could fully understand their surprise because he felt the same way. 

"Can a first year even be in the Court?" Harry asked weakly, wondering how this would change things.

"I can't say it happens often, but there are definitely no rules prohibiting it. Usually first years just aren't… magically powerful enough to outmatch the older students." And at that she gave him a sharp look, for clearly he had enough magical power to force his way into the Court. 

"Is there anything special I will have to do now?" Harry queried. He knew how the Court had operated in Tom's era thanks to Abraxas, and Regulus had informed him of his own school days, but that didn't necessarily mean that things were still the same. 

"There will be a meeting tomorrow to introduce you to the rest of the Court and explain your responsibilities. You can expect a note during breakfast for a time and place." Farley made to get up before she remembered her last piece of advice. 

"You will find that there are going to be no more attempts at hexing your back in the hallways or common room. Being in the Court provides some extra… protection, if you will. However you might find yourself with official challenges, so I'd recommend reading up on your spell repertoire and practice as much as you can." She gave him a pat on the shoulder and Harry had to force himself not to flinch, he still hated being touched without permission. 

"You have great potential, Potter. Keep this up and you'll go far." 

"Thank you for the advice, prefect Farley." Harry plastered on a fake smile that certainly fooled the girl. 

She left Harry and the rest of the first years to their little games. They played a few more rounds of cards, using the sweets Harry provided as gambling tokens. All in all it was great fun. He vaguely wondered where Blaise was since he hadn't seen him all day, but didn't give it much thought. He wasn't the boy's mother

Later, when he noticed Crabbe starting to yawn, he decided to call it a night. Harry was eager to go home to his island where he could tell Sirius and his grandfather all about the eventful evening he'd had. In addition, he had a certain snooping beetle to contact for a sensationally revealing interview.

Chapter Text

Returning to his island felt like taking a breath of fresh air for the first time in weeks. Harry travelled there every night and yet it never stopped to amaze him how much of a home it had actually become. 

He loved Hogwarts, he truly did, but it was more the memory of it than actually being there. Finally he had a home to return to, finally he could relate to the students who got homesick and missed their families. He had all of that now, him, Harry Potter, the lost little boy from the cupboard. 

"Harry!" Sirius was on his feet within seconds of seeing his godson, big, goofy grin plastered on his face. 

Harry smiled in return and accepted the hug he saw coming. "Is grandfather here tonight? I thought perhaps we could all have dinner together." 

"He should be around somewhere, yeah. I think he said something about the greenhouses but I'm not sure. You could ask one of the elves." Sirius replied with a shrug. 

Both men had adjusted their day rhythm so they would still be awake for the duration of Harry's nightly visits. It was rather touching actually, and Harry greatly appreciated it. 

"I'll go have a look. A little walk will do me good." Harry patted Sirius' shoulder and walked back outside. 

"Minky? Could you please arrange for dinner to be made for me and the others?" Harry asked. The little elf happily nodded her head as soon as he relayed his wishes. 

"Of course, master Peverell!" She said, and Harry barely managed to thank her before she was gone again. 

He took his time checking each and every greenhouse they owned until he found his grandfather. The old man was happily cutting stalks of flowering asphodel, gathering them in a large basket. 

"I hope you're planning on collecting the roots as well." Harry said, smiling warmly at the surprise and happiness that bloomed on Marius' face when he laid eyes on him. 

"Harry! How lovely to see you." His grandfather said, returning the smile in kind. 

Harry folded up the sleeves of his black shirt and without prompting began to dig up the roots. They were a fairly common potion ingredient that he liked to keep in stock. The white flowers themselves could also be used once dried, so Harry asked Marius to set some aside for that purpose. 

The two of them talked and worked for about an hour, until one of the elves told them dinner was ready. Harry found the time spent with Marius like a balm to his soul. He hadn't realised just how exhausted being at Hogwarts actually made him. 

Dinner itself was a light affair, and Harry cherished the easy way he could unload his worries onto the only living souls that knew of his background. They didn't judge and offered support and interest wherever it was needed. 

He told them of the predicament he'd managed to put himself in with the whole Court business. Sirius, the prat, laughed at his plight. 

"Only you could do that by accident Harry, only you." He guffawed. 

"Yes, yes, make fun of my troubles, Sirius." Harry rolled his eyes and sighed dramatically.

"Just make sure you're careful, I don't want you to get hurt. Even if you can't stay permanently dead, you're not invulnerable." Marius said with a worried frown, concerned about what other students like Dolohov might do. 

"I'm always careful. Or at least, I try to be as much as possible." Harry replied. 

The dinner eventually progressed to tea and biscuits by the fireplace. The three men chatted about this and that, telling each other about their day. 

Sirius was very pleased when he heard he might be getting his old map back fairly soon. Harry had plans for making a new and improved map for his own use. Sirius and his father had regaled him with the story of how they created the original down to every last detail. The map was a very impressive piece of magic, especially when you took into consideration their age when they made it. 

However, Sirius would have to live without the map for a little while longer. Harry needed it to keep an eye on the castle until he completed his own. It wasn't a high priority though, the business with the Court came first. 

After tea, Harry retreated to his study. The letters had piled up during his absence and he wanted to get them out of the way before he did anything else. 

He started at the top of the pile and worked his way through, stopping once he got to a familiar writing. A grin spread on his face and he opened the letter with much excitement. Inside he found what he had expected, although he'd thought they'd take longer to mull it through. 

The business proposition from the Weasley twins, for it was signed as being just from them and not Lee as well, lacked their usual silliness and was written as formally as they could probably manage. Harry laughed, feeling exceedingly happy that they had actually followed his advice and written Lord Peverell. 

Immediately he got out his best stationery and penned a reply. He conveyed his interest in their business but that he would need more information before he committed to anything. Of course, that was a lie, Harry would support them either way, but he had to sound professional about it. He asked to be sent a business plan with their goals and how much financial backing they were looking for, promising support if their plan proved solid. 

In the meantime he was willing to fund their research, mainly by providing potion ingredients since it came at practically no extra cost to him. There was a contract stating that every product, spell or potion they created after receiving funding, would be licensed with 25% ownership to Lord Peverell for the following seven years. Meaning if they sold any of said products, Harry would get 25% of the income. He didn't need the money, not at all, but it was a very decent agreement. 

By the time he pressed his signet ring into the hot wax, the letter had become quite long. He'd added more and more to it. There were some stipulations that he hadn't written yet since they were so early in the process, but he would add them eventually. 

Harry sorely wanted to help the twins achieve their dreams, but he also wanted them to actually complete their education this time around. One of the stipulations he hadn't mentioned yet was that they both had to complete their OWLs and at least three NEWTs each. It wasn't that he thought they would ever do anything else other than run their shop afterwards, but two more years of education would be valuable both for their social and educational growth. 

The last, and possibly most worrisome stipulation where the twins were concerned, was that Harry wanted 51% of their company, with a contract stating that if the business was still running five years later, they could buy back 31% of the shares, leaving Harry with only 20%. 

With the letter to the twins completed and ready to be sent off, he continued with his correspondence. The last thing he did for the day was write a letter to Rita Skeeter, confirming her meeting with Henry Potter and Sam White, Sunday evening at 11pm in the Shrieking Shack. Not the most ideal location for a long interview, but it provided security in the fact that it was rumoured to be haunted. The people of Hogsmeade did not dare go close to it.  

~

Harry returned to Hogwarts and showed up at the Slytherin table for breakfast during his usual early hours. Instead of sitting near the staff table, he sat down near the middle as was required of Court members according to Regulus.

He had thought some more about the supposed Court, and now, Harry wondered which of the older students was a part of it. He honestly hadn't paid it much attention since it was just his first week, although he probably should have. So many other things had demanded his attention however. 

Just as Gemma had promised, someone came to give him the time and location. A third year girl, whose name he couldn't remember, maybe Lisa? Eloise? Either way, it didn't matter. She dithered a few steps away from his seat before she drew enough courage to approach him. 

"This is for you, Mr Potter." She said, wearily holding out a sealed envelope with his name on the front. It was all rather pretentious he thought in amusement. 

"Thank you." He replied softly as he accepted the letter. 

The girl escaped as soon as her job was done, quickly leaving the Great Hall entirely. It was almost as if she was afraid of him… please don't say there were rumours about him being the next Dark Lord again? Harry wanted to groan and bury his face in his hands, but instead he opened up the letter he had received and pulled out a thick card with a time and place written in beautiful cursive. 

He had until lunch before the Court demanded his presence in the dungeons. Harry placed the letter in his bag for safekeeping and finished up his breakfast. He kept an eye on the Great Hall, and as soon as he caught a glimpse of Neville, he confidently walked over to the Hufflepuff table and promptly stationed himself on the bench next to his friend. 

"Good morning Neville." Harry said in a calm voice, pouring himself a cup of tea as if nothing was out of the ordinary. 

The Hufflepuff students looked at him with confusion but didn't tell him to leave outright. Neville on the other hand appeared happy but worried, throwing concerned glances up at the staff table. 

"M-morning H-Henry. Uhm… are you sure it's okay for you to sit here?" He whispered in reply to Harry's greeting. 

"It isn't against the rules, I checked. Students are only required to sit at their designated table for celebrations, ceremonies and other official engagements." Harry answered with such unwavering certainty that it soothed Neville's frayed nerves. The boy's shoulders sank in relief and he smiled happily at his friend. 

"What do you want to do today? I thought maybe we could go for a walk around the Black Lake, see what kind of plants we might find." Harry continued. Neville looked excited and disappointed simultaneously, oddly enough. 

"I'd love to but I can't." The boy replied, much to Harry's surprise. 

"I uh, I talked to p-professor Sprout about uhm… my dad's wand yesterday. She was horrified that my gran hadn't taken me out to get my own. S-she's taking me to Hogsmeade today to see if we can find one that suits me better. If I can't find a match there she said we'll have to go to Diagon Alley." Neville's smile was pleased yet nervous. 

"That's wonderful news Neville! I'm really happy for you. Professor Sprout seems to be a good Head of House." 

"Yeah…" Neville answered, barely picking at his food. 

"You don't seem particularly excited about all of this." Harry pointed out as he took a sip of his tea. 

"It's just… w-what if no wand chooses me?" Neville fretted, pushing his scrambled eggs around on his plate with his fork.

"Neville… of course one will. You are a wizard, magic runs through your very veins. As I said the last time we spoke, you wouldn't have gotten a Hogwarts letter if that wasn't true. Just you wait and see, a wand will find you and it will be wonderful." Harry patted him comfortingly on the shoulder 

Neville offered a shaky smile at that, grateful for the confidence he so sorely lacked. 

"Good morning boys!" Professor Sprout cheerfully said as she reached the Hufflepuff table. She smiled warmly at Harry and Neville both. 

"Are you ready to leave now Mr Longbottom? There is a carriage waiting to take us to Hogsmeade." The professor kindly explained. 

Neville gulped down his building nausea due to nerves and nodded. He took a deep, steadying breath as he stood up, putting on the travelling cloak that had laid on the bench next to him.

"See you later Neville. Come find me in the library after dinner if you'd like. I assume you'll be done by then. You can tell me all about your new wand!" Harry waved the young boy off with an encouraging smile. 

Once Neville was out of sight, Harry withdrew to the library, the place one could usually find him when he had some time to spare. For hours he read in peaceful silence, hidden away between tall shelves and dusty tomes.

Lunch came and went without Harry's participation, having forgone it in favour of some tea sandwiches his elves had saddled him with the night before. As always, they were delicious. 

"You should get going. Best not to keep the Court waiting." Regulus said. 

Harry looked up from his book on Alchemy, eyes darting from his friend to his wristwatch. The alarm would have gone off in a few minutes so Regulus wasn't wrong exactly. He did need to move. 

Quickly, he packed up his stuff and calmly made his way down to the dungeons, Regulus acting as his guide.

"Take the next turn to the left and we should be there." The spirit said. 

Harry didn't answer even though they were most likely alone. Talking to empty space was never a good sign, not even for a wizard. He'd rather avoid people thinking him mad as a hatter.

The entrance to the Court's 'secret', or rather, not so secret hideout, was not much to brag about. It looked like a door that could belong just about any of the hundreds of abandoned classrooms in the castle. The only thing that made it stand out was the old, silver doorknob that was shaped like the head of a snake. Much to Harry's disappointment it didn't appear to be animated.

He knocked firmly on the wooden door, waiting for it to open. It took only a moment before the door ominously swung inwards on its own. Harry wanted to roll his eyes. 

"Will you walk into my parlour? said the spider to the fly." Regulus quietly muttered under his breath. 

If only the Court knew what they'd invited into their midst, they would run away screaming in fright. For Harry was the spider of spiders, not an easily lured fly. 

With calm steps and an unreadable face, Harry entered the entitled Slytherins' lair. The room proved to be much more luxurious on the inside compared to the drab and worn outside. It was slightly reminiscent of the Slytherin common room as well as a few pureblood manors he'd visited over the years due to his political career. 

The furniture was clearly old, but more along the line of priceless antiques rather than worn down rubbish. That was to be expected. The Court was usually comprised of the wealthiest students or those with connections. 

His eyes quickly scanned the room, taking in every little detail, from the throne-like chair at the end of the large conference table, to the comfortable sitting group stationed close to the fireplace. 

The students themselves were seated at the grand table, all eyes honed in on him with varying degrees of emotion. Some showed hatred, some curiosity, and some remained blank. 

At the head of the table, looking as if he owned the world, sat Damocles Rowle, named after his great-great-great and so on, grandfather, who had been minister for magic in the seventeen hundreds. 

This wasn't the first time Harry had met Damocles. The teenager was the heir to the Rowle estate, and although they weren't a noble family, they were still part of the 'sacred 28' and as such held in high regard in some circles. 

The main line of the Rowle family was well off, nowhere near the Malfoy or Black wealth of course, but definitely on par with houses such as the Bones and Macmillans. They lived well and mingled in high society with ease. Damocles had often been brought to formal gatherings by his parents during the holidays. 

It had quickly become apparent to Harry that he was a clever boy with ambitions of going far in the ministry. His marks were good, perhaps not O's in every subject, but they were nothing to scoff at either. 

What set Damocles Rowle apart was not his book smarts, but rather the easy way he convinced people to his point of view. Harry had seen the boy talk circles around grown men in those dreary balls and soirees they had both attended, and that was why it came as no surprise to him that the seventh year had earned himself the position as King. 

Being a part of the Court when you graduated apparently opened some gates that might otherwise have been closed. In a way it was all about connections, and being a part of the Court was a sure way to join a network of old Slytherin alumni. Those lucky enough to be integrated into the Court, and remain a part of it until they left Hogwarts, were practically guaranteed some sort of decent job, even if they were dumb as a loaf of bread. 

Rowle rose from his grand chair with practiced ease. He was not a particularly tall man, nor was he what one would call traditionally handsome, but he was charismatic and that more than made up for his short and stocky build. 

"Welcome, Henry James Potter, to the Slytherin Court! Please, have a seat." Rowle said with a sweeping gesture of his hand towards the free chair, a charming smile gracing his lips.

What followed next was an introduction to the other members, and it was clear as day how the hierarchy went. Rowle at the top and Harry somewhere near the bottom. Dolohov had not been particularly high ranked within their little group it seemed.

Harry was by far the youngest member. The only one even remotely near his age was Amar Shafiq, a boy just starting his fourth year who had aspirations of becoming a Mediwizard, just like his father. 

Listening to the Court talk was interesting, he got a completely different view of the political situation within Slytherin itself. In a way it was almost like the Slug Club, a collection of those with promising futures, those who held power and ambition.

The Court wasn't large, in fact, with himself included, Harry only counted eight. They truly were considered the elite of their house, no wonder they were held in such high regard. Or was it fear? He hadn't paid too close attention to the Court yet seeing as he was only a first year. 

"This-" Rowle said as he presented a silver ring held between his thumb and index finger, "-is a mark of your status as a Court member, wear it with pride." 

Harry accepted the ring and studied it closer. It was a small signet ring created from a single piece of silver, unassuming in its simplicity. The top was round and flat, with the Slytherin crest engraved into the metal. There were no gemstones or other intricate details that he would have expected from his new house, instead it was… simple. Solid. He slid it onto his little finger and immediately it shrunk to fit his small digit. 

"Normally the Court holds meetings twice a month on the first and third Sunday, but, if there is a case that demands our immediate attention, this ring will send a magical spark to warn you." And as Rowle had explained, the ring did indeed make itself known.

The surge of magic travelling up Harry's hand was akin to that of the alarm function on his wristwatch, not painful but definitely uncomfortable. Within a few seconds the pulsating stopped. 

"Whenever you feel that in the future, take a closer look at the crest, a time and date will appear on the body of the snake." He continued and pointed down at Harry's ring. 

"The location will always be this room unless something else has been mentioned, do not be late." Rowle finished, inspecting the small boy who was now a part of his Court.

Harry nodded his understanding. The ring was an ingenious little thing, so very similar to the Galleon Hermione had made for the DA back in the day. Harry had never asked, but now he wondered where she'd gotten the inspiration to make it from. She was exceedingly intelligent, but coming up with completely new things had never been her strongest suit. Adapting knowledge and ideas to suit her needs on the other hand… very much so.

With the details of his ring explained, Rowle handed him over to Gemma Farley for a thorough briefing of all his duties and expectations, most of which he already knew thanks to Regulus and Abraxas. It was nearly startling how little had changed over the years. 

The Court was seen as the governing body of Slytherin and dealt with any in-house disputes that were specifically brought to them. The only higher position than theirs was that of their Head of House. 

During their talk, Gemma gave him the privilege of using her given name while they were within the CourtRoom, as they liked to call it. Harry likewise allowed her to call him Henry. 

She told him how any formal challenge to a duel issued to him had to be accepted, however the request and fight itself would only be valid under the current King's supervision. So if someone had the gall to hex him in the back while he was on his own, or tried to gang up on him, the fight would not be valid in the eyes of the Court. Basically the aggressor would do themselves no favours by acting that way, and would suffer swift retaliation once it got brought to the Court's attention. 

Another perk of being with the Court was that the CourtRoom was available to him at all times of the day. It was a place where the members could retreat for some quiet studying or simply relaxing. The ring he had been given would act as his key, allowing him, and only him, entrance, even if no one else was inside. 

The remaining hours before dinner were spent drinking tea and socialising with the other Court members. They tried to subtly inquire about his past, but as they all left, no one was particularly wiser. All they had really confirmed was that Harry was indeed the Black heir. 

During dinner itself, Harry sat together with the Court near the middle of the table. He ate quietly, surreptitiously throwing a look up at the staff table, nearly cracking up with laughter due to the sight that met him. The headmaster looked on the verge of a heart attack as he noticed his placement. Poor Snape was not faring much better. His jaw was clenched tightly and his hand clutched his knife so desperately that Harry feared it might bend from the pressure. 

"Your Hufflepuff friend has returned it seems." Regulus said, shifting Harry's attention to the Badger table. 

And sure enough, there Neville was, looking happier than Harry could remember seeing him in this timeline. He must have gotten his wand, Harry concluded. 

He pulled a piece of parchment out of his bag and wrote a quick note, inviting Neville to the Black Lake with him after dinner since the sun was still up. Harry tapped the parchment with his wand while murmuring a quiet incantation. 

The sheet automatically folded itself into a beautiful origami owl that fluttered its wings. Harry picked it up into his palm, and as he blew on it, the small bird flew gracefully through the air, landing in front of Neville. 

He didn't stay long enough to see the boy's reaction. 

~

"Henry! Y-you were right!" Neville exclaimed as he ran up to him by the Black Lake. 

Harry looked up from the book he had been reading, a slight smirk spreading on his lips. 

"Yes, I usually am. What was I right about this time?" He already knew the answer but thought it prudent to ask. 

"My wand!" Neville beamed as he pulled out a light brown wand with a reddish hue, proudly showing it to Harry. 

"That's wonderful Neville! I told you so, didn't I?" Harry replied with a wide grin, patting his arm.

Learning spells would be much easier for his shy friend, hopefully he would be able to gain some much needed confidence sooner than anticipated. 

Neville gushed about his new wand. It was made out of cherry and unicorn hair, which Harry thought suited the boy well. Cherry was a rare and powerful wood, and paired with unicorn hair it would be a powerful and steady companion. Unlike Harry's own wands, the unicorn core would make it difficult, but not impossible, for Neville to learn the Dark Arts. That being said, he doubted Neville would ever take an interest in it, so it was no loss.  

Once Neville had calmed down, Harry offered to tutor Neville in the first year curriculum until he was caught up. He gratefully accepted and they spent the afternoon going over spells such as Wingardium Leviosa, amongst others. 

It was astonishing how much difference a properly bonded wand could make, and Neville seemed to grow more confident by the minute. 

Harry felt a spark of warmth bloom in his chest. Neville had always been a good friend to him, always been solid and supportive, even during the times when Harry had been less than pleasant in return. That he now had the opportunity to help, to make his life better, it made Harry feel good about himself. 

~

Harry checked the map to make sure the coast was clear. Curfew had already passed and he was on his way to the Shrieking Shack to meet Skeeter for his interview. He had sent a few of his elves in advance to prepare one of the rooms, making it at least clean and comfortable for the meeting that was due to take place. 

He gathered his satchel and used the powers he'd gotten from Death to step from one shadow to the next, appearing inside the tunnel that led to the shack. He allowed his invisibility to drop and trudged onward towards the shack itself. 

"This way master Potter. Tippy be's taking you to the meeting room." A squeaky voice greeted him as soon as he entered the dilapidated shack. 

"Thank you Tippy." Harry murmured and followed after the elf. 

He hadn't had the time to oversee the renovations himself, but he had made sure the elves knew to prepare a room for his interview with Skeeter. When he laid eyes on the room he felt impressed by the change.

What had previously been a messy and abandoned basement was now warm and outright cosy. The walls had been painted a rich brown colour, the fireplace burned away merrily, and the wrecked furniture had been replaced by soft and comfortable chairs. 

Harry sank down in the chair that faced the door, enjoying the warmth emanating from the fireplace to his left. 

"Would youse like some tea, sir?" Tippy asked with big, hopeful eyes. 

"Yes please, that would be lovely, Tippy." Harry replied with a fond smile. 

Now with tea in hand, he settled down with the latest issue of Potioneers Monthly as he waited for Rita Skeeter and Sirius, in the form of Sam White, to arrive. 

The pop of an elf appearing made Harry look up from his magazine. Minky had brought Sirius and Harry smiled warmly at the two of them. But before Harry could say hello, Sirius spoke in a solemn voice.

"You absolutely sure about this, kid?" He asked, a worried frown marring his features.  

"Yes." Harry calmly replied. He didn't like it, not at all, but personal sacrifices had to be made if he wanted to take down Dumbledore. 

Sirius sighed and nodded. He understood even though he didn't like it either. Together they waited for the third member of their meeting to arrive, a certain bug with a propensity for slander and poisonous words. 

She was punctual, and at 11pm sharp, Tippy led the reporter into their improvised parlour. 

"Miss Skeeter, I presume?" Sirius said and got to his feet, shaking her hand. 

"Correct, and you must be Mr White, but let's not forget the star of the day, Mr Potter." Her blue eyes quickly shifted from Sirius to Harry, hungrily taking in the boy in front of her, smile sharp as razors.

Skeeter looked just as Harry remembered her from his first life. Expensive acid green robes, blonde hair perfectly coiffed and red, cat eye glasses that matched her lipstick.  

"Good evening Miss Skeeter, thank you for taking the time to meet with me." Harry nodded his head politely and shook her hand, making sure to keep his face as blank as possible. 

"Oh I wouldn't miss it for anything." She purred. 

"Well, now that we've all introduced ourselves, how about some refreshments?" Sirius awkwardly interjected, gesturing for Skeeter to take a seat in the available chair opposite Harry. He didn't like the way she looked at his godson, as if she wanted to devour him. 

"I'm sure you're already aware that I am here as a chaperone in Lord Peverell's stead." Sirius continued as tea began to pour itself in front of them and various petit fours arrived on the table.

"He wanted me to remind you that any articles have to be approved by him before publication. If you want to publish it in the Prophet's morning edition tomorrow, you'll have to send him the draft through elf tonight. Tippy has agreed to forward any correspondence." Sirius calmly explained, taking a bite of a delicious macaron. 

Skeeter's lips were pinched but nonetheless she nodded in agreement. Clearly she wasn't fond of her articles being controlled and edited, but she had more to gain by sticking to her agreement with Lord Peverell. Years in Azkaban did not sound particularly pleasant to the illegal Animagus. The money she received was certainly a contributing factor as well. 

"I've brought you something that I think might be of interest to you." Harry said softly as he pulled a large scroll out of his satchel. 

He held it out towards Skeeter who curiously accepted it. Quickly she rolled it open and began to read, eyes growing larger and larger. If possible, she looked ecstatic and horrified at the same time. 

"Oh you poor, sweet thing." She crowed in delight, eyes alight with unholy excitement. 

Harry kept his face placid. "Yes, well, you may keep that. It is a copy of the medical scans Madam Pomfrey performed on me at the start of the semester. I'm willing to answer any question you might have, but I request that you do not include my involvement in all of this. It won't have the same impact if people thought I went to the media on my own volition." His smile was strained. 

Skeeter eyed him shrewdly and tapped her lips with the tip of her quill, a sharp smile full of teeth unfolding. "I'm sure that can be arranged." She agreed.

Question after question were fired at Harry in rapid succession after that, and he skilfully answered each and every one of them to his own advantage.

Skeeter was relentless now that she'd sunk her teeth in a devastating case. Like a dog with a bone, she wanted to gnaw her way to the marrow. When the story hit the press, chaos and outrage was going to sweep through the wizarding world and she would be the good and righteous reporter who had uncovered these heinous crimes. She couldn't wait. 

When she had gathered all the information she would need, the trio dispersed. Skeeter Apparated straight from the shack and to her home, immediately sequestering herself in her study so she could write a delightfully scathing article, meanwhile Harry and Sirius went to their home.

Chapter Text

Harry sat near the other Court members during breakfast, trying his best to stomp down the nausea brought on by what was soon to transpire. 

Draco was by his side, having stuck to him like a chatty limpet since Harry's 'rescue' during Dolohov's attack. Of course, the fact that Harry was now a Court member also greatly factored into his popularity, although most Slytherins were weary around him now.

Harry took a bite of his eggs and toast, eating even though he had absolutely no appetite. Draco babbled about something or other that he entirely tuned out as unimportant. 

Slowly, owls began to descend upon the Great Hall. One of them, a common barn owl, dropped a rolled up newspaper in front of Harry. He managed to snatch it out of the air before it hit his plate. His mouth felt dry as he saw his name and photo splayed across the front page of the Daily Prophet. 

“BOY WHO LIVED ABUSED BY GUARDIANS!” The headline of the paper spelled out in big, bold letters. The photo accompanying it was an old class photo, taken at his primary school when he first started. It showed exactly how thin and small he had been back then, eyes and cheeks sunken. He looked haunted and weary. 

Through heavy Occlumency shields, Harry managed to render his face void of emotions as he opened up the newspaper. 

He already knew what it said, Skeeter had made good on her promise and the two of them had ironed out a version of the article that both were satisfied with. Her sensationalist writing was sure to entice the masses and Harry could already feel the pity being aimed at him. 

His eyes glanced over the words, waiting an appropriate amount of time before he could make his retreat.

"Excuse me." Harry murmured softly and abruptly stood up. 

"Wh--" Draco sputtered, having been interrupted mid sentence. 

"Potter? Where are you going?" The young boy demanded, but got no answer. Harry was already halfway to the door, the newspaper having been left behind on the table in disgust. 

Rita had done a marvellous job. He hadn't expected anything less, now he had to play his role. Throughout his classes the teachers looked at him with pity and concern, except perhaps Quirrell, he was as skittish as always. Although, Harry thought he could feel the man's calculating eyes on him at times. 

There was no doubt in Harry's mind that Voldemort was considering recruiting him as one of his Death Eaters. It was either that or killing him. Voldemort wouldn't stand for someone being his 'equal'. Harry was an unknown threat, and what better way to deal with a threat than make him a devoted follower? Since blatant murder hadn't worked the first time.

Harry escaped to the library after classes to get away from the stares and whispers. Although it didn't bother him as much as it would have done if he had been his physical age, the mere thought of everyone knowing made his skin itch. 

The library was a quiet sanctuary, Madam Pince would have it no other way. He hid among the books, having abandoned his fellow Slytherins as soon as professor Flitwick let them leave the Charms classroom, skipping History entirely.

~

"H-hi." Neville's shy greeting brought Harry out of his mulish thoughts. The Hufflepuff sat down at the table without asking for permission. 

"Um… s-so, how are you doing?" He awkwardly asked. 

"Just brilliant , thanks." Harry replied in a dry tone and raised an eyebrow, sarcasm dripping from his words. 

"I suppose you've heard the latest gossip then?" Harry prompted, returning his attention to the book he had been reading. 

"Er... Yeah." Neville fiddled with the hem of his shirt, desperately wanting to say something to cheer up his friend. 

"Do you… uh… w-want to talk about it?" He hesitantly queried. 

"If it's all the same to you, I'd rather not." Harry wryly replied, lips twitching in a bland smile. 

"Somehow, the idea of sharing all of my darkest moments with the world is not particularly enticing." His soft chuckle was void of any actual humour. 

Neville was quiet and Harry realised that he was being a bit of a prat. This article had been his own idea after all. He sighed heavily and closed his book. 

"Sorry Neville, it's not your fault, I shouldn't take it out on you. Thank you for the support." His smile was a tad warmer at that, causing the other boy to relax. 

"Let's talk about something else. What about the Hufflepuff dorms, what are they like?" Harry asked. 

Neville latched on to the question like a lifeline and began to tell Harry all about his new dorm. He lost most of his nervous stutter as he gained confidence. He explained how their sleeping quarters were in a spacious room with a large, round table in the middle. Instead of individual desks, the table was there to inspire teamwork, something he and other boys in his dorm seemed to enjoy. 

"Are your dorm mates treating you well? I don't need to hex anyone do I?" Harry lightly joked, feeling successful when Neville cracked a smile. 

"They're nice. Well, most of them." Neville shrugged. "Ernest Macmillan is a bit of a git, but mostly in a pompous kind of way. He isn't a bully or anything." 

"Hmm, that's good I suppose. Tell me if it changes though." Harry said with a lopsided grin that had Neville snickering and feeling warm on the inside. 

It hadn't been intentional on Harry's side, but even so, if he kept it up, in a few years Neville would be blindingly loyal to him.

Even if the manipulation was done with the best of intentions in mind, it was a dangerous power to have over someone so young. He was essentially moulding Neville to his own preferences. That fact should have bothered Harry, but strangely enough it didn't. He only wanted to help, to make sure Neville grew up safe and happy. 

~

"Potter, come see me in my office after dinner." Snape quietly demanded as Harry was about to leave their Potions lesson and head to the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. 

"Of course, sir." Harry replied with a bland smile, knowing exactly what would be discussed and not looking forward to it.

Snape nodded and retreated to his desk at the front of the classroom. 

"What was that about?" Draco curiously asked as they walked out of the dungeons. 

"I suspect it is related to yesterday's edition of the Daily Prophet." Harry answered.

He was surprised when nearly all the Slytherins in his year waited for him so they could walk together. That was definitely a new behaviour. He couldn't see Theo however, and he'd admit to being slightly worried about the boy. Ever since the fight with Dolohov, Theo had been withdrawn and quiet, more so than usual.

It was almost as if Harry was being intentionally avoided. The way Theo had positioned himself all the way to the front of Quirrell's class, when he normally sat in the back, added some credit to that theory. 

The lesson began, and throughout it all he could feel Voldemort's intense gaze through the purple turban on Quirrell's head. He was going to ask him to stay behind after class, Harry just knew it. 

When the rest of the students were dismissed, Quirrell quite predictably asked him to stay behind. 

"A w-word p-please, Mr P-Potter!" The man stuttered with a nervous smile. 

"Of course, professor." Harry nodded and then turned to Draco and Blaise who had been sitting next to him. 

"You go ahead, I'll see you at dinner." He said, urging them on. 

The children quickly left, all too happy to be done with the day and get away from the cloying scent of garlic that impermeated every inch of the classroom. Again, Harry was left alone with the possessed teacher. 

~

"H-have y-you had t-the time t-to read through t-the books I r-recommended?" Quirrell asked in his fake stutter that was equally as annoying to Lord Voldemort as it was to the students.

The boy smiled politely and nodded. "Yes sir, as a matter of fact I finished the last one on Sunday." 

"Oh? What did you think?" Voldemort eagerly asked, having taken over Quirrell's body for the time being. 

Lord Voldemort was weak, yes, but he had enough energy for this. Quirrell was pathetic and weak minded, uncomprehending of the subtleties of manipulation like Lord Voldemort himself. If he wanted success he would have to take matters into his own hands.

"Honestly sir?" The boy answered, black brows crinkled in a frown. 

"Yes? Feel free to speak your mind." Lord Voldemort graciously replied, moving Quirrell's facial muscles into what he perceived as an encouraging smile. 

"Well, although I found the book on wizarding festivals and old traditions interesting, Blood and Heritage had a rather… disturbing undertone, sir." Potter answered. 

"Oh?" Lord Voldemort was surprised that the boy had managed to pick up on the underlying description of how the muggles were filth lower than animals. He was intelligent, Lord Voldemort would concede that.  

Despite the child's concerns, Lord Voldemort calmly, and with extreme subtlety, explained how the book was an excellent staple in any respectable wizard's library. By the end of their discussion, the Dark Lord was convinced that the child had come to understand the importance of blood and its purity.

The thought of snatching the boy's loyalty from right under Dumbledore's nose sent a thrill of excitement up Lord Voldemort's borrowed spine. He would mould the Potter boy into a loyal follower, one of his Death Eaters, the perfect lapdog. He couldn't wait to watch the Light side fall apart as he corrupted their hero more and more. 

Lord Voldemort would have to make an example out of the boy first though, after all he had been the cause of his discorporation. It wouldn't be appropriate to let his followers think they could get away with such a slight.

Yes, a few rounds with the Crutiatus would do nicely. He looked forward to hearing his prophesied nemesis scream, to break him down and remake him as he wished. It was hard not to grin and cackle just thinking about it. 

However, Lord Voldemort was a composed and benevolent leader, he would take his sweet time manipulating the boy to see his side.

And if all else failed, he could easily kill the child once he got his strength back. That was almost as good an option as recruitment. He didn't really care for the boy, but the prospect of watching Dumbledore crumble when his little boy hero was turned against him? Oh that was entirely delicious. 

Lord Voldemort watched as the boy retreated from his classroom with a new note for the restricted section hidden away in his bag. He had spent a great deal of his energy during their conversation, and so, for now, the Dark Lord retreated into the back of Quirrell's mind, once again giving him control of his own body. 

~

Voldemort's attempts at manipulating Harry was quite frankly pathetic. Not only were they extremely obvious, they were also crude. There was no subtlety whatsoever. Harry felt like cringing on behalf of the insane soul fragment. 

What surely had been meant as a gentle nudge was in fact a blatant obvious push. He let out a sigh as soon as the door closed. At least Voldemort hadn't asked about his childhood, he wasn't sure how he'd deal with the man's concern on that front, fake or not. 

The only mention of his muggle guardians had been when he tried to convince Harry of their incompetence and lesser status. Honestly, Voldemort didn't even need to try to convince him of that. The Dursleys were indeed lesser humans, but not because they were muggles, just because they were themselves. 

"What took you so long?" Draco pompously asked as Harry joined them in the Great Hall. 

"Professor Quirrell wanted to discuss my last essay, so sorry if I kept you waiting." Harry replied in a dry tone and cocked an eyebrow. 

Draco had the sense to look slightly abashed at the polite reprimand. 

"Why are you sitting with us and not the Court?" Millicent piped in, saving Draco from having to apologise.

She wasn't the only one that appeared interested in his answer. The nearby Slytherins pretended not to pay attention but he could easily tell that they were straining to hear what he'd say. 

Harry flashed her a smile. "You are my friends, are you not? Surely that is a good enough reason." 

The unimpressed stare he got in return answered that nicely enough. They all knew he was pulling their leg and wanted to know the truth, or as close to it as they'd get. 

He couldn't help the amused smirk that spread on his lips. They were all rather cute, trying to act so grown up and posh all the time. He slowly served himself some food, waiting for one of them to break the silence. 

Unsurprisingly, Draco was the most impatient one of the bunch. "Come on, Potter! Tell us!" He whined. 

"Fine, since you asked so nicely." Harry drily replied, making Blaise snort as he attempted not to laugh. 

Draco shot the dark skinned boy a glare.

"Sitting at the middle of the table is not a requirement while being part of the Court, although it is what's commonly done. I thought eating amongst you would be much more comfortable, seeing as we've already established a rapport." Harry said with a smile that had Draco preening and Millicent looking pleased. 

The children seemed undoubtedly happy that Harry hadn't abandoned them in favour of the older students. By choosing to stay with them, he had made them feel special in a way. 

Dinner ended without fanfare and Harry slowly made his way down to the dungeons for his meeting with Snape. 

It was strange how unnatural it felt to meet the man as his student once more and not his equal. Harry liked to think they had become rather close friends over the years, at least as close as one could get when one was a double spy and the other his immortal student from a future that no longer existed. 

"Your mother brings good tidings, young Master." The voice of Ignotus Peverell said as Harry reached what the majority of the student population considered Slytherin territory.

"Oh? Did something happen to Dumbledore?" Regulus thankfully asked on his behalf, knowing that Harry couldn't afford to be caught speaking to himself. 

"Indeed!" Ignotus chuckled in merriment.

"Lily would like to inform you that the headmaster is currently swamped with angry letters, many of them Howlers at that. Apparently he didn't make a move to silence them and is instead listening rather despondently to their furious rants. Your mother said to thank you for letting her watch him while he is at Hogwarts, she is deriving great joy from it." 

Harry couldn't help the small smirk that tugged at his lips. That was indeed good news. He knew Dumbledore would receive backlash from the article, but knowing it for a fact? Oh that was utterly divine. 

Even though he didn't have a fancy network of spies in the shape of snake paintings and carvings, he had something much better, namely the spirits of the dead. Despite not being able to wander too far away from Harry, the entirety of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade was absolutely within range as long as he was there. 

As soon as Harry had proposed said spying, Lily had latched onto the idea with great fervour, outright demanding that she was to be the one watching Dumbledore, no one argued. She only swapped out with Ignotus whenever the headmaster went to bed so that she could inform Harry of any news. 

By now, Harry had spies all over the castle, telling him of anything particularly interesting going on. A lot of it was admittedly rather useless, like who had been seen in a broom closet with whom and so forth. Harry listened to it even if he didn't think it would be necessary, one never knew however. 

He took a deep breath, steadying himself before he knocked on the door to his professor's office.

"Enter." Was the calm, baritone reply coming from within.

The door was unlocked, and so, he stepped inside, ready for another hour of artful acting. 

~

"You wanted to see me sir?" Potter's voice said as soon as he'd stopped in front of the desk.

Severus looked up from the potions essay he had been marking and gestured towards the free chair. "Yes, have a seat, Potter." 

And oh how strange it felt to say that name without the usual hatred attached. He simply couldn't find it in him anymore. Oh make no mistake, he still hated James Potter with every fiber of his dark and bitter soul, but the boy was not his father. In fact, it was sad to say, but Henry's childhood probably resembled his own much more than it did his father's. 

Severus put down his quill and studied the boy with close scrutiny, dark eyes settling on the inconspicuous, but highly familiar, silver ring on his left hand. 

"It has come to my attention that you have had an altercation with one of the sixth years ." Severus began, steepling his fingers together on top of the desk as he looked at the boy, one eyebrow sharply raised. 

"Ah. Yes, there was a… difference of opinion you might say. We came to a solution that benefited both of us however." Potter replied, somewhat managing to look politely innocent despite both of them knowing what he'd actually done. 

Severus might have been disturbed had it been anyone else, but the fact that the boy wasn't meek or cowed would serve him well. He actually felt relief that it was Dolohov that had been sent to the infirmary and not Potter. 

"I take it you were not injured in your… tussle." He asked, 

"No sir. I am perfectly whole and hale." Potter answered with a smile, almost appearing amused at Severus' attempts at caring, the little brat.

They devolved into awkward silence, both knowing which topic had brought them together but not wanting to touch upon it. Eventually, Severus decided enough was enough and cut to the issue.

"Mr Potter, I wanted to reassure you that the leak of your medical records did not happen through me." Severus said with utmost sincerity, trying to impart that onto his young student. 

"I know." The daft boy replied, still smiling softly, as if the thought of Severus betraying him was absolutely ludicrous. 

"If I may ask… how?" He didn't understand this reaction, not at all. Potter continued to puzzle him and he hated it. 

"Because I am the one who leaked it." Potter said, once more tilting Severus' entire worldview.

His brain came to an abrupt stop and he was left staring at the boy in obvious shock.

"You did what? " Severus hissed. He couldn't comprehend it, an abused child had willingly laundered all his dirty secrets to the entire world, and for what? 

" Why?" He choked out, still trying to collect his scrambled mind. 

Potter was quiet again. He tilted his head slightly, eying him in an assessing manner that was far too mature for his actual age.

"Because I wanted revenge." Was his simple answer, an answer that was far from sufficient if you asked Severus.  

"Revenge on whom? Your relatives? Their name was not even mentioned in the article you foolish boy!" Severus bit out, struggling to keep his agitation and desperation at bay. Why did children have to be so imbecilic and rash? 

"Oh no, not them, I have other plans for the Dursleys." The infuriating boy replied, still calm and composed, much to Severus' ire. 

He had to take a deep breath to avoid lashing out, Occluding heavily. 

"If not the Dursleys, then whom?" He asked, having a strong suspicion considering who the article laid the blame on, not to mention the following article in today's edition of the Prophet. 

"The headmaster, sir. But I think you already knew that didn't you?" The boy replied. 

Severus closed his eyes and sighed. Merlin save him from imbecilic children who thought they were ready to play political games with the most powerful wizard in Britain. 

"Go. Just go." The potions professor said, feeling like he had suddenly aged a decade just from the chaos this one boy brought. 

He was tired and wanted a drink, a recurring  feeling whenever James Potter's spawn was involved. At that moment he sorely wished that Potter had been placed in any house but his. He could be terrorising the badgers instead of giving him massive headaches. 

One thing was becoming crystal clear however, Severus would have to sort out his loyalties quickly. Dumbledore or Potter. For it was obvious to anyone who paid attention that aiding one meant alienating the other. From the sounds of it, Potter would never go along with the headmaster's schemes, and Severus strangely enough found himself relieved of that. 

~

The days passed and none of the students saw as much as a glimpse of their esteemed headmaster. Harry delighted in the thought of how much backlash Dumbledore must currently be facing. Every time it crossed his mind he felt a twisted sort of glee fill him with amusement. Finally the old man was getting his comeuppance. 

The boys' dorm was quiet, and for once, Harry was doing his homework by the little desk each of them had stationed by their beds. 

It was Friday evening and he was blessedly alone. Draco had become quite the follower and Harry wasn't sure how to feel about that. The spoiled child kept following him like a lost puppy, saying things and then looking to him for approval and praise. It was… somewhat disturbing. 

Harry realised how much power he held over the children in his year and he wasn't sure if he liked the implications. He could fuck them up really badly by mistake… He honestly didn't want to cause them any harm. 

"Henry?" A young voice softly said, sounding so insecure and full of hesitation that it reminded him of Neville.

"Yes?" Harry turned around to look at Theo with a kind smile. 

"I… I would like to apologise for avoiding you this past week, it was entirely rude and uncalled for." 

Harry raised an eyebrow but kept up his smile. "No need to apologise Theo, I'm just glad you chose to speak to me again. I missed you, you know? Draco can be rather intolerable at times." He chuckled and looked back upon his work. 

"Yes, well… all the same, sorry." Theo retorted. 

Through the corner of his eyes, Harry watched as the boy sat down on his own bed, eventually laying down on his back. The room was once more quiet except for the scratching of Harry's fountain pen against parchment.

"My mother is dead, you know?" Theo suddenly said, staring up at the canopy of his bed. 

"I'm sorry for your loss." Harry softly replied, throwing him a sidewards glance.

He was already aware of the woman's death of course, Narcissa was fond of gossip and had delighted in filling him in on everything that had happened in the last ten years or so. She was a fountain of information that one, much more so than her husband who only had a mind for politics and his own interests. Narcissa truly was the brains in that relationship, not to say that Lucius was stupid, sadly Harry couldn't peg the man with that moniker even if he sometimes did stupid things. 

"I was the one to find her." Theo continued, swallowing hard.

"There was so much blood." His face was drawn of colour, voice but a whisper as he clenched his fists against his duvet until his knuckles turned white. 

Harry closed his eyes and sighed softly. He thought that revelation explained a lot actually. Mrs Nott's death had been particularly macabre if one was to believe Narcissa's gossip. The poor woman had been torn to pieces by a werewolf during a full moon.

Harry wasn't sure how old Theo was when it happened, but either way, finding his mother's body like that would undoubtedly leave mental scars. His reaction in the common room towards seeing the blood and violence, even if it wasn't a lot, made sense. 

"It was all my fault… We were out in the forest collecting fairies for our Yule tree because I was childish and couldn't wait for a date closer to the holiday itself. I didn't… I didn't even think about the fact that it was the full moon. We were there because of me. She… she's dead because of me." Theo quietly confessed. 

Harry closed his eyes again and on the inside, he despaired. When did he become the therapist of all these children? He was hardly qualified for such a job.

Was it normal for so many of them to have suffered trauma and neglect before the age of 11? Or was it purely a wizarding thing? Surely children in the muggle world didn't all go through similar things? Some would of course, but he felt like there was a disturbingly high percentage of abused and traumatized magical children. Maybe he should pour some money into a mental health clinic… recruit people from overseas to start with… the younger generation could certainly need it. 

"Theo… I'm not sure how old you were when that happened, but either way, it was not your fault. You were a child, still are in fact, it was your parents' job to make sure your trip was safe. I am terribly sorry that you had to lose your mother in that way though." Harry firmly said, offering a gentle smile to soften the delivery. 

The other boy was quiet, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. Clearly he still carried a lot of guilt with him over his mother's death. 

After their little heart to heart, Theo was once more integrated into his group of ducklings as if he never left. Whenever Draco got too full of himself, or was too obvious in his need for Harry's approval, Theo would roll his eyes. 

All in all, things went more or less back to normal for Harry, if one overlooked the blatant whispers and staring in the hallways. 

Although there had been a few official challenges to his position in the Court due to the article making them think he was weak, Harry swiftly and mercilessly put those notions out of their heads. Slytherin house as a whole was more weary of him than ever. 

~

Albus was not having a good day, no, a good week was more like it. Ever since that devastating article had been printed in the Daily Prophet, his life had been violently upheaved. 

The ministry was like an angry beehive, everyone seemed to have an opinion about Potter and Albus' responsibility for the boy's… abusive childhood, for clearly that was what it had been. 

He had tried to reason that surely it couldn't have been that bad, what aunt would expose her nephew to that kind of environment? They were family, that was supposed to matter. But the truth was now forcing itself upon him like a rogue bludger to the face. Petunia Dursley had not cared for her nephew like she was supposed to, and he... he had been the one to place the boy with her. 

Albus had always suspected that her bitterness would cause Harry's childhood to be… difficult, certainly, but definitely not to the extent the article had revealed. He had thought perhaps some mild neglect, spoiling her own son more, perhaps a few cruel words here and there, but not starvation and broken bones.

Just like everyone else, Albus had read the published medical scan, every heartbreaking line. He'd even gone as far as to confirm its validity with Poppy, for he didn't think anyone else would have had access to the boy. That particular conversation had not been pleasant. 

With an exhausted sigh, the old man sank down into his comfortable chair, finally allowing himself a moment of respite in his office. He took off his half moon glasses and rubbed his tired eyes, trying to stave off the pulsing headache he'd been suffering from all day. 

Albus didn't understand where things had gone so utterly wrong. He thought he had taken every precaution, every measure to make sure the boy was safe and protected, but not coddled and spoiled. He had even purchased a property on Wisteria Walk so that Arabella Figg could live nearby and keep an eye on him. Apparently his trust in her had been severely misplaced. 

Whenever he queried about how the boy was doing, she always reported that he seemed to be polite if scrawny. There had been no warning flags, no concerns, no nothing. 

Arabella had explained that when she'd asked Petunia about the boy's dishevelled appearance and thin frame, the woman had answered that he was a rambunctious child and a picky eater. Seeing as he was James' son, Albus had easily believed her claims.

In light of the recently revealed abuse, he couldn't help but fear even more for Harry's future. Would he turn his ruined childhood into a hatred of muggles? Would he embrace the Darkness or would he follow the Light? 

The situation was even more precarious than he had first imagined. He had yet to make a move on the boy out of fear he would be alienating him further, but now, with all of Britain knowing Albus was the one to place Harry with his muggle relatives, he feared all his bridges with the boy had already been burned. 

Harry still needed guidance in the right direction, but Albus doubted he was the best person to do that at the moment, at least not physically. Harry would need someone else to bond with, someone who could earn the child's trust and act as his mentor. 

The problem was just who. Minerva was out of the question, she was furious with him for his oversight with the Dursleys, rightfully so, and had given him a proper verbal thrashing as soon as she finished teaching the day the article was published. 

No, Minerva would not do. She was Light yes, with firm morals, but she was also headstrong. He would not be able to guide the boy through her, not anymore. 

His second thought was Remus Lupin, the werewolf had always felt greatly indebted to Albus for allowing him a place at Hogwarts, even with his condition. The problem with Lupin however, was similar to Minerva but not quite. 

Albus was uncertain of where the man's loyalties lay these days. His job at Peverell's apothecary complicated matters, for there was no doubt in his mind that his own self worth would have gotten a boost through his position as manager. The stable supply of wolfsbane for free was also a thing to take into consideration. No, Lupin's loyalties were uncertain, they might lean more towards Lord Peverell these days rather than Albus himself, and that was not a risk he was willing to take when it was concerning the boy. 

That only left Severus Snape. The only one whom he could trust with this intricate task. The man was in a perfect position to earn the boy’s trust as his Head of House, and Albus was sure he could convince the man to take it upon himself to guide Potter. He only had to remind him that he was Lily's child too.

With that decided, Albus reached over to the quite frankly atrociously large pile of angry letters, many a howler included, picking an envelope from the top of the stack.

He settled in for a long night of answering mail and completing long due paperwork that Minerva had been mercilessly hounding him to finish. 

As he sat deep in concentration, the trinket that monitored the blood wards on Privet Drive exploded violently and without warning. It happened so quickly that he didn't even have the time to put up a protective barrier. The tiny silver shrapnel pierced the left side of his body, and only luck made it so that none had reached his eyes. 

Blood dripped onto the wooden floor in copious amounts but Albus ignored it, instead he worried about what this meant. The blood wards had undeniably fallen, that much he knew, but there were three possible reasons for that. 

First, and probably the most horrific outcome of them all, was that Harry Potter was dead. The second option was that his aunt and cousin had been killed, and last, the boy no longer considered Privet Drive his home. 

Fearing the worst, it was therefore with absolute dread and urgency that the headmaster cast the Patronus charm, a beautiful silver Phoenix filling the office with a soft glow.

"Severus, the wards protecting Mr Potter have fallen. You must locate him immediately to ascertain his well-being. Message me once you have reached the boy." Albus gravely recited to the Patronus that waited for its message. As soon as he was done it took off, hastily flying to complete its mission.

He grunted at the pain speaking caused him, the tiny shrapnel cutting up more of his cheek from where it was buried inside. 

"Poppy, if you would be so kind as to pop by my office I would very much appreciate it. I seem to have had an, ah, a bit of an accident." Another Patronus was sent off, this time to the matron. 

Her reply was prompt and within minutes the stern healer stepped through the fireplace, green flames lapping harmlessly at her robes. 

She took one look at his disheveled appearance and the piles of letters, eyebrows climbing up her forehead. Immediately she brought out her wand to inspect the damage.

"Was this caused by an angry letter by chance?" She asked, not feeling the least bit sorry for her employer. 

Before Albus could answer, however, a beautiful, silver doe sprung forth from the wall, stopping in front of them.

"The brat is sitting surrounded by his friends in the common room." Severus' acerbic voice drawled, sounding annoyed at having been bothered for such a ridiculous reason. 

Albus slumped back in his chair with relief, all of his previous tension bleeding out. The boy was alive, that was all that mattered. The same might not be true for Petunia and her son, but they were not a priority now that the blood wards were useless. He had hoped he might be able to alter them to some extent, since the boy clearly wouldn't be going back to his relatives, but that was impossible now.

"Care to enlighten me what this is all about then, Albus?" Poppy questioned as she worked on summoning shrapnel out of him without doing more damage. It was a slow process, even with magic.  

Albus sighed. "The wards surrounding Mr Potter's home have fallen. I feared… I must admit I feared the worst. Thankfully, Severus has seen to it that the boy is safe." 

Poppy made a noise of acknowledgement but otherwise remained silent. She had already had a stern talking to with the headmaster about his irresponsible actions when it came to the Potter boy, at least now he seemed to want to make up for his past failings. 

After all of the silver was removed, the rest of the damage was easily mended.

"Apply this in a thin layer twice a day to avoid scarring." The matron said, holding out a jar for Albus to take. 

"Thank you Poppy, I will heed your professional advice." The old man replied with a soft smile. 

"You better." The woman huffed and packed up her healing supplies, promptly leaving the same way she had arrived. 

~

The following Saturday there was an emergency meeting called at the Wizengamot. 

Lucius Malfoy, and unsurprisingly enough Harrison Peverell, had quickly latched on to the scandalous news, taking advantage of the situation within the Ministry as soon as they could. 

Once Albus arrived, it came as no surprise that Lucius was proposing a vote of no confidence. The Dark faction had always had it out for him, and he would be more shocked had the man not forwarded the motion. Had the roles been reversed, Albus would have done exactly the same.

What did surprise him however, was how the meeting went. Most of the Dark faction voted in favour of his dismissal as Chief Warlock, which was entirely expected, but that many of his usual supporters within the Light faction also supported the motion, that had come as a huge shock. 

In the end he lost his position as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot by an astounding amount of votes. Only his most loyal friends and followers had voted against the proposition. 

With the loss of his position in the British Ministry also came the loss of his place in the International Council of Wizards. For years he had been the Supreme Mugwump of the ICW, essentially their leader, but now that reign was over. 

The ICW position was an elected one, and as such he no longer qualified for a place at the ICW after his dismissal from the Wizengamot.

Within a short week of the article being posted, Albus had lost most of his political power. He had just barely managed to hold on to his position as headmaster through the tip of his teeth. 

The public backlash was not the worst of his problems however, no, it was what would happen to the child now that the Dursleys were deemed unfit. Unlike at the end of the war, Albus no longer held the political clout to take responsibility for the boy's placement. No one would allow him that task now, not after the disaster of a home he had placed him in originally. 

Worst of all was the fear that Lucius would campaign to become Harry's guardian, under no circumstances could Albus let that happen. He would not allow the child to end up in the hands of Death Eaters. Although… At this point he didn't know who would have done more damage to the boy growing up, Lucius or Petunia. 

Chapter Text

Harry wrapped his thick coat tighter around himself, doing his best to ignore the icy wind that howled and bit at every inch of unclothed skin, and being infinitely glad that he decided to wear gloves. Even though it was only late October, the weather in Norway was still fucking cold, much colder than the weather currently in Scotland, at least. 

He took a deep breath, enjoying the crisp, unpolluted air as he set his gaze upon his destination. Rásttigáisá, a tall, majestic mountain with more magic than most would believe, stood proudly in front of him, its peak already white with snow. 

To most Norwegians, the mountain was nothing special, just a mountain out of many others, but to some, it held much greater significance. It was considered a sacred place by the indigenous Sami people of the North. 

Harry wondered if the magical district at the heart of the mountain had been what made the shamans consider it sacred and magical, or whether it was founded because of it. He would have to ask one day. 

"I wonder what it's like on the inside. I never visited this place when I was alive… I rarely went much of anywhere to be honest." Regulus mused by his side. 

"Only one way to find out." Harry murmured, feeling excited about what the outing might bring. 

The frozen heather and crowberries crunched underneath his heavy boots as he walked towards the hidden entrance. There was a large boulder not far from where he'd arrived, standing innocently amongst rocks and gravel, hiding in plain sight. 

Just like with Diagon Alley, there were several wards and charms in place to keep non-magicals from straying too close and to make them ignore anything mystical happening. Not that there seemed to be much of a need really, the area was in the wilderness of northern Norway, hours away from civilization. There weren't even any roads leading to the mountain so driving was out of the question. 

As Harry approached the boulder, he realised that it was not entirely grey as he had expected. Elder Futhark runes had been carved into the rock itself in the shape of an arch, each rune painted a rusty red on the inside. 

Curiously, Harry stepped closer, letting his gloved fingers brush over the carvings. There was no need for magic or a wand to open this gateway, anyone who managed to get past the repelling wards and charms would be able to enter. He assumed it worked similarly to the pillar hiding platform nine and three-quarters. 

Without any hesitation he walked through the boulder, and when he opened his eyes he was greeted with a beautiful and lively magical district. It was vastly different from Diagon Alley's whimsical buildings and bright colours, but neither did it hold the clean and modern lines of Canada. Instead it was more rustic, more in tune with nature.

The inside of Rásttigáisá consisted of a large, cavernous cave system. But despite the fact that they were inside a mountain, it wasn't dark or gloomy. Glowing crystals were embedded into the very walls themselves, bathing the tunnels in a warm light. The ceiling reminded him of the night sky, the crystals twinkling like stars. 

Unlike Britain's brick buildings, here they all seemed to be made out of wood, some even had roofs with grass growing on top. Similarly, most of the inhabitants did not wear robes either, preferring more practical clothes suited for the environment. Wool and leather seemed to be favoured materials. 

"Excuse me, I'm looking for Nidhogg Kro, could you tell me which direction I should take?" Harry asked a passerby who was wrapping a scarf around his neck, preparing for the cold outside. 

The man blinked a couple of times, taking a few seconds to digest and translate in his head what Harry had asked of him. Once it dawned, he replied in a heavily accented English that was interspersed with Norwegian words every now and then. 

Even though the description had been less than ideal, Harry got the gist of it and thanked the man for his time. 

The Nidhogg was an inn of sorts, fashioned after a viking longhouse, and much like the Leaky Cauldron it offered food, drinks and board. 

The smell was the first thing that hit him as he entered. It was a strong combination of alcohol, sweat and roasting meat. It wasn’t as unpleasant as it might sound, however. The atmosphere was cheerful and loud, not surprising seeing as it was a Saturday evening and the drinks flowed freely. 

Harry’s brown eyes scanned the crowd, looking for his contact. They had met once before in France to sign a magical contract that would ensure they both got what they wanted, but other than that he didn't know the woman very well. 

"She's over here!" Regulus shouted to be heard over the din of the crowd, pointing at a cloaked figure nursing a wooden mug at the back of the room, away from the busiest area. 

Harry stepped away from the large fire pit at the centre of the room where he had been warming his cold hands, confidently weaving through the inn's patrons and over to his contact. 

Ragnhild's big, blue eyes snapped up to him as soon as he sat down on the bench across from her, lips tugging up in a smile. She pulled down the large hood that had hidden her face until now, allowing her golden locks to cascade freely around her face. 

She was beautiful, no doubt about that, with a soft, if wild allure that was similar yet very different to that of the Veela. Harry felt certain that she could have seduced almost any man in the inn if she had wanted to, and probably some of the ladies as well. 

"Hello Roger, it is good to see you again." Her voice was soft and inviting, with a lilting accent that made her words sound almost like singing. 

Harry returned the smile, accepting the mug of mead she shoved over the table to him. 

"You too, Ragnhild. I hope the job hasn't been too difficult?" He replied, taking a sip of the sweet, alcoholic beverage. 

The woman's smile turned into a cocky smirk, she was confident in her abilities and with good reason, Harry wouldn't have hired her otherwise. She had a near perfect track record in finding objects of questionable origin, or extreme rarity.

"Nothing I couldn't handle." Ragnhild said with a gesture of her hand, waving away his concerns. "I think you will be very pleased, Roger." 

If she truly had found what he was looking for, then yes, Harry would be pleased beyond doubt. 

"Do you have the object with you?" He asked bluntly, feeling almost impatient to get his hands on the prize, so to speak. It would free up his life immensely. 

"I do…" Ragnhild's eyes roved over his body, taking in his thinning, grey hair, and pudgy stomach without comment, never once asking what he needed said object for. 

From within the depths of her coat she pulled out a small, wooden jewellery box, placing it on top of the worn table. Ragnhild's hand rested on top of it protectively, knowing just how valuable it actually was. 

"And do you have the payment?" She asked, eyes glued to her elderly employer. 

Harry nodded and mirrored her action, withdrawing a coin pouch from an inner pocket. The pouch itself had been expanded to hold more than what the eye could tell. No one but the two of them were aware of the thousands of gold coins that laid innocently between them. 

Greed was a powerful motivator, and Harry knew that more than one person would be willing to kill for such a sum. It was in both of their best interests to keep the actual amount quiet, let people assume what they wanted, not that he thought anyone was paying close attention. 

The items changed hands, jewellery box for money pouch. 

Ragnhild's grin widened into an almost manic grin as she opened the pouch and looked inside. 

"Oh Roger, you've made me a very happy woman." She purred, beaming at him like the cat that got the canary. 

Harry snorted at her antics and turned his attention to the unassuming, brown box in his hands. His heart began to beat faster as he slowly pried the lid open. Inside, on a pillow of soft, purple velvet, laid exactly what he'd been looking for, a Time-Turner, beautiful in its golden glory. 

Harry had finally managed to get his hands on one after months of searching. The price was exorbitant but well worth it in his opinion. He could finally split his time between his life as Lord Peverell and Henry Potter without difficulty. 

He snapped the box shut and placed the artefact within the safety of his pocket. 

"I assume the object to be in working order once I test it for myself." Harry stated, lifting a grey eyebrow on his wrinkled face. 

Ragnhild bristled at the insinuation that she would have done a less than stellar job. Although there was a magical contract between them guaranteeing that neither party got cheated, Harry still felt it prudent to ask. 

"Of course it is." She snapped back in a feral hiss, tail swishing in annoyance. 

Harry blinked in surprise. She had a tail… a cow's tail by the looks of it, why hadn't he noticed that before? 

"She's a Hulder!" Regulus exclaimed in excitement once he too saw the tail. 

Unlike Harry, who had initially assumed she had been in some kind of spell accident or suffered a curse, his dead friend was more knowledgeable about the different magical races living in Europe.

"My apologies, I didn't mean to offend you." Harry appeased with an apologetic smile, but he was unable to hide the glance to her tail. 

His stares had not gone unnoticed by Ragnhild, and the tail quickly retreated to hide underneath her long coat. 

"They are native to Scandinavia and you don't normally see them outside of their forests and homesteads. I'm surprised this one has taken up the career she has, it's rather unusual." Regulus stated, eyeing her with interest.

"Unless you have another job for me, Roger, I think I'm going to spend some of my newfound wealth." Ragnhild said, downing her mug of mead impressively quick. 

"Not right now, no. It has been a pleasure doing business with you however, and if I do think of something else that requires your set of skills, I will be in touch." Harry said in a final greeting and shook her hand. 

He watched as the young woman sauntered out of the inn, drawing more than one eye on her way out since she hadn't pulled up the hood of her coat. 

~

Samhain at the Slytherin table was a solemn affair, most of the students were from traditional families that thought the Halloween festivities made a mockery of their culture. 

Harry waited with bated breath for things to happen the same way as they did in his first life. Outwards he remained calm and stoic, but on the inside he was slightly nervous, he didn't know if he'd changed events too much so that Voldemort altered his tactics. 

It was with infinite relief that the doors to the Great Hall slammed open. Hundreds of eyes rose, their attention solely on the frantic Quirrell in the middle of the room. 

"Troll! In the dungeons!" Quirrell screamed hysterically, stutter forgotten in the moment, oddly enough. 

"Thought you ought to know." Were his last words before passing out on the cold, stone floor. 

It was a ruse of course, but it did its job spectacularly. The students erupted into full-blown panic, screams, shouts and crying, making it impossible to hear anything the teachers had to say. 

A loud bang broke up the chaos in the Great Hall, and all eyes turned to where it had come from. Dumbledore stood behind the staff table with his wand raised, a Sonorous charm came next, making his voice reach each and every student. 

"Prefects will lead their house back to the dormitories." The headmaster calmly said, making Harry frown. 

He hadn't thought much of it in his first life, too worried about Hermione missing the feast and possibly being in danger, but now it struck him that Dumbledore just sent half of the school towards possible danger. 

Yes the dungeons were large and consisted of many rooms and corridors, but they didn't exactly know where the troll was. It was a big risk to take. 

The Slytherin prefects had already begun rounding up their house. Most were too panicked to think straight about the situation, mass hysteria would do that.

Harry easily spotted Damocles Rowle and made his way over to him. 

"Excuse me, si-" 

"Not now, Potter!" The King barked back, cutting off Harry's words mid sentence. 

"But sir, our dormitories are in the dungeons." He pointedly said, not taking no for an answer.

Rowle's eyes widened as the implications struck him. Slytherin and Hufflepuff had their dormitories in the dungeons, sending a bunch of untrained children that way was like asking for a bloodbath. 

The teachers were all useless, having followed Dumbledore out in their search for the troll, leaving the unprepared students without any real defence.

Roughly, Rowle grabbed hold of the first Slytherin prefect he could find, barking orders for their change of plan. They were staying in the Great Hall, end of story. It was a much more defensible location with only two entrances, one of them too small for any troll to get through. 

The news spread throughout the Slytherin population and slowly their panic began to calm somewhat. They sat back down and instead decided to nervously wait for the whole ordeal to be over. 

Harry watched from a distance as the seventh year prefects rushed over to their Hufflepuff counterparts before the badgers left the Great Hall entirely. 

The horrified expression that bloomed on their faces when told was enough to answer what would happen. Hufflepuff and Slytherin stood united in this. 

The prefects quickly ushered their housemates back into the Great Hall. Hufflepuff proved great in their ability to soothe the scared younger years, and the Hogwarts elves kept the tables full of delicious food, sweets and hot chocolate. 

Harry thought they were all doing a great job, much better than the teachers, that was for sure. He noticed Gemma Farley speaking gently to a second year boy from Hufflepuff that had been crying, because in the face of danger they were just children doing the best out of a bad situation. There was no good and evil, us and them, at least not yet. 

"Do you think they'll catch it?" Draco's subdued voice piped up, eyes flickering worriedly to the door and back at Harry. 

"I'm sure it will be taken care of." Harry replied with utmost confidence, offering a calming smile. 

The first years he had taken under his wing had all crowded to him during the panic. Now that there were no lines between the houses, Neville and a few of his Hufflepuff friends sat intermingled with Harry and his Slytherins, finding comfort in Harry's confidence. 

Of course, the Hufflepuffs hadn't seen what Harry was capable of, just how ruthless he could truly be, but the Slytherins had witnessed his fight in their common room and it made them trust him. They instinctively knew that their chances of survival were better at his side rather than on their own. 

The Gryffindors and Ravenclaws had been the first ones out of the Great Hall, so by the time the other half of the school had come to a decision, they were long gone. 

Eventually though, the teachers returned, shocked at seeing half the school still there. Harry noticed McGonagall's temper rising, and her Scottish brogue rang loudly throughout the room as she berated the prefects for skirting their duties. 

She was well on her way to removing points from both Hufflepuff and Slytherin when the Head Girl had had enough. 

"Excuse me professor, but if you think the headmaster's order of sending Hufflepuff and Slytherin to the dungeons, where a supposed troll was roaming, were to be followed, then I'm afraid I've lost all respect for your priorities." The girl said in a waspish voice, clearly furious by the professor's lack of concern for their welfare.

Her angry glare and sharp words caused McGonagall to stop mid sentence. All eyes were now on the spectacle up front. 

"It almost sounds like you wanted some of us to be injured, ma'am." The prefect continued. 

"Of course not Miss Pemby!" The professor replied, looking duly chastised and tired.

"Fifty points to Hufflepuff for keeping a clear head in the face of danger." McGonagall said as a peace offering no doubt, the yellow gems trickling into Hufflepuff's hourglass.

"Slytherin should be getting those points, not us. They were the ones to warn us and make sure we stayed behind." Ms Pemby clarified, not one to take glory and rewards where it wasn't deserved. 

McGonagall's lips puckered sourly but she didn't object. The same amount of points was awarded to the house of snakes before she ushered them all to their dormitories, reassuring the prefects several times that the troll had been handled.

~

Having a Time-Turner honestly made Harry's life so much easier. As soon as his dorm mates had fallen asleep he went to his island. Instead of spending time with Sirius and Marius when he arrived, Harry took a nap. 

The whole time travelling business took place once he woke up. The long, golden chain rested comfortably around his neck as he pulled the rounded artefact out from underneath his shirt.

He turned the crown fourteen times, each turn signifying one hour he would be going back in time. Unlike the Ministry issued Time-Turners, this one did not have the five hour limit, instead, Harry had the option of repeating a whole twenty-four hour circle. 

His surroundings blurred for a few seconds until he was once more stationed firmly within his study. He checked his watch, and sure enough, it was now 10am on October 31st. His past self would be in classes with the rest of his yearmates. 

Harry still had plenty of time before he needed to deal with the bloody troll Quirrell was to release. He already knew how it had been found, seeing as it was all in his past, not to mention something he had planned properly in advance. 

"I still can't believe you had to face a troll during your first year." Sirius muttered glumly when Harry entered the kitchen, looking as if he wished he could drown in his cup of black coffee. He was definitely not a morning person. 

"Yes, you and me both." Harry sighed and put on the kettle.

"At least no child will have to fight one this time. I have it all under control." He continued, pouring the hot water into his teapot once it was ready. Sure, he could have asked one of the elves to do it for him, but he still liked being self-sufficient. 

"Are you gonna kill it?" Sirius asked, lazily quirking one eyebrow. He didn't really care either way it seemed. 

Harry shook his head. 

"Not if I can avoid it. Trolls might be violent in certain circumstances, yes, but it's not its own fault that it has been lured into a castle full of children. It doesn't deserve a death sentence for that." 

"If you say so." Sirius grunted, nursing his cup of coffee that steadily drained into the black hole he called a stomach. 

"Are you gonna do a ritual tonight? You usually do on Samhain." His godfather questioned, eyes half lidded as he tried his best to wake up. 

Harry chuckled and was kind enough to refill the man's cup as he answered. 

"Yeah, just a small one to honour the dead. Do you want to join me?" 

Sirius seemed to think about it before he let out a drawn out sigh. "I suppose I'll have to. Regulus is gonna be real whiny if he finds out I didn't." The Animagus practically pouted.

"What an honourable brother you are. Making such a sacrifice for your poor, dead brother." Harry sarcastically said, completing the patronising act by patting Sirius' head. 

"You're always so mean to me Harry!" Sirius whined like the dog he was, looking up at his godson with eyes big from feigned hurt. 

Harry snorted in amusement. The two of them kept up their friendly banter while they ate breakfast, and later retreated to the living room, both enjoying the fact that they now got to spend much more time together. Eventually Harry had to leave though, the troll wouldn't stop itself after all.

~

Returning to Hogwarts through the shadows, and staying hidden by virtue of his Invisibility Cloak, was laughably easy. That, in combination with the Silencing spells he'd put on himself, made him as unnoticeable as the spirits he summoned. No one would pay him any mind unless he accidentally bumped into them. 

With the help of the Marauders map, Harry quickly located Quirrell and his little parasite. He and Voldemort were on their way to the Forbidden Forest, probably planning on fetching the troll and luring it into the castle. 

Harry waited for Quirrell to return, and eventually he did, foul smelling troll in tow. The instant he left the troll alone to enact his distraction, Harry took matters into his own hands. 

Subduing the troll was easy, all he had to do was trick it into an abandoned classroom and Ward the door to high heavens. 

With obnoxiously bright green paint, Harry wrote "DANGER!!! TROLL INSIDE!!!" even going so far as to paint a childish depiction of an angry troll's head. That should get their attention, he thought. 

Despite the troll being detained and left for the professors to deal with, Harry still wasn't ready to leave. It hadn't avoided his notice how Hermione was not at the feast with the rest of the Gryffindors. Ron must have been his charming self as usual. 

Harry closed his eyes and sighed. He couldn't in good conscience leave his old friend crying in the bathroom by herself, likewise he knew she wouldn't accept his help if he were to give it as himself, her imagined rivalry with him was too great. Still, something had to be done. 

With his yew wand in hand, Harry transfigured his robes into that of a female uniform, complete with skirt, stockings, blue and bronze trims and an eagle emblem on the outer robes. Next came his appearance. 

His shapeshifting amulet had been perfected over the years, no longer was it the big, clunky thing that had been his first success. In addition to being smaller, it was also more intuitive to use once it had bonded properly. In reality it worked almost like being a Metamorphmagus, all it required was concentration and visualisation. 

Harry's facial features shifted entirely, his hair grew, as did his height, and in a matter of seconds, what appeared to be a seventh year Ravenclaw stood in the corridor. His hair consisted of long, chocolate brown locks that reached just past his shoulder blades. His eyes were equally brown and his skin pale. He looked like a very unremarkable girl, average in every way possible. 

With his appearance now in order, Harry hurried over to the girls' lavatory where he knew Hermione had been holed up for the entire afternoon. 

The soft crying and sniffling reached his ears as soon as he opened the door. He wanted to sigh again, feeling sorry for the younger version of his brilliant friend. 

"Hello?" Harry called out, his voice soft and feminine after he'd changed his vocal cords. 

He walked up to Hermione's stall and knocked gently on the door. "Are you alright in there?" 

Hermione had gone entirely quiet, probably hoping he would leave her alone if she pretended she didn't exist. 

"Do you need me to fetch Madam Pomfrey?" Harry continued, filling his voice with concern. 

"N-no!" Hermione immediately stuttered out, desperate not to involve any of the adults. 

"I-I'm fine." She sniffled. "You don't have to get anyone." 

"You don't sound fine to me… perhaps if you came out I could try to help." Harry gently pried. 

Ever so slowly, the lock on the stall clicked open and Hermione peeked out of the door. Her eyes were red and bloodshot from crying and her hair bushier than ever. 

"Oh sweetheart, what happened?" Harry softly sighed squatting down so they were roughly the same height. 

"Did someone hurt you?" He asked, wandlessly conjuring a handkerchief in his pocket and pretending to pull it out so he could wipe away the remnants of her tears. 

"N-no, nothing like that. You're going to think I'm being silly." Hermione sniffled, on the verge of breaking out into full-blown sobs again. Her large front teeth bit down on her bottom lip and she looked to the floor in embarrassment. 

"Oh I very much doubt that, dear. Whatever it was, the fact that it has brought you to tears makes it bad enough." Harry let Hermione take the handkerchief so she could dab her own eyes whenever she felt like it. 

"It… it's nothing really. Just this boy in my house being mean because he's jealous. I don't know why I let it get to me. I was the same at my old school but I just…" She looked away, not able to go on.

"Hoped it would be different here?" Harry quietly finished for her. 

Hermione nodded her head and sniffled. 

She looked so miserable and unhappy that Harry couldn't help but give her a hug. He scooped her up in his arms and held her tightly, feeling her body shake as she once again broke out into sobs. 

"Shhh, it's okay. You're going to be okay." Harry soothed, gently rubbing her back until the sobs petered off to tiny sniffles. 

"S-sorry for crying on you." Hermione said as she pulled away, cheeks flaming red with embarrassment. 

"Don't worry about it. I'm Sophie by the way." Harry gave her an encouraging smile. 

"H-Hermione." The girl replied. 

"That's from Shakespeare isn't it?" Harry asked, much to the others surprise. 

"You know Shakespeare?" Hermione asked, getting a hum in reply. 

"How say you? My prisoner? Or my guest? by your dread 'Verily', One of them you shall be." Harry recited from the Hermione act of Winter's Tale. 

Hermione was clearly shocked, for she could only gape up at him, mouth ajar. 

"Either way, I take it you don't want to go back to the feast with the others quite yet?" Harry asked and was rewarded by a soft shake of the Gryffindor's head. 

"Well, I think I have just the solution for us then. Come with me and I'll show you a secret that I'm sure none of your classmates know about yet." Harry said with a warm smile on his face as he held out his hand for Hermione to take. 

She hesitated for a little moment, worried that it might be a trick, but eventually giving in, too desperate for human connection. 

Harry took her smaller hand in his and guided her down through the castle, taking a few shortcuts that he was sure she'd make a mental note of. 

"Where are we going?" Hermione nervously asked.

"You'll see! We're almost there." Harry cheerfully replied. 

When they stopped, it was in front of a large painting of a bowl of fruit. Hermione frowned, looking at the painting and then to Harry in confusion. 

"You… wanted to show me a painting of fruit?" Hermione hesitantly voiced. 

"I did." Harry replied with a secretive smile. 

"Why don't you try tickling the pear?" 

Hermione gave him a look that said she questioned his sanity, which was rude, but probably sort of justified. Still, she did step closer to the painting and awkwardly tickled the canvas with her finger.

When the pear gave out a clear giggle, she stepped backwards in shock, wide eyes looking over to Harry. 

"Go on, open it." Harry urged with an amused grin, gesturing to the doorknob that had just appeared. 

Hermione's hand shook slightly as she reached for the knob. She was clearly feeling wrongfooted, but curiosity got the best of her. 

Her eyes were wide as saucers when she looked into the large kitchen, several house elves staring back at her. 

"Welcome to the kitchens!" Harry cheerfully exclaimed, sweeping his arm out in a grand gesture. 

Before Hermione could pepper him with the millions of questions that threatened to spill out of her, Harry steered her towards one of the small tables reserved for guests. 

He asked one of the elves for two cups of hot chocolate and something to eat. They were all too happy to comply. 

That was about as far as Hermione's patience went before her mouth opened and a waterfall of questions poured out of her. 

"Not so fast! I can't answer everything at once, one question at a time please." Harry laughed fondly. 

"What are they? What are they doing here? Why haven't I seen them before?"  The young girl sucked in a sharp breath, visibly trying to restrain herself. 

It was at that moment one of the elves returned, placing two mugs of hot chocolate with whipped cream in front of them, as well as the food they served in the Great Hall. 

"Here youse go Misses, is there anything else Bibby can bes getting youse?" One of the elves asked with hopeful eyes. 

"No thank you Bibby, this will be all for now. I'm sure the meal will be lovely. Thank you for your hard work." Harry said, making the small creature beam at him. 

Hermione softly thanked her as well, clearly of a mind to start barraging her with the questions Harry hadn't answered yet. He decided he might as well get it out of the way. 

"They are a race called house-elves. You probably haven't seen them before because they didn't want you to. Most of the time their masters prefer them to stay out of sight. They cook, clean, repair clothes and so forth, basically anything a wizard or witch asks of them." Harry explained, waiting for her reaction. 

"Masters?" Hermione said aghast, eyes big in horror. 

"You mean Hogwarts is keeping slaves?!" 

"Mm, yes and no." Harry hummed. "It is a bit more complicated than that." 

And so, while they ate, Harry explained the nature of elves and why they needed to bond to a place or person with magical reserves. He told her of how the bonds had been twisted, yes, but that freeing the elves entirely would do them no good. Without a bond they would be unable to perform magic and would end up dying quicker than normal. 

He hoped this was enough to dissuade her from wanting to forcefully free each and every elf at Hogwarts. Her S.P.E.W campaign had brought the poor elves more stress than they deserved. 

Hermione looked thoughtful, her eyebrows furrowed deep as she contemplated it all. 

"I don't like it." She murmured. 

"Me neither, but it is the way things are. All I ask is that you do some research before you start on a crusade. Just because something sounds horrible and outdated to you, does not mean it actually is. You need more information to make a decision either way. I recommend talking to the elves. Ask them questions about their culture without being demeaning. Listen to what they have to say and maybe look up some books in the library. " 

They ended up talking for hours, and when they finally split up to return to their own dormitories, Harry felt good about himself. Hopefully he had been able to help Hermione feel more at home. 

She had told him about the bullying from her housemates, and how the girls ignored her. With help from his grandmother Evelyn, he had tried to offer advice, hoping that she would actually take it to heart.  

Chapter Text

Weeks turned into months, each one worse for Dumbledore's reputation than the last. The amount of angry letters had lessened, but his reputation was in veritable shambles. Not only had the original article about Harry's childhood hit him hard, but Rita Skeeter had published the very same book she'd written about the headmaster in Harry's first life, only more factual thanks to Harry's funding for research.

Dragging up Dumbledore's early days with Grindelwald, and continued visits to Numengard since the man’s imprisonment, had almost been the final nail in the man's proverbial coffin, and yet he still stubbornly clung on to his position at Hogwarts. Harry wasn't happy about it, but he accepted it for now, he still had a few cards up his sleeves. 

His main focus was sorting out guardianship over his younger persona. Skeeter's articles were definitely helpful in that regard, always painting him in a good light whenever Peverell was mentioned in the Daily Prophet. 

Harry found himself in a lavish ballroom within Lord Greengrass’ manor. It was one of the Ministry’s yearly fundraisers, a ridiculous thing that was actually more of an excuse to gossip, drink and eat expensive food. Harry always attended even though he found them stifling and dreadfully boring. It was a great place to network, and the fact that he always left a large donation at the end helped boost his public image.

Green eyes scanned the crowd for his current prey, and Harry grinned internally as he finally caught sight of her. Slowly, so as not to arouse suspicion, he made his way across the room, chatting with people on his way. 

"Madam Bones, how lovely to see you again!" Harry cheerfully exclaimed with a boyish grin full of charm once he caught up with his target.

Meeting the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry fundraiser was a perfect opportunity to gain some sympathy for his case. 

"Lord Peverell, charming as always I see." The middle aged woman replied with an amused twitch to her lips. 

"I am merely telling the truth." Harry chuckled and shook her hand with a firm grip.

The conversation flowed freely between them, and eventually an opportunity arose as she talked about her niece Susan. It was the perfect segue onto what he truly wanted to discuss. 

"May I ask you something?" Harry quietly questioned, face a thoughtful frown. 

"Of course." Bones answered, having clearly picked up on his hesitation.

"If you knew that you had a struggling family member out there, a child in fact, would you take the risk of going to court to gain custody of them?" 

The witch's attention was fully on him now, her eyes and mind sharp as daggers as she unpacked his loaded question. 

"You aren't speaking just metaphorically, are you." It was a statement and not a question. 

Harry shook his head and sighed, looking out over the many witches and wizards who mingled in the grand ballroom, eating and drinking to their heart's desire.

"I thought I was the last of my family, and in a sense I still am… but when I went to Gringotts a while back, I found out that I had an heir." Harry slowly began, feeling amused at the shocked look Madam Bones gave him. 

"Before you make assumptions, no, he is not my child. The boy is a bit too old for that." Harry wryly added. 

"And this child, he has no one else to look after him? No parents or close relatives?" Madam Bones questioned before taking a sip of her non-alcoholic beverage. 

"His parents are both dead, I'm afraid, and the only relatives I'm aware of are far from suitable." Harry bit his bottom lip, playing up his insecurity in the matter. 

"I wouldn't have made an issue about all of this if he were living in a decent family, but from what I've come to learn these past few months, his home life has been negligent at the best of times, and abusive at the worst. Even if I'm young and haven't met the boy in person yet, at least I have the means to provide for him. I fear my youth will be to my detriment if it were to go to court however... as would the fact that I'm not married. But… the boy is family. We are both the last of our lines… fighting for him would be the right thing to do, wouldn't it?" His voice was soft and troubled. 

"From what you've told me, it would." Amelia Bones replied, her usually stern features softened by compassion. Family was something she valued highly, seeing as she had lost most of her own during the last war. 

Harry gratefully smiled back at her. He sipped his drink awkwardly, trying to play the role as best as he could. 

"You said he was too old to be your own, does he perhaps go to Hogwarts?" Madam Bones queried. 

"He does…" Harry hesitantly replied, making sure his face showed just how much he debated telling her the truth or not. 

"His identity is also what makes me wary of all of this. I worry that if I brought the case to the Ministry's attention, both he and I would be put in front of the entire Wizengamot." 

The woman's eyes widened and her eyebrows shot up to her forehead. Amelia was not a stupid woman, and Harry was sure she had already patched the pieces of the puzzle together. There weren't many children whose custody hearing would cause such a commotion. 

"I can take it, I'm in there all the time, but I worry about the pressure it would put on him." Harry stated, pretending to be too concerned to notice his companion's reaction. 

"Would it be too bold of me to ask for a name?" The woman pried. 

Harry sighed yet again, rubbing the left side of his face in an uncommon show of emotion. 

"It's Henry James Potter." He murmured, so quietly it might as well have been a whisper amongst the live music and chattering high society. 

Amelia Bones was shocked, that much was clear, but Harry thought she understood his worries now that the boy’s identity had been revealed. 

"Poor child, he's gone through enough already. I hate to admit it, but I am grateful for Skeeter uncovering his horrible homelife, I would never have guessed something was wrong otherwise. Although, I shudder to think what Mr Potter must be feeling right now, knowing that everyone is aware of how he was treated by those that should have loved and cherished him, it is surely difficult." 

For a woman of justice, who was in all aspects but blood, a mother, her heart truly went out to the young, abused Potter heir. Imagining her own niece, Susan, being put in the same situation brought chills down her spine. 

Harry could tell the moment his web of lies had managed to convince Madam Bones to help him get custody. His carefully crafted manipulations had tugged at the woman's heart strings, and he was not apologetic for taking full advantage of it. 

"You are absolutely right Lord Peverell-" Madam Bones began, only to be cut off mid sentence. 

"Call me Harrison, I think we've become acquainted enough for that by now." He said with a wry smile. 

To her credit, the witch did not seem phased by the sudden sequitur and in fact responded in kind. 

"Amelia then." She nodded her head.

"What I was about to say, Harrison, is that Mr Potter is indeed a high profile individual. His change of guardianship will draw a lot of attention, both from the public and those who wish to contest your claim. I'm not doubting your wish to look after him, nor your familial bonds as you claim, not yet at least, but they will have to be verified. I cannot make any promises, but for Mr Potter's own sake, I might be able to schedule a more private custody hearing, and if that is not possible then hopefully we will be able to keep him out of the chaos that is the full Wizengamot." 

~

True to her words, Amelia had managed to push forward a private hearing before the Department Heads and a select few within the Ministry. 

The summoning came one early morning with an official looking owl. The large, brown beast pompously landed on the garden fence of Harry's newly renovated house in a rural part of Maidstone, far away from prying muggle eyes. Not that they would have noticed anything either way, since the area was warded. 

He was currently there to inspect the work of his elves. To be able to raise, well, himself , Lord Peverell would need a more public address. Sure, most people wouldn't know about it, but he expected the Ministry would be rather adamant about vetting Henry Potter's new guardian, having a suitable home was definitely a part of that. 

Harry took the sealed letter from the owl's outstretched talon and flicked open the wax emblem. His eyes scanned over the parchment with its bureaucratic lingon, well versed in the dry formality of it all. 

The meeting was set for the tenth of December. A lot rode on this, someone else getting custody of his younger self would greatly diminish his freedom, even with a Time-Turner. It wasn't impossible to live with someone else, he could always Imperio whomever his new guardian turned out to be, but it was an imperfect solution that he preferred to avoid. 

Before the custody hearing, Harry spent a lot of his time in the Ministry, subtly buttering up those that would decide Henry Potter's future guardian. 

The day itself arrived without much fanfare. Harry had shown up hours before he actually needed to be at the Ministry, the situation with his court case for underage magic still clear in mind. Although he didn't have anyone out for his blood this time around, there were still plenty of people who would want custody over Britain's little child celebrity. Harry didn't want to take the risk of running late. 

~

"Lucius… I did not expect to see you here, there are no problems I hope?" Harry calmly asked, internally cursing his abysmal Potter luck. 

Of course Lucius fucking Malfoy would stick his snobby nose in Harry's business. He smiled tightly at the blonde prick, whose face was as smug as ever. 

"Not at all Harrison." The older man affably replied. "I suspect we are both here for the same reason today, are we not? Opening our hearts and homes to poor Mr Potter who's been through more than any child should." His tone was dripping with saccharine sincerity that was so clearly fake. 

Harry raised an eyebrow and smiled blandly, once again suppressing his urge to mess up Lucius' pretty face with his fist. Narcissa wouldn't take too kindly to that, however. 

"I suppose Narcissa put you up to this then?" Harry asked, knowing that the true answer would be both a yes and a no. 

The married couple both wanted Potter in their custody, but for different reasons. Narcissa would do it because Harry obviously made Draco happy, and she once confessed to Peverell that she wanted more children, but was unable to conceive after her son was born. 

Lucius on the other hand wanted control of the boy for political reasons. Being the man who 'saved' the boy who lived from his horrible muggle relatives and took him into his home out of the goodness of his heart would paint a beautiful picture of his kind and generous nature.  

In addition, if the Dark Lord ever returned, he would have a lifeline tucked away in the form of a child. In that way, Lucius was brutal. He would gladly submit a child to the tender mercies of Voldemort if it meant safety for his own family. Harry could understand it, even if he didn't condone it. 

"Ah! Lord Peverell, Lord Malfoy, just in time!" Cornelius Fudge, their current muppet of a Minister exuberantly exclaimed, his lime green bowler hat almost falling off his head as he rushed to his feet to greet them as they entered the meeting room.

"Minister! How wonderful to see you again. I didn't expect to meet you here today, surely you must have much more important things to attend." Harry charmingly replied as he shook the portly man's clammy hand, smiling warmly. 

Fudge preened under the attention of one of wizarding Britain's most powerful Lords and his chest puffed up in pride. He did so love to feel important, and stroking someone's ego? Well, that was something Harry had learned to do over the years. 

"Oh come now, Lord Peverell! It would hardly be appropriate of me to not personally see to it that the mistakes of the previous administration in regards to Mr Potter's placement didn't get rectified." The Minister for Magic laughed, making sure to highlight the fact that it was indeed his predecessor that had erred. 

"Of course, right you are." Harry chuckled and allowed the man to shift his attention to Lucius. 

Harry let his eyes roam over the gathered crowd, smiling and nodding politely to each of the attending members. Most of them he already knew, like Amelia Bones and the other Department Heads. He was not surprised to see Arthur Weasley with his balding ginger hair and excitable personality chatting along with one of his co-workers. 

Even if the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office was rather small and looked down upon, Arthur was still the Head of its department. Harry held fond memories of the man, even if he thought he was just as prejudiced against muggles as Lucius, just in a different way. His prejudice was rooted in ignorance rather than malice. 

The fact that he led a department that dealt with muggle artefacts, something he was passionate about, yes, but had no actual clue how they worked… well… It left a lot to be desired. Still, that didn't keep Harry from liking the man. 

"Good evening Arthur, how's the wife and children these days?" Harry kindly asked as he sat down next to the ginger at the large, oval conference table. 

They were far from close, but the distrust towards Peverell had waned over the years due to all the good he'd done for the community. Harry wondered if the Weasleys still supported Dumbledore, or if the recent media ruckus had made them open their eyes to the truth. 

"Can't complain! Molly still finds the house a bit empty with all but our daughter either at Hogwarts or moved out, but everyone is healthy and that's all I ask." Arthur chuckled jollily and cleaned his glasses with the hem of his threadbare robes before shoving them back on his nose. 

Before Harry could reply, someone loudly cleared their voice from across the table, making every head turn. 

"Settle down, please!" Madam Bones' stern voice cut through the room, drawing their attention. 

"Now that everyone has arrived, the hearing can begin!" Fudge continued once Madam Bones had silenced the occupants. 

"Custody hearing on the tenth of December, for guardianship over one Henry James Potter, born July 31st 1980, is now in session. Interrogators, Cornelius Oswald Fudge-" The Minister began, detailing each and every one present and their roles within the Ministry and the hearing itself. Miranda Brown, the current court scribe, took rigorous notes. 

"It has come to the Ministry's attention that there are four possible candidates to Mr Potter's guardianship, Lord Peverell, Lord Malfoy, Mr Weasley and Mr Doge. We are gathered here today to ascertain which one of you has the highest familial claim as well as the ability to provide properly for the boy's needs and welfare." Amelia continued, taking the word once Fudge finished speaking. 

Elphias Doge, who was clearly there on Dumbledore's behalf, went first. His so-called claim was ridiculously low, if it even existed. The familial connection was so muddied and far back that they might as well have brought in someone from a different country in his stead. He played on the fact that he was old and had all the time in the world to look after and dote on the boy, but that was also to his detriment. It was clear to everyone that his being there was a joke. 

Mr Weasley was next. Had this happened in his first life when Harry was a child, he would have done anything in the world to be able to live with the Weasleys forever and be considered family. He had always envied Ron for the warmth and care he received at home. 

During the summers, when he visited the Weasleys, Harry would get a taste of what it was like, and it always felt so bittersweet. He desired it more than anything, but knew he couldn't have it. 

Although Mrs Weasley cared for him and fed him, he was never really considered one of her own, he wouldn't have been left with the Dursleys again and again if that was the case. She always commented on how thin he was but never took the matter further, never showed him the same concern as the rest of her children. It was natural, even if it hurt at the time. 

"Me and Molly already have children so we know how to care for them. Our youngest, Ronald, is even in the same year as him at Hogwarts. We think it would be good for him to live with children his own age. Harry would have a loving home with us and want for nothing." Arthur said. 

"And how exactly do you expect to be able to financially support another child when you can barely keep your own brood fed?" Lucius sneered at his nemesis. 

Harry privately agreed with the blonde arsehole, no matter how much that hurt to admit, even to himself. Arthur, no matter how well his intentions were, did not have a great financial situation. 

Lucius' biting words caused Arthur's face to burn red in anger and embarrassment, the colour clashing horribly with his hair. He was just about to snap back a retort when Amelia cut in. Everyone knew about the rivalry between the two men and would avoid a fight if they could. 

"Mr Weasley, you mentioned that you also have a familial claim to Mr Potter, do you have any official proof of this?" Amelia questioned to stave off any explosive arguments. 

Arthur took a deep breath before he nodded. "My grandfather Septimus Weasley married Cedrella Black, Dorea Potter née Black's cousin. I ha-" 

"Wasn't she cast out of the Black family though?" One of the Department Heads asked before Arthur could continue.

There was a murmur of assent spreading through the room. 

"And besides, even if she wasn't, that's still not exactly a close relation." The same man finished sceptically. 

In the end, Arthur's claim was there, yes, but it was a weak one. He was in the running but nobody really expected him to come out of the hearing as Potter's guardian, his already strained financial situation took care of that. They didn't want a new guardian to rely on the Potter heir's trust vault to get by.

Lucius sent Arthur one last derisive glance of disgust before he procured a leather folder from within his pocket, unshrinking it with his wand. With one swift flick, the documents within multiplied and spread out to each participant of the hearing. 

Harry scanned the first parchment and was, despite himself, impressed. Lucius truly had gone all out in his attempt to gain custody. 

"As we all know by now, Dorea Potter née Black was Henry Potter's grandmother. As you can see from the family tree that has been verified by Gringotts, Dorea was also the younger sister of one Pollux Black, who so happens to be the grandfather of my beloved Narcissa, who I'm sure you've all met." He flashed the crowd a pretty smile and went on with his rehearsed pitch. 

Lucius played on the ties to the Black family, laid out his wealth and ease of both giving Potter everything he could wish for, as well as his ability to protect him. In addition, Narcissa and Draco featured heavily. How he and his wife had always wished for more children, but had been unable to conceive again after their son was born.  

It looked like Lucius had nearly everyone charmed to his side by the time he was finished. Harry kept his polite, public smile but on the inside he was seething. He had worked too hard, planned too long, for this to all go up in smoke due to Lucius' political aspirations for his younger self. 

"Thank you, Lord Malfoy." Madam Bones voiced, with a nod of her head to the blonde aristocrat. 

Arthur's face had been pinched and taut during Lucius' monologue and following questioning. He could see that he had no chance of 'saving' Harry, and so his only hope was that Peverell's claim would be stronger as he was the lesser of two evils. 

"Lord Peverell, if you would." Amelia gestured for him to speak. 

All eyes shifted expectantly to him as he procured a stack of documents for everyone, it was showtime! 

"Unlike Lord Malfoy and Mr Weasley, I am not able to claim family bonds to the Black family, at least not to any closeness that would matter." He said with a light chuckle that earned him some laughs and smiles. 

"However, throughout history the Potters and Peverells have always been close, ever since one of my ancestors, Iolanthe Peverell, married Hardwin Potter. Henry James Potter is a direct descendant of this match. Still, it is not by blood I wish to make my claim, but through magic." Hushed murmurs went through the crowd at that proclamation. 

"If you'll please have a look at the first document, I think you will come to be just as surprised as I was when it was brought to my attention by my account manager." Harry began. 

True to his expectations, as more read the parchment in front of them, exclamations of shock and confusion were uttered. 

Legally, Henry James Potter was Lord Peverell's heir, not just because of blood ties, but because of family magic. Ragnok had eagerly verified this for Harry when he asked for documentation, finding amusement in the entire situation. 

"Henry and I share the Peverell family magic. Even if I had children of my own there is no guarantee that they would be able to inherit my title. Henry, however, will. The Peverell gifts have been fickle over time, it is the reason why I am the first Peverell able to claim the Lordship since my ancestor Gerrard Peverell held the title over four hundred years ago. Please do not deprive me of the opportunity to teach and guide my kin." Harry pleaded.  

"I might be young, but I am fully resolved to do everything in my power to make sure Henry is loved and protected, he deserves it after everything he's been through, don't you agree?"

~

"Cheers! To the best manipulative mastermind of the century!" Sirius cheered loudly, lifting his cocktail glass high in the air.

"Hear hear!" Marius laughed and joined in, clinking his tumbler of scotch against the two youngsters' glasses. 

Harry's laugh bubbled out and he threw an arm over Sirius' shoulders. He'd allowed himself to indulge for once and he was already well and truly sloshed, the alcohol burning hotly in his veins. 

"Y-you should 'ave-- should 'ave seen L-Lucy's face wh-when he lost!" Harry slurrily got out through his drunken giggling. 

"You'll have to show me a Pensieve memory some day!" Sirius cackled, patting Harry's back. 

Their celebratory dinner lasted well into the night, Harry and Sirius getting more and more drunk as time passed. 

His self-proclaimed dogfather had taught the elves to make everything from margaritas to cosmopolitans after he found a book on mixology in muggle London, so now they were drinking glass after glass of sweet, alcoholic beverages, garnish and umbrellas included. 

Sirius loved them and Harry wasn't one to complain. He wasn't much of a drinker anyway, normally preferring to stay sober, but the drinks were tasty and he had plenty of fun.

At some point both he and Sirius had transformed into their Animagus forms. Corvus walked on unsteady legs that clacked against the wooden floor, both wings stretched out for balance. Not that it helped much, more often than not did he fall over, only for Padfoot to wheeze in laughter at the affronted bird. 

Padfoot honestly wasn't faring much better, bumping into everything in his path as he wobbled through the room, breaking a few vases and picture frames in the process.

Marius didn't drink as excessively as the two younger members of the household, and instead made sure they both made it back to bed before they properly passed out. 

The day after, Harry, much to his own horror, found out that he had been a rather emotional drunk, weeping and slurrily mumbling how much he loved his grandfather when he was put to bed. Marius thankfully found it more amusing and touching than Harry did.  

Harry swore to himself never to drink again, just as he had the last time he woke up with a hangover, and the time before that…

Chapter Text

When Remus had shown up at the Leaky Cauldron for a job interview, with desperation and hope clinging to his heart in equal measures, he had been vastly unprepared for how life-changing that one meeting would be. 

Despite his young age and handsome features, Lord Peverell cut an intimidating figure where he sat, startling green eyes drilling into him. 

He wasn't a particularly tall nor muscular man, but there was an air of danger about him that made the hairs on the back of Remus' neck stand up. He was forced to swallow down his nerves and instincts to flee, before he plastered a shaky smile onto his face. 

Throughout the long and gruelling interview, Lord Peverell remained calm and professional. Remus answered his questions as best as he could, but as soon as the young aristocrat asked about his stance on Dark creatures, he knew the job was as good as lost. 

Sure, he could lie, say he was neutral and keep his own creature status a secret, but that would only serve him in the short run. As soon as his employer caught wind of him being a werewolf, which was likely to be during the first full moon, he'd be fired, of that Remus had no doubt. And so, he told him. 

What he'd expected to be another failed interview ended up being the complete opposite. Remus had left the Leaky Cauldron on shaky feet, the signed work contract clutched tightly in one hand. 

It was almost too good to be true. Never in his entire life had Remus been this lucky. 

He made it back to his tiny flat that was positioned above a Chinese restaurant in muggle London, completely dazed. If anyone asked, he wouldn't be able to tell them how he got home, for he was that out of it. 

The flat that he called home was in a poor area, and not in particularly good condition. But it was the best he could afford with the odd jobs he'd been getting here and there. 

The kitchen faucet was leaky, water dripping constantly into the metal sink, the walls were drafty, the heater was temperamental, and he swore there was a mysteriously damp patch on the bathroom ceiling that had to be mould. 

He sat in his tiny kitchen on a transfigured chair, a cup of strong black tea clasped tightly in his hands. His brown eyes were staring at the contract laying innocently on the wooden table in front of him, once again reading over the many benefits he would get. 

Remus still couldn't quite comprehend it all. The pay in itself was staggering. According to the contract he would be paid 250 Galleons each month for a managing position, it was more than the average pay of an Auror! 

And as if that wasn't enough, he was guaranteed four weeks of paid vacation-time each year, paid sick-days, free Wolfsbane and a staff discount on anything sold in the shop. 

That evening, Remus cried with relief, tears of happiness trickling down his cheeks. No longer did he have to struggle to pay rent and worry about whether he could afford to eat. 

He could get a proper flat with a heater that worked and a bathroom free of mould, maybe even purchase a house eventually if he remained frugal. 

And even that was overshadowed by the pure elation of being provided Wolfsbane. For as long as he had this job, he didn't need to fear killing someone each full moon, nor would he bite and claw himself raw for lack of other prey. He could spend the night at home, sleeping as a wolf while keeping his human mind. It was a blessing. 

~

Two weeks later Remus showed up outside the newly renovated shop, curiously eying the men and women he assumed he would be working with in the foreseeable future. 

They were a motley mix of various ages and genders. It was always hard to tell with magical beings, but there was a man who looked to be somewhere in his sixties, black hair specked with streaks of grey. 

Remus knew he would be working with at least another werewolf, but he couldn't tell who just by appearance alone, it wasn't something one could really tell just by looking unless it was the full moon.

Lord Peverell greeted them all with a friendly smile and unlocked the wards that were active when the shop was left unattended. 

"Good morning everyone. Today we'll get you fitted for your work attire. It isn't anything fancy seeing as I prefer simplicity and practicality over anything flashy, but while you are on the clock you will be required to wear clothing that is within the dress code." The young man explained once they'd all entered the staff break room on the first floor. 

Lord Peverell snapped his fingers and several house-elves, all dressed in nice clothes of different colours and fashions, appeared. 

"The clothes will be provided by Hallow's Apothecary." Their new employer said as he pulled out a stack of parchment from his dark leather satchel. With a flick of his wrist, no wand required, the stack spread out and each staff member was given a pamphlet of sorts. 

Remus studied what appeared to be a list of different clothes. There were simple robes, t-shirts, jumpers, trousers, skirts and so forth. 

"Please make a tick next to the clothing items you prefer. You may select as many or as few as you want as long as you have enough for a full outfit."

Remus felt a little hesitant about ticking off more than just the basics of a button up shirt and trousers, but this wasn't charity. They weren't really his clothes, it was part of a uniform that he needed to present a professional front. That being settled he made a few more ticks. 

Lord Peverell introduced his elves with more warmth than he'd ever seen another pureblood aim towards the little critters.

Yes, perhaps Lord Peverell was powerful and dangerous, but the question remained, to whom? Clearly he cared for house-elves, not to mention werewolves and squibs. The man was the complete opposite of what Remus had become used to thinking of as a noble pureblood.

Peverell was Dark, that much he could tell, his magic had a certain taste to it, cold and crisp like a winter night. Not that he minded, Remus had no leg to stand on considering he was Dark as well due to his lycanthropy. 

The elves had quickly taken their measurements, and the next day they were presented with their uniforms. The clothing was all black, only the silvery shop logo being embroidered on the left side of their chests. 

It was simple but beautiful, Remus thought. A silver cauldron surrounded by a triangle made of blooming asphodel.

There was a changing room on the first floor where each staff member had their own locker. They left their used clothes there after each shift, and when they returned the next day the elves had dutifully cleaned and folded them. 

It was efficient and reminded him a bit of Hogwarts. Laundry had not been a concern there either.  

~

Remus loved his job, and it wasn't just for the benefits it gave. He got to meet people again and be part of a community of sorts. For the first time in years he had actually gained some new friends. The grief he felt over the loss of his old friends, his family, was still there, he doubted it would ever fully leave, but he was slowly healing. 

The job itself was also interesting. Although he had been an alright brewer while at Hogwarts, he did manage to get a NEWT in the subject after all, it was with the more theoretical aspects that he shone. He knew potion ingredients well, often just by smell or sight. 

And because of that he could tell that what they sold was of the highest quality. During their initial training, Lord Peverell had told them that most of the ingredients came from his own estate, it made Remus wonder just how big it actually was.

Managing an entire shop, restocking, staff and so forth, was challenging. It wasn't anything like the jobs he'd done in the past, but he thrived.

Lord Peverell was exceedingly invested in his new venue, so much so that for the first two months of the apothecary being open, he worked more than anyone else, helping everyone get settled in. 

Remus was baffled by the fact that a man such as himself took the time away from whatever it was he did, to work in a common shop among werewolves, squibs and muggleborns. 

In those two months his respect for the young Lord had skyrocketed to almost unimaginable heights. Not only was he inclusive and kind, but he was not one to shy away from hard work. 

As the years passed, the shop had to be expanded due to the increased popularity. They hired more people and were now one of the few shops in Diagon itself that were open both day and night. 

Remus had been shocked at first when Peverell had hired a hag of all things for one of the night shift positions, but Rosaria had proven to be a good employee that knew a startling amount of potions and their ingredients. 

He was ashamed to admit that he had been prejudiced at the start, fully having bought the rumours of hags eating children and so forth. Rosaria was nothing but kind and he had apologised for his wariness. 

Rosaria wasn't the only new employer to work nights, there was also Alec Burke, a part-vampire who was quiet but friendly. 

Remus was on good terms with most of his co-workers, but some he would even dare to call friends. 

Each year when Christmas rolled around, Lord Peverell gave his employees a Christmas bonus in the form of money but also small token gifts. The man was brilliant, almost too good to be true if you asked Remus. 

But as the years passed, he learned that Peverell was just like that. He was kind and generous, and not purely because it would boost his image, at least that wasn't the impression Remus got. He could easily have picked a different way of doing that instead of helping those the rest of society didn't want or preferred to ignore the existence of. 

He provided jobs, housing, daycare for those with children… It was extraordinary. He was a true philanthropist in their rotten world. Okay so perhaps Remus was a little in awe, who could blame him really?

~

The bell above the door chimed softly. Remus hardly bothered to look up, wide eyes too focused on the newspaper in his hands. 

Peverell had Harry… he felt shocked, guilty and perhaps… a bit relieved? The guilt after finding out what had happened to his best friend's son growing up, still clung to him like a second skin. It gnawed at his insides and made him feel sick about his own weaknesses. 

He shouldn't have trusted everything Dumbledore said, he shouldn't have believed all the lies… but what could he have done? He was a werewolf.  With the Ministry being so biased against anyone with creature status he would never have been able to get custody of him, even if he'd tried. 

Even now, years after Lord Peverell began improving things for all of them, Remus still wouldn't have been able to make a convincing case. There hadn't been a point in trying since he already knew he would fail. 

Remus truly was a spineless coward. He sighed and looked out the window facing towards Diagon. 

He wanted to ask his employer about Harry, about whether he could see him once the children went home for the holidays, or maybe just give him a letter, but he couldn't handle the accusating looks and contempt that would surely be aimed at him should his inactions come to light. So he stayed silent, greeting Peverell as if nothing was out of the ordinary when the man entered his shop to help the staff. 

"Excuse me, do you have scarab wings?" A woman asked, cutting through his miserable thoughts. 

"O-oh, yes, of course. Right this way." Remus responded, pulling himself together and offering a welcoming smile to the customer. 

He had a job to do and couldn't allow himself to sink down into his guilt and grief, not yet at least.

~  

Why hadn't he been told? They were supposed to be friends, what possible reason could Peverell have to want guardianship over Potter? 

And worst of all, Severus had to find out through the Daily Prophet of all things! As if he hadn't just seen the man a few days prior. He could at least have had the decency to bloody mention the fact that he was going to try getting custody over one of his students. 

He could understand Lucius wanting control over the Potter boy, but Peverell? It didn't make sense. What was he planning? What was his angle? 

Severus silently fumed for the rest of the day and unintentionally took his anger out on his students, lashing out at the tiniest infraction. 

The children could tell he was in a foul mood that day and avoided him to the best of their ability. Staying off his radar was in everyone's best interest. 

As soon as his teaching duties were done for the day, Severus briskly walked to the main gates, Apparating to Peverell's home in Maidstone with a sharp turn on the spot, a loud crack the only sign of his departure. 

"HARRISON!" The potions master shouted as soon as he tore open the front door of the house he had become rather familiar with in the past few weeks. 

There was no answer however, the house was deathly silent. Severus stalked from room to room, anger simmering deep underneath his skin. He felt… betrayed… worried… so many different feelings constricting in his gut that it made him grit his teeth and tighten the grip on his wand. 

When he reached Peverell's study, a house-elf popped in front of him, staring at him with those big, round eyes. 

"Master Snape, what can Pip do for you?" The creature asked, his speech having improved leagues since Severus first met him. 

"Where is Peverell?" Severus sneered. 

The elf however didn't cower, secure in its own safety around the dour man. Pip knew that master Snape never did anything to the elves, or their master for that matter. The man was normally polite but he did have a temper.

"Master Peverell is working in the apothecary today sir." Pip obediently replied. "Would you like me to take a message?" 

"No. I will go there myself." Severus growled and stormed out, black robes flaring dramatically behind him.  

The bell chimed quietly above Severus' head as he entered the large apothecary. Black eyes immediately searched for his aristocrat friend but only landed upon someone who soured his mood even further. 

Within seconds, Severus had reached one of his most hated childhood bullies and roughly grabbed onto the front of his uniform, wand pointed dangerously at the man. 

"Where is he, Lupin?!" Severus snarled, glaring at the werewolf with utter disdain. 

Lupin's eyes widened at the sudden altercation but he didn't retaliate, merely cleared his throat before he spoke. 

"I'm afraid I don't know who you're looking for, Severus." The beast, politely replied. 

"Lord Peverell." Severus spat, teeth bared. "Where is he?" 

"I'm afraid I don--" Remus began.

"I'm right here, Severus, now please unhand my employee." Peverell said with utmost calm, as if his earlier actions hadn't just shattered some of the fragile trust they had built over the years. 

Severus let the bunched up fabric in his fist go, more than happy to cut short his duration of having to touch the mangy werewolf. 

"Mr Lupin, we will be borrowing your office for a moment if that is alright with you?" Peverell politely asked. 

"Y-yes, of course, go ahead." Lupin submissively replied like the spineless coward he was. 

Severus followed after the man he thought was his friend, mind a whirling, angry mess.

"So, what is it that has made you upset enough to manhandle my employees while looking for me?" The man asked with a raised eyebrow, looking unimpressed. 

"I was not aware you had an interest in children." Severus couldn't help but sneer viciously. 

"Excuse me? What exactly are you insinuating?" Peverell replied with a deepening frown. 

Severus hadn't entirely meant it to come out the way it did, he didn't think Peverell was a paedophile, but it was all so highly suspicious. 

"Is this about me gaining guardianship over Henry Potter?" The other questioned. 

"Of course it is!" Severus snarled back, anger coming to an unfortunate boiling point.

~

Harry sighed, he should have expected Snape to react with suspicion, it honestly just hadn't crossed his mind to tell him. In his past life the man had hated his guts, things were different now though. Snape had witnessed the outcome of his abuse at the Dursleys, and, although it hadn't left him soft and cuddly, the man was still much… gentler than he had been in the past. 

"This isn't the right place to talk about this." Harry said and gestured to the door. 

"I know you probably want answers, but let's put this conversation on hold until we get to my home. Feel free to either use the Floo or Apparate, I will join you as soon as I have informed Mr Lupin of my intentions to leave." Harry said in a firm tone that wouldn't take no for an answer. 

He gestured towards the large fireplace that had an urn filled with Floo powder hanging from the wall next to it. Snape gave him a hard glare before whirling around to grab a handful of powder, throwing it in the fireplace with snappish movements. The entire exit was rather dramatic and it made Harry roll his eyes fondly. 

"Ugh." Harry groaned and rubbed his face once the man had left. 

"This is your own fault, you know. You should have told him sooner." Regulus shot at him. 

"Oh shut up." Harry threw him a light glare, well aware of the truth of his friend's statement. 

"I'm sorry about all of that, Mr Lupin." Harry said with an apologetic smile as he left the office and found Remus by the frog eyes. 

"Oh, no need to apologise, Lord Peverell. I think Severus' approach was rather restrained considering our pasts." Remus replied, smiling wryly. 

Harry cocked an eyebrow, knowing full well of said past, but didn't comment on it. 

"Well, either way, it is not acceptable behaviour in my shop. Rest assured that I will have a word with him about it." Harry promised.

Returning to Maidstone to speak with Snape was not something he was looking forward to, but he had promised, and also, he owed his friend that much. Sometimes he wished he could come clean about everything, tell Snape about his past and all his secrets, but Harry was afraid. 

Afraid of rejection, of being hurt… of being seen differently than the friend he had now become. So, like the coward he was, he prolonged it, ignoring the fact that it was likely to come back and bite him in the arse one day. 

Severus was once again back in Peverell's home. Only this time, instead of rampaging through the house looking for him, he was pacing angrily in the drawing room. 

Pip, the elf from earlier, had offered him tea the moment he set foot inside. Severus had curtly declined, he was in no mood for pleasantries. However, the stubborn thing had fetched a fancy tea set with accompanying biscuits despite this when Severus mentioned that he was only there to speak to the elf's master. 

He huffed as the unruly elf poured out two cups, just in time for Peverell to enter. 

"Oh, tea, marvellous! Thank you Pip." The man himself said, making the elf smile happily. 

The aristocrat shrugged off his outer robes, always preferring just to wear his suit in private, made out of expensive materials as always. He sat down in one of the armchairs, resting one leg over the other. He looked the part of effortless royalty, Severus would give him that. 

"So, you have questions I take it?" Peverell finally said, infuriatingly calm, he couldn't even remember the last time he had seen the man lose his temper. 

"Yes. Why did you not tell me about your desire to take in Potter? Surely you didn't do it on a whim?" Severus gritted out and folded his arms across his chest. 

Peverell reached for his cup and sighed. 

"I am sorry for not informing you about my decision, but honestly? I did not think you would care. You aren't exactly fond of children, nor have you expressed an interest in Mr Potter before." Peverell rationally said as he stirred some honey into his tea. 

Severus scowled at the man. The assessment wasn't… untrue. 

"As for the reason why… Well… he is family, of sorts. The Potters and Peverells go far back. In fact, the Potters have been just as eligible to inherit the Peverell Lordship as my side of the family has." He continued in between sips of tea. 

"The reason why Henry's father, or grandfather for that matter, didn't take up the Peverell Lordship is because it has one final requirement that neither of them met." Intense green eyes flashed up to meet with Severus' inky pools. 

"Before I continue, I will need you to promise me not to let this information spread. I don't require a vow, but I am putting a great deal of trust in you, Severus. If the public caught wind of this... it could be the end of me and Potter both." Peverell was gravely serious, and it sent a chill of foreboding down Severus' spine. What could it possibly be? 

The potions master frowned and finally sat down opposite Peverell. He was now worried and curious in equal measures. 

"Very well, you have my word." He promised, for whatever that was worth. If the confession was as bad as Peverell hinted at, then not demanding a vow sounded like a security risk. 

"What I'm about to tell you, must not leave this room. Now, where to begin." Peverell sighed and leaned back in his chair. 

"As I mentioned earlier, the Peverell Lordship demands more than just a bloodline to be claimed. You need to be related to the original bloodline, yes, but there is also the magical aspect. We like to call it a family gift, a rather rare one at that. It didn't use to be, but for some reason, the talent slowly became rarer and rarer within the bloodline. I was the first one born with this gift in over four hundred years, it is why most people thought the Peverell family a dead one." He sipped his tea absentmindedly. 

"This gift doesn't manifest until the person reaches their magical maturity, usually at the age of seventeen or so. This happened to me and was picked up by the goblins when I did an inheritance test. Anyway, you probably wish to know how Potter ties into all of this?" 

Severus nodded, wondering where this was heading. 

"Well, you see, one day in August I was suddenly informed by my account manager that an heir had appeared in the ledgers. The shock was massive I will admit, I didn't understand how it could be possible, I had no children after all. And before you say I might have had one accidentally, it would be impossible seeing as I haven't actually slept with anyone." The young Lord snorted and rolled his eyes.

"But I'm digressing. This gift is the key to everything you see. My accountant was able to tell me about this new heir because the boy had done an inheritance test on his first visit. The goblins can tell a lot from just one drop of blood and a small donation of magic, you know.”

"And this supposed heir was Henry Potter?" Severus drawled, raising an unimpressed eyebrow. It all sounded too far fetched. 

"Exactly. The magical gift he shares with me hasn't activated yet, and it likely won't until he is seventeen, but it is there. Unless he does something absolutely insane, like say, split his soul, then he is guaranteed to get his gift the day he reaches magical maturity." 

"And what exactly is this gift that the two of you share?" Severus drawled.

Peverell was quiet, seeming to hesitate for a moment before he lifted his head, eyes cold and penetrating. 

"Remember your promise, Severus." He said in a foreboding voice that promised untold pain and horror should he break his word. 

"I will." Severus spat out. He bristled at the insinuation, but something told him not to press the matter further. 

"Good." Peverell murmured and placed his teacup and saucer back on the table. 

"It is necromancy, the true kind." The man said with an air of finality. 

Severus stilled. His eyes widened and his pasty face grew even paler. The blood had run cold in his veins, and he had to swallow hard to keep his lizard brain from taking control and making him bolt. He was not a coward, damnit! 

He took a deep, rattling breath. He couldn't even remember the last time he heard mention of a true necromancer existing. If they really were out there, they did a wonderful job of hiding. 

"And you are sure of this?" Was all that would come out. 

"What, me being a necromancer or Potter?" Peverell asked with a snort. 

"I can give you a demonstration if you'd like?" Peverell innocently offered, knowing full well how this was affecting him. 

"No…" Severus felt sick. He had seen the Inferi the Dark Lord had created and he wanted nothing to do with that kind of magic again. 

If Peverell was to be believed, this at least explained why he was taking in Potter. It wasn't for nefarious reasons, but to help and protect him, a Lord and his heir… Severus could work with that.

"Severus… you don't have to be afraid of me or my gift. It's not… it's not like what I think you imagine when thinking of it. I was weary in the beginning as well, but this gift is so incredibly varied. It isn't all murder and gore. It can be used to communicate with those who have passed, to predict the future and so forth. It carries a terrible stigma due to how many of the rituals have been twisted into perverse mockeries of the original by those without the gift."

"Does Dumbledore know about Potter being a… a necromancer?" Severus asked, feeling so very rattled. 

Slowly, Peverell nodded his head. 

"I believe he has pieced the clues together by now, yes. He used to have an obsession with the Peverell family as a young man, and I'm fairly certain he knew which gift was required to pick up the Lordship. The fact that I claimed Henry Potter as my heir during the custody hearing, and cited that he carried the Peverell family magic, well… Elphias Doge was there, and we both know he is firmly attached to Dumbledore's hip." The other man, the necromancer, replied. 

That was not what Severus wanted to hear. He closed his eyes briefly, drawing in a deep breath. He would need to figure out a way to protect Potter from the headmaster, now more than ever. If there had been a choice previously, there no longer was. Severus was firmly planted on Potter's side.

Chapter Text

Travelling on the Hogwarts express during the winter was a strange thing for Harry. For the first time in his life there would actually be someone waiting for him at the station. The fact that technically it was Sirius disguised as himself didn't really matter. 

"Are you nervous about staying with Lord Peverell?" Neville asked him from across the compartment. 

"I suppose. I've read a lot about him but never actually met him in person." Harry replied with a shrug. 

"Lord Peverell is great! He is at the manor all the time. He and my father are very good friends, you see!" Draco excitedly piped in, like he did every time the man was mentioned. 

Harry's eye nearly twitched at that confession. He was far from often at the manor, and Lucius was certainly not his friend! Narcissa, yes, Lucius? Never. He'd rather gouge his own eye out with a rusty spoon than be actual friends with the man.

"Did you have to mention Lord Peverell? Draco gets all starry eyed whenever he's talked about and won't shut up for hours." The black-skinned Italian said with an annoyed groan. 

Neville's eyes were wide, having no idea of the horror he had unleashed upon the rest of the compartment.

"I do not!" Draco gasped, truly affronted. "You take that back!" 

"You do." Theo muttered from behind the book he was reading. 

"Do not!" Draco childishly countered.

Harry internally sighed. He couldn't wait for his two weeks of not having to deal with children to start. 

"Settle down will you?” He tried in a placating voice, thankfully they listened to him and instead only shot each other angry looks, well, mainly Draco. 

Time passed comfortably as the train neared the station. Most of the children were excited to be going home for Yule, Theo however seemed to be the opposite, growing more quiet and closed off by the minute. It was worrying, but not something Harry could fix right that instant. He made a mental note to summon Theo's mother at some point to have a chat about Mr Nott, the man was a recluse from society and he knew next to nothing about him.

The whistle of the train blew as they began to slow down. Even with a Time-Turner and having several separate personas, Harry could not knowingly be in the presence of himself out of fear of causing a paradox. It complicated matters slightly, but thankfully he had Sirius as his loyal accomplice. 

They had practiced beforehand so his godfather could get the hang of playing both Peverell and Henry in emergencies. Right now, Sirius would be taking the role as Peverell and pick Harry up from Kings Cross. 

The train came to a complete halt and the children in his compartment were ready to bolt, all so excited to be reunited with their families. 

"See you in January, Henry! I'll send you an owl before yule." Millicent quickly said before rushing out to meet her parents, her poor cat yowling at being jostled inside its crate. 

Blaise said his goodbyes as well before meeting up with his mother. They were taking a portkey back to Italy almost as soon as they arrived. 

Neville, Draco and Theo took their time, and the four of them made their way out onto the crowded platform as a group.

"Bye Theo. I'll write to you. Please tell me if there is anything I can do for you during the holiday, okay? I mean it, anything at all." Harry murmured so only the boy himself could hear. 

"Thanks. I'll keep that in mind." Theo offered a weak smile.

Instead of seeing Mr Nott in person, Theo was collected by one of their house-elves, something Harry had come to gather was rather frowned upon unless it was an emergency. 

Neville was the next to go, after introducing Harry to his grandmother of course. Harry had never liked the woman much, especially not considering how she treated her grandson like he was supposed to be a copy of his father, and always a failing one at that. 

"Lord Peverell is sure to be with my parents. Come along Henry!" Draco preened with an excited grin. The boy threw all decorum out of the window and grabbed his hand, pulling Harry with him. 

The worst part of it was that Draco wasn't wrong. Harry would have remained close to the Malfoys on the platform if he were to pick himself up, and so that is what Sirius did. 

"Mother, father! I would like to introduce you to my friend, Henry Potter." Draco said with a beaming smile up at his parents. 

"Hello Mr Potter." Narcissa's smile was small, but to those who knew her it was also warm. She was ever so happy that her son had made a friend. 

She held out her hand for Harry to shake and he politely did so. Lucius did not look as inviting as his wife, however. To most he might seem his normal, aloof self, but Harry knew him well by now. There were small cracks in his mask that betrayed just how annoyed he was. Either it was because of something Sirius as Peverell had said, or it was simply because he had lost the custody battle. 

"It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr Potter. I am Lord Harrison Peverell and will be your guardian for as long as you'll have me." Sirius said with a charming smile. 

Harry smiled weakly back, pretending to be nervous.

After a little more polite chatting, the Malfoys finally left. Sirius took Harry's hand in his and Apparated them away to the island. Home. 

~

Harry had planned it all with painstaking detail. He couldn't afford a single mistake. For years he had worked on laying the groundwork within the Ministry and public as a whole. Lord Peverell was seen as a decent, law abiding man that valued tradition and culture without being bigoted, just the way he wanted it. 

It was finally time for him to enact his plot to get Sirius exonerated. He and Sirius were both ready to take the next step to ensure the man's freedom.

"And you're absolutely sure this is going to work?" Sirius nervously said. 

"When have I ever let you down?" Harry replied, grinning like a madman. 

His godfather didn't bother with a response, instead he tugged uncomfortably on the black silk pyjamas with silver snakes that Harry had made him wear. 

For this to work, Sirius had to play the role of Henry Potter. With the Resurrection Stone stuck to his stomach with a bandage, Regulus would be able to coax him in what to say so that the act was as believable as possible. 

Harry himself needed to be in his Peverell persona. After all, he was supposed to be Potter's new guardian, it would be questionable if his young charge was nowhere to be seen during the entire ordeal. 

The house Harry had purchased as his more public residence had been decorated by the elves to look homely and lived in. Currently, it was decked full of Christmas decorations and a large tree stood as the centrepiece by the fireplace, a pile of presents underneath it. 

"You remember the plan right?" Harry asked out loud, gazing down at his godfather who looked like a copy of himself, it was a little disturbing truth be told. 

"Yeah, you've only mentioned it like a thousand times." Sirius sarcastically replied and rolled his eyes. 

"Hey, it's your freedom I'm trying to secure here!" Harry huffed. 

"Yeah, I know." The man retorted, lips quirking up in a wry grin. "Let's do it." 

Harry nodded. He kneeled by the fireplace and tossed in a handful of Floo powder. 

"Bones residence!" He said, loud and clear. 

The fire flashed green and lapped harmlessly against his face as he stuck his entire head in the fireplace. 

"Amelia! Amelia, are you there?" He called out with urgency. 

The face who met him wasn't Amelia but that of her young niece. 

"Oh Susan, I'm so glad you answered, is your aunt in? I need her right away! Tell her there has been an attempted break in." 

Susan's eyes were wide as she ran to get her aunt. Thankfully the woman herself had not been far away, and so, within two minutes, Amelia Bones stepped through the fireplace, with her wand raised, ready for battle. 

"What happened Harrison? Is Mr Potter alright?" Amelia snapped out as soon as she arrived, dressed in her pyjamas and deep blue dressing gown.

She visibly relaxed when she saw both of them in the living room, unharmed if a bit rattled. She lowered her wand but did not put it away.  

"As you can see, we are both uninjured." Harry soothed.

"I'm sorry to disturb you while you were spending time with your niece, but I'm afraid we have a bit of a situation on our hands." Harry continued.

"You said something about an intruder?" Amelia questioned authoritatively.

"Yes, there was an Animagus caught in my wards mere minutes ago. I have the culprit restrained outside but I thought it prudent to wait until law enforcement arrived before I attempted to reverse the transformation." Harry explained with a weary sigh. 

"If you'll follow me, I'll take you to him, or her I suppose… the gender of the rat was not my first priority." He said and gestured towards the door. 

Before they left, Harry turned around and faced Sirius. "Stay here Henry. If something happens you are to Floo straight to Amelia's place, understood?" 

Sirius nodded his head but gave the two adults a worried look. "Be careful please…" 

"Don't worry, Mr Potter, your guardian and I will return shortly." Amelia curtly promised with a brief smile.

Together, Harry and Madam Bones exited the house, both with their wands raised. Harry took the lead and guided her to the captured Animagus.

Within a small, magical cage that looked like crackling electricity, laid a single brown rat. 

"And you are sure this is an Animagus?" Amelia said as she peered down at the squeaking rodent with a frown. 

It paced within its confines, desperate to get out but not daring to come close to the net-like structure surrounding it, having already been shocked more than once. 

"Absolutely, my wards are never wrong." Harry firmly replied, keeping his wand aimed at the rat. 

"Very well. Please enlarge the detainment spell so I can undo the transformation." Amelia ordered.

Upon hearing those words, the rat within the cage became more frantic than ever, even going so far as to touch the barrier in its desperation. That was followed by a sizzle and a loud squeal. 

Harry gestured with his ebony wand and the cage enlarged, the size of the holes in the magical netting staying the same. He would take no chances of Peter slipping through the cracks. 

"On the count of three." Amelia said, and, as she reached the number three, a bright blue light left her wand, hitting the rat full on. 

Seeing someone forced back into their human shape was an odd experience. It wasn't as seamless as when an Animagus did it of their own will, instead it was slow and strained. Limbs grew longer, fur melded into skin, and in the end, a plump, slightly rodent-like human stood in front of them. 

Harry had never asked, but now he wondered if Peter looked like that because of his years spent as a rat, or if he'd been born with those physical traits. 

Amelia Bones drew in a sharp breath upon seeing the captured man, clearly recognising him.

"It cannot be…" She murmured in shock. 

Harry blinked, faking his confusion. "Do you know this man, Amelia?"

"Peter Pettigrew… a man we all believed dead." The Head of the DMLE answered with a frown, gears turning in her mind. Something was not right and she could clearly tell. 

Harry's eyes widened in feigned shock. "The one that was murdered by Sirius Black? But how can that be? Why not come forward after his incarceration? Why hide away as a rat?" He said, pointing out some very suspicious facts. 

"I don't know, but I will find out." Amelia replied with a displeased scowl that could match Snape's in ferocity. 

Within seconds she had conjured a Patronus and was calling for backup from a select few Aurors in her department. The silvery lioness nodded her regal head before she ran off with her message. 

It didn't take long for the replies to arrive. Two distinct Patroni stopped in front of Amelia. The first, a beautiful lynx, belonged to Kingsley Shacklebolt. The swan however was not someone Harry recognised by voice only. 

"They are free to Apparate to us, I've lowered the wards temporarily." Harry confirmed, getting a nod in response as she relayed the coordinates. 

Kingsley had been part of the team that inspected the house before Harry had his custody hearing, and therefore knew exactly where to go. The two Aurors arrived with a deafening crack, Kingsley having Side-Alonged his colleague. 

"Did you bring the magic dampening shackles?" Amelia asked as soon as they got near. 

"Yes ma'am." Kingsley confirmed. 

When he got a closer look at the caged man, however, his composure cracked and you could see the shock on his bald face. 

"Merlin's beard, is that…?" He began. 

"Peter Pettigrew?" The other Auror said, equally shocked. 

"It appears so." Amelia grimly replied. 

Stunning Peter and putting on the shackles that kept him from transforming was a rather quick and easy affair. Harry didn't have to do much but dissolve the cage once the man was thoroughly immobilised.

"Amelia… this is all highly suspicious, please tell me you will interrogate him? I won't stand for this man being released without a trial first. What if he is a danger to Henry? Why did he come here now? There are too many things that don't add up." Harry firmly pressed, acting like a worried guardian.

Amelia's expression was grim, pairing rather nicely with her short, grey hair. She looked like a woman to be reckoned with, someone with a back of steel. Harry trusted she would follow the proper procedures, and it always helped that Lord Peverell was such a high profile individual, the Ministry simply couldn't afford to get on his bad side at this point. Not that he thought they would, Fudge was pretty much tripping over his own legs in his attempts to please the young Lord. 

"Rest assured that I will do everything in my power to get to the bottom of this." The woman promised. 

~

"PETER PETTIGREW ALIVE! CAUGHT TRYING TO ENTER HOME OF BOY WHO LIVED!!!" Was the title that met Harry once he got up two days later and unfolded his newspaper. 

He smirked, satisfied with Skeeter's stellar job. She had even managed to include a picture of Peter from within the Ministry holding cells, looking absolutely deranged. 

The article itself was good, causing doubt and mistrust among the public, and last but not least, setting the stage for future performances. 

With the article out, the Ministry couldn't wait much longer and an emergency session for the full Wizengamot was set up mere days after Peter's capture. Harry showed up dressed in his official robes, looking intimidating and ready for retribution.  

The trial was being held in courtroom ten, and, as he found his seat up in the stands, Harry thought with amusement that it was a highly appropriate location.

The courtroom quickly filled up with both press and the Wizengamot itself. Peter, the star of the day, sat shackled to the chair at the bottom of the area for all to see. The gawking and whispering was almost perverse, but Harry relished in the discomfort it must be causing the rat. 

He was sweating nervously, eyes twitching from person to person, probably trying to find someone who would support him, but seeing none. 

No Death Eater would help him, both out of self preservation, but also because they held him partially responsible for their Lord's demise. The other side was wary of him as well since he had apparently gone for their precious boy saviour. No, Peter had no allies in the courtroom and he knew that. 

To avoid a massive fuckup, Peter's memories had been slightly adjusted. Instead of remembering being stunned at the Weasleys, Harry had planted just enough to make the man believe he had set out to search for Henry's location to finish the job his Lord had started. When the news of Henry being taken in by Lord Peverell had been made public, Peter had rushed to the general area immediately, trying to locate their home. 

Peter didn't make his move until Henry had returned from Hogwarts however, and that was also when he ended up caught in Lord Peverell’s wards. The rest is, as they say, history. Of course, none of this was really true, but that hardly mattered. Peter himself believed it was, and hence for all matters of purpose, that was the truth. 

The trial was like a stage play, one Harry was both an eager viewer and participant in. Three drops of veritaserum was enough to make Peter spill even his darkest secrets, and spill he did. The truth of what happened all those years ago was made blatantly obvious. It was a scandal that Harry heavily took advantage of. 

The courtroom had to be silenced several times for the trial to be able to commence, outrage and shock causing the participants to be vocal and unruly. 

It honestly came as no surprise that Peter Pettigrew was sentenced to a lifetime in Azkaban. The man was outright sobbing when the Wizengamot's decision was made, trembling like a leaf in the wind. 

The Aurors roughly led him out of the room, leaving the chair empty. Before the Wizengamot could be dismissed however, Harry stood proudly, amplifying his voice to be heard over the noisy crowd. 

"My fellow witches and wizards, although I am heartened to see that justice has prevailed, this trial has brought forth some… disturbing questions. If Peter Pettigrew was the one to murder those twelve muggles, then how could Sirius Black have been sentenced for the very same crime?" Harry calmly stated, having everyone's sole attention. 

"Since I became the guardian of Henry Potter I have done some research into his past so I could share it with him. What I found… well, it was highly distressing. In light of the evidence from this trial I might even go as far as to call it a gross miscarriage of justice. Because, as it stands, Sirius Orion Black had no trial. There isn't as much as a record detailing his interrogation after he was arrested. As a Lord and member of this institution, I demand that the proper procedure is followed and a real trial be given. Even the worst Death Eater had a trial, even Grindelwald himself did! Let us not be fooled by the words 'everyone knows'. For the truth is that we do not know, and whether the man is innocent or not, he still has the right to a fair trial." 

As Harry rounded off his speech, the room fell deathly silent. A few seconds ticked by, no one daring to say a word, until suddenly deafening madness broke out.

Chapter Text

Peter's trial and subsequent incarceration had been blown up massively in the media in the following week. The Order of Merlin he had been awarded posthumously had obviously been withdrawn as well, much to the grief of his poor mother. 

Although it was easy to forget, even traitors had families and people who cared about them. In Peter's case it was his elderly mother. She had been interviewed once after the trial and Harry felt sort of sorry for her. She was clearly grieving the loss of her son all over again. But then he remembered just what her son had done and he pushed it away. 

His little speech in court had been quoted nearly verbatim in the Daily Prophet, and now people were clambering for a trial. If the heir to an Ancient and Most Noble House could be sent to Azkaban without the chance to defend himself, what about them?! 

Although it wasn't his intention, the Ministry was receiving the brunt end of the mistrust. The good thing however, was that they couldn't ignore it or shove Sirius' case under the rug. People wanted answers, to know whether the man was actually guilty or not. If the Ministry made a mockery of his case there would be riots of outcry. 

"Worry not Minister, all you have to do is make sure Mr Black gets a fair trial and the voters will be happy to see how well you've handled everything. You will be applauded, seen as a hero of justice even!" Harry had said to Fudge one evening when the man was panicking in his office and needed advice. 

Harry was the little devil whispering in his ear, pulling the man's strings to make him dance. It was oh so laughably easy. 

~

Fake-Sirius, the resurrected body of Dolores Umbridge disguised with Polyjuice, looked dreadful where he sat chained to the chair in courtroom ten. Harry's magic had kept him from rotting, but the environment of Azkaban had taken its toll. 

His hair and beard was long and unkempt, eyes sunken and dead. His skin had an unhealthy greyish tint to it that only time and prolonged medical help would have cured had he actually been alive. He looked more like the Sirius Harry remembered from his third year than the one he was sharing a home with now. 

Again it dawned on him just how relieved he was that he'd been able to get the man out of Azkaban sooner, that his godfather hadn't needed to suffer that Dementor infested hell for seven extra years. 

Harry found it appalling that the Ministry hadn't bothered to let the prisoner clean up and change his clothes for the trial. His dirty appearance and striped prison garb made a fairly bad first impression, not that Fake-Sirius had any choice in the matter. 

Like with Peter, the court administered Veritaserum, however it was much harder to see the change in Fake-Sirius' expression since it had been so blank to begin with. 

"What is your full name?" Madam Bones asked to establish whether the potion was working or not. 

Fake-Sirius had not said a word since they got him out of Azkaban and they were clearly concerned about the state of his mind. 

"Sirius Orion Black." Fake-Sirius intoned monotonously, much to the interrogator's relief. 

It wasn't that Fake-Sirius had a mind of his own to reply with, not at all, but to everyone present that was what it would look like. Simply a traumatised prisoner falling under the effects of Veritaserum. 

Over the years, Harry had learned how to control his necromantic gifts and use them much more effectively than when he first created Fake-Sirius. 

The ritual of the body's reanimation had forged a bond between them, one that allowed Harry to control his every movement and word spoken. It took concentration to be able to make him speak, but it wasn't magically taxing in the least. Fake-Sirius truly was a puppet for Harry to play with. 

As more questions were answered, the more outraged the Wizengamot became. It was so blatantly obvious that foul play had been the cause of the tragic imprisonment of an innocent young man. The only question now was to figure out who was responsible for such a thing. 

People shouted in anger when Dumbledore's name was mentioned as the one to perform the Fidelius charm for the Potters, meaning he had known who the secret keeper was the entire time. The fact that he was Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot at the time of Sirius' illegal incarceration didn't bode well either. 

However this wasn't Dumbledore's trial, in fact the man wasn't even there since he had lost his spot on the Wizengamot. The press however? Oh they were, and they would latch onto those tidbits like a vampire smelling blood. 

The trial kept going, and by the end there was barely a single person unconvinced of Black's innocence. It was a near unanimous vote for Sirius' freedom. Those who were against the notion didn't dare oppose it in public out of fear for what it would do to their reputation. 

The fact that Sirius was also an illegal Animagus had come to light, but the roughly nine years in Azkaban had more than taken care of any punishment he should have received. After his recovery he would have to register his animal form at the Ministry, but that was a small price to pay for his freedom. 

"On behalf of the Ministry, I deeply apologise for the gross miscarriage of justice you've had to endure, Mr Black. We will of course see to it that you are reimbursed monetary for the years you've been imprisoned." Fudge said, nervously sweating underneath his bowler hat. 

Said monetary reimbursement would eventually turn out to be his monthly paychecks as an Auror, from the day he was incarcerated to the day he was released. It wasn't a lot, and it surely didn't make up for any of the horrors he had experienced. But in a way it was a boon, the Ministry would now bend backwards trying to please Sirius so he didn't make a case against them at the ICW, or just kick up a fuss in general. 

The shackles on the chair retracted and Fake-Sirius was now free to move on his own. He absentmindedly rubbed his wrists as he stood. 

Harry reached him before the rest of the crowd could swarm him completely, all wishing to say their apologies and chatting about what dreadful business this all was. 

"Mr Black, my name is Harrison Peverell. I am aware that you don't know who I am, but I am currently the guardian of Henry James Potter and he has taken a great interest in your case. He will be very pleased to know of your innocence." Harry said, offering a smile. 

Fake-Sirius' eyes widened almost comically. "Y-you have H-Harry?" He wheezed desperately before letting out a rattling cough. 

"I do, yes. That is also the reason why I would like to offer my home as a place to stay while you heal and recover. You will receive the best medical attention possible, I assure you." 

"Harry…. Can I see him?" Fake-Sirius pleaded. 

"Of course." Harry nodded his head. 

And that was all it took to seal the deal, so to speak. It was a credible play made for the public, and Harry swept Fake-Sirius out of the Ministry before anyone had the time to ask them further questions or offer their sympathies. 

~

"So, how does it feel being a free man?" Harry asked, grinning widely as he walked up to the front of his house where the real Sirius was impatiently waiting. 

Upon seeing his doppelganger, realisation dawned upon Sirius and he jumped to his feet. 

"You did it! You truly did it! You brilliant, manipulative, little bastard!" Sirius' returning grin was almost manic. He laughed uproariously and threw himself at his godson for a bone-crushing hug. 

"O ye of little faith." Harry laughed and patted his godfather's back.

"Come on, let's celebrate! The elves have been cooking all day for this, the least we can do is eat." Harry shoved Sirius through the front door, Fake-Sirius following them like an emotionless puppy that desperately needed a bath. 

"You know, that thing is super creepy." Sirius muttered as he inspected his clone.

He poked the thing's nose but got no reaction, that was followed by a jab to the chest and cheek before he went to open its mouth to look inside. Before he got there though, Fake-Sirius lunged forward, teeth snapping shut inches away from Sirius' hand with a resounding 'clack'. 

"Eeek!" Sirius screeched and violently flinched back, eyes wide in horror. 

Harry couldn't help it, the laughter bubbled out of him and he ended up bent forward, wheezing for breath as tears rolled down his cheeks.

"You did that on purpose!" Sirius exclaimed indignantly, only making Harry laugh harder. 

"Sh-should have s-seen your f-face." He wheezed out, eyeing his godfather through blurry vision. 

"You little wanker!" Sirius' love for mischief won out and the two of them laughed together until they were gasping for breath. 

"Everything went well, I take it?" Marius' amused voice greeted them from within the house, eyes sparkling with fond merriment. 

"I'm not sure if your… second Sirius? Needs food to get by, but if he does, make sure to clean him up before bringing him to the table." His grandfather continued, gesturing to the reanimated corpse. 

Harry's snickering and laughing had died down and he wiped his eyes of the remaining tears. 

"I call him Fake-Sirius, and no, he doesn't need food, although a bath probably wouldn't go amiss, he reeks." 

"Minky will take care of it, sir!" The elf said as she appeared, beaming at all of them. 

She had wanted to clean him properly the night Harry murdered Umbridge, but back then he needed the body to be unkempt. Well, he didn't anymore. 

"Oh, thank you Minky. Make him as presentable as you can please." 

Minky nodded her head so fervently that her ears flopped up and down. She whisked Fake-Sirius away to the bathroom to get him sorted out. Harry's original orders of doing what Minky said were still active so Fake-Sirius would behave for her instead of being catatonic. 

"It feels a bit surreal, seeing myself like that, knowing it would have been my fate had you not gotten me out when you did… it reminds me of your memories of me… again, I'm so, so sorry. I was an absolutely awful godfather to you." Sirius solemnly said with a light frown. 

His godfather had worked through everything with his therapist as best as he could, but he still felt guilty at times, Harry could tell. 

"Yes, you were, but you were also pretty much insane from Dementor exposure. You know I don't blame you." Harry softly replied, patting the older man's arm. 

"Come on. Dinner is waiting." He added as a distraction from depressing thoughts. 

Said dinner was more of a grand feast really. Marius and the elves had set up large tables out on the patio, filled to the brim with food and drinks. All of their favourites were there, and Sirius happily piled a little bit of everything onto his plate. 

Harry followed suit, picking out some roasted potatoes, grilled fish and a fresh salad. The food was devoured in good company, and once they'd had enough, the three of them relaxed in the comfortable chairs as they let the dinner digest. 

Conversation flowed easily, as did the drinks. Harry tried to pace himself but Sirius had no such inhibitions, he was celebrating after all. 

Eventually, the elves floated out a huge chocolate cake with purple icing and the words "FREEDOM BITCH!" Spelled out in hot pink, all thanks to Harry's father pestering him about it. 

Sirius let out a barking laugh when he read the inscription, nearly toppling over himself in his rush to cut out a piece. 

James and Sirius shared great big grins that made Regulus roll his eyes. They were like children.

"For he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good feeeeellow… And so say all of us!" Harry, Marius, and all of their deceased friends and family sang to congratulate Sirius with his official freedom. 

The moment their little song ended and the clapping stopped, magical fireworks shot up into the air and went off in a cascade of colours, painting beautiful tableaus across the night sky. 

It was a wonderful, joyous evening. Despite it being late December, none of them were cold. Stones carved with warming runes had been stationed around the patio and garden, making it a pleasant temperature no matter where you sat. 

Marius stayed out with them late into the night, but eventually exhaustion seeped into his old bones and he bid the youngsters a good night. 

Earlier, Harry had placed a large blanket out in the garden, and that was where he and Sirius were currently sitting. 

"What's the first thing you want to do as yourself?" Harry asked. 

Sirius seemed to think about the question for a while, mulling it over. 

"You know what? I actually don't know… I've grown so used to, well, not being me, that the thought of going back honestly scares me a bit. Being Lord Black comes with a lot of responsibilities that I once wanted nothing to do with." He said as he laid down on his back. 

"And now?" Harry curiously asked. 

"And now I'm prepared to take up the mantle properly because I know it will help you… but also because I want to make my family better. I could reinstate Andromeda and her daughter into the Black family, I'll even include Ted if he wants to. And, of course, Marius. I owe him so much that I don't even know where to begin." Sirius sighed.  

"I think it's a great start." Harry reassured him, giving his godfather a gentle pat on the shoulder.

"Are you gonna go see Remus soon now that you're free? I mean, as yourself, not Sam White." Harry asked as he sipped on what must be his third glass of mojitos. 

"Mm, I thought about it, but nah. I don't want him to see me as a skeleton, I'd probably give the mangy old wolf a heart attack." Sirius laughed, folding his hands behind his head as he stared up at the night sky. 

Harry hummed. He finished his drink before laying down on his back next to his godfather who had become a close friend in the years they had known each other. 

"He's actually been taking the news a lot better than I thought he would. I partly expected him to sink into depression again. However, he's been acting almost normal at work." Harry confessed.

"I think the job you gave him has done a lot for him to be honest. The friendship he had with me and James isn't the sole thing that's keeping him up anymore. He has work now, other friends, and I think he's even gone on a date or two, believe it or not. I don't doubt he's hurting, but I think he'll be alright in the end." Sirius softly revealed. 

"We'll all be alright." Harry said, eyeing the calm smile on Sirius' lips through the corner of his eyes. 

"Yeah." Sirius whispered. "We'll be alright." 

~

The scrutiny placed on Dumbledore after Sirius' trial made Harry inordinately happy but also anxious. He had a niggling feeling that the man would have to go through either a hearing or a trial fairly soon. Although that was exactly what Harry wanted, it was also concerning.

What worried him in particular was what Dumbledore might do in his desperation. There was no doubt in Harry's mind that he would take the Philosopher's Stone with him whenever he left, which meant that if Harry wanted to steal it, he'd have to do it soon, real soon.  

There were still a few days left of the winter holiday, and Harry decided this was the time he had to act. It shouldn't be too difficult, he knew both the protections and where the stone was placed after all. 

"Good luck." Sirius grunted, half asleep on the sofa in the living room.

It was the middle of the night and, for some reason, Sirius had decided to stay up so he could see Harry off. But, by the looks of it, he probably wouldn't be able to keep awake for much longer. 

"Thanks." Harry said with a fond smile. 

He gathered the shadows around himself and took a step into darkness. In a fraction of a second, Harry had reached his destination. Being able to bypass wards because of an unknown magical ability was such a nifty little trick. 

The final chamber of Dumbledore's set of traps was rather lacklustre. In Harry's memory it had been such an arduous journey to get to the final room, but now, as an adult looking back on it, it was ridiculously easy, considering who it was supposed to be keeping out. 

Harry eyed the room and felt rather disappointed that the mirror of Erised wasn't there yet, he had been curious to find out what his deepest desire was now that he was an adult. But it was probably for the best, he thought. 

In the middle of the chamber stood a pedestal with an innocuous little package wrapped in brown paper and twine resting on top of it. 

Seriously? That was it?! He couldn't even detect any wards or spells that had been cast around the stone itself. Always one for being careful however, Harry levitated the priceless artifact into a silk pouch so as not to touch it yet. He'd run some more tests on it when he got home. 

Just as a little act of pettiness, Harry left a near copy of the wrapped stone on top of the podium. Only, when Dumbledore would eventually open it, he'd find that the prize on the inside wasn't the same, because, instead of a priceless artefact, there was now a large lemon drop. It had been his father's idea originally, but Harry found it amusing enough to comply.

And just like that, Harry had stolen perhaps the most valuable creation in centuries in under five minutes, well, if it was the real deal. He still wasn't a hundred percent assured of that yet. 

When he returned home, Sirius' snores were the first thing that greeted him. Harry snorted in amusement and gently put a blanket over his exhausted godfather. 

~

The aftermath of Sirius' exoneration was blown up to massive proportions. The general populace was scandalised to find out that something like that could have happened in Britain of all places. It was something one would expect from less cultured places, certainly not Great Britain. 

Harry kept a watchful eye on the news and an open ear in the Ministry. He was waiting for Amelia Bones to announce Dumbledore's imminent trial. He couldn't imagine the man would get away with it all, not after everything that had been revealed in the past six months. 

He had hoped there would be a trial before the holidays let up, but no such luck. Harry was once again let down by the slowness of their government, he only hoped they were using the time well to make a good and compelling case. 

"Back to Hogwarts tomorrow, right? Can't say I envy you." Sirius said with a grin, having just returned from a visit to Remus' place as Sam White. 

"At least with the Time-Turner I only have to go to school every other day." Harry shrugged. 

"Anyway, how is the old wolf holding up?" He asked. 

"Meh." Sirius sighed and flopped down onto the nearest sofa. He lifted his hand and made a so, so gesture in the air. 

"Could be better, could be worse. He's wallowing I suppose? Acting very broody. I'm honestly surprised he didn't cancel our plans." Sirius said.

"I really should fund a mental health clinic." Harry muttered mostly to himself. 

Sirius propped himself up on his elbows and peered curiously over at his godson. 

"You've been planning something like that?" He asked in interest. 

"I have considered it, yes. I'm not sure if you've noticed, but British witches and wizards could really use it. Remus is a prime example. As is Neville, and Theo… and probably a whole lot more. You don't need to have big issues to want someone impartial to talk with." Harry wryly replied. 

It wasn't something he had put much focus into, but the more it was brought up, the more appealing it became. He had the money and the political clout to get licences and permissions set up quickly, so why shouldn't he do it?

The fact that he refused to see a psychiatrist himself, well, that was entirely besides the point. Objectively he could see how good it would be for those who needed it, Harry though, he didn't. That he was clearly lying to himself didn't bother him. He was perfectly fine. Peachy even. 

"Huh. That's not the worst idea to come out of your mouth. I bow down to your wisdom, Dark Lord Potter! Savior of house-elves and the falsely accused! The most clever, brilliant, powerful and modest wizard of our time!" Sirius dramatically proclaimed as he fell down to his knees, pretending to grovel at Harry's feet and kissing his robes. 

Harry's cheeks flushed with embarrassment and he gave his godfather a look of annoyance as he tried to gently dislodge him by nudging him with his foot.

"Oh get up, you big oaf! As if I'd become a Dark Lord." He said with a snort.

Sirius laughed and got up, but on the inside he thought Harry was getting much closer than he realised himself. Being a Dark Lord did not exclusively mean murder and mayhem after all.