Unexpected Love: The Journey Begins
Written by J.C. Vascardi
It was August 1st and lying on his bed in his small, sparsely furnished bedroom on the second floor of Number Four Privet Drive, in Little Whinging, Surrey, was fourteen-year-old Harry James Potter. He had pleaded with Professor Dumbledore not to make him return to his aunt and uncle's house. Asked him repeatedly to let him stay at The Burrow with his friend Ron and his family. But his requests fell on deaf ears, as the headmaster's eyes just twinkled like they always did and he said, "You will return to Privet Drive, Harry. It's your home and the Dursleys are your family. It's for your own good."
So, here he was, wishing that the traitor, Peter Pettigrew, hadn't escaped and with him the chance to clear his godfather, Sirius Black, who had been sent to Azkaban without a trial thirteen years earlier for a crime that Peter had committed. While he had informed the Dursleys that his godfather was a convicted murderer who had escaped from prison and would come after them if they didn't treat him properly, he doubted that fear would last long.
And he was right. By mid-July he was back to slaving away in his Aunt Petunia's garden, which was easily the best in the neighborhood. Of course, Petunia took all the credit, including the awards that her spectacular garden had won her, even though she did none of the work to maintain it or get it looking so good in the first place. Besides working in the garden, Harry also did the lion's share of the housework and the cooking in the Dursley household, waiting on his relatives hand and foot while he was left to starve half to death with the meager table scraps that they allowed him. That was assuming, of course, that he finished all of his chores to their satisfaction, because if he hadn't they had no problems not feeding him.
If Harry was anything less than the good person that he was, he might have considered slipping something into his relatives' food and being done with them once and for all. 'Strychnine, perhaps?' Harry thought. But, he knew that he couldn't live with himself if he did that, no matter how badly they treated him.
A knock at his bedroom door, roused Harry from his thoughts. He immediately knew that it had to be his Aunt Petunia, because his Uncle Vernon and cousin Dudley never bothered to knock when they wanted something. Getting up from his bed and walking over to the door, Harry opened it and asked, "Yes, Aunt Petunia?"
"Vernon took Dudley to the dentist," Petunia said. "I suspect they'll be back in about an hour."
Harry just looked at his aunt with a blank expression as he thought, 'That's nice, but why are you telling me?'
Harry's unspoken question was answered moments later, when Petunia said, "You have visitors in the sitting room - they're your kind."
Nodding, Harry said, "I'll be right down," as Petunia nodded once and walked away.
'I don't usually get visitors during the summer, so I wonder who it is,' Harry thought, as he quickly checked himself over in the broken mirror that hung on one wall to make sure he looked halfway decent. He was seriously tempted to make himself look horrible to make his relatives look bad, but considering how Dumbledore continued to insist that he return to Privet Drive every summer, which Harry had come to think of as his own personal Hell, he highly doubted that anything he could do to himself would get him out of living here. And the Dursleys would then make it their life's work to make him even more miserable for trying to make them look bad, not that they needed much help in his opinion.
Leaving his bedroom and heading downstairs, he found his Aunt Petunia in the dining room, busy setting the table for dinner. Without a word she nodded her head towards the sitting room when she noticed her nephew standing there. Walking into the room, Harry found three people sitting there. Two of them were older women and the third was a teenage boy.
One of the women was tall and thin, with long gray hair and was wearing a pair of silver-framed spectacles, along with a decidedly Victorian styled dress in a deep emerald green. The other woman was shorter and more heavyset, with flyaway black hair streaked with gray. Much like the other woman, her dress, which was a brilliant scarlet, looked like something out of the 19th century. Turning his gaze on the teenage boy, Harry saw a tall and muscular young man, who he guessed to be about fifteen or sixteen, with brown hair and a handsome face. He wore a black shirt and a pair of black trousers with a pair of boots that Harry had thought to be leather at first glance but quickly realized was actually dragon hide.
'I can't say as I recognize these women,' Harry thought to himself. 'The boy looks familiar though. I just can't remember where I've seen him before.'
"Ah, Mr. Potter, I'm so glad to see you," said the woman in the green dress. "My name is Athena Gracey and this is my associate, Eudora Douglas," as she motioned towards the woman in red. Then nodding towards the boy, she added, "I'm not sure if you've met Mr. Diggory or not?"
'That's it, Cedric Diggory,' Harry thought as he connected a name to the face. 'He's the captain and seeker of Hufflepuff's Quidditch team.'
"We've met," Cedric said with a smile to the younger boy. "Hullo Harry."
"Hi Cedric," Harry said, returning the smile. He didn't know the boy all that well, never really getting to know him off the Quidditch pitch, but he knew that Cedric was a good student who valued fair play. He had been particularly impressed when he'd found out that Cedric had asked to have the Gryffindor-Hufflepuff game that was interrupted by the Dementors replayed, as he'd felt that his house's win wasn't fair since Harry had been knocked off his broom by the foul creatures.
"Please, have a seat," Eudora said, as she motioned to a nearby chair.
Sitting down, Harry asked, "So, what brings you three here? I don't usually get visitors over the summer."
"Not even from your friends?" Cedric asked, a look of confusion on his face.
Before Harry could answer Cedric's question, Eudora said, "Athena and I knew your parents, Harry. They were among the most talented people we've ever met and the world is worse off without them."
Harry smiled and nodded, but otherwise said nothing, prompting Athena to say, "Anyway, I'm sure you're wondering about the purpose of our visit today." Harry nodded again, so Athena continued, "In short, Harry, it is Eudora's and my wish to take you away from this house and train you."
"Train me?" Harry asked. "Train me in what?"
"Magic, of course," Eudora answered. "However, what we would be training you in is a series of advanced magical arts which are not taught at Hogwarts. By the time we're finished, you will be what's known as a mage - several steps above a normal wizard in power, as will Mr. Diggory and the other two students we've chosen to train."
"Other two students?" Harry asked.
"We've picked four students in all," Athena said. "One from each of the four Hogwarts houses. Of course, leaving with us has the added benefit of allowing you to leave this house and get away from your so-called family who are quite frankly not fit to raise their own child, let alone a child such as yourself."
At that, the sound of glass breaking could be heard, prompting Harry to look over towards the dining room. His Aunt Petunia was scowling and it wasn't long before he realized the sound had been caused by her dropping one of the wine glasses she'd been setting out. Stalking over to the group, Petunia asked, "Who do you think you people are to come into my home and say that I'm an unfit parent?"
Not looking at all repentant for her remark, Athena instead said, "If the truth hurts, Mrs. Dursley, then so be it. You have nobody to blame but yourself. You may have deluded yourself into believing that you are a model parent, but the fact of the matter is, nothing could be further from the truth. Your son Dudley is grossly overweight and you've spoiled him rotten. He thinks he's entitled to get whatever he wants if he just puts up a big enough fuss and you only reinforce that belief every single time you give in to him."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Petunia said. "My son is not overweight, he's simply big-boned. As for being spoiled rotten, he most certainly is not. There is not now nor could there ever be anything rotten about my darling Duddykins."
Before he could stop himself, Harry muttered, "Yeah, keep telling yourself that, doesn't make it true."
"What was that boy?" Petunia asked.
He still wanted more information on this training, but even if he didn't necessarily like everything he heard, he was pretty sure he would agree to go regardless if it meant getting away from the Dursleys. So, feeling a bit bolder than he usually might have, Harry repeated what he'd said in a louder voice and then added, "Just take Dudley's eleventh birthday for example, Aunt Petunia. You and Uncle Vernon got him thirty-seven presents and he then proceeded to throw a temper tantrum because he'd gotten thirty-eight the previous year, at which point you immediately caved and promised to buy him two more."
"Why you ungrateful little beast," Petunia said disdainfully. "We've raised you since you were a baby, put a roof over your head and food in your stomach and this is how you repay us?"
"I'm afraid he's right, Mrs. Dursley," Eudora said. "You may have put a roof over his head, but honestly, he's a growing boy. This is a four bedroom house, with four people living in it and I assume you and your husband share a room, so that leaves three bedrooms. And yet for some strange reason, you decided to make Harry here use the cupboard under the stairs as his bedroom for the first eleven years of his life."
"And let's not even get started about his weight," Athena said before Petunia could say anything. "The overly baggy clothing, which I assume are actually your son's cast-offs, may do a good job of hiding it from some people, but anyone who looks closely enough could see that Harry here is grossly underweight for a person his age. You say you've given him food, but from his appearance, I'm guessing that he's actually been starved most of his life. He was one step shy of being emaciated the first time he arrived at Hogwarts. He was starting to look healthy by the end of the school year, but then he left for the summer and came back looking the same as he did when he started his first year."
"Some people don't gain weight, no matter how much you feed them," Petunia said in a somewhat weak tone, which clearly gave away the fact that Petunia knew she'd been caught.
Glancing over at Cedric, Harry saw the horrified expression on his face and thought, 'On one hand, I'm glad an adult is finally standing up to my aunt. I've wanted one to do it for years now, but I just wish it wasn't in front of Cedric. Only my closest friends know about my treatment by the Dursleys. I can only imagine what he's thinking right now. The fame for something I had no control over is bad enough. The last thing I need is everyone in the Wizarding world pitying me on top of it.'
"And they definitely won't gain weight if you starve them," Eudora said. "You know, you should be extremely thankful that magic cannot bring back the dead, because trust me when I say this, if it was within my power to do so, I'd bring Lily and James back to life. And I think if you have a brain in your head, Mrs. Dursley, then you would know that your sister and her husband would not be pleased in the slightest with how you've treated their son. I have every confidence that Lily would hex you and your husband into the next millennium and then find a way to bring you both back just so that James could do it again. They died protecting their son and your treatment of him is just as bad as going to the cemetery and spitting on their graves."
"As for your son Dudley," Athena said, "while your treatment of your nephew is reprehensible, I think your treatment of your son is even worse. Dudley is a holy terror that most of the neighborhood kids that aren't part of his little gang of friends run away from when they see him coming, because they know that they'll get beaten up if they stay. He routinely threatens bodily harm to people to get them to hand over something they have that he wants, whether it be some new toy, their bicycle, or a new pair of shoes and they do it because they know it isn't an idle threat. Quite frankly, I'm surprised nobody has pressed charges yet."
"I don't believe you," Petunia said with a sneer, having obviously recovered from the tongue-lashing she'd already received in regards to her treatment of her nephew. "My Duddykins is a perfect, well-behaved angel and anyone who says otherwise is lying."
"Believe that if you wish, Mrs. Dursley," Eudora said. "But when Dudley finds himself in prison before he's twenty, which at the rate he's going, I guarantee he will, I hope that you will look back on this conversation and realize, way too late, that we were right."
"That's assuming of course that he lives to be twenty," Athena added. "The way both him and your husband are going, I wouldn't be surprised if they both end up dying of heart attacks because of all the excess weight that they're carrying."
Wanting to move the conversation away from his aunt's abysmal parenting skills, Harry asked, "So, tell me about this training. What exactly will it entail?"
"Many things, Harry," Athena said. "I also won't lie to you. It's quite likely that if you agree to accompany us you will be away from this house and your friends for a long period of time, but in the end, I believe you will think it was completely worth it, because as I said, you will be one of the most powerful wizards in the world. You will be learning to use magic that hasn't been taught at Hogwarts in over five-hundred years. Magic that was taught by Merlin himself to the founders of Hogwarts, but was eventually abandoned."
"It was feared by some," Eudora continued, "that Hogwarts was training its students to be too powerful. Power can corrupt those who are not disciplined enough to wield it responsibly and thus what is taught now is only a pale imitation of what was taught in the days of the founders."
"So, we offer you this chance, Mr. Potter," Athena said. "A chance to train in a series of advanced magic that will more than prepare you to face anything life throws at you. It will also get you out of this house and away from your Muggle relatives, while also getting you away from the machinations of that wizened old fool that you know as Professor Dumbledore."
"I've never heard anyone talk about him that way," Harry commented.
"No you wouldn't," Eudora said. "Most people in the Wizarding world worship the man. He is believed by a great many to be one of the most powerful wizards alive, after all. Not just in magical power, but also political power, as his positions as Headmaster of Hogwarts, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards grant him quite a bit of influence, both at home and abroad. He also defeated Grindelwald, who unlike Voldemort was a Dark Lord on an international scale, so he is widely respected as a result."
"That power and respect, however," Athena said, "has gone to his head over the years. So many people have bowed to his opinion, simply because of the power and influence that he wields, that he's gotten used to it and come to expect it. Basically, if he tells you to do something, he expects you to do it with no argument, because he's come to believe that he knows what's best for everyone, even if that isn't true."
"You see, Harry, you may not know this," Eudora added, "but it was Professor Dumbledore who decided that you should be placed here with your Muggle relatives. He left you on their doorstep with a note asking them to take good care of you, but he never once checked to make sure that they were doing that. He's convinced himself that you being with your only remaining blood relative is much more important than it really is and that's why he continues to insist that you return here every summer, even though he now knows that the Dursleys have not treated you the way a child deserves to be treated."
Once they'd stopped talking to her directly, Petunia had gone back over to the dining room table and continued setting it, but at this comment, the silverware rattled as she turned and said, "We've never given the little freak anything more than he deserves."
Not being able to take anymore from this foul woman, Cedric, who had been sitting quietly during the whole conversation, decided to speak up. "From everything I've heard, you have got to be one of the worst parents in the world, Mrs. Dursley, and in my opinion, you don't even deserve to breathe the same air as the rest of us."
"It's you and your kind that don't deserve to breathe the same air as people like me," Petunia said.
"People like you?" Athena asked.
"Yes, normal people," Petunia answered. "The world would be a better place if all of you freaks and your spells would just die and leave us good, normal people alone."
Harry knew that the Dursleys hated magic and he'd put up with it for years, but, he had finally reached his breaking point. Fixing his aunt with a cold sneer that would make Malfoy envious, he said "You're the freak, Aunt Petunia," before turning to Athena and Eudora and adding, "if it means getting out of this house, I'll gladly go with you."
"Good riddance!" Petunia exclaimed. "You will not be missed boy."
Athena grinned at this and said, "You're right, Mrs. Dursley, you won't miss your nephew one bit, because he'll be staying here."
'What?' Harry thought, suddenly looking very much like a deer caught in the headlights of a speeding truck. 'Has she changed her mind about training me?'
Guessing what must be going through the younger boy's head and feeling an overwhelming need to reassure him, Cedric stood up and placed a comforting hand on the brunet's shoulder, squeezing it, as he said, "It's okay, Harry. You will be getting away from here, I promise."
Before Harry could voice his confusion, Athena stood up and said, "You see, Mrs. Dursley, as I've already said, Harry's training may take years and in order for it to be successful, we can't have him turn up missing and have people start looking for him. So, while we will be taking your nephew with us, a magically-created copy of him will remain here with you in his place. Thus, Harry Potter will remain a student at Hogwarts and nobody will be the wiser."
"It's bad enough that I had to take care of him," Petunia said, "but if you think that I'm going to take care of a fake, you've got another thing coming."
"I do think you'll be taking care of the fake, Mrs. Dursley," Eudora said, as both she and Athena pulled out their wands and pointed them at Petunia, who instantly blanched, any argument she might have been preparing to unleash dying on her lips.
"Harry?" Cedric asked to get the younger boy's attention. Once he had it, he said, "Okay, they're going to cast a spell on you now. They used it on me, so, I'm going to warn you now, it's going to be a strange sensation. All of your limbs will start duplicating. Basically the fake Harry they mentioned is going to grow out of your body, so for about ten minutes, it'll be like you have a siamese twin."
"Um... okay," Harry said, in a hesitant voice, as he tried to wrap his head around that. "Thanks for the warning."
Cedric grinned, "No problem. Just wish they'd warned me first," and at this he gave both Athena and Eudora a clearly annoyed look, prompting both women to simply laugh.
Raising her wand and pointing it at Harry, Athena prepared to cast the spell, before Harry asked, "Wait, you casting a spell here isn't going to get me in trouble is it?"
Cocking her head, Athena asked, "Why do you ask that, Harry?"
"Because over the summer before my second year," Harry answered, "a house-elf named Dobby cast a hover charm right here in this room and I ended up getting a warning letter from the Ministry."
After a moment of silence, Eudora said, "The only way that could possibly have happened is if this Dobby intentionally mimicked your magical signature and simultaneously used his magic to make sure the Ministry detected it. They can't detect magic done without a wand and even if you use a wand, they can only detect it if you're under seventeen and still subject to the trace."
"The trace?" Harry asked.
"A Ministry tracking spell," Cedric answered. "It's placed on all underage witches and wizards, so that they know if they break the restriction for the use of underage magic. Of course, it's far from perfect, because even with the trace, the best they can do is determine that magic was used, but they can't determine who used it. It's very rare for children in wizarding homes to get warning letters as a result, because the Ministry can't tell if it was them or their parents who cast the spell."
"Something else that might help put your mind at ease, Harry," Athena said, "is the fact that the spell I'm going to cast is standard procedure for those entering mage training. Only a select few people know this but Ms. Hopkirk in the Improper Use of Magic Office is a mage herself. I know that because I'm the one who trained her. At any rate, whenever underage witches and wizards are chosen for training and the trace picks up the spell, Mafalda does not send a warning letter and makes sure that all records of the spell being cast disappear."
"Okay," Harry said. "Just wanted to make sure."
Athena nodded, before she moved her wand in a complicated pattern and incanted, "Pario Geminus!"
Almost immediately, Harry felt a tingling sensation throughout his entire body which got progressively stronger. It didn't hurt, but it was definitely a strange feeling. This was followed by the realization that Dudley's hand-me-downs were suddenly beginning to fit better and he realized it was because his whole body had begun to swell up. He was thankful, however, that Cedric had warned him, otherwise he knew he would have been freaked when he raised his right arm and saw two hands coming out of his sleeve. Even with the warning, he would have been lying if he said it hadn't freaked him out to turn his head and have his nose brush against the cheek of another person who he knew he was now sharing his clothes with.
After another minute or so, Harry was overcome by a wave of dizziness and he would have fallen over if Cedric hadn't caught him. He'd guessed that it would happen to Harry, as it had happened to him less than an hour ago, so he'd stayed close to the younger teen just in case. Roughly ten minutes later, Harry came to, finding himself lying on the couch with his head in Cedric's lap, as the older boy ran his hand soothingly through his hair.
Smiling knowingly at him, Cedric said, "Yeah, it's a weird feeling isn't it?"
"Definitely," Harry said, nodding, as he looked up at Cedric. He wasn't in a hurry to sit up because he still felt a bit dizzy and he was sure that sitting up too fast would only make that feeling worse. So, instead, he found himself looking at Cedric. It was the first time he'd really looked at the older boy up close. One of the first things he noticed was the gray eyes. Before now, the only people that Harry knew who had gray eyes had been Lucius and Draco Malfoy, but where there's were stormy and cold-looking, Cedric's were calming and good-natured. That combined with the hand gently rubbing his head, helped the dizziness to subside and Harry managed to sit up.
It was then that he noticed the result of the spell that Athena had cast sitting in a nearby chair, seemingly asleep. 'Now this is eerie,' Harry thought. 'It's like looking in a mirror.'
"It's important for you to understand, Harry," Eudora said, "that you do not have a brother now. This Harry," as she gestured at the sleeping form, "is not real. He's merely a magical extension of you with all of your memories and abilities. We've put him to sleep because if he saw you right now, he'd feel compelled to merge back into you and it isn't time for that yet. When your training is over, however, he will merge back into you and you'll gain all of the memories and knowledge that he gained during that time, thus allowing you to step back into your life as if you never left."
"Okay," Harry said, as he nodded in understanding, all the while thinking, 'Huh, I wonder if that could have any unforeseen side effects.'
Turning her attention to Petunia, Athena leveled her wand at her and said, "You will kneel now and hold out your left hand."
Scared to death of the wand pointed at her, because she knew what the things were capable of, she quickly moved to comply, whimpering slightly as Athena in turn kneeled in front of her and grabbed her hand in an iron grip. Eudora came over at this point and said, "You will answer, 'I will' to each of the questions that Athena is about to ask you if you know what's good for you."
"Okay," Petunia said, although it came out as a terrified squeak as Eudora placed the tip of her wand against her hand.
"Will you, Petunia Dursley, swear to never tell anyone, including Albus Dumbledore, your husband and your son, about seeing myself, Eudora, and Cedric today?"
Gulping, Petunia said, "I will," and shuddered as a thin jet of flame erupted from the tip of Eudora's wand wrapping around Athena's and her joined hands like a fiery serpent.
"Will you promise not to discuss or share anything you've learned today regarding Mr. Diggory's and your nephew's upcoming training in any way, including writing it down and thinking about it in the presence of anyone who isn't a Muggle?"
"I will," Petunia said again and whimpered as a second jet of flame was emitted from Eudora's wand.
"And most importantly, will you swear to never reveal to anyone, living or not, by any means imaginable, that the Harry Potter living here with you is not your real nephew?"
"I will," Petunia said again in a whimpering tone, her voice high and shaky, as a third jet of flames shot out of Eudora's wand and coiled with the other two.
Letting go of Petunia's hand, Athena stood up and said, "Did Lily ever mention the Unbreakable Vow to you, Mrs. Dursley?"
Petunia's whole face went white as a sheet and her eyes bulged, as she shakily stood up and asked, "The Un-Unbreakable V-Vow?"
"I'm guessing she did," Athena said and Petunia nodded in the affirmative, the look on her face one of complete terror, as Athena added, "Then you already know that if you break any of the oaths you just swore to that you will die."
Petunia nodded. Harry, meanwhile, couldn't say that he felt overly sorry for his aunt's plight. 'Maybe if she'd treated me better over the years, I would, but as it is now, I can't say as I feel very sorry for her.'
"Why make her swear an Unbreakable Vow?" Cedric asked. "You only Obliviated my parents."
It was Eudora who answered. "Because, Cedric, we want Mrs. Dursley to remember this day and the conversation we had. You remember what I said earlier about Dudley ending up in prison?" Both Cedric and Harry nodded, as Eudora looked at Petunia and said, "When that happens, I want Petunia to think back to this day and know that she was warned. Of course, maybe she'll see the light and change the way she's been parenting Dudley so that doesn't happen, but I seriously doubt it. Anyway, if we Obliviated her, she wouldn't remember the conversation."
"You'll also notice that I made it a condition of the oath," Athena said, "that she not reveal it to anyone in anyway, including thinking about it in the presence of non-Muggles. Albus Dumbledore is a master Legilimens and powerful enough that he'd have no problem entering her mind. As a Muggle, she can't learn Occlumency to protect it, so, if she thought about what she's learned today while he was nosing around in her head, he'd find out that much quicker."
"As it is, Mrs. Dursley," Eudora said, "I would suggest that you bury all thoughts of what happened today as deeply in your memory as possible and if Dumbledore ever does pay you a visit, I'd suggest you avoid making eye contact with him at all costs. He can't get into your head without eye contact, so, it would be best if you not allow him to achieve it. And should he succeed, you'd better hope he doesn't find your memory of this, because if he does, you're a dead woman. Do you understand?"
"Yes," Petunia answered, clearly terrified.
"Well, now, I think it's time for us to leave," Athena said. "I believe Vernon's car just pulled into the driveway and it wouldn't do for him or Dudley to see us here, not to mention two of you, Harry."
"Shouldn't I pack?" Harry asked.
"Is there really anything here that you want, Harry?" Eudora asked. "Besides, your temporary replacement will need your belongings in order to successfully convince people that he's you. Athena and I will provide you with everything you will need, so, no you don't need to pack."
"Okay then, well, let's go," Harry said, as he followed Cedric and the two women towards the back door. Looking over his shoulder once more at his aunt, he said, "Goodbye Aunt Petunia. I'd say that I'm going to miss you, but then I'd be lying."
Just as the back door closed behind the four people departing the house, the front door opened to admit Vernon and Dudley. Despite the fact that he had just had his teeth cleaned, Dudley was already chowing down on a large chocolate bar, with three more clearly visible in the pocket of the shirt he was wearing.
Perhaps it was anger over being subjected to the Unbreakable Vow or she was determined to prove Eudora wrong about her son ending up in prison by the time he was twenty, but Petunia crossed the room in two strides and ripped the candy bar out of her son's hand, grabbing the ones from his pocket as well. Ignoring his protests, Petunia fixed her husband with a cold glare and said, "Really, Vernon, he just had his teeth cleaned. The last thing he should be doing is eating sweets."
Vernon recognized his wife's tone. It was her 'I'm not taking any crap' tone and after nearly fifteen years of marriage, he knew better than to talk back to her when she used it, because he knew it would only end badly for him. The last time he'd tried, he ended up sleeping on the couch for a month because that was before they'd put a bed in Dudley's second bedroom and Petunia had locked the door to the guest room and hidden the key.
"Give them back!" Dudley exclaimed, looking furiously at his mother and going into full tantrum mode - that is until Petunia slapped him, hard, across the face.
"No, Dudley," Petunia said. "I've been too soft with you for years now. It's time you learned that you can't have everything that you want. I've been slaving away in the kitchen all day making dinner and I'll be damned if I'm going to have you spoil your appetite by eating candy."
Dudley was too shocked to speak, because his mother had never raised a hand to him in his life. Walking over to the kitchen, Petunia dropped the chocolate bars into the sink and flipped the switch to turn on the garbage disposal. Turning back to look at her son and husband, she then added, "And by the way, you're both going on strict diets."
Vernon and Dudley both gulped at that. They had no clue what had happened while they were gone, but clearly something had, because they could both tell that Petunia Dursley meant business. As they both just stood there for a moment, too shocked to move, Petunia walked over to the table and set a fourth place at the table. Over her shoulder she said, "Harry will be joining us at dinner tonight."
"What?" Dudley asked. "I don't want to eat with that freak!"
"Would you rather not eat at all?" Petunia asked in a hard tone. "Lord knows you both could certainly afford to miss a few meals - it'll just leave more for Harry. He's way too thin, anyway."
While she'd acted cold and dismissive of her real nephew before he'd left out of habit, deep down she'd always felt bad about the way she'd treated him over the years. She knew she'd let her bitterness and hatred for Lily color her reactions towards her nephew, who did not really deserve the treatment. While it was true she hated magic, it wasn't so much because she thought it was strange or abnormal as she'd always let on, it was more so that she was jealous and bitter over the fact that she couldn't do it.
She had always regretted not patching things up with her sister before she died, as they had always been very close as children, but she'd put it out of her mind. The dressing down she'd just received, however, and the remark about Lily's reaction to her treatment of Harry had reminded her. She knew it was true and thus she decided it was high time to make up for her mistakes by treating her nephew better. True, the one now living with her wasn't technically her real one, but she hoped that the change in attitude towards him would count for something, even if it was only to make her feel better.
Before either of the Dursley men could comment, Petunia added, "Tomorrow, Vernon, you will do all of Harry's indoor chores, while you, Dudley, will do all of his outdoor chores."
"But, Mum..." Dudley started whining, only to be cut off.
"Do as you mother says, Dudley," Vernon said in a resigned tone. He would never admit it aloud, but he'd known for years now who wore the trousers in the family - and it wasn't him. It was and always had been, his wife. She usually let Vernon make the decisions, but he suddenly had the distinct feeling that those days were over and they were never coming back.
Upon leaving the Dursley house, Athena and Eudora led the two teenagers to a deserted alley outside of the wards that surrounded the house. Athena then wrapped her arms around Harry, while Eudora wrapped hers around Cedric, and with two pops, all four of them disappeared only to reappear moments later in a large room that had a distinctly non-British look to it. Looking around in order to get his bearings, Cedric spotted a sign that made his mouth drop open in shock: Welcome to the Khan el Khalili Apparition Port.
After a moment of shocked silence, during which he racked his brain trying to remember where he'd seen that name before, Cedric managed to find his voice and asked, "Is this Cairo, Egypt?"
"Yes, Cedric," Athena confirmed, as Harry began looking around with renewed interest. He'd never been outside of the United Kingdom, after all, it was only natural that he'd be curious.
"You... you just Side-Along-Apparated us from Surrey to Cairo?" Cedric asked, his tone clearly indicating both shock and awe.
Since he was turning seventeen in a few months and his father worked at the Ministry, he'd been taking Apparition lessons so that he'd be able to get his license on his birthday. Thus he knew that there were very few wizards and witches who would ever even consider attempting an international apparition, especially when there was a bit over 3500 kilometers between their point of origin and their destination, as such a distance would require much more power and concentration then most would be willing to expend. Side-Along-Apparition required even more power and concentration to insure that neither the person Apparating or their passenger got splinched.
Eudora smiled and said, "Yes, Cedric, we did. Shocked?"
"Yes," Cedric said. "And awed. You're both clearly much more powerful than I thought."
"When you're done with your training," Athena said, "you'll be just as powerful if not more so."
Before Cedric could comment, however, Athena motioned for the two boys to follow her, with Eudora bringing up to rear, as she said, "The location where you'll be training is actually back in Britain, but we have business to attend to here in Egypt first."
"What kind of business?" Harry asked.
"For one, we need to make arrangements with the goblins," Eudora said. "We need to place spending limits on your vaults to ensure that your temporary replacements don't spend all of your money while you're gone. We also have some shopping to do. Not only wands for both of you, but some other necessary supplies, as well."
"That includes new wardrobes for both of you," Athena added, "seeing as how you both only have the clothes on your back." In her head, Athena added, 'And I use that term sparingly in Harry's case because I'd hardly call what he's wearing clothes.'
"We couldn't have done that in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade?" Harry asked. "Since you said we'd be training in Britain, forgive me, but Egypt seems a bit out of the way."
"The risk that you'd be recognized in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade is too great," Eudora explained. "So we brought you here to the Wizarding section of Khan el Khalili, which in the magical community is also known simply as the Cairo Bazaar. While it's one of the premier shopping centers in the Wizarding world, I doubt many of your friends shop here regularly and thus there's a much lesser chance that you'll be recognized. Plus, our business at Gringotts' requires us to meet with the director of the bank and he rarely leaves the Cairo branch owing to the fact that it's the oldest and most profitable."
Walking at a brisk pace, Athena led the small group, expertly weaving her way through the narrow, twisting pathways of Wizarding Cairo, dodging the numerous people and street vendors along the way. Finally, they arrived in an enormous open square with a fountain, which was surrounded on all sides by more shops then Harry and Cedric had ever seen. If they had to guess, there was at least three hundred of them selling a wide array of common goods, such as potions ingredients, books, clothing, and Quidditch supplies to more exotic wares, such as flying carpets and a variety of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian antiquities.
Looking past the fountain in the center of the square, however, your eyes were almost immediately drawn to the large building on the far side of the square. It was about seven stories tall and made entirely of white marble, with a domed ceiling made of what looked like gold. The entrance was flanked by a pair of black marble obelisks, between which a wrought-iron sign was suspended, proclaiming it to be the Cairo branch of Gringotts' Wizarding Bank.
Following Athena and Eudora, Harry and Cedric soon found themselves entering a truly massive lobby that made the lobby of Gringotts' Diagon Alley branch seem cramped in comparison. Almost as soon as they'd crossed the threshold, a voice said, "Hello Athena, Eudora."
Looking for the source of the voice, Harry spotted another pair of women, who were accompanied by two teenage boys, who quickly approached them. One of the new women was tall and thin with short black hair and yellow hawk-like eyes. She was wearing black robes trimmed in silver. The other woman was of medium height with long, curly red hair and brown eyes, wearing robes of a deep blue and a white apron. As for the teenagers, both were tall and athletic looking. One had short brown hair with blond highlights, brown eyes, and was wearing a pair of black trousers and a white silk shirt embroidered with a green snake, although there was no doubt about the magical creation of the shirt, since the snake was moving. The other had black hair, brown eyes, and was wearing navy blue trousers and a blue shirt.
"Ah, Emma, Rose," Athena said, as the two women and the boys approached. "Harry, Cedric, this is Emma Baldwin," motioning towards the black haired woman, "and Rose Ramsley, who along with Eudora and myself will be your trainers for the next few years."
Before Athena could introduce the teenagers, Cedric stepped forward and said, "Hey Roger," smiling as he shook hands with the black-haired boy that he obviously knew. He also nodded at the other boy, as he said, "Terence."
During this, Harry groaned silently to himself as he thought, 'It figures that I'd be the youngest and shortest of the people that were picked for training.' Looking at them, Harry knew that he'd seen both of them at Hogwarts, though the boy with the snake on his shirt that Cedric had identified as Terence seemed more familiar to him, he just couldn't figure out why.
"Well, you've obviously met," Eudora said, referring to Cedric, Roger and Terence, as all three of them nodded. Smiling at Harry, she added, "Harry, this is Roger Davies from Ravenclaw and Terence Higgs from Slytherin."
"Nice to meet you," Harry said, still with a nagging feeling that he'd met Terence before, because even the name sounded familiar somehow.
With a rather amused smirk on his face, Terence said, "We've met before."
"You do look familiar, but I'm afraid I can't quite place you," Harry said.
"I was Slytherin's seeker when you were a first year," Terence revealed. "Before Lord Malfoy bought new brooms for the team and that little shit Draco stole my spot."
"Watch your language, Mr. Higgs," Athena said in a warning tone.
"Sorry, um... should we call you Professor or what?" Terence asked, his smirk turning into an apologetic smile, with a hint of confusion shining in his eyes.
"Athena will suffice," Athena said. "You may call all of us by our first names. Anyway, now that we're all here, we have business to attend to."
Walking over to a free teller, Athena didn't even give the goblin a chance to talk before she said, "My associates and I have an appointment with Ragnok."
Looking up the goblin said, "Athena Gracey, I assume?" Athena nodded. "Yes, Ragnok mentioned that he had an appointment with you and your associates this morning." Scribbling something on a piece of parchment the goblin handed it to Athena and pointed towards a golden scrollwork gate, as he said, "Give that to the lift attendant and he'll take you up."
With a curt nod, Athena led the group over to the lift and handed the goblin attendant the slip of parchment. He glanced at it for a moment, before nodding and opening the gate, ushering them all inside. A few minutes later the lift reached the top floor and the gate opened as the eight humans in the lift stepped out of it into an elaborate outer office. There was a single goblin, clearly Ragnok's assistant, sitting behind a reception desk. A pair of goblins in full armor stood near the doors to Ragnok's office, each of them carrying a halberd that was twice as tall as they were. From everything he'd heard about goblins, however, Harry didn't doubt for a second that the fact that their weapons were bigger than them would have any effect on their ability to use them efficiently.
After a few minutes of silence, Ragnok's assistant stood up and said, "Ragnok will see you now," before he went over and opened the door and ushered the group into a large and luxurious office where they found a truly ancient looking goblin sitting behind one of the largest desks any of them had ever seen. Looking up and seeing the group entering his office, Ragnok raised one of his hands and pointed at the large conference table that took up the left side of the room, as he stood and took a seat at the head of the table.
Once Athena and the others were seated, Ragnok said in a gruff voice, "State your business."
"My three associates and I have taken custody of four students from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," Athena said. "We intend to train them as mages, but as that will take time and we did not wish for them to be reported missing and have search parties sent out to find them, I used a spell to create temporary replacements for each of them."
"I see," Ragnok said. "Am I to assume then that you are here to insure that these replacements don't spend all of their money?"
"Precisely," Athena said. "I think it would be best if a limit was established so that the replacements cannot withdraw any more than 800 Galleons a year from their vaults. I believe that should more than cover Hogwarts tuition and their school supplies."
Ragnok nodded as he stroked his beard and then said, "Before we proceed, I must confirm that these students are not imposters. I'm sure you are well aware, Ms. Gracey, that the tests used to confirm that will kill them if they are."
Athena nodded, as the four teenagers in the room exchanged slightly worried looks. They all knew that they weren't imposters and thus they should have nothing to worry about, but still, facing a potentially lethal test would make just about anyone nervous. Calling for his assistant, Ragnok waited a moment before the goblin from the desk outside walked into the room. After saying something to the other goblin in Gobbledegook, the assistant nodded and left the room, returning moments later carrying a silver dagger and what looked like four sheets of blank parchment.
As his assistant placed a sheet of parchment in front of each of the teens, which as it turned out where not blank as they all bore the Gringotts' seal, Ragnok handed Terence a swan-feather quill and said, "Sign your full name on the parchment and then take the dagger, slit your thumb and drip three drops of blood on the Gringotts' seal. If you truly are who your signature suggests, you'll be perfectly fine and if you're not, you'll be dead."
Nodding Terence signed his full name, Terence William Higgs, on the parchment, before taking a deep breath and slitting his thumb with the dagger, allowing three drops of blood to fall onto the seal. After a moment, Ragnok nodded his satisfaction that Terence at least was who he said he was, since he was still breathing.
Handing the dagger back to Ragnok's assistant and the quill to Roger, the Ravenclaw signed his name, Roger Michael Davies, on the parchment before cutting his thumb and dripping blood on the Gringotts' seal. Moments later, Ragnok nodded his satisfaction that the black-haired teen was indeed the real Roger Davies and not an imposter.
"Well, two down, two more to go," Ragnok commented, as Roger handed the quill to Cedric, who signed his name, which took slightly longer than the other two. Terence and Roger, both purebloods and raised in the magical world, both knew why, although Harry, as a half-blood raised by Muggles looked rather shocked when he read what Cedric had written on the parchment.
Cedric Jeremiah Diggory, Earl of Charwell, Heir Apparent of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Diggory
'Cedric is a nobleman?' Harry thought. He knew that Terence had referred to Lucius Malfoy earlier as Lord Malfoy, but he'd thought at the time that it was just a Slytherin thing and not a sign that the blond Death Eater was actually in possession of a title. Not being raised in the Wizarding world, Harry didn't even know there was such a thing as Wizarding nobility.
As it had for both Terence and Roger, the Gringotts' seal absorbed the blood when Cedric dripped it over the seal, flashing black for a split second before returning to normal, signifying that Cedric was indeed who he claimed to be.
Nudging Harry to get his attention, Cedric smiled and handed him the quill. Holding the parchment in front of him steady with one hand, Harry signed his name as Harry James Potter, before slitting his thumb and allowing three drops of blood to fall on the seal. Almost immediately, however, the Gringotts' seal flashed red and Harry immediately noticed that his blood wasn't being absorbed as the other three boys' blood had been.
"You're not about to die, if that's what you're thinking," Ragnok said. "The seal would absorb your blood and flash green if you were going to die for impersonating a Gringotts' customer."
"So what does flashing red and not absorbing the blood mean?" Harry asked.
"That you didn't sign your full legal name," Ragnok answered. "The laws of Wizarding Britain are quite clear - anytime one signs an official document they must sign their full legal name. Not absorbing your blood and flashing red indicates that the seal has detected that you are indeed the name you signed, but that you didn't sign your full legal name."
"I did sign my full name," Harry said.
Before Ragnok could say anything, Athena said, "Your legal first name isn't Harry, it's Harrison. I'm surprised nobody has ever told you that, but even then, you still should have known as you should be getting statements from Gringotts' which would come addressed to Harrison Potter, not Harry Potter."
Before Harry could say anything, Ragnok sat up straighter and asked, "Wait a minute, did you say Harrison Potter?" Pointing to Harry, while looking at Athena, he added, "Am I to understand that this boy is Harrison Potter, son of James and Lily Potter?"
Athena nodded. "Yes, Ragnok, he is."
"In that case," Ragnok said, before turning to Harry and asking, "Why have you been ignoring our letters, Mr. Potter?"
Looking confused, Harry answered, "What letters? I've never gotten any letters or statements from Gringotts'."
"You should have been receiving bank statements since you turned five," Ragnok said. "And the Potter account manager informed me in our last meeting that he's been trying to setup a meeting with you ever since you turned thirteen and you've been ignoring all of his letters."
"As I've said I've never gotten any letters or statements from Gringotts," Harry reiterated. "I can't very well ignore something that I never got."
Turning to his assistant, Ragnok said, "Get the Potter account manager here immediately."
"Emma, Rose, Eudora," Athena said, "If you could take Terence, Roger, and Cedric to do their shopping, I'd appreciate it. Harry and I will meet you later."
Nodding Eudora rose and said, "Yes, this is probably a meeting best held in a more private setting."
Snatching a quill from his desk, Ragnok made a few notations in a large book on his desk and said, "I'll make sure the limitation you mentioned is placed on their vaults, Ms. Gracey."
"Thank you," Athena said, as Eudora, Rose, and Emma left with Terence, Roger, and Cedric, as Ragnok's assistant hurried out of the room to fetch the Potter account manager. He returned five minutes later with another goblin, as he went back to standing quietly in the corner until he was needed.
"Scarclaw," Ragnok said, as he pointed at Harry, "This young man is Harrison Potter and he says he hasn't gotten any letters or statements from Gringotts'. I want to know how that's possible and I want to know now."
Shaking his head, Scarclaw said, "I've sent all of Harrison Potter's statements and numerous letters to Seacliff Castle via registered post. They were all signed for upon delivery so I know they were received."
"Delivered maybe, but not received," Athena said. "He doesn't live at Seacliff Castle. Until recently he's resided either at Hogwarts or with his aunt and uncle, Vernon and Petunia Dursley, at Number Four Privet Drive, in the town of Little Whinging in Surrey."
Shaking his head, Scarclaw said, "I've been the Potter account manager for thirty-five years and I can tell you with absolute certainty that that address is not listed anywhere in any of the records pertaining to the Potter family. That includes the records held by Gringotts', Hogwarts, the Ministry for Magic, the Albion Royal Archives, and the Potter family barrister. All of those records list Harrison Potter's residence as Seacliff Castle."
"Why did you never try to contact him at Hogwarts?" Athena asked.
"Because on the day he turned eleven," Scarclaw answered, "the Potter family barrister came to see me and served me with an order signed by Harrison Potter requesting that I not disturb him while at school and to continue sending all communication to Seacliff Castle. The order was co-signed by the Chief Warlock, in addition to His Majesty King Edward."
"The King?" Athena asked. "Forgive me, but that seems more than a little suspect considering that King Edward was only two years old when he became king after the rest of the royal family was killed in 1972. As a result of being so young, he's been sequestered at the winter palace for years now, while the majority of his duties have been carried out by the Minister until he decides he's ready to take them up. Last time I checked he hadn't done so yet, but even if he had, why would he involve himself with something as trivial as where an eleven-year-old's mail is delivered?"
"Trust me, madam, I had the same thought," Scarclaw answered. "However, I checked the signatures with every verification technique that's ever existed and they were all genuine."
"Excuse me, but I'm lost," Harry commented. "Could someone please explain to me what's going on? What is Seacliff Castle and who's King Edward? The sovereign is Queen Elizabeth."
"Queen Elizabeth is the Muggle queen, Harry," Athena explained. "While Muggle Britain and Wizarding Britain occupy the same landmass, they are two separate countries with different monarchs and are, more or less, independent of one another. The Muggles have the House of Windsor as their royal family, whereas Wizarding Britain, more properly called Albion, is under the rule of the House of Pendragon - the direct descendants of King Arthur."
"As for Seacliff Castle," Scarclaw said, "that's your family's ancestral home and the seat of power for the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter."
"My father was a noble?" Harry asked.
"Yes, Harry," Athena answered. "When James Potter died, he was Lord of Seacliff Castle and Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter, which meant he held the titles of Duke of Granston, Marquis of Brynmoor, and Earl of Mathry. If your parents were still alive, as their first-born son and heir, you would be entitled to use the title of Marquis of Brynmoor as a courtesy title."
"And since they're dead?" Harry asked.
"Normally, witches and wizards in Albion aren't considered to be adults until they're 17," Ragnok explained. "Albion law also says that minor children cannot inherit or be granted titles in their own right. Minor heirs are allowed to use their father's second-best title as a courtesy, but the title doesn't belong to them. However, since your father was an only child there are no living Potter heirs other than you. Your grandfather and great-grandfather both had siblings who had children, but your grandfather's only son and child died childless and your great-grandfather only had one child that I'm aware of and that was a daughter who wouldn't be eligible to inherit anyway."
"I take it that's significant?" Harry asked.
"Yes, it is very significant," Scarclaw revealed. "All of the letters patent that King Arthur issued to the thirteen peers of Albion include a Last of the Line clause, which says that should a male minor heir be left as the last of their line, upon attaining their thirteenth year they are legally emancipated and from that point on seen as an adult in the eyes of the law, thus allowing you to inherit the titles and all of the duties and responsibilities that go with them."
"And would Dumbledore know about this clause?" Harry asked, as he chose to ignore the duties and responsibilities part of what Scarclaw had just said, because he really didn't want to think about what that meant.
"Oh I guarantee he knows," Athena said. "He's the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. All members of that body are required to know all of the laws of Albion, since it's their jobs to uphold them."
"So, he knew that I was legally an adult as of my birthday last year," Harry said, "and yet he still insisted on sending me back to live with my abusive Muggle relatives? I'm beginning to see why you called him a wizened old fool, Athena."
"In that case," Scarclaw said, "perhaps at the next meeting of the Wizengamot you should call for a vote of no confidence in his ability as Chief Warlock."
"Call for a vote?" Harry asked. "You mean, I'm a member of the Wizengamot?"
"Yes, you are," Athena replied. "There's 100 seats on the Wizengamot. 48 of them are held by commoners, like Dumbledore. The other 52 are held by the 13 peers of Albion, each of them having four seats: their family seat, plus one seat for each of their titles. Each seat carries a vote, so, Harry, in your case, you have four votes, from the Potter family's seat, plus the Granston, Brynmoor and Mathry seats."
Harry was suddenly very glad that he was sitting down, because he was sure that if he wasn't, he'd be sprawled out on the floor by now. As if his life hadn't been complicated enough with the whole Boy-Who-Lived thing. Now he finds out he's actually a noble lord with four votes on the Wizengamot and gods only knew what else. After a few minutes, Harry turned to look at the others and asked, "So what happens now?"
"That is entirely up to you," Athena said. "If you wish it, my associates and I will still train you to be a mage. You can also still claim your birthright as Lord Potter."
"But, if I have to attend meetings of the Wizengamot," Harry said, "wouldn't that cause problems in keeping the training a secret?"
"No, it wouldn't," Athena answered. "The fact that you and the others are training with me and my associates and that we've created temporary replacements for you is protected under the Fidelius Charm and I'm the Secret Keeper of that particular secret. Only I can reveal the truth."
"So, wait, what about the Unbreakable Vow on Aunt Petunia?" Harry asked. "If you're the only one who can reveal the secret isn't that vow you made her swear to useless?"
Athena laughed. "We didn't subject Petunia to the Unbreakable Vow - we just made her think that we did. She only knows what Lily told her about magic and nothing else. If she was more learned in the art than she is, she would know that a Muggle cannot swear an Unbreakable Vow because they don't have a magical core. If you break an Unbreakable Vow it causes your magical core to go into critical overload and kill you, but if you don't have a magical core, you have nothing to worry about."
"So, then the Vow was just to scare her?" Harry asked. "What about Cedric's parents? He said that you Obliviated them."
Athena smiled as she said, "After all the mistreatment she and her family have heaped on you over the years, Eudora and I felt that she needed some kind of punishment. As for Cedric's parents, yes, we Obliviated them. Lord and Lady Diggory are known for not being able to hold their tongues."
"Why bother though?" Harry asked, not understanding. "If you're the only one who can reveal the secret?"
"The Fidelius, while effective, is far from perfect," Athena answered. "When someone who isn't the secret keeper tries to reveal the protected secret, the magic won't let them and will trigger their brain to think of something to say in place of the secret, which will result in them starting to say something, hesitating, and then finishing. The problem lies in the fact that witches and wizards of sufficient power can tell the difference between regular hesitance and Fidelius-induced hesitance. Thus even though they don't know the secret, they're alerted to the fact that the Fidelius is in use."
After a moment, Harry said, "I definitely want to continue with the training, but I don't understand how I can claim my birthright with a temporary replacement running around. Dumbledore is the Chief Warlock, so, he'd be at the meetings - how could we possibly explain me being at the meetings if my double is at Hogwarts?"
"A logical question, Harry," Athena said. "Simply put, I will make arrangements for your double to disappear during the Wizengamot meetings. The Last of the Line clause hasn't been invoked in a few years now, so add that to your popularity and I guarantee it will make the papers that you've claimed your birthright."
"There's been quite a few people asking why you haven't already," Scarclaw added. "They know you turned thirteen last year and have been wondering why you haven't taken your place as head of the Potter family yet. Ms. Gracey is correct that it will make the papers."
"But how will you arrange for my double to disappear during the meetings once he goes back to Hogwarts?" Harry asked.
"Simple," Athena said. "My son lives in Hogsmeade and since he's a member of the Wizengamot, one of the commoners, I'll simply make arrangements for it to look like he swung by Hogwarts to collect you and took you with him to the meetings. As for your double, I have a secret room in my office at Hogwarts that only I can access - your double can sleep there while you're at the meeting."
'Okay, that sounds like it could work,' Harry thought to himself, before he realized what Athena had just said, prompting him to ask aloud, "Wait, your office at Hogwarts?"
"You wouldn't know it to look at me, Harry," Athena said, "as I'm wearing extensive Glamour Charms and using a spell to change my voice, but I'm one of your professors at Hogwarts. The other trainers are on staff, as well. Like Terence, Roger, Cedric, and you we also have temporary replacements at Hogwarts or will come the start of the autumn term."
"So who are you really?" Harry asked.
Athena smiled and shook her head. "No, no, I think it would be best if you figured that out for yourselves. Feel free to tell the others what I've told you. The secret of our true identities is also protected under the Fidelius. I am the Secret Keeper, but I'm choosing not to tell you. There are subtle clues that you and the others should be able to pick up on if you observe closely in the coming months. Under the Fidelius, you'll never know for sure that you're right unless I tell you, but the spell won't stop you from suspecting."
'Well, this should be fun,' Harry thought, before turning to Scarclaw and asking, "How do I claim my birthright?"
"There's some papers you'll need to sign," Scarclaw said. "Then you'll need to take a trip down to the Potter family vault and retrieve the Potter family insignia ring that's worn by the family head."
"I don't recall seeing any jewelry in my vault," Harry commented, confused.
"That's because you're thinking of your personal vault," Ragnok explained from where he was sitting behind his desk. While Athena and Harry were talking, he'd gone back over to his desk to get some work done. "You've never been in the Potter family vault. All of Albion's old, noble families have family vaults down in the farthest depths of the Diagon Alley branch of Gringotts'. It's there that you will find the Lord's ring, where it was placed upon your father's death, waiting for you to come of age and take up your birthright."
Nodding, Harry said, "Well, what do I need to sign?"
Opening a dragonhide satchel at his side, Scarclaw pulled out the documents and placed them on the table in front of Harry. Handing him a quill, he indicated where he should sign and said, "Do you know what you need to sign?"
Remembering what Cedric had signed earlier, Harry guessed, "Full name, so, Harrison James Potter, um, and the titles you mentioned earlier?"
Pulling a smaller, less elaborate quill from inside the folds of her robe, along with a piece of blank parchment, Athena wrote down what Harry should sign and showed it to him, as he nodded and said, "Thanks."
Taking the quill, Harry carefully signed his name, trying to make his signature as neat as possible, because something told him it wouldn't look good for a noble to have poor penmanship. When he finished, he'd signed Harrison James Potter, Duke of Granston, Lord of Seacliff Castle and Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter.
Handing Harry the knife that had been used earlier, Scarclaw said, "Now just add three drops of blood to the Gringotts' seal and we'll go and collect your ring."
Slitting his thumb, Harry let the blood drip on the seal, where it was quickly absorbed, as the seal flashed black for a second, before returning to normal.
"Before you go, Lord Potter," Ragnok said, "do you have any idea how it is that Scarclaw received this order signed by you?"
Looking at the document that Ragnok was holding, Harry could clearly see three signatures at the bottom. The first was Harrison James Potter, followed by Dumbledore and King Edward. Reading the two signatures, Harry couldn't help but think, 'Sheesh, Dumbledore's got a long name,' before asking aloud, "What's Iwernia?"
"It's an old name for Ireland," Athena answered, "which the Wizarding world still uses to distinguish Wizarding Ireland from Muggle Ireland. It's only the official title, though, used mostly for formal occasions. Otherwise we just call it Ireland. As for Albion, that's actually an old name for the entire island that England, Scotland, and Wales inhabits. Albion is used more often than Iwernia is, but it's interchangeable with Britain, or their individual names if referring specifically to one of the three countries."
"Oh, okay," Harry said before turning to Ragnok and saying, "I don't know who signed this order for me, but it wasn't me. I didn't even know my name was Harrison until today. Even my Hogwarts letters come addressed as Harry Potter."
"Hmm," Ragnok said. "Something is definitely amiss then. Normally, I'd probably chop off Scarclaw's head for this kind of breach," and here Scarclaw gulped, "but since I ran every verification spell I could think of and they're all saying that signature is genuine, I shall spare him for now. We will, however, launch a full investigation into this Lord Potter, of that you have my word."
'Chop off his head?' Harry thought, as he just nodded at Ragnok.
"Thank you for your time today, Ragnok," Athena said. "May your enemies soil themselves at the mention of your name."
At Harry's confused look, Athena mouthed, 'I'll explain later,' as Ragnok grinned, showing a mouth full of sharp teeth as he said, "May your vaults never empty, Ms. Gracey."
Harry, Athena, and Scarclaw left Ragnok's office at that point, leaving the ancient goblin to get back to work.
After leading them down to a room which connected all of the different branches of Gringotts' together, Scarclaw, Athena and Harry were soon in a cart plummeting into the depths of the Diagon Alley branch, after Scarclaw had led them through a few of the twisted rear corridors of the bank that only goblins usually used. Thus, even if there had been anyone in the lobby that might have recognized Harry, they didn't see him. Arriving at a depth that neither Harry or Athena had ever travelled to before, the three exited the cart on a small platform just outside of a large archway.
Grabbing a small collection of metal objects from a rack near the archway, Scarclaw said, "Stay behind me," as he moved through the arch and Harry's eyes widened as he saw a dragon chained to the wall, blocking the entrance to several archways on the far side of the room. Noticing the group entering the room, the massive beast began to get up and looked ready to breath fire, but Scarclaw shook the metal objects he'd grabbed, producing a sound similar to tiny hammers hitting an anvil. The dragon immediately hung it's head and whimpered, the look in its eyes clearly afraid, as it backed away.
"They've been trained to expect pain when they hear the noise," Scarclaw explained, as he continued shaking the small objects, leading the group past the dragon and through one of the arches it had been blocking. On the other side were the doors to five vaults and Athena gasped when she caught sight of the crests displayed on two in particular.
"What is it Athena?" Harry asked.
Pointing at the door closest to them, Athena said, "That's the Pendragon crest, so I'm assuming that's the royal family's vault and the door next to it, well, that's the crest of the Emrys family."
"The Emrys family?" Harry asked.
"Merlin's family," Athena said. "Or more accurately, Merlin himself, since he never had children."
At that comment Scarclaw laughed, but refused to say why when asked, walking past the vaults bearing the crests of the Longbottom and Ollivander families before stopping before the fifth and final vault door in the corridor. "Welcome to Vault 1005, the family vault of the House of Potter."
"My family's vault is in the same room as the vaults belonging to Merlin and the royal family?" Harry asked.
"Yes, Mr. Potter," Scarclaw answered. "The Potters and the Longbottoms, along with the Ollivanders, were the first of the thirteen houses that King Arthur elevated to Noble status, as the three families were his staunchest supporters in the wars for the unification of Albion. As a result, of the thirteen noble families, the Potters, Ollivanders and Longbottoms are the only ones to hold the rank of Duke. Of the other ten noble families, Marquis is the highest title held by six of the families, with Earl being the highest held by the other four."
"Who are the other families anyway?" Harry asked, wondering if he'd met any other nobles at Hogwarts and not known it.
It was Athena who answered. "The six families whose highest title is Marquis are the Diggory, McLaggen, Crouch, Burke, Black, and Bones families. The other four are the Flint, McKinnon, Lestrange, and Malfoy families."
"Figures that Malfoy would be a noble," Harry muttered under his breath, although it was loud enough that Athena heard him, prompting her to smile and say, "It might interest you to know, Harry, that Lucius Malfoy's second-best title, and thus his son and heir Draco's courtesy title, is Viscount Bratton."
Harry laughed at that. "Viscount Bratton, huh? Well, the title certainly fits, because Malfoy is definitely an annoying little brat a ton of the time."
Before anymore was said, Scarclaw placed both hands on the door to the Potter vault, causing the locks to disengage and the door to fade away, revealing a cavernous room that was obviously expanded by magic. Harry was sure his eyes were as big as saucers and his jaw was on the floor as he looked across the threshold at the huge pile of gold. He'd thought the pile in his vault had been impressive, but now that pile seemed like an anthill in comparison to the pile he was currently looking at.
"The Potter vault is charmed so that only family can enter," Scarclaw said. "So, Ms. Gracey and I will have to wait outside."
Nodding, Harry walked into the vault, the door of which closed behind him. He didn't notice that, however, as he continued to gaze around the vault, completely flabbergasted by its contents. In addition to the veritable mountain of gold, there were several large chests, some of which were open to reveal that they were full of precious gemstones and other treasure. A large bookcase dominated one wall, filled to bursting with books and scrolls, some of which Harry was sure were as old or even older than Hogwarts.
Turning to look at another area of the vault, Harry was quite surprised to find a fireplace, with a red velvet settee and a pair of wingback chairs arranged around a low mahogany coffee table. Even more surprising, however, was the portrait which rested on an easel next to the fireplace. It depicted a man and woman, currently sleeping, that Harry immediately recognized. He'd been told over and over again, after all, that he looked like the man, but had the woman's eyes.
Stumbling forward, Harry reached out and touched the portrait, as he whispered, "Mum? Dad?"
It took only a moment for the two people in the portrait to awaken. Noticing the young man standing in the room, Lily asked, "Harry, is that you?"
Harry nodded as James beamed and said, "You've certainly grown since last I saw you."
Looking him over with the critical eye of a loving mother, Lily said, "What are you wearing, son? And why are you so short and thin? Has Sirius not been feeding you?"
Harry sighed. 'Of course they wouldn't know. How could they if they've been here all this time?' Sitting down on the chair nearest the portrait, Harry said, "Don't be mad at Sirius - he's only just recently come into my life and he couldn't stay in it, as it wouldn't have been safe."
"What do you mean, son?" James asked, obviously concerned not only for his son, but also his oldest and closest friend.
"The night you died," Harry said, "Sirius was mad and he went after Peter, who obviously betrayed you. He found him and they argued, before Peter killed twelve Muggles and then cut off one of his fingers, leaving it behind when he turned into his rat form and disappeared down a sewer drain. Leaving Sirius to be thought guilty of the murders of Peter and the twelve Muggles. He was sent to Azkaban without a trial, where he remained until he escaped last summer. We found Peter, but he escaped before we could prove Sirius is innocent, so he's on the run. The Minister has promised to have him kissed if he's ever caught."
"Oh dear," Lily said. "Poor Sirius. I know the Ministry would never allow you to be placed with Remus and your godmother couldn't possibly have taken you."
"Godmother?" Harry asked. "I didn't even know I had one."
James nodded sadly. "Marlena McKinnon. She was one of Lily's best friends at Hogwarts, along with her twin Marlene. But they were killed by the Death Eaters the year before we went into hiding. I can't believe that the Diggorys have treated you so poorly, though."
"Wait, the Diggorys?" Harry asked. "You mean Cedric's family? What do they have to do with anything?"
"We named them as your guardians, Harry," Lily explained. "In our wills. We knew the Ministry wouldn't let Remus do it because he's a werewolf, so in the event that Sirius and Marlena weren't capable of taking custody of you, Amos and Amelia Diggory agreed to do so. You obviously didn't know that though - Harry, where have you been living all this time?"
Before Harry could answer, James asked, "How long has it been anyway? I'd guess you're a teenager by now - I'm assuming thirteen due to the last of the line clause."
"I'm fourteen as of yesterday," Harry said. "I didn't know about our family being nobility until today. I didn't even know my first name was actually Harrison. Everyone I've ever known has always called me Harry and that's how my Hogwarts letters have been addressed. As for where I was living, Dumbledore put me with Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia."
"HE DID WHAT?!" James shouted at the top of his lungs, Lily looking just as angry. They both took several deep breaths and then in a calmer yet obviously still angry tone, James asked, "What do you mean he put you with Vernon and Petunia? Our wills quite clearly specified that you weren't to be placed with them under any circumstances."
'Mum and Dad didn't want me living with the Dursleys?' Harry thought to himself. 'And they made arrangements for me to be raised by the Diggorys? Huh - I wonder what that would have been like. Probably infinitely better than living with the Dursleys, of course living with just about anyone would have probably been better than living with the Dursleys.'
Finding his voice, Harry said, "Well, I lived with them as I said, although according to Scarclaw, every family record he could find from Gringotts', the family barrister's, the Ministry, and even the Royal Archives, listed me as living at Seacliff, which is where he's been sending all of my bank statements and other communication. And then somehow, on my eleventh birthday, the family barrister presented him with a letter, signed by me - that I never signed by the way - telling him not to bother me at Hogwarts and to continue sending all communication to Seacliff. It was co-signed by Dumbledore and the king."
"The king?" Lily asked. "You have got to be kidding me. Why in Merlin's name would he care where your bank statements were sent?"
Harry nodded. "Scarclaw and Athena thought it was strange too, but Scarclaw says he ran every verification test he could think of and all three signatures checked out as authentic, even though I know I never signed it. Ragnok rechecked them today and agreed that the signatures were genuine, which he made quite clear is the only reason he hadn't relieved Scarclaw of his head."
"Who's Athena?" James asked, not recognizing the name. He also wanted to know just how Harry had made the acquaintance of the Director of Gringotts' Bank, who also served as the head of all the goblin clans, but one thing at a time.
"Athena Gracey," Harry answered. "She dropped by the Dursleys' this morning with a Eudora Douglas and Cedric Diggory. She's going to train Cedric and me in the ways of a mage. There's four trainers in all and four students."
"Harry, are you sure she's on the up and up?" Lily asked.
"Well, she was highly critical of Aunt Petunia's treatment of both me and cousin Dudley," Harry explained. "She also didn't have many kind words about Dumbledore who left me on the Dursleys' doorstop as a baby with a note asking them to take good care of me. He never once checked to make sure they were and then even after he knew they hadn't, he continued to insist I had to return to them every summer."
Remaining silent for a moment, Harry then added, "She also told me that she's a professor at Hogwarts, as were the other three trainers. They're wearing Glamour Charms to hide their true appearance and are using aliases. There's a magical copy of me living with the Dursleys now and a magical copy of Cedric living with the Diggorys. The trainers will also have copies living at Hogwarts once the school year starts."
"I'd very much like to meet this Athena nonetheless," James said.
"She's outside the vault with Scarclaw," Harry said, "but he said they couldn't come in."
James smiled. "That's only partially true. They can come in if the current Lord Potter invites them in. I assume Scarclaw has already had you sign the paperwork to claim your birthright?"
"Yeah, he has," Harry confirmed.
"Then look on the fireplace mantle," James said. "See the box sitting there?" Harry hadn't noticed it before, as he'd been too consumed with the portrait of his parents, but now that he turned his gaze to the mantle, he did notice a small box. "It contains the ring worn by the head of the Potter family. To finish claiming your birthright, all you have to do is place that ring on the ring finger of your right hand. You will then officially be the head of the family and can invite others into the vault."
Nodding, Harry stood up and walked over to the fireplace, before reaching out and taking the small box sitting there. It was no bigger than a normal ring box, except it was made of rosewood and had the Potter family crest engraved on the lid. Lifting the lid, Harry found a large golden ring with the family crest in the center, surrounded by alternating diamonds and rubies. After simply looking at it for a few moments, Harry gingerly removed the ring from the box. Placing the empty box back where it had been on the mantle, Harry slid the golden ring onto his right ring finger, feeling it resizing to fit his finger as he did so.
"Now all you have to do, son," Lily said, "is walk over to the vault door. It should open at which point you can invite Scarclaw and this Athena person in."
"Okay," Harry said, as he walked over to the door. When the vault door opened, he looked at the goblin and the witch and said, "Athena, Scarclaw, please come in."
"We can't..." Scarclaw began to say, but Harry shook his head. "My parents assure me that you can, Scarclaw - you just need to be invited in by the current Lord Potter, which would be me," as he displayed the ring on his finger.
"Your parents?" Athena asked.
"There's a portrait of them in here," Harry explained, as the witch and goblin crossed the threshold into the vault. "They wanted to meet you, Athena. I think they're worried about me going with you."
Athena nodded and said, "I can understand that," as she approached the portrait. "James, Lily, it's good to see you again."
"Harry mentioned you said you were a Hogwarts professor," James said.
"Yes, I am," Athena said. "I told Harry that I would refrain from telling him who I am, however. There's a few subtle clues, but I think it would be best if he and the other students we chose figure it out for themselves. If it will make you feel better, though, I'm willing to swear a magical oath. I did so with Lord and Lady Diggory, even if I did Obliviate them after I left with Cedric, as Amos had been leery about letting me leave with his son and heir."
"His heir?" Lily asked. "Cedric is the second-born son, did something happen to Noah Diggory?"
Athena sighed. "Lord Diggory disowned him, at which point Cedric became his heir."
Unlike in the Muggle world, where letters patent for nobility titles said that the title would always pass to the eldest living son, the letters in the Wizarding world allowed for an heir to be disowned at the complete discretion of the head of the family. Disowning their heir, would strip the son of their rank, title, surname, and any and all inheritance rights of any kind. Before he was disowned, his full name had been Noah Andrew Diggory. After the disownment, however, he was forbidden to use the Diggory name and adopted the surname Kirke, after a character in a Muggle fantasy novel that he'd read shortly before he was disowned.
"Whatever for?" James asked.
"From what I've heard, sir," Scarclaw said, "He went to his father and told him that he was in love with another male. Lord Diggory did not react well. Made him choose between his family and his lover. Obviously since he was disowned, he chose his lover."
"While I am sickened by the fact that Harry was raised by the Dursleys," Lily said, "now I'm not so sure that I would have preferred he be raised by Amos and Amelia. I could never disown my own child over something like that."
Shaking his head in agreement, James said, "Neither could I. Anyway, Ms. Gracey, I think Lily and I will take you up on your offer of an oath, if you're willing to give it. I think it would set both our minds at ease."
Athena nodded, before pulling out her wand and intoning, "I, Athena Gracey, do solemnly swear upon my magic that I don't mean any harm to your son, Harrison Potter. I further swear to train him in the ways of a mage and do my very best to keep him safe, healthy, and happy while he remains with me. So mote it be."
Following her oath, Athena cast the Lumos Charm to prove that she still had full control of her magic. James and Lily nodded and smiled. Turning to Harry, Athena said, "Anyway, your grace, we should be going, as we need to get your shopping done and the others are surely wondering what's taking so long."
"Your grace?" Harry asked.
"You're a Duke now, son," James said with a grin. "Commoners and lesser peers are required by law to call you Your Grace in deference of that position. Unless, that is, you decide to give them permission to call you by your name."
"You can call me Harry, Athena," Harry said almost immediately. "I think, if you're going to be my teacher, it would be rather awkward if you had to call me your grace all the time. So, please, just treat me like any other student."
"I can do that," Athena said. "At least in private, in public I will have to show you deference based on your new position. The law is the law and only the king can change it."
"And this particular law, he can't change," James said. "The requirement to show deference to the head of the noble families is included in the letters patent for each of the families and King Arthur made every provision in those letters permanent. The letters were imbued with magic by Merlin himself to ensure that none of the provisions in the letters could be altered in any way without the agreement of both the reigning monarch and all thirteen of the heads of the noble families. Any changes made to one family's letter would in turn be reflected on all, so it should come as no surprise that getting all thirteen of the family heads to agree on any changes has never happened and thus the letters are the same now as they were when King Arthur wrote them over a thousand years ago."
"Okay," Harry said. He wasn't exactly sure what to say, as he was still trying to wrap his head around recent developments. First the training and getting away from the Dursleys, then finding out he was a noble and becoming head of the family, not to mention finding a portrait of his parents, allowing him to actually speak to them. "Mum, Dad, do I have to keep your portrait here?"
"No, Harry, my boy, you don't," Lily said. "You can take this frame anywhere you like."
"Can I take it to where you'll be training me, Athena?" Harry asked.
"Of course, Harry," Athena said. "You'll be training at my home and I have no problems with you bringing your parent's portrait there. You can hang it above the fireplace in the common room you'll be sharing with the other students. Alternatively, you can hang it in your bedroom if you prefer, but I thought perhaps you might not like your parents watching everything that you do in your bedroom."
"Common room?" Harry asked. He knew that's probably where he'd hang it, because Athena was right in her assumption that he wouldn't want his parents to watch everything that he did in his bedroom. He barely knew them, after all, so them watching him change clothes or doing other things that teenage boys often do, was more than a little embarrassing.
"Yes," Athena answered. "You'll be sleeping on the second floor of my home. There's a large common room there, in addition to three bedrooms and three bathrooms. As the head of a noble house, you'll have your own room, as will Terence since he's seventeen and legally an adult. Roger and Cedric will be sharing the other bedroom."
After a moment, Harry nodded and said, "Well, I suppose we should get going, as you said. I assume I should grab some gold while I'm here."
"That would be wise, yes," Athena said. "And as a lord, you'll need more gold then the others will, as you'll have a few more expenses than they do. Wizengamot robes, for example."
Harry rolled his eyes at that and mumbled, "Oh joy."
James laughed from his frame and said, "It's not as bad as it seems, Harry. Well, most of the time anyway."
"You can place your withdrawal in this, my lord," Scarclaw said, as he handed Harry a black dragonhide pouch, with the Potter family crest on it. "It's charmed to be weightless, no matter how many coins you put in it and the ledgers will be automatically updated to reflect the new balance."
Taking the pouch from the goblin, Harry walked over to the heaping pile of gold and asked, "Any suggestions as to how much I should take?"
"At least a thousand galleons, I should think," Athena said. "The prices in the Cairo Bazaar are a bit higher than on Diagon Alley or in Hogsmeade. Plus, among other things, you do need an entirely new wardrobe befitting your station as a lord, so, that will be expensive."
"Half that amount would probably be sufficient," Scarclaw said. "If you have wish to make any large purchases at actual stores, just ask for a Writ of Withdrawal. Stall vendors won't have them, but all of the indoor stores should. The shopkeeper will put your order total on the writ and then you simply initial it and press your signet ring into the sealing wax and they can then submit it to Gringotts', which will see to it that the money is taken from your vault and placed in the shopkeeper's vault. There is usually a 10% fee for that service, but Gringotts' waives it for the heads of noble families."
"Alright then," Harry said, as he began filling the pouch with galleons, making sure to take some sickles and knuts just in case he needed the smaller coins for something. Once he'd finished, he turned and said, "Well, I'm ready to go then. Scarclaw, please see to it that my parent's portrait is delivered to Athena's home."
Scarclaw bowed and said, "Of course, my lord."
At this point, Athena leaned down and whispered something in Harry's ear, at which point he nodded and said, "May your vaults overflow with gold, Scarclaw."
With a wide, toothy grin, Scarclaw nodded and said, "May your enemies fear your name, Lord Potter."
To be continued.