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The Journey Begins

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Unexpected Love: The Journey Begins
Written by J.C. Vascardi

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Chapter One

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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.

-o-0-o-

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.

-o-0-o-

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."

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

Unexpected Love: The Journey Begins
Written by J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Two

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After leaving the vault, Scarclaw led Athena and Harry through the twisted maze of rear corridors and back to the room which would take them back to the Cairo branch. Arriving back in Egypt, Athena led Harry outside and noting the numerous people in the square, she said, "Your grace, I think it would be best to head for the clothing store first. Your order will most likely take some time to finish, but if we do that first, then we can likely pick up a few items before we leave today."

'This whole 'your grace' thing is definitely going to take some getting used to,' Harry thought, as he nodded to Athena and motioned for her to lead on. He had no clue where the clothing store was, so he rather hoped that she did.

Leading Harry across the crowded square, Athena made her way towards the section of the bazaar where she knew clothing was sold. There were probably a dozen attire stores, though the majority of them only sold clothes suitable to the Egyptian climate. She did, however, know of one tailor who catered to a more diverse clientele and would have no problems supplying Harry with clothes that were not only appropriate for his position as a lord, but also suitable to the climate of the Scottish highlands, which is where Athena lived and where the training would be taking place.

Walking into the store with Harry, she was somewhat surprised to see that the other trainers and students were still clothes shopping.

"Ah, Athena," Emma said. "We were wondering what was keeping you."

"We had business on Diagon Alley," Athena said, as she held up her hand to forestall any questions. "We never left the bank and didn't go into any public areas, so nobody but the goblins saw us."

"What kind of business?" Terence asked.

"Family business," Harry said, as he stepped out from behind Athena and raised his right hand, allowing the others to see the golden ring now adorning his finger.

Seeing the Potter family ring on Harry's finger, Terence immediately dropped to his knees in front of Harry and kissed the ring, as he said, "I, Terence William Higgs, pledge my unwavering loyalty to you and swear to serve you and your family faithfully all the days of my life. On my magic, so mote it be."

"What the heck?" Harry asked, obviously confused. "Stand up."

Shaking his head, Cedric said, "He can't until you accept or reject his oath, and I would not suggest rejecting it because if you do, he'll be disowned by his parents and never allowed to go back home."

Harry looked at Cedric for a moment, completely unable to comprehend what this was about, before he noticed that Terence's hand, which was still holding the hand the Potter ring was on had started shaking like a leaf, as if he was afraid. Remembering the specific way he'd had to sign his name on the official documents back at Gringotts', Harry asked, "Is there something specific I'm supposed to say here?"

"You need to say 'I accept or reject your oath of loyalty, so mote it be,'" Eudora said. "Obviously you don't say both accept and reject - just whichever one it is."

"And you have to say your full title, with all subsidiary titles, after I," Athena added. "And his full name after loyalty."

Nodding, Harry said, "I, Harrison James Potter, Duke of Granston, Marquis of Brynmoor, Earl of Mathry, Lord of Seacliff Castle and Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter, accept your oath of loyalty, Terence William Higgs, so mote it be." As soon as the words left his mouth, Harry could feel a surge of magic, at which point Terence's hand stopped shaking and he kissed the Potter ring again before standing up, prompting Harry to ask, "Now, would you care to explain what that was about?"

"I was born in Highever, your grace," Terence answered and remembering Cedric mentioning that Harry knew nothing of the customs and laws that governed the nobility, having grown up in the Muggle world, he added, "Highever is the largest city in the Duchy of Granston. It was originally called Seacliff Village, since it's close to Seacliff Castle, but it's become one of Albion's largest port cities and was renamed Highever when it became too big to still be called a village."

"So you had to kneel and kiss my ring?" Harry asked. "Please tell me that everyone born on my lands doesn't have to do that." He wasn't exactly sure how many people lived on his lands, but seeing as how he had a Duchy, a Marquisate, and an Earldom to his name, he imagined there were quite a few and he really did not relish the thought of all of them having to kneel and kiss his ring.

"Not everyone no," Cedric said. "Just the members of families who have sworn oaths of loyalty to your family. Not everyone born on a particular lord's lands does that. Usually it's just the members of the families who have jobs working directly for the lord or his family in a capacity that could result in them learning family secrets. The oath of loyalty, among other things, prevents them from ever revealing any of those secrets that they may have learned in the course of doing their jobs."

"My father and step-mother both work at Seacliff," Terence explained. "My father is the Potter family's seneschal and my step-mother is in charge of the greenhouses. As such, my family has sworn an oath of loyalty to yours. If you had rejected my oath, I wouldn't be allowed to go back home because if an oath is offered and rejected, the person who offered it can never set foot on any land belonging to the lord who rejected it ever again, unless the lord chooses to reverse their rejection of the oath."

"They don't have to do it every time they see you," Athena added. "The reason Mr. Higgs did it is because you're the new lord and he had to renew his oath to your family. Now that that is done, he can just bow. Although his parents will have to kneel and kiss your ring the first time they see you."

Nodding his understanding, Harry didn't say anything else, because at that moment, a middle-aged man came out of the back room and said, "More customers I see. I am Tarik, welcome to my store. Will the young gentleman be requiring an entirely new wardrobe like the others?"

"Yes, I will," Harry said. "I'll also need robes for the Wizengamot of Albion, if that's something you can provide."

On their way up from the Potter vault and through the twisting rear corridors of the bank, Athena had talked with Harry about what he'd need, not only in terms of clothing, but other supplies.

Cocking his head to one side, Tarik looked closer at the newest young man to enter his shop and noticed the golden lord's ring on his finger, prompting him to bow deeply, as he said, "Of course, my lord. You honor me with your presence in my shop."

To say that Tarik had been surprised when the heir to one of Albion's noble houses showed up in his store would have been an understatement since visiting nobility usually shopped at Hassan Khalid's store, since he held the imperial warrant as clothier to the Pharaoh. So to then have the actual lord of another of Albion's noble houses show up to shop on the same day? Tarik was definitely feeling more than a little shocked. He hid it well though, as he motioned towards an empty platform next to the one Cedric was currently standing on and said, "If you'll just step up here, my lord, I will get started on your measurements."

Half-an-hour later, the group was leaving Tarik's shop. He'd promised to have four outfits for each of the boys finished by the end of the day, with sixteen more apiece ready for pickup by the end of week. He also assured Harry that he'd have his Wizengamot robes finished by the time the body next met. The group then went to two or three different apothecaries to buy various potions ingredients, some of which were quite rare and expensive in Albion, but very plentiful and therefore cheap in Egypt.

Finally, they found themselves heading towards a wand shop. Athena had led the group past two or three different wand shops before finally directing them to enter a small shop at the end of a side alley. All four boys wondered why Athena and the others had chosen this particular store, as it was clear from their signs the two or three stores they'd passed had all been in business for centuries, whereas the sign of the store they were entering gave no indication as to how long it had been in business. It simply read, "Coulderton's Fine Wands."

Entering the shop, Harry's first thought was that it looked nothing like Ollivander's on Diagon Alley, which had a rather shabby and unkempt look about it. There were no floor to ceiling shelves full of wand boxes either. In fact, the room they'd entered didn't really look like a store at all. It looked like the parlor of an English country house. The only thing that didn't make them all think that they'd gone in the wrong door was that there were a few glass-covered display cases scattered about the room, in which a variety of wands could be seen.

When they'd entered the shop a bell had rung and turning around and looking, Harry saw that there was a bell attached to the door that would ring whenever it was opened to alert the store's staff that there were customers. They didn't have to wait long, before a handsome blond man who looked to be in his early to mid twenties walked out of the back room of the shop. He was dressed in a pair of black trousers, black dragon hide boots, and a white silk shirt. He also wore a black dragonhide apron and was removing a pair of dragonhide gloves from his hands as he came out.

"Ah, customers," the man said as he proceeded to look them over. When his eyes landed on Cedric, he did a double take and asked, "Cedric, is that you?"

"Nick?" Cedric asked, clearly surprised. "What are you doing in Cairo?"

"I could ask you the same thing," Nick responded with an easy grin.

"I believe I asked you first," Cedric said, returning the grin, as Terence, Roger, and Harry stood back somewhat dumbfounded. It was obvious that Cedric and Nick knew one another, though they didn't know how. The trainers, on the other hand, all being staff members at Hogwarts, didn't seem all that surprised that they knew one another.

"Yes, you did and fair is fair," Nick said. "I live here now, in a flat above the shop, which I own."

Cedric slapped his forehead, as he suddenly had a light bulb moment and said, "Of course. How did I miss that? Coulderton's Fine Wands - you're Marquis of Coulderton."

Nick grinned and nodded, as he said, "Yes, that I am." Looking at the others, he bowed and said, "Please, allow me to introduce myself. Gareth Nicholas Ollivander, Marquis of Coulderton and Heir Apparent of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Ollivander. Welcome to my shop."

"Well, we already know each other," Cedric commented with a smile, which was true. As his father's heir, Cedric was forced to go to several high-society parties and functions with his parents. As the Ollivander heir, Nick attended all of them as well. And since Nick had also been a Hufflepuff, even if he had finished Hogwarts before Cedric started, it only made sense that they'd talk with one another to help pass the time at the mind-numbingly boring parties. "These are my friends, Terence Higgs and Roger Davies. And this is Athena Gracey, Eudora Douglas, Rose Ramsley, Emma Baldwin, and last, but most certainly not least, Lord Harrison Potter, Duke of Granston."

Nodding at each in turn and bowing to Harry, much to his embarrassment - this whole noble thing was going to take a lot of getting used to - Nick asked, "Well, Cedric, what brings you and your esteemed companions to my shop? I assume you're here to buy wands, yes?"

"Yeah, that's the plan," Roger said. "It's just the four of us that need wands, I believe," as he cast a questioning gaze at the four trainers.

"Correct, Mr. Davies," Athena said, as she motioned towards the other trainers. "The four of us already have wands," and deciding to clue Nick in a bit as to why they were with the four boys, she silently and wandlessly cast a powerful mage-level Silencing Charm on the room, before adding, "and staffs."

"Staffs?" Harry asked, confused. He wasn't the only one, as Terence and Cedric looked equally confused, though Roger looked like he understood. But, then being a Ravenclaw, it stood to reason that he'd probably be much better read then any of them.

Nick had no such confusion, however, as he instantly nodded and said, "Ah, so that's why these four are with you fine ladies, I'd wondered. You're training them as mages then?"

"Yes, that is correct," Athena said. "We've taken these four into our care to train them as mages and left temporary replacements in their place, as is normal for mage training. The vast majority of people won't even know they were gone until after their training is complete. The training is under the Fidelius, by the way - I'm the Secret Keeper, as you probably guessed since I'm telling you."

"Of course," Nick said. Turning to Harry, he added, "Mages still use wands for normal wizard spells, but much of the more advanced magic that mages learn is too powerful to be cast with a wand, because the wand is too small to handle the level of power that goes into many mage-level spells. So, they tend to use a staff, which is usually between three and five feet tall, depending on the stature of the mage. Their staffs generally are not taller than they are for example. A very interesting item mage staffs, though, as many mages choose to have a blade on one end, so if they're forced into close range combat, they can actually use one end of it as a sword."

Deciding to show the four students exactly what Nick was talking about, Eudora mumbled a few words under her breath and caused her staff to appear. Centuries ago, mages had usually worn their staffs strapped to their backs, but since the advent of the Statute of Secrecy, they'd learned how to make their staffs invisible, essentially placing them inside a portable pocket dimension that traveled around with them and allowed them to call for their staff whenever they needed it. Eudora's staff was a four foot shaft of dark wood with a large green crystal on one end and a silver blade on the other. There was also what looked like vines twisting around the length of the staff.

"This is a mage staff," Eudora said as she showed it to the four boys. "Each individual staff can look radically different, as the mage chooses what their staff will look like, but most share a few similarities. There's usually some type of crystal or gem on the transmitting end, the size and color varies, and as Nick said, many mages choose to have a blade affixed to the bottom end of the staff. Thus if we're in combat and someone gets too close to us, we can swing the staff up like a sword."

"Or simply stab them in the foot," Emma commented. "Either way works."

Harry, Terence, Roger, Cedric, and Nick all shuddered at that thought, as the blade on Eudora's staff could probably cleanly sever a foot in a single hit if she decided to stab someone with it.

"I read once that mage staffs have a special ranged attack," Roger said, "that doesn't drain the mages' core and isn't actually considered to be a spell. Is that true?"

Nodding, Rose said, "Yes, Mr. Davies, that's true. All wizards usually have one particular element that their magic resonates well with. Some have more than one, but there's usually one that stands out as the most powerful. This element is imbued into a mage staff in such a way that we can fire projectiles of that element at opponents from a distance at will. The power for this effect comes from the staff itself, not the mage, so it isn't a spell and it doesn't drain the mage's core. Thus even an exhausted mage, who would have trouble drawing the power from their cores to cast spells, is never left unable to defend themselves."

Banishing her staff back to its pocket dimension, Eudora said, "Now, let's move on. The boys need wands, Mr. Ollivander."

"Please call me Nick," Nick said with a smile, explaining that while his first name was Gareth because it was a centuries old Ollivander family tradition to give males a first name starting with 'G', he almost never used his first name, preferring to be called the shortened version of his middle name.

Motioning everyone towards a seat in the parlor, Nick summoned a house elf, who was back momentarily with tea and snacks. At the curious looks he was getting, Nick explained, "I don't usually offer tea and snacks to customers, but it also isn't every day that I have two nobles from back home in my shop either. The store is called Coulderton's Fine Wands because grandfather forbade me to use the Ollivander name for my store, but I make no secret as to what my surname actually is. Despite my family's fame in the wand business, however, I don't hold a warrant from the Pharaoh, so, the nobility doesn't usually shop here. "

"Why did your grandfather forbid you to use the Ollivander name?" Cedric asked.

"Well, if you know anything of the history of Ollivander's," Nick said, "then you'll know that my grandfather revolutionized the way the store sold wands when he took over. When Great-Grandfather Gervaise Ollivander was in charge, many witches and wizards did not buy the components of their wands from Ollivander's. They'd bring in a core element and in many cases even the wood, that they wanted their wand made from and the store's only job was to then craft the wand, charging a much lower price since we hadn't supplied the raw materials. There were several times, however, that great-grandfather was not particularly satisfied with the matches of wand to wizard for wands made this way because many had chosen the core of a creature they admired for one reason or another and the wood was chosen simply because they liked how it looked or had heard that it was a powerful wand wood. He also had no control over the quality of the raw materials."

"Doesn't really sound like a good way to get a wand," Terence commented.

"That's because it isn't," Nick said. "So, when grandfather took over, he changed the way the store operated in that he began making all wands in advance and stopped accepting outside materials. If you wanted an Ollivander wand, you would buy one that grandfather crafted before you ever set foot in his store. This allowed him to control the quality of the raw materials and for the most part his system works well, but there are flaws which I've tried to point out but he isn't particularly receptive. He's been in the business a lot longer than I have and thus he thinks that I couldn't possibly improve on his methods, especially since I'm an advocate of carrying a wider selection of wand cores then what his store currently carries. And that is why he forbade me to use the Ollivander name, basically telling me that I couldn't use the name for my shop unless I agreed to do everything his way."

"I had always wondered about Ollivander's carrying such a small number of cores," Roger said. "My mother is Spanish, so we've vacationed in Spain often and I know that several of the wandmakers there carry a much wider array of cores."

Nodding, Nick said, "Well, if you asked my grandfather, he'd say that the three cores he uses are the supreme cores. He believes that they're the only three cores that are reliable enough to carry the illustrious name of Ollivander. He considers all other cores to be either substandard or too temperamental to work with."

"You don't share his beliefs, however," Athena said. It was clear from the way she said it that she wasn't asking, but stating it as a fact.

"No I don't," Nick agreed. "He came to his conclusions through extensive research, but I've also done extensive research, after thoroughly reviewing all of his notes in addition to the notes of several generations of my family and other renowned wandmakers. I've come to the conclusion that while the three cores that grandfather uses are indeed above the rest in terms of their reliability and power, I've also discovered that other cores can, with the right help, be just as good or better. I think grandfather is afraid, however, that if he takes my research seriously he may find flaws in his own research that would leave him feeling like he'd failed somehow or missed something obvious. He's a very proud Ravenclaw, so the thought of his Hufflepuff grandson poking holes in his research does not sit well with him."

Pausing for a moment to take a sip of his tea, Nick continued, "One of the biggest problems with the three cores that grandfather uses is that they only cover two of the elements, Fire and Earth. Phoenix Tail Feathers and Dragon Heartstrings of course resonate well with the element of Fire and the Unicorn Tail Hair resonates strongly with the element of Earth. Despite the fact that they're flying creatures, dragons and phoenixes do not resonate with Air because their connection to Fire is too strong and of course Water would be an opposing element that they don't resonate with at all. Unicorns don't resonate with Air or Water either, so witches and wizards whose magic resonates the strongest with Air or Water are often among the hardest for grandfather to match with one of his wands."

"My magic resonates the strongest with Air," Emma said. "And I can attest to the fact that when I went to Ollivander's to replace my wand after your grandfather took over, he had a very hard time matching me with a new one. I tried about thirty of them and honestly I was never all that pleased with the one that I ended up buying, so I either cast all my magic wandless or with my staff until I had time to visit the wandmaker in France who made my staff."

"Same here, actually," Rose said. "My magic resonates strongest with Water and when I went shopping for a wand, Lord Ollivander had quite the trouble finding a match for me. My magic outright refused all phoenix and dragon cores, so I ended up getting a unicorn wand that did work, but once I became a mage and had a staff made by a master in Greece, I had a new wand made at the same time and it worked infinitely better for me than my Ollivander wand."

Noticing the look on Nick' face, Cedric asked, "Is something wrong, Nick?"

"It's just that I don't remember an Emma Baldwin or Rose Ramsley ever buying an Ollivander wand," Nick said.

"Well, you're what? 25?" Emma asked. "Rose and I both bought our wands long before you were born, young man."

Nodding, Nick said, "I'm 24, I'll be 25 in November, and yes, I'd guessed that you'd bought your wands before I was born, but my family keeps very detailed records of every wand we've ever sold. Grandfather likes to say that he remembers every wand he's ever sold but if a long period of time has passed since it was sold, he usually has to touch the wand in question to remember all the details about it. I don't need to touch the wand, however, as I've memorized the records of every wand Ollivander's has sold since January of 1869."

Roger knew it was impolite to look at the heir to one of the Thirteen Houses as if they were nuts, but he couldn't help it, as he said, "Ollivander's must have sold thousands of wands since 1869. You couldn't possibly remember all of them."

"Actually, I do," Nick said. "Let's see here, Roger Davies - 10 3/4 inches long, made of hawthorn, sturdy, with a unicorn tail hair. You tried seventeen different wands before grandfather matched you with this one. It had worked better than the others, but grandfather wasn't completely happy with the match and wanted to try a few more, but your father had grown impatient as he was due in court and thus insisted that it would have to do."

Before Roger could respond, Nick looked at Terence and said, "Terence Higgs - 12 1/2 inches, ash, unicorn tail hair, rather inflexible. It was the twenty-sixth wand you tried and like Roger's father, your father had other business to attend to - in his case, an appointment with the late Lord Potter - and cut the testing short. Grandfather wasn't all that pleased with the match, but there was little he could do since the Ollivanders and the Potters are allies and he didn't wish to interfere with Potter family business."

Noticing the looks on their faces, Nick added, "Between January 1869 and March 1993 when I left, Ollivander's had sold 87,239 wands to 84,143 people. 42,587 of those people were wizards, with the other 41,556 being witches. Great-Grandfather Gervaise sold 39,231 of those wands, while grandfather sold the other 48,008 since he took over the store in 1938. Of the wands grandfather sold, 23,110 of them had a unicorn tail core, 15,256 were dragon heartstring, and the other 9,642 of them were phoenix feather. I won't bore you with the exact breakdowns of the woods, since grandfather has close to forty different woods in stock and it would take too long, however, I will say that of the 48,008 wands grandfather has sold, he was only completely pleased with the wand to wizard match for 22,539 of them. The rest he was less than pleased with, but either the customers or their parents were sick of waiting."

Everyone in the room, with the exception of Cedric who knew Nick, was looking at him with varying degrees of shock, especially after Roger and Terence had confirmed that Nick had gotten the details of their wands correct down to the last detail, including the reasons their fathers had cut the testing that Nick had not been present for short. Finally Harry voiced the question that was on most of their minds, "How can you possibly remember all of that?"

Nick smiled as he sipped his tea. After a moment he said, "I'm sure you all caught what I said earlier about grandfather, how he claims to remember every wand he's ever sold, but if it's been awhile, he usually has to touch the wand in order to remember all of the details?"

"I had thought that sounded a little odd, yes," Roger said, as a few of the others nodded.

"Well, grandfather would have you believe that it's the sign of a master wandmaker," Nick said. "However, I'll let you in on a little family secret. All of the ancient noble lines have spells that members of their line have created for family only use and the Ollivanders are no different. One of my ancestors, Geraint Ollivander, who was a member of the original Hogwarts Board of Governors back when the school first opened, created an Instant Recall Charm which has remained one of the private Ollivander family spells ever since. The spell was cast on every wand that the store has ever sold and is attuned to Ollivander blood. It allows any member of my line to instantly recall every detail about the wand - wood, core, length, who it was sold to, plus any other details about it - just by touching it."

"What does this have to do with your memory?" Terence asked.

"Everything," Nick said. "You see, that spell has been being used for close to a thousand years now. Geraint didn't know it when he created the spell, but by attuning it to Ollivander blood, he made it possible from trace amounts of the magic to leak into the family's blood. Continued use of the spell over the generations has caused improved memory in every member of my family, although until I was born, it had never manifested to such an extreme degree. Basically, I can remember everything that I've ever seen, heard, read, touched, or smelled with perfect clarity. Even things that happened when I was only a few hours old. Like the complications from my birth that killed my mother. I was in the room when the healer pronounced her dead, so I remember it, even though by any normal standard, I was way too young to remember anything."

'Well, that certainly explains quite a bit,' Athena thought to herself. 'He was always such a good student at Hogwarts - 14 Outstanding OWLs and NEWTs. He always did so well in my class - too well. If it wasn't for the Anti-Cheating Charms I would have been sure he was copying his answers directly from the textbook.'

Deciding to speak up, Cedric said, "So, yeah, Nick basically has a freaky memory. He can remove memories, which he does every night, but he can't ever really forget anything. Even if he's removed a memory, it's possible he'll recall it if something reminds him of it."

"It's both a blessing and a curse," Nick said. "It definitely made school easy. I didn't have to take notes in class because I could remember every word the teachers said verbatim. Even now, years after leaving Hogwarts, I could still recite their lectures word for word, even Binns' lectures. Talk about something I really wish I didn't remember."

All of them laughed at that, even the trainers, who secretly shared the opinion that Professor Binns needed to go. Nodding Emma said, "I don't know why Dumbledore keeps him around, honestly. I was in his class before he died and from what I've heard, being dead hasn't improved his teaching abilities."

Cedric shook his head. "I heard my father talking to one of the other governors about it once. The only reason they haven't stepped in is because Professor Binns never had any children and his entire family is dead. So, since a ghost has no need for money, they don't have to pay him, thus allowing the school to operate with a lower overhead. If they hire a living teacher, however, they couldn't get away with that anymore. Although at the rate that most people are having to hire private tutors just to pass the class, I imagine they won't be able to use that excuse much longer."

Finishing his tea and setting the cup aside, Nick said, "Well, now, I suppose it's time to get down to business and get wands for you four. A few things, before we get started. Unlike my grandfather, I do not sell premade wands. I like to match customers with their ideal core and wood separately and then craft the wand while they wait. This method, along with my greater selection of cores covering all the elements, has allowed me great success in matching the right wand to the right wizard on a much more consistent basis than grandfather."

Standing up, Nick said, "Now, I think I should probably serve Lord Potter first." Motioning towards a nearby table with a chair, Nick added, "Please have a seat, your grace, and we'll get started matching you with your wand core."

"Call me Harry, please," Harry said as he stood up and moved over to have a seat at the table that Nick had indicated.

"As you wish, Harry," Nick responded, as he walked over to a large cabinet along the far wall and opened it, revealing a number of what almost resembled Muggle suitcases, only these were made of wood. Grabbing one of the cases, Nick walked over and placed it on the table in front of Harry. "Now, Harry, I'm going to stand behind you and I must ask that you tightly close your eyes. To make doubly sure that you cannot see, I will be holding my hand over your eyes. I do this because it's best that you do not see all of the various cores, because if you do, you might be tempted to pick one based on their looks alone and that is not a good way to choose the core of your wand."

"How should I choose it then?" Harry asked, as he removed his glasses so that they wouldn't get damaged when Nick put his hand over his eyes.

"You'll simply hold your hand over the case, once I've opened it," Nick explained. "You will then move your hand slowly over the various cores. Your magic will react as you do this. For some cores, you'll feel nothing, while for others you'll feel repelled by them. You'll want to tell me which ones you're the most drawn to."

"Okay," Harry said as he shut his eyes tight and Nick sealed his hand over the young lord's face, before he opened the case and guided Harry's wand hand so that it was above the case. That was another advantage to his memory in that anytime Nick served a customer who'd previously bought an Ollivander wand, he could remember which hand was their wand hand and thus didn't have to ask. He also skipped the measurements because that part wasn't actually necessary. The only reason that his grandfather did it was to distract the customer while he took the time to consider which of his numerous premade wands he'd have them try first. Nick was fairly certain that at least a few customers must have realized that all the measurements weren't actually necessary, especially when the enchanted tape measure began taking such measurements as the customer's waist and inseam. They were shopping for a wand, after all, not trousers.

Silently, Harry moved his hand over the various cores in the case. Just as Nick had said, Harry felt nothing from some of them, while he felt drawn to a few and repelled by others. Letting Nick know which ones he felt drawn to so he could make note of them, Harry continued to move his hand over the case until he'd explored every core in the case. Once he was done, Nick used his free hand to turn the case away from Harry, before removing his hand from the young lord's eyes. "Keep your eyes closed, please. I'm now going to remove the cores that you felt the most drawn to from the case and place them on the table in a random order in front of you. You'll then move your hand over just those cores again. Without the interference from the other cores, we should be able to narrow it down."

Placing the cores that Harry indicated on the table - a heartstring from all ten breeds of dragon, plus a chimaera scale and a phoenix tail feather - Nick once again placed his hand over Harry's eyes and had him run down the line of cores telling him that he'd probably still feel drawn to all of them, but he needed to indicate to which ones that draw was the strongest. In the end, it had been narrowed down to only two cores, which were arguably two of the strongest cores that Nick had in stock. Placing the other cores back in the case, Nick closed the case and set the two cores aside, before he asked, "Okay, now for the wood. What is your birthday, Harry?"

"July 31st, why?" Harry asked.

"Happy belated birthday," Nick said, since the raven-haired teen's birthday was yesterday. "As for why, every wood is associated with a zodiac sign and I've found that the woods associated with each sign work best for those people born under the same sign." As Harry nodded, Nick pulled his own wand from the holster strapped to his thigh and pointed it at the shelves as he incanted, "Accio Leo Woods," at which point a case left the shelf and floated over to Nick. Making sure Harry's eyes were still closed, Nick once again placed his hand firmly over the young lord's eyes before opening the case and the same process as with the cores was repeated with Harry moving his hand over the various woods in the case.

Of the eight different woods in the box, Harry indicated that he felt drawn to all of them, however, there were four in particular that had a stronger pull than the others, so once again Nick removed them from the box and asked Harry to move his hand over just those four to see if they could be narrowed down any further. Two woods were soon eliminated, with Harry indicating that the draw from the other two felt the same to him.

"Interesting results," Nick commented as he put the eliminated woods back in the case and closed it. "You can open your eyes now, Harry."

Once Harry had opened his eyes and put his glasses back on Nick said, "Well, now we've managed to narrow things down to two cores and two woods. As such, I would recommend that you purchase two wands. In the past, some of my customers have accused me of trying to sell more when I said that. One even thought my saying that was tantamount to me admitting to crafting an inferior product, because he couldn't understand why any wizard would ever need more than one wand. However, in my experience, it's always a good idea to have a spare that you can fall back on should your lose it or something happens to your primary wand that renders it unusable."

Nodding, Harry said, "I can understand that. In second year, my friend Ron broke his wand on the first day of school. His parents couldn't afford to buy him a new one, so he tried to make it through the school year by Spello-taping it. Obviously that didn't work so well, as most of his spells either didn't work quite right or completely backfired."

"Somebody on staff should have told the headmaster," Nick said. "Hogwarts has an emergency fund for just that type of reason. A student walking around school with a broken wand is a danger not only to himself but others, so, the headmaster really should have been informed so that the school could buy Ron a new wand. His parents would have had to pay back the cost, but, that would likely have been done on some kind of payment plan, so they wouldn't have had to pay it all back at once."

"Well, I don't know if anyone ever told Dumbledore," Harry said, "but I'm rather happy that Ron didn't get a new wand that year."

"Why?" Terence asked.

"Well, that was the year the Chamber of Secrets was opened," Harry answered. "Towards the end of the school year Ron's sister Ginny was taken down into the chamber. The other professors had decided to allow Lockhart to deal with the monster, since he had told Snape that he'd known all along where the entrance to the Chamber was and his skills in dealing with dark creatures are legendary. Ron and I overheard that conversation and since we'd just found information from Hermione that revealed the monster in the chamber was a basilisk, we went to go tell Lockhart so that he could properly prepare. We found him in his office packing all of his belongings, because he was going to flee the school and leave Ginny down in the chamber to rot. When we called him on it, he admitted he's a fraud. He simply interviews the witches and wizards who actually did all the things his books say he did and then Obliviates them so that they can't come forward with proof that he's a fraud."

"And he just admitted that to you?" Roger asked.

"Oh he had every intention of Obliviating us," Harry said, "but he made the mistake of momentarily turning his backs on us as he drew his wand, so when he turned around to charm us, we had our wands out and in his face, prompting him to drop his. Later, down in the corridor outside the chamber we found a shed skin from the basilisk and Lockhart pretended to faint, at which point he got Ron's wand away from him and planned again on Obliviating us, starting with me. Fortunately, the spell backfired and he ended up losing all of his memories, which is why he's now in the long-term care ward at St. Mungo's."

"So the rumors are true?" Cedric asked. "About you killing a basilisk down in the chamber?"

"Yeah, they're true," Harry confirmed. "Some of the versions I've heard on how I actually did it are beyond ridiculous though. Truth is, I would have died down there if it wasn't for Dumbledore's phoenix, who blinded the basilisk and brought me Godric Gryffindor's sword, which I used to stab the basilisk through the roof of its mouth, grazing my arm on one of its teeth and getting poisoned in the process. Thankfully, Fawkes was able to heal me with his tears."

"What about the heir of Slytherin?" Terence asked. "I heard lots of talk about you going down there and killing the basilisk, but I never heard much of anything on the heir. Some people still think it's you and that you had Hermione petrified to stop people from suspecting you."

Shaking his head, Harry said, "I am not the Heir of Slytherin, at least I don't think I am. It was a memory of Tom Riddle projected by an enchanted diary who actually opened the chamber. Tom Riddle, if you don't know, is Voldemort, back during his school days. As the memory itself demonstrated to me down in the chamber, if you take his full name, Tom Marvolo Riddle, and rearrange the letters it's an anagram for I am Lord Voldemort. I destroyed the memory of him by stabbing the diary with one of the basilisk's fangs. But that's the reason he took Ginny down to the chamber. He was essentially feeding off of her life force, becoming stronger and more corporeal as she got closer to death."

"Must you say his name?" Roger asked.

"Yes, I must," Harry said. "Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself. By fearing to say his name, you're only giving him more power, which in my opinion, is the last thing anybody should want to do."

"Too right, Harry," Nick said. "Now, for your wand, do you want a spare wand?"

"Might as well," Harry answered. "Seems like it'd be a good idea to have one and it's not like I can't afford it."

"True enough," Nick commented. "I know your family is very well off, otherwise I probably would have eliminated one of the cores you were most drawn to immediately simply because of an inability to pay for it." At Harry's questioning look, Nick added, "The two cores you narrowed your selections down to are the heartstring of a Hungarian Horntail and the scale of a chimaera. Now, a chimaera is probably the single most dangerous creature in the world, requiring no less than a hundred witches and wizards working together to bring it down. Thus, its' scales are extremely rare and as such very expensive. Most people couldn't afford a chimaera wand because just the core alone costs 500 galleons - that's 50 galleons for the scale and the rest is hazard pay for the witches and wizards hired to take down the beast. I stock the scales, but I've only ever made two wands with that core, one of which is my own."

"So, is there any benefit to having a chimaera scale core?" Roger asked.

"Oh there's a benefit, yes. A wand with a chimaera scale is basically an extremely strong all-purpose wand. While all cores will generally work for any spell you want to cast, with some exceptions, the chimaera scale excels in all areas with no limitations. It resonates with the elements of fire and earth, and will thus work best for witches and wizards whose magic resonates strongly with those elements, but unlike most other cores, it won't hesitate if you try to cast water or air magic with it. To use the other core Harry resonated with as an example, the Hungarian Horntail heartstring resonates with fire, but it'll tend to resist casting any water-based magic, because fire and water are in opposition of each other. If the wielder is strong enough, water-based spells will still work with the Horntail core, but they'll be weaker than they could be and the caster has to use more of their own power to coax the wand into casting the spell. But, because of the sheer power of the chimaera, it can bypass those limitations."

"So, the chimaera scale is the most powerful wand core?" Cedric asked.

"It's one of the two most powerful cores," Nick replied. "The other being the tail hair of a thestral, which resonates strongest with air and water magic. Those two cores are by far the strongest cores in existence, both making wands of immense power which have no limitations. The Hungarian Horntail core is probably the third most powerful core that I sell, but again it all depends on the wizard. Some witches and wizards simply do not possess enough innate power to be able to wield a chimaera or thestral wand effectively, while the horntail core will only work to its fullest potential for a fire resonator, so they're definitely not for everybody."

"And what about the woods?" Harry asked. "Which ones did I actually end up with?"

"Oak and Mahogany," Nick answered. "Oak is sometimes known as wizard wood and is quite possibly one of the strongest woods there is for wandcraft, producing wands which work quite well for protection and defense magic. It tends to seek a powerful companion who would act as a guardian or liberator. Mahogany on the other hand, according to my grandfather, excels with transfiguration. I've found, however, that in the right hands it will excel at whatever branch of magic the wielder chooses to use it for. It tends to work the best with those who have a strong or energetic personality."

"Hmm, my father had a mahogany wand I believe," Harry said.

"Indeed," Nick said. "A pliable 11 inch mahogany with the heartstring of a Common Welsh Green. Speaking of which, that's something else my grandfather doesn't mention to his customers. Every time he sells a dragon heartstring wand, the core is always from the Welsh Green. Some wandmakers would have you believe that there's no difference between the various breeds of dragon, but that's not true. Along with the Romanian Longhorn, the Welsh Green is a relatively weak breed of dragon. Still powerful, especially against a human, but the other breeds are stronger with the Horntail being the strongest and most deadly of the dragons. That strength extends to their heartstrings which is why I said earlier that the Horntail core is the third most powerful core I have available."

"Why doesn't he sell wands with cores from the other breeds?" Terence asked.

Nick smiled. "Simple economics. It should come as no surprise to you that in order to harvest dragon heartstrings, the dragon has to be dead. Well, not all dragon hearts contain the same number of heartstrings. The Longhorn and the Welsh Green contain the greatest number of them, however, which makes them the most common and therefore cheapest of the dragon cores. Conversely, the Horntail's heart contains the fewest number of heartstrings, making them rarer and more expensive to obtain. Anyway, Harry, I would suggest pairing the Horntail core with Oak, as both core and wood resonate with fire. The Chimaera scale I'd suggest pairing with Mahogany, since both core and wood resonate with fire and earth. I believe those pairings will provide you with the best results."

Nodding Harry said, "Works for me. You're the master here, Nick, so I'll take your word for it."

"Alright then, well, while I help Cedric find his core and wood," Nick said, "Harry, why don't you have a look at the various wands that are in the display cases. None of them are finished wands. They're simply display models to showcase the various aesthetic attributes available. That's another reason why I don't like making wands in advance like grandfather does. I believe that the person who will be using the wand should be allowed to decide what it looks like. Note that in most cases you can mix and match the handle and the shaft, as they're crafted separately and not put together until I put the core into the shaft."

"Okay," Harry said, as he began to browse the cases, while Cedric sat down at the table and closed his eyes as Nick began matching him. Roger, who was fascinated by wandlore, stayed nearby watching as Cedric repeated the core matching process. He was a Ravenclaw, though, so it wasn't really that surprising that he would stay where he might learn something. Terence, meanwhile, stuck close to Harry, looking at the various styles of wands on display. The two of them were soon engaged in an animated discussion, talking not only about the wand styles and which they preferred, but also their lives up until that point. There might be some at Hogwarts who would think it was impossible for a Gryffindor and a Slytherin to be getting along so well, but Terence had sworn an oath of loyalty to Harry, so that took precedence over any petty house rivalries. It also made Harry more willing to open up to Terence, despite not knowing him all that well, because he knew the older boy couldn't reveal anything Harry told him without permission. Athena, Rose, Emma, and Eudora, meanwhile, remained seated, calmly sipping tea and snacking on the biscuits and scones Nick's house-elf had put out as they quietly discussed some issues pertaining to the boys' training.

When all was said and done, all four boys ended up with two wands each. Like Harry, Cedric matched with a chimaera scale and mahogany, however, since he also matched with a hippogriff talon and zebrawood, Nick hypothesized that Cedric's magic resonated more with the earth element, since it was the one element that both cores and woods had in common. Roger matched well with thestral hair and a griffin wing feather. Based on this Nick said Roger's magic most likely resonated strongest with the air element, which immediately ruled out all of his zodiac woods, since none of the Leo woods resonated with air. Nick did have Roger try them, nonetheless, and as he suspected, not a single one of them was a match. It didn't happen often that someone wouldn't match with their zodiac wood, but rare or not, it did still happen occasionally. This left Nick with no choice but to begin the more arduous task of trying match Roger with a much wider selection of woods. Not an easy task, considering that Nick had over 70 different woods in stock. They were able to narrow things down by eliminating the fire and earth woods, but even then, that left quite a few possibilities to be tried.

Eventually, Nick was happy with the matches of Australian blackwood and hawthorn for Roger, pairing the hawthorn with the griffin wing feather and the thestral hair with the Australian blackwood. Finally, Terence had his go at selecting his cores and it became evident to Nick that Terence's magic resonated strongly with water when the Slytherin matched first with a thestral hair, followed by crystallized phoenix tears. When it came time to match woods, Terence did feel a slight draw toward apple wood, but Nick was less than pleased with the match, since he preferred that customers had a stronger draw to a wood then Terence reported feeling. This prompted Nick to repeat what he'd done with Roger, going through all the woods he had in stock, finally matching Terence with Australian blackwood and pine.

Once everyone had made their aesthetic choices, Nick said, "Okay, well, your wands will be ready in one hour, so, you're welcome to stay and wait, or go do some more shopping."

"We've still got a few things we need to pickup," Athena said. "So we'll be back, Nicholas."

"What about length?" Roger asked. "You never measured us, Nick, so, are our new wands simply going to be the same length as our old ones?"

"No, they'll be longer," Nick answered. "How do I know how long your wands should be? Well, I'm just going to call that a trade secret and leave it at that. I can't go around telling you all my secrets, after all."

With that, the trainers and the boys left the shop to finish their shopping. Once an hour had passed, they went back to Nick's shop and picked up their new wands, with Harry and Cedric especially being somewhat shocked at the length. Harry's new wands were sixteen-and-three-quarters inches long, with Cedric's being a quarter-inch shorter. Roger's were fourteen inches even, while Terence's were fourteen-and-three-quarters inches. Once the wands were paid for, the group headed for Tarik's store to check on the status of the clothing orders. Tarik and his assistants had finished four outfits each for Harry and Cedric and begun work on the others. Paying for the clothes, Athena said she'd send her house-elf, Barin, to pick up the rest of the clothes later in the day, before they headed for the Apparition Port to head back to Britain.

They arrived at the British Apparition Port in London seconds after leaving the one in Egypt. They didn't stay long, however, as the four trainers almost immediately Side-Along Apparated their four charges to Athena's home where they'd be living and training for the foreseeable future. Terence already had his Apparition license, but for this first trip, Emma took him Side-Along since he'd never been to Athena's house before and thus wouldn't be able to visualize it well enough to safely reach it.

Moments later, they arrived in an expansive yard next to a large pond that looked like it would be a great place to have a swim on a hot summer day. Looking straight ahead, there was a large garden visible which appeared to have various fruits and vegetables growing in it. To the right of the garden, was the house. It was a two-story cottage in the Tudor style and was covered in climbing ivy. Across from the house, a large two-story building was visible and from the shape, it was clearly a barn. Next to a staircase leading to the second floor of the barn, there was a smaller building enclosed in a fence. Multiple chickens were moving around inside the fence, so the small building was clearly a chicken coop.

"Welcome to my home," Athena said as she let go of Harry. "It's called Forest Cottage. Eudora has something for you all to wear, I believe."

Eudora nodded as she pulled a small box from inside a pocket of her dress and waved her hand over it, enlarging it, before opening it and showing its contents to the four young men. There were four jeweled pendants in the box, two on silver chains and two on gold. In the center of each of the pendants was a large gemstone, easily the size of a galleon.

"What are they?" Cedric asked.

"Pendants," Eudora said. "Each one is keyed to your individual magic signatures, so you can only touch the one that was crafted for you. They have a series of protective charms cast on them, as well as a charm that will allow you to Apparate onto the grounds here without being brought here Side-Along. Additionally, there's a charm that will allow you to contact the other trainers and I if you're ever in danger. It will allow us to zero in your exact location so that we can come to your aid. As such, I would strongly advise all of you to wear them at all times."

The four young men nodded in understanding as each of them reached out and took a pendant from the box. It was easy to tell which one was theirs' and which wasn't since anytime they touched a pendant that didn't belong to them, they received a small electrical shock. Once each of them were holding their pendants, Athena smiled and said, "Before you put them on, peer into the gemstones."

Doing as they were told, they were all shocked to see an image in the stones. In Harry's, a phoenix appeared, flying through an inferno of flames. On Cedric's, there was a male unicorn standing next to a pond, bathed in moonlight. Roger's depicted a griffon soaring through the clouds, while Terence's depicted a basilisk, rearing up and looking quite fearsome.

"The images you see are all connected to your magic," Rose explained. "Each of the creatures is associated with one of the elements." After each of the boys said aloud what creature they'd seen, she nodded and added, "The phoenix represents fire, the unicorn represents earth, while the griffon and basilisk represent air and water respectively."

"You will find that those are the elements your magic most closely associates with," Emma said. "I know you had already probably figured that out based on your wand selections, but here you have further proof of which elements your magic resonates best with."

Nodding their heads in understanding, the four young men each put on their pendants, hiding them under their shirts, before looking at their trainers.

Athena said, "First things first, I will give you all a quick tour of the house and show you to your rooms. Then, Harry, I need you to change into the nicest of the robes that Tarik has provided you with."

"Why?" Harry asked.

"Forest Cottage is located in the Marquisate of Levenmore," Eudora explained. "It is considered to be common courtesy for the Heads of Noble Houses to present themselves to the lord of the land if they are going to be living on that lord's lands for an extended period of time. To that end, we must pay a visit to Kinloch Hold, ancestral home of the Marquis of Levenmore and his family."

Since he wasn't yet versed in which titles belonged to which family, Harry asked, "Who is that anyway?"

It was Cedric who answered. "My uncle, Bruce McLaggen - my mum's older brother." Turning to the trainers, he said, "I know my uncle would make time to see Harry no matter how busy he is, since he's a Duke, and thus my family connection isn't necessary to get us an audience but I'd still like to go, if I can."

Nodding, Athena said, "Yes, I rather assumed you might. I have no objection, he is your uncle after all. From everything I've heard of him, he isn't as prone to talking about things he shouldn't talk about as your parents are, so, I think we may be able to leave without Obliviating him."

"That's true," Cedric agreed. "Uncle Bruce is much more level-headed and discreet than Mum and Dad. He's told me before that Mum wasn't nearly as bad until a few years after she married my father. I guess his talkative nature rubbed off on her over the years."

Nothing further was said, as the trainers led the group towards the house, indicating they'd all get a tour of the yard at a later time. Entering the house, they found themselves in a large room which was clearly the kitchen and dining room. The center of the room was dominated by a large oak table with a pair of long oak benches running the length of it, with a pair of oak armed chairs at either end. If Harry had to guess, he'd say that the table could easily sit twenty or even thirty people comfortably. Cabinets and counters lined one wall, along with an old-fashioned cast-iron stove and a large wooden icebox.

There was also a truly massive stone fireplace that took up most of the far wall with the exception of a pair of archways on either side of it, as well as a small door in the far left hand corner that Harry and the others would soon learn led into a half-bath intended for guests. There were two more doors into rooms along the left wall which Athena indicated led into the pantry and the basement stairwell, where she indicated a pair of classrooms were located, along with a potions lab and an infirmary. The archway to the left of the fireplace led into the ground floor sitting room, while the other led into a library. A third archway on an angled wall near the library arch led into a hallway that Athena informed them housed her study, along with the bedrooms belonging to the trainers.

Ignoring the library for the moment, she led the boys into the sitting room, which looked quite old fashioned with its Victorian-era furniture. A small organ sat along one wall between a window and a door that led to the yard behind the house. One thing that surprised Harry was the presence of a television set in the room, even if it was an early 1950's model built into a cabinet which also had a radio in it. Moving over to the stairs, Athena led the group to the second floor where there was a large common room. Unlike the fancier feel of the downstairs sitting room, this one had a more comfortable feeling to it as the furniture was decidedly more modern with a large overstuffed sofa and chairs. Near the western wall, was a pair of small tables, both had two chairs and wizard's chess set resting on them.

A pair of oak partner's desks sat in opposing corners of the room and there were several bookcases along the walls. Three doors led off of the room to what Harry assumed were the bedrooms that Athena had mentioned. A large stone fireplace was clearly the focal point of the room, however, and Harry was quite pleased to see his parents smiling at him from their frame, which now hung above the mantle.

"Hello again, son," James said. "It's good to finally be out of that vault."

Lily nodded and said, "I know I'm only a portrait now, but still, I can't tell you how much I've missed the sunlight."

Harry nodded. Then pointing at the three trainers that his parents hadn't met yet, he introduced each of them, followed by his fellow classmates.

James nodded to each in turn. "I've already met Mr. Higgs, of course. His father, Robert, was my seneschal. Still is, unless you decide to make a change, son."

"I haven't met him yet," Harry said. "I suppose I'll have to eventually. As to whether I keep him on as my seneschal or not, I don't know yet. It depends on just what his role in my living with the Dursleys all these years was. You said it was in your wills that I not be left with them. I'm assuming that as your seneschal he'd know that, right?"

Lily nodded. "Considering that Robert was one of our witnesses when we signed them, yes, he knew the terms. For him to stand by and do nothing while you were placed with my sister, knowing how vehemently against that we were, I'm not sure what to think."

"Speaking of witnesses," James said, "our other witness was your father, Cedric. Since our wills dictated that your parents raise Harry in the event that something happened to us and his godparents were unable to take him. Robert would have been bound by his oath of loyalty to the Potter family and Amos as a Potter ally to do everything necessary to insure our wishes were carried out. The fact that Harry was placed with Lily's sister against our wishes, however, raises some very serious questions."

"This is the first I've heard of my parents taking Harry in," Cedric said. "I'm not saying you're lying, but knowing my father, I just can't believe that he'd stand back and do nothing if he was supposed to be raising The-Boy-Who-Lived."

"The-Boy-Who-Lived?" Lily asked, as she quirked an eyebrow in question.

Harry sighed. "One of the many nicknames I've been given over the years. After Voldemort killed both of you, he of course attempted to kill me. He was unable to do so, however. The Killing Curse rebounded against him and destroyed his body, but apparently didn't kill him. So, I survived a supposedly unblockable curse with nothing but the scar on my forehead, so I've been nicknamed The-Boy-Who-Lived ever since."

"It didn't kill him?" Roger asked. He'd heard the rumors about Harry facing off against Voldemort in his first year, but like many people at Hogwarts, he didn't believe that the rumors were true since everyone knew that Voldemort was dead. Or was it just that people wanted to think he was dead?

Shaking his head, Harry said, "Nope. He's still alive, although just barely. He doesn't have a body. When he was at Hogwarts during my first year, he was possessing Professor Quirrell and drinking unicorn blood in order to keep himself going long enough to try and steal Nicholas Flamel's Philosopher's Stone from Hogwarts. He's also the one who opened the Chamber of Secrets during my second year. He had a diary which Ron's sister Ginny found that allowed him to respond to whatever she wrote in it. He befriended her and then began using her as his pawn to open the Chamber, planning on draining away her life force to restore his sixteen-year-old self to life."

"Wait just a moment," Lily said. "Restore his sixteen-year-old self? And you said that he's still alive even though he doesn't have a body?"

Harry nodded. "Yeah. Why?"

Lily looked grave. "Before I died, I was the youngest person to ever receive a Charms Mastery, Harry. I've done extensive research on the topic, including the darker charms which I would never use but researched in an attempt to find better ways to defend against them. From what you've just said, it sounds like Voldemort cast one of the darkest charms that has ever existed. What happened to that diary you mentioned?"

"I destroyed it," Harry said. "Stabbed it with a basilisk's fang, which also destroyed the shade of sixteen-year-old Tom Riddle, who was at that point very close to being flesh and blood again as he drained Ginny's life force."

"There are charms which allow a diary to respond to a person who writes in it," Lily explained. "However, those are simple charms which act only as a search feature. Basically, you can write a question in the diary and it can respond with all details that you've previously written in your diary on the subject you asked about. Thus, you needn't spend hours searching to find the information. However, those charms most definitely cannot preserve the sixteen-year-old version of a person in the diary's pages nor can it facilitate restoring the person to life. The only way that could happen is if that diary was in fact something far more sinister than a simple diary."

"Like what?" Terence asked.

Lily sighed. "Like a Horcrux. The creation of which involves some of the darkest charms to have ever been created. It involves splitting off a portion of your soul and storing it in an object, thus creating an anchor which will prevent you from crossing over if you die. As long as you have at least one Horcrux, you're essentially immortal, because even if you're killed and your body destroyed, your spirit will remain on Earth, and there are ways to magically restore the body. There's several charms involved in creating a Horcrux, but the main one is Animus Fissura, or the Soul-Splitting Charm. Splitting the soul, however, requires a lot of power, more so than even an Archmagus would be capable of producing. However, the necessary power can be generated by killing someone and completely obliterating their soul. In other words, you're not just killing their mortal body, but also completely destroying their immortal soul. Thus, you're not just robbing the person of their life, but their afterlife as well, since without a soul, there can be no afterlife."

"So, what you're saying is that diary was one of these Horcruxes?" Roger asked and Lily nodded. "So, if Harry destroyed it, then that means You-Know-Who's gone right? If his anchor has been destroyed and he still doesn't have a body, wouldn't he have to cross over?"

"Your other trainers and I," Athena spoke up, "have suspected for awhile now that Voldemort had created at least one Horcrux, but I fear that he actually created more than one. Splitting off a portion of your soul is dangerous because every time you do it, you become less human. Morals and boundaries become vaguer and thus you have no qualms about crossing lines you would never have crossed before you created a Horcrux. Of course, it could be argued that only a truly corrupt individual would create one in the first place, considering the cost, so there were probably few lines they wouldn't be willing to cross already if they're willing to not only kill someone but basically expunge them from existence."

"Considering Voldemort's obsession with power," Rose said, "I've often thought it highly possible that he would create seven Horcruxes, as seven is the most powerful magical number in existence. I can't prove it, however."

"So, You-Know-Who survived that night because he's made at least one Horcrux," Roger said. "What about Harry though? Everything I've ever read said that the Killing Curse is unblockable, so, how did Harry survive?"

"I've often wondered that myself," Harry said. "Professor Dumbledore has led me to believe that it was due to Mum sacrificing herself to save me. Said that her sacrifice gave me protection from harm as long as I resided with her blood, in other words, my Aunt Petunia."

Shaking her head, Emma said, "As usual, Dumbledore is wrong. While there is a spell which would create the effects that Dumbledore mentioned, I can guarantee you that spell was not used on you Harry. It's a very powerful blood magic ritual and while some such rituals can be cast by regular witches and wizards, that spell is not one of them. Only a powerful blood mage, such as myself, is capable of casting that spell and even then it needs to be renewed on a monthly basis. Which means the mage who cast the spell would need to visit, draw blood from both you and your aunt, Harry, and recast the charm. Has Dumbledore ever done that?"

"No, he hasn't," Harry answered. "So, he was lying when he said that living with the Dursleys gave me blood protection?"

Emma nodded. "Well, it's certainly possible that he believes what he told you to be true, but I find it hard to believe that a wizard as learned as Albus Dumbledore would believe that. Even if he isn't a mage himself, there are tomes that he could get the information from. In fact, now that I think about it, I've seen some of them among his private collection in his office. So, if you ask me, he knew he wasn't telling you the truth, although I have no idea why he would lie to you, just as I don't know how you survived the Killing Curse."

"I can answer that," James said, as everyone in the room turned to look at him. "However, before I do, you will need to swear an oath of silence to Harry so that you're bound by magic not to reveal what I tell you. It's considered to be a state secret, so, I wouldn't ask otherwise, but in this instance, I don't have a choice. As I'm sure Terence has already given his oath of loyalty," at this Terence nodded, "he doesn't need to do so, but the rest of you do."

"What's the difference between an oath of loyalty and an oath of silence?" Harry asked.

"When a person swears an oath of loyalty," Lily explained, "they're bound by magic to not only keep any secrets they find out secret, but also to do anything and everything that the lord they've sworn loyalty to asks of them."

"As an example," James said, a wicked grin on his face, "Terence has sworn an oath of loyalty to you, Harry, so, if you told him to run down Diagon Alley in broad daylight completely starkers, he'd have no choice but to do it."

"James!" Lily exclaimed as she swatted her husband upside the head.

Terence's eyes just about left his head at that comment, as his skin flushed a rather interesting shade of red. It was quite clear that he was uncomfortable with James' example and Harry couldn't say he blamed him, so giving his father a rather disapproving look, he said, "Don't worry, Terence, I have absolutely no intention of actually doing what my father just said."

It took a moment for Terence to say anything, but then he said, "Thank you, Harry."

"Anyway," Lily said, still giving James a rather dirty look since he didn't look even the slightest bit repentant, "an oath of silence differs in that the person is only bound not to reveal any secrets they learn from the person they swear it to. So, in a way it's similar to the Fidelius Charm, only the oath of silence doesn't make you hesitate if you try to say anything. The oath of silence will prevent you from even thinking about revealing any secret information, thus there's no hesitance and no way for anyone to detect that an oath was given. However, both an oath of silence and the oath of loyalty can only be sworn to the monarch, the heads of the noble families, and members of their immediate families, as the magic simply will not function otherwise."

Since he was standing the closest to Harry, Cedric decided to go first. Kneeling before Harry, he kissed the Potter ring, before he said, "I, Cedric Jeremiah Diggory, Earl of Charwell and Heir Apparent of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Diggory, do solemnly swear to keep any and all secrets that I learn from you or any member of your family in the strictest of confidences and to only reveal them with your express permission. On my magic, so mote it be."

Accepting Cedric's oath in much the same way that he'd already accepted Terence's oath, the process was repeated again with Roger, and then with Emma, Eudora, Rose, and finally Athena.

Once it was done, James said, "You are now bound to keep what I'm about to say a secret unless Harry personally tells you that you can reveal the information." Once everyone indicated their understanding, James said, "Simply put, Harry survived the Killing Curse, because Voldemort had already killed me."

Looking confused, Roger asked, "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Everything," James said. "Harry, you are now the Duke of Granston because of the Last of the Line clause in the letters patent granted to the Potter family by King Arthur. However, that clause is not just a collection of laws and regulations governing the passage of the title to a minor heir left as the last of their line. It was also imbued with magic by Merlin himself. Magic which makes the last of a noble line impossible to kill. That doesn't mean you're immortal, Harry, as you can still die from old age. But every other possible form of death is rendered impossible by Merlin's protections so long as you remain the last of the line. As you get older, you will also notice a marked increase in your libido for every year that you haven't produced a male heir. Essentially, it's the spell driving you to procreate. Wait too long to have children and the spell will turn you into a sex addict willing to shag anything that moves."

Harry was blushing bright red by the end of his dad's explanation.

"So, if You-Know-Who had spared you, then Harry would have died?" Terence asked.

"Yes," James said. "If Voldemort hadn't killed me, then Harry would have died and Merlin's protections would have activated on me until such time I had another son."

"I'm my father's heir," Cedric said, "and he's never mentioned anything about this to me."

"It's not a well-known fact," James said. "As I already said, it's considered to be a state secret and thus the number of people trusted with it is limited to the monarch and the Privy Council. That's why the oaths of silence were necessary. The Privy Councilors are allowed to tell others, if they deem it necessary, but only those who've sworn either an oath of loyalty or silence to them."

"The Privy Council?" Harry asked.

"The King's closest advisors," Lily answered. "Traditionally, they're drawn only from the royal family itself. The only noble families to ever be granted seats on the council are the original three - the Potters, Longbottoms, and Ollivanders."

"So does that mean I'm a member of this Privy Council?" Harry asked.

"Yes, Harry," James said. "As Duke of Granston, you are a Privy Councilor, a Lord of the Wizengamot, and one of the Governors of Hogwarts. You do have to be officially invested for all three positions, which means a formal ceremony, but that's more a formality than anything else. The second you signed the necessary papers and put on the Potter ring, you got all the power and influence that goes with it."

"Well, we should be getting over to Kinloch Hold," Athena said. Then pointing at the door directly across from the stairs, she said, "Roger, Cedric, that's your bedroom. Terence, you're in the room next to it and Harry, yours is the one on the fireplace wall."

Nodding, Harry headed into his room which he found to be large and quite spacious. It had obviously been expanded by magic, because looking at the size of the cottage from the outside, he was sure there wouldn't be enough room otherwise. A large stone fireplace dominated one wall, obviously sharing a chimney with the common room fireplace. There was also a large oak four-poster bed which Harry thought was at least twice the size of the bed he slept in at Hogwarts. Honestly, he was sure that he could share the bed with Terence, Cedric, Roger and the entire Gryffindor Quidditch team and still have plenty of room. A large desk sat under a window which overlooked the front yard, while a bookcase and a large wardrobe occupied the remaining wall.

Choosing to leave looking in what he assumed was the bathroom until later, Harry pulled off Dudley's cast-offs and selected the best looking of the robes that Tarik had made for him. It wasn't until he was standing in front of the wardrobe, which had mirrored doors, trying to do something with his hair that he caught sight of the landscape hanging over the fireplace where his mother was currently standing among the field of wildflowers, looking particularly worried.

"Mum," Harry said, flushing slightly with embarrassment. "How long have you been there?"

"Long enough, Harry," Lily said. "James told me to give you some privacy, but I had to see for myself. I thought you looked way too thin at the bank, but having seen you without those baggy clothes, I can tell it's much worse than I thought. Where did those clothes come from anyway?"

"They're Dudley's cast-offs," Harry explained. "Whenever he outgrows his clothes, they're handed down to me."

"I saw way too many of your bones for my liking," Lily said. "Does my sister not feed you?"

"I eat very little," Harry said. "If I didn't finish all my chores or if I accidentally used magic, I'd sometimes go two or three days without food."

"Stay right where you are, Harry," Lily said, as she left the frame. Moments later, she came back with James and there was a knock on the door, prompting James to say, "You should answer that, son."

Doing as he was told, he found Rose standing there. She smiled and said, "I'm trained as a healer, Harry. Would you mind if I gave you a quick examination? Athena has agreed to a delay."

"Well, okay, I guess," Harry said.

Twenty minutes later, Rose was nearly as livid as Lily was. "It's disgraceful that your body is in this state. You're several pounds below where you should be at your age and unless I'm very much mistaken, your improper diet has stunted your growth. Had you been eating properly all these years, I imagine you'd be nearly six feet tall by now, much like your father was at your age."

"Can anything be done for him, Rose?" James asked.

"Yes, I believe so," Rose said. "I'll get started brewing some nutrition potions immediately to help his body begin to correct the damage that's been done and help with the numerous vitamin deficiencies that he has." Turning to Harry, she added, "I'm afraid you'll have to take some rather foul tasting potions every day for at least a month, Harry, but it's for your own good. Had we realized the full extent of your health, we might not have selected you for mage training, because as it is, your body is not healthy enough to support the larger core that a mage must develop."

"So, does that mean I can't be a mage?" Harry asked, in a slightly crestfallen tone. From everything he'd heard so far, he rather liked the idea of becoming a mage. Plus, he didn't want to return to the Dursleys, which he was afraid he might have to do if he wasn't training to be a mage. He knew that he was supposedly a legal adult now that he'd claimed his birthright, but he still didn't fully understand what exactly that entailed. He had, after all, only just claimed his birthright a few hours ago. There was quite a bit he didn't know and needed to learn.

"No, you can still be a mage," Rose said. "We're just going to have to hold off on casting the blood ritual to increase your power level for a few weeks."

At Harry's questioning look, Rose elaborated, "Very few people are born powerful enough to be mages. All witches and wizards receive a power increase upon turning seventeen, known as the magical inheritance, but it's rarely enough to push you up into the mage power range. Thus, whenever students are selected for mage training, most often a blood ritual is performed which increases your power level by a maximum of four additional levels. This ritual can only be performed once per wizard or witch. Obviously the only people chosen for training are people who are already powerful enough that the ritual will increase their power level to at least the power range that classifies them as a mage."

"And how powerful am I?" Harry asked.

"When you were selected for training," Rose answered, "we determined your power level to be level thirteen, which classes you as a Master Sorcerer, Harry. That's one level below Professor Dumbledore, who is a Grand Sorcerer. Cedric and Roger are Sorcerers, one level below you, so the blood ritual will put you at level seventeen, which is the Mage level, while it will put Cedric and Roger at level sixteen - the Apprentice Mage level."

Noting that she hadn't mentioned Terence, Harry asked, "What about Terence?"

"Mr. Higgs is already seventeen and has thus gone through his magical inheritance," Rose explained. "So, he's more powerful by one level - he's a Grand Sorcerer, same as Professor Dumbledore. I suspect that is one of the main reasons that the Headmaster opted to make Terence the Head Boy this year. Usually, the people the Headmaster picks for Head Boy and Girl were nominated by a majority of the professors. The clear favorite for the position, a Gryffindor, was nominated by Professors McGonagall, Sinistra, Vector, McLaughlin, Landolt, and Burbage, while Terence was only nominated by Professors Snape and Babbling."

"So you think Dumbledore wants to keep a closer eye on him as a result?" Harry asked.

"Precisely," Rose said. "So, Terence will be a level eighteen after the ritual or a Master Mage, so more powerful than you by one level and by two levels in Roger and Cedric's case. But, that won't last long, as Cedric, Roger, and you will most likely become more powerful than him after you reach your seventeenth birthdays and go through your magical inheritances. Just how powerful, I have no way of knowing, but most commonly, people gain between one and three more power levels. There are recorded instances of people gaining four, five, or even six levels in their inheritance, but that's rare enough that most people erroneously believe that three levels is the maximum that can be gained."

"And this blood ritual has no ill effects?" Harry asked.

"None," Rose said. "I underwent the same ritual sixty odd years ago when I entered mage training and it's never caused me any problems whatsoever. Blood magic is often classed as being dark magic by many people, but that's only because they don't understand it and because there are several blood magic spells which are decidedly dark. But that doesn't mean that the whole of the subject should be banned. Some of the most common spells that defend against various magical creatures repel them by actually causing them pain. If they were used on a witch or wizard, they'd be classed as dark, but used on a magical creature, they're not. On the opposite side of the scale, there's a powerful blood magic mage-level spell that regular witches and wizards can't cast which is essentially a much more powerful version of the Blood Replenishing Potion. If a person loses too much blood, the potion won't help because it can't replenish the body's blood supply fast enough to prevent system damage. But if you're lucky enough to have a mage-trained healer, there's a good chance that you'll pull through."

"So, are there any mage-level spells that can save me from taking those potions you mentioned?" Harry asked in a hopeful tone. He really didn't like the thought of taking foul tasting potions every day for a month.

Shaking her head, Rose said, "I'm sorry, but no. While there are some powerful spells that might help you, it is my opinion that even as bad off as you are nutritionally speaking, you're not bad off enough to warrant the spells. And trust me, you don't want to be bad off enough to warrant them because if you were you'd essentially be a desiccated corpse teetering on the very precipice of death. You're nowhere near that point."

"Well thank Merlin for that," James said, as Lily nodded forcefully.

"Alright, well, I guess I'll just have to take the potions then," Harry said with a sigh. "Just why do they have to taste so bad?"

"Most medicine does," Rose answered. "A couple of Potions Masters over the years have experimented with ways to make potions taste good, but the results have been mixed. It works in a few cases, but not in all. It depends on the potion, but any tampering to make it taste better often results in the effects being diluted to the point that treatment lasts longer. In some cases, that's not a good thing as some of the potions are highly addictive and taking them longer may result in you becoming addicted."

"Well, that's not good," Harry said.

"No, it isn't," Rose said. "Anyway, we're done here, so put yourself back together and get ready to go to Kinloch Hold."

Harry nodded, as Rose left the room and his parents retreated out of the landscape's frame. Once he was alone again, Harry adjusted his clothes to try and make himself look as presentable as possible. It was while looking through a drawer for a comb to try and do something with his hair that he found a bottle of hair gel which promised to tame even the most unruly hair. Following the directions, Harry was amazed when a few minutes later, his hair was laying perfectly flat and actually looked neat for once.

Noticing that the bottle was manufactured by a Wizarding company, Harry couldn't help but think, 'I love magic,' as he left the room.

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, ten and a half miles away in the master's study at Kinloch Hold, Bruce McLaggen was concentrating intently on the wizarding chess board in front of him trying to figure out what his next move would be. On the other side of the table, Bruce's son and heir, Cormac, was clearly getting annoyed by the delay as he'd been waiting for his father to make his next move for nearly twenty minutes now.

"Were you planning on moving anytime this century?" Cormac asked after another ten minutes had passed and he couldn't stand being quiet anymore.

"Patience is a virtue, son," Bruce said, his eyes never leaving the chess board. He was either blind or he simply chose to ignore the fact that even the chess pieces themselves were looking quite aggravated by the delay if the looks they were giving the lord of the manor were anything to go by.

"I realize that, Father," Cormac said with a smirk. "But you're only delaying the inevitable by not moving. Just admit that I've got you beat and move on."

"I admit nothing," Bruce said, as he directed his bishop to take Cormac's knight who had checked Bruce's king.

Cormac shook his head as he surveyed the board. "Bad move, old man," as he directed his queen to take his father's bishop. A smile spread across his face as he looked up and said, "Checkmate."

Bruce didn't want to admit defeat, but after looking at the board, he quickly realized that his son was correct. The only piece he had that was even remotely close to Cormac's queen was one of his pawns and he'd have to move it backwards by two spaces in order to get himself out of check, which obviously wouldn't be a legal move. There were also no squares his king could move to without moving into check with Cormac's other knight, bishop or rook.

Sighing, Bruce had no choice but to say, "I yield," as Cormac's queen advanced diagonally across the board to Bruce's king and pulled the other piece into a loving embrace. This lasted for all of about two seconds, before the queen pulled a dagger out of the folds of her robe and stabbed the king in the back, his golden crown clattering against the board as he fell to the ground, muttering a slew of rather colorful curses at Bruce.

Before Cormac could celebrate his victory, however, there was a soft popping noise as one of the house-elves appeared in the room.

"Excuse me, Master," the elf said.

Turning to look at the creature, Bruce said, "You know better than to disturb me when I'm spending quality time with my son."

The elf nodded and said, "Pokey knows Master and is sorry, but you has guests."

"Who?" Bruce asked, as he tried to think who might have come to see him. He wasn't expecting anyone today that he could remember.

"The Duke of Granston, Master," Pokey answered. "Master Cedric and Ms. Gracey is with him."

Bruce's eyes widened slightly when he heard the title, before he stood and said, "Show them in, please, Pokey."

"Yes, Master," Pokey said, as he bowed and then disappeared.

"The Duke of Granston?" Cormac asked. "That's Harry Potter isn't it? I wasn't aware he'd claimed his birthright yet."

"I wasn't either," Bruce answered. "It must be a fairly recent development. It is long overdue, though, as he should have claimed it a year ago already."

"I don't know him very well," Cormac said. "We're in the same house, of course, but different years. And he spends the vast majority of his time with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, to the exclusion of almost everyone else." After a moment of silence, he added, "Honestly, from the way he dresses when not in his uniform, I'd almost gotten the impression that he didn't know that he's nobility."

"How could he possibly not know that?" Bruce asked.

"I don't know, Father," Cormac said. "But, I have heard mention of him living with Muggle relatives since his parents died. That might explain it."

"Perhaps he can shed some light on it then," Bruce said. "Provided it's okay with his grace, you're welcome to stay, son."

Cormac nodded, but otherwise said nothing as the doors into the study opened and Pokey showed three people in. Stopping before Bruce, Pokey bowed and said, "Lord Harrison Potter, Duke of Granston, Master." And then almost as an afterthought, Pokey added, "With Master Cedric and Ms. Gracey, sir."

"Thank you, Pokey," Bruce said. "Please go to the kitchens and bring tea and some refreshments."

Bowing again, Pokey popped out of the room, as Bruce crossed the room and bowed to Harry, as he said, "Your Grace, you honor me with your visit to my humble home."

"I would hardly call it humble, Bruce," Harry said. While he had never met the man before him, Athena and Cedric had told him on the carriage ride over from Forest Cottage that it would be inappropriate to call him 'Mr. McLaggen' as he'd initially thought to address him.

"Basically, anything you like, Harry," Cedric had said when Harry asked what he should call him instead. "You outrank him, so, you needn't show any deference to his title or call him His Excellence as commoners or lesser peers would have to. You can call him by his first name without his permission or just call him Levenmore, if you prefer."

Harry had thought about it and decided to call the man Bruce, as he just couldn't wrap his head around the thought of calling the man Levenmore. Harry understood that the man was the Marquis of Levenmore and thus it might be an appropriate thing to call him, but he personally didn't care for it as he would rather people not call him Granston. Of course, he was willing to admit that his dislike for that idea was possibly because the whole title thing was still too new for him.

"Compared to Seacliff, it is quite humble, your grace," Bruce said, as he motioned for them all to take seats.

"Please, call me Harry," he said, as he sat down. "As to Seacliff, I wouldn't know as I've never seen it. At least not that I can remember."

"I see," Bruce said. "Have you met my son Cormac? He's a Gryffindor, one year ahead of you."

Looking at the younger man, Harry nodded and said, "I've seen him in the tower, but I've never spoken with him. It's nice to meet you, Cormac."

"The pleasure is all mine, I assure you," Cormac said with a smile.

"So, what brings you here today, Harry?" Bruce asked a moment later, after Pokey had delivered the tea and left again. "I must admit I was rather taken aback when my elf said you were here. I wasn't aware you'd even claimed your birthright yet."

"I only did it a few hours ago," Harry said. "As to why I'm here, I'm told it's a common courtesy for me to present myself to you since I'll be living on your lands for a time."

"May I assume that has something to do with your presence then, Ms. Gracey?" Bruce asked.

Athena nodded. "Yes, Your Excellence, my associates and I have selected Lord Potter for training as a mage. We're also training your nephew, along with two other students."

"Cedric, I am so jealous of you," Cormac said as he playfully punched his cousin in the arm. "How do you rate? Getting to be a mage?"

"Guess it just proves what I've been telling you for years now, Cormac," Cedric said with a grin, as he returned his cousin's playful punch. "I'm better than you."

Cedric was not normally one to say such things, but he made an exception with Cormac, because they were cousins and competing with one another was just the nature of their relationship. They'd been trying to one-up each other ever since they were very young children and that was not likely to change anytime soon.

"I assume then that Harry and Cedric have temporary replacements?" Bruce asked. He was not a mage himself, but since he had given Athena permission to train mages on his lands, he was familiar with many of the concepts of the training.

Athena nodded. "Yes, my lord. Also, as usual, the training is under the Fidelius and I'm the Secret Keeper. However, to ensure they don't slip up and accidentally reveal that the Fidelius is in use, you should know that I have Obliviated Lord and Lady Diggory. As Cedric will attest, they did give their permission for him to enter training, but they do not currently remember that or that the Cedric that is living with them now is not their real son."

Bruce nodded his head. A part of him wanted to be angry about anyone Obliviating his sister, as he was the older brother and had always been fiercely protective of his baby sister as a result. However, he understood that Amelia had gotten very prone to gossip in the years she'd been married to Amos and he didn't doubt the possibility that she might start to say the wrong thing to the wrong person. The Fidelius would stop her, yes, but depending on who she said it to, the damage could already be done even if the person didn't know the actual secret.

"I love my aunt and uncle," Cormac commented, "but they could really use some lessons in discretion."

"Very true," Cedric said. "They're my parents, but their wagging tongues can definitely be a liability at times."

After a few moments of silence, Bruce asked, "Harry, if you don't mind my asking, you said you've never seen Seacliff and I can't help but wonder how that's even possible? I was under the impression that you've been living there all of these years, but then Cormac mentioned thinking he'd heard something about Muggle relatives?"

"I don't mind you asking," Harry answered. "Although, on the advice of my father's portrait, before I can answer you, we need to formally renew the alliance between our houses."

"Of course, Harry," Bruce said. "Our families have been allies for three centuries now and I for one have no qualms whatsoever about renewing that bond."

Harry nodded as he stood up, as did Bruce. Since Bruce was the head of a lower house, it was tradition for him to go first. Cedric explained the details to Harry on the carriage ride over from Forest Cottage, so even if he had been expected to go first, he knew what to say, but he was glad that Bruce was going first, just in case he accidentally forgot something. At least with Bruce going first, everything that needed to be said would be fresh in his mind.

Standing up straight and clasping their ring hands so that the Potter and McLaggen family rings were touching each other, Bruce clearly spoke his part of the ritual.

"I, Bruce William McLaggen, Marquis of Levenmore, Earl of Glencoe, Viscount Dalness, Lord of Kinloch Hold, and Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of McLaggen, do hereby pledge my house's strength and support to yours, Harrison James Potter, and promise to do everything within my power to assist, protect, and shelter your family, vassals and friends as if they were my own. From this day onward, your allies will be my allies and your enemies my enemies. Your secrets will be my secrets and I vow to safeguard them with my life. As our families have stood together before, so shall we stand together again, now and into the future. On my honor, my magic, and my very life, so mote it be."

"I, Harrison James Potter, Duke of Granston, Marquis of Brynmoor, Earl of Mathry, Lord of Seacliff Castle, and Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter, do hereby pledge my house's strength and support to yours, Bruce William McLaggen, and promise to do everything within my power to assist, protect, and shelter your family, vassals and friends as if they were my own. From this day onward, your allies will be my allies and your enemies my enemies. Your secrets will be my secrets and I vow to safeguard them with my life. As our families have stood together before, so shall we stand together again, now and into the future. On my honor, my magic, and my very life, so mote it be."

As they'd spoken, each man was encased in a nimbus of golden light, their rings flashing as golden chains extended outward from the rings to bind first their hands and then their bodies. Once both men had said what they needed to, the golden nimbuses of light surrounding them brightened to an almost blinding level as several swirls of green, gold, and red rose up from the floor and encircled them, before a pulse of magic shot outward in all directions.

Standing off to one side of the room with Cedric and Athena, Cormac commented, "I've seen that ritual twice before, but it never ceases to amaze me."

Cedric nodded. "Yes, it is quite impressive isn't it?"

Once everyone was seated again and had been poured a fresh cup of tea, Harry said, "Now, Cormac was right in what he's overheard. While all the official records list me as living at Seacliff Castle, in reality I've been living in Surrey with my mother's Muggle sister, Petunia, her husband Vernon, and my cousin Dudley. Dumbledore placed me with them as a baby, believing it best that I grow up away from the media attention that I was sure to get for being The-Boy-Who-Lived. Of course, I only just found out today from my parents' portrait that their wills specifically forbade me to be raised by them if something happened to my parents. I was supposed to be raised by my godparents and if not them by Cedric's parents."

Shaking his head, Bruce said, "What does Dumbledore think he's playing at? Chief Warlock or not, it's against the law for him to so blatantly disregard the wishes of the head of one of the Thirteen Houses. Especially when it's one of the three original houses, which are arguably the most powerful and important of the Thirteen. As for an agreement for Amos and Amelia to raise you, that's news to me. I've never heard a word about that and given Amos and my sister's penchant for talking, that's a miracle."

"Well, I'm not entirely sure what he did was against the law," Harry said.

"Why do you say that, Harry?" Cormac asked.

"Because on the day I turned eleven," Harry answered, "the Potter family barrister went to Gringotts' with a letter signed by me, Dumbledore and King Edward dictating that the goblins were to not bother me at Hogwarts and to continue sending all bank statements and correspondence to Seacliff. Problem is I never actually signed the letter. I couldn't have since it's signed as Harrison Potter - until today, I thought my legal first name was Harry, as that's how my Hogwarts letters and other mail that I do get are addressed. The goblins checked the signatures though and they all register as being genuine."

"Hmm, with Edward involved, it's true it might have been legal," Bruce said. "However, I find it hard to believe that he would have signed an order to disregard your parents' wishes and place you with your Muggle relatives instead of Amos and Amelia. Especially considering that in 1981, Edward himself was only eleven years old. At that age, I really don't see him caring where a baby is placed, especially when his noble parents had already made arrangements. I do know his father and grandfather would never have made the decision to disregard the arrangements made by the Duke and Duchess of Granston for the care of their heir, but Edward probably doesn't remember them, being only two when Crown Prince Michael and King Charles were murdered, along with the rest of the royal family. So, they never really had a chance to teach him much of anything."

"A truly sad affair," a feminine voice said from the direction of the door. "Two-year-old Prince Edward was the only survivor. Nobody knows why he alone was spared, since You-Know-Who made it clear he wanted the entire family dead, but for some unknown reason, Edward lived, while the rest of his family died."

"Ah, Caroline, darling," Bruce said, as he motioned the woman over. "Harry, this is my wife, Lady Caroline McLaggen. Caroline, this is Lord Harrison Potter, Duke of Granston."

"A pleasure to meet you, your grace," Caroline said, as she curtsied. "And it's good to see you, as well, Cedric dear. You too, Ms. Gracey."

"Hello Aunt Caroline," Cedric said with a smile, hugging the tall, blonde-haired woman. Since Bruce was a brunet, Harry imagined it must have been from his mother that Cormac got his blond hair. He did resemble his father in some small ways, but it was clear that he took more after his mother's side of the family than his father's.

"Wasn't there a rumor about Edward and a Death Eater?" Cormac asked.

"Yes, son," Bruce said. "There was a rumor that when Edward was found crying in his crib, there was a dead Death Eater lying on the ground. Although I don't see how that could possibly be true."

"Actually, I'm that pretty sure that rumor is true," Harry commented, drawing curious looks from the three members of the McLaggen family. "Much like what happened when Voldemort tried to kill me as a baby, I imagine that Death Eater tried to kill Edward, but failed."

"What are you talking about, Harry?" Bruce asked, clearly confused, and obviously a bit shaken from hearing the Dark Lord's name spoken, but he wasn't about to tell a Duke what he should and shouldn't say.

"Well, since our families are allied," Harry said, "I trust I can share a secret with you?"

"Of course, Harry," Cormac said. "As Potter allies, neither myself, my father, or any other member of our house can divulge any secrets you share with us."

Bruce nodded and said, "Yes, Harry, doing so would constitute a breach of the alliance, which as I'm sure you can imagine is not something I'd wish to do, seeing as how not only would it be highly dishonorable, but I'd also lose my magic and my life. It would also put the House of McLaggen in a terrible position, as no noble house can afford for it to be known that they can't be trusted to uphold their end of an alliance."

"Athena and Cedric already know this," Harry said. "They've both sworn oaths of secrecy to me. You see the reason I lived that night when I was a year old and why I imagine King Edward lived, is because of a little known fact about the noble houses. It's considered to be a state secret known only to the royal family and the Privy Council, but my father's portrait tells me that the councilors are allowed to divulge the information if they wish, provided the person they're telling has sworn an oath of loyalty or silence to them."

"An alliance counts as the same thing," Cedric said, as both Bruce and Cormac nodded.

"Apparently, centuries ago, Merlin placed powerful protections on the noble families," Harry said. "These protections protect the last of a noble line from dying of anything but old age and as they get older, the drive to procreate increases. My father said if you wait too long to do so, the spell would turn you into a sex addict. So, anyway, because Voldemort killed my father before he attempted to kill me, I was the last of the Potter line and Merlin's protections kicked in, which is why I survived the Killing Curse as a baby. Now, I don't think it's that far of a leap to believe that if Merlin protected the noble houses in such a way that he'd also protect the royal family in the same manner."

"You're right, Harry," Athena said. "That would only make sense. One could think of the royal family as being the ultimate noble family. So, it does make sense that Merlin would have placed those protections on the Pendragon family, as well, which would suggest that Edward was the last living Pendragon when he was attacked. Thus, Harry, you may very well not be the only Boy-Who-Lived."

"Interesting," Caroline said, as both her husband and son nodded in agreement. "Very interesting."

After a moment of silence, Bruce said, "I still can't believe that Dumbledore would disregard your parents' will so blatantly, however. Or that the King would give him permission to do so. It just doesn't seem possible."

"Well, I'm not going to worry about it for now," Harry said. "Ragnok said he'd launch a full investigation, so until the goblins turn up something, I'm just going to concentrate on learning all the things that I need to learn about being the head of a noble house." He didn't bother mentioning his mage training, since he knew the magic of the Fidelius wouldn't allow him to in the presence of Caroline McLaggen, who Athena had not yet shared the secret with.

"I'm sure your father's portrait will help you there," Bruce said, "but if there's anything at all that I can do, please don't hesitate to ask."

"Thank you," Harry said.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

Unexpected Love: The Journey Begins
Written by J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Three

-o-0-o-

By the time the carriage returned to Forest Cottage, it was nearly six o'clock at night. Getting out in the carriage house as Athena's house-elf, Barin, handled unhitching the horses and stabling them for the night, Harry moved to the open door and looked out at the sky.

"Knut for your thoughts?" Cedric asked, as he came up behind the younger man.

"Is that the going rate for a Duke's thoughts?" Harry asked with a grin, prompting Cedric to grin as well. Before the older boy could say anything, however, Harry said, "I was just thinking about how much my life has changed today. When I woke up this morning, I was on Privet Drive. After making breakfast for the Dursleys, watching them eat it, and then cleaning up after them, I went up to my room until they needed me for something else. Never once did I think that anything that happened after you and the trainers arrived was going to happen."

Cedric nodded. "My life before today wasn't as bad as yours, Harry, but I know the feeling. When I woke up this morning, I didn't really have anything in particular to look forward to. Except perhaps the Opening Ball that's going to be happening in a few days time and even that isn't much to look forward to. If it wasn't for Nick and a couple other people, I'd be bored out of my mind."

"The Opening Ball? What's that?" Harry asked.

"One of the many social functions that brings all the nobles' families together," Cedric replied. "In this case, it's to celebrate the opening of the autumn session of the Wizengamot. Now that you've claimed your birthright, you'll be expected to attend, of course. Unfortunately, it's not much of a party - watching paint dry is usually more fun."

"I don't suppose I could just let my double go in my place?"

Cedric hadn't thought of that, honestly, but before he could get too excited about the possibility of not going to the ball and being bored out of his mind, Athena said, "No, you can't. You're both going in person."

"Why?" Harry asked. Honestly what was the point of having a double if you couldn't have them go to all the boring social functions you didn't want to be bothered with?

"Because it's a law, Harry," Athena said. "While the doubles created for mage training are allowed to do a great many things, such as going to work or school in your place, attending the nobles' social gatherings or meetings of the Wizengamot are not something they can do. You'll have to attend all of those personally, and, of course, you can't tell anyone about your training."

"Well, don't worry, Harry," Cedric said with a companionable smile. "I'll try to keep you entertained as much as possible. Nick and I will be there, of course, as will Cormac, Neville, and the other heirs. Plus two of the other lords are fairly young, so, at least you'll have someone to talk to."

"Define fairly young," Harry said at that point.

"They're actually not that much older than me," Cedric said. "First off, you have Lord Erik Bones, the Marquis of Waringsford. He's the last person that the Last of the Line clause was used for when he took up the Bones lordship when his parents were murdered by Death Eaters during the first war. He's nineteen now and has a cousin at Hogwarts, a fellow Hufflepuff named Susan Bones and his aunt, Amelia Bones, is the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry."

"I've met Susan a couple of times, she's in my year," Harry said. "And the other?"

"Lord Callum McKinnon, the Earl of Whitecross," Cedric answered. "He's twenty-four. His parents were also killed by Death Eaters, but he didn't become the McKinnon lord via the last of the line clause. At the time of his parents' deaths, he was living with his grandparents in Greece. His grandfather was the head of the family, but he died in his sleep shortly after Callum turned twenty, so with his father already dead, Callum assumed the lordship."

"I see, well, I suppose they are fairly young," Harry said. At least this meant he'd have someone to talk to who wasn't old enough to be his parent. "I suppose Malfoy will be there, right?"

"Yes, unfortunately, he will be," Cedric said. "However, he can't really do anything to you anymore. He's only a courtesy Viscount, while you're a Duke. Won't stop him from talking about you behind your back, but he'll have to be respectful to your face, if only to avoid getting punished by his father for embarrassing the family if he caused any incidents with you."

"Not to mention the fact," Athena said, as she motioned for the two of them to follow her to the house, "that because Draco is from a lower house, as the head of House Potter, if he says or does anything to you that you, in your sole discretion, deem as being too inappropriate or insulting, you have a great many options available to you."

"Like what?" Harry asked.

"You can demand an apology, for one," Cedric answered. "If he isn't willing to apologize, you can challenge him to a duel or demand financial reimbursement. Most of the time, one of those options will result in satisfaction of whatever slight he's made against you. If he still refuses to give you satisfaction, however, assuming his father doesn't step in and order him to, at which point he'd have to whether he wants to or not, you also have the option of making him a guest of Seacliff's dungeons for however long you want. He'd have to be housed in the noble section, but even then, it's not something he's likely to want to experience, so he'll do what he can to avoid it."

As they entered the house, Harry asked, "Seacliff has a dungeon?"

"Yes, Harry," Athena confirmed. "While every property you own probably doesn't have one, Seacliff definitely does, and your manor houses in Brynmoor and Mathry likely have them as well, although on a smaller scale."

"What do you mean the noble section?" Harry queried.

"It's a nicer section of the dungeons," Cedric replied. "Reserved for prisoners of noble birth. They get more creature comforts, better food, and a manservant to assist them. Their rank, of course, dictates just how lavish their appointments have to be. Essentially, you're depriving them of their freedom, but you still have to treat them like the nobility that they are."

Before anything else was said, Eudora came into the room from the parlor and said, "Ah, you've returned. We have guests."

"Guests?" Athena asked with a raised eyebrow. "And just how did they get past the wards?"

"House-elf magic," Eudora answered. "It's Tilly, head-elf of Seacliff Castle, along with Terence's father and step-mother. Tilly knew the second that Harry claimed his birthright."

"Have any of them said anything?" Harry asked. "About my mail or my parents' will?"

"No, Harry," Eudora said. "While you have to renew their oath of loyalty, they're still bound by the one they all swore to your father. So, they can't discuss family business without you being present."

Harry sighed. "Well, then, I guess I'll have to meet with them."

Heading into the parlor, Harry saw a house-elf sitting on the sofa, along with a middle-aged man with brown hair which was graying at the temples. He was dressed quite impeccably in crimson robes with silver accents and trim. Next to him, was sitting a slightly younger woman with blond hair, looking like she'd just stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine. When they saw Harry, they all moved to stand up and offer their oaths to the teenager but stopped when he raised a hand and said, "All of you will stay seated for now. Before I even consider renewing your oaths, there's questions that I need answers to."

"I scanned them all, Harry," Emma said from her place in one of the armchairs. "They've all had their memories modified, to quite a substantial degree. I also detected the residual magic of multiple Imperius Curses. I've removed what blocks on their memories that I can without causing any permanent damage and bolstered their minds against future uses of the Imperius Curse, so it'll be much harder for them to fall under its effects now."

"Can you tell who cast the spells?" Athena asked.

"No, Athena, I can't," Emma said. "Whoever did it masked their signature very well, but I can tell you that the person who did it is a mage. A fairly low power one, but still a mage."

"Well that rules out Dumbledore," Harry said.

"No, actually, Harry it doesn't," Eudora said. "Dumbledore is a Grand Sorcerer and the person who cast the charms on these three was at most a Master Mage. However, I can't rule out the possibility that Dumbledore may have received mage training either here in Albion or abroad. Master Mage is four power levels above a Grand Sorcerer, after all, so it's possible that he found a mage to perform the power increase ritual on him and then simply never told anyone."

"He's always said that he's a Grand Sorcerer," Rose added, speaking for the first time. "However, it's conceivable that he may be lying about his true power level. As the Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation, all of his personal records have been sealed in the vaults of the Confederation's headquarters in Geneva for decades. Even King Edward wouldn't have the authority to unseal them, as they're housed in neutral territory and sealed under international law."

"Hmm," Harry said, as he turned towards the three people on the couch and said, "I assume my trainers have told you about how I grew up?"

Shaking his head, Robert Higgs said, "No, your grace. They felt it wasn't their place to reveal your secrets."

"We're bound by the oaths of silence anyway," Athena said. "Basically anything you consider to be a secret, Harry, is protected by the oath, even if we knew it before we swore the oath. Of course, it only applies to your personal or family secrets. Anything already protected by the Fidelius prior to the oath, however, remains outside of the scope of the oath."

Remaining silent for a moment, Harry considered everything he'd been told. If the elf and Mr. and Mrs. Higgs had been under the Imperius Curse and had their memories modified, they could hardly be blamed for not doing what was laid out in his parents' wills. "Alright, I'll take your oaths now and then we'll talk."

Once the oaths were given and accepted, Harry began explaining how he'd lived with his Muggle relatives since his parents' deaths and their treatment of him. Robert and his wife, Katherine, were mortified as they listened to the details and Tilly was near tears, trying several times to punish herself for not helping her Master. Harry refused to allow her to do this, however, reasoning that it wasn't her fault she didn't do something she was charmed to forget having to do in the first place.

"If we've been enchanted," Katherine said, "it's almost certain that Lord and Lady Diggory have been as well."

"Question is why?" Harry asked. "Dumbledore told me his reasons for putting me with the Dursleys, but it seems like an awful lot of trouble to go through. Not to mention the fact that he lied to me about the presence of powerful blood wards that supposedly keep me safe as long as I continue to call the Dursleys' house home."

"Yes, those blood wards of his are complete nonsense," Emma said. "The kind of spell he's suggesting was cast is way beyond his ability to cast even if he did lie about his power level. The spell in question can only be cast by a mage who has specialized in blood magic and you're not powerful enough to do that unless you're at least a Magister. There's no way that Dumbledore is that powerful."

"What exactly are the different power levels?" Harry asked, as he looked over at where the trainers were sitting. "I never even heard of them until you started talking about them."

"That's because they're not taught to third years, Harry," Athena said. "They're usually touched upon starting in fifth year and then covered in more detail in sixth and seventh year. Basically, there's a scale of power, ranging from one to thirty."

When it became apparent that Athena didn't plan on elaborating, Harry asked, "Is that all you're going to say?"

"She's not saying anything more because she knows I'm covering this tomorrow morning in class," Eudora said, as she looked at the boys. "Report to classroom #1 in the basement tomorrow morning at 9AM. As for now, I think it's time we start getting dinner ready and then you boys can have the rest of the night off to get settled in before classes tomorrow."

"Tilly be happy to cook," the elf said.

Smiling, Athena said, "You're welcome to help, Tilly, though I think my own elf, Barin, would not be happy if you took over his kitchen."

Nodding, Tilly said, "I's go and help Barin, then. If that okay, Master?"

"Yes, Tilly, you may go help Barin," Harry said. "And please, when we're in private, just call me Harry."

"Yes, Mas... er, Harry," Tilly said, before popping out of the room.

Once the elf was gone, Harry turned to Robert and said, "If possible, Robert, I would appreciate it if you could round up any and all mail you can locate at Seacliff which has been delivered there over the years as I'd very much like to see what I haven't been getting all this time."

"Of course, sir," Robert said. "Anything else?"

"Yes, I'll also need you to put me in touch with the family barrister," Harry said. "Considering that he's the one who delivered the letter to Gringotts that diverted all my mail to Seacliff, I imagine he must also have been charmed."

"I'm afraid we may never know the answer to that," Robert said. At Harry's questioning look, he said, "The Potter family barrister at the time you were eleven was Kendrick Pierce, but he contracted dragon pox and died last year. His grandson Ethan has taken over most of his cases and clients, but he is not officially the Potter family barrister unless you as the new Lord Potter name him such."

"Well, what do you know about this Ethan?" Harry asked.

"His name is Ethan Pierce," Robert said. "He's only twenty-eight, but he does have a relatively good reputation and he was a full partner in his grandfather's firm. All in all, I'd say he's trustworthy, or at least as trustworthy as any lawyer can be."

Once the laughter died down, Harry said, "Okay, well, set up a meeting with him for me. Growing up the way I did, I know next to nothing about the Wizarding world beyond what I was taught or picked up at Hogwarts, which doesn't include anything about law." Sighing, he added, "And since I'm on the Wizengamot now, I suppose it would be helpful to know something about it and a lawyer seems like a good person to ask."

"Yes, that's true," Athena said. "Perhaps we should look into sending word to Hogwarts to get your double placed in the Wizarding Law elective. You'd be about a year behind in it, but I know your friend Hermione has the class, so she should be able to help your double to catch up."

"Could I drop Divination and take Wizarding Law instead then?" Harry asked. "I took it because I thought it would be an easy class, but having had it for a year, I think it's useless. Plus, Trelawney likes to start every single class by predicting my imminent death. She obviously doesn't have the Inner Eye she loves going on about, because I'm still alive, despite her dire predictions which get very annoying after awhile."

"Yes, Sibyll is not my favorite person," Athena said. "I'll make the arrangements for your double to drop Divination while you're in class tomorrow, Harry. Even though your double will be taking it, I'll also pop over to Diagon Alley and get you a copy of the textbook for you to peruse here."

"Cedric and I took the class, Harry," Roger said. "So, we'll help you study, right, Ric?"

Nodding, Cedric said, "Yeah, that won't be a problem. Don't know how I did on my OWL for the class, but I think I passed."

"You did," Eudora said with a smile to Cedric.

"How do you know?" Cedric asked.

"Your other trainers and I are on staff at Hogwarts, remember," Eudora said. "Truth is the Wizarding Testing Authority finishes grading the OWL exams by the second week of July. We just don't send out the results to the students until we send their Hogwarts letters for the next school year."

"Can we see our results then?" Roger asked.

"I don't see why not," Athena said, as she called out, "Barin!"

A moment later, Barin appeared in the room and asked, "Yes Mistress?"

"Please go to my study," Athena said, "and fetch Roger's and Cedric's OWL results. They should be in an envelope from the Wizarding Testing Authority in the top left hand drawer of the desk."

Nodding, Barin popped out of the room, only to return a moment later with the envelope, which he handed to Athena, before popping back to the kitchen to continue making dinner. Opening the envelope, Athena pulled out two folded sheets of parchment, which after checking the names on them, she handed to Roger and Cedric.

Opening his, Cedric read over his results with a smile.

Ordinary Wizarding Levels Results for Cedric Jeremiah Diggory, Earl of Charwell

Ancient Runes - Outstanding
Arithmancy - Outstanding
Astronomy - Exceeds Expectations
Charms - Outstanding
Defense Against the Dark Arts - Outstanding
Herbology - Outstanding
History of Magic - Exceeds Expectations
Magical Languages - Outstanding
Potions - Outstanding
Transfiguration - Exceeds Expectations
Wizarding Law - Exceeds Expectations

Roger was also quite pleased with his results, even if there were fewer Outstanding marks then he would have liked. As a Ravenclaw, he'd rather hoped to have all Outstanding marks, but alas, it apparently wasn't meant to be.

Ordinary Wizarding Levels Results for Roger Michael Davies

Ancient Runes - Outstanding
Arithmancy - Outstanding
Astronomy - Exceeds Expectations
Charms - Outstanding
Defense Against the Dark Arts - Outstanding
Herbology - Exceeds Expectations
History of Magic - Outstanding
Magical Finance - Exceeds Expectations
Magical Languages - Outstanding
Magical Literature - Outstanding
Potions - Exceeds Expectations
Transfiguration - Outstanding
Wizarding Law - Exceeds Expectations

"So, what did you all get?" Terence asked.

"I attempted eleven OWLs," Cedric said. "I have 7 Outstandings and 4 Exceeds Expectations."

"Congratulations, Cedric," Harry said, as he looked at Roger and said, "And what about you Mr. Brainiac?"

Grinning at the nickname, Roger said, "Attempted and earned thirteen OWLs - 8 Outstandings and 5 Exceeds Expectations." After a moment of silence, he added, "Damn it, I was sure I'd aced all thirteen of them."

Katherine smiled and shook her head, "Only a Ravenclaw would complain about those grades."

"Or my friend Hermione Granger," Harry said. "She's a Gryffindor, but I think she totally expects to get Outstanding in everything and I think she'll be quite upset if she doesn't."

"If you boys know which classes you'd like to continue for your NEWTs," Athena said, "I can send the information along to Hogwarts when I send off the instructions to amend Harry's schedule."

"Won't that look odd?" Cedric asked. "You said you don't usually send the results off until you send out the Hogwarts letters and those usually don't come for another week or so."

Shaking her head, Athena said, "No, it won't look strange, as I happen to know that sometimes certain students' results are sent out early. Even though the majority are sent with the Hogwarts letters, about a fourth of the results have already been sent out. The students in question are usually the children of past Hogwarts alumni who are well off enough that they can afford to donate to the school. Your family certainly falls into that category, Cedric, and your father has been quite generous over the years. Now, while Roger's family isn't nearly as wealthy, his father did make a fairly good size donation towards the end of last year. So, for both of you, your results were among the ones sent out early. I imagine they probably arrived at your houses earlier today."

"I've been thinking about what I want to take," Cedric said. "I think I'll continue with Charms, Herbology, Transfiguration, Potions, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, and Wizarding Law. And add Specialized Charms, Medical Magic, and Spell Creation." He was silent for a moment, before adding, "If I'm remembering the requirements correctly, I qualify for all of them."

Writing Cedric's choices down on a blank sheet of parchment, Athena nodded, "Good choices, Cedric, and yes you qualify for all of them. Roger, what about you?"

"As much as I love learning," Roger answered, "I'm sick of having to use a Time Turner to get to all of my classes, so, I'm going to only take ten NEWTs: Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, Magical Languages, Spell Creation, Magical Research & Archiving, Magical Finance, Wizarding Law, and Specialized Charms."

"Are you sure?" Rose asked. "Remember, it'll be your double attending your classes and using the Time Turner, not you."

"Well, I've been thinking for awhile now about only taking ten," Roger said. "If my double is suddenly signed up more than that, won't he question why?"

"Oh that's very easily rectified," Eudora answered. "While your double does have free will, as the real Roger Davies, your decisions take precedence over his. So, even though you won't gain all the memories and knowledge that he gains until after you rejoin with him, he has limited access to your memories. So, if you change your mind and decide you want to take more NEWTs, he'll remember just that. He won't remember this conversation but he'll remember wanting to take more NEWTs."

Roger grinned. "Question is, am I really sadistic enough to make my double sit through more classes with Professor Binns? You know the only reason I got an Outstanding in History of Magic is because my father hired a private tutor for me. If he hadn't, I doubt I would have gotten even an Acceptable on my OWL for the class because well over half the stuff on the test wasn't even covered in class. Binns is too preoccupied with the goblin wars to teach everything else that he's supposed to cover."

"Well, I am one of the school governors now," Harry said. "Maybe at the next meeting, I'll strongly suggest we sack Binns and get someone competent, and alive, for the job. If everyone is having to hire private tutors anyway, I don't see how any money is really being saved in not having to pay Binns."

"You think while you're at it you could do something about Professor Snape?" Terence asked. Noticing the looks, he said, "Yes, I know he's my Head of House, but that doesn't mean I can't see his flaws. He makes it abundantly clear that he absolutely hates teaching. Seems to me that doesn't make him a good candidate for the job. I'm not suggesting that he be sacked, but maybe there's another job available that he'd enjoy more."

"Well, what could he do instead?" Cedric asked. "I know he's always wanted the Defense Against the Dark Arts job."

"That position has been filled," Athena interjected. "The Headmaster got Alastor Moody to teach it. He's a very famous, retired Auror, so you'd find it next to impossible to get Professor Snape into the position instead."

"Well, what about Master Brewer?" Eudora asked. "I know in the past, Hogwarts did have one on staff. He'd basically spend all of his time brewing potions for the hospital wing. He does that now, but with his teaching and head of house duties, he can't brew all the potions that the hospital wing needs, so the ones he doesn't have time for have to be bought. Many of the ingredients required for the most commonly used medicinal potions are grown in the school greenhouses, so it doesn't really make much sense to buy finished potions at a markup and pay to have them shipped in at regular intervals when they could be brewed on site for less money. Not to mention the fact that Hogwarts can sell any excess potions at a profit."

"Well, that could work, I suppose," Harry said. "Any suggestions as to who could take over for Snape though? If I'm going to suggest relieving him of his teaching duties, I should probably have a replacement in mind."

"Well, there's Professor Horace Slughorn," Emma said. "He was the Potions Master and Head of Slytherin for just over sixty years until he retired in 1981 to concentrate on other projects he wanted to finish. He's still very much alive, however, and in good health last I'd heard. So, yes, he's in his mid nineties now, but by Wizarding standards, give or take a few years, he's still considered middle-aged. The Headmaster is over a hundred, after all, and his age hasn't given anyone pause."

"Most ghosts tend to calculate their age based on their deathday," Rose added, "but if you calculate Binns' age based on his birthday, he's about 227 years old now. He died in 1920 at the age of 153."

"Well, then," Harry said. "Robert, track down this Horace Slughorn and see if you can convince him to come back to Hogwarts. Use my name if you have to. Obviously the board will have to approve it, but before they can do that, he needs to be willing to return to the post. And put out some feelers for the position of History of Magic professor. Surely there must be someone out there whose alive, qualified and willing to take the job."

"Of course, sir," Robert said. "And might I suggest that with the Opening Ball happening in a few days, that you might consider using the occasion to get some more votes? All thirteen of the family heads are on the board, after all. If you can persuade some of them before the next governor's meeting, which is on the 17th of August, to vote your way, it can't hurt anything."

"A good point," Harry said, and then looking at Cedric, he said, "I'm going to be counting on you to make sure I don't make a complete and total fool of myself you know. You at least have some experience with this whole noble thing."

Cedric grinned. "Don't worry, I'll make sure you don't look like a total prat."

"Thanks," Harry said in a mildly sarcastic tone.

"Well, assuming Binns isn't teaching it," Roger said, "I'll take the NEWT level History of Magic class. I'll also continue with Astronomy, Herbology and Transfiguration. And I guess if Harry manages to get Slughorn in and he doesn't require an Outstanding for the NEWT level Potions class, I'll take that as well. So, that's fifteen NEWTs I'd be taking. Definitely will need a Time Turner, but as you said, it'll be my double doing all the work. Might as well take advantage of that and get all the knowledge I can."

"Noted," Athena said, as she wrote the classes down on the parchment. Then looking up at Roger, Athena added, "At any rate, I'm sure Madam Pince will be quite pleased to have you in her class."

Roger nodded, before noticing the questioning looks that Harry, Terence and Cedric were giving him. "We don't advertise it, but Madam Pince and I are related. She's my paternal grandmother's younger sister."

Before anyone else could say anything, Barin popped in and said, "Dinner is served," before popping back out. Shortly afterward, everyone stood up and headed for the combination kitchen and dining room to eat. Like most meals he'd eaten that had been prepared by house elves, Harry was thoroughly pleased and left quite full afterward.

-o-0-o-

When the four students came downstairs the next morning around 8:30, none of the trainers were anywhere in sight. Entering the kitchen, they found breakfast waiting for them, so they ate in relative silence for a few minutes, before finally Terence asked, "What do you think we'll be learning today?"

"Eudora said she'd cover the power scale," Roger said. "I would imagine there will be more covered than just that." Grinning at Terence he said, "Otherwise, you'd probably be bored out of your mind."

"Possibly," Terence allowed. "We did cover the scale in more detail in sixth year. I haven't looked at the seventh year books, so I don't know how much of it is covered in seventh year."

"So, only one more year of Hogwarts for you," Cedric said. "Or perhaps, more accurately your double, since Athena said our mage training would probably take a few years. Any plans for after that?"

"I've been talking with Professor Flitwick about a Charms apprenticeship," Terence answered. "Of course, ever since they named him their reserve keeper, Oliver has been trying to convince me to try out for Puddlemere United's reserve team."

"Oliver?" Harry asked. "As in Wood?"

Nodding, Terence said, "Yes, Harry, as in Wood."

"How do you know Oliver?" Harry asked.

"Much better than most people, I think," Terence said with a grin, "seeing as he's been my boyfriend for the last three years."

"You and Oliver are a couple?" Harry asked, clearly shocked. "I never knew Wood was into blokes. Of course, all I ever heard him talk about was Quidditch, so honestly, I didn't think he dated at all. Or if he did, I figured he was dating the quaffle."

All four of the young men around the table laughed at that comment, before Terence nodded and said, "Yes, Will is quite Quidditch obsessed. As for your not knowing he liked blokes, he's always been very straight acting. He doesn't volunteer the information, but if someone asks him, he doesn't lie about it either. He's had to dash a few girls' hopes, as there were a few at Hogwarts who asked him out. Once word got out that he preferred males, there were a handful of blokes started asking him out, but he turned them down too, just saying that he was involved. Since he was a Gryffindor and I'm a Slytherin, we chose to keep our relationship under wraps while we were in school to avoid any unpleasantness with our housemates."

Raising an eyebrow, Harry asked, "Will?"

"It's Oliver's nickname," Cedric said with a grin. Being friends with both Oliver and Terence, he knew they were a couple before today, so he also knew their nicknames. "Oliver's middle name is William, same as Terence's. And because Oliver hates Ollie and Terence hates being called Terry, they prefer to use shortened versions of their shared middle name: Will for Oliver and Liam for Terence."

Looking at Harry with a grin, Roger added, "He can't do anything to you, Harry, because of the oath he swore to you. But anyone else calls him the common nickname for Terence and he's quite likely to hex their bits off." He'd worded it this way instead of saying Terry as he couldn't help but notice the scowl with accompanying growl from Terence when Cedric had said Terry. "And I don't know about you, but I like mine right where they are."

"Same here," Harry said, as Cedric nodded as well. The only reason that Cedric had been brave enough to say it was because it would be illegal for Terence to hex the bits off the heir of a noble house before said heir had produced an heir of his own. So he was confident that Terence did not want to spend the rest of his life in the dungeon of the Diggory's ancestral home, Willowglen Manor. Terence just shook his head, the hard look in his eyes countered by the small grin on his face.

"Anyway," Terence said, "yes, Will is definitely fond of Quidditch, there's no doubt about that. He talks about it often, but he usually shuts up about it when we're alone together, not only because we're usually too busy snogging at that point, but he also knows that I'm still a bit bitter about being so unceremoniously kicked off the Slytherin team. I made the team as a second year and other than the Gryffindor/Slytherin game in your first year, Harry, which was my second year on the team, I had a perfect record for catching the snitch."

Thinking back to his first year, Harry remembered Terence and asked, "You were only a third year? You looked older."

"Well, that year I was old enough to be a fourth year," Terence explained. "My birthday is September 15th, however, so I had to start Hogwarts a year late. I celebrated my seventeenth birthday last year while I was a sixth year, so, obviously I'll be eighteen this year."

"I'm in the same boat," Cedric commented. "My birthday is two days after Terence's, so I'll be turning seventeen on September 17th, even though I'll be starting my sixth year this year. Well, my double will be, but same difference."

Nodding, Roger said, "My birthday is on the 12th of August - I'll be sixteen. As for you getting kicked off the team Terence, yeah, it does suck that they did that when you were a proven player and all Flint had to recommend Draco for the spot was seven new brooms and his word that he was a good player."

Shaking his head as he refilled his pumpkin juice, Cedric said, "Actually, that's not all Flint had to recommend Draco." At the questioning looks from the others, Cedric said, "It's by no means correct, but I imagine that Marcus Flint, Viscount Sarn, figured that Draco Malfoy, Viscount Bratton, would be a better player than Terence Higgs, commoner. I personally don't believe it, but I know some of the nobles think they're better than others because they're nobles. Given the option, they'll choose nobility over commoners every time."

"Yeah, Will said something similar," Terence said, after sipping his tea. "He's not noble, but like me he does have experience with the nobility, since his brother Cameron is Lord McKinnon's seneschal."

"Oliver has a brother?" Harry asked. "I didn't know that."

"Actually, he was twin elder brothers, and a younger half-brother," Terence said. "Bryce and Cameron Wood are four years older than Oliver, so they finished Hogwarts before you started, Harry, and their half-brother, Gavin Wood, who's a year and a half younger than Oliver, never went to Hogwarts."

"Why not?" Harry asked.

"Not strong enough," Terence answered. "Gavin does have magic, but he's what's referred to as a hedgewizard. One level below the minimum level of magical power required to attend any magical school throughout the world. Basically he's powerful enough to own a wand, but he's extremely limited in the spells he can cast. He can do most of the first year spells and a couple taught in second year, but anything higher is beyond his ability."

'That sucks,' Harry thought to himself, before he remembered his conversation with Rose from the previous day. "What about the blood ritual that Rose told me about it? Couldn't that be used on Gavin? He'd never became a mage, but at least then he'd be powerful enough that he should be able to cast most spells, right?"

"Honestly, I don't know," Roger said, as the others indicated they didn't either. "I suppose it's possible, but I don't know enough about the ritual to know whether or not it could be used on Gavin. It's possible that there's a minimum power level that you have to be before it can be used."

"Yeah, that's possible," Terence said. "Besides that, Gavin is sixteen. So, I assume he'll get stronger in his inheritance next year. He just won't attend Hogwarts, because at seventeen, he'd be too old to be a first year. His parents hired private tutors for him though, so, if he does get stronger, I imagine they'll teach him everything he needs to know."

"Unfortunately, your assumption may be wrong, Mr. Higgs," Athena said as she walked into the room. "Hedgewizards like Mr. Wood do not always have a magical inheritance. Some do, but the majority of them don't. Now is not the time to discuss such things, however, as I believe you four were supposed to be in the basement with Eudora by now."

Looking at the clock on the fireplace mantle, Harry realized that it was 9:03 AM, which meant that, yes, they were all late for their first class which was supposed to start at 9:00 AM. Quickly taking one last sip of his pumpkin juice, Harry stood up as did Cedric, while Roger finished what little milk was left in his glass and Terence drank the last swallow full of tea in his cup, before all four of them headed for the basement stairs and their first class. Thankfully, unlike at Hogwarts, it wasn't hard to find the classroom, since there were only two of them in the basement and all the rooms were accessible from a single hallway.

Also adding to the not getting lost factor was that the staircases in Forest Cottage were completely stationary and did not change and lead to different locations on different days. It was Harry's opinion, that whoever came up with the idea of staircases that move and entire rooms that were capable of moving to different floors needed to be shot. The person was clearly out of touch with reality if they did not understand just how hard that would make it for students to get to their classes on time, especially in a castle with well over a hundred rooms and seven floors, not counting the numerous dungeon levels.

-o-0-o-

As Harry, Cedric, Roger, and Terence entered the basement classroom, a total of five minutes late, Eudora looked up from her desk and said, "I see you four decided to come to class after all. I must admit I was beginning to wonder."

Other than Eudora's desk, there were only four desks in the room lined up in a single row one right next to the other. Taking their seats, Terence said, "I apologize for our tardiness. We lost track of time talking over breakfast."

"Yes, I figured it was something like that," Eudora said. "Not to mention the fact that I imagine you're all still in summer vacation mode, seeing as how it is only August 2nd. You will have time off to enjoy the weather before it gets too cold, though I warn you that making a habit of being late to my class is not conducive to you earning any free time."

Once all four of her students acknowledged that they understood, Eudora stood up and said, "Okay, as I said yesterday, today we will be covering the magical power scale in detail. If you're to become mages, it would be best if you understood exactly what the means. You'll find parchment and ever-full quills in your desks, so please copy down the power scale, exactly as it's written on the blackboard. I was going to give you twenty minutes to do that, but since you were five minutes late to class, you have fifteen, at which point I will explain the various power levels in more detail. Begin."

Opening the single drawer on his desk, Harry found parchment and the quills that Eudora mentioned, so pulling them out, he began to copy down the list.

The Magical Power Scale

1. Muggle
2. Squib
3. Adept
4. Savant
5. Hedgewizard/Hedgewitch
6. Apprentice Wizard/Witch, minimum required to attend any magic school. +1 metamagic skill
7. Wizard/Witch
8. Master Wizard/Witch
9. Grand Wizard/Grand Witch
10. Archwizard/Archwitch, +1 metamagic skill
11. Apprentice Sorcerer/Sorceress
12. Sorcerer/Sorceress
13. Master Sorcerer/Sorceress
14. Grand Sorcerer/Grand Sorceress, +1 metamagic skill
15. Archsorcerer/Archsorceress
16. Apprentice Mage
17. Mage, +1 mage specialization
18. Master Mage, +1 metamagic skill
19. Grand Mage
20. Archmage, +1 higher arcana
21. Apprentice Magister
22. Magister, +1 metamagic skill, +1 higher arcana, +1 mage specialization
23. Master Magister
24. Grand Magister, +1 higher arcana
25. Archmagister
26. Apprentice Magus, +1 metamagic skill, +1 higher arcana
27. Magus, +1 mage specialization
28. Master Magus, +1 higher arcana
29. Grand Magus
30. Archmagus, maximum attainable power level, +1 metamagic skill, +1 higher arcana

Once exactly fifteen minutes had passed, Eudora stood up from her desk and said, "Quills down. If you haven't finished copying the list, you can stay after class to do so."

Walking around to the front of her desk and leaning against it, Eudora cleared her throat and began.

"Now, first off, some facts about the various levels of power. Muggles, obviously, have no magic whatsoever. Squibs also have no magic, however, as they are born to magical families, as long as they're allowed to study magical theory, they're better off than Muggles, as they'll have enough knowledge that they can exist in the magical world, even without the ability to do magic. Even then, most squibs choose not to stay in our world, however, since watching others do what they can't is often too hard for them to handle. That's why the Kwikspell home study course is so popular among squibs. It doesn't work, of course, but those who buy it won't know that until after they've bought the course. And then by the time they realize that they've wasted their money on something that doesn't work, the trial period in which they could have gotten their money back has expired. Yes, Cedric?"

"Why is that even allowed?" Cedric asked. "It doesn't seem fair. If it's known that it doesn't work, why is the company allowed to continue selling it?"

"That's a good question," Eudora said. "This is not a commonly known fact, as the company that makes Kwikspell is owned by a shell company, that's owned by a shell company, that's owned by yet another shell company. If you have the patience, however, to go through the maze of paperwork, which is designed to be very hard to navigate and thus make you want to give up, you'll find that the company is a joint venture between the Burke, Malfoy, and Lestrange families. Most people never get far enough through the maze of misdirection to figure that out and those that do choose not to pursue the matter, since it would require suing three of the Most Ancient and Noble Houses and the majority of people simply do not have the resources to do that.

"Not to mention the fact that Lords Burke and Malfoy, with their numerous donations to worthy causes, otherwise known as bribes, have the Minister and several high-ranking officials in their pockets. That's also how Borgin and Burke's in Knockturn Alley gets away with their shady and corrupt way of doing business. They'd say they're practicing good business, buying low and selling high, but the levels they take it to are beyond ridiculous, since they're often buying things for knuts on the galleon, and then selling those same items for as much as six hundred percent above the highest appraisals of what the item is actually worth."

Shaking her head, Eudora said, "Anyway, back to the power scale. Next you have the Adept and Savant levels. People at these levels are still basically Muggles, as they do not possess a strong enough magical core to use a wand or cast spells. Adepts often have psychic ability, usually limited to seeing the future or talking to the dead. Savants take it further in that they sometimes develop other psychic abilities such as mind reading, empathy, hypnosis, and telekinesis. In rare instances, some of them even manage to master such techniques as hydrokinesis and pyrokinesis, which are the abilities to control water or fire with the mind. However, it's very rare for them to actually develop those abilities. I think there's only about four or five recorded cases of it happening in the last two thousand years. Of course, that doesn't mean there weren't more instances that simply were not recorded."

Pleased to see her students taking notes, Eudora gave them a moment to write, before moving on. "Now, level five on the scale is the Hedgewitch or Hedgewizard. These are people who are right on the border line between being muggle and magical. They are in possession of a strong enough magical core that they can use a wand and cast spells, but they're usually limited to the simpler spells and those spells will be weaker than they would be if they were cast by someone who had a bigger and stronger core. They're not invited to attend Hogwarts because they'd have to drop out after only a year or two because the practical work would quickly grow beyond their ability. Most parents who have children at this level, assuming they keep them and many don't, hire private tutors to teach them theory and how to control their powers. They then go into trade schools to learn how to do jobs in the magical world that are within their magical abilities to perform. Some also choose to leave the magical world and live as Muggles, feeling that they'll have better opportunities for advancement in the Muggle world, which sadly is probably true.

"One example of a hedgewizard that you may or may not be familiar with," Eudora continued, "is Stan Shunpike, the conductor of the Knight Bus. He's capable of performing simple spells, but if you asked him to conjure a patronus, for example, he wouldn't be able to do it even if his life depended on it. Of course, the Knight Bus travels much faster than a Dementor can, so he shouldn't have a problem." Then noticing that Terence had raised his hand, Eudora nodded and asked, "Yes, Terence?"

"We were actually discussing this topic at breakfast," Terence said. "My boyfriend Oliver's half-brother Gavin is a hedgewizard. Rose told Harry about the blood ritual for increasing the power level yesterday during his exam and he in turn told us last night. Would the blood ritual work on Gavin?"

Shaking her head, Eudora said, "Unfortunately, no, it wouldn't. It was created specifically for the purpose of creating new mages when the number of people reaching mage level began to drop off around four hundred years ago. So, the ritual will only work on people who are already within four levels of the mage power range, which as you can see from the list, the Hedgewitch and Hedgewizard are not."

"What about the magical inheritance?" Harry asked after Eudora had called on him. "Athena overheard our conversation and said that most hedgewizards don't go through the inheritance, but she didn't elaborate since we were already late for class."

With a nod of her head, Eudora said, "She's correct. Only about one in a hundred people at that level go through the magical inheritance. Terence, do you know if Gavin has ever, however briefly, shown bursts of magic which would seem to otherwise be beyond his normal abilities?"

Thinking about it for a moment, Terence said, "Honestly, I'm not sure. I've met Gavin and spent time with him, but he's never shown any bursts of magic in my presence and Oliver has never mentioned anything, but then we don't really talk about Gavin that much. What time we do have together is usually spent talking about Quidditch or," clearing his throat and blushing slightly, he added, "doing other things."

With a knowing look on her face, Eudora said, "There's no need to be embarrassed, Terence. You're seventeen, you're legally an adult, as is Mr. Wood. Anyway, the reason I asked is because those on level five who do tend to have a magical inheritance usually show some signs of being able to perform magic at a higher level before they're old enough to actually have their inheritance. Most often this is because something went wrong in the womb and their cores got blocked somehow. If that's the case, sometimes the block will disappear as they get older, but in those cases when it doesn't, the inheritance can be a very risky, potentially lethal event."

"Why?" Roger asked.

Ignoring the fact that Roger hadn't raised his hand, Eudora said, "Because as Terence can probably tell you, when you go through your magical inheritance, you'll feel extremely nauseous, tired, achy, and when the time comes for your power to actually increase, your entire body will be shaking. Depending on how much power you're gaining this can range from very minor shaking more akin to shivering to much more violent shaking. People gaining four or more levels tend to completely lose control of their limbs and are flailing around so violently that they need to be tied down to prevent them from injuring themselves and others. In that event, a spell also needs to be cast to insure that they don't bite their tongue in half. In the case of people on level five whose magic was blocked in the womb, if that blockage hasn't released by the time of the inheritance, their core basically turns into a ticking time bomb. Depending on how much power is held behind the blockage, combined with the inheritance increase, it can blow the blockage with enough force that the magical core will go into critical overload, burning them alive from the inside out, much like what would happen if you break an Unbreakable Vow."

"Do you think I could get permission to contact Oliver?" Terence asked, suddenly worried. "Gavin will be turning seventeen in January. He's a good kid and I don't think I'm going to be able to sleep unless I know for sure that he's not going to die on his next birthday."

"I'll talk to Athena," Eudora said. "I can understand your concern, Terence, and I share it. However, you contacting Oliver would require telling him about your training. As the Secret Keeper, that's Athena's call, not mine. I would just see to it that the message is passed onto your double, but then there would undoubtedly be questions as to how you'd found out the information. Questions that your double would have no way of answering. Further complicating matters is that in the vast majority of cases when these magical blocks are still intact after nearly seventeen years, it's because it's a very strong block that would require a mage to get past. So, you have my word that I will discuss it with Athena, however, for now don't worry yourself about it too much, as we don't even know if Gavin's magic is blocked. He may very well just be a normal hedgewizard who will not have an inheritance. Now let's turn our attention back to the lesson."

Terence nodded and did his best to do what Eudora suggested. She was right in that they didn't even know for sure that Gavin's magic actually was blocked, so it wouldn't do any good to worry about it. He'd feel a lot better when he knew for sure though, because he knew what a tight-knit family the Woods were. If something were to happen to Gavin it would devastate them and Terence loved Oliver, so he didn't want him or the rest of the family to have to go through that kind of pain.

"Now, level six, Apprentice Witch and Apprentice Wizard," Eudora continued. "That's the minimum level required to attend any magic school throughout the world. At that level, you are in possession of a magical core strong enough that you can cast all the spells taught in the seven years at Hogwarts. You won't necessarily be able to cast them all well, but none of them should be beyond your ability to cast, unless you simply never study and don't practice. The spells will get a bit easier, of course, as you move up the scale. Now, eighty percent of the students currently attending Hogwarts fall somewhere on the power scale between levels six and ten. Of that number, only about half of them will actually gain enough power in their inheritances to push them up into the Sorcerer range and less than a quarter of them will go beyond the Apprentice level of that range."

Pausing to take a sip of water from a glass on her desk, Eudora said, "It's from the other twenty percent that the majority of those selected for mage training come from, as they most often start Hogwarts in the higher end of the Wizard range or already in the Sorcerer range. Even then, only about five percent of that number will gain enough power in their inheritance to actually push them into the Mage range naturally. So, most people selected for mage training must go through the power increase ritual. Yes Roger?"

"You said earlier that the ritual was created when the number of naturally occurring mages began to drop off around four hundred years ago," Roger said. "Does anybody know why the number dropped off?"

"There is a theory," Eudora said. "Some mages don't want to believe it, but that has more to do with their upbringing than the facts of the matter. If you ask me, it's not a theory, it's fact. Your other trainers all agree with me on that, but not everyone else does. It's believed that many of the pureblood families who are insistent on keeping their bloodlines pure, especially those who keep marrying into the same families, not looking beyond Albion's borders for perspective mates and then only having one child, are the reason for the decrease in naturally occurring mages. The fanatical purebloods believe that keeping their bloodlines pure will insure the continued survival of magic, but if you ask me, it's actually guaranteeing magic's extinction. At least, here in Albion."

After being called on, Terence asked, "You say at least here in Albion, does that mean that it's different in other countries?"

Nodding, Eudora said, "Yes, it is. In Egypt, for example, the Pharaoh has made it illegal for his subjects to marry or have children with any person who is within five or less degrees of relation. So, the closest cousin that an Egyptian witch or wizard can marry is their sixth cousin. The law has reduced the amount of inbreeding going on in the country and consequently the number of people reaching the mage level naturally has been improving. A few other countries have similar laws and their rates of producing mages have also been improving. None of these countries have reached the levels that mages once occurred at centuries ago, but there has been some improvement, unlike here in Albion where for the most part the rates have continued to get worse."

Walking around to the other side of her desk and sitting down, Eudora said, "Anyway, since we've talked about both the inheritance and the power increase ritual, there is something I feel I should also tell you. Contrary to popular belief, magic does not get stronger or weaker with age. The inheritance is the only time in a wizard's life where their age has any affect on their power level, so barring the increase ritual, following their inheritance, a wizard's power remains the same throughout their life. The only thing that changes is the amount of experience they have in wielding the power that they possess.

"So, for example, Terence, you are a Grand Sorcerer. This places you at the same level as Professor Dumbledore. However, I would not suggest that you challenge him to a duel, because it'd be a safe bet that even though you're ranked the same on the power scale, you'd lose. The reason for this is because you only went through your inheritance less than a year ago while Dumbledore went through his in July of 1898. It's safe to assume that in the ninety-six years since then, he's accumulated much more experience in wielding his power and has very likely learned more spells than you have. So, even though you're technically the same power level, he would appear to be more powerful because of his greater knowledge and experience."

Nodding, Terence said, "That makes sense." After a moment, he added, "And just to be clear, even after Harry told me that, I never once even considered the idea of challenging the Headmaster to a duel. I may be many things, but I like to think that stupid isn't one of them."

"That's good," Eudora said. "In the same vein, it may sometimes appear that witches and wizards of great age have gotten weaker. This is not true, they are still the same power level that they have always been. However, with age, it's possible for the mind to deteriorate and the reason they thus appear to have gotten weaker is because they've forgotten some of their knowledge and experience."

Leaning back in her chair, Eudora took another sip of water, before she said, "Now, are there any questions?"

Both Harry's and Roger's hands went up. Gesturing towards Harry, Eudora said, "Harry."

"On the scale we copied down," Harry said, as he looked down at his paper, "there's several things listed after the various levels like metamagic. What is that?"

"I'm glad you asked," Eudora said. "Metamagic is a collection of seven different skills which alters magic in some way. As you can see, you gradually gain access to these skills as you increase in power, gaining a new skill every four levels after six. Now, that doesn't mean that you can't use the skills earlier, but several of the skills are very power intensive and require larger amounts of power and concentration than you'd have available at lower levels on the scale. So, it is highly suggested that you stick with the progression listed on the scale and master each skill one at a time and only begin studying a new skill if you're powerful enough to do so. Now, all of you are currently powerful enough to learn two of the forms of metamagic and Terence is powerful enough to learn three of them.

"Only one of these skills is actually taught at Hogwarts. It's proper name is Silent Casting, although at Hogwarts it is never referred to as metamagic and its taught as Non-Verbal Casting to the sixth and seventh year students. As I'm sure you can figure out, it's the ability to cast spells without speaking their incantations aloud. Silent Casting is the easiest of the metamagic skills to master, which is why it was chosen as the skill that is taught to you as part of your Hogwarts education. The other forms of metamagic are Stilled, Extended, Persistent, Quickened, Empowered, and Maximized Casting and it is generally accepted that they should be learned and mastered in that order.

"Stilled Casting is the ability to cast spells without a wand. Now, at first glance that would appear to be what's known as Wandless Magic. However, what some people commonly learn as Wandless Magic is not truly Stilled Casting, because many witches and wizards who practice Wandless Magic still need to make the correct wand movements with their hand in order for their spells to work. A true master of Stilled Casting needn't make any movements at all to cast a spell. Thus, they can stand perfectly still, not moving a muscle, and still cast a spell. For targeted spells, they don't even need to point at their target, as they can visualize where they want the spell to go and it goes there.

"Obviously, when paired with Silent Casting, Stilled Casting is extremely useful, especially in a dueling situation. This is because many of the best duelists have been trained to listen for incantations and watch wand or hand movements in order to try and anticipate which spell their opponent is going to use against them so that they can meet the spell with the counter before it hits them. While shield spells are certainly useful, any experienced duelist will tell you that the ultimate goal is to prevent your opponents' spells from hitting you at all. However, that becomes much harder if you can't anticipate what they're about to throw at you. Now, I think the names of the rest of the metamagic forms are relatively self-explanatory, so hands up if you think you know what Extended and Persistent Casting are. Terence?"

"They'd affect the duration of a spell's effects, wouldn't they?" Terence asked.

"Correct," Eudora replied. "As their name implies, Extended and Persistent Casting both effect the duration of a spell's effects, making them last longer. However, Persistent Casting takes this a step further in that the spell becomes persistent which means that it will go on without end, using a small amount of the caster's core power at intervals to maintain the effect. The fact that a persistent spell needs to draw power from the caster's core at intervals also means that it is inadvisable for a witch or wizard to have several such spells active at the same time if they're still going to be actively casting spells or to leave persistent spells active for too long. It's also interesting to note however, that a persistent spell cannot be dispelled by such spells as Finite Incantatum - only the caster can end the spell's effect. Now, Extended Casting is a prerequisite of learning Persistent Casting, so these two skills must be learned in that order A person trying to reverse the order would find only failure as you need to have mastered the art of making your spells last longer before you can make them persistent."

The sound of quills scratching on parchment filled the room as the four boys took notes. Before Eudora moved on, however, Roger raised his hand, prompting her to ask, "Yes Roger?"

"I was just curious if the Permanent Sticking Charm was a form of Persistent Casting?" he asked.

Nodding, Eudora said, "A good question, Roger, and yes the Permanent Sticking Charm is indeed a form of Persistent Casting, thus the spell is perhaps misnamed as it is not actually permanent. Now, I said that the spell would feed off of the caster's magical core at intervals to keep the spell active. However, it is also possible to cast a persistent spell which draws the power to keep it active from another source. A wand core for example. It would also have to be a relatively powerful core for this to work and it has to be a fairly simple spell to last for any great length of time as wand cores don't regenerate their power if they're essentially being used as what Muggles call a battery. Normally, when you cast spells, a very small amount of your own core power is used to keep the wand's core working, but if it isn't getting this regular power, it would eventually drain completely, at which point the effect would end.

"Now the Sticking Charm is a simple spell, considering that it can only make objects stick together, unlike the stronger Adhesive Charm which is powerful enough to make a person stick to an object or even another person. Theoretically, a person who has mastered Persistent Casting could actually cast a persistent version of the Adhesive Charm on two people and essentially turn them into conjoined twins. Now, if that were to happen, those two people would be stuck together until such time that the caster decided to release them, or the power source for the spell, whether it be the caster's core or something else, ran out of power, as no spell or surgical procedure, magical or mundane, would be able to separate them. Harry?"

Lowering his hand upon being called on, he asked, "Wouldn't it just be the clothes the people were wearing that were fused together?"

Shaking her head, Eudora said, "If it were to occur, I'm sure the people involved would very much wish that was true, Harry. But, when cast by a competent and powerful enough person, unless the people in question were lucky enough to be wearing dragon hide or better yet basilisk leather, the spell's magic would easily seep through their clothes and bind flesh to flesh."

"Basilisk leather?" Harry asked.

"Yes, Harry," Eudora said. "Unlike dragon skin which is highly resistant to magic, basilisk hide is impervious to it. So, a person wearing a complete set of clothes made of basilisk leather would be almost immune to magic unless a spell hits them in an area that isn't covered. Of course, due to the ban on breeding basilisks, which is actually an international ban enforced by the International Confederation of Wizards, basilisk leather is extremely rare and prohibitively expensive. Even the richest of the rich families would find it nearly impossible to buy more than one or two full sets of basilisk leather clothing. Many other parts of the basilisk can also be used for various things. It's fangs can be crafted into wand cores and it's eyes, venom and a few other parts are highly sought after potions ingredients."

Thinking about the basilisk that he'd killed, Harry asked, "Do you know if there's a time limit after a basilisk is killed as to how long the various components are still useful?"

"The hide and venom will remain useful almost indefinitely," Eudora said. "The fangs and other components will probably cease to be useful after about five years after the creature's death, with that time frame increasing depending on the age of the basilisk."

Realizing that the basilisk he'd killed in the Chamber of Secrets was a veritable treasure trove, Harry called out, "Dobby!"

A moment later, the excitable elf popped into the room and said, "Harry Potter, sir, called for Dobby?"

Smiling at the elf and ignoring the looks from Eudora and his classmates, Harry said, "Yes, Dobby. I know you're not a Parselmouth, but can you get into the Chamber of Secrets?"

Nodding, Dobby said, "Yes, Harry Potter, sir. There's nowhere in castle house elves can't go."

"And do you know if Dumbledore or anyone else at Hogwarts ever ordered the elves to go into the Chamber after the end of my second year?" Harry asked.

Taking a moment to think about it, Dobby said, "No, Dobby thinks he not heard Dumbledore or anyone asking. Why?"

"Well, in that case," Harry responded, before calling out, "Tilly!"

By this point the other three students were looking at Harry with confused looks and Eudora looked a bit miffed. Honestly, the only reason that she was even allowing Harry to do this during class was because he was Lord Potter. If any of the other students, noble heir Cedric included, had interrupted her class like this, she would have put a stop to it by now. As it was, however, Harry was Lord Potter and thus had to be given certain considerations that she wouldn't give anyone else. She assumed he must have some reason for interrupting class time to call for and talk to house-elves, so technically speaking it was against the law for her to interfere as to do so would be interfering in the business of a Most Ancient and Noble House.

"Lord Potter calls Tilly?" Tilly asked as she popped in a second later.

"Yes, Tilly," Harry said. "Tilly, this is Dobby," as he motioned at the other elf. "He's a free elf on staff at Hogwarts. I need you to take a contingent of house-elves and go with Dobby to the Chamber of Secrets hidden beneath Hogwarts Castle. In the chamber, you should find a basilisk corpse. I want you to harvest any and all useful components you can from it."

"You is sure it dead?" Tilly asked with a slight note of fear in her voice. Basilisks were extremely dangerous creatures, after all, even to house-elves.

Harry nodded and said, "Yes, Tilly, I'm sure it's dead as I'm the one who killed it towards the end of my second year at Hogwarts. It was also blinded by a phoenix before it died, so it should be safe. I wouldn't send you if I thought I was putting you at risk." After a moment, he added, "Oh and in the Chamber, there should be a room of some kind behind the statue of Salazar Slytherin. I was never in there, but when the creature was alive, that would have been its lair. The entry is through the statue's mouth. Make sure to check in there, as well."

Nodding, Tilly said, "Tilly and Dobby go to Seacliff, gets more elves, and do as Lord Potter asks."

Dobby nodded his agreement with what Tilly said and a moment later, there were two pops as the elves disappeared. Turning to Eudora, Harry said, "I'm sorry for the interruption, Eudora, but after what you said about basilisk components, I figured perhaps it would be a good idea to do something with the corpse of the one I killed. If the creature's age has anything to do with the volume of components that can be harvested, this basilisk would be a veritable treasure trove, considering that it was Salazar Slytherin himself that bred the beast."

Eudora's eyes widened with shock for a moment, before she nodded and said, "The age of a basilisk does indeed determine how many useful components can be harvested from it. The older it is, the more components it has to offer. If what you say is true and it was Salazar Slytherin who bred it, the creature would be over a thousand years old. Due to the rarity of basilisk components due to the ban, treasure trove is a vast understatement. Priceless would be a better term as the amount of money you stand to make is astronomical. Normally, the crown would have claim on any treasure found in the kingdom, but that only applies to inanimate objects. Since a basilisk would have been a living creature and you're the one who killed it, you have total control over what's done with the corpse and the components it can yield." Then with a smile, she added, "Honestly, Harry, I must commend you. You haven't even been Lord Potter for a full day and yet you've already managed to very likely double or even triple the family fortune. The goblins will be quite impressed and trust me when I say, they are not easily impressed, especially by wizards."

"You really think the components are worth that much?" Harry asked, clearly a bit awed. "I don't really even know exactly how much I'm worth. I saw all the gold in the family vault, of course, but seeing as how I've never seen any of my statements, I have no idea how much is actually there, other than a lot."

"I don't know how much you're worth," Eudora said, "although I would venture a guess to say that it's at least several hundred thousand Galleons, but likely more. Being one of the oldest noble families and a favorite of King Arthur's, the Potters have always been one of the richest of the old, noble families. As for the basilisk components, as I said, with the ban, they're extremely rare and hard to come by. One full set of basilisk leather clothing is likely to run anywhere from 100 to 120 thousand galleons. More so, depending on if it winds up in an auction situation where it'll go to the highest bidder and you get a bidding war. I'm sure I needn't tell you that clothes that essentially make you immune to magic are highly sought after, especially by duelists who can afford the expense. That isn't many, of course, but to those who can afford it, it's well worth the cost."

With a nod, Terence said, "Depending on the age and thus the size of the basilisk, one skin is usually enough to make two full sets. A basilisk that's over a thousand years old would be huge and would thus probably produce more than what is normal for most basilisks that don't live half that long. It also wouldn't just have the skin on its body. If you can find all the skins its shed over the years, and what Eudora said is true about them keeping indefinitely, then all of them could be used as well. You could very well have enough skin to make a hundred or more sets."

Roger whistled at that and said, "Whoa. If there's enough for a hundred suits, at 100,000 galleons a piece that would be ten million galleons and that's not counting the value of the venom or the other components." Knowing that Harry was raised by Muggles and might be able to better understand the magnitude of the value in Muggle money, Roger then added, "At the current exchange rate, ten million galleons would be roughly fifty million pounds."

"How do you even know the exchange rate?" Terence asked.

"One of my uncles is married to a Muggle woman," Roger answered. "I've gone shopping with her and my cousins in Muggle London several times. So, obviously, we had to go to Gringotts and get galleons exchanged because Muggle stores won't accept Wizarding money."

"Well, let's get back to today's lessons," Eudora said. "Now, Quickened Casting. Can anyone tell me what they think that does? Roger?"

"I'd think it would either shorten the casting time for a spell or shorten it's duration," Roger answered.

"You're actually correct on both counts," Eudora said. "There are several spells and rituals that take longer than a minute or so to cast. Some of the longest and complicated rituals can take over an hour. However, those who have mastered the art of Quickened Casting, can speed up the casting so that it takes less time. Of course, that does often result in the spell not being as powerful as it could be. So, for durational spells, that will make the effects last a shorter amount of time. Now, Empowered and Maximized Casting, anyone?"

All four hands went up, but of course, Eudora could only call on one student at a time. "Cedric."

"I'd assume that they make your spells stronger," Cedric said.

"Correct, Cedric," Eudora said. "Empowered and Maximized Casting do indeed allow you to channel more power from your core into a spell, thus making it stronger. Not all spells can be made stronger and you will have to learn through trial and error which ones will work well and which ones won't. Now, while it's certainly true that your other trainers and I could simply tell you which spells will and won't work, we believe that it's better that you learn that for yourself, as knowledge gained through practical experience is often more easily retained than knowledge gained from a lecture in a classroom setting. It's also important to note that much like Extended and Persistent Casting, Empowered and Maximized Casting must be learned in that order. It is also highly suggested that they be the last metamagic skills you attempt to master as they are the hardest to master and require the most power."

Looking over at the clock, Eudora said, "Well, it's nearly eleven now, so, I'll bring this class to an end now. You are all to report to Classroom #2 next door at 1pm this afternoon for class with Emma. She will be teaching you about the higher levels of the power scale, the basics of mage-level spells, mage specializations, and the higher arcana. Class dismissed."

-o-0-o-

Twenty minutes later, the boys were sitting in the common room on the second floor, waiting for lunch which Barin had popped in and said would be ready at noon, when Athena walked up the stairs.

"Mr. Higgs," Athena said. "Eudora told me of your concerns regarding Mr. Gavin Wood. I will consent to allowing the youngest Wood to come here so that Rose can test him for core blockage. If the test is positive, we will unbind his core and test his power level. Since he has been denied a Hogwarts education, should he fall anywhere near the mage range, we'll take him on as a fifth student, if he so wishes. Should he test negative for core blockage, he will be Obliviated and returned home."

"Thank you, Athena," Terence said as he sighed in relief. "It would really put my mind at ease to know one way or the other. I love Oliver and I couldn't stand to see him going through the pain of losing his brother. The Woods have already suffered enough when Bryce, Cameron, and Oliver's mother died and then their stepmother, Gavin's mom, died giving birth to him. Mr. Wood did remarry eventually, of course, but I rather think they've had enough loss for one lifetime."

Athena nodded and said, "You know, Mr. Higgs, I was unaware of the fact that you were romantically involved with anyone."

"Oliver and I have been together for three years now," Terence said.

"It's a serious relationship then?" Athena asked.

"Yes, Athena, it is. We've talked about getting married. We know it wouldn't be legal in most of the country, but Lord Ollivander legalized it on his lands, so, I guess we'll have to move somewhere on his lands." At this, Terence couldn't help but scowl, as he added, "Of course, I suppose now it would actually be my double that Oliver marries. Can't say as I particularly care for the thought of him being with anyone other than me, even if it is my magical extension."

Athena sighed. "In that case, I will bring Oliver here in addition to his brother. We will test Oliver's power level and possibly train him as well. There is precedence for it. Many mage trainers like taking significant others of their students for training, if it's possible. It has been known in the past to cause rifts in even the strongest of relationships when one partner finishes mage training and comes back more powerful and skilled then they were when they left. Not only does that often leave the non-mage partner jealous of that power, but also feeling betrayed since they realize that they've been with a copy for the last few years and not the real person. Some people simply cannot deal with that. My goal in taking on students is to pass on my knowledge, not break up happy relationships."

"And if Oliver isn't strong enough to be trained?" Cedric asked.

"I shall refrain from Obliviating him," Athena said. "Even if he isn't strong enough for training, I will allow him to live here, if he so chooses." Fixing Terence with a serious look, she said, "You're both adults, after all, so I see nothing wrong with allowing you to share a bedroom. So long as you remember to use Silencing Charms, I don't care what you two do in the privacy of that room. I would, however, ask that you refrain from doing anything more than kissing or hugging in the public areas of the house."

Terence blushed slightly and said, "Of course, Athena. I can guarantee you we'll keep the more intimate activity confined to my bedroom. Thank you, Athena."

Shaking her head, Athena smiled and said, "Don't mention it, Mr. Higgs. You're not the first student I've taken on who had a lover and I'm sure you won't be the last. I've learned from experience, however, just how difficult it is for students to concentrate on their training when they're used to - how would you young people put it? Getting some on a regular basis?" Terence's blush deepened at this as he had never been one to enjoy talking about his sex life, especially around someone who was old enough to be his grandmother.

Looking around at the others, Athena said, "Now, please understand that this does not mean that all of you are allowed to bring others here to help you with your overactive teenage hormones. I'm allowing it for Mr. Higgs because he's an adult in a serious relationship that pre-existed his entering training. I am not in the habit of making such concessions for relationships that start after you begin training, so, I'd remember that if I were you. Now, I'm going to go and get started on the arrangements. If all goes well, the two Wood brothers will be here by dinner time."

With that, Athena turned on her heel and left the room. Silence filled the room for a moment before James, who had been watching quietly from his frame, said, "Terence, you're as red as my wife's hair."

"Oh leave him alone, James," Lily said. "You know perfectly well that if it was your sex life that was being talked about, you'd be just as red as Terence right now. And don't bother arguing with me."

James smiled, "I'm a great many things, Lily. Devastatingly handsome, for example. But stupid I'm not."

Looking over at Harry, Lily said, "Being dead has done nothing to quell his arrogance."

Harry grinned. On one hand, it hurt that his parents were dead, but on the other hand, he was glad to have them in whatever form he could get them. He'd always wondered what they were like when they were alive. Yes, he'd heard about them from people that had known them, but actually getting to know them himself, even if it was just their portrait, was nice.

Recovering from his embarrassment, Terence shook his head and then said, "Just to warn you all, so you're not shocked when you see him: Gavin strongly resembles Oliver."

"Well, they are brothers, I'd expect them to look similar," Roger commented.

Shaking his head, Terence said, "No, Roger, it's more than that. If you met Oliver and his three brothers on the street for the first time, you'd think it was Oliver and Gavin that are twins, not Bryce and Cameron."

"Bryce and Cameron are twins though right?" Cedric asked. He'd met Cameron Wood briefly at one of the noble social gatherings, since Cameron was Callum McKinnon's seneschal, but he'd never met Bryce that he could remember.

"Yes, they're twins," Terence confirmed, "but they're fraternal twins. There's a resemblance but they're not identical. The same cannot be said for Oliver and Gavin. It's strange because they're only half brothers but Gavin looks like a younger Oliver. There's a year and a half age difference between them, but if you didn't know that, you'd almost swear they were identical twins."

"So does Gavin play Quidditch?" Harry asked.

"Yeah, he does," Terence answered. "He's a chaser. Unlike his brother, however, he isn't obsessed with the game. He enjoys playing it, but it doesn't dominate his life the way it does with Will. As bad as this may sound, I sometimes find myself jealous of Oliver's broom." Terence realized, of course, the second that the words were out of his mouth that he shouldn't have said that.

Raising an eyebrow, Roger grinned and said, "You trying to say that Oliver rides his broom more than he rides you, Liam?"

Terence groaned, as Harry, Lily, and James snickered, and Cedric said, "You walked right into that one, mate."

"I know," Terence said. "I'm just surprised it's the Ravenclaw study boy that has a dirty mind." Grinning, he looked at Cedric and said, "I'd expect it from a Hufflepuff, but..."

"Hey!" Cedric exclaimed. "I resent that remark!"

Roger, meanwhile, had a big grin on his face, as he said, "Ravenclaws don't just study books, you know. We're all about learning and wisdom. We make knowledge it all its forms fun - especially carnal knowledge."

"You're not kidding are you?" Harry asked.

Shaking his head, Roger said, "Nope. Carnal knowledge is actually our specialty." Looking around at the others, at this, however, he added, "Just don't be expecting me to share any of that knowledge with any of you. First of all, the techniques are a secret. All Ravenclaws are sworn to absolute secrecy. Besides that, I'm straight, so none of you do a thing for me."

"Well, I'm gay, obviously," Terence said. "But, I'm totally committed to Oliver, so I guess I'll just have to be content with what I have. Thankfully, Will is no slouch in that department and all of his various Quidditch strategies make for some interesting bedroom scenarios, if you catch my meaning."

While he couldn't help but blush when talking about anything even remotely related to his sex life around older people like Athena, he didn't have that problem with people who were around his own age due to the time he'd spent talking about it with his dorm mates. Yes, Lily and James Potter's portrait was listening, but they weren't that much older than Terence when they died, so he didn't count them as older people.

Harry groaned at this. "Hello, Liam, I was one of his teammates whose familiar with his strategies. I so don't want to hear this." Despite his words, he couldn't help but think of just how some of Oliver's strategies might translate to the bedroom. He was fourteen, after all. Sex was always on his mind, but he did his best not to think about it, since he obviously wasn't getting any. Well, unless you counted his hand. 'Talk about pathetic,' Harry thought. 'Please someone say something and save me from my thoughts.'

While James had been following the conversation with a grin on his face, as watching these four reminded him of his own school days, he perked up at the mention of teammates. "Does that mean you play Quidditch, Harry?"

Turning to his father, Harry was extremely grateful for the interruption to his decidedly dirty thoughts he knew would lead to nothing good. Nodding, he said, "Yes, Dad. I've been Gryffindor's seeker since my first year."

"First years never make the house teams," Lily said with a proud smile. "You must be a very good player, Harry."

James nodded in agreement and asked, "What's your record?"

"I've caught the snitch in every game I've ever played in," Harry said, "except for one."

Hanging his head a bit at that, Cedric said, "And you probably would have caught it in that game too if it wasn't for the Dementors and you falling off your broom."

"Dementors?" Lily asked. "What in Merlin's name were Dementors doing at Hogwarts?"

"That was this past year, Mum," Harry said. "Sirius escaped from Azkaban, so the Ministry launched a massive manhunt to find him. Since its commonly believed that he's the one who betrayed you, it was feared that he'd try to get into Hogwarts to kill me, so the Ministry insisted on having Dementors stationed at the school all year." Noticing his Mum's displeased look, he added, "Thankfully, Remus was our Defense Against the Dark Arts professor last year. He was sacked when it got out that he's a werewolf, but not before he managed to teach me the Patronus Charm."

James nodded, impressed. "That's advanced magic, Harry. Especially for a third year. Are you any good at it?"

Harry grinned as he pulled out his wand. He had a feeling that his father would get a kick out of this. "I'll let you be the judge," as he raised his wand and said, "Expecto Patronum!"

Almost immediately, the giant silver stag that Harry had nicknamed Prongs after his father's Marauder nickname leapt from his wand and not seeing any Dementors to attack, cantered over to Harry and nudged him affectionately. The mouths of his fellow students were hanging open in shock, while Lily looked extremely proud and James looked amazed.

Finding his voice, James said, "That looks just like me in my Animagus form."

Harry nodded and grinned as he said, "Yeah, I've nicknamed him Prongs."

James laughed. "Prongs, huh? So, does that mean you know about the Marauders?"

Grinning from ear to ear, Harry answered, "I solemnly swear that I'm up to no good."

"Oh sweet Merlin," Lily said. "You've revived the Marauders, Harry? That was one tradition that I'd hoped would not continue."

"Actually, no, I haven't revived them," Harry said. "Since I got it last year though, I have used the Marauder's Map to sneak around the school a bit, along with Dad's Invisibility Cloak. And the map was very useful last year because it pointed out the fact that Peter Pettigrew was in the school."

"Marauder's Map?" Cedric asked, as Harry dismissed Prongs.

James smiled. "One of our finest creations." Clearing his throat he said, "Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs, purveyors of aids to magical mischief makers, are proud to present the Marauder's Map."

"Basically," Lily said, as she shook her head at her husband, "it's a magical map that shows the entirety of Hogwarts castle and the grounds. It also shows the locations of everyone in the castle." And then almost grudgingly, she added, "An impressive bit of Charms work, I must admit."

"Peter Pettigrew?" Roger asked. "He's dead isn't he? Isn't that who Sirius Black was convicted of killing? Along with twelve Muggles?"

Turning to Roger, Harry said, "Sirius was never convicted - he was sent to Azkaban without a trial. He also never betrayed my parents as he wasn't their Secret Keeper."

Lily nodded at this and said, "It's true. We were going to go with Sirius, but we changed our minds at the last minute. We figured Sirius would be too obvious of a choice, since he was James' best friend and almost brother from the time that Sirius spent living with the Potters after he ran away from home."

"So, we went with Peter Pettigrew," James said. "He was always quiet and unassuming. Never drew too much attention to himself. At the time, he seemed perfect, but in retrospect, it wasn't the best choice, since he betrayed us to Voldemort."

"Why does everyone think he's dead though?" Cedric asked, confused.

"Because he's an unregistered Animagus," Harry answered. "Right before the authorities showed up, Peter cut off one of his fingers and left it behind with the bodies of the twelve Muggles that he killed during his confrontation with Sirius, who was angry with him for betraying my parents. He then turned into his Animagus form, a rat, and disappeared down a sewer drain, leaving Sirius to look guilty of the murders."

"Well, how'd he get into Hogwarts though?" Terence asked.

"With my best friend, Ron Weasley," Harry explained. "Since he was thought to be dead and he was afraid that Remus might come after him if that turned out not to be the case, he stayed in his rat form for thirteen years. Eventually, he found himself living with the Weasleys as Scabbers, first Percy's and then Ron's pet rat. However, he was running scared that year because not only was Remus in the castle, but Hermione bought a cat she named Crookshanks, which was part kneazle and could thus detect that something wasn't quite right about Scabbers."

"Sirius is actually Harry's godfather," Lily added. "Unfortunately, being in prison prevented him from raising Harry as we'd intended."

Looking thoughtful for a moment, Cedric said, "You know, Harry, you should probably petition the King to intercede on Sirius' behalf."

"Why the King?" Harry asked.

"Because Sirius is entitled to High Justice," Cedric answered. "On his death bed, Lord Arcturus Black reinstated his grandson, Sirius Black. That means Sirius is the Lord Black and is entitled to High Justice. The heads of the noble families hold the rights to justice, high, medium, and low, on their lands. So, the Lords can pass judgment for any crimes committed on their lands. Those decisions can be appealed to the Wizengamot and overturned, though that rarely happens. However, in the case of the family heads themselves, only the King can pass judgment on them, since the lords are members of the Wizengamot and can't be tried by that body as a result."

"With Peter missing we don't have any evidence," Harry said.

"Actually, Harry, that's not true," Terence said. "You have your memories, Remus' memories, and Sirius' memories, plus I'm assuming Ron's and Hermione's, as well. Memories can be magically extracted and viewed in a Pensieve, so they can be entered into evidence. If what you say is true, Sirius would probably be found innocent just based on those memories. However, if you add in the testimony of the portrait of the former Duke and Duchess of Granston, who would obviously know who their Secret Keeper was, then it's almost guaranteed that Sirius would be cleared of all charges."

"Well, that's assuming, of course, that King Edward is a fair-minded person," Roger said. "And honestly, I have no clue if he is or not. Even though he's twenty-four now, he's still letting the Minister basically run the country and he hasn't been seen in public by anyone since before he became King, twenty-two years ago. So, that makes him something of an unknown entity."

Before anyone else could say anything, however, there was a soft pop as Barin appeared and said, "Lunch is served," before popping back out.

"You boys go eat," James said. "We're worry about this later."

Nodding, Lily said, "Yes, go eat," and then in a stern voice, she added, "and try to be on time for your afternoon class."

"Yes, ma'am," Harry said, as he and the others headed downstairs to the kitchen.

-o-0-o-

Later that afternoon, at 12:57pm, the four students walked into Classroom #2, determined not to have a repeat of being late to class. Emma was nowhere in sight, but as the room was laid out much the same way as the other classroom, they all took their seats. Laying out their notes from the morning class, they opened the desk drawers, and found parchment and quills, so they got that out as well.

"Well, nobody can accuse us of being late," Terence said.

Cedric nodded. "Only thing I'm concerned about is that Emma isn't here yet. Eudora did say classroom #2, right?"

"Yes, she did," Emma said, as she walked into the room and made her way to the teacher's desk in the front of the room. "I just don't believe in coming in here until exactly the time class starts." Looking at the students, she added, "I'm glad to see you're all here on time and prepared. Let us begin then. Now, Eudora told me what she covered in the morning class, so I will pick up explaining the power scale at the mage range. Any practitioner of magic who is ranked at least sixteen on the scale is a mage. Now, what sets the mage range apart from those on the lower levels, is that upon becoming a mage the power in your core increases greatly. You are now powerful enough that a wand will not be able to handle all of the magic that you are now capable of using, as mages have a collection of spells which are far beyond the ability of lesser practitioners to cast."

Taking out her wand, Emma pointed it at the blank blackboard, as a stick of chalk floated up and began writing on it. Once it was finished, she said, "These are the spell schools for the mage range. Please write them down, along with their descriptions. I will then give you some examples of the spells that you will find in each school, although for some of them, the descriptions will probably make it rather self-explanatory. As the list is not very long, you have five minutes."

Mage-Level Spell Schools:

1. Arcane - various utility spells, in addition to spells that don't fit in the other schools.
2. Primal - spells enabling the use of the elements to defend allies and damage enemies.
3. Creation - spells used to cure and defend allies and damage enemies.
4. Spirit - Utility spells and spells which attack the body and magic of enemies.
5. Entropy - spells which weaken and cripple enemies.

Five minutes later, Emma said, "Now, the Arcane school. This is basically the catch-all school, which covers all spells that won't fit in one of the other four schools, while also containing various utility spells. A few examples of spells at this level are Arcane Shield, Time Spiral, Mind Blast, Invigorate, Mystical Negation, and Crushing Prison. Now," pointing her wand at the board again, the eraser floated upwards and erased the spell schools, before the chalk began writing again. "Write down these examples, as I'll be erasing them soon."

1. Arcane Shield, a mage-level shielding spell, sometimes called the Dome of Protection, which is much stronger than Protego and Protego Maxima. It will block not only spells, but projectiles, such as arrows and bullets, as well. Incantation: Praesidium Tholus
2. Time Spiral, a useful spell during dueling, this spell slows down your opponent's perception of time, allowing you to move around and cast several spells before your opponent is aware of it. Incantation: Tempus Spiralis
3. Mind Blast, this spell releases a wave of telekinetic force that knocks enemies backwards and leaves them stunned for several seconds. Incantation: Mentis Discutere
4. Invigorate, a sustained spell which allows a mage to generate a field of invigorating energy which reduces ally fatigue and speeds up the regeneration rates of their magical cores, however, the mage using this spell will be unable to cast any other spells while this spell remains active, as maintaining it requires unbroken concentration. Incantation: Corrobarare
5. Mystical Negation, a sustained spell which allows a mage to generate a field of energy which dispels any dispelable magical effects created by enemy spellcasters. The mage retains the ability to cast spells while using this spell. Incantation: Negatio Agri
6. Crushing Prison, this spell traps the target in a collapsing cage of telekinetic force for ten seconds, dealing physical damage and preventing them from moving or casting spells. Incantation: Contusio Carceris

"Now, while I have provided you with the incantations for these spells," Emma said, "I strongly suggest that none of you even consider attempting to cast them. None of you are currently mage level and they are, quite frankly, beyond your abilities. If I, or any of the other trainers, catches you attempting these spells, there will be serious consequences that you will not enjoy. Do I make myself clear?"

Once everyone indicated that they understood, Emma nodded and said, "Alright then, let's move on. The next school is the Primal school, which deals with the elements of fire, earth, water, and air. As you already know, your magic resonates with one of these elements and you will find it much easier to cast spells that deal with your specific elements, while you will find it harder to cast spells in the opposing element. Fire opposes water and air opposes earth.

"This school contains a variety of spells which allow a caster to lessen the effect of the elements on themselves and their allies and also to attack their opponents. Now, when it comes to offense, this is one of the most powerful schools, containing both targeted spells that are cast on a single target and spells which affect multiple targets. Some of the more spectacular spells affecting multiple targets are often referred to as area of effect spells, as they affect a wide area of space and will harm anyone who enters the area. Now for some examples," Emma said as the board erased again before the chalk began writing by itself again.

1. Fireball, the mage unleashes an exploding ball of fire which scatters and burns their opponents. Incantation: Ignis Globus
2. Firestorm, the mage calls forth a devastating shower of flames that blast down on the target area, damaging everything within. Incantation: Incendium Tempestus
3. Stonefist, the mage creates a fist-shaped stone and hurls it at an enemy, basically allowing them to punch them from a distance. This spell can kill if the target has been frozen solid, as it may cause the target to shatter. Incantation: Saxum Pugnus
4. Earthquake, the mage disrupts the earth, causing a violent quake that knocks everyone in the area to the ground. Incantation: Concussionis
5. Deep Freeze, the mage summons forth a cone of cold and ice, harming anyone in its path, with the added possibility of freezing them solid. Incantation: Conglaciatus
6. Blizzard, the mage calls forth a massive storm of ice and snow, which deals continuous cold damage, while also making it harder to see and has the potential of freezing targets solid. Incantation: Tempestus Nix
7. Chain Lightning, the mage shoots a bolt of lightning at a single target, electrocuting them, before the lightning arcs outwards and electrocutes nearby targets. Incantation: Vinculum Fulminus
8. Tempest, the mage conjures a massive electrical storm, which sends bolts of electricity crashing to the ground, electrocuting any target they hit. Incantation: Fulminus Tempestus

"Obviously, these are all offensive spells," Emma said. "When the time comes, you will also be learning the defensive side of the Primal school, but for the purpose of today's examples, I've given you two examples of spells dealing with each element. Fireball and Firestorm, obviously, deal with fire, while Stonefist and Earthquake are earth, Deep Freeze and Blizzard are water, and Chain Lightning and Tempest are the air element. There are many more spells than the ones I've listed, but this is just to give you an idea."

At this point, Roger raised his hand, prompting Emma to point at him and ask, "Yes, Mr. Davies?"

"All of those examples seem very dangerous," Roger said. "Especially in a battle situation. Is there a way to prevent these spells from harming your allies?"

"A good question, Mr. Davies," Emma said. "And the answer is yes. In my opinion, any mage who uses any damaging area of effect spell without insuring that said spell can't harm non-combatants or their allies is being highly irresponsible and should have both their wand and staff snapped and their cores blocked. Now, as to how they can insure their harmful spells don't affect their allies, a mage can place a mark on them, rather much like a tattoo or a brand, which serves to protect that person from any harmful magic cast by the person who placed it. This doesn't mean, however, that you will be covered in tattoos, as the actual mark fades from normal view within seconds of being placed and will only reveal itself if a spell to reveal magical effects is cast. Also, only the mage who placed the mark is capable of removing their mark, so it can't be dispelled in the heat of battle by opponents."

Raising his hand and waiting to be called on, Harry then asked, "Isn't that like the Dark Mark?"

"There is a certain similarity," Emma answered, "but no, this type of mark is not like the Dark Mark in that it doesn't connect people who a mage marks in any way. It doesn't allow for communication, or summoning of marked individuals, or any other purpose with the sole exception of making the marked person immune from any harmful magic cast by the mage who placed the mark. Now are there anymore questions?"

When nobody raised their hands, Emma said, "Alright then, moving on to the Creation school. Most mage-level healing spells are contained in this school, as well as several defensive spells. There are also spells in this school which can be used to harm opponents. Now some examples," Emma said as the board erased itself again, before the Primal examples were replaced with new ones.

1. Heal, the mage imbues the target with restorative energy, staunching bleeding, knitting torn flesh and mending broken bones. Incantation: Curatus
2. Haste, the mage imbues the target with speed, allowing them to move and attack much faster than they normally could. Incantation: Acceleratus
3. Glyph of Paralysis, the mage magically creates a glyph on the ground which paralyzes the first target to cross it for twenty seconds, rendering them unable to move or take any action. Incantation: Enervare
4. Glyph of Repulsion, the mage magically creates a glyph which repels opponents with a strong wave of telekinetic force. This spell is most often cast on the ground beneath the mage's feet, thus repelling anyone who gets too close to them. Incantation: Repulsus
5. Grease, the mage conjures a grease slick, slowing down anyone walking through it, while also making it possible they'll slip and fall. If set on fire, the grease burns intensely for a short time and will burn anyone in the area. Incantation: Adipis
6. Stinging Swarm, the mage conjures a swarm of stinging insects which descend on a single target, biting them until the person loses consciousness. Incantation: Aculeatus Examinis

Giving her students a few minutes to copy down the examples, from the board, Emma rounded the desk and took her seat, watching them like a hawk. Once they'd put all their quills down, she said, "Moving on, the next school is Spirit. In this school you will find a few defensive spells, in addition to spells which attack your enemies' body or magic. Here are some examples."

1. Spell Shield, this creates a shield around the target which provides protection from hostile spells, absorbing 25% of the power of every spell that hits it to recharge the shield, while rebounding the rest back at the caster of the hostile spell. Incantation: Incantamenti Armum
2. Transmutation, this spell dispels any negative effects on the target from hostile magic and converts the power from any dispelled effects into healing energy which will heal the target. This spell's healing effect is not as powerful as the healing spells in the Creation school, but it's still useful as it dispels harmful effects and provides some healing, which during an intense battle, can mean the difference between life and death. Incantation: Transmutationis
3. Magic Drain, the mage creates a parasitic bond with an enemy spellcaster, which drains their magical core to recharge the caster's. This spell lasts for a minute or until it's dispelled. Incantation: Haustus Magicum
4. Magic Clash, the mage temporarily sacrifices their own ability to cast spells in order to block the magical core of an opponent. The caster will be unable to cast spells for about thirty seconds, while the target will be rendered unable to cast spells for roughly three minutes. The block on the target's core cannot be dispelled. Incantation: Magicum Conflictus
5. Power Syphon, this spell draws in energy from nearby unconscious or dead enemies to recharge the caster's magical core and heal minor damage. Incantation: Potestas Siponis
6. Walking Bomb, this spell magically injects the target with a corrosive poison that causes continual damage for ten seconds. If the target dies while this spell is active, their body will explode and damage all nearby targets. Incantation: Incessus Pryobolus

"Okay, can I just say that last one is gross?" Terence asked, as he looked up after he finished writing down the list of examples. Roger, Harry, and Cedric nodded their heads in complete agreement.

"You just did, Mr. Higgs," Emma pointed out, choosing to ignore the fact that he had not raised his hand. "Although, honestly, I quite agree with you. It's not a spell that I or your other trainers have ever used personally, but I do know a few mages who have. There will be many spells that we teach you over the course of your training that you will probably never use, but it's best to know about them, even if you don't use them. That is perhaps one of the biggest problems with education at Hogwarts is that while they do teach you Defense Against the Dark Arts, I can tell you right now that there are plenty of spells taught at schools like Durmstrang that teach the Dark Arts that you're never taught how to defend yourself against as part of the Hogwarts curriculum.

"Now, sometimes this is because no defensive measure exists to counter the spell. But, more often than not, the reason it's not covered is because you can't cast the counterspell without knowledge of how to cast the spell being countered. In all of the cases where that's true, the Hogwarts curriculum completely ignores those spells, so that they're not teaching you the Dark Arts. At which point, you had just better pray that you don't run into anybody who knows how to cast any of these spells that you're not taught how to defend yourself against."

After taking a sip of water, Emma added, "While we're on the subject of the Dark Arts, I feel the need to impress upon all of you the falsehood of the philosophy that's taught at Hogwarts pertaining to the Dark Arts. You're basically taught that using the Dark Arts makes you evil and that is simply not true. Like all magic, your intent when you cast a spell is extremely important. Your choice of spells is only evil if you intend to use them for an evil purpose and even spells that are taught at Hogwarts and considered to be part of the so called Light Arts can be used for evil purposes. For example, you're taught the Stunning Spell at Hogwarts, however, if you cast that spell with the intention of making it so that your target can't fight back while you rape them, then that cannot under any circumstances be considered a good thing. I think you'll all agree that would definitely be an act of evil. Now, I'm not saying that all spells classified as Dark Arts aren't bad, as some of them most certainly are. The Unforgivable Curses, for example, are bad no matter how you try to justify their use. However, for other spells, I would strongly suggest that you apply some common sense and decide for yourselves whether any spell that is classified as dark is really a bad spell."

Cedric raised his hand at this, prompting Emma to say, "Yes Mr. Diggory?"

"How can one use the Dark Arts for good?" Cedric asked. "That seems to be a contradiction of terms. I mean, don't they all cause pain, suffering, and death?"

"No, they don't," Emma answered. "There are some spells that are actually quite useful that are classified as dark not because of their use or what they do, but because the creator of the spell gave them a rather unfortunate name. For example, two wizard-level spells immediately come to mind: Ghoul's Touch and Death Shield. If you attended Durmstrang, you'd already know both spells, as they're taught in the second and third year Dark Arts classes. What do they do? Well, read their descriptions and judge for yourselves whether they're actually bad or not."

Emma waved her wand at this causing the Spirit spells to erase and two new spells to appear on the blackboard.

1. Ghoul's Touch, this spell makes the caster's hand glow with an unearthly radiance. Anyone they touch with this hand is then paralyzed for ten to twenty minutes, depending on the caster's strength. While paralyzed, the victim emits a noxious gas which slows down the reaction times of anyone within five feet who means to harm the caster and breathes in the gas. Incantation: Umbra Contingo
2. Death Shield, like the standard Shielding Charm, Protego, this spell will erect a shield against hostile magic. However, this shield also grants physical protection as it forces anyone who harms you to share your pain. If you punch someone in the gut whose protected by this spell, they'll feel only half the pain, while you're feel the other half. So, unless you enjoy pain, you're not likely to beat a person protected by this spell to a bloody pulp, as you'll be beating yourself to a bloody pulp in the process. Incantation: Protego Partiri

Giving her four students a moment to read the spells, which she noted each of them decided to write down after a few moments, Emma asked, "So, any thoughts on those examples? Feel free to comment without raising your hands."

After a moment, Roger said, "Those don't actually seem all that bad."

Terence nodded and said, "I think I'd have to agree with your assessment, Emma. The creator of those spells gave them unfortunate names, but they really don't sound that bad. They're really just protecting the caster from harm."

"That's true," Cedric said. "And while the second spell does cause pain, it's not really the caster of the spell that's causing the pain. Well, unless they asked the other person to beat them up and I don't know many people who would do that."

"And do you have any thoughts on these spells, Mr. Potter?" Emma asked.

"I'd have to agree too," Harry answered. "They were badly named, but I can't say that their effect is bad. They're certainly nothing like the Unforgiveables."

"Well, then, let's move on to the final mage spell school," Emma said. "Finally, we have the Entropy school. Now this school of magic allows you to weaken your enemies in various ways which will give you the upper hand in any confrontation. Here are some examples."

1. Vulnerability Hex, this spell can be used to counter elemental protection spells, as it lowers the fire, water, air, and earth resistances of a single target. Incantation: Forabilis
2. Affliction Hex, this spell is the same as the Vulnerability Hex, except that the vulnerability extends to all enemies within five feet of the target. Incantation: Forabilis Lues
3. Misdirection Hex, this spell causes the target to suffer from a frustrating level of inaccuracy for thirty seconds, during which none of their attacks, magical or otherwise, will hit their intended targets. Incantation: Indiligentia
4. Weakness, this spell allows the caster to sap a single target of energy, making them tired and fatigued. Incantation: Debilitatus
5. Waking Nightmare, this spell traps all enemies within five feet of the caster in a waking nightmare for a minute or until dispelled, forcing them to cower in fear, unable to move or attack. Incantation: Somnia Tumultuosa
6. Leeching Cloud, the caster conjures a cloud of noxious gas which slowly leeches the magical core of any enemy who enters it. Incantation: Hirudinis Nubis

"Well, you now have examples of the spells you'll find in each of the mage spell schools," Emma said. "There's quite a few more that I didn't cover, but you'll learn those in time. Now, following the mage range on the power scale, is the magister range. Again, your core power increases. As I'm sure you're wondering, I'm an Archmagister, as is Athena. Rose is a Master Magister and Eudora is a Grand Magister. As far as we know, we are among the most powerful mages currently living in the world, as there haven't been any documented cases of anyone reaching the magus range on the scale in nearly a hundred and fifty years. And there hasn't been a documented case of anyone reaching the ultimate pinnacle of magical power and ability, the Archmagus level, in over a thousand years. Can anyone guess who the last Archmagus was?"

"Merlin?" Roger asked once Emma had called on him.

"Correct, Roger. There's a reason that Merlin Emrys is often called the greatest wizard who ever lived and why one of our country's highest honors is named after him. He was the last known Archmagus, which made him basically the most powerful practitioner of magic who ever lived. People who reach the magus level are so powerful that they can actually see magic, as if it was a tangible thing. Now you may be thinking that all of you have seen magic, as almost all spells create some type of visual effect when they're cast. But when I say that a magus can see magic, what I mean is that they are so in tune with magical energies that they can see the auras produced by magical people and objects."

Picking up a paperweight from her desk, Emma said, "So, for example, I could place ten random charms on this paperweight. Unless you saw which charms I placed on it, all of you would need to cast a spell, Specialis Revelio for example, in order to learn exactly which charms were placed on it. A magus, however, could simply look at it for a few moments and they'd know which spells were cast on it. The same applies for people. Anyone in the Magister or lower range would have to cast a spell to determine a person's power level, but a person in the Magus range can simply look at the person and know how powerful they are.

"Now, a Magus can't see through magical effects, say if a person is wearing Glamour Charms, the Magus will know that they're in use but they won't be able to see what's under them. Of course, there are a few documented instances when Merlin was said to be able to see through magical effects. If he could, then it can be assumed that the ability is limited to Archmagi, which is the plural version of Archmagus. For the other two mage levels, you simply add an 's' to denote the plural - Mages and Magisters - but for the Magus level, it becomes Magi, rather than Maguses."

At this point, Emma glanced at the clock on the wall and said, "I know I said I'd cover the higher arcana and mage specializations today, but looking at the time, I think it would be best to save that for another day. It's nearly 3:00PM now and as dinner will be served at 5:00PM, I imagine Athena will be arriving here with Oliver and Gavin Wood soon, so I will allow you all to go and freshen up for dinner. You will all be notified of when your next class will be held. Class dismissed."

-o-0-o-

Nearly an hour later, Harry stood in the kitchen of Forest Cottage with his fellow trainees, as they were introduced to Oliver and Gavin Wood. All of them already knew Oliver, of course, but all but Terence had never met Gavin before today. Even with Terence's warning about Gavin's resemblance to Oliver, Harry was still taken aback by just how much the two of them looked alike. You could tell that Oliver was about a year older, but even then telling them apart was difficult. Well, at least it was for the trainers and Harry, Roger, and Cedric. Having dated Oliver for three years now, Terence had no problem telling the brothers apart.

When Athena had gone to collect Oliver and Gavin, she hadn't told them or their parents anything about mage training. She'd simply disguised herself as Katherine Higgs and said she was there to pick them up for an outing with Terence. Since it was a rather common occurrence for the three of them to get together to have some fun, neither of them had questioned it all that much. It was perhaps slightly odd that Katherine Higgs would come to get them instead of Terence himself, but as they'd both been feeling rather bored, they chose not to think about that and go have some fun. Needless to say they were more than a little shocked when they arrived at Forest Cottage and Athena revealed that she was not in fact Katherine Higgs and explained what was really going on.

"So, you're going to train us as mages?" Gavin asked, a look of total disbelief on his face. "I can barely cast even the simplest of spells. Surely there's better candidates for such training."

"You don't want to learn to be a mage, Gavin?" Roger asked.

Shaking his head, Gavin answered, "I never said that. I'd love to learn how to be a mage. But, I'm a realistic person. I'm a hedgewizard. For many years, I hated myself because I was so weak compared to the rest of my family. I had to study and practice ten times harder to learn simple spells that they picked up as easily as breathing. It only got worse once they'd all moved on to the higher level spells that were beyond my ability. Honestly, for a long time I thought something was wrong with me and I'm ashamed to admit it now, but I did attempt suicide a few times."

"Our parents found him the first time," Oliver explained. "He'd broken into a cabinet in mum's gardening shed where she kept various fertilizer potions for her plants. Good for the plants, but toxic if ingested by a human. Gavin drank a couple of the stronger ones and was nearly dead when our parents found him. Thankfully, we had a few goats at the time, one of which dad slaughtered on the spot to get a bezoar and save Gavin's life. Bryce, Cameron, and I were away at Hogwarts when this happened and our parents didn't tell us until almost six months later when this knucklehead made another attempt."

Gavin grinned slightly at Oliver's nickname for him, and said, "It was a dark time in my life. I try not to think about it much, but after the third attempt, my parents got me a therapist who helped me work through my issues. Now I look back on it and I can't believe that I even considered it. It seemed like a good idea the three times I tried, but now I know that it would have been the absolute worst thing that I could possibly have done. In time, I accepted the fact that I was what I was and that it didn't make me less of a person, as I had thought. I'd still love to be able to do magic on the level that all of you can do it, but I accepted awhile ago that wasn't going to happen."

"Well, Mr. Wood," Athena said, "that is not necessarily true. Now it really isn't my wish to get your hopes up and then dash them, but there is a chance you might be able to cast more powerful spells, after all. It's rare, so many healers don't even check for it, but sometimes people are born hedgewizards or hedgewitches because something went wrong while they were in the womb and their magical cores got blocked. The reason that most healers don't check for this is because when that does happen, the blocks usually always dissipate on their own. However, there are documented cases in which the blocks did not dissipate."

Looking at Gavin, Eudora said, "We wish to perform a test on you, Gavin. The test will tell us if you're just a regular hedgewizard or a more powerful wizard with a blocked core. Now, it's totally up to you whether or not you want this test, we're not going to force you to let us perform the test. But, you should know that if your core is blocked, there's a very real possibility that you'll die on your next birthday."

"What?" Oliver asked, his face getting serious, as he cast a concerned look at his younger brother and then a questioning one at Eudora. "What are you talking about?"

"In the event that a core blockage doesn't dissipate by the time of a person's seventeenth year," Athena said, "it's often fatal. As you've probably been told, Mr. Wood, as a hedgewizard, you are not expected to undergo a magical inheritance. But, if your core is blocked, you will have an inheritance and depending on how much power is held behind the blockage, combined with the increase gained in an inheritance, your core could explode with enough force that it would kill you. Like if you were to break an Unbreakable Vow."

Looking over at Oliver, Terence said, "As soon as I found out about this, I asked if anything could be done. I couldn't live with myself if Gavin died on his birthday because of this and I didn't do anything." Grinning at Gavin, he added, "I've grown rather fond of the little runt over the last three years."

"Runt?" Gavin asked. "Who are you calling a runt, Liam?"

"You, runt," Terence said with a grin, as he reached over and messed up Gavin's hair.

"Ah, stop it!" Gavin said with a grin as he swatted Terence's hand away. After a moment, he looked over at the trainers and asked, "And if I don't have a core blockage?"

"Well, as mage training is a secret until it's finished," Athena said, "I'm afraid we'll have to Obliviate you and send you back home." Then turning to Oliver, she added, "As for you, Mr. Wood, if you consent, we'll also be testing your power level to determine if you're powerful enough for mage training. If you are, we'll be creating a double for you to live your life while you remain here for training. And if not, we will refrain from creating a double for you, but you will be allowed to move in here and come and go as you please in order that you can be with your real boyfriend and not his double."

"And just so you know, Mr. Wood," Emma said, "I did at one time play Quidditch professionally. I'm not giving you anymore details then that, but I will say that there is a regulation Quidditch pitch that meets all professional standards on the property. So, even if you do end up staying here for training, you'll still be able to play Quidditch. Perhaps not with full teams, but we should be able to round up enough people to cover each position for two teams."

"I have to admit, I'm intrigued by the idea of becoming a mage," Oliver said. "If it's even possible, that is. And I definitely want to know that Gavin is in no danger of kicking it on his next birthday." Turning to look at his brother, "As I said the last time you attempted to kill yourself, Gav, if you die on me I swear I will find a way to bring you back just so that I can tan your hide. Hedgewizard or not, I love you, you knucklehead."

Gavin smiled and gave Oliver a one-armed hug, as he said, "Yeah, yeah, I love you too, lunkhead." Turning to the trainers, he added, "Let's do this test then. I want to know myself."

Nodding, Rose said, "I've setup everything we'll need in the infirmary. If you'll just follow me, we'll get started."

Gavin and Oliver nodded, as the entire group headed down to the infirmary for the testing. Twenty minutes later, the test was finished. Walking over to Gavin, Rose said, "Well, Mr. Wood, I have the test results."

"So, what are they?" Gavin asked. "Am I a hedgewizard or a walking bomb?"

"Well, Mr. Wood," Rose answered, "your core is..."

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

Unexpected Love: The Journey Begins
Written by J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Four

-o-0-o-

Twenty minutes later, the test was finished. Walking over to Gavin, Rose said, "Mr. Wood, I have the test results."

"So, what are they?" Gavin asked. "Am I a hedgewizard or a walking bomb?"

"Well, Mr. Wood," Rose answered, "your core is blocked. So, at the moment, you are as you put it a walking bomb, however, we will begin unbinding your core shortly. There is, however, one issue that came up during your test. Quite frankly, I'm shocked your family healer hasn't picked up on this before now."

"What's that?" Gavin asked, genuinely curious.

"Terence said that you and Oliver are half-brothers?" Rose asked.

Oliver nodded at this. "That's right. We have the same father, but not the same mother. Bryce, Cameron's and my mother died twelve days after I was born. Faced with having to care for two five year olds and a newborn, our father remarried pretty quickly and then Gavin was born roughly a year and six months after me. Of course, Gavin's mother then died in childbirth and our father thought maybe the gods were punishing him for marrying again so quickly, so he waited several years before he remarried again and instead just hired a nanny to care for us while he was at work."

"Well, as I said, I don't know how your family healer missed this," Rose said, "because when I compared your test results side by side, it became blatantly obvious. Oliver, Gavin, you two are not half-brothers, you're identical twins."

"What?" Gavin asked. "How is that even possible? I mean, I know we look freakishly similar but, we can't be identical twins. We have different mothers for Merlin's sake."

"Actually, according to the test results you don't," Rose said. "That's why it took me twenty minutes to analyze the results. Usually that only takes five minutes at most, but I rechecked the results three times and they came back the same each time. You two are twins. Everything about the two of you is completely identical with the exception of three things."

"And what are those three things?" Terence asked, from where he was standing next to Oliver.

"Their age for one," Rose said. "Oliver is 18 to be 19 in July of next year, while Gavin is 16 to be 17 in January of next year. Another difference is that Oliver's core is not blocked, where Gavin's is. But, the most substantial difference is the power of your cores." At the questioning looks from everyone in the room, Rose elaborated. "Oliver, you're level fifteen on the power scale, that's an Archsorcerer. I determined that you were a Sorcerer before your inheritance, Oliver, so you gained three levels when you turned seventeen. Gavin, on the other hand, who has not yet undergone his inheritance, is already a level seventeen, making him a Mage. That places him among a very, very small group of people whose base power places them in the mage range."

"Wh... what?" Gavin stuttered out. "A Mage? How?"

"I think I can answer that," Emma said, speaking for the first time. "I'm a blood mage, so I've studied the subject extensively. In my research, I came across a very old and very obscure blood ritual that was a predecessor to the power increase ritual that's used now. This one never gained much acceptance, however, as it involved tying the mother's core to the unborn child's. Essentially, it called for the mother to sacrifice herself so that the child would be more powerful. At the moment of birth, the mother's core was ripped out of her body and merged with the baby's core, killing the mother in the process. Thus, the baby would essentially be getting an inheritance increase at the moment of birth."

"What does this have to do with us supposedly being twins?" Oliver asked.

"More than you might think," Emma answered. "In the information that I managed to dig up on it, there was one instance where a woman underwent a magically assisted pregnancy as she was incapable of having children normally. With the help of some extensive magic, she did manage to get pregnant, but since she couldn't produce viable eggs and her husband was dead, they magically obtained a sample from her stepson which was used to create the baby that she carried. She died in childbirth, obviously, but the important part is that when the mage who helped her with the ritual scanned the baby to see if it had worked, he realized the baby was identical to the stepson in every way, save for three key differences."

Looking over at Oliver and Gavin, she added, "Those three differences are the same ones that Rose has identified as existing between the two of you. Different ages, the stepson's core wasn't blocked while the baby's was, and their power levels were different. In that case, the mother was a Master Witch, so a level eight on the scale. Prior to the stepson's inheritance, the baby was exactly eight levels more powerful than him."

"So, you think this older ritual was used for Oliver and Gavin?" Cedric asked.

Emma nodded. "Yes, I do. The details of the test results fit with the details of the earlier instance. Now, I don't know if Gavin's mother's pregnancy was magically assisted or if she was capable of having children, but I do know that in the original case, it was determined that the reason the baby's core was blocked was because of the magical assistance during the pregnancy. The extensive spell work necessary to allow the mother to carry a child had a reaction with the baby's developing core and bound it. Much like Gavin, the baby was born a hedgewizard. The difference is that in that case the core block dissipated all on its own within a month, instead of remaining intact for nearly seventeen years."

"If a sample from Oliver was used to make Gavin wouldn't that mean that Oliver is Gavin's father?" Harry asked.

Shaking her head, Eudora said, "No, it wouldn't. For Oliver to be considered Gavin's father, a sample would have to be taken from Oliver and combined with a sample from someone else, thus making Gavin a combination of two people. Since, Rose has identified them as being identical twins, that means that if Emma is right, the sample obtained from Oliver was not combined with a sample from anybody else. Which would mean that Gavin is essentially Oliver's clone, not his son."

"Why choose me though?" Oliver asked. "Why not use a sample from my father or Bryce or Cameron? I was less than a year old when Gavin was conceived."

"I can't answer that question with certainty without testing them," Emma answered, "although I would hypothesize that of the four of you, Oliver, you're the strongest magically. Even being less than a year old, your base power level would have been determinable and was probably the highest. That being the case you were chosen as the donor in order to make sure Gavin would be as strong as possible when he was born and the magic from his mother's core was added to his."

"Another possible reason," Eudora interjected, "is because Bryce and Cameron were five years old at the time. As such, they could talk. It was possible that Gavin's mother was afraid they'd tell your father if she tried to get a sample from one of them and then she'd have to explain why she was harvesting genetic material from a five-year-old. Much easier to get it from a baby that was less than a year old who can't talk and possibly ruin her plans."

"But why would a woman sacrifice her own life to give life to a child that isn't even hers?" Roger asked. "I mean if Gavin's mother carried Oliver's clone, then she'd have no connection to the baby at all, other than carrying it. Not to downplay that role, but, I don't see why she'd be willing to die for a kid that's not her's. Had she raised and loved the child, I could maybe see it, but she would have died the second he was born. Unless you're suicidal I would think you'd never want to give birth at that rate."

"I doubt that is an answer we will ever know," Eudora commented. "Unless she kept a diary and actually laid out her reasons for doing as she did or we manage to find the blood mage that assisted her with the ritual, there's really no way for us to know."

After a few minutes during which nobody said anything, as they all tried to digest the information they'd just learned, Rose said, "Well, Mr. Wood, if you're ready, I will begin to remove the blockage on your core. Judging by the strength of the blockage, I would suggest that everyone but myself, Gavin, and the other trainers leave the room."

Shaking his head, Oliver walked over to Gavin and wrapped an arm around him. "I'm staying."

Rose looked about ready to object, when Athena raised a hand and said, "If you wish to stay, Mr. Wood, you may. Rose, I know you know how to unblock a core from your training as a healer, but you've never actually done it have you?"

"No, I haven't," Rose admitted. "St. Mungo's put me in the Janus Thickey ward when I worked there, so, I never had much to do other than regularly checking the vitals of the long-term patients."

Recognizing the name of the ward, Cedric asked, "Isn't that the ward where the Lord and Lady Longbottom are? I heard my father talking about it with Noah once, before he was disowned."

"Yes, Mr. Diggory, that's the ward they're in," Rose replied. "I never treated them, however, as I'd left St. Mungo's and gone to work at Hogwarts before they were driven mad by the Death Eaters."

"Lord and Lady Longbottom?" Harry asked. "Are they any relation to Neville?"

"Yes, they're his parents," Athena responded.

"His parents?" Harry asked, confused. "Neville lives with his grandmother, so I always assumed his parents were dead."

"Assumptions can be a dangerous thing, Mr. Potter," Athena said. "The truth is, Lord and Lady Longbottom are still alive, however, their minds are basically gone. During the first war, they were extensively tortured under the Cruciatus Curse until their minds broke beyond repair. However, because Frank Longbottom is still breathing, he's still Lord Longbottom, along with all the titles that go with the position, such as The Duke of Aldersey. As his only son and heir, Neville goes by Marquis of Claverton, and his grandmother, in her capacity as the Dowager Duchess of Aldersey, acts as a conservator, so to speak. She takes care of all of the Longbottom family business and votes in the Wizengamot and the Hogwarts Board in her son's place."

"There are no provisions in the letters patent that govern the passage of the title in the event of mental incapacity," Cedric said. "Basically, the only way that the title can pass to the heir, is for the current holder to die. So, as long as Lord Longbottom still lives, even though he can barely move or talk, he retains the title."

"Anyway, I've assisted in a core unblocking before," Athena said. "The healer who performed it had done it several times before and was of the mind that having a family member holding the patient during the process was beneficial. Not only to give the patient moral support, but also to help protect the people doing the unbinding, as there is usually some loss of motor control. Not as dramatic as during the inheritance if you're gaining a large amount of power, but some involuntary movement, such as the patient accidentally striking the healer."

Turning to Oliver, Athena said, "So, Mr. Wood, what I'd like you to do is hop up onto the exam table and sit behind your brother, so that his back is flush against your chest."

Oliver nodded. Rose was about to offer him a stool to assist him in straddling the exam table, but Oliver's years of Quidditch conditioning made it unnecessary, as he effortlessly swung his leg up over the table and moved into position behind Gavin.

"Now, wrap your arms around him as if you were hugging him," Athena said. "You don't need to hold on too tightly for now, but if you begin to feel any resistance from his arms, tighten your grip to ensure his arms stay at his sides."

"Okay," Oliver said, as he did just that. Some men had a problem with hugging or holding other men, but Oliver had no such problems. One reason, of course, was that he was gay and thus preferred hugging and holding other men, well, one in particular. Other than that, however, the Wood family was very tight-knit to begin with, so, they had no qualms about showing one another affection. Plus, as they were closer in age, Oliver and Gavin had always been closer to each other than they were to Bryce and Cameron. They still had a good relationship with them, but they were much closer to each other, just as Bryce and Cameron were closer to each other.

Wrapping his arms around Gavin, Oliver moved so that his head was resting on his brother's shoulder and he whispered, "It's gonna be okay, Gav. I'm here for you and hey, after this, you'll be able to do all the spells you've always wanted to do."

Gavin nodded, a happy smile on his face. Even though Athena had said they would have Obliviated him if it had turned out that his core wasn't blocked, Gavin had tried not to get his hopes up too much about the possibility that his core was blocked. Yes, the idea that it could have killed him on his next birthday had certainly scared him. He may have attempted suicide on three occasions, but he'd faced his demons and now dying was the absolute last thing he wanted to do. However, a blocked core would mean that once it was unblocked, he'd be able to learn and use all of those spells that he'd always wanted to use, but never could.

"Alright, as for the rest of you, out," Eudora said, as she made a shooing motion with her hands. "We'll let you know when we're done down here."

-o-0-o-

Heading upstairs, the boys bypassed the formal parlor and headed upstairs to their more comfortable common room on the second floor. Once they had all taken seats in front of the fireplace, Roger asked, "So, I know Oliver will be sharing with Terence. Where do you think Gavin will be sleeping?"

"My room is plenty big enough," Harry commented. "Maybe they'll put him in with me."

"No, I rather doubt that," Cedric said. "They said the reason you and Liam were given your own rooms to begin with is because you're legally adults, while Roger and I are still underage."

"Not for that much longer though," Roger commented. "You'll be turning seventeen next month, Ric."

"True," Cedric said. "I don't think I'll be getting my own room though. Unless the trainers double up there's only three rooms up here."

Before anyone could comment further, there was a soft pop as Barin entered the room. He ignored the four boys, however, as he walked over to the fireplace and concentrated on the empty wall on the opposite side of the fireplace from where the door to Harry's room was. The boys all watched curiously for a moment and gasped slightly when a door appeared out of nowhere.

"Adding another door to my room?" Harry asked, when Barin was finished.

Shaking his head, Barin pointed and said, "No. Left door lead to Lord Potter's room. Right door lead to extra dormitory."

"Extra dormitory?" Terence asked, as he cocked his head in confusion. "Where, Barin?"

"Above barn," Barin answered. "Years past there be more studying to be mages. More space needed. Second floor of barn made into dormitory. New door is portal. Connects house to second floor of barn."

At this point, Barin snapped his fingers and to their amazement, right before their eyes, the common room seemed to get a bit larger, as a third partner's desk appeared, along with seating for two more people in front of the fireplace. Bowing slightly, Barin then disappeared with a pop.

"A portal?" Roger asked after a moment. "I didn't even think such a thing was possible."

"It usually isn't, Mr. Davies," Emma said, as she entered the room. Looking at Terence, she said, "Athena, Rose, and Eudora are still working on unblocking young Mr. Wood's core, however, everything is going according to plan. The blockage is very strong. They can't remove the blockage all at once, as the change in power level would likely be too much for him, but they've taken the first steps. Within about two weeks time, he should be completely unblocked. In the meantime, we'll begin giving him some remedial lessons to allow him to catch up on his education."

"I know Gavin studied the theory behind the more advanced work," Terence said. "So, I'd imagine that, at least, should make it a little easier for him."

Emma nodded. "Yes, that it will. Anyway, as to the portal - it is highly advanced mage-level magic. If you look closely around the door frame, you'll see several runes inscribed. Eudora is the one who created this passage about fifteen years ago when we had a larger than normal group of students and needed extra space. At that time, we had two students in each of the rooms here, plus two in each of the six rooms above the barn. We wanted the students housed in the barn to have easy access to the common room, however, in addition to making it so that they could enter the house in winter without having to go outside, so the portal was created."

At this, Emma walked over to the door and opened it, allowing the four boys to see that behind the door was a shimmering field of blue light. Turning back towards the room's occupants, she added, "One might also call this a causeway, as stepping through this door does not instantly transport you to the barn. You'll actually be walking through a magically created tunnel. Follow me and I'll show you what I mean."

As they were all curious, Harry, Cedric, Roger, and Terence all stood up and followed Emma through the shimmering field of light. Harry was slightly apprehensive, as he didn't particularly care for Floo travel and was worried this might be similar to that, but he needn't have worried. Upon stepping through the field, Harry and the others felt a light, refreshingly cool breeze, but nothing more. On the other side of the door they all couldn't help but be awed by the fact that it appeared as though they were standing amongst the clouds, which reached roughly two feet above the ground. The walls and ceiling of the tunnel were nearly translucent. You could see a shimmering field of magic, but unlike the one they'd passed through to get here, you could see through it to see the yard between the cottage and the barn.

"The floor is also translucent," Emma explained, "so that's the purpose of the cloud cover, in case anyone using the passage has a problem with heights. We're only about ten feet off the ground, but for some that would be more than enough to make them panic if they could see that fact."

Walking down the magical corridor to the shimmering field of magic at the opposite end, Emma raised a hand and said, "Recludo," before turning to her students and saying, "You'll want to remember that incantation. While the magic to create the portal itself is mage-level, Recludo isn't - it's the wizard-level Opening Charm. As there are doors on each side of the portal which are charmed to close after you step through it, you need to use it before leaving this passageway - unless of course the thought of walking into a closed door is appealing to you. I warn you, however, that your trainers and I will not be sympathetic about fixing your noses if you do so. If you hurt your nose by walking into a closed door, you have nobody to blame but yourself. True, in this case, you can't actually see the door as long as you're on this side of it, but that's beside the point."

Leading the group through the portal and into the barn, Emma said, "As I mentioned, there's an additional six bedrooms over here. Unlike the rooms in the main house, however, these don't have private bathrooms. Over here there's only three bathrooms shared between the six bedrooms. The younger Mr. Wood will be taking one of them and, Mr. Diggory or Mr. Davies, if one of you wishes it, you may move over here as well. We'd originally opted to place you together because we don't usually use these extra rooms unless at least two of them will be used."

"Athena said that Oliver and I could share a room," Terence said. "So, how about Oliver and I move into one of the rooms over here and then Cedric or Roger can have the room I'm currently using? It might make Gavin more comfortable, having two people he knows and trusts just on the other side of the wall. Cedric and Roger are nice, but Gavin doesn't really know them."

Emma was silent for a moment, a contemplative look on her face, before she nodded and said, "Yes, that sounds like a workable solution to me. I'll talk to Athena and the others. I don't foresee any problems with arranging the room assignments that way, however, so, Mr. Davies, Mr. Diggory, either way it looks like you'll both have your own rooms soon."

"Cool," Roger said. "I don't mind sharing with Cedric. I mean, I have four roommates at Hogwarts, so I'm used to sharing, but I do enjoy the summers when I have my own room back home."

"Same here," Cedric agreed.

"Well, then, let's get back over to the house," Emma said, as she led the group back through the causeway. "The others are probably done with as much of Gavin's unbinding as we can do today and dinner should be ready shortly."

-o-0-o-

The next morning, Harry, Cedric, and the others, which now included Gavin and Oliver, came downstairs for breakfast to find Robert Higgs sitting at the table with Eudora.

"Hey Dad," Terence said with a smile.

"Good morning, Liam," Robert said, returning the smile. He knew all too well just how much his son hated being called Terry, so, even though he was relatively certain his son wouldn't hex his own father's bits off, he'd decided not to chance it. Turning to Harry, Robert said, "Lord Potter, I found the bank statements you wanted and have brought you the most recent to peruse at your leisure. I've also contacted Horace Slughorn and while he was initially reluctant to take up the Potions post, once I dropped your name, he rather quickly changed his mind, so if the Board approves, he's willing to take the job, so long as he can have Professor Merrythought's old office. I've got nothing to report on a replacement for Binns, however."

"Thank you, Robert," Harry said with a smile, as he took the sealed Gringotts' envelope. "I'll look at this after my morning class."

Robert nodded, as he took a sip of his coffee, before he said, "Oh and I almost forgot. Tilly reports that the harvesting of the basilisk is underway. She says it will take a few days, as there was apparently many more components there then she expected. She also added that there were several rooms behind the statue, including what was presumably the basilisk's lair, in addition to a suite of rooms which were presumably used by Slytherin, among them a large library full of very old books. She's assigned a pair of elves to catalog them for you."

"A basilisk?" Gavin asked, curious, since he and Oliver obviously hadn't been in class when Harry explained about the basilisk to the others.

"Yes, a basilisk," Terence said with a grin. "Harry here slew a basilisk in Slytherin's Chamber of Secrets at Hogwarts when he was twelve."

"That wasn't just a wild rumor?" Oliver asked, clearly shocked.

"No, it wasn't a rumor," Harry answered. "However, most of the ways that I supposedly did it were nothing but wild and ridiculous rumors. For example, I did not strangle it to death with my bare hands while starring it directly in the eyes and somehow avoiding instant death. The bloody thing was over thirty feet long and at least five feet around. My hands wouldn't fit around something that big. Truth is I stabbed Godric Gryffindor's sword through the roof of its mouth and almost died in the process because I got one of its fangs in my forearm."

"Basilisk poison is deadly," Gavin said. "How'd you survive?"

"Professor Dumbledore's familiar," Cedric said. "Fawkes, a phoenix."

Harry nodded. "Their tears have healing powers. And before you ask, Fawkes is the one that brought me the sword, which is now on display in Dumbledore's office."

"A most impressive feat, Lord Potter," Robert said.

"Thanks," Harry said. "Anyway, Robert, I have something else for you to do."

"Yes, sir?" Robert asked. "I'm always pleased to be of service."

"I need you to contact His Majesty the King," Harry said.

"The King, sir?" Robert asked. "For what purpose?"

"I wish to setup a meeting with him at his earliest convenience," Harry answered. "I'm petitioning him for a pardon for my godfather, the Lord Sirius Black. Contrary to popular belief, he didn't kill Peter Pettigrew and it was Peter who killed those Muggles. He also didn't betray my parents, as Peter was their Secret Keeper, a fact which my parent's portrait will substantiate."

"Forgive me, but do you mean Peter Pettigrew is still alive?" Robert asked.

"Yes, Robert, he is," Harry confirmed. "As recently as my last school year. Sadly he escaped, but not before he admitted to everything, including betraying my parents to Voldemort. I'm told my memory of that event, along with the memories of my friends Ron, Hermione, our former Defense teacher Remus Lupin, and Sirius himself can be entered into evidence to prove his innocence."

Nodding, Robert said, "Yes, yes, that's true. Of course, Lord Potter, I will contact the palace and inform His Majesty of your request. I will let you know as soon as I hear something."

"Well, now, if you're done discussing business," Eudora said, "may I suggest that you all eat something? Terence, Cedric, Roger, Harry, you need to report to Classroom #1 in half-an-hour for your next lesson, with Rose. Oliver, you will report to Classroom #2 at the same time, where Emma and I will go over with you what the others have already learned to catch you up with them."

Oliver and the others nodded, as Gavin asked, "What about me, Eudora?"

"You will report to Athena's study," Eudora answered. "Just down the hallway there," she said, pointing towards the archway on the diagonal wall near the entrance to the library. "It's the first door on the right. She'll be testing you on various subjects to determine how much remedial training you will require and begin instructing you on some of the more advanced spells that you previously couldn't do."

"You going to be okay, Gav?" Oliver asked.

Gavin scowled at his brother and said, "Will, I'm going to be seventeen in a few months. I'm not a baby, so don't treat me like one. I'll be fine."

Once everyone was finished eating and Robert had left, Eudora stood and went over to the counter, grabbing a potion vial and saying, "Rose told me to give this to you after you ate, Harry. It's the first of the nutritional potions that she told you she'd brew."

"Great," Harry said as he accepted the vial. If it hadn't already been clear from his tone that he wasn't looking forward to drinking it, it would have been by the way he just stared at it silently for two minutes, before taking a deep breath, pulling out the cork, and downing it in one gulp. Or trying to, anyway. He quickly found himself closing his mouth as his cheeks swelled up from the liquid in his mouth, fighting the urge to spit it out. After a moment, he managed to swallow. "That was the most foul thing I've ever tasted in my life and that includes Skele-Gro."

Eudora nodded, her face sympathetic as she said, "Yes, Rose told me that it was foul tasting. But, most medicines are. Vitamin potions usually do taste terrible in my experience and Rose said this was a mixture of several different ones to help your body with the numerous deficiencies it has. So several mixed together is bound to taste terrible."

"And I have to take one of these every day for a month?" Harry asked, already feeling queasy at the thought.

"Unfortunately, yes," Eudora said. "However, I think you'll be glad you did in the end. Rose said you should expect an increase in appetite and that by the end of the month, you'll be nearly six feet tall and all of the damage done by the malnourishment you've suffered while at your relatives' home will have been reversed. Normally, these kinds of nutrition potions would take months to reverse the level of damage you've suffered, but there are advantages to having a mage-trained healer brew these types of potions for you, as they can be made more potent And no, before you ask, Harry, they can't be made any more potent than they already are so that you can take less of them. Rose made them as potent as she possibly can without the risk of addiction."

Harry nodded and from the look on his face, it was clear he was about to ask just that, but Eudora cut him to the quick. Oliver and Gavin had been filled in on the details of Harry's childhood after they'd both sworn oaths of silence to him the previous night, so, they weren't left wondering why Harry needed to take nutrition potions everyday for a month. They had both been quite shocked by what they'd heard, as nobody in the Wizarding world had ever thought for even a fraction of a second that the great Harry Potter, heir to one of the most powerful of the noble houses and defeater of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, would be living with abusive, magic-hating Muggles. It was thought that he'd grown up in the lap of luxury at Seacliff Castle and had simply chosen not to leave it until he started at Hogwarts.

Of course, some people did question why he looked so scrawny and just who the hell had dressed him, but for the most part, they continued to believe what they always had. In fact, the vast majority still thought Harry had lived in luxury all those years and honestly, Harry didn't really have an overwhelming desire to disabuse them of those notions. The last thing he wanted was pity, so, as far as he was concerned, the fewer people that knew the truth the better. He'd entrust it to friends and close associates that he'd be interacting with on a regular basis, such as his fellow trainee mages, and leave the rest of the masses to think whatever they wanted.

"Are the changes these potions make going to cause any issues with Harry's double?" Cedric asked.

Shaking her head, Eudora said, "No, as magical extensions, your doubles are linked to you and are self-updating. So any natural changes to your appearances will be reflected in your doubles, as if they're the ones who enacted the changes."

"Natural changes?" Roger asked.

"That means only your body's natural changes are reflected," Eudora said. "If, however, you were to disguise yourself with Glamour Charms or drink Polyjuice, your doubles would not reflect that."

"Can the doubles themselves enact any changes?" Gavin asked. "I mean, you said they had free will, so couldn't they decide to start lifting weights or something and bulk up?"

"A good question, Gavin," Eudora said. "You must remember that your doubles have your personalities and all of your memories, experiences, and knowledge up to the point of their creation. So, that all plays a part in what they decide to do. If, for example, you generally avoid physical activity, your double isn't likely to start lifting weights. It really all depends on whether or not that course of action is something you yourself might do. If it's not, then it's not likely they will choose that course of action either. And as I explained when Roger and Cedric were picking their NEWT classes, your doubles have limited access to your memories. Your choices take precedence over theirs, so if during the course of your training you find yourself making choices that you normally wouldn't have made, then your doubles will remember that and they will adjust accordingly."

Looking over at the clock, Eudora said, "Anyway, it's time all of you got going to where you need to be, so Oliver you can follow me, the rest of you know where you're supposed to be, so get moving."

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, on a small, uncharted island in the Northern Atlantic that had been his home and sanctuary for the last fifteen years, a young man in his early thirties sat in his study. On his desk, was a letter that arrived the previous day from his mentor, urging him that it was time for him to return. After sleeping on it and then spending half the following day thinking about it some more, he finally made up his mind. His mentor was right - it was time. Pulling out a piece of blank parchment and dipping his quill into the inkpot on his desk, he scribbled out a quick note.

Athena,

I'll return for the Opening Ball. If I'm going to return from the dead, I may as well be splashy about it. I am nobility, after all. And as I'm sure you know, we nobles do so love our grand entrances. I, for one, can't wait to see the reactions.

-R.

-o-0-o-

Later that day at lunch, Athena walked into the kitchen to find her charges eating and discussing their days up to that point. She smiled, as she remembered all the students she'd trained over the years, both at Hogwarts and here at Forest Cottage. Clearing her throat to get their attention, she said, "Well, as I suspected, it's made the papers," as she held out a copy of the Daily Prophet to Harry.

Taking the paper, Harry took a deep breath before reading the article, which was accompanied by a large picture of him in his Hogwarts robes, talking with Ron and Hermione in the Gryffindor common room. Since he didn't remember posing for the picture, Harry had the sneaking suspicion that a certain camera-happy housemate had taken the picture. He'd gotten so used to Gryffindor's resident shutterbug snapping pictures, that he didn't even pay attention to it anymore.

THE BOY WHO LIVED INVOKES LAST OF THE LINE CLAUSE
CLAIMS HIS BIRTHRIGHT AS LORD POTTER

By Rita Skeeter, Staff Reporter

In a move that is considered to be long overdue by many people, Harrison Potter, 14, the only son of the late James and Lily Potter, has finally claimed his birthright and become His Grace The Lord Potter, Duke of Granston, Lord of Seacliff Castle, and Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter. The move also makes him Marquis of Brynmoor and Earl of Mathry, in addition to being the youngest head of one of our country's ancient and prestigious Thirteen Houses.

For those of you not familiar with the Last of the Line clause, it's a centuries old provision in the letters patent of the Thirteen Houses, stating that if a minor heir under the age of seventeen is left as the last living member of their line, they shall immediately be emancipated and treated as a legal adult upon reaching their thirteenth birthday. Minor children are not usually allowed to hold titles in their own right, but the Last of the Line clause makes it possible for the last of a noble line to take up their title and all the duties and responsibilities that go along with it.

What kind of responsibilities, you may ask? Well, first and foremost, as Duke of Granston, Marquis of Brynmoor and Earl of Mathry, the new Lord Potter is in charge of the management of those lands and its people. On his own lands, he holds a great deal of power, including the ability to set the marriage laws, tax rates, and act as judge for any crime committed on his lands, for he now holds the rights of justice high, medium, and low over all inhabitants of his lands. In addition, he is expected to be officially installed as a Lord of the Wizengamot in the upcoming autumn session and he also gains the interesting distinction of being the newest Governor of Hogwarts, while still being a student of the vaunted institution. Will he use any of the power he now holds at his fingertips?

Well, it seems like he is planning on doing just that, as this reporter has learned that Robert Higgs, seneschal to the Lord Potter, has been in contact with one Professor Horace E. F. Slughorn, who retired from his position as Hogwarts Potions Master in 1981, after holding the position for nearly sixty years. Professor Slughorn also held the position of Head of Slytherin House for just over forty of those years. According to sources inside Hogwarts, the Lord Potter does not enjoy a civil relationship with Hogwarts' current Potions Master, Professor Severus Snape. Could Lord Potter be planning on asking his fellow board members to sack his hated teacher and replace him with the professor who taught his parents?

It would seem, however, that the position of Hogwarts Potions Master is not the only position that the new Lord Potter has taken an interest in, however, as his seneschal has also been making discreet inquiries, looking for people who would be qualified and willing to take on the position of History of Magic professor at Hogwarts. This position has long been held by Professor Cuthbert Binns, whose ghost has continued to teach the subject following the Professor's death in April of 1920. My sources inside Hogwarts, who wish to remain nameless, tell me that replacing Professor Binns may not be a very popular move and will upset a majority of the Hogwarts student body, as the professor's classes are apparently a favorite of the students who eagerly look forward to the ghost's riveting history lectures.

Reading this, Harry couldn't help but burst out laughing. Cedric, who was sitting next to Harry and could see the paper, laughed as well. "A favorite class?" the Hufflepuff asked. "The only reason any student would think of Binns' classes as one of their favorites is because they can catch up on their sleep during it."

Getting control of himself, Harry nodded and said, "I wonder just who this woman's sources are? I mean, really? Sacking Binns would be a very popular move, despite what she says. True, there may be some lazy students who'd prefer to spend the class period sleeping, but to say that a majority of the students will be upset about it? I doubt that."

"And calling Binns' lectures riveting?" Cedric asked. "That's just crazy. There's nothing riveting about his lectures, unless his goal is to rivet his students' heads to their desks as they're lulled to sleep from the sheer boredom of listening to his monotone droning about the goblin wars."

Athena smiled. "Rita Skeeter is a notorious gossip monger. She's very much into sensationalism and isn't above embellishing the facts or even making them up. Actually, that article is rather tame compared to some of her others. I imagine Editor-in-Chief Barnabas Cuffe kept her on a leash for this article considering that Harry owns the Daily Prophet."

This was news to Harry. "I do?"

Deciding to make his presence known, James, who had been listening from the painting hanging over the kitchen fireplace, said, "Yes, Harry, you do. Your great-great-grandfather, Nathaniel Potter, provided the last bit of financing necessary to found the paper in 1850 in exchange for a 20% stake. Our family continued to be a minority and mostly silent shareholder until 1948 when it printed an article that didn't cast us in the best light. I don't know the exact details, as it was before I was born, but I do know that it had something to do with Grindelwald. Your grandfather, Julian Potter, didn't like what was printed and immediately went about buying out all the other partners, becoming sole owner of the paper in 1951. There have been some purchase offers made over the years, including a few by Barnabas Cuffe himself, but your grandfather and I always refused to sell."

"Well, I can't say as I blame you," Roger said. "Owning the paper is certainly the best way of keeping anything that might be in any way damaging to the family reputation out of the papers." Then, perhaps realizing that might sound different then he'd intended, he backtracked with, "Not that I'm trying to say there is anything potentially damaging, I'm sure their isn't."

"It's okay, Roger," James said with a smile. "I know what you meant and you're right. Owning the paper does have advantages in that we can keep things we'd rather not have printed out of it."

"Well, it's something to keep in mind, at least," Harry said, as he looked at the paper. "I may also have to consider doing something about this Rita Skeeter woman. I'm not sure I want a woman on staff who makes things up and then passes them off as fact."

"Yes, that could be a bad thing," Lily said, as she joined James in the painting. "At any rate, Harry, your father and I were talking and we think it would be prudent for you to pay a visit to my sister and her family."

"Why?" Harry asked.

"To make sure she doesn't talk," James said. "While I applaud Athena and Eudora on their most excellent prank of making Petunia think she was swearing an Unbreakable Vow, I'm afraid the fear of death is not going to be enough to protect her if Dumbledore is determined to find out what's going on."

"As a Muggle," Lily said, "my sister has no way of protecting herself against magic. Now, while she can try to avoid making eye contact with him, it would be child's play for a wizard of the Headmaster's power to compel her to make eye contact with him. Honestly, we're not all that worried about her after what she and her family did to you, but if Dumbledore compels her, it wouldn't take long at all for him to realize that the Fidelius was in effect. He wouldn't get the secret itself, since Petunia isn't the Keeper, but I think it's preferable that he not find out about the Fidelius if it can be avoided."

Athena nodded. "Yes, that's true. I don't really trust that man, even if I can't prove he's done anything wrong."

"Can't prove he's done anything wrong?" Harry asked, his tone incredulous. "What about him placing me with the Dursleys? Or that letter redirecting my mail?"

Athena shook her head and sighed. "Harry, none of that counts as tangible proof. Leaving you with the Dursleys against your parent's wishes, yes that would appear to be wrong. The problem, however, is that you were left with them less then twenty-four hours after your parents died. It's highly unlikely that in the chaos that followed the attack on Godric's Hollow, that your parents' will was accessed and read. So, Dumbledore can believably claim that he didn't know what was in it."

Lily nodded. "The only people who were present when James and I signed the will were Kendrick Pierce, who's now dead, Robert Higgs, and the Lord Diggory. Those three people were the only ones, other than James and myself, who physically saw the will before or after it was signed. James was the last one to see the original because once it was signed and sealed, he took it down to the vaults at Seacliff and locked it away. Only the Lord Potter can open Seacliff's vaults, as the Potter ring is the key. So, Dumbledore would not have had access to the original will."

"Kendrick would have had to file a copy of it with the Office of Estates and Inheritance at the Ministry," James added, "but wills are private matters, kept under high security, especially when it's the last will and testament of the head of one of the Thirteen Houses. Even as Chief Warlock, Dumbledore would not have been able to get access to the copy until after Lily and I were dead. So, it's conceivable that in the chaos following Voldemort's defeat, he never actually went to the Ministry and got our will, at which point he wouldn't know the terms."

"Well, obviously someone knew the terms," Roger said. "Robert, Katherine, and Tilly were all placed under the Imperius Curse and had their memories modified so that they wouldn't seek Harry out and Robert couldn't come forward about the will."

"And my parents never once mentioned the fact that they were supposed to raise Harry if his godparents couldn't," Cedric added. "That is extremely out of character for my parents. If they were supposed to raise a future Duke who also happened to be The-Boy-Who-Lived there's simply no way they would have kept quiet about it and never mentioned it to Noah, Aunt Caroline, Uncle Bruce, Cormac or me. So, I think my parents must be enchanted as well."

"Noah's your brother, right?" Harry asked, remembering a Noah Diggory being mentioned when he was in the Potter family vault.

"Yes, Harry," Cedric confirmed. "I have two siblings. Noah and Lucy."

"Lucy?" Harry asked.

Cedric sighed. "My younger sister, Harry. Her name is actually Lucinda, but we all call her Lucy. She's only two-years-old, so she obviously hasn't started Hogwarts yet. After they disowned Noah in 1991 and I became the heir, my father wanted another spare heir, just in case something were to happen to me. Mum did manage to get pregnant, but gave birth to a girl, Lucy, in July of 1992, instead of the hoped for boy. She couldn't have any more children after that, however, as she'd suffered complications which left her unable to do so. As for Noah, my father forbid him to have any further contact with us, so he's never even met our sister."

"That's just not right," Lily said with a sad shake of her head, as James nodded.

Cedric grinned and said, "Well, I found a way around that, actually."

"Oh?" Oliver asked, his eyebrow raised in curiosity. He did know Noah after all, since unlike Cedric, Noah Diggory had been a Gryffindor at Hogwarts and played chaser for the house Quidditch team until he finished school in June of 1991.

"Yes, well, you see while Father forbade Noah to contact us," Cedric said, "he never specifically told me not to have any further contact with him. Of course, I'm not stupid enough to openly remain in contact, as my father would surely find out and be furious with me. So, I've written letters to Noah and included pictures of Lucy, so he at least knows what she looks like, and Cormac has sent them on to Noah along with his own letters."

"My, my, Cedric," Terence said with a grin. "Sneaky, sneaky, that's almost Slytherin of you."

"I take it your Aunt and Uncle don't agree with Noah being disowned?" Gavin asked.

Shaking his head, Cedric said, "No, they don't. Cormac is straight, but, Uncle Bruce and Aunt Caroline both agree that they could never disown him over something like who he fell in love with. They've tried to convince my parents to contact Noah and reverse the disownment, but they refuse to budge so long as Noah remains in Romania with Charlie."

"Romania? Charlie?" Harry asked. "Are you talking about Charlie Weasley?"

Cedric nodded. "Yeah, Charlie Weasley is Noah's boyfriend. Actually, in his last letter, Noah said that they're engaged now. It's not legal in Romania, but they've been considering coming back home to visit Cormac, my aunt and uncle, and the Weasleys. At which point, Noah said they may very well stop in at the village hall in Gwaren and get married."

"Gwaren? Where's that?" Harry asked.

"It's the capital of the Duchy of Whitehaven," Cedric answered. "Lord Ollivander is the Duke of Whitehaven and he's legalized same-sex marriage on his lands, which also include the Marquisate of Coulderton and the Earldom of Eskett, presumably because Nick is gay. Nick told me he was terrified when he came out to his grandfather, and it didn't help when it appeared as though Lord Ollivander hadn't heard a word he said. Nick was worried that his grandfather hated him and decided that they simply wouldn't talk about it, as if doing so would make it not true. So, obviously, Nick was rather shocked when the very next day he found out that his grandfather had signed the order authorizing the immediate legalization of same-sex marriage throughout his lands. Nick says he and his grandfather still don't talk about it, but he figures the legalization counts as acceptance."

"Wow," Gavin said. "What about the Weasleys? What do they think of Noah and Charlie?"

"As near as I can tell from Noah's letters," Cedric answered, "the Weasleys are accepting of it. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley fully support Charlie and Noah says ever since he was disowned, Mrs. Weasley treats him like he's her son. It sounds like Bill, Fred, and George support them, as well. Noah mentioned in one of his letters that he thinks Percy, Ron, and Ginny aren't as accepting about his relationship with their brother or Charlie's sexuality, but chose to remain silent for fear of their mother's reaction."

After a few moments of silence, Athena said, "Well, at any rate, while we know that Terence's parents and Tilly were charmed and we assume that Lord and Lady Diggory have been as well, we have no proof that says it was Dumbledore who charmed them. All we know for sure is that it was a mage who charmed them and that Dumbledore is powerful enough that it could have been him if he's been lying about his true power level all these years. But, we can't go before the Wizengamot and charge him with a crime without proof. And suspicions don't count as proof."

"Well, what about the letter redirecting my mail?" Harry asked. "Interfering with the mail is a crime isn't it? Surely we've got him there?"

"No, Harry, we don't," James said. "King Edward's signature on that letter acts as a royal seal of approval of its contents. Unlike Muggle Britain, Albion is not a constitutional monarchy. As sovereign, Edward is Head of State and Government and holds ultimate executive, legislative, and judicial authority, so he is essentially above the law because he is the law. There isn't a single thing that he could do that would be considered illegal because he holds all the power in this country. He may be letting the Minister take care of the day to day minutia of running it, but the Ministry has no authority to do anything to Edward because all of their power comes from him."

Lily nodded and added, "Even though the position of Minister is an elected post, the King has to sign off on the person that's elected and he has the authority to dismiss them anytime he wants. He could then call for another election, or if he so chooses, he could even completely abolish the office of Minister. The same goes for the elected members of the Wizengamot. While they were elected by the people, they all serve at the pleasure of the King and can easily be dismissed at any time. Whether they're replaced or not is completely up to the King."

"And the people go along with that?" Harry asked.

"Of course they do," Terence said. "Why wouldn't they? Witches and wizards take tradition very seriously and one of the oldest and most sacred traditions here in Albion is that we are ruled first and foremost by the Pendragon dynasty, followed by the Lords of the Thirteen Houses. It's been that way for over a thousand years and isn't likely to change. If it did, the change would come in the form of a proclamation from the crown, in other words, Edward himself, and not the people."

"While King Edward is a rather unknown entity," Roger said, "with the whole not appearing in public in over twenty years thing, I doubt he would ever give up his power. Just like the people of Albion itself, I'm sure he views his family's rule as a sacred tradition and thus he is not going to simply dismiss over a thousand years of tradition, especially since he'd know that such a decision would make him extremely unpopular among the people. Well, all of the traditionalists, at least, which means pretty much every witch or wizard raised in the Wizarding world. I suppose the Muggle-borns and Muggle-raised would say such a decision was a good thing, but that's because most of them don't understand any of our longstanding traditions and as such have little or no respect for them."

"That's true," Lily said. "When I first entered the Wizarding world and began learning about it, I was almost appalled at how mired in tradition everyone was, because everything in the Wizarding world seemed so out of date compared to what I was used to. However, with time, especially after I married James and became Duchess of Granston, I grew to respect the traditions. Partly because I knew they were important to James, but also because once I really took the time to learn and understand them, I realized that they're really not as bad as I initially thought."

'Hmm, might be something to bring up to the governors,' Harry thought, but decided not to say anything aloud, because he had other things on his mind he wanted answers to. "So, even though I know I didn't sign it, we still have nothing? What if I were to swear an oath on my magic that I never signed it?"

"That's not a good idea, Harry," Cedric cautioned. At Harry's questioning look, he added, "You don't know how your signature got on that document. For all we know, you could have been put under the Imperius, ordered to sign it and then Obliviated. If that was the case, you'd lose your magic because you'd be swearing that you didn't do something when you actually did do it and don't remember it."

Looking at Athena, Harry said, "Emma was able to detect that Robert, Katherine, and Tilly were under the Imperius and had their memories modified. Has either been done to me?"

Taking out her wand, Athena mumbled something under her breath and said, "Not as far as I can tell, Harry, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. The reason Emma was able to pick up on the Imperius Curses on Robert, Katherine, and Tilly is because they'd all been placed under the Imperius several times over a period of many years. That causes a buildup of magical residue which becomes detectable. If you were only placed under the Imperius once it wouldn't be detectable. If you were scanned immediately after the event, there's a chance, but it's been over three years now. Any residue of the spell would have dissipated long ago."

"As for the memory modification," Lily said, "that would only be detectable if you were Obliviated and had a large number of memories removed. Basically, the more memories that are removed via the spell, the easier it becomes to detect that it's been used. If only a single memory was removed, it would be almost undetectable unless you managed to scan the person within minutes of them being Obliviated. So, until we can figure out how your signature ended up on that letter and we can say with certainty that you absolutely did not put it there, I have to agree with Cedric. It would be a very bad idea to swear an oath saying that you never signed it."

As the clock began chiming the hour, Athena said, "Well, finish up your food." Standing up, she said, "Try to be on time for your afternoon classes. Gavin, I'll be in my study to continue your testing when you finish eating."

-o-0-o-

The days passed and soon it was Saturday, August 6, 1994. The trainers had said that the boys would have the day off from classes and that they could go flying on the Quidditch pitch on the property. Unsurprisingly, Oliver was especially looking forward to it and immediately began putting together plans for a pickup game. Athena, Rose, and Eudora said they regrettably had things they had to do, so they wouldn't be able to play, but Emma said that she would act as referee. This left only six players, however, so the plan was to split into two teams and forego using the bludgers, since they wouldn't have any beaters. Cedric would play seeker for one team, with Terence chasing and Oliver as keeper, while Harry would play seeker for the other team, with Roger chasing and Gavin playing keeper. Cedric had suggested asking Cormac to join them, since he knew about their training, but as he was only one person and that would result in one team having more players than the other, they decided against it.

Unfortunately, it seemed that Mother Nature had decided to teach the boys a lesson about how even the best laid plans could fall through and the day dawned to be an especially gloomy day with the sun hidden behind several very large, dark clouds. Not long after breakfast, the skies opened up and it was soon pouring rain. Now, Oliver was enough of a Quidditch nut that he immediately said they shouldn't let a little rain stop them, but the others weren't so keen on playing in such inclement weather. Harry even more so than the rest, since he had rather bad memories from the last time he'd played Quidditch in bad weather. In the end, the trainers put an end to the discussion once the lightning started, saying it wouldn't be safe.

In order to give Oliver something else to concentrate on, Terence grabbed his hand and led him upstairs and through the portal to their new bedroom above the barn. Any complaints that Oliver had about not being able to play Quidditch that morning were quickly silenced when Terence pushed him down on their bed. With a grin on his face, because he knew what was coming, Oliver sat back and watched as Terence walked over to the door out to the hallway and locked it, with both the key and several locking spells. He then repeated that process on the bathroom door since it wasn't a private bath and connected their bedroom to Gavin's. Flashing Oliver with a lascivious grin, Terence said, "I know you're upset about missing Quidditch, but I've got something better in mind that we can do."

Oliver grinned. There was a time before he got together with Terence and subsequently lost his virginity that he would have said that nothing was better than Quidditch. A week after his first time, however, which saw Oliver and Terence doing it about ten times thanks to their raging teenage hormones, Oliver was willing to admit that he'd been wrong. Turns out there was something better than Quidditch, namely a certain Slytherin's very talented tongue. Kneeling on the floor in front of his Gryffindor boyfriend, Terence's hands were soon busy undoing Oliver's belt, as he said, "Put up the Silencing Charms would you?"

Nodding, Oliver pulled his new wand out from the holster on his left arm, both of which he'd bought from Nick when Eudora had taken him and Gavin to Cairo the night they arrived to buy new wands, since their doubles were now using their old ones. Considering how much he loved to be up in the air on a broom, it didn't come as much of a shock to anyone that Oliver's magic resonated the most with the air element, as Nick matched him with a griffin wing feather. When testing him for woods, Nick tried the zodiac woods first, so Cancer in Oliver's case, even though he knew that only one of them, ebony, actually resonated with air. Oliver did feel drawn to it, but Nick decided to then test the other air woods as well, since ebony actually resonated with all four elements and Nick wanted to see if the Scot would feel a bigger draw to something more specialized to the air element.

In the end, Oliver ended up with a twelve inch wand made of hawthorn, with the griffin wing feather as its core. Griffin feathers are the best core for Defense Against the Dark Arts and hawthorn works well with protective and defensive magic, so the pairing was a good one in Nick's mind. With Oliver matched, it was then time for Nick to begin matching Gavin. Almost immediately, however, it became clear that Gavin's magic did not resonate with air the way that Oliver's did, since all of the cores the younger Wood reported feeling drawn to were tied more strongly to water. This amused Nick when he found out that Oliver and Gavin were genetically identical twins, because it was always fun when he could prove his grandfather wrong. Whenever Lord Ollivander was matching wands for a pair of identical twins, he almost always matched them with wands that were nearly identical in every way, in the belief that their magic, like their appearances, would be identical.

After narrowing things down, Gavin ended up with a thirteen and a half inch wand made of apple wood with hair from what Nick described as a particularly handsome merman of the Greek Siren variety as its core. Now both apple wood and Siren hair were particularly good at love spells, but what made the pairing interesting is that male Sirens, much like their female counterparts, were very good at attracting men. Mythology described the Sirens as beautiful females who would sing and lure sailors to their deaths on the rocky shores of the island they inhabited.

Those in Wizarding Greece, however, knew that Sirens were not just a story, but real, living creatures. They also knew that despite what the ancient authors chose to write, the Sirens whose singing lured those sailors were just as often male as they were female. Their voices being so pure and melodic that it didn't matter if the male sailors were attracted to men or not, they were still enchanted and drawn in by the call of the Siren song.

Gavin couldn't help but find it strangely ironic that he would match well with a core from a male creature that was good at attracting men because the vast majority of date offers that Gavin received were from men. While Oliver never went out of his way to tell people that he preferred men, it had still gotten into the press following his signing with Puddlemere and became a relatively well known fact for those who had been reading Quidditch magazines and other publications, such as Witch Weekly, around the time that Oliver had been signed.

So, combined with the fact that he looked so much like Oliver, very few women asked Gavin out since they were mistaking him for his gay brother. Now, since Gavin considered himself to be straight, he obviously found this to be particularly annoying. Oliver, on the other hand, laughed his head off, before clapping his little brother on the shoulder and telling him that maybe the Fates were trying to tell him something. Slapping his brother's hand away, Gavin fixed Oliver with a clearly disgruntled and annoyed look that just made the older Wood laugh even harder.

Waving his wand and muttering a few words, Oliver put up several strong Silencing Charms that he'd had lots of practice with back at Hogwarts when he and Terence would alternately meet up for snogging and more in various places around the castle, including the Astronomy Tower, several empty classrooms, and even their own dorm rooms in Gryffindor Tower and the Slytherin dungeons. The fact that they were never overheard during these activities in three years and thus managed to keep their relationship a secret from anyone they hadn't told, proved just how good Oliver was at casting them.

With the spells in place, Terence grinned at his boyfriend, as he finished unbuckling Oliver's belt and quickly pulled down the zipper of his trousers. Lifting himself off the bed a bit, Oliver smiled as his boyfriend pulled his trousers down to his knees, before Terence leaned forward and planted several kisses on the tent that had formed in his red boxers. Terence's fingers soon moved upwards from Oliver's thighs, reaching under the older man's shirt and massaging the flesh as he continued to plant kisses all over the keeper's thighs and cotton-covered cock.

Oliver groaned slightly as he leaned back on his hands, palms flat on the bed behind him, and said, "Liam, please, stop torturing me."

Lifting his head, Terence grinned up at Oliver and asked, "Torturing you, am I? Well, if you don't like what I'm doing, I could stop."

"No, don't!" Oliver was quick to exclaim. "I just meant for you to speed things up a little, not stop."

"Oh," Terence said, drawing out the word. "You mean you want me to free Little Will from prison."

"So long as you then imprison him in your mouth, yes," Oliver said.

"My, Will, you don't want much, do you?" Terence asked.

"I could go back to complaining about the rain and not being able to play..."

"No, no, please, don't," Terence interrupted. "I suppose we could speed things up, just a little."

Before Oliver could comment, Terence grabbed the waistband of Oliver's boxers in his teeth and pulled. Taking the hint, Oliver pushed himself up from the bed for a second time. Once the red fabric joined the keeper's trousers at his knees, Terence let go of them and darted his tongue outward, touching Oliver's left knee, before proceeding to kiss and lick his way up to his thigh. Lifting his head, Terence then just hovered above his boyfriend's midsection for a moment, ogling the sight before him. Even after three years, Terence still couldn't get enough of drinking in every inch of Oliver's toned body, especially the section that his eyes were currently on.

After a minute or so, Oliver asked, "Are you going to do something or are you just going to look at it?"

"Oh I thought I'd just look but not touch," Terence said with a grin. He enjoyed drawing this out and building up Oliver's anticipation. And no matter how much Oliver complained about it, after all was said and done, he always admitted, albeit grudgingly, that the wait had been worth it.

"Liam!" Oliver whined in a piteous tone.

"Okay, okay, sheesh, you're so impatient," Terence said, as he leaned down and darted his tongue out of his mouth, very quickly licking the head of Oliver's throbbing manhood.

"I'm not impatient," Oliver argued, as Terence again darted his tongue outward, this time starting at the bottom of the shaft and licking upwards.

"No? Then what would you call it?" Terence asked.

Oliver groaned and answered, "Annoyed if you keep talking."

Planting an open-mouthed kiss on the head of Oliver's cock, Terence grinned as he looked upwards and said, "Oh, Will, you know you love it when I draw this out. Makes the main event so much more satisfying."

"Yeah that's easy for you to say," Oliver whined. "You're not the one whose balls are turning blue."

"Oh sweet Merlin, they are not," Terence said. "I think I'd notice if your balls started sporting Ravenclaw colors."

Oliver groaned and said, "Liam, if you're not going to do anything, maybe I'll go pay a visit to our resident Ravenclaw, who is purported to know the secrets of really great sex."

"You wouldn't dare," Terence said, as he again licked the underside of Oliver's cock at an agonizingly slow pace. "For one thing, you know better than to cheat on your oh so sexy, cunning and very sneaky Slytherin boyfriend. For another, Roger is straight, so you could ask him until you're blue in the face. Even then, it's not a good bet he'll give in and do something about your allegedly blue balls."

Pausing, Terence darted his tongue out between closed lips, looking almost like a snake, as he again ran his tongue up and down Oliver's shaft, teasing him, before adding, "Remember, it's the Slytherins who run all of the betting pools at Hogwarts, so we know a good bet when we see one and you being successful in getting the very straight Roger Davies to give you a blowjob without using Amortentia or the Imperius Curse is a bet I wouldn't touch for all the gold in Gringotts'."

"Liam, please," Oliver whined, as he looked down at his boyfriend and turned on the sad puppy eyes. Unfortunately, at least in Terence's mind, coming from Oliver, the Slytherin had no resistance to those blue eyes that he loved so much, but also hated in cases like this because he had a tendency to become putty in Oliver's hands.

"Fine, fine, ruin my fun," Terence said in a dejected tone, before he grinned and said, "Just know that your ass will be paying the price later."

"Not seeing the problem," Oliver commented, as Terence just shook his head, before opening his mouth and finally doing what Oliver had wanted him to do for the last few minutes. "Oh, Liam, yes," he moaned, as he put his weight on his left hand, while he used his right to play with his boyfriend's silky brown and blond locks.

-o-0-o-

By noon, the storm had still not let up, so the boys gathered together in their common room and Barin brought up a platter of sandwiches and a pitcher of pumpkin juice for their lunch. Of all of them, Oliver still seemed the most upset about not being able to go outside to play Quidditch, even though not doing so had led to a very enjoyable morning full of sex with his hot boyfriend. Taking pity on him, and to shut him up, Eudora and Emma came upstairs and delighted everyone with the use of some very complicated mage-level spells that transfigured one of the partners' desks into something similar to a Muggle foosball table. The only difference was, with magic, they were able to create a working tabletop version of Quidditch, enclosed under a glass dome so that the tiny golden snitch wouldn't go flying all over the room. This kept Oliver and Terence entertained, while Roger sat down at one of the other desks with Gavin and helped him with his remedial work. Harry and Cedric, meanwhile, opted to play wizard's chess, on a best of three basis.

Harry surprised himself by beating Cedric in the first game they played. He couldn't help but feel good about that because he so rarely won at chess. Of course, that was mainly because the only person he ever played with was Ron and despite the redhead's short temper and other faults, he was the undisputed chess champion of Gryffindor Tower. As such, Harry was one of the few people in the tower who was still willing to play against Ron. Harry's victory didn't last long, however, as Cedric learned from his mistakes during the first game and turned around and beat Harry in their second game.

Now in their third game, it was Cedric's move and as he studied the board, he grinned and directed his bishop to move to a spot two squares away from Harry's king, placing him in check. However, since a chess king can only move one square in any direction and there were no other squares Harry could move his king to without entering check with another of the Hufflepuff's pieces, Cedric grinned, as he looked up at Harry and said, "Checkmate."

Harry was used to losing at this game, but he still couldn't help the small groan as Cedric's bishop moved the rest of the way towards his king and used his staff to knock the other piece off his feet, sending his crown clattering to the board. Before Harry's king could right himself, however, Cedric's bishop pointed it's staff at the other piece and let a go a torrent of lightning on the other piece, causing it to disintegrate into a small pile of glowing silver dust.

"Fancy another game?" Cedric asked.

"No thank you. I've had my arse handed to me enough for right now," Harry answered with a grin, as he stood up from the small table that the chess board rested upon and stretched.

"Oh come on, Harry," Cedric said. "You did win one game."

"True," Harry agreed. "However, you easily beat me the other two times. You had a checkmate in what five moves the second game?"

"Four, actually," Cedric corrected.

"Yeah, thanks for making me feel bad," Harry said in a sarcastic voice. Cedric, however, actually appeared to have taken it to heart that he may have actually hurt Harry's feelings if the concerned look on his face was anything to go by. "It's okay, Cedric, I was joking. You really don't need to worry about making me feel bad by beating me in chess. Merlin knows I get beat plenty."

"By who?" Roger asked, as he looked up from his book.

"Ron Weasley," Harry answered. "He's Gryffindor's undisputed chess champion. Beat every single person in the tower. I think that's what led Professor Dumbledore to challenge him to a game last year."

"Who won?" Cedric asked.

"Ron," Harry replied. "It was the longest chess game I've ever watched. Dumbledore challenged him more than anyone else in the tower ever had, but in the end, he still won."

"I remember that day," Oliver commented as his Seeker caught the snitch to end the second game of tabletop Quidditch that he'd played with Terence. The Slytherin had won the first game. "I know some people were worried what would happen if Ron managed to beat him. Thought maybe the Headmaster would punish the house or something."

"And did he?" Gavin asked.

Shaking his head, Oliver sat down in one of the armchairs in front of the fireplace and promptly pulled Terence down into his before he answered, "Nope. Congratulated Ron on his victory and then awarded him twenty points for a well-played game."

"Which we lost later that afternoon," Harry said. At Cedric's raised eyebrow, Harry added, "Double potions with Snape."

"Ah, 'nough said," Cedric said as he sat down on the sofa. While Snape tended to be hard on Gryffindors and Harry in particular, that didn't mean that Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff had it any better. He might not punish them quite as badly as he did Gryffindor, but Snape still found ways to take points from any non-Slytherin he happened to have in class.

"Assuming the board goes along with it," Terence said, "I do wonder if the school's Master Brewer can take points or not. I know his favoritism works out well for me and my housemates, but I've seen him make plenty of unwarranted point deductions over the years."

Nodding, as he placed a bookmark in his book and set it aside, Roger said, "Did it to me during a class towards the end of last year. I was working with Adrian Pucey on a potion and he made it blow up by putting one of the ingredients in at the wrong time. Snape had even watched Adrian do it and yet I'm the one he yelled at, before taking twenty points from Ravenclaw for my failure to stop Adrian from ruining the potion." After a moment, Roger shook his head and added, "And then to make it even more unfair, he awarded Adrian ten points for having to deal with my obvious incompetence."

"That is so not fair," Cedric said.

"No, it isn't," Harry agreed. "Maybe I'll mention it to the other governors. Don't know if they can actually do anything about it, but something like that should not happen."

"Sounds like I haven't been missing much in not going to Hogwarts," Gavin commented.

"Well, don't let Snape's favoritism color your opinion, Gavin," Oliver said. "Hogwarts is a great place and Snape notwithstanding, I think you'd really enjoy it."

"Guess I'll never know," Gavin said. "Even if I can do magic at a higher level now, it's way too late for me to start going to Hogwarts."

Cedric grinned. "Yeah, I do think you would look just a little out of place with the rest of the first years."

Gavin snorted, before he said, "Knowing my luck, people would probably think I was Oliver. As obsessed with Quidditch as he is, everyone would probably think I somehow convinced the staff to let me repeat Hogwarts just so that I could play twice as much Quidditch by playing for Gryffindor and Puddlemere."

"I resemble that remark," Oliver said, at which point everyone burst out laughing.

After a minute, Harry said, "Well, at least you admit that you're obsessed."

A few minutes of silence passed before Cedric said, "Speaking of professors, we do have four of them right here in the house with us. Anyone have any clues as to just who they really are?"

"I've had a few thoughts," Terence said. "First off, we've seen Eudora's and Emma's mage's staffs. The colors of the staffs would suggest that Eudora is a Slytherin and that Emma is a Ravenclaw."

"That's true," Roger commented. "Of course, how do we know those are the actual colors of their staffs? They could be changing them with magic to throw us off."

"I hadn't thought of that," Terence said. "Of course, we also have Emma's admission that she played professional Quidditch. How many of our professors have done that in their pasts?"

"Not many of them, I should think," Harry replied. "Something else we have is that when I asked about attending the Wizengamot meetings after Hogwarts was back in session, Athena told me that she'd arrange for it to look like her son had come to Hogwarts to escort me to London. He's one of the common members apparently."

"Huh, that's interesting," Oliver said. "Did she tell you his name? If we had that, we might be able to find out who she is. I mean if Athena Gracey is just an alias, then her son would probably have her real surname."

"True, but no, she didn't," Harry said. "Just told me she had a son, that was it."

"Hmm, well, what about this house?" Roger asked. "The trainers all refer to it as being Athena's house. I don't think the Ministry would let her put a fake name on the deed."

Cedric laughed at that. "You obviously don't have much experience with the Ministry then, Roger. With the right amount of grease, they'll let you do just about anything. Of course, this house is hardly a mansion, so it wouldn't appear that Athena is wealthy enough to be greasing palms."

"Looks can be deceiving," Gavin pointed out. "Just because she doesn't look rich doesn't mean that she isn't. And you said that Emma told you in class that she and Athena are Archmagisters. They'd certainly be powerful enough to use other means of persuasion that don't involve money."

"You mean like the Imperius?" Harry asked.

"Possibly," Gavin said. "Although I'm sure there's other spells that have a similar effect."

Nodding, Roger said, "Yeah, there are. The Compulsion Charm comes to mind. It's basically a weaker cousin to the Imperius. Doesn't last as long and it also doesn't completely remove the target's free will like the Imperius does."

"There's also a much stronger chance the target won't comply," Cedric added. "With the Imperius, you could order an over-protective mother who spends all her time trying to protect her children from even the smallest of dangers to kill them and she'd have to do it. If you tried to do that with the Compulsion Charm, however, it's unlikely to work. For Compulsion to work, you have to be suggesting the target do something that they'd be likely to do anyway."

"Anyway, do we have any other clues that we can examine?" Terence asked.

"I have noticed that Emma watches a program on the television downstairs every morning," Harry said. "I doubt it has anything to do with her identity though."

"Don't be so sure, Harry," Roger said. "You said Athena said there were lots of subtle hints. So, just about anything they do could be a hint. What is this program she watches, do you know?"

"I don't know the name of it," Harry answered. "Although I know I heard some of the characters mention Virginia and I got the impression they were referring to a place, not a person. Honestly, I never really paid much attention to it, but the most recent time I saw her watching it, there were two elderly women talking about baking."

"If they were referring to a place, I'd guess they meant the state of Virginia in America," Cedric said. "Any clue what those women were baking?"

Shaking his head, Harry responded, "None. They just kept talking about the recipe. I assume they were cooking or baking something, as that is what one usually uses a recipe for."

"Hmm, well, there is one thing I've noticed," Oliver said. Once he had everyone's attention, he added, "I couldn't help but notice that I've never seen Rose without an apron on. She's also a trained healer. Who do we know at Hogwarts who is always wearing an apron and is a healer?"

"Madam Pomfrey," Roger, Cedric, and Harry all said at once.

"Question is did Madam Pomfrey ever work at St. Mungo's?" Terence asked. "Rose did say that she worked in the Janus Thickey Ward, but had left to teach at Hogwarts before Lord and Lady Longbottom were admitted."

"So, she worked at St. Mungo's sometime before the early 1980's," Cedric said. "Lord and Lady Longbottom were admitted in 1981 if memory serves. Is Madam Pomfrey the only person on staff at Hogwarts that's trained as a healer?"

"Well, I don't know if she has full training," Roger said, "but I do know that the Wizarding Home Economics elective covers basic first aid. So, I would assume that Professor O'Brien knows something about healing. Although, it's also possible that she knows enough to teach the subject and nothing more."

"They could be anyone, couldn't they?" Harry asked. "I mean, I assume we can eliminate all the male staff members, but Merlin, if that doesn't still leave us with quite a large group."

"True," Cedric said. "There's Madams Pince, Pomfrey, and Hooch and Professors McGonagall, Babbling, Vector, McLaughlin, Landolt, O'Brien, Sprout, Burbage, O'Casey, Sheldon, McIntosh, and Wynter."

"You left out Professors Trelawney and Sinistra," Roger commented.

"Oh yeah, them too," Cedric said. "So, that leaves us with seventeen female staff members. Would really help if we could eliminate a few of them."

"Personally, I think we can eliminate Trelawney," Harry said. "Every time Trelawney sees me she always predicts my imminent death. None of the trainers have done that."

"Well, she wouldn't do it if she's trying to hide her identity from you," Terence pointed out. "Although, honestly I agree with you. I was never in her class, but from what I've heard, Trelawney seems very scatter-brained. Convincing people you're someone else just doesn't seem like something she'd be capable of."

Before anyone else could say anything, Barin popped in and said, "Excuse me, sirs. Storm stopped. Athena doing spell to dry pitch, says yous can play now, if you still be wanting to."

Oliver was out of the chair and running towards the stairs almost as soon as the words were out of Barin's mouth. He was so eager to play that he apparently didn't hear the string of curses that left Terence's mouth, seeing as how he had still been sitting on Oliver's lap when he'd stood up and had just been rather unceremoniously dumped on the ground when Oliver got up. Standing up and rubbing his now sore ass, Terence said, "I think a change in teams is in order. Will needs his ass kicked and I want to be the one to do it."

The others just laughed and nodded, agreeing that Roger and Terence would switch teams so that Terence could play against Oliver. Giving Terence a high-five, Harry said, "Come on, Gavin, Liam - let's go grind them into the dust."

Terence grinned and nodded. He was going to enjoy this.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

Unexpected Love: The Journey Begins
Written by J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Five

-o-0-o-

As Sunday morning dawned, so too did the realization that the Opening Ball was to be held that evening in the ballroom of McKinnon Hall. Before the death of King Charles Pendragon in 1972, the Opening Ball had always been held in the grand ballroom at Castle Camelot. However, following the death of the royal family, Camelot was sealed and the infant King Edward was secreted away to the royal family's winter palace in the Duchy of Penderleath, which was the royal dukedom held by his late father, Crown Prince Michael Pendragon. Since then, the heads of the Thirteen Houses, and in some cases the heirs to the houses, had been taking turns hosting the various balls and this time it was Lord McKinnon's turn to host the Opening Ball.

Having been so busy with everything else that had been happening over the last few days, Harry hadn't really given the ball much thought, but now that it was only hours away, he realized something which could be rather embarrassing for him: he didn't know how to dance. So, seeking out the one person who he hoped could help him, since he too would be at the ball that evening, Harry found him alone in his room and said, "Ric, I need your help."

"Okay, what's up?" Cedric asked with a smile, giving the younger boy his undivided attention.

"The Opening Ball is tonight," Harry answered and Cedric nodded. "And, um, well, it's occurred to me that being a ball, there would be dancing involved."

Nodding, Cedric said, "Yes, there is dancing involved."

"Yeah," Harry said. "The problem is, I can't dance."

"Ah, well, we'll have to do something about that then, won't we?" Cedric said as he stood up and erected a series of Silencing Charms, before placing a few locking and other security charms on his door. He was sure that Harry was nervous enough without the possibility of the others overhearing what was going on or coming in. Using his wand to move some of the furniture to create an open area in the middle of the room, Cedric then waved his wand at the radio in the corner, turning it to one of the Wizarding stations that played classical music all day.

"Come here, Harry," Cedric said. "The vast majority of the dancing tonight will be a slow waltzes. There's a few different ones, but I'll teach you the steps and we can practice. That sound okay to you?"

Harry nodded and said, "Thanks, Ric."

"No problem," Cedric said with a grin. "I did promise I'd do my best to make sure you didn't look like a total prat, did I not?"

Harry grinned and said, "Yes, you did. I hope you're a good teacher, because I'm hopeless when it comes to dancing."

"Don't worry, Harry," Cedric said. "When I was much younger, my mother always told me that I had two left feet, but somehow she still managed to teach me. A good thing, really, since while she didn't know it at the time, I'd one day be the heir and have to actually go to all the nobles' balls with my parents."

"There's more than one?"

"Yes, Harry, there's actually thirteen main ones every year," Cedric responded. "It currently works out that there's one every month with two in August. Obviously, you have the Opening Ball tonight, as a gathering before the opening of the autumn session of the Wizengamot tomorrow morning and later this month you have the Founder's Ball, which celebrates the founding of Hogwarts. Next month, there's the Ascension Ball, celebrating King Arthur's ascension to the throne. In October, there's the Masquerade Ball on Halloween, the King's Ball in November to celebrate King Edward's birthday, and the Winter Solstice Ball in December. I won't bore you with the others, but in addition to the thirteen main balls each year, there's also a handful of others held at different times of the year by the family heads to celebrate various events."

"What kind of events?"

"Well, for example," Cedric answered, "my parents host a ball every March on their wedding anniversary. Most commonly, these other balls are to celebrate the family head's wedding anniversary, their birthdays, or the birthday of their heir."

"Okay then," Harry said, as he stood there, feeling a little awkward for a moment, before Cedric smiled and asked, "Shall we begin?"

"Yes."

Cedric nodded and then said, "Okay, while I'm teaching you, I'll lead and you can look down at my feet to memorize the steps. Once you feel comfortable with each dance, we can try it with you leading and not looking at my feet to see if you can do it without stepping on them."

"I'll try not to," Harry said.

"Thanks, mate, I would really appreciate that," Cedric said with a grin.

For the next four-and-a-half hours, Cedric taught Harry the steps to the various dances he'd be expected to know that evening. Much to his own surprise, Harry found it easier then he thought it would be and by the end of their lessons, Cedric pronounced him capable of going to the ball. He did have to cast a mild pain relieving charm on his feet, as Harry had stepped on them a few times, which he apologized for profusely. Cedric, however, said it was okay, because when he'd been learning how to dance, he'd stepped on his mother's feet more than twice the number of times that Harry had stepped on his. In Cedric's opinion, Harry was a natural on the dance floor, once he got over his nervousness, anyway, and ignored the voice in his head telling him he was a bad dancer, which was completely untrue.

-o-0-o-

Later that day, all the boys had just sat down to lunch, when suddenly a very loud wailing noise sounded throughout the house. All of the boys quickly covered their ears, as Harry thought, 'What the bloody hell is that noise? Sounds worse than the klaxon that goes off in the tower if a boy tries to go up to the girl's dorms.'

After a moment, the klaxon stopped and Athena, Rose, Emma, and Eudora rushed into the room. They all had their wands out, as Rose, Emma, and Eudora made a beeline for the front door. Athena paused to say, "That noise you heard is an alarm I set up to tell me if one of your doubles was in danger. I don't know what's going on, but there's some kind of disturbance on Privet Drive. All of you are to stay indoors until we return. Is that clear?"

"Yes, ma'am," Terence said, as the others nodded. Athena gave them all a stern look, before she too left the house and joined the others at the apparition point.

-o-0-o-

It had been a very interesting week for Remus Lupin. A few days ago, he'd seemingly by chance run into someone he hadn't seen in many years. The last time had been James' and Lily's funeral, actually. His late best friend's seneschal then explained that it wasn't a chance meeting and that he'd been actively asking where he might find Remus. When asked why, Robert informed him that Harry had claimed his birthright as Lord Potter and that he wanted to petition to King for a pardon for Sirius. This had come as something of a shock to Remus, as he had been completely unaware of the fact that Harry even knew he was nobility. Harry had certainly never said anything that would indicate he knew.

Remus never mentioned it during the year he'd spent teaching Harry because Professor Dumbledore had asked him not to. He reasoned that Harry had quite enough to deal with just being who he was and thought that Harry deserved time to simply be a child. Something which would be much harder if he claimed his birthright and all the responsibilities that it entailed. While a part of him didn't like withholding such an important thing from Harry, Remus did agree with the headmaster, especially after learning of the way Harry had been treated growing up. He deserved time to be a kid and have fun. Being emancipated and declared an adult, along with the duty of administering to his lands, plus voting in the Wizengamot and the Hogwarts board, would not leave much time for that.

However, it was done and the werewolf knew he couldn't do anything about it. He would just have to trust that Robert would help him as much as possible. After James died, Robert had had little choice but to step in and run all of the Potter lands and make the decisions that couldn't wait for Harry to reach his majority. So, Robert had plenty of experience, which Remus hoped he would share with Harry. At any rate, Remus was more than happy to provide his memories of the night he'd found out Peter was still alive and that Sirius was innocent. He wanted his old friend to be cleared just as much as Harry did. A part of him couldn't help but wonder, however, if his memories would be taken seriously due to his lycanthropy.

The day after the news that Harry was now Lord Potter hit the newspapers, Remus found himself up at the castle meeting with Dumbledore. The venerable old man was worried about Harry and requested Remus to go and check on him at the Dursleys. Remus was only too happy to go and check up on the young man that his inner wolf thought of as a member of his pack. And therein lied the problem. No sooner did Remus enter Number Four, did his senses begin to pick up something not quite right. Then Harry, or rather his double, entered the room and Remus lost it.

Pushing the young man against a wall, he growled, "Where's Harry?"

"Remus, I'm right here!" Harry exclaimed, clearly scared by the sudden and aggressive action. It was never a good thing to be the target of an angry werewolf, even when the full moon was still two weeks away.

"You are not Harry," Remus growled. "You look like him, but you don't smell like him."

"Smell like him?" Vernon asked, clearly confused. After a week now of Petunia forcing him to treat his nephew better, he had to admit, a part of him was enjoying the fear on the boy's face as he was pushed against the wall by the growling man. He had no clue what the man was talking about in terms of Harry not smelling like Harry, but then the man was one of those people, so he doubted he'd ever understand.

Dudley looked confused too, but remained silent, as he didn't want to do anything around witches or wizards that might result in him getting another pig tail. Petunia was scared too, but more so because she feared for her own life if the truth came out. In as calm a voice as she could muster, she said, "Of course he's Harry. Who else could he possibly be?"

Remus didn't have a chance to say anything, because at that moment, Athena and the other trainers, who had heard enough of the conversation to know what was going on, burst into the room from the back door, wands drawn. Choosing their targets, Emma, said, "Stupefy!" as Eudora said, "Incarcerous!" Both of these were directed at Remus, who fell to the ground with a thud. Rose, meanwhile, said, "Obliviate!" three times, pointing at Vernon, Dudley, and Petunia in rapid succession, as Athena pointed her wand at Harry, incanting, "Somnus!" Harry almost immediately slumped to the ground in a deep, enchanted sleep.

"What are we going to do with him?" Emma asked, motioning towards the unconscious and bound Remus Lupin.

Athena sighed. "We'll bring him back to the cottage. I don't think we have any choice but to let him in on the secret, seeing as how his heightened senses can tell that Harry's double isn't the real Harry. We got lucky this time that it was only the Dursleys that witnessed the confrontation, as they're much more easily dealt with than other people I can think of."

"True," Rose said. "Did you know it was possible for a werewolf to sense that the double wasn't real?"

Athena nodded and said, "It was mentioned in the book that the double spell came from that werewolves would be able to tell, if they were close enough to the person to consider them pack members. Honestly though, I had forgotten about it until now, seeing as I've been training mages for thirty years and this is the first time I've had this particular issue come up."

"Maybe he can help young Mr. Wood with his remedial studies," Eudora suggested. "As I recall, most of the students thought very highly of Professor Lupin's classes. I heard several express dismay at his leaving, even after they knew he was a werewolf, because they thought he was the best teacher they've had for the subject." Pointing at Vernon, who Rose had stunned, along with the rest of the family after Obliviating them, said, "But then again, I think even Dursley here could have taught the subject better than those fools Quirrell or Lockhart."

Rose nodded. "True. Honestly, I would have thought Quirrell would have been better, considering that he was possessed by Voldemort at the time. Guess we know why Dumbledore didn't give him the job when Merrythought retired. And Lockhart, well, I knew he was a fraud from the start. He's only just powerful enough to qualify as an Apprentice Wizard. There's simply no way that he was powerful enough to do all the things his books said he did."

After a moment, Athena shook her head and said, "Well, let's head back. The boys are probably wondering what's going on and I'm sure Harry will be glad to see Remus. So, Eudora, Emma, take him to the apparition point. Rose, deal with the Dursleys, and I'll deal with him," as she pointed at Harry's sleeping doppelganger.

-o-0-o-

The four trainers, plus a still stunned and bound Remus Lupin, arrived back at Forest Cottage a few minutes later. As they entered, the trainee mages immediately noticed the new addition, as Harry stood and asked, "Professor Lupin? What happened?"

"He was at the Dursleys," Eudora explained. "I'm sure you're aware that he's a werewolf?"

Harry nodded, at which point, Emma said, "Well, due to his heightened senses and the fact that he considers you to be part of his pack, he could tell the second he came into contact with your double that it wasn't really you. Had your double pushed up against a wall and was growling at him when we arrived."

"We brought him here because he's too big of a security risk," Athena said. "He's sure to come into contact with your double again at some point and if he can tell it's not you, we don't need him having the same reaction he had to your double today, especially in front of the wrong people."

Harry nodded his understanding, before Athena said, "I'm going to revive him now, but I'm going to leave him tied up for the moment. Everybody stand back, please."

Everyone backed away from the bound form of Remus, as Rose, Emma, and Eudora formed a protective line in front of their students. Keeping their wands in their hands, they all summoned their staffs, as well, hoping that Remus would recognize them for what they were and exercise caution. Emma's staff was a long shaft of what looked like polished mahogany, which looked similar to the shaft of a broomstick. A large blue crystal rested on the top end, while several runes, painted with bronze paint, were etched up and down the length of the shaft. On the bottom end was a large bronze blade which would clearly do a good amount of damage. While they had already seen it once before, Cedric, Harry, Roger, and Terence couldn't help but think back to Emma's comment in Nick's shop about stabbing a person in the foot with the staff blade. Much like when she'd first said it, the four boys couldn't help but shudder again.

Rose's staff was made of polished white wood with a golden snake coiled around the shaft. The snake's head was about an inch above the top of the staff and in its open mouth, it held what looked like a large red ruby. On the opposite end of the staff there was a sharp golden blade, which looked more like a large spike or spearhead then a sword. There was no doubt, however, that it would hurt if it punctured someone and all the boys found themselves hoping that they'd never feel that type of pain firsthand.

Deciding her colleagues had made the right choice, Athena kept her wand trained on Remus, as she too summoned her own staff, which unlike the staffs belonging to the other trainers, looked like it was made out of metal instead of wood. Nobody was quite sure what kind of metal it was made out of, but it was a shiny metallic black color. With the exception of a section in the middle where Athena held it, the staff was designed in such a way as to look like two separate shafts of metal, twisted together into a flat braid. It was smaller at the bottom where the scimitar-like blade attached and got wider on the top end. The two shafts of braided metal stopped about three inches apart at the top, holding a large yellowish crystal between them. With a practiced swish and flick of her wand, Athena incanted, "Rennervate!"

Remus' eyes snapped open, as he growled and began struggling with the ropes binding him, his inner wolf not liking being restrained when he perceived a member of his pack to be in danger.

"Remus John Lupin, stop struggling and listen to me!" Athena exclaimed.

"Who are you?" Remus demanded. "Where am I?"

"You're in my home," Athena answered. "My name is Athena Gracey, although you know me by another name. I'm using Glamour Charms and a charm to change my voice, but I was one of your professors at Hogwarts. What you most likely didn't know, however, is that I'm a powerful mage, an Archmagister to be precise. And if you look to your left, you'll see that I'm not alone."

Remus looked to his left and saw the line of three women, staffs and wands out, standing protectively in front of a group of people behind them, but from the angle he was sitting at he couldn't see any of their faces. Deciding to introduce herself, Eudora nodded at Remus and said, "Eudora Douglas, Grand Magister."

"Emma Baldwin, Archmagister."

"Rose Ramsley, Master Magister."

Remus took in a sharp intake of breath as he tried to contain the fury of the wolf inside of him. Even if the moon was full and he was transformed, a single werewolf would be no match for four very powerful mages. "Why am I here?" he asked, after a moment.

"You were in Surrey this morning," Athena replied. "At Number Four Privet Drive. I know why you became enraged, but there's no cause for concern. Harry Potter is perfectly fine." Then looking to her left, she said, "Harry, come here please."

Rose and Emma moved aside so that Harry could step forward. When he had, Athena looked at Remus and said, "Smell him if you don't believe me, Lupin, but this is Harry and he's fine. The person you met at the Dursley house this morning was his double."

Sniffing the air, Remus' inner wolf immediately calmed down as he picked up Harry's familiar scent. There were several other familiar scents in the room, but Harry's was the only one he recognized since the green-eyed youth was the only one the wolf considered pack. Looking at Athena, he asked, "What do you mean his double?"

"I'm about to reveal information protected by the Fidelius," Athena said, waiting for Remus to nod in understanding, before she continued. "My colleagues and I chose Harry, along with three of his Hogwarts classmates to train them as mages. As is standard procedure during this training, a double of the person is created, which is a magical extension of the real person, in possession of all of their memories and abilities up to the point they were created. This is done because mage training can take a number of years to complete and usually requires the trainee to cut ties with the people in their lives until it's finished. When Harry finishes his training, his double will merge back into him and Harry will gain all of the memories and knowledge the double acquired, thus allowing Harry to step right back into his life as if he never left."

Remus remained quiet for a moment, as he took in this information, before he nodded and said, "I understand. I'd appreciate it if you could untie me now. I swear I won't attack anyone. The wolf in me is satisfied that Harry is safe. That was the only reason for my blind ire at the Dursley house."

Athena nodded, before waving her wand in Remus' direction. "Finite Incantatum!" The ropes almost immediately disappeared, at which point Athena banished her staff and held out a hand to Remus to help him up which he gladly took.

"You said you were on staff at Hogwarts?" Remus asked after a moment.

Athena nodded. "Yes, my colleagues and I are all on staff. In fact, all of us were on staff during your time at Hogwarts. The glamours and voice-changing charms are a challenge for our students, however. To test their powers of observation and deductive capabilities."

"Ah, I see," Remus said. "So, they know you're on staff, but they don't know who you are. I assume then that you're dropping hints?"

"Indeed," Eudora said, as she and the other trainers banished their staffs and put their wands away. "The boys haven't figured out who any of us are yet, however. Speaking of the boys, our other students are Cedric Diggory, Terence Higgs, Roger Davies, and Oliver and Gavin Wood."

Cocking his head to one side, Remus said, "I thought you said you were only training Harry and three of his classmates?"

"It did start out that way, yes," Rose stated. "However, Terence and Oliver are a couple, so we brought him here to test if he was powerful enough to be trained. Many mage trainers often take on the romantic partners of their chosen students as additional pupils, if they're strong enough for training. Even if they're not, they're usually told of the training and given the option to stay with their real partner instead of their double. The reason for that is two-fold in that the partner might feel betrayed if their lover finishes training and comes back more skilled and powerful. That brings with it the realization for the non-mage partner that they've been having sex with a fake for years. Many can't handle that and it can lead to arguments that could end an otherwise happy relationship. The other reason is that if a person is accustomed to having sex on a regular basis, they generally don't like going without for years on end and their libidos begin to adversely affect their concentration and training."

"Some might think that we should tell our students' families, as well," Eudora said. "But, we don't, because it's been an accepted practice for generations now to keep the training a secret while it's occurring. Once it's finished, it's up to each individual mage who they tell that they're a mage, although it's instilled in all of them to keep the exact details of the training a secret. Not all of them adhere to the idea of keeping the details of the training itself a secret, but the majority do and those who do share the details usually do so only with their immediate family members."

Remus nodded. "And the other one? Gavin was it? I can't say as I remember a Gavin Wood at Hogwarts."

"I never went to Hogwarts," Gavin piped up before the trainers could answer Remus. "Until recently I was a hedgewizard. Only it turns out my magical core was blocked. So, Athena and the other trainers unblocked it."

"Actually, Lupin, if you could, I'd appreciate your help with that," Athena said. "Young Mr. Wood here has studied the theory, but of course until recently couldn't do anything past the level of a second year. I've been testing him and while he does have a good head on his shoulders and seems to pick up knowledge quickly, he still requires quite a bit of remedial training before he can start mage training. And it would be much easier for my colleagues and I if you could take over the majority of that training while we focus on training the others. I can offer you room and board as payment."

"I'm a werewolf, Ms. Gracey," Remus pointed out.

"Yes, I know, Lupin," Athena commented. "That, however, is neither here nor there. If you stay, then Rose will get started brewing a batch of Wolfsbane for you. And then on the night of the full moon - if I recall correctly, the next one is August 21st - you'll take the potion and we can lock you in the root cellar under the barn for the night. So, in short, you won't be able to harm anyone, if that's what you were worried about."

Before Remus could say anything, Harry took in his former professor's shabby looking clothes and couldn't help but think it was time he was able to dress better. After all, Remus had been a good friend to Harry's parents and a good friend to him. Now that Harry himself was dressing better, he felt that Remus should, as well. "I'll instruct Robert to put you on my payroll, Remus." Remus looked like he wanted to tell Harry he didn't have to do that, but Harry just shook his head and said, "No arguments, Remus. I'm Lord Potter and now that I've seen one of my bank statements, I know how much money I have. Putting you on my payroll won't put a dent in it."

Harry had looked over the statement Robert had brought over, but he'd never shared with the others exactly what was in it. So, it was a curious Terence who asked, "Just out of curiosity, Harry, how much are you actually worth?"

Harry smiled. "Between the gold, jewels, and other treasures in the vaults, plus real estate and stocks, I'm worth just over twenty-five million galleons."

Quickly doing the math in his head, Roger whistled and said, "Wow, that's £125,000,000. Definitely nothing to sneeze at."

"No, it's not," Cedric agreed. "Especially since that amount will undoubtedly go up once Harry's house-elves finish harvesting the basilisk. Not to mention the possible sale of the contents of those rooms behind the statue. In the Wizarding world there's always a market for old books, especially if they're in legible condition and written by someone famous. And you don't get much more famous than one of the founders of Hogwarts."

"Basilisk? Old books?" Remus asked.

"I told you about my second year," Harry said and Remus nodded. "I sent Tilly and a contingent of elves down to the Chamber of Secrets to harvest components from the basilisk. Apparently they found several rooms down there as well, one of which is full of old books, possibly written by Slytherin himself."

Remus nodded. "Harry, you should know, I ran into Robert the other day. He told me about your desire to petition the King on Sirius' behalf. I gave him memories to help with that. Hopefully, it'll be enough."

"Thanks, Remus," Harry said. "I really do hope that the King clears him, because he really doesn't deserve to live life on the run for something he didn't do. Now, if only we could get Buckbeak cleared."

"Who's Buckbeak?" Roger asked.

"A hippogriff that Hagrid showed his Care of Magical Creatures classes last year," Harry answered. "In a classic show of Malfoy arrogance, Draco completely ignored Hagrid's warnings about how to properly approach a hippogriff and got scratched on his arm as a result. His father then got the Ministry to condemn the highly dangerous beast to death for attacking his son. Hermione and I managed to free Buckbeak before the execution could be carried out, however, and he's with Sirius now."

"If I might make a suggestion?" Athena asked and Harry nodded. "I'm assuming this attack happened on Hogwarts grounds, at which point Lord McLaggen could give this Buckbeak a full pardon, since Hogwarts is on his land. There's really not much that Lord Malfoy could do about it either, since he's only the Earl of Coleford. Obviously as the Marquis of Levenmore, Lord McLaggen outranks him. Not to mention the fact that Lord McLaggen is fully within his rights to rule on any and all crimes that occur on his lands. And since you've renewed the Potter/McLaggen alliance, he's almost certain to take your word over Lord Malfoy's."

"My uncle is a level-headed person," Cedric said. "And he's never cared much for Lucius Malfoy, so, I think I can safely guarantee that he'll side with you Harry."

"Well, I'll make sure to contact Bruce and ask him then," Harry said.

After a moment of silence, Remus said, "Harry, I still don't feel right about taking any of your money, if I'm not going to be doing anything to earn it."

Shaking his head, Harry said, "You will be doing something to earn it. Helping Gavin will be earning it, but if it'll make you feel better, you can help me train Cedric, Terence, Roger, and Oliver in casting the Patronus Charm. None of them can cast a corporeal patronus and honestly it's a good skill to have."

Emma nodded, "That's true, Harry. While I could probably teach it to them quite easily, as I do have a Mastery in Defense Against the Dark Arts and have taught it at Hogwarts a few times over the years when Dumbledore couldn't find someone to fill the post, the mage training will keep me busy enough."

Remus sighed. "I'll do it. But, Harry, please don't pay me an exorbitant salary. I expect it to be in line with what a teacher actually makes."

"That's fine," Harry said with a grin. "How about I pay you what you made as a Hogwarts professor?"

"I can live with that," Remus said.

"Good then," Athena said. "Well, it looks like the boys have finished lunch, but if you're hungry, Lupin, help yourself," as she gestured towards the table. Remus nodded and sat down, helping himself to some of the food. He was soon joined by the trainers, and even though they'd already eaten, the boys as well.

-o-0-o-

At precisely six in the evening, Cedric and Harry left Forest Cottage, Athena accompanying Cedric to Willowglen Manor to make his double disappear while Cedric stepped into its place. The transition between the two was seamless and thankfully, went completely unnoticed by Lord and Lady Diggory. Eudora, meanwhile, accompanied Harry to Seacliff Castle, dealing with his double who had been moved to Seacliff earlier in the day following the incident at the Dursleys. Harry was amazed when he first saw the castle and he could immediately see why Bruce McLaggen had said that Kinloch Hold was modest in comparison.

"I know you probably want to explore, Harry," Eudora said, "but that will have to wait for another time."

Harry nodded. "I know there's no time because of the ball tonight." Turning to Tilly who had appeared in the entryway the moment her master arrived, Harry asked, "Tilly, if you could show me to my room? I want to freshen up and change clothes before I leave."

"Of course, Harry, right this way," Tilly said as she led him up a massive white marble staircase and up to the third floor of the house where Harry's private quarters were located. Once he was in the room and Tilly gave him a quick tour, she left him alone.

Harry looked around the room and was in total awe at what he was seeing. As bedrooms go, it was the largest Harry had ever seen. He estimated that it was about half the size of the Great Hall at Hogwarts, so definitely very big. A huge fireplace of black marble took up a large portion of the east wall, with a pair of couches and two wingback chairs arranged in front of it. The western wall was made entirely of floor to ceiling windows, along with a pair of doors which led out to a balcony. Harry had no need to actually go out to the balcony to know that it would give a truly commanding view of the Granston Sea, which on Muggle maps was labeled as two separate bodies of water, the Irish Sea and the Celtic Sea.

The most striking feature of the room, however, was the enormous four poster bed. While he'd thought that his bed at Forest Cottage was impressive, this one was, much to his shock, even larger. Looking at it for a moment, his mouth hanging wide open, he couldn't help but think that it was a waste of space. Unless one of the past Potter lords was into polygamy and kept a harem of wives, Harry really couldn't see the need for a bed that was probably big enough to fit two dozen people comfortably. The bed's polished mahogany posts were draped in voluminous amounts of red silk, while the bed itself was covered by a thick red duvet with the Potter family crest embroidered in the center in gold thread. There were also enough pillows that Harry was sure he could give two of them to every current member of Gryffindor House and still have plenty to spare.

Shaking his head after a moment, Harry walked over to the door that Tilly had indicated led to the bathroom and mentally prepared himself for what he was sure would be a shock if the bedroom was anything to go by. If he thought that he'd prepared himself, he was wrong, because when he actually entered the room, his jaw just about hit the floor. Instead of a bathtub, there was a huge in-ground swimming pool, surrounded by about two hundred golden taps. Walking over, he looked at the nearest one and saw that it was labeled 'Red Bubbles.' Walking around the pool, Harry found that about fifty of the taps at various locations around the tub were labeled similarly, only in different colors, while the rest were labeled with such things as 'Lavender' or 'Hibiscus.' Harry could only assume that the taps labeled bubbles filled the tub with various colored bubble bath, while the others would add in various scents of bath oil.

Since he'd already taken a bath back at Forest Cottage, Harry had no need to do so here. So, after a quick look around at the rest of the room, in which he noticed a counter with a white marble countertop and four sinks, a large glass-enclosed shower room, and four old-style toilets with pull chains, each in their own little rooms for privacy. Harry really was beginning to wonder if there was any truth to his earlier thought of one of the past Potter lords having a harem of wives, because he really couldn't understand why anyone would need four sinks and four toilets in the bathroom of their master bedroom. He could see where two of them could come in handy, so that the lord and their spouse could each have one, but four of them? That seemed more than a little excessive.

Going back out to the bedroom, Harry changed into the dress robes that Cedric had helped him select. Harry, of course, had no idea what he should wear, since he'd never been to one of these balls before, so, of course the Hufflepuff had been a great help to him, so far. The robes Cedric picked were mostly black and green, which Cedric said contrasted well with Harry's black hair and green eyes. The buttons were all in gold, as was the clasp of the cloak that Harry would wear over his robes until he actually arrived at McKinnon Hall. Once he was changed, Harry used the product he'd found in his room and slicked his hair back, once again marveling at its ability to do what he'd previously thought was the impossible. Before leaving Forest Cottage, Rose had insisted upon performing the complicated, mage level Vision Correction Charm on Harry, eliminating his need to wear glasses.

Heading back downstairs, Harry found that Eudora had gone back to Forest Cottage, but Robert and Katherine, who would be accompanying Harry to the ball that evening, were waiting for him. Robert's robes were similar to Harry's, though not as finely cut, and they were black and red, with silver buttons. Katherine, meanwhile, looked stunning in a red gown, with a black and red shawl covering her otherwise bare shoulders. Her long blond tresses were up in a fancy sort of twist that Harry had no idea what to call.

"You look very nice, Harry," Katherine said with a smile. "Every bit the handsome lord of an ancient house."

Robert nodded and said, "Indeed. There is one thing, however, that your ensemble is missing."

At Harry's raised eyebrow, Robert produced a black ebony cane which was topped with a golden lion's head with ruby eyes. "You'll find that all the lords, no matter how old they are will have a cane, Harry. The way the dress robes are cut, it's almost impossible to use a wand holster, so this is the alternative."

"I think I've seen Lucius Malfoy using one of these," Harry said. "Let me guess, the head detaches and my wand goes inside of it?"

"Indeed," Robert said, as he showed Harry how to detach the head, at which point Harry could see that there was a place inside to hold his wand. Now Harry hoped he wouldn't have any reason to draw his wand at the ball, but if he did, he was using his old holly and phoenix feather wand, just to keep up appearances. It didn't work quite as well for him anymore, Eudora hypothesizing that the wand was confused by the double, but Harry couldn't risk being seen using one of his new wands in public if he could avoid it. It would raise too many questions about why he'd gotten a new wand and in turn why his double wasn't using the new wand.

Once his wand was stowed inside the cane, Robert said, "Are you ready to go?"

Harry nodded, at which point Robert and Katherine led him into a room off the entryway, which they explained was the Apparition Chamber. It allowed anyone who was keyed into the wards by the Lord Potter to Apparate directly into the house, while any guests who weren't would have to take a carriage from town, traveling up the twenty-seven-and-a-half-kilometer driveway. Since Harry had never been to McKinnon Hall and he hadn't gone to the Ministry to get his Apparition license yet, even though he could now that he was legally an adult, Robert took him Side-Along. Moments later, they were standing in front of the pair of wrought iron gates.

"We'll have to take a carriage up to the house," Katherine explained.

They didn't have to wait long before a carriage arrived and a footman helped them all into it. The carriage was magically expanded to comfortably seat several people, which turned out to be a good thing, as they were soon joined by a few of the evening's other guests.

"Good evening, Your Grace," Neville said with a grin, as he got into the carriage along with his grandmother.

"Good to see you, Neville," Harry said with a smile. "And I assume this lovely woman is your gran?"

Neville nodded, as he said, "Indeed. Lord Potter, this is Lady Augusta Longbottom, Dowager Duchess of Aldersey. Gran, this is my friend and housemate, Lord Harrison Potter, Duke of Granston."

Augusta shook hands with Harry and said, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Granston." Since she was the widow of the former Duke of Aldersey, Augusta held the same rank as Harry and thus wasn't required to call him 'Your Grace'.

"You as well, my lady," Harry said with a smile. "Although, I'd prefer it if you just called me Harry."

"As you wish," Augusta said. "You may call me Augusta, Harry."

Motioning towards Robert and Katherine, Harry said, "This is my seneschal, Robert Higgs, and his wife Katherine."

Augusta nodded. "We've met. I hope you're both well?"

"Indeed, Your Grace," Robert said, as his wife nodded her agreement.

It was shortly after this that the sound of a whip could be heard, before the carriage moved forward, heading up towards the house.

"I understand, Harry, you've had Robert making inquires about replacing some of the Hogwarts staff," Augusta commented.

Harry nodded. "Yes, I think it's high time that Professor Binns was replaced. As I'm sure Neville will agree, he's not a very good teacher. He's far too focused on the goblin wars and Robert's son tells me that as a result he doesn't even teach half of what is covered in the history portion of the OWL exams." Okay, technically, it had been Roger who told Harry that, but Harry couldn't think of a logical reason for him to be talking to Roger Davies over summer break, but he figured nobody would question him talking to his seneschal's son. "And then, of course, there's his monotone droning which is enough to lull just about anybody to sleep."

"Yes, Neville has shared similar thoughts with me," Augusta said. "And, of course, I remember Binns' classes from my own Hogwarts days. Neville and I were both quite surprised by the comments made by Rita Skeeter in the Daily Prophet."

"So was I, honestly," Harry said. "I haven't had a chance yet, but I'm going to have a talk with Barnabas Cuffe about Ms. Skeeter because she wasn't being all that truthful in her comments. It is entirely possible that there may be a large number of students who might be upset by Binns getting replaced, but that's only because they'd lose out on nap time. Certainly not because they enjoy his class and find it riveting, I believe were her words."

Augusta nodded. "And what about Professor Snape? What are your objections toward him?"

"I admit, Rita was correct in that we don't get along," Harry answered. "Professor Snape did not have a good relationship with my father, and I'm afraid he takes his hatred of him out on me. As far as I can tell, the only thing I've ever done wrong where Snape is concerned is be James Potter's son. However, that is not the reason I'm looking to replace him. Over the years, he's made it abundantly clear that he absolutely hates teaching, so, I personally believe that means he shouldn't be doing it. Contrary to what Ms. Skeeter wrote, however, I am not looking to fire him completely."

"Oh?" Augusta asked.

"My father's portrait tells me that Hogwarts once employed a Master Brewer," Harry revealed. "I thought perhaps if the board approves, Professor Slughorn could take over teaching the potions classes, while Professor Snape becomes the Master Brewer and spends his time making all the potions for the Hospital Wing. It simply doesn't make much sense to import finished medicinal potions at a markup when most of the ingredients are grown in the Hogwarts greenhouses. Most of the commonly used potions can be produced much cheaper on site if only we had a dedicated brewer with the time to produce them."

Augusta thought about that for a moment, before nodding and saying, "Yes, Harry, you do have a point. As an added benefit, Hogwarts could sell the extra potions at a profit, which would help offset the costs of having to pay Binns' replacement, plus Slughorn and Snape. I quite like it, actually. You'll have the Longbottom vote at the Governor's meeting next weekend."

"Thank you, Augusta," Harry said. "The only other concern that I have where Snape is concerned is whether or not he'd still be able to take points while on staff as Master Brewer. He's always shown very blatant favoritism to Slytherin house, to the point of being extremely unfair to the other houses."

"Can you give me an example?" Augusta asked.

"I've asked Robert to talk to a few of the current students," Harry said. "Perhaps he'd be better equipped to answer that."

Robert nodded, as he'd known that Harry was going to direct that question to him. As Augusta turned to look at him, he said, "I had an occasion to visit with my old friend Michael Davies over the last few days and in doing so I talked with his son, Roger, who's due to be starting his sixth year in Ravenclaw. He told me about one instance last year where he was paired to work with fellow fifth year Slytherin Adrian Pucey in class and said that Pucey threw an ingredient into their potion at the wrong time, causing it to blow up. Now, Snape was actually watching this as it occurred and instead of punishing Pucey, he took twenty points from Ravenclaw and yelled at Roger for not stopping his partner. He then awarded Pucey ten points for having to put up with Roger's obvious incompetence."

"Terence wasn't in that class," Katherine added, "as he was a sixth-year last year, but from what he's said, that type of behavior is normal for Snape. Now, while it's true that Terence is a Slytherin and Snape's unfair methods of taking and giving points tend to benefit him and his house in the end, he still doesn't feel that it's particularly fair."

"I would have to agree," Augusta said. "If the incident Mr. Davies told you about, Robert, actually did happen that way, then Snape was totally out of line. Now, I believe the last time there was a Master Brewer on staff, they were placed on the same level as the caretaker, in that they were not allowed to take points or give detentions. Other professors can assign students to serve detentions with them, but they can't hand them out themselves."

Harry nodded, but before he could comment further, the carriage stopped, as it had arrived at the front entrance of McKinnon Hall. The door opened shortly afterward and the footman appeared, helping Augusta out of the carriage first, following by Katherine Higgs and then the three men. Entering the mansion, Harry's first thought upon seeing the entryway was that it bore a striking resemblance to pictures he'd seen of the Titanic. Straight ahead from the front doors was a large grand staircase leading up that looked almost exactly like the one on the doomed ship, ornate inlaid wall clock and all. Above the upstairs landing, Harry could see a large domed ceiling, although unlike the one on the famous ship, this one was much like the Hogwarts ceiling, in that it was charmed to show the night sky.

Stepping forward into the entryway, a house-elf quickly appeared and took their cloaks, before directing Augusta, Neville and Harry up the stairs towards the wall clock, while it led Robert and Katherine down a nearby corridor, as they had to enter the ballroom from a side entrance since they weren't nobility. Harry hadn't noticed it at first, as he'd been too preoccupied with looking at the stairs themselves and the ceiling, but there were a pair of wizards standing on either side of the large wall clock. As the group approached, they were asked for their names, at which point the wizards nodded, before waving their wands at the wall, the entire clock splitting down the middle and Harry realized that the wall the clock was in was apparently not a wall at all, but a pair of double doors.

Beyond the doors, was a large and ornate ballroom, already filled with guests. The footman from the carriage had informed them that they were the first of the noble families to arrive, other than, of course, Lord McKinnon, since the ball was in his house. The other guests already present were not from the noble families, but were all members of society that were deemed worthy to attend the ball. Mostly the elected members of the Wizengamot and high-ranking members of the Ministry, along with whomever they had decided to bring along as their guests.

As they stepped through the door, Athena and Neville in front of Harry, another wizard who was carrying a large staff that clearly wasn't a mage's staff nodded at them. He then struck the floor with his staff three times and said in a loud and clear voice, "Presenting The Dowager Duchess of Aldersey, Her Grace Lady Augusta Longbottom, accompanied by her grandson, Marquis of Claverton, The Most Honorable Neville Longbottom."

There was applause from those already in the room as Augusta and Neville stepped further into the room and after a moment, the wizard at the door struck the floor three times again, and announced, "Presenting The Duke of Granston, His Grace the Lord Harrison Potter."

Even more applause then what Augusta and Neville got rang through the room at Harry's announcement. He stood at the top of the stairs and nodded to a few people, as Augusta and Neville had done before him, before he followed them further into the room. Harry shook a few hands along the way, before finally arriving at a small seating area on the far end of the room. A moment later, a handsome young man with dirty blond hair walked over and nodded to the three nobles, as he said, "Welcome to my home, Your Graces."

"Thank you, Callum," Augusta said with a smile.

Since they'd never met previously, Callum turned to Harry and said, "It's an honor to meet you, Your Grace. I'm Lord Callum McKinnon, The Earl of Whitecross."

Harry nodded as he shook Callum's hand. "It's nice to meet you, as well. You have a lovely home. I mean no disrespect, but actually it reminds me of pictures I've seen of a Muggle luxury liner."

This was the first time that Callum had heard this, and raising an eyebrow, he asked, "Oh?"

Harry nodded. "Yes, the entryway and the staircase looks almost exactly like the grand staircase of the RMS Titanic. Unfortunately, it's been on the bottom of the ocean for many years now."

"How sad," Callum commented. "What happened to it?"

"Struck an iceberg and sank in April of 1912," Harry answered. "From what I've read, however, it was one of the most luxurious ships of its time. It was also a great tragedy, however, as the Muggles were so confident in its construction, they deemed it unsinkable and didn't bother having enough lifeboats for everyone on the ship, so over a thousand people died in the icy waters of the North Atlantic."

"That is indeed a tragedy," Augusta commented. "I do hope they at least learned something from it?"

"Yes, it did spark new laws," Harry replied. "First and foremost, from that point on no ship was allowed to leave port if it didn't have enough lifeboats for every person onboard."

Nothing further was said, as at that moment, the wizard at the door struck his staff against the floor again and said, "Presenting The Earl of Coleford, His Lordship the Lord Lucius Malfoy, accompanied by his wife, The Countess of Coleford, Her Ladyship the Lady Narcissa Malfoy, and their son, Viscount Bratton, The Honorable Draco Malfoy."

Harry eyed the Malfoys as they entered, paying particularly close attention to Lady Malfoy, as he'd never seen her until now. Unlike Lucius and Draco, Narcissa Malfoy had black hair, streaked with grey and had a look on her face as if there was something particularly foul smelling under her nose. Harry had no problems in seeing exactly where Draco got some of his mannerisms.

Before Harry could think about it much more, however, the staff struck the ground again, as the wizard said, "Presenting Viscount Cumberworth, The Honorable Arcturus Lestrange, representing his parents, The Earl of Mablethorpe, His Lordship the Lord Rodolphus Lestrange and The Countess of Mablethorpe, Her Ladyship the Lady Bellatrix Lestrange."

At this announcement, both Augusta and Neville visibly stiffened their postures and glared daggers at the young man who had just entered. He had a rather severe look about him, with jet black hair and aristocratic features, which reminded Harry a little of Sirius, but not in complimentary way. There was also a resemblance to Narcissa Malfoy and Harry wondered if they were related in any way. Callum sighed, casting an apologetic look at the Longbottoms, as he said, "I do apologize for his presence. If I could host this ball without inviting him, I would, but I'd never hear the end of it if I snubbed the heir of one of the Thirteen Houses. Especially since he votes his father's seats in the Wizengamot."

Augusta nodded her head, her face softening as she turned to Callum and said, "I understand, Callum. Obviously my grandson and I could do without seeing him, but I fully understand that you can't not invite him, just as much as we can't not invite him to Lakeview Hall when we host the various balls, as much as we may wish we could."

Noticing Harry's confused look, Neville said, "His parents are the reason I live with my gran. During the first war with You-Know-Who, they tortured them under the Cruciatus Curse until their minds broke beyond repair."

Harry had already heard this, of course, but it didn't make it any less easy to hear. Giving Neville a reassuring pat on the shoulder, Harry said, "That's terrible, Neville. They're paying for it, I hope?"

Neville nodded and said, "Yes, they were sentenced to life in Azkaban. Of course, I do worry they could get out on a technicality."

"What do you mean?" Harry asked.

It was Augusta who answered. "Lord and Lady Lestrange were tried and convicted by the Wizengamot, who doesn't have the authority to try the heads of the Thirteen Houses, since they're members of the Wizengamot. Only the King has the authority to pass judgment on one of the family heads, so technically they could get out simply because they were placed their illegally, even though they fully admitted that they did it."

Nobody had noticed it when Arcturus sidled up to their little group and said, "Hello everyone."

"Arcturus," Augusta said. Harry thought her tone was frosty enough to freeze the fires of Hell, not that he could blame her.

Nodding to Augusta and Neville, Arcturus turned his attention to Harry and said, "Your Grace, it's a pleasure to meet you."

'I wish I could say the same,' Harry thought, though he bit his tongue to prevent himself from saying it aloud. After all, he had no idea what this man's opinion of his parent's actions were. He could certainly understand Augusta and Neville not liking associating with him, but he didn't look like he was much older than maybe twenty-five at most, so he would have been about thirteen or so when his parents had tortured the Longbottoms and gone to prison. Since he wasn't there with them, Harry assumed that Arcturus himself had not actually participated in the torture, so it wasn't necessarily fair to judge him for the actions of his parents - unless he agreed with them, and thus far Harry didn't know if he did or not.

"It's nice to meet you, as well," Harry said, his tone cautiously neutral, as he cast a look at Neville, who nodded his understanding at his friend's greeting. Raised as an heir to a noble house, Neville knew all too well about the necessity of sometimes being polite to people he didn't necessarily want to be polite to.

"I've heard a most interesting rumor, Lord Potter," Arcturus said.

"Oh and what's that?" Harry asked. "Read Rita Skeeter's article in the Prophet, did you?"

"Yes, I did," Arcturus confirmed. "And while those changes are interesting, that's not what I was referring to. I heard that you've petitioned the King to pardon my mother's cousin, Lord Sirius Black."

"Sirius Black?" Augusta asked, looking at Harry with a shocked look. "Why would you ask the King to pardon the murderer who betrayed your parents?"

"Because he's my godfather," Harry responded. "And my parents' portrait swears to me that despite what is commonly believed, Sirius was not their Secret Keeper, so he didn't betray them. I also know for a fact, since I was there last year to witness his confession, that Peter Pettigrew was my parents' Secret Keeper, and that it was him and not Sirius who killed those twelve Muggles."

"Peter Pettigrew is dead, Lord Potter," Callum argued.

"No, he isn't," Harry disagreed. "It's true, he was believed to be dead, but I saw him with my own eyes last year, along with my friends, Ron and Hermione, Professor Lupin, and Sirius. All they ever found of Peter was his finger, because he's an unregistered Animagus. He betrayed my parents to Voldemort," he pointedly ignored the sharp intakes of breath from the others at his saying of the name, "and when Sirius confronted him over that betrayal, he killed the Muggles, cut off his finger, turned into his Animagus form, a rat, and disappeared down a sewer, leaving Sirius to look guilty. As I said, I witnessed him confessing to everything."

"How very interesting," Arcturus said. "Perhaps I should petition the King myself, to get my parents released, seeing as how their incarceration is just as illegal as Lord Black's was."

"Their incarceration is justified, Arcturus," Augusta said. "Unlike Lord Black, they actually did what they were imprisoned for. They took great pleasure in telling everyone in open court how much my son and daughter-in-law screamed under their torture and that they enjoyed every minute of inflicting it. You can petition the King if you like, Arcturus, but I will use every bit of power and influence that I can muster to keep them right where they are. That is a promise!"

"They were acting under the Imperius," Arcturus said. "Besides, with all due respect, your family doesn't have all that much power and influence anymore, does it? With the true family head in the hospital, unable to speak or make alliances? It has put House Longbottom at a rather severe disadvantage, if you ask me."

"Nobody asked you, Arcturus," Neville said in a rather angry tone. "Besides, House Lestrange is in the same position because your father can't make alliances from Azkaban. Not to mention the fact that as one of three original houses, House Longbottom will always hold more influence than you Viscount Cumberworth. As for your parents being under the Imperius when they tortured mine, that's a load of bull and you know it."

"Arcturus, perhaps it would be best if you went and socialized with someone else," Callum suggested, before the black-haired Viscount could say anything to Neville.

"I quite agree with our host," Harry said, in as neutral a tone as he could muster, which wasn't very easy since by what he'd just said, it sounded as if Arcturus was just as bad as his parents in many respects.

Arcturus looked like he was about to say something, but the sound of a staff striking the floor could be heard again, cutting him off, as more nobles were announced. "Presenting The Marquis of Taleford, His Excellence the Lord Amos Diggory, accompanied by his wife, The Marchioness of Taleford, Her Excellence the Lady Amelia Diggory, and their son, Earl of Charwell, the Right Honorable Cedric Diggory."

The Diggorys' arrival was followed shortly afterwards by more arrivals, during the announcement of which, much to everyone's pleasure, Arcturus Lestrange left the group and slinked off to another corner of the large ballroom.

"Presenting The Duke of Whitehaven, His Grace the Lord Garrick Ollivander, accompanied by his grandson, Marquis of Coulderton, the Most Honorable Gareth Ollivander."

"Presenting The Marquis of Levenmore, His Excellence the Lord Bruce McLaggen, accompanied by his wife, The Marchioness of Levenmore, Her Excellence the Lady Caroline McLaggen, and their son, Earl of Glencoe, the Right Honorable Cormac McLaggen."

Not long after their arrivals, Cormac, Cedric, and Nick came over towards Harry and the Longbottoms. It had been decided beforehand that Cormac, as Harry's housemate, would introduce Cedric and Nick to him, both of them already being acquainted with Neville due to the other balls they'd attended together. Harry, of course, already knew both of them, but he couldn't admit that without revealing how he knew them. Cedric could be explained more easily since he was still a student at Hogwarts and Harry had faced him on the Quidditch pitch. His knowing Nick, however, would have been much more difficult to explain, seeing as how he'd graduated from Hogwarts in June of 1988, and was now living in Cairo.

"It's good to meet you, Lord Potter," Nick said with a smile, as he shook Harry's hand.

"You too, Gareth," Harry said, making a point to use Nick's real first name, since Cormac hadn't mentioned that he preferred to be called Nick during his introduction. Since they were pretending they hadn't already met in Nick's shop in Cairo, there really was no explainable way for Harry to know about Nick's preferred nickname.

Smiling, Nick said, "Please, Lord Potter, call me Nick. It's a family tradition in my family to give males names starting with 'G', but I almost never use Gareth. I much prefer the shortened version of Nicholas, which is my middle name."

"As you wish, Nick," Harry said. "You can call me Harry."

Augusta excused herself at this point, leaving the younger people to chat while she went over to greet her elder brother, Lord Garrick Ollivander, and Cormac's parents. Callum also said his goodbyes, since he was the host and couldn't be seen to be favoring one group of guests over any others.

"Presenting The Marquis of Waringsford, His Excellence the Lord Erik Bones, accompanied by his aunt, Lady Amelia Bones, and his cousin, Lady Susan Bones."

Recognizing the name from his conversation with Cedric upon arriving back to Forest Cottage from Kinloch Hold, Harry looked over towards the entrance. He soon spotted Susan Bones, who he recognized from Hogwarts, along with the older woman he'd heard her mention as being her Aunt Amelia, whom Harry had learned was the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry. In the center of the group, however, was a very handsome young man with black hair. 'He's very fit,' Harry thought, as he looked at the nineteen-year-old lord. 'Wait, fit? Where the heck did that come from?'

"I've said it before and I'll say it again," Nick said with a smile. "Erik is too handsome for his own good."

"I suppose that's true," Cormac allowed. "If you like that sort of thing, that is. Personally, he's much too, well, male, for my tastes."

Slinging an arm over his cousin's shoulder, Cedric grinned and said, "Oh Cormac, just because you're straight doesn't mean you can't acknowledge that a guy looks good. After all, you have to acknowledge that I look better than you almost every time we meet. You should be used to it by now."

Nick, Harry, and Neville laughed at that comment, while Cormac gave his cousin a dirty look. "Excuse me? I don't acknowledge anything of the sort, Ced," Cormac said, knowing that Cedric hated being called Ced since whenever he was it was usually by his father who was bragging about something that Cedric had done and making him feel incredibly uncomfortable. "On the contrary, it's me who looks better than you." Giving Cedric a quick look up and down, he then added, "Not that it's hard."

"Ouch, you wound me," Cedric said, his face clearly amused.

The staff hit the floor again and this time, the wizard said, "Presenting The Marquis of Grangemore, His Excellence the Lord Caractacus Burke, accompanied by his wife, The Marchioness of Grangemore, Her Excellence the Lady Ophelia Burke, and their grandson, Earl of Gullane, the Right Honorable Dominick Burke."

As Lord Burke's family arrived, Augusta Longbottom was conversing with Bruce McLaggen, Garrick Ollivander, and Amos Diggory about the changes that Harry had proposed making. As a Potter ally, Bruce almost immediately said that he would throw House McLaggen's support behind Harry. After considering it for awhile, Garrick nodded and pledged House Ollivander's support. Amos, meanwhile, was still on the fence about it, wanting to hear Harry's arguments from his own mouth at the governor's meeting before he decided one way or another. He did, however, agree with Augusta, Garrick, and Bruce that Professor Snape was crossing the line if his blatant favoritism of Slytherin was really as bad as it sounded by the description that Robert had shared with Augusta, who had in turn passed it on to the other lords. It was a clear abuse of the authority to take points if the person you were taking them from didn't deserve to have points taken and you were awarding them to the people who did deserve to have them taken.

Meanwhile, over in the corner where some of the younger attendees had gathered, Nick smiled as the Burkes were announced and said, "And there's another one who's too handsome for his own good."

Looking scandalized and just a bit sick, Cedric made a gagging noise as he looked at Nick and said, "Oh Nick, come on. You can't possibly like Lord Burke that way! He's old enough to be your grandfather, not to mention married."

"Ha, ha, very funny, Cedric," Nick said, his tone sarcastic. "You know very well that I didn't mean the old man."

"His wife then?" Cormac asked with a grin, playing along with his cousin's teasing. "Merlin knows she's a knockout," which was true since Ophelia, the fifth woman to hold the title of Lady Burke as Caractacus' wife, was at most five years older than his grandson. "If I was gay, which I'm not, I would definitely go straight for her."

Nick shook his head. "I admit, she's good-looking, but I'm not about to go straight for anyone. Besides you bloody well know I meant Nick."

Grinning, Neville said, "Oh you think you're too handsome for your own good? That sounds more than a little conceited, mate."

Doing his best to stifle a chuckle, Harry nodded and said, "I'd have to agree, Nick."

Nick Ollivander groaned and asked, "What is this? Let's tease and annoy Nick day?"

"That sounds like fun, where do I sign up?" a male voice said in a seductive tone from somewhere just behind Nick's left shoulder.

Turning his head, Nick Ollivander jumped a bit, before he said, "Nick, don't sneak up on me like that."

Dominick Burke, who often went by Nick himself, grinned as he kissed Nick on the cheek and said, "Are they all giving you a hard time? Grandfather has a Vanishing Cabinet in his store, you know, I could make all of them disappear."

"Would you, please?" Nick asked with a grin, while the others looked at the two blond-haired men with varying degrees of shock.

"You two... are together?" Cormac asked. "I didn't know you were gay, Dominick."

The two Nicks grinned and gave each other a peck on the lips, shocking their friends even more, before they started laughing. When he got a hold of himself, Nick Ollivander sighed and said, "Alas, Cormac, no, we're not together, although it's certainly not from any lack of trying on my part."

"Actually, Cormac, I'm bi," Dominick said, as he wrapped an arm around Nick. "And I do find Nick here to be very attractive. However, I'm also with someone that I love very much and she's not Nick."

"So, why isn't this mystery woman on your arm tonight?" Cedric asked. "Can't say as I've ever seen you with anyone, girl or bloke, Dominick."

"She's visiting family in Greece," Dominick answered. "Her grandmother is dying or she'd be here."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Cormac said, even as he thought, 'That's the oldest trick in the book. Does he really think we're that stupid? He's never had a girlfriend and now he says she's out of the country visiting her dying grandma to explain why she isn't here? Would just be easier to admit he doesn't have one.'

Before anyone else could say anything, the wizard at the door struck the floor again and announced, "Presenting The Earl of Axton, His Lordship the Lord Malcolm Flint, accompanied by his wife, The Countess of Axton, Her Ladyship the Lady Elizabeth Flint, and their son, Viscount Sarn, The Honorable Marcus Flint."

"I'm surprised Marcus Flint would even show his face in public," Cormac said.

"Why?" Harry asked.

"Because he did so badly on his NEWTs that he has to repeat his seventh year," Cedric said. "For the second time."

Nodding, Dominick said, "Yeah, I saw his results. His best grade was the Acceptable in Potions. The rest were all Poor or Dreadful, except his Charms NEWT - got Troll on that one."

"And yet, somehow, he's managed to stay on as Captain and Chaser for the Slytherin team," Cormac said. "How do you fail all but one class and repeat a year - twice - and yet still get to stay on the team?"

"Simple," Dominick said in a tone that clearly said he thought the answer to that should be obvious. "Have one of the school governors as your father. Lord Flint pressured the Headmaster to let him keep his place on the team."

"My father is a governor," Cedric pointed out, "and I can safely guarantee he would never pressure the school to let me stay on the Hufflepuff team if I had to repeat a year even once, let alone twice. He'd ground me until I'm fifty and make my life a living hell because it wouldn't look good for the future Minister for Magic to repeat a year."

Cormac grinned. "Uncle Amos is still pressuring you to be the Minister, Ric?"

"Yes, he is," Cedric confirmed. "Ever since he disowned him, all of Dad's hopes and dreams for Noah's future transferred to me. Never bothered to actually ask me if I wanted to be Minister. Just made it clear that not only does he expect me to be Minister, but that he also expects me to be the youngest Minister in Ministry history."

"Um, wasn't the youngest 23, like 600 years ago?" Neville asked.

"Yes, Neville, he was," Cedric answered. "So, if my father has his way, I'll be Minister for Magic by the time I'm 22. Of course, he'd prefer I be even younger than that in order to make the record next to impossible to beat, but he'll settle for 22 if necessary, since the record I'd be beating in doing so held for over six centuries."

"I take it you don't want the position?" Harry asked.

"Definitely not," Cedric replied. "Would you?"

"Hell no," Harry said, as the others laughed. "I rather think I've got enough positions without adding Minister on top of it."

Striking the floor three times, the wizard at the door said, "Presenting The Marquis of Carringholt, His Excellence the Lord Bartemius Crouch, Sr."

"Well, that should be the last of the nobles," Cedric said. "There's still one family, but nobody has attended the balls to represent the Blacks since Lord Arcturus Black died in 1991. Only living member of the family whose surname is still Black would be Sirius Black."

Neville nodded. "My Great-Grandaunt Callidora is a Black by birth, so she sometimes accompanied the late Lord Arcturus Black to the balls after her husband, my Great-Grandfather's brother Harfang passed away, but she's never officially represented the family."

"Is she here tonight?" Dominick asked.

Neville shook his head. "No, she's been feeling a little under the weather lately and didn't feel up to coming. As for Sirius, even if he is Lord Black, he'd never show his face here unless Harry is successful in his bid to get the King to pardon him."

This led to a quick explanation for the benefit of Dominick, Cormac, Nick, and Cedric, who hadn't been around when Harry had explained to Neville about his desire to have Sirius pardoned. Cedric knew, of course, but he did an excellent job of pretending that he didn't. Once they'd heard what Harry had to say, they all agreed that Sirius deserved to be pardoned and thought it was only a matter of time.

Since nobody was expecting anymore family heads and their families to show up, Callum walked over to stand on the stairs with a glass of champagne in his hand, while a dozen house-elves entered the room with trays of champagne for the guests. Once everyone had a glass, Callum cleared his throat to give a speech welcoming everyone to his home, when suddenly the wizard at the door struck his staff on the ground again and said, "Presenting Viscount Langleeford, the Honorable Asterion Black, accompanied by his father, Earl of Alnwick, the Right Honorable Regulus Black, representing their uncle and brother, The Marquis of Charlton, His Excellence the Lord Sirius Black."

Silence filled the ballroom, as everyone stopped and stared at the entrance. On the landing was a teenager, who couldn't be much older than sixteen, with dirty blond hair. Seeing them standing so close to one another, Harry's most immediate thought was that the teen, who he assumed was Asterion, looked a bit like Callum, possibly suggesting that the boy's mother was closely related to the McKinnons. However, most eyes in the room were not on Asterion, but on the man standing next to him who had been introduced as Regulus Black, brother of Sirius Black. The same Regulus Black who died in 1979. To those who'd known Regulus, however, they could easily recognize him as being an older and more distinguished version of the eighteen-year-old boy they'd last seen at his funeral, fifteen years ago.

The silence was broken as Narcissa Malfoy stepped forward and asked, "Regulus? Is that really you?"

"Yes, my dear cousin Narcissa," Regulus said with a grin. "It's really me."

"You're supposed to be dead," Arcturus Lestrange said, as he stepped forward.

Regulus continued to grin, as he said, "I'm afraid reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated, cousin Arcturus." Then giving him a once over, Regulus added, "My, my you've certainly grown haven't you? Last time I saw you, you were only a few inches taller than the Hogwarts Sorting Hat."

"I was a child then!" Arcturus exclaimed, in a somewhat indignant tone, as if he was offended by the idea of being compared to the Sorting Hat. Or maybe it was being reminded of his once diminutive childhood height.

Regulus nodded and while Arcturus had not specified how old he was at the time, probably because he was embarrassed, Regulus had no problem with saying it. "Yes, Arcturus you were ten and very short for your age. You must have had a hell of a growth spurt as a teenager. Or was it growth potions?"

Before Arcturus could comment, Asterion grinned and said, "I've seen pictures - you were really short for a ten-year-old."

Arcturus looked like he wanted to say something, but someone else beat him to the punch.

"Asterion, is that really you?" Callum asked, just as shocked by Regulus' appearance as everyone else, but focusing his attention instead on the younger of the two.

Asterion nodded and said, "Yes, Uncle Callum, it's really me."

Pulling the young man into a hug, Callum said, "When your mother was killed and you disappeared, we all feared you were dead. Where have you been all this time?"

"He's been with me, of course," Regulus said. "He is, after all, my son. It's only right that I'd take him in after Marlena died."

"And you couldn't have let her family know that her son was okay and still alive?" Callum asked, clearly a little perturbed about not really knowing what had happened to his then three-year-old nephew, or even if he was still alive. "Where have you been all these years?"

"I must agree with our host, Regulus," Lucius said, as he stepped up next to his wife. "I'm sure we'd all like to know the answer to that. Especially those of us who attended your funeral and saw you in a coffin."

"It obviously wasn't me you saw in a coffin, Lucius," Regulus said. "I'm not disputing the fact that you thought it was me and that it may very well have looked very much like what I looked like back then, but it wasn't me. It couldn't have been, since I'm standing here."

"How do we even know that you really are Regulus Black?" Arcturus asked. "All we have is your word on that."

"Are you blind, Arcturus?" Neville asked, as he approached with the other younger nobles. "The boy clearly has McKinnon blood and it's a well known fact that Regulus Black had a child with Marlena McKinnon before she died."

"No, I'm not blind," Arcturus said in a scathing tone. "However, apparently unlike you, I happen to remember that we're wizards and that spells to change ones appearance exist." Turning back to look at the dais, he added, "How do we know that these two really are Regulus and Asterion Black? They could be using Glamour Charms."

Regulus shook his head and said, "I suppose I can't fault you for thinking that, Arcturus. You all thought I was dead. So, of course, you'd not immediately take my word for it that I'm not. Narcissa, my dear cousin, could you come up here for a moment?"

"Why?" Lucius asked before his wife took a step.

"I think that should be obvious, Lucius," Regulus said. "Narcissa is a Black and therefore she is privy to things that nobody but a Black would know. Things I couldn't possibly know if I wasn't also a Black. I thought we could have a short, private chat. Surely Lady Malfoy's word that I am who I say I am should be good enough?"

It was impossible to grow up in a noble house, especially one like the Black family, and not learn how to manipulate people to see things your way. Regulus knew immediately from Lucius' expression that he agreed with him. Of course Lady Narcissa Malfoy's word that something was true would be enough. As for as Lucius was concerned, his wife's word was unimpeachable.

"Fine, let's chat, Regulus," Narcissa said, as she stepped away from her husband and came up to the dais.

At this, Callum said, "You two can use my study for your chat if you'd like to keep it just between the two of you."

"Thank you, Callum," Regulus said. Technically speaking, Regulus should have called him Lord McKinnon, since while it would appear they held the same rank, Callum was an Earl by right, whereas Regulus was an Earl by courtesy and Wizarding custom did differentiate between those distinctions. The fact that Regulus had a child with Callum's older half-sister didn't mean much, since Regulus and Marlena were never married. Thus, technically speaking, Regulus was not family the way Asterion was, so while Asterion could say Uncle Callum, Regulus should have waited until he was given permission. Callum wasn't going to press that issue though, because honestly, he had way more important things on his mind at present.

Callum nodded and summoned a house-elf, directing it to take Regulus and Narcissa to his study. Once the two of them were alone in the study, Regulus pulled out his wand and said, "Silencio! Muffliato!" For added protection, however, and to shock his cousin, he then summoned his mage's staff and cast two more silencing spells, both of which were high-level mage spells that couldn't be cast by just anyone.

"You're a mage?" Narcissa asked.

"Surprised cousin dear?" Regulus asked. Narcissa nodded, at which point Regulus added, "Mage training is a secret so I can't go into details, but suffice it to say that my being a mage is partly how you were able to see me in a coffin when I wasn't dead. Anyway, Narcissa, back to proving that I am who I say I am. You were fourteen years old, I was eight, and you caught me reading your diary, which I admit, I stole from your room. I must say, Cissa, there were some truly juicy tidbits in that book. Things I know you wouldn't want to get out."

"You'll have to do better than that if you want me to go out there and say you really are Regulus Black," Narcissa said. "You haven't told me anything that proves it's you."

While she was acting cool and unconcerned on the outside, Narcissa was anything but on the inside. She remembered the incident all too well and she knew that there were indeed things in there she didn't want to get out. Even now, years later, there were a couple of things in there that she didn't want exposed.

"Oh you want more detailed proof, do you?" Regulus asked with a grin. "Well, how about the fact that I made copies of your diary and held its contents over your head for years until I supposedly died? Got you to do all kinds of things, such as lying to my parents and getting you to tell them I was with you when I was with Marlena. They wouldn't have liked that I was dating someone who wasn't from Slytherin. But back to you... let's see here, you had a crush on Professor Kettleburn, I believe it was, and went into great and quite scandalous detail about what you wanted to do with him. Honestly, Cissa, you corrupted my poor eight-year-old mind with all that graphic talk."

'Oh Merlin, it is him,' Narcissa thought, but before she could comment, Regulus grinned and said, "Of course, that was nothing in comparison to the fact that you knew that Dromeda was dating that Muggle boy and didn't tell anyone. What was it you said? Oh yes. 'I don't care if he's a mudblood, he's so handsome. Dromeda is lucky to have gotten him.' You know damn well you would have been disowned for that kind of talk. A pureblood girl lucky to be dating a mudblood? That idea would not have gone over well with our family. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think it would go over very well with your husband either."

"Fine, fine, Regulus, I believe you!" Narcissa exclaimed. "It's obviously you, as I never told any of that to anyone else."

"Well, of course you didn't, Cissa," Regulus said with roguish grin. "You're still on the family tree, right? I mean, I'm sure dear old Mum would have blasted you off of it if she knew."

"Yes, your mother would definitely have blasted me off," Narcissa said. "She took her position in the family a little too seriously, if you ask me."

"Trust me, Cissa, I know that," Regulus said. "I lived with the woman, after all. The way she put on airs, you'd think she was the Marchioness of Charlton instead of the Countess of Alnwick. She routinely acted like my father was the head of the family, even though he was only the heir. I still remember some of the fights that Mum had with Grandmum Melania, who wasn't the slightest bit amused by Mum's tendency to act like she was Lady Black. Of course, seeing as how Mum was a Black before she married Father, I suppose she saw Grandmum as some kind of interloper."

"No offense, Regulus, but your mother was crazy," Narcissa said.

"You won't get any arguments from me, Cissa," Regulus said. "In fact, to be honest, that's part of the reason why I allowed everyone to think I was dead. I didn't want Mum to have any influence over my son."

"Part of the reason?" Narcissa asked. "There's more?"

"Well, I also did something to piss off the Dark Lord," Regulus said. "It was just safer for me to disappear. Asterion had already lost his mother, I wasn't going to let him lose his father too."

"I see," Narcissa said. "Well, we should be getting back."

"Yes, I suppose so," Regulus said. "Perhaps we should get together for tea one of these days though. We have a lot to catch up on."

"That would be lovely, Regulus," Narcissa said. "I'll look forward to it."

-o-0-o-

Meanwhile, back in the ballroom, Callum spent a moment talking with Asterion on the steps, before they began mingling. Many people were understandably curious about Asterion Black and if he really was who he said he was. It had been in all of the papers years ago when Marlena, her twin Marlene, and most of the McKinnon family was killed that no trace of Marlena's young son had been found. The boy was never seen again and many people assumed that he was dead, but there was never any proof of that. There was, however, proof that his father, Regulus Black, had died, so while they were curious about Asterion, they were even more curious about the man who claimed to be Regulus.

"Well, this is certainly turning into an eventful evening," Cedric commented.

Dominick nodded. "You can say that again, Ric. I can't say I ever expected Regulus Black to show up."

"Assuming he is Regulus Black," Nick said. "I know my grandfather attended the funeral, as did most of the other noble families."

"My gran didn't," Neville said, "but then my grandfather had been seriously wounded in a Death Eater raid and was in the hospital. Gran refused to leave his side for any reason as she wanted to be with him right up until the end. He passed on about three days after Regulus' funeral."

"I don't know if my parents did or not," Harry said. "Maybe I'll ask their portrait when I get home."

Cormac nodded. "Well, you did say that Sirius was your godfather and Regulus was his brother, so it's possible that your parents went to the funeral. Although then again, I seem to recall hearing that Sirius and Regulus did not get on well."

"Whoever told you that was lying," a male voice said, as Cormac and the others turned to see Asterion standing there. With their attention now on him, he said, "My father and uncle were very close as they were growing up. Practically inseparable according to my father. Uncle Sirius did leave home, but it wasn't because of a problem with my father, but with my grandmother, Walburga Black."

Nick shuddered. "I only met her once and, no offense Asterion, but once was enough. I was five years old and she scared the shite out of me."

"None taken," Asterion said. "The few memories I have of her all scared me too. I'm sure many things could have been said about her, but you'd never find anyone who would say that she was a kind person. Crazy, yes. Personally, I blame the inbreeding."

"Inbreeding?" Harry asked.

"Yes, your grace," Asterion answered. "My grandmother Walburga was a Black before she married my grandfather, Orion. Their grandfathers, Sirius and Cygnus Black, were brothers, making them second cousins. And that's not the first time that members of my family have married within the family. Anyway, father and I have heard about your petition to the King to pardon Uncle Sirius. We both hope it's successful."

"So do I," Harry said. "I don't know my godfather as well as I'd like, but I do know that he's innocent of the charges that landed him in Azkaban."

"Innocent people aren't sent to prison, Potter," came a familiar drawl, as Harry turned and saw Draco Malfoy standing there, looking as pompous as ever.

Neville shook his head. "Malfoy, you should know better."

"Don't tell me what I should know, Longbottom," Draco said with a sneer. "You're practically a squib, so about the only person you're qualified to give advice to is a mudblood."

"Draco, I suggest you remove that word from your vocabulary," Harry said.

"How dare you call me by my given name," Draco said. "I didn't tell you that you could do that, scar head."

"You didn't need to, Draco," Harry said. "Last time I checked you're a Viscount, by courtesy, as your father's heir. Unless you can't read the newspaper, however, I'm a Duke in my own right. I outrank you, Draco, and therefore I don't need permission to call you by your first name. However, I do believe that you should be calling me your grace."

"I'm not going to call some stupid halfblood your grace, Potter," Draco said. "Your mother was a mudblood, so don't stand there and act like you have any right to a pureblood Wizarding title."

"There is nothing in the letters patent for the titles that says they can only be held by purebloods, Draco," Cedric pointed out.

"Stay out of this, Diggory," Draco said. "Nobody asked your opinion."

"You're making an ass of yourself, Draco," Nick said.

Turning on Nick, Draco said, "Well you'd be the expert on that, wouldn't you? You are a pansy, after all."

"Draco, I suggest you shut your mouth before you put your foot in it any further," Dominick said.

"And why would I listen to you, Burke?" Draco asked. "I saw that kiss you gave Ollivander here earlier. Not to mention the fact that your arm has been around his waist half the night. You're a queer just like he is aren't you?"

Dominick didn't have a chance to answer. Removing his wand from his cane, Harry pointed it at Draco and said, "Draco Malfoy, you've insulted me, my mother, and my friends. I won't stand for that, so as Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter, I challenge you to a duel."

Draco looked at Harry as if he was looking at something particularly disgusting. "A duel with you isn't worth my time, Potter."

"So, you're refusing my challenge?" Harry asked.

"Yes, Potter, I refuse to duel you," Draco said. By this point, the conversation had drawn the attention of several other people in the room, who were now watching, most of them shocked at the Malfoy heir's behavior. He really should have known better than to act the way he was acting.

"Well, in that case, Draco, you leave me no choice," Harry said. "You've insulted me and those that I care about in my presence and now you refuse to give me satisfaction. If I'm feeling nice, I might release you in time to go to school, but in the meantime, I'm making you a guest of Seacliff's dungeons."

"You most certainly are not," Draco said. "You're not a proper pureblood, so you have no authority to do that, Potter."

"I take back what I said earlier," Dominick said. "You're not putting your foot in your mouth, you're digging your grave." At this point, he spotted Lucius coming over and he said, "Don't look now, Draco, but your father's coming and he doesn't look happy."

"You think that's going to scare me, Burke?" Draco said. "Only reason my father would be mad is because this scarred halfblood son of a mudblood bitch thinks he has the authority to lock me up. That's a laugh."

"Draco Lucian Malfoy!" Lucius exclaimed. "You will shut your mouth this instant!"

Realizing that Lucius was mad at him instead of Potter, Draco turned to his father and said, "But, Father..."

"Don't 'but Father' me, Draco," Lucius said. "You've shamed me and our house tonight. There's no excuse for that, so, I strongly suggest that you don't say another word." Turning to Harry, Lucius said, "I whole-heartedly apologize for my son's reprehensible behavior, your grace. Is there anything I can do to rectify this that doesn't involve my heir's imprisonment?"

"Frankly, Lucius, no there isn't," Harry said, as he put his wand back into his cane. "Your son has said many hurtful and insulting things to me and my friends this evening and I'm afraid it isn't the first time. If I had a galleon for every snide or insulting remark he's ever made since I've known him, I'd be the richest wizard in the world and that's without my family fortune. I think it's high time that he learn that his actions have consequences."

Nodding, Lucius said, "Of course, your grace, if that is your wish. Draco will report to Seacliff tomorrow morning to serve his time in the dungeons for however long you desire."

"Thank you, Lucius," Harry said, noting with a smile that Draco looked very angry at his father.

Lucius nodded again, before grabbing Draco's forearm in an iron grip that was clearly painful for the blond, as he said, "Let's go, Draco," before he pulled him away from the group.

Narcissa and Regulus returned shortly after this, at which point Narcissa announced that Regulus was telling the truth. She was as sure as she possibly could be that he really was her cousin Regulus Black. This announcement diverted the attention of the other guests off of the drama that had just played out between Draco and Harry, for which the brunet was eternally grateful. He'd never much enjoyed being in the spotlight, so he'd felt a bit uncomfortable under the attention of half the ballroom.

Callum made the speech he was going to make before Regulus and Asterion arrived, welcoming everyone to his home and adding in how extra pleased he was to have his nephew back. He then invited everyone to join him in the first dance of the evening.

-o-0-o-

The following day at breakfast, Robert arrived a bit out of breath and said, "Harry, I got here as fast as I could. This arrived at Seacliff in the morning post and I knew you'd want to see it immediately."

"What is it?" Harry asked, as he took the parchment envelope which was addressed to him.

Lord Harrison Potter, Duke of Granston
Seacliff Castle
Highever, Duchy of Granston, Albion

"Flip it over," Robert said as he sat down and accepted the cup of tea that Eudora offered him.

Harry did so and noticed a crest in the sealing wax. Studying it for a moment, he said, "I've seen this crest before at Gringotts." After a moment, his eyes widened and said, "On Vault 1000 - the Pendragon vault."

Robert nodded. "Yes, Harry, that's the royal crest. I can only assume that it's from the King, possibly his answer in terms of the pardon you requested for Sirius."

"I can't say I expected a response this quickly," Harry commented.

"Why not, Harry?" Cedric asked. "You are a Duke now and even if you haven't been officially installed yet, you're one of Edward's Privy Councilors. If he's anything like his late grandfather King Charles, he'd give a request from you a very high priority."

Harry nodded and then just stared at the envelope for a moment longer, before Remus asked, "Well, Harry, are you going to stare at it or open it?"

"Open it, I guess," Harry said, as he grabbed the knife next to his plate and used it to break the seal, before pulling a single sheet of parchment out of the envelope. Opening it, he read the missive aloud.

Lord Potter,

We received your seneschal's request that we review the case against your godfather, Lord Sirius Orion Black. We have reviewed the pensieve memories you supplied proving that Peter Pettigrew is still alive, in addition to your memory of your parents' portrait insisting that Peter Pettigrew and not Lord Black was their secret keeper. We have also viewed the memories provided by one Remus J. Lupin, which corroborates the events in your own memories, showing Peter Pettigrew admitting to framing Lord Black for his murder and the murders of twelve Muggles.

Since we can find no evidence that any of these memories have been tampered with or altered in any way, we have chosen to ignore the voices in our court urging us not to trust the word of a werewolf and conclude that Lord Black is innocent of all charges levied against him.

To that end, we have signed an order granting the Lord Black a full royal pardon and instructed our seneschal to deliver it personally to our Minister for Magic and the Head of the Department for Magical Law Enforcement. Also in light of the twelve years the Lord Black spent in Azkaban for a crime he was never tried for or convicted of, we offer him our personal apology and have instructed our Chancellor of the Exchequer to remit to the Lord Black the sum of 50,000 Galleons, which shall be his to keep, tax free, for the rest of his life.

Sincerely,
His Imperial and Royal Majesty Edward Charles Arthur Phillip Pendragon, King-Emperor of Albion and Iwernia, Lord of Camelot, and Head of the Most Ancient and Royal House of Pendragon

When he finished, Harry whooped for joy and said, "He's cleared, Remus! He's cleared!"

Remus smiled. "Yes, Harry, he is. It's excellent news."

Athena, meanwhile, had a contemplative look on her face, before she said, "I'm somewhat surprised that Edward signed his name that way."

"What do you mean?" Harry asked, as he looked at the signature on the letter. "It's the same way he signed the letter to Gringotts." After a moment, however, he asked, "Wait, King-Emperor? You've always simply referred to him as the King, never an Emperor."

"Well, technically he is both," Athena commented. "It's just that none of the Pendragon monarchs have asserted the Imperial title in over 300 years, even though they are still entitled to do so."

"So, he's both King and Emperor of Albion and Iwernia?" Harry asked, as Athena nodded. "What's the difference?"

"The difference, Harry," Eudora answered, "is that the title of King applies only to the Wizarding sections of Albion and Iwernia. The title of Emperor is a higher title than King, however, and unlike the royal title, the imperial title refers to both islands in their entirety - including the Muggle sections."

"Wait, so you mean to say that King Edward outranks Queen Elizabeth?" Harry answered.

"Yes, Harry, he does," Athena replied. "You may remember when we were at the bank, I told you that Wizarding Britain and Muggle Britain, while sharing the same landmass, are two separate countries, who are more or less, independent of one another. The key words are 'more or less'. As I said, none of the Pendragon monarchs have used the Imperial title for over 300 years - or more precisely since 1692 when the Statute of Secrecy went into effect. While they didn't actually use it, they still retain the rights to it, but with the Statute in effect, it was decided to leave the Muggles completely to their own devices."

Taking over the explanation, Eudora added, "However, by ancient treaty, all of the lands of Albion and Iwernia are under the rule of the House of Pendragon, following the Unification Wars of 781 to 794. Now, following the war, King Arthur created the Thirteen Houses. Obviously there were already nobles prior to that point and some of them didn't like the idea of a bunch of previously commoner families being ennobled. It was particularly galling to the ones who were now outranked. However, after over a decade of war, none of them wanted to challenge the King on the decision, because they knew it would lead to another war, one which they weren't confident in winning, since they felt sure that the vast majority of the realm's wizards and witches would side with King Arthur."

"Why?" Harry asked.

"You see this is why Binns needs to go," Athena said. "You'd know this if he wasn't so fixated on the goblin wars. The reason it was believed all the witches and wizards would side with King Arthur, is because they'd been brutally persecuted by Arthur's father, King Uther. After Uther died in 763 and Arthur became King, however, he threw out all of his father's anti-magic laws and welcomed the practice of magic with open arms, also revealing at that point that he himself was a wizard - a fact which he'd succeeded in hiding from his father. In the ensuing years, Arthur became a champion of magic users throughout the islands, and then after the Unification Wars, he granted titles of nobility to thirteen magical families and made the heads of three of those families members of his Privy Council. All of this, plus the fact that Merlin was on Arthur's side, cemented the loyalty of almost all of the countries' magical practitioners."

"There were some that were loyal to Morgana Le Fey, of course," Eudora said. "But, no matter how much Merlin and Morgana may not have gotten along, she would never help the Muggles in a war against King Arthur to protest the advancement of magic users in the country. She was very much so pleased with him for his decisions on that front and would likely have fought with him if a war had broken out. After King Arthur, Merlin and Morgana died, however, tensions did begin rising, but it didn't really come to a head until the year 1041, when a war finally broke out."

"By then, King Arthur's great-great-grandson, King Phillip Pendragon, was on the throne," Athena explained. "Leading Camelot's armies personally, King Phillip took to the field along with the famed Knights of the Round Table and the Silver Dragons. The Silver Dragons, by the way, are a knightly order consisting of the Lords of the Thirteen Houses, and a few other knights that had been granted the Royal Star of Camelot."

"The Royal Star of Camelot?" Harry asked.

"It's an award of merit, Harry," Remus answered. "Named after the six-hundred carat flawless diamond of the same name that's set in the Dragon's Scepter, which is part of the Pendragon crown jewels and is used during the coronation ceremony, along with the Crown of the Golden Dragon and the Dragon's Claw Orb. The crown is the magical equivalent to Muggle Britain's Imperial State Crown, and is worn by the King during major state occasions, or would be if Edward ever appeared in public."

"Now, unlike the Order of Merlin," Athena said, "which can be awarded by the Ministry, only the ruling King can award a person with the Royal Star of Camelot because if the person who it's awarded to is not already in possession of or the heir to a higher title, then the award carries with it a hereditary knightly title, similar to a Baronet in the Muggle world. The person isn't nobility, but they're still held in very high regard, because the monarchy doesn't grant the Royal Star of Camelot to just anyone. They had to have done something of particular importance to the realm or for the royal family itself. The title has only been granted a hundred times in over a thousand years and most of the families it was granted to have died out."

'I guess Merlin didn't put his last of the line protections on them,' Harry thought. 'Of course, Athena did say that the holder of the award isn't considered to be nobility, so I guess it makes sense.'

"Out of a hundred there's only nine that are still around," Cedric supplied. "And all but one of them are Most Ancient and Noble Houses - the one that isn't is the Lovegood family."

Eudora nodded. "It's the main reason why the Ministry hasn't done anything to stop the production of The Quibbler, which is owned and operated by Sir Xenophilius Lovegood. No matter how crazy his paper may make him seem, he's still a member of the Silver Dragons and held in very high regard as a result."

"Anyway, Camelot's armies rode out with King Phillip at the head," Eudora said. "The war started by the rebellious Muggles lasted just over a year, ending in early 1042, with King Phillip's forces victorious. However, he could see the schism which had developed between magical and non-magical culture, so, he named himself King of only the magical sections of Albion and Iwernia, granting Edward the Confessor the crown of the Muggle sections. However, it was made clear in the ancient treaty establishing that divide that while the newly named King Edward the Confessor would be allowed to rule the Muggles anyway he saw fit, he would still have to answer to King Phillip, who named himself Emperor of the islands and the ultimate ruler of both sections of the country."

"Fast forward to 1972," Athena said, "and Voldemort made it quite clear when he personally killed King Charles that the reason he was killing off the entire royal family was because he intended to then crown himself King, at which point he also would have been Emperor over the Muggle sections. Had he succeeded, I can only imagine that he would then have thrown out the Statute of Secrecy, so that he could openly and legally torture as many Muggles as he wanted. Unfortunately for Voldemort, the infant Prince Edward lived, so when Voldemort tried to take the Crown of the Golden Dragon for himself, he was electrocuted and knocked unconscious for three days. Luckily for Voldemort, his Death Eaters managed to get their prone leader out of the palace before the royal guards could arrest them for the murder of the King."

"Voldemort's attacks and raids became even more brutal after that," Remus explained. "It's believed that he was greatly angered by his failure to take the crown and would see everyone suffer for denying him what was, in his mind, rightfully his."

"Wow," Harry said, as he glanced up at the clock. "Well, as much as I would love to stay here and continue this conversation, I can't. The autumn session of the Wizengamot will be opening in less than an hour and since I'm being installed in the Potter seats, I have to be present."

"Yes, Harry, that's true," Robert confirmed.

"Remus, if you could track down Sirius and let him know of his pardon, I'd appreciate it," Harry said, at which point Remus nodded and indicated that he would. Harry then turned to Athena and asked, "Would it be possible to bring Sirius here? I know that would mean bringing another person in on the secret of the training, but I've spent so little time with my godfather. I'd really like to get to know him better."

Athena was silent for a moment, before she said, "I will think about it, Harry, and we'll discuss it later. For now, you have to be getting to the Wizengamot chambers."

"Yeah," Harry said, as he stood up from the table, already dressed and ready to go. He'd spent the last couple of days studying law books with the help of Cedric and Roger, brushing up on as much as he could. He still didn't understand all of it, but he'd been assured that the first day of any Wizengamot session, especially when a new member was being installed, would be more pomp and circumstance than anything else. It was doubtful that there'd be any issues that Harry would need to vote on and even if there were, Robert would be there to assist and advise him. Taking a deep breath, Harry smiled at the others and said, "Wish me luck," before following Robert out to the Apparition point and leaving Athena's property.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

Unexpected Love: The Journey Begins
Written by J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Six

-o-0-o-

Shortly after Harry left with Robert, the rest of the boys finished breakfast and retreated upstairs to their common room. Despite being a Monday, they'd been given the day off from classes since Harry had to attend to his duties at the Wizengamot. Remus accompanied them, sitting down at one of the partner's desks with Gavin to help him with his remedial studies. All was silent for a few minutes, until Roger approached the desk that Gavin and Remus were working at and cleared his throat.

Looking up, Remus smiled and asked, "Yes, Mr. Davies?"

"Professor, when were you a student at Hogwarts?" Roger asked.

"September 1971 until June 1978," Remus answered. "Why?"

"Well, I was just thinking about something that Athena said when you got here yesterday," Roger replied. "She said that she and the other trainers were all professors at Hogwarts during Professor Lupin's time at the school. So, in my mind, it stands to reason that we can eliminate any professors who started working at Hogwarts later than that."

"Hmm, you're right, Rog," Cedric said. "Good catch."

"Thanks," Roger said. "Of course, I'm not precisely sure how long all of the professors have been teaching, but I do know that three of the former Ravenclaws on staff didn't start until the 1980's. Professor Wynter began teaching the Spell Creation elective in 1984, while Professor O'Casey started teaching Wizarding Law in 1985 and Professor O'Brien took over the Wizarding Home Economics classes in the spring of 1989. So, all of them are out as possibilities."

Terence nodded and said, "While I never took it, I do know Professor Trelawney wasn't hired to teach Divination until the spring of 1980." After a moment, he added, "Oh and I remember Professor Warren's wife had a stroke in June of 1993, so, he left to take care of her and Professor Burbage was hired to take over the Muggle Studies classes that autumn."

"You can eliminate Professors Landolt and McLaughlin as well," Oliver said. "I didn't take their classes, but Bryce and Cameron did. If I remember correctly, Professor Landolt was hired for Magical Languages in 1986 and Professor McLaughlin for Magical Finance in 1988."

Gavin nodded and said, "Yeah, that sounds right. I remember Bry and Cam talking about them, as those were two of their favorite classes in school."

Cedric had his brow furrowed in thought for a moment, before he said, "Professor McIntosh started teaching Specialized Charms in 1990, I think, and I want to say that Professor Sheldon was hired for Magical Literature in 1986?"

Terence cocked his head to the side for a moment, before he said, "I think you're right on Professor McIntosh, but I'm pretty sure Professor Sheldon started in 1985."

"Noah took Magical Literature," Cedric said, "and I want to say that I remember him saying that Professor Sheldon had commented it was her second year teaching when he took it. He was a first year in 1984, so, it would have been 1987 when he was a third year."

Roger shook his head and said, "Both of you are kind of right. Noah finished school in June of '91, so he would have been a 1st year in the 1984-85 school year, which means he would have been a third year in the 1986-87 school year. If that was Professor Sheldon's second year teaching the class, it would mean she started in the 1985-86 school year."

Cedric slapped his forehead, as he said, "You're right. Dates were never my strong point, which is probably why I didn't sign up for NEWT-level History of Magic. Well, that, and I didn't want to be in Binns' class for two more years. I know Harry's trying to get him replaced, but so far nobody has expressed any interest in the job."

"True," Roger commented. "I really do hope that Binns does get replaced, because otherwise I feel really sorry for my double."

Terence grinned. "You should also feel sorry for yourself, Roger." At the Ravenclaw's questioning look, Terence said, "Eventually, we'll finish our training, at which point we'll have to remerge with our doubles. If Binns doesn't get replaced, that means you'll end up getting two more years worth of memories of his mind-numbingly boring lectures on the goblin wars."

Roger groaned. "Oh Merlin, you're right. I'm almost getting a headache just thinking about it."

"So what are you boys up to?" Rose asked, when she came up the stairs a few moments later.

"They're trying to figure out your identities," Remus said. "They used something Athena said yesterday to eliminate several staff members as possibilities."

"Oh?" Rose asked.

"Athena said that all of you were on staff during Professor Lupin's time at Hogwarts," Terence explained. "So, Roger pointed out that we could eliminate everyone who was hired after he finished school in 1978."

"I see," Rose said with a smile. "I would point out, however, what Athena actually said. She said that she was one of Lupin's professors. She didn't say the rest of us were, just that we were all on staff during his time at Hogwarts. Question is, did she mean during his time as a student or during his time as a professor?"

Roger opened his mouth to say something, but promptly closed it. It was obvious that he'd made an assumption on what Athena had meant and hadn't thought it through as completely as he should have. After a moment, he hung his head, and sighed. "Well, that shoots that down."

The other boys nodded in agreement, clearly a bit sad at this turn of events. Remus wasn't sure how to react, because he actually hadn't thought of it either. When Roger had stated his reasons for wanting to know when he was a student, he'd also made the same assumption that Roger had made. Athena had said she'd been one of his professors and that the other trainers had been on staff during his time at Hogwarts, so he'd assumed as well that meant during his student years. He hadn't considered that it might have meant during his time as a professor.

Rose watched, an amused grin on her face, before finally she laughed and said, "Oh don't look so melancholy. Roger was right - all of us were on staff during Lupin's time at Hogwarts as a student, so you can eliminate everyone hired in the 1980's and 90's."

"Okay, then," Cedric said. "Well, that eliminates a number of professors."

"Which ones have you eliminated, just out of curiosity?" Rose asked.

Terence listed them off, along with the years they thought they were hired. When he finished, Rose nodded and said, "You're correct on all of those years, and yes, none of those people are in this house."

"Rose, there was something else I was wondering," Roger said.

"And what's that?" Rose asked.

"Well, the other day we were discussing the mystery of your identities," Roger explained, "and we assumed that we could safely eliminate all of the male professors as possibilities since all of you are female. However, in thinking about it, I realized that with magic, a male could disguise themselves as a female, so are all of you actually women?"

Rose laughed again. When she calmed down, she said, "While we don't want to make anything too obvious for all of you, as we want you to have to work at it, I will say this much: all of us are indeed natural-born women. So, no, none of us are Professor Flitwick, Mr. Filch, or any of the other male staff members in disguise."

Terence smiled. "Well, then I think today has been very productive. We've eliminated several professors as possibilities."

Cedric's grin was rather grim as he said, "True, but that still leaves us with more possibilities then trainers. Even eliminating the ones we did, we still have Madams Pince, Hooch and Pomfrey and Professors McGonagall, Babbling, Vector, Sinistra, and Sprout."

"Well, it's still a start," Roger said. "I mean, the last time we talked about this, we had seventeen female staff members as possibilities. Now we're down to only eight. So, if we can just eliminate four more, we'll know who the trainers are."

"That's partially true, Roger," Rose said with a smile. At the confused and questioning looks, she added, "Even if you manage to narrow it down to only four possibilities, you'll still need to match the correct name with the right person before we'll tell you if you're right or not."

-o-0-o-

Arriving at the Ministry through the special entrance set aside for the Minister and other high-level Ministry employees, which as a Lord of the Wizengamot Harry was considered to be even if he didn't have a Ministry position, Robert and Harry made their way down to the Wizengamot Chambers. In an antechamber outside of the main chamber, Harry spotted several members of the Wizengamot, easily distinguishing the noble members from the non-noble, elected members. It seemed that only the noble members and the Chief Warlock wore plum-colored robes, everyone else wore black.

Speaking of the Chief Warlock, Harry noticed Dumbledore almost immediately. The Headmaster had his back turned in Harry's direction at the moment, as he conversed with Lords Ollivander and McKinnon. Harry's attention was soon drawn off of Dumbledore, however, when a voice from behind him said, "Hello, Your Grace."

Turning, Harry smiled. "Nick? Dominick? Didn't expect to see either of you here today."

"Yeah, we attend all of the meetings," Nick said. "Not all of the Lords do it, but some of them, my grandfather and Dominick's grandfather included, have their heirs or another agent vote one of their seats for them. Grandfather votes the Ollivander and Whitehaven seats, while I vote the Coulderton seat and grandfather's seneschal votes the Eskett seat. Of course, we do have to vote the way my grandfather tells us to, since they're his seats."

Dominick nodded. "My grandfather votes the Burke seat. Grandmother Ophelia votes the Grangemore seat, I vote the Gullane seat, and grandfather's seneschal votes the Shannonvale seat. For us heirs, it's supposed to give us a taste of what we're in for when we actually take over the seats someday."

Harry nodded. "Ah, I see. I do hope Lucius isn't too inconvenienced by the fact that his heir can't be here today, as he'll be in my dungeons for the foreseeable future."

Nick grinned. "That little shit deserved it, if you ask me. The things he was saying last night were totally out of line."

Dominick nodded. "Yeah, they were. At any rate, Lucius won't be inconvenienced because there's a rule on the books that says you must be at least 21 to cast a vote on the Wizengamot. An exception is made for the younger Heads of Noble Houses, such as yourself, Harry, but everyone else, including heirs, have to be at least 21. Draco is only 14, so even if he wasn't in your dungeon, he wouldn't be here since unless something happens to his father and he becomes Lord Malfoy, Draco can't vote for another seven years."

Nodding, Harry looked at Robert and said, "Robert, should anything come to a vote today, if you could handle the Brynmoor and Mathry seats, I'll handle the other two."

"Of course, your grace, as you wish," Robert said, as he bowed slightly.

Before anything else was said, a commotion at the entrance drew Harry's attention. It appeared the guards on either side of the entrance to the antechamber were trying to keep someone out. Looking past them, Harry spotted Regulus Black and it was then that he heard one of the guards say that Regulus Black was dead and that he was clearly an imposter.

Walking over to the entrance, Harry said, "That man is not an imposter."

One of the guards turned to look at Harry and said, "Your Grace, sir, no disrespect but Regulus Black is dead."

"No, he isn't," Harry said. "This man was at the Opening Ball last night and Lady Narcissa Malfoy is convinced that it is indeed her cousin, Regulus Black. As Duke of Granston and the godson of his brother, I will also vouch for him, as I can clearly see the Black family resemblance. Now let him in."

The guards looked hesitant, but they weren't about to go against a direct order from one of the senior lords of the Wizengamot, especially when it was The-Boy-Who-Lived. Moving aside, they allowed Regulus to cross the threshold and enter the room.

"Thank you for your assistance, Your Grace," Regulus said, bowing slightly at Harry.

"You're welcome, Regulus," Harry said. "We didn't have a chance to talk last night, but I talked with your son, Asterion. He relayed to me that you both hoped I was successful in my bid to have your brother cleared. I'm happy to say I have news on that front."

"Oh?" Regulus asked.

"Yes, I received a letter from His Majesty this morning," Harry replied. "Sirius has been granted a full pardon and restitution for his time spent in Azkaban."

"That is excellent news, Your Grace," Regulus said, a genuine smile on his face. "I thank you for setting that into motion."

"You're welcome, Regulus," Harry said. "And please, call me Harry. Sirius is my godfather, after all, so I reckon that makes us family in a way."

"Yes, I suppose it does at that," Regulus said. "Of course, even if he wasn't your godfather, we are cousins."

"We are?" Harry asked.

Regulus nodded. "Yes, my mother's Aunt Dorea was married to Charlus Potter. He was your grandfather Lord Julian Potter's younger brother, which makes us third cousins by marriage."

"Well, you learn something new every day," Harry said.

If it hadn't been for the fact that Regulus already knew some of the details of Harry's life, mainly that he had not grown up at Seacliff as was commonly believed but had instead been raised by Muggles, he might have wondered about the boy's ignorance of his family tree. After all, the Potters were a Most Ancient and Noble House just as the Blacks were, so the Potters would have their own family tapestry which would have shown the fact that they were related.

Wandlessly casting a Silencing Charm, Regulus said, "I do know about your training, Harry." At the boy's confused look, Regulus said, "I'm a mage too - Athena trained me back in the late 70's, early 80's. My double died and until now I just never corrected anyone on the assumption that I was dead." Noticing that Harry had looked around as if to see if anyone was listening, Regulus added, "I've put up a Silencing Charm around us, so you can speak freely."

"Why did you let everyone think you were dead?" Harry asked.

"I was still undergoing mage training for one," Regulus answered. "I finished about two years after my supposed death. There was also Asterion to consider. I don't know how much you've heard about Sirius' and my mother, Walburga Black, but she was not by any means a kind woman. Before she died, Asterion's mother, Marlena McKinnon, raised him. But when she died, I took custody of the boy and I didn't want my mother to have any influence over him, so, after I finished my training, I disappeared and raised Asterion in hiding. Mother is dead now, of course, but even if she weren't, Asterion is seventeen now, so, I like to think he'd be old enough that she couldn't influence him if she was still around."

"Forgive me, but that seems a little extreme," Harry said. "You let everyone, including Asterion's other family members, think both of you were dead for years just to keep your mother out of his life?"

"You're right, of course," Regulus said. "That would be extreme if it was the only reason. I had another reason, which I'll share with you later." At Harry's raised eyebrow, Regulus added, "Asterion and I will be coming to Forest Cottage after the Wizengamot meeting. And if you're interested, I can bring my copy of the Black family tree. You're on it, as are a few other people you know and unlike my mother's copy, it doesn't have anyone blasted off."

"Blasted off?" Harry asked.

Regulus smiled. "Yes, my mother blasted off everyone who displeased her somehow. In other words, she burned their names off the family tree as if they didn't exist. Some examples are Sirius, after he ran away, her brother Alphard, who left Sirius a decent amount of gold in his will, and my cousin Narcissa Malfoy's sister, Andromeda, because she married a Muggleborn wizard named Ted Tonks."

"Huh," Harry said. "Yes, I'd like to see that. I've spent my whole life as an orphan, raised by relatives that didn't really want me. It'd be nice to know that I actually have family."

Regulus nodded. "I can understand that, Harry, although I warn you, there may be some people on the family tree that you would prefer not to be related to at all, but are. Draco Malfoy, for instance? His mother, Narcissa, is a Black, as she's the daughter of my mother's brother Cygnus. Which makes Draco my first cousin, once removed. If I recall correctly, Narcissa is your third cousin, so, Draco would be your third cousin, once removed."

"Oh joy," Harry said. "Family or not, he's staying in the dungeon." And then, more to himself, he added, "Honestly, I'm half-tempted to put the Dursleys there."

Regulus heard what Harry said, but didn't have a chance to say anything, as he quickly cancelled the Silencing Charm when he noticed a determined looking Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, Professor Albus Dumbledore, approaching them.

"Harry, my boy, don't get too close to him," Albus warned. "He's a Death Eater."

Looking at Regulus, who was currently standing outside of Albus' field of vision since the headmaster had put himself between Regulus and Harry, the brunet had no trouble seeing Regulus mouthing the words, "My double", over the headmaster's shoulder. Harry took this to mean that Regulus himself was not actually a Death Eater - it was his double that had joined the ranks of the Death Eaters. Now, while it was true that the doubles would usually not do anything that the real person was not likely to do themselves, Harry wanted more information about why Regulus' double would join the Death Eaters before he passed judgment on Regulus himself.

"Who I keep company with is my business, Albus," Harry said.

Dumbledore looked a bit shocked, as he said, "Harry, I am your Headmaster, it is most inappropriate for you to call me that."

"No, Albus, what's inappropriate is for you to call me by my first name," Harry returned. "I haven't given you permission to do that, so I'll thank you to call me 'Your Grace' in the future. As to you being my Headmaster, that might be true, but that doesn't really mean much, considering that as one of the Governors of Hogwarts, I'm your boss."

Albus sighed. "I fear your newfound power is going to your head, my boy."

"I am not your boy," Harry said. "And I assure you the power is not going to my head. I only wish to be treated with the respect that I deserve."

"And you don't think I'm worthy of some respect?" Albus asked.

"Honestly? No, I don't," Harry answered. "I've learned some things since claiming my birthright, Albus. Such as the fact that it was you who placed me with the Dursleys as a baby. You insist that I go back to their house every summer, even after you knew that they were abusive. I'm the head of one of Albion's oldest and most respected noble houses, Albus, but on Privet Drive, my relatives treat me worse than a house-elf and yet if it was up to you, I'd still be living there."

"Harry..." Albus began, but sighed when he saw the look on the young man's face. "Your Grace, do you mean to tell me that you're not living on Privet Drive? It's imperative that you remain in that house. The blood wards are the only thing that will keep you safe from Voldemort."

"I see you're continuing to ignore the fact that the Dursleys are abusive," Harry said. "As I said, they treat me like their own personal house-elf and you want me to go back to that? Do you not care if I'm treated like a slave? Voldemort doesn't have a body, Albus, and I've beaten him before, so I'm not worried. Besides, I'm perfectly safe where I'm living now."

"And where is that?" Albus asked.

"Seacliff Castle, of course," Harry replied. "Which, in case you weren't aware, is protected by extremely powerful and ancient wards set by Merlin himself. Now, are you going to say that Seacliff's wards aren't capable of keeping me safe? That wards you cast will keep me safer than wards cast by the greatest and most powerful wizard of all time?"

Before Dumbledore could respond, Bruce and Caroline McLaggen came over and Caroline asked, "Lord Potter, is there a problem here?"

"No, Caroline, their isn't," Harry said. "Our esteemed Chief Warlock was just expressing his worry that I wasn't adequately protected since I'm no longer living in my relatives' house and am thus outside of the wards he cast around it."

"Utter nonsense," Bruce said. "You'll be perfectly safe at Seacliff, Your Grace. Merlin himself cast the wards around the ancestral homes of all of the Thirteen Houses. I'm sure Dumbledore would never presume to say that his wards are stronger than Merlin's. Besides, my family and I will do everything we can to keep you safe, Your Grace."

"Thank you, Bruce," Harry said and noticing the questioning look on Dumbledore's face, Harry said, "Not that it's any of your business, Albus, but Bruce and I have renewed the alliance between House Potter and House McLaggen. I suspect that in the coming weeks, I will renew any other alliances my father made and possibly forge a few new ones."

"New ones?" Dumbledore asked.

"Yes, I'm sure my godfather would be interested in an alliance," Harry responded. "Don't you agree, Regulus?"

Regulus smiled and said, "Yes, Your Grace, I do. If I know Sirius, he'd jump at the chance. The only thing that stopped him from forging an official alliance with James was the fact that he wasn't Lord Black while Grandfather Arcturus was still alive."

"Sirius Black can't make alliances while he's a wanted fugitive," Dumbledore said.

"Ah, Albus, but he isn't," Harry said. "I petitioned the King to review Sirius' case and I got a letter from him this morning. He's found Sirius innocent of all charges and granted him a full royal pardon, plus restitution for his time spent in Azkaban for crimes he didn't commit. I fully expect it won't be long before Sirius takes his place voting the Black seats here in the Wizengamot."

Before Albus could say a word, Lady Amelia Bones, who had just entered the room with her nephew, Lord Erik Bones, and had overheard what Harry said, walked over and said, "Lord Potter is correct, Albus. His Majesty's seneschal delivered the pardon for Sirius Black to me this morning. I've already sent out word to every office in my department that Lord Black has been pardoned and that they are not to arrest or detain him for any reason. I also happen to know that Minister Fudge has rescinded his previous standing order that Lord Black be given the Dementor's Kiss, which I understand he's in some hot water with the King for issuing in the first place."

"I'm rather surprised you didn't know about this, Albus," Caroline said. "Isn't His Majesty's seneschal your grandson?"

"Yes, Lady McLaggen," Dumbledore answered. "Brian is King Edward's seneschal, but he doesn't discuss the King's affairs with me. I'm sorry to say that he doesn't discuss much of anything with me."

"I see," Bruce said. "I take it he still blames you for his mother's death."

"His mother's death?" Harry asked.

Caroline nodded. "Yes, Your Grace. Brian Dumbledore's mother, Katarina, was Albus' partner in some of his experiments. She was his assistant and helped him discover two of the twelve uses of dragon's blood. Unfortunately, just after they'd discovered the twelfth, there was an accident in Albus' lab and Katarina died. Brian has been very vocal in his belief that his grandfather was not only responsible for the accident, which he asserts wasn't an accident, but could have saved her if he'd tried."

"There was nothing I could do," Dumbledore argued. "I barely escaped that lab alive myself and no matter what Brian may say, it was an accident. My grandson is deluded if he thinks that I would kill his mother so I wouldn't have to share the credit for the discovery of the last two uses of dragon's blood."

Amelia nodded, "That might be true, Albus, but it hasn't stopped Brian from insisting that you killed his mother. Even now, five years after the fact, he continues to insist that you're a murderer. There's no evidence to prove that, however, and as long as I'm the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, we are not going to arrest people for crimes based on the word of a single person, when there's not a shred of evidence to back up the accusation. Although, I admit, there would be nothing I could do if Brian were to ever convince King Edward to take action against you, Albus."

"Yes, you'd better hope that he doesn't," Bruce said, as he noticed the last of the lords entering the antechamber. Looking around the room for a moment, he then added, "Anyway, it looks like everyone is here, so, I think it's high time we get started, don't you agree, Chief Warlock?"

"Yes, quite so," Dumbledore said after a moment. He wanted to say something more to Harry, but with so many people around, that was just going to have to wait for another time.

-o-0-o-

It was almost dinner time before Harry arrived back at Forest Cottage. As he'd been told it might, the opening session of the Wizengamot had been nothing more than a day of ceremonial activities, some of which centered around installing him as the newest Lord of the Wizengamot. Absolutely nothing came up for a vote and honestly, Harry was dreading the idea of ever having to go back.

Cedric and Terence were seated at the kitchen table when Robert and Harry entered the house.

"So, how was it, Harry?" Cedric asked. "Did you have fun?"

"Fun? Are you kidding me?" Harry asked. "It was one of the most boring experiences of my life. I don't know how the other lords deal with it. I'm certainly not looking forward to another one anytime soon, but I suppose I have to."

"Actually, Harry, you don't," Terence said.

"What do you mean?" Harry asked.

Terence grinned. "Now that you've been officially installed, you can send my father or anyone else over the age of twenty-one to vote in your place if you really don't want to go."

"My son is correct," Robert said. "As your seneschal, I'm empowered to stand in for you at the Wizengamot and vote for you, if you wish. I've been doing it in James' name ever since he died, but you had to be officially installed before I could do it for you."

"Well that's a relief," Harry said. "What about the other lords? Do they all go to the meetings?"

"Some of them attend all of the meetings," Terence responded. "Lords Diggory and Crouch, for example, both work in the Ministry, so whenever there's a Wizengamot meeting, they attend because they're already in the building. Most of the other lords just send their seneschals to vote for them, unless it's a matter of particular importance to them or if the King asked all of the lords to appear, which hasn't happened since King Charles died."

Harry nodded and asked, "And what about Dumbledore's grandson? I didn't even know he had a grandson. How'd he get to be the King's seneschal?"

"Honestly?" Robert answered. "Nobody really knows how Brian Dumbledore became the King's seneschal. In the past, the royal seneschal was usually chosen from the noble families, most often the second-born son of one of the families. Of course, very few of the noble families have spare heirs these days."

"That's true," Cedric commented. "The Longbottom, Ollivander, Burke, McLaggen, Crouch, Malfoy, Flint, and Lestrange families have only one heir each, as each of the lords only had one son. Of course, the Ollivander and Burke families have a grandson as heir because the previous heirs, Garrison Ollivander and Linnaeus Burke, were both killed in the First Wizarding War with You-Know-Who."

"And the other families?" Harry asked.

"The Bones and McKinnon families don't have any heirs, as neither Lord has married and had children yet," Robert replied. "The same applies to you, of course, Harry, since you don't have a child. The Black family was until recently thought to be in the same position, as Sirius doesn't have children, but now that we know Regulus and Asterion are alive, the Black family has two heirs."

"And technically speaking," Cedric added, "even though my father disowned him, my family also has two heirs. I'm considered to be the official heir, but if something were to happen to me, Father would have to either restore Noah or have another child. Which he wouldn't be able to do with my mother, since she can't have any more children. Of course, unlike in the Muggle world, there are no legitimacy requirements for the noble and royal families. Legitimate heirs in good standing take precedence over non-legitimate heirs or disowned heirs, but a non-legitimate heir can inherit the title if there's nobody else eligible to do so, as long as it can be proven that they do carry the blood of the family whose title they'd be inheriting."

"Asterion Black is an example of that," Robert said. "Regulus wasn't married to Asterion's mother, so he was born out of wedlock and is thus not legitimate, but he is a Black, nonetheless. So, if both Sirius and Regulus died, Asterion could legally inherit the title. As for Brian Dumbledore, as I said, nobody really knows how he became the King's seneschal. It's assumed though that King Edward chose him based on his grandfather's fame and the fact that Brian is the same age as the King."

"Same age?" Harry asked. "I would have expected him to be much older. I mean, Dumbledore is over a hundred right?"

"Yes, Harry," Athena said, as she entered the room with Roger, Oliver, Gavin, Eudora, Emma, and Rose. Remus wasn't currently at the cottage, as he was out tracking down Sirius to make sure he knew about his pardon. "Dumbledore was born in July of 1881, so as of his last birthday he's 113 years old."

"His grandson was born in 1970, same as the King," Emma said. "Although Brian was born in June, while Edward was born in November, so, Brian is actually a few months older. As far as I know, Dumbledore has never gotten married to anyone and it came as a shock to many people, myself included, when his daughter, Katarina Dumbledore, turned up at Hogwarts as a student in 1938. Until then, nobody had even known he had a daughter, including his own brother."

"Dumbledore has a brother?" Harry asked.

Eudora nodded. "Yes, Harry. Aberforth Dumbledore. He's the owner and bartender of the Hog's Head in Hogsmeade. Of course, Albus and Aberforth are not all that close. I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen them together."

"Aberforth has always been something of a loner," Athena said. "And from what I can gather, there was some issue in their youths that caused a rift to form between them."

After a few moments of silence, Harry shook his head. "Well, I'm glad to know that I don't have to attend anymore Wizengamot meetings unless I really want to. Unless something really important comes up that I want to deal with personally, you'll be going in my place, Robert. Those meetings are too boring for my tastes."

"I understand, Harry," Robert said. "Of course, today wasn't a normal meeting. It was essentially the opening ceremony, made even more formal by the fact that they had to officially install you in your seats. If something was actually being voted on, however, there would have been plenty of lively debate which might have made it less monotonous. Although, I admit, that doesn't help much, unless you enjoy debates."

Shaking his head, Harry said, "I can't say as I do, actually. Of course, I haven't had much experience with them up until now."

Nobody else said a word, for at that moment, there was a knock on the front door. Athena walked over and answered it. She had a feeling she knew who it would be, as only people who she keyed into her wards could set foot on the property. The list of people keyed into the wards was rather extensive in that all of her past mage students of over thirty years were keyed into them, but even then, she wasn't expecting any of them. There were two people, however, that she was expecting.

"Hello, Athena, long time no see," Regulus said.

"Regulus, it's good to see you," Athena said. "I hear you made quite the splash at the ball last night."

Regulus grinned as he nodded and said, "Yes, I suppose returning from the dead will do that. Anyway, since I was once your student, I'm keyed into your wards, but the same cannot be said for Asterion. He's standing out at the gate right now, unable to set foot on the property."

Athena looked confused. "Your son lived here for two years while you finished your training, Regulus. He should already be keyed into the wards, unless..." Athena paused here, as the expression on her face changed from confused to stern, as she asked in a severe tone, "Regulus Arcturus Black, did you train him?"

Looking a bit sheepish, Regulus nodded and said, "Yes, Athena. My son is a fully qualified mage. We performed the power increase ritual when he was twelve and completed his training when he was fifteen. Had his inheritance two months ago and I'm proud to say that he's a Magister, like his dear, young, dad."

"We'll see about that," Emma said as she stepped forward. "I tested him when you brought him here, Regulus. He was a Sorcerer then. For him to be a Magister now would mean that not only did you successfully perform the power increase ritual and raise his power level the full four levels, which I find hard to believe, since you have no experience in casting that ritual unaided, he would have had to gain a full six levels of power in his inheritance."

"He did," Regulus defended. "But, I know you won't believe me until you test him yourself and you can do that as soon as Athena keys him into the wards."

"Alright, I'll go key him in," Athena said, as she gave him a stern glare for another minute, before she shook her head and invited him inside as she exited the house to walk down to the gate to meet Asterion.

"Why does he have to be keyed back into the wards?" Roger asked. "If he was keyed in once, wouldn't he remain keyed in?"

Rose shook her head. "No, Roger. Being keyed into the wards around a specific place is never permanent. The master of the wards around a place can remove anyone they want, regardless of whether the master themselves keyed them in or if a previous master of the wards did. For example, as Lord Potter, Harry is the master of the wards surrounding Seacliff Castle. As such, he can key people into the wards so that they can enter the castle grounds and the castle itself. But, he can also unkey people from the wards if he so desires. So, if James keyed someone into the wards that Harry doesn't want keyed in, he can unkey them."

Eudora then added, "Now, for this property, Athena keyed in all of her previous students and the vast majority of them remain keyed into the wards. As for Asterion, he lived here from the time he was three until he was five, because his father was still undergoing training when he took custody of his son. A wizard or witch cannot live on a property surrounded by wards that they are not keyed into. Keying someone into the wards is essentially welcoming that person into the zone protected by the wards. Now, if for example, a witch or wizard was on a property that was not warded when they arrived and later became warded, the person placing the wards would have to key them in."

"What if they didn't?" Cedric asked.

"If they didn't," Emma answered, "the unwelcomed person would begin to feel extremely disoriented and if they stayed long enough, they'd become violently ill, and possibly even die because the power of the wards would not recognize them as being welcomed. It would assume that they had somehow breached the wards and would attack the person. For this property, the wards have been setup to automatically unkey anyone from the wards who had been keyed in previously but wasn't a mage the last time they set foot inside the wards. It's a security measure that most mage trainers set on their properties in order to keep mages who were trained by unknown people off their lands."

"Such mages are viewed as a potential threat," Rose explained. "Not all mage trainers train their charges the same way."

"What do you mean?" Gavin asked. "There's more than one way of training mages?"

"The training itself is pretty much the same," Rose answered. "However, different trainers have different philosophies about the training and thus teach their charges differently. For example, Athena, Emma, Eudora and I believe in teaching our charges to respect the powers that they'll be learning to wield and to not think that their magical power alone makes them a better person. We also believe that you should use your powers wisely and hopefully for the protection and betterment of others."

Picking up the explanation, Emma added, "There are trainers, however, who do not share those views. They think of the power as a tool to be used only for the betterment of the mage wielding it and have no qualms teaching their charges to use their powers in any way they want, even if it's for completely selfish reasons and to the detriment of others. These same trainers also often teach their charges that being powerful makes you better. Because of this difference in philosophies between trainers and the fact that at any time a trainer may have young, untrained mages around who wouldn't be able to defend themselves from a fully trained mage, nearly every trainer in the world carefully wards their homes, or wherever it is they choose to train people, to not allow mages they did not personally train to set foot on their properties."

"Of course, those wards don't always work," Eudora explained, "as a Ward Mage of sufficient skill and power could get past the wards setup by a less powerful mage. So far, however, that has never been a problem here since Rose reinforced the wards around Athena's property. Athena, as an Archmagister, already had strong wards around the property that few mages alive today would be able to breach. As a Ward Mage and a Master Magister, however, Rose was able to reinforce the wards and make them even stronger than they were. As they stand now, the wards around this property rival the Hogwarts wards in power, outdone only by the wards around the royal residences and the homes belonging to the Thirteen Houses."

"What's a Ward Mage?" Terence asked. "I know Emma has referred to herself as a Blood Mage before. Is there some significance to those titles?"

Rose nodded. "Yes, there is a significance. We'll be covering this in greater detail when the time comes for all of you to actually choose one, but there's eight fields of study which mages of sufficient power can focus on. Each one of these fields encompasses a variety of specialized skills that aren't available to mages who haven't studied and mastered them. Now, unlike the metamagic skills we've already talked about in class, the mage specializations are different in that the skills they encompass cannot be learned or used by anyone who hasn't mastered them."

"Why not?" Oliver asked.

"As Rose said, we'll be covering them in greater detail later," Emma said. "But, for now, suffice it to say that in order to learn any of these specialized skills and talents, you have to undergo a magical ritual. You can learn more than one specialization, if you're powerful enough. I myself am a Blood Mage, in addition to being what's known as a Shadow Mage. There's an even split between the specializations. Four of them are available to any mage of at least level seventeen on the power scale, while the other four cannot be learned by anyone who is not at least level twenty-two on the scale."

Eudora continued and said, "According to the ancient texts, both Merlin and Morgana were masters of all eight fields of study, further reinforcing their positions as the greatest and most powerful spellcasters of all time. Towards the end of their lives, however, they put their past differences aside and worked together to place magical limitations and restrictions on the future training of people in these advanced disciplines. They both acknowledged that they were, perhaps, too powerful and didn't want anyone else in the future becoming that powerful. As Morgana could have told you herself, power can corrupt, especially when it's wielded by a person who doesn't have the strength of will to control that power and not let it go to their head. Just because you have the power to do something, doesn't mean that you should."

"So, they setup the limitations," Rose added. "Merlin and Morgana were the last known Archmagi to walk the face of this planet and over the course of their long lives, they were both over 170 when they died, had mastered every magical discipline in existence. Joining their powers together, they could cast very powerful magic that would be impossible for a lone Archmagus to duplicate, unless they had another Archmagus helping them. For the eight specializations, they created the magical ritual required to learn them, as well as making it so that a single person, regardless of their power, would be limited to learning three of them and no more. As Emma said, they also split the specializations into two groups, tiering them by how much power they believed was necessary to fully use the skills contained in them."

"Weren't other mages upset with them for unilaterally limiting magic training?" Cedric asked.

"It should go without saying that some were," Athena said, as she entered the house with Asterion. She'd heard enough of the conversation as she and Asterion were approaching the house to know what Cedric was asking about. "However, none of them could do anything about it. Even in Merlin and Morgana's day it was very rare for a person to reach the level of Archmagi and as far as we know, they were the only two people alive at the time to reach that level of power. Alone, both of them were capable of casting spells of such immense power that they'd effect the entire world. Joining together, however, their power would have been beyond imagining."

"There are many people who have tried to undo those limits over the years," Emma said. "None of them have succeeded, however. Now, that is partially because the number of naturally born mages has been steadily decreasing for years now. However, as the last Archmagi and masters of every magical discipline in existence, no spellcaster before or since has ever reached the level of sheer power and knowledge that Merlin and Morgana possessed separately. So the chances of anyone overturning the limits they cooperatively set are slim to nil."

"As you already know," Athena said, "Emma and I are Archmagisters, however, together our power combined wouldn't even be a fourth of the power possessed by a Magus, let alone an Archmagus. So now imagine how hard it would be to gather together enough people to successfully overturn the magical limits that Merlin and Morgana set, taking into consideration that they're strong enough to still be at full power even now, over a thousand years after their deaths. Of course, I do have a theory as to why that's the case."

"And what's that?" Roger asked, obviously curious.

Athena smiled. "I've gone through the ritual twice and I can tell you that it leaves you feeling magically drained. Give yourself a day to rest or drink a couple of Magical Restorative Drafts and you'll be feeling fine again, but I think that says something about the ritual itself. If you ask me, Merlin and Morgana setup their spell so that every time the ritual to allow a mage to learn one of the specializations is cast, it taps into the mage's core to help recharge and strengthen the spell imposing the limits. So, if that is the case, it's entirely possible that the spell imposing those limits is now even stronger then it was when it was cast. You have to remember that it was cast over a thousand years ago and on a global scale. Even with the decrease in naturally occurring mages, there's undoubtedly been at least a million of them worldwide in the ensuing years and some of us, like Emma, Rose, Eudora and I, have gone through the ritual twice."

"Why only twice?" Terence asked. "I thought you said a mage could learn up to three of these specializations?"

"That's true, they can," Regulus said. "However, in addition to limiting the total number of specializations that a mage can learn and breaking them into two groups based on power level, Merlin and Morgana further limited them so that you can only learn a specialization at a specific level on the power scale. Nobody really knows why they picked those levels in particular and of course they're not around to ask, so I imagine we'll never know."

Thinking back to his notes from their first class, which unsurprisingly perhaps for a Ravenclaw, Roger had taken back out to study later and had since memorized, he said, "I remember now. When Eudora had us copy down the power scale, it said you could learn mage specializations at levels 17, 22, and 27. Athena and Emma are the most powerful mages here, but they're only at level 25 on the power scale, so they're not powerful enough to learn a third specialization."

Nodding, Athena said, "Yes, Roger, that is correct. Now, why don't we adjourn to the parlor and talk?"

"I think the library would be better, Athena," Regulus commented. "Harry wanted to see my copy of the Black family tree, so I brought it with me. It'd be easier to view it spread out on the library table."

"Alright, the library it is then," Athena said, as she led the group into the library.

In the just over a week that he'd been there, this was the first time that Harry had actually entered Forest Cottage's library. He'd seen glimpses of it, of course, through the archway from the kitchen, but he'd never actually had reason to go in. Roger had already been in it several times, of course, as being a Ravenclaw, reading and studying were among his favorite pass times. Harry, on the other hand, had not thus far found any reason to venture downstairs to the library, having found any books he needed in the bookshelves in the upstairs common room.

The library was about the same size as the living room next door, but what set it apart was the fact that floor to ceiling bookshelves, some of them covered by glass-paneled doors, lined most of the walls. The only place where there weren't any shelves were on the far wall where there were two windows and in the far corner where a large fireplace was situated on a diagonal wall. Harry assumed that the library fireplace shared a chimney with the fireplace in what was now Cedric's bedroom, since the layout of the house suggested to him that the Hufflepuff's bedroom would be directly above the library. A pair of brown leather wingback chairs were situated in front of the fireplace, a small end table with a fancy Victorian styled lamp resting between them, while the center of the room was dominated by a large table. The table was about the same size as the kitchen table, but it was surrounded by padded leather chairs which Harry was sure would be more comfortable then the hard wooden benches at the kitchen table.

Once everyone had taken a seat around the table, Regulus spread a large tapestry out over the surface, and gestured at it. "And there you have it - the Black family tree. Well, some of it, anyway. The family dates much further back then what's shown here, obviously, since King Arthur ennobled my ancestors in April of 797 and this only goes back to the 1700's. I figured you didn't really need to see the tree going that far back, so I didn't bring it."

"How many tapestries are there?" Harry asked.

"Six in all," Asterion answered. "This is just the most recent one, which will probably cover one or two more generations at most before a new one is started."

Scanning his eyes over the mass of names, the first names that Harry saw were the Weasleys. In a shocked tone, he asked, "The Weasleys are related to the Blacks?"

"Almost all of the pureblood families, whether they're noble or not, are related somehow, Harry," Cedric said, as he pointed at two names on the family tree and said, "See? Elspeth Diggory, born 1776, died 1863, married to Nigellus Black, born 1774, died 1831. I am distantly related to Elspeth. I couldn't tell you exactly how, mind you, but I do know that she was the sister of one of the past family heads. And as you can see, one of Cormac's ancestors married their son, Pollux."

"Castor and Pollux Black," Regulus said. "As you can probably guess from their birth and death dates, they were twins. What makes them interesting is that Castor was Lord Black until they died in 1907. Castor never married or had children and Pollux's son Eduardus Limette Black died before they did, although even if he hadn't, he'd been disowned. That's when the Black lordship passed into the branch of the family that I'm descended from, as Phineas Nigellus Black become Lord Black following Castor's death."

"Why was Eduardus disowned?" Terence asked.

Shaking his head, Regulus said, "I have no clue, honestly. Obviously it was a bit before my time. Perhaps, now that Sirius has been cleared, we'll eventually have reason to go out to Arlington Grange, the family seat of the Black family in the Marquisate of Charlton, and I can ask Castor and Pollux. I was in the house a few times as a child and I know there's a portrait of Castor and Pollux, along with all the other previous Lord Blacks. What set Lord Castor Black apart, however, is that all the other Lords had single portraits. That is, they were the only ones actually painted into the portrait. Pollux was included in Castor's portrait, however, because Castor and Pollux Black were conjoined twins."

"There wasn't a spell that could separate them?" Harry asked. "I know Muggles have surgical procedures for that."

"No, Harry, there is no spell for that," Athena said. "There was never one created because you would find very few witches and wizards who would be willing to use it."

"Why?" Harry asked, not understanding.

"Because it's deemed as being too dangerous," Rose answered. "You see, Harry, it doesn't matter how the twins' bodies are physically connected. They could be almost completely separate except for a very small section where they're joined, but most Wizarding parents would still leave them connected. The reason is because in wizarding conjoined twins, it's not just their bodies that are connected, but also their magical cores. Separating them would mean cutting their shared core in half, which has about a ninety-seven percent chance of rendering them both squibs. There's very few magical parents who would ever be willing to do something which would render their own children incapable of using magic."

"Conjoined twins do occur with a bit more frequency in the Wizarding world then they do in the Muggle world," Emma added, "but even then, they're still a relatively rare occurrence. Usually, if they occur at all, it'll happen in families that already had a set of them at some point, or in families were twins in general are common. It's something that seems to run in families, but could pop up in almost any family, especially the pureblooded ones, since as Cedric said, almost all of them are related to each other in some way. It's just a matter of going back far enough to find the connections."

Speaking up from his place in the frame above the fireplace, James said, "There was a set in our family, Harry, as recently as my grandfather."

"Really?" Harry asked, as he turned to look at the landscape that his father was currently occupying.

James nodded and said, "Yes, Harry, my father was Julian Potter, the son of Nathaniel Potter. Now, Nathaniel was Lord Potter before my father was, as he was magically determined to be the first-born, although it was only by a few seconds, since he had a conjoined twin brother named Sebastian Potter. I believe you were in the master's suite at Seacliff, right?" Harry nodded and James continued, "Well, that's why the bed in that room is so huge. Because it had to accommodate Nathaniel and his wife, as well as Sebastian and his harem of lovers, both male and female."

"Harem of lovers?" Harry asked.

James nodded. "Yes, Harry. I never actually met them, as Nathaniel and Sebastian died in 1947 and I wasn't born until 1960, but from what I can gather from the family journals and from what my father told me, Sebastian was the consummate playboy. He never married, but kept a string of lovers on hand to choose from. Usually, he'd only bring one or two of them into the master bedroom at any one time, with the others housed in another wing, but the bed was designed to be big enough that he could have more of them in bed with him if he wanted to. That, of course, did cause tension with Nathaniel and his wife, but being connected their whole lives, Sebastian was essentially Nathaniel's weak spot. Even though he was Lord Potter and could have ordered Sebastian to choose one of his lovers and get the rest out of the house, he didn't. While he didn't necessarily agree with Sebastian's lifestyle, he did want his brother to be happy and, as a side effect, never learned how to say no to him."

"Wow," Harry said, as he took a few moments to digest what his father had just told him. After a moment, he remembered the layout of the bathroom and asked, "Dad, is that why there's four toilets in the master bathroom?"

It was Lily who answered. "Yes, Harry. While Sebastian and Nathaniel were still alive and using that room, the two toilets in the middle of the four did not have a wall between them. In fact, they were actually closer together then they are now, in order to accommodate their special needs. After they died, however, and Julian became Lord Potter, he had the bathroom redesigned, moving the two toilets further apart and enclosing them in separate rooms, like the other two already were."

James nodded and said, "Father told me once that some people asked why he didn't just have two of the toilets removed and a smaller bed put in. His answer was that he loved his father and uncle and refused to make it seem like they didn't exist by completely redecorating their bedroom and removing the features that they'd had put in because of their special circumstances. Plus, he figured there was always a chance that a future Lord Potter might find the features useful, either because they were in the same position as Sebastian and Nathaniel, or because they were like Sebastian in enjoying having more than one lover."

At this point, Asterion pointed to a section on the family tree and said, "Look here, Harry. There's Julian Potter, your father, and you."

Looking where Asterion was pointing, sure enough, there he was: Harrison Potter, born 1980, son of James Potter and Lily Evans, both born 1960. Looking further up, he saw Julian Potter, born 1897, who married Katherine Burke, born 1903. They had both died in 1980. 'Wait, 1897? 1903? And Dad wasn't born until 1960?' Harry thought. 'They were really old when Dad was born.'

Seeing the look on Harry's face, James laughed and said, "Son, I can guess what you're thinking. You're looking at the birth dates and are shocked, aren't you?" Harry nodded. "Yeah, my parents had me very late in life. They both got caught up in their careers and other responsibilities and just forgot all about having children. Besides, as you can see, my father's younger brother Charlus Potter had a son he had named after their father. I never really got along with cousin Nathaniel all that well though. Being born in 1937, he had a much different outlook on life than I did. He was also busy with his job at the Ministry for most of my childhood and then I was off at Hogwarts, so it didn't really leave many opportunities to get to know one another before he was killed in a Death Eater raid in 1976."

"How old were Sebastian and Nathaniel Potter?" Roger asked. "They're not on this family tree and I'm curious how old they were, because there's quite the age difference between Julian and Charlus."

According to the Black family tree, Julian Potter's brother, Charlus Potter, was born in 1917 and was thus twenty years younger than his brother Julian. Roger couldn't imagine having a brother that was old enough to be his father, so, he was very curious about how old their father was when his sons were born.

James nodded. "Yeah, there is. Sebastian and Nathaniel Potter were born in 1881, so, as you can see, Grandfather Nathaniel was still a teenager when my father was born. The way my father told it, Sebastian started quite young. He was apparently 13 when he lost his virginity. Now, obviously grandfather Nathaniel was there during that, since they couldn't get away from each other, but he didn't lose his own virginity until he was 16, when one of the women that Sebastian brought to their bed caught his eye and grandfather convinced his brother to let him have her. Sebastian was thrilled that his brother was finally showing interest in having sex, so, he never did anything with the girl in question, even though he had wanted to. Of course, it probably helped that the girl had a twin brother that Sebastian found equally appealing and managed to distract him while grandfather and the woman who he'd later marry did it and conceived my father."

"You're very relaxed talking about this subject," Terence commented. "I don't know if I could talk about my grandparents having sex without getting sick." Gavin, Oliver, Cedric, and Roger all nodded in agreement with the Slytherin's comment.

James grinned. "Well, I think it helps that I never knew my grandparents. As I said, Sebastian and my grandfather died in 1947, at the age of 66. That's young for a wizard, but from what my father told me, it seems that Sebastian had a massive heart attack while he was having sex with two of his lovers and died. Obviously grandfather was upset, not only because his brother had died, but also because it insured that he'd die as well, because he shared a magical core and a liver with Sebastian. Grandfather Nathaniel died an hour later, with his wife and sons at his side. As for my grandmother, she passed on in 1957, so, she missed my birth by three years."

"So, Lord Nathaniel Potter was 16 when your father was born," Roger said to James, who nodded.

"Yes, Roger," James confirmed. "Grandfather and grandmother had my father when they were both sixteen and married two days before he was born. Then shortly after my father turned sixteen, my grandparents signed the contract for an arranged marriage with the Burke family, promising Julian's hand in marriage to Lord and Lady Burke's daughter, Katherine, who was only ten at the time. That event drove home the point that her little boy was almost a man for Grandmother, and in turn she convinced Grandfather that they needed to start trying for another child. Uncle Charlus was then born a few years later in 1917, two minutes before midnight on January 25th. Grandfather was born on January 26th, so, if Charlus had been born just a couple of minutes later, he would have had the same birthday as his elder brother."

'Burke? Am I related to Dominick?' Harry thought, as he scanned the names on the family tree. After a moment, he found him: Dominick Linnaeus Burke, born 1969, son of Linnaeus Burke and Hortencia Carrow, both deceased. Looking up, Harry soon saw that Linnaeus Burke's father, Lord Caractacus Burke, was the son of his grandmother Katherine Burke's younger brother, Caractacus. "So, I'm related to Dominick Burke?"

Regulus nodded. "Yes, Harry, you are. I said you'd recognize some of the names on this family tree. Dominick is your 2nd and 8th cousin, once removed."

"How is he Harry's 2nd and 8th cousin, once removed?" Gavin asked, obviously confused.

"It's at least partially due to inbreeding," Asterion answered. "If you look over to where I am on the family tree and look up at my father's parents, Orion and Walburga Black, you'll see that they were second cousins and thus both Blacks before their marriage. Now, they wouldn't affect Harry's relationship with Dominick because they're not descended from them, but if you look much further up you'll find Elladora Black, born 1779, and Walkin Black, born 1777. They married each other despite the fact that they were first cousins. Thus practically everyone in the following generations has multiple relationships with everyone else. For example, my father is also my 3rd and 8th cousin, once removed."

"That's crazy," Oliver commented.

Asterion laughed. "That's nothing, Oliver. If you really want crazy, you need to take into consideration the fact that, technically speaking, I'm 4th and 9th cousins with myself, all because of my ancestors' penchant for marrying within the family."

Noticing the looks on everyone else's faces, Regulus laughed and said, "Yeah, I know it's crazy, isn't it? Harry, back in the Wizengamot Chambers, I said that you were third cousins with Sirius and me. Truth is, you're also our eighth cousin. I didn't say anything about that earlier because I didn't want to confuse you and I figured it would be easier to explain with the family tree in front of you."

Harry nodded. "So, since we're all on here, does this mean that I'm also related to the Weasleys?"

"Yes, you are," Athena said, as she scanned the names and figured out the relationships in her head. "Harry, you're Arthur Weasley's 2nd and 7th cousin, once removed, which makes you the 3rd and 8th cousin of all seven of his children."

Pointing at another section of the family tree, Emma said, "You're also the 3rd and 8th cousin of Nick Ollivander's late father, Garrison Ollivander, so that makes you and Nick 3rd and 8th cousins, once removed."

"Wow," Harry said, clearly shocked. He'd grown up thinking he was an orphan with no family. True, he had the Dursleys, but he didn't really count them because they never treated him like family. Now, in looking at the Black family tree, Harry was learning that he did have family, certainly more than he'd ever thought. True, they were distant cousins, but they were still family. Looking over the tree again, Harry spotted another familiar name and asked, "I'm related to Neville?"

Shaking his head, Regulus said, "No, Harry, you're not. Neville is the 2nd cousin of Nick Ollivander, since Neville's grandmother Augusta is Lord Garrick Ollivander's sister, but you're not directly related to Neville. You are related to Neville's grandfather's brother, Harfang Longbottom, by virtue of his marriage to Callidora Black, but there's no direct connection between you and Neville because Augusta's late husband, Hadrian Longbottom, had no previous connections with the Black family."

"You on the other hand, Harry," Asterion said, "are related to the Blacks on two different fronts. Your grandfather Julian married Katherine Burke, daughter of Herbert Burke and Belvina Black, and Julian's brother Charlus, married Dorea Black. Dorea Black is hence your grandaunt by marriage, in addition to being your 1st and 6th cousin, twice removed. Belvina Black, on the other hand, is your great-grandmother, but she's also your 5th cousin, three times removed."

"Oh Merlin, this is enough to give a person a headache," Harry moaned, as several of the others laughed and nodded in agreement.

-o-0-o-

Halfway through breakfast the next morning, the front door of the cottage opened as Remus entered the house. Harry was on his feet almost instantly, as he asked, "Remus, did you find him?"

Remus grinned. "If you want to track someone down, there's no better person to ask than a werewolf, Harry. Especially if you're asking them to track one of their pack members. Of course I found him."

At this, Remus stepped aside and Sirius Black entered the cottage. Athena had given Remus an enchanted stone before he left which would key Sirius into the wards if he slit his thumb and dropped a bit of his blood on it. It was a powerful blood magic enchantment, courtesy of Emma and Regulus. Emma cast the actual spell, while Regulus provided a drop of his own blood, which as Sirius' brother, allowed the enchantment to compare the blood and verify that it was indeed Sirius and thus key him into the wards. If anyone other than Sirius had put a drop of their blood on the stone, it wouldn't have worked.

"Sirius!" Harry exclaimed, as he practically flew around the table and flung himself into his godfather's arms. The older man moved back slightly and said, "Oof," as his godson made contact, as he hadn't been totally prepared for such a greeting.

The hug lasted for about three minutes, before Sirius pulled back and said, "It's very good to see you, Harry. I can't even begin to find the words to thank you for what you've done."

"You don't need to thank me," Harry said, as he shook his head earnestly. "You're innocent. You never should have been sent to prison in the first place."

Remus grinned and said, "Harry, Sirius might be many things, but innocent isn't one of them."

"I'd have to agree," James said from the painting above the kitchen mantle, as Lily nodded and said, "Yes, Harry, Sirius is about the furthest thing from innocent as it's possible to get."

There were several confused looks around the room at these declarations. Was Sirius Black truly innocent? If he was, then why were three of his oldest friends saying that he wasn't? And if that was the case, how did Harry manage to get the King to pardon him? Noticing the looks on everyone else's faces, Harry laughed and said, "Okay, correction, he's innocent in terms of killing Peter and those Muggles, not necessarily of anything else. He was a Marauder, after all - it would be impossible for a member of the greatest group of pranksters Hogwarts has ever seen to be completely innocent."

Realizing what Lily, James, and Remus were talking about, the others all laughed. Anyone who'd attended Hogwarts within the last twenty or so years had heard of the Marauders, at least in passing. Gavin Wood had never attended Hogwarts, but his three older brothers had all heard stories about the infamous pranksters, which they'd shared with him. And then, of course, there were the trainers, all of whom were on the teaching staff while the Marauders were students. So, obviously they'd heard of them as well, although they never managed to connect actual students with the group, since they all used those codenames.

"So you were a Marauder, Sirius?" Athena asked. "Why am I not surprised? I assume then that Remus, James, and Peter were the other ones?"

"That's Lord Black or Your Excellence, if you don't mind," Sirius said with a grin. He actually hadn't known until Remus told him that the late Lord Arcturus Black had reinstated him into the family before he died, so he'd had no idea he was Lord Black. The Dementors couldn't talk, after all, and even if they could, they wouldn't be likely to pass messages to the prisoners. Well, that wasn't entirely true. If they could speak and were reasonably sure that the message they were passing on would make the prisoner happy, they might do it. They did feed off of happy memories, after all.

Regulus shook his head. "You look terrible, but I see you haven't changed much, brother."

Sirius looked at Regulus for a moment, before he said, "You know, it's a good thing that Remus warned me you were alive or else I think I would have had a heart attack right about now."

Looking at Remus, Regulus shook his head and said, "Now why'd you have to go and warn him, Lupin? I could have moved up and been Marquis instead of only an Earl."

Asterion laughed. "Oh come on, Dad, you know you don't want the Marquisate. You've told me a million times now that you don't want the responsibility."

"Hush you," Regulus said with a grin to his son, as he lightly punched him in the shoulder.

Looking at the teenager, Sirius smiled. "So, this is Asterion then? I see he took after his mother in the looks department, thank Merlin."

"You're not funny, Sirius," Regulus said as he stood and held out his hand. "But I'm glad to see you. I'd give you a hug, but you look and smell like you haven't bathed in over a month, so a handshake will have to do." After a moment of silence, he added, "And don't get any ideas, Sirius, about taking my hand and pulling me into a hug now that I've said that, because I guarantee you'll regret it."

"Is that so?" Sirius asked. "And what are you going to do, little brother?"

"Hex you nine ways to Sunday," Regulus answered. "You wouldn't know this, but I was in the middle of training as a mage when I allegedly died. Ever been hexed by a Magister? I guarantee you wouldn't enjoy it." Regulus looked thoughtful for a moment, before he said, "Then again, hexing you might be fun. Just for old times' sake, you understand."

"Old times' sake?" Harry asked, as he raised an eyebrow.

"From what Dad has told me," Asterion said, "he and Uncle Sirius routinely hexed each other as children. Even before going off to Hogwarts. It was something of a game for them, to see which one of them could hex the other better."

"I always won, of course," Sirius said, in a somewhat haughty tone, before he started laughing as memories of some of the best hexes and pranks he'd pulled off against his brother ran through his mind.

"Oh did you, now?" Regulus asked, as he mumbled something under his breath and summoned his staff to his hand. The appearance of which made Sirius stop laughing rather quickly. He was sure that Regulus was having him on about being a Magister, but if he had a mage's staff... Sirius gulped. "We'll just have to see about that," as he raised his staff, the gem at the top of which glowed brightly for a second before subsiding. Regulus had obviously cast a spell, but he'd done so silently.

For a moment, nothing appeared to happen, but then everyone in the room, including James and Lily, began laughing their heads off, while Sirius looked around confused. He couldn't understand why anyone was laughing until suddenly a thought occurred to him. "Regulus, what did you do to me?"

"Oh nothing much, brother," Regulus said with a grin as he conjured a mirror and handed it face down to the older man. "Just a few minor improvements."

Sirius was almost afraid to turn over the mirror and see exactly what Regulus called improvements, but after taking a deep breath, he did and was almost immediately yelling, "REGULUS ARCTURUS BLACK!! YOU PUT ME BACK THE WAY I WAS THIS INSTANT!!"

Ignoring Sirius, Regulus raised his free hand and stroked his chin, as he said, "Hmm, something is missing... ah, yes, of course." Then with a truly wicked grin, Regulus called out, "Kreacher!"

"REGULUS, I'M WARNING YOU!!" Sirius screamed, while several others, namely Remus, Asterion, and the trainers, doubled over in laughter. From their place over the fireplace, James and Lily were also laughing like crazy, holding on to each other as they convulsed with laughter. They all knew just who it was that Regulus had called for after all. The younger people in the room, Harry, Cedric, Roger, and the others didn't know, although Terence had an idea that it was probably a house-elf. And he was right, for seconds after that thought crossed his mind, a wizened and truly ancient looking house-elf with a bulbous, snout-like nose, bloodshot eyes, many folds of skin, and white hair growing out of his bat-like ears appeared in the kitchen. He was wearing a particularly filthy looking tea cozy that made the ragged clothes that Sirius was wearing before Regulus' improvements look good.

Looking around the room, Kreacher didn't notice Regulus, as he instantly spotted Sirius and shrieked, "Mistress! Oh Kreacher has missed Mistress so much." As he said this, Kreacher threw his arms around Sirius' legs, which were currently covered by a black dress, and began hugging them for a second, before kneeling on the ground and beginning to kiss Sirius' feet.

Sirius groaned and said, "Get up, Kreacher, I'm not your Mistress. She's dead."

Kreacher wanted to continue kissing his Mistress' feet, but he couldn't, as he found himself unable to not do as he was told. Mistress, or the person he thought was his Mistress, said she wasn't Mistress, but even if that was true, the person was still a Black, as he felt compelled to obey. Stuttering, Kreacher said, "Y.. yes, Mistress."

"I'm not your Mistress, Kreacher, do I sound like a woman to you?" Sirius shrieked.

"Well, actually, Uncle..." Asterion began, before Sirius cast a warning glance at him and said, "Don't you dare finish that sentence, young man." Sirius glared at his nephew for a few moments, before turning back to Regulus and saying, "Okay, okay, you've had your fun. Now turn me back, Regulus!"

Kreacher's ears perked up at this and he turned, finally seeing Regulus standing there. He was older then the last time he'd seen him, of course, but Kreacher could tell who it was immediately. "Master Regulus?"

"Yes, Kreacher, it's me," Regulus said, before he raised his staff and mumbled something under his breath, causing the gem to glow again.

Feeling the magic wash over him, Sirius looked in the mirror again and sighed in relief, as he said, "Thank Merlin, Hecate, Circe, and Morgana!"

Remus laughed and said, "Oh what's wrong, Padfoot? Didn't like looking like your dear old Mum?"

Turning to Remus, Sirius growled out, "Mr. Padfoot thinks that Mr. Moony should shut up, lest he wake up to an unpleasant gift in his bed."

Before anyone else could say anything, a whimper from the direction of the floor could be heard. Looking down, everyone saw Kreacher roughly pulling on his ears. Kneeling in front of the ancient elf, his staff still in his hand, Regulus asked, "Kreacher, what are you doing?"

"Kreacher has failed Master," Kreacher moaned. "Deserves to be punished, Kreacher does."

"What are you talking about you pathetic little toe rag?" Sirius asked. "You didn't fail me. I haven't told you to do anything yet."

Kreacher shook his head. "Not Master Sirius. Kreacher failed Master Regulus."

Looking confused, Regulus asked, "You failed me?" Regulus asked, as he searched his memory for anything that he might have told the house-elf to do. It wasn't easy though, since he'd allowed everyone to think he was dead for over a decade now, so, he hadn't even seen the family elf in that time. "How, Kreacher, I don't understand."

"The locket, Master," Kreacher said. "Master gave locket to Kreacher. Told Kreacher to destroy it, but Kreacher couldn't do it. Kreacher failed Master!"

"The locket?" Regulus asked and then he remembered. Kreacher must mean the locket that belonged to Salazar Slytherin. The priceless heirloom that Voldemort had defiled by turning it into a Horcrux. He remembered now. "Kreacher, stop it. It's okay. I've been studying everything I could find about that infernal thing since I disappeared. You wouldn't be able to destroy it. Very few things can. Besides it wasn't really me who gave you that order."

"Not Master Regulus?" Kreacher asked, obviously confused.

Regulus shook his head. "No, Kreacher. I'm sure you know what this staff is right?" Kreacher nodded. "I was undergoing mage training back then. When witches and wizards are being trained as mages, there's a double created of them. A doppelganger with all of their memories and abilities up to the point of creation. They go on living a normal life for the person in training so that nobody ever knows they're gone. That's how I'm still alive, Kreacher. It was my double who died in that cave all those years ago, not me."

"Cave? What cave?" Sirius asked. "I thought you died trying to leave You-Know-Who's service. I didn't know anything about a cave."

"Kreacher was ordered not to talk about it," Regulus said. "As you know, I joined the Death Eaters as soon as I turned seventeen in 1978. Of course, it wasn't really me who joined them, it was my double. They generally won't do anything that the person wouldn't be likely to do, so, I'll admit it's likely that if I hadn't entered mage training about six months earlier, it's probably a decision I would have made. You know what it was like growing up in that house, Sirius. Mum and Dad and their blood purity spiel."

Sirius nodded. "I know, Regulus. However, I would point out that I never joined the Death Eaters because of all of that. I would never have even considered doing that."

"I know you wouldn't have," Regulus said. "Of the two of us, you were always the brave one. Brave enough to turn your backs on our parents, brave enough to run away from home... it's really no wonder you were put into Gryffindor. It was different for me though. Back then, I craved power. I was too ambitious for my own good and I figured that having the Black name and money behind me would help me achieve my goals. I began to realize the error of my ways once I began my training here with Athena, but my double was at home with our parents and in turn made the same decisions I would have made had I stayed there. I saw it as a way of making Mum and Dad proud of me, because while they never joined the Death Eaters, they did think the Dark Lord had the right of it in terms of blood purity."

Sirius scoffed. "They always were insane." After a moment he sighed and added, "Mum more so than Dad. He did have his moments of insanity, but Mum was much worse."

"True," Regulus agreed. "Anyway, by 1979, my double had begun to question the decision to join the Death Eaters. He'd seen the inside of the organization first hand and seen just how evil and totally depraved the Dark Lord really was. He remained, however, until finally one day, the Dark Lord asked me for my help. Well, not my help, specifically. He wanted Kreacher's help and wanted me to lend him to him. I wasn't fool enough to say no to a direct request from the Dark Lord, not when he was standing right in front of me, so I agreed. Turns out he wanted Kreacher to help him test the magical defenses he'd put in place to protect something he valued a great deal."

"What was this item he wanted to protect?" Harry asked. He had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that he already knew, from what Lily had told them a few days ago, but he resolved not to say anything about it unless Regulus confirmed his suspicions. And honestly he really hoped he wouldn't. He was soon let down though.

"A Horcrux," Regulus answered.

"What the bleeding hell is a Horcrux?" Sirius asked.

Lily explained what it was to Sirius, before Regulus continued. "He hid it in a secluded cave, which by itself is very hard to find if you don't know where to look for it. Once you're inside the cave, there's a door that requires a blood sacrifice to open, mainly because I can tell you from experience that the Dark Lord believes in the common misconception that physical pain will make a person weaker. Once you get passed the door, you'll be faced with a lake. The Horcrux is in a basin on an island in the center of the lake, but you can't Apparate there, because of the Anti-Apparition wards."

"Well, about using a Summoning Charm to get the Horcrux?" Harry asked.

"A good idea, but it won't work," Regulus answered. "The lake is filled with hundreds of Inferi, which will leap out of the water and block any attempt to summon the Horcrux. No, the only way to get to it, is to find an invisible boat that's anchored to the cavern wall. A further protection is that the boat is charmed so that no more than one fully-grown adult wizard can ride in the boat at the same time. Of course, the Dark Lord didn't take into consideration the fact that the charm won't prevent a number of underage witches and wizards, as many as the boat will hold, from using it to cross the lake. It also won't prevent magical creatures, such as house-elves, from getting into the boat and crossing the lake."

While he couldn't imagine really young kids facing such dangers, Roger quickly realized the problem with the Voldemort's protection. "So, the spell on the boat wouldn't prevent a fully-grown adult wizard from crossing the lake with a not-quite-fully-grown nearly adult wizard or a house-elf?"

"Precisely, Roger," Regulus answered. "Only one adult wizard or witch over the age of seventeen can ride across the lake in the boat, but the spell will not prevent the transportation of other witches and wizards under the age of seventeen. Even if they're sixteen years and eleven months old, the spell will not see them as adults, because they're not seventeen yet. The Dark Lord also didn't take things like the Last of the Line clause into effect. Even though he is legally an adult now, Harry would still be seen as an underage child by the spell, because at fourteen he is not physically an adult. Now, once you actually get to the island the Horcrux is on, there's another protection."

"What?" Terence asked. He was almost afraid to know.

"As I mentioned, the Horcrux is in a basin," Regulus replied. "However, this basin is filled with a potion that the Dark Lord himself invented, called the Drink of Despair. This potion is resistant to magic, so it can't be vanished, charmed, or transfigured. Runes carved around the edges of the basin also prevent you from being able to take the Horcrux by simply reaching through it with your hand. You also cannot drain it, siphon it, or part it in any way. The only way to get rid of it is to drink it, which will cause you to suffer from delirium, fear, intense stomach pains, and severe thirst."

"Well, the delirium, fear, and stomach pains are bad," Terence said, "but at least the thirst is easily dealt with what with the lake right there. It is fresh water, right?"

Regulus nodded gravely. "Yes, Terence, it is fresh water. However, if you remember, I said that the lake is filled with Inferi. If you disturb the water in any way, such as to try and drink it, an army of the creatures will rise up and try to pull you down into the water and drown you. The Dark Lord didn't expect that anyone would get that far, however, as he figured only one person would ever be able to get across the lake and they'd stop drinking the potion long before the basin was empty enough to take the locket. You literally need another person or creature there with you to force-feed the potion to you. The more you drink, the worse your stomach pains will get and the thirstier you'll get."

Roger shuddered, but asked, "What about conjured water?"

Shaking his head, Regulus said, "That won't work either. The potion nullifies the quenching ability of any drink conjured with magic. You could conjure and drink ten gallons of water and still be thirsty. Also, just as the Inferi would prevent you from Summoning the Horcrux, they will also prevent you from trying to summon water. Anyway, the Dark Lord had Kreacher drink the potion to test its effects. Kreacher told me he'd seen truly terrible things, as the delirium and fear it causes manifests in forcing the drinker to relive their worst memories, nightmares and fears. It allows you to stay lucid enough to know that it's the potion causing it and if there's someone there with the drinker, they'll be begging that person to let them stop drinking, but every last drop must be drunk in order to get to the locket. Once the Dark Lord was confident in his magical defenses, he refilled the basin and left Kreacher there alone to die of thirst."

"That's horrible," Cedric said. After a moment, though, he shook his head and said, "Of course this is You-Know-Who we're talking about, so I really shouldn't be surprised."

"Yes, it is quite horrible," Regulus agreed. "However, there's another thing that the Dark Lord didn't take into consideration or he simply forgot about it. Anyone who attended Hogwarts or grew up in a magical household with house-elves would know this, so he had to have known, one way or the other."

"Known what?" Gavin asked.

"That Anti-Apparition wards will not block house-elves from Apparating," Emma answered. "Kreacher Disapparated from the cave and told Regulus' double what had happened. His double then went to the cave, got past the various protections with Kreacher's help and then drank the potion. Now, his doing that set off the monitoring wards that we place on the doubles to alert us if they're in mortal danger and where exactly they are. Now, any one of us could have easily stripped Voldemort's protections, but we didn't because we didn't know if he'd set any kind of monitoring charm to alert him if the protections failed or were dispelled."

"Kreacher was already gone by the time we arrived," Athena continued. "Regulus' double had ordered him to take the locket and destroy it, leaving him there to die from thirst. Unfortunately, the protections slowed us down enough that we got there too late and the double had already died. If this happens, we can still transfer the memories that it acquired into the real person, but the body of the double itself cannot be remerged into the person because both the real person and the double have to be alive for the spell to work. Taking the dead double back to the cottage and filling Regulus in on what happened, we worked out the idea to fake Regulus' death, using the double to make everyone think he was dead when he really wasn't."

"By that time I had no desire to go back home," Regulus explained. "I was out from under my parents' thumbs and I was loving it. I'd already planned by then on never setting foot in my parents' home ever again, but when the opportunity came up to fake my death, I did it."

"What about your son?" Cedric asked.

"My Mum hadn't died yet," Asterion answered. "She was killed with the rest of the McKinnon family that lived here in Britain in 1980. Before he faked his death, my Dad did visit me two or three times a week, even though I was too young to remember it at the time. I also know now that it was his double doing that before it died. After that, however, he began coming in person to visit me, in secret of course since everyone thought he was dead. He'd learned enough advanced magic by then that he could easily hide his presence from the rest of the people in the house. It was during one of these visits that the Death Eaters attacked and killed my Mum and her family. So that they wouldn't kill me too, Dad took me and I've been with him ever since."

"Just where have you been exactly?" Oliver asked. "It seems extraordinary that you've been alive all this time and nobody ever found you. Are there really mage-level spells that are that powerful?"

"There are some very powerful mage-level Anti-Detection Charms, yes," Athena said. "If a mage of sufficient power wishes to remain hidden, they can very easily do so. They could even remain in plain sight and still not be visible to anyone that they don't want to know their whereabouts."

"And I used a large number of Anti-Detection Charms," Regulus revealed. "However, to add an extra layer of security for my son and I, we've been living on an uncharted island in the Northern Atlantic, about sixty miles northwest of the island that's home to Azkaban. Among other protections, I've made the entire island Unplottable and its existence is protected by the Fidelius. I don't mind sharing that secret with all of you, as we may have reason to go there eventually. In the years I've supposedly been dead, I've been doing lots of research, primarily on ways to destroy the Dark Lord's Horcruxes, as I'm positive he made more than one, but also on a number of other topics that may prove useful at some point."

Looking over at Asterion, Gavin said, "So, Asterion, you grew up on an uncharted island with just your father for companionship? Forgive me, but that seems rather lonely."

"First off, call my Rion," Asterion said. "I meant to say something before now, but I forgot. Dad always calls me Asterion, but I prefer Rion. That's R-I-O-N, not R-Y-A-N. Pronounced the same, just spelled differently, to match the last four letters of my first and middle names: Asterion Orion. Anyway, yes, I did grow up on an uncharted island with my father, Gavin, but that doesn't mean that we never left. We went on several, I'll call them working vacations, over the years. Dad always made sure that we were both having fun wherever we were, but we were also working."

"Working on what?" Terence asked.

"Filling up our library back home," Regulus answered. "We've come across many very interesting tomes and scrolls in the course of our travels. We have writings from Ancient China, Greece, Rome, and Egypt, as well as many other parts of the world. I guess you could say that I've become something of a historian since I faked my death. I've studied the history of magic here in Albion extensively, but also the history of magic in several other countries all across the globe. There are some very interesting forms of magic that are practiced in other areas of the world that aren't practiced here and I've made it by business to understand as much as I could about the history and uses for each of them."

"Sounds more like a Ravenclaw trait to me," Sirius commented.

"Perhaps," Regulus said. "Of course, I doubt I ever told you this, Sirius, but the Sorting Hat wasn't exactly sure where to put me. It thought that both Ravenclaw and Slytherin would suit me well, but, I remembered how upset our parents were when you were sorted into Gryffindor, breaking the centuries old tradition of Blacks being placed in Slytherin. So, I told it I'd prefer Slytherin and after it gave it some thought, the hat agreed that my ambition and cunning outweighed my intelligence, if only by a moderate degree. As for my studying since I faked my death, I think I could make a case for that fitting with a Slytherin." Grinning, he said, "I simply made my life's ambition to know as much as I could about the topics I was researching, so, I think that means it fits."

Asterion grinned and said, "He also had to exercise his cunning to get some of the more obscure materials in our library, because some of it is most definitely not the kind of material you can go to Flourish and Blotts or any other bookstore and buy. No bookstore would carry them because the books would be so expensive that they wouldn't be able to afford to buy the book to sell, let alone find someone who could actually afford to buy it from them."

"Just what kind of books are we talking about?" Roger asked, clearly interested.

"Scrolls salvaged from the Great Library of Alexandria," Regulus replied. "Not to mention writings from some of the greatest and most powerful spellcasters of all time, including all four of the Hogwarts founders, Morgana, and even Merlin. Truth is, I have four books that were written by Merlin himself in my collection. I'm sure I shouldn't have to tell you that a book written in Merlin's own handwriting would be worth a fortune. Way more than even some of the world's richest witches and wizards could afford."

Before anyone could say anything, Asterion grinned and said, "Actually, Dad, there's five books by Merlin in our collection. Remember, we have that one that he co-wrote with King Arthur shortly after King Uther's death." Looking at the others, he added, "It's a very rare tome. As near as we could tell, other than the original, which I'm sure is in either the Pendragon or the Emrys vault at Gringotts, there was only two copies of the book made. One was destroyed in a fire in 1115 that ravaged the library in Greece that housed it. The other copy is the one we have, which we found down in Port Louis in the Falkland Islands, of all places. There isn't a very large magical community there, in fact it's probably one of the smallest in the world, so it was amazing to find a book written by Merlin and King Arthur down there."

"Are you sure it's authentic?" Harry asked.

Regulus nodded. "Yes, Harry, it's definitely authentic. Not only does the handwriting of both Merlin and King Arthur perfectly match other examples we have of their handwriting, there's also a spell imbedded in the books' pages that can be used to authenticate it. Of course, the spell used to check for authenticity is mage-level, so that limits the number of people who could successfully cast the spell and truly authenticate the book, but, as a Magister, I'm one of those people who can."

Harry nodded his head and remained silent for a moment, before he asked, "Regulus, I don't suppose you'd be interested in becoming a professor would you?"

"A professor?" Regulus asked as he arched an eyebrow.

"Yeah," Harry said. "I don't know if you saw it in the Prophet or not, but I'm looking to replace Professor Binns as Hogwarts' History of Magic professor. His lectures put the majority of his students to sleep and he's so focused on the goblin wars that he doesn't even teach half of what's covered in the OWL and NEWT exams. I've had Robert making inquiries, but so far nobody has come forward expressing interest in the position and the governor's meeting is this weekend. I really need a candidate to put forth for a vote or else I'm afraid Binns will be teaching for at least another year."

Regulus remained silent for a few minutes, before he said, "I'll have to think about it, Harry. I've never given any thought to the idea of teaching. I did score Outstanding on my History OWL and NEWT and it is one of the subjects that I have a Mastery in, so, I am qualified, but I don't know. I'll think about it and give you my answer before the meeting."

"Thanks Regulus," Harry said, before he had a thought and turning to Asterion, he asked, "Rion, what do you think? Would your father make a good professor?"

Asterion smiled and said, "Of course he would, Harry. He taught me everything I know and I can tell you this, I never fell asleep in his class. He had a way of always presenting the material in a way that I'd find fun and engaging, no matter how old I was." Grinning at his father, he said, "Personally, I think you should take the job, Dad, but it's really up to you. I'll still love you no matter what you decide."

"Thanks squirt," Regulus said with a chuckle as he reached out and tried to mess up Asterion's hair. He didn't manage to do it, however, as Asterion quickly ducked away from his father's hand and exclaimed, "Don't touch the hair!" This prompted everyone else in the room to laugh, at which point Asterion said, "What? I like my hair to look just so and trust me, that wasn't easy. Dad was a very hands on parent and I do mean hands on, mostly on my head trying to mess up my hair about fifty to a hundred times a day."

"Well, I think it's high time you went and got cleaned up, Your Excellence," Emma said to Sirius. "Regulus, your old room is vacant, so if you could show Sirius to the connecting bath, we'll see about finding him something suitable to wear for a shopping trip."

"Sure, Emma," Regulus said, as he motioned towards his brother and said, "Follow me."

The two of them headed up the stairs alone and just as they arrived in the common room, Sirius said, "I still can't believe that Asterion is an adult already. Reg, you're not that much younger than me. Are we really that old that you can have an adult son already?"

Regulus shook his head, "Trust me, Sirius, I've had the same thought. Sometimes I can't believe it either. I don't feel old enough to have a seventeen-year-old son, but then again, he was born when I was only a year younger than he is now."

"True, you did start rather young," Sirius said. "Of course, Grandfather Pollux still has you beat, considering that he was only thirteen when Mum was born."

"Yeah and fifteen and seventeen, respectively, when Uncles Alphard and Cygnus were born," Regulus said, with a shake of his head. "I can't believe anyone thought it was actually a good idea for Pollux and Irma to get married when they were only twelve. Contracts for arranged marriages are sometimes finalized that young, but usually the marriage won't happen until they're older."

"I hope you plan on making sure Asterion doesn't get married anytime soon," Sirius said. "I know Harry is legally an adult now that he's claimed his birthright, but if I have anything to say about it, he won't be getting married for another twenty years at least. And as for him having kids, well, thirty or forty more years before he even considers it sounds good to me."

Regulus laughed. "I feel the same way. I am so not ready for grandchildren. My son might be an adult, but that doesn't mean I want grandchildren. I'm only thirty-three for Merlin's sake, so I'm way too young to become a grandfather. Maybe someday, but definitely not now or anytime in the foreseeable future."

Sirius nodded his head in agreement, before he got a wicked grin on his face. "So, Asterion is particular about his hair."

"I know that look, brother," Regulus said. "You're planning something."

"Who me?" Sirius asked, trying to look as innocent as possible.

"Yes you," Regulus said. "And yes, Asterion is very particular about his hair. Honestly, he uses more hair potions then I ever knew existed." After a moment, he grinned and said, "And if you want to pull some kind of prank on him, count me in. I still haven't gotten him back for the prank he pulled on me for my birthday last month, so he's got it coming to him."

"What did he do to you?" Sirius asked. It was obvious that he was interested. Pranks would always be something that Sirius found interesting and he wanted to know if his nephew was any good at playing pranks or not.

Arriving in the extra dormitory in the barn, Regulus led Sirius into the room that he'd used during his training and pointed to the bathroom door. "You can wash up in there. Make sure to lock both doors if you don't want anyone coming in on you. As for the prank, I'll tell you later," Regulus said and Sirius grinned when he looked at this brother, because he was sure Regulus was blushing. Just what could Asterion have done to his father that would make him blush?

'This should be good,' Sirius thought, but let the matter drop for now because he really did want to get cleaned up. Being a wanted fugitive on the run didn't afford one many opportunities to buy new clothes or bathe, so he'd been wearing the same clothes for over a year now and it had been just over three months since he'd last taken the time out to bathe. When he'd first escaped he'd tried to do it a bit more often, but after a few too many close calls with Dementors and Aurors searching for him, he'd stopped.

-o-0-o-

While Sirius was upstairs getting cleaned up, Harry looked at Athena and said, "Athena, I think it's time I have a little chat with Barnabas Cuffe. Would it be possible for me to go and do that?"

Remaining silent for a moment, Athena finally nodded her head and said, "I suppose I can allow it. Barin!"

"Mistress calls Barin?" the house-elf asked a moment later after it popped into the room.

"Go over to Kinloch Hold," Athena said. "See if Lord McLaggen or his wife has time today to meet with Harry and accompany him to Diagon Alley to meet with Barnabas Cuffe. If they're not available, try Lady Longbottom over at Lakeview Hall, but I really would prefer Lord or Lady McLaggen."

"Yes, Mistress," Barin said, before he popped out of the room.

Turning to Harry, Athena said, "Obviously your trainers and I cannot accompany you to Diagon Alley, Harry. There are some people who would recognize us, even with the glamours, so it wouldn't be good for you to be seen out in public with us. That's not a problem at the Cairo Bazaar because it's sufficiently far away enough from Albion that it's rare to see anyone from here over there. It helps that many of the old, traditional Wizarding families like to think that foreign goods are inferior to what's made here in Albion. Thus, even with its' reputation as being one of the premier shopping centers in the Wizarding world, a lot of them simply do not shop there. Not when they can shop in Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, Highever, Gwaren, or any of the other domestic Wizarding population centers."

"Why is that I've never heard of these other cities and towns?" Harry asked. "At Hogwarts I was always led to believe that Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade were the only magical shopping areas in the country."

"It's because of the influx of muggleborns to Hogwarts, Harry," Remus answered. "Some two-hundred-and-ninety-three years ago, the Board of Governors at the time voted to make it appear that Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley were the only places in the country that wizards and witches could shop. Mainly because many of the old pureblood families wanted to keep the other villages and cities strictly for themselves and not have them sullied by what some of them would call mudblood filth. I don't agree with that stance, but there's nothing that I can do about it, since I'm not on the Board."

"At the same time that resolution was passed," Rose added, "it became an offense punishable with detention and the taking of house points for anyone to talk about the other shopping centers in the country, so that they'd remain a secret from the muggleborns and muggle-raised. Any books which mentioned the other cities and towns were removed from the Hogwarts library, and the bookstores in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, thus the vast majority of muggleborns and muggle-raised never learn about or visit the other magical cities in the country."

"That's stupid," Harry said. "Looks like I have something else to bring up with the governors now."

"You may have an uphill battle there, Harry," Cedric cautioned. "While the changes you're proposing at Hogwarts in terms of the Potions and History of Magic classes might be accepted, you'll have a harder time with getting them to reverse a decision made by one of the previous Boards. As a general rule, any decision the Board makes that isn't reversed before the passing of a hundred years is then considered tradition. And getting enough votes to overturn a nearly three-hundred-year-old tradition will not be easy."

Roger nodded. While he'd been helping Cedric brush Harry up on the laws for the Wizengamot meeting, they'd also covered the Board procedures in order to prepare the brunet for that meeting, as well. "Yeah, Harry, remember, unlike the Wizengamot where you have four votes, you only have one on the Hogwarts Board, which consists only of the Lords of the Thirteen Houses. So for anything you put to a vote, you'll need at least six of the other lords to agree with you for it to pass."

As it would turn out the Hogwarts Board of Governors was as old as the school itself. It wasn't always called the Board of Governors, the name having changed a few times over the years, but it's purpose was the same. While Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, and Salazar Slytherin are credited as being the Founders of Hogwarts, they're not the ones who provided the funding to start the school. While the Founders were each considered to be the most powerful and learned spellcasters of the age, they were not rich. They each had enough money to live comfortably, but nowhere near enough to pay for the undertaking of realizing their dream of building what they hoped would become the premier school of magic the world over, servicing all of the young witches and wizards of Britain and Ireland in a single facility, and perhaps if any were interested, even accepting students from abroad.

That, of course, is where the Board of Governors came in. Consisting of the Lords of the Thirteen Houses, each of them provided a portion of the funding necessary to open the school. This wasn't without strings, of course, as the lords expected to have control over such things as the school's curriculum, rules, and staff. The Founders understood that without the family heads, their dreams would never be realized, so they accepted the terms. Now, for the most part, while the Founders were still alive, the Governors stepped back and allowed them to run the school as they saw fit, trusting in their ability and knowledge to run it well.

After the last of the Founders had died, however, the Board began taking a more hands on approach and ultimately replaced the Founders as the school's supreme authority. Out of respect to the people whose idea the school had been in the first place, however, the Founders were continued to be celebrated as the true heads of the school, even if the Board did reverse some of the decisions they'd made while they were alive, in addition to making policies they weren't likely to have agreed with. Of course, even if they had been alive to see it, they wouldn't have been able to do anything about it. Powerful and learned spellcasters though they were, they were still commoners who had entered into a legally and magically binding agreement with the Lords of the Thirteen Houses, that was reviewed and signed off on by the crown.

"I think I can safely guarantee," Cedric said, "that you will never get Lords Malfoy, Flint or Burke to agree with you on that issue. And Arcturus Lestrange would likely be another no vote on that issue. It's possible that you might be able to convince Lords Ollivander, Bones, and McKinnon. And as your ally, my uncle would probably give you his support as well, although it's important to understand that the alliance does not require him to agree with you on everything. So it is possible for him to vote against you on an issue if it's something that doesn't put you or your family in mortal danger."

"Lady Longbottom is very old-fashioned and traditional," Athena said. "So, chances are she wouldn't vote in favor of it either, unless you could convince her that it's a good idea. The problem she faces, however, is that she has to be very careful, because she is not truly the family head. Her son is and if he were to ever wake up and didn't agree with a decision she had used his power and authority to make, things could get ugly for her, especially since she's not a Longbottom by blood. I doubt Frank would ever do something like disowning his own mother, but then again, if he were to ever wake up, it's entirely possible that his personality might not be the same as it was years ago."

Rose nodded her head in agreement and said, "After almost thirteen years in a nearly comatose state brought on by severe mental and physical torture, even the best Healers in the world wouldn't be able to say with any degree of certainty how he would react to anything anymore."

Nodding, Harry said, "Yeah, that makes sense." After a moment, he said, "I don't know for sure, but I think Sirius would vote whichever way I did on the matter, so that just leaves Lord Crouch and your father, Ric. Do you have any idea how he would vote?"

Cedric took a moment to think, before he said, "I think my father would probably vote to uphold the tradition, I'm afraid. He doesn't support the Death Eaters or You-Know-Who, but he does support the maintaining of Wizarding traditions. He's a proud man and he believes in the purity of Wizarding blood. The difference between him and people like Lord Malfoy, however, is that my father doesn't believe that Muggleborns need to be exterminated. He thinks they should be just as free as anyone else to practice and use magic, but that they should do so separately from the purebloods and Wizarding raised halfbloods. Thus, I don't see him agreeing to the idea of opening Highever, Gwaren, or any of the other magical cities up to the Muggleborns."

"As for Lord Crouch, I think he'd probably vote with whichever side had the greatest support," Athena said. "He definitely doesn't support Voldemort, as he sent several Death Eaters, including his own son and heir, to Azkaban. However, he's also a very practical man who craves power. During the first war, he was the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and was a favorite to become Minister for Magic. But, after King Charles died and there was no longer any input forthcoming from the throne, since the newly crowned King Edward was a toddler, he made some very controversial decisions."

"Like what?" Harry asked.

"Allowing the Aurors to use the Unforgivables for one," Athena answered. "Several suspected Death Eaters were also sent to Azkaban without even being questioned, let alone given a trial. And then a group of Death Eaters that included Lord and Lady Lestrange and Crouch's own son and heir, tortured Lord and Lady Longbottom under the Cruciatus and made no secret of the fact that they did it. They weren't worried because there hadn't been a word from the then eleven-year-old King Edward and all attempts to contact him had failed."

Rose took over at this point, continuing with, "Wanting to see justice done, Lord Crouch decided to try Lord and Lady Lestrange and his son before the Wizengamot, even though it doesn't have the authority to try the heads of the noble families or their immediate family members. That was a career killing move for him. Shortly thereafter a new Minister came to power, at which point Lord Crouch found himself being demoted and transferred to the Department of International Magical Cooperation, which is nowhere near as prestigious as his previous post. He's sought to regain his former authority and prestige ever since, so he's not likely to side with what he views as the losing side."

"For the time being, Harry," Cedric said, "I'd concentrate on the staffing changes at Hogwarts and save the other issue for later. Change sometimes takes time to be effective and you can't change everything you don't like overnight."

"I suppose you're right," Harry said. "The one thing I don't understand though is how it is that the Board of Governors was able to remove any books that mentioned the other magical towns and cities from the shelves of bookstores in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. I can see the board having power in the school, but outside of it?"

"You're forgetting one important detail, Harry," Roger said. "The Board of Governors is made up of the Lords of the Thirteen Houses and they have the power to set many of the laws in their own lands. Hogsmeade is in the Marquisate of Levenmore and Diagon Alley in the Earldom of Gullane, controlled by the McLaggen and Burke families, respectively. When the Board passed the decision all those years ago, the then Lords McLaggen and Burke simply banned the books from being sold in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. So, yes, while the Board's collective authority doesn't extend past Hogwarts itself, the same cannot be said for the individual authority of its' members."

Before anyone else could say anything, Barin popped back in and said, "Barin reports Lady McLaggen was planning Diagon trip today. Taking son shopping for school, so can accompany Lord Potter."

"Well, then," Athena said, as she stood up, "Harry, why don't you go and make yourself a bit more presentable for your meeting with Mr. Cuffe. When you're ready, I'll Apparate you over to Kinloch Hold to meet Lady McLaggen and Cormac." Noticing the look on Cedric's face, she said, "There's really no reason for you to go to Diagon Alley today, Mr. Diggory, so no, you may not go. Rose, if you could go over to Seacliff and make sure Harry's double stays put and out of sight, I'd appreciate it."

"Of course," Rose said as she stood and headed for the door.

-o-0-o-

Half-an-hour later, Harry was standing in Diagon Alley, after having his first portkey experience. Cormac was only fifteen, so he didn't have his Apparition license. Caroline would usually have taken him side-along, but since Harry was accompanying them today, she had instead opted to use a portkey to Diagon Alley instead. While portkeys were regulated by the Ministry, Caroline had no trouble obtaining one, considering that she worked at the Ministry, as the Head of the Department of Magical Transportation.

"Do you need any assistance, Your Grace?" Caroline asked, as the three of them moved out onto the main street of Diagon Alley.

Pulling the hood of his cloak up to conceal his face, Harry said, "No, thank you. Do your shopping. I'll make my way to the Prophet's offices and meet with Mr. Cuffe and then I'll meet you at Fortesque's."

"As you wish," Caroline said with a nod. "Come Cormac."

Nodding to Harry, Cormac said, "Yes Mother," as he followed her down the street towards Gringotts.

Harry, meanwhile, headed down the street to the offices of the Daily Prophet. It didn't take long because the alley wasn't very busy that day. Harry could only assume that most people didn't go school shopping yet, preferring to wait until the week before school started. He supposed it might have something to do with when exactly they got their Hogwarts letters, but then Cormac's father was a governor and Hogwarts was on the McLaggen lands, so it made sense that he might get his letter earlier than other students.

Walking into the Daily Prophet, Harry, the hood still pulled over his face, walked up to the reception desk. A bored looking witch, who didn't even bother to look up, asked, "Welcome to the Daily Prophet, how can I help you today?"

"I'm here to speak with Barnabas Cuffe," Harry answered.

The receptionist looked up at this, but couldn't see Harry's face through the dark shadow cast by the hood. "Do you have an appointment?"

"No," Harry admitted.

"Then I'm sorry, sir," the reception witch said. "Mr. Cuffe doesn't see..."

"He'll see me," Harry interrupted, as he held out his ring finger to the receptionist. "He really doesn't have a choice, if he wants to keep his job."

Seeing the golden lord's ring that marked it's wearer as Lord of the Potter family, and knowing that the Potters owned the Daily Prophet, the receptionist witch quickly stood up and said, "Right this way, Your Grace."

Following the receptionist, Harry found himself walking through a bustling newsroom, with charmed scraps of parchment flying through the air in every direction, and many reporters and staff members hurriedly moving from one area to another, all working hard on getting the next edition of the paper out. Walking up a set of stairs at the back of the room, the receptionist led Harry down a hallway and into a small outer office.

A young wizard that looked to be in his mid-twenties sat at a desk outside the door to the inner office and Harry assumed it was Mr. Cuffe's secretary. He looked up and seeing the receptionist, he asked, "Eliza, why aren't you at your desk?"

"Hello Jonas," Eliza the receptionist said, as she motioned towards Harry and said, "His Grace the Lord Potter to see Mr. Cuffe."

Once again, Harry raised his ring finger so that Jonas could see the golden ring that adorned it. He looked at it for a moment and said, "Right, I'll take it from here. You can go back to your desk, Eliza."

Motioning towards one of the chairs in front of his small desk, Jonas said, "Please, Your Grace, have a seat."

It was at this point that Harry caught sight of a nameplate on the young man's desk which identified him as Jonas Cuffe. 'Mr. Cuffe's son, perhaps?' Harry thought to himself. 'No matter, I'm not here to see him.'

"I'll remain standing, thanks," Harry said, as Jonas rounded his desk and was about to sit down when Harry's words registered. Courtesy dictated that he couldn't sit down in the presence of a standing lord. "I'm assuming from the nameplate that you are Mr. Cuffe's son?"

"Yes, Your Grace," Jonas confirmed. "Won't you please have a seat?"

Harry, however, remained standing and said, "I'm here to see your father, not you, so please tell him I'm here."

"He's in a very important meeting, Your Grace, and asked not to be disturbed for any reason," Jonas tried to explain.

"It doesn't matter what he asked, Jonas," Harry returned, as he lowered the hood of his cloak. "I own the Prophet, which makes me your father's boss and means that my directives overrule his. Now, Jonas, will you please tell him I'm here and that I wish to see him immediately?"

Jonas looked conflicted for a moment, before he nodded and said, "Yes, Your Grace," as he walked over to his father's office door. Harry could have been wrong, but it almost looked like Jonas might have gulped before raising his fist and knocking on the door.

A moment later, a gruff and clearly angry voice asked, "Yes?"

Cracking the door so that it was open barely even an inch, Harry could hear Jonas say, "I'm very sorry, Father, but His Grace the Lord Potter is here and he's insisting on meeting with you immediately."

Catching a sidelong glance of Jonas's face, Harry thought, 'Are his eyes closed?'

"Just a minute," the gruff voice said. Jonas quickly closed the door, but Harry still could hear the scrambling movement in the office and some hurried whispered words. He couldn't make them out, however. After two or three minutes, the gruff voice said again, "Enter."

Jonas opened the door in such a way that his back was facing the inside of the office, motioning for Harry to enter the room, which he did so. He immediately saw who he assumed to be Mr. Barnabas Cuffe standing behind his desk. The man stood about six feet tall, with salt and pepper hair, and was clearly a bit overweight. Certainly he was nowhere near as bad as Vernon or Dudley, but it was obvious that he was carrying around a few more pounds than was probably healthy. Harry suspected, however, that his taller frame hid that better than if he'd been a shorter man. He was dressed in what Harry knew was considered respectable business attire in the Wizarding world, although as a commoner, Mr. Cuffe's robes were certainly not cut to the same level of quality as his own. Harry also couldn't help but notice, however, that the man's clothes looked more than a little wrinkled and disheveled, as if he had gotten dressed in a hurry. It was certainly nowhere near as neatly as Harry would have expected from the Editor-in-Chief of a major newspaper who was apparently in a very important meeting.

Speaking of that, however, as Harry entered the office and looked around, he couldn't help but note the distinct lack of anyone else in the room. Had Jonas been lying when he'd said his father was in an important meeting? Because Harry certainly didn't see anyone else in the office that Mr. Cuffe could have been engaged in a meeting with. Walking further into the room, however, Harry caught sight of something, or perhaps more accurately two somethings, sticking out from under the front edge of the large desk and quickly realized just what kind of "important meeting" Mr. Cuffe had apparently been having moments earlier. This also quickly answered any questions Harry might have had about the state of his clothes.

"Mr. Cuffe, I really do not care what you do at home in your off hours," Harry said. "But, as owner of this paper, I would very much appreciate it if you would kindly refrain from entertaining your lady and gentleman callers on the premises. This is a newspaper, not a brothel."

When it looked like Mr. Cuffe was about to say something in protest of Harry's words, Harry simply removed the head from his cane, pointed at the floor and said, "Wingardium Leviosa!" Almost immediately, two articles of clothing floated up and into clear view: a red lace bra and a pair of blue cotton boxer-briefs. Seeing the items floating in midair, Mr. Cuffe's cheeks turned pink and Harry could hear him mumbling something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like, "Oh shit."

Now some might think it was possible that Mr. Cuffe had only been entertaining a woman in his office. That the bra belonged to her and that the boxer-briefs were in fact Mr. Cuffe's, but Harry had rather assumed that was not the case even before he levitated them, hence his statement to the now flustered editor. With the offending articles now floating in mid-air, however, Harry was now even more sure than he had been, as it was rather obvious that the boxer-briefs were too small to belong to the clearly embarrassed man behind the desk. If Harry had to guess, Mr. Cuffe's waist was about 42-44 inches, while the boxer-briefs looked more like they were meant for someone with a waist of only 28-30 inches.

Noting that there was no fireplace in the room, Harry soon spotted the only other door in the room other than the one he'd come in through. Harry guessed it was a cloak cupboard, which soon proved true, when he pointed his wand at the door and said, "Recludo!" At this, the door swung open to reveal a cupboard which held cloaks and two half-naked and blushing young people, a man and a woman, who were clearly hiding.

Harry fought the urge to blush himself as he levitated the articles of clothing over to the two people in the cupboard and said, "I believe these items belong to you." Once they'd each grabbed the article that did indeed belong to them, Harry added, "Close the door, get dressed, and then get out here."

As the door closed so that the two people in the cupboard could get dressed, Harry sat down in one of the chairs in front of Mr. Cuffe's desk and put away his wand. He then cocked his head to one side and asked, "Forgive me, Mr. Cuffe, but aren't you a married man?"

Gulping, Barnabas sat down and said, "Yes, Your Grace."

Shaking his head, Harry said, "I thought so, as I saw you at the Opening Ball dancing with a woman your age most of the night. I'm assuming that was your wife and yet you're cheating on her with a man and a woman who looked like they're a few years younger than your son. Your son, whom I might add, is also your secretary and sitting right outside this office. I'd ask if he knows what you were doing in here, or perhaps more importantly if his mother, who I assume is your wife, knows but honestly, I really don't care. As I said, Mr. Cuffe, I don't care what you do in your off hours, but from now on you will refrain from using these premises for your extra-marital affairs. Oh and that is not a request."

If Barnabas was at all angered by the idea of a fourteen-year-old boy coming into his office and telling him what he could and couldn't do, he wisely didn't show it. After all, no matter how much he might not like it, as the last of the Potter line, the boy in front of him did own 100% of the Daily Prophet, which made him his boss and well within his rights to dictate what could and couldn't happen in the Prophet's offices. Before Barnabas could say anything, however, the cupboard door opened and the two people came out.

Getting a better look at them now that they weren't hidden in shadow, Harry had no trouble seeing that they were indeed younger than Jonas Cuffe. Jonas looked about twenty-five or twenty-six, whereas the two people who were hiding in the cupboard didn't look like they could possibly be much older than nineteen. The young woman had long black hair, grey eyes, and stood about five-feet, six inches tall, with an impressive enough chest to make Harry wonder if perhaps the Wizarding world had a magical equivalent to breast enhancement surgery. He blushed inwardly at that thought, confident however that it didn't show on his face. The young man, on the other hand, was about six feet, two inches tall, with short brown hair, blue eyes, and a physique that Harry was pretty sure was called a swimmer's build.

"You two are both legal adults, I hope?" Harry asked, much too distracted by the matter at hand to pay much attention to the twitch in the trousers he was wearing under his robes. The twitch that had only happened after his eyes had left the young woman and moved to the young man. Of course, as a teenager, that particular part of his body reacted to something at least fifty times a day. Thus he rarely paid any attention to it, let alone what had caused it to happen in the first place. This was especially true when he was in public and didn't wish to draw attention to it.

"Yes, Your Grace, I'm nineteen," the young man said, as the young woman said, "I'm eighteen, Your Grace."

"And do you work for the Prophet?"

They both nodded again as the young man indicated that he was one of the typesetters and the woman revealed that she worked in the photography department.

"I see," Harry said. "I'll tell you the same thing I just told Mr. Cuffe. I don't care what you do at home in your off hours, but in the future, you will refrain from doing in the Prophet offices whatever it was you were doing in here before I came in. And I have a feeling I have a pretty good idea what that was, all things considered. Also understand this, as sole owner of the Daily Prophet, that is not a request and if I find out that you are ignoring my wishes on this matter, you will all be unemployed before you can say your own names. Do I make myself clear?"

"Crystal, Your Grace," the young man said, as the young lady nodded earnestly, but remained silent.

Harry gave them both a hard look for a second longer before he said, "Both of you, out. I need to talk to your boss alone."

Once they were gone, Harry said, "You really haven't made the best first impression on me, Mr. Cuffe, and I'm seriously tempted to fire you right now, but I won't. At least, so long as you do as I tell you."

"With all due respect, Your Grace, are you blackmailing me?" Barnabas asked.

"I'm going to pretend you didn't just ask me that," Harry answered, the note of warning clear in his voice. After a moment of silence, Harry cleared his throat and said, "Now, normally, I would have brought my seneschal with me to this meeting, but I received word this morning that his wife, who works in my greenhouses at Seacliff, had a mishap with one of the more dangerous plants and is currently at St. Mungo's. I believe his place is at her side at a time like this. That's all off the record, by the way."

Nodding, Barnabas said, "Of course, Your Grace." He was already in trouble and he knew it. No reason to get himself into any more by printing anything the young lord who had the power to fire him didn't want him to print. Not that it was exactly newsworthy. Plenty of the wealthier families had greenhouses with dangerous plants that caused the occasional injury to those tending them, regardless of their Herbology skills. True, the fact that it had happened at Seacliff might make it interesting to some, considering who the castle's owner was, but it really wasn't major news. Certainly not something that would actually sell any great number of papers, seeing as it was most certainly not front page material.

"I did, however, arrange for someone to accompany me today," Harry said, as he reached into an inner pocket of his cloak and pulled out a small hand mirror. Barnabas quickly recognized it as the type of mirror that was often setup for two-way communication. This was confirmed a moment later when the face of Sirius Black, looking much nicer now that he'd had a chance to clean himself up, appeared in the mirror, along with the portrait of James and Lily Potter. "Say hello to my godfather, Lord Sirius Black, and my parents' portrait, Mr. Cuffe," as Harry turned the mirror towards the editor.

"Hello Lord Black, and Lord and Lady Potter," Barnabas said, in a somewhat surprised tone. He wasn't sure who he was more surprised to see: Sirius Black, or the late James and Lily Potter.

Lily and Sirius nodded, while James simply said, "Barnabas."

"My godfather is partially the reason I'm here today," Harry explained. "I don't know if you've heard yet, as I haven't seen anything about it in the Prophet yet, but as of this past Monday, he's been cleared of all charges against him by His Majesty King Edward."

"I've heard some rumblings about it," Barnabas said. "I've had my staff trying to find out if it's true, but the Ministry has been rather tight-lipped about it."

"Well, it's true," Harry said as he pulled out the letter from the King and showed Barnabas the royal seal, before reading the missive aloud. He left out the Emperor part of the King's signature, not wanting the fact that Edward was using it to become a bigger story then Sirius getting cleared. Harry figured that if the King wanted the general public to know about that detail, he could come out of hiding and tell them himself. "So, now that you know that it's true, I expect you to run an article in the next edition of the Prophet announcing that he has been pardoned of all charges and is no longer a wanted man."

In the mirror, Sirius nodded and said, "Yes, I would very much appreciate that, Mr. Cuffe. I have business to attend to that requires me to appear in public. Obviously, I wish to do so without people panicking and calling the Aurors because they think I'm a convicted murderer."

"I would suggest you refrain from running a copy of the letter I just read, however," Harry said. "I do not know if His Majesty wished for his words to be published or not, so I think it's best to err on the side of caution."

Barnabas nodded. "Yes, of course, Your Grace. Would you mind if I brought one of my reporters in here? I won't print the letter, but I'd very much like a statement from you and the Lord Black if that's possible."

"Fine by me," Harry said. In the mirror, Sirius nodded, indicating that it was fine with him.

Pushing a button on his desk, Barnabas remained silent for a moment, before the door opened and his son Jonas stuck his head into the room. If he knew what his father had been up to with the two teenagers, it didn't show on his face. "Yes, Father?"

"Get Rita Skeeter in here," Barnabas said. "Tell her to be prepared to take statements."

"Right away, Father," Jonas said as he closed the door.

Harry, meanwhile, thought, 'Perfect. I can kill two birds with one stone.'

"Can I offer you a drink while we're waiting, Lord Potter?" Barnabas asked, motioning towards the fully-stocked bar that rested along one wall of the room.

"No thank you," Harry said. "But feel free to have one yourself, if you wish."

Apparently deciding that he did need a drink, Barnabas stood up and went over to fix one for himself. Harry could understand why the man might feel the need to have a drink. He certainly hadn't had the best of days, after all, having his boss catching him in the act of cheating on his wife and all. Plus there was the issue that he'd been caught cheating with two people, one of them male, and both of them teenagers younger than his son. Yeah, Barnabas really needed a drink. Well, more like several but he was in enough trouble with his boss without getting drunk in front of him on top of it.

All was silent in the office for a few minutes, until the door opened and a woman with a head full of blonde curls walked into the room. She was dressed in an acid green suit with fur on the collar and at the ends of the sleeves. In her hands, she was carrying a handbag that looked like it was made of some type of scaly skin that Harry couldn't identify, other than the fact that it wasn't dragonhide.

"Mr. Cuffe, you wanted to see me, sir?" Rita asked, in a sickly sweet tone.

"Yes, Rita," Barnabas said as he took a seat behind his desk, which he set his second glass of Firewhisky on. "I need you to take two statements. One from Lord Harrison Potter," as he motioned at Harry, "and one from his godfather, Lord Sirius Black," and motioned at the hand mirror in Harry's hand.

"Oh, of course, sir, it would be a pleasure," Rita said, as she sat down in the other chair in front of Barnabas' desk and opened her purse, removing a pad of paper and a quill that matched her dress. She quickly set the pad on the edge of the desk and much to Harry's surprise the quill moved of its own accord over to the pad, looking poised to start writing all by itself.

Before Rita or anyone else could say anything, however, Lily said, "Just a minute, Harry, dear that's a Quick-Quotes Quill. It's notoriously inaccurate and often adds to and embellishes upon whatever is said in its presence. I thought you had banned them from being used at the Prophet, James."

James looked sheepish, before he said, "I had planned to, Lily, but then Robert brought me some papers I needed to sign and I completely forgot about it."

Removing his wand from his cane again, Harry pointed it at the pad on the desk and said, "Accio pad."

The pad flew across the room, with the quill following closely after it, trying to continue writing whatever it had been writing down. Putting away his wand, Harry grabbed the quill in one hand and caught the pad in his other, before he began reading aloud.

"The voice of the late Lily Evans-Potter, who was tragically killed on October 31st 1981, told Harrison Potter, The-Boy-Who-Lived, 'That's a Quick-Quotes Quill, dear. They're famous for their accuracy and their ability to record only what the person says, with no embellishment whatsoever. I commend you for ordering they be used at the Prophet, James.'"

"I don't think I need to read anymore," Harry said, as he looked at Barnabas and said, "Mr. Cuffe, usage of the Quick-Quotes Quill is hereby banned. After today, anyone who uses one to write their notes or articles is to be fired immediately."

Before Barnabas could say anything, the quill struggled to get to the pad in Harry's other hand and due to its length, it succeeded at which point it wrote another sentence that Harry read aloud. "The-Boy-Who-Lived, a note of awe in his voice, said, 'Mr. Cuffe, usage of the Quick-Quotes Quill is hereby required. After today, anyone not using one of these truly marvelous quills to write all of their notes and articles is to be fired immediately.'"

"That's quite enough of that," Barnabas said. "Rita, stop your quill now."

"Yes, sir," Rita said, looking quite upset as she took the quill from Harry and placed it back inside of her purse.

Tearing the topmost sheet off the pad, Harry handed the pad back to Rita. "I am very serious in what I said, Ms. Skeeter. I will not tolerate the Daily Prophet printing things that aren't true as if they're facts. I would highly suggest that you dispose of the quill if you ever want to write another article for this paper."

Rita looked a bit shocked, even looking over at Barnabas, as if hoping he would contradict what Harry had just said. Of course, he didn't. "Lord Potter owns the paper, Rita, so he is fully within his rights to dictate what we can print. If you still want to use a self-writing quill, I suggest you go buy a Dicta-Quill, like they use to record the minutes of the Wizengamot meetings." Then grabbing one of the always-full quills from a cup on his desk, Barnabas handed it to Rita and said, "For now, you'll just have to do this the old-fashioned way."

"Yes, sir," Rita said in a dejected tone, as she balanced the pad in her lap.

"Let me just say that this is not an interview, Ms. Skeeter," Harry said. "I will be giving a statement, then my godfather will give a statement. You will copy them down word for word exactly as we said them and they will be printed that way. After that, I have a few other issues to discuss with you and Mr. Cuffe."

Rita and Barnabas both nodded their understanding, at which point Harry cleared his throat and said, "Recently I petitioned His Majesty King Edward to review the case against my godfather, Lord Sirius Black. I am very pleased to say that His Majesty has deemed my godfather to be innocent of all charges and issued him a full royal pardon. As such, I ask that everyone in the Wizarding world refrain from treating him like a wanted criminal and treat him with the respect that he deserves as the Head of a Most Ancient and Noble House." Then looking at the mirror, Harry said, "Your turn, Sirius."

"Thank you, Harry," Sirius said, before Harry turned the mirror to face Rita and Sirius said, "I would first like to thank my godson, Lord Harrison Potter, for initiating the royal review of my case and His Majesty King Edward for pardoning me. The truth of the matter is, I was framed for the murders I was accused of and I was never the Secret Keeper for my late friends, James and Lily Potter. I would have killed myself without hesitation before I would have betrayed them. In the coming days and months, I will be resuming my normal life and performing the duties which fall to me as Lord of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black. While I understand that many of you may see me on the streets and be afraid due to the smear campaign against me since my escape from prison last year, I assure you that you have nothing to fear from me. It's not like I'm a convicted murderer - firstly, because I never murdered anyone, and secondly, because I was never tried or convicted of the murders I was accused of in the first place."

Once Rita was finished copying down their statements, Harry held out his hand for the pad, wanting to check that she had written them down exactly as they'd been given. Rita sighed and handed it over, allowing Harry to read what she'd written. Her penmanship was rather sloppy and Harry immediately suspected that she was out of practice. He guessed it was likely due to the fact that she usually let her Quick-Quotes Quill write everything for her. Other than the poor penmanship and one or two minor spelling errors, however, Harry was pleased to see that she had written the statements exactly as they'd been given.

"Now that that's taken care of," Harry said, "on to the other matters I mentioned. I wish to set the record straight on a couple of things that Ms. Skeeter implied in her article announcing I'd claimed my birthright that simply were not true."

Rita bristled at the implication that what she'd written wasn't true, but said nothing when she caught the look Barnabas gave her. After a moment, the editor asked, "What points, Your Grace? I will see to it that retractions and corrections are made on any mistakes in the morning edition."

"It's to do with the Hogwarts staffing issues I intend to discuss with the Board," Harry said. "First off, I don't know who Ms. Skeeter's sources inside Hogwarts are and I won't ask that she reveal them, however, I would like to point out that they were not telling the entire truth of the situation when it comes to the History of Magic classes taught by Professor Binns."

"What do you mean?" Rita asked.

The next several minutes were spent with Harry outlining his feelings on Professor Binns and Professor Snape, including the reasons why he wished to remove both of them from their current positions, and the fact that in the case of the Potions Master, he wasn't seeking his complete removal from the Hogwarts staff. At the end of the discussion, Barnabas promised again to print the necessary retractions and corrections in the morning edition, on page one, above the fold to insure that all would be sure to see them.

Ultimately, Harry left the Prophet offices feeling good about his visit, if not a little embarrassed by what he'd walked into upon his arrival. This feeling wasn't helped when on his way out of the building, the young man he'd met in Barnabas' office had literally run into him. The contact had been brief and he'd apologized profusely before disappearing, but Harry couldn't ignore that a certain part of his anatomy had reacted to the contact, more strongly than it had back in the editor's office. He tried to put it out of his mind, however, as he made his way back out to Diagon Alley to meet up with Lady McLaggen and Cormac at Fortesque's.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

Unexpected Love: The Journey Begins
Written by J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Seven

-o-0-o-

On Thursday, August 11, 1994, Harry came downstairs to breakfast to find everyone else sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast already. Well, everyone that is except for Athena and Roger. They were nowhere in sight.

"Morning Harry," Cedric said with a smile, as Harry sat down in the same place he'd been sitting for the last few days, which placed him between Cedric and Gavin.

"Morning Ric, everyone," Harry said, as he began filling his plate. He usually didn't eat all that well during the summer months, but ever since he arrived at Forest Cottage, the trainers made sure that he was eating three full meals a day. They were all a bit on the small side at first, as even when he would get back to Hogwarts after the summer, it would take a little while for his stomach to adjust and get used to the greater food intake without getting sick.

As the days went on, however, especially since Harry had begun taking Rose's nutrient potions just over a week ago, his appetite had been steadily growing. He still hated the taste of them, but according to Rose, the potions were working. Not only was he beginning to fill out a little so that you couldn't see any of his bones, he'd also gained an inch in height. True, he was still short, but Rose assured him that if he kept taking them until she said he could stop, he'd gain more height and soon he'd even be able to start putting on a little muscle, if he wanted. Tired of being the scrawny, short kid, Harry resolved to continue taking the potions for as long as Rose said he needed them, no matter how bad they tasted.

Cedric, who had just refilled his own goblet, was still holding the pitcher when he asked, "Pumpkin juice, Harry?"

"Yes, thanks," Harry said with a smile, before putting a forkful of eggs in his mouth, as Cedric tipped the pitcher over Harry's goblet, filling it, before placing it back on the table and resuming eating his own breakfast.

All was silent for a few minutes, except for the usual noises that accompanied a meal with a number of people eating at the same time, before Harry asked, "Where's Roger and Athena?"

"They're in Athena's study," Emma answered. "Athena wanted Mr. Davies' help with some research, so they took their breakfasts in there."

"Oh, okay," Harry said.

Eudora grinned and said, "Actually though that was just an excuse to get Mr. Davies away from the rest of you and behind a Silencing Charm."

"Why?" Terence asked. Emma had told everyone else the same thing before Harry had come down, but Eudora hadn't said anything until now. Something was obviously going on.

"Well, in case you're not aware," Rose said, after she finished chewing on a piece of toast, "tomorrow is Mr. Davies' sixteenth birthday. We decided it best that he not be around to hear us discussing the plans for his party."

Several people nodded at this and said "Oh," before Eudora smiled and added, "I'll also be taking any of you who wish to go into Cairo today so that you can buy presents for him. Lady McLaggen was kind enough to arrange for a portkey." Pausing to sip her tea, she then added, "She also asked me to tell you Harry, that now that you're legally an adult, you can get your Apparition license and she promised to help you do that as soon as you request it."

Harry nodded, but said nothing since he was in the middle of chewing.

Gavin, meanwhile, looked thoughtful and said, "I really don't know Roger that well, so I have no idea what to get him for his birthday."

Terence smiled and said, "I've been friends with him for awhile now, as has Ric," at which point Cedric nodded. "Perhaps the most obvious gift would be books. He's a Ravenclaw, after all, so he loves reading and learning."

"He's also very athletic," Cedric pointed out. "Loves Quidditch - though not as obsessively as some people I won't name," he was looking directly at Oliver as he said this, which garnered several laughs from around the table.

For his part, Oliver, who was sitting across from Cedric on the other side of the table, picked up a grape and threw it at Cedric's head. It didn't hit though, as Cedric's Seeker reflexes kicked in and he managed to catch the grape in his mouth. After chewing and swallowing, Cedric smiled and said, "Thanks Will, that was good."

"I was aiming for your head," Oliver pointed out.

Cedric grinned. "Oh I know, but I like where it ended up much better."

"Speaking of Oliver's favorite subject," Asterion said. "Isn't the World Cup two weeks from today?"

"Yes, it is," Oliver confirmed excitedly. "Dad got us tickets, I can't wait."

"I hate to break it you, Will," Gavin said, "but you probably won't be using those tickets."

"Why not?" Oliver asked. Not only was his tone completely incredulous, but he was looking at Gavin as if his brother had just grown four extra heads. Not use the World Cup tickets? Crazy talk!

"Uh, Will, we're here and our doubles are at home with Dad," Gavin said slowly, as if he was talking to a child. "If anyone will be using the tickets, it'll be them, not us."

Oliver opened his mouth to say something, but then stopped, realizing that Gavin might have a point. At this a look of such sadness came over Oliver's face that you'd think he'd just found out his puppy had died. Not that he had a puppy, mind you, but that was beside the point.

"Your doubles won't be going actually," Emma said and for a moment, Oliver perked up a bit, hoping that Emma was about to say that he'd actually be going to the Cup. "Your father sold the tickets he bought and is going to be taking your step-mother on a second honeymoon to Italy that week."

"HE DID WHAT?!" Oliver exclaimed, completely unable to believe what he was hearing. Sell your tickets for the Quidditch World Cup? In Oliver's opinion, only a certifiably insane person would do that.

"Merlin's balls, Will, quiet down," Terence said, as he lightly kicked his boyfriend in the shin. He loved him, he really did, but sometimes... "Do you want Roger and Athena to hear you?"

"That's not a problem," Rose commented. "Athena has a Silencing Ward on her study. So long as the door is closed, that room is completely soundproof. And I know that she closed the door, because she wanted to make sure that Roger didn't hear anything out here."

Before Oliver could say anything else, Gavin piped in, "I'm not really all that surprised, Will. Dad has never been all that big of a Quidditch fan and Sarah is even less of one."

Sarah Wood was Oliver and Gavin's step-mother and their father Douglas Wood's third and current wife, the first being the late Evanna Wood who'd died a few days after giving birth to Oliver. She'd been followed by Cora Wood, who was until recently, believed to be Gavin's mother. They knew differently now, of course. Well, Oliver, Gavin, and the other occupants of Forest Cottage did, at least. The rest of the Wood family was still in the dark and neither Oliver or Gavin had any idea how they could even begin to broach that particular subject.

"Gavin and I wanted to go though!" Oliver wailed. "If Dad didn't want to go, that's fine, but why'd he have to sell Gavin's and my tickets?"

"Because you won't need them, Mr. Wood," Emma said. "And do calm down, would you? I understand that you love Quidditch. I do to or I never would have played it professionally for thirty-eight years, but you act like it's the most important thing in the world and it isn't. It's definitely fun, I'll grant you that, but take it from someone who knows. Eventually, you'll get old enough that you can't play it anymore and then what are you going to do if you've based your entire life around it? You need to have other interests or you're going to have a very boring life after you can't play anymore."

To say that Oliver looked shocked would be putting it mildly. It was obvious to everyone at the table that Oliver had never even considered the idea that he wouldn't be able to play Quidditch everyday for the rest of his life. While he didn't say anything aloud, Terence was silently thanking Emma profusely for what she'd just said, because he hoped it would knock some sense into his boyfriend's head. Terence did, after all, have every intention of marrying Oliver and spending the rest of his life with him, so he really did want to avoid Oliver slipping into a state of constant depression when the time eventually came that he wouldn't be able to play Quidditch anymore.

Before Oliver could say anything, however, Gavin said, "You said we won't need them, so I'm assuming that means we're not going to the cup."

Shaking her head, Eudora said, "You should never assume anything, Mr. Wood."

"So, we will be allowed to go to the World Cup?" Harry asked, in a cautiously optimistic tone. He really did love Quidditch and had never been to a professional game before, so, he thought it would be fun to go to one.

There was silence among the trainers for a moment, before Eudora nodded and said, "Yes, you'll be able to go. We talked about it and decided that it wouldn't be fair to make you miss the first World Cup held here in Britain since 1962. Of course, any of you going is entirely dependent upon whether or not you can get seats in the Top Box. The Cup Stadium has seating for a hundred thousand people, so, we all agreed that if we let you go, we wanted all of you together in the Top Box, rather than scattered all over the stadium."

"Well, looks like we'll be going then," Cedric said with a grin. "All the noble families have reserved seating in the Top Box."

"That's all well and good for you, Cedric," Oliver said. "But Liam, Gav, Roger and I aren't nobles, so there's no way we'll be able to get seats."

Shaking his head, Sirius said, "I wouldn't be so sure about that, Oliver."

"Why?" Oliver asked.

"Because each of the noble families has a certain number of seats reserved for them," Sirius explained. "Just how many depends on their rank. For example, Harry as a Duke, has eight reserved seats. Now, as Lord Black, I'm a Marquis and have six reserved seats. The Earls each have four reserved seats."

Nodding, Cedric said, "Yeah, those seats are meant for the nobles' families, but I know my Mum isn't planning on going. Lucy is too young, so, she's staying home with her. My Dad and I planned on going, but it's just the two of us. Like Lord Black, my father is a Marquis, so we'll have four empty seats in our section of the Top Box. So, I think between the reserved seats for the Potters, Blacks, and Diggorys, you'll all be able to go."

Regulus nodded and said, "Yes, I don't think there'll be a problem. Asterion and I will be in the Black seats with Sirius, and I assume Remus, but that still leaves two seats open."

"Who says you're welcome in the Black seats?" Sirius said, as he looked over at his brother. "I'm not so sure I want you there after that stunt you pulled on me yesterday."

"What making you look like our Mum and calling Kreacher?" Regulus asked with a laugh as Sirius shuddered. "Sirius, I'm a Black - my son and I have a right to sit in the Black seats. But, if you don't want us there, I suppose we could sit someplace else, while you stay home."

"And why would I stay home?" Sirius asked.

"Because before Asterion and I leave for the Cup," Regulus answered with a grin, "I'll just make you look like our father's Aunt Lycoris for a month - complete with her sex drive, or lack thereof."

"You wouldn't!" Sirius exclaimed. Orion Black's Aunt Lycoris had never married because she was one of the biggest prudes on the face of the planet. She died in a potions accident in 1965 at the age of 61 and the whole family was sure that at that time, she was still a virgin. "You wouldn't be that cruel, Reg."

Regulus raised an eyebrow. "You want a bet? I did make you look like our mother and sic Kreacher on you, remember."

"Circe's sagging tits, Regulus, stop reminding me!" Sirius exclaimed, as his whole face paled and he shuddered violently at the memory. Several people at the table laughed at that statement, while the trainers looked rather pointedly at Sirius. They were teachers, so, they didn't like hearing that kind of language. However, he was a Marquis, while they were commoners, so, it wasn't exactly appropriate for them to chastise him for the language he chose to use, hence their staying silent.

"You're the one who brought it up, Uncle," Asterion said with a grin.

"Stay out of this, young man," Sirius said. "This is between me and your father."

Remus laughed. "That statement is just wrong on so many levels, Sirius."

From the painting, James nodded and said, "Yeah, Siri, I have to agree. With the way two are arguing, plus that statement, I'd think you and Regulus were an old married couple and Asterion was your son together."

Regulus made a gagging noise at that and said, "James, please, I'm trying to eat here!"

"For once, we agree, Regulus," Sirius added, as he cast a reproachful look at his old friend's portrait, which just made James laugh even harder, along with everyone else in the room. Well, except for Sirius and Regulus anyway.

-o-0-o-

Having friends in high places had the tendency to make life much easier. Athena was keeping Roger busy, Emma had lessons to plan, and Rose was busy brewing up more of the nutrient potions for Harry, so that left only Eudora available to take the boys shopping. True, there were other adults accompanying the group on the shopping trip, but Side-Along Apparating everyone to Cairo who was going would have taken time, especially since Sirius and Remus would also have to be taken Side-Along, since neither of them had been to Cairo before. And even if they had, neither of them was powerful enough to be willing to attempt Apparating to a different continent. Thankfully, there wasn't a problem, however, as Lady Caroline McLaggen had managed to get them an international portkey.

The first stop once they all arrived, was, of course at Gringotts' Wizarding Bank so that they could all get some money to do their shopping with. This also gave Sirius the opportunity to officially sign the necessary papers to claim the position of Lord Black. He had been considered the de facto Lord Black ever since Lord Arcturus Black reinstated him and passed on, but since Sirius had been in prison at the time, he'd never signed the appropriate paperwork and the Black family ring was in turn locked up in the family vault. It was in a private consultation room at Gringotts' that Harry and Sirius, hands clasped so that their rings were touching, took care of another piece of business.

"I, Sirius Orion Black, Marquis of Charlton, Earl of Alnwick, Viscount Langleeford, Lord of Arlington Grange, and Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black, do hereby pledge my house's strength and support to yours, Harrison James Potter, and promise to do everything within my power to assist, protect, and shelter your family, vassals and friends as if they were my own. From this day onward, your allies will be my allies and your enemies my enemies. Your secrets will be my secrets and I vow to safeguard them with my life. On my honor, my magic, and my very life, so mote it be."

"I, Harrison James Potter, Duke of Granston, Marquis of Brynmoor, Earl of Mathry, Lord of Seacliff Castle, and Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter, do hereby pledge my house's strength and support to yours, Sirius Orion Black, and promise to do everything within my power to assist, protect, and shelter your family, vassals and friends as if they were my own. From this day onward, your allies will be my allies and your enemies my enemies. Your secrets will be my secrets and I vow to safeguard them with my life. On my honor, my magic, and my very life, so mote it be."

The wording was slightly different from when Harry had done this ritual with Bruce McLaggen, due to the fact that the Blacks and the Potters had never been allies in the past. Thus the words, 'As our families have stood together before, so shall we stand together again, now and into the future,' were not included. Everything else, however, from the golden nimbuses of light, swirls of color, and the pulse of magic at the end were the same. Until such time that either Sirius or Harry passed away, or they mutually decided to end it, the Black and Potter families were now officially allies.

"I've read about the Alliance Oath," Asterion commented when it was over. "But this is the first time I've ever actually witnessed it done. It was..." he hesitated here for a moment, trying to think of the right word, before he finished, "...impressive."

Cedric nodded. "Yeah, I know what you mean. I've seen it done before, but it's still impressive."

"I could feel that burst of magic at the end," Gavin said. "It felt very powerful."

"It is," Regulus said. "The Alliance Oath is by far one of the strongest and most powerful oaths two wizards can make, since it requires them to swear on their honor, magic, and lives. That doesn't mean that the other oaths, like the Oath of Loyalty, fore example, are any less powerful or binding, but the Alliance Oath is the only one which will strip the honor, magic, and life of the party that breaks it."

"Losing your magic or life, I think is self-explanatory," Harry said. "But, what exactly does losing your honor mean? Would it matter if you're dead?"

"It matters, very much, Harry," Eudora answered. "You see, losing your magic and life, that only effects the Lord who made the oath. The honor part, however, will affect every member of the family. They're all barred from making any type of magical oath and the word dishonored will be written on their foreheads for all to see. Such people would be treated like lepers in the Wizarding world. Now, there is a ritual that a family can undergo to regain their honor, but it takes two-hundred years to complete and it can't be started until every family member who was alive at the time the broken alliance was made has passed away."

"None of the Thirteen Houses have ever been stripped of their honor," Regulus said. "However, I do know that some of the lesser, non-nobles houses have been over the years. The Weasley family being an example."

"The Weasleys?" Harry asked, shocked.

Regulus nodded. "Yes, Harry. It was back in the 1190's. At that time, the Weasley family was one of the wealthiest non-noble families in the country. They entered into an alliance with the pureblooded Cornfoot family, but then a year later, the Head of the Weasley family broke the alliance. He lost his magic and his life and for the next two-hundred-and-ninety-three years the Weasley family had no honor. During that time, nobody would deal with them, so their once vast fortune disappeared and they were forced to sell off properties and heirlooms at auction to pay their mounting debts, often getting far less for them then what they were actually worth. Now while the family did regain its honor once the ritual was completed, they never recovered financially."

"That's also the source of the bitterness between the Weasleys and the Malfoys," Asterion added. "It was the Malfoy family that bought many of the Weasley family's properties and heirlooms, and as my father just said, a lot of it was sold for much less then what it was worth. Of course, it's been so many years now that it's possible both families have forgotten the real reason for their dislike of each other. The only reason I know is because I've studied the books that record such things, as has my father. Most people don't read them, however, because dating back over a thousand years, they're so long that most people figure it's not worth the effort. You could read a thousand pages before coming across an event or name that you actually recognize."

"There is a spell that allows you to search through the books for information on a specific topic, of course," Regulus said. "But, much like the spell used to authenticate the authorship of a book, it's a mage-level spell that most witches and wizards alive today wouldn't be powerful enough to cast."

"The Cornfoot family," Harry said. "Name sounds familiar."

"There's one at Hogwarts, Harry," Cedric said. "He's in your year, but he's in Ravenclaw. Named Stephen Cornfoot. I don't know him personally, but I've heard that he's very close to a Muggleborn by the name of Kevin Entwhistle."

Terence nodded. "Yes, one of the many betting pools at Hogwarts is wagering on whether Kevin and Stephen are a couple or not. If I recall correctly, the pot is just over 50 galleons, with most betting that they are indeed a couple."

"I've seen them together once or twice," Oliver said. "If they aren't a couple, I'd be shocked. They're very touchy feely with each other."

Harry gasped. "You noticed something that didn't have anything to do with Quidditch?"

"Oh come on," Oliver said. "I notice plenty of things that aren't Quidditch related."

"That's true, sometimes," Terence said with a grin. "Rarely, but still true."

"Et tu, Liam?" Oliver asked his boyfriend.

"It's just the truth, Will," Terence said with a smile, as he leaned over and kissed Oliver lightly on the lips. "But I love you anyway."

"Well, you lovebirds, let's get going," Remus said with a smile. "I'm sure all of you want to get your shopping done and I know Sirius is chomping at the bit to get fitted for new clothes."

Sirius, who before his incarceration was an admitted clothes horse, made no attempt to disabuse anyone of the notion that he was looking forward to getting a new wardrobe. He did, however, look Remus up and down and say, "You're going to need some new clothes too, Remus. You look too ragged for your new position."

"New position?" Remus asked, as he arched an eyebrow. "What new position?"

"I don't trust my grandfather's seneschal," Sirius answered. "So I'm replacing him with you."

"Me?" Remus asked. "You want me to be your seneschal? Sirius, that's stupid. I'm a werewolf, remember. Even though I am over twenty-one, I'm barred from voting in the Wizengamot. Truth is, I can't even do half the tasks that a seneschal is supposed to do because of my condition. You'd be wasting your money."

"Ah, but you see, Remus," Sirius said with a smile, "it's my money to waste if I choose. Besides, I met with my account manager. You needn't worry about me wasting my money, Remus, unless you plan on still being alive in about four-hundred-and-fifty years from now."

"Why four-hundred-and-fifty years?" Gavin asked.

Sirius smiled. "Because if we had no money at all coming in and Remus' salary was the only expense, that's how long it would take for Remus being on my payroll at the standard seneschal's salary for the Blacks to run out of money. My account manager couldn't give me exact amounts for how much the other families are worth, of course, but the Blacks are the sixth wealthiest family in the country, surpassed only by the Pendragons, Potters, Burkes, Ollivanders, and Malfoys - in that order."

Harry was shocked by this, of course. "The Potters are the second wealthiest family in the country? Outdone only by the royal family?"

"Yes, Harry, they are," Sirius said. "As I said, my account manager couldn't give me exact amounts for the other families, but he could give me the rankings. Just among the royal and noble families, the order is Pendragon, Potter, Burke, Ollivander, Malfoy, Black, Crouch, Flint, McKinnon, Bones, McLaggen, Diggory, Longbottom and Lestrange."

"I suppose Frank being in a near coma all these years hasn't helped the Longbottoms," Regulus said. "Lady Longbottom has done what she could, but there's certain things she just can't do. Of course, the Lestrange family is in the same boat. There's plenty of things that Arcturus can't do, even as the heir, and Rodolphus can't do anything from Azkaban. Not only because nobody wants to go there and deal with the Dementors in order to do business with him, but also because it's illegal to conduct any business in Azkaban that isn't official Royal or Ministry business."

"It's also feared, of course," Asterion added, "that Lord Lestrange would no longer be of sound mind to do anything, after so many years under the influence of the Dementors." Looking at his uncle, he said, "You may have some trouble with that, yourself, Uncle. I'm not saying you're incapable, but some people may think otherwise."

Sirius nodded. "Yes, I know. Usually, the Dementors would drive one insane, but I had a secret weapon."

"And what's that, brother?" Regulus asked.

Grinning, Sirius turned into Padfoot for a moment, and then back again. "The Dementors had no affect on me while I was in my Animagus form. That's why when Animagi are thrown in Azkaban, there's usually a spell cast on them that'll prevent them from transforming. Well, it's not the only reason. They also do it in case your form would make it easy for you to escape. A bird Animagus, for example, would have little trouble flying away from the island. The thing is they only cast that spell if they know that you're an Animagus in the first place, and since I'm unregistered, they never cast it on me."

After a moment, Remus said, "Sirius, really, you shouldn't pick me as your seneschal. Besides that, I've already been fitted for new clothes, some of which I'll be picking up today. I'm already on Harry's payroll, getting the standard Hogwarts professors' salary, in exchange for helping Gavin with his remedial studies and helping Harry teach the others the Patronus Charm. Those are things I can do, Sirius, so I don't mind being paid for them, but I will not accept money from you for a job I can't do."

"Well, if you won't be my seneschal, will you at least consider secretary, perhaps?" Sirius asked. "You know how bad I am at organizing things and keeping a schedule. I don't think there's any laws which would prevent you from keeping track of my calendar and reminding me what's on it."

Remus sighed. "Fine, fine, I can see you're determined. I'll do it, but if you try and pay me even one knut more than what I deserve for doing that job, unpleasant gifts in your bed and looking like your mother or Grandaunt Lycoris will be the least of your worries, Sirius Black. Do you understand me?"

Sirius nodded. "Yes, Moony, I understand you perfectly. Now, that that's settled, let's go, shall we? The stores are all waiting to take our money and I for one am more than willing to oblige them."

-o-0-o-

Leaving the bank, Harry opted to accompany Remus, Sirius, Regulus, and Asterion to Tarik's shop for clothes, while Eudora took the others around the bazaar looking for gifts they could get Roger for his birthday. They all agreed that they'd meet up at Coulderton's Fine Wands in an hour, as they felt that while they were here in Cairo, they might as well stop in and say hello to Nick. Plus, Sirius did need to buy a new wand, as his old wand had been confiscated upon his incarceration. Assuming nobody had destroyed it, it was probably locked up in some storage room at the Ministry, but with all the government red tape, it could take years for them to actually find it. So, it was so much easier to just buy a new wand.

Sirius was initially leery about buying a wand from anyone but Lord Ollivander, however, once he found out that Coulderton's Fine Wands was, in fact, owned and operated by Lord Ollivander's grandson and heir, he decided to give it a try. It also helped that Harry, Cedric, Terence, Oliver, and Gavin all reported that their wands made by Nick worked much better than the wands his grandfather had made for them ever had.

"Ah, Lord Black, welcome," Nick said in greeting. "Let's see here, Sirius Black , ah, yes. Grandfather sold you a 15" wand made of oak wood, with a dragon heartstring as its core. It was somewhat stiff, yet malleable, and was the eighteenth wand you tried."

"That's correct," Sirius said, looking shocked. "How could you possibly know that? My parents took me to buy my wand when I was only six. I don't think you were even born yet."

Nick grinned. "You're right, I wasn't. I was born on November 27, 1969, meaning I'll be 25 on my next birthday. You on the other hand, I believe were born in 1959, right?" Sirius nodded. "So, you purchased your wand in 1965. Obviously, I wasn't born yet, however, in a nutshell one of the old Ollivander family spells had a side effect of improving our memories. I'm an extreme case, however, in that I can remember everything that I've ever seen, heard, read, touched, or smelled with perfect clarity. Now as to how I knew the details of your previous wand, the store keeps very detailed records about every wand they sell and I've read all of those records, dating back to January of 1869. I read it, therefore I remember it."

"Okay," Sirius said, drawing out the word a bit.

"Yeah, I know, it's freakish," Nick said with a laugh. "In school, I was always number one in my classes because I remembered everything the teachers said verbatim. So that was good, but it's also a curse because there's plenty of things that I remember that I really wish I didn't."

"Like all of Binns' lectures?" Roger asked with a grin.

"Yeah, I would love to forget those," Nick said. To himself, however, he added, 'Along with a handful of other memories. None more so, however, than the way I found out my father was dead.'

Of course, this thought caused Nick to sway on his feet for a second, as he closed his eyes and his mind was assaulted with images that he'd removed hundreds of times since he'd first seen them. Unfortunately, no matter how many times he removed them, there was always the chance that they'd come back, especially if he made the mistake of doing what he'd just done - thinking about it. Not that he ever intentionally set out to do so, but sometimes it just happened, no matter how hard he tried not to think about it.

"Nick, are you okay?" Cedric asked, obviously concerned for his friend as he stepped forward.

Smiling weakly, Nick nodded and said, "Yes, I'm fine. I just thought about something and it reminded me of something I'd really love to forget. Unfortunately, I can't forget anything."

"What about Obliviation?" Harry asked.

Nick shook his head. "Unfortunately, that doesn't work on me. Grandfather has taken me all over the world, to see some of the best and most renowned Obliviators that the world has to offer. None of them could Obliviate me to the point that the memories stayed gone for good. They'd wipe them and they'd stay gone for a few days or maybe even a few weeks, if I was lucky, but they always come back. All I have to do is think about something related to them and they can come flooding back in an instant. Occlumency doesn't work, either. I've tried it repeatedly, but the magic from that old family spell is far too saturated in my blood for it to be effective." Shaking his head, he sighed and said, "If you'll excuse me, I have to go use my Pensieve for a moment. I'll be back in a few minutes and then we'll see about getting you a new wand, Lord Black."

Once Nick had gone into the backroom of his shop and was safely out of earshot, Harry asked, "That must have been a horrible memory that just came back to him. Unless I'm mistaken, he was trying to fight back tears."

Cedric nodded. "You weren't mistaken, Harry. I saw it too. I know he has some memories that he hates and wishes he didn't, but he's never told me what they are and I don't ask because I don't want to inadvertently make him remember."

Regulus sighed. "I think I might have some idea what he just remembered and wishes he didn't."

"What's that, father?" Asterion asked.

Summoning his staff, Regulus quickly put up a powerful Silencing Charm, to make doubly sure that Nick didn't overhear what he was about it say. "This was before my double even joined the Death Eaters, but some of the more sadistic of the group enjoyed talking about what they viewed as past successes to anyone who would listen. Now, the Dark Lord desperately wanted Lord Ollivander on his side, figuring that having a master wandmaker like Garrick Ollivander on his side could only be advantageous to him. However, Lord Ollivander continually turned down all of the overtures that the Dark Lord made to him, so eventually, he got mad and decided to remind Lord Ollivander just who he was dealing with. That's when Garrick's son and Nick's father, Garrison Ollivander, was captured during a raid. The Dark Lord, however, wasn't just angry with Lord Ollivander's continued refusals, he was livid and decided to take out that anger on his new prisoner."

"What did he do?" Gavin found himself asking, even though he was not entirely certain he wanted to hear it.

"He used the Cruciatus on Garrison until he was in much the same position the Longbottoms are in now," Regulus revealed. "However, he then put him out of his misery, so to speak, by using the Killing Curse on him. Now if you think that sounds uncharacteristic of the Dark Lord, you may be right, but he followed his casting of the Killing Curse with several powerful Severing Charms. Basically, he cut Garrison's body up into hundreds of pieces, leaving his head intact. He then put the still bleeding remains, with the head on top, eyes wide open, into a shipping crate similar to the crates that Ollivander's routinely gets raw materials delivered in and had it shipped to the store."

"Oh Merlin," Cedric said, suddenly feeling sick. He had a bad feeling about where this was going. "Nick's mother was dead by then and his father and grandmother were Aurors, often out in the field due to the ongoing war, so, Nick spent much of his childhood with his grandfather at the store. Rather than letting him sit around and do nothing and possibly get into trouble, however, his grandfather began teaching him about wandcraft, as well as putting him to work. Now Nick can't wear it on his hand while his grandfather is alive, but Lord Ollivander put the family ring on a chain that Nick could wear around his neck. This basically gave him his grandfather's proxy so that he could accept delivery of raw materials crates that were delivered while Lord Ollivander himself was out in the front of the store waiting on customers. It was also part of Nick's job to open the crates and start putting the materials away where they were supposed to go in the back room."

"Oh Merlin, no," Terence said, shaking his head and looking more than a little green. Not that he was the only one, as the others weren't looking much better. "Nick would only have been seven when Garrison died. If he opened that crate that You-Know-Who shipped to the store..." Shuddering, he added, "I don't even want to imagine how horrific it would be to open a crate and find you father's head staring at you."

Everyone cringed at that thought, before Harry asked, "Wait, how could Nick have even done that job? He'd never even gone to Hogwarts at that point."

Cedric nodded. "That's true, Harry, he hadn't. But, all the shipping crates are charmed so that the magical seals will dissolve if the Ollivander ring is pressed against them. Then all Nick had to do was take the wooden lid off the crate and start putting everything away. That work has always been done by hand, without magic, because it's believed that using magic on the raw materials might adversely affect the wand. So, even though he had never gone to Hogwarts yet, he was capable of doing that work, because he didn't need to use magic to do it."

"I think, before he comes back," Gavin said, "it would be a good idea if we all had our memories of this conversation blocked. Just so that we don't give him any strange looks or accidentally say something that reminds him. I think he's suffered enough for one day."

"Agreed," Regulus said, as he motioned for everyone to group together, before he raised his staff and incanted, "Obliviate!" while concentrating on removing the last few minutes from the minds of everyone else in the room. Some might wonder why Regulus cast the spell, instead of Eudora, since she was more powerful than her former student. The reason was because memory spells had never been Eudora's field of expertise and she knew, more powerful or not, that Regulus was better at them than she was. As good as he was, however, Regulus couldn't memory charm himself, but he had, thankfully, mastered Occlumency during his time away. Thus, he was able to file the memory away in a deep corner of his mind and block it with several layers of powerful mental shielding. While the technique wouldn't work for Nick Ollivander, it did work for Regulus.

"What were we talking about?" Terence asked, after he blinked a few times. "Where's Nick?"

"Nick will be back shortly," Regulus explained. "He had something he had to do in the backroom."

Eudora nodded and said, "Well, in that case, why don't you boys who've bought one of Nick's wands before explain to Lord Black what he can expect?"

"What do you mean what I can expect?" Sirius asked, clearly confused.

Harry grinned. "Nick doesn't agree with his grandfather on a few key points in the making of wands. For example, he doesn't make wands in advance the way Garrick does. He matches the core and wood to each customer separately and allows them to decide from the various display models you see in the cases what their new wand will look like."

"He also stocks a greater array of cores," Oliver explained. "Each wizard's magic resonates with an element: fire, water, earth, or air. Likewise each core and wood resonates with an element, and a wand that resonates well with the wizard's magic will work best for them."

Sirius was about to say something when Gavin said, "Perhaps most importantly, Nick doesn't believe in his grandfather's standard claim that the 'wand chooses the wizard.'"

"Indeed I don't," Nick said as he reentered the front room of his shop. "Grandfather says that because he wanted people to believe it. He figured it would make them more amenable to his preference to sell only pre-made wands, rather than the way his father and previous generations of the family had been doing it for over two millennia. Great-grandfather Gervaise Ollivander died in 1941, two years after my grandfather took complete control of the store. I've read his journals from those last two years and I can tell you that while he fully supported my grandfather's decision to control the quality of raw materials used by no longer allowing witches and wizards to bring in their own wood and cores, he did not support the idea of selling pre-made wands or limiting the available cores to only three."

"You mean other wandmakers don't sell pre-made wands either?" Sirius asked.

"Some do, but they adopted the practice after my grandfather did," Nick answered. "Ollivander is one of the oldest and most respected names in wandcraft. Over the many years that my family has been making wands, we've served millions upon millions of people, including some of the most recognizable names in history: Arthur Pendragon, Merlin Emrys, Morgana le Fey, and all four of the founders of Hogwarts. We've also been called upon from time to time to serve customers outside of Albion, such as the Roman Emperor Hadrian and Egypt's Queen Cleopatra. Thus, we're highly respected and some did follow suit and adopt my grandfather's practices, figuring that if an Ollivander was doing it, it had to be the right way."

"Not everyone did though, I take it," Remus said, fascinated by what he was hearing, as he had never heard any of this before. He'd known that according to the sign on Lord Ollivander's shop in Diagon Alley that they'd been making wands since 382 B.C., but he'd had no idea that they'd made wands for so many of history's famous people, including Merlin. It made sense that they would have supplied wands to them, since the store was clearly around when the people in question were alive, but the store didn't advertise it, so how would the average customer ever know it?

"No, not everyone did," Nick confirmed. "And even many of the wandmakers who adopted the idea of selling pre-made wands balked at the idea of using only three cores. Especially the three cores that grandfather chose, but then it's an occupational hazard I suppose. Every master of an art as complicated as wandmaking is going to have a different opinion and consensus can be difficult to achieve. Anyway, shall we get started, Lord Black?"

Sirius nodded and said, "I'm ready when you are."

"Then please have a seat at the table and we'll figure out what core suits you best," Nick said, as he went on to explain how Sirius needed to close his eyes and how Nick would also be holding his hand over his eyes to make doubly sure that Sirius couldn't see the cores.

Twenty minutes later, Sirius had narrowed down his potential cores down to one, while woods were narrowed down to two. Considering the number of wands that he'd tried originally, Nick wasn't surprised to find that Sirius had not matched with a dragon heartstring.

"Well, very interesting results," Nick said, as he sat across from Sirius at the testing table. "I'm not surprised that you didn't match with any of the dragon heartstrings. Now, one of the woods you matched with was oak, like your last wand, however, you also matched with hawthorn. Oak resonates with fire, but it also resonates with lightning, which is considered to be part of the air element, which is what hawthorn resonates with. I find have to ask this, Lord Black, but do you enjoy drinking? That is do you enjoy drinking alcohol in large quantities?"

"I don't see what that has to do with my wand," Sirius said.

"Quite a bit, actually," Nick explained. "You see, the one core you indicated you were the most drawn to was the wing feather from an Abraxan. Now, according to the renowned Abraxan breeder, Madame Olympe Maxime, who is also the Headmistress of France's Beauxbatons Academy, Abraxans require forceful handling and should drink only single malt whisky. In my experience, people who match with Abraxan wing feathers are often in possession of a strong and forceful personality and have a very high tolerance for alcohol, which is why I asked about your drinking habits."

"Ah, okay," Sirius said, now understanding the relevance of Nick's question. "I do enjoy the occasional drink, yes."

"The occasional drink?" Remus asked, clearly shocked. "Please, Sirius, I've seen you throw back an entire bottle's worth of Firewhisky shots and still not be drunk."

"Only one bottle?" Regulus asked. "I've seen him drink two entire bottles without getting drunk. I would also point out that he was fourteen at the time and that it was Old Ogden's Black Label, which is much stronger than the more common and less expensive Red Label."

"That's quite the impressive feat," Nick said. "So, anyway, back to your wand, Abraxan wing feathers resonate with the air element, which matches the resonance of hawthorn and the secondary resonance of oak. I would suggest an oak handle with the shaft made of hawthorn, Lord Black."

"Okay, what's next then?" Sirius asked.

"Next, I'll clean up a bit from your testing," Nick said, "while I invite you to have a look at the display cases. None of the wands in them are finished. They're just display models to showcase the various designs that I can give to your finished wand. Unlike grandfather and his pre-made creations, I allow my customers to decide what their wand looks like. They are, after all, the ones who have to use their wands, so I believe that they should be able to decide what it looks like." Motioning towards the display cases, Nick said, "So, please, have a look around and tell me which ones you like the best. The shaft and handle are crafted separately, so I can mix and match them."

While Sirius had a look around at the displays, Harry, Terence, Cedric, Oliver, and Gavin were seated in the lounge area of the room and filled Harry in on the conversation they'd had while he was at the Wizengamot meeting, in which they'd narrowed down the number of professors. Overhearing this conversation, Nick said, "Ah, so your four trainers are actually Hogwarts professors are they?"

"Yes, Nicholas, my colleagues and I are professors," Eudora confirmed.

"There's apparently subtle clues," Harry said. "And we're supposed to look out for them so that we can figure out who they are."

Nodding Nick, said, "I see. Well, in that case, I would point out a couple of things that your trainers said here in my shop which could very well have been clues to their identities. I don't know if any of you remember the comments, but I do, obviously."

"What comments, Nick?" Cedric asked, eager to hear exactly what Nick remembered on this topic.

"Well, first off, last time she was here," Nick said, "Ms. Emma Baldwin stated and I quote, 'My magic resonates the strongest with air and I can attest to the fact that when I went to Ollivander's to replace my wand after your grandfather took over, he had a very hard time matching me with a new one.' Now, if Ms. Baldwin needed a replacement wand after grandfather took over, that tells me that she already had one before he took over. Which, to me, would suggest that if she purchased her original wand from Ollivander's that it was sold by my great-grandfather Gervaise Ollivander, who retired in 1939."

Silence filled the room at that, as the boys thought over that statement and some of them were soon nodding, that yes, Nick's assessment of what Emma had said would make sense. Nick, apparently, wasn't done yet, as he added, "Later on, after I'd explained about my memory, discussion turned to Professor Binns. And Ms. Baldwin also said, 'I was in Professor Binns' class before he died, and from what I've heard being dead hasn't improved his teaching abilities.'"

"I could be wrong here," Cedric said, "but to me that sounds like she was saying that she had Binns as her history teacher while he was still alive."

"I agree with you, Ric," Terence said. "Also, notice that she made a point of saying 'from what I've heard being dead hasn't improved his teaching abilities.' Now, to me, that suggests that she had no experience with Professor Binns as a professor after he died, if she had to go by what she'd heard to determine if dying had improved his teaching or not."

"When did Professor Binns die?" Gavin asked. After a minute, he asked, "Wasn't it mentioned in Rita Skeeter's article?"

"Yes, it was," Harry said, after thinking about it for a moment. "I think it said Binns died in 1920."

Terence nodded, "Yes, it was April of 1920, I think. Which would mean that Emma is getting up there in years if she was never in Binns' class before he died."

"What other clues have you gathered about Ms. Baldwin?" Nick asked. He may have been a Hufflepuff in school, but because he couldn't forget anything, he was also highly intelligent as he could easily retain every bit of knowledge that he ever received. Even the Sorting Hat had been divided between Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, but it ultimately decided that Hufflepuff was better because it judged Nick to be a hard worker and to have a high degree of loyalty to his friends.

Thinking about it, Oliver asked, "Didn't she mention that she's taught Defense Against the Dark Arts a few times when the Headmaster couldn't find anyone else?"

Nodding, Gavin said, "Yeah, she did. She didn't mention which years, but she's also said that she used to play Quidditch professionally."

"Harry also noticed that she watches a program on the television every morning," Cedric said. "Something with two elderly women talking about a recipe."

At this, Nick laughed. When he calmed down, he said, "Well, then, I can tell you exactly who Ms. Emma Baldwin is."

"They're supposed to figure it out for themselves, Nicholas," Eudora said with a frown. "Is there any way you can point them in the right direction without actually telling them?"

Nick was silent for a few moments, as he considered Eudora's question. "Well, I suppose I could try, although I'm afraid I might make it blatantly obvious. As to those clues, there's only one professor I know of who was once a professional Quidditch player. Several of them played Quidditch during their time at Hogwarts as students, but only one I know of went on to a professional career."

"Who?" Harry asked.

Nick smiled. "In keeping with Eudora's request, I'm not going to just blurt out the name of the person I suspect. However, I would tell you that the person in question played Chaser for both Slytherin house and the Holyhead Harpies."

"Any ideas Mr. Quidditch Nut?" Cedric asked, as he looked at Oliver.

Oliver took a moment to think about it, before he said, "No clue. I never followed the Harpies very closely. Besides, Rose told us that all the trainers were on staff during Professor Lupin's years as a student, which began in 1971. I was raised as a Puddlemere fan and even I couldn't tell you the names of everyone who played for them. The current team, sure, and maybe going back the last ten or so years, but going back over twenty years? I wasn't even born yet."

"Anything else you'll tell us, Nick?" Gavin asked.

"Well, as a former Prefect and Head Boy," Nick said, "I can also tell you that the professor in question was also a Prefect and Head Girl."

"That don't help us much," Terence said. "I can't say as I know who all the past Prefects and Head Girls are, especially dating far enough back that the person who held the title would have had Binns as a teacher before he died."

Nick grinned. "No, but you could look it up, I'm sure."

"Isn't there anything else you can tell us, Nick?" Sirius asked. Even though he wasn't being trained, even he was curious about who these four women were.

"There is something else," Nick said, "but I'm afraid it would probably make it blatantly obvious if you think about it enough. Honestly, Emma hasn't been being all that subtle from what I'm hearing, although then again I suppose she figured none of you would be familiar with an American television show."

"So the show she watches is an American show?" Harry asked and Nick nodded. "How do you even know about it then?"

Nick smiled. "I have a pen friend in America. We met in person over the summer between my sixth and seventh year when grandfather let me go visit for two weeks. He's a Muggleborn, so, I learned quite a bit about the Muggle world during my visit and his Mum used to watch the same show that I suspect Emma is watching. Kevin and I watched a few times, as well, mainly because as a pureblood, I'd never even seen a television before that point, so I found it interesting."

"Well then what about this show?" Gavin asked. "How is it relevant to Emma's identity?"

"Hmm, how to phrase this so that you'll have to think about it," Nick said aloud, as he stroked his chin. "The two elderly women? One of them is named Emily and that recipe they talk about? It's not something you eat. That's all I'm saying."

Both Harry and Sirius were about to say something, see if they could pry a few more details out of Nick, using their Lord status if necessary, but before they could open their mouths, four clearly Egyptian wizards entered the shop, three of them drawing their wands and starting to cast spells, while the fourth stepped forward and asked, "Who's the owner of this store?"

Stepping forward, Nick said, "That would be me, Gareth Nicholas Ollivander. Is there something I can do for you?"

"You can prepare to receive Her Imperial Majesty Queen Meritites and His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Khufu," the wizard said.

'Pharaoh Seti's primary wife and heir?' Nick thought to himself, clearly shocked, as he nodded to the man he now realized was a high-ranking officer of the Medjai - the elite Egyptian military force which guarded the imperial palaces, the Pharaoh, and his family. Next to the Pharaoh himself, Medjai officers were the highest officials in all of Magical Egypt - outranking even the Pharaoh's closest advisors. They were definitely not someone you wanted to get on the bad side of.

Nodding, Nick said, "Yes, of course, it would be my honor."

Remaining silent, for a moment, the officer said, "Why is the name of the shop Coulderton's Fine Wands, if your name is Ollivander?"

"My grandfather back in Albion is His Grace Lord Garrick Ollivander, the Duke of Whitehaven," Nick explained. "We had a difference of opinion and he forbade me to use the Ollivander name for my store. So, I called it Coulderton's Fine Wands instead. I'm the heir to the Ollivander family, so I'm permitted to use my grandfather's second-best title, Marquis of Coulderton."

"I see," the officer said. "And these other people? Some of them appear to be dressed in such a way as to suggest nobility."

"Some of them are," Nick said, at which point the guard nodded and pointed at Sirius, making it clear he wanted Sirius to identify himself.

"I'm Lord Sirius Black, Marquis of Charlton," Sirius revealed. "And Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black."

The officer nodded, pointing at Harry next.

"I'm Lord Harrison Potter, Duke of Granston," Harry said. "Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter."

"Potter, Potter, that name sounds familiar," the officer muttered, more to himself.

"You may have heard me referred to as The-Boy-Who-Lived," Harry volunteered, as he reluctantly lifted his fringe to reveal the tell-tale scar on his forehead.

"Ah, yes," the officer said, realization on his face, as he scrutinized the famous scar for a moment. "The boy who survived the Killing Curse and defeated Voldemort." Some of the people in the room flinched at the mention of the name, though Harry, Nick, Eudora, Regulus, Asterion and the members of the Medjai did not. Shaking his head, the officer said, "Are people in Albion still clinging to the completely idiotic fear of uttering that second-rate Dark Lord's name?"

"Second-rate Dark Lord?" Regulus said. "I can't say as I've ever heard anyone call him that."

"And you are, sir?" the Medjai officer asked.

"Regulus Black, Earl of Alnwick," Regulus answered. "I'm Lord Black's younger brother and heir." Motioning towards Asterion, he added, "And this is my son, Asterion Black, Viscount Langleeford."

The officer nodded and then said, "While people in Albion may view Voldemort as the most powerful Dark Lord in over a century, he is not viewed as such by the rest of the Wizarding world. While I admit, it did cause great concern when he succeeded in murdering all but one member of the royal family, his power and influence never extended much past the borders of Albion and Iwernia. And then his reign came to an abrupt end not at the hands of a fully-trained adult, but by an untrained baby still in his crib. I mean no offense, of course, Lord Potter. However, given these facts, the Wizarding communities outside of those countries still view Gellert Grindelwald as the most powerful Dark Lord. His reign of terror stretched across most of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa, something which Voldemort could never truthfully claim. He was also the wielder of the fabled Elder Wand, which he reportedly stolen from wandmaker Wilhelm Gregorovitch many years earlier."

At this point one of the officer's underlings came over and whispered something in his commander's ear, causing him to nod and say, "However, I'm getting off track. The rest of you will please identify yourself."

After everyone else had done so, the Medjai officer nodded and asked, "One other issue I find myself curious about. I suspect that there must be more to your visit here to Cairo, as there are plenty of wandmakers closer to Albion that do not subscribe to Lord Ollivander's narrow view of wandcraft. Albion nobility, especially, shopping anywhere outside of Albion strikes me as more than a little odd, seeing as how they usually view all foreign goods as inferior."

It was Eudora who spoke up. "In terms of the wand shopping, it's true there are other closer wandmakers, but none of them have the name Ollivander. As to the idea of foreign goods being inferior, it's obviously not true and it's something I'm trying to instill in the others here." Noticing the confused look on the Medjai's face, she then added, "Lord Potter, Mr. Diggory, Mr. Higgs, and Messrs. Wood are my pupils, however, I can't tell you in what, I'm afraid. It would require revealing information protected by the Fidelius, information of which I am not the Keeper."

"Ah, I see," the officer said. "Then I assume they're training as mages and no ma'am I don't expect you to confirm that. I know how the Fidelius works, so I know you can't. The spell won't stop me from suspecting, however, and I believe I'm right, even without confirmation." Tilting his head to one side for a moment and closing his eyes, he suddenly nodded and said, "Anyway, the time for talk is over, as Her Majesty and His Highness have arrived."

As if on cue, the bell over the front door of the shop rang, as a regal looking young man, dressed in white robes, cut in a style more suited to the Egyptian climate, entered the room, followed by an equally regal looking older woman. It was clear from the resemblance that they were mother and son. The young man, clearly Prince Khufu, judging from the golden and jeweled circlet he wore on his head, looked to be about fifteen or sixteen, with deeply tanned skin, black hair, and grey eyes. His five foot, eleven inch frame was slim, but muscular in all the right places, proving beyond any shadow of a doubt that the young man was clearly a very active individual.

While they did their best not to allow it to show on their faces, more than one of the younger males felt a rather uncomfortable tightening in their trousers by looking at the young man. Thankfully, however, they were all wearing robes, which did a remarkable job of hiding such conditions. The woman, meanwhile, had curly black hair with traces of gray. She was dressed in a billowing white gown, accented in numerous jewels and wore a golden and jeweled tiara upon her head. There could be no mistake that she or her son were royalty.

The Medjai officer bowed and said, "Your Majesty," as he stood and motioned towards Nick, "This is Mr. Gareth Ollivander, the proprietor."

Meritites nodded and said, "Mr. Ollivander, my son has broken his wand and requires a new one. I trust that you will be capable of supplying this service?"

"Of course, Your Majesty, it would be my most profound honor," Nick answered with a bow of his own.

"Mother, why are we even here?" Khufu asked. "This shop doesn't hold an imperial warrant."

"I realize that, son," Meritites responded. "However, that doesn't necessarily mean that it doesn't deserve one. There's plenty of stores that do hold imperial warrants that don't deserve them, after all."

"Mother!" Khufu exclaimed in a scandalized tone. Suggesting that a store that had been granted an imperial warrant from the Pharaoh of Egypt - a living god - was blasphemous.

"Don't, Mother me, Khufu," Meritites said. "I've only spoken the truth. You don't actually think that every store that holds a warrant means they're somehow better do you or that your father has personally signed off on their goods? Some of the stores were awarded their warrants over three hundred years ago and nobody in the imperial family has shopped there in almost as long. Your father just hasn't rescinded the warrants granted by his ancestors because he has more important things to be worrying about. I can also tell you from experience - because I was with him at the time - that your father has shopped at stores that didn't hold a warrant before."

"It's true, Your Highness," the Medjai officer interjected. "I too have witnessed His Majesty shopping at unwarranted stores before. Some of them were given warrants afterwards and some weren't. It was all up the quality of the goods on sale and the quality of the service he'd received."

Khufu remained silent for a moment, as he considered his mother's and guard's words. It was then that he noticed the other people in the room. "And who are all these other people?"

"Customers who were in the store when we arrived," the Medjai officer commented. "Some of them, like Mr. Ollivander here, being Albion nobility."

Meritites nodded. "Yes, I'd heard that members of the Albion nobility were seen shopping here. I found myself curious, so when Khufu broke his wand, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to satisfy that curiosity." Giving Nick an appraising look, she added, "I had not, however, heard that you were nobility, Mr. Ollivander."

"My grandfather is Lord Garrick Ollivander, the Duke of Whitehaven, Your Majesty," Nick said. "I'm his heir, so, I hold the courtesy title of Marquis of Coulderton."

"Well, the Ollivander family's renown in the wand business can't be disputed," Meritites commented. "They are one of the oldest and most respected wand making families around. I know they supplied Queen Cleopatra once. I'm sure there were other famous people over the years."

"True," Khufu said. "Though I can't say as I agree with the so-called supreme core theory that I've heard mentioned by the maker of my last wand."

"Neither does Nick," Harry said with a smile.

"And you are?" Khufu asked, as he turned to face Harry. If the latter had to guess, he'd say that Khufu wasn't that much older than him - probably a year or two at the absolute most.

"Lord Harrison Potter, Duke of Granston," Harry answered.

"He's the so-called Boy-Who-Lived, Your Highness," the Medjai officer said. "Harry Potter."

Khufu looked impressed. "Well, my opinion of you just increased Ollivander. Although, Nick? I thought your name was Gareth?"

"My given name is Gareth, yes," Nick answered. "I'm Nick to my friends though. My middle name is Nicholas and I prefer Nick to Gareth. Anyway, I'm sure your time is extremely valuable, so, shall we get a move on and get you matched with a wand?"

"Yes, that's a good idea," Meritites agreed.

-o-0-o-

After the Egyptian royals left, an invitation was extended to Nick to attend Roger's party, which he accepted. The group then exchanged their goodbyes and left Nick's shop, heading home. Arriving back at the cottage, everyone hurried upstairs to their respective bedrooms to wrap and hide their gifts for Roger. Once that was done, they all sat down and began making plans for the party itself. It was decided, much to Oliver's joy, that they'd play Quidditch. While he was just as much a bookworm as any Ravenclaw, Roger was also very athletic and loved Quidditch. Perhaps not as obsessively as Oliver did, but then few people could claim that level of devotion.

Of course, what made Oliver extra happy was that for the first time since he'd arrived at Forest Cottage they'd be playing with full teams. As usual, Emma had opted to act as the referee, but unlike the other times they'd played, the other three trainers decided that they would actually play this time. Thus, the plan was that one team would consist of Harry as the seeker, with Oliver as keeper, Terence, Sirius, and Eudora as the chasers, and Roger and Rose as beaters. The other team would be Cedric as seeker, with Cormac as keeper, Asterion, Regulus, and Athena as chasers, and Gavin and Nick as the beaters.

They'd even have an audience, as the trainers had created a duplicate portrait for James and Lily, which would be moved out to the Quidditch pitch during the game so that they could watch Harry play. Bruce and Caroline McLaggen would also be in the stands, along with Robert and Katherine Higgs. Athena's house-elf, Barin, had even agreed to act as announcer, so, this game would be the most realistic one they'd played since beginning their training.

As for the party itself, Harry called for Tilly and put the Seacliff elves to work on the food. In order to insure that Roger didn't see or smell anything being made for his party, all of the food would be prepared at Seacliff and then the elves would transport it over. Eudora had covertly cast a charm on Roger that would allow her to determine what his favorite foods were, which she made a list of and gave to Tilly. Thus, the menu would consist of all of Roger's favorite foods, which included a variety of standard British fare along with some traditionally Spanish foods, owing no doubt to the fact that Roger's mother was from Spain. This would all be topped off with a triple-decker chocolate fudge cake, severed with mint brownie custard on the side.

The next morning, the birthday boy woke up as usual and went through his normal morning routine before heading towards the stairs to go down to breakfast. Looking down the spiral stairs into the living room below, however, he grinned as he immediately knew something was up. How did he know this? Because despite the sun shining through the second floor windows, it was pitch black downstairs.

"Looks like they're giving me a surprise party," Roger said softly, as he grabbed the railing and made his way carefully down the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs, he could feel a ribbon tied to the railing and realized that it was meant to guide him through the pitch black room so that he didn't trip on anything. Grabbing the ribbon in his left hand, he made his way carefully into the kitchen, where no sooner had his foot crossed the threshold did the lights come on as everyone shouted, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"

Roger was all smiles as he said, "Thanks everyone!"

Putting her hand on the chair at the head of the kitchen table where she normally sat, Athena smiled and said, "Here you go, Roger, sit down."

"That's your chair," the Ravenclaw protested.

"Not today it isn't," Athena said. "Now sit down."

"Yes, ma'am," Roger said, knowing better than to argue with Athena. Sitting down at the table, he quickly realized that all of his favorite breakfast foods were laid out, including some traditionally Spanish fare that he usually only ate back home. He smiled. "Everything looks and smells so good."

"My elves at Seacliff did the cooking," Harry said. "And this isn't all. You'll be having all your favorites for lunch and dinner as well."

"And, of course, after dinner comes the most important part," Cedric said with a grin.

All the teens in the room, as well as Nick who'd left a trusted employee in charge of running his shop for the day so he could be there, spoke in unison as they said, "Cake!"

The trainers and other adults laughed, before Rose said, "Alright, everyone dig in. The sooner you all finish breakfast, the sooner you can head out to the Quidditch pitch."

At this Gavin grabbed a copy of the Daily Prophet that had been delivered a few minutes before Roger came down, folded it in half, and promptly hit his brother over the head with it. Oliver, who hadn't been expecting it nearly choked on his pumpkin juice. Giving Gavin a disgruntled look, he asked, "Why are you hitting me?"

Terence grinned conspiratorially at Gavin and said, "Probably because as soon as Rose mentioned Quidditch you started eating as if you were competing in an eating contest. Honestly, Will, slow down and chew your food."

Oliver looked like he was going to say something, but Terence's lightly drawing circles on the inside of his left thigh shut him up as the Slytherin leaned over and whispered in his ear, "Behave today and maybe Roger won't be the only one getting a present."

Perhaps it was the way Oliver's eyes lit up, but Sirius soon pointed a fork at the couple and said, "Oi, you two, we're trying to eat here. Don't make me hose you down."

Everyone laughed for a moment before they continued eating. After a moment, Roger asked, "We're playing Quidditch after breakfast?" The trainers nodded, prompting Roger to ask, "It's Friday though, what about our classes?"

"Cancelled for the day," Emma said. "It's not every day a person turns sixteen, Mr. Davies. We figured you deserved a day off. We'll likely do it for all of your birthdays."

Athena nodded and said, "Yes, although, next month what with Terence's birthday falling on September 15th and Cedric's on September 17th, I'm thinking we'll celebrate both on September 16th."

"That's fine with me," Terence said as Cedric nodded in agreement.

"That should be an interesting day, however," Eudora said, as she smiled brightly at Cedric. "You'll be turning seventeen, so, that means you'll be coming into your inheritance."

"Do you think you'll have performed the blood ritual before then?" Regulus asked.

Athena was quiet for a moment, as she gave Regulus a pointed look. The Black heir soon realized his mistake though. While the fact that Harry, Cedric, and the others were currently being trained as mages was protected by the Fidelius, the exact details of what that training actually involved was not. It was just usually an understood concept that those details wouldn't be talked about in front of people who weren't in training or were already mages. It wasn't really a rule, per say, more like a tradition - which Regulus had just broken since Nick, Cormac, Lord and Lady McLaggen, and Robert and Katherine Higgs had joined them all for breakfast this morning so that they'd be there for the Quidditch game to follow.

"Blood ritual?" Cormac asked.

Rose sighed. "Yes, it's part of mage training. In a nutshell, a blood ritual is performed on perspective mage students which increases their power level by four levels. This will usually push them up into the mage range. We don't pick students for training if the ritual won't put them into the mage range."

"Usually, we would have already performed the ritual," Emma said. "But, we were unavoidably delayed."

"By what?" Nick asked, as he took a sip of tea.

"Me," Harry answered. "I'm taking nutrition potions because I had some vitamin deficiencies and was a bit underweight for my age. Trainers said that needed to be fixed before the ritual could be performed, as my body wasn't strong enough to support a larger magical core."

"I see," Caroline said, and then smiled. "Well, those nutrition potions are obviously working. I didn't say anything about it that day when you first presented yourself at Kinloch over a week ago, but I didn't think you looked all that healthy. You're looking better now though."

Harry smiled and Rose nodded as she said, "Yes, I'm quite pleased with the progress he's making. He'll be taking potions every day for a month, so he'll take his last on September third." Looking at the other trainers, she said, "I believe we're planning to do the ritual the following day, correct?"

Both Emma and Athena nodded, as the former said, "Indeed, that's the plan." Then turning to Regulus, she asked, "Why did you even bring it up, Regulus?"

Asterion grinned and said, "Dad has a theory. He thinks that if the ritual is performed before the inheritance, the more powerful core will cause the inheritance to be larger."

At the curious looks from his former trainers, Regulus elaborated. "Before I performed the ritual on Asterion, I used the mage-level Temporal Sight spell and determined that he'd gain three levels in his inheritance. I was happy enough with that result as it meant that with his inheritance, plus the ritual Asterion would be a Grand Mage. Not as powerful as I am as a Magister, but still nothing to be ashamed of either. You can imagine my surprise then when he had his inheritance and he became a Magister."

"Is it possible that the spell was simply wrong?" Cedric asked.

Athena nodded. "Yes, actually, it is. Regulus, I'd remind you that only someone in the Magus range has a guaranteed 100% accuracy rating when casting Temporal Sight."

"I know that, Athena," Regulus said. "Although I don't think the 75% accuracy of the Magister range is all that bad. Although I'll certainly admit that it could have been wrong. I'd need more data from a wider sampling of mage students who haven't yet undergone the ritual or their inheritances to have a better idea of whether or not there's any truth to my theory."

"I'm assuming from the name and what Regulus has said," Caroline said, "that this spell allows the caster to see into the future?"

Eudora nodded and said, "Yes, it does. The spell allows a mage to look into the future with what they see manifesting itself in a dream-like vision. However, for those of us who are not in the Magus range on the power scale, there's no guarantee that what the caster sees will be accurate. People below the Mage range aren't powerful enough to cast the spell, while those in the Mage range have a 50/50 shot of seeing things correctly or incorrectly. That improves to 75/25 for the Magister level, however, the further ahead one is trying to look, the greater the chance of seeing inaccurate depictions of the future. You might see a series of twenty events and only five of them will happen exactly as you see them, with the rest either not happening at all or playing out in a completely different way."

"The biggest thing one has to remember with the spell," Athena continued, "is that the future is fluid. Nothing is set in stone, as a single choice can change everything. Even a Magus who is guaranteed 100% accuracy isn't going to always lead to correct information. They could look into their future and see what it holds and then make one choice that's different from what they saw, which could very well completely invalidate or change the future that the saw. So, one just has to remember that the future can always be changed, because it hasn't happened yet. As for your theory, Regulus, it's certainly possible that there may be some truth to it and if they're okay with it, I will allow you to use the spell on Harry, Cedric, and Roger before we perform the blood ritual to increase their power levels next month."

Harry shrugged. "It's fine by me."

Cedric nodded and said, "Yeah, I'm a little curious."

"I'm a Ravenclaw," Roger said with a grin. "So, I'm always interested in theories. Most knowledge we have now was only a theory at some point, so, if I can help discover new knowledge, I'd like to."

"What about Gavin?" Oliver asked. "Are you going to do the ritual on him?"

"Well, we could," Eudora answered. "Although in his case, there's no real need to perform it. He's already a Mage, after all, and he'll only become more powerful next January when he hits his seventeenth birthday. Depending on how much power he gains in his inheritance he could end up being anything from a Master Mage all the way up to a Master Magister. If we perform the blood ritual on him before his inheritance, however, he'd be going into it as an Apprentice Magister. So, with the inheritance, he could end up being anything from a Magister at the minimum to a Magus at the maximum."

"I thought the maximum you could gain in your inheritance was three power levels?" Bruce asked. "That's what I was taught at Hogwarts when the scale was covered during my seventh year, anyway."

"The maximum is actually six," Emma said. "But a witch or wizard gaining four, five, or six levels happens rarely enough that it's generally accepted that three is the most one can gain. It would be interesting if there's any truth to Regulus' theory about the blood ritual performed before the inheritance. As far as I know, there's never been any studies on whether the power of one's core going into the inheritance has any effect on how big of an inheritance one receives. From what I've read, it's always appeared to be somewhat random, but I won't rule anything out." Smiling at her fellow trainer, she added, "As Athena is fond of saying, 'Nothing is impossible, improbable maybe, but not impossible.'"

"Very true," Athena said with a nod of her head. "Anyway, as we all appear to have finished eating, I suggest we head out to the Quidditch pitch."

As soon as the words were out of Athena's mouth, Oliver was up and out the door as fast as his legs could carry him. Cedric shook his head. "Liam, your boyfriend is obsessed."

Terence grinned and commented in a sarcastic tone, "Really, Ric? I hadn't noticed."

Everyone laughed, as they all got up from the table and headed outside at a much more normal pace. None of them were the least bit surprised when they got outside to find that Oliver was nowhere in sight, as he was probably already at the pitch which couldn't be seen from the cottage, as it was on the other side of the stream that fed the pond and through a dense grouping of trees.

-o-0-o-

"Well, I'll see you all later," Harry said, as he looked over at the clock on the mantle on Saturday. "It's nearly ten, which means it's time for me to get going to the governor's meeting."

Terence nodded. "Good luck, Harry."

"And be convincing, please," Roger said. "I don't think I can take having Binns as a professor anymore."

Harry smiled, "I'll do my best."

"Well, you already know you have some votes lined up," Gavin pointed out. "Lord Black is voting with you," Sirius nodded affirmatively at this, "plus Lady Longbottom, Lord Ollivander and Lord McLaggen."

"True," Cedric said. "But, Harry still has to convince at least two of the others. He'll need at least seven votes in all and he currently only has five. Thankfully, my father is open to the idea and I think Lords Bones and McKinnon could probably get behind Harry as well. There others, though, I'm not so sure."

"Well, we'll find out soon enough," Harry said, as he left the cottage with Sirius. Since Harry had yet to obtain his Apparition License - he had an appointment on Monday to do just that - Sirius wrapped his arm around his godson and took him Side-Along to Kinloch Hold. Even though they were the Hogwarts Board of Governors, the meetings rarely took place at the school itself. They were instead most often held at Kinloch, owing to the fact that it was the closest noble estate to the school, what with Hogwarts actually being on the McLaggen lands to begin with.

"Lord Potter, Lord Black," Cormac said with a bow, as the two lords appeared in Kinloch's Apparition Chamber. "Welcome to Kinloch Hold."

"Thank you, Cormac," Harry said in a formal tone, before he grinned and asked, "Your father put you on welcoming duty?"

Cormac smiled and nodded. "Yeah, he did. It's just part of the job of being his heir. Anyway, he's in the drawing room with the other lords who've already arrived." Pointing at the door that led out to the entryway, he added, "Though the door, up the stairs and it's the double doors to your left."

Kinloch was laid out in such a way that the entryway, ballroom, and Apparition Chamber were on the ground floor, along with various storage rooms and the kitchens, while the rest of the rooms used for entertaining guests were upstairs on the first floor of the estate. Since some of the rooms on the first floor, such as the library and chapel, had dual levels, the family bedrooms were actually on the third level with guest bedrooms and a few family only rooms, such as the Master's Study, on the second floor. The fourth floor was all attic space, with the exception of a few small rooms which would serve as servants' quarters, if the house actually employed any human servants. With the exception of Bruce's seneschal, who lived with the stable master in the tack house, the McLaggen family had relied solely on house-elves for the last thirty years, so the rooms in the attic weren't used.

"Whose already here?" Sirius asked.

"Lord Ollivander and Lady Longbottom arrived ten minutes ago," Cormac answered. "And Lord Bones arrived about three minutes before you two." Cormac was just about to say that there wasn't any sign of the others, when there were a pair of pops, as Lucius Malfoy and Caractacus Burke arrived within seconds of one another, prompting Cormac to bow again, as he said, "Lord Burke, Lord Malfoy, welcome to Kinloch."

Caractacus nodded to Cormac, Lucius, and Sirius, and gave a small bow to Harry, before he asked, "Drawing room, I assume?"

"Indeed, Lord Burke," Cormac answered, at which point the elderly Marquis of Grangemore nodded, before he left the room, headed upstairs to the drawing room.

"Lord Potter, Lord Black," Lucius said, bowing slightly to both of them, since they both outranked him.

"Hello Lucius," Sirius said with a smile. "I hope Narcissa is well?"

"She is," Lucius answered. "A bit worried about Draco, however."

Harry smiled. "Well, by all means, Lucius, reassure her she has nothing to fear. Draco may be a guest in my dungeons, but he's being well-treated, I assure you. He has accommodations befitting his status as a courtesy Viscount and heir to an Earldom and my head-elf reports that he's quite healthy and well-fed. Although his general attitude still leaves quite a bit to be desired, so I've taken steps to remedy that."

"Steps, Your Grace?" Lucius asked.

"It seems to me he needs a bit of a refresher course on manners and proper decorum," Harry answered, as he did his best to hide his grin. "So, I've brought in someone to teach him. You may remember him." At Lucius' raised eyebrow, Harry added, "A house-elf, named Dobby."

Lucius sighed. A part of him wanted to be upset about the idea of a house-elf - especially one that used to work for him - teaching his son and heir about manners and proper decorum. However, there was nothing technically wrong with it. While the code of treatment for nobles held in the dungeons of another noble house did require that the noble be treated with a higher degree of respect than other common prisoners, with nicer accommodations, better food, and the like, there weren't many other rules as to their treatment. Well, other than that they couldn't be physically tortured or harmed in any way. There might be some who would see having a house-elf teaching a wizard something as mental torture, but it wasn't technically against any rules. A fact which Harry had made sure of before he sent Dobby down to Draco's cell to begin with.

Nodding, Lucius said, "Yes, Your Grace, I'm familiar with Dobby."

Anything else that might have been said was interrupted by the arrival of Lord Bartemius Crouch. As Cormac welcomed him, Harry and Sirius slipped out of the chamber to head upstairs, with Lucius and Bartemius not far behind. Arriving in the drawing room, Bruce welcomed everyone and Pokey offered them refreshments as they awaited the arrival of the rest of the board members.

Not long after he arrived, Harry was approached by Lord Erik Bones, who held out his hand and said, "Your Grace, we haven't been properly introduced. I'm Erik Bones, the Marquis of Waringsford."

Taking Erik's hand, Harry shook it and said, "It's a pleasure to meet you properly, Erik."

Once the handshake was finished, Erik commented, "Bruce was just filling me in on your plans regarding the staff at Hogwarts. I just wanted to let you know, you've got the Bones vote. I've wanted to get rid of Binns ever since I ascended to the Bones lordship. Only reason I never brought it before the board myself is because I didn't think I'd get the necessary votes."

"That's good to know, thanks Erik," Harry said with a smile. "As for passing my proposals, I'm hopeful. Assuming nobody who told me they'd vote with me changes their mind, including my own I've now got six votes lined up. Not quite the majority needed, but not far from it either."

"Indeed," Erik agreed. "Hopefully you'll get at least seven, although eight or nine would be better. Unanimous support would be ideal, of course, but that's highly unlikely."

"True," Harry said. "Unanimous support would be great, but I won't hold my breath."

"You'd probably die if you did," Sirius commented. "I'm not sure this group will ever agree on anything unanimously."

"Well, they have in the past," Harry said, prompting Sirius to raise an eyebrow. "It was while you were still in Azkaban, during my second year, when the Chamber of Secrets was opened. The board unanimously decided to remove Dumbledore as the headmaster. Of course, he was later reinstalled and from what I'd heard at the time it sounded as if Lucius had convinced the other governors that their families would be harmed if they didn't vote to remove Dumbledore."

Erik nodded his head and said, "I remember that vote and you heard right. While Lucius never made any actual threats, there was enough hint of threat given that everyone voted with him. I doubt he'd ever try such tactics again, however, as the rest of the board wasn't amused when it was all over. I'm sure if it was possible to remove someone from the board, Lucius would have found himself off of it in a second."

"Probably," Sirius agreed. "Luckily for him none of us can be removed from our positions on the board, since we all have an ownership stake in the school due to our ancestors being the original investors."

During this conversation, the other lords were steadily arriving, until finally all thirteen were present. This prompted Bruce to clap his hands and say, "Well, it looks like we're all here, so I think we should get this meeting started."

The other lords nodded in agreement as they moved over to a large rectangular table that had been setup along one side of the room. As Lord of Kinloch, it wasn't all that surprising that Bruce took the seat at the head of the table. The rest of the Lords were arranged along the sides of the table according to their rank. This placed Harry and Garrick Ollivander across from one another in the seats on either side of Bruce. Next to Garrick was Augusta Longbottom, not surprising as Harry had recently learned they were brother and sister, and then Amos Diggory, Caractacus Burke, Lucius Malfoy, and Arcturus Lestrange. Sirius was seated next to Harry, followed by Erik Bones, Bartemius Crouch, Malcolm Flint, and Callum McKinnon.

"I hereby call this meeting of the Hogwarts Board of Governors to order," Bruce said. "Now, for our first order of business, I'd just like to take a moment to welcome the two newcomers to our meeting - His Grace the Lord Potter and His Excellence the Lord Black."

The other governors all applauded, some more enthusiastically then others, as Harry and Sirius nodded their heads in thanks. After a moment, Bruce spoke up. "Now, there's not much we need to handle today. All of you, with the possible exceptions of Lord Potter and Lord Black, know from our last meeting that we've got the Triwizard Tournament coming to Hogwarts this year, which has sadly required us to cancel the competition for the Quidditch Cup, as there won't be time for the games as the host school of the tournament."

Noting the confused look on Harry's face, Sirius said softly, "The Triwizard Tournament is a magical competition between schools, Harry. Three students from the three oldest schools in Europe are selected and then they compete against each other in a series of magical tests." Harry nodded, at which point Sirius raised his voice a bit, clearly addressing the rest of the governors, as he said, "Although it hasn't been held in many, many years. Why now?"

"The Headmaster lobbied hard for it," Bartemius Crouch, Sr. said. "And my department at the Ministry had a bit of a challenge getting everything setup and the other schools to agree, but everything is worked out and a contingent from both Beauxbatons Academy in France and the Durmstrang Institute in Sweden will be arriving at Hogwarts that last week of October. For the safety of the students participating, only those who are seventeen or older will be allowed to enter their names into the Goblet of Fire, from which the names of the three champions, one from each school, will be selected before the end of the month."

"I wonder," Arcturus said with a smirk, "will you be entering the tournament Lord Potter? I realize you aren't seventeen yet, but you are legally an adult now. Nobody could say anything against it if you chose to enter."

The room was quiet at this, as Arcturus and Harry looked at each other for a moment, before Harry said, "I have no intention of entering, Arcturus. Contrary to popular belief, I do not enjoy the fame that's been heaped on me since I re-entered the magical world at age eleven. Until recently, I didn't even remember the events of the night that made me famous, so, all I could see was people acting like I'd done some great thing, all while seemingly overlooking the fact that I was only a year old at the time and probably didn't remember anything. And very few people ever bothered to say one word of condolence about the loss of my parents. All they ever wanted to do was look at my damnable scar."

A few of the governors looked shocked by Harry's words, while a few others looked almost ashamed, as if they realized that idolizing a young boy for events that happened when he was only a year old - events which had also orphaned him - was perhaps not a good idea.

"You don't consider defeating You-Know-Who to be a great thing, Granston?" Garrick asked.

"Oh it was a good thing, I won't dispute that," Harry said. "However, I had very little to do with what happened that night. Other than myself, I know of at least three people sitting at this table that know why I survived that night and it had very little to do with me. I was only about eighteen months old, after all, so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone here that I wasn't throwing spells at Voldemort from my crib." Noticing the shudders, he added, "And yes, I dare to say his name. Fearing a name only increases fear of the thing itself and that is exactly what he would want, as it gave him more power over people. Fear is a powerful thing, after all, so by fearing to say his name, you're doing exactly what he'd want you to do and I for one am not going to do anything that the bastard who murdered my parents would want me to do."

Sirius looked proudly at his godson, as he nodded and said, "Very well said, Harry. James and Lily would be immensely proud of you."

"Oh I know they are," Harry said. "I have talked to their portrait at Seacliff, after all. Speaking of my parents," Harry turned to Amos and said, "you and I have some private family business we need to discuss, Amos. Hopefully we can work out a time in the near future to meet."

Amos was at a loss in terms of exactly what Harry was talking about, as he had been unknowingly charmed not to remember the role he'd agreed to take on in the Potter will, so he asked, in a somewhat confused tone, "Private family business, Your Grace?"

Harry nodded. "Yes, a matter involving my parents' will. That is all I will say on the subject at this time, however. It is a private, family matter, after all, and not meant for the ears of anyone not involved."

The other lords nodded their heads in understanding, as they all understood the concept of family business and all took it very seriously. That doesn't mean they weren't curious, but they all knew better than to ask for more details on matters that didn't concern them.

After a moment of silence, Callum, who had been going over everything Harry had said in his head, asked, "Forgive me, Your Grace, but did you say that you didn't remember the events of that night until recently? That would suggest that you do remember them now."

"Yes, Callum, I do," Harry said. "For many years, all I remembered was the briefest flash of green light and the occasional cold, cruel laugh. I had no clue what either memory was in reference to, however. There's simply no way that I could have known, as I didn't know how my parents really died until I was eleven. I didn't even know I was a wizard until Hagrid told me when he delivered my Hogwarts letter."

"Didn't know you were a wizard?" Augusta asked. "How is that even possible?"

Harry smiled. "Simple, really. I was raised in the household of my mother's sister, Ms. Petunia Dursley, and her family. They're muggles and after talking with my parents' portrait a few times, I've come to realize that my aunt is insanely jealous of the fact that her sister was a witch and she wasn't. They were very close as young children, but Mum getting invited to attend Hogwarts drove a wedge between them, causing a rift that never healed. Essentially they hated one another and thus my aunt banned any and all talk of magic from the house because she'd come to think of her sister as an unnatural freak. I believe it was her way of coping with her jealousy. At any rate, they never told me I was a wizard and allowed me to believe that my parents had died in an automobile accident."

"That's disgraceful!" Caractacus exclaimed.

'Huh and you don't know the half of it,' Harry thought. 'I can only imagine how they'd all react if they knew that I lived in a cupboard under the stairs or was treated no better than a house-elf. I don't want their pity, however, so I'm not saying anything about that.'

Aloud, Harry said, "Perhaps, but that's what happened. Anyway, as to my remembering what happened, I finally remembered last year. As he seemed to take great pleasure from my reaction to them, Lucius, I'm sure Draco must have mentioned to you that I had a rather extreme reaction to the Dementors stationed at the school last year?"

Lucius looked a bit startled to be put on the spot, as he felt all the other nobles' eyes on him, but he nodded and said, "Yes, Draco mentioned that you fainted when they stopped the train to search for Sirius at the beginning of last year."

"The reason I fainted is because that's when I remembered that night," Harry said. "I heard my father telling Mum to take me and hide, that he'd hold off Voldemort as long as he could. Then I remembered my mother pleading with Voldemort to spare me and him telling her to move out of the way. He made it rather clear that he intended to spare her, just so long as she moved and allowed him to kill me. She didn't, of course, so he finally killed her and then attempted to kill me. He laughed just before he tried to kill me and that was the cold, cruel laugh I'd remembered previously. And of course the flash of green was the Killing Curse. I guess remembering the night so abruptly without warning was too much and that's why I fainted. After that, whenever I got near a Dementor, I didn't faint, but I could hear my Mum pleading with Voldemort not to kill me."

Sirius put a hand on Harry's shoulder and said, "I'm sorry you had to deal with that."

Harry smiled. "It's okay, Sirius, honestly. Some good did come out of it in that Professor Lupin taught me how to perform the Patronus Charm." Turning to the other governors, Harry said, "It's unreal, you know, that in the three years I've been at Hogwarts, I've had three different professors for Defense Against the Dark Arts, and only one of them - Professor Lupin - was actually qualified for the job. I realize that he was sacked because he's a werewolf, but he was hands down the best professor I've ever had for the subject. And I can tell you that many of the other students felt the same way. Even those who were put off by his lycanthropy agreed he was the best in recent memory."

"You can perform the Patronus Charm?" Bartemius asked. "That's very advanced magic. Forgive me, Lord Potter, but most fourteen-year-olds couldn't cast that spell to save their lives. And you were thirteen when you learned it?" Harry nodded. "It's just a shapeless mist then, I'm assuming."

"You're assuming incorrectly," Harry said as he pulled out his wand. It was one of his new wands, so he immediately noticed the look on Garrick's face. "Yes, Garrick, I've gotten a new wand. I'm afraid the one you sold me when I was eleven broke."

That wasn't true, but ever since Harry's duplicate had been created the wand had been working less and less. Finally, the trainers decided to have Nick create a copy of Harry's new spare wand for his duplicate to use. The reason they'd chosen the spare instead of Harry's primary wand was simply because the spare, being oak with a Hungarian Horntail core, cost much less then the primary wand of mahogany with a Chimaera scale.

"Why didn't you come to me for a replacement, then?" Garrick asked.

"Because it happened while I wasn't in the country," Harry answered. "I'd met your grandson at the Opening Ball and he invited me to visit him in Cairo sometime. I'd never set foot outside of Britain before, so, I figured it was time for a vacation, so remembering Nick's invitation, I chose Cairo. It was short, as I left the day after the opening of the Wizengamot and returned yesterday, but I enjoyed myself. Anyway, my wand broke and I opted to have Nick make a new wand for me rather than cutting my trip short."

"I see," Garrick said. "If I may ask, what is the configuration of your new wand?"

"16 3/4 inches, oak, with the heartstring of a Hungarian Horntail," Harry answered. "And I must say that it works very well, Garrick, I'm very pleased with it." Shaking his head, he said, "Anyway, as I said, Bartemius, your assumption about my patronus is incorrect. Observe," as he waved his wand and incanted, "Expecto Patronum!"

The other lords were all wearing varying degrees of shock or awe on their faces as the fully corporeal stag leapt from the tip of Harry's wand. It was rare for anyone to produce a corporeal patronus and even for those who could, it usually took a number of years. It was almost unheard of for a person who was only fourteen to be able to produce one.

As he dismissed Prongs, Harry put his wand away and looked at the other governors. "As I said, Professor Lupin taught me that spell and while it did take me a few months to make a corporeal patronus, he still managed to teach me. Now I'm not suggesting we bring him back as professor of the subject, as I understand that the Headmaster has already hired a famous and respected Auror for the position. I would, however, suggest that we consider looking into why nobody has held the position for more than one year at a time since Professor Galatea Merrythought retired in 1945. It's long been rumored among the students that the position is cursed and I can see why some would think that, since nobody has been able to hold the position for more than one year in nearly fifty years."

"What would you suggest we do, Granston?" Augusta asked.

"Bring in a team of curse-breakers and have them check the school," Harry said. "If they find anything dangerous, than obviously it would be in everyone's best interests for it to be removed. I'd even be willing to foot the bill personally if it ensures it gets done."

"That won't be necessary, Granston," Garrick said with a shake of his head. "Hogwarts has a fund meant specifically to cover that type of expense. In truth, Hogwarts used to bring in a team of curse-breakers every few years to check for and remove any harmful spells. Though to the best of my knowledge it hasn't been done in a number of years. I couldn't say when exactly the last time was, however."

"1943," Harry answered. When some of the lords looked surprised that Harry knew that, he grinned and said, "I had my seneschal check the school records. A team of curse-breakers did a thorough check in 1943 and removed over a hundred curses and jinxes that were adversely affecting the school or its inhabitants in some way, but unless it wasn't recorded in the school records, it hasn't been done since."

"Well, let's put the matter to a vote then," Bruce said. "When I call your name, please indicate if you're for or against Lord Potter's suggestion of brining in a team of curse-breakers to check the school for any potentially dangerous curses. Please say 'Aye' if you're in favor or 'Nay' if you're not. Garrick Ollivander?"

"Aye," Garrick said.

"Augusta Longbottom?"

"Aye."

"Amos Diggory?"

"Aye."

"Caractacus Burke?"

"Nay," Caractacus said. "It'd be a waste of money in my opinion."

"Lucius Malfoy?"

Lucius remained quiet for a moment, before he said, "I agree with Lord Burke. Nay."

"Arcturus Lestrange?"

"Nay."

"Harrison Potter?"

"This should be obvious, but aye," Harry said. It was his suggestion, so of course he was going to vote in favor of it.

"Sirius Black?"

"Aye."

"Erik Bones?"

"Aye."

"Bartemius Crouch?"

Like Lucius before him, Bartemius was quiet for a few moments, as he considered how to vote. It seemed Cedric was correct in his assessment of Bartemius, however, when he'd said that he'd probably vote in favor of whichever side appeared to be the winning side, as he cast his vote of, "Aye."

"Malcolm Flint?"

"Nay."

"Callum McKinnon?"

"Aye."

Bruce nodded his head and said, "I vote aye." Turning to his house-elf, who acted as the board secretary, Bruce said, "Pokey, let the record show that the motion has passed with a vote of 9-4." Pokey nodded and wrote the results down on the parchment in front of him, as Bruce said, "I will contact Gringotts and ask them to send over a team of their best curse-breakers to check the school for any curses or jinxes that should not be present."

"I'd suggest you try to get the check scheduled for before the beginning of the school year," Erik said. "If not, then definitely before the contingents from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang arrive, as I believe if there are any curses or jinxes present, it wouldn't look good for Hogwarts if someone from one of the other schools discovered them."

Bruce nodded. "Quite right, Waringsford, quite right. I'll see what I can do." After a moment's pause, Bruce then said, "Now, moving on, I believe Lord Potter has some other staffing issues to bring up for a vote."

"Yes, Bruce, I do," Harry said. "As a current student at Hogwarts, I can tell you that the History of Magic instruction has been less than satisfactory during my entire career at the school. Professor Binns may have been a good teacher at some point, but the fact of the matter is that he isn't any longer. He lectures in a monotone voice that lulls must of the students in his classes to sleep. I also had my seneschal do some checking and it would seem that when he died some seventy years ago, Professor Binns was in the middle of lecturing on the goblin rebellions. Now this in turn is a subject which he has continued to lecture about since he died, to the exclusion of almost everything else, which means he isn't even teaching a quarter of the material that appears on the OWL and NEWT exams for the subject. This has resulted in the vast majority of students needing to seek outside tutoring to pass the class. I simply don't believe that we should allow such incompetence to continue and it's high time we remedy it."

"I'm inclined to agree, Your Grace," Amos said, "but unless you have a candidate in mind to replace Binns, I suggest we table a vote on this subject until our next meeting. Incompetent as he might be, a professor is better than no professor."

"With all due respect, Taleford," Erik said, "I think in this case, no professor would be better than Binns." Turning to Harry, he asked, "I know you had your seneschal making inquiries, however. Did you turn up anyone interested and qualified?"

"Actually, yes, I have," Harry answered with a smile. "He achieved an Outstanding on both his OWL and NEWT in History of Magic. He spent time apprenticed to Bathilda Bagshot and holds a Mastery in the subject, which is recognized not only here in Albion, but also in eleven other countries around the world, including Egypt, France, Spain, and the Netherlands."

"That's more than acceptable," Garrick said. "Who is this candidate?"

"My brother, Regulus," Sirius answered. Seeing the looks on everyone's faces, Sirius said, "I know that probably surprises some of you. Merlin knows it surprised me, even though I knew that he had done well on his OWL and NEWT in the subject. However, it would seem that he's been very busy while he was thought to be dead. He's used a pseudonym, of course, but he's become a very well respected historian and has had his mastery of the subject confirmed by all the countries that my godson mentioned and then some. I've seen the paperwork confirming it and Robert Higgs double-checked with the appropriate governments."

"He sounds more than qualified," Augusta said. "I think we can call for a vote on this."

"I agree," Bruce said. "When I call your name, indicate with either aye or nay if you are for or against the sacking of Professor Cuthbert Binns from the position of History of Magic professor and replacing him with The Right Honorable Regulus Black, Earl of Alnwick."

"Wait," Amos said and everyone turned to look at him. "Before we vote, I think we need to know something else. Does Regulus have any experience in actually teaching a class? Yes, his credentials appear to be in order, but that doesn't mean he'd make a good teacher. Knowing the subject matter is one thing and teaching it is quite another. If he has no experience or ability to handle a class effectively, then I don't see how he'd be an improvement over Professor Binns."

'He's alive, that's a big improvement, right there,' Harry thought, but didn't say it aloud, as he didn't want to be seen as discriminating against ghosts.

"That's a fair question," Bartemius said. "I'd very much like the answer to that myself."

"Regulus doesn't have any formal classroom experience, no," Harry admitted. "It's rather hard to get a job in an actual classroom when you're thought to be dead. However, I would point out that his son Asterion was homeschooled by Regulus and never attended any formal school for magic." As Asterion's uncle, Callum looked rather upset by this revelation, although it was short-lived when Harry continued speaking. "Upon turning seventeen, he sat the ICWATs and passed every subject he took the test for with an Outstanding grade."

The ICWATs, or the International Confederation of Wizards Aptitude Tests, were considered to be the gold standard test by many countries. While almost all countries had their own aptitude tests, like how Albion had the OWLs and NEWTs, those tests were localized to their own countries and would not count towards ones' qualifications in another country. Thus if someone in Albion got an Outstanding NEWT in Transfiguration, they could very likely get a good job in that field in any area under Albion jurisdiction.

They would not, however, be able to get a good job in France or Spain using their NEWT score, as neither country recognized the NEWT as an acceptable test of aptitude. So, in order to make things easier for wizards moving to other countries, the ICW created their own aptitude tests which were internationally recognized by every member country. Of course, as some of the member countries had much higher standards of education than some others, this resulted in the ICWATs being one of the hardest tests to pass, with the Outstanding grade only being awarded for perfect scores.

"Every subject?" Amos asked, clearly impressed. "Which ones did he take?"

"See for yourselves," Harry said, as he reached into a hidden pocket of his robes and pulled out a tiny folder, which he enlarged with a flick of his wand. "He gave me permission to make copies of his results for all of you to peruse."

Opening the folder, Harry took out several sheets of parchment, which he handed out to the other board members. True enough, Asterion had received an Outstanding grade in each and every subject he'd taken the test for. All of the standard Hogwarts core classes were there, along with Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, Wizarding Law, Magical Finance, Magical Languages, and Spell Creation. Of course, what Harry didn't tell the other governors was that this was actually not a complete list of the subjects that Asterion had taken the tests for. It was only a list of the classes that were offered at Hogwarts.

Since Regulus and Asterion had travelled all over the world, Asterion had learned quite a bit about some of the more regional forms of magic that were taught at some of the world's other schools and had taken the tests for some of them just as a challenge to himself to see how he'd do. If those classes had been included, then the governors would have seen that Asterion actually hadn't gotten Outstanding on all of his ICWATs, as he hadn't gotten the perfect score on some of the more obscure regional subjects such as Shamanistic Magic or Aboriginal Magic. Harry hadn't included those subjects on the lists he gave his fellow governors because he didn't view them as being important, since the other governors likely wouldn't have heard of them to begin with. Well, that and Asterion had only given him permission to share the results that were tied to Hogwarts subjects.

"Well, these are impressive grades," Bartemius said. "Honestly, with these grades young Mr. Black could easily get a job pretty much anywhere in the world. If his father was even partly responsible for these grades, then I would think he'd be a very good teacher."

"I'd be inclined to agree," Callum said. He was very proud of his nephew - a fact which clearly showed on his face as he looked up from Asterion's results. Then looking at Bruce, he said, "Perhaps we should amend what we're voting for. Make it sack Binns and give Regulus a one-year trial in the position. That way he'll get classroom experience and we'll then be able to judge for ourselves if he's a good professor or not. Based on these scores, it would appear that he is, but teaching one student is quite different from teaching a whole classroom full. In the meantime, we can keep our eyes open for possible replacements if we should decide not to retain him for another year or he decides not to continue teaching."

Harry nodded. "That sounds acceptable to me."

"Alright then," Bruce said. "We'll vote on it the way Callum just proposed it. Say aye or nay when I call your names."

Bruce went down the line again, calling each governor by name, as they each cast their vote. The end result was ten for and three against. The governors voting against the measure were Caractacus Burke, Arcturus Lestrange and Malcolm Flint, all citing monetary concerns about sacking Binns in favor of a living professor. After all, Binns hadn't been a paid member of the staff since he died, which had saved the school a pretty respectable sum in the over 70 years since the professor's death. By hiring Regulus, however, that savings would be eliminated as even though the Blacks were an old, wealthy noble family who partly owned the school, they would still have to pay Regulus simply because he was alive.

Both Harry and Sirius were surprised when Lucius voted in favor of the measure, but then it may have helped that the candidate replacing Binns was a Black. Knowing Narcissa, Sirius thought, 'Probably was afraid of how she'd react if he came home from the meeting and told her that he'd voted against a member of her family getting a position that they're more than qualified for.' Like most noble women who married into one of the other noble families, Narcissa was still very interested in the continued welfare of the Black family. That isn't to say that she didn't care about the welfare of the Malfoy family, as she certainly did, but her birth family would always hold an important place in her heart.

"Let the record show that this body has voted 10-3 to sack Cuthbert Binns and hire Regulus Black in his place," Bruce said, as Pokey nodded and made the necessary notations. "Now, there was one more issue you wished to present, correct, Lord Potter?"

Harry nodded. "Yes, it involves the Potions classes. Hogwarts' current Potions Master, Professor Severus Snape, has made it abundantly clear over the years that he absolutely despises teaching and pretty much every student who isn't a Slytherin. Why he remains on staff, I can only guess, although I'd assume it may have something to do with the persistent rumor that he wants the Defense Against the Dark Arts job. Perhaps he's hoping that being on staff will give him a better shot at landing the position. I really couldn't say. However, I do not believe that a person who doesn't like teaching to begin with is an ideal person to be teaching a class that is required for several careers. There's several students at the school who don't take his NEWT level class, even if they do meet his Outstanding OWL qualification, simply because they don't want to be in his class for two more years."

"With all due respect, Lord Potter," Arcturus said, "it's a rather well known fact that you and Professor Snape do not get along. Why should this body take your word on anything regarding him? I do not believe it's fair to deprive a talented Potions Master, of which there are so few to begin with, of his livelihood simply because one of the governors doesn't like him."

"I assume you didn't read the Prophet then," Harry said. "If you had you'd know that Rita Skeeter's statements regarding my reasons for wanting Snape out of the position were false."

"I glanced at it," Arcturus said. "However, you'll forgive me if I don't believe the Prophet on this issue, Lord Potter. You do own it, after all, so they'll print whatever you tell them to print, regardless of whether it's the truth or not."

"You're treading on thin ice, Arcturus," Harry warned. "I'd remind you that I've already got one noble heir in my dungeon, so, I'll thank you to not insult me again by implying that I'm somehow not truthful or that I would use my ownership of the Prophet to print lies. If you'd read the article in its entirety, you'd know that I fully admit that I don't like Snape. However, as the article also made clear, I am not seeking his removal from the staff. Instead, I'd see him moved into the position of Master Brewer and we bring in his mentor, Professor Horace E.F. Slughorn, as the Potions professor."

"Harry has spoken with Slughorn," Sirius said. "He's willing to return to his post as Hogwarts Potions professor and he's even willing to accept Snape's current salary, which as it turns out is actually a 15% increase over what he was making when he retired in 1981. His only demand is that he be given the currently vacant office that used to belong to Professor Merrythought. Considering his past seniority at the school of nearly sixty years, I don't see anything wrong with allowing him to have that office."

"So, Lord Potter," Caractacus said, "not only are we eliminating the savings we had from not having to pay Professor Binns by bringing in Lord Black's brother, who we'll have to give a pay raise to, since we can't pay him what Binns was making when he was last paid in 1920, now you want to move Professor Snape into a different position and bring in another Professor? Are you trying to insure the school operates in the red? Or were you planning on suggesting we raise tuition next?"

"Nothing of the sort, Caractacus," Harry said. "In fact, by my calculations, Hogwarts will actually be saving money if we make these changes."

"How do you figure that?" Malcolm Flint asked.

"Simple," Harry answered. "By moving Snape into the position of Master Brewer, it will become his sole responsibility to brew all of the potions for the Hospital Wing. All of the ingredients for the most commonly used of those potions are in fact grown in the Hogwarts greenhouses or can be found in abundance in the Forbidden Forest. And yet instead of making use of these free ingredients and brewing them onsite, we're paying a premium to import the finished potions from outside sources."

Sirius nodded. "I've looked at the numbers myself and had the Black family accountant look them over. Just eliminating what we're already paying to import finished potions, we'll be saving more than enough money to cover both Snape's and Slughorn's salaries with a little left over. Plus, Hogwarts can in turn sell any excess potions that Snape brews that are over and above Madam Pomfrey's needs. This will provide another revenue stream for the school, as there is always a demand for potions made by a qualified Potions Master."

"In fact," Harry said, "I've already had Robert make inquiries and St. Mungo's would be willing to purchase any excess medicinal potions that Madam Pomfrey doesn't need, just on Professor Snape's reputation as a brewer alone. Also, Robert has contacted the apothecaries in Highever, Perendale and Ayesleigh and they're all willing to buy Snape's potions as well. I'm sure other apothecaries would be interested, but Robert only contacted St. Mungo's and the ones on my own lands. It does, however, show that there are ready customers willing to purchase from Hogwarts, thus insuring a respectable new revenue stream, which should also offset the cost of having to pay Regulus."

"Anybody else have anything to add?" Bruce asked. When nobody said anything, he said, "Alright, then, let's vote. The motion is to put Severus Snape into the position of Hogwarts Master Brewer and rehire former Professor Horace Slughorn to teach potions. As usual, say aye or nay when I call your name."

Once again, Bruce called out each lord's name and the votes were cast and tallied by Pokey. Much as Harry expected, the vote wasn't unanimous, but then it didn't need to be. As long as at least seven people voted in favor of it, it would pass. And pass it did with a vote of 11 to 2, with only Arcturus Lestrange and Malcolm Flint voting against the measure. Neither of them gave a reason why, although Harry suspected it was simply because it was a Gryffindor who'd suggested it. He wasn't going to let it bother him though, since the motion passed. That's all he really cared about.

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

Unexpected Love: The Journey Begins
Written by J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Eight

-o-0-o-

On Saturday evening, after returning to Forest Cottage from the Board of Governors meeting, Harry found Robert waiting for him as he arrived in the upstairs sitting room that served as the common room for himself and his fellow students. Roger and Cedric were seated at one of the tables playing chess, while Terence and Oliver were cuddled together in one of the armchairs by the fireplace. There was no sign of Asterion, Regulus, or the trainers, but Gavin was at one of the partners desks with Remus surrounded by books, obviously working on his remedial work.

"Hello Robert," Harry said, with a raised eyebrow. "What brings you here?"

"This letter arrived for you today from Gringotts," Robert said as he stood up from where he'd been seated on the sofa, chatting with Sirius, and held out a sealed envelope. "It's from Ragnok."

Harry nodded as he took the envelope from Robert, broke the seal and pulled out the missive inside.

Dear Lord Potter,

I have a team of goblins working on the investigation into the unusual circumstances regarding your placement with your Muggle relatives and the fact that your parents' will has remained sealed all of these years. I know you're not familiar with wizarding law and customs, so I will tell you that Scarclaw is aware of the provisions of your parents' will, as such documents are almost always drawn up in the presence of a families' Gringotts' account manager. Having goblin assistance in the drafting of the document provides certain protections in terms of making the will as unbreakable as any contract used by our institution.

I would suggest, Lord Potter, that you schedule a reading of your parents' will for as soon as possible, as it's long past time that their wishes were made known. However, Scarclaw informs me that there are certain stipulations in the document which are of a sensitive nature and pertinent to our investigation. Thus I would strongly suggest that certain sections of the document not be read aloud during the reading of the will to ensure that our investigation can continue unhindered.

I would further suggest that you obtain the services of a solicitor who has no previous connection to the Potter family to handle the actual reading of the will. While I'm sure that Ethan Pierce would be capable of handling it, he is connected with the investigation through his grandfather Kendrick who obviously also knew all of the details of the document since he wrote it. The fact that he never tried to find you to execute the document for all these years raises serious questions and concerns and we do not wish to tip off the wrong people about our investigation. The choice is, of course, entirely up to you.

Should you desire to do as I suggest, I can provide you with a shortlist of potential solicitors that Gringotts' has worked with in the past that we feel can be trusted. Or, if you prefer to find your own, we can also assist in checking the reputation and references of the candidate to insure that they can be trusted. I will await further communication from you on your wishes.

Signed,
Ragnok
Director, Gringotts' Bank

Handing the letter to Robert so that he could read it, Harry sat down at the table and remained silent while his seneschal read. He wasn't entirely sure how to proceed and wanted Robert's advice. James and Lily were in the painting above the fireplace again and James asked, "What was the letter about, Harry?"

"The reading of your will," Harry said. "And Gringotts' investigation into why it hasn't been read yet. Ragnok has a team of goblins working on it and suggests that certain elements not be read aloud to protect their investigation."

"I can see how that might be a good idea," Lily said, as she thought back to what was all included in the document. "There are certain things in it which nobody outside of the family needs to know."

Robert finished reading the letter at this point and looked up. "Ragnok's suggestion that you find a solicitor not previously connected with the Potter family is a good idea, Harry."

Roger looked up at that and asked, "You need a solicitor?" Harry nodded. "My father, Michael Davies, is a solicitor."

"I know him," Robert said with a nod. "He's certainly qualified and I can't think of any previous connection to the family. James?"

Taking a moment, James finally shook his head and said, "No, I can't say that I recall Michael ever working for us before."

Standing up, Harry went over to the desk and pulled out a sheet of parchment. Dipping a quill in the ink well he began a response to Ragnok. With help from the trainers and practice, Harry's handwriting had improved to a level which better reflected the fact that he was one of highest nobles in the country. Pausing his writing, he said, "Ragnok offered to check the reputation and references of the person I chose if they weren't on the Gringotts' shortlist. Any objections to that, Roger?"

The Ravenclaw shook his head and said, "No, that's fine. Seems like a wise precaution when hiring someone to work for you. My father has a good reputation and is sure to have plenty of references, but I don't expect you to take my word alone for that. Having Gringotts check him out is wise."

"I'd have to agree," Cedric said as he moved his queen to take Roger's rook. With a grin, he added, "Checkmate, by the way."

Roger turned back to the board at that and groaned. "Merlin's balls, Cedric, that's..."

"Five games in a row," Terence said as he briefly came up for air, before going back to making out with Oliver.

"Get a room you two," Roger said, prompting both Terence and Oliver to hold up their middle fingers in Roger's direction. "No thanks, guys, I don't swing that way."

Dipping the quill back in the well, Harry wrote down that he'd like Gringotts' to check on Michael Davies, telling Ragnok that a friend had recommended him.

"Now the only thing I need to figure out is when to schedule the reading," Harry said.

"Reading of what?" Eudora asked as she came up the stairs.

"My parents' will," Harry said. "Ragnok sent me a letter saying it's past time that it is read. Although he suggests leaving out some parts of it that might adversely affect the goblins' investigation."

"Well, I can see why he would think that," Eudora said. "James and Lily died over a decade ago. I can't think of any instance where it's taken this long to read a will, especially when it's the will of one of richest and oldest noble families in the country."

Cedric nodded. "Yes, it should have been read by now. Part of it may have been because nobody seemed to know where you were Harry or at least those who should have been looking for you never did." Cedric got a contemplative look on his face and then after a moment added, "Of course, now that I think about it, Kendrick Pierce might have been waiting on tracking you down so that you would be old enough to be installed as the new Lord Potter before the will was read."

"But then he contracted dragon pox and died," Roger said. "Which oddly enough, would have been right around the time that Harry was turning thirteen and thus old enough to claim his birthright."

"Why would it matter if I was Lord Potter or not at the will reading?" Harry asked.

"It matters, Harry," James said, "because the current Lord Potter does have the ability to invalidate bequests or any other terms in any family will, even those of the past lord. So, if there's a section of our wills that you don't agree with, you have it within your power to declare it null and void."

Shaking his head in confusion, he asked, "Why would I want to do that?"

"Well, I can think of one reason, Harry," Lily said. "One of the bequests that James and I left is a million galleons to Albus Dumbledore, as head of the Order of the Phoenix. The Order was founded during the first war with Voldemort by Albus and consisted of people who had banded together to fight Voldemort and the Death Eaters. However, knowing that he left you with my sister, even if he didn't know the terms of the will, I find myself thinking I'm not so sure anymore that I want him to have that money."

"Wouldn't that cause a problem, however?" Harry asked. "I would imagine that the section dealing with my placement while a minor would be one of those sections that won't be read aloud, seeing as how it doesn't matter anymore. But how could I possibly justify invalidating the bequest if I can't prove that Dumbledore knew about the terms of the will and ignored them?"

"That's the beauty of being Lord Potter, Harry," James said. "You don't have to justify it. At Seacliff Castle and anywhere else on your lands, your word is law. Back in Albion's earliest days, King Arthur himself granted the Lords of the Thirteen certain discretionary powers which would be beyond even the authority of the crown to overrule. Among those powers are the ability to set the marriage laws and tax rates on their lands. They can also disown their heir for any reason they chose, or declare any marriage involving a member of their family invalid, assuming that is it isn't with another noble house and if it is it has to be with a lower house. And each lord also has complete control over all money and property belonging to their family, whether it be in the family vault or the personal vaults of the families' individual members."

"Not that it really matters seeing as how I'm the only living Potter," Harry said, "but on the marriage thing what happens if it isn't with a lower house?"

"If the two houses are the same rank, both lords have to agree," Cedric answered. "And if the other house is a higher rank, the lower lord can petition the higher lord for invalidation, but there's no requirement that the higher lord grant the request."

After a moment of silence, Eudora walked over to the railing of the stairs, leaned over, and called out, "Athena? Could you come up here for a moment, please?"

As she'd been sitting with the other trainers in the ground floor sitting room, it didn't take Athena long to come up the stairs, followed by Emma and Rose, who'd opted to come with her should their help be needed. Eudora explained what was going on and Athena nodded. "I see. Well, Harry, if you'll just give me a moment to confer with the others, we'll see if we can't work out a date for you to give to Ragnok."

Harry nodded, as the trainers grouped into a circle and began talking quietly amongst themselves. After a moment, Athena nodded and turning towards Harry, she said, "Ideally, we'd have you schedule this for Monday, but you have your appointment at the Ministry for your Apparition license at 1pm. It'd be too late in the day to schedule a will reading after that and scheduling it beforehand could pose problems if the reading runs long, as such things do on occasion." Harry nodded in agreement of Athena's reasoning. "So, your other trainers and I think it would be best to schedule the reading for Tuesday, the sixteenth of August."

"Okay, thanks," Harry said, as he dipped the quill back into the ink well and wrote down the date in his missive to Ragnok. Once it was done, he pulled out his wand to cast a Drying Charm on the ink, before folding it up addressing the front of it. He then flipped it over and used his wand to light the candle that sat near the ink well on the desk. Grabbing a stick of red wax, Harry held one end of it in the candle flame, allowing the liquid wax to fall onto the folded letter below. Once there was enough of it, he set the wax and candle aside as he removed the Potter family ring from his finger and pressed it into the wax.

Once this was done, Harry called out, "Tilly!"

"Lord Potter calls Tilly?" the little elf asked a moment later, as she appeared.

"Yes, Tilly," as he held out the letter. "Please take this back to Seacliff and send it off with one of the family owls. It's important that Ragnok at Gringotts gets this as soon as possible."

Tilly nodded as she took the letter from her master, "Yes, Lord Potter. Tilly will do it right away."

No sooner did Harry mutter a thanks in return did Tilly disappear with a pop.

-o-0-o-

The following morning, Sunday, Harry had just finished getting dressed for the morning and was preparing to head downstairs for breakfast when a pop announced the arrival of Athena's house elf.

"Lord Potter?" Barin asked.

"Yes, Barin?"

"Barin was laundering Lord Potter's cloak," Barin explained. "Found this, sir."

At this, the elf held out his hand and Harry could see that Barin was holding a sealed note that Harry had never seen before. Assuming that it must be safe as nothing had happened to Barin by his touching it, Harry took the note and said, "Thank you, Barin."

The elf nodded, before popping back out of the room, leaving Harry alone in his bedroom once more. Looking at the note in his hand, Harry realized that it was a single sheet of parchment, folded into fourths and sealed with a small dot of red sealing wax. There was no indication as to who it was from, as there was no crest in the wax and the only thing it said was 'Lord Potter' on the opposite side, written in handwriting that Harry didn't recognize. Harry was very curious about what it was, but he'd learned enough from the trainers by now that he knew better than to blindly open communications when you had no idea who they were from. It was possible, he had learned, to charm notes with nasty hexes that didn't activate until the seal was broken.

Heading out to the common room, Harry found Cedric talking with Sirius. At his arrival in the room, Sirius smiled and said, "Hello pup," as Cedric said, "Morning Harry."

"Morning," Harry said. Deciding they might be able to help with the strange note, Harry said, "Um, Sirius, Ric, I need some help. Barin gave me this note." Harry held it up for both of them to see. "He says he found it in my cloak while laundering it. Thing is, I've never seen it before and I have no clue who it's from."

"Let's see it then," Cedric said, as Sirius nodded.

Walking over to where Cedric and Sirius were seated in front of the fireplace, Harry placed the note in the middle of the coffee table as Cedric pulled out his wand and said, "Specialis Revelio!"

After a moment, nothing happened and Sirius pulled out his own wand and cast a couple more advanced spells meant to check for dark hexes or curses that the spell Cedric had used wouldn't catch. A few minutes later, Sirius put his wand away and said, "It's clean, Harry. There's no charms of any kind on it."

Cedric nodded his head in agreement, as Harry nodded and picked the note back up, breaking the seal and opening it. It was a short message, but what it said made Harry blush as he remembered the events of the day he'd met the note's sender.

Noticing his godson's reddened cheeks, Sirius grinned and said, "Is it a love note, Harry?"

Before Harry could answer Sirius, Cedric smiled as well and asked, "You have a secret admirer?"

Shaking his head, Harry said, "No, the person is making no secret of who they are." Shaking his head, Harry said, "There was something that happened during my meeting with Mr. Cuffe on Wednesday that I didn't mention."

Launching into explanation mode, Harry filled his godfather and friend in on the things he'd left out of his initial recounting of his meeting with Barnabas Cuffe. After a moment, he finished his tale with, "I think Mr. Cuffe dressing in a hurry actually happened in the time that passed between Jonas announcing me and Mr. Cuffe saying that I could come in."

Cedric's eyebrows shot up, as he asked, "Harry, surely you don't mean that you think Mr. Cuffe was naked in his office before you came in?"

"That's exactly what I think, Ric," Harry answered. "You know those items I mentioned?" Sirius and Cedric nodded. "One of them was a pair of blue cotton boxer-briefs and the other a red lace bra."

Sirius burst out laughing at that and after a moment he calmed himself down and said, "So, old Cuffey was having sex with a woman and had to get dressed in such a hurry when you were announced that his lady friend left her bra on the floor and he forgot to put on his own underwear? Ha, ha, that's hilarious."

Shaking his head, Harry said, "No, Sirius, that underwear did not belong to Mr. Cuffe." At this statement, Sirius stopped laughing and looked at his godson with a clearly confused but curious look. "Once I'd noticed the items, I told Mr. Cuffe point blank that I don't care what he did at home, but as owner of the Prophet, I didn't want him doing that on the premises. It's a newspaper, after all, not a brothel. Now, obviously, standing on the other side of the desk, he didn't see the items on the floor so he looked mad at me for that comment and was about to say something when I took my wand out of my cane and levitated the items on the floor up so that he could see them. He then blushed and muttered, 'Oh shit,' under his breath."

"You said the underwear didn't belong to Mr. Cuffe?" Cedric asked, a slight blush on his own face, and Harry nodded. "How did you know that?"

"I'd like to know that myself Harry," Sirius added.

"From the size of them," Harry revealed. "You see, even before I levitated them, I had the feeling they weren't Mr. Cuffe's, and in my comment before saying the Prophet was a newspaper and not a brothel, I even said as much. After levitating them, however, it become painfully obvious that the boxer-briefs were too small to be Mr. Cuffe's. A fact which I confirmed moments later when I scanned the room and noticed the only other door in the room. I used the Opening Charm on it and realized it was, as I'd thought, the cloak cupboard, containing cloaks obviously, but also the two half-naked teenagers that the levitated undergarments belonged to."

Shaking his head and blinking a few times, as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing, Cedric said, "So, Harry, let me get this straight, you interrupted Mr. Cuffe having sex with two teenagers? One of them male? The same Mr. Cuffe, father of six by the way, whose been married to his wife for just over 37 years now?"

Nodding, Harry said, "That's about it, yeah. I saw Mr. Cuffe dancing with the same woman at the Opening Ball most of the night, so I assumed it was his wife, but I had no idea how long they'd been married and honestly that didn't come up. He did confirm that he was married though when I asked, though I had no idea that he had five kids other than Jonas."

Cedric nodded and said, "Barnabas Cuffe went to school with my parents and my Uncles Bruce and Tiberius."

"Uncle Tiberius?" Harry asked. He'd never heard Cedric mention that name before.

"Well, you know my Mum is a McLaggen," Cedric said and Harry nodded. "She's the youngest of three. Uncle Bruce is the eldest, then comes my Uncle Tiberius McLaggen, and then my mum, Amelia McLaggen Diggory. Anyway, my Uncle Tiberius was best man at Barnabas' wedding, so, that's how I know how long they were married. Barnabas and his wife were both 17 and fresh out of Hogwarts when they got married."

Quickly doing the math in his head, Sirius was chuckling, a big grin on his face, as he said, "So, that would make Cuffe and his wife 54 years old and now he's cheating on her with a pair of teenagers." After a moment, however, he must have realized what he'd just said and sobered as he asked, "They were both legal, right?"

Harry nodded. "Yeah, I asked and the boy said he was nineteen, while the girl was eighteen."

"So what happened then, Harry?" Cedric asked.

"I levitated their clothes over to them," Harry replied. "Told them to get dressed and then come out. Had a chat with Mr. Cuffe while they were doing that, telling him that he wasn't to continue using his office for that type of activity. I reiterated that when the two teens came out of the cupboard, saying that I would fire all of them before they could say their own names if I found out they were ignoring my wishes. Afterwards, I thought maybe I was a little harsh, but then again, as I found out both of the teens work at the Prophet, so, they're all on my payroll." Blushing a deep crimson, Harry added, "And I most certainly am not paying them to have orgies in the Editor's office when they're supposed to be working."

"I would have reacted exactly the same way, Harry," James said. He'd been listening from his frame above the fireplace along with Lily. "I never begrudged people having that kind of fun, but I'd rather they not do it in the workplace when they're supposed to be doing a job that I'm paying them for."

Lily nodded. "I remember Barnabas, but only vaguely. He never struck me as the type to do this kind of thing, but then I really didn't know him well and other than the meeting via the mirror, it's obviously been a number of years since I've had any contact with him."

"Well, after that the teens left and I got down to the actual reason I'd gone to see Mr. Cuffe," Harry said. "Which I've already told you all about." After a moment, a look of realization hit him, however, and Harry added, "One thing I left out though is that on my way out of the Prophet's offices, the young man from Cuffe's office literally ran into me. He apologized profusely, before disappearing in another direction, but now that I think about it, that must be when he slipped this note into my cloak. I didn't feel him do it, so I never even knew about it until Barin gave it to me."

"Makes sense," Cedric said. "So what does he have to say?"

"I haven't actually read the entire note," Harry said. "Only the first sentence which told me who it was from. Other than that it's pretty short though." Harry cleared his throat and read the note aloud.

Lord Potter,

My name is Kolin - you met me in Mr. Cuffe's office. I know what you think was going on and for the most part, you were correct, but there's something you don't know. Something I think you really should know, but I don't dare write it down here at work. Could we meet? Say in the Leaky Cauldron on Saturday at about 6pm? I know you don't really know me and your first impression probably wasn't that great, but I hope you'll come and hear me out. I really need your help.

"That's all he wrote," Harry said. "What do you think it could mean? Something I should know and he needs my help? And the word 'really' is written much darker than the rest of the words and it's underlined."

Nobody said anything for a moment, before Lily said, in a hesitant voice, "You don't suppose... I don't even want to think this... but, is it possible that maybe this Kolin wasn't a completely willing participant in what was going on in Barnabas' office?"

"What gives you that idea, Lily?" James asked, obviously confused.

"Well, it may be a leap and completely untrue," Lily responded. "But he seems to be saying that there's something more to what Harry thinks was going on in the office that day. Something that he's afraid to put down on paper at work, presumably where someone might see it, and wants to meet with Harry in person to tell him." She paused here and shook her head, "I don't know. I really hope I'm wrong."

"I hope you're wrong too, Mum," Harry said. "Cause he asked to meet me last night and I never showed."

Cedric had a thoughtful expression on his face. "If there's any truth at all to what you're thinking Lily... I don't know, but if it was me and I was asking someone for help and they never showed, I think I'd be upset. Or perhaps think they didn't care."

Harry suddenly felt a little sick. "I told all of them that I didn't care what they did in their off hours. If Mum is right and now I never showed up to meet him, I can only imagine Kolin must think that I really don't care. I did tell him as much, after all, and threaten to fire him. What am I supposed to do now?"

"First of all, don't panic son," James said. "We don't know for sure yet if anything untoward is actually going on. Your Mum could be reading too much between the lines." Looking at Lily, he said, "I really do hope that's the case, Lils."

Lily nodded. "I hope so too. Not only for that boy's sake, but also because if it is true and it gets out, it'll be a huge scandal and that's the last thing Harry needs this soon after claiming his birthright."

"True," Sirius said. After a moment of silence, he said, "If you want to check this out, Harry, I'll come with you."

Harry nodded. "Yeah, I think I should. If there's anything wrong at the Prophet, I want to know about it."

Sirius nodded, understanding where his godson was coming from. Standing up, he said, "Well, let's go see Athena and see if she'll let us go out and check on this."

Harry nodded as he nodded goodbye to Cedric, before following his godfather out of the room.

-o-0-o-

Athena allowed Harry to go to Diagon Alley to check it out, however, she suggested that Regulus accompany him instead of Sirius. This was mainly because Sirius' face was too well known, so if Harry wanted to keep any sort of anonymity while in the alley, it would be next to impossible to do so with Sirius at his side. Donning the hooded cloak he wore when he visited the Daily Prophet, Regulus took Harry side-along to Diagon Alley and they made their way towards the Leaky Cauldron. They both knew that it was a long shot that this Kolin would still be there. However, they both agreed that checking the Prophet records for Kolin's address should be a last resort, as they didn't want to do anything that might tip off Mr. Cuffe if there was indeed, as Lily feared, anything untoward going on.

Entering the pub, which wasn't all that busy at the moment thankfully, Harry walked over to the bar and asked, "Tom, did you perhaps see a young man here last night around six, who may have seemed to be waiting for someone?" He then gave the bartender a basic description to the best of his memory.

The bartender looked up as Harry spoke. Harry used one hand to pull the hood off his head just enough that his face wasn't hidden in shadow and with his other hand, had a finger to his lips. Tom correctly assumed that this meant that Harry didn't want him to say his name aloud, so that the other customers would hear it. Nodding, he said, "Yes, sir, come to think of it there was a young man fitting that description here. He's been in several times, in fact. Works for the Prophet, I believe, and is often sent over to fetch Mr. Cuffe's orders when he opts to have lunch in the office."

"Do you have any idea where I might find him now?" Harry asked. "He was actually waiting for me last night, but I didn't get the message that he wanted to meet with me until this morning, unfortunately."

"Actually, yes," Tom said. "Around 6:30 last night he ordered a glass of Firewhisky, drained it, and ordered another. He seemed rather upset and kept ordering more until he finally passed out drunk somewhere around 7:30 to 8:00. Was just about to cut him off when he passed out, so, I had my cook help me get him upstairs to one of the vacant rooms, so he could sleep it off. I've been here all day with a clear view of the stairs and I haven't seen him leave, so, as far as I know, he's still up there."

"Could we perhaps have a key to the room?" Regulus asked, from his place next to Harry. "We're concerned for him, especially if he had as much to drink last night as you say he did."

"Normally, I would say no," Tom said. "Not exactly appropriate to be letting just anyone into guests rooms without their permission and all." Looking at Harry, he added, "However, since he technically never checked in and he is one of your employees, sir, I suppose it would be alright. With him being so young and the amount he drank last night, and now not seeing him at all this morning, I'm a bit worried myself, honestly."

Tom turned and grabbed a key off of a board and handed it over to Harry. "There you go, sir. Room 12. That's the first door to your left on the third floor landing."

"Thank you, Tom," Harry said. As he turned to leave, Tom cleared his throat and said, "Um, sir?"

"Yes, Tom?" Harry asked.

"I hesitate to even bring this up, but there is the small matter of his bill," Tom answered. "Didn't pay for his drinks or the room. I normally allow customers to pay on their way out, but as far as I know he never left and was in no condition to pay for anything last night."

"Regulus, could you handle that?" Harry asked of his companion. "I'll reimburse you later."

"Sure," Regulus said, as he pulled out his coin pouch. "Go check on Kolin and I'll be up as soon as I settle his bill."

"Thanks," Harry said, before he turned and headed for the stairs. On the third floor, he stopped in front of the door to Room 12 and even though he had a key, he figured he should try knocking first. When there was no response and he couldn't hear any movement in the room, he knocked again and called out, "Kolin?"

After not getting any response for another minute, Harry put the key in the lock and opened the door slowly, calling out, "Kolin? It's Lord Potter." Stepping into the room, Harry saw Kolin lying face down on the bed and said, "Kolin? I'm sorry I didn't meet you last night, but I only just found your note this morning. Can you even hear me?"

Walking closer to the bed, that's when Harry saw a sight which made all color drain from his face. The reason Kolin wasn't responding was because he was lying on the bed, presumably unconscious. His wand was held loosely in his left hand and his right wrist was slashed and bleeding.

"Oh Merlin," Harry said as he raced forward and grabbed for one of the sheets, which he quickly wrapped around the older teen's wrist to try and stem the blood flow. His body was still warm, so, Harry knew he wasn't dead, but that would change if he didn't get medical attention quickly. Remembering the pendant that the trainers had given him upon his arrival at Forest Cottage, Harry fished it out from under his shirt and tapped the center of the stone three times.

About a minute later, there were four pops as the trainers appeared, all with their wands drawn. Athena asked, "Harry, what's wrong? Where's Regulus?"

"I'm right here," Regulus answered as he entered the room. "What are you doing here?"

"Never mind that!" Harry exclaimed. "This is Kolin and it looks like he did a Slashing Hex on his wrist."

Rose summoned her staff and hurried over, the gem on her staff glowing brightly as she unwrapped the sheet from the teen's wrist so that she could get a better look at the wound. After a moment, she said, "He's alive, but just barely. You found him just in time, Harry. Any longer and there would have been nothing I could do."

Holding her staff in both hands, Rose held it over Kolin's body, the gem at the top flashing brightly as his whole body began to glow with a light blue aura. Harry could only watch in fascination as the blood still near the wound reversed course and went back into the teen's body, before the cut on his wrist began to mend itself. Even his skin, which had paled from the last time Harry had seen him due to blood loss, began to look better. After another minute or so, Rose stopped her spell and said, "He'll live."

"What was that spell you did?" Harry asked. "I'm been to the hospital wing several times and I've certainly never seen Madam Pomfrey do anything like that."

Emma nodded, as she looked at Kolin. The look on her face was quite sad, though Harry could understand that since it would appear that he'd tried to commit suicide. In an absent-minded tone, she said, "You wouldn't, as she isn't a mage."

"Emma!" Rose exclaimed, as she cast a disgruntled look at her associate. The exclamation caused Emma to look away from Kolin and her expression changed from sad to sheepish, as she obviously realized her mistake. After a moment, Rose shook her head and said, "There goes my misdirection."

"Misdirection?" Harry asked, as his eyebrows shot up.

Athena nodded and said, "Rose was of the opinion that the rest of us had made the clues for our true identities too easy for all of you to figure out. So, she decided to make figuring out who she was harder by dropping a few false clues which would make you think she's Poppy Pomfrey, while being much more careful about the clues which would suggest who she really is."

"Interesting strategy, Rose," Regulus said with a grin. "And you're right, the others probably did make things too easy. Back when I was a student, I had it figured out in about two days."

"Two days?" Athena asked, shocked, as she turned to her former student. "We did not make it that easy, Regulus."

Regulus grinned, "No, you didn't. I'd say it's because I'm the cunning Slytherin, but truth is that had nothing to do with it. I just used one of the old Black family spells which allows the caster to see past Glamour Charms." After a moment, his grin widened and he added, "I'm guessing that Sirius forgot all about it."

"You mean you know who they are?" Harry asked. "All of them?"

"Of course, I do, Harry," Regulus said. "And don't look so shocked. I'm one of their past students, remember. You don't think they spent the entire time they were training me Glamoured do you?"

Any response that Harry may have had was cut off by a groan from the bed. The trainers quickly left the room and Harry could hear the faint pops of them Disapparating in the hallway. Kneeling next to the bed, with Regulus not far behind him, Harry asked gently, "Kolin?"

It took a moment for him to say anything, before he asked, "Lord Potter?" He coughed after this, obviously still a little weak.

Reaching into a concealed pocket of his cloak, Regulus pulled a potion vial from within, uncorked it, and held it out to Kolin. "Here, drink this, it'll make you feel better."

"Who are you?" Kolin asked, as he noticed Regulus for the first time.

"Kolin, this is Regulus Black," Harry answered. "You can trust him - my family and his are allies, so he won't do anything to harm you."

Kolin still looked a little dubious, but grabbed the vial, nonetheless. Downing it, he instantly perked up, as steam shot out of his ears. "Pepper-Up Potion," Kolin said, a note of distaste in his tone, once the steam stopped.

"I'm sorry I didn't meet you last night," Harry said. "I didn't see your note until this morning when one of my house elves found it while he was laundering my cloak."

"I see," Kolin said, as he sat up on the bed, bending his legs upwards and wrapping his arms around them. He winced slightly when his previously slit wrist rubbed against the other wrist, but otherwise said nothing. "I thought maybe you didn't care. I mean why would you? You're a high-ranking and powerful lord who defeated You-Know-Who for Merlin's sake. I'm just an insignificant typesetter at a newspaper, so there's really nothing special about me. I don't know why I ever thought you'd help me. You have no reason to, as you don't even know me."

"Kolin, you're rambling," Regulus said in a gentle tone, as he took a seat at the foot of the bed.

"I'm sorry," Kolin said, as he shifted slightly. After a moment of silence, he looked at Regulus and asked, "I don't suppose you have a hangover cure on you do you?"

"As a matter of fact," Regulus answered with a grin, as he reached into the hidden pocket of his cloak and pulled out another vile, which he handed to Kolin.

"Do you have a whole apothecary hidden in your robes, Regulus?" Harry asked, one eyebrow raised, as Kolin uncorked the second vial and downed the potion.

"No, Harry, but I do keep a supply of various potions with me at all times," Regulus answered. "You never know when you might need one. Besides, you know Asterion and I did a lot of travelling," Harry nodded. "Well, sometimes we were going to a place where potions wouldn't be readily available, so I always made sure that I was well prepared."

"I guess that makes sense," Harry said.

"Who’s Asterion?" Kolin asked.

"My son," Regulus answered. "He's about your age actually. I believe Harry said you were nineteen?" Kolin nodded. "Well, Asterion is seventeen."

Kolin looked shocked. "You don't look old enough to have a seventeen year old son."

Regulus smiled. "Thanks for that. I admit, I sometimes find it hard to believe myself, as do many others. During our travels, there were several people who thought he was my younger brother, actually." After a moment of silence, he grinned and added, "Of course, there were also people who had a knack for overlooking the familial resemblance and thought he was my lover."

Having seen both Regulus and Asterion, Harry had a hard time believing that anyone could look at them together and think they were a couple. True, Asterion did take after his mother in some respects, but there were still Black family traits which were also present in Regulus. Deciding not to dwell on it, however, Harry turned his attention to Kolin and asked, "So, why did you want to meet with me, Kolin? Your note was a little vague, but from the wording, it almost seemed as if you were implying that you weren't a willing participant in what I caught you doing with Mr. Cuffe and that girl."

Kolin remained silent for a moment, before he said, "That's not entirely true. I was willing," he paused here and then added, "at first."

"What do you mean at first?" Regulus asked.

"The first time Mr. Cuffe made advances," Kolin clarified, as he blushed and added, "I've always been attracted to older, more distinguished men. So, when Mr. Cuffe first made advances on me, I was definitely interested. He isn't exactly my type, a bit older and heavier than I'd usually prefer, but I was still a virgin at the time and my hormones were still doing a lot of my thinking."

"So, when did your willingness begin to fade?" Harry asked.

"It didn't take all that long actually," Kolin replied. "While it was just flirting and touches, I enjoyed it. I hadn't had a whole lot of experience with guys liking me in that way, because I grew up in a small town and there really weren't any men who swung that way as far I as I know. That's part of the reason I moved to the UK after I finished school, because I was tired of being alone. So, when Mr. Cuffe started flirting with me and making it clear he was interested, I was willing to see where it would go."

Regulus and Harry nodded, giving Kolin encouraging smiles, but remained silent, hoping the boy would continue with his story. It didn't take long. "My willingness to be with him began to fade the first time we had sex. While I don't mind his face so much, I'm not all that crazy about the rest of his body. He insisted on topping me and refused to use a condom. He did use a spell to provide lubrication, thankfully, but even that didn't help much, as he likes it rough. We'd done it about ten times over the course of two weeks and that's when he brought in Chelsea."

"I assume Chelsea is the girl you were hiding in the closet with?" Harry asked.

Kolin nodded. "Yes. I'd known beforehand that Chelsea had a crush on me, just from the way she looked at me and snippets of conversations that I'd overheard. Apparently Cuffe heard it as well, because he decided to bring her into the fold. I don't know if he thought I was crushing on her as well or what, but he wanted me to have sex with Chelsea while he watched. And by watched I mean watch while he was fucking me. Of course, sometimes he'd also reach around me to fondle her breasts or even kiss her. Before Chelsea entered the picture, he had fondled my equipment a few times while he fucked me, but he never kissed me."

"So, I take it you did have sex with this girl?" Regulus asked.

Kolin nodded. "Yes, several times. Thankfully, whatever Cuffe has against condoms didn't extend to me wearing one, because the last thing I want at this stage in my life is a child. I don't feel anywhere near ready for that responsibility yet. Of course, I'm gay and the only reason I was even able to perform with Chelsea at all was because Cuffe was fucking me. Even though by that point my willingness to continue had faded completely, my body still reacted to the stimulus of him being inside me and I got hard enough to have sex with Chelsea."

"And Chelsea was willing?" Harry asked.

"The first time, yes," Kolin answered. "However, not so much after the next few times. I think she picked up on my body language and knew that I really didn't like having sex with her. And then after about the fifth time in as many days, I was silently crying while doing it. Cuffe didn't notice, since he always takes me from behind, so he couldn't see my face. After we were out of the office, Chelsea pulled me aside and asked me why I'd been crying and I told her. She was a little upset at first, I suppose it's only natural after finding out the person you're crushing on doesn't like you because you're the wrong gender. And I'm sure the fact that we'd had sex didn't help matters, although she seemed to accept the fact that I was only able to perform because I was turned on from being fucked."

Kolin took a deep breath at this and said, "Honestly, I think she didn't really like the situation anymore then I did. We didn't get into specifics. At least on my part I was afraid to talk to her because I feared it might get back to Mr. Cuffe." Looking at Harry, he said, "Even slipping you that note had me scared out of my mind. I rationalized, however, that you were Mr. Cuffe's boss and that he couldn't do anything to me if you were on my side. Of course, then you didn't show up last night. That's when I got plastered and thought that maybe you didn't show up because you didn't care. You did say that a few times in Cuffe's office as I recall."

"I never meant it that way," Harry said. "At the time, I didn't realize that you weren't an entirely willing participant in what was going on. All three of you were adults and as far as I could tell, you were consenting adults. So, what I meant was that I didn't care what you did in your homes or anywhere else, really, but that I didn't want you three having sex in the editor's office. I own the paper, so you're all technically on my payroll and I didn't like the idea that three of you were having sex on the premises during work hours, rather than doing the jobs that I'm paying you for. As I told Mr. Cuffe, it's a newspaper, not a brothel."

Kolin laughed at that and said, "Chelsea and I heard that comment from the closet. Despite the situation, we both grinned at that. Not because we found the situation particularly funny, but because we could both picture the look that was surely on Mr. Cuffe's face when you said that. His skin has a tendency to turn an interesting shade of purple when he's angry and his face puffs up."

Harry laughed and nodded. "Yeah, that's about right. It didn't last long though as it went from what you just described as his angry look to what I'd assume was his mortified look as soon as I levitated your underwear and Chelsea's bra into his sight."

Kolin stopped laughing and lifted the side of his shirt to reveal a faint bruise on his skin. It was pretty large and that's the only reason it was even still visible by the looks of it. Gesturing towards it, Kolin said, "This was my punishment for leaving my underwear on the floor. He hit Chelsea, too."

Is that the only time he hit you?" Harry asked.

Kolin shook his head. "No, there were other times as well. The worst was when I worked up the courage to try and break things off with him. He laughed and said that if anyone was going to end things between us it would be him, not me. He then threw me to the ground and kicked me in the ribs a few times for daring to think I had any right to end our relationship. When he was finished kicking me he pushed up my robes, ripped my underwear off, and proceeded to fuck me harder than he ever had before, while also punching me repeatedly in the back. By the time it was over, my whole back was covered in bruises and my ass was bleeding."

"Harry, you have to do something," Regulus said, a completely disgusted look on his face. "Cuffe is a monster and deserves to be in Azkaban for what he's done."

"I whole-heartedly agree," Harry said, as he stood up, his face looking thoughtful. After a moment, Harry called out, "Tilly!"

Seacliff's head-elf appeared seconds later and bowed to Harry. "What can Tilly do for Lord Potter?"

"Tilly, I need you to go to the Ministry," Harry said. "Tell Madam Amelia Bones in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement that Lord Potter requests to see her at the Leaky Cauldron in one hour from now. Tell her to bring with her a team of Aurors that she trusts implicitly." After a moment, Harry bent down and whispered something in Tilly's ear, before adding aloud, "Oh and Tilly, make sure you and Amelia are alone when you deliver my message. Tell her I consider it to be a matter of family business and that I want it handled as quickly and quietly as possible."

"Yes, Lord Potter, sir," Tilly nodded and disappeared with a pop.

"Why one hour?" Regulus asked.

Harry didn't answer, however, as he instead called, "Dobby!"

Regulus and Kolin just looked dumbfounded as a second house-elf appeared in the room. This one, of course, was the strangest house-elf either of them had ever seen, seeing as how it was wearing actual clothing and not a tea cozy. The little elf bowed to Harry and said, "Lord Harry Potter calls Dobby?"

"Yes, Dobby," Harry said. "Can you deliver a message for me?"

Dobby nodded enthusiastically and said, "Yes, Lord Harry Potter, sir, Dobby would be most honored."

"Good," Harry said. "I need you to find Lord Erik Bones and tell him to meet me here at the Leaky Cauldron immediately. Be as discreet as possible and don't deliver my message in front of witnesses. It's for his ears and his ears only, Dobby. If he asks what the meeting is about tell him it's family business."

"Yes, Lord Harry Potter, sir," Dobby said with a nod, before he popped away.

Kolin looked confused, because as a foreign-born commoner, he really didn't understand all the intricacies of how Albion's noble families operated. Regulus, however, grinned and nodded his head in understanding. "Very shrewd of you, Harry. I assume you plan on covering your bases with Madam Bones by forging an alliance with her nephew first." Harry nodded. "A good plan, Harry, although I would only point out that while that will prevent Madam Bones from revealing anything you don't wish revealed, it won't do anything for the Aurors."

Harry just grinned. "Ah, Regulus, but you saw me whisper something to Tilly, right?"

"Yes," Regulus nodded, not following what the brunet was getting at.

Harry smiled. "I told her to tell Madam Bones that the Aurors she brings should all have been born and continue to live on either my own lands, or those belonging to the McLaggen, Black, or Bones families."

"What difference does that make?" Kolin asked, with both his tone and his face showing total confusion and bewilderment.

Regulus laughed and patted Harry on the back. "Oh, Harry, you're good." Harry grinned at the praise, as Regulus turned to Kolin and said, "Lord Potter is allied with Lords McLaggen and Black, and plans on forging an alliance with Lord Bones. By limiting the Aurors to only ones born in his own lands or those of his allies, he can insure that the Aurors don't say anything they're not supposed to. You see by asking for Aurors who were born and continue to live on one of those lords' lands, one can assume that they'll have a strong degree of loyalty to the local lord. And even if they don't, if their local lord orders them to keep their mouths shut about something and they don't do it, they'll be earning themselves tickets to the dungeons of Seacliff Castle, Kinloch Hold, Arlington Grange, or Thornhill Abbey." Kolin still looked a little confused, so Regulus added, "Those are the family seats of the Potter, McLaggen, Black, and Bones families respectively."

Kolin nodded, but any response he might have had was cut off by the arrival of Dobby, who bowed to Harry and then said, "Lord Bones awaits downstairs, Lord Harry Potter, sir."

"Thank you, Dobby," Harry said. "If you would, please escort him up here - Room 12 on the third floor."

Dobby nodded and popped out. Nobody said anything and about two minutes later, there was a knock on the door. Regulus walked over and opened it to admit Dobby and Lord Erik Bones, who looked a bit surprised to see Regulus, not to mention a boy he'd never met lying on the bed. Looking over at Harry, he asked, "What is this about, Lord Potter? This elf said it was family business?"

"First off, please, Erik, call me Harry." Erik nodded, before Harry continued. "Now as to that matter of family business I had Dobby bring you here for, if you're not adverse to it, I should like very much for our families to forge an alliance."

Erik was speechless for a moment, before he said, "I'd be happy to do that, Harry, although forgive me this seems rather sudden."

Harry nodded and said, "I know and I admit that certain recent events have prompted me to seek this alliance, but, I assure you that I have only the most honorable intentions. I'll gladly tell you what recent events I speak of, but first..."

"We need to swear the Alliance Oath," Erik said and Harry nodded. Coming over to stand before Harry, Erik held out the hand that bore his family ring. "Shall we?"

Harry nodded, as he took Erik's hand so that the Potter ring touched the Bones ring, as Erik began the ritual. "I, Erik Anthony Bones, Marquis of Waringsford, Earl of Banbridge, Viscount Kinallen, Lord of Thornhill Abbey, and Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Bones, do hereby pledge my house's strength and support to yours, Harrison James Potter, and promise to do everything within my power to assist, protect, and shelter your family, vassals and friends as if they were my own. From this day onward, your allies will be my allies and your enemies my enemies. Your secrets will be my secrets and I vow to safeguard them with my life. As our families have stood together before, so shall we stand together again, now and into the future. On my honor, my magic, and my very life, so mote it be."

Harry was glad that Erik had to go first as the Lord of the lower house, because truth be told, Harry hadn't known that the Bones and Potter families had been allied in the past and thus would not have known to include the necessary line. As he spoke his part of the ritual, he made a mental note to ask Robert for some more reading material on the Potter family. Specifically the history of any and all alliances the family had entered into so that he'd know which families had, at any time in the past, been Potter allies. As Harry finished, "On my honor, my magic, and my very life, so mote it be," and the golden nimbuses of light, swirls of color, and the pulse of magic completed the ritual.

Kolin looked somewhat shocked, as it was the first time he'd ever witnessed an Alliance Oath performed. He'd read about them, of course, and the magical noble families in his home country had something similar, but reading about it and actually witnessing it are very different. Especially the pulse of magic at the end - Kolin was sure that if he hadn't already been lying on the bed, he would have fallen over from the sheer power of that pulse. He imagined the only reason that Regulus hadn't fallen over was because he'd been expecting it.

It was then that Harry filled Erik in on the situation and to say that Erik was appalled would be an understatement. He couldn't believe that the editor of a respected newspaper would behave in such a reprehensible way. Of course, the fact that Erik's late mother had been best friends with Mrs. Cuffe, who happened to be Erik's godmother, didn't help matters, nor did the fact that Erik's first girlfriend was Abigail Cuffe - Mr. and Mrs. Cuffe's youngest daughter and Jonas' sister. This fact did, however, allow Erik to share his unique perspective on the matter of Jonas.

"I'm not surprised that Jonas helped his father," Erik said. "All six of Mr. Cuffe's children are very loyal to their father, mainly because he's a really strict disciplinarian and rules his household with an iron fist. So, it isn't that much of a stretch to say that Jonas is probably afraid of his father, which combined with years of conditioning, he would be willing to do whatever he's told, despite the fact that he's in his twenties now. I am, however, amazed that Mr. Cuffe would be engaging in extra-marital affairs to begin with, because when I was dating his daughter, he always seemed to be devoted to his wife. Of course, I suppose that could have been an act. Merlin knows I've seen plenty of married couples acting like their bond is rock solid in public and then privately having more affairs than a squirrel has nuts."

Regulus nodded. "Yes, that's very common, especially among pureblooded families where arranged marriages are often entered into. Such arrangements very rarely take such things as love or attraction into account, so, it's very easy to end up married to someone you don't love and aren't even attracted to. Usually the new couple will only get together enough times to sire an heir or two and then they'll discreetly start turning to outside sources to fulfill their desires. That's probably why most of Albion's noble families have only one heir, actually, because very few of the nobles married for love."

"Well, I'm glad that I'm the head of my family then," Harry said. "Nobody can force me into an arranged marriage."

"I wouldn't be so sure about that," Erik cautioned, which prompted Harry to give him a questioning look. "While not every marriage that takes place in Albion is arranged by the parents, there is still a good portion that are and it's not unheard of for parents to arrange a marriage for a newborn. In fact, depending on the arrangements made by the parents, some babies are betrothed to somebody the moment they're born. As long as your parents didn't sign a marriage contract with another family, however, you're correct that as head of the family, nobody can force you to marry."

"And if a contract was drawn up before my parents died?" Harry asked, as he was overcome with an overwhelming hope that no contract existed that would force him to marry anyone. He made a mental note at this point to make sure to ask his parents' portrait about that as soon as he got home.

"If one exists," Regulus said, "then you'd have no choice but to marry the person, provided of course that you meet the necessary requirements."

"Requirements?" Kolin asked, who'd been quietly following along up until now.

"Arranged marriages often have certain requirements," Erik said. "Dowries to be paid for example. But, there's also usually a gender requirement, especially if a contract is drawn up before the birth of one or both of the children who would be betrothed by the contract. My parents actually did draw up a marriage contract for me with the Diggory family, but I can't marry Noah or Cedric because we can't have children together. Now, Lord and Lady Diggory did have a daughter after Noah was disowned, but most marriage contracts, the Bones-Diggory contract being no exception, require that the age difference between the two parties to be wed be no more than ten years. So, because I'm nineteen and Lucinda Diggory is only two, I'm saved from marrying her by the fact that I'm seventeen years older."

Kolin looked like he was about to say something, but Harry beat him to the punch with a question of his own. "So, what happens if the contract can't be fulfilled?"

"It gets passed to the next generation," Regulus answered. "One of Erik's sons or daughters, should he have any, would in turn have to marry one of Cedric's sons or daughters. Lucinda's children aren't eligible to fulfill the contract because while she is a Diggory, her children would not be considered to be Diggorys, since they'd carry their father's surname. Noah's children, should he have any, are also not eligible since he's been disowned by Lord Diggory."

"Well, even if Amos did reverse that," Harry said, "I suppose Noah's children still wouldn't be eligible. Cormac tells me that Noah is engaged to Charlie Weasley, so I imagine any children they may have together would be adopted."

It was actually Cedric that had clued Harry in about Noah's and Charlie's pending nuptials, but Erik and Kolin did not know about the training, so, they might question why Harry would be spending time with Cedric. He also didn't want to risk it getting back to Amos that Cedric even knew about Noah's plans, as that might suggest to the elder Diggory that Cedric was keeping in touch with his disowned brother. All in all, Harry thus felt it was best to say it was Cormac who told him as Amos had no say in whether his nephew had contact with Noah. Add the fact that Cormac was the heir of one of Harry's allies and his housemate at Hogwarts, and he rather doubted anyone would question them conversing with one another.

Kolin cleared his throat at this and said, "You know, I don't mean any disrespect, but I've gotta say that one of the disadvantages I've found since moving here is just how far behind the times you people are."

Regulus grinned and nodded. "Yes, I know what you mean, Kolin. My son and I travelled extensively, so, I know that the differences between the continent and Albion can be quite wide. Of course, it all depends on where one is on the continent as there are some magical communities in Europe which would make Albion look progressive."

"What are you two talking about?" Erik asked as he looked at Regulus and Kolin. The young lord knew that there were many people who would have found their comments insulting, but Erik was not among them.

"There are several places on the continent which are far more progressive than Albion," Regulus explained. "It would be quite a culture shock for many Danish or Scandinavian wizards and witches, for example, if they moved to Albion, as we're pretty far behind them in many areas. One such area which I believe is what prompted Kolin's comment, is the fact that in many of the more progressive countries, it would be almost unheard of for a marriage contract to exist at all. But, if they did, same-sex couplings would be perfectly legal in terms of fulfilling the contract because the use of a spell which allows such couplings to have children is commonly used."

"How does that work?" Harry asked, suddenly curious if Regulus was about to say that with magic it was possible for wizards to become pregnant.

"It's based on the Muggle process of in-vitro fertilization," Regulus explained. "Which is a non-sexual means of reproduction. In the case of two women, eggs are harvested from both and then the eggs of one of the women are transfigured into sperm, which is used to fertilize the eggs of the other. The fertilized eggs are then implanted into one of the women, who gets pregnant. In men, it's the exact opposite, with the services of a surrogate being used. A surrogate being a woman who agrees to carry a child that's not her own for someone else."

Erik was silent for a few moments, before he said, "Well, I'll be praying to all the gods then that this spell is not adopted here in Albion because that would mean I'd have to fulfill the Diggory-Bones contract and marry Cedric. I do consider him to be a friend, but the male physique does nothing for me, so I have no desire whatsoever to have a husband. Especially since it would mean I'd be celibate for the rest of my life, since I vowed, on my magic, that once I married I would have sex only with my spouse or not at all. Being straight, I wouldn't have any interest in having sex with Cedric, so, yeah, I definitely have no desire to marry him."

Harry found himself quite confused by the sudden surge of anger he felt at the idea of Erik and Cedric getting married. He couldn't understand why their coupling would anger him, but before he could explore his feelings much, a pop announced the arrival of Tilly. Shaking his head to clear his thoughts and concentrate on the matter with Kolin, Harry asked, "Has it been a hour?"

Tilly nodded. "Indeed, Lord Potter, sir. As you requested, Ms. Amelia Bones and a team of trusted Aurors, all of them from lands belonging to you or your allies, have arrived downstairs."

"I'll go downstairs and talk with Madam Bones," Harry said. "Erik, if you'd care to join me?" The young lord nodded his head, as Harry said, "Regulus, if you could stay here and keep Kolin company I'd appreciate it."

"Of course, Harry," Regulus said with a smile.

-o-0-o-

Twenty minutes later, Erik, Harry, and Amelia were sitting in a secluded booth in the main room of the Leaky Cauldron. A series of privacy charms had been erected around the table by Erik and Amelia, and the Aurors made sure nobody got close enough to disturb the trio. Finding out the reason that she'd been summoned, Amelia was appalled at the behavior of Barnabus Cuffe. She wanted him to pay for his crime just as much as anyone, but there was a problem.

"I understand why you wish for Mr. Cuffe to pay for what he's done," Amelia said. "I share that sentiment, Lord Potter, but I'm afraid there's very little I can do to help you. Normally, it wouldn't be a problem, as making sure criminals face justice is my job. However, my job is also very public. I'm afraid there's really no way that I could secure a conviction for Mr. Cuffe without a trial before the Wizengamot. And being a criminal proceeding, it would require the full Wizengamot to sit in judgment, which means that all one hundred members would have to be made privy to this. Further complicating matters is the Criminal Trial Act of 1670, which states that all trials will either be open to the public or have their records made available to the public. Obviously that would not be conducive to your desire to keep this situation quiet in order to avoid the scandal that would surely follow."

"So there's nothing I can do?" Harry asked.

"Well, you could probably have Cuffe arrested," Erik said, "and thrown into the dungeon at Seacliff. However, while he isn't a noble, the Cuffe family is still an old pureblood line and Barnabas is the family head. Which means you wouldn't be able to hold him for more than six months, a year at the most."

Amelia nodded. "That's true. While there's usually no limits placed on the length of stay for prisoners in the noble dungeons, as the term of imprisonment is left up to the ruling lord, there are special provisions made for heads of families. You can't imprison your fellow Lords, for example, and as Erik just mentioned, there's a limit to how long you could legally hold Cuffe." After a moment of silence, however, Amelia then added, "There may, however, be another option, one that bypasses the limits placed on the noble dungeons."

"What?" Harry asked.

"The Tribunal of the Thirteen," Amelia answered. "Centuries ago, before the formation of the Wizengamot, the Tribunal of the Thirteen was the main judicial body of Albion, where the Lords of the Thirteen Houses would sit in judgment for lesser crimes, which are defined as any crime that doesn't involve people subject to high justice or treason against the realm. Those cases would in turn be heard by His Majesty the King in the Royal Court. Now usually each individual lord would deal with crimes committed on their own lands on their own, but in instances where a person committed crimes on more than one lord's lands or against more than one lord or their family, the Tribunal was called."

Amelia paused here to take a sip of the tea she'd gotten before sitting down with Harry and her nephew, before continuing. "Now, publicly the Tribunal ceased to exist upon the formation of the Wizengamot, but it's still around with the same power and authority that it's always had. These days it's mostly used by the lords for matters of family business that they don't want becoming public, as the Tribunal is not subject to the Criminal Trial Act. In fact, all cases heard by the Tribunal are sealed and everybody, from the lords themselves to defendants, witnesses, and everyone else who will be a part of the trial in any way take a vow on their magic or their lives not to talk about anything they learn during the trial outside of the Tribunal's meeting chambers. Thus the chances of the public at large finding out about anything revealed during a meeting of the Tribunal is highly unlikely because someone would have to give up their magic or their life to reveal it."

"Why their magic or their life?" Harry asked.

"From time to time," Amelia replied, "it's been necessary for a squib to give testimony in a case being heard by the Tribunal. As they have no magic, they can't very well make an oath on that, so they instead swear on their lives."

Cocking his head to one side, Erik asked, "Why haven't I heard about this body before?"

Amelia smiled at her nephew. "Probably because the last time the Tribunal met was in 1972, which is before you were even born, Erik. The only reason I even know of its existence is because I'm the Head of the DMLE. Since it's possible for the Tribunal to sentence somebody to Azkaban and that prison falls under my department's jurisdiction, the head of the department is made aware of it."

"So do you know how I'd go about calling a meeting of the Tribunal?" Harry asked.

Amelia shook her head and said, "I'm afraid that I can't help you with that, Lord Potter. I know of its existence, but my knowledge of its inner workings is limited. It's a very secretive body, after all, and I'm not the head of a noble family. Obviously Erik can't help you as he didn't even know it existed until now," she patted her nephew on the arm at this as he rolled his eyes and gave his aunt a small grin. "I'd say that your best bet would be to ask one of the other lords, preferably one you trust, who was present for the 1972 meeting of the Tribunal and would hence have more knowledge about it than I do."

"Well other than Erik," Harry said, "I've also forged alliances with my godfather, Sirius Black, and Bruce McLaggen. Sirius was only 13 in 1972 though and he obviously wasn't the head of the Black family back then, so I don't imagine he'd be able to help."

"Bruce McLaggen didn't assume the lordship until 1976," Amelia said. "So, I couldn't say with certainty whether he knows about the Tribunal or not. He hasn't attended a meeting of it, although that doesn't necessarily mean he doesn't know anything."

"Well then I don't know who to ask," Harry said. "While allies are a good thing, I've already made three since claiming my birthright. I can't help but think that maybe I should hold off for a little while, simply because three in less than a month might seem a bit excessive to some people."

Amelia nodded. "I would have to agree, yes. Having some idea of the politics involved, I wouldn't suggest forging anymore alliances for a few months at least. Maybe even a year."

"Then I don't know who to ask," Harry said. "Only other thing I can think of is my parent's portrait, but Dad was only 12 when the Tribunal last met."

"Of course, that's it!" Erik exclaimed. "Harry, I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier. Portraits of the past lords of a family are usually always willing to assist the current lord of their family in any way they can."

"I hadn't thought of that, either," Harry said. "Of course, the only family portrait I've spoken to since claiming my birthright is my parents. I'd planned on talking with some of the others but just hadn't gotten around to it yet. Might be interesting though and I'm sure Grandfather Julian would know about the Tribunal, as he was family head from 1947 until his death in 1980, so he would have been present for the 1972 meeting."

Amelia nodded and said, "Indeed. In that case, Lord Potter, I would suggest that you head to Seacliff and have a chat with your grandfather's portrait. Should you require my help for anything else, however, you can send your house-elf again."

"Thank you, Amelia," Harry said.

-o-0-o-

After his meeting with Erik and Amelia Bones, Harry called for Tilly and Dobby, instructing Dobby to go with Kolin to his home, pack a few things, and then bring him to Seacliff. Kolin tried to protest, but Harry refused to hear it, saying that at least until he could deal with things with Mr. Cuffe, Kolin would stay at Seacliff as his guest. Tilly, meanwhile, was instructed to make sure Harry's double was made scarce so that Harry could visit Seacliff's portrait gallery for a chat with his grandfather. As usual, Tilly was only too happy to serve her Master and within minutes, she popped back to say that Harry's double was resting comfortably in one of the spare bedrooms and wouldn't awaken until Harry left the castle.

Since Regulus hadn't been added to the list of people who were allowed to Apparate into the castle proper, Tilly took Harry back to Seacliff. Arriving at the castle, Harry went first to the Master's Study and pulled out the castle's guestbook, which was tied into the wards. All he had to do to key someone into the wards was write their name in the book or cross out a name in order to unkey them. The Potter family ring acted as the book's key, so only the Lord Potter could even open the book. It was a system invented by Merlin and was the same system used by all of the houses belonging to the noble families, in addition to the royal family. Merlin hadn't shared his secrets on how to create such a book, however, so wards that weren't cast by Merlin did not use that system. So, Forest Cottage, for example did not have a book tied to the wards.

Regulus wasn't the only name that Harry added to the book, as he also added in Asterion's name, in addition to a few other names, such as Erik Bones, Nick Ollivander, Dominick Burke, and, of course, his soon to be house guest, Kolin Mikaels. Once that was done, he closed the book and had Tilly lead him to the portrait gallery. Stepping into the massive room for the first time, Harry was momentarily taken aback by the sheer number of portraits in the room. He'd seen a large number of portraits before, as there were plenty in the corridors of Hogwarts or even in the Headmaster's Office, but the number there seemed dwarfed by the number here. Looking around the expansive room, Harry guessed that there were well over a hundred portraits on the walls, the witches and wizards they depicted clearly dating back many centuries.

Tilly pointed to the portrait of a man who looked a lot like James, only with a few more lines on his face and more gray in his hair. Beneath the oaken frame, Harry spotted a small golden plaque, on which were engraved the words Lord Julian Nathaniel Potter, 172nd Duke of Granston. Nearby there was another portrait which caught Harry's eye. It was twice the width of Julian's portrait, as it depicted two people. Black hair with small streaks of gray at the temples, their torsos joined together where their shared liver would be, Harry instantly knew who they were, thanks to his father. Allowing his eyes to drift downward to the plaque, his suspicion was confirmed, as it read Lord Nathaniel James Potter, 171st Duke of Granston, and his brother, Sebastian Julian Potter.

Sitting down on a sofa across from the two portraits, Harry nodded to Tilly and said, "Thank you, Tilly, that'll be all."

Having always been something of a light sleeper when he was alive, the sound of Harry's voice in the otherwise quiet room roused Sebastian from his nap, as Tilly nodded and left the room. Sebastian, meanwhile, locked eyes with Harry for a moment, studying him before nodding.

"You're clearly a Potter," Sebastian said.

"Yes, Sebastian, I'm Harrison James Potter," Harry said, as he held up his hand to show the family ring. "Your great-grandnephew and the 174th Duke of Granston."

"You're so young," Sebastian said with a sigh. "May I assume the Last of the Line clause is in effect?"

Harry nodded. "Yes, it is. My parents, James Sebastian Potter and Lily Marie Evans-Potter died in 1981, at the hands of the Dark Lord Voldemort, just before he tried to kill me."

"I feared as much," Sebastian said. "I thought they were crazy to trust in the Fidelius and whatever wards Albus placed around the cottage in Godric's Hollow. Albus is a powerful and brilliant wizard, but he's no Merlin. They would have been so much safer here at Seacliff or even the manors in Brynmoor or Mathry, but Albus convinced them that those would be the first places that Voldemort would look for them. Not that it would have mattered as Merlin's wards would have kept him out."

Harry was silent for a moment, before he said, "Sebastian, I need to speak with grandfather Julian."

Sebastian nodded as he moved towards the edge of his portrait, pulling Nathaniel with him and waking him in the process, as he reached over into Julian's portrait and shook his nephew's shoulder to rouse him. "Julian, wake up, your grandson and the current Lord Potter needs to speak with you."

"Grandson? Current Lord Potter?" Julian asked, before his face fell. "Then James is dead?"

Harry nodded. "Yes, unfortunately. He died on October 31, 1981 at the cottage in Godric's Hollow, along with my mother. Voldemort killed them both before turning his wand on me in my crib and activating Merlin's Last of the Line protections."

Julian closed his eyes. If he was a living person, Harry would have sworn he was blinking back tears, although he didn't know if a portrait could actually cry. If they could, however, then finding out that your son and daughter-in-law were dead would certainly be a good reason to do so. As Julian remained silent for a moment, obviously trying to compose himself, Nathaniel asked, "If you're the current Lord Potter then I assume it's 1993 now?"

"August 14, 1994, actually," Harry answered and noticing the confused looks on all three of his ancestor's faces, he added, "I was unaware of my heritage for most of my life. I only just found out about being nobility two weeks ago."

"Two weeks ago?" Sebastian asked. "You should have claimed your birthright over a year ago. And what do you mean you didn't know of your heritage?"

"Well, my godparents weren't available to raise me," Harry answered, as he explained why that was. "As for the Diggorys, I suspect they were Imperiused and Obliviated to forget about the role they'd agreed to take in my parents' will - which incidentally has never been read as far as I know. Until two weeks ago I was living with mum's sister Petunia and her family. I know that was against my parents' wishes, but I was placed in there care by Albus Dumbledore the same night that my parents died, so it's possible he didn't know what was in the will."

"What makes you think the Diggorys were Imperiused and Obliviated?" Sebastian asked.

"Robert Higgs and his wife Katherine were," Harry explained. "As was Tilly. That's why none of them tried to find me all these years. But apparently claiming my birthright broke the hold of the magic on Tilly and she helped Robert and Katherine find me."

"So just how did you finally learn of your birthright?" Nathaniel asked.

"Technically that's a secret under the Fidelius," Harry said, "although the spell didn't prevent me from telling mum and dad's portrait when I was in the family vault at Gringotts'."

"A weakness of the Fidelius Charm," Julian said. "It doesn't count portraits as people, so it won't prevent you from telling a secret protected by it to a portrait. Thus, it would be a very wise precaution not to discuss secrets around the portraits of people you don't trust." After a moment of silence, he then added, "I realize that we just met, but I swear on my honor as a Potter that you can trust me."

Sebastian and Nathaniel made similar declarations, after which Harry nodded. "I found out about my heritage and birthright exactly two weeks ago when I left the Dursleys with my mage trainers."

"Mage training?" Nathaniel asked, prompting Harry to nod. "I'm impressed. There hasn't been a mage in the family in a number of years." Turning towards Sebastian, he asked, "Grandmother on mother's side was a mage, wasn't she?"

Sebastian was silent for a moment, obviously thinking, before he nodded and said, "Yes, I believe she was. We were only five when she died though, so, it's hard to remember much of anything about her."

"You said trainers, so I take it there's more than one?" Julian asked.

"Yeah, there's four of them," Harry said. "All women and all of them are professors at Hogwarts - although I don't currently know who they are. They're testing us by using Glamour Charms and aliases, while dropping hints about who they really are. It's down to seven possible professors now."

"So who else are you training with? Anyone we might know or recognize the name of?" Nathaniel asked.

"It was originally three others," Harry answered. "Roger Davies, Lord and Lady Diggory's son Cedric, and Robert and Katherine's son, Terence. Two more students were added later, however, in the form of Terence's boyfriend Oliver Wood and his brother Gavin. Training is taking place at a cottage in the woods not far from Hogwarts on Lord McLaggen's lands. So, I've renewed the alliance with Bruce McLaggen. I also forged an alliance with Sirius once the King pardoned him and just today I allied with Lord Erik Bones, the reason for which is why I'm here to begin with."

Harry then proceeded to fill the three men in on the situation with Kolin and how he was trying to help him by getting Barnabas Cuffe on trial for his crimes, hopefully without a public scandal.

Julian nodded. "Yes, the Tribunal can be called in this instance. The fact that he works for you would be considered reason enough, but the fact that the crime was actually committed on Diagon Alley also means that it concerns Lord Burke, since that's part of his domain."

"How exactly does the Tribunal work?" Harry asked.

"The short answer is that the Thirteen Lords gather, hear the evidence, and cast their votes," Sebastian said. "Majority rules. Of course, it should come as no surprise that it's more involved than that - unfortunately."

"Sebastian never did like the Tribunal meetings," Nathaniel said with a smile. "He was bored out of his mind most of the time. Of course, I suppose the same held true for most occasions when I was carrying out my duties as Lord Potter and propriety didn't allow him to have his preferred distraction."

Julian shook his head and said, "Father, please, you know I love you and Uncle Sebastian, but my grandson doesn't need the sordid details of uncle's overzealous sex life."

"My memories of it are all I have left," Sebastian said, and then more to himself, he added, "Oh to be alive again or barring that having clothes that weren't painted on."

"Sebastian, it's been over fifty years," Nathaniel said with a shake of his head. "I think it's time you got over the fact that I nixed the idea of us posing nude for this portrait."

"You always were a killjoy, Nathaniel," Sebastian said with a sigh. "Honestly what would have been the harm in allowing me to have a means of having fun?"

"Oh for pity sake," Nathaniel commented. "Fun how? It's not like any of your numerous lovers had nude portraits of themselves done. Unless you were planning on using your hand. Regardless, I'd only remind you that as a portrait you wouldn't feel anything no matter how you went about having the fun you miss so much so I fail to see why it matters that our clothes are painted on."

Giving Harry a look that conveyed how sorry he was, Julian said, "I really am sorry about them, Harry. I love them dearly but sometimes they can get royally annoying."

Harry grinned and shook his head. "Don't worry about it, grandfather. Anyway, about the Tribunal - how exactly does it work?"

"Well, as Sebastian said, the lords gather and sit in judgment," Julian said. "What sets Tribunal meetings apart, however, is that they're completely sealed affairs. That is to say that once a proceeding begins, nobody involved in it is allowed to leave until the proceeding is over. There's dormitory, kitchen, and bathroom facilities attached to the Tribunal's meeting room and meetings can go on for days on occasion, depending on the complexities of the case being heard."

"Huh, so I should plan on possibly being away for a couple of days?" Harry asked and Julian nodded. "I don't know if Athena and my other trainers are going to like that. Could Robert sit on the panel in my place as he does for the Wizengamot?"

Julian shook his head. "No, he can't. The rules of the Tribunal are quite clear on that point. Only the Lords of the Thirteen Houses, or their heirs, are allowed to sit in judgment. Now, unlike the Wizengamot, there is no age requirement, so if a lord wants their heir to sit in their place, the only real requirement is that they be old enough to speak and understand what's going on around them."

"Hmm," Harry said. "Well, that means for sure that Arcturus Lestrange will be voting on his father's behalf, since his father is in Azkaban. Illegally or not, I don't see him getting out anytime soon. Although, if you ask me, he deserves to be punished for his role in what happened to Lord and Lady Longbottom. Speaking of which, I guess that means Neville will be sitting on the panel instead of his grandmother."

"Indeed," Julian said. "There can be no doubt that Rodolphus and Bellatrix deserved to be punished, although trying them before the Wizengamot was illegal. I'm somewhat surprised honestly that the king hasn't weighed in on that topic, especially after you got Sirius cleared. I would think that their son would have contacted the crown about their release by now."

"Well, it probably helps that from what I've heard they made no secret of their guilt," Harry said. "Even if their incarceration was illegal, would the king really release them when they admit their own guilt?"

"That's a hard question to answer," Nathaniel said, as he finally stopped arguing with Sebastian and turned towards Harry. "I never met King Edward, so I have no idea how he'd react to any situation."

Julian nodded and said, "Yes, that is a tough call to make. I actually have met the King, but on both occasions he was only an infant being shown off at court by his proud parents. With his entire family being murdered by the Death Eaters, one would assume he isn't going to show leniency to people who freely admit being Death Eaters, but assumptions are dangerous."

"So, how do I go about calling for the Tribunal to meet?" Harry asked.

"There's a stone in the fireplace mantle of the Master's Study here at Seacliff," Sebastian said. "It's easily identifiable since it's made of black marble, while the rest of the fireplace is made of oak. You simply press the family ring against it and say, 'I, Harrison James Potter, Duke of Granston and Lord of Seacliff Castle, call a meeting of the Tribunal of the Thirteen to commence on this date.' This message will then be magically passed on to the other lords almost immediately."

"Courtesy, however, dictates that you not call for an immediate meeting," Julian said. "It would be considered highly rude to force the other lords or their heirs to drop everything and gather for a meeting with no advance notice. Generally, it's best to give at least a week's notice so that everyone has some time to put certain affairs in order in the event that the meeting runs more than a couple of hours. Now, since you're undergoing mage training, I think it would be wise for you to clear this with your trainers before calling for the meeting."

"True," Harry said. "Tilly!"

Tilly popped into the room within seconds and asked, "Lord Potter calls Tilly?"

"Please go ask Athena if she could come over here," Harry said. "There's no emergency, but I do need to speak with her and it's a conversation best held here at Seacliff."

Tilly nodded and popped out of the room, only to return a few minutes later, holding Athena's hand.

"What did you need Harry?" Athena asked.

"Well, first off, some introductions are in order," Harry said. "Athena Gracey, meet my grandfather, Julian Potter, my great-grandfather, Nathaniel Potter, and my great-granduncle, Sebastian Potter."

Athena curtsied to the portraits and said, "It's a pleasure to meet you."

The portraits returned the sentiment, before Harry explained the reasoning for his asking Athena to come to Seacliff. With some help from his ancestors, the basics of the Tribunal were explained to Athena and after a moment, she nodded and said, "Well, the next two weeks are out I believe. You have the appointment to get your Apparition license on Monday and the reading of your parents' will is scheduled for Tuesday. The rest of the week you'll have more classes which you'll need to continue your training."

Harry nodded. "True and the week after that is the curse check at Hogwarts that the governors are all going to be present for, the Quidditch World Cup, Charlie and Noah's wedding, and the Founder's Ball."

"I think I can spare you for a few days the last week of August, Harry," Athena said after a moment. "Hopefully, however, your business with the Tribunal will be completed by the third of September."

"Why the third of September?" Julian asked.

"Because Harry's other trainers and I have scheduled a vital component of his training to occur on September 4th," Athena answered. "It's a ritual that requires some time to setup, so, we've been preparing for that. It would be preferable not to postpone it any longer than necessary as we've already done that once now. We're also beginning to run out of material that we can teach Harry and the others without the ritual being performed."

Mentally going over the dates in his head, Harry said, "If I schedule the Tribunal meeting for August 29th, I'd have six days before the ritual." Turning to Julian, he asked, "Do you think six days is enough?"

Julian was silent for a moment, before he said, "Barring any other business from the other lords, I'd say six days should be enough. It's a fairly open and shut case."

"Well then I guess I'm off to the study," Harry said as he stood up. "Feel free to join me if you wish."

Julian, Nathaniel, and Sebastian nodded as they left their frames and headed for the study, as Harry left the room with Athena following. Arriving in the Seacliff Master's Study a few moments later, Harry took a moment to look around. The room was paneled in a rich oak with matching floors. A large desk stood in one corner, along with four large bookcases full of books which he remembered Robert mentioning were actually the family journals kept by the past Potter lords and other family members. In front of the fireplace there was a comfortable looking red leather seating group, with an expensive looking chessboard setup on the coffee table.

Taking a deep breath, Harry walked over to the fireplace and placed the Potter ring on the black marble stone inset in the mantle and said, "I, Harrison James Potter, Duke of Granston and Lord of Seacliff Castle, call for a meeting of the Tribunal of the Thirteen to commence on August 29, 1994."

As soon as Harry finished his sentence, the edges of the stone glowed brightly, as the message was sent to the other lords, most of whom would no doubt be wondering just why Harry had called for the Tribunal to meet. They'd find out soon enough.

-o-0-o-

Harry looked around the room in awe. He was currently standing in his castle's library which made the library at Hogwarts look cramped by comparison. The room was built into one of the castle's towers, so, it was a round room that if Harry had to guess was about eighty-feet wide. Most of the walls were covered by floor to ceiling bookcases which measured fifteen-feet-high, thus requiring the track near the ceiling which had rolling ladders connected to them. The room also wasn't constrained to a single floor, as there were in fact five floors which were accessible by a collection of wrought iron spiral staircases on either side of the massive white marble fireplace. Harry couldn't help but grin as he thought about Hermione's reaction to this room. He had no doubt that to his bookish friend this room would, hands down, be her personal version of Shangri-La.

He'd arrived at Seacliff on the morning of Tuesday, August 16th, 1994, after Athena had gone on ahead to put a sleeping charm on his double and move it out of sight. According to Tilly, it had been moved into one of the spare bedrooms in the wing of the house that had at one time housed Sebastian Potter's harem of lovers. That particular wing of the house was only accessible via a hidden door in the family wing of the castle and thus it was one of the safest places to put Harry's sleeping double because none of the people coming to the castle today could accidentally stumble upon anything they shouldn't. The reason for the visit was because they'd scheduled the long overdue reading of James' and Lily's wills and had thus invited everyone mentioned in the documents to come to Seacliff at noon.

Walking around the massive room, Harry ran his hand over the spines of some of the books and read their titles as he passed. There was a large collection of books on every topic he could think of, but one particular title caught his eye and that was Hogwarts: A History. He had never had any interest in reading the book that Hermione had brought up so many times over the years. However, the reason that it caught his eye now was because there was more than one copy of the book on the shelf he was currently looking at. Counting them, he soon realized that there were, in fact, twenty-two copies of the book sitting side by side and he couldn't help but be a little confused by the fact that some of the copies were much thicker than others.

"Robert?" Harry asked.

"Yes, Harry?" Robert asked, as he walked over to the young lord from where he'd been helping Michael Davies prepare the large oak conference table in the center of the room for the will reading. Ragnok had replied almost immediately to Harry's missive that Gringotts' didn't need to check out Michael Davies, as he would, in fact, have been on the shortlist that Gringotts' would have sent to Harry if he'd requested it. So, with that knowledge in mind, Harry had Robert contact Michael Davies to hire him as the official solicitor of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter. Michael was shocked, humbled, and honored by the request, as he had never worked for any of the noble families before. He looked forward to doing so however and had immediately accepted the position.

"Why are there twenty-two copies of Hogwarts: A History?"

"Because there's twenty-two editions," Robert answered.

"Twenty-two editions?" Harry asked. "My friend Hermione has mentioned the book several times, but she never said it was that long."

Shaking his head, Robert said, "I think you're thinking of volumes, Harry. Each copy you see on that shelf is completely self-contained. However, as you also probably noticed some of them are thicker than others. The reason is because the book has been updated and republished twenty-one times since the first version."

Carefully taking the first copy of the book from the shelf, Robert held it out for Harry to see. It had a brown-leather cover with golden gilt pages and under the title were the words 'by Helena Ravenclaw'.

"Helena Ravenclaw?" Harry asked. "Is that any relation to Rowena?"

Robert nodded. "Yes, Harry. Helena is Rowena's daughter and she still roams the halls of Hogwarts."

"What? How could she possibly be roaming the halls of Hogwarts? Surely Rowena's daughter is dead by now?"

Robert smiled. "Yes, Harry, Helena died centuries ago, however that doesn't mean that she isn't still around."

A look of realization hit Harry and he said, "Do you mean she's one of the ghosts at Hogwarts?"

Robert nodded and said, "Yes, Harry, Helena is one of the Hogwarts ghosts - in fact, she's one of the more well-known ghosts. Of course, the fact that she's Helena Ravenclaw goes unnoticed by most people as it hasn't been mentioned in Hogwarts: A History since the third edition and she isn't known to be all that talkative to people not in Ravenclaw House, but Helena is Ravenclaw's Grey Lady."

"Wow, I guess you learn something new every day," Harry said. "But why are there so many editions?"

"Helena wrote this first edition of the book in the year 907," Robert explained, "which was fifty years after the school was founded in the year 857. Since then, the Board of Governors has hired an author to update the book every fifty years. Now, the vast majority of copies of Hogwarts: A History are self-updating. That is, there's a spell cast on them so that when a new version is written, the book automatically updates itself to the most current version. This is why bookstores, such as Flourish and Blotts, never stock more than one or two copies of the book on their shelves at any one time. Being self-updating, once you've bought a copy, you never have to do so again unless you lose it or it gets badly damaged, so it's not a very big seller."

Harry nodded. 'That makes sense.' After a moment, however, he asked, "But, if the book is self-updating why do I have twenty-two versions of varying lengths?"

"Because the first fifteen copies of each print run of the book are exempt from the self-updating charms," Robert revealed. "Every time the book is updated a copy is given free of charge to each of the Lords of the Thirteen Houses, the Hogwarts library, and the royal library. Thus all of the lords, like yourself, have a copy of every edition, as does the king. Hogwarts, however, does not have a copy of every edition anymore because back in the eighteenth century, Headmistress Dilys Derwent was chosen by the board as the author who would take on the task of updating the book.

"So, she went about writing the eighteenth edition of Hogwarts: A History, which was published in 1757. It was the first and last time that the board opted to allow a sitting headmaster to update the book because as soon as her version came out, Headmistress Derwent removed all the earlier editions from the Hogwarts library. However, instead of moving them to the Restricted Section as is usually done when a book is removed from the shelves in the main library, the headmistress instead destroyed the previous editions that Hogwarts had been given. Since then, whenever a new edition was written, the previous one was locked up in the headmaster's office. Of course, part of that is also because of the governor's decision to make it appear to muggleborns and the muggle-raised that Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are the only wizarding shopping areas in the country."

"Is there any significant difference between the editions?" Harry asked.

"Oh there's definitely differences," Robert replied. "How much of a difference depends on the author who wrote a specific edition, as they tend to reflect the author's personal biases. Authors from Slytherin House, for example, have a tendency to portray Salazar Slytherin as a brilliant and talented wizard, easily the most powerful of the four founders, while Godric Gryffindor is generally portrayed by them as an extremely stupid and exceptionally weak wizard. In fact, one of the Slytherin authors even says that's why you have to be a minimum of level six on the power scale to attend Hogwarts - because if it was any higher, Godric wouldn't have been able to attend the school as a student."

Harry, being a proud Gryffindor, couldn't help but feel just a bit upset over this news, as he didn't like the thought of the founder of his house being maligned that way. "So, the book isn't really the true history of the school?"

"In many ways, no, it isn't," Robert answered. "Many of the authors of the later editions have simply duplicated the previous edition, making whatever changes are necessary to fit their own beliefs. Gryffindors, for example, portray Godric in a very complimentary light, while Salazar is branded as an evil and vile coward. Hufflepuffs, on the other hand, try to be fair to everyone. Once they've made the changes to the previous edition that they view as being necessary, they then will usually simply add a section covering the fifty-year span between editions and call the book finished."

"What about Ravenclaws? What do they do?" Harry asked, as he noticed that his seneschal hadn't mentioned the house of learning among his examples.

"The governors haven't selected a Ravenclaw to update the book since the ninth edition, written in 1307," Robert said. "This is mainly because the author was by far the most verbose of all the past authors, trying to cram as much information as they possibly could into the book. That particular edition of Hogwarts: A History in fact was the reason that the Featherlight Charm was invented, in addition to a charm which makes a book appear to be slimmer than it actually is. You see, Harry, while most editions run about 1,000 to as many as 3,000 pages, the ninth edition of Hogwarts: A History is just over 27,000 pages long and without the Featherlight Charm would weigh over a hundred pounds."

Harry could scarcely believe his ears. '27,000 pages long and weighing over a hundred pounds?! It should be illegal to write a book that long.' Aloud he asked, "What in Merlin's name did they do? Include a day to day account of what happened over the centuries since the founding?"

Robert grinned as he carefully placed the original edition of the book back on the shelf. "I haven't read it personally, but from what I've heard, that wouldn't be too far off, actually."

Harry shook his head, but said nothing, as Tilly popped into the room at that moment and said, "Lord Potter, the first of the carriages has arrived out front."

"Do you know who's in it?" Harry asked.

Tilly nodded. "Albus Dumbledore, Lord Diggory, Lord Crouch, Lord Malfoy and heirs of Lords Ollivander and Burke."

If he hadn't been told why beforehand, Harry might have wondered why Bartemius Crouch or Lucius Malfoy would show up at Seacliff for the reading of his parents' will, or even why Lords Ollivander and Burke would send their heirs in their stead. As it was, however, he knew that generally all thirteen family heads, or a representative of their choice, usually their heir or seneschal, attended the readings of the wills of the past heads of one of the other houses. Even if they weren't mentioned in the will, it was a tradition dating back a thousand years that they'd be allowed to sit in on the reading, because it was possible for a past Lord to make a decision or bequest in their will that could affect, either directly or indirectly, one of the other lords, even if the lord themselves wasn't specifically named. Therefore it was seen as a common courtesy to allow them or their chosen representative to sit in so that they would know and could be prepared in the event that any of the terms did affect them.

Not quite ready to face Dumbledore and wanting more people around when he had to, Harry nodded and said, "Show them to the drawing room and offer them refreshments. Once everyone else has arrived, you can show them into the library."

"Yes, Lord Potter," Tilly said with a nod of her head, before she disappeared.

Turning to Michael, Harry asked, "Are you ready, Michael?"

"Yes, Lord Potter," Michael said.

"Michael, when it's just us, you can call me Harry."

"Of course, Harry," Michael said.

"You've studied the instructions from Gringotts'?" Harry asked.

Michael nodded, "Yes, Harry, I have. I will refrain from reading the sections that the goblins suggest leaving out." Picking up a folder, he said, "This is a list of the bequests - if you'd care to peruse them before the reading so that you know what's coming?"

"Thank you," Harry said, as he sat down in the large and ornate chair at the head of the table that was reserved for the Lord Potter. It very much resembled a throne, as it was constructed of solid gold, instead of wood, with a back that extended up from the seat by about eight feet. It was not uncomfortable, however, due to a thick cushion of red brocade accented with gold and silver stitching, which was carried all the way up the back of the chair, with the exception of the top two feet which bore a large depiction of the Potter family coat of arms. This particular chair was not usually in the library and was normally kept down in the Seacliff vault, but it was brought upstairs for the reading of the will as it was believed necessary to set the Lord Potter apart from everyone else.

Harry looked over the bequests and when he was finished he nodded at Michael, at which point the solicitor said, "Okay, now, Harry, the reading of a magical will is something of an ancient ritual. After each bequest, I will fall silent and it will be up to you as Lord Potter to indicate whether or not you want the bequest to go through or be denied."

"Okay," Harry said, already having some idea that he had the power to negate bequests and having looked at them, he knew that he'd be negating more than one.

"If you want the bequest to go through, you need to say 'Sic fiat,'" Michael explained. "That's 'so let it be' or 'so mote it be' in Latin."

"Sic fiat," Harry tried, wanting to get the pronunciation just right.

Michael nodded. "Good, Harry. Now, to deny a bequest you say 'The instruction is denied', which is 'Instructionem negatur.'"

"Instructionem negatur," Harry repeated, again paying close attention to his pronunciation, being careful to say it just as Michael had.

Robert smiled. "I think he's got it, Michael."

"Yes, I believe he does," Michael said. "Now, Harry, did you have any other questions?"

"Actually, yes," Harry said. "I noticed that several of the heirs of the other lords and even Lord Erik Bones got bequests in my father's will. Why is that?"

"That's actually a holdover from the war, Harry," Robert said. "The war had destabilized the national economy, so many of the noble families, especially those who were allied, left bequests to their allies' heirs and other children, to make sure they were provided for, should the worst happen due to the war. Now, once the war ended and the economy stabilized, many of the lords most likely removed those provisions from their wills as they were technically no longer necessary."

"Sadly, your parents didn't survive the war," Michael added, "so they never took those provisions out. So, it's up to you, Harry, you can let them go through or you can deny them. If you do deny them, the lords in question, who will know what they were for, will not hold it against you."

"And the reason Lord Bones gets a bequest along with the others," Robert said, "is because at the time the will was written, he was still the Bones heir."

"And why does Noah get a larger bequest?" Harry asked.

"Because at the time the will was written," Robert answered, "the Diggorys were considered to be the Potters' closest ally, which is why Lord and Lady Diggory were entrusted with your care should Sirius and Alice not be able to take you in. Noah was the Diggory heir back then, as he wasn't disowned until 1991, so, that's why he gets a larger bequest then Cedric does."

"On that issue, Harry, what would you like me to do?" Michael asked. "It will likely not please Lord Diggory to hear Noah referred to as 'Noah Diggory', as when he was disowned he was forbidden to use the family surname. He calls himself 'Noah Kirke' now, so, I can read it as that, if you wish."

Harry thought for a moment, before he shook his head negatively and said, "No, read it as it's written. I don't agree with his decision to disown his son just because Noah fell in love with someone he didn't approve of. I also outrank Amos Diggory, so if he doesn't like it, he's just going to have to deal with it."

"As you wish, Harry," Michael said with a smile, which conveyed his approval of Harry's answer. Robert smiled and nodded as well.

-o-0-o-

Forty-five minutes later, Tilly popped back into the library to inform Harry that everyone mentioned in the will had arrived, as had all the lords or their representatives. She also informed him that King Edward had sent his seneschal to observe the proceedings, which didn't come as much of a surprise to Harry, as Robert had told him beforehand that it wasn't uncommon for the King to send a representative to will readings, especially when it was the will of someone as important as the former Duke of Granston.

Settling down once again in the throne at the head of the table as Robert took the seat to Harry's left and Michael took the seat on Harry's right, Harry said, "You may begin showing them into the library now, Tilly."

"Yes, Lord Potter," Tilly said, as she popped out of the room. A few minutes later, the double doors into the massive room opened and Tilly said, "This way, please."

One by one, the Lords of the Noble Houses or the representatives they had sent began filing into the room. The lords who had come in person were Amos Diggory, Lucius Malfoy, Bartemius Crouch, Sirius Black, Callum McKinnon, Bruce McLaggen, and Erik Bones. Arcturus Lestrange was present, of course, representing his father, and Nick Ollivander and Dominick Burke were representing their grandfathers. Harry also spotted Marcus Flint, presumably there to represent his father. Unlike normal, however, Marcus did not give Harry a mean look, but then Harry rather assumed that was because the elder Slytherin did not want to join his housemate in the dungeon. Lastly, Harry spotted Neville, but he was accompanied by an elderly woman Harry had never met that was not Augusta.

Robert must have noticed the questioning look on Harry's face, as he leaned over and whispered, "I'm sorry, Harry, it slipped my mind. Augusta Longbottom sent word that she was feeling under the weather today, so she sent Neville in her place. Though since he's not old enough to Apparate, that's his great-grandaunt, Callidora Black Longbottom, that's with him."

Harry nodded, but otherwise remained silent, as he went back to watching the people entering the room. Following Albus Dumbledore into the room there were a few people that Harry didn't recognize, but assumed were representatives of the various charities that were listed among the bequests. Upon Harry's request, Robert had also seen to it that Professors Filius Flitwick and Minerva McGonagall were present, even though they were not mentioned in the will. Harry, however, had his reasons for wanting them to be present. The last person to enter the room was a young man with brown hair that judging from his fancy clothes and the pin with the Pendragon crest on the lapel of his robe, Harry had little trouble in guessing was Albus' grandson and the King's seneschal, Brian Dumbledore.

Once everyone was seated around the table, Harry said, "Welcome everyone to Seacliff Castle. We are gathered here for the reading of my late parents' will, so without further delay, I will turn things over to my solicitor, Mr. Michael Davies."

"Thank you, Your Grace," Michael said, as he opened the folder in front of him and said, "This is the Last Will and Testament of the late Duke of Granston, His Grace James Sebastian Potter, and his wife, the late Duchess of Granston, Her Grace Lily Marie Evans Potter, both residents of Seacliff Castle, in the City of Highever, Duchy of Granston, Albion. Both Lord and Lady Potter were determined to be of sound mind, memory, and understanding at the time of their signing of this instrument, which is dated September 12, 1980 and renders all past wills and codicils so written by them to be invalid."

Pausing for a moment, Michael then said, "There were no provisions made in this document which would in any way adversely affect any of the other noble families, and as usual, there are some provisions which are sealed as family business and are only for the eyes of the current Lord Potter. So, as per the wishes of the deceased and Lord Potter himself, I will now move forward with reading the bequests the deceased left, starting with those of His Grace the Lord James Potter, which will be followed by those of Her Grace the Lady Lily Potter."

Michael turned a page in the folder in front of him and then read, "To my best friend, Sirius Orion Black, I leave the sum of 500,000 Galleons and four bottles of Old Ogden's Gold Label Firewhisky, which I trust he will greatly enjoy."

Before Harry could say anything, however, Sirius spoke up. "Harry, I know why James left me that money, but I truly don't need it. I'm sure you could find a better use for it."

"My father wanted you to have it, Sirius," Harry said.

"I know he did, Harry, but the reason is no longer valid," Sirius said. "He wanted me to have it because I was disowned when I ran away from home and came to live with your father and his parents. Since my access to the Black vaults was suspended, James wanted to make sure that I would have enough money to survive, but as Lord Black, I have full access to the vaults and no longer need James' money. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate the thought, but I still believe you can find a better use for it."

Harry remained silent for a moment, before he said, "As you wish, Sirius. You will take the firewhisky with my compliments," Sirius nodded. "Robert, setup a fund for the founding of the James and Lily Potter Memorial Home for Wizarding Orphans and deposit in it the 500,000 Galleons that were bequeathed to Sirius."

"Yes, Your Grace, I shall see to it," Robert said.

"Sic fiat," Harry said, and then motioned for Michael to continue, so he moved on, as he read, "To Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, to fund our mutual love of fireworks, I leave the sum of 500,000 Galleons."

Dumbledore was smiling and looked like he was about to say something when Harry said, "Instructionem negatur."

"What?" Dumbledore asked, as the smile fell from his lips. "Harry..."

"I believe I've already told you that you are to refer to me as Your Grace, Albus," Harry said.

"Your Grace, all I have ever done is try to watch over and protect you," Albus said. "And you thank me by denying me a bequest that your late father, may the Gods bless his soul, wanted me to have?"

"And just how, pray tell, have you been protecting me, Albus?" Harry asked. "By denying me any knowledge of my heritage?"

"I personally cast the wards around your relatives' house which have kept you safe all these years," Albus said and seeing that Harry looked like he was about to say something, Albus hastened to add, "And I really do wish that you would heed my advice and go back to your relatives' home, where you are safer."

"Safer?" Harry asked, as Albus nodded. Meanwhile, several of the other people around the table had raised their eyebrows or were sporting other indications of their confusion. "I fail to see how. Or are you going to once again try and claim that I would be safer protected by the wards that you cast? Safer than I am right here, in my own home, protected by the wards that I'm the master of? Wards which were cast by Merlin himself? Are you trying to imply that you have greater power and skill than Merlin, Albus?"

Before Albus could say a word, Brian Dumbledore, his voice laced with disdain, said, "Oh come on, old man, you know that it isn't even remotely possible that Lord Potter would be safer behind your wards than he is behind Merlin's. And the thought that you are more powerful than Merlin is laughable. If you actually think that, you're stupider than I thought. And as for Lord Potter denying you your bequest, according to the ancient laws and traditions of this land - laws you swore to uphold when you became Chief Warlock, I might add - he has every right to do so. So stop trying to guilt him into changing his mind and do us all a favor: shut up."

Albus looked like he was ready to pull out his wand and hex his grandson six ways to Sunday, but he apparently thought better of it, and instead took a few deep breaths to calm himself down.

Using the silence to his advantage, Harry said, "Robert, add the money that would have gone to Albus to the fund for the orphanage." Robert nodded and Harry motioned for Michael to continue, which he did. "To St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, I leave the sum of 250,000 Galleons."

"Sic fiat."

The St. Mungo's representative smiled and thanked Harry, who nodded.

"To The Fund for the Families of Fallen Aurors," Michael read, "I leave 250,000 Galleons."

"Sic fiat."

"To my good friend, Peter Pettigrew, I leave the sum of 250,000 Galleons," Michael read next, prompting Harry to say, "Instructionem negatur," and once again directing that the money be placed in the fund for the orphanage.

"To my good friend, Remus John Lupin, I leave the sum of 125,000 Galleons."

"Sic fiat."

"To my seneschal, Robert Michael Higgs, for his years of loyal of service, I leave the sum of 30,000 Galleons."

"Sic fiat."

"To my seneschal's wife, Katherine Anne Higgs, for her years of loyal service tending the Seacliff greenhouses, I leave the sum of 30,000 Galleons."

"Sic fiat."

"To my seneschal's son, Terence William Higgs, for being one of the cutest and most entertaining toddlers I've ever met," Terence turned red at this, as several people grinned, "I leave the sum of 15,000 Galleons, plus an additional 15,000 Galleons in trust to be used towards his education. Should anything remain in the trust following the completion of his education, he may use it as a down payment towards his first home."

Harry grinned at Terence as he said, "Sic fiat."

"To my close ally's heir, Noah Andrew Diggory, to ensure that he is provided for in these troubled times, I leave the sum of 25,000 Galleons."

Even as Harry was saying, "Sic fiat," Amos Diggory was turning purple with rage, as he shouted, "I object! There is no such person, there never has been such a person - my heir is Cedric."

"Lie to yourself if you wish, Amos," Harry said. "However, you and I both know that Cedric is not your first-born son and we further know that at the time this will was written, he was also not your heir." Turning to Robert, he added, "Robert, see to it that Noah, who now goes by Noah Andrew Kirke, receives the bequest with my compliments and best wishes for his future."

Robert nodded and said, "Yes, Your Grace."

When it looked like Amos was about to argue further, Harry gave him a stern look and said, "As Duke of Granston and Lord of Seacliff, I order you, Taleford, not to say another word during these proceedings. Do I make myself clear? Nod once for yes."

Amos looked nearly apoplectic with anger, but he nodded once, nonetheless, as there really wasn't anything else he could do, seeing as how he was only the Marquis of Taleford and a guest in a higher noble's home. Of course, even as a higher lord, had they been in a public place, Harry wouldn't have been able to order Amos to be quiet, but within the walls of Seacliff Castle, he could, and if he was completely honest with himself, took great pleasure in doing so.

"You may continue, Michael," Harry said, as the solicitor nodded and moved on to the next bequest.

"To my close ally's second heir, Cedric Jeremiah Diggory, to ensure that he is provided for in these troubled times, I leave the sum of 10,000 Galleons."

"Sic fiat," Harry said, and noticing that a vein in Amos' forehead looked about ready to burst, as he was probably still angry about Noah being mentioned and the fact that Cedric was getting less money than him, he called out, "Tilly!"

"Lord Potter calls for Tilly?" the little elf asked, as she appeared nearby.

"Yes, Tilly, please go to the potion stores and get Lord Diggory a Calming Draught," Harry said, as he turned to look at the man in question and added, "I'm afraid he seems rather upset and I fear for his health."

"Yes, Lord Potter," Tilly said as she popped away, only to return a moment later, appearing on the table in front of Amos and holding out a potion vial to him which was clearly marked 'Calming Draught.'

"Drink up, Amos - I wouldn't want you to have a heart attack in my library," Harry said with as much sincerity for the man as he could muster.

Taking the vial from Tilly, Amos uncorked it and downed the contents, before handing the empty vial back to the elf who quickly disappeared. Waiting a moment for the potion to take effect, Harry then motioned for Michael to continue.

"To my ally's heir, Cormac Duncan McLaggen, to ensure that he is provided for in these troubled times, I leave the sum of 10,000 Galleons."

"Sic fiat."

Bruce nodded his head and said, "Thank you, Lord Potter, though, with respect, you do realize you didn't have to make good on that bequest?"

With a nod of his own, Harry said, "I'm aware of that, Bruce, however, I decided to do so anyway."

"Well, then, I thank you again, Lord Potter," Bruce said. "And I will make sure that Cormac sends you a letter of thanks."

Harry nodded, before he said, "Michael, the next bequest please."

"To my ally's heir, Neville Preston Longbottom, to ensure that he is provided for in these troubled times, I leave the sum of 10,000 Galleons."

"Sic fiat."

"Thank you, Your Grace," Neville said with a smile.

"You're welcome, Neville," Harry replied with a smile of his own.

"To my ally's heir, Gareth Nicholas Ollivander, to ensure that he is provided for in these troubled times, I leave the sum of 10,000 Galleons."

"Sic fiat."

Harry and Nick exchanged smiles and nods, as Michael read, "To my ally's heir, Erik Anthony Bones, to ensure that he is provided for in these troubled times, I leave the sum of 10,000 Galleons."

"Sic fiat."

"And finally, to my son and heir, Harrison James Potter, whom I can only hope has succeeded me as Lord Potter after I died of a ripe old age, I leave the remaining 4,000,000 Galleons, plus an additional 1,250,000 Galleons in trust for his first-born son."

"Sic fiat," Harry said, with a slight waver in his tone, as he wished that his father had in fact lived to a ripe old age.

"That concludes the bequests of His Grace the Lord James Potter," Michael said, as he turned another page in the folder in front of him. "I will now read the bequests of Her Grace the Lady Lily Potter."

Michael paused here to take a sip from the glass of water that had been provided for him, with an identical glass at each seat around the table, before he read, "To Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, for the creation and funding of a Tuition Assistance Fund for underprivileged muggleborn students, I leave the sum of 750,000 Galleons in trust and ask that the fund be overseen by Headmaster Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. This fund should be used to pay up to 50% of the tuition costs each year, for five muggleborn students whose families cannot afford to pay the full tuition cost. Yearly audits of the finances of the families who are getting this assistance will be conducted to determine if they still qualify for the assistance."

"Instructionem negatur," Harry said, as he held up his hand to forestall any further comments and added, "The fund will be created as per my mother's wishes, however, it will instead be overseen by Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall who will decide which five students each year will receive the assistance, while Gringotts' goblin Scarclaw, will manage the monetary side of the fund to ensure its continued growth, as well as conduct the yearly audits. I further stipulate that there will be no interference or input of any kind from Headmaster Albus Dumbledore."

Some of the purebloods in the room didn't necessary like the idea of a tuition assistance fund for muggleborns, however, many of those same people took great pleasure from Harry's amendment, as it showed he had as little faith in Dumbledore as they did. Or at least, that's how they chose to see it. Dumbledore, meanwhile, frowned at Harry and gave him a reproachful look over the tops of his half-moon spectacles.

After a moment's pause, Harry then said, "You may continue, Michael."

Michael nodded and then read, "To Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, for the creation and funding of the Scholarship for Charms Excellence, which shall be awarded to fourth year and older students seeking to become Charms Masters, I leave the sum of 500,000 Galleons, which shall be overseen by Headmaster Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. I further propose a contest to determine who will get the scholarship each year. There will be two categories, one award for the Youngest and another for the Most Skillful, with the winner of each being awarded 1,000 Galleons. Furthermore, there should be two honorable mentions for each category, each being awarded 500 Galleons."

"Instructionem negatur," Harry said. "The scholarship fund, along with the contest, shall be setup exactly as my mother wished, however, the contest for its' awarding will be overseen and run by Charms Professor Filius Flitwick, who will choose the winners each year, while Gringotts' goblin Scarclaw shall oversee the monetary side of the fund to ensure its' continued growth. And as in the Tuition Assistance Fund for Muggleborns, I further stipulate that there will be no interference or input of any kind from Headmaster Albus Dumbledore."

Brian was looking particularly pleased the more Harry spoke against his hated grandfather, while the look on the headmaster's face got sadder and sadder. While the headmaster had originally been seated with his back straight and head held high, his shoulders had now sagged and his posture had become more crooked, as he silently tried to guilt Harry into changing his mind. It was a futile attempt, of course, as Harry had no intention of doing do.

Moving on to the next bequest, Michael read, "To Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, to fund our shared love of fireworks, I leave the sum of 500,000 Galleons."

As they had before, some of the people in the room looked confused about the wording and mention of fireworks. There were a few people at the table who knew what it meant, but did their best to keep their faces impassive and free of any hint that they knew what it was about in order to avoid any questions they couldn't answer. Harry also knew what it was about, of course, as his parents' portrait had told him so, but he didn't trust Dumbledore to use the money for its intended purpose.

Needless to say, it also came as no surprise to anyone at this point when Harry said, "Instructionem negatur." At which point Harry paused to consider what to do with the funds that wouldn't be going to Dumbledore. Making up his mind, he then said, "I direct that the bequest be split equally between the Tuition Assistance Fund and Charms Scholarship Fund, which were previously setup."

"To my good friend, Remus John Lupin, I leave the sum of 125,000 Galleons."

"Sic fiat."

"To St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, I leave the sum of 75,000 Galleons."

"Sic fiat."

"To the Highever Museum Magical Artifacts Recovery and Restoration Fund, I leave the sum of 50,000 Galleons."

"Sic fiat."

"To the Perendale Fallen Witches Fund, I leave the sum of 50,000 Galleons."

"Sic fiat."

"To the Ayesleigh branch of Potions Addicts Anonymous, I leave the sum of 50,000 Galleons."

"Sic fiat."

"To Neville Preston Longbottom, the son of my good friend Alice Longbottom, I leave the sum of 10,000 Galleons and a photo album from our Hogwarts years that she helped me to compile and create."

"Sic fiat."

"To Asterion Orion Black, the son of my good friend Marlena McKinnon, I leave the sum of 10,000 Galleons and a photo album from our Hogwarts years that she helped me to compile and create."

"Sic fiat."

"And finally, to my beloved son, Harrison James Potter, who I can only pray will grow up happy, healthy, and safe from the horrors of this world, I leave the sum of 2,250,000 Galleons, with an additional 2,250,000 Galleons in trust for any and all children he will hopefully have in the future."

"Sic fiat," Harry said, as he once again did his best to keep his composure.

Closing the folder, Michael said, "That concludes the bequests of Her Grace the Lady Lily Potter."

"Thank you, Michael," Harry said. "I'd like to thank all of you for coming today. I never really had the chance to know my parents, but I think I've finally gotten some closure today. In the coming months, I look forward to not only starting another year at Hogwarts, but I also look forward to leading the Potter family to new heights of greatness and in doing whatever I can to assist my allies and friends in doing the same for their own families. Now, at this time I would invite you all to join me in the drawing room for tea and refreshments."

-o-0-o-

Harry led the way from the library to the drawing room, which was equally as impressive as the library in its' own ways. Not quite as large, perhaps, but still no less grand. The floors were made of a polished dark hardwood in a herringbone pattern, with the same dark hardwood paneling on the walls. A large stone fireplace dominated one wall and was flanked on either side by a huge stained glass window, both of which depicted the Potter family coat of arms. Above the fireplace was a large painting of the south lawn of the castle, which was dominated by one of the many formal gardens that surrounded the estate, although this one was set apart from the others in that it contained the largest and most impressive fountain on the grounds.

The guests began mingling as one of the kitchen elves stood on a stool near an elegant mahogany sideboard fixing tea in whatever way the guests requested. There were also platters of crumpets, scones, and various other small snacks laid out that a few of the guests helped themselves to.

Harry, meanwhile, walked over towards the fireplace and stared for a moment into the flames as he tried not to look as out of place as he felt. Having only been a lord for just over two weeks, he was still adjusting to the fact that this was his life now. Growing up with the Dursleys he'd never thought for even a fraction of a millisecond that he'd one day find himself standing in a room as grand as this. Or that he'd be able to honestly say he owned a castle. Even after attending Hogwarts for the last three years, it had still come as a shock to find out about his heritage as one of the highest nobles in the land.

"Lord Potter?" a voice asked behind him and Harry turned to find himself face to face with Brian Dumbledore. "We haven't been formally introduced - I'm Brian Dumbledore."

"King Edward's seneschal," Harry said with a smile as Brian nodded. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"The pleasure is mine," Brian replied with an easy grin. "Especially after the way you treated my grandfather during the reading and here I thought I was the only one who could see him for what he really is."

"And what's that?" Harry asked, curious how Brian would explain it, although he had some idea already.

"A meddling old man who can't keep his nose out of other people's business," Brian said. "Not to mention being a murderer."

"That's a very serious charge, Brian," Harry said.

Brian nodded and said, "Yes, but I know he did it. Deep down he knows it, too, even if he does refuse to acknowledge it, although I suppose that's how he copes with the guilt of killing his own daughter. And for what? So that he wouldn't have to share credit for the discovery of the uses of dragons' blood?"

"You have my condolences on the loss of your mother," Harry said. "I know only too well how much losing a parent hurts. As for why I did what I did in the reading, well, I have my own reasons." He fell silent for a moment and then said, "At any rate, please do pass on my sincerest thanks to His Majesty for pardoning my godfather."

"Of course, Lord Potter, of course," Brian said. "His Majesty was quite upset when he found out that the head of one the oldest noble families had been thrown in prison without even a semblance of a trial. So, he was only too happy to do what he could to reverse such a gross miscarriage of justice."

Meanwhile, not far from the fireplace, there were a few Victorian-era sofas and chairs, in one of which sat Callidora Black Longbottom. Her great-grandnephew Neville stood nearby.

"Aunt Calli?"

"Yes, Neville?" Callidora asked.

"I might be getting my events mixed up," Neville said, "but isn't it a tradition after a will reading of a family head for the attendees to visit the family mausoleum and pay their last respects to said head?"

Callidora nodded. "Yes, Neville, it is. I'm sure Lord Potter will get to it, all in good time. He's observed all the other traditions regarding the reading, so I don't see why he wouldn't observe this one as well."

Harry, meanwhile, not standing that far away and there being a momentary lull in his conversation with Brian, had little trouble hearing what Neville and Callidora were talking about. 'A tradition to visit the family mausoleum? Why am I just now hearing about this?'

Excusing himself from Brian as politely as possible, Harry sought out Robert and Michael and pulled them aside in a secluded corner of the large room. As an added precaution he surreptitiously pulled out his wand and cast a Silencing Charm, before he said what he'd overheard Neville and Callidora speaking of. For his part, Michael, who had never worked for one of the noble families before hadn't even been aware of the tradition. He'd studied up on what was needed for the will reading itself, but had never thought to look into what happened after the reading. Robert, meanwhile, was quite upset with himself for allowing such a detail to escape him. He had, after all, originally been Lord Julian Potter's seneschal for the last ten years of his life before becoming James' seneschal. Thus, he had been present for the reading of Lord Julian's will and should have remembered.

Harry wasn't mad at either of them, however, a fact which he hastened to point out, before he said, "Where is this family mausoleum?"

"Here at Seacliff," Robert answered. "It's located in one of the formal gardens about three miles east of the house. There's a stone building which has a small chapel in it, along with the stairs that lead underground to the actual mausoleum. The Potter family ring can act as a portkey to it," at which point Robert informed Harry how to activate the portkey. "Every single member of the Potter family since the days of King Arthur are interred there, although I honestly couldn't tell you if your parents are. The last clear memory I have of entering it was in 1980 when your grandparents were interred."

Harry was quiet for a moment, before he spotted Remus talking with Sirius on the other side of the room. He knew that Sirius was in Azkaban not long after his parents died and thus might not know, but he hoped that Remus might know, so he said, "Michael? Could you please go over and quietly ask Remus and Sirius to join us? Don't mention what it's about, just that I need to speak with them."

"Of course, Harry," Michael said, as he left the confines of the Silencing Charm, only to return a few moments later with Remus and Sirius.

"Is something wrong, Harry?" Remus asked, with a concerned look on his face.

The look was mirrored on Sirius' face as he said, "Yes, you look troubled - what's up, pup?"

Explaining what he'd overhead, Sirius nodded and said, "Yes that is the tradition. I'd assumed we'd be headed there after tea."

Remus shook his head. "You'd be paying respects in the wrong place, if you did."

"So, mum and dad are not in the mausoleum?" Harry asked and Remus shook his head. "Where are they?"

"In the graveyard at Godric's Hollow," Remus answered. "When You-Know-Who attacked you that night, the rebounded Killing Curse didn't just destroy his body. It also leveled the cottage you were staying in. As the only survivor of that night, who was only an infant, it was judged more important to get you to safety then it was to search the rubble for your parents' bodies. Then by the next morning, the Muggle officials in Godric's Hollow had cordoned off the ruins, believing the house to have been destroyed due to a gas leak. They cleaned up the mess, of course, and found your parents' bodies."

"So what happened then?" Harry asked.

"They tracked down the only living family member they could find," Remus answered. "That was, of course, your Aunt Petunia, who as next of kin authorized the burial in the cemetery at Godric's Hollow. I tried to stop it, but the Muggle authorities wouldn't listen to me, because I wasn't the next of kin."

Harry was silent for a moment, before he said, "This tradition with the mausoleum, is it actually necessary that they be in there? I mean could we just take everyone down there and let them pay their respects to an empty coffin?"

"Sarcophagus, actually," Robert said. "James and Lily would each have their own, with a statue of them erected at the head of it. As for allowing everyone to go down there to pay their respects, I suppose there's nothing stopping you from doing it, but if any of them ever find out that they paid their respects to a pair of empty sarcophagi they will not be pleased. In fact, they might well be so insulted that they'd refuse to deal with you or the Potter family for years. You'd be breaking and in their minds mocking one of the oldest traditions there is."

Sirius nodded. "I would have to agree with that assessment, Harry. Albion holds its traditions sacred, so to flout one of the oldest traditions we have would not be wise."

Harry paused to think for a moment. He supposed that he'd need to get his parents bodies moved to the family mausoleum, at some point. If every member of the family for over a thousand years was interred in the same place, it just didn't seem appropriate that they weren't. But, at the same time, knowing that he could talk with them thanks to their portrait, Harry didn't feel right about disturbing their remains without their getting their opinions on the matter first. Decision made, he said, "Tilly."

The elf appeared within seconds and said, "Yes, Lord Potter?"

Seeing as how Michael was Roger's father and had given his permission for his son to enter mage training, he already knew that the training was taking place. He hadn't known until he was hired as the Potter family's solicitor that Harry was training alongside Roger, but now he did. Athena felt safe in the knowledge that between the Fidelius and solicitor client privilege, which was further backed up by Michael swearing an Oath of Loyalty to Harry, which as a side effect meant that Roger had now done so as well, that he could be trusted with full knowledge of the training.

"Tilly, I need to you to go to Forest Cottage," Harry said, "and get the copy of my parents' portrait that was created so they could watch the Quidditch game we played on Roger's birthday. Bring it here and install it as quickly as you can in the portrait gallery."

Tilly nodded and said, "Yes Lord Potter."

As the elf disappeared, Harry looked at the others and said, "I think my parents probably should be moved to the mausoleum, but knowing I can speak to them, it somehow doesn't seem right to disturb their remains without their approval."

Remus nodded and said, "Yes, I can understand that, Harry." Robert, Michael, and Sirius expressed similar thoughts.

It really didn't surprise anyone that Tilly was back within minutes to inform Harry that the portrait of his parents was now hanging in the gallery with the other Lords Potter. Excusing himself for a few minutes on the pretext of some urgent family business, Harry made his way to the portrait gallery to talk to his parents. James was especially upset when he found out that his remains were not resting with his ancestors and Lily, knowing how important it was to her husband, was also not pleased. Thus, Harry resolved to have his parents bodies moved to the family mausoleum as soon as possible, but that did nothing about the predicament he found himself in now.

James and Lily knew about the ancient tradition regarding the people attending the will reading paying their respects following the end of it. Neither of them had mentioned it to Harry, however, because as James' anger clearly showed, until they had been informed otherwise, they had both thought they'd been interred in the mausoleum. James and Lily had both been reluctant to leave Seacliff behind and live in hiding in a tiny cottage in the predominantly Muggle village of Godric's Hollow. However, at the time they'd trusted Albus Dumbledore, in retrospect, perhaps a little too much, and thus had done as he'd suggested.

Sebastian reiterated that he'd always thought it was a stupid idea because Dark Lord or not, Voldemort was not powerful enough to circumvent the ancient wards of Merlin. The same wards that, as Lord Potter at the time, James was the master. Being the master of the wards granted several powers, not the least of which was full control over who had access to the areas the wards protected, but also the ability to forcefully eject anyone who they did not want on their lands. Thus, Voldemort would never have been able to get close enough to kill James, Lily, or try to kill Harry if they'd all just stayed at Seacliff.

At that revelation, Harry did question how it was that Voldemort and the Death Eaters had managed to kill the royal family, seeing as how the royal properties were also protected by Merlin's wards. It was Nathaniel who then explained that King Charles had always been a firm believer in the idea that in order to be an effective ruler, one had to know their people. And in order to know their people, he believed that they should have access to their king. He also had been a bit too trusting of man’s nature and believed that the power and authority of the crown would be enough to protect him.

Sebastian further hypothesized that King Charles had taken it for granted that his family had been on the throne of Albion for over a thousand years. Many Dark Lords had risen up in that time, but none of them had ever even attempted such a thing as the large scale eradication of the royal family, so, the thought that Voldemort would carry out such a plan had never entered into his mind. Thus on the fateful day that ended up being his last, King Charles was in the middle of holding court and as they usually were during that time, the wards around Castle Camelot were opened to allow all comers who might wish an audience with the King.

Harry exited the gallery to find Robert, Michael, Remus, and Sirius waiting for him. As Harry approached, Remus erected a Silencing Charm and Sirius added the Muffliato spell to make doubly sure that they wouldn't be overheard.

"Mum and Dad were not pleased to find out they're not in the mausoleum," Harry said. "Remus, Sirius, is there a spell that could be used to move them? As in move them today without going through the necessary legal channels with the Muggles for an exhumation?"

Michael, who was authorized to work in both the Magical and Muggle worlds, nodded and said, "A legal exhumation could take weeks or longer and frankly we don't have that kind of time. Not with a room full of people expecting to pay their respects today."

Sirius nodded. "Yes, I know a spell that'll work. We can move the bodies and there'll be no outward sign that the graves were disturbed, so the Muggles will never even need to know about it. I'll need help though."

"I'll go with you," Remus said. "I know James would want to be with his ancestors, so, if I can help make that a reality, I will."

Harry nodded. "Thanks. I'll go back to the drawing room with Robert and Michael and then once you get back, we can take care of this tradition."

Remus and Sirius nodded as they turned and headed for the Apparition Chamber, while Robert, Michael, and Harry headed back to the drawing room.

-o-0-o-

Upon returning to the drawing room, Robert and Michael walked a few paces away from Harry to give him some privacy while Dominick and Nick came over and Nick said, "Welcome back, Harry."

"Thanks, Nick," Harry said with a smile.

"I take it you handled that matter?" Dominick asked. "Nothing too serious, I hope."

Harry shook his head and smiled. "No, nothing I couldn't handle. Things do crop up though, especially in my case, I suppose. Robert has done his best, but there are certain things he couldn't do, so I'm afraid I've got a bit of a back log that I'm still trying to catch up on."

Nick nodded. "Yeah, I can understand that. As his heir, I've had to help Grandfather administer to his lands and running a Dukedom can be a lot of work, especially when there's a Marquisate and an Earldom along with it that also needs attention."

"Yeah, that's true," Dominick said. "I've also helped my grandfather with the family lands and it doesn't get any easier when it's a Marquisate, Earldom, and Viscounty. And I don't even want to imagine the work involved when there's a back log of over a decade of the type of issues that require the lord's personal attention."

"I'm just hoping I can finish it all before school starts," Harry said. "Robert assures me that we should be able to get it done and then he'll only need me on the weekends, but I wonder sometimes."

"Are you looking forward to Hogwarts, Harry?" Nick asked.

"In some respects, yes," Harry said. "I'm looking forward to seeing some of my friends again, although I do wonder how this nobility thing will play out. I know all of my wizarding raised friends must have known about it, even if they didn't ever say anything to me, but this is going to catch the muggle raised among my friends by surprise, I imagine."

"Yeah it might," Dominick said. "Depending on their reactions, it might also be a good or possibly bad thing that you'll be getting your own room."

This was news to Harry and it showed on his face. "My own room?"

Dominick nodded. "Yeah, Harry, you're the Lord of your house. That means that you will sometimes need privacy to carry out Potter family business. As such, Hogwarts is required to give you your own room. It'll still be in Gryffindor tower and your bed in the fourth-year boy's dormitory will likely remain, allowing you to choose where to sleep. But you'll have the private room should you need or want it."

"Similar provisions are also made for heirs," Nick revealed. "When I was at Hogwarts, I also had a private room, although I also had a bed in the dormitory with my male Hufflepuff year mates, so I could choose where to sleep. It was nice to be able to get away, on occasion, however. And you may also consider this to be a plus - the teachers, including your Head of House and the Headmaster, do not have free access to your private room. They have to ask your permission to enter, just as everyone does, and you do have the right to say no."

Harry could see how that could be useful in the coming year. True, he personally would not be at Hogwarts, but he was sure that his double would find the room useful. Especially if the Headmaster tried to make life at Hogwarts difficult in order to try and get back at Harry for voiding the bequests his parents had left for the man. Considering how insistent he continued to be about him living at the Dursleys, Harry had no doubt as to the possibility that once at Hogwarts, the Headmaster would try and use his authority to put Harry in his place. Not that it would work though, since as one of school governors, Harry was Albus' boss and thus if the man was half as wise as he was thought to be, he wouldn't push Harry too much. If he did, Harry might be forced to go to the other governors and suggest they get rid of him.

With a grin, Dominick added, "Don't know how useful you might find it right now, Harry, but I suspect that as you get older, you'll find yourself especially grateful for the private room as it does a great job of facilitating the making of certain connections that most other students sneak off to the Astronomy Tower for."

Harry tried not to let the blush he felt trying to rise show on his face. He was still a virgin, since he was sure that his hand did not count in terms of that, so he did find the idea of bringing somebody to his room to hook-up a bit embarrassing. So, hoping to turn his embarrassment back on Dominick, he said, "Take your girlfriend in there much, did you?"

Dominick did blush, ever so slightly, as he shook his head and said, "No, we weren't together back then, but I still found uses for the room with other people."

Before Harry could say anything further, Sirius and Remus entered the room and nodded discreetly at Harry. "Excuse me, guys, I need to have a word with my godfather."

"Of course, Harry," Nick said, as Dominick nodded and the two of them walked away.

Going over to Sirius and Remus, Harry spoke in as soft a voice as he possibly could as he said, "It's done then?"

"Yes, Harry," Sirius confirmed. "It's done."

"Good," Harry said, before he made small talk with Sirius and Remus for a few minutes, before turning to the room at large and clearing his throat. He soon had the attention of everyone in the room as he said, "Now that we've enjoyed some tea and refreshments, as is tradition, I would now invite you to join me in the Potter family mausoleum to pay our final respects to my late parents."

There were several nods around the room, especially from some of the more fanatical purebloods, who, while they did not necessarily like the fact that Harry was a halfblood, were at least happy to see him showing respect for the long standing traditions of their world. There was, at least, one confused look in the room, however, and that was Albus Dumbledore, since he knew that James and Lily had not been interred in the mausoleum. He allowed himself a small grin, as he realized he'd now have the chance to get back at Harry for denying him the one million galleons in total that had been left for him, not to mention the scholarship funds, which had he been in control of would have lasted only a few years, before they sadly ceased to exist due to some honest mistakes and bad investments. Of course, in reality, those funds would have been siphoned off to Dumbledore's personal vault, just as the bequests for "fireworks", otherwise known as the code for the Order of the Phoenix, would have been.

At Harry's nod, Remus and Sirius each grabbed one of Harry's arms, as Harry said, "Now, if you will also please grab on to Remus, Sirius, or someone else whose touching them and by extension me, I will activate the portkey to the mausoleum."

Giving everyone a few moments to form a chain of contact, Harry then raised the hand that the Potter family ring was on and then grasped the ring between the thumb and forefinger of his other hand, as he said, "Adduce me sepulchris de meorum abavorum," which meant, 'Lead me to the graves of my ancestors' in Latin. Within seconds of the words leaving Harry's lips, the Potter family ring glowed and everyone disappeared from Seacliff's drawing room.

-o-0-o-

Moments later, everyone reappeared just inside the doors of the small building that served as the above ground section of the Potter family mausoleum. It was a circular room, roughly fifteen-feet wide with polished black marble floors and white marble walls. There was an altar on one side of the room, with a five-foot tall golden candelabra on each side of it, the candles in which had magically lit as the group appeared in the room. Behind the altar, there was also a large stained glass window which followed the common motif at Seacliff of depicting the Potter coat of arms.

Harry led the way to the stairs, as the group proceeded down into the depths of the mausoleum in single file, as candles held in golden candelabras attached to the walls lit as they passed, illuminating the grey stone walls and floors. At the bottom of the stairs there was an antechamber of sorts, where a pair of large oak doors were set into the far wall. The doors had no visible knob or traditional lock, but there was a small circular indentation which Harry knew was for the Potter family ring. Removing the ring from his finger, Harry grabbed the lower band and pressed the side of the ring depicting the Potter crest into the indentation in the door. After a moment of silence, the sound of tumblers moving could be heard and within moments the two great doors split apart to reveal a truly cavernous room beyond.

As the group entered the room, more candles lit, revealing a truly staggering number of stone sarcophagi, at the heads of which was a life-size statue of the person, or in some cases the people, who rested inside of them. Some of the sarcophagi were double-width so that they could hold two people, namely those members of the Potter family who were, like Nathaniel and Sebastian Potter, conjoined twins. As the group passed through the generations of Potters, the dates slowly going up from the days of King Arthur, Harry counted a total of fifty double-width sarcophagi, suggesting that at least fifty of his ancestors over the last one thousand plus years had been in the same position as his father's grandfather and granduncle.

Finally reaching the 1980's, Harry led the group over to the pair of stone sarcophagi that now held in parents' remains. Like all the others in the room, they were elaborately carved and decorated with platinum, gold, and various jewels. A grave robber would truly be in heaven, seeing all the riches that were on display, but, then again if a robber did get into the mausoleum, then they actually would be in heaven in short order, since there were several ancient magical protections which would insure that anyone who entered to plunder the mausoleum's riches would not be leaving alive. Allowing his eyes to drift upwards from the sarcophagi to the statues, Harry was momentarily taken aback by the perfection of the likenesses to his parents. If he didn't know better he'd say that the statues actually were his parents, who like the several people in his second year, had simply been petrified.

All was silent for a few moments as those gathered began to quietly mutter prayers and other respectful words to the deceased. The somber and respectful silence was broken, however, when Albus Dumbledore cleared his throat and said, "I'm afraid that Lord Potter is deceiving all of you."

Harry spun around on his heel to face Albus, as Lord Crouch asked, "What do you mean, Dumbledore?"

"I happen to know for a fact that James and Lily Potter are not interred here," Albus answered. "They were laid to rest in the cemetery in Godric's Hollow where they died."

"Is this true, Lord Potter?" asked Callidora Longbottom.

Shaking his head, Harry said, "It is absolutely not true." Then casting a hard and angry look at Albus, Harry added, "I realize that you may be mad about me exercising my legal right to void the bequests left to you, but I do not take kindly to your insinuation that I'm deceiving people. My parents are interred here, Albus. Do I have to have their sarcophagi opened to prove it?"

Albus was just about to say 'Yes,' when Lucius Malfoy shook his head and said, "That won't be necessary, Lord Potter. There is a spell which can be cast which will tell us if the sarcophagi are occupied and if so by whom without opening them or disturbing the remains inside." After a moment of silence, he added, "I know the spell and would be willing to cast it, with your permission, Lord Potter."

While Harry silently questioned Malfoy's motives in offering, he realized that it might be possible to call the results of the spell into question if he or one of his allies cast it. So, with a nod, Harry said, "You have my permission to proceed, Lucius."

Nodding, Lucius twisted the head of his snake-headed cane and removed his wand from within, pointing it at the sarcophagi and muttering a few words under his breath that Harry couldn't hear. Within a few moments, swirls of white light appeared around the sarcophagi, before the heads of the statues moved ever so slightly, as the eyes blinked open. Then much to Harry's surprise, the statue of his father spoke, in his father's voice, and said, "Here lies the remains of His Grace James Sebastian Potter, The Duke of Granston, The Marquis of Brynmoor, The Earl of Mathry, Lord of Seacliff Castle, and Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter. Born March 25, 1960, Died October 31, 1981, age 21."

The statue of Lily Potter, also perfectly imitating Lily's voice, now said, "Here lies the remains of Her Grace Lily Marie Potter, nee Evans, The Duchess of Granston, Lady of Seacliff Castle, and Head-Consort of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter. Born January 30, 1960, Died October 31, 1981, age 21."

Once both statues had spoken, they reverted back to their previous state as the swirls of light disappeared and Lucius put away his wand. "The spell does not lie. The sarcophagi are occupied by the late Lord and Lady Potter."

"Impossible!" Albus shouted. "I've visited their graves in Godric's Hollow personally."

Harry sighed. "Albus is correct in his assertion that my late parents were laid to rest in Godric's Hollow."

"So you admit that you're deceiving everyone?" Albus asked in a triumphant tone.

"I'm admitting nothing, Albus," Harry said. "I merely said that my parents were laid to rest in Godric's Hollow. However, as soon as I became aware of the existence of the family mausoleum, I had them moved here, where they rightfully should have been all long. And, Albus, I would point out that had you bothered to share what you knew with me, I would have had them moved sooner. But, that isn't your style is it? No, you prefer to keep secrets from people, even when it's information that you know they should have."

After a pause he added, "I can't help but wonder though, Albus, just how many secrets were you keeping from my parents when you convinced them to leave the safety of Seacliff's wards and place themselves in hiding under the Fidelius Charm in a small cottage in a Muggle village behind wards that you cast? And you wonder why I refuse to return to my Muggle relatives' home, as you've repeatedly suggested? My parents trusted in your wards to protect them, Albus, and as they are lying here dead, way too young, it obviously did not work out well for them. So why in Merlin's name would I make the same mistake?"

Albus remained silent at that, as several people nodded their heads in agreement with what Harry had just said. There were a few people who looked torn between supporting Harry and supporting the Headmaster, but they remained silent as Harry said, "Now I suggest we go back to paying our last respects to my parents in the quiet, dignified, and respectful way that they deserve."

-o-0-o-

To be continued.

Chapter Text

Unexpected Love: The Journey Begins
Written by J.C. Vascardi

-o-0-o-

Chapter Nine

Part One

-o-0-o-

Upon returning to the castle, the majority of those who'd gathered for the will reading bid Harry goodbye, some of them being allowed to use the Apparition Chamber to go back home, while others had to go outside to the waiting carriages which would take them back to the main gates, twenty-seven and a half miles from the castle. Some might wonder why Harry didn't simply let everyone use the Apparition Chamber, as since they were already in the house, it would seem to be a courtesy to allow them to use it rather than making them use the carriages. The reason he didn't was because use of the Apparition Chamber was strictly limited to those people whose names were written in the castle's guestbook.

Those whose names weren't in the book and were present at the reading were only temporarily keyed into the wards by virtue of being invited guests. However, such invitations were limited in that they only allowed a person to enter the area protected by the wards a single time and then once they left, they would not be able to enter again unless invited back. The ability to invite people on a one-time basis served to ensure that the guestbook didn't have dozens upon dozens of struck through names written in it because their owners had only needed access to the castle for a few hours and then never again.

Lucius Malfoy, however, remained behind the others. Noticing this, Harry raised an eyebrow and asked, "Was there something you wanted, Lucius?"

"Yes, Your Grace," Lucius said, his voice as smooth as silk. "I was wondering if perhaps while I was here you might consider allowing me a visit with my son?"

Harry was silent for a minute, as he considered the request. 'Hmm, perhaps this is why he helped me in the mausoleum earlier - wanted to get on my good side so I'd say yes.' After considering the request from all angles, Harry nodded and said, "I don't see why not, Lucius." Harry paused here and called out, "Tilly?"

When the elf appeared, Harry said, "Tilly, fetch me the keys for the dungeons. I'm going to take Lord Malfoy to visit his son."

Tilly nodded her head and disappeared, returning a moment later with a large iron key ring with several keys of varying sizes and made of several different metals hanging from it. Most of the keys were made of iron and were simple and non-descript. Others, however, were made of more precious metals, such as silver and gold, with one key even being made of platinum. These were more ornate keys and as one might expect, they unlocked the cells that were reserved for prisoners of noble birth. As a Viscount, Draco himself was in a cell which was unlocked by a silver key, albeit one of the less elaborate ones, as he was only a Viscount by courtesy.

Leading Lucius towards the entrance to the dungeon, Harry remained silent. He had never been particularly fond of Lucius Malfoy, after all, and found himself at a loss as to what to say to the man. Harry had to admit that Lucius had been nothing but kind and respectful in their dealings since he'd claimed his birthright, but Harry suspected that had more to do with Lucius' ingrained beliefs regarding the proper treatment of the nobility, especially those that outranked him, than an actual change of heart.

Upon reaching the door that led to the dungeons, Harry inserted one of the more non-descript iron keys into the lock and pulled open the door, leading Lucius into a large circular room as the door closed and locked behind them. This first room was a guard room and was staffed at all times with ten guards, one standing on each side of the four doors in the room, plus two more sitting at a table in the center of the room. The ones currently on duty were all males, taller than average, with athletic and formidable physiques, and dressed in uniforms similar to those worn by the Vatican Swiss Guard during ceremonial events. Of course, what set them apart is that instead of red, gold, and blue cloth, these uniforms were made of red and gold leather. It was standard cow leather, although unseen to the eye was an underlining of dragonhide. Completing the ensembles were silver breastplates with the Potter family coat of arms emblazoned upon them in richly colored enamels. Each guard also had a sheathed sword attached to their belt, although they were all wizards and thus also had wands, which were kept in holsters hidden up the sleeves of their wand arms unless they were needed.

Seeing their Lord enter the room, all the guards immediately stood at attention, their postures becoming straight and rigid and Harry nodded at them as he passed. Of the four doors in the room, one led to the main living area of the castle, and was the one through which Harry and Lucius had just entered, while another one led to the guard dormitories. The third led to the office of the Captain of the Guard, while the fourth door was the one which allowed access to the actual cells. The door to the Captain's office was the only open door and shortly after Harry and Lucius entered, the Captain, a middle-aged man who Harry had learned was named Rolf, noticed Harry's arrival and hastened to stand and greet him.

"My Lord Potter, what brings you here today?" Rolf asked in a respectful tone as he bowed to Harry. If he saw Lucius, he made no comment, but Lucius didn't seem offended by that, seeing as how it was quite normal in Albion for guards to only acknowledge their lords, unless otherwise prompted.

"Good day, Rolf. I'm taking Lord Malfoy to see his son," Harry answered. "Would you accompany us?"

"Of course, my lord," Rolf said as he fell in line next to Harry and together they moved to the fourth door in the room. Like all the doors at Seacliff, this door was warded against all forms of Unlocking Spells. Unlike other doors, however, this particular door required two keys to be inserted and turned at the same time in order to open it. One of the necessary keys was on a ring hanging from Rolf's belt, while the other was on the ring that Harry held in his hand. As one the lord and his guard captain inserted the necessary keys into the locks and turned them, at which point the sound of several moving tumblers could be heard. A shimmering light could also be seen as the wards protecting the door from various other types of magic, such as the Blasting Curse, temporarily deactivated.

Moments later the door swung open of its own accord, allowing Rolf, Harry, and Lucius to pass beyond it, at which point it swung closed, automatically locking as the wards reengaged. Ahead of them were stairs leading both up and down, as Seacliff's dungeons were not all below ground. Down the stairs, going as far down as fifty feet below ground, were the non-noble dungeons, all with varying degrees of unpleasantness, depending on the reason for a prisoner's incarceration. Also located down the stairs at a depth of thirty-five feet was the Seacliff Torture Chamber, which was equipped with various instruments of torture that were best left undescribed. It was without a doubt a room that Harry sincerely hoped he'd never have a reason to visit, let alone to actually use, although, in the back of his mind, he knew that Hogwarts caretaker Argus Filch would adore it.

The lowest level of the noble dungeons was also located down the stairs, beginning at a depth of five feet below ground and it was here that Draco was currently imprisoned, since as a courtesy Viscount he wasn't ranked very high on the pecking order. He did have a private cell, however, which was equipped with glazed windows, albeit barred and ten feet above the floor of the cell. The room was about eight foot square, with a comfortable single bed with cotton sheets and a down comforter, a table with two chairs, and a wardrobe. There was a toilet and shower, although they were not in their own room and were instead hidden behind a screen in one corner. A small stone fireplace, obviously not connected to the Floo Network, was also present to provide warmth.

As a noble, Draco was also fed better than a prisoner usually would be, getting three meals and a snack each day. He was also given access to a house-elf who could get certain approved items for his own entertainment, which were mostly limited to a deck of cards, a wizard's chess set that was charmed to be used by only one person as the opposite side moved by itself, and select books from Seacliff's extensive library. Like all prisoners, noble or not, however, Draco had been deprived of his wand and was wearing a collar around his neck to suppress his magic, which effectively rendered it impossible for him to make use of wandless or accidental magic.

Arriving at the door to Draco's cell, Rolf opened a small window in the door and said, "Please move back from the door - you have visitors."

Knowing that it couldn't possibly be Dobby come to give him another etiquette lesson, since the house-elf just popped in like all other elves, Draco sat up on his bed and set the book he'd been reading aside as the door swung open to reveal Harry and behind him, his father. The two lords stepped into the room, at which point Rolf closed and locked the door behind them. Through the small window in the door, he said, "Just let me know when you're ready to leave, Lord Potter."

"Thank you, Rolf," Harry said, before turning to Draco and saying, "Well, Draco, your father was at the castle for the reading of my parents' wills today and I figured I'd be accommodating and grant his request for a visit."

"Thank you, Lord Potter," Draco said, with none of the venom that had been present in his voice back at the Opening Ball. After spending just over a week in Seacliff's dungeons, during which he'd been having daily etiquette lessons with Dobby, he'd learned to treat Harry with more respect. After all he didn't want to be in the dungeons any longer than necessary and he'd admitted now that he'd been wrong to act the way he had. And wasn't that a bitter pill for him to have to swallow?

Of course, having Dobby around had also helped in that up until the first time the elf had appeared, Draco had been under the impression that Dobby was dead. Lucius had explained the elf's disappearance towards the end of Harry's and Draco's second year by saying that Dobby had died trying to help Harry Potter. Combined with Harry's refusal to take his hand at the beginning of first year, this had just given Draco more reason to hate Harry. The reason for this was because Dobby had been the elf who was assigned to take care of Draco as he grew up. Dobby was the one who had changed the majority of Draco's nappies, although Draco thought of that particular detail as little as possible.

However, Dobby had also become something of a friend to Draco as he grew up, as he'd led a somewhat sheltered life due to being the only child and heir. As his pale skin attested, he spent very little time outside in the sun and had spent the majority of his life indoors reading and studying. On those rare occasions when he had been allowed to play, it was usually with Dobby since Lucius was usually too busy administering to the family lands and Narcissa with various social commitments. Now that didn't mean that Draco never spent time with his parents as he grow up, as he most certainly did, but he had spent more time with Dobby than anyone else. This had changed when he began Hogwarts, of course, as Dobby hadn't been allowed to go with Draco to school and thus arriving at school Draco had surrounded himself with other people.

Contrary to popular belief, Draco was not actually friends with Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle. Vincent's father was actually the Malfoy family's seneschal, where as Greg's father was the family solicitor. Thus, both of them had sworn Oaths of Loyalty to Lucius, which is why they followed Draco around and obeyed his commands. It was also why they acted like they were stupid, because Draco had wanted to be the brains of the group and thus had ordered the two boys to act like they were his hired muscle whose combined brain power would be less than that of a slug. Of course the order to act like they were stupid did not extend to their schoolwork and it would probably shock a great many of the other students if they saw Crabbe's and Goyle's grades, seeing as how they were both actually in the top ten students in their year. A fact which usually went unknown simply because Hogwarts only published the results of the top five students in each year for the whole school to see.

Now while there were sometimes exceptions, the truth was that as a general rule you didn't make friends in Slytherin House. You made connections and acquaintances and while many of these relationships might give off the outward appearance of friendship, if one really bothered to look deeper you'd see that looks were deceiving. Thus Dobby had been Draco's first, and pretty much his only friend. So, when he'd thought the elf had died trying to help Harry, he dealt with his grief by becoming even more nasty towards The-Boy-Who-Lived. Knowing now that Dobby was not actually dead, however, had thawed Draco's seemingly frozen heart. He was still a Slytherin and willing to do what was necessary to achieve his ends, but now that he was able to set aside the hatred he'd felt for Harry, he realized that antagonizing one of the most powerful lords in the country was probably not the best way to achieve any of his goals, since none of them included being locked in a dungeon and having his magic suppressed. In fact, in the future, he was determined to do everything he possibly could to avoid it.

"How are you, Draco?" Lucius asked.

"I'm fine, Father," Draco said. "Imprisonment and not having my magic is becoming loathsome, however."

Harry looked at Draco with a hard look at that. "Well, you have nobody to blame but yourself for that."

Draco got off the bed at this point and bowed to Harry, which was shocking enough, but he was even more thoroughly shocked by the words the blond now uttered. "You are right, of course, Lord Potter. My words and actions were an insult to not only you and your friends, but to me and my house, as well, and I truly regret them."

It took a few moments for Harry to regain the ability to speak. When he did, he said, "I'm not entirely sure that I believe that, as in the past you haven't given me any reason to trust you. However, if you truly do mean it, then I'm glad you realized it."

Draco nodded his head and straightened back up, at which point Harry said, "If you'd like a few moments alone with your son I can wait outside, Lucius."

"That won't be necessary, Your Grace," Lucius said. "I mainly wanted to see Draco for myself. However, there was a matter which I'd like to discuss with you."

"And what's that?" Harry asked.

"Well, Your Grace, as I'm sure you know the Quidditch World Cup is next week," Lucius said and Harry nodded. "Draco's mother and I were wondering if it would be possible for him to attend?"

Harry remained silent as he considered the question. When he'd put Draco in the dungeon, he'd decided that the blond would remain in the dungeon until August 31st, released just in time to go to Hogwarts. He hadn't planned on letting him out early, but after that seemingly heartfelt apology, Harry felt like he should do something at least. "I will not shorten Draco's stay," he began and Draco's face, which had looked hopeful, fell at those words. "However, in light of the fact that it seems that he's sorry for his behavior at the Opening Ball, I will allow him a temporary reprieve."

Draco perked up at this, as Harry turned to him and said, "I will allow you a one day release, Draco. You will leave on the morning of the Cup, provided you and your father agree that you will return the following day to serve out the rest of your sentence."

Lucius nodded. "That's acceptable, Lord Potter, I thank you."

"Don't thank me yet," Harry cautioned. "Lucius, correct me if I'm wrong, but you have four seats in the Top Box and will only be using three of them?"

"Yes, Your Grace," Lucius confirmed. "It's just my wife, Draco, and myself."

"Good," Harry said. "I want Rolf to accompany you then." Then turning back to Draco, he added, "You will be released from the dungeon and the magic restraining collar, Draco, for the day. However, my guard captain, Rolf, will accompany you and will be sticking to your side like glue. He will have a portkey to bring him back here to Seacliff and will be under orders to take you with him, whether the Cup is finished or not, if he hears one insulting comment out of your mouth. I've made arrangements with some of the other lords so that the Weasley family and Hermione can use the seats in the Top Box that they weren't going to be using. So, no comments about their lack of money. Don't call Ron 'Weasel' or Hermione 'Mudblood'. No mentions of blood traitors or anything else. Even one utterance of anything like that and to quote Madam Hooch in our first year, you'll be back here before you can say Quidditch. Clear?"

Draco nodded. "Yes, Your Grace. I swear to be on my best behavior."

"We'll see," Harry said.

-o-0-o-

Three days later, on Friday, August 19, 1994, the six students at Forest Cottage had just gotten out of their morning class and gone back upstairs to their common room to relax while they awaited the arrival of Barin to inform them that lunch was ready. As had become their routine, Terence and Oliver made a beeline for the wingback chair near the fireplace that they had essentially claimed as theirs. Within minutes they were both sitting in the chair, their limbs so entangled that it was impossible to tell where one ended and the other began. The fact that they were dressed in the same colors today only made it that much harder to distinguish. And as if every other part of their body touching was not enough, it wasn't long at all until they were locked in a passionate make out session that everyone else in the room did their best to ignore.

Harry stretched out on the couch, as the nutrient potions often left him feeling a bit tired as his body caught up on all the growing it should have done years ago. When he'd started taking the potions he'd only been four feet, six inches tall, which considering that the average height of a fourteen year old boy is five foot, three inches, definitely placed the brunet on the short side. Thanks to the nutrient potions, however, he'd now gained a total of eight more inches to bring him up to a height of five feet, two inches. Being only an inch shorter than the average for his age was definitely something that Harry enjoyed and he couldn't wait to see the looks on Ron's and Hermione's faces when they saw him. This was especially true since Rose had said that he'd probably gain anywhere from one to three more inches before he stopped taking the potions and that didn't count any natural growth spurts that he would still undergo as a growing boy.

As Rose explained it, if it hadn't been for the nutrient potions fixing all of the deficiencies that had been present, he likely would have topped out at about five foot, six inches tall. This, consequently, would have made him one of the shortest Potter males in the history of family, since with very few exceptions, they'd all been at least six feet tall and some even taller. According to James, the tallest Potter in history was the person Harry had been named after - Sebastian's and Nathaniel's grandfather, Harrison James Potter, 170th Duke of Granston, who had reached a height of seven feet, four inches. Now, it had to be said that Harry didn't really hope to be that tall, as that seemed a little excessive to him, but he wouldn't mind being about the same height as his father had been when he died, which was six feet, three inches.

Anyway, Roger and Cedric opted not to play chess again, mainly because Roger was tired of getting his arse kicked. He'd always thought he was a pretty good chess player, but he'd never played Cedric before, despite them being friends at Hogwarts. Of course, being in different houses did make playing more challenging. With nothing else to do they made their way over to the seating area to sit down and chat with the others, but quickly found that there were no seats available. Gavin had claimed the chair opposite the one that Terence and Oliver were in and while Athena had added a second sofa to the seating group when the number of people staying in the dormitories increased, there still wasn't any place to sit with Harry stretched out on one sofa and Asterion, Regulus, Sirius, and Remus seated on the other.

With no other options and not wanting to sit on the floor, Cedric took hold of Harry's shoulder, pulled him up into a sitting position and sat down where the young lord's head had been moments earlier. Before Harry could protest, however, Cedric placed a throw pillow in his lap and then allowed Harry to lie back down. Harry smiled and let out a contented sigh as Cedric began to gently run a hand through his hair. This wasn't something he'd ever done before they entered training, but Cedric felt very close to Harry for some reason. He didn't know why, but he felt very protective of Harry and not only did he feel better when Harry was around, but he'd found that he enjoyed touching Harry. He hadn't mentioned any of this, of course, as he was afraid it would make him sound like a pervert. Of course, Cedric wasn't the only one who felt the strange feelings, as Harry felt them as well, but he kept his mouth shut partially because he didn't understand it, but also thought that maybe he was just imagining things.

Gesturing towards Harry's feet, Roger asked, "Harry, may I sit down?"

"I suppose," Harry said as he moved his legs upward, placing his feet in the air so that Roger could sit down. Once he was seated, Harry put his legs down, which resulted in his feet resting in Roger's lap. Since Harry had taken off his shoes before stretching out on the sofa, Roger didn't mind this too much. After a moment, Harry grinned and said, "Hey, Rog, why don't you make yourself useful and rub." This statement was accompanied by Harry wriggling his feet in the older boy's lap, so the Ravenclaw had no difficulty in figuring out just what Harry wanted rubbed. Roger might normally have said no, but thanks to the Oath of Loyalty he'd sworn to Harry when the Gryffindor hired his father as his solicitor, Roger soon found himself rubbing Harry's sock-clad feet.

Remus and Sirius grinned, as the latter asked, "Enjoying yourself there, pup?"

"Very much so," Harry said, as he turned his head slightly to look towards his godfather with a grin.

All was silent for a few moments, before Roger said, "Regulus, could you answer a question for me?"

"Depends on the question, but I can try," Regulus responded.

"Harry has been doing a lot of stuff lately that required his double to be put to sleep," Roger said. "Won't that cause problems though when the double goes back to Hogwarts? I mean if it doesn't remember everything that Harry's been doing?"

"You'd think so," Regulus said, as Terence and Oliver stopped their make out session to listen, as they'd also been curious about this. "Athena told me what she'd told you about the doubles. That they have limited access to your memories and would, for example, know that you'd opted to take more NEWTs this year." Roger nodded. "What she didn't tell you is that whenever your doubles are placed into an enchanted sleep so that you can step into their place, they have full access to your memory of the events that take place while they're sleeping, so long as it doesn't pertain to your training or any other secret information."

Asterion piped in at this to add, "Also, when they fall asleep normally and you're sleeping at the same time, you gain limited access to their memories. You wouldn't get the full spectrum, such as all their school work or ambient conversations they overheard, but you will get memories of all social interactions that directly involve them so that you can't be caught completely unaware of a conversation they had with someone should it come up while you're stepping in for them."

"Well that explains some of the dreams I've been having," Cedric commented. "I'd thought that they were rather weird because they seemed to be memories but I was sure they were not events that I'd been present for. So they're actually memories of what's going on with my double?"

Regulus nodded. "Yes, Cedric, that's what those dreams are. I would caution you all, though, that it's not a perfect transfer, as you won't get full, unfettered access to their memories until you rejoin with them. So, while you will get all of the salient points of all social interactions that directly involved them, you may not remember every detail as well as you might if it had actually been you having the conversation. So, should something come up, you'll have to intentionally be a bit vague and let the other party fill in the gaps with the more minor details."

"Another thing to consider," Asterion added, "is that emotions don't transfer in either direction. So, your double won't have access to your emotions and you will not have access to theirs. As a result, you may find yourself in the position of talking about a specific event that involved your double and not know exactly how they felt about it. In those instances, you'll have to hope that the emotion your double was feeling during the conversation will be made clear by the wording of the more salient points of conversation that you remember. Although that's not always the case, so, again it's best to be as vague as possible."

"We've been told that the doubles have free will," Gavin stated. "If we don't get access to their emotions, does that mean that they could engage in a romantic relationship, and we didn't know it because we don't have access to the emotions they were feeling?"

Regulus nodded. "That's not entirely outside of the realm of possibility no. Your doubles do have free will and that does include the ability to engage in romantic relationships. So, it is possible that you'll rejoin with your doubles in a few years and realize that they've been romantically involved with someone. Since emotions don't transfer, you'll have to pay close attention to the salient points of their social interactions when you get them for clues that might suggest a romantic connection."

"I'd wondered if there'd be any unforeseen side effects with the doubles," Harry commented, a frown on his face as he did. "I guess this is one of them."

"Indeed it is," Asterion said. "And it can sometimes cause problems. Dad told me that two of the others he trained with actually fell in love with each other while training. Problem is, their doubles had also engaged in romantic relationships, but not with each other. So, when they rejoined, they were faced with breaking two peoples' hearts."

Regulus nodded his head again and said, "You see while the doubles can engage in romantic relationships, any romantic relationship that you personally engage in will feel more real to you. Chances are the feelings that your double felt for their romantic partner will pale in comparison to the feelings you feel for any romantic partner you had while you were training. Thus the double's romantic partner will probably get their heart broken as you will most likely opt to stay with the partner that you personally were involved with as the feelings and connection will be much stronger."

"This isn't really a concern for Liam and me," Oliver said, "as I'm sure our doubles are dating each other the same as we are. But is there any way to stop the other doubles from dating people?"

Regulus shook his head. "Short of placing them under the Imperius Curse and telling them not to, no, there isn't. For good or bad, the creator of the spell decided that it was important for the doubles to have free will and thus didn't put in any fail safes to completely stop them from doing certain things. With the same memories and experiences they will likely act in a similar fashion to the real person, but there's really no way to guarantee it."

Silence fell over the room at that, as its occupants thought about what ramifications these revelations might have on the future. As Oliver had said, he and Terence weren't overly worried as they were madly in love with each and didn't see their doubles not being the same way. For the rest of the trainees, however, they couldn't help but wonder about it, as they didn't see any of themselves living like celibate monks, so they imagined their doubles wouldn't either.

After a few more minutes of silence, Harry's thoughts turned to another of the upcoming events: the Founder's Ball on Sunday the 28th of August, which would be held at Kinloch Hold, since as the lord whose lands Hogwarts was on, Bruce served as Chairman of the Hogwarts Board of Governors. As a result, he'd also been assigned to host the Founder's Ball every year. Thinking about this, got Harry to wondering if he would at some point in the future be expected to host any of the balls.

"Cedric told me the various balls for the rest of the year," Harry spoke up. "And I know that Bruce is hosting the Founder's Ball. But whose hosting the rest of this year's balls and which ones are in January through July?"

"After the Founder's Ball," Cedric said, "you have the Ascension Ball next month, which celebrates King Arthur's ascension to the throne. That might not normally seem like an extremely important event or one might think that we should be celebrating the ascension of the current monarch instead of one that lived over a thousand years ago. But, it's celebrated because it's seen as the beginning of Albion as it is today."

Roger nodded. "Under King Arthur's father, Uther, the use of magic was deemed illegal and people who were found out to be witches or wizards were executed. He also had several magical species nearly hunted to extinction, with the few that survived escaping into other kingdoms. When he died though, one of the first things that Arthur did as King was to throw out all of those laws and welcome the practice of magic. So, in honor of that, we continue to celebrate his ascension to this day."

"Since it's seen as a very important event on the court calendar," Regulus said, "the Ascension Ball is held at Lakeview Hall, which is the ancestral home of the Longbottom family. So, the Dowager Duchess will most likely act as host in place of her son, with help from her grandson Neville and the rest of the family."

"Are there many other Longbottoms besides Callidora?" Harry asked.

Sirius shook his head and said, "Not many, no. Callidora had two children with her late husband Harfang - Algie and Enid Longbottom. Neither of them ever married or had children of their own, however."

"Algie and Enid are the cousins of Augusta's late husband Hadrian Longbottom," Remus added. "I know Frank and Alice fully intended to have more children after Neville, but those plans never happened because of the Death Eaters."

"In October you have the Masquerade Ball," Asterion said. "Held on Halloween, it's traditionally hosted by the Blacks at Arlington Grange. So, as the new Lord Black, uncle will be expected to host that one now."

Sirius nodded. "Yes, I know. I'm not sure I'm particularly looking forward to hosting it, however, seeing as how it's the anniversary of James' and Lily's deaths."

"Don't let that bother you, Sirius," Lily said from her place in the portrait above the fireplace. She was alone at the moment, as James was in the frame that was now at Seacliff talking with his father and Lily decided to give them some privacy. "James and I understand that it's tradition for the Black family to host it and we're not going to get mad at you for hosting a party on the anniversary of our deaths."

Sirius nodded, but otherwise remained quiet, which prompted Regulus to say, "November is the King's Ball, which celebrates King Edward's birthday. It is not, however, as the name suggests hosted by the King. It's actually held at Maplecroft Manor in the Earldom of Mablethorpe, which is part of the Lestrange lands, so I imagine Arcturus will be hosting it in place of his parents."

"I'm not entirely sure I want to go to Rodolphus and Bellatrix Lestrange's house," Harry said, with a clear note of distaste in his tone. "Of course, I suppose it would be in poor taste not to show up to the ball celebrating the King's birthday, especially after he pardoned Sirius."

"True," Asterion said. "On the bright side though it's doubtful that Rodolphus and Bellatrix will be there. Still have to deal with their son, of course, and he's not the most pleasant of people, but I wouldn't say he's as bad as his parents."

"December is the Winter Solstice Ball," Cedric said, "which as the name suggests celebrates the Winter Solstice, which is also the day it's held on. That's traditionally hosted by Lord Burke at Sutton Grange."

"The balls in January, February and March," Regulus said, "are the New Year's Day Ball, the Valentine's Day Ball, and the Spring Equinox Ball. I think the events they celebrate are rather self-explanatory. In order, they're hosted by Lord Crouch at Killard Abbey, Lord Flint at Flint Castle, and Lord Bones at Thornhill Abbey."

"Come April and May," Asterion said, "you have the Awakening Ball and the May Ball, hosted, respectively, by Lord Diggory at Willowglen Manor and Lord Malfoy at Malfoy Manor. The Awakening Ball celebrates the rebirth of everything following winter, while the May Ball is in honor of May Day, an ancient pagan holiday which celebrates fertility."

"In June you have the Summer Solstice Ball," Sirius said. "Held on the day of the solstice and hosted by Lord Ollivander at Windermere Castle. Also in June, is the Imperial Ball, traditionally held on June 8th, which celebrates the day that King Phillip Pendragon gained the imperial title as Emperor of Albion and Iwernia."

"Imperial Ball?" Cedric asked. "I don't think I've ever even heard of that one."

"I'm not surprised, Cedric," Regulus said with a smile. "By law and tradition, that ball was held at Castle Camelot and hosted by the King. However, with King Edward not appearing in public all these years, the Imperial Ball hasn't been held since King Charles died in 1972 - which was obviously five years before you were born."

"Well, every other lord has been accounted for now," Harry said, "except for me, so does that mean that I'll be expected to host the July ball?"

It was Lily who answered. "Yes, Harry, as far back as 800 AD the Potter family has hosted the ball in July, which also happens to be the most prestigious and important of all the balls. It's officially known as the Honor Ball and is named because that's traditionally when the annual honors from the King would be announced. Over the years, though it's also became a ball to honor Merlin, which is why it's popularly known as the Emrys Ball."

"I see," Harry said. "And is there any specific reason that the Potters host the most prestigious and important ball?"

"Yes, Harry, there is a reason," Regulus said with a nod. "The three families whose highest title is Duke were considered to be King Arthur's greatest allies during the Unification Wars, which is why he named them Dukes. The head of the Potter family back then was Percival Potter and during one of the final battles of the wars, Percival, at great risk to his own life, personally saved King Arthur's life. So, in recognition of that act, King Arthur named Percival and his heirs, in perpetuity until the end of time, as the Lord High Chancellor to the Court of Pendragon."

"Lord High Chancellor?" Harry asked, with confusion gracing his face. "What exactly does that mean? Does it have something to do with the Privy Council?"

Shaking her head, Lily said, "No, Harry. Your position as a Privy Councilor is completely separate. The Lord High Chancellor has a number of jobs, one of which is that he's in charge of the honors system for the King, which is why the ball during which the honors are announced is hosted by the Potters. However, that isn't the positions' only duty. As Lord High Chancellor, you're also in charge of the judicial system, in addition to being in charge of the kingdom's finances."

"In charge of the judicial system and the kingdom's finances?" Harry asked, as he abruptly sat up. The look on his face was a mix of shock, fear, and bewilderment. "What does that even mean? Edward mentioned a Chancellor of the Exchequer in his letter telling me of Sirius' pardon, wouldn't he be in charge of the kingdom's finances?"

Regulus answered, "Chancellor of the Exchequer is only used when a commoner holds the position and that only happens when the Lord Potter is unable to perform the duties himself. For example, when your father died, you weren't even two years old yet. So, obviously, you couldn't possibly have done the job, so, a commoner would have been named to the position to do the job until you came of age and claimed your birthright."

"Now you do have to be installed in the position by the King," Lily said. "However, that's really nothing more than a minor technicality because the King can't refuse to install you. King Arthur made sure of that when he tied the position to Percival and his heirs in perpetuity until the end of time, a provision which he in turn made unbreakable and unchangeable by all future monarchs. So all you have to do is tell the King you want the job and he'd have no choice but to give it to you."

"And why would I want it?" Harry asked.

"Well, Harry, there are advantages," Regulus answered. "You know how you're technically Dumbledore's boss at Hogwarts, what with being one of the school governors?" Harry nodded, prompting Regulus to continue with, "Well, as Lord High Chancellor you're also his boss in the Wizengamot. Normally, the only ways for a person to cease being the Chief Warlock would be for them to retire, die, or be voted out of the position due to a vote of no confidence being called for. As Lord High Chancellor, however, you're in charge of the judicial system and if you so desired would have the authority to dismiss Dumbledore from the position of Chief Warlock."

Harry was silent for awhile as he thought about that. He didn't like the idea of dismissing anyone from their jobs, but then again he couldn't help but think that maybe Dumbledore had too many jobs. How could one be expected to lead one of the oldest Wizarding schools in the world, plus lead the Wizengamot, which acted as the legislative and judicial body for two countries, and then on top of it, also act as the head of the International Confederation of Wizards? It seemed like too much for any one man to do, especially when the person in question was already over a hundred years old. 'Something to consider at least.'

"Harry if you're going to have power over the kingdom's finances," Cedric said, "I think perhaps you should consider signing up for the Magical Finance elective at Hogwarts."

Nodding, Harry said, "Yeah, I suppose that would be a good idea. Truth be told, I've been thinking about the electives ever since you and Roger scheduled yours. I found myself very curious about the Spell Creation class that you mentioned, Cedric. I don't even recall seeing that listed as an option when I signed up for my electives in second year."

"Well, Harry, that's because Spell Creation is for NEWT-level students," Cedric said. "You need an Outstanding on your OWLs for Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, and Magical Languages in order to get into the class."

"Huh," Harry said. "Shouldn't they still list it though? I mean, how can a second year plan ahead and make sure they're taking the right classes if they don't even know that the class exists?"

"True," Roger said. "It should be listed as a possibility, making it clear its only for sixth and seventh years, so that you can make sure you take any required electives. It would suck to get to fifth year and be picking your NEWT classes only to realize that you don't qualify for one of the NEWT electives because you never took the necessary OWL classes."

"Out of curiosity, what are the other NEWT electives?" Harry asked.

"Other than Spell Creation," Terence answered, "there's also Magical Research and Archiving, Medical Magic, and Specialized Charms."

"Magical Research and Archiving is taught by Madam Pince," Roger said. "It focuses on giving you the skills you'll need if you want to be a magical researcher, research assistant or librarian. The class meets in the Hogwarts library and part of the class is helping Madam Pince to catalog and shelve the books in the right places. So, the class basically serves as the assistant librarians while learning the skills necessary for working in a library or doing research. It requires you to have at least an Exceeds Expectations in History of Magic, Magical Languages, and Magical Literature."

"Medical Magic is as you might expect geared to those who want to become Healers," Remus said. "Although you're by no means required to become a healer if you take the class. It's taught in a classroom off the infirmary by Madam Pomfrey and requires at least an Exceeds Expectations in Charms, Potions, and Herbology."

"Specialized Charms teaches more advanced and specialized charms then what's taught in the standard class," Cedric said. "It's pretty much a must for anyone wanting to pursue a Charms Mastery as many Masters won't even consider taking you as an apprentice after Hogwarts if you didn't take the class. It's taught by Professor McIntosh in a classroom in the Charms corridor and requires at least an Acceptable in Charms. Though space is limited so people with higher scores stand a better chance of getting in."

"So that's how you go about gaining a mastery?" Harry asked. "Apprentice to someone that's already a master in a subject?"

Lily nodded. "Yes, Harry. Unlike in the Muggle world, there's no such thing as wizarding universities. So, if you want to pursue further education after Hogwarts to become a master of a particular subject, you need to find a master of that subject and become an apprentice. That usually lasts anywhere from two to four years, depending both on the master and the subject. For example, becoming a Charms Master usually takes four years, but I was a Charms prodigy, so it only took a year. At only eighteen years old when I became a Charms Master, I was one of the youngest in history."

Having noticed the slight creasing of Harry's forehead at the mention of the word prodigy, Remus said, "There are some subjects, Harry, that some people are just naturally gifted with and in turn they learn them much easier than others. For your mother that was Charms and Potions, though she never sought a Potions mastery, as Charms was her true love." Lily nodded at this. "For your father, he showed the most natural talent with Transfiguration and Defense Against the Dark Arts. He didn't seek a mastery in either subject, however, as after Hogwarts he was busy with Auror training."

"Which was always interesting, really," Sirius said with a grin. "A member of the Auror Training and Certification board training to be an Auror. The trainers were always a bit more lenient with him than they might have been to others simply because along with his fellow board members, James would have the power to revoke their certification, which would prevent them from being able to do their jobs."

"Wait, what?" Harry asked. "Auror Training and Certification board?"

"Yes, Harry," Regulus said. "It's actually the Board of Supervisors for Auror Training and Certification, and yes, as Lord Potter you are a member of it, along with Frank Longbottom and Garrick Ollivander. Erik Bones is actually the chairman of that particular board."

"That particular board? You say that like there's more than one," Harry said.

"Oh there's several of them," Sirius said. "The Board of the Wizarding Testing Authority, the St. Mungo's Hospital Managerial Board, The Law Practitioners Licensing Commission, the Albion Trade Commission, the Potions Licensing Board, and the Albion Board of Health."

With each new board named Harry's eyes grew larger and larger, until Lily finally smiled and said, "Don't worry, son, you're not on all of those, just the first two."

"And the fourth one," James said, as he came back into the portrait.

Harry shook his head for a moment before he laid back down so that his head was back on the pillow in Cedric's lap and his feet were again in Roger's. With a piteous moan, he said, "Too many jobs, so stressed, both of you start rubbing."

If Harry's eyes had been open he would have noticed the grins on everyone's faces as Cedric and Roger resumed their tasks.

-o-0-o-

The following Monday, Harry appeared in a deserted alley with a pop. Another pop a second later signaled the arrival of Terence, as the trainers had decided that they didn't want Harry going to his destination alone, but weren't available to go themselves. Sirius was busy taking care of some of the duties as Lord Black which needed to be handled, while Regulus and Asterion had gone back to their home in the Northern Atlantic for a few days. Remus was still recovering from the full moon on Sunday night and thus was also not available. As the two teens left the alley and began walking the two blocks to Hermione's parents' house, Terence did his best not to look around in wonder. He was a pureblood, after all, and thus he didn't get out into the suburbs of Muggle London very often. This was actually the first time he'd ever done so, actually, so he was seeing many things for the first time that he'd only heard about through Muggle Studies.

Arriving at Hermione's front door, Harry reached out and rang the bell. It was answered a moment later by a middle-aged man who Harry vaguely remembered as being Hermione's father, Dr. Daniel Granger. "Yes?" he asked.

"Dr. Granger, right?" Harry asked politely and the man nodded. "I'm Harry Potter - a friend of Hermione's from school."

"Oh, of course, she's mentioned you," Daniel said as he stood aside. "Please come in."

"Thanks," Harry said, as he and Terence entered the house.

Closing the door, Daniel said, "Hermione is in the living room with my wife. Just follow me."

Daniel led them down a front hallway which in some ways reminded Harry of the layout of the Dursley home, except the stairs were in a different place and didn't have a cupboard under them. At the end of the hallway they went through a door which lead into a dining room, with a kitchen visible to the right. Daniel led them to the left, however, and into a large room off the dining room which served as the living room. "Hermione, your friend Harry and a guest are here."

Hermione looked up with a smile as Harry and Terence entered the room. "Harry! What a pleasant surprise."

"Hey Hermione," Harry said, as he hugged her. When they broke apart, Harry smiled and said, "First things first, I don't know if you remember him, Hermione, but this is Terence Higgs. He was Slytherin's seeker in our first year."

Hermione cocked her head and looked at Terence before nodding. "Yeah, I do remember him vaguely, although I am curious why he's with you."

"Well, I'll explain that, if we could sit down?" Harry asked.

"Of course," Hermione said, motioning towards the empty sofa, as her father sat down in the oak swivel chair of a desk, while she sat down on the loveseat next to a middle-aged woman. Motioning towards her, she said, "Harry, this is my Mum, Dr. Emily Granger."

Harry smiled. "It's a pleasure to meet you," as he and Terence sat down. "Now, Hermione, quite a bit has happened this summer that I imagine you don't know about since its illegal for the Prophet to be delivered to a Muggle neighborhood."

Hermione nodded. "Yes, I never understood that law. It's stupid."

"Well, not really," Terence said. "Would be a rather clear breach of the Statute of Secrecy if a Muggle saw it. How in Merlin's name would you explain all the moving pictures to someone who didn't know about magic? It would be one thing if your parents saw it, because they know you're a witch, but what if someone else who doesn't know sees it? Someone who it would be illegal for you to tell?"

Hermione glared at Terence and said, "I wouldn't just leave it lying around for anyone to see."

Holding up his hands in a placating gesture, Terence said, "I'm not saying you would. But can you honestly say that every single muggleborn at Hogwarts is going to be as conscientious and careful about it as you would be? All it would take is one mistake and the Ministry Obliviators would be working overtime trying to limit the damage. And even if the damage is contained, there'd still be the hefty fine."

Hermione's glare softened at that and was replaced with a curious look as she asked, "Hefty fine?"

Harry nodded. "The Statute of Secrecy is enforced by the International Confederation of Wizards, Hermione. If any of the member magical governments break it, they're given a hefty fine as punishment, and possibly sanctions and other things no government wants to deal with, depending on the severity of the breach. Obviously the government wants to avoid that if they can."

"I didn't know that," Hermione admitted after a few moments of silence. Then looking at Har