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The Second Coming of Merlin

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     Under the reaching arms of Leo, the boy touched by Sol will find his true purpose... Framed, betrayed, and scorned, he will be reborn from the ashes of his life to rise mightier than ever before... With the Dark on his left and the Light behind... He shall lead the world into a new golden age... Firelight shall mark his way... Merlin shall rise again...

     His perception of the world narrowed down to two things; pain, and his uncle. The beating seemed to take forever thanks to the pent up rage held in for the last two years, and lasted until Harry was positive at least three bones were broken and his vision was foggy (and not from a lack of glasses, either). It was definitely worse this time, a detached part of his mind supplied. Probably because the Order was comprised of a whole load of dolts. They had decided that it would be for the best to tell the Dursleys that his godfather was dead, 'so you can help Harry cope and can guide him through the grieving process'. That was laughable. They'd essentially danced on his parents' graves; he didn't want their type of grieving!

And finally, there was a respite for a few moments, before Harry hazily felt Uncle Vernon dragging him off none too gently towards somewhere. Rather kind of him, his muddled thoughts whirred. Usually, he was forced to walk on the broken limbs, 'to drive home the message'. Of course, this sort of scenario of being manhandled was nothing new to him, so he was all too aware of where he was being shoved, and the sound of each of the sixteen locks on the cupboard door being slid shut. Huh, he thought derisively. And this place was supposed to be home! That wouldn't ever happen; that title belonged purely to Hogwarts. This prison had never been his home, nor would it ever be!

     Had he been more aware of his surroundings, he would have felt the wards around the house falling, and had he been in better physical condition then he would have shivered from the feel of the powerful ward's magic collapsing around his prone form. Drifting into unconsciousness, he thought he just might have heard a distant door bang open.  And had he been able to hold on just a little longer, he would have heard the sounds of people thundering in, and his relatives screaming.


Chapter Text

     "Kingsley! Kingsley!"  The step-in head Auror looked up from the massive pile of paperwork, to see several men from the MLE branch, who had just burst into his new office without so much as a by-your-leave, running towards him, gasping for breath. Sighing, he shifted the pile to the side, as to give the impression he actually gave a damn. Honestly, not every problem was the jurisdiction of the Aurors! The three men finally stopped in front of him, and smacked a piece of parchment onto the newly cleared spot on his desk, knocking over his inkwell. Frowning, he was prepared to berate the man for his clumsiness, when a few key words finally jumped out at him, and a cold, leaden weight seemed to drop into his stomach.

     "We're on it!" He jumped up and rushed out of the office. "Squad firebird! Let's go!" Several Aurors jumped up, and Kingsley nodded at each of them as they rushed up to him.

     "Hey, what's going on?" Tonks queried, but Kingsley silently shut her up with a sharp movement of his head.

     "Not here, Nymphadora." She pouted at his usage of her name, her hair turning blue. But when he produced the golden disc engraved with MASF, she grabbed it with the rest of them, and it slowly shifted back to its normal colors, which to anyone else wasn't very much so at all. "Fawkes," Kingsley growled, and a blue light suffused the area. A moment later, they were gone.

      The Squad landed in front of what seemed to be a normal house, aside from one detail–the door was hanging off the hinges.

      "So, what is going on?" Tonks queried a little more testily than before. Her hair was beginning to grow red highlights. Kingsley merely shook his head, trying to sift the jumbled thoughts into some semblance of organization. Unforgivables. Potter. At least six. Potter. Surely he couldn't have...

     "Riigght." Alastor grumped when it was evident no explanation would be forthcoming, and took the lead. "Well, let's get this over with."

     "Alastor, we can't just run in! We have to wait for the MLE!" Kingsley berated him. "You didn't have to come out of retirement, you know." Alastor grumbled under his breath, but paused nonetheless. The location of Potter's home was a jealously guarded secret, one even the members of the Order didn't know fully. All they got was a portkey, and similarly, all the Squad got was the medallion. Fortunately however, they only had to wait another thirty seconds or so for the MLE team to lock onto the coordinates and get there. Introductions were required, but no words were needed. Kingsley shook hands with the captain of the MLE crime investigation squad they would be working in tandem with, and together, they all stepped into the house. Several gasped, two fainted, four gave shrieks, and the rest merely looked grimly upon the scene. Three people—a thin woman and two rather massive men—lay contorted on the ground, dead. The broken furniture was strewn about the room, looking for all the world as if a cyclone had touched down in the middle. And opposite from the bodies in the living room was a trunk lying on its side, spilling its contents onto the ground. The sleeve of a Gryffindor robe could be seen, amongst the conglomeration of other random objects. But the worrying part was that the dark holly wand was sitting atop of the mess, and not inside it.

     "Right, let's get cracking then. Squad Firebird, you are no longer needed, the threat is evidently neutralized." Kingsley gave a nod, unhappy that they had to leave, but unable to protest. He nodded to the door, and everyone reluctantly followed suit. And with another blue flash, they were gone.

     Meanwhile inside of the house, the MLE were beginning their crime scene examination. Everybody was attempting to avoid the shattered glass, with varying results. One failed completely, and cursed as he stumbled over a chair leg, shot out his hands to catch his fall, and ended cutting his hands and knees.

     "Really, Robertson?" The captain shot him a dirty look for contaminating the crime scene, and Robertson quickly shoved his hands into his robe pockets.

     "Sorry." Two men were testing the three bodies with numerous spells, to determine the time of death and cause. The shorter one sneered, not that he let anyone see it. Served the filthy muggles right, to be put down. The other man, quite a good deal taller even leaning over, was watching his field partner cautiously. He wouldn't put it past the bastard to mess with the results just so the killer could get off. Another man was cross-examining the wand, casting spells to categorize all spells used within the parameters of the last two weeks. it was a variation of Priori Incantatem, except that there was no way of knowing what had been used most recently.

     "Hey, guys?" He called.

     "Have the results already, Blakely? Quicker than usual!" Shouted the captain back.

     "Yah, I've got the owner, and the curses used. One Harry James potter, there were seven curses used total: four Cruciatus curses, and three Killing curses."

     "I'd figured the owner of the wand, but the number of spells, that's strange," the taller coroner muttered. "Because there're only three traces of the Cruciatus over here."

     "Shut up Perks," the shorter man growled, and Perks snickered.

     "I'll pass, Quillan." The short man growled, and threw himself back into his work, while also deliberately screwing up subtle details. Even if it was Potter who killed them, he'd have done the world a favor by ridding it of more trash. The woman taking pictures with the tip of her wand pursed her lips.

     "Perhaps there were others involved, and they cast the spells? There is quite a great deal of dust from foreign places here, and none of it quite settled yet. Maybe they cast it on one of their partners." There were several types of photos she took, everything from footprints, to evidence, to the crime scene in general, to heat residue, which she was doing now. "Hey, I think there's someone over there," she pointed towards the wall, and the two people not doing anything (the interrogators, as there was no one alive to talk to), jumped up and headed that way.

     "It appears to be a cupboard," the only other woman on the MLE team stated. "And there's blood around the doorframe. And why are there sixteen locks? Is that one of those muggle trends, to put this many on cleaning supply storage areas?" Quillan snorted.

     "Likely." One by one, she unlocked them all, and then the cupboard door swung open with a tortured groan, revealing darkness and a very musty smell of sour clothing, old blood, and other bodily fluids. Buchanan was the only one able to see what was inside, and she immediately turned away, quite green in the face by both what she smelled and what she had seen. A few tittered, or at least did until Perks stuck his lit wand into the dark mouth of the storage room, not wanting to get any closer to the smell. And there lay Potter, bleeding with multiple bones broken by the way they seemed to be angled, and already bruising and swelling up severely.

     "Aw, bloody Merlin," whispered Quillan, then went off on a string of expletives. And no one bothered to shut him up, because he was voicing their horror of their findings for them.

     "Well," the captain croaked, before coughing. "Let's bring Potter with us. He could do with healing, and Merlin knows what he must have gone through, hearing his relatives murdered."

     "That is, if he didn't do it himself," Robertson muttered darkly. The captain shrank the bodies before slipping them into miniature body bags, and placed a cushioning and preserving spell to protect the evidence around the trunk, before treating it the same way as the bodies. Then he shoved them into his pockets, pulling out a piece of Drooble's in the same motion. When the fair-haired woman's mouth thinned in disapproval, he smirked at her.

"No worries, Miss Alton. After all, you've already gotten all your pictures. And besides, I didn't want to ruin it with carcass breath." She sniffed, and turned away, muttering 'Gryffindors' under her breath. And with one last disturbed look at the identical houses around them, the eight disapparated, leaving behind only the echo of a loud crack, and the half-broken door swinging slowly in the wind... 

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     Harry woke up to the throbbing of his body. Well, that wasn't anything new. His uncle must have gotten at him again. Then the memories of the beating came back with blunt force, and he jerked upright. He lifted his hands to rub his eyes and paused when he felt something cold encircling both of his wrists. He looked down, and froze. Handcuffs. That was a pair of handcuffs holding him to the table. There was the sound of approaching footsteps, and Harry watched the door anxiously. Merlin knew why he was here or how. Or where, for that matter. The door rattled for a moment in a way that suggested it was locked, and then burst open. The metal door yielded to reveal two men standing there, stoic and calm, and yet with an undertone of nerves. Harry watched the two of them blankly, and they stared back. Harry broke the silence.

     "If you don't mind me asking, how am I here? And why? And where? And why aren't I at home?" Home, echoed hollowly in his head, and Harry realized partially what had to have happened.

     "Can you recall your day yesterday, Mr. Potter?" Asked the one on the left. Harry shuddered slightly.

     "Certainly. Well, it started when the Order told my relatives that my godfather was dead. He was really the only thing that kept my uncle from hitting me because he felt like it. So I get home, he takes my stuff and beats me up really badly 'to make up for two years of lack', and he throws me back into the cupboard under the stairs. He probably locked all the locks, but I didn't get to try it because I passed out. Then I woke up here." The questioner nodded.

     "And what about your relatives?"

     "What about them?" Harry asked, his brow furrowing in confusion.

     "They were found dead, slain by the killing curse with your wand." Harry's eyes widened in shock.

     "What? They're dead? How did that happen? I mean, I didn't like them all that much, but they kept me safe! They were my aunt and uncle! And cousin." They eyed him strangely.

     "They were muggles. How could they keep you safe?" The shorter of the two grilled him. "And if whoever thought to break in and kill your relatives was a wizard, and used your wand that was kept in your trunk, why wouldn't they kill you as well? And if it was death eaters, then why wasn't there a Dark Mark?" Harry shrugged.

     "I don't know. I'm not a Death Eater. I don't know how their twisted minds work. Perhaps it didn't cross their minds to look in the cupboard. It's not exactly where I usually sleep, and it's a rather unorthodox method of punishment. And last time I met them, they weren't allowed to touch me, orders of the overlord himself. As for protection, they fueled blood wards." The taller one slowly nodded.

     "Thank you, Mr. Potter. We will be relaying this information on, and depending on the response, you will either be released, or stronger measures may possibly be deployed." Harry shallowly nodded, and watched through his fringes as they left. The shorter man paused, glancing once outside the door, then to him.

     "Personally, it’s a bit of a letdown that you didn't kill the wastes of planetary space," he stated. "But anyway, I’ll see what I can do to move you out of danger." The man turned to leave again.

     "Wait!" The man paused. "Er, what’s your name?" He looked over his shoulder at him, and smiled sharkishly.

     "Quillan. Elijah Quillan." Then the door shut with a quiet snap, leaving Harry to his thoughts. What was going to happen to him? Sure it was proven that Voldemort was back now, but aside from his wand, what proof did they have that he was the caster? Then with a stab to the heart, he remembered Sirius. They didn't need proof, nor were they likely to look at the fine print. Maybe Dumbledore would help him! A surge of hope flared in him, but he quickly doused it, not wanting to be crushed. And the last time he was on trial, Dumbledore had been nearly no help at all. But then, there was no guarantee that he would be on trial anyway. Surely his testimony had to account for something! And if he was put on trial anyway, he was positive that the truth would come out, one way or another. Appeased by this, he settled down for them to return. He didn't have to wait long (only about an hour by his internal clock), but it felt like forever, and his back and his backside were sore from having to sit there. The lock clicked, and Harry quickly sat up, wincing slightly at the crick in his back. Quillan and the other man filed in, and they looked quite put out.

     "Is something wrong?" Harry asked concernedly. Quillan growled in response.

     "The bloody minister and her toady assistant, that's what’s wrong!" Quillan spat, crossing his arms. Harry felt his heart begin to sink. When the two of them paired up, nothing good could come out of it.

     "What he was trying to say," The tall man overtook the explanation, "is that despite his waning power and influence, Fudge managed to push for a full criminal trial. How many strings he had to pull to do so, must have been astronomical in count." Harry nodded, looking down.

     "Unfortunately Mr. Potter," Quillan spoke, "you will have to be moved to the holding cells until the trial, which should be in two days at the earliest, and two weeks at the latest. Captain, I believe you know the actual cell number." The man nodded, seeming to become colorless, and stepped over to him. With a tap of his wand, the handcuffs detached from the table, instead forming a long lead which landed in his hands. The three began walking down the corridor, Aurors giving him strange looks and prisoners giving him catcalls. One particularly unstable-looking one was rattling the bars of his cell until they walked by.

     "If it isn't Harry Potter," the decrepit man leered, then devolved into mad laughter. Harry quickly looked away. He heard a muttered spell from the captain, and there was a soft thud as the laughter let up abruptly, but leaving a ringing echo in the hall that made his hair stand on end.

     "This one's yours," the captain said in a clipped tone a few cells further down, and opened the door. Harry stepped inside quickly, and the man closed it with a sharp clang that reverberated down the hall, causing momentary silence before the howling and moans began again. "Hands?" Harry was confused, until Quillan subtly gestured to the gap in the door.

     "Oh!" He stuck his hands through them, and the cuffs were swiftly removed. Harry rubbed his wrists, and watched as they left. He looked at his surroundings, tried out the toilet, and tested the bed. He almost felt like laughing. These conditions were better than how he usually spent his summers!

     "Hey, you!" The man in the cell across from him hissed. "Psst!" Harry slowly approached the bars again, and noted the somewhat filthy form crumpled on the floor near the edge of his own cell.

     "What?" He called quietly across.

     "What you do to get chucked in here, Potter? I myself killed a few Mudbloods, and I’m hearing whispers that you offed your muggle family! Is it true?" Harry felt sickened.

     "No, I did not kill them!" He hissed. The man visibly slumped.

     "Oh. Darn."

     "Don’t mind him," a new voice sounded, and Harry looked the cell next to the man’s. A middle-aged woman was in that cell. "He’s from a bad bushel of apples. On the other hand, I’m only here 'cause I nicked something. Hard times, ya know?" Harry shrugged, and went to lay on his bed. His stomach was protesting with hunger, having not eaten for about a day, but he'd normally be without food right now anyway. So he shut his eyes, hoping he’d not have bad dreams. "Oh, and by the way, try to wake before forty-five minutes from now passes!" Harry slowly sat up again.


     "’Cause that's when the dementors pass by. They patrol every hour, on the hour." Harry shuddered. Well, at least he could ensure that time would pass with all haste for the trial. After all, what faster way to pass time than unconscious?

Chapter Text

     He was once again walking along a dark, windowless corridor, the cool air playing on his skin. The door that had been taunting him for a long time was there, just in front of him. If only he could get through it! He reached out to touch it, and suddenly it opened for him, and cold air and a sense of unease and dread wafted out. Yet, he found himself stepping inside, all the while the air growing colder and colder. There was nothing inside but dense white fog, and somewhere in the distance, a woman screaming, before abruptly dying out. Then the fog changed and began to draw into one point, shifting into the single solid form of a horribly familiar man. Harry cowered back as Uncle Vernon towered over him, cracking his knuckles. "You deserve everything that's going to come your way, Freak! Divine intervention will have its way for you murdering me!" Then he lunged at him, and Harry woke with a start, feeling the last vestiges of the dementors’ tendrils of horror fade away. He felt weak, shaky.

     "Yah alright?" Queried the lady across the way. "You were asleep, then ya started to twitch as if you were having a fit as they passed by."

     "I-I’m alright," Harry answered quietly. "That's what usually happens to me around dementors." There was a rattling sound, followed by cheers and footsteps Harry craned his neck to see what it was, and relief flooded him. Food! It seemed to only be three pieces of bread doled out to each person, but even that would be good enough for him at this point. But when the guard drew level with his room, she merely sneered at him.

     "Potter, eh? Offed your relatives, I heard. Probably did it 'cause they wouldn't do what you wanted. Withhold food, I should. Would serve a spoiled self-centered brat like you right." Harry watched with a carefully blank expression as the woman spat on the floor before him, upturned her nose, and continued on her way. He wondered what her problem was; he was quite positive that mistreatment of prisoners was illegal, and she seemed to be the type that didn't want to get on the wrong side of the law. Or at least, someone who wouldn't want to get caught doing it. Ten or so minutes later, the woman came back up the hall, but completely ignored him. The door clanged shut, and the sound echoed all the way down.

     "Here," the woman in the cell said quietly, and a moment later two slices of bread landed on the floor of his cell, thankfully missing the pile of spittle.

     "I-I couldn't-" Harry stammered, staring with widened eyes at her.

     "Oh, posh," she interrupted. "We both know you must be very hungry. And that guard seems adamant on not feeding you at all. besides, I ate just five hours ago."

     "Are you sure?" Harry asked once more, just to make sure she was certain.

     "Yes , darling. Eat up."

     "Thank you, Mrs." Harry said gratefully, and began eating, pulling off small chunks rather than tearing into it. It was more filling that way.

     "Claire." Harry looked up, confused.

     "Pardon?" The woman shrugged.

     "That’s m’name. Claire Montrez, at your service. Try pushing away whatever memories come to mind when the dementors float by." And when the dementors next came, he attempted to try and push the memories away with a surprising amount of success, belatedly realizing that he had succeeded in two hours what he’d failed to grasp in six months.

      Harry and Claire didn’t talk much, but the little they did made it evident that she was a delightful soul, and reminded him with a pang of Mrs. Weasley. The first three days went along that schedule; sleep, wake every hour when the dementors come around, possibly fall back asleep, and when it was time for food, Claire would toss food over and they would share a few words. It soon became apparent that he would have some resistance to the dementors when awake, but if he was asleep or they were particularly hungry, he’d pass out all the same.

     Claire lived on an apple orchard, was in her late forties, and had two sons and a granddaughter. They were poor though, and she’d been thieving another family’s spades when she was caught. However, all good things had to come to an end at some point, and the third day in, there was a rattling, followed by footsteps and the appearance of two guards.

     "Mrs. Montrez, it is time to come along, to prepare for your trial." Claire stood, and smiled over at him.

     "Bye Harry!" She called softly, waggling her fingers. Harry stiffly nodded in return.

      Harry’s kind neighbor was soon replaced by another witch. Her name? Madam Schubert, a title that sounded as demented as she was; she seemed to be completely out of her mind, but to give her points, she wasn't a fan of the food giver either. Or at least, he didn't think so. She hissed a lot, but it seemed to increase in spirit and venom when she walked by.

     And speaking of the guard, he still wasn't getting any food from her, and she seemed more and more perversely pleased each time she denied him a meal. "All you have to do is beg, little brat," the woman cooed the day after Claire left, reminding him for an instant sickeningly of Bellatrix Lestrange. Harry however turned away, and the lady snorted. "Fine. Be that way, you fool." Harry rolled his eyes. He'd been in worse situations. "Just like his mother." The woman then muttered. "Had he gone out with me instead of that filthy redheaded bitch, he wouldn't have fathered such an ungrateful monster, and he'd still be alive."

     "Don't insult my mother!" Harry hissed, finally turning back to her. The guard merely smirked, it looking quite unpleasant on her already easily unattractive face.

     "And what can you do to stop me? Oh, that's right, nothing . Your mother was a filthy mudblood upstart, one that should have been put down from the get go. She should not by any means have been permitted to rise above her place ad marry the heir to an Ancient and Noble House of all things! And for all the good it did for the pair, whelping an ungrateful greedy bastard like you who went and got both of them killed, and then finished the job with the rest of his family fourteen years later!" Harry lunged towards her, clenching the bars in a death grip.

     "He wouldn’t have looked twice at you," he hissed, and she merely winked and sashayed away in a manner that looked utterly repulsive. Harry glared at her receding back and dearly wished the lady would get what was coming to her. The idea of her having his father’s child as opposed to his mother rather grossed him out. And really, did she have to be such a female version of Snape, overwhelming hatred and all? And then the woman yelped, her hand jumping to his stomach, and groaned in apparent pain. Harry blinked as she stumbled away, then decided it was merely a coincidence.

     The next meal, there was a new guard feeding them. Harry watched the man through the fringes of his hair and was cautiously pleased when the man stopped before his cell. Was he going to get food now, or was this guard even worse? However, he didn't look up until he cleared his throat.

     "Mr. Potter?" Harry watched him carefully, his eyes boring into the guard’s, and the man shifted uncomfortably. "Ahem. Well, I'm here on the behalf of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, security division. We apologize for the near-starvation you suffered, and the guard responsible is suspended."

     "How did you find out?" Harry was curious.

     "The waste collector was confused about the constant extra bread. He reported the surplus waste to us, and we followed up on it."

      Harry came back to consciousness staring at the ceiling, once again to the laughter of the demented witch across the way. He shuddered. Her kettle was cracked, he figured. She giggled madly half the time, and the cackles only increased when the dementors drew close.

     "Harry…" She suddenly crooned, and Harry jolted upright, rubbing the back of his head as he realized it was pounding from the impact. "Harry…Harry Potter?" Good Merlin, she could talk!

     "Yes?" He questioned, a little shorter than he’d meant to be. But there was obviously no offense taken, as she drifted back into one of her giggling fits. Harry stood up, but too quickly apparently; he staggered, all the blood rushing to his head. He shook it, and after a moment or so stopped feeling dizzy. Meanwhile, the woman's giggling had subsided.

      "I heard you were thrown in here. I thought I should come down to pay a visit? There are many things you do not know, many things I could tell you about."

     "Like what?" Harry’s curiosity was piqued. Even if what she had said was completely logical as she was likely to know something due to being older than him, he couldn't see her knowing anything of interest to him. Unless it had something to do with how she hissed like that. That was actually pretty cool, if not a little off-putting.

     "There is no good or evil child," she cackled. "Or better yet, there is no good and evil in regards to Light and Dark magic. There is only magic, and the wielder's intentions." Harry was immediately quite inclined to ignore her and shove that tidbit of knowledge away as soon as she spoke the first line—but... he had never been good at lying to himself. It made perfect sense. Sometimes he had wondered about why the killing curse was illegal, when other curses that guaranteed death but in a more painful fashion weren't. And it had nothing to do with it being unblockable, because it was! One just had to make a solid barrier! He zoned back into reality and shivered as a dementor passed by, immediately shoving the bad thoughts to the back of his brain. Schubert cackled, practically howling, and then with a pop , she exploded into dark wisps, the last of her raucous laughter echoing slowly, almost inhumanely into obscurity. Harry growled and shook his head. And when the guard asked four hours later if he saw how the witch escaped, he stared at him blankly.

     "No. No, I did not." Something told him that they wouldn't believe him if he told the truth.

      Some indeterminate amount of time later, Harry looked up as the door to his cell rattled, and then opened.

     "Mr. potter, it’s time to get ready. Your trial is in two hours." Harry nodded, a sudden knot forming in his gut as the cuffs clicked around his wrists and he was led out presumably to the showers.

Chapter Text

     Harry was led to a shower room as he’d expected, and given a clean grey set of robes. Well, at least that was something, although he really didn’t favor using this shower; there was an Auror in the room, and he’d heard of bad things happening to people in public showers.

     "Er…" Harry said, and the Auror started, before quickly turning to look at the wall, his face reddening. Relieved, Harry quickly stripped and placed his clothes and towel where he could dry off and dress before exiting the stall. He had no wish to take his chances, no matter how much he wanted to be clean. The shower head did not have a lot of pressure, but for him, it was like heaven after the stint in the cell with its ways of numbing reality. The water was deliciously hot, drizzling down onto his back and head, the water sluicing into his hair. It allowed for some of the knots of tension to be released. Surely by now there were a few people to back him up. Hermione and Ron for certain, maybe the other Weasleys. Dumbledore would surely help.

     And really, what were Aurors made of these days? The amount of queasiness the guard had shown made him question whether he really wanted to join the ranks of such people after all. Soon, he was completely done. Years of conditioning from the Dursleys had allowed him to be in and out in five minutes, although the fact that he felt quite uncomfortable and vulnerable standing there with no clothes on facing the wall likely also lent a hand. He speedily dried off and dressed in the admittedly slightly itchy robes, although it was nice to be wearing something clean for the first time in several days. Was this how Sirius had felt after his first good shower? Sirius … He realized with a pang that he hadn’t so much as thought about him since he’d been brought into custody. He stepped out of the shower, and the Auror coughed awkwardly.

     "Alright, come along." The Auror replaced the cuffs, and then he opened a panel in the side wall. The corridor was very narrow and dusty, and Harry got the feeling that it was meant only or prisoners. It would make sense, after all. Too soon for his taste, they had arrived at the black wooden door of Courtroom Ten. The Auror checked his watch. "Almost time." They waited in silence, so full of tension it could nearly be cut with a knife. The nerves were back in full force now. Harry felt like he could be sick.

     "Hey, kid." Harry looked up at the man. He wished he was a little taller. It seemed everyone was taller than he was.

     "Yes?" His words were very carefully respectful.

     "Good luck. I hope you get off, I think you’re innocent, although I doubt those incompetents will see that. Here." The man quickly slipped something around his neck, and Harry hurriedly tucked it into his robes.


     "An amulet made from a dried apple slice and framed with a mulberry twig to increase one's ability to detect oncoming dementors. Gift from my wifr. Unfortunately, nothing but a Patronus will keep their influence away." And without any further ado, the man heaved the doors open and Harry stepped inside, the light of the room overtaking his senses for a moment. He blinked rapidly, and as his eyes adjusted to the dazzling level of light, was quickly met with a scene that made him feel very queasy. Everyone sat in complete silence above him, scrutinizing him.

     "Well? Take your seat, Mr. Potter." Fudge stated loudly from the center, gesturing to the chained seat. Nervously, Harry did so. The chains as before rattled menacingly, but did not jump to life to bind him. He got the feeling that Fudge was rather put out by this. He looked around at the crowd and felt a little better when he saw all the Weasleys, along with Hermione, sitting in a segregated box. As he watched, Ron gave a little wave, but Hermione merely scrutinized him.

     "We are gathered here on this Friday, the Fifth of July of 1996, for the criminal trial of Harry James Potter for crimes falling under the Unforgivables ban. Interrogators: Cornelius Oswald Fudge, Minister of Magic; Pious Thicknesse, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Dolores Jane Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister; Percy Ignatius Weasley, Court Scribe. Witnesses: Ronald Bilius Weasley, Hermione Jean Granger, Frederick Fabian Weasley, and George Gideon Weasley." No Dumbledore? Harry glanced about, and eventually his eyes fell upon him. The man looked back with piercing blue eyes, his face very grave. Harry quickly looked away, deciding he wouldn’t look back at him unless he absolutely had to. He couldn't bear the judging look in his eyes, trying to decipher his innocence. "The charges stand as follows: the use of at least three Cruciatus Curses on and murder by way of the Unforgivable Killing Curse of Petunia Evans Dursley, Dudley Henry Dursley, and Vernon Charles Dursley. Are you Harry James Potter, formerly of number four, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey?"

     "Yes," Harry responded.

     "And how do you plead?"

     "Not guilty." Harry stated firmly. There were several hisses.

     "Very well then. I call DMLE Captain Stafford to the stand, to show and tell of the evidence." The taller man who had questioned him came forward. "Do you swear to tell the truth?"

     "On my honor." There was a bright flash around the stand as its spells bound him to his word.

     "At the beginning of the investigation, the house was a mess. Shattered glass and broken furniture everywhere. However, the one thing that stood out the most was the fact that Mr. Potter’s trunk lay open on its side, things spilling out and his wand sitting on top, darkened with blood which when further investigated was revealed to be Mr. Potter's own." Captain Stafford reached into his pocket and withdrew a small trunk, which he then unshrank and let sit on a place in front of them all. "There were traces of four Cruciatus Curses and three Killing Curses on his wand, yet only traces of three of each on the three victims. Which leads to the idea that either the other Cruciatus was practiced before or was a misfire. Blood from Mr. Potter was also found in trace amounts on Mr. Dursley. Soon after, Mr. Potter was then found bloody and beaten in the cupboard under the stairs." Captain Stafford paused. "When I first met Mr. Potter after he woke up, he seemed very confused. He did not know what was going on, and he did not seem to know that his relatives were dead. He claimed for their deaths to have been by Death Eaters despite having already stated that he had been unconscious at the time of their deaths, and for there to have been blood wards. However, upon further examination of the house in question, no wards of such were found to exist."

     "Thank you Captain Stafford, you may be seated. Will Miss Hermione Granger come to the stand next?" Minister Fudge queried, and Hermione shakily stepped up. “Now Miss Granger, do you swear to tell the truth?”

     "Yes." There was a brief flash.

     "Tell us, how do you perceive Mr. Potter?"

     "I have been friends with Harry ever since First Year. He saved me from a mountain troll when he had no need to, seeking me out to tell me about it when he had no idea where it was at the time and then saving me from it when it was stuck in there with me."

     "Ah Miss Granger, but who locked it in there with you in the first place?" Hermione stiffened.

     "Harry did. But he had no idea that was the girls’ loo or that anyone was in there!" She hurriedly added, but there was no quelling the newfound murmurs that were already spreading like wildfire across the courtroom.

     "Miss Granger, is it also true that Mr. Potter convinced you to leave Mr. Weasley behind while under the school, who was grievously injured, to continue after the hunter of the Philosopher's Stone, a man you suspected to be either a powerful man or you-know-who himself?"

     "Yes," Hermione said hesitantly. "But we were trying to stop him from coming back to power, and Ron said to go on without him! Harry and I didn't want him to sacrifice himself!"

     "But regardless, you left him behind in a pile of stone rubble, did you not?" The man who must have been Pious Thicknesse queried. Hermione bowed her head.

     "We have heard enough about his exploits now, Miss Granger. Tell us, how has his emotional state been in the last few months?” Madam Umbridge simpered. Hermione sighed.

     "He was rather angry a lot of the time, but who wouldn’t be; attacked by Lord Voldemort and claimed to be a liar, persecuted by the Daily Prophet, glared at all year by his classmates, and given unfair detentions!" Hermione stated strongly, and Harry felt a small flicker of hope in his chest, despite the previous statements.

     "And what about the last few weeks?" Hermione sighed again.

     "He’s been rather depressed; he did after all just lose the closest thing to a parent he had."

     "And how could a man who Mr. Potter had only known for the better part of two years be the closest thing to a parent that he had when he had an Aunt and Uncle?" Fudge questioned. Hermione froze. "I think we have heard enough. Thank you, Miss Granger." Fudge said triumphantly, and Harry felt the brief flame become smothered. Harry really didn’t like the new way Hermione was staring at him, almost as if she was beginning to believe it herself. "Calling Ronald Weasley to the stand." Ron stood, and confidently took his place before the stand. “Do you swear to tell the truth?”

     "I do," Ron stated, and there was another brief flash of light.

     "What was the relationship between Mr. Potter and his relatives?"

     "Well…" Ron drew out, "there wasn’t any love lost between them, to say the least." Ron bit his lip. "They more or less hated each other!" He suddenly burst out. "Harry spent the first ten years with them with his bedroom as the cupboard under the stairs. He was only moved up when he got his Hogwarts letter, and they installed bars and were intent on starving him before Second Year. Before his Third Year, he wouldn’t even have been able to do his summer work if Fred and George hadn’t taught him to pick locks."

     "Thank you Mr. Weasley; that would be enough."

     "But-" Ron started, but BANG , Fudge slammed his gavel on the wood in front of him with enough force to cause half the courtroom to jump.

     "I said enough! Return to your seat!" He bellowed. Ron shot Harry an apologetic glance, and Harry quickly looked away. He would need to start remedying things, and fast. The only question was, how?

     "Will Cross-Examiner Blakely please come forward?" The man shuffled up to the stand. He was odd, constantly squinting as if there was something that only he could see, but not very well. "Do you swear to tell the truth?"

     "Aye." The flash of light was brief.

     "Tell us what your conclusion of events was, after hearing everything."

     "Our running theory is that Mr. Potter was indeed the one to kill his relatives. He used one Cruciatus elsewhere for practice to see if he was capable of using it. Then as soon as he entered the house, he opened his trunk and grabbed his wand. The Dursleys made a fuss, but he quickly put them all under the Cruciatus and made quick work of Petunia and Dudley Dursley. But Vernon Dursley managed to put up a better fight and succeeded in getting a few good licks in before he was cut down as well, which would be where Mr. Potter’s injuries came from, as well as the blood on him and Mr. Potter's wand. And then he locked himself in the cupboard under the stairs and passed out. Of course, the other running theory is that Death Eaters somehow managed to find Mr. Potter’s residence despite the nonexistent blood wards, took his wand, and cast the spells. Then they wiped his blood onto his wand and left him behind, completely safe and sound." There were several scoffs to the latter story, which by all honesty was more or less the truth. But Harry could hear how ridiculous the truth sounded, even to his own ears. What could Voldemort gain from him being framed for his relatives' murder rather than killing him outright, which was widely known as one of his biggest objectives?

     "And what does the accused have to say in his defense?" Fudge asked imperiously.

     "I call the one who took a good look at the locks on the cupboard I was found in to the stand." Harry stated with as much confidence as he could muster into his voice, which was a surprising amount. He could see the surprise on several judges' faces, by any means. A woman with brown wavy cropped hair slowly rose, and stood before the stand.

     "Do you swear to tell the truth, Miss Buchanan?" Fudge questioned.


     "Miss Buchanan, how many locks were on the cupboard door?" Harry questioned.

     "Sixteen, Mr. Potter."

     "And how many went all the way through to the other side of the door where they could be accessed by someone on the inside?"


     "What types of locks were there?"

     "One regular door lock, two additional regular door locks, eight padlocks, two chains, and three sliding bolts." She answered immediately.

     "Thank you. I now call Misters Fred and George Weasley to the stand." Fred and George rose, and stood before the stand.

     "Do you swear to tell the truth?" Fudge asked wearily.

     "Yes!" They chorused together.

     "Fred, even with the ability to pick locks, can one relock them once inside?"

     "No." The twin on the left stated promptly.

     "And George, can any of these locks aside from the three regular door locks be unlocked or locked, or in any way accessed from the inside?"

     "No." The twin on the right responded straight away.

     "Thank you, Misters Weasley." He nodded to them, and they resumed their seats. Harry returned his gaze to the audience. "There is now a critical flaw in your original theory. It would be quite impossible for someone to lock themselves inside that cupboard, which would mean that someone would have to have put me there. Namely, my Uncle who had trace amounts of my blood on him. And if he put me in there and locked me up, then I wouldn’t have been able to kill him." There were several doubtful looks now.

     "Perhaps an accomplice," a stout man in the back queried, and Fudge fell upon that like a ravening wolf.

     "Yes, how about it? You must have had a muggle friend lock you inside the cupboard shortly after you did the deed! And your blood had to get on him and your wand somehow!" Harry snorted.

     "I don’t have any muggle friends. Dudley chased off anyone remotely interested years ago. Not to mention that my Aunt and Uncle had decided to explain my absences at Hogwarts to be attending St. Brutus's Secure Center for Incurably Criminal Boys, so no one would come within ten feet of me. And even if by some miracle I did have a friend outside of Hogwarts, there wouldn't have been enough time to have met up with him or her anyway. As for the blood-" he was interrupted by Umbridge tsking.

     "I think we have heard enough, haven't we? This is hardly the first time you’ve spun such elaborate tales to get out of trouble." Umbridge stated in a sickeningly sweet tone. There was a widespread murmuring.

     "I now call this court into recess. In half an hour, we shall vote on the verdict, so do not leave." Fudge announced, and people began getting up, stretching and moving around in general. Harry didn't move. He didn't want to move. And he doubted he was supposed to anyway. He only looked up at the surrounding people once, and he didn't look back again afterward. Hermione and Ron seemed to have almost accusing looks in their eyes, and it didn't spell good things for him. If even his best friends were convinced, then how were complete strangers supposed to believe him? He could hear bits and pieces of their conversation from here, no matter how hard he tried to block it out.

     "...had a saving-people-thing...sacrificing-people-thing too!"

     "...never realized..."

     Finally, Fudge banged his gavel thrice upon the desk in front of him again. "I call this court to order!" People began filing back to their seats, and within a minute they were all settled again. "I remind you that the charges stand as follow: the usage of six Unforgivables upon human beings; three Cruciatus and three Killing Curses. Those who believe he is guilty, raise your hand in confirmation," Fudge stated. Harry looked around. One, two, three, his heart sank, despite having suspected it. More and more hands were rising, far more than half. "And those interested in clearing the accused of the charges?" About half a dozen raised their hands, but it was this vote that hurt him worse; Dumbledore was one of the ones who hadn't voted to clear his name. But at least he hadn't voted guilty either. Ron and Hermione were staring at him in a mix of sadness and horror; didn’t they know that the Ministry had gotten stuff wrong before? Just because he was convicted and their story was more convenient did not mean he was guilty! Didn't they realize that by now from previous incidents, like the Time Turner escapade, and all of last year? Fudge cleared his throat. "Very well. Harry James Potter has been deemed guilty of three counts of torture via the Cruciatus Curse and the usage of the Killing Curse to commit three counts of parricide, and is charged with six life imprisonments in Azkaban!" Harry froze up, as he felt the two dementors coming, and their auras growing stronger and stronger. Not a soul spoke. Exactly seven seconds later, the dementors swept in through the door he had come through earlier. He began to panic, and unbeknownst to him, his magic began to swell in the room, causing people in the stands to shift uncomfortably and the dementors to hiss. And then to Harry’s utter shock, the two dementors turned into pillars of black sand, a mere two feet away from him. The entire room was deathly still for a moment before someone shouted.

     "Don't just stand there! Get him! Before he escapes!" Harry saw the whole of the Wizengamot raise their wands in unison, then felt rather than saw every spell coming for him. He immediately jumped up, and ducked and twisted here and there instinctively to accommodate for the newfound sixth sense, trying to swallow his panic long enough to figure out what the bloody hell was going on. To say that everyone was shocked to see him still standing there when the barrage stopped, untouched, was an understatement. Furthermore, it seemed to cause his panic to spread to the judges.

     "Keep going, and don't stop until he is hit!" Another man cried hysterically. And this time, Harry did panic as he saw the second barrage of magic coming his way, and he shut his eyes, and as he had wished only once before, he wished he was somewhere, anywhere else.

Chapter Text

     Harry panicked as he saw the second barrage of magic coming his way, and he shut his eyes, and as he had wished only one before, he wished he was somewhere, anywhere else.

     And then his eyes flew open, as he felt a strange floating sensation. The room and faded away, to be replaced by velvety shadows of varying depth. Something seemed to be telling him to choose a place to go, and for some reason, he chose Grimmauld Place. As soon as he chose, he felt a warmth flowing through him, originating somewhere in his chest, and he watched as the shadows were stripped away layer by layer, to be replaced by Grimmauld Place. And somehow, his trunk had followed him and was sitting by his feet, all things still inside.

     Immediately, Harry grabbed for his amulet. He was pants at divination, but the parts he was able to learn from a book he’d excelled at, and that included analyzing the powers of an amulet. Apple slice, the central star signifying protection if used with the right charms, which he quickly sussed out by the shade of the fruit were not activated. Mulberry for a frame, the wood of clairvoyance. An additional rune for understanding. Nothing to explain the transportation of the degree that he'd just experienced. It was no mystery who the wife was. He wondered if she happened to own an amulet shop.

     There was a small pop, and suddenly none other than Kreacher was there, practically kissing the ground. He felt a momentary disgust that nearly left him reeling, but he promptly shoved it away. The use of a live house elf far outweighed the uses of a dead one, no matter which house-elf it was. Plus, he wouldn't have to get rid of the body this way. So he started with the most pressing question.

     "Kreacher, why are you bowing to me?"

     "Sirius Black's will, Master Potter, has dictated you the recipient of everything . Mistress says that with a little knowledge, you have the potential to be the heir she always wanted, rather than one who spent his time and squandered the family fortune on tricks, wars, and pranks." Harry nodded, and quickly swallowed the grief and frustration welling up inside him.

     "If I am the heir to the Black family, and likely now next in line to be Lord Black. Would you and mistress Walburga teach me the ways?" He found he was slightly curious, and if this meant the good-will of the portrait…well, almost anything was better than her screeching.

     Five minutes later, Harry was seated in front of a strangely ecstatic Walburga Black. She actually didn't seem half bad when she wasn't screaming, and was actually rather pretty when not trying to scare people away.

     "Harry Potter, it is nice to meet you properly, I suppose," she stated, and Harry blinked and opened his mouth. "No. Do not speak, Mr. Potter. You do not know the proper way to address one of my rank yet." Harry stilled, then somewhat confused, nodded once. Just how backward was the wizarding world? Walburga smiled sweetly down at him.

     "Well, Kreacher has informed me of what is happening, and several things are going to have to take place quickly if you are going to still be here three hours from now, for this is likely to be among the first places they look." She stated, then a little faster, she continued. "First thing you need to do is change your looks. As you are apparently a fugitive from the law for a crime you didn't commit, much like my son was, you will need to come up with a new identity. You may want to see if you have the metamorphmagus ability; your grandmother was a Black, after all, and it would be the easiest and best disguise available. Are you with me so far?" Harry mutely nodded. "Good. After you change your looks, you need to go to Gringotts and claim the Lordship rings. If multiple other Lordships are open to you from the Potter line, pick the oldest one. If at all possible, pick Peverell. It is an old Potter line and would hold quite a lot of power. When you meet the goblins, use the traditional greeting, and show respect and forethought. They dislike rash disrespectful people and will do nearly anything for those few who show it. 'May your weapons stay sharp', is your proper greeting. 'May your enemies tremble at your feet', is the proper leaving gesture. Are you still with me?" Really, Harry was a little befuddled, but he did not want to let that show. Not when someone (even if it was Walburga the screamer) was actually helping him. "Third, you will need to change the Fidelius charms. Hopefully, any intruders will be blocked off by them, but the odds are that they will appear before that task is complete. Once this step is enacted, I will begin your lessons on being a Lord." Harry nodded and stood up.

     "How do I address you?"

     "Lady Walburga, or Cousin Walburga. Be sure to bow at the waist, and had I a body, you would take my proffered hand and kiss it."

     Harry stood in front of a mirror and wondered how he was supposed to find out if he was a metamorphmagus. Perhaps focusing on becoming someone else? He focused on Fred’s features. It didn't work. Meh, baby steps. He thought about being able to change his individual features next, in particular, the scar on his forehead. And to his utmost shock, he felt a spark of warmth in his chest, right where it had been when he was traveling from the ministry. And with a shock, he realized that it had to be his magical core; he'd heard owl administrators speaking about it near him, and upon asking Hermione, she'd spent three days inhaling books in the library about it. Hermione…the mere name sent a wave of bitterness coursing through his being, and he quickly shoved her out of his mind to concentrate on the task at hand. Harry felt for his, and after a few minutes of his consciousness barely missing the mark or sliding around it, he managed to grab on to it, for lack of a better term. The feeling was...intense. There was no way to truly describe it. It was euphoric, and warm, and comforting. He once again imagined changing his features, and was pleasantly surprised when his scar immediately faded, seemingly sinking into his skin, until it was no longer there. He focused again, and gradually made his hair grow two shades darker, and straighter as well as longer. He decided he would keep his eyes green, but he didn't know where to go from there. He wondered what a Peverell used to look like at sixteen, and was stupefied when the transformation worked by itself, making him a foot taller, and his facial structure change greatly. As a final touch, he got rid of every scar he'd ever obtained, which was actually quite a great deal. And then he let go of his magic, and was quite pleased to find them not move the moment he stopped concentrating on them. He shivered, then. All that warmth and comfort had bled away, leaving him feeling cold and lonely. Not a nice feeling, but he hoped that it would leave him soon. He changed his robes to ones he had found in a wardrobe, but only after chanting Scourgify over and over again in his head. Personally, he had no clue if it would work, but it was nice that it had, after he'd connected to his core again. And this time, the moment he let go and felt those feelings of emptiness begin to overwhelm him, he took a firm grasp of his core again and refused to let go. It made him feel much better, and much more buoyant. He stepped back to the main hall, and once again approached the portrait, and bowed as she had mentioned. When he straightened, she nodded approvingly.

     "Cousin Walburga, is this image satisfactory?" Wow. Something about pretending to be a Lord made his vocabulary grow. Lady Walburga gave him the critical eye, sweeping her gaze up and down his form.

     "Quite satisfactory for a Peverell, but not quite Black enough." She pursed her lips, and then suddenly smirked, an bright light shining in her eyes. "I choose this boy in front of me, the grandson of my second cousin, to be the heir of the Black House." Harry felt a spark strike his magic, and Walburga smiled. "Your looks have changed in your original form as well as the form you are wearing. You look like a true Peverell-Black, now. When you return, if that is how you want to look, I will teach you a way to make that your default transformation. And ways to just think about that form, and be there in a blink rather than having to change every detail every time." Harry nodded, then felt for his core, and imagined that shadowy traveling place. He heard Walburga gasp, but he paid no mind this time around.

Chapter Text

     Harry nodded, then felt for his core, and imagined that shadowy traveling place. He heard Walburga gasp, but he paid no mind this time around.

     He imagined Gringotts, and within moments was there. He noticed several people stare at him as he walked past them, and ignored it. He was used to the stares. He stepped up to the goblin at the very end, and spoke.

     "May your weapons stay sharp." All up and down the hall, goblins froze to stare at him as well. The goblin grinned at him.

     "Indeed. Well met, Mr..." Harry nodded.

     "That is what I would like to find out." The goblin nodded, and snapped his fingers. Another goblin ran up to them. Griphook.

     "Take this young man to the Heirship room." Griphook nodded once, and started off.

     "This way." He followed him down several halls, and finally to a room with a desk, two chairs, a goblin, and a silver bowl. But before he could enter, Griphook grabbed his arm. "I recognize you by your scent, Mr. Potter. If you are going to avoid people to your best, it is wise you change your scent as well. But if all goes well today, then that should be taken care of." Harry nodded.

     "Thank you for your advice, Griphook. May your enemies tremble at your feet." Griphook's eyes widened minutely at the greeting, before he smirked. Apparently, this address really did do wonders for the goblins’ dispositions.

     "And may your vaults overflow with gold." Harry stepped inside, and stood for a moment, noting the goblin sneering at him from behind the desk.

     "Well? What are you waiting for; sit down like a good human." He growled, gesturing offhandedly to the seat across from him. Harry sat down swiftly, then they simply stared at each other. Harry coughed, then spoke.

     "May your weapons stay sharp." This seemed to get somewhere, as the Goblin’s eyes widened, before all traces of disdain melted from his face.

     "And may your wand smite down your foes. Good day, young wizard. My apologies, it is not often that someone gives us the respect we ought to get for taking care of your gold. How can I help you today?" Well, that was shockingly easy.

     "I need to take an inheritance test." He stated, and the Goblin’s eyes gleamed.

     "That’s easy enough to do. Come hither." Harry slid his chair closer to the goblin, and did his best not to flinch when the goblin suddenly leaned closer, his long nose barely three inches from his own.

     "Most people suffer from the misconception that blood magic is a Dark and unforgivable branch of magic. More fool them, because it means they’re that much poorer. Give me your hand." Harry hesitantly reached his hand out to the goblin.

     "What are you ouch!" He hissed as the goblin slashed a cut across his palm with a dagger that materialized from seemingly nowhere. The goblin chuckled.

     "Perhaps you should have asked that before you complied." The goblin dropped the dagger blade-first into a basin, and Harry watched in fascination as it melted as it touched the surface of the liquid it contained. He couldn’t help but relate it to his experiences with the pensive, only the liquid inside the bowl was like quicksilver with crimson swirls. Harry watched as it swirled at first sluggishly, but before his very eyes, it began to spin faster and faster, until it was purely a blur, a glowing bowl of light. And as suddenly as it started, it slowed down. The Goblin peered into the bowl, and with a noise of satisfaction, reached in with two spindly fingers, and plucked a piece of silvery parchment out of the liquid. It wasn’t even dripping.

     "You’re in luck, young wizard. You have the potential to claim the titles of Lord Peverell, Potter, and Black. As someone who respects the goblin race, I will give you some advice. Ignore the Potter Lordship, and take up the Peverell as your primary and the Black Lordship as your default. The Peverell Lordship will give you control over all the Potter vaults anyway, or at least until you as the last of the line take it up. And this way, the Potter vaults will not be seized by the Ministry in consequence of the trial today." Harry slowly nodded, pursing his lips.

     "This makes sense," he acquiesced. The goblin smirked.

     "Are you going to claim them now, or wait until another visit?" The goblin’s shrewd eyes fixed on him, and Harry swallowed.

     "I would like to do it now, if I can. At least, for the Peverell and Black Lordships."

     "Good, Mr. Potter. And with the right fees, I can set you up with alternate documents explaining where you popped up out of the woodwork at, if you want them.” Harry froze, but to be honest, he really should have seen this coming after the previous statements about the trials.

     "How do you know?" He questioned. The goblin gave a very sharklike grin that rivaled anything Harry’d ever seen on Voldemort’s features. Yes, goblins were not something he wanted to be on the bad side of.

     "News travels fast. But fear not; Gringotts cares naught for who one is, only for the gold they possess." The goblin pulled out two boxes from inside his desk, and upon opening them, Harry saw they were molds. The goblin glanced once at him, then poured what remained of the silvery mixture into them. There was a hiss, and black and silver sparks erupting from the first ring box. While it was solidifying, the goblin looked back up at him.

     "These rings possess an ancient magic, to melt away from wherever they last were, and to reform in these boxes when there is an authentic claim to them in regards to blood and magic. It will bring with it the enchantments that have been tied to it since the very founding of its particular House. Only goblin magic is capable of such a thing, Lord Peverell." When it was passed to him, still feeling slightly wet, Harry had an altogether new respect and awe for the ring. And upon closer observation, he realized what the color of the sparks had signified. This had the Black Crest on it. The next ring had sparks of similar color, only white instead of silver. Huh. He had the gothic Houses then? When the newest ring was passed to him, Harry spent more time examining it, having not seen it before. The symbol on it was odd. It looked something like a triangular eye, and vaguely familiar.

     "There are three relics tied to the Peverell line, Mr. Potter," the goblin stated. "There is a wand, a cloak, and a stone, all with powerful enchantments tied to them. By touching your ring with your hand, you can summon any of them to you. I am aware that you are already in possession of the cloak." Harry understood the hidden meaning, and he touched the coat of arms with his fingertip, thinking of how it looked, how it felt. There was a sudden bright light, and the cloak fell to the floor in front of him. But it was slightly different than how he usually saw it, which was as silvery. No, what he was seeing was what was usually on the inside for him, and he felt like beating his head with his hand. Had he been wearing the cloak inside out all these years? It was a shimmery golden cloth, and he decided to try it on. To his interest, it didn’t make him invisible. He supposed this was far more efficient than having to bundle it under his robes.

     "Moving on, let’s get started on your fake identity. To start, the Peverell line and Black line must be accounted for, and it would be best to be a pureblood of a genuine line." Orion had had a squib brother, and several people in the up and up knew of this ‘disgrace’. One day, he mysteriously vanished. In reality, he was killed, but only Walburga and Orion had known of this. But by the story he was kept hidden, and was married off to a pureblood squib who had conveniently gone missing as well. The child, Talitha Black, had no magic, but was given to a family of Peverells, and eventually married their squib son Menelaus, who had also just happened to have 'vanished' one day. The offspring, him, had magic. Next, the necessary records needed to be fabricated, like birth, death, marriage, and wills so everything checked out. Two hours later, Harry had more or less memorized all the information that he needed to know about his newest dead family. And then there was only one thing left to do in regards to the false record process.

     "Have you considered your new name? It will have to either be in keeping with the Black constellation tradition, or the Peverell Greek and Roman origin tradition. Choose wisely; all your records will be in this name." Harry pondered this for a minute. He didn’t want to end up with something ridiculous that he would regret later. He admittedly didn’t know all that much about the Greeks and Romans, but there was this one book he’d read in primary school about the Roman household gods.

     "Lares. Lares Peverell." Far better than Latrina, the only other Latin word he remembered aside from spells. The Goblin smirked.

     "A wise choice, young wizard. Once again, your blood will be necessary. Write your new name on this," He passed a piece of parchment and a blood quill over to him. Harry fought the shivers attempting to creep up his spine away, and wrote the new name on the parchment. The moment he brought the quill away the final time, the parchment burst into flames, and all the newly created records magically sealed themselves. The goblin once more scrutinized him.

     "I doubt we will see each other again. Griphook will be your manager; he was before, but things may as well start anew. He will be waiting for you in the atrium. And don’t worry, your distinctively Potter scent vanished the moment you changed your name, replaced by that of a Peverell. You have already been claimed as the Heir to the Blacks, so you smell just as you should. Now, off be with you!" Harry rose, and then his hand on the doorknob, he turned to look back at the goblin.

     "May your enemies tremble at your feet." The goblin once again gave his bloodthirsty grin.

     "And may yours be forever silenced." Harry stepped out, and returned in the direction of the atrium. Thankfully, it was straightforward; literally. It wasn’t long before he was back, and as he stepped towards the center of the floor, he noticed that Griphook had just come out of an adjoining door. Apparently, managers of accounts knew when their clients were in the atrium seeking them, and would then come to them. He nodded to him, as the rings hinted to him was good conduct.

     "May your weapons stay sharp," he stated, and Griphook gave him a maniacal grin.

     "And may your wand smite down your foes. Well, this way Lord Peverell!" He stated over-exuberantly. Lares speedily followed the quick-paced goblin to one of the other doors, and as soon as they passed through, he realized that they were going down to the vaults.

     "You must see what you have inherited. Standard procedure." Answered Griphook, before Lares could even voice the question. "I see you have dealt with your smell as well." Griphook’s gravelly tone echoed oddly in the open area. Lares took his seat in the cart, and Griphook seemed to do a strange sort of dance.

     "What, hoy! All the way down!" And then the cart shot off, far faster than Lares had experienced before. The next twenty minutes seemed to take place in a surreal daze, first the actual travel to the very lowest recesses of the bank, to seeing the actual fortunes in every vault. The Blacks had twelve vaults of various treasures, the Potters had eight, and the Peverells had eighteen. But the last one that was full of relics from times long past was the one that seemed to knock him out of his daze. In the very center of the room was a semicircle formed by three pedestals. The first had apparently kept his cloak. The one in the center had a long, thin box on it. The one on the right was empty. Lares approached the box, and carefully opened it. Inside was a very strange wand. He cautiously picked it up and was surprised when it immediately took to him, remembering his first experience at Ollivander’s. Perhaps he just needed to try out older wands? He may as well have this as his new wand; it was doubtful it had the Trace on it, due to its age, and besides, he would need a new one. His was too well known at this point. It did look familiar, though, but from where , he couldn’t place.

     "There was also once supposed to be a stone as well, but a member of the Gaunt family decided to turn it into a ring. If you will find something marked with this symbol," Griphook pointed to a strange mark engraved on the vault door, "then you will have found it." Lares nodded. There were several books that for once looked like good reading on the many bookshelves, and he decided he would take them with him. Apparently, for a small fee, he could obtain a bag that would hold everything he needed to stick inside of it. There were also Gringotts’ cards, which seemed to work much like a debit card did, only attached to the Family rather than an individual vault. So naturally, he took one of these, connecting it to the Black vaults.

     Lares was glad to be on the surface again. He was ready to return to Grimmauld place, and hopefully enact the next stage of the concealment plan before the Order got into the house. He would prefer not to have to deal with them yet. As he turned, preparing for the transit, he nearly ran into none other than Lucius Malfoy. Lucius started to sneer at him, then froze.

     "You have just gained your Lordship ring, have you not?" Lares felt the rings tell him what his proper response should be, and decided to trust them, despite his misgivings.

     "Astute observation, Lord Malfoy. I am Lord Peverell. Lares Peverell." He held out his hand, and he smirked slightly when he saw him pale slightly. He didn't know much about the Lords yet, but he knew enough that he had enough power and prestige to crush the man.

     "It is an honor to meet you, Lord Peverell. Lord Malfoy, Lucius Malfoy." Lucius shook his hand.

     "I daresay we will run into each other again, and quite soon. It has been a surprise to meet you so early on. Good day." Lares focused on his magic, and once again he heard a gasp from someone as he vanished.

     Lares reappeared in the entrance hall, and Walburga once again stared at him like he was a god or something, before her features smoothed over.

     "Cousin Walburga, I am now Lares Peverell." He bowed. Walburga smiled.

     "That is wonderful. Now that everything is settled, I’ll tell you how to make that your default transformation. You have already been in contact with your magical core, yes?" Lares nodded.

     "It is very comfortable to stay enveloped in." Her mouth twitched.

     "Yes, that it is. Now, close your eyes, it helps to focus better. Look deep inside of you, allow yourself to sink into the magic." Lares allowed himself to do so, and almost immediately, he was nearly blinded by gold and white light. Almost surreally, Walburga’s voice echoed from what seemed miles away, floating through his head. "Now, focus on your surroundings, focus on the metamorphmagus transformation. Find where the white strands start, then find the same for the black strands. Uproot the black where they all come together at the wall, and feed the white strand in in its place. Put the black strand where the white one had been." Lares worked his hardest to get the glare decreased, but it still took a good five minutes to find what she was talking about. There were many white strands, but they all went back to the same origin. Looking around, he momentarily found the black strands as well. He focused on getting to them, but found that he got nowhere. Deciding on a different approach, he projected his magic to do it for him, mentally reaching out. This time, the black strands were uprooted instantly. Lares turned to the white strands next. He did the same, then made them swap locations. With a final push, they were rerooted in the wall. He felt a shiver go through him, all the way down to his bones. "Now, unfocus, let yourself float up and out of the well of magic." Walburga’s voice once again called, and Lares did just that, letting his mental eyes shut out the magic, and himself float back up to reality.

     Lares’s eyes shot open, and he nearly fell over, catching himself on his trunk at the last moment.

     "You were successful, I see." Lares nodded.

     "That was a very strange experience, I will admit. I think I might be looking forward to anything else you have to teach me." Suddenly, Walburga stiffened.

     "Someone is coming. KREACHER!" Indeed, there were the sounds of muffled voices on the other side of the front door, and it sounded a lot like they were trying to unlock it with a multitude of different spells. Kreacher popped in.

     "Yes, mistress?"

     "Take his things, and put them here. Then change how they look, to green and black with silver inlay!" Kreacher nodded, then with a snap of his fingers, made them appear. Then with another, made them green and black, with silver swirls. Then a third one made them unopenable aside from elf magic and the owner. Then Kreacher vanished, and Lares turned to start up a conversation with her, his face belying his rising panic. Walburga herself was smiling sweetly down at him.

     "So you'll next need to look the part of Lord Black, obviously. I suggest Twilfitt and Tattings–" that was as far as she got before the door slammed open, and a spell fired his way. Naturally, he ducked, and it hit the wall in a shower of red sparks.

     "Don't move! You are under arrest for evading the Ministry!" Lares turned and sneered at the collection of people, who suddenly looked deeply unsettled.

     "I do believe you have the wrong man, gentlemen. I am Lares. Lares Peverell. And you have broken into my house. I will be pressing charges for breaking and entering. Memory evidence works well in such cases."

     "Obliviate!" Shouted someone, and Lares watched blankly as it rushed towards him, too surprised that they would actually lower themselves to such a thing to actually respond.

     But then without warning, an icy blue shield erupted around him, and the spell was absorbed. He could feel the cloak putting out magic to stop it.

     "Well, that is strange." Lares ruminated, and plucked at the cloth.

     "Are you trying to say, that your cloak cast that shield spell, Mr. Peverell?" Dumbledore asked.

     "Lord Peverell," Lares said absently, and then smiled. He put the hood on, and by the gasps, he'd done what he thought would happen. Then he pulled it off, and he became visible. "Well, this new Lordship thing just keeps getting stranger and stranger. Next thing I know, that stone I was supposed to get will bring back the dead!" He saw Dumbledore blanch a little, and he stared intently at the old man.

     "Do you know something about it, Albus Dumbledore? If you have it, I would like it back. Only without the rest of the Gaunt ring, if you please." He stared at the stone on the man’s withered hand, and wandlessly pulled the stone to him, then nodded. "As I thought. If you please, do leave my home. And before you ask, no, I haven't seen the Potter boy, even though he now falls under my jurisdiction, and with a new head of House would need to have a new trial. And if things go my way, Veritaserum shall be used. Evidence otherwise is just untrustworthy . I recall what happened to the previous Lord Black, and have no desire for history to repeat itself, with anyone. As to whether it was used the first time or not, I have not been privy to that knowledge as of yet." Then he turned to continue his conversation.

     "As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted, Twilfitt and tattings is the place to go. Kreacher! Get this place cleaned up, the time for discouraging the head of the house from staying here is long past! And make sure that everything stolen or banished from the house of Black is returned to its rightful place! No matter who owns it now!" The door shut behind the Order with a snap, and Lares sat down on his trunk.

     "So. Why does everyone gasp every time I travel somewhere?" Walburga gaped at him.

     "You don't know?" He shook his head. "You light up in black and white flames, and your eyes glow bright green! It is said that Merlin used to travel like that, but it is only rumors, long forgotten by all but the oldest houses." Lares nodded slowly.

     "That would explain Lucius Malfoy. Now what? Will everyone who sees me do it think I am merlin's second coming or something?" Walburga sniffed.

     "As a matter of fact, quite a great deal of the more idiotic people, or in other words, the majority of the population, will. As for the older purebloods, they likely will as well, given the myth that a prophecy speaking of the second coming of Merlin exists. You’re only safe around the mudbloods." Harry stamped down on his momentary urge to either burn her or yell at her, in favor of getting his curiosity sated. After all, he was going to have to listen to a fair amount of that word in the future, and he couldn’t risk looking offended then.

     "Will you tell me about it?"

     "No, I will not. There is no need to know, not for a long time."

     "Well, I'm not going to hold back on doing my traveling in such a way, then."

Chapter Text

     "Keep your back straight." Lares sighed in frustration, straightening up again from the bow he’d just been in. He'd been at these lessons with Cousin Walburga for two hours already, and he wasn’t any closer to learning this one skill. While he'd picked up on basic manners quickly, he was having difficulty learning anything that would involve him interacting with others, especially when it came to learning the exact science (it was a science) behind kissing a high-ranking woman’s hand upon meeting her.

     "How am I supposed to learn properly without another person here?" He threw his hands in the air. Accept the hand, bow, keep the back straight, maintain eye contact with the imaginary woman. Without faltering, and without even glancing once at the hand, deliver a swift kiss to the back of it, without missing, and without being off-center. And without an actual partner, that was bloody difficult!

     "It’s all a matter of the mind, Lares," Cousin Walburga stated matter-of-factly. "Imagine she's there, and it’ll come." He tried. He really did. And tried again, and again, and again. And half an hour later, when he still hadn't mastered the skill, he let out a hiss of frustration and finally succumbed to the old habit of running his hands through his hair that Walburga had said was a big no-no in polite society.

     "If only I could just join you in the portrait, every problem would be fixed!" He growled, and at that exact moment, Lares stiffened as he felt his magic flare up the way it did with accidental magic, but so much more noticeable now that he was in touch with his magic. And a moment later, the world was spinning, and he was staring up at the shocked eyes of Walburga, his own eyes round as dinner plates, as he slowly sat up.

     "C-cousin Walburga? H-how did you get out?" She then smirked.

     "I didn’t come out, Lares dearest. You , came in."

     "I did?"  Lares gasped. "How?"  Walburga shrugged.

     "Likely an extension of the Firelight Travel you do. Although, time seems to be going far slower on the outside, now that you are inside." Lares peered out, and blinked as he noted Kreacher walking through the room, but all his motions were as if he were walking through gelatin. Every step he took seemed to take two minutes to make, every blink lasting nearly twenty seconds. Lares shook his head, then turned to Walburga. He nodded, drawing himself up.

     "May we continue the lessons now, Cousin Walburga?" Walburga smiled.

     "Of course, Lares. I’m certain you’ll find it easier now that you have a tutor you can interact with," she teased. Lares nodded, gathering his wits.

     "Hello, Mistress Black, I am Lord Lares Peverell-Black." Walburga curtsied in response, bowing her head and holding out her hand. Lares accepted her hand, bowing, and keeping his back straight, he brought his lips to the back of her hand.

     "Eyes up, Lares," she reminded him, and Lares’ eyes shot up to meet Walburga’s. She smiled, and Lares straightened back up. Outside the portrait, Kreacher had finally made it out of the room. "And again."

     It only took six more attempts to master the technique.

      "I just have one question," Lares said softly, a few minutes after he finally left the portrait the same way he entered it, and just after Cousin Walburga finished assigning him books to fetch and return to the portrait with. "If the rings tell me what I need to know, when I need to know it, then why learn it all now?"

     "Because, Lares, they don’t tell you until the moment you need it, and they don’t tell you why. People will see your hesitation, and immediately try to exploit your ignorance. Of course, many Lords can do such a thing, but those with several different Lordships like you will not have that security. The Peverells and the Blacks have different standards, and the rings will at times have conflicting advice. You will need to know both sides in order to properly asses what you need to do."

     "Ah, that makes sense. Thank you for clarifying that, Cousin Walburga,” he stated, then went off to fetch the books.

     Evening had fallen, in a very dilapidated manor in Little Hangleton. A tall, thin man stared, as a lone Death Eater ran into the dusty dining hall, foregoing any askance of permission at all. Yet, he stayed his hand. Knowing who this was, if he was breaking such rules, then it had to be something worthwhile. He straightened up, and settled his gaze on the man.

     "My Lord, there is a new player on the field you will want to know about!" The Death Eater gasped.

     "Go on, Lucius." The man took a few deep breaths, before continuing on.

     "A new Lord has appeared. Lord Peverell, to be exact. He is still young, couldn't be older than eighteen, no younger than sixteen. He is also Lord Black now, and did not treat me with disdain one of the Light would. Rather, like someone who is Grey; with extreme caution. And he Firelight travelled!" Lord Voldemort straightened in his seat. Firelight Travelled!

     "I see," he spoke softly. "He holds immense power, then. It would be an extremely bad idea not to be on his good side. However, having only just introduced himself for the first time in public, perhaps he is inexperienced enough to be manipulated. I believe I will work on a way to reenter politics directly. This man, Lord Peverell, would be a great ally. Particularly since the Peverells rule over the Potters and the Gaunts, as Slytherin does over Peverell, and he is the one who fulfills that ancient prophecy." His eyes glinted. "Strange, how the most drastic events of our time are driven by prophecies, isn't it," he murmured. "However, given the circumstances..." the Dark Lord trailed off, glancing about the room. This man had exceptional power in the Wizengamot, and could be the missing piece that won the war. It was of the utmost importance he met him and didn't make a bad impression, which meant…it was time to reclaim his place as Lord Slytherin. And with a wave of his wand, all the dust in the dining hall vanished. "Lucius, go to the Daily Prophet. Tell them what you learned. If need be, pay extra to ensure the article goes out tomorrow."

     The next morning, Lares smiled when he saw the headlines:

PEVERELL SEAT REACTIVATED AFTER EIGHT CENTURIES OF DORMANCY, BLACK SEAT AFTER TWENTY-FOUR YEARS: does the simultaneous activation signify only one Lord? (To read about the power restrictions that kept most Peverells from claiming the Lordship, see page two) Lord Lucius Malfoy says that he had the honor of running into the man as he left Gringotts. According to Lord Malfoy, he is quite young, yet…

     It had been six weeks to the day since Lares had ventured out of Grimmauld place, and he had to say, it felt absolutely wonderful. He was not one made for staying cooped up inside, but so long as he didn’t know the ins and outs of being a Lord, his story could have been doubted, and his very identity called into question. Of course, for him, it had been even worse, because while it was six weeks to the rest of the world, it had been approximately eight months in the portrait for him. He could only count his lucky stars that portrait time did not actually count, so he didn’t age a day older for all the time spent there. Perhaps there was something in staying in a portrait forever to maintain one’s life? But for now, he set aside all such thoughts and breathed in the smell of Dagon alley, as he made his way to the end of the alley, towards Twilfitt and Tattings.

     A bell jingled as the door slid open, and Lares smiled slightly. So, similar methods between Muggles and wizards after all. It was better than Ollivander’s approach, that was for sure.

     "Hello and good day, mister!" A woman smiled cheerily at him. "Are you here for Hogwarts robes?" He shook his head, and smiled kindly at her.

     "No Madam Tatting, I am not. I am here at the culmination of an arduous trip, and require a new wardrobe suited to this locale," he spoke levelly. Her eyes grew, as recognition finally flickered across her features.

     "Oh, dear Merlin!" She gasped, and immediately fell into a curtsy. "My greatest apologies for the slight, Lord Peverell-Black! I honestly didn't recognize you!"

     "It's fine," Lares responded to the flushed seamstress. "Only my description has been released; I honestly wasn't expecting anyone to figure it out as it was. And I must admit, I do look about school-age. But at least you know what I'm expecting now, correct?" He smiled, and she quickly nodded and bustled off to the counter.

     "Indeed. A full wardrobe for a Lord of your caliber; that's twice this week! Usually a year goes by in between! Now Lord Peverell, if you could stand in that white patch over there, I'd be most obliged." Lares stepped over, and frowned at the lines and runes etched into the stone.

     "What is this?" He questioned, as Madam Tatting came back over with multiple small boxes of stones and herbs, which she began to sprinkle into calculated cross-sections of the web around him where there were small divots.

     "This is how I do my measurements," she explained. "I designed the ritual almost by myself! It obtains far better measurements and fittings than using pins or the like, and far less invasive. However, it is more expensive, so not as many come here, though it is undoubtedly far better quality. Metiteum!"  And with a flash, the web on the ground glowed with a brilliant white light.

     "Now can you raise your arms above your head? To optimize the fit, the ritual needs to see you in multiple ranges of motion," she explained at Lares’ dubious look. Lares nodded, and raised his arms above his head.

     "Alright. Hold both arms straight out in front of you. Now stick them both behind."

     "Raise one leg. Now, while it's still raised, bend it at the knee." Lares wobbled slightly, but he had to admit, it was an amusing thought to imagine Lucius Malfoy coming in here and having to go through all this.

     "Alright, foot down. Sit on the ground, knees to your chest." He complied.

     "Next, go into a side-split, or as close as you can get." This time, Lares couldn't hold back the snicker, imagining Bellatrix or Narcissa having to do this. He couldn't do a full split, and he decided to place it on his to-do list. He didn't know when it could come in handy, but perhaps something would come up. After that, he had to do a front split, and bend down to touch his toes. And then lean to one side.

     After that last one, the glow finally began moving like a trail of water through the cracks, flowing to one spot. He hadn't noticed her setting down a scroll during the preparation, but that was where the light concentrated, turning it silver. She plucked the still slightly glowing parchment up daintily, then turned her attention to him.

     "The ritual is complete. Now, which robes do you desire, Lord Peverell? Take your pick." Lares looked around the shop. There were multiple revolving racks, each with a pedestal in front of it with a large tome sitting on it. He opened the book, and sucked in his breath. Each page showed different robes, but the model was him!

     "Ah yes, it's a little disconcerting to most at first," she stated, walking up. "It's an illusory spell. Should I be the one touching the book, we would both be seeing me in those dress robes." Lares nodded, realizing the true genius of the idea.

     "So you don't have to go picking up robes all over the place?" He smirked, and Madam Tatting laughed.

     "Oh, indeed! You remind me of another young man I know."

     "I do?" Lares’ heart sped up. She wasn't somehow talking about him as Harry Potter, was she?

     "Yes, yes! He helped me with designing all of these enchantments, you know. It's not something I'll usually share lightly, because Severus is a very shy individual."

     "Severus Snape?" Lares gasped. "I don't know, he doesn't seem very shy to me," he responded, before turning back to the book.

     "Oh, but he is, Lord Peverell. You just have to get past his defensive barriers to see it! Now, I'm only telling you this in confidence, because I feel the two of you are bound to meet soon." Lares paused on a page of a dress robe he actually quite liked. He glanced up at the rack, and started. The robes had been silently shifting with each page, and there hung the tent-like form of the robe he was looking at in the book.

     "I like this one," he stated, and Madam Tatting waved her hand, and the dress robe flew through the air on its enchanted hanger to the counter. Lares watched in curiosity as she tapped her wand on the silvery parchment, and dragged away a silvery fragment. She dropped it on the robe, and it instantly shrank until it looked like it would fit him.

     "So, you think I'm going to run into Severus Snape?" He questioned, as he continued leafing through the book.

     "Everyone does at some point. Whether it's in the apothecary getting the few potion supplies he can't find on his own, at Hogwarts due to being a student or a parent, or in the ministry as he goes to patent yet another spell or potion, you'll see him."

     "He really creates spells and potions from scratch? I thought that was really difficult!" Lares mused.

     "It is, he does, and he's quite good at it, may I say," Madam Tatting chirped. "If you need help with them, he's the one to go to. Of course, you have to put up with the irritating mood he always seems to be in, but he's really a fine lad. And he makes robes too! He worked here in his youth." 

     "I'll take your word for it," Lares quirked one corner of his mouth. He'd never heard someone harping on about the virtues of Snape before, but he supposed that looking at him as a non-student and a non-Potter, he was likely just another man, albeit a talented and easily irritable one. But he supposed it sort of made sense. Only Snape would think up a way to have the rich and powerful doing ridiculous acrobatics in order to look good!

     By the end of the singularly oddest clothes shopping trip he'd ever experienced, Lares had to admit it was far faster than trying on multiple robes. In fact, what was even nicer was that he could change which color different panels of cloth were up until they were removed from the hanger. Nothing on the robes was truly set until then, aside from the style of clothing it was. And even then, the robe he decided to walk out in, he'd been able to request the collar be shortened some. The collar was still high, but not all the way to his ears. It was a handsome robe, green and black with silver seams. There was a special spot to scan the Gringott’s card, which seemed to be a shimmery purple stone with light emanating from it. He waved the card through the light, and it flashed yellow. Madam Tatting nodded briskly and folded all the robes with a wave of her wand and slid them into a bag, which Lares shrank and placed in his pocket.

     "Just remember Lord Peverell, to keep them in good shape, you can't apply shrinking spells to the cloth itself. Put them in a bag with an expansion charm, and that you can shrink!"

     "Understood," he nodded, then stepped out.

     And he immediately blinked, startled, as a camera flash went off in his eyes.

     "Excuse me, but can you please explain why you just shoved a camera in my face?” He questioned, and the man juggling the camera one-handedly looked quite abashed.

     "Oh, I’m sorry sir! See, I work for the Daily Prophet, and-"

     "You wanted to write tomorrow’s front-page article?" Lares finished in newfound amusement. The man nodded slowly.

     "That’s more or less it," he said guiltily. "Are you really Lord Peverell-Black? Lord Malfoy did describe you and all, but I couldn’t be sure, and I just saw you as you went in and I really hoped-" Lares chuckled and held up his hand, stemming the word splurge.

     "It’s alright. In fact, if we can find a place more private and you can swear an oath that you will not twist my words in any way, shape, or form, then I will even answer any questions you have." The man nodded enthusiastically.

     "I'll do that. I suppose my mum’s reputation precedes me."

     "So you're-"

     "Genesis Skeeter. Oh, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have cut you off like that!" Genesis gasped, bringing a hand to his mouth. Lares grinned. This man reminded him of an older version of Neville. He had to be in his very early twenties.

     "It's alright," Lares placated him. "In fact, it's almost nice. I hear the Leaky Cauldron has private rooms we can meet in."

     "Great!" Genesis made a few joyful spins as they began heading towards the other end of the alley. "Maybe I'll even make a name for myself, rather than having to live with the reputation mum made!" Genesis winced.

     "Ah, I can see why you wouldn’t want that," Lares chuckled. Genesis smiled sheepishly.

     "Yeah. Imagine; you go in as a reporter, and everyone steadfastly refuses to talk to you, because they think you'll use a quick quotes quill or will utterly humiliate them!" Lares nodded in sympathy.

     "I can only imagine." They walked in silence for the next minute, until they arrived at the Leaky Cauldron.

     "Hello, Tom," Lares stated, and the barkeeper looked up.

     "Ah, a private room then? Is it for business, or…something else?" He grinned toothily. Lares barely managed to keep from blushing, though Genesis certainly had no such qualms.

     "Business, mister!" He squeaked. "I'm a reporter, and-"

     "Alright, alright, sonny," Tom waved him down. "Don't get your hair in a knot there. It was just a joke! Here, two sickles per hour, first payment upfront and any overtime afterward." Lares pulled out his card again, and waved it through the this time shimmery red rock, which flashed green. Tom handed them a key, and pointed towards a door.

     "Right through there," he gestured. "Room three on the left."

     The hall was just as dusty as the main room, but smelled far nicer. And the room? It had a warm atmosphere, despite the slight dustiness that seemed to come with this place. There was an evidently enchanted window, for beyond it revealed a Muggle cityscape, from high up, with snow blowing by. A fire crackled in the fireplace. It was, all in all, a very comfortable room for doing business.

     "Sooo," Genesis drew out in mild discomfort; he had to be pretty new at this. Now that he'd gotten the interview, he didn't know what to do with it. For a moment, he was unsure whether he ought to let a rookie write an article on him, but then he remembered who his mother was. He'd probably been spoon-fed writing techniques and how to hook an audience right along with his baby food.

     "Okay. Um, I swear on my right hand that I will not twist the words in any manner that one Lord Peverell would not approve of." Lares quirked an eyebrow as the oath snapped in place. "What? I'm very attached to my wand hand, you know," he said defensively. Lares glanced at it, and only then noticed that Genesis completely lacked a left hand altogether.

     "Alright. I'm going to assume that you didn't lose your left hand that way then?" Genesis quickly shook his head.

     "Someone wanted revenge on mum. I used to be left-handed, so they took that. Fortunately, I've been able to switch hands." Lares nodded, accepting that, then finally sat down in the seat across from the young reporter.

     "So Mr. Skeeter, what do you wish to ask me?" He questioned, clasping his hands on the table, and Genesis finally seemed to relax some, having been placed into familiar waters.

     "Alright, Lord Peverell. You're new to England, and you're very young for a Lord. You came back six weeks ago; why did you wait until today to go robe shopping?” Genesis asked curiously, his quill poised in his right hand.


…seventeen years old…very mature and level-headed…will be entering the Wizengamot for the first time today…

     Lares tossed the Daily Prophet on the table, his image still smiling from the front page. All in all, he hadn't read every word, but from the skimming, he could tell that Genesis had done a brilliant job. Standing up from the breakfast spread, he brushed down his robes, and after checking to ensure he looked completely presentable for one of his status, he shut his eyes and prepared to travel.