Title: A Study in Family
Fandom: Harry Potter, Sherlock – BBC
Relationship(s): None at present
Genre: AU, Fantasy, Crossover, Fix-it
Content Rating: Gen
Warnings: Child abuse off screen.
Please keep in mind that I’ve moved the Harry Potter timeline forward twenty years, and the Sherlock timeline back five years.
This was posted to Rough Trade in the November 2015 period. I’ve separated it out from Lightning Touched – the main story – as I feel it can stand alone. Lightning Touched is still in progress, and when it is finished both stories will be published on my main site. In the mean time, hopefully this will tide you over. This is not guaranteed to be the final version, that decision will be made when the story is complete. Regardless, Jilly James has done a beta for this, thank you Jilly!
Don’t ask when I’ll be finished. Usual EAD rules apply.
For as long as Harry could remember, he had been hiding his intelligence from the Dursleys. He had no memory of consciously making the decision to do this.
He was always aware of his relative fragility in comparison to them, and since he planned to escape from their ‘care’ as soon as the possibility presented itself, he bided his time until he and Dudley started school. School gave Harry a legitimate reason to be out of the house, and he soon gravitated to the public library and their readily available computers.
From there, Harry was able to start research into his family. Not having any information on his father aside from his last name, Harry concentrated on finding out as much about his mother as he possibly could.
It didn’t take long before Harry came across the documentation of his mother’s adoption. That knowledge actually made him feel immeasurably better. Finding out that he shared no genetic material with any of the Dursleys was very liberating, and he abandoned the last of the doubt he had harboured about the validity of his plan to get as far away from them as humanly possible. However, finding information on his mother’s birth family was much harder.
After over two years of investigation, conducted when he was able to sneak away from Privet Drive, he had accumulated the information that his maternal grandmother was named Jennifer Ralson. She had been an orphan, and had died in childbirth. Before falling pregnant, she had worked in a government office, the name of which was not mentioned in any of the documents Harry could get access to. Her head of department was listed as a Siger Holmes.
Harry’s initial hope that Mr Holmes might be able to give him some information as to who his grandfather might have been was dashed on the discovery that he’d died even before his mother had been born, in a car accident; unlike Harry’s parents, despite what Petunia and Vernon said. There were absolutely no records Harry could find about the manner of his parents’ death, just death certificates giving the day as 31 October 2001. Harry had discovered that fatal car crashes had much more paperwork than that.
It was by chance that Harry came across the blog of John H Watson, purportedly an experienced medical doctor recently returned from Afghanistan, who was now flatting with a detective named Sherlock Holmes. Harry wondered about the coincidence of a man whose surname was Holmes, and, on a whim, found some recent press photos of the man. It was like he’d been struck by lightning.
The Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective, in the photos shared a number of facial markers with his mother; going by the single photo Harry had seen of her taken at Vernon and Petunia’s wedding. That his last name was Holmes, just like Jennifer’s boss, was such a strong coincidence that Harry was inclined to believe his luck was helping him again.
Several times in the past, items Harry had needed had turned up close at hand. And then there was the time when he had thought very hard about Vernon forgetting his existence when he’d decided that Harry was responsible for his car accident on the way home. Vernon had been almost at Harry’s cupboard when he seemed to forget about his nephew entirely, and continued on to the kitchen to help himself to the cooking sherry.
Harry’s heart thudded in his chest as he looked at the images of a man who could very well be his uncle. An intelligent man who liked to solve mysteries. Surely, even if Sherlock Holmes wasn’t his uncle, he might agree to help Harry in his search?
Taking a deep breath, Harry tamped down on his roiling emotions. He couldn’t afford to give himself away. The first thing to be done was to find a way to get to see Mr Sherlock Holmes, and that would take… risk.
Harry squared his shoulders unconsciously, and carefully began to make his plans.
Harry approached 221 Baker Street with great apprehension. He’d pretty much had to burn his bridges to get this far. In order to pay for his journey, he had bought a bus ticket and then a train pass online with Vernon’s credit card. When Vernon found out, there would be hell to pay. Not to mention, the Dursleys would be expecting him to be at Privet Drive in his cupboard when they got back this afternoon from the birthday party for Piers Polkiss. The only reason they had left him in the house at all was that Mrs Figg, the crazy old lady with all the cats who lived on Wisteria Walk and who usually watched him, had been run over by a bus just the day before and had been pronounced dead at the scene.
Harry had several plans for what to do if this fell through, none of them involving his return to Privet Drive. Just this morning Vernon had yanked him around by his upper arm as he was shoved into the cupboard, and Harry had felt something in his shoulder pop. He’d managed, after some effort, to get his shoulder situated so that it felt right again, but he was fairly certain that it had been dislocated. The violence at the Dursleys was escalating, and whatever happened, Harry was going to try to avoid returning.
Reaching the large black door, he stopped for a moment to compose himself and realised that the knocker was too high for him to reach. Shifting his small knapsack to a more comfortable position, being careful to avoid jarring his still very painful shoulder, he was just thinking about asking a passerby to use the knocker for him when the door opened from the inside revealing a tall male figure, wearing a three-piece suit and carrying an umbrella, about to exit.
The tall, well-dressed man and the short shabbily dressed boy regarded each other for a brief moment. Harry recognised the cheekbones and forehead, and noted the penetrating gaze that flicked over him briefly before the man stepped back from the doorway he had been about to exit through.
“I think you’d better come in, Mr…?” One fine eyebrow rose towards a slightly receding hairline.
“Potter,” Harry said, lifting his chin. “Harry Potter, son of Lily Evans, grandson of Jennifer Ralson.”
“Yes, quite,” the man said dryly in his cultured voice, ushering Harry in and closing the door behind them. “And I am Mycroft Holmes, son of Siger Holmes. Come with me, Harry Potter.”
Harry let his breath out a bit faster than he had originally intended, and followed Mycroft up some stairs towards a door and the sound of a violin being played extremely badly. The screeching broke off as Mycroft opened the door.
A deep voice was heard to exclaim irritably, “Oh, what now Mycroft? We’ve run out of biscuits, so there’s no point in–” the voice broke off as Mycroft ushered Harry through the door and closed it behind them.
Harry’s first sight of Sherlock Holmes showed a tall thin man lounging in his dressing gown, a violin in one hand and a bow held negligently in the other. He stared at Harry, eyes flicking over him in much the same way that Mycroft’s had downstairs. “What have we here?” Sherlock rose fluidly from his chair, dropping the violin and bow carelessly into the hands of John Watson, who was sitting at a small table, a laptop open in front of him.
Feeling very much on display, Harry had a good look at the room he had entered as he waited for Sherlock to prowl a full circuit around him. It was cluttered and cosy, tall windows letting in light and creating shadows in the nearest corners.
“Sherlock, Mycroft, what?” John Watson asked, carefully laying down the violin and bow and getting to his feet. “Who is this?”
“Jennifer Ralson,” Sherlock announced, a gleam of triumph in his eyes at Harry’s clear recognition of the name. He turned to his flatmate. “John Watson, this is my nephew, half nephew to be precise. He’s come to live with us.”
“I’m sorry.” John sounded like he was used to confusion. “What? Half nephew? And his name is Jennifer?”
“Keep up John!” Sherlock said impatiently. “This young man can only be the son of my half sister or brother, a child my late father conceived during his affair with one of his secretaries, Jennifer Ralson. His parents are dead, and he has discovered his connection to Mycroft and me and come to see if we will take him in. We’re going to have to clear out the small room I keep my files in, maybe see if Mrs Hudson has room for them.”
“Sherlock!” Mycroft said disapprovingly. “Perhaps we should hear what Mr Potter has to say before moving him in, yes?”
“Yes!” John agreed. “Sherlock, you’ve never said anything about your nephew coming to live with us!”
“Of course I didn’t!” Sherlock answered scathingly. “How could I when I had no idea of his existence until a few moments ago? Really, John, I know you have great respect for my powers of deduction, but you can hardly expect me to be omniscient!”
“Sherlock, just… stop for a minute,” John said, running a hand over his face, and then turning towards Harry. “Good morning, my name is John. Please, take a seat. Would you like a drink of anything?”
Harry shook his head as he found himself being ushered to sit down on the couch.
“No thank you, Doctor Watson. My name is Harry Potter, and Mr Holmes is right. I want to find my family, and hopefully someplace to stay.” Harry dropped his eyes; this was always going to be the hard part. He had hoped, rather than expected, to be accepted and welcomed. Sherlock’s immediate decision to empty out the small room for him had lifted his heart, but Mycroft’s and John’s objections had effectively deflated him again.
“Of course I am,” Sherlock said, even as he opened a door down the short hallway to peer inside. “Hmm. Might be a little on the small side. Still.” At this, Sherlock turned to observe Harry again. “It will very likely be better than wherever they’re currently stashing you. How old are you, Harry Potter?” This last question was fired towards Harry as Sherlock abandoned the door he had just opened, and threw himself back into the seat he had vacated minutes before.
“I was eight at the end of July.” Harry said watching Sherlock’s energetic movements with wide eyes. The tall skinny detective appeared to have subsided for the moment, his laser like stare resting on his flatmate. Harry looked over at John, and saw that his face had gone rather blank. Not only that, but his whole posture had stiffened, much like Vernon’s did when he was in the grip of a fury that was about to erupt in Harry’s direction. Doctor Watson saw Harry looking at him, and carefully relaxed his tense body posture. Harry felt himself uncurl slightly in response. He hadn’t even realized that he’d hunched over.
“I’m sorry, Harry,” John said, smiling gently. “I promise I’m not angry at you. I’m angry at the people you’ve been living with.” He sat down on the chair opposite to Sherlock, which placed him farther away from Harry. “You are aware that I am a doctor, yes?”
“Yes, Doctor Watson,” Harry said, feeling less tense now that John was sitting down, too. “I saw your blog. That’s where I saw the pictures of Mr Holmes.”
“Please, call me John. So you saw Sherlock’s picture and you noticed a family resemblance?” John’s smile became more genuine, and Harry relaxed further. “Well, I guess brain power runs in the family. Which isn’t really a surprise.” John glanced up at Mycroft, who was still standing by the door. “Well, given that you know that I’m a doctor, can you think of a reason I might have been angry when I found out how old you are?”
Harry was uncharacteristically feeling a little overwhelmed, and it took him a few moments to put the pieces together.
“Right, yes.” Harry looked at his bony wrists, and then back up through his fringe. He hadn’t realised how hard it would be to speak of this, it had never mattered so much, and no one had ever been interested before. “I suppose… I’m a bit small for my age?”
Sherlock snorted, and before John could say anything stood up again, and began pacing. “Small! You’ve clearly undergone long term malnourishment by your height and certain indicators visible in your bone structure. The clothes you’re wearing are several sizes too large for you and obviously in disrepair but were clearly originally in the higher price bracket. You have sustained an injury to your shoulder that appears to be quite painful, and you have the fading remnants of several bruises on what skin is visible to the eye, with more no doubt under your clothes. You have burns on both hands that indicate that you play an active part in regular cooking, and the state of your fingernails shows that you spend substantial time doing some kind of gardening. You are clearly shortsighted, no doubt due in part to the lack of nutrients in your diet, and nothing has been done to correct it. Your reaction to John’s very controlled anger tells its own tale.
“You have lived most of your life with people you have likely been calling Aunt and Uncle, and they have one son, a beastly bullying boy that shows a tendency towards whale-like proportions, either your age or older; more likely your age. You have been planning on escape for some time, and have finally found your way here, which shows that you are smart, cunning, and also courageous, since you had no guarantee that we would accept you.”
“Sherlock!” John exclaimed in horror, but Harry found Sherlock’s rapid-fire deconstruction of his life to be a relief, sparing him from having to choke out the words himself and risk their disbelief.
“Thank you, Mr Holmes,” Harry said with gratitude. “It’s really hard to say it. It’s easier if you already know. The one time I tried to tell the nurse at school, she called me a liar, and…” he trailed off. Vernon had not been happy when the school had told him of the allegations Harry had made to the nurse. Not happy at all.
“And then told the bastards you were living with.” John realized, starting to look angry again, only this time his gaze was directed at Mycroft. “And the NSPCC seems to have fallen down on the job quite remarkably. Alright then. Mycroft, will you be able to organize it so that Sherlock and I legally have custody of Harry?”
“Doctor Watson. John,” Mycroft said severely. “You cannot truly be planning to support my brother in this madness. How on earth can you expect him to take care of a child, when he can barely take care of himself? Surely Harry would be better off as a member of my household, where he can be sure of regular hours and meals, and the chances of accidental poisoning are negligible. I have plenty of room, after all.”
Sherlock threw his hands in the air. “Even I know that children need more than just food and a roof over their heads, Mycroft! You’re far too busy to spend much time with Harry. Here at Baker Street, Harry will have John to take care of his body, and me to take care of his mind, and Mrs Hudson to take care of us all . Of course there will need to be a few… adjustments, and perhaps Harry can stay with you if John and I need to be gone for a long period of time on a case, but for the most part, living here would be the better option. We just need to let Mrs Hudson know. MRS HUDSON!!”
There was no response from downstairs, and Sherlock and Mycroft began hissing venomous comments to each other over Harry’s prospective living arrangements, while John came over to sit beside him.
“Despite their petty bickering, they do care for each other, you know,” John said comfortingly. Harry supposed he must have looked a little shocked. “And we’ll take good care of you, whichever house you end up in. Mycroft will make sure that the awful people you’ve been living with don’t come anywhere near you ever again. You’ll need to tell us their names, and where they live so that we can get the legalities tied up nice and tight.”
“The Dursleys,” Harry said, almost in daze. “Vernon and Petunia Dursley, at 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey. Lily Evans, my mother, was Petunia’s adopted sister.”
“And you’ve no family on your father’s side? The Potters?” John’s smile was kind.
Harry shook his head. “My father’s name was James Potter, son of Charlus Potter, but I couldn’t find anything about him other than the marriage certificate and his death certificate. And even that wasn’t much help.”
“What do you mean by that Harry?” Mycroft asked, both brothers distracted from their argument by the conversation on the couch.
Harry shrugged. “There was no cause of death,” Harry answered. “On both of their death certificates, the cause was ‘Unknown’. The Dursleys always said that they died in a car crash while driving drunk, and that’s where I got this scar.” He showed them the lightning bolt shaped scar on his forehead. “But there was none of the documentation that I found from other fatal crashes, so I don’t think that’s right.”
“How old were you? Do you remember anything?” Sherlock asked intently.
Harry considered. This wasn’t something he’d ever mentioned to anyone, because it sounded ludicrous. But these people hadn’t called him a liar or troublemaker even once, and perhaps they could make sense of it. He thought back to the dream he sometimes had, trying to immerse himself in the feeling that always encompassed the memory of it.
“I’m not sure how old I was when it happened, and I have a dream quite often that feels like a memory. There is a voice, high pitched and cruel, mummy is crying, saying something, and then a flash of green light and I hear something hit the floor, and then I can’t hear her anymore. And then there’s another green light coming towards me.”
Harry picked at one of his scraggly fingernails. “The next thing I remember is a flying motorcycle, and then Petunia screaming at me.” He looked unhappily at the three adults looking at him. “I know it sounds crazy. And that’s my earliest clear memory, Petunia screaming.”
Sherlock and Mycroft exchanged a look that John missed because he was focusing on reassuring Harry.
“Well, you’re right, that sounds nothing like a car crash,” John said encouragingly.
“Indeed.” Mycroft examined the handle of his umbrella. “And your recounting of what I am positive is a memory opens up several avenues of investigation into your father’s life that would not have been available to you at this stage.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes.“What my brother is trying not to say, badly, is that it’s likely that both your parents were magical, Harry.”
“Sherlock!” Mycroft protested, although with an air of one who knows that the offender will take no notice of the remonstration. “That information is classified, as you well know!”
“Yes, yes,” Sherlock said impatiently. “But since Harry here is at least the son of two magicals, and very likely magical himself, and John will be one of his primary caregivers, telling them is well within the rules. In short, Harry, John, there are a number of people in the world born with supernatural powers that are called ‘magic’, for want of a better term. Magic is largely genetic, although it is known that some magicals produce non-magical offspring, and vice versa.
“ The magical world separated itself from the rest of the world during the dark ages, when the witch trials were at their height, and it remains separate to this day. Magicals hide themselves by use of their power, and by treaty are constrained to keep their interactions with the rest of the world limited.
“The green light that you described earlier is likely to correlate to a ‘spell’ called the Death Spell, or something like that. It is reported to give off a green light and to kill the subject instantly upon contact, leaving no mark. This was very likely the fate of your mother, and probably also your father, rather than the spurious ‘car crash’ that their demise has been attributed to. It also explains the lack of documentation surrounding your father’s family; if they were from a line of magicals then there would be few if any records available in this world. As for your mother, you would have found that her education records suddenly became scarce after her eleventh birthday, yes?”
John had been listening to this recitation with a gobsmacked look on his face.
Harry was putting together some previously puzzling incidents in his past with this new information, and not liking the conclusions he was coming to. “And these magicals, they like to wear strange clothes in bright colours, right?” he asked, feeling a little sick. “And they can appear quite mad to normal people?”
Now Harry had the attention of all three adults.
Mycroft finally came fully into the room, and sat on the seat that John had discarded, perching on the edge, his umbrella propped between his legs. He linked his fingers over the handle. “Yes,” he said levelly. He paused for a moment, carefully observing Harry’s expression. “You have seen magical people throughout your life, and they have openly acknowledged you. Perhaps even called you by name?”
Harry was worrying at his fingernails again. “They always recognized me, and wanted to shake my hand. Petunia always got very angry, and I was punished…” Harry trailed off, before picking up again. “People in the magical world, who probably knew my parents, knew where I was living.” His hand crept up to the scar on his forehead, the scar that had never properly healed and ached on odd occasions.
“If magic killed my parents, then someone magical gave me to the Dursleys and either didn’t bother to check on me, or did check and didn’t care that they were…” Harry automatically flinched away as John reached for him, but when John persisted he allowed himself to be gathered close, holding himself stiffly. He turned his face into the soft woolen jumper to hide the uncharacteristic tears falling down his face.
The distant sound of a door closing and then footsteps coming up the stairs pulled Harry away from John as though the now distinctly soggy jumper had caught fire. An old lady carrying a shopping bag opened the door and walked in, before noticing the group sitting in the lounge.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Sherlock dear, you should have told me your brother was bringing his son to visit, I would have brought some fancy biscuits!” She prattled away as she went into the kitchen and started unloading the bag, producing milk, tea, and chocolate hobnobs.
“Harry, this is Mrs Hudson, our landlady,” Sherlock said, turning on the charm. “Mrs Hudson, this is my nephew Harry, not Mycroft’s son, but the son of a half sister neither Mycroft nor I knew we had. His parents are dead, and he’s come to live with us. Would it be possible to use your small room to store some things so that we can move Harry in as soon as possible? That would be lovely, thank you.”
“Oh, Sherlock, of course you can! You’ll need to move some of my things around to make room, but it should fit just fine. And if not, there’s always 221C, at least until I can find someone to let it. Hello, Harry, let me have a look at you dear.” Mrs Hudson bustled over to Harry, pulling his stiff frame in for a quick hug, ignoring the way he shrank away from her.
“Well, I can see you need feeding up almost as much as Sherlock does, you’re nothing but skin and bones! I’ll just pop downstairs and make some scones for lunch. I’ve got some jam that Mrs Turner made just last week, and I can whip up some cream too. Just this once mind you, I’m your landlady, not your housekeeper!”
With that Mrs Hudson made her way out the door and down the stairs again, mumbling under her breath. Harry caught the words ‘criminal’ and ‘do something’ before she was out of earshot.
He stood where she had left him feeling a bit stunned. Today was the first time he could ever remember being hugged, and now both a man and a woman had embraced him in a very short period of time. On the whole he decided he liked it, hugs were soft and Mrs Hudson smelled nice. He sat down again.
“Well then.” Sherlock smirked. “I think that’s taken care of. Good luck getting Harry out of here now, Mycroft. I challenge even the secret service to achieve such a thing.”
Mycroft stuck his nose even further in the air, and looked down it at his brother. “Don’t be ridiculous, Sherlock. I’m only concerned with what’s best for Harry after all. However, I certainly agree that he should remain here until we can sit down and calmly discuss all options.” The side of Mycroft’s mouth turned up slightly, hinting at a smile that promised that something very unpleasant was very likely to be happening soon to someone. Harry found himself oddly comforted by the sinister expression. “I shall take this opportunity to conduct some research of my own into your previous living situation, Harry, and to make discreet enquiries about the state of the magical world and how you came to be left with such… unsuitable people.”
“Instruct your people to be very discreet, Mycroft,” Sherlock warned his brother. “The last thing we need is some magical making life difficult for us, trying to wipe our memories willy-nilly.”
“Unnecessary, Sherlock.” Mycroft sniffed disdainfully. “I assure you that I am completely aware of the need for discretion, and only my most trusted people will be proceeding with this.”
“Excuse me?” John asked. “Do you mean to say that these magical people can alter our memories?”
“Oh yes,” Mycroft responded carelessly, standing to leave with his umbrella clasped negligently in one hand. “Sherlock, Harry, and I are protected of course, but I shall arrange for protection for both you and Mrs Hudson. In the meantime…” Mycroft paused at the door, casting his gaze over the trio remaining, “perhaps some of your professional attention and a new wardrobe would be in order, Doctor Watson.” With that he closed the door behind him, and Harry could hear his measured tread descending the stairs.
Rolling his eyes, John rose and went into the kitchen, returning with a shiny black suitcase that when opened proved to be crammed full of medical supplies. “All right, Harry, I’ll give you a look over, fix up anything that needs it, and then after lunch we can go out and get you kitted out properly.” John rummaged around, getting out a smaller case and then looking around further. “Sherlock… where are the three slings I bought just last month?”
“I needed them for an experiment,” Sherlock said, watching intently as John deftly began his examination. “And don’t even think that you’ll be the one taking him to buy clothes, John Watson. We’ve all seen what you choose to wear, and it’s not suitable for a Holmes. If I left it up to you, Harry would probably come back wearing cardigans and corduroys.”
John sighed, and smiled at Harry ruefully, clearly not bothered by the insulting remarks. Harry decided he was probably going to like living here.
As the black limousine made its quiet way through Surrey, Mycroft glanced through the information his assistant had presented him with. She sat to his side, as usual giving the impression that she was glued to her mobile phone. In reality, she was one of the most deadly people he knew, and she was always keenly aware of her surroundings. Mycroft was grooming her to either succeed him or head her own division, depending on the way certain events evolved on the world stage.
The final exhibit, in what was for the most part a prop to intimidate the despicable Dursleys, was an agreement that had been drawn up to his exacting specifications by the goblins of Gringotts. When willingly signed in the signatories’ blood it would become a magically binding document, giving Mycroft and Sherlock jointly all guardianship rights to Harry, including those of his possessions that the Dursleys currently held. Further agreeing that all correspondence past and future would be forwarded to Harry at their earliest convenience. It would also magically ensure their secrecy. It was a masterful contract, as all goblin contracts were, with no loopholes that Mycroft could discern.
The pen attached to the file was a disguised blood quill, one of three that Mycroft kept for use in his dealings with the magical world. Magicals had acquired a bad habit of making promises that they had no intention of keeping when they dealt with the technological world, so Mycroft had devised a system to enforce compliance and secrecy. He had asked for the pen to draw blood directly from the users bloodstream, meaning that there was no tell tale pain to alert the user. Naturally it worked superbly, and it was likely that the magicals weren’t even aware of how expertly they were being managed.
Of course there were still other issues that needed to be taken care of. Mycroft’s discreet investigation into Harry’s placement had already raised several questions that required answers, so Mycroft had created a small taskforce headed by his most capable assistant to look into matters and devise solutions. It appeared that his nephew’s plight was just one symptom of a greater rot.
The car pulled up smoothly in front of number 4 Privet Drive. Mycroft and his assistant exited the vehicle and made their way towards the front door. He allowed his sneer to become apparent as he observed in person what the digital photographs presented to him earlier had already shown him. The house and its environs were almost aggressively boring, as were the other houses in the street. His assistant, her name was Clarice this week, rang the doorbell, and they waited.
A large walrus like man with a bushy moustache, corresponding to the picture on file for Vernon Dursley, opened the door and looked at them suspiciously. “Who are you? If you’re selling anything, we don’t want to buy it!” he snarled, and stood back to close the door in their faces.
“Mr Vernon Dursley?” Mycroft asked smoothly, reaching into his pocket and producing the identification wallet provided for this occasion. He opened it and held it out, but not close enough that Vernon could see it without coming forward. “I am an agent of MI5. My associate and I would like a few words with you and your family, if you would be so kind.”
“Yes, that’s me.” Vernon’s beefy face went from flushed to pale rather quickly at the mention of the Secret Service. The change in stance was just as dramatic, the large man cringed back and motioned them through the door. “Please, come in.”
Mycroft and Clarice were ushered into a living room where the son of the house, a Mr Dudley Dursley according to the file, was watching cartoons on the television, one hand holding the remote control and the other hand in a large bowl of crisps in his lap.
The television was switched off, and a loudly protesting Dudley, still carrying his bowl, was ushered upstairs by his apparently doting mother, although he extracted the promise of several visits to various fun parks in payment for the inconvenience of missing whatever mindless drivel he had been occupied with.
Mycroft chose the least objectionable looking item of furniture to sit upon, Clarice declining a seat, and, as usual, coming to stand at his elbow, apparently engrossed in her mobile phone. He looked around with raised eyebrows, noting the lack of any kind of indication that more than one child was living in this house, smiling his blandest smile as his hostess set down a tea tray. Mycroft waited until the tea was poured, before beginning.
“Mr and Mrs Dursley, we are here to discuss certain matters with the adults responsible for and concerned with the… actions, shall we say, and the consequences thereof of a young man called…” Mycroft opened his briefcase, making a show of slowly removing and putting on some completely theatrical spectacles and peering at the first page within before glancing up at his rapt audience. “Ah yes, here it is. A Mr Harry Potter. Would I be speaking with the correct people?”
“Whatever that young scoundrel has done, it’s no concern of ours!” Vernon blustered, face turning as red as a tomato almost instantly. “Dropped on our doorstep after his no good parents got themselves killed, we’ve fed and clothed him out of the goodness of our hearts, but everyone around here will tell you what a rotter he is. And if he’s found himself on the wrong side of the law, we want nothing to do with him!”
Petunia was nodding along with what her husband was saying, her mouth pursed in a sour expression.
“I see.” Mycroft drew out the last syllable before pausing, turning several pages and taking his time perusing the information before looking up at the couple on the slightly sagging couch in front of him. “Well, we do have a rather unusual situation here, Mr and Mrs Dursley. You see, we have been unable to find any documentation confirming your legal custody of Mr Potter, and you will perhaps appreciate that we are therefore constrained by law. We cannot speak to you, or indeed anyone who has no legal authority over him regarding his… case. Yet he has indicated to our operatives that he has been both a resident of your address and under your guardianship for most of his life. This matter needs to be resolved before we can proceed.”
Mycroft looked sternly at Vernon and Petunia over his glasses, before reading from another sheet of paper. “The department has summarized our options as follows:
“One, we can prosecute you both under the law for having unlawful custody of a minor. Custody will then revert back to the state, and you both will very likely serve prison sentences.
“Two, you both sign a backdated custody agreement that will thenceforth be filed with the relevant government departments and also the NSPCC, and regular monitoring will begin to take place. We can then discuss with you the matters that brought this unusual situation to our attention, including any financial repercussions.
“Or, three, you both sign a backdated form that will legally disavow any connection to Mr Harry James Potter, which, among other things, will prevent him from making any familial claims on either you or any of your issue, and vice versa. As members of Her Majesty’s Government, we would then assume responsibility for seeing to Mr Potters… disposition.” Mycroft removed his spectacles and carefully placed them back in their case.
Vernon and Petunia exchanged speaking glances. This time it was Petunia who spoke. “We’ll take the last option. We never wanted him, and we refuse to be the ones that have to pay for his crimes. If we can pass on all responsibility over the brat, so much the better. You’re welcome to him.”
“Are you sure you do not wish to have more time to consider the options presented to you? No? Very well.” Mycroft extracted the thick disavowal agreement from the briefcase and presented it to Vernon and Petunia. “This document, once properly signed and witnessed, will dissolve any ties between you and Mr Potter. You will agree to pass on any correspondence relating to Mr Potter either personally or in the self addressed envelopes we will leave with you, and both parties will agree to return any property belonging to the other. There is also a secrecy clause that will come into effect. MI5 has no desire to be recognized as agents in this matter, you understand.”
Vernon and Petunia nodded, looking a bit overwhelmed.
“But, who will witness this?” Petunia asked.
“You cannot ask your neighbours?” Mycroft inquired politely.
“We don’t have to tell them what it is in regards to, do we?” Vernon said quickly, before trying to smile ingratiatingly.
Mycroft, a master at the political game on the global stage let nothing of his disgust for these two creatures show. “Of course not,” he responded smoothly. “They need only witness your willing signatures to a binding document. Knowledge of the information the document contains would be counter productive, as it would breach the secrecy clause.”
“Yes, yes, of course.” Vernon nodded jerkily. “Pet, would you call next door and see if the Jenkins are available?”
Mr and Mrs Jenkins from number two were both quite eager to find out what was going on, and meet the owner of the limousine parked in front of number four. Mycroft only had to mention the Official Secrets Act, and they subsided, no doubt planning to get the information out of Petunia or Vernon at a later date.
Using the pen that Mycroft supplied, Vernon and Petunia both initialled every page of the agreement before signing on the last page, watching as Mr and Mrs Jenkins signed the witness statements. When they had all finished, Mycroft took back the document and pen, replacing them in his briefcase before closing it and setting it aside. He waited patiently until Mr and Mrs Jenkins were shown to the door and Vernon and Petunia had returned to sit opposite him before speaking once more.
“Thank you for your quick action on this matter, Mr and Mrs Dursley. At this time we require you to relinquish to us any correspondence relating to Mr Harry James Potter that you currently hold in your possession.” Mycroft retained his bland smile as both Dursleys denied holding anything relating to Harry.
“Adjudication of Potter/Dursley 2008.1,” Mycroft said dispassionately and watched as both Vernon and Petunia doubled over, gasping in pain. He waited until they were once more upright and staring at him in a mixture of anger and terror before continuing. “How unfortunate, Mr and Mrs Dursley. It appears that you are in breach of your contracted agreement. I would advise you to fulfil my request, as the pain will return in increasing increments every hour on the hour until your responsibilities under the agreement have been complied with.”
“You… you…” Vernon’s face was once again bright red, darkening rapidly towards purple.
“Yes,” Mycroft said, as Clarice looked up from her mobile briefly to observe the Dursleys. Clearly not concerned by what she saw, she returned her attention to her phone. “The document you have just signed will be magically enforced. Every time you break the agreement, and adjudication is called for, you will suffer until any and all breaches are corrected. If they cannot be corrected… well, I’m sure you can see where this is going. So to reiterate… please relinquish to us any correspondence relating to Mr Harry James Potter that you currently hold in your possession.”
Petunia hurried upstairs, returning a few minutes later with an A4 envelope full of letters. She put it on the coffee table and shoved it gracelessly in Mycroft’s direction. “There they are. Now get out! We don’t want your kind here, you freaks!” Fear had made Petunia vicious, and Mycroft wondered idly if this was a face she had regularly shown his nephew.
He looked through the letters, finding one from Dumbledore dated 1 November 2001. He glanced through it, and allowed a smile to cross his face. This was exactly what he had been hoping to find. He stowed the envelope in his briefcase.
“Thank you. Of course you realize, Mr and Mrs Dursley, that the document which has just been signed and duly witnessed means that any and all payments that you have received on behalf of or for the benefit of Mr Potter will now be offset against all monies spent on his welfare in order to determine what belongs to him and what belongs to you, with the balance to be repaid to the appropriate party.”
Mycroft stood, briefcase in one hand and umbrella in the other. “Our operatives will be here momentarily to take a detailed inventory of the house and contents for the audit, and to remove anything that clearly belongs to Mr Potter so that we can be assured that it will not be ‘accidentally’ destroyed. Please be as cooperative as possible while we ensure that all the legalities are taken care of. Good day, Mr and Mrs Dursley. We can find our own way out.”
And with Clarice following behind, Mycroft let himself out the front door, noting the dark cars pulling up and disgorging their occupants as he did so. He nodded to the large men dressed in black as he passed them on the way to the limousine, and settled back in the leather seats to go through the latest proposal put forward by the French government. He did so like it when things went according to plan.
Two weeks after Mycroft’s visit to Privet Drive, Mundungus Fletcher stood on the corner, squinting his eyes at the whale that the Dursley woman was fussing over. If Dumbledore himself hadn’t said that young Harry Potter was living at 4 Privet Drive with the Dursleys, he would never have picked it. That young scallywag looked nothing like a Potter!
It was then that he had the realisation… Dumbledore must have put a long-term glamour on the brat, to further keep his identity a secret. Well, if Dumbledore thought that level of secrecy was necessary, Dung wasn’t going to queer his pitch, no sirree. This gig was a doddle, and he intended to keep it. Now, where was the nearest bottle shop?
Two months later, Albus Dumbledore smiled as he read over the latest report of Mundungus Fletcher, the Order member he had recently installed near the Dursleys to keep a watch over Harry, when poor Arabella had sadly died after being run over by a muggle vehicle. It had taken several weeks to sort everything out, but Mundungus would be well established in the community now. He reported that the boy was being treated well by his guardians, despite the fact that the family appeared to be undergoing financial difficulties.
This corresponded well with the device he had set up to monitor the blood wards. They appeared to be showing more strength than ever before, and Dumbledore was heartened that the Dursleys had finally gotten over their mistrust of magic and had begun treating Harry like a true member of the family. He had always known that family would work things out. He wondered briefly what the impetus for change was, but then put it from his mind. Maybe one day Harry would tell him.
Dumbledore selected a lemon drop and sat back in his chair to enjoy it. Tomorrow night was the Halloween feast, and he had yet to decide which robes he would wear.
Harry had been living with Sherlock and John for almost a year now, and every day was an adventure. He was never sure what kind of experiment Sherlock would be conducting, and despite John’s efforts to ensure that his exposure to unsafe practices was limited, explosions were a regular occurrence.
Mrs Hudson popped up at least once a day, and almost always came bearing something yummy. Harry wasn’t sure if he would ever get used to being fussed over, but Mrs Hudson wasn’t overbearing about it. Sometimes he would stay with her overnight if Sherlock and John were called away unexpectedly, and those evenings were generally spent in her small kitchen, having fun cooking in a way that Harry had never been able to with the Dursleys.
Once a month on a Friday night, John, Harry, and a melodramatically reluctant Sherlock would go around for dinner at Mycroft’s posh place in Grosvenor Street. When John and Sherlock went home, Harry would remain with Mycroft until Sunday morning, spending time with him and learning etiquette, how to read people and manipulate them, the value of planning, and lots of other things that Sherlock thought were a waste of time.
Harry was going to a prep school called Tuddonby not all that far away from Baker Street and it was brilliant not having to pretend to be stupid any more. Well, not as much, anyway. Mycroft had advised him to practice discretion when allowing others to know about his true intelligence levels, so as not to create a hostile environment. He had described both his and Sherlock’s experiences at school as an example and since Harry was already used to concealing his talents he adjusted quickly. Besides, the internet was a wonderful tool to exercise his brain with if he got bored with regular schoolwork.
Last Saturday Mycroft had explained to him that he had finally managed to manoeuvre things in the magical world so that Sirius Black, the man his parents had named as his godfather and who therefore should have been first in line for custody of him, would finally get the trial that had been overdue for almost eight years. Harry had been horrified when he was told that his father’s best friend had betrayed him, but on learning of the procedural irregularities that meant that Sirius had never had a chance to defend himself from the allegations of ‘credulous idiots’, as Sherlock liked to call them, was inclined to suspect either deliberate malfeasance or a system that was incredibly flawed. Possibly both.
Late one evening John and Sherlock had been called out on a case by Detective Inspector Lestrade, and so Harry and Mrs Hudson were in her small kitchen experimenting with pastry recipes when the knocker on the outer door was applied quite vigorously. Mrs Hudson went to answer it, wiping her hands on her apron as she went.
Harry was used to people calling at all hours to ask for Sherlock and John, and so paid no attention until he heard a thwack, and the sound of a body hitting the floor. He was horrified to realize that he’d left his mobile phone upstairs, and lunged for Mrs Hudson’s cordless phone, managing to dial 999 and hide the phone under a tea towel before diving for the back door.
Just as he reached it, it was smashed open, throwing him backwards. Disoriented by the blow, he didn’t register the presence of the needle until he felt it enter his arm. Everything went black.
Less than twenty-four hours later, he was back at Baker Street. Jim Moriarty, self-styled ‘consulting criminal’ was dead, and the empire he had built was being systematically dismantled. In an unprecedented move, Sherlock and Mycroft had put their combined energy into it, throwing every resource they had into discovering Harry’s whereabouts and recovering him safely. While they were at it Mycroft had Sebastian Moran captured and then interrogated him under veritaserum, passing on instructions to MI5 and MI6 to assassinate everyone known to be in the top three tiers of the organization.
Harry had been unharmed, other than some bruising and the larger than recommended dose of anaesthetic that had been administered to him when he had woken much earlier than his captors had expected him to.
“But if you could take him out so easily, why didn’t you do it earlier?” Harry asked from where he was lying bundled up under several blankets on the couch. In deference to the warm weather, the air conditioner was on, otherwise he’d be roasting.
“You must understand, Harry, that there will always be organized crime,” Mycroft explained. “Now that Moriarty is gone, another will step up to fill the void. Sometimes, it is better to leave a known enemy in place. You can monitor him, infiltrate his organization and then ensure minimal disruption to the lives of ordinary citizens.”
“Right.” Harry nodded, understanding the theory. “And you took care of him now because…”
“We needed to send a clear message.” Mycroft examined the handle of his umbrella, before looking intently at Harry. “It should now be understood by even the most egotistical career criminal that you are out of bounds. It’s possible of course that we may need to… reinforce this message at a later date, and of course there are always opportunistic idiots who may believe that you are a viable target, so we cannot relax our vigilance with regards to your safety. However, the word is now out ‘on the street’ as they say, that to involve you in their schemes is a death sentence, rather than a prison sentence.”
“Is it not a slight abuse of power?” Lestrade asked hesitantly. He had been with Sherlock and John when they received the news of Harry’s kidnapping, and had done everything he could to assist.
“I assure you, Detective Inspector Lestrade, that it is not.” Mycroft’s words were frosty as he frowned down his nose, an impressive feat considering he was seated and Lestrade was standing. “I have given my life in service to my country, and our country greatly benefits. My only requirement in return is the safety of my family, by whatever means necessary.”
Ignoring the discussion going on over his head, Harry examined his own feelings. He wasn’t sure if the warm fuzzy feeling he got after finding out that his guardians had arranged the deaths of so many people in order to keep him safe was really the morally correct way to feel. He knew he wasn’t a psychopath, he felt no joy at the pain of unrelated strangers.
But he had found himself vindictively pleased when Sergeant Sally Donovan had been suspended from duty pending an investigation into her behaviour after she had been recorded on mobile phone calling Harry a freak, ‘just like that freak uncle of yours’ and the clip had gone viral on YouTube. Lestrade had publicly reprimanded her and given her a verbal warning at the scene to go with the one already on her file after John had put in a compliant about her manner towards Harry, and now it was likely that she would lose her job. Perhaps he was a sociopath, like Sherlock claimed to be?
Dismissing those thoughts from his mind, he snuggled down into his blankets and basked in the feeling of care and safety that being surrounded by his family brought him.
Eight years following his illegal incarceration on the island fortress of Azkaban, Sirius Black was finally put on trial before the Wizengamot for the murders of Peter Pettigrew and thirteen muggles, and also as an accessory to the murders of James and Lily Potter and the attempted murder of Harry Potter. In the absence of the remnants of a dark mark, any true evidence against him, and with his very carefully supervised veritaserum testimony, he was declared ‘not guilty’, reunited with his wand, and released.
Two days later when Harry came home from school, he found Sirius Black sitting in 221B Baker Street having tea with Sherlock and John.
“Harry?” the skeletally thin man said as Harry came through the door. “Merlin, you look just like James did. I’m Sirius Black, your parents named me your godfather.”
“Hello,” Harry said a bit shyly, going to sit on the couch. Mycroft had kept him up to date on the events surrounding Black’s trial, and the results. But no one had told him his godfather would be visiting today. He was struck by uncertainty. What exactly did you say to someone you had no memory of, who was apparently your dead father’s best friend and your godfather?
Sirius appeared to be having a similar issue, and they stared awkwardly at each other for about a minute before John brought Harry his afternoon snack, sitting himself down next to him.
“Right then,” John announced, breaking the silence. “Harry, as you already know, Sirius here was named in your parents will as their first choice for guardian for you in the event of both their deaths. Obviously Sherlock, Mycroft, and I have no intentions of relinquishing guardianship, therefore we’ve all decided that the best thing to do is to have Sirius move in downstairs, in 221C. First though, he needs medical and psychological treatment to help him heal from his time in that awful place. Mycroft has arranged for him to be admitted to a special hospital in Greece where they will help him recover.”
“Okay,” Harry said when it was clear that they were waiting for him to say something. “That sounds fine. How long will that take?”
John looked to Sirius, who shrugged.
“As long as it takes, I suppose.” He looked down at the mug of tea he was cradling in both hands. “No one’s ever emerged from Azkaban after so long and still been sane, so it’s a bit trial and error as far as the treatment goes. But the hospital just outside Megara is famous for innovation and achieving miraculous results, and while we won’t be able to visit with each other, we’ll be able to write letters. If you’d like?”
Harry agreed, feeling a bit relieved. Writing to his godfather seemed a good way to get to know him without feeling so under pressure. And hopefully by the time he was better, and had moved in downstairs things would be more comfortable.
“But Sherlock, what will happen to your experiments?” Harry asked his uncle, who had uncharacteristically been silent the whole time.
“What?” Sherlock dragged his thoughts away from whatever had been occupying them. “Oh, Black and I have agreed that I can keep my experiments and other things in 221C, and that we’ll treat the two flats as one. He’ll have his bedroom and a bathroom down there, but he’ll eat with us, and use the living area up here. That way, we can all get exactly what we want from the arrangement.”
The last year had practically flown by. Sirius had needed a lot of healing, and Harry and Sirius had been exchanging letters for the entire time. Harry could even track his godfather’s progress by the tone and content of the letters. Most of the physical damage had been healed without too much trouble; it was his mind that required the most work. And not just from his time in Azkaban.
Sirius had confessed to Harry in one of his letters that when he had been sorted into Gryffindor at Hogwarts, his home life, which was never what anyone could call loving, had become increasingly horrifying, until the summer between fifth and sixth year, when he had sought sanctuary with the Potters.
He explained to Harry what the three Unforgivable spells were, and told him that it was his mother’s attempt to use the lesser two of these spells on him that had finally caught the attention of his grandfather, Lord Arcturus Black, the Head of House. Unlike the multitude of other hexes Sirius had been subjected to over the years, these could not be excused as the necessary discipline of a wayward son. Lord Black had belatedly given his permission for the change in Sirius’ living arrangements.
Because James’ mother, Dorea Potter, had been a Black before her marriage, Lord Black had announced that he considered Sirius to be fostered within the family, and had therefore refused his daughter-in-law’s petition to have Sirius excised from the family for desertion. In a fury, Walburga Black had blasted her eldest son’s name from the Black Family Tapestry. That unrepentant desecration of an heirloom was the final act of defiance to her Lord’s wishes that saw her confined to her house for the remainder of her life.
These and other revelations, along with his many remembrances of James and Lily and his clear desire to know everything that he possibly could about Harry’s life had brought them close together, and it was with great anticipation that Harry was awaiting his arrival.
When the knock came at the front door late on a Thursday afternoon, Harry had to use every ounce of the control that Mycroft had been training into him to not leap up and answer it. One of the security measures that had been agreed upon was that Harry was never to answer the door. It irritated Sherlock no end, but he had never once tried to circumvent the rule that John had insisted upon.
When Sirius made it to the top of the stairs, Harry was shocked at the difference a year of healing had made to his godfather. Sirius was no longer skeletal, his dark hair was lustrous and tidy, and much shorter than it had been. But best of all, his eyes, which had looked so haunted and dark, were shining with life and happiness.
“Harry!” Sirius whooped, lifting his godson off his feet and twirling him around. Harry was laughing when he was released, and Sirius laid his hands on his shoulders and stood and looked at him for a moment.
“It’s wonderful to be here,” Sirius said appearing only a little calmer. “I’ve got all my things, and I’m ready to move in. Want to see some magic?”
Sirius had rejected all offers to get 221C sorted out before he moved in, saying that as a resident wizard he would be able to use a great deal of magic that would make the process much cheaper. Harry was looking forward to seeing magic in action. He had heard a lot about it, but other than his own accidental magic, he couldn’t really remember seeing any. And since he had moved in with John and Sherlock, his episodes of accidental magic had been few and far between.
“Yeah!” Harry laughed, and led the group down to 221C. Sherlock and John had moved all of the chemistry equipment to give Sirius room to do his thing, and were both looking forward to the display.
“One of the projects they had me undertake while I was healing was planning what needed to be done here, so I have this list and made sure I learnt all the spells,” Sirius said, passing them a sheet of thick paper as he cast several spells to seal the area from damp and remove the excess moisture that had gathered. “The sealing spells I’m currently casting are only temporary, but they only need to last until I can arrange for Gringotts to do a more permanent job. They’ll only start work once a fully qualified wizard is in residence due to regulations laid upon them by the Ministry of Magic.”
“When will that happen?” John asked as they all watched Sirius cast a complicated series of spells to repel various pests. Sherlock had yet to say anything, but was paying a great deal of attention to the way Sirius was standing and the wand movements he was using.
“Well, I only went in briefly before heading to Greece to see what had been happening with my vault,” Sirius explained. “Usually, someone sent to Azkaban has everything but contracted transactions halted, and the remainder of their account is frozen. The goblins of Gringotts are sticklers for the letter of the law though, and because they never received proper notice of a conviction, they continued on with the last set of instructions I had left them. Which means that my vault is a little short on ready cash, but I have a controlling interest of a number of either economically important or well known wizarding businesses.”
“Isn’t that a rather risky investment strategy?” Harry asked doubtfully. “Especially during wartime, when businesses may be targeted?”
“Well, yes,” Sirius replied, pausing in his casting and turning to grin at his godson. “The money to fund it was my allowance from the Black Family, and it was the best way I could think of to keep critical businesses out of Death Eater hands. It didn’t really matter to me if the lot was razed to the ground, my purpose would have been achieved either way. Only, since I was in prison, the goblins of Gringotts kept spending the income as I had directed them to, and now…”
“Now you have a lot of influence,” Harry said, thinking over the ramifications this could have. “Behind the scenes influence, but that’s even better. Does Mycroft know about this?”
“Not yet.” Sirius turned back to his spell casting. “We have a meeting scheduled to discuss various matters tomorrow evening after dinner. Apparently you’ll be there too?”
“Yes, the day after is our Saturday,” Harry said. “Hang on, you never said when the Gringotts’ warders would be coming.”
“Right yes, sorry.” Sirius stopped again. “What do you think pup? What colour should the walls be in here?”
“Maybe light green?” Harry suggested. “It’s soothing and restful, but not dark and dreary. And answer the question!”
“You’re going to end up in Slytherin, aren’t you?” Sirius groaned theatrically, and began waving his wand like a paintbrush over the far wall. With every stroke a pale green began to cover the previously repaired plasterboard. “First, Gringotts will send a team over to inspect the property requiring warding, in this case the entirety of 221. Then we’ll have a meeting where we determine which wards we want, which ones we can have, and how much it will cost. Once all that’s done, we’ll wait for the first warding team available to come and do their thing. And finally, they’ll send a curse-breaking team over to double check their work for any holes.”
“So the real answer to ‘When will that happen?’ is ‘I don’t know’,” John said with a smile.
“Well, yes,” Sirius replied, throwing a grin in John’s direction before starting on a different wall. “I’m thinking that it will likely take anywhere from six months to a year to get it finished. But once it’s done, we’ll be as secure as we can get. The goblins of Gringotts are the best commercial warders available.”
Sherlock had gone over to the completed wall to examine the colour and how it adhered to the plasterboard. “This isn’t painted,” he announced, drawing everyone’s attention. “You didn’t paint it, you changed the colour. How did you do that? Will the effect last?”
And from then on the conversation centred around the magic Sirius was performing.
The next night, while Mycroft, Sherlock, John and Sirius were sipping brandy in front of the fire after a delicious dinner at Grosvenor Street, Sirius spoke to them about the damage that that the hospital in Greece hadn’t been able to heal.
“It’s something about constant exposure to dementors,” he explained. “It happens gradually, but after about a year or so, the exposed person is completely sterile. The British Ministry knows about it, but they don’t care about the long-term prisoners, so they’ve never done anything to mitigate the problem. It didn’t take the healers long to diagnose, and several of the trainees are using my case as a basis for their thesis and trying to find a remedy, but currently there’s nothing that can be done. It is most probable that I can never have children.”
Harry didn’t know what to say. John looked very sympathetic, but Mycroft was looking at Sirius intently and Sherlock was glancing rapidly between Harry and his godfather.
“And so you intend to make Harry your heir,” Mycroft said, no sign of any question in his voice. “I presume that doing so is more involved than changing your will.”
“If that was all it was, I wouldn’t need to change my will,” Sirius replied, sipping at his brandy. “Harry has been my beneficiary since the day he was born. No, the issue is that I am currently the Scion of the Ancient and Noble House of Black. Upon my grandfather’s death I will become Lord Black, Head of the Ancient and Noble House of Black. That means that I will inherit the Black wealth, Wizengamot seats, and various other rights and responsibilities. Most importantly, I will gain control over the Black Family Magic, which…”
He stopped when he saw the confusion on John and Harry’s faces, and the interest on Sherlock’s.
Mycroft raised an eyebrow in Sirius’ direction. “Perhaps you should explain Family Magic to us?” he asked, swirling his brandy in his crystal balloon.
Sirius gave a sigh, and scrubbed his hand over his face. “Right, so Family Magic is rooted in the blood. In order to share the magic, you must first be descended from the Originator of the Line. In the Black Family’s case, this was a wizard called Sirius Black, about fifteen hundred years ago. Yes, yes,” Sirius said in response to four sets of raised eyebrows, “I’m named after the founder of our line. The name Sirius is often given to the firstborn in the main line if it is a boy. So, everyone descended from the originator is automatically bound to the magic, just as the magic is bound to them. When a daughter marries outside the family–”
“Outside?” Harry interrupted, wrinkling his nose up in disgust. He noticed John doing the same thing, but Mycroft and Sherlock were just listening intently. “You mean they regularly marry inside the family?”
“Oh yes,” Sirius said wryly. “The pureblood world is full of inbreeding. When she found out, Lily was horrified and disgusted. After she explained it to me, I totally agreed. For instance, my mother and father were second cousins, and they both came to the marriage with the last name Black.
“Anyway, when a daughter marries outside the family, if the family she marries into has Family Magic of their own, then a ritual is performed to Release her and her descendants from the Family Magic. If the family she marries into doesn’t have Family Magic then a decision is made as to whether the ritual of Release is performed or if the husband will take her name, making her and any children still connected, and part of the Black family.
“Any descendants from a Released daughter or son for three generations can be Reclaimed back into the Family, changing their name and breaking any contracts binding them to their old name. Like Releasing, Reclaiming must be mutual, both the Lord and the subject must desire it. After three generations, the connection the blood has to the Family Magic goes dormant and they can no longer be Reclaimed. They can, however, be blood adopted.
“If a son or daughter does anything the Lord deems unacceptable, he or she can be Severed from the family, which is a ritual much like the Release ritual, only it’s much rougher on the subject as their consent is not asked for. It’s like the difference between untying and removing a shoelace, or just ripping it out. You achieve the same result, but you use a different amount of force and ripping it out causes more damage to the lace. Also to the shoe.”
“Can the metaphorical lace be repaired?” Sherlock asked curiously. “And is it a one-off pain, or constant?”
“One-off, but it leaves an ache,” Sirius said sadly. “My cousin Andromeda was Severed from the family for marrying against her parents’ wishes, and in defiance of a contract that had already been drawn up for her. She told me what it feels like. Her daughter has never known what Family Magic feels like, so probably doesn’t even notice it missing. As for repairing it… with the correct ritual, both Andromeda and her daughter can be brought back into the Family. However if Andromeda were to die, then the only way for her daughter to be accepted into the Family would be through blood adoption by another member.”
“So blood adoption breaches the gap, and because she is descended from Sirius Black, the magic will accept her,” Sherlock reasoned, leaning forward slightly. “Would that free her from any contracts entered into, as with Reclaiming?”
“No,” Sirius said. “I have no idea why, but it’s different. Now, the Lord is subject to the Family Magic, and the Family Magic is also subject to the Lord. The Lord must act in the best interests of the Family, but he also commands great power.”
“And I suppose ‘best interests’ is subjective,” John said dryly.
“Oh yes,” Sirius said with feeling. “So long as the Lord feels he’s acting in the best interests of the Family and it’s continuance, the magic won’t recoil on him.”
“What happens when the magic recoils on him?” Harry asked. He could see Mycroft sitting in his chair drinking this in, no doubt compiling a list of questions to ask Sirius later. And he would likely have instructed his assistant to research Family Magic before the end of the evening.
“I’m not actually sure,” Sirius replied. “We don’t have any family records of it. I do know that when the new Lord accepts his place in the Family, he chooses one of several different oaths to take, binding him and the Magic together. My grandfather gave me the Black Book of Ascension to study when I saw him today. It’s quite heavy reading, and the translation spell could do with updating, but I think different oaths give you more or less control, and consequently hold you to higher or lesser standards.”
“When you said your grandfather finally took action after your mother tried to use those spells on you…” Harry felt awkward asking, but Sirius didn’t seem to mind.
“The Family Magic would have pushed him to act.”
“So, when you say that you want to make Harry your heir…” John prompted.
“He must have Black blood,” Sherlock murmured looking over at his nephew.
“Yes. Harry’s paternal grandmother was Dorea Black, my maternal great aunt,” Sirius explained. “I could, with his agreement, Reclaim him for the House of Black. However, if I did that he would no longer be the Scion of the Ancient and Noble House of Potter. And since Harry is the last Potter that would effectively kill off that magical line and the Family Magic associated with it. No, in order for Harry to keep his heritage and also become my heir, and the next Scion of the Black Family I need to adopt him as my son in a Blood Magic ceremony.”
“Are there no current members of the Black Family suitable?” Mycroft finally re-entered the conversation.
“No.” Sirius grimaced. “The war did a number on Black Family, as it did many others. Someone will need to be either Reclaimed or blood adopted, the issue then becomes who. The Black Family is patriarchal, so that leaves out Andromeda’s daughter. Narcissa married a death eater from an Ennobled family, and it is highly likely that her son has been raised in his image. Arthur Weasley has sworn his service to Albus Dumbledore; the Black Family Magic will never accept a Lord or Scion that is sworn to another. The Weasley children have active Black blood from both parents, but they have been indoctrinated into the cult of the extreme Light Dumbledore, which is almost as bad as the extreme Dark of the death eaters.
“The only options left are Harry, as already mentioned, and Neville Longbottom, who is the Scion of the Ancient and Noble House of Longbottom. Basically it’s the same situation as with Harry, only Neville is a further generation removed from the Family Magic. Not to mention that it was a Released member of the Black Family that essentially orphaned him. It makes sense that I would choose Harry, who I already share a bond with.”
“And your grandfather is okay with this?” Harry asked, remembering the stories Sirius had shared about his family, including his stern, distant grandfather.
“I think he’s relieved he doesn’t have to Reclaim Narcissa’s son, to be honest,” Sirius said, quirking his mouth in a half grin. “Not that I think the Family Magic would accept him as Scion. He’s been brought up to do his best for the Malfoys; it’s unlikely that he would be able to honestly vow to the Blacks, and the Family Magic would punish him if he tried any dishonest vow.”
“And you believe that Harry could make that vow honestly?” Sherlock asked.
Harry wasn’t offended at the blunt question. Unless Sherlock had a reason to dislike you almost everything he said could be taken at face value, with no judgment attached.
“I do,” Sirius responded, smiling at Harry. “I don’t think that Harry would short change one family for the benefit of the other.”
“Of course not!” John was smiling at him as well.
“It doesn’t have to be decided right away,” Sirius said, sitting back. “While my grandfather is still alive there’s no great hurry. It’s probably something that should be taken care of soon though. It would probably give the old fogey a bit of peace of mind to have it sorted out.”
“It seems we have much to discuss, Mr Black,” Mycroft said, one eyebrow raised. He paused to take a sip of brandy before continuing. “Perhaps you would like to join us tomorrow for Harry’s lessons?”
“Sure!” Sirius said with a grin, draining the last of his brandy from the glass. “I need to give Harry some instruction on wizarding etiquette and politics anyway, may as well start tomorrow.”
Harry sat back, and let the voices of the four people who meant more to him than anything wash over him. Still full from eating more than usual at dinner he began to doze, secure in the knowledge that he had never been safer than when he was in the company of his family. Each man was, in his own way, extremely dangerous. Together they would be unstoppable, and he pitied anyone who tried to take them on.