Gringotts Monday 23rd December 1985, 3.15pm
Moody and Shacklebolt looked up as the door to the office they had spent almost two hours in now opened. They had spent the majority of that time going over various possibilities, and planning responses. It was clear that the goblins knew exactly what had happened, and just as clear that they weren’t going to say anything. Neither auror had ever heard of this ‘Secrecy Seal’ before, but that didn’t necessarily mean anything. They weren’t exactly experts on goblins.
Mornuk, the goblin that had been in the background when they had their interview with Ragnok, ushered two men in before closing the door behind him.
“Good afternoon.” The thin looking dark haired man opened with. “You may call me Finn, I am here on behalf of Harry Potter as his kinsman. This is Cal, a trusted friend. You have already met Mornuk, who is the account manager for the Potter Holdings.”
“Alastor Moody, Senior Auror with the DMLE, and this is Kingsley Shacklebolt, also a Senior Auror with the DMLE.” Moody eyed the slight young man. “And how are you kin to Harry Potter, exactly?”
“I am the second cousin of Harry’s father. Cal and I, and several others, have been searching for Harry since we were made aware of the death of James and Lily.” Finn smiled thinly. “We have now found him. Mornuk, please verify for these gentleman that I have only spoken truth here.”
“He speaks truth.” Mornuk confirmed abruptly. Moody noted that the goblin didn’t seem at all surprised by any of this. Well, that Finn fellow did have a slightly Potter-ish look about him. That hair… He was about to start in on his questioning when Mornuk handed Finn a document that looked very much like one of the goblins fancy wills.
“Here I have a verified copy of the Last Will and Testament of James and Lily Potter.” Finn held up the parchment. “Before I give this to you… on whose instructions are you here?”
Moody and Shacklebolt exchanged a glance. Moody answered.
“We are here on the instructions of Amelia Bones, head of the DMLE.”
“And you, Senior Auror Shacklebolt?” Finn said, turning to the so far silent man.
“As Auror Moody said, we’re here on the instructions of Amelia Bones.” Kingsley answered, slightly confused as to the need for this repetition.
“And do you intend to share the information that you obtain here today with anybody aside from Amelia Bones, Head of the DMLE?” Finn was very deliberate in his word choices. “In any way?”
“No.” Moody responded, feeling a smidgeon of respect for the caution showed here. At least the boy appeared to have someone looking out for him properly now. And that Cal fellow, who had yet to say anything… Moody’s danger senses were tingling away like crazy. “I am under oath to share information on the investigation into the welfare of Harry James Potter only with my partner, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Amelia Bones. It is an oath I fully intend to obey in spirit as well as word.”
Before Finn could ask the same of Shacklebolt, he repeated what Moody had said. Finn smiled. He looked at Mornuk, who nodded.
“Very well then.” Finn seemed much more approachable. “As I said, here is the Will that you came to Gringotts to ask about. A perusal of the itemized list at the beginning may show some insight as to the need for all this secrecy.”
Moody and Shacklebolt unrolled the parchment, easily finding the bequest list above all the legalese that was the main body of the document. Kingsley was the faster reader of the two, and reached the more interesting bits first.
“What!? Black is Potter’s blood bound godfather?” Kingsley blurted as he read. “But then he couldn’t have… Merlin, Pettigrew was the secret keeper? Moody…” He read for a while longer, before sitting back, having read the final few sentences.
“Aye.” Moody growled, reaching the end a few moments later. He rolled the Will back up, and looked back at Finn, who had been watching them. “I well understand why you may wish to know where this information will be going. So, according to this, Andromeda Tonks is the legal magical guardian of the boy then?”
“No.” Finn said firmly. “According to the Will, Sirius Black is the legal magical guardian of Harry Potter.”
Kingsley shook his head.
“Convicted felons have guardianships and legal rights over minors not in their direct line revoked.” He explained. “Next on the list are Frank and/or Alice Longbottom, but they’ve been declared legally incompetent, so magical guardianship goes next to Andromeda Tonks.”
“There are two things wrong with what you have just said.” Finn said calmly. “Firstly, I have seen no documentation declaring either Frank or Alice Longbottom legally incompetent. Also, Sirius Black is not a convicted felon.”
Kingsley stared. Moody’s eye started twirling faster, as he began connecting the dots.
“Dumbledore!” He snarled, waving the Will, before almost throwing it at Shacklebolt. “Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot for the past fifteen years! No way anyone goes to Azkaban without him signing off on it, especially a high profile case like Black. And he sealed the Will. He had signed it as the first choice executor, he knew damn well what it said.”
The grizzled old auror stood up, and began stumping around in circles, muttering imprecations to himself. Kingsley stared at the rolled up Will, before his eyes went hard.
“Mad Eye! Sit down, this isn’t the time or the place.” By the time Moody was sitting again, Kingsley had made his decision.
“I presume you will want us to give you our oaths before we go much further.” He took a deep breath. “I am willing to give a reasonable oath that limits my discretion in this matter, providing that it does not conflict with the oaths that I have already given as an Auror. I can assure you that I have made no personal oaths of any kind to Albus Dumbledore.” He let out what remained of his breath explosively, and finished under his breath. “And after this, I’m not likely to either.”
“Thank you.” Finn said gravely. Everyone turned to look at Moody.
“So, let me see if I have this right.” Moody summed up. “Dumbledore shoves Black, who is the legal magical guardian into prison without a trial, seals the Will, uses his position as Chief Warlock to designate himself as guardian, and then drops the lad off with horrific muggles, using illegal blood wards to hide him from anyone who might be looking for him.”
Finn and Cal both nodded. Mornuk, who until the oaths were taken was unable to share any information, just stared impassively.
“Just… tell me this.” Moody ran a hand down his face. “Did Dumbledore tie all the wards on the property to the kid? Because all the information I was able to get points to the fact that he anchored them on that small boys blood.”
Finn and Cal nodded again, their eyes flinty.
“Then to hell with it. Count me in.” Moody laughed abruptly. “I never gave Dumbledore any oath using my full name. There was always something… I just thought it was justifiable paranoia, hazard of the job, you know. Now, I have to wonder…” He shook himself. “I’m betting I won’t get away with that one, not when goblins are involved. Hah! Tricky little devils!”
Mornuk gave the ghost of a smile, and handed over two parchments and a contract quill.
Moody and Shacklebolt read through the parchments in silence, before attaching their signatures.
“That was a masterful piece of contract work.” Moody said admiringly, sitting back in his seat. “Couldn’t see a single loophole. Not that I was planning to use one if I found it, but…”
“It’s always wise to be aware of the loopholes.” Mornuk finished for him, sending the completed contracts off through the transport system for filing.
“So, if you’ll pardon my bluntness.” Shacklebolt said, leaning forward and propping his chin up on his fingers. “But what in the name of all the hells is going on?”
Up in Ragnok’s office, Harry was waiting with ill concealed impatience. To take his mind off what was going on in Mornuk’s office, he talked to Ragnok about the goblin memory stone thingy.
“The Ritual of Stone, Lord Potter.” Ragnok corrected.
“Yeah, that.” Harry shifted a little uncomfortably. “It only just occurred to me earlier today…”
“You no longer wish to take part?” Neither Ragnok’s voice or demeanour changed in any way that Harry could discern, but there was definitely a slight chill in the air.
“Will it show anyone who views it all the private bits?” Harry was almost itching with embarrassment, and none of the others were stepping in to help. In fact, they looked amused, the big prats. “You know, like in the bathroom. And you know, alone. All by myself.”
“I take your meaning.” Ragnok said solemnly. The metaphorical temperature had risen again. The large goblin paused, considering. “Standard procedure after the ritual is concluded has the resulting stone being reviewed and catalogued by the archivist. The archivist… classifies the more personal and non-relevant moments, and they are hidden from any that don’t have the correct authorization.”
“Good!” Harry said with relief. “So, just this one dude that will never meet me sees all that stuff, and then when you and Mornuk see it, you just get the fights, and all the potioning and stuff.”
“Yes, Lord Potter.” Ragnok answered, seeming much happier. Harry was glad he hadn’t screwed that one up.
“So, when should we do this then?” Harry asked, deciding that it was best to get all this memory stuff done sooner rather than later.
“It will take approximately a week to prepare.” Ragnok looked at his large appointment ledger. “How about Monday next week? At around 10.00am? There are various things that need to be done beforehand, but the ritual itself takes about an hour, so you should be free by lunch time.”
“What sorts of things?” Harry asked curiously.
“Oh, you know Harry.” Arthalian butted in. “The ritual bathing by virgins, the full body massage, the anointing with oil, the tattoos…”
“What?” Harry squawked, horrified. No one had mentioned any of this. “Bathing? Massage? Oil? Virgins?”
“And then the deflowering.” Arthalian continued, enjoying himself immensely.
“Deflow… wait a minute.” Harry stopped, looking suspiciously at his father, and then the others in the room with him. Sparky had turned so that he couldn’t see her face, but Hal and Rody looked far too blank to be natural. And now that he was paying more attention, he could see Sparky’s shoulders shaking. Harry looked at Ragnok, who appeared to be very interested in something written in the ledger in front of him.
“Very funny.” Harry grumbled. “You could have given me a heart attack!”
Sparky burst out laughing, and laughed so hard she almost fell off her chair. Hal helped her to a slightly more stable position, until she was finished and wiping her eyes.
“I notice you made no objection to the tattoos.” Arthalian mentioned. Harry just scowled at him, and put his nose in the air. Inside, he was delighted at this gentle teasing. This was what he always thought a family should be like, what he’d thought he’d found with the Weasleys.
But something there had always seemed slightly off. Molly was just… she said all the right motherly things, she just didn’t follow through, unless Ginny was involved. Arthur always seemed as though he was not quite there, tuning in from time to time to see what had happened in his absence. And that led to a family that claimed to be close, but Bill and Charlie had high-tailed it out of the country at the earliest opportunity, the twins had been off in their own little world, and neither Percy nor Ron had paid enough attention to their little sister to realize that she was being possessed for an entire year.
Despite how much he’d loved visiting The Burrow, he’d never felt properly comfortable there. And looking back, of course he’d loved visiting The Burrow. He’d probably have loved Malfoy Manor, if it meant getting away from the Dursleys. Harry had never known what feeling truly comfortable was like until Arthalian had found him, and now he could drift off to sleep while everyone around him played cards, secure that he was safe.
Harry gave his rather startled (but pleased) father a hug, privately planning to get him back later. When he wasn’t suspecting it.
“Mwa, ha-ha-ha!” Harry cackled, rubbing his hands together in maniacal glee. Let them worry.
A double chime alerted everyone to an important incoming message. Ragnok picked up both of the signed oaths that had come through, and quickly glanced over them.
“They have signed the oaths. They will be here shortly.”
Harry was still nervous when Moody and Shacklebolt entered Ragnok’s office. In his mind they were linked so closely to Dumbledore as to almost be inextricable. He knew that they were both men of principle, dedicated to fighting evil, but the effect of the mythos that Dumbledore had managed to build up around himself was not something to be taken lightly.
Moody looked no different from how Harry remembered him, maybe slightly less grizzled, his hair a slightly darker shade of grey. But Shacklebolt… looked much younger than Harry remembered him, less authoritative and composed. Which made sense, now that Harry thought about it. It was ten years until Harry had met him in the other timeline, and that time was time that Kingsley had clearly used well.
Harry felt himself relax slightly. This Kingsley Shacklebolt wasn’t a member of the Order of The Phoenix. He was just an intelligent, honest auror who wanted to make a difference. And given his appearance here with Moody, it wasn’t too hard to figure out how Shacklebolt had been enlisted into Dumbledore’s private militia.
Moody and Shacklebolt entered Ragnok’s office behind Mornuk, with Finn and Cal on their heels. Their eyes instantly went to where Harry was rising from where he had been sitting beside Arthalian on a low couch, but they didn’t linger there, touching on everyone in the room, before finishing up on Ragnok.
Everyone bowed, and introductions were made, and then Moody and Shacklebolt took the seats indicated for them. There was a brief silence, before Moody began.
“So lad, a right ruckus you caused, when you scarpered from Privet Drive.”
Harry shrugged. He wasn’t sure what to say. He certainly wasn’t going to apologise for emancipating himself, despite the trouble it may have put others to.
“How was I supposed to know anyone would care?” Harry asked, deciding that past lives should stay a secret until he felt more comfortable trusting them. It had already been agreed before Moody and Shacklebolt arrived that Harry being an elf was need to know, and that no one human (aside from Sirius of course, and perhaps Lord Black, depending on how things went) currently needed to know. They could revisit that stance in the future, but for now it was better to be safe than sorry.
“Don’t give me that rubbish.” Moody snorted, although he didn’t sound angry, more amused than anything. Shacklebolt was watching quietly, taking in the body language of the others in the room while Moody spoke with Harry. “You’ve not only managed to remove yourself from Dumbledore’s direct influence, you’ve managed to keep yourself that way. That sort of thing doesn’t happen by accident, that had to have been planned! Now, I want to know what’s going on!”
“Excuse me, Senior Auror Moody.” Arthalian interjected. He had been introduced as kin to Harry and Finn, although his status as Harry’s father was currently being kept under wraps. No one wanted to reveal the deception James and Lily had played on the world. Anyway, it wasn’t really their business. “What precisely is your directive with regards to Harry? Ragnok said that the letter from DMLE Head Amelia Bones said that you were here to investigate Harry’s guardianship after suspicion of foul play.”
“Aye.” Moody grunted. “That’s the truth of it well enough. But we’re aurors, and now that we’ve found the lad, we need to ensure that the legalities are taken care of. And so that we can make the best decision on where he should be and who should have access to him, we need to know what’s going on!”
Arthalian’s eyes hardened.
“Alright, Senior Auror Moody, lets talk legalities.” Arthalian’s voice was controlled, but with a hint of iron clearly discernable. “Harry’s legal guardian, Sirius Black, the person who has custody of him by both the right of blood contract and the legal and magically binding Will of James and Lily Potter, has been held illegally for four years, undergoing daily torture, by the ministry you represent. Is, at this very minute, still being tortured illegally by the ministry. Sirius Black was illegally denied physical custody of Harry when he tried to assume his parental responsibilities on the orders of Albus Dumbledore, who was then and is now the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. Harry, thus illegally taken from his rightful guardian (which is called kidnapping I believe) on the specific orders of the highest arbiter of justice that your courts possess, was then illegally left with people excluded by name in the Will of his parents as being possible guardians by that same man, who was also the first choice executor of the Will, and further, that same man had illegal wards tied to Harry’s blood that kept his family from finding him.”
Arthalian stopped and took a few measured breaths. Harry leaned supportively into his father’s side, still a bit unused to how big everyone was compared to him now. Moody was still frowning, but Arthalian’s level recitation of facts was cooling him down somewhat. Shacklebolt was still watching, although his eyebrows had risen slightly.
“The goblins have determined that as Harry’s legal guardian is currently being held and tortured unlawfully by the governing body, that until this situation is legally resolved, he may operate under his own recognizance.” Arthalian said, giving Harry a slight squeeze. “Harry has had the proof he needed to acknowledge our relation to him, and to assure him of the sincerity of our intentions. Ragnok and Mornuk are also convinced of our legitimacy. Harry is currently under our protection, and we will continue to protect and advise him for so long as he wishes us to. And as far as legalities go…” Arthalian looked down at Harry for a moment, before continuing. “Given that Harry was abandoned to the non-magical world since his parents passing, until your ministry can clear up and make right all the illegalities currently attached to Harry’s case, a non-magical court would be better equipped to deal with custodial arrangements. And if pushed we would have no compunction in taking our case before the Prime Minister of England. I’m sure he would be delighted to hear some of the things we could tell him.”
Moody was scowling again, but before he could open his mouth Shacklebolt spoke up.
“I believe we get your point. You will not be intimidated by the positions we hold into giving us information that you’re not yet ready to give us.” Kingsley eyeballed Moody when he went to object. “Even with our oaths Mad Eye, they don’t have a lot of reason to trust us. In fact, if everything he said is true, they have every reason not to trust us, and you shoving our allegiance to the body that’s acted unconscionably towards young Potter and his blood bound godfather isn’t going to help anything. Think Moody. What would you do in their position?”
“HHmmmppphh.” Moody grumbled, subsiding reluctantly. After a few moments reflection, he sighed. “Alright young whippersnapper. Have it your way.”
“What information are you willing to give us at this point?” Kingsley asked Arthalian, who was clearly the spokesperson of the group.
“We’re taking steps to get my godfather a trial.” Harry answered on Arthalian’s behalf, more amused than anything by Moody’s posturing, since he was supremely confident that nothing anyone said could get his father to hand him over to the ministry, even if Dumbledore wasn’t an issue. “A fair trial. We’re hoping to have his case heard before the ICW, which should not reflect upon Madam Bones, as she’s not been in the job long enough to have done a review of all cases currently active. I don’t want my godfather to have to face dementors for one moment longer than necessary.”
Moody didn’t even bother bristling again at the implications of corruption in the ministry. The ministry was corrupt. And it seemed to be turning out that Dumbledore was no better. Until yesterday, Moody would have given Dumbledore anything he needed at the drop of a hat, and he knew all to well that there were many other wizards and witches that would do the same thing. And most of them would back the old man unquestioningly, as well. Moody was starting to think that the triad he had formed with Bones and Shacklebolt to investigate this business were the only ones he could count on. And before he’d seen what was at Privet Drive with his own eyes, he wouldn’t have been able to trust himself!
Moody was starting to get a headache. They all called him paranoid, but who was laughing now? We’ll, not him, actually. He’d signed that oath, expecting to be read in on the whole shebang, only to come up against a group of people that had clearly been taking the same paranoia lessons that he had. It wasn’t nearly so comforting being on the other side of things. On the other hand, at least he had some indication that these folk knew how to properly conduct themselves, and secrets actually were likely to remain secrets here. He would reserve judgment, but things were looking good.
Having the goblins here was a good sign as well. Not many people knew that goblins could detect lies, but Moody had worked with several Gringotts cursebreakers in the past, and one of them had let it slip out while he was in his cups. Finn had clearly demonstrated that he knew this, and yet the group still had goblins sitting in on their meeting.
“And what was it that you were hoping for from us?” Shacklebolt continued his questioning.
“You both have reputations for being upright men who prefer to think for yourselves than let others make your choices.” Arthalian said, smiling faintly. No need to tell them where he had ‘heard’ about these reputations, after all. “The goblin monitor that was left at Privet Drive noted your actions yesterday Senior Auror Moody, and today you arrived here with a letter written by DMLE Head Amelia Bones, also known to be an upright honest person, stating that you were investigating Harry’s circumstances under Strictest Secrecy.
“Your reputations got you a verified copy of the Will you were seeking and proof that Harry is safe, even if you don’t have access to him or control over him. All we want from you at this time is to build a tentative trust. To that end, we have revealed what our immediate plans are, and are happy to give a broad description of how we intend to achieve them. At this point, this is all we’re ready to share. When Sirius Black is free, and recovering under our care, we would be delighted to revisit things. After all, Senior Auror Moody, it’s always wise to maintain constant vigilance.”
“Hah!” Moody barked. “Finally I find someone practicing constant vigilance, and it has to be against me! Merlin’s Hairy Arse, the lot of you are infuriating! Alright then, what’s your plan for Black?”
Arthalian explained the mission to Finland that Hal and Rody were setting off on that afternoon, and the letter that had been sent that afternoon to Lord Black. Ragnok had approved it for delivery while Mornuk, Finn and Cal were with Moody and Shacklebolt.
“Old Arcturus Black!” Moody growled disapprovingly. “Why on earth would you consult him all people! He’s as Black as his name, and the Blacks are all pureblood bigots, everyone knows that!”
Arthalian raised one eyebrow.
“We contacted him because we felt that presumably the Lord of an Ancient and Noble House would have an interest in the illegal imprisonment of his heir?”
“No one believes that Sirius is the Black Heir.” The old auror shook his head. “He was disowned, for Merlin’s sake! Before he even left school, it was talked about enough. No one’s sure who the Black Heir is, although general consensus is that it’s probably the Malfoy sprog. He’s just about all that’s left.”
“Actually, I’m closer than Draco by birth to the main line.” Harry piped up. Sirius had once told him that everyone believed him guilty almost solely on his name. It appeared that Moody, for all his paranoia, had some prejudices ingrained by upbringing. No wonder, really. The entire wizarding world was a hotbed of prejudice. “And that’s before we consider that Sirius Black named me his full heir in a blood ritual. Which he did with Arcturus Black’s permission, and with the use of the Black Family’s most prized ritual tools. My godfather’s parents disowned him, yes, but his grandfather clearly didn’t. And it’s his grandfather, the Lord, who matters in the scheme of things.”
Moody sat back, looking slightly shocked.
“Of course…” He said looking rather distant, as if he was recalling something long forgotten. “Dorea was a Black before she married Charlus, wasn’t she?” Moody began to laugh uproariously. “Merlin, I wish I could see that Malfoy git’s face when he finds out that his precious son isn’t the Black Heir after all. He’s been using that as currency in the Wizengamot for the last four years! It’s the only reason everyone lets him get away with even half of the dragon shit he shovels!” Moody chortled away to himself for almost a minute, occasionally snorting on the in breath. While Shacklebolt didn’t say anything, he did sport a rather nasty smile.
“Alright then.” Moody said when he’d finally stopped sniggering. “So that wasn’t as thickheaded a move as I first thought. Full heir, you say? And old Arcturus approved it, with your mother a muggleborn? Hah! Old Phineas Nigellus was likely rolling in his grave!”
“How do you know all of this?” Kingsley inquired looking rather curious, which Harry felt was a fair question, if slightly inconvenient.
“My mother left a trunk with Petunia at Privet Drive.” Harry said, looking down at his feet. “When I found it, I had a look inside. There were letters from Mum, Dad and Sirius to be given to me in the event that they didn’t survive the war and I did. And a copy of the Will, among other things.”
“Ah.” Shacklebolt nodded at this explanation. Arthalian gave a Harry a squeeze, and rubbed his arm gently. Harry realized that he’d shrunk down on himself slightly, and raised his eyes, making an effort to resume his usual demeanour. Now was not the time for melancholy, he could indulge later when there were fewer witnesses.
“Privet Drive, now that reminds me.” Moody said, breaking the sympathetic silence. “When I stopped by yesterday, there was no-one home, and there were signs of a rather hasty departure. Do you have any idea where they could have gotten off to? We’ve got authorization to do a memory dump, and I want to get that done before some meddling old coot pops in and makes it worthless.”
“Who on earth could you be so cryptically referring to?” Harry said dryly, before giving the two aurors Marge’s address. “There’s no guarantee that they’ll be there, but that would be my best guess. Can’t really think of anywhere else. Oh, and when you get there, watch out for the dogs. She breeds bulldogs, and isn’t above commanding them to attack people she doesn’t like.”
If Moody and Shacklebolt noticed the way that five of the faces in the room hardened as soon as Marge and her dogs were mentioned, they didn’t say anything.
“Right then.” Moody said rising to his feet. “I want to get this done as soon as possible, so we’ll take our leave now. We’ll be meeting with Madam Bones this evening to let her know our progress. Is there any way we can contact you?”
“I think it’s best to communicate through the goblins at present.” Arthalian replied carefully, as he and the others also stood. “Owls can’t reach us, and it’s too soon to make other arrangements. When we’ve had a bit more time to get to know and trust each other, that will likely change. I hope you understand.”
“Constant vigilance!” Moody replied heartily. “Don’t you worry laddie, I’m not offended by sensible precautions. Madam Bones will probably want to meet with you at some stage, so we’ll be in touch. Also, we may be able to pass along copies of the records held here about Black, depending on what we can find. We’ll let you know.”
Everyone exchanged farewell bows, and then Moody turned his gaze on to Harry, who was standing close enough to Arthalian for them to touch with the smallest of motions.
“I’m glad to see you looking well, lad.” Moody said, and for once his voice was kind and gentle. “It fair wrecked my old heart to think of you in such a place as I saw. I’ll help to keep you safe and sorted in any way I can, and that’s my solemn promise.”
Harry felt his eyes fill with tears. He had never been sure what the Order knew about his living arrangements, and Moody’s reaction was giving him hope that perhaps they truly hadn’t known how bad it was for him. He wiped his eyes hastily on his sleeve, and smiled tremulously at the grizzled old auror.
“Thank you.” Harry said, and extended his hand. Moody reached down and enfolded it in his much larger one. “It really… I mean… just thank you.” He retracted his hand, and watched as Mornuk escorted the two wizards to the door, where a word with one of the guards had them being led off towards the main lobby.
When they had gone, Hal and Rody also announced their departure. They needed to be at Heathrow by 6.00pm to make the flight to Helsinki, and from then onwards to Turku where the magical district in Finland was centred.
There was debate about whether to open up the steading there, in order to facilitate quicker travel. It was decided that if it looked like more than one trip to Finland was necessary, Hal and Rody would find the steading, as shifting was a much a quicker (and infinitely more pleasurable) way to travel for the elves.
Tomorrow morning, Hal and Rody would attend the interview Mornuk had arranged with Ilmari Remitz, the Finnish representative on the ICW. It was important to get this done as soon as possible, because the last ICW meeting of the year was to be held on the 29th of December.
Hal and Rody said their goodbyes, and everyone else left Ragnok’s office for the Potter Holdings office, thanking the Goblin Chief for his time and the use of his space.
Two hours later, Harry’s head was swimming with information on the properties and businesses that the Potters either owned outright, or had shares in. One of the reasons that the Potter Holdings were so vast, was that Potters had a habit of investing start up capital in fledgling companies, and rather than requiring repayment almost always opted for shares, which were then left alone. Successful businesses often went on to grow and expand, and over time the Potter wealth had increased exponentially.
One of the things that Mornuk had found as a result of Grigglefutz’s stewardship, was that investing had stopped and shares that normally would have been kept had been sold. This was only possible because Grigglefutz had never signed the Potter contract, there being no Potters available. And the result of his actions were minor short term gains, which would indicate to anyone looking at yearly results as a single figure that he was doing a good job. Long term though… if this had been allowed to go on much longer, a great deal of the external income could have been whittled away.
Arthalian saw that Harry was struggling with all this knowledge that he had not been privy to in his previous life. Back then, Grigglefutz had continued as manager, and Harry had never been made aware of the intricacies of the legacy he inherited, and not having signed the Potter contract Grigglefutz was under no contractual obligation to tell him.
“I think it’s just about time to call it a day, Mornuk.” Arthalian interjected as soon as there was a natural gap in the conversation. Finn and Cal were quite interested in the proceedings on Harry’s behalf, but poor Syllevella was bored to tears. She was doing a valiant impression of interest, and she smiled encouragingly at Harry every time he turned her way, but it was clear to the older elves that she wished to be elsewhere.
Mornuk looked up from his ledgers and cast an experienced eye around the room.
“I agree, Arthalian.” Mornuk considered for a moment. “Harry, perhaps it would be best if we waited until Sirius Black is free to examine the accounts in depth. Until then, if you were to give me some generalized instructions as to how I should proceed, I can keep things running smoothly.”
“Thank you, Mornuk!” Harry said gratefully. “I’d like you to reestablish the business start up account, and halt any sales of shares that you can. If you can see about getting an independent analysis of these three companies…” Harry pointed out three files where the revenue had mysteriously shrunk, with no appreciable explanation (one of them being the Daily Prophet). “We can…”
Harry’s instructions were interrupted by a double chime, and Mornuk looked away from his notes to see that an envelope had appeared on the stone slab. Picking it up, he turned it over to glance at the back before raising his eyebrows and passing it straight to Harry without opening it.
It was addressed to Lord Harry Potter in a flowing beautiful hand, and the seal in the back held the coat of arms for the Lord of the Ancient and Noble House of Black.
“It’s already been examined, Harry.” Mornuk informed him, as he sat there staring at it. “There’s no magic, except for the old style sealing magic that using the official seal invokes. Only the addressee can open that letter, if anyone else tries the whole thing will combust and Lord Black will received notification that the letter has been tampered with.”
“These ‘official seals’.” Harry said, turning the envelope over and over in his hand. “They wouldn’t happen to be of goblin design, would they?”
Mornuk’s smug smirk was all the answer he needed. That, and the fact that such a system sounded far to sensible and reliable for wizards to have come up with.
Gathering his courage, Harry finally opened the letter, feeling the tingle of magic run through him as he broke the seal.
Greetings, Lord Potter
It was with great astonishment that I received your letter today, as I had no expectation of ever having contact with you after Albus Dumbledore announced his guardianship over you to the Wizengamot back in 1981. Given his influence, I had concluded that you would grow up with only the worst tales of my family (and yours) in your ears.
I am fully aware of how the world views our family, and the more recent generations have done as much as possible to enhance an already darkened reputation. Where the name Black was once synonymous with cunning, stealth and dedication to the family name, it is now perceived only as cruel, sinister and dedicated to pureblood supremacy.
I did what I could when I rose to the Lordship, however there is only so much even the Lord can achieve when alone, and the rot permeating so deeply within a family. My son was a weak man, and my father arranged his marriage to a domineering, cruel woman who enjoyed embodying every negative rumor about our family. When I saw Sirius growing up exemplifying all that our family used to represent, I was overjoyed. I was careful to keep my approval hidden, however, as the Black family has lately been a dangerous place to be when there are others with ambition wanting your place. My grandfather in his later years made no secret of the fact that he had arranged his older brothers ‘unfortunate accident’ in order to inherit the Lordship, and I had no desire to see Sirius follow in the wake of either of his namesakes.
Therefore when my idiot son and his wife disowned my grandson, I did not take any action. Sirius was already my named heir, even if no-one else in the family knew of it. When he came to me and told me that someone had potioned him into infertility, and that he planned to name you his heir by right of blood as well as his godchild, I was in full agreement, and I gave him every encouragement I could. There is no one else that I can trust the family to, no one else for whom I can hold even the smallest of hope that they would try to restore our families once proud name.
I always knew that Sirius could not have betrayed your parents. I have never known what to think of the events surrounding Peter Pettigrew, but the fact that my grandson was never given a trial (something that I was not aware of until your letter) is enough indication that there is severe doubt about his guilt in that instance that I am willing to accept your assertions of his innocence.
Any help that I can give you to secure his freedom is yours, and to that end I offer you (and any of your companions that can be cleared by the goblins as wishing no ill to the Black main family, which currently comprises Sirius and you and I) the sanctuary of Castle Black and it’s wards, which are acknowledged to be some of the finest and most impenetrable wards to be found in the world.
Regardless of your answer, I would like to meet with you to re-establish our family ties. You may have heard that I am currently living secluded, and that is true. However I have a secure floo connection to Gringotts, and provided that the goblins state that all present at such a meeting have given assurances of non hostile behaviour, can meet with you there.
I am also interested to find out more about the strange situation you find yourself in with regards to your parentage, and wish to meet the man who fathered you.
May you walk in shadows and rest in the sun, Lord Potter, Harry.
Lord Arcturus Sirius Black
Head of the Ancient and Noble House of Black
Bones Manor, Monday 23rd December 1985, 8.30pm
Amelia Bones skimmed through the four files that Shacklebolt had placed carefully on the desk in her study. There was a tightening around her eyes and mouth that those who knew her could recognize as extreme displeasure, and when she raised her eyes to regard her two visitors her eyes were as hard as Moody had ever seen them.
“I take it you’ve read these?” Amelia spoke through gritted teeth when she had finished her initial scan of the content of all four files. What she had just seen horrified and sickened her, but also made her toweringly angry. Her niece Susan (well, technically grand niece, but they tended not to mention that. No point in creating distance between them, after all) was very close in age to the Potter boy, and although Amelia had tried to disassociate herself from her caregiver role and enfold herself in only her DMLE head role while reading the files, she kept getting flashes of Susan undergoing the hell that Harry Potter had gone through.
“Yes.” Moody answered stonily, before glancing sideways at Shacklebolt. “There are also these other files that were accidentally created when that other Dursley woman got in the way of the memory dump spells.” He slapped two more files down, the thin one no doubt the history of positive interactions (PIF, or positive interaction file) with the Potter child, and the thicker one the negative (NIF).
It was usually the work of several days to go through both files from the same person in order to create a coherent timeline. That didn’t look like it would be a problem with any of the Dursley’s files. Vernon Dursley’s PIF held one sheet of paper with two lines on it, both indicating that while he was drunk and unable to differentiate between his nephew and his son he had patted the child on the head absently and called him a good lad. Petunia Dursley’s PIF was a little longer, and detailed all the times the sorry excuse for a woman had offered her dead sisters son food behind her husbands back when the lad had been undergoing one of his periodic ‘punishments’ in the cupboard. Seven times in four years, she had tried to slightly mitigate the inhuman treatment that was meted out to her nephew by giving him stale bread when her husband wasn’t looking. Amelia was not inclined to be the slightest bit mollified. In fact, it clearly showed that at least one of the adult’s in that house knew that what was happening was wrong.
“They can’t be entered into any kind of evidence, of course.” Shacklebolt said, his impassive demeanour giving nothing of his thoughts away. “But since they had already been created, it seemed a shame to destroy them.”
“Got in the way.” Amelia shook her head, leaning back in her chair trying to relax her shoulders, which had tensed up with her anger. “You’ll need to come up with a better excuse than that. Perhaps, never having met them before, you thought she was the wife rather than the sister? Until you checked the files, of course, but by then it was too late.”
“Much better.” Shacklebolt nodded.
“We saw the lad at Gringotts today, you know.” Moody said abruptly. “He’s small and on the skinny side, but you’d never know to look at him what he’d been through.”
“What?” Amelia straightened up, glaring at her two aurors. “Why didn’t you say so earlier, we need to get him to safety! If the both of you can find him, then Dumbledore can too!”
When Moody and Shacklebolt explained the circumstances of their meeting, and related Arthalian’s rejection of ministry oversight and why including their assertation that Sirius Black had never received a trial, Amelia found herself torn in two. On the one hand, she did not like being dismissed and basically told not to interfere by people with no appreciable power over her. On the other, if that had been her Susan in Harry’s situation and Amelia had only just found her, the ministry would be giving her orders on her niece’s welfare over her dead body.
“Interesting dichotomy, isn’t it?” Moody said, grinning at her. “Struggled with it a bit myself, until Shacklebolt here cleared things up for me. Made it clear to everyone that he understood that we needed to earn their trust rather than the other way round. He put in a good showing today. And they did give us this.” He reached into his coat, retrieving the verified copy of James and Lily Potter’s Will that Mornuk had given him after they’d signed the oaths.
Amelia took the Will, and read through the bequest list in the intro, the only part of the document where things could be read easily with out a bunch of legalese. Putting down the Will, she rested her head in her hands for a moment. This case was getting more and more complicated, and it was clearer by the minute that Dumbledore was playing some sort of deep game. Secrecy was therefore that much more important, and what Amelia could achieve was looking to be limited, at least until…
She raised her head and looked back at the Will.
“They’re going to get Black a trial, aren’t they?” Amelia mused, turning that idea over in her head. “And they’ll need to go to the ICW to do it.”
Shacklebolt stared in shock, while Moody broke out into laughter.
“Aye, that’s the plan lass.” He pulled out a hanky and blew his nose noisily. “If we can get them a copy of the all the records we have on Black, that can only help. Two of them are going to be putting Black’s case to the Finnish representative tomorrow morning, so that hopefully everything can be in place by the meeting on Sunday.”
“And I had another thought on the way here.” Shacklebolt offered, brows drawn together in a thoughtful frown. “If we can establish beyond doubt that Black never received a trial as both Potter’s group and the goblins believe, then a letter under your seal stating that you could find no record of a trial taking place would very likely help his case immensely. Your reputation as an honest woman who does not take bribes is known far beyond our borders. It could very well sway several representatives towards the need for an ICW trial. And then…”
“Go on Shacklebolt.” Amelia said, interested to see what one of her most promising young aurors had come up with.
“Perhaps Moody should go to Azkaban to ‘interrogate’ Black about the missing Potter lad?” Shacklebolt shrugged. “And if he should happen to leave him a goblin made portkey that can rip through the wards at Azkaban and send the man to Gringotts, all the better. Provided Arthalian was right and Sirius Black is being held illegally, doing so is not against any laws that I know of. The thought of an innocent man having to suffer the high security ward and the dementors for even a minute longer than he has to is deeply repugnant to me. Also it would be show of good faith that could earn us a lot of trust in Potter’s group.”
“That’s true.” Amelia sat back and thought about that, ignoring Moody who was guffawing again. Her first instinct was to say no, let the legal processes prove Black innocent before allowing him to roam free again amongst the populace. But Shacklebolt was right. There was no law that she could think of that made portkeying Black out of Azkaban illegal, provided he had never been convicted. In fact according to ministry regulations, a witch or wizard could only be held on suspicion for two weeks before a trial date in the next six months must be allocated. Therefore, Sirius Black could no longer be legally held by the ministry in any location, guilty or not.
And there was also a rather high chance that if anyone got wind of the ICW trial Sirius Black could be ‘accidentally kissed’ or suffer some other accident. Given the amount of skullduggery that surrounded his imprisonment, Amelia would not be prepared to lay any significant sum against the possibility of further issues.
“Yes.” She said decisively, once more silencing Moody. “You’re right. If he hasn’t had a trial, holding him any further is against the law, and I think it highly likely that his safety would be compromised if we went openly through regular channels. Mad-Eye, you’re known to be somewhat of a renegade, even if your reputation leans more towards the unforgiving side of the spectrum than acts of mercy and compassion, and if you haven’t been ordered not to free Black then nothing can be proven against you. Your career would not suffer, and if Scrimegeor was to find some way to dismiss you, I could then hire you on as a special consultant to the DMLE Head Office. But it’s up to you. I can’t order you to do this.”
“I gave that boy my word that I would help him anyway I can.” Moody replied gruffly. “I don’t care if they do fire me, it would be worth it. And I daresay Potter and Black could find a use for me, if I were to find myself unemployed.” He gave a somewhat savage grin. “It would be my pleasure to get the poor sod out of that hellhole just as soon as we can confirm what we all believe to be true. And I’ll get on to that first thing tomorrow. One advantage for having a reputation for paranoia, everyone is used to me doing my own research, and no pays any attention to where I go in the ministry. Dumbledore will likely have his minions watching for anyone checking out the Potter lads files, so I should slide right by.”
“True.” Amelia nodded. She had used Mad-Eye’s invisibility in the ministry archives before. Shacklebolt was sitting there, looking a little shell shocked that they were taking his crazy ideas and running with them. She gave him a reassuring smile.
“Shacklebolt, why don’t you go back and see Ragnok tomorrow and ask what his thoughts are about a portkey from Azkaban to Gringotts. If we work quickly enough, we may just be able to get that kid something really special for Christmas.”
Overlea, 25th December 1985, before sunrise
Harry awoke to a feeling of pleasant anticipation. Elves didn’t celebrate Christmas, but it had been agreed that today they would all take an all day long break from the hard work of sorting through the all the Potter stuff and just have fun. Finn was going to help him refine his flying skills, and Sparky was going to guide him through some fun elven magic. After lunch, everyone was going to bundle up in warm clothes and go out and explore the grounds at Overlea, and then later Harry had challenged everyone to a poker tournament. Hal and Rody had decided to open the steading in Finland, called Thornlea, and shifted back last night to join everyone for dinner. Tomorrow they were going to be meeting with Lord Black at Gringotts, but today would be solely for fun.
Stretching, Harry glanced over to where he could see a slight silhouette against the small amount of light that was coming in through the windows. Despite his assertions that he could sleep just fine on his own, Cal had taken to sleeping on the chair in Harry’s room in his wolf form. When Arthalian had tried to pull rank on Monday night as Harry’s father, Cal’s advantages as a bodyguard were gently pointed out to him. Arthalian had sulked for an hour before Harry told him that he looked ridiculous. That had sparked a pillow fight, which had ranged throughout the ground floor of Overlea and finished with a tickle fight that left Harry breathless with laughter, and Arthalian triumphant.
Cal and Finn had started out trying to take sides, but ended up getting distracted by the chance for an impromptu spar in one of the training areas. They had very different fighting styles, but four years of traveling together had made their body language much easier to read than opponents would usually have, and both Cal and Finn enjoyed the chance to challenge themselves, stretch their muscles and hone their skills in a friendly environment.
Sparky had found the whole thing hilarious, but despite Harry’s invitation to join them seemed too unsure of her welcome to join in. She settled for cheering Harry on, calling out Arthalian every time she saw him cheating. She had looked in on Cal and Finn’s fight, and had come out looking a little shocked by the savagery on display.
Harry was jolted out of his pleasant reflections by his door opening, and Finn coming in to leap on the bed. That was something else that was becoming a regular occurrence, this was the third morning in a row Finn had tried to wake him by jumping on his bed. Tried, because each time Harry had already been awake.
“Up you get Harry!” Finn greeted him exuberantly. “Happy Christmas and all that, good morning! Get dressed, get dressed! A present arrived for you yesterday, and the goblins decided to hold on to it overnight for you. Mornuk said it needed a bit of cleaning up, a bit of extra care, if you will. We’re going to get it after breakfast, which is nearly ready. Come on Harry, faster!”
Harry shoved Cal and Finn out of his room while he got changed into the clothes that Arthalian had brought back for him the day before after going on a long shopping trip with Sparky. Harry had spent the time learning some of the things all young elves were taught as they grew, such as how to use the infans animus, and how to view magical cores, and the steps involved in shifting to a desired location.
When he was dressed, the three of them joined the others in the kitchen. Everyone appeared to be rather excited, except for Cal, who was his usual stoic self. Harry found himself growing more curious by the minute. What on earth could the goblins have for him? Then a thought occurred to him. Had they found his parents wands? Harry had mentioned yesterday that he’d never found out what had happened to them, and Mornuk had looked rather thoughtful and said he’d put out some feelers.
Harry was starting to get quite excited himself now. A wand was a rather intimate part of a witch or wizard’s daily life, their magic was channeled through it on a regular basis. Harry had always wished for more tangible remnants of his parents, and this could be it. He tried to rein himself in, because for all he knew the goblins had found something else of his that had been misappropriated, but it was hard. Harry almost ended up shoveling down his breakfast in a manner befitting Ron Weasley, only that comparison popping into his mind stopped him.
By the time everyone was ready to shift through to Gringotts, Harry was done with waiting. Holding on to Arthalian as the group went through to the temporary station that Sparky had set up, Harry did his best to look calm and in control rather than the bundle of nerves he had become.
Mornuk led them down a corridor, delighting in giving Harry cryptic responses to his questions. Harry was still hoping that Mornuk had found his parents wands when he was taken into the very same visiting room where he had met his father only three days ago.
Sitting in a chair, wrapped in a very familiar looking nest of blankets was a clean and tidy, if rather old and haggard looking Sirius Black.
“Sirius!” Harry gasped in shock, unable to believe his eyes.
“Harry?” Sirius looked just as shocked. “Harry, is that you? Merlin… it is you isn’t it? Oh gods, I’m so sorry Harry, I swear I didn’t mean to…” Sirius was interrupted by a small body rocketing into his legs and swarming up into his lap. He hugged his crying godson to him as he finally allowed himself to believe that he was free of Azkaban. There was feeling of completeness that holding Harry had given him since the blood ritual, a feeling that was impossible to fake. Harry was here, right now, in his arms, and he never wanted to let him go ever again.
Sirius finally raised his eyes to take more notice of the other people that had come in with his godson. Wait. That man in front smiling at him looked a great deal like the muggle man that Lily had picked to… yes well. Harry’s other father, anyway. His name was George, or Arthur or something. Yes… Arthur sounded right.
Harry’s other father had found him, and taken him away from Andromeda and Ted? He didn’t look all that angry, but he was here in Gringotts, so did that mean that he wasn’t a muggle after all? He was sure the spell had come up negative for wizard, but it was so long ago, and dementor exposure had made his memory a bit spotty, despite all the potions he’d been drinking since he arrived here. Sirius decided that a bit of charm never hurt anything.
“Arthur! It is Arthur, isn’t it? Glad to see you again!” And that’s as far as he could get with his godson clinging to him and filling him up with feelings of joy and sorrow intermingled. Arthur came over and sat down next to him, still smiling. Sirius saw six other people standing by the door, including a goblin.
“My name is actually Arthalian, Sirius, although just over six years ago I introduced myself to you as Arthur. In a few days, we hope to have your case heard before the ICW. But don’t worry about that for now. For now, it’s Christmas, and time for family to be together.”