Mary Poppins-Perkins looked up from her mending at the spin of her weather wheel. “The wind is changing,” she said softly.
She got up from the rocking chair she kept in her office at Wizarding Family Services to get a closer look at the central glass, and she tapped it. The glass resolved itself to show her a screaming green-eyed toddler with a blazing red lightning-shaped scar pulsating on his forehead. “Harry,” she breathed, a tear forming at the corner of one impossibly blue eye.
Strictly speaking, Mary was not to be concerned with the protection and placement of pureblood wizards. In her role as the Muggleborn Child Protection Officer, Mary had wide authority to investigate, intervene, and introduce muggleborn children to the wizarding world, and that included, if necessary, obliviating parents and placing such children with carefully vetted wizarding families. Rarely, a pureblood family needed placement services, but pureblood families were normally careful to spell out lines of succession, placement, and fosterage. Especially with peerage on the line, or wealth.
But the Potters …
Mary watched as Hogwarts groundskeeper Hagrid took the screaming child from a wild-eyed Sirius Black, presumably to take him to Hogwarts. Mary knew that Sirius was Harry’s godfather, and thus, his presumptive guardian. She’d had many conversations with Minerva about it. Why, then, was he surrendering Harry to Hagrid?
Mary’s glass followed Harry to Hogwarts, (“On a motorcycle? Honestly.”) and watched as Hagrid dismounted from Sirius’ bike to be met by Albus Dumbledore. Harry, exhausted from crying at this point, allowed himself to be taken by the bearded wizard without protest. Mary watched as Dumbledore brought him to Poppy Pomfrey, Hagrid following close behind.
Mary engaged the recorder as Poppy examined Harry, pointing out the magical residue in the slash on his forehead as she scanned him for other health problems. Finding none, Poppy called a house elf for milk while Dumbledore ran a scan of his own on Harry’s scar, and Mary watched as Dumbledore’s eyes lost their twinkle. He said nothing, though, as Poppy handed him the milk bottle and healed the skin of Harry’s forehead.
“Hmmm,” Mary said. “I think a specialist would be wise, Albus.”
But Dumbledore did not call for a specialist. He simply fed Harry, and told Hagrid that he would be needed to bring Harry to his aunt’s home the following evening.
Both of Mary’s eyebrows rose as high as they could go. Lily had been very specific in her wishes. Harry was not to go to her sister until or unless there was no other capable wizarding family to take him in. And Sirius Black was to have primary oversight in this case.
The glass glowed briefly red. “Guardianship interference? Dear me,” Mary murmured, watching more as Dumbledore settled Harry down into a conjured cot in the infirmary for the remainder of the night.
This situation would bear strict watching, Mary determined, and started a case file.
She went home briefly to sleep; her husband, Bert, was out as part of the investigating team dispatched to Godric’s Hollow with the news of the Potters’ deaths. Mary woke in the morning to a pair of letters on her table, their well-behaved messengers waiting patiently for a treat.
The first letter came from Wizarding Family Services, noting the death of the Potters and verifying the start of the case plan Mary had filed last night.
The second came from her old friend, Minerva McGonagall.
I’m quite afraid that Albus has completely lost the plot, old friend.
You know by now, of course, that our poor Lily and James were killed last night by You-Know-Who. Harry survived, by what means we do not know. I cannot get Albus to stand still for one moment to tell me anything. One thing did become perfectly clear, however, in that Albus does not intend for Harry to stay in the wizarding world. He is adamant that Harry will be placed with his muggle Aunt Petunia Dursley.
I’m quite certain he has no authority to do such a thing, but Albus does tend to get his way. Our dear friend Euphemia would be quite apoplectic. And I know that things were strained, to say the least, between Lily and Petunia.
I plan to go and observe Petunia today. I’d hoped you would join me. The Dursleys live at Number 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey.
“We shall see about that,” Mary said emphatically, and she rose to dress. Carefully, and without hurry. A flick of her wand sent her patronus to Minerva, the parrot winging its way to Hogwarts with an “Of course” ready to speak.
A second Patronus went to Bert. “Be ready for anything, my dear.”
A horse galloped back to her. “Always, my Mary.”
Mary set her flowered cap on her head, gathered her umbrella, secured her wand to her wrist, and turned a heel.
She popped into the secured Wizarding arrivals area in the Surrey train station, then turned into a robin and flew toward the map in the central terminal. She found Number 4, and flew there to join a cat perched on the walk outside Number 4.
They’d agreed, on a bit of a lunch break, to allow Albus an opportunity to explain himself and change his mind. But it became clear quite quickly that he intended to leave the young Potter heir on the step in a basket, for goodness’ sake, with only a letter and nary a warming charm.
At Albus’ last admonition that they should go and join the parties, Minerva dropped her chin in Mary’s direction. Mary tipped her beak down, and she watched them go. As the lights from Albus’ little device returned and the wizards disappeared, the robin became a woman again. One who’d seen quite enough. A note would make its way to the case file to keep an eye on the Dursleys and intervene if necessary on behalf of their son. She hoped, however, that noninterference from the magical world would make it unnecessary to intervene in the Muggle world, too.
Mary grasped the handle of Harry’s basket. Apparating with a toddler was not a good idea, so she unfurled her umbrella, and caught the east wind, the basket in tow.
Bert, predictably, rolled with it.
“Ah, my Mary,” he said gently, peeking in the basket as she set it down in their bedroom. “I take it we have a guest?”
“And one that might be here for some time,” Mary admitted, taking her hat off her head and setting it on its stand in the corner. “There’s something dodgy about the entire thing, Bert. My office was notified of the orphaning, of course, but the will didn’t pop into place as expected, the presumed guardian left his ward with someone unauthorized only to run off and get himself arrested, and Albus Dumbledore still thinks he can subsume the authority of Wizarding Family Services and place children wherever he sees fit.” She huffed. “I’d have thought he’d learned his lesson after the Riddle fiasco!”
“To be fair, poppet, the war made placement of magical orphans terribly difficult at the time,” Bert reasoned, even as he gently picked up Harry, who was sleeping quite deeply, and brought him over to the emergency cot they kept on hand, freshly made up with a snap of his fingers on the way. He tucked Harry in with a conjured plushy dog, and set up the child-monitoring ward with the ease of long practice.
“And we’d have found some place for him eventually, had Albus not interfered with my counterpart,” Mary grumped. “Children need kindness to grow, Bert. I really doubt that Tom Riddle got any. And here he was about to just leave Harry with his Aunt Petunia. The weather glass changed, Bert! It actually changed to show me just how bad that idea was! I haven’t seen the like since the Banks!”
Bert grinned. He loved seeing his Mary worked up. “Well that worked out in the end, too, didn’t it?”
“It wouldn’t have without my intervention,” Mary said, pulling off her gloves and setting them aside. “There wasn’t any way Mr. Banks would have accepted a magical child without a little bit of help.”
“And he did, didn’t he?” Bert soothed. “Proud as punch when Jane graduated Hogwarts and got a top placement at Gringotts!”
“Yes, alright, that’s true,” Mary allowed. “Michael, too. I do miss him, still.”
Both stayed silent for a moment, remembering young Michael Banks as he was, before he was killed in the course of his duties as the Ministry liaison to Scotland Yard.
Bert sighed deeply. “Well, that’s that, then.” He took his wife’s hand. “What shall we do with Harry?”
“He’s supposed to go to Sirius Black. Whatever possessed the man to give Harry to Hagrid, I don’t know, but I suspect compulsion charms. I don’t know what game Albus is playing here, but he can’t go round my office. Minerva alerted me straightaway, though the glass, too, let me see what was happening,” Mary said. “If Sirius cannot be guardian, and he can’t go to Petunia, then I’ll have to see who’s the next living wizarding relative and go from there. And frankly, I need to see the will. I know there is one; last time I had tea with Lily she said she’d filed it at the Ministry and at Gringotts.”
“I know you promised Euphemia you’d stand as Harry’s grandmother in her place,” Bert said. “I promised Fleamont that I’d be his grandfather. We have as much claim as anyone else, Mary.”
“Perhaps more so,” she said quietly, thinking. “I think we need to see the will, Bert. If we’re named as guardians or alternate guardians, then I can take stronger measures to protect Harry’s placement with us. Right now, I’m well within my mandate to have him placed here temporarily.”
“That’s settled, then,” Bert said, laying a kiss on her palm. “He’s safe for now. I’ll raise the emergency wards, and we’ll all get as good a night’s sleep as possible with a traumatized toddler. I’ll mind him in the morning while you go off to see Jane at the bank about the will. If the Ministry copy didn’t pop into your office correctly, that’s a problem, as I see it.”
Mary nodded sharply. “Interference in the reading of the will of a Peer is a high crime, Bert, as you know. I have cause to get the Gringotts copy and have it read.”
“There you are, then,” he soothed. “Let’s to bed.”
Jane Banks-Marshfield welcomed her old Nanny with a smile. “Mary Poppins-Perkins! How delightful to see you!”
“Always good to see you, too, Jane,” Mary said, drawing off her gloves with a smile. “I do have some rather pressing business today.”
“Of course,” Jane said. “How can I help you?”
“I need the Potter will,” Mary said firmly. “I’m invoking my right to see it as a representative for Wizarding Family Services responsible for placement of Harry James Potter.”
A glow settled over her as she said the key phrase, and Jane nodded solemnly. “I’ll find it for you. One moment.” Jane left for the filing area and tapped her wand on the desk there. “Wills, James and Lily Potter.” Two piece of parchment, rolled and sealed with the Potter crest, appeared on the desk. “Will you invoke right of execution on behalf of the orphaned child?”
“I do so invoke the right of execution on behalf of the orphan Harry James Potter.”
Both parchments glowed, and the seals broke. “One moment, Mary, while I call in the required witnesses.”
Within five minutes, the room held Mary, Jane, the Potter account manager whom Mary did not know, and the bank president, Ragnok. Mary started a recording orb, and Jane took her place behind the desk. Jane cleared her throat, opened the first parchment, and skimmed the will, skipping to the section on guardianship. “As expected, this is the will of James Potter, who died first, leaving everything to his wife. In order, he lists his wife, Bert and Mary Poppins-Perkins, Frank and Alice Longbottom, Sirius Black, and Minerva McGonagall as Harry’s potential guardians. An official reading will need to be held within five business days.”
Jane picked up the next parchment. “This is the will of Lily Evans Potter.” She skimmed it, too. “Everything is left to Harry James Potter. She lists the same guardians, in the same order, with her husband first should she die before him, and notes that her sister Petunia is to be considered a last resort because of her stance against magic.”
“Right,” Mary said. “That’s me in a conflict of interest at this point.” She drew a deep breath. “With your permission, Ragnok, I will call for my colleague to witness these proceedings.”
“You have it, Dame Poppins-Perkins.”
She nodded her thanks, and sent her Patronus to Mafalda Hopkirk. They waited, quietly, for ten minutes as Mafalda made her way to the bank and was escorted inside to the waiting filing room. “Ms. Hopkirk,” Jane said in greeting. “You are here to be a witness in the reading of the Potter wills as your colleague, Mary Poppins-Perkins, has been named as a potential guardian to Harry James Potter. Will you stand ready to record?”
“Of course,” Mafalda said, and pulled out her wand and a recording orb. She tapped it, and it lit up. “Please proceed.”
Jane formally read the will of James Potter, followed by the will of Lily Evans Potter. Mafalda and the rest of the participants listened quietly, and when Jane was finished, Mafalda stood. “Having heard the will of his parents, and with the power vested in me by Wizarding Family Services, I hereby award custody of the orphan Harry James Potter to Bertram Perkins and Mary Poppins-Perkins. So mote it be.” The orb flashed and a heavy silver ring appeared on the table in front of Jane. “By law, a meeting among all potential guardians will be held within thirty days to discuss this placement.”
Within the Ministry, the case file updated with Harry’s placement and sealed itself.
At the Poppins-Perkins home, Bert stumbled as a heavy silver ring appeared on his right ring finger.
And Petunia and Vernon Dursley went on with their days, unaware of events in the Wizarding world.
Nine-and-a-half Years Later
Harry Potter awoke with a start.
He’d been having that dream again, the one with the flashing green light and the motorcycle that Gran said was more of a memory. It always made him feel a little out of sorts.
Harry yawned broadly, stretching his arms and legs out against the soft cotton sheets of his four-poster bed and wiggling all over. He liked the new bed. It was bigger than the one he’d slept on in the nursery next to Gran and Pop’s room, and it fit his ten-year-old tastes perfectly. The deep, ocean-blue duvet cover perfectly matched the curtains on the bed, the rug over the polished oak floors and the wide stripes on curtains over the the big windows. The small stripes were cream. His shelves were oak, too, and mounted on walls that were covered in a cream-on-cream silk-striped wallpaper.
Harry took a minute to look at the pictures on his shelves, contentedly remembering the trip to the beach that Pop had taken him on when he was six, the tour of London’s skies when he was eight, and the fancy dress ball he had to attend when he was 9, for his Uncle Remus’ wedding reception. He waved at his parents, who waved back, and hopped out of bed.
It would not do to be late for breakfast.
Not knowing his Gran’s schedule for the day, Harry chose black Muggle pants, a green Muggle t-shirt, a long-sleeved black plaid cotton overshirt, and his sturdy trainers. He snagged his green Wizarding over robe on the way past its hook on the back of his bedroom door, then set out for the dining room, where Gran, Pop, Padfoot, and breakfast would be waiting.
Gran greeted him cheerfully from her place by the teapot. “Good morning, Harry,” she said. “I trust you slept well.”
“I did, Gran, thank you,” Harry replied automatically with a smile. “Good morning to you. And good morning, Pop. Where’s Padfoot this morning?”
Bert Perkins looked up at Harry with a twinkle in his bright blue eyes. “Ah, good morning, Harry. Padfoot needed to be up and about early this morning. Has a meeting at the Ministry a bit later and he wanted to be well prepared.”
“Oh,” Harry said, seating himself at his place next to Pop. “I didn’t know he had work today.”
“It’s a different sort of meeting, dear,” Gran said, and took a sip of her tea. “There’s a bit of an emergency with a young Muggleborn that he’s sorting out.”
“I see,” Harry nodded thoughtfully. “I hope everything turns out alright.”
“That’s what his job is for,” Gran confirmed. “Now, be sure to eat a good breakfast. We have a full schedule today.”
Harry took some porridge and some bacon, and filled his juice glass with orange juice. “What shall we do today, Gran?”
“We need to restock our supply cupboard for Hogwarts students in need today,” Gran said. “Once Hogwarts is out for the summer, again today, new letters for next years’ attendees go out with our contact information on them for those in need, and we’ll need to be prepared for the lot as they remember we exist, and that we have clothing and school supplies. We’re a bit lower than I’d like.”
“Good that I brought down my robe, then,” Harry said, nodding along.
“Indeed,” Gran said. She set her cup down. “We also need to go to Gringott’s and verify everything is in place for your acceptance of the Heir ring on your birthday. I know it’s just 30 days away, but given the history, I’d like to confirm we’re all set. We can also go to your trust vault. I’ll allow you to take out 10 galleons for your summer spending money, and we’ll work on your accounting as part of your summer lessons.”
Harry perked up. “Thank you, Gran!”
“You’re quite welcome. I know you’ve been very interested in making sure your accounts are running smoothly, and as you’ll likely be going to Hogwarts yourself this fall, it’s as good a time as any to introduce you to the finer points of personal budgeting,” Gran said with a smile. “I know you’ve been learning as we go, maintaining the supply cupboard with me, but that’s a bit different from taking over accounts for your personal wealth and growth.”
“I don’t want all of my family’s money to go to waste and ruin, Gran,” Harry said solemnly. “Will we get to see Auntie Jane today?
“I think not, Harry,” Gran said. “Jane is nearly retired now. She’s been training her replacement as the Gringotts Wizarding records keeper, and if memory serves, she planned to be on holiday this week.”
“Oh,” Harry took another bite of porridge, chewed and swallowed, then asked, “Are we planning a holiday this summer?”
“Oh, yes, Harry,” Gran assured him. “We’ve been thinking about an adventure in France. Padfoot is quite beside himself with planning it, actually.”
“I’d quite like to see France,” Harry said excitedly. “Can we go to EuroDisney?”
Gran raised an eyebrow. “A place of such frivolity? Goodness, whyever would we do such a thing?”
Harry giggled. His Gran always pretended she didn’t like to do fun things, but she did them anyway.
Pop leaned over and stole a piece of Harry’s bacon. “I’ll need to be heading into the Ministry today, meself. Young Arthur Weasley’s coming right along as head of Department, but he’ll need a bit of help managing the mess from last night’s troubles.”
“Do be careful, Bert,” Gran cautioned. “I quite like you in one piece.”
Pop got up from the table and leaned in to kiss his wife’s cheek. “Feeling’s mutual, my Mary, so don’t go larking about and getting into trouble that I’ll have to come and get you out of.”
“Honestly,” Gran said primly. “What utter nonsense. Harry and I have serious, important things to do today.”
Pop’s eyes twinkled. “As you say.”
Harry followed along in his Gran’s wake as they approached the steps of Gringotts Bank, quite used to keeping up by keeping an eye on her flowered hat and parrot umbrella. When he was smaller, he held her hand as they went on adventures, but now he was trusted to stay absolutely at her side.
He felt very important.
When she stopped suddenly in front him, Harry looked up to see one of his least favorite people in the world.
“Ah, Mary Poppins. And young Harry, of course. How are you both today?”
“We’re quite well, Mr. Dumbledore,” Gran answered calmly. “And yourself?”
“Fine, fine,” Mr. Dumbledore said. “I wondered if I might have a word with Harry?”
“Firstly, Mr. Dumbledore, you are quite aware that my charge is Heir Potter, and we have not given you leave to use his first name so casually,” Gran said flatly. “And in the second, you have no reason to speak with him whatsoever. Should you desire a meeting, contact us via owl and we will set up a meeting spot with a proper supervisor.”
“Surely, there’s no need to go to such measures?” Mr. Dumbledore’s face looked quite, quite sad. Harry didn’t trust it for a minute.
“There is every reason, when you are involved, Mr. Dumbledore,” Gran said crisply. “Good day.” And she held her hand out to Harry, who took it, glad for its safety.
“Mary, certainly I have made mistakes, but --”
“I bid you good day, Mr. Dumbledore,” Gran repeated, then pushed her way past him, Harry in tow, to enter the bank.
Harry shivered as they entered the bank, and he tugged gently on Gran’s hand to get her attention. She looked down at him.
“What does Mr. Dumbledore want with me?” he whispered.
Gran looked sad for a moment, then took a deep breath. “I’m afraid Mr. Dumbledore is quite misguided. The time is coming, Harry, when the entire story will be told to you. I think you are quite intelligent and mature enough to handle it. But I should like for Padfoot, Pop, and perhaps Uncle Remus to join us in the telling. Could you wait for an answer?”
Harry bit his lip, thinking, then gave a decisive nod. “Yes, Gran. I can wait.”
“Thank you, Harry,” Gran smiled at him. “Now, come along, spit-spot! We have a vault to visit and a meeting with Ragnok to attend!”
Harry left his hand in his Gran’s as they marched through the bank to the offices at the back for their appointment. It felt safer.
Ragnok settled Harry and Gran into the comfortable chairs of his office. “Mr. Potter, Dame Poppins-Perkins. Welcome back to Gringotts. I presume we’re here to discuss Mr. Potter’s Heirship ceremony?”
“Indeed, Director,” Gran said. “As you know, Harry’s 11th birthday is thirty days from now, and by law, he is eligible to wear his heir ring and begin tutoring in estate management. We’re here to ensure that all is in order, schedule the ceremony, and see to any details that need to be met beforehand. We’ll also need to visit Harry’s trust vault today.”
Ragnok nodded along. “I am happy to say all is in order. The Heir ring is safely in the Potter vault, and there are no counterclaims. There was a challenge through the Wizengamot, as you know. A bill was introduced about six months ago that would raise the Heir claiming age to 15, but it was defeated. Barring a last minute difficulty, all should go smoothly.”
“Excellent,” Gran said. “Then all is as it should be.”
“It is,” Ragnok said. “Shall we schedule the ceremony for 9 a.m. on July 31? Best to get it done right after breakfast. Once his oath is taken and the ring is on his finger, none can take it from him.”
Gran looked at Harry. “What do you think, Harry?”
Harry sat up importantly. “I think that sounds fine, Gran.” He cleared his throat. “Director. Thank you.”
Ragnok gave the goblin equivalent of a smile. “You’re quite welcome, Mr. Potter. Now, all that needs settling is the matter of witnesses. It’s customary to invite another Peer or Heir to witness the ceremony, along with any family and friends you’d care to have be a part of things.”
Harry looked to his Gran, who gave a warm smile and a nod, and spoke. “I’d like to have Gran and Pop, er, I mean, Bertram Perkins and Mary Poppins-Perkins; Remus and Cecelia Lupin; Sirius Black; Minerva McGonagall; and Dame Augusta and presumed-Heir Neville Longbottom.” He drew another breath. “I’d also like to invite Heir Draco Malfoy.”
An enchanted quill took down the names as Harry spoke them. Ragnok looked the list over, and noted, “Heir Malfoy is just 11. He will need a guardian with him. Do you have a preference?”
Harry nodded reluctantly. “I prefer for his mother, Lady Narcissa Malfoy, to be in attendance.”
Ragnok nodded. “Anyone else?”
“Well, then, I’ll have the invitations sent to your guests,” Ragnok said. “I believe that will be all for the bank’s business. Do we have anything further to discuss?”
“I think we’ve completed that portion of our day, Director,” Gran said. “Now a visit to the trust vault, and we’ll be away.”
Galleons safely procured and stowed in Harry’s own mokeskin pouch, Gran and Harry made their way down the Alley to stock up on school supplies and clothing certificates from Madam Malkins. They also stopped at the trunk store for a dozen certificates. “It’s best, Harry, to let students pick their own trunks and fit their own uniforms,” Gran observed. “It makes them feel as though they’re a part of something larger than themselves, making their own choices, rather than having none.”
Harry nodded, having heard this before, and asked, “Should we include a few Flourish & Blotts certificates, Gran? I know that the first year books are pretty well set, and we have plenty, but what if there’s an upper year in need?”
“Wonderful idea, Harry,” Gran said, smiling warmly at him. “Textbooks are covered in our agreement with the store, but it would be nice to offer a certificate for leisure or additional reading. There’s enough in the Cupboard Trust to manage that.”
They continued on to the bookstore, where Gran watched Harry negotiate the cost and quantity of the certificates, and inquire about the store textbook account.
She treated them both to lunch at The Leaky Cauldron afterward, and then the pair went to Hogwarts, to meet with Auntie Min.
Auntie Min, Gran, and Harry’s father’s mother, Euphemia, had roomed together in Gryffindor at Hogwarts. They had been great friends, and Gran and Auntie Min had promised to help look after Harry’s parents and the then-expected Harry when Euphemia and her husband, Fleamont, had passed away.
Auntie Min was great fun. She turned into a cat sometimes, and she promised Harry she’d teach him how to become his animal when he was old enough. She was very busy as Headmistress of Hogwarts, but with the students home for the summer, she’d have enough time for a visit and tea today while Gran and Harry stocked the Cupboard.
Harry loved visiting Hogwarts. The castle herself seemed to sing to him every time he walked in the doors. She liked to draw Harry into interesting nooks and crannies, and down tunnels and into hidden rooms and behind funny tapestries that had secrets. Gran didn’t mind. Adventures, she said, were excellent teachers, so long as one had a safety net. At Hogwarts, the house elves, who also adored Harry, kept an eye on his progress while Gran and Auntie Min had their tea.
Today, the castle led him to a seventh-floor corridor that had a picture of dancing trolls hanging on one wall. Harry studied the picture for a moment. Hogwarts liked him to figure out the secrets, but she always gave him a hint. And the trolls were dancing in a very specific manner. Three times, they’d pass the center of the painting, then they’d stop, look at Harry, and then, dance again.
“Three times in front of the painting?” Harry whispered the question. “It can’t be that simple, or the secret would be obvious every time a student was up here...could it?”
He thought for a second, and shrugged. He paced three times in front of the painting, thinking hard about the corridor revealing its secret. To his immense surprise, a door appeared after the third pass, and his favorite house elf, Gypsy, popped into place in front of him.
“Mr. Harry, this is the come-and-go room,” the little elf said with a squeak. “Could be a place of danger, depending.”
“What does it do?” Harry asked.
“It becomes whatever you needs it to be,” Gypsy said. “Your gran would want to know that you found it before you goes in it!”
Harry bit his lip. “Do you really think so?”
“I does, Mr. Harry.”
He touched the door, lightly, and Hogwarts sang to him. “Right, then, Gypsy, can you tell her where I am, please? And Hogwarts, please allow her to find me if she comes looking.”
Agreement sang across his senses, and Harry opened the door.
He barely registered Gypsy’s departure as he took in the room around him. Harry hadn’t specified anything in particular when he paced, just that Hogwarts reveal the secret. And inside the room he found a plush lounge done in creams and golds, with squishy arm chairs, bookcases, and four enormous portraits. The occupants seemed to be sleeping, so Harry crept closer to read the placards at the bottom of them.
“Rowena Ravenclaw. Salazar Slytherin. Godric Gryffindor. Helga Hufflepuff.” He looked up at the portraits with awed eyes. “The Founders!”
The enormous red-headed man in the third painting woke with a start and peered down at Harry. “Oh, hello. Who might you be?”
Harry swallowed. “I’m Harry James Potter, Heir-presumptive to the House of Potter.”
“Potter, you say?” Godric stretched. “I think one of my granddaughters married a Potter.”
“Yes, sir,” Harry said. “Iolanthe Peverell. She’s one of my many-times-great-grandmothers.”
Godric laughed. “Well met, then, grandson. I’m pleased to awake and meet you.”
The sound of the door opening and closing jerked Harry around to see his Gran and Auntie Min. “Gran! I found the Founders’ portraits!”
“So you did,” Gran acknowledged with a nod. “What a wonderful secret to uncover!”
Auntie Min strode closer to view the portraits. “We thought these had been lost.”
“Ah, well, the Room of Requirement keeps its secrets well,” Godric said with a smile. “I suspect young Harry here has the castle’s confidence.”
“Indeed, he does,” Gran said. “She has led him on many adventures.”
“As have you, I’d guess. Are you one of my descendants, as well?” Godric asked.
Gran shook her head briskly. “Not to my knowledge, good sir. I’m a Poppins. We’re neither a noble nor titled family. My own father was a shopkeeper in Hogsmeade for many years.”
“Poppins, you say?” Godric hummed. “We had a Charms teacher here named Poppins in my time. Good fellow.”
“Godric, sir? Can you tell me why you woke up and the others haven’t yet?” Harry asked.
“Probably because you are related to me, Harry. The others will need their own Heir-presumptives to wake them, eventually.”
Auntie Min frowned. “The last known Slytherin descendant was Tom Riddle, and he left no heirs. Rowena Ravenclaw’s only daughter died before she had children of her own. It’s said the Smiths are descendants of Helga Hufflepuff, though I’m not sure if that’s true or not.”
Godric looked sad for a moment. “I see. Well, the magic of the castle will choose appropriate heirs to wake these portraits when the time is right. For now, Harry, I acknowledge you as my Heir.” A brief glow settled on Harry. “And if you have need of me, do not hesitate to ask for my portrait here at the Room of Requirement. I will wake for you. Otherwise, I think I shall sleep. It’s a bit boring on my own.”
“Of course, it would be,” Gran murmured. “I’ll be sure to bring Harry by for chats. And I’m sure when he starts attending Hogwarts this fall that he will come and visit.”
“I’d love to!” Harry nodded enthusiastically.
“All settled then,” Auntie Min agreed.
“Wonderful,” Godric replied, smiling at them all.
It had been a very full day by the time Gran and Harry arrived back at Robin’s Nest.
“We have company tonight, Harry, so please dress appropriately for dinner. Wizarding robes, I think,” Gran said after they’d settled into the foyer.
“Oh, who’s coming, Gran?”
“Minister Bones and her ward, Susan, are joining us for dinner,” Gran said. “Susan will be in your class at Hogwarts, and the Minister wishes to discuss a new WFS program with me. We thought it would be a good time for us all to practice our manners.”
Harry nearly rolled his eyes, but caught himself. Gran smiled at him anyway. “Now, Harry, I know that you’ll be perfectly well behaved. Just remember, it’s for Susan’s benefit, too. And I’m certain the pair of you will be better behaved than Padfoot.”
“Off you go, spit-spot!”
Harry dressed carefully for dinner, in formal black robes with a deep green brocade waistcoat over his crisply starched white dress shirt. He tied his hair back from his face in club at the nape of his neck, exposing his forehead and the faded, thin, white, lightning-shaped scar that had marked his encounter with Tom Riddle as an infant. He gave himself one last glance in the mirror, who told him he looked very well turned out, and headed for the formal dining room.
Padfoot joined him at the top of the foyer stairs. “Looking good, Pup!”
Harry glanced up at his godfather, taking in the similar formal black robes and clubbed hair. Sirius Black’s sparkling grey eyes always looked full of mischief. “Same to you, Padfoot!”
“And how was your day?” Sirius enquired. “Adventures on rooftops? Tea on the ceiling?”
Harry rolled his eyes. “That was once, Padfoot. And Auntie Jane was along. She said it was for old times’ sake. But it was fun.”
“I imagine so,” Sirius said as they paced off the stairs and turned right, toward the formal dining room. “But what did you get up to today?”
“Oh, Gran and I restocked the Cupboard at Hogwarts, set up my Heir ceremony at Gringotts, found the Founders’ portraits, and ran into Mr. Dumbledore,” Harry said airily. “Nothing too strenuous.”
Sirius looked like he’d been hit by a Petrificus Totalus. “Founders’ portraits? Dumbledore? Really, pup?”
“Really, really!” Harry bounced over to the table and stood behind his seat, waiting for guests. “I’ll tell you about it later.”
Sirius shook off his shock and stood next to Harry, behind his assigned seat.“I look forward to it, pup.”
The pair looked up as Gran, escorting Susan, and Pop, escorting Minister Bones, walked sedately into the dining room. Gran took the head of the table, with Pop seating Minister Bones to her left. Susan stood behind the chair next to the Minister, and Pop walked round to take his seat at Gran’s right. Harry’s regular seat, when they had company, was next to Pop, and that put him across from Susan. Sirius had no table partner across from him, but the table was much too large for such a small party, and Gran would never hear of Sirius taking the foot of the table only to be left out of conversation.
With a smile for all, Gran seated herself, and the rest of them got into their seats, as well. As soon as they were all ready, the first course--a clear herbed soup--appeared quietly on their plates. Gran took up her spoon and sipped, and the rest followed suit.
Gran had the highest rank of the room because she was not only the Potter Regent, she held the Order of Merlin and had been knighted by the Queen herself. Sirius was the Black Heir, and Harry was the Heir-Presumptive of House Potter, but not even the Minister could claim the knightship, for all that she was Lady Bones. And anyway, Lady Bones was a guest.
Pop shared the Potter Regency with Gran, but he had been muggleborn and left in an orphanage as a baby. A heritage test at Gringotts showed that he’d no claims to any nobility of any sort, but Pop always said he preferred it that way. He always worked to suit himself and nobody else, he’d say with a twinkle, with one notable exception. Since Pop always looked at Gran when he said it, Harry assumed she was Pop’s exception.
“Dame Poppins-Perkins, this soup is simply lovely,” Minister Bones said to Gran at the top of the table.
“Please, call me Mary,” Gran said with a warm smile. “The chef knows this is my favorite. I shall pass on your compliment.”
“What brings you to Robin’s Nest this evening, Amelia?” Sirius asked, not bothering with the formality. He’d known Minister Bones for years, Harry thought.
“Well, other than this delightful company?” Minister Bones asked, pleasantly. “I had an idea about Wizarding Family Services, and I wanted to talk to Mary about it.”
“Now, Amelia, I’ve been retired for some time,” Gran observed. “Are you quite sure you wished to speak with me?”
“I am,” Amelia said. “For all that you’re ‘retired,’ Mary, I’m quite certain you keep your hand in the affairs of the department. And, of course, as you were its founding… director? Member?”
Gran sighed and set down her spoon. “I suppose ‘founder’ is as good a word as any for one who was the only child protection officer at all, for the entire Ministry, when the position was created.”
“When was that, Dame Poppins-Perkins?” Susan asked curiously.
“1933, Susan,” Gran replied promptly. “I was four years out of Hogwarts, had just finished my mastery in Charms, and had enrolled in the Auror Corps. I’d spent my summers tutoring and working with small children prior to that.”
“How did that position come to you, then?” Susan asked. “For that matter, why was it created?”
“Ah, well,” Gran said modestly. “I suppose I was in the right place at the right time.”
Pop snorted indelicately. “You could say that. You could also say that you made the position happen because you saw a need and decided to fill it. None of your modest airs here, dear Mary.”
“Oh, Bert.” Gran shook her head, but her eyes were twinkling.
“Well, now, that sounds like a story,” Sirius said, leaning back from his empty soup bowl.
Pop leaned forward. “My Mary will never tell the entire story, I’m certain, because she never did learn to brag about herself. I’ll do it for her, though, no problem.”
“Honestly.” Gran shook her head. “It was honestly a matter of common sense. England was in a bit of turmoil after the Great War, with so many children in the orphanages or on the streets, including a good portion of muggle- and wizarding-born young ones. They built their own crime networks, mostly petty crimes needed for survival. I saw many young ones who should have been in Hogwarts stealing bread from the bakery that was in business down the street from the Leaky Cauldron. I was able to convince my Head of Department that we needed a position dedicated to helping those children find good homes and educations, and that in doing so, we’d be helping the future of the wizarding world.”
“And that led to Mary being chosen for that position,” Pop said, laying down his own spoon. “I was one of those children meself. It was only fort-u-i-tious circumstance that led me to Hogwarts in 1919. Mary’s grandda, Reginald, caught me stealing a bun from his London shop and realized I had magic. He sponsored me into Hogwarts. Gave me a place to be during the school year and a cot to lay in during the summers. Met Mary that way. But you know the Ministry at the time I graduated, in 1926, they weren’t hiring muggleborns without a family history at all. Had to work back out on the streets for my living.”
“And you did quite well, my dear Bert,” Gran said, laying a hand on his. “Bert sorted Slytherin, you know. He was quite cunning enough to find his own way.”
“So Mary knew of me, and through me, she know of others, and as she started her work as an Auror she started to see the scope of the problem,” Pop continued. “No telling how many young wizards and witches we lost during those years between the wars.”
“Yes, well, I was formally assigned to deal with the ‘lost children problem’ in 1933,” Gran confirmed. “Many assumed that wizarding families were managing their own children and the true problem lay in the muggleborn population. So, therefore, my task was to identify orphaned children with magic, place them with vetted wizarding families, and see that they got their educations. Over time, that expanded to include visiting families that had muggleborn children to determine their suitability for parenting such children and gently intervening, if necessary.”
“Gently intervening?” Amelia questioned. “What did that mean?”
“Well, in the beginning, I noted some of the children were on the streets because, once they’d demonstrated accidental magic, their families abused, neglected, or abandoned them,” Gran said quietly. “I enchanted a mirror to activate when it detected a magical child, too young for Hogwarts, in a situation it deemed perilous. In the beginning, I made those parameters quite narrow. I had not yet been introduced to the full scope of how human beings could be terrible to their children.”
Gran cleared her throat and looked away. Pop laid a hand on hers. She turned and smiled at him, then resumed her story.
“At any rate, the mirror would show me the child and allow me to watch for a time to gather the information I needed to intervene. For some families, I intervened directly, interviewing for a post as a nanny or a servant to get more information and gently ease the family into acceptance of magic. In others, it was quite clear immediately that the children were not safe. I was granted broad authority to remove children from these homes if necessary, and obliviate or silence parents about the existence of magic for the protection of our world.”
“That sounds like a great deal of power for one person,” Amelia observed.
“I think you’re quite right, Amelia,” Gran allowed. “Over time, I developed protocols and policies, and as you know, the staff grew to accommodate need. Our biggest problem in those early years came from Hogwarts, actually.”
“How so?” Amelia leaned forward.
“There will always be people who believe, regardless of how a child is treated in their care, that children belong with blood family,” Gran said carefully. “Such people usually believe this to the extent that they will do nearly anything to protect abusers from the consequences of those actions. When I was assigned to be WFS in the beginning, such was the attitude of much of the staff at Hogwarts. Rather than reporting signs of abuse or neglect, staff often took it upon themselves to counsel students to endure. One professor was so adamant of this point of view, that he failed to report the situation of more than one wizarding child left in dire circumstances outside of Hogwarts. The glass can only tell me so much. WFS does also rely on people to provide us information about individual circumstances.” Gran drew a deep breath.
Pop jumped in with a concerned look at his wife. “I do believe we’re ready for the next course,” he said, and tapped his glass with his butter knife. The soup bowls vanished, to be replaced with individual stuffed game hens.
Harry cut into his hen silently. He knew, through helping his Gran with the Cupboard, that Hogwarts now had stringent reporting policies in place that would allow WFS to intervene and help children. How different might it have been when those policies weren’t in place? He shivered internally.
Sirius helped turn the conversation to a lighter topic when he asked Harry, “So you found the lost Founders’ portraits today? How did that happen?”
Harry glanced at Gran, who smiled warmly, and he knew it was fine to share the story. “Hogwarts led me to this amazing room on the seventh floor that the house elves call the Come-and-Go Room. It showed me the portraits, and the one of Godric Gryffindor woke up and named me his Heir. He’s an interesting sort. I look forward to chatting with him again in the future.”
Talk turned then to the Founders, and Hogwarts, and Susan and Harry’s readiness for school in the fall.
It was over dessert that Amelia reiterated her purpose for meeting with Gran over dinner. “I had a thought about a mentorship program that would match magical children from different backgrounds for the purposes of learning about each other. I thought about Hogwarts as a site for something like this first, but in discussing the idea with Susan and others, I came to realize that younger children could benefit, too. Perhaps more so.”
Gran nodded. “Such mentorship happens in bigger families, or when we’re able to place a muggleborn child with a wizarding family. But some of the younger muggleborns in good family situations could benefit from an earlier introduction to other wizarding children. It’s not something we’ve been able to do in many cases, because of the Statute, and frankly, from lack of staffing. It would be an additional burden on staff.”
“I thought of that,” Amelia said. “But if it could benefit our younger wizarding population, I think I can secure enough funding for a coordinator of sorts.”
“That would, indeed, be beneficial,” Gran said. “I look forward to seeing how it develops.”
Harry finished his plate of trifle and sat back. Dinner had been interesting. And somehow, he thought Gran’s story was bit deeper than she’d shared with Minister Bones. He wondered if it had anything to do with Mr. Dumbledore. He’d wait to ask.
Summer seemed to speed along this year, and Harry’s days were filled with charitable work, accounts and estates lessons, and adventures. The promised trip to France provided Harry with the contact information for a young Veela named Fleur Delacour and a set of Mickey Mouse ears, courtesy of the day spent at EuroDisney. Pop got his picture taken with the Disney princesses, just to make Gran giggle like a young girl.
As Harry’s birthday approached, he became aware of a buzzing anticipation running through Robin’s Nest. They’d planned his Heir ceremony for 9 a.m. at the bank, and it would be followed by a brunch with the attendees at Robin’s Nest and an afternoon of Quidditch with Padfoot, Uncle Remus, and several of Harry’s peers. An informal birthday dinner with his friends at Robin’s Nest would lead into a trip out to see Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves at the cinema. He expected a good time would be had by all.
However, the nagging issue of Mr. Dumbledore’s continued interest in him persisted, and, about a week before his birthday, he cautiously raised the question with his Gran over breakfast.
She sighed, deeply, and said, “I have always believed that a child old enough to ask a question is old enough to get the answer. Very well, Harry. I will arrange for our meeting this evening. I do think I should not be the only person to tell this story. And, in fact, parts of it legitimately belong to other tellers. Therefore, I will invite Auntie Min and Uncle Remus along this evening, and check Padfoot’s calendar. I believe he’s free.”
“Is it terribly complex, Gran?” Harry asked.
“I suppose that depends upon your definition of complex, Harry,” Gran said. “Certainly, it’s a tangled bit of history to share. I should see if I can borrow a Pensieve.”
Harry bit his lip. “Are you in any danger from Mr. Dumbledore, Gran?”
Gran’s face softened. “My brave, caring boy. I have worked hard to ensure that any danger to you or to us has long since been dealt with. I don’t believe that Mr. Dumbledore is currently a threat, but he’s certainly got his own ideas about how things should be.”
“You would tell me if I can help?”
“Of course, Harry.”
They gathered in the family room after dinner. Sirius, Remus, Gran and Pop, Auntie Min, and Harry sat on squishy soft sofas in Gran’s favored shades of navy, taupe, and red. A Pensieve rested on the mahogany coffee table in the center of the room.
Gran opened the discussion. “Harry, you asked me specifically why Mr. Dumbledore appears to be invested in you to a potentially unhealthy degree. There are several potential answers to that question, and the story is quite tangled and knotty. But each of us here played a part in it, so I think it would be best if we told it in parts from our perspectives. I’ll begin, and then I should like each of you who were there to contribute to the story when it’s your place. We have the Pensieve here should we need to recall something more clearly.” Gran glanced around the room. “Agreed?”
Nods and general assent followed, and Gran refocused on Harry. “I believe, Harry, that part of the issue is Mr. Dumbledore’s inherent dislike of my former position in the Ministry. He very strongly argued that my position was not needed; that all children belonged with their blood families; that families had the right, the privilege, and the responsibility of raising their own children. He has been quite adamant about that fact. It is he to whom I referred when I mentioned a teacher at Hogwarts that spent a great deal of time subverting my office.”
“That’s right,” Harry said slowly. “Mr. Dumbledore was once a professor there.”
“In fact, in our time, Harry, Mr. Dumbledore was Headmaster,” Sirius said.
“That’s obviously changed, though,” Harry confirmed by looking at his Auntie Min, who was the current Headmistress.
“Yes, Harry,” Auntie Min said. “And his dismissal is part of this convoluted story.”
Gran continued. “He strongly disagreed that my office should have the power to remove children from their homes. Now, mind you, at the time, I was specifically tasked with the oversight of muggleborn children. We had not yet been alerted to the problems that could arise in homes where only one parent was magical. Children in those families were presumed to be safe because one parent was magical.”
“Though that has proven to not always be the case,” Auntie Min interjected.
“Yes, and I spelled the glass to catch all magical children in perilous situations in 1975, after I was alerted to a case of abuse in such a household,” Gran confirmed. “In that same year, I was alerted to a case of abuse in a pureblood household, and I convinced my superiors that the problem could and should be addressed for all magical children, not just muggleborn or those left in the muggle world.”
“That’s a forty-year gap, Gran,” Harry said softly. “Were there really no protections in place for all magical children until 1975?”
“Unfortunately not,” Gran said. “And the expansion of my mandate in 1975 was made after strenuous argument and debate. The cases in 1975 were the final straw, you see. Up until that point, we relied on the glass or voluntary reporting, and we had all the children we could manage. It came out, in 1975, that there had been a deliberate lack of reporting by Mr. Dumbledore. He went so far as to tell the children who needed his help that WFS would make them all followers of the self-styled Dark Lord at the time.”
“But he hadn’t broken the law, at that point,” Auntie Min said softly. “He simply didn’t report what he suspected to be true, and he told teachers to report cases to him, rather than directly to WFS. We had no idea that our suspicions were not being acted upon, in the main.”
“I was livid,” Gran said frankly. “I pulled every string I could think of and had the law changed to expand the mandate of my office and institute mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect. I started a leaflet campaign for distribution at St. Mungo’s, Hogwarts, and all the feeder primary schools in Britain. I called all sorts of attention to myself and this cause, and we helped many more children.
“Mr. Dumbledore told the papers that he believed I was trying to undermine relationships between Muggles and the wizarding world, and that I must be a Dark supporter. He said my job broke up families. It didn’t help matters, honestly, when that same self-styled Dark Lord, calling himself Voldemort, left me strictly alone.”
Sirius cleared his throat. “Harry, I was one the 1975 abuse cases. I ended up placed with the Potters. The other was Severus Snape, who ended up following Voldemort.”
“When I realized that Voldemort was Tom Riddle, a student who had attended Hogwarts with your Auntie Jane, I investigated and found that Riddle had been left in an orphanage, one that treated him very poorly, and that Mr. Dumbledore knew about it,” Gran said. “Up until then, I’d had quite a cordial relationship with Mr. Dumbledore. After that, our professional relationship was quite strained, and our personal relationship was non-existent.”
“That left me to be the one inside Hogwarts who could enforce the mandatory reporting clause,” Auntie Min added softly.
“Meanwhile, the terrorism being rained down on Wizarding Britain was ratcheting up,” Uncle Remus said. “Voldemort was espousing an ideology of pureblood superiority and gaining followers. A war was developing that had started to spill muggle and magical blood across the country. As schoolchildren, we were largely safe at Hogwarts, but dark times were upon us.”
Pop jumped in. “It got so’s people were afraid to be out and about. Many times when Mary had to collect a child, I went along just as protection.”
“Strangely enough, or perhaps not so strange, when one thinks about it, Voldemort left me to my business of identifying and protecting children,” Gran said. “I can’t help but think his own experiences influenced him in some way.”
There was a pause as the adults in the room seemed lost in thought, and Harry himself wondered why a murdering Dark Lord would leave his Gran alone--though Riddle’s history in an orphanage might have had something to do with it.
“Well,” Gran said briskly. “That brings us to 1980. Your grandparents, Fleamont and Euphemia Potter, were close and dear friends to your Pop and me, and they fell quite ill with dragon pox. Your mother, Lily, was expecting you, so they knew you were on the way, but the illness overcame them. On her deathbed, Euphemia asked me to care for you as if you were my own grandchild, and I agreed. Fleamont asked the same of Pop. You know this much, Harry. A deathbed promise in the magical world can be taken as an oath, in some ways, and it’s clear that Lady Magic herself thought of it as such.”
“When you were born, Lily and James named Sirius as godfather,” Pop continued. “Sirius was close enough to a brother to James. And Alice Longbottom was your godmother.”
Sirius grinned at Harry. “You were hardly the size of a loaf of bread when you were born, pup. I was afraid to hold you, but Lily took none of my nonsense. She plopped you right down in my arms the first time I saw you, and I loved you at first sight.”
“Lily was formidable,” Uncle Remus agreed. “I was told in no uncertain terms that I was to be your uncle, and that a chosen family was no less strong than one of blood.”
“She was on terrible terms with her own sister,” Gran said. “Petunia had never adjusted to the idea that Lily had magic, and quite resented her for it. Lily was determined that you should have a large family that loved you, whether they were related to you by blood or not.”
“You were a point of light in those dark days, Harry.” Pop patted his hand.
“And so very, very loved,” Auntie Min said.
“You were fifteen months old when Voldemort targeted your family and killed your parents,” Gran said quietly. “The night it happened, on Halloween, I was sitting in my office, waiting for Bert to escort me home, when I saw the wind changing, and the glass lit up. It showed me you, Harry.”
“Wait,” Harry said. “I know I’m living with you because my parents were killed by Voldemort, but you couldn’t get there to save me?”
“Not in time, no,” Gran said. “The actual attack happened so quickly that by the time I got to the glass, your parents were already dead, and you were screaming. I was prepared to go to you when I saw Sirius there, and since I knew he was your godfather, I simply watched. I thought he’d keep you, settle you down, perhaps come to me or Auntie Min for assistance. But then things started to go sideways from Lily and James’ plan for you.”
This was news to Harry. “What happened?”
“Hagrid happened,” Sirius grumbled. “He showed up with orders from Dumbledore to take you to Hogwarts.”
“Why on earth would Dumbledore have anything to do with me?” Harry asked.
“That, we still don’t really know,” Sirius replied. “Though we have a good idea. At the time, I was so full of grief I didn’t even question it. I heard that Hagrid would take you to Hogwarts to see Poppy in the infirmary, and I let him go. I wanted, at that point, to take revenge. I knew that in order for your parents to be dead, they had to have been betrayed by our old friend, Peter Pettigrew. So I went after him.”
“The glass allowed me to watch as Hagrid took you Hogwarts and as Mr. Dumbledore examined you,” Gran said. “Your scar was inflamed and bleeding, but he and Poppy could do nothing for it. They put you to sleep, with Poppy watching over you, and you were safe there. But the glass was flashing red, so I knew you were still in some sort of danger, and I was concerned about your guardianship status.”
Auntie Min spoke up then. “I found out Harry was there, in the infirmary, and Poppy told me that Harry was going to go to his Aunt’s the next day. That made no sense to me, as I knew Sirius was your godfather, and that your parents expressly forbade placing you with your Aunt Petunia unless it was a last resort. It sounded to me as though Dumbledore was circumventing your parents’ last wishes, somehow. And I wrote Mary.”
Gran nodded. “She and I watched the Dursleys all that next day, until Dumbledore brought you to your Aunt’s doorstep in a basket, with a letter, no warming charm, and no authority to place children of any sort. He left, Aunt Min left with him, and I took you home, under my own authority.”
“And here is where it gets interesting,” Pop chimed in. “Your parents’ wills didn’t appear in Mary’s office, as they should have upon your orphaning.”
“So, naturally, I went to Gringotts to have them read, because I knew they were filed in both places,” Gran said. “We settled the issue of custody at the bank, in the presence of multiple witnesses, including my colleague Mafalda Hopkirk, who formally placed you with Pop and me, as we were listed as potential guardians and no one could find Sirius.”
“I had been arrested for the murder of Peter Pettigrew,” Sirius said quietly. “And no, of course I didn’t, but none at the Ministry were listening to reason at the time. I was in Azkaban before you could say ‘snitch.’”
Harry’s jaw dropped. “Really?”
“Mr. Dumbledore was Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, in charge of trial dates and such, and he failed to set a trial. He also fueled the whispering campaign that made the wizarding public think that I had betrayed James and Lily, when he knew all along it was Peter who had done so,” Sirius explained.
“Many small things and several large things made no sense,” Gran said, “and they all pointed to someone interfering with your placement in criminal ways.”
“When an orphaned child is placed with guardians, a meeting must be held within thirty days of placement among all potential named guardians in order to settle custody issues and work out visitations and the like,” Pop said. “It was at that meeting that Dumbledore made an appearance, despite having no legal say in of the proceedings.”
“Perhaps we should see that in the Pensieve?” Gran asked.
Heads nodded around the room, and Gran put her wand to her temple, extracting the memory before placing it in the Pensieve. They all gathered around, and as one, touched the liquid.
Harry watched as people he knew trooped into a generic-looking conference room. This was Gran’s memory, and she was clearly already seated, next to Pop. He saw his baby self playing in a warded space under the window with a set of large, animated soft blocks.
“We brought those from your old bedroom,” Gran said quietly, from her place at his side. “They were your favorite.”
Harry took a closer look at himself. “My scar is still big and red.”
“Yes,” Gran said. “That’s a separate part of the story.” She looked around and started pointing people out. “I think you know just about everyone. Augusta Longbottom, of course. Auntie Min. Us. That’s Mafalda Hopkirk, who, at the time, was my colleague and fellow child protection officer. She’s the arbiter here, recording the meeting. The arbiter also steps in to help solve disputes or end the meeting if discussions get too heated. The conference room is at Gringotts, and warded to prevent the use of magic by participants. That gentleman, there, is Lord Arcturus Black. You’ve met him a time or two, but as he’s lost all his hair since this meeting, I thought it worth an introduction.”
Harry snorted slightly, and Sirius laughed out loud.
Gran shushed them both as Mafalda took her place at the head of the table.
“I hereby call this meeting of the potential guardians of Harry James Potter to order. Please note that the proceedings are being recorded by the orb here. My role in this meeting is to settle any disputes that arise or to end the meeting in the event the discussion gets too heated to proceed. No wands are to be drawn; drawing a wand will result in your expulsion from this meeting. Are these rules clear to all?”
A chorus of “yes” answers filled the room.
“Thank you,” Mafalda said. “To begin with, with the authority of Wizarding Family Services, I placed Harry with Bert and Mary formally on November 2, as they were potential guardians listed by the Potters in their wills, they were present, they had already been vetted by WFS as safe guardians, and they already had temporary custody of Harry. That issue has been settled. This meeting is to determine if any of the other guardians listed by the Potters would like to contribute to Harry’s upbringing, and if, in fact, another custody arrangement needs to be made or modified.”
Arcturus Black cleared his throat. “I have a question, Ms. Hopkirk.”
“Yes, Lord Black?”
“I’m not certain why I am present here,” he said carefully. “I do not believe the Potters would have listed me as a potential guardian for their son.”
Mafalda looked at him kindly. “You are here representing Sirius Black, Harry’s magically sworn godfather.”
“Magically sworn?” Arcturus drew himself up. “Sirius is in Azkaban for betraying the Potters. How could he have done that if he’s magically sworn to be Harry’s godfather?”
“A question, I’m certain, that we would all like the answer to,” Gran said softly. “But not the scope of this meeting.”
“Indeed,” Arcturus said, and settled back down in the manner of an apex predator, ready to launch.
In real time, Sirius leaned over to Harry and said, “That really got him riled. He was convinced of my guilt, as so many had been, and when he discovered that tidbit, he pretty well decimated the DMLE investigators who sent me to Azkaban without a trial. He got me a trial, I was proven innocent, and I was out within six months. We later found out Arcturus had been spelled to apathy at some point, though we don’t know by whom.”
Harry nodded, his eyes on the proceedings, where Augusta was explaining that she was there to represent Alice Longbottom, who was sworn as Harry’s godmother.
Remus leaned in from the other side of Sirius. “Alice and Frank had already been attacked and sent to St. Mungo’s by the time of this meeting.”
Harry nodded again.
Gran providing a report about Harry’s physical well-being when the conference room door burst open.
“What is the meaning of this?” Mafalda asked quickly, jumping up.
Baby Harry, startled, started to cry, and Pop hurried over to pick him up.
Albus Dumbledore stood in the doorway, chest heaving. “Where is Harry Potter?”
Gran stood slowly, pulling off her gloves. “Albus. What brings you here? You were expressly not invited to this meeting.”
“I am Harry’s magical guardian,” Albus announced grandly. “You kidnapped him from his family, and I demand a voice in these proceedings.”
None of the gathered looked impressed. Arcturus, in fact, looked livid.
Gran coolly said, “A magical guardian is only assigned by WFS if a muggleborn child is living in a happy home situation and needs representation in the magical world. Harry is not a muggleborn, and his parents provided for his guardianship in their wills. You have no authority here, and I suggest you leave.”
Dumbledore visibly calmed himself. “As Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, I looked for the Potters’ wills so that I could assure they were executed. No wills were found.”
“The Potters filed their wills with the Ministry and with Gringotts,” Gran said. “Their readings were duly witnessed at the bank and guardianship assigned. You have no authority here, Albus, and I suggest you leave.”
“His aunt Petunia is devastated at the loss of her sister and requests his presence most urgently,” Albus said quickly.
“Petunia Evans Dursley was formally informed about her sister’s loss one week ago, on November 9, and formally gave up all claim to a child she declared to be a ‘freak’ like the rest of us,” Gran said icily. “You have no authority here, Albus, and I suggest you leave.”
“So mote it be,” a voice resounded through the room, and Albus Dumbledore disappeared with a crack.
“Well, that’s him out of the way, then,” Gran said, pulling her gloves back on as she sat down.
The Gran next to Harry said, “And this is where we’ll end the memory. You already know the outcome of this meeting.”
“I do,” Harry said as they all popped out of the Pensieve. “You and Pop retained custody of me, but Auntie Augusta made sure I had time with Neville and Auntie Min became another caregiver when necessary. Padfoot moved in here at Robin’s Nest to help raise and educate me on the matters of my estates.”
“Yes, and Arcturus named me Heir Black,” Sirius said. “As Azkaban killed my ability to father children, you are my Heir-Presumptive for the Black title. But Grandda probably will outlive everyone so it won’t matter.”
“Indeed,” Gran said with a twinkle. “Tea, anyone? I’d like a cup myself before we move into the next memory.”
All agreed a strong cuppa would be a good idea, and tea and biscuits were served.
“What’s the next memory?” Harry asked, choosing a chocolate biscuit.
“The next is our visit to a Specialist Healer,” Gran said. “As you noted, even two weeks after the curse, you suffered from inflammation in that scar. We were quite concerned about it.”
Harry drew a finger along the faded line. “I take it there was something to be concerned about?”
“There certainly was,” Pop said. “And it explained a thing or two. Such as why Dumbledore wanted to control your placement.”
“When I watched the glass the night of your parents’ murder, Harry, I saw Dumbledore examine your scar, frown, and spell you to sleep,” Gran added. “It seemed to me that he’d noticed something, and for all his faults, Mr. Dumbledore is quite a talented and powerful wizard with years of study behind him. I believed it prudent to follow through with a Specialist in Dark curses.”
Harry finished his biscuit and swallowed his last drop of tea. “Shall we, then?”
“If you are all quite ready?” Gran looked around, and seeing nods of agreement, placed a wand to her temple.
With a swish, the second memory was in the Pensieve, and they all drew closer to touch the shimmering liquid.
A tall blonde woman with mismatched eyes was peering closely at Baby Harry’s scar. “It’s a Horcrux, sort of,” she murmured.
“And what is a Horcrux, Madam Hansen?” Gran asked.
“Well, when formally done in ritual, it’s the encasing of a piece of the caster’s soul into a precious object, and it’s done to prevent the caster from ever truly leaving this plane of existence,” Madam Hansen said. “Quite popular among the Ancient Egyptians. But I’d guess that the caster was interrupted in the ritual, or his soul was already dangerously unstable and split off involuntarily when he attempted to commit this murder. There’s a sliver of soul in that scar.”
Pop’s eyebrows rose comically. “Can it be dealt with?”
“Certainly,” Madame Hansen said. “It’s a bit unusual to see a Horcrux attached to a living being. The easiest way to destroy a Horcrux is to completely destroy the container it’s housed in via Fiendfyre, basilisk venom, or the like. Obviously, that’s contraindicated in a living being, so we’ll have to go with the secondary route, which is a ritual to cast it out.”
Gran paled. “Well, then. If we must, we must.”
“I’ll go and get it set up,” Madam Hansen said. “He’s a healthy little guy, so I don’t anticipate any complications.”
“Thank you,” Gran said.
They were steered out of the memory, and Harry sat back. “So Voldemort left a bit of his soul in my scar the night he tried to kill me.”
“And we had it out within the month afterwards,” Gran said. “Its presence, however, answered some questions about Mr. Dumbledore’s interest in you.”
Uncle Remus spoke up. “The investigation into the missing wills was traced to Dumbledore.”
“The interference in the trial system for me was traced to Dumbledore and to Barty Crouch, Sr,” Sirius said.
“And, of course, we already know he tried to interfere with your guardianship placement,” Gran said. “He also eliminated off the board anyone who might interfere with his plans.”
“We think, Harry,” Auntie Min said, “that he knew you had a slice of Tom Riddle’s soul in your forehead, and he didn’t know how to deal with it without killing you. He opted to place his faith in the family connection to your Aunt and to your mother’s final sacrifice in saving you.”
“We uncovered a wardstone Lily had placed in Petunia’s front yard,” Sirius said. “Dumbledore claimed to have added protections to the ward that would have held and kept you safe from harm in that house.”
“But not, I think, from its occupants,” Gran said. “Auntie Min and I watched them all day to see if they were suitable, but quite aside from the illegality of Mr. Dumbledore’s actions, it was clear to both of us that they were not. At all. Suitable.”
“So what happened to Mr. Dumbledore, then, after all this?” Harry asked.
“Well, it came out, of course, that he’d interfered in your placement,” Uncle Remus said. “At the hearing for the charge of guardianship interference, his role in keeping Sirius in Azkaban and ‘losing’ your parents’ wills also came out. All of these things are high crimes in Britain, and yet …” Remus looked to Sirius, who sighed heavily.
“All Dumbledore got was the loss of his posts as Chief Warlock, ICW Mugwump, and Headmaster of Hogwarts,” Sirius said. “No jail time. He was fined for the guardianship interference and had to pay you weregild, which is in your trust vault. But Mary was able to prove that Dumbledore had systematically been undermining WFS since its inception, so he was out at Hogwarts. People couldn’t trust him with their children.”
“How were you able to prove that, Gran?”
Gran twinkled at him. “You know I never explain anything, Harry. Except to you. And so I will tell you this: Dumbledore underestimated WFS and the protocols I had put into place to ensure everything was recorded. Everything. The glass records peril; the orbs record all meetings and interactions with families and the Ministry. It keeps us all honest. Dumbledore didn’t know he was being recorded in his interactions with me. And he gave himself away.”
Harry looked to his Gran. “He underestimated you, didn’t he?”
“I do believe he did, Harry.”
A week later, Harry could hardly keep still at the breakfast table. It was his birthday, and in the week since learning about Mr. Dumbledore’s obsession with him, Harry had thought a lot about the outcome of his placement and Mr. Dumbledore’s continued interest in speaking with him.
Somehow, Harry thought they didn’t have the complete story.
So he was mildly worried that Mr. Dumbledore might show up at his Heir-Claiming ceremony this morning, if only to try to speak with him again.
“Now, Harry,” Gran said calmly. “There’s no need to be so nervous. It’s a simple ceremony at the bank with your favorite people.”
“What if Mr. Dumbledore is there?” Harry asked, his voice small.
Gran folded her lips together and raised her chin. “He will not be there long, if that’s the case, and your Pop and I will protect you.”
“That’s right, Harry,” Pop said. “We’ve got your back. As does the rest of ‘em. I’d say you’ve got a crowd at your back as you get to Gringotts today, and we’ll keep you safe.”
Harry nodded, comforted. Gran exchanged a long look with Pop over the top of Harry’s head.
An extremely well-dressed group of people approached the doors of Gringotts just before 9 a.m. Harry himself wore formal black robes over a deep red waistcoat and matching cravat. Gran, Pop, and Padfoot were dressed to impress, and Harry was pleased to see no sign of Mr. Dumbledore as they entered Gringotts and met their guests.
“Good morning, Draco, Lady Malfoy,” Harry nodded respectfully to his friend and accepted Lady Malfoy’s hand for a kiss. “Thank you for joining us today.”
“I’m pleased to be invited,” Draco said formally before grinning broadly. “Happy Birthday, Harry!”
“Thank you, Draco!”
Narcissa Malfoy smiled gently. “Happy Birthday, Heir-Presumptive Potter. Thank you for inviting me.”
“I’m pleased to have you here,” Harry said. He moved on to greet Auntie Gus and Neville, and Uncle Remus and Auntie Miranda, before acknowledging and greeting the Potter account manager, Steelsharp, who approached the group directly.
“We have the small ceremonial hall reserved for you, Heir-Presumptive Potter,” Steelsharp said. “This way.”
The group started down a side corridor, following Steelsharp, who assured Harry that Director Ragnok would be joining them shortly.
The ceremony seemed to take no time at all. Harry swore an oath on his magic to do his best by his family, put on his new ring, and glowed a little. It was awesome.
Ragnok presented Lord Potter to his assembled guests, and afterward, they all fled back to Robin’s Nest for brunch, Quidditch, and general genteel raucousness.
Padfoot had rented out a cinema for the showing of “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” and they’d filled it with many of Harry’s friends and peers who would be attending Hogwarts with him, including the Muggleborn that Padfoot had helped out at the beginning of the summer with an accidental magic incident. Her name was Hermione, and she was a bit awkward, but nice.
When they left the cinema, Padfoot and Remus started mumbling to each other and laughing a bit too loudly. They stopped at one perfectly arch look from Gran.
“What’s so funny?” Harry asked.
The mischievous pair looked at each other, and Padfoot shrugged. “The actor who played the Sheriff looks a lot like one of our acquaintances at Hogwarts, someone who was a good friend of your mum’s. We were just sort of …”
“Behaving like the bullies you were to that poor young man,” Gran said sternly. “We do not belittle and make fun of individuals for our own amusement, gentlemen. Am I understood?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Remus and Padfoot chorused humbly.
Harry covered his snicker with a hand. It wouldn’t do to be caught out doing the same thing for which his godfather and uncle had just been reprimanded.
As Harry lay in his bed that night, he reflected that it had been a good birthday. His worries over Mr. Dumbledore’s continued interest in him, and the possibility that he might disrupt Harry’s special day, seemed groundless.
But he’d seen Gran check her weathervane after dinner.
The wind was still blowing in from the East.
A week after Harry’s birthday, Gran greeted Harry at breakfast, then shared with him the letter she had received with a formal request for a meeting between Albus Dumbledore and Harry.
“Dear Dame Poppins-Perkins,
“Per our brief conversation of June 30, I formally request a meeting between myself and your ward, Harry James Potter. I acknowledge that this meeting will be monitored and I will make myself available at whatever time best suits his schedule.
“I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience,
“Albus P.W.B Dumbledore
“Order of Merlin, First Class”
Gran folded the letter and looked at Harry. “What do you think, Harry?” she asked.
“I’m a little scared, Gran,” Harry admitted. “But whatever could he want? He lost nearly everything in his efforts to control my upbringing, so he must think it’s something serious.”
“Yes, that’s my concern, too,” Gran acknowledged. “Perhaps he’s concerned about the Horcrux that was in your scar the night he took you from Padfoot. Perhaps he has another concern. But I agree that it must be serious, if he’s willing to go to even a supervised visit. And we must be cautious.”
She tapped her finger to the letter to make a duplicate, then snapped her fingers for an elegant steel-tipped fountain pen, and began to write at the bottom of Mr. Dumbledore’s original note.
“Well, if we must, we must,” Gran said quietly as she wrote. “We’ll arrange to meet in a warded room at Gringotts, and Pop and I will be your supervisors. We will let you handle the communication between the two of you, but I will step in if there appears to be a need.”
She tapped the parchment again to dry the ink and fold it, then sealed it with her personal seal. She snapped her fingers again for a second, blank piece of parchment, then wrote another note.
“I’ll ask Razel for a room warded against any form of magical transportation, including phoenix fire. I haven’t seen Mr. Dumbledore with his phoenix in many years, but it wouldn’t do to be careless,” Gran said. “We’ll see him tomorrow afternoon.”
Gran, Pop, and Harry arrived at Gringotts an hour early to be escorted to their warded room. Gran had decided they should be cautious, and that meant taking no chance that Mr. Dumbledore would be waiting outside the bank for them.
It worked. Gran busily set up two recording orbs at opposite ends of the room, while Pop and Harry took the opportunity afforded them by virtue of being in the bank to discuss Harry’s business accounts.
Despite now working for the Ministry, Pop had spent much of his early career as a self-made businessman, (“A busker, Bert; do be clear in your language,” Gran admonished from her position near the door) and he had several suggestions for Harry.
“The key to making money is to provide what people want when they want it,” Pop said wisely. “Which of your businesses are doing that, and which not?”
The conversation engaged Harry for the bulk of the hour, and he was surprised by the announcement of Mr. Dumbledore’s arrival--ten minutes early.
“As expected,”Gran said quietly. “Do let him in, Razel. And thank you.”
Harry stood as Mr. Dumbledore entered the room, as was proper for an Heir, and Mr. Dumbledore came forward with a wide smile and extended hands.
“Harry, my boy, it’s good to see you,” Mr. Dumbledore exclaimed, his smile dimming as Harry evaded the hands and returned the greeting with a nod.
“Mr. Dumbledore,” Harry acknowledged.
Gran spoke from her corner. “You have not yet been given leave to address my ward by his given name, Albus.”
“Ah, yes, well, I apologize, Heir Potter,” Mr. Dumbledore said slowly. “It’s that I feel I know you already given my friendship with your parents.”
“You mean your leadership over my parents when they were members of the Order of the Phoenix,” Harry corrected him calmly.
“Ah, yes, that.” Mr. Dumbledore’s smile was gone. “I apologize for my familiarity.”
“No harm done, Mr. Dumbledore,” Harry said softly. “Do sit down.”
They sat, opposite each other, the conference room table providing both shield and support. Mr. Dumbledore cleared his throat. “You might be wondering why I asked for this meeting.”
“It did cross my mind, yes, Mr. Dumbledore,” Harry said. “Especially given your overt interest in me since my infancy. I suspect you have your reasons, and I’m hoping you’ll share them with me today.”
Mr. Dumbledore cleared his throat. “Yes, well. I’m not sure what you know and what you don’t, Harry.”
From the corner, Gran said, “Assume he knows more than you think he does.”
Harry watched the flash of irritation cross Mr. Dumbledore’s face, and managed to keep his own face calm by sheer force of will. He really wanted to snicker. Gran was awesome.
“Yes, Mr. Dumbledore,” Harry said slowly and carefully. “I’m aware you interfered in my placement as an orphan when my parents were killed, and that you went to extreme measures to do so. I’m aware you were caught out and stripped of much of your authority in the wizard world. What I don’t know is why. Perhaps it’s time to share that story?”
“I did not come here to justify my past actions,” Mr. Dumbledore said, with dignity. “I wanted to meet you, and to discuss with you your future.”
Harry raised one brow in a perfect imitation of Gran. “My future is truly none of your business, Mr. Dumbledore.”
“Ah, but it actually is,” Mr. Dumbledore said sorrowfully. “You see, Harry, you are named in a prophecy about the person who would have the power to defeat Lord Voldemort.”
Harry blinked. Gran raised both eyebrows as high as they could go, and Pop stepped up to stand at Harry’s back, to his right, face impassive. “And you would know this how?” Harry asked.
“Before you were born, Harry, I was interviewing a young woman for the position of Divination teacher at Hogwarts,” Mr. Dumbledore said. “We met at the Hogshead in Hogsmeade, and during the course of the interview, she spoke a true prophecy. It is recorded in the Hall of Prophecy in the Department of Mysteries. A young man who followed Voldemort overheard part of the prophecy and shared it with his master, leading to Voldemort targeting your family for death in an effort to eliminate you.”
“And was this prophecy shared with James and Lily?” Gran asked archly.
“I only shared with them that a prophecy had been made and that it could refer to Harry,” Mr. Dumbledore admitted. “I offered to help them hide.”
“Yes, and you hid their wills and the name of their true Secret Keeper, as well,” Gran said calmly.
“For all of which I have been held to account,” Mr. Dumbledore said crisply. “It is of Harry’s future I must speak. Because if what I suspect is true, Harry will need to die in order to completely destroy Voldemort.”
Harry let no outward sign of his inner anger show. “And what do you suspect?”
“That the night that Voldemort killed your parents, he accidentally used you to tether himself to this plane of existence,” Mr. Dumbledore said. “Thus ensuring that for him to die, you must die also.”
“An interesting theory,” Gran said, as Pop squeezed Harry’s shoulder in reassurance. “Except for the fact that the Horcrux in Harry’s scar was long ago removed.”
Pop added, “And it was used to find the other Horcruxes, too. All gone before Harry’s third birthday.”
“Have you, in fact, seen the record of this so-called prophecy in the Hall of Mysteries?” Gran asked icily. “Have you verified that it is still valid? Because bank records show that the spirit of Tom Riddle passed from this plane completely in 1984.”
Mr. Dumbledore looked dumbfounded. “Truly?”
“Truly,” Gran confirmed.
“How did…” Mr. Dumbledore was clearly confused. “But …”
Gran stood. “Unless you have anything further to say, Mr. Dumbledore?”
“Well, no …” Dumbledore looked less and less confident. Harry almost felt sorry for him.
“Then, I think, Mr. Dumbledore,” Harry said softly. “This is goodbye. And thank you for your efforts to inform me about what you know. But I think, as you can see, all is well.”
Mr. Dumbledore drew himself up. “Yes, thank you, Heir Potter. I’ll see myself out.”
Harry stood as Mr. Dumbledore did, and watched him leave. Gran ended the recording orb, and sent it to her office with a snap of her fingers.
“That was odd, Gran,” Harry commented.
“That was Albus, thinking only he knew anything about anything,” Gran said airily.
Pop squeezed Harry’s shoulder again. “Still, we ought to see about this prophecy just to make sure it’s complete.”
“Yes, we should,” Gran said. “But not today. I’ll make an appointment for us to visit the Hall of Prophecy next week as part of Harry’s tutoring in civics. It wouldn’t do to call too much attention to it.”
“Of course not, Gran,” Harry said. “Thank you.”
“My pleasure, Harry.”
Securing an appointment to tour the Department of Mysteries and view any prophecies that might apply to Harry took no time at all. Gran set it up for an afternoon and invited Neville and Draco, Harry’s usual peers in his lessons, along.
“It’s a part of your civics lessons, after all,” Gran said. “Who knows what we might uncover?”
The group met in front of the Ministry visitor’s entrance, and it included Lady Malfoy and Dame Longbottom, too.
For most of Harry’s young life, Gran had spearheaded his education, engaging good tutors for a wide variety of Muggle and Magical subjects, and inviting his closest peers in magic to join him for field trips and special lessons. It was not unusual to see Gran with two or three young children surrounding her, out and about in London and elsewhere.
So their small group hardly raised eyebrows as the elevator spat them out in the Ministry lobby, shiny badges attached to their robes denoting their names above the phrase, “Young Scholar.”
Snickers were kept to a minimum around Gran, but she tended to ignore the subtle smirks, eyerolls, and elbow nudges that went along with young boys being labeled anything besides, “Hellions of First Degree.”
Actually, Harry had a badge that looked like that, from an unfortunate trip a few years ago. He and Padfoot still didn’t talk about it.
Still, with Gran at the head of their party and the respectable Ladies Malfoy and Longbottom at their backs, none blinked as they walked sedately to the elevator and descended to the very bottom of the Ministry.
Once there, Gran tapped her parrot’s head umbrella to the great black door once, and stood back. It opened to reveal a hooded figure, who beckoned the group inside.
“It’s good to see you, Dame Poppins-Perkins,” the figure said, voice distorted. “This way to the Hall of Prophecy.”
The figure identified points of interest as they passed certain rooms, but the trip to the hall itself was quite speedy. Once there, the figure looked to a file cabinet that looked a bit like Gran’s. “Self-updating,” the figure explained, pulling out the drawer labeled “P.” “If there’s a prophecy referring to any of you, a file is generated and the location of the orb that’s also generated is listed in the file. Since you’re all here, we’ll check for each of you. But I understand we’re most interested in Heir Potter’s record, so that’s where we’ll start.”
The figure pulled a file labeled “Potter” from the cabinet, and flipped through a few pages. “Ah. Here. My.”
“Yes, Croaker?” Gran inquired.
Croaker, as the figure was now identified, cleared its/his/her throat. “There are three orbs listed for Heir Potter.”
Gran’s eyebrows rose. “Really? We were alerted to the existence of one, by the person to whom it was delivered.”
“There are three orbs listed, one in 1980, one in 1984, and one in 1991,” Croaker said, tapping the page to make a duplicate to carry with him into the hall itself. He re-filed the Potter paperwork, then looked at “L.” “Nothing for Longbottom.” And down to “M.” “And, oh, there is one for Heir Malfoy.” He duplicated it. “Also 1984. Interesting.”
Draco and Harry looked at each other and shrugged. Harry supposed it was interesting, but thought they’d better hear it before getting too excited about it.
Dame Longbottom interjected. “And what of Dame Poppins-Perkins, myself, or Lady Malfoy?”
“Ah,” Croaker said. “As long as you’re here, there’s no harm looking.” He rooted around a bit. “Nothing for Lady Malfoy or Dame Longbottom.” He looked back in the “P” drawer. “Dame Poppins-Perkins, however, has one, from 1927.”
Gran raised one perfectly arched brow. “How very interesting. Let us go and see. Spit-spot!”
Croaker laughed and led the way to the first prophecy, in chronological order, which belonged to Gran. It glowed, indicating that the magic that fueled it was still at work. “Just touch the orb,” Croaker instructed. Gran did, and a soft contralto voice whispered:
The Robin shall rise to correct the course. Magic shall be saved by her compassion and strength.
Gran blinked. “That seems a bit...much,” she noted.
“Only compared to what might have been, Dame Poppins-Perkins,” Croaker said. “Clearly your actions have helped to correct some underlying problem with the magical community, and in doing so, you have played a fundamental role in saving magic Herself.”
“I did only what needed to be done,” Gran said dismissively. “Moving on.”
“Yes, madam,” Croaker said, and they moved on to 1980. “As told to Albus Dumbledore,” Croaker noted. The orb was dark; the magic that fueled it gone. “And it appears to have been fulfilled, broken, or faded. Touch the orb, Harry, if you want to know what it said.”
Harry stepped up and touched the orb, and a deep, guttural voice said:
The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches ... Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies ... And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not ... And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives ...
“Your vanquishing of the Dark Lord as an infant, Heir Potter,” Croaker said. “The power you had to make him a spirit, and the power your hand gave to your guardians to finish the job.”
Gran smiled gently. “Croaker was one of those who helped us destroy the tethers, Harry.”
“Thank you, Croaker,” Harry said.
“You’re quite welcome, young man,” Croaker replied. “And on to 1984.” The group moved down an aisle and stopped at one, glowing orb. Croaker peered at it, and at the pieces of paper in his hand. “Ah. It’s the same prophecy, Heir Malfoy, Heir Potter. It applies to you both. Only one of you needs to touch it.”
“Go ahead, Draco,” Harry said. “I did the last one.”
Draco rolled his eyes a little, but laid a hand on the orb. An aged contralto voice softly said,
The Archmagi have been freed! Once separated by fate, now brought together by compassion. The lion and the snake shall bring balance to the world.
“Archmagi?” Harry asked.
“The highest possible level magic user,” Draco said softly. “It’s saying that we’re an archmagus pair.”
“Interesting,” Lady Malfoy said. “You were four when this prediction was made, Draco.”
“We’d finished with Tom Riddle in 1983,” Gran said softly. “And when Harry was four, I decided he should meet others of his peers as we began his education. I reached out to you, then, Narcissa.”
“You did,” Lady Malfoy said. “And after much discussion, Lucius and I agreed to play dates and tutoring. It seemed the right course.”
“It appears to be,” Harry murmured, then smirked at Draco. “Partner.”
Draco smirked back, and they moved on.
“And this one was just this summer,” Croaker said. A new, glowing orb stood by itself on a top shelf in a new row. “For you, Heir Potter.”
Harry reached out and touched it. The image of a young girl with large eyes and wispy blonde hair appeared, her child-like soprano piping out:
Godric has chosen his heir! The Heir must find the raven, the snake, the badger and the crown to restore what was lost.
Harry opened his mouth and closed it. “Gran?” he asked weakly.
“Well, it does sound like another adventure in the offing,” Gran allowed. “But there’s time, Harry. There’s time.”
End of the First Adventure