Chapter 18: Family Matters
Thoughts of Pudding by Brian64.
Chapter 18: Family Matters.
Wednesday 26th June, 1996.
When Harry awoke the next morning, he immediately felt something was different.
It wasn't the phoenix laying next to him using his stomach as a pillow for his head. Nor was it the pale light making its way through the curtains. Back in the UK, that level of light would have provided a clue as to what time it was, but here in Sweden all it told him was that it wasn't really daytime yet. Then again, did it really matter what time it was? He felt fully rested and wouldn't be able to get back to sleep anyway.
Carefully sliding out from under both Fawkes' head and his blankets, he got out of bed and stretched. He felt… lighter somehow. It didn't take him long to work out that he owed Tonks a great big thank you when he saw her.
As he collected a change of clothes and his toiletries before heading for the bathroom, he thought about what he might need to face today at the will reading.
Well, the most obvious first: Sirius was dead.
Since it was a will reading it meant that Sirius really was dead. He knew that, of course, since he'd seen it happen… once for real, and then just about every night since after he fell asleep.
But had he really accepted it now? He thought about it some more and was surprised to find that it didn't feel like he was poking at a raw wound inside himself.
That worried him a little. Did that mean that the grief he'd been feeling the last couple of weeks was all just guilt at thinking he'd caused his death? He thought about that while he showered. What was he feeling now that the guilt didn't own him anymore?
He was rather shocked to discover that many of his thoughts and feelings on the issue were focussed around himself instead of Sirius. He'd never realised he was such a selfish git!
Sirius' death had ruined his plans for having a happy home life, the chance to experience a 'family', a chance to leave the Dursleys' for good, to have someone that 'belonged' to him, to have someone that would support and look after him, to… Oh God! Wasn't any part of what he was feeling sorrow for what Sirius would no longer be able to do or experience himself?
What had Sirius planned to do if, or when, he ever got his name cleared? Was there someone he wanted to date? A career he wanted to start or restart? Why didn't he know these things?
Well, at least he knew the answer to that last question. It was because Sirius always wanted to talk about his godson and the things that interested that godson, even though his selfish godson clearly couldn't be bothered to talk about his godfather.
Having finished dressing, he looked in the bathroom mirror and attacked his hair. It was a wasted effort.
After dumping his stuff back in his room, he decided to head outside the tent to see if anyone else was awake.
He found Tonks sitting in an easy chair around the small campfire staring at the flames.
"Morning, Harry." Tonks said with a smile.
"Morning, Tonks." Harry replied, smiling back.
Tonks produced her wand and another chair appeared near her. "Come and take a load off," she invited him.
Harry walked over and sat down in the chair provided. He looked at her, not sure how he was going to say what he wanted to. Fortunately Tonks saved him by opening the conversation.
"So, Harry, how are you doing this morning?" she asked easily, as though wanting his views on whether the Cannons had any chance against Puddlemere.
Harry wasn't fooled though and knew exactly what she was asking. "Umm, pretty good some parts, but others I feel really crappy about," he told her honestly.
She raised an eyebrow at him and waited.
Harry looked at her, not quite sure what she was after.
"You rotten bugger, you're gonna make me ask aren't you?" Tonks complained. "Alright, so what are you feeling crappy about now? I'm warning you, if you come up with some shite about feeling guilty about causing Sirius' death I'm going to throw you in the lake!"
Harry had to grin at the tone behind her words, and couldn't help but cheek her. "You mean, you'll try! 'Boy-Who-Lived' here, remember! You don't look tougher than the basilisk," he said, smirking at her.
"Oh, is that so?" she said, laughing. The next thing Harry knew, he was suspended upside down by an ankle, with Tonks' wand still trained on him.
"You know, I'm not so sure about this 'Boy-Who-Lived' moniker of yours. I think I'm gonna call you; The-Boy-Who-Got-His-Arse-Kicked-By-A-Girl-In-Three-Seconds instead."
She started waggling her wand up and down, which caused Harry to bounce along with the wand's motion.
"You know what? My tea would get cold yelling all that out, so maybe I'll just call you 'Three' for short. What do you think, Three?" she asked, holding her wand steady again.
"I think it's a good thing I haven't had breakfast yet!" Harry replied, still laughing.
"So, Three, am I scarier than a basilisk then?" she growled playfully.
"Yep, you're dead scary. Worse than Dementors!" Harry agreed. "Bring out a Boggart and there'll be two of you in front of me. So, can you let me down now?"
"What's the magic word?" Tonks asked, jiggling her wand up and down gently as encouragement.
"Well, there are so many of them…" he began, before he started bouncing furiously again.
"Please!" he yelled, or tried to while laughing. "The magic word is please!"
Tonks twisted her wand, and Harry turned the right way up before dropping the short distance back to his chair.
After calming himself down and letting the blood flow back into his body from where it must have collected in his head, Harry looked over at Tonks – only to find her looking at him with a raised eyebrow again. 'Oh hell, what was the question?' he wondered.
"Err, I'm sorry?" he tried.
At her continued stare he tried again. "Thanks for letting me down, and, umm, oh yeah, I prefer Harry to 'Three'…".
He struggled to think of what else she might have asked, but whatever it was escaped him.
She shook her head at him. "Nope. What's got you feeling crappy, Harry?"
"Oh, that… Well, it just occurred to me this morning that most of the feelings I have about losing Sirius, are about how it affects me. So it's like I'm feeling sorry for myself, instead of for Sirius." Harry said, looking at his feet and feeling about two inches tall as he confessed to Tonks.
"Is that all?" Tonks asked with a sigh, then, more happily exclaimed, "That's great!"
Harry looked up, amazed. "What?"
"Bloody hell, Harry, you're fifteen, going on sixteen. Of course the world revolves around you. The fact that you're even worried about that puts you ahead of most teenagers."
She looked at his expression, and tried again with a more serious tone. "Trust me, Harry. You're perfectly normal for a change."
Harry thought about what she'd said, and then a relieved smile appeared on his face. He thought for a moment and then his smile became a wicked smirk "You know, maybe I should wait until I hear that from a normal person before I stop worrying, yeah?"
"Do you really want to test the temperature of the lake, Three?" she asked him.
Harry thought about it a bit more. "Well, now that you mention it, you do seem pretty normal to me…" he said, grinning.
"That's what I thought," she said, before becoming slightly more serious. "Okay, so apart from that, how are you feeling?"
"Much better, Tonks, you really helped last night." Harry said sincerely.
"No problem, Harry. What's family for if they can't be there for each other when they need it?"
"Fa–fa–family?" Harry said, immediately losing his humour and focussing entirely on Tonks.
"Yeah, your grandpa, Charlus Potter married a Black… Dorea I think her name was. So that makes us cousins."
"We're… family?" Harry asked, not quite believing it.
"You did know my mum was a Black before she married my dad didn't you?" she asked.
Harry nodded, and then another thought occurred to him. "So that means… Sirius was related to me as well? He wasn't just my godfather."
"Yep. Just don't ask me to work out the actual relationship. I'm crap at all that 'first cousin once removed' shite. We're cousins, and you and my cousin Sirius were cousins. That's good enough for me."
"So, we're really family?" Harry asked again, scarcely believing it.
Tonks knew how important this was to Harry. She'd seen first-hand from his memories that Harry had thought he'd lost his only links to any sort of family with the death of his godfather. The Dursleys never acknowledged him as family, so they were just relatives.
She nodded at him and gave him a big smile. "Yeah, Harry, we're family. So have you got a hug for your cousin?"
"Oh hell, yeah!" Harry said as he launched himself at her.
"Hey, try not to break my ribs, cuz!" she hugged him back for a bit then decided to tease him a little.
"So, Harry, are you looking forward to catching up with our cousin Draco today?"
Harry pulled back and looked at her in horror.
"Oh, bloody hell!" Harry cursed loudly and venomously.
Tonks swatted the back of his head, none too gently. "Watch your language!" she instructed him seriously.
"But you swear all the time!" he responded in amazement at her hypocrisy.
"So what's your point?" she asked him, giving him a steady stare.
"Well, doesn't that mean that if you… then… never mind." Harry said, trailing off as Tonks' look overrode his objection. Besides, he really didn't want to be annoyed with his new cousin so soon.
She nodded, and then dropped her stern look and grinned happily at him again.
"Alright. Now, how about some breakfast?" she asked him.
Harry nodded "Good idea," he said, feeling hungry.
"Great. I'll have some toast and eggs while you're at it," she said, grinning wickedly at him.
Harry stared at her for a minute in disbelief and then walked off muttering loudly enough for her to hear his mock complaints about rotten, nasty, evil, older cousins that took advantage of their younger, smarter and better behaved relatives.
Hermione walked out of the tent and joined Tonks, taking the seat that had been conjured for Harry earlier.
"Harry seems a lot more cheerful than he was yesterday, Tonks. You did a really good thing for him. Thank you," she told the older witch.
"No problem, Hermione. He's a great kid, and he has enough to deal with as it is, without–" she paused as she saw Harry come out of the tent with a plate and cutlery in hand.
"Watch this!" she told Hermione quietly out of the side of her mouth.
"Here you go, you ruddy slave driver." Harry said without any heat in his voice and with a faint smile on his face.
Tonks took the offered plate and cutlery. "Thanks, cousin," she said brightly.
Harry's face broke into a grin as he beamed at her. "You're welcome, cousin," he replied, then turned to Hermione. "Same for you, Hermione?"
Hermione just nodded, speechless, then turned to Tonks for an explanation after Harry went back inside.
"Harry's gran was a Black, so we're related. Buggered if I know why Sirius didn't bother to tell him. Maybe he just assumed Harry already knew? Anyway, his ignorance of that was just one of the things I picked up from rummaging through his skull yesterday."
She stood up and conjured a table and chairs big enough for half a dozen people to sit at, then took her breakfast to the table. When Hermione joined her, she vanished the two chairs they'd been sitting on.
Tonks started in on her toast and eggs, and made an appreciative sound. After swallowing she turned to Hermione. "You know, he's going to make some witch very happy some day."
Hermione nodded at her and then looked down at the table, embarrassed at where her thoughts were heading.
"Yeah, that's what I thought. Look, Hermione, I know it's not really my place to get involved, but I did get an unwanted peek into a couple of conversations between Luna and Harry concerning you. Since I can't pretend I don't know what's going on, all I'm going to say is that I think Luna's right."
Hermione couldn't help but look over at Tonks, wondering what it was that Luna was right about.
"You three owe it to yourselves to talk it all out so that there aren't any regrets later. She's got a good point in that she's only known him a few days, and you've known him for years. There's a real connection between those two, but it's a new thing." Tonks said, looking back at her breakfast before sighing, as though making a decision.
She put her cutlery down and looked directly at Hermione. She hadn't been shy about continuing to eat between her comments, but she wanted to make a point now. "The longer it goes before you and Harry talk, the harder it's going to be for them both if it ends up being you and Harry that end up together."
Hermione broke her gaze again in frustration. She understood all this, but she didn't want to be the one that broke them up. No matter the outcome, Harry couldn't help but resent her for coming between him and Luna. And if he did stay with Luna afterwards, could he still be friends with her after almost breaking them up?
Tonks interrupted her thoughts. "I can guess what you're thinking, Hermione, and all I'll say is that short of casting an unforgivable at him, he'll be your friend no matter what. Still, you might want to avoid dating Malfoy or Snape though," she said, then winked at Hermione's shocked expression as she looked up in horror at the idea. Tonks just kept on eating.
Hermione didn't get a chance to respond before Harry came out with her breakfast.
Tonks took the opportunity to finish off her plate before he left.
"Pretty good, cuz," she complimented him, patting her stomach. "But there was one small problem."
Harry frowned. "What was wrong?" he asked, concerned.
"The serving was too small! Any chance you can make me some more?" she asked, smiling and batting her eyes at him.
"And if I said I thought you'd had enough?" Harry said, playing with her.
"Then I'd give you to the count of… 'three' to change your mind… unless you'd rather just hang around with us?" she asked, giving him a smirk.
Harry chuckled and threw up his hands in mock surrender. "Another serving of toast and eggs it is then."
Hermione just looked at their interaction, feeling a little jealous at how easily they bantered back and forth. Something had definitely changed since last night.
"Eat up, Hermione." Tonks said after Harry went back inside with her plate. "Trust me, that's too good to let it get cold, and, starting tomorrow, we'll be back on Luna's healthier breakfasts, as we'll need the extra energy."
Hermione did as she was told, and started eating. By the time she'd finished, other people had started waking up, and, after joining the table, placed their own breakfast orders with Harry as he brought out seconds for Tonks.
Hermione waved off Harry's hands, and took her plate inside herself, and then helped him prepare the toast and made tea for those that wanted it.
They talked, but only about inconsequential things.
With a couple of hours still to go before they were due at the will reading, Harry thought about the upcoming trip to Gringotts and realised they had a problem.
"Oh, bugger," he exclaimed suddenly.
Since everyone was nearby relaxing after their breakfasts, they all looked over at him, and he looked a little embarrassed. He gave Tonks a guilty nod at her raised eyebrow.
"Sorry. I just realised that Professor Dumbledore is probably going to be at the will reading. So if we're going to practise constant vigilance as we usually do, then we can't just portkey from here in case he uses legilimency on one of us."
Moody nodded approvingly, and gave him a soft clap. When Remus was about to speak, Moody interrupted him. "So what would you suggest we do, Harry?"
Harry wondered a little about Moody using his first name again, but thought about a possible solution.
"Well, we could walk over to that nearby meadow–" he began, before he was interrupted.
"Gofars Ängar" Xenophilius said.
"What?" Harry asked.
"The meadow. It's called Gofars Ängar. It was listed on that parchment Vanir gave us." Xenophilius replied. "Just thought you'd want to know," he said, happy to have contributed something to the discussion.
Harry stared at him. "Thank you. Umm, yeah, so we all go to Gofars meadow, then you can obliviate our memories of Sweden, and we can all portkey from there. Since the meadow could be almost anywhere, it won't really help Dumbledore to find us later if he sees it in our minds."
"Not bad, Harry. That's not bad for having just come up with that on the spot." Remus told him.
"Okay, what are we actually going to do, then?" Harry asked, hearing the unspoken 'but…' amongst the praise.
"Pretty much what you just said, Harry." Dan said. "But Emma and I have to stay behind with Mr Moody. Unfortunately, we've been told that memory wiping spell is a one-way ticket for us. They can't be restored again later like they can with you magical folk."
"They can't? Why's that?" he asked.
Moody answered him. "Your magic runs everywhere through your body, including your mind. When the Obliviate spell hits it trying to remove certain memories, the magic you have running through your head ends up wrapped around them. You follow?"
"Not really, but I'll take your word for it." Harry replied.
Moody tried again. "Look, think of an egg. The yolk is the memory, and the white is your magic. The Obliviate can't get to the yolk because of the white, so it forms a shell around it instead, which stops you from seeing the yolk. When we crack the shell, the yolk can be seen again. Muggles don't have the white, so the yolk gets removed and no shell forms."
Harry thought he understood, but then realised there was a problem with that explanation. "What about Gilderoy Lockhart then? Why couldn't his memories be restored?"
It was Remus that answered this time. "That's a different case entirely. He got hit with the spell backlash from a broken wand. If we go with the egg analogy, then instead of trying to remove some yolks, he ended up scrambling them completely. That's not quite the answer, but it's near enough. The other part is that it's almost impossible to Obliviate yourself properly, because you need to focus on which memories to remove. So at some point, you lose track of what you are doing and the spell starts taking other memories randomly since it doesn't know when to stop."
Harry nodded, and realised Moody could hardly memory charm himself, and so would be vulnerable if he went with them. It was obvious to him that 'Constant Vigilance' Moody wouldn't rely on his occlumency being better than Dumbledore's legilimency.
"Getting back to the point, we're going to be leaving from inside one of the tents. Why waste time walking to the meadow and risking Dumbledore somehow managing to recognise the meadow from the colour of the grass or some such?" Moody added conversationally.
When he saw Harry groan at the obvious departure point, Moody smiled. "Don't worry about it. Your way would have worked well enough, just don't overlook the simplest solutions next time. Now, what else have you forgotten?" Moody asked him.
Harry frowned. What else was there? They'd be in the tent, Moody would modify their memories, and they they'd use the portkey to Väster–
"Oh, bugger! How are we going to get to Gringotts? If we take the portkey to Stockholm again, then we'll have memories of Sweden before we get inside. Can we make a portkey to directly inside Gringotts?" he asked dubiously, looking at Minerva, as she'd been making nearly all of their portkeys so far.
She shook her head. "No, I'm afraid not. The goblins are quite fussy about portkeys to their bank, due to their rather unique location… wherever it is."
Harry snapped his fingers. "Vanir can make one! We can ask him for another portkey to Gringotts, since he's obviously authorised to make one as a Swedish Ministry official."
Moody nodded. "Good. You came up with another valid solution. But what is the simplest answer?" he asked Harry.
Harry thought furiously for a minute, but was drawing a blank. In sudden realisation, he pulled out the invitation he'd received the previous day and read it more closely. Then he groaned. The letter was designed to act as a portkey to the bank, and could be activated as early as 15 minutes before the reading was due to commence.
"Don't feel bad, Harry." Remus said. "We saw that you didn't do any more than glance at it last night. Perfectly understandable I think under the circumstances."
"The important thing to focus on is that you were able to quickly come up with workable solutions to problems." Moody said. "With practice and training, you'll get better at it."
"Now, between you and me, I like the idea of arriving earlier than everyone else. So I think we'll go with your plan and see if we can get another portkey from Vanir. You think Fawkes is up to a little trip?" Moody asked him.
Harry shrugged. "I have no idea. I guess we'll find out when I actually ask him to take me there."
Hermione interrupted. "Harry, can I come with you please? There's something I'd like to ask Vanir".
"Yeah, okay. I don't see why not. Fawkes was able to bring Luna with me yesterday so I know he can flame two at a time at least. Let me just grab my money bag in case there's a fee this time."
Harry ran off into the tent and was back shortly, with Fawkes riding on his shoulder. He walked up to Hermione and they reached for each other's hand.
Harry found Hermione's hand was just a little larger than Luna's, and her grip was slightly firmer, but it felt just as warm.
"Any last requests?" he asked the group, and only saw shaking heads. "Alright, if we're not back in 15 minutes, perhaps someone should come along and find us."
"You think I'd let you kiddies go off alone, laddie?" Moody asked, and then continued before Harry could respond. "Don't worry, I'll just apparate along and keep my eyes open while you get the job done. You'll barely know I'm there."
He looked at Hermione to check that she was ready, and then thought about what he wanted. 'Okay, Fawkes, could you take the two of us to the Swedish international portkey terminal please?' and imagined standing with Hermione in the spot that the Portkey had taken them to when they first arrived in Sweden.
A moment later he was there, facing the arrivals counter. Another moment after that and they heard a pop signalling Moody's arrival. He stomped off to a side wall where he could keep his eye on things.
"That's amazing, Harry!" Hermione exclaimed excitedly. "There's almost no sensation of movement at all! Thank you, Fawkes," she said, letting go of Harry's hand so that she could reach up to stroke the phoenix.
'Yes, thank you, Fawkes.' Harry thought, then spoke to Hermione. "We'd better go, Hermione, we're getting some funny looks from over at the desk."
As he walked off, she took his hand again, and explained that she didn't want to risk being left behind in case Fawkes decided to flame back to the camp unexpectedly.
Walking up to the arrivals counter, they were relieved to see Vanir waiting behind it.
"Hello, Vanir." Harry said, just as Hermione said "Goddag Vanir!"
Vanir smiled at them. "Good morning, young sir. Goddag unga dam. How can I help you two?"
Hermione looked at Harry to go first.
"We were wondering if it would be possible for you to create a portkey to the main hall inside Gringotts bank for us, please. When we went there yesterday the goblins advised us that we needed to attend a… meeting with them later this morning, and we'd like to get there early."
Vanir looked at them, and then at the phoenix on his shoulder, and frowned. "Why do you not simply ask your glorious phoenix to take you?" he asked.
"Well, there are quite a few of us, and it may tire him to carry so many. We would be happy to pay if there is a fee for such a service." Harry said.
Vanir waved off the thought of a fee. "No, that won't be necessary," he sighed. There really wasn't any reason why he couldn't create another portkey for them. He just felt there was a little more to the story and he was curious. He pulled out a parchment and repeated the process he'd performed a couple of days ago. Then he handed the portkey to Harry.
"Was there anything else?" he asked politely.
Harry looked over at Hermione, wondering what she wanted to ask him.
"Yes, Vanir. I was very interested when you created the portkey, as you used a different incantation to the 'portus' charm that we use back home. Do you know if it is the same charm?"
Vanir nodded. "The magic is the same, it is merely the language that is different."
"How would we go about learning the Swedish incantations?" she asked.
Vanir looked surprised. "Why would you want to know that?"
Hermione froze at the question. She was a horrible liar at the best of times, and she hadn't planned on a response, since she hadn't expected to be seeing Vanir today. She'd just jumped at the chance to join Harry since he was coming here.
She decided on the truth. "Well, if we have to defend ourselves, it would give us a big advantage if our opponents didn't understand what spells we were casting at them."
"And why would you need to defend yourselves? Are you two in some kind of trouble?" he asked, becoming more alert.
Hermione looked at Harry, and he sighed when he realised what she wanted. He moved the hair off his forehead so that his scar was visible. Vanir stared at it in shock for a moment, and Harry winced. 'Even in Sweden…' he thought.
"I understand now." Vanir said slowly. He turned to Hermione. "Then the opponents you mentioned are…" he prompted, wanting her to provide the answer herself.
Hermione nodded. "Death Eaters," she said.
Vanir thought for a moment. "A book won't help you unless you can already speak the language. You really need a practitioner to help train you; otherwise you'll never feel confident that what you're saying is actually a spell. Belief plays a big part in successful spell casting," he said, almost to himself as he was thinking furiously while talking.
Eventually he came to a decision. "Come back and see me at lunch time tomorrow. You can buy me lunch and we will talk then."
They both thanked him, and a moment later, they disappeared in a flash, as the phoenix flamed them away. Moody looked around one last time to make sure nobody was taking any special interest in their departure, and then followed them with a pop.
Vanir spent the rest of the day distracted. His friend and colleague, Sören, watched curiously as Vanir frequently wrote things down in a fresh notebook, wondering what was going on.
As Griphook escorted the group of seven people into the conference room at ten-thirty, they were pleased to find they were the first to arrive, and took seats facing the entrance.
Griphook returned a couple of minutes later, and asked Harry to accompany him for a brief meeting. Tonks insisted on attending with him, and cited her blood relationship to Harry and his current status as a minor as sufficient reason to be included.
They left, and were back barely ten minutes later. Tonks had a big grin on her face, while Harry just looked stunned as he retook his seat next to Luna.
Seeing everyone looking at Harry, Tonks answered for him before he could say anything. "Not now. You'll find out soon enough, and we don't want to spoil the surprise when we don't know who's going to walk through those doors, okay?"
She was proven right as hardly a minute passed before one of the doors opened, and Albus Dumbledore entered the room. He was followed closely by Amelia Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
Tonks winced at the sight of her boss. She'd had her leave rushed through so that she could spend some time training Harry, but she hadn't provided a reason. The odds of her being recalled to work now had just risen exponentially.
At the sight of Dumbledore, Fawkes trilled happily and flew from Harry's shoulder to fly around him before landing on his shoulder. Dumbledore appeared amazed at the sight of him, and reached up to stroke his old friend, misty-eyed.
"Fawkes. It is so very good to see you," he said softly. "I thought I'd lost you."
Fawkes continued to trill happily at their reunion, and Harry felt a pang of loss. Fawkes had only been around a little while, but he'd gotten used to him.
Luna squeezed his hand under the table, as though understanding what he would be feeling.
Dumbledore took a seat at the table and Madam Bones sat next to him. "It is very good to see you again, Harry." Dumbledore said. "If you would indulge an old man, could you please tell me how Fawkes came to be with you?"
Harry nodded. "He showed up a couple of nights ago. He was shivering, and seemed very weak for some reason. So I made him up a kind of stone bed, and heated some rocks to make sure he stayed warm. When I woke up yesterday morning… and this morning as well, come to think of it, I found him sleeping in my bed. He seems to be back to normal now."
"Albus, perhaps you can explain how he came to be in Harry's room as he did?" Minerva asked sharply.
Albus nodded. "Yes, I think that would be fair," he said, then turned to Harry. "Harry, you would recall the many devices I have in my office? Well, one of them monitors the wards at Privet Drive. When the wards were in danger of collapse two days ago, it triggered an alarm. It is that alarm that caused Fawkes to be with you."
"Why is that?" Harry asked, curious.
"Well, at the time I set the alarm, I had the wonderful idea to add a compulsion to it. That way, if for any reason I wasn't in my office at the time, the compulsion would cause whoever was in the office to try to render aid to you. I'm afraid I never considered the possibility that Fawkes might have been recovering from a burning at the time," he paused as he reached up to caress his phoenix again in apology before he continued.
"In any case, it seems that the noise and compulsion proved to be very distressing to him, as he was unable to take action to reach you. I can only assume that once I turned the alarm off, he was eventually able to recover sufficient strength as well as focus to be able to travel to you."
Dumbledore looked at him directly now. "I owe you a very great debt of gratitude for the care you provided to him, Harry. I shall not forget."
Harry waved it off. "How could I do anything else, headmaster? Fawkes saved me after the basilisk bit me, not to mention blinding it so that it couldn't just kill me on sight. I just evened up the tally a little bit."
"A basilisk bit you?" Madam Bones said, joining the discussion for the first time.
Albus turned to her. "It is an exciting tale, Amelia, one that I would be very happy to recount to you when we have more time – unless Harry would prefer to tell it himself of course."
The conversation was interrupted as door opened again, and the Weasleys entered, followed by Ted and Andromeda Tonks. Molly rushed around the table to give Harry a hug, so he stood up. In the meantime, Tonks got up from her seat and headed over to her parents.
"Oh, Harry, dear, you gave us such a fright!" Molly said, as she crushed him in a smothering hug. Eventually, she released him, and the others came up to clap him on the shoulder and shake hands. Harry noticed Charlie and Percy were missing, though the rest of the family was there.
Ginny gave him a tight hug and looked up at him, as though checking something. She smiled and let him go. "You're looking good, Harry. I'm glad you didn't end up back with those bloody Dursleys!"
"Ginny!" Her mother said angrily, and Ginny winced at her tone, but she winked at Harry as if to say; 'oh well, it was worth it'.
Harry saw the door open again, and an unknown man walked in, followed by Draco and his mother.
Harry stiffened, and then excused himself and walked over to them. He addressed himself mainly to Narcissa, since he could barely tolerate the ferret.
"Mrs Malfoy, Draco. I just want to say how sorry I am that your cousin died."
"I'll just bet you are!" Draco smirked. "Too bad for him, but–"
"Hush, Draco," his mother scolded him, before turning to Harry. "Thank you, Mister Potter. I haven't had much of an opportunity to talk with my cousin since… well, since I was married, but I did think of him fondly. I understand your loss is greater than ours, though, so I am sorry too."
Harry nodded his thanks. "Mrs Malfoy, there is something else. I just learned today that my grandmother was a Black, and that it makes us distant cousins."
He turned to Draco. "You once offered me your hand when we first met, and I rejected you. Since we're family, I would hope we could call a truce now." Harry said, and extended his hand.
Draco looked at him in disbelief. "Are you out of your mind, Scarhead? You're a half-blood, and you are certainly no family of mine! With my father temporarily detained, that makes me the Malfoy Head of House, and I declare here and now that you are no part of my family!"
There was a brief flash of magic around him at his declaration, and Draco smirked. "Consider yourself cast out, Potter!"
"Draco! You have no idea what you've just done!" His mother said coldly, wishing she wasn't in public so she could really make her displeasure known.
Harry dropped his hand back to his side and turned to Mrs Malfoy. "Well then, I'd best take my leave. Mrs Malfoy, Draco."
He walked back to his seat, ignoring the stares from everyone at the scene they'd just witnessed.
As he took his seat next to Luna, she wrapped her arms around his arm, and leaned in to his shoulder. This did not go unnoticed by the Weasleys, and the two youngest in particular gave him odd, thoughtful looks as they glanced between him, Luna, and Hermione.
The door opened again, and this time Director Ragnok entered along with Griphook and a number of goblin guards who took up stations around the room.
Everyone still standing quickly found seats, and Tonks regained her place on Harry's other side.
Without preamble, Ragnok began reading from a parchment in front of him.
"'I, Sirius Orion Black, declare this to be my last will and testament as at the first of May, 1996. I further declare that of all my earlier wills are hereby rendered null and void. Oh wait a minute; I never got around to writing them, did I? I suppose I can scratch out that bit. Oh, bugger those damn dicta-quills! Stop writing! Stop, damn it! Cease writing! Oh, what's the bloody command, Bloody hell; Finite Incantatum!
'Okay. Well, luckily I still have a few more quills, but since this is the only spare bit of legal parchment I've got, I'll just have to hope that whoever is reading it had the good sense to skip that bit above so I can maintain at least a shred of dignity. Of course, if you're hearing this, they probably didn't, and I've just realised I can't even blot this out either. Oh bloody hell. Maybe I should just start again.'"
The reading was interrupted as Harry failed to contain his laughter, and this triggered a similar response in Luna, as well as broad grins from the twins.
Ragnok paused in his reading and waited until Harry and Luna were able to control themselves before continuing.
"Sorry." Harry said, still smiling, before gesturing for Ragnok to continue.
"'Right, well we'd best get on with it, as I'm sure that you lot, unlike me, have got busy lives to get back to. I just wish I could join you. Still, for whatever reason, I can't, and it'll be up to the majority of you to do what I can't, and that is to look after my Godson.
'Firstly, to the Tonks. Cousin Andromeda, as much as I'd like to have restored your place in the Black family, I'm afraid that my current status as an escaped criminal prevents me from signing the paperwork. On the other hand, I've filled everything out and it just takes the signature of the next Lord Black to bring you back in to the family. Once that's done, it'll release the dowry you were denied, but should have received when you got married to Ted. You three are the closest people that Harry has to family now. I hope you'll do your best to let him know he's got a far, far better choice of relatives than those damn Muggles that Dumbledore abandoned him to.
'Remus, my brother in all but blood. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I never got around to telling you in person how sorry I was for ever believing you could have been the spy. I'm sorry that I ever had the idea to switch secret keepers with Peter, as it cost us our friends and our family in James and Lily. I can't regret the time I spent in Azkaban as a result as I deserved it. Even though it was Peter that betrayed them to Voldemort, it was my idea to switch, and that is a debt I can never repay. Please take care of yourself, as I know, and I do mean I know that I don't have to ask you to take care of Harry for me.
'The Weasleys. You were the family that Harry always wanted to be part of, and you generously opened your home and hearts to him. Molly, I know he looks at you and wishes he was born a Weasley some times. You're the closest thing to a mum he's ever known. Lily would be relieved to have you there to continue to look after him, but just try to give him a little space, and let him grow up a bit. I haven't had as much contact with the rest of you, but maybe a few words; Arthur, you're an excellent role model for your family, and I know Harry can learn much from you. Ron, I know you're like a brother to Harry, much as your other brothers are, especially those two Marauder wanna-be's. Have you two worked out who the Marauders are yet? Should I tell you that Harry's dad was Mr Prongs? Ginny, I know you hardly need yet another brother, but your black haired brother doesn't have any other sisters to look after.
'The Grangers. Hermione, I don't know your parents personally, but I know them through you, from the way you have been raised to become the young woman that you have. I would like it if they were able to be Harry's guardians in the Muggle world, if he ever needs them. I know I don't need to ask you to look after Harry; you'd be incapable of doing anything else.
'Minerva. You have the most access to Harry during the school year, more so than any of the other adults in this room. I'm charging you with his care during that time, and I'd take it as a kindness if you'd do a better job than you have so far. I don't mean this as a criticism – well, I'll correct that, I suppose I do – but I have to point the same finger at myself if I am to point it at anyone else. It is very easy to put our trust in someone else, especially when that someone else is presumably wiser and more powerful. But the sad fact is that you can't afford to trust anyone else. Believe that it is up to you and only you, and please do everything in your power to keep him safe at Hogwarts.
'Albus. There are so many things that I want to say to you, and I expect I already have by the time you're reading this. The only advantage is; I get to have the last word this time. The problem is; I really can't say all the things in public that I'd like to! All I will say is that when you begin your next great adventure, you will have to face James, Lily and myself, and there will be an accounting then!
'To my cousins; Narcissa, Bellatrix and Draco. As much as I'd like to cast you out of the family, I can't do so for the same reason that I can't bring Andi back in. Still, I've completed some forms for the next Lord Black to sign, and he can take care of it for me. Cissy, I don't know whether you care for Lucius or not, but you must know that he belongs more to Voldemort than he does to you or Draco. The dark mark is permanent. If you stay with him, it's only a matter of time before both you and Draco are wearing it as well, assuming you aren't already. Amongst the other forms I've filled in, there is also one to annul your marriage if you want to sign it. If you do, then the new Lord Black will look after you. The same offer applies to your son, but there are some conditions of course, for both of you.
'Lastly. Harry James Potter. My Godson. My cousin. My Harry. With the exception of some money I'm leaving to the others, I'm leaving everything else to you. You are, once you sign some forms, Lord Black, Head of the Noble and Ancient House of Black. Amongst the paperwork is a form for your emancipation. I recommend you agree to it and sign it as soon as you can, and when you do you should ask to have the Potters' will read. You might be a little surprised at what it contains. I know there is at least one person sitting at the table with you right now that won't be, and I expect his eyes aren't twinkling behind his bloody beard as this is read out.
'Harry, a lot of things are done in the name of 'the greater good', and because the needs of the many are thought to outweigh the needs of the few. As I sit here I am cursing myself that I ever bought in to that doctrine. I couldn't bloody care less any more if the whole wizarding world falls to shite – you, Harry, are far more important to me than any of them, and I intend to be there waiting for you at the end of the current school term to pick you up, and we'll disappear somewhere if we need to, as I should have done in your third year.
'I'm so sorry that I let you down, Harry. That you have to hear this means that I didn't get the chance to make it up to you. Oh well, I guess I can't do anything about that now, except give you most of my stuff. I hope that you can get some small pleasure from it. Please look after Remus for me, and do me one other favour please; pluck up your Gryffindor and tell her how you feel!
'Take care, Harry, and try to be a little more selfish. It's okay to think of yourself first every now and then, instead of always thinking of others.'
"This concludes the will of Sirius Orion Black." Ragnok said, placing the parchment down, and turning to Harry. "Mr Potter, we have some paperwork for you to look through and sign."
"Wait a minute. I want to contest that will. I'm the closest male heir of Lord Black, and I should inherit the title!" Draco yelled.
"You are mistaken, young Malfoy." Ragnok replied, referring to a parchment he pulled from the small stack he'd brought with him. "Your line comes from Phineas Nigellus Black, through Cygnus Black, through Pollux Black, through another Cygnus Black, through Narcissa Malfoy. Correct?" he paused, and waited for an acknowledgement, which Narcissa gave.
"Mr Potter's genealogy is also from Phineas through to Cygnus, but from there it is through Dorea Black, through to James Potter his father. He is therefore a full generation closer to the original line than you. Not that this matters in the slightest, of course, since Sirius declared him to be the heir. Your claim is hereby rejected." Ragnok told Draco with finality.
Ragnok handed Narcissa two envelopes. "Mrs Malfoy, these are for you and your son. They outline the conditions Mr Black referred to. You may contact us if you need any clarification."
"Mother, we're leaving!" Draco said, scowling.
Narcissa looked at Harry, and inclined her head in farewell. Harry nodded in reply, and watched as they both left the room. The unknown man had already left at the end of the will reading; Harry presumed he was a representative for Bellatrix.
Ragnok walked over to where Harry sat, and Tonks left her chair so that Ragnok could take a seat next to him.
Dumbledore spoke before Ragnok. "Harry, perhaps it would be best to take some time to think things through with everyone so that we can all offer some suggestions? Some of the choices you are being offered are irrevocable, and delaying a few minutes, or an hour, or perhaps even longer in order to carefully consider everything would be a sensible decision to make."
Ragnok ignored Dumbledore and handed Harry a form. "This one–" Ragnok began.
"Wait!" Albus interrupted, before he turned to Amelia.
Madam Bones sighed then spoke. "Mister Potter, I must instruct you not to sign that form, or you will be in contempt of a Wizengamot directive. I have been ordered by the Wizengamot to take you into the care of the Ministry. As you are an underage wizard, you will become a ward of the state and cared for in a secure location. This will be under a Fidelius charm so that you cannot be found by the followers of Lord Voldemort."
"Albus!" Minerva gasped. "What are you doing? Have you lost your mind completely?"
"I had no choice, Minerva. What would you have had me do?" Albus said, sorrowfully.
"We have had that discussion already, Albus!" she replied angrily.
"If I may…" Harry said, softly, and waited for the conversations to die down around him.
"Madam Bones, as Director Ragnok will be able to confirm if required, I am no longer an underage wizard. I was emancipated before the will reading began, and therefore before even hearing of your directive. It seems to me that the directive no longer applies as I am no longer a minor, is that correct?" Harry asked.
Amelia appeared slightly relieved as she nodded her agreement.
"Amelia–" Albus began, before he was interrupted.
"No, Albus. It was bad enough trying to do this in the first place. What makes you think Fudge would let you have him? Lucius might be in Azkaban at the moment, but you're a damn fool if you think he doesn't still have influence! Your plan had at least an equal chance of seeing the boy handed over to Death Eaters for his care. At least you had sense enough to ask for me so he couldn't be 'misplaced' on the way to the Ministry, but once there, Fudge could have ordered anything. No, I'm glad your plan was foiled."
Harry just stared at the confrontation until Ragnok brought his attention back to the pile of forms that needed signing.
Harry picked up the quill he was offered and noticed with distaste that it appeared to be a blood quill. He signed the various documents where indicated, and by the end of it, he was officially Lord Black with the Black Trust under his control, and Andromeda Tonks had been brought back into the family, while Bellatrix was cast out.
"This concludes the current business relating to the will of Sirius Orion Black. We will be in touch relating to the wishes of both Narcissa Malfoy and Draco Malfoy. We will take a break before proceeding with the Potters' will, unless you would prefer to defer that for another time, Lord Black?"
"Today will be fine, Director." Harry replied. "Thank you for fitting it into your busy schedule."
Ragnok inclined his head and left the room.
"I wish you had trusted me, Harry" Dumbledore said to him sadly.
"I could say the same thing, Headmaster. How is it that you can trust a marked Death Eater, yet you have so little faith in me that you feel you have to control every last aspect of my life?"
"A Death Eater? Who are you talking about?" Madam Bones asked, interrupting the conversation as she looked from Harry to Dumbledore.
Dumbledore sighed, "I believe he is referring to Severus Snape. You are aware of my feelings on this matter already, Amelia."
She nodded, frowning.
"You still trust him?" Harry asked in disbelief.
"Are you not aware of what happened to Professor McGonagall after she visited him this week? She was stunned! If it wasn't for a portkey, who knows what could have happened. How can you possibly trust him?"
"My dear boy, I'm afraid you are not in possession of all the facts. Severus has had an unwelcome house guest. It was that person that stunned Minerva as she was about to leave. The guest felt that Severus' role as a spy for Voldemort was at risk, and that letting Minerva leave with things as they were would result in him being removed from Hogwarts against Voldemort's plans."
Albus then turned to Minerva, adopting an apologetic attitude. "The guest thought that perhaps the Imperius could be used to change your mind. Severus would not have let anything happen to you, Minerva, despite the importance of his role as a spy."
Minerva considered what she'd heard, but didn't respond.
Harry scowled. "So why has Snape's guest been allowed to run around free? Why not stun this guest and turn them over to the Ministry instead? Or better yet, have Snape put him under the Imperius? I doubt it's the first time he's used an unforgiveable, and it would be for the Greater Good, right?"
"Professor Snape, Harry. And I'm afraid that interfering with Voldemort's spy would put Severus at risk." Dumbledore replied gravely.
Just then, the door burst open, and an Auror rushed into the room, heading straight for Madam Bones. "Your house is under attack by Death Eaters!"
"Susan!" she yelled and leaped up from the chair.
Harry immediately looked straight at Fawkes, thinking of what he wanted.
Fawkes flamed away, and then flamed back into the room a few moments later with Susan Bones. She looked terrified, and was shaking, but didn't appear to have been harmed.
Amelia stared at her for a second, trying to understand how she could be standing there in front of her, and then she engulfed her niece in a hug, as Fawkes flew off her shoulder and returned to Dumbledore's.
Dumbledore stared up at Fawkes, who had started trilling a comforting melody.
Amelia released her niece and turned to Albus. "I'm going to take Susan to St Mungo's just to make sure she's fine. Thank you for sending Fawkes to get her. I'm certain you've just saved her life."
"I'm more pleased than you can imagine that she is safe and well, Amelia. But please, direct your thanks to Harry. He was faster than I at asking Fawkes for his assistance in rescuing her."
Amelia turned to Harry and simply said a very heartfelt "Thank you," before she turned and started walking out with Susan and the Auror.
"Harry, I must ask you to come with me so that we can take you to a safe location." Dumbledore said.
"Do you know where I am now?" Harry asked.
"I do not." Dumbledore admitted.
"Then why must you automatically assume that whatever you have set in place for me is safer than where I am now? I'm not the one consorting with Death Eaters, headmaster. Need I remind you how many times my life has been at risk under your so-called care?"
"Headmaster, I think I'd prefer to have this discussion at another time. It's obvious we are not going to convince each other, and there are other people I wish to speak to today. I would ask you to please leave so that I can attend to my friends and my other business."
Dumbledore considered the request and realised he wasn't going to get anywhere at the moment. After he stood up, Minerva addressed him.
"Albus, perhaps you can take the time before Friday to place some occlumency lessons in your pensieve. It seems Severus used the sessions to abuse Harry instead of train him as you directed."
"Perhaps Severus was simply frustrated at the lack of progress? I'm sure he didn't mean his words to be truly hurtful." Dumbledore said.
Tonks exploded in rage. "You bloody-minded old fool! What Minerva meant was that your pet Death Eater mind-raped Harry! There was no training! And before you try to argue interpretation again, I saw his so-called lessons from inside Harry's mind myself! I will kill that vindictive bastard when I see him, so you better keep him well away from me and Harry!"
Dumbledore paled until he looked almost as white as his beard, and he gripped the back of the chair that he'd just risen from in order to remain standing. He looked incredibly old, as the strong will that drove him evaporated.
He turned his grief-filled eyes onto Harry's, and mouthed an unheard apology, before he straightened up and slowly walked to the door.
As he walked off, Fawkes flew from his shoulder and circled the room, trilling as though trying to lift everyone's spirits slightly. But when he landed, it was on Harry's shoulder.
Dumbledore looked over at Fawkes and then nodded. Be well, my friend, he thought to the phoenix softly, and then left the room.
As he watched the door close, Harry looked around to find everyone staring at him.