Mayhem - Part III
Chapter 40 - Emancipated Minor - Mayhem - Part III
"If I wanted to expedite a formal adoption of Harry, as quickly as possible," Severus asked Lucius after he'd closed his sleeping ward's door and returned to the seating area in their quarters, where Lucius awaited him, "what would be the correct channels?"
Lucius pondered for a moment. "If it were a matter of financial interchanges, then you could possibly achieve it through the goblins at Gringott's. They are a no-nonsense group, over there."
"It's not at all about money, but I suppose if we were to make that the priority, to stipulate that Harry retains all of his inherited wealth, so that I have no access to it…"
"That would indeed be an appropriate means for using Gringott's services," Lucius told him. "In fact, I should simply take you over to my solicitor tomorrow. The sooner, the better, no doubt? You'd like to do this before he's emancipated?"
Severus nodded. "He is afraid we will grow apart when I no longer have legal authority over him."
"You still would not have that authority, with an adoption," Lucius pointed out.
"Yes, but I'd be next of kin, as he would be for me," Severus said. "If something were to happen to either of us, neither would want to be informed as an afterthought. Even as an adult, the authorities would first call upon his father, if Harry was in trouble. And, vice versa."
"Then let's make the trip over in the morning," Lucius said. "Shall we take the boy? He could request his new vault keys, and perhaps have a chance to review all that he's inherited from his godfather."
Severus nodded slowly. "We should take him, but the Black inheritance may be too much information, on top of the subject of adoption. However, he also asked me about setting up a trust fund to financially reimburse the lost wages of each of the Ministry employees who has been out of work since the break-in."
Lucius smiled a small smile, feeling shame that he had not thought of this himself. "Of course he did."
Tuesday morning, Harry and Severus flooed over to Malfoy Manor and met Lucius en route to Diagon Alley, to head over to Gringott's. Severus had shocked Harry to the core with his suggestion of adoption over breakfast. Harry had been speechless but had agreed with an emphatic nod and a loud gulp to contain his emotions. Severus had smiled the warmest smile Harry had ever seen from him, so it was clear to Harry that Severus wanted this as much as he did. And now as they walked along the snow covered and eerily silent cobbled road towards the bank, the familiar warmth of his soon-to-be adoptive father's hand on his neck made him feel like everything that lie ahead of them, bad and good, would be worth it.
And speaking of the bad… "One question that has been bugging me," Harry said aloud to both of the older wizards as they continued along, "if it takes three keys to get into the Black Family vault, how did Bellatrix get the cup in there?"
"Ah, impressive observation, lad," Lucius acknowledged, smiling mildly at Harry's responding smirk, "one can deposit into a family vault as an individual, but a withdrawal needs the full family consent, as it were."
"Hmmm," Harry responded, distracting himself by imagining the crunch of snow beneath their feet being blown off of their path, making it easier for them to walk. Now they were walking on the smooth cobbled stones of the street. Severus' hand squeezed his neck. "Just exercising that wild magic," Harry acknowledged and his happiness was audible in his voice.
Griphook was insisting on meeting with Harry in private to review his inheritance from Sirius before addressing their request for an expedited adoption.
"Uh, well, Severus can join in," Harry tried to explain, "since he's already being like a father to me. We will keep my finances separate, but I wouldn't mind him knowing about all that I've got to manage."
"It is Gringott's policy," Griphook said stonily, his short body and grisly features appearing as hostile as his tone of voice sounded. "You may yourself review with your guardian all that you desire, once we have concluded."
"Uh, alright," Harry acquiesced, looking up at Severus in confusion. Severus had a frown as well. Lucius had gone to handle some business of his own, and so was not there to react or advise. Harry looked back at the goblin. "So, we'll meet just in there?" he asked, referring to a chamber that was situated down a long corridor off of the main lobby area.
"No, Mr. Potter, I will be escorting you to one of the two vaults you've inherited, which was the personal vault of Sirius Black. The other, the Black Family vault, you will access tomorrow with the other two key holders, as I understand by way of the appointment in your name, along with Narcissa Malfoy and Andromeda Tonks."
"Oh," Harry said. "Alright." He looked back at Severus. "Where should I meet you?"
"I'll be here," Severus said, still looking mildly perturbed. "Keep me posted, will you?"
Harry nodded. "Definitely."
It was sometime during the first half of their journey into the bowels of Gringott's that Harry's scar began to really burn. "Ahh!" he yelled, unable to control the outburst. The goblin didn't react, but just sat in front of him, facing forward, directing the bucket-like car they rode within to their destination. Harry pulled out his coin and his wand, gasping in pain and trying his damnedest to message the others. A cruel hand smacked the coin and wand out of his grip, sending them both flying over the side of the car's safety rail to plummet to unknown depths far, far below.
"You won't be needing those," Griphook told him, clearly not as disengaged as Harry had surmised.
The pain in his scar intensified. He put his hands over his face, struggling not to scream in agony. "Who are we going to see?" he demanded angrily.
"Madame Lestrange paid me nicely to deliver you to her care," Griphook responded. "She knows you intended to rob her of her most precious possession."
"Did not!" Harry argued lamely. Think! Think! Think! he berated himself. Desperate to let Severus and the others know he was in trouble, he pictured the Lucius-galleon in his mind and imagined sending a message:
Scar hurts… on the railcar ride to meet Bellatrix…. the goblin is helping her kidnap me… she knows what we want to take… she's got a lot of power… don't come alone!
He pulled his hands from his face and clenched them at his sides, still grimacing in pain, but glaring at Griphook while he imagined the coin in his hand. He felt it there immediately, warm and vibrating. He let his glare recede as much as he could while he managed to endure the pain. No point in wasting energy on the small time players in this game. Still holding Griphook's hostile glare, he pictured his wand in its standard hiding place up the sleeve of his jumper and bent his wrist a tiny bit. The movement was enough for him to sense the wand had returned to his possession. Bloody Bellatrix Lestrange wasn't the only one who had power. I'm going to get that bitch. For Sirius, he thought. The sensation of being pulled had settled in, and Harry was just fine with that. He wasn't afraid for himself. He was afraid for the others, and knew that they may not be able to find him in time to help him. The pulling sensation was as strong as it had been the last time he encountered Voldemort. He was becoming a tad worried he'd be pulled from the car to Bella.
Coin in hand, message clearly received, Severus snarled his rage at the goblins sitting along the main counter in the teller area of the bank, speaking with very clear, very intentioned promise to follow through. "You are about to have an extraordinary magical battle in your bank unless you employ whatever protections you can to deter Bellatrix Lestrange's efforts to kidnap Harry Potter. One of your own is assisting her at this very moment. She will be stopped, one way or the other." And this is your one chance to assist me, else I will blindly chase after my son, taking no prisoners as I go along. He kept his thoughts to himself as his blood boiled with rage and fear. Severus was not at all familiar with the layout of this bank's interior web of secure holding cells, and though it would be futile to waste time running along like a madman calling for Harry, he would do it if he had no other option.
Behind him, a loud and varied response to his announcement swept swiftly among the waiting patrons, most of whom chose to vacate the vicinity immediately. Rapid and repeated cracks of both disapparation and apparation sounded, and continued for several moments. Severus knew many of those arriving would be Order members, but he also imagined Bella would have secured back-up. Harry had said she had a lot of power. She must have linked her magic to the cup horcrux.
"Professor Snape, we have heard your alert and will respond in kind. You are under no circumstances invited to take matters into your own hands," one of the goblins informed Severus.
There was indeed a scramble of activity going on behind the counter, but they were all so bloody short, Severus couldn't see what they were up to. A bony, yet surprisingly strong hand gripped his shoulder. He spun on his heel, coming face to face with Albus, whose eyes promised with grim conviction that this event would finally settle the ongoing problem that was Voldemort.
While Severus and Albus shared their silent moment, a battlefield began to evolve into existence all around them. Severus scanned the arena of the enormous bank lobby, recognizing the presence of every adult Weasley, including Fred and George, along with Kingsley, John Dawlish, Mad-Eye, Hestia Jones, Dedalus Diggle, Tonks, Lupin, Minerva, Hagrid and Lucius, each of whom were presently facing off with a strong presence of Death Eaters that included former students of his, along with Goyle Sr., Crabbe Sr., the Carrow siblings, and Bella's husband and brother-in-law.
And there are likely more en route, Severus thought. In the blink of his eye, flashes of deathly curses began to zip through the sizable interior. More cracks of apparation sounded just outside the massive entry doors, which had already been blown off of their hinges. Augusta Longbottom, Narcissa Malfoy, Andromeda Tonks, and Amelia Bones entered in single file, wands already shielding and deflecting wayward spells.
The coin warmed and vibrated again, snapping Severus out of his reverie.
He's taken me to Bellatrix's personal vault… …number four thirty-one… she's much stronger than Thora and Goyle were… the snake's here, too… she just killed Griphook…
Severus gritted his teeth. Harry!
"Fawkes," Albus called, loudly over the mayhem of magical battle. The phoenix familiar appeared with a soft pop on Albus' shoulder.
Albus stood by, seemingly unaffected as Severus shielded and returned fire at Rodolphus Lestrange, unapologetically making certain his spell was lethal enough to maim and incapacitate the other wizard. Lestrange went down and stayed down. Albus studied the dynamic of the fighting in progress for a moment. Then he drew his wand and cast a long blast of golden energy into the large lobby interior. Now Severus stood by, watching the impact of Albus' spectacular magic, as it swirled in and out of the crowd, wrapping around each of the assailants, forming individual cocoon-like bindings that looked a bit like golden mesh, until they suddenly turned into harsh, barbed metal that had sharp prongs strategically placed to puncture tender flesh at the slightest movement. The room grew oddly silent as bad wizards grew very, very still, and good wizards turned their eyes to Albus Dumbledore.
"Fawkes will return to transport more of you down to help Harry when Severus and I have a sense of what lies in wait," he told the group, eyes on Remus and Lucius as he spoke. "In the meantime, I will rely on the rest of you to keep this location secure and these prisoners contained." Albus had his wand in hand as he reached his other out to clasp tightly around Severus' free hand. "Please take us to a short distance from Harry's current location," he calmly requested. His familiar complied, taking him and Severus away with a soft pop.
Another instantaneous and quiet pop delivered them to a narrow and unfenced ledge outside vault number four thirty-three. Severus felt Voldemort's presence sharply. "The power I sense feels as strong as the Dark Lord's ever was," he whispered to Albus.
The elderly wizard nodded, responding softly, "We will need to separate all that are magically linked before we can destroy them. The snake has likely ingested whatever she found in the Gaunt home." He looked up at Fawkes, communicating a silent request that resulted in the phoenix disappearing briefly and returning with Lucius and Remus.
The grimace on Lucius' face as he sensed the Dark Lord, once again, said all that Severus could not about how badly he wanted to see this finished.
"Not going to be as foolish this time, Harry," Nagini spoke to Harry in a voice that converted into Voldemort's as his brain translated the parseltongue. "I realize you were being completely truthful with me about your refusal to admit to your darkness."
"The only darkness I feel is my loathing for you," Harry said back, speaking parseltongue as well.
"Yesssssss," the snake said in exaggerated glee. "And so I will eat you, like I ate the ring, and I will have back the power you have held for me all these years."
"Nope," Harry said with cocky reassurance he actually sort of felt, "if I die, so does my piece of you." Blech, that sounded so vile to his own ears. This bastard's presence, inside a pocket of Harry's flesh, riding around on Harry's forehead, wreaking havoc all the bloody time, was just plain irksome. The disgust fed into his rage at having to deal with all of this, again, and again, and always when something wonderful was about to happen. He thought of Severus as he looked from Nagini over to Bellatrix, who was leaning against a pedestal that held a heavy stone vase, biting her nails like a poorly mannered little girl, and his disgusted rage grew exponentially. She'd killed his godfather and now she'd managed to impede his adoption by Severus. Her cackling laughter at the change in his expression only added fuel to the fire that was lit beneath his wild magic.
Nagini, in the meantime, had been slithering around the broad, semi-circled expanse of space that constituted an elaborate entryway to Bella's vault, apparently pondering the validity of Harry's earlier declaration. "Hmmmm," she said, "Master and I think you are in the way of our return. I will eat you, yesssssss."
Harry imagined her without a tongue just as she opened her enormous jaws, rearing her head backward to double over a long stretch of her body, before rising high above him, prepared to strike. There was a stunned pause of confusion while the snake lost track of her intentions at the loss of her senses via the missing tongue. Harry was aware of Bellatrix standing straight and raising her wand as he now imagined Nagini without a mouth. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement down a narrow ledge that led to other vaults. Help was here. He had the presence of mind to shield himself before attempting to summon the sword of Gryffindor, just as Bellatrix cast an exceptionally powerful blasting hex at Harry. His shield took a large part of the impact, but his magic was not strong enough to prevent the massive thrust of energy from shoving him bodily off of the platform…
...and Harry was falling, plummeting to his impending death.