Birth of the Serpent King – Chapter Four

Chapter Four

The Burrow was bustling people and Harry found himself pushed into place between Ron and Hermione without much of a pause in the conversations that were already going on when he had arrived with Remus and Padfoot. He was surprised that even Percy had shown up. Since Percy Weasley had been apparently stuck up Fudge’s arse all summer, Harry didn’t expect anything pleasant from him.

“Minister Fudge mentioned to me that he’d invited you to the Ministry for a discussion about your estate now that you’ve claimed your title.”

Harry inclined his head and nodded when Hermione waved the pitcher of pumpkin juice. “I did receive a letter from him, yes. I fail to see how an elected official such as himself could possibly be in a position to offer me advice on how to handle the responsibilities of my title or my estate. I make more money in a day than he makes in a year. I can’t imagine he even has a frame of reference.”

Remus choked on his tea.

Percy stiffened noticeably which is something else considering how rigid he already was. “He is a public figure.”

“I’ve been a public figure since I was one. Perhaps he means to ask my advice,” Harry mused and turned to Ron. “What do you think?”

“I think he could use all help he can get,” Ron muttered and then grinned when Percy sputtered.

“It is obvious, Harry, that you could use some refinement,” Percy snapped. “And a few lessons on politics.”

Harry shrugged and ignored the rest of the table. “It’s Lord Potter to you, Mr. Weasley. As for the other issues—Minister Fudge could use a lesson or two in personal responsibility and honesty.”

“Fudge wouldn’t know honesty if it slapped him on the arse and introduced itself,” Fred muttered and George snickered.

“Do you plan to ignore the Minister, Lord Potter?”

“Of course not,” Harry pushed aside his plate with a sigh. “I already responded to his high-handed and thoughtless summons but I imagine he won’t like my answer.”

“And what was your answer?”

“That I am not nor will I ever be at the beck and call of the Minister of Magic. I am recovering from a traumatic and emotionally taxing experience. I’m not especially in the mood to spend time with a man who has spent the last two months telling everyone that I’m mental because he is unable to face reality.”

Padfoot growled when Percy stood up abruptly from the table. “I see that you won’t be helped. The Minister is trying to make an effort to save your reputation.”

“More likely he’s trying to get me alone so he can obliviate me,” Harry returned dryly and bit down on his lip when Percy huffed and stormed to the fireplace. When he was gone, Harry slumped a little. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t, Harry, it’s your birthday dinner and Percival was being very difficult,” Bill Weasley shook his head and grinned before drinking from his coffee cup. “That Lord Potter thing was very funny though.” He wiggled an eyebrow. “Should I call you Lord Potter, too?”

Harry laughed and then was quite horrified when he blushed. “No, just Percy and other prats who try to boss me around.”

“It is clearly time for presents!” George said grandly. He walked over to the floo and sealed it with a flick of his wand. “And for Sirius to make an appearance.”

Molly cleared the table with her wand and an assortment of gifts appeared in front of Harry. “There we are, Harry and I made your favorite dessert as well.”

Harry stared for a moment and then took a deep breath. The pile was outrageous to him—he’d rarely gotten more than three or four gifts at a time after he’d entered the Wizarding world and none that he could remember before then. He touched one precisely wrapped present hesitantly—obviously from Hermione.

There was some shuffling around him and Sirius slid into Ron’s place. He plucked up Harry’s shaking hand and held it in both of his. “On your first birthday, I bought you a toy broom. Your father was thrilled and your mother was horrified.”

Harry took a deep breath. “Did I like it?”

“You were barely walking—in fact you did far more scooting around on your arse than walking but you crawled onto that broom and zoomed around the yard within minutes of opening it. You loved it. Harry, you were a quiet baby. Lily used to say you were an old soul and perhaps that’s true. I certainly don’t see a child when I look in your eyes. But then your mother had that same look about her. Mature beyond her years. James always used to say it was a wonder she ever gave him the time of day. She was beautiful and powerful and smart—and far too mature to fall in love with a man who’s life’s ambition was to play professional quidditch.”

“I’d quite like that myself,” Harry murmured. “But it’s crossed my mind recently that I’m probably not going to survive the war that is coming. Not with men like Fudge in power. Not when Dumbledore keeps secrets from me the way he does. I don’t know how he can expect me to fight year after year without giving me the information I need to survive.”

Hermione’s breath caught beside him and she made a little hitching sound. “Harry.”

“Sometimes you have to make sacrifices,” Harry murmured. “I think I’ve known for a while that Dumbledore has it in his mind that I am to be his sacrifice in this battle with Voldemort.” He snorted when everyone but Hermione flinched. “It’s a name! It’s not even his name for fuck’s sake!”

“Language,” Remus admonished. “I understand your frustration, Harry, at least part of it but I don’t want to believe that Dumbledore would sacrifice your life.”

“Really?” Harry questioned. “If you were to know for certain that Voldemort would never come again—that he would never kill again—that thousands of lives could be saved if you took out your wand and killed me where I sat, wouldn’t you be at all tempted?”

Bill Weasley swore softly. “Harry, that is a wretched thing…” He trailed off. “Open your presents like a good lad.”

Harry grinned suddenly and picked up Hermione’s box. “I’ll try to keep the depressing questions to a minimum then.” He flipped the box over a few times in his hands and laughed softly. “It’s almost too pretty to unwrap, Hermione.”

She blushed and leaned on him. “Stop being a prat before you have to start referring to yourself in third person, Harry.”

He opened the package on one end and then used his nail to slice through the tape. “My Muggle relatives didn’t tell me my birthday, you know. I found out by breaking into Uncle Vernon’s office and stealing my birth certificate when I was nine. Of course, I didn’t know my full name until I started primary school.” He glanced towards Sirius when the older man growled. “It’s okay, it’s actually better that I didn’t know sooner about my birthday. At least I had no way of knowing which day they were ignoring for all of those years. Dudley enjoyed it when he realized I did know. He always asked for something special that week—dinner out, trips to the zoo or whatever.”

He blinked at the sleek leather wallet. The Potter crest was prominently displayed. He opened it and then it sort of expanded in his hands. “Oh.”

“It’s a wallet made especially for Nobles—so you can carry your Seal and stuff like that.” Hermione waved a hand. “The lady said it would be the perfect gift for you. She looked up your crest and charmed it for you. There are some instructions about keying it to your magical signature so no one but you can open it. It’s also got a charm so you can always find it once it bonds with you.”

Harry laughed. “It must be a girl thing—always getting the perfect thing.”

He opened up the rest of the gifts—books, a pair of dragon skinned boots that Draco was probably going to be green over, and a subscription to Quidditch Weekly before Dobby popped into the room. He turned to Dobby with a frown.

“Where have you been? Did someone bother you?”

Dobby’s ears dropped a little and he sighed. “Dobby is very tired, Master Harry. I had to hunt all over Hogsmeade for Winky and sober her up.”

Harry sighed. “Did you take her to Madam Pomfrey? Is she okay?”

“Yes, Master Harry. Winky is very sad.” Dobby pulled two packages from his robes. “I is sorry I am late.”

“It’s quite alright,” Harry assured. “Did you eat dinner?”

“Yes, with Winky.” Dobby tucked his hands behind his back. “The blue one is from me, Master Harry. The green one was with your mail. I checked it over for bad magics. It is safe.”

He opened the blue one first and for a moment stared completely startled. “Dobby.”

Dobby moved closer. “Is Vassal’s place, Lord Harry, to always be within your reach. This watch is of my magic.”

Harry pulled the watch from the box so people in the room can see it. “You made it with your magic?”

“Powerful elf magic,” Dobby murmured. “When you wear it—you will always know where I am.”

He pulled his old watch off and put it in the box. Then slid on the new one. He felt the sizzle of Dobby’s magic immediately and he nodded. “I see. Thank you, Dobby. It is beautiful and will always be special to me.”

He patted the elf when tears welled up in his eyes before picking up the green package. Leave it to Draco to wrap his present in Slytherin green. He unwrapped it a little less carefully than he had others and opened the box to reveal a pair of emerald snake cuff links.

Harry grinned briefly as he pulled out the note.

For Harry—on his 15th birthday. I saw these and thought of you. I refuse to say more– Ever Loyal.

“You’re blushing,” Ron said with a laugh. “Can I see?”

Harry handed the note to his best mate and sighed when Ron snickered. “Shut it.”

“Looks like someone has a crush on you.” He picked up the box and blinked in surprise. “Why would someone send you snake cuff links, mate?”

“Well, he is a Parselmouth,” Bill murmured. “They often have an affinity for snakes.”

“I do like them,” Harry admitted. “I enjoy their sly nature and find them quite clever.” He plucked the box gently from Ron’s hand and closed it. “They don’t normally have anything kind to say about humans though.”

Bill laughed. “Not really a surprise considering how we encroach on them at every turn and kill them with very little provocation.”

Harry grinned. “Dobby, would you please take my presents and put them in my room at Headquarters and check on Hedwig, she’s surely to have returned from Mr. Riser’s by now. Then come back for cake.”

“Yes, Master Harry.” Dobby waved a hand and gathered the gifts easily before popping away.

“Harry.” Hermione frowned. “What’s a Vassal?”

Harry lowered his head to the table and banged it there several times while Sirius and Remus laughed. “Hermione…” He sighed. “A Vassal is a bond servant to a titled Noble. It is an elevation above a simple house elf.”

“You made Dobby your house elf?” She demanded. “He was free!”

“No.” Harry shook his head. “He was never free. If he’d been free… he would be a raging little alcoholic just like Winky. It’s a dishonor and a true abuse of power to free a house elf without an extreme reason. Their lives and sanity depend on service.”

“Right. I’m sure wizards have been saying that since they made the elves slaves!”

“Hermione,” Bill began and then frowned. “You do realize that mature house elves can only be bonded because they chose to be, right? The magic that bonds Master and servant is old and very special. Elves were a dying race when a wizard named Victor Winscott came upon a solution to save them. Their magic is powerful and it must be used. If it isn’t—it rots in them, corrupts their personalities, and eventually it kills them. It might surprise you to know that Dobby is probably close to two hundred years old. He will stay young, fit, and active as long as he is properly occupied for as much as five hundred years.”

“Oh.” Hermione bit down on her bottom lip.

“Relax,” Harry murmured. “I found you a book. It’s at Sirius’ house. It’s true that some wizards abuse house elves but most are very happy in service.”

She relaxed. “Really? Is it a complete history of the problem?”

“Dobby seemed to think so,” Harry explained. “As for a Vassal—I have elevated Dobby into a position so that he can use his magic in the defense of myself or anyone in my Family without having to worry about breaking the laws that govern the use of elf magic. It’s a protection for us both and it also made him feel really special so it’s what I did.”

Hermione smiled hesitantly. “He looks cute in his little robes.” She leaned in and whispered, “Like Yoda.”

Harry started laughing.

– – – –

Harry settled in at his desk and flipped open the box that held the cuff links from Draco. Mehen immediately shifted on his wrist and then slid off to coil on the desk. “Pretty, huh?”

“Very,” Mehen hissed. “Do you really like snakes?”

“Yeah, I do.” Harry stroked Mehen carefully. “I think they are beautiful.”

Mehen hissed without actually speaking and then slithered back onto Harry’s wrist. “They will match me very well. Your dragon has superior taste.”

“He’s not my dragon,” Harry murmured.

“You wish he were,” Mehen returned.

Harry flushed. “How do I change one of your destinations? I’d like to remove Privet Drive and replace it with this place.”

“What would you have the activation word be?”

“Padfoot,” Harry hissed and then smiled when Mehen’s eyes flashed briefly. “That’s brilliant.”

He looked up as Mehen went solid and dormant on his wrist and raised an eyebrow when Bill Weasley entered with Sirius, and Remus. “Is this about Percy?”

Bill laughed. “He did send a rather pointed note to mum about us not defending him but I don’t know why he’s surprised. He’s been an utter snot all summer.” He sat down and stared at Harry. “I realize… that many people in your life don’t treat you with honesty or respect. I hope you’ve come to see in our past associations that I’m not one of those people.”

“You’ve always treated me kindly,” Harry acknowledged. “Your whole family, with the exception of Percy, has always been fair and honest with me.”

Bill snorted. “Well, Ron has his moments.”

Harry nodded and his gaze dropped to the surface of the desk. “Ron is… special to me and as such he’ll probably always get away with things that I would never tolerate from someone else. He doesn’t look at me and see the Boy Who Lived. That meant a great a deal to me when we met and even more so now.”

“Right.” Bill nodded and leaned forward. “Harry, when you came into the Burrow this afternoon—I felt something radiating off of you. Something powerful and ancient. At first, I thought it might be your Family magic settling. The Potter House has always been powerful and your ancestors were made of pretty stern stuff but this is something different.”

Harry frowned and sat back in his chair. “Surely you realize if I had something that was dangerous to me or Dark that Dobby would have already told me.”

“Yes, I realize how protective he is of you,” Bill murmured. “I didn’t say it was Dark. In fact, upon reflection I would say is it the exact opposite of Dark.”

Harry carefully pushed back his sleeve and prodded Mehen’s head. He hissed out, “Bill wishes to meet you, Mehen.”

Mehen shifted and raced rapidly around Harry’s wrist before coiling on the top of Harry’s hand and raising straight up. His head flared revealing him to be a cobra. In English he spoke, “I am Mehen.”

Bill took a deep, shocked breath. “Where… did you come from Mehen?”

“I was created with wild magic in Egypt during the time of the Pharaohs by the wizard Ramses II. He too spoke the language of snakes. He was very young—not much older than my new Master—when he created me to serve as his companion and advisor.”

“I see.” Bill cleared his throat. “May I cast on you and see the magics you hold within?”

“As you seek only the best for my Master—yes, you may cast on me.”

Harry lowered his hand and let Mehen slide onto the desk. “Ragnok already did this at Gringotts.”

“Thank you both for indulging me,” Bill murmured dryly as he raised his wand. His gaze went distant as he worked and he said nothing for over ten minutes. Finally, he lowered his wand and shook his head with a small smile. “That is a unique and amazing gift, Harry.”

“Yes,” Harry agreed. He held out his hand and Mehen returned to him.

“What does…” Sirius began. “Bill? If you would detail what you learned from the artifact I would appreciate it.”

“Mehen has a variety of protective charms and would help Harry repel a variety of curses. No one would be able to obliviate, confound, or even use the Imperious curse on Harry while he’s wearing Mehen. I imagine his creator was concerned that someone might try to alter his mind. Mehen is also a portkey with up to five destinations and while he speaks English he will only accept commands in Parseltongue from his current owner. If he has had other owners in the past—they’re magical signatures are gone from him.”

“Where did you get him?” Remus questioned.

Harry took a deep breath. “He was a gift from the same family that sent me the snake cuff links.”

“The Malfoys,” Bill guessed. “It’s good that you’re cultivating a relationship with the younger Lord Malfoy – perhaps it will keep him on the side of the Light. His father’s sacrifice for you must have had a positive effect on him.”

Harry nodded and focused on Sirius. “What do you think?”

“I think you have excellent instincts and while you have the ability to act rashly—it’s never without heart,” Sirius murmured. “And Bill is right—fostering a friendship with Draco Malfoy could work in your favor in the future. He has a lot of political and financial power despite his age. His Father was a powerful man and once his sacrifice for you is widely accepted—he will be honored as a war hero.”

Harry nodded and sighed. “I want to testify in front of the Goblin Court on what happened with Voldemort that night and widely publish the results.”

“That’ll piss Fudge off,” Bill warned and then grinned. “Sounds like a good choice.”

Harry laughed and sighed. “I need… I think I need private security. I realize that Headmaster Dumbledore has plans for me and he would have me make different choices than I have and probably will in the future.” He glanced towards the window as Hedwig entered through the magic glass. She landed on his desk and offered her leg. “How do the neighbors not see her disappearing into the wards?”

“Magical owls aren’t visible to Muggles unless they are aware of their existence,” Bill explained and then sighed. “What exactly do they teach you at Hogwarts, Harry?”

Harry laughed. “Not much apparently. I know little to nothing about magical history, I’ve only had one year of real Defense Against the Dark Arts training, and while Snape is brilliant—he takes his hatred for my father out on me so I learn nothing in Potions. Charms and Transfiguration are a hundred times better but…” He trailed off. “To be honest, I haven’t tried all that hard academically. When I first went to Hogwarts I was so overwhelmed by the world I was suddenly living in that I was easily distracted and then over the past few years—it’s been one distraction after another. I pass my classes, of course, but it’s never been more than that.”

“This year is your OWLs,” Sirius reminded. “We can tutor you throughout the year for anything you might need.” He inclined his head. “Do you think you’re an Animagus? Your Family magic has almost completely settled—your Father had the gift though he had to train it extensively.”

Harry frowned. “I believe, I am, yes but I haven’t tested it. I wasn’t sure if I could leave the form if I tried on my own and I didn’t want to freak my Muggle relatives out. I’ve been having dreams for the last two months—sometimes nightmares but sometimes not. I was confusing the nightmares with the other dreams for a while.”

“Why?” Remus questioned, leaning forward.

“I’ve been having nightmares since Voldemort returned and in my dreams I see things through his eyes. They’ve been horrible. Lucius Malfoy’s betrayal and his murder have featured heavily. Voldemort raged for weeks after that night. He was depending on Malfoy’s financial support and something about the Malfoy Family magic. He needed it… it was important. I think he uses the magic of his followers—drains it from them through the Dark Mark.”

“Then we need to make sure he never has the chance to mark Draco Malfoy,” Remus murmured.

“That’s taken care of,” Harry said offhand and then sighed. “At least as long as I’m alive. At any rate, I’ve been dreaming for weeks and sometimes I’m in Voldemort—seeing things through his eyes and other times I’m moving around in the Forbidden Forest. It was so foreign at first that it scared me.”

“You think it’s your Animagus form?” Bill questioned. “That’s not a surprise, actually. It’s common to come into such gifts between the ages of fifteen and twenty. Hogwarts will give you the opportunity to study the spell and attempt it in your seventh year.”

“If I wanted to keep it a secret?”

“Minerva surely won’t force a change—that spell is considered terribly rude by most and it requires a great deal more power than she can gather on her own to force an entire classroom full of students to transform against their will,” Sirius murmured. “Why do you want to keep it a secret, Pup?”

Harry laughed suddenly. “Oh, Sirius, if only I were a pup it would be so much easier. When I found out my Dad was an Animagus—I really wanted to be his form or maybe something like yours. I never expected…” He took a deep breath and pushed back from the desk. “I’ve read a small book on the subject—it was heavy on academics. I know the spell to do it but like I said I’m just worried that I won’t be able to come back without help.”

“Go ahead, kid, show me what you got.” Sirius waved a hand and leaned back in his chair. “If you look like Peter, I’ll do my best not to hunt you through the house.”

Harry smiled briefly and then stood. Hedwig jumped to his offered arm and he took her to the owl stand near the window. “There’s my pretty girl.” He stroked her gently as he put her on the perch. “You’re going to see me do something pretty strange and I would much prefer that you not decide to take a bite out of me.” He gave her a treat as she settled.

He stepped back from her and closed his eyes. “It’s…”

“Just relax,” Sirius murmured. “Picture yourself in your Animagus form. It’s a silent spell and the easiest to perform wandless. Take a deep breath and let go. I’ll be here to catch you if you make a mistake, Harry.”

He let go, the sensual tug of his Animagus form pulled him away from his human body and then the movement was fluid and free. The color of the carpet and curtains were suddenly less vivid.

Sirius blinked in surprise and then relaxed with a sigh of relief. He should have known why Harry had been so nervous about revealing it. He stood and then squatted down in front of the largest boa constrictor he’d seen outside of a Muggle zoo and then stroked his godson’s head, taking in the shiny, black scales that covered him. “Well, look at you.”

Harry lifted and coiled elegantly. He tucked his head into his coils and trembled.

“This is a rare form, Harry but not all surprising considering your other gifts.” Sirius slid down to his knees. “So, six feet at least, huh?” Harry shifted and started to move—stretching out in front of him.

“Six and a half feet, then,” Remus said as he stood. “Thick as my forearm. Bill, do you want to check his form to see if he still has Mehen’s protection.

“I think he does,” Sirius murmured and then traced the thin line of silver scales that encircled Harry’s snake body just after the head. “I wonder if they can still communicate in this form.”

“The protections are still in place,” Bill murmured as he walked around Harry. “I must say, Harry, this is gorgeous.” He laughed. “Like the kid wasn’t pretty enough on his own.”

Harry flowed immediately into his human form and glared at Bill. “Pretty?”

He laughed. “Yeah, very pretty. Don’t glare at me, kid, it makes me want to forget you’re just fifteen. Your ancestral magic settling on you isn’t helping at all. You’re going to catch hell at school from the boys and the girls.”

Harry blushed furiously and went back to his chair. He slouched down in the leather chair and frowned at the desk. “Is that… with Muggles it’s quite a bad idea to get involved with members of the same sex.” He winced when every wizard in the room turned to stare at him in shock.

“No, that’s not a problem for most at least in Britain. There are issues in the Americas even among the magical communities but for the most part it is accepted and understood. You can hardly help how you are born.” Sirius sat back down. “Is that something you would disapprove of, Pup?”

“No, I’m quite comfortable with it. I think two of my roommates became involved during second term last year but I wasn’t for certain and didn’t want to ask.” Harry nudged this box of stationary in a small sign of frustration. “The snake thing freaked me out once I realized what it really was—what my magic was telling me. I really don’t want many people to know.”

Sirius was silent for a few seconds and then he leaned forward earnestly and said, “Never tell a lover about your Animagus form unless you’re entirely positive that they won’t request something sexual while you’re transformed. If they might, make sure you’re comfortable doing it.”

Harry’s mouth dropped open and then started to laugh. “Sirius.”

“French wizards and witches are sometimes mental, Harry.” Sirius slouched down in his chair. “Completely mental.”

“About your private security,” Bill began. “Why do you think… will you tell us why you want to hire security rather than use members of the Order to protect you?”

“The Order answers to Headmaster Dumbledore and he plays political games with Fudge. I realize he wouldn’t purposefully put me in harm’s way but they’ve both proven to be less than careful with me in the past.”  Harry took a deep breath. “Even when it came to Sirius—when they thought he was out to kill me. Hogwarts wasn’t even warded properly against him. He came and went at will. If it had been his intent to kill me—I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. I killed a basilisk when I was twelve and had to out fly a dragon at fourteen to win a tournament I didn’t even want to participate in.”

“Harry,” Remus murmured and then sighed.

“You know I’m right. Let’s not forget the latest incident with having a polyjuiced Death Eater in the school teaching and the trophy that portkeyed me to a cemetery in the middle of nowhere where I was forced to participate in a resurrection ritual for the so-called Dark Lord himself.”

“So you don’t trust Dumbledore anymore,” Bill murmured. “I can’t really blame you, Harry. I haven’t joined the Order, yet. I only arrived yesterday and he hasn’t had time to talk to me. Of course, I will eventually join because the rest of my family has but currently I’m at loose ends.”

Harry paused to consider that. “What about your work with Gringotts?”

“I requested a three month leave and it was granted. I’m on call for emergencies and I assume you’d only need me when you travel until school starts.”

“Yes. I have a lot of business to complete between now and September 1st. I have several appointments with a Healer, my solicitor, and I need to travel to all three of my properties. Unfortunately, Sirius can’t leave the house or be with me in public and I’m going to assume that Remus will be sent on a mission within the next few days.” Harry raised an eyebrow when Remus laughed. “Already received the assignment, then?”

“Yes, I leave tomorrow.”

– – – –

Draco,

Thank you for cuff links, I only have one other set and I’m sure you think that’s a tragedy. Mehen likes them, too. I realize I need a wardrobe but I’m loathe to actually go shopping myself. Ideas?

I’m staying in a safe place (not with the Muggles) but not out of the grasp of Dumbledore as I’m sure you must have guessed. He was rather irritated that I had accepted my title. It’s a little disconcerting that he didn’t want me to fully claim my Family magic but perhaps he thought it was a good trade off for keeping me under his thumb until I was seventeen?

I would like to visit with you for the day before we return to school. We haven’t really had a chance to talk and I believe it would be good to meet face to face before we return to the place that has been our battleground since we met.

I have confirmed my Animagus form and have successfully transformed several times (the first time with supervision, so don’t fuss). Ron and Hermione are joining me in my location tomorrow. I’m nervous about showing them my form even though I’ve been assured it’s not bad. It’s a snake—a boa constrictor. I’m mostly black with a thin strip of red down my belly and when I’m wearing Mehen, I have a circle of silver scales behind my head.

With Trust,

Lord Harry Potter

The House of Potter

– – – –

Harry rubbed his face as he entered in the library. Dobby had arranged for his breakfast at the desk because there were still guests in the house. He knew that Molly and Charlie were scheduled to take a shift today. They would be bringing Hermione and Ron with them. He’d heard that Ginny had returned from her friend’s house and wanted to come, too. He sincerely hoped that wasn’t the case. Her crush on him wasn’t something he was really in the mood to deal with. That made him feel like an arse but that was neither near nor there.

He looked up as he settled and found Sirius leaning in the door way. “Good morning. Did you want to eat with me?”

“I ate with our guests,” Sirius murmured. “Why does Dobby insist on you eating breakfast separately from everyone, Harry?”

Harry motioned towards the six vials of single dose potions. “He’s protecting my privacy. I have to take them with my first meal of the day. Healer Daniels wants me to take most of them for a full year—to help correct the problems I have due to my Muggle relatives. It’s just private that’s all.”

Sirius nodded. “Did you need to meet with your solicitor today?”

“No, I had set aside today to be with Ron and Hermione. I figure she’ll make us study for a few hours.” He grinned when Sirius laughed. “Why?”

“The Black Family solicitor has been handling my estate since I was put in prison but I haven’t been able to do much in the way of management. I wasn’t allowed visitors.”

“Yes, it wouldn’t do for it to get out that you were imprisoned without a trial and absolutely no real evidence,” Harry muttered and then sat back. “Okay, did you want me to speak with your solicitor or something?”

“No, he and I have already had several conversations. He has a couple things in place for me and I wanted you to know that I’ve named you my Heir Regent. Your solicitor has probably already gotten the paper work for it. I just didn’t want it to be a surprise to you.”

Harry nodded and arranged his plate. “Come sit, please. What are my responsibilities as your Heir?”

“In normal circumstances, you would just live off the trust I would have settled on you and party like any teenager would with that much money at your disposal. Unfortunately, we don’t have normal circumstances. Officially, because I’m a wanted felon—you’re in charge of the estate as my Heir Regent. Most of my family is dead. I have a few cousins—Narcissa Malfoy being one of them. For appearances sake, my solicitor will tell people that you are managing my estate in my absence and that you were granted that status automatically upon the claiming of your own title. You’ll receive monthly statements of activities so if anyone asks you’ll be able to answer questions.”

“Sounds good.” Harry grimaced as he finished the last of his potions. “Why do they taste nasty?”

“Because Potion Masters are evil,” Sirius said without a trace of a smile. “Pure evil.”

Harry grinned and then inclined his head as he set the vials aside. “Dobby.”

Dobby appeared immediately. “Yes, Master Harry?”

“Where is that book on House Elf history? Hermione will be here today.” He grinned when Dobby’s ears quivered. “Don’t worry—I won’t let her browbeat me into freeing you, I promise.” He motioned towards a stack of mail. “Is that all for me?”

“Yes, you received your supply list for Hogwarts.” Dobby curled one hand around the edge of the desk as he spoke. “Would you like me to pick up your school supplies?”

“No, not yet.” Harry shook his head. He pulled a sealed letter from his correspondence box. “Take this to Draco and wait for a response.” He grinned then. “Make sure to pay attention to his face—I’m interested in his reactions while he’s reading it.”

“Yes, Master Harry.”

– – – –

Draco folded Harry’s letter and shifted in his chair aware that the idea of the other boy as a snake had his mind reeling in a very interesting way. He hazarded a glance at Dobby and found the elf eyeing him critically. “Yes, well, I must ask my mother about your Master’s options for shopping for clothes. Your tailoring charms are up to par, I assume?”

“Of course, Lord Malfoy.” Dobby paused. “Master Harry requests a response.”

Draco smirked. “Go and tell him I think snakes are dead sexy and then come back in an hour for my formal response.”

– – – –

Dobby popped into place in front of Harry’s desk just as Hermione and Ron settled into chairs in front of him. “Master Harry, I’m to tell you that he thinks snakes are dead sexy. I is to return in one hour for formal response.”

Harry blushed furiously and Dobby giggled. “Very well.” He tried to frown and rested back in his chair. “Close the door and set the privacy ward, I want to talk to Ron and Hermione without having to worry about people listening in.”

Dobby immediately moved to do as instructed and Hermione and Ron exchange a significant look.

Ron bit down on his lip but as soon as the ward settled, he blurted out, “Dumbledore asked us to try to convince you to give your title to someone else.”

Harry lifted an eyebrow but nodded. “I’m not surprised. Neville is currently my official Heir and the last thing the Headmaster wanted was me to have any kind of independence. Did you agree to do it?”

“No.” Hermione frowned at him. “We told him it was a bad idea to even ask you to do such a thing.”

Harry grinned then. “It would have been okay if you’d agreed. You certainly wouldn’t have been successful but I wouldn’t hold it against you.” He held up a thin book and handed it to Hermione. “House Elf History and the House Elf Magical Accord.” She snatched it immediately. “I received my letter for supplies. Did you get yours?”

“Yes, Mrs. Weasley offered to take me with everyone else on the 15th,” Hermione looked around the library. “Can I pick out some books to read?”

“Yeah, Sirius said his library is your library.” He shared a smile with Ron when Hermione launched herself out of the chair and started looking at titles. “I wanted to tell you that I’ve… reached a few decisions about my future.”

Ron frowned. “Like what?”

“I’ve evaluated my life and what I’ve allowed to happen to me over the last year and I’ve decided to take a more proactive role in the decisions that get made. Headmaster Dumbledore hasn’t always made the best decisions for me over the years. I don’t think his intentions were ever cruel or that he meant me harm but his focus is very broad. I’ve suffered because of his bad decisions.”

“Yeah,” Ron nodded. “I understand that. So?”

“It’s one reason why I claimed my title. I have all the rights of an adult but due to my age—I also have some protections from being under the age of majority. I can practice magic outside of school which was one of the main things—I needed to be able to defend myself without the fear of losing my wand. It isn’t like I can trust Fudge or Dumbledore to look out for me on that front. Just look at the way they’ve allowed the Daily Prophet to…” He trailed off. “I need to control my image.”

“I agree,” Hermione murmured as she began stacking books on the table that Dobby had set up for her and Ron to share. “You should do an interview and maybe arrange some kind of party to launch yourself as a titled Noble. Maybe at Christmas this year.”

“Probably should get another family to do it,” Ron muttered as he unwrapped a chocolate frog. “The Malfoys, maybe. I heard his mum always throws really good parties for that kind of thing.”

“That would be… I’m kind of surprised, Ron.”

Ron shrugged. “He’s a prat, but she does charity work and she has a lot of social clout. Besides, her husband died for you. I guess I can overlook Draco being a prat for a few years based on that.”

“I wanted to attend his funeral.”

“We did,” Ron said. “All of us—there was a big turnout but most of it was private. Mrs. Malfoy put his casket in the crypt herself and Draco was like a statue throughout the entire thing. They conferred his title on him in front of the Family crypt. I spoke to him briefly and he asked about you.”

“What did he ask?”

“He wanted to make sure you were okay and safe,” Ron murmured. “I said you were.” Ron slouched further in his chair. “I guess I feel sorry for him… you know he found his Dad’s… parts.”

Harry swallowed hard. “Yeah, I know. I can’t imagine what it must have been like. Voldemort was furious.” He tapped his fingers on the desk. “I have something to show you. I’ve known since before the third task that I was probably an Animagus. The thing is that I wasn’t sure of the magical theory and the spell in our Transfiguration text isn’t explained in detail so I had to wait until I could get a book. I tried to order one but… Minister Fudge apparently put out an unofficial list of books that I’m not allowed to buy. Just before my birthday I did get a book on the process.”

“Wow.” Hermione bit down on her lip. “Can I read it?”

“Yeah, it’s in my room. I’ll get it for you later. At any rate, I was able to determine that I am, in fact, an Animagus and after my Family magic started to settle I had the magical strength to accomplish it.”

“Family magic.” Hermione frowned. “What does that mean?”

“Wizarding families have ancestral magic—that settles on a wizard during the year of their majority. Usually it coincides with our magical maturation. Since Harry was the Heir to a Noble House—his ancestral magic has been settling for the past few months and it probably went into overdrive when his title was conferred,” Ron explained. “We’ll learn about ancestral magic next year in Charms and Transfiguration.”

“Oh.” She frowned and ran her fingers over the edges of one of the books she’d pulled off the shelf. “So that doesn’t happen to Muggle borns then.”

“Of course it will, Hermione.” Ron looked at her like she might be mental. “You had to come from somewhere, after all. It isn’t like magic happens in a Muggle family by accident. You have a squib or even a wizard or witch in your family tree somewhere. You’re powerful for a Muggle-born so it stands to reason that one of your grandparents was magical. Do you have any living great-grandparents?”

“No.” Hermione paused. “Well, I don’t know. My mother was adopted.” She dropped down in a chair. “Oh.”

“Right.” Ron nodded. “You can have it researched you know. The goblins will do it.”

“My mother’s biological mother died in childbirth and there was no father evident. She was adopted within a few weeks of birth.” Hermione frowned. “But why wouldn’t my mum… I guess she must be a squib.”

“Perhaps her mother was Muggle and her father a wizard. If her mother had been a witch, I can’t see why she would have gone to a Muggle hospital to deliver her baby,” Ron said and watched Hermione nervously rearrange books. “Most Muggle borns get the chance to research their Family magic in their seventh year but I bet if you asked, you could do it this year. I mean, if you’re worried.”

Hermione nodded abruptly and then focused on Harry. “Are you going to show us?”

“It’s… just I don’t want you to freak out.”

Ron snorted. “Mate, we watched you out fly a dragon last year. I think we’re pretty much ready for whatever you might want to throw at us.”

“Right.” Harry stood and then from their point of view disappeared. He slid under the desk and would have laughed if he could have when Ron screamed and Hermione climbed on the table.

He coiled around the leg of Ron’s chair before slithering across the floor and then used the leg of the table to climb up it and then he coiled up right in front of Hermione. She stared at him wide-eyed for a few seconds and then laughed a little breathless. “Harry, this is amazing!”

Harry flicked his tongue at her and then left the table. He resumed his human form with ease and shrugged. “So, I’d like to keep it a secret.”

“Right,” Ron muttered and lowered his feet to the floor. “You arse! Some warning would have been nice.”

– – – –

Harry,

You are a source of wonder. I can’t wait to see your Animagus form! Also, I would enjoy a private visit but I can see how it might be difficult for you to get away without it becoming a hassle. If you’re going to Diagon Alley for school supplies, I would like to be included in the outing. I don’t think you’ll have an easy time of it and would like to provide as much of a buffer as I can.

Cedric is settled in the new clinic and his parents send their thanks. I have a letter for you on their behalf. I promised that I would deliver it to you personally so it will have to wait until we can see each other. His new Healer seemed very confused by his state and that makes me think you were right about him being not being treated at St. Mungo’s.

At this point, I’m sure you’ve had an invitation to tea from the Minister. I received one two days after my title was conferred. I informed him I was secluding myself as much as possible to help my mother in her grief. He seemed to take that without much of a problem. You’ll probably be justified in being very rude to him since he’s quite willingly to paint you a complete nutter in the press.

Ever Loyal,

Lord Draco Malfoy

The House of Malfoy

PS – You really should sue him.

Harry tucked Draco’s letter into his correspondence box just as Dumbledore appeared in the open doorway of the library. Ron and Hermione were at the table working on one of the summer assignments that Harry had finished in a blind rush during his first two weeks with the Dursleys.

“Headmaster, here for tea?”

“The Minister has called on me to influence you into a meeting with him,” Albus admitted ruefully. “Apparently he’s quite irritated by the message you relayed through Percy Weasley.”

“I see.” Harry sighed. “When?”

“This afternoon at 3:00.”

Harry nodded. “Dobby.” The House Elf appeared immediately at his side. “Please go ask Bill if he is able to escort me to an appointment this afternoon with the Minister. It’s at 3:00.”

“Yes, Master Harry.” He sat a package down in front of Harry. “From the Beautiful One.”

“Bill Weasley?” Dumbledore questioned as Dobby popped away, he glanced briefly at the package. “He’s not a member of the Order, Harry.”

“Yes, I know. He is working for me until I return to school as private security.” Harry hazarded a glance at Ron but found his best mate was unfazed by the news. “He’s powerful and adept at side-along apparition. Since I don’t have a license to apparate—it seemed like a good idea to have someone in my employ who could handle that for me.”

He plucked the package up and unwrapped it as Dumbledore made himself at home in front of Harry’s desk. “If you’d like I can have Kreacher bring you some tea, Headmaster.”

“I had tea with Sirius and Remus before I came up,” Albus admitted and watched with interest as Harry pulled several magazines from the box and a folded letter. “I wasn’t aware that you had a girlfriend.”

Harry lifted an eyebrow and then grinned. “I’ve had sixteen marriage proposals since my title was conferred but this is from a family friend, not a girlfriend. I am in need of a Wizarding wardrobe and she was kind enough to give me some advice about how to get it without going shopping.” He scanned the letter quickly and then slid it into his correspondence box so Dumbledore couldn’t pick it up.

Mehen tightened briefly on his wrist and Harry’s gaze jerked to Dumbledore. The older wizard’s eyes widened briefly and Harry lifted an eyebrow at him. “I believe you’ll find my mind is no longer an open book, Headmaster.”

“Very good, my boy, very good indeed. Your Family magic has provided you with a series of useful skills then?”

“You could say that,” Harry agreed and used his thumb to stroke Mehen before pulling out a piece of stationary. He penned a quick thank you note to Narcissa and called Hedwig to his desk. The owl landed on the small perch built into the desk and offered her leg. “How’s my favorite girl?” He pulled the amulet out the box it had been sitting in. “Dobby retrieved something just for you from the Potter vault.”

Hedwig hooted softly and fluttered her wings.

“It’ll keep you safe,” Harry murmured as he slipped the chain of the amulet over her head. It immediately lit up and then seemed to sink into her feathers until it appeared to be embedded in her chest. He touched it after it was finished and the amulet gave him a little jolt of goodwill. She preened briefly and then hopped off the perch to get closer to him. She rubbed her head against his cheek and then offered her leg for the note.

Hermione was standing beside the desk by the time Hedwig flew away. “What does the amulet do?”

“Prevents someone from interfering with her deliveries and it protects her against most spells excluding the Unforgiveables. It’s Goblin made. They are very difficult and expensive to make. Unfortunately they don’t seem to work for wizards—just magical creatures like owls. They were designed to protect familiars and I don’t see… well I don’t see any animal in my life replacing Hedwig so I doubt I’d ever have a familiar.”

“Why put it on her?” She questioned. “Are owls really a target for that kind of thing?”

“Hedwig is distinctive,” Albus offered in a way of explanation. “Most of the Wizarding world knows that Mr. Potter has a snowy owl and yes, plenty would attempt to interfere with her given half a chance. The amulets, as Harry said, are very expensive.”

Harry nodded. “Dobby informed me that I could sell it for as much twenty thousand galleons if I chose but I had a nightmare that Hedwig was killed by a Death Eater.” He glanced towards the window. “My paternal grandfather’s dreams came true.”

“How… do you know that?” Hermione questioned.

“I have a book on my family history of all of the Potters. The thing automatically updates, so it has a timeline for me, too. It’s pretty dry.” He paused. “For instance, for the last task of the Tri-Wizard tournament it said, ‘Harry James Potter, kidnapped by a rogue faction working for Tom Riddle aka The Dark Lord aka Voldemort and forced to participate in a Dark resurrection ritual. Survived.’” Harry shrugged when Hermione laughed abruptly and then looked horrified. “Oh, I laughed, too.”

“Can I see it?”

Harry shook his head. “No, I’m sorry – it’s charmed to only open for members of the Potter Family and the estate solicitor. I can’t even use it to prove Sirius is innocent.”

Hermione sighed dramatically and then went back to her homework. “That’s horrible but I guess there are things in there you probably wouldn’t want anyone to know.”

Harry blushed. Right because he wasn’t all that interested in having his meager love life on display for the world. The grimoire wasn’t exactly good for one’s ego. It hadn’t been kind about his crush on Cho or the fact that he’d lost her to Cedric. It also had recently updated with a note about Draco and the Liege Oath.

Mehen tightened again and he felt Dumbledore pushing against the edge of his mind. Harry shot the elderly wizard a glance and laughed a little when the Headmaster just looked at him with twinkling eyes. The truth was he didn’t think that Dumbledore meant him harm or that he had set out to see him harmed—the old man was just a little touched and a tad more manipulative than most people thought.

At that point, Bill entered with a sweep of very elegant robes. Harry grinned. It was nice to see his money put to good use. He’d insisted on paying Bill in advance and it wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that he’d given most if it to his parents. Ron had a new school trunk and he’d shown off new dress robes when Harry had been watching him settle into a room near his on the second floor.

“The Minister, huh?” Bill sat down beside Headmaster Dumbledore with a brief nod. “Hello, Albus.”

“Bill, it is a pleasure to see you. How is your job at Gringotts?”

“Good. I recently participated in the opening of a tomb in Egypt that held a great many artifacts. It was a stunning discovery and I received fifteen percent of the value due to my work on it.” Bill shared a glance with Harry and Harry realized that was the story he’d given his parents about the large sum of money he had.

– – – –

Bill released his arm gently as they appeared in front of the Ministry. Harry really didn’t like the look of the place and had to be prodded forward. The looks they were receiving told Harry all he needed to know about the public’s perception of him due to Fudge’s lies. It made him furious and it hurt far more than he wanted to admit.

Most of the people in the ministry building averted their gazes as they passed. He knew that Fudge had painted Dumbledore as an old fool and a liar as well in the press. Harry was of the opinion that he was only one that got to criticize Albus Dumbledore for how he was treated and Fudge had made more than one mistake on that front—blaming the Headmaster for Harry’s deteriorating mental state repeatedly.

They were immediately shown into the Minister’s office and Harry took note of Percy’s placement in the room and a woman he’d only seen in papers. Delores Umbridge. She’d helped pass a few werewolf regulations that made Harry furious. Those rules had cost Remus his job at Hogwarts.

“Mr. Weasley, I wasn’t aware that you would be coming,” Fudge smiled. “You can wait outside.”

Harry touched Bill’s arm when he started to move away. “He’s my personal security and will stay with me.”

Fudge blinked in surprise as Bill took a seat beside Harry. “Surely you trust me, Harry.”

“Lord Potter,” Dumbledore corrected with a small smile. “And I’m sure Lord Potter trusts you to be exactly who you are, Minister.”

Harry ignored the tea cup that was placed in front of him by the woman and stroked Mehen absently with his thumb. He frowned intensely and focused on Umbridge. “If you want to read my mind, Madame, you’re going to have to brush up on your skills as a Legilimens.”

She flushed with anger and sat down abruptly. “We haven’t met, I’m Delores Umbridge. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“I’m very aware of who you are and the pleasure is all yours,” Harry murmured and glanced down at the tea she’d poured him. He picked it up and Bill stayed his hand. “I know she put a potion in it.” He sniffed it and frowned. “Doesn’t smell familiar.”

He passed the cup to Bill who sniffed it as well and then set it far away from Harry. “A mild Subliminal Suggestion Draught. I suppose one or both of them meant to give you a few suggestions about your future behavior.”

Umbridge sputtered. “I did no such thing.”

“Right,” Harry agreed. “I’m sure it was a mistake.”

“Now, Harry…”

“Lord Potter,” Harry corrected and stared hard at the Minister. “As Headmaster Dumbledore already made clear to you. Disrespecting my title and Family isn’t exactly the best way to begin a conversation, Minister Fudge.”

“Yes, about that,” Fudge began and rubbed at the sleeve of his robe. “The thing is that people are beginning to question how you were able to have your title conferred on you considering the Ministry’s official position about the incident with the third task.”

“You mean, people can’t figure out how I was able to keep my magic, put on an ancient Family ring, and claim my nobility if I’m the complete nutter and liar you’ve painted me to be,” Harry responded coolly. “That does put you in a difficult position.”

“We want you to recant your story about the Dark Lord,” Fudge pressed on.

“No,” Harry said without a moment’s hesitation. “It would be unethical and such a lie would cast a stain on my House. I might be the only Potter but I will not taint my ancestors, my Heir, or any future children I may have with such a deception.” He watched fury cross over Fudge’s face and then he settled back in his chair. “My place in the Wizarding world is not decided by a popularity contest, Minister Fudge. It’s a right of blood that gives me a title and a place on the Wizengamot. It must, however, be difficult for you to be at the mercy of the whims of the public.”

Fudge took an exaggerated breath. “I must insist you…”

“You insist?” Harry questioned softly and then laughed. “The only thing you’re in a position to do, Minister Fudge, is to beg me not to sue you for the blatant character assassination you’ve been engaged in for the last several months.”

Chapter Five

Keira Marcos

In my spare time I write fan fiction and lead a cult of cock worshippers on Facebook. It’s not the usual kind of hobby for a “domestic engineer” in her 30’s but we live in a modern world and I like fucking with people’s expectations.

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