Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Prodigium :: 02 :: Thing

02 • Thing

It was still fairly early in the day so Harry tracked down Petunia. “He’s gone. I’m going to London, so I’ll be out for most of the day.” He could see that she desperately wanted to ask questions, but stuck to her policy of never speaking to him unless it was absolutely necessary.

Instead she lifted a finger, left, and returned shortly with a bundle of notes, laying them on the table. Harry took them and stuffed them in his pocket; it seemed she was pleased to get rid of him for the day. He didn’t need the money. Petunia had eventually started handing over notes when it got to the point where Harry wished to keep books, not just borrow them, and he had quite a bit available still to him.

With a faint nod he quit the kitchen and went to his room to get a few things, then was on his way, stopping briefly in a public loo to change appearance, a face acquired from Japan hundreds of years ago. Stolen memory supplied where he needed to go to find the Leaky Cauldron, and once inside he slipped to the back and through the door, and sparked the correct brick to open the gateway.

Gringotts was up ahead, a gleaming marble edifice, so he made his way toward it and inside. When it was his turn he spoke in rapid Japanese, requesting to see a manager. The goblin was reluctant to do so until he took a good look at Harry, then quickly complied. Harry was led off to a lavish office and offered a seat, which he took.

The goblin behind the desk looked alarmed insofar as Harry could tell, and introduced himself as Alguff. “What can we of Gringotts do for you today?”

Harry smirked; he was getting the distinct impression that these goblins were a lot more aware than wizards. Thus, he reverted to his normal form. “I’m here to inquire about any and all Potter accounts.”

“We—we will have to verify your identity, but once that is established you will have our full cooperation.”

“I get the feeling you know exactly what I am,” he said. “Proceed.”

After a bit of bloodletting and verification the goblin produced several files and began to go over them. “We received word from Albus Dumbledore that you are a squib when he dropped off your key, though he is obviously mistaken.”

“Yes, well. It appears that even very powerful wizards cannot match a goblin’s senses.”

Alguff’s lips twitched toward something approximating a smile, but he quickly corrected his expression. “As a squib you would have only had access to your trust vault. The main vault would have been held until you produced a magical child. As your parents did not actually file a will that I am aware of, standard laws apply. Even so, it is extremely irregular for anyone to grant full access in the event of death when the child is still a minor. However, as you are not a squib, things change slightly. As a minor you have access to the trust vault, which is what they’re intended for. At age seventeen you will gain access to and control of the main vault.”

Harry nodded. “Back up a moment. The key?”

“Dumbledore brought the main vault key here not long after your parents died, along with the contents of the house. Your family went into hiding under a fidelius charm, so he must have been one of the few people able to enter. He obviously kept the trust key, perhaps in order to give it to you himself when the time was right. Why, I do not know, as it would have been handed over by us the first time you visited.”

Harry made a mental note to possibly mist Dumbledore again if it seemed necessary, as that was slightly suspicious, but for the time being he would let the matter go. As it was, he had yet to completely go over what he had stolen from the old man’s mind. He watched as Alguff produced a key from his desk, and took it when offered. “I plan to make a number of purchases in the near future and I expect that will be expensive. What are my options for payment, keeping in mind that I wish to remain anonymous while doing so.”

“Unfortunately, coin only. All other methods are dependent on identity. However, we can provide a pouch—for a fee—which will hold a fair amount of galleons, and be theft-proof. Our coins weigh far less than the equivalent amount of metal in the muggle world.” Alguff hesitated, then asked, “Are you aware of how the monetary system works?”

“No, I’m afraid not. And also, is there anyone who gets reports regarding my accounts?”

Alguff shook his head. “No. All vaults are monitored internally. Reports only go out on request by the owner. Even though you are a minor, your privacy is maintained. Were your parents alive they could, obviously. If you were placed with a blood relative they might be able to petition for reports, but they would have no say in how you used the money. When the trust vault runs dry that is the end of it until you come of age.”

“My aunt has no idea that I have any money, and I’m not about to tell her. She isn’t magical anyway.”

“Wise. Now, the coins we use are galleons, sickles, and knuts. Gold, silver, and bronze respectively. There are seventeen sickles to a galleon and twenty-nine knuts to a sickle. Muggle-born students and their parents generally have trouble adjusting to this.”

“I can see why,” he said dryly, wondering what crackpot had come up with the magical system. “This is based on the worth of the metals by weight?”

“Yes. At the present time a knut is worth about one pence, a sickle twenty-nine pence, and a galleon five pounds. It fluctuates slightly based on just how much muggle currency we are asked to exchange, but generally it stays at about those values.”

“All right. I would like the pouch you mentioned, and then an escort to my trust vault, though I would prefer to be in disguise at that time.”

Alguff nodded. “I will get you one and key it to you, then escort you myself. One moment.”

Shortly thereafter he was striding out of Gringotts with his earlier Japanese face, pouch practically bulging with galleons, and an overview courtesy of Alguff of the shops in the alley. His first stop saw him purchasing a backpack, one which the salesman assured him had been made roomier with an extension charm, and also negated the weight of the contents past a certain threshold. Even with that he was cautious when it came to purchases in the various other shops, deciding to start with an overview of everything. He would return when he was ready for more.

In the year that followed he returned a number of times. Preparing for his GCE A-levels was hardly an effort given his eidetic memory so he turned to the magical world. The Daily Prophet he had delivered was somewhere between a gossip rag and an answer to insomnia, but he occasionally found parts of it amusing.

*

“Well?” Minerva asked anxiously.

“This stays between you and me,” Albus said seriously.

“Yes, of course. I know you wouldn’t ask that of me unless it was necessary.”

He nodded. “Harry Potter is a squib.”

“What? No,” she protested “How is that possible?”

“I was unable, despite several tests, to determine the exact cause. It may be a side effect of that night. I do recall that Poppy was concerned over his lack of magic at the time, but I felt confident that it was merely magical exhaustion. Obviously, I may have been gravely mistaken. It also crossed my mind while speaking with Harry that the Dursleys may have done something to him, but was unable to find any evidence.”

“So what happens to him now?” she asked after a long pause.

“He will remain safely with the Dursleys, beneath the wards,” he replied, failing to mention that Petunia considered the boy a freak. “There is no reason he cannot have a fulfilling life in the muggle world.”

“And when he comes of age? What then? Do you really think the wards will hold past that point?”

Albus pushed down the slight irritation he felt at her questions. “By then, I hope, the issue of Voldemort will be no more.” He pushed down irritation again when she shuddered at the name. “Should anyone ask, you know nothing. Let them draw their own conclusions. I imagine what fertile imaginations should come up with will more than fuel the rumor mill, at least for a while, until something else of interest comes up. It is the way of things.”

When he left she seemed to be lost in worried contemplation. It was to be expected; the Marauders, despite their disruptive antics, had been some of her favorite students, and by extension the only child: Harry.

He arrived at his home in a bit of a quandary. Harry Potter certainly seemed to fit the prophecy, but he was a squib. How could the child possibly defeat Voldemort with no magic? Even with the alleged “power the Dark Lord knows not”? He spent the better part of the remaining day going over the prophecy, until the words were so firmly etched into his mind, and he had considered so many possibilities, that he questioned the meanings of “live” and “survive” and began to wonder if “other” referred not to Harry or Voldemort, but to a third party.

And then he began to wonder if Trelawney hadn’t simply successfully faked the prophecy during her interview, something he had not thought possible. He was, after all, quite difficult to trick. And yet, even if it was a fake, it stood to reason that what Voldemort had overheard had created something on the order of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps Lily, in her unique brilliance, had found a way to cheat death for her son using herself as the sacrifice. That Harry had survived would only serve to enforce in Voldemort’s mind that Harry was most certainly his enemy and must be killed, thus making the validity of the prophecy a moot point.

Perhaps it was best that Harry was a squib. Voldemort surely knew that Harry was scheduled to attend as a first year, and with the philosopher’s stone going to be secured within Hogwarts, should Voldemort come to realize that Harry was not where he was supposed to be, he would focus his efforts elsewhere. Albus had to assume that Voldemort was not truly gone; clothing aside, he had no solid proof the man was dead.

Should he keep an eye on Neville Longbottom? True, his parents had been driven to insanity by Death Eaters and not Voldemort, and there was inconclusive evidence regarding what may or may not have been done to Neville, but could the results be said to have been done by Voldemort’s hand, simply because it was his people doing it?

*

Molly Weasley hoped that when she led her children through Kings Cross Station she would encounter Harry Potter. He would obviously be a Gryffindor, just like his parents. That being so, and with the surety that Ron would be placed there, and later, Ginny, her family stood a better than decent chance of being able to boast (not that she would, of course) of having the boy’s friendship.

Unfortunately for her there was no sign of the child, but on the off chance of attracting him should he be simply one in the bustling crowd she said, a bit louder than she should, “It’s the same every year. Simply packed with muggles.” Nothing. She sighed in disappointment and continued on her way, fending off hushed puzzled questions from her older offspring as to why this year of all years they had not simply floo’d onto the platform, and saw her children through the barrier, then followed.

Still no sign of the child. She only hoped that Harry would be safe, what with the notorious Sirius Black having escaped from Azkaban. She also hoped that Ron would keep his temper that year. He did have the disconcerting tendency to react without thinking, especially to teasing and insults.

*

Ron Weasley was so disappointed. Harry Potter was supposed to be a fellow first year, but he was nowhere to be found on the train. Was he in disguise, in case some of the older Slytherins felt the urge to go after him? How could he make friends if he couldn’t find him?

*

Draco Malfoy was very frustrated. He had been to every single compartment and there was no sign of Harry Potter. He was determined to offer his hand in friendship, but how could he do that if Potter wasn’t available?

*

Halfway to Hogsmeade all of the students were stunned into a state of frozen fear when the train lurched to a stop and dementors began gliding by, pausing at each compartment. Some fainted, some cried, and a couple even wet themselves.

*

Voldemort was absolutely enraged, having started practically oozing anger the second he realized that Harry Potter was not among the students to be sorted that year. He was also disgusted that his host was sweating heavily under his turban, more so than usual, and the smell of stale sweat combined with garlic was enough to make him want to sneeze repeatedly. Except, dark lords did not sneeze, or at least not with any witnesses present.

What had Dumbledore done? Had he shipped the boy off to some ultra-secret and heavily-warded place to receive private tutoring? The old man obviously was not taking chances with the Boy Who Lived. It remained to be seen if Dumbledore was even bright enough to realize that his worst enemy was sitting at the very same table.

*

Dumbledore was beset with problems even before the school year had begun. Dementors on the train! Hysterical children—but at least Hagrid and Minerva were saddled with those. The ministry had gone too far in his opinion just on that alone, but to then set a contingent of dementors to guard the school against Sirius Black? Madness! Sheer, unadulterated madness.

Quirrell stuttered so badly that his students were hard pressed to learn anything, and those same students were so occupied with gossip over the missing Harry Potter and the presence of dementors that too many ignored their homework, resulting in a record number of house points lost and detentions awarded.

Snape was in a right foul mood over not having Harry around to sneer at, mock, and otherwise verbally thrash. An entire class of Hufflepuff first years exited in tears one day and had to be sent en masse to the infirmary where they could be given calming potions to settle their nerves. Snape was so incensed that he accidentally gave one of his stupider Slytherins a detention, which was simply unheard of. He was also antagonistic toward Quirrell, but that might be nothing more than the lack of his real target combined with Quirrell’s spinelessness and speech impediment.

By the time Halloween rolled around the student body had settled down, though there were some who had to be pushed to attend classes for Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures due to their locations. Albus was halfway through a wonderful lemon sponge cake when the doors of the Great Hall banged open and Quirrell rushed in.

“Troll in the dungeons, thought you ought to know,” he blurted out, amazingly enough without stuttering, then collapsed in a dead faint.

He eyed the man for a moment, but was quickly distracted by the sheer amount of panic generated in those seconds. “Prefects, quickly!” he said as he stood. “Lead your houses to your common rooms!” He wasn’t too concerned about the Slytherins when he said it; they were supposed to be wily.

Snape headed for the back entrance as Albus gathered up the other staff members to go investigate. They discovered quickly enough that the troll was nowhere to be found so he directed them back to the ground floor and split them into teams. A piercing scream a short time later saw him running toward the sound; alas, the staff was too late to save a muggle-born first year. The troll, however, was soundly defeated. Filch would have an awful time cleaning up the mess. The girl’s corpse had barely been removed to the infirmary when a prefect came racing down the hall, sliding to a stop nearby.

“Headmaster! The Fat Lady has been attacked!”

Albus let out a tiny, tiny sigh, then moved on to the next crisis.

*

Harry opened his Daily Prophet and goggled for a moment. Two attacks at the school in one night? Perhaps it was best all around that he was nowhere near Hogwarts. Given what he had read he rather assumed that people would have expected him to do something about these events, as though somehow surviving a killing curse qualified him for the job of all-purpose hero. Right. Slay the troll, save the damsel in distress, track down and incarcerate the escaped criminal, and offer sympathy and portrait-mending services to a fat lady. He shook his head, finished the paper, and resumed studying.

*

Voldemort cursed eloquently in Parseltongue, wroth over being thwarted in his first attempt at heading through the gauntlet of challenges behind the door on the third floor corridor and beyond the trap door. Snape was like a leech. On the one hand that raised suspicion in his mind. Then again, he could tell that Severus despised Quirrell and probably could not connect the pathetic wizard with himself. Thus, if Quirrell was after the philosopher’s stone it was probably for his own purposes.

And true, it was suspicious that a man who had a talent for handling trolls panicked, but admittedly, he could only push Quirrell so much—too much and the man would burn out, forcing Voldemort to begin possessing creatures again. Voldemort was also incensed at Dumbledore’s utterly uncaring attitude toward the Slytherin students. Sending them toward where the troll allegedly was? Inexcusable.

Voldemort played it cool for most of the remaining school year, avoiding Snape as much as possible (though there were times when Severus would threaten Quirrell, whose stuttering would become so bad his speech was incomprehensible), and working on ways to get Dumbledore out of the school for long enough.

During that time he was inordinately amused over the antics of one Sirius Black, who continued to terrorize the castle inhabitants and avoid the dementors. For the Light to have unceremoniously tossed one of their own into Azkaban without a trial (even his Death Eaters had received trials!), they deserved a healthy dose of fear. He had no real idea why Black was targeting the school, unless it was revenge in mind (for surely, many went completely mad within the prison’s walls), but if nothing else it was helping to deflect interest in any of Quirrell’s suspicious activities.

He was exceptionally pleased when Dumbledore informed the staff that the minister had demanded a conference at the ministry regarding matters affecting the school. He was even more pleased when Severus, shortly thereafter, raced off toward the grounds after looking out the window.

Voldemort had Quirrell make haste for the forbidden corridor. Through the door, a quick tune to soothe the beast, and beneath the trap door saw them landing in Devil’s Snare, which was easily induced to back off. None of the other challenges were even a challenge, and Voldemort was soon inside the final chamber, only to be faced with a huge freestanding mirror. He spent hours there attempting to unlock its secrets, but in the end gave up in frustration, shattering the loathsome thing. So much for the philosopher’s stone. If it was somehow hidden by or within that mirror, it should now be irretrievable.

Disgusted and angry, Voldemort decided to leave the school and find another way to regain his body and strength. Neville Longbottom had the unfortunate luck to be crossing the entrance hall, and was summarily kidnapped and brought along. He had been meaning to kill the child anyway, and he certainly counted as an enemy, being one of the two children possibly mentioned by what little of the prophecy he had been informed of. Too bad Snape had not known the whole if it.

*

Ron Weasley found out it was simply not his day when a huge, snarling, black dog tackled him while he was on a walk (mostly to avoid Percy nagging him about his sad showing that year in terms of schoolwork). He was then dragged off toward the Whomping Willow, and it was all he could do to keep hold of his pet rat. It also did not help that his leg was broken after they got close enough, and the pain he was in short-circuited his thinking processes.

The next thing he knew he was being dragged through a tunnel, and then up through a trap door. How a dog could manage all of this was not something he was capable of focusing on for the time being. That is, until he looked up after arms picked him up and tossed him unceremoniously onto a bed which had seen better days. The man with longish black hair, grey eyes, and a frighteningly evil grin was Sirius Black. Ron, being the very brave boy he was, briefly lost consciousness. When he came to his brothers Fred and George were there. He tried to warn them, but they ignored him.

“All right, where are they? We know both Black and Pettigrew are here!” said one, while the other twin was turning in circles and staring intently at everything. “If Pettigrew is alive, then. . . .”

Black revealed himself, still with that evil grin, and pointed at Ron. “He’s holding the rat. Wormtail, come out,” he singsonged. “Show these nice people you’re alive, and then tell them all about how you betrayed the Potters, killed thirteen muggles, and framed me for everything!”

Ron clutched Scabbers close to his chest. “You’re mad! It’s just a rat! He’s been in the family for years.”

“And just how long does the average rat li—”

Snape burst into the room and knocked Black unconscious, Scabbers escaped Ron’s grasp and fled the scene, and the twins protested for a bit before thinking better of it. One twin spelled Ron aloft, and the group proceeded back into the tunnel, along it, and out the other side. Outside Black regained consciousness and morphed into that dog, managing to get away, and causing Snape to chase after him, while the twins brought Ron to the infirmary. They refused to answer any of his questions, either.

Madam Pomfrey descended and forced vile concoctions down his throat—to heal his leg, she said—but it prevented him from sleeping for ages, and caused him quite a lot of pain. The next day was when he learned that Black had been caught by the dementors and Kissed, and Neville had disappeared.

*

Albus sighed and shook his head. One student seriously harmed, a student and a professor missing, and how much of it could have been prevented had Cornelius better timing? At least the philosopher’s stone was safe. He glanced up at a particular chandelier in the entrance hall. It had been donated by an absurdly wealthy alumnus (which made it almost impossible to refuse) and had all the artistic value of something tossed together by a bunch of mentally-challenged toddlers. Even so, the huge, fake, rough gems used in it meant it had been easy to replace one with the real treasure. And best of all, Peeves knew everyone hated it, so he never thought to cause it damage.

He sighed again. The only reason he had retained his position as headmaster, despite pressure from Cornelius, was the fact that the ministry had provided the so-called security that year. Thus, the majority onus was off Albus’s shoulders.

*

Voldemort cackled quietly to himself as he arranged things at one of his safeholds in Albania. Longbottom was enjoying a nice long sleep, he had gained a familiar in the form of an enormous snake, and Wormtail had turned up to be his doting and terrified minion. Quirrell, no longer necessary, had been burnt out, and Nagini was providing one of the components necessary for strengthening him for the ritual: her venom.

Two months later all was in readiness. The Black Arts potion required was bubbling away nicely in a large cauldron, Longbottom was on hand to supply blood of an enemy unwillingly given, bones had been retrieved from the grave of his father to be unknowingly given, and Wormtail was so under his thrall that he would willingly provide flesh of the servant. The ritual itself took all of ten minutes and Voldemort was soon in a body of his own once more, ready to take care of a few loose ends.

An awake Longbottom, tears and snot sliding down his face in an unwholesome and disgusting display, was quickly dispatched with a killing curse. Wormtail, who had gone completely overboard and sacrificed his entire right hand, was granted a new, silver one. The sniveling gratitude made Voldemort consider killing his minion, but he might continue to be useful. And the moment he gave her a nod of permission Nagini moved to swallow the boy, an expedient meal.

He would reestablish his dominion over the Death Eaters and set them to work. Lucius, having remained free, might possibly be effective when it came to tracking down where the Potter boy was being hidden. Possibly. Back in England Voldemort established himself at his primary stronghold, a heavily-warded large building smack in the middle of a forest. Wormtail was set to cleaning after Lucius was summoned.

He, after arriving and showing the briefest expression of shock, bowed and waited.

“You will do your utmost to discern where Potter is. I am aware he was not at Hogwarts last year, so it is possible the old fool has him in training somewhere secret. However, Dumbledore has a bleeding heart and will probably wish for the child to have a childhood, so he will not push him too hard, which means it is likely he spends his summers elsewhere. Find him.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“You are dismissed.”

*

Harry arrived at Gringotts and was immediately escorted to Alguff without ever having to say a word. Once he was seated Alguff said, “I requested your presence due to Sirius Black.”

“The Daily Prophet reported that he was caught and Kissed by dementors. I assume he finally died, then? What does this have to do with me?”

“Yes, he died just recently, which activated his will. Your parents named him godfather to you, and you are Black’s heir primus.”

Harry frowned and shook his head. “This is the man accused of betraying my parents and breaking out of Azkaban in order to kill me, and yet I’m his primary heir?”

Alguff shrugged. “Yes, though I admit, I must wonder why he stayed around Hogwarts for so long when you were clearly not there. In any case the bulk of his estate goes to you. This includes money, artifacts, books, furnishings, a home in London, and one house-elf. He descended from the main branch of the Blacks and thus was heir to the estate, able to decide the next. Had he not made a will control would have passed to the closest cadet branch, currently headed by Bellatrix Lestrange.”

“Who is in Azkaban.”

“Yes, though that makes no particular difference. I have here a detailed listing of what you’ve inherited.” Alguff pushed forward a folder.

He wasn’t all that concerned with the money or furnishings, but a having a house in London was nice, especially since it appeared to be heavily warded—something he would have to verify and update if necessary. The artifacts and books might be useful, as well. “Any idea about the house-elf?”

Alguff shook his head. “I suspect, however, based on knowledge of that branch, that the house-elf is steeped in blood purity teachings, so you might have problems with it. If you intend to keep it you may find yourself reeducating it. Otherwise, I would recommend dismissing it before it learns anything of value about you.”

Harry snorted quietly. Unless the creature proved to be slavishly devoted to him simply because he was its new master, he would dispose of it immediately. The fewer who knew anything of his secrets the better. The goblins were wise enough to understand what he was and what he could do to every last one of them, and they tended to stay out of the business of wizards. Their wars had finally established them as true warriors with strict codes of honor and expert overseers of finance. Wizards in general might not like them, but experience taught that pushing the goblins too far would result in a large loss of life on their side.

The magical history texts he had read painted a picture of wizards in general having become intolerant, bigoted, and prejudiced after relations with muggles broke down and they became actively hunted. No wonder the magical people had sought to separate themselves from those who hunted their kind. And yet, their ability to do magic had morphed views into one which supported the idea of superiority, which, given the slow-moving evolution of the magical world, rendered them ignorant of the truth.

He shook his head to clear it and looked over the folder contents again. “Is it possible to change the locks so that if there are any keys floating around out there they would be useless?”

“Yes.”

“Please do so as quickly as possible. After that is complete I will probably go through the vaults to determine how to proceed from there. Let me know when that’s done. For now I think I’ll go check out the house.”

Alguff nodded.

Harry took a taxi to his destination and grimaced at the condition of Grimmauld Place once he began walking its length; the area was not conducive to feelings of security. Slum might be an applicable term. As he walked the street expanded into a square sporting a small and shabby patch of unkempt grass at its center—like a miniature park left to rot—continuing farther on as a normal street once again. Number twelve was located within the square and had an exterior dark with soot and grime, though there were no heaps of trash laying outside the steps as with a number of the other houses.

He could tell based on the warding that residents of the area would at least wonder why there was no number twelve between ten and fourteen, but he supposed it had been that way for so long that it was more of an amusing quirk than anything else.   A longstanding unplottable charm would have that effect. The front door was adorned with a silver knocker in the shape of a twisted serpent; the moment Harry touched it the snake shifted under his hand, then the door swung silently open.

The ground floor hallway was a mess, silent testimony of neglect. The carpet was worn, paper on the walls was peeling, and cobwebs decorated corners, none of it hidden even with the dim quality of the gas lighting which came to life with his presence. He hadn’t been there for more than thirty seconds when a small creature lurched in and began mumbling imprecations at him. It appeared the little beast—obviously the aforementioned house-elf—could somehow tell he was neither a Black nor a pure-blood.

It took only a few quick spells to kill the little beast, and it was shortly consumed, Harry being curious to see if doing so would afford him any advantages in the way of abilities the creatures possessed.   Thankfully, given the size of his meal, it did not take him until morning to digest it. And even so, he was content to float around in mist form exploring his new house and making plans to fix it up and update the ward scheme.