The will reading of Sirius Black. A little romance starts.
Thanks as always to FairyQilan for excellent Beta reading and colorful commentary.
Chapter 8 - End of the Line
The morning brought with it a cold heartache for the Weasley family. Charlie had contacted both Bill and the twins, who arrived shortly before six in the morning. Each of them stared at the family clock for a brief moment, hoping that in some way they could convince themselves that their wayward brother was still alive. Harry noted how quiet the normally rambunctious twins were as they sat drinking some coffee. The mirth ever present in their eyes now replaced with a somber almost unreadable expression.
"I will go upstairs and wake Mum and Dad. After they get down here and we have had a chance to let it sink in, we can go get Ron and Ginny." Bill said quietly. "Harry, can you keep everyone in the kitchen and we will take Mum and Dad into the parlor? It is a bit more private in there."
"Sure Bill, whatever you need." Harry answered.
Minutes later, Bill led his parents down the stairs and into the parlor. Molly looked confused. Arthur already suspected something was wrong. His expression was pale and his head hung low.
Shortly after Bill closed the door, the sounds of a mother's agony could be heard. It was cut short by a privacy charm. Harry got up from the table and assisted the house elves with breakfast preparations. The simple housework was therapeutic in a way, however his weariness was tangible. The will reading was scheduled for noon. Hopefully, he could catch a few moments of rest after breakfast, but keeping Charlie company had been more important.
The door opened and Charlie came back out. He was shaking his head slowly from side to side. The stocky redhead looked at him. "Harry show me where Ginny's room is. After that lets go ahead and wake Ron up."
The journey from the kitchen to the girl's bedroom never seemed so long. He motioned to the door and Charlie squeezed his shoulder before quietly opening the door and entering. Harry gathered his courage to go back to his bedroom and wake Ron up.
Ron was sleeping soundly as Harry shook him. It took about a minute before Ron started to groan. "What's wrong Harry more dreams?"
"No Ron. You need to get up and go downstairs."
Ron heard the pain in Harry's voice. "What is it? Tell me!"
"The dream last night, it was Percy. I am sorry Ron. Come on Bill and the twins are downstairs. They just broke it to your parents. Charlie is getting Ginny."
Harry watched as Ron dressed almost mechanically. He followed Ron out the door seeing Charlie lead a worried looking Ginny down the stairs. It was obvious that she did not know yet. Immediately, she grabbed Ron when she saw his expression.
"What is it? Is it George, Fred or Bill?" She asked loudly. Charlie started to shush her, but she would not be deterred. "Oh no it's Percy! Isn't it?"
Seeing the expression on Ron's face was the acknowledgement that she needed as she began to cry loudly. Harry let the trio descend. As he heard the signs that the other refugees had awakened.
For the next twenty minutes Harry was besieged with questions from the Abbott sisters, the Turpins, Neville and Hermione. He did his best to fend them off by telling them that it was not his information to share and to give the Weasleys some time and space. In the meantime he led those who were interested down for breakfast. He noticed a very tired looking Susan had joined them. She did not appear to have slept much either.
The house elves set breakfast for group. Most of them cast anxious glances at the parlor door, which once again had a privacy charm erected. The teens poked and prodded at their breakfast.
Suddenly, the door opened. An agonized looking Ginny Weasley stood there with tears running down her face. The teenager looked positively distraught. She glared at Harry.
"Why couldn't you save him?"
Of all the things Ginny could have asked, this was not something Harry would have anticipated.
"I don't know."
"You were able to portkey to her house." She said glaring at Susan who visibly flinched.
Harry was on the defensive. For what he wasn't sure. "The wards at the house were down! I could sense where they were. Last night I couldn't."
"Sure whatever!" Ginny said dismissing him. "Maybe if Percy was a good for nothing slut like her, you would have saved him!"
Susan's glass fell from her hands and shattered on the ground. Her eyes bulged in shock.
"Ginny! How could you say such a thing?" Hermione said amazed at the rancor in her friend's statement.
"What the hell? Ginny, I know you are upset, but this is downright insulting."
"Oh I see. Not playing the hero today. This must be woe is me I am a victim day!"
Every person at the table stared open mouthed at the hysterical redhead. Hermione stood up and went over to hug Ginny. The privacy ward seemed to prevent her family from hearing her outburst. Susan bolted up the stairs already starting to cry. Hannah contemplated how much trouble she would get into for hexing Ginny into oblivion.
Harry walked over to where Hermione was holding Ginny. "Harry. She's upset. I am sure she didn't mean any of it." He was still trying to wrap his mind around what had just happened when Ginny shook out of her friend's embrace and smacked him across his face as hard as she possibly could.
"Why didn't you save him? Its all your fault!"
By this time the rest of the Weasleys had noticed Ginny's behavior and had entered the kitchen. Her mother immediately grabbed hold of her. Harry looked at Hermione, who could only offer an exasperated look of sympathy.
Harry turned away, not wanting to add fuel to Ginny's tantrum. Instead, this seemed to give her the justification she needed to launch her most viscous insult.
"No wonder you got Sirius killed."
"Ginny! How dare you say that?" Molly immediately scolded her. "Harry, she doesn't mean any of this. Bill get her a calming draught."
Harry's face had lost all expression. Of all the people in the room, only Neville had ever seen him look like this - not even Ron or Hermione. Neville remembered those last few frantic moments that they faced the Death Eaters in the Department of Mysteries. He had seen that look flash across his face as he chased after Bellatrix. Had Susan still been in the room, she might have recognized the look from when he killed Rudolphus. Spinning around he could feel the crackle of his magic surging through his body. The air began swirling around him. The only thing that shook him out of his anger was seeing the horrified expression on Molly Weasley's face. The expression on Ginny's face bore a strange resemblance to Draco Malfoy's whenever he had launched a particularly good insult. It changed to mirror her mother's look as Harry magic pulsed in the room.
Harry's inner voice calmed him. He would not throw one of his magical tantrums here! He would be no better than Ginny if he did. Forcing himself to calm down, he turned away from the pair. Neville nodded to him.
"I am going upstairs. Keep her away from me, until she has calmed down."
Hannah grabbed his arm. He looked at the blond haired witch. "Go find Susan while you are up there. She probably needs someone to talk to."
"Why don't you ..." He started.
"Go." She commanded pushing him up the stairs.
He found her up in the attic, formerly occupied by Buckbeak. She was sitting on a bench leaning her head against the wall and crying softly. Harry was more than a little shocked by the venom in Ginny's words towards Susan. The journey from the kitchen up to the attic had him seeing the youngest Weasley in a whole new and not entirely flattering light.
He hesitated at the doorway, uncertain of his next move. Death Eaters he could deal with, crying teenagers were not his forte. For a moment, he entertained the idea of sneaking back downstairs before Susan noticed him, but somehow he knew that Hannah and Chelsea would be waiting with glares of disapproval. Sighing, he walked into the room.
"Hey Susan. Were you hoping that by coming to the room in the house that smells like hippogriff and vermin that nobody would follow?" He said as he sat down next to her. Susan buried her head into her hands to muffle her sobs. Her trembling increased as she struggled to control herself. Harry cursed himself for his lack of talent in this area. Sirius would have known what to do. Deciding his safest approach he started patting her on her back. After about a dozen pats, Susan spun around and buried her head into his chest. He stopped patting and simply tried squeezing her around her waist in what could be best described as an awkward hug. Harry had a very sarcastic thought while holding her that Susan's tears were a mere trickle in comparison to Cho's waterworks.
"I am sorry Susan. You shouldn't have to go through that. I am sure Ginny didn't really mean what she said." Harry felt her tense noticeably when he mentioned Ginny.
"She's a wretched little bitch!" came her reply muffled by his chest.
"No. She just isn't handling Percy's death very well. She shouldn't have said what she did and I am sure when she calms down, she will regret it." Harry added an unspoken 'I hope.'
Harry's presence was calming Susan down. Her trembling was subsiding and the sobs were coming under control. Unconsciously, Harry had started playing with Susan's hair with his hand that had previously been around her waist. It seemed to have a soothing quality. Again, he wondered why Hannah had looked to him instead of coming up to comfort her best friend. He felt Susan's hands, which had previously held his sweatshirt in a clenched grip relax and encircle him.
"How could she be so mean?" Susan asked.
"She's the youngest of a large family and the only girl. I would guess that everyone has always went out of their way for her." Harry offered.
"She hates me!"
"No, I am sure she doesn't. She is just ... ."
"Yes she does!" Susan said forcefully.
Harry was confused, but given his expertise that was to be expected. "Why do you think that?"
"Every time I come in the room she shoots me an evil glare and starts hanging all over you."
"I am afraid you have lost me. Asking me to understand a girl is a bit like asking Hagrid to do long division." He chuckled hoping to lighten the situation.
"She wants to be your girlfriend."
"Huh? No. Really? What about Dean?"
"You really are daft. When a girl spends the entire day wearing your sweatshirt, she likes you."
"She said she was cold!"
"It's summer break, Harry. I know this isn't the tropics but come on!"
"But Hermione said she didn't like me anymore."
"She is good with books. When it comes to people, she can't even figure out Ron!"
Harry spent the next minute or so absorbing this. Ginny still had a thing for him! Up until last year, he couldn't carry a decent conversation with her. He made a quick list of all of Ginny's positive attributes. She's pretty. She's funny. She came with me to try and rescue Sirus. She's good in a fight. We are pretty good friends. However, something troubled him.
"Okay. Say I believe you. What about Dean?"
"Making you jealous. Not really working though, seeing as you didn't know what was going on."
This led Harry to start a quick mental list of the things he didn't like about Ginny. She's playing immature games with Dean just to make me jealous. She is good in a fight, but he is going to have to fight a war! Her brothers are too protective of her. Suddenly, Ron's comment on the Hogwart's Express at the end of the term made sense. Ron wanted him to date Ginny! From all the time Hermione spent with her defacto sister, Mione must want him to date Ginny as well. He thought about the fifth year's behavior over the last few days. She always sat next to him, seemed to touch him a lot. He concluded that Susan was correct. During his thinking, Susan had repositioned herself and now had her head resting on his shoulder facing away from him.
"Alright, so I get it. She has advanced from idol worship to teen witch weekly schemes. Lavender and Pavarti would be so proud. That explains why she is all over me, but what I don't get is why she was positively vile towards you down there. I don't recall her being mean to Hannah or Lisa. Why did she lash out at you?"
Harry felt Susan tense up again. The answer hit him instantly after he asked the question. Susan liked him and Ginny knew it. Whenever Susan was in the room, Ginny amped up her 'act'. If he and Susan were having a conversation, Ginny came over and started talking. A vision of Hagrid at a blackboard solving an algebra equation briefly flitted across his mind's eye.
Susan mumbled that she didn't know why Ginny was being so mean trying to avoid answering the question. Harry considered what to do about Susan. He quickly made a list of positives about the Hufflepuff in his arms. The positive side quickly included more items than Ginny's list. After spending the last week with her, he knew that had he asked she would have gone to the Department of Mysteries with him. She has been nothing but loyal and supportive since she arrived. Quite honestly, she was bearing up under the emotional strain of losing her mother and aunt too well. Harry being the master of repressing his feelings around people who care that he is, realized that she was hiding behind a faÃ§ade just like he would.
Moving on he started a negative list for Susan and after a solid minute of searching his mind, the worst he could come up with was that she once dated Ernie Macmillan. Not exactly a major character flaw and she had already called it a gross error in judgment. Armed with this knowledge, Harry was uncertain of how to proceed. They had been holding each other for the better part of fifteen minutes. The only things that made him uncomfortable were the wood bench they were seated on and it seemed awkward that she faced away from him. He knew now that she was embarrassed to look at him right now. Marshalling his Gryffindor courage, he decided to do something about this right now.
"I understand. Ginny doesn't like you, because you like me." Susan let out a small gasp in reply. "I suppose both Ron and Hermione have given Ginny their seal of approval, so from their perspective it must be a done deal. It's too bad no one bothered to ask me what I want."
"What do you want Harry?" She whispered barely audible, feeling like her heart had climbed up into her throat.
"Someone that cares for me. I need someone that is strong enough to handle being with me. I don't need a girl who wants to play mother. I don't need silly teenage games. I need a girl that will stand by me the next time everyone starts to point their fingers at me and start to whisper behind my back. I need someone who respects me."
"I'm not strong." She muttered.
"I also need someone who is modest. You are stronger than you think." Saying that he forced her to look at him. He saw her puffy eyes and tear streaked face. Knowing there was nothing else he could say, he did the only thing he could think of - he kissed her.
It was nice, very nice. Susan was momentarily stunned, but she came to her senses quick enough. The spent the next five minutes kissing each other. By then he had moved from her lips down to her neck causing her to moan. Harry was rather enjoying himself as virtually any boy his age would. He tasted the salt of her tears. He could feel her trembling again, but she obviously seemed to be pleased with the turn of events.
Susan was trying very hard not to think anymore. Harry was kissing her! She had heard those nasty rumors Cho had started that he wasn't a very good kisser. Maybe he just didn't have the proper motivation, because he was performing admirably! Was that his tongue? She caught herself growling in pleasure. A piece of innuendo came to mind, seekers really do have the best hands!
Finally, he broke away from her. "Susan as much as I would like to continue this, we both have a very long day ahead of us. I need to get a shower and clean myself up." He said releasing her and standing up. She stood and took him into her soft embrace again. It had new meaning now, as they nuzzled each other. After another moment, he broke away again.
"So I guess I was right about you liking me?" He said with his best cheeky grin.
"What makes you say that?" She replied with a wink trying to tease him.
Harry leaned in next to her ear and breathed causing the hairs on her neck to stand up. "Because for the first time in a few days, your smile is back." Harry turned away from the blushing Hufflepuff and went out the room.
Fifteen minutes later he was finished with his shower and dressing. There was a knock on the door.
"Come in." Hermione entered dragging a very pale looking Ginny Weasley.
"Harry, Ginny has calmed down. She wants to apologize."
"You seem to be doing most of the talking Mione." Harry said harshly.
Ginny burst into tears sobbing. "I am so sorry Harry. I shouldn't have blamed you. Please don't hate me! I needed to blame someone and I don't know what came over me."
"Are you planning on apologizing to Susan?"
"Um yes I suppose I should." Ginny looked as if that was the last thing she wanted to do outside of a return trip to the chamber of secrets.
"That would be a good start. Since, I am the proverbial king of lashing out at people when I am angry, I can't exactly stay mad with you. So why don't you let me finish dressing." Inside, Harry still wasn't pleased with Ginny's actions and accusations, but there were much more important things today. Both he and Susan had to listen to the wills of the deceased before the day is out. Now that he understood Ginny's motivations, it seemed a trifle immature. Not to mention that he and Susan had been tongue wrestling less than about thirty minutes ago.
Hermione beamed with a glowing smile as she had completed her task and proceeded to drag Ginny back out of the room. Ginny shot him another sorrowful look as she closed the door behind her. He finished dressing and slipped over to the room Susan and the Abbotts shared. Knocking on the door, he waited for a moment before Susan opened the door letting him in. Her smile was still there, but it was missing a bit of its luster. Her eyes looked like she had been crying again.
"Hi." He said.
"Hi yourself. Miss me already?"
"Uh huh! Ginny was just by to apologize. She is going to apologize to you later."
"Oh. I bet it will be so genuine." She replied making a face. She looked away for a moment and started to shake. "I miss my mother."
On instinct alone Harry reached out and pulled her to him. He held her tight. After a minute he asked her what was wrong and if there was anything he could do to help.
"I'm sorry. I should be stronger. I came down here and the first thing I thought was that I can't wait to tell mum that I kissed you. I catch myself forgetting that they are gone. I'm such a fraud! Everyone is telling me how strong I am, but I'm not!"
"You are Susan. You will be okay. Its grieving and everyone keeps telling me I need to be doing it more."
"I just want to feel normal again! I can't seem to control myself. One minute I am happy. The next, I am crying my eyes out! Harry tell me it goes away!" She had a pleading tone to her voice.
"It doesn't ever fully go away, at least not for me. I still think about Sirius and Cedric all the time. Everyone tells me I cry like a bitch in my sleep." Susan couldn't help but laugh remembering the night she was in the same room. She caught herself immediately and looked at him with guilt on her face.
"It's okay. I know it's true! Hermione tells me that it is my subconscious trying to help me cope. You can only imagine how uncomfortable that conversation was. She even offered to get some books on how muggles cope with grief. Like she didn't already have those books."
He was doing it again, cheering her up. Susan fought her emotional reversal. She didn't want to be happy right now. When he babbled something about "survivor's guilt" she looked at him confused.
"Everyone knows I don't sleep well at night. I actually read Hermione's muggle book."
Susan sighed, "Thank you Harry. I keep falling apart and you keep putting me back together."
"I suppose that is a boyfriend's duty. I think that's what I am right? Urk!" He grunted as she hugged him tightly.
"Well then that is settled. Do you mind if we wait until after all this crap is over today before we shout it from the rooftops?" He asked hoping she wouldn't be offended.
She looked uncertain, so he continued cutting her off. "Its not like I am embarrassed or anything. I just don't want to create any more drama before we go to Gringotts."
"Oh, okay. I guess I understand. Just make sure I am somewhere where I can see her face when she finds out."
"My you have a bit of a nasty streak don't you? Well, I am going to head down. Don't want everybody to come looking for me."
Harry made his way down the stairs, thanking Merlin that in this crowded house he had managed to avoid running into someone while with Susan. He met everyone who was going in the parlor. The rest had moved on to the library. When Susan arrived about five minutes later, they prepared to leave via portkey to George and Fred's shop, which was only a short walk from the bank.
The group arriving at Gringotts consisted of the Weasley's, the Abbott's, Harry and Hermione. The adult Weasleys, Tonks, Lupin and Dumbledore providing the escort. Ginny continued to walk uncomfortably close to Harry. He managed to send a few 'Help Me' looks to Susan. She merely smiled at him and continued to converse with Hannah and Chelsea. Harry figured it was her way of getting back at him for wanting to not announce themselves as a couple just yet. Sensing no help was forthcoming, Harry closed the gap between himself and Tonks and tried to strike up a conversation.
"How are you handling all this?"
"Not so good. You?"
"About the same. I still blame myself for getting tricked into going there." He said looking down.
"Well if we are playing the blame game, then I have to blame myself for not doing a better job at dueling auntie Bella. Sirius jumped in to fight her because she took me out. Crazy hag had been rotting away for a dozen years. I have been training day in and day out for the last six years. She shakes of the rust and kicks my bloody arse!" Tonks looked at him with a bit of anger across her normally humorous face. "So are we done playing the blame game now?"
"Yeah. Sorry didn't mean to make you cross." Harry hadn't really been prepared for a scolding at that point. He slowed his pace to separate himself from her. Ginny immediately pounced on him offering comfort and whispering condolences where it was not wanted. She was clearly overcompensating for her grief driven tantrum. Harry watched as Remus moved over from his flanking position to exchange a few words and a scowl with the metamorphagus. Harry slowed further trying to make sure he could not overhear their conversation. He had heard the rumors of Remus and Tonks becoming closer and hoped that his actions did not cause an argument between the two. It was another reminder that today's proceedings were not all about him.
A very old looking goblin dressed in dark suit, with three heavily armed goblin escorts met the party in the lobby. He introduced himself as Cleftskull, the department head for Wills and Inheritance. Gesturing to a passageway away from the main counter and the vaults, he led them to the main conference room. The room had a pair of private offices adjoining them. Two women sat in the comfortable high back chairs chatting amicably. Harry instantly recognized the platinum blonde hair of Narcissa Malfoy. He surmised that the raven-haired woman must be Tonks's mother, Andromeda. They finished their conversation and Mrs. Tonks greeted her daughter with a look of concern on her face. Harry again felt a stab of guilt for angering her. 'I wonder if this is how people usually feel around me, when I am in a state.' He thought to himself.
Harry watched as Dumbledore and Lady Malfoy exchanged forced pleasantries. In between the polite words, he could sense two predators stalking each other. Narcissa was rumored to be a savage political opponent, gifted with beauty, guile and a cutting wit. It was no doubt she had her orders to stall and challenge every bit of Sirius's will. After a moment she politely separated herself from the headmaster and walked towards Harry with a purpose.
"I would wish you a good day, but I do not believe either of us really wish to be here today."
"Thank you." He said slowly not knowing what to make of this, wondering if it was a tactic to unnerve him. "I am sorry for your loss as well. Sirius was a great man."
"If greatness is measured in foolish actions, then my cousin was the greatest of them all."
"What do you mean?" Harry stammered at the nerve of the woman in front of him.
"I merely wanted to say that he was a foolish and brave individual. He proudly turned away from his family for the sake of his beliefs. He brashly made his choice and had both the willpower and determination to follow through. Someday under better circumstances, I would share with you a pensieve memory of his confrontation with his mother. I was fortunate enough to be present. It remains my fondest memory of him."
No one had been close enough to hear the words exchanged between Harry and Mrs. Malfoy, but they realized that whatever she had just said had clearly shocked and amused Harry at the same time. Most of his close friends recognized his genuine smile on his face rather than his polite 'I am forced to speak with you, but I would rather be somewhere else' smile that he usually shielded himself with.
"You are quite different from what I imagined Mrs. Malfoy."
"Please, my name is Narcissa. You are also quite different from my son's depiction."
"Where is Draco today? I would have thought he would be here, if for no other reason to taunt me."
"Ah yes. Pity I sent him away on vacation. I am sure he would love to be here, but I do believe that having him here would be a most uncomfortable distraction for all of us who have to sit at the adult table. Had he known, I dare say he would have been in front of the mirror all night practicing his insults - yet again." She said dryly with more than a hint of disdain in her voice.
Harry could not help but laugh at her comments. Obviously, Draco took almost completely after Lucius. His mother was nothing like him! He chided himself for lowering his guard in the presence of a potential enemy, but Merlin that was funny!
"Thank you Narcissa, for reminding me how to laugh. I am sure Sirius would want us to laugh for him."
"How true. Cousin always said that 'life is the ultimate game, make your own rules where you can. Cheat where you can't!' I look forward to today's game, Harry." The elegant beauty turned from him and walked back to her chair.
Lost in the exchange, he failed to notice Susan coming over to him. "It's nice to see you smiling Harry. Care to share? I could use a pick me up right now." Her sullen mood had returned.
"Later, but it is more than worth it."
"The goblins are asking me to come to the private chambers to hear Mother and Aunt Amelia's wills. I am allowed to invite whomever I please into the proceedings. Will you come with me?"
He vanished his smile and accepted, noting the scowl on both Ginny and Hermione's faces. He followed Susan and the Abbott's into the chamber. Sometime previously, Hannah and Chelsea's parents must have arrived. He was introduced to Peter and Annabeth Abbott. Both of whom were rather shocked to see him there. Peter regarded him with a penetrating gaze as if to take Harry's measure. Annabeth on the other hand looked at Susan, then Harry and back to Susan. She then smiled and turned back to her daughters. Cleftskull noted his presence as well with a raised eyebrow.
"If you all will be seated we can begin." The goblin said in a polite tone - well polite as a goblin could sound. Harry sat next to Susan and gripped her left hand in his. The last will and testaments of Dana and Amelia Bones were amazingly concise and straightforward. Peter Abbott was named Executor of both estates and given a list of charitable funds and endowments, which they wished to have funded. Amelia's requested charities included several funds for families of fallen aurors. Both left heartfelt messages and all remaining funds to Susan, who bravely sat there not hiding the tears streaming down her face.
The most interesting item was that Dana emancipated Susan. True it was just under two months until her seventeenth birthday, but Susan was pleased anyway. Cleftskull brought out the Bones family tapestry and examined the fine print on the reverse side. Shaking his head, he turned to Susan.
"As you can see Lady Bones, you are now the sole surviving heir of the Bones family line. Most families include clauses to prevent the end of the family. These so called 'End of the Line Clauses' are enchanted into the family master ring, which passes the enchantment to your ring that I now present to you."
Harry looked at the rest of the people in the room. All of them were purebloods and had paled slightly. He remembered that Dumbledore was concerned about Sirius's will and possible End of Line clauses.
Cleftskull showed Susan the signet ring. "By accepting this ring you become Lady Susan Marie Bones - Matriarch of the Bones family, which by extension includes the Preston and Caldwell lines. The family possesses three hereditary votes in your government. Your head of family ring may only be removed by you and will act as a key to all your family vaults. Furthermore, you will be required to enter into a binding marital contract of your choice within 30 days after your next birthday. Said contract will be executed no later than one year from the date of signing."
Harry saw everyone relax noticeably. He was confused and a little upset that his newly found girlfriend would be forced into a marriage in just over a year. Instead of being angry Susan looked relieved as she slid the family ring onto her right hand and watched the faint aura of magic flash. The goblin motioned for her to sign several documents, prick her finger to drip blood into a glob of warm wax and press the family ring to seal it. With that Cleftskull collected the items on the table, curtly nodded to those present and proceeded to leave the room.
"Why aren't you upset Susan?" He asked.
She looked at him confused for a moment. "I keep forgetting that you don't know that much about wizarding culture. I'm sorry. Hannah and I have been worried sick about the End of the Line clauses. Some families have dozens of clauses forcing you to do horrible things or prearranged marital contracts that must be executed. Trust me it could have been much worse."
"But you have to get married!"
"To whomever I choose! Trust me I was worried that I would find Crabbe or Goyle's names in here. I at least get to have a say."
"Is there any way to know what these clauses are?"
"Only if you get the current head of the family to tell you. They are the only ones who can modify them. Why do you ... ." She stopped realizing that Harry was the last Potter - a line that extended back to the days of Merlin himself.
"I wonder when Dumbledore was going to spring this little gem on me?" He muttered. "I am guessing just before my birthday next year." The Abbotts, who did not know the history between Harry and his headmaster looked a bit flabbergasted by his statement.
They were spared from further speculation by the return of Cleftskull. "Mr. Potter, we are ready to begin the reading of Sirius Orion Black's will in the adjacent chambers. You are the primary beneficiary and therefore I must request your presence."
"Go on Harry. Dumbledore asked us to wait with the girls until you can all leave back to your safe house together." Peter Abbott said.
"He did, did he? Excuse me Cleftskull, I am allowed to have guests present, is that correct?"
"Indeed it is."
"Then if you wish you may all come with me."
The Abbotts declined politely, but Susan accepted leaving the Abbott family a chance to catch up with one another. Harry knew that both of them had recently joined the Order of the Phoenix after the attack at Susan's house rather than go on their planned vacation and they visited their children after the last few meetings. Everyone had left the main conference chamber already. The goblin had already made it to the next room and was entering when Harry stopped Susan.
"For luck." He said kissing her.
Susan smiled back at him, "Watch yourself I can do magic now, Mister. You might want to start being a bit nicer to me."
"Of course, here let me get the door for you, milady or do you prefer your royal highness?"
"I prefer Harry."
"Hairy-ass? You actually prefer Hairy-ass? Eeww! That is gross!"
He had to admit that he walked right in to that one. Harry hung his head in mock defeat as he opened the door for her. She entered and then he quickly followed. The room was much more lavishly furnished then the previous one. The goblins obviously considered the Black will to be the "main event". Many confused looks greeted Susan's entrance. Harry gestured to a pair of open seats next to Narcissa Malfoy. Trying to avoid smiling at the prospect of annoying Ginny, Hermione, Dumbledore and perhaps just about everyone else in the room save Cleftskull, he pulled Susan's chair out for her and proceeded to sit directly next to Narcissa. Narcissa looked over acknowledging him and seeing the ring on Susan's right hand, Lady Malfoy nodded and smiled at Susan.
Cleftskull snorted in slight irritation. "Now that all parties are here, we can begin. The deceased has made several unusual provisions for today's proceedings." Just about everyone even Narcissa paled a bit wondering what both a goblin and Sirius would consider 'unusual provisions'.
Cleftskull tapped the desk and three other goblins entered. The first moved a stand into a position while the other two set a portrait on it. The painting had a table with several chairs around it. There were several doors running along the back wall. There was a brief silence complete with several people looking around the room. Inside the painting one of the doors opened and up to the table contained in the portrait strode none other than the image of Sirius Black. Several people gasped in surprise. An equal number including both Harry and Remus broke into broad grins.
"Had this done just after Christmas. Thanks for all your help you mangy furball." Sirius said waving to Remus. "Thought you had gotten rid of me didn't you? Cissy! You actually came, you scheming wench! Nice to see you didn't bring your spawn or deadbeat husband. Andy! Good to see you again! How's Ted? I see 'ickle Nymphadora' is here too. Oh, don't make that face, at least you are still alive. Don't even think about hexing the picture either - I'm indestructible at least that's what they tell me. Painted with all the amenities, ever filling Firewhiskey flask, bathroom, kitchen, library, and entertainment room, even my own bedroom. I would imagine my portrait will be the place to be wherever I end up being hung. I always was 'well hung'! Get it? Sorry, bad joke. I'm babbling a bit. First time I have seen everyone in a long time. Anyway, I am sure there will be time for socializing later. I suppose we should get down to business. My esteemed goblin associate has the actual copy, but I just so happen to have my own copy right here and I am empowered to make changes as I see fit up until the moment Harry signs the will. Any changes I make are updated on Cleftskull's copy immediately. I actually got the idea from Ms. Granger there. She mentioned that muggles often create something called a 'living will', I didn't quite understand it, but it sounded like a fantastic idea. Before we get to the will, there is some preliminary paperwork that must be taken care of. This I do not have a copy of. My guess is that the real me wanted to make sure no one could talk me out of this. Cleftskull, if you please, items one and two."
Cleftskull's voice took over as Sirius took a long drink from his goblet. "These are separate legal proceedings apart from the will and can only be challenged on their own merits. Item one, the Emancipation of Harry James Potter by the signature of his legal godfather effective immediately upon Mr. Potter's signature."
Both Remus Lupin and Dumbledore objected immediately. Harry glared at them.
"Very well. State your objection and the legal basis for your objection." The goblin asked.
Dumbledore began, "Since the unfortunate passing of Mr. Black. I have been serving as Mr. Potter's guardian in the magical world. I do not wish him emancipated at this time."
"Do you have a signed copy of the change of guardianship from the ministry?"
"Alas, no. The lack of a sitting minister and the current upheaval has delayed the paperwork's signing. Perhaps a compromise can be reached."
"Our laws are quite clear in this matter. Mr. Black's death was several weeks ago. Any paperwork challenging a legal action must be presented at this time in its entirety. Do you have the paperwork?"
"No. I do not." Dumbledore said with a hint of resignation.
"Then I must reject your challenge. Mr. Lupin what is you objection and does it also lack any legal basis?" Cleftskull had enjoyed humbling one of the most powerful wizards in recent history - perhaps a bit too much.
Lupin quickly looked at Dumbledore for guidance. Dumbledore shook his head signifying that there was no possible objection. A tense moment passed before the werewolf shook his head and sat back down. "I withdraw my previous objection."
"Very well then. Mr. Potter by your blood quill signature you will be emancipated."
"Harry, I ask that you do not sign this form at this time." Dumbledore looked at him.
Harry up until this point was watching the proceedings with an intense look on his face. He felt Susan squeezing his hand reassuringly under the table. When he spoke his voice dripped with sarcasm. "It's about time you two noticed me. How considerate that you object to me becoming an adult. Such wonderful counsel and guidance from two of my parent's most trusted friends, wonder why you wouldn't want me to sign this. Could it be the blood wards at my aunt and uncles? Could it be the Potter End of the Line clauses? Thankfully, Susan clued me in on such things. There is so much I don't know about the Wizarding world. Why is that, Mr. Dumbledore?"
"Harry, the protections afforded you and your relatives will quickly fail. What benefits could you expect to reap from this action?"
"How about being able to use magic freely? Legally apparating? Making my own decisions? Do any of those matter?"
"You will be able to use magic freely when you return to Hogwarts in a month and a half. I have previously promised to help you learn to apparate. Correct me if I am wrong, but you seem to already be making your own decisions recently. I would ask that you not sign the document now, but wait until the end of this coming school year. You will have my full support then."
"When you put it that way sir, it makes me wonder if I have ever had your full support. We have previously discussed how safe I have actually been at your institution. Remus, what do you know about the End of the Line clauses?"
"After James's parents died and he assumed the head of family duties, he was required to marry within twelve months and produce an heir within thirty-six months. He mentioned that he intended to change them, before his death, but I do not know whether he ever did."
Harry paused for a moment and suddenly a very important question needed to be answered. "Remus, did my parents really love each other, or was it a marriage of convenience? Please tell me the truth."
"That is a question that only James and Lily could answer. Before they dated there was a rivalry between the two of them. He was a popular pureblood heir and she was amazingly brilliant and clever muggleborn who had a talent for endearing herself to everyone she met. They were good together and I envied their relationship. They never gave me the impression that they were not in love."
"You sound as if you had your doubts."
"My condition gives me certain advantages, when it comes to reading other people. It was something of a whirlwind romance. Sometimes it had an air of 'falseness'. You asked for my honest opinion. I only hope this answers your question."
"I know you are not really Sirius, but what did you think of Mom and Dad's relationship?" Harry turned back to the portrait.
"Prongs had it bad for Lily. I know she admired James, but I told James I was concerned before the engagement. James changed a lot after he lost his parents. By our seventh year, the war was picking up and you could feel it all through the castle. He still pranked with us, but you could tell that either his heart or his mind just wasn't in it."
Narcissa leaned in to Harry and whispered, "Though I was a year behind them, I might have some insight. Lily spent a great deal of time with our potion's master Horace Slughorn. There were rumors of love potions. That said you will find that there are rumors of love potions in virtually every sixth or seventh year class."
"You think she was slipping him a love potion?" Harry said aloud. Remus and Sirius immediately shouted different variations of no. Sirius even went so far as to add a few colorful adjectives to his objection before telling his cousin where she could stick her theories.
Lady Malfoy responded coolly, "No. I did not say that. James was smitten with her back in his fourth year. Most anyone could have seen that. My theory is that she was giving herself the potion. Again, I have no proof other than a few bits of overheard conversations and a distinct shortage of ashwinder eggs when I helped the professor inventory his stocks. I suspect only Horace and perhaps Albus could truly prove or disprove that theory."
You could have heard a pin drop in the room.
"Lily was very interested in becoming a potion's master. From what Horace reported, her skills rivaled those of Severus. I can say that early in her sixth year, Horace received my permission to give her individual lessons. He did also later request the same for Severus. I was not privy to the nature of these sessions or what particular potions they may have made during this time."
"Somehow your answer does not reassure me sir." Harry said with a touch of anger.
"Perhaps I could arrange for a meeting with Horace before the term starts. He has been somewhat of a recluse in recent years, but I believe I could track him down for you. I recommend we return back to the reason we are here today and not waste more time on James and Lily's motivations."
"That is a wonderful idea, sir!" Harry said with mock enthusiasm. "I am curious what benefits you hope to gain by not having me sign this document. Would you care to explain?"
"Harry, your blood protections are important."
"No they aren't!"
"Why do you believe that?"
"Simple, you just said that you would support me signing it at the end of the next school year. I am not going back there before this year starts, so what is the point in waiting. It certainly can't be the wards and as you pointed out, it is only about seven weeks until the term starts. That leaves only my emancipation and these 'End of the Line' clauses as possible reasons." Harry hoped that Hermione would be impressed by his use of Dumbledore's logic against him, but knew her adoration of the wizard would color her opinion.
Channeling his Gryffindor courage, he foraged ahead. "So, who is she?"
"I am sorry Harry, I am not sure who you speak of?"
"She! The one you want me to marry. You've known about this all this time. I am sure you have someone in mind? So, who is it?" Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a beaming smile from Narcissa. He wasn't sure if it was because of his cool use of logic or that she was simply 'enjoying the game' as she had mentioned earlier. Susan looked on angrily.
"We were hoping that you would establish a meaningful relationship during the year and perhaps this would be a starting point. Last year you showed interest in Ms. Chang, but the prospect of a long term relationship dimmed quickly."
"Who is 'we'?"
"Myself, Remus, Sirius, Minerva and Molly."
Harry looked away from the headmaster to the named group. All save his head of house were present. Remus only met his gaze for a moment before looking away. The portrait of Sirius shrugged and smiled at him. Molly had a calm look on her face. It was a mother's look of 'I know what best for you child'. To Harry, it was like watching pieces of a puzzle fit together. With his emerald eyes boring a hole through her, he pressed on.
"So this would explain the new assertive version of Ginny, I have seen lately. I suppose that would be your doing?" He moved his eyes from the mother to the daughter, who had a guilty look on her face. From there he looked at Hermione, who also shifted uncomfortably.
"You knew too! Didn't you?"
She wouldn't meet his eyes and gulped noticeably. "I was asked about my intentions towards you at the beginning of last year. I am sorry I didn't tell you."
"All these times you badgered me about 'holding things back' and you were sitting on this! Please go on satisfy my curiosity, what did you tell them? It seems like you were given first go at me."
"Initially I told them that I wasn't sure and by Christmas I had made up my mind that we wouldn't be more than just friends."
"Because you fancy Ron?"
The shocked looks on both Ron and Hermione's faces would have been priceless, if Harry wasn't so angry at the moment. A few weeks from this moment, a young Gryffindor named Natalie McDonald would receive an owl proclaiming her the winner of the Ron/Hermione dating pool as a result of Harry's question. The galleons would come as a delightful surprise to the young girl allowing her to upgrade to a much more competitive broom for the coming school year.
"Oh come off it already! You fancy Ron. He fancies you. I am sorry if my trivial problems caused me to out the secret that only you two seem not to know about. So excuse me for embarrassing you."
"So did you approach any others in the Harry Potter bridal pool? Or is Ginny the winner by default?" Ginny managed an indignant look. Secretly, he wondered if she was upset that Hermione had been given a chance.
Sirius answered from the portrait. "I am sorry this is upsetting you Harry, but don't snap at Ginny and Hermione. If it will satisfy your answer, several others were discussed including Katie Bell, Alicia Spinnett, Angelina Johnson, Tonks, Emmeline Vance and some of the others from either the house quidditch teams or your defense club."
"Oh thank goodness I still have a chance with Marietta Edgecombe!"
"Enough with the sarcasm already Harry!" Sirius said.
"Harry do you wonder why people don't approach you about this? You have only just started being interested in girls. Picture them trying to tell you that you have to get married. Please don't rush to judge everyone. We really do care about you." Hermione added.
"Fine! Okay Ms. Granger, what does 'Hogwart's a History' say about married couples at the school? I know you would have looked it up the moment they left you alone."
"There are several rooms near the professor's quarters that have in the past been used in such instances. They are typically used to house visitors, but were used on many occasions during the previous wars. The last couple was in 1953, when the sole remaining heir to the Jacobs family was there from his six and seventh years. His bride was not a student, but lived in the castle as a guest. The last student couple was in 1946."
"Thank you. So why does everyone want me to wait until next year?"
"They don't want to take the chance that I will become pregnant while in school." Ginny answered.
"Oh okay. Bill, I have seen you examining the wards. If I sign this, how long do those wards last?"
"They will start fading and be pretty much useless in 72 hours."
"So the Dursleys would have time to get out of there."
"Cleftskull, you have been quiet. May I ask you advice?"
The goblin looked at Harry momentarily stunned but then impressed. "Interesting. A room full of humans and you turn to me. Why is that?"
"You have no personal interest - only the perspective of what is 'good business'. Tell me from an independent point of view what is 'good business' here?"
Cleftskull smiled baring his yellow teeth. "I see and am honored. You seem to be controlling your anger quite well, which suggest you are mature. I had half expected curses and jinxes to be exchanged by now. Your questions and arguments are well thought out suggesting that you are intelligent. Your history tells me that you are already a warrior and that there is little the others can do to prevent the battle from coming to you yet again. Your choice is simple. You may allow others to continue to dictate your life, if you believe there is some benefit to that, or you will stand as a warrior to fight the coming darkness."
"Thank you for your perspective. Your counsel is greatly appreciated." Harry grasped the blood quill and scrawled his name on the parchment and stood to hand the document back to Cleftskull. "I will stand and fight on my terms."
The ancient goblin accepted the parchment and smiled again. "Very good, Lord Potter. We will finish with the Black will and proceed directly to the Potter will. I happen to have all the paperwork with me."
"You knew I would sign it didn't you?"
"The outcome was never in doubt for one who understands 'good business'."
Harry looked at the faces of the people surrounding him as he returned to his chair. Most of the Weasleys bore looks of concern, probably for Ginny. Hermione looked angry, no doubt believing that he was being rash and impetuous. Dumbledore and Lupin seemed resigned. Narcissa Malfoy smiled openly at him. He wondered if she was planning on using this memory for a Patronus. Susan met his eyes and smiled her half smile at him.
"We can now proceed with item two. The formal adoption of Harry James Potter by Sirius Orion Black. By this document Mr. Potter is to be considered the adopted son of Lord Black. This document was signed two years ago and witnessed by myself and the head of Gringotts. Do you willingly accept this Lord Potter?"
"I do." Realizing that this must have been one of the first things Sirus did when he escaped from Azkaban.
"Then sign the document. If there are any objections to this proceeding now would be the time to submit them."
Everyone looked at Narcissa Malfoy. She carefully removed two stacks of paper from her briefcase. "Oh I suppose this is the part where I grow two heads and start speaking in parseltongue, pledging my eternal servitude to the Dark Lord? Tell me cousin, I do not mean to spoil your surprises, but is it safe to assume that Lord Potter will become Lord Black as well?"
Sirius nodded very slowly from his portrait. The assembled group waited barely breathing.
"How much are you planning to leave to me?"
"Ten thousand galleons, sorry Cissa, but I don't want to fund your husband's evil any more than I have to, but that amount is sufficient that it would make your objection difficult."
"Make it five hundred thousand and I will forego any objections." Harry had to admit she had a way of quieting a room.
"Harry, it will come out of your share?"
Narcissa waved her wand over one stack and it vanished. The other stack sat there. "We will need this later, Lord Black. This is where the game gets more interesting. Please cousin, let us continue."
"Okay, then without further adieu here it is - my will and testament. I, Sirius Orion Black being of sound mind, but apparently missing body do hereby declare this to be my last will and testament! First to everyone in this room with the last name Tonks, I leave one hundred thousand galleons. To everyone in this room who is a Weasley but not named Arthur or Molly, I leave twenty five thousand galleons each. If you aren't of age yet, Arthur and Molly will control it as a trust fund until you are of age. Arthur and Molly, I know you don't want it, but you deserve it. Take one hundred thousand for yourselves. If your name is Hermione, you get twenty five thousand galleons. That should stock your private library quite nicely. Cissa, we covered you already. The Lestranges get absolutely nothing. If your name is Lupin or Dumbledore you get five hundred thousand each. Lupin also gets the hunting lodge in Hogsmeade and the shrieking shack. I also need you to sit for a wizarding portrait. I need my pranking buddy back. Finally if your name is Harry Potter, you get everything else, the whole nine yards. Cleftskull has the whole lists. The short of it is you have plenty of property here and in Europe and several million galleons. The entire Black fortune and as a bonus you get me, one high quality wizarding portrait capable of hours of intelligent or childish conversation - your choice. That is all there is folks. Sorry to hurry through this, but I am as curious as everyone else is about what my clever cousin is up to. Cleftskull, would you give Harry his ring."
"By accepting this ring you become Lord Harry James Black-Potter. The Black family possesses three hereditary votes in your government. As there are other heirs, you are not subject to the Black End of the Line clauses. I will provide them to you for your review. The ring will access all your family vaults. If you will sign here, blood here and seal the blood with the ring."
Harry watched the cut on his finger close itself and felt the tingle of magic envelop him. He knew he would feel this again when he performed the same ritual for the Potter line. In a sense it was liberating, but there was also a sense of trepidation.
"Well that's done. Narcissa, I am certain you have something you wish to discuss?"
"Why yes I do Lord Black. As my head of family, I am requesting your intervention on my behalf. My husband seems to have met several of the clauses in our marriage contract that would render it void if you were file the necessary paperwork. I just so happen to have this paperwork right here." Narcissa said all this in a rushed almost breathless tone as if the words were struggling to get out faster than she could say them. Her smile was absolutely predatory.
"Cleftskull, may I impose upon you to review this paperwork. There seems to be a lot here and it's not a question of trust, but well I guess it is a question of trust. I mean I could be sitting here with a blood quill signing away and you could slip a marriage contract to Pansy Parkinson in there. I never thought I would have to be 'constantly vigilant' here. While he reviews it, I am curious about the other stack."
"Oh those were all the objections my soon to be ex-husbands associates wished for me to submit. There's quite a nice bit of legal work to. Shame it all went poof! They didn't count on this being my one chance to be free of that tosser."
Five minutes passed before the goblin pronounced the paperwork to be exactly what Narcissa had proclaimed it to be. Harry smiled widely at Narcissa as he sat down blood quill in hand to attack the small mound of parchment. Both Narcissa and Cleftskull indicated what should be signed and where he should initial. The moment he signed the last line Narcissa hugged him and kissed his cheek. She turned to Cleftskull and told him that the funds from the will should be deposited to her personal vault; where as much of her ex-husband's fortune had already been moved without raising suspicion.
"Well it seems like I have done enough here. I really should be going. Andy, do you mind?" Narcissa asked pulling a potion vial from her pouch. Her sister cut a lock of hair from her head and dropped it into the vial. Narcissa downed it in one gulp and within seconds had transformed into a duplicate of her sister Andromeda.
"Nymphadora dear, if you want to take my form, you could probably lead a group of your esteemed coworkers to my old house and I could give you an idea of where you might want to look around. It is all right here on this parchment. Be careful in that second place though, I think there are some nasty curses for anyone not of Malfoy blood trying to get in there. Molly darling, I need a bodyguard for a few days until I get settled may I borrow this one. You're a strapping looking lad. What's your name?"
"Uh, Charlie, Mrs. Mal - oh sorry Ms. Black."
"What do you do when you are not fighting the forces of evil?"
"I am a dragon handler."
"Oh, an outdoorsman. Your must stay in top shape. Yes, do come along. Best grab your new vault key. We can do some shopping while we tour the mainland. It has been a distinct pleasure meeting you all. Harry, I was proxy voting the two votes for the Lestrange family. Albus can instruct you on how to claim those votes, as there is no one who can legally vote for them. You might have a challenge from the Travers family, but usually in those cases it defaults to the oldest family can claim the votes and quite frankly it doesn't get much older than the Potters. Hurry up Charles, say your goodbyes, I only have fifty eight minutes left in this body and I do want to get out of this country! Harry if you beat the bastard, I will be back to help you run the world that will no doubt prostrate itself before you."
Harry and the rest of the room looked on as the whirlwind known as Narcissa Black directed Charlie to his kin for goodbyes and rushed over to the portrait giving Sirius a quick kiss. By the time Charlie had finished, Narcissa had already said farewell to Harry, her sister, her niece and Dumbledore. She caught Charlie's arm and began to whisk him towards the exit. To everyone's (well perhaps not Charlie's) amusement Narcissa's right hand firmly squeezed one of Charlie's butt cheeks as he opened the door for her.
The last words they heard as the door closed were "Why Charles, you do keep in shape."
There was a minute of awkward silence, which ended with Cleftskull clearing his throat. "We shall continue. Our final order of business is the reading of James and Lily Potter's will."
Author's notes -
Over 11,000 words! I was told that there is actually a discussion thread for my story on www.darklordpotter.net. (Thanks IP82) It is under Independent Harry Stories. I will probably join and post there so feel free to ask questions away. Taking care of Ginny will definitely please that crowd. Although from reading other posts, I am not sure they will be truly happy unless Harry is grinding Ron and Hermione into sausage filling and using Ginny's intestines for the casings! Not exactly a website that caters to the H/G H/Hr crowd. That said I don't have anything against those pairings except for the fact that I don't happen to be writing that. My rule is called "That ship has sailed." It means this is the only Harry/Susan story I will write. I am still trying to lock down which story I want to write next. I tried to reinforce the growing rift between Harry and Dumbledore and Harry and Hermoine.
Potterverse Pet Peeves - "Ginny is so strong and doesn't take crap from anyone!" Yes. Other than an unfortunate run in with Tom Riddle's diary and the DoM not a lot to go on there. Other than Sirius's death, she hasn't faced true hardship and loss. In this story I gave Ginny an immature edge throwing a fit when she learns of Percy's death. Remember she is just shy of 15 at this point. Harry is just about 16 and Susan will turn 17 in early September. Reading into the story you now know that Molly tipped Ginny off that Harry would have to enter into a serious relationship in the next year or so, so if you want him you better go get him. Hence the Teen Witch Weekly schemes.
My other peeve is Gringott's vaults and how they are used. They are vaults not armorys! If James and Lily had all these cool weapons and books of forgotten magic, don't you think they would have been using them to protect Harry! "Gee Lils, I know this Dark Lord is after us and Harry, so clearly we must stash Excalibur in the vault for when our 1 year old needs it!" I have seen stories where he practically has a department store his vaults. My beta pointed out that it would be ludicrous for the Black family to have anything but gold and jewelry in their vaults. It is more likely for them to have hidden rooms like the Malfoy's for their dark objects.
Next chapter - The Potter's will. I take on another pet peeve, namely "Saint Lily Potter". You probably got some hints about her in this chapter that all that glitters isn't necessarily gold. Again striving to take cannon and give it a realistic basis, you will learn my reason the Dursleys hate Harry so much.
Acknowledgements - a clever reviewer (Lady Reaper of the Shadows) pointed out that Neville could already see thestrals in OOTP pg 445 (or 455). I had forgotten and will correct the scene next time I do some editing. Whimsy007 and I also had a discussion about the angst level at #12 and I appreciate his/her insight. The comment about Draco practicing insults into a mirror may be similar to something previously published. I cannot truthfully recall it, but it was too funny. If someone knows which story (Probably one of those Harry/Narcissa/Bella romps) where something like that appears, let me know and I will credit it. Over 2250 hits on Chapter 7 shows me that people are reading, even if only 1 percent of you are reviewing.