. . .
Harry awoke and for a long while he laid there staring at the canopy above his bed. Sirius’ bed, he corrected himself. In his mind Grimmauld Place would always belong to his godfather. Even after all this time Harry still felt the familiar pain in his chest as he missed the man who had been the last family he had. “What do I do now, Sirius?” he asked aloud. Now you get to have fun, Pup, he swore he could hear Sirius’ voice whisper in his head.
Have fun? The words echoed in his mind as if in some foreign language, it’s meaning abstract and unattainable. It didn’t seem right to have fun or even to have a life. So many had given their all in the fight against Voldemort, paying the ultimate price. Too many good friends, he thought, thinking of the Creeveys, Weasleys, Lupins and all the other families that were suffering. “How am I supposed to live when there were others who had more to live for than me?” Not for the first time Harry felt guilty for being alive. It should have been me. So many times it should have been me. Better me than any of them, he reasoned. The guilt of being alive was aheavy burden to the young wizard.
With a resigned sigh, the young man rolled over and sat up, swinging his feet to the floor. No sooner had they touched it than the bedroom door opened and a decrepit old elf stepped into the room. “Will Master be wanting breakfast?” it asked with one hand still resting upon the doorknob.
Harry stared at the house elf for a long moment before he replied. “Kreacher, what do you want to do now that the war is over? If you could do anything, what would it be?” Harry knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to forget it all, but the dreams ever night saw to it that wasn’t possible. The weight of the world and all that had happened resided not on his shoulder but rather on his conscious.
“Kreacher lives to serve the noble House of Black,” the aged elf replied as he fidgeted by the doorway, afraid that Harry might be about to give him an article of clothing and thus by freeing him. The old elf had become rather fond of his new young master, not that he would admit it. He was beginning to understand the utter blind devotion that Winky had and that Dobby had shown the wizard, even if he wasn’t a Pureblood.
A life of servitude. My own life hasn’t been much different, Harry realized. “Breakfast would be splendid, Kreacher. Thank you. I shall be down after I grab a shower.” Harry made his way down to the kitchen shortly thereafter and sat down to eat only to have the fireplace erupt in green flames. A familiar face appeared in the flames and quickly looked about. “Minister Shacklebolt?”
“Ah Harry, good you’re in. May I come through?” the newly elected Minster for Magic asked before stepping through once he had received permission. “I tried to reach you at the Weasley’s but they told me you were here,” the tall man explained as he brushed ashes from his robes.
“Would you like some tea?” Harry offered, surprised that the Minister would come to see him even though they were friends of a sort. They had both been in the Order of the Phoenix together and had known each other for several years thanks to the war. Why would the leader of the magical world of Britain be coming to see me? he puzzled, never once stopping to think that he was probably the most famous wizard since Merlin after the war with Voldemort.
“What? No?” the former Auror stated. “We haven’t the time.”
“Is there something I can help you with, Sir?” Harry enquired as he set his fork down, his food yet untouched.
“Yes, most certainly,” Shacklebolt replied cryptically, “but not dressed like that. Please, can you put on your best dress robes? Hurry now,” the Minister added upon seeing Harry just sitting there, “we haven’t much time.”
In short order Harry returned to the kitchen wearing the dress robes he had worn to Bill and Fleur’s wedding. When the Minister for Magic asked you to put on your best robes there was just no way to say no. “Sir, can you tell me where we’re going?” Harry asked, assuming that the change of attire was an indication that they would soon be going someplace else and meeting people whom one would want to look their best for.
“You’ll know soon enough,” Kingsley replied as he held forth his arm. “I’ll need to use side-along apparition to get us to where we need to be,” the former Auror explained. Harry, left with no real choice in the matter, reached out and grasped the Minister’s arm. The familiar sensation of being forced through a rubber tube was something he knew he would never grow accustom to. Within little more than a blink of an eye they disappeared from Grimmauld Place and appeared within a large and ornate office.
While Harry was gathering his senses from the apparition the doors to the office opened and several men dressed in suits walked in. The first one crossed to Kingsley and held out his hand in way of greeting. “I hear a congratulations are in order, Minister,” the man said with a grin.
“Thank you, Prime Minister,” Kingsley said, accepting the hand and giving it a firm shake. “I’m still not certain how I got stuck with the position.”
“I’m sure they picked the right man for the job, Kingsley,”replied the man Harry now knew to be Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdoms. “They’ll soon have you buried in paperwork and unable to wipe your own backside without scheduling an appointment for it first,” Tony offered with a wide grin to which Kingsley could only groan at the thought. “Is this him?” the Prime Minister asked turning to regard Harry.
“Prime Minister Blair, may I introduce you to Mr. Harry Potter,” Kingsley said as he gestured towards the still slightly stunned wizard. “Harry, this is the Prime Minister, Tony Blair.”
“It is an honor, Sir,” Harry managed to stammer out while wondering yet again just why he was here.
“The honor is mine, young man,” Tony stated as he extended his hand and shook the young wizard’s hand once it was received. “I understand that you’re the Hero of the war. We owe you a great debt, Mr. Potter.”
“No, Sir,” Harry countered, embarrassed by the attention. “There are plenty others that did far more than I did. They are the ones that truly deserve all the credit. There are so many, magical as well as non-magical, who didn’t survive. They are the true heroes of the war, Sir. I’m just a poor bloke who somehow managed to survive when by all rights Ishouldn’t have.”
The Prime Minister gave a look to Kingsley and a slight nod of approval at Harry heart-felt words. “I see,” he replied. “We had best be on our way. If you would be so kind as to come with me gentlemen, there are vehicles waiting outside for us. It would be very poor form to be late.” Without waiting for an answer Tony turned and walked from the room, his security detail hovering protectively around him and the two wizards.
The drive past St. James Park was pleasant as it was abeautiful day outside. Muggles were out and about, enjoying the splendid May weather. In short order the line of black vehicles with their heavily tinted windows were pulling through the back gates to Buckingham Palace. As soon as Harry saw the Palace he knew who they were about to meet. There really was only one person they would be going there to see after all.
A heavy security detail was awaiting their arrival at the rear of the structure. The small group was quickly ushered into the building and down several hallways before they were shown into a rather spacious room. At the far end of the room, on a slightly raised platform sat an ornate chair with a red velvet cushion on its seat. The security detail took up positions along the walls of the room leaving Kingsley, Harry and the Prime Minister to approach the empty chair alone.
As the trio neared the throne like seat, a side door off to the left opened and an elderly man dressed in the formal robes of a Herald stepped forth, causing the three of them to pause in their advance. “Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom, of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.”
The Queen, dressed in formal robes stepped through the door and made her way to the waiting throne with a surprisingly spry step for a lady at the age of seventy-two. Elizabeth seated herself stiffly upon the uncomfortable seat before motioning toward the waiting men. “You may approach,” she told them with a slight wave of her hand.
“Your Majesty,” Tony Blair spoke first with a slight bow of his head. “Thank you for taking the time to speak with us.”
“Prime Minister Blair, the grave news of unrest and war in The Realm was brought to Our attention just recently. We cannot help but wonder why We were not informed of this matter sooner,” the Queen enquired with a slight arching of the royal brows.
“Yes Ma`am. It would seem that the former Ministers for Magic were negligent in their responsibilities to pass along crucial information concerning the situation within the magical portion of The Realm,”Tony replied. “We were led to believe it was only a minor disturbance.”
“Has this matter been addressed?” The Queen enquired. “It would not do for Us to be left in the dark in the future.”
“This is Kingsley Shacklebolt,” Tony replied with a gesture toward the man in question. “He was newly elected to the position of Minister for Magic, Ma`am. I have had the honor of working with him prior to his election as he was a part of my security detail for the past year. I do believe that the past failings of those in his post will not be repeated.”
“He was elected, not appointed?” the Queen clarified only to receive a slight nod from Kingsley. “Elected by whom?”
Kingsley paused and thought for a moment and was truthfully baffled. “Your Majesty, I am uncertain. I received a letter stating that Ihad been appointed Minister.”
“We do not take kindly to some unseen and unknown individual or group deciding such weighty matters within Our Realm without Our consideration. Perhaps We have allowed the Magical portion of the Realm to rule themselves long enough. We shall affirm your appointment as Minister for Magic as Our Prime Minister thinks so highly of you,” she stated with a level look towards Kingsley. “Once the Realm has settled We shall address this matter with you once again.”
“Yes, Ma`am,” Kingsley replied. “I am of course available at your discretion.”
“You must be the one that We have heard so much about,” the Queen said upon turning her gaze toward Harry. “It greaves Us that one so young did have to shoulder the burden of Our Realm’s protection and at such great cost to yourself, young man.”
“Thank you, Mum,” Harry stammered, more than a little overcome with the entire meeting and woefully uncertain just how to reply or behave before the royal personage seated before him.. “It wasn’t just me. There are loads others that did far more than I did.”
The Queens expression softened slightly at Harry words as she took an instant liking to him. Calling her Mum didn’t hurt either. “Your modesty becomes you, young man. We would hear then your tale from your own lips.”
“Yes, Mum,” Harry answered with a quick dip of his head before his eyes darted about nervously. “Umm, now, Mum?”
The Queen, having notice Harry’s nervous looks about raised her head slightly. “Leave us!” she commanded. Several members of her security detail made as if to question her words. “I think I will be adequately secure in the presence of this young man who just saved The Realm.” The Queen’s personal secretaries rushed off to start the arduous task as rearranging Her Majesties busy schedule to clear the remainder of the day as the security detail grudgingly left.
The Queen, through years of ruling, was an intuitive listener. When Harry started at his sixth year she halted him and had him begin all the way back at his birth and the first wizarding war. Over the course of the next several hours Harry recanted his life piece by piece. The Queen, often able to tell when he was leaving something out, would stop and ask questions till the fact was revealed. More often than not it was some detail pertaining to himself which made him appear more the Hero and less the struggling teenager he felt himself to be.
“You are quiet the remarkable young man, Mr. Potter,” the Queen told him once Harry had finished. “We find it most grievous that you have endured so much at such a young age. It is a wonder that sleep does not pose a challenge for you,” she said only to witness the trouble looked that flashed across Harry’s face which was then carefully hidden. The Queen paused for a long thoughtful moment before continuing. “We had thought to offer you the Victorian Cross as well as lands and a title for your effort in defense of the Realm. Would you accept it?”
“No, Mum,” Harry replied with a slight shake of his head. “There are others who deserve it more so than myself. It would be better to offer it to them instead.” The young wizard truly didn’t feel deserving of anything. The ordeal of relating his life had been both physically as well as emotional draining on him.
“You answer does not surprise Us,” the Queen told Harry. “Is there nothing that We could offer you in way of gratitude for the service you have rendered to Our Realm?”
“There is one thing, Mum,” Harry said, suddenly having athought and deciding to run with it. Over the next several minutes the young wizard explained his plan to the Queen as well as explained what he would like her to do for him. “That would truly be for the best, Mum.”
“We are truthfully saddened by your decision, Mr. Potter, and yet We cannot say that We do not understand it.” The Queen sat back for amoment thinking. “There will be many that will not understand, some will feel betrayed and even hurt by your actions.”
“Yes, Mum, but I don’t see any other way to have a normal life which is all I have ever wanted. It has always been denied me by others or circumstances beyond my control,” Harry replied. “It may sound a bit selfish of me, but I think I’ve done my part and deserve a bit of a rest. It’s not perfect,” he admitted, thinking of Hermione, “but I think it for the best.”
“Where will you go?” she asked only to quickly hold up ahand to forestall his answer. “It is probably better that We know not where you will be. We will do as you have requested though it greaves Us to do so. Let us hope that it is for the best as you claim. The necessary documents shall be delivered to Minister Shacklebolt by tomorrow,” the Queen informed him.
“Thank you, Mum,” Harry said gratefully.
“No, thank you, Mr. Potter,” the Queen replied. “God speed.”
Sometime later, after a decent meal and a change of clothes into less formal robes, Harry stepped from the floo into the Leaky Cauldron. The wizard paused as his presence became known and the patrons of the establishment, one by one, became silent and just stared in awe of the boy who had defeated Voldemort. The silence and looks he was receiving quickly became uncomfortable to the rather humble man.
Offering Tom, the bar keep, a nod and a small friendly smile, Harry quickly made his way out the back and through the magical entrance to Diagon Alley. Much like the Inn, it didn’t take long for his presence to become known in the Alley. Harry could almost swear he saw a ripple pass through the crowds ahead of him. Once again conversations stilled as people stopped to stare at their savior.
Harry swallowed heavily and started down the street, dreading what he was certain would happen. Shoppers in front of him quickly moved back till they were up against the nearest store front. In just a few moments the entire center of the street was cleared of people. Harry couldn’t help but notice the looks of hero worship on some faces or the hastily hidden looks of fear he received from others.
Harry’s fame, which he had always hated, was so much more now than it had ever been when he was just The-Boy-Who-Lived. He couldn’t help wonder if it had been the same way for the Headmaster after he had defeated Grindelwald. Unlike Albus Dumbledore, Harry did not want to assume a position of leadership. He had neither the desire nor the aptitude for it as he saw it.
All I ever wanted was to save my friends and protect those I care about, he thought. I never wanted to be famous or the savior of the Wizarding world. The gazes in the crowds, the ones filled with fear, hurt him most of all. He had, after all, given up so much so that they and everyone else could be safe and yet in return he had only become some object to be fearful of. Do they think I will become the next Dark Lord or something? Harry stilled his features into a blank mask and quickly made his way down the street and up the steps to the entrance of Gringotts.
Harry approached one of the tellers and gave his name as well as stated his desire to speak with the bank manager. The teller actually paled upon learning who was before him. Hastily the goblin closed his window, climbed down and directed the young wizard to follow him. Several hallways, numerous turns and three flights of stairs later, the teller opened a door to an office and directed Harry to wait.
The office itself wasn’t very ornate nor did it show a great deal of opulence. There was a large desk with a high-back chair behind it as well as two uncomfortable looking chairs before it. The walls were white washed or had been at some point. The color had dulled with age to more of an eggshell color. No pictures or other decorations adorned the walls. Given the nature of goblins, all work and no play, it didn’t surprise Harry in the least. The room was for one purpose and one purpose alone, to conduct business.
It wasn’t long before the door to the office opened and agoblin walked in. The bank manager, for that is who Harry assumed he was, was dressed the same as any other goblin he had seen working at Gringotts. The small suite the goblin wore would have fit in perfectly in the late 1800’s. Taking the seat behind the desk the goblin gestured towards the two empty chairs before the desk. “Mr. Potter, I am Ragnok, Gringotts Bank Manager. How may I help you?”
Harry gathered his Gryffindor courage, took a seat, and then replied, “Thank you for seeing me on such short notice, Sir. I would like to discuss the break-in and theft of property perpetrated upon your bank. I assume all sole responsibility for what happened and am here to provide whatever reparation Gringotts requires.”
Ragnok stared at the wizard for several long moments. The fact that here was not only a wizard that had addressed him politely and with respect but was also stepping forward and taking responsibility for his actions caught the goblin off step. The break-in to the Lestrange vault, theft of their guardian dragon as well as the damage to the bank itself was no small matter. Gringotts could call for the young wizard’s, as well as that of his two friends, death were they so inclined.
“We here at Gringotts are unaware of the incident of which you speak. Perhaps if you were to tell us exactly what happened,” Ragnok finally answered. A more than slightly confused Harry recanted how he, Hermione and Ron had managed to sneak into Gringotts, retrieve Helga Hufflepuff’s cup from the Lestrange vault and escape on the freed dragon.
“We jumped from its back and landed in the water below us. Last I saw it was still flying off on its own,” Harry said, coming to the conclusion of his tale. He was still confused about how Ragnok could notknow about the break-in. The dragon had made a right mess of the bank’s lobby. Though it did look like there was no sign of the damage, he thought, recalling how the lobby had appeared when he arrived today.
The bank manager leaned back in his seat and eyed Harry. “So, let me see if I have this straight, Mr. Potter. Three children who had not even finished their schooling as yet managed to sneak into the world most secure bank, past multiple guards, traps and security measures. They then managed to break into one of Gringotts oldest vaults belonging to a prestigious client before making their escape on the back of a freed dragon that may or may not have been illegal for Gringotts to have in their possession?”
Recounted like that Harry had to admit that it sounded pretty absurd, but he had been there after all and had lived through it. “Yes, Sir,” was his slow and hesitant reply.
“I am sorry, Mr. Potter, but any attempt at publicizing this contrived tale of yours will find yourself before a Magistrate for liable and slander against our reputation,” Ragnok informed him. “I seriously doubt that anyone would believe the allegation even if they were made known. If something like that were to ever actually happen the Wizarding world would lose its faith in Gringotts to protect their gold and valuables. I dare say that the fallout would be catastrophic to the financial world as we know it.”
Harry suddenly understood what was happening. As Ragnok had said, if it ever became known that three students, little more than children, had managed to do what they had, Gringotts would be out of business. The only thing the goblins could do was act like it had never happened. “Yes, Sir. I see your point,” Harry finally said.
Ragnok gave a smile filled with pointy teeth. “I am pleased that we could come to an understanding. Was there anything else Gringotts can do for you today?”
“Yes actually,” Harry replied. “I would like all Potter assets, holdings and currency transferred to the Black family vault. Any property owned by the Potter name should also be signed over to the Black family name. Additionally I will need a trust fund vault setup for my godson Teddy or Edward Remus Lupin as he is known legally. I would like three times the tuition amount for seven years of schooling at Hogwarts to be placed in the vault and that it be overseen by his grandmother Andromeda Tonks till he reached his maturity.”
“There is also the matter of selling No. 12 Grimmauld Place, Islington, London and having the proceeds placed within the Black family vault. It’s a dreadfully dreary place and I don’t want anyone I know to have to live there. Everything in it can be moved to the Black vault as well. Lastly, all Potter vaults are to be closed out as they will no longer be required.”
“The Potter family has done their banking with Gringotts for a very long time. May I enquire as to where you will be doing your banking and what caused your decision?” Ragnok asked. The goblin dreaded what the fall-out of losing the Potter account would be. Others may very well see it as the Potter line losing faith in the bank.
“I am the last of the Potters and soon I won’t be even that,” Harry replied in a tired tone. “There will no longer be a need for anything Potter related.” Harry’s heart was heavy as he said the last part. In his heart he wished there was some other way but he knew that there wasn’t. It wasn’t what he truly wanted but it was what he felt he needed to retain his sanity.
“So then you will be assuming the name of Black that was left to you by your godfather?” Ragnok enquired. He knew that it would be bad to lose the Potter accounts, especially after the wizard before him had just defeated the Dark Lord Voldemort. If they could retain their hold on the Black family, one of their oldest accounts, it would not be too serious a blow, or so he hoped.
“Not exactly, Sir,” Harry slowly replied. In an effort to make certain that he had not overlooked anything, the young wizard briefly laid out his plans to the goblin after swearing him to secrecy. “As you can see, the Black family line will continue so their vault will remain.”
“You are a very unusual wizard, Mr. Potter,” Ragnok stated once Harry had finished. “Gringotts can make the arrangements you’ve requested, for a modest fee of course. Your plans though could be undone one day.”
Harry gave a curt nod, having known that already. “I realize that, however I do not possess the knowledge of how to make it permanent, nor do I feel I have the time to research it. If I wait overly long others will suspect something,” he said thinking of Hermione. “Truthfully, it is not an easy thing to do and I fear I might lose my resolve if I were to wait any longer.”
“If it is truly your wish, Gringotts can assist you with it. Goblins have access to forms of magic that wizards do not,” he informed the young man seated across from him. Seeing Harry’s questioning look Ragnok continued, “It would be in our best interest as well, ensuring that your tale of the Lestrange vault matter is never spoken of again.”
Over the course of the next hour a deal was struck, details hammered out and a price in galleons was paid. Harry felt that he was being charge more than would have been usual, certain that the goblins were attempting to recover some of their loss damages from the dragon, but he was fine with that. Gold had never meant that much to him in the first place. It was a very tired wizard that eventually returned to Grimmauld Place and informed Kreacher and Winky that tomorrow a team of goblins would be arriving to move everything currently in Grimmauld Place into the Black family vault.
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