Harry goes from one wand to two and gets into a bit of a scuffle at the Apothecary.
A/N: Just a couple of things to say before we can get started. First off, I'd like to tell you guys my general plan for updating. Right now I'm only actively working on this and Stolen Magic, and barring writer's block, I'm planning on alternating updates. Hopefully there won't be more than two weeks between chapters, but I know I can't promise anything.
As you can tell, this chapter is considerably longer than the last one, which, in turn, was considerably longer than the prologue. I'm not going to continue increasing the word count like that. I have my chapters outlined, and they'll be exactly as long as they need to be. That goes for all of my stories in the future as well. Complaints about the lengths of any individual chapters will be considered, but largely ignored in the end.
Finally, I'd like to thank Apocalypso for inspiring me to write the flashback for this chapter. It's not as interesting as his wand customization scene in The Chimera, More Snake Than Lion, but I still enjoyed writing it.
Several hours passed before Harry and Bella ventured out again. They had changed their Glamour Charms so no one would recognize them from the Ministry. Harry now retained his own mop of messy hair, though it was dirty blonde instead of black. The only other change was his eyes, which were an icy blue rather than the fairly nondescript brown he had chosen earlier. His scar remained hidden. Bella had changed the shape of her nose, giving it a noticeable curve that made her look like a bizarre red-plumed bird with her auburn hair and dark eyes.
They had returned home from the Ministry to find an owl from Hogwarts waiting for them with Harry's letter attached to its leg. After sending it away with a reply, the pair retired to their rooms, hoping to get some sleep before their next outing.
The pair lived in one of the Black family's many ancestral homes, this one located in Kent. It was one of the family's smallest structures, existing more for practicality than for comfort. It only held four bedrooms and three baths, but boasted a fully functional potions laboratory and dueling room, both of which Harry and Bella spent a considerable amount of time in.
Bella apparated them both into one of several designated areas in the alley, this one between Gringotts and the Magical Menagerie.
"Ollivanders is that way," Bella said, pointing to their right. "We'll go there immediately after Gringotts, since all of our other stops are in the opposite direction."
"Right," Harry said dazedly, overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of Diagon Alley in the middle of the day. He hadn't been around so many wizards in four years, and he had at least known everyone in Nanultka before that. This was an entirely new experience for him. He shook himself from his reverie a moment later, remembering the importance of the task at hand.
Harry was rejoining the wizarding world. Bella would be soon as well, but as a Death Eater; her situation was far more complicated. She had been to Gringotts several times ever since their return to England four years earlier, and was pleased to discover that the famous goblin neutrality extended to her as well. The fact that she had made transactions there was a matter of public record, and could therefore be seen if one were to go through the proper channels. However, the goblins were under no obligation to report her, so they did not. She only hoped that the same would be true for Harry. He had to claim his inheritance, after all.
They entered the bank in silence. Harry knew that Bella wouldn't help him in here. This was the first of many things he had to do without her direction. He consoled himself with the knowledge that she would at least remain at his side, offering what silent support she could.
There were several tellers free, including the one on the far right. Harry led Bella in that direction, suppressing a smile as every free teller he passed scowled, one even giving a rude gesture.
"Can you muffle the area, Bella?" Harry asked quietly as they reached the desk. He heard her mutter a few choice spells, but curiously didn't feel the familiar brush of magic.
"There is no need for spellwork here," the goblin teller rasped in a superior tone. "All of our desks are warded for secrecy, so your business remains your own. Now, what do you want?"
If Harry was surprised by the goblin's abrupt manner of speaking, he didn't show it. "My name is Harry Black Potter, formerly Harry James Potter. I'm here to claim my inheritance."
The goblin's eyes widened slightly, but otherwise seemed unaffected. "I will need a blood sample for verification purposes." He pulled out what looked like a muggle syringe from a desk drawer and motioned for Harry to hold out his hand.
He acquiesced with considerable reluctance, wincing as the goblin unceremoniously jammed the needle into his wrist, pulling back the plunger as far as it would go before yanking the device out again and inspecting the crimson liquid inside, looking for something that neither Harry nor Bella could spot.
"Everything seems to be in order," the creature said at last, squirting the blood into an empty inkwell that had appeared out of nowhere. Next to it was a parchment that had been blank, but was now quickly filling up with information, mostly numerical figures. "You won't be able to access your family vault until two years from today when you reach your majority. However, a trust vault was set up prior to your birth that should contain enough funds to tide you over until then. Just sign and date the bottom there with this."
Harry took the proffered quill and dipped it into his blood, then signed his name as quickly as possible. The goblin immediately snatched the parchment up and inspected it before nodding once and waving his hand, causing both it and the inkwell to vanish. A key appeared in the inkwell's place, which the goblin gave to Harry in exchange for the quill. "Did you want to make a withdrawal from your trust?" he asked. "It can be done here, or I can have someone bring you down to the vault."
"I'll just withdraw thirty galleons through you, if it's all the same," Harry said, looking to Bella for confirmation. She nodded and gave him a look of approval.
"Very well," the goblin said, opening a large canvas bag that took up the entire left half of the desk and pulling out another bag, this one considerably smaller. "Here you are, Mr. Potter."
"Thank you," Harry said, turning to leave only to be stopped by Bella.
"Can we trust that your usual procedures regarding confidentiality will apply here?" she asked.
"Gold is gold, no matter the source," was the only reply she would get. Bella nodded once, satisfied that no one would find out about Harry's return just yet.
Four years earlier, Harry had received his first Hogwarts letter, confirming to the Hogwarts staff, at the very least, that he was alive. Bella sent a reply as quickly as she could, which she had written with her left hand. It assured Dumbledore that Harry was safe and happy, but that he wouldn't be attending Hogwarts until his O.W.L. year. Bella still wasn't sure why they had accepted her word, but three days later, an article had surfaced in the Daily Prophet, complete with the picture she had sent of a ten-year-old Harry Potter reading a book, saying that sources had revealed that he was staying under Ministry protection and wouldn't be rejoining the populace until his fifth year at Hogwarts.
Minutes later, Harry and Bella stood in front of Ollivanders, the former surprised by its shabby exterior. It looked quite small from the front, but Harry had seen on the walk over that the building extended quite far back.
A soft bell tinkled overhead when Harry opened the door, alerting the store's sole occupant to their presence. He was a wisp of a man, barely topping five feet with sparse white hair and unblinking pale gray eyes that flashed when they met Harry's. "You are quite young to be an Occlumens, Mr...."
"Potter," Harry said.
"Ah yes, Mr. Potter. I had wondered if you would ever find your way here. It seems like only yesterday that your parents were here, purchasing their wands. Willow for your mother, ten and a quarter inches with a fine phoenix feather as its core. Your father's wand had a bit more power, mahogany, you know. It was eleven inches with one of three hairs from a particularly strong male unicorn. I still have one of the three, but I sold the other a few years ago to Cedric Diggory. Such a promising young man, what happened to him was a travesty." He paused for a moment, his eyes dimming slightly, before turning his gaze to Bella. He didn't miss Harry's flinch at the mention of Diggory. "I'm afraid I don't recognize your companion, though, as her glamour is every bit as complete as your own."
"Bellatrix Black," Bella said softly, testing his response.
Ollivander didn't even bat an eye. "I remember you quite well, Miss Black. Oak, twelve and three quarter inches, containing a dragon heartstring from the most temperamental Chinese Fireball seen in centuries. Quite a heavy wand for the small girl you were at the time. Your power grew into it nicely, though."
"How do you remember so much about my parents' wands, sir?" Harry asked, his respect for the ancient man before him rising by the minute.
"I remember every wand I've ever sold, Mr. Potter, every single one. It is something of a family trait," Ollivander replied with a mysterious smile. "But enough about that. Since you were raised by a Black, I can only assume that you have already forged your own wand. Is that correct?"
"Yes, sir," Harry said, thinking back to his eleventh birthday, arguably the most eventful day of his life.
A younger Harry Potter looked around the unfamiliar room, taking in every detail. It was the potions laboratory of the mansion in Kent. Early that morning, he had received his Hogwarts letter, which Bella replied to within a minute. She then packed their things and took him away from Nanultka. They were gone within the hour. She said that Dumbledore might have found them if the envelope was addressed to the village, and that she couldn't risk him being taken from her until he could defend himself. That was what Harry liked most about Bella; she was always honest, even when she couldn't tell him everything. He would miss the children from the village, but had known that he would eventually have to leave ever since he was capable of understanding the concept, which made it easier.
Bella entered the lab a minute later, carrying a magically expanded bag. From inside it she pulled no fewer than twenty-eight different large, heavy-looking blocks of wood. After that came an assortment of vials. More than half of them contained phoenix feathers, dragon heartstrings or unicorn hairs, but there were a great deal that contained other things as well. Finally, she pulled out a roll of cloth, placed it reverently on a table and unrolled it, revealing a wide assortment of tools, including a hammer and chisel made of solid silver along with several metal hooks and blades that were presumably used for carving.
"Harry," Bella began softly, "it's time for you to make your wand. Other wizards will have wands that choose them that they buy in shops. While those wands can be very effective, nothing works as well as a wand made by its owner. That's because you will be able to put a bit of your own magic into it, making your connection to your wand stronger than it could ever be with a store-bought wand."
Harry had never heard Bella speak that way before. This tradition was obviously something she held very dear to her heart, so he would treat it with every ounce of respect he had. "Tell me what to do first."
"The first step is the easiest," Bella said. "Go on and take the hammer and chisel in hand. They will guide you and allow you to select the wood your wand will be made of."
"Has anyone ever had more than one kind?" Harry asked.
"Nearly everyone since this tradition started has had at least two," Bella said. "However, having more kinds of wood doesn't make your wand any stronger. Every aspect of a Black family wand is tailored to its user. If your wand has more types of wood, it is because you need more. Several of my ancestors have tried to figure out why, but no one has succeeded yet."
"How many does yours have?"
"Three," Bella said. "Its outermost layer is a chestnut tree from Switzerland. Inside that is yew, from right here in Britain, and the innermost layer is a sequoia that came from America. The most layers any wand has ever had to my knowledge was seven, belonging to the first Andromeda Black, back in the 1400's. She went insane before turning twenty and tried to kill her mother with a levitated potted plant of all things."
Harry's eyes were wide, but his eagerness to begin the process outweighed his curiosity. He took up the hammer and chisel with surprisingly steady hands, finding them to be lighter than he had expected.
"Just give a light tap to each block. You'll know if it's the right one," Bella advised.
Harry approached the first block apprehensively. He couldn't tell what kind of wood it was from looking, which was true for all of the blocks. He lined up the chisel and gave it a tentative tap, but nothing happened. Harry pulled his arm back, ready to try again with a bit more force, but Bella caught his eye and shook her head. "A light tap is all that's needed to tell, go on to the next one."
So Harry moved on. He began to get frustrated after the first ten blocks yielded no results, but his frustration gave way to fear once he had failed to produce anything from the fifteenth. What if none of the woods worked? Would Bella have to put everything away? Would he be unable to make his own wand and have to settle for an unremarkable, impersonal piece of wood?
He raised his hammer over the sixteenth block and brought it down on the chisel. He nearly dropped both items when the chisel let out a note like a gong and a thin layer stripped itself from one side of the block, sliding down to the table.
"Excellent, Harry!" Bella exclaimed, rising from her seat and inspecting the wood. She looked almost as relieved as he felt. "One layer will be maple. I think this particular block came from Norway. We won't know which layer it is until we've seen all of them."
Harry grinned at her and suddenly felt like laughing. His worries that had plagued him moments before now seemed irrational as he gazed lovingly at the dark sheet of wood before him. Tearing his eyes from it, he moved on to the next block and gave it a casual tap. A slightly lighter note sounded this time, and another sheet fell to the table.
"Himalayan manna ash," Bella said, her smile growing. "It's pale, so it should serve as a good polar opposite to the maple. I don't know why, but wands always seem to function better when they have a good mix of light and dark wood."
Harry tuned her out as she lectured on, tapping the next block expectantly. Unfortunately, the eighteenth wasn't for him, so he moved to the nineteenth. It wasn't until the twenty-third block that he found another match, this one a sycamore fig from the Middle East. His fourth and final strip of wood came from an African cypress.
Harry looked at Bella expectantly as she leaned over the table, lining the sheets up next to each other. "The rules of layering are fairly simple. Evergreens are always the inner layers, and since the cypress is your only one, that will be first. The darkest wood is generally on the outermost layer, so we'll set the maple aside for now until we can be sure. Fruit trees such as the sycamore fig always occupy a middle spot when they can, and usually lean towards the inside. That's good, since the lightest and the darkest are always next to each other, supporting the theory of the maple being on the outside. More often than not, ash trees occupy middle layers, so that seals it." She carefully stacked the sheets in order with the cypress on top before directing Harry's attention to the multitude of jars.
"Now Harry, this second part is what frustrates most, since it involves sensing the magic within the various cores. However, your ability to sense ambient magic has already surpassed my own, which is stronger than that of either of my sisters, so I believe you won't have too much trouble with it. If you reach out to the cores mentally, like you would to assess a spell's power, most of them will feel completely dead to you. You should be able to sense some magic from a few, probably no more than five or six. We'll separate those from the rest and continue from there." Bella had arranged the cores by category. The three primary core types each occupied a different table, and the various secondary types sat atop a fourth. They wouldn't come until later.
Harry started with the dragon heartstrings, since Bella had once told him that both of her wands had those. There were eight on the table, each a different shade of red. Harry picked up each jar, one at a time, and discovered that Bella hadn't been entirely correct. He could sense magic emanating from each one, but it was muted for all but one. It didn't look especially distinctive to Harry, and was labeled "Romanian Longhorn, Female, 14".
"What does the fourteen mean?" Harry asked, holding up the jar.
"That's how many stunners it took to knock the dragon out when it was at its strongest," Bella said. "It's a fairly common way of ranking the dragons that the handlers use. Considering that the Longhorn has fairly thin scales, fourteen is an impressive number."
"This is the only heartstring that I could sense much magic from," Harry said, tossing the jar to Bella who caught it easily. "It felt pretty strong, though."
Harry continued through the phoenix feathers and unicorn hairs, finding two of each that had notable emanations.
"All done?" Bella asked as he brought over the two jars containing unicorn hairs. "Good. This should be easy for you. Put the five of them together and pick the one that feels the strongest."
The comparison turned out to be a bit of a joke. When put together, the heartstring far outshone the others, making Harry's choice an easy one.
"Now we have the wood layers and the primary core, but we still have to add two secondary cores to give the wand balance. Because you have the heartstring of a dragon, we can safely eliminate several of these ingredients, such as the powdered shell of a fire crab or the shredded manticore skin. The heartstring isn't as good with subtle magics as a phoenix feather, which has a fairly even balance, let alone a unicorn hair, which is more or less its polar opposite in terms of magical affinities. The cores you'll be sorting through aid with the arts for which power is largely irrelevant. Hold the jar with the heartstring in one hand while you do this, but go through essentially the same process with these cores. The only difference is that only two will appeal to you. I don't know why, but that's how it always works," Bella said, taking the secondary cores that wouldn't work back to the bag.
Harry sighed and began to sort through the jars, luckily only finding two to his liking, an Augurey vocal cord and the venom from a Streeler.
Over the next hour and a half, Bella took him through the process of finally putting the parts together. He began with the heartstring, carefully lifting it out of its jar and placing it on one edge of the cypress sheet. Bella handed him the vocal chord from the Augurey, which he wrapped around the heartstring. He then rolled the combined cores into each sheet successively, ending with the maple. Before their very eyes, the wand transformed, going from a relatively sloppy construction that had nothing holding it together to a smooth, polished piece of wood. It wasn't complete yet, though. Harry used a razor to cut the wand about half an inch down from the tip, separating it into two pieces. He took the small end and carefully gouged out most of the wood from the inside, leaving it roughly bowl-shaped. Not wanting her charge to be poisoned, Bella helped Harry pour the venom into the tiny makeshift bowl before putting the pieces back together. Both of them watched in awe as the line separating them glowed a myriad of colors momentarily before going dark, not a blemish to indicate the repaired cut.
Harry stared reverently at his wand. He would later measure it and discover that it was thirteen inches exactly. Each of the sheets had been eighteen-by-eighteen, but when the final core was added, the wand magically shrunk to its true length.
Ollivander's voice snapped Harry back to the present. "Yes, I've always had particular fun selling wands to Black family members. It is always much more difficult. Most wands refuse to bond to a wizard that already has one, but there is an exception for everyone. We merely need to find yours. Since you're already bonded to a wand, taking your measurements would be a bit misleading." He turned to the wall and flicked his wand, summoning an unmarked rectangular box that looked no different from any other in the shop. "Let's see if the third hair from your father's unicorn does anything for you. Give it a wave, if you please."
Harry had scarcely picked it up before Ollivander snatched it back, shaking his head and muttering to himself. Over the next ten minutes, Harry knew he must have tried fifty different wands, but not a single one of them had provided anything even resembling the warm comfort that his own positively exuded.
Ollivander, who had been stooping to inspect the most recent failure suddenly straightened, a knowing smile on his face. "I should have known," he said, chuckling softly. "Let's try something unusual, shall we?" He summoned another box, this one as unremarkable as the rest. "Holly and phoenix feather, a combination that generally bursts into flames, but it did work this one time. Eleven inches, nice and supple."
Harry looked at the wand in the box. It was polished, a bit smaller and paler than his own, but it didn't look all that special to him. Still, Ollivander had won his respect, so he picked it up, feeling a familiar, if slightly weaker, warmth within his fingertips. Ollivander clapped and Bella looked distinctly pleased as a trail of white sparks shot from its tip.
"I suppose I should not be surprised that this wand in particular chose you," Ollivander said softly, riveting Harry and Bella's gazes back to his face. "The phoenix that donated the feather in this wand provided me with one other at the same time. If I had known, I would never have..." He took a deep breath. "It should not surprise me that this one chose you, since its brother is responsible for taking your parents away."
Harry nodded, taking it all in. He wondered briefly what kind of person he was, to be so unaffected by news like this. But then again, he had known who had killed his parents for quite some time. He truly didn't know how to react to this news, since it didn't seem to affect him at all.
Bella's eyes hardened, making Harry realize that there was some significance that he was missing. "We'll be leaving now. Is the price still six Galleons?"
"I'm afraid it has risen to seven," Ollivander said, seeming oblivious to Bella's sudden change in mood. "The economy, wouldn't you know? Prices everywhere inflating."
"Harry, pay him," Bella said without looking away from the old man's face. "Throw in a couple extra for confidentiality."
"That won't be necessary," Ollivander said as Harry began counting Galleons. "I am bound by oath to inform Albus, as the phoenix in question belongs to him, but it shall go no further."
"It had better not," Bella snarled. "Be sure to mention only the wand. If I discover that Dumbledore is aware of anything else he shouldn't be, I will return."
"I'm sure you will," Ollivander said lightly, finally accepting the gold from Harry.
Bella pushed Harry out of the shop before the teen could say anything and into the crowded alley.
"What was that all about?" Harry asked.
"Just a moment," Bella replied, waving her wand and erecting a temporary sound barrier around them. She met his eyes and Harry nearly jumped in surprise when he saw that she was smiling. "Your wand is the brother of Voldemort's."
"But what does that /mean/?" Harry asked.
Bella shook her head in evident disappointment and elaborated. "When brother wands are forced to meet in combat, they don't work properly against each other. I haven't read up on the specifics in several years, but with two wands, you will have a huge advantage over him in combat!"
Harry breathed a sigh of relief. "That is good news! I'll start using it right away, since it'd probably be best if Voldemort didn't know I had two wands at all."
"I was about to suggest the same thing," Bella admitted before dispelling the sound barrier. It was easy to see that both of them were considerably happier than they had been ever since discovering the prophecy's contents.
Harry pulled out his Hogwarts letter to check the supply list. "I've already got most of these things back at home. All I really need are the books and a student potions kit. D'you want to split up and meet somewhere to eat?"
"The Leaky Cauldron is probably our best option," Bella said.
"Right, we'll meet there in half an hour," Harry said. "Er, where's the Leaky Cauldron?"
Bella sighed and rubbed her forehead. "Go east until the alley runs into it, you couldn't miss it if you tried. It's just past the Apothecary, come to think of it."
"East, right," Harry said, committing the locations to memory as they began walking. "I'd rather go to the Apothecary if you don't mind. I've been brewing the antidote to acromantula venom, but we've run out of snapdragon stems."
"That's fine," Bella said. "If you get to the Leaky Cauldron before I do, get a table in the back."
"I'll try," Harry said, not even slowing as Bella peeled away into Flourish & Blotts. His senses immediately turned outward, wary of being caught alone by an enemy. Though he knew that there was almost no chance of a Death Eater attack when the general public refused to acknowledge Voldemort's return, it couldn't hurt to be careful. He had also never been alone in a place so full of strangers before. In spite of all of his training, Harry had led a somewhat sheltered life from that perspective.
He saw several students his age passing by and happened to meet the gaze of one of them, a tall, broad-shouldered boy with a friendly face and close-cropped black hair. He offered Harry a friendly nod, which was returned, and simultaneously tightened his hold on the pretty Indian girl at his side. Harry understood the conflicting behavior easily enough, but still found it slightly amusing.
His mind still on the teens that would most likely be his classmates at Hogwarts, Harry arrived at the entrance to the Apothecary only to be rudely pushed aside by a tall man with long white-blonde hair tied back into a ponytail in the traditional pureblood style. Harry disliked him at once, and had heard enough from Bella about his distinctive hair alone to correctly assume that the man's name was Lucius Malfoy.
After entering, Harry quickly found his student kit, but left it with the display in case he needed both hands to handle the snapdragon stems. He turned to begin to look around for them and nearly tripped over what was either a very small man or an unusually tall dwarf.
"Sorry about that," Harry said, already moving on.
"Quite all right!" the man squeaked cheerfully from behind him.
Harry's search led him to the shelf next to the counter, where he found himself eavesdropping on a whispered argument between Lucius Malfoy and the wizard behind the counter.
"...told you we wouldn't serve you after what you said! You scared away five muggleborn customers yesterday, spouting off about getting on the right side of things in what's to come. We don't serve bigots here, so bugger off!"
"Come now, Brown. Surely there's no need for that. I was doing them a favor, advising them to leave our world before it is taken back by force. I offer you one last chance, which I'm only granting you because your daughter is my son's age. One last chance to preserve the possibility of an alliance with the one of the purest lines in Britain."
"Are you delusional?" Brown asked incredulously. "Taken back by force? Allying with former Death Eaters? Through marriage of all things?! I don't know which idea is more ludicrous. What I do know is that you need to get out. You're no longer welcome here." He had raised his voice at the end, causing Malfoy to glance around the shop for other occupants. Luckily, the shelf served its purpose, and the short man had either left, or merely couldn't be seen due to his height. Harry hoped it was the former, since the look of fury on Lucius Malfoy's face promised violence in the near future.
"You will regret this," Malfoy promised before stalking out of the shop.
Harry and Brown let out simultaneous sighs of relief when the door closed behind him, the former finally discovering the ingredient he sought on the shelf behind him. He grabbed a kit from the display by the door and was making his way to the sales counter when he felt it. The entire building had just shaken with a pulse of magic.
"Anti-Apparition wards," Harry said. When Brown looked curiously at him, he elaborated as calmly as he could. "SOMEONE JUST SET BLOODY ANTI-APPARITION WARDS AROUND THIS SHOP!"
Understanding and panic dawned on his features as one before he turned and shouted something into the room behind him, presumably to a coworker.
"I have a Portkey that should get us out of here," Harry said, but his face fell when he felt another pulse. "Never mind, they've just set up a ward for that as well."
"What should we do?" the man asked. "My family is upstairs!"
"Then we'll have to fight!" the tiny man said, emerging from behind a nearby display and causing both Harry and Brown to jump. Harry was unhappy that the old man was still there, not wanting another person to protect, but Brown's face lit up into a smile.
"Professor Flitwick! Thank Merlin you're here."
Harry's mind had barely registered the small man's title when the door opened, revealing six figures in dark robes with white masks. Harry couldn't believe the risk they were taking by exposing themselves to a public that denied their master's return. He guessed that they had at least two powerful allies outside keeping the wards together as well as some form of illusion around the shop. Without such measures in place, it would be too easy for others to discover the Death Eaters' presence.
Flitwick exploded into motion, rolling away from Harry and Brown and unleashing three banishers before anyone else had cast a single spell. Three of the Death Eaters dodged the spells, while a short, thin man was able to get a shield up in time. The giant next to him, however, was sent flying into a wall, though he was able to rise to his feet seconds later. The third spell was wide of the group, but it had served its purpose; they were scattered.
The six Death Eaters took a moment to size up their enemies when it became apparent that Flitwick was waiting for them to attack to continue his assault. One of the Death Eaters spoke up before too long. "I thought you said this place was empty. We didn't come here to kill Flitwick and a student."
"It can't be helped," Malfoy snapped. "We can't have any witnesses. The shopkeeper belongs to me. Nott, Gibbon, I expect the two of you to handle our esteemed professor. Avery, the boy. Soder, take Goyle with you and make sure there's no one in the back or upstairs."
"No!" Brown shouted, firing a Bludgeoning Hex at the two largest Death Eaters, who were moving towards the door to the back. He was forced to duck under a Killing Curse a moment later from Malfoy's wand.
Harry and Flitwick, along with their opponents, had yet to cast a spell. The small man looked at Harry pityingly. "I'll do what I can to help you," he promised.
"Help yourself," Harry snapped, taking the professor by surprise. "I can handle my own affairs." Avery seemed to take that as a challenge, because as soon as Harry fell silent, he unleashed a barrage of magic that shocked both Harry and Flitwick in its intensity. It was obvious from his expression that the diminutive professor wanted to help, but Nott and Gibbon had taken Avery's attack as a signal and were already spellcasting.
Harry recognized each of Avery's five spells as Dark, but was reluctant to reply in kind in the presence of his future professor. That was until a Severing Curse tore through one leg of his trousers, missing his thigh by mere millimeters. Harry responded with a Rupturing Curse from his new wand that might well have killed his opponent if it had connected.
Unwilling to relinquish the offensive, Harry continued his assault, mixing repulsively addictive Dark magic with the more mundane variety indiscriminately to great effect. Avery summoneded a powerful Praestruo Shield that was able to take the brunt of it, but one particularly vicious Shattering Curse finally broke it, leaving him completely vulnerable to the more legitimate Bone-Breaking Hex that followed. With no time to dodge, the Death Eater did the only thing he could, he threw his wandless arm in the way of the spell, wincing in pain as the spell connected. Clearly still able to fight, Avery ducked under a stunner and conjured a veritable swarm of poisoned needles before sending them at Harry, who banished them back at their caster with a flick of his wand.
Lucius Malfoy was toying with him. The thought raced through Blake Brown's mind as he cast every curse he could think of at his smirking foe. He was toying with him while his wife and daughter were under attack upstairs!
"Crucio," Malfoy said lazily. Brown screamed and convulsed in pain, dropping his wand and falling to the floor, an expression of exquisite agony on his face. It was intoxicating to a wizard like Malfoy, one who fully belonged to the Dark.
Flitwick looked desperately at the screaming man, wishing he could end his own conflict and come to his aid. Unfortunately, his opponents had clearly worked together before and dueled seamlessly, each possessing an uncanny awareness of the other's position.
Still, he wasn't a former Dueling Champion for nothing. Flitwick's small stature gave him an advantage in terms of avoiding enemy spellwork, and his surprising athleticism was almost unparalleled in the wizarding world. The result was frustrating for Nott and Gibbon, who had countless preconceived ideas for defeating nearly any opponent, but they couldn't keep track of the old man's location for more than a couple of seconds at a time. After several fruitless exchanges, Flitwick dashed behind Nott and summoned a shelf, ducking under it and hoping it would make contact with the man. Gibbon spotted him just in time, though, and was able to blast the shelf aside. Nott, however, was unable to shield Gibbon in turn from the glass jar of pickled Fwooper eggs that Flitwick banished into his face. The Death Eater screamed in pain as a shard embedded itself in one of his eyes. Maxwell Nott gulped audibly as his ex-professor turned to face him.
Avery's eyes widened comically as his own needles lanced back in his direction. It would take an unbelievably strong banisher to do that, which led Avery to wonder for the first time if he could win against his opponent. He was a fairly skilled duelist, but some of the curses the boy was hurling at him had taken him months, if not years, to master. It was also extremely unusual to find one his age willing to use Dark magic, and even more so to find one who wasn't already on their side. Ducking under the needles, Avery cast a spell that few Death Eaters had mastered, Snape's own Sectumsempra.
Harry's shock was evident as the curse that had killed his father approached, but still sidestepped it with relative ease. The look he now gave Avery tempted the man more than ever to surrender, but Harry clearly wouldn't accept. An unhealthy glint in his eye, Harry cast the same spell at his opponent, but slashed horizontally, making him drop flat to the floor to avoid being gutted like a fish. Harry resisted the impulse to kill that always accompanied the use of Dark magic and cast a stunner, turning around just in time to see Lucius Malfoy cast the Killing Curse once more. This time Brown was in no condition to avoid the spell.
His opponent taken care of, Malfoy looked around the room for the first time and was far from pleased with what he saw. Flitwick and the boy had both defeated their foes and were now facing him together.
He was acting without the Dark Lord's blessing, and he knew it. Their current standing orders were to lay low and not make waves within the magical community. However, when the lowly Apothecary owner had kicked him out the day before, Lucius felt that some sort of response was in order. Now, however, he honestly wondered if it would be safer to give himself over to the Aurors than to return to his master's side. Sighing in resignation, he faced his opponents squarely. "You have two options. You can fight me, or you can try to save this man's family upstairs." He noted with interest that if anything, Flitwick seemed more upset at the prospect than the boy, though both were clearly incensed.
"Let's go," Flitwick squeaked angrily, tugging on Harry's sleeve and pulling him past Malfoy, who was already making for the door. The plethora of potions ingredients surrounding them in the storeroom didn't even register in either person's mind as they stormed through the room, hoping against hope that the man's family was all right. The concern was much more personal for Flitwick, who had taught both Blake and his wife Jasmine, and was now teaching their daughter, Lavender. They raced up the staircase at the far end of the room as quietly as they could and found the door at the top already open. The corpse of Jasmine Brown was the first thing they saw. She had an expression of fear on her face that was all-too common on the victims of Death Eaters, but the absence of anything else suggested that she had simply been hit with the Killing Curse.
A scream from the adjacent room drew their attention from the scene in front of them. Flitwick led Harry into the hallway and into what must have been Lavender's bedroom. She was in the corner on her bed with the large Swedish Death Eater, Bjorne Soder, obviously having just had a Silencing Charm cast on her. Tears ran down her face as the Death Eater crudely pawed at her fairly large, bare breasts, laughing and tugging at her pants, his intentions obvious. Michael Goyle waited off to one side, an anticipatory grin on his face as he waited for his turn to come.
Harry and Flitwick both cast stunners as soon as they entered, Harry's hitting Soder, causing him to collapse onto the hysterical girl below him, while Flitwick's hit Goyle, but not before he got off a Full Body-Bind. Flitwick's wand flashed with incredible speed, deflecting it away from himself and right into Harry's face. The teen sighed inwardly as his body fell backwards, nearly losing consciousness when his head slammed into the hard wood floor. Looking out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Flitwick levitate Soder off of Lavender and remove the Silencing Charm from her before pulling the sobbing girl into an odd-looking fatherly embrace.
They found out between sobs that she had seen her mother die, and Flitwick gently informing her of her father's demise brought on a fresh round of tears. At some point, her modesty had returned to her, so Harry no longer had to distract himself from that particular sight, though he still couldn't help but be attracted to the curvaceous witch.
Harry wasn't sure how long Flitwick consoled her, but at some point she became calm enough to notice him and point out his presence to the professor, who apologetically squeaked out a "Finite Incantatem" for Harry's benefit. He had to suppress a groan a moment later when Lavender's expression of gratitude and Flitwick's continuing stammered apologies were replaced with identical expressions of shocked disbelief, telling him that his Glamour Charm had also been removed by the spell.
The picture of Harry that Bella had sent Dumbledore, the one featured in the Prophet article, had ensured that every witch and wizard in England knew exactly what he looked like, from his unchanging messy black hair to his distinctive lightning bolt-shaped scar.
"Bugger," Harry said intelligently, locking eyes with Lavender for a moment before forcibly wrenching his gaze away and rising to his feet.
"Not going anywhere, I hope," Flitwick said, his shock having worn off. "I must say, it's quite an honor to meet you, but I wish it had been under better circumstances. Terribly sorry to forget all about you, by the way."
Harry didn't know what to say. Part of him wanted to run, but he knew that he was going to be a part of this world soon, and that the pair in front of him were as favorably disposed as anyone he was likely to meet. "Don't worry about it," he finally said. "You had more important things to worry about." He blushed as he said this, determinedly looking Flitwick right in the eye, but more focused on avoiding Lavender's gaze than anything else.
The girl in question regarded him with haunted eyes and said a quiet "Thank you."
"Er, you're welcome," Harry stammered, inwardly wincing at his sudden inability to think straight. "I really should be leaving, my guardian will be worried."
"But we have to report this to the Ministry!" Flitwick exclaimed. "I'm sure your guardian would be willing to wait, given the circumstances."
"It's all right, Professor," Harry said. " Your testimony will be more than enough to put the lot of them away in Azkaban, but I really do need to leave."
Flitwick looked conflicted, but finally nodded in agreement. "I'll have to tell them about you, you know."
"Just do me a favor and don't mention some of my more questionable spells," Harry said seriously. "I only use them when I have to."
"I suppose I can keep quiet about that," Flitwick said thoughtfully. He held out his hand. "I expect I'll see you at the start of term."
"You will, sir," Harry promised, shaking his hand. He hesitantly turned to Lavender. "I'm sorry." It sounded inadequate to him, but she managed a small smile all the same. "Don't leave her alone, Professor, all right?"
"I wouldn't dream of it," Flitwick said. "Miss Brown will be safe with me."
Harry smiled at the diminutive man. "Good to hear." With that, he turned and walked out, out of sight before he could succumb to the temptation to look back.
As he walked back to the storeroom, he reapplied his Glamour Charm, not wishing to reveal himself to the general populace. The wards had fallen shortly after Lucius Malfoy had fled, presumably taking whoever was holding them up with him. As a result, several people were surveying the damage in the store, their shock evident. Unfortunately, they all turned to face him as soon as he entered.
"What the bloody hell happened here?" one man asked furiously, gesturing to Mr. Brown's corpse along with the unconscious forms of Nott, Gibbon and Avery.
"Death Eaters," Harry said tersely. "Led by Lucius Malfoy." He wasn't met with as many protests as he might have expected, but several people had expressions of profound mistrust on their faces.
"You can ask Professor Flitwick, he's upstairs with the only survivor," Harry said. "Have the Aurors been called?"
"I sent for them a minute ago," an older witch said composedly. "They said it would be a few minutes. There was an incident at the Ministry this morning that they're still sorting out."
Harry nodded and made to leave, only to find his exit blocked by a burly wizard. "Hold on a minute, you can't leave until the Aurors get here," he said, crossing his arms over his chest.
Harry sighed impatiently. "You don't need me here. Flitwick and the girl upstairs have plenty of evidence between them to convict all of these Death Eaters. I have to go, and if you don't move out of my way, I'll show you exactly what I did to him," he said, gesturing to Avery's form.
The man looked a bit flustered, but stood his ground.
"Oh let the boy go, Wood, it's obvious whose side he's on," another wizard said from the other side of the room, where he was unmasking Nott.
The burly fellow glowered at him, but finally moved aside. Harry pushed past him without a word.
Once outside, Harry spotted Bella immediately. She was coming from the Leaky Cauldron, looking worried, at least until she spotted him. When they reached each other, she lifted a finger to her lips to silence him. "I heard about the attack, some fool came into the Leaky Cauldron babbling about a fight in the Apothecary for the world to hear. Tell me about it when we get home." Without waiting for a reply, she grabbed Harry's arm and apparated them both away.