Harry & the Witch Trio meet up with the Tonks and visit Grimmauld Place.
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A Heritage Realized, A Heritage Regained
After stopping at his temporary quarters for a consultation with the Marauder's Map, Harry found the witches on their way back to the dungeon rooms from the library.
"Did you and the headmaster have a good time?" Tonks complained.
"That would depend on your definition of a good time, Nymph," Harry answered. "We did make some great progress, but some of our findings are... disturbing. In any event, there is nothing more to be done until Albus locates a certain... informant." Shaking his head as if to clear the unpleasant images from his mind, Harry asked, "So what have you ladies been up to while I was busy?"
"Trudging through mountains of old books," Bellatrix growled.
"Are you still going on about that? It was necessary, not to mention fun!" Narcissa maintained.
"Not from where I was standing," Bellatrix shot back.
At Harry's inquiring glance, Tonks said, "Narcissa wanted to research that weird triangle thing we picked up from Borgin, and immobilized Bellatrix to get her to the library."
"Really?" Harry asked, cocking his head to the side as he observed the two sisters. Choosing to ignore the latter of the two details, Harry questioned, "Were you able to find anything?"
"No," Narcissa entered the conversation. "I'm almost positive that the runes you mentioned originated in ancient Egypt, but we haven't found mention of anything like that artifact yet."
"You did well regardless," Harry praised. "And there is a curse breaker who specializes in ancient Egyptian technology who will be attending tonight's Order meeting. I will check with him afterwards and see if he has heard of such a thing. That reminds me; we need to pay a visit to headquarters. It seems that the wards shut the headquarters down after Sirius's... death. We'll need to go re-open it before tonight."
Tonks looked as if she understood what he was implying, but the other two women were confused. "I don't understand why you would need us for that," Narcissa said. "Can't Dumbledore just key the wards to himself?"
"No, because the wards are keyed to one particular bloodline, and it isn't his," Harry explained. "I have something here that should explain things." Withdrawing the scrap of paper that Albus had given him, he handed it to the two women. Upon it was written the same message that appeared on the note that Mad-eye Moody had given him a year ago.
'The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix can be found at 12 Grimmauld Place.'
Both Harry and Tonks watched as comprehension dawned first on Narcissa, then on Bellatrix. "So that's why Kreacher was unable to give Lucius much information," Narcissa mused. "Sirius was at Black manor under a Fidelius charm, then?"
"Yes," Harry answered shortly as he took the note back. Once in his hand, it promptly burst into flame and was quickly reduced to ash.
"And your plan is for one of us to deactivate the blood wards surrounding the place?" Narcissa questioned, ignoring the rather flamboyant gesture.
Harry nodded in affirmation and said, "It would certainly be appreciated."
"Impossible," Narcissa replied. "The Black wards were originally cast by a very traditional wizard a couple of centuries ago. The whole purpose behind the wards was to ensure that the control of the family passed down from the master of the family, Lord Black, to his eldest male heir. Ergo, we can't command the wards for any reason."
Harry groaned while using one hand to massage his temples. "I was afraid of something like that. Are you telling me that I'm going to have to let the ferret out of its cage just to open a bloody door?"
The other three participants looked confused at this comment as Bellatrix asked, "Ferret?"
Harry chuckled darkly before replying, "It's just a little nick name for darling Draco."
"And you thought that 'ferret' would be a good moniker because..." Tonks prompted.
"Oh, when Barty Crouch, Jr., was running around here two years ago and passing himself off as Professor Mad-eye Moody, he got onto Draco about attacking people from behind - me, incidentally - and transfigured him into a white ferret before levitating him repeatedly into the ceiling. Granted, Crouch was a homicidal megalomaniac, but there is no denying that the man had style. Besides, if you ever looked at him straight-on, he even looks faintly rodent-like." Suddenly remembering his audience, Harry looked at Narcissa and apologized, "I'm sorry about that. I shouldn't have brought that up."
"Don't be," Narcissa said in a determined voice. "Draco is no son of mine. He has become no more than another worthless stooge for that monster Voldemort, just like his father. And you're right," she said with a smile, "he inherited that rodent characteristic from Lucius."
The quartet had a good laugh from that before Bellatrix asked her sister, "Can't we at least get around the hereditary portions of the protections? If we could stop that part, then Harry could then tackle the rest of the ward."
Narcissa looked contemplating for a few moments before finally saying, "That might be possible, but I'm not sure how the wards around Grimmauld are configured. Andy was always better at warding than I was, anyway."
"Well, let's go ask her then!" Bellatrix exclaimed.
"I think you're forgetting about your fugitive status again, Bella," Narcissa reminded. "Besides," she added, "I doubt that our older sister would exactly welcome us with open arms at the moment. My guess is that she would sooner hex us than listen to us anyway."
"Not if we explained what really happened to you two right up front," Tonks proposed. "She doesn't talk about it much, but I know that she has missed the two of you. We just need to convince her of the truth before you go barging in there."
"And who do you propose does the fast talking?" Bellatrix demanded.
Almost as if it was choreographed, the three women turned to look at Harry.
"Oh, no. I don't think so," Harry said. "Besides, I've never even laid eyes on the woman before."
"You'll do fine," Narcissa pledged.
"Yeah," Tonks blurted out, "You charmed Dumbledore up right nice. My mum shouldn't even be a challenge for your silver tongue after that."
Crossing his arms, Harry defiantly said, "Absolutely not!"
Sticking out her bottom lip, Tonks employed womankind's most devastating weapon - the pout. To make matters worse, her two aunts joined in the display.
"Please?" they pleaded.
"Bloody women!" Harry muttered under his breath as he rang the doorbell at the Tonkses' residence, the youngest Tonks at his side and the two older witches sharing his invisibility cloak a few paces behind him. "Always making my life difficult!"
Harry was promptly elbowed in the side by the shorter metamorphamagus, who was glaring at him slightly. Any rejoinder Harry may have waged was stopped by the sound of approaching footsteps. The oak door opened to reveal a tall, elegant woman in her early forties with sharp features and midnight black hair woman wearing a casual pullover shirt and loose pants.
"Nymphadora!" the woman called out before rushing forward and giving the younger witch a hug. "What are you doing here? Is everything alright? And who is this?"
"Hi, mum," the metamorphamagus said glumly after being addressed yet again by her dreaded first name. "Everything's fine! This is Harry... Harry Potter. We found some information that you really need to hear."
Upon hearing Harry's surname, Andromeda Black Tonks jerked her head towards the hitherto silent man standing at her daughter's side. Her eyes widened perceptively as an errant gust of wind lifted Harry's fringe enough so that the lower portion of his world-renown scar was visible. "Mr. Potter! It's so wonderful to meet you!" Andromeda exclaimed. "I'm Andromeda Tonks. Nymphadora has told Ted and me so much about you!"
Sketching the woman a slight bow, Harry said, "The pleasure is mine, Mrs. Tonks. She's only been sharing good things, I hope?" This was accompanied by a quick glance at the young woman in question, who seemed to be carefully observing the stonework comprising the walkway upon which the party stood.
"Oh, the best," the woman replied, also seeing her daughter's failure to meet the young man's gaze. 'Interesting...' the elder woman thought to herself.
Shaking off her maternal introspection, Andromeda asked, "Would you like to come in?"
"Please," Harry responded as he lay a hand to the small of Nymph's back and guided her in after her mother. Harry paused in the threshold as he pretended to inspect his surroundings while delaying long enough to allow the other two Black women to discreetly enter the home.
Feeling a light touch brush against his shoulder, Harry proceeded forward and closed the door. Andromeda led the way into a well-furnished sitting room. As with most Wizarding homes, there was a working fireplace with elaborate stonework outlining a semicircle around the flame. The rest of the floor was covered in a thick off-white carpet, and various sofas and recliners littered the area along with the occasional end table or bookcase. The room's other occupant, a middle-aged man dressed in tweed with curly brown hair and glasses, rose to his feet as he saw who Andromeda was escorting.
The man embraced the young ex-Auror as Nymph said with a smile, "Hi, Dad. What are you doing home?"
"Hello, 'Dora," the man said jovially, obviously glad to see his daughter, "I was just visiting your mother during my lunch hour. Who is your friend here?"
Nymph smiled brightly, "Da, I'd like you to meet Harry Potter. Harry, this is my father, Ted Tonks."
Harry smiled at them, "It's an honor to meet you, Mr. Tonks. Sirius always spoke highly of you."
"Thank you," Ted Tonks responded. "Now, what brings you two here?"
At Nymph's nudge, Harry said, "We recently discovered some critical information that you and your wife deserve to know. Might we sit down? The story is slightly involved, and there are a few surprises that might catch you unawares otherwise."
"Of course," the middle-aged man answered, "be our guest." The elder Tonks took one of the two-seater couches as Harry and Nymph claimed another loveseat facing the pair.
Taking a breath as he gathered his thoughts, Harry looked at Andromeda and said, "It involves your sisters, Mrs. Tonks."
"They stopped being my sisters the day they joined He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named," Andromeda said resignedly.
"That is part of what we wished to discuss," Harry said. "As it turns out, the public opinion of both Bellatrix and Narcissa is wholly inaccurate."
"What do you mean?" the witch demanded.
"Let me start at the beginning," Harry replied. He then launched his explanation, briefly touching on Bellatrix's arrival at Privet Drive and her subsequent confession - leaving out the finer details on exactly how Harry managed to free her from Voldemort's mind control - the insider information she provided, and the following excursion to Diagon Alley and Malfoy Manor. He then described how the trio found Narcissa, and explained how they fought the present death eaters for her freedom.
Throughout the tale, both Andromeda's and her husband's eyes continued to widen in disbelief. "Incredible!" Ted exclaimed at Harry's conclusion.
"Are you sure about this?" Andromeda finally questioned.
Harry nodded as he replied, "Completely. Due to events of a... personal nature, Nymph and I can both assure you that they never willingly served Voldemort. We even went to Hogwarts and got Albus Dumbledore to verify their story."
Nymph broke in with, "Honest, Mum, Da, they're on our side."
Mr. Tonks seemed to stare off into the distance, while his wife kept looking from Harry to Nymph and back again. "They really didn't turn?"
The younger pair just nodded.
"And they've been shunned and/or mistreated for the past twenty years?" the older woman demanded.
Harry and Nymph just dipped their heads again in reply.
"And my baby sister was thrown unjustly into Azkaban just like Sirius while my other sister was kept as an unwilling decoration... AND I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT?" Andromeda screamed.
"It was a good deception," Harry answered, "but then, Voldemort has always been a good liar. People saw what they expected to see from an old pureblood family, and no one ever looked deeper into the matter."
"Merlin!" Andromeda breathed, as the reality of her sisters' past became known. "I have to go see them, find out... No," she said, her mood dropping, "I doubt they'd want to have anything to do with me now. They've needed help for close to two decades, and I've just sat here, oblivious."
"Actually," Harry informed her, "they have both expressed great interest in meeting with you. I anticipated you having a similar desire, and planned ahead." Turning to a vacant spot off to the side, Harry prompted, "Ladies?"
A rustle of cloth was heard before both Bellatrix and Narcissa were revealed, both looking at their elder sister with hopeful expressions. An instant later found the three women in a tight embrace, even though no one in the room witnessed either of the three moving.
As the three sisters held a heartfelt reunion, Harry wrapped one arm around Nymph's shoulders and pulled them both to their feet. Crossing the short distance to stand before Ted Tonks, Harry quietly asked, "How about we give them some space?"
The older wizard silently rose to his feet, caught off-guard by everything that had been brought to light in his sitting room. He did, however, notice how his only daughter had wrapped her arm tightly around the other wizard's waist as she suggested - or rather, demanded - that they give the young Mr. Potter the 'ten cent' tour of the house. As the three quietly vacated the room, with Ted picking up the rear, he just shook his head at how the world-renown Harry James Potter appeared at their door and 'threw them all for a loop' with nothing more than a few soft-spoken words. His eyes again gravitating to how his offspring had latched onto the Wizarding icon, Ted snorted to himself as he internally mused, 'Well, she could do worse...'
Approximately a half-hour later, Harry had been introduced to every room, closet, and furnishing in the Tonks' household. He had even been granted an opportunity to examine the hardwood flooring upstairs when a bureau 'jumped right in front of' the resident metamorphamagus, causing the ex-Auror to tumble into Harry and send them both to the floor: Harry, with his face against the wood, and Nymph, with her elbow in the aforementioned wizard's kidney.
Once that situation was resolved, the trio made their way back to the main sitting room: where the three women seemed to have successfully resolved any latent misunderstandings and were quietly talking amongst themselves. The three seated women rose to their feet as the other group entered the room, Narcissa handing the invisibility cloak back to Harry as they did so. Harry deftly folded the device into a small square before pocketing it. "So," he asked, "did you three get all caught up?"
"Yes," Andromeda answered for her sisters, "and they both tell me that I have you to thank for that."
"Hardly," Harry replied immediately, "Bella escaped all on her own and found me, and she joined both Nymph and myself when we went after Cissy. And for the record, my own contribution was certainly far from extraordinary."
"Well, I did hear something about a sword duel," Andromeda rejoined. "There are not many people who can go up against Lucius Malfoy in fencing and win. He used to be legendary on the fencing circuit."
Harry snorted. "A legend in his own mind, perhaps. He showed some skill, but nothing noteworthy."
"Still, few wizards bother to learn something so outdated as swordplay," Andromeda pressed.
"Well, I've never been what one would consider normal, anyway," Harry rejoined, volunteering no additional information.
Finally taking the hint, Andromeda changed topics. "So, Cissy said you needed to ask me something about warding?"
Grateful for the change in topic, Harry nodded and said, "Yes, more specifically the wards surrounding 12 Grimmauld Place."
"The Order headquarters?" Andromeda asked. At Harry's raised eyebrow, she explained, "Albus and Sirius had stopped by over two years ago asking if we objected to their using the old place for a meeting place. We're not active members of the Order, but I guess you could say we're on reserve."
Harry nodded and answered, "Yes, I was referring to Headquarters. It seems that whatever hereditary wards were placed on the house activated with Sirius's death, and Albus has been unable to deactivate them. We were hoping that you might know how to get around them, since dragging Lucius's spawn to London to unlock a door is far from an ideal solution."
Pausing to think for a minute, she finally said, "Well, as you seem to already know, the wards are a form of blood magic, which is keyed to the Black family. However, as is with all such shields, this ward has a focal node and a control node. While the far larger focal node is buried in the center of the house, the control node, by necessity, is on the ward's perimeter. If this critical point is overpowered, the entire ward will fall."
"And you know where the Black control node is located?" Harry asked.
"Yes, it's-" the rest of her response was lost as the front door erupted into splinters with a loud cry of 'Reducto'. The disheveled form of Rodolphus Lestrange ran into the room - and right into three stunners, a full body-bind, a disarming charm, and a disapparition jinx.
"Deatheaters," Harry said resignedly as he strode forward to inspect their prisoner, "no subtlety whatsoever. It's a wonder that..." Harry trailed off as a small flicker of gray flashed in his peripheral vision. Whipping his wand up, Harry said heatedly, "Accio Rat!" Under the influence of the summoning charm, the aforementioned rodent soared through the air towards the now angry young wizard. The animal came to a rest floating mere inches from Harry's raised wand point, where everyone could see a silvery front paw. "Hello, Wormtail," Harry said calmly, though no one missed the undercurrent of menace in his voice, not even Bellatrix whose rapt attention had never wavered from the bound and unconscious form of her husband.
"You should probably change back now, Rat," Harry said in the same even tone as he applied a disapparition jinx to the captured animagus. After watching the transformed wizard writhe and squeal for a few moments, Harry sighed and said, "Very well. You asked for it."
A flash of blue-white light erupted from Harry's wand; for a moment, the rat was frozen in midair, his small gray form twisting madly before it fell and hit the floor. There was another blinding flash of light and then, just as it was in the shrieking shack in third year - It was like watching a speeded-up film of a growing tree. A head was shooting upward from the ground; limbs were sprouting; a moment later, a man was standing where Wormtail had been, cringing, and wringing his hands. The short man was just as Harry remembered him from the end of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. The short man's thin, colorless hair was still unkempt. He still had the shrunken appearance of a plump man who has lost a lot of weight in a short time. And most of all, he still had the silver hand courtesy of Voldemort's dark magic.
Harry heard more than one sharp intakes of breath, all of which were ignored as he paid exclusive attention to the small traitor standing before him. Smiling coldly, Harry almost purred, "I've been looking forward to this moment for a long, long time." Without further warning, Harry wrenched his arm back before quickly pulling it around and colliding his clenched fist with Wormtail's jaw, sending the shorter man flying back a couple of paces to land on his back.
The deatheater's small, watery eyes darted around, looking at them all, his breathing fast and shallow. Harry saw his eyes dart to the door and back again. "P - Please have mercy..." Pettigrew's squeaky voice begged.
Harry just chuckled coldly as he absentmindedly summoned a nearby letter opener. Tossing his wand to his left hand, Harry snatched the sharp instrument in his right. Another wandless charm quickly enlarged the blade to that of a good-sized dagger's dimensions. "No," Harry answered as his menacing mirth died out, "I don't think so. When I met you two years ago, I showed you mercy. Even after learning that it was your betrayal that murdered my parents and ruined my life, I showed you mercy. Even after learning that it was your betrayal that landed Sirius in Azkaban for over a decade, I showed you mercy. Sirius and Remus would have killed you that night, but I spared your life. And, for my efforts, you repay me by killing my classmate and aiding that monstrosity to regenerate itself. No, Rat, you have exhausted my supply of mercy. Now you will face my vengeance!"
"Wait!" Pettigrew cried. "I know things: You-Know-Who's secrets. If you let me go, I'll tell you everything!"
"No, my little Wretch, you have that backwards," Harry intoned as he took a step forward and brandished his impromptu weapon. "You'll tell me everything, and I might decide not to drag your entrails out an inch at a time."
Wormtail began babbling. "The Dark Lord: he can talk to creatures from the underworld: he's planning to breach the boundary between the two realms, and let a demon horde through to this realm."
"I know that!" Harry said sharply, while dragging the point of his dagger across Wormtail's abdomen, not applying enough pressure to pierce the skin, but enough to get the other man's attention. "Tell me something substantial, not this obvious drivel!"
"Treasure! I know where You-Know-Who hid some treasure! He called it a whore-something," the rat animagus cried.
Harry's eyebrow rose at the last comment. 'Was Voldemort truly so foolish as to entrust the location of a horcrux to such a bumbling fool?' Harry wondered. 'Well,' he answered himself, 'he did choose Wormtail to oversee his rebirth. Maybe the rat /does know something interesting.'/ "What sort of treasure was this?" Harry demanded in an uninterested tone.
"It was a golden locket. Had a snake shaped like an 'S' on one side," Wormtail babbled.
"So you helped the maniac hide a locket? I'm not impressed," Harry prompted.
If possible, Wormtail started to fidget even more nervously. "But it's a special locket. He hid it in a cave, up on the side of a cliff next to the sea."
"So where is this cave you used to hide the 'special' locket?" Harry sneered.
"I...I don't know. The Dark Lord took me there years ago, but I overheard him mutter about a couple of brats that 'got theirs' as he entered. I think one of their names was Jenson, or Benson; something like that. I don't know who they are, though."
The last name jogged a memory Harry had seen in Albus's pensieve only hours before - the one of Tom's old orphanage mistress, Mrs. Cole. 'On the summer outing - we take them out, you know, once a year, to the countryside or to the seaside - well, Amy Benson and Dennis Bishop were never quite right afterwards, and all we ever got out of them was that they'd gone into a cave with Tom Riddle. He swore they'd just gone exploring, but something happened in there, I'm sure of it. And, well, there have been a lot of things, funny things...'
Harry was all-out laughing internally now/. 'I can't believe it! This incompetent fool has known where Voldemort hid a piece of his soul for years, and no one ever even suspected it!'/ His outward response, though, was as glacially calm as the rest of his interrogation had been. "Anything else?" Harry asked. "Another little knick-knack perhaps? Or maybe something actually useful, like the location of Voldemort's current headquarters? Hmm...?"
Wormtail fearfully shook his head in the negative. "N-n-no... the Dark Lord hasn't confided anything else in me, and none of us know where we will meet beforehand. He calls us through the Mark to an unknown location." Changing tactics, the rat resorted to pleading for his life again. "Please, that's all I know! Don't kill me! That's all I know!"
Smiling darkly, Harry said, "Okay, Rat, I believe you. In fact, I'm not even going to kill you. At least, not right now."
"Y-you're not?" Pettigrew asked disbelievingly.
"Oh, no," Harry said in a grand manner as he tossed the now-restored letter opener back to its original location, "after all, I have it on the best authority that your old friend Moony is just... raving to see you again."
"R-remus? No!" Wormtail cried.
"Good night, Rat," Harry said with a smile, as a red stunner flew from his wand and impacted against the older wizard's chest. Flicking the instrument, he tossed the wizard's body against that of Rodolphus Lestrange and ensured that they were both stripped of any wands, weapons, portkeys, or other such devices. The latest booty was added to the sack containing his other prisoners' possessions before both wand and bag were returned to their places within his robes. Turning around, he noticed that Andromeda was holding onto her husband and looking a little pale. In fact, Ted Tonks wasn't looking all that much better.
"Are you okay?" Harry asked.
"Are we okay?" Andromeda parroted wildly. "Two men break into our home with the intent of killing or capturing us, one of whom is supposed to be imprisoned and the other dead. Then, you take them both prisoner, interrogate one of them, and threatened to kill him - in my house! Excuse me, but that's just a little out of the ordinary for me!"
Harry just smiled. "Sad thing is; this sort of thing happens to me all the time." Suddenly remembering his earlier promise, Harry locked eyes with Bellatrix and said, "Well, Bella, there's Rodolphus, and I'm positive that he won't be running off on us. He's yours, as I promised."
Bellatrix flicked her eyes from the emerald orbs observing her to the prone form of her so-called husband. Closing the distance between the two, Bellatrix extended one leg and kicked Rodolphus over so that he lay on his back staring blankly at the ceiling. Drawing her wand, she leveled it at his head as she recalled all the indiscretions, humiliations, demonstrations, and downright tortures she had suffered by the hands of the mass before her. She remembered vividly every dream she had during her few lucid moments when she planned how she would seek revenge for his transgressions. Summoning all of her hatred that overwhelmed her even when she extracted her promise from Harry just the previous day, Bellatrix prepared to snuff out the life of the cretin laying upon the floor before her with nothing more than two words and a bolt of green light.
Just as she opened her mouth to intone Rodolphus's death sentence, however, Bellatrix remembered the events that followed her hallway conversation with Harry. How they were shown a side of both Harry and Hogwarts that few, if any, had ever seen. How Harry, when she was engulfed in a miasma of hatred and loathing similar to what she currently felt towards the male Lestrange, had embraced her in an overwhelming swell of the exact opposite. Unlike ever before, she had felt appreciated... accepted... even, loved. A set of emotions and motivations that her parents taught her were for the foolish and weak were wielded in a battle of wills against the darkest wizard of the Age by a wizard that owed her not one single thing. Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived himself, had defied the Dark Lord Voldemort yet again for nothing more than a second chance at life for a woman that precious few even cared about, and had won.
Against all odds, Bellatrix now stood once more a free woman, and now could clearly see a choice of how her life would proceed lying before her just as surely as her husband's unconscious body was. The easiest choice would be to cast the Unforgivable, to let her parents and her tormentors finally beat her completely, to sink once more into an endless pit of servitude and deception until she finally died or was destroyed. Her only other option would be to take the life-line that her savior offered, to leave behind all that she had known or hoped for, and follow this mysterious wizard blindly on his quest with no promises of success, and infinitely more possibilities of failure.
Bellatrix made her choice.
Sliding her wand back into her sleeve, she whirled around so that she would no longer have to look upon the form of her husband, only to come face-to-face with Harry, who had silently stepped behind her during her deliberations. "Take him and put him with the rest. I don't care what you do with him. If I gave in to what I wanted to do, I would become no better than he is, and then they would really win."
Harry gripped her shoulders and smiled as he congratulated her. "Well done. I knew you would make the right decision, given a chance."
Looking most incredulously, Bellatrix demanded, "This was a test?!"
"Most things in life are, Bella," Harry said calmly, "from a certain point of view."
"'From a certain point of view'?" Bellatrix echoed. Another thought struck her. "What if I had failed the test? What if I gave in and just killed him for spite?"
Without changing either expression or tone, Harry answered, "Then you would have proven that I was wrong to trust you, that - deep down - you were no different than the death eaters on the floor right now, and I would then have three criminals to haul off instead of two." Bellatrix looked a little disquieted at this response, so Harry elaborated. "But that is nothing more than meaningless conjecture. You proved your heart and intentions to us, but more importantly, to yourself." Laying one hand over her heart, Harry continued, "You now know, in here, that you are better than these animals. Even when you were provoked, you listened to this and did the right thing. Continue to follow its advice, and you will never fall back into the darkness."
Harry caught her widened eyes and spoke only loud enough for her to hear, "Last night, just as you witnessed my inner being, so did I witness yours. I know that you feared that you were somehow corrupted by your years of enslavement. I hope that you know otherwise now."
Bellatrix's eyes began to glisten as she wrapped her arms around Harry's torso and squeezed him tightly as she butted her head against his shoulder. "Thank you," she breathed.
Rubbing her back, Harry smiled again and said, "Don't thank me. It was your strength of will that finally laid those fears to rest, not any effort of mine. Very well done, indeed."
It then dawned on Bellatrix that they had an audience and she quickly set her self to rights before quickly and surely stepping over to her sisters and away from the two unconscious death eaters.
Getting the conversation back on track, Harry faced the elder Tonks and said, "It's obvious that Voldemort has a less-than-wholesome interest in you, and I think we'll all be much happier if he's disappointed. Go gather any possessions you might need to stay away from here for at least a week; Nymph and your sisters can help you out. If Voldemort sent these two idiots, the chances are good that more will come. In the meanwhile, I'm going to drop this excrement off, and then we'll all go to Grimmauld Place. You can stay there in the interim - it is definitely safer than here at the moment. Okay?"
Andromeda and Ted just stared at him, so Nymph answered for her parents. "We've got it, Harry. Just hurry back." Her quirky sense of humor made its presence known as she added, "After all, we might need you to carry all the heavy stuff!"
Bowing sarcastically, Harry said, "Your wish is my command, fair maiden." Striding to the pile of death eaters, Harry grabbed onto the two unconscious terrorists and apparated them both out of the house. The unexpected disappearance shocked the elder Tonks out of their respective trances.
"Did he just...?" Andromeda started to ask.
"Yep," Nymph replied cheerfully as she guided her mother towards the stairs leading to their bedrooms.
"And he actually...?" Ted picked up.
"Uh huh," Bellatrix answered while smirking.
"You get used to it after a while," Narcissa added helpfully as the two witches started Ted moving after his wife and daughter.
"But he all but promised to torture and kill a person!" Ted protested.
"No, he didn't," Narcissa replied immediately. "He threatened to torture a murdering, immoral, and cowardly animal to gain information from a known member of Voldemort's inner circle. Harry had no intentions of actually killing him."
"Why do you say that?" Andromeda asked skeptically.
"Because of Sirius," Narcissa answered. "The fact that Pettigrew's alive, not to mention his testimony of the plan to switch the Potters' secret keeper, is the only thing that can clear Sirius's name, even if it will be posthumously, and that is worth more to Harry than any sort of petty revenge against Pettigrew."
"Still, he was very convincing," Ted maintained. "How do we know that the papers weren't right after all, that he is not just as bad as all the monsters running around wearing masks?"
Bellatrix's gaze grew sharp as she practically growled, "The eyes." At the others' confused expressions, she elaborated, "I've been in the presence of people so twisted, so vile, that 'evil' doesn't even begin to describe them. Some of them are excellent liars, and can avoid almost all suspicion. However, the eyes never lie. You can see a man's true nature if you know what to look for." Taking a step forward, Bellatrix put her face right in the male Tonks' and finished, "I've looked into their eyes before, and I've looked into Harry's, and I will not suffer hearing you even suggest that Harry has common interests with those sub-human monsters!"
Narcissa laid her hand on her younger sister's shoulder and pulled back, getting Bellatrix to calm down. "It's alright, Bella. He didn't mean anything insulting by it."
"No, I wasn't intending to insult anyone," Ted said. "I just found it suspicious that he was pulling off feats that only You-Know-Who is rumored to be capable of. That's all."
Pulling away from Narcissa, Bellatrix jerked back her left sleeve and stuck her arm in the man's face. "Do you see that?" she demanded.
"I don't see anything!" Ted stammered.
"Exactly!" Bellatrix barked. "About twelve hours ago, I had a Dark Mark branded there when Voldemort tried to use it to kill me. The man you just insulted and compared to Voldemort stopped the so-called Dark Lord and removed it. Do you really think that, if he was as evil as you just insinuated, he would have been able to cast such an advanced Light-oriented spell?"
"No," he said as calmly as one could when an extremely irritated witch had a forearm shoved in one's face.
"No," Bellatrix repeated heatedly. "Remember that the next time you feel compelled to slight Harry." With that ultimatum delivered, Bellatrix stormed past the others and ascended the stairs, presumably to start packing. Narcissa just stared at the man before following her sister. Nymph did the same, but not before throwing her father a sad and disbelieving glance first.
Ted Tonks looked at his wife and confusedly asked, "What did I do?"
Andromeda gave her husband an exasperated look as she wrapped one arm around his waist and pulled him over towards the staircase again. "Let me tell you a few things my sisters just shared with me," Andromeda began.
Not quite a half-hour later, Harry reappeared in the foyer of the Tonks' residence and re-entered the sitting room just in time to meet the party descending the stairs.
"Do you have everything?" Harry asked. Nymph, who had taken the lead, was in the process of taking another step down when she heard Harry's inquiry. This unfortunately led to the young metamorphamagus losing her concentration with the levitating box in front of her, resulting in the impromptu projectile being launched down the stairs at the unsuspecting Harry. However, his reflexes were up to the task as he caught the box in both hands before it could impact against the floor. Unfortunately, he was not so coordinated in receiving the witch in question, who had lost her balance on the stairs and followed the box's quicker route to the ground. Harry recovered from the initial assault just in time to have the young woman tackle him aggressively, sending him to the floor.
"Don't worry," Nymphadora called to her parents and two aunts, all four of whom seemed to find the situation amusing, "I'm okay!"
"Which is more than I can say for my spine," Harry grumbled as the two regained their feet. "It still eludes me how you can carry out a duel with finesse but fail to cross a room without an incident, but I will solve the mystery, if it's the last thing I ever do!" he vowed half-jokingly. Pressing his hands into his lower back, Harry grimaced as everything shifted back into place.
"Are you alright?" Nymph asked earnestly.
"Just fine," Harry said resignedly, though he did have a half-smile. "After all, you've only done that twice today. I'm honored!" Picking up the cardboard container, Harry shrunk it down to a much more manageable state before presenting it back to the witch. "Yours, I believe?"
"Thanks," Nymph said, pocketing the now-miniature box as she hit the taller wizard on the back of the head for the cheeky comment.
"So, do you have everything?" Harry asked again, directing his attention more towards the two elder Tonks.
"At least for a few days," Andromeda confirmed. An obviously faked cough prompted her husband to join in the conversation.
"I want to apologize to you," Ted said,
"Oh?" Harry asked. "What for?"
"I thought wrongly of you," Ted admitted. "I had listened to others' uninformed opinions about you, and misjudged your intentions a few minutes ago. I'm sorry."
"Oh, don't worry about that," Harry waved him off, "There are days when it seems like every third person I meet either wants to arrest me or kill me. You get used to it after a while..." he trailed off lackadaisically. "Any way," Harry changed gears, "if everyone knows where Number 12 is..." Harry waited for the complete set of nods, "then let's be on our way." With that said, Harry disappeared as if he had never been there in the first place. The four witches and one wizard quickly followed him.
The group appeared in front of Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, which once more appeared from a gap between numbers 11 and 13 as Harry recalled the secret hidden under the Fidelous Charm. Harry walked up the worn stone steps and approached the newly materialized door, but froze when he felt something brush his mental shields. Something magical.
Harry's eyes widened with understanding; it was the wards. While Sirius had been alive, the wards had allowed the various Order members inside since, as Lord Black, he controlled the wards; however, now the ancient Pureblooded house was free to do as its original owners wished. He felt the house's magic slam against his shields this time with more force. Harry mentally strengthened his shields as he called out to Andromeda, who had just arrived. "Where," Harry asked from between gritted teeth, "is that exterior control node?"
"Embedded in the doorway," Andromeda answered while drawing closer, evidently feeling the same strain that Harry was receiving. "Just beneath that snake," she amended while pointing to the silver doorknocker in the form of a twisted serpent. "Just press your hand to that spot, then I'll see what I can do on my end."
Harry did as he was told; and extended his hand to the shabby and scratched wooden plank. As his skin came into contact with the lumber, however, the snake lit up briefly before the invading mental presence vanished completely. The sudden withdrawal of the menacing entity almost prevented even those closest to the door from hearing the many loud, metallic clicks of locks disengaging, and what sounded like the clatter of a chain. However, all six mages noticed as the poorly maintained door swung inward on creaky hinges.
"That went well," Harry finally said. "I was somehow expecting more of an ordeal. I didn't even notice your intervention."
"That's because I didn't do anything," Andromeda said, extremely confused.
Arching an eyebrow, Harry turned to the other three members of the Black family. "Did one of you do something?" he asked.
At the negative shakes of the head, Harry half-turned and stared at the now-unprotected doorway. "But why would the wards think I was a Black?" Harry mused to himself. His arm suddenly shot out as his hand pointed unerringly at the smiling Nymphadora Tonks, who had just opened her mouth to say something as Harry interrupted, "Don't say it! Don't even think it!"
"What?" she protested playfully. "I didn't say anything!"
"No, but I think we all know about Sirius's rather active social life, and I really don't want the mental images you were about to give me regarding my mother," Harry said dryly.
"How'd you know that was what I was going to say, huh?" the young witch asked.
"I have lots of experience dealing with immature people; it's just second nature," Harry replied easily.
"I am NOT immature!" Nymph pouted before sticking her tongue out. At the round of chuckles this latest antic raised, she settled for crossing her arms under her chest and glaring at the ground.
Harry just shook his head before stepping over the threshold into the almost total darkness of the hall. Just as he remembered from his first visit a year ago, Harry could smell damp, dust and a sweetish, rotting smell; the place had apparently reverted from all the hard work he and the Weasleys had invested in the edifice, and once again exuded the feeling of a derelict building.
With a verbal prompt from Harry, all of the old-fashioned gas-lamps instantly flared to life along the walls, casting a flickering insubstantial light over the peeling wallpaper and threadbare carpet of a long, gloomy hallway, where a cobwebby chandelier glimmered overhead, and age-blackened portraits hung crooked on the walls. Just as he remembered, both the chandelier and the candelabra on the rickety table were shaped like serpents. Unlike before, however, the candelabra was joined by two new items: a folded piece of parchment and a dusty book.
The party made its way through the chamber, with the still pouting Nymph bringing up the rear. Unlike his first trip to Number 12 Grimmauld Place, the young witch did not trip over the troll-leg umbrella stand and thereby awaken the extremely obnoxious portrait of the harpy otherwise known as Sirius's mother. Unfortunately, she did succeed in shutting the door with more force than absolutely necessary, which led to the same conclusion.
Harry mentally cringed. 'Annnd we're off!' he said to himself.
"Filth! Scum! By-products of dirt and vileness! Half-breeds, mutants, freaks, begone from this place! How dare you befoul the house of my fathers?" shrieked the old woman from the portrait behind the dark-curtains, which had flown open at the loud noise.
"And a very pleasant day to you as well, Mrs. Black," Harry said faux politely. "If I'm not mistaken, that is exactly the same way you greeted me the first time I visited."
The Black ancestor began to shout another retort before it noticed the presence of Bellatrix and Narcissa amongst the group. "Darling Narcissa, Bellatrix. Remove this vile half-blood and the other rabble from our ancestral home, then return to me. I want to hear how things progress amongst the Dark Lord's forces."
"Actually, Auntie Cassiopeia, I don't think we will be able to do that," Narcissa said in a faked saddened voice. "Especially as we were only able to enter with the 'vile half-blood's' help."
"And since you asked, the megalomaniac you so quickly kneeled to has had quite a few setbacks recently, also courtesy of the 'half-breed mutant'," Bellatrix added.
The portrait was - for once - speechless, so Harry took the advantage and added his own comment. "Well, it wasn't all due to me. This 'filth' and 'scum'-" he motioned to the others "-helped out, too."
"You foul monster! Corrupter of honorable purebloods! I'd kill you, given the chance!" The portrait yelled finally.
"Well, this is the thing," Harry put forward, "you are nothing more than animated paint. Therefore, I don't think my life is in too much danger, do you?"
"You shall see!" the portrait shouted gleefully. "Kreacher! Defend our home! Kill the half-breed menace!"
Perfectly on cue, the house elf popped onto the scene, brandishing a worn cutting knife, which had obviously been collected from the kitchen. The horrid creature was still clad only in the filthy rag tied like a loincloth around its middle. Its eyes, just as bloodshot and watery grey as they were during Harry's last floo call to the house, were widened in an insane furor. Forgetting that it was capable of moderately sophisticated wandless magic, the little creature rushed madly down the landing towards Harry. The others backed against the wall as they drew their wands. The latter action proved unnecessary, however, as Harry simply sidestepped the elf-turned-berserker while leaving his foot outstretched. The elf, mindless of everything save his mistress's last command, tripped over the appendage, and went flying past the others and landed roughly on the floor. A closer inspection would later reveal that the creature had unintentionally impaled itself with the knife, resulting in a nearly instantaneous death.
"You know," Andromeda said calmly, - having recognized the mad elf which lured Sirius to his death from her sister Narcissa's explanation earlier - "the house apparently recognizes you as its new owner. You could have probably just ordered it to stop."
Harry just stared at the limp form for a few moments as he reigned in his own lingering anger for the demented animal. Finally feeling himself calm down, Harry looked at Andromeda and shrugged lightly before saying, "Ah, well," in the same tone one might use to express regret that it was raining that day.
Harry finally returned his attention to the gob smacked portrait, which was apparently in shock that her only servant was dispatched so speedily. "Well," he drawled, "is that the best that your pureblooded legacy can do?"
The painting just stared malevolently at him and fumed. "If that's all, then it is now my turn to rid us of you," Harry continued.
The old woman laughed hoarsely in response. "You mean to tell me that a half-blood as yourself would have enough power to destroy me? Impossible," she said with a sneer.
Harry lips drew into a sly smile. "As I hear it told, so is surviving the Killing Curse. I rarely concern myself with what others believe is possible or not." Looking over his shoulder at the intrigued crowd behind him, Harry asked, "Do any of you have unfinished business with the banshee here?"
The group unanimously voted no.
"But we tried every spell we could think of on the portrait. Nothing worked," Nymph said.
"Magic wielders these days!" Harry grumbled to himself. "Is no one capable of a multiple-stepped solution any more?" He asked.
"What do you mean?" the metamorphamagus asked.
"Here's your magical theory lesson for the day, boy and girls. First, let's state the problem," Harry lectured.
"The portrait's too heavily warded for our spells to get through," Nymph replied, as if stating the obvious.
"Correct!" Harry said enthusiastically. "None of the spells tried to date can get through the painting's protections. Ergo, we must go around them."
"What are you talking about?" Nymph asked confusedly, although both Andromeda and Narcissa seemed to see where he was heading.
"Consider the walls supporting this room," Harry elaborated. "Are they likewise protected?"
"No..." Nymph trailed off as she finally caught onto the plan.
"Correct again! Now, Nymph, how about you fire a few cutting curses around said banshee?" Harry asked in a whimsical tone.
Grinning brightly, the witch did just that, leaving a continuous crack in the wood surrounding the portrait.
"Bella," Harry continued, "be a dear and levitate the portrait out of the wall."
The older woman did as directed amidst a great deal of squawking from the photograph.
"All right," Harry said, "Now, Nymph, repair the wall."
The young woman performed the last spell correctly, leaving no trace that the portrait ever existed.
"Congratulations! Between the two of you, you accomplished something that stumped the entire Order - even the great Dumbledore - and with nothing more than a couple of simple spells any fourth year should know. Now," Harry almost purred, "I bid you adieu, Mrs. Black."
Harry brandished his own wand, removing the portrait from Bella's control and sending it to the gigantic fireplace, where a sudden burst of flame appeared and began to consume the painting immediately.
"That's better," Harry said half to himself, as he stared at the slowly crumbling remains of the 'horror of house Black'. Dusting his hands off as if he had just completed an onerous task, Harry began making his way back to the rickety table and its new contents.
Selecting the folded parchment first, Harry opened the item and found a letter addressed to him. As he read through it, however, the joy of finally ridding the house of the foul portrait fled from him. In fact, even the room's other occupants noticed the sudden change in mood.
"What is it, Harry?" Nymph asked.
"Sirius's will," Harry replied tonelessly. After a few seconds, he continued, "Apparently he helped my mother with some blood-based protection charm right after I was born. That was how he could declare me his heir." Harry took the letter and carefully refolded it in its envelope before carefully placing the whole package in an inner pocket.
Meeting the others' gazes, Harry said, "Sirius gave me the house, along with all his other possessions. He wants... wanted me to ensure that it was put to good use. If there is anything around here you want, you're welcome to it."
Looking down at the dusty tome, Harry was able to make out the title, The Complete Genealogy of the Black Line. "Well, this should prove interesting reading," Harry said sardonically, flicking through the book until he came to the page detailing the current generation.
"I doubt you'd want to read that," Andromeda said from over his shoulder, "but it might prove useful. Our dearly departed aunt certainly enjoyed using it over the years to spite the 'blood traitors'."
Cocking his head to the side, Harry asked, "So this is how she removed yours and Sirius's name from that old tapestry upstairs?" At her slight nod, Harry began to form an idea. "And does it do anything else?" he questioned.
"Yes," she replied, "you can use it for just about any administrative task for the family. Just touch it, identify yourself, and then give it a command."
Smirking as the idea finally coalesced into an useable form, Harry asked, "Like this?" Placing his hand on the exposed page, Harry spoke, "I, Harry James Potter, acting Head of the most Noble and Ancient House of Black, do hereby reinstate Andromeda Tonks nee Black as a full member of the House of Black as well as any of her descendants. I also hereby declare any and all matrimonial agreements concerning Bellatrix Lestrange nee Black and Narcissa Malfoy nee Black to be null and void, due to breach of contract. Additionally, any offspring from these unions are to be hereby removed from the House of Black. As I am Head of House Black, let my will be done." After his words were spoken, there was a soft glow surrounding the book before it faded, leaving the six mages standing in the foyer of House Black, five of whom were extremely astounded.
Scooping up the book in one arm, Harry turned around and addressed Nymph's mother. "You're right; it is a useful little tome." Walking towards the kitchen - and consequently, the nearest floo-able fireplace - Harry called out, "I'm going to see if Dumbledore has returned to his office yet and let him know that headquarters is available. Nobody's been assigned a permanent room yet, so take whichever quarters you like."
With that comment, Harry disappeared through the old wooden door, leaving the other five residents of the mansion in a miasma of gratitude and confusion. However, the three youngest witches had already come to expect a certain level of excitement from their new companion, so they were better prepared to deal with yet another unexpected upheaval than were the elder Tonkses.
Deciding to break the silence, Nymph said, "That was fun! There's going to be an Order meeting later, if you want to attend," she directed towards her parents. "If you want to get settled in, I'll get rid of that and then come help," the metamorphamagus said, pointing to the dead Kreacher.
Ted, having not yet shaken off the Harry-induced stupor, intelligently answered, "Yeah...," before trudging up the stairs in search of the vacant bedrooms. Andromeda was a little more aware of what was going on, as she said, "I think we will be attending tonight. It would appear to be time for us to put in a greater effort." Suddenly realizing how the proceedings affected her siblings, Andromeda addressed the other two witches. "Congratulations, by the way. I'm glad that you're finally rid of those creatures."
"So am I, Andy. So am I," Narcissa replied.
"Are the two of you going to be present tonight, given the fact that we plus Dumbledore are the only ones to know the truth?" Andromeda questioned.
"Yes. Granted, it will be a little rough at the onset, but we will all be working together for the foreseeable future. They may as well get used to seeing us around," Narcissa said breezily.
"Yeah," Bellatrix added, "not to mention that we want to see what Harry pulls out of his sleeve next!"
"That, too," Narcissa agreed.
Andromeda chuckled before just shaking her head at the entire situation and following her husband up the stairs, preoccupied with the thought that their lives just got a lot more interesting.
A/N: I hope you all enjoyed this installment of ASR. I had an overflow from the last chapter, so I was able to get you this latest addition ahead of schedule, weighing in at over 9,000 words!.
As usual, reviews are greatly appreciated.
deathscall: I try to make each chapter as unconfusing as possible, so as to prevent each reader from having to interpret my intent from the verbage. If you will provide specific examples, I will endeavor to not make that mistake in the future.
uten: Rest assured, the horcrux phenomena will - at most - be one of two or three major plotlines. My intention is to use them as a method of making Voldemort mortal, nothing more. In fact, I doubt that I will even focus on the entire Horcrux hunt; at the moment, I plan to delegate the search to background characters, leaving Harry & Co available for a more... original pursuit.
Shentaro: I promise, the concept of the horcrux is about the only piece of HBP that peaked my creative interest. As for the ensuing ships; they won't all just launch an impromptu shag-fest, but the whole courting routine shouldn't come out as too angsty (at least if everything goes according to plan).
Dark-Syaoran: Snape will NOT be the vastly underestimated nice guy that some fan fics characterize him as. My Snape is more of an opportunist; ultimately, Severus Snape is out for Severus Snape - end of story. As for what side he is eventually revealed as supporting... I haven't decided yet. I'll post a poll to my Yahoo! group in the next few days for this topic.
I've tried to keep Harry's power to a reasonable level. While he potentially a match for Voldemort already and probably is superior to Dumbledore, I'm trying to keep from painting Harry as a newly-incarnated god. I'm glad to hear that I haven't gone overboard yet.
As for your other question; yes, Bella and Cissy will be common knowledge. Salazar!Harry, however, will remain a closely guarded secret for the foreseeable future. As it becomes necessary, however, an individual may be brought 'into the know'.
J or The Blind: I was unaware that Tomb Raider even had a similar artifact to the triangle I described. Having now seen the movie, however, I can promise that my artifact will not be propelling anyone through time.
AzureSky123: It is a war after all, so there will be the occasional character death. I don't have those characters chosen yet, however.
Fuzzball2000/Firelegs: I was just checking to see if you were paying attention... yeah... Thanks for the syntax help. That's what I get for posting chapters in the wee hours of the morning.
Feed the author; leave reviews! Positive reviews would be nice, but polite critiques are accepted, too. Flames will be cheerfully ignored.