Harry's birthday comes with surprises - some for him, and some for others.
"My lord. You are better?"
"I am . . . . better. Not well, but better. Summon Lucius to brief me."
"Lucius is still in Azkaban, my lord."
"That's right, Bellatrix. We will have to put retrieving my followers from there on the list of things to be done. Not high on the list; they should not have failed against children."
"If I may ask, my lord, what happened? We have all been sick for over a month."
"Some powerful magic was used against me. After my battle with Dumbledore, I was susceptible. As it was a magical attack, everyone who wears my mark was affected. The spell is fading and now we must see to announcing my return. Perhaps a visit to the Minister of Magic. . . ."
"Ah, Severus! So good to see you up and about."
"Madam Pomfrey was quite concerned about you. Your magical core was dangerously low, and she couldn't find a cause. Have you no idea what it was?"
"No. When I was up to it, I tried various potions. Nothing worked. The last few nights I was feeling better, but by dawn I was as weak as before."
"I am just glad that Voldemort did not summon you while you were ill, although I would love to know what he's up to. It has been entirely too quiet this past month."
"He's patient, Headmaster. He will wait for the right time to put his plans in motion. The Triwizard plot should have taught you that."
"Yes. Unfortunately, it tells me that whatever he's planning it will be big. Can you go to him and see if you can find out what's coming?"
"Not unless he calls."
"Very well, then we wait."
"One good thing to come from this illness -- it's kept me from having to guard Potter."
"I wish you would try to get along better with him. But for the foreseeable future, that won't be part of your assignment."
"Sweet joy. If you have nothing else, I think I will go rest. I'm still very weak."
"Mum! When will Bill be here?"
"He said he's coming over today sometime. You just have to be patient, Ron."
"That's easy for you to say. You don't have insults magically attached to your face."
"It's barely noticeable, Ron."
Ron had received a lot of teasing from the twins. Bill hadn't been too sympathetic, either. Ginny was, but not at first. She agreed with Hermione that the brown haired witch had warned them that the magic was still in effect. Well, not agreed. More like "Didn't you listen when Hermione said...." Like he listens every time Hermione talks.
Now Hermione was away on vacation, Greece or someplace foreign like that. Sure Egypt was interesting, but they all spoke that other language. If he wanted to listen to people he didn't understand, he could listen to the Ravenclaws. Or Hermione.
Not for the first time he wondered about Hermione and Harry -- He was on vacation, and she was on vacation. Could they be on vacation at the same place?
Harry's last letter was about learning to swim and how he had never had the chance. Well, he was at the Burrow before, and he did play in the pond. But now that Ron thought about it, Harry never had a swimsuit.
Speak of the devil, or at least think of him, Ginny came in with the letter. Harry was still mostly writing to Ron, with every third letter or so going to Hermione. His father would create a duplicate and pass it along to Dumbledore. Sometimes Professor Lupin would come over to hand deliver the duplicate to Dumbledore. He had been spending a lot of time overseas looking for Harry. He had to be careful, though. Some countries frowned upon werewolves even more than England. Sometimes with torches and pitchforks.
Ginny handed him back the letter. "Every time I read one of his letters I want to hex his aunt an uncle."
"Because of what they did to him."
"What are you talking about? He doesn't mention them at all."
"But he tells us what they did to him in his letters."
"No he doesn't."
"Ron, do you even read the letters? This one says they never took him swimming. The one about hiking told us that he'd never had a new pair of shoes from them. The one about the restaurant told us that he'd never been in one, and that he probably did all the kitchen work."
"But he didn't even like the snails!"
"That doesn't change the fact that his aunt and uncle never did anything nice for him. Every letter I read makes me want to hug him."
"Oh, please! That is an image I don't want. Besides, then I'd have to beat up my own best mate. So, no hugging Harry."
"Get over it, Ron! If I go out with anybody, you'd better not hurt them in any way or I'll hex you so bad that you'll be wishing you only had SNEAK written on your forehead."
Ginny stomped out, leaving Ron to mutter, "Girls!"
"Good Morning Harry."
"Harry, you can call me Odd. I hope we're friends enough for that."
"I suppose. I'll just have to get used to it."
"Once Luna's dressed, we'll all slip down to Copenhagen and I'll take you out to dinner."
"That's very kind of you, but I can pick up the dinner. I know that money is tight, and I have a lot, so I don't mind."
"Nonsense! It's your birthday. I'd be insulted if you had to pay for your own birthday meal."
"I really don't mind. It would make me happy."
"Are you arguing over the check already?" Luna said, coming out of the tent in a very nice sun dress.
"No. Well, sort of," Harry admitted.
"Fine. I'll pick up the check."
Mr. Lovegood protested, "But Luna, you don't have any money!"
"Then this should be a very interesting day."
They apparated to the Danish capital. Harry wanted to get some money, so they stopped into Gringotts. He still didn't know how all the banks could connect to the same underground tunnels. Luna's comment, "Magic" didn't clear things up too much. But Harry could accept it and take advantage of it.
"Lord Potter," said the goblin, as Harry handed over his key to prove who he was.
"Uh, yes?" No one had ever called him "lord" before.
"We have some legal items to go over with you, as Gringotts has been managing your accounts, waiting for you to reach your majority. Now that you are sixteen, certain legal matters start to come into play. Would you happen to have a few minutes to discuss this now?"
Harry looked at the Lovegoods. They nodded, and were led away to a waiting room. Harry followed another goblin to an office.
Harry sat in the goblin's office, noticing that while the desk was goblin-sized, it was on a raised section of the floor so that goblin was actually higher than whoever he was meeting with. It seemed slightly silly to Harry, but he let it go.
"Mr. Potter. We have been trying to get in contact with you since your godfather died. As his godson, you realize that you were his major beneficiary?"
"No, sir, I didn't."
"Yes, well, Mr. Black last updated his will in 1980. The wording is such that all his private moneys and possessions become yours and a Mr. Lupin's. After his escape, he was legally unable to change his will. However, he filed papers to adopt you. Until today it would have required the approval of the Wizengamot because your guardians were muggles. But, while you are not an adult, the law allows you to make certain decisions. This is one of them. Would you agree to be adopted by Sirius Black."
"Why does this matter now?"
"As things stand, should you decline, you would still inherit his personal estate, but the Black family would disappear, and the assets would go to his cousin, Narcissa Malfoy."
"I don't think I want that. She'd just use them to pump up Voldemort's war chest. What's the catch?"
"The catch, as you say, would be that you would be the head of two Ancient Houses. This hasn't happened since 1755. You would be Lord Potter and Lord Black. You would have obligations to each family, as well as access to both estates."
"What obligations? I'd be the only person in both houses."
"Initially, that would be true. But you would have to have a marriage contract in place by the time you are seventeen, or the Wizengamot will force one on you."
"They'd force me to get married?"
"It's the law. And I can almost guarantee that current Wizengamot would make you marry into so-called Dark families. They would go for both noble and pure-blood."
"But if I made a contract to marry someone I could avoid that, even if we didn't get married right away?"
"The contract would have to be in effect on your seventeenth birthday, and you would have to marry the girls before your eighteenth."
"Wait a second . . . did you just say girls? As in, girl with an 's' on the end? As in more than one?"
"Yes, Lord Black-Potter. As head of two Ancient families you would need a wife for each family. There is a codicil to the Ancient Family Preservation act that applies to the Black family, but not the Potter family. For the Black family you would have to marry a Pure Blood, and preferably someone from a noble house."
"Now you're losing me again. What constitutes a Pure Blood? And what is a noble house?"
"Oh, dear, your training seems to have been lacking. An Ancient House is one of the 52 founding houses, although they were really clans, of the 927 compact that formed Wizarding England. In the 1283 formation of the Wizengamot, there were an additional 80 houses from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales that signed that agreement. These are the noble houses. I believe three Ancient houses didn't sign, so theoretically one could be a member of an Ancient house but not a noble house, but that doesn't apply to either the Potters or the Blacks. A Pure Blood has no muggle or non-human ancestors for at least six generations. Now, someone like yourself who isn't Pure Blood but is in a noble and Ancient House would still be able to marry someone with that stipulation; ancestry in this case trumps blood."
"And if I don't get the marriage contracts?"
"They will be imposed on you. Many arranged marriages work out quite well."
"And the Black estate goes to Malfoy if I don't take it?"
"That is correct."
"Okay, I'll do it. On the bright side, Voldemort might kill me before I have to worry about any of this."
"That's being a little pessimistic, don't you think? Sign here, please. Thank you, Lord Black-Potter. Now, along with access to the Black Vaults, you are freed from the underage magic restriction in England, and have two Wizengamot seats, although you cannot vote until you are seventeen. However, you have all the other privileges of a Wizengamot member. Have a good day. And you may want to look into who is intercepting your mail."
Harry walked out of the office in a daze. Luna and Odd joined him in the lobby, and directed him to a restaurant. He ate, but couldn't tell what he ate or if he liked it. He wouldn't answer any questions, just kept shaking his head. Odd side along apparated him back to the campground. He went straight to bed. Luna kissed her father goodnight, and went into the tent. She unzipped Harry's sleeping bag and cuddled up to him. He was lying on his back, and put an arm around her to pull her close. They didn't say anything, and Luna eventually fell asleep.
"One month until your sixth year starts, Susan. We'll need to schedule a shopping day soon."
"I haven't even received my O.W.L scores, Aunt Amelia. I don't know what I'll be taking."
"They should be along any day now. And even without them we can still schedule the shopping trip. It's just like I feared, by the way. I'm a prisoner! I have to get permission to go out with my niece!"
"Yes, but you're a much better Minister of Magic than Fudge."
"A flobberworm would be a better Minister than Fudge." She shook off the thought. Looking at her niece, she asked, seriously, "But have you thought any more about you know what?"
Susan made the face she almost always made when the subject came up, and answered, "I don't want to think about it. Why do I have to anyway!"
"It's the law."
"'Then, the law is an ass!'"
"No argument from me, but I can't change it, suspend it, or negate it. Isn't there anyone in your class that you are interested in?"
"You can't reject everyone. What about that nice Ernie Macmillan? The Macmillan's are a noble family."
"He and Hannah are a serious item and have been for years."
"Then Cornfoot? He's Pure Blooded."
"And a pure jerk. Not to knock another 'Puff, but he's crude, rude, and a bore."
"So much for Hufflepuff, then. Ravenclaws?"
"I'd like some excitement in my life besides the latest edition of Arithmancy Quarterly."
"Maybe, but I did catch them right after one got a copy of the quarterly. They were bunched around whoever got it, and were more energetic than I've ever seen them."
"Slytherin?" The look on Susan's face said it all. "Not even that Zabini boy? His mother is neutral."
"But he's right in Malfoy's camp. As are the rest of the Slytherins, or they're too scared to do anything against him."
"Right. Moving along, that leaves Gryffindor. Longbottom?"
"Maybe. He's lost a lot of his baby fat, but not a lot of his insecurities."
"He only has two brain cells to rub together. One makes him talk about Quidditch, the other runs his mouth when he eats. That's it."
"Then there's the Boy-Who-Lived."
"He has two friends, Weasley and Granger, and doesn't hang out with anyone else. He's good at Quidditch, but gets hurt a lot. Theoretically saved the school from Slytherin's monster. . . ."
"Won the Triwizard. Went to the Yule ball with one of the Patil girls, but nothing came of it; he didn't dance with her more than once. I don't know what his problem, unless he bats for the other team? He did go out once with Chang. . . ."
"Ravenclaw, one year ahead of us. Rumor has it his one date was a disaster. He was a great teacher, though. Fair, didn't play favorites, even though Chang was in the class; knew his stuff. Maybe he's a secret Ravenclaw, accidentally in Gryffindor. He knows his spells."
Amelia thought that was a lot of detailed knowledge about someone she wasn't interested in. "Well that's the lot in your year. You should choose before the choice is taken from you."
Susan sighed. "I know. How did you avoid getting married?"
"I had an older brother. It's a bit too late for you to take that way out."
"Welcome back, Gran."
"Good evening, Neville. Now that you are sixteen I want to let you know that I've told our solicitor to contact Arthur Weasley about a contract with his daughter. The Weasley's may be poor, but they are a Pure-Blood family, and the only reason they aren't noble is some bad luck eight hundred years ago."
"Yes, Neville. I told him to make her the first choice. You did go to the Yule Ball with her, correct?"
"Yes, but that was two years ago. We've hardly spoken since."
"A quiet wife. That would be a blessing, you know. But was there anyone else you wanted me to check out?"
"No, Gran. I think I'll go to bed now."
"Ginny, could you help in the kitchen, please."
"It's not my night, Mum! Ron should be cleaning up the dishes."
"True, but Ron has to work with Bill on his curse. So, I'd appreciate it if you could help us."
"You owe me, Ron!"
"Ginny, how do you feel about Harry Potter?" Her father asked, sitting at the table and enchanting the drying cloth to dry the dishes that his wife had washing themselves in the soapy water filled sink. She sat down too.
Uh, oh, Ginny thought. They're both here, asking me questions, and about Harry, too. Do they think I know where he is?
"He's my friend."
"Yes, but have you ever imagined him being more than a friend?" he pushed.
"You mean, like a boyfriend? Maybe. . . ." her voice trailed off.
"What about more than a boyfriend? Have you ever thought about a life with Harry?" Molly asked with a gleam in her eyes Ginny didn't recognize.
"Well, sure. There's a lot of talk among the girls about the future Mrs. Potter. I'm not sure there's going to be one, though."
Ginny dropped her voice, "There's a lot of talk of him being, er. . . not interested in women."
"WHAT?" Molly exclaimed.
"Either that, or he's secretly in love with Hermione."
"How," asked a visibly shaken Molly, "how do you know?"
"A lot of little things; he's only ever asked one girl, besides Hermione, to Hogsmeade, and he left her half way through the day to do something with Hermione. Before the Yule ball he didn't get a date until the very last moment, it was like he wasn't even trying. Then he only danced one dance with her, and didn't seem to mind when she found someone else to be with. And finally," she glanced towards the parlor where Ron, Bill, and Bill's guest were, "he sat at the Yule ball table with Phlegm Delacour and carried on a conversation with everyone at the table."
Arthur snickered, remembering the incident from just a few minutes ago when Ron had missed his mouth while eating because he was under Fleur's Veela power. Arthur himself felt it, but being in a loving relationship, it didn't seem to affect him as much. And Bill, being more in love with her than in lust, also wasn't as detrimentally affected. Arthur was sure that Bill was enjoying the allure of the young French woman while not being controlled by it.
"Perhaps he has some natural resistance," Arthur said, and realized he wasn't sure if he was talking about Harry or Bill.
"But in any case, Professor Dumbledore has contacted us about a marriage contract between you and Harry," he continued.
"Marriage? I'm going to get married?"
"Not yet, and not until Harry would be out of school. But we can work out the details."
"Has anyone talked to Harry about this yet?" she asked.
"I don't know. I'm sure Dumbledore has consulted him. He wouldn't be acting in this capacity if he hadn't."
"I'd feel better if I knew what Harry's feelings are about this."
"Don't worry, dear. I know a few tricks that will get Harry feeling just fine about the whole thing. It's probably just because he's young. . . ." Molly offered.
"Not that I object to someday being Mrs. Potter, but I have a bad feeling about this. I don't think this would be the way Harry would go about it."
"I'll talk to Dumbledore. We won't agree to anything without discussing this with Harry."
"I certainly won't." Ginny said.
Voldemort smiled as Bellatrix screamed. He was activating the Dark Mark and summoning his Death Eaters. He released her arm, and she collapsed.
"Have them wait here. I have been ill too long. We must get things back on track. I shall be busy for a few minutes."
He returned to his room, and sat. His breathing became regular, and he fell into himself. He knew his own mind. He imagined it as a fortress, and in a dark dungeon was the secret passage to Potter's mind, a garbage strewn field of thoughts and memories. Except for that time when he actually possessed him -- that brought about his illness. Then everything had caught fire, and he was mentally burned, followed soon by the physical reaction. He had examined himself and Bellatrix with every detection magic he could -- there was no outside force that had made him sick for those five weeks. He opened the door to the dungeon and fell back. It was like the brightest day in there. The light drove his mental image away.
He retreated. Did Potter's ejection of him cause their connection to be in this state? He opened his eyes, leaving his meditative state. He would reflect on this development later. Now he had the top item on his list to take care of.
He entered the throne room where the Death Eaters gathered presenting the aura of a powerful wizard that he didn't feel. He knew his power was returning, so he could fake it before his minions.
"Fudge has been useful for his incompetence, but that usefulness is over. Tonight we will show the world that even the Minister of Magic is not safe from us."
There was a stir from the gathered wizards.
"My lord," Pettigrew spoke up. "Fudge was removed from office. Amelia Bones is the new minister."
"It doesn't matter. We'll kill her instead, and it will be more effective. And Wormtail?"
"Yes, my lord?"
"Don't ever contradict me. /Crucio!/"
Harry became aware that he wasn't dreaming. He was looking at a house with a beautiful lawn, without any close neighbors. He remembered coming from a room to a crowd of Death Eaters, and they all came here. He Crucioed Pettigrew, too. The crowd with him was spreading out. Without actually seeing them, he knew they were surrounding the house. There were some flashes of spells, but the Aurors assigned to guard the minister were very outnumbered. So what if he lost some Death Eaters. Soon he would have a whole country to mark. They would take his mark or die!
But first, Madam Bones!
Harry sat up. That wasn't him. He wasn't attacking Amelia Bones' house. Those weren't his Death Eaters.
"Harry? What's wrong?"
Luna lay beside him. He didn't even remember going to bed. The tent was dim -- it must be the middle of the night.
"Amelia Bones! The Death Eaters are attacking the Bones house."
"Are you sure? How do you know?" Odd Lovegood asked, sitting up on his mattress.
"I'm not sure. We're connected through my scar. He's sent me visions before, but this was different. It was like I was along for the ride, like it wasn't even for me."
He took a breath, "But it was like that when he tricked me into going to the Department of Mysteries, too. I guess I can't trust it. Sorry I woke you up."
"That's alright, Harry. But will you tell us what happened with the goblins? You had us really worried."
He lay back, and took a big breath. "Yes, you should know."
Susan was awakened from a dream where she was marrying one of the Slytherins. As she woke up, she wasn't sure if it was Goyle or Crabbe, or a Slytherin from some other year.
"Quickly, get up, we're under attack."
It was Aunt Amelia shaking her.
"Quick, pull on some clothes. They're attacking the wards. They've probably killed the guards." She was moving around the room. "The floo isn't working, and neither is the portkey. I haven't tried to apparate, didn't think getting splinched at this point would help anything. Here," she threw some clothes on the bed, "put those on. Let's go."
"Where are we going?"
"Up here," Amelia said, grabbing a broom leaning against a wall in the hall, and heading up the stairs to the attic. Amelia cast a spell on the eastern window, and opened it. She then handed Susan a silvery cloak that she was carrying. It was an invisibility cloak.
"I've put up a Notice-Me-Not spell on the window. When you hear the boom, fly like your life depends on it. It does."
"Won't they have an anti-broom ward up along with the anti-portkey?"
"Yes. But when you hear the explosion, that will be me breaking their wards. I'll be apparating away, but can't both break the wards and side-along you. Be ready! Get to safety. I love you!"
"I love you too, Aunt Amelia," Susan was crying, frightened, and she felt like she would never see her aunt again. Amelia ran downstairs, closing the attic door, and casting another Notice-Me-Not on it as well as a locking charm. She reached the ground floor and looked around. She ran to the kitchen, dumped the knives out of the knife holder, and set them on the counter. She threw some logs into the fireplace and ignited them. She raced to the front door and started throwing spells at the crowd of Death Eaters. The return fire blew away the wall around the door. She ran to a window and fired a few spells from there, and was already in another room by the time the Death Eaters' spells had destroyed the room. She looked at the crowd out back and knew there was no escape. She had to take as many with her as she could and give Susan a chance to escape.
She raced back to the living room after, hopefully, killing some Death Eaters from the back door. She grabbed a burning piece of wood, and raced into the dining room. She knocked the table over and cast a fortifying spell. That might protect her an extra moment or more.
She used the burning log to draw a circle on the floor. Extinguishing the log, she transfigured it to crystal. What she was doing wasn't recommended -- putting a spell into a magically created crystal was guaranteed to drain away fairly quickly. But she only needed a few minutes. She cut her palm, and put some blood on the circle. She felt the wards fall and knew her time was running out. She cast the spell into the crystal and circle, and looked around for anything else she could do. She transfigured a chair into another table top and floated in front of the real table top. A figure appeared at the door. She sliced its head off. Another followed, but this one put up a shield and cast a stunner at her. Her own shield stopped that, and she let her hatred of these people and what they would do to Susan power her return curse.
"/Avada Kedavra/," she said, and the killing curse went right through the Death Eater's shield.
"Wonderful," said a high pitched voice. Voldemort stepped into the room. "I'm sure the Prophet will have a field day with the Minister of Magic using an unforgivable. Even if you survive, you'll spend the rest of your life in Azkaban."
"Maybe. /Avada Kedavra/."
The noseless man stepped out of the way of the green beam and returned the same spell. Amelia ducked behind the table and heard it explode. It must have been the "fake" table she put in front of it. With a silent wave of her wand, she cast a summoning spell, and stood up.
"You're running out of protections. Join . . . .AARRRGGG." Amelia smiled as at least one of the knives cut the Dark Lord. She cast an explosive curse, not at him, but at the wall next to him. As Voldemort cast the death curse again, she dodged. She powered the crystal one more time. The table exploded, and as there was nothing between her and her attacker, the gray haired witch cast some more explosive curses. She didn't see if any of them hit the Dark Lord, because he had gotten off another death curse.
She was dead as soon as the spell hit her. The crystal log, informed by the blood magic circle that the caster was dead, exploded with a burst of negating spell power. Crystal shards embedded themselves into Voldemort, as shields and wards around the house dissipated.
In the attic, Susan heard the boom, and flew out the window. Some Death Eaters searched the sky for the fluttering noise, but not being above the Arctic Circle it was true night. She flew under the invisibility cloak like her life depended on it, and glancing at the house, with the dark mark floating above it, she knew two things.
Her life did depend on it. And her aunt was dead.
Note: Yes, I am an American. I'm usually pretty good with geography. My apologies for confusing the "Danish" and "Dutch". Absolutely no offense meant to the people of either country.