The Wizengamot all stared — some in horror, others in triumph, and a few in total knee-knocking terror.
Standing before them all, Lord Voldemort calmly drew his wand, a slight smile playing across his face, while outside the hall, muffled screams and pleading could be heard through the doors.
Do you see, Harry? Voldemort thought. Now that I have the Wizengamot, I can effortlessly arrange who should occupy which positions in the wardrobe. And it wasn’t difficult — merely tedious. Own the right people — a bit of torture here, a few death threats there — and the world is yours. Oh, the public will elect their minister, of course, but with our total control of all three candidates, that is a mere formality. Look, Harry, you can see they all know it. You can see it in their eyes.
A fresh set of muffled screaming passed through the locked doors. In the front row, Lord Greengrass’ knuckles were white where he sat beside Lord Slughorn.
And once we control the minister, we can begin work on the princes of Europe, Harry. A third Magical Empire will rise, and the muggle filth will be routed from this world… routed from my world!
A loud crash on the locked door was followed moments later by a shrill scream of anguish and despair.
Harry’s eyes snapped open.
The Wizengamot chamber vanished.
A wave of dread flowed over him, but it was muted and not quite real.
He stared unblinking at the inside of his Azkaban prison cell and noted the angle of sunlight through the window bars.
Ah. Morning. Time to get up.
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
Harry’s eyes snapped open.
A few inches from his face, hovered a slightly see-through face that was one massive grin.
“Time to get up! Pottery Pottery Potter! Hard it was for Peeves to find Pottery this time. All night Peeves had to look! How did Pottery get up here? Peeves wonders. Oh, yes, Peeves wonders hard.”
“You can go on wondering,” Harry said calmly, sitting up on the roof beam he’d been sleeping on. Far below in the Hogwarts entrance hall, just outside the Great Hall, the first sleepy-eyed students were making their way to breakfast.
“Peeves must tell Professor Lily he has found her missing son! Yes, Peeves must do this.” That grin, if possible, got even larger.
The grin faded slightly. “Pottery no fun! Peeves works hard to play with Pottery. Peeves sets up splendid traps. Peeves sniffs hard for Pottery’s secrets, but Pottery doesn’t fall for anything! Ever! No fun!”
Harry smirked slightly. “My apologies for being such a disappointment. Are you sure you won’t spy for me?”
Peeves stuck out a massive tongue at him, did a loop in the air and zoomed away, screaming, “Found Pottery! Peeves has found Pottery!”
Harry chuckled, shrunk his bedding with a wave of his wand, swung his legs around so they dangled off the beam, and jumped off.
There were gasps and a shriek.
He landed heavily on the stone floor below, but not quite as heavily as might be expected from a drop that high.
He then bowed slightly to the group of shocked girls that had just rounded the corner from Ravenclaw tower, turned, and entered the Great Hall for breakfast.
All eyes were on him as he spread jam on his toast and helped himself to bacon and eggs.
“I can’t believe you’re getting away with this,” said Blaise Zabini on the other side of the table. “You’ve got balls the size of planets. I would have thought that today of all days.”
“It’s an important day,” Harry said cheerfully. “As Lord Slytherin’s protégé, it is important I be seen.”
“Important he is seen,” muttered an older Slytherin. “If it were me, I’d be holed up in whatever hiding place I’d found to sleep in.”
“And that’s why you’re not Lord Slytherin’s protégé, Roberts,” said Daphne, gracefully lowering herself into the chair at the head of the table. “Let’s discuss our plans for today’s events.”
“Whoops.” Harry quickly stood up, full plate in hand. “That’s my cue.”
Snape had entered from the door near the teachers’ table and was now striding towards where he stood, robes billowing, wand in hand.
Harry casually swatted away a stunner fired from the defence professor’s wand. Climbing over the bench, he managed not to spill his breakfast while fending off the various spells sent his way. Everyone stared as he backed away towards the massive double doors and nodded to a pair of gobsmacked Gryffindors, who chose that moment to enter the hall, just as he exited.
Really, the situation with Snape was interesting. When he’d first returned to Hogwarts, the man had tried his hardest to actually capture him, but now just seemed to be going through the motions — as though merely fulfilling an administrative obligation.
It was amazing how quickly, ‘Harry Potter gets chased by some of the teachers’ had become a new normal at Hogwarts. Just another example of general oddness, like the ghost teacher, or the Weasley twins’ pranks, or the moving staircases.
Although the moving staircases were remnants from a time when the castle had been used as a prison, so fair enough.
Finishing off the last sausage, Harry ducked into an empty classroom and waited for the visitors he knew he’d be receiving.
He didn’t have that long to wait, considering.
Soon, Daphne, Tracey, Hermione, and Blaise all wandered in, Blaise dabbing at the edges of his mouth with a handkerchief.
It was February, and for the last few weeks, the castle had been in a fervour as it prepared for its first-ever student wardrobe elections — a near-perfect mirror of how the British Wizengamot and wizarding public appointed their minister and department heads.
The Wizengamot appointed heads of department under a proportional representation system and everything was generally arranged and negotiated behind closed doors without the need for an actual vote. Only if a significant portion of the Wizengamot dissented on hearing the appointments read out, would a vote ensue. Such an event hadn’t happened for two hundred years.
The minister, though, was a special case. The minister was elected by the general population, from a selection of candidates that had been put up by the Wizengamot in the same way as heads of departments.
From these three candidates, the wizards and witches of Magical Britain chose their new minister.
In Hogwarts, it had been decided that the Wizengamot would be made up of everyone from a Noble House, as well as purebloods who could trace their lineage back at least five hundred years, to help bulk out the chamber.
“I’m sorry I won’t be here for everything,” Harry said. “But I’m sure you’ll be able to handle it.”
“We won’t let you down, Harry,” Hermione said, eyes firm.
“No, we won’t,” Daphne added.
“How are Travers and Draco handling the pressure?” Harry asked. Travers and Draco were their candidates for the position of student minister. One from the Gray, one from the Dark. Everyone of note knew by now about the events of the Winter Festival at Slytherin Manor and how the children of the Dark had sworn themselves to a Gray agent.
Being put forward as student minister was doing wonders for assuaging Draco that his position wasn’t as terrible as it otherwise could have been. And despite his rather abrasive manner, and tendency to bully a small segment of the students, Draco wasn’t unpopular. He was a polarising figure. And polarising figures could be powerful political weapons.
“Draco is fine,” Tracey answered. “He’s Draco. He bounces back as quickly as a rubber ball. As for Travers… Blaise?”
“I’ve known Cecil since before Hogwarts,” Blaise said. “He was always at my birthday parties, even though he’s older. I’ve never seen him so anxious before.”
“But he will pull through for us?”
“Absolutely. By the way, my Mum still wants to meet you. She was quite miffed she missed you at the Slytherin Winter Festival.”
Harry took this information in his stride. While Harry Potter had never met Mrs Zabini, Mrs Zabini had certainly met Lord Slytherin. It was amazing how many times one could accidentally bump into someone in compromising positions.
“My Lord Slytherin! I’m so sorry! Oh, no, I’ve spilt wine all over my dress! …Oh wow, wandless cleaning charms…”
“Oh, Lord Slytherin! My skirt! Please sir, avert your gaze! …Oh, you already did.”
In any case, there was a lot more stuff that needed to get done today, so he finished up his briefing with the girls and Blaise, and started making his way towards the entrance hall. There was still the matter of his brother and Virgo to deal with, but until he’d figured out a way to extract the horcrux from the girl, he’d let his brother take care of her. It would be all the more amusing when he finally learned the truth.
Just so long as he did it before his brother and father did something foolish. Like, say, try to get the young Dark Lord betrothed to John — as amusing as that might be. But that, at least, was something he didn’t have to worry about. Tom Riddle would never willingly submit to a betrothal contract — not even if he’d been the man in the deal. He would fight it tooth and nail. Harry knew him too well. And the chances of Lucius willingly signing such a document in the face of that wroth would be zero.
Of course, he would still need to do something about Virgo’s attempt on Ginny’s life at the quidditch match the previous term. There was no way he could let that go unanswered indefinitely. He’d need to send a message — a warning — something unambiguous to the recipient, but innocuous to everyone else.
His hand closed on the doorknob leading to the Hogwarts Grounds.
“Harry!” shouted an adult female voice, clearly stressed and worried.
Harry gripped the doorknob harder. He could just duck out of this door, whip the invisibility cloak over him, and be off and away. No one would know where he’d gone or be able to stop him.
“Harry!” The voice called to him again, closer this time.
Harry groaned internally. He turned. “Mother,” he said, simply.
Lady Lily Potter slowed down, panting. She stopped a respectful distance from him, breathing shortly, hands on her thighs. “Harry.”
“You know, you should really join the morning exercise groups down at the lake. The lady of a noble house should not be exhausted from a spot of light jogging.”
“Look, Harry. You can’t keep sleeping just wherever you want.”
Harry gave her an amused look. “Evidently, I can. Because you have been unable to stop me.” Watching Lily Potter’s reactions to her increasingly desperate failed attempts to catch him over the last few weeks had made all the hard stone beds more than worth it. They were now at the point that he knew she knew that even standing this close to him, if he wanted to flee, there would be nothing she could do to stop it.
“It can’t be good for you,” she panted.
“I’ll be the judge of that.”
“I’m just saying, you can sleep in my apartment, if you want. I understand if you don’t want to. But a real bed must be more comfortable than just blankets.”
“And get abducted in my sleep and dragged off to Potter Manor to face my father’s court? I think not.”
Lily Potter looked torn. “I’d keep it secret.”
“Unfortunately, there is no way you can guarantee that. Not unless you’ve learned to cast the fidelius charm while I wasn’t paying attention.”
“You distrust me that much?”
Harry gave her a stony look. “Not by choice, I assure you. I do not enjoy not trusting my parents.”
“Harry, whatever Lord Slytherin might have told you, we’re not bad people. I saw what happened with my sister and her husband. I’m sorry you went through that. That was not the plan.”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “Oh? What was the plan?”
Lily hesitated. Visibly. For many seconds.
Harry rolled his eyes. “Look, I understand this is hard on you. So, to make it easier, I’ll give you a list of conditions that would have to be met for me to accept you as my parents again, both in private and in polite society.” He began listing off on his fingers.
“One: Lord Potter would have to immediately sign a blank betrothal contract, giving me the right to choose my Lady Potter under whatever terms I see fit, as well as secure the agreement from the family of my future betrothed to likewise accept those terms.
“Two: Both of you would declare yourself Gray and guarantee bringing at least a third of the Light with you.
“And three: Lord Potter would abdicate his position as Lord Potter while I am still Heir and hand over all Gringotts vaults and their contents to me, intact, and in their entirety.”
Lily’s look turned pitying. “Harry, none of that is even remotely realistic.”
Harry nodded. “I know.”
Lily’s look of pity vanished.
Harry could see the emotions flash across her face. A moment ago, she’d been standing in front of a naive child, asking for the impossible. Now she faced a brick wall.
Finally, the emotions on her face settled into sadness. “Where did that happy and talented boy go who stayed at Potter Manor over the summer?”
“He’s still here. I learned to pretend to be happy long before I learned what the emotion actually felt like, but now that I do know, pretending is all the easier.” He smiled a bright smile. “I have friends. They make me happy. And I’m not talking about Lord Slytherin.” His bright smile dulled somewhat. “It seems you are trying to present the front of a mother who wishes to do right by a child she feels she has wronged. If that is truly your intention, front or otherwise, then you will not begrudge me the source of my happiness and instead let me get on with it.”
Lily’s look of despondency deepened. “No normal twelve-year-old is that erudite, even with occlumency. Just what has Slytherin put you through?”
Harry didn’t answer. He instead slipped out of the door and out into the damp mist of a February weekend morning. Birds chirped off in the mists. Around his ankles, Mrs Norris rubbed affectionately at his leg in a way she never would have done before the animagus ritual.
Harry leaned back on the castle wall and winced. Looking back, he really had let himself go there, hadn’t he?
To her credit, Lily didn’t open the door to go after him. That probably meant the weeks-long chase was at an end — at least as far as her part was concerned.
But that didn’t matter now. Harry had an appointment to keep — several of them, in fact. So he’d better get a move on. And the first stop would be all the way up North, back to Slytherin Manor.
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
At the Gryffindor table, Virgo Malfoy’s ears pricked up as news of Harry’s flight from the castle percolated. Lord Slytherin had not been at all quiet about his leaving for the day.
“Do we know it’s true?” Susan asked.
Virgo’s eyes carefully studied the Slytherin table. “We don’t. But I believe it is. It fits with what I have learned of John’s brother. He would want his minions to get all the credit. Look. Weasley and Black appear far more alert than usual.”
Susan’s voice dropped to barely a whisper. “From you?”
“Almost certainly. They are both dangerous. But Weasley is at a whole other level.”
Susan shivered. “I’m so glad we found that place.”
Virgo nodded slowly. That place, indeed. Unbidden by the busyness around the Great Hall, her mind drifted back to when they’d first found that place.
It had been the Tuesday after they’d all arrived back at Hogwarts after the Winter Festival. Virgo had just finished telling John of the conversation between her father and his. And how Lord Potter had valiantly defended both their interests in the negotiation for her hand, while her father had attempted to fleece the Potters for every galleon he could, but ultimately wound up humiliated.
Bollocks, of course, but John didn’t need to know that. It would only upset him.
The boy-who-lived smiled widely. “My dad is awesome.” The smile faded. “I just hope he does manage to sort something out soon. We need to get you away from the Malfoys.”
“We need to do more than that,” Susan jumped in. “We need to start forming our own inner circle.” She paused. “If my aunt heard me say that, she’d cane my bottom.”
“Obviously we won’t call it an inner circle,” John said. “But we do need somewhere to hold meetings. Somewhere the teachers won’t find us.”
Virgo smirked. “I may have an answer for that. You had the Marauder’s Map for a long time, right? Ever notice a place called the Room of Lost Things?”
John frowned. “No.”
After classes that afternoon, the trio embarked on an expedition into the deepest depths of the seventh floor. They all stood outside the door opposite the painting of the dancing trolls. “Of course, it still doesn’t stop your brother from knowing about it,” Virgo said. “The horcrux merging will have given him that information.” The thought roiled around in her head over and over again. “Really, what we need is a place where your brother can’t find us as well. A place where we could hold the meetings we need in total peace and privacy from anyone.”
Suddenly, a huge whoosh of magic nearly knocked the three students off their feet. They all took several steps backwards.
Virgo merely held her arms to her face to stare through the gap with narrowed eyes.
Several dozen massive locks slammed down on the door in front of them, each one locking into place like an intricate jigsaw with almost creepy mechanical precision. Then a small hole opened in the woodwork and something shot from it with a rather organic farting sound. A small bronze key landed at Virgo’s feet.
The three all stared at it.
Virgo reached down and carefully picked it up with two fingers, holding it at arm’s length as though it were a dead mouse. “Voldemort never knew about this.” Despite her disgust at the key’s delivery mechanism, she couldn’t keep the glee out of her voice.
A quick investigation into the Room of Lost Things found it to have changed completely. Gone were the rows upon rows of lost and found shelves, replaced with a large open area, filled with all kinds of duelling paraphernalia.
Shelves crammed with books covering combat, duelling, war, politics, and seduction lined one of the walls.
Combat dummies stood to attention on one side, while another was furnished with rows of benches facing a raised stage with a podium. And behind that podium was a magic window showing every corridor leading to their new discovery.
“It’s a duelling room!” John exclaimed.
“No,” said Virgo in a low voice. “Not if I’m right. If I’m right, it’s so much more than that.”
She was right. This room could turn into almost anything the wisher needed. Although her first thought to use the room to summon back the Marauder’s Map had not worked, unfortunately. How had her other self not discovered this before?
“This is amazing!” Susan said, spinning around in the middle of the room. “We can totally host our inner circle here.” She slowed to a halt. “Now we just have to persuade them to join.”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
On the third floor of Slytherin Manor—the residential apartments—Harry stepped out of the floo and looked around the central living area. There was a noticeable air of cosiness about the place now that he approved of. A difference in smell, perhaps? The new carpets? The fire in the grate? Whatever it was, he liked it.
The walk down to the basement, however, reminded him that most of the manor still lacked that kind of personal touch. The grand ballroom still had the air of a currently unused event space — all chairs and tables stacked in corners. It really needed a standard welcoming setup it could take when not being used for anything else.
He made his way through the various defences he’d set up around his own little department of mysteries and found Plato administering the next dose of Draught of Living Death to the obscurial son of the African warlord he’d subdued over the summer.
Plato looked up. “Master is being here, master,” he said, sounding unsurprised. “Will master be wanting to peek into parasite boy’s head today?”
Harry walked past the table. “No, Plato, thank you. I just wanted to get a book before heading over to the Grangers and Gringotts. The situation with Dan and the gem is delicate.”
Plato grimaced. “As master wishes. Plato is hoping that the magic drain is cured of his affliction before too long.”
A magic drain, Harry thought in dark amusement as he emerged back into the sunlight from the manor’s front door, and started making his way down the path to the Grangers’ cottage. That was an apt description for what Daniel Granger now was. Such a power was both legendary and political dynamite. It almost made his own time-travel look tame by comparison. The potential advantages of having someone like Dan on his staff were legion. And they almost outweighed the downsides.
It was, therefore, extremely lucky for him that Hermione more than made up for those downsides.
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
Daphne Greengrass stared intently at the open book in her lap — Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. What could she take from it? What could she learn?
In the ancient muggle war between Sparta and Athens, the Spartans were masters of ground combat. None could stand before their well-trained military machine. Luckily for the Athenians, they didn’t need to. Athens had built an impenetrable wall around their city and ferried in supplies from a maritime empire that the Spartans couldn’t hope to top.
Every summer the Spartans marched to the wall, intent on laying siege to Athens, and every year, when the snows started to fall, they were forced to go home without a victory, having achieved nothing but to devastate the Athenian countryside, again.
In the words of this muggle strategist, Thucydides, the Spartans were the elephant — a terrible force that could trample all they faced... on land. While the Athenians were the whale — a mighty naval power that could sink any enemy they found... in the water.
Two great nations locked in stalemate, unable to bring their respective powers to a decisive battle against the other, forced into unending conflict for as long as the status quo remained.
Daphne bit her thumb. How might her betrothed’s power be like the whale? How might he be the elephant? Perhaps one could think of morality as a kind of strategic geography? The Light liked to occupy the popular moral high ground. They counted on the support of the masses to make up for their sacrifice of the more ruthless political tactics found in Dracula’s Blood is Thicker than Magic.
The Dark, on the other hand, had shown no problem in using such devastating magical tactics under the patriarchal leadership of a lord of lords.
The two felt quite asymmetrical, didn’t they?
What about economic power?
The Light and the Dark felt quite similar there. Many of the lords relied on real estate and rents. Others on monopolies granted by the ministry — or near-monopolies, at least. The wizarding government didn’t like one political faction to have a stranglehold on any one critical resource.
Or it would be more accurate to say that no faction in the Wizengamot liked their opposing factions to have a total monopoly on any critical resource. There was an important difference.
Daphne tapped a light pattern on the book with her fingers.
If Harry chose to attack any strategic moral high grounds, he would probably have to fight for it with the Light — the plucky young bull shark vs the old and massive whale.
On the other hand, if his efforts this afternoon outside of Hogwarts played out well, he might have a whole new geographic playground all to himself. The Dark’s mighty economic elephant of the plains could find itself crushed by Harry’s massive... err... dinosaur? From the... mountains?
Daphne looked down at the book in her lap again.
Maybe she was taking this particular muggle metaphor too far.
Someone landed heavily in one of the armchairs on her right-hand-front.
It was Tracey.
“You were right, Daphne,” she said in a hushed voice. “The Light are putting up Percy Weasley as their candidate for student Minister. They just gave me their nomination.”
Daphne closed the book in her lap with a quirk of her lips. “I thought Humble Hags and Chief Warlocks were supposed to remain apolitical.”
Tracey responded with a lip quirk of her own. “This Humble Hag and Chief Warlock serves Lord Slytherin.”
The two girls snickered.
They both sobered quickly. “Is there anything we have to worry about, Daph?”
Daphne shook her head. “Percy Weasley is an obvious and simultaneously terrible choice. He is a by-the-book stickler for rules, and will surely lose the popular vote. But he is the choice that will give the Light the highest number of important department heads in trade. There is no way the Light can exert actual political weight over proceedings, given how many heirs and other important students we now control. So they must shepherd what resources they have into a few key positions. We have our pieces assembled exactly how we want them. Now all we have to do is wait for events to play out.”
Tracey nodded. “Daph, how much influence do you think these student departments will actually have? I mean, they are only students. They still have to deal with the professors. And the professors still have to listen to the headmaster — who listens to the board and the ministry.”
Daphne smiled. “That’s up to each individual student.” Her smile turned into a rare grin. “And how well they play the game of power.”
“You just went full Dark Lady there, Daph.”
Tracey opened her mouth to reply, but Daphne beat her to it.
“That’s Gray with an -A, not an -E. I am not that mopey ghost.”
Tracey stuck out her tongue.
“In any case, this will help cement Harry’s expanding control over the school. By the time anyone important enough to do anything about it realises what’s happening, it will be a fait accompli.”
“Doesn’t he already totally control the school? I thought I read something about that in the Daily Prophet.”
“That was a cautionary action taken because of a rogue house-elf. Quite helpful, actually. It gave our lord a good excuse to take control of the wards, setting a precedent, and the squawking in the Prophet will only help us in the long term. Despite their protests, they couldn’t actually have Lord Slytherin back down from his control given the threat, and since they couldn’t tell anyone what the actual threat was, it ended up making them look weak. But no, he doesn’t control the school. Not yet.”
Tracey had a quill and parchment out now. “So, what’s everyone doing before the candidates’ speeches and voting?”
“Ginny and Luna are helping Alex train for the upcoming duelling tournament. Hermione is in healer training, Blaise and Theodore are with Draco, most of the Founders Club are working on their occlumency, the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws have the quidditch pitch, the Gobstones Club was cancelled because the captain needs to work on his arithmancy homework, although he didn’t tell the club that, and that one Ravenclaw seventh year I told you about finally succeeded at getting into that Hufflepuff sixth year’s knickers last night. The two are currently waiting in the hospital wing for Professors Flitwick and Sprout, who are probably going to suspend them for a few weeks after getting them the potion they need. Unless the parents object, naturally. It wouldn’t be that terrible a match for them.”
Daphne looked at the ceiling as though deep in thought.
“Oh, and Percy Weasley and Penelope Clearwater have moved from kissing to feeling each other up. Which is almost outside of her parents’ direction for her courting, but not quite enough for blackmail material, unfortunately. Knowing Percy Weasley, he’ll probably stick to her parents’ word of law even if she threw herself naked into his arms.”
Tracey whistled. “I don’t know how you get gossip this quickly. What about John?”
“John, Virgo, Susan, and others are having another meeting in the Room of Many Things.” Daphne shook her head. “And although none of my various means or agents have been able to infiltrate into that particular space without resorting to extraordinary efforts, I honestly don’t know what they think they’re hiding.” She fixed Tracey with a rather annoyed look. “Surely there’s only so much devious stuff you can get up to in a room crammed full of shelves so dense you can hardly move.”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
“What are we going to do?” shouted Sally Smith.
“Yeah!” echoed an older Hufflepuff. “Greengrass has this whole thing sewn up! This isn’t a fair wardrobe selection. She’s going to steamroll us!”
Over three-dozen other students voiced similar sentiments. The Room of Requirement was buzzing. Behind the small crowd standing in front of the raised platform, several students were practising basic stunners under the watchful eyes of Susan Bones.
John Potter stood behind the dais, doing his best to look firm and confident. “Trust me,” he said. “We have a plan. It’s all about the student minister. If we can win that position, we’ll have everything we need to stop the Gray from taking over the school.”
The crowd as one turned their heads to where Percy Weasley was standing by a blackboard, explaining the finer points of ministry protocol to a small group of glazed-eyed third years. They turned back to John.
“John,” began Oliver Wood, standing in the front row. “I’m not saying Percy wouldn’t make a good humble hag. But is he really minister material?”
There was a chorus of muttered agreements.
“And why don’t we get a say at who becomes the top humble hag?” Sally added loudly. “Why does it have to be Davis? And she’s even Chief Warlock as well!”
“Look,” John said. “I tried talking to McGonagall, but she said that was the headmaster’s decision. I don’t like it any more than you all. Didn’t any of you talk to your parents about it, like I asked?”
There was an uneasy shuffling of feet.
Oliver Wood grimaced. “They said Hogwarts was where we were supposed to learn about politics and that I shouldn’t be asking them for help.”
“That’s what mine said too,” added a fifth-year Ravenclaw.
“Mine said teenage politics weren’t important,” said a sixth-year Gryffindor.
“The hells it isn’t!” Sally burst out. “If we can’t beat the Gray now, what makes them think we’ll be of any use to them when we graduate?”
“Yours don’t want you in the Light,” pointed out the same Gryffindor.
“That’s my Grandfather. My mum and dad are Light through and through, and so am I.”
“I wish mine were,” said a fourth-year Slytherin, one of the few snakes in the room. “They told me it might be a good idea to start cosying up closer to Greengrass, with the way the winds have been blowing lately.”
Everyone looked at her.
“What?” she said defensively. “I didn’t have to tell you that. Surely that counts for something? I believe in the ministry as much as all of you!”
John shot off a small firework from his wand to get the attention back on himself. “As I said, we have a plan. Trust me. It will all work out all right in the end.”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
Dan Granger stood perfectly still, feet exactly aligned with two strips of duct tape that had been affixed to the floor.
He raised his head and cracked his knuckles. “Ready,” he said.
Harry nodded, raised his wand, and said, “Stupefy.”
The bright red light shot towards Dan. It got to within about a foot before winking out of existence as though it had never been.
Harry lowered his wand. “Interesting.”
“The range was only a few inches when we first measured it,” Dan said. “If I focus really hard, I can extend it a bit.”
“Can you modulate the intensity of the effect?”
“I might be able to?”
“I suggest working on that then. Total magical nullification is amazingly powerful, but selective nullification would be a completely different level.”
“But I don’t think I’ll be able to completely remove the effect around me.”
Harry sighed. “I don’t expect you to.”
Dan looked uncomfortable. “Look, Harry. I mean, my lord. I mean....” He stopped. “Do you want me to call you Harry or by title?”
“You can call me Harry when you’re not in the dog house.”
Dan grimaced. “Yes, my lord. Look, I’m really sorry about this. If you want, I can go with you.”
Harry slowly shook his head. He liked Daniel Granger, he really did. But he did have to remind himself sometimes that the man was a muggle. And now he wasn’t only a muggle, he was a super muggle. A man whose muggleness was so intense that he actively sucked magic out of the world.
Harry walked over to a side-table, on which rested several potions, alongside his mask.
“Dan,” he started. “Do you love your daughter?”
The voice behind him sounded mildly offended. “Of course.”
“Yeah, I’m rather fond of her too.” He turned around.
“How do you feel Hermione would feel if her Dad went into Gringotts this morning and never came out?”
Dan Granger said nothing.
“I know very little about how the goblins view these gems,” Harry continued. “I don’t know what they use them for. I don’t know how much they know about them. They could be part of some long-term power strategy to create an army of goblin warriors immune to magic to throw against the walls of Magical Britain. Unlikely, but not impossible. Maybe they’re a necessary reagent in creating the elixir of life, or turning base metals into gold. Maybe they don’t need the gems themselves. Maybe they only need the people who’ve used the gems, for who knows what. The more powerful the ritual, often the greater the sacrifice.”
He gave Dan a significant look.
Dan was back to looking sheepish now.
Harry picked up one of the potion vials. “I cannot stress this enough, Dan. No one. Absolutely no one outside of the family can know about this. No one. The political ramifications of a muggle who can nullify magic are too terrible to contemplate — but contemplating them is my job. It’s the kind of thing that would bring not only the ministry down on our heads, but possibly the entire Wizarding World. We’re talking an ICW task force powerful enough to sweep any question of magical sovereignty aside like so much confetti. Are you familiar with the Brazilian Strangle Vine?”
Dan shook his head.
“It’s a magical plant from the Americas — a parasite that leeches magic from other magical plants to sustain a number of dangerous enchantments around itself. During the last war it became a symbol of propaganda for blood purists. One of their central claims was that muggleborns were simply muggles who had found a way to steal magic from ‘real’ wizards and witches.”
“Oh,” Dan said. “I think I’m starting to see the picture.”
“Indeed. Where does the magic that you nullify go? If anywhere? Do you keep it? Are you ‘stealing’ it, somehow? It doesn’t seem likely, but it is the kind of thing that will be claimed by certain people with an agenda in a heartbeat. And it’s very difficult to prove that it’s not the case. Maybe eventually you will also be a muggleborn? A muggleborn who stole his magic from wizards. Maybe you could drain a wizard dry and turn them into a muggle.”
Harry drunk the potion in hand, followed quickly by the other. His body aged. His face changed. He put on the mask and cast a few spells over himself.
Lord Slytherin carefully adjusted his robes before turning his attention back to the man in front of him. “My job today is to haul your arse out of the fire, Mister Granger,” he said. “And hopefully persuade the Boneslicer Clan to continue supporting us. Your job is to arrange matters with the muggle authorities so that our sunken treasure ship can go on the muggle market as soon as possible at the valuations we need.”
Dan straightened. “I won’t let you down.”
Lord Slytherin walked towards the door. “I’m sure you won’t.”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
By now, breakfast had long since passed, and the Slytherin common room was bustling.
“I heard Derik say Margarette said a sixth and seventh year were suspended for trying to rig the vote for Potter.”
“Yeah? Well I heard that the Daily Prophet sent a reporter under polyjuice to sabotage Greengrass.”
“Don’t be daft. Who’d believe something so stupid?”
“At least it’s better than the fool who thought they’d bumped into an agent from the Department of Mysteries and it turned out to be Clearwater practising the invisibility charm.”
“Ah, but why’d she be trying to learn that do you think?”
“Have you ever been a smoking hot girl in a castle full of boys?”
“No, and neither have you.”
“Yes, but I do have an imagination.”
“No kidding. You read the Quibbler.”
Sitting in his large high-back chair on the left-hand side of the much larger and throne-like chair left open for Lord Slytherin, Draco Malfoy surveyed the common room with a regal air. He didn’t just sit though, he lounged. He lounged like a wizard who was already the highest-ranked wizard in the castle — a wizard who sat head and shoulders above every other wizard — a wizard of power and influence.
To Draco Malfoy, this was how it should be. Everything neatly arranged behind closed doors. The voting would be mere formality.
It was just a shame he wasn’t on the other side of those closed doors.
In front of him, a constant stream of students passed by the mostly empty Slytherin court, making their way instead to the archway to the girls’ dormitories. Messages to and from Slytherin’s now undisputed leader. From there, a witch carried the message down the stairways to its final destination.
For while he was about to take on the mantle of most powerful student wizard in the castle, that still didn’t change the fact that above him, there were not one, but two even more powerful student witches.
His master had a master, or possibly an ally, he wasn’t entirely sure, who herself was the betrothed of one of the most powerful wizards in the country.
But still... student minister.
Draco allowed himself a small smile.
Across the Slytherin common room, past the massive windows looking out into the Black Lake, past the older messenger girls stationed at the head of the descending spiral staircase, down, down, to the second-year girls’ dorm, two younger girls stood at attention by the door, eyes scanning the hallways, wands in hand.
“Message from Derik Catwall for Heiress Greengrass,” panted one of the messenger girls.
Ginny nodded, took the message, and handed it to Alexandra, who waved her wand over it, carefully opened the door, and slipped inside, replaced moments later by Luna.
The messenger girl left.
Ginny glanced at her friend. “I’m still not sure Alex will be able to win the tournament.”
Luna hummed, but said nothing.
“She’s come a long way,” Ginny continued. “But is it enough? Even with her you-know-what form. There’s only so much training you can fit into nearly two years.”
Luna turned her face to her. She smiled dreamily. “Everything is going perfectly, Ginny. Whether Alex wins or loses doesn’t matter. What matters is that she fights for our lord.”
Ginny’s look turned uncertain. “Are you sure about that, Luna? Alex really doesn’t like losing. And she’s worked so hard for this.”
“Ginny, if Alex wins, our lord can reward her. If Alex loses, she will fight harder to prove herself. Then the reward will be all the sweeter.” She paused. “Or is that blander, in Alex’s case? Or maybe nice things feel even sweeter when you aren’t always tasting sweeties. Maybe that’s why witches like to ‘save it for someone special’, but then why would betrothal contracts need chastity clauses? I should ask Harry about that.” Luna then put her hands behind her back and proceeded to hum a tune Ginny didn’t recognise.
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
The Slytherin second-year girls’ dorm was almost completely vacant.
Pansy, Millicent, Flora, and Hestia had all been told to take a hike for the day. The former two complied respectfully and grudgingly, respectively. The latter two, with almost worshipful speed.
“Message from Catwall,” Alex said, climbing into the trunk in the middle of the girls’ dorm.
Hermione nodded, took the note, opened it, and read. “You were right,” she said, turning to Daphne. “Those two upper years having sex have been suspended.”
“Not only have they been suspended,” Daphne whispered, sitting in her high-back chair, eyes firmly shut. “But their fathers are currently negotiating a betrothal contract for the two. She is not taking the news well.” Her eyes snapped open.
Somewhere in the castle, not too far away, an Eye of Kilrogg faded from existence.
On the wall in front of Daphne, a half-dozen ice mirrors shimmered in the warm air, each one showing a different spot in the castle.
“In other news, Potter has finished his meeting in the Room of Lost Things and is making his way back to Gryffindor Tower.”
Alexandra huffed and crossed her arms. “What is even the point of having a spy network, when you have this?”
“One of the surest ways to form positions for war would be to order movements only after obtaining perfect information. And I want perfect information.”
Hermione and Alex looked at each other before looking back at Daphne.
“Jomini.” Daphne smiled. “A Summary of the Art of War.”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
While Harry did indeed have urgent business in Gringotts, this was not his only port of call for his day trip out of Hogwarts.
Whispers followed him from the moment he exited the floo at the British Ministry of Magic.
They always did.
“Look, it’s Lord Slytherin!”
“Merlin, he’s tall.”
“I wonder what he’s here for?”
“Do you think the minister knows?”
As he entered the magic elevator that led to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, a small circle of empty space rapidly formed around him as wizards and witches urgently pressed themselves up against the walls.
The doors briefly opened at the floor housing the Department of Magical Games and Sports, but quickly closed again when the prospective new passengers saw just who was standing in the doorway.
Finally, the doors opened for the floor of the DMLE, and Harry strode out of the lift and into the reception area.
The general noise of chatter, rustling parchment, and minor magical shenanigans slowly died.
If Alexandra were to have even a ghost of a chance during the Hogwarts duelling tournament, he’d first have to take care of a small piece of administration for his troublesome little necromancer.
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
Down in the DMLE’s training area, Chief Auror Lord Sirius Black breathed heavily, standing bent-over, hands on his knees, panting like a dog, which, obviously, was quite appropriate.
“Again!” barked the trainer. “Or did you haul my arse out of retirement for nothing, boy?!”
Sirius shook his long hair and tried to wipe sweat off his naked chest. Why had he thought it was a good idea to bring Mad-Eye back?
It was because there was just so much to deal with these days. And things only looked to be getting more and more complicated.
“One second,” he said gruffly. “Water.”
“Fine, you pansy!” Mad-Eye turned to the assembled aurors. “Two minute break! Constant Vigilance!”
Six other aurors all relaxed slightly and turned away.
Walking over to the side of the room, Sirius brought a bottle of water to his lips.
Almost without thought, his wand slipped back into his hand as he felt hostile magical intent begin to form behind his back.
Oddly enough though, the spell wasn’t aimed at him.
A loud crackle of spellfire blasted through the room.
It seemed this time one of the others had been the target of their trainer’s ‘surprise training session’.
Sirius’ eyes bugged. “MOODY?! WHAT THE HELLS?”
Mad-Eye stood in the middle of the room, good leg forward, wand thrust straight out in front of him, pointing towards the door that led back to the department. Every other auror, except Nymphadora, all had their wands pointed dangerously at Mad-Eye. Nymphadora had hers pointing in the same direction as Mad-Eye, although unlike her partner, she hadn’t fired a spell.
A large scorch mark gently smoked to one side of the door.
“You have a quick draw, auror,” said Lord Slytherin. The fingertips of his gloves had been burned away, exposing faintly glowing fingers below.
“No quicker than yours,” Moody shot back. “How many more have you got behind you?”
“MOODY!” Sirius yelled.
Lord Slytherin held his other hand up at him. “No, Lord Black. The man is right to be cautious. What’s to say I don’t have an army behind me?”
“What indeed,” Moody growled, right eye staring, glass eye swivelling.
“Do you have an army behind you?” Sirius asked, incredulous.
“Then you are not helping! Put that damn thing away Moody.”
“I’ll put my Merlin-damn wand away in the presence of an unknown and potentially hostile enemy when Death closes the Veil and comes back home for a Merlin-damn holiday.”
“I swear—!” Sirius turned to their guest. “Slytherin, would you hand your wand over to show this idiot you’re not a threat.”
Slytherin inclined his head. “I’ll hand my wand over in the presence of eight trained killers who take their orders from politicians when Fate delivers her final prophecy and retires to embroider the complete history of Hogwarts onto one of Dumbledore’s rainbow robes.”
A corner of Mad-Eye’s mouth tugged ever so slightly upwards. “That implies you believe having your wand in the presence of eight trained killers would do you any good.”
“Oh, for pity’s sake!” Nymphadora shouted out, her wand still trained on Lord Slytherin. “Will you two stop trying to out-paranoia each other? You should both just get married and have little paranoid babies who won’t drink from a bottle without first casting twelve different detection charms over them.”
“Seventeen,” Mad-Eye growled.
“I could add another two.”
“Slytherin, why are you here?” Sirius interrupted.
Slytherin turned to him. “Straight to business?” He cast a very obvious gaze around the somewhat hostile training room. Even the aurors who had their wands trained on Moody were eyeing the masked lord with a good deal of suspicion. “Probably for the best. I have some parchment-work for you.”
Sirius felt an overwhelming feeling of frustration well up in him. “Couldn’t that have waited?”
“Normally, yes. But I thought you’d want to handle this personally. Rather than finding out second-hand from someone else.”
“Personal how?” Sirius marched over. “Give it here.”
Slytherin handed over a small stack of parchment forms. He tipped an imaginary hat, turned on his heels, and left without a word.
The air in the room noticeably relaxed at the man’s departure, but Sirius didn’t really notice. He was too busy staring down at the first parchment in the stack, eyes fixed on the first few details. His hands began to quiver. A lump started to form in his throat.
Animagus Registration Application Form
Name: Heiress Alexandra Patricia Black
Animagus Form: Grim
Date First Achieved: January 30th, 1993
Distinguishing Features: Bright Violet Eyes
A tear formed in one eye.
Slytherin’s voice called out down the corridor. “You can thank Harry!”
You can thank Harry.
Sirius wiped the tear away. It was a bloody good thing he was facing away from his men.
He knew being a single father was hard. But when Alex had arrived into his life, he hadn’t realised just how hard it was going to be. The legacy of the Black family, her mother, her unusual birth, family magics, the wrong sort of wizards, Kreacher, the portraits around Grimmauld Place — the list of things to protect her from seemed endless. And at some point that he couldn’t identify Alex had gone from his little angel to resenting him. And in the worst possible way. Alex wanted the legacy of the Black family. She wanted the rituals. She wanted the society, the traditions, the magic. She wanted the power. She wanted everything that he had grown up hating.
And the harder she’d pushed, the harder he’d pushed back.
There were many things expected of the heiress of an Ancient and Noble house, and he’d taught his daughter basically none of them.
Not even the prerequisites for the animagus transformation — the one aspect of being a Black he himself had not shunned.
And now that he thought about it, with how little instruction he’d arranged during her early years, even that particular accomplishment would have long been out of her reach without outside help.
Many things were expected of being a Black. Ruthlessness, stubbornness, a cut-throat cunning streak — but perhaps the one thing that was expected above all else, was being in the know. And a Black who wasn’t in the know...
The memory of a mad cackling filled Sirius’ mind.
...was worse than dead.
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
‘Well, that was a good-ish deed for the day’, Harry thought, arriving by floo inside the Leaky Cauldron. There was no doubt Lord Black could potentially be an incredibly useful ally. Quite apart from his being Alex’s father, Chief Auror, and a lord of the Wizengamot, he was also Harry’s godfather.
And while the man hadn’t acquitted himself amazingly well in the past in that regard, he also hadn’t pissed all over him during his darkest hour. There had been many people in that courtroom, back in the last timeline, when Harry had been sentenced to Azkaban, but not Lord Black.
Tapping the pattern on the bricks outside the Leaky Cauldron with his wand, Harry watched as the entrance to Diagon Alley opened and the sounds of a hundred wizards and witches, many from overseas, swept over him.
“Psst! Look, it’s him!”
“Is he really writing a book?”
“That’s what I heard.”
“Dragon liver! Six knuts an ounce!”
The goblin guards outside Gringotts noticeably stiffened as Harry approached. Not the best reaction he could have hoped for, but it was better than outright hostility.
They both clicked their halberds in unison as he passed between them up the stairs.
The doors to the bank swung open.
Harry took a moment to centre himself. He had both his wands, the cloak, enough potions to supply a small army, and of course, his new ace-in-the-hole, a chimaera animagus form — part Nemean lion.
He then walked forward, passing through the doors, out of Magical Britain, and into the sovereign territory of every goblin the world over.
His footsteps echoed on the marble floor. The hall was quiet at this time of day and Harry fancied that every clerk caught his eye as he made his way to the end of the room.
The head clerk looked down at him over a desk that magically adjusted its height to be exactly four feet taller than whoever stood before it. “Yes?” the goblin asked.
“Lord Slytherin here to see Account Manager Boneslicer, Chief of the Boneslicer Clan. I am expected.”
“Yes, you are,” the head clerk said, rather acerbically. “If you will wait one moment. Convertible-Security!”
Harry allowed himself to be led away by the summoned goblin. “I was not aware of a Convertible-Security in the Boneslicer Clan.”
The goblin did not answer.
They turned several corners and passed several statues that Harry was sure he’d never passed before during his times in the bank.
“You’re not a Boneslicer, are you?”
Again no reply.
They turned another corner and Lord Slytherin stopped dead. The sound of rushing water ahead was punctuated by a change in decor, from smooth marble to rough rock. It was a thief’s downfall — the illusion-cancelling waterfall Gringotts used to catch vault robbers. Harry’s mind immediately jumped to the anti-magic effects of the ghost gem.
“After you, Lord Slytherin,” Convertible-Security growled.
Shit. As far as he knew, only the Boneslicer clan knew that Harry Potter was Lord Slytherin. Technically, he’d still have the mask, but even that was magic. What if thief’s downfall had additional unadvertised effects? Like for example, magic cancelling?
“Lord Slytherin!” Convertible-Security said again, more forcefully this time.
“This is not the way to Account Manager Ragnok Boneslicer,” Harry said, slowly. “I wish to be taken there.”
“You will be. After you walk through the thief’s downfall.”
“I was not informed this was necessary.”
Convertible-Security snarled. “But you were informed of the sacred nature of the mist jewels, and yet you allowed one to be destroyed. How can we trust such a shadow to walk freely in our halls? Defiler of sacred artefacts!”
“I wasn’t told they were sacred...”
Harry turned just in time to witness the arrival of a dozen armed goblins piling into the corridor behind him, blocking off his line of retreat. They all carried runed weapons and wore armour forged of goblin steel.
Harry felt adrenaline rush through his veins.
“Walk, Lord Slytherin. And if you dare pull a wand, I promise it will be the last thing you ever do.”
The beast king just below the surface roared to be let free — to feel steel turned aside on his coat while jaws crushed bone. Forward or back? Submit or fight? Lord Slytherin or chimaera? His secret persona exposed before he was ready or potential war with the goblins? Which was worse?
Luckily for him, the answer to that question turned out to be irrelevant.
“STAND ASIDE!” bellowed a voice behind the crowd of goblins.
“WHAT IN THE GOBLIN KING’S NAME IS GOING ON HERE?”
In those few moments everything changed. The goblins that had been facing Harry now all had their backs to him, weapons brandished at a second group of goblins, led by none other than Ragnok Boneslicer.
“Stay out of this, Boneslicers!” One of the goblins nearer him shouted. “The shadow must be unveiled!”
“Slytherin belongs to the Boneslicer Clan!” Ragnok roared back. He glanced over their heads and made eye contact with Harry’s mask. “Your account does, I mean.”
Harry nodded. “Do you need any help, Ragnok?”
“No. You just stay there! You’re in enough trouble as it is.”
“Trouble?!” screamed Convertible-Security. “Trouble is for wizards who miss an interest payment! Slytherin destroyed one of the sacred artefacts! He must be punished!”
“And unless our king intervenes, that punishment is mine to deal!”
In the privacy of his mind, Harry cursed. There was going to be a consequence for Mister Granger’s new talent. The question was how large was it going to be?
“So unless you wish to challenge the clan for control again, stand aside and allow my client through!” Ragnok finished.
Silence filled the corridor.
“Fine!” Convertible-Security snapped. “But know that the king will not support you forever, Boneslicer!”
The sheer hostility directed his way as Harry walked through the grudgingly formed rows of armed goblins was almost physical.
Harry did not collapse into the chair in Ragnok’s office. He sat down with all the control expected of Lord Slytherin. But nevertheless, he somehow managed to express the idea of physical relief, regardless.
“What was that?” Harry asked.
Ragnok groaned as he took his own seat on the other side of the table.
“That was the Goldtooth clan.”
“Very much so. The Goldtooth clan controls the Dumbledore account. They have been hostile to the Boneslicers for hundreds of years. It was pure coincidence that our interests down here in the heart of our nation mirror our clients so closely. They have been trying to win your account ever since you first came to us.”
Harry felt a flash of horror and relief wash through him at almost the same time. “I’m glad that you’ve been able to hold my account for as long as you’ve been able to. I had no idea my secret identity was under threat from such an angle.”
“No clan should ever give confidential information about one client to another. Such an action would directly contradict the edicts set up by the Goblin King.”
Harry took off his mask and looked Ragnok in the eyes. “I trust that the accidental destruction of the ‘mist jewel’ my people found did not count as classified client information?”
Ragnok shuffled uncomfortably. “We had already reported your discovery to the Mistjewel clan. We had no choice but to report the destruction as well. It spread from there. But it will stay with the goblins, I can assure you of that. None of the clans could profit from sharing such knowledge with humans.”
Harry was suddenly very glad that he’d only reported the destruction of the gem and not the effect on Hermione’s father.
“And the punishment?”
Harry was instantly on guard.
“How go your efforts to raise the boat from the sea bed?” Ragnok asked.
Harry said nothing for a few moments before answering.
“They go well,” he eventually said. “The Grangers should be seeing a muggle law firm as we speak to sort out some of the more important details, but the salient points on the muggle side are mostly accounted for. What about on the goblin side?”
Ragnok nodded once. “I will not insult your intelligence by beating around the bush, Lord Slytherin. What you are planning to do is something that the ICW has been trying to prevent ever since the Carnegie incident in Magical America. The difference in size between the magical and muggle economies is stupidly gigantic and has only increased since the rise of the United States of America. Free flow of money between the two is impossible while maintaining either the ISS or political stability. It only takes one muggle billionaire to completely upset a magical country’s economy. And while you’re not about to become that, you’ll be far closer than anyone in power would like.”
Ragnok paused. “What is the current estimated value of the gold in the sunken ship?”
Ragnok nodded. “I believe you said it was thirty million? 600,000 galleons. About thirteen per cent of GDP? But that was before you got the estimate from the muggle auction houses.”
There was a pause.
“And?” Ragnok asked.
Harry looked up at the ceiling, as though trying to remember something that he might have simply forgotten.
“Ehh... about four-hundred million.”
Ragnok groaned. “Far closer than anyone in power wants.” If Ragnok wore glasses, he would have taken them off. “Lord Slytherin. Harry. There is simply no way we can let that amount of money loose in the wizarding economy. Gringotts only exists because the ICW doesn’t trust the world’s economy to the home of the Albion Family Magics. Not after the last empire. There are limits to how far we can push the rules for you. And then there’s the penalty I need to exact for the destruction of the mist jewel.”
He picked up his quill and looked Harry in the eyes. “I think we can both agree that 600,000 galleons should be plenty for you to get by with? That’s what you thought you were going to get originally.”
“Ragnok,” Harry said slowly. “With all due respect, 600,000 is not enough. I have programs I need to fund. People I need to train. Investments I need to make. And if I can’t make them, Magical Britain could easily be plunged into a war that will make the last one look like a children’s playground scuffle.”
Ragnok grimaced. It was clear by the look on his face that he didn’t like doing this any more than Harry did. He put the quill on the parchment in front of him, anyway. “I’m sorry, Lord Slytherin. But you’ll have to make do.”
There was a loud knocking on the door.
Ragnok paused, quill still immobile on the parchment. “What?!” he yelled.
The door opened and Floating-Interest poked her nose through the gap. She looked flushed. “Sorry, Grandfather, but...” Her gaze shot to Harry before travelling back to Ragnok. “But Lord Slytherin has been summoned... by the king.”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
The Hogwarts Great Hall was packed. Packed, quiet, and mostly contemplating the wonderful weather outside. On a normal Saturday, students would shuffle in and out for lunch over the course of ninety minutes, but this wasn’t a normal Saturday. Attendance was mandatory.
All eyes were on the high table where second-year Slytherin Tracey Davis was doing her best to Chief Warlock without boring everyone to death.
“And that’s Procedure 424. After that, the student Wizengamot will adjourn for exactly seven minutes, drink the traditional whiskey—err, in our case that will be pumpkin juice—then return and announce their appointments and recommendations for the heads of departments.”
A boy at the Hufflepuff table slowly drifted off to sleep.
Tracey turned to a new parchment. “Then the Scales of Judgement—in our case the Goblet of Fire—will announce the judges who will make up the Student Judiciary. Umm, in the normal judiciary there are six judges and one high judge, but since we’re not as large as Magical Britain it was decided that three would be enough. Please make sure to place your names in the Goblet before the Reformation of Councils.”
An older Slytherin student stifled a yawn.
“Once our new judges have taken up their mantles, we will move onto the announcement of our student minister. We’re determining this by simple majority. And since we lack a Nicolas Flamel, our impartial counter will be one of the staff.”
Daphne sat elegantly at the far end of the Slytherin table, watching the proceedings with eagle-like eyes. Everything was going well.
“And now, I’m going to announce the candidates for minister that I’ve been given. Could I ask each of you in turn to come to the front when I call your name?” Tracey looked around the Great Hall. “Cecil Travers!”
Travers, a fifth-year student, stood up from the Slytherin table to large applause from those dressed in green, and varying degrees of enthusiasm or disdain from the other three tables depending on house loyalty, family affiliation, personal feelings, traditional alliances, current state of favours owed or owing, and possibly current transitional position of Jupiter.
The boy swept up to the front dais, doing his best to look like he wasn’t trying to do his best to look as cool as possible.
Tracey nodded. “Percy Weasley!”
There was a polite smattering of applause, which quickly died as Percy only half stood.
“Chief Warlock,” Percy said in his most pompous sounding voice. “A point of procedure, if I may?”
Daphne’s eyes narrowed.
Tracey looked around the hall uncertainly. “You may, I think.”
Percy adjusted his horn-rimmed glasses. “I would like to remind you that the tradition of informing the chief warlock of the candidates before announcement is merely tradition. Not actually written down anywhere. On the other hand, rule twenty-one paragraph six of Greengrass and Webbs, clearly states—”
Next to Daphne, Blaise Zabini leaned over and urgently whispered, “What is he doing?”
“I don’t know,” Daphne answered.
By now everyone in the hall was paying rapt attention.
“And thus I have decided to step aside,” Percy finished, “for a candidate who I’m sure will acquit herself superbly.”
‘Herself’. Alarm bells rang in Daphne’s mind. This was not in any way helped by the smug look on John Potter’s face.
“I am of course talking about the incredibly talented and charismatic Miss Virgo Malfoy.”
The Gryffindor table clapped and cheered while the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs mostly chatted in confusion. The Slytherins, by contrast, didn’t seem to know what to think. Draco had gone white.
Daphne’s mind went into overdrive. What was Potter doing? Why? It made no sense.
“Greengrass,” Blaise urgently whispered.
“I know!” she hissed back.
All the department head positions had already been negotiated. Potter pulling a stunt like this would put him at a sizable disadvantage. The Light students weren’t supposed to get the position of student minster. They were supposed to take the student Department of Family Affairs, DMLE, and Mysteries. By putting up a candidate who wasn’t supposed to lose, she could easily take back Family Affairs, leaving them with just the DMLE and Mysteries — one inevitably unpopular and the other mostly useless.
Was snatching that position back worth it? It was.
Potter was serving her a strategic advantage on a plate. Why?!
Daphne watched as Virgo Malfoy stood up, flipped her hair over her shoulder, and walked to the front, a triumphant smirk playing about her lips.
Daphne’s eyes widened as realisation dawned. Power hunger! Virgo wasn’t thinking strategically. She was thinking in terms of her own personal position. This was teenage Voldemort after all. Such a foolish move would be completely within the diary’s personality!
Okay, one mystery solved. One problem remained.
The cheering started to die down as Virgo reached the dais, turned and surveyed the hall.
Tracey was busily flipping through parchments, presumably looking up the rules that Percy had just cited. “That... yes... technically...” she eventually said.
Daphne frantically did her best to signal her friend without appearing to do so.
Tracey’s eyes caught hers.
‘Call on me,’ she mouthed, praying that Tracey would have even a fraction of the lip-reading skills she’d developed over her time spying on people with mirrors.
Draco was still white as a sheet.
“Heiress Greengrass,” Tracey said to general confusion. “Um, as a respected student in Slytherin House is there something you’d like to say right now?”
Greengrass rose to her feet and caught Draco’s eye. She tried to convey reassurance, apology, and leadership in one brief glance. And was relieved to see relief sent back her way.
Sending the Malfoy heir up to compete against his ‘sister’ would be a terrible idea. Draco was supposed to win for all sorts of reasons. Him losing was not an option. And Virgo clearly intended to win. So they had to lose on purpose but with someone else.
The position of student minister, while prestigious, wouldn’t likely be all that big of a deal in a tiny population with nine student departments running around. It might enable more personal freedom, but probably little institutional power. And Harry wanted institutional power.
“Yes, Chief Warlock. Thank you for allowing me to speak. I felt that since the Light decided to break with tradition by announcing their candidate themselves, that we should do the same.”
Daphne wetted her lips.
What they needed was a candidate who was plausible, but utterly unsuited to the job. Someone politically disposable, but who wouldn’t mind being politically disposed. That narrowed the potentials down a lot.
All eyes were on her as she took a deep breath.
“I’m sure all of you have seen the praise one of our students has been receiving in the Daily Prophet. There is even talk of changing ministry regulation to allow her the best use of her talents in the coming years. And we were all incredibly impressed by her performance before the Winter Festival.”
There was a pause as the entire hall held its breath.
“I therefore announce our candidate for student minister... Magical Britain’s Quidditch prodigy, Ginevra Weasley.”
Daphne noted three important details about what happened next.
First, the hall erupted.
Second, Ginny gave her a look of utter panic.
And third, this time it was the female Malfoy’s turn to have her face go totally white.
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
“Daphne!” Ginny half-wailed. “What were you thinking?! I can’t be student minister.”
“You don’t have to be. In fact, if all goes well, you won’t. It’s all politics. Just go up there, give a speech that promises a lot of stuff that people like, but which is also obviously impractical, and that’s that.”
“Daphne, I’m not like you! I can’t go up there and speak. I’ve never spoken in front of a crowd in my life! Couldn’t you have stopped her?”
“You’ll be fine.”
Ginny’s shoulders slumped.
“And besides, ‘When the enemy is making a false movement, we must take good care not to interrupt him.’”
Hermione gave Daphne a quizzical look.
“Napoleon Bonaparte,” Daphne supplied.
The common room was buzzing again. Breakfast was over and everyone who was anyone was throwing their names into the Goblet of Fire for the chance to win one of the three judge spots.
“I’m quite interested to hear why though,” said Hermione. “Why the switch?”
At the court of the Dark, Alexandra (sitting at the head), Draco, Nott, Pansy, the Carrow twins, and several hangers-on all quietened down to listen in.
“Virgo Malfoy is... a complicated witch,” Daphne said.
This elicited snorts from everyone in the know.
“She’s clever, cunning, devious,” Daphne continued, “but, most of all, power hungry. I believe that power hunger has led her to make a mistake. The position of minister will give a lot of prestige to the person who takes the position, but that position is reliant on those beneath them to get anything done. This Student Wardrobe is not like the real one, in which the minister holds overall executive power over many departments. The Student Minister will have to govern through persuasion and personality, and if we control all the other positions...” Daphne trailed off.
“—then anything she does will be worthless,” Tracey finished.
Daphne nodded. “As to why Ginny. She is a credible candidate, given her quidditch exploits, but highly unlikely to win. This will give us all the leverage we need to take all but two of the departments. A near complete sweep.”
“And I trust—” said Draco from the other circle of seats, just loudly enough to be heard, causing the Gray all to turn, “that one of those positions will find their way to wizards who may find themselves displaced in all this shuffle.”
Daphne smiled. “Of course you will have a spot, Draco.”
Draco nodded. “I should warn you not to underestimate my sister though. You do not know her like I do.”
Daphne smirked. “I’m sure. But there’s no need for concern. This is the first and only battle for the future of Hogwarts’ student administration. And in this battle, Virgo’s impetuousness has already sealed her failure.”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
Despite being the largest town in the whole of the Orkney Islands with just over 7,000 people, Kirkwall did not have many electric telephones. Certainly not many public ones.
In a small office above a local grocery store, Dan and Emma sat opposite a rather dazed-looking local solicitor while a crisp-sounding upper-class London accent filtered through the room from the receiver held to Dan’s ear.
“The legal position of these matters is based on tradition and precedent, Mister Granger, rather than statute. And every incident is handled on a case-by-case basis. But the generally accepted position is that unless the owner of the wreck puts in a counterclaim, then ‘finders keepers,’ if you will excuse the phrase. This particular wreck though, being so old, and being found in international waters, has no real plausible claimant. Though I would recommend permanently lending a small number of the retrieved treasures to the nations of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Mexico, or Peru for their respective museums once you learn more of the wreck’s origins. As well as the British Museum, naturally. As for the Crown... you will be pleased to know that has not been a problem.”
Emma stared intently at the receiver in her husband’s hand. The solicitor whose phone they were using bit his lip.
“I understand that the actual excavation, retrieval, and sale of the found assets will take a good number of years,” the voice continued through the receiver, “but based on the strength of your claim, our bank will be happy to extend your new company an unrestricted line of credit for no less than thirty per cent of the valuation of the assets at minimal interest — 0.5 per cent above base.”
Dan grinned. A wide smile that could no doubt be heard down the phone. “That sounds acceptable.”
The voice on the other end of the phone took on a lighter tone. “Quite. Congratulations, Mister Granger — and your wife too. You’ve just become very rich people. If you need any assistance in managing it, I’d be happy to pass your name onto one of the best managers our bank has to offer.”
“Then he’ll be in touch. Thank you again, Mister Granger. It’s always a pleasure doing business with you.”
The phone went click.
For a moment there was silence.
Then Emma let out a high-pitched squeal, jumped up out of her chair, and threw her arms around her husband.
The solicitor was still in a daze. “Ninety million pounds,” he muttered.
Outside the solicitor’s office, Emma hung on Dan’s arm. “Where to now, my head of house?” she purred.
Dan grinned. “The boat’s on our clock. Why don’t we splurge on dinner? There’s a pub down that way I like the look of.”
“Wonderful idea.” Emma suddenly frowned. “I hope everything is going as well for Harry.”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
Mister Weasley was a man used to waiting. He waited to speak at meetings. He waited for his employees to turn up to work. He waited for his wife, his children, and his children’s many friends.
Now he was waiting in a Gringotts waiting room.
And while he was usually a very patient man, his patience was wearing thin. It wasn’t as though the matter he had to discuss with Lord Slytherin was a trivial matter.
His thoughts were interrupted when the door opened and a goblin female walked in. Floating-Interest, wasn’t it?
“Mister Weasley, I’m sorry to keep you waiting,” the goblin said, “but I’m afraid Lord Slytherin has run into a situation that is requiring his full attention.”
“What kind of situation—” he started, but didn’t get any further before the answer kicked the breath from his lungs.
“Lord Slytherin has been summoned by our king.”
Mister Weasley stared in horror. “Our king? As in, the Goblin King? The immortal Goblin King? The ruler of all goblins who hasn’t been seen by any wizard since the fall of the last Magical Empire?”
Mister Weasley leaned back heavily in his chair. Suddenly his own business with Lord Slytherin didn’t seem quite so Earth-shattering.
“I’m not sure how long he will be gone,” Floating-Interest concluded. “Will you be okay to wait? I can reschedule the room for another time if it’s inconvenient.”
“No, I’ll wait,” he said, now dabbing at his forehead with a handkerchief. “I can always get some parchment work done.”
The door closed.
Arthur settled down, pulled out a self-inking quill and documents from his bag, and started going through them. The goblin king. Who’d have thought it.
“Father!” The door banged open.
As it turned out, he barely got five minutes work done before being interrupted again.
“Hello there, Bill. Are you supposed to be here? I thought you’d be working.”
The young man slammed his hands on the table. “Father, I beg you again to reconsider this.”
Arthur groaned. “Bill, we’ve been through this before. Our family is already tied to Slytherin. Ginny and Harry are very close friends and the twins’ business is all that’s keeping our family afloat. Without their efforts I’m not sure where we’d be. I know you feel a strong loyalty to the Light, but that doesn’t—”
Arthur stopped in mid-flow.
“You still don’t understand,” Bill continued, slowly. “It’s not about the Light.”
Arthur frowned. “I thought you were talking about pro-muggleborn and half-blood policies that the Wizengamot should pass into—”
“No, I was talking about the working-class!”
Somewhere outside the room, a goblin guard chinked down the hallway.
Arthur looked puzzled. “But, Bill, the muggleborns and half-bloods do work, mostly. Most purebloods work too, come to that. I’m pureblood and I hope you know I work very hard. Even people like Lord Malfoy, curse his arse, work.”
“No, I mean the ones who work with the means of production owned by the bourgeoisie. They who own the tools to make the products which society needs.”
Arthur looked down at the ornate stick of wood held in his hand. “We all own our own wands...”
“No, I mean—” Bill looked around in frustration. “I mean—” his eyes fell on a little bowl on the table used for blood rituals. “I mean things like that! Family magics. Spells that only certain families can use. Working-class people are forced to work for those families because they can’t make those products on their own. Like the Chocolate Frog Partnership.”
Arthur Weasley frowned. “I know Edmund, though. He treats his people well.”
“That’s not the point.”
“What is the point?”
“The point is that you and the twins are moving us closer to those who oppress the people.”
Arthur shook his head. “This still all sounds very Light to me. I’m still not sure I see the difference.”
“The difference is that the Light are all employers! They don’t care about changing the system. They are the system.”
“Now, Bill, that’s not fair. Many Light families have given the ministry a lot over the years.”
“But only because they fear unregulated magic. The Light doesn’t care about giving back the means of production, they are just as greedy as the Dark.” He gave his father a significant look. “Or the Gray.”
Arthur sighed. “Even if your views don’t line up perfectly with the Light, they’ll still be your best bet at getting anything through the Wizengamot. Who knows, you may even find Lord Slytherin amenable to your ideas.”
“But that’s just it! The Wizengamot is part of the system. So it needs to go, too.”
Arthur Weasley just stared blankly at his firstborn son. As though he’d just proposed that they should move the Earth to a different star system. “Bill, I’m not sure where you’ve been getting these ideas, but I’m going to do what I feel is best for our family. Even if you dislike the idea.”
Bill hung his head. “Fine,” he said, quietly, and left.
Arthur sighed deeply. He looked down at the parchment in front of him — a conditional betrothal contract for Ginny’s hand with Harry Potter, just waiting for his signature and that of the Lord James Potter.
He wasn’t sure what miracles Lord Slytherin was going to pull off to get that signature, but for the sake of his family, he hoped the man didn’t fail — or come back from his meeting with the Goblin King missing both his arms.
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
“But I don’t know what to say!” Ginny wailed.
The Great hall was packed.
“It will be fine,” Luna comforted her. “Start out by promising everyone pudding. That always works.”
“But what if I mess up?”
Luna hugged her. “Just pretend it is a battle.”
“Pretend it’s a battle?” Ginny took a deep breath. “Right. I can do that. Just another fight. I’m good at fights.” A thought seemed to occur to her. “A fight with three-hundred Hogwarts students!” she wailed.
Luna slapped her.
“Right, pudding. Right.”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
The waiting room was vast.
Harry looked around with the clinical interest of one who expects to use every last artefact, pillar, rug, and seat in combat. He was masked again, though it hadn’t been needed. Despite waiting quite a while now he had yet to see a single other goblin.
The grand hallway had just two doors — the one behind him, which he’d entered through, and the one on the far side of the quidditch-pitch-sized cathedral.
Needless to say, he was deep, deep underground.
He didn’t even remember this part of the bank from his memories of when Voldemort sacked it in the last timeline.
Come to that, he didn’t remember anything about the Goblin King either.
Voldemort had never found him.
It was almost unnatural how quiet the hall was.
Experimentally, he reached into his robes, pulled out a sickle, and dropped it on the floor. The sound of silver hitting marble echoed throughout the massive space, followed shortly thereafter by the creak of the door behind him.
It was Floating-Interest. “Mister Weasley says not to worry about him and to worry about yourself,” the gobliness said.
The gobliness shifted uneasily. “Also, I have been sent to tell you that it is time.”
“Good.” Harry rose from his seat. Standing at a little over six-foot, he towered over the four-foot Floating-Interest. “I was wondering if there was a problem.”
“No problem.” Floating-Interest motioned him to follow her up the hall, towards the door on the far side. “Just many things going on. The Goblin King is always very busy.”
They reached the door.
Floating-Interest took a deep breath. “The Goblin King shrouds himself in secrets within secrets.”
There was a strange ripple in the air and the door that had been there vanished — as did the rest of the far wall. And in its place.... It was like being on the inside of a life-sized children’s pop-up book. Suddenly, everything was everywhere.
Lord Slytherin tensed.
They were surrounded.
Sound assaulted his ears.
Colours flooded his brain.
And then his mind caught up with the pop-up book.
Lord Slytherin relaxed, but only slightly.
They were surrounded, on all sides, by a veritable sea of goblins — female goblins. They lounged on cushions and chaise longues, eating grapes and looking sultry. A poet might have described them as nubile, if the poet in question had green skin, grew up underground, and enjoyed ritualistic combat to the death.
Harry was suddenly very glad he hadn’t done anything foolish while waiting for his summons and mentally increased the number of people he knew for certain could cast the fidelius charm in Magical Britain up to four, with another several probables.
Beside him, Floating-Interest noticeably fidgeted. Compared to what Harry could only imagine were the many concubines of a truly massive, and actually real, harem, Floating-Interest was dressed like a nun.
The many females surrounding them could probably have produced barely enough silk and golden chains between them to fully clothe a single human witch.
“Oh, Goblin King!” Floating-Interest intoned, raising a hand to her chest and producing a series of giggles from the females in the room. “I bring before you Lord Slytherin, as per your wish.”
“Thank you,” came the smooth reply from everywhere.
Harry stiffened again. Deep inside, the chimaera roared.
Harry liked to think of himself as an expert in making people wet themselves, in one way or another, with a voice deep enough to make the soul vibrate, but the Goblin King was in another league.
His voice was like having dark melted-chocolate, suffused with cinnamon and power, slowly dribbled into your ear.
One goblin girl sighed dreamily while staring at an empty point in space right in front of Harry. Although for the life of him, he couldn’t figure out why.
“Leave us,” the smooth voice commanded.
The smiles on the gobliness’ faces fell. One by one, they trailed out of the room, into the darkness beyond, where Harry could not see, until it was just him and Ragnok’s granddaughter.
“You too, Floating-Interest,” The Goblin King whispered, somehow making it sound more like a proposition to bed than a command to be left alone.
Floating-Interest curtsied shakily and backed out of the room by the way they’d both come.
Two clicks indicated two doors locking.
Once they were alone, the Goblin King laughed like a waterfall of chocolate splashing into a pond of diamonds. “I am not an incubus, Lord Slytherin.”
Harry started. How had he known that was exactly the thought that had been going through his head?
“I cannot read minds, either. Not any better than any abnormally skilled legilimens, anyway.”
Harry pulled himself together. “I imagine being immortal gives one plenty of time to master a wide range of interesting skills.”
“A few.” The voice sounded amused now.
Well, that was better than angry. Probably.
“Let us cut the chase, Lord Slytherin,” The Goblin King continued. “Ragnok has told me of the war that came before. He has told me of what he knows of your past timelines. He has told me of the sacking of Gringotts.”
An acknowledgement of something he would want to avoid. That was good.
“But yours is not the only voice I hear, Lord Slytherin.”
That was not so good.
“You returned to the past and changed many things. Your political movements in Magical Britain have already had profound effects. My agents throughout the world whisper of the rise of Gray Lords from Sub-Saharan Africa to Japan and Peru. When Magical Britain coughs, the rest of the world catches a cold.”
“I’ve met one of them,” Harry replied through his mask. “Gray Lord Tebola. A bit on the nose for someone who can turn into a Tebo.”
The Goblin King snorted. “When the last Magical British Empire fell, the ICW gave Gringotts statehood within Magical Britain as one of the terms of surrender. Magical Britain had proven it could not be trusted to manage the world’s magical economy and Nicolas Flamel agreed to never again use his stone to make gold, outside of a ‘small’ stipend for his own personal use.”
Harry said nothing.
“And now here you are, Lord Slytherin — wanting to use my bank to funnel money from the muggle world to the magical. You want to do this so that you can fund a war that will most likely see a new hegemony rise on the British Isles.”
“I want to funnel the money so that I don’t have to fight a war,” Harry immediately countered.
“But you don’t deny the hegemony bit.”
Harry bit his tongue.
The Goblin King sighed. “For me to give my blessing to this endeavour could be incredibly costly to me and my people. We exist at the blessing of the ICW. The Ministry of Magic would love to annex Gringotts. For us to make such a risky move, we would have to be compensated with something equally valuable.”
“What kind of equally valuable thing?” Harry asked.
“The mist jewels.”
“I know what happened on the night you became animagi, Lord Slytherin.”
“All our records suddenly declared him to not exist. Not dead, but actually not existing. And during the magical storm, as well. It doesn’t take an auditor with high-level occlumency to figure it out.”
“We quickly altered the records so that the ministry would not find out.”
“Daniel Granger is a valuable customer of the bank. Many of my people have already spilt blood fighting over his account. I suspect, in the future, that number will only grow.”
Harry got the impression the Goblin King was looking for the right words.
“The mist jewel you found is lost,” the voice eventually continued. “That is unfortunate, but it does present an opportunity for us. We now have a powerful wizard who knows of the mist-jewels’ true nature and what they can do. Most of our human contractors — your friend’s brother, Bill Weasley, for example — they believe we like the jewels because they are shiny. Or if they have other suspicions, they keep it to themselves. They are useful in locating some of the more simple to find mist-jewels, such as those buried in the curse-filled tombs of Egypt. But others... they are rather more difficult to acquire.”
“And you want a more powerful wizard on call to help you acquire them?” Harry asked.
“And in return for this, you will assist in smuggling more money into Magical Britain than ICW regulations normally allow.”
“I do have an extremely busy schedule.”
“I am aware. I would respect your schedule and only call on you for moderately short time periods at irregular intervals.”
Harry nodded. “No longer than three days per call. And no two calls within two months of each other. Five calls total.”
“Seven,” was the immediate reply. “And I will grant you a five-month grace period before your contract becomes active. I understand you have a lot on your plate right now.”
Harry thought about it. “That seems acceptable.”
“Good. And one more condition.” The voice changed from dark chocolate to steel. “You must not speak of this deal to anyone who does not already know the nature of the mist-jewels or who does not know your plans for your gold. Not to anyone! And if you must speak of them, you MUST speak of them only under fidelius. Do not even hint of them at any other time. Is that clear?”
“Wonderful.” And just like that, the voice was back to its usual ear-dribbly chocolate tones. “I look forward to having you around to clean up my problems, Lord Slytherin. Good help is so hard to find these days. Floating-Interest will have your contract ready for you soon.”
That sounded like a dismissal if ever he heard one.
“And one last thing, Lord Slytherin.”
Harry stopped in the act of turning around.
“Beware of the Family Magics of the Unspeakables.”
Two clicks indicated two doors unlocking and the goblin females swayed and sashayed back into the hall, draping themselves on the many rugs and cushions. A pair walked straight towards Harry before suddenly vanishing. The sounds of feminine giggling filled the room, and not just from the empty space that his brain refused to acknowledge.
Back in the entrance corridor, Harry closed the door behind him to find Floating-Interest waiting for him.
“Have you ever seen the Goblin King?” he asked.
Floating-Interest shook her head. “I have never had that honour.”
Harry grunted. There was no way it wasn’t an incubus. There was absolutely no way.
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
“Is this really okay?” John asked.
Virgo smirked. “Trust me. It’s all going according to plan.”
The smirk dropped from Virgo’s face. “John, I understand how you feel, but you have to understand, she is the enemy now.”
John winced. “And it’s not just that. Sally and Hannah have been asking very difficult questions. I know what we’re doing, but keeping them on board is very difficult when I can’t tell them what we’re up to. They keep saying making you minister is throwing the game.”
“They trust you, don’t they?”
“And they really trust Susan.”
The two looked towards where Susan, Sally, Hannah, and Professor Sprout were busy overseeing a group of Ravenclaws putting their names into the Goblet of Fire.
John nodded. “Yeah, they do. She’s pretty amazing like that.”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
Deep under the streets of London, two men carefully eyed each other over a goblin-wrought-iron table.
One was dressed in an old, but well-worn robe that had clearly once been a serious investment, but which by now had been patched so many times as to be more patch than robe.
The other was dressed without so much as a speck of dust anywhere on his person. Black dragon hide could be seen hiding beneath spider silk and niffler fur. He was also masked.
Between them, lay a small stack of Gringotts contract parchment, filled with tiny ink-quill scrawl. On the top of the parchment read, Betrothal Contract Between the Ancient House of Weasley and the Ancient and Noble House of Potter for the Hand of Ginevra Molly Weasley to Harry James Potter.
Of course, Harry’s name had one extra name after that, but thankfully the Albion Family Magics could be relied on to identify him correctly.
“I hope you don’t find my question presumptuous, Mister Weasley,” Lord Slytherin rumbled. “But have you not considered replacing your wardrobe? I know you can afford it.”
Arthur Weasley smiled. “Molly sewed every patch on this robe by hand. No magic. I will get rid of it when Death walks through the Veil.”
“That’s a level of loyalty I can respect.”
Arthur nodded. “I love all my family. And I do what I have to do to protect them. Not all my children are happy with what we are discussing, but if it means Ginny has a future, then it is what must be done.”
“What does your wife feel?”
“Molly thinks Ginny is too young to be contracted, but she has accepted that it is necessary.” He gave the tiniest of smirks. “You will need to warn young Harry that when you deliver on your half of our agreement, he will have to deal with the full scope of her attentions.”
“Young Harry will handle it, I’m sure. I consider him to be my own flesh and blood.”
Arthur’s smirk turned into a smile.
“I hope our talks here are not hurting you too badly,” Lord Slytherin continued. “I know how important it is for a head of house to consider family unity.”
The smile faded. Arthur sighed. “Bill is young and headstrong. He travelled widely after Hogwarts, doing odd jobs for Dumbledore — picked up some very odd ideas from some of the people he met. Charlie was practically his brother’s shadow until he got that job offer from the Romanian Dragon Preserve. Percy has big ambitions in the ministry and being Light aligned only helps there — at least, on the outside. The twins you know, of course, and Ronald is still finding his feet. But he is close friends with John Potter, so I doubt he’ll take this well. No, we haven’t told him yet — just Bill and Charlie. As for Ginny, well.... Childhood friends, am I right?” He smiled tiredly.
Lord Slytherin picked up the contract. “I think I hate seeing families fall out,” he muttered. “If you need any help, do not hesitate to reach out.” He handed over the contract.
Arthur smiled. “Thank you. I’ll keep it in mind. There is nothing I will not do to keep my family together. Nothing.” He took the blood quill on the table and put it on the line marked, Mister Arthur Weasley, just below the spot marked, Lord James Potter. He signed.
Lord Slytherin took the contract and stowed it away in a pocket of his robe.
Arthur stood up and extended a hand. “For the sake of my daughter’s future, I hope you can work a miracle and secure that other signature.”
Arthur hesitated. A look of uncertainty took over his face. “I know that we’re committed now, but do you really think Lord Potter will accept Ginny’s bride price at 10,000 galleons?”
Beneath the mask, Harry smirked. “Ginny has the hallmarks of an incredible witch. Driven, talented, hardworking, fearless, and ruthless. Harry will be a very lucky boy.”
“Yes, but do you think Lord Potter will see it that way?”
“I will endeavour to persuade him. And I trust Ginny as well as Harry. I’m sure she’s not going to do anything that will make this any harder than it needs to be.”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
A cheer sounded throughout the Hogwarts Great Hall — students on their feet, clapping, cheering, whistling.
At the very back of the hall, Daphne sat at the end of the Slytherin table, poker-faced and wooden.
“And if you elect me minister, I’ll double our quidditch matches!”
“And I’ll arrange field trips into the Forbidden Forest!”
Ginny looked around the raised dais at the front of the room, eyes dilated, breathing heavy. She caught Luna’s eye who gave her an encouraging nod.
“And... and... Pudding at every meal!”
The crowd roared.
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
Outside of Gringotts, Harry was brought up short by a figure waiting for him that he had not anticipated. “Lord Black? I was not expecting—“
Exactly what it was he was not expecting he never managed to reveal. The reason for this being that of all the things he wasn’t expecting, he really wasn’t expecting to be pulled into a tight hug.
He instantly went stiff.
“Listen, Slytherin,” Lord Black whispered into his ear, voice thick with emotion. Already people were staring. “I know exactly what you’re doing. I don’t like politics, but I’m not clueless. I know you’re courting me for the Gray. And I know you’re using my daughter to do it. But I still appreciate your helping her, okay? But know this, hurt her and I will kill you.”
“I hear you.”
Lord Black pulled away, face now rather embarrassed.
Harry felt the telltale feeling of accumulating apparition magic and a second later he was staring once again at an only moderately packed Diagon Alley, much of which was now staring at him. It wasn’t every day you saw the Chief Auror hug Lord Slytherin.
Well, Harry thought. They’d already watched said Chief Auror break the apparition rules in Diagon Alley. Not much harm in emulation.
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
The Great Hall was silent. All eyes were on the front. Travers had already given his speech — a plain and boring affair compared to the quidditch match that was Ginny Weasley — and now everyone wanted to see how the Malfoy daughter would fare.
No one at the Gryffindor table seemed surprised when Virgo produced, of all things, a rather beat-up violin.
When the girl put the chin rest to her neck without saying a word, a pair of older Ravenclaw giggled.
The giggling stopped the moment the first note played.
Across the hall, several sets of occlumency shields immediately slammed shut tight, but even they weren’t enough to completely keep out the sorrowful melody that began to pour forth.
The music didn’t force the listener to relive their worst experience over and over again.
It wasn’t a dementor’s aura.
But it did reach right down into the very soul through the ears, bypassing the conscious brain and pulled at the collective hurt of a lifetime of disappointment.
Then, slowly, with the skill of the talented prodigy, Virgo pulled the song from sorrow to anger, then from anger to hate, stabbing at her instrument like a betrayed lover. Then came the agony, echoing around the Great Hall, gaining speed and power, moving to violence, and finally from violence to victory and triumph, a last long deceleration to the world that evil was vanquished and good restored.
The final note played.
The hall became deathly still.
“When you vote me as student minister,” Virgo said. “I will right all that is wrong. That is all.” She then turned and left the hall.
Shocked in silence, the students all looked at each other.
At the Slytherin table, Daphne Greengrass frowned. Very impressive, as they should expect from the Dark Lord’s horcrux. But would it be good enough?
As the students started to file out and the caskets for voting were dragged in and lined up next to the now full Goblet of Fire, Daphne motioned for Ginny to join her.
It was time for her betrothed’s little ninja to prove her usefulness.
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
Alex pouted. “Why is it you get the mission?”
“Oh, come off it, Alex,” Ginny replied, pulling on a pair of acromantula silk leggings. “This needs stealth and sneakiness. You do stealth like an obscurial in a wand shop.”
“I can be sneaky!”
“Luna, can Alex be sneaky?”
“No,” Luna chirped.
Alex looked betrayed. “Luna!”
“—She falls on her enemies like an obsidian swarm.”
“Well, I guess that’s fine,” Alex mumbled.
Ginny finished donning her ‘creeping around the place’ outfit. “Anyway, the mission needs someone really good at the switching charm, and we all know who that is.”
Alex frowned. “Is that really going to work though? Surely any competent vote counter will notice something strange like that.”
“Oh, don’t worry. Harry made sure to have Lockhart pick the absolute best candidate to be in charge of counting.”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
“Right’o,” said a rather uncertain Rubeus Hagrid, sitting down at the massive table in the Grand Hall. Most of the students were taking advantage of their Saturday afternoon to be elsewhere. “Guess I’d better be making a start of it.” In front of him sat three massive caskets, each one labelled with a candidate name and each one securely closed with chains.
These lasted about as long as it took the half-giant to get his dustbin-lid sized hands on them. Moments later, the contents of all three were in a pile on the table.
“Oh dear... all these little pieces of parchment.” A tongue came out the side of his mouth as he managed to pick one up with the air of an industrial robot lifting an egg. “Let’s see who this is. Ginny!” He frowned. “Nice girl, from what I’ve seen. Shame she’s in Slytherin. Used to know ‘er brother Charlie, you know. Gave him a recommendation for the dragon reserve, I did. Merlin, I’d love a dragon...”
“Hagrid,” said Professor McGonagall in a tired voice. “You’re supposed to count the votes, not yell them out for the whole hall to hear.”
“Oh, right, errr, sorry, Professor.”
As Professor McGonagall left the Great Hall table, a shadow in the air slipped past the temporary ward line that had been set up to keep inquisitive students out. Two shadows in the air, in fact.
Hagrid frowned at the next piece of parchment. “Virgo. Odd that. Never heard of a Malfoy in Gryffindor before. Can’t say she doesn’t play nice music though. Very relaxing. And she is friends with John, so she can’t be that bad. I’ll have to get John to bring ‘err ‘round for tea sometime.”
The two shadows circled around the table from opposite sides, each approaching Hagrid from behind.
Each shadow noticed the other at almost exactly the same time.
Both shadows froze.
“Now, what about that third one... Travers. Slytherin name that.” Hagrid looked urgently around the sparsely populated hall. “Not that there’s anything wrong with Slytherin,” he said loudly and clearly to the rafters. “There’s always lots of funny folk around. I’m sure he’s a right nice evil mask once you get to know him.”
One of the older Hufflepuffs doing homework halfway up his table face-palmed.
Behind Hagrid, the two shadows had carefully edged towards each other with the air of two fog-mired armies who aren’t quite sure if the shapes before them are going to start cheering or shooting.
“My lord?” Ginny whispered.
There was a pause. Then, “You wish, Weasley.”
Ginny nearly bit her tongue off. “You,” she hissed. Of course the diary would want to make sure it won. But wait... didn’t that mean...?
“Here to make sure you win, huh?” Virgo whispered back. “How Slytherin of you.”
Ginny snorted. “Actually, I’m here to make sure you win.”
In front of them, Hagrid started to whistle while he opened another piece of parchment.
There was another pause.
“So, Greengrass has that much faith in her political sense.”
Ginny felt a jolt of irritation. “Shouldn’t she?”
“I’m sure she knows what she’s doing. In any case, it seems that this time we’re going to be working together.”
Ginny said nothing. She may not be the political animal Harry had trained Daphne to be, but she still had more than enough sense not to take that bait.
She then felt an incredibly intricate and sophisticated magical intent form on the enemy wand in front of her. Just like that, many of the names in the pile rewrote themselves in their original handwriting from Ginny to Virgo.
Ginny scowled. Feeling incredibly annoyed, she flicked her wrist and the one parchment that Hagrid had just picked up switched likewise.
“Not bad for a peasant girl.”
“Not bad for a thing that shouldn’t exist,” Ginny shot back.
When Virgo next spoke it was with exactly the viciousness that Ginny would expect from the teenage Dark Lord.
“Tell your lord that when I’m done with him, Lovegood’s theory of feminine fucktoy-ness will be true, because the only way he will dig himself out of the hole that I will dig for him, will be by whoring you both out to anyone who wants a go.”
Ginny struggled to restrain herself. The diary was trying to rile her up. It wanted her to attack it. It wanted her to blow her cover. She wouldn’t! She was better than that. But still, it took every speck of iron discipline she’d gathered over the years not to pull out the dagger strapped to her inner-thigh and finish off the job she’d failed to complete at the start of the year. She contented herself instead with spitting right in the other shadow’s face, then instantly switching the spit with the contents of a nearby pitcher of water.
As the two shadows parted ways, Virgo made her way to the base of Gryffindor Tower before relusioning herself. Her face was red, pupils dilated, clothes heavy, and not just with water from the pitcher. Her entire body felt clammy with sweat.
Virgo wrung out the cuffs of her robe and took a long calming breath.
Had she really just said that?!
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
Daphne, Alex, Luna, and Hermione all looked up as Ginny sat down at the Slytherin table in the Great Hall.
“Is it done?” Daphne asked.
“It is done,” Ginny answered.
“Good.” Daphne smirked. “Hogwarts is ours. This battle is over.”
“I just wish we could move more openly,” Alex said, sounding miffed. “We all know what that girl is.”
“Patience,” Daphne replied. “Her time will come.”
The other girls all nodded.
“Miss Greengrass?” rasped a voice that rattled with chains. The Bloody Baron floated over their table. “Miss Weasley. Miss Black. May I ask you all to accompany me. Thank you.” He turned and floated off.
The three girls extracted themselves from their benches and marched after him.
“May I ask what this is about?” Daphne asked, reaching the Baron’s stride just as they were leaving the hall.
“You have a visitor.”
“Who?” Alex asked.
Alex stopped in her tracks. “What?”
“It must be about the animagus forms,” Ginny called back to her over her shoulder.
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
“I’m not saying it’s not an amazing achievement,” said Professor McGonagall, nose flaring. “But the sheer irresponsibility of it! The danger they put themselves in!”
“Yes, Professor McGonagall,” Sirius replied, head down. He couldn’t quite shake the ridiculousness of the situation. Here he was, Chief Auror, the Hammer of the Light, the most bad-ass fighter the ministry could field, getting a dressing down from a witch who probably couldn’t even lift his shield without a feather charm.
“If it was up to me, I’d have them all in detention from now until year’s end.”
“Yes, Professor McGonagall.” It was the reflex of the situation, is what it was. His old head of house’s office just brought out the little school boy in him. He and the gang had been in here more than enough times during their time at Hogwarts.
“I suspected they were on mandrake more than once! How they got that past me, I’ve no idea.”
Sirius couldn’t help smirk. If Alex were smart, she’d have used the same sticking charm on the roof of the mouth trick that he’d used. His daughter may have lacked the traditional lessons from him, but clearly she’d been managing.
“Are you smiling, Black?!”
“You are smiling. I can see your lips.”
The smirk turned into a grin.
Professor McGonagall sighed. “Well, I suppose—”
She was interrupted by the door to her office creaking open.
Three witches entered. The first one walked in as though she owned the world. The next darted in behind her. The final one slouched through the gap like a criminal on her way to the executioner’s block.
“Miss Greengrass. Miss Weasley. Miss Black.” McGonagall glared at the three girls who lined up in front of the desk. “I’ve no doubt you all know why you are here.”
“Yes,” answered the Greengrass girl — the one betrothed to Lord Slytherin. “We are here to fulfil our legal obligations to the ministry as is our duty as good citizens of Magical Britain.”
Sirius let out a silent groan.
McGonagall’s nostrils flared. “Miss Greengrass. Your extracurricular project, while it may have been legal, was still very much against school rules. The animagus transformation is incredibly dangerous. An adult novice can face permanent damage if they are incautious. And you are all second and first years! It is incredibly difficult. So, what do you have to say for yourself?”
Ginny put up a hand. “Go us?”
McGonagall turned her glare on her. “Miss Weasley, given how distressed your mother and father were after your last quidditch match, I’d have thought you would be willing to show more caution and common sense.”
Ginny shrunk back a little.
“And what about you, Miss Black? Do you have anything to add?”
Sirius tried to catch his daughter’s eye, but she had her face turned away. Wasn’t she going to look at him at all?
“Not really,” she muttered.
“Not really?! You violated school rules, smuggled in a controlled medical drug that is suffering from a global supply shortage, performed magic in class under the influence of a hallucinogenic, and then performed partial self-transfiguration on yourself for who knows how long without a healer on standby if anything went wrong! I’d expect this sort of thing from other students—from other families, maybe—but you are a Black. I’d expect you to know better.”
Sirius stopped trying to catch Alex’s eye.
He turned very slowly towards his old professor.
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
“—other families, maybe—But you are a Black. I’d expect you to know better.”
Ginny put a hand over her mouth while her eyes darted to Alex. She did not just say that, did she?
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
Lord Black stiffened.
Daphne smirked. That seemed to have struck a nerve.
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
Alex was not looking forward to this meeting.
As she slouched her way through into Professor McGonagall’s office... yes, there was her father, standing behind the teacher’s desk, looking like the head boy, come to report on a bunch of unruly students.
Never mind the fact that he was a lord.
Never mind the fact that he was Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black.
She knew he hadn’t been head boy, of course, but that didn’t change the comparison.
And of course, he did nothing as Professor McGonagall laid into them, just stood there like a fool. Nothing like Lord Slytherin. Or even Harry, for that matter. At least when Harry did nothing it was because he was deploying cunning. She wished he would stop trying to catch her eye. He was so desperate for approval.
“And what about you, Miss Black? Do you have anything to add?”
“Not really,” she muttered.
The admonitions continued, and Alex couldn’t help but wonder what the point of it all was. It wasn’t as if McGonagall could do anything except dock points. If they got detention, Harry could just have the Bloody Baron overrule them, if he was feeling generous. But that was the point. Harry might or might not do something like that, but it wasn’t because he was afraid.
Not like someone she knew.
“I’d expect this sort of thing from other students—from other families, maybe—but you are a Black. I’d expect you to know better.”
Her father slowly turned towards Professor McGonagall like a ship’s gun being brought to bear on an enemy vessel.
“Excuse me?” he growled.
What happened next was not what Alex was expecting. What she expected was for her father to continue on as he always did — about as effectual and empathic as a dead dog.
Alex turned her head forward in total shock as her father started laying into their professor with all the hesitation of a blasting curse.
By her face, it certainly wasn’t what Professor McGonagall expected, either.
Alex had never before seen her father this angry.
“And I don’t care if it was dangerous!” he roared, getting redder and more out of breath as he worked himself up. “I did the same when I was her age, and, you know what? I’m proud of her! More than that! She’s younger than I was by a long way! You want to rag on her, fine, but don’t you dare rag on her for being a Black! Have you ever read my family’s library? No, you haven’t! So, you’ve no idea what kind of things we got up to! My animagus transformation was the only thing my parents ever praised me for after I was sorted into Gryffindor! Did you know that, huh? And you know what? If Alex does more of that, I don’t care. You hear that, Alex? I don’t care. And when we get home, I’ll open up the ritual room again, oh yes, and I’ll show you some of the stuff our family has, because you know what, you’re clearly ready for it. Yeah. And you, Professor — your job here is to oversee your student’s completion of the animagus transformation that they’re registering, as the law requires. So start overseeing!”
If Alex wasn’t expecting the rant, Professor McGonagall certainly wasn’t. She was leaning back, eyes wide. When her father stopped shouting and started breathing heavily, there was a momentary pause while everyone waited to see if more was forthcoming.
When it was clear it wasn’t, McGonagall, rather flustered, readjusted her bun and cleared her throat. “Miss Greengrass, if you would.”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
Students filed into the great hall.
They took their seats and waited expectantly.
Tracey fidgeted nervously at the front of the hall.
Daphne and the other girls weren’t back yet. If they didn’t arrive soon, they’d miss the judging of the judges.
The Goblet of Fire flared blue.
And Daphne still was nowhere to be seen.
Oh, well. Nothing to be done.
The goblet ejected a slightly singed piece of parchment.
Tracey snatched it out of the air while the now assembled students looked on intensely. It was no wonder why. This would be the only chance many of the common born would have to be involved in the student government.
She read the parchment and suppressed a wince.
“The position of chief judge will be... Heiress Susan Bones!”
Applause and cheering — some polite, some enthused.
John Potter jumped onto the table and cheered louder than anyone.
Tracey nodded as Susan joined her up at the front of the hall. It would be good to get this over with so they could get onto the important business of announcing the heads of departments.
The goblet of fire flared blue again.
But rather than one parchment being ejected, instead, there were two.
The chattering of the hall died.
Seconds later, the goblet of fire died as well, its flames snuffed out like a candle being blown.
Tracey caught both parchments in her hand and frowned. Yes, they were supposed to get two more judges but why both at the same time? She opened them and understanding dawned. Twins.
Tracey raised her head and took a deep breath. “And the last two judge spots will be taken by... Marigold and Violet Chesterfield!”
The hall erupted into confusion. Some cheered and clapped while others looked at each other, nonplussed. One Ravenclaw sixth year exclaimed, “Is that stupid goblet saying two first-year Muggleborns have better judgement than me?!”
Marigold skipped up to the front dais with her sister walking behind. She wrapped her arm around a shocked Susan’s waist and beamed at the crowd. “Thank you everyone! We’re here till Tuesday! Mugglepuff Powaaaaarrr!”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
“A very impressive form, Miss Greengrass,” Professor McGonagall muttered. “One final measurement — total wingspan, if you would, please?”
The golden eagle puffed out her chest and spread her wings.
“2.18 meters,” the older witch muttered. “That seems to be in order. Thank you.”
Daphne crouched down on her summoned perch, leapt off, and transformed mid-air, landing lightly on her feet.
“May I be excused, Professor?” she asked. “I can’t afford to miss the vote.”
“Won’t you wait for Miss Weasley? Surely the same applies to her.”
Daphne smiled. “I assure you that will not be a problem.”
McGonagall sighed. “Very well. Miss Weasley, you next please.”
On the other side of the room, two grims were awkwardly sitting on the floor next to each other.
“Woof?” one asked, sounding nervous.
“Woof.” the other answered, deadpan.
“Woof?” the first asked again.
Alex transformed back into a human and glared at the questioning grim next to her. “You know I can’t understand what you’re asking! So unless that question was about your suddenly growing a spine...”
Sirius transformed back next to her, sitting cross-legged, hand behind his head. “Look, Alex, I’m not promising everything, but...”
Alex looked away. “You know, I already learned a load of the family rituals.”
Silence fell between them while Ginny the cheetah was measured and inspected.
“Alex,” Sirius said. “I just want to say that I’m proud. I completed my animagus transformation in fifth year. I know how hard it is. And you did it without family help. Without our shortcuts.”
“Very nice looking teeth, Miss Weasley. You must make sure to keep them clean.”
Alex slowly turned towards her father. “Shortcuts?! I didn’t find—” She bit her tongue, looking angry at herself.
Sirius smiled wanly. “I hear you’re going to be in the duelling tournament this year.”
“Yeah. Are you coming? —Not that I care,” she quickly added.
“Yes, I will, I promise.”
Alex harrumphed. “I’m going to smash your old record.”
“I’m looking forward to it.”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
Hagrid coughed loudly. The whole Great Hall fell silent. “It’s Miss Virgo Malfoy.”
The Gryffindors erupted in cheers.
Virgo stalked up to the front podium, “Thank you, everyone,” she said. “And now let me announce my wardrobe.”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
“For Magical Games and Sports, Ginevra Weasley.”
Daphne clapped politely.
“For Control of Magical Creatures, Sophie Roper.”
Next to her, Hermione and Luna were also clapping.
“For Prevention of Magical Catastrophes... Luna Lovegood.”
Luna cheered as many uncertain eyes turned to her.
“Slytherin, help us all,” Hermione muttered.
“For the Department of Family Affairs, my brother, Draco Malfoy.”
“For Magical Trade and Crafts, Theodore Nott.”
Hermione leaned towards Daphne. “I can’t believe she would be so stupid as to not see how this is worse for their side.”
Daphne sniffed in return.
“For the Department of Mysteries, John Potter.”
Another loud cheer from the Gryffindors.
“For the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Susan Bones.”
Daphne caught Hermione’s eye. Neither needed to say what the other was thinking, even while the Hufflepuffs cheered. “Congratulations on scoring a job that will be useless if you’re ineffective and horrifically unpopular if you are.”
“And finally, for the position of International Magical Cooperation, Heiress Pansy Parkinson. Chief Warlock, the floor is yours again.”
Daphne nodded. The battle was won. The Hogwarts student leadership was theirs. Harry would be pleased.
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
A week later, applause broke out among the gathered wizards and witches at an informal gathering at Malfoy Manor.
At the top of the large stairway leading down to the ballroom, Virgo stood in her best dress robes and smiled.
“Lords and Ladies,” said Lucius to the assemblage, holding up a half-full glass of red wine. “It gives me great pleasure and honour to present to you, my daughter, the first-ever student minister of Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry!”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
The lords and ladies of the Light applauded as Virgo pushed open a pair of upstairs doors and walked out onto the balcony.
“My friends and colleagues, wizards and witches!” James Potter called out across the ballroom of Potter Manor, “A close friend of my family, a personal confidant of my son and rightful heir, and possibly one day, even more — Miss Virgo Malfoy, the first-ever student minister in a thousand years of Hogwarts history!”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
“And do you have any final words you’d like to give our readers?” asked Rita Skeeter with a sly smile.
The loud machinery of the Lovegood printing press next door clanked and whirred through the thin walls of the Daily Prophet HQ.
“Any tips or advice for anyone wanting to do what you’ve achieved?”
Virgo smiled back. “I think it’s incredibly important to be who you are. If you dream hard enough, and follow your star, anyone can do anything.”
“Very sentimental,” Rita murmured. She snapped her notebook shut. “Thank you for a good story, Miss Malfoy.”
Minutes later the girl was out of her office.
Rita collapsed in her chair and poured herself a double vodka. Magical Merlin, that girl was slippery. It took one to know one.
Several hours later, Rita did a double take as she realised that her almost empty desk had a new addition. A small cigar box now lay there, locked with magic.
No matter how much she tried over the next few hours, nothing she did could break it. The only clue was the writing on the top.
‘Be ready. I will open when the time is right.’
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
“Are you sure you don’t want an escort to Gryffindor Tower, Miss Malfoy,” asked Professor McGonagall.
“No thank you. I should be okay.”
“As you wish.”
Virgo let out a sigh of exhaustion as the professor left her alone. The front doors of Hogwarts closed behind her. No one ever said being the greatest witch who ever lived was easy, and if they did, they were a fool.
Halfway to Gryffindor Tower, she stopped dead in a darkened hallway. The fact that it was darkened was a huge clue.
“Miss Virgo Malfoy,” spoke a rumble from the darkness.
Virgo’s adrenaline started to pump.
Lord Slytherin (Harry Potter) stepped out of the shadows. The fact that Greengrass was behind him, looking somewhat sheepish, settled her anxiety a little, but not by much.
“Lord Slytherin,” she echoed. The words, ‘what do you want?,’ were on the tip of her tongue, but at the last moment they changed to, “To what do I owe this pleasure?”
“Nothing much,” Slytherin answered. “Have you been enjoying yourself since you became student minister?”
“Enjoying might not be the right word. It is hard work.”
“Indeed. And so much of that hard work seems to take place outside of Hogwarts, too.” He glanced at Daphne who, if anything, looked even more embarrassed.
Virgo smirked. “Did the little general finally realise there was more than one battlefield to fight over?”
Daphne flashed her a look of pure anger.
“No one is perfect, Miss Malfoy. We all make mistakes. I make mistakes, Daphne makes mistakes. Even you make mistakes. I have several mistakes in mind, in fact. I cannot prove that you made them, of course. You are clearly having a good time. Nevertheless, consider this a warning. If you continue to ‘make mistakes,’ then...”
He reached into the folds of his robe and pulled out a muggle-looking paper diary. He slowly tore it in two in front of her and let the halves drop to the floor.
Daphne leaned forward. “You’re going to tear up her diary?” she asked in a puzzled voice.
“Yes, Daphne,” Lord Slytherin replied, deadpan. “That’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to tear up her diary. Because that’s the kind of evil man I am. That’s how I make threats to pre-teen witches. I threaten to tear up their diaries.”
“Why not just apply a spanking hex?”
“That would be at least a level-four punishment.”
The sardonic back and forth between the two continued on for quite some time, getting more and more over the top as they went, but Virgo was buying none of it. It was clearly an act for anyone who might view these memories later on.
“Lord Slytherin,” Virgo interrupted them.
The two stopped and turned to her.
“Message received,” she bit out, before turning and heading in a completely different direction than the one she’d been intending on.
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
In the Room of Requirement, John and Susan were alone and busy. Homework sat finished to one side, and now both were working on paperwork for the Student Wardrobe. Nothing major had happened yet and everyone was still very much feeling out their positions. That was sure to change though.
At that moment, the door burst open, and Virgo stormed in.
Both John and Susan spun around.
“Did you plant the story with the Prophet?” John asked.
“Why are you still wearing your travel robes?” Susan added.
Virgo growled. “Your brother needs to be dealt with.”
“Isn’t that the plan?” Susan asked. “You anonymously deliver all the details to the papers and then we wait for the perfect opportunity when Slytherin gets some bad press.”
“We need it done faster!” Virgo shouted. “We can’t just wait around for an opportunity to present itself. We need a way to make Slytherin look bad now!”
From all around the Room of Requirement came the sound of stone grinding against stone.
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
No one quite knows how luck magic works — though the effects, over the years, have been dramatic. Some theorise it bends the universe around the subject, ever so slightly, like gravity. Others, that it gives Fate more leeway to act in our world. Either way, the results can turn up at any time and in the least expected places.
From all around the Room of Requirement came the sound of stone grinding against stone.
Susan dropped her quill.
John’s breath drew in sharply.
Virgo’s eyes widened.
Behind the podium the three had used to hold meetings for the Light, a stone portal ground itself into sight. Stone snakes pushed out through the cracks in the wall, forcing it open, making room for a large circular stone door, covered in more stone snakes.
“Umm...” Susan started.
Virgo and John’s eyes met.
“Is that, you know, the entrance?” Susan continued. “To the chamber?”
“It’s one entrance,” Virgo said, eyes locked with John. “One I didn’t know about. The others have all been sealed by John’s brother.”
John’s eyes widened slightly. “Of course. You know what the monster is, don’t you?”
“Can you control it?” His words were eager.
Virgo smirked, even as her heart started beating faster, and the adrenaline started flowing. “I’m willing to give it a shot.”
“H-hang on!” Susan darted between the two. “Are we seriously considering this? This is the Chamber of Secrets we’re talking about here. That thing is supposed to kill people!”
Both Virgo and John were silent for a moment. Virgo didn’t need legilimency to know they were both thinking the same thing. That there was at least one death neither would mind. On the other hand, one had to work with the team one had.
“It doesn’t have to kill,” Virgo eventually said. “The monster has a ‘safe mode’. So long as I can control it, no one has to die. We just need to set a trap, that’s all.”
“I don’t like this,” Susan muttered.
Virgo focused and shifted into her lamia form. Her massive tail snaked out across the floor and around a nearby training dummy. §Open§ she hissed.
The stone snakes acting as a lock on the portal all slithered aside and the doorway opened to reveal a massive pipe heading straight downwards into dark, inky blackness. A small stone teetered over the edge, then fell. The sound of bouncing rock against metal echoed for quite some time.
“Oh, I really don’t like this.”
“Don’t be a pussy,” Virgo hissed. “Just get on. Thisss way wasss made for Sssnakesss.”
Reluctantly, Susan joined John on Virgo’s back and the three slithered their way straight down into the blackness of the Slytherin pipe network.
As they neared the entrance to the chamber proper, Virgo began to have doubts. She could hear whisperings. Whisperings that were getting stronger.
§Release me!§ I am king!§ Only one king!§ One true king!§ This nest is MINE!§
Virgo paused at what had to be the final extra secret entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. “Close your eyesss, both of you. Just to be sssafe.”
“Virgo, what is the monster?” Susan asked.
Both Susan and John let out shocked chokes, but it was too late to object. Virgo was already slithering through as the door opened.
Behind John, Susan was trembling.
The chamber was just as magnificent as Virgo’s memories informed her it would be. The huge stone pillars, the massive statues, the cathedral-like air of sanctity.
A hissing voice in the air immediately smacked her out of her wonder.
§You... you are my master... but you are also... not§
Virgo’s heart leapt into her throat. §I am your master!§ she hissed back into the seemingly empty chamber. Merlin only knew how such a large snake kept itself hidden.
§You smell like my master. Your soul tastes like my master. But you are not him. And you are highborn snake. Only one king.§ Then from behind a pillar, it came, sliding out into the open, twenty tonnes of digestion factory with death at one end and bones at the other.
Virgo could feel Susan and John on her back, clutching each other.
§I am not a king! I am your master!§ Virgo hissed desperately, inventing wildly. §No, I am your mistress!§ Close your killer gaze! I demand it!§
The basilisk paused. Its huge head, lined with fangs and dripping venom, now hovered over the trio.
§Not a king?§ The basilisk asked. §No, not a king. Not master, either. Mistress, maybe? But a queen — a queen, yes. My queen! Yes. My gaze is closed. Your humans are yours.§
Virgo swallowed. The implications of the queen statement were too horrifying to contemplate; but Dark Lady she was, so contemplate them, she did.
“Potter?,” she eventually ventured, “I have a plan now. And no one needsss to get massively hurt,” she added, for the benefit of Susan. “But it will require you to be a hero.”
She had to give him credit. Even in the face of death, John Potter could summon stones like few wizards she knew. “Well, of course,” he said, voice barely wavering. “I am the boy-who-lived.”
— DPaSW: NRiCaD —
It was next week. It was also late. Dinner would be finished soon, but Hermione had only just completed healer training with Madam Pomfrey. Food these days was an on-the-go affair. Her studies were progressing well, although not as quickly as she’d have liked. What she really wanted to start on was the aether unpacked. Harry had assigned her so much reading in preparation even she was having difficulty keeping up. This was not helped by the fact that after living over a year as a unicorn, while the rest of the girls trained, Hermione felt behind like she had never felt before. And Hermione hated feeling behind. Soon, she would be ready. So very soon. But soon was not now, and that irked her.
She turned a corner, heading back towards the Slytherin dungeons.
All thoughts of her next assignment or essay died as she caught sight of something that should not have been before her. She gasped. “Harry!”
She ran up to the figure, but slowed down just before arriving. She frowned. The figure was petrified, but...
“Oh, it’s you,” she said, the final word dripping with disdain. John Potter. And he’d apparently been attacked.
Hermione wasn’t worried. The small snake in her pocket, which was there specifically to warn if the basilisk was near, lay restful, just as Harry had ordered it a long time ago.
Nevertheless, Harry should be told about this right away.
She was about to send a quick coded message through her lightning-bolt ring, when she caught sight of what was written on the wall above her.
Suddenly, there was the loud sound of dozens of students filing out from the Great Hall. Dinner was over. If she was found here... Hermione thought a bad word.
Her eyes darted towards the dungeons, but no, running would be even worse.
They all stopped and stared when they saw the sight before them.
Hermione Granger, standing next to the petrified form of John Potter.
“It wasn’t me!” she said indignantly. “He was like this when I got here!”
The crowd read the message, written in blood, above the petrified hero of the Wizarding World.
THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED.
ENEMIES OF THE GRAY, SHALL PAY.
— End of Chapter Fifty-eight —