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Fics begun in 2003 (post-OOTP)

Author Notes:

Originally posted online: August 13, 2003

Last edited: April 25, 2012

Changes of significance: Fliptrask the goblin's name is changed to Peninukk [specifically, Peninukk, son of Maajamalud], which was the character's original name in my goblin language notes but ended up differently thanks to some stray scribbles long ago. Fixing it for consistency's sake, since goblin names - and the language itself - are significant to the plot later on.  Also added a picture of Tonks' car: a 1955 BMW Isetta.  The pic has it sitting next to a normal-ish sports car, just to show how small and silly it is.  In the 2003 version of this chapter, Dudley drove Harry to London rather than taking the train - at the time, Dudley just struck me as the sort who would nick his parent's car for the day.  When I revised in 2006, I decided that the fallout from him nicking the car took up too much space, and shifted to having Tonks drive Harry away from Privet Drive for the last time.  When picking a car for Tonks, it was always going to be either an Isetta or an old Leyland Mini.  I decided the Leyland Mini was just too associated with Mr. Bean, and thus Tonks got her one-door car. :)

Cheers,

Mike [FP]

Two
STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

It was drizzling in Diagon Alley just like the rest of London, but the weather didn’t fully account for the gloom. Harry instinctively raised the hood of his borrowed cloak. The alley was far quieter than he recalled it – a cluster of wizards here, a gaggle of ancient witches there, a knot of children and parents looking in the windows of Quality Quidditch Supplies, pairs and groups of witches and wizards coming in and out of Gringotts. He searched for Fred and George Weasley’s store front – surely they would know what had happened at the Grangers’ home. Harry heard a sound behind him and spun, wand drawn and a curse on his lips.

“What in Merlin’s name are you doing here alone?” Bill Weasley whispered forcefully. He had the same long hair and fang earring that Harry remembered but was robed in a very traditional style.

It suddenly struck Harry – he’s part of the Order. He grabbed Bill by the sides of the arms. “Hermione! Oh my God! I–”

Bill gently pushed him away and said quietly, “She’s been with her parents all summer, closely watched. I take it you know that she had a bit of a fright this morning?”

Harry staggered forward, and counted out ragged breaths. He stammered, “It’s – just – telephone – we were – arguing – and –pop – and – the line died and – I didn’t know – and – ”

“Calm yourself – quickly,” Bill said. “The whole thing was passing strange, but she’s fine. Ron was on edge about it as well. You three certainly are tight, aren’t you?” He let Harry settle himself for a few moments, and then pressed, “So… why are you here?”

“Mrs. Figg’s away, and I didn’t know how else to find out whether Hermione was safe,” Harry admitted.

“You surely could have stepped outside and whistled for someone,” Bill frowned.

Harry shrugged. “I also need to see about Sirius Black’s will.”

Bill’s face froze. “I see… well, it’s best we get you off the Alley at any rate. I’ll come with you.” Harry continued toward Gringotts with Bill close at his side. He didn’t like being handled but he let Bill walk him past the uniformed goblin, through the bronze doors, and into Gringotts.

Bill steered him to one side of the lobby, looked around, and began quietly, “Look, I know that he was your godfather and that he was important to you. I’m really very sorry about, well… everything… but please tell me you’re not going to get crossed up in Black family affairs.”

“He’s left me something,” Harry shrugged. He handed the Gringotts letter to Bill, who gave it a quick reading

“You’re the principal beneficiary? You shouldn’t go in there without a representative of some sort, Harry,” said Bill. “I’m surprised that they sent this letter to you at all, as opposed to your legal guardian.”

Harry laughed. “Uncle Vernon could have received a hundred owls and every post would have been burned.”

“I meant your wizarding guardian,” Bill said; “Surely you have one? There are a number of issues where your aunt and uncle couldn’t hope to manage. When you were called before the Wizengamot last year for that Dementor business, who stood for you?”

“Dumbledore came at the last minute,” said Harry.

Bill pondered that for a moment. “He must be your wizarding guardian, then. I suppose that most of the decisions where the Dursleys couldn’t weigh in have probably related to Hogwarts… you really should speak with him before you go in there.”

Harry’s mouth tightened into a thin line and he snatched back the letter. “Thank you for the advice," he said sharply.

“Harry, are you certain about this?” Bill asked, sounding more than a little nervous. “If I were to owl Dumbledore, I imagine he’d arrive within the hour.”

Harry set his jaw. “I don’t have a lot of time. I need to finish this,” he said firmly.

“I was six years behind Sirius at Hogwarts, but I knew him by reputation – every Gryffindor did,” Bill said forcefully. “It was… well, it would have been difficult not to. He was terribly popular, and a notorious prankster of course. But this is the important part: everything he did seemed inches from dangerous. He really ruffled my dad in the old days, and you know that would take quite a lot. Now, add in a dozen years with Dementors having at you –” Bill put his hand on Harry’s shoulder to keep him from jumping in, before continuing, “– and who knows what you’ll get as a result? Everyone can tell you that Sirius was impossible this spring. You should also remember the history behind his family. This isn’t going to be as easy as signing for his trunk.”

Harry’s eyes narrowed and he said through clenched teeth, “Thank you for walking me here. I’m going to take care of my business now.”

Bill took his hand off Harry, frowning. “A pleasure, Harry,” he said stiffly. “You know that I have to take care of mine as well – I’m sorry for that.” Harry edged around him and headed directly for the tellers. A free goblin at the long counter motioned to Harry.

“Good afternoon,” said Harry, “I’m here to visit the Trust Department.”

The goblin’s eyes narrowed. “Do you have an appointment?”

Harry held out the letter and said, “It’s to do with an inheritance.” He suddenly felt very conspicuous.

The goblin examined the letter closely. “This is in order. I will have someone from the Trust Department collect you shortly. Do you have other business to conduct?”

“Not yet,” Harry said.

The goblin waggled its long fingers toward a line of benches near some of the many doors leading off the main hall. Harry left the counter to find a seat. He spotted a familiar elderly woman and a stout young man in a queue before the next counter.

Harry blinked twice, to be sure he was right, before he said, “Oi, Neville!” He noticed how quiet and anxious the Gringotts great hall became and winced.

The young man drew his wand and instinctively moved in front of the old woman and called out boldly, “Who’s asking?”

Harry smiled; Neville lowered his wand slightly, and Harry said, “Don’t lower your wand so easily. I should think we covered that in the D.A.?”

Neville cocked his head and then broke out in a big grin. “I don’t believe it! Er… that is, what are you doing here? I scarcely recognized you.” He gave Harry a firm handshake.

Harry found Neville’s grin infectious. He said, “Likewise, Neville. Confidence looks good on you,” and drew Neville into an awkward embrace, adding,“don’t you agree, Mrs. Longbottom?”

Neville’s grandmother sized up Harry with her eyes. She still seemed very formidable, although standing there in her rain-matted fox fur she looked much older than the previous Christmas. “You look familiar to me.” She peered intently through Harry’s wet bangs. “Ah, of course. I want to thank you for saving Neville’s life. I would like to see you thrashed for risking it as well, but that is not my place.”

Neville frowned. “Harry doesn’t deserve that. I decided to help him, he didn’t ask.”

Mrs. Longbottom shot Neville a stern look. “Yes, and I would expect better judgement on your part – ah, if you would just show your parents’ good sense now and again?” Neville glowered at her.

Harry was taken aback; Neville didn’t break eye contact with his grandmother, or stammer, or even flush. He rewarded Neville’s new resolve. “I think that Neville may have left out some of the details from the Ministry. You should know, ma’am, that Neville saved me from a Death Eater –”

Mrs. Longbottom clutched a shrivelled hand to her chest and insisted in an exaggerated whisper, “Keep your voice down, boy! Neville, is this true?” Neville at last looked at the floor, but he nodded. She composed herself and said quietly, “I had no idea that Neville could be so reckless. You’ve been good to him in the past, I understand? I hope that you will help him learn to protect himself.”

“Mrs. Longbottom, Neville is loyal, honest and brave. He’s brilliant in Herbology – knows almost as much as Professor Sprout, I reckon – and his defensive skills are really quite good. I would trust him with my life.” Harry deliberately looked into her eyes. “I think his parents would have been proud of him that night, ma’am.”

Neville gaped at Harry, and watched his grandmother for a reaction. “I suspect that you give him too much credit at your own expense, but I suppose I must take you at your word,” she said at last. “What are you doing here by yourself? It’s simply not safe these days.”

Neville chimed in, “And where have you been all summer? I mean, I’ve wanted to owl you but… er…”

Mrs. Longbottom cleared her throat. “Neville! Stop pestering for a moment.” She turned her attention back to Harry. “Young man, why are you here?”

Harry said, “I’m waiting on the Trust Department.”

“I see. Neville, wait with your friend; I’ve no time to fret about losing you in the vaults. The Daughters are meeting about the cotillion at three o’clock.” Mrs. Longbottom sighed and added to Harry, “See that he doesn’t wander, would you? I shan’t be long.” With that, she turned her attention back to the queue as though Neville had disappeared. Harry and Neville found a free bench in the area where the goblin at the counter had pointed.

“Trust Department, eh?” Neville said.

“Uh-huh,” Harry replied, not wanting to discuss it. “So, who are the Daughters?”

Neville looked distracted. “Huh? What, the Daughters of the Goblin Wars?”

“Let me guess, it’s in Hogwarts: a History,” Harry scowled.

Neville shrugged, “I suppose it’s in there somewhere. You’ve never heard of the Daughters? It’s no big deal; it’s just a lineage society.”

“I’ve lived with Muggles for most of my life,” said Harry.

“Oh, right then,” explained Neville. “Well, to join the Daughters of the Goblin Wars, you have to be a witch who can trace her lineage directly to someone on the registered list of combatants from the Goblin Wars. That’s why it’s called a lineage society. They have parties and dances, raise money for charities… that sort of thing. That big, ugly pin on Gran’s robe – that’s her Daughters pin. I can’t believe she wore it here. The goblins still have hard feelings, you know?”

Harry asked, “Why take the chance of making the goblins angry, then?”

Neville flushed, looking anywhere but at Harry. “Well, er, mind you, I don’t think that it’s right… I mean, it’s a bit cowardly, although I’d never say that to Gran –“

“Neville, out with it,” Harry pressed.

“It takes four centuries of wizarding lineage to belong. You could as well write ‘I’m a pureblood ’ on her cloak,” Neville told him.

“Why would she care about that?” Harry wondered aloud.

Neville’s eyes widened. “You don’t know what’s been happening?”

Harry left out what he'd learned from Hermione. “I’ve been at the Dursleys all summer, and they don’t tolerate owls and wizarding and all that, so I’ve been a bit isolated,” he said. “I’ve been watching the BBC… you know, the Muggle news, looking for signs.”

Neville asked, “Then why did you tell Professor Dumbledore that you wanted to be left alone, no letters, no visitors?” in an accusing tone.

Harry thought, Dumbledore’s thorough – I’ll give him that. He began, “Now, look here, I –”

“I hope you had a grand time,” spluttered Neville nervously, “a smashing good summer. From the look of it, you were off pretending to be someone else –”

“It’s – just – hair,” Harry said dangerously.

Neville gulped, “I’m sorry, Harry. Anyway, V- V- Volde – well, you know who I mean, he –”

“Say the name, Neville,” Harry seethed.

“He and his supporters have been killing all summer,” Neville went on. “You wouldn’t have seen anything from the Muggles; the Ministry’s been working overtime to keep it quiet.”

“Who’s being killed? Is it random? Are there targets…?” Harry demanded.

“So far it’s been Muggleborn wizards and witches, their Muggle families, and, and… and squibs,” Neville sniffed. “If you hadn’t started the D.A., and if I hadn’t come to the Ministry with you… people were still wondering about me.”

“So Hermione’s being looked after, then,” Harry realised.

A little blond girl tugged on Harry’s pant leg. “You wear funny clothes,” she announced in a high-pitched voice. Harry looked down and saw that his cloak was wide open, revealing his Muggle outfit.

“Elise!” a woman at the next bench shouted.

“It’s all right,” Harry said, keeping his attention on the little girl. “I live with Muggles, and this is how they dress.”

She looked at him intently. “You have a funny scar there,” she said matter-of-factly and pointed, “on your head.”

Harry nodded. “I know I do,” he said, “I’ve had it since –”

The girl kept talking as though Harry hadn't spoken. “My mum told me about a boy named Harry Potter with a scar on his head,” she said, “and he got it from a very bad man. What’s your name, mister?”

“My name’s Harry, and your name’s Elise,” Harry said.

The little girl’s eyes widened. “How’d you know that?” she asked. “Is that a trick?”

The girl’s mother had moved to stand behind her, without Harry noticing. She had a strange look on her face, nervous but faintly reverent. “I apologize for my daughter, Mr. Potter,” the woman said. “Come along, Elise; don’t be a bother.” Harry noticed two older people – probably the girl’s grandparents– watching the scene nervously.

Harry insisted, “She’s no bother, honestly.”

The woman asked, “Are you sure? I should think it would get old, always being pestered.”

Harry laughed. “I don’t get out much,” he said. “Muggles and school mates aren’t impressed by me, I guess.” He winked at Neville.

The girl looked at her mother with disbelief. “Mum, this can’t be Harry Potter. He’s old.” Her mother winced.

“I’m Harry Potter, all right; I grew up, you see?” Harry said gently.

The girl pointed at his scar. “Does it hurt?” she asked.

“Not very often,” Harry answered.

The girl’s mother said, “We never believed the Daily Prophet, you know – all the rubbish that they wrote about you. Would you…? It's just that we have a camera, and…?”

Harry hesitated for a moment, and then nodded. He said to the girl, “Why don’t you sit between my friend and me? Elise, this is Neville. He’s one of my friends that help me, uh, fight the bad people.” She shyly greeted Neville.

Neville squirmed in his seat. “Harry, are you certain…?”

Harry grinned. “Absolutely, unless you’re worried about being seen with me?”

Neville spluttered, “Certainly not!”

The woman took two pictures, and then the grandparents took one of Harry with the little girl, and another of Harry with the girl and her mother. Harry squinted from the flash and realised that they were drawing a crowd. He quickly found himself standing in a crush of people and shaking hands. Neville moved in behind him and warily watched everyone who drew close.

He shook a hand here, signed something there, and found himself receiving an unexpected kiss on the cheek from a girl who looked vaguely familiar. He was pulled one way and then the other for impromptu photographs. After what seemed like an eternity, he was saved by two security goblins that waded into the crowd. He waved to Neville and mouthed “Thank you” in appreciation for how Neville had quite literally watched his back.

The goblins led Harry to one of the endless doors branching off the great hall. Beyond the door was a small room, surely an antechamber for another office. A middle-aged witch stood behind a desk crowded with papers and files. A broad and forbidding witch sat on an adjacent chair, talking animatedly to a familiar-looking wizard with a violet top hat.

The standing witch sighed, “Mr. Potter, we’ve been expecting you for several minutes.”

The seated witch rose smoothly and regally, gazing firmly at Harry through a monocle. She extended a hand. “My name is …”

Harry took her hand firmly. “I remember you, Madam Bones. Please call me Harry. Oh, and be sure to say hello to Susan for me.”

Madam Bones looked at him, puzzled, and then said, “No, I’m not on my way out. I’m on my way in. In this instance, I have been named the Ministry’s – ”

Dedalus Diggle cut in excitedly, pumping Harry’s hand. “Delighted to see you again, Mr. Potter – you can’t imagine!”

“Yes, of course,” said Harry. He avoided acknowledging Diggle further, to avoid anything that might bring up the Order of the Phoenix. The standing witch motioned to a door that had abruptly appeared; it slowly creaked open.

The room beyond was more dungeon than office. The walls were rough-hewn. Stalactites descended here and there. Magical torches in wall sconces filled the space with flickering light. Instead of a desk, there was a stone slab balanced on rocks. Three crowded bookcases were squeezed along one of the irregular walls. Three chairs were set before the stone slab, and a fourth to one side. There was a large rock behind the slab. On another wall were three curio cases that contained things Harry preferred not to see clearly. He sensed something behind him and turned to see a purple head with two horns that loomed over the door.

“That has to be a graphorn,” Harry observed.

“Hogwarts still teaches of magical creatures, it seems, though the teaching is most likely inaccurate.  You are correct in this instance,” hissed a corpulent goblin from behind the stone slab, with an ear-to-ear grin that easily contested with Mad-Eye Moody’s smile. The goblin closed his eyes, took in a deep longing breath and added with a growl, “I enjoy the hunt.”

Madam Bones and Dedalus Diggle took seats, apparently seeing no need to wait for the goblin to direct them. The goblin kept his full attention on Harry. “Welcome to my office, Mister Potter. I am Peninukk; the Trust Department of Gringotts is mine. I would not ordinarily be bothered with such a matter as this, but the circumstances are unique and you are the sole remaining beneficiary of one of our larger trusts.” The goblin sat abruptly on the rock behind the stone slab. “To business,” he said.

The bored witch entered from the antechamber as Harry took his seat. She took out a quill and parchment and sat in the fourth seat. Peninukk reached down and lifted a wooden box onto the slab.

“Trust meeting, July the 29th,” said Peninukk in an imperious voice as the bored witch took notes, “concerning the execution of the Last Will and Testament of Mister Sirius Orion Black, as it relates to Mister Harry James Potter – fill in the details, Wolfingham. In attendance, in addition to myself and Mister Potter, are Madam Amelia Bones, representing the Ministry for Magic in this matter; Mr. Dedalus Diggle, Esquire, who has been retained by Gringotts for transactions relating to the Black and Potter Trusts pending the outcome of this meeting; and my personal scribe, Frida Wolfingham.  The Last Will and Testament of Sirius Orion Black was ruled as valid and enforceable by the Prerogative Court as valid and enforceable on July the 16th, officially unsealed by the Wizengamot on July the 18th, and accepted by the Ministry for Magic of the ruling on the day following. The Prerogative Court ruled on a vote of... Mr. Diggle, the vote?”

Diggle awkwardly thumbed through a lap full of papers before muttering A-ha, and said, “6 to 3.”

Madam Bones added, “With a rather stern minority opinion.”

Peninukk smiled his awful smile. “Duly noted. In any case, the execution of this will sets into motion some… changes of what sort, would you say?”

“Confusing?” offered Diggle.

“Perilous,” sighed Madam Bones.

“Complicated,” muttered the scribe.

Peninukk nodded. “Yes, complicated… some complicated changes in Mr. Potter’s custodial status.” He turned his attention back on Harry. “Previous to July the 19th, under the common laws of the United Kingdom, you were in the custody of, er… Durkley, is it?”
“Vernon and Petunia Dursley,” Diggle piped up.
“Yes, yes… Dursley. Simultaneously, under the decrees of the Ministry for Magic of the United Kingdom, you were a ward under the protection of Mr. Albus Dumbledore,” Peninukk said.  Harry scowled at that but no one took any notice. The goblin continued briskly, “It was decided that Mr. Potter’s blood relatives would be allowed to maintain primary custody. Is that an accurate description?”

Diggle said with a nod, “It is within the facts, yes.”

Peninukk went on with his explanation, “The reason for this arrangement was that Mr. Black’s incarceration in Azkaban nullified the original arrangements stipulated in the Last Will and Testaments of James Potter and Lily Evans Potter. The original arrangement provided that Mr. Black would maintain sole legal custody of the younger Mr. Potter in all jurisdictions. However, the restoration of legal rights granted to Mr. Black eliminated this nullification, thereby restoring custodial rights to Mr. Black, now deceased.”

Harry blinked hard and then squinted uncomfortably.

Peninukk asked, “Are you attempting to gain my attention, Mister Potter?”

Harry said, “Sorry, sir. I thought I heard you say that Sirius has custody of me. But he’s –” He couldn’t bring himself to say ‘dead’ without emptiness washing over him. “What I mean to ask is, who has custody of me now?”

Madam Bones frowned and said, “Therein lies the problem.”

Dedalus Diggle jumped in, “What Madam Bones means to say, Mr. Potter, is that Mr. Black opted for a highly unusual arrangement.”

“Highly unusual?” snapped Madam Bones. “It has been decades since this was invoked!”

Diggle frowned. “The underlying principle is generally accepted under American law, and is also surprisingly common in countries where the legal system is based on Roman civil –” he began.

Mister Diggle!” All eyes turned to the displeased goblin, who continued, “Must I impress upon you the value of my time and the cost of yours? To business!”

Diggle sighed, “Now then, Harry… I have here a series of documents, signed by Mr. Black as an addendum to his will. In essence, he has chosen to adopt you and then to free you. Writs of parens patriae are actually legal under wizarding code, though – as Madam Bones pointed out – they are rather rare. Technically this does not apply under the Muggle common law in England. The Scots approach matters somewhat differently, so Mr. Black’s Muggle propers were re-established in Scotland. The relevant portions of his Will are being executed through the Scottish courts.”

Peninukk tapped his long fingers on the stone slab. “Potter’s eyes are crossing; explain it in practical terms,” he grunted.

“May I?” asked Madam Bones. Peninukk nodded.

Madam Bones said, “Harry, Sirius Black did something very rash in his Will, something to which you do not have to agree. He has emancipated you. If you sign these documents, you will become a legal adult in the wizarding world and will be subject to all the responsibilities that come with adulthood. You will also become a legal adult in Muggle Scotland in certain respects but not in others. Technically, you will not be a legal adult in Muggle England for another two years in some respects, and another five years in others. The Will appoints a conservator for your Muggle-related affairs in England, but most of the Muggle assets are in Scotland… oh, this has so many implications, I don’t even know where to begin. My research unit struggled even to identify the last time that this was done.”

“It’s not so rare as all that,” Diggle countered. “Emancipation occurs every time minors are allowed to marry, for one. Have you not read the reports regarding Mr. Potter’s treatment by his Muggle relations? Outrageous! It is simply unthinkable that anyone should treat the Boy-Who-Lived as a slave or a common criminal, let alone Muggles!”

Peninukk cleared his throat; the sound reminded Harry of a stuck garbage disposer. “Mister Potter, I shall cut to the quick. If you sign this addendum to Mr. Black’s Last Will and Testament, then his wishes regarding your custody will be binding. The remainder of the arrangements relate to the disposition of property and are relatively straightforward. I shall leave that to you and Mr. Diggle or whomever else you choose. If you do not sign the addendum, then no changes shall occur in your custody. The personal and real property assigned to you in the will would be held in trust until you reach the normal age of majority.” The goblin glanced at a mantle clock atop one of the curios. “I have four minutes remaining for this matter. If you have questions, ask them now.”

Harry’s mind raced. “What would a conservator do? You said I would have a conservator for my affairs in England?”

Diggle said, “Under the Muggle common law, you can enter into several types of contracts as a minor. However, there are some actions that require the approval of a conservator, mostly to do with real property and marriage.”

“You said one was named for me in the will. Who is it?” asked Harry.

Madam Bones looked as if she had happened upon an unpleasant Bertie Bott’s flavour. “The will names Remus Lupin as your conservator, Harry. I am aware of the man’s relationship to your family, and thus I persuaded my colleagues to allow this despite his status. He seems to have a thorough understanding of the Muggle world, which is necessary in this instance. However, the Ministry requires that you appoint a second witch or wizard to provide additional oversight. Until you make an appointment, I have been given that responsibility.” she said.

Harry pursed his lips for a few moments before he said. “I’d like you to do it going forward, then.”

Madam Bones arched a single eyebrow. “Why would you entrust me with this?” she asked.

“Firstly, if I can’t trust you, then whom can I trust?” he said, which provoked a faint smile from the witches and wizards in the chamber. “Secondly, Susan says good things about you and I expect she’s a good judge of character. Thirdly, you were fair during my hearing last year. Besides all of that, I figure that if you work with Remus for a while, you won’t wrinkle your nose that way when I say his name.”

Madam Bones silently regarded him for a time, then removed her monocle and slowly cleaned it with the edge of her cloak. “Perhaps,” she said; “I accept.”

“Noted,” Peninukk said as he gestured to the scribe.

“Of course that comes to naught if you wait to sign the will until you reach your majority,” Madam Bones added. Harry gritted his teeth at that.

Peninukk cleared his throat and said, “Additional questions? No? Mister Potter, you have until the sixteenth of August to sign this addendum if you so choose. You should also know that some elements of the Will do not take effect until the thirty-first of July. If you sign now, you may do so before Wolfingham and Mr. Diggle. If you sign later, make arrangements accordingly. In any event, my time for this matter is about to expire –”

“I’d like a quill,” Harry decided.

Madam Bones advised him, “Please take some time to think on this. Arrangements can be made for you to sign at another time.”

Harry closed his eyes in thought. “Is this why I didn’t get a letter today? I used a repair spell, you know?” he asked.

“I’m aware of that; you did so twice. You also cast Lumos as well as two spells at the Leaky Cauldron. I have been personally attending to your affairs at the Ministry since Black’s will was upheld. Getting out of a trifle is no reason to sign this, Harry; I hope that’s not what you’re thinking,” Madam Bones said with a scowl.

Harry felt like he couldn’t draw in enough air. He didn’t know how to get his arms around what was happening, but he knew what he was going to do. He drew himself up and asked, “Madam Bones, how much do you know about what happened at the Department of Mysteries last month?”

She said curtly, “The things I know should not be discussed here.”

Harry nodded; that was answer enough. “Then you know that I am already an adult.”

Madam Bones closed her eyes. “I know that you have seen things most of us will never see, and have dealt with matters that most adults will never face. That does not mean that you are prepared for this manner of freedom.”

“You sounded like Dumbledore just now,” Harry said bitterly.

Madam Bones stiffened for a moment and then said in clipped tones, “I am no one’s lackey, Mr. Potter. If Susan found herself in a similar situation, I would provide the same counsel.”

Mister Potter, do you intend to complete this transaction today, defer it until later, or walk away? This really must end,” Peninukk said.

“We can finish outside, sir,” Harry said, adding, “Thank you for your time.”

Peninukk nodded curtly. “Mind your box,” he said, motioning to the box still sitting on the stone slab. “The Trust Department of Gringotts is at your service.”

Once back in the antechamber, Harry set the box on the desk and motioned to the scribe for a quill.

Diggle placed the addendum on the desk beside the box, and said excitedly, “Now, there are a number of technical items to be addressed, but we’ll begin with the Will itself.”

Harry rolled the quill in his fingers. “What about it?”

Diggle’s top hat shook as he bobbed his head in excitement. “The Will consists of a general document, personal letters to each major beneficiary, and a series of addenda and appendices – most concerning you, of course.”

Harry shook his head. “I didn’t even ask what he left me.”

Diggle said, “Oh, I think you’ll be pleased. He’s been arranging things for quite some time,” as Harry glanced at the box.

“Here, here, and here,” the scribe said absently.

Madam Bones placed her hand atop Harry’s writing hand. “Harry, I can’t prevent you from accepting Black’s terms. I wouldn’t do so even if I could; the decision is yours to make. Headmaster Dumbledore can’t compel you in this matter, as technically you’re not his ward at the moment, but I will say once more–”

“Madam Bones, I respect you – honestly, I do – so I’ll put this as politely as possible. I want this,” Harry said, nodding at the box,“and I don’t much care what Dumbledore thinks. I’ve had my fill of his games, and his lies. If he wants me to save the world, then I do it on my terms.” Madam Bones raised an eyebrow and Diggle took a surprised step back. Harry lowered the quill to the parchment.

Pounding on the outer door became more and more insistent. There were muffled cries as Harry affixed the third signature, and then the door flew off its hinges and into the room. Harry and the scribe dove behind the desk. As he peered around the desk Harry heard a familiar and unwelcome voice.

Dumbledore entered the office along with two very agitated goblins. “Good afternoon! Terribly sorry to startle everyone,” he said genially. “Dedalus Diggle, how did you become ensnared in this? I must agree with Minerva on this account – no sense whatever. Amelia, are you all right? I am pleased that Harry was assigned as your charge; I hope that you were able to talk sense at… where is Harry? Amelia, tell me that you were able to make him understand? Harry? Where are you, Harry?”

A potent mix of anger and embarrassment coursed through Harry. “Dumbledore,” he acknowledged, the signed copy of the will gripped tightly in his hand. The box on the desk shook slightly, and a wax seal between the lid and the body of the box evaporated into wisps of red smoke.

Dumbledore’s face sank and he whispered, “Sirius, what have you done to us?”

As the red smoke rose and dissipated, Dumbledore asked Harry, “Why?” Harry glared back; he gripped the signed Will and said nothing.

Dumbledore turned from Harry and sighed deeply. “I fear we shall have to interfere in the Dursleys’ lives,” he said.

Harry scowled. “You think they’ll allow you to muck about with their lives? You know what they think of –”

“As we speak, I expect that the protections at Privet Drive are giving way – and this when they were stronger than they have ever been. And so I ask again: why?” For a brief instant, Harry felt a flash of the power and righteousness that Dumbledore had displayed at the Ministry for Magic.

Harry refused to wither. He snarled, “Because it was Sirius’ right to give this to me, and it’s my right to claim it.”

“Did you consider the cost?” Dumbledore asked. “Is it worth the pain and suffering of others? The protection afforded you – the protection your mother gave her life to provide – was sealed when her sister took you in. Your willing acceptance of this emancipation may have been enough to unseal the charm, to lift the shield around you… the same shield that has been around the Dursleys.”

“Dudley!” Harry exclaimed. Dedalus Diggle looked excitedly around the room and the scribe looked as though all of this was an everyday occurrence.

Dumbledore crooked an eyebrow. “What of your cousin? Is he in danger? Have you had a vision? Do you know something that would help him?”

A blush spread across Harry’s cheeks. “He’s at the Leaky Cauldron,” he said.

“I am certain that I failed to hear you properly,” said Dumbledore. “You brought your Muggle cousin here with you, and left him at the Leaky Cauldron?”

Harry nodded. “He insisted on it; he wouldn’t let me leave Privet Drive without him.”

“I credit him with some measure of good sense, then,” Dumbledore said. “I presume this means that you left without explicit consent from your aunt?” He pulled his peculiar pocket watch from his robes. “I’ve not seen a Muggle train timetable in many a year, but I suspect some of our mutual friends are more familiar. As soon as they arrive, you may be on your way –”

“I’ll be on my way now, I think,” Harry said.

“It is not safe –” Dumbledore began.

Harry cut him off, “It’s never been safe. I’m going to collect Dudley and we’re going back to Surrey.”

“I say this for your own good: you will wait for protection before leaving Gringotts. We will see to your cousin, I promise you,” said Dumbledore.

“My department is responsible for the protection of Britain’s magical citizens,” Madam Bones said sharply. “Would you care to explain yourself, Albus?”

“Very well, Harry; it seems that you prefer to handle things in your own fashion.” Dumbledore looked to his pocket watch again and added, “Do not linger… and be sure to mind the contents of that case. They may prove quite costly.”

“Are you in actual danger?” Madam Bones asked Harry. He shrugged; danger was nothing new to him. He set the signed copy of Sirius’ will on the desk next to the box.

Harry looked to Diggle and said, “I need money – Muggle money. Is it possible to…?”

“Mr. Black was always prepared to, er, relocate without notice,” said Diggle. “Unless he changed the contents of the box since I last met with him, I believe that you’ll find your needs addressed.”

Harry fumbled with two catches, one on each side of the nondescript wooden box. He looked inside, and then looked again to be sure of what he was seeing before he quickly closed the lid.

Diggle took off his top hat and dabbed at his brow with a violet handkerchief. "Satisfactory, Mr. Potter?” he asked. Harry nodded.  Dumbledore gestured to his pocket watch, still frowning.

The hidden door clicked open just then and Peninukk called out angrily, “Did my ears deceive me, or did a wizard just destroy the entrance to my office? Wolfingham, call for Security!” Madam Bones crossed her arms and tapped her foot, and Dumbledore appeared abashed. Harry edged out of the office just as a half-dozen security goblins entered the corridor.

To his credit, Dudley was not in hysterics when Harry returned to the parlour at the Leaky Cauldron. Tom gave him a mild tongue-lashing for taking so long, to which Harry didn’t object. Neither Dudley nor Harry spoke until they had reached King’s Cross and boarded the train to Surrey.

No one took a seat within a dozen rows of him, which Harry thought highly unlikely amidst general seating at the close of business. He let his eyes sweep the car and saw a flicker of Auror’s robes for an instant but no black robes or white masks. There was some sort of Muggle aversion charm that didn’t affect Dudley; Harry was impressed and curious.

“How’s your friend?” Dudley abruptly asked.

Harry, lost in thought, said, “What?”

Dudley rolled his eyes. “Your friend, the one in trouble – how is she?”

“Fine… frightened but fine,” said Harry.

They were silent a while longer. As the train cleared the centre city and began to accelerate, Harry said, “I’ve made a mess of things.”

Dudley’s small eyes narrowed. “Damn right you did, you git! You left me in that loony bin with those nutters for nigh on two hours! Some of ‘em were going spare, I tell you, talking about killing mutts or mingles or something!”

Harry shook his head. “Not what I meant, though I’m sorry for taking so long – I meant the business at the bank.”

Dudley’s hands tightened. “Are you telling me you’re not good for it?”

“No, no, I signed the will. I have enough money to replace everything, more than enough,” said Harry. “That’s not the problem. I signed the will, Dudley. I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry.” He opened Sirius’s box and took out one of a half-dozen tan envelopes marked Pounds that were stuck to the inside of the lid. After thumbing through the contents, he tossed a wrapped bundle of bank notes onto Dudley’s lap.

Dudley glanced down, then back up, and then back down again, and then slipped out a note to hold it against the sunlight that streamed through the windows. “These are real fifty-pound notes! A whole bundle of … that’s five – thousand – bloody - pounds!” None of the Muggles took any notice of Dudley’s shriek.

Harry saw the Auror’s robes again for a moment. He set the box on his lap and let his chin rest against the edge of the open lid. “I hope that will cover it,” he said softly.

Dudley laughed, “Cover it? Yes, that’ll cover it! I guess you do keep your word, Potter.”

Harry took a deep breath and felt like he was about to be sick. He realised that he looked it when Dudley said, “If you’re going to spew up, then head for the loo!”

Harry squirmed in his seat. “I’ve been emancipated.”

“Emanciwhatted?” Dudley asked.

“Emancipated,” Harry repeated. “It means I’ve been made a legal adult because of the will… and I signed it.”

Dudley pulled a pained face that Harry recognized from their revising sessions. “So what’s the problem?” he asked. “Congratulations, I suppose – you can do whatever you want, isn’t that it?”

“Dumbledore has probably sent people to Privet Drive. He said it wasn’t safe any more. You might have to be moved. Do you understand, Dudley? I’m an adult now.”

Dudley’s eyes widened and his eyebrows rose as it sunk in. “How… how long until we’re to Little Whinging?” he asked.

“I don’t know; I didn’t keep the timetable –” Harry started.

Dudley grabbed Harry by the front of his shirt. “How long? We need to get there NOW!”

The Auror’s robes came into plain view next to Dudley. The man wearing the robes looked vaguely familiar to Harry, which was enough for him to slip away his wand; he remembered seeing an Auror sometime or another with thick tawny hair and golden eyes. “Is there a problem here?” the man asked.

“My aunt and uncle may be in danger,” Harry admitted.

The Auror nodded slowly. “How long will this train take to reach your destination?”

“It took more than an hour on the way in – that’s too long!” Dudley snapped.

The Auror sat down across the aisle from Dudley and extended a hand. “I’m Rufus Scrimgeour, boy. I work for Amelia Bones… which means nothing to you, I know, but young Potter here understands.” Dudley managed to take Scrimgeour’s hand but only gave a strangled sound in reply; it seemed that only then had he noticed Scrimgeour was clad in robes.

“Scrimgeour… wait… you’re the Head Auror, aren’t you?” Harry asked. “Why are you here?”

“Amelia asked if I might fancy a train ride,” Scrimgeour said. “She wasn’t in a trusting mood after crossing Dumbledore at Gringotts. I have faith in her moods. Do you honestly believe that your relations are in danger?”

Harry tried to explain without really explaining. “They’re… protected… or they have been, and… er… I did something and they might not be protected any more…”

Scrimgeour gave a faint smile. “The old man did some ward work, did he? Amelia did tell me of your change in status…” He ran long fingers through his beard several times before he said, “Blood wards… he must have laid blood wards of some sort – that would explain a great many things. I’d send someone or give a look myself, but we don’t know precisely where you live; we know the general vicinity of course, owing to owls and such. The best thing for it is Apparating to the area. I’ll side-along you and then have you point me in the right direction. If there’s been a ward collapse of some sort, we can either remove your relations from the home or leave a contingent while we arrange protection.”

“Sorry… ‘side-along’?” Harry asked.

Scrimgeour’s brow creased. “Side-along Apparation – you’ve not heard of it?” When Harry shook his head, the Auror explained,“It’s possible to take along another person when Apparating. Most wizards can’t manage it, and a specialised license is required. A few of us can take two in a single go. I’d rather not attempt to side-along a Muggle, though – no offence, boy, but it would put you at some risk.”

Harry blurted out, “What name does the Minister call his personal assistant by?”

Scrimgeour chortled, “Checking for Polyjuice? Good on you! Such a question, though… I know his assistant is Arthur Weasley’s boy –couldn’t tell you his given name – but the Minister does call him by the wrong surname, as I think on it… ‘Wolstenby’ or something of the like? Leave it to Cornelius – I’d feel sorry for the Weasley boy actually if he weren’t such an uptight priss. He’s nothing at all like Arthur, not in the least.” He searched Harry’s face. “Do I meet with your approval?”

“Dudley? He can get me there in seconds,” Harry said.

Dudley nodded. “I’ll be there straight away from the station,” he said.

“I don’t want to see them hurt, honestly,” Harry said.

Dudley responded solemnly, “I believe you, Potter.”

Harry once again left his Invisibility Cloak. “Just in case, right?”

Dudley ran the Cloak through his hands and smirked. “I wouldn’t want to be you, but this would be dead useful.”

“Look after it carefully, boy,” Scrimgeour warned; “Those are quite rare and there’d be a good deal of trouble if you let it stray. If there’s any sort of problem, you’ll be met at the station either by myself or another man called Williamson. He’ll be wearing similar robes.” He broke a glittering metallic circle in half and handed one portion to Dudley. “If the person who meets you doesn’t present the other half of this, run as fast as you can and hide yourself with that Cloak – understood?”

Dudley pocketed the half-circle and said, “Just get to my mum and dad, please?”

Scrimgeour patted Dudley on the shoulder and then turned to Harry. “Obviously you’ve never Apparated before. It’s not the most pleasant thing you’ll ever do. Close your eyes now – it’s for the best,” he said as he grabbed Harry’s arm.

There was a faint pop! and then Harry felt as though he was being squeezed through a thin, hollow tube. He couldn’t imagine that anyone would welcome the feeling. There was no sense of time – the squeezing might have lasted a second or a year. At the end, it was as though he was spat from the end of the tube. His eyes crossed. He and Scrimgeour were behind a tree along Magnolia Road.

Scrimgeour gave him a quick once-over. “You don’t seem to have left anything behind. So… are you game, Potter?”

The meaning of emancipation dawned on Harry, and he drew his wand. “I… I can use it now, right?” he said excitedly.

“I wouldn’t go throwing magic about if I were you, but yes, you’re allowed,” Scrimgeour said. “Did anyone remove the monitoring charm from your wand? I take that as ‘no’. Hold the wand at arm’s length, would you?” Harry did as he was told, and Scrimgeour waggled his own wand oddly; there was a brief flash accompanied by a hum.

“Congratulations, you’re a man now – don’t squander it,” Scrimgeour said. “When we get in sight of the house, I’m going to Disillusion you. Keep a distance and I’ll signal you if it’s secure. Before all of that, though, you need to get us there.” The Auror waved his wand at himself and his robes and cloak were transfigured into a Muggle business suit that seemed slightly out-of-date to Harry.

Harry glanced down and winced. “Erm, Mr. Scrimgeour, your boots…?”

“Blast!” Scrimgeour waved his wand a second time and black formal shoes replaced his boots. He grumbled, “I despise Muggle footwear.”

When they reached the corner of Privet Drive, Scrimgeour scratched his head. “Why are all these wizards about? That’s Minerva McGonagall… that couldn’t be Filius Flitwick, could it? What is that he’s wearing on his head?” He turned to Harry. “Unless someone brewed a dozen cauldrons of Polyjuice, I’d have to say that the area is secure. I don’t see a need to Disillusion you just now, but I’ll want an explanation for this.”

Professor McGonagall was clad in a very plain dress that fell to the tops of her very sensible shoes, and her hair was pulled tightly into its usual bun. She walked slowly along the drive of Number Four with her right hand extended and moving from side to side. Professor Flitwick was dressed like a young boy; he wore denims, a sporting shirt of some sort and a Man-U cap pulled low on his head. Bill Weasley was there as well, with his long hair tucked up in a cap and looking rather like a handyman with coveralls and a tool belt. Aunt Petunia sat on the stoop and hawkishly watched the proceedings.
McGonagall looked up and gave a start. “Rufus? What in Merlin’s name are you doing here?”

Scrimgeour frowned. “Who’s Merlin, madam?” he said loudly. “I believe I’ve heard the name in some fanciful tale or another.”

McGonagall quickly recovered. “We’ve cast a Muggle aversion charm as well as an obscuring ward. The clothing is merely a precaution,” she said.

“I’m rather surprised to see you here,” Scrimgeour went on. “This is a matter for the DMLE. I can’t imagine how this interests a group of educators…” His eyes lingered on Bill Weasley for a moment before he finished sharply, “…and others?”

“The staff of Hogwarts holds a great interest in the welfare of our students,” McGonagall said briskly.

Scrimgeour’s eyes narrowed. “In some more than others,” he said. “Are you certain that your aversion charm was strong enough for the job?” With a wave of his wand, the air around the front yard shimmered. A clutch of Muggle children playing down the drive looked around in confusion and wandered away.

McGonagall’s lips thinned. “The charm was sufficient, and Hogwarts pays special mind to Muggleborn students given the times in which we live.”

“I agree with the sentiment but young Potter isn’t Muggleborn, is he?” Scrimgeour pointed out. “If you explain to me why the old man sent you here, then perhaps I won’t have to send for an Auror squad… which would require me to send for the Muggle Artefacts office, and someone from Magical Mishaps… and that would require others, naturally…”

“I remember you well from your school days, Rufus. Have your transfigurations improved with time? I’m certain you learnt a good deal at Hogwarts, but coercion and disrespect were not amongst the tuition,” McGonagall said coldly. “You know who we are, why we’re here and what we represent, so may we dispense with further pleasantries?”

“The position on You-Know-Who for the last year was absurd – I’d swear an oath to that,” Scrimgeour snapped; “Delores Umbridge used my Aurors to stage an attack on you and I shan’t forget it. I was sickened, the men involved have been disciplined, and you have my sincere apology. That aside, you can’t expect the Ministry to condone vigilantism! The D.F.D.L. were little more than vigilantes twenty years ago, and that’s why they’re being brought into the fold this time. Wizards need to speak with one voice on this –”

“– And when that voice is ready to speak in something more than empty-headed nonsense, perhaps I’ll feel differently?” McGonagall returned. “I’d like to speak with my student, if you please?”

Scrimgeour looked to Harry. “I’ll fetch your cousin, Potter,” he said. “Keep your wand in hand. Feel free to cast anything short of an Unforgivable to protect yourself – from anyone.” He stopped a few paces away, and added, “This isn’t finished, Professor.”

“I feared as much,” McGonagall said under her breath, before she turned her most formidable glare on Harry.

Harry winced. “Good afternoon, Professor McGonagall,” he managed.

McGonagall snapped, “Did the consequences of your actions occur to you for even one moment, Potter?”

“I – I – I –” Harry began, uncertain what to say.

“Have you anything intelligible to offer?” she asked coldly.

Harry cleared his throat and asked, “If the wards fell, shouldn’t you have left here with Aunt Petunia?”

“The wards haven’t fallen,” McGonagall said. She wiped her brow in consternation. “We have thoroughly examined this entire property. Despite the expectations of myself, Professor Flitwick and Professor Dumbledore, the protections remain intact.” She leaned in, a griffin prepared to pounce. “What do you think is at work here? An answer, now, if you please.”

Harry thought for a while before he began to stumble through an explanation. “The protections were built on blood ties. The blood ties haven’t changed, simply because of the will. So…” The professor shook her head. “So ruling that out… the protections weren’t up to me. I’m in the blood line, but the seal was between my mother and Aunt Petunia…” He hesitated, before seeing the answer. “…and now it’s between the Dursleys and me. The protections are still in place because I want them to remain.”

Professor McGonagall nodded. “That strikes me as the most likely explanation, although Professor Dumbledore will surely weigh in.”

Aunt Petunia, who had left the stoop, cleared her throat. “Are – are you saying that… I, I don’t understand… I…”

Harry said, “I can’t be protected any more. Dumbledore…”

“Professor Dumbledore,” McGonagall interjected.

Harry scowled. “Dumbledore knows it. He tried to protect me for five years, and it all came crashing down. It’s finished now.” Turning to McGonagall, he added, “It was finished whether or not I signed Sirius’ will. You know that.” The professor said nothing.

Harry continued, “You have to be protected, though. You can’t defend yourselves against the Death Eaters or Voldemort –” Aunt Petunia flinched at that, and Professor McGonagall breathed in sharply. “He will use anything or anyone to get at me, including you. Thank your son for this. A year ago, I might have walked away without a thought.” His aunt’s mouth opened but no words came out.

“I know that you hate what I am, Aunt Petunia, and I’m sorry for that,” Harry said, trying to assume the bearing that came naturally to his Head of House. “I don’t know if I’ll be back next year, or for how long. It’s possible that this will be the last time you ever see me. There are things I have to do–”

McGonagall said, “You’d best stop at that, Potter.”

Harry nodded but never took his eyes away from his aunt. “It will be very dangerous for me from now on,” he said.

Aunt Petunia closed her eyes tightly. She said, “I was so jealous of her – always the pretty one, the smart one, the popular one. If I’d any idea how it would turn out, I would have… but I didn’t know – well, I knew it was freakish and wrong, but the danger – I really didn’t know… what I’m saying is, be safe if you can.” She reached out and clasped his hand. “Harry –”, Aunt Petunia said, her voice reduced to a strangled whisper, “I want revenge… for my parents… and for my sister.” Harry reeled – acknowledging his mother was odd enough, but what did she mean by asking revenge for her parents?

“MUM!”

Harry spun to see Dudley running well ahead of Scrimgeour, who moved with a loping, limping gait. His aunt’s face lit in a way that he had rarely seen. Dudley clasped her hands as he caught his breath.

Dudley looked to Harry with wide eyes. “The other fellow, he said everything’s fine. Is that true?”

Harry nodded. “Nothing happened, nothing at all.”

“What on Earth were you thinking, Dudley?” Aunt Petunia scolded.

Dudley shrugged. “Potter was making good on my training equipment, Mum. I took him to his bank.”

Aunt Petunia’s eyebrows rose. “Bank? The boy has his own account with a bank?”

“My godfather left me an inheritance,” Harry said. “I couldn’t leave Dudley without his weights and the rest – it wouldn’t have been right.”

“Well… well… I see… that’s for the best, I suppose…” Aunt Petunia stammered.

Harry reached out to shake Dudley’s hand. “You have the money?” he asked.

Dudley quickly nodded. “Uh – yeah! It’s in my pocket.”

Harry nodded. “Good. If you need to reach me – if anything happens, you can send post through… err…”

“I know how to send post to… that place,” Aunt Petunia said.

Harry asked McGonagall, “Professor, will the Order maintain watch on this house?”

“At your request, I suspect that they will,” she replied.

“Good. I’d like a small watch at Dudley’s school, as well,” Harry added.

McGonagall told him, “The protections move with your relatives, Potter – at least they did. Failing that, your uncle couldn’t have worked and your cousin couldn’t have attended school.”

There was a thump and a loud crack! as Harry’s own school trunk bounced on the stoop. Tonks bounded down the stairs after it. She was dressed in such a way that even Uncle Vernon wouldn’t have been flustered – her hair was black and straight, and she wore clothes suitable for Fleet Street. “Wotcher, Harry. Long time between owls,” she said. Her head cocked to one side, and she looked him up and down. “Filled out a bit, I see,” she added. “Your fan club should be in a flutter, eh?”

Scrimgeour arrived at last, breathing heavily. He crossed his arms and said, “Good afternoon, Miss Tonks.”

Her eyes went wide. “Auror Scrimgeour! I didn’t –”

“Expect to see me?” Scrimgeour finished for her. “I see we have evidence of your membership in Dumbledore’s organisation?”

Tonks stood up straighter. “I never denied it,” she said.

Scrimgeour pursed his lips. “Yes, you were nearly forthcoming – after you were caught out. You could have retained your commission in a trice, Tonks. All you had to do was renounce your membership and offer a public apology –”

“ – And I’ve repeatedly refused, sir,” said Tonks. “I can’t take the easy choice, not this time.”

“To your credit, Tonks… to your credit,” Scrimgeour allowed, and he extended a hand. “I do believe we’re still on the same side of things, even if I disagree wholeheartedly with the old man. If we should ever have need of your talents… on an unofficial basis, of course…?” Tonks took his hand lightly and gave a slight nod.

He returned his attentions to McGonagall. “You have thirty minutes to finish whatever it is you’ve started here. Beyond that time, this is a DMLE matter,” he announced.

“It was a pleasure, Rufus,” McGonagall said tightly.

“Professor,” Scrimgeour returned.

Tonks broke the long silence after the Head Auror reached the corner of Privet Drive and disappeared into the shrubbery. “We should move along,” she said to Harry.

“You lost your job?” Harry confirmed.

Tonks waved him off. “Later,” she said.

Aunt Petunia put her hand on Harry’s arm, which startled him. She said, “It would be best if you weren’t here when Vernon returns. Dudley, there is a small trunk in the kitchen; bring it to Harry, please.”

Dudley returned with a worn wooden trunk, unmistakeably marked with the crest of Gryffindor house. Aunt Petunia looked around at anything but Harry. “This trunk does not belong here… best that it leave with you,” she said.

“Professor McGonagall, I need to repair the cellar,” Harry said. “It’ll only take a moment.”

McGonagall said, “If you’re referring to the damage caused by your unfortunate emission, I have already resolved that.”

Tonks grinned and asked, “Having control problems, Harry?” Dudley instantly snorted.

“Yes, and that will have to be addressed firmly. You need to learn patience, Potter,” said McGonagall firmly. She crooked an eyebrow at Dudley, who had his hands over his mouth to hold in the howls. “It’s really not funny, young man. Uncontrolled nocturnal emissions can indicate a serious problem.” Dudley squeezed his eyes shut, and Aunt Petunia’s cheeks reddened.

“May we go now?” asked Harry through clenched teeth. Dudley half-waved and Aunt Petunia nodded curtly as Harry and Tonks made their way down the drive to the road. Each step took Harry further from Privet Drive and closer to the wizarding world. He didn’t find that as reassuring as in previous years.

"You're all right coming with me?" Tonks asked.

Harry said with a shrug, "I've nowhere else to go just now. Where are we headed... not Grimmauld Place, I hope?”

“That’s not somewhere for either of us, eh? Not yet, at least,” Tonks said with a frown.

She led him to the strangest looking vehicle he had ever seen. It had only one door – set in the front, no less – and two seats. “There’s no boot, but we’ll make do,” she said. There was a metal rack attached to the back of it, and she lashed Harry’s trunk into place.

“Er… what is this?” Harry asked.

“It’s a car,” Tonks snorted. “You’ve heard of those?”

Harry scratched his head. “But it’s… it’s… er…”

Tonks patted the side of the thing lovingly. “It's wicked, don't you think?”

“And you... um... you drive this yourself?” asked Harry nervously.

“Quick today, aren’t you?” Tonks said; “My dad gave it to me when I finished the Auror program.”

The car looked quite old, he thought, but well cared-for. He squinted at the front door. He searched it for dents and creases, and wondered aloud, “How well do you drive, then?”

She elbowed him and said with a saucy grin, “I thought you were always one for an adventure?”

 

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