Title: Episode 2: Just Peachy
Series: The Sweet Taste of Peaches
Fandom: Harry Potter
Warnings: Character Bashing, Child Abuse, Dark Themes, Discussion – Character Death, Racism, Violence – Canon – Level
Genres: Alternate Universe, Time Travel
Characters: Neville Longbottom, Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy, and Hermione Granger
Word Count: 11,701
Author Note: I always wondered about Neville’s home life and this gives a small opportunity to explore it. Special thanks to Keira for pointing out that sometimes you need to think outside the box…or in my case, outside the wand shop.
Summary: Neville awakens in his eleven-year-old body and must learn to navigate the world without giving away himself and his fellow time travelers while accepting some forgotten truths about his childhood.
Neville awoke to a world turned upside down. Looking around quickly, he swayed back and forth. He felt hands gripping him by his ankles and looked up into the face of Great Uncle Algie. A face he hadn’t seen in over ten years.
“A mistake I say!” Uncle Algie shook him. “There is no way a squib like you could have earned a place at Hogwarts. That letter was a mistake.”
“Un…unc…uncle!” Neville stuttered out in surprise; his voice registered higher than he remembered.
“I told my sister-in-law it was a waste to raise you. Trying to teach a nothing little squib like you to be a lord? I’ll never bow down to it. None of the family will. She should have removed you from succession like I told her.” He shook again, and Neville’s head almost hit the side of the exterior wall below the window. “And here you go getting a Hogwarts letter to legitimize your claim as if you were a real wizard. This is a conspiracy by Dumbledore. He wants to get his hands in the Longbottom coffers, that’s all it is. Well, I won’t have it, you little wimp.”
“What are you doing?” Neville searched his clothes for a wand, but he had nothing on him.
“Simple, nephew, before I let my late brother’s wife waste one more knute on you, prove you deserve it. Prove you have magic. Hasn’t been a hint of magic in your worthless body since your parents were taken, and I think it’s because you never had it to begin with. So prove it.”
There was a sickening laugh and then the hands holding his ankles let go. Neville was falling, falling and the ground rushed at him. He concentrated with all his might and focused on a single spell, “repercutito.” Neville tightened into a ball as a bubble formed around him. He hit the ground and bounced.
He bounced seven or eight times down the small hill at the base of the mansion before the spell ended and he found himself splayed facedown in the path. He lay there, unmoving. Just trying to breathe as his mind was reeling.
“Neville Franklin Longbottom!” He jerked up his head to look at the fearsome countenance of his grandmother. She looked so much younger, and it hit him. He looked back down at his own small hands, the hands of a child. No, this can’t be happening. He lifted back onto his knees, still looking down at his hands and his clothing. Sound droned on from above, but it was just white noise.
Hands grabbed him and pulled him to his feet before shaking him slightly, “Neville, answer me this instant.”
He shook his head to clear it and looked back into her eyes. The pop of apparition came from behind him, and he felt Uncle Algie’s hands take him by the arms.
“Augusta, it’s just a foolish boy thing. I’m sure he was just testing his limits what with the letter and all. We should just feel lucky the lad finally let go with some accidental magic.” Uncle Algie tightened his grip on Neville’s arms in warning.
Gran lifted his chin and turned his head to meet her gaze once more. “Is that what this was, Neville? Well, I expect more of you, young man. You have to uphold the family honor, not show the dimwitted side of your breeding.” She let go of him as he just stared blankly into her face, his mind still not caught up to his situation.
“I just don’t know what to do with you. I have tried my best to raise you to the standard your father lived up to. He was such a great man. If you could be half the man he was, you would do honor to the family. And while I’m contemplating how proud he would have been to have his son accepted to an institution as renowned as Hogwarts, you are out here showing a remarkable lack of judgment.” She looked him up and down and then motioned him away. “Go clean up. Dinner will be served in one hour, and I expect you to attend, clean and properly attired. If you can’t act like a proper wizard, the least you can do is appear to be one. Now, off with you.”
Great Uncle Algie turned him forcefully around toward the rear entrance to the manor, “You realize that some things should not be spoken of in polite company. If you try to make a scene, you will only make things worse for yourself. Be a good boy now and run along to your bath.”
He paused only a moment before he started moving stiffly down the path to the door. As he walked away, he could hear them speaking.
“Why does he have to be like that. My Frank was an angel. An absolute angel. When I think of how well he represented the Longbottom estates, he was a strong, intelligent, powerful wizard. He deserved to wear the title Lord Longbottom. He would have honored the House.” Gran spoke with a slight waver in her voice.
Great Uncle Algie had that placating tone Neville detested, “Well, Augusta, you’re right. Frank would have held the title with pride and honor. Shame about the boy. And it’s a travesty he was accepted to Hogwarts. I realize they’re only doing it to honor House Longbottom, but we should reconsider sending the lad. It is our honor at stake here. What will they think of us when they finally get a good look at the boy? He will ruin our reputation.”
“No, he did receive a letter. And he does have magic, no matter how infinitesimal it may be. Every Lord Longbottom has received a Hogwarts education since the House was established. It would be a greater hit to our honor if he did not attend. We would be admitting he wasn’t worthy of the title, Algie.”
“Maybe he’s not worthy. No, hear me out. The boy had never shown accidental magic before today. I’ll be surprised if he can even focus through a wand. Wouldn’t it be better if we just accept the inevitable and pass the title to the next heir? The House needs leadership now, and we need someone who won’t embarrass us.
“No. Frank was so proud the day Neville was born. He had a son to carry on the Longbottom name and title. My Frank wanted his son to have the title, then he will have the title. It is our place to handle damage control and see to it he is fit for the title.”
“Well, then. No more mollycoddling the boy. He has a position to maintain. If he can’t do it through magical power, then we will just have to see to it he can do it through politics and respect.” Great Uncle Algie and Gran’s voices faded and Neville took off running toward his childhood rooms.
Neville entered his room and stopped at the doorway. It was just the way he remembered it. Everything perfectly in place. It was perfect and so very wrong. His mind was running in circles trying to understand. He turned and secured the door behind him and then walked around the room, remembering every item. He could hear his Gran’s voice “a place for every item and every item in its place.”
He touched the plants on his windowsill and thought back through the last day. He was fighting for his life against the Death Eaters at Harry’s cabin. There were too many of them, and they were taking drastic risks to eliminate them all and kill Draco, so the time travel ritual could be completed.
Well, that’s the logical conclusion, isn’t it? Harry came out blasting to give Hermione and him a chance to retreat. He remembers grabbing onto the portkey that Draco was holding. Draco was to one side, Hermione across from him. There was a crash of apparition in the room, and then Harry was grabbing the portkey and activating it. Then there was…what?
He turned toward the mirror and looked at himself. At his eleven-year-old self. There had been blood, Draco’s blood, and the life leaving his eyes. They had failed, and Draco died, but for some reason, Neville came back in time. Neville shook his head in denial.
He didn’t want to live all that pain and death over again. And, somewhere out there was Lucius Malfoy and whichever Death Eaters he brought with him planning Harry’s murder. No, he has to stop that. Do they even know where Harry lives? Neville tried to think. He knows Harry has told him of life with his Aunt and Uncle, despicable people that they are, but he never said exactly where that was.
There was a tapping at the window, and Neville turned to see an owl. He rushed over and opened the window, seeing that it was a paid post owl based on the leg banding. He reached for the scroll tied to the leg, and the owl flapped back refusing to let him have it. Lousy owl, “I know you were paid before you were sent.” The owl just looked at him menacingly.
Neville looked through drawers and realized he had nothing in here to give the owl. “Just give me a moment.”
He ran through the halls to the kitchens. Jax and Iggy, the two house elves that ran the home were working on dinner.
“What is little master doing in kitchens? Lady Longbottom is saying not fit place for heir.”
“I’m sorry, Iggy. Can I have some scraps for the owls? I want to send a letter.” Neville tried to remember to act hesitant and wistful, hoping they wouldn’t report it to his Gran.
Jax got up and pulled some of the dried treats they made for the birds. “You better be asking permission to mail first.”
He hurried back to his room and offered the owl several treats in exchange for the letter. Cheeky bugger still tried to nip him.
He took the tiny scroll to his desk and sat down to unroll it, trying desperately to remember if he received an owl before his first year at Hogwarts. What if one of the Death Eaters realized he came back in time with them?
When the scroll was finally untied and unrolled, he could clearly see the message. Can you remember the sweet taste of peaches? -DM & HP
In shock, he felt himself start to hyperventilate and did everything he could to control it. They were here. They came back with him. He wasn’t facing this alone. He gently brushed his finger across the message. They were together. How did that happen? As far as he knew, they didn’t meet until the train first year.
Neville glanced back toward the owl. It was a standard paid post owl, and the only one that both Harry and Draco could have found was on the alley. They had to have met up on Diagon Alley. So if they are back…maybe Hermione made it back as well. Unfortunately, there was no way he could know until the train. It’s not as if he could just waltz right into the muggle world and find her and Harry. And Draco. Gran would have a conniption right in the middle of the Hall.
He tried to remember snippets of conversation. Harry had gone to Diagon Alley to shop for school supplies with Hagrid, then his uncle dropped him off for the train. Those were the only times he had access to the magical world before Hogwarts. So, contacting Harry was out. Hermione was older and had spent most of her summer reading the books, so she’s already been. He might be able to leave her a message in case she finds a reason to go back, but even if she did, there was little chance she would visit the owlery.
That left Draco. The post owls only do round trip letters, so no good trying to send him off to Malfoy Manor. And he doesn’t want to call attention to himself in case any Death Eaters are watching. Neville pulled out a slip of paper and thought carefully before replying. He folded and sealed the paper before addressing it to Draco Malfoy care of paid post office, please hold for the recipient. Slipping a sickle into the leg pouch, Neville opened the window to release the owl.
He watched it fly away until it was no longer visible and then carefully shut and latched the window. He hid away the message and looked down, realizing that he barely had time to clean up for dinner. Neville looked at himself one last time in the mirror and made himself a promise. If he was being forced to go through all of this again, he wasn’t going to start at a disadvantage.
Neville took his usual place at the table, the opposite end of the table from the adults. Food was served, and he began to carefully eat in silence. Their end of the table was full of the usual adult dinner conversation. Neville’s job, whether it was family only or Gran was entertaining guests, was to be seen but not heard. Unless spoken to directly.
He tried to ignore the looks Great Uncle Algie sent his way and remembered at the last moment that he had gotten sick on the bangers the first time around, so skipped them when he filled his plate. A glance up the table showed Uncle Algie frowning when he didn’t add the sausage to his plate. Neville focused on what he was doing while contemplating that.
Careful not to be spotted, he cast a wandless spell to detect potions and poisons. The faint glow warned him off, and he quickly canceled the spell while attempting to control his reaction. Why in the world? Determined to worry about it later, he picked up his glass of pumpkin juice and ‘accidentally’ spilled it into the bangers. He received a brief glare while Gran quietly called Iggy to remove the dish.
It was so hard to not slip back into his eleven-year-old self. Everything here reinforced the idea that he wasn’t good enough. It took him years to overcome that, and he refused to let it overtake him again. He played with his food a little, contemplating how to approach the issue. It was hard to make any plans without Harry and the others. If they were going to survive, they needed to work together. But, for the here and now, Neville needs to tread carefully.
Obviously, there are factions within his own house he was too young and naive to understand the first time around. Great Uncle Algie is a terror. Years removed he thought perhaps he blew his impressions out of proportion. But now, back in the deep end? Well, he obviously didn’t worry enough.
And, good old controlling Gran. Neville sighed lightly. He had finally reached a point where she was proud of him for his own accomplishments. She had finally seen him and not a hollow, dim shadow of his father. And now that was gone. He tried to tell himself it didn’t matter. But deep inside, he still wanted her approval, and now he had to earn it all over again.
“Neville, are you listening to me?”
He jerked slightly before chastising himself for wallowing in public. “I’m sorry, Gran. I was just thinking.”
“You can think to yourself when you are not in polite company young man. Soon you will be the Lord of this House, and you need to start preparing yourself for your place. Your father could navigate any social setting by your age. You just need to work harder.” She carefully set down her silverware and stared at Neville steadily, waiting.
Neville wrinkled his brow slightly before realizing, “Yes, Gran. I will do better. I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your question. You have my full attention.”
“That’s better. Now that you’ve received your Letter, we will go shopping for your supplies on Wednesday. Iggy will work with you on a complete inventory so that we do not duplicate items we already have on hand. I expect you to cooperate. And, I will be placing an order for proper parchment for your missives. A House Heir at Hogwarts is expected to show proper etiquette at all times. I do expect you to comport yourself properly as befitting an heir of this House.”
“Yes, Gran.” Neville thought hard, “Would it be possible to get my own owl for correspondence?”
Great Uncle Algie huffed, “Don’t be getting a swelled head. How many firsties do you think are showing up with their own owl?”
“Perhaps…” Gran started, but Algie cut her off.
“No, the boy’s not even proven himself. No need to go wasting good galleons on something he’s not prepared to handle. We can get him something else if he’s dead set on a familiar. I think a toad would do just fine. Don’t even have to buy one. Boy can just go catch one at the pond.” Algie held Gran’s gaze until she nodded.
“I suppose you’re right.”
Neville frowned slightly before smoothing it away. Trevor had been his responsibility, but a pond toad would never be able to achieve a familiar bond, and Algie knew it. It was just another way to set him up to fail. Eleven-year-old Neville might have seen it as a promise of a way to prove himself, but twenty-two-year-old Neville understood the point.
He outwardly appeared to be coming to terms with the solution, internally he was planning. “I suppose an alternate familiar would be better. I realize most Hogwarts students probably have to use school owls for their correspondence. I’m certain no one will think poorly of House Longbottom that the Heir of House uses public owls for official correspondence. I’m sure Houses Potter, Malfoy, and Bones won’t let their Heir’s have an owl either.”
Gran gripped her knife firmly as her face pinched up. “Perhaps an owl would be a better choice. It can serve double as familiar and correspondence.”
“Now, Augusta, think clearly about this. We are agreed that the boy is not yet ready to…”
“I am thinking clearly. I won’t have other noble houses look down on us. We have a standard to maintain, and Neville will just have to learn to serve his House with honor and dignity. We are purchasing him an owl, and that is final. The toads can just stay in the pond. Frank had an owl his first year. Poor thing wasted away after…well, after. So Neville will select one on Wednesday. Make sure Iggy adds all of the odds and ends the owl will require to our list, Neville.”
“Yes, Gran. If you think it’s best.”
Neville returned his attention to his meal while surreptitiously noting Algie’s darkening complexion.
It was two days before the Dursleys let Harry out of the cupboard. It was a special kind of hell that he had hoped to have forgotten. He fought his first instinct of blasting his way out the first night, then repeatedly had to stop himself from using magic to unlock the door. He bitterly remembered the level of monitoring the Ministry had on his Uncle’s home.
Unfortunately, they were already home and waiting for him when he arrived from school shopping. Uncle had triple checked that Hagrid was nowhere to be seen before shoving Harry and his supplies into the cupboard. All the while, he was ranting about the freaks that were supposed to stay out of their lives.
Once released, he worked extra hard to stay out of Vernon’s sight. Dudley was locked in his own room while Uncle arranged to have the tail Hagrid had placed removed. That had been the only amusing thing in this whole mess. Harry had forgotten the level of horror the family felt over that. The downside is that the episode had solidified Dudley’s anger toward magic. Harry really wished Hagrid had picked another way to make a point.
Today, however, the family was at a clinic three towns over to have the tail removed. Harry received the remembered threats but somehow convinced them to leave him at home this time around. He had three days before they would return, and he was determined to put them to good use.
First step had been the library to use the computers. A quick search located the Granger’s dental surgery. He also found their home address and reviewed bus and train schedules. He desperately wanted to see Hermione in person but was terrified that she hadn’t come back in time with them. If Hermione didn’t know him, it was going to hurt to see her again. With an adult mind, even being her friend was going to feel wrong.
Though he knew Uncle Vernon would be able to read the phone bill, he was also aware that he would have to chance it and call the Grangers’ work number. Of course, he was immediately placed on hold. He tapped his pen on the paper while trying not to chicken out and hang up. He was still arguing with himself when a voice came back on the line.
“Thank you for holding. How may I help you?”
“Um, is Doctor Granger available, either Doctor Granger?”
“The Doctors Granger are in the middle of a procedure. Did you need an appointment?”
“No.” He shook his head. “No appointment.”
“Then perhaps I could take a message?”
Harry considered, “Yes. Um, my name is Harry. I’m a friend of Hermione’s from school. I lost her number, and I was hoping they could ask her to call me.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize, Hermione…of course, dear. I would be happy to take a message for you. You said your name is Harry?”
“Yes, just Harry. She will know who I am. I will be waiting for her call today or tomorrow.” He gave his phone number and ended the call.
The wait for a response was agonizing. Harry did every chore that his Aunt Petunia had left on his work list, and got a head start on some of the items he remembered them punishing him with the first time around. It was just after dinner when the phone rang.
“Harry?” There was a touch of fear in her voice.
“Oh, thank Merlin. Harry, it is you. Do you know what happened? I’ve deduced the results of the ritual based on my own circumstances but wasn’t certain if anyone else had been included based purely on proximity to the event. Do you know if Neville reverted as well? Well, you probably have as much trouble determining that as I do. We didn’t actually meet until the train the first time, and it’s not as if we can just go exploring on our own. I remember you telling me about your first trip to Diagon Alley, and since I know it was after my trip, there’s not much chance we can meet there. Besides, it’s probably best for you to lay low at this point. Well? What do you think? Harry? You’re not talking, Harry.”
She had the exasperated little huff to her voice, and he just smiled, relieved it was really her. His Hermione. “Harry?”
“It’s ok. I’m just really glad you’re with me.” Harry gripped the phone tightly and let his muscles relax.
“I’m glad you’re here, too. I was so afraid I was alone.”
“You’re not. We’re not. I mean. I know Draco came back with us.”
There was a slight gasp. “But Draco…”
“Died. Only I think not really. His body died. He took his last breath, and his heart stopped beating. But the brain lives for a moment or more after that, doesn’t it?”
“Yes. That’s it. The ritual activated at the moment of his last heartbeat. But, if he’s back, will he be safe? Lucius was the one planning this.” Hermione sounded worried.
“I don’t think Lucius could have made the trip, he was dead before I activated that portkey. I can’t see the spell moving him back in time if he was already dead. He wasn’t there to send. As a matter of fact, since we were in the middle of a portkey when it happened, there was only the four of us within range of the spellwork.” Harry crossed his fingers on that. Without knowing who else might have been keyed to the spell, there was no way of knowing at this point if he was right.
Hermione’s voice brought him back, “What about Neville?”
“I don’t know. Draco and I sent him a message by owl, but we won’t know until the train.”
“Right, the train. We need plans. What are we going to do?”
“I don’t want to live this all again, Mi. I don’t want to have to face him. So many died.” Harry lay his head back against the wall as he slid down to sit.
“It’s not fair. We finally were finding our own way. We finally had a little peace. I want to make them all pay, Harry.” The sadness was in her voice. He hated that.
“I know you have rules about time travel and time-turners but are we stuck just repeating things?”
“I…a time-turner has very specific rules regarding their use. That’s because they send you physically back in time where there are two versions of you trying to coexist for a determined period. But, there aren’t two versions of us. Our mind has supplanted the original consciousness because it exists within us already. This is our body. And from what Draco could recall of the ritual, it is a one-way trip. We…Harry, we have no choice but to live our lives over.”
“So we are stuck.” Harry banged his head back.
“Stuck in time, but maybe not circumstance. Maybe. Look, just by being back here in our younger bodies we are altering time. The world we lived in doesn’t exist any longer. Or, if it does, it’s a timeline we can’t recreate. From here on, the world will just move on with us as we are now. That means we may know some of what’s to come, but we can’t trust it, Harry.”
“You’re talking about ripples. Every action we take changes things. The more we change, the harder it will be to anticipate what can come. Does that mean we have to try to recreate our time? Mi, I don’t think I can. It’s just not in me to allow all that suffering if we can change it.”
“I know. And I agree. We can’t repeat everything. It’s just not possible. We aren’t the same people as we were at eleven. We learned and grew and changed. But, we have to be prepared for repercussions. You can’t save everyone, Harry. And we need to avoid drawing attention to ourselves more than we have to. I’ve thought of this a few days, but we really need a way to plan.” A voice was heard in the background, but Harry couldn’t make it out. “Yes, Mum.”
She huffed into the phone. “I have to go. Can I call you tomorrow? Wait, are you going to get into trouble for this? Are your Aunt and Uncle letting you call me?”
“They are out of town for three days. So it’s safe for now. You can call me tomorrow, but after that, I will need a way to reach you that they won’t know about. We will just have to make plans to meet up on the train. We can make plans together there.”
There was a moment of silence before she responded, “OK, yes, fine. I will call you tomorrow. But, Harry, don’t take chances. You can’t use your magic, and I don’t want them to hurt you. We have to find a way to get you out of that house before next year. Second year they locked you up. I can’t bear to think about what they would do to you if they knew you were talking to other magicals.” The voice again. “Bye, Harry. Sleep well.”
“Bye, Mi. You too.”
Harry slowly placed the phone back on the receiver before wrapping his arms around his legs and laying his head on his knees. She’s here. She’s here, and he’s not alone. As long as he has Hermione by his side, he will never be alone.
Neville stayed close to his grandmother as they entered the bank. He recalled the first time around, Uncle Algie had led the shopping trip, and the Longbottom account manager had barely given them the time of day. It was years before he realized Algie had an antagonistic relationship with Gringotts due to poor investment choices in his own accounts. Neville’s father had restricted Algie’s access, and the goblins didn’t accept the changes Gran had initiated at Algie’s insistence.
This time around Algie couldn’t make it for school shopping. Oh, he had planned to take charge and make sure Neville received only what was required on the list. Unfortunately, an accident on the stairs down from Algie’s rooms caused a broken hip. Algie was currently enjoying forty-eight hours at St Mungo’s while his bones were mended. Neville had been so apologetic that he had not been able to move the sessayme plant out of the house before it bloomed and the pods burst oil.
Algie had been livid. But Gran accepted it was an honest mistake since the pods would fill and burst within hours of pollination. They only had the one plant in the house, so something must have flown in with pollen from the greenhouse. At least Neville had noticed and tried to get it out of the house before it could make a mess. And on the upside, the house elves took the opportunity to use the excess oil to polish the woodwork. It had a lovely glow now.
“Neville, pay attention.”
Neville held back a sigh and nodded as he looked up at Gran. “Yes, ma’am.”
They stepped up to the next available teller. “Dowager Lady Longbottom and Heir Longbottom. We have an appointment with the Longbottom account manager.”
The goblin just stared down at them for a moment. Neville had trouble standing still since the teller had a piercing gaze, like most of his kind. It was off-putting, to say the least. Whatever the goblin was searching for he must have found because he motioned toward the entry to the management offices and stepped down from his seat to lead them himself.
He motioned them to stop just short of the hallway where the guards were prepared to block their path. The teller, whom Neville realized never offered a name, disappeared down the hall. The guards were watching them carefully, and Neville wondered if there was something wrong with the accounts. It was rare that a Noble House was censured by the bank, but it had happened within Neville’s lifetime. Well, he could remember issues at the end of the war, but he supposed it was true even in the war when he was a baby. So it was true either way.
Movement down the hallway showed not just the teller, but the Longbottom Account Manager, Nagnar. He reached the end of the hall and the guards parted to allow the goblins to step through. Again there was that silent stare and Neville tried not to fidget. He could tell his Gran was not pleased with the silence. She probably thought this was another Goblin intimidation effort. Not uncommon when they wanted to show their superiority.
Neville felt himself start to move and locked down hard. Gringotts was officially Goblin Nation territory. Proper etiquette demanded that the Goblin initiate conversation. So many wizards were rude in trying to force interaction and speaking over the tellers and their account managers when they were wealthy enough to be assigned one. Most did it out of ignorance, but Neville had received this instruction from the time he could walk.
Finally, Nagnar turned his head to the teller and gave a single nod. The goblin stood straight and spun on his heel to return to his window. At the same time, Nagnar inclined his head slightly in acknowledgment of Gran and then again toward Neville. “Lady Longbottom, welcome to Gringotts.”
Gran stood straight, before returning the acknowledgment, “House Longbottom thanks you for your welcome. May our business today be profitable.”
He nodded and turned toward Neville, “Welcome to Gringotts, Scion Longbottom. It is my pleasure to guide you on your first day of financial responsibility. On behalf of Gringotts, I offer you personal tutelage that you may meet that responsibility with knowledge.”
This was nothing like the first time he did this. Neville, however, wasn’t the nervous child he still pretended to be. Bowing in the one-quarter bow of goblin student to goblin teacher, “I am honored to accept your consideration and tutelage. May we enrich our accounts while decimating our enemies’.” He straightened on the last word and looked the goblin in the eye.
A slow, calculating grin showed a full mouth of sharp teeth. “Well said, Heir Longbottom.” He turned and led the way to his office.
Neville took a calming breath and held his composure as Gran’s eyes raked over him. The greeting had been a surprise. It was rare that the goblins would offer personal tuition on account management.
Reaching the office, Neville stood until Gran and then Nagnar took their seats. Settling in, the goblin opened a file box and pulled out a slim book. As the book opened, it expanded into a thick ledger with pockets. Nagnar reached into one of the pockets and pulled out a velvet pouch.
“It is always an auspicious day when a young lord takes up the first obligation of his house. This is the key to your trust account. It is also keyed to the full Longbottom House accounts. It will not allow access to those accounts until you reach the age of thirteen and can stand in the Wizenmagot as Heir.” Nagnar handed him the bag, and Neville took it with the proper reserve.
As he pulled open the bag and removed the small golden key, Neville thought about the wording of Nagnar’s presentation. The first time around Gran had kept possession of his key. It was handed over with minimal speaking, a signature from Gran confirming receipt, and they had been ushered out. Uncle Algie wasn’t even allowed to speak to Nagnar. Gran and Algie did most of his shopping until Algie’s passing, and then Gran got him whatever he needed.
Neville held up the key and stared at it a moment. Turning his attention to Nagnar, he inquired, “I must reach the age to stand as Heir within the Wizenmagot? Do you mean I actually must complete my Presentation to the Wizenmagot, or that I need only reach the age?” A very uncomfortable feeling was growing within Neville.
Gran huffed in that way that said children should be seen but not heard, but Nagnar smiled again. “Well asked, young lord. There is indeed a separation between the political recognition of your title and the financial and magical confirmation of said title. Gringotts accounts and vaults are magically linked to your core. As the magically accepted Heir of House Longbottom, all accounts will respond to your magical age.”
“So, if someone were to be given access to the key, they could access the linked vaults with or without my knowledge or approval?”
“Yes, since possession of the key can only occur with your magical approval, access is granted to any with the key.” Nagnar’s gaze narrowed as Neville sought to control his reactions. Neville was furious but couldn’t dare show it. Uncle Algie had disappeared when Voldemort made his reappearance. Years later the Longbottom accounts were in dire straights as all liquid assets were gone. Records of those times were spotty as the Goblins had faced persecution by the Ministry. But, it was only assumed Algie had died. He had always fought with Gran over possession of the vault key. But, since Neville did not complete his Wizenmagot Presentation until after the war, he never suspected anyone had access to the House vaults.
Gran cleared her throat and gave him a pointed look that reminded him of his manners. As the questioner, he still had the floor. “I apologize. It’s scary to think about how much responsibility I will have in only two years.”
“It is good that you are concerned. I would like to schedule a weekly meeting with you until you return to school.” The goblin turned to Gran, “And if you are in agreement, Lady Longbottom, I believe we can arrange a monthly meeting during the school year. I realize most heirs are taught such things by their fathers. But given Heir Longbottom’s situation, and the past relationship we had with your own departed spouse, I feel the old practice of educating the Heir on account management within the bank to be the best option.”
“I’m not sure the boy would be best served that way. His Uncle Algernon has requested to undertake his financial education when he is ready to understand.” Gran shifted under the frown the goblin wore.
“Gran, Manager Nagnar is offering House Longbottom an honor that is rarely given now. I would like to accept the honor of a thorough financial education. You always say that I will have to work extra hard to live up to the standard my father upheld. I think Father would insist that I take every opportunity to learn what I need to be the Lord Longbottom father would want me to be.” Neville held firm and looked her in the eye.
She stared at him for a full minute before she nodded. “Very well, but you must work hard to not waste this opportunity.”
“Thank you, Gran. I will.” Neville turned back to Nagnar. “House Longbottom accepts your offer and thanks you.”
“I will not keep you long today. A schedule will be owled to you by morning. Access to the bank atrium floo will be granted during business hours. At your discretion, Lady Longbottom, that will allow the young lord to travel between home and the bank for lessons without needing adult supervision.”
Gran grimaced slightly, “I’m certain Algie will insist on accompanying him once he is well.”
Nagnar inclined his head in agreement, “If that is your wish. However, only Heir Longbottom may be granted access to the offices during our sessions.” Gran shook her head negatively, and Nagnar plowed on, “I would not expect him to be accompanied to classes at Hogwarts, this is no different. You either trust us with his education or you do not.”
“Gran, please.” Neville half whispered the plea.
Her eyes never broke contact with Nagnar, but she finally capitulated. “Very well. If you are old enough to go to Hogwarts, I suppose you are old enough to travel by floo alone.”
A knock at the door interrupted them, and a goblin walked in with a small pouch. Handing it to Nagnar he turned and left, his eyes only briefly raking over Neville and Gran.
“Since we will be going over everything in great detail in the weeks ahead, I have taken the liberty to have an instant withdrawal pouch linked to your trust account. An automatically updating ledger is within. It will not allow you to exceed your allowed withdrawal, so take care with your funds. I realize you have much to do on the Alley today, so I will take my leave.” Nagnar stood and motioned them to the door. It opened, and a goblin was waiting to lead them to the atrium.
“May your day be profitable.” Neville bowed to Nagnar.
“I believe we have taken the first steps to a rewarding relationship, young heir.”
Draco scanned the Alley as he quietly followed his mother into Madam Malkin’s. It had been a stressful time at home. He lived in fear of his father until he was reminded that Father was in France on business. He was due back two days before Hogwarts started and Draco remembered several lectures at that time about expectations. Draco’s only expectation was to quietly contain himself from murdering the bastard in his sleep.
They were quickly greeted as they entered and were led to a small waiting room. The assistant apologized to Mother repeatedly while Mother graciously accepted a bit of refreshment while they awaited Madam’s personal attention.
“Mother, might I be excused to shop on my own?” Draco asked once they were alone.
His mother raised an eyebrow and stared at him, “And, what shopping did you have in mind? We have already acquired every item on your school list. And, in better quality and quantity than recommended.”
“Yes, Mother. However, it occurs to me that I will be meeting new people. Father says that the alliances one makes in Hogwarts will become the foundation on which one builds their future. And, you always assure that the proper customs are observed with our friends and allies. So I thought that perhaps I should prepare a small chest of gifts and trinkets to be prepared for birthdays and the like. I don’t want to be judged poorly for missing an opportunity to solidify an alliance.” He tried to keep his expression earnest while worrying that he was acting out of character.
“That is—well, a good idea. I remember my first year at Hogwarts, Mother insisted I have a box of chocolates, stationary, hair ribbons, and the like to share with the other girls when appropriate. Of course, I will see to it you have the appropriate care packages delivered, but having a small collection of items at the ready would serve you well.” She looked him up and down then reached into her purse to pull out some coins. “You must stay on Diagon Alley at all times. No side trips down the other alleys. The fittings for my order should take an hour, two at the most. I expect to find you at Fortescue’s once I am finished. You may have an ice cream while you wait.”
Draco took the money and then leaned forward to give her a small hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you, Mother.” He turned to leave, and she spoke one last time.
“And, remember that you’re a Malfoy. No, running about the Alley like some of those unsupervised hooligans.”
“Of course, Mother.” He left as quickly as possible without seeming to hurry too much. At least, he hoped he did.
Trying not to draw attention to himself, he walked past several stores, stopping once or twice to appear to be window shopping. He kept one eye on the ebb and flow of traffic. The weeks before the start of term were always busy with school shopping. The other eye he was keeping on the Paid Post Office. His only reason for using the excuse of accompanying his mother was for the opportunity to see if Neville had responded to their owl.
Draco had been so relieved to have Harry with him in this time. And, never in a million years would he have expected to be thankful for Harry bleeding Potter. But, he wasn’t alone. Draco wasn’t sure he could have faced this alone.
He finally reached the Office and stepped to the window. The clerk looked down at him. “Any messages for Draco Malfoy?” It was a risk to give his name, but he wouldn’t be the first child to use the thrill of the paid post to send secret messages to friends and circumvent the family owls.
The clerk stepped away for a moment and returned with a small letter, sealed with a simple wax seal. He pulled out a ledger. “Sign here for receipt.”
One quick illegible signature later and Draco stepped into an alcove to read the letter. His eyes blurred slightly as he read the response.
Only the sweetest peaches can yield nectar to sooth the Dragon. NL
He’s here. Draco’s read and reread the message over and over.
“Draco are you ok?”
The whispered voice shocked him back to himself as he jerked slightly before looking up into the worried eyes of an eleven-year-old Hermione Granger.
He let his eyes dart around the alley to be sure no one had noticed them. “Granger. What do you think you’re doing? You can’t act like you know me.”
She huffed at him slightly. “Well, I can introduce myself to someone who seems upset.”
“What do you mean, upset?”
“Draco, you’re crying.” Her voice still low, but gentle.
He reached up quickly and felt the moisture before noticing how his hands were shaking. He turned quickly to wipe away the evidence.
“It’s nothing. It’s…” He pushed the message into Hermione’s hand while he worked to settle himself.
“Oh, he’s here. OK, good, right.” Hermione motioned to give the message back, and Draco stepped away. It was best it wasn’t found on him.
“What are you even doing here, Granger?” Draco looked around again. “Potter said you would have already finished your shopping.”
Hermione’s skin flushed, “I’ve spoken to Harry. He was pretty certain that today was the day Neville’s grandmother took him school shopping. I wanted to see if I could speak to him.”
“So you just came out here by yourself?”
“No. I forged a letter from Hogwarts for additional books and supplies. My Mum is in Gringotts, establishing a trust vault for me and converting money for shopping. I didn’t want to chance missing him by being stuck in the bank, so I asked to run ahead to Flourish & Blotts. I figure he will have to pick up his books at some point.”
“Well, well. What have we here? Little miss perfect Granger is forging letters.” Draco smirked slightly as she did that thing where her eyes flashed in anger and she blushed in guilt.
“Don’t be a prat. I was worried about all of you. When I first woke up, I was so afraid I was here alone. Knowing you are all here with me is better, but I feel horrible that we have to live through all of this again.” Her eyes were misting over, and Draco closed his own to keep from breaking down with her.
“Better here than dead, but I don’t plan to let this all repeat. We need a plan. We have to figure out what we can change.”
“We will figure it out. I don’t know how, but we have each other. Do you want to go back to the bookstore with me to wait on Neville?”
“First, I need to do some shopping. I told mother I was picking up some trinkets so I would have a selection of gifts for birthdays and the like.”
“Oh, that’s a good idea. What were you thinking?”
They wandered the alley together, trying to blend with all the shoppers. Draco made sure that there was no one who would report back to Father that saw them. He quickly gathered a reasonable enough selection and then followed Hermione to the book store. She grabbed a basket and immediately dove into the stacks, assembling a small library of resource material to explain away her knowledge of the wizarding world. Her mother had joined them a bit over half an hour later, and Hermione had introduced her to the manager and left them discussing an entire selection of books on raising a witch and understanding magical society for muggles.
Draco started to worry about the time when Neville entered the store behind his grandmother. Lady Longbottom was imposing in her robes and vulture hat. She headed to the selection of first-year texts while Neville moved off toward the Herbology section. They waited until he had slipped out of sight of the front of the store before Hermione raced forward to hug him.
“You’re here. Are you OK? What took you so long. No, forget I said that. I was just worried. Harry thought you would be here today, but we weren’t certain. And, with the worry that everything we do can change things we expect to happen, well. I guess I was worried that something would stop you.”
Neville grinned, “Hermione, never change.”
She rolled her eyes and smiled back.
Neville turned to Draco, and before he knew it, Draco was being pulled into a hug as well. “I was terrified that something would happen to you. When I got that note you and Harry sent, I was just so relieved you had found each other. Is everything OK?”
Draco choked back a moment and then nodded. “Yes. The bastard’s on the continent and won’t be back until a couple days before start of term. And Mother…” He swallowed hard and looked away a moment before a squeeze of his arm brought him back. “Mother’s fine. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I have to keep her safe.”
“Don’t worry about it yet. We need time to plan. It’s enough to know that we are all here for now. Things are already changing, but we want to be careful.” Neville glanced around to make sure no one was close enough to hear. “It’s hard to remember to act like a child. I don’t think it would be a good idea for someone to know the truth.”
Draco agreed. “We need to be on guard. As much as I hate it, we need to plan this in years. Don’t upset too many things yet. Hermione is buying out half the store to explain her knowledge. The rest of us just need to stay safe until we can meet up on the train. Whoever gets there first will secure a car and lock it down.”
Neville nodded, and Hermione cocked her head to the side. “Agreed.” She looked at Neville. “Have you purchased your wand yet?”
Neville groaned, “No.”
“You need a wand that won’t fight you. Half your problem first year was with that wand.” She crossed her arms and glared.
“Don’t you think I’ve tried. I’ve been fighting Gran on every point I can, but she won’t budge on the wand. It’s my father’s wand, and she is determined I take it.”
Draco was confused, looking back and forth. “What’s the problem with the wand? It’s highly respectable to use a family wand. As long as the family magic is compatible and the wand accepts you…” He trailed off at their looks. Hermione’s was determined while Neville’s looked pained. “The wand did accept you, right?”
“I’m not even remotely compatible with my father’s wand. It’s very loyal…to him.” Neville was looking down and away.
“Well then, let me think on it. Worst case you have to suffer through it for a few weeks and then we can arrange a little accident. We’ll just have to make sure you are not at fault for it.” Draco watched Neville closely.
There was hesitation then finally he let out the breath he was holding and nodded. “It’s my dad’s, and I really don’t want any harm to come to it if we can avoid it. But, I need to know I have the tools we are going to require.”
“Neville!” The voice called from the front.
“That’s Gran, I’ve got to go. I was able to talk her into an owl for correspondence.”
There was one last round of quick hugs before Neville was off and running. Draco quickly bid farewell to Hermione as well and headed to the ice cream shop. He saw his mother exiting Malkin’s and made sure to complete his order before her arrival. Hiding a smile behind his sundae, he sat at a table and waved slightly to his mother as if he had been there a while. Just three more weeks.
Neville stepped from the floo and suppressed the urge to wandlessly brush away the soot. He took one step to the side and waited for the goblin on guard duty to brush it away for him. He couldn’t wait until he could figure out how to do the little daily magics again without drawing notice.
He thanked the guard and moved over to the account desk to check in before finding a seat. He was almost an hour early for his lesson, but he was going to hex Uncle Algie blind if he didn’t get out of the house. Lying about the start time was the only way he could get out without Algie accompanying him.
There had been a huge row in the bank when Algie had insisted on attending Neville’s session. The goblins flat out refused and Nagnar stated that the Dowager Lady Longbottom had given her approval and Algie had no authority to change it. They had then whisked Neville away to Nagnar’s office and left Algie foaming at the mouth.
The night following that lesson was a terror and Neville was forced to take refuge in the greenhouses. Gran refused to budge on her decision, which enraged the man. Algie drilled him mercilessly regarding the lessons while disparaging his ability to learn. After that, he had taken Neville to each lesson and waited the entire time with the implied implication that the goblins could not be trusted with the welfare of a child. It was beyond insulting. And the goblins had taken to having him wait without benefit of chairs.
So, today he had lied to Gran while Algie was finishing some business and left alone, thankfully. This was going to be his last lesson at Gringotts before school started. Most of his lessons had focused on his math skills with basics on balancing accounts and understanding his finances.
Nagnar’s expectations were high, but surprisingly, so was his patience. Neville had never focused on this part of his education, so while his overall skills were above an eleven-year-old’s, his focus on understanding banking and finance was not much advanced. He made sure to make enough mistakes to appear to be learning and rarely made the same mistake twice, which pleased the goblin.
He had only waited a few minutes before Nagnar appeared. He stood quickly and gave the appropriate bow without speaking and then straightened and barely caught the grin on the goblin’s face as he searched the atrium for Algie. Seemed he wasn’t the only person to be relieved to be without the man’s presence.
Neville was surprised when instead of turning right toward the management offices, Nagnar turned left toward the vault tunnels. He followed closely, not sure of the goblin’s intention.
When the carts came into sight, Nagnar finally spoke. “I believe today we should review some of the Longbottom assets. House Longbottom has been an investor with Gringotts since the House was established. While not the oldest of the ancient and noble houses, it has a heritage that reaches beyond that designation.”
They climbed into the cart, and Nagnar steered it down the tracks while Neville held on tight. He tried not to react when they passed the trust vault levels and the level he knew the Longbottom House primary vault was on. He kept reminding himself that he had never been to the vaults in this time.
After one of the longest rides of his life they slowed and rolled to a stop along a row of ancient vault doors. Quietly he exited the cart and examined the door in front of him. Plaques next to the doors held arms and devices instead of the usual vault numbers. He stared at the arms in wonder and felt the overpowering urge to touch it.
He gave in to the compulsion and felt a brief shock before it warmed comfortably at his touch. Neville closed his eyes and felt an invitation and greeting as if the magic protecting this vault recognized him. He wasn’t sure how long he stood there before he opened his eyes and saw a calculating expression on Nagnar’s face.
“What is this?”
“This is the Heir’s Vault. It is a tradition with many of the older Houses to bring their heir before obtaining their first wand. I remember your own father’s excitement the day your grandfather brought him here. It is a tradition I felt you would want to continue.”
Neville swallowed hard and turned back to the vault door. “Uncle Algie and Gran never mentioned this.”
Nagnar nodded solemnly. “Such things are spoken between Lords and Heirs only. They are the only ones who may access the vault. Produce your key young Longbottom and open your vault.”
Neville pulled his key from the key pocket on his money pouch and inserted it into the delicate looking yet ornate lock on the door. There was the slightest hesitation before it turned, and the door swung open. There was a shimmer of magic covering the doorway, and he could not see far within. He looked toward the goblin. “Should I?”
“Go ahead, take as much time as you need. This is your heritage and your birthright. I may not enter.” Nagnar sat back in the cart and pulled a scroll to examine.
Neville replaced the key in his pouch before taking a deep breath and stepping through the door. Light flooded the area from the ceiling, and he looked up to see a bright, clear day. Instead of a dark, musty vault, the room was an open meadow with a creek. Neville took a moment to take it all in with a bit of wonder at the image.
There was something familiar about the magic. More so than the pull he felt in his familial magic. He had never even known this vault existed, but he felt as if he had been in this room before. It was as if the magic judged him and knew he needed a moment of freedom and nature. Needed…
Neville reached for one of the flowers growing wild and plucked it up. It was as real as any other flower he nurtured, and yet the magic felt transitory. He hadn’t felt this way since the last year of the war. When he had hidden away so many students in the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts.
Nodding to himself, he closed his eyes and connected to the magic. He thanked it for helping him and then asked it to show him what existed within the room. As he opened his eyes, the meadow faded away to reveal desks, shelves, files, and display cases. Only a glow from the daylight illusion filled the ceiling and upper walls to illuminate the room.
He turned slowly in place, taking it all in. On the desk nearest the door he noticed an envelope with his name written in a heavy hand. Neville picked it up and saw the seal of his House in the wax on the back. There was only one person who could have accessed this vault with that seal.
Breaking the seal with shaking hands, he pulled the note out and unfolded it.
Greetings my son. It is my hope that you never read this message. Instead, I hope to stand beside you on your eleventh birthday when I can introduce you to the magic of the vault, and we share this experience as my father shared it with me. But there is a war on, and we must prepare for horrible things. If I cannot be here with you in body, know that I am with you in spirit.
This vault was established by the founder of our line to safeguard our history. Information is power, my son. Seek it for how it can help the world, not just for its own worth. Some things learned here should not be shared. If I am not there to guide you, then listen to your own magic and it will tell you who to trust.
Our family is deeply entrenched in the old ways, and they are not always accepted in the modern world. But, knowledge is neither good nor evil. The founder of our line was half-fae, and that magic exists even today. It is one reason that those who are born with that heritage are so in sync with nature in our family. My grandfather was the last born with it, and we worried that it had left us.
But I no longer fear it. I see that birthright in you. Only a year old and just holding you feels like a renewal, a new springtime. Grandfather once told me that fae magic is the magic of belief. All he ever needed was to believe in himself and to trust magic to give him what he required.
You, my beautiful son, have the power within you. Trust it. Listen to it. And know what you feel is the love of the generations that proceed you.
Your loving father,
Neville refolded the letter and carefully returned it to the envelope. It’s the only message he had ever received from his father. He sniffed and realized his eyes were tearing up. “I wish you could have been here, too, Dad.”
He debated a moment returning the letter to the desk, but couldn’t bring himself to leave it. He slipped it into a pocket and turned to look at the rest of the vault. There was too much here and not enough time, no matter what Nagnar said. He took a breath and thought this through. He couldn’t ask the goblin to wait too long for him. But he needs to know if there is anything here that he needs immediately. The rest he can come back to later, hopefully during his future lessons.
Needs. Neville took a moment more to center himself and let go of his emotions. There are some plants that are hard to grow unless one is calm. They absorb the emotions near them and can become bitter and violent if grown in the wrong atmosphere. Once he was certain he was in a good place again, he closed his eyes and focused on his needs. Just the concept of need. He connected with the magic again and asked it to show him what he really needed.
Neville felt a tug on his magic and opened his eyes to see that most of the room had darkened and the light was illuminating five locations in the room. The first was an old library trunk with the House Crest. He opened it to see that it was indexed and many of the resources he had gathered the first time around for school and his mastery were within, though to be truthful most were much earlier editions. A few entries were in what he now knew to be his father’s hand.
One shelf was lit, showing several family grimoires. Neville picked those up and added them to the trunk. The index updated with his own handwriting, so he was comforted knowing it was working correctly.
He looked around at the other three locations. An ornate jewelry box drew his attention first. Within was a small collection of jewelry. Most notable were several chokers with medallions. Neville noted the beautiful design of a tree on the front, but on the back was the symbol for protection of the mind.
He let out a sharp laugh and quickly put it on, then checked that there were several more within. Occlumency had never been a subject he could master. But now he was safe from that threat. He flipped several others over and realized he had enough here to share with the others twice over. He swept up the box and felt a bit of relief that he wouldn’t be the one to give their secret away.
He moved to the next table with a selection of leather goods, each appearing almost new. Most of them were things he wouldn’t need for another year or two, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a portfolio for organizing his school work or to take the master herbology pouch and potions kit.
But what drew his attention was the double wand holster. It was a work of art all it’s own. He tried it on, and it immediately melded to his arm and disappeared. Loosening the strap, it reappeared. Grinning, he strapped it back. The spellwork on this was amazing. Maybe Hermione could find a way to copy it.
He carried everything back to the library trunk and used a general storage drawer on it to temporarily store everything. Turning to the door, there was a flash of light, and he realized he had missed the last item. A glass case with several wands. But it was the one on a shelf of its own that drew his attention.
It was beautiful and seemed almost alive. The wood was English Oak, but the handle was unicorn horn that was honey-tinted with age, a single ring of mithril at the join. A simple placard beside it was barely readable. The owner of the wand was a Newyddilyn Longboteham. If he could make it out, it confirmed the wood as oak, handle unicorn horn, and the core was mistletoe. There was more that he couldn’t understand.
He admired it until temptation overwhelmed good sense, and he reached out to take the handle. A breeze blew through the room, and it felt like a gentle rain washed away the stress in his body. When the feeling passed, he felt energized and new. The wand was powerful and gentle in one and claimed him, heart and soul.
Carefully he slid it home in the wand holster which became briefly visible. He noted then that the design on the holster matched the wand. Smiling with joy, he touched the runic display to shrink the trunk and pocketed it before moving toward the door.
Nagnar was waiting patiently, only halfway through the scroll when the Vault opened. “Did you find something of interest within young Heir?”
“Yes, thank you for showing me. There is so much to learn.” Neville climbed into the cart when motioned.
The goblin nodded, noticing there was a relief of hidden tension in the boy. “That is the lesson most wizards fail to learn. Remember that there is always something new to learn, and you will do well in life.”
“Yes, sir. There are things to learn and don’t have preconceptions about the people who can teach you.” The boy gripped the sides of the cart as he responded absently, his mind obviously on what he had found within the vault.
Nagnar smiled. Today had been a most informative lesson indeed. He took the faster method to the front door and lead the boy to the floo. “I think this is enough lesson for the day. I will forward a packet to you by owl for study within the week since you will be at Hogwarts by then. Our next lesson is in one month to allow you to settle in. Your grandmother has already forwarded authorization to Hogwarts for you to attend your lessons.”
The boy turned back and executed an exact one-third bow of leave-taking, student to teacher, before taking hold of the floo powder and stepping in to travel. As the green flames disappeared, Nagnar turned and headed toward the offices. Bypassing the hallways of account managers, he didn’t stop until he reached the executive level.
As he reached the gilt doors of the office, the guards stepped to the side, and the door opened without his having to stop. Those within did not speak until he took the lone seat available.
“You took the boy to the vault?”
“Yes, Chieftain. I told him only that it was normal for Lords to take their Heirs before the purchase of their first wand as ordered. In no way did I indicate that an Heir may not access the vault on their own until they have reached the age of Presentation.” Nagnar worked hard not to fidget from that gaze.
Chief Ragnok nodded approval. “There were no problems with the vault accepting him as Heir?”
“The Vault did not accept him as Heir, Chieftain.” Nagnar lifted his eyes to meet Ragnok’s. “The Vault accepted him as Lord.”
Ragnok’s eyes widened briefly. “The time magic is entrenched in the boy’s core. But there is no trace upon him of the dark magic that would be needed to move one in time by a decade or more.”
The third person in the room tapped his fingers on the desk. “Curious isn’t it cousin? Quite the conundrum so to speak. I am so pleased to have an interesting puzzle to consume my time this year.”
Ragnok rolled his eyes slightly. “Just remember where your first loyalties lie, Filius. The Horde has taken oaths to stamp out the darkest rituals that plagued our past. All rituals requiring human sacrifice must be stopped to protect the very fabric of magic.”
“I take my oaths to the Horde seriously, my Chieftain. I will have ample opportunity during the coming school year to examine the Longbottom boy. If he did participate in a sacrifice, he will not be able to hide it from me. Trust me.”
Nagnar stood when the others moved and waited to be dismissed. He watched as Ragnok gave a quick hug to his cousin before Filius Flitwick headed out the door.
“You have done well, Nagnar. Keep up the instruction. We must be certain before we make any move against a young wizarding lord. War is the last thing we want to court at this time, and the seers are encouraging help and caution toward the boy.” Ragnok motioned in the direction of the door, and Nagnar bowed before leaving.
He blanked his face to hide the pride from the chieftain’s praise and headed toward his office. There are several contracts to review.