evilgoddss: (Harry Potter)
[personal profile] evilgoddss
Well. No, frankly.” Nott scratched his chin. “I can’t say I’ve heard anything bad at all, other than they are tiffed off with the Ministry and Dumbledore for sticking his long whiskered beard into things he ought not. I mean, unless you try to remove Potter from the neighborhood, it’s very ah.. darkly zen. Some of my mates and I theorize it’s to do with Potter. They’re all so focused on the boy, you see, that there’s no time for infighting. The wolves and hags can watch the Potter kid during the day, but the vampires take up night duty. And Merlin help the sod that makes Potter bleed a drop. They bought out two potioneers for all blood replenishers and healing pastes, one day. Because the kid fell off something called a bi-cycle? The lich has Potters relatives trussed up in runes. Overall, they are all very focused on the boy, and terribly protective.” Nott paused, thoughtfully. “You know, I suppose the Dementors moved in shortly after Potter went shopping for school supplies in Knockturn, just before his first year.” - Titus Nott, No Competition Pt 1

Knocturn II - The Economic Cost of Dark Creatures


Woohoo!” Harry screamed joyously, his feet pressing hard on the pedals, and and hands tightening on the handlebar as his new bike sailed through the air after a small ramp jump. He braced his knees, lifted his arse off the seat, and grinned wildly at the ‘bump’ as the wheels hit terra firma. Immediately, two thin but tanned legs pumped feverishly, as he made his way along the trail, preparing for the approaching uphill portion.

He loved his bike. It was like flying, in some ways, though Harry strongly suspected FLYING would be better, and he couldn’t wait to find out if that was true. Unfortunately, Ally wasn’t having any of that in such a small area as Privet Drive, though. She was all for magic, but wasn’t ready to see her pseudo-son darting in the sky on nothing more than a stick with twigs.

Mercifully, Mud had promised to take Harry to the dragon reserve in Romania as a reward for passing his academics, and Harry was confident a bit of broom flying would happen. Mud was convinced his recently discovered parseltongue skills would transfer to speaking with dragons. Another thing Harry couldn’t wait to experiencing. Dragons!

But, his new bike was made of awesome, and he wouldn’t putting it aside just for a broom. It had amazing suspension, the best breaks, and was painted to look like flames. Best of all, it was HIS. There was a lot of things in the world now, truthfully, that he could claim ownership to, and it still, as it did the first time he became aware of it, amazed him. He had his own room, his own bed, his own clothes that fit him, his own books, his own toys, his own seat in the kitchen, his own chores shared with Ally and Jasper. He had his own cauldron at Pru’s house. He had his own etching set for runic studies. And he had his own bike.

Life, he figured, couldn’t get much better than it was now. He didn’t even mind that he no longer saw his Aunt and Uncle – okay, truthfully, he LOVED that he didn’t see them. They were little better than zombies now, after the ‘magical accident’ they had theoretically experienced.

Harry crouched low, and pedaled harder as he reached the crest of the hill. He panted a little, but it was rewarded instantly when he plateaued at the top.

It kinda sucked that everyone – everyone adult, that was – thought he was too stupid to realize the truth. The magical accident his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had experienced hadn’t been any sort of accident at all, and he knew that to the core of his soul. Maybe the Lich thought he wasn’t that far along in his magical studies, but… that was a puzzle to Harry on it’s own, seeing as Mud was one of his primary magical tutors. He could feel magic, sense magic, SEE magic. How did the Lich think he couldn’t see the chains of runes that were somewhat similar to the runes on the Lich’s body, chains enslaving the Dursley’s bodies, but leaving the minds trapped and gibbering inside their heads. For all intents and purposes, Petunia and Vernon were transformed into zombified puppets. Yes, their souls were indeed missing, but not dead or destroyed. Their minds would not have survived had their souls been destroyed.

What stayed his tongue on the subject was just how SATISFIED he felt at it all. He’d had pieces of happiness before the Dursley’s zombification, nice big chunks of happiness, actually, with all the time he spent with Ally and Jasper. It just got better and better since encountering wolfie-Jasper at age 4. Shortly after, Ally had taken up the role of a vengeful mother figure; then came weekend tea with Pru, who told him stories about his paternal family -- albeit his paternal family nearly two hundred years ago. (Pru was convinced he was named after her father, which only endeared Harry more to her.)

Shortly after all that came the rest of the wolves, Judas, and the vampires. And Mud… Mud was awesome. He was so smart, had such a devious sense of humor, and was so patient teaching Harry things about magic.

And of all things, Harry LOVED magic. It was that warmth deep within him, the comfort on cold nights, the soothing coolness on his skin during warm nights. Magic was limitless, and it whispered to him at times.

So, yes, he didn’t regret the Dursley’s zombification, because amazingly, since then, his life had become nearly perfect. Now he LIVED with Ally and Jasper, and he was constantly surrounded by support and love. The only thing that could have made it utterly perfect, would be if he could have Ally and Jasper as his Mum and Dad.

He was good with almost perfect, though, because he really didn't want to be ungrateful for everything they did for him. But, a kid could dream, couldn't he?

The plateau ended in the trail ahead, a sudden drop looming which sent butterflies of thrill through Harry’s tummy. It was like a free-fall… he pedalled just a bit harder.

The scream of hooting joy tore from him as he rolled down the hill, at incredible speed; it echoed in the small valley hiking trail that existed in Little Whinging.

Of course, Murphy, being both Irish and deviously cruel, decided that his peals of joy and the thrill of the ride the lad enjoyed should be opposed by a challenge. As such, a young male adult Gryphon, elected to land right in Harry’s path at the WORST possible moment to investigate the strange sounds.

“Nooo!” Harry’s eyes shot wide, he tried to find a space around the Gryphon, jerking the steering hard to the right, and partially succeeding, but the terrain wasn’t the same as the asphalt, and there was a slight gully hidden by the deeper grass that he wasn’t prepared for. His front wheel hit gully, and the bike flew up in the air throwing Harry off the bicycle. He went flying arse over teakettle a good six feet. After a good couple rolls, Harry ended up flat on his back, groaning. He took a long moment staring at the sun wondering what he had done wrong to earn karmas revenge. His poor bike. His poorer tailbone. Oh, boy, Ally was going to really flip.

Sighing, Harry flipped over to his stomach and surveyed the damage. The bike was somewhat crumpled. The front wheel mangled and the steering column bent completely out of alignment. Six days in his possession, now ruined. His gaze swept past the wreckage and his eyes fell upon the gryphon. From his magical studies you had long since learned about magical creatures. The gryphon was one of the few creatures not native to earth. Rather it had been a construction of wizards. This one appeared to be adult with the mature head and wings of a powerful eagle and the strong body of a lion. It was breathtaking. Oh, and very feral.

The large magical creature took a few steps towards the bike, eyes darting between him and the mangled mess. Gryphons could be fierce predators when defending their territory, mate or nest, but overall, avoided wizards and witches as a rule of thumb. This one had to be fairly young, still. It was curious, more than defensive, and as long as Harry remained a non-threat, it would move to satisfy its curiosity.

Slowly, Harry crawled to his knees, and then pushed upright. He stood to his feet, and took a couple of steps back, not wanting to antagonize a magical creature with talons, a hooked beak, and a powerful hindquarter. Being ripped to shreds was not one of Harry’s life goals.

Mentally, he ran through what he could do to extricate himself and his bike from this situation. Options included: climbing a tree – redundant, since gryphons could fly. He could try hobbling the other way through trees and back towards the residential streets – it wasn’t that far way, the bike train ran mostly around the residential area, but connected into three of the town’s parks, but would the Gryphon pursue? Or, he could just stay still, and use magic if necessary.

Given the Gryphon hadn’t taken any hostile action, and his right leg was throbbing, and torn up a bit – he’d obviously rolled onto a stone or something sharp, since his pants were torn too, he opted for staying still. With that in mind, he gave up on this standing thing, and sank down to sit on the ground, keeping a watchful eye on the feathered danger.

It poked with its beak at the bike, and the metal quite obviously had no reaction. This emboldened the creature enough to walk in a semi-circle around the wreckage, poking at the bike periodically; the curiosity of the gryphon quite wild. It made Harry laugh silently, from where he sat, aching and very watchful.

Satisfied the bike was innert and really, nto worth of its interest, the Gryphon changed its attention to Harry. Eagles, Harry knew from his studies, didn’t have much in the way of sense of smell, poorly developed olfactory glands and their heightened sense of sight gave validation to that. They wouldn’t need to pinpoint a fish at two thousand metres visually, if they could smell prey. So, it wasn’t his scent the bird was noticing. It would the way the breeze moved his hair, the respiration of his chest.

Damn it. He should have hobbled away after all.

Discreetly, Harry dropped his right hand beside him, and let his index finger dig into the dirt, hastily scratching a rune (without seeing it). He let his left hand do the same. And then, slowly leaning forward, he did a third rune. He’d have to leave his back somewhat undefended, not wanting to take his eyes off of the slowly approaching creature. “Unus , duo, tres incipere!” He pushed his magic out, forcing it into the runes. They lit up instantly, and a field of magic formed a rather shoddy, but fundamentally strong enough to resist a push, ward.

The gryphon sank flat on it’s haunches, giving out a strange series of chirps, strange for gentle a sound in such a massive predator. It wasn’t an angry, or hostile sound, rather the chirps seemed curious and puzzled, and surprised. It slunk forward, belly on ground, beak tentatively poking at the ward. It chirped again, backing off and just waiting.

Gamely, Harry took a chance. “Uh, hi?”

The Gryphon gave a trill, bobbing its head.

“Uh… you aren’t going to eat me, are you?”

To Harry’s utter astonishment, the gryphon shook his head in the negative. This was blowing Harry’s wee mind – he couldn’t wait to tell Jasper – Jasper would plutz! For years now, the only sort of creatures that popped up in Little Whinging had been traditional dark creatures. But, a gryphon wasn’t so easily classed. It was like… dragons. Or, despite what most wizards thought, unicorns. So! Very! Cool!

“I’m Harry.” He continued, as if this was an everyday occurrence and he wasn’t about ready to go racing into town and shrieking his geeky joy about having met and conversed with a gryphon. “I’m so pleased to meet you! Seriously, very pleased. I mean, I’ve read about gryphons, in school, you see; I never thought I’d ever get the honor of meeting one!”

The gryphon gave a funny snort of sorts.

“Umm… would you like to come home and meet my family?”

And so, the first ‘beast’ not of humanoid sentience to come to Little Whinging was, contrary to Jasper’s expectations NOT a dragon.

----

Ally Lockwood was in the midst of the spring and summer Argos catalogue, hunting for the perfect birthday gifts for Harry when the lad in question stumbled through the front door, caked in dirt, jeans torn to shred, bruised and very bloody. Her first thought was that new jeans were definitely a must for his birthday list. Her second was that he was bleeding out on her carpets. Thus, with that pairing of thoughts, Ally was inherently proud of herself for not screaming. She was a nurse. Wounded patients were her bailiwick. And she hated that carpet, anyways. She could handle this. He was limping but still breathing and capable of speech, which meant, he’d live.

It was the gigantic gryphon sitting on her front lawn that made her shriek and fall upon her arse. “That. That’s. Harry – no! Absolutely not! No pets! We’ve discussed this, Harry, we can’t bring another pet into the house. We already have Jasper!” She reminded him, finger pointing. ”And for the record, that is not some cute, tiny doe-eyed puppy!”

“He’s just visiting.” Her foster-child said cheerily. “I ran into him when I was out riding.” He paused, his expression falling into dismal tragedy. “Uh, almost literally. The bike didn’t survive the experience.” He told her with big sad green eyes, and the look of a downtrodden wet pup. The big old scrape on his cheek added some authenticity to the look.

“I’m sure we bought it under warranty.” She muttered absently, staring at the eagle-headed gryphon that was poking at the roses in her garden. Not harming them, but definitely sticking his nose -- err—beak into them. Frankly, if he wanted to rip out the dogwood, she’d be fine with that. She hated that damn bush – a gift from her great-aunt when she and Jasper had gotten married. What was wrong with given a big old gaudy silver teapot, dammit? At least that she could have pawned.

“Gryphons are carnivores.” Her foster-son – and Good Merlin, but did she love thinking of that term. HER foster-son. If she had her druthers, he’d be her son – but Mud said they had to wait another year before they could push that through. Harry had to reach the first stage of his claim to his family estate at eleven, and then, if he was adopted, there was nothing the wizard world could do, because his status of heir to House Potter would protect his right to choose his own family.

“Uh-Huh.” Ally tilted her head thoughtfully. The gryphon had amazing colors. Truly beautiful pairings of color in his feathers -- gold, brown and faint hints of blue. What an amazing look it would make in a coat – not the gryphons pelt, but the colors. Or a silk scarf. She nearly swooned at the thought.

“We have those spicy pork sausage you dislike so much.” Harry suggested.

The sausage that Jasper loved, Ally thought with a smirk. It was a splendid good idea, to be honest. Kill two birds with one stone – not that she was trying to kill the gryphon, because she wasn’t. She was of a mind to make friends. And if it liked the sausage, well, there was no accounting for poor taste in birds, now was there? Sometimes, it was like the universe had created Harry and put him in her life just for moments like this. She turned to the lad, wincing at the bruising coming up on his face. “You are so right, luv.” She praised him. “Go scrub up as much you can, and put on a pair of shorts and a clean tshirt – I’ll get the ointment and bandages and patch you up after you introduce me to your feathered friend.” She paused, weather eye casting on the gryphon. “It is a him, isn’t it?”

Harry huffed, folding arms over his chest and looking a tad indignant at the question. “Unlike a puppy, I can’t just lift a gryphon up and a have a look.” He’d been on about a puppy for months now, and it was a subject Ally wasn’t going to back down on. Puppies SHED. Besides, having a puppy dominate Jasper would just be the utter end of her poor husband. And it would happen. As sure as muddy paws.

Ally hummed under her breath, eyebrow arching higher as she studied the gryphon, dismally disappointed to see that the dogwood was still intact. Maybe she ought to start pouring motor oil on it.

“I’ll ask.” Harry sighed, reckoning rightly that a quiet unresponsive Auntie Ally was an Auntie Ally scheming up ways to get the answer to her questions on her own. It was his duty, in Jasper’s absence, to try and keep Auntie Ally out of trouble. Harry frankly thought Jasper expected too much from him.

“Get changed first.” Ally decided, heading towards the kitchen where lived both the damnable sausage that Jasper insisted in throwing into their grocery cart, and her first aid kit. She heard Harry scamper up the stairs, even as she pulled open the refrigerator door and liberated the sausage package already open, and then the freezer to grab the frozen packages, as well as two freezer packs for Harry’s face. She tossed the sausage – frozen and defrosted both, into an aluminum lasagna pan, and then juggling that along with her small bag of bandages, ointments, and other paraphernalia for mending up ragged werewolves and little boys, she met Harry on the front porch.

“This is my foster-mum, Auntie Ally. She’s awesome.” Harry was telling the gryphon. “Seriously, super-awesome I couldn’t ask for a better Mum if I tried.”

Aww, the sweet little ragamuffin – she’d have to see about getting him that trampoline he wanted. He’d just have to get used to jumping on it wrapped up in cotton.

“Ally thought you might like these sausages. If you don’t, let us know – politely – and we’ll see what else we have.” Harry continued on airily, as if he hadn’t crowned her with the “Mum of the Year” tiara. He was such a good, good lad.

“Auntie Ally,” he turned to her, “Come meet my friend. He’s a gryphon…” Harry turned around, “Err, no offence – are you a boy gryphon?”

The gryphon snorted, but nodded.

“Okay, good… I honestly didn’t know. I mean, I suck at telling the gender of snakes too, and kittens. Really bad there.” Harry confided. “So, Auntie – sausage?”

Ally blinked, having been far too memorized by the way the gryphon was non verbally interacting with her foster-son. “Oh.” She stammered. “Yes! Ah, here.” She stepped down, amazed the creature wasn’t attacking her – really, this was too surreal. She set the pan of sausage down with great care, pushing it towards the gryphon with one foot. The head dipped, snagged the pan and pulled it the rest of the way, before dipping in to grab a sausage; it swallowed whole.

“So?” Harry asked.

A soft chirp came by way of reply.

“Okay then!” Harry grinned. “Auntie Ally wants to patch me up, so you eat up, and then… maybe I could show you around? We have some really cool vampires and werewolves here – oh, and my great-aunt Prudence – she’s a hag! And the Lich. He’s the retired headmaster of Scholomance and he’s BRILLIANT!” Harry enthused, stepping backwards until he hit the steps that led to the porch. He sank down onto his bum with a wince.

Ally shook her head, bemused. Only Harry. She turned, but this time towards the driveway, and spotted the ruins of the bike. “Good gravy!” She forced her gaze from the mangled wreck, and onto the boy who had been riding it. “Did you hit your head?” She asked, suddenly anxious. The only way the front wheel and handlebars could look so crumpled is if Harry went flying head over the handlebars…. Dear sweet Merlin! Maybe she should take him to the hospital for an x ray.

“Nope. I ducked and rolled like Phin has been teaching me.” He said, speaking of his hand-to-hand combat lessons with Phineas.

“Are you certain?” She dropped her medical case, and began gently palpitating limbs, noting wincing, but never hearing him breathe in sharply or cry out in pain. “You’re never riding a bike again unless wearing a helmet.” She swore quietly, finding a scrape on his ear of all places. That wasn’t to say he wasn’t scrapped up elsewhere. His knee was a swollen mess of bruises and scrapes. His left shin looked like he had dragged it over asphalt for a mile or two. He hadn’t cracked his collarbone, from what she could tell, but his back was already starting to bruise. What a splendid mess. He wasn’t going to be fit for walking, much less running come the morning.

“Oh, Fiery Hell – that’s a gryphon!” Judas the Damned suddenly shouted.

“We know.” Harry called out. “He followed me home.”

Judas stepped around the creature, giving it a hugely wide berth by using the Lich’s lawn, and came over to the steps, eyes firmly on the large gryphon that was lying sphinx-like on the lawn, with an empty aluminum pan between its front limbs. “Dear sweet hellfire, kid – couldn’t you find a kitten instead to bring ho…” He was just about to finish his statement, when Judas turned to look at Harry. Ally, who was dabbing ointment on his left shin, was paying the vampire no mind at all, just muttering about helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, and hockey protective equipment as she did so. “What the hell happened to you?” The vampire was sitting on the step beside Harry, sniffing around. “You didn’t try fighting that critter, did you?”

Ally snorted. “No. He wrote off his bike making friends with the gryphon, instead.”

“You’re a mess, Hadrian! An utter bloody mess….” Judas shook his head. “Leave off with your muggle ointments, Allison. I’ll send the minions out for bruise balm and the like, before our little Dark Lord bleeds out. It’ll heal him up in a jiff.” He pulled a mirror out of a pocket, a ridiculously oversized mirror better suited for a theatre production of Snow White than a vampire’s pockets, but with a few short words, he had his second, Phineus on the screen, and was issuing instructions.

Ally sank back to sit on her ankles. “Oh, thank goodness… I’ve been meaning to make some balm up, but it stinks up the house something dreadful.”

The vampire smiled, his fangs on full glorious display. “No worries, poppet. That’s why I have minions, lots and lots of minions. Do feel free to order them around when you need anything.”

(It should be noted, that the ninety-three or so vampires running around Little Whinging developed an incredible shiver down their immortal spines at precisely that moment, and had no idear why. It was thought by some to be an effect of that blood keg of the night before… Lucas had sworn it tasted off anyway… and brushed off as unimportant. Other far older vampires knew it to be a premonition of great evil.)

--

Lindham’s Apothecary, established in 1812, was a grand old store in Diagon Alley. Well respected, with buffed wooden floors, good air filtration, and skilled potioneers providing their wares which were displayed on custom temperature controlled shelving, they did brisk business and had been in the black, on their books that is, for the past one hundred and seventy-six years. Brandon Lindham had grown up in the store, with his Da and Grandad teaching him everything about the business ever since he started toddling. He was a steady man, sole owner since his Da’s passing, in his mid-forties, and not one given to panic.

Of course, there was panic and then there was, “Merlin save me!” hysteria.

Today was a definite dayfor hysterics. “I.. they came in a swarm.” He told the young dark skinned auror. “A swarm! There must have been thirty vampires in my store, just appearing out of nothing – they cleaned me out of bruise balm, and then came another batch purchasing all of my blood replenishing potions, and then more grabbing the ingredients to make both. I know it was vampires – they had red eyes and fangs – but I think they were foreign. Their skins were tanned, you see.”

Kingsley Shacklebolt hadn’t been an Auror for much more than two years, but even he was somewhat jaded by babbling witnesses. “In total, how many vampires were in your shop today?” He asked calmly.

Brandon ran two shaky hands through his thinning hair. “I… ninety? And then there were the werewolves. I think they were wolves. The vampires seemed friendly with them, or at least, a friendly rivalry.”

That would be the day. Wolves and Vampires were known to be long-standing enemies.

“I heard one of them ask if the entire pack was in the Alley, and the reply was obviously not. That they couldn’t all come, the Alley wasn’t big enough for them all. The Alpha only permitted sixty of them to come to Hogsmede and Diagon for the potions.” Brandon visibly shook. “Can you imagine? That’s only a portion of a werewolf pack? SIXTY is a portion of a pack?”

“They didn’t harm you?” Kingsley made the statement a question.

“No. No. But… my stock is… depleted.” Brandon looked around his glaringly empty apothecary. When he’d sold out of bruise balm, and blood replenishing potions, they had bought the ingredients, and then the tools, and then the other potions. One vampire had bought the eye-repair potion – which BOGGLED Brandon’s mind. Vampire had perfect vision!

“But they paid, didn’t they?” The auror sought clarification.

“Oh yes.” Brandon nodded, gaze absent. “Full price even.”

“Then there are no problems here.” Kingsley concluded. “No one was hurt, no one was robbed, no damage was done.”

Brandon looked around in empty askance at his empty shelves. It was the swarming of so many dark creatures that had undone him, Kingsley understood. If they had any hostile attempt, Lindham wouldn’t have had a chance. Patting the troubled wizard on the shoulder, Kingsley closed his notepad, and left the shop.

Mad-Eye was standing near the center of Diagon Alley, Aurors approaching him to give a quick verbal report before heading out to the next retailer. Kingsley joined the queue. It was the same story, over and over again, approximately ninety vampires, and some sixty or so werewolves, all of them descending within the same thirty minutes and proceeding to clean out the apothecaries, herbalists, and potioneers of Diagon Alley. Further, from what Kingsley heard Mad-Eye report, Hogmead and Kirkcaldy was also hit hard.

What the hell was going on?

---

They closed the site early, not something Jasper worried about at all, given they were about four weeks ahead. Werewolves made awesome construction workers. They were brawny, and quick, and hungry for work after decades of struggling. Many of them were skilled enough wizards to use their magic to make things a bit easier. A little feather-light on beams, a bit of levitation on parts… and it made the job go a lot faster.

The wards the Lich had taught him for the site made a big difference too. No risk of break in or vandalism with the wards up. It didn’t hide the construction job, but it gave the urge for those not connected to the ward-stone to just walk away. The drop off point for the materials coming in by lorry was of course excluded from the ward.

So, letting the boys go to scratch their itch wasn’t a problem. Rather, what sucked was that Jasper himself couldn’t leave until everyone else had. The burdens of responsibility. And he really, REALLY, wanted to go check on the pup himself! “You’re sure he’s okay?” He asked his wife again, the phone on speaker and making her voice a little bit tinny.

“He’s fine. We have bruise balm, and Pru gave him a muscle-relaxing potion.” Ally assured him. “The bike, on the other hand, is quite dead.”

“Ah, well. I’ll have one of the boys scoop it up. We’ll replace it on the sly and call it magic.” Jasper said. “I’ll be home as soon as I can. Anything I need to pick up? Icepacks? Bandages? Chicken soup?”

“Hmm?” The distraction in Ally’s voice didn’t bring him any degree of comfort. A distracted Ally was a dangerous Ally. It invited trouble into their world. And really, Little Whinging was troublesome enough.

“Ally, love, do I need to pick anything up?” He spaced the words out to assist in her comprension.

“Four roasts -- large ones, would be nice.”

He blinked, spinning around to stare in askance at the phone. “What?”

“Four beef roasts.” She said primly. “Sirloin tip, if it’s all the same. Buy more if they are on sale.”

“Do we have guests? Oh, lord and lady -- tell me your Da and Grandad aren’t coming over!” He pleased. He loved his in laws, he did indeed, but he liked a bit of advance warning before they descended. Time enough to hide things like -- the Lich. The zombified Dursleys. The nearly three hundred vampires in Little Whinging. Prudence, and her visiting Auntie. (And wasn’t her Auntie enough to give him fits. He thought Judas was a nightmare -- Baba Yaga made Judas look like a Saint.)

What disturbed Jasper was how GOOD he had gotten at hiding the evidence of dark creatures. The phone tree of Anton’s was a blessing. One call to the tree, and word was out.

However, phone trees only worked if everyone was home to take the call. And with a third of the back scouring England for bruise balm and whatnot, that wasn’t going to work.

“No… well. One sorta guest. But, not really. Harry’s made a new friend.” Ally reported absently. “Just… well. Pick up the roasts, Jasper. Oh, and five lamb chops.”

---

Lucius Malfoy sauntered into the Minister of Magic’s office with arrogant casualty. His long blond hair swept back, and his elegant robes pressed perfectly so that the folds fell to show off his strong shoulders, and slim build. With the slight tilt of his head, and turn of his body to best show off the robes ( a trick he learned in Milan) arrogance and elegance fought for dominance. “Cornelius, I understand there was a bit of a ruckus in Diagon today.” He said, as if the Minister reported to him.

“Oh, my, Lucius – ruckus? I’m afraid you severely understate the situation.” Fudge wringed his hands, clearly very upset. His florid face was paler than norm, and the pacing back and forth gave clear frustration and stress the Minister was under. “This is a disaster, Lucius! An utter disaster! We were invaded by dark creatures, and then I learn that we weren’t just invaded – they cleaned us out!”

Lucius eyes widened. “Minister, surely you misunderstand…I know for a fact that the volume of dark creatures in Knockturn has dropped significantly. I believe they have fled our shores, given the light and guided goodness of our Ministry.”

Fudge shook his head. “No, no, no signs of portkey or international apparition. Worse, my revenues are down twenty-eight percent, Lucius. TWENTY-EIGHT PERCENT! That’s approximately thirty-nine millions galleons lost, because the werewolves, vampires and hags have left Knockturn. We’ve lost retail income taxes, personal income taxes, rental income… it’s a nightmare.

Lucius manfully withheld rolling his eyes. “Might I seek clarification, Minister? Which are you more upset about – the loss of tax revenue, or the deluge of dark creatures on Diagon Alley?”

Fudge looked like a fish out of water, unable to prioritize his concerns.

“Might I suggest, we locate where the dark creatures have fled. Perhaps, if they are still living on British soil we can then make a case that they have clearly failed to pay their taxes. I see penalties therein, Cornelius. Lots of penalties. Moreover, if we can identify the individuals, you could place a lien on their Gringotts accounts for the amounts owing. Consider it.” Lucius suavely advised.

Fudge chewed on his finger. “Yes.” He thought, eyes glazed with greed. “Penalties. Lots and lots of penalties.”

“IF they live on British soil.” Lucius reiterated. It was more a case of curiosity for himself. The runemaster Heinrich had closed up shop, and no one knew where he had gone, nor did anyone know where the Hag of the Shoddy Inn had moved. Her venue had served as an excellent base for some of his more clandestine meetings. Remarkably, under the hag’s iron fist, it was a safe place for a wizard to meet a dark creature and do business. Now, however, there was no safety. The Shoddy Inn lay abandoned, and the only beings trundling in and through it were not the type to agree to parlay.

“Oh, of course – but they must, mustn’t they? If they didn’t come from international portkeys or apparition…” Fudge trailed off. “I shall form an inquest!” He decided. “We shall identify where these dark creatures came from, how to contain the situation, and recover the missing tax dollars!”

Lucius smirked. How narrow minded the Minister was. If they contained the dark creatures, how would they earn income to pay taxes? In truth, it was Dumbledore’s stratagem to control those not of ‘the Light’, and all it did was weaken their economy terribly. Lucius scarcely feared. His monies were earned from international connections. The Malfoys could weather this storm.

--

Suffice it to say, Harry, while grateful for the care and love being shown him by… well, everyone, he was quite done in by it all. “Seriously,” he said to Mud, “They can all go home. I’m okay. My friend, the gryphon, is okay…”

“You could have broken your neck.” The ancient Lich said. “And then where would we be?”

Harry blinked. “Well,” He said slowly, “As per your theories, you’d have a young dark lord with a broken neck who should be dead, but isn’t.”

The Lich’s jaw tightened. It might have been a grimace, but without facial musculature and skin, it was very hard to tell. There were drawbacks to securing your immortality through soul jars. In dark ritual, the mortal soul was removed and frozen into a moment, while the skin and organs of the body wither and die. Something about it all didn’t appeal to Harry, and as such, Harry made mental note not seek immortality on the grounds of he liked breathing. Like, really breathing. Respiration in all its glory.

“The theory has not been yet proved, little Prince.” The Lich said after a long pause. “And your connection to death,” His bony index finger stroked gently along Harry’s scar, “is one such theory not yet proven. On or after your eleventh birthday we can deal with that scar, and the truth will be revealed.”

“Pru says it’s a soul shard from Voldemort.” Harry scowled, he hated that thought. It made him feel dirty.

The Lich hummed. “Perhaps.” The skeletal sorcerer looked out to the full yard of werewolves and vampires; someone had shown initiative and rolled out a few kegs of beer, wine and bloodwine. The trick was not to accidentally drink the bloodwine. It was definitely an acquired taste.

The gryphon was clearly being influenced by the wild magic in the area. It had relaxed tremendously, far more than the Lich could believe possible. Surrounded by humanoids that had been known to hunt their kind, it should have panicked and flown away. Instead, it was at the heart of the party, dining down on roasts that Allison had ordered Jasper to bring home.

They would need to speak to the butcher about securing large sources of meat for the beast if it intended to stay. He slanted his glowing gaze to the nearly ten year old boy beside him. Hadrian had grown much in the past few years. He was slender, but tall for his age group. Strong in body and spirit, and very magically adept, which surprised the Lich not at all. The child was a dark lord, of course learning magic would come naturally. He was a sponge, soaking in the magic constantly, small wonder he should master it.

The results of his fall today had been the scourging of Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, and Kirkcaldy of every potion they could land their hands on, and potion supplies, as well as cauldrons, scales, stirrers, and measuring cups. They’d also kidnapped one Severus Snape, a young potion master whose vitriol that had caught the attention and interest of several werewolves. His language and poor manners, however had caused Snape to be trussed up, silenced, and blindfolded and left to sit on the Lich’s front porch. The Lich intended to merely obliviate the man and send him back to Hogsmeade. Kidnapping him had been an action of an over-eager and foolish werewolf.

Jasper was wandering around, dazed under the input of a calming draft. The man truly was easily excitable, unlike his rather pragmatic wife. Allison was a touch naive, but like the rest of the Black family, inherently ruthless.

“Do you think he’ll stay?” the little prince asked, eyes fixed on the gryphon.

“Probably.” The Lich grunted. “Didn’t we all?”

“Yes!” A new voice popped in, “And don’t I find it curious!” A male, with short dark hair, deep green eyes, and a wild grin seemed to step out of nothingness. He looked around, one eyebrow arching as he spotted the gryphon accepting scratches on his hindquarters from a vampire. “This is different,” He said admiringly.

“Lucifer.” The Lich sighed. “You’re supposed to give warning when you come and visit. So we can hide the livestock.”

The man, named Lucifer, airily waved his hand in dismissal. “Pish.” He said blandly. “You wouldn’t own goats if your life depended on it.”

Harry leaned forward in interest. “Are you the devil Lucifer? The fallen angel?” He asked with a hint of excitement in his voice.

The fallen angel in question straightened his shoulders and puffed up his chest. “I am.” He gifted Harry with a movie-star smile, the one of a snake-oil salesman. “And you are?”

“Harry Potter.”

“Hadrian James Peverell.” The Lich corrected abruptly. “We’ve had this conversation, lad. You can’t go around being called the Dark Lord Harry. It’s tacky. Dark Lord Hadrian sounds…”

“Manly.” Lucifer nodded. “I agree. It’s a name with power, energy. It can inspire terror. So.” He studied Harry with a little more interest. “You’re the little dark lord.” He shifted, eyes scanning every inch of Harry. “Awfully pure soul in that one for a dark lord.”

“Taste his magic.” The Lich suggested in a tone that gave clear indication that if he had traditional human eyes, he’d be rolling them. And then look at the magic around the town.

The devil gave a sniff in Harry’s general direction, eyes narrowing, and glowing, as he spun around and did a semi-circle. “Is that Judas?” He asked suddenly. “Doing jello-shots?” He huffed, spinning around. “Why wasn’t I invited? I LOVE jello-shots!”

“We didn’t know you’d slipped your cage.” The shrug was a bit hollow, lacking muscle tone to give it pronouncement, but the Lich managed all the same.

“Bah.” Lucifer sniffed in disgust. “Like Dad’s old cage was anything to hold me in. I skip out of it regularly, and you know that. Who do you think has been minding Scholomance since you’re sudden retirement -- which I so did not approve!”

The Lich shrugged again to convey his indifference.

“So. A mini-me. A little dark lord. You must tell the Lich to do something about that nasty soul shard in your scar. It stinks something wretched, and frankly, I think I should have dominion over trained souls. I am the devil after all. But, aside from that...” The devil moved quickly, coming up to Harry’s other side and dropping down to sit. “Tell me, how do you feel about world domination?”

Harry blinked, but was saved by Judas from answering.

“LUCKY! Darling! You’re here!” The vampire crowded into their little group, shoving a jello-shot into the fallen angel’s hand.

“I wasn’t invited.” Lucifer muttered sulkily, but still taking the shot, and pulling it close to his body for protection.

“You never are, darling.” Judas assured him with wide eyes and a vapid grin, “But, no one invites the devil to their party. It’s just assumed he’ll show.”

Lucifer considered that, and brightened. “Yeah!” He threw back the shot, and shuddered.

“Mixed with fire-whisky for a bit extra kick.” Judas was telling the Lich. “It’ll put hair on his chest.”

“Can I have one?” Harry asked.

Two adult voices, the Lich and Judas, immediately said, “No.” The devil, being the devil, of course said, “Sure!”

“Two to one. Motion denied.” Lich summarized in case the little prince wanted to capitalize on rank, rather than volume. Harry was crafty like that.

“Oh.” The lower lip pouted out, and slump was a trifle overdone.

It was of course, to this picture of miserable dejection that Jasper had the ill-fortune of appearing. “Hey, you okay, pup? Need more pain-relief potion? We’ve got plenty.” The sandy-haired giant crouched in front of the boy, and gave the pout a good look. “Don’t worry about the bike.” He assumed that was the cause of pouting.

“I’m sorry for breaking it.” Harry mumbled.

The Lich, beside the boy, snickered at the child’s quick shift to opportunism, but waved off Jasper’s inquiring glance. He would not betray the little dark lord.

“Accidents happen. Usually with cars, not gryphons, but I think we should be glad it wasn’t a car.” Jasper ruffled Harry's messy head. “Ally’s got Phin manning the barbecue. Do you want a hot dog or a hamburger?”

“Hamburger.” The lad decided after a moment. “Should I help Phin?”

Jasper shrugged. “Only if you don’t want charred meat.”

The pint-sized dark lord jumped up to his feet, and run off. Jasper took the moment to glance at Judas, frown, and then spot the newcomer. “Oh, hey -- I don’t think we’ve met.” He rose to his feet with slow easy grace.

“We haven’t.” Lucifer smiled slowly. “But, would you be Jasper? Judas has been telling me ALL about you.”

The half-smile on Jasper’s face fell immediately. “Uh. None of it is true.”

Lucifer cocked his head to the side, “Oh, I don’t know. I’m Lucifer -- the devil, yes. And you, Jasper Lockwood have a spectacular arse. Seriously, spectacular. MmmmMmmMm! I'd like to tap that! So, tell me how do you feel about a ménage-a-la-devil?”

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