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The Lord of Tang by tgfoy
Chapter 7 : Octo Equestrian and Twin Power.
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 7

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Disclaimer: I know I say it every time (or similar at least), but Anything you recognise from her books belongs to JKR, I make no claim at all on it. Anything else is from my own strange imagination.

Chapter 7

10th Century

The visit of his former student had left Salazar unsettled; he sat pondering what he had gleaned from the man's comments and behaviour He had chosen to sit at his desk in his new office in what his students had already called the dungeons of the castle. The windowless room suited him; it was well lit by torches and a fire roared in the fireplace. The shelves held hundreds of books, his own collection, alongside many of the samples he had collected over the years. There were three doors leading from the room, one onto the corridor and the rest of the castle, one into the common room of his house, the other to his private quarters, but it was this room that was his sanctuary where he created his potions, planned lessons, thought and that was certainly what he needed to do now.

It had been obvious to him that Styr, King of Jorvik, had been preoccupied, as he had viewed the school. The man had not been interested in the subjects taught, or even the accommodation his son would occupy whilst the boy attended. He had shown interest in the structure of the castle, not the undeniable fact that it was unusual and should inspire awe in anyone seeing it for the first time, but rather in it's strategic position on the hill, the thickness of the doors and walls as well as how it was protected. Salazar had not revealed the nature of the wards they had set just the night before, but had assured his former student of the safety of his son, but this appeared not to reassure him. What was his pupil up to? He knew Styr was ambitious and anyone who could take a throne the way he had must be ruthless, but surely he wasn't behind the treatment of wizard kind in Northumbria. Yes he had killed his squib brother, but that wasn't surprising, Salazar would have done the same in Styr's place. It was, in his opinion, shameful to have such weakness in the family, worse even than having muggle ancestry. No he was sure the King valued Magical blood, Utred was walking proof of that. Hadn't the boy been spared when Styr had usurped his brothers’ throne? The boy had arrived with his families’ horde intact after all, even though the family lands had been taken. After five years at the school the boy, even under Gryffindors tutelage surely understood the importance of a wizard being King and how misguided his father had been to support the squib.

Once Salazar had returned the King to his palace though, the man had still tried to get information about where the location of the castle was; this had really raised alarm bells. Did his former student not trust him to care for his boy? Was it not enough to know that the wards were the most secure that that could be provided? Why was he so, insistent in his need to know where the school was? This had been when Salazar's in built alarms had sounded loudly. Certainly he had suspected his first students motives during the tour, but had put that down to the in built self protection he himself had and had nurtured in his student those years ago. It was now he was sure his doubts had merit beyond what he had thought, though precisely what the man's plan was he had no idea. Salazar had quickly made his excuses and left to ponder events in the sanctuary of his office. His doubts soon gave way as he justified the actions of the man who had been more than a student to him; during the years of the apprenticeship they had become friends. Perhaps not trusting each other completely, to do so would have been to allow weakness, it was another of Salazar's maxims born of his experiences in life, he had long ago learned to trust no one totally, others could use that trust against you. His arguments with the other three here at Hogwarts demonstrated the necessity of keeping that in mind, these were the three, apart from Styr, he had come closest to allowing himself too trust completely. Yet they had foolishly ignored his warnings of the dangers of teaching the muggle born, placing magical folk in further danger. They could not see that Muggle born witches and wizards who had not been brought up knowing the risks of being magical, could easily let slip the secrets of the world they were creating where Pure bloods would instinctively guard them, only he could see this and therefore the necessity of restricting their teachings to those of magical blood. Perhaps one day they could cope with others, but not now when their loyalty could not be guaranteed. Styr had always remained loyal to him, as much as his ambition allowed, that did not mean that now he was King having to tolerate some mad Christian archbishop, he would betray Slytherin or his people, just as the arguments with Godric, Rowena and Helga did not mean Salazar would betray them or the school. Yet still Salazar felt lingering doubts, not everything could be so easily dismissed about the King, after all he was his Master's student.

Utred had remained blissfully unaware that the man who had ordered his family's murder had been in the school. Styr the Usurper, as he and his friends had called him, was the last thing on his mind as he enjoyed dismantling the long house that had been his home for five years. Erik and Ulf were working with muggle tools while Utred and his house mates used their wands to remove the thatch and planks and stack them in what, until last night, had been the schools Great Hall. The members of each founder’s house worked on their own house, they had all been well rested in their new accommodations within the castle the night before following the festivities and excitement of their first night in a new place. There would be another, smaller, celebration this evening, this time marking the end of the old school, the centre piece of which would be the burning of the Hall with the components of the other four houses in it. For the Creaftas though the highlight would be when everyone returned to the castle and the prank they had planned for years, their biggest prank so far would finally activate.

The atmosphere amongst Gryffindors students was light, they were teasing and joking with each other as they worked, and minor pranks were being played on each other as to break up their time. They had simply climbed up over the house and started work enthusiastically; the long house was quickly disappearing, as they ripped into the timbers. This was in contrast to the other houses, the Slytherins, for example, worked slowly, in disgusted silence as usual when manual work was expected from them, it was well known they thought Pure Bloods such as themselves were above such menial work. The Ravenclaws worked methodically, discussing the solutions to each problem between themselves before starting, then efficiently dividing the work between them. The Hufflepuffs had also put their heads together before starting work, then worked meticulously all together on the same task before progressing to the next.

The following day work would begin on a stone replacement for the old lodge that Utred had arrived in. The replacement would still be where Ulf and Erik lived, but it was time to replace the timber structure next to the lake, if the Gryffindors finished early, as their chaotic, but fun approach seemed to indicate, then they had said they would start on the work today. The Creaftas, being the earliest of Gryffindors students, were looked up to by their house mates and had instilled a love of creativity in them. As student leaders of the house, they took their responsibility seriously, taking care of the younger students, who looked to the Creaftas for guidance, but all were keen to start a new building project and so worked quickly to demolish their old home.

Shortly before they were due to break for lunch the Gryffindors had almost flattened their long house, only the large uprights of the frame remained in place, these tree trunks were set deeply in the ground, the four largest set at each corner. Once the remaining pile of planks and thatch had been cleared from between them the Gryffindors were planning a race between four teams of themselves to flatten the largest poles. The Creaftas and their ladies would of course be one team, Ulf, Erik and Godric were going to referee the race, no magic was allowed of course, though muggle tools were. In the meantime they were all moving the debris and stacking it in the central long house. The other three houses had barely completed removing the roofs of their houses when a low continuous rumbling sound came from the direction of the village.

“Durslieg's hungry again.” Quipped Tigelwotta for the merriment of those nearby.

The rumbling continued, a constant drone coming closer.

“Sounds more like horses, lots of them, moving fast” Ulf observed.

“Someone's coming then, in a hurry too, by the sounds of it.” Utred commented and turned to a nearby student. “Fetch Godric quickly, tell him we have unexpected visitors coming.”

The youngster ran towards the castle, but didn't need to go in as the tall figure of Godric Gryffindor appeared at the door. He nodded to the boy then strode towards his students. “I doubt its anything to worry about, but be ready in case,” he instructed.

The Gryffindors withdrew their wands, Ulf and Erik drew their swords, and the students from the other houses noticed them readying themselves in case of an attack, stopped work and gathered forming a barrier across the lawns, wands drawn alongside their schoolmates. They may have rivalry between the houses, but when it counted they all knew they would unite against any threat to the school, even the haughty Slytherin's. As they watched, a cloud of dust rose above the trees between the school and Hogsmeade, the sound was getting louder.

“At least fifteen I would say from the sound of it.” Ulf told Utred. “Moving very fast too, if it's an attack watch yourself my Lord.”

Utred nodded as his two sworn men took defensive positions on either side of him and the Creaftas formed a tight group around them, in case those approaching charged at them and got through the barrier they could cast with their wands.

The dust cloud reached the gate, moving faster than Utred thought was possible for horses, thick near the ground the particles rising like a dirty cloud in a plume behind it appeared to be rolling quickly across the ground. It veered from the track to the main door towards them, the sound of the hooves dulled over the grass as it slowed, but continued to approach the defensive line of students, The dust cloud began to dissipate, revealing six pure white, very large rider less horses Gryffindor sheathed his wand raised his hands, palms forward and took three steps forward, the equine continued to slow, their legs still a blur of motion, the sound like thunder. The white horses drew to a halt a few yards in front of Gryffindor; they truly were massive beasts, towering above him as he stood before them. Their silvery manes thick and luxurious, the thin gossamer like strands dancing in the slightest breeze on their necks as they tossed their heads and whinnied, flicking their long tails. Sweat was running down their bodies and their nostrils flared as they drew air in and tried to calm themselves from what had obviously been a long gallop. As magnificent a sight as this was, it was not the size or beauty of the equine that caused all the students to gasp, for as they halted their legs had become visible. Each one had not four, but eight, these were not horses, they were Sliepnir.

Every student, whether magical or muggle born, had heard of Odin's eight legged steed, they were part of the mythology of that god, none however had believed them to be real, yet here at this magical place were six of them. Even the staff that had been in the castle and had rushed out to see what was happening had stopped in their tracks at the top of the steps to gaze open mouthed at the newcomers. The sound of heavy footfall behind them broke the awed chatter amongst the students that had grown in the moments since the Sliepnir had arrived. One of the Centaurs made his stately way towards Gryffindor.

“Godric, if I may?” His deep booming voice sounded.

Gryffindor nodded as the six large white heads turned towards the Centaur. “Of course, your assistance would be most welcome Thane.” Godric agreed.

Everyone watched as the single centaur and the Sliepnir appeared to hold a quiet conversation. After a few moments the Centaur turned to the founder. “Godric, the Octo-equine, as we know them, are relieved to have reached their intended destination at last, it has been a long journey they set off yesterday and have not stopped until they arrived. They recall well meeting you many moons ago, during your apprenticeship, when there were many more of their kind, since then they have been hunted almost to extinction and seek sanctuary in your lands, which they heard had become a refuge for magical beings of all kinds. They are the last remaining of their species and wish to live the last of their days in safety.”

Godric nodded “Please tell them they are welcome, I well remember my time with their kind and it is a pleasure to renew our acquaintance, we are honoured by their presence. They may join you in the forest or live with our horses in the stables where Ulf and Erik will assist them with whatever they need.”

A brief conversation took place as Thane relayed the information to the Sliepnir. When it was over he spoke again.

“They understand you Godric, though they request I continue to speak for them until they can re attune their talents to communicate with you directly, a service I am happy to provide for them. They would welcome room in the stables and the opportunity to graze the grass again untroubled; they only resided in woodland when forced from their grazing lands. “

“As they wish.” Godric bowed, “I shall brief Erik and Ulf, all we ask in return is that they become part of our community with all the rights and responsibilities that entails.”

“They have already agreed to that and are willing to work for our community once rested.” The Centaur responded. “Ulf, Erik would you lead the way?”

The two muggles nodded to Thane and turned towards the stables, the Sliepnir followed, with the Centaur bringing up the rear.

As the odd procession disappeared the students returned to work, except those of Gryffindors own house who gathered round him? He raised his hand to prevent questions as the staff joined them. “Well that was unexpected, but we have six very rare new arrivals.” he smiled as they arrived.

“Were those really what they appeared to be Godric, I never imagined Sliepnir really existed?” Hufflepuff asked amazed.

“They were indeed Helga, the very last of their kind though it appears the Centaurs know them by a different name.” Godric assured her.

“Are you sure there are no more?” Ravenclaw asked.

“So they told me Rowena.” Godric suddenly looked sad. “ There were only about thirty when Merlin introduced me to their colony in Wales, the last place they could be found. They are of course only found in Britain, none have been found in any other country and they would know if there were any. They only usually gather in family groups of a few, they can live in woodland, but prefer isolated open space, miles from other groups. They must have gathered for protection from being hunted. They are all telepathic within their species, though given time they can extend that talent to be able to communicate with humans. They can sense each other, if there were more anywhere they would know, it must have been so painful for them feeling the deaths of the others.”

“Godric they may breed now they are here, it may not be the end of their line, and they are a very powerful magical species after all.” Salazar tried to assure his friend.

“No my friend that is impossible, when these six die then there will be none left and there is no possibility that they could breed again.” Tears were on Godric's face at this tragedy.

“Surely they might Godric, I will need to learn their physiology, like I have with so many of the species that have arrived, perhaps some of my medicinal potions will help.” Hufflepuff said laying a caring arm on his shoulders and hugging him.

It was indeed true that Helga Hufflepuff was the medical expert at the castle and was the healer for all the occupants of the school and grounds. She had learnt about each species ailments and how to treat them as they had arrived. She had even managed to find a potion to help Kneazles breed again having discovered that the colony, the last they knew of, that lived here had not reproduced for many years. It was this that gave her hope she might do the same for the Sliepnir, but Godric shook his head. “No Helga that won't be possible, these last six are all males my dear.”

Those present realized then why Gryffindor cried, this would be the last home of this wondrous creature before it became extinct, the first magical breed to disappear completely for over a millennia. It was therefore a very sombre group that led the other students into the castle for lunch a few minutes later.

After his old mentor had left him at his palace King Styr of Northumbria had shut him self away to think about everything he had seen. There was no question in his mind that his son would not be attending that school, it was too risky with Utred there. The Huntrodds runt was not supposed to have survived, never mind flourished and here was no doubt that in the last few years Utred had grown, he would be a formidable warrior if his stature was anything to judge by. Unless he could be sure the landless Lord was ignorant of who had killed his parents then Thorfin would be in danger. Although the idea of having his son on the inside of the school was appealing, perhaps he would then learn of its location and any weaknesses in it as well. A spy there could be useful, that was undeniable, but was the risk worth it, especially to his son.

Around mid morning he entered his Great Hall for the daily court, held to hear the disputes between his subjects, it was up to him to pass judgement on them. Most of the cases were simple, land disputes, disagreements between families who either wanted to arrange marriages, for their offspring or default on one for some reason or another. There were even one or two thefts from city stalls and disagreements between traders this morning to break the monotony of the hour long custom. Still nothing could take his mind off the events of that morning, the castle, a community of wizards, one a possible threat to him, but still out of the way for the present. He would need patience if he were to take it, the school would make a great prize to add to his status, but he had no idea how to capture it without having to give it over to the church even if he knew where it was. Still it would be an ideal prize to take, exactly what he needed to prove his worth to the church.

His mind was still on the problem as the court ended and he returned to his family's quarters where he ate a distracted lunch. He ignored his wife's ramblings as he tried to think of a plan to capture the massive stone building, if he could find it. The thick stonewalls would withstand any attack he could mount, no matter the strength of his army, and those were just the defences he could see. He wondered what the nature of the magical defences were, probably aimed against muggles finding it he guessed, that would be a problem, his army could not attack what they could not see. Salazar had given so little away, if he were honest he was disappointed that his old friend could not see the importance of the King proving himself to the Christian leaders. So what if a few magical students might be killed, there were more important things to consider, no he would receive no help there. At least he had the afternoon to work things through with no disturbances, he must find a way of first locating the wizard school then capturing it for himself, the defeat of such a large community of wizards in one swoop would impress the Archbishops, gifting the crown of England to him.

He was drawn from his thought as one of his servants approached him, he indicated for the man to speak.

“My Lord, a messenger from the Archbishops house is here, you are summoned to attend Hrothweard this afternoon.”

The King frowned, he had been summoned very few times to attend the Archbishop in the last five years, it was more usual that the senior priest in the city would come here. The first time he had been summoned to the house behind the Minster was just after he had become King. That was to receive instructions to raise taxes so the Archbishop could build a shrine to some saint or other. The shrine was still under construction and the saints’ earthly remains, which were to be entombed in the shrine, were being stored at Onripum. The King shivered as he recalled having to kiss the preserved lips of the cadaver as part of his coronation, the fact that the flesh was so well preserved indicated to him that the Saint the Christians revered so much, had in fact been a wizard in life. The body had been carried all over the north of England for many years after it's original shrine had been destroyed in a raid. During that time it had been a trophy, leading the Christians into battle, though it was now a number of years since it had been placed in the safe keeping of the church at Onripum whilst the new shrine was built. It had been brought to Jorvik for the coronation, that was the last time it had journeyed, fulfilling the churches tradition that a new King show homage to a Saintly relic and therefore their God before they gave them their blessing.

The only other time he had been required to journey the streets of the city to attend the Archbishop had been so he could demand re enforcements be sent to aid the King of Wessex. This he had, had to do to maintain the support of the church, though it left Northumbria vulnerable at the time.

Whatever the reason the pompous fool wanted him this time, he could not refuse the summons. To do so would remove any chance he had of reaching his goal, he had to play his part well, at least in the eyes of the Archbishop who he had spent many days convincing to allow the churches warriors to fight under his banner and allow him to take the throne from his brother.

“Very well, have my horse prepared.” The King sighed.

The slave bowed and left the room as well as a thoughtful King. Had the church already decided? Was he about to loose his throne so soon? This was his worry every time Hrothweard appeared before him, or even at his side as a supposed trusted advisor. The King gave every appearance of taking the man's counsel, to fail to do so would be seen to refuse the advice of God in the Christians eyes. All his household knew to act loyal to the church, even though none of them were Christians themselves, their only loyalty was to him, he had made sure of that. Still he had to answer the call. He left his family to change into his finest clothing for the ride through the cities streets, another thing he only did when necessary.

The talk of the school was the new arrivals, especially with the younger students; Utred and the Creaftas were plotting how to fell the pole they had selected in the most entertaining way possible. The race to fell the uprights had been their idea, and supported by all the Gryffindors, each welcoming the extension of the fun of the opening of the new building. Still it meant that Utred's group had to put on a show rather than pick simple ideas, it was expected.

After the meal the Creaftas led the Gryffindors out to the skeletal remains of the long house, word of the race had spread and the students of other houses watched them approach the fourteen uprights standing around the rectangle of floor in the grass with anticipation. The Gryffindors soon removed the ten along the sides leaving the four massive corner posts. These were the main posts in construction and were the firmest in the soil, even without the support of the walls they were solid in the soil. With the wall posts stacked in the old Hall those Gryffindors participating arranged themselves around the posts, the Creaftas chose one and stood around it, the girls standing with them.

Erik and Ulf with Godric stood in the middle of the bare space between the posts, Godric shouted go and the four teams started. One of the teams attached ropes to the top and started to pull until the ropes broke. Another team started chopping at the base with axes, the third simply gathered round there's and started to try and wobble it. The Creaftas had a plan though; they quickly dug out the earth on one side of the post to a depth of three feet half way round its diameter. Then they climbed one by one to the top one at a time; soon they were wobbling the top, using the pole itself for leverage and the post began to move. The girls started to climb to add more weight as they continued to rock it back and forth.

The team with the axes were tiring and they weren't even a quarter of the way through. The team with ropes had realized breaking them for the third time that they needed to excavate the base. The ones trying to shove the post were getting nowhere, when suddenly the Creaftas post shifted further, reaching the point where it moved under its own weight, they all leapt clear laughing. The post hit the ground with a hollow thud and the watching students cheered as the Creaftas stood and took a bow. The post had left a gaping crater in the ground where it had pushed up the earth behind it; soil had sprayed the watching students as the post had toppled. Undaunted The Creaftas decided the other teams needed help and split up to help the other teams. The next post to fall was the one hauled by the team using ropes, having weakened the ground supporting it they successfully pulled it from it's position, again leaving a deep hole in the earth.

After a brief celebration they again divided to help the other teams. The team with axes had given up the tools and had started to dig round the base, as had the other remaining team, it was now a race to see who would dig out enough to topple the tall timbers first. Whilst half of each team was digging, the other half was shoving or climbing the timbers, hoping to dislodge them. The diggers had to watch; ready to jump out of the way not wanting to get crushed when the posts fell. Suddenly both tree trunks broke free of the earth at the same time, students scrambled clear as with a final push on each they fell to land at the same time. The other houses loudly cheered the Gryffindors as they carried the timbers into the one remaining intact long house, one fourth of the number of students helping to carry each one.

The students of the other houses returned to dismantling their own long houses, those of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff abandoning their methods and using the more haphazard style of the Gryffindors, the Slytherins, still bemoaning the menial nature of the task. The Gryffindors gathered next to the lodge with the founders who had decided where it's replacement would be built; there were still several hours of daylight left for the Gryffindors to start on the task. By the time all four long houses had gone, leaving the central one stuffed with timber and thatch, the foundations of the new lodge had been dug, using shovels and wands, a substantial amount of stone gathered and placed nearby ready for construction to begin the next day. Last to finish work on the old houses were of course the Slytherins, who finally placed the last of their timbers in the old hall just before the celebration was due to begin.

For the second night running the students gathered in front of the castle, this time to mark the end of an era, the school they had known would be no more after tonight. The villagers of Hogsmeade joined them for this momentous occasion, except of course the Dursliegs. The three muggles had been invited, but did not arrive. Rumours spread of another run in with a neighbour, the story concluded with various endings ranging from the elder Durslieg male being stupefied and carried home to be dumped outside his house, to the whole family being hit with hexes so they now resembled slugs. Utred spoke with the Ollivander's, who told him that the muggles had shut shop early and retreated into their home, shouting loudly so anyone who was in ear shot they would not attend some freak celebration not wanting to subject their poor delicate son to such depravity and would enjoy the peace in the village that evening. It hardly mattered; the family was not missed as they all tucked in to the feast, sat at tables set outside for the event.

The old hall was set ablaze from torches thrown by all who attended; the flames soon reach high into the sky, smoke bellowing into the night sky. Music was provided by wood nymphs from the forest and many danced or joined in the singing. Others listened to Orin as he told stories of his adventurers with Utred's father and traditional Saga's. Utred stood silently, sadly watching the hall burn from the steps of the castle, Ulf and Erik at his side.

“Orin is trying not to watch.” Utred observed.

“Yes my Lord.” Eric agreed.

“Too many memories.” Ulf said flatly.

All three men were remembering the discovery of their destroyed home. Ulf had not seen the remains at Tang, but still he remembered, Orin had witnessed the hall burning and despite his enthralling telling of the tales, Utred could hear the sadness in his voice as the old man sat with his back to the blaze.
“I will take revenge, I haven't forgotten.” He said, determination in his voice.

“We will be at your side when you do Utred.” A voice said.

The Creaftas and their ladies climbed the steps to join them, he felt Frayja's hand grasp his, as she took her place at his side he looked at her, deep into her eyes.

“All of us will be there when you destroy the usurper my beloved,” she whispered.

He nodded his thanks to them as they renewed a pledge they had made when they first heard his story. They turned to watch the flames as they ravenously consumed the wooden hall, behind them they heard a large crack and a grinding noise begin, followed by another, and another. More followed each sounding higher up the interior of the castle, though no sound of falling stone followed. Glancing at each other, the group of young apprentices began to laugh.

“They work then.” Grinned Leoforwic and the laughter increased.

Erik and Ulf looked at the group bewildered, then as realization set in he muttered. “They've done it again, Salazar will go spare after what they did to the ceiling.”

Erik Groaned. “You lot will give Godric a heart attack if you've put any more surprises in his castle he can't fix, but Odin, if you are half as ingenious in battle as you are with pranks your enemy's don't stand a chance.”

20th Century

After breakfast the next morning, Harry and Ginny took the opportunity to finally explore what was amongst the paperwork in the family closet they had found when fixing up Grimmauld place. With Harry's illness, being at Hogwarts and preparations for the wedding they had not had chance to see exactly what the parchments in it were, though their cursory look last year told them to expect surprises. Although they had already seen some of the documents, like the family tree, there were many bundles of letters, and piles of other parchments they had yet to examine. Petunia, Dudley and Maria were leaving them to the task, the three were sat in the living room chatting, it was Maria's day off and she was helping the two muggles go through some of the chests that had been retrieved from Privet drive. It was a task of discovery for both groups, though for the Dursley's it was with mixed emotions, the Potters were feeling excited as they created piles of documents on the table Kreacher had brought from the dance hall downstairs and placed in the drawing room where the black family tapestry had once hung.

The bundles of letters, neatly tied with thin ribbon, were placed at one end of the table, Ginny was sorting deeds, share certificates and other legal documents into neat piles according to type, while Harry was still lifting parchments from the ancient chest.

Finally he announced, “ That's the last of them.” as he added more to the stack of loose parchments yet to be sorted.

There was certainly more than they expected, or remembered, from that initial opening last summer.

“At last, there's so much to go through. You start on those bundles of letters, see if you can put them in some sort of order, I'll keep looking through these. Your family seems to have owned more than we thought, both property and in stock Harry.”

“Let's just hope none of those are us owing a fortune to anyone.” He grinned as he opened his family tree and looked at the names on the first bundle of letters.

They had decided to try to match the bundles to people on the tree if they could, the document was larger than they expected, they had not opened it fully before, he spread it on the floor the only place there was space in the room. He collected a small pile of the bundles and searching for the people they referred to, including one on the ancestors with whom they shared a name and had owned the bureau they had retrieved from the cottage at Godric's Hollow. It was now positioned between the windows of this room; on it were the tickets that had arrived from Gwenog that morning for the weekends Harpies game. She had been delighted to arrange them for the group although it was an away game for the all female team.

Ginny was becoming more and more intrigued by the number of companies the Potters had a stake in or owned out right, as well as the bonds and other investments that they owned. She came across a list someone had drawn up of the stock held on his or her behalf at Gringotts, at the bottom was written.

“This is merely what they know about, my father didn't trust the ministry or Goblins so placed more in the closet.”

She looked at the date of the list prepared by the wizarding bank, 1980, that note must have been written by James, Harry's father, so this was simply a list of what was in the vault, the couple had yet to explore it's contents fully they hadn't even had a statement yet to show what was contained in any of their vaults in fact.

“Harry” she called as he placed the last bundle on the tree.

“Yes Gin, what's up?”

“I think we are going to need to visit Gringotts soon,” she told him.

“Why? We don't need to get any gold do we?”

“No, it's not that, but we need help to sort through this lot and there are more in the Potter vault, goodness knows what's in the Black one. There is just so much, you need to know what you own.”

“You mean what we own my love.” He smiled and picked up the list she had just put down and glanced down it to the hand written note.

Ginny smiled at her slip, much as she'd looked forward to marrying Harry she was not yet used to thinking of herself as a Potter “Ok, what we own. We still need all this official stuff gone through properly though, it's a real mix of magical and muggle assets, we don't know if some of these older companies still exist.” her eyes fell on the next certificate, it was for a muggle company. “Besides we need to know what responsibilities we have for all of them, if any.”

“All right Gin, though from this we shouldn't just leave it to Gringotts, we need someone we can trust.”

Ginny read the certificate and a wry smile crept across her face. “Oh Harry you have got to see this.” she chuckled

“What is it? He sighed then read the document in her hand. “You must be joking, I own that?”

“Looks like it, if only you had known before” she giggled.

“Too right, oh this could be so funny, can you imagine his face if he found out. I wonder what Dud and Petunia will think,” Harry laughed, then a thought struck him.” Hang on, I wonder if that needs looking into, he always seemed to get rises and stuff at the drop of a hat.”

“ That's another reason to have someone who knows about this kind of thing go through all this, your family own a number of companies, not just Grunnings. We need to make sure our companies are being run properly, but who would go through all this paper work for us that we can trust?”

Harry thought for a moment, then he looked at Ginny, they both smiled and said “Bill.”

They laughed, “He's one of the few I know I can trust with this.” Harry said.

“Me too.” Ginny agreed with Harry. “I'll owl him to ask, I am sure Gringotts will let him though.”

“We could employ him for it if they don't.” Harry said, “He can get us a statement of what's in the vaults too. I wonder what other banks are involved in this, the muggles could hardly pay into Gringotts could they.”

“Bill will find it out. I'll send Tiberius now.”

He nodded and returned to the family tree while she went up to their room to write the letter to her oldest brother Bill.”

In the lounge Petunia, Dudley and Maria were busy sorting out the contents of the trunks; they too had created a number of piles, one of which contained items Petunia was taking to Hogwarts for lessons. The pile contained mainly electronic items, but there were a number of other things that they had to explain to Maria so were added to the pile. She was as fascinated by these objects, which the muggles considered normal, as they were about what to expect in the magical world. The long forgotten toys that had been in the loft after Harry had moved into Dudley's second bedroom took up an entire trunk even after Maria had shrunk them as they packed the items to be taken to the school. Both Petunia and Dudley were embarrassed by the lack of things that had belonged to or were about Harry, Maria didn't ask them about it, but it was a strong reminder to them of how they had both behaved towards him.

Petunia suddenly burst into tears, Dudley and Maria rushed to hug her.

“Oh Dud, why did we push him out so much? My sisters only son, he had nothing and we punished him for it.” She sobbed.

“I know mum, he didn't deserve it.” Dudley replied. Maria was looking puzzled as Dudley continued, “But he has forgiven us, put it behind him.”

Petunia looked at him, “How can he do that so easily though? I couldn't forgive my sister for being who she was, I was so jealous of her I took it out on her child.  I took the easy route to keep my husband happy, thinking I was happy too. All I wanted was to have my sister back, during our time in hiding I began to see that I had had the next best thing in Harry, I was just so scared of standing of what your father would say, Vernon's attitude prevented me seeing it earlier I just hoped it wasn't too late. Seeing how you changed Dud, as you learnt about this world from Dedalus, I could see how you embraced the knowledge and how you grew as a person. You were so concerned for Harry as you learnt what he had to do and so was I. You became a man in that time Dud, much more than your father ever was. You did that despite us, not because of us, Dumbledore was right, we had harmed you by encouraging you to treat Harry like we did, by giving you everything you wanted, teaching you that you were better than Harry. Despite all that, you saw more, then for the last year you were there for me, even against your father. You gave me the strength to defy him in the end, for the sake of my family. You never knew my parents Dud; they were such lovely people, and friends with everyone they met. Loved to learn about other cultures, always willing to accept other ideas outside what might be considered normal, whatever that is. They could never understand my attitude to Lily, once she found out what she was, I was so jealous I shut them out, but still they supported me when I met your father. He never liked them of course, he never knew they got him the job at Grunnings, he never allowed them to visit, they never met you, both died in a car crash when you were only a couple of months old. That's why we used that story about Harry's parents, I almost came to believe that lie, but it was never true. I had lost my sister, lost my chance I believed and before that I had lost my parents, they would be so proud of what you have become now Dud, I wish you had known them. Their funeral was the last time I saw Lily until that photo the other day, it was only when I saw that I realized how much I missed them all and how much I had missed out on because of my childish envy. I blamed my parents deaths on their openness to others; they were on their way to see Lily when the Lorry hit their car on the motorway. I took that out on Harry, instead of grieving properly for any of them, it was only then that I realized how much I had blamed him for things he couldn't help.”

“Mum it's all right, come on, things have changed, you've changed, and Harry knows that. He accepts us for who we are now, not what we were.” Dudley assured her.

Maria was beginning to understand a little. “Petunia, I don't know what happened in the past, but one thing the war taught me is that you cannot change the past, just learn the lessons from it and move forward. Harry has forgiven what happened, come to terms with it and moved forward. Despite whatever went on as he grew up, he has welcomed you into his home, not because of any sense of duty, but because he wanted to help you when you needed it. Your sister died to protect him and that was an awful thing to have to do, but if she hadn't you might never have got this chance to get to know him that you have now or to be yourself again. I have not known you long, I think I know Dudley better than I know you, but from what I have seen you have become wonderful, caring person who I can't wait to know better, if you will let me.”

Dudley looked at his girlfriend. “I am so glad you didn't know me a few years ago.”

She smiled sadly “I guess the reports about how you treated him are true.”

Dudley nodded cautiously, “Probably don't tell half the story I'm afraid Maria. I am not proud of who I was or how I treated him and others back then.”

She nodded, “That's what matters Dud. When I met you, I knew who you were before you told me, I was all prepared to not like you, but as we talked I realized that you had changed. I was at the battle at Hogwarts, saw what Harry did, we fought against prejudice taking control amongst other things. I realized I had judged you without knowing who you had become, that was unfair of me. I liked what I saw that day, you are not the person you once were anymore, it's who you are now that matters. It's this you that I fell for.”

She grasped his hand and they kissed.

Petunia watched her son; tears were still falling from her eyes, though now they were tears of happiness. Happiness that her son had avoided being like his father, happiness that he had found someone like Maria, a strong girl who would be good for him and so obviously loved him for who he was. The couple broke their kiss and looked towards her. “You all right Mum?”

“Oh yes Dud.” she smiled and wiped her eyes. “Just so happy for you both. I just realized both my boys, you and Harry, are so lucky, he to have Ginny, you to have Maria.”

The two young people blushed, and then hugged Petunia again.

“Oh Stop it you two or I really will cry.” She chuckled returning the embrace.

They separated laughing and resumed checking the trunks and packing what was to go to Hogwarts just as Kreacher arrived and started to pick up one of the trunks they had finished with to take back upstairs.

“It's all right Kreacher I can do that.” Dudley said to the elf.

“Oh no Master Dudley, it is Kreacher's pleasure to help, I will transport the ones for Hogwarts there too.” The Elf replied and he and the trunk disappeared with a pop.

“We can't let him do that, he'll wear himself out poor thing.” Petunia exclaimed worried.

Maria put a reassuring hand on the older woman's arm. “It's all right Petunia, he won't, elves have a magic of their own, and he’ll be fine.”

The elf reappeared “Miss Maria is right Madam Petunia, we elves can do lots of things with our magic and not tire. I am proud to help my Masters family, it is no trouble.”

“Thank you Kreacher.” Dudley smiled “We are just not yet used to having such good help, if we forget I hope you will forgive us.”

“Of course Master Dudley, now are any of these other trunks ready to go, or is there anything else I can do for you.”

Dudley showed the elf, which trunks could go to which room or were for Hogwarts, Kreacher transported those to be stored until it was time for them to be moved to the school.

Molly and the Twins arrived just in time for lunch, by which time both groups of the residents of Grimmauld place had finished their different tasks, at least in Harry and Ginny's case as much as they could without Bill's help. They were all sat in the lounge, Harry, Ginny and Maria were telling Petunia about Hogwarts, what to expect and what to look out for, Peeves being quite high on the latter list. Petunia took the news of a mischievous poltergeist quite well considering how she would have reacted not long ago Harry thought.

The Twins bounded into the room enthusiastically, they had spent the morning at St. Mungo's visiting Eli and Maggie, and they had their brooms in their hands having taken them to show the elderly couple. Molly followed at a more sedate pace and gave all of them her trademark hug. This was Dudley's first experience with Mrs. Weasleys trademark enthusiastic show of affection, and he emerged from it breathless.

“Blimey Mrs. Weasley, I am pleased to see you too.” He smiled gasping.

“Don't worry Dud, you get used to that from Mum.” Grinned Ginny.

“Oh Dud, come on you are surely over reacting.” Said Maria willingly going to Molly when her turn came; she too emerged breathless, gasping for breath. “Ok no you aren't.”

Harry, Ginny and the twins were howling with laughter, even the twins had got used to the strong greeting from their foster parent. Petunia was last to be hugged and knew what to expect, Molly had hugged her several times during their talk a couple of evenings ago. She actually quite enjoyed them; it reminded her of the hugs she used to receive from her own mother and sister.

Greetings had done the twins sat on the floor between the sofas and started to tell them about their morning.

“Maggie and Eli send their best wishes to everyone.” Delilah began.

“They loved the brooms.” Tarquin told them.

“We told them all about you Mrs. Dursley...”

“... They hope you are all right and settling into our world.”

“Then we told them about Dudley and Maria...”

“... They know your parents Maria and were glad you have someone...”

“...Who likes Quidditch even if he can't play...”

“.... And has a car that we can have a ride in.”

Harry and Ginny looked at each other and burst out laughing, as did Molly. Petunia, Dudley and Maria were watching the children wide eyed and open mouthed, their heads turning from one to the other as each spoke, as if they were watching a tennis match.

“You two have been with George haven't you, he's been teaching you 'twin tricks' at a guess”? Harry said still laughing.

The two youngsters nodded, “Yes, after breakfast before he went to Hogsmeade..” Tarquin smiled.

“... He introduced us to the picture of Fred...” Delilah told them.

“...They showed us how to do it...”

“... They were really pleased we picked...”

“...It up so quickly...”

“...It took them a few days, they said.” finished Delilah.

Dudley finally gave up and howled with laughter. “That is brilliant you two, I love it, I am glad I don't have to be one of your teachers, I bet you will even confuse this Peeves chap at Hogwarts.”

The twins grinned, looking proud, Molly looked at them wistfully. “I wondered what George was doing with that photograph this morning. I remember when those two started that trick and noticed it today at the hospital. You know Eli thinks it's brilliant, you made his day.”

The twins’ smiles grew wider.

“Brilliant! Harry we hope...” Delilah started.

“.... You don't mind, but we told Maggie and Eli....” Tarquin joined in again.

“.... About the surprise you got in Swiftshot's...”

“.... They are so happy for you and Eli says that he is not surprised....”

“.... That a Marauder didn't let being dead stop him...”

“... And his wife, from attending their sons wedding.”

Harry smirked. “Good old Eli, he's right of course, if anyone could find a way it would be them.”

“Just one thing Harry...” Tarquin asked.

“... What's a marauder?” Delilah finished the question.

Harry laughed and told them about his father and his friend’s reputation, he noticed the twins eyes twinkle in delight so added. “However you have a marauders son as a teacher and his wife who grew up with two master pranksters, both of whom know how to take merciless revenge if they or their family are the targets of any pranks, so any you do had better not be targeted at us.” He winked.

“Harry, don't encourage them.” Molly exclaimed. “They will be needing to concentrate on their school work, not prank wars, I hope you understand that Tarquin, Delilah. I don't want to hear about you getting into trouble for such things, neither would Maggie and Eli, when you get back to school, you concentrate on work, yes?”

“Of course, Mrs. Weasley we understand.” The twins chorused and Molly smiled.

“I know you do my dears,” she told them satisfied her message had got across.

She didn't notice the smile that passed between the two, but Ginny did and grinned. She knew the twins would ensure they didn't get into trouble and would work, just not only on school work. She could see Georges influence on the two already, she wasn't about to point this out to her mother though, the twins deserved a chance at being children. She would do her best to curb any excessive pranks they planned and she knew Harry would too.

At that moment Kreacher announced that lunch was ready in the dining room and they all went to eat, the conversation moved to what Petunia had planned for her classes, she had lots of ideas. Unfortunately she had assumed that the students would know about things she took for granted, like electricity. However Ginny pointed out to her that many of the youngsters would have absolutely no experience of the Muggle world, so she might have to start with very basic facts about muggles, especially with first years though the others might benefit from it as well at least for the first few lessons just to see what they had learned from Hermione last year. They helped Petunia put together lesson plans to ensure the students caught up so she could teach what she wanted to.

After lunch Maria and Dudley walked to Diagon Alley to meet with George, Harry and Ginny took the twins to the practice on their brooms leaving Molly and Petunia to chat in the living room.

George had spent the morning in Hogsmeade with Ron. He had arrived at the new warehouse to find his brother dealing with the latest delivery, merchandise was arriving at a steady flow from the Diagon Alley store room leaving space to expand that shops store front and for George to extend his Laboratory where he created new lines. Once the warehouse was in full operation it would supply both shops, they were going to make the shop floor at the Hogsmeade branch larger too. The shelves were getting full, not just with complete products, but also components ready to be assembled in another part of the large building.

“Morning Ron, how’s it going?” George asked as he began helping to stack the shelves.

“Hi George, not bad. We are on target to open this place next week, just got to add supplies to the mail order department upstairs then we will be ready for the delivery owls.” Ron replied.

The building was divided with the ground floor for storage and an area for assembly; the upstairs had the staff facilities, office and mail order store and dispatch areas. They had employed staff from the village for the mail order and assembly departments, but still needed someone for the storage area and to over see the whole operation.

They completed their task and made their way upstairs to what would be the office and sat to talk about how the business was doing and progress of the project to date. Ron reported that work on the shop floor expansion at Hogsmeade would start as soon as the warehouse opened; they would be able to get stock very quickly from the store, which was behind that branch. The Floo had been connected to Diagon Alley that morning to ease delivery to that shop. George smiled. “Good that will be easier than apparating the stuff over as we have been. How’s the search for staff?”

“We still need four people for the storage and distribution area, but I am interviewing tomorrow morning. The big problem is that we have no one to manage the place yet.” Ron responded. “We both agreed it needed to be someone we know and trust rather than just any old applicant.”

George smiled. “Well I think we have someone, Harry's cousin. I said he could work up here with you now that he is going to settle in our world. I think we can trust him and he has a good mind for this kind of work from what I saw at the wedding. His knowledge of the muggle world will be useful too, we can start that line of non magical jokes with his help, perhaps even invent some new ones to sell in their world too.”

“Hmm good idea.” Ron nodded. “Where will he live though? He is a muggle so he would need to be careful about that, a wizard landlord could easily fleece him with a memory charm making him forget he had paid the rent.”

“I thought of that too.” George grinned. “Now you have your own place, how about we give him use of the flat over the shop here.”

“That would work, he could come to us for meals if he wanted, it's not far, but you need to check with Aberforth if muggles can live here, it's all wizard and I don't know if that's because of any rule or anything. He would know if there were any restrictions on who could live here, though I hope there isn't a problem.” Ron said thoughtfully.

“Good thinking I'll do that before I go back and meet with Dud, so are we agreed that if we can sort out his accommodation he is the new warehouse manager?” George asked.

Ron nodded, “Is Harry ok with it?”

“Yes he's fine with it, glad his cousin will be close to Hogwarts in fact, Petunia will be teaching there and I think he wants to be able to keep an eye on them both until they are used to living in our world.”

“Good I thought that would be what he thought, I have no problem with it.”

“Right well its time you knocked off to help that wonderful fiancée of yours, I'll go have a chat with Aberforth.”

They soon made their way out through the relatively quiet Hogsmeade shop, waving good-bye to their shop assistant on the way. It was only when the school was open that the store was really busy, though they did enjoy a steady stream of customers in these quieter weeks and there were a few browsing the shelves as they passed through. Professor Flitwick was one of their best customers in fact, though Neville popped in whilst he was working in the glass houses at the school too. Other than that some of the locals had children who spent at least some of their pocket money in the shop and there was the new influx of visitors to the new memorial in the schools grounds which meant trade for all the shops in the village. The battle and memorial had boosted tourism to the area amongst magical folk, meaning even Aberforth had smartened up the Hogs Head a little to try and get some of the visitors trade. The villagers had not been so popular a place to visit since the shrieking shack had first started screaming once a month. It's attraction had waned over the years it had been silent, despite the locals taking turns to occasionally report noises from it to try to boost visitor numbers. They did not however play on the new reason for the villages’ popularity, the only memorial or battle merchandise was made under license and sold in aid of the fund that had been set up for the victims and their families. Other than those few items each shop sold what had usually been on offer their before the battle, just more of it, the village was booming, at least for now.

Even though busy, the streets were nowhere near as crowded as they were on the days the students came down from the castle and for the most part the visitors were to involved in their own tasks to notice the others they passed. Even so as Ron walked home, some of the visitors stared as he passed, their children not so subtly pointing to him occasionally, he ignored it as parents told the children off. He had grown used to his new celebrity status and being recognized by people this summer, sometimes it annoyed him, especially after a long day in the shop when he was tired, more often he just ignored it. Occasionally a child would nervously approach and ask for his autograph, no matter his mood he always cheerfully signed and chatted with the youngster. Mostly though as he walked from the main square through the village, visitors ignored him, either they were to deep in their own thoughts or assumed he was simply another wizard going to pay his respects at the memorial.

It was one advantage of the cottages location. At first they worried they would be inundated with callers once it was realized they lived there, but that hadn't happened, at least not yet. Only the neighbours acknowledged them as they either went into or came out of their home and they treated them normally, they had made friends with a number of the villagers in the last year all of whom knew them as people not Celebrities. The prospect of visiting the memorial seemed to have an effect on the 'pilgrims' as one villager had dubbed them. As they got closer to the edge of the village they seemed to become more thoughtful and keep their heads down as they made their solemn way, when they returned their mood seemed to last, at least while they were passing Titch Marsh Cottage and it's neighbours They didn't seem to notice when he or Hermione entered the property, in fact when the couple had worked the other afternoon entirely in the front garden, no visitor had shown any sign of recognition, or interest in what they were passing, all of them appeared in deep reflective mood.

Ron walked through the gate and up to the door, he heard the lock click back as his hand touched the doorknob, he pushed it open and entered the house. Calling his usual greeting to Hermione, he was surprised when there was no response. Odd, he thought, perhaps she had nipped out or been called away for some reason. They had agreed last night they would leave any notes in the lounge on the bureau, so he pushed open the door to the sitting room and went in, glancing to his side he saw there was no note. He looked round the room, there she was, and transfixed, staring unblinkingly towards him, from where she stood next to the sofa.

“Hermione?” he moved towards her.

She didn't notice. He followed her gaze, straight to the picture of Whitby.

He went over to it and looked at it, as soon as his head blocked her view she shook herself. “Oh Hi Ron, I didn't hear you come in.”

Ron turned to her, stepping in front of the picture. “No, I saw that, are you all right, you were just staring over here.”

“Yes I'm fine, I guess I was thinking about something.” She replied nonchalantly.

“No 'Mione, I think its more than that.” he looked concerned, but she wasn't looking to notice.

“Oh, don't be silly Ron, what else could it be?” She said breezily, stood and walked past him to the door. “I'll go fix something to eat.”

Ron nodded, then as she left he picked up the frame, something about this was affecting her, and he knew it. Next time he saw Minerva or Filius he would ask them to check it for magic, he didn't know what was going on, but he was damned if he would let it harm Hermione.

Authors notes:

Hope you enjoyed it.

My thanks to Aries (and her friend) for going over this chapter, it's good to have you back my friend.

My thanks also to those of you who took the trouble to leave a review, hope to hear from you all again (and any others who read this too.).

I am still working on the next chapter so it may be a while I'm afraid, remember I am writing this as I go unlike Essence which was largely written before I started posting. I would much rather take the time to post a good chapter than post a rushed poor one.

In the meantime as well as leaving a review you can post any questions on my Author page in the forums, look forward to hearing from you.

Historical notes:

Onripum = Ripon, North Yorkshire.
Dunholm = Durham.

There is no archaeological evidence for the existence of Sliepnir though plenty of period mythology. Of course absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence, it could be that we just haven't discovered any evidence yet. (Ok I know highly unlikely really and I am not really grasping at straws just demonstrating an important archaeological principle, that of approaching every dig without preconceptions and with an open mind you never know what artefacts you might find.).

The King remembering his coronation, kissing the preserved remains of a saint is based on monks’ writings of the time. Such a show of respect to a holy relic was part of a coronation of a Christian King, as was baptism, which the Norse described as the Christians taking a bath (more in this below). There seem to have been a plethora of Relics for the church at the time, the saint mentioned being one that is even today acknowledged as genuine, it's history being well documented ( I will do a note on this saint for a future chapter). However quite a number were probably the result of enthusiastic non Christian traders cashing in on the churches greed for anything associated with saints or bible stories. Many religious relics of the time survive to this day in the collections of Cathedrals.

The Norse would laugh at the Saxon Christians being baptised either in a river or a barrel of water, describing it as having a bath, because it was one of the few times Saxons would take a bath. The Norse bathed once a week and valued personal hygiene (remember the horn earwax spoon from a previous set of notes) they were quite clean, which probably explains why many Saxon women were attracted to them. Saxon men would bath as little as possible, seeing it as a weakness, so they may bathe once a year if they decided they needed it, hence the Norse seeing the irony of the Saxon religion requiring them to take a bath, at least once at baptism
Ok at the end of chapter 4 I promised to write some notes about an unsavoury fact of 10th century life and as personal hygiene of the time seems to be a bit of a theme in these notes, here it is. It is known that all would have been infested with lice, we have found antler combs with period head lice in them, and so we also know that some action was taken to control them. In fact it is known that they had a chemical treatment for them, which was used as frequently as possible. They would collect cows urine and store it for several weeks until it was very stale, then wash their hair in it. This may well have had some effect on the lice but it also effectively bleached their locks blonde, and the lingering smell must have been interesting. However prevention being better than cure married women wore cloth caps as a sign of marriage, thus preventing lice infestation somewhat in the first place. In the unlikely event that you can get the raw materials necessary please do not try this at home, your friends might notice and then you would not keep them for long. Anyone begin itching now?

Anyone fancy a Viking age recipe to try, next time? I promise it will be using ingredients that are readily available and even my kids like it. Let me know anyway.

Until next time, All the best.

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