From where the man was lying face down on the floor, a very irritated complaint was heard: “I hate portkeys.”
Warily tilting his head to the left to peek at his new location, wherever the hell that was, Harry Potter blinked at the leather wallet resting just a few inches from his nose. It looked rather familiar, and the wizard had sudden hope surge in his breast, as he instantly realized this folded case should have bloody well been familiar, since it was HIS wallet! The very same one he’d put down on the floor of his family vault, right before his unexpected journey into that weird Duckburg place with its talking poultry!
Scrambling to his feet, Harry made sure along the way to snatch up his wallet and hastily slip it into the back pocket of his pants. The way things had been happening lately, there was a very good chance that in his next breath he’d once again be sent off by magical means, dropping right into the middle of a full moon ceremony being conducted by several dozen gorillas and a guy with serious muscles wearing a leopard-skin loincloth.
When he was finally standing upright, the wizard cautiously looked around, and then he breathed an absolute sigh of relief at seeing the familiar confines of the Potter vault around him. Looking down at his hands, Harry wiggled his fingers, and the young man felt better when he understood that his body was again under his control.
“Bloody good thing, too. Going around kissing random objects would have been really difficult to explain,” muttered Harry. He frowned, wondering just what the blazes all that had been for, dammit, only to reluctantly come to the conclusion that he’d probably never know, unless he managed to find a way back to Scrooge McDuck’s money bin. Which was extremely unlikely, not to mention it was seriously doubtful of that action ever being high on Harry’s list of to-do things. While that whole episode had been….interesting, and he’d come to like several of the, well, people he’d met, right now what the wizard most wanted to do was to leave the vault and Gringotts and return to Number 12 Grimmauld Place.
Just as he’d thought that last, Harry’s stomach growled, causing the man to amend his intention, in that on the way back to his home, he should pick up a nice vindaloo. Another enthusiastic growl came from his stomach at that consideration. His mind made up, a hungry Harry started off towards the vault door, while an idle thought carelessly passed through his consciousness that at least the whole idiotic business was completely over and done with.
An instant later, two beings popped into existence right in front of Harry.
In a blur, the wizard’s wand was drawn from his arm holster and pointed right at the materialized pair standing in the center of the vault passage, with Harry about to shout “Stupefy!”, until that man’s lips froze before uttering even the first syllable of his spell. Frankly, the son of two Marauders had good reasons for his own sudden and total stupefaction. Three specific reasons, actually.
First, his unexpected guests were Remus Lupin and Sirius Black.
Second, both of these people were completely different from the mature, worn men he’d come to know when they’d been battered and beaten by the hard times these wizards had lived through. Right now, in the Potter vault, cheerfully looking at the last of that name were a pair of chaps that didn’t seem any older than Harry himself was at the present, not being aged more than twenty or so years.
Finally, Sirius and Remus were both totally ramped, faced, arse-over-tit, tooled, mullered, juiced up, rat-arsed, tanked, either couldn’t see a hole in a ladder, blotto, full to the bung, tol-lol, wankered….
In short, drunk.
A disbelieving Harry Potter now dazedly watched and listened to a Sirius weaving on his feet, whose swaying body differed entirely from his steady, jovial voice, “Hello, James and Lily! Now, I would just like to say--”
Whatever else might have been about to be spoken by that member of the Black clan was abruptly interrupted by the other, whose inarticulate statement at the top of his lungs also differed entirely from Remus’ unwaveringly pointing at his friend while shouting, “ISH ALL HISH FAULT!” The bottle in the deathgrip of the werewolf’s other hand didn’t quiver the slightest either during that verbal attack upon the man next to him.
Turning his head with some difficulty to focus upon Remus standing by him, Sirius coldly spoke, “Thanks ever so much for your loyal support, you prat!”
An indifferent shrug was Remus’ only reaction to that, with the future professor’s attention being more concentrated upon the bottle he’d then lifted to his lips to send a few more good swallows of booze down his throat. Sirius spent the next several moments glowering at his friend, until you could actually see the light dawn upon his features, as the maddest prankster of the Marauders finally remembered he needed to begin the conversation again. Bringing his head around, Sirius beamed at his audience, not paying any attention to the fact he’d overcompensated and the seriously-pissed individual was starting to tilt to the left, looking past his listener.
Unconsciously, Harry also leaned over to his right, to continue gazing at his godfather into that man’s maniacally gleaming eyes, as Sirius started over. “Ahem. As I was saying before a total berk broke in, I might have had something to do with your little jaunt away from your wedding gifts. Now, the fact that this charm is working shows you both got back all safe and sound, so why don’t we just have a good laugh about this, and then put everything behind us?” An attempt was now made by Sirius to clap his hands in a positive manner, in an hopeful effort to emphasize this optimistic resolution to their pending little contretemps. Unfortunately, this wasn’t really helped by the fact that Sirius managed to miss with both hands his brief applause.
A disgusted belch was Remus’ contribution of his opinion over that suggestion, along with that man edging away from Sirius’ flailing right hand, as it came dangerously near the bottle the werewolf was still tenaciously clutching.
Frowning down at his traitor hands, Sirius glanced up, squinting and blinking, while regaining his train of thought (otherwise known as the Totally Disastrous Explanation Express, with a nice, shiny steam locomotive, tender, passenger and freight cars, caboose, all heading at full speed toward the gap in the tracks and without even a valiant Little Eric waving a red flag to stop the train and win fame and popularity, not to mention the hand of Mathilda the milkmaid). Giving an hopefully ingratiating smirk, a rush of words suddenly came from Sirius.
“Listen, mate, and, um, matess, I did it all because I love you both! I want the pair of you to have a long and happy life together, with lots and lots of little nippers for Uncle Sirius and Uncle Whatisname” (an unheeded growl rumbled through the air at that) “to spoil rotten! But I also don’t want you to forget us, either! We….we don’t have anybody but you that we can call family with a straight face! So, uh, could you just find it in your hearts to….” Gulping, a tearful Sirius now dropped to his knees, and clasping (successfully this time) his hands together, and lifting his joined fingers upwards in a prayerful attitude, that man opened his mouth in one last appeal, only to stop short.
Carefully examining the level of liquid remaining in the bottle, Remus eventually became distracted by the evident change in the local mood that he now sensed, as he glanced over at where Sirius had been, to stare in puzzlement at the empty space there, until he finally looked down into his friend’s face glaring up at him.
“Oh. Right,” blinked Remus, who then carefully got down on his own knees, to imitate Sirius in also clasping his hands, both keeping them now at chest level. An exasperated roll of Sirius’ eyes was made when this was finally accomplished, with that man muttering to Remus, who solemnly nodded at the next words.
“Ready? All right, then, on three. One, two, three!”
Simultaneously, both men quickly thrust up their clasped hands in clear appeal, even with Remus’ bottle still in his grip being waved on high, as the pair of Hogwarts graduates bellowed as plaintively possible:
“PLEASE DON’T HEX US TO LOOK LIKE SNAPE!”
There was a second of frozen silence, their bodies equally immobile, until Sirius Black and Remus Lupin now dropped their hands to then promptly wrap their near arms around each others’ shoulders, to wave gaily with their other arms at their unseen audience, while laughing with true joy, knowing they, all four of the Marauders, were and would be friends forever.
It was then that the twenty-year-old charm flickered out of existence, taking the images along with it, as Harry Potter paid no attention to this, being more fully occupied by lying on his back and howling with laughter up at the ceiling of his family vault.
As the very last person pranked by the Marauders sustained his bellows of mirth, Harry’s mood began to subtly transform the longer his amusement continued. Soon enough, his laughter slowly modified itself into deep gasps for air, which gradually changed into choking sobs that lengthened into moans, then wails, culminating in long screams of ultimate grief.
In his treasure room that contained generations of heirlooms and records of his ancestors’ joys and sorrows, the young man writhed on the floor, beating with his fists the uncaring stone, and he cried for them all. His parents, Sirius, Remus, Tonks, Fred, and so many more. With none to stop, hear, or be alarmed by Harry’s anguish, he was at last able to mourn until he could physically do so no longer.
Finally, a wizard blankly stared up at a vault ceiling until he gradually stirred. Barely conscious of what he was doing, Harry tugged from his back pocket his wallet, flipping it open and tapping the correct code on the front of the wallet to cast the Extension Charms. Then, Harry shoved the wallet away and went back to contemplating the ceiling for an unknown period of time.
Eventually, Harry turned his head, to look at the open manhole in the floor, where railings had extended themselves waist-high for those to grasp while descending into their magical structure. He lethargically stared at these safety measures, until Harry in the end slowly turned over, to bring himself up on his hands and knees, and crawled over to the manhole. Peering down into this circular opening, Harry dully noted the stairs leading to the bottom, and managing to marshal his sluggish thoughts to turn around, he began to slowly let himself down feet first and facing the stairs, as he carefully lowered himself to shelter.
One thing common to the absolutely top-of-the-line Extension Charms was that they would magically reshape themselves, if it was both safe and secure to do so, into whatever new manifestation their owner requested, expected, or needed. It wasn’t anything like the Room of Requirements in that the new change could be whatever mentally asked for, since only what was already inside the extensioned object would be produced.
However, because it was quite possible for people to enter their charmed article while needing medical help, a fully-stocked potions pharmacy was part of the healing spells and enchantments built into the extensioned object. All too conscious of his past innumerable visits to Hogwarts’ hospital beds, when buying that magical item, Harry had specified that he wanted the best of everything needed to care for sick or injured people.
Which was when Harry finally came to the foot of the stairs, to slump down and huddle against these, the lights in the small foyer came on, and at the bottom of the wood-paneled wall nearest to the numb man, a cupboard materialized, with the door to this then slowly swinging open. Inside the small cupboard was a small potions bottle, its cap missing and clearly ready to be drunk. Harry made an apathetic decision and reached out to remove the potions bottle, bringing it to his lips and draining it to the last drop.
As the potion moved down his throat, the first thing it did was to heal his vocal cords severely strained by his screams, and then it reached his stomach, to send a warm wave of energy throughout his body. Not to mention satisfying Harry’s appetite. As a consequence, the not-so-weary wizard managed to finally rise to his feet, to then head towards the door leading out of the foyer. Again, the structure refashioned itself to its master’s unspoken commands, and the door opened to an exact copy of the Prefect’s bathrooms in Hogwarts (men’s section).
Peeling off his entire clothes while walking into the room and leaving all these garments lying untidily on the floor, Harry staggered into the shower section, with every one of the dozen spray nozzles promptly providing the man’s soaking exactly the way he wanted it: hot and strong. Harry luxuriated in his shower for a long time, until he felt he’d had enough, and then the wizard turned to walk out of the cubicle tiled in red and gold. Once he left, the shower instantly turned itself off, with a heated towel appearing on a shelf next to the nude man. Picking this up to rub himself dry, Harry continued his steps towards another door at the end of the bathroom, which swung itself open at his approach.
A few moments later, a man wrapped in a bathrobe with the Potter family seal embroidered on the chest sat in an easy chair, staring out the window. Unlike the panes on the front of Number 12 Grimmauld Place, this casement had an entirely different scene outside. A specific request by the wizard concerning his purchase of the Undetectable Extension Charms had resulted in the vista he was only partially paying attention to at the moment. Unlike before, Harry Potter was more preoccupied by other things than enjoying the magnificent scenery of the Scottish lake, hills, and environs from his old window in the Gryffindor tower of Hogwarts Castle.
Remaining immobile except for eye-blinks, Harry tried to understand how he felt right this minute, in his very soul. He was….empty? Hollow? No, a better term would be….released. His essence, spirit, all that made him Harry James Potter was finally free. Where upon his psyche there had rested an immense weight of guilt, sorrow, responsibility, and remorse, all these were now just…gone.
The only time he’d felt like this was during his….death, when Harry had traveled to the other side, to again meet Dumbledore and his parents, and make the choice that sent him back, to at last confront and defeat Riddle. During all that had happened later, with the battle, the clean-up, and going on with everyone’s life, Harry had talked to only two people about what had happened to him. Both Hermione and Ginny had patiently listened to his fumbling attempts to speak of his experience, and oddly, both had given him the same advice: wait and think about it, so it’s more clear to you, and you can then tell us about it much better than you’re doing right now. Harry had been so relieved he hadn’t needed to completely explain himself to the women he loved that the wizard had willingly agreed to defer his account until later. Well, later was here.
Thinking hard in his seat, Harry finally understood that his collapse in the vault room would have come sooner or later. Nearly a decade fighting in a war of magic had cost Harry an incredible price upon both his body and mind, and ultimately the price needed to be paid, as it now had been in his family’s savings room, months after his death at Voldemort‘s hands. A wry smile tugged at Harry’s lips, as he quoted a goblin, “All debts are settled.”
The smile on the face of the wizard began to grow, as he thought about what exactly had brought on this conclusion. An absurd prank that had led to an equally absurd journey, to cause Harry Potter to meet extremely strange people, and be thoroughly distracted from his troubles, so that once he’d come home, he could finally face up to his lifetime of grief and pain. Which led Harry to understand at long last, he had a….lifetime. He’d been loved by his mum and dad, by Sirius and Remus, even by Dumbledore himself, and he still had their love. Now he had a lifetime to love those with him -- Ginny, Hermione, Ron, Neville, Luna, and so many others -- and also those who would come later. His children.
And during that time…. Harry James Potter sat up in his seat, and then he decisively cracked his knuckles, all while mentally listing his assets:
He had perhaps the strongest magical powers of any human in all of Britain.
He had the extremely large fortunes of the Potter and Black families, overseen by the goblins who both respected and feared him.
He had numerous friends who’d totally proven their love and loyalty in a war to the death.
He had enough renown and fame that meant every single magical person in the country knew about him and in the main, they approved of who he was, what he’d done, and what he might do in the future, on his own or in the corridors of power.
Finally, he was himself and nobody else, the wizard known as Harry who was going to start making his mark upon his society, for good or ill.
“Right,” chuckled the man with the untidy hair and the piercing green eyes currently dancing with mischief. “Let’s go prank the entire Wizarding World.”
Further disclaimer: All Walt Disney characters, as created by Carl Barks, are the property of their original owners.