Title: The Legacy
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairings: James Potter/Lily Potter, Sirius Black/OFC, Frank Longbottom/Alice Longbottom
Rating: R (violence, language, adult themes)
Word Count: 61,067
Author’s Note: Casting is available on the main page.
Summary: James Potter took his family into hiding out of Britain when the prophecy was revealed. Hidden for nearly seven years, the Potters come home when it’s announced that Tom Riddle has been captured. Their return brings changes to magical Britain that no one is prepared for.
“Deep in the man sits fast his fate.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
– – – –
Dumbledore had suspended the session without hearing from the DMLE. There was a private conference room for the noble houses within the Wizengamot, so James retreated there, and the others followed suit. He put Excalibur on the table and exhaled sharply. “Merlin, Evans, look what you’ve done.”
Lily huffed. “James.”
“Ha, don’t even. I’m not the one who descended from a bloody king.” He threw himself into a chair and stared at her. “Arthur Pendragon walked you down the aisle.”
“Is it terrible that I wish your Great Aunt Millie were still alive so I could rub her nose in it?”
“No, she was a complete git.” James turned to stare at his son who had slid up into a chair beside him. His son looked sad and worried, but James said nothing until everyone else had joined them at the table which expanded to fit. “Harry?”
“I’m sorry, Daddy. I told that man in the Orb no, but he said I didn’t have a choice, and how is that fair?”
“What man in the Orb, lad?” Sirius questioned from his place in front of Harry.
“The man who told Ragnok who I was. I told him to hush—to keep it a secret, but he ignored me.” Harry crossed his arms over his chest, and his bottom lip poked out.
“I’m pretty sure kings don’t pout,” James said dryly.
Harry huffed and poked the table. “It’s even round. This is silly.”
Sirius laughed. “Well, you’ve got a few years to get used to it.”
James started to speak but the door in the back opened, and Dumbledore tried to enter. Magic shimmered over the doorway and actively repelled him. Harry glared pointedly at the Chief Warlock, and the door slammed shut in his face.
“Harry, did you do that?” Lily asked gently.
“No, not really. It’s part of the protocols.” He turned to her. “The Avalon Protocols. The old man in the Orb said you had a book about it in our library.”
Lily nodded. “I do, yes.” She propped her chin up on her hand and focused on their son. “What else did Merlin tell you?”
“Merlin?” Lucius Malfoy blurted out in question.
Lily turned to him. “Yes, of course. Who else would be in the Orb? The Orb kept Harry in its thrall long after Pendragon stepped out of the magical event and interacted with us. I imagine the Orb itself is just a conduit into the magical plane that we’ll all go to when we die.” She turned back to Harry. “So, what else did he say? You spoke at length with him—many hours, in fact, right?”
“Lily, it barely lasted thirty minutes…” James trailed off and paled.
“Merlin was the master of time magic,” Lily reminded her husband and focused on Harry. “So how long do you think?”
“He said six hours,” Harry admitted. He bit down on his lip. “Mum, we can’t go back, can we? We should’ve never come here—you were safe in the cottage, and now you won’t be, and it’s all my fault.”
“It’s not your job to worry about such things,” Lily said gently and brushed his hair from his forehead. “Now, why did the protocols not allow Dumbledore to enter this room?”
“This room is for the king and the king’s council. Members may bring their spouses and children into the room, but that’s it. It’s supposed to be our family’s safe place in case the Wizengamot is attacked.”
“So you’re saying that no one in this room would hurt you?” James asked and ignored the glares he received.
“Not if they want to live,” Harry said. “To betray me would strip them of their magic and lives as they would be betraying Avalon and in turn Lady Magic herself. Arthur wasn’t the king because he could retrieve Excalibur. He was king because Lady Magic chose him. She chose me, too.” He blushed. “Well, she chose Mum to be the mother of the next magical king of Britain.”
James eyed his wife. “I told you it was your fault, Evans.”
“You said it takes two to make a baby,” Harry said innocently, and James sighed as everyone else started to laugh. He frowned. “I’m hungry.”
“There is an apparition point in that corner.” He pointed to the back of the room as he focused on his wife. “I’d be relieved if you’d take him home. I’m sure Isobel and Alice are in quite a state after listening to the wireless.”
Lily put the cloak on the back of his chair as she stood and picked Harry up as he yawned. James watched his wife take their son to the apparition point in the back of the room and disappear in a flash of magic in utter silence.
He turned to Sirius. “What the fuck am I supposed to do with this?”
Lucius Malfoy snorted.
“Oh, shut up, Lucius,” James griped. “I don’t want to be the bloody Regent, and Merlin knows what that old bastard is already planning.” He waved a hand toward the door that Dumbledore was probably still standing near.
“That’s surprising,” McGregor said and pulled out a pipe which lit in his hand. Smoke that smelled of cherries wafted out of it. “When we last we spoke—you were Dumbledore’s man to the grave.”
“I grew up,” James said and stood. He wasn’t prepared to trust them with anything until he had a thorough understanding of the protocols they were all going to have to work with. “You know honestly—Malfoy, Parkinson—I thought were both Death Eaters.” He turned to face them. “Yet, Pendragon didn’t seem to think so.”
“Some months before you disappeared,” Lucius began. “The Dark Lord came to know a prophecy that pertained to him. At least, he came to know part of a prophecy. My father had forced me to take the mark when I was little more than sixteen, and through that mark, Riddle controlled me to a large degree. After Godric’s Hollow, he became obsessed with you and specifically, your son. He wanted the prophecy, but the ministry started to take drastic measures to protect the Department of Mysteries—including a ward that prevented anyone with a Dark Mark from entering the ministry. Two months ago, he removed his mark from my arm, and he was vain enough to assume that I’d follow his lead once I was free of it. He instructed me to steal the prophecy and bring it to him. I sent my wife and son abroad, locked down the Malfoy estate, and moved into a flat in Muggle London. I didn’t leave it until he was captured.”
“He didn’t consider me a viable resource, so he never bothered to mark me. My father disappointed him regarding a matter that I was never told about and lost favor. It’s why he was killed. Riddle assumed that I didn’t have the financial resources to support his cause because my father had hidden most of our assets shortly after he inherited the title. I received a letter from the Dark Lord six months ago offering me a position in his inner circle.”
“In exchange for what?” James asked curiously.
“He wanted my wife,” Nigel admitted tightly. “Specifically, he wanted an heir and offered me the honor of supplying my own wife to his endeavors. Apparently, Bellatrix, his first choice, proved to be barren. I wrote back and told him that our marriage included magical vows to ensure fidelity, and she wouldn’t be available for his purposes. I haven’t heard from him since.”
“That’s a bloody nightmare,” Sirius murmured. “Have either of you heard anything from his followers since he was captured?”
“Nothing,” Lucius murmured. “When I approached Severus Snape, he told me I should count myself lucky Riddle wasn’t around to pay the ransom he put on my head.”
“Do you know who told him the partial prophecy?” Sirius asked.
Lucius grimaced. “No, I wasn’t privy to that information. Had I known, I would’ve told you. I’ve adhered to our agreement, Sirius, for the sake of my wife if nothing else. She’d never recover being disowned by her Patriarch.”
“Well, apparently making you behave pissed off Dumbledore, who hoped to use you and your wife against me in the event I gained custody of Harry. So there’s that.”
“It helps,” Lucius acknowledged. “Though, leave it to Dumbledore to suck the fun right out of life. It isn’t like I run around sacrificing unicorns.”
Sirius exhaled noisily. “They think we’re in here having a serious discussion, you know.”
The door opened, and Frank entered. He pulled it shut with a huff and shed his cloak. “No one has actually left the Wizengamot, and the audience level is full to capacity now. The minister and Dumbledore are demanding to speak with Harry. I told them they’d have to deal with his Regent as minor royalty is sheltered almost entirely from outside influence at Harry’s age.” He sat down next James and looked around. “What?”
“Is that true?” James asked curiously. “Can I use the protocols regarding members of the royal family to shelter him entirely from the ministry?”
“Of course,” Frank said and straightened his cuff. “You never paid attention to those lessons.”
“Our parents hired a very attractive eighteen-year-old witch to teach us,” James protested. “I studied what was important to a fourteen-year-old.”
“Her measurements,” Frank said dryly. “It helped not at all that she was a redhead.”
James flushed and glared briefly at Sirius when his best mate snorted indelicately. “Well, I’ll be learning all I can now. I don’t want Bagnold or any of her cronies near Harry. It wouldn’t work out in their favor anyway. He’s already basically told Dumbledore off.”
“Say what now?” Abbott questioned.
“Harry expressed his displeasure at being lied to and told Dumbledore he didn’t trust him,” James admitted. “I assume it to be a permanent condition on his part. He’s not fond of being lied to which is a familial trait. The Gryffindor line has never been tolerant of such things.” James focused on the sword. “I realize it was gifted symbolically but what the hell should I do with it?”
“It’s the king’s sword. You must guard it as much as you guard the throne he’ll one day take,” Frank murmured. “Pendragon named you regent instead of a steward, which is significant. A steward is nothing more than the representative of the king, while a regent can and does rule in a king’s place. It’s clear he means for the noble houses to act as your council. That’s why he revealed our histories and our connections to his knights.”
He wanted, rather desperately, to go back to France, but he didn’t say it out loud. It would not serve his son, and James had already realized that now more than ever it was his duty to prepare his son for a world that would always expect too much from him.
“Dumbledore knew,” James murmured. “He must have discovered Lily’s heritage while we were in school.” He focused on Sirius. “The Sorting Hat probably saw the Pendragon magic in her. It would’ve reported the matter to Dumbledore to ensure she was protected. He’d have suffered an immense punishment if Pendragon’s heiress had come to harm in the school.
“He must have been so pleased when Riddle chose Harry as a target,” he continued. “Dumbledore’s played a long game for power in this country, and now my son is in the way of whatever his ultimate goal is.”
“He’s a dark bastard who adores strife and war,” McGregor said and shrugged when they all focused on him. “Come now, gentlemen, it is known by his contemporaries, at least, that Grindelwald and Dumbledore were lovers. Dumbledore hates Muggles. He nurtured Riddle’s darkness while he was a student at Hogwarts and even allowed him to murder a student while he was there—though he let Hagrid take the blame for that death despite the fact that he knew that Riddle had done it.”
“Dumbledore’s been maneuvering himself into a leadership position with the ICW,” Sirius said. “He’s in line to be the next Supreme Mugwump. It’ll put him in a position to shape the policies that we use to deal with the Muggle world. Their technology is growing by leaps and bounds. The ICW is investing millions into magical research to continue to hide us from their eyes. My New York counterpart related to me last year that many elements in his country were lobbying for secrecy spells—spells powered by ley wells.”
“Spells designed to force Muggles to ignore us,” Frank said. “I read that report. The ICW is opposed to that much manipulation because if we’re ever discovered, the Muggles might consider it a serious betrayal.”
“Researchers in France are looking into a slight shift in the dimensional plane—they think the real way to protect us is to create dimensional pockets for us to live in that Muggles can’t even see,” Zale Wright said. “It’s a peaceful solution. But honestly, Dumbledore has never struck me as a peaceful sort.”
“Your first order of business should be to announce whether or not you’ll be accepting betrothal contracts on behalf of the king,” Greengrass interjected. “The ancient houses will line up to throw their daughters at you. Frankly, I’d be tempted if my wife would allow it. She’d probably hang me by bollocks until I could star in the Vienna Boys’ Choir.”
James laughed briefly. “I’d be strung up beside you. Lily would never to agree to such a thing, so you’re right, I should make that announcement. It will shelter those little girls from the ministry and Dumbledore as well. I wouldn’t put it past any of them to try to manipulate his future spouse at a young age if they know who she is.” He rubbed his face. “Anything else?”
“Nothing that doesn’t require planning and research,” Fawley said. “There is a host of issues that need to be resolved—chief among them how many votes the Pendragon seal comes with. You’ll need personal security, and so will your home. The tax structure will have to be evaluated, and there will be some fallout as the ministry comes to realize how much control they’ve lost over the law of the land. The Minister for Magic now answers to you, Regent Potter. There will have to be an official residence for the king’s family, tutors will have to be arranged to handle his education regarding the Avalon protocols, magic, and the like. Fortunately, he’s young, so we have time to prepare him to be king.”
James shook his head. “Honestly, I’m not sure you can truly prepare a man to be a king, but our duty couldn’t be clearer on this matter. Potter’s Field will be his official residence, but I didn’t have time to complete the repairs after my parents were murdered before I left Britain. It’s essentially a mess.”
“You didn’t tell him, Sirius?” Frank questioned.
Sirius shook his head. “No, not yet. I wasn’t sure he was ready to hear it.”
“Hear what?” James asked.
“Riddle returned to Potter’s Field after he failed to locate you in Godric’s Hollow. It was utterly destroyed. I assumed he was searching for information that would lead him to you—he burned it to the ground after he was done.”
“That estate had been in my family for over five hundred years,” James snapped and left the table. He paced around the back of the room and turned with a hiss of fury when the door opened. “What?”
Millicent Bagnold stepped back at the venom in his tone, but he couldn’t help how fucking furious he was, though she had nothing to do with it. She glanced around the room and frowned.
“Where’s the boy?”
“My son has gone home. He’s eight years old, Minister, and isn’t available for any sort of discussion with anyone outside of family and intimate friends.”
“But he’s the king you can’t just keep him…” Bagnold stepped back from the magical barrier as James’ magical aura flared out around him. “Lord Potter…”
McGregor stood and crossed the room. He grabbed the door to close it but paused. “Regent Potter’s duty is to protect his son and to stand guard over his son’s throne until he’s of age. That means that the boy isn’t going to be exposed to whatever little political dragonshite you might have in mind. The matters of royal ascension are clear in the Avalon Protocols, Minister. I suggest, instead of plotting to misuse a child, that you invest yourself in reading them before you get yourself thrown in Azkaban for treason.” He shut the door and locked it. “Let’s hammer out some structure before they get the idea they have a choice in any of this.”
– – – – –
Lily shamelessly put a sleeping charm on Harry, left his bedroom, and shut the door. Then she burst into tears. Alice reached her before Isobel did and she let herself be led to the sofa. “I…” She clung to Alice and cried.
“I literally have no advice,” Alice admitted.
Lily laughed abruptly took a deep breath. “Merlin, what a fucking mess. It was like watching an avalanche—I wanted to stop it but I couldn’t.”
“Did you have any idea?” Isobel questioned.
“No.” Lily shuddered. “I’d have never let James go into that situation blind. I guess there was no stopping that from happening but some forewarning would’ve been good.” She rubbed her face roughly with both hands. “I think Dumbledore has always known who I was—maybe since I was sorted.”
“Why would he…” Alice frowned. “That wretched son of a bitch!” She stood and started to pace around the room while she rubbed her stomach.
“For the love of Merlin, Alice, are you pregnant again?” Isobel asked with a delighted grin.
Alice flushed and let her hand drop. “Yes, well, we were following a plan and hardly expected Riddle’s capture. I was going to make an appointment for next week. I’m about eight weeks.” She frowned. “Augusta asked me if I was trying to compete with Molly Weasley.”
“Well, fortunately for you, Molly stopped once she got that girl she always wanted,” Isobel pointed out. “Personally, I think she should’ve stopped after the twins—they put her around the twist.”
“She was always kind of mental, actually,” Lily said. “Rumor was that she was almost expelled from Hogwarts for using a love potion on Barty Crouch, Sr. Her father married her off to Arthur Weasley as punishment—because he was poor.”
“Wow,” Alice said. “Where did you hear that?”
“Minerva McGonagall told me one night about three months before Harry was born. I was researching a ward, and I went to Hogwarts to use the library—we had tea in her office before I left. She was annoyed because Molly had been especially difficult during an Order meeting and wanted my opinion. Well, I’ve never liked Molly—she’s pushy and controlling so I told Minerva that, and I got an earful all about Molly and what Minerva really thought.”
Alice nodded. “I…we kept Neville close over the years. I tried to invite children over to play with him because he doesn’t have any cousins his age. Mostly I received polite refusals from the ancient families except for Molly Weasley. She…”
“What?” Isobel asked.
“She said I had no business using my husband’s title to force children from the noble and ancient families to socialize with a squib.”
“That bitch,” Lily muttered.
“After that, I stopped trying to include her children in whatever I had planned at the estate, and it started to look like a slight on my part. I heard through Narcissa Malfoy that Molly quite enjoys playing the victim—acting as if I excluded her children from events because they’re poor. Granted, I only averaged one event a year, but it became a thing—it’ll be worse now.” She glanced toward the bedroom where Neville had gone with Harry to take a nap. “Now that they know we deceived them all on purpose for no apparent reason.”
“Dumbledore was furious,” Lily murmured. “I’ve never seen him that angry before, and that’s saying something since I’ve seen him fight Death Eaters. Tell anyone who complains about Neville to kiss my arse.”
Alice grinned. “Maybe I’ll just get that put on some cards and pass them out—Please Feel Free to Kiss the Countess of Gryffindor’s Arse.”
“I’m getting some of those cards, too,” Isobel decided. “You’ll need your own stash since you’re the mother of the future king. That’s going to be a complete and utter nightmare.”
“Fuck my life,” Lily said and slouched back on the seat.
– – – – –
The spirit of Pendragon was standing in the middle of the Wizengamot when they returned. He turned to them, and they all stopped short of entering their boxes. “The structure of the Wizengamot no longer serves the greater good. The position of Chief Warlock is hereby eliminated. I’ve already discussed this with Dumbledore, and he understands the necessity.” He waved a hand, and the Potter box was stripped of all four seals—they traveled through the air and adhered to the Chief Warlock’s former position. “Regent Potter, take your place before us.”
James shared a look with McGregor before crossing the floor and settling into place on the large dais. The oak desk was clear, so he placed the sword in the middle of the desk and sat down. “Thank you, Your Majesty.”
“Announce your organization, and I will adjust the room to suit your purposes. If all those in the Ancient houses would stand as well—your boxes will be impacted.”
He removed the parchment they’d created from his cloak pocket and unrolled it. Merlin, he really, really wished he was still in France, but that wouldn’t have served Harry in the long run. James knew it was his duty, now, to ensure that Britain was ready for a king when Harry was ready to be king. They all had an uphill battle on that front and a lot to learn.
“As Regent, it is my duty to create a Privy Council to advise both myself and, in the future, the king,” James began. “Lord Jonah McGregor will stand as Chancellor and sit on my left. The House of Potter has two surviving vassal houses among the noble families—Banner and Wright—they will sit on my right. Lord Banner and Lord Wright will be part of the royal household as both security for the Heir of Pendragon and educators. The noble houses of Black, Longbottom, Abbott, Fawley, Bulstrode, Greengrass, Malfoy, and Parkinson will act as royal counsel as part of the Privy. The following men from the ancient houses are invited to join the Privy Council: Ross Weasley, Garrick Ollivander, William Prewett, Tiberius Ogden, Cornelius Fudge, and Aldrich Rowle. Before you accept, I must warn you that you’ll have to swear an oath of loyalty to the house of Pendragon on your life and magic.”
The entire Wizengamot shifted as the Privy Council boxes moved and spread out on either side of him a semi-circle. The ancient houses that remained were shifted around in front of him to fill out the rest of the circle. A large stone pedestal appeared in the middle of the Wizengamot floor. The sword lifted off his desk, flew across the room, and slid into the pedestal with a spark of magic. He watched in silence as each of the men named from the ancient houses stepped forward and made the oath before they moved to their assigned seating.
Once everyone was seated, James shifted slightly in his seat and focused on Pendragon. “Your Majesty?”
“Britain is yours, Regent Potter. Guard it well for the boy we both claim as our heir.” Pendragon offered him an elegant bow and shimmered out of sight. “I’ll be watching, so don’t fuck things up.”
“No pressure,” McGregor muttered.
Magic arced off Excalibur, and the ghostly laugh of Arthur Pendragon filled the air.
– – – –
The ICW came to collect Riddle on the tenth of October, and all of Britain celebrated. James was busy wading through British magical law—his first order of business had been to remove every single bit of discriminatory language he could find regarding blood status. The first time someone protested, he reminded them that their future king was a half-blood and shite would not go well if there were still laws on the books that discriminated against him or his mother when he formally accepted the title.
Harry hadn’t returned to the Wizengamot though they were meeting every two damn days as they reorganized the ministry from the top down. They’d trimmed down government spending a lot just by getting rid of redundant departments and retiring a bunch of people to the government pension fund which was managed by the goblins and in far better shape than the ministry vaults. Since the Potter family enjoyed a very good relationship with the Goblin Horde, the economic situation of the country had largely benefitted from the Horde’s goodwill regarding interest rates and investment funds after the monarchy conversion took place.
The Privy Council had a mixture of economic levels in play, and it hadn’t taken long for them all to agree that the tax rates unjustly favored the wealthy. Four days into his placement as Regent, he’d been forced to fire Bagnold as Minister for Magic as she had proved unwilling to work with them at all. Barty Crouch had wasted no time lobbying to replace her, and his popularity among the people forced James’ hand to a degree. He figured Crouch was more trouble than he was worth but it was better to keep the man close than to leave him at loose ends considering the losses he’d suffered.
Amelia Bones had become the Director of Magical Law Enforcement, which surprised many who assumed that James would slot his best mate into the coveted position. Sirius, as ever, had his eye on the Department of Mysteries, so he wasn’t at all upset to not receive the job.
The workload was enormous but he’d essentially done nothing for years while in hiding so that part didn’t bother him. It was the arse kissing and the back biting that really got to him. Fortunately, he had the smartest witch in Britain on his arm, and she never ceased to make sure he was prepared for whatever got thrown his way. His wife had also taken the time to go to the bank and arrange for the reconstruction of the manor—with the original plans in hand. They wanted to be able to give Sirius and his wife room to welcome their baby without a huge population of people underfoot.
The royal household was expanding in some pretty horrific ways. James couldn’t walk down the hall without running into someone, whether they be part of the staff Lily had hired to lighten Isobel’s load, or a tutor, or a one of Harry’s retinue, which was made up entirely of the heirs of the men on the Privy Council. Which was, again, something of an issue and why he was waiting for the council to arrive. The wards on the property had been structured in such a way that the members of the council could come to meetings, but they only had access to the ground floor of the house. Their kids, however, had the bloody run of the place since Sirius couldn’t say no to a single one of them.
They all arrived within minutes of one another and got seated—James had put Harry’s seat at the table which was an indication to the Council that they were about to get a lecture about some ancient law Harry had discovered still on the books and found foolish. Plus, Harry wanted to talk to them about how none of their daughters were allowed to play at his house, which he’d decided was a grave insult to himself and his ancestors.
Harry came in toting a book which he gave to James before climbing up onto his chair. “Hi.”
“Good morning, Your Majesty,” they all said back to him much to James’ amusement and Harry’s ire. The protocols wouldn’t allow them to be informal with him in such a setting, and Harry thought ninety percent of the protocols were dumb, and he made no bones about it.
James suppressed a grin because the way his son had pursed his lips as he pulled the book to him spoke to the kid’s mood. “What’s on your mind this morning, lad?”
“Daddy, did you know that we’re letting some Muggle law tell magical people who they can marry?” Harry demanded. He opened the book to the first bookmark. “The Nullity of Marriage Act of 1971 forbids the marriage of homosexuals.” He stared pointedly at James.
“I see. Due to the way the ministry was once structured, many social laws passed by British Parliament were automatically added to our own books.” He picked up a quill and wrote the name of the law to research it. “But there are five or six of our laws on the books regarding this topic.”
“Yes, I’ve been reading those as well. Not only do we have that stupid law on our books, but also there are laws about ritual babies and stuff.”
“Sire,” Cornelius Fudge began, “the populace of Britain is in many ways old-fashioned and rigid in their beliefs regarding the definition of marriage. And of course, ritual conceptions are blood magic, which is considered dark in Britain.”
Harry stared at him until Fudge started to squirm a bit in his chair. “As always, Mr. Fudge, I appreciate your knowledge regarding the social backwardness of Britain as well as your legal knowledge as a solicitor.” He returned this gaze to his father. “This is nonsense. What if I want to marry a wizard and have babies with him?”
James raised an eyebrow. “Do you want to marry a wizard and have babies with him?”
“I might one day. Who knows? Per the Avalon Protocols, I’m allowed two spouses. It doesn’t specify that the spouse be female, so I could have a husband and a wife if I wanted. But it doesn’t matter, really, whether I do or not because there are people in Britain right now who can’t marry who they want because of this stupid law. I can’t make the Muggles do the right thing, but we can make the world better for our own and if you say we can’t make this better then why are you bothering with this stuff at all?”
“Fudge, start working on a law to present to the Wizengamot to replace all the other laws regarding marriage,” James said.
“We might as well use this as an opportunity to strike down those ancient divorce laws as well,” Frank said.
“And the contract law,” McGregor input. “Currently, a witch cannot divorce a wizard if there is a marriage contract in place signed by her father or another male relative.”
Fudge made notes steadily and nodded as he wrote. “It’ll be controversial, to say the least, so we should announce it under his official seal. I’ve found that people are far quicker to embrace new legislation if they believe it to be directly from him and not what they consider to be part of our political agenda.”
“Don’t forget the ritual babies,” Harry said before moving to his next bookmark. He frowned and looked up when Fudge didn’t respond. “Mr. Fudge?”
“Changing the laws regarding blood magic is an entirely different matter,” James admitted. “It’s going to take some research to ensure we’ve covered all the laws on the books so that no one can be accused of performing a dark art in a ritual, which could, under the current laws, put them in jail for a decade. Blood adoption is the only blood magic in Britain that doesn’t have restrictions within the law.”
Harry frowned. “Are there people in Azkaban right now who are there for performing blood magic that harmed no one and nothing?”
“I can’t say for certain but probably,” James murmured. “I can’t even say that every single person in Azkaban had a trial at this point. Crouch and Bagnold were apparently fond of throwing people in jail without any sort of due process.”
Harry’s cheeks flushed, and he closed his book. He turned to Sirius. “How many do you think?”
“I don’t know, lad. Some of them are surely guilty, but there was never any trial to say so.”
“And this is Tom Riddle’s legacy,” Harry said. “Driving normal people to acts of evil. We have to find out, and they all have to have trials as soon as possible.”
“I have an idea,” Lucius murmured.
“Go on,” James said as he grabbed a piece of parchment from Fudge to make a few more notes of his own. Just when he thought he had a handle on the situation, his son’s natural curiosity dropped them down another dark and vicious hole.
“We seat a committee whose purpose is to review Azkaban and all the prisoners within—Black can make sure they find the first illegally incarcerated person within the first week. While the public is all up in arms about that, we push the new marriage law into a regular session. The media attention won’t stray far from the prison scandal, and there won’t be a lot of protest regarding the new laws. A month or so in to the review we’ll come across a prisoner or prisoners who are in jail for some minor blood magic offense. I think at least two women were jailed in 1980 for failed ritual conception. It’ll be enough to put the issue on the table, and the fervor behind the unlawful incarcerations will loom large. It can be couched as a women’s rights issue since, in most ritual conceptions, the woman is punished while her husband is not.”
James looked at Harry and found his son staring intently at Lucius. “Harry?”
“I just wonder, often, when being cunning became such a terrible thing to some people.”
“Some people see it as a manipulation,” Sirius said.
Harry nodded. “And that can be bad I suppose, but sometimes the ends justify the means.”
“I don’t agree,” Sirius admitted.
“Ha,” Harry rolled his eyes. “So says the man who told me that the only way to win a woman’s heart is to not be yourself until you’re married and escaping would be difficult for her.”
James burst out laughing, and Sirius blushed. “He’s got you on that one, Padfoot, seduction is the ultimate manipulation.”
“I told Lady Isobel all about what you said,” Harry continued and grinned when Sirius paled. “But she told me she already knew about all your bad parts.”
Sirius laughed. “True enough.” He frowned then. “But some areas of blood magic are genuinely dark, Harry, so the laws regarding these topics must be carefully structured.”
“I’m not saying we should just chuck the whole code and start over, but to deny people the ability to have babies seems a terrible step to take to prevent dark magic as a whole. The fact is that we can’t prevent it, and those who are capable of sacrificing a person are often smart enough to not get caught doing it. So all these laws do is punish the naïve and the desperate. Moreover, if only women are being punished for ritual conception magics—that’s sexist.”
“You realize she turned your son into a feminist,” Sirius told James in all seriousness. “If he had a bra, he’d burn it.”
“Witches don’t wear bras. I asked because I was going to help Mum get rid of hers. There’s no need, really, for a woman to walk around uncomfortable and bound up in stupid clothes to make a man happy,” Harry informed his godfather earnestly. “It’s terrible to expect witches to abuse their bodies just to attract a man. If wizards can’t find a witch attractive in her natural state, then they’re the ones with a problem.”
“Feminist,” Sirius repeated solemnly. “We need to take him to a quidditch game before we lose him completely.”
“Speaking of witches,” Harry said. “I’d like to meet some my age.”
Parkinson cleared his throat. “I have a daughter, Pansy, your age. I haven’t brought her here because I didn’t want you to feel pressured regarding the marriage contract issues.”
Harry frowned. “I’m eight. I’m too young to feel pressured about that sort of thing. I also know that currently, Pansy has a contract with Draco, which honestly makes them both desperately unhappy. I’d like to outlaw contracts entirely—it takes away people’s free will—but Daddy said that might lead to a revolt, and I should just try to ignore that you lot sell your daughters like cattle.”
Nigel’s mouth dropped open. “Sire…I.”
“Well, did you even ask her if she liked Draco? Not that it matters since they’re just eight years old, for the love of Merlin. I don’t really know what all the sex stuff is about, but Mum said no one should make you have sex, and that if they do, it’s a crime. Except these contracts make people have sex—that’s what married people do, right?” Harry frowned when every man at the table including his own father paled. “Well?”
James cleared his throat. “You’re right, of course. Standard marriage contracts require consummation within forty-eight hours of the marriage ceremony. And consummation is sex stuff.” He wiped his mouth and exchanged a look with Sirius, who looked sick. “Did you have anything else, lad?”
“Nothing that can’t wait. Mum said she’d arrange a tea party for the children of the families involved in the Privy Council. I just wanted to make sure they knew that invitation for was for wizards and witches.” Harry left his chair. “Besides, you all look weird and like you might be sick. Philippa is the only person on earth allowed to throw up on me.”
James just nodded as his son darted off seemingly unaware of the fact that he’d accused a large portion of his own Privy Council of setting up their children to be raped. “He’s young.”
“He’s smart,” McGregor corrected. “And as cunning as Lucius when it suits him. He’s made no bones about the fact that he thinks the contract process is terrible. Despite many offers, I never signed a single contract for any of my children. I was forced to marry a woman I did not want, forced to share a bed with her and to have children with her due to a contract our parents signed. We made the best of it but given freedom, we’d have made different choices.”
“I didn’t ask Draco,” Lucius said suddenly. “Just like my father didn’t ask me. He didn’t ask me if I wanted the Dark Mark either. I wasn’t allowed an opinion of my own until the day he died.” He cleared his throat. “Do you suppose he mentioned Draco by name specifically for a reason?”
“He does have a bit of a crush,” Zale Wright murmured. “And prefers Draco out of all of his peers. He has a special friendship with his godbrother, of course, but it is obvious to the group of them all that Harry greatly prefers Draco’s company. There is no animosity that I can tell from the others so far. He was a bit formal with them at the start of lessons and prone to letting them answer questions when it was obvious he had the answers. They’re young, so it’s too soon discuss such things as sexual preferences.”
“But you knew, right?” Sirius questioned. “At eight?”
Zale frowned. “I knew…that I much preferred the wizard who taught me Latin over the witch who taught me world history even though I hated Latin. Little kids get crushes—they come and go at that age, right?”
“Yes,” McGregor murmured. “But that he’s open to that emotionally at this age is telling enough, and we should prepare for it.”
James looked at the document Fudge was still writing. “It seems he’s already started us down that path.”
Lucius sighed. “I don’t suppose you know if my son returns this crush?”
Zale shrugged. “To be honest, I think most of them have a bit of a crush on Harry, but again it’s not romantic or anything. He’s the king, and they know that. They don’t fight for his attention but are comfortable in the knowledge that he will seek them out individually for conversations and play. Magical people make connections early so we can’t ignore that he’s already demonstrated some protectiveness regarding Draco. And I imagine Draco has confided him that he doesn’t want the Parkinson contract. But then what eight-year-old would be pleased with a marriage contract?
“Even if they are just the best of friends, you and Nigel have placed yourselves in a position to be officially disapproved of if Draco still hates this contract after Hogwarts. In fact, in all honesty, the entire council should avoid offering contracts for their children as he will know them personally and they will certainly tell him if they are unhappy with the arrangements you’ve made for them without their consent.”
“If he’s Slytherin enough already to talk the king into an off-hand berating of me for my choices regarding his future, then it would be best to give in graciously on this issue before he hits puberty,” Lucius said dryly.
Parkinson laughed. “Yes, I think so. We can cancel without rancor, and I doubt we’ve been misled regarding Pansy’s feelings on the matter. She said absolutely nothing when I announced it.”
“Harry brought up the contract laws and divorce last week,” James said. “So they’ve been discussing this for a while.” He turned to Zale. “Can you monitor their unstructured reading list so we’ll have a head’s up where he’s going next?”
“Yes, sir.” Zale paused. “I have been keeping a watch on the matter but not in any regulated fashion. I’ll activate the archive spells so I can monitor the full collection. One thing I did notice is that Harry has taken a history book from the library entirely. He’s had it for an entire week.”
“The Rise and Fall of Gellert Grindelwald by Mingy Monroe.” Zale just shrugged when they all turned to stare at him in shock. “When I asked him why he was reading that book in particular. He told me he was doing a character study.”
“Why Grindelwald?” Sirius questioned. “I mean his politics might be similar to Voldemort’s but…” He trailed off when he noticed Zale shaking his head.
“He’s not studying Grindelwald, Sirius. He’s studying Albus Dumbledore.”
“Well, shite,” James muttered.
– – – –
James found his son in the formal library in a large chair reading a Spider-Man comic book. He squatted down in front of the chair and stared at Harry until the eight-year-old lowered the comic and met his gaze.
“I’m going to take care of Albus Dumbledore.”
Harry’s gaze narrowed. “Unless he takes care of you first. You can’t tell me he hasn’t already tried. He knew Pettigrew was a traitor, right?”
“I think so, yes.”
“He’s two-faced,” Harry said. He closed his comic book and set aside. “People see a hero, but he’s a monster on the inside.”
“It’s my job to take care of monsters,” James murmured.
“I’m worried, though.” Harry took a deep breath. “I want to make an announcement regarding the regency of my title.”
“In what way?” James asked.
“I want to make it known who will stand in your place if Dumbledore kills you,” Harry said. “So there is no confusion on that old git’s part, and so he understands that I won’t be his to manipulate no matter what he does.” He pulled a piece of parchment out of his pocket. “I made a list.”
James took the list and unfolded. His mouth dropped open at the list, which amusingly enough had one name on it. “Harry.”
“I sent him a letter. He already agreed.”
James snorted. “Merlin, kid, I adore you beyond all reason.” He stood and dropped a kiss on the top of his son’s head.
He returned to the council meeting, a little amused and slightly horrified that his eight-year-old had managed to send a letter to someone without his knowledge. He sat down. “First, Sirius, we need to adjust the wards so that no correspondence leaves or enters the property without our knowledge. Harry has managed to send and receive a letter from the most renowned parselmouth in Britain.”
Fudge spit tea everywhere. “What? He’s corresponding with a dark wizard?” He flushed and drew his wand to clean up his mess. “I mean…What?”
“First, the wizard in question isn’t a dark wizard,” James said with some amusement. “He is, in fact, traditionally viewed a grey wizard. But he’s never hidden the fact that parselcraft runs deep in his family line.”
“You mean Armand Dearing, the High Warlock of the Glain Neidr,” Thaddeus Banner murmured. “He’s…what has the king done?”
“He’s picked my successor,” James said dryly. “And wants to personally announce the ascension protocol in the event someone decides they might like to kill me. Just so they understand, you see, that the consequences would be worse than what they already have to deal with.”
Lucius Malfoy burst out laughing.
– – – –
“We had to expect that he would start looking at Dumbledore,” Lily pointed out. “He considers Dumbledore an enemy just as much as we do.”
He pulled her close and inhaled against her hair. “He’s had no childhood to speak of.”
Lily relaxed into his arms and situated her head on his pillow. “He’s strong, fair-minded, and…” She exhaled and frowned in the darkness of their bedroom. “So small.”
“And conniving,” James said wryly. “How did he get a letter past the wards?”
“You didn’t ask?”
“Where’s the fun in demanding an answer?” James asked. “Speculate, Evans.”
“He had one of the children in his retinue that has more freedom deliver it.” She turned in his arms. “Then that child carried the response back through the wards.”
“Sounds reasonable,” James said. “Why are you so certain?”
“Because that’s how Severus sent me a letter.” He stiffened immediately, and there was a little flash of magic before he settled with an audible huff.
“Don’t tell me which one of them did it,” James muttered. “Alice. Alice did it because Isobel would’ve cursed him through a bleeding wall, but Alice is probably the sweetest most forgiving woman on the whole planet. He fed her some story about being a changed man and spying for Dumbledore, and I bet her pretty little face went all soft, and she probably patted him.”
Lily laughed. “There was no patting involved. He had the letter delivered to her through Gringotts, and she brought it over. Alice is pregnant, love, she wouldn’t take any sort of risk with her baby.”
“Remind me to teach Frank the contraception charm.” He laughed when she pinched him lightly on the arm. “Did you want to talk about the letter or not?”
Lily frowned and shifted closer. Her husband changed positions and let her lay on his chest. “He talks about spying for Dumbledore like that excuses the fact that he joined Voldemort willingly. He promised to help me should I wish to leave you and expressed deep regret that I had a second child with you.”
James sighed. “Merlin, what an arsehole.” He rubbed her back. “I can’t say I would’ve been any more gracious about that if you’d chosen him, but I’d have probably refrained from writing it down.”
“Why doesn’t he understand that following a monster, supporting a monster, is no different than being one?” Lily questioned. “I haven’t seen him in almost seven years, James, and every single word of his letter was full to brim with his wants, his disappointments, and his sacrifices. The biggest disappointment, of course, was your continued survival.”
“You gotta almost admire that,” James said wryly. “That bastard can hold a grudge like a professional. I’ve left the DMLE alone on the Death Eater front, so if they bring charges against him—I’ll have nothing to do with it. We’re still hammering out a court process, but it will be similar to what we had in the past. I’ll just have the Pendragon votes as well.”
“How many does the Pendragon seal give you?”
“Ten plus the power of summary judgment if a defendant forgoes a trial,” James said. “It’s an outrageous amount of power for any one man to have. Though Arthur Pendragon has told me that he’ll interfere if he feels he must.”
“A counterbalance, perhaps?”
“It’s nice to know he’ll let me know if I’m about to go off the deep end,” he admitted. “Do you want to ask Harry which one of his retinue he’s using as an owl?”
Lily laughed. “No. He’ll confess eventually. It amused him to get one over on you—he’ll reveal how just for entertainment purposes.”
– – – –
Armand Dearing came to the Den with an escort of two. All three removed their cloaks at the entrance and consented to a magical search by Thaddeus Banner, who James had put in charge of Harry’s physical security. Beyond wands, the group carried only a single box which Dearing swore on his magic would cause no harm to Harry. James knew the moment he saw it that the box was a hibernation box, and it probably had a snake in it. He said nothing—he’d never allowed Harry to have a snake as a pet but to have a serpent hand-raised by Armand in his household wasn’t something he was opposed to. His own father held Dearing in great esteem, and James trusted his father’s judgment more than he trusted even his own.
All of the other boys in his retinue had been sent home due to the pending visit. The noble members of the Privy Council were on hand though as they wanted to see how Harry interacted with the older wizard. James escorted the three men into the library where Harry and the council were. Lucius was supervising a chess game between Harry and Gerald Greengrass. James wondered how often Lucius used games to teach his own son strategy.
Harry frowned and lifted his hand away when Lucius made a soft noise of disapproval. “But I can win.”
“Yes, of course, but sometimes the goal of an interaction is not to win quickly but to give the appearance of weakness to lull your opponent into a false sense of security. You’ve identified the areas of his strategy that open him up to attack, but what have you learned about Lord Greengrass?”
Harry sat back in his chair and stared pointedly at Gerald Greengrass. “He’s letting me win.”
“Are you certain?” Lucius questioned. “Perhaps he’s just a poor player.”
“No, you told him to let me win to teach me something because you all agreed to not let me win stuff because of the other stuff.” Harry inclined his head. “But others might allow me to win because I’ll be king or maybe even because I’m a kid.”
“Why do you suppose someone would let a king win?” Gerald asked with some amusement.
“To appear weak or to mislead me about their abilities.” His teeth clenched on his bottom lip. “Or to placate me out of fear that I’ll be irritated with losing. Which would be irritating because I’m not the petty sort at all. If they assumed that about me, then they aren’t paying attention to the right things, and I should definitely be leery of accepting their opinions on practically every subject.” He reached out and made the move. “Checkmate.”
Lucius laughed. “Why did you finish the game?”
“To prove a point.”
“And that point would be?” Gerald questioned in confusion.
“That when you purposefully open yourself up to losing that you shouldn’t be at all surprised when someone takes the opportunity to defeat you.” Harry grinned as both men laughed then turned toward James. “Oh, good afternoon.”
Armand offered Harry a small bow, and his escort followed suit. “Your Majesty, I’ve brought my nephews, Quintin and Walker Deadmarsh with me. I hope that is acceptable.”
“Of course,” Harry said with a nod. He left the chair he was in and gestured toward the grouping of couches in the back of the room. “Thank you for coming on such short notice.”
James joined his son on the loveseat, and everyone else settled in around them.
“I’ve brought you a gift, Your Majesty,” Armand murmured and placed the wooden box on the table in front of Harry.
“Lord Parkinson tells me I should be leery of gifts as they’re often designed to win my approval,” Harry admitted. “But you don’t need that.”
“Lord Parkinson is not wrong,” Armand agreed. “There will be many in your life who will seek to win your favor through a variety of means including gifts.”
James reached out and picked up the stasis box and placed it in his son’s hands. He watched Harry set the box down on his legs then trace his fingers over the lid, but he didn’t open it.
“Daddy and the Privy Council are sort of irritated with me for writing you without their knowledge,” Harry confided. “Mostly, they’re surprised that I got around their security to do it.”
Armand quirked an eyebrow. “You circumvented my security as well.”
Harry grinned. “Did you know that when I’m the king that it won’t be just magical people? Goblins, house elves, centaurs—in fact, all magical creatures in Britain will look to me for both protection and leadership.”
Armand exhaled sharply. “I see.”
“Lord Malfoy’s house elf thinks I’m great,” Harry confided. “So I asked him to deliver my letter to you, and he agreed. You can’t keep a house elf out, you know. They’re far too magical to be subject to wards created by wizards. Then when your letter arrived, Dobby retrieved it from the owl when she couldn’t cross the wards of the estate.”
Armand’s lips quirked in amusement. “I can tell already that everyone around you will deeply regret everything they teach you.”
Harry laughed and swung his feet. He focused on the box and gently traced the swirling pattern that covered the top. “Is this a heat box as well?”
“Yes, of course,” Armand said. “It has been her safe place since she hatched and she will return to it to sleep and if she’s injured.”
Thaddeus Banner cleared his throat. “Master Armand…”
“Relax, Thaddeus, I believe you’ll find that our future king is more than capable of handling what is in the box,” Armand murmured.
“I want to change things,” Harry said. “Change how we’re viewed in Britain—undo the damage that Dumbledore and his friends have done regarding parselcraft. How do I do that?” His gaze drifted around the room and focused on his godfather.
Sirius raised an eyebrow. “You want my opinion?”
“Yes, I think a blunt force attack on the subject is the best choice—some things people don’t have the right to get used to, and unlearning generations of discrimination is one of them,” Harry admitted.
“Were it me, I’d merely declare myself a parselmouth and distribute literature that reflects how awesome that makes me,” Sirius said and grinned when Harry nodded. “But you’re not me, and your father has never been the sort to make such reckless moves. A slightly more subtle choice would be to announce Armand’s placement in the ascension protocol should someone be so foolish as to kill your father and distribute information regarding the healing arts that are largely the domain of parselmouths. Master Armand is well-known and a much sought-after healer in international circles.
“Your father can end the restrictions on parselmouth healers in Britain due to their discriminatory nature, and you can ask your friend, Ragnok, to start advertising the skills that parselmouths offer the bank that has largely been hidden for the last fifty or so years due to Dumbledore.”
“Wait.” Lucius Malfoy leaned forward. “Are you saying that you’re parselmouth?” He focused entirely on Harry as he spoke.
“Yes, of course, I am. It is a gift that runs deep and true in the House of Potter.” Harry glanced at James, who merely quirked an eyebrow at him. “But Dumbledore is such a git about it that my great-grandfather started to hide it and even went so far to use familial magic to keep our secret while he was alive.” He focused on the box again and bit down on his lip. “Mum says that I should open presents in private then send ‘thank you’ notes in case the present is a complete nightmare.”
Armand laughed. “Go ahead, I won’t be upset if you’re horrified.”
James grinned when Harry immediately unlatched the lid and opened it. He stiffened briefly when an icy blue elemental viper rose elegantly from the box, and a hood snapped open around her head, sparkling white scales lined her hood. He’d rarely seen an elemental viper bred with a cobra. She was utterly breathtaking. Water shimmered on her scales as she stared at Harry then vaporized into a mist around her. She slithered out of the box, shrank dramatically in size, and curled around Harry’s small wrist.
“She’s perfect, Master Armand,” Harry said in awe as he stroked her head with one fingertip. “What’s her name?”
“Oddly enough, her name is Nimue. She told me so herself the day she hatched.”
Harry quirked an eyebrow at him but focused on the snake. “She’s making my magic tingle.”
“That’s the beginnings of a familiar bond,” James said quietly. “It seems that Master Armand made a very good choice for you.” He focused on Dearing as he spoke.
“Relax, James, she told me herself that she was for him. She hatched the very day he was born as a matter of fact and has insisted, repeatedly, over the years, that I find her wizard and stop wasting her time. After she fully matured in her magic, Nimue requested a stasis sleep. She’s never been used in any sort of ritual magic, and her conception was natural. I’d never bring a tainted snake anywhere near the king.”
Nimue slithered suddenly from Harry’s wrist and wrapped around James’ wand arm. She increased in size and squeezed gently as their magic interacted. Her magical purity was astounding, and James allowed himself to relax as he stroked her head. “You and I are going to have a very long talk.”
“Of course, Speaker.”
Harry took her back when she started to shrink and set aside the box before he focused on Armand. “There are elements in Britain who’d like to gain control over me for their own financial and political gain.”
“I’m sure,” Armand said.
“But you’re one of the wealthiest men in all of Europe, so you don’t need my money or any potential money you might gain by controlling me or winning my favor.”
“True,” Dearing murmured and nodded.
“Also, not to be rude, but you’re sort of scary, and I like that.” Harry smiled when Dearing laughed. “And I also know you’d help me get the proper amount of revenge should someone make themselves my enemy.”
“There are few honors greater to a man like myself than to make war for the King of Avalon.”
“And finally, I think you might hate Albus Dumbledore more than anyone else on the whole planet,” Harry said earnestly. “And I like that, too.”
Armand grew serious. “Do you consider Albus Dumbledore your enemy, Your Majesty?”
Harry focused on Nimue entirely, and his fingers trembled slightly before he gave a small nod. “He set me up to die as a baby—tried to mislead my parents into hiding behind that ridiculous Fidelius Charm, which can be circumvented in a number of ways. He knew Peter Pettigrew was corrupt, and I have to think he probably knew he was a Death Eater, too. After we disappeared, he tried to destroy my father’s place on the Wizengamot, and only the Orb of Ascension prevented it. The Orb says that I have no greater enemy on this Earth than Albus Dumbledore, and I don’t have any reason to doubt it, considering what he’s already done.
“He thought my parents were dead and found out I was here at the Den because he manipulated a magical oath out of my parent’s childhood friend. He came and was going to take me from my godfather by force if necessary, and all of that was before people knew about the Pendragon Legacy. What would he do now? And what purpose do I have for him today and in the future? He thought me important because of my parent’s money and a stupid prophecy about Voldemort. Now there is more, and through me, the path to serious power is obvious to anyone.”
“I see.” Armand sat back in his chair and glanced at his nephews, who, James noted, were very pale.
“Then there’s that whole dark lord mess.”
“What dark lord mess?” Armand questioned.
“Dumbledore either creates them by accident through apathy and general wankerhood, or he does it on purpose for his own gain.”
Half the men in the room silently mouthed the word wankerhood to each other. Frank just sighed, which made James think that Harry might have picked up that particular word from Neville.
“It doesn’t really matter how he goes about it—someone should put a stop to it. Between Grindelwald and Riddle, thousands of my citizens have died due to bigotry and ignorance. The truth is, Master Armand, that I can’t see myself in charge of a country full of stupid people so all these idiots are just going to have to get smarter or else.”
Armand grinned. “I met your great-grandfather, Oscar, when I was about your age. I fell out of a tree and broke my leg. Oscar Potter was in charge of St. Mungo’s, and though I didn’t know it at the time, most of the healers on duty had refused to heal me because I was a parselmouth.”
“That should be against the law.”
“It is now,” Armand said. “But at the time, there were no provisions to ensure the care of children in grey or dark families nor Muggle-borns for that matter. Once it became known to him, your great-grandfather invested himself in correcting it. At any rate, he treated me personally, and I found the whole process fascinating. More so, I realized that he was like me, and I’d never met anyone outside of my family like me—a parselmouth. When I left Hogwarts, he was getting ready to retire, but he reached out to a friend of his in the international community, and that friend became my mentor.”
“Grindelwald killed my great-grandfather,” Harry said. His gaze narrowed. “And Voldemort killed my grandfather, then tried to kill my father. They all seem unrelated until you realize that Dumbledore is their root.” He turned to James. “We should figure out if he’s just a complete git or if he’s trying to destroy our family line for a reason. It couldn’t be about the Avalon Protocols, at least it wasn’t before.”
“The Potter family has a lot of power in the Wizengamot,” Jonah McGregor pointed out.
“So do the McGregors,” Harry returned. “And yet, the men in your family have largely died of natural causes for the last two hundred years. That certainly isn’t true in our family.”
James knew that well enough. Both of his father’s brothers had been killed during the blood war. The cemetery in Godric’s Hollow was full to the brim with Potters who had died violently, many within the last fifty years. He looked down and found Nimue rubbing her head gently against Harry’s pulse point, magic stirring gently between them. He wondered how Lily would react to the snake. She wasn’t particularly tolerant of them as a rule, so he had none of his own.
– – – –
“Can’t it just be in normal clothes?” Harry questioned as he played with Nimue. The snake was winding herself around his fingers.
“Good manners and protocol can be a comfort,” Lily said. “If you become uncomfortable in a situation, you can retreat without causing offense.”
Harry frowned. “Well…won’t that make the other kids think I’m stuck up?”
Lily considered that and sighed. “Yes, it’s possible, but people will hold you to a higher standard when it comes to your public behavior because of your legacy.”
“Ha, your legacy.” Harry grinned when she laughed. “Okay, so semi-formal? Dress robes would be silly.”
“Semi-formal,” Lily agreed. “I’ll set up the quill to create the invitations. Lord Wright brought your official stationery last week.”
“I saw the seal the goblins made for me,” Harry said. “Mum.”
Lily looked up from the list she was creating and focused on him. He looked absolutely miserable, and it made her heart hurt. She left her desk and walked over to the sofa where he was curled up then sat down with him. He shifted and pressed up against her as she wrapped an arm around his shoulders.
“You don’t want this,” Lily murmured against his hair, and he shuddered then turned his face against her shoulder. “But you have a good heart.”
“That’s not enough.”
“Isn’t it?” Lily asked.
Harry huffed and wiggled a little so he could look at her face. “I don’t know enough. I don’t understand enough. I’m not big enough. I’m not strong enough. I’m not brave enough. I’m not enough of anything to be a king.”
“Right now, you’re not a king,” Lily said. “You’re the Heir of Pendragon, and yes, you have a duty to the realm, but right now, that duty is to learn and grow. In time you will understand what you need to understand, and you will learn all you need to know. You’re stronger than you know, Harry. I have every faith that when the day comes, you’ll stand for Britain.” She brushed a tear from his face. “But for now, you need to make a stand for Rohan. You’ve got a whole lot of orcs and just four men. That’s ridiculous. They’ll never hold Helm’s Deep at this rate.”
Harry stared at her for a minute then laughed. “Right.”
“It would work best if you attended but if you don’t want to…” James trailed off as he watched his son struggle with the cravat.
“I don’t want to go.” Harry frowned, untied the mess he’d made and started over. “Except I don’t want to end up being some kind of myth to them.” He chose a simpler knot and accomplished it easily enough then pinned it. “The papers have already started with that—not using my name at all in most articles. Four different articles in the Prophet and the Wizarding Times referred to me only as the Heir of Pendragon. Others use your name and my title but don’t mention Mum like they’d like to forget the Pendragon line returned to the realm through a Muggle-born witch. It’s annoying.”
“You can’t control someone’s bigotry.”
“No, but I can rub my half-blood status in their face as often as I’d like,” Harry pointed out slyly, and James laughed. “Especially at this age, because they don’t think of me as a threat. They won’t even see me coming.”
James sighed. “I’m going to make Lucius stay home.”
“I’ve learned a lot already from him,” Harry admitted. “It’s important that I know how people work—light, grey, and dark. It amuses him to teach me manipulation, but all he’s really doing is teaching me how to see it and how to counteract it.”
“Is that all you get out of the lessons?” James questioned.
“He’s an excellent student of human nature,” Harry pointed out. “That probably comes from being raised by an abusive parent.”
“You think Abraxas Malfoy was abusive?” James questioned.
Harry slipped on his robe and turned to face him. “He made his son take the Dark Mark. If that’s not abuse, Daddy, I’d like to know what is. Abraxas Malfoy made his son a slave.”
– – – –
As Regent, he’d crafted himself a portkey that dropped him right into the Wizengamot. When they landed together, conversation halted at the audience level. The men of the Privy Council stood and offered them both a bow. Harry waved at them, and James couldn’t help but grin when they all waved back. He took his son up the stairs to the Regent’s box, and they sat down together. He called the session to order with a flick of his wand and didn’t have to wait long before the Minister for Magic’s seal lit.
“Minister Crouch, you have the floor,” James said as he shifted parchments around the desk and made room for Harry to place his journal. The space was warded against unauthorized personnel, and he used it as his office in the ministry building, so the surface of the desk was often quite a mess.
Barty Crouch cleared his throat as the sonorous charm on his box activated. “Regent Potter, there is some concern regarding the future king’s attendance.”
James lifted an eyebrow. “What sort of concern?”
“Discussions conducting in this room are often very adult in subject and content,” Crouch said smoothly. “He’s quite young.”
“Harry will come and go from the Wizengamot as he wishes—that is his royal right, and you’d all be served to remember that.”
Crouch flushed. “May we know what sort of lessons, regarding the government, His Majesty has undertaken since the Avalon Protocols were activated?”
“He’s eight, Minister,” James said dryly, and many at the audience level laughed. “His education hasn’t changed all that much since we returned to Britain. His core subjects are language arts, Latin, mathematics, magical history, and Muggle world history. We’ve structured a peer group made up children in the Privy Council families, and they are tutored with him. He dabbles in runic magic, potions, Muggle chemistry, and herbology with his mother on Saturdays. In his spare time, he’s reading British magical law and regularly losing his mind because it’s backward and offensive.”
Crouch blinked. “I see. Is that normal for an eight-year-old?”
“It’s normal for a child of Lily Potter,” James said. “My wife is quite known for her intelligence—her eyes aren’t the only thing my son was lucky enough to inherit. Is there a reason behind this line of questions?”
“We have a right to know what our future king is learning and who is teaching him,” Crouch said. “The Avalon Protocols don’t leave anyone a lot of room for choice.”
Harry propped his chin up on his hand and cleared his throat. “I think he’s trying to say we’re stuck with each other.”
Crouch gaped. “I…that’s…I mean.” He trailed off and exhaled sharply.
“Which is sort of true,” Harry agreed. “You are stuck with me—for good or bad.” He paused and waited for Crouch to look at him. “The Privy Council handles my formal education, which is outlined in the Protocols. Perhaps you should read those, Minister Crouch.”
“I should, Your Majesty,” Crouch agreed.
“Minister Crouch, you were first on the agenda, and I assume you have more to discuss than my son’s education,” James said as he reviewed the agenda. “We have a long morning so if you’d get started on your real business?”
Crouch hesitated, which made James frown. He glanced at Harry, who was staring intently at the minister. “Regent Potter, your isolation of the future king, has many in the ancient families, not included in the Privy Council, very concerned. You’ve left Britain, for reasons unknown, once before, and it was impossible to find you. There is some worry that you might abscond with His Majesty, again.”
“Protecting my family was my only concern in October of 1981. I was Voldemort’s target. He’d already murdered my parents and paternal uncles.”
“But that’s not true,” Crouch said. “You weren’t his target at all—the boy was. The boy who would be our king.”
Harry’s hand settled on his wrist, and James realized he’d actually drawn his wand. Members of the Privy Council were standing, among them Sirius, who was glaring pointedly at Crouch.
“Who told you this?”
“Does it matter?” Crouch questioned. “There’s a prophecy downstairs in the Department of Mysteries. In fact, there are two with His Majesty’s name on them. I believe we have the right to know their contents.”
“And if I don’t agree?”
“One prophecy bears the name of Tom Riddle,” Crouch said. “We can take the damn thing to him in Italy and listen to it there.”
Harry’s fingers clenched briefly on his wrist, and he released him. “It’s okay, Daddy.”
James knew that Dumbledore was to blame for this, and why the old man hadn’t just given the Crouch the prophecy was anyone’s guess—unless he had and they were exposing the secret if it now because Riddle was safely tucked away. But they were going to use the two prophecies to bind Harry to Britain and perhaps to even undermine his and Lily’s parental rights. He turned to look at Sirius then Frank. Both men were still standing. They were the only ones on the Privy Council who knew the content of the prophecy in full.
“Fine, bring them forward.”
Crouch smirked, and James vowed to ruin his fucking life as Barty waved toward the back of the room with one hand. A man James didn’t know stepped forward with a covered tray. Crouch removed the cover and revealed two glowing orbs. The minister took the tray and stepped down from his box and crossed to the presentation platform. A pedestal rose from the floor, and he placed the tray there.
Harry stood and with one more touch of his wrist, left their platform. James wanted to follow, but he knew that he shouldn’t. The moment Harry stepped up onto the presentation dais, Thaddeus Banner left his box and joined him. Crouch started to speak, but Banner glared at him until the minister retreated two steps back from the pedestal.
One orb was a milky white and blue—James knew it. He and Lily had visited the ministry to look at it, to verify it existed before they’d left Britain. It hadn’t had Harry’s name on it at the time, but now it did. He figured that old bastard, Dumbledore, had added it. The second was varying shades of pink and red. He wondered what the label said.
Harry picked up the pink one. “The brightest witch of the age will be born in the fall as the war of blood reaches its height. Born with an ancient power thought long lost, the Winter Witch will be the soulmate of the Pendragon Heir. Eternally they shall be bound in heart and soul. Eternally shall they be bound in life and death.”
Harry put it back on the pedestal, and James noted that his hands were steady as he did so. The entire room shifted forward in their seats as Harry reached out for the second, but instead of picking it up, his hand connected loudly with the orb, and it shot off the pedestal. It shattered across the dais—a mixture of magical smoke and glass. Several people shouted in shock, but Harry just frowned at Crouch and picked up the pink orb again. He tucked it against his chest and turned on his heel.
James said nothing as Harry returned to the Regent’s box and carefully put the orb down on his desk. His son had a fated soulmate. Soulmates weren’t rare among magicals—it required deep love, and profound magical compatibility and magic often brought them together naturally—but a fated one was another matter altogether.
“Regent Potter this is an outrage!”
“My son’s fate is none of your bloody business,” James snapped. “And he’s made that perfectly clear. Let it be known that searching for the witch currently known as the Winter Witch without permission from the Heir of Pendragon will be considered an act of treason and the punishment for betraying the Crown is death.” He started to raise his wand to end the session then frowned. “Does anyone in this room have a measure that can’t wait? I’d like to retire to my dueling room and murder a few hundred targets.”
“Well, I do,” Harry pointed out.
James turned to him and blinked. “Oh, right, for fuck’s sake.” He rubbed a hand over his face then pointed at the court stenographer. “Do not put that last bit down.”
The woman paused and flushed. “I’m not allowed to edit the record, Regent Potter. But if it makes you feel better, you’re hardly the first to be reduced to such on the floor of the Wizengamot.”
Harry laughed briefly then schooled his face when James huffed.
James cleared his throat. “As it is his duty and royal right, the Heir of Pendragon has chosen a Viceroy to take my place should I be killed or become so ill I can no longer serve as Regent. His selection is his own, as the Protocols dictate, and has already been certified by the Wizengamot in private. My son wishes to make this announcement personally.”
Harry shifted up in his chair and unfolded a piece of parchment in front of him. “I, Hadrian I, declare before the Wizengamot the right of ascension regarding the regency of Avalon. Should there come a time when my father, James Michael Potter, can no longer serve as my Regent, Armand Victor Dearing of the House of Stuart shall stand as Viceroy of Avalon and act on my behalf until I decide to take the throne.”
“You can’t be serious!” One of the men from the Ancient houses stood.
Harry jerked in surprise and turned to James. “Are they allowed to yell at me?”
“No, lad, they’re not,” James said and glared at Angus Macmillan, who was red-faced and breathing heavily. “Watch your tone, Macmillan and remember your house serves on the Wizengamot by the grace of Arthur Pendragon himself who has already approved my son’s choice of Viceroy. This isn’t a discussion or a debate. Sit down and shut up.”
Macmillan started to speak, but Harry laughed.
James turned to his son. “What?”
“Oh, I just thought we should let him talk. If he wants to pick a fight with Armand Dearing, who are we to interfere? Can I watch the duel?”
“No, lad, you know your mother doesn’t want you to exposed to such violence.”
Macmillan paled and sat down without another word.
“And that’s why I chose him,” Harry said. His gaze flicked around the room and settled on Armand Dearing. Another box appeared on the Privy Council platform. “If you don’t want Master Armand making you miserable or maiming you for life, I suggest you all invest yourselves in seeing that my father comes to no harm.”
Armand stood and with a sweep of dark blue robes, left the audience and joined the Privy Council.
– – – –
Lily was waiting in the foyer when they returned to the Den. Their gazes connected and James took a deep breath. “I…”
“I wanted to come down there and…” Lily flushed then focused on Harry and the glossy orb he held in both hands.
Harry tapped the orb with his fingers and smiled. “She’s going to be smart like you, Mum. I can’t wait to meet her.” The prophecy flowed out of the orb and played in the air between them before retreating in a wisp of smoke.
The men of the Privy Council started to arrive as Lily knelt in front of Harry, eyes damp with unshed tears. “Why did you listen to this one?”
“I didn’t think I could break them both without the minister interfering,” Harry admitted. “So I broke the one that was about Riddle. I figured this one couldn’t be nearly as bad as the other one, and it didn’t have any real names on the label. It said the Heir of Pendragon and the Winter Witch. I figured it was a risk I could take.”
Lily nodded and smiled. “A soulmate, huh?”
“Yeah, but I’m not surprised. Merlin told me I have one.”
“And that’s why you wanted to meet our daughters?” Gerald Greengrass asked. “Do you think one of them is this Winter Witch?”
“Well, I didn’t know the gender of my soulmate until this.” He patted the orb. “But it didn’t take me long to figure out it wasn’t one of the boys I have lessons with. I’m magically compatible with Neville and Draco, though they are both more compatible with each other than they are with me. So I thought the tea party would allow me to meet a few witches without any pressure, but that’s not possible now.”
“Why didn’t you tell us?” James asked quietly.
Harry shrugged. “It was just something for me, and I wasn’t ready to share it. But Dumbledore’s ruined that.”
“Dumbledore?” Sirius questioned. “You blame him instead of Crouch?”
“Well, you can’t really blame the puppet for what the hand up its bum does,” Harry said dryly, and Lily’s mouth dropped open.
“Harry!” She poked him, and he laughed. “Come on, we’ll put your orb away and then figure out how to find this little witch of yours.”
Harry trotted after his mother. “Mum, there’d better not be a single joke about Cinderella in this plan.” Lily laughed. “I mean it! How come I don’t get to be king at home where it matters?”
“Oh, darling,” Lily said and laughed some more.
“He might as well learn that lesson now rather than later,” Ross Weasley muttered. “I haven’t been in charge at home since the day I got married. That’s seventy years of oppression, gentlemen, pure oppression.”
James laughed at the older man. “There are rewards.”
Tiberius Ogden huffed. “When you get to be our age, the bossing outweighs the rewards.” He huffed again. “Let’s get some drinks for fuck’s sake.” He stalked off toward the meeting room. “Bloody soul mate. Just what we fucking needed.”
Jonah McGregor arrived via portkey at that point, and he looked furious.
“The bloody Book of Souls is missing,” McGregor snapped. “I’m going to string Dumbledore up by his shriveled-up bollocks!”
“The Book of Souls was destroyed by Grindelwald,” Sirius said in confusion. “Everyone knows that.”
“We hid the real one,” McGregor growled. “To protect it—to protect the legacy of Merlin. There are only two of us alive who knew where it was in the ministry, and Dumbledore is the other. The secret of it passes with my position in the DOM and with the Chief Warlock. Dumbledore was the last Chief Warlock, so his knowledge of it was to die with him.”
They settled into the meeting room, and James said nothing when firewhiskey was liberally distributed. He’d never seen the Book of Souls since it had been reportedly destroyed in the 1920s. It had largely become a formality due to the number of spells and tests that could be used to verify a couple were soulmates. It had also been a symbol of great love and fate—the last gift Merlin had given them before he died.
“But he can’t open it,” Elijah Abbott interjected. “Dumbledore won’t be able to view the king’s record in the Book of Souls.”
“Unless he’s found the Winter Witch,” Frank said grimly. “And we have to think he was searching for her before today. Did anyone get a good look at the label? Who made the prophecy?”
“They were both made by Sybil Trelawney. The one about the Dark Lord was witnessed by Albus Dumbledore, and the second, Merlin help us all, was witnessed by Gilderoy Lockhart.” James rubbed his face with a steady hand and slouched down in a chair.
Armand made a huffy sound and turned to one of his ever-present nephews. “Walker, find that fool, Lockhart. If Dumbledore already has him—lure him away and question him thoroughly.”
“Uncle, with all due respect, I believe I would have better luck,” Quintin Deadmarsh interrupted. “Gilderoy is the gayest wizard in Britain, and Walker is a known womanizer.”
Walker Deadmarsh nodded. “True enough, and while I probably could seduce him—I’d rather not.”
“Seduction,” Quintin scoffed as he stood and put on his cloak. “He has a charm built into his clothing to help him identify other gay wizards for sex. All I have to do is find him and walk by.”
James laughed. “Happy hunting, then.”
Harry entered the room at that moment and went to Lucius Malfoy. “You ordered Dobby not to help me without your permission.”
Lucius opened his mouth then shut it. He glanced toward James then drank heavily from his glass before setting it aside. “Yes, I did.”
“Because you did something that was potentially dangerous and it is my duty to you and to Avalon to protect you—it’s a duty we all share, Your Majesty.”
Harry’s gaze narrowed. “You only call me that when you think I’m unreasonable.”
“You are,” Lucius said bluntly. “And it was rude for you to use a servant bound to my family without my permission. A less forgiving master could and probably would’ve freed Dobby, and you know very well how important bonds are to house elves. Once a house elf is given clothes, they are rarely granted another bond—they grow old very fast and die as a result.”
Harry’s eyes darkened, and magic shifted briefly on his skin. “I’d be really upset if you did that and Dobby died.”
“I would’ve freed him if I hadn’t realized he would come here immediately and beg you for a bond,” Lucius admitted. “Now, why do you want Dobby?”
“I need him to deliver a message.”
“Will he be seeking out anyone dangerous for you?”
“Not that I’m aware of, but it’ll probably make Dumbledore angry.”
Lucius glanced at James, who only nodded. “Dobby!”
The house elf appeared immediately. “Yes, Master Lucius?”
“The king has an errand for you—do as he requests this time only.”
Harry glared briefly at Lucius before focusing on Dobby. “Dumbledore stole the Book of Souls from the Ministry and probably has it hidden at Hogwarts. Go to the head house elf there and tell them I want the school searched thoroughly, and the first of them to bring the book to me can bond with me and be my elf.”
Dobby made a face and glanced briefly at his Master before he popped away with a huff.
Harry joined his father on the loveseat and stared pointedly at Malfoy.
“You manipulated me into canceling the betrothal contract for Draco and Pansy Parkinson,” Lucius said mildly. “When you had to already know at that point that he wasn’t your soulmate.”
“Yes, of course, I did. You’re an ambitious man, and you know very well what kind of privilege you could enjoy if your son were my Consort.” He grinned. “Don’t act mad. I didn’t do anything you didn’t teach me.”
“I deeply regret my life choices,” Lucius muttered and took a deep swallow of his drink. “Was Draco that unhappy with the match?”
“It’s not really my place to talk to you about your son’s preferences,” Harry said diplomatically. “If I had a firm preference, I’d tell my parents. Maybe you should ask him?”
“So you don’t have a firm preference?” James questioned.
“Well, since my soulmate is a girl then I assume I probably prefer witches since Magic wouldn’t have given me a soulmate who wasn’t perfect for me. But still, I didn’t mind kissing a boy.”
James turned abruptly. “Pardon me?”
“Well, how else was I to know for certain they weren’t my soulmate?”
Sirius laughed. “Oh, lad, how many of your retinue did you kiss?”
Harry flushed. “Just the ones who were really compatible and agreeable. Mum said consent was important.”
“Consent is very important,” James agreed and sighed. “So I assume—Draco and Neville?”
“And Blaise, but not because he was all that compatible. He was just there and didn’t want to be left out.” Harry swung his feet. “Don’t tell them but he was the best kisser.”
Lily entered at that moment. James noted that she had a bracelet in hand that she’d worn at Hogwarts. It was a thin gold chain with a single Gryffindor charm hanging on it. She knelt in front of Harry, and he held out his left hand.
“Okay, since I’d rather you didn’t continue to approach this as some kind of little kissing game,” Lily began and grinned when Harry laughed. “The bracelet will activate when you encounter a magical signature that is completely compatible with your magic. The likelihood that you’d encounter more than one is slim to none. I need you to also consider the fact that you might not meet her for years, Harry.”
“You heard Lord McGregor talk about the Book of Souls just like I did. One of the elves at Hogwarts will find it for me, and a bond with me is a huge draw. It would tempt even bonded elves, and you said the Hogwarts elves are bound to the castle, not the headmaster himself.”
“Albus Dumbledore is powerful, and we’ve repeatedly set ourselves against him. There is no telling how long he’s had the Book of Souls, what he’s done to it, or even how long he’s been searching for her.”
Harry’s mouth firmed up. “You’re telling me he could already have her?”
“I’m telling you that Dumbledore is dangerous, and we can never underestimate what he’s capable of.” She fastened the bracelet and slowly shrank it so that it was snug against his wrist then she disillusioned it with a shimmer of magic. “And if he’s already figured out who she is—just know that no manipulation could survive a fated soulmate bond. He won’t be able to keep her.”
“He could kill her,” Harry said flatly. “Or destroy her magic. He fears those more powerful than himself and she would be. What is her ancient power? What sort of power did people used to have that they don’t now? It’s not just magical power—it’s something deeper.”
“I agree,” Lily said. “And I’ll begin researching immediately. I think I’ll start with Ravenclaw line.”
“That line is extinct…” James trailed off. “Much like the Pendragon line was purported to be. You think she’s Muggle-born?”
“It’d make sense,” Sirius said. “Any magical gifts preserved in old families are carefully nurtured so if this little witch has an ancient power, and it’s special and believed to be lost, then she can’t be from a magical family. They’d have been bragging about it since her birth if she were.”
“Like an elemental,” Armand said quietly, and everyone turned to look at him. “What? It makes sense—the Winter Witch. There hasn’t been an elemental witch or wizard in Britain in over a thousand years and, incidentally, that was Rowena Ravenclaw.”
Dobby returned in that instant with a tiny female elf in tow. A book was hovering between them. He turned to Harry. “Star find it but it very dangerous!”
James pulled his wife from the floor as he stood, and everyone else in the room stood as well. He put himself between his son and the book. “How is it dangerous?”
“Dumbles curse it,” the female elf admitted. “Anyone who touch it be loyal to him to him for life. Ugly curse bond with their magic.”
“And I can’t open it without touching it,” Harry said. “Maybe he plans to put it back in the hiding place and wait for me to request to see it.”
“Seems likely,” James murmured. He cupped his son’s head gently and rubbed the back of his ear with a thumb. A habit he’d picked up when his son was tiny, and it was the only thing that would soothe him.
McGregor whipped off his cloak and spread out on the floor under the hovering book. “I’ll take it and put a research team on the matter immediately. I can’t say for certain if or when we’ll be able to lift the curse.”
The female elf lowered the book to the cloak then wrapped it up carefully with her magic.
“Thank you for finding it, Star,” Harry murmured.
“I sorry I not able clean it,” Star said. “It be my honor to help, Your Majesty.”
“It’s okay.” Harry leaned on his father and stared at her. “You don’t want a bond, do you?”
Star blushed. “I have two children and they not be old enough to bond. Last wizard who offer insist on their bonds anyway.”
“But it’s illegal to bond an immature elf,” Harry said in confusion.
“Not in Britain,” James murmured. “It’s how house elves end up in slavery conditions—bonding an immature elf creates a situation where they can’t leave a bond unless they’re freed.”
“I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. These gits sell their children. Why would I even think they’d have a small bit of respect for other sentient magical creatures?” He huffed then focused on Star. “I’ll accept only you in a bond, and your babies can come here. You’ll have to wear a uniform. It’s part of the Avalon Protocols.”
Star glanced toward Dobby who gave her a quick nod then she offered Harry both of her hands. James considered preventing it, but he’d rather know the elf than not, and he figured his son would find another way to bond a house elf if he interfered. He obviously found house elves uniquely useful and was irritated with Lucius for his interference.
Harry took her hands, and the elf shuddered as the Pendragon magic surfaced and accepted her. Two small elves appeared beside her—both dressed in little tunics made of flour sacks. He’d never seen elves so small before as most often they were hidden until they were mature enough to bond of their own free will.
“These are my babies—Emmie and Torrie. Emmie is sixteen years, and Torrie is eight years.”
– – – –
James sat down on the edge of Harry’s bed. His son was dressed to in Gryffindor red pajamas because never let it be said that Lily Potter wasn’t full to the brim with house pride. “You had a big day.”
Harry frowned and put the book he’d been reading when James entered on the table. “We can’t protect her from Dumbledore if we don’t know who she is, Dad. If he figures out she’s Muggle-born, then he’ll find her at Hogwarts.” Tears welled in his eyes. “That’s not fair—she’s not for him. He could turn her into a weapon against me.”
Nothing he could tell his son would be a comfort because the situation was utterly unknown and Harry knew it.
“Fate is a powerful force in the world,” James said.
“The same Fate that set me against Tom Riddle before I was even born?” Harry questioned.
He couldn’t deny it. James rubbed his face with one hand. “Yes, but Tom Riddle is in prison.”
“For now,” Harry agreed. “But if it is my destiny to face him and Fate is powerful…” He huffed and dropped back in his mound of pillows. “I suppose if I’m gonna have to eventually fight a vicious dark lord that it’s only fair that I get a soulmate.”
James grinned then. “I suppose so.”
Harry snuggled under his covers with a yawn. “Do you think she’ll like me?”
“Of course, she will,” James said, relieved he could at least offer that bit of reassurance. “You’re made for each other.” He pulled the duvet up over his son’s shoulder. “She’ll be strong and brilliant.”
“Just like your Mum,” James murmured. He leaned down and kissed his son’s forehead.
– – – –
Lily was feeding Philippa when he returned to the outer room of the suite. Isobel was on a sofa, and Sirius was sprawled on it with his head in his wife’s lap. It had taken a couple of weeks for Sirius to get used to the breastfeeding, but James found it kind of amusing that his best mate would dart from the room every time it was time to feed the baby. Sirius had largely been out of the country while Lily had breastfed Harry.
“How did the call go with Remus?” James asked.
“He took the news about as well as we did,” Sirius murmured. “Dumbledore hasn’t left Hogwarts in weeks unless he’s done it on a full moon, but that would mean that he’s aware of the fact that Moony is watching him, and I don’t think he is.” He turned his head slightly and focused on James. “How does the enrollment book at Hogwarts work? Are children added when they’re born?”
“No,” Lily murmured as she adjusted Philippa. “They’re added just short of their eleventh birthday, and the letters are automatically generated by a special quill that Helga Hufflepuff enchanted. To prevent any sort of tampering regarding blood status, the enrollment quill is hidden within the Sorting Hat and hasn’t been removed since Helga placed it inside. The Hat requests parchment for the letters and that’s how they know how many students will be invited. The letters are expelled from the Hat and directly retrieved by the school owls. Minerva told me once that the last headmaster who tried to take a peek at the letters got knocked unconscious and tossed out of the castle by Hogwarts herself. Phineas Black had to stand at the gates apologizing non-stop for several hours before she’d let him back in.”
Sirius sighed. “I can just imagine why he wanted to see the letters. He had a squib grandson that he worked very hard to hide.”
“What about the enrollment book?” Isobel questioned.
“Minerva fills that out personally after acceptance letters are sent in,” Lily said. “It’s been her duty since she became Deputy. I’ve already sent her a letter asking her to come for tea. She’ll know if the girl is already enrolled.”
“You don’t think she’d be closer to Harry’s age?” James questioned.
“I think she was born between 1976 and 1981—certainly before Riddle went underground so he could concentrate on hunting Harry and undermining the ministry without fighting. Which means she could be a first or second year already. Or maybe she’ll get her letter this year, and Minerva will meet her like she does all the Muggle-borns when she takes them to Diagon Alley.” Lily trailed her fingers through Philippa’s hair. “If she’s a Muggle-born, and I think we can assume she is if she has some ancient gift that people believe to be extinct, then she’s a stand-out already academically. She’ll test high among her Muggle peers, but I don’t imagine she’ll have many friends.”
“Like you?” Sirius questioned. “Was it like that for you in Muggle school?”
“Yes, I was too smart,” Lily said. “Other girls resented me for gaining favor with teachers, and the boys were hostile. Severus was honestly the only friend I had growing up. Even my own sister was often very cruel to me because I was smarter than what she considered to be normal. I garnered too much attention for her peace of mind, and my parents were very proud of me. She resented that, too. It was worse when I received my Hogwarts letter. I already knew, of course, because Severus had told me I was a witch, but Petunia wasn’t going to ever get a letter.” She frowned. “Hopefully, her parents will place in her an academic environment where she won’t suffer for her intelligence. I was offered a place at a prep school, but the fees were far outside my parent’s budget.”
James watched his wife adjust Philippa again then deftly switch to her other breast. The baby fussed briefly before latching on again. “Greedy girl.”
Lily laughed. “Much more so than Harry. I could barely keep him down to eat, and even now he’s not much better about staying in one place long enough to eat a whole meal.”
“Could we search the Muggle school system for her?” James asked.
“Not without drawing undue attention to her,” Lily said. “If we sponsored some kind of scholarship—the winner would be publically announced, and Dumbledore might have already turned to the Muggle world for answers.”
“So we have to leave her where she is,” James said grimly. “Unprepared, vulnerable and probably utterly in the dark about her true potential.”
Sirius hummed under his breath. “Well, maybe not.” He sat up. “So she’s powerful, right? Powerful and smart. What are the chances she hasn’t had some kind of bout of accidental magic?”
Lily frowned. “But that would mean she’s not in a good home.”
“Oh, not necessarily,” Sirius said. “We have weekly incidents where kids get too excited by a present or get angry at a sibling. Though about a year ago there was an incident…with this kid in a primary school in West Sussex.” His eyes went wide. “He pulled this little girl’s hair, and she flung him across a classroom.”
“How old was she?” James asked.
“I think six or so, tiny little thing. It was kind of amusing actually that she was so tiny and she’d knocked a boy twice her size across the room. We had to fix his arm at St. Mungo’s to cover up the incident, and the school headmaster agreed to separate them to avoid a repeat of the incident.”
“What was the name of the school?” Lily asked.
“Three Bridges, I believe. Let’s see… I think her name was…Romilda.” He frowned. “No, no, her mother is a witch, so she’s not a Muggle-born, and if she had some ancient gift, it would be known. Her mother said if there was another incident that she would pull her out of the school and homeschool her until Hogwarts.” He ran a hand through his hair and slouched on the sofa. “But there could be others.”
“Yes,” Lily said. “And we can’t risk giving a single one of them a look. We wouldn’t be able to take her from her parents—it would be reprehensible and illegal. We also couldn’t protect her from Dumbledore unless we had her in custody. Her anonymity is frankly her biggest protection right now, and we can’t undermine it.”
“I didn’t tell Barty Crouch about the prophecy,” Dumbledore said, and fury twisted in James’ gut because the old bastard wasn’t lying. “And I don’t know how he found out.”
They’d already decided to not mention the Book of Souls. James knew the old man probably suspected that they’d stolen it back from him, but he certainly wasn’t going to complain about the theft considering he’d stolen it first.
“And what do you know about the Winter Witch?” Sirius asked.
Dumbledore looked around the conference room they’d all settled in. The ministry building had dozens, but the one they were in was used primarily by the DMLE because of the security measures in the room. “Nothing.” He finally focused on Harry. “I was led to believe that you wanted to speak with me, Your Majesty.”
Harry pushed a piece of parchment across the table. “I want you to make a vow on your magic.”
Dumbledore frowned and unfolded the parchment. His eyes darkened with fury. “I don’t know what you’ve been told about me, Your Majesty, but I am a light wizard. I have fought for the good of society since I was younger than your own father. I find this to be an extremely insulting request.”
“If you’d never do it then making the vow, while insulting, will not hurt you in the least,” Harry said. “And it’s not a request. I’m prepared to make it a royal decree which would, unfortunately for you, make the vow a matter of public record. How would the people of Britain feel about you then? Would they want you in charge of Hogwarts if their future king were to publicly display his complete distrust of you?”
“I can tell, already, that you’ve been poorly influenced,” Dumbledore murmured. “The men your father has gathered around you are not the sort you should be socializing with.”
“Is that because none of them kiss your bum?” Harry questioned. “That’s what Draco thinks, and Neville just thinks you’re a terrible old git who likes to be in charge too much. As to how I’m influenced—Arthur Pendragon seems to have no issues with my father or my Privy Council. I was told, however, by both Pendragon and Merlin, that you were unsavory, and your world view is corrupt.”
Dumbledore frowned and focused on the parchment. “I’m surprised by the wording of the vow.”
“You shouldn’t be—it’s my duty to protect my soulmate.”
“I can make this vow, but if I do, I’ll never help the Crown in any single way. Any information I have concerning Tom Riddle will remain mine until the day I die. I will not counsel you or your father on any matter as to avoid violating the vow accidently.”
Harry’s gaze narrowed but then he nodded. “Sounds great. Make the vow.”
Dumbledore huffed. “You don’t even know what I know.”
“She’s more important than whatever you think you know,” James said evenly. “Make the damn vow, Dumbledore, and this will remain a private matter. Refuse to do so, and a decree will be announced first thing in the morning.”
Dumbledore glared but stood and drew his wand. “I, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, solemnly swear on my life and magic that I will never seek to control, manipulate, hurt, kill, damage, or hold hostage the female magical person currently known as the Winter Witch, so mote it be.” He put away his wand and left the room without another word.
Harry laughed a little when the door slammed shut. “I shouldn’t find it amusing to make him mad, right?”
“Probably not,” James conceded. “But once at Hogwarts, I made him so mad that his magic pushed his hat off.”
Harry grinned. “Can I see that in the pensieve?”
“Sure,” James agreed. He turned to Ollivander. “Garrick, you had business with him? I promised to go to the bookstore for Lily before returning home.”
Ollivander nodded and set a box on the table in front of him. “There is a bit of a story attached. Do you have time?”
“We do,” James murmured.
“In the fall of 1926, I received two phoenix feathers from Fawkes. They were unique in that he’d never given me two feathers at the same time. He’s given me hundreds over the years but always just one after he burns and regrows his plumage. That year, after his burning, he delivered two. I made two wands—one was yew and the other holly. I worked on them for days without stopping as if I was driven by some greater creative force that I’d never known, and incidentally never known again. In August of 1938, a boy came into my shop and bought the yew wand.”
James felt his gut tighten because he knew already what was coming. It was no secret that Tom Riddle carried a yew wand.
“And that boy was Tom Riddle.” Ollivander frowned. “I’d have never sold him a wand at all if I’d known what he would do with it. The brother wands are powerful—the most powerful I’ve ever created—and he did terrible things with his.” He focused on Harry. “The day you came home to Britain, the holly wand vibrated so hard that it fell from the shelf. Every single morning, I wake up, and it is on my desk in my shop.” He opened the box and displayed a beautifully crafted wand. “This morning when I tried to put it back on the shelf, I was tossed on my bum for my troubles.” He grinned when Harry laughed. “I know you already have a wand—and your father carries it for you due to your age—but I believe that it is my duty to give you this wand, young man.”
Harry glanced his way, and James nodded. He reached out and wrapped one small hand around the handle of the wand. A shower of golden sparks filled the room, and he could have sworn that there was a distant echo of phoenix song. The sparks died down, and Ollivander presented Harry with a wrist holster.
“I believe Magic is telling me that you should carry this wand.”
Harry put the wand down, and it vibrated gently against the table, so he put his left hand on it and the wand stilled. “I see.” He held out his wand arm, and Ollivander fastened the holster in place. “Is it important that they are brother wands?”
“I don’t know,” Ollivander admitted. “They remain the only pair of brother wands I’ve ever made. In fact, I was instructed during my apprenticeship to never make brother wands, though I wasn’t told why. I wouldn’t have made them at all, but I felt guided, and perhaps this wand is part of your destiny.”
Harry holstered the wand. “Thank you.”
Ollivander smiled sadly. “What a thing to be thanked for.”
– – – –
Harry had never been a store before—not any sort of store. James was a little ashamed of that fact, but it was really just another reminder of what Voldemort and Dumbledore had pushed him to. Stowe Flourish had meandered out of his office upon their arrival and put up a closed sign after he’d ushered out several flustered patrons. Under normal circumstances, James would’ve protested, but Harry’s safety was much more important than anyone’s sensibilities on the subject.
Thaddeus Banner had situated himself outside the shop, and James was just watching his son wonder around the shop—touching books, picking up little sundry items that the shop sold. He noted that Harry had kept the animated dragon bookmark he’d picked up first so he figured he’d be asked to purchase that. After a few minutes, a small stuffed unicorn with a pink horn was tucked under Harry’s arm as well.
“Most kids his age run around the place like little storms,” Flourish murmured from his place behind the counter.
James sighed. “It’s the first time he’s ever been in a shop.”
“Well, keeping him safe from that dark bastard was more important, wasn’t it?” Stowe asked.
“It appeared so at the time.” James looked at Harry and found that a small book had joined the unicorn. “Perhaps I should’ve gotten him a basket.”
Flourish laughed. “Well, this way he’s limited to what he can carry.” He put a bag on the counter. “Lady Potter’s order is already packed up. I’m still looking for one book. Please let her know that I’ll owl her as soon as I locate a copy. I’ve got a few inquiries out for it in the US and Canada.”
“Thank you.” James nodded as Harry approached. He had three books, the unicorn, and the bookmark was now tucked into one of the books. He flicked the unicorn’s horn, and the stuffed animal’s legs wiggled in protest. He laughed. “Not your style.”
Harry flushed and laughed. “It’s for Philippa, Daddy.”
James took the books and the unicorn for Flourish to tally up. “Anything else?”
“No,” Harry said with a frown. “But there is an advertisement poster on the end of one of the shelves about me. Someone’s publishing a book about the Pendragon legacy. Did you authorize that?”
“No, I didn’t,” James said and turned to Flourish.
The older man produced a flyer. “I received them last week. I had no idea it wasn’t authorized. I won’t stock it, of course. That’s outrageous. I’ll remove the flyers as soon as possible.”
James took it and folded the parchment with a sigh. “I appreciate that, Stowe. I’ll let you know if I agree to the publication, which is unlikely. Lily is going to be livid.”
“Yes, I imagine so.” He put Harry’s books in the bag, and the little unicorn tried to stab him with her cloth horn.
“She’s kind of hostile,” James pointed out.
“Well, unicorns prefer virgins,” Harry pointed out and grinned when both men laughed.
Flourish closed the shopping bag, and it shrank abruptly to the size of a small envelope. “There you go.”
James pocketed the envelope and signed off on the purchase. “Thank you for closing the store, but you needn’t next time. We hope to get people used to him so he doesn’t get treated…”
“Like an oddity,” Harry supplied when his father trailed off. “I’d rather be known as a real live actual person, you see.”
Flourish leaned on his counter so he could look Harry in the eye. “There will always be those who set you above themselves, lad. It’ll make them treat you differently, they’ll assume untrue things about you and perhaps even believe you’re incapable of empathizing with their situation because of your station. But Lady Magic has already given you someone unique in this world, and she will see you for all of your good and bad parts. I met my soulmate when I was eighteen. She punched me in the face.”
Harry laughed, and his hands curled around the edge of the counter as he leaned forward a little. “What did you do?”
“I pinched her bum. She was a pretty little thing, you see, and I wanted her attention. Boy, did I get it.” He rubbed his jaw in an exaggerated fashion. “Of course, after she finished berating me and hitting me with her purse, she informed that I would be buying her dinner to make up for my wretched behavior, or she was going to haul me home to my mum and let her know what a git I was.”
“Did you buy her dinner?” James asked, more curious than he wanted to admit.
“Every night since,” Flourish admitted. “Though I hardly deserved the honor of it. Lucky for me, she’s a forgiving sort, and she felt our magical connection just as keenly as I did. She was just more mature about it.”
“You shouldn’t pinch girl’s bums,” Harry told him sternly. “It’s sexual harassment.”
James laughed and cupped his son’s shoulder. “His mother is a feminist.”
Flourish grinned. “Lily told me the same thing when I told her how I met my soulmate.”
James nodded. “Well, let’s hope Harry takes this story as an object lesson. Thank you for your time, Stowe.”
“Come back anytime.”
“I’d rather not get punched in the face,” Harry admitted as James guided him toward the door. “I should probably just stick with flowers. Witches don’t punch you when you give them flowers, right, Daddy?”
“We’ll have to ask Sirius—he had far more violent encounters with women than I did,” James confided. He turned the sign back to ‘open’ as Harry waved goodbye to Flourish.
Diagon Alley had several apparition points, and the rest of the Alley was warded against it—to control traffic and to prevent accidents. Some people simply weren’t all that good at apparition and needed landing areas to avoid leaving their body parts all over the place. It was one reason why the floo was so popular with less-talented magical people. Harry was chatting with Thaddeus, telling him about the unicorn he’d picked out for Philippa.
The crowd was thin, and James did his best to ignore the stares in the hopes that his son would follow suit.
“Regent Potter, a word!”
James shared a look with Thaddeus, and the younger man rolled his eyes as Minister Crouch hurried toward them. “Barty, I don’t have office hours today—it’s Saturday.” He shifted his stance slightly as Harry moved closer on his left. The kid didn’t like Crouch any more than he liked Dumbledore, and it wasn’t all to do with the prophecy business.
“You had a meeting with Dumbledore at the ministry,” Crouch said. “Why wasn’t I included?”
“I didn’t have a meeting with Dumbledore, my son did, and Harry decided who was to attend that meeting.” James frowned. “And I don’t appreciate you discussing the regency’s business so indiscreetly. That meeting was private and unannounced for a reason. A reason that does not concern you.”
Crouch glared. “I’m the Minister of Magic.”
“For,” Harry interrupted, and both men turned to look at him. “You’re the Minister for Magic, Mr. Crouch. You work for the benefit of Magic—she’s not at your command.”
Crouch flushed, but he glared at James. “He’s…”
“The Heir of Pendragon,” James supplied. “And if you have a problem with that, you’re talking to the wrong man. It’s my duty to protect my son’s legacy and his throne, so there’s never going to be a day when your wishes matter more to me than his. Excuse us, Minister, we have dinner plans.”
Crouch fumbled with his cloak briefly, but James annoyance gave away to horror almost instantly as the older man quickly drew a small, marble-sized ball and dropped it. Time almost seemed to slow as it fell. Thaddeus Banner jerked Harry from his grasp and turned away from the ball of magic just as it exploded. The force of it threw them all away from the impact of the magical bomb. Glass, wood, and shards of cobblestone exploded around them. There was a thunderous boom as James struggled to his feet and used his sleeve to rub blood from his eyes. The smoke started to clear, not on its own but because it was being pushed back.
He nearly dropped to his knees as Voldemort flung back his hood. He was standing over the still forms of Thaddeus Banner and Harry. The foul bastard laughed, and the barrier pushing out around him settled, shoving James back several feet. The son of a bitch had erected some kind of containment ward.
He didn’t even turn at the sound of Sirius’ panicked shout. James could only stare at his son’s unmoving body, half sheltered under the bloodied and broken body of Thaddeus Banner. Riddle used a foot to shove Banner off Harry.
“Fuck,” Sirius snapped. “Goddamn it! Find the fucking ward stone!”
James said nothing, only half listening as Aurors and ministry personnel scattered all around the alley in search of the ward stone powering the ward Riddle had trapped his boy in. Riddle walked around Harry in a circle, horrifying in his silence.
“James.” Frank Longbottom appeared at his side. “Is Harry…”
“I don’t know,” James admitted hoarsely. He nearly slumped with relief when Harry’s hand twitched. “Riddle!”
Voldemort stopped pacing and turned his head slightly. “Don’t worry, Blood Traitor, I’ll get to you.”
“You wretched fucking coward,” James hissed, and he watched Riddle rear back in shock. “Come now, you son of a damn Muggle, you didn’t really think you were the only one. You’re not even a real parselmouth, you honorless piece of shite!”
Riddle stalked right at him until the magical barrier separating them sparked against him. “Call me a coward? You’re the one that ran from me!”
“You’re making war on a child,” James seethed. “You corrupt and steal magic, you covet power you don’t deserve and pretend you’re more than the son of an inbred squib.”
“Shut up!” Riddle screamed and turned away from him. “Shut up!”
Harry was on his feet, mouth bloody but eyes clear. He focused on his father briefly, and James took a deep breath at the heartbreaking resolve on his son’s face.
“Oh, the little king is awake!” Riddle shouted and laughed. “Look at you, son of a mudblood.”
Harry frowned. “Watch your mouth.” He wiped blood from his lips with his sleeve. “What do you want?”
Riddle brandished his wand in Harry’s direction, and James tried to push through the ward. Frank caught him and kept him on his feet.
“Easy, James, Sirius is looking for the ward stone. We just have to keep Riddle distracted,” Frank whispered urgently.
James let his gaze leave his son for a precious few seconds. The scene was swarming with people from the ministry, the Privy Council, and they were all searching for the ward stone for Riddle’s ward. It couldn’t be far from the ward itself but was probably shielded and protected.
“Dead,” Frank said shortly. “The sorry bastard.”
Riddle was laughing and still waving his wand. James had honestly forgotten just how fucking insane the old bastard was, or maybe the years had made him worse. Harry was just watching, his wand hand clenched into a fist. He’d stepped closer to Banner’s body. From where he stood, James could tell the man was still breathing, but it looked like he was struggling.
“You need a wand,” Riddle announced and produced a second, which he tossed toward Harry.
Harry’s gaze dropped to the wand where it landed. He flicked his wrist, and the holly wand slid into his hand. “I don’t need your charity, Riddle.”
“I am Lord Voldemort!”
“You’re a half-blood wizard from a practically extinct ancient house that never managed to procure a scrap of nobility,” Harry corrected. “And your name is Tom Marvolo Riddle.”
“Shut up, boy!”
“Lord Potter, actually, if you must address me. Because unlike you, I come from an ancient and noble magical family.”
Riddle hissed, and magic sparked along his wand. James’ stomach lurched.
“Not Your Majesty?” Riddle asked snidely.
“Not yet,” Harry said. “At least not formally.”
“Not ever!” Riddle hissed. “I’m going to kill you.”
Harry frowned. “Are you sure that’s wise? Lady Magic might get really irritated with you if you kill me.”
“I don’t care about that nonsense,” Riddle scoffed.
He walked away from Harry, and James wished he’d taught his son to curse people in the back, no matter how dishonorable the practice might be to some. Sirius came to him then.
“The damn ward stone is inside the field,” Sirius murmured, and James closed his eyes briefly. “I’ve got my people building a ward buster, but it’ll take too much time. James. I…”
James glanced his way and found his best mate near tears.
“We will duel! Like proper wizards,” Riddle announced, and several people in the growing crowd shouted in fury.
Harry raised an eyebrow. “But only one of us is a proper wizard. Frankly, Riddle, I don’t even know what you are. Were you always that ugly or is that what happens when you do dark magic? Where’s your nose, for Merlin’s sake?”
James laughed weakly before he could help himself.
Riddle hissed. “How dare you!” He leveled his wand.
“Wait. You were serious? You’re going to duel me? I’m just eight years old, you decrepit tosser.” Harry waved his wand. “For all you know I can’t even use this thing!”
“Let’s just see,” Riddle said with a twisted smile. “Avada Kedavra!”
“Expelliarmus!” Harry’s spell left his wand just a second after Riddle’s.
The two spells met, crackling like a bolt of lightning. Magic streamed out of both wands, connected, and a sphere of golden light spread out around them. People screamed, but then every single person on the scene went silent as ghostly images started to pour out of the point where the two spells were connected. Barty Crouch, Sr. came first, then a dozen more—one after another. People, James realized, that Riddle had killed. He glanced briefly at the body he’d assumed was Barty Crouch. His own father emerged, and James swallowed back a shout of shock.
Christopher Potter looked around the scene and moved toward James even as the sphere expelled his wife.
“Dad,” James said hoarsely.
“Is that Harry?” Christopher demanded. “Why aren’t you helping him?”
“Riddle has him trapped in a ward. The stone powering it is inside,” James explained. He glanced toward the specter of his mother, who was lingering near Harry.
Christopher frowned and left him. Harry was holding his wand with both hands but then so was Riddle. James noted the old bastard looked terrified. He returned his attention to Harry and found his son nodding at whatever his grandfather was saying. The ghosts were moving around the circle in a frenzy then a young girl came across the space and whispered in Harry’s ear. Harry let his wand hand drop, and James noted that Thaddeus Banner had managed to expel his wand from a wrist holster. The wand trembled on the ground then snapped right into Harry’s free hand. His son pointed the second wand at the wand Riddle had thrown at him.
“Confringo!” The curse burst out of Banner’s wand and Riddle’s second wand burst apart. The golden sphere trembled as the ward fell. “Daddy!”
James started moving and stumbled only slightly as the sword appeared in his hand. Harry broke off the wand connection, and before Riddle could do a thing, James was there. He shoved Excalibur straight through the dark wizard’s chest then took the bastard down to the ground—twisting the weapon in his fury. He pulled the sword free and cut off Riddle’s head.
The shock of it was such that for a few seconds, he only heard his own breathing. Then sound rushed in around him, people crying out as black smoky magic emerged from Riddle’s corpse. James stumbled back as the wraith formed and screamed. It shot across the street straight at Harry.
“No!” James shouted.
“Contego!” A spell hit his son and his gaze jerked to find Lily standing in the middle of the alley. Magic enveloped Harry fully as the wraith hit him.
A dozen people performed the spell in the seconds that followed, and Harry was hit with the advanced shield spell from every direction. Voldemort hissed and rammed against the spells repeatedly. James watched his movement, and as he shifted upward to try to find a weak point in the bubble that had been created by the shields, James lifted Excalibur and became the first wizard to cast with the sword since Arthur Pendragon died.
“Fugare spiritus!” The spell hit Voldemort with a crack of actual lightning, and James’ skin tingled as the magical bleed-off from the sword slid down his arm.
The wraith screamed then shot straight up into the sky before disappearing.
Harry sank to his knees as the shield spells ended one by one, and James approached him. Harry still had both wands clenched in his hands.
James went down on his knees and laid Excalibur on the ground. “Harry.” He reached out and cupped his son’s head. “You did so well.”
Harry lowered his gaze and took a shuddery breath.
Lily reached them at that moment and snatched Harry from his hands. Her fingers trailed through his hair as she checked him for injuries. She finally met his gaze and frowned at him. “Obviously, you can’t be trusted to go to the bloody bookstore.”
The startled laughter from the people around them was a relief.
Harry was in a bed in a large private room, his gaze intent on the healing team working on Thaddeus Banner. He still had the man’s wand. James watched his son ignore the healers that were scanning him, fretting over his magical levels and the like. Lily had Harry’s left hand clenched in hers. James shifted Philippa on his chest, her small hand was clenched in his shirt. He wondered how much of their stress was bleeding onto the baby through familial magic.
James’ attention left his wife and son, and he focused on the Director of St. Mungo’s. “Harvey Prewitt, correct?”
“Yes, I’m pleased you remember me.”
“My father mentored you,” James murmured. “And you survived, which is very telling all on its own. How is Lord Banner?”
“Gravely injured. We’re going to have to regrow most of his ribcage, spinal vertebrae, and left shoulder. He took the brunt of the explosion in the back. There was some minor nerve damage, but we’ve already given him a nerve regenerator that corrected those issues. He might have some difficulty at first, but he’s young and very fit—he should be back on his feet within six months.” Prewitt paused. “There is a matter concerning Lord Banner, however. A young woman is insisting she be allowed to see him. She claims they are dating but she is not listed as his next-of-kin, and he’s not made any announcements regarding an engagement that we could find.”
James turned to Zale Wright, who was seated not far from Harry’s bed. “Zale? Do you know this witch?”
“Very well,” Zale murmured. “Thaddeus had intended on asking her to marry him a few weeks ago, but you returned to Britain, and he set aside his plans to focus on his duties as a vassal. He’d hoped that things would calm down enough that he could ask her at Yule.”
“Let her in,” James said. “And add her to the visitation list so she won’t be hassled again. In a time like this, having his woman would only be a comfort.”
“Of course, Regent.”
A few minutes passed before a young woman was brought into the room. She looked only slightly familiar to James, but she’d have been a first year at Hogwarts when he was in his seventh year. She rushed past them without a glance and for the first time since they’d brought him in, Thaddeus moved. He lifted a hand toward the sound of her voice when she called his name, and she caught it with both of hers. The healers moving around Banner stopped for a moment then readjusted their positions to make room for her.
“Zale, draw the privacy screen,” James murmured as he ran his fingers through Philippa’s black curls. He’d hoped his daughter would get her mother’s red hair, but she hadn’t, and her eyes were a startling shade of blue like his own mother. “Healer Dyson, you have a report for us?”
“Yes.” The healer flushed at being addressed directly. “His Majesty is suffering a mild case of magical exhaustion which is not unexpected considering the events. Once the adrenalin wears off, he’ll probably go to sleep and not wake until sometime tomorrow. His core suffered no fractures or cracks which is a bit of a surprise for his age.”
“You checked his power levels?” Lily asked.
“Yes, Lady Potter, and they are outside the norm for his age as I’m sure you already know. I made the decision not to record the results in his official records, and Director Prewitt agreed it would be inappropriate to do so.” Dyson fidgeted a bit under Lily’s attention, which wasn’t a surprise. She’d always had that way about her.
“Good,” Lily said and returned her attention to her son.
Dyson cleared his throat. “I also…have an answer to His Majesty’s question.”
“What question?” Harry asked.
Dyson grinned. “Some dark magic rituals can cause physical deformities—including the ritual designed to make one a beast speaker of a specific kind. The change is gradual so it can take decades for the full impact to become known. In the Dark Lord’s case, he sought the ability to speak with snakes because he believed that was the path to conquering parselmagic. The most common theory is that he merged his magic with a snake in a ritual in his early teens, probably not realizing that it would cause him to mutate. Snakes don’t have ears or noses, though they do have nostrils they use for breathing.”
Harry smiled then laughed briefly. “Thanks.”
– – – –
Sirius paused in the entryway to the room. The privacy screen was drawn on the back half of the room where Banner had been placed when they’d first arrived at St. Mungo’s. Harry was asleep, and Philippa was tucked into the bed with him. Even from where he stood, he could see the safety charm shimmering around the baby. James had explained it would prevent Harry from rolling over onto his sister in his sleep.
James was in a chair by the bed and Lily was in his lap. She had her face buried against his neck, and with the gentle shaking of her body, Sirius realized she was crying. He’d never seen her in such a state, but their circumstances were horrific by anyone’s measure. He stepped into the room, and James’ gaze immediately connected with his. He whispered something to his wife, and Lily lifted her face. She wiped her tears from her cheeks and took a deep breath as if she was bracing herself for more bad news.
Isobel slipped past him, with a tray of sandwiches and a pot of tea. Sirius shook off his discomfort and moved a table into place so Isobel could serve the food she’d brought. He conjured himself a chair and one for his wife.
“What’ve you learned?” James asked quietly.
“Barty Crouch, Sr. has been dead for weeks,” Sirius said. “His son was using polyjuice to pretend to be him. The bomb he dropped was powered by his own magic, which is why it killed him, and it was targeted—made specifically for Harry. It would’ve certainly killed him if Banner hadn’t gotten in the way of it. I’ve contacted the ICW—they told their prisoner about what happened, and he immediately confessed his real identity.” He paused and accepted the tea Isobel gave him. “It’s Peter.”
“Son of a bitch,” James hissed. “How the bloody fuck did Wormtail pass himself off as Riddle?”
“The Metamorphagy Draught,” Sirius said. “It wouldn’t have shown up on any test. Peter only confessed to it so they could give him the antidote, which they’ve done. They’re going to send him back to us for trial within the week—once they’re finished interrogating him. I figure if they find some charge to use against him, that we should let them keep him.”
James just nodded.
“Bones interviewed Dumbledore an hour ago, but since he never provided an official certification regarding Riddle’s identity when we captured him, there is nothing we can really do to him. I don’t know if he knew that we’d been tricked or not.”
“He wanted the prophecy to come to pass,” Lily murmured.
James put a sandwich on a plate and put it in front of Lily. She frowned and pushed it aside. “Darling, you need to eat—for Philippa if not for yourself. You can’t feed her if you’re not eating.”
Lily flushed. “Right.” She took a bite of her sandwich. “The Metamorphagy Draught is very difficult to brew…perhaps only four or five people in all of Europe…” The blood drained from her face, and she put down her food. “That son of a bitch.” She stood and got around the table before James had time to respond. “Isobel, stay with my babies.”
“Lily,” James protested as he followed her to the outgoing floo in the room. “Where are you going?”
Lily grabbed a fist full of floo powder and with a glare, shouted, “Spinner’s End!” She spun away in a flush of green magic.
Sirius grabbed James when he dived for the floo. “No, he’ll have it guarded against us. We’ll have to apparate.” He dragged his friend from the room with one glance toward his wife, who just shook her head and offered him a salute with her wand.
– – – –
James shoved the door of Snape’s home in with brunt force magic. He found his wife and her prey in the sitting room. The floo was still burning from her arrival. “Lily.”
She had Severus Snape pinned to the wall with her wand. “Stay out of this, James.” Lily pressed her wand under Snape’s chin. “Tell me the truth. Did you brew the Metamorphagy Draught for Riddle?”
“Yes,” Severus said hoarsely. “But he promised not to hurt you.”
“Me?” Lily questioned quietly and released him. Snape slumped to the floor. “He promised not to hurt me.”
“Yes, I’d never have agreed otherwise,” Severus said quickly.
Lily stared at him in horror and tears streamed down her face. Her magic surfaced as a sob broke loose. She pressed the back of her hand to her mouth, and the house around her trembled.
“Lily,” Snape pleaded. “Please, I’d never hurt you.”
“You were my friend!” Lily screamed. “My only friend for years! I trusted you! And you betrayed me!”
“No, no, I kept you safe!” Snape protested. “I love you, don’t you see? I’ll never love anyone more than you!”
“You love me so much you stood by and let that dark bastard plot the murder of my baby,” Lily said in disbelief. “Did you know about Godric’s Hollow? Did you know that Peter would betray us?”
“He promised you wouldn’t be hurt!” Snape shouted.
“What about Harry?” Lily shouted. “And James?”
Snape glared. “I don’t care what happens to Potter.”
“And Harry? What about my son, Severus?”
“Who cares about Potter’s spawn? I had to protect you!”
“How fucking stupid are you?” Lily demanded harshly. “Did you think that I would fall into your arms after Riddle murdered my son and husband? Did you think I’d be grateful that he’d spared me because of you?” She pointed her wand at Snape. “Afflicto.”
James gaped in shock as the torture curse hit Snape. He hurried across the room and snatched Lily’s wrist, disrupting the curse that was so profoundly painful that Snape was beyond making a sound. Severus slumped in a dead faint against the wall. Lily fought him briefly, but then she just burst into tears. James took her wand and holstered it with his own before picking her up. He glanced at Sirius, who was looking at Lily with a mixture of shock and admiration.
“Fortunately, Ultio’s Affliction isn’t illegal, technically,” Sirius said with a half-smile. “At least in Britain.”
James carried his brokenhearted wife out of the house and apparated to the building site of Potter’s Field. The house had been destroyed, just as he’d been told, but the garden had been left mostly intact much to everyone’s surprise. James walked down a path he’d often run through as a boy and sat down on a bench near the pond. He ran his fingers through her hair.
“This is the first time Harry’s been without one of us since we left Britain,” Lily whispered. “We should go back to St. Mungo’s.”
“In a moment,” James murmured. “He’s safe with Isobel and Zale.” He ran his fingers through her hair. “I’ve not been here for you much since our return to Britain. You’ve lost more weight than you should’ve after the baby was born.”
“I’m fine,” Lily protested.
“You’re not,” he said and sighed. “The last thing I’d ever expect from you was a torture curse—even if it is technically legal. You’d probably still be using it on him if I hadn’t interfered.”
“I know what he did, and Merlin knows that we paid for his crimes today. His obsession with you has always been a problem. It made him bitter and cruel even at Hogwarts, and the years apart obviously did nothing to change that. I wonder what part my actions played in his choices.”
“He likes to play the victim, but he was just as bad as you were at Hogwarts,” Lily protested. “He nearly killed Peter twice, and remember when he pushed that third-year Gryffindor down the front stairs because she was in his way? She had a skull fracture, and Dumbledore just passed it off as an accident. We know he did it on purpose!” She twisted her fingers together. “I tried to fix him even when we were small. I once caught him with a dead bird. He said he found it dead, but I always wondered if that was true. His mother was a vicious bitch, and she raised a cruel and selfish son. How can he say he loves me and wish my child dead in the same breath? I don’t understand. What else is he capable of?”
“I don’t want to speculate,” James admitted. “I was a bully, though—in school.”
“Oh, James, every single one of you were complete arseholes, and Dumbledore did nothing about it. But you grew up, and you became an honorable man. One day I turned around, and you were just everything I wanted you to be. Dorcas told me it was probably a game for you. That you’d changed your strategy so I’d sleep with you.”
The truth was that he’d buried both of his paternal uncles the summer before his sixth year at Hogwarts, his father had become the Earl of Gryffindor, and James had gotten a talk full of cold, hard facts regarding his future and his behavior as the heir of the House of Potter. He’d been his Uncle Marcus’ heir, but the older man really hadn’t had a clue what kind of fuck up his nephew was.
“I’m glad you gave me a chance,” James murmured. “Though I certainly didn’t deserve it.”
Lily kissed his jaw. “You cut off Voldemort’s head. You deserve to get so lucky for that.”
James laughed abruptly. “Merlin.” He kissed her mouth gently then sighed. “I can’t believe my first official pardon as Regent is going to be for my wife.”
Lily scoffed. “I’ll serve the six months in the ministry holding cell for assault if he dares complain. It was worth it.”
– – – –
James woke for no reason he could discern and found his son’s bed empty. His gaze darted around the room, and he found Harry sitting on a chair beside Piper Thorne. He rubbed his ring and activated the surveillance charm on the heir ring Harry wore.
“I’m sorry he was so hurt,” Harry said.
“Oh, Your Majesty…”
“Harry. Call me Harry.”
James noted that the young woman shifted uncomfortably but nodded.
“Thaddeus wouldn’t want you to feel guilty about this. It isn’t your fault he was hurt,” Piper said and exhaled sharply. “He was so proud when he came home from the Wizengamot and told me that your father had accepted him as a vassal for the House of Potter and made him part of the Privy Council.”
“Thaddeus saved me today,” Harry said. “I don’t just mean when he protected me from the explosion. He gave me his wand when the spirits said I needed to destroy that transfigured stick Riddle threw at me. He also taught me that spell I used even though he wasn’t supposed to. He said I should only use it if someone pointed their wand at me.” Harry bit down on his lip. “That it might save my life.”
“And it did,” Piper said warmly.
“That’s not all he gave me,” Harry said. “He was whispering to me before Riddle separated us.” He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out something that James couldn’t make out from the distance. It was incredibly small. “Thaddeus had this in his waistcoat pocket. He gave it to me—he said it was for you. He didn’t want it to be confiscated by the DMLE as evidence if he died.”
“Oh, Harry,” Piper whispered. “He really said it was for me? That’s his mother’s ring.”
“He told me to tell you that he loved you and to give you the ring—that you’d know what it meant.” Harry offered her the ring and James took a deep breath.
Piper took the ring, and after a few seconds of hesitation, she slipped it on her ring finger. Then she started to cry. Harry’s eyes went wide, and he looked around quickly, and James almost laughed. His kid was definitely looking for an adult.
“I’ll go,” Lily murmured and left the sofa they were sharing. She’d had Star bring the couch when visiting hours had closed for the ward.
Just a minute later, Harry was crawling back into his bed. He huffed and turned to his father. “If jewelry makes girls cry then I’m definitely sticking with flowers.”
James laughed. “Sometimes it’s not bad when a girl cries.”
Harry sent him a look of pure skepticism and put his hand on Philippa’s belly. “Isn’t she usually awake by now to eat?”
“Yeah, but her schedule is a little off because of what happened.”
Harry wrapped his arms around his legs and propped his chin on a knee. “You killed him, but he’s not really gone.”
“No, lad, he isn’t. We’ll figure out why.”
“What if he tries to get inside me again?” Harry asked.
“He wasn’t trying to possess you,” James said quietly. “He was still trying to kill you, lad. Your magic would’ve never allowed him to stay in your body without your permission. A host has to be willing—mind and magic. We’ll have the goblins build our wards—they are very adept at keeping the non-living out of spaces.”
“Dumbledore knows something about this—that’s what he was trying to dangle over our heads to avoid making the vow about my soulmate.” Harry frowned. “But now he can act all smug and superior holding information we need and acting like it is to protect himself.” He sighed. “That old git better hope he’s dead before I become king because throwing him in jail for being a wanker is really appealing.”
“Stop saying wanker in every form,” James said sternly. “What if that’s your sister’s first word?”
Harry huffed. “Britain is full of them, Daddy. I’ve gotta prepare her for it! And we should teach her curses too because what if she’s awesome like Mum and those gits want to date her?”
James scowled at the thought. What hope did he have that his baby girl would grow up to be some bookish witch who thought boys were stupid until she was thirty?
“Don’t worry, Daddy, maybe she’ll be a lesbian.”
James huffed. “Don’t try to placate me, lad.”
– – – –
The pictures in the Daily Prophet were nothing short of a nightmare. James had decided before he even left Hogwarts that cameras that could be used in a pensieve were the single worst thing on Earth, and pictures of him beheading Voldemort on the front page of the paper hadn’t changed that opinion at all. Lily had glared at the sight of them and had tossed the paper aside with a muttered curse. Harry had insisted on staying at St. Mungo’s until Banner woke up and they’d spoken. James hadn’t listened to the conversation though he’d been tempted.
Returning his family to the safety that Sirius provided at the Den was a relief, but it was short-lived as the Wizengamot had to meet within twenty-four hours of the event to handle the matter of appointing a new Minister for Magic. For better or worse, Harry was to attend. James didn’t want any rumors regarding his health to find any ground. The speculation in the paper was lurid and so annoying that he’d considered buying the thing and firing everyone. Lily had made it clear, however, that it would be an abuse of power for him to do that. He’d relented and ignored the fact that Lucius Malfoy had taken himself off to the bank to arrange the purchase.
Since Lily had also insisted on attending the Wizengamot session, they’d left Philippa at the Den with Star, who had been thrilled to be trusted with the duty. The portkey deposited them gently, and he escorted his wife to the private box reserved for the royal family at the audience level before joining Harry at their place. He called the session to order by activating a charm on the desk and glanced at his son who was writing quite studiously at his side.
“The first order of business is to assign a new Minister for Magic,” James said as he sat back in his chair. He turned to the Noble Houses dais. “Lord McGregor, as the leader of the Noble houses do you have a nomination?”
“I’ve had a few discussions, Regent, with interested parties but I believe at this point we must question if we need a Minister for Magic. While it’s true that we need an administrator for the ministry, the position of minister has largely been neutered since the activation of the Avalon Protocols.” He held up a hand when the noise level in the audience grew extreme.
Once everyone was quiet again, McGregor continued, “I would remind you all that when we refused to be included in the Magna Carta Libertatum to avoid being subject to the leadership of Muggles that we used the Avalon Protocols to do it. We were not subject to the Muggle king as we had our own royal line. That royal line has returned to us, and it has always been the duty of the House of Pendragon to protect us. It is an honor and a privilege to have the family returned to our society. Moreover, it has guaranteed that the Muggle government cannot legally attempt to overtake our government as they have threatened to do repeatedly in the last decade due to the actions of Tom Riddle.
“There are those who are deeply unhappy with the way things have changed, but Avalon is not just Hadrian’s legacy—it is our legacy. It is our privilege and honor to be in this room, right now, with the future of our nation. And frankly, if you don’t like it—do feel free to take your leave of this room and this country.”
James looked at Harry and found him looking out over the room instead of writing as if he was searching out the people who didn’t want him there. “Do you have a new organizational chart prepared, Lord McGregor?”
“We do,” Jonah agreed. He sent a piece of parchment sailing toward James. “This will complete our reorganization of the ministry, and while there are still few redundant positions, they serve a cross-section of purposes that were difficult to separate. In that vein, we’ve placed the Department of Education under the Office of Administration and separated Child Protective Services, which should be under the aegis of the Department of Law Enforcement. Which leaves us three branches of the ministry—Office of Administration, the DMLE, and the Department of Mysteries. It’s new of course and subject to change based on the needs of the people and the Regency.”
“And your choice for the Director of the Office of Ministry Administration?” James asked as he reviewed the chart. He passed it to Harry who took it with a perplexed smile. He figured most of it was nonsense to the kid. He watched as the smile fell away to confusion then fury. “Is something wrong?”
“Daddy, why is there a department just to control werewolves? What do they do? There are only fifty reported werewolves in Britain, but there are ten people in this department.”
James looked around the room until he settled on the Head of the Office of Regulation. “Mr. Scrimgeour, this regulatory unit falls under your leadership. Answer his question.”
Scrimgeour stood from his seat in the ministry box and went to the podium. “Your Majesty, the Werewolf Registry is part of the Beast Division in my department.”
“I can read,” Harry snapped and waved the parchment. “What do they do?”
“They monitor and track known werewolves for the safety of the general public and ensure that the regulations regarding their interactions with the public are adhered to. This includes where they’re allowed to live and work.”
Harry very carefully put the parchment down. “But werewolves are only dangerous once a month and only then if they aren’t taking Wolfsbane potion. So why would we need ten people to monitor them? There are only fifty known werewolves in Britain—eleven of them are men and the rest are women and children.”
“Those numbers are not exactly accurate, and Wolfsbane is largely unavailable in Britain.”
“So you’re saying the Werewolf Registry is out of date,” Harry supplied. “Well, ten whole people are working in this office, so I’d like to know how that’s possible and what do you mean that Wolfsbane isn’t available?”
“Werewolves are dark creatures, Your Majesty. Making Wolfsbane available would be expensive.”
“They’re people,” Harry said. “Sick people who need help.”
James took the parchment from Harry and smoothed it out in front of him. “The Werewolf Registry is hereby disbanded.” There was a snap of shock from everyone in the room. “In its place, Werewolf Welfare Services will be created under the DMLE. The goals of this unit will be to identify and help those afflicted with lycanthropy. Madam Bones, your people will coordinate with St. Mungo’s and a reputable potion lab regarding the production of enough Wolfsbane to help these people at the ministry’s expense. If possible, you can hire your own potion’s master to handle this, and any other potion needs the DMLE has. I will review all current laws and regulations regarding werewolves and Britain, and you can expect some changes to come.”
“Of course, Regent,” Bones said. “In France, they have a sanctuary for their afflicted population. Do I have permission to investigate that possibility for Britain?”
“Yes, of course, if you can’t find adequate space among the ministry land holdings let one of the Privy Council know and we’ll find you land for it.” He turned to Harry and raised an eyebrow.
“Are there people in Azkaban who are only there because they’re werewolves?” Harry asked quietly though it carried throughout the entire room due to the structure of the sonorous charm on the desk.
“I don’t know, but we’ll find out,” James promised. He turned to McGregor. “Your choice for the new director position?”
Jonas paused then looked down at his parchment. “I…yes.”
“Is something wrong, Lord McGregor?”
“No, Regent Potter, I just wonder…honestly…how decent people forget to be good and when we all started ignoring it.” He cleared his throat. “It is the recommendation of the Privy Council that Henry Burke take the position of the Director of the Office of Ministry Administration.”
Angus Macmillan was on his feet instantly. “I must protest this! Burke is a dark wizard.”
Harry leaned forward and looked at Henry Burke, who was lounging in his box among the Ancient houses. “Ha, I hardly think so.”
Macmillan flushed. “Pardon me, Your Majesty, but he is a dark wizard. His whole family is dark.”
“He’s much too beautiful to be a dark wizard. He even still has his nose,” Harry scoffed, and James burst out laughing. He had to admit that Henry Burke was a handsome man.
Henry Burke laughed a little, too, and sat up in his chair. “Thank you, Sire, but Macmillan is quite right—I am a dark wizard.”
Harry stared. “Did you ever kill a person?”
“Did you ever kill a sentient magical creature?”
“Then why are you a dark wizard?”
“Because I’m a blood mage and such things are considered dark in Britain.”
“Are you loyal to Avalon?”
Burke stared for a moment, and the silence stretched between them. “Avalon is an ideal, Your Majesty, so I cannot claim to be loyal to a place that only exists in our hearts, but I am loyal to you. I am and will be in your service until the day I die, I swear it on my magic.” The oath settled with a soft sweep of golden light.
James cleared his throat. “The Privy Council’s suggestion is ratified, and Henry Burke will stand as the Director of the Office of Ministry Administration unless he’d rather not.”
Burke nodded. “Of course, Regent.”
Macmillan was still standing which was unfortunate because Harry was staring at him with a frown. The older wizard flushed and started to sit.
“Mr. Macmillan, have you ever killed a person?”
The man’s eyes went wide with shock. “I’m a light wizard.”
“That’s not what I asked,” Harry pointed out. “Did you ever kill anyone?”
Macmillan took a deep breath. “Yes, Your Majesty, I have. I served in the Auror Corps during in the 70s and was forced to take a life in defense of my own.”
“Does it shame you?” Harry questioned.
“He was a criminal and on a path to darkness, but yes, it troubles me, and I deeply regret having to do it.”
“Per the International Wizard’s Code of Conduct, Mr. Macmillan, you are not a light wizard. To kill with magic, even in self-defense, is considered a grey act.” Harry frowned when the man paled. “You shouldn’t be ashamed for defending yourself, but you should be deeply ashamed of the fact that you judge others so harshly and so rashly.”
Macmillan sat down without a word and averted his gaze.
– – – –
James dropped down on his back and stared at the ceiling. Lily came out of the bathroom. “What a day.”
Lily took a deep breath. “I don’t like it.”
“Like what?” James asked in confusion.
“I hate that he understands how ugly the world is,” she admitted. “That he took one look at that department and realized that having ten employees to monitor so few people probably meant there was something ugly and even brutal going on. And that he immediately jumped on the far-reaching ramifications—unlawful incarceration.”
“Well, he already knew that was a problem.”
“James, he’s eight, and you’re treating him like an adult.”
“I am not,” he protested. He left the bed, suddenly furious. “But I can’t…”
“You can’t what?” Lily demanded. She drew her wand and cast a privacy charm. “You can’t let him be a kid and grow up?”
“He’s not just our son!” James shouted and took a deep breath. He rubbed his face with a shaking hand. “He’ll never be just my son again, Lily.”
“I don’t understand.”
“He’s the king,” James snapped. “And it is my duty to not only be his father but to be his voice and to stand for him until he can stand for himself. He’s my king. You can be his Mum, and no one would expect differently. But as his Regent, I have duties that transcend fatherhood by leaps and bounds. I can’t ignore them any more than I can ignore what he wants. Leaving him at home when he wants to attend the Wizengamot would be a gross abuse of power on my part as his parent because, as his Regent, I should be encouraging him to learn everything, to attend sessions, to endear himself to the public and to the members of the Ancient houses. His success as a leader depends on the alliances he makes, the friendships he enjoys, and the loyalty he earns, and that process began the day he was named.”
Lily was pale. “Can someone else do it?”
“Who can I trust with such a thing?” James demanded. “Arthur Pendragon gave me this task, Lily. What choice is there for any of us?”
Lily sucked in a deep breath. “I’m sorry.”
“Well, it is your fault,” he said and offered her a wry grin when she huffed. “Who knew a fantastic anniversary shag would lead to this?”
She blushed. “James!”
He laughed and caught her around the waist then picked her up bridal style. “We were so worked up and turned on we forgot the contraception charm.” He put her down on the bed and slipped over her. “I don’t even think I remembered that we forgot until you were getting sick weeks later.”
“Well, if one must make a king then it should be done in the most epic of shags,” she proclaimed with a laugh. “We can never tell him he was an accident.”
“He’s a smart lad,” James pointed out. “Remember when we told him about Philippa, and he asked us if we got pregnant on purpose because it was kind of silly to do that since we were in hiding.”
Lily blushed. “Merlin, that kid.”
“That’s your fault, too,” James informed her seriously. “Whatever possessed me to marry a brilliant witch?”
“Shut up and kiss me before I curse you silly.”
– – – –
“The only reason the ICW hasn’t sanctioned us for this mess is that the Regency was formed after Riddle’s supposed capture,” James said as the Wizengamot settled into silence. “Director Bones, I realize you weren’t the head of the DMLE during this…situation but you’ll be tasked with figuring out if we could’ve done anything to prevent it. Administrator Burke, you’ll ensure the DMLE has the funds needed to have a complete and thorough investigation of every single person involved in the case. We know already that Barty Crouch, Sr was actually killed in his home that night and that his son was using polyjuice to impersonate him. Exhume the body that we buried and make sure that it’s really Barty Crouch, Sr.” He shifted the stack of parchment in front of him and shared a look with Sirius who looked as exhausted as he felt. “I want every single person involved in the clean-up at the Crouch estate interrogated with veritaserum. This includes the Aurors and Unspeakables who certified Riddle’s identity.”
He focused on Albus Dumbledore who was seated front row center of the audience box directly in front of him. James had noted early on that the elderly wizard tended to plant himself in front of the regency box whenever he was in the room. He didn’t know if it was some form of intimidation or what but he’d never let on that it bothered him. In fact, he made a point of rarely even looking at Dumbledore.
“Headmaster Dumbledore, it was reported by the DMLE that you performed several tests on the prisoner and agreed that it was Tom Riddle in custody. However, a review of the case file has shown that you never provided a certification during that process. Why?”
Dumbledore leaned forward slightly and activated a rune in front of him on the bannister to activate the sonorous charm there. “I did perform several tests on the prisoner—I checked for polyjuice, verified his magical signature and age. I also checked his magical power rating and found it on par with reports. There was nothing about the prisoner to indicate that he wasn’t exactly who we believed him to be.”
“And yet you didn’t document that in writing. At the time you were both the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and our representative to the ICW. Why didn’t you provide them with your own certification?”
“Several people had already gone through the certification process, Regent Potter. It seemed, at the time, to be a waste of time to go though all of that paperwork.” Dumbledore shifted in his seat at the noise the audience made around him. “Obviously, I was mistaken and should’ve done a more thorough investigation of the body before he was placed in stasis for transport to Rome. I regret that I did not.”
“Did you have any reason whatsoever to believe that the prisoner wasn’t Tom Riddle, Jr?” James asked.
“No, Regent Potter, I did not.”
James stared at him and tried vainly to keep his fury off of his face. “Tell me about your relationship with Severus Snape.”
Dumbledore blinked in surprise. “Pardon me, Regent?”
“How do you know Severus Snape?”
“He was a student at Hogwarts at the same time you were though I remember that the two of you didn’t get along very well.” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled a bit, and James felt the older wizard’s magic glance over his mind. He batted the occlumency probe away without blinking an eye, and Dumbledore jerked slightly. “Professor Slughorn recommended that I hire him as the new potion’s professor at Hogwarts as he’s ready to retire.”
“You’ll have to make alternate arrangements,” James said coolly. “He’s been turned over to the ICW for facilitating the conspiracy that led to Tom Riddle’s continued freedom. He brewed the potion that allowed Peter Pettigrew to pretend to be Riddle. He’ll spend a decade or more in their prison before he’s returned to Britain to stand trial for being a Death Eater.”
“Young men often make foolhardy decisions,” Dumbledore said smoothly.
“So do old men,” James snapped. “Your own bad choices seem to resonate out around you like a tidal wave. The ICW has requested that you be turned over to them for questioning regarding the Riddle situation. Two of their war mages are standing at the back of the room, and your peaceful agreement to their escort to Rome would be greatly appreciated.”
Dumbledore stood, and his aura flared briefly in his obvious fury. James jerked back slightly as Dumbledore drew his wand. The audience members around him scrambled away from him. Several Aurors rounded on the headmaster. James stood, drew his own wand, and snapped out a disarming charm. He watched, shocked, as Albus’ wand sailed across the room. James reached out and caught it—magic snapped around him, and everyone in the room stopped moving.
One of the War Mages from the ICW rushed down the stairs and hit Dumbledore with a stunning spell. In just a few moments, they had him subdued with cuffs. The swirl of portkey magic was the only warning they all had before the three of them disappeared.
James carefully put Dumbledore’s wand down on the desk in front of him before he took a seat. He took a deep breath and focused on Frank Longbottom. “Lord Longbottom, if you’d be so kind as to inform the Board of Governors for Hogwarts that they’ll need a new head, I would appreciate it. Even if Dumbledore isn’t detained indefinitely by the ICW, I can’t grant my approval for him to remain the Headmaster of Hogwarts—he’s proven to be quite unreliable, and the safety of our children should come before any other concerns.”
“Agreed,” Frank said. “I’ll floo my mother shortly as she’s currently serving in my place on the school board.”
Harry’s official interview for the DMLE case file concerning Riddle and the incident in the Alley had been put off for a full week, but they knew they had to do it sooner rather than later to avoid speculation within the ministry itself. It had been a very public event, but that wouldn’t stop people from making assumptions about it given the room to do so.
He took a seat at the table, and Lily sat down at the table in front of Amelia Bones who’d be conducting the interview with Harry. Sirius was seated in a chair not far from his boss. Bones set up the transcription quill and cleared her throat.
“The date is November 8, 1988. Present at the interview of Hadrian James Potter, Heir of Pendragon, Baron of Ravenstone, regarding the attack on Diagon Alley dated October 31, 1988, are Amelia Susan Bones, Director of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Kingsley Shacklebolt, Deputy Director of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Sirius Orion Black, Head Auror, Earl of Blackmoor; Lily Jocelyn Potter, Countess of Gryffindor; James Michael Potter, Regent of Pendragon, Earl of Gryffindor; and Dolores Umbridge from the Improper Use of Magic Office.”
“Why is Miss Umbridge here?” Harry questioned before anyone else could speak.
“You broke the law, Lord Potter, and it must be addressed,” Dolores said, and James stiffened at the righteousness in her tone. He remembered her almost instantly, and one glance at his wife told him that she’d recognized the woman the moment they entered the room.
“I didn’t break the law,” Harry said and turned to Amelia Bones. “She shouldn’t be here.”
“You used magic, and you’re only eight, so you broke the law. You have a wand, illegally. You’ve been taught magic before the age of eleven—laws were broken for that to happen. It all must be addressed.”
“Watch your tone,” James said mildly. “And remember your place, Dolores.” Umbridge blushed under his attention, and Lily outright glared at her.
“First, it’s not illegal to own a wand before the age of eleven. Second, as a citizen of France, I am allowed to be tutored in magic from the age of five as long as I am registered with their ministry. I am registered. And third, no law in Britain or France prevents me from using magic to defend my own life.” Harry kept his gaze focused on Amelia Bones as he spoke. “I haven’t broken the law, and I don’t appreciate being accused of criminal behavior, Madam Bones.”
Amelia cleared her throat. “Yes, of course, Lord Potter. Dolores, leave the room.”
“The only legitimate interest you had was his underage tutoring, and he’s right—the country of France does allow tutoring starting at five by a qualified parent or tutor.” Amelia Bones raised a hand when Umbridge started to complain. “Return to your desk immediately.”
Harry watched Umbridge flounce out then turned immediately to his mother. “What magical properties could a toad possibly have and why did she try to merge with one?”
Lily stared at him in stunned silence and out of all the people in the room—Kingsley Shacklebolt burst out laughing.
Harry turned to James in confusion. “Was that rude, Daddy?”
“Very,” James admitted. “It’s also unkind to make such a comment on a woman’s appearance.”
“Oh.” Harry frowned and leaned toward him. James leaned forward as well. “But I was serious,” he whispered.
James cleared his throat. “Lad.”
“Sorry,” Harry said with a flush and returned his attention to Madam Bones. “Do we have to include that part in the official record?”
“I, no, I can edit it out.” She picked up the quill where it was transcribing. “It doesn’t directly pertain to the investigation.” After she was finished removing the conversation that took place after Umbridge left, she set the quill up again and cleared her throat. “For the record, how long have you carried a wand?”
“I received the wand I used earlier that day from Mr. Ollivander. He also gave me the wand holster, but I received my first wand when I was five. Daddy brought it home to me so I could start lessons—it came from Brazil, but he carries that wand for me.”
“Did your mother teach you magic?”
“Yes, mostly transfiguration and charms. But also the blasting curse for self-defense. I’m not allowed to use it unless someone tries to hurt me.”
“Can you tell me what happened from your point of view for the record the day that Tom Riddle attacked you on Diagon Alley?”
“Daddy took me to a bookstore. I’d never been before, so I picked out some books and a stuffed unicorn for my sister then we left. Mr. Crouch stopped us in the Alley and was complaining because he wasn’t invited to the meeting I had with Mr. Dumbledore. But Daddy told him it was none of his business, and Mr. Crouch pulled out a little marble, but Mum told me later it wasn’t a marble but a very powerful blasting curse compressed into a sort of magical bomb.
“Lord Banner grabbed me, and it was really loud. He was hurt, but he had a tight hold on me. He whispered to me—to not be afraid because Tom Riddle liked to make people fear him. Then he asked me to give the ring he had in his waistcoat pocket to his girlfriend so I put the ring in my pocket and Riddle pushed him away. I stayed still because I didn’t know what to do.
“I heard Daddy yelling at Riddle, but then someone was whispering in my ear, and I realized it was Arthur Pendragon. He told me to get up…because a king should die on his feet.” He glanced briefly at his mother when Lily made a soft sound of dismay.
“I saw everyone running around, and I figured they were trying to break the ward we were in. Then Riddle told me he wanted to duel which was silly because I’m eight. I thought he might underestimate me but also that he would be able to block the only defense spell I know, so I tried the disarming charm. I thought if I could take his wand—I could break it, which would give everyone more time to help and also he wouldn’t be able to block me easily if I had to curse him.”
“But your spells connected.”
“Yes and my grandparents came out of his wand,” Harry said. “And the girl—she told me that the stick he’d thrown at me that he pretended was a wand was actually the wardstone, and he’d transfigured it. I guess that was smart—even if everyone had figured out I was holding the ward stone, they’d have never risked trying to destroy it while I had it in my hand. Lord Banner heard the girl tell me and about the stick, and he released his wand from his holster, but I was afraid to reach down and pick it up. But it flew into my hand. Mum said that was accidental magic. I blew up the stick, and Daddy killed Riddle.”
“Do you know why your spells connected?” Amelia asked.
“No, but I did tell him that Lady Magic might get upset with him for trying to kill me.”
The statement seemed to hang in the air, and the transcription quill teetered just a little as it waited for someone to speak.
“Do you think Magic herself protects you?” Amelia asked, her tone subdued.
“I don’t know, but something or someone brought Daddy Excalibur, and the sword returned to the pedestal in the Wizengamot on its own which is amazing.”
“Do you know why the sword stays in the Wizengamot?” Shacklebolt asked.
“Well, it’s mine,” Harry said. “Daddy can use it, but only I can carry it.”
– – – –
They checked on the construction of Potter’s Field before going back to the Den. Half the day was gone, and James had cleared his schedule for the week as far as office hours went. Burke and the members of the Privy Council who didn’t have actual jobs had moved into the Regency Offices in the ministry and were handling the bulk of the administrative crap that came with rearranging a government.
Everyone living at the Den had gathered in the kitchen to make mid-afternoon tea. Lily had retreated upstairs briefly and returned with both Philippa and Star, who stared at them silently until they turned tea preparation over to her. Thirty minutes after leaving the DMLE, they were in the informal salon with a light meal and tea. Though Harry had not yet graduated to a hot beverage during tea time and had pumpkin juice.
Sirius stood abruptly. “Hmmm, Minerva McGonagall is here. Odd.”
“Very, shouldn’t she be at Hogwarts this time of the day?” James questioned.
“I’ll retrieve her.” He paused. “Unless you’d rather I turn her away?”
“I sent her a letter asking her to meet for tea, but she hadn’t responded,” Lily admitted. “I’d like to see her unless you think she’s a security risk.”
“She’s our Head of House!” Isobel exclaimed.
“And Dumbledore’s second in the Order of Phoenix,” Sirius said. “She’s also a magical powerhouse. I know I couldn’t take her in a duel if she has some nefarious purpose here.”
“Let her in,” James said. “I’d rather know if she can be trusted. While none of us individually could take her—together we could.”
Lily stood and passed him the baby. “I’ll go with you, Sirius.”
James settled in with Philippa, and after a few minutes, they returned with Minerva McGonagall. The older woman surveyed the room and the occupants and frowned slightly.
“Where’s Remus Lupin?”
James shifted his daughter against his chest as she went to sleep. “He has a few personal issues with…” He sighed and trailed off.
“The way Albus manipulated him to search for Harry?” Minerva supplied and raised an eyebrow when they all gaped at her. “I’m not a fool.” She sat down and cleared her throat. “One of you introduce me before I take points—the current Gryffindors will probably send you howlers for the rest of the year.”
James grinned. “Harry, this is Minerva McGonagall. She teaches Transfiguration at Hogwarts, and is the Head of Gryffindor.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lord Potter.”
Harry stared at her for a few seconds and tilted his head, his expression confused. “Please call me Harry, Professor.”
“Thank you.” Minerva took a deep breath. “I’d like to tell you a story, Harry.”
He smiled then. “I like stories.”
“Around five years ago, my husband died unexpectedly, and in a fit of lunacy, I registered with the Child Welfare Service to adopt a child. Muggle-born children who can’t remain in the Muggle world for one reason or another are often fostered or adopted into magical families. I didn’t expect anything to come of it since adoption requires magical compatibility between the child and parent.”
“I’m sorry about your husband,” Harry said.
“Thank you,” Minerva said with a small smile. “For a year I heard nothing from the CWS, and as my grief lessened, I didn’t worry too much about being alone as I had the day I registered. Then, shortly after the school year started four years ago, I received an emergency call from the DMLE. A little girl had destroyed a church in Crawley. She’d had some accidental magic, and her parents believed her possessed by the devil. The priest, who knew of magic, ignored the truth of the situation, and they tried to force a baptism.
“She was so afraid and so upset that she tore the old stone church down to the foundation. Fortunately, no one died or was gravely injured. When the Auror who came to the scene explained magic to her parents—they were horrified and demanded that her magic be taken away from her. Once they were told it was illegal to do such a thing they refused to keep her.”
“That’s terrible,” Harry frowned. “She must have been really hurt.”
“Yes, very,” Minerva admitted. “I’m of the House of Ross formally.”
“Your family is ancient but not represented on the Wizengamot because of those sexist laws regarding male succession,” Harry said. “We’re going to change that, you know.”
“I didn’t know,” Minerva admitted. “But I thank you. Until I adopted my daughter, I was the last of my line. It became my hope that when she married that her husband would claim my family magic to preserve it.” She smiled when he nodded. “I was surprised to be contacted—she was just five years old, and at such a young age she was coveted for adoption, but I was the only magical match she had in the system. I met her at St. Mungo’s and despite how emotionally hurt she was—she was utterly fascinated with the magical world.
“She agreed to get to know me, and I became her foster mother. At that point, I gave up my position as the Deputy Headmistress so that I could come home every evening for her. Six months later, I adopted her in a formal adoption ritual. She has a few magical control issues, but I was able to enroll her in a primary school in Aberdeen. Her magical tutor retrieves her every afternoon for lessons while I finish the school day at Hogwarts.
“It’s been four years, and she turned nine years old in September. I came here today to give you something.”
Minerva removed a box from her dress pocket. “I have an eternal rose bush that blooms in my garden. My daughter is fascinated by it because, while it is always in bloom, the roses change color with the seasons. Her favorite season is winter because the roses are blue. Two years ago, she plucked a rose during the winter and wished it would stay perfect forever.” She opened the box and pulled out a lovely pale blue rose shimmering with a thin veneer of ice. “She’s kept this rose in a vase on her desk since the day she plucked it.”
James gaped at it. “It’s been frozen for two years?”
Harry walked across the room and sat down beside her on the sofa, and after a few seconds, he took the rose she offered. Magic shimmered around his wrist and the bracelet his mother had put on him weeks before appeared. “It still smells like a rose.”
“Yes,” Minerva agreed. “And the petals are soft despite the fact that they are frozen.”
“The Winter Witch,” Lily whispered.
Harry took a deep breath. “You’ve not said her name.”
Minerva smiled. “It’s Hermione. Hermione Isobel McGonagall. I changed her middle and last name when she was adopted—my mother’s name was Isobel.”
Harry nodded, and when his mother reached out for the rose, he passed it to her, though James could tell he really didn’t want to, then he returned his attention to Minerva. “Why didn’t you bring her with you today?”
“She was quite nervous about the whole thing, and I agreed to come here to gauge your reaction to her magic.” She glanced briefly at the bracelet on his wrist.
“My mum charmed this bracelet to let me know when I was in the presence of someone uniquely compatible to me magically as she believes it would be so rare a thing that it would help me find my soulmate.” He paused and grinned. “It was quite disconcerting to meet you at first because the bracelet was vibrating.”
The rose was passed back to him. He brushed his fingers over the petals and James watched magic sparkle around his son. It was startling, and he wondered how the two children would react to one another.
“I can’t meet her—not now.”
“Why?” Minerva questioned, clearly startled.
“Because she can’t protect herself and you can’t be with her all the time,” Harry said with a frown. “Anyone with the least amount of mage sight would see soulmate magic on her if we meet. It wouldn’t be safe for anyone to know about her, yet.”
“By anyone you mean Albus,” Minerva said.
“Why do you ask that?” James questioned.
“It’s obvious none of them trust him, and I was there when he was arrested by the ICW. Do you think he’ll be released?”
“I can’t say for certain,” James said roughly. “It will greatly depend on what they can get out of him. He didn’t provide them with a certification regarding Riddle’s identity so he can’t be charged with perjury if he knew the prisoner was Pettigrew.”
“You think he did know?” Minerva questioned, her eyes dark with anger. “Albus knew that Riddle was faking his capture—they wanted to draw you out.”
“No, they wanted to draw me out,” Harry said and shrugged when she looked at him in horror. “The prophecy that Crouch tried to get me to activate—it says that I’ll be the one to stand against Riddle as an equal. I figure you should know that because…of Hermione. It’s dangerous to be around me, you know. It’s dangerous to care about me because that care could be used against you. Tom Riddle isn’t gone, and he’ll come back again and again until we can figure out why he’s not dead.”
Minerva leaned forward slightly and stared at him intently. “I fear no wizard—dead or alive—Harry Potter. If one day, it is your duty to end Riddle then I am honored to be here and now to help make sure you get to grow up to do that.” She raised an eyebrow when he scrunched up his nose. “What?”
“Daddy cut off Voldemort’s head, but he’s pretty sure you could kick his butt so I think you should probably teach me some stuff.”
Minerva blinked in surprise then burst out laughing. She relaxed. “I’ll be thrilled to teach you stuff, Harry Potter.” She sighed. “As to that, I have a second reason for being here. The Board of Governors has made me the Headmistress of Hogwarts against my will. I need someone to teach transfiguration.”
“That’s why you’re looking for Remus,” Lily surmised. “His mastery is in Defense.”
“True but he has an innate ability in transfiguration, and he could take my place as the Head of Gryffindor. Only three students in the past twenty years have managed a perfect score in transfiguration and Remus was the last to do so. We could use his youthful attitude on the staff and no, I don’t care that he’s a werewolf. We’ll make stringent arrangements regarding the full moon, and it’ll be fine.” She waved a hand. “So, I expect you to find him and send him my way as soon as possible.”
James laughed. “We’ll see what we can do. Does Albus know about the rose?”
“No, elemental abilities are a near myth in this day and age. He tends to pay more attention than I’d like to those who are unique in our society no matter how they are unique, and he uses them for his own purposes, which is nearly always to their detriment. I’ve been teaching her to control her abilities, and her tutor took an unbreakable vow not to discuss Hermione with anyone without my permission.”
“Who is her tutor?”
“A young woman named Piper Thorne—she recently became engaged to your vassal, Thaddeus Banner.”
James relaxed a little more. “I’ve met her.”
“She’s a Gryffindor and is pursuing her mastery in healing—it seemed a good fit for us, and it has been. She earns money for her education, and my daughter is in hands I trust.”
Harry turned to Minerva. “Did she see the stuff about Riddle in the paper?”
“Does she suspect that she is the Winter Witch?”
“Honestly, lad, she told me outright she was the Winter Witch—the day the prophecy was revealed in the Wizengamot. We were listening to a broadcast of the session on the wireless at dinner, and the moment the prophecy was spoken she said, oh, that’s me, Mum. I wasn’t going to tell you because I know it is dangerous for her, but she insisted that it wasn’t fair that she knew but that you didn’t.” Minerva pulled a picture from her pocket and offered it. “This is her.”
Harry took the picture. James watched his son’s face soften with wonder then the kid frowned.
Harry turned to Minerva. “She’s really pretty. You’ve told her that boys are horrible and can’t be trusted, right?”
Minerva laughed. “No.”
Harry huffed and reluctantly gave the picture to his mother when Lily held out her hand. Lily crossed the room with it, and James shifted Philippa slightly as his wife sat down on the arm of his chair and tilted the picture so he could see it. She was a pretty little girl—with dark brown eyes and an infectious smile. She was playing with a large orange cat.
Minerva sighed. “Her birthday present last year. I took her to the pet store in Aberdeen, and she picked him out of all the kittens they had—she said no one would want him because he wasn’t pretty and that wasn’t fair. She named him Crookshanks, and he’s half-Kneazle. He’s a loyal little monster, I’ll say that. Over the summer, a boggart got into my broom shed, and Crookshanks chased that poor creature completely off the property, which was good since the moment it interacted with Hermione—it morphed into a Catholic priest.”
Lily frowned. “Did you complain to the Vatican about that?”
“I didn’t have to. They contacted her with a formal apology, and she was given a monetary settlement, which was added to her trust fund. The priest was memory charmed to forget magic and sent abroad to do missionary work indefinitely. They offered to excommunicate him, but Hermione suggested that he should make up for his bad deeds with good works instead.”
– – – –
Harry had kept the picture, too. James watched him place it on the nightstand next to the rose which Lily had found a small vase for. “Big day.”
Harry huffed and snuggled down into his bed. “Can I tell you something terrible? Will you promise to not tell anyone else?”
James tucked the covers in around his son then sat down on the edge of the bad. “Lad, you can tell me anything, and I’ll keep any confidence you ask of me until the day I die.” He brushed a lock of hair from Harry’s forehead.
“Because I’m the king?” Harry asked in a small voice.
“No, love, because you’re my son,” James murmured.
Harry bit down on his bottom lip before blurting out in a rush, “I wish Dumbledore would just die, Daddy. And I wouldn’t be at all upset if you cut off his head, too.” His cheeks darkened red. “That’s shameful, isn’t it?”
“It’s understandable,” James said. “He made himself your enemy before you were even born, lad. In the end, he’s no different than Tom Riddle. Neither one of them cares at all what you want, who you are, nor what you’ll become. They are greedy, power hungry wizards who merely approached their goals from different directions.”
“Fate is wretched.” Harry took a deep breath. “But it’s also beautiful.” He reached out and picked up Hermione McGonagall’s picture.
“It’s all right,” Harry whispered. “I wouldn’t be asked to do more than I can, right? If I’m to stand against Riddle or Dumbledore in the future, it’s only because I can when others can’t.”
“When you were born—my biggest concern was trying to figure out how old you’d have to be before I could put you on a real broom without your Mum killing me. For the record, I don’t think we’re there yet.”
“She told me not to ask for a broom,” Harry admitted. “Because you’re just waiting for an excuse.”
“She’s not wrong,” James admitted. “Regardless, I wanted normal, everyday things for you and I’m sorry I can’t give you any of that.”
“Draco says normal is overrated,” Harry said around a yawn. “But I think he just said it to make me feel better.” He glanced toward the picture. “Maybe Fate gave me a soulmate because of all the sacrifices I’d have to make for Avalon.”
“Maybe,” James agreed.
“It worries me, though.”
Harry frowned as he propped the picture up against the vase. “What sort of sacrifices will Magic require from Hermione?”
“I don’t know, lad, but I’ll tell you this—Minerva McGonagall is strong, honorable, and brilliant. She’ll keep Hermione safe, and your Mum is already thinking of ways to help her in a way that won’t call attention to them. Dumbledore won’t take any risks with his magic.”
“Okay.” Harry yawned again, and James stood up.
He turned down the lighting charms and walked to the door. James turned and found the frozen rose glowing softly in the darkness of the room. He felt more than saw his wife move into his space. She pressed her face against his chest with a shudder. It was both a relief and a nightmare to have a name for the Winter Witch.
The clearing of a throat caught his attention. He turned to see Sirius standing just past the main entrance of their suite. He pulled the door shut. “Hey, Padfoot.”
“Remus is here.”
James pressed a kiss to the top of Lily’s head. “We need to work on his guilt complex. The goblins have declared him free of compulsions and vows, but they did find five hidden memories which we need to talk about.”
“Everything will be okay.” Lily leaned into him as they walked.
“I just want him to enjoy his childhood, and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.”
“No broom,” Lily said firmly.
“Merlin, you’re a cruel woman.” He laughed when she poked him then pulled the door shut on their suite. “Come give Moony a lecture for going off to sulk then you can tell him all about the job Minerva expects him to show up for.”
Lily grinned and let him pull her down the hall.