Kid has his mother's eyes.
It's the first thing that hits me every time I see him. Second is the rush of pain that thought brings. Doesn't matter how many times I sneak into Harry's life to check on him, I'm never prepared for the reaction when I do.
Seeing Margaret's eyes, all spark and fire, staring out of his face guts me in a way that all the spells and incantations of my enemies never will.
Standing on a New York City street, surrounded by the afternoon crowd, I'm invisible as I watch Harry dart down the street. He moves quick through the crowd, eyes watching everything with a bright curiosity that reminds me of his mother. He doesn't look like much, but he's lean and scrawny in a way that promises height and a lot of it. Goes well with the potential wizards like me can see. Not only will be he be taller than both his parents, he'll be more powerful than his mother besides.
I catch a whiff of the magic when he walks by. He doesn't notice me anymore than anyone else on the street, but it's a surprise that he doesn't. Kid's leaking power all over the place. Enough to tell me he'll be hell on wheels when he grows into his full potential.
If he gets the chance. At my side, Morgan spots the pooka a second before I do.
It comes trotting down the street, drawing a carriage behind it. The idea of a Sidhe shapeshifter trapped as a carriage horse would have been hysterical on any other day.
On any other day. Not today.
"I see him."
Harry's got no idea how much power he's putting out. No way anything within a city block, especially not a creature like a pooka, can miss him. I watch the pooka's head turn, hear the bridle jingle as he takes in the young wizard walking toward him.
Isolated like he is, Harry's easy pickings for something like a pooka and my heart starts to race.
Margaret's gone, dead, and her boy is right there. Her son. My grandson and my responsibility.
I know pookas and I have a pretty damn good idea what this one will do to Harry given the chance. I'm not in any damn mood to give him that chance. I forget about disguises and move, pulling my will together for a strike.
I'm reaching for my staff, ready to summon it to me, when a hand closes on my arm, quelling the connection and I look at Morgan's impassive face.
I shake him off with a snarl. I'm the Blackstaff. I can do whatever I damn well want and, right now, I want to protect my grandson. The Council and the Accords be damned.
Morgan, however, will not be denied. He mutters under his breath and I feel the shield spring up around us. It stops me cold and veils us both from surrounding witnesses. Neat bit of magic that.
"'That one new?" I ask, turning to face him. He's ramrod straight, arm up, and ready for a fight. I don't have any intention of giving him one, but I'm not in any hurry to tell him that.
Morgan nods once. "You can't help him. You know that."
He's right. Margaret and Malcolm made their choice and I made my promise. The day will come when Harry grows into his power and come looking for us, but until then this is as close as I can go. I know that and I know why.
I swore on my power. I promised Malcolm and I've regretted it ever since.
I can feel that promise in me, coiled tight around my magic, ready to crush me if I break it. I can't help Harry. Not yet. Not even when I watch my grandson climb aboard that carriage and tear off down the street, whooping and hollering like he's having the time of his life.
He probably is and he has no idea it's almost over.
"I can't," I say, hearing the desperation creeping into my voice. Damnation, but I hated asking anyone else for help. I hated asking Morgan for help. The kid is good enough, smart on his feet and powerful to boot, but too by the book for my taste. He's yet to learn that the book could be wrong and wrong by design.
Don't think I like the idea of what happens when he finds out otherwise. It's going to make one hell of a mess for someone to clean up.
"I can't," I say, again.
This time he gets it. "No."
I scowl. "Morgan. He's a boy. You know what that thing'll do to him if it gets the chance." We were in Mab's backyard and that pooka had to be Winter Court. Entering the Nevernever around here will put you solid in Winter's territory. That thought sends a chill through me that has nothing to do with Winter's cold and everything to do with the faerie woman that waiting within its borders. Even if Harry escapes the pooka, I'm not so sure he can escape the Leanansidhe.
I'm not the only one invested in my grandson's future. He's got his very own faerie godmother and I don't doubt she wants her say too.
I don't know what possessed Margaret to wring that promise from the Leanansidhe, but the bargain had been struck and there's no backing out of that now. Faeries are dead serious about deals and promises. By her own word, the Leanansidhe was bound to have Harry's best interests at heart.
To anyone who doesn't know the Courts, that might sound reassuring. I promise it isn't. Faeries don't think like we do. They don't feel like we do. The Leanansidhe probably thinks an eternity spent as one of her hounds would be in Harry's best interests and, given the chance, she'll sweet-talk him right into it.
And that's the terrifying part. Harry has no idea how to talk to a faerie. Even Senior Council members have gotten themselves into trouble, bargaining with faeries, and we've had centuries to get used to them. Not for the first time, I start cursing. I curse myself, my damn promise, and the goddamn Accords for keeping me from going after my grandson when he and his pooka kidnapper vanish into the Nevernever.
All the more so because I can't do a damn thing to help him and, now, neither can Morgan. Following's not the problem. The part where Mab and her Court would be on us the instant we crossed through is.
A Warden and a Senior Council member caught in Winter's territory? Game over.
The Council can't risk a war with one of the Courts. They won't fight to get us back. They might feel bad about surrendering me, they'd miss Morgan, but Harry won't matter at all.
"Hold." Morgan's hand stays on my arm. There's no magic in the touch, no force, but I listen. Each and every second Harry's out of my sight feels like eternity, but I have to stay where I am. I have to wait. I want to tear a goddamn hole in the Nevernever and rip Winter apart. I can't. Even thinking about it is squeezing tight on my magic. Warning me off. "Damnation." The word comes out in a rasp that's pained and hopeless.
"He's young, but he's strong." Morgan doesn't let the shield drop, he's not stupid enough to give me the opening and I'm glad, but he sounds almost sympathetic. Strange, hearing that from him. "If anyone can fight their way free of Winter—"
It isn't much comfort, Harry being untrained, but I'm clinging to it anyway. Morgan's right about Harry being strong and powerful, but he's a lot more than that.
I want to see all of it. I want to see what he'll do when he grows up. I lost Margaret. Yes, I lost her years before she left this world, but her death meant I lost the chance at fixing that. It made it permanent and I lost my little girl forever. I want a chance with my grandson. I want the chance at a chance.
And I can't do a damn thing about it. Prayer's out of the question. I've given the Almighty too many corpses to ask any favors now.
Easier said than done.
"Trust him, Ebenezar."
I turn away from the street and the temptation to go after him. It's the way I'm standing when I hear a crash and a shout.
I don't turn back. If I do, I won't be able to stop myself. I'll run for him, grab him up, and I won't ever be able to let go.
I stand stock still, instead, and smile at the brick wall.