The first ten years are going to pass pretty quickly and then the story will slow down more as Hogwarts approaches.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Harry was lying on the floor when he woke up. Judging by the fact that he’d woken up at all, he didn’t seem to be half as dead as he’d been expecting. He had no idea how long it had been since he’d arrived back at the Dursleys, but it felt like an eternity. Someone had told Vernon about Sirius getting killed and Vernon had decided to take out two years’ worth of pent up aggression all at once.
He really didn’t want to think about what the last however many weeks had been like, but the combination of pain and grief and the betrayal he felt toward Dumbledore for not only shoving him off with the Dursleys again, but telling them about Sirius’ death was immense. He hadn’t really expected it to matter because he’d been absolutely convinced that Vernon was going to kill him very soon. When he’d passed out, he’d not expected to ever wake up again.
He realized as he cautiously sat up that he didn’t hurt at all. He hadn’t felt in such good health since he’d gotten back to Privet Drive. He couldn’t see anything, which was unnerving. Had he gone blind, or was he just in a dark room or something?
Cautiously, he reached out to his surroundings. The floor was carpeted, the walls were close on two sides, and there seemed to be stairs a short distance to his left. He was in a corridor. He carefully made his way to the stairs and descended, beginning to make out shapes as he neared an area that had windows with wane light drifting through.
So he wasn’t blind. That was a relief.
A brief assessment of the area assured him that he was still at Number 4 Privet Drive. After several long minutes of standing in the middle of the living room and staring at nothing, he recalled his promise to himself. Some time ago, Harry had promised himself that if he somehow managed to survive, he was getting out of here and he was never coming back to Privet Drive. Period.
Fuck Dumbledore. Fuck the war. He wasn’t going to go through this shit anymore.
He walked back up the stairs and entered his room, only to stop short when he realized that… it wasn’t his room. It looked like a storage room still. He hurried to check the loose floorboard where he’d kept his wand, cloak, and photo album.
He managed to pry the board up, but the hollow beneath was empty.
He stood up again and backed away quickly, struggling to figure out what the hell was going on. This wasn’t right on many levels, but he didn’t dare stick around to try to figure it out. If Vernon woke up, he’d have to flee or be beaten and locked up again.
Feeling extremely lost, Harry headed for the front door, prepared to get the hell out of the house and then try to figure out what was going on. He opened the door and nearly tripped over a large basket. He blinked down at it for a long moment, unable to comprehend what he was seeing.
There was a basket on the doorstep. A basket bearing a baby with messy black hair and a lightning shaped mark freshly scabbed over on his forehead. There was a familiar blanket tucked around the child with the initials HJP sewn into it. And next to the baby was a letter.
Swallowing hard and scanning the street for signs of life – there were none, not even a suspicious tabby cat – Harry opened the letter and read through the note from Dumbledore to Petunia, threatening that if she didn’t take in young Harry, she’d not be protected, and would end up dying a painful death along with the rest of her family.
Fucking Christ! No wonder they’d taken him in even though they’d hated him.
It wasn’t until he’d finished the letter that the reality of the situation really hit him and he sagged against the doorframe.
Baby Harry Potter was sitting on the Dursleys’ doorstep. Meaning that this had to be early November 1981.
Holy crap. He’d gone back in time. Somehow. And he was looking at his baby self, who’d just been condemned to the torment of the Dursleys by fucking Dumbledore.
Harry scowled darkly. Merlin, he hated that man.
He spent some time trying to figure out how the hell this could have happened. He remembered that Vernon was beating on him again. He’d tucked himself into a ball as much as he was able. He kind of drifted away, as he’d learned to do during the beatings. It still hurt, but his mind wasn’t processing each individual pain so it was easier to take. He remembered that he’d felt really hot, and then everyone had went black. The next thing he knew was waking up in the corridor, completely healed and clean and not even really hungry despite the fact that he really couldn’t remember when he’d last been allowed any form of food.
Had his magic done this? He’d read about some powerful wizards and witches whose magic had manifested in strange ways when they’d been in serious danger. He’d stumbled upon the book in fourth year while he was trying to prepare for the Third Task. It hadn’t been the sort of book he’d thought, but it had been interesting enough that he’d wasted a few hours reading it.
Could that be what had happened? His magic had reacted violently when he’d been at Death’s Door. Had it both saved him and given him a chance to save his younger self from suffering the same fate?
It seemed crazy, but given the evidence, it was his best guess.
Which meant that the question now was, what the hell he was supposed to do with a fifteen-month-old baby? Even if the kid was him, he didn’t know the first thing about taking care of a baby. But he couldn’t just leave the kid here. And he couldn’t very well leave him in an orphanage, and take the chance of Dumbledore getting hold of him and bringing him right back.
What the hell was he supposed to do? He had no money, no wand, and if the world believed Harry Potter to be a year old, then he didn’t even have a name he could use, much less a vault at Gringotts.
But he’d been powerful enough to send himself fifteen years into the past. Surely if he could do that, he could figure out how to do this.
Right, he nodded to himself with somewhat less conviction than he’d have really liked. He’d just take it one day at a time.
No money. No wand. No name. He needed a place to sleep, and they’d both need food soon enough.
Harry glanced down at his own body and grimaced. Damn. He was shirtless and wearing just a pair of soiled, oversized jeans that used to belong to Dudley. He had nothing on his feet at all. Little Harry didn’t seem to have anything with him except what he was wearing. They’d both need clothes soon.
He needed to figure out his options here. Without going to Dumbledore or getting found out by him, what options remained? He couldn’t go to the Leaky Cauldron because there was too great a chance of being found out. Plus, he hadn’t even a knut to his name. He couldn’t go to a muggle hotel without any money.
He squeezed his eyes shut and struggled to think.
From what he remembered of people talking about the past, the wizarding world was going crazy right about now, reveling in Voldemort’s fall while the Death Eaters tried to avenge him or cover their own asses and the DMLE worked overtime trying to round them up. That might make it easier or harder for him to blend in. Easier just because of the wild parties that must be taking place in the streets. Harder because the DMLE would probably be extremely suspicious of anyone who didn’t quite fit the mold.
Damn, he’d kill to have Hermione with him right now. No doubt she’d have an idea. She knew so much more about both the wizarding and muggle worlds than he did.
This would be so much easier to figure out if he didn’t have to factor in having a baby with him. He could go for days without food and he could sleep in a bush or behind a bin without any trouble, but the baby was going to need nappies and frequent feeding, and somewhere warm to sleep. He gave serious thought to just leaving his younger self where he was and coming back for him as soon as he could.
But the very idea of subjecting this baby to even a single day with the Dursleys tied his stomach into knots. He knew from experience that his baby self would be better off sleeping in the cold and missing a meal or two than he would be with the Dursleys, who’d stuff him in a lightless cupboard and quite possibly forget to feed him.
Harry really thought that he’d hated Albus Dumbledore as much as was humanly possible a few days ago. He’d just now reached a whole new level. It was Dumbledore’s fault that he was in this position. Dumbledore’s fault that baby Harry was in this position. Dumbledore could have given the baby a place to sleep, food to eat, loving caretakers.
But he hadn’t.
Dumbledore wouldn’t be stuck with problems like having no money, no clothes, no wand, no… anything.
Finally, Harry just sighed and went back into the house. Moving silently, as survival had forced him to learn as a child, he went to the coat cupboard and stole Vernon’s winter coat and a pair of boots. The boots were a little big and the coat was like a small tent, but it was better than nothing. He found a snowsuit that seemed to be designed for a beach ball with limbs in the cupboard and took that too.
Pleased with his theft, he scooped up the baby and pocketed the letter before starting off down the street. He’d figure it out as he went.
Two hours later, Harry was obscenely relieved that little Harry was a heavy sleeper, as he’d yet to do more than coo and stretch before falling fully asleep again. He was also acutely aware of just how heavy a fifteen month old could be after holding one for so long. And he was aware of a multitude of blisters the oversized boots had put on his naked feet, but at least pain was easily ignored. Pain was an old companion.
By the time they entered the city proper, Harry had decided that at fifteen months, his younger self should be able to eat real food, so long as it was soft as he didn’t yet have many teeth. At least, he hoped so, because baby formula would be extremely difficult to manage without proper kitchen facilities with clean water and some way to warm it. Merlin, he’d kill for a fucking wand! He couldn’t believe how much he’d taken for granted before. He’d always had either basic muggle amenities or a wand.
He hoped that he’d made the right choice in taking Harry – um, little Harry. He questioned that and convinced himself all over again several times on the walk into the city. What it came right down to is that his meager means couldn’t deprive the child much more than the Dursleys would do willingly, and he at least knew that he would never scorn, ridicule, and hate the boy. He would never strike him in anger. He would never deliberately hurt him physically or emotionally. Honestly, almost anyone was an improvement over the Dursleys.
Stupid, arrogant, heartless fucking Dumbledore. How could that man wrap his conscience around leaving him with those monsters? Or was it that the conscience he’d always shown Harry had been a clever façade and he did not, in fact, possess any such virtue?
He shook the unhelpful thought with an effort and turned his focus to their most immediate needs. Harry was slightly hungry, but he knew that he could go a week without eating before it started to get debilitating. He wasn’t feeling the pain and exhaustion that he had been before coming to the past – just as he wasn’t injured now – so he could only assume that he was starting from a pretty neutral point health-wise. For the most part, he was trying to avoid putting too much thought into exactly how and why he’d gone back in time fifteen years. Though he was very curious, there was nothing constructive to their immediate situation that could be gained by pondering that. And they had a lot of immediate needs. Little Harry particularly.
Yes, Harry – um, sixteen-year-old Harry – could go for days without food fairly easily. It wasn’t pleasant, but he’d had long practice at enduring the torture of starvation. Little Harry, on the other hand would probably be demanding food in a few hours, and he was likely to become highly unpleasant if he didn’t get it. Not to mention that his much smaller body probably wasn’t capable of surviving so long without food. Plus, children so young grew a lot. He’d need food to keep him healthy. And the last thing Harry wanted was to see the little boy end up stunted like he had been by lack of food during these important years.
So, first things first, Little Harry, at least, needed food. It would be a lot easier to find something now than to try to do it tomorrow when the kid was screaming with hunger. The problem, of course, was that he didn’t have any money. He kind of wished that he’d risked sneaking into Vernon and Petunia’s bedroom and seeing if he couldn’t lift Vernon’s wallet. He’d just wanted to be away from them so badly, and he was, sadly, quite scared of his uncle after so many years of enduring his abuse.
Abuse. Harry still cringed at the word, but he’d come to recognize that that’s what it was. That realization had come after third year. He’d thought, for the first time, about what his life might be like with Sirius, and he’d had to finally admit that the way his aunt and uncle treated him was generally considered child abuse – he’d found a book on it at the public library.
He shook that thought, too. It didn’t help now, and with any luck, he’d never have to waste another minute of his life on the Dursleys.
So, he needed food, but he didn’t have any money. Considering that he had neither the time nor the ability to hunt or farm, that meant that he either had to steal food or steal money. Neither sat particularly well with him. Oh, the minor theft from the Dursleys didn’t bother him. A considerably larger theft from them wouldn’t have bothered him. As far as he was concerned, they were horrible people who fully deserved every unpleasantness that could come to them. Stealing from random strangers, however, didn’t sit so easily on his conscience.
Baby Harry shifted in his arms and made a rather cute little cooing noise and Harry smiled slightly at the kid he’d rescued. He really didn’t have a choice, he reminded himself. They had to survive. And it’s not like he was killing anyone.
With that firming conviction, he started sorting his options. He had no weapon with which to rob anyone – not that he’d want to do that anyway – so that option was out. He could try picking pockets or lifting wallets, but he was pretty sure that that required some substantial skill to do without getting caught. And considering that he was holding a baby, he wasn’t exactly going to be blending into the background or moving too quickly. He could try robbing a house when no one was home, but again, that would be a trick with a baby to worry over. What if they had a guard dog? He couldn’t hope to outrun it with the baby and he’d be endangering his younger self.
Those were the only ways that he could think of stealing money at the moment. That meant that he was going to have to steal food. How the hell was he going to manage that? Well, there were always garbage cans. There was a lot to find behind restaurants, he remembered from his own childhood – okay, honestly as recent as last summer. If it was just for himself, he’d have been okay with that, but he was very hesitant to feed garbage to a baby. Granted, Harry himself had never gotten sick from it. He assumed that that was his magic helping him out, as he’d reasoned when he’d gotten older that he really should have ended up with food poisoning at least occasionally. It stood to reason that his younger self would have the same protection. Unfortunately, he had no way of knowing if he’d been that resistant at such a young age. He’d been three before he’d started picking food from the Dursleys’ trash, and five before he’d started looting public bins. It was just the ones behind his primary school at first, and then he’d branched out into the restaurants along the route between the school and Privet Drive or the local library – his three most common destinations.
So no. Maybe he could steal enough for Little Harry and loot bins to feed himself.
He finally worked up his courage and entered the next all-night petro station that offered a small selection of groceries. As he entered, he busied himself needlessly adjusting the blanket around Little Harry as an excuse to avoid meeting the clerk’s eyes. He was sure that his intention to steal would be written all over his face.
He’d never felt guilty lying to or stealing from the Dursleys when he was young, he recalled as he moved slowly through the aisles, browsing his options. He’d never felt the slightest bit bad for lying to anyone he had to lie to in order to keep the Dursleys from hurting him. He’d had a thousand excuses ready-made to explain away any bruise that might be noticed, just why he wore long sleeves on a hot day, why he wore clothes that made him look like a beggar, how it was possible that he could seem like an intelligent boy and still do worse than Dudley on his tests – some of his teachers had been baffled by his ability to not get more answers right by accident. He’d actually been forced to learn a lot just to avoid doing that very thing. It was the only way to do worse than Dudley, who was so stupid that it was impressive.
Yes, he recalled, he’d been a very accomplished liar prior to Hogwarts. In some ways, he’d never quit that habit. He’d never told even his closest friends just how bad the Dursleys were. Really, he’d told them about the prophecy – a life and death kind of secret – but he’d never even considered telling the truth about the Dursleys. He’d never felt badly about it. He’d never had the slightest difficulty in spinning his lies or smiling naturally when he felt like screaming. He was a good liar. Until Hogwarts, he’d never had a reason to be honest.
Then he’d been sorted into the House of the Noble, and he’d been incredibly happy about that. It had felt like a second chance at life. First discovering this new world, and then somehow getting sorted into Gryffindor when he knew deep down that he was just a slimy, sneaking, cruel Slytherin like Ron and Hagrid hated so much. He’d worked so hard to earn his placement in that house. He’d forcibly made himself a Gryffindor. He’d embraced the ideals of the House entirely.
He’d never really thought about it like that before but… He hadn’t changed at all.
Ah. Baby food. Perfect. Now why did it have to come in such inconvenient jars? He wouldn’t be able to conceal more than two or three of those on him without worrying for their clinking and giving him away. A casual glance around, disguised as an interest in the other merchandise around him, proved that there was one of those rounded mirrors to allow the clerk to monitor him. He cast a cautious glance into it and was pleased to note that the man had his back turned.
Harry quickly stuffed one jar into each of the large coat pockets and slipped another into Little Harry’s coat. Another surreptitious glance proved that the clerk was still looking the other way. His heart racing, Harry picked up one of the jars at random and was just about to leave when he spotted the nappies. Merlin, how could he have forgotten?! Little Harry was going to need a change soon… Actually, by that smell, he probably needed one now.
That meant that he needed nappies and some of those wipes to clean him. How was he supposed to fit that into his coat?? Merlin, he would kill for a sodding shrinking charm right now! He located the proper size – thankful beyond belief to find a key to the sizes printed on the back of the package. It was about the size of a bludger. Even in Vernon’s oversize coat, there was no way in hell he was concealing that. He wished for a moment that he was female so he could have pretended to be pregnant.
He was glaring hatefully at the inconveniently large package, when it suddenly shrunk down to the size of a large button. Shocked – he hadn’t done accidental magic since the summer before third year – but grateful, he slipped it into his pocket, praying that he could figure out how to reverse the shrinking charm later or that package of nappies would be about as useful as a dust bunny. Well, he supposed, desperation did have its uses. When Little Harry demanded his nappy changed, Harry suspected that he could probably reach the proper level of desperation to work a finite without a wand. The small package of wipes was easier to slip into his pocket, and he turned his attention back to fussing at the sleeping baby in his arms as he approached the clerk. Reminding himself that this lie was even more important than lying about the Dursleys, he forced himself to stay calm.
He set the single jar of baby food on the counter and smiled tiredly at the clerk – not that difficult as he was rather exhausted – as the man scanned the jar and asked for a little less than a pound.
Harry made a show of reaching for a non-existent wallet, frowning in confusion, and then quickly checking all of his other pockets while carefully maneuvering the sleeping baby in his tired arms. Finally, he sighed and looked at the clerk apologetically. “I’m sorry. I’ve forgotten my wallet,” he said with a combination of embarrassment and annoyance that he imagined he’d be feeling if he’d gone for a single jar of baby food in the middle of the night only to realize that he hadn’t brought any money.
The clerk, a middle-aged man with laugh lines and a balding head of salt-and-pepper hair gave him a commiserating smile. “Ah, don’t worry about it, son,” he waved, reaching into his own pocket and drawing his wallet to settle the price.
“Oh, no, I couldn’t,” Harry said automatically, shocked that the man he was stealing from was offering him money.
“Don’t worry about it, lad,” the clerk dismissed. “It’s not much. Go on, now.”
“Thank you,” Harry murmured as he scooped up the jar, realizing belatedly that he actually couldn’t afford to reject the kindness that he didn’t deserve. It wasn’t for him, after all.
“Have a good night,” the clerk called as he stepped out of the store.
Harry just waved over his shoulder and kept his pace as even as possible as he took the first corner that he could to get out of sight of the shop. He took the next few as well, just in case the man noticed any missing items.
Nope. He really hadn’t changed at all, he thought grimly as he began to search for a place they could sleep undisturbed for a few hours. Oh, he was a Gryffindor. He’d succeeded in breeding that personality into himself. Mostly, anyway. But he was Slytherin, too. He hadn’t changed his personality. He’d just… added another. There was the Harry that he’d been up to his eleventh birthday, and then there was the Harry that he’d built for Hogwarts. He liked the Gryffindor better. He had more fun.
Unfortunately, at the moment, “fun” was the last thing he cared about. He was in one hell of a pickle right now, and he knew that he’d be much better off if he’d embraced his Slytherin at Hogwarts. He’d definitely be a lot smarter, because his Slytherin side was a paranoid control freak who’d have learned every scrap of knowledge available in Hogwarts at the earliest possible opportunity. He’d never have trusted Hermione to tell him things, because that part of him didn’t understand the concept of trust – at least not any more than to think it was something done by other people. People whose temperament bore an unfortunate resemblance to wooly herd animals.
He’d trusted no one and nothing before meeting Hagrid. The magical world had made a great first impression on him though, and he’d been able to let down his guard enough to learn how to be a Gryffindor. It was a whole new world. It had been distressingly easy to convince himself that everything about it was inherently different.
But it wasn’t. He’d let himself trust Dumbledore implicitly. He’d let himself trust that Hermione would always be there to tell him what he’d been too lazy or distracted to learn.
He forcibly shoved those thoughts away. They accomplished nothing. Later, when he had time, he could indulge in all the self-recrimination that he wanted. Right now, he didn’t have that luxury. He had a child to care for. A child that surely wouldn’t sleep placidly much longer.
He needed to find somewhere that they could settle down for the day – and it was nearly day by the slightly off-black color growing in the sky. They needed somewhere that they wouldn’t be bothered. Somewhere that no one would charge him money or ask questions – which pretty much meant something like an abandoned building.
He wished it was June instead of November. He had a feeling that this was going to be a really long winter.
Little Harry was just starting to get fussy and Harry’s feet were most likely bleeding when he finally found a likely place to spend the day. It was some kind of commercial building that seemed to be undergoing renovations, but by the look of it, those renovations hadn’t been touched in probably a few months. He didn’t know or care why that would have happened. He was just glad that it had.
He very carefully maneuvered himself and Little Harry through the gap where the chain-link gate was held by a chain fastened loosely enough to leave just enough space for him to slide through after he got Little Harry through.
He climbed into the building through a window that had never been put into the hole obviously prepared for it, and bounced the baby a little bit like he’d seen mothers do when the child started to fuss. He scouted out the area but soon decided that the areas that would be warmer away from the open windows were too dark and he didn’t even have a single candle, nor did the building have electricity or electric light fixtures yet.
With a resigned sigh, he situated them in the back of the building in a room with two empty windows providing light, but no clear line of sight to any areas likely to be populated as the day progressed.
Changing his first diaper proved to be a lesson in both tolerance and forbearance of the sort he had never before encountered. First, it was nasty. It stunk to high heaven and had a consistency that convinced him he’d probably never eat pudding again. Second, controlling a fussy, shivering one-year-old and trying to read the inadequate instructions provided on the nappy turned out to be nearly impossible. He ended up getting the foul substance all over himself and the room as he tried to hold the child and wipe and get rid of the soiled nappy – and then chase the filthy boy around the room when he escaped.
By the time it was over, he felt like he’d run a marathon, then gone a couple rounds with Voldemort, and then rolled around in the thestral stalls just for kicks. Merlin, please tell me it gets easier, he begged silently while wasting half the wet wipes trying to manage some measure of cleanliness for himself and his… self.
And then it got even better. He hadn’t quite comprehended the fact that a one-year-old could talk until the little boy finally looked at him curiously and said, “Mamma.”
Harry’s stomach clenched painfully. Yesterday or maybe the day before, this child had had a mother. And a father.
“You’re going to stay with me for a while,” he said as cheerfully as he could manage. “I’m Harry.”
“Hawy,” the boy repeated, stabbing his finger into his own chest.
Shite. Of course. The same name thing was confusing enough for him, he couldn’t expect the baby to make sense of it. “Um. Right. You’re Harry. I’m… ah… Har… Hars… Harrison,” he corrected randomly, hoping that he wasn’t just confusing the kid more. When it seemed that he wasn’t understood, he poked his thumb into his own chest and announced, “Harrison.” Yeah. He could get used to that.
“Mamma!” the boy said again, more forcefully.
Harry – Harrison, now, he supposed – gave a strained smile. “Are you hungry?” he deflected.
“Ya, ya, ya!” Harry giggled and bounced, clapping his chubby little hands.
Harrison chuckled under his breath. Well, the boy was old enough to remember his parents, but at least he was still young enough to be easily distracted. He went through the four jars of baby food and settled on peaches. He had always liked peaches as far as he knew. Then again, he couldn’t think of anything that he wouldn’t eat. Starving kids don’t develop a picky palate, after all.
He was briefly stymied by the realization that he didn’t have a spoon, but soon remedied that by pouring some of the strained peaches onto the cover and using that. It was way too big to put into the baby’s mouth, but the peaches were runny enough to kind of pour them. It was obscenely messy, not least of which because the boy kept trying to grab the cover and hence got his hands covered in it. Those hands then went everywhere, spreading the goo.
Harry seemed quite pleased when the jar was empty. Harrison felt like a failure. Their only clothes were filthy – though it was, admittedly, a significantly preferable substance to find himself slathered in than the last. Despite having not really washed properly after the nappy change disaster from hell, Harrison had zero qualms about the state in which he found his food. He’d eat just about anything that smelled even vaguely like food. And he was hungry. He licked off his hands and carefully cleaned every drop of strained peaches from the jar and cover.
Then he did a quick inventory of the building, Little Harry on his hip or toddling at his side. He found some slightly dirty rags probably used by the construction team when they’d been here, and he used those to divest them of the remaining peaches to the best of his ability. They’d have to find a public loo later and do a better job, but it would do for now.
Every time the boy got bored, he’d start demanding mamma or dada or sometimes Pa’foo or Moo’y – never any variation of Peter or Wormtail, curiously. Harrison slowly developed the ability to hear that without his stomach knotting, and he set about answering each request with a gentle reminder that the boy was staying with Harrison – it became Uncle Harrison at some point – from now on, and then he’d distract the boy by tickling him or doing something else that made the child laugh.
After a few hours, Harry got tired and Harrison gratefully tucked him into the coat and blanket for a nap. It wasn’t until he was in the process of doing that that he realized exactly why the child seemed immune to the cold while Harrison’s toes were completely numb. His coat and blanket were heated – as with a warming charm. Apparently, Harrison had been casting wandless warming charms on the child without even realizing that he was doing it. He must have started that last night – probably on the way into London. It explained why he’d slept so peacefully.
While Little Harry curled up adorably and slept as though his parents hadn’t just been murdered – one of them before his very eyes – Harrison sat down against the wall nearby and hissed in pain as he eased the oversized boots off his swollen feet to inspect the damage. It didn’t look good, but he’d had worse, too. Luckily, he seemed immune to infection, which was something he’d heard about only in passing. He didn’t know if that was a wizard thing or a Harry Potter thing, but he was glad for it either way. He supposed his magic had had every opportunity to learn to protect him from things when he was little.
He tucked his naked feet under the large coat and warmed them gently with his hands in between cleaning as much dried puss out of the boots as possible with the dirty rags. His mind wandered while he did that, and thinking back, he was able to identify a surprisingly large number of times before Hogwarts when his magic had helped him out. He hadn’t made the connection before. Weird things happened around him. He’d learned not to think about them too much as long as they happened where no one could see.
Despite innumerable cuts and burns and scrapes and broken bones, Harrison had been to the hospital only twice in his life before Hogwarts. The rest had all healed on their own, sometimes overnight, sometimes it took a week. Never longer. He’d never had an infection. He’d never had the flu or even a cold unless it had been when he was very young. Merlin, he hoped his younger self proved just as resilient. He didn’t know what he’d do if the boy became seriously ill.
There were other things, too. Some were obvious. Accidentally apparating onto the roof of his old primary school, turning his teacher’s wig blue, making his hair grow back overnight, and shrinking that awful sweater. Those were all obvious instances of accidental magic that he’d identified right away. There were a lot of smaller things though. How many times had he been unable to sleep at night because his stomach ached with hunger, and after the Dursleys were asleep, he’d found his cupboard miraculously unlocked so that he could sneak out and raid the bin for leftovers from dinner – the cupboards were too risky as it was likely any theft there would be noticed. How many times had he wished that he could blend into a wall and not be found when Dudley was looking for him, only to have the larger boy walk right by without even glancing at him? How many times had he been locked out of the house when it was freezing out, yet somehow survived for hours with only superficial discomfort?
He’d been doing unconscious wandless magic for years before Hogwarts without even realizing it!
Why hadn’t that ever worked when he was being whipped or beaten by Vernon or Dudley? Surely his magic should have protected him.
After thinking on that for quite a while, he could only guess that his magic was acting passively instead of aggressively, helping him to deal with the pain and to heal quickly, to escape or not be found, but never offensively. That seemed odd, given his talent in Defense class extended to light and neutral offensive spells just fine, but… Well, if he’d ever actually used his magic against the Dursleys, he suspected they’d have killed him, even if they’d had to lock him up and burn the house down around him. So, in a way, his magic had been protecting him by not acting aggressively.
He didn’t realize that he was dozing off until he woke to a sharp cry. There was a moment of stunned disorientation, and then another cry brought his attention to the tiny child with his eyes and scar and he remembered. So apparently it hadn’t been a dream…
He hurried over to Harry and found him quite chilly. The warming charm must have worn off. He quickly unbuttoned his own coat and tucked the little boy inside where he could share Harrison’s warmth. He murmured meaningless platitudes to the child while he considered the odds of working a wandless warming charm consciously.
After a minute, when Little Harry was beginning to calm down, snuggling into his chest, Harrison decided that he could definitely do it. If he could do it without even realizing what he was doing then there was absolutely no reason that he couldn’t do it when he wanted to.
With that firm conviction and the knowledge that the cold was only going to get worse in the weeks ahead, he spent the next hour, while Little Harry went back to dozing, struggling to figure out how to get his magic out of his body without a wand to guide it. He knew that wandless magic for anything other than extremely simple spells was supposed to be almost impossible and therefore incredibly rare. Warming charms were a very easy spell though, and he was pretty sure that he’d seen Dumbledore warm his tea with just a wave of his hand before, so this should be entirely possible. Not to mention that he refused to believe it was impossible to do something intentionally when he’d proven that it was possible to do it unintentionally – and multiple times.
Finally, with equal parts desperation and frustration, he hissed the incantation under his breath and started when he felt the blanket wrapped around Little Harry suddenly heat up. Not to dangerous levels, thankfully.
With a grin of elation at his success, he turned his attention to one of the ratty towels in which he’d wrapped his feet. Instead of just shoving at the magic with desperation, he tried to focus this time. Now that he’d finally cast a wandless spell intentionally, he had some idea of what it felt like to pull on his magic without a wand. It felt like it came from the center of his chest, but at the same time… not. As much as it felt like it was inside him, it definitely didn’t feel like a body part or an internal organ. It was… as different from his body as his mind was different, but it was equally different from his mind. It wasn’t as substantial as flesh and bone, but neither was it as insubstantial as thought…
It was impossible to explain or reason. It just… was.
And he didn’t have the inclination to question it too much at the moment. The “how” wasn’t very important as long as he could make it work.
After something like half an hour, he got it to work by speaking the incantation in parseltongue – or a parseltongue translation of the incantation, which wasn’t really the same at all. He wasn’t translating the words so much as the meaning, and considering that he didn’t even understand the full meaning of the words that were based in Latin, but butchered by the influence of various other languages – most of them ancient – and so many years of use. It mostly just… felt right. Which was highly ambiguous, and he didn’t begin to comprehend why parseltongue might work better than the traditional incantations. But again, he’d worry about wondering how and why when he had the time.
A couple dozen more tries and he had the charm working fairly reliably.
He sagged in relief at having managed that extremely vital spell. He could now keep Little Harry warm in the cold – and maybe himself as well, he noted as he hissed wordlessly at the combination of pain and pleasure inspired by feeling returning to his blistered feet.
The pain faded some after a few minutes and the relief was such that he was beginning to drift to sleep again when Harry began to fuss.
Resisting the urge to whimper worse than the baby, Harrison maneuvered Harry inside his coat until he could feel his nappy. It felt soggy, so he steeled himself and carefully unwrapped the child after getting everything else ready to go – wary of a repeat of last time. To his immense relief, the nappy was only wet. He wiped the boy clean with just one wipe and fastened on a clean nappy with more expedience than skill, quickly clothing the now crying child and quieting him as swiftly as he could manage, extremely wary of drawing anyone to wonder why the abandoned building was crying.
Once the boy had warmed and traded crying for simply fussing, Harrison used his newly learned wandless spell to heat the nearly frozen strained peas and again addressed the challenge of feeding the boy. It was slightly less messy than the last time with his slightly greater experience.
Harry only ate about half of the jar this time and Harrison resisted the urge to finish it. Afternoon was approaching and Harrison was feeling the uncomfortable ache of hunger, but he wanted to make sure Little Harry had enough.
Once the boy was fed and dry and as clean as reasonably possible, Harrison decided that it was time to leave their refuge. He needed to try to find some food, and Little Harry definitely needed something to drink. His food was runny, but he still figured the kid could use some water.
He regretfully stuffed his feet back into his boots, wincing as he cinched them tight. It was quite painful to walk still, but after going a few streets, he was able to accustom himself to the ache and push it to the back of his mind. He’d used the rags he’d found to wrap his feet and help take up the extra space inside the boots so at least his feet wouldn’t slide around in them anymore.
The first thing Harrison did was find a public restroom. Once they were locked inside, he gratefully relieved himself, then properly washed his hands before washing out last night’s baby food jar and using it as a drinking glass. He had to guide Harry very carefully to keep him from spilling too much of it all over himself. Once the boy was refusing any more water, Harrison drank until he started to feel sloshy, which calmed his hunger as well as helping with the headache that had been forming due to dehydration.
He then used the available paper towels to bathe himself and the boy as efficiently as possible, and filled the empty jar with water that Harry could drink later.
Finally, he set out to raid some bins for something eatable.
Please don't badger me about my progress on updating my other stories. I promise that I haven't forgotten any of them and I will post updates just as soon as I have them.
Harrison’s first month in the past went by in a blur. He split his time between trying to keep himself and his younger counterpart fed, warm, and anonymous. They rarely slept in the same place twice for fear of drawing attention. Harrison was very careful to make sure he never shoplifted from the same place twice in a week, and he tried to do it mostly during the afternoon rush hour when store clerks were busy enough to pay him little notice.
He learned quickly that having a baby with him made the majority of people let down their guard. Where a lone teenager was cause for suspicion, a young man with a child was apparently less of a threat.
After the first time he said Harry’s name loudly in public, Harrison decided to start calling him Henry. There had been a moment of panic in which he’d realized that any magical person hearing a small, black-haired boy called Harry was extremely likely to take a closer look so soon after Voldemort’s fall, and it would take only one glance at that scar to draw highly uncomfortable correct conclusions about Little Harry’s identity. He chose Henry for the same reason that he’d chosen Harrison. “Harry” was a legitimate nickname of both, so it wouldn’t be surprising if either of them accidentally answered to it. And some day, Little Henry was going to have to reenter a world that knew him as Harry Potter, so he needed that legitimate nickname.
Finding food for himself didn’t turn out to be too difficult. There were many, many restaurants in London, and they all had bins out back practically overflowing with uneaten food every evening. His growing refinement of warming charms made it a lot easier and more palatable as the temperature continued to fall.
When they weren’t out hunting food or a restroom in which to clean up, Harrison found them abandoned buildings in which to spend a day or two at a time. Sometimes, they were like the first, empty and relatively clean. Other times they were rundown and a gathering place for other homeless people that made Harrison sleep with one eye open and rarely ever let Henry out of his reach. Whether it was respect for the fact that he had a young child with him or just his paranoid precautions – or his warning death glares ala Snape – they made it through the month without any of the other homeless people trying to hurt them or even get too close.
Harrison got better at stealing, and the Gryffindor side he’d work so hard to groom was already becoming more of a memory than a part of his personality.
While Henry was napping, Harrison spent the majority of his time working on learning more wandless magic. It got a little easier after he’d figured out what part of himself he needed to utilize to draw on his magic and that speaking the incantations in parseltongue translations made it easier. He had no idea why it should make a difference to use parseltongue, but he figured he’d worry about answering those questions when he got a chance to research wandless magic.
He focused on shrinking charms, which made theft so much easier, and silencing which made it much safer for them to hide out without drawing attention. Lumos was fairly easy, but figuring out how to sustain it without consciously concentrating on it was much more difficult – as was getting it to attach to something besides his hand. Modifying the warming charm so that he could warm a room rather than an object turned out to be impossible for him. Eventually, however, he figured out that casting warming charms on the floor and walls basically had the same effect of heating the entire room. Locking and unlocking charms were also a priority, allowing them to sneak into empty but locked buildings and lock up behind them.
Unfortunately, scourgify proved to be fairly impossible for him to learn wandlessly. Well, admittedly he could do it. Just not without destroying whatever it was that he was cleaning. Best he could tell, it was just way more effective than was practical. Alternately, he did manage a basic drying charm, which wasn’t safe for use on living things, but worked great in allowing him to wash their clothes and dry them immediately so that they could put them back on. Augamenti was another important spell. Though the water produced tasted distilled and therefore not a favorite for drinking, it was better than nothing when they didn’t have enough to drink. Mostly, he tried to keep bottles filled with water from a public loo and used the water spell for cleaning.
By December, they were living fairly comfortably. Well, as comfortably as homeless people could hope to live. Harrison had mastered the art of changing nappies as well as eight vital wandless spells.
It was early December the first time that he stole money. The first snow of the year had fallen the night before and Harrison had decided to stop by a park for a little while and let Henry just have some fun in the snow. The boy seemed to be doing his best to imitate a bulldozer making a pile of snow in the grass larger and larger while clearing the surrounding area.
A middle-aged woman wearing what had to be a designer thigh-length coat stopped to coo at Henry, who rewarded the extra attention by being even cuter than usual.
Harrison was smiling warmly at the interaction when movement from the corner of his eye drew his attention to the woman’s purse. It was hanging loosely at her waist near him, the clasp open, her wallet practically begging him to take it. He hesitated only long enough to be sure that she was sufficiently distracted by Henry, then channeled all of his skill, and smoothly and casually lifted the wallet from her purse. Without pause, he lowered the wallet next to his thigh and as swiftly as he was able, flipped it open, pulled out all the cash, closed it, and slipped it back into her purse while he was pocketing the money.
He then fought against his pounding heart to keep himself casual while he joined the woman in entertaining Henry. She stayed only another minute before saying a polite goodbye and going on her way. Harrison gave it another minute before gathering up his charge and leaving as well. He made sure they were well away from the area of the crime before checking to see how much he’d gotten.
He could only sigh in relief when he counted out almost a thousand pounds. Maybe she’d been on her way to do some Christmas shopping. Harrison didn’t let himself feel guilty. That coat she was wearing probably cost her as much as he’d taken. Surely, she had more, and didn’t need it nearly as badly as he and Henry.
With the money, Harrison went shopping. He was finally able to buy socks and some new shoes that fit comfortably. He got a few outfits for Henry and for himself. They didn’t need a lot, living on the move as they did. Plus, with how fast Henry was growing, it would be a waste to get a large wardrobe that he’d have to completely replace in two or three months. He bought a diaper bag to keep everything in. No one would think twice about someone with a baby carrying around a bag like that, after all, and with shrinking charms, he could keep everything that they owned inside without any trouble.
He also bought a couple of toys for Henry. When he was looking for a plushy, he found a black stuffed dog and almost had a heart attack when he realized that Sirius was, even now, in Azkaban for a crime that he didn’t commit.
Harrison saved the bulk of their money and found a hostel for them to stay at that night. He didn’t let himself think about Sirius until Henry was down for the night. He couldn’t believe that he’d forgotten about his godfather. Even when Henry had mentioned him, it hadn’t ever really clicked that Sirius was not among the dead in this time. He was unjustly imprisoned. Merlin, how had he not thought of him?!
He spent most of the night thinking about Sirius, how he could possibly free him, and what would happen if he succeeded in getting him exonerated.
Technically, Henry should be raised by his godfather. And Sirius would have much better means to do so if he was declared innocent. There were, however, a few problems with that. First, Harrison didn’t want to give Henry away. They’d only been together a little over a month, but he was already extremely attached to the little boy. There was also the fact that Harrison was trapped in the past with no identity that he could claim, no money, no aspirations… Nothing. Henry was the only thing that he had. Without the boy, he truly could not comprehend what to do with his life.
That was the personal concern. There was also the fact that Sirius was close to Dumbledore. Even after twelve years in prison, he’d still been close to Dumbledore. If he had Henry, Dumbledore would have him as well. Harrison didn’t think that he’d try to take Henry away from his godfather, but he didn’t want to imagine what he would do to try to prepare him for a destiny as a martyr for the greater fucking good. Harrison knew that nothing else would come of trying to live up to that prophecy. “Either must die” it might say, but Harrison knew that he didn’t stand a chance at killing the Dark Lord.
And how would Harrison explain who he was, where he’d come from, how he’d gotten involved, or why he looked so very much like James and Lily? Or why he and Henry had exactly the same scar in exactly the same place…? If he wasn’t very careful he would end up under Dumbledore’s thumb as well. Why settle for one savior, after all, when you could have two? Better to hedge your bets.
No, he didn’t want to give Henry to Sirius. Certainly not yet. Of course, that didn’t mean that he was going to leave the man in Azkaban if he could help it. How to free him though, without exposing himself?
Wormtail, he decided, was his best bet. He didn’t know if the rat had taken residence with the Weasleys yet, but surely he would soon. So he knew where to find him. He just had to find a way to get there, take him hostage, and… Maybe leave him stunned and bound on the Ministry’s doorstep? Then again, this was the same Ministry that had sent Sirius to Azkaban without at trial. It was very possible that they’d want to sweep the whole thing under the rug. Maybe they’d “accidentally” kill Wormtail like Fudge had done to Barty Crouch Jr. Or maybe they’d quietly toss him into Azkaban and pretend that it didn’t change anything with regard to Sirius. Or maybe he’d be found by someone like Lucius Malfoy and just disappear.
Not that Harrison was capable of casting a wandless stunner yet anyway…
No, he couldn’t free Sirius yet. He needed a wand and some training first. He wouldn’t forget about his godfather again, but he was, unfortunately, going to have to stay in prison a while longer. He’d figure out what to do about Henry when the time came.
Though the thousand pounds would last a while with their rather frugal living, Harrison was becoming increasingly aware of the fact that he hadn’t finished school. And he hadn’t learned as much as he should have while he was at school. And not having a wand meant that he was pretty much helpless should Death Eaters ever find them. He was good with wandless magic and getting better every day, but there wasn’t the slightest chance that he knew enough to survive a duel with anyone much more competent than Umbridge – or the average second or third year student.
He needed a wand and he needed to keep studying. That meant he needed to buy books, and that meant that he needed money.
And that meant stealing.
So, with that goal in mind and the comfort to his conscience that he had to be able to defend Henry, Harrison set himself to becoming an accomplished thief. Hermione probably would have had a stroke if she ever found out that he was quite talented when it came to theft – or that he shamelessly used a one-year-old as distraction and disguise as necessary.
Sometimes, he did as with that first woman and just lifted wallets while people were distracted by Henry’s general adorableness – and returned the wallets minus the cash when possible. Sometimes he did the bump-and-grab that he’d once seen on the telly, using little Henry to explain away his clumsiness if people got upset about it. In fear of one day being caught and not really being able to properly flee with a child on his hip, he spent weeks practicing a wandless Befuddling hex that would leave the victim confused and somewhat suggestible for a minute or two – just long enough to make excuses and get some distance.
As Christmas drew nearer, Harrison found that thievery became almost laughably simple. They spent a lot of time in the malls in the weeks leading up to the holiday. They were overflowing with last-minute shoppers who tended to carry around largish amounts of cash and generally be distracted enough by their errands that they rarely noticed anything. The crowds also made it easier to jostle people without arousing suspicion, and if anyone did notice their wallet missing, they very rarely looked long at the young man with a small child. He tried to always make sure that he was carrying at least one purchase bag to allay suspicion even further.
Yes, it turned out that he was a very talented thief, and Henry came in astonishingly handy.
By the time the New Year rolled around, Harrison had amassed almost five thousand pounds. They were still living in hostels for the most part, never staying in one place more than a week, both for fear of being caught by Death Eaters or Dumbledore and because he was wary of anyone figuring out that a barely-sixteen-year-old was the sole caregiver of a one-year-old. He also tried to spread out his thieving as much as possible to make it less likely that it could be traced back to him.
And so it was on the 4rd of January, 1982 that Harrison was parted from Henry for the first time since coming to the past. Following an ad in the paper, Harrison found a Child Care Provider working out of her home. To the best of his ability to judge, she was pure muggle living in a pure muggle area. It was with extreme trepidation that Harrison left the boy in her care. She seemed nice enough, but he couldn’t stop thinking about Death Eaters or Dumbledore finding him while Harrison was gone, and then he’d come back and the boy would be gone and the woman obliviated, and he’d be alone and Henry would probably be back with the Dursleys, but under stronger wards and maybe with guards, or…
He tried not to think about it. Really, if no one had found them yet, the odds were slight that he’d be found in the few hours that Harrison was gone. He’d have taken the child with him if not for the virtual certainty that people were looking for Harry Potter and would definitely take a closer look at the black haired, green eyed little boy that was obviously the same age as the young “savior”. The magical world was one place that Harry Potter absolutely could not go right now if Harrison didn’t want Dumbledore finding them within minutes.
The fact that Henry apparently suffered from separation anxiety – that’s what one of the books about parenting that he’d bought called it – did not make it any easier to leave him. Harrison didn’t blame the boy for being uneasy about the separation either. After all, he’d left his parents and never seen them again…
Though it took an extreme effort of will, Harrison did manage to walk away from the caregiver’s flat. Though he’d never done it before because he didn’t want to waste the money, he hailed a taxi to Charing Cross road. A bus would have done just fine, but it would have taken longer and then he’d have to be away from Henry longer.
His stomach turned uneasily when he found himself facing the Leaky Cauldron. The memories of his previous visits flashed though his mind, and images of being recognized followed. But, of course, no one would be looking for a sixteen-year-old Harry Potter. Everyone presently believed that the Boy-Who-Lived was a year and a half old – which was perfectly reasonable, considering that it was true. He still pulled his cap a bit lower over his forehead before entering the tavern.
He passed through without anyone more than glancing at him, and called on his wandless magic just a tiny bit to tap the proper brick to open the gateway into the Alley.
Glad that that had worked, he made directly for Gringotts, where he changed two thousand pounds into six hundred galleons – happily, the exchange rate was friendlier in this time. Of course, it did cost him eight galleons to get an expanded, feather-light coin purse to make it possible to carry that much gold. He’d haggled it down from ten though, so he was relatively satisfied when he left the bank.
His next stop was Madam Malkin’s. It looked pretty much as he remembered it, except that the proprietor was noticeably younger. He bought just two sets of black robes and a single black cloak with a deep hood. He wore one set of robes and the cloak out of the shop, checked to make sure his money bag was secured inside, then sucked up his trepidation and made for the infamous Knockturn Alley. He was badly in need of a wand, but considering that he was still underage – even without being enrolled at a school – Ollivander would have to sell him a wand with the Trace on it. He couldn’t afford to have anyone tracking him, and he did not want a wand that he couldn’t even use for another year.
That was why he was venturing into Knockturn Alley. He needed an unregistered wand.
He wandered around the Alley for a while, examining shop windows and generally trying to appear like he belonged while he tried to figure out where one would buy an illegal wand. Obviously, they couldn’t openly advertise illegal merchandise. Knockturn Alley was a known den of crime, but they weren’t immune to law enforcement, so they’d have to operate under a pretense of legality.
Finally, he came upon a shop with a wand in the window display, so he entered hopefully. It wasn’t as dark and dreary as he’d been expecting. Actually, it wasn’t even as dark and dreary as Ollivander’s. It was quite clean, though all the furniture did look like well-worn antiques. It actually looked like a bookshop, though there were several wands on display behind the counter.
“Hang on, I’m coming!” a woman’s voice drifted out of the back room. A moment later, she appeared through the doorway behind the counter. She looked to be in her early to mid-forties with thick brown hair showing no more than a strand or two of gray around the temples. Her eyes were dark and intelligent, bearing an intensity belied by her friendly, open smile. “Welcome,” she chirped happily. “Do you have a particular interest today, or were you just browsing?” she asked helpfully.
Harrison drew back his hood and returned the woman’s smile, noting the way her eyes narrowed slightly to scrutinize him, probably because of his age. “I’m actually looking for a wand,” he admitted, utilizing all that deceit he’d been practicing recently to make himself sound sheepish and probably even younger than he was.
“Did you try Ollivander’s?” she smirked like she found him endearing but definitely out of place here.
“I can’t,” he admitted bashfully. His hope was that, if she didn’t sell illegal wands, she’d send him away with no more than a scolding since he was obviously so young and innocent. “I, ah… I actually need something a little more… discreet.”
Her smirk turned into an amused smile. “That so? And why, exactly, would you be in need of a ‘discreet’ wand, son?”
“Ah…” he shifted his feet and played with the crisp hem of his new robe. “Listen, my father cannot find out about this, okay?” he entreated.
“My lips are sealed,” she promised solemnly, though her eyes still sparkled with mirth.
He nodded as though trying to convince himself that she was telling the truth. “Okay. Well… You see… I… kind of… got caught with someone I wasn’t supposed to be with and now I think her brothers are going to kill me! I’m a good dueler, but I can’t use my own wand! Please, you have to help me!”
She laughed openly at that. “So your plan is to buy an illegal wand so that you can protect yourself from some chit’s older brothers, huh?”
He nodded warily.
She eyed him a moment longer, then sighed. “Why don’t you go to the DMLE if you’re really afraid?”
He made his eyes grow very wide and looked around quickly as though he was afraid someone would overhear her in the empty shop. He lowered his voice to hiss his reply, “I can’t do that! My father would kill me if I had anything to do with the DMLE!”
She sobered a little and lifted one eyebrow thoughtfully in response. “Not a friend of the Ministry, your father?”
Harrison shook his head fervently.
She pursed her lips thoughtfully, then shot a quick locking charm at the door that also flipped her sign to “closed”. “All right, kid. I have no idea what your real story is, but I hope you didn’t expect me to buy that.”
Damn. She must have been a legilimens. They had a nasty habit of sensing lies passively, he’d learned last year while he was studying occlumency. That had been a world-class performance, too. He quickly ran down his admittedly small list of wandless spells to figure out what he could do if she meant him any harm. A drying charm on her eyes would leave her at least temporarily blind. His protego still wasn’t very reliable, but he could probably scourgify the glass in the front window. Considering how overpowered those came out when he cast them wandlessly, if it didn’t break the glass, it would weaken it enough for him to easily break through and get away.
With that in mind, he sighed and gave up the pretense. “Look, I need a wand, and I have no intention of giving you my life story. Can you sell me a clean wand or not?”
She chuckled with genuine amusement at his abrupt about-face. “I like you, kid. You use your age like a weapon. You’ve convinced me that you’re not going to run to the aurors to tell tales, and that’s pretty much my only concern. Well, that and that you can pay. Clean wands run around fifty galleons.”
Harrison forcibly prevented himself from wincing at the sum. It wouldn’t have bothered him last summer when he’d had that lovely trust vault with all those piles of galleons, but being homeless and penniless had significantly increased his appreciation for money. Of course, he’d stolen all his money, but that didn’t mean that he hadn’t worked hard for it. “That seems a little high,” he noted neutrally.
“Price of anonymity. I’ll let you haggle on some of my books, but no one haggles the wands.”
“Fine,” he relented. “I can pay.”
“Excellent,” she smiled. “Come on over here, then.”
Harrison approached the counter, keeping one hand loose and ready to attack at the first hint of danger.
He noticed that she was watching his stance critically. After a moment, she leaned down under the counter and came up with a wand, though she held it by the middle – obviously non-threatening. “Ollivander matches wands by feel,” she explained. “My method is a little more technical and a lot more accurate. Could be I’m biased,” she smirked, “but I doubt it. This is a test wand. It’s not strictly a wand at all, actually. Just an enchanted stick carved to look like a wand. It’s derived from an old Norse tradition for reading magic… not that you care,” she dismissed. “Anyway, when you hold it, the runes carved into it will light up. The way that they light up will help me to find the right wand for you.”
“What does that mean?” Harrison wondered, half out of random curiosity and half because he tended to have unexpected reactions to magical things and he wanted to know how weird his reaction might be.
She looked pleasantly surprised by his curiosity. Clearly, she was passionate about her art. “Well, the runes nearest your hand will light up first. Depending on your overall power, it’ll move further toward the tip. Only about ten percent of magi can actually light it all the way. Then there’s the brightness. More power equals a brighter glow. There is also the color spectrum. Red means that your magic is particularly attuned to dueling-type magic. Darker red is defensive, lighter is offensive. Black means you’re attuned to dark magic. White is for light magic. Though honestly, most people fall more into the middle and don’t register either extreme much at all. Let’s see, green is Charms, blue is transfigurations, yellow is more mundane, household type magic… Pretty much every color on the rainbow has a meaning and the subtle variations denote more specifics. No one is all one color. Some people, most notably masters of any field, tend to be primarily one color.
“Now, you still look curious, so I’m going to venture that you’re wondering how any of that helps me to choose the wand that will suit you, yes?”
He nodded cautiously.
“Well, certain types of wood are better at channeling a more or less powerful core. Some are better with nuance and detail where others are more about brute force. Some respond better to the charms school of spells, others to transfiguration, others to dueling, and so forth. The age of the wood when cut, the part of the tree that it came from, the specific place where the tree grew, the flexibility, and the way it was stored and carved all create more nuance to choose from.
“Then there’s the cores. Before you ask, I do not subscribe to Ollivander’s three supreme cores. That’s a load of bollocks. It’s streamlined his business, making it easier to match a wand to an individual. Of course, it also means that you’re more likely to find a match that works without being precisely what you need. I work with a wide variety of cores, including dragon heartstring, unicorn hair, and phoenix feather. There’s also a whole host of others, not all of which are strictly legal. Don’t worry, though. It’s not illegal to own the wand, just to make it, so you won’t have to worry if you need to carry it past the Ministry’s security desk or what have you.
“So, shall we get started?” she extended the test wand toward him.
Harrison stared at it for a moment in trepidation, then looked at the witch again. “Can I assume that you practice confidentiality for your customers?” he asked carefully.
She smirked at that, “Worried it’ll turn black?” she joked, then went on before he could respond. “Don’t fret. I’m very good at keeping secrets. Trust me, given some of the customers that I get, I wouldn’t be alive, much less have a thriving business if I didn’t know how to keep my mouth shut.”
Harrison nodded. That did make sense. With just a moment more of hesitation, he reached out and gripped the end of the wand.
And nearly dropped it when someone turned on the sun.
“Merlin’s balls, kid!” the woman exclaimed as she stepped back and shielded her eyes much as Harrison was doing with his free hand. “No wonder you were worried. Hang on a tic…” She muttered a spell and the light dimmed.
No, he realized as his eyes began to adjust to the lowered light. There was a foggy screen around his arm and the test wand that was blocking some of the light.
She squinted at it. “Well, it doesn’t look damaged…” she muttered before looking at him again, reassessing. “No chance you’re the Dark Lord in disguise, right?” she only half joked.
“That seems incredibly unlikely,” he smirked in return, without actually answering her question. The more wary she was of him, the more likely she’d be to keep his secrets. And even the slightest chance that he could be connected to the recently de-bodied Lord Voldemort ought to make her plenty wary.
She frowned at him, but didn’t ask the question again. “All right, then,” she turned her attention back to the wand. “A pretty even mix of light and dark, so I suppose you’re probably not the Dark Lord.” She shook her head, “You’ve got a fucking rainbow here. Lots of red, but it’s not leading by much… Huh. Probably ebony or willow, but I’m leaning toward ebony… You’re definitely going to need a double core to channel that much power. Phoenix feather and… re’em blood, maybe… You can put it down now.”
He set the wand on the counter and the room dimmed considerably, proving that more light had been coming through that screen than he’d realized.
She drifted into the back and he heard her shuffling around for a few minutes before she returned with a wooden crate filled with ebony wands of many different hues and grains, lengths and thicknesses. “Okay,” she huffed and she plopped it onto the counter unceremoniously. “None of these have cores yet. I make my wands to order. It’s the only way to get a really strong match.” She dumped the crate over and carefully spread out the wands while she slid the crate further down the counter. “Just run your hand over them. They won’t feel nearly as strong as a completed wand, but with a core the size of yours, you should be able to feel if they are better or worse. Give them a couple passes, then pull the best five or six toward you.”
He did as she asked and found that he didn’t feel much until he reached into that part of him that could only be his magical core and drew on it lightly, like when he’d opened the gateway into Diagon. Immediately, he noticed a huge difference. He could really feel the wood now and it was much easier to select the six that felt… warmest was the only word that he could think to describe it.
She briskly tossed the rest back into the crate and nodded toward the six that remained. “Again. This time, see if you can find the one that’s best.”
He did as she instructed. Two of them seemed pretty close, but after a moment of thought, he selected the one that seemed best. It was almost true black in color with no visible grain. “This one,” he tapped it.
“Ah,” she smiled. “I’m not surprised. This one was from a very old tree, the exact center of the trunk, which is why there’s no real visible grain to it. It’ll make for a very powerful wand.” She left that one on the counter and took the rest into the back, returning a moment later with a crate filled with long glass tubes. Each tube held a single feather. They looked like phoenix feathers from his experience with Fawkes, but not all of them were red. There was red, blue, green, violet, silver, and even black. She took one from each color and arrayed them on the counter. “Just like before. Find the one that suits you best.”
Harrison did so, surprised when he immediately noted that red was not the right color. Blue and green both seemed favorable, but it was the silver that almost burned him – but in a good way.
He pointed to it and she smiled, starting to look genuinely excited. “Silver! That’s the rarest of the lot both for the bird and for suitability for wands. It tends to be, like ebony, extremely neutral. It’ll cast light and dark magic with equal ease. Not many people are truly neutral at heart,” she looked him over again as though trying to see something in him that hid beneath the surface and could explain everything she was learning about his magic.
After a moment of initial surprise at being called “neutral” – that had never happened to him before – he decided that he liked it. And it did fit reasonably well now. He’d been heartily disillusioned to Dumbledore and the Light before coming back. Since then, he’d been forced to reacquaint himself with his less noble side just to survive. He still planned to kill Voldemort, no doubt, because that psycho just needed to die, but he was no longer sure if he’d be doing it for “the Light” or more for himself. Well, himself and Henry, because he knew that plenty of people would expect it of his younger self and that Voldemort would never leave him alone.
The woman gave another moment to scrutinizing him, then located two more silver feathers and placed them next to the first.
The original silver feather felt the most compatible. She placed that next to the wood he’d chosen, then moved on to the final crate. This one contained vials of blood. She spread out a dozen of them for him to examine. He noticed as soon as his magic brushed against them that there was a large variation. “What kind of blood is this?” he asked curiously.
“A variety. Dragon, re’em, fire crab, sprite, basilisk…”
Harrison’s head snapped up at that and he gaped at her a moment. “Basilisk?”
She grinned proudly in response, and added, “Willingly given, even.”
He blinked a few times, then looked down again. There had to be people who actually raised basilisks if she’d gotten the blood willingly given. He very much doubted that she was a parselmouth or otherwise capable of bargaining with such a creature. Granted, it most likely wasn’t as big as the one he’d killed in his second year. The one that was now alive again… Damn. He really hoped that he might be able to reason with the thing this time. He didn’t want to kill it again.
He flinched slightly when his hand brushed against a vial that responded even more strongly than the phoenix feather. “That one,” he said with conviction.
She frowned at it, then her brow rose and she studied him again. “Interesting. That is, in fact, the basilisk blood.”
Of course it was…
She cleaned up the extras and returned them to their crate without offering him multiple choices of basilisk blood, which he supposed meant that she had only one variety of that. She returned the crates to the back room, then returned for the three items. “It’ll take me about half an hour to put these together. I can combine them as they are without any problem, but if you’d like, I can also key the wand to you with your blood.”
“What does that do?” Harrison wondered. He’d never heard of such a thing, but then that probably wasn’t surprising. Blood magic did tend to be a bit taboo.
“It’ll mean that no one except for you can use the wand. It’ll be inert to anyone else – as magical as a twig off the ground. It can still be taken from you, but not used against you. It’s an extra ten galleons.”
Harrison gave it a moment of thought. Then he remembered that disaster after the World Cup before forth year. Yes, it would definitely be good if no one could use his wand. He only had one concern. “You said that it’s illegal to sell some wands. If you incorporate my blood into the construction, is that going to give me legal problems later?”
She grinned at his question. “I like the way your mind works, kid. The answer is, no. Though this sort of blood magic is somewhat frowned upon in Britain, it’s not illegal because you’re only utilizing your own blood. And just so you know, the components of this wand are also legal, if unusual. To my knowledge, I’m the only wandmaker in Britain that works with Basilisk blood – it’s highly toxic, and I have to keep phoenix tears on hand to treat any accidental exposure.”
“All right, then,” Harrison nodded. “I’ll pay the extra.”
“Great! You can go ahead and browse while you wait,” she gestured toward the books. “Just don’t try to take anything out of the shop. My anti-theft wards are… unpleasant.”
He nodded his understanding and she scooped up the components and hurried into the back room again while Harrison went to look through the books. He actually did plan on buying books today, and he would much prefer to shop here. First, he expected that she likely sold some that Flourish and Blotts wouldn’t consider appropriate. Second, he was glad to conduct as much business with her as possible. The less he needed to explore Knockturn Alley today, the better in his opinion.
By the time she returned with the wand, Harrison had collected a sizeable pile of books. He’d actually found way more fascinating books than he could presently afford. The store was a lot larger than it looked. At a glance, there appeared to be about twenty shelves, but when he actually focused on one of the shelves, it suddenly seemed about four times larger than it had. Some of the books looked relatively new whereas others were probably at least several hundred years old. There was also a large selection of books in foreign languages that he regretfully ignored. He hated to think what he might be missing by not being able to read them. That led him to buy a book all about translation spells for situations vocal, auditory, and visual. He’d figure out how to work those before worrying about trying to buy any books written in foreign languages.
He also chose a book on simple rituals that looked fascinating – if most probably illegal. He found one on wards, one on bloodwards specifically, two on wandless magic, one about a variety of obscure magicks – including parselmagic, which he hadn’t even realized was a real thing – and one that seemed to be all about various ways to conceal oneself from all manner of detection from the Trace to simple tracking charms. He found a book about glamors, and several on defense, none of which seemed to be the sort that was taught at Hogwarts. Well, excluding when Crouch Jr. had been teaching. He’d probably touched on some of this, but then, he’d been a Death Eater. Finally, he found an apparation manual.
He was piling them on the counter when the witch returned right about on time. Her brow rose a little as she glanced at the stack, but she didn’t comment on it.
“Okay, I need three drops of blood, one here, here, and here,” she pointed to the tip, middle, and grip of the wand.
Harrison found his utility knife in his pocket – one of his recent acquisitions – and put a very small nick into the tip of his left middle finger. He directed the blood where she said, then hastily stuck it in his mouth before pressing it against the black hem of his sleeve to stanch any more bleeding.
She drew a pale wand from her own sleeve and waved it in an intricate pattern over the black wand, chanting quietly in a language he didn’t recognize. After a few seconds, the blood soaked right into the wood.
She sighed like it had been a lot of work, then nodded to the black wand. “Go ahead and give it a try. It’s clean,” she promised. “The only way anyone will know you’ve done magic is if they see you cast it.”
Harrison nodded in reply and cautiously picked up the wand. The effect was immediate and intense. It absolutely dwarfed what he remembered feeling the first time he held his holly wand. If he’d thought the individual components had felt hot, this was an inferno. His magic surged and it was only with a considerable effort that he was able to prevent it from doing what it would.
The witch frowned curiously. “It’s suited, right?”
Harrison blinked, wondering how she could even ask that. A moment later he realized that the sparks his holly wand had produced the first time had probably been a result of his magic surging up unchecked. She’d probably expected something similar but he’d held it at bay. “Perfectly,” he assured her. Then glanced around. “Any chance you sell wand sheaths?”
“Of course,” she said immediately. “I’ve got your basic, quick-draw, anti-summoning, auto-returning, disillusioning… What’d’ya looking for?”
“What does auto-returning do?” he wondered, hoping that he didn’t sound completely stupid to have to ask that.
She just smiled though. He didn’t get the sense that it was that common. “Ah, that’s a beauty, that one is. It’s kind of like a summoning charm, but attuned to the last wand it held. With just a touch of will the wand will return to the sheath. So, if you’re holding it, all you need to do is let go and want it back in the sheath and it’ll hop right back in. Also,” she added slyly, “if you’ve been disarmed, it can call the wand back into it from up to ten meters.”
That did sound worth it. “And the quick-draw?”
“Basically the opposite of the auto-returning. Instead of having to draw your wand, all you have to do is think of it, and it’ll spring out of the sheath and into your grip.”
That sounded dead handy. There were too many situations in his own life where being able to draw his wand so quickly could have saved him untold problems. “How about quick-draw, auto-returning, and anti-summoning, then? What would that cost?”
“With the purchase of your new wand, I can give it to you for fifteen galleons.”
“I’ll take it,” he nodded.
She smiled brilliantly and drifted into the back again, returning just a moment later with a black bit of leather. He didn’t have too much difficulty getting it strapped onto his right forearm. He slid the wand into the sheath, and tried summoning and returning it a few times, then cast a quick levitation charm on his books. He smiled as he released the wand to his sheath once more. It was absurd how much more comfortable he felt now that he had a wand again. And this wand really seemed to like him.
“These books, too?” she inquired.
He nodded and she began going through them, muttering the running total of the cost like she’d swallowed a calculator. She cast him several sidelong looks at some of the titles.
When she’d gone through them all, she sighed and gave him another of those assessing looks. “Are you on your own, kid?” she asked as though she wasn’t sure she wanted to hear the answer.
Despite himself, Harrison immediately stiffened defensively. “I don’t see how that matters,” he said coldly.
She nodded, “That’s what I thought,” as though he’d answered in the affirmative. Maybe he did need to work more on not wearing his emotions on his sleeve as Snape had said. His acting was great until he got emotional, and then it seemed futile to even bother trying to lie. “Look, I don’t care what your story is,” she said after a moment. “But… If you’re planning to learn apparation, you need a tutor or you’ll end up splinching yourself to hell and back without anyone to help.”
He did his best to moderate his glare in response. “I appreciate the advice,” he managed.
“That wasn’t advice,” she rolled her eyes, “That’s just a fact. I would be willing to give you a few lessons if you’re interested.”
His eyes narrowed suspiciously, “And why would you do that?”
She huffed indignantly, “Well, I was going to charge you. Say… five galleons a session.”
“Is that a service you usually offer?” he asked doubtfully.
“You’re a bit paranoid, huh?” she muttered rhetorically. “No, it’s not a service I usually offer. For you, however, I’m willing to make an exception. Now, before you get any more paranoid,” she added when he opened his mouth, “the reason that I’m making the offer is because you damn near melted my test wand.”
He closed his mouth, but continued eyeing her suspiciously. He’d seen where blind trust in anyone landed him and he was done being anyone’s puppet.
She smirked a little, “You’re one of the most powerful wizards alive,” she clarified. “If you live long enough to train that power properly, you’re going to be right terrifying, kid. Seems to me like it’d be a good investment for me to give you a reason to think favorably of me.”
Harrison’s suspicious glare turned into a thoughtful frown at that. He truly did appreciate her honesty. He was used to people trying to manipulate him, but not coming out and admitting it. And he supposed that it did make sense. If she really thought he was that powerful… “Okay,” he finally relented, somewhat unwillingly. If not for the fact that he really did need help, he’d not have been able to trust her enough. He had to learn to apparate though, and having no name or lineage really put him at a disadvantage as far as getting a proper tutor. Not to mention the fact that he didn’t intend to wait until he turned seventeen to learn a skill that could save his and Henry’s life. “Where would we do these lessons?”
She lifted an eyebrow thoughtfully. “We could floo from here to my house if you’re not too paranoid to go with me.”
Harrison frowned for the goading tone, but he didn’t take too much offense. He knew that he was paranoid, but he had good reason to be and did not consider it a flaw at all. “Would you be willing to give an oath that you’d not try to harm or detain me or bring me into contact with anyone else that may want to do so?”
She laughed at that, quietly at first, and then louder. “Merlin, kid! You’re hilarious!” She utterly ignored his glare. “Yes,” she relented finally. “I can give that oath. Of course, I’ll need one in return. Something along the lines of you’ll never harm me, my shop, or my business.”
He nodded slowly. “That sounds fair. Maybe also an exchange of vows to keep any secrets that we learn about each other?”
She smiled broadly enough that he didn’t doubt she had some secrets. “Now that sounds like a plan.”
Five minutes later, they’d exchanged vows, both being very careful to ensure that their vows only prevented them from doing any deliberate actions, so that they wouldn’t end up squibs if they broke any part of the vows accidentally.
Harrison felt strangely lighter when it was over. Those vows ensured that this woman was an ally – his first since coming back. He didn’t plan on making friends with her necessarily, but it still felt good to know that there was one person that he could trust to some extent if he ever found himself in real trouble.
“My name’s Katherine, by the way,” she offered while he was pouring galleons onto her scale to pay for his purchases. “Katherine Lyndon.”
“Harrison,” he murmured in reply. “Harrison Porter,” he invented on the spot. It was a surname he figured he could remember and respond to fairly easily, being close enough to his real one.
“Pleasure to meet you,” she grinned, waving her wand to banish his galleons once she’d confirmed the correct amount, probably to a safe, or even her Gringotts vault. He couldn’t imagine it was safe to keep that many galleons in a simple lock box under the counter here on Knockturn Alley. “So, how much do you know about apparation?”
In answer, he tapped the apparation manual he’d just purchased before shrinking it along with the rest and tucking them into his pocket.
Her brow shot up, “That was some impressive wandless magic.”
He felt his face heat slightly as he realized what he’d just done. He hadn’t even thought about using his wand, having been using wandless shrinking charms daily for the last two months.
Her eyes narrowed suspiciously in response. After a moment, she smirked. “You just get more and more interesting, kid. All right, how about we meet for your first apparation lesson next Monday. I close up shop at five.”
Harrison frowned. The woman watching Henry only worked six to six. “Are there any days the shop isn’t open? I have a hard time getting away in the evenings.”
She pursed her lips thoughtfully. “I take the weekends off… I suppose we could do Sunday morning, say seven o’clock.”
He nodded. If he took a taxi, he could make it here by seven after dropping off Henry. “That’ll work.”
“Good. The sign’ll read closed, but it’ll be unlocked as long as you’re on time. Just come on in. Make sure you read that book first though. I can give you pointers and make sure you don’t kill yourself, but I’m really not that much of a teacher.”
“Thanks for the warning,” Harrison smirked as he headed for the door.
She grinned in reply.
After leaving the shop, Harrison headed back to Diagon and made a stop at Flourish and Blotts for the more everyday sort of books he wanted. Introduction to Runes and Arithmancy, Household Charms and Transfigurations, Basic Healing, and Cosmetic Charms joined books to advance his knowledge in all of the subjects he’d been learning in school last year. Well, except History and Divination, which didn’t seem in any way pertinent. He didn’t bother with any Magical Creatures stuff either as he fully planned on staying in the muggle world for the time being. He got several books on potions, including some introductory books that he honestly felt a bit sheepish for buying at his age, but he was sure that if he was ever going to have any hope at being a decent brewer, he was going to need to go back to the beginning and learn the basics properly without Snape’s biting vitriol influencing him. Honestly, he was half tempted to ignore the art of potion brewing entirely, but every time he considered it, he’d think about all of the things that could happen to Little Henry that a potion might be able to fix so much better than muggle medicine. He could buy most basic potions premade from an apothecary, but his paranoia made him hesitant to trust them.
He’d never really regretted not studying Runes or Arithmancy in school, but he realized now that that was because he’d always had Hermione at hand to help him out. Now that he was on his own caring for a small child, he couldn’t take anything for granted. He knew that a lot of warding involved Runes and Arithmancy and he was sure a lot of other advanced magic probably involved one or the other if not both. He figured that he’d work on the basics when he had to the time and if it didn’t prove as useful as he thought, he didn’t have to pursue it any further.
By the time Harrison made it back to pick up Henry, he’d been away for just over five hours. It shocked him how relieved he was to get the child in his arms again. He’d have honestly thought that he might have had more appreciation for having a little freedom for the first time in two months, but that didn’t seem to be the case at all. Henry was all that Harrison had in this world, and the exhaustive list of things – both magical and mundane – that could have happened to the boy while Harrison was gone was enough to make him dread the next time he’d leave the child.
Katherine will be a part of Harrison's life for some time after this, but she won't be a large part of the story, so those of you who are allergic to OCs may relax.
Things got a little easier once Harrison had a wand and means to learn more spells. Certainly the household spells proved a godsend. The spells to alter clothing and remove stains saved an incredible amount of money in keeping little Henry – who was growing like a weed – dressed in comfortable, respectable-looking clothes. The household cleaning and cooking charms freed up hours of time every day, which Harry happily split between entertaining the toddler and eagerly devouring his new books – or doing both at once when possible.
With Katherine serving mostly to goad him and provide some small comfort that he wouldn’t be alone should the worst occur and he leave behind his head or something, he learned apparation in just three one-hour sessions. She managed to convince him to come back again by offering to work on other spells with him. She refused to duel him on the grounds that one accidentally overpowered stunner from him could kill her, but she did help him to figure out how to enchant basic dueling dummies to move and launch simple spells back at him.
It didn’t take too long for their Sunday morning meetings to become a tradition that Harrison awaited eagerly. Though it never did get easier to leave Henry behind, at least the boy became accustomed to the separations enough to relax about them. Harrison was also able to relax more after he learned various ways to protect and track the boy while he wasn’t with him, including a blood magic charm that allowed him to keep a constant awareness of Henry’s physical and mental state. He loved Henry, but Katherine was the only person besides Henry that Harrison saw regularly. It was nice to be around someone that spoke in full sentences.
For Henry’s second birthday, Harrison took him to the zoo, where he was rather intrigued to discover that Henry’s command of parseltongue seemed greater than his command of the English language. After spending a good fifteen minutes jabbering at the snakes under a privacy ward in the mostly vacant reptile house, Harrison took Henry shopping and probably spoiled the boy rotten with how many toys he bought for him.
By the time they got back to their current hostel, Henry was completely exhausted, so Harrison put him to bed early and spent the evening reading and practicing spells.
In August, Harrison finally felt confident enough in his familiarity with Katherine to admit the true reason that he never accepted her offers to stay for tea after their Sunday morning lessons. He introduced her to Henry one morning and watched as she very nearly fainted upon discovering the boy’s identity. Katherine had never seen Harrison’s scar, of course. No one but Henry had, and even he hadn’t recently. Harrison had learned a glamor to conceal it as soon as possible and he’d done just that ever since.
After Katherine learned about Henry, she invited him to join Harrison when he visited. Most of the time, he was the only one working on spell casting. Katherine just discussed theory with him, as much as she knew to help him understand what he’d read, and she gave him tips on casting, so she was almost always able to take care of Henry while he worked.
The rest of the summer was spent continuing to make trips to the Alleys whenever he managed to accumulate enough money to make the trip worth it, and dutifully absorbing everything he read.
Harrison had decided that he would call November 2nd his birthday. It was the day that he’d arrived in the past, and he couldn’t very well claim Henry’s birthday. Their physical likeness would be enough to cause raised eyebrows in the future as it was. When he happened to mention it to Katherine in passing, she decided that he and Henry would have to spend the day with her. After Henry went down for a nap, Katherine informed him that he was seventeen and it was time he lost his virginity. She then proceeded to take matters into her own hands.
It wasn’t bad, but she told him that he was gay before the afterglow had even worn off. He’d kind of been afraid of that since he’d kissed Cho. They ended up spending a while discussing sexuality and helping him to come to terms with his preferences.
Just before Christmas, Harrison managed to get the pair of them moved into a somewhat more stable environment. Rather than hopping from hostel to hostel, he actually rented them a small flat. It was considerably more expensive, and it required legal identification and all that. A few books from Knockturn Alley had taught him how to forge the necessary documents and had made him a much better thief. The unscrupulous use of glamor charms made him appear older than his seventeen years.
Fear of discovery from anyone in the magical world – particularly Dumbledore or Death Eaters – kept the pair of them moving every two or three months, but it was a huge improvement over the weekly and biweekly moves from hostel to hostel that had filled the previous year.
That holiday, Katherine introduced them to a proper Solstice celebration and other wizarding holidays.
By Henry’s third birthday, Harrison felt that he could likely pass his NEWTs with the education he’d managed to pick up, but his real expertise tended toward the slightly less legal areas of magic. Some of it was dark or “darkish” magic, such as bloodwards and rituals and compulsion spells, but a lot of it simply consisted of a myriad of ways to evade Ministry detection. He’d even gotten a definite knack for occlumency after reading several books on the subject and practicing daily. Despite trusting Katherine almost completely, Harrison never practiced occlumency with her properly even when she offered. Instead, he worked on his own and just allowed her to briefly test his barriers from time to time so that he could identify his weaknesses. It took longer this way, but it meant that Katherine never saw more than the rare snatch of a memory – not enough for her to realize his true identity or that he was from the future.
Though Harrison had become a rather exemplary thief, he didn’t exactly want to spend his life doing nothing else. That was why he started focusing so strongly on Arithmancy and Ancient Runes. He’d discovered an interest in enchanting and spell creation after learning to enchant the dueling dummies. Of course, he could never forget the fact that there was a war coming, and he continued to devote a lot of his studies to Defense and Dark Arts.
His life wasn’t all work though. When Katherine offered to watch Henry sometimes so that Harrison could work on exploring his sexuality, Harrison had insisted on an Unbreakable Vow assuring that she would never harm Henry, allow anyone else to harm him, or try to take him away from Harrison or allow anyone else to do so. She also had to promise that she would defend the boy with her life if necessary before Harrison would leave him in her care. She didn’t really mind. She’d fallen for the boy enough by that point that she said she’d have done all of that anyway. He assured her that he’d thought so but couldn’t take chances. Luckily, Katherine had been well versed in his paranoia by that point and took no offense.
It was a few days after Henry’s third birthday that Harrison finally felt ready to implement his plan to see Sirius exonerated. He may have been able to do it sooner, but he was terrified of getting caught and ending up in Azkaban himself. He knew well how paranoid everyone still was about anything that could possibly be related to Voldemort, and anyone trying to get Sirius Black out of Azkaban would probably be condemned just as fast as Sirius had been, no trial necessary.
After leaving Henry with Katherine, Harrison apparated to Ottery St. Catchpole, disillusioned himself, then made his way to the Burrow on foot. He waited about forty minutes before Percy came outside with Wormtail tucked into his pocket. He followed the boy to the orchard, where he picked a couple apples and sat down against a tree, eating one and feeding the other to his rat.
A light stinging hex sent the rat suddenly running and as soon as he was out of Percy’s immediate sight, Harrison summoned him, stunning him immediately – all wandlessly. He then tucked the unconscious rat into his pocket and quietly fled the orchard and the increasingly distressed redhead calling for his pet.
His next apparation brought him into the vicinity of Amelia Bones’ private home. After some consideration, Harrison had decided that the best course would be to deliver the rat directly to the newly appointed Head of the DMLE. Everything he knew of Madam Bones both past and present – or present and future – told him that she was scrupulously fair and followed the law to the letter. If there was anyone in the Ministry he could trust to see justice done with regard to Pettigrew and Sirius, it would be her.
Harrison had spent the last few weeks carefully teaching himself to cast all the necessary spells wandlessly. His wand was clean and therefore the Ministry did not have a copy of his wand signature, but that didn’t mean that they couldn’t record the signature now and arrest him the first time he took it through the Ministry security checkpoint. It would definitely be best if there was no wand signature to find, which meant that he couldn’t let his wanded magic touch the man he was about to turn over to Amelia.
He’d thought about just delivering Pettigrew more conventionally, but not for very long. As far as the Ministry was concerned, he was either a three-year-old baby or he did not exist. Either way, he wanted no contact with the Ministry until he could give them a name and explanation as to why he didn’t apparently exist.
He cast the spell to force Peter back into his human form, then used a sticking charm to affix to his chest the letter that Harrison had prepared earlier with a standard diction quill.
Essentially, the letter told Madam Bones what he knew of what really happened to the Potters and how Peter was the one really at fault. He also told her that Sirius never got a trial, which she could confirm rather easily if she looked at the Ministry. If she lived up to her reputation, just knowing that he hadn’t gotten a trial should have been enough. Though the DMLE had legally been able to imprison suspected Death Eaters at the end of the war, they weren’t allowed to just lock them up and forget about them. Everyone that had been jailed in that way should have had a trial eventually, but they had not. They’d been swept under the rug and forgotten.
When he was ready, he levitated the unconscious man across the boundary of Madam Bones’ wards where he was certain that she’d feel the breech and come to investigate, then he disapparated quickly. He made half a dozen jumps to be certain that he couldn’t be tracked, despite apparating wandlessly, before finally returning to Katherine’s house and Henry.
Three weeks later, the headline on the Prophet read, Peter Pettigrew Found Alive, Sirius Black Found Innocent! The Ministry had, amazingly, managed to keep the entire scandal under wraps until the trials for Sirius and Peter had concluded.
A large part of Harrison wanted to go immediately to see Sirius, but he knew that he couldn’t. If there was any chance that he’d forgotten that, he need only look at the photo under that headline. Sirius and Remus embraced each other in the center with Albus Fucking Dumbledore stood right next to them smiling like the proud grandfather as he looked at them. Going anywhere near Sirius would be tantamount to announcing himself to Dumbledore personally. For himself, but even more so for Henry, he could not do that.
It was five days later that a much more unpleasant headline graced the front page. Harry Potter: Missing!
Harrison groaned when he saw that, looking sadly over at the little boy happily demolishing his breakfast from his booster seat.
“You did kidnap that boy!” Katherine hissed at him when he apparated to her house the next morning.
Harrison just sighed and transfigured a wildflower into a toy truck for Henry to play with while he talked to his one and only friend. “I don’t have legal custody of him,” he admitted once he’d drawn her far enough away that Henry wouldn’t be listening to the conversation. The boy was surprisingly sharp for his age and had been known to eavesdrop on entire conversations while playing and seeming to ignore them. “I am his closest relative, however. His closest magical relative, certainly.”
“Then why didn’t you get legal custody of him?” she questioned shrewdly.
Harrison shook his head irritably. “It’s a long story. For one, I was barely sixteen when he came into my care. For another, he’s ‘Harry Potter’. Do you know how many people want to either kill or use this child?”
“I can imagine,” she offered mildly.
“Well, Albus Dumbledore is at the head of that line, right next to the Dark Lord.” Harrison refused to say You-Know-Who or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but Katherine did not tolerate “Voldemort” being spoken in her presence – too much self-preservation to take such stupid chances, she’d claimed. So Harrison compromised by using the title more commonly used by the Dark sect. “That man has too much power and too many ‘friends’ in high places. He wanted Henry raised by his muggle aunt and uncle, and I promise that they would have badly abused the boy.”
Katherine was silent a moment before speculatively posing, “What about Sirius Black? He’s innocent, right? And he’s the boy’s godfather.”
“And he’s situated firmly in Dumbledore’s pocket,” Harrison finished for her. “I have no doubt that he’d raise the boy, but I’m also certain that he’d let Dumbledore get away with almost anything with him.” He’d loved his godfather, but Harrison remembered the way Sirius had meekly allowed Dumbledore to keep important secrets from him. In fifth year, Sirius had argued against keeping Harrison in the dark, but he hadn’t actually done anything more. He was well within his rights to just pull Harrison aside secretly and tell him everything that he wanted to. But he hadn’t. He’d bowed to Dumbledore’s wishes.
Harrison had no reason to expect this Sirius to do any differently, so no matter how much it was killing him, he had to keep Henry away from him. He had to keep Henry safe.
“So what are you planning to do?” Katherine posed. “The entirety of Magical Britain is searching for that boy. You know I’m soft on you both, but I can’t have him here. If they found him here I’d lose everything and probably end up in Azkaban as well.”
Harrison nodded, “Yes, I’m aware. I’m going to take him out of Britain. At least for a few years.”
She frowned, “They’ll grab you as soon as you cross the border, even if you do get hold of an illegal portkey. Unless you’re planning to go the muggle way.”
Harrison shook his head, “No. Dumbledore isn’t ignorant of the muggle world. He’ll have people watching muggle transport. We’re going to apparate.”
“Then they’ll grab you at the border,” she reiterated irritably.
“They’ll be watching the borders in France and Ireland the most,” he reasoned. “They’ll probably expect me to flee to Europe, if anything, but I’m not going to Europe.” He paused briefly before admitting. “We’re going to Egypt.”
Her brow just about buried itself in her hairline. “You’re apparating – side-apparating – to Egypt?! Is that even possible?”
He nodded quickly. “I’ve tested it to be certain. I made the trip easily. I’ve no doubt I’ll be able to take Henry without difficulty. Once we land, I’ve got half a dozen more jumps lined up to make sure our trail is covered.”
“And you’re absolutely positive that you’ll be able to handle those jumps right after… Merlin, how many kilometers is that?”
“Thirty-five-hundred. Roughly,” he shrugged.
She stared at him blankly for a moment, then huffed a laugh, “I’m so glad I decided to get on your good side,” she smirked.
Harrison rolled his eyes. “Yes, you’re a strategical genius. Anyway, I just stopped by to say goodbye. I’ll apparate us to a more neutral location before I take us to Egypt. Just in case; I don’t want there to be any chance for any of this to come back on you.”
“And I appreciate that,” she nodded.
After giving Katherine a chance to say goodbye to Henry, Harrison took them to an empty field firmly in the middle of nowhere and held Henry close as he carefully pictured his destination, then disapparated with a loud crack.
An instant after appearing, Harrison apparated again, this time wandlessly. The Egyptian magical border control would have registered his arrival from outside their borders. To enter the country legally he should have gone to a government controlled apparation point and presented his papers for inspection. Doing what he’d done was illegal, which is why he made the six following wandless jumps. Wandless magic was much more difficult to track and the magical residue faded much more quickly. Of course, there weren’t very many people who could apparate wandlessly, so it wasn’t usually a large problem.
By the time he’d reached their final destination at a magical village near the Bahariya Oasis, Harrison was feeling the drain on his magic and Henry had his face scrunched up in a way that Harrison knew meant he was reaching the very end of his patience. Harrison didn’t blame him. His apparations were usually pretty smooth, but any apparation was unpleasant after the rather rough trip from Britain to Egypt. Side along over that distance was hard.
“Okay, kiddo. All done,” he promised the boy, rubbing his back soothingly.
“Don’ wanna do that again, Unca Harr’son,” the boy said quietly as he buried his face in Harrison’s neck.
“We won’t be doing that again today,” he promised the boy. “Probably not for a while. Now. How about we see if we can find any ice cream,” he suggested. It was every bit as hot here as he could have expected.
“Okay,” the boy nodded agreeably, though he still looked a little worse for wear.
“Okay,” Harrison nodded, “but first let me cast a quick glamor, all right?”
Accustomed as he was to living in hiding, the boy didn’t complain as he sat up and patiently allowed Harrison to cast the subtle glamors that would lighten the boy’s hair and darken his eyes, and hide that recognizable scar. Harrison really doubted that anyone was looking for the boy in Egypt, but it was possible that the news had traveled this far. If someone just happened to pick up the resemblance and decide to call it in, he’d find himself in custody or running very quickly. Best not to take chances in a magical village.
Before leaving that morning, Harrison had prepared a letter, written with a dictation quill and sent via public post owl. He knew that it wouldn’t be much consolation for Sirius, who must be going out of his mind with worry for his godson, but it was the most he could offer. He’d simply told him that Harry Potter was safe and loved and that he’d make certain that they could meet one day when it was safe.
Harrison continued his habit of relocating them every few months, both to increase their security and because exploring the world was something that he hadn’t ever thought he’d get the chance to do and he found that he liked it very much. Every part of the magical world seemed to have different customs and traditions and magic and he found it all terribly fascinating – the magic, in particular.
When Henry turned four, Harrison began his education. Henry had always known about the magical world, of course. For one, Harrison had never hesitated to use magic around the child, and he was often present while he trained with Katherine. He’d also gone out of his way to provide Henry with magical toys and children’s books. That was how he’d introduced him to the Boy-Who-Lived. By doing so at a very young age, and suiting his words with his own behavior, he’d managed to make it seem a rather mundane fact – interesting only for the fact that it explained what had happened to his parents and why they moved all the time.
In addition to teaching the boy basic reading, writing, and maths, Harrison began working through the simplest forms of magic. Once, these teachings had been the norm for magical children. In the last century, they had fallen into disfavor and were presently actually illegal in many parts of the world for any child under eleven.
Henry’s education started at three hours a day – one on the basics of reading, writing, and maths, one hour on magical history and culture, and one on practical magic.
Slowly, Harrison increased the time that Henry spent studying, allowing the boy to get used to it. Henry loved learning, Harrison soon discovered. Though Harrison fancied that his teaching style helped, it was undoubtable that the boy took joy in learning anything he didn’t know before. Watching him, Harrison was both incredibly proud of his young ward, and he discovered yet another level of hatred for Albus Dumbledore. That could have been him, he knew without a doubt. He could have had that lust for learning as a child that he was beginning to discover as an adult – granted, necessity had forced him into it. The Dursleys had crushed that out of him quite young. Henry would be different. The boy wasn’t even five, and Harrison could already tell that he was going to be in contention for top ranking at school with Hermione, if he didn’t simply surpass her.
By Henry’s sixth birthday, the boy was more accomplished in wandless magic than a lot of adult wizards ever were. Harrison knew that this was, in part, because most adults never really tried to learn wandless magic, in part because it was easier to learn as a child than later in life, and in part because he had a very strong magical core. He was also reading about as well as Harrison had at ten, entering advanced maths, and knew almost as much about magical history and culture as Harrison did.
Harrison’s first interest in enchantment had come when Katherine had taught him to enchant dueling dummies and it had only grown from there. By the time they’d left Britain, Harrison had been skilled enough with general enchanting that he was able to make a few bits and baubles to sell in local markets to help finance their travels. No matter how good he was at stealing, he really didn’t like it very much.
Enchanting was something that he actually enjoyed doing and the pieces he sold brought him a decent income – increasingly so as his skill increased. Each time they moved, Harrison sought out any new or local knowledge into enchanting that he could find and his skill grew rapidly, allowing him to enchant items more quickly and charge more. Soon, he’d dubbed his little business Porter Enchantments and was making sure to leave a specific mark on each piece that he created. He took care to spread word of it everywhere he sold pieces.
By 1986, he kept a Post Box in Switzerland through which people could request specially crafted items. If the offering price was high enough, he’d try to make time to fill the orders.
After that first four months in Egypt, Harrison moved them to Indonesia, then Australia, Argentina, Congo, Russia, China, and on and on. They explored primarily the magical world, though they did spend time in the muggle world as well, particularly short stops at tourist and recreational areas.
While Harrison delved deeper and deeper into obscure magicks, Henry continued his daily lessons provided by Harrison and discovered a passion for language, reaching near fluency in every language they encountered in just a matter of months. Harrison mostly got by with translation charms before he discovered a delightful old blood ritual capable of imparting fluent comprehension of any language, provided he had a sample of the blood of a native speaker.
Blood magic, he’d quickly found, was as fascinating as enchantment, albeit, considerably more controversial in most parts of the world.
In 1988, Harrison finally found the solution to his lack of an identity that could hold up to any kind of scrutiny. In Poland, he found a deceased witch that fit the criteria he was seeking. A muggleborn woman with no surviving relatives and no friends in the magical world. A woman who had been traveling in Britain during the time he would have been conceived – assuming, of course, that he’d been born in this time. From there, it had required only an illegal blood adoption ritual. Well, admittedly it had been blood magic and necromancy, seeing as the woman had been dead for years. The illegal part was because of the necromancy, obviously, but also for the fact that legal blood adoption required the informed consent of the adopting party, which he obviously lacked.
Of course, her being dead, she wasn’t going to complain.
The ritual not only lent him legitimacy, but had the pleasant effect of changing his physical features slightly. Sadly, he did not gain any height, but his bright green eyes became a pale, icy blue and his nose became longer. There were other small changes to his hairline and his lips and the exact tilt of his brow. All the facial features he’d taken from his mother were replaced by those of his new adoptive mother. It did pain him to lose that connection to his mum, but it was necessary. As Henry grew, he could not afford for them to look too much alike, nor could he explain a likeness to Lily should anyone who’d known her notice it.
In the spring of 1991, Harrison and Henry finally returned to Britain for the first time in seven and a half years. Thanks to the now-world-famous Porter Enchantments, Harrison had found himself more than just comfortably wealthy in the last couple of years. Some of his more advanced pieces were selling for thousands of galleons each, and generally took him less than a week to create. He knew that the level of his magical power helped, but the most significant aspect that made his enchantments so superior was simply his magical knowledge. Having studied in thirty countries on all seven continents, Harrison had simply learned dozens of ways to work each general enchantment, allowing him to better personalize them for each need and combine them in the best ways. Really, he’d never have guessed just how useful that kind of knowledge could be. He couldn’t help but think that Hermione would be incredibly proud of him.
Now back in Britain, and with Henry soon to start Hogwarts, there were a few things that Harrison needed to take care of. Since he knew it was very likely to soon be contested, he needed to finally legitimize his guardianship of Henry. He also needed to simply legitimize his own existence. He’d done the necessary rituals, but he’d never bothered to fill out any paperwork in any Ministry. It hadn’t been necessary whilst he was traveling. He’d gotten far too talented at crossing borders illegally and he did not trust any government enough that he really wanted them tracking his movements.
For the first time since coming to the past, Harrison went to the British Ministry building. He apparated near the visitor entrance and rode the lift down, submitted his wand at the security desk, then headed to the Department of Magical Transportation to finally get his apparation license. Of course, he passed that easily, having been doing it for nine years.
His next stop was the Department of Education, where he signed up to take his OWLs in two weeks, and then his NEWTs two weeks after that. He also signed up to take his Mastery exams in Enchanting, Warding, and Defense. He had to wait a few moments after requesting the last for the clerk to close his mouth and sign him up. It was exceedingly unusual for an individual to have more than two masteries. It was even more unusual to take more than one at a time, as most people tended to apprentice in a discipline for a number of years, then take the test, then move on to another apprenticeship if he or she was going to do so. The fact that Harrison was only twenty-five probably drew some attention as well.
After he was finished at the Ministry, he apparated to Diagon Alley and made his way to Gringotts for his appointment at the Inheritance Office. He was a few minutes early, but didn’t have long to wait before he was shown into one of the rear offices and introduced to a goblin named Bloodaxe.
“What is it that you needed, Mr. Porter?” the goblin asked directly.
“I would like to claim my head of family ring, Master Bloodaxe,” he replied pleasantly.
The goblin’s eyes narrowed. “And what family would that be, Mr. Porter?” He put slight emphasis on the muggle surname.
“The Potter family,” Harrison said simply.
The goblin blinked at him for several seconds before shaking his head slightly and tapping a bell on his desk, which made no noise. A moment later, the door opened and Bloodaxe spoke to the other goblin briefly in their native language. Harrison considered the merits of learning the language, but quickly dismissed it. He didn’t have Henry’s flare of languages, and the blood rituals he’d used for a few other languages really weren’t advisable for nonhuman species.
The next few minutes, Harrison and the goblin engaged in a silent staring contest that neither won before the other goblin returned with the elder box bearing the Potter crest.
Harrison didn’t really care about the Lordship all that much, but this was going to be vital in securing his guardianship, so he didn’t hesitate in opening the box and sliding the larger ring onto his finger.
The magic of the ring flared, making him feel abruptly feverish, and he felt it coursing through his blood, judging his right to wear the ring. It lasted about ten seconds, and then the feeling passed, the magic settled down, and the ring sized itself to fit his finger perfectly.
The goblin blinked at him again.
Harrison just smiled. “I’ll be bringing my heir to claim the other ring soon. I’ll owl ahead, of course.”
“Very good, Lord Potter,” the goblin said pleasantly – well, pleasantly for a goblin. “Is there anything else you require of Gringotts today?”
“No. That will do for today. Thank you, Master Bloodaxe.”
It was only two days later that Harrison brought Henry to the bank – under glamor, of course. Henry claimed the heir ring without incident, making him officially the heir of the House of Potter, and making it impossible to remove him from Harrison’s care unless a threat against his life could be proven. Even Sirius, as godfather and Lord of his own House, had no claim over Henry now. The wizarding world was very protective of those of the noble class and that was true of virtually every magical community Harrison had encountered.
Spring moved smoothly into summer as Henry adjusted to life in Britain again and Harrison moved through the necessary testing to collect his masteries. Now that they were in Britain on a semi-permanent basis, and in possession of the Potter holdings, Harrison moved them into the Potter ancestral home in Wales, which was not far from Malfoy Manor, actually. Henry loved it instantly. In fact, he spent the first two weeks going on ad nauseam about all of the Potter history in the manor, and spent the majority of his free time between the Quidditch pitch – though he preferred Quodpot ever since their seven months in America – and the manor library, eagerly reading through old journals and the Potter grimoire.
Harrison spent most of his free time researching the estate wards, then upgrading them. He also purchased four house elves to keep up the manor and the other Potter properties that had been sitting empty for so long. Based on what Henry found in the library, the elves previously employed by the Potter family had been given to Hogwarts by James and Lily shortly before they went into hiding. Doubtlessly they’d planned to get them back at some point, but Harrison would be damned if he was going to ask Dumbledore for them.
At the end of May, Harrison went to the Ministry to take his OWLs. Ten days later, he got his results. Exceeds Expectations in Divination and Astronomy. Outstanding in everything else, and he did take everything, including Muggle Studies. He took his NEWTs after that, everything except for Divination and Astronomy, in both of which his knowledge was rather sketchy and confined primarily to certain areas for which he’d found the most use. He scored Outstandings across the board on his NEWTs.
Finally, he had his Mastery exams, staggered one per day, as each exam took five to seven hours. Unlike the OWLs and NEWTs, which were given by a Ministry examiner, the Mastery Exams were presided over by a Master in each discipline.
The Master Enchanter was an older man who had gaped at him when he’d found out that he was “The Harrison Porter of Porter Enchantments”. Evidently, he was a fan of Harrison’s work already and couldn’t believe that Harrison didn’t already have a Mastery. Harrison had just shrugged it off and admitted that he’d just never gotten around to going through the formality before. That exam was pretty relaxed after that, though Master Riydel did push him beyond the general tests into even more advanced and complex enchantments, mostly, Harrison suspected, because he wanted to see if he could do it and how he would.
In the end, Master Riydel gave Harrison the highest possible score he could manage after including the “extra credit” that he’d done, and he wrote a glowing recommendation to include with his Mastery certificate should he ever seek employment as an Enchanter.
The Warding exam was given by a half-goblin wizard with a particularly surly disposition. He, quite contrary to Master Riydel, seemed to take Harrison’s youth and varied interests as a personal insult to Wardmasters everywhere. He went into the exam determined to fail Harrison, or at least make him look as bad as possible. Luckily, the half-goblin wasn’t quite as vindictive as Snape. By the time the tests were through, he actually seemed impressed and he’d dropped the combativeness. Harrison passed that exam with a score above merely 100% as well. He wasn’t surprised. Apart from studying the subject around the world, Harrison had also been employing it consistently throughout the years to keep himself and Henry protected to his personal standard of paranoia.
The Defense exam came last, and, as he had done all through his limited time at Hogwarts, Harrison blew through it with ease. After the written tests and practical demonstration, the final portion of the exam was a duel. Harrison was slightly uneasy about the fact that the Defense Master testing him had evidently bragged about him during the lunch break. As a result, they’d gathered an audience for the duel, made up mostly of aurors that were on break, and including Head Auror Rufus Scrimgeour.
The Master let Harrison set the wards to contain any wayward spells from the audience, seeing as Harrison was a newly minted Wardmaster. When they finally faced off, Harrison sternly reminded himself that this was an exhibition match, no one was trying to kill him, and it would be a very bad thing to pull out dark magic given their audience. With that in mind, the duel began.
There was no doubt that the Master he faced had earned his title. He was extremely good, easily the best that Harrison had ever faced when it came to diversity and execution. But he was not a warrior. He didn’t have Harrison’s experience in fighting for his life, nor his overachieving sense of paranoia. Harrison used a wide variety of spells that he’d learned all over the world, some of which obviously surprised the Master and gave Harrison an edge. The rest of his advantage came from instincts honed through a lifetime of fighting to stay alive against overwhelming opposition.
The duel lasted twenty minutes before Harrison disarmed the Master.
The applause nearly caused him to attack the audience, as he’d mostly forgotten that they were there as he’d been forced to devote his attention completely to the one attacking him. He smiled sheepishly, and returned the Master’s wand. The Master assured him that he’d never had a better duel in his life. After a few minutes of answering the Master’s questions about where he’d picked up this spell or how he’d altered that spell, he received a score that he was told might have been the highest ever given, and he took his leave with relief that it was over.
He was also extremely happy to know that all of his training had paid off so well. If he was able to defeat Defense Masters in a fair duel, then he wasn’t doing too badly. “Fair” in the real world, was less common, but that was okay since he didn’t prefer to fight fair either. He knew that he’d be much more dangerous when not forced to avoid any and all dark magic and the more underhanded tactics that only a fool avoided when fighting for his life.
After turning down Scrimgeour’s offer to fast-track Auror Training, Harrison returned to Henry, who’d been left in the care of the house-elves, though Harrison did trust him to be able to look after himself for a few hours in the heavily warded manor house.
As June rolled around, Harrison found that he could no longer justify putting it off, and sent out a missive inviting one Sirius Black around for a visit with his godson.
Obviously, this chapter covered a lot of time. It will slow down again in the next chapter.
This chapter is entirely new, written over the last few days, so I haven't been able to go through it with a fine tooth comb. If there are typos or inconsistencies, I apologize. If you point them out, I'll try to get them rectified.
Remus set down his tea with a concerned frown as a glance at his mate showed that he’d gone very, very pale. “Siri? Everything okay?” he asked gently. A letter had arrived just a few minutes ago. Remus hadn’t recognized the owl, but that wasn’t terribly unusual, so he hadn’t paid it much attention. Whatever it had contained seemed to have deeply disturbed the other man.
Sirius did not appear to hear him, prompting Remus to get out of his chair and relocate to the empty space next to his mate on the settee.
Sirius flinched badly when Remus touched him and Remus’ concern grew when he saw the tangle of emotion in those expressive gray eyes. “What is it?” he asked gently.
In answer, Sirius shoved the letter at him with a shaking hand.
With a concerned frown, Remus read:
Dear Lord Black,
I am writing you today, for the second time, with regard to your godson, Harry Potter. It has been nearly eight years since my last missive to you. I’m certain that no apology from me will ever be sufficient for the disservice I have done you in depriving you of your godson all this time, so I will not attempt such a thing in a letter. I did what I did because I felt that it was the only way to ensure his safety.
The purpose of this letter is to invite you, and Mr. Lupin should he desire, to visit us. As I once promised, I would like for you to have the opportunity to know your godson, and he, his godfather. This letter is a portkey, which will deliver you to our home. It will transport up to two people and will remain active for forty-eight hours after being opened. The activation phrase is in the post script. Do be certain that you are prepared to go before you speak it aloud.
I understand that you have no reason to trust me. For that reason, I swear upon my magic that I mean no harm to you or Mr. Lupin. So long as you do not try to harm or forcibly remove your godson or myself, I will do my utmost to ensure that you come to no harm while you visit and that you can leave safely.
I honestly do hope to see you soon.
P.S. The activation phrase is: Take Me to Harry
Remus now understood exactly why Sirius looked as he did. Remus suspected that he didn’t look much different. After all this time… Though neither of them had ever voiced it, Remus knew that they’d both feared from time to time that Harry was dead. They’d clung desperately to the brief letter Sirius had received shortly after they’d discovered that Harry had never made it into the care of his aunt and uncle – if, indeed, “care” would have been the proper term for how those vile people would have treated James and Lily’s son.
Sirius had flown into a rage when Albus had told him that he’d left Harry with those people, but it was nothing compared to what had happened when they’d gone to rescue the boy from the horrible muggles only to learn that they’d never even seen the boy. He’d disappeared from the doorstep before they’d ever had a chance to even realize he was there. Veritaserum had proved that beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Remus had come very close to tearing off Albus’ head with his bare hands when he’d found out that the old man had literally left Harry on the fucking doorstep all night. Anyone could have happened by and taken the boy. Even the wards that Albus had prepared would not take effect until Petunia actually accepted the boy into her home, meaning that his only protection that night had been a sleeping and warming charm. Hell, he could have been mauled by a stray dog!
The loss of Harry and subsequent failure of Albus to find the smallest clue of his continued existence had driven a wedge between them and the Hogwarts’ Headmaster that would never be mended. It was that man’s irresponsibility that had taken Harry from them.
The letter that they’d received had been short and anonymous, but it was the only sort of solace they’d had these long years. Now, finally, the author was apparently making good on his promise.
Remus could barely breathe for the hope and fear drowning him. According to this, Harry was still alive and well. According to this, they could go and see him at any time.
Sirius, apparently, was having similar thoughts, because it was at that moment that he grabbed hold of the letter and quickly said, “Take me to Harry.”
It was not generally advisable to activate a portkey when one was in a seated position, as it transported them, but not what they were sitting on, meaning that there was no way to land gracefully. They both collapsed into an undignified sprawl in the elegant receiving room in which the portkey deposited them.
“Sirius!” Remus chastised his impulsive mate.
Before they could begin to argue, a house-elf arrived with a quiet pop and a bow. “Welcome Masters,” the elf greeted properly. “Who is yous being?”
“Sirius Black and Remus Lupin,” Sirius said immediately as he pulled himself to his feet.
“You is being expected, Masters,” the elf said happily. “You being following Aly. She be showing Master Guests to the parlor!”
They’d barely left the receiving room when Remus realized… “Sirius, does this seem familiar to you?” he gestured to the corridor around them.
Sirius blinked and took a real look around, then gaped openly. “Potter Manor,” he realized. It had never even crossed his mind that someone would be keeping Harry in his own ancestral manor.
Remus nodded and they said nothing more as they followed the elf through the well-known corridors to the family parlor. Remus knew for a fact that there were at least seven parlors in this manor and the fact that they were invited to the family parlor – a relatively informal room, usually used for entertaining visiting family members – was an indication that the man truly meant them to be a part of Harry’s life.
Or that he wanted them to think that. They really had no idea what kind of man they were dealing with. He claimed that he’d taken Harry in order to protect him. Even if it was true that the man believed it, he could be completely nuts.
He took the offered seat while Sirius opted to pace the room impatiently. The elf, Aly, returned in less than a minute with tea service for four.
Once she popped away, Remus took advantage of the lack of audience to meticulously test everything for any trace of potion, compulsion, curse, or anything else unsavory. He was pleased to find nothing at all but some standard preservation and resiliency enchantments on the china.
He made a cup of tea for himself and another for Sirius even though he doubted his mate would manage to calm down enough to so much as sip it.
They waited only a few minutes before the door opened again. They both turned hopefully, warily toward the portal. Remus’ eyes widened when he got a look at the man who entered and he heard Sirius gasp quietly.
The man looked perhaps a little younger than them, with pale blue eyes and long hair tied back at his neck. He was dressed in elegant casual robes befitting a lord, but he bore a startling resemblance to James. There was absolutely no doubt that this man was a relative, but not one that Remus had ever heard mentioned. As far as he knew, Harry had been the last of the Potter family.
“I’m glad you came,” the man greeted them.
“Where is my godson?” Sirius snapped out, interrupting whatever the man was about to say.
The man did not seem to take any offense at the interruption or the sharp tone. “He will join us shortly. First, I thought there were some things that should be discussed between us.”
“I don’t need to discuss anything until I’ve seen Harry,” Siri said obstinately.
The man did not appear surprised at the obstinacy. He just sighed lightly and stood his ground calmly. “I understand that you’re impatient, Lord Black. It is more than merely understandable given the circumstances…”
“That’s a pretty way of saying that you kidnapped my godson!”
“Nevertheless,” he went on unflappably, “Henry is not yet eleven years old and I will not be exposing him to you until you’ve calmed down. He is just a child and he does not need you overwhelming him. I understand that you were very attached to him when he was little, but he has no recollection of you and will not be comfortable if you treat him otherwise.”
“He’s right, Siri,” Remus said quickly before Sirius could continue the pointless argument.
Sirius whipped around, looking betrayed.
Remus just gave him a flat stare. “Sit down and have some tea, Sirius,” he encouraged kindly but firmly. “Let’s just talk for a minute.”
Sirius took a deep breath and visibly forced himself to calm down some before grumpily stomping over to the table and slumping into his seat.
The man smiled pleasantly at them and took the third seat, fixing himself a cup of tea with a spot of honey. “My name is Harrison Porter, as I mentioned in my letter,” he said as he stirred. “Well, Potter, now, really.”
“You look like James,” Sirius pointed out stiffly.
Harrison nodded agreeably, “He was my half-brother.” He lifted a hand to silence Sirius, who had opened his mouth to contest that, “I never met him. I grew up with my mother and didn’t even know about my father and his family until my mother died in 1981. By the time I came looking for my half-brother, he’d gone into hiding. When I heard what happened to he and his wife, I went looking for my nephew. I had hoped that I could know him as I had no family left either.”
“How did you find him?” Remus asked curiously. Albus had been so certain that Harry would be safe from the magical world hidden there in Surrey.
“My mother was a muggleborn,” Harrison explained. “When I learned that James’ wife had also been a muggleborn, I searched in the muggle world for any family with whom he may have been left. It wasn’t difficult to find the house. I’d intended only to look at the place and come back at a more appropriate hour, but when I arrived, I found little Henry was left outside the front door in a basket. A letter tucked in with him explained very briefly about the fate of the boy’s parents, then literally threatened Mr. and Mrs. Dursley to take the boy in lest they be unprotected against the evil wizards who would murder their entire family.”
Remus clenched his jaw and glanced at Sirius to find that his face was hard and cold at the reminder of those horrible people. And the proof that Albus knew that they wouldn’t want Harry when he’d left him there. That utter bastard. He’d claimed that he’d honestly thought Petunia would cherish the last link to her sister.
“I made a choice. I decided that Henry would be safer with me than with those muggles who clearly did not want him.”
“Why do you call him Henry?” Remus asked quietly.
“For his protection. When he was a baby, I realized that a black-haired boy named Harry would certainly draw at least cursory attention from any magical to hear it, so I decided to use his birth name, instead. We’re both accustomed to it now.”
“Why did you keep him from me when I got out of Azkaban?” Sirius demanded stonily.
“Again,” Harrison said softly, “for his protection.”
“I would have protected him with my life! We both would have!” Sirius snapped furiously.
“I do not doubt you would have protected him against Death Eaters,” Harrison easily agreed. “I was more concerned about those who would use him than those who would kill him.”
“You think I would-!”
“I do not,” Harrison assured them. “I do not believe that you would have used the boy – not intentionally. But I do believe that with you he would have been vulnerable to those who would have.”
“How can you-“
“You were pictured in the Daily Prophet with Albus Dumbledore and you have a known association with the man,” Harrison interrupted coolly. “The same Albus Dumbledore who left Henry on that doorstep. I could not take the chance that you would allow the man to manipulate my nephew,” he said very firmly. “By the time you were released, Henry had already been in my care more than eighteen months. He is the only family that I have left. That boy was, and continues to be, my life. I could not risk putting him at the mercy of a man like Dumbledore. Not while Henry was so young and I was so vulnerable.”
There was a moment of silence before Remus posed, “What’s changed for you that you’re letting us see him now?”
“I am twenty-five now,” Harrison explained. “I have claimed the Potter lordship and Henry as my heir.”
Remus’ breath caught at that and Sirius stiffened. If that was true, then Sirius was not going to get Harry into his custody. And now that Remus was looking for it, that was definitely the Potter Lord ring – Charlus Potter’s old ring – on Harrison’s finger. Lord and Lady Potter had died just a few months before James and Lily. James had never even made it to twenty-five to take the lordship himself.
“In addition, eight years ago, I was scarcely more skilled than the average Hogwarts’ graduate. Today I hold three Masteries, in Defense, Warding, and Enchantment.”
“That’s where I know your name from,” Remus realized suddenly. “Porter Enchantments.”
“Indeed,” Harrison said with a small incline of his head. “I started the company selling trinkets in local markets to make enough money to support Henry and myself. Enchanting was but a hobby at the time. A useful skill to help keep us safe.”
“Can we see him now?” Sirius asked after a long moment of silence.
“In just a minute, yes,” Harrison promised. “First, I need to warn you that I do not subscribe to prejudice of any kind and I will not tolerate it in my home. If you can’t manage that then you will not be welcome to return.”
“Prejudice?” Sirius asked blankly.
“I know little of your recent history, Lord Black, but I am familiar with some of your prior associations. You were a Gryffindor, an Auror, and a member of the Order of the Phoenix – all of which are known for harboring certain prejudices.”
There was another silence as that sunk in. “You were a Slytherin,” Sirius gathered.
“I did not attend Hogwarts,” Harrison dismissed.
“You’re a Dark Wizard, then,” Sirius accused.
“I prefer to consider myself Gray,” Harrison corrected firmly. “I make a point to hold no prejudice against the Light or the Dark. Magic, in itself, is not good or evil. Those are concepts of man. Just as a fire can both save lives and take them, magic can be used for good or ill regardless of whether it is Light, Dark, or neutral. As to the politics associated with the Light and Dark political groups, I believe that both sides have their merits and their demerits.”
“You don’t even oppose the people who killed your brother?” Sirius sneered nastily.
“I was too young to support either side of the war,” Harrison said coolly, “but I would not have chosen a side regardless, because I did not consider either to be ‘right’. And before you snap and snarl at me about that, Lord Black, do take into account that the Light you so blindly follow are quite content to condemn all Dark creatures.”
Remus stilled as those pale eyes settled meaningfully on him. “How…?” he asked somewhat hoarsely.
“I have spent enough time around werewolves to recognize one when I meet one, Mr. Lupin,” Harrison said kindly. “Henry and I spent three months living with a werewolf pack in America – oh, about three years ago, now.”
“Why?” Remus asked in astonishment.
“Several reasons,” Harrison smiled. “One, I wanted Henry to understand that the common misconceptions about Dark creatures are wrong. Two, I was curious about how their pack magicks worked. And three, they agreed to allow me to conduct some experiments on a few of their number in exchange for teaching them some basic reading, writing, and maths, and providing them with needed potions and healing.”
“What kind of experiments?” Remus asked warily.
“Nothing invasive,” Harrison promised. “I was working on developing an enchantment that could provide an effect similar to the Wolfsbane potion, but that would work with the wolf instead of against it.”
“Surely that’s not possible,” Remus whispered in disbelief.
Harrison smiled proudly, “It is, actually. Instead of poisoning the wolf and forcing it down, the enchantment more… I don’t want to say ‘tame’ because that’s never the right word with regard to a werewolf. Rather, it makes your wolf side submit to your human side as it would to its alpha. It’s not tamed, but controllable. Obviously, it is still recommended that you avoid human contact during your transformations. Just as you would not be wise to treat a true wolf as a pet dog, so must the werewolf be respected, but it is entirely controllable and much healthier for you than ingesting that poison every month. It is also, of course, much cheaper in the long run, as the amulet functions indefinitely and does not need to be renewed so long as the physical pendant exists.”
Remus wasn’t sure what to say. Could this actually be true?
“The enchantment is patented in America, Australia, Russia, and several other smaller countries already,” Harrison assured him. “Sadly, many countries just don’t care about the welfare of their werewolf residents, and had no interest in reviewing the patent. Britain was among them. I could provide one for you if you’re interested in trying it. If you don’t find it satisfactory, you may return it free of charge.”
“We’ll take one,” Sirius said before Remus could even try to think it through. They couldn’t get married because the necessary scans would reveal Remus’ lycanthropy, but that didn’t stop Sirius from acting like they were, including extending his fortune to cover everything Remus needed and a great many things that he truly did not. Though it still sometimes made him uncomfortable, he’d learned to accept graciously most of the time. It made Sirius happy, after all.
Harrison gave a small nod and called, “Aly.”
The elf arrived with a pop and a bow, looking delighted to have been called. “How may Aly be serving Master, sir?” she asked hopefully.
“Please fetch me one of the werewolf amulets from my workshop,” he requested very politely.
The elf vanished only to return three seconds later with the item clutched in her hand.
“Thank you,” Harrison nodded to her before she vanished.
Judging by the fact that she took the please and thank you with pleasure but not surprise or awe, Remus suspected that Harrison always treated his elves that way rather than acting especially for his audience. It said something positive about his character that he cared for his servants, Remus thought.
The amulet itself was in the form of a small gold coin impressed on both sides with an image of a full moon and ringed by what looked like two rows of tiny inscribed runes. It was hung on a sturdy black leather strap that wasn’t quite a collar, but would probably look much like one when he was transformed.
He accepted it from Harrison with a shaking hand and his eyes widened when he felt the wolf inside him hum pleasantly and relax noticeably the instant the metal touched his hand. “Merlin,” he breathed in awe. He hadn’t expected it to do anything until the full moon night. The fact that it had a noticeable effect on his wolf side even eight days before the full moon gave him much more confidence that it may actually work.
“What is it?” Sirius demanded protectively.
“I can feel Mooney relaxing, Siri,” he whispered.
Remus was still marveling over the amulet when he heard Harrison call his elf again.
“Instruct Henry to join us, please.”
Henry paused outside the door and took a long, slow breath, squared his shoulders, and entered the room with his chin carefully parallel to the floor, his posture impeccable. Harrison called it his pureblood mask, despite the fact he was a halfblood. He’d found that it helped, when he was nervous. And he was very nervous. He was about to meet his godfather and his honorary godfather – his father’s two best friends. From what Uncle Harrison had told him about them, Henry was certain that he was going to be a massive disappointment to both of them.
He moved to stand near his uncle’s shoulder and surveyed the two men. Both were staring at him like he was the answer to all their prayers and he couldn’t help but think that they wouldn’t be so excited if they knew what he was like. He very much was not Gryffindor material, and he knew that they’d both been. “Lord Black, Mr. Lupin,” he greeted formally with a deep bow of his head to the dark-haired man and a small nod to the werewolf. “It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
Sirius winced, looking almost pained. “You don’t have to be so formal with us, kid,” he almost pleaded. “We’re family.”
Henry took a breath and tried to forcibly relax his posture just a little. Gryffindors, he reminded himself, were not big on formality in most cases. Harrison had taught him that. Not that Henry had any idea how his uncle would know that, having never attended Hogwarts. He’d never been able to figure out how Uncle Harrison knew so much about some things. Personally, he suspected that his uncle might have some Seer talent, but Harrison had always brushed off any suggestions about that and Henry had learned that there was no point in trying to push for details that he wouldn’t get. Not that it really mattered in the end.
“Join us, Henry,” Harrison bade, gesturing obliquely toward the last seat at the table. He made up a cup of tea while Henry got settled between Harrison and Remus, then passed it across to him and Henry knew that his uncle had wandlessly checked to make certain that it was safe for him to drink. Despite the ring Henry wore being enchanted to detect any nearby poison or other malign contaminant and warn him, Harrison usually checked himself as well. He was extremely protective of Henry, but the boy liked it that way. Considering how many people apparently wanted to use or kill him, he thought he was very, very lucky to have his uncle looking out for him.
“Do you know that I’m your godfather?” Sirius asked first.
Henry nodded, “Yes. Uncle Harrison told me. And there are pictures of you both in the photo albums in the library.”
“Are there?” Sirius said with a wistful smile. “I didn’t realize Lady Potter kept any of those.”
“Why wouldn’t she?” Henry asked curiously. “You were an important part of her son’s life.” He knew that from reading the journals Dorea Potter had left in the library.
Sirius actually blushed at that, but his smile looked very pleased.
“So, Harry,” Remus said, then frowned and asked, “Can I call you Harry?”
“I prefer Henry,” he admitted. Harry Potter wasn’t him, but a symbol – a fairy story. Harry Potter didn’t actually exist, in his mind.
“Your parents called you Harry,” Sirius frowned sadly.
Henry looked down at his tea cup uncomfortably. He really wasn’t surprised. Two minutes after meeting him, he’d already managed to disappoint them. He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up into his uncle’s pale blue eyes. The love and strength in those eyes grounded him, reminding him that there wasn’t anything wrong with him. If Sirius and Remus couldn’t see what an amazing kid he was without wanting to change him, then they didn’t deserve him. That’s what Uncle Harrison had told him when they’d talked about this meeting yesterday.
Bolstered by his uncle’s confidence in him, Henry looked up to meet the gray and light brown eyes fixed on him and he didn’t let their disappointment affect him this time. “I don’t remember my parents,” he said firmly and watched them both wince slightly. To soften the blow, he added more gently, “But I’d like to think that they’d support me if I want to go by my birth name.”
Remus smiled softly at that, “Of course they would, cub.”
Sirius nodded with a sad smile, “Lily would be ecstatic. She wanted to name you Henry, James wanted Harald. They compromised in naming you Henry officially but calling you Harry.”
Henry couldn’t help but smile then, too. He loved learning about his family. The more distant history he’d found in the manor was interesting, too, but getting an idea of what his parents were really like and how they thought was fascinating. Harrison knew a lot of things – some of which didn’t make much sense – but he didn’t know much about Lily and James Potter beyond a few basic facts. “Can you tell me more about them?” he asked hopefully.
They both smiled broadly at that and Sirius immediately launched into epic tales of pranks large and small – the successes and the failures… and the detentions resultant of both. Remus interjected details here and there, or corrected Sirius when he started exaggerating too much. They eventually got around to Lily, and James’ long-unrequited affection and the determined courting that had seemed doomed to failure until James finally managed to grow up a bit in his seventh year and finally impress her.
At last, they spoke of the wedding, and of their joy at discovering that Lily was pregnant and how very much both parents had loved him long before he was even born. Harrison sat quietly through it all, sipping his tea and listening without comment, a solid presence there to reassure Henry with just a look if he ever started to feel like he must be a disappointment to his very Gryffindor parents.
After probably two hours, the stories finally wound down and a long moment of silence settled around the table before Remus asked, “So, Henry, are you looking forward to Hogwarts?”
“Yes,” Henry answered with a smile, even though the truth was much more complicated. He was excited and terrified and looking forward to it as much as he was dreading it. Hogwarts sounded wonderful and he was thrilled to be able to make some real friends, but… Harrison wouldn’t be there.
“What are you looking forward to the most?” Remus pressed gently.
“The library,” Henry answered reflexively, then felt his cheeks warm with a blush when Sirius gave him a completely horrified look.
Harrison chuckled, which made Henry glare at him. He didn’t take it personally though, because Harrison was almost as big a bookworm as Henry was.
“Merlin,” Sirius groaned, “you look like your dad, but you sound just like your mum.”
“Well… I’m looking forward to making friends, too,” Henry moderated.
“That’s more like it!” Sirius grinned. “Your dad always had a lot of friends. Everyone loved him.”
“What about my mum?” Henry wondered. These two were more friends of his dad than his mum, but the lack of information only made Henry more curious about her.
“She was really popular,” Sirius recalled, “but she only had a couple close friends. Alice Fortescue, who later married Frank and became a Longbottom. She was her best friend the last few years of Hogwarts and they stayed good friends afterward. She was your godmother, actually.”
“What happened to her?” Henry asked curiously.
Sirius and Remus both froze, wide-eyed at the question.
Henry frowned at them, then turned curious eyes to Harrison.
His uncle sighed lightly, “Frank and Alice Longbottom were some of the last casualties of the war,” he explained gently. “They weren’t killed, but they were subjected to the Cruciatus Curse until it broke their minds. They’ve been in the long-term ward at St. Mungo’s since a few days after your parents were killed.”
“Oh,” Henry said quietly, disappointed that he couldn’t talk to his mum’s best friend like he could his dad’s. It would have been nice to talk to someone who knew her so well. He turned his attention back to Remus then as he remembered, “You said that she had a ‘couple’ close friends. Who else?”
Sirius grimaced and Remus frowned at him.
“Severus Snape,” Remus provided, “was your mother’s best friend from before Hogwarts, but they had a falling out in fifth year that they never had the chance to fix.”
Henry perked up at that, “Potions Master Severus Snape? The Potions Professor at Hogwarts?”
Sirius looked even more put out, “How do you know that?” he almost whined.
Henry lifted an eyebrow incredulously, “The manor has a self-updating copy of Hogwarts: A History. Besides, he’s one of the most highly regarded potions masters in the world. How would I not know his name?”
When Remus and Sirius just stared at him, he looked to Harrison, only to find that, while his expression was neutral, his eyes were terribly amused. He frowned at his unhelpful uncle before turning back to the other two men.
“He is very accomplished in his field,” Remus agreed.
Sirius opened his mouth, but he closed it again very quickly with a pained grimace and by the way they’d both jerked slightly, Henry was reasonably sure Remus had just stepped on his foot under the table.
He hid his smile behind his teacup.
“Well, I think it is time Henry returns to his studies and I have work to be doing as well,” Harrison spoke into the silence and Henry watched the other men tense immediately.
“Will we be able to come back?” Remus asked, his brow furrowed with concern.
Instead of answering, Harrison looked at Henry, “Would you like to see them again?” he asked in a tone that Henry knew meant he wanted the truth and nothing else.
“Yes,” Henry admitted. He wasn’t sure that he was ready to be alone with them and they still made him a little uncomfortable, but he did enjoy hearing about his parents and they hadn’t seemed too bad. He’d been expecting a lot more prejudice, but he figured Harrison probably said something to them about that.
“Very well. Then I would suggest one week from today. If you arrive at eleven-thirty, you may join us for lunch and there will be time to spend with Henry after. Is that acceptable?”
Sirius looked like he’d have loved to complain, but Remus stepped in before he could, “That sounds fine, Lord Potter. We appreciate your having us.”
“Of course,” Harrison dipped his head graciously. “You’re his family.”
Family was important, Harrison always told him – be they family through blood or love.
They all got up from the table and Henry looked to his uncle to see if he could leave, but Sirius spoke before Harrison could respond.
“Do you think I could get a hug before we go, Pup?” he asked hopefully.
Henry blinked, not having expected that. Usually only Uncle Harrison ever hugged him. He immediately looked to his uncle for guidance.
“It’s okay if you want to,” Harrison offered, so he obviously didn’t think Sirius would try to hurt him.
Henry hesitated another moment before giving his godfather a cautious nod.
The man smiled and pulled him into a tight hug. He was taller and broader than Harrison, and he smelled different. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but definitely strange. He was relieved when Sirius let him go, but he tried not to show it. Remus looked like he’d have probably liked a hug, too, but he didn’t ask and Henry wouldn’t even have known how to offer, so he just let the moment pass.
“You can go, Henry,” Harrison offered quietly and he flashed his uncle a grateful smile and paused to quickly give a small bow to Sirius and a nod to Remus before leaving the room.
He sighed if relief when he was alone in the corridor on his way to the library. That really could have gone a lot worse.
Harrison sighed heavily once Sirius and Remus had disapparated from the receiving room. He took a moment to lean against the wall and just try to clear his mind. Over the last decade, he’d learned well not to wear his emotions on his sleeve as Snape had liked to accuse him. It was a skill he’d stretched to the limit today.
He couldn’t believe how good they’d both looked. Younger and healthier and happier than ever. Obviously, the strain of not knowing Henry’s fate these last eight years was not nearly so difficult as Sirius’ imprisonment had been in Harrison’s time. They were a proper couple, Harrison was sure of it judging by the looks and small touches that had passed between them. He had no idea if they’d been together in his time or not.
He was just so glad that they were both alive. And maybe they’d grown away from Dumbledore over the last eight years because they hadn’t argued his innocence once when Harrison had accused him of less than honorable intentions for Henry.
He smiled a little to himself. He knew that he’d never be anywhere as close to them as he’d been especially to Sirius in his time, but he was extremely happy to know that Henry could know them now. He’d been surprised to hear that Snape was childhood friends with his mum, though now he was thinking about it, he was certain Snape had never said one word against Lily while he was constantly ragging on James.
And maybe it did make sense when he thought about that memory of Snape’s that he hadn’t been meant to see. Lily was trying to defend her friend and Snape was mortified at having a girl standing up for him on top of the humiliation he had probably wished she hadn’t seen at all.
Shaking his head, he pushed off the wall and started toward the library. Henry had seemed okay, but Harrison wanted to make certain that he was dealing with everything well and that he didn’t have any questions before he went back to work. This had been hard enough for Harrison to handle at twenty-five, he could just imagine how difficult it must be for Henry. Though Harrison suspected that Henry wasn’t quite as attached to the specter of his parents as Harrison had been. Henry hadn’t grown up an unwanted burdensome freak, so he didn’t need to cling quite so hard to parents that he didn’t even remember.
Harrison was in his workshop fiddling with some improvements to his new personal security amulets – which generally contained shields, alert wards, and emergency portkeys, among other things – when Aly popped in almost silently. The elves knew to not make a ruckus coming into his shop as he was sometimes working on delicate things. Aly was the best at popping about quietly, so she was generally the one to come to him when he was working.
“Yes?” he inquired quietly without looking up.
“There are being visitors at the gate, Master Harrison,” Aly announced happily. She’d grown up in a home that entertained often, and she seemed to miss it. “They be Headmaster Albus Dumbledore and Professor Severus Snape, Master, sir.”
Harrison’s brow rose. He’d been expecting Dumbledore, but not Snape. Well, the old coot probably brought him as backup in case Harrison tried to flee with Henry or something of the sort. From what he’d gathered from Sirius and Remus during their three visits thus far, they weren’t on speaking terms with Dumbledore and Harrison suspected they hadn’t even told him that they’d found Henry. “Thank you, Aly. Please show them into the Blue Parlor and serve tea for four.”
Aly bowed and vanished.
Harrison sighed as he got to his feet and stretched his back, which was sore from leaning over that table for the last two or three hours. He’d been expecting this. He knew that he couldn’t raise the Boy-Who-Lived and not have to deal with that old meddler. That didn’t mean that he had to like it, but it did mean that he had to at least be civil with the man. Well, at least he had to be civil until he was sufficiently provoked, and even then he really couldn’t kill the man – however much he may wish otherwise.
First, he reached out to the wards and gave temporary access to Dumbledore and Snape – they would be permitted once and it would last until they left – then he searched along the wards until he located Henry in the library. The boy was supposed to be working on his wandless magic in the training room right now. No doubt he’d gotten distracted with some theory he’d come upon and ended up running to the library to research it. With a silent sigh, Harrison apparated to the library. He didn’t usually apparate around his own house – it wasn’t that big – but he didn’t want to leave the professors waiting too long.
Henry started slightly as Harrison appeared in front of him. His eyes widened and he glanced down at his book guiltily. “I can explain,” he said immediately.
Harrison gave him an exasperated smile. Henry was not a greatly spoiled child in most respects. Had he been shirking his studies to go flying, he’d have seriously regretted it. Harrison always found it somewhat difficult to be too stern when Henry neglected one study in favor of another, however. He’d get a lecture later, and an extra hour of wandless practice, but that was all. “Later, Henry. Dumbledore is here.”
Henry’s face instantly blanked. That reaction to surprise or stress had been easier to teach a child than Harrison had expected. In the end, it had been more difficult to teach himself. Henry hadn’t had that hard a time emulating him.
“You remember what we discussed?”
“Of course, Uncle,” he nodded dutifully.
“Good. Wait ten minutes, and then join us.” He was just about to disapparate when the boy’s hands caught his attention. “And Henry,” he added.
“Do make sure you don’t arrive covered in ink.”
Henry blushed faintly – being covered in ink would be a pretty much constant state for the boy if Harrison didn’t consistently remind him.
Harrison disapparated with a fond smile, and appeared in his bedroom. He opened his wardrobe and changed out of the durable work robes he wore in the workshop into a nicer set of robes. He chose a midnight blue open-fronted robe – the open front robes were a fairly new fashion of which Harrison was particularly fond, given his own muggle background. Beneath the robes, he donned black trousers and a crisp, white tunic. He replaced his work boots with slightly shiny black dress shoes. He let his hair loose from the tie that typically held it so that it flowed smoothly over his shoulder blades, and used a quick spell to ensure it remained just so.
Satisfied with his appearance, he checked the wards again. Henry was still in the library. Harrison hoped he didn’t get distracted and lose track of time, but he didn’t think that he would. More likely, the boy was sitting in there reading the same passage over and over again. He’d been nervous about meeting Dumbledore all summer. Though Harrison hadn’t told Henry the truth about who Harrison was and where/when he came from, he had confided his distrust of Dumbledore on a number of occasions. And the boy knew that the old man was part of the reason that they’d spent his entire childhood moving from place to place.
Dumbledore and Snape were in the parlor where they should be.
Harrison took a moment to draw his occlumency shields up tight, then set out for the parlor on foot. He didn’t doubt that Dumbledore had arrived unannounced because he was afraid they might not want to see him, but understanding that reasoning did not mean that Harrison couldn’t make them wait a bit.
While he walked, he prepared himself to face, for the first time in a decade, the man who had heartlessly destroyed his life and would do the same to Henry given half a chance. It had been years since Harrison had given into his famed Gryffindor temper, but if anyone could inspire it, it would be this man. Not to mention his companion.
Snape… Harrison’s grudge toward him had tapered greatly over the years. He understood what it was to have a difficult life, and that was what Snape had had. Really, that pensieve memory he’d seen at the end of his fifth year had drastically changed his opinion of Snape. Well, that and the bits of an abused childhood their occlumency sessions had shown. He wouldn’t forgive him for treating Henry the way Harrison had been treated by the man in the future, but he didn’t actually expect that to happen this time. First off, Henry would either be in Ravenclaw or Slytherin – of that Harrison had no doubt. Second, Henry was a tough and intelligent kid who’d spent most of his life being tutored. Snape wouldn’t intimidate him and he’d have a very difficult time finding anything with which to taunt him. Harrison had made sure that Henry had a thick hide, as he would need it now that he was going to be facing the Boy-Who-Lived stigma. Learning that Snape had been friends with his mum had just proven to him that the man couldn’t be all bad.
All too soon, Harrison arrived at the Blue Parlor, the parlor set up for hosting those least welcome in the house. Any visitor could snoop to his heart’s content both magically and physically and wound find nothing not meant to be found. It also had special wards around it that could turn very nasty if they made themselves unwelcome. He took a deep breath, and opened both doors simultaneously with a wave of his hand.
He smiled politely at the rather stunned expression on the headmaster’s face and the carefully blank one Snape was wearing when they saw him – and no doubt saw his likeness to James Potter. “Headmaster Dumbledore, Master Snape,” he greeted with a small dip of his head to encompass them both. “I suppose I should not be surprised by this visit, given the identity of my nephew.”
“Nephew?” Dumbledore asked as he rose and shook Harrison’s hand, his eyes widening slightly when he took note of the ring on Harrison’s hand.
Harrison just nodded and offered his hand to Snape as well. The dark-eyed man scrutinized it for a moment before taking it with studied reluctance and releasing as soon as he could. The only concession the man made to manners was to restrain himself from wiping it on his robe afterward, though he managed to convey that he would have liked to do so. Harrison then took his seat, prompting the other men to return to theirs. “Yes, Henry is my nephew,” Harrison finally answered as he picked up his teacup, which was already prepared exactly as he liked it. A careful brush of wandless magic told him that it hadn’t been contaminated.
Dumbledore frowned, “Forgive me. Henry?”
Harrison gave Dumbledore a tight smile. “It is his rightful name, Headmaster. Considering how popular his nickname has become, it seemed prudent to distance him from the fame in any way that I could. It protects him in public as well. People are far less likely to make the connection between a black-haired, green-eyed boy of the proper age if his name is not ‘Harry’.” Truthfully, Harrison had had no idea that his rightful name was Henry when he’d started calling his younger self such. He’d just chosen it because Harry was a legitimate nickname for it.
Dumbledore nodded. Snape was just watching without expression, though Harrison thought he’d seen the slightest flicker in his eyes when Harrison had said “green-eyed”.
“I confess, Mr. Potter, I was not aware that Harry had any living relations in the wizarding world, nor that there was another Potter heir.”
Harrison narrowed his eyes at the slight of his title being ignored, but held onto his genial façade, “My father was Charlus Potter. I never met him, nor did I get a chance to contact my brother, James, before he had passed as well. I wished to do so when I discovered my remaining family, but as he was in hiding at the time, it never came to pass.”
“I see,” Dumbledore said thoughtfully. “And how did you come to be young Harry’s guardian?”
“Well, as I wished to meet my brother and his family, I had an ear out for any sign of him. When I heard of his and his wife’s deaths and their son’s miraculous survival, I came at once.”
Dumbledore hummed quietly and sipped his tea for a moment. “I’m sorry, Mr. Potter, but may I inquire about your mother?”
“Treya Wiliski,” Harrison said quietly. “A muggleborn who attended the Polish Academy of Magic. She met Charlus while visiting Britain shortly after graduating. Or, at least, that is what she wrote in her journal. I did not discover the identity of my paternal family until after her death in February of ’81.”
Harrison had spent many years digging into archives all over the world to select Treya as his mother. She had indeed been a muggleborn who attended the Polish Academy, having been passed over by Durmstrang due to her parentage. She’d been quiet and had no close friends. After graduation, she’d traveled to Germany, France, and Britain, been unable to find satisfactory employment in the wizarding world, and returned to the muggle world very soon after. She’d gone back and completed her muggle education and worked as a secretary until her death in February of ’81. She’d always been introverted and had had very little contact even within the muggle world.
It was a rather sad story, really, but perfect for his purposes. No one in the wizarding world would be able to say she hadn’t mothered Charlus Potter’s second, illegitimate son, and he’d been able to find her grave to make himself her legitimate offspring in the only ways that mattered at this point.
“How did you locate Harry?” Dumbledore asked next.
“It wasn’t that difficult,” Harrison said dismissively, ignoring the way Dumbledore’s brow rose at that pronouncement and Snape’s frown. No doubt the headmaster had thought Henry very well hidden. “I grew up primarily in the muggle world,” Harrison explained. “I assumed that Henry would be left with any remaining family. So, as I knew there were none beyond myself in the wizarding world – at least, none that were very close – I searched through his wife’s maiden name. It was very easy to locate her sister from there.”
Dumbledore was frowning now as though he couldn’t imagine how his plan had failed so spectacularly. “So you just took the boy?”
Harrison hit him with a glare. “Yes, Mr. Dumbledore. I discovered my nephew on a doorstep in November, with a letter threatening his muggle relations to take him in ‘or else’. It was not difficult for me to decide that the boy would be better off in my care.”
Dumbledore looked disgruntled at that. Snape had gone back to his impassive mask.
Before anyone could say anything more, the door opened again and Henry entered. His shoulder-length hair was tied back at his neck and he was wearing simple burgundy, open-fronted robes over black trousers and… a t-shirt. Clearly he’d just slipped the robe on over his everyday clothes. Harrison sent him a mild glare for the fashion faux pas, but he seemed too distracted to notice. He did not wear glasses. He’d never needed them, so it seemed Harrison could blame his deplorable eyesight on the Dursleys – and Dumbledore – as well. Thankfully, he’d found a lovely little ritual to fix his eyesight in China, where it was used routinely.
“Henry,” Harrison greeted warmly, dropping the glare for the moment. “Allow me to introduce Headmaster Albus Dumbledore and Potions Master Severus Snape.”
Henry blinked several times and couldn’t seem to decide who he wanted to stare at, though he didn’t forget his manners, offering a polite bow of his head to each of them. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, headmaster,” he said first, then seemed unable to bury his smile completely as he turned to Snape. “It’s an honor to meet you, Master Snape.”
“The pleasure is ours, Harry,” Dumbledore greeted brightly while Snape just lifted a curious eyebrow at the boy. “Of course, I have met you before, but it has been quite a few years now.”
Henry’s eyes narrowed slightly at being called “Harry”, but he restrained himself from any other reaction.
“Join us, Henry,” Harrison nodded toward the last setting. He knew that the tea would still be the perfect temperature, thanks to the ever-attentive elves.
“Thank you, Uncle,” he nodded to Harrison before taking his seat. He wasn’t normally this formal, but he knew how to act the pureblood when he wanted to. Actually, he knew pureblood customs and mannerisms in two dozen countries.
“So,” Harrison said before Dumbledore could try to make nice with the boy, “I assume this visit is about Henry’s Hogwarts letter.” He gave the old man a mild look that assured him he was perfectly aware that he was only using that as a pretense.
Dumbledore twinkled merrily. “Quite, my boy.”
Harrison’s eye twitched slightly, “Forgive me, Mr. Dumbledore, but my name is Harrison Potter. I don’t know you quite well enough for ‘my boy’.”
Dumbledore sobered. “I see. My apologizes, Mr. Potter.”
Harrison just nodded.
Dumbledore extracted the letter from a pocket and presented it directly to Henry.
Henry looked at the letter, then cut his eyes to Harrison, who took the letter in Henry’s stead and wandlessly brushed it with his magic. He didn’t really expect there to be anything wrong with it, but he didn’t take chances with Henry – the boy was well-versed in paranoia. Once he’d determined that it was clean, he passed it over to Henry.
The boy accepted it with a nod and opened it, reading through the brief acceptance notice and then scanning the supply list. “Magical Draughts and Potions by Arsenius Jigger,” he muttered to himself, glancing up at Snape, who looked very slightly curious as to what the boy would say. “It’s a good one,” Henry said with that reflexive smile again. “I read it a few years ago, but I’m sure I still have it.”
Snape’s brow rose when Henry mentioned already reading the book – a few years ago. “Have you studied potions already, Mr. Potter?” he asked, surprisingly neutral on the “Potter” part.
Harrison suppressed a smile. Yeah, he wasn’t going to have to worry about Snape bullying Henry, he was certain.
“Yes, sir,” Henry nodded with a slightly shy smile, which really wasn’t like him. “Uncle’s not a potions master, but he’s taught me a lot. We brew every Friday mostly, and do theory on Monday. Magical Draughts and Potions was good, but I liked Neea Na Etoeemzo, ‘To Brew Magic’ by Hilda Descheizt better.”
Snape’s brow jumped again. “That is a good book, but I’ve found the translation to be less than ideal.”
Henry nodded fervently, “I completely agree. I didn’t read all the way through the translated version, but I noticed several discrepancies that would be enough to ruin potions.”
Snape was now looking vaguely bemused and Harrison was hiding a grin. Dumbledore hadn’t bothered to hide his, but Snape hadn’t noticed yet. “You read Greek then?”
“Yes, sir. I studied it when we were in Greece, um…” he glanced at Harrison. “Two years ago?”
“Thereabouts,” Harrison nodded.
“Do you travel a lot?” Dumbledore inquired.
Harrison smiled slightly, “Yes. As a matter of fact, we’ve done little else these last eight years. We’ve both made a study of varied magical culture, history, and politics.”
Dumbledore was twinkling merrily at that. “So, Harry, do you like to read in general, or is it just potions?”
“I love to read, sir,” Henry said very seriously, glancing down at the list again. “I wasn’t impressed by A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot. Her conjectures were biased, and she focused far too much on the goblins wars and other low moments in the history of various magical creatures. Personally, I believe she was quite prejudice,” he shrugged slightly. “I liked A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration by Emeric Switch. It was easy to understand. One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi by Phyllida Spore was comprehensive, but it definitely requires additional resource material to fully comprehend. I haven’t read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection…” he suddenly trailed off and glanced warily at Harrison.
Harrison smirked at the boy, “Speak your mind, Henry.”
The boy sighed and looked at the headmaster almost apologetically. “It was a complete joke, sir. Most of the book is a rambling explanation of the Dark Arts that isn’t even accurate most of the time, and the rest is frankly, well… worthless. It seems a lot like telling a frightened child that if he hops backwards seven times at sunset every evening, it will keep the Lethifolds away.”
“Hop backward seven times?” Snape asked with something suspiciously like amusement.
Henry shrugged slightly uncomfortably. “It’s a children’s superstition in Brazil, which is just ridiculous, because they actually have Lethifolds there, and giving kids false confidence in their safety seems like a great way to encourage them to take foolish chances.”
Harrison nodded with a smirk, “And Henry converted an entire village to accept that when he was eight.”
“Anyway,” Henry went on, blushing slightly, “I find that Defense book, if you can bear to give it such a title, is a complete waste of time.”
Harrison could have sworn Snape almost snickered for a split second.
Dumbledore looked disappointed by Henry’s assessment. “Well, I’m sorry you feel that way, Harry, but I think you’ll like this year’s Defense professor. He used to teach Muggle Studies. He’s always been a very competent teacher.”
Now Snape looked like he’d sucked on something sour, but he didn’t comment.
Harrison, for his part, had gone slightly blank-faced in his effort to contain his thoughts about Dumbledore extolling the virtues of Voldemort’s host. And to Henry, no less. Fucking pillock. “Well,” Harrison said briskly after a moment to control himself. “I suppose you shall just have to wait and see, Henry.”
The boy gave an obedient nod and put down his letter to sip his tea.
“So… My money’s on Ravenclaw,” Harrison smiled faintly behind his teacup.
Dumbledore chuckled. Snape looked slightly annoyed.
“Well, it has been lovely meeting you, Harry. I’ve no doubt that Hogwarts will not know quite what to make of you.”
Henry just nodded neutrally.
“Mr. Potter, do you think we may speak with you privately for a bit longer?”
Harrison nodded, having expected that Dumbledore wasn’t done with him yet. “Very well. Henry, you know what you should be doing,” he said sternly.
Henry stood and dipped his head in agreement. “Yes, Uncle.”
“Then see to it. I’ll be by to check your progress when I’m finished here.”
“Yes, Uncle,” Henry said again, then turned and bowed to the two professors. “I’m really looking forward to Hogwarts, sirs, and I’m very glad for the chance to meet you both.” He managed to make that polite despite being focused entirely on Snape when he said it.
Snape dipped his head in response, which made Harrison smile the smallest amount.
“We’re looking forward to having you, Harry,” Dumbledore twinkled.
Henry fled the room in an impressively dignified manner considering from whom he was fleeing.
“He is an impeccably well-mannered child,” Dumbledore observed with something that wasn’t quite approval, but not quite disapproval either.
“He is,” was all Harrison said in reply, deliberately avoiding any more informative response.
“Well,” Dumbledore smiled, turning his full attention back to Harrison. “You seem to have done a good job raising the boy.”
Harrison nodded his agreement.
“However, given who he is… I must confess that I have some concerns for his safety.”
Harrison checked his first response, which was to inform the old codger that Henry had survived thus far without his dubious “assistance” and he’d continue to do so just fine. Then he checked his second response, which was to sneeringly point out that it was none of Dumbledore’s ruddy business, seeing as he was not mentioned in the Potter’s will and had no legal connection to the child in question. He also contained the urge to mention the doorstep and the letter again, or to tell him exactly what kind of people those foul muggles really were.
Instead, he put on a bright, polite smile. “Your concern is noted, Mr. Dumbledore, however, I believe, misplaced. I am well aware of the potential danger to Henry, particularly here in Britain. I am a Wardmaster, and have updated and improved upon the estate’s warding significantly since we moved in here. I am also a Master of Defense, and Henry does not leave the estate without me.”
Dumbledore blinked slowly. “You have two masteries, Mr. Potter?”
“Three, actually,” Harrison admitted, which made Dumbledore’s eyebrows jump, and even Snape looked cautiously impressed. “I’m an Enchanter by trade. I used the name Harrison Porter for my business to avoid drawing unnecessary attention from unsavory individuals.”
“Yes, I’m familiar with Porter Enchantments,” Dumbledore nodded thoughtfully.
Harrison dipped his head in acknowledgement of that and continued, “Henry has a wide array of protective enchantments on his person at all times. He is very well-protected, Mr. Dumbledore.”
Dumbledore took a moment to absorb that. “I see,” he said finally. “I must say, I am impressed, Mr. Potter. Three masteries is an astonishing accomplishment, particularly given your age. You cannot be more than thirty…?”
“Twenty-five,” Harrison admitted.
Dumbledore stilled at that and Snape stiffened slightly. “Mr. Potter… Do you mean to say that you were only fifteen when you took in Harry?”
“Sixteen,” Harrison corrected. “It was actually on my birthday that I discovered him on that doorstep.”
“You were not even of age,” Dumbledore frowned with disapproval and concern both.
Harrison nodded, “It wasn’t easy in the beginning, I’ll admit. However, I firmly believed that I was a better option for Henry than those muggles.”
“But… They had a child Harry’s own age…”
Harrison’s eye twitched again and he wrestled with his occlumency shields to keep himself calm. “Mr. Dumbledore,” he said stiffly, “You felt the need to threaten them with death if they did not take the boy. That was hardly a glowing recommendation for their character. Furthermore, you informed Petunia Dursley in the letter that her sister was dead. How close to her sister could she have been to find out two days later in a letter?
“No, sir, I do not believe it would have been better to leave Henry there for a single day, nor have I regretted a single moment in my life taking that child as my own. Now, this subject is entirely moot at this point, as I am Lord Potter and he is my heir, leaving no legal recourse for you or anyone else to question my custody.
“I do appreciate your evident concern for my nephew, but I would like you to recognize the fact that I am capable of protecting him. I would give my life should it prove necessary.”
Dumbledore frowned, managing to look slightly repentant, even if Harrison knew the old manipulator too well to believe it for a second. “I apologize for unintentionally insulting you, Mr. Potter. Harry’s parents were very dear to me, which has left me feeling somewhat responsible for him. Truly, I only wish what is best for the boy.”
Harrison kept his face blank for a moment and resisted the first dozen comments that came to mind. When he finally felt capable of it, he gave a small, accepting nod. “Henry is the only family that I have left, Mr. Dumbledore,” he forced himself to offer as explanation for his venomous outburst. “I am the only guardian he has ever known, and he has shaped my life in more ways that I could possibly enumerate. I can promise you with complete confidence that I will only ever do what is best for him.” Unlike you, he forced himself to avoid saying.
“I understand, Mr. Potter. I am gratified to know that Harry has you looking after him.”
Harrison gave a nod to assure the man that he wasn’t going to take lasting offense – after all, he couldn’t really hate him any more than he already did. Or at least he sure as hell hoped not.
“May I inquire as to where you went to school?” Dumbledore asked after a moment of silence.
“I didn’t,” Harrison admitted. “My mother wasn’t greatly enamored with the magical world after she attended seven years of schooling, graduated well, and yet failed to get a job because of her heritage. She didn’t want to remove my options entirely, so she tutored me in magic. After her death, I simply purchased books and taught myself.”
Dumbledore frowned, then said cautiously. “If I’m understanding correctly, your mother passed when you were fifteen.”
“It is illegal to possess a wand if you are under seventeen and not attending a magical institution unless you’ve passed three OWLs, and even then you must be sixteen,” he pointed out.
“In Britain,” Harrison agreed. “I’m Polish.”
“Your accent is very good,” Dumbledore noted.
“I’ve picked it up,” Harrison dismissed. After deciding on his “history”, Harrison had used a blood ritual to learn Polish flawlessly. He’d also spent several months traveling Poland and learning about it.
Dumbledore just hummed vaguely in response. “Well, I suppose we’ve taken up enough of your time for one day, Mr. Potter. May I assume that Harry will be attending Hogwarts on September 1st?”
“You may,” Harrison nodded, rising from his chair. “Mr. Dumbledore, it was a pleasure to meet you,” Harrison offered his hand and allowed his least favorite person to grip it. “Master Snape, it was an honor.” Snape shook his hand more easily this time, looking slightly bemused. Harrison pretended not to notice. “Aly will see you out.”
The elf appeared without his needing to actually call her. “Aly be showing good sirs out. Please be following Aly!” she chirped happily.
“Thank you, Aly,” Harrison smiled at her.
The doors opened to Aly’s gesture and they all paused at the sight of Henry waiting outside. He quickly pushed himself up from where he was leaning on the wall and offered a small bow.
“Did you need something, Henry?” Harrison inquired as though he hadn’t expected him to be there.
“Forgive me, Uncle,” he said quickly. “I just recalled another question for the headmaster and did not want to miss my opportunity to ask it.”
“Very well,” Harrison allowed.
The boy turned to face Dumbledore. “Headmaster, I noticed that the supply list said that students could bring an owl, cat, or toad, but my familiar is none of those. I was wondering if I may still be able to bring her,” he said cautiously.
Dumbledore looked positively bemused. “What is your familiar, Harry?”
Harrison had to suppress a smile at the looks on the other men’s faces when Henry lifted his arm and a small green head poked out of his sleeve. Dumbledore looked completely gobsmacked to see the snake. Snape looked hardly less so, actually.
“This is Kassahl,” Henry said timidly. “She’s been my familiar since I was five.”
“That’s a boomslang,” Snape said, his voice slightly hoarse. “Mr. Potter, that is one of the most deadly venomous snakes in the world.”
“Oh, no!” Henry said quickly. “Sir, she’s perfectly safe. See? Open your mouth, Kassahl,” he hissed at the snake.
Harrison had to use his occlumency shields to keep himself from breaking down laughing at the looks on their faces when Henry started speaking parseltongue. It was nothing compared to the mental breakdown Sirius had almost had when he’d first met Kassahl last week. Harrison had had to give him a calming draught.
“You’re a Parselmouth?” Snape almost choked.
Henry nodded dismissively and lifted his free hand to the snake’s now open mouth. “See these tiny gold bands around her fangs? Those are to neutralize her venom. The elves have to paralyze her food for her, but it makes her safe. I mean, she wouldn’t bite anyone without my permission anyway, but Uncle Harrison said that wouldn’t be good enough to take her to Hogwarts, so he made these.”
Snape cautiously leaned forward and examined the tiny gold bands, then glanced at Harrison. “You made these?”
“Nearly went blind inscribing the runes,” Harrison deadpanned.
Henry snickered quietly, then looked at the headmaster. “So you see, sir? She’s perfectly safe.”
Dumbledore studied that snake curiously, then drew his wand and glanced at Harrison. “May I?”
Harrison nodded, making a concerted effort to not draw his own wand when Dumbledore aimed his at Henry. He couldn’t stop himself from putting his hand on it though, which caused Snape to raise an eyebrow.
Dumbledore incanted a quiet spell and Harrison watched curiously as the magic assessed the bands and their enchantments, then scrolled the results in orange above the snake’s head. Harrison scanned the arithmancy and deemed it accurate. “Most impressive,” Dumbledore finally concluded, then twinkled brightly at Henry. “Very well, Harry. I’ve determined that your pet is not dangerous, and I’ll give you special permission to bring her.”
“Thank you, sir!” Henry beamed. “Did you hear that, Kassahl? He said that you could come with me to school!”
“Good,” the snake hissed in return. “I do not trust you there alone. I notice that you didn’t tell him that you could turn off the spell on my fangs.”
“Of course not,” Henry snickered.
“You two will both be on your best behavior or I will remove you myself, Kassahl,” Harrison warned sternly.
“Yes, oh mighty master wizard,” Kassahl drawled, forcing Harrison to suppress a smirk.
“She said yes,” Henry smirked faintly, despite knowing that Harrison was also a parselmouth. Dumbledore didn’t need to know that yet.
Harrison jerked his chin toward the training room where Henry was supposed to be practicing his wandless magic. The boy gave one more quick bow, then turned and hurried down the corridor.
Harrison turned a polite smile on Dumbledore. “I appreciate your indulging him, Mr. Dumbledore. Kassahl is like a sister to him.”
“I confess, I hadn’t expected him to be a parselmouth,” Dumbledore frowned after the boy. “It is not a trait of the Potter family.”
“Not recently,” Harrison corrected off-handedly.
“I beg your pardon?” Dumbledore inquired.
“Oh, well, it was pretty common in the fourteenth and fifteenth century,” Harrison admitted. “It appeared sporadically until the mid-seventeen hundreds. The last known Parselmouth in the Potter family was Vincent Potter, who died in 1788 without ever having any children.”
“That can’t be true,” Snape frowned. “The parseltongue gift is exclusive to descendants of Salazar Slytherin.”
“Which the Potters are, albeit distantly,” Harrison explained. “The Potters intermarried with the Peverell family in the early fourteenth century. The Peverells were, at that time, the most direct descendants of Salazar Slytherin. Though their name died shortly thereafter, there were two main branches that survived. The Potters and the Gaunts. The Gaunt family died out in 1949 with Morfin Gaunt, who perished in Azkaban for using the Killing Curse on three muggles.”
Dumbledore’s mouth fell open slightly while Snape blinked. “You certainly seem to know your family history, Mr. Potter.”
Harrison shrugged, “I don’t have enough family to ignore what I do have, Mr. Dumbledore. Besides, I don’t know half as much in that arena as Henry does. He is a great fan of history, and has made the history of our family something of an obsession since we moved here.”
Dumbledore twinkled in response to that. “Well, I believe I can see where Harry learned to appreciate academics.”
Harrison just smiled and didn’t comment on that. “Have a good day, Mr. Dumbledore. Master Snape.” Not that Dumbledore didn’t have masteries of his own, but Harrison was hardly going to credit him with any titles when he chose to ignore Harrison’s.
Once they were gone, Harrison made his way to the training room.
“How’d I do?” Henry asked warily.
Harrison gave him a broad smile, “You were magnificent, Henry. I am increasingly convinced that you will be in Slytherin.”
Henry beamed at the praise.
“And I think you’ve begun to win over Snape,” Harrison added, “which is not an easy feat for anyone, much less James Potter’s son.”
Henry immediately blushed, “I almost passed out when you said his name! Why didn’t you tell me he was here, too?”
Harrison smirked at the flustered boy, “I wanted your reaction to be genuine. You did very well in containing your… enthusiasm.”
Henry scrunched up his face grumpily for two seconds before breaking out into a wide smile, “He seemed nice. I can’t wait for Potions class! I’m definitely going to be a Slytherin so he’s my Head of House, even if I have to threaten that Hat.”
Harrison smiled fondly at the boy, “I rather doubt the Hat will complain,” he assured, recalling his own Sorting. He knew that it was tradition to leave the children guessing about the method of the Sorting until they actually arrived for it, but Harrison had an extreme aversion to keeping from Henry information that directly affected him. He’d gone through too much of that as a child to subject his ward to the same. Besides, Henry would have enough stress dealing with being around all the kids raised with stories of the Boy-Who-Lived. He didn’t need to worry about the Sorting as well.
“So…” Henry said slyly. “When are we going to get my stuff for school?”
Harrison chuckled and ruffled his hair gently. “If you can get caught up on your studies, we can go tomorrow.”
Henry nodded resolutely and turned his attention fully back to his practice. Harrison was determined that the boy would manage a decent wandless protego before September. So far, Henry seemed to be coming along very well.
Henry stood before the wall mirror in his wardrobe and ran a nervous hand down the fine, darkest green fabric of his robe for the hundredth time. He hadn’t been into the magical world much since they’d moved into Potter Manor, so he was excited to see Diagon Alley again. He was also incredibly, pathetically nervous, which was evident by the way his hands were trembling. He’d never been in the British Magical community without wearing a glamor before. Even in different countries, he’d always gone by Henry Porter in public. He knew why. He knew all about the Boy-Who-Lived. He’d even read several of the books supposedly written about him, starting with children’s books when he was little, and progressing to books like The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts and A Modern Magical History. He’d also read stories in the Prophet of people claiming to have seen him here or there. Of course, none of those “sightings” were accurate, as Harrison would never allow Henry to be recognized in public.
Yes, Henry knew how crazy Magical Britain seemed to be about the Boy-Who-Lived, and he whole-heartedly approved of avoiding that insanity wherever possible. But they couldn’t avoid it any longer. He had to start Hogwarts, which meant that he was going to have to be in public as himself whether he liked it or not. He’d always known that he couldn’t hide forever.
He still wasn’t sure if he was ready for it.
Henry smoothed back his hair and used a simple wandless charm to tie the black, leather thong to hold his hair back. Then he smoothed down his robes again.
A soft knock at the door almost had Henry jumping out of his boots and he silently cursed himself for being so jittery. “Come in,” he called, his voice steadier than he really felt.
“Are you ready?” Harrison asked as he strolled into the room. Harrison was wearing charcoal gray robes over black trousers and a dark, reddish-brown tunic. His hair was already down, as he usually wore it whenever they went out.
Henry nodded stiffly and looked into the mirror again.
Harrison paused a moment, then asked, “Are you nervous?”
Henry nodded again, grimacing faintly at the admission. Harrison never seemed to get nervous.
His uncle moved to stand behind him and place one hand on each of Henry’s shoulders. “You’re ready for this, Henry,” Harrison said softly, his eyes gentle as they watched Henry in the mirror. “If you handled Albus Dumbledore, you can handle the fickle masses.”
Henry took a bracing breath. “You’re right. I know. It’s just…”
“An adjustment,” Harrison suggested.
“You can handle this, Henry. Remember, they will only become worse if you try to hide from them any longer. We will show them that you are not afraid. That you are not someone to be trifled with. And I will be at your side the entire time.”
Henry took another slow, deep breath, and he did feel more confident. “Okay. Let’s do this.”
Harrison gave him a broad smile and squeezed his shoulders briefly. Then he stepped back and held out his hand.
Henry turned and gripped it firmly, and then he felt the brief compression of short-distance apparation. He blinked against the sunlight that suddenly assaulted them and glanced around to find that they were in the Diagon Alley apparation zone.
Forcing his trepidation behind his occlumency shields – which were thus far little more than functional – Henry fell into step next to his uncle as they made their way toward the bank. Henry made an effort to emulate Harrison as they walked, though he’d yet to get down that smooth, dangerous stride of his uncle.
The first stop was the bank, where Harrison requested a meeting with Blackhammer. The pair of them drew quite a few eyes as they entered the bank, but once the goblin called Harrison “Lord Potter”, they got a lot more very interested looks and many of them focused on Henry as they obviously figured out who he must be.
Henry withheld a sigh of relief as they passed into a corridor at the back of the hall and left the stares behind.
Soon, they were led into an office and greeted by another goblin – Blackhammer, apparently. After they exchanged bows, he and Harrison sat in front of the desk.
“What can Gringotts do for you today, Lord Potter?” Blackhammer inquired.
“Henry will be starting school soon,” Harrison offered. “He’ll need access to his trust vault. I was thinking a vault access pouch with a limit of fifteen galleons per month.”
Blackhammer nodded and moved to a cabinet at the rear of his office. He dug around inside for a short time before returning to his desk with a bag just large enough to fit a clenched fist into. “It just requires a drop of Mr. Potter’s blood to link it to his vault.”
Henry lifted his hand and Harrison gripped it gently. He held it over the bag and a wandless hex put a tiny cut into the tip of his index finger. Henry resisted the urge to flinch as a drop of blood fell onto the bag and then Harrison had healed it. Henry carefully stuck the finger into his mouth to get rid of the last remnants of blood. Harrison had taught him very well about bleeding anywhere but at home. Blood was a powerful magical substance that could be used in thousands of spells, rituals, and potions – often just a single drop. It was a very bad idea to lose track of any of your blood. Henry even had an enchanted handkerchief that would vanish any blood that touched it, should he ever find himself bleeding in public.
“There you are, Mr. Potter,” Blackhammer presented the bag. “It is set to vault 687, and will allow you to withdraw up to fifteen galleons per month beginning today.”
“Thank you, Blackhammer,” Henry nodded respectfully, because he knew from his own studies that it was stupid to disrespect goblins, particularly those in charge of your money. They wouldn’t ever steal money entrusted to them, but there were many ways they could and would find to make your life miserable if they wanted to.g
The goblin seemed satisfied with his response as he turned his attention back to Harrison. “Was there anything else, Lord Potter?”
“Not today, Blackhammer. Thank you for your assistance.”
“Of course, Lord Potter.”
Upon leaving the bank, there were as many stares as there had been upon entering. Again, Harrison didn’t seem to notice, though Henry knew for a fact that his uncle was not unaware – he was never unaware – so Henry copied his example.
As they left the bank, Harrison flipped up his hood to cast his face into shadow and Henry quickly copied him. Harrison ushered Henry to walk slightly in front of him, then steered them into Knockturn Alley. Henry had been down here a couple times since they’d come to Britain, but never without a glamor, of course. He’d been down many other similar Alleys in other places as well. He knew that they tended to be more dangerous than the more mainstream Alleys like Diagon, but Henry still preferred them. There were much more interesting things and people to be found in such places.
Harrison led them a bit down the Alley and into a shop that didn’t seem to have a name – or at least no visible sign declaring it. There was a wand and some books in the front window. Inside, it looked mostly like a bookshop and Henry resisted the urge to wander immediately into the shelves. He loved bookshops like this. He’d found so many wonderful hidden treasures buried in second-hand places like this. He hoped Harrison would let him look around.
When he finally looked over to the service counter, he found the brunette woman stood behind it was staring between the pair of them in clear surprise. “…Harrison Porter? Is that you?” she asked cautiously.
Henry lowered his hood as Harrison smiled warmly at the woman. This must be Katherine, Henry realized. Harrison had spoken of her as his only friend in Britain, though they’d fallen out of touch when Britain had been searching for Harry Potter and they’d had to leave. Henry had only a vague impression of a woman in his earliest memories, but this woman’s face did stir his memory somewhat.
“Katherine,” Harrison nodded to her.
Her intent eyes trailed down Harrison’s body and then back up and she shook her head slowly, “You look like you’re doing well for yourself,” she observed.
He huffed a quiet laugh. “I am.”
She seemed to hesitate a moment before coming out around the counter and wrapping Henry’s uncle in a hug. “It’s good to see you,” she said before pulling away and turning her attention to Henry. “And Henry,” she smiled, “I’d recognize those green eyes anywhere. Looking good, kid.”
Henry dipped his head in acknowledgement, “It’s nice to meet you, ma’am.”
She looked slightly amused, “You can call me, Katherine, Henry. You used to when you were little. Well, you tried to. Admittedly, you butchered it a bit.”
Henry felt his cheeks warm, but settled on saying just, “Thank you, Katherine.”
“Did you come here for Henry’s wand?” she asked hopefully as she turned her eyes back to Harrison.
“Indeed,” he nodded. “With the Trace, if you please. Unfortunately, people will notice if it’s missing.”
“Of course,” she nodded. She reached under her counter and came up with a wand, which she placed on the counter, then drew her own wand. “Okay, from what I remember of your accidental magic, I expect this’ll be bright,” she smirked.
“A wise assumption,” Harrison returned her smirk, gesturing Henry forward. “Pick it up, Henry. It will test your magic.”
Henry took a breath and reached for the wand. There was a flash of brilliant light for a split second before Katherine’s spell caused it to dim. She stepped forward then and assessed the rainbow of brilliant color.
“Incredible,” she said after a long moment of staring. She looked between Harrison and Henry speculatively. “He’s as powerful as you,” she informed Harrison. “His magic is as neutral as yours, as well. Your magic is remarkably similar.”
“Then I assume he’ll need a wand similar to mine,” Harrison said in a tone that firmly dismissed the previous topic.
Katherine hesitated only a second before nodding and reclaiming the test wand. She replaced it under the counter and disappeared into the back.
Henry knew that she was suspicious about their magic and probably for good reason, but he couldn’t care all that much. He was too pleased to have heard that he was like Harrison. His uncle was powerful and brilliant and extremely awesome and Henry pretty much couldn’t imagine anything better than to be just like him. Of course, he’d expected their wands to end up similar. After all, his uncle’s wand worked perfectly for him and he knew that was pretty rare.
He found the process of having his wand made for him rather fascinating. To feel the materials respond to the touch of his magic was incredible.
In the end, Katherine left the materials he had chosen lain out on the counter, and just stared at them for a long moment. Ebony, silver phoenix feather, and basilisk blood. She looked between Harrison and Henry again, then frowned at the wand ingredients. “Twin wands,” she said at last. “I don’t suppose you know how rare that is.”
“Mmn. Can’t say that I do,” Harrison said without concern.
Henry looked at his uncle and realized that Harrison was neither surprised nor interested in the phenomenon of their extremely similar magic, and Henry knew that, somehow, his uncle had been expecting this to happen.
“Once, maybe twice every two or three generations,” she frowned at Harrison. “Even magical twins don’t usually have twin wands.”
“What can I say?” Harrison smiled, “We’re kindred souls.”
Henry chuckled a little, but Katherine didn’t. She was looking at Harrison like she suspected he was speaking literally. His uncle didn’t relent his bland smile.
“You know I can’t tell your secrets,” she reminded him.
Harrison’s smile didn’t change as he responded, “Some secrets are not meant to be spoken aloud.” He gave that a moment to sink in, then added, “We’ll have that keyed to him when you’re ready. Until then, we’ll just browse, if you don’t mind.”
Katherine stared a moment longer before relenting. “About half an hour,” she said before taking the components into the back.
Though Henry was very curious as to just what that had been all about, he knew his uncle well enough to know his pressing with questions would result in nothing but a thousand evasions until he was so frustrated he had to go bury himself in a book for a few hours to take his mind off it. He decided to skip the frustration and move right to taking his mind off it, wandering into the shelves of books and letting the possibilities of what he might find draw his full attention.
By the time Katherine returned, Henry had six books piled in his arms. They were all fascinating, he’d never read any of them before, and they were most probably above if not well above first year level. Then again, he was above first year material as well. They looked interesting and if he had to find other books to read first so that he could understand it all, that was fine, too. Even if he had to wait a few years to gain enough understanding to comprehend what all they meant, he didn’t mind too much. At least he’d have them.
Harrison had found four books, Henry noticed when they both approached the counter. By the titles, they looked to be about blood magic, warding, and necromancy. Henry wasn’t sure about the last one, which was older and the title was mostly rubbed off.
In order to key the wand to him, Katherine needed three drops of his blood, which resulted in Harrison once again making a small incision, helping him to place the drops where they were needed, and then healing him. Henry sucked off the last bit of blood on his finger, then watched as Katherine cast the spell that caused his blood to soak right into the wand.
She was breathing a bit heavily when she was done, but she looked pleased, nonetheless. She stood back and nodded to the wand. “See what you think,” she encouraged.
Henry glanced at Harrison and received a permissive nod, so he stepped forward and picked up the wand that looked pretty much identical to Harrison’s.
It felt basically the same, as well, he noted immediately. There was a slight difference. Enough that he didn’t think they’d get them mixed up or anything, but he was sure they could use them interchangeably.
As soon as the wand touched his fingertips, he felt his magic rush up, actually pulled to the surface by the wand itself, he knew from the little he’d studied of wandlore.
With all of his practice at controlling his magic for wandless casting, it wasn’t too hard to calm it before it could erupt through the wand in a violent display of some kind.
Katherine huffed an irritable sound, but she looked more reluctantly amused when he lifted his eyes to her. “You two really are too similar for words.”
“Thank you, Katherine,” Harrison smiled warmly at her again.
She just nodded and picked up the books they’d placed on the counter, running the total aloud as she went. Henry was not surprised to learn that three of the books Harrison had chosen were quite expensive. The old one was the highest – over a hundred galleons by itself. Harrison didn’t try to haggle, which was pretty unusual for him, really, but just paid the requested price.
“Don’t be a stranger now, Harrison Porter,” Katherine scolded lightly when Harrison had shrunk down their purchases and tucked them into one of his many concealed, expanded pockets in his robes.
“It’s Lord Potter, now,” Harrison corrected offhandedly.
Katherine smirked at that and it was slightly smug, but she didn’t comment, merely lifting her eyebrows expectantly.
“I’ll owl you,” he offered. “I don’t have the kind of free time that I used to, but I’ll contact you soon.”
“Fair enough,” she allowed.
“Put that in your pocket for now,” Harrison advised as they returned to the Alley, their hoods up once more. “I’ve made you a wand sheath already. I’ll give it to you when we get home.”
Henry grinned at that. For the last six years, Harrison had given him one birthday and winter solstice gift that he personally enchanted every year, and they were always so much cooler than anything they could buy in the stores. Henry didn’t doubt for a second that he was going to have the coolest wand sheath in school. He had a chess set with pieces so intelligent they were nearly sentient that he’d gotten ‘89 winter solstice – they helped him to review his studies while he played against them. Last winter, he’d gotten reading glasses that improved his reading comprehension and memory retention of anything he read while wearing them – he wore them a lot.
“Where to now?” he asked excitedly.
Harrison smiled at him. “Uniform robes, I think.”
Madam Malkin’s wasn’t nearly as interesting as Katherine’s. The cool part was that there was another boy there getting fitted for Hogwarts robes.
“Hello,” Henry said brightly while Harrison settled down on the nearby chairs and spoke quietly with the older woman who was also waiting. He noticed with interest that she was wearing a stuffed vulture on her hat. Unless he was mistaken, that was an African Soul Warder – a sort of magical totem used in some African magical cultures to harness a form of soul magic. The vulture likely signified a fierce, indomitable spirit. Henry made a note to stay on her good side.
“Hello,” the other boy responded shyly.
“I’m Henry Potter,” he offered, extending his hand to the somewhat pudgy boy with blond hair and hazel eyes.
Those eyes grew wide as they darted up to Henry’s forehead to take in the scar.
Henry had expected this, so he waited patiently until the boy recovered enough to realize that Henry was still holding out his hand. He shook it cautiously. “Neville Longbottom.”
“Nice to meet you.”
Neville nodded cautiously in return.
“So, are you excited about Hogwarts?” Henry asked when it became apparent that he couldn’t count on Neville to make conversation.
Neville gave a real smile at that. “Yeah. I can’t wait. My gran, that’s her over there,” he nodded toward the woman in the vulture hat, “she was really excited when I got my letter. She wasn’t sure if I’d get in at all, see? Wasn’t sure if I had enough magic,” he trailed off a little at the end, and ducked his head though Henry could still see the blush on his cheeks. He evidently hadn’t meant to say that much.
Henry shrugged, “Well, if you got a letter, then I’m sure you’ll be fine. Did you get your wand yet?”
Neville looked even more depressed at that. “Nah. I’m using my dad’s old wand.”
Henry frowned at him. “Does it work for you?”
Neville shrugged, evidently having no idea. “It was great for my dad.”
Henry nodded vaguely and tried to figure out why the boy wouldn’t have his own wand. He knew that the Longbottoms were a wealthy and influential family. There was no reason that they couldn’t afford to get him his own wand. Of course, in some of the more traditional cultures, magical foci were almost always inherited by purebloods, either from a relative, mentor, or ancestor. Those were different from the modern wands used in Britain though. These wands weren’t really meant to be passed down.
“Well,” he ventured curiously, “I know a little bit about wandlore. You’ll never get your full potential out of a wand that’s not suited to you. What does it feel like when you hold it?”
Neville blinked in confusion. “I don’t understand.”
“Have you held it?”
“Then it’s not suited to you or you’d know what I mean.”
Neville’s shoulders slumped. “Oh.”
Henry frowned at him some more. “How come your gran doesn’t get you your own wand?” he finally just asked.
Neville blushed. “Um. Well, she’s always wanting me to be more like my dad. I think she hopes that I will be if I use his wand.”
Henry blinked slowly, then shook his head. “I’m sorry, Neville, but that’s completely wrong. I mean, I’m not an expert, but from what I know, a wand suits the wizard based on temperament, magical signature, and something else that I think only wandmakers fully understand. Some wands do work well for different people. I mean, I can use my uncle’s wand – or, well, I mean, it’s suited to me okay. But that’s actually pretty uncommon. A wand either suits you or it doesn’t. It can’t change you if you use it. There are some forms of foci that can actually be imbued with the magic of the one who uses them. Those are supposed to be able to transfer some of the power of one long-time user to the next, but that’s mostly staves and jewelry used in India, and Indonesia. Our wands don’t really work like that. Maybe you could explain that to her?”
Neville sighed miserably. “No. I don’t think so.”
“Oh,” Henry frowned, then brightened. “Hey, my uncle might be able to help you. He’s a Master Enchanter. I bet he could figure something out.”
“Really?” Neville asked warily but hopefully.
“Oh yeah. Do you think your gran would let you visit?”
Neville’s jaw dropped for a moment before he closed it again. “Really? You want me to come to your house?”
“Yeah. Of course. We’ll be yearmates soon. We might as well get to know each other. What do you think?”
“Um. Sure. If it’s okay with my gran…”
“That’s you done, dear,” Madam Malkin pronounced.
“Thank you, madam,” Henry smiled as he hopped down off the stool, then immediately hurried over to where his uncle was still talking to Neville’s gran. He bit his tongue to keep from interrupting them and waited patiently.
Harrison didn’t make him wait long before focusing on him. “Are you ready to go, Henry?”
“Yeah, but, Uncle Harrison… Do you think it would be okay for Neville to come visit?” Henry couldn’t help but notice that Lady Longbottom looked almost as stunned by the question as Neville had.
Harrison smiled warmly. “I think that’s a wonderful idea, Henry. Perhaps Lady Longbottom would join us for dinner and Neville could stay the night?” he proposed, turning his attention to the lady in question as he finished.
She recovered herself quickly. “That would be lovely, Lord Potter. Thank you. Where do you live?”
“Potter Manor,” Harrison smiled in that way that he had that no one seemed to be able to say no to. “Shall we expect you at seven?”
“We’ll be there, Lord Potter,” she said with a small smile as Harrison rose from his chair, and she offered her hand, which he bent over to brush his lips across her knuckles.
“It was lovely to meet you, Lady Longbottom. We will look forward to your visit,” Harrison said smoothly.
Henry offered her a bow, which earned him a small smile. He took a step back, then grinned at Neville, who was just stepping off the stool. “I’ll see you tonight, Neville!” he called happily, to the boy who still looked slightly stunned. Maybe he’d never been to the house of another kid his age? Well, it wasn’t like Henry ever had either. They’d never stayed in one place long enough for him to really make friends, though Harrison had made a point to take him places where there were other kids he could play with. He never really got to know any of them. But Neville was going to Hogwarts too, so he’d know him for the next seven years!
Henry was so happy that he was almost skipping when they left the robe shop. He knew that Harrison was laughing at him, but he didn’t care. He might have just made a friend!
They went to the apothecary next, where Harrison bypassed the first year kits and put one together himself, picking each ingredient carefully. The vials and scales, cauldron and tools were all selected of a higher quality than the standard. “Snape’s a perfectionist when it comes to his potions,” Harrison conveyed quietly while he put together the kit. “You’ll want only the best for his class.”
Henry nodded and committed that to memory, barely giving a moment’s thought for just how his uncle knew that.
The next stop was stationery, where Harrison selected just a standard stationery kit with ordinary quills, black ink, and plenty of parchment. Another store found them a telescope and utility gloves. Finally, they headed into the bookstore.
Henry had to work hard to contain his excitement as Harrison went off to collect his schoolbooks – those Henry didn’t already have – and Henry went in search of interesting books he hadn’t read yet. He wouldn’t find any rare books in a shop like this, but there were still many dozens of other books that had the potential to be fascinating.
He found an arithmancy book and was on his way to search Defense books when he got distracted by the huge display dedicated to… well… him.
“Oh Sweet Merlin…” he breathed in horror as he took in the different books all written about him. And the fact that it was at least half sold out. He tentatively grabbed a book titled, The True Adventures of Harry Potter. He flipped it open and started scanning through, getting more and more angry as he went. It was complete bollocks! Sure, he’d been to India, but not in ’88, and though he’d visited dragon preserves, he’d definitely never fought a wild dragon!
“Who’s Harry Potter?” a girl’s voice at his side drew his attention.
He tore his gaze away from the horrible, lying book and focused on a girl in muggle clothes with exceptionally… large brown hair and rather prominent front teeth. “Hello,” he said cautiously.
She smiled brightly at him. “Oh, hello! Do you know who Harry Potter is? This is an exceptionally large collection of books. He must be some kind of celebrity!”
Henry withheld a groan. “He’s famous for defeating a dark wizard when he was a year old.”
“Really?” she said excitedly. “How’d he do that?”
“He didn’t,” Henry sighed. “It’s a great load of rubbish. No one really knows how the Dark Lord died. All they know is that Harry Potter survived. As though a baby could kill a dark lord. That’s just stupid. And so are all these books,” he returned the one he’d grabbed with greater force than necessary. “Like a kid has really been going around slaying banshees and solving crimes!” He scowled at another book. “Is that…?!” He picked it up and scanned the introduction before scoffing and putting it back. “That one says that he’s secretly an Unspeakable! Honestly! He’s eleven!”
The girl blinked at him. “Wow. You really don’t like this boy, do you?”
“No. I don’t. In fact, I hate him,” he decided. “All these people that buy these books are idiots.”
“It sounds like you’re jealous,” she pronounced.
Henry couldn’t help it. He burst out laughing at that. “Trust me,” he chuckled when he’d calmed enough to manage speech. “Trust me. I am really not. The last thing I’d want is for the whole ruddy country to be obsessed with me over something stupid that I didn’t even do.”
The girl eyed him uncertainly for a moment, then looked at the books again.
Henry sighed, “Fine, if you really want to know the story, you won’t find it in any of these. Come on,” he grabbed her hand and dragged her back to the modern history section. He scanned the selection for a bit, then grabbed A Modern Magical History. “This one has a decent account of what happened with the war and with the Boy-Who-Lived. …stupid moniker,” he muttered at the end. “Just remember that the end is ninety percent supposition. Harry Potter was the only one who was actually there that night that’s still alive, and he was just a baby, so he doesn’t remember.”
She nodded slowly, already flipping open the book and reading. “You-Know-Who…” she frowned unhappily. “What if I don’t know who? It doesn’t say his name even once in here!”
Henry snorted quietly. “Yeah. Superstitious bollocks. His name was Voldemort.”
“Oh!” she smiled happily. “Thanks. Why don’t they say his name in the book?”
He shook his head. “Apparently, people were so scared of him during the war, that they couldn’t even speak his name – or write it,” he gestured toward the book. “They still don’t, I guess.”
“But you do,” she frowned.
“I’m not scared of a dead man,” he shrugged. “Trust me, you really don’t want to get my uncle going on that whole subject. He can rant about it for hours. So, you’re a muggleborn, right?”
She focused on him again, tearing her attention from the book with difficulty. “What? Oh, yeah. I just found out that I was a witch last week! Of course, it made total sense once I found out. I mean, I’d always been doing weird, unexplainable things. I’m so excited to start learning real magic! Aren’t you? You come from a wizarding family then?”
Henry blinked and sorted out what all she’d just said as it had come out in a single breath. “Yeah. I’m a halfblood. Mum was a muggleborn, dad was a pureblood. My uncle’s a halfblood too, same way. I grew up with him, but we lived in the muggle world a lot, so I know all about that stuff. A lot of purebloods know nothing about electricity or automobiles or computers.”
“Really? I hadn’t even thought about that,” she frowned thoughtfully. “I suppose the wizarding world is a lot different in all kinds of ways…” she glanced around worriedly. “Do they have books about that stuff here?”
“Oh yeah,” Henry nodded. “There’re lots of books for muggleborns. You have to find the ones written by muggleborns or halfbloods though. The ones written by purebloods are rubbish, because most of them take so much wizarding stuff for granted that they don’t explain half of it. Here…” He scanned through the books on the shelf and selected two more, British Magical History and The Evolution of Magical Culture. After a moment of thought, he grabbed one more, Magical Traditions: Uncensored. “There, those will get you started, but they’re not written with muggleborns in mind specifically, so…”
He grabbed her hand and dragged her to another part of the store, this one specifically for muggleborns. He found a Muggle/Magical dictionary. “That’ll help you with the wizarding terms that we use every day… And… Ah, they have it!” He grabbed, So You’re Magical: Now What? And then, A Muggleborn’s Guide to Etiquette. He put that on top of the pile in her arms, then grimaced when she huffed under the weight. “Oh. Sorry. Here, let’s grab a basket.” He hurried up to the front of the store and found a basket, then returned to her and started piling the books into it. “That’s got a feather-weight charm on it, so you can pile it full and it stays really light,” he explained when her eyes widened at the reduced load.
“Okay, come on. Those will get you an idea of the magical world, but wizarding kids learn all kinds of stuff before Hogwarts, so you’ll be at a disadvantage if you don’t get some extra stuff.” And so he spent the next twenty minutes dragging her around the store and piling her basket full of book after book, collecting her course books and adding one to three supplemental books for each subject, based on how good he considered the course book. “Well, there’s a lot more, but I think that’ll be plenty to get you started. Once you get to Hogwarts, you can use the library there for additional stuff.”
She blinked at the overflowing basket. “I hope my parents will buy all this for me,” she frowned.
“Oh, right,” he grimaced. “Sorry. My uncle pretty much buys me whatever books I want, as long as they’re educational. Um. Well, let’s go find your parents, and if they don’t want to get all these, I can try to pick out the most important ones. Really though, I think they’re all pretty important if you really want to be prepared…” he shrugged. “Oh well. Where are your parents?”
“I think they’re waiting by the front,” she admitted before turning and leading the way. It didn’t take too long to find the pair dressed in muggle clothes and looking extremely out of place. “Mum! Dad!” she chirped happily.
“Hermione!” the woman gasped, blinking at the basket. “That’s a lot more books than were on your list…”
“Oh, well, I met this boy, and he helped me find all the books that I would need to prepare properly.” She looked at him when he stopped next to her. “This is…” she frowned. “I don’t think you told me your name.”
Henry blushed faintly as he realized that they hadn’t even exchanged names. “Right. Sorry about that. My name’s Henry.”
“Hello, Henry,” the woman smiled. “My name’s Alice Granger.”
“It’s nice to meet you, ma’am,” he greeted, stepping forward to shake her hand when she offered.
“I’m John,” the man offered and Henry shook his hand as well.
“Pleasure to meet you, sir.”
They both looked slightly bemused, but pleased at his greeting. “Well, Henry, do you really think all those books are necessary?” John asked.
“Yes, sir,” Henry said at once. “I’m a halfblood, so I know a lot about the magical and muggle worlds both, but a lot of magical children really know nothing about muggles or your world. There is some prejudice against muggleborns, actually. It’s not terrible,” he added quickly when they looked concerned. “Mostly it’s just purebloods, and not all of them. The extra material will help Hermione to catch up on the basic magical theory that wizarding children have learned all their lives, so she won’t be behind. And there’s some history books, and a couple written just for muggleborns to help them understand how the magical world works. That stuff will help her so she doesn’t feel left out whenever we wizarding kids start talking.” He smirked faintly, “She didn’t even know who Harry Potter is.” He rolled his eyes, “And he’s the most famous wizard in Britain,” a faint grimace at that.
“Henry hates Harry Potter,” Hermione snickered.
“With good reason,” he promised her. “People are barmy about him and for no good reason at all.”
“Hey, if he’s eleven, does that mean he’s going to Hogwarts this year?”
“Yeah,” Henry sighed.
“I wonder what he’s like…” she mused.
“Probably hopelessly full of himself,” Henry smirked. “I bet he can’t even ride the train to school because his head won’t fit through the doors.”
She frowned at him, but he just laughed. When he looked at the Grangers again, they were smiling at him.
“Henry, are you about ready? We’ve got another stop to make today,” Harrison’s voice came from behind him.
“Oh… I haven’t really started looking yet,” Henry grimaced.
Harrison game him a bemused smirk. “Made another friend, have you?”
“Oh, right. Sorry. Uncle Harrison, this is Hermione Granger. She’s a muggleborn. And her parents, Alice and John Granger,” he introduced.
Harrison gave them all his winning smile. “A pleasure to meet you. I’m Harrison.” He shook both of their hands.
“Henry was just helping Hermione to pick out books,” John smiled, gesturing toward the basket.
Harrison chuckled when he looked at it. “Yeah, that’s how he usually shops in a bookstore.”
“Do you like to read?” Hermione asked Henry hopefully. “I love reading.”
“Yeah, I do, too,” Henry nodded. “I’d already read most of our course books before I even got the list. Don’t worry if you can’t finish all those books before school starts. I’ll fill you in on the important bits on the train if you want.”
“Really?” Hermione asked, looking about as stunned as Neville had when Henry had invited him over. “That would be great!”
Harrison smiled and addressed the adults. “Could I persuade you to have dinner at my house? This weekend perhaps?”
“Dinner?” John asked, looking surprised, though not as much as Hermione.
Harrison just nodded. “Yes. I understand that this is a rather large adjustment, entering the magical world, and not just for Hermione, but for the both of you as well. I’d like to help if I could. I can answer any of your questions, and Hermione can get to know Henry a bit more.”
“Oh, well…” John and Alice exchanged looks and shrugs.
“That’s very kind of you, Harrison. We’d be delighted,” Alice answered with a warm smile.
Harrison returned her smile.
“Where do you live?” John inquired.
“Oh, I’ll come and pick you up. We wizards have different ways of getting around. Faster ways.”
They looked a little uncertain at that, but they nodded.
“Great. Saturday, then? I can pick you up at six. Dinner is at seven, and I’ll have you home by nine if not earlier,” Harrison offered.
Again, the Grangers had a silent conversation with their eyes, then nodded their agreement. “Let me just give you our address then…” John dug a small business card out of his pocket, then started patting around his other pockets. “Do you have a pen?”
Harrison drew his wand and quickly conjured a biro, which he handed over to a rather startled-looking muggle.
“Oh… Thank you.” He scribbled on the back of the card and handed it over.
Harrison examined it, and then flipped it over. “Oh, you’re dentists?”
“That’s right,” Alice nodded. “What do you do, Harrison?”
“I’m an Enchanter,” Harrison admitted, absently vanishing the pen with a wave of his hand when John tried to offer it back. “That means that I take ordinary items and enchant them with permanent spells.”
“That sounds fascinating!” Hermione said enthusiastically.
Harrison chuckled, “It is, Hermione. It’s quite advanced work, but if you take arithmancy and ancient runes starting in your third year, you’ll be able to do some rudimentary work – mostly temporary enchantments. The permanent enchanting really starts after your fifth year, but you’ll need advanced study if you want to make a profession of it.”
Hermione nodded seriously, as though she was committing his every word to memory. “Arithmancy, what’s that?”
“Arithmancy is the most precise and scientific side of magic,” he explained. “It involves a lot of maths. It’s an elective class at Hogwarts because the average witch or wizard doesn’t really need to know the subject. If you’re interested in enchanting or spell creation though, it is vital. It helps with advanced potion making as well. Actually, most advanced studies will benefit from having a firm foundation in arithmancy. As I said, Hogwarts doesn’t begin teaching it until your third year, but it wouldn’t hurt to start studying the basics early if you find it of interest. Henry’s been studying it since he was six.”
She turned an impressed look on Henry, who tried not to blush.
“Well, we’d best be getting on our way,” Harrison concluded. “We do have another stop to make today. I can answer more of your questions on Saturday, Hermione.”
She beamed at the offer.
“John, Alice, it was a pleasure to meet you,” he shook both of their hands again. “We will see you again on Saturday at six then.”
Hermione started toward the checkout counter with her parents and Harrison turned on Henry. “You have ten minutes. Pick out your books and let’s go.”
Henry nodded, then hurried back into the shelves to find books for himself. He was glad that he’d helped Hermione. Really, he hated British policy on muggleborns. Most countries introduced muggleborns to magic a lot sooner. And she really didn’t seem too bad once she’d stopped going on about Harry sodding Potter.
The last stop of the day turned out to be a solicitor’s office. When Henry asked what they were doing, Harrison had frowned angrily. “I’m sure you noticed the rather large collection of fiction about you in Flourish and Blotts.”
“Are we going to sue them?” Henry asked hopefully.
Harrison chuckled darkly, “We most certainly are, Henry. By the time we’re through with them, they won’t dare print a single word about you that isn’t fact, and even that they’ll probably ask permission.”
Henry grinned. He’d been horrified to see those “true” stories about him. Honestly, how many people in wizarding Britain believed that rubbish? They must think he was Merlin reincarnated!
Harrison was in a wonderful mood when they got home. Henry had made friends with Neville and Hermione, Harrison had started forming a connection with Lady Longbottom, and he’d gotten started on a lawsuit that would prove to the wizarding world that they did not want to mess with the Potters – and should prove quite lucrative as well. Not that they were hurting for money, but Harrison liked the idea of improving upon the Potter fortune while he was Lord of the house. With any luck, between he and Henry, the Potter family would make it off the brink of extinction. Not that Harrison had any immediate plans to have children, but he did hope to have a couple someday – when Voldemort was no longer a threat and Henry wasn’t in quite so much constant danger. Harrison had always dreamed of having a large family, and raising Henry had only cemented that idea in his mind. He loved kids.
The first thing he did was inform the elves that they would be having guests for dinner. They were ridiculously enthusiastic about the opportunity to serve more people, even if only two. Flip and Ren immediately set to work on dinner while Aly rushed to prepare the guest suite nearest Henry’s and Lonni popped out to the gardens to “get them ready for guests”, whatever that meant.
Harrison intercepted Henry before he could rush off – probably to read his new books – and led him down to his workshop. He seemed to remember the wand sheath he’d been promised then because he was all but bouncing the whole way.
“What does it do?” he inquired excitedly when Harrison handed over what looked like a black dragonhide bracelet with a loop attached to one side.
“Put your wand in it,” Harrison grinned.
Henry was literally holding his breath with anticipation as he did as instructed. He blinked when the wand slid in one side of the loop and just kept going without coming out the other side.
“The interior of the loop there is expanded,” Harrison explained, “Neither the sheath nor the wand can be summoned or even physically removed by anyone except you or me once it’s in place. The natural spell resistance of the dragonhide has been enhanced so it is virtually impervious to all but the very highest level spells. Basically, the only things getting that off your wrist are probably going to take your whole hand with it.”
Henry blinked, then nodded. “Okay, so avoid that,” he deadpanned.
Harrison chuckled. “Yes. Avoid that.”
“Thank you! This is awesome!”
“Well, I’m glad, but I wasn’t done yet.”
Henry’s eyes widened and a grin tugged at his lips. “Really?”
“Really,” Harrison nodded soberly. “Now, it has a built in invisibility function. Just feed it a trickle of magic and say ‘caecus’, and it will disappear.”
Henry gave it a try and his grin widened when it vanished. He ran his fingers over it and drew the wand out, then put it back. “Wicked,” he pronounced.
“I’m delighted that it meets with your exacting standards,” Harrison said dryly. “Now, to make it visible again, the password is ‘conspectus.”
Henry did that one, too.
“There are also standard release and return spells activated with just your magic and your will.”
Henry took a minute to practice releasing it into his hand and then letting it get pulled back in.
“Okay, that’s all for that.”
“Of course. You’re starting Hogwarts for the first time. You need supplies.”
Henry grinned and bounced a little on the balls of his feet while Harrison shuffled through the myriad of expanded drawers in his worktable where he kept the projects he was working on. “Okay. This is a quill.”
Henry smirked. “No. Really?”
Harrison gave him an unimpressed look, which shut him up, even if it didn’t diminish the smirk. It was a beautiful albino eagle quill of pure white with a platinum nib and tiny gold runes inset into the shaft. They were so small that they looked more like a fine accent than magical runes.
“All right, brat. It’s self-inking, and should last about ten years – meaning we’ll be lucky if it lasts you three. It won’t drip or leak. The ink is fast-drying and resistant to running or smearing. There are no self-correction or calculation charms in it, so it’s legal for homework and tests – not that you really need those anyway. The fun part is that the ink can be any color that you can imagine. Just touch it with magic and think of the color you want. There’s also a rather complex anti-theft charm, so if anyone touches it with the intention of stealing it… Well, I think you’ll enjoy what happens,” he winked. “So, take care of this and keep track of it, and you won’t be reduced to using those mundane quills I bought for you today.”
Henry nodded as he understood the purpose behind that purchase.
“Oh, and just so you know, if I were going to sell this quill, I’d charge two hundred galleons.”
Henry’s eyes widened.
“Take care of it because I’m not making you another one for at least a few years.”
Henry nodded solemnly.
“All right,” Harrison passed him a simple box for the quill, then found the next item he’d made for Henry. He passed over a book with a soft, dragonhide cover, about two hundred pages thick. The Potter family crest was embossed on the front. “You can use that as a general journal, potions journal, spell book, sketchbook… whatever.”
Henry opened it and flipped through the blank pages.
“There’s a page extension charm. You should get about five thousand pages out of that, which is two and a half times more than anything I’ve ever seen in a store. It’s got just about every privacy and security charm in existence on it, so I guarantee that you can write anything you want in that and even Albus Dumbledore would need several years to have any chance of reading it. It is tied to our bloodline though rather than your blood specifically, so I could read it or any children that either of us may someday have, but that’s it. I will, however, promise to never read it without your permission.”
Henry nodded, not even questioning that. Harrison had never broken a promise to him yet.
“Finally, it has preservation charms that will protect it from pretty much anything short of Fiendfyre or basilisk venom. Even dragon fire won’t harm it – not that I expect you to be fighting dragons anytime soon, but you never can tell.” He did remember Norberta. That would be this year, though Harrison had no idea if Henry would end up having anything to do with Hagrid, having not met the half-giant yet.
“Okay. Next… Let me see your necklace.”
Henry fished under his tunic and dragged out the platinum necklace that he’d been wearing for the last year.
Harrison tossed it onto his desk and presented Henry with a new one. “This is an improved design. Just like the other one, only you or I can remove it once it’s on. It has an emergency portkey that will take you either home or to St. Mungo’s – of course, only resort to the latter if you’re seriously injured. Once you start at Hogwarts, perhaps we can talk to Dumbledore about adding one for the infirmary there, which would be preferable to St. Mungo’s in a number of circumstances.
“There’s a health alert that will inform me if you’re badly injured, a tracking charm that only I can access through the twin to this, which I’m wearing. There’s a hostile magic alert and shield. Remember, it can’t protect against the most powerful curses, and I’ve set it so that it won’t protect against the minor stuff either. If someone tries to hex you, that’s good practice. Given your training, I expect you to be able to handle that.”
Henry nodded soberly.
“Good. It will also give you an alert if anyone tries to use Legilimency or passive magic on you, including tracking and eavesdropping spells. The real improvement is the occlumency charm. Considering that you’re going to be in a school with both Dumbledore and Snape, I really wanted to be sure that that part was as good as I could make it. For now, it is. Anyone who tries to enter your mind will be able to tell that you’re shielded, unlike when you’ve perfected your occlumency, but that’s okay for now. In fact, you’ll have to deactivate that feature for your sorting or the Hat won’t be able to get in. You’ll need to consciously hold it for the duration because the charm will immediately reassert itself as soon as you stop actively suppressing it. That’s a safety feature to ensure that you can’t lower it and then forget to put it back up.”
“Okay,” Henry said with a bracing sigh.
Harrison patted him gently on the shoulder and watched while Henry put the necklace on, then reached for the final item. “Okay. Last but certainly not least…” He put the tiny box on the floor and enlarged it into a standard-size trunk.”
Henry’s jaw dropped and Harrison grinned.
The trunk was black dragonhide with platinum corner bumpers – Harrison rarely used silver unless it was specifically requested, due to his respect for werewolves. The Potter family crest was worked over the lock in platinum accented with yellow gold. There was no keyhole, since the lock was entirely magical. “There’s no password. It will only open to your magical signature or my own. Again, I won’t be going into it without permission unless it’s an emergency. It has the same array of wards that I keep on my own trunk – which is basically overkill to the point of pure paranoia.”
Henry grinned at that.
“I have toned down the response to tripping some of the wards though, from lethal to highly uncomfortable. If your housemates get overly curious, we don’t want them actually dying. All right. To set it to your magical signature, you just need to feed a bit of magic into the lock. Mine is already set, so it won’t accept any other after this.”
Henry nodded and reached forward to touch the crest. There was a small spark of magic, and then he pushed it open.
“Okay, it’s a five compartment trunk. Wardrobe, library, potions storage, general storage, and high security. The last compartment is for the exceptionally paranoid. Just in case anyone manages to get through the exterior wards, this last compartment is a whole new level. It’s hidden physically and magically, so it is extremely unlikely that anyone will even realize that there is a fifth compartment to try to break into. It’s shrouded so that no tracking or scrying spells will work through it, nor detection spells, so, for example, if you were to keep something in there with a Dark magical signature, no one attempting to screen for Dark magic would even know it was there. That only works while it is in the compartment though, so the protection is gone as soon as you take it out.
“I will warn you, however, that since I’m the paranoid sort, I have set it to inform me if you put anything more than mildly Dark inside. If you so much as touch anything of the sort, I want to know about it.”
“To reach the various compartments, just think of the one you’re seeking when you touch the crest to unlock it. The high security compartment will draw a drop of your blood and you must speak a password, I recommend setting it in parseltongue, as that will protect it against everyone but you, me, and Voldemort. And I think the odds of him trying to break into your trunk are fairly slim.”
Henry snickered quietly at that.
“Okay. That’s it. Take your loot and go. You can start filling the library compartment now if you want, but I’ll warn you that it can’t hold any more than ten thousand books.”
Henry rolled his eyes, but he stepped forward to give Harrison a hug. “Thanks, Uncle Harrison. You’re the best uncle in the world.”
“I know,” Harrison said as he hugged him back. “I’ve worked very hard for that title.”
Henry snickered again and shrank the trunk down again so that he could slip it into his pocket.
“Oh, don’t forget, Henry!” Harrison called before he could get out the door. “Formal dinner tonight. No t-shirt, jeans, or trainers, make sure your hair is back, and I don’t want to see one tiny spot of ink anywhere on your person.”
“Yessir,” Henry saluted cheekily on his way out the door.
Dinner with the Longbottoms was enjoyable. Lady Longbottom, who’d given him permission to call her Augusta finally just before leaving, had seemed impressed by how well-traveled they were as well as their command of pureblood customs. Perhaps what impressed her the most, however, was the way Henry got along with Neville. He went out of his way to make sure he was always involved in the conversation, genuinely listened when he talked, and never belittled or mocked him despite how shy he was and his occasional tendency to stutter when he was uncomfortable.
By both Neville and Augusta’s reactions, that was a lot more than most kids offered the boy. But then, Harrison had made a point of raising Henry to be unprejudiced and unbiased. Traveling so much had helped with that. Henry had been able to see all manner of people from all different cultures and backgrounds.
By the end of the evening, Augusta had placed an order for a hairpin that would not only keep her style perfect all day, but had a number of security wards worked into it. Most importantly, however, Harrison had managed to convince her to buy Neville a new wand. Though he couldn’t say it, he well remembered just how difficult that wand had made Neville’s classes. With any luck, the boy would develop more confidence if he didn’t have that unsuited wand making him feel like hardly more than a squib.
Augusta floo’d home that evening, but Neville was allowed to stay and return after breakfast in two days. Both boys were thrilled by the sleepover, even if Neville was nervous as well.
Once the boys were in bed for the night, Harrison retired to his study and sat down to pen a letter to Gringotts.
A rumor has made it to my ears that I believe bears consideration. I’ve decided to pass the information on to you as a professional courtesy. It is my understanding that an unknown individual possibly working for the Dark Lord, Vol-
Harrison dropped his quill with a gasp as a sharp pain shot up his arm, squeezed his heart, then fizzled down his extremities.
He stared, wide-eyed, at the letter for a long moment before shaking himself. He gathered a new quill and a clean piece of parchment and began writing again, this time omitting all mention of Voldemort and leaving it more vague.
Once again, he got to the middle of his accusation and the pain returned, sharper this time.
Harrison leaned back in his chair and scrubbed his hands over his face. He spent several minutes running through every charm, curse, enchantment, ritual, and anything else that he could think of that could possibly cause this. In the end, the only conclusion he could draw was that it was an oath.
He’d nearly forgotten…
…lying on the rickety old mattress in the tiny room that was his prison. Pain radiated through his body. He was sure that he had at least one break in each arm where he’d held them up to shield his face and several bruised if not broken ribs. He was so tired. He was burning up and he didn’t think it was just the summer heat in his stuffy, shut-up room. He was running a fever.
Everything hurt and he’d never been more upset with himself than he was at the fact that he’d willingly walked right into this nightmare from which he could not escape. Dumbledore had told him he had to go and he’d just done it without even bothering to protest. But the old man had told them that Sirius was dead and Vernon was very angry about the last two summers of fearing Harry’s godfather as well as the fact that Dudley had nearly been killed by something magical last summer. Of course, Vernon didn’t believe that Harry had saved him. It wouldn’t have mattered even if he did because Dudley would never have needed saving if Harry didn’t exist, which Vernon was very persistent in telling him should be the case.
Harry was going to die in this room. He was sure of it. Vernon was going to kill him, either intentionally or accidentally, but that wouldn’t matter to Harry when he was dead.
He hated Dumbledore so much for sending him here, both in the beginning and again every summer. He remembered the old man telling him that he’d known Harry would have a difficult life here and he wished he’d have done a lot worse than smash up his office. The bastard. How dare he. He hoped that Voldemort killed him. Hell, he hoped Voldemort won because at least he was honest about torturing and killing people.
“Voldemort,” he whispered through his dry throat and chapped lips. He had no idea if the man ever hung out in his head anymore, but he was talking to him anyway, “I don’t wanna fight you anymore. I’m not going to fight you anymore. I swear it. Dumbledore’s gonna kill me so you don’t have to. I hope you make Dumbledore hurt before you kill him.”
Merlin… He’d been so out of it when that had happened, he’d mostly thought it had been a dream. But apparently that oath of his has been binding.
He spent a long time just staring at the abandoned letters and trying to figure out what the hell he was going to do now. He couldn’t fight Voldemort. He’d sworn it and his magic was holding him to that promise. And obviously it wasn’t only directly fighting him that was covered by the vow. He couldn’t deliberately act to hinder him. He wasn’t sure if the oath would kill him or take his magic or what if he tried to push through the pain, but he wasn’t interested in finding out. Not only for his own sake, but Henry’s as well. He had to be around and in possession of his magic so that he could protect him.
Especially if Voldemort was going to be alive.
If he couldn’t fight him… He refused to let Henry be any part of it. He knew what it felt like to be just a kid expected to take on something so much bigger than you. To not be given any choice in the matter. He would take Voldemort’s Mark himself before he allowed Henry to become the Light’s weapon.
He blinked as that idea settled into his mind, then steepled his fingers in his lap and gave it real thought. Not about taking the Mark – he had no interest in that at all. But it could be… It was an idea.
If he couldn’t fight Voldemort, then maybe he could help him. If he could sort of aim him, steer him away from Henry… It wouldn’t be completely terrible if he won, assuming that he could be trusted not to commit genocide against the muggleborns or start open war with the muggles. The British government was in desperate need of an overhaul. It was so corrupt at this point that it would be easier to tear it down and start from the ground up than to actually make all the changes necessary. More bloody, certainly, but easier.
He sat and thought about that for a long time. About what it would mean if he actually joined Voldemort. First off, of course, he’d need to see if it was possible to minimize the man’s insanity. There was only so much mitigating that could be done if Voldemort was truly and utterly insane as he’d seemed to be from what he remembered. Of course, Harrison was much older and much more knowledgeable now. In the muggle world, treating insanity was a thing of finding the right medication. But then, muggle insanity tended to be the result of chemical imbalances in the brain or just a psychotic break resultant of some trauma – at least, as far as Harrison understood it. The wizarding world was much different.
Voldemort’s insanity was most likely caused by Dark Magic or a bad ritual of some kind – likely both. If it was caused by magic, it could certainly be corrected by magic. If nothing else, aggressive Legilimency could section off his mind and find the damaged area, then cordon it off while the rest was organized and anything lost relearned. Targeted obliviates were sometimes used to permanently remove such dangerously damaged pieces of the psyche.
So, first step was getting Voldemort sane. Harrison really had no idea how reasonable a sane Voldemort may be, but he was certain his odds would be much higher for successfully tempering him.
He didn’t try to delude himself. If he did this, people would die. Because of a vow he’d foolishly made when he’d thought he was about to die innocent people were going to end up getting killed. And he’d be part of the side that was killing them. It was something he wouldn’t have considered when he was young. The most he’d have done is flee the country but more likely would have ended up getting himself killed trying to fight anyway. He wasn’t that child anymore. He could see in shades of gray and he had a child to care for. A child that came first, before everything else, including wars. Dumbledore was willing to sacrifice Henry in order to win his war, well, Harrison was prepared to sacrifice Britain if that was the cost to protect Henry.
Ideally, of course, it wouldn’t come to anything quite so drastic.
The fact was that Voldemort wasn’t the sum of all evil that Harrison had been taught to believe when he was a child. He’d studied too much history and too many wars now to believe in the existence of “evil”. Good and evil were constructs of society that changed with some regularity through time and with the passing of regimes. There was, of course, such a thing as psychopaths who killed for reasons not discernable to most people and sociopaths who killed for their own convenience, but that was insanity, not “evil”.
If Voldemort was sane, then he would want a functioning, sustainable society that he could rule – because no sane person wanted to be king of a cemetery. People were definitely going to be killed – possibly Hermione or Neville or other people that Harrison had cared about. It was a fact that he needed to understand and accept right now if he was really going to do this. He couldn’t afford second thoughts later.
He was also going to need to start prepping Henry soon. The last thing he wanted was for someone to put it in the boy’s head that Voldemort was all things evil and bad and then have it come out that Harrison was aligned with him.
Vanishing the ink from the aborted attempts at what was now the discarded Plan A, Harrison began organizing his priorities for accomplishing Plan B.
Friday was one of the best days of Henry’s life. Neville was a little timid and he didn’t have much confidence in himself, but he was smart and willing to try just about anything. It didn’t take long for Henry to decide the other boy would most likely be a Gryffindor. Bravery wasn’t about a lack of fear, after all, but a willingness and capability to persevere despite fear – and Neville had that and then some.
After breakfast on Friday, Henry managed to convince him to go flying, even though Neville had never been on a broom in his life and frankly looked pretty terrified of it. As soon as Henry learned that, he made it his mission to teach him. After all, they were going to have a flying class at Hogwarts their first year. He didn’t want the other boy to embarrass himself in front of all of their classmates.
Harrison joined them as they went out to the Quidditch pitch and Neville got to use the training broom, which Harrison had personally enchanted. It had been made after Henry had learned to fly, but he used it whenever he wanted to try to learn new maneuvers because it was loaded down with safety charms. It wasn’t as fast as the racing brooms that Harrison had made for them but the stability and handling were a lot better. It was also made to be remotely controlled, so Harrison could ease it back to the ground if it got out of the rider’s control.
That last one turned out to be a very good thing. Neville was so nervous that he lost control the first three times he got off the ground. Henry was incredibly glad that he’d talked Neville into doing this. He couldn’t imagine how bad it would have been at school when the teacher was trying to split her focus between fifteen or twenty first years using crumbling old brooms – though how Harrison knew the quality of the school brooms at Hogwarts was another mystery.
They ended up spending about three hours at it before Neville was confident enough to manage some basic maneuvers, but by the time they were finished, Neville was asking if he could come over and try it again sometime, to which Henry replied with a resounding yes.
Neville rambled on excitedly about flying and Quidditch throughout most of lunch, which got Henry explaining Quodpot and other similar games they’d seen around the world. Harrison inserted a fact here and there, but for the most part, he just listened with a small smile on his face.
When they finished lunch, Henry took Neville to the training room.
“Wow,” Neville breathed as soon as they entered.
Henry grinned at him. “I know, right? It used to be just an open hall made for dueling practice, either with a partner or against dummies. My uncle improved on it after we moved in. I think it’s the best room in the house now. Of course, my uncle might tell you otherwise with how much time I spend in the library, but… Come on, let me show you around.”
The original long hall had been expanded on with a really neat obstacle course running the entire length along one side. Thick ropes hung from the ceiling next to the course as the only non-magical means of ascending to the loft area above. The other side of the room was a haphazard conglomeration of dips and rises filled with all manner of things that had to look simply eccentric to the uninformed observer.
It was to the second side that Henry went first.
“A sand pit?” Neville asked curiously as they stopped next to the eight foot circle filled with sand.
Henry chuckled and motioned for Neville to crouch next to it with him. “Kind of, yeah. It’s for practicing Tadl Alma. It basically means ‘draw water’, and it’s the first bit of magic that kids in Egypt learn, usually by the time they’re five. I mean, obviously, there’s other things to do with this pit, but that’s the most basic.”
“They learn magic when they’re five?” Neville blinked.
Henry nodded. “Yeah. Watch.” He got up and moved into the pit, kneeling on the sand. He leaned forward and slowly drew a circle in the sand in front of his knees, about the size of a dinner plate, then began drawing within the circle. “This is the Egyptian hieroglyph for water,” he explained as he drew the ripple line three times within the circle. “It works similar to the Norse runic magic more commonly used in Britain. Now, you just feed magic into the hieroglyph and down through the sand below, seeking the water and pulling it to the surface. Of course, it’s possible to do it without the hieroglyph. That just helps to shape the magic and tell it what to look for. It’s a learning tool, or it can help empower the magic of someone weaker. Okay, watch.”
Henry did as he’d explained and he felt the water buried about twenty feet below the sand begin to work its way up until a small pool had filled the circle he’d drawn.
“Wow,” Neville said, looking incredibly impressed. “I can’t believe that you can do magic! And without a wand!”
“It’s really not that hard,” Henry shrugged, releasing the water, which immediately began to leak back into the soil. “Most cultures around the world have a few kinds of old magic that they do without wands or any kind of foci. And most of them start teaching those traditions to their children when they’re really young. Only a few countries, Britain among them, have really all but banned the Old Ways. They call it progress, but it’s not.” He frowned at the topic, then brightened. “Oh, hey, there’s something you can try! Come on!”
He hopped up off the sand, snatched Neville’s hand, and dragged him to the storage cupboard tucked away in a rear corner of the room. “I’m sure it’s in here,” he confided as he half-crawled into the cupboard. “I haven’t used it since I was like six, but… Ah, here!”
He worked his way back out of the cupboard with his prize held up triumphantly. It was a white marble rod about three centimeters in diameter and half a meter in length. The entire thing from tip to tip was inscribed with runes. “This little gem is a Norse tradition. It’s called… Well, literally, it translates to ‘magic stick’, but it’s really neat.”
“What does it do?” Neville asked warily.
“Here, sit down on the floor,” Henry encouraged, suiting his words by seating himself. Once Neville was seated and facing him, Henry placed the stick between them, where it easily stood on end without assistance. “Now, this was used before wizards had wands to channel their magic. This helped children to begin learning to control their magic. It’s kind of difficult to explain if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Why don’t you give it a try.”
“What?” he yelped. “I don’t… I don’t know how.”
“There’s nothing to know,” Henry assured him. “That’s the whole point of this. You learn how to reach your magic. You learn what it feels like. All you have to do is wrap your hands around the top and slowly slide them down to the bottom.”
Neville looked uncertain.
“I promise that it’s totally safe.”
Again, Neville proved his willingness to try anything once. He took a deep breath, and grabbed the stick.
Henry watched with interest as Neville’s hands slowly moved down the stick. His eyes fluttered closed as if of their own will. He drew in a sharp gasp as the runes began to glow, but his eyes didn’t open, nor did his hands pause. Henry was grinning by the time Neville reached the bottom. “Okay, now open your eyes, but don’t let go.”
Neville’s eyes opened slowly, almost cautiously, only to fly wide when he saw the brightly glowing runes. “Is that… Is that my magic doing that?” he breathed in awe.
“That’s all you, Neville,” Henry grinned. “See, I knew you weren’t a squib. By how brightly the runes are glowing, you’re actually pretty powerful.”
“Are you sure?” Neville whispered somewhat fearfully.
“Who cares what I think,” Henry laughed. “Remember the point of this? What do you feel?”
Neville blinked a few times, and he was breathing too heavily as he stared at the glowing runes. “Magic,” he finally admitted.
Henry gave him a beaming smile and nodded his agreement. “Magic.”
Saturday evening with the Grangers was a lot more fun than Harrison had really expected. He met them at their house at six and they took a portkey back to the manor. He had gotten his license for making portkeys only yesterday after deciding that he really would rather not involve others in criminal activities every time he wanted to portkey them somewhere, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to the ministry to request one every time he needed it. He’d been making them for years, of course. Just, never legally. Really, the only thing that changed with going legit was that he had to pay a fee and register the departure point and destination for every portkey he made now. That register was automatically sent to the Ministry and his account was billed monthly. The price wasn’t enough to bother him. So long as he wasn’t making International Porkeys daily, he wouldn’t have to be concerned for the cost. And if he did want to make International Porkeys, he probably just wouldn’t report those.
When they landed, Harrison carefully steadied the Grangers while Henry put his hand on Hermione’s shoulder to keep her from falling. The Grangers took a moment to gather themselves after the trip, then finally looked around. Harrison had set their destination as the front courtyard so that his guests could get a feel for where they were better than if he’d dropped them inside the house. Hermione was the first to comment.
“You live in a castle?!”
“It’s not really a castle,” Henry said dismissively. “This is a manor house. It just looks a bit like a castle because it’s so old. This is my family’s ancestral manor. It was built in 387 BCE originally, but the manor was largely destroyed by Mordred and his followers in 612 CE. In 623, it was rebuilt. There’s only one room inside that’s still primarily original construction with the rest being built around it entirely new. Of course, it’s obviously had some upgrading and modernizing since the seventh century, but the most of the house is thirteen hundred years old, which is why the construction is reminiscent of a castle. Wait until you see Hogwarts and you’ll understand the difference. That is a castle.”
Hermione looked fascinated by the impromptu history lesson. The elders looked stuck between being bemused at Henry suddenly becoming a tour guide and impressed by the history of the manor.
“We just moved in here last May,” Harrison supplied, “so we’re still getting used to it ourselves, but the estate has been in the family for over two thousand years.”
“That’s a long time,” John recognized.
Harrison nodded, “Wizards have long histories. Most of the more prominent pureblood families have ancestral manors like this. Well, there’s no need to stand in the courtyard all night.”
Henry continued the tour as they moved through the house toward the parlor, pointing out tapestries and portraits and suits of armor and explaining the history behind them, as well as noting a few of the rooms with more famous history. “That suite there was actually used by William the Conqueror in 1063, shortly before he officially became kind of England. William was, according to my ancestor’s journals, a wizard. His father, the Duke of Normandy was a muggle, but his mother – the Duke’s mistress, not his wife – was a witch. William was evidently not greatly magically powerful, but enough to be recognized by the local wizards.”
Before anyone could comment on that, Henry was pointing to a portrait. “That’s Lucretia. She was the first muggleborn to marry into the family in six hundred years, and I believe one of only ten in the history of the family, including my own mum. Most purebloods arrange marriages between other pureblood families, you see, and since muggleborns rarely have any families worthy of note in the wizarding world, it’s rare for purebloods to marry muggleborns.”
Again, he was going on before anyone could comment. “Ah, and this is the family parlor. It’s the room I mentioned before – the only one still standing from the original construction.” They stepped inside and he went on, “As you can see, the stone is entirely different. It’s plainer because the original manor was built more for function than fashion. Britain was still pretty wild territory back then, so manors were built more like keeps, with security and integrity taking precedence.”
Henry then nodded to the only portrait in the room, mounted over the mantle. “That’s Aliyanna Gryffindor, the elder of Godric Gryffindor’s two daughters. She married into my family in the eleventh century.”
“Wait, Gryffindor?” Hermione interrupted with wide eyes. “You’re descended from Godric Gryffindor? The one who built Hogwarts?”
Henry nodded happily. “Yep. From the maternal line, of course, but the paternal line of the Gryffindor family died out in 1412, so we’re presently the most direct descendants. We also married into a lesser branch of the Ravenclaw family in 1326. The primary line of that family has also died out, but there are a couple families more directly descended than us. The McDougals, for example, and the Pierce family, the latter of which emigrated to America about forty-five years ago.
“Basically every British pureblood family is related to Hufflepuff. Helga had twelve children, and they all went on to have bunches of children and they spread out through all the families with some of them even leaving Britain. I believe my family has three fairly weak ties to the Hufflepuff line through the years, but the most direct descendants of Helga are the Smith family. Alexander Smith is the current Lord of that family. We are also one of only two families that still have ties to the Slytherin line. The other is the Riddle family, which is a muggle name. The last generation were the Gaunts, but they’ve all died out. There’s only one Riddle left, but he disappeared in ’81. He’s not dead though, because bloodline testing still shows Uncle Harrison as the heir of the line rather than the lord.”
“Okay, Henry, I think that’s enough family history for now,” Harrison smiled warmly as he was finally able to usher them all into seats.
“You really know a lot about your family history, Henry,” Alice commented, looking impressed.
Henry blushed faintly. “Oh. Well, I’ve always been fascinated with history. Our library here is a fantastic resource for the history of Magical Britain in particular. We have the journals of our ancestors dating back more than two thousand years.”
“You have a library here?” Hermione asked, leaning forward in her chair.
Harrison chuckled, “Yes, Hermione, we do. It’s quite extensive. Henry would live in there if I allowed it.”
“Can I see it?” she asked timidly.
“After dinner, perhaps,” he allowed.
She nodded eagerly while the adults exchanged smiles.
Aly appeared with a pop, startling the muggles and Hermione.
“Ah, this is Aly,” Harrison explained while Aly blissfully arranged tea for the five of them. “She is one of four elves that keep the manor running. Thank you, Aly,” he smiled causing her to blush.
“Dinner will being served at seven, Master Harrison,” she bowed happily.
Harrison nodded and she vanished. “House elves serve wizards,” he explained. “They’re magically bonded to the family that they serve and they do everything from cooking to gardening to general housekeeping as well as serving as nannies for wizarding children and basically everything else we could need.”
“Are they like slaves?” Hermione asked quietly, a question her parents were likely wondering as well based on their expressions.
“A bit,” Harrison admitted, “and some families do not treat them kindly, I’ll admit. House elves have served wizardkind for thousands of years though. Serving is bred into them to the point that they literally live to serve and would be happy doing nothing else. They have magic of their own, as you noticed by Aly’s appearing and disappearing, and that magic is made stronger by the bond they have to their wizard family. They are, in fact, dependent upon that bond. Without it, they’d die within ten to fifteen years. With the bond, they can live upwards of two centuries. Most all wealthy wizarding families keep at least one house elf. Hogwarts has about two hundred.”
“Hogwarts keeps slaves?” Hermione gasped.
Harrison sighed quietly. He meant to head off S.P.E.W. before it could start if possible. Hermione truly had made a fool of herself with that, much more than he’d known at the time. “There is a difference between the bonds of house elves and the bonds of human slaves in muggle history, Hermione,” he gently pointed out. “First, the fact that they cannot live without the bond. Second, that house elves live to serve. There are some out there in bad situations with wizards who treat them quite poorly, but even they, if freed, would immediately seek out a new bond. They need it to survive. Truly, you will find no happier house elf than one that is able to serve a family that treats them well.”
“I can loan you a couple books about the history of house elves if you want, Hermione,” Henry offered. “It’ll probably help you to understand better.”
She nodded, but she still didn’t look really happy.
“So,” John said when the silence had begun to grow. “Henry mentioned at the bookstore something about prejudice against muggleborns?”
Harrison nodded. “That is, unfortunately, a fact of our world. Namely, it’s due to a lack of understanding. The cultures of the wizarding and muggle worlds differ greatly. Most purebloods just don’t understand why muggleborns think as they do, just as muggleborns don’t understand purebloods. The house elf issue, for example. There’s not one pureblood that I know who could begin to understand why anyone might have a problem with house elves serving wizards. Arranged marriages are another thing that purebloods take for granted. It is far more common than allowing children to choose their own spouse.
“Muggleborns tend to hear about these things and look upon them uncharitably because the equivalent in the muggle world is seen as archaic and oftentimes even morally abhorrent. So muggleborns look down on pureblood customs and judge them harshly, which offends the purebloods. You see, what muggleborns don’t understand is that bonded house elves cannot be fairly compared to muggle slaves. Pureblood arranged marriages cannot be fairly compared to the same muggle custom. The difference that muggleborns often fail to recognize is the inclusion of magic into the equation.
“The house elf bond is symbiotic. Without it, they would die. You see, they were originally servants of the high elves, a species that left our world many millennia ago. At that time, house elves were bonded to the lines of the high elves. When the high elves left, many of their servants were left behind. Had wizardkind not taken to bonding them, they would have all died out within a few decades.”
Hermione actually went a little pink at learning that.
“Arranged marriages are the same. Though they do have purpose in political and fiscal terms, the most important aspect of the marriage is magic. A marriage in the wizarding world is a magical bonding ceremony that connects the bloodlines. When a child is produced of the two lines, the bond is cemented so long as the combined blood within that child survives. As in the muggle world, too many close bondings between bloodlines creates inbreeding issues and leads to squibs – which is the opposite of a muggleborn, being a non-magical child born to magical parents. Without enough of these bondings, however, the magical line can weaken to the point of dying out.
“It is a delicate balance that the wizarding world has maintained for many thousands of years. The purebloods understand this, and so they marry their children to increase the magical power of their grandchildren. It is healthy, from time to time, to introduce muggleborn blood to refresh the lines. Henry, for example, is extremely magically gifted as the product of a pureblood father and a muggleborn mother. When his magic matures, he will be one of the most powerful wizards alive.”
Henry blushed and looked very hard at his teacup.
Harrison smirked faintly but otherwise pretended not to notice. “Hermione is quite powerful too, as some muggleborns are. She’s nowhere near Henry’s power, but almost no one is.”
“How do you know?” Alice wondered.
“I can feel it,” Harrison admitted. “I am more magically sensitive than most wizards. Most can sense whether magic exists in an individual and even determine if they are powerful or not, but I can tell even more minutely. Hermione will likely be in the top ten percent of the children at Hogwarts on power alone. Of course, knowledge and determination matter a great deal as well. Even with her magical power, she may be near the bottom of her class if she doesn’t work hard, or she may be at the very top if she does.
“It is similar to intelligence. Muggles can’t control if they’re intelligent or not. Some are born gifted in that way and others are not. Some wizards are born very powerful and some are not. Hermione seems to be gifted in both power and intellect.”
Hermione was blushing now, but she also looked very pleased with his assessment. Her parents smiled at her proudly. “I’m not as smart as Henry,” she objected bashfully.
“That’s not true,” Henry assured her. “I’m smart, but most of it’s just knowledge. Harrison is an amazing teacher, and he’s been teaching me since I was four.”
“Four?” Hermione gaped.
Henry smiled proudly. “Harrison’s a great teacher!”
“How bad is the prejudice, really?” John inquired quietly while the children went off on their own discussion of all the things Harrison had taught him.
“It’s not inconsiderable,” Harrison admitted. “At Hogwarts, Hermione will encounter other muggleborns like her, which make up about a quarter of the population. She’ll encounter halfbloods like Henry, who have grown up knowing both worlds and are generally quite tolerant. And she’ll encounter purebloods, who make up about half the population. Of them, about half will be perfectly amicable toward muggleborns. The remaining half will look down on her to varying degrees. The headmaster of the school, however, is very pro-muggleborn, and he ensures that the muggleborns feel welcome there, even going so far as to celebrate muggle holidays.”
“Oh,” Alice murmured thoughtfully. “I hadn’t even thought about that. Are wizarding holidays different?”
The rest of the evening proceeded smoothly with Harrison being as honest as possible while easing the Grangers’ fears. It felt a little dishonest to do so, knowing what he did about what the future would likely bring – what he would help bring. Truly though, Hermione did need to train her magic and he hardly expected them to flee the country and send her to school elsewhere based on the advice of a man they’d just met. For now, he could do little more than make them as comfortable and informed as possible and hope that they’d listen if he ever did advise them that the time had come to flee the country.
Next chapter should be Hogwarts.
The last month before school started was nearly the best of Henry’s life, and considering that he and Harrison had once spent almost a month touring the muggle amusement parks of the world, that was really saying something. The best part, of course, was Henry’s friends. Real friends! After that first sleepover, Neville visited every weekend, as did Hermione, though she was usually only allowed to stay from breakfast through before dinner and then Harrison had to take her home.
Henry taught them some of the most basic wandless magic and Harrison gave them preparatory lessons in all of the subjects they would study this year. Henry and Neville both spent a lot of time answering Hermione’s unending questions about Hogwarts and magic in general. Neville and Hermione got along great. Her exuberance for knowledge offset Neville’s shy personality well and she was great at getting him to relax just by being fascinated with everything he could tell her about the magical world.
Neville graduated to a modified Nimbus, which Harrison had slowed down so that Neville could get used to it, and Hermione took her turn on the training broom. She was about as nervous as Neville had been, but even she was soon giggling and trying simple stunts – though none very far above the ground. They spent a lot of time in the library where Henry took to tutoring them both in some of the magical theory that they’d be learning this year. Hermione was terrified of being the worst in the class because she was muggleborn, and Neville still didn’t have much confidence in himself, so they were both happy to have something of a head start.
Harrison worked with them on brewing a few simple potions and warned them about Professor Snape’s personality and teaching methods, particularly if any of them turned out to be Gryffindors – he also seemed to suspect Neville would be, though Hermione was clearly a Ravenclaw.
Harrison was amazing, like he always was. He let Hermione and Neville spend as much time at the manor as their guardians would allow and he gave a lot of his own time to helping them out even though Henry knew that his uncle had been busy with a lot of orders to fill and whatever else he was doing that put a crinkle in his forehead every time he drifted off in thought.
It had been a bit awkward when Hermione had figured out who he was. He’d managed to make it through the entire first dinner without being connected to anything Potter, but the next time she’d come, Neville had been there, and he’d mentioned something about Henry being the Boy-Who-Lived. Of course, Hermione had dutifully learned all about the Boy-Who-Lived by that point.
“Wait, what?” she frowned. “He’s not…” She shook her head and looked at Henry. “You’re not.”
Henry just sighed. “My uncle – my dad’s brother – is Lord Potter. My name is Henry Potter. Heir of House Potter.”
There were a few long seconds while she’d just gaped at him. Then, “But… But you hate Harry Potter!”
He nodded emphatically, “I absolutely do. I hate what everyone thinks that they know about me. I hate it that they think I killed a Dark Lord, when I didn’t. I’m Henry Potter. Harry Potter – the Boy-Who-Lived – is just a stupid symbol.”
Neither she nor Neville had really known what to say after that, but they’d gotten passed it fairly quickly and they never talked about the Boy-Who-Lived again.
Since the muggles couldn’t actually get onto Platform 9 ¾ anyway, Hermione was staying at the manor on August 31st – the first time she’d been allowed to stay the night – and going with them to the train station in the morning. It was while Hermione was enjoying one of the pool-sized bathtubs before bed that Harrison drew Henry into his study with an unnervingly grim look on his face.
“Is everything okay?” Henry asked nervously as he settled into one of the comfortable armchairs in front of the hearth and Harrison took the other.
“Relax,” Harrison smiled gently. “Nothing is wrong. I merely need to explain some things to you before you go to Hogwarts.”
“Okay,” Henry swallowed and listened attentively.
“We haven’t really discussed it since returning to Britain,” Harrison began, leaning back in his seat, his hands settled loosely onto the arm rests of his chair, “but there are a lot of politics involved in being the Boy-Who-Lived. Politics that are going to be very present for you at Hogwarts.”
Henry nodded soberly. He really wasn’t looking forward to that part of going to school. It was almost enough to make him ask to go to Salem or Durmstrang or anywhere but Hogwarts. But he knew that he didn’t really have a choice. Harrison had explained that to him a long time ago. The very fact that he was Harry Potter meant that he couldn’t just disappear without a trace forever. If he didn’t go to Hogwarts, Dumbledore and Voldemort’s supporters would come after him. If he was at Hogwarts… He wasn’t sure exactly how it would be better, but Harrison thought it would.
“The war here never really ended. Most of Voldemort’s supporters never went to prison since the Ministry didn’t demand truth serum interrogations and just took them at their word that they’d been under the Imperius Curse. The few that went to Azkaban were either caught red-handed or were crazy enough to admit to their crimes out of pointless loyalty.” He shook his head as he did when he decided that he was getting off track. “My point is that the ‘Light’ side and the ‘Dark’ side of the war are still very much in existence in Britain, and those staunch beliefs have filtered down into their children. You will find those like the Weasleys who take a very hardline stance against anything even remotely Dark… Well, unless Dumbledore proposed it in which case they just follow him blindly.”
Henry grimaced. He’d heard similar things about the Weasley family before but it never ceased to disturb him. He couldn’t even begin to understand how anyone could have such blind faith as that. Well, to be fair, Henry had that kind of faith in Harrison, but he’d been raised by the man. Harrison had been protecting him and teaching him all his life. Dumbledore was a former professor and a politician and a known vigilante. How that equated into a trustworthy, impeccably good man, Henry just couldn’t comprehend.
Harrison smiled a little at Henry’s grimace. “Yes, Henry. Just as I’ve always taught you to think for yourself, the Weasleys have been taught that Dumbledore is always right. That he’s stronger and smarter and more morally upstanding than anyone else in the Wizarding World and should therefore be followed faithfully. There are those of the opposing side who believe similarly about Voldemort. You will need to be very careful to avoid ending up between these two sides, especially if you’re Sorted into Slytherin, where the majority of the Death Eaters’ children will be.”
“Everyone’s going to expect me to be on the Light side,” Henry observed. “How do I avoid ending up in the middle if I’m a Slytherin?”
“Watch your language,” Harrison coached. “Avoid making any definitive statements regarding your feelings toward either side of the war or its leaders. I know you’re capable of doing that if you’re careful.”
Henry nodded as he considered it. It might be kind of fun, really. Like a game. Playing to each side and playing them off each other. He’d just have to remember to be careful. Not try anything too ambitious right away. He returned his attention to Harrison to find him eyeing him suspiciously. He gave a cheerful smile to reassure his uncle that he wasn’t planning anything reckless, and added, “I’ll be careful,” for good measure.
Harrison didn’t look entirely convinced, but he did go on. “Now…” He looked a little uncomfortable, which wasn’t a look Henry was used to seeing on him. “We’ve never really talked about what we would do when the war picked up again – and it will. Soon.”
Henry frowned warily. “I… didn’t think we’d be part of it,” he admitted, somewhat sheepishly. It seemed silly now. He was the Boy-Who-Lived, how could they not be part of it? He looked down at his knees dejectedly. He didn’t want to fight. He hadn’t decided what he wanted to do with his life, but fighting a war was definitely not part of it.
“Unfortunately,” Harrison said sadly, “It won’t be possible for you to avoid it completely. You do not- Look at me, Henry.” He waited until Henry lifted his eyes to continue, “You do not have to take any kind of active role, but that’s not going to stop Dumbledore from trying to involve you. Nor will it protect you from Voldemort’s supporters attacking you of their own initiative. That is what I’ve been training you for. You are prepared to handle it and you will continue to train so that you can continue to be prepared for what you may face as the war escalates again.
“What I am going to do, is my best to make sure you never actually need those skills, okay?”
“Okay,” Henry nodded, bolstered by the reminder that his uncle wouldn’t ever leave him to deal with any of this alone.
“You will likely hear a lot of conflicting information at Hogwarts, from children who believe every word they speak because it is what they were told. Well, I’m telling you now that nothing about the last war was Black and White. There were Death Eaters who did what they did simply because they liked to hurt people. There were also Death Eaters who honestly believed that they were doing it for the betterment of the wizarding world. The very same could be said for the aurors of the time. They were given huge allowances for violence during that time – even so far as to be granted permission to use the Unforgiveables with impunity on any suspected Death Eater.”
Henry nodded his understanding. He hadn’t heard too many details about the war against Voldemort, but he’d studied enough historic wars to understand that the Good Guys and the Bad Guys were usually determined by the history books written by the winners or by the side on which someone had fought, not by cold, hard facts. The fact was that there were Good Guys and Bad Guys on every side, and one could often be mistaken for the other if you didn’t look close enough.
“One thing you must remember about Voldemort is that his mind was slipping during the war, Henry,” Harrison explained gravely. “The intelligent, albeit paranoid, young man that he was got lost in his insanity, and that is when he started the more radical portions of his crusade, such as attacking babies.”
Henry swallowed, but nodded to show he was following.
“Wizarding Britain’s government is incredibly corrupt,” Harrison said quietly. “It needs to be disassembled and created anew.”
Henry bit his lip a moment before warily venturing, “You’re planning to join Voldemort.” He really hadn’t seen this coming. Harrison had always seemed so… neutral to all things political that he’d just assumed that would always be the case. He wasn’t sure how to feel about Voldemort. The man had killed his parents, but it was war. They’d chosen a side and died for what they believed in. That wasn’t the sort of thing that needed to be avenged. At least, Harrison had always told him so, and it didn’t seem wrong to him.
Harrison sighed heavily, but nodded. “Yes, Henry. I am. For two reasons. First, it is the only way that I can protect you. If you swear to him that you won’t fight against him, he will have no reason to hunt you. Second, I really do believe that Voldemort can change Wizarding Britain for the better. You know how stifled and backward this country is, Henry. Most of our first month here you spent telling me about it,” he smiled a little wryly at the end.
Henry managed a weak smile in return as he turned this over in his head. They were going to join Voldemort. This was going to require a lot of research. He’d been so convinced that they’d be neutral that he’d never properly considered what it would mean to join either side of this war.
“I wanted you to be aware of that as you go into Hogwarts,” Harrison said after a long moment of silence. “Related things you should know… Professor Quirrell is an agent of Voldemort. He will be at the school this year trying to return his master to a body. You are not to interfere, okay?”
“Yeah, okay,” Henry said at once. He really didn’t want to get in the middle of that, especially not now that he knew his uncle was on the man’s side.
“Next, you should be aware that Professor Snape was a Death Eater during the last war who turned spy. I can’t say for certain which side he’s really on, but on the chance that he is reporting to Dumbledore, you would do well to avoid telling him anything incriminating regardless of how much he appears to be Dark.”
“Understood,” Henry said quietly. He didn’t like to hear that at all. He really didn’t like to think about being on the opposite side of the war from Severus Snape. The man was a genius, and he’d been Mum’s best friend. Then again, Mum had been on the other side of the war, too. Hopefully Snape was a double-spy, but Henry wouldn’t be taking any chances.
“Professor McGonagall is similar to the Weasleys. She is an inherently good person but is completely blinded by the Light and Dumbledore himself. She cannot be trusted.”
“Okay,” Henry nodded, dutifully committing it all to memory.
Harrison sighed gustily. “All right. That’s all I have to say for tonight. I know this is a lot of heavy stuff, Henry, but don’t forget that you are allowed to enjoy yourself at Hogwarts. I just want you to be careful.”
Henry smiled, the tension in his shoulders easing. “Yeah. I know.”
“Good. Off to bed with you, then. You have a big day ahead of you tomorrow.”
After a somewhat longer than necessary hug, Henry made his way back to his bedroom for the night, his mind still turning over everything he’d learned. Quirrell worked for Voldemort. McGonagall worked for Dumbledore. Snape was anyone’s guess.
And Harrison sided with Voldemort.
The morning of September 1st, 1991 dawned bright and sunny. The elves prepared an extravagant breakfast feast, which Henry, Harrison, and Hermione ate out on the patio in the Rose Courtyard amid a riot of colorful blooms, some of which had no business blooming in September but did anyway. Hermione was nervous despite all the time she’d spent preparing for this day and she spent most of the meal talking a mile a minute about everything she’d learned and everything she wished she’d have had time to learn.
Henry appreciated the distraction. Had it been just he and Harrison, he’d have probably spent the whole time thinking about the talk last night which he’d already done for more of the night than he should have. He’d have liked to think he could catch a nap on the train, but Harrison would have his hide if he found out that he’d fallen asleep in such a public place even with Hermione and Neville there. Neither of them were trained at all, so they wouldn’t be much help and might doze off themselves.
After breakfast, Henry went to pack a few last minute things while Hermione all but ran to the library, having just remembered something that she’d wanted to look up.
At 10:30, they met in the Receiving Hall with their luggage. Their trunks were shrunken in their pockets as Harrison had added feather-light and self-sizing charms to Hermione’s trunk last week after learning that she’d gotten the basic model. Her parents had offered to pay him for it, but he’d assured them that it was less than ten minutes’ work and he was happy to do it.
Harrison was waiting for them, dressed in nice robes of black over shades of muted blue that made his bright blue eyes stand out even more than usual. Harrison was a big believer in dressing for the occasion. “The way you are dressed is as important as how you carry yourself and nearly as important as what you say when it comes to how you will be received and remembered,” Harrison was fond of saying. That was the reason that Henry was wearing fine robes despite the fact that he’d have to change into his school robes soon enough, and the reason Hermione was wearing a nice set of casual robes rather than her usual muggle clothes. Harrison had advised her and her parents to purchase an array of casual robes. It wasn’t meant to try to conceal her heritage, but merely to convey that she wanted to be a part of her new culture.
“All right. Are we ready?” Harrison inquired of them both.
Hermione’s nod was nervous and Henry managed to make his firm even though he was feeling a bit nervy himself. They each grabbed one of Harrison’s offered hands and then there was the momentary feeling of compression to transport them from Wales to London, and they were on the platform, surrounded by people and noise.
“Oh, look! There’s Neville!” Hermione chirped seconds after arriving. She was finally getting used to side-along apparation and she no longer looked green upon arriving. She hurried to greet the other boy while Henry turned to face his uncle, repeatedly telling himself that it was stupid to get all emotional when he’d be able to talk to Harrison every single day with his communication mirror. It wasn’t the same as being together, but Henry wasn’t a baby anymore. He could handle being away from his uncle. He’d have to.
Harrison gave him a warm smile. “You’re ready for this,” he promised.
Henry let out a breath that he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, wondering how his uncle always seemed to know exactly what he needed to hear.
“You are, without doubt, the most knowledgeable student in your year, and you already have two friends.”
“But neither of them will probably be in my House. What if they don’t like me anymore if I’m sorted into Slytherin? I mean, Ravenclaws usually get along with Slytherins okay, but even I know that the rivalry with Gryffindor is legendary. What if Neville hates me?”
“Won’t happen,” Harrison promised. “Neville’s loyal enough to be a Hufflepuff. He’ll stand up to all of Gryffindor on your behalf if he has to.”
“What if I don’t want to be a Slytherin?” Henry asked warily. He knew how his uncle felt about prejudice of any kind, and Henry really didn’t think there was anything wrong with any of the Houses by themselves, but he knew that a lot of other people would care.
Harrison sighed and lowered himself down to one knee to look Henry in the eye. “Henry, there are no end of prejudices in the world. You can’t escape them. Trying to pretend that you’re something you’re not to please anyone is the worst mistake you can possibly make. Please, believe that. I made a mistake like that when I was your age. It took me a long time to figure out exactly what I’d given up, but I gave up so much. Don’t try to change who you are. Not for anyone. Be yourself and make them see that that’s a good thing. And if they can’t, then they are not worthy of you. The Sorting Hat is designed to see who you are and where you belong. Let it make the choice, then make the most of it. Do you understand?”
“Yes, uncle,” Henry said with a bracing breath. He knew that his uncle was only fifteen years older than him, but most of the time he seemed at least three times that old. It was like he’d done everything, been through everything.
“Good,” Harrison smiled. “Just be yourself. You’ll do fine.”
Henry gave his uncle a quick hug, then let himself be ushered over to where Hermione and Neville were boarding the train.
“Henry, are you okay?” Hermione asked once they’d settled into a vacant compartment. “You’ve been really quiet all morning,” she explained when he sent her a questioning look.
Henry forced a smile, though he didn’t bother making it look too real. “I’m okay. It’s just… always been Uncle Harrison and me, you know?” he shrugged and turned his attention to taking a book from his pocket so he didn’t have to see their knowing looks. “I’m sure I’ll get used to it,” he dismissed, then continued before they could reply. “I think I’m going to read for a while, okay?”
“Yeah, okay,” Hermione said, sounding concerned.
“Sure, Henry,” Neville sounded more relaxed.
Henry happily tuned them out and focused on his book about necromantic rituals. That had been a particular interest of his recently. Necromancy in general was Dark Magic, of course, but it wasn’t always immoral. Well, depending on your moral definitions, but necromancy very rarely harmed the living. Only the worst of necromancy was “bad” in the moral sense, and that was the stuff that actually bound dead souls to the living world. Then again, most vampires would probably not argue that they’d rather move on, and they’d come from just such a ritual. This particular book was written in Pashto, which wasn’t a common language in Magical Britain, so he was fairly safe reading it in public.
When the snack cart came by he and Neville bought enough junk to make them sick while Hermione got a single sugar quill – looking very guilty to be doing so – and then lectured them on the dangers of sugar. Henry put his snacks aside and ate the sandwich the house-elves had packed for him. Harrison wasn’t especially strict about many things, but eating well was definitely high on the list of rules for which he tolerated no deviance. A healthy diet was essential to a healthy body, mind, and magic. Skipping meals or eating junk in their place was one of the fastest ways to infuriate his uncle. At this point, eating well was so engrained that it would take a conscious effort to break the habit, and Henry had no desire to do so.
Of course, that didn’t stop him from stuffing himself with sugar in various forms once his sandwich was consumed. It was good, and Hermione’s scolding looks while she nibbled on her sugar quill only made him grin at her.
Once the train was fully away from the platform, Harrison smiled softly after it. “Good luck, Henry,” he whispered after the retreating locomotive. Harrison was going to do everything in his power to see that that boy had a better time of it than he’d had. Thus far, he’d saved him from the Dursleys, hopefully convinced him to keep his distance from Quirrell, and he’d headed off Dumbledore’s manipulations. He didn’t doubt that the old man would still make an effort, but he knew that Henry wouldn’t be receptive. He knew very well by now that Albus Dumbledore was very much not what he painted himself to be.
With a small sigh, Harrison turned on the spot and apparated home. As much as he’d have loved to wrap his boy in cotton and keep him safely away from the world forever, he knew that it wasn’t fair to the boy. Henry was very intelligent and learned for an eleven-year-old. He hadn’t been hardened by pain and neglect as Harrison had been in his childhood, but neither had he been coddled. He’d seen more of the world and all the various shades of it than Harrison had even guessed could have existed before coming back. Already, he was trained well enough that he could outduel virtually any fourth year, and probably most of fifth and sixth if not seventh. While Henry had focused his independent studies on history, culture, and language, Harrison had been drilling him in dueling and defense since he was eight – both wanded and wandless. There really was no such thing as over-prepared where the Boy-Who-Lived was concerned. Harrison knew that from experience. With the help of the enchantments Harrison had placed on him and his belongings, Henry would hold his own many times better than Harrison had been able to do when he’d gone to Hogwarts.
Back at the manor, Harrison paced up to his suite and changed from his expensive casual robes into a set of black and dark brown battle robes. They were both functional and intimidating in appearance. As he was fond of reminding Henry, it was important to dress appropriately for any occasion. That was a fact he’d not realized when he was young and he cringed to think back to the rags he’d gone on wearing despite his trust vault. He’d never thought that it mattered, but in hindsight, it was easy to see how everyone had judged him. He’d so badly wanted to be seen as other than a child, as someone respectable and mature enough to know what was happening around him, but he’d dressed like a rapscallion and acted like a lazy and impatient child. It was no wonder he’d received no respect.
Living on the streets had actually been his first lesson in the importance of appearance as he’d struggled to avoid allowing them to appear as homeless as they really were. He’d learned to blend in so that he could more effectively rob people.
He shook off those thoughts as he concealed some extra weapons about his person – the battle robes had many discreet, expanded pockets to hold them. It was sometimes difficult to credit how far he’d come since waking up in the past. He sometimes wondered what would have become of him had he continued in his original timeline, but he hadn’t wished to return to it. Even in the beginning when he’d struggled to keep himself and Henry alive, he hadn’t regretted his fate. How could he when even living off the streets turned out more pleasant than life as Harry Potter? Yes, he missed his friends, especially in the beginning, but he’s also always had to wonder if they’d have been his friends at all had they ever known the real him.
But such reminiscences had no place in his mind today. Now that Henry was away at school, Harrison had much more freedom to pursue his plan to help Voldemort take over Britain – preferably without destroying the country in the process. His first objective was to determine what could have driven Tom Riddle insane. Luckily, Harrison had several prospects already to further his research beyond what he’d managed to accomplish from the books he’d acquired. When he and Henry had been in China, he’d briefly met a very old wizard who’d been something of an expert on the subject of mind healing. Unlike more mainstream mind healers, this man had dealt with problems arising from Dark Magic the likes of which would have earned anyone a one-way ticket to Azkaban in Britain. No one around here would dare to seek a mind healer for a problem acquired in such a manner, but the treatments were relatively common in some parts of the world.
Suitably attired and armed, Harrison returned to the receiving room, from which he apparated to Egypt. Immediately upon landing, he apparated again, this time to Pakistan, then two jumps to the right part of China, and four quick hops over a smaller distance to further confuse anyone who might come looking for him. Despite moving about a quarter of a way around the world, he wasn’t overly tired. His magic had come a long way since he was eighteen. He’d gotten used to apparating across the globe. Though it was enough of a workout to feel the drain, it was more exhilarating than exhausting.
The man he was seeking lived in a tiny all-magical village high in the mountains. So high, in fact, that the first thing Harrison did upon arriving was to cast a spell to increase the oxygen he was pulling from the air to a more comfortable level. It was a spell he’d learned on his first trip into the Himalayas. It was much more subtle than a bubble-head charm and would remain active until he canceled it, even if he was asleep, so long as he didn’t become magically exhausted. Only the very weakest wizards and witches may be in danger of being exhausted by the simple charm. A quick application of auditory and vocal translation charms and he was able to greet the locals in their own tongue as he made his way up to the highest home built into the mountainside.
Hermione flashed him a smile that was equal parts excitement and trepidation as she scurried to the stool and sat very stiffly upon it. The Hat settled onto her wildly curly mane and was silent for three seconds before shouting out, “RAVENCLAW!”
Henry and Neville clapped happily for the very obvious result as the newest Ravenclaw made her way down to the cheering table. Shortly after meeting her, Hermione had been enamored of Gryffindor because Albus Dumbledore had been a Gryffindor, but after Henry had explained some of the less than spectacular things about the headmaster, she’d calmed down and rationally started leaning toward the House of the Studious.
Several more names were called before Neville made his way nervously to the stool. He sank slowly onto the seat and looked incredibly nervous as the Hat was placed on his head. Henry counted to fifteen before the Hat finally bellowed out, “GRYFFINDOR!” Henry knew it must have been a toss-up between Hufflepuff and Gryffindor, and he’d honestly been hoping for the former despite what he knew Neville had wanted and Harrison had predicted. Despite what Harrison said, Henry really wasn’t sure if it was possible for a Gryffindor and a Slytherin to remain friends in the long run. Everything he knew about the way the school worked strongly suggested otherwise.
He clapped for his friend regardless of his fears and waited while Malfoy, Nott, and Parkinson went to Slytherin, Perks and MacMillan to Hufflepuff, MacDougal and Patil to Ravenclaw, and the other Patil to Gryffindor before McGonagall finally called for, “Potter, Harry!”
Henry gritted his teeth at being called Harry, but forced himself to walk smoothly and confidently to the stool and seat himself with dignity. He made an effort to ignore the whispering and pointing of his fellow classmates and strongly hoped they would get over it soon. Reaching up to touch the pendant hanging at his neck, Henry carefully peeled back the occlumency barrier protecting his thoughts. He didn’t have time to get truly nervous as it was only about a second after lowering the barrier that the Hat called out, “SLYTHERIN!”
He nodded slightly to himself as he let the barrier snap back into place and removed the Hat. He’d been expecting this, really. He’d known that there was a chance he’d be a Ravenclaw, but it wasn’t an exceptionally high chance. Though he loved to learn, that thirst for knowledge didn’t define him as it did Hermione. Cunning, ambition, resourcefulness, and self-preservation were among his strongest traits. Harrison was all of those things and Henry had spent his life wanting to be just like him.
Henry seated himself at the Slytherin table next to Theodore Nott. The Sorting soon concluded with Blaise Zabini taking a seat next to Henry, and Dumbledore gave the world’s dumbest speech to begin the feast.
“So, you’re Potter,” Malfoy leaned around Nott to say in a tone that made it sound like an accusation.
Remembering Harrison’s instructions to avoid making enemies with the children from either side of the war, he just lifted an eyebrow in response to the young Malfoy to say, “Obviously.”
Zabini snorted quietly from his other side and Nott smirked a little.
Malfoy bristled despite the rather mild comment.
Henry didn’t find himself greatly surprised. Harrison had warned him that the Malfoys were both prideful and accustomed to receiving respect they didn’t necessarily earn. In Henry’s experience, that was common in people from families that had wielded wealth and power for many generations.
Malfoy rallied after a moment, putting on superior smirk and tilting up his chin, “Well, you’re off to a good start, at least, being sorted into Slytherin.”
“So glad I meet your approval, Malfoy,” Henry replied dryly as he turned most of his focus to dishing up food. He realized with an internal sigh that he was probably going to be stuck eating nothing but British foods the whole year. At home, the elves prepared a meal from a different country every night unless directly instructed otherwise and breakfast, lunch, and snacks could be anything. Henry wasn’t sure how his stomach was going to handle so much restriction on his diet.
Not to say that the food wasn’t good. It was very good. He was just certain that he’d be completely tired of it and craving international dishes by the end of the month.
Conversation was fairly light and loaded with undertones and scheming of varying skill, which he found entertaining. He really liked Hermione and Neville, but there was something so liberating about being surrounded by people that didn’t simply speak every thought that popped into their heads. Other kids capable of a little verbal sparring.
Based on his initial assessment, Henry thought he liked Nott and Greengrass the best. Zabini was okay, but he seemed constantly amused at everyone else’s expense, which was slightly off-putting. Malfoy was arrogant to the point of stupidity as far as Henry could judge at the moment. Crabbe and Goyal seemed just plain stupid – well, perhaps “stupid” was a bit harsh, but it was clear that they weren’t capable of keeping up with the maneuvering and undertones of the conversation. They mostly just concentrated on the food and ignored everyone else except to agree with Malfoy whenever he gave them a look or nudge demanding it. Parkinson seemed intellectually on the same level as Crabbe and Goyal except that she didn’t know it. She tried to join in the conversation and seemed generally very pleased with herself even as everyone else looked at her like the idiot she seemed to be.
Davis was slightly scary in that she did seem to be following just fine even though she wasn’t joining the conversation, but was merely logging everything about everyone – possibly for future blackmail purposes. Bulstrode also seemed to be following without joining in, but Henry suspected that was actually because she was shy or maybe just used to no one wanting to hear what she had to say. Greengrass and Nott seemed fairly balanced and very knowledgeable, able to follow all of the conversational threads as well as the undertones.
Henry found the entire thing both enlightening about his fellow students and entertaining as a whole. He was very glad that he’d been sorted into Slytherin because he was certain that he could not have been happier in any other house. Sure, there was the fact that a good half his housemates, including the higher years, were looking at him with suspicion if not outright hostility, but Harrison had been teaching him to deal with that his entire life and he really wasn’t worried. More than anything, he suspected it would ensure his time at Hogwarts stayed interesting.
When they were released to their common rooms, one of the prefects led the first year students down to the Slytherin dorms, which were in the dungeon, just as Harrison had said. Henry couldn’t help but smile a little as he stepped into the common room. It reminded him a bit of the manor with the high ceilings and sprawling layout. The décor was mostly black and dark green with silver accents. Tall windows opened to the Black Lake, though there wasn’t much to see as it was currently dark outside. Several fireplaces scattered throughout the room kept away any chill one might have expected from a subterranean room.
A large portrait above the central most fireplace depicted a man with dark hair and gray eyes who was most likely Salazar Slytherin given the location and period dress. Henry could hardly wait to see if the portrait was capable of speaking parseltongue and how much he might be willing to share with Henry about the history of Hogwarts and Slytherin House.
Once all the first year students were gathered together in the center of the room, a collection of the older students moved in to circle them.
Despite the fact that he seriously doubted anyone was going to attack anyone, Henry’s heart still sped at the feeling of being surrounded by the older students whom, he suspected, were deliberately trying to intimidate them. It didn’t seem to be working for the most part. Bulstrode was glaring at them, likely to cover her discomfort. Greengrass looked confident, Davis looked bored, Nott looked calculating, Zabini looked amused, and everyone else was either too arrogant or too stupid to be bothered.
“Welcome to Slytherin,” the oldest boy greeted them coldly. His eyes came to rest on Henry and a sneer curled his lip, but he didn’t comment. “If you don’t already know, you will soon learn that Slytherins are not trusted in this school. The other houses disdain us, the teachers favor the other houses, and even the headmaster will never take our word over that of the member of another house.”
The eldest girl took up the speech seamlessly, “It is for this reason that Slytherin House stands united within these walls,” she said just as coldly, though she didn’t focus on Henry specifically. “You will not always agree with your fellow snakes. You will not always like your fellow snakes. You may have personal grudges against some of them.” And now her eyes touched on Henry before moving on.
A boy who was probably a sixth year picked up the monologue. “We handle our differences in House,” he warned, almost glaring at them. “As far as the rest of the school is concerned, Slytherins never disagree with each other. Never fight with each other. And you better believe we never leave each other to the mercy of those outside our House.”
A girl his age spoke next. “Doesn’t matter if you hate a fellow snake, you find him surrounded by Gryffindors, you will be his ally. As far as the rest of the school is concerned, Slytherins always remain united.”
The youngest boy around them, likely the fifth year prefect, went on next. “Slytherin House Rule Number One: Slytherins Stand Together.”
“Rule Number Two,” the female fifth year prefect continued, “Professor Severus Snape is the potions professor here at Hogwarts. He is our Head of House. He is our leader. He looks out for us. Respect him at all times and he will return the favor. If you need help, his door is always open.”
The oldest boy spoke up again, “These are the most important rules of Slytherin. I am Davian Avery, Head Boy this year. The rest of the students around you are this year’s Slytherin prefects. If you have problems with other students – in House or out – come to one of us or Professor Snape. If you have problems with your classes, come to one of us. We are Slytherins. We are not lazy or inept. If your grades fall, expect Professor Snape to respond negatively. Do yourselves a favor and come to one of us for help first. If your problem is serious, you’ll be given a tutor in the subject.”
“We’re Slytherins,” the eldest girl added. “We look after our own. That’s all for tonight. If you’ll follow the fifth year prefect of your gender, you’ll be led to your respective dorms for the night and you’ll meet the same prefect here in the common room in the morning to be taken to breakfast. Goodnight, everyone.”
Henry smiled a little to himself as he joined the other first year boys in following the fifth year prefect, who introduced himself as Sebastian Carrow, down a somewhat narrow corridor away from the common room. There were three doors on the left side of the corridor, one on the right, and one at the end.
Carrow explained that the first door was the communal bathroom for the first year boys. The other three doors were dorms, which were shared two students each. “Professor Snape chooses who rooms where and he’s almost never changed them, so don’t ask unless you have a life-or-death sort of reason for it. He gets annoyed when he’s whined at about his decisions. Your trunks and pets – if you have one – are already inside your room. If you need anything tonight, this door is my room,” he pointed to the sole door on the right hand wall and smirked a little. “And yes, making prefect means you get a private room. Something to consider for the future.”
Carrow disappeared into his private room and Henry turned with the others to search the nameplates on the doors for his own.
The first door was Crabbe/Goyal. Then Zabini/Nott. Henry contained the urge to groan as the process of elimination left… yep. Potter/Malfoy. Fan-freaking-tastic. He was suddenly insanely grateful that Harrison had supplied him with so much security because he didn’t trust Malfoy at all. Well, he didn’t trust any of these kids, but Malfoy was just so…
“Urgh,” the boy in question groaned dramatically as he stood in front of their dorm door.
Henry glanced at him to find the boy sneering at him like Henry was some sort of pest he was going to have to endure. He gave the blond boy an unimpressed look as he breezed past him into the room. It was large, with three floor-to-ceiling windows directly across from the door and the left and right sides of the room set up with identical bed/desk/wardrobe combinations. A book shelf was built into the wall above the desk and a pair of end tables with drawers flanked the bed. Henry’s trunk was positioned against the wall next to the wardrobe on the right hand side, so Henry headed that direction.
Malfoy stepped into the room and closed the door behind him.
“This bed is acceptably warm.”
Henry turned with a bright grin to find Kassahl slithering languidly out of the blanket where she had apparently been sleeping on the pillow. “Was your trip okay?” he asked as he moved to sit on the bed and let her slither up his arm.
“My box was warm and there was a juicy baby mouse waiting when I got here. No complaints.”
Henry laughed lightly as she wound herself around his neck. The bed was warm, he realized. Warm enough underneath him that there must have been warming charms on the mattress or blankets. He wondered if all beds in Slytherin came that way or if someone had done it for Kassahl. He really wouldn’t be surprised if the house elves had such forethought despite not normally having pet snakes to deal with. “I’m glad. I’m pretty excited to be here, but I’d hate it if you did,” he grinned at her.
“Are you speaking parseltongue?” Malfoy’s unusually high-pitched voice drew his attention across the room where the other boy was staring at him with a very pale face.
“Yeah,” Henry shrugged, as though it was the most natural thing in the world. “The Potter family is one of the most direct lines to Slytherin that remain. Us and the Dark Lord.”
Malfoy blinked rapidly and licked his lips, one hand fisting itself spastically. “You…” he squeaked, then cleared his throat and tried again, “You’re related to the Dark Lord?”
“Very distantly,” Henry assured him casually, leaning lazily against the headboard of his bed and letting Kassahl twine herself between his neck and left hand. “Our ancestors were brothers in the thirteenth century, but we’ve gone different ways since then. The Potter family hasn’t had the gift of parseltongue in about two hundred years, but new blood does tend to refresh old blood magicks.”
Malfoy grimaced faintly, but nodded his agreement. “So…” he nodded toward the snake, “that’s your pet?”
“My familiar,” Henry corrected, because one may have many pets, but only ever had one familiar at a time. Familiars tended to share magic with their witch or wizard. It made them smarter and longer-lived, which was why Kassahl was such a good conversationalist.
Malfoy visibly swallowed as he nodded again.
“Well, I believe I’m going to get ready for bed,” Henry dismissed, letting Kassahl settle down in the blankets again while he opened his trunk to get his pajamas.
Malfoy followed suit and they didn’t speak anymore as they got ready for bed and each closed the curtains around their large beds. Henry crawled inside his shuttered bed and carefully hung an electrum chain over the central most snake carved into his headboard. Immediately, he felt the preset wards rise around him. Harrison had designed them to enact one-way silencing charms around the bed and prevent anyone from penetrating the curtains unless they were at least twenty-five years of age. It would keep him safe from his fellow Slytherins while allowing teachers to get inside in case of emergency. Even if the person was old enough, the wards would wake him immediately upon being penetrated.
With that in place, Henry picked up his hand mirror and settled back comfortably against the headboard. “Harrison Potter,” he said clearly.
A moment later, his uncle’s smiling face appeared on the surface. “Hey, Kiddo. Shall I assume those wooden snakes behind you mean you’re a Slytherin?”
Henry grinned hugely in reply, slightly astonished by just how good it felt to see his uncle’s face considering it hadn’t even been twelve hours since he saw him last. He immediately launched into a detailed explanation of how the Sorting went for Neville and Hermione as well as himself and how quickly the Hat decided for him. He gushed happily about his new housemates and how much fun it was going to be in Slytherin and then a mini-rant about rooming with Malfoy. He speculated on what classes would be like and whether they would all be unforgivably boring. Snape’s class, at least, he was really looking forward to.
“Any problems with Quirrell?” Harrison asked when Henry finally wound down.
“Oh, no,” Henry admitted somewhat sheepishly. “Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention to the teachers tonight. Why? Should I expect trouble from him?”
“I’m not sure,” Harrison frowned. “It’s possible. Remember, he is working for Voldemort and at this point may very well assume that you’ll be the Light’s little icon. Granted, being Sorted into Slytherin may well give him pause just as it will everyone else. Everyone’s paying attention now, kiddo,” he smiled. “It’s up to you what they see.”
Henry grinned broadly at that. He loved that he could be open and honest about everything with Harrison, but he could admit to himself that he kind of loved the intrigue with everyone else.
“Don’t get carried away,” Harrison warned. “Remember, these aren’t people who are going to be left in the past and forgotten. These are people who could very well impact the rest of your life.”
Henry sobered and nodded to show that he understood, and he did. Just because he was having fun didn’t mean that he forgot the stakes in this. Harrison had always made sure that he never did.
“Good,” Harrison smiled, dismissing the sober atmosphere with ease. “Now, I’m going to let you get to sleep, but keep an eye on Quirrell and let me know if anything even slightly suspicious happens, okay?”
“Gotcha,” Henry nodded sharply, smiling when he uncle rolled his eyes at the grammar blunder in that brief assurance.
“Good night, Henry,” Harrison smiled warmly.
“Good night, Uncle Harrison,” Henry grinned before swiping his hand across the surface of the mirror to end the call.
He curled up under the covers, Kassahl winding herself around the warmth of his arm, and he smiled to himself as he drifted to sleep. Hogwarts was going to be great. He knew it.
Some of the upper year Slytherins are OCs. I searched out as many canon characters as I could and I've filled the rest in on my own. They won't be major characters.
Also, I know the description of the Slytherin common room isn't canon to the books, but I decided to exercise my creative license on this and make it more like we see in the movies.