Actions

Work Header

Lessons in Trust and Loyalty

Chapter Text

 

“You’re too young to be a father, Harry dear,” nagged Mrs. Weasley even as she piled Harry’s plate full of mashed potatoes. “Think about the responsibility and attention a baby needs.”

“Mum is right, mate,” Ron piped in, a chicken drum stick raised to his mouth. “V-Voldemort is finally gone. You should enjoy the freedom and your fame. We just saved the bloody world, who wants to think about raising kids at 17?”

“And what about Ginny? She still has another year left at Hogwarts. For that matter, so do you,” Hermione of course had to add her own two cents too. “You should think of building your career, and enjoy yourself and leave raising Teddy to people who have the necessary experience.”

Ginny remained silent, pressing her lips into a thin line. She was seated next to Harry and hadn’t said a word since they sat down to have dinner. Harry couldn’t really blame her or expect her support, because she had been quite clear on her stance the previous night. Admittedly, Harry might have been a tad bit insensitive, bringing up Teddy while Ginny had been doing her best to take his virginity, but it wasn’t like sex couldn’t wait. If he was honest, Harry didn’t really understand why people made such a fuss about sex. Sure, kissing was nice as well as having someone else touching him, but there were no explosions and touching Ginny down there made him feel strange. The one time Harry had tried to touch her back, she had been wet and warm, her hair a luxurious fiery halo around her flushed face and glazed brown eyes. She had smelled sweet and moaned her approval a bit too shrilly, but Harry had thought it must have been okay, because she had kissed him afterward and put her mouth on his cock, sucking him with all the skill she had learned with her previous boyfriends.

It had been nice, but nothing to write home about. Maybe the problem lay with Harry, but he just couldn’t find it in himself to really care about sex, especially not when his godson, the only tie to his family had no one left but him. Ginny and relationships could wait, Teddy bloody well couldn’t. Yet here they were, sitting around the kitchen table at Grimmauld Place, having dinner and discussing Teddy’s future like it meant nothing.

Harry’s fingers clenched around his knife and fork in frustration. How could he have missed that his friends didn’t trust him to make good decisions alone? He looked at Ron chewing heartily and so proud of himself, then turned to Hermione who was staring back at him expectantly, daring him to disagree with her sound reasoning. He chanced another glance at Ginny before his gaze flitted to Mrs. Weasley, who was loading George’s plate with a heartbroken expression on her face. Harry knew they all wanted the best for him, but they couldn’t expect him to leave Teddy to someone else and become an estranged uncle that had no impact on Teddy’s life except for the burden of being the godson of the famous Boy Who Lived. No, Teddy was his to care for and cherish. Harry had to be the one who told him about his parents and taught him about embracing being different.

"I’m not going back to Hogwarts,” was what he chose to say finally. “And I’m taking custody of Teddy.”

“But Harry! You can’t do this!” Hermione protested hotly. “You have to get your N.E.W.Ts and—”

“And then what, Hermione? Join the Auror Corps and marry Ginny? Have you already planned out my entire life in one of your neat little notebooks? How many kids do I have in your notes?” Harry snapped, glaring at his friend.

“You don’t have to be so harsh with Hermione, mate. She just wants what’s best for you.”

“I know you all want what’s best for me,” he gritted out in a carefully controlled voice, “but I’m old enough to make my own decisions.”

“Of course you are, Harry dear,” Mrs. Weasley assured him in a tone that suggested otherwise. “We just don’t want you to throw away your chance to enjoy being young. I’m sure Bill and Fleur would be more than happy to take little Teddy in permanently and you could see him on the holidays and in the summer.”

“And you could also get your N.E.W.T.s with us and see what Hogwarts is like without constantly having to look behind our back,” Hermione added eagerly. “Ginny will be there too.”

“Yes, I know that Ginny will be there. But I won’t.”

A near suffocating silence fell over them after Harry’s last words. Everyone was staring at him in varying degrees of shock, before Ginny cleared her throat quietly. “Thank you for breaking up with me in front of my whole family,” she said coolly.

“What?” Harry’s head snapped to her, brows furrowing in confusion. “I didn’t say anything about breaking up.”

“Really?” That simple word cut deeper than any cutting curse could. “Because from what I heard, your decision is quite final.”

“What does me not going back to Hogwarts have to do with our relationship?” Harry asked, feeling more and more uncomfortable under the glare of everyone’s attention. Did they really have to talk about their relationship in front of the Weasleys? And why was Ginny staring at him like he was crazy?

“You seriously think that I’ll wait another year for you and then somehow seamlessly fit into your little family even though you didn’t even ask me if I wanted you to take custody of Teddy?” Ginny wasn’t yelling or even speaking loudly, but her voice was steely and unforgiving like she was giving him an ultimatum. And in a way she really was.

“I’m his godfather and he needs me.”

“Because you know so much about raising children, don’t you?”

“I’m willing to learn.”

“And what about becoming an Auror, Harry?” Hermione cut, obviously displeased.

“It’s not the only profession in the world.”

“But it was your dream! And Kingsley—”

“Leave Kingsley out of this,” Harry shot her down immediately. “Being an Auror was the dream of a fifteen-year-old, ignorant kid. Things have changed.”

“I think you’re bonkers, mate,” Ron grumbled. “But I can’t really blame you for ditching another year at Hogwarts.”

“Ronald!”

“What? Sure, he’s out of his mind for wanting to raise a kid this young, but I’m with him on the not going back to Hogwarts part.”

“You’re so irresponsible!”

“My worth and skills can’t be measured by a piece of parchment. And how is it irresponsible of me to want to take care of my godson? Remus had given me the responsibility to look after Teddy if something happened to him and Tonks. And I’m not going to ignore that,” Harry stated clearly, daring Hermione to say something. She pressed her lips together, but remained silent and Harry turned back to Ginny, who was glaring at her plate with a pinched expression on her face. “I made my decision, Ginny. I don’t want to break up with you, but I can’t ask you to wait around for another year.”

Ginny snorted in derision. “That’s your biggest fault, Harry. Your disgustingly noble soul,” she spat and lifted her gaze to meet Harry’s. “You didn’t ask me the first time to wait for you. You didn’t ask me, period. Just broke up with me for my own fucking protection. And now this. You just love playing the martyr, don’t you? Mum just offered you a solution for Teddy’s situation that would allow you to be with your friends and enjoy your freedom for the first time in your life, but you just have to refuse it. Like always.”

“I’m not a martyr, Ginny,” Harry argued, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “But Teddy is my responsibility.”

“You’re 17 years old, for Merlin’s sake!” Ginny snapped. “Why can’t you think of yourself for a change?”

“Don’t you mean think of you?”

“This is not about me! This is about you needing to make your life harder and being unable to accept help from anyone!”

“I let Hermione and Ron come with me hunting for the horcruxes.”

“Because they forced you to do it. You would have gone off alone without telling anyone if it had been up to you. Don’t you dare deny it!”

“Is it so bad that I wanted to protect the people I care for?” Harry snarled, barely realizing that he had stood up from his seat. “Is it so bad that I wanted to protect you from being hunted and possibly killed by Voldemort or his lackeys?”

“We’re old enough to make our own choices!” Ginny was standing too, her brown eyes blazing with fire. “You had no right to make those choices for us! And you’re doing it again!”

“I’m giving you an out to enjoy your last year at Hogwarts to the fullest. Or do you want to be saddled with a baby at sixteen? Because last night it sure didn’t look like it.”

“Yeah, last night I was trying to suck your cock when you dropped that delightful bomb,” Ginny retorted, scowling murderously.

“Ginevra!” Mrs. Weasley shrieked in horror just as Ron uttered a thunderous, “Harry!”, but no one was paying any heed to them.

“‘I’m going to take custody of Teddy.’ is what every girl wants to hear while having a barely responsive dick in her mouth, I’m sure,” Ginny sneered cruelly, once again ignoring her mother’s outraged cries. “But you know what? You win. I’m not desperate enough to try to force you to be with me when it’s obviously not something you want. I refuse to sink so low to beg you to reconsider, because I deserve more than that.”

Harry’s face felt hot, yet he also felt lightheaded. Ginny was right, she definitely deserved more than half-arsed attempts at loving her for who she really was. Still, it was hard to let the images of a happy, fulfilling life with her at Harry’s side go. She was still beautiful, clever and fierce, traits Harry found admirable, but he felt none of the passion that fogged his mind back in sixth year when Ginny was dating Dean.

“You’re right,” he said quietly. “You deserve so much more than what I can give to you.”

“At least you admit it,” Ginny whispered after a long pause. Her voice was steady, but a bit hoarse and Harry just had to admire her self-control and strength. She was truly a brilliant person. “I hope you’ll excuse me for not wishing you a happy life, yet.”

She didn’t wait for an answer just left the kitchen leaving Harry alone with his two best friends and his ex-girlfriend’s mother and older brother. No one spoke for a long time, everyone trying to digest what just had happened. In the end it was George who broke the silence, his voice scratchy from misuse, but not less sarcastic from it.

“Well… that could have gone better,” he said and despite everything that happened that night, Harry couldn’t withhold a snort. The understatement of the year.

 


 

Harry sagged against the grandiose wooden door that served as the entrance of 12 Grimmauld Place and heaved a weary sigh. Taking the house off the floo line had been his best idea ever, but even that didn’t stop Mrs. Weasley from coming over at least four times a week to check on him and Teddy. And Harry didn’t want to be ungrateful, but he was getting to the end of his rope from the constant inquiries about his decision to break up with Ginny for the second time and his decision to raise his godson alone when he had several friends and the Weasleys would have been delighted to take the little one in. Harry still remembered the arguments challenging his age, his competence, and the stony silences that followed the aftermath of his break up with Ginny.

Now, almost a year later things were somewhat better. Harry and Teddy had fallen into a routine that involved more than feeding Teddy every four hours and changing his nappies. They spent long hours reading stories and casting ridiculous spells that earned the sweetest smiles from Teddy. Teddy was a delightful baby, who rarely cried or made a fuss, and who, at the tender age of one, refused to call Harry anything but Da. It was both brilliant and heartbreaking, hearing Teddy call out to him in happiness whenever he saw Harry, but a selfish part of Harry wouldn’t change that for the world.

He still didn’t have a job, not that he really needed one with all the gold in his vaults, but that was fine for now. Teddy needed his full attention, especially since he took his first unsteady steps a few months back. With Tonks as his mother, Harry shouldn’t have been surprised that Teddy turned out to be an active baby, wanting to run around the house and climbing stairs constantly. Harry was more than grateful to Hermione for giving him A Mother’s Spell Book as a metaphorical olive branch, because without the very useful protection spells on Teddy and the childproof wards on the staircases, he would have probably lost all his hair from the frustration and panic Teddy’s adventurous nature caused him.

Still, he loved every minute of having Teddy in his life. He loved the snuffly cuddles Teddy gave him every night before Harry put him in his crib. He loved the carefully uttered, but still not really legible words that left Teddy’s mouth as he tried to mimic Harry’s speech. He was such a clever and observant baby, awed by magic and the wonder of the world around him. A small smile curled Harry’s lips as he remembered the first time they visited the lovely little park not far from Grimmauld Place after Teddy started walking. He toddled around with obvious delight on his little face, chasing butterflies and squirrels. Thanks to the cushioning charms, falling hadn’t been a issue and by the time they got back to their home Teddy was fast asleep in Harry’s arms.

A piercing wail tore through the silence in the house, alerting Harry to his godson’s awakening. He hurried up the stairs slightly worried; Teddy didn’t usually woke up during the night anymore. Harry could only hope that it was only a bad dream that woke the baby up and not something more serious, but even his more worrisome thoughts couldn’t have prepared him for the sight that welcomed him upon entering the nursery. Teddy was screaming his little head off with his hands curled around the rails of his crib, which wasn’t surprising in itself. The tiny tufts of blue hair sticking out from his face, the pointed ears and the strangely morphed features, however, were enough to freeze Harry in the doorway. He stared at his godson in shock, unable to form any coherent thoughts. Fortunately, his parental instincts kicked after a few seconds and he strode over to the crib, picking Teddy up without a second thought.

Teddy hid his morphed face into Harry’s neck and gnawed on his shirt, his sobs quieting into hiccups. “Da,” he whined, his little hands clutching Harry’s shirt and somehow managing to tear the material. “Da.”

“I’m here, Teddy. Shhh,” Harry murmured, stroking the violent blue curls on Teddy’s head. “Did you have a bad dream?” he crooned, doing his best to stay calm and collected even though his thoughts were screaming at him that something was wrong with Teddy. Teddy’s head tried to burrow even deeper into Harry’s neck and the baby sniffed a few more times, before quieting down. “See, everything is fine. I’m here and you’re fine. It was just a bad dream.”

Teddy hummed softly and raised his head, his face once back to its natural state. Maybe it had just been a little mishap with his metamorphmagus powers, Harry thought, but couldn’t quite believe his reasoning. There was something familiar in the way Teddy’s features changed. Something animalistic and predatory, yet nothing Harry had ever seen before. Teddy’s eyes shone brightly in the dim light of the nursery, their amber color reminding Harry of the richest firewhiskey the old Ogden could cook up. He was truly a beautiful little boy and Harry loved him with all his heart, which was why he was worried for Teddy and the little episode his godson just had.

He cradled Teddy closer to his chest as he walked over to the window facing the neat little backyard Kreacher and he created from the abandoned, overgrown wilderness that used to stand there. Teddy’s swing was swaying in the light breeze, bathed in the silvery glow of the nearly full moon. Harry looked up at the moon, remembering Remus and that crazy night back in Harry’s third year when everything turned for the worse once again. He saw the sad state Remus’ wolf had been in with its frothing mouth and wildly glowing golden eyes, eyes that were near identical to the ones Teddy flashed at him before he slipped back into the arms of sleep.

Could it be possible? Could Teddy manifest the treats even though the healers had told Tonks and Remus that their son didn’t inherit Remus’ condition? But what did wizards know about werewolves? Most thought they were mindless monsters out for blood and massacre only controlled by the Wolfsbane Potion. The Defence Against the Dark Arts textbooks at Hogwarts claimed werewolves to be dark creatures filled with rage and driven mad by the full moon, calling the condition a curse, and the people carrying it beasts that had to be regarded with fear and distrust. Wizarding laws prohibited werewolves from getting jobs, forcing them to lead miserable, frugal lives. But there had to be more to them than rage and blood lust. Remus Lupin had been the kindest, most gentle man Harry had ever known, with a brilliant mind that had been overshadowed by his condition.

How could he find out more? He couldn’t just go up to a werewolf and ask for their secrets. Not that he knew where to find werewolves, as they tried to stay away from Wizarding affairs since Grayback’s rampage during the war. Still, Harry needed to find out more about the signs Teddy had showed and asking Hermione for help was out of question. They might have made up and were friends again, but Harry didn’t want to give her a new reason for nagging and harping on him to give Teddy to Bill and Fleur who could deal with lycanthropy and any other ails because they were responsible adults and Bill was almost a werewolf himself. It left him with his own mediocre at best research and rusty planning skills, which was far from great, but at least he had the entire Black library to himself. And he used to be a good student who loved to learn before the Dursleys beat it out of him for getting better grades than Dudley.

He gently placed Teddy back into his crib, covering him with his blanket, then with a last glance, he left the nursery and headed to the library. He had a lot of research to do.

Chapter Text

 

Harry threw another useless book over to the steadily growing pile of useless books. The bias even dark wizards tended to show against magical creatures was ridiculous, but Harry hadn’t given up the hope to figure out what was happening to Teddy. In the mean time, he started documenting his godson’s behavior himself, crosschecking his data with books on child physiology and development and even a few advice books for new mothers. His findings showed that while Teddy was a bit more advanced physically than most babies his age, his advanced height and weight were not unheard of. The only thing that seemed somewhat unusual was his coordination skills and the way he was already moving around with incredible if still a bit unsteady balance.

He rubbed his burning eyes under his glasses. He had been reading since he put Teddy down to sleep at seven, and a quick Tempus showed that it was now three in the morning. It was no wonder he could barely see and felt a headache throbbing at his temples. With a quiet groan, Harry stood up from the armchair he had been sitting in and stretched his aching limbs. He needed to go to bed and try to sleep at least a few hours before Teddy woke up and demanded his morning formula. He didn’t even have the energy to change into his pajamas, just fell into his bed in his jeans and t-shirt already knowing he would regret it in the morning.

Harry woke to Teddy’s complaining whines through the monitoring spell what felt like only seconds after he fell asleep, but he knew it must have been at least two hours, because the sky was beginning to turn lighter outside. His eyes were bleary as he walked through Teddy’s bedroom door, barely stifling a yawn through his loving smile at the sight of his godson standing in his crib with his little hands curled around the bars. Teddy was whining and pouting, but not screaming like most babies his age did — at least according to the books Harry had read — and his face instantly lit up when he noticed Harry.

“Da!” he squealed, letting go of the bars and reaching up for Harry to pick him up. “Da!”

“Hey there, Teddy bear, how are you this morning?” Harry asked, kissing the downy tuft of purple hair sticking up on Teddy’s head. Teddy babbled something in answer and giggled when Harry tickled his blue onesie covered tummy. “Are you ready for your yummy breakfast?”

Teddy continued to babble in his own baby language, uttering a cheery “Da” and “doggy”, his two favorite words, every now and then on the way to the kitchen. Harry placed Teddy in his high chair while he made the baby’s formula, testing the white liquid’s temperature on his wrist, before picking Teddy up once again and going over to the living room. Watching Teddy eagerly gulp down his breakfast was just as mesmerizing as it had been the first time Harry fed Teddy after the baby’s birth under Tonks’ watchful, but fond gaze. Harry wished she and Remus could see Teddy now. He was such a wonderful little boy and so strong and beautiful; Harry knew both Tonks and Remus would have been immensely proud of him.

He smiled down at his godson, still lost in thought. It had been two weeks since the full moon and the night of Teddy’s first and only change. Teddy hadn’t shown any sign of growing fangs or claws since then, but Harry was still worried and desperate to find any relevant information about Teddy’s possible condition.

“Your father was my DADA teacher in my third year at Hogwarts,” Harry said, remembering Remus’ kind face and the amber eyes that mirrored Teddy’s own irises. He made it a point in their daily routine to tell stories about Remus and Tonks to Teddy every morning during feeding. “He was the best teacher we had and tried to protect me from my godfather who, at that time, was wanted for mass murder. He tried his best and was always fair to the students, but it wasn’t enough. His secret was revealed and he had to leave the school just because he was a werewolf.” He couldn’t help the bitter twist that pulled against his lips. “His heart was made of gold, but he hated himself so much. He felt like he didn’t deserve good things just because he was a bit different. I don’t ever want you to feel the same, Teddy. You’re a wonderful person and will grow up to know it.”

It was a resolution he repeated every day, telling his godson in one way or other how brilliant he was, because he had to know.  Teddy gurgled happily, his amber eyes shining as he grabbed Harry’s shirt, curling his little fist into the well-worn material. It didn’t take much to make the baby burp, the sound never ceasing to amuse Harry’s childish side, then it was time to change Teddy’s diaper.

 


 

The first article came out a few days after Teddy’s first change, but Harry had been too preoccupied with his research to pay any mind to it. And it wasn’t like they had completely forgotten him since the end of the war, which meant that there was always some exciting (and usually completely untrue) news splashed about him all over the papers. So, he couldn’t really be bothered to notice what was happening in the Wizarding media, especially not when he had a possible baby werewolf to look after. Cutting himself off of the main magical communication channels was also a great help in remaining ignorant about most current events in the Wizarding World. So no one could really blame him for not being prepared to see a horde of reporters camped out just a few feet away from where the protective wards erected around his house ended when he walked out on the door to take Teddy to his favorite park one day, maybe three weeks after the full moon.

“Mr. Potter, what do you think about the alleged relationship between Ms. Ginevra Weasley and Roger Davis? According to their close friends they have been on numerous dates since New Year’s Eve,” asked Rita Skeeter with a wide, syrupy smile. Her beetle eyes were shining with hunger as she was staring up at Harry with her DictaQuill poised above her notepad.

Harry never got the chance to reply because her question opened a dam and suddenly he was assaulted by dozens of question from every reporter present.

“Mr. Potter, is it true that you broke up with Ms. Weasley nearly a year ago?”

“Mr. Potter, are you currently seeing someone?”

“Mr. Potter, do you want to comment on your decision to adopt a known werewolf’s child?”

“Mr. Potter—”

“Enough!” Harry snapped, clutching a clearly distressed Teddy closer to his chest. “I ask you to put your cameras away, because I haven’t given you permission to publish any of your photos and don’t plan to do so either.”

“I’m sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Potter, but as a public figure, we are more than entitled to post pictures of you in the media,” Rita Skeeter reminded him in obvious delight.

Harry sneered in derision at the disgusting woman. “That might be true in my case, but my godson is an underage child under my care, who is not a public figure and you don’t have my permission to publish any pictures of him anywhere. If you still choose to do so, I’m sure your respective employers will be more than happy to hear from my law wizards.”

“No need to get so touchy, Mr. Potter,” said a young, obviously too confident reporter who was standing almost too close to the wards. “We’d only like to ask you a few questions.”

“Well, too bad, because my private life is and will always be private, and I refuse to comment on any of your questions.”

“Even the one about Ms. Weasley’s new relationship?”

Harry nearly rolled his eyes. It was none of his business who Ginny decided to date; they had broken up nearly a year ago and still barely talked to each other. Not that it was for the lack of trying on Harry’s part. He had done his best to be nice to the girl on the rare occasions he visited the Weasleys before Ginny had gone back to Hogwarts and during the Christmas dinner Mrs. Weasley had invited him to, but Ginny refused to say more than a few words to him. Not that he couldn’t understand her, after all it had been obvious that she had envisioned a perfect life for them as a couple and had been dead-set on getting it. Trying to take their relationship to the next level so quickly after getting back should have been a dead giveaway to Harry, especially when Ginny had known that he had been a virgin and had next to no experience with girls. But Harry had been naive and too happy to be alive, and had believed that it could work somehow.

The last time reporters tried to hound him like this had been when the news about him taking custody of Teddy and not going back to Hogwarts had got out. He had hated the attention and having to leave the country for months just to get rid of the paparazzi. They had spent four months traveling all around Europe, and Harry promised himself that once Teddy got older, they would go back and see everything the Continent could offer them. He wanted to see the world, soak in the different cultures and learn about magic like he could never have done at Hogwarts. Looking at the hungry mass of the press now made it tempting to just pack his and Teddy’s things up and leave once again before things got out of hand, but Harry had never been a coward, and he refused to run away again.

“I know most of you believe that I’m a gullible idiot, who you can manipulate into saying things you can twist into ugly lies. But I’m not 14 anymore. Neither am I a naive kid, who has no idea about his rights. But I also know that you’ll never leave me alone unless I throw you a bone, so here is something you can write about. The Weasleys are my family and I would never dishonor them by talking about them to the press. They have done too much and sacrificed too much for you to so callously disrespect them. Ginny is a wonderful, talented witch and I hope she graduates with flying colors from Hogwarts next month. Just like I hope that her Quidditch career will be long and successful. That’s all I have to say about the matter,” Harry finished, staring down the reporters while still petting Teddy’s hair.

“But what about your relationship?” the cocky young reporter from earlier pressed. “Are you still together?”

“That’s between Ginny and me, and I won’t say anything else on the matter,” he stated coolly. “Thank you for your time.”

He hated apparating with Teddy, because his godson was always cranky for an hour or so afterward, but as the reporters showed no intention of leaving, he had no other option. So he took a deep breath, hugged Teddy closer to his chest and apparated them to the little park Teddy loved so much. Teddy snuffled into Harry’s neck and whined in distress when they landed in the fortunately empty park.

“Shh, it’s okay, Teddy bear,” Harry murmured softly, kissing the little boy’s currently angry red hair. “I know you don’t like apparating, but we had to.”

“Da!” Teddy complained, blinking his huge, tear-filled amber eyes up at Harry.

“It’s okay. We’re okay, Teddy,” Harry soothed. “No more apparating, promise.”

Teddy sniffled a few more times, but after a couple of minutes he calmed down enough to look around and actually notice where they were. When he saw the trees and little playground not far from them, his face lit up and he scrambled to get down, causing Harry to chuckle fondly. He put Teddy down and watched him toddle towards a sparrow perched on a nearby bush. He set a few cushioning charms on his godson to prevent him from hurting himself when his legs eventually stopped cooperating with his excited mind, then went to sit down on one of the benches and let Teddy roam free to his heart’s content.

Harry transfigured a small stone into a bright yellow ball for Teddy, and lightly kicked it over to him to the little boy’s absolute delight. Teddy picked the ball up and then toddled back to Harry. “Da!” he cheered, shaking the ball up and down excitedly.

“Yeah, I know. It’s a pretty great ball,” Harry replied with a wide grin. “Try throwing it into my hands.” Of course he didn’t expect Teddy to be able to throw the ball, but the boy made a pretty impressive attempt even if it was uncoordinated and barely flew far enough to land by Harry’s feet. “Nice!” Harry prised his godson, reaching out to ruffle his hair before he leaned down to pick it up. They played with the ball for another half an hour before Teddy started yawning after every throw, his amber eyes growing heavy. He toddled over to Harry and buried his head in Harry’s jean clad knee, whining softly.

“Are we sleepy, Teddy bear?” Harry asked, picking his godson up. Teddy hummed in response and hid his face in Harry’s neck sniffing the skin like he had started to do in the last couple of weeks.

Harry caressed Teddy’s head, wondering not for the first time if it was another sign of lycanthropy. He’d need to concentrate more on his research no matter how frustrating it was turning out to be. The next full moon was only a week away, and he was no closer to figuring out what could have triggered the shift in Teddy or what it meant. He would certainly see if it happened again next week, but a part of him wanted to be as prepared as possible.

With a sigh, he headed home, Teddy already snoozing in his arms. He thought about casting a disillusionment charm on himself and Teddy in case the reporters were still camped out in front of his house, but didn’t want to disturb Teddy who was becoming more and more sensitive to magic. Fortunately, he didn’t need to worry, because Grimmauld Place was deserted by the time they got back, but he didn’t waste any time unlocking the door and getting into the house because there were no guarantee some of the reporters didn’t leave alerting charms behind to notify them when he got home.

Harry placed Teddy into his playpen, covering his body with the boy’s favorite blanket, then he went to make some lunch for himself. Sitting at the dining table he read through another book, flipping the pages with growing disgust. The amount of bias wizards showed against werewolves and other creatures was truly despicable and something was ignited in his chest at the thought of how the Wizarding World would react if they got even just a little hint of Teddy not being fully human. Sitting there in a chair in his somewhat lonely home, Harry vowed to never let anyone hurt his godson in any way.

 


 

On the next full moon, Teddy’s eyes glowed gold and his little fingers grew adorable claws — even though Harry was sure claws should not be seen as adorable —, while his downy eyebrows disappeared inside his weirdly protruding brow ridges. He reminded Harry of some movie he had once caught a glimpse of at the Dursleys, years before he found out about magic and wizards. He couldn’t really recall the movie, but he remembered that Dudley had been watching it in secret because it had something to do with the supernatural and the creature in it had had a similar face to Teddy’s changed features. Unlike the creature in the movie, however, Teddy was not blood thirsty. If anything, he was more cuddly and clingy, refusing to let Harry go all night, whining and growling whenever Harry tried to put him down even for a minute.

It was an interesting and heart-warming experience, one Harry found himself recording in an empty journal he had received from Hermione for Christmas one year. He kept recording Teddy’s behavior everyday, noting every little change in Teddy’s habits and actions. Days melted into weeks, and before Harry noticed it, five months had passed without him seeing any of his friends. He researched wards to erect around his home, so he could keep away the vultures, who still tended to lurk around, hungry for even scraps of information, he just didn’t think about keeping his friends away as well.

But that wasn’t exactly true. Thinking back on it, Harry had to admit that, ever since Harry announced his decision to take custody of Teddy and not to go back to Hogwarts, his relationship with his best friends had been somewhat strained. They still sent each other letters, but the visits, even after Hermione and Ron graduated in July, just seemed to taper off. Then again, they were busy, all of them. Ron with his Auror training, Hermione with her new job in the Ministry and Harry with Teddy and trying to figure out how to raise a werewolf child without messing it up entirely. Maybe this was what adulthood felt like, especially when someone had a kid. Or maybe Harry just didn’t want to hear all the ‘concerned’ nagging that just never wanted to stop.

One way or another, he couldn’t say that he wasn’t happy. He had his godson, and Luna still seemed to find the time to visit him whenever she was back from one of her adventures. And Harry and Teddy also visited Andromeda in St. Mungo every Sunday, spending an afternoon with Teddy’s grandmother. Andromeda was always happy to see them, and she never once argued about Harry raising Teddy. If anything, she seemed content and reassured, knowing that Harry would do anything to keep Teddy safe and happy.

Life was good if not perfect.

And of course, because he was Harry Potter it had to be ruined.

It wasn’t even something Harry hadn’t been aware of, at least vaguely. He sort of knew that the reporters hounding him must have written something about him, he just never bothered to check what because it was lurid nonsense. Maybe he should have, because then it wouldn’t have felt like a punch in the gut when one Saturday afternoon in early December, Hermione turned up on Harry’s doorstep with a folded copy of the Daily Prophet in her hand and a troubled frown on her face.

“Hermione,” Harry said, not knowing what else to say to his one time best friend.

“Harry. May I come in?” Hermione tried to smile, but it was more of a grimace than anything, which made unease settle in Harry’s stomach. He glanced at the newspaper and then back at Hermione’s face, and he just knew that whatever it was, he wouldn’t like it.

“Yes, of course.” He stepped aside from the doorway to let Hermione in. “How have you been?”

And wasn’t that a nasty kick to the mouth? Harry saw Hermione wince, and he couldn’t help but mimic her reaction. Once upon a time they knew everything about each other, practically lived in each other’s pockets, and now here they were, shuffling around like two strangers who had no idea how to start a conversation. It was awkward and disheartening, but a part of Harry appreciated Hermione holding back her usual monologue about Teddy, Grimmauld Place, and the way Harry lived his life. Maybe his friend had grown some common sense since they last seen each other.

“Tea?”

“It would be lovely, thank you.”

Harry waved his wand, summoning the tea set and some biscuits he baked that morning. He offered a wan smile as he tapped the teapot with the tip of his wand. White steam furled out of the teapot, the smell comforting and familiar. His smile turned a bit more sincere as he poured Hermione a cup and saw her surprised expression.

“I was just about to have some myself,” he explained before lifting his own cup to his lips. “So, how have you been?”

“Good,” Hermione replied, biting her lip. Her gaze slipped to her hand, the ring on her finger shiny and pretty, and new. Harry curbed the vague sense of hurt that bit into his chest, and hummed. “It’s been… good.”

“I’m happy to hear,” he said with another empty smile. “Congratulations. I guess, Ron finally gathered the courage to pop the question.”

“Harry…”

“Yes?”

“We wanted to tell you…” she trailed off, unsure about how to soften the blow with a believable lie.

“It’s fine. We’re all busy. And I’m happy for you.”

He was. He also felt disappointed and slighted, and like he was being punished for straying for the path set out for him. But, unless he wanted to get into an argument with Hermione — an argument he would never win —, there was no way to voice his feelings. Not to mention, it was way too late for any hurt feelings to be voiced. Months, maybe years too late.

“Ron just popped the question… I was really not expecting it…” She was wide-eyed as she kept staring at her ring. “Harry… I really did not expect this.”

Harry tilted his head, then quickly hid a smile when he realized he was mimicking some of Teddy’s more wolfish behavior. 

“Are you okay?” he asked quietly.

Hermione looked up at him and opened her mouth only to close it. “I… I’m not sure.”

“Why did you say yes?”

“I love Ronald,” Hermione replied automatically, only to sigh and grimace at herself. Her big brown eyes were staring at Harry, expecting him to contradict her, to question the truth behind her words. Waiting for that ‘Are you sure?’ that could have given her a way out. Harry looked back, not saying a thing, because it wasn’t his place anymore. Not really. “I really do,” Hermione added, stubborn, her brows furrowing. “But we are young, Ron isn’t even 20 yet. Marriage just seems… too much.”

“Being engaged doesn’t mean you have to marry Ron next week, Hermione. Or next year, or ever if you don’t want to,” Harry found himself saying.

He didn’t know how to feel about giving his once best friend advice on her relationship with his other one time best friend. But at this point there wasn’t really anything to lose, and maybe, just maybe, it was exactly what both of them needed. Hermione’s expression said otherwise, like it had always done when someone contradicted her theories. She came to life, eyes flaring with defiance and she was ready to defend her argument just because it was hers. It made Harry think that he should have argued more with her in the past, should have thought for himself and shouldn’t have just let Hermione be the brain of every one of their adventures. But it had been so easy, and she had been so brilliant and level-headed that it had been just second nature to let her make plans and do the research and just be the smartest one of their group.

Back then, it had been nice.

Now it was tedious.

“You don’t understand, Harry,” she bit out. “Molly is already planning the wedding. She is so… happy and excited that there is no way Ron will be able to hold out for longer than half a year. At best. And ever since you—”

“You are an adult woman Hermione,” Harry cut in maybe just a tad harsher than intended. “And never before have you had any problems expressing what you want. So if you want to wait with getting married a year or a hundred, make it happen.”

“You know Molly,” Hermione argued, folding her hands across her chest. “She doesn’t take no for answer and Ron is many things, but not brave enough to say no to his mother. Especially not since Fred…”

“So what? Out of pity you’re just going to go along with everything Mrs. Weasley says? I’m sure she would love that if she knew.”

“Well, it’s certainly much better than breaking up with her daughter during a family dinner!”

“Ginny broke up with me, if you remember.” It was interesting how time changed memories. Gone was the mortification over being forced into a fight in front of people he considered family. Gone was the affection he had held for Ginny. The only thing remained was his respect towards her and a wisp of wistfulness over losing his chance for being part of a traditional family. But it seemed Hermione still saw it differently despite their supposed reconciliation before she headed off for her last year at Hogwarts. “And Mrs. Weasley still did her best to lend a hand in taking care of Teddy.”

“Of course she did. She is a mother and has years upon years of experience raising kids.” And you were a clueless idiot. She didn’t say, but obviously thought. “And she cares about you.”

Much more than you or Ron. He didn’t say even if he thought it was sort of true. Mrs. Weasley still came by at least every other week for tea when Mr. Weasley worked late. She chatted and played with Teddy, catching Harry up on the life of the Weasley bunch, showing photos of little Victoire, her first grandchild and thanking Harry for visiting George in his shop. And she praised him too for proving them wrong and for doing ‘such a wonderful job’ with Teddy, which never failed to make Harry blush and warm his heart. She was a mother to him, even if she wasn’t his, and Mrs. Weasley had mellowed out enough in the past few years to stop trying so hard to make up for the absence of Lily Potter. Something Harry was immensely grateful for.

Probably that was why he felt so annoyed with Hermione in part. She and almost all of Mrs. Weasley’s children had this idea about Molly Weasley, seeing her as this bustling, bossy matron who was fragile deep down, never seeing the iron willed woman who held her family together and made sure they got through every hardship they encountered. She was an amazing person and the kind of parent Harry hoped to be for his godson.

“She does. Just like she cares about you and Ron and her whole family. She wants you to be happy and she is not an imbecile, so if you explain her that you want to wait she will understand.”

“But she’s still going to be disappointed.”

“Once again, you are an adult. Maybe you want to start living your life like you want to instead of doing your best to meet everyone’s expectations and prove them that you are invincible and the best at the same time.”

Hermione’s expression hardened to granite. She stood up and put the still folded newspaper on the coffee table. “The old Harry would have supported me,” she said, tone full of accusations.

“And this Harry still supports you,” Harry replied with a half-smile. “But you don’t want support. You want someone to echo your half-arsed conviction about needing to marry Ron as soon as possible to meet some kind of invisible requirements to be seen as an adequate person. And I’m not the person for that. Not that you have every really listened to anyone’s input once you got something in your head. I just hope you won’t start popping kids out to placate society’s need for normality.”

“This was a mistake,” Hermione gritted out before she spun on her heels and stalked out of the house.

She probably expected Harry to chase after her and apologize, but Harry didn’t regret what he said. And maybe once Hermione got over her ego, she would think about Harry’s words. Because if he knew one thing it was that you could never live up to everyone’s expectations and trying only brought misery.

In her hurry, her robes brushed the newspaper off the coffee table, which landed on the carped headlines up, grimly proclaiming:

MAGICAL CREATURE REGISTRATION ACT: FOR THE PROTECTION OF OUR NATION

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

Harry couldn’t finish the article to the end. He couldn’t bear the thought of Kingley’s betrayal no matter how he sugarcoated it in his statement. Or how he called it a mere formality every wizard and witch was required to go through upon birth. He called it documentation and the first step of ensuring that every member of the British Magical Society had the same rights. It sounded so nice and friendly on paper. Registering all magical creatures in the Ministry along with wizards and witches, providing them with identification most of them lacked. But Harry wasn’t an idiot. He could read between the lines and how it was a cautionary step to ensure the Ministry had full control over the creatures they were so vary of. To ensure that nothing akin to Voldemort’s reign could happen again. It was barely a step above the Nazi methods of WWII.

Maybe a different Harry would have stormed into the Ministry and blasted down Kingsley’s door for agreeing to something like this. He would have demanded him to change his mind and take it back, called him out on shitting on Remus’ memory. He would have started another war and wouldn’t have rested until the disgusting new law was forgotten and abolished before it even was implemented. This Harry had different priorities and was way too tired to properly care about the load of shit the Ministry was trying to pull. The magical creatures could handle their own problems as they wished, the only person’s safety and future he cared about was Teddy’s.

Which was why instead of sitting down to enjoy a cup of warm tea and biscuits with his godson that afternoon, he just fed Teddy while dictating several letters to his DictaQuill. One letter was sent off to Mrs. Weasley, asking for her help in packing up the essentials they would certainly need for traveling. Another went to Hermione, thanking her for informing him of the impending changes even if he didn’t apologize for the way they left things. However, he did add a note about always being there one way or another if Hermione needed him, just like she had always been there for him. He also sent a short letter to Ron for old time’s sake, but nothing else. Their friendship was frayed and they were headed in opposite directions, something Harry understood and respected. Still, it felt like he couldn’t leave without saying goodbye to his once best mate. The last letter was addressed to his account manager at Gringotts, requesting a meeting as soon as possible. Which turned out to be two days later.

Harry left Teddy in Mrs. Weasley’s care while he went to Gringotts to discuss the state of his vaults with Kragnast. The goblins still looked at him suspiciously as he strode across the entrance hall towards Kragnast’s office, but nearly two years, a formal apology and a hefty sum of compensation in gold and some old artifacts the Blacks had owned had been enough to earn him the goblins’ forgiveness for breaking into their bank and liberating one of their dragons.

Choosing Kragnast as his account manager had been one of the best decisions in his life, because Kragnast was not only one hell of a manager but a ruthless financial investor as well. In the past nineteen months he had managed to triple Harry’s wealth and was showing no signs of slowing down. So when he suggested transferring Harry’s account to the Sofia Branch of Gringotts, Harry didn’t hesitate to agree even as he made sure that the transfer would not affect Kragnast’s position, but the goblin just smirked at the request.

“The Wizarding Nation made itself a great enemy, Master Potter,” Kragnast said, just as Harry was signing the transfer documents. “And they don’t even realize it.”

“Are you preparing for another war?” Harry asked, glancing up at Kragnast with a raised eyebrow. The goblin’s grin was wide and full of sharp fangs.

“Oh no, Master Potter. We are capitulating, just like you.” Kragnast’s laugh grated on Harry’s ears and sent a chill down his spine. “We are closing our London branch.”

“What about all the gold?”

“Now, that is none of our business anymore, is it? The wizards are more than welcome to sort out their financial issues on their own.”

“When are you leaving?”

“On the night of the new law coming into effect, of course.”

Harry stared at Kragnast for a second then he let out a quiet little chuckle that built itself up into a mirthful and brash belly laugh. It was almost poetic in a way. He did not know much about the Muggle World — although he had been trying to catch up on things now that he did not need to fight for his life constantly — but he remembered reading about how a financial crash had affected all the world some decades before. How it had almost ruined all the progress that had been made, and how much people had had to struggle to stay afloat. Now, he was less sure about the financial order of the Wizarding World, but from what he had seen it was obvious that businesses were mostly local. There were no big name franchises and everything was centralized by the Ministry of Magic. Everything except the bank system. Which was monopolized by the goblins. And now they were about to just abandon ship…

He shook his head, still chuckling. “Is everything settled for your employees?”

A mildly taken aback expression appeared on Kragnast’s face. The goblin tilted his head, as if not sure what to make of Harry, which wasn’t the first time between them. Kragnast’s yellow eyes bore into Harry with shrewd interest for a few seconds, but he hummed in the end and nodded his head in agreement.

“Yes,” he said. “Other branches are going to take on our local staff.”

“What about the curse breakers?” Harry found himself asking, thinking of Bill. “And the other human employees?”

“We take care of our loyal staff, Master Potter, no matter their species. So I can assure you that your… friend is safe. Although with his status as a half-creature, he and his wife might also want to think about relocating to a safer place.” Kragnast sneered in distaste.

“Yes, you’re right. Although, I have to admit, I’m not sure about Bill and Fleur’s plans,” Harry admitted with a shrug. “Will the closing of the British branch affect global economics?”

Kragnast smirked. “Not in the same way it would affect it in the Muggle World. There are perks of wizards being so damned desperate to remain secretive. The global market is basically a non-existent term here.”

It confirmed what Harry was thinking, and a part of him was relieved they were about to leave the madness and outdated ideals behind. He wanted Teddy as far away from the toxic environment of the British Wizarding World as possible. He wasn’t sure where they would go after their initial trip to Bulgaria, but the world was vast and they had so many places to see.

They wrapped up their meeting shortly afterward, and Harry apparated home with a disillusionment charm hiding him from prying eyes. Unfortunately, it did not make all the vulturous reporters disappear when he appeared across from his house. The reporters were staked out not far from him watching the entrance with avid interest. They were standing too close to each other for Harry to be able to get past them without being noticed, which meant that he actually had to interact with them.

He rubbed his temples with his wand still in his hand, the cool wood of the Elder Wand bumping against his forehead. Talking to a bunch of hyenas was the last thing he wanted, but there was no avoiding them, and one way or another they would probably corner him. Maybe if he got it over with now, they would leave him alone.

Decision made, he canceled the charm and straightened his back. He didn’t even need to count to three before the first reporter noticed him, and it was kind of amazing to watch as the previously near motionless herd of people became animated all at once advancing towards Harry with single minded focus. Except, Harry was prepared and swished his wand creating an invisible barrier between him and the reporters, forcing them to stop outside his personal bubble.

“Mr. Potter! What is your stance on the new Magical Creature law?” asked one of the overeager reporters. He seemed young, maybe only a year or two older than Harry and his Quote-a-Quill was practically vibrating on the notepad in his hand.

“Good afternoon,” Harry said, staring at the reporter pointedly. The young man dropped his gaze and blushed. “I’m going to ask everyone to put away their Quote-a-Quills and either write by hand or use DictaQuills, unless you are prepared to face legal consequences for any misquotation that might appear in your article.”

It was something that Mrs. Weasley had suggested one time when Harry had complained about reporters hounding him about his breakup with Ginny, and by the looks on the gathered people’s faces, he couldn’t help but think that Mrs. Weasley was a genius. Because the reporters all looked like they had swallowed a lemon as one after another they pulled out a different quill from their pockets and poised it over their notepads.

“Thank you,” Harry said trying to sound far more cordial than he felt. “Now, I’m going to answer one question from everyone, so make it count. Afterward, I’m going to ask you to let me get home or I will need to notify the authorities. Who wants to start?”

“Mr. Potter,” spoke up a middle-aged witch. “ Leona Sharp from Wizarding Unlimited. Are you planning to take a stance on the upcoming Magical Creature Registration Act?”

“No, I don’t plan to,” he answered calmly, causing everyone around him to perk up.

“Mr. Potter,” called out another witch, this one a little younger with sharp hawk like features, “I’m Emmeline Parker from The Magical Economist. Do you think this new law will have a negative effect on our nation?”

Harry suppressed a smirk, refusing to spoil the surprise awaiting everyone. Instead, he pretended to consider the question for a while, mulling over what kind of prediction he should make.

“Are you asking on the financial level?” he asked and waited for Ms. Parker’s nod. “I’m not an expert on economy, but every action the Ministry takes has some kind of effect on the people. Now, this law has yet to be implemented. Actually, it has yet to be voted on by the Wizengamot, but from what I’ve read and heard, it seems to be as good as passed. So let’s imagine the Ministry goes through with this Act. They force every people with creature blood to register as such and make these records public like most of the original Wizarding birth certificates public. What do you think it will mean?”

His question was met by silence. He stared down the reporters, daring any of them to voice the truth that probably all of them knew but had yet to write about. He had read that morning’s articles on the issue and all the skirting around the topic of how the possible reveals could affect people’s lives. All the articles were disgustingly polite and optimistic, parroting the words that probably had come from some Ministry official’s mouth about transparency and the chance of moving forward. Reality couldn’t be more different. Because defeating Voldemort might have ended the war, but nothing had really changed in the people’s minds. Creatures like werewolves and vampires were bad and terrifying and needed to be held in check. House elves were servants that could be exploited without consequences. Goblins were the guards of the people’s gold, bloodthirsty fiends no one cared about. And then there were all the other sentient beings that tended to avoid society like the centaurs and the merfolk. They were all seen as things to look down on, something lesser and worth nothing in the eye of the Wizarding nation.

The Ministry was fooling no one and it seemed that this time the wronged parties had enough. The wizards just did not know it yet. Of course, the reporters, as loathe as Harry was to admit it, were not fools and could pick up on what he was implying. Well, Rita Skeeter certainly could as she smiled at him eagerly, adjusting her heavily decorated glasses.

“Harry,” she said in her usually grating voice that made Harry grit his teeth. “Are you comparing the Ministry’s new law to the Dark Lord’s reign?”

Harry sneered at the woman. “Of course not, and if such thing is printed anywhere I will sue you for everything you are worth and beyond, am I understood?”

“Perfectly, Mr. Potter,” Rita bit out. “Then what are you suggesting? As the caretaker of a known werewolf’s offspring, you cannot truly agree with the new law, can you?”

“As far as I know, Teddy is a real boy,” Harry shot back, smirking at the mostly blank expressions he got in turn for the reference. He saw one of the younger reporters stifle a snicker and then duck his head when he noticed Harry’s attention on him. So Harry, completely disregarding Rita’s question, called him out instead. “What’s your name?”

The man blushed. “Max Thompson. I’m with The Jabberwocky.”

“Isn’t that some rubbish muggle rag?” asked someone on Harry’s left with a derisive snort.

“Our target audience are mainly muggleborns,” Thompson replied tartly, “because no one has ever seemed to care about helping our integration. Most purebloods expect us to conform to society’s norms and be the perfect citizens, but no one bothers to help us do it.”

“That sounds interesting,” Harry said with a small smile. “Maybe you would be interested in getting into touch with Hermione Granger? I’m sure she would be more than happy to join or back your paper in any way she can.”

“Oh,” Thompson seemed floundered and the blush that had started to recede from his face returned tenfold. “I-I… Th-that would be amazing, Mr. Potter!”

“Great!” Harry said and he found himself genuinely happy to help the man. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Mr. Potter!” cut in a witch with flaming red hair and a put upon expression. “Your stance on the Creature Law? Are you planning to stop it?”

“Me? How could I do that?” Harry retorted with a quiet snort. “I’m but one wizard. I cannot change the opinion of the entire Wizengamot.”

“Well, you sure managed to get the Malfoys pardoned,” sniped one of the wizards with a disgusted sneer.

“I gave my testimony in the Malfoys’ case, telling the court what I had seen and experienced, but it was their law wizard who got them pardoned,” Harry replied in a cool tone. “As for the new law, my vote will be no, but as I said the decision is ultimately made by the Wizengamot as a whole. Now, I have time for one more question.”

“Mr. Potter,” spoke up a young, perky witch with aquamarine hair that brought up fond yet painful memories of Tonks, “Claudia Isaacs from Witch’s Weekly. My readers would love to know about your relationship status now that your romance with Ms. Ginevra Weasley has ended.”

Harry didn’t know how to react. So far everyone was dying to know what he thought of the new law and he tried to hedge as much as possible even though he was dying to tell the reports just what he really thought. And here was this eagerly smiling woman who couldn’t care less about his political views and only was interested in something as inconsequential as who he was dating. It just seemed surreal. But at least he wasn’t the only one who thought so if the looks of most reporters were shooting Ms. Isaacs. Who in turn refused to feel embarrassed and only had eyes for Harry.

“Do you have children, Ms. Isaacs?” Harry asked, taking the witch by surprise.

“No.”

“Well, I have one. And let me tell you, children are a full time job and dating is literally the last thing on my mind,” he replied. “Thank you for your time. Now if you excuse me, I have a semi-werewolf offspring to feed.”

He didn’t wait for their reactions, just pushed past the reporters and entered the blissful safety of his wards. Mrs. Weasley was waiting for him in the entrance hall with Teddy on her hip, and Harry felt his lips stretch wide into a happy smile. He reached out, laughing when Teddy did the same, and nuzzled his godson’s cheek with his, scenting Teddy affectionately. He saw Mrs. Weasley smile at them and returned it with a soft smile of his own.

“Come, Harry dear, lunch is ready.”

“Thank you, Molly,” he replied, rearranging Teddy into a more comfortable position. He brushed his fingers through the baby soft aquamarine tresses tickling his jaw, and Teddy hid his face in Harry’s neck. It was still strange that he got to call Mrs. Weasley her given name. It felt too familiar somehow, even though it was just as much of a privilege. Maybe that was why he still couldn’t call her anything other than Mrs. Weasley in his head.

They ate in the kitchen, Mrs. Weasley’s cooking fantastic as always. Teddy hummed happily, opening his mouth wide for more stew, although his face still wore more of his lunch than what went into his stomach probably. Harry didn’t even try to eat while he was feeding Teddy, had learned never to do that again after Teddy had got hold of an entire bowl of pureed pumpkin and chicken once and managed to empty it all over his head while Harry had been bringing a bite of chicken to his mouth. So Harry started feeding Teddy first, careful to keep a hold on the bowl, and then slipped some of his own food to the little boy, who seemed to have a bottomless pit for a stomach, which was only growing with each passing day.

“How did it go?” Mrs Weasley asked after she dabbed her mouth with a napkin. Her gaze was sharp and curious, her expression patient even as her mouth twisted slightly.

“Everything is settled,” Harry replied wiping off some excess mash of Teddy’s face. “Kragnast suggested that Bill and Fleur should request their transfer to another branch because the goblins are closing down their British branches and don’t care about the collateral damage.”

“I’ll make sure to tell Bill, if he hasn’t heard about it already,” Mrs. Weasley said with a thoughtful nod. “I suppose it’s time Arthur and I thought about changes in our lives too. My French is rusty but there are spells for these kind of things.”

“If you need any he—”

“Don’t even think about it, Harry Potter!” Mrs. Weasley cut in with a glare. “You have your own life and must concentrate on that. We’ll be fine.”

“Still—”

“Thank you, dear, but it’s not the first time we have to adapt to a new situation. Just make sure you and little Teddy are safe. That’s all the help we need.”

Mrs. Weasley didn’t stay much longer after lunch, she never really did. And while Harry would have loved for her to spend more time with them on their second to last day in Britain, he understood that she had issues to settle herself. It left Harry with the last dregs of packing, something he managed to finish while Teddy took his nap, and then another day of making sure everything was ready for their departure. He did not stop to think about whether he was doing the right thing or not. He was no one’s champion besides his godson’s and he was doing what he needed to do to ensure Teddy’s safety. If it meant leaving behind his home for who knew how long, then mote it be.

Chapter Text

 

The first letter came via owl post seven months after Harry and Teddy left Britain. They had stayed with Viktor Krum for a few weeks in Bulgaria first, the Bulgarian seeker showing Harry around in Sofia and they even celebrated the Solstice and New Year’s together. Harry had found a wonderful friend in Viktor, who turned out to be a funny, intelligent and caring person under his heavy set eyebrows and piercing dark gaze. He also had come to adore Teddy and promised to visit them if they ever managed to settle down somewhere for more than just a few weeks. After Bulgaria, they traveled around Easter Europe, visiting magical and mundane areas alike, drinking in the power thrumming inside the rubbles of age old temples and historical sights without the Muggles being all the wiser.

The letter found them in Belarus in a cozy little cottage near a river where Harry had the dubious pleasure to meet a Rusalka family, who were much less dead set on drowning him than somehow marrying him off to one of the daughters. Although Harry had the feeling that the cool little translation spell he had learned from an old Greek witch who was a priestess for Athena’s Temple was not exactly working well when the Matriarch of the family called one of the pale girls her daughters, considering they were all dead and held no family resemblance. Not that it really mattered, because his polite refusal had been seen as encouragement for not only the chosen girl but all the seemingly younger ones to keep visiting him and bring him presents. All in all they were nice if a bit too vindictive for Harry’s taste, but he had to admit that he had never learned so much about women’s nature than he had from the Rusalki who were courting him, and he kept documenting every new tidbit of information he gained from them in his handy little notebook that also contained all his notes on Teddy’s wolfish behavior and some additional information about some other magical beings and creatures they had encountered in the past seven months.

All in all, even with all the new acquaintances and friends he had made, he did not expect the owl that landed on the dining table one mid-July evening while he was preparing tea for himself and Teddy, who, were playing with his magical building blocks just a few feet away, content to be near Harry while occupying his ever curious nature with the shape and color changing blocks Harry had gotten for him in Skopje before they head south for Greece back in January. The owl was unassuming and looked like any other bird used for postal services, which meant that the letter couldn’t be from any of his old friends. Not that they had tried really hard to reach him ever since his departure. Except for Mrs. Weasley and surprisingly Luna.

The envelope revealed the sender and that the letter had been sent from London, but at first glance Harry couldn’t recall who Max Thompson was or what he wanted from him. Opening the simple copy paper that resided in the white envelope he started reading the letter, his eyebrow climbing higher on his forehead with each passing line.

 

Dear Mr. Potter,

I’m not sure if you remember me, but we met a few months ago in front of your house when the media ambushed you regarding the issue of the new Creature Law. First of all, I would like to thank you for talking to Ms. Granger-Weasley about our mission to further the Muggleborn population’s knowledge in Wizarding traditions and customs, she has been a great help. As you might know, the Creature Law was passed two months ago and things haven’t been great. With instant closure of Gringotts, everyone is scrambling to figure out what to do with their money and creatures of all kind have been disappearing from the country with no sign of the trend stopping anytime soon. I’m afraid that within a year or two the population will be halved and the already dwindling economy will take a nosedive.

But I’m not sure if you care about that. After all you left for the same reason all the other families did and are leaving and I doubt you have any intention to come back. And I’m not trying to call you back either. (How could I when we don’t even know each other?) The reason I’m writing to you is to offer you a job as strange as that might sound. Admittedly, the pay would be nothing like you are used to probably, but the Magical World at wide needs to stop stalling in the middle ages and embrace the advance technology provides us. For this reason, we have been working hard to create a fully protected system that can rival the Muggle internet or maybe even surpass it in some ways.

The satellite is almost ready and our best people have been working on setting up servers for future users. The Wizarding Web (the name is still in progress), however, will need content. And one of the first things we wish to establish is valid information on creatures and other beings who are currently considered second class citizens in Magical Britain. Ms. Granger-Weasley has told me that you have been traveling for the past seven months and that you have been keeping notes on the creatures you have encountered. Of course, I couldn’t ask you to share everything with the public, but we hope to create something that lacks the bias Wizarding kind shows toward these beings. Therefore, what I would like to offer you is a job as our first magical creature archiver, someone who writes blog posts on the creatures he encounters on his travels without discrimination and blind hatred.

If you are interested in the position, please send me a note and I’ll make sure that we provide you with a working computer and Wizarding Web connection as soon as the system is ready to be launched.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
All the best,
Max Thompson
CEO and chief editor The Jabberwocky

Harry wasn’t really sure what to think. He knew that Hermione and Ron got married the previous month, Mrs. Weasley had fire called him when the invitations had been sent out and she learned that he hadn’t been issued one, spitting fire at his son’s pigheadedness, but Harry hadn’t been angry about it. His relationship with Hermione had not ended on a positive note before he left London and the sparse few letters they had exchanged since were more than a little awkward and full of Hermione’s ‘advices’ on how he should stop wasting his potential and get a proper job. Ron, on the other hand, seemed to have turned over a new leaf that did not have a place for Harry anymore. Maybe being a Junior Auror recruit did require full loyalty to the Ministry and Harry pretty much doubted that their friendship would have done Ron any favors.

And it wasn’t like Harry hadn’t moved on. Current company aside, he had met many interesting people in the past seven months and he wouldn’t change it for the world. Even the Rusalki were growing on him, they certainly had a weird sense of humor that Harry appreciated.

The news about Magical Britain wasn’t a surprise either. He had regular correspondence with Kragnast, and his account manager was more than happy to update him on the way the British wizards and witches were scrambling to figure something out for their monetary situation. The job offer, however, was wholly unexpected.

“Good news?” Daria, the eldest daughter asked with a curious tilt to her head. Her unblinking glass blue eyes were staring at Harry with unnerving intensity that Harry just couldn’t get used to no matter how hard he tried.

“More like interesting news,” he replied wrinkling his nose and flicked the Elder wand to levitate the plates to the kitchen table. “I got a job offer.”

“Job offer?”

“From a newspaper. They want me to be their new computer based Magical Creature researcher.”

“What’s a computer?” Daria seemed confused even though her expression didn’t change for a second.

“It’s a Mundane invention,” Harry said, trying to explain something he had little to no experience with. “It works with electricity,” Daria scrunched her nose at the word in disgust, “and you can store information on it and play games and do research. It’s one of the most useful piece of technology Mug— Mundanes have come up with to date.”

“And you know how to use this computer?”

“Some. I’m definitely no expert.” Harry shrugged before turning to Teddy. “Come, Teddy Bear, supper is ready.”

“Coming, Daddy,” Teddy called back, his high pitched little voice happy as he scrambled to his feet and rushed to the table. He reached up with his hands for Harry to pick him up and happily started munching on the pieces of steak Harry had cut up for him and left on Teddy’s plate. “Yumm!”

Harry smiled and kissed his godson’s soft turquoise hair, happy to let him feed himself now that his coordination was much better. Daria was staring at them in a contemplating silence while they ate. She didn’t consume human food, with no working digestive system she couldn’t stomach it, but she had told Harry before that she liked the smells; they made her feel nostalgic.

“You are going to accept the offer.” It wasn’t a question, but after giving the statement some thought, Harry realized that she was right. He was going to accept Max Thompson’s offer.

“Yes.”

“Mama will be disappointed.” It was a warning and he took it accordingly.

Four days later they were in Vilnius, exploring the bustling capital like any other Muggle tourist family. Teddy was looking around curiously even as he scrunched up his nose from time to time and pull at his glamored dark locks. Harry only smiled down at his godson and pulled his small hands away from his hair.

“It’s necessary to hide your brilliance from the Muggles for now,” he whispered with a wide smile. “They would be angry at me, not understanding why your hair looks so amazing. They mean well, but their minds are small… limited.”

“What’s that?” Teddy asked blinking up at him, his lips mimicking the word. “Limited?”

“It means they can’t understand some things that are natural to us.”

“Oh… that’s sad.” Teddy mouth turned down. “Poor Muggles. Sad life.”

“Maybe a little. But don’t feel bad. Where they don’t have magic, they have technology. Cars,” he pointed at the vehicles passing be, “planes, computers, science.”

“Wizards don’t?”

Harry sighed and looked around for a place to sit down. A few houses down he noticed a friendly little bakery, and he thought it would be the perfect place to get a snack and enjoy a glass of cold juice in the heat. Teddy frowned up at him, waiting for his answer, his expression so much like Tonks’ when she was changing her appearance that it made Harry’s heart broke and melt at the same time. He ruffled Teddy’s hair and pointed at the bakery.

“Just a second, all right, Teddy Bear? I think we should grab a bite and a nice cold drink first.”

“Ice cream?”

“If you eat your snack, you can get a scoop, yes,” Harry replied with a chuckle as he entered the bakery and sat down at one of the small tables with Teddy in his lap.

“Two?”

“We’ll see.” He shook his head, amused by his godson’s sweet tooth, then turned to the approaching waitress.

He orders for them, smiling at Teddy’s enthusiasm over trying to mimic his words and then proceeds to draw his godson’s attention once again as he picks up their earlier conversation.

“Wizards have magic,” Harry starts and Teddy’s eyes instantly jump to his fingers which lack the usual sparks he uses to demonstrate whenever he sits down to explain the little boy something. “And magic is a wonderful tool that makes us forget sometimes that there might be other solutions to our problems. Maybe even better ones. So we rely completely on magic and forget that not everything is about spells and sparks.”

“So no cars?”

“There are some cars. I remember the British Ministry using them and Mr. Weasley used to have one too. He charmed it so it could fly. And there is the Knight Bus of course,” Harry listed, counting each time he had seen a magical vehicle on Teddy’s small fingers, who giggled happily and counted under his breath with him. “But traveling by magical means is much faster and effective, so cars and buses are not popular.”

“Okay,” Teddy chirped, nodding his head only to freeze mid-motion and turn to the door with wide eyes. “Daddy, wolves,” he whispered, awed. “Real pretty wolfs.”

Harry blinked and followed his godson’s line of sight, frowning when he noticed what or more like who Teddy was looking at. It’s a family of three, a young woman who looks a few years older than Harry with a little girl on her left hip and a gangly boy in his early teens trailing behind her. They all held striking resemblance, the woman and the little girl slightly more so than them and the boy, but it was obvious that they all were related. And Teddy was right, they were really pretty with their dark hair, striking features and fluid grace.

“So pretty,” Teddy sighed, and before Harry knew what was happening his godson had already slipped off his lap and was rushing toward the little family.

“Teddy!” Harry called after him, already on his feet and silently cursing supernatural toddlers and their lightning fast little feet.

Teddy didn’t even turn back until he skidded to a halt in front of the boy and poked him on his hips. Harry blanched and hurried over, ready to snatch his godson up at the first sign of displeasure showing on the strange boy’s face, but he looked more curious than anything when he turned to Teddy and looked down at him.

“Hi!” Teddy chirped, and Harry would have bet that his hair would have been a bright sky blue to show his elation. Harry sighed and reached out, placing his hand on Teddy’s head. “You’re a wolf like me!”

The boy’s jaw dropped, his blue eyes wide as saucers as he stared down at Teddy in disbelief before his gaze snapped up to Harry, suspicion instantly sneaking into his look. He gaped at them for a few seconds, and it was almost adorable how obviously the gears were turning behind his blue eyes betraying him faster than even the harshest of denials could Harry tried to offer a sheepish grin, thought about going for a lie, but he knew it would be useless. Teddy could detect lies with his incredible hearing and if he was right and the strange boy and his family were also wolves, they could hear his heart skip a beat around whatever lie he could have cooked up in the matter of seconds.

“We mean no harm,” he offered quietly. By then the young woman and little girl were watching them too. “Maybe we could sit down and talk?” he added when none of them reacted beyond staring at him with their unnerving predatory eyes.

“Yes,” the woman said, her voice surprisingly deep. “That would be for the best, probably.” She deposited the little girl in the boy’s arms without saying anything before she turned back to the counter to say something to the waiter not so covertly watching their little group.

“Erm… We’re sitting over there,” Harry said with an awkward wave toward their table. “Shall we?”

The boy nodded, lips twitching the slightest way upward as his free hand swept out and silently offered Harry to go first. It was a bad idea probably, showing his back to a stranger especially one who was more than a mere human even without any obvious signs of magic, but even with all the slightly creepy staring, he didn’t sense any malicious intent from the boy or the woman.

Teddy was constantly craning his neck, checking whether their new… friends were following them, but he obediently grasped Harry’s hand and let himself be pulled close to Harry’s side without a protest or whining. They reached their table and Harry pulled Teddy into his lap before he could have got the idea of crawling over the boy’s legs like the little girl was doing. It was adorable how the boy let his… sister? Cousin? use him as her personal monkey bars, only pulling her away when she apparently pulled way too hard on his hair.

“Cora,” came the quiet but powerful command from over the boy’s shoulder, causing both kids and even Teddy to snap to attention. “Stop pestering your uncle.”

The little girl obeyed with a tiny little whine but not before he nuzzled her uncle’s cheek. The woman nodded approvingly, ruffling Cora’s hair and repeating the motion with the boy’s as well as she pulled the empty chair next to the boy’s out and sat down. Her dark hazel eyes were clear and alert as she turned her attention to Harry, and her lightly painted lips tightened just enough for Harry to notice the slight change when Harry met her gaze without showing any sign of submission.

“I’m sorry about Teddy’s…” Harry frowned, the words tasting wrong on his tongue. He took a deep breath and kissed his godson’s head, trying to figure out what to say. “Actually, no. Teddy is only two years old and he never had the chance to meet any of his… kin before. Of course he would be excited, so I’m not sorry he approached your… brother?”

Supernaturally good looks are genetic,” the boy offered with a cheeky little smile, ignoring the sideway glance his sister sent him. “Peter Hale.”

“Harry Potter,” Harry replied, his lips twitching. “And this pup is Teddy Lupin.”

Peter’s lips went white as he thinned them in his effort not to laugh out loud if the sparkles exploding in his eyes were anything to go by. Not that Harry could blame him exactly. A werewolf named Lupin was definitely funny. And way too revealing in certain circles. Not that Teddy really understood the significance of his name or the dangers it might carry. He was such a bright little boy, trusting and way too curious for his own good, asking questions and soaking up knowledge like a sponge. He didn’t even seem intimidated by the woman seated across from them despite her impressive presence and the warm, almost electric power that was thrumming under her skin.

“Excuse my brother,” she said and must have done something under the table because Peter went stiff and his expression turned mutinous. “He’s still young and allows himself way too much liberation because of it. My name is Talia Hale and this is my youngest, Cora. Peter has already introduced himself.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Ms. Hale,” Harry replied with a polite smile that made him feel like one of those soulless mannequins standing in the windows of clothing shops. So he let it go and took a deep breath instead. “I’m horrible at idle chit-chat and don’t do well with mind games. So would you mind answering a few questions regarding your… characteristics and what I should expect in the future?”

Talia looked at him for a long moment, gouging his honesty. It made Harry feel like some bug under a microscope about to be dissected, her immense presence pressing down on him. It left him with the need to push back, to fight and show her that he’s not about to be forced into submission, so he stared back with a defiance that had got him literally killed by Voldemort’s hand once and earned him more than one detentions back in the day. However, unlike Harry’s teachers and the megalomaniac hell bent on genocide, Talia did not react with aggression. Instead, her lips curled up just slightly and she nodded her head, as if Harry had just passed whatever test she had secretly set out for him.

Harry gritted his teeth and cocked an eyebrow at her.

“That can be arranged, I’m sure,” she said in the end with just the barest hint of red slipping into her hazel eyes. “But not here. We might be in Eastern Europe, but conversations like this shouldn’t be held in public places.”

“Of course. What do you suggest then?”

“We’re here for another three days. You could visit us at our hotel. That way your Teddy could properly bond with children of his own… stature.”

Harry hummed in contemplation, carding his fingers through Teddy’s hair, who was in a staring contest with Cora. “When?”

“This afternoon?” Peter piped up, his grin back in full force as he stared at Harry with his eyes open wide. If Harry hadn’t known better, he would have thought that the boy was flirting with him, but Peter was surely too young for things like that. Even if werewolves’ mental and physical development was somewhat accelerated compared to human children. “We have a suite at the Kempinski.” His smug bragging earned him a disapproving frown from Talia, but Peter was still staring at Harry, his smile wide and innocent yet anything but.

He was a brat, plain and simple, reminding Harry of Draco Malfoy back during their Hogwarts years, but somehow Peter made it work for him, and Harry just knew that one day he was going to be a formidable opponent whether it came to fights or whatever career he would choose for himself. A part of Harry hoped to see it happen, to see Peter grow into his big beseeching eyes and larger than life personality, into a magnificent man. Maybe he would if things went well at the meeting that afternoon.

“That’s fine,” he said with a smile of his own before he turned to Talia. “Maybe it can be a play date for Teddy and Cora?”

“That would be nice,” Talia conceded, pulling Cora’s hand out of the bowl of marmalade the waitress had put down in front of her just a few minutes ago. “And Peter can watch them as well as my two eldest, Laura and Derek while we talk.”

Peter opened his mouth, probably to argue but a sharp look from Talia was enough to make him shut up without saying anything and settle into a sulk.

“Of course. Would three o’ clock work for you?”

“Maybe four? We could make it an early dinner perhaps after the children tire themselves out?”

“Sounds good to me,” Harry agreed and wiped Teddy’s mouth. “What do you say, Teddy Bear? Want to have a play date with Cora, her siblings and Peter?”

“Yaay! Play with wolfs!”

“Wolves, Teddy.”

“Yes! Wolfs!”

“Wolfs, shh!” repeated Cora putting a hand in front of her face in a silencing motion.

It was utterly adorable.

Harry and Talia chuckled, and her lack of hostility about Teddy’s complete inability to be discrete reassured any fears Harry might have had about the meeting. From what he could see Talia was a nice and reasonable person, but protective of her family… pack? It didn’t mean that Harry wouldn’t need to teach Teddy about the importance of keeping his nature, both magical and creature, a secret as soon as possible.

They said their goodbyes soon enough, Peter looking over his shoulder at least twice before they disappeared around a corner. Teddy waved happily, but soon he started to droop on Harry’s shoulder, so Harry decided that going back to their hotel room until their meeting would be for the best. By the time he walked into their hotel’s lobby Teddy was long asleep, snoozing softly into Harry’s neck.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

Talia met them in the lobby of the Kempinski Hotel, and Harry was really happy he had chosen to dress up a little because even with his pressed trousers and shirt he felt like he was sticking out like a sore thumb in the elegant setting. At least Teddy looked utterly adorable in his smart little outfit that was completed with a turquoise bow tie, because “Daddy, nice men wear boe ties, I see in telly!”. When Teddy could have seen men wearing bow ties on TV Harry had no idea, but he had gladly transfigured and recolored a tissue for his godson if that was what he wanted to wear.

Talia smiled at them when they reached him and even petted Teddy’s hair after quietly asking Harry, which was the first time ever Harry witnessed any kind of werewolf behavior outside Teddy’s periodical shifts and habit of nuzzling Harry whenever he could. He had found little unbiased information on inter-pack traditions and protocol, but even without a real guide on how to act, it was easy to figure out that Talia saw him as Teddy’s elder or pack leader and was showing him respect. It was something Harry honestly appreciated even if he had no idea how to voice his feelings without sounding like an idiot or insulting Talia.

Fortunately, she must have understand what he was trying to say with his expression because her smile widened and beckoned them to follow her to the elevators. Teddy was looking at the buttons like he was thinking about reaching out and touching, his eyes glued to the glowing four until, with a little ding, it faded and the metal doors opened.

“This is really beautiful,” Harry said, breaking the silence as they walked out into the hall and headed toward the double doors at the end of it. “Do you travel often?”

“Once or twice a year,” Talia replied. “With the children in school, there is limited time for anything really, but if I try my best to raise them to be open to the world around them.”

Harry didn’t comment on the telltale singularity in Talia’s answer, but he did take note of it. A part of him was curious about why Talia was raising not only her three children but also her pre-teen brother on her own, however, as she had so far respected his privacy regarding his guardianship over Teddy, he could respect hers regarding her children and brother.

For now.

The suite they entered seemed lavish and reminded him a bit of Malfoy Manor in its decoration. He suppressed the horrible memories of the place and focused his attention on the four children scattered around the sitting room, all of them bar Peter staring at him and Teddy with glowing golden eyes. The same golden eyes Teddy was sporting apparently.

“Wolfs, Daddy!” Teddy exclaimed waving at the children in excitement.

“Children!” Talia called, her tone almost steely. “That’s no way to greet our guests!”

“But, Mom!” the older girl, who must have been Laura if Harry remembered correctly, protested. “That baby is one of us!”

“I don’t care—”

“No baby!” Teddy snapped at the same time, sticking out his tongue at her. “I’m Teddy an’ I’m two!”

“Teddy,” Harry scolded him gently. “ We don’t stick our tongues out at people.”

“But, Daddy!”

“No buts. Be nice.”

“But—”

“Teddy.”

Teddy pouted and turned his head away, cheeks red. Harry suppressed a sigh and looked at the other children instead. Peter was staring at him, his gaze curious and shining with open mirth. Laura was staring too, her head cocked to the side, but her eyes had faded back to a light brown. Then she climbed over the love seat she had been kneeling on and walked up to them.

“Sorry for calling you a baby,” she said and held out her hand to Teddy with a grin. “I’m Laura Hale and I’m nine.”

Teddy squirmed in Harry’s hold for a bit then turned to Harry saying, “Daddy, down. Please.”

Chuckling, Harry put him down and even took a small step back to let him handle the introduction on his own. Teddy was a brave little boy, who loved to meet new people and Harry wished he had a camera to take pictures of his godson shaking Laura’s hand all serious and businesslike. He also appreciated that Laura wasn’t laughing at him. If anything she was treating him as her equal, which was definitely interesting considering the age gap between them.

“Nice to meet you,” Teddy said, lisping just the tiniest bit. “You’re r’lly pretty.”

Laura smiled wide and giggled, and then she looked at Harry the same way Talia had looked at him before she requested to touch Teddy. It was a request and Harry nodded, watching as she touched Teddy’s hair the same way Talia had before urging Teddy to do the same. Teddy turned to Talia, who smiled and nodded as well, and then Laura was crouching down and allowing Teddy to gently pet her hair too.

“It’s tradition,” Peter piped up, and Harry jumped at the sight of the boy standing next to him. When did he get so close? “The pack heirs greeting each other and sizing each other up. Technically, Laura should have greeted you first as the Alpha of your pack but you know after her little… faux pas, she needed to make amends.”

“I… what?” Harry asked intelligently, earning a smirk from the boy.

“Let’s get the introductions out of the way before we get into the technicalities,” Talia cut in before Peter could say anything more.

She waved her hand and her other two children scrambled to get closer, Cora happily giggling and would have probably bowled Teddy over in her rush to reach him if her mother hadn’t intercepted her by picking her squirming little body up. The boy, Derek, stopped just behind Laura, blinking up at Harry shyly through her ink black bangs. He had the same hazel eyes as his mother, but while Talia’s gaze never lost its calculating edge even in her amusement, Derek’s eyes were wide and more uncertain than anything.

“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance Alpha Potter. I’m Talia Hale, Alpha of the Hale Pack. These are my children. My heir, Laura, Derek and Cora. And my brother, Peter,” Talia continued, slowly extending her arm to place her palm over the side of his neck.

Harry got the sense that it was some sort of traditional and significant greeting that must have had something to do with the vulnerability of allowing a stranger close to one’s neck, but it all felt alien to him. Being called Alpha Potter sounded strange and he couldn’t decide what to think about it. But he looked Talia in the eye and inclined his head just slightly because it felt right.

“The pleasure is mine Alpha Hale,” he said, hoping that he wasn’t messing things up. “I’m Harry Potter, Alpha of the Potter Pack. This is my heir and godson, Edward Lupin.”

He mimicked Talia’s gesture, placing his palm over her neck and just for a second the air felt charged with power, as if a bond had been just formed. The sensation left him a little dazed, but then Laura was stepping in front of him, baring her throat to him and he was repeating the same motion he had with Talia. The whole thing felt ritualistic and his magic hummed with it, practically singing under his fingers as he silently offered his goodwill and protection to Talia’s children one after another while Talia did the same with Teddy.

When Peter stepped in front of him, he noticed that the boy was standing somewhat closer than the others, but for once Peter wasn’t grinning or smirking. If anything, his cheeks were stained red as he arched his neck to him and swallowed harshly under Harry’s fingers the moment their skins touched. Harry’s magic sparked, causing Peter to jerk and stare wide eyed at Harry with his lips hanging open.

“You’re a druid,” he whispered, shocked.

“A druid?” Harry repeated with a frown. He pulled his hand back, refusing to notice how Peter tried to chase the movement of it, and turned to Talia, who was eying them with slightly narrowed eyes. “I’m not a druid.”

“Let’s sit down.” It wasn’t an offer and it raised Harry’s hackles, but he stopped himself from commenting. This was an entirely unknown territory to him and even with his magic humming happily and so close to the surface, he knew that he couldn’t risk an attack. Not with all the children in the room.

He looked at Teddy, ready to pick his godson up, but Teddy was clinging to Derek’s hand and staring up at the older boy with bright, unconcerned eyes. At least there was someone in the room, who wasn’t bothered by Peter’s comment. Well, there was Cora too, who was already climbing onto an armchair, not caring about anything or anyone. And it seemed like that Derek was beyond charmed by Teddy, allowing him to sit in his lap and to pet his cheeks. The sight made Harry smile despite the suddenly tense atmosphere around them.

“What’s a druid?” he asked, not bothering to beat around the bush, once they were seated, him across from Talia in the other armchair while Talia was sitting on the love seat with Laura on her right. Peter picked the seat next to Derek on the sofa and was staring at Harry once again. The boy was seriously odd.

“Druids are magic users,” Talia replied gouging his reaction. “Their purpose is to upkeep the balance between the powers, but they often aid packs as their emissaries.”

“Upkeep the balance…” Harry mouthed, bewildered. What the actual fuck Muggles were playing at? “I’m not sure I understand. What kind of powers?”

“Darkness and light,” Peter replied, sneering. “Not that druids are all that forthcoming with information, mind you. But they claim to be guardians who ensure that neither light nor dark can overpower the other. They harvest the energy of the world around them or something like that. The information on them is pretty contradicting.”

“I… Excuse me, but that sounds like total bullshit.” And exactly like something Dumbledore or the Ministry would have come up with in one of their long-winded explanations about why Harry needed to do this or that. Like sacrificing his life. For the greater good.

Peter snorted and Talia’s eyebrows nearly reached her hairline. “Are you saying you’re not a druid?”

“Of course not.”

“But I felt the… magic,” Peter argued, his stare becoming even more intense, something Harry had no idea was possible. “It was incredible.”

Well, at least they were not Muggles technically, and if things went wrong he could always obliviate them, Harry reasoned with himself as he prepared himself to do something incredibly foolish. “I do use magic. But I was born with it. Teddy too.”

“Born with magic… like a wizard?” Talia asked.

“Exactly like a wizard.”

“But you’re not gray. Or white.” Laura blurted out, causing Peter to snort and her mother to purse her lips. Harry couldn’t decide if she was suppressing her disapproval or a smile.

“What?” Harry asked, completely lost. The afternoon really wasn’t going as he expected it would.

The children burst into laughter and just like that the tension snapped in the room. Talia’s lips twitched and she shook her head when Harry looked at her helplessly.

“Lord of the Rings? The Hobbit? Tolkien?” Peter offered, still not making any sense. “What? Wizards don’t read?”

“We do, but why should I know random books?” Harry retorted, feeling way more offended than he should have. Peter rolled his eyes at him.

“They are among the greatest best sellers in the world.”

“Peter.”

“No, it’s okay,” Harry said, not looking away from Peter’s challenging expression. The little shit was trying to rile him up on purpose, he was sure of it. “I admit that my literary upbringing was… lacking. But I’m guessing that these books somehow involve gray and white wizards, which is an interesting concept, but we come in every color, I’m afraid.”

“Daddy, magic?” Teddy piped up, drawing Harry’s attention himself. He was clapping his little hands and bouncing in Derek’s lap, who looked down at the little boy with furrowed eyebrows. “Boom psss! Viiigaaaldio Levisa!”

Harry chuckled at his godson’s enthusiasm and couldn’t be thankful enough that Teddy was too young to have a wand or really manage to carry spells out. With that botched up pronunciation and wild waving, Harry was sure that something would have exploded in the room.

“Harry?” Talia spoke up, sounding curious.

“Okay,” Harry started, letting out a long breath. Teddy was still waving around and Derek had to tighten his hold on him not to fall out of his lap. They were too cute for their own good. “We really didn’t came over for this, but here goes nothing. You guys are werewolves, which you already know of course,” he added with a glare at Peter’s scoff. “What you don’t know probably that there are different types of werewolves and many other creatures and an entire society hidden from the ‘normal’ world’s eye.”

“We know about the creatures, we have a loose alliance with a Kitsune family in Japan, but what do you mean hidden society?” Talia asked.

“I don’t know the exact numbers but wizards and witches make up about 0,005% of Earth’s population. We live hidden, behind magical wards that keep Muggles, people without magic, from seeing or noticing our existence.” He paused for a second, gathering his thoughts. “You as werewolves technically count as magical creatures, but you do not possess a magical core beyond your shifting ability.”

“But we can do magic,” Peter argued, leaning forward. “I’ve seen it happen in the past. My aunt—”

“That’s enough, Peter,” Talia interrupted him. “Sorry, Harry, please continue.”

“There is a possibility of someone in your family having a magical core. It has been happening more and more often in Muggle families due to the inbreeding in Pureblood wizarding families, which seems to affect their mental and magical abilities,” Harry mentioned cautiously. “At the same time, you said that your druids can harness the magical energy of their surroundings. Which should not be limited only to a certain amount of people. What I meant was that you don’t have a magical core. I would feel it if you did.”

“I see,” Talia said, looking contemplating. “What about werewolves?”

“Yeah… that’s a topic I don’t know much about I’m afraid. I’ve only ever met three werewolves in my life, not including you. One was an… insane maniac who bit Wizarding children to build his pack, the other was Teddy’s father, who was the gentlest person I’ve ever seen and Teddy. Remus, Teddy’s father, and Fenrir—”

“You’re joking, right?” Laura asked, her chin quivering. “Fenrir? Remus? Wait… Remus Lupin?” And then she started laughing again, clutching at her stomach.

“Laura!”

“I-I’m so-sorry,” she hiccuped. “But i-it’s so fu-funny. Why not just stamp werewolf on their foreheads? It’s so obvious it’s painful,” she added, somewhat calmed down.

“Wolf!” Teddy agreed, giggling. He even managed to flash his eyes. “Da wolf!”

“Yes, Teddy, your dad was a wolf like you,” Harry agreed with a smile. Teddy nodded enthusiastically before turning to Derek and poking his cheek.

“Wolf?”

“Wolf,” Derek agreed quietly and flashed his own eyes.

Talia sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I apologize for my children. They are still young.”

“Mom!” Laura exclaimed indignantly, but a look from her mother curbed anything else she might have added. “Sorry,” she said, “I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“I think Remus did actually appreciate the irony on some level,” Harry admitted, thinking back to his father’s late friend. Despite his mild demeanor, Remus had been a prankster and had a great sense of humor. Even if he had never managed to come to terms with his inner wolf. “You see, when I said there are different kind of werewolves out there I wasn’t joking. Remus and Fenrir Greyback were wolves who could only change during the full moon and they turned into full fledged wolves with barely any sanity to them. I’m not sure if it was the lack of pack or because it was their nature, but there was no reason left in them unless they took a wolfsbane potion.”

“Wolfsbane?!” Talia looked horrified. “That’s poison.”

“From my understanding it is a diluted mixture that subdues the wolf but doesn’t cause any lasting harm.”

“Still, why would anyone do that to themselves? Why not simply stay in a safe place?” argued Peter hotly.

“Remus said that with no other source, his wolf kept harming himself without the aid of the potion. It’s a really sad state of living,” Harry replied. “Which is why I’m really happy that Teddy is not that type of wolf. If anything, he’s more like you guys with the eye flashing and tactile behavior.”

“Has he shown any sign of shifting?” Talia asked, glancing at Teddy, who was watching as Derek played counted his fingers.

“Only on the full moon. He gets more restless a few days before and he can change his eyes sometimes… I think being near you actually helps him.”

“Has he achieved a full shift?”

“You mean into a real wolf?”

“Yes.”

“No.” Harry shook his head. “He once sprouted a tail, but he mostly gets claws and fangs and these… weird ridges on his forehead that seems to take over his eyebrows. And really bad sideburns. No offense.”

Talia’s lips twitched while Laura grinned at him. Peter just rolled his eyes.

“None taken,” Talia assured him. “Achieving a full shift for our kind if rare. And while I haven’t come across any other type of werewolf before, I can tell you that having a pack is essential for us. As Teddy’s Alpha and because of your status as a wizard you can probably feel the bond, but I cannot imagine how deep it can run.”

“He is a part of me. It’s not something I’ve thought about much to be honest. I could always feel him in a way, a connection in the back of my mind,” Harry said, smiling at Teddy with all the love he could feel in his heart. “I have a journal where I take note of every little change because the books I could find were far from accurate.”

“That is good. As long as you keep your notes safe.”

“Of course.”

“I mean it, Harry,” Talia warned him. “Your people might be more informed about werewolves than the non-magical folk, but in this… world, you’ll find there are those who hunt us supernatural creatures just for existing.”

“And they don’t care that Teddy is just a toddler,” Peter added with a dark scowl. “They will try and kill him without asking any question just because he is not human.”

Harry felt his lips stretch into the cold mimicry of a smile at the thought of a bunch of bigoted Muggles coming after Teddy with their guns and weapons. They could try, of course, but they would never know what hit them by the time Harry was done with them. If there was something the war had taught him, it was that heroism and concentrating on defending himself and his loved ones were not for him. Being passive and waiting for the big bad to come to him only got people killed. Of course, it did not mean that he would go around hunting down the very hunters responsible for the death of magical creatures of any kind. But he would not wait for them to strike first either. Teddy’s safety came first and it overruled any kind of morality people in general deemed acceptable.

He didn’t say any of it out loud, however, despite having the feeling that Talia and especially Peter would have appreciated his thoughts and viciousness when it came to defending his family… his pack.

“I’ll keep that in mind.” He grinned at Peter, who was staring at him, suddenly looking wary. “Would you mind telling me more about how your kind of pack works?”

It took a moment for anyone to answer, probably all of them expected more from him than simply accepting what he heard and moving on, but then Talia launched into an explanation and Harry was taken into a world ruled by age old tradition and hierarchy that was not unlike the Wizarding World back in Britain, yet still managed to function through the sheer power of respect claw enforced or earned through diplomacy. By the time he was picking a snoozing Teddy out of a somewhat starstruck Derek’s arms, ready to leave for the night, his head was swimming from the information overload but he knew it was worth it. Because Teddy might have needed him as a guardian, someone to love and nurture him, but his wolf needed an Alpha, too and it was Harry’s job to be that for him. And he was sure he had just gained new friends who would make formidable allies if things came to that.

“Thank you,” he said simply, smiling when Talia carefully hugged him and Teddy. “I would love it if we could keep in touch.”

“That would be great,” Talia agreed and turned to Peter, who was hovering over her shoulder. He scowled but handed over the small piece of paper he had been apparently holding in his hand. “This is my business card. It has my number and email address on it. I don’t know if you use phones or email, but this way you can reach me anytime.”

Harry looked at the card, taking a quick note of the finely printed name and information on it before nodding. “Thanks. I’ll try to set up an email address soon and write you. It might be quicker than sending owls.” He grinned sheepishly at both of their confused expressions. “One of the few ways us Wizards communicate. We send post via owls.”

“Oh… I see.” It seemed like Talia was lost for words. “I’m not sure how owls would react to us…”

“We’ll have to wait and see, I guess? And maybe next summer we could meet up again somewhere? I’m sure Teddy would love to meet your children again,” Harry offered, nuzzling Teddy’s hair when his godson snuffled into his neck.

“Yes, we would love that.”

They smiled at each other and then Peter was stepping forward and winding his arms around Harry’s waist himself. “You have to write me too. Not Talia and the kids, just me,” he all but demanded, his blue eyes sharp.

“Okay,” Harry replied, not sure how to feel about Peter’s intensity and something that almost seemed like a budding obsession. Then again, Peter was just twelve, a kid who would soon find more interesting ways to focus on than Harry. Still, Harry didn’t want to disappoint him, and it would be no hardship to write him whenever he would be sending a new message off to Talia. “And where can I send my messages?”

“Here.” It was another piece of paper, hastily torn off from who knows what, which had a surprisingly nicely scribbled email address on it. “Don’t forget to write, or I’ll kick your ass I see you next time.”

“Peter,” Talia warned, but Harry just laughed and ruffled Peter’s hair much to his indignation after slipping to note and the card into his pocket.

“It’s fine. I’m really happy Teddy decided to ignore every rule of secrecy I’ve been trying to teach him,” he said. “See you next summer?”

“Yes,” Peter replied before Talia could say anything. “I’ll pick a good place to meet.”

“We’ll see about that,” Talia cut in and then two more pairs of feet patted over to them and Derek and Laura were hugging Harry too with additional nuzzles from Derek to Teddy’s hair. “Take care until then.”

“Of course. And you take care too.”

He waved until the elevator doors closed and then closed his eyes, leaning back against the metallic wall. He did not expect to make new friends in the middle of Muggle Vilnius and definitely not a family of werewolves. Especially not werewolves of the same type Teddy was. But he had learned so much in one afternoon that he couldn’t be disappointed even if the Hales turned out to be horrible people. Except they weren’t and Harry was finding himself looking forward to seeing them again next year and keeping in contact in the upcoming months. He just hoped they would be able to manage it with all the traveling Harry and Teddy were going to do. Then again, it was up to them. If they wanted to keep in contact then they would.

With a satisfied nod Harry left the hotel and hailed a cab to take them back to theirs. He didn’t want to wake Teddy by apparating back into their room, and the short trip would also allow him to figure out some things. Like how to get an email address. Or where to go next now that he had a job.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

 

August 11, 2000

Dear Harry,

have you you found a good place for us to meet yet? I can’t believe Talia didn’t ask you to visit us for Christmas… By the way do you celebrate Christmas as a wizard? Or are you Pagan? Do you have certain ways to celebrate in the Wizarding World? (I still can’t believe that’s a thing and we never were informed.) Also, can you tell me if druids are supposed to know about you? Because Deaton — he’s our emissary for some reason beyond me, the guy is fishy as hell if you ask me — didn’t seem to notice anything different about us when we got home. Aren’t you supposed to notice that some disturbance in the Force? Sorry, ignore Laura, she doesn’t know when to keep her nose out of other people’s business.

So wasn’t Deaton supposed to notice something different about us? Because there is definitely this new alliance bond, Tali told us she can already feel it settling in, which unfair. I want to feel it too, but she says that we have to wait until the bond is stronger. Which is true, I guess. It took me months to feel the alliance bond with the Ito Pack. But I know I should feel it, it’s been three weeks already. And I can’t believe it takes so long to get a letter here, which is also weird because I know we didn’t give you our address. How can owls find us? Is that a magic thing? You really should have told us more about it, by the way. Now I have all these questions and no one to answer them. Which is rude.

And get an email address already, okay?

By the way, where are you now? Anywhere interesting? Have you met anyone cool? Next time you need to write more about what is happening to you. Because this place is super boring, and now school is about to start. One more really boring year of elementary school. How lame is that? And of course I have to look out for Laura and Derek, too. Did you go to wizard school? Is that a thing? If so, how can I sign up and is there in America?

Anyway, you forgot to wish me happy birthday in your letter, but I forgive you because you didn’t know. But I want your present to be getting an email address and calling me us already.

Take care and write soon,

Peter

P.s.: This owl is really cool, I want one, too!

 

Harry felt his lips twitch when he reached the end of Peter’s letter. The boy reminded him a more laid back Hermione when they first started Hogwarts with his curiosity and seemingly never ending questions. Not that he could fault Peter, how could he when a part of him wished that he had asked all the same questions when Hagrid had first showed him Diagon Alley or even he arrived to Hogwarts. But he had felt so relieved to be away from the Dursleys, so grateful that he had just gone along with things, never really questioning anything really. He had been the perfect little pawn, doing Dumbledore’s bidding without realizing it for so long that by the time he had been faced with what he had to do, there had nothing to be done to change things.

He very much doubted Peter would have done the same in his place. No, the boy would have questioned every order, doubted every lesson and researched every topic that crossed his mind until he had all the answers he needed to make an informed decision. He was so different than Harry had been, and Harry found himself glad for it. He was acting all curious and open in his letter, playing up the complaining preteen, while dropping probably important names and mentions of alliance bonds for anyone to see that his pack is not one to be trifled with. And of course making demands already despite only meeting Harry once.

The boy knew what he wanted and he was determined to get it. It was an admirable trait for sure, but one not many would see in a positive light once the softness of childhood melted away from Peter’s cheeks, Harry was sure of it. The boy burned with such a high intensity already, and unless something terrible happened, his already blazing personality would turn into an inferno that devoured everyone and everything in its heat that tried to oppose him. He was going to be dangerous, when he grew up. There was no doubt about that. But in Harry’s eyes it was a good thing, because the danger simmering in Peter was paired with the same sense of loyalty to his loved ones that filled Harry’s soul as well.

He took a quick glance at Teddy, who was playing with the soft black wolf plush toy Derek had sent him according to Talia’s letter, hugging the wolf to his chest every other minute while constantly blabbing at it. It was one of the sweetest things Harry had ever seen, and he found himself standing up to get the magical camera he had picked up in Riga’s magical district, that resembled much closely to Hogsmade with its picture perfect buildings and residential homes turned into shops than any of the bustling magical streets and squares they had visited in the past nearly ten months. It was a new model, too, a camera without the blinding flash that always left him blinking for minutes, trying to chase the annoying bright spots from before his eyes.

He snuck a few pictures just as Teddy hugged his wolf to his chest again and even kissed its snout, knowing that he would send the Hales a copy, to show them how much the present was appreciated. He sat back behind the dining table he claimed as his workspace for now and pulled a fresh sheet of parchment out of the stack in front of him.

 

20 August, 2000

Dear Peter, 

I hope you had a wonderful Birthday, I’m sorry I missed it without even realising, So far I haven’t had the time to think about an appropriate place for us to meet next summer, but it looks like Teddy and I are going to stay in Russia for a while. The country is huge and apparently is full of magical creatures. We are in Sochi at the moment, maybe we could meet here? This place is wonderful and the sea should be at least as warm as it is now. I’ll mention it to Talia in my letter to her. As for Christmas, we do celebrate it, but I have also started teaching Teddy (and myself) about the Old Ways and we honour the God and the Goddess as we should on each holiday.

I think most Pureblood families (those who only have magical ancestors going back at least a few generations) are actually Pagan. I have only spoken to a few wizards and witches on the continent so far, but religion never came up to be honest. It’s just not something people talk about with strangers. But I have friends back home I could ask if you want to know more. On another note, please, don’t blame your sister for not inviting Teddy and me into your home for Christmas. Despite our budding alliance bond, our relationship is new and far from solid. Bonds need time to settle and rushing them won’t be of any help.

As for druids, I’m really not familiar with the idea of Muggles practicing magic beyond those fake fortune tellers that appear on telly at times, so I cannot say whether this druid of yours is supposed to be feeling any change in you. Technically, any magical residue you might have had on your skin from skin on skin contact with Teddy and me would have been long faded by the time you arrived home, so even fully trained wizards and witches would have had a hard time to sense it. I’m sorry I cannot tell you more. Maybe one of these days I’ll find the time to do some research on these druids and tell you more about them.

I’m sorry about owl post. It’s somewhat time consuming, I know, but I have a solution to our communication problem, I think.. Enclosed to this letter you might have already found a small compact mirror. You can consider it your birthday present. Before you think I’m joking or trying to prank you, it’s not that. You have your cell phones and your computers. Both of which are useful and inventive pieces of technology. Us wizards have something called two-way mirrors. They come in several sizes as it turns out, and basically it’s the magical equivalent of a cell phone. Except it doesn’t have any additional costs beyond the initial price and you can only talk to the person who has the pair of the mirror. The best part, however, is that you can actually see the person you talk to and won’t have to rely on your hearing (no matter how excellent) to understand every nuance of the conversation.

I hope it makes up for the lack of email address or cell phone for now. As it turns out, the Internet is not so widely used in these areas yet. Certainly not to the extent that would allow me to spend this long on writing a message. Now to use the mirror, you need to call out my name while holding it in your hand. If I don’t answer don’t worry, the mirrors are charmed to remind you if you missed a ‘call’. The one I sent you is also connected to the larger mirrors I sent your sister, but make sure you do not use it around Muggles unless you are in danger, please.

As for what is happening to me, we rented a nice cabin near the beach and there is a family of Domovoi living along us as it turns out. So far what I have found out about them that they are nowhere near as complacent as House Elves, and they definitely do not act like slaves. But they get offended if you try to pay them for doing your chores and tend to steal and hide your things to show their displeasures. The good news is that a few well-placed biscuits and chocolate bars have been enough to earn their forgiveness so far. And they seem to be the nurturing kind too, because they tend to dote on Teddy an awful lot. Besides that, nothing much has happened. I have visited my account manager the other day, and did some shopping. A friend might drop by for a few days, but nothing is sure yet. He’s one of the most famous athletes in the Wizarding World and I mean the world not just a country, so he is quite busy. We’ll have to wait and see.

Why don’t you tell me about your studies some more and in turn I’ll tell you more about Hogwarts, the magical school I went to? I’m sure you have several friends you can tell me all about, too.

But I have rambled long enough.

I hope you like your present even if it’s not an email or an owl.

Take care and be good for your sister,

Harry

 

Harry folded and slid the letter into an envelope before placing the mirror already waiting next to him between the folds. It was unbreakable thanks to a handy little charm he had cast on it. He had first hand experience in how far Muggles had come in their advancement of technology, but even with their amazing inventions, they still had not managed to figure out how to allow people to communicate face to face from any non-immediate distance. Or cross great distances within moments. Owl post might have seemed slow and unorthodox to a Muggle, but it was still much faster than regular post, especially the intercontinental mail system that involved too much bureaucracy and paper pushing for it to be called effective. Let alone fast.

He hoped Peter would appreciate the gift along with Talia and her kids. They might have only met once, but it had seemed like a bond had really formed between their packs, not to mention Teddy’s smitten state with Derek was just cavity worthy, and if that plush toy was anything to go by, the feeling was definitely mutual. But the bond felt deeper than a childish little crush. It was new, but Harry could feel the warm, pulsing connection in the back of his mind. It felt like a sense of camaraderie, an invisible hand to grab if things went pear shaped, and it made him wonder if it felt the same to Talia and her pack, but somehow he doubted it would be polite to ask.

Instead, he pulled a slightly rumpled copy of the Daily Prophet in front of him and took a look at the headline from three days previous.

 

BRITAIN ON THE BRINK OF COLLAPSE?

 

If he was a better man, Harry would have curbed the small, vindictive smile that curled his lips after reading the long-winded and obviously angry outraged article on how Magical Britain was suffering from a depression of irreversible proportions and that the Ministry was little more than a crumbling shithole full of headless chickens, who were running around without accomplishing anything. All the while, the article was blaming the Minister himself for signing off on a law that alienated the country’s sole financial shareholders and managers, leaving them with nothing but an empty building and unguarded vaults, many of which had been ransacked upon the goblin’s desertion. The article of course had to mention Harry’s name too, but it was much more polite than Harry had expected, emphasizing on Harry’s negative stance on passing the “Creature Law” and its possible outcomes.

He couldn’t deny that it felt good to see someone agree with him in public, especially after the years of slander he had to endure when he was just a kid. And it wasn’t like Britain’s problems were his any longer. His money was safe in the Bulgarian branch of Gringotts and he could access it from anywhere in the world. Except Britain. But it wasn’t like he had any plans to return. Probably ever. On top of that, everyone important to him was safe on the continent too. According to Mrs. Weasley she and Mr. Weasley were still getting used to the milder weather on the French Riviera, but with Mr. Weasley’s new job as a Muggle-Magical liaison in the French Ministry, they had little to worry about besides enjoying the sea and spoiling their first grandchild.

Harry was happy for them. He was also happy for Luna, who was also traveling and researching magical creatures just like Harry with the help of her fiance Rolf. She sounded content in her last letter, sharing her findings with Harry regarding some weird new creature called Sicklemonger that was supposedly some kind of rodent and fed on silver coins. She had expressed her hope that Harry would include the creature in his blog when it launched, and Harry, who so far hadn’t done more than taken some messy notes on the creatures and beings he encountered, decided to agree. The idea of having a section for rare creatures whose existence was questionable at best but sounded interesting nevertheless was appealing. Maybe Luna could even manage it later on if she wanted to.

But that was neither here nor there yet. From what Thompson had told him in his weekly letters, Harry had gathered that the magical version of the Muggle internet was still some time away. It meant that he had more than enough time to figure out what he wanted to share with the public and what he thought should remain private to ensure the creatures’ safety. He wanted to remain impartial, but he had come to accept that most creatures were not antagonistic by nature. Some could live among humans with no problem and some lived far from civilization for a reason. If someone was stupid enough to disturb these creatures’ natural habitat then they deserved what they got. On the other hand, there were those who stumbled upon a Kelpie accidentally, and without knowing how to deal with the tricky creatures they had no chance to survive the encounter. And of course, there were the outright malicious creatures like Dementors. People needed to know how to defend themselves against them.

All in all, Harry realized that he had a much harder job ahead of him than he had thought at first.

He looked at the only untouched letter, set aside from the small stack he had piled on the table. He wasn’t really sure he wanted to read its contents, but there was very little he could lose. It had been months since the last one he received and whatever it would say, there was not much that could surprise him anymore.

Or so he thought.

 

15 August, 2000

Dear Harry,

I did not expect these words to come as hard as they seem to do, but there is one thing I would like to… no, I need to emphasise. I and our entire nation owes you. Not only an apology but we are in your debt, yet your reward for defeating Lord Voldemort was us alienating you more than anyone before. For that, and for the injustice unwittingly done to your godson and all the magical creatures who placed their goodwill in our hands, I personally wish to apologise. I am aware that it probably does not mean much coming from someone you once thought of as an ally only to be let down once again, but it is the least I can do in the current situation.

You expressed your opinion on the new law concerning magical creatures and we should have listened. Again. Maybe after the blow the consequences of our decisions has dealt us we will learn to listen. I can only hope. It was never my intention to chase you away from your home, yet I hope that wherever this letter finds you it will be in happiness. I am not asking you to come back and be our hero again. We made our bed and now it is time to lie in it and can only hope that our efforts to redeem ourselves by changing how we think will have a positive outcome in the end. Because changes are essential for progress, but we need to decide whether those changes aid progress or hinder it.

This time it definitely hindered it, and now we are in a situation we will have to fight tooth and nail to get out of. And we will, I can assure you about that. Despite the loss in faith of many, we will do our best to redeem ourselves and bring forth the brighter, peaceful future you had fought for. We will abolish the ‘Creature Law’ and hope to make better ones in the future, but only with the input of those it concerns. Because we have to realise that we know too little of the sacred culture of those we had been deeming of lesser than us, and it is something that has to stop. This society will not survive without everyone standing on equal grounds and for that we need to open not only our eyes and ears but also our hearts.

I hope this letter finds you well, Harry, and that you are enjoying the freedom you have earned a hundred times over.

I wish you the best and I can only hope that one day I will have the privilege to see you again.


Yours,

Kingsley Shacklebolt

 

Harry did not expect an apology. Especially not so soon after he essentially left Magical Britain to rot. But maybe things were really changing, and he could only hope that it was not a mere whim. Perhaps one day they would really go back and see what Kingsley and his people managed to accomplish while they were away. But not anytime soon. Not when there were so many countries to explore and places to see. Perhaps it was cowardly of him to refuse offering his help in settling things between the Wizarding nation and magical creatures, but as Kingsley had said, they had made their bed and Harry was definitely not going to lie in it for their sake.

Forgoing a reply for now, he stood up and walked over to Teddy, crouching down in front of his godson with a wide smile. “Are you ready for lunch and the beach, Teddy Bear?” he asked.

“Beeech!” Teddy squealed, clapping his hands before he clambered to his feet, his wide amber eyes staring up at Harry with excitement. “We gonna beeech!”

“We are going to the beach, yes,” he said, gently correcting Teddy’s speech.

They had a wonderful afternoon after he managed to cajole some actual food that’s not ice cream into Teddy, the only hiccup occurring when Teddy wanted to have swimming lessons with his new friend Wolf. Fortunately, explaining Teddy that the water would hurt Wolf’s fur really badly was enough to make him give the idea up, and by the time they got out of the water Teddy was a pile of pliant goo in his arms, snuffing into Harry’s neck in his sleep. Harry squeezed the small body closer for a second keeping his walk leisure and enjoying the warm late summer air and the gorgeous sight of the sea. To think that he would have probably never experienced the wonders of the worlds if the Ministry hadn’t messed up again. He might have taken Teddy on vacations like Talia did with her children and Peter, but never to this extent. Never exploring places that were not so well known like the ‘great’ western capitals in Europe. He would have unwittingly deprived Teddy of once in a lifetime experiences, and that thought is scary enough to almost be grateful that British wizards in power were morons.

He smiled down at his godson’s serene expression, happy to see how happy Teddy seemed to be and how well he was adjusting to the near constant traveling. Maybe next time they could give a try to getting on a train instead of portkeying or apparating to their next destination. But for now they would enjoy the wonders Sochi offered and see if they could meet any interesting creatures as well.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

“Holy sh… shoot, I meant shoot, Talia, leave me alone!” Peter growled, his blue eyes flashing gold for just a moment before it faded back into the color of the sky and a wide, elated grin stretched his face. “This is the best birthday present ever! I wish the Muggles had something like this, too.”

“Technically—”

“Don’t even think about it, I’m not one of those mundane pigs. If it wasn’t for them—”

This time it was Harry who cut in in a mild but stern tone, “That is a dangerous mindset to have, you know and I would advise you against nurturing it. Muggles are not the source of all evil in the world. The need for power can corrupt anyone no matter their background or species, please remember that.”

“But if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t need to hide who we are!”

“Maybe not for the reasons you are doing now, but do you think wizards and witches are so accepting?” He took a deep breath, the topic was still a sensitive one despite Kingsley’s letter. “Peter, prejudice is an universal humanoid trait. It doesn’t just appear in Muggles. Everyone with an intelligent bone in their body will be prejudiced to some extent against something or someone.” Peter pursed his lips, looking mutinous and ready to argue, so Harry decided to talk about something else. He offered the boy a gentle smile and lifted a brow at him. “How was your first week back in school?”

“Boring, the teachers must believe we are empty headed fools, who cannot retain information for longer than five minutes, because we did nothing but repeat the same stuff we learned las year. Then again, most of my classmates couldn’t answer even one question, so the teacher might be onto something. Doesn’t mean it didn’t bore me to death.” The boy sneered, rolling his eyes. “I want to be in college and learn what I want to.”

Harry found himself chuckling at the petulance of the boy’s tone. “Admittedly, I don’t know much about college, but I’m pretty sure there are subjects you still have to take whether you want to or not. And there are always slower kids no matter where you go.”

“Then I’ll just become home schooled again. I did well before I was allowed among humans.”

“You’re dead set on staying on topic I see.”

“Get used to it, Harry,” Peter said with a cheeky grin, flashing his fangs that had nothing on Remus’ let alone Greyback’s but were impressive for a twelve year old, Harry was sure of it, “because I don’t let things go easily.”

Harry had to wonder if that was a threat or a twisted promise that should never even cross a kid’s mind let alone leave his mouth, but decided to push it aside and concentrate on the matter on hand. Namely, Peter’s grudge against humans. With the slightly accelerated maturing of the type of werewolves both the Hales and Teddy were, he guessed that Peter was entering into his rebellious age and if the chilling, hungry looks the boy were not so covertly shooting him were anything to go by, Peter was also becoming more aware of his own sexuality. Harry mentally cringed at the thought of having to suffer through that with Teddy and silently hoped that Talia had the patience of a saint, because Peter was probably going to drive her insane otherwise.

He wasn’t really worried about having Peter’s attention, he had lived with four other teen aged boys for six years, he knew how short their attention spans could be. He also valiantly ignored his own somewhat lacking interest in everything sex. He had had enough on his plate without drowning in his hormones as well. Even if it had been somewhat embarrassing not to respond to Ginny’s best efforts. Well, he had had other, more important things on his mind and since then all his time and attention had been focused on Teddy. Sex just wasn’t so important in his eyes to mess his cozy, already interesting life up for something that he could get by using his own hands.

Obviously, Peter wasn’t like that. Nevertheless, Harry was sure that once Peter had settled back into his routine, he would find someone else to focus on. Someone much closer to his age and he would let go whatever fascination he had with Harry.

Except that really wasn’t the issue at the moment.

“Peter,” he started quietly, “there is a very significant difference between being vindictive and plainly hateful. Focusing your anger on an entire race will lead to your own destruction. Just look back on history and you’ll see. Wanting to be powerful is one thing. Use knowledge and your cunning. Stay behind the scenes and pull the strings and you might have the whole world at your feet.” For a brief second he thought of Dumbledore and the brilliant, manipulative mastermind the man really had been behind the jovial, grandfather mask. He also thought of Voldemort and how the man could have been even greater if he hadn’t been blinded by his own mortality and his fear of it. Maybe it was not the best idea to tell such thing to Peter, but it would have been stupid of him to believe the kid was an innocent little boy. “Take revenge with absolute ruthlessness if a slight is made against you or your family. But let go of the idea of hating humans in general because it won’t get you anywhere. Humans are resourceful and can rise to greatness if given the chance. Find those people and surround yourself with them. You cannot be narrow-minded because it will only make you as bad as the very humans you are blaming for everything.”

Looking at Peter’s gaping expression and shocked eyes told him that he had not expected Harry to actually humor him, let alone talk to him like he was his equal. It was something Harry had vowed himself to do when he had taken Teddy in. To never hide the truth no matter how painful it was. And while Peter definitely wasn’t his kid — thank Merlin — the bond thrumming in the back of his mind was telling Harry that he was responsible for the boy in some way, and he refused to be one of those patronizing adults who thought children couldn’t understand how the world worked.

“You’re not telling me to befriend humans.” It was not a question, but Peter’s face was marred by a frown and his voice sounded unsure enough to suggest he was thinking about secondary motives in Harry’s words. Just what kind of childhood the kid could have had so far to make him so shrewd at such a young age?

“I’ll never tell you to befriend anyone,” Harry promised. “Not for any reason. I’m telling you to see beyond the surface of humanity and utilize it in a way that will suit you.”

“That sounds like manipulation,” Peter replied, eyes narrowing. “Adults don’t tell kids to manipulate people.”

“Don’t they?”

“What do you mean?”

Harry opened his mouth before a thought hit him: Where was Talia? If she had heard Peter speak, why hadn’t she come to see what was going on? Why wasn’t she there snapping at Harry for filling her brother’s head with not so nice ideas?

“Where is your sister?”

“What?”

“Where is Talia? She is your guardian who has very keen hearing—”

“Oh you mean why hasn’t she broken down my door out for your blood for corrupting my pure, impressionable little mind?” Peter snickered then turned the mirror in his hand and pointed to a curious looking blue stone on his desk with his free one. “Well, Deaton is good for one thing. He knows how to make privacy shields? Wards? I’m not sure. He didn’t really explain it to me when I went to him. He ratted me out to Talia the moment I left his clinic, sure, but he still made it for me. It raises an invisibly soundproof wall around any place you have it in. Talia has one too.”

Harry frowned, staring at the innocent looking stone. He could see faint carvings on the surface of it, but they were too small for him to really see even from just a few feet away. Maybe zooming into images would become a possibility in the future even with communication mirrors, but for now he could only see what was being shown him at a size and resolution that fit the mirror. And while his own mirror was definitely bigger than Peter’s it still did not solve the mystery.

“Wasn’t she curious?”

A flush crept across the bridge of Peter’s nose and he looked away with a scowl. “She’s not stupid. I’m twelve living in a house full of werewolves.”

Harry blinked a few times before comprehension slammed into him like a sledgehammer and he suddenly felt embarrassed over nothing. Of course. He had been just thinking the same thing only a minute ago, why hadn’t he realized why Peter would need…? He shook his head, clearing his throat.

“Right,” he said with a nod. “Still, wouldn’t she be worried you are using it for less… private reasons?”

“Our conversation is private,” Peter stressed. “She has no business listening to my calls any more than I have listening to hers.”

Harry found himself nodding in understanding if not entirely agreement. Maybe the part of him that was growing to be a parent was worried about Peter’s need to keep secrets from his sister, his guardian… his Alpha and was already projecting his worries onto Teddy. But it wasn’t exactly right. Something was nagging in the back of his mind, a sense of distress over something he couldn’t put his finger on. It couldn’t be anything obvious, after all from what he could see Peter was fine even if his gaze held a hint of sharpness that hadn’t seemed so prominent back in Vilnius. Or maybe he was just overreacting, his senses still accumulating to the bond humming and alive and so unlike anything he had ever felt before. It was alien yet felt like home at the same time. Caring for a family he barely knew yet could never cut out of his life… Could it have been Talia’s goal all along? Securing an alliance with Harry for the protection of her pack? No. The link tying him and Teddy to the Hales wasn’t one sided. It didn’t demanded anything from him, didn’t enforce submission, it just urged Harry to feel more… more.

“Oh… you feel it too!” Peter’s voice turned high and excited out of nowhere. He was beaming and every bit of the child he should have been as he was staring at Harry with pure eagerness. “I wasn’t sure you could actually feel it after all. Hu… Muggles can’t. Not even those born in the family. But you can!”

“Yes, I feel the bond. I have been able to sense it for a while.”

“Good.”

“But I’m not sure what it means…”

Peter hummed, seemingly not perturbed at all. “It means that our packs are allies and will protect and back each other no matter what. Unless it endangers our own pack of course. Because every wolf’s loyalty lies with their pack first and foremost.” The last words sounded dutiful and well-practiced yet almost empty. Still, Harry knew better than to touch that metaphoric beehive, because no matter the bond, it wasn’t his place.

“I see.”

“You can ask me questions, you know. Maybe I don’t know as much as Talia, but I know some things,” Peter went on with a challenging glare.

Harry knew that he should have talked about this with Talia, knew that he should have voiced his uncertainty to the current Alpha Hale instead of questioning a child, but Harry was far from stupid. Talia was the Alpha and as such, her priority was ensuring her pack’s — her family’s — safety. He wasn’t naive enough to think Talia had offered her alliance and goodwill without hidden motives, no leader with any credibility would have. Which meant that expecting straightforwardness from her regarding such delicate matters would be useless. But he would need to give it a try nonetheless. Because using Peter and his need to show off was just plain wrong. It went against everything in Harry and he refused to sink so low no matter how unsure he was about the nature of the growing bond between their packs.

“Maybe some other time,” he said with a smile. “Why don’t you tell me about your home instead? I’ve never been to the States before.”

Peter wrinkled his nose, his lips parted ready to argue, but he must have seen something on Harry’s face because instead of pushing and refusing to budge on the topic once again, he let out a long groan and mulishly shrugged.

“What’s there to say? This town is so boring. Everything is green and we live in the middle of the preserve, far away from everything. Of course.” He grimaced, looking away for a moment. “The only cool thing is Mrs. Stilinski, really.”

“Who is Mrs. Stilinski?” Harry asked, amused by Peter’s sulking.

“She’s the kids’ babysitter and Talia’s friend,” Peter replied and Harry had to bite back a chuckle at the way he excluded himself from that group, even though there was no chance Mrs. Stilinski did not watch over him as well. “Well, technically she just comes to watch over Cora because, of course, Talia is too busy to be a stay at home mom. She has a son around Cora’s age and they get along pretty well, although he has this godawful name that took me months to learn how to pronounce.”

“Really? What’s the boy’s name?”

“Mieczyslaw. Polish after his grandpa. At least that was what Mrs. Stilinski said, but it’s just plain cruel if you ask me. Once Mieczyslaw starts school, kids will make fun of him endlessly.” Peter rolled his eyes. “If I ever have kids, I refuse to call them anything crazy.” He shot Harry a look Harry couldn’t really interpret, so he just shrugged.

“That’s reasonable. Although I cannot say I’m not used to the more… extravagant names. Lucius, Draco, Cornelius, Albus. Magical people just like to go all out and be traditional,” he explained. He thought about Sirius and the Blacks’ tradition of naming their children after stars, the memory bittersweet even after nearly five years. “My godfather’s family used to name their children after celestial objects. I’m not sure if Draco will follow the tradition, but I know I want to.”

He never admitted that tidbit to anyone before. Not Hermione or Ron and definitely not Ginny. He thought about telling Mrs. Weasley, but it just never seemed to be the right time, and it wasn’t like he had any chance of fulfilling that desire anytime soon anyway. Still, the idea to be that much closer to Sirius, to honor his late godfather in any way he could as well as his own connection to the Black name filled his chest with warm anticipation and a sense of longing he didn’t know how to handle. Which was why he chose to focus on Peter’s contemplative expression and waited for the boy’s response.

“Who is Draco?” Peter asked, his eyes narrowed just the slightest bit.

“He was my school rival and is one of my distant cousins, actually,” Harry replied with a chuckle. “He used to be a snotty brat… Well, I guess I was one too, but imagine one of those self-entitled young masters who always flaunt their parents’ powers and you’ll get the idea. Anyway, we didn’t get along for a long time, but things change. We’re not friends, Merlin no, but he writes sometimes and keeps sending Teddy toys and trinkets.

It had been certainly a shock when one day a few months after Harry and Teddy had left Britain an eagle swooped into their apartment in Budapest and dropped a large package completed with a parchment scroll in the middle of their breakfast. Finding a huge incredibly soft dragon toy inside the package, however, had nothing on seeing the sender of the present. Or the content of Malfoy’s letter, if he wanted to be honest. Except it was the first time he had found himself being amused by Draco’s haughty style and they managed to keep up their awkwardly snarky correspondence ever since.

“Hmph, he sounds like a jerk,” Peter stated decisively, lips twisting.

Harry didn’t even try to deny it, he just laughed and nodded in agreement before switching the topic back to Mrs. Stilinski. “What do you like about Mrs. Stilinski?”

“She’s cool I guess. Doesn’t treat any of us like babies, not even Cora. She talks normally to us, not this you know, doesn’t use that stupid overly soft, high pitched tone a lot of adults do because they think they are being cute or whatever. And she doesn’t scold us for running around and roughhousing and actually sits down and plays with us, and never lies and makes this really delicious pancake…” Peter trailed off and dropped his gaze, cheeks stained red. “She’s just cool, I guess.”

“What about Mieczyslaw?” Harry asked, moving on without acknowledging Peter’s embarrassment.

“He’s okay for a toddler…” Peter shrugged his shoulders and wrinkled his nose. “He talks a lot, and I think he’s been pestering Derek to teach him how to read, which is hilarious because Derek is a total pushover and Mieczyslaw literally cannot stop speaking and asks all kinds of questions no three years old should.”

Harry’s amused grin softened into a smile as he listened to Peter’s recollection of his young friend. Because despite the haughty — ‘too old to deal with babies’ — air he was putting on, Harry was pretty sure that Derek wasn’t the only pushover in the Hale family when it came to children younger than him. It was endearing and reassured Harry that no matter how hard he tried to prove otherwise, Peter wasn’t letting go of his childhood just yet.

“He sounds like someone Teddy would love to meet.”

“Maybe you could visit us for Thanksgiving and get them meet then?”

“I doubt Talia will invite us to your home anytime soon. Bond or not,” he added when Peter opened his mouth to argue. “In my, admittedly limited, experience werewolves are quite territorial and inviting others to your home is not done lightly.”

“Yeah, but I’m not talking about stupid… I mean strangers. You’re our ally, it should be different.” Peter scowled, glaring with just the barest hint of glow in his eyes.

“Does your sister often invite your other allies over?”

“No. But that’s not the same.”

“How?”

“Because it’s you!” Peter snapped as if that should have been enough of an explanation.

“I’m not going anywhere, Peter. At least not in a way that would stop us from talking,” Harry replied, hoping to placate the suddenly agitated boy. “We’ll have more than enough chances to meet—”

“Don’t you dare patronize me!” Peter cut in with a harsh, animalistic growl in his voice. “I’m not an idiot. Do you think I’ll be good and happy to wait almost a year to see you in person again just because my sister is an overly cautious—”

“And what do you plan to do? Leave your pack behind and hop on the first plane to Russia for a stranger?” Harry shot back, his own tone turning hard. “You might find me interesting at the moment because I’m something new, something you’ve never seen before. But you’re you—”

Suddenly, Harry’s troubled reflection was staring back at him from the mirror with his jaw set and a frown marring his forehead. Peter was gone and Harry knew better than to try to call him back. Even if Peter answered, they would probably both regret whatever would go down between them, and Harry didn’t want that. He would give Peter time and space to calm down and think things through. In the meantime, he would talk to Talia about how their new bond might be affecting Peter more than the others. But that could wait until the next day. For now, he needed to check on Teddy and then get into bed himself.

It was too late as it was, and he had a little helion about to wake up in a few hours, ready to take on the world.


Teddy was sitting in his lap, giggling at Derek’s transformed face in the mirror and waving his pudgy little arms around. Harry ran his fingers through his godson’s soft, currently jet black hair, that looked just like the older boy’s in front of them before he turned his attention to Talia seated next to her son. He told himself that Peter’s silence didn’t bother him, that maybe it was for the best, but the brat had managed to worm his way into Harry’s thoughts without the slightest effort, and now he was left worried that maybe he had been harsher than he intended.

“I think I need to apologize for Peter’s behavior,” Talia said, breaking the silence that had settled between them due to Harry’s wandering thoughts. “He’s been acting up ever since we got home, and whatever he might have told you—”

Harry furrowed his brows. “He didn’t say anything that requires an apology from anyone. Not him and certainly not his Alpha or sister,” he said, hoping he was not insulting Talia by interrupting her, but there was something in her tone that put Harry on edge instantly, a slightest timber of darkness that should have gone unnoticed yet it was the first thing Harry heard even before the words wrapped around it. “Peter was great and we had a nice chat,” he added. “I think he just needs some time for things to settle around him. The bond…”

“What about the bond?” Talia questioned, arching one of her brows. “So you really feel it.”

“It’s a magical contract,” Harry replied, thinking back on the information he had managed to uncover in the past three days since his mirror call with Peter. The magical library in St. Petersburg had been much more helpful than Harry expected and he’d found a few more or less unbiased books on werewolf bonds and pack politics that had made understanding what was going on between his… pack and the Hales better. “Therefore, it is something that due to my magical core I can sense. Probably a bit differently than you guys and even Teddy, but I can still feel it and it has its effects on me.” He decided to not tell Talia more about those effects, at least not until he could be sure that he could trust the woman. He could let it slide that he entered an Alliance Bond with an unknown werewolf pack without really knowing what he was getting himself and Teddy into, because he hadn’t sensed any malicious intent from Talia or her pack back then. But first impressions and willingness to offer his alliance aside, they were still strangers and Harry had learned the hard way never to trust anyone completely without getting to know them first. “Peter on the other hand might feel it somewhat stronger or the effects could influence him in a different way. Given time and space it should settle just fine.”

“I see,” was all Talia offered in return. She slanted her son a quick look before she went on. “You might be right. But Peter has always been a willful child, used to getting his way, so don’t let him get away with everything, please, just because he’s young. He needs to learn that life has its limits and consequences.”

Harry held a happily babbling Teddy just a little bit closer even as he nodded. It was a subconscious reaction, an urge to protect his godson, yet there was no danger threatening them. Talia didn’t even sound angry or hostile, but her words, as unassuming as they sounded, still struck a cord in Harry. He couldn’t explain it, it was just a visceral feeling that something was not right.

“I’m sure everything is going to be fine,” he assured Talia as calmly as he could, schooling his facial muscles into a smile he didn’t feel. “And I hope you won’t be against Teddy talking to your children whenever they have free time.”

“Of course not,” Talia said just as Derek turned his big hazel eyes at Harry and chimed in with flushed cheeks, “He can call whenever he wants, and can I call too? Teddy is really great!”

“Just don’t forget the time difference and your school work, honey,” his mother reminded him with a raised eyebrow and a chuckle.

“I know, mom,” Derek muttered, pouting. “I won’t, promise.”

“Good.” Talia squeezed her son’s neck gently. “As for Peter, please, tell me if he gets out of line,” she added, looking at Harry.

Harry swallowed back his first response and nodded in agreement. He wasn’t Peter’s guardian, and he definitely had no business butting into how Talia raised any of the kids in her care. Even if he disagreed with it.

“Derek, you’re always welcome to call,” he told the boy, who smiled and nodded his head. “Teddy Bear, would you like to talk some more to Derek?” he asked his godson, poking the toddler’s cheek.

“Yes, Daddy! I wanna talk mooore! Derek you wanna?”

“Of course.”

“Then I think we can leave you two alone for now?” Harry raised his brows questioningly at Talia, who inclined her head and stood up. “Teddy, can I trust you not to leave the bed if I leave you alone in the room?”

Teddy scrunched up his face for a second then bobbed his head vigorously. “Yes, Daddy! I promise!” His r still sounded a little lispy and closer to j, but he was getting a much better grasp on the sound, which pleased Harry very much.

“Good. Then I’ll come back when it’s bed time, okay?”

“Okie!” But Teddy wasn’t really paying attention to him anymore, his gaze sliding over to Derek’s patiently waiting form again and again. It made Harry smile and ruffle the little boy’s hair.

“All right,” he said and followed Talia’s example by getting off his bed that faced the vanity mirror connected to the Hales’. “The offer is extended to you as well. Feel free to call whenever you wish to and have time.”

“Thank you, Harry. It was nice talking to you and I hope you two have a nice evening,” Talia replied, smiling.

“Thank you. The pleasure was mine,” he returned politely. “Have a nice day.”

He watched Teddy chatter away at Derek for a few seconds before he bid both boys a quick farewell as well and left the door. He still left the door slightly open, knowing that Teddy couldn’t reach the handle yet if he wanted to get out sooner than Harry expected, and also cast a quick monitoring charm on it. After all it was always better being safe than sorry. Especially when it came to two year old boys full of supernatural energy.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

Harry wasn’t exactly proud of it, but he did not deny — at least in front of himself — that he had a slight problem with obsession. Maybe it was rooted in his somewhat lacking childhood or the constant need to be on top of everything in order to survive ever since he had set his foot in Magical Britain, he wasn’t sure. Whatever the reason was, he knew that if his mind latched onto something, it would not let it go until his curiosity was sated, and he found whatever answers he was seeking.

This time that something was the ‘Alliance Bond’ he shared with the Hales.

The bond felt like a live wire, thrumming within his heart, the resonance stronger and stronger each passing day. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. Harry had read through whatever sources he could find and each one of them had stated that even though it was a magical contract, an Alliance Bond only gained importance and effect in cases when the pack’s allies needed aid. Otherwise it was dormant.

Except it really wasn’t.

Which was why Harry had been slowly going insane for the past ten days since Teddy’s first mirror call with Derek. He had been pouring over ancient and new books alike while putting out feelers through the goblins at Gringotts to find a reliable source that wouldn’t ask for too much in return for providing him with some quality information. In the mean time Peter had been absent, not calling, not writing, being busy with his life, or so Derek had said when Harry asked him once. And Harry had expected it to happen, knew he had a hand in angering the boy, but he had not thought that Peter would refuse to talk to him at all. At least, Teddy still had Derek, and their little friendship was building into something that Harry hoped would last for years if not forever even if he had his worries about Teddy’s attachment to a Derek who, for now, was much older than him.

Still, he had to admit that their frequent mirror calls had a wonderful effect on Teddy’s vocabulary, who had been speaking more coherently every day and learning about his wolf from a much more reliable source than Harry’s own stumbling through books with dubious content. Teddy was also starting grasp his shift, flashing his eyes and spouting little claws and fangs one second then putting them away almost fluidly in the next, and Harry couldn’t have been prouder. It didn’t mean, though, that he wasn’t somewhat worried about the upcoming full moon, but while Derek was diligent in his calls to Teddy, his mother was a busy woman, who had little time for anything these days, let alone taking calls from across the globe.

“She is working on a big case,” Derek had explained two days earlier with a little shrug, not really meeting Harry’s gaze in the mirror. It was a habit of his, lowering his eyes whenever he was talking to Harry, but never when he was chatting with Teddy, so Harry assumed it had something to do with his status as Teddy’s Alpha. “She’s not home often these days, but we’re not babies anymore and Mrs. Stilinski is nice.”

“That’s okay,” Harry had said, smiling at the boy. “I just had a question about the full moon, but we’ve got by before and I’m sure it will be just fine this time around as well.”

“Oh… I could ask mom to call you?”

“It’s not necessary, don’t worry about it.”

Harry had left the two boys to their conversation soon after that, but he couldn’t help the sliver of worry that had seeped into his mind about the Hale children and Talia was handling them.

Now, two days later, he was one step closer to getting answers. Ragnost had contacted him a few days ago with an attached letter from a Russian Alpha, who would be willing to sit down and talk pack bonds with him for the ‘small’ price of Harry offering his hand of friendship to the Alpha’s pack as ‘one of the most influential wizards in Europe’. It was the Alpha’s wording and not one Harry particularly agreed with or liked to think about, but as long as they did not drag him into any kind of dangerous situations, he was willing to do as the Alpha had asked. And maybe it would be also good for him, making his own connections all across the continent.

Alpha Aliev had even made the offer to come to Harry’s house at noon that day with only his second accompanying him, a gracious gesture according to most books on werewolves, considering the Alpha was entering into another one’s territory with little to no backup. It was still a gamble in Harry’s opinion. Even with all the wards set up around their temporary home, allowing two strangers with supernatural speed and strength into the house without any backup was probably a really stupid idea, but there was no one Harry had felt comfortable to ask. It had made him realize just how much he used to rely on Ron’s and Hermione’s constant presence in his life. Even when he had tried to do the noble thing and rush head first into danger on his own Hermione and Ron had always been by his side, being essential parts of his life one way or another.

They were married now, starting their own family and thousands of miles away both physically and emotionally. Harry didn’t really understand why it was hitting him so hard in that moment, when his relationship with his friends had been strained at best, nonexistent in reality for years now. He had had time to get used to being on his own again, yet here he was, sitting on the small veranda of the cottage, watching the sun slowly climb higher over the calmly swaying tides of the Black Sea with his morose thoughts as his only company.

The cottage was empty, Teddy had spent the night in France, visiting with the Weasleys, something Mrs. Weasley had been ecstatic about. Harry was supposed to pick him up after his meeting, something he might have hinted at being more of a first date to Mrs. Weasley to divert her excellent danger sense, and it had seemed to work, although it meant he would need to make up some convincing stories about a non-existent person later.

It was barely six in the morning yet he couldn’t sleep. His thoughts were tangled into a jumbled, gloomy cloud, anxiety slowly climbing high in his throat. Maybe it had been a bad idea to send Teddy away. Without even realizing, he had been using his godson as his anchor, his constant, sunny presence soothing the frayed edges of Harry’s mind and magic. Nowadays he had too much time to get lost in his own head, thinking back on the past and slowly getting to know the man he had been molded into.

An orphan.

A freak.

A wizard.

A hero.

A celebrity.

A scapegoat.

A leader.

An enemy.

A conqueror.

An Alpha.

Staring out at the Black Sea, he wondered when he had managed to let go of the idea of being Harry. Just Harry. It had been such a visceral part of him, a deceitful yet wonderful mirage of a person he had always dreamed of being, without realizing that ‘Just Harry’ was a mere empty shell of wistful thinking. He had been an escape Harry had kept chasing after, but at one point he must have come to understanding that ‘Just Harry’ was not him. ‘Just Harry’ did not have the same memories and experiences. ‘Just Harry’ was weak and unimportant and alone.

No.

Harry Potter was not ‘Just Harry’. And Harry was fine with that. Because ‘Just Harry’ didn’t have wonderful friends, nor did he have the knowledge of how it felt to grieve. Nor did he have a wonderful little boy to look after or incredible power blazing in his veins. ‘Just Harry’ was no one. An invisible ghost of a sad, lonely past. Harry knew it now and had made his peace with that knowledge, because running away had never been his style.

So now he was more than he had ever aspired to be, and he had no other option but to make the best of it. Because Remus had entrusted his biggest treasure with him and he needed to honor that trust. Still, he wished he had known that Remus had seen him as his own Alpha even back then. And he wished it even more that he had known what the title meant. Things might have turned out differently then…

Or not.

A tingle running down his left thigh brought him out of his thoughts, causing Harry to frown down at his leg before he realized that it was due to the mirror buzzing in his robe’s pocket. He pulled the little device out and activated it, coming face to face with a glowering Peter and a sheepish looking Derek.

“Boys?” Harry asked, surprised by the call. “Is something wrong?”

“No!” Derek assured him hastily, shaking his head. “I just…” He bit his lip and chanced a glance at his uncle. “You said you had questions about the full moon, but mom is busy…”

Understanding dawned on Harry, and he couldn’t help the small smile that curled his lips. “So you went to Peter for advice?”

“I just wanted some books! It’s Teddy, so I want to help, but I don’t know much.”

“Maybe you’d know more if you read something useful every once in a while besides your ridiculous comic books,” Peter sniped at him, his tone snide.

“It’s okay,” Harry said before they could have gotten into a fight based on the indignant expression on Derek’s face. “I really appreciate the thought, Derek. And thank you, Peter, for deciding to offer your help, but as I said, it’s fine.” He paused, wondering if it was a good idea to mention his upcoming meeting with Alpha Aliev.

“But?” Peter prompted archly, his expression mulish. “A kid’s knowledge is not good enough for you?”

“Peter!?”

“Oh stop being such a push over, Derek. It’s not like Harry is our Alpha.” The way he phrased it set something off in Harry’s chest, something dark and still unfamiliar, something Harry had been putting off to explore far longer than he was comfortable to admit.

“That might be,” he gritted out, his jaw aching from the way it clenched in his sudden agitation. His voice sounded deeper than usual, cutting without rising in volume and it was enough for both boy to go rigid. “That might be,” he repeated, “but as someone who only ever showed you courtesy and respect, maybe, I should deserve something similar, don’t you think?”

Derek’s chin instantly dropped even as he tilted his head to show his throat, never mind that he didn’t do anything wrong. Peter on the other hand only lowered his gaze and set his jaw stubbornly, something that did not help the looming presence in the back of Harry’s head. He was no wolf, but the primal urges of an Alpha were there all the same, and having such a young pup stand up against him, disrespect him raised his non-existent hackles to the point where he was almost hearing himself growl at Peter’s audacity.

“Or do you want to rid of me, Peter? Is that it? Challenging me, disrespecting me… are you trying to sever the bond between our packs?” he heard himself asking, tone tight like a whipcord, even as his heart started to race and dread settled over him. What was he saying? “That way you would never have to talk to me ever aga—”

“No!” Peter cut in, loud and suddenly desperate. His expression turned raw and he was scowling even as he was shaking his head vehemently. “I don’t want that! Why would you…”

Harry closed his eyes for a moment, pushing down his warring instincts with a sigh. He was horrible at this Alpha business. At least it felt like that. He didn’t want to manipulate Peter, he didn’t even know why he had said those words, but now he had two deeply shaken boys staring everywhere but him, conveying submission with every one of their visible inches. Derek looked close to tears, while Peter… Peter was hunched in on himself, still shaking his head.

“I’m sorry,” Harry said quietly. “That was uncalled for and something I should not have brought up, no matter what, unless it is really something you want.”

“NO! I don’t want that! I’ll never want that, okay?!” Peter whined, and from what Harry could see Derek was clinging to him, hiding his face in his uncle’s neck. “You just don’t understand… how could you…”

“You’re right. I’m still incredibly new to this and there are things I don’t understand yet. And I’m not a wolf, but, Peter, I am an Alpha and I have these instincts I’m still trying to figure out, and I know I shouldn’t put this on your shoulders—”

“Why not?! Because I’m a kid? Too young?”

“You refused to talk to me for nearly two weeks, Peter, would you call that mature?”

Peter only growled in answer and folded his arms across his chest. “You insulted me and told me I’m going to get bored of you once something new and more interesting comes along.”

“I only wanted to say that you have your own life, Peter and I’m really far away. It’s natural that your interest might wane after a while, and from what I’ve heard you’ve been quite busy these past few days—”

“Are you jealous?” Peter almost sounded triumphant.

“I’m trying to prove my point,” Harry retorted with a huff. Just because he missed the brat more than expected, didn’t mean he would feed his already swelled little ego.

“Harry,” Derek piped up meekly, “that’s not going to happen. You and Teddy are important, okay? You don’t get bored of your friends.”

“Still, it shouldn’t be your responsibility to deal with my problems. Like it or not, you are young and as such you should enjoy the freedom that is supposed to come with it.”

“Well, maybe we want to help?” Peter countered, peeking at him. “We’re not useless.”

“Of course you’re not useless,” Harry assured him before he let out a weary sigh.

He really didn’t know how to convey that he just didn’t want to be the same as most adults in his life had been, burying him under their expectations and pushing their agendas on him. He had the suspicion that with Talia being busy so often, the Hale kids had to become more mature than most of their peers even with their babysitter looking after them, however, it did not mean that he had to pile his own problems onto their shoulders as well. He was an adult. He could do things on his own and he had connections to get what he needed without having to burden children about it.

“Then don’t treat us as such. Asking questions won’t make us collapse and we were born like this. We’ve been living with the claws and the pull of the moon since day one. We can help.”

Peter was right. It was a hard pill to swallow, but in all honesty he should have expected it. The boy had a cunning, logical mind that would make him dangerous in the future, Harry was sure of it, one that already helped him get what he wanted almost all the time. And if it didn’t happen, he could always revert back to a sulking brat. The thought caused Harry’s lips to twitch.

“All right,” he agreed, earning twin grins one more timid than the other. “If you want to help, you can practice with Teddy. And tell me how to help him feel more at ease during the full moon. Derek, you’ve already helped so much, but glamors can only help so much when he is among Muggles.”

“Is he still asleep?” Derek asked, looking adorable with his hopeful expression. “It’s still early over there, right?”

“The sun is just rising,” Harry replied, turning his mirror to show the boys the breathtaking sight in front of him.

“Oh… It’s beautiful.”

“I want to be there,” Peter said, but for a change he sounded more admiring than demanding. “Let us visit… please.”

“It’s not up to me, and you know it,” Harry answered, turning the mirror back to face the boys. “As for Teddy, he’s in Nice, visiting some family friends.” He frowned, wondering if Teddy had forgotten to mention it to Derek, only to realize that they hadn’t talked the previous night because Derek had had some school event. He must have only gotten home not long ago.

“Nice? As in France?” Peter asked, eyebrows high on his forehead. “Did you put him on a plane or something?”

“No,” Harry said with a chuckle, shaking his head. “Magical transportation is much faster than any Muggle means could be.”

“Wait… you teleported Teddy to France?!” Suddenly Peter’s face was taking up Harry’s entire view, making him wonder if there was a way to charm the mirrors to project a much wider image. “So you could—”

“Peter,” Harry cut in before he could have become too excited, “I did not teleport Teddy to France. I used a portkey, a magical device that is charmed with the exact coordinates of the desired location. But you cannot just create ones. There are laws about it and you have to actually request one from your local authorities. I can’t just wave my wand and transport on a whim.”

“But you could request one and send it to us? We could visit you, right?”

Harry pinched the bridge of his nose. “Have you asked your sister about it?”

“No, it’s not like she has time for anything that’s not her files these days,” Peter replied, irritated. “She wouldn’t even notice if we left for a day or two.”

“That’s not true,” Derek argued. “She would notice and scold you. Again. Like la— Ow!” Derek yelped scouting away from his uncle with a pained face.

Just what had Peter been up to since Harry had talked to him? “Peter?”

“It’s nothing,” Peter said, not looking at him. “I simply miscalculated things. Not going to happen again.”

“Peter…” Harry trailed off, frowning at the closed off expression on the boy’s face. “Are you okay? Do I need to talk to your sister?”

“No. It’s fine. And she’s still at the firm anyway.”

“What about Mrs. Stilinski? She’s with you, right?”

“Yeah, yeah, we’re having a sleepover.” Peter flapped his hand nonchalantly but he was still staring at his lap. “She and Mieczyslaw are making dinner. I can smell the tomato sauce. Laura is helping them.”

Harry frowned, but before he could say anything, Derek said, “Mr. Stilinski has to work a lot too. He’s a Deputy.”

“Deputy?”

“At the Sheriff’s Station.”

“Ah. Are you sure, everything is okay?”

“If I say no, are you going to whisk us away with your portkey thing?” Peter asked cheekily, peeking up at him slyly just for a second. Derek looked at him with wide eyes and Harry huffed in fond exasperation.

“That’s called kidnapping and I heard it’s a crime.”

“Technicalities. I wanna travel the world with you. Your life is so much more exciting than ours. This place is so boring.”

“Maybe after you’re done with school.”

“I could be home schooled.”

“By who?”

“You?” Peter didn’t sound too sure about it.

“I abandoned my Muggle education when I turned eleven. I’m pretty sure I would be no help to you whatsoever.”

“Well, I could use books or something.”

“Let’s wait until you’re done with your education before you make such life changing decisions, okay?”

“You’re no fun,” Peter groused, but Harry was happy to see that he wasn’t really angry or sulking. Derek was still staring at his uncle like he couldn’t decide if Peter was crazy for taking such a tone with Harry or if he admired him for his daring, it made Harry want to ruffle his messy black hair.

“Too bad. Now go and help Mrs. Stilinski and then do your homework. I know you had that school thing, Derek and couldn’t have gotten home that long ago,” he told them. Derek grinned sheepishly, nodding his head, while Peter rolled his eyes.

“When is Teddy getting back?”

“By the time you get home from school, we should be back as well,” Harry assured him.

“Does that mean that I can call you too?”

“You can call me anytime, Peter, and you know that.”

“Yes, well, I was angry.”

“Cutting someone off entirely just because you’re angry is a cruel thing to do and can be dangerous,” Harry said lightly, careful not to let it slip how much Peter’s silence had bothered him, but the boy still dropped his eyes. “Try to remember that in the future, okay?”

“Yeah, sorry,” Peter mumbled.

“We both said and did things we shouldn’t have, so let’s move on, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Good. Now, go and enjoy the rest of your night. We’ll talk later.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

At least Harry hoped. It all depended on how his meeting with Alpha Aliev would go, but Peter and Derek didn’t need to worry about that. He could take care of himself, and this time he had someone to live for, so even if it came to having to fight the Alpha and his second in command, Harry was mostly confident that he would come out on top in the end. It didn’t mean he didn’t hope that Aliev was going to be polite at least. He really didn’t want to fight. He had enough of that for a lifetime. Several lifetimes more like.

After saying goodbye to the Hale boys, he made some breakfast and spent an hour checking on the wards around the property before deeming everything acceptable. Except the fact that it was still only a little after nine and he still had three hours to kill. So he decided to be a good host and baked some scones and biscuits, spelling away the flour dust and the mess he had made of the kitchen before he placed the plates full of heavenly smelling baked goods on the table outside on the veranda only a couple of minutes before the wards notified him of his guests’ arrival.

Taking a deep breath, Harry walked to the front door and opened it. He did not mistake the hulking giant standing behind the short, almost waif-like man for the Alpha. Alpha Aliev was definitely not what he had expected, but the sheer power of his presence alone assured Harry that he was not to be trifled with and that underestimating him could cost him dearly.

“Alpha Aliev, welcome,” Harry said in Russian, wondering if he should offer his hand or do the neck grabbing thing Talia had done to him.

Aliev looked at him with amused expression and then inclined his head lightly. “Alpha Potter, it is a pleasure to meet you. This is my Right Hand, Maksim.” The hulking man bowed before baring his throat to Harry without hesitation.

“It’s a pleasure, Maksim.”

“Alpha Potter.” He had a surprisingly soft voice that definitely did not match his appearance.

“Please, come in. Can I offer something to drink? Tea? Coffee? Juice?”

“Ah, the famous Brit politeness,” Aliev said with a chuckle as he and Maksim followed Harry through the house to the veranda. “A beautiful view you have here.”

“The goblins know how to find the best places,” Harry replied. “Please take a seat and help yourselves to the food as well.”

“You know, this is definitely not what I expected when that bastard Ragnost contacted me.” Aliev was staring at Harry over the top of the table, his red eyes glowing with his power, seemingly never dimming. Or maybe he was putting on a show, trying to intimidate Harry. “Harry Potter, Britain’s very own boy hero. One of the most influential wizards in the world… and he’s asking for help from us mangled beasts.”

“Please, don’t put words in my mouth,” Harry retorted with a cutting smile as he picked up a still warm scone and tore it in two, never turning his gaze away from Aliev. “I might have many faults, but prejudice against magical beings of any kind has never been one of them.”

“Hm… so they say,” Aliev hummed stuffing a biscuit into his mouth. “Why’s that though, I wonder. Shouldn’t you be afraid of us big bad mon—”

“Have you ever met Voldemort, Alpha Aliev?” Harry cut in, fed up with the man’s pointless insults. Glowing red eyes blinked at him while Maksim’s hand froze over the plate full of scones.

“He never had the guts to stray this far from his lair,” Aliev replied. “But I heard things. Why?”

“He tore his soul in seven pieces chasing his delusions. He tortured and killed hundreds if not thousands of people during his rampage and was aware of every second of it. Voldemort was a monster. People who murder children, who rape others, who live for the bloodlust and revel in someone else’s pain… they are monsters. Yet here you are, the Alpha of one of the most prominent and peaceful packs in Asia badmouthing your packmates, your race and my godson by putting them on the same level as that. Maybe Ragnost made a mistake when he contacted you after all.”

The biscuit fell out of Maksim’s hand. Aliev’s jaw dropped. No one moved.

“Maksim, I like him. I want ten,” he spoke up, breaking the uncomfortable silence. His grin was nearly feral and filled with sharp teeth. “All right, let’s talk business. Call me Nikolai.”

And suddenly the red eyes were gone, replaced with rich greenness that reminded Harry of a the Forbidden Forest. It also came to him out of nowhere that without his intimidation act, Nikolai Aliev was an attractive man. His pale, clear skin and hair that would have put the Malfoys’ to shame, his slight build that must have lulled most of his opponents into a false sense of vulnerability paired with his intense gaze made a lovely image. And if the smug smirk his grin morphed into was any indication, he knew it as well.

“Call me Harry then,” Harry said, pulling himself out of his thoughts. He waved his hand, not bothering with his wand on purpose, to summon the tray packed with a pot of tea, a carafe full of coffee and a jug of orange juice, getting a slight kick out of the widening of Nicolai’s eyes at the small display of power. “Would you like anything?”

“Coffee is fine,” Nicolai replied after a brief pause watching as the carafe lifted off the tray and poured him a cup of steaming black coffee without Harry lifting a finger. “The tales didn’t lie about you, huh?”

“Maksim?” Harry asked, ignoring the comment for the moment.

“A cup of tea, please, Alpha Potter.” He sounded so polite, the polar opposite of his Alpha, but the stiffness in his shoulders and the way he kept checking his surroundings told Harry that he was a fierce and good guard, who cared for his Alpha or at the very least respected him enough to protect him to the best of his abilities. “Thank you.”

“You even have my Maksim wrapped around your little finger already,” Nicolai whined and bit into a heavily buttered scone. “Give me something I can use as leverage against you.”

Harry was reminded of Peter just for a moment. Ragnost hadn’t given him much information on Aliev and his pack, but from what he had seen so far the man seemed like a pampered prince with an easygoing nature and a penchant for playing mind games. Underneath it all, though, he must have had something that made him worthy of the loyalty of his pack, something that was not disparaging words of testing his opponent for weaknesses or the whining of a child he was definitely not. It made Harry curious.

“You want me to offer a hand of friendship yet you’re looking for leverage against me?” he asked, lifting a brow at Nicolai, who frowned.

“A Pact of Friendship you mean,” he corrected. “And of course. Otherwise what would stop you from stabbing me in the back? Because unlike that nice little Alliance Bond Alpha Hale tricked you into, a Pact of Friendship is not binding. It’s practically just a bunch of pretty sounding words that can be forgotten any time.”

“Tricked me into?”

“You really don’t know shit, do you? So powerful yet so ignorant,” Nicolai sighed. “Harry, werewolves do not initiate Alliance Bonds with other packs upon first meetings. Definitely not within the first five minutes.”

“I thought the bond formed due to our mutual goodwill and intention to offer protection if needed?” Harry had a bad feeling about where this was going. He thought back of the way Talia and her pack greeted him and Teddy back in the hotel in Vilnius, how different it had been compared to the greetings he exchanged with Nicolai and Maksim. “And they are Muggles technically, they couldn’t have known…”

“Oh, Harry.” Nicolai’s tone was pitying. Harry glared at him hard, which caused the other Alpha to sigh and turn serious. “Look, I’m not saying Talia Hale had bad intentions. But she’s a relatively new Alpha who has a lot to prove. The Hales… I did some research—” Maksim cleared his throat pointedly making Nicolai roll his eyes. — Okay, so Maksim did some research. There is no ICW for non-magical werewolves and creatures. Those bastard hunters have their Tribune, and the pretend magic users have a council or something, but the creatures, they just exist and try to hide from Muggles, pretending to be something they are not. But word can spread fast, and the Hales… they are big shots in America.”

“Why doesn’t the ICW take responsibility for the non-magical creatures? Aren’t they classified as magical beings solely on their existence?” Harry asked, choosing to concentrate on the boarder problem for the moment because he wasn’t sure how he would react if he had to listen to Nicolai talk more about the Hales and what their goal might be with him and Teddy.

“Impossible. It’s all about technicalities and what the all and mighty wizards consider magical and what not. In the eye of the ICW and most magical governments the hunters’ work is a perfectly fine way to police the non-magical creatures. Survival of the fittest and what not,” Nicolai explained with a sneer.. Maksim growled quietly next to him. “Taking them under magical laws would be too much hassle and would require our precious wizards to deal with filthy Muggles and their uncouth ways.”

“Is there a way to change that?”

There had to be. Creatures, whether they had a magical core or not, had the right for equality. They should have had the right for it at least. Yet, with each word that left Nicolai’s mouth Harry had to realize that Magical Britain’s mess was just the cherry on top of the giant shit cake they called the Magical World. They needed change, needed it desperately, and Harry wanted to help someway because he was the type of idiot who just couldn’t sit back and mind his own business when it came to injustice. And because running away to another country wasn’t an option in this case. Maybe if it was running to the Mars or the Moon… but that was impossible even for him, no matter how tempting the idea was.

“Alpha Potter,” Maksim spoke up, “as much influence as your name carries withing Magical Communities across the globe, this issue is not something that can be changed in a blink of an eye. It’s all about politics and cruel maneuvering. And the situation isn’t all that bad objectively speaking. The non-magical creatures have their lives, their culture, their tradition. They might carry a variation of the same DNA as us, but they are not the same. Trying to change the life they know, showing them what they have been missing all this time…”

“It could be disastrous,” Nicolai finished the sentence with a grim expression. “I understand where you come from, believe me. Probably more than anyone.” His lips twisted bitterly. Gone was the playful idiot he had pretended to be only moments before, leaving space to someone who must have been the real Nicolai Aliev under all those layers of subterfuge. He didn’t look older exactly, but the Nicolai sitting across from Harry seemed more mature somehow, more level-headed and less like a fool, who lived to get under others’ skin. And Harry found himself more than willing to listen to this man’s reasoning even as deep down he wanted to protest. “It would take years if not decades even if someone managed to get a new set of laws passed. It would need to be a transition, a very slow process, and even then it would be a mess. Who to take in and who to leave behind? What about the humans who are in the know but would be no use to the Magical Community? What about the Statute of Secrecy? Because involving the parents of Muggleborns is one thing, but non-magical creatures often have human members in their packs, clans or whatever they call the extended circle of their bond mates. This is not a war or a revolution you can win with a blazing wand and will-power, this—”

“I understand,” Harry interrupted with a sigh.

He heard enough.

It still felt strange, to give something up without a real fight. It felt like he was betraying his old self, the hero everyone always expected him to be, but at the same time he couldn’t deny that he also felt relief. Relief that it wasn’t his responsibility. That it wasn’t his task to find solution to the impossible, to yet again save people he didn’t even know.

The war was over.

It was not his responsibility to save the world from itself.

He could live his life as he wished.

He didn’t owe anything anyone.

He hoped that one day he wouldn’t need to remind himself so often of those things.

“They did a number on you, huh?” Nicolai mused, slurping his refilled coffee thoughtfully. “Really not what I expected.”

“I’m sure,” Harry sniped with a twist of his lips. “The Hales?”

“The Hales. So they are big in America. Or were before Mama Hale kicked the bucket I mean. From what my little birdies have told me, she was one scary lady with a lot of influence. But not even werewolves can survive airplane crashes, so here we are with her only daughter, her pride and joy taking the mantle. Except she’s not Mama Hale. Talia wants to pretend, but she’s green still and dabbles too much in human issues to be taken seriously.”

“Doesn’t explain how she knew I have any kind of power let alone why she decided to want any kind of bond with me.”

“No offense, but you’re basically sun levels of powerful. Yes, she has no actual magic besides the wolf, but we are sensitive little buggers with very good noses.”

“Does it mean Pe— her brother pretended not to sense my magic?” Had it all been a setup?

“How old is the guy?”

“Just turned twelve.”

“Then no. Kid must be going around headless, trying to keep his teeny… ehm…” Nicolai coughed into his fist and shot Maksim a dirty look. Harry didn’t need to be a genius to know Maksim had to be the one who got him shut up somehow. “I mean, he’s a ball of hormones and confusing emotions. His senses will be all over the place for a while. Something you better prep yourself for with your kid.”

“So Talia sensed my magic even if she didn’t exactly realize what it was first and made the decision between meeting Teddy and me at the bakery and us visiting them at their hotel to initiate an Alliance Bond?” It still sounded unbelievable, yet not impossible.

“Look, I wasn’t there and as a young Alpha sometimes she won’t necessarily choose his actions based on logic and morals. You have a cub yourself. You know what it feels like to want to protect your pack first and foremost,” Nicolai replied with a grimace. “It doesn’t excuse the trickery, but you have to understand that you are a powerful and dangerous man, Harry. It’s only natural that a currently vulnerable pack will want you as their ally. Even if they need to resort to exploiting your lack of knowledge to achieve it.”

Harry gritted his teeth and stared at his empty plate. He had been used all his life, pushed around like a piece on the chessboard and here he was again—

“Alpha Potter,” Maksim said, drawing Harry’s attention to him, “The Hale cubs are young and they are the future of our race. To us cubs are sacred, much more so than to wizards. Alpha Hale’s action against you is upsetting, yes, but Alliance Bonds are mutually beneficial. And with the Hale name behind you, your influence will only expand.”

“Yes. Don’t hold this against Talia too much. You can only win by having the Hales behind you,” Nicolai agreed with a hum.

“And how does the Bond work? Besides being mutually beneficial?”

“It expects a certain amount of loyalty from both packs. In the case of a territory dispute, if one pack calls on their ally they need to send at least a small delegation as an offer of aid. In the case of an outright attack against one of the packs, their allies will automatically offer aid or retribution if the allied pack suffered loss. Alliances are pretty standard.” Nicolai shrugged. “You can refuse your help if your ally’s decision is against your moral code or beliefs, of course, but it might mean the break of the bond. Then again, if your ally turns out to be someone who does things that are against your morals, you’re probably better off without them.”

“It’s a magically binding contract, will it have any effect on Teddy?”

“Given the chance he could build a deeper connection with your allies. A sort of kinship that could feel like the echo of pack. Allied packs often use their Bonds to prime their cubs for inter pack marriages.”

“Is it possible for children to feel the Bond on a deeper level?”

Nicolai frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Talia’s son is a little bit older than Teddy, but they have grown really close since their first meeting. They talk every day for hours and seem to be much fonder of each other than such a large age gap would suggest.”

He didn’t mention Peter’s fascination with his person on purpose. It felt too… personal. Like he would betray Peter somehow, and it was impossible to compare the two cases anyway. Derek and Teddy, they acted like best friends from the first moment of their meeting, their connection instantaneous. Peter’s interest felt different. His comments, the intensity of his gaze…

‘He is a ball of hormones and confusing emotions.’

Harry knew that already, so making a bigger deal out of the matter than he should have was pointless. It must have been the stress catching up with him, and he was missing Teddy more than he expected even though he should have known that letting his godson out of his sight would cause issues. Except how was he supposed to know? He had even less experience in being an Alpha then Talia fucking Hale had and look at how that played out for him. It wasn’t that he hadn’t suspected something fishy at all. He wasn’t stupid. But having it confirmed still felt like a kick in the head. Even if Nicolai and Maksim were right and the situation he unwittingly dragged Teddy into wasn’t a bad one. It sucked because despite all the things he’d gone through, he still fell for a pretty smile and kind words.

The sharp click of Nicolai’s fingers in front of his face yanked him back to the present, forcing him to meet Nicolai’s unimpressed expression.

“Done with the miserable brooding?” Nicolai asked? Harry nodded and bit back the growl that wanted to climb up his throat. “Good. Now to answer your question about the cubs. Don’t believe the fairy tales about perfect Mates if you come across them. They are entertaining and good for PR, but in reality it’s just a load of bullshit that has one single ounce of truth in it. Werewolves are very possessive creatures.”

“Okay?” Harry wasn’t sure he really wanted to know where Nicolai’s line of thought was headed.

“That being said, sometimes we meet someone who feels exceptionally compatible with our ‘wolf’, which is a phrase I really hate. The wolf is us. It’s not a separate entity with any kind of autonomy. So when I say we have people our ‘wolf’ incredibly compatible with I really mean that we are compatible with, we just have a set of instincts that are sharper than humans’.”

“Are you trying to tell me that my godson and Talia Hale’s son is such a pair?”

“Look…” Nicolai trailed off with an uncomfortable grimace and shot Maksim a look before he started anew. “Look, I suck at this part. Romance and me? Yeah, it’s not going to happen. But we have some actual useful books on this topic so I’ll just get someone make you copies of the important parts and get them to you one way or another? Do you use email?”

“I’ve been thinking about getting an email address,” Harry admitted. “But computers and I… we’re not the best combination, especially not since the war.”

“Get a pair of gloves, Alpha Potter,” Maksim said. “Something synthetic. It should dampen your magic enough for to use electronic devices.”

“Oh…” Why hadn’t he thought of that? “Thank you.”

“Okay. Do you have any questions left for us?”

“Do you have actual, at least mostly unbiased, books or notes on werewolves? Because as luck as I have been with Teddy I cannot afford to make errors. He deserves the best.”

Nicolai grinned, standing up but not before stealing another scone. “Harry, werewolf kids are just like regular ones. They only need you to be a decent person and to love them.” He chuckled. “Okay, no, you’re right. Werewolf brats are usually a handful. I think my mother wrote some journal when she was raising me. It became a kind of popular read among new mothers.” He wrinkled his nose, cheeks staining slightly red. “Then again, my mother had been a coveted Alpha… Anyway, I’ll get you a copy of that too.”

“And what do you want in exchange?” Harry asked, knowing all too well that nothing came for free.

“A blessing.”

“Blessing?”

“For the prosperity of my pack.”

Harry agreed after a moment of thought. He already promised to enter into a Pact of Friendship with Nicolai’s pack, giving a blessing on top of that for valuable resources sounded reasonable enough. As long as it didn’t require some crazy sacrifice from him.

“And how is it supposed to happen?”

“Easy, you just have to concentrate on wanting my pack to grow and remain strong and channel some magic when we clasp hands to initiate the Pact of Friendship. That’s it. No fancy poems and vows. Words have power, sure, but words can lie. Your magic can’t,” Nicolai explained with a toothy grin, his teeth just a touch sharper than a minute ago. “What do you say?”

“No hidden meanings? Surprise bonds?” Harry questioned, not caring that he sounded suspicious. He should have asked the same when Talia had first initiated contact with him.

“No. I’m not a fool. If we ever form an Alliance Bond it will happen with both of us being fully aware and consenting.”

“How can you form a bond without one of the parties not consenting?”

Nicolai’s lips thinned and his eyes flashed. “Technically, you consented, Harry.”

“Excuse me?”

“Your goodwill and acceptance of Alpha Hale’s initiative are seen as consent enough to fulfill the magical contract’s requirement,” Nicolai replied. “She touched you first, which you allowed unwittingly. It initiated the bond. And you accepted it by touching her and her whole pack.”

“That’s…” No. He was not going to wallow in self-pity over his foolishness. He had to focus on the positive aspects like how gaining allies could only be seen as a good thing especially in the future. And also how gaining a new friend in Derek had made Teddy so much happier. “Okay. So no tricks, no hidden agenda. We clasp hands and I channel my magic through you to give you my blessing, right?”

“Right.” Nicolai walked around the table and rolled up the sleeve of his blue shirt before nodding Harry to do the same. “It’s like a handshake, except you clasp my forearm and I do the same. Now focus on nice things, it’s not going to hurt.”

The moment their skin touched, Harry felt a slight jolt but it was nothing compared to the feeling when he had touched Peter or even Talia for the first time. He looked into Nicolai’s blazing red eyes, so wide and full of disbelief, and gently guided his magic to surround the other man, asking it to protect and aid the Aliev Pack, to help them grow and prosper. Nicolai gasped, the sound soft, making Harry smile even as he pushed just a little more magic into the fleeting connection they formed. It was definitely nothing so alive and nearly breathing like the Alliance Bond pulsing in the back of his mind, but he could feel it all the same.

It was good.

It was kind.

It held the prospect of a bright future.

They let go of each other, Nicolai breathing hard and staring down at his arms while Harry looked on in silence. He felt refreshed and much calmer than before. He smiled when Nicolai looked at him with his lips parted and no sound coming forth.

“A-Alpha Potter,” Maksim breathed, looking just as dazed as his Alpha, “Thank you,” he added in English, the syllables sounding somewhat distorted and alien from his mouth, but Harry appreciated the gesture all the same.

“Yes, thank you, Harry,” Nicolai repeated, seemingly regaining a sliver of his composure. “We’ll never forget your offering.”

“You’re welcome in my home wherever that will be in the future,” Harry replied, not bothering with English. “And thank you for your help.”

Nicolai nodded and took the piece of paper Maksim pulled out of the breast pocket of his suit jacket. “This is Maksim’s business card. He has an email address, so just email him when you finally get one yourself.”

Harry looked down at the creamy white card feeling smooth like silk under his fingers. It was tastefully made with no decorations and written in Cyrillic. Then Harry turned it around and found the same information in English.

Maksim Baranov PhD
Professor of Genetics
Department of Natural Sciences
Novosibirsk State University
Email: maksim.baranov@novostate.ru
Phone: +7-3832-1120-334

“Thank you.”

Nicolai grinned and even Maksim smiled, the look in his pale eyes wary, as if he was expecting Harry to question how someone with his built and position in a werewolf pack could become a university professor in Genetics. Harry didn’t ask. He didn’t bring it up at all, because he had nothing but respect for Maksim for doing something he never would. For pushing away the tradition and expectations and bias of the Magical World and pursuing his dreams. Because someone didn’t become a doctor in Genetics unless it was his dream, Harry was sure of that.

Harry walked them down the veranda steps, taking them down to the beach and outside the wards. Nicolai grinned at him as he pulled a long gold chain out of the pocket of his slacks, wiggling his eyebrows.

“If you wanted to join us with your cub… just say the words and it’s done.”

“Thank you, but I doubt settling down is not something I plan to do for a while.”

“Maybe when you’re ready.”

“We’ll see.” He knew he would never take Nicolai up on his offer. He might not have been a wolf himself, but the thought of submitting to Nicolai raised his hackles instantly. “But we could make a visit. It would be good for Teddy to be around other werewolves, too.”

“After the boost you’ve just given us? Anytime.” Nicolai winked and held the chain out for Maksim. “Just give us a call and we’ll arrange it.”

“Okay. Take care.”

“You too, Alpha Potter,” Maksim said with a solemn nod.

“Yeah, you too. Home.”

The next moment they were nowhere to be seen. Harry took a deep breath and looked out at the sparkling water. He had a lot to think about.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

With the ten hour time difference between Sochi and California, by the time the full moon rose on the sky Teddy was curled into Harry’s side on Harry’s bed in his half-shifted form with the large wolf toy he had got from Derek clutched close to him. His tail was sweeping contentedly behind him and his little semi-morphed snout was sniffing Harry’s leg. The vanity was pulled close to the foot of the bed for better view and Derek was already smiling at Teddy and waving a little from the mirror, still decked out in his pajamas.

“We gotta stay home from school today,” Derek explained before adding shyly, “And thanks for the bigger mirror, it’s really cool.”

“Don’t mention it,” Harry replied with a chuckle. “I’m actually working on a way to project the images in a way that would allow an almost realistic way to talk to each other, but it’s difficult and I’m way too new to spell crafting.”

“Project the images? Like in cinemas?”

“Kind of?” Harry scratched his head, having little to no knowledge about how the projectors in cinemas worked. “I think. The idea is to project a realistic image into a room.

“Like a hologram,” came Peter’s voice from somewhere out of sight. “Like in Star Wars,” he added after a moment to which Derek’s face brightened up and his hazel eyes widened in wonder.

“Is that possible?”

“Is it?” Peter asked, sitting down next to Derek and smirking at Harry. Harry smiled back at him, happy to see that the boy seemed to be in a good mood.

“Hi, Pete,” Teddy chuffed through his little fangs, causing Peter to chuckle and flash his eyes.

“Hello, Teddy, interesting accessories,” he greeted the little boy, who grinned with all his teeth in return, before turning back to Harry. “Hello, Harry.”

“Good morning, Peter. How are you doing?”

“Okay. Better now that I’m seeing your face.”

“We just talked a few hours ago.”

“It always makes me feel better when I see you.”

“Seriously?” Derek whined, scrunching his nose. “Peter, that’s just so lame!”

“That’s Uncle Peter to you, brat,” Peter growled, and he must have done something because Derek jumped and turned to him with a fang baring snarl.

“You’re four years older than me, Uncle Peter, stop pretending you’re all mature and superior.”

“What big words for a lazy runt like you. Did you learn them from sweet Mieczyslaw perhaps? He seems to have a bigger vocabulary than you and he’s three.”

“Shut up.”

“Boys,” Harry interjected, lifting a brow at them, “do you need to go let some steam off?”

There was a moment of silence. Derek ducked his head, fingers clenched on his thighs. Peter grimaced and shrugged his shoulders before he shook his head and said, “We’re fine.”

Harry wasn’t so sure about that but let it go for the moment, steering the topic away from the moon. Instead he told them about the brief meeting he had with an Alkonost the previous night when he went for a walk after Teddy had fallen asleep. Peter seemed to soak up the story of the fascinating creature with a bird’s lower body and a woman’s torso, and asked intelligent questions that actually helped Harry gather his thoughts for the notes he was planning to take on the creature. Derek looked interested as well, but his eyes kept straying to Teddy, who, when Harry checked, was unabashedly staring back at his friend without saying anything.

Laura popped in every now and then during the night but according to Derek, she was too old to really have time for ‘babies’ now and had better things to do with her time. As it turned out, Talia was also home for a change, which shouldn’t have come as a surprise considering the date, but she mostly stayed out of the conversation flowing between the children and Harry, only coming by to say hello before retreating to her home office. It wasn’t what Harry had expected after their first meeting, but he decided to wait and see what Talia would do with their connection before passing judgment.

The night went without incident. Teddy was calm and only showed the slightest amount of distress when Derek and Peter were called away for lunch, but he just whined and chuffed out Derek’s name again and again with his face pushed into Harry’s stomach. Harry held him close, rocking his godson’s little body until he fell into a fitful sleep. By the time the boys got back to Derek’s room Teddy was snoozing in Harry’s lap and showed no sign of waking up for the rest of the night.

“It happens,” Peter said quietly. “He’s young and shifting takes a lot of energy no matter how fluid and easy it seems to be.”

“Thank you for being there for him. It was really kind of you.”

“Teddy is a sweet pup,” Peter replied but Harry could see his cheeks stain pink under the praise. Derek smiled wide, but his gaze was glued to Teddy and seemed wistful. “Maybe someday day, soon, you two can run with us?”

“Maybe,” Harry conceded, not wanting to ruin the peaceful atmosphere. “Is that your plan for the night? Going on a run?”

“Yes,” Derek agreed. “Mom says it helps get rid of the extra energy. We don’t change the same way Teddy does,” he added when he saw Harry’s confused frown.

“The full shift is an ability that takes a lot of control and energy,” Peter said, taking over the explanation. “Pups with their still developing minds have an easier time going into a partial full shift because they don’t really have a full grasp on their wolfish instincts yet. Cora is the same. She is all hyper now, but the moment the moon rises and she shifts, she’ll be out like a light in an hour. But the more we’re socialized among humans the harder it becomes to tap into our more animalistic side and it leaves us with a lot of pent up energy.”

“Is it impossible for you to learn the full shift?” Harry asked to which Peter shrugged and Derek scrunched up his nose.

“You need to be really in tune with your inner wolf to be able to do that as a Beta. Also have a mental stability that will allow you to stay mostly in control,” came Peter’s reply. “Of course, we’re not allowed to try. Not even Laura.”

“Is Laura different?”

Derek rolled his eyes. “She’s mom’s successor, so she thinks she’s better than anyone,” he said then promptly winced.

It didn’t take a genius for Harry to know that whatever Laura had replied with wouldn’t bide well for Derek. It reminded him of Ron with his own siblings. As bittersweet as that reminder was, he still couldn’t understand what had always made Ron jealous of him when he had everything Harry could only ever dream to have. But it was not the time to dwell on the past, and when Peter asked if everything was okay he just nodded with a faint smile.

“Yes,” he said. “I’m glad you guys have each other.”

“And you.”

“Of course. And me.”

“We’ll have to go soon,” Derek murmured, sounding forlorn. “Can I… Can I call Teddy before we go to sleep?”

Harry had to smile at that. “Yes. He’s always happy to talk to you.”

“What about me?” Peter asked, raising an cocky eyebrow at him.

“You can call Teddy, too, if you want,” Harry shot back with a little curl of his lips that turned into a smirk when Peter scowled. “What you don’t want to talk to my adorable godson? I feel like I should be offended.”

“Your cub is sweet, but I want to talk to you.”

Harry’s smirk gentled into a fond smile. “You know that you can call me anytime.”

“Good,” Peter replied smugly before he and Derek finally said their goodbyes and the connection was closed.

Harry shook his head and pulled Teddy close, burying his nose into the soft tufts of aquamarine hair and following his godson into the land of dreams.


 

It was just after dinner on Christmas Eve and Harry was ready to tear his hair out. Teddy was throwing a tantrum over not being allowed to call Derek until he put away all his toys, while Harry was trying to make sure that everything was packed for their trip to France to spend Christmas with the Weasleys.

Which included Ron and Hermione.

And Ginny.

He wasn’t sure which one of them he dreaded to meet again the most after what felt like decades, when in reality it was not even two years in Hermione’s case. A part of him wished he had stood his ground when Mrs. Weasley had started pestering him about spending the holidays with them, because as she had said,

“Harry dear, you became part of this family when you befriended my son on your first journey to Hogwarts. Just because your friendship isn’t what it used to be and you’re not dating my daughter any longer, you won’t cease to be one of us. Not to mention, your adorable Teddy needs to learn what it means to be a Weasley.”

Harry was man enough to admit that his breath had stuttered in his chest and his laugh might have been a tad bit shaky when Mrs. Weasley added,

“And Ronald, Hermione and Ginevra will just have to put on their big boy and girl panties and deal with it if they have a problem with it.”

Although, from what Harry had gathered from one of Luna’s less than tactful letters was that Ginny had not been idle on the dating front since their uncomfortable breakup, which was something Harry felt grateful for. He hoped that Ginny would find the perfect person who made her as happy as she deserved to be, even if it wasn’t him and never would be either. The thought that Ginny had already moved on gave him hope that things wouldn’t be horribly awkward when they met again the next day.

Hermione and Ron on the other hand… He had no illusions about tearful reunions and apologies. All three of them were stubborn to a fault, but looking back on their time together, Harry sometimes felt like it had always been him who gave up first, allowing either Hermione or Ron or both to steamroll right through him. And Harry, with his damned need to please everyone and keep the few friends who had seemed to like him, had just let them. He had forgiven Hermione for taking away his Firebolt without asking him just because she always knew better, just like he had forgiven Ron for abandoning him over his petty jealousy. It was water under the bridge now and there was no sense in dwelling on the past.

Friendships changed over time, sometimes not for the better. They simply grew up to be different people, whose lives didn’t line up anymore. They were grown ups who could deal with being in the same room for a day, and if things turned for the worse, Harry was sure that he could spend the time talking to other members of the Weasley clan until it was time to leave. Or just pack Teddy up, apologies to Mrs. Weasley and leave.

With a sigh, he waved his hand, summoning the last items he was missing from Teddy’s bag, idly wondering if he was supposed to start potty training his godson soon. He could always ask Mrs. Weasley about it, or even do a little research. Maybe that would take his mind off obsessing over seeing his old friends again. Who still lived in Britain and were in the middle of the political and social mess the Ministry had caused and was now trying to correct. Without much success from what Harry had heard through the grapevine. No matter how positive The Daily Prophet was trying to seem.

“Daaa, me done,” Teddy whined from the doorway, his face red and tear stained. “Call Derek now?”

“First we check your hard work, then you can call Derek while I finish checking if we have everything.” Harry couldn’t believe he was acting all organized and responsible, but there he was grasping his godson’s little hand and walking over to Teddy’s room that looked almost tidy for a change. At least the rug wasn’t littered with a sea of toys that Teddy refused to pack away because he would ‘come back to play with them later”.

“Good job, Teddy Bear,” Harry praised the little boy, whose face lit up in a pleased smile and reached up with both hands to be picked up. Of course Harry did so, and even scented him, gently rubbing their cheeks together that had Teddy almost purring into his neck in contentment.

“Good?”

“Good.” Harry nodded before planting a noisy kiss onto Teddy’s cheek, who giggled and did the same in return. “Now let’s get you settled for your call.”

Obviously, Derek was delighted, if barely awake, to talk to Teddy, but his face instantly soured when he understood that Teddy would be away for two entire days, both of which involved Christmas. It made Teddy cranky again as well, and by the time Harry deemed everything ready he found himself faced with two grumpy kids pouting and refusing to say their goodbyes.

“I dun wanna!” Teddy snarled, his eyes flashing gold. It was becoming more regular whenever his mood changed for the worse, and it didn’t faze Harry in the least anymore. “I want Derek! I wanna see Derek! No Weezies!”

“Mrs. Weasley will be devastated to hear that,” Harry replied simply, sitting down on the edge of the bed. Teddy scowled harder. “And Derek has his own family.”

“I don’t care,” Derek grumbled in answer, his face twisted into a frown. “Peter will flip out when he hears about this and I don’t want to spend Christmas with him like that. He’s unbearable.”

“And what would your mother say?”

“I. Don’t. Care.” Now it was rare for Derek to allow himself to become so snappish towards Harry, who blinked and tried to come up with a response that would not let the situation escalate. He firmly stomped down on the urge to order both children to behave. They had the right to be upset even if it was only about being apart for two days, and their attitude was becoming more than taxing for Harry. “Mom is too busy for us anyway. She’ll have her stupid party, won’t even notice we’re there. Except for Laura. Because she’s ‘Alpha material’ and her heir.”

Harry pinched his nose. It wasn’t the first time something like that had been dropped by either Derek or Peter, but usually their words had less bite to them. Now it seemed that Derek was just pouring all of his frustration over Harry’s head, finding fault and reason for anger in everything in his life. Which, if Harry wanted to be honest with himself, wasn’t exactly unreasonable. The past few months since the first full moon Teddy and Harry had spent with Derek and Peter thanks to their magical mirrors had been filled with a frustrating lack of Talia. Peter kept saying that she was in the middle of some grand case, which left little time for her to do anything but eat, sleep and train Laura when she wasn’t locked away in her office, and Harry really wanted to be understanding and mature and not intervene. But whatever was happening over there was taking a toll on Derek and Peter, as well as on Laura and Cora probably.

“Where is your mother, Derek?” he heard himself asking, and then had to suppress the urge to groan at his inability to just stay out of things. Alliance Bond or not, he had no right to butt into things that wasn’t his business. But Derek’s face turned even sourer if possible, and he knew he was making the right decision even if it would result in butting heads with Talia in the end.

“She went to the store with Cora and Laura. At least that’s what the note said,” he said with a sulking shrug. “Shopping for dinner. She sh…” He fell quiet for a second. “They just got back.”

“Okay. I’m guessing Peter is still sleeping?”

“Pretty much. Won’t be up before noon, unless Cora sneaks into his room to wake him up. Again.” Harry’s lips twitched.

“All right. I’m going to ask you to go down and call up your mother for me, then go to Peter’s room and chat some more with Teddy through the mirror in his room.”

“Why?”

“I would like to talk to your mother.”

“I’m going to get into trouble.”

“No, you won’t. Trust me.” And he would ensure that his words remained true.

Derek seemed reluctant to leave his room, but once Harry picked up a confused and not at all cooperating Teddy he heaved a sigh and did as he was asked. Teddy growled at Harry, something he hadn’t done before and something Harry refused to tolerate. He gently grabbed his godson’s chin and forced him to look into his eyes, staring at him until Teddy’s gaze dropped and he arched his neck in submission. Harry scented him briefly to show him that everything was fine and Teddy whined, burying his face into Harry’s neck.

“I know you were confused and you don’t want to be away from Derek for what feels like ages probably at the moment, but growling at me out of spite won’t help you get your way,” he said quietly. “Now, I’m taking you to your room so you can talk to Derek and probably Peter a little more, okay?”

“So’ry, Daa,” Teddy whispered, sniffling. “I just want Derek.”

“I know, Teddy Bear. But the Weasleys want to see us and you had so much fun last time, didn’t you?”

“But Derek…”

Harry sighed. He wasn’t sure if the direction the kids’ attachment was headed was healthy, but he didn’t have the heart to restrict their connection. At the same time the idea of maybe talking to Nicolai about allowing Teddy to meet some of the younger members of his pack could be good for Teddy. It would allow him to socialize more and make friends who didn’t live practically across the globe. For now though, he had another Alpha to have a talk with, one he really didn’t look forward to but had put off long enough. Even if it was Christmas and it was kind of inappropriate.

“Are you planning to have a screaming match with Talia?” was Peter’s opening question when his and Derek’s face appeared in the mirror in Teddy’s room. He looked barely awake, blinking owlishly with his hair reminding Harry of a rumpled bird’s nest. It was painfully adorable.

“Nothing like that. But I want you to activate your privacy stone and do not eavesdrop on our conversation.” He lifts an eyebrow when Peter opens his mouth to protest. “There will be consequences none of you will like very much if you do.”

“You’re no fun.”

“I don’t remember ever listening in on your private conversations.”

“That’s because you live too far for it to happen.”

“Or more like because I respect you enough not to be a nosy little shit.”

“Same difference.” Peter folded his arms across his chest with a huff. “But whatever. We’ll be good.”

“Thank you,” Harry replied with a smile, then ruffled Teddy’s bright blue locks and walked back to his own bedroom where Talia was already waiting for him. She didn’t look particularly happy to see him.

“You wanted to talk, Harry?” she asked, sounding polite but barely just. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but it’s Christmas Eve and with four kids around I have my hands full.”

“Yes, well, timing has never been my forte,” Harry replied without the slightest ounce of regret in his tone. He even shot Talia a grin that was not returned. “The thing is this cannot wait any longer it seems, because your son is pretty much on edge and you’ve been too busy notice it.”

“Are you accusing me of neglecting my children?!” Talia demanded, back going rigid and voice slipping into something dangerous.

“No, I don’t,” Harry said coolly. “I could accuse you of wrongfully tricking me into forming an Alliance Bond with your Pack, using my lack of proper knowledge of my situation for your gain. After all, having a magic user who could achieve Alphahood without being turned into a werewolf must be a pretty great boost to your own status. I bet you also feel more powerful these days, huh?”

Talia looked decidedly paler than a few minutes ago. Her lips were thinned, but at least she had the decency not to deny Harry’s claims even if she showed no sign of shame either. Of course she didn’t regret her actions. As a relatively new Alpha with an impressive territory — or so Nicolai had said — she needed all the trump cards in her fold if she wanted to fend off her challengers.

“An Alliance Bond is a mutually beneficial bond,” she bit out. It only made Harry chuckle mirthlessly.

“Yes, except there is a huge power imbalance between us,” he retorted, refusing to be falsely modest about his magic. “You might be a born werewolf and an Alpha at that, but so far all you could offer me was new instincts that have gone haywire since our bond formed. And it wouldn’t be a problem, you know… No you don’t. You don’t know anything about me besides my goodwill and power. Things you chose to exploit without deeming to inform me. And that’s the problem Alpha Hale. You used my lack of knowledge and unfailing naivety and never once in the past half a year did you think it would be necessary to tell me what I should expect from this new bond I found myself and my godson immersed into.”

“Yet you never tried to dissolve the bond,” Talia said, lifting her chin but her tan skin looked ashen.

“And you have your children and brother to thank for that,” Harry retorted with a sneer. “I’m curious though, when did you decide to use me and leave me none the wiser? Was it the moment Teddy trotted up to Peter and you’ve seen us? Or did you at least wait until we exchanged some pleasantries before thinking that you need to snatch up what I can offer?”

“You’re trying to make me regret my choice to initiate the Alliance Bond, and in any other situation maybe I would,” Talia said, grim. “But when you’re a new Alpha with nothing but your children and your kid brother acting as your immediate pack against what is building up to be a long line of challengers for your territory, then you stop being picky about morals and do what it’s needed to be done to survive. Meeting you felt like the gods’ sign that I had a fighting chance, so I grabbed it. And it’s a decision I refuse to regret because the boost in power our bond provides ensures that my children and brother can live in peace instead of constant fear.”

Harry took a deep breath. He understood Talia’s motives and he couldn’t say that he wasn’t happy to hear that he was aiding her in protecting the children, but he had spent too many years being taken advantage of to swallow it from yet another person without at least receiving an apology from her.

“While I’m incredibly happy to hear that my magic helped you keep the children safe, it doesn’t change the fact that if only you’d have asked for it without playing mind games— If you had been honest, Talia, I would have helped. More than happily. Because I’m that kind of fool.”

Talia stared back at him for a couple of seconds, then out of nowhere she dropped her gaze and nodded. “I’m not going to list my excuses,” she said with a sigh, “and I’m not going lie in your face and tell you that I feel any regret. But I do apologize for misleading you and then taking the coward’s way out by staying away.”

Harry took a minute to study her in silence after that, letting her stew in her uncertainty about whether he would accept her apology or not. He didn’t believe she had malicious intents, after all, she hadn’t asked for his help directly. She had barely talked to him at all since their first meeting, actually. Which was another thing that irked him, because she was right. She had acted like a coward, hiding behind her work and in the mean time she hadn’t only avoided Harry but neglected the very children she was trying to protect with the power she had gained from Harry.

“Yes, you were a coward,” he chose to say in the end. “And you would have continued to be one if I hadn’t asked to talk to you. I’m not sure what that says about you, but while I can get over being used without my consent yet again, I cannot accept you forgetting your duties as a mother and sister. Because I might only have one child who is roughly the same age as your Cora, but so far I’ve noticed that being a parent to a werewolf child, any child probably, means more than providing shelter and safety. And definitely more than being their Alpha.”

“What are you saying?”

Harry smirked, wishing he had some fangs to flash himself. “I did some digging and reading, Talia. I have an immense hatred for being left in the dark about important matters that have an impact on my life and especially ones that can potentially harm my godson. And you know what I’ve found?” He didn’t wait for her reply. “I found that as your ally, I can question your leading skills and so far, I’ve seen that your pack is in distress over your near constant absence.”

“So what? Are you going to turn against me? Break the bond and try to take my territory?” she practically snarled, eyes flashing bright red.

“No. But I will demand you to reevaluate your past behavior and change it to benefit your pack. And more importantly the children you love and who love you.” He kept his tone hard, not softening when her eyes dimmed and she looked away as pain flashed over her face. “And you want to take this demand seriously, Talia, because the repercussions if you fail to act accordingly will be harsher than you can imagine. I don’t play around when it comes to children and I always keep the promises I make.”

“I didn’t mean to neglect my children,” Talia said quietly, resigned. “But I did and as much as I hate to admit it you are right to call me out on it. I’ll do better in the future, you can believe that.”

“Good,” Harry replied. He allowed himself a small smile, pleased that Talia was going to do better. He would never turn to her for help despite the bond between their packs, but he came to love the Hale children, especially Derek and Peter, and he wanted to see them happy and content. And he would do everything in his power to make them happy as well. “Now, I have a request. This is not a demand and you can say no, of course, but I would like our packs to meet before New Year’s Eve, maybe even celebrate the new year’s arrival together as a sign of turning a new leaf?”

Talia opened her mouth, and Harry didn’t need to be a genius to know she wanted to refuse on the spot. Instead, she took a deep breath and briefly nodded her head. “That sounds like a good idea. I know my children would be happy to see you and Teddy in person.”

“In that case, I hope I can that as an invitation to your home for the festivities.” He knew that he had told Peter that he couldn’t expect Talia to invite them to their den, to their territory, but he just didn’t care anymore. Things had changed and if Talia could take advantage of him and his power, then it was only right that Harry got to see the place he was supposedly protecting.

“Of course,” Talia agreed. “I don’t know how much my kids or Peter told you about our home, but we live in Beacon Hills, a small town in California. I could pick you up at the airport—”

“Thank you, but that won’t be necessary,” Harry cut in with a shake of his head and a small smile. “If you give me the coordinates to your home, we will be there on the morning of New Year’s Eve.”

“Ah… All right. I might have to ask you to put a spell or something on Teddy, too, unfortunately. We usually spend New Year’s Eve with the Stilinskis, and they are fully human without any knowledge of magic. Claudia knows about us, but young Mieczyslaw doesn’t yet and I doubt you want to deal with explaining the impossible to a bunch of people you don’t know.”

“Yes, maybe if they turn out to be trustworthy, but making rash decisions is not something I get to indulge in too often anymore. Maybe I should also learn the same thing about seeing the good in people… Anyway, I think we can agree that this was a talk we needed to have. I cannot say everything is fine, but hopefully, it will get better from now on.”

“I hope so, too. Turning you against us is the last thing I want to do, after all.”

“I would hate that as well.” Harry frowned. “I’m sure it won’t come to that, though. Now, unfortunately, I have a cub to put into bed, but we’ll see you in a few days. And Talia?”

“Yes?”

“I think, keeping our visit from the kids would be a good idea. It could be your surprise to them.”

Talia’s eyes widened and she looked lost for words for a second before she dipped her chin sharply. “Thank you, Harry.”

“Anytime. I want those kids to be happy as much as I want the same for Teddy.” With a little wave he disconnected the mirrors and went over to Teddy’s room to somehow get his godson to say his goodbyes as well.

Teddy was almost fully asleep curled up in the middle of his bed with Peter reading him a story about what sounded like three evil piglets and the poor wolf. Derek was cuddled against his uncle’s side, snorting every now and then when Peter exaggerated the piglets evil deeds, and Harry’s instincts quieted instantly at the sight. He leaned against the door frame, watching as Peter wrapped up the tale, for a few minutes before he stepped inside, smiling at the boys.

“Had a good time?” he asked.

Teddy murmured something, making grabby hands at him and scenting his neck the moment Harry was close enough. Harry pulled his godson close and dropped a kiss onto his messy mop of hair, then he pulled the covers back and gently placed him on the bed to tuck the little boy in. He sat down next to Teddy and turned his attention toward Peter and a much more alert Derek; both were eying him with apprehension, although Peter was hiding it better.

“Everything went well, I assume?” Peter asked with pretend nonchalance.

“Did you expect something else?” Harry lifted an eyebrow at him, his smile cheeky.

“I know how my sister can be.”

“Well, she knew she was in the wrong from the start. And I might seem like a pushover but I can be persuasive when I need to.”

“That doesn’t make me happy if it means we’ll get the brunt of Talia’s anger.”

“Nothing like that will happen,” Harry near growled, good mood evaporating instantly. “I promised Derek and I always keep my promises.”

“Hmm…” Peter still looked less than convinced but Derek elbowed him in the ribs and he stopped arguing for a change.

“Thank you, Harry,” Derek said, his expression hopeful.

“Yes, thank you, Harry,” Peter echoed. “Now why don’t we talk about this funny little thing I just heard from these two here.”

“Peter, don’t start.”

“What? I don’t have the right to be upset over not being able to wish you Merry Christmas because you will be with a bunch of other people of your kind and out of touch? So out of touch that you can’t even take a portable mirror with you?” Peter spat, not hiding his rage at all. It stirred Harry’s instincts, the insolence grating on his nerves even though he understood why Peter would be upset.

He took a couple of calming breaths. He didn’t want to fight with Peter, not now… not before he had to face his old best friends and probably pretend that everything was fine. “Look, Peter. I am sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. Then again, you have been mostly absent for the past few days, so I couldn’t have told you that we are going to be away on Christmas Day anyway.” He chose not to mention that Peter had been absent because he was apparently dating some girl from the local high school, because Peter’s private life was no business of his. “And it’s only one day. We will be back before you even wake up on Boxing Day, so I don’t see the problem quite honestly.”

“Good for you, then. Well, I’m sure you have things to do still and I wouldn’t want to be the reason you left something behind before your trips, so I hope you have a Merry Christmas, I know I will.”

The way the mirror suddenly matched Harry’s reflection was ridiculously familiar by that point, but it didn’t leave Harry any happier. Not that he had really expected anything better from Peter and his teenage mood swings. He could only hope that his Christmas gift and the surprise visit would make up for whatever imaginary slight Peter got offended over. Harry really wasn’t sure why he believed that Peter getting a girlfriend, especially one older than him, would change the boy’s behavior and possessiveness over Harry’s time. Well, Peter was welcome to steam in his snit as long as he wanted, because Harry had more pressing things to worry about for the time being and he refused to be emotionally manipulated by a twelve year old’s tantrums anyway.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

Harry expected that seeing his one time best friends and girlfriend after two years would be nerve-racking. He had been anxious about what to say, how they would react to seeing him, how they all would handle the fact that their friendship did not manage to survive the trials of young adulthood despite holding up through a war. He had seen pictures of them, of course. Mrs. Weasley loved her children, and was like all proud mothers, filled her home with photos of them. Harry had seen the slight changes Hermione, Ron and Ginny had gone through. Seen how impossibly taller and more satisfied Ron looked in his formal robes at his and Hermione’s wedding. Seen the way Hermione’s face had thinned down and her smile had become brittle and perfunctory—it made Harry wonder how long would she last before she broke free from the shackles of domesticity. Seen how Ginny had grown so much stronger and more self-assured. They all had changed, and he knew that he had too.

Seeing them face to face was different. He expected a lurch in his stomach, a tug in his chest, anything to prove that he had made a wrong decision not trying harder to hold onto his old friends. But there was nothing. His eyes slipped away from Ron and Hermione the second Teddy wanted to get down to greet Mrs. Weasley, following his godson’s journey into his pseudo grandmother’s embrace. He watched as Teddy agreed to take a look at the currently sleeping Victoire in her baby basket next to her mother. Harry found himself smiling gently as Teddy scrunched up his nose and sniffed the air.

“She smells funny,” he declared, making all the adults to chuckle. “Da, she smells fire and bird!” he exclaimed turning to Harry with wide eyes before scrunching up his nose the same way his mother used to and turning his hair the same shade of blond that covered Victoire’s little head.

“She smells a little like fire because she has some Veela in her,” Bill said, obviously the least perturbed by Teddy’s declaration. “Maybe one day she will be able to turn into a bird the same way you can turn into a wolf.”

“Hmm… bird. Tasty.”

And Harry couldn’t help it. As all the others except for his once friends burst out in laughter, he walked over to Teddy and picked him up, nuzzling their cheeks together. Teddy nuzzled back happily, scenting Harry with the eagerness of the young pup he was.

“They are meanies. Laughing,” Teddy complained into his neck, obviously pouting.

“Well, you just said that you want to eat your cousin,” Harry told him.

“I didn't! Birds tasty. Not Vic… Vic is baby. No food.”

“That’s good to hear, Teddy,” Fleur said with a smile, causing Teddy to duck his head even as he flushed in delight. He loved Fleur and her shimmery hair. “I would be sad if you ate Victoire.”

“You smell fire too,” he told her, which made Fleur let out a tinkling laugh. “And pretty. ‘Most as pretty as my Derek.”

“And how is your Derek, Teddy dear?” Mrs. Weasley asked cheerfully, probably the only one who had been subjected to Teddy’s near-constant tales about his friend who lived far away but talked to him every day.

“Miss him lots.”

“So this is really a thing?” Ron suddenly interrupted, bursting the merry bubble that wrapped itself around Harry and the Weasleys who had remained a big part of his life for the past couple of years. “You all sit around and act like everything is fine, while we have to struggle to make things right at home?”

Harry looked over his shoulder to see his old friend’s face had turned beet red in his anger. Harry chanced a glance at Hermione who was watching the events unfold before her eyes with her lips pursed into a thin white line but didn’t say a word. Unlike Bill, who outright snorted at his brother’s outburst.

“I don’t know if you noticed, Ron, but the place you call home tried to tag me any every creature-blood out there like a bloody stock animal. Sorry if for not wanting to go through that.”

“But Kingsley apologized, and we’ve been working on a system that works better!” Ron snapped. “But—”

“If the next thing out of your mouth has anything to do with the Ministry being right about keeping tabs on those of creature-blood, I’m taking my family and getting out of here,” Bill retorted.

“Bill,” Hermione spoke up, putting her hand on Ron’s bicep. Surprisingly, it made Ron snap his mouth shut. “You have to understand. Transparency would allow everyone to be treated with the same respect while also ensure that their… extra needs are met. We are trying to build a community where it doesn’t matter what your species is, you feel welcome and equal to all others.”

“Hermione,” George started, and Harry could see the way his expression was washed over by pity. “I hate to be the one to burst your pretty pink bubble of idealism, but if you think that anyone still living in Britain would stand for equality for everyone including the creatures, you’re in for a really, really harsh slap to the face the moment words will be attempted to turn into action.”

“Well, if you had been present, you’d know that we are drafting legislations that would make it illegal to fire anyone with creature blood or be shown negative discrimination in the workspace,” Hermione retorted with her chin held high.

“Except not firing is not the same as not hiring, is it? And you can’t force people to hire creature-blood folk to work for them,” Mr. Weasley said with a sad smile. “Not to mention, to turn your drafts into actual laws, the Wizengamot will need to vote for them. And I would assume that none of the seat holders have rescinded their seats, not even those who left the country.”

“So what you are saying is that we should just give up and let our society wither up?!”

“What we are saying, Hermione dear, is that maybe it’s time you let go of the past and started building something new,” Mrs. Weasley replied kindly.

There were none of the matronly tones in her tone all of her children had been used to for most of their lives. Living in the French Riviera in peace had done wonders to her outlook on life. During one of their Sunday teas, she had told Harry that it had taken her some time to get used to the idea that all of her children were adults, but once she did, her eyes opened to all the opportunities she had been blind to because she had been so focused on caring for her children. Nowadays, she was always happy to babysit for Bill and Fleur and have Teddy over, but she had hobbies of her own. She was taking a pastry chef course at a culinary academy and confided in Harry that she wanted to open a little cake shop once she had her qualifications. She and Mr. Weasley had date nights and were talking about getting a dog.

They were happy.

Compared to them, Hermione and Ron looked worn down and tired under the bubbling anger and frustrations. They had high hopes and world-saving plans, but they couldn’t heal the wounds caused by the hatred and narrow-mindedness of others no matter how decorated war heroes they were. The war was over, and people were fickle. They might have hailed all of them as celebrities; stars fit to be used for gossip and marketing and little else. No one really wanted to hear the world-changing ideas of twenty-year-olds. They might have fought for their society, they might have given their blood and soul to defeat Voldemort, but it meant little to those who had been content to hide in their homes and then forget anything happened.

“Start building something new? Do you hear yourself, mum?!” Ron exclaimed only to shrink back when Mrs. Weasley’s eyes flashed in a way that usually resulted in harsh tongue lashing and Howlers back in the day. “We’re right! You left, and you have no idea how bad it is!”

“I know exactly how bad it is, Ron,” Mr. Weasley said. “I work at the French Ministry, and I’ve been to meetings with the Goblins about unfreezing the accounts of people long enough for them to take their money from the vaults. I have been to meetings where we tried to find a solution that would save the country from collapsing, issuing loans, and offering the services of non-goblin owned banks. You know what the problem is?”

“That the goblins are pigheaded gits?”

“No, Ronnikins,” George quipped. “The problem is that your darling Ministry tried to pull a Hitler and no one is willing to be the one who takes part in that. Even if Kingsley has been doing his best to turn over a new leaf and all.”

“A Hitler.”

“The Muggle dictator that annihilated millions of people just because they did not fit his idea of what people should be? The same guy Grindelwald used to cover his similarly crazy genocide-based doctrines.”

“What? That’s—”

“That’s not what happened,” Hermione argued, interrupting Ron. Her brown gaze was pinned on Harry, trying to tell him something. Except Harry didn’t know how to read her looks anymore. The realization was as surprising as the one he had made about not really missing them in the first place. “The regulation about registering all… creature-blood people was not intended to harm them. It was supposed to provide protection—”

“Yes, against creature-bloods,” Bill finished the sentence for her, ignoring her outraged expression.”Tell me, Hermione, and maybe this way you will finally understand how fundamental the problem is, what would you do if the Ministry passed a bill that would force you to register as a Muggleborn witch and carry that identifier on your person at all time?”

Harry watched as the blood drained from Hermione’s face. It wasn’t hard to see that above all the horrible consequences the Ministry’s Registration Act would have brought down on the heads of creature-bloods, Hermione had good intentions. Her focus, just like it had been with the House Elves, was on making real change for those in need, but it seemed that despite fighting in a war practically from the moment she entered the Wizarding World, she was still naive enough to believe that tagging creature-bloods would only bear positive effects.

“That’s not… I swear that’s not it. We’ve been working hard to make sure everyone gets treated the same…” She shook her head and turned to Ron for help, but Ron looked even more lost than her. “I would never…”

“We know, Hermione,” Mrs. Weasley said, smiling softly. “We don’t blame you, but you can’t blame us for not wanting to stay either.”

“Well, if Harry did something, maybe things would change,” Ginny spoke up, arms crossed across her chest. She didn’t sound particularly offensive, but the words alone were enough to raise Harry’s hackles.

“Maybe Harry thinks that actually dying for his country was more than enough action on his part,” he replied coolly, the first words he aimed at the people who once had meant the world to him. “So excuse Harry for being happy staying away from Britain’s political mess, considering the Ministry had passed the Creature Registration Act knowing that my godson is very much of creature-blood.”

“Yes, but they have repealed it,” Ginny shot back, raising one of her brows. “So why not help make the laws befit you instead of hiding like a…”

“Like a coward?” Harry offered when Ginny trailed off, seemingly realizing that whatever she was about to say would not have been received kindly by her family. “I guess in your eyes, I’m no longer the glorious hero you had clung onto for so long. Not the dashing scrawny prince who flew in on the tail feathers of a phoenix and battled a basilisk for you. And that’s fine. I never thought of myself as a hero. But I never imagined that you think so little of me even though our break up was anything but amicable.”

Ginny didn’t even try to hold his gaze, her face aflame in shame as she turned away and then quickly fled the room. Maybe Harry had said too much, but he was fed up with always being forced into two roles, respectively, depending on the situation. He was either the hero destined to save the world from its mistakes or the scapegoat that could be blamed for everything. And sure, he had made a mistake when he had gotten back together with Ginny right after the war finally ended. He should have owned up to the fact that he hadn’t felt the same ardor Ginny obviously had. But never once had he said a bad word about Ginny since their split. He had been genuinely happy for her success and hoped that she would find the right person for her.

He hadn’t had high hopes for the meeting before he left Sochi, but he expected polite distance if nothing more. Typical British properness that involved uncomfortable small talk and ignoring the giant elephant in the room that was Harry’s lack of invitation to Ron and Hermione’s wedding. Obviously, that had been too much to ask.

Looking around made it evident that the Weasleys’ home had a clear line drawn between the sides of Hermione and Ron and the rest of the family, including Harry and Teddy. That wasn’t something Harry had ever wanted in his life. Yes, he had always been envious of Ron’s amazing family and wished to be part of it. But never at the cost of Ron’s relationship with his parents and siblings. It didn’t matter that they were all adults now or that they should have managed to overlook their differences in order to celebrate Christmas together. The disappointment flashing over Mrs. Weasley’s face and the betrayal marring Ron’s features alone were enough for Harry to make a decision that would, in the long run, benefit everyone.

He turned to Mrs. Weasley with a soft smile, a confused Teddy still hiding his little face against his neck where he pushed it when the first less than friendly words replaced the cheer in the room. “I believe it’s time for us to go,” he said quietly, shaking his head when Mrs. Weasley opened her mouth to protest. “You rarely have time to spend with all of your children together, so enjoy it, okay?”

“Harry, you can’t think—”

“It’s okay.” He leaned down and enveloped Mrs. Weasley in a tight hug, mindful of Teddy between them. “They are your children, and you deserve to spend as much time with them as possible. Teddy and I will always be here,” he whispered before straightening back up. Mrs. Weasley’s brown eyes were glistening with tears.

“Harry dear…”

“None of that.” He put on a broad smile, grinning at the older Weasley brothers, Mr. Weasley and Fleur who all looked various degrees of frustrated, but knew better than to argue. Not that day. “Hermione, Ron?” His old friends stared back at him, their reactions mirroring their teenaged selves perfectly with Ron’s bursting fury and Hermione’s conflicted lip biting. Reactions that proved that Harry had made the right decision. “I wanted to congratulate you on your marriage. I hope you will be happy for long years to come.”

“Harry…” Hermione choked out, but Harry was already focused back on the rest of the Weasley clan, quickly offering hugs before with a last nod to his once friends, reached for the pendant in his neck and curled Teddy’s little fingers around it too.

“Home.”

And the world blurred into a myriad of colors.

 

[LiTaL]

 

Harry expected Mrs. Weasley mirror call the next morning and fielded her tear eyed scolding with patience. Teddy was still sleeping, exhausted after the debacle and drama of the previous night, and Harry found himself bursting with love for his little godson, who had been enraged and mashing his tiny fangs in his anger after getting home. His words had been practically minced by his growling, but Harry had still got the gist of it. Teddy had been furious at Harry’s old friends, and he didn’t want to see them ever again. Harry wisely left that tidbit out of his conversation with Mrs. Weasley, and by the time, Teddy woke up and saw the huge pile of presents waiting for him at the foot of his bed, all of his anger was forgotten.

All in all, they had a peaceful day together, up till lunchtime when Teddy was starting to fuss and tried to finish his food as fast as possible.

“Slow down, Teddy Bear or your tummy will hurt,” he said with a chuckle, grinning at his godson’s pout.

“Daaa, Derek waitin’!” Teddy whined.

“I’m sure Derek is still asleep.”

“But su’prise! We are home, tadaaaa!”

“I’m sure he will be appropriately surprised and delighted even if you eat your lunch instead of inhaling it.” Harry’s smile widened when Teddy huffed but slowed down. He still pushed his plate away sooner than usual and wrinkled his nose when Harry set out to clean his messy face, but didn’t make a fuss. The moment Harry got him out of his high chair, he was off, running towards his room to call Derek, his happy little squeal echoing in the hallway. At least, there was someone who was happy that the previous night hadn’t gone the way everyone planned.

With a shake of his head, Harry started cleaning up the remains of their lunch, letting Teddy enjoy his chat with his best friend. He expected a pandemonium on New Year’s Eve, the idea of Teddy and Derek being in the same room after so long would be explosive and probably fuel Harry’s Patronus for a long time. And that was something Hermione, Ginny and Ron couldn’t understand. Not until they had children of their own. The whole world could burn to cinders for all Harry cared as long as Teddy was safe and happy.

A part of him understood why Remus and Tonks had chosen to join the battle after Teddy’s birth. They had wanted to make sure that their son would grow up in a better world, where being afraid to simply live his life was not something he had to experience. A much bigger part of him, however, resented both of them for choosing to abandon their child for the sake of fighting in a war that had looked doomed. Yes, it had resulted in Teddy becoming his, and he wasn’t sure he would have given up the privilege even if it meant that Remus and Tonks would be alive, but for that very reason, the part of him he kept away from Teddy whenever he talked about Remus and Tonks found their actions abhorrent. If it had been him, he would have left. Just like he did after the Creature Registration Act had been passed and just like his own parents had gone into hiding when they had learned about the prophecy.

His old friends saw him as a traitor of their values, it was clear now. They believed that it was their duty to shape Britain the way it should be, at least in their opinions. And Harry knew that most revolutions had always been led by young people with high ideals. He didn’t begrudge them for it, but he didn’t want a part of it either. What Hermione and the others seemed to forget that Harry might have been painted as a hero for an entire society to use for their aims, but unlike them, his role in the war had been decided since before his birth because some people couldn’t leave things alone and be rational about the divining of an alcoholic phony.

Over the past few years, he had more than enough time to think about the what-ifs and lost opportunities, and had to realize that it all boiled down to Dumbledore choosing to sit back and push around his chess pieces instead of taking action and getting rid of Voldemort before he had become a real threat. At other times, he had wondered what would have happened if Tom Riddle had been treated like everyone else and saved from that orphanage he had to grew up in. If he had had the chance to spend his summers at Hogwarts instead of in London during the height of World War II.

He would never know now and didn’t really care to either. He had come to terms with his past and realized that living in a world of lost time was useless. He had a child to raise and cherish, and he planned to do just that for as long as he lived because he might have respected Remus as Teddy’s father but saw the boy as his own.

 

[LiTaL]

 

Drying his hands with a rag, he looked around in the kitchen one more time before he headed for Teddy’s room, listening to the muffled chattering of his godson. Walking through the door, he saw Derek’s grinning image as he watched Teddy’s grammatically challenged rant about the events of the previous night and his still sizzling anger. It was touching to hear Teddy defend him so passionately, and even better when Teddy noticed his presence and flashed him a happy smile.

“I see your surprise was well-received,” Harry commented, sitting next to his godson when Teddy patted the bed next to him. “Hello, Derek.”

“Hi!” Derek replied, his ears flushing. “Happy Holidays!”

“Happy Holidays to you as well. Have you received our presents?”

“We all did.” Derek nodded eagerly, his fingers playing with the dragon fang necklace hanging over his t-shirt. “Thank you very much! We loved them!”

“Happy to hear. I know you might be too young for jewelry, but Teddy picked yours, and it is infused with protective magic. It also acts as an emergency portkey that will take you to me, if you are ever in danger,” Harry explained, causing Derek’s eyes to widen comically.

“T-That’s amazing…”

“You are important to us, Derek, and not just because of the bond between our families.”

Derek ducked his head, and Teddy agreed happily, leaning against Harry’s side. “Will you tell Peter?”

“Will he take my call?” Harry asked, and Derek shrugged, his eyes downcast.

“He’s being a jerk. Mom threatened to kick his butt if he didn’t cut it out, but Peter just scowled and stomped off. He even slammed his door, and we haven’t seen him since.”

“Why is Pete a jerk?” Teddy asked in confusion. “It’s present time.”

Derek looked at Harry, obviously at a loss, which made Harry sigh and drop a kiss onto the crown of Teddy’s head. “Peter is angry because he misses us.”

“Misses you, more like,” Derek muttered, probably thinking his words wouldn’t be picked up by the mirror.

“He wants to see us, but we live very far, and he doesn’t like it.”

“I hate it too! I miss Derek a lot, but I’m not a jerk.”

“That’s because you’re a sweet little boy, one who shouldn’t say words like jerk.”

Teddy shrugged. “Derek says it, too.”

“Yes, and Derek is older than you.”

“I’mma big boy.” Teddy crossed his arms across his little chest, looking more petulant than asserting, but neither Derek nor Harry laughed at him, even though it took some effort because he looked just too adorable. “Derek, tell Daddy Imma big boy.”

Harry saw Derek wince. “You are a big boy, but I shouldn’t say that word either. It’s not nice.”

“Oh.”

“Okay, I’ll leave you boys to your talk. I’ll see if Peter is willing to talk to me. If not, I’ll just write him a letter,” Harry said, ruffling Teddy’s hair before he stood up and left with a little wave at Derek.

Going back to his room, he tried to call Peter’s mirror but got immediately blocked, so with a deep sigh, he pulled out a sheet of parchment and started writing, making a mental note, to maybe invest in a set of two-way journals for easier communication.

 

25 December, 2000

Dear Peter,

I will respect your wish of not talking to me and won’t call you anymore. Know that you can always reach me if you need me, but I won’t bother you further. I’m writing this letter to tell you about the necklace I gifted you with for Christmas. The charm and the chain are both made of Goblin smithed silver, and the charm itself symbolizes three items that bear a great significance in the Wizarding World. If you read The Tale of the Three Brothers, which is in one of the books you also received, you will find out more. Naturally, you’re under no obligation to wear the necklace, but it would make me happy. It is infused with protective magic and will serve as an emergency portkey if you are ever in danger. I know how cunning you are, Peter, but I will ask you not to get into dangerous situations on purpose just to test the magic. It is yours to keep you safe not to push you towards danger. I trust your maturity to do the right thing and I hope you will enjoy your other gifts.

Yours,

Harry

 

Harry sealed the letter then went out and called for his owl Hypnos. He tied it to the cream-colored barn owl, petting the bird affectionately and earning a soft hoot in return.

“Take this to Peter, okay, love? I don’t know if he has a reply for you or not, but be nice.”

Hypnos hooted again and nipped at Harry’s ear before he took off, soon disappearing in the horizon. It was a mild afternoon, the sun was shining, and the lake looked peaceful. Maybe taking Teddy on a long walk before dinner would be a good idea, and it would also allow the boy to run around and release some of his pent up energy. He reconsidered contacting Nicolai for a meeting with his pack and giving Teddy a chance to play with children his age, deciding to call Maksim the next day after he finally got himself a cell phone. Then in a few days, they would be off once again, but hopefully, their visit would go better than the one with the Weasleys had.