Chapter 1: With A Mundane Finality
The ending of the war was sudden, like a train-wreck, as cliché as that might sound. But it has a measure of appropriateness. And so, life went on, with a certain feeling of surrealism. Because as much as Harry had realized that, as long as he didn’t die, that he would have a future, he’d have to get a job, he’d be free of the Dursleys, all of that had held an air of impossibility. Until it didn’t. And now he was an adult, a war veteran, and a godfather. To be honest, for a while, he had no idea what to do. For so long, his life had not been his own, and now it was. Hermione convinced him and Ron to—reluctantly—come back to Hogwarts for their seventh year, so they could qualify for any NEWT-requiring jobs. They weren’t the only ones who took up the offer that Professor—now Headmistress—McGonagall gave all the war veterans who missed or had interrupted their seventh year. But Harry, Hermione, and Ron were the only ones who people stopped and stared at in the hall, who were looked at with awe, and he hated it. Finally, he went to Headmistress McGonagall, and asked, begged really, if there was any way he could take his NEWTs without attending Hogwarts in person. He’d never forget the way she smiled with sad understanding at him before telling him of course there was. After all, not everyone went to Hogwarts. After thanking her profusely, Harry packed and left without another word. He knew he was beginning to fracture, and he wouldn’t be able to deal with it if he was at Hogwarts. As much as he loved the school, it was, especially now, a source of pain and trauma.
He found a reasonably priced apartment in the wixen—and that was a new term; Harry was beginning to realize he needed to educate himself on Wizarding culture—quarter of Edinburgh, and a job at a bookseller’s in the non-magical downtown, so no one would stare at him because he was Harry Potter. Once he was settled, he sent off an owl to ‘Mione—with a pang, he’d purchased a handsome barn owl, who he named Bacchus—asking her about mental health doctors. Harry might be out of date with the non-magical culture, but he knew enough from his voracious reading as a small child, and a few scattered health classes, and especially after being around the Weasleys, that the way he handled his emotions, and his childhood, were messed up. And even a complete ignoramus would know that the battle, the war he’d fought, would leave a mark too.
He didn’t have to wait long for a reply. Unfortunately, it came when he was at work.
“Oi, Harry! There’s an owl flapping aroond front! Come see!” Harry groaned as the voice of Elsie MacDougal, his coworker, and occasional pub mate found its way through the shelves. He had a feeling he knew what had happened. Sometimes owls were too smart for their own good. Sure enough, when he had squeezed his way through the narrow aisles of Books By The Loch out to the sidewalk, a familiar barn owl arrowed in on him, a letter clamped in its beak. With a sigh, Harry took the letter from Bacchus, and ruffled the owl’s feather’s affectionately before muttering,
“Off with you now, you blasted bird!” Bacchus whacked him gently on the nose, then winged off. Harry turned nervously to Elsie, who was not alone. Most of the curious onlookers had drifted off when the owl disappeared, but Mr. Atchison who owned the tea shop next door, Mx. Kinnaird, who owned the antique/resale shop across the street, and his boss, Callum Blackwood, were all staring at him, along with her. Harry gulped. “You wouldn’t happen to believe my best mate trains owls?” He asked hesitantly. Mr. Atchison snorted, but shrugged and left. As he passed Harry, he said,
“Laddie, sin’ th’ bird didn’t harm a’body, Ah suppose it doesn’t maiter, but yi’ll need a mair confident excuse than that.”
“Thanks?” Harry said, sort of annoyed, then turned back to the other three. To his considerable concern, Mx. Kinnaird was looking at him with suspiciously knowing gaze. Elsie was just looking at him in plain confusion and skepticism, but Callum was looking at him with an intrigued glint in his eye. Harry tucked the letter in his jacket pocket, then asked, “Are you three going to let this go as a strange occurrence that will never happen again, or am I going to be subjected to an interrogation of sorts?” To his surprise, Kinnaird and Callum shared a look before Callum barked out a laugh.
“Hae na fear, laddie. We wull nae subject ye tae an interrogation. But ye hae th’ strangest luck, falling in wi’ us. And none o’ us recognized ye. Nae ‘til that bird cam.” Harry pinched the bridge of his nose, smudging his glasses—now of a much better quality, and silver in color—and as he wiped them off with a cloth he always kept in his jeans, asked,
“So Callum, Mx. Kinnaird, I take it you both went to a boarding school in the Highlands?” To his surprise, the both of them burst out laughing. He replaced his glasses to see Mx. Kinnaird brushing tears of laughter away. Ze said, gasping slightly, and signing slow enough that Harry could keep up,
“The two of us? Go to Hogwarts? No, we went to the school in Glasgow. Smaller, but just as good. And definitely safer.” Harry frowned, glancing at Elsie, who’d lost her look of confusion. Seeing as there was no surprise on her face, he decided to ask his questions.
“School in Glasgow? No one ever told me about other British schools. And why wouldn’t you two go to Hogwarts?” Now Callum frowned, his eyes flashing an amber that was familiar to Harry.
“Ye pure ken nothing, Harry?” he asked. Harry shrugged uncomfortably.
“I was raised by non-magicals, as I’m sure you know if you know who I am. My mother’s sister and her husband. They hated magic with a passion, and me almost as much.” His boss growled, making Harry jump. Callum’s face softened from the harsh lines it had taken on as he noticed the motion, and he said gently,
“Mibbie we shuid tak’ this inside.” Mx. Kinnaird nodded, and they all went back inside Books By The Loch. Callum flipped the sign to Closed, and the four of them filed up the rickety steps that led to the apartment where Callum lived. Harry found himself in a chair and fidgeted awkwardly as Callum began to make tea. Finally, once everyone had a cup of tea, his boss said, “Sae, howfur much dae ye ken aboot magical culture, Harry?” Harry shrugged uncomfortably again.
“Not much,” he muttered, “Only that I don’t really know anything.” Callum sighed and shared another look with Mx. Kinnaird, who leaned forward, brushing a strand of zir wild hair out of their face.
“I’m the history nerd, so I’ll tell you,” ze said, Callum translating zir rapid hand movements. “There have always been many schools in the Isles. With so many differing cultures, how could it be otherwise? Until a few centuries ago, however, Hogwarts was the best. In Britain, at least. But at that point in time, some rather backwards and prejudiced ideas began to become popular. Unfortunately, they were adopted by those in power, and filtered into both the Ministry and Hogwarts. The other schools, and many individuals, objected. But those in power didn’t take kindly. So, opposing views and individuals who couldn’t get protection from the ICW or hide themselves, were stamped out or oppressed.” Harry frowned, thoughtful. He’d heard none of this before, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t true. He’d be the first to admit that his knowledge was lacking. He was a little bit surprised that neither ‘Mione nor any of his other friends had mentioned it. So, he ventured that question. It was Mx. Kinnaird’s turn to look thoughtful. Their signs were slower, and Harry could recognize some of them this time as they said, Callum still translating,
“‘Mione is Hermione Granger, right? Well, most of those from non-magical families aren’t taught the old ways now. Either because those in the know are worried about negative reactions, or because those in power want to retain control. And as for your other friends, they’ve been taught to keep it secret if they know, and probably assume you were taught, particularly since I assume you don’t remark on it.” Harry nodded slowly, slightly flabbergasted. Elsie, who was next to him, patted him on the shoulder consolingly.
“Having yer world turned upside doon isn’t fin, Ah ken,” she said in a manner that managed to be both kind and condescending. Harry glared briefly at her, then turned back to Callum and Mx. Kinnaird.
“So, I have two questions. Would you two—three, sorry, Elsie—be able to teach me things, and do you think the time is ripe for change, because I know ‘Mione would run with this.” They all, to his gratification, nodded. Mx. Kinnaird smiled at him, and said, slowing zir fingers down,
“You can call me Keating, if you’re going to get to know all of us better, Harry.” Harry nodded uncertainly, then grinned as Callum confirmed what ze had said.
“I have one last question, Callum, Keating, Elsie. Does Mr. Atchison know what’s going on?” To his slight irritation, they all burst out laughing. “What?” he demanded. Elsie, still breathless with laughter, said,
“Ye landed in th’ neuk o’ non-magical Edinburgh that is th’ truly hidden magical quarter. Whit dae ye think?” Harry finally saw the funny part of all of this and joined his friends in their laughter.
With all the fuss and new information, he’d been teased with, Harry completely forgot about the letter that had been its cause until after he stumbled home off the bus, slightly tipsy from a night out with Elsie. He collapsed on his bed, then immediately straightened back up as he heard the crinkle of paper. After casting a Sober-Up charm, he unfolded the letter, written in ‘Mione’s usual brusque, neat style.
Firstly, I hope you’re keeping up with your school work. I was disappointed that you decided to do the correspondence course, but I understand. Sometimes I can barely stand it here too. It’s nice to hear that you got a job and are planning to do some self-education. Having responsibility that isn’t life or death is good for you. Also, it’s nice to know that you’ve finally started doing your own research. Harry snorted at the pointed, but fair snark, then kept reading.
It’s good to hear from you. You’ve been like a ghost, honestly. I know Ron, Luna, and Neville would love to hear from you in particular. Andromeda says that Teddy misses you. He keeps asking where his ‘Happy’ is, apparently. And Sirius is moping around like the Grim his Animagus pretends to be.
Speaking of, I’ll finally get around to answering your question, but please, please drag Sirius with you. He’s coping even worse than you. So, I asked around, particularly the Muggleborns and Half-Bloods, and even my parents, since I brought them back from Australia. They were right pissed with me, by the way, when I restored their memories—which I suppose is only fair—but they still answered my questions. From the witches and wizards, I learned of some Squib therapists and psychologists who you can talk about the war too, though they’re probably swamped. My parents knew of some Muggle ones that can help you deal with childhood trauma.
I hope this was helpful, Harry. I hope we three, Luna, Neville, and Ginny, can see each other in person some time soon. The names are below.
Harry winced at—pretty much all of the rest of the letter, then sat down to write a reply to ‘Mione, thanking her, and detailing what he’d learned. After that, he shot off a note to Andromeda asking when the next best time to visit would be, a letter to Sirius about meeting to catch up, and one each to Ron, Luna, and Neville that were all sort of chatty. He stubbornly avoided the thought of Ginny. He didn’t really know what he thought about her right now. But all of it was too caught up with the war and the trauma of Voldemort. They had both agreed they needed space. Which was part of the reason he was avoiding Ron. He didn’t want to make anything awkward with the Weasleys. The most recent thing he’d heard about Ginny was that she’d tried out for the Harpies.
A sharp pain roused him from his thoughts. Bacchus was looking at him expectantly, shuffling his wings in a clearly impatient way. Harry laughed tiredly, then pointed to the letters. Somehow, the damned bird managed all six, and flew off through the open window. Harry took his glasses off, placing them beside his wand, and closed his eyes. Eventually, he dropped off, his doze shallow, but undisturbed, thankfully.
Chapter 2: The Old Ways
Hermione gets Harry's letter, and interrogates Ron.
Hermione Granger took a deep breath, and carefully, intentionally set the letter beside her on the arm of the chair in the Gryffindor common room that she was sitting on.
“You can’t kill Harry, because he’s too far away. And you can’t kill Ron, because he’s your boyfriend,” she reminded herself. As if summoned by her thoughts, Ron burst in through the portrait hole at that moment, shouting,
“‘Mione! Harry wrote! And he remembered to write in cursive so it’s easier to follow! His new friends sound fantastic, and his boss sounds like a right nice bloke…” he trailed off upon noticing her expression. “‘Mi, is something wrong?” He asked cautiously. Hermione tapped her fingers in an uneven pattern on the chair arm before answering in a futile attempt to calm herself.
“Ronald,” she said pleasantly, watching him blanch, his freckle sharply defined against his pale skin, “Would you like to tell me why you never let Harry, or I know that we lacked knowledge of an entire way of life, and Harry had to find it out from people he thought were Muggles?” Ron sat down heavily, his face unusually blank of expression. He glanced around, ascertaining whether or not there were any other students in the common room. For a Saturday, it was oddly empty—then again, there were few restrictions on going to Hogsmeade anymore, and many fewer students. He leaned forward, but didn’t speak, and some of Hermione’s anger began to leach away, transforming into concern. Finally, he sighed, and shook his head, saying,
“‘Mione, would you mind coming up to the boys’ dorm to talk about this? It really isn’t something that should be bandied about where other people can hear.” Hermione stared at her boyfriend, lost for words. Ron was never this serious, or aware of his surroundings, even if he’d matured lately. Aware that she’d let a long silence fall between them, she shook herself, finally, and said cautiously,
“Sure, Ron. If you want.” Ron nodded quickly and stood up. When she didn’t follow, he cleared his throat awkwardly.
“Well, let’s go then.” Their journey up the stairs was quiet, each lost in their own thoughts. Ron shut the door behind them with an intentional slam. Nobody scolded him, and he couldn’t see anyone in the beds, so he waved his hand in the direction of his bed in what he hoped was a vaguely welcoming manner. Once they were both seated comfortably, Ron cast a Muffilato, then turned to meet his girlfriend’s eyes. Despite his worry, he found it difficult not to hold back an amused snort at her familiar expression. ‘Mione had that tense, expected, excited expression where she was practically vibrating in place. He used to find it annoying, to his considerable shame, but now it was mostly just endearingly Hermione.
“Well?” She said upon noticing his look, her voice almost an octave higher than normal. He winced, then held out a hand. She frowned but took it. He squeezed gently, reassuring and collecting himself.
“‘Mi, you have to understand. This isn’t something I’m supposed to talk about. Not all of it’s illegal, but people get hurt for all of it. It’s part of why we’re considered blood-traitors, why Mum’s family didn’t approve of Dad’s.” His girlfriend’s frown deepened, her beautiful brown eyes darkening. Ron held up his free hand before she got anything out. “Yes, it’s bigotry. It’s…it’s hard to know where to start. Look, I suppose maybe starting with V-Voldemort might be good.” He sighed, rubbing his face with his free hand. “The thing is, if pureblood and wizard supremacy hadn’t already been popular, he would have just been a footnote. That’s what Bill and Dad say, anyways. Mum thinks that he might not even have been Voldemort if things had been different, but I don’t know about that.” Mione didn’t say anything. Ron returned his gaze to her face. She looked…puzzled…was about as much as he could guess. “Mi? What are you thinking?” He asked. She jumped, clearly startled, and hummed for a moment before asking quietly,
“Ron…if those ideas weren’t always there, and you think they’re wrong, why do—why have you adhered to them?” Ron grimaced. He should have expected that question.
“Well, if the majority of society believes them, and they’re part of normal life, wouldn’t you think it can be hard to challenge them? Plus, the Prewetts, a lot of them, did adhere to them, and Mum has had trouble getting rid of the beliefs she grew up hearing.” ‘Mione still looked thoughtful, and he added hastily, “But that doesn’t excuse my behavior. I know I’ve been a right prat way too many times to count.” That got her attention, and she snorted, her eyes twinkling.
“Ronald, I would not say you’re wrong. But don’t think I haven’t noticed your lack of a complete answer.” Ron shifted his weight, letting the sound of shifting fabric fill the silence between them. But, unlike when he was younger, he knew he couldn’t let her question go unanswered.
“We didn’t tell Harry because he didn’t ask—we couldn’t risk it, especially as the war heightened. As for not telling you, well, I can’t remember the last time we really talked about it to a Mug—first generation mage. Even me correcting myself feels weird. Hogwarts and the Ministry cast a long shadow.” ‘Mione tapped her wand thoughtfully against her lip. Suddenly, her eyes lit up, and she straightened bolt upright, pulling her hand out of his grasp. He eyed her warily. Whenever ‘Mione lit up like that, you either followed in her wake, or got the hell out of her way, something he’d learned through first-hand experience. But what she said next surprised him.
“Harry was right.”
“Right about what?” He asked curiously.
“He and his new friends think it’s time to change things. He included their names, and where one of them lives, so I’m going to send him an owl. I think I’ll send one to Kingsley too. That should be good for a start.” Ron just stared at her. He had some serious misgivings about his girlfriend’s words. The first being,
“‘Mione. Do you know these friends of Harry’s? At all?”
“Well, no,” she frowned. “And since when are you the voice of caution, Ronald?” Ron resisted the urge to raise his voice. This was one of the rare—though becoming more common—times when he felt like he understood how ‘Mione must have felt when he and Harry were running around being reckless.
“‘Mione, you have a history, like Harry and I, of racing off to do what you think is right, regardless of what other people say. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do this, but you could ask Bill, or Dad, about these things first. Kingsley’s probably a safe bet, but he’s also Minister for Magic. You might be better off sending him an owl to ask if you could be invited to his home to talk. If you insist on sending an owl off to Harry’s friend, maybe meet him with Harry, and me, in a public, non-magical place.” He held his breath as ‘Mione blinked at him. He let it out with some relief when she spoke.
“You know, Ron, I suppose you have a point. When did you get so rational?” He shrugged.
“When you weren’t looking?” He offered weakly, then muttered the counter for the Muffilato. She laughed, then patted his arm before kissing him right on the mouth. He returned the favor, and they were on the bed. She was pulling her shirt up when the door opened.
“Hey, Ron. Have you seen—oi, mate! This is a school! Sorry, Hermione.” The door slammed. They’d both frozen, and Ron knew his ears had to be bright red, while ‘Mione was flushing darkly. She hurriedly pulled her shirt back down and sat up.
“I think I’d better go, Ron.” He couldn’t say anything to dissuade her. But he couldn’t wait until they graduated, had jobs, and could buy their own home. Even if it was a tiny postage stamp apartment. She put a gentle hand on his shoulder before she left.
“Do you think Bill would mind if I dropped him an owl? I’m still going to send the other two.” Ron sighed slightly, but he could feel the small smile on his face.
“No, I don’t think he’d mind. He likes you. I think he’s wanted to get to know you better anyway—anyone who is friends with Ginny is good people in his book.” She smiled back at him, then slipped out of the room.
Once she disappeared, Ron collapsed back onto his bed with a groan. He’d rather not face Dean—because he was pretty sure that was who’d burst in on them—but, he remembered, he still had a paper to finish for Transfiguration, and he’d left everything in the common room. He rubbed a hand over his face, then pulled himself up and followed his girlfriend out of the dorm room.
Chapter 3: Enlisting the Minister
Kingsley gets some letters from Hermione Granger and Harry Potter, and he is motivated to help them change the world
“Kings? Wake up. There’s an owl for you. Two, in fact. From Hermione Granger and Harry Potter.” Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister for Magic blinked his eyes open, immediately regretting it as bright light hit him smack in the face. His husband laughed lightly, then muttered a spell in French, and the light dimmed as the curtains closed. Kingsley blinked until his eyes adjusted, and he could actually make out his husband’s face. Sometimes he could hardly believe that he’d survived long enough to get married. He and Achille had known each other for years, the Flamels and his mother’s family long-time friends. But Achille had gone to Beauxbatons, and with their ten-year age difference, they had drifted apart. During the second war, however, somehow Achille had managed to send him consistent letters, which Kingsley replied to whenever possible. Two years ago, when Magical Britain began to stabilize again, Kingsley had visited Achille in France. To Kingsley surprise, they began a romantic relationship, and eventually, Achille proposed. Now they had two children. One-year-old Desta Royal, and a baby, Lishan Dora. Kingsley was roused from his thoughts by a gentle nudge from his husband. He looked at Achille expectantly. His husband was grinning slightly.
“Drifting off, Kings? Better not do that at work.” Kingsley merely raised a brow and shook his head.
“Achille. You said Harry and Hermione both sent letters?” If he was being honest, he was surprised. He had gotten to know both of them a bit over the war, but he would have thought both of them were too busy finishing their education now that Hogwarts had been repaired to have anything to say to the Minister they barely knew. Not to mention that Harry had disappeared to only-McGonagall-knew-where, and never liked interacting with authority figures regardless. Achille looked bemused as well—he didn’t know many British wizards, but Kingsley, and his approaching three years here, meant he had some idea of how strange this was—but handed the two letters over. Kingsley opened them, and as he read through each, his brows climbed steadily higher and higher. Finally, he threw them both down and stared blankly at the bedroom wall, gaping.
“Kings. Kings. Kingsley!” He jumped. Achille was glaring at him, making it clear that his husband had been calling for quite a while. As Achille took in Kingsley’s clear shock, his face softened. “Kings. Ça va bien?” Kingsley stood, and began pacing.
“Non, mon mari,” he said shortly. Achille frowned at him, his thick brows drawing together.
“Kings. What is going on?” Kingsley waved a careless hand at the letters on the bed.
“Read them.” Reluctantly, Achille picked them up, his grey eyes growing darker as he read. But not with the same emotions that Kingsley was feeling. When Achille looked up, his mouth was a thin, stern line, and his eyes were dark, almost black.
“I knew that Britain had abandoned the old ways, as has France to an extent. But we have never had the same amount of prejudice. Ours shows in different ways. Am I to understand that the child of one of your oldest families knows nothing of his background? That his friends refuse to educate him and his best friend? A first-generation mage, who can’t locate it on her own?” Kingsley resisted the urge to yell at his husband, knowing very well it would get nothing done, and probably upset the children.
“Achille. They don’t know because it is illegal to know. The old ways are forbidden to be spread. Most of them have been deemed dark. Our prejudice is so virulent it caused two wars in a less than fifty-year time span.” His husband’s frown deepened.
“I hope you are following the suggestion made by Harry and planning to change that. Violence as a result of prejudice is only going to continue unless the mindset changes.” Kingsley glared at Achille.
“You think I don’t know that?” He growled. Achille blinked rather quickly, and Kingsley felt a pang of guilt.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have snapped. It’s just…” he trailed off and ran a hand over his scalp before sitting down heavily against the wall. “Untangling everything, figuring out what is legitimately harmful, and what we should bring back will be complicated. And the Ministry is a mess. The war ended barely three years ago this May.” He looked up as Achille sat down before him. He didn’t resist as his husband pulled him into his arms, letting his head fall to Achille’s shoulder. After a few moments, Achille lifted his head up with a finger and kissed him gently. Leaning back, he said,
“Thank you for the apology. Kings, you know the right thing is never easy. I know you know that. But it has never stopped you before.” He smiled, the action lighting up his face. “But maybe you can wait until Mademoiselle Granger and Monsieur Potter are done with their schooling. One more year can’t hurt much when it’s been centuries,” he said teasingly. Kingsley grimaced, but kissed his husband back before saying,
“What would I do without you, Achille?” His husband’s smile brightened.
“Be quite a bit angrier, and get less done, Kings.” He shook his head in amusement, then stood, and offered a hand up to his husband. Achille took it, using the motion as an opportunity to lean in for another kiss. They were interrupted by the sound of a cry a few doors down. Achille snorted. “It appears the baby has awakened. Your turn, Kings. I had a devil of a time getting her to sleep last night.” Kingsley nodded, and pulled on some clothes. He didn’t really mind doing it—he loved his children, and the job of Minister had not left him with a lot of time to spend with them so far.
He poked his head in his daughter’s door to see her already giggling as Conseil, one of the free French elves that worked for them, tickled her. He cleared his throat, and both turned to look at him with wide eyes as he said,
“Conseil, I can get Lisha ready for the day. I know you were up late with Des because of his cold.” When Conseil looked reluctant—all the elves loved the Shacklebolt children—Kingsley wheedled. “Please, Conseil. I haven’t really seen her since Monday because of the Ministry.” The elf sighed.
“Alright, Monsieur Shacklebolt. I will help Pomme with breakfast instead.” They snapped their long fingers, and a bottle of milk appeared, along with fruit and cereal. Kingsley thanked them, and they nodded, then disappeared with a pop. Kingsley smiled at his daughter, who grinned back, two tiny teeth visible in her mouth.
“Da!” She said happily, her arms waving around excitedly. Kingsley chuckled, and picked her up.
“Good morning, princess. Breakfast or clothes first?” He asked seriously, pointing to the food and then her dresser.” She frowned adorably, gumming her hand, then pointed to the bottle.
“Befa,” she said imperiously. Kingsley smiled down at her again. Children were always a good way to brighten the mood.
“What do we say?” He asked. His daughter looked confused for a moment, then she lit up, her hair turning a bright yellow.
“Peas!” She yelled.
“Very good, Lisha,” he said approvingly, before starting to feed her.
Kingsley spent an enjoyable morning preparing his daughter for the day, able to put the letters and their subject matter behind him for that short time. But after handing both children off to the elf that watched over them when he and Achille were working, Professeur, his worries returned with a vengeance. And, to be truthful, his excitement. If he could really change the way things were, the British magical world could blossom in a way he’d only heard in stories and seen in other countries. All of these thoughts left him so distracted that even his secretary remarked on it. And Melissa Selwyn was a particularly reticent woman. So finally, during lunch, he sent letters off to both Hermione and Harry, asking if they were still planning on joining the Ministry after they finished their schooling. He added a sentence wondering if either of them would care to meet to discuss the content of his letters further. They were welcome to bring the friends they mentioned. After that, he was finally able to concentrate on his actual job.
Both of his letters caused a bit of a splash. In a surreptitiously magical bookshop in Edinburgh, three people fell off their chairs after hearing such an open-minded response from the Minister for Magic, particularly one who was such a prominent pureblood. In an old castle in the high lands, a particular bushy-haired prefect and her freckled boyfriend started yelling triumphantly while the rest of Gryffindor house stared, especially when they learned that the reaction was caused by a letter from the Minister for Magic.
Unbeknownst to everyone, this was the harbinger of some major winds of change for the Magical world, ones that would change how Magical Britain looked forever.
Chapter 4: A New Case and A New Partner
Harry is now part of the Aurors, and gets a new partner. He starts learning new things, and gets stuck with an unusual case
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Harry pinched the bridge of his nose and yawned after tumbling out of the Floo. He’d overslept again.
“Harry, you’re late!” He turned in the direction of Hermione’s voice. His best friend had recently been appointed deputy head of the DMLE, and while he appreciated the opportunity to help her shake up the Ministry, he sometimes wished he could return to the simpler life of working at Callum’s bookshop. Almost a year ago, he’d received his NEWTs, and qualified to join Auror training. With a pang, he’d left his job at Books by The Loch, but kept his friendships there. In fact, he’d developed a particular one with one of them in particular. That was actually the reason he was late this morning. He smiled as he thought about the rather enjoyable morning he’d had with Callum. His boyfriend was rather talented. Unfortunately, ‘Mione noticed his smile, and being the endlessly curious person that she was, naturally asked, “What has you in such a good mood this morning?” Harry’s cheeks grew hot, and he avoided her gaze as he said,
“Er…my boyfriend?” His best friend’s eyes narrowed, and then she blushed as she caught his meaning. She coughed awkwardly, and a silence fell. Harry ran a hand through his hair and asked, in an artificially bright voice, “So, what task do you have for us poor Aurors today, ‘Mione?” She smiled, clearly eager to change the subject, and said,
“Well, naturally, I don’t have the same assignment for everyone. But you do have a new partner.” Harry stared at her.
“What? But Ron and I work fine together.” ‘Mione patted him apologetically on the shoulder.
“I know. But Susan was insistent that you two get new partners. I think she wants you to train some rookies.” Harry sighed, and hoped that he didn’t get either a hero-worshiping or thoroughly unpleasant rookie. ‘Mione made a shooing motion. “Well, go on then! I know you don’t want to make Susan mad.” Harry winced, and started walking with a shouted goodbye to his best friend. Susan Bones had made Head Auror last year and proved why Hufflepuffs were actually the scariest house. Nobody wants to anger a badger.
He arrived to the Auror department only a few moments into Susan’s usual beginning of the week speech. Thankfully, nobody turned to look at him, though Ron did murmur,
“Cutting it a bit close there, mate, aren’t you?” He shrugged at his other best friend, muttering,
“Woke up late. Then ‘Mione caught me. Did she tell you about us changing partners?” Ron shook his head.
“No, but that’s what Susan started with. She’ll go over the new partnerships at the end. I wish we weren’t being split up, mate.” Harry grimaced.
“Yeah, well, me neither. But Susan’s boss, so there it is.”
“There it is,” Ron agreed. He looked sideways, then added under his breath, “I just hope I don’t get a Slytherin.” Harry elbowed him gently.
“Ron…” Ron flushed slightly.
“Life-long prejudices are hard to get rid of, okay?” Harry gave him a look.
“Hasn’t Hermione reminded us that that’s no excuse for being a prat? And isn’t your grandmother Cedrella a Slytherin? You love her.” Ron shifted on his feet and cleared his throat.
“Alright, I won’t complain about a Slytherin rookie as long as you promise to do the same if you get one.” Harry grinned, and held out a hand.
“Shake on it, mate?” Ron grasped his hand firmly, and they both dropped it as Susan finished her speech.
“Now, we’ll separate into partners as I discussed at the beginning. Rookies on the left, Year-Ones and up on the right.” She tossed her long red braid, already beginning to streak with silver, over her shoulder, before adding, “And there will be no complaining about your assignments. Reassignments will only happen if you genuinely can’t work with each other. Don’t try it just because you want your old partner back.” She glared everyone into a resigned silence before she began calling out names. Harry mostly tuned it out until she got into the P-surnames.
“Potter and Patil. You’re up.” Harry stared for a moment. He had no idea that either of the Patil twins wanted to join the Aurors. He hoped that whichever of them it was willing to work with him after the mess of the Yule Ball in fourth year. He stepped forward to match eyes with Parvati. He made a sheepish smile and shrugged at her. To his relief, she smiled back. He shuffled over and muttered,
“You mind if I wait to see Ron’s new partner instead of getting our assignment right away?” She shook her head, her braid bouncing slightly.
“Not at all, especially with the small crowd that’s gathered around Cornfoot.” He nodded his head in awkward thanks, then turned back to watch Susan pair off the rest. Ron, true to his concerns, ended up with a Slytherin, Angharad Walkenhorst, who Harry thought had been two years behind them in school. To his considerable relief, Ron seemed resigned and polite, if not exactly thrilled with his new partner. Once Susan had finished with the Z-names, Harry walked over to her, aware of Parvati trailing behind. He and Ron, along with Sally-Anne Perks and Morag MacDougal, were Susan’s deputies. Stephen Cornfoot was next in line after them. Susan managed a smile as he approached, but she looked a bit tenser and tired than normal.
“Sue?” He asked. “Something wrong?” She looked like she wanted to protest that everything was fine, then grimaced.
“We have a couple nasty cases that Hermione wants us to follow up on. Most pairs are going to be following up on the regular ones, but she handed me six really messy ones.” She sighed, her face crumpling. Harry cautiously reached out a hand to land on her shoulder. She allowed it, so he squeezed gently.
“Sue…one of them looks like your aunt’s, doesn’t it?” Susan shot him a glare that faded away as she swallowed quickly.
“Yes. How do you do that, Harry? You were never this observant in school.” He shrugged.
“I grew up, Sue. We all did. Do you want Ron or I to take that case?” She looked up at him, her gaze both grateful and guilty.
“You’re a brick, Harry.” She leaned forward, then muttered. “I hate to tell you this, and you can shove it off to Ron, if it’s too close to home, but the case happened in Edinburgh.” Harry hoped his face didn’t show his sudden panic.
“Sue. Who…?” He trailed off. Now it was Susan’s turn to comfort him.
“I don’t think it’s any of your friends. It was an older woman, a Lilias Innes.” Harry winced. Susan looked apologetic.
“So, you did know her. I’m sorry. I can have Ron take the case. It’s just…it involves the old ways, and even with Kingsley and Hermione ramming law changes through, things are still uneasy. I didn’t want just anyone taking the case.” Harry leaned into her, then backed away.
“It’s a’right, Sue. I didn’t know Ms. Innes well. She and one of my neighbors were courting, is all.” Susan smiled at him sadly.
“And I assume that means you want to take it even more, don’t you? Alright. Not much has to be done today. The scene was already investigated, but we won’t get the results for two more days. Just question the witnesses and neighbors today.” Harry nodded.
“Where in Edinburgh did she live?” Susan grimaced, her blue eyes flitting away from his bright green.
“She lived off Leygate, in Old Town.” He sighed, running a hand through his eternally messy hair.
“Well, I already agreed I’d take it, Sue. I suppose we’d better get going.” She nodded slowly.
“Don’t stay out too late. Things are less safe these days.” Harry couldn’t help barking out a laugh.
“Sue. When have I ever experienced safe?” At her glare, he added hastily, “But I’ll be careful, I promise.” She nodded.
“Well, on with you then. I trust I’ll see you for dinner tomorrow? With your new man?” Harry coughed something that could have been agreement and began stalking off toward the Floo. He didn’t realize he’d left Parvati behind until she came racing up, out of breath.
“What was all that?” She demanded. He gaped at her.
“You didn’t hear it?” She put her hands on her hips, glaring at him.
“Harshad James Poddar! I’ll have you know that I’m not rude enough to listen in on my boss and senior partner’s private conversations. I was raised with manners. Even if my gossip at school may have led to the opposite impression,” she added hastily.
“The case we’re following hits a bit close to home for Sue and I,” he said absentmindedly. “What did you call me?” She frowned at him.
“Your name? I was angry at you, so I used the full version. Do you not like Harshad?” Harry frowned back at her.
“My full name isn’t Harry? Or Potter?” Her mouth dropped open. Harry began to get concerned.
“Parvati, are you alright?” She waved a hand at him as she closed her mouth.
“Yes. You and I are having a conversation after work today, though.” He looked at her warily.
“Yes. We are.” She cleared her throat and marched over to the Floo, looking at him expectantly.
“So, what address are we Flooing too?” Harry grabbed a pinch of powder.
“I supposed my address would be simplest. Heathering Apartments, Annishag Lane!”
So, a couple things. There will be a few time jumps sometimes. This was the first one of them. Also, Harry's last name is Poddar, but it wasn't standardized or insisted on by his family, so in books, it alternates between Poddar and Potter depending on who's writing. But officially, if you look at his birth certificate, it's Poddar. Not all of his friends/family know this at first. Sirius and Andromeda do, but it never really came up. McGonagall tends to go with Potter.
Chapter 5: Old Town and A Bit of A Row
Harry and Parvati go to Old Town. Parvati gets more curious about her former classmate. Callum and Harry have a bit of a row.
Fair warning, there is a lot of Scottish accents and turns of phrase that are hopefully both understandable and accurate in this chapter.
Parvati Patil’s brow furrowed as she watched her new partner stride along the streets of the magical quarter of Edinburgh’s Old Town. Harry had always been an enigma to her and Lavender. So far, this morning wasn’t dispelling it. Firstly, she, like the majority of the magical world, had no idea where the former Boy-Who-Lived made his home. But an Edinburgh apartment was not what she expected. And her confusion was only compounded by the fact that he clearly knew nothing about his heritage beyond the British old ways, not even his full name. It was unbelievable that a man, who, if his parents had lived, would have been part of one of the oldest Indian families in Britain and one of the most powerful magical ones, had absolutely no knowledge of it. She let out a frustrated sigh. Hopefully he’d be willing to meet after work like she’d demanded. She winced slightly. And hopefully he wouldn’t mind Lavender’s presence. Some of the laws that DMLE Head Granger and Minister Shacklebolt hadn’t managed to change yet were the ones regulating werewolves, so Lav was usually stuck at home, to the extremely sociable mage’s dismay.
“Parvati? We’re almost there.” She looked up, noticing Harry’s nervous tone. His features were pinched as he said, “Please, let me take the lead. I know these people, and they know me. I don’t want a stranger upsetting them. Even if she follows the old ways. They’re not comfortable with magical outsiders, and the Aurors who originally responded have probably agitated them enough already.” Parvati felt a little insulted, and more than a little startled that Harry knew she followed the old ways. Both she and Padma had been taught to portray mostly typical pureblood girls in every situation outside of the inner family compound. And if Harry didn’t know about his heritage, how did he manage to know so much about the old ways? Regardless, she nodded, little realizing that some of the answers to her questions would soon be answered. Because she wasn’t speaking to the witnesses and neighbors, Parvati was forced to rely only on her visual observational skills to learn things instead of social interaction. What she noticed was fascinating. None of these people looked at Harry with awe, though most seemed to respect him. The older ones teased him, and the children ran into him or waved wildly. To Parvati’s surprise, Harry responded in kind, and returned the hugs the children gave him. In fact, he was now carrying one of them on his hip. The reserved, awkward, and sometimes angry boy she’d known at Hogwarts was nowhere to be seen. Neither was the mostly formal and stiff Auror he presented at around the office. Right now, he was chatting with the child on his hip, good-naturedly listening to her babbling.
“That’s wonderful, Mairead. Did ye make that potion wi’ yer mother?” The child nodded frantically.
“Aye, Mister Harry. Ma said ‘twas yin she learned fae her ma.”
“That’s special, Mairead. How is yer Ma, by th’ way? Ah haven’t seen her as much sin’ I changed jobs.” The little girl pouted, and Parvati was hard-pressed not to giggle at the affronted words that followed.
“Ah ken. It’s nae fair that th’ Sassenach stole ye awa’!” Harry had no such reservations and began to chuckle.
“Oh, Mairead. Thank you fur brightening mah day. Bit ye see me every weekend whin Mr. Callum ‘n I come ower. I’m nae nicked, lassie.” Mairead shook her head firmly.
“Aye, yer, mister Harry.” Harry laughed again.
“Very well, Mairead. How come don’t ye lead me tae yer Ma, then?” Mairead’s whole face brightened, and she started bouncing in his hold. To Parvati’s amusement, she heard Harry mutter a Sticking Charm under his breath. But she was quite impressed with the way he had so skillfully managed a way to talk to one of the neighbors without arousing suspicion. When she met the girl’s mother, her mouth dropped open in astonishment.
“Claise yer geggy, dear. Ye wull catch flies if ye lea’ it lik’ that,” a woman who looked like an older version of Morag MacDougal said with a smile. Parvati closed her mouth with a snap as Harry, Mairead, and Mairead’s mum snorted. Harry muttered the counter to the Sticking Charm and set Mairead down before saying,
“Parvati, I did the same thing to Morag the first time I saw her during Auror training. Though I don’t think it was quite as much of a shock for me since I’d already met some of Elsie’s family.” Parvati coughed, desperately wanting to change the subject. Thankfully, Elsie—it had to be short for something if Elsie was related to the proudly and blatantly Scottish Morag—MacDougal took pity on her and said,
“Harry, how come don’t we take this intae th’ bookshop?” Harry nodded, his expression changing to one Parvati couldn’t quite pin-point, something between an eager grin and a grimace. Elsie chuckled, her black eyes sparkling.
“Cal juist went oot fur his dinner break if that’s whit you’re worried aboot, Harry.” Her partner flushed, and Parvati couldn’t help asking,
“Who’s Cal?” as Elsie shut the door behind them. After telling her daughter to ‘gang spell in th’ back green, th’ plants wull watch you, Mairi’, the other woman turned back to them.
“My boss,” Elsie said, adding with a mischievous glance at Harry, “and Harry’s friend.” Harry flushed further, which Parvati was intensely curious about, but she was distracted by Elsie holding out a heavily calloused hand. “Elspeth MacDougal. I’m Morag’s older sister. Nice tae make yer acquaintance. Whit brings twa Aurors to this neuk o’ Auld Town?” Parvati returned the courtesy.
“Parvati Patil. Nice to meet you as well. I never knew Morag had an older sister. I’m afraid you’ll have to prevail on Harry for an explanation, as he requested he take the lead, and I’m the junior partner.” Elspeth snorted, though not unkindly, before dropping Parvati’s hand and turning to Harry.
“Why’d ye go ‘n bring a toff ‘ere, Harry? That’s a way tae mak a’body scatter.” Parvati felt her cheeks grow hot. Harry shot a smile at her before answering his friend.
“It’s nae Parvati’s fault, Elsie. Sue made us all get fresh partners, and Parvati got stuck wi’ me ‘n’ a nasty case.” Elspeth abruptly sobered at his words, the twinkle fading from her eyes, and she sat down heavily at the table Harry was already at. Parvati followed suit. Elspeth pulled a flower from her hair and began to fiddle with it.
“You’re ‘ere aboot Lilias Innes’ death, aren’t ye?” She asked. Harry leaned forward, his mouth a thin line.
“Yeah, Elsie, we are. If ye can tell us anythin’, anythin’ at all, it’d be beyond helpful.” Elspeth squished the stem of the flower into a paste as her grip tightened on it. She took a long breath. Her voice shook as she spoke.
“Th’ wars skelp us solid, ye ken? We may hae bin hidden, bit we weren’t immune or isolated.” Harry reached forward and clasped her hands, to Parvati’s surprise. Elspeth smiled faintly. “Ah ken ye ken, Harry. In many ways, ye git th’ wirst o’ it.” Harry frowned.
“Elsie…” He protested. His friend shook her head.
“It doesn’t maiter, any road. Th’ point is, Lilias’ death stirred up a lot, wee o’ it guid.” Parvati sighed pointedly through her nose. None of this was going anywhere—Harry hadn’t even gotten in a real question yet. To her chagrin, both Harry and Elspeth noticed her impatience and lack of matters, and she was faced with two sets of glares. Before anyone could say anything, the doorbell chimed, and a man walked in. Both Harry and Elspeth cursed quickly under their breath before the man reached them. Parvati took the opportunity to watch him, especially since he didn’t seem to have noticed her at all. He was dressed comfortably, in a sweater and jeans, with a well-loved pair of boots. More interestingly, he had silver streaks in his hair even though he couldn’t be more than thirty, and knuckles tattooed with letters Parvati couldn’t quite make out. As he saw Harry, his face crinkled into a wide smile, dimples half-hidden by his well-trimmed beard. Harry smiled back, but Parvati caught the panicked look he shot at her, which did not clear anything up. She was somewhat enlightened and shocked when the man took advantage of his superior height and weight, pulling the wiry Harry up and spinning him around.
“Harry, whit are ye daein’ hame sae earlie oan a Monday? Ah thought ye wid be at th’ affice fur ages yit!” The man boomed. Harry was flushing intensely, particularly as he caught Parvati’s eye. She twitched a smile, and he relaxed, laughing at the man who had to be his boyfriend.
“Cal, as much as I love ye, did ye hae tae greet me like that in front of a stranger?” His boyfriend, who was apparently Elspeth’s boss, flushed a bright red. Elsie sniggered, and he turned to see Parvati. Still red, he grinned at her, and held out a hand.
“Callum Blackwood, lassie. Mah apologies fur mah rudeness. Tae wham dae ah owe th’ buzz?” Parvati raised a brow, but took his hand, and promptly jumped as his eyes flashed amber, and he let out an involuntary growl. Well, at least now she knew Harry wouldn’t have a problem with Lav.
“Parvati Patil. I am Harry’s new partner for the Auror Office. My personal partner is Lavender Brown, and I must apologize for infringing on your territory. I had no idea. But it is a pleasure to meet you.” Mr. Blackwood blinked slowly at her, as if he was unsure what to make of her answer, and they both looked at the two still at the table. Elspeth was face-down on the table, her mass of spiraling black curls making it impossible to discern any expression. Harry, on the other hand, was both blushing and tapping his fingers in an uneven pattern on the table. Parvati shook her head almost imperceptibly. This was certainly turning out to be an interesting and educational first day as an actual Auror, and they hadn’t even gotten to doing their actual job yet. Harry cleared his throat and stood, scooting his chair back with a screech that made Parvati wince and Callum jump. Clearing his expression with obvious effort, her partner said,
“Weel, now that we’ve got that settled. Cal, Ah must apologize, but Parvati and Ah are ‘ere fur work reasons.” The atmosphere abruptly changed as Mr. Blackwood’s face hardened. Elspeth pulled her head up from the table, looking at her boss with an uneasy but unsurprised expression.
“Och, pure,” Mr. Blackwood said slowly. “Ah thought whin ye teuk that jab ye promised ye wouldn’t wirk against us.” Harry glared at his boyfriend.
“Cal, ye know ah said I’d try mah best. But, especially whin we’re pushing thro’ laws tae help oor community, as an officer o’ the law, ah can’t afford tae break th’ ones on th’ books!” His words didn’t seem to appease his boyfriend. Elspeth sighed, and wrangled her hair with a scarf she pulled from her pocket before trying.
“Callum, ye ken Harry. He wid nae break his word. Forby, a’ they’re trying tae dae is solve Lilias Innes’ death. Don’t ye think Beathan Atchison deserves tae ken whit happened? Don’t we a’?” Mr. Blackwood didn’t look entirely convinced, shooting Harry a look that clearly said We’ll discuss this later, but he let up, nodding reluctantly.
“A’richt. Juist blether, ye ken? Na interrogations. Na arrests. ‘N you’ll speak w’ Elsie, Keating, ‘n Ah afore a’body else.” Harry nodded back as Parvati wondered who this Keating was, and just how close to the old ways these people were if they were so afraid of even one of their own investigating a murder.
Chapter 6: Visiting Mum
In order to settle his thoughts, Harry visits Andy, Teddy, and Sirius. Meanwhile, Cal feels guilty for the way he behaved
Harry sank gratefully into the overstuffed armchair that Andromeda had insisted he get when he moved in. Even though he didn’t tend to spend all that much time at his flat these days, on a day like this, he really appreciated the comfort it provided. He stared into nothing, longingly thinking of a pint of beer. But he knew himself better than to keep alcohol in his home—he was perfectly aware of the trap it could be even after a few years of therapy. And he was too tired to think about walking down to the nearest pub, the Selkie. Besides, he doubted that his neighbors and friends really wanted to see him now, after the fuss he and the Ministry had inadvertently kicked up. And that brought him to something he really didn’t want to think about. Cal had been so furious with Harry for something that he couldn’t even control. Harry groaned quietly, dropping his head into his hands. Recently, Cal had become more and more irrational on the topic of the Ministry, particularly the Aurors, and Harry had no idea why. Particularly since his boyfriend had been the one to encourage him in the first place. Perhaps it had something to do with the murder. He groaned again. And wasn’t that a mess? The only thing he and Parvati had found for certain was that it pretty much exactly resembled Madam Bones’ murder during the war, including signs of a fight and the door being locked from the inside.
The most baffling thing was that no one seemed to have noticed anything strange before it. Ms. Innes’ had been acting normally, by all accounts. Not even Keating and Ciara, her neighbors on both sides, had noticed anything or anyone out of the ordinary. No, all that had happened was Harry making the only people who treated him like a regular person besides his family scared and uneasy. He ran a hand through his hair, pulling it out of the short ponytail he’d forced it into for work, sick to his stomach. He knew how being scared felt, how expecting a blow as normal felt, and he hated that he might have made his friends feel like that. With a wince, he stood, ignoring the way his ankles twinged from the amount of walking he’d put them through today.
He couldn’t just sit here feeling ashamed and sorry for himself. Not only was it unproductive, he could practically hear his therapist’s voice in his head telling him not to reinforce negative habits and mindsets. He looked around his flat aimlessly, and his eyes landed on a picture of himself playing with Teddy. He managed a smile. He could visit his godson—Teddy always managed to cheer him up. And Andromeda was always good to talk to. Since she was on the Wizengamot now, he could even discuss the case with her, though probably not tonight. Not if he was trying to make himself happier.
His mind made up, Harry took a pinch of Floo powder, and tossed it in, shouting,
“Tonks Family Home, Marylebone, Baker Street!” He disappeared into the green flames without a look back, unaware that someone granted access by the wards entered just as he vanished.
Andromeda Black Tonks looked up in surprise as the man she’d come to think of as an honorary son tumbled out of her fireplace and dropped her book as she stood.
“Harry! It’s good to see you! But what brings you here with no notice?” She asked, dusting him off. He protested her ministrations, blushing, and didn’t immediately answer. When he looked up, she couldn’t help gasping. He looked devastated. His skin had a slight grey tinge to it, his hair was even more of a hopeless mess, and his normally bright green eyes were dark, with slight bags under them. As she held him, she noticed that he was shaking slightly. He must have noticed her gasp and subsequent short silence, because Harry managed a hollow version of his usual sheepish grin and said wryly,
“That ill, is it Andy? Ah thought Ah was getting better at keeping mah emotions private.” Andromeda clucked her tongue, her normal manner falling back into place.
“You are, of course, my dear. But you are not yet quite at Slytherin level yet.” She managed a teasing smile and added, “Though I daresay you would surpass me if you had not argued with the Sorting Hat.” Harry snorted weakly, the Scottish accent he’d begun to develop in the last year or so strengthening as he said, “
Ah appreciate yer faith in mah skills, Andy. But ah don’t ken if my life would hae gaen in th’ identical way if that wis th’ case.” Now it was Andromeda’s turn to snort.
“And who is to say that is all to the bad, Harry? Perhaps if you were a Slytherin you would have gained more control, and met other allies?” Harry smiled at her, but she noticed the action didn’t reach his eyes. Leaning forward, she patted him on the shoulder. “We’ll talk more seriously later, my dear. But right now, I think you likely want to see my grandson and cousin.” Harry gave her an intensely grateful look that made her shift uncomfortably. She beckoned him to follow her as she stood back up. The Tonks home wasn’t as dizzyingly complicated as Grimmauld Place or any of the other Black properties, but it still had more than its share of rooms. After a few familiar twists and turns that always made her think that her Ted must have had wizarding relatives, she found Teddy and Sirius playing together as she’d expected. Somehow her grandson had convinced her cousin to play Exploding Snap, a game Sirius hated, as he was terrible at it. Unsurprisingly, Teddy was winning. But their game was dropped and trampled as Teddy noticed Harry’s presents.
“Happy!” the almost four-year-old crowed, running straight at Harry, his appearance shifting to match Harry’s own. Just before Teddy ran smack into Harry’s knees, her son crouched down, opening his arms. He caught the little boy with a quickly muffled grunt, and rose to his feet, smiling both widely and sincerely. Sirius approached a little more slowly, though the smile on his face was just as wide as Harry’s. Harry shifted his hold on Teddy, then freed a hand for Sirius to shake.
“Awright, Padfoot. Ah heard ye got pardoned recently. How’s that feeling?” Sirius’s smiled widened.
“Thanks for asking, Pup. Like you didn’t have anything to do with it. But since you’re asking, it’s wonderful. Like getting the weight of the world on my shoulders. And I can stop freeloading off of Andy.” Andromeda made an indignant sound, and Harry laughed.
“Kingsley was yer roommate ‘n pairt o’ the Order. Ah imagine that had something tae dae wi’ it as weel. A’ Ah did was suggest it tae ‘Mione.” He winked at Andromeda, causing Teddy to giggle, before adding, “Sae, if you’re nae going tae ‘freeload’ off o’ Andy anymair, what are ye going tae dae?” Sirius’s smiled dimmed, then brightened again.
“I’m getting Grimmauld Place cleaned, removing all the nasty stuff, then selling it. Kreacher wants to stay with the Hogwarts elves, so that’s one problem solved.” He paused, and promptly appeared like an excitable dog, even though he hadn’t shifted. “I’m thinking I’ll buy a place here, so I can stay close to Andy and Teddy.” Both Harry and Andromeda gave him a suspicious look, neither having heard most of his plans.
“What are you not telling us?” They both asked at the same time. Sirius pouted, looking even more like a puppy.
“I’m hurt! Devastated, I tell you! How can my closest family fail to believe me?! Oh, the betrayal!” That was too much for Harry, who collapsed on the floor helpless with laughter, careful not to hurt Teddy. Andromeda followed him, just as amused. Teddy was already giggling wildly. In the face of their mirth, Sirius couldn’t help but follow. After they were all laughed out, Harry and Andromeda both wiping tears from their eyes, Sirius finally took pity on them. “I learned that the descendants of Holmes and Watson live on this street! I’d love to meet them.” Harry narrowed his eyes, as did Andromeda. But he beat her to the punch.
“Sirius, if he’s anythin’ like th’ original Watson’s stories, this Holmes wull be juist as analytical ‘n curious. ‘N Ah doubt either o’ thaim are magical. Be canny.” Sirius looked affronted and clutched dramatically at his chest.
“How dare you! When have I ever been anything but careful?” Andromeda and Harry both raised a disbelieving brow at that.
“You’re a Marauder,” Harry said simply.
“You are a Black,” Andromeda added. They were interrupted by a small buzzing sound. They all looked down to find Teddy fast asleep on Harry’s lap. After sharing a mutual, good-natured laugh, they put the little boy to sleep. Harry looked as if he wanted to try to escape, but Andromeda fixed him with a no-nonsense glare and said, “Young man. You are not leaving until we discuss what’s been bothering you.” Harry looked at Sirius pleadingly, but his godfather shook his head.
“Harry. We’re not letting you disappear again like you did right after the war.” He paused. “And yes, I know I am the hugest hypocrite to call you to task, but you can’t just keep it all in.” Andromeda smiled at her son, the action becoming something of a Slytherin smirk.
“My dear, you know neither of us will judge you like the rest of your family occasionally does on accident.” Harry began to smile, especially when Sirius added,
“You know, you got much more of the Black family than the Potter. Which is funny, because Great-Aunt Dorea is your great-grandmother, so one would think the Black blood would be diluted.” He cleared his throat. “Point is, we get you, pup. We just want you to talk instead of letting your problems fester.” Harry nodded slowly as Andromeda led them into the library. A silence fell as they all found a seat. Harry leaned forward, clasping his hands together and looking down at them. He didn’t say anything for a long time, the crackle of the fire the only sound as Sirius and Andromeda waited patiently for him to speak. When he finally looked up, he said with a weak smile,
“Siri, sin you’re th’ heid o’ th’ House now, maybe ye shuid call a family meeting. Nae everyone’s died aff, ‘n I’d love tae meet wi’ Great-Grandma Dorea.” Sirius barked a laugh.
“But everyone unpleasant has. Not to mention, I can bring Andy and Great-Great Aunt Cedrella back into the fold to name a few. Not a bad idea, Pup.” Harry’s smile gained a little strength, then it slipped off as he looked back down at his hands. Andromeda leaned forward in concern. Harry sighed, then began to speak again.
“Before I tell you about this, I’m going need an oath from both of you not to speak of it to anyone else, because some of it regards an ongoing case.” Before either of them could protest, he raised a hand. “Yes, I know both of you are on the Wizengamot, and I trust you both. But I have a bad feeling about this one. It’ll reassure me for safety reasons if you both swear.” With a shiver, Andromeda realized that her son’s Scottish accent had disappeared, and his voice had gone flat. She shared a look with Sirius, and they both nodded and raised their wands before doing as Harry asked. Her son relaxed a bit, his shoulders sagging, and quickly cast both Imperturbable and Muffilato Charms before continuing. To Andromeda’s relief, his accent reappeared. “Ah ken ye remember Madam Bones, ‘n what became o’ her?” Andromeda winced, but nodded, Sirius doing the same. Harry sighed again, running a face over his hand, and looking up. “This case is similar, ‘n it’s in Auld Town.” Andromeda blinked, struck speechless for a moment. This was unexpected for so many reasons, not the least of which that the war had been over for almost four years now. She shivered again, thinking her son was right to have concerns about this case in particular.
“Harry, I must ask. How similar exactly is this case to that of Madam Bones’?” Her son’s face was grim.
“Wi’oot going intae specifics, Andy, bonny much exactly.” Andromeda frowned, running a hand through her hair.
“All I can say is to be careful, Harry. We know it cannot be Voldemort behind this, but other than that there are no concrete suspects that come to mind. Most of the Death Eaters are arrested, dead, or reformed and monitored. I assume your work so far has turned up the same lack of trails?” Harry nodded, leaning back against his chair.
“A day o’ wirk fur what amounted tae basically nothing. Cheers fur confirming mah thoughts, though.” Andromeda smiled sympathetically and leaned back as well. Sirius clearing his throat caught both of their attentions. Her cousin’s face was unusually serious and calm as he asked,
“Pup, there is something else, something connected but different. What is it?” Harry flinched but still answered his godfather.
“I’ve tellt ye both aboot mah new boyfriend, aye? Th’ bookseller ‘n shifter?” Andromeda and Sirius nodded.
“I believe I met him at the last book fair in London. But I thought the two of you were just fine. More than fine, in fact. What changed?” She asked. Harry groaned.
“That’s juist it. I don’t ken. Cal has bin sae angry aboot mah jab lately. ‘N he gaed aff in front of mah fresh partner today.” Sirius frowned, matching Andromeda’s own expression.
“I don’t understand, Pup. I thought he was the one to get you interested in it, urging you to see how much of a difference you could make within the system.” Harry frowned back.
“That’s th’ maist confusing pairt. He was.” Her son’s frown deepened. “Ah ken th’ case stirred ill things up fur a’body. ‘N Cal gets territorial aboot oor neuk o’ Auld Town. But ah don’t ken. It’s juist strange.” Sirius rubbed his beard thoughtfully.
“You’re right, Pup. It is.” Harry leaned forward, a pinched expression on his face.
“Keating ‘n Elsie hae noticed tae. That’s how ill it is. A’ three o’ us hae tried tae talk tae him. But he won’t explain it at a’.” He hesitated, then added, “He did seem lik’ he wanted tae talk aboot something today. Mibbie Ah should—”
“No!” Andromeda and Sirius shouted. Harry looked affronted.
“‘N how come nae?” He asked. Andromeda looked at him in disbelief. She spoke slowly.
“Oh, I don’t know. Perhaps because the next full moon is three days from now and you don’t have an Animagus form? What if your conversation takes a nasty turn and he gets angry?” To her incredulity, both Sirius and Harry burst out laughing. Then it hit her. “Oh, all right. What is it?” She asked resignedly. Harry, still laughing slightly, managed to get out,
“It’s an adder, Andy.” Andromeda couldn’t resist a short, choked laugh at that. Of course, her Gryffindor son ended up with one of the most Slytherin of Animagus forms. She abruptly sobered as Harry asked, “Sae, Padfoot. How come don’t ye want me tae go?” Her cousin’s response was surprisingly sensible.
“Because neither of you have had a chance to cool down. Also, I don’t want you going home to what is almost certainly a fight when you’ve clearly had a long day already.” Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to convince Harry. His face set stubbornly, he said,
“I’m sorry, but ah don’t agree. If ah pat it aff, he wull only git angrier.” Both Andromeda and Sirius protested, but it only seemed to make Harry more determined. Finally, with a curt good-night, Harry reversed the charms, and disappeared into the Floo. Andromeda sat in silence with her cousin for a while, neither of them saying a word. Then she said tentatively,
“Siri, do you think that if I officially adopted him he’d be a little less reckless?” Sirius barked a humorless laugh.
“Andy, he’s already very Black, and a Gryffindor. What do you think?” She sighed.
“Yes, that’s what I thought.” They both stared into the flames, hoping that everything would be alright.
Chapter 7: Having A Much-Needed Conversation
Harry stepped out of the fireplace, even more wrung out and exhausted than before. So much so that he failed to notice anyone else was there until he was pulled into a rough embrace from behind and a familiar voice said,
“‘N whit urr ye daein’ hame sae late, Harry?” To his eternal embarrassment, Harry screamed. Rather loudly. He thanked whatever gods existed that his wards included sound-proofing. He probably hadn’t woken up his neighbors. Then he tried to pull out of Cal’s grip. But his boyfriend’s arms merely tightened. Harry sighed, reluctantly admitting that Sirius may have had a point. He really didn’t need to deal with all of this when he was already exhausted and stretched thin. His voice sharp, he said,
“How come shuid Ah answer that, Cal? Ye snuck intae mah house ‘n are now preventing me fae movin’.” His boyfriend shifted but didn’t answer his question or let him go. Harry sighed again and shifted into his Animagus form. Surprised, Cal dropped his arms, and Harry slithered away. When his boyfriend tried to pick him up, Harry hissed threateningly, baring his fangs. Cal backed away, hands up, looking more than a bit hurt. Harry’s heart dropped, but he stayed away from his boyfriend. He didn’t feel particularly safe in Cal’s presence right now, which saddened him. He really did think he loved the man—he didn’t want it to all fall apart.
The two men were stuck in this standoff for a considerable amount of time. Finally, Cal said, his voice soft,
“If ye shift back, kin we hae a chat? Ah promise ah wull bade oan th’ ither side o’ th’ room unless ye tell me otherwise.” Harry thought it over, unconsciously weaving from side to side. As that really had been his original plan—to talk things over with Cal—he thought it would work for now. He shifted back to human form. Cal made an aborted move toward him, but stopped, sitting down as Harry fixed him with a glare. He scratched his head, mussing up his usually neat hair, looking unsure. And, as Harry studied his erstwhile boyfriend, he noticed that Cal looked almost as awful as Harry felt. A short, bitter sense of glee bubbled up at that. At least this was affecting Cal about as badly as it was Harry himself. Harry cleared his throat, catching the other man’s attention. As Cal jerked up from his slouch, Harry said, his voice uneven, consciously restraining his accent,
“Why? Why are you so angry? What changed, Cal? Because you used to be my strongest supporter.” Callum Blackwood flinched. His mate was furious. If Harry suddenly sounding like a snobby, hide-bound pureblood hadn’t clued him in, the bitter taint to his scent would have cemented it. This wasn’t at all how he had pictured things going when he let himself into his mate’s flat. Firstly, he’d expected Harry to be home when his mate hadn’t come to the loft above Callum’s bookshop. Secondly, he hadn’t really meant to start a fight. There just were so many uncertainties right now, particularly the bond between him and Harry. He blushed with embarrassment as he realized Harry was staring at him with an intense glare, clearly expecting an answer to his question. After failing to control his blush, Callum said, his voice rough with reluctance,
“Ah don’t ken howfur tae justify it, Harry, bit ah wis scared. A’m scared.” Harry’s glare softened, but his voice was still pure Sassenach as he asked,
“Why? Of what?” Callum shifted uncomfortably, scuffing his boot against the old wood floor.
“Ah…” He hesitated. He and Harry might have been together for little over two years, and Harry had never voiced any prejudices against shifters, but that didn’t mean a human, especially one raised by Hogwarts, would be comfortable with the reality of being tied to one. Remus Lupin had found the exception, true. But Lupin had been more human than wolf, never comfortable with his nature, never truly exploring it. And he was Harry’s closest experience, beside Callum himself. Callum knotted his fingers together so tightly that his knuckles went white, the tattooed Gaelic letters standing out sharply. Strangely enough, that shook him out of his panicked daze. He took a deep breath, then started again.
“Mah loue, Ah wis scared o’ ye. ‘N howfur muckle ye hae come tae mean tae me. Yer jab ‘n Lilias’ murder ainlie served tae bring mah maist negative qualities ‘n fashes tae th’ tap.” Harry’s face softened further, and he came closer. Not as close as Callum would have preferred, but enough to appease Callum’s yearning for touch slightly. His voice very quiet, Harry said,
“Ah imagine that first unknown Aurors invading yer territory ‘n then Pav showing up wi’ th’ scent o’ an unfamiliar wolf didn’t hulp either?” Callum nodded, not trusting his voice right now. Harry was hitting right at the heart of it now. He took a few breaths to steady himself, then jumped back in before Harry could make the last connections.
“Harry, darlin’. Dae ye ken howfur wolf shifters mate? Fur lee ‘n in oor third decade.” Harry frowned, and internally Callum whimpered a bit. He breathed out unevenly, then continued. “Tae be fair, Ah wasn’t sure at foremaist. Bit I’ve become mair ‘n mair certain. Bit, ah haven’t felt th’ identical fae ye. That’s how come I’ve bin sae temperamental lately. Certain events juist worsened it.” His heart dropped at Harry’s expression. His mate’s face was completely blank—frozen would be the best descriptor. Callum held his breath. Then to his horror, Harry broke down into tears. And not the tasteful quiet type. No, these were ugly, racking sobs. Ignoring the voice telling him to leave his mate alone, Callum leaped up and gathered Harry into his arms.
Easily lifting his short, wiry mate, he sat back down on the scuffed leather couch. To his relief, Harry didn’t tense or pull away once they were settled. Instead, his mate curled tight against him and dropped his head to Callum’s shoulder. Callum blew out a breath, and gently began to run his hand over Harry’s back, over and over again.
Eventually, Harry stopped crying and lifted his head. Callum bit his lip as he saw how wrecked his mate looked. Hiccupping slightly—Callum didn’t dare laugh, let alone smile—Harry spoke.
“Ah love ye tae Cal. A’m wantin’ tae say that first ‘n foremost. ‘N that ah wasn’t crying juist because o’ what ye said. This week haes bin altogether awfy much, ‘n it’s only Monday. Ah hae a ill feeling aboot this case tae.” Callum couldn’t resist running a gentle thumb down Harry’s cheek. To his surprise, a pained expression crossed his face before it was chased away by blankness. Harry sighed, and laced one of his hands with Callum’s. “Ah love ye Cal, bit ah don’t think ah kin honestly mate wi’ ye.”
Clearly to Harry’s shock, Callum smiled at him. Gently pulling his left hand free of his mate’s, he used it to close Harry’s mouth before turning both of his hands, so the backs were visible.
“Darlin, ah ne’er did tell ye whit thae mean, did ah?” He said, referring to his tattoos. To his amusement, Harry growled slightly.
“Ah ken they’re names, bit na ye haven’t, however much I’ve asked.” Callum chuckled. “Aye, they’re names. Eanraig ‘n Gaenor, tae be precise.” His smile widened as Harry frowned. “Och, c’moan, Harry. Ah ken ye ken some Gaelic.” Harry flushed, but glared at him.
“Th’ second yin isn’t Gaelic, Cal.” Callum chuckled again. “It’s Welsh, sure. Bit that wis th’ version that cuid be spelled in Gaelic.” When that didn’t seem to clear things up, Callum growled slightly himself, and added, “Ye dunderheaded git. Don’t ye ken? I’m giein’ ye permission tae pursue her.” Harry’s mouth hung open again, but he shook himself out of his daze this time.
“But how come? ‘N how come is her name oan yer knuckles?” Callum scratched his head awkwardly.
“Ah ken ye won’t be completely happy wi’oot her. ‘N tae be honest, ah won’t either. A few years ago, afore ah met ye, ah hud a streenge dream. Ah don’t mind maist o’ it, bit efter it, ah wis certain ah hud tae mind yer names.” Harry raised a skeptical brow.
“Sae yet got thaim tattooed in Gaelic on yer knuckles.” Callum shrugged, knowing he was blushing again.
“Ah hae mah quirks?” He offered. Harry chuckled, his green eyes twinkling.
“That’s yin way tae pat it.” And Callum knew he was forgiven. He apologized anyway.
“I’m sorry, darlin’.” Harry leaned in to kiss him.
“Thank you, Cal.”
Callum shifted in his seat, but for a much more pleasant reason this time.