Chapter 1: A Deal (of a sort) Made
After the War and Voldemort’s defeat, Harry Potter quite subtly steps out of the limelight and into the sidelines. Everyone is too busy with their losses and fixing what is left of their world to notice that their Saviour is suspiciously absent from any festivities and almost every memorial service.
His friends sort of expect him to become an Auror to hunt the rest of the Death Eaters and dark wizards but he’s done his job and just wants to rest now. Ron is accepted into the training program though, and Harry is there when he graduates as a fully-fledged Auror. Images of him dressed in sombre blue and smiling gently as he congratulates his first friend splash across the Daily Prophet for a scant week before that appearance dies away.
Hermione, true to everyone’s expectations, becomes one of the foremost researches in the Department of Mysteries while lobbying for creature rights in her spare time. She drags Harry up on stage to announce the successful cure for Lycanthropy (among magical Werewolves only – Harry only later learns, through Crowley, that there are Muggle ones as well). Apparently his tea-making skills and impeccable nagging to eat and sleep are important enough to warrant another medal which he accepts as graciously as one forced against their will can. The public is content with a picture on page three during the first round of articles.
But eventually he finds himself at a loss as to what to do with his life. Ginny had moved on years ago – apparently war-damaged young men are not conducive to relationships when combined with war-damaged young women – and he has no real interest in anyone to be honest. For a while, he can’t even remember what an erection feels like, let alone attempting anything more when he does get one.
In the end, it’s Luna who suggests it when he visits her at her house for a tidy little supper: “Why don’t you retire?"
So he does. He empties one of the many pureblood vaults he inherited (one good thing about inbreeding – he’s related to a surprising number of dead families with a decent amount of gold) and purchases the Eilean Donan Castle near the village of Dornie in Scotland. It’s a tourist location for Muggles but a small hoard of goblin warders and a favour from Hermione and the DoM later and the town has a mysterious sort of charm that brings in tourists even if none of them can remember why they wanted to visit in the first place. Former visitors wonder why on earth they have pictures of them standing around in empty fields with Harry plus one castle of his very own.
Kreacher didn’t want to leave the Black house but he willingly went to Harry’s new home when he discovered it was a ‘proper’ house and not just a flat somewhere in London. Winky came along too and Kreacher took it upon himself to make sure she kept her nose well away from any of the Butterbeer. His two elves were happier in the quiet of the countryside and they served their often eccentric Master who sometimes insisted on making his own food and accidentally ended up inviting a demon into the castle.
Harry had found the expensively dressed man scowling at his wards and invited him in out of the cold after extracting a promise not to harm anyone behind Harry’s carefully constructed defences. Crowley had come willingly enough when he heard Kreacher asking after the Wizard’s preferred nightcap and the rather impressive list of options.
Finding out the man was a demon wasn’t exactly unusual for Harry. He’s used to the strange and unpredictable – finding out demons exist, and angels too, is really just par for the course. Besides, demons are at least predictable in that a promise extracted is a promise kept. So Crowley keeps showing up and Harry has long since made him sign a contract (triple-checked by goblin lawyers) so that he doesn’t have to trudge out to the ward-lines just to let him in each time.
It isn’t even that Harry particularly likes Crowley – he’s still not sure how to handle an actual demon popping in and out of the place – but he certainly doesn’t mind him or the company.
“That’s my scotch,” he flicks his wand and the bottle sails back into the cupboard which locks itself with an ominous click. “Get your own.”
“When did you get a bottle of 50 year-old Glendfiddich?” Crowley says the name with perfect intonation and quite politely doesn’t attempt to remove the bottle again. Harry’s pretty goddamn sure that he’s going to have to make the demon Swear to leave it alone if he wants to get any of that bottle.
“It was a gift. I’m a right big celebrity, you know?” he bumps the demon with his shoulder on the way past into the kitchen and the older male sighs and follows after like his great mutt of a dog that sometimes shows its face on Harry’s property. “Are you just here to mooch off my breakfast?”
“Something like that,” Crowley says and not-quite-lounges indolently at his usual seat at the head of the table where he can comfortably peer down the length of smooth worn wood at Harry while he’s cooking. “How do you feel about looking after my bones?”
“That had better not be another bad innuendo,” Harry warns even as he’s absorbed in perfecting two omelettes simultaneously. “Especially not if you’re going to offer to fix my fantastically horrible vision in exchange – I rather like my spectacles. Make me look wise and wizardly.” One omelette floats gently to settle before the demon with a glass of orange juice and toast on a tidy little red-checkered napkin. The King of Hell’s lips twist in amusement and he eats a few bites and sips once at the juice as he watches the Saviour of the Wizarding World settle with a scowling sigh across from him.
Kreacher mutters darkly when he appears to snap the dishes away and Harry tries to muster a grin for his elf. The little male pats his hand gently as if in sympathy (though he is under no illusions that Kreacher is secretly thrilled to be able to just leave when he wants and perform his usual duties from afar)
“It wasn’t,” Crowley says abruptly.
“An innuendo or an offer?"
“Innuendo. Well, it was that, but not intentionally.” Crowley leers a little and Harry nudges the Deathstick where it lies just beside his plate. The Elder Wand vibrates eagerly; the wizard gets the impression that the wand is just waiting for Crowley to do something so it can go to town in destroying him.
The King of Hell doesn’t miss the gesture. He leans back and lays his hands flat on the table while flashing the worst innocent-grin Harry’s ever seen.
“Your bones, last I checked, were outside my wards,” Harry gestures with his fork pointedly as he eats. “Why would I want to look after your rotted old corpse anyway? Isn’t it enough that I see your face every week?”
“Oh ha, funny little wizard,” Crowley frowns at him. “Not guard – just watch them. See who comes and goes – that sort of thing.”
"Let me think of who’s interested in hundred year old demon bones,” Harry deadpans. “Yes, I do believe that is one, just one, which is to say: the demon who bloody owns them.”
Kreacher snaps his dishes away and he slumps forward a little. Crowley is standing the moment the house elf is gone. He can’t just appear across the room – not while Harry is in it and not unless it is a matter of life or death – but he strides with easy rolling confidence of a man who has convinced harder clients than Harry Potter to agree to his terms before.
Of course he’s tense when the warm palms settle on his shoulders but he relaxes the longer they remain motionless and simply there. The warmth is unnatural from a human but perfect from a demon and it is physically comforting no matter how resolved he is in not agreeing with Crowley.
“Why do you want them watched?” he ventures. The hands move to smooth the junction where his shoulders meet his neck and he leans back and hums a little. “Don’t think I’m asking because of this either.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it, luv,” Crowley drawls low and smooth. “Call it seeing a hunch confirmed. I’m going to be busy for the next little while.”
“Because that wasn’t cyptic at all,” he mutters into the silence. Then, with a sigh, “Alright, I’ll agree to watch them if you swear not to take my Glenfiddich.” The demon’s presence makes the Deathstick tremble warningly. Harry tucks it away and tilts his head up to peer into dark eyes.
“Deal,” Crowley Swears and looks delighted as he spins away with a flourish of his dark coat. Harry smothers his grin before the demon sees it and just shakes his head instead. The magic of that promise is wrapped around him and the Elder Wand grumbles even as it enforces the spirit of the agreement as Harry understands it and refuses to allow any leeway for the demon half. There is an advantage to being Master of the Deathly Hallows – they tend to like pleasing him more than they like obeying the word of every single little rule of magic.
“Are you going to elaborate now that you’ve extracted that?” he asks.
“Some pesky brats have recently entered into an arrangement with me,” he leans against the counter and frowns into the middle distance. “I know they aren’t smart enough to find my dusty remains but I’d rather not risk it just the same – they’ve got an angel who’s particularly fond of the denser one.”
Harry knows that type. “A little slow on the uptake but quick and deadly on the draw, I imagine,” he grins widely at the dark look. “Used to be me, you know?”
“Still is,” Crowley taunts and dodges the wordless stinging hex Harry sends in response. “Doesn’t Hell just wish we could get our hands in your souls,” he mutters and his eyes are hungry for all the wrong reasons.
“You keep your smoky black minions out of our people and we’ll keep our magic away from searing your godforsaken souls,” Harry returns cheerfully even as he keeps a wary eye on his guest. It isn’t that the Magical community isn’t aware of the non-magical creatures and demons – it is that they are immune to possession because of their unique magical cores which automatically subsume and destroy any foreign invasions. The only person who can possess a witch or wizard is another witch or wizard.
It is because of this immunity – mirrored in the magical animals and half-human beings – that their community has collectively forgotten the existence of angels and demons. Hermione only found any information for Harry because she was the DoM’s top researcher and had exclusive access to the scant data left. The immunity also prevents any deals being made for power – Voldemort’s soul could be split a thousand times and not a single speck of it would be able to make a deal. It was simply easier to let that world fade from theirs.
So naturally, Harry doesn’t actually worry that Crowley could do anything to his people. Muggle magic – based on deals with demons or else rituals powered by faith and belief with just a drop of power from an interested party – can’t affect them. Even most muggle creatures are weakened just being in their presence and any violent ghosts or spirits are naturally urged to resting (or at least keeping away) the moment they catch a whiff of a magical core. Still, a human convinced to stab a wizard to death is perfectly capable of it regardless of whether or not they can perform spells or have a demon riding around in their bodies.
Harry is protected from violence on his property as are any of his invited guests (provided they aren’t demons and they don’t try to commit harm against any other guests). A pureblood supporter who’d once come to do an interview under the guise of a reporter had attempted to kill the visiting Luna on sight but found his spell backfired immediately. Ron said it served him right and wrote the entire incident off as self-defence and only asked Harry to pay a fine to the man’s family. Luna had eliminated that by casually saying that they could say the payment wasn’t necessary to remove their blood-debt to her from the failed attempt. Everything was settled out of court and Harry had returned to his life without a single fuss and the mere idea of attempting anything against his person or acquaintances forever eliminated.
"I assure you, I was thinking no such thing,” Crowley sniffs haughtily but smirks a moment later. “Speaking of, how’s your lot liking this end of days?”
“I don’t think they notice it, to be honest,” Harry says wryly. “Charlie says the dragons are a little more agitated as of late, but nothing terribly notable.”
“What our side wouldn’t offer for just one of those beasts,” the demon purrs at the thought.
“They don’t like you very much though,” Harry returns. He hasn’t actually tested the theory with a real dragon, but the charmed replica he’d kept from the Tri-Wizard tournament hissed irritably and charred one of his books when Crowley had poked his head in on Harry in the study on the third floor once
“Shame, that,” Crowley laments theatrically. There is a silence for a long moment. It’s broken when the great mutt wanders into the kitchen.
He’s a beast of a thing – larger than an Irish wolfhound and muscled like a mastiff – and his eyes are ghostly white and appear sightless for all that the thing can see just fine. Crowley was surprised that Harry could see him but then, Harry was a wizard and the Master of Death; seeing a hellhound seemed like the exact sort of thing he should be able to do.
“Hey there, Growly,” the wizard greets with a bright smile. The hellhound’s head swings round and his ragged tail wags as he takes the few steps needed to shove his shaggy black snout into Harry’s palms for a scratch.
Crowley looks appropriately sulky for a demon whose best intimidation tool was utterly besotted with someone other than himself. His sulk turns to a scowl when Growly flops to the floor and rolls over to his back so Harry can rub his belly. “Mutiny,” he grouches.
“You’re just sore that he likes me more than you,” Harry says easily and moues distaste when he runs a palm down a long scar on the dog’s shoulder where the fur is all matted and tangled. “Poor old boy; daddy’s very mean, isn’t he?”
Growly makes a sort of rumbling contented sigh and stares with half-lidded eyes at his Master as though Harry is merely demonstrating the correct way to pet him and he’s not a giant pile of furry goo under the wizard’s hands. Neither man is buying the look but Harry likes the great mutt and rubs his belly once more before patting him firmly and leaving off. The hellhound remains sprawled on the floor and chuffs at them but settles in for a nap.
“More demons with hellhounds they think might stand a chance?” Harry asks conversationally.
“Menaces, the whole lot of them.” Crowley agrees. “Good thing my pup’s bigger.”
“Good thing,” he echoes and drags his eyes away from the long scars. Crowley is gone and, when he looks back, so is Growly. Demons. Go figure.
Chapter 2: A Bag of Sweets (and a Touch of Burlesque)
One day, Harry will learn to trust that Luna is both just as insane as he thinks and a thousand times more perceptive than he'll ever be.
It isn’t that Harry doesn’t enjoy staring at naked women without fear of reproach; it’s just that he has problems doing so while his slightly unhinged friend perches on his lap and stares at them as though they’re a strange species of bird she’s never seen before.
“Luna,” he tries for the fifth time since she settled on his lap. “Why are we in a…this place?”
“It’s a Burlesque House,” she corrects him and her head tilts to peer at the woman in the glittering thong and thigh-highs strutting her way up the long portion of stage they’re sitting at. Harry sighs and drops his head to rest against her back. Luna reaches back to pat his side but doesn’t stop her examination.
His wand – not the Deathstick but his actual proper wand – shivers in his pocket. He tended to keep it for more menial tasks because the Deathstick resented being used to do silly things like chores and charms but the Holly still responded better to him and pointed out things that weren’t life threatening – simply worth a moment of investigation. So he taps his pocket and the Holly wand shifts his attention to the man in the VIP booth across the way.
He can’t see much beyond the beads and the curtains and the women but he can vaguely make out an unnatural sort of light flickering in the edges of his perception. “See that?” he prods Luna.
“Shush Harry, I’m looking for Rainbow Flutterswallows,” she scolds.
He tugs on her long blonde hair. “Over there,” he shifts so that she has no choice but to acknowledge him lest she fall over in continuing her avid watching of the dancers.
“Oh, that,” she says and smiles gently. “I knew about that already.”
“What is it?”
She laughs. Harry really does like Luna’s voice – it’s airy and light and beautiful and several heads swivel to try and see the mysterious creature that such a voice must come from. The girl with the tangled blonde hair and too-wide blue eyes is not such a creature and they turn away in disappointment. Harry tugs her closer defensively and she presses her forehead to his temple in reassurance. “It’s okay, Harry.” He isn’t sure if she’s talking about the crowds or the thing in the booth.
“What is it?" he repeats and she smiles and pulls back to give him space to breathe without getting her hair in his mouth.
“It’s an angel.”
“Your demon does,” she returns even though she’s never met Crowley and he’s certainly never mentioned him to anyone except Hermione.
“I guess,” he allows. “Should we say hello?”
“Not us,” she scolds and pinches him so that he twitches away and she can slip from his lap into the other seat. “Now, take this and go for a walk, alright?” she shoves a bag into his hands.
It’s full of various sweets and he blinks at her curiously when she urges him to his feet and hugs him tightly, slipping her hand into his pocket and murmuring “chocolate frog first, remember” before releasing him to beam widely.
He finds himself wandering the streets of Las Vegas with faint charms wrapped about him to keep the pickpockets and unsavoury sorts away. He’s still wondering what on earth he did to convince Luna she needed to send him on a walk of all things when he spots the man who must’ve been the one from the Burlesque House even if he isn’t draped with women anymore.
He’s met a demon so he figures it was only a matter of time before he met an angel too. He just hadn’t expected that the one he would meet would be one from a Burlesque House. Though what sight this particular angel is. He’s mostly jaw with a forgettable sort of face but his eyes are bright and laughing to cover the familiar hurt of loneliness. Harry has to pause in the middle of the sidewalk to blink after the other curiously.
For once, it seems, there’s someone from the world of magic and belief matching his less-than-stellar height.
“Hello,” he offers and sidles up to sit across from the angel who’s perched himself on the top of a park bench. He can vaguely make out the multiple wings curved in graceful arches over the slim back and he has to force himself to stop looking in case it’s rude. It seems like it might be because how else would you explain wings to muggles and he can see Growly and that isn’t normal either, apparently. “You’re an angel, right?” He hopes it doesn’t sound like he’s trying to pull. Somehow that seems…inappropriate, even in light of the angel draped with women earlier.
“Trickster,” the angel says as though correcting and flashes a bright wide grin. It’s a thousand times worse than George in the old days with Fred. It’s also confirmation that Harry’s right and he’s supposed to leave it alone.
“Alright,” he replies. If that’s what the angel wants, who is Harry to argue? “I’m Harry.”
“Gabriel,” he says and there’s something sharp in the way Gabriel looks at him that means he knows what Harry is but he can’t quite place it. Then his expression clears and he laughs while jumping up to clap Harry’s shoulder under one too-warm palm. “Gardener!”
It feels like that should mean something. He just bumps the angel with his shoulder instead and pulls the chocolate frog from his pocket – remembering Luna telling him it was supposed to be first. Gabriel looks at the offered package for a moment before he grins, wide and ridiculous, and tears into it. The chocolate frog tries to jump from his palm but Gabriel swallows it all in one twitching shot.
“You make the nicest things,” he compliments.
“Didn’t personally make it,” he shrugs again. “A friend said I’d run into someone who would want all this.” He digs into his pockets and pulls out the rest of the bag and shakes it so the packages and foils within bump into each other. Gabriel grabs it with a hungry look and rummages through to see each and every offering. Angels are sweet-addicts, Harry decides, and isn’t sure if that is allowed to be hilarious or not.
“So do tell what one of our elusive Gardeners is doing in Vegas,” Gabriel mumbles around a blood-pop even as he eyes a sugar quill curiously.
“Visiting a friend,” he replies and steals the sugar quill even if the angel does glower impressively and tightens his hold on the rest of the stash. “She’s looking for Rainbow Flutterswallows. From what I understand, they’re a sort of bird creature.”
“No such thing,” Gabriel says confidently.
“I know that,” Harry returns patiently. “Luna lives in a perpetual riddle so it’s probably something completely different.” Each time his wings flex they shimmer in rainbows so he’s pretty sure Luna’s whole story was an easy cover-up to convince him to come to Vegas and meet an angel - the minx.
The angel hums thoughtfully. Harry heaves a sigh and steals the other’s former place on the bench. He finds himself lounging on a rather luxurious bed and staring at a ceiling that had definitely not been there before. He considers the group from the VIP booth and shrugs as best he can while lying down. He’s still got his clothes and he hasn’t been fondled so he’s going to count this as a successful meeting full of dignity and all the things his association with Crowley is not. The shifting angel on the bed is spreading out his loot of sweets and seems somehow disappointed at his lack of reaction.
“Not even a little shriek?”
“I live with two bored house elves,” he says apologetically and does not mention the demon that likes to flirt with him. “I’m pretty used to things changing around me without my say-so.”
The wings are a little distracting, flexing and jumping with each new sweet discovered, and Harry closes his eyes to avoid having to stare at them. It seems rude, still. Almost like he’s seeing someone naked but not quite. He doesn’t feel like this when he sees Growly but then, Growly is a dog no matter what sort of otherworldly breed and these are massive wings of rainbow and light and they belong to an angel. He isn’t a religious man but he’s pretty sure that means he should show some respect or just stop staring at the very least.
The sheets may be clean but he still can’t think of any other reason for the draping red silk and ridiculously terrible lighting so he tilts his head so that he can squint at the other male’s face. “Why are we in your dirty angel sex-nest?” Those words don’t even want to be said together but Harry is not going to try to come up with a less accurate description when he’s already got a perfect one.
“Is it the glitter? Too much?” Gabriel peers up forlornly at the aforementioned glitter on the ceiling.
“Not if you’re only bringing home girls with IQs below 60,” he assures the angel. His easy compliance makes the other grin wider and Harry finds himself continuing to speak in a serious and even tone, “Or boys; I can’t imagine an angel would take silly human gender notions into account.”
“Trickster,” Gabriel says again but now he’s categorizing, not labelling. Harry smiles at the quiet triumph. “If it’s a willing partner, I’m not going to be picky. Ever been with a Trickster?” He waggles his eyebrows suggestively and leers.
Harry tries not to laugh but the expression is really too much – like a bad porn just minus a terrible mustache – and he finds himself curled up and chortling into the silk sheets while the angel practically emanates amusement. “I’ll pass,” he manages through his laughter.
“Who said I was asking you? Awfully full of ourselves, aren’t we?”
That sets him off again and this time he can see the arched wings are sleek and settled. Gabriel has a haughty sort of expression set on his face but those eyes – amber or green or brown, he can’t decide – are fixed on Harry and they’re calculating.
“Something on my face?”
“That is never clever,” Gabriel informs him. “I’ll not have an acquaintance that’s a walking cliché. Smarten up or I’m not sharing my ice cream with you.”
“Watching my weight,” Harry says and the flat look almost sets him off again. “So what’s an angel doing on Earth? Or wait, Gabriel is an archangel, isn’t he – er, you?”
“Gabriel is an archangel, sure,” he hums and plucks up a cockroach cluster with a curiously amused look. “Probably doing archangel-y things, I’d say.”
He’d believe him except he knows that undertone. It’s the sort of way the Weasleys spoke of Percy and the way they still speak of him today – sad and guilty and angry all at once. He’s essentially British though, so he won’t bring it up and instead steals another sugar quill. Gabriel looks comically murderous and gathers the sweets up against his chest and into his lap with a warning finger-waggle under Harry’s chin. Harry quite pointedly doesn’t try to bite said finger. Even he has limits on clichés.
Also, he’s pretty goddamn sure he doesn’t want this man’s hands anywhere near his mouth.
“I need to get back,” he stretches and sits up – keeping a respectful distance from the angel and his sweets. “Luna will want to hear all about the Rainbow Flutterswallow I met.”
“Clever witch,” Gabriel says with a half-grin. “Tell her to be careful of Sasquatch and his bouncy little partner.”
He doesn’t know what that means. Harry resists the urge to roll his eyes and instead just raises them briefly skywards before Apparating away. Luna will be able to make sense of this, or, at least, she’ll listen and think of something that she might share with Harry.
Maybe he should look into this whole demons and angels and tricksters thing. It’s not like he has anything else to do with his time.
Chapter 3: Security Protocols (Mean Nothing to Reapers)
Hermione needs to remember that Harry is a magnet for the weird BEFORE she invites him to visit her at work. Reapers have no respect for carefully laid security measures.
Visiting the Ministry is never a particularly worthwhile task but Harry is willing to do a great many things for his closest friends and Hermione had asked him to visit.
Of course, it takes her physically sending one of her underlings to get him to leave his property but who is she to complain? He’s even wearing robes and everything. Her underling is radiating annoyance and Harry makes an effort to cooperate, really he does, but he is not handing over any of his wands just to register his actions in the Department. He understands their position – he and his friends had ruined years of work when they’d made it their battleground – but there is absolutely no way his wands will part with his person.
The Deathstick is murderous and glowing while giving off a faint mist when the suggestion is even made. His Holly wand won’t seem to allow his hand to open. It’s a rather curious sensation but he isn’t going to argue with it – he doesn’t much like being left with just the Elder Wand. He feels incomplete and defenceless without the Holly.
“Can you just get Hermione, please?” he tries again and is stonewalled by the silent robed minions she calls employees. “I promise I won’t touch anything?”
It does nothing and he stands there staring at their strange little instrument and wondering why on earth Hermione didn’t just come herself if she thought for even a moment he might get stuck here in the security protocols.
“I don’t understand why you won’t just walk through – it’s not like they could stop you,” a pretty young woman mutters where she’s leaning against the wall.
He looks at her with his most exasperated expression and says, “I’m not going to duel my way through Hermione’s employees. I do have a modicum of tact."
The gasps from the underlings make him pause as do the woman’s widened eyes. He slowly unfolds his arms and brings the Elder Wand to his palm. It’s not smoking in his sleeve anymore, which is a bonus, but it is sending smug feelings at him. Oh, lovely. He had wondered why a witch was wandering around the Department of Mysteries in muggle denims.
“I didn’t do it,” he says to the minions as they sound an alarm and scamper backwards in fear. “This is precisely why I didn’t want to come in the first place. I blame you for this,” he glares at the wand in his hand and it seems perfectly normal – like a knobby bit of wood with absolutely no emotions of its own.
Either he’s imagining things or the wand is cleverer than he gives it credit for. There’s a flash of amusement and he shakes the Elder Wand with a triumphant noise. He’s not crazy! The wand is clearly out to ruin his life.
“Where did you get that?” the woman demands with a sort of breathy exhale while she stands frozen and staring at him.
“Won it off a man,” he says and the Deathstick purrs at him. “Bloody – stop it, you! – Why can’t they see you?”
“I’m a Reaper; unless they’re dead, they aren’t allowed to see me,” she returns. “Where did the man who had it before you get it?”
“Off a man he killed – would someone silencio that thing at least? – but the story goes that Death gave it to one of three brothers along with a ring and a piece of his cloak. Is a Reaper at all related to an angel or a demon?” He has no idea what Gabriel gets up to outside of his occasionally finding himself at the angel’s side or running into him when he goes out (rarely). Crowley doesn’t talk much about his business in America and Harry doesn’t really care much as it is but this? This Reaper person? This he’d like to know more about.
“No,” she makes a strange sort of scoffing noise, “not at all."
“You’re sure?” he asks and at least the alarm is off now even if he is surrounded on all sides by purple-robed Department employees. “Because this whole ‘mess with Harry’s life’ thing is eerily reminiscent of both.”
She doesn’t dignify his question with a response and Harry wants to fling himself at Hermione when she comes storming down with a thunderous look painted all over her face. “You brought something with you that registers as the Veil,” she informs him archly.
“I didn’t bring anything,” he denies and crosses his arms sulkily. Hermione knows that look though so she just stares flatly. “She followed me. Ever heard of a Reaper?”
Her gaze is sharp and hungry and she waves a hand at her employees who rapidly make a pathway for them. Her arm curls in his grip and he grins cheekily at the minions he’d been arguing with. Hermione elbows him in the side but it was so worth it he can’t bring himself to care.
The Reaper is doggedly following after them and when he settles into one of Hermione’s squishy chairs she moves to stand behind Hermione’s desk
“She’s sort of standing right behind you – it seems rude.”
The Reaper rolls her eyes and waves a negligent hand. Hermione’s eyes narrow as his own track the stranger’s movements. “I don’t care.”
“On your head,” he warns her and shoots a warning glare at the other woman. “Figuratively.”
Her lips quirk but she nods and he settles back into his chair.
“Any relation to a demon?” Hermione begins and he shakes his head in the negative. Her lips purse and she makes a note in one of the assorted notebooks scattered across her desk. “You said something about an angel? What have you been doing without me, Harry?”
“It’s Luna’s fault,” he mutters and looks away. Really, he should’ve sent Hedwig straight to Hermione after returning but he’d forgotten completely after the cross-ocean Apparition and returned to his usual routine of puttering around his castle instead.
Hermione gives him a look and he hunches his shoulders defensively. The Reaper looks amused but doesn’t comment.
“Be that as it may,” she prods.
“She calls them Rainbow Flutterswallows and she conned me into meeting him by – by parading scantily clad women in my general direction!”
“Oi, you stop that,” he frowns and Hermione is unmoved. “Alright, it wasn’t difficult to convince me. Angels are great dirty perverts if this one is any indication of the whole.”
“Be serious,” she scolds. He’s tempted to make a joke about Sirius but she’ll likely get all maudlin about it and then Harry will remember that he truly does miss his godfather. He swallows the words as they bubble in his throat and the sharp look in her gaze means she knows exactly what he was thinking. Nothing about her softens or wilts so she’s deliberately setting his reaction aside to focus on this work. He’s not sure whether or not to feel relieved or jilted.
The following half hour is mostly determining what a Reaper is made of. The Reaper – she asks them to call her Melissa – agrees to submit to various magical tests. She stands still for several spells and allows Harry to pass a few devices pawned off on him over her body. Most of the tests give wildly inconclusive results while others (according to Hermione) register as the Veil. Melissa is quietly smug about that and Harry has to spend a lot of time arguing with Hermione over whether or not he’s censoring answers just to be difficult.
Hermione eventually concedes that Melissa might not want to answer questions or is otherwise unable to. Harry is relieved and slumps into his chair while the Reaper laughs and smiles at him.
“She likes me,” he tells Hermione.
He’s treated to an eye-roll in unison that makes him laugh aloud. Hermione huffs irritably but Melissa just snickers to herself. “You’re certainly interesting,” she admits with good-natured humour in her voice.
“I’m interesting too,” he smiles at his friend.
Hermione flicks a stinging hex at him and he pouts. “Go on then, off you go. We’ve got enough data to spawn months of research and I don’t fancy the security meetings for when you return within the year to do this again.”
“I’m coming back?” He can’t believe that even setting off a Department-wide alarm doesn’t excuse him from having to come back to the Ministry. “What if Melissa doesn’t want to come back?”
“I don’t mind,” she shrugs and he glares at her and that’s really all the answer Hermione needs. “You touch your Deathstick to that Ring and call me; I’ll be there.”
He returns home after Melissa vanishes between one blink and the next. Well, after Hermione has managed to corral her staff into something approaching a unified team to inform them in no uncertain terms that Harry is not to be subjected to any scans so long as he produces the Deathstick for visual confirmation from a distance he’s comfortable with. He’d rather not come back at all but tells them he’ll hold it out and they can scan it but it’s not leaving his hand. They’re surprisingly alright with that (though Hermione glaring at them sharply at his side might have something to do with it).
The house elves at his castle though, are not at all alright with the situation.
Winky gasps in horror when she sets eyes on him and cries hysterically. Kreacher looks physically pained and informs him in his gravest tone that “master is not to be dying soon, please.”
“I’m not going to die,” he tries to assure Winky. She continues to sob and he flicks an awkward look at his other elf. “I was just talking with her, I promise. I’m not dying.”
Kreacher looks unconvinced. It takes weeks for the pair of them to get over the whole affair and of course, that’s precisely when Crowley waltzes back into his life.
Chapter 4: Bringing the (Fiend) Fire
Harry's made mistakes in his life - he can accept that. What he can't accept is when those mistakes lead to unknown demons holding HIS godson hostage.
Ted Remus Lupin was a rambunctious child but he adored his godfather and always seemed to still when Harry entered the house. It was as though the boy were a finely-tuned Harry sensor. So it really comes as no surprise that the excited chatter the wizard had heard when the Floo first spits him out cuts off into an abrupt eerie silence.
“Harry!” The delighted cry signals the wizard to turn and throw his arms wide lest his godson go flying into the fireplace he’d just tumbled out of.
“Hello, Teddy,” Harry grins and presses a kiss to his godson’s vibrant turquoise hair. He has it in an almost exact likeness to Harry’s own, if one ignores the colour, and it’s a sure sign that he’s been impatient and bouncing all week. Poor Andromeda.
“Are we going to your house today?” Teddy asks excitedly – bouncing on his heels as he shoots completely undisguised looks of longing at the jar of floo-powder on the mantle. “Gran says you live in a castle!”
Harry doesn’t try to hide the amused quirk to his lips. “Yes, I do,” he agrees and laughs at the way Teddy jumps and pumps his fist into the air triumphantly. Harry’s always visited Teddy at Andromeda’s home because he hadn’t exactly had a steady home for a while after the war. Then Teddy was too young to Apparate and you can’t floo between countries so he’d continued even after he purchased Eilean Donan Castle.
Now though, Teddy is certainly old enough to side-along Apparate and Harry’s wards are set to his own exacting demands. He doesn’t worry that anyone will bother him during his weekend visit with his godson.
Andromeda Tonks appears in the doorway to the parlour. She looks very like her daughter (if her daughter had ever had a more natural hair colour) but there are laugh-lines and wrinkles about her eyes and she seems more sedate than Tonks ever was. She smiles gently at the way Teddy is chanting happily and tugging at Harry’s wrinkled robes.
“Still not used to them?” she asks with a pointed look – like she wants to launder them herself since he’s clearly incapable.
“Not really, no,” he rubs the back of his neck sheepishly but his stomach clenches a little in annoyance. He doesn’t like robes – they feel heavy even in the lightest fabrics and he only really had to wear an over-robe at school with his muggle clothes beneath. Ron, he knows, only wore his robes during school and thought Harry and the other muggleborns a little odd for choosing to wear something beneath. Over time, most of the others got into Ron’s habit but Harry never did.
Then of course there was the war and they had to travel in the muggle world and the countryside so robes hadn’t been an option. He’d never quite gotten over that and his robes now reflect it. He doesn’t even bother to do them up over his clothes.
Andromeda doesn’t mind muggle clothes – she married a muggle so he knows she doesn’t mean anything by her comment. Still, the criticism hurts a little. She’d had to move on quickly after Ted and Nymphadora’s – after her husband and daughter’s – deaths because she had Teddy to think about; Harry knows she’d sort of expected him to need looking after too and would have welcomed his presence and help around her house. But Harry had fallen apart after everything and only spent stolen moments with his godson during restless days and long nights of insomnia as he tried to figure out what to do now that he had the Hallows and his job was finished.
She doesn’t blame him but he’s not sure she really understands how hard it’d been to move on. His life had been almost rigidly choreographed with an encounter of some danger each year at school – each year trying to out-do the previous, it seemed – and then the culminating search for Horcruxes and a final battle at Hogwarts. Without that purpose (silent though it may have been in his earliest years) he’d been lost. It was Luna wh ’d given him any form of schedule to bring him out of the worst of the aftermath; he meets her for tea or lunch or just to visit on Thursdays each week.
He hadn’t always wanted to go but she’d always been there on Thursdays. Either at his door or curling up against him in his bed with a cup of tea and a copy of the Quibbler while he couldn’t muster up the will to even move.
Teddy is a boon he hadn’t thought he’d get to experience. The little boy was and is a bright spot in his life and Harry has gradually come to relax and find simple pleasure in simply watching his godson. Now that Teddy is older and Harry is as alright as he’s ever going to be, he tries to spend their visits making up for being…unavailable for so long. Luna always frowns at him when he mentions feeling guilty but he’s not going to touch on that any time soon.
It’s enough for now to know that he can have Teddy and a life that makes him happy.
“Are you listening?” Teddy demands and Harry looks down. The little boy frowns at him and tugs again at Harry’s arm. “I said are we going now?”
“Say goodbye to your gran first,” he says and flicks his wand out to summon Teddy’s things. Teddy’s spinning around to give Andromeda a hug so he misses the flinch the older woman gives when Harry moves his wand arm.
What? Oh. The Elder Wand is cool in his palm and he quickly puts it away and pulls out the Holly to finish directing the summoning spell. He shouldn’t be able to switch in the middle of a spell but Harry isn’t normal and neither are his wands; one is the Deathstick and the other his First – repaired by the former.
He shouldn’t be surprised – the distinctive knobby wand is well-recognized by those with any knowledge of the final battle. Andromeda knows that he is Master of the Hallows but she forgets it most of the time. It’s easier that way because the Hallows are myths and fairytales even wizards didn’t believe and now they’re real and powerful and no one who sees them trusts them. They exude a sort of malevolence to those who know them – but not to Harry. He keeps them away for the sake of his friends and family but sometimes he just…
His Holly is warm but it doesn’t stop the chill of loneliness that comes with Andromeda’s careful distance.
Teddy is bright and soft when he clings to his godfather and Harry cannot help the smile as he lifts the boy to his hip. “Ready now?”
“Yes,” Teddy nods solemnly and his grin is cheeky when he blinks and his eyes change to match Harry’s exactly. Lily’s eyes in a boy’s face not his own. He laughs and tweaks Teddy’s nose and the boy giggles and squirms.
“Goodbye Andy!” Harry calls as he twists them on heel and Apparates across the country to his home away from prying eyes and poorly disguised fear.
Teddy is immediately delighted with the size of the home and goes limp to slip from Harry’s grasp before running circles around the front yard. Winky pops in and vanishes again with the luggage and Kreacher stands warily near his chicken coop – keeping an eye on the rambunctious child.
He manages to herd his godson inside and even gets him to sit at the table in the kitchen. Well, ‘sits’ in a relative sense of the term. At least he’s in the chair even if he is standing and trying to convince Hedwig to come down from where she’s made herself a perch on one of the cupboards.
He has a nice gruyere and some wonderful fresh pasta Winky had arranged to have shipped in. Macaroni and cheese is always better made with real food rather than the boxed and processed types Hermione favours from the muggle world. He’s just set the dish into the oven to develop a brilliantly crisp crust when Teddy suddenly yelps.
Kreacher stops the boy from toppling off the chair and Harry crosses the room quickly. “Maybe you should sit down,” he suggests gently and Teddy looks a little shaken and a tiny bit pale as he nods and finally settles. Harry smiles and ruffles his godson’s hair. “What would you like for dessert? I think I still have a pie from the village bakery.”
“Why does everyone like pie so bloody much?” Harry doesn’t move. He doesn’t so much as twitch when Crowley flops into one of the chairs opposite Teddy. The boy looks curious and peers over at the demon while fisting a hand in Harry’s over-robe. “And why are you wearing a dress?”
“It’s a robe,” Teddy offers with a frown. “Who are you?”
“Teddy, luv,” Harry says and he hasn’t drawn either of his wands but there must be something in his voice because Crowley looks at him sharply, “why don’t you go with Kreacher. He’ll show you the playroom – I seem to remember an animated Knights and Dragons set in there.” It’s a blatant bribe and one he hadn’t wanted to reveal until the next day. The toys are expensive and detailed and everything Teddy has wanted for weeks but he wants his godson away from the demon. He wants him away now.
Teddy squeals in delight and is racing away with a quickly moving Kreacher. The elf knows that his Master is furious and he won’t let the implied order go disobeyed. Teddy will be safe with Harry’s elves while Harry deals with the demon that should not be here.
“You didn’t tell me you had a boy,” Crowley says in a casual tone.
“I don’t,” Harry returns flatly. “Why are you here?”
“Can’t I visit anymore? Am I unwelcome?”
Harry very deliberately sets the Elder Wand on the table and doesn’t touch it. “Why are you here?” he asks again.
“Touchy,” Crowley says. “What good is having a whole castle to yourself if you don’t invite anyone to use it?” He flicks his fingers and scowls at the room at large. His legs cross and one foot taps a sharp staccato against the stone floors. Eyes are roving over the room and keep pausing on Harry before moving on. He doesn’t spare a single glance to the Deathstick still sitting on the table between them.
“You’re nervous,” Harry realizes abruptly. He’s used to that from his friends and his enemies. Even strangers are nervous of him. But Crowley has never been – until now.
“Perhaps,” Crowley allows. “I didn’t know you had a boy,” he repeats again.
Harry doesn’t go still again. He can’t go still, not when his Holly wand is thrumming against his wrist and the Deathstick rolls across the table to his waiting hand. He turns and there’s a man with black eyes holding his godson up with an arm around his throat and a knife held threateningly. Teddy looks like his mother now, with his father’s sometimes-golden eyes, and this is one of the few times Harry has ever seen the boy in his natural form.
There is an unknown demon that’s slipped past his wards and it has his godson and a weapon. Harry hasn’t had a true need of the Deathstick until now but it jumps eagerly into his mind as his fingers curl. “Close your eyes, Teddy,” he says softly. Teddy’s face scrunches up but his eyes close.
“Whatever you’ve got planned Boss, you’d better think twice,” the demon spits and his arm bunches as his grip tightens. Teddy’s eyes go wide again and slam shut when Harry looks at him sharply in warning. “You might not care about the kid, Crowley, but he certainly does.”
“Yes, but I’m not the one stupid enough to hold his boy hostage, now am I?” Crowley snaps.
“We’ll discuss that later,” Harry promises the demon at his table without moving his gaze from his godson. “Legilimens!”
The demon drops to his knees in a silent scream. Smoke pours into the host’s mouth but broils and simmers there impotently as Harry keeps the Elder Wand trained on him. Teddy runs up to his godfather and buries his face in his robes, refusing to look, clutching desperately and trembling.
A demon doesn’t have a mind the way a wizard does, Harry learns. He’s not very skilled at this but the Elder Wand is more than capable of filling in where his knowledge fails. He finds the edges of the demon and pries it off the human mind. The interlacing is deep and bound but he has power to spare and brute strength works just as well as a careful touch in a pinch. A muttered shielding spell keeps the demon in that body while Harry works.
The smoke in his mental scape is the remnants of a long-burned body. It is acrid and horrible and sulfurous. He plucks at his magic and wraps it around that ruin of a once-mind and squeezes before he removes it from the body.
He doesn’t look at Crowley when he holds his hand out and the demon is a curling seething mass of black hovering at the tip of the Deathstick. It hovers over his proffered palm and he is very careful to keep his face clear and calm. “Kreacher?”
“Master!” The elf looks terrified and rattled. A house elf cannot fight against non-wizarding magic. They are magic and a demon is the epitome of what happens to power derived from belief and deals and Others. Kreacher is terrified of taking actions which might result in the loss of his Master after Regulus Black and it is only natural that a demon’s magic would affect him worse than others.
“Please get one of the unbreakable containers,” he says and the container appears. It’s just a little pot for potions ingredients – iron and round – but Harry dumps the demon smoke inside and whispers “fiendfyre.”
He doesn’t know the actual spell. He doesn’t have to. The Elder Wand understands his intent and the roaring noise makes Teddy whimper but the fire remains in the pot after Harry closes the lid. He wouldn’t dare try the same with his Holly wand but the fiendfyre will not disobey his Deathstick. The fire roars in his mind but he keeps calm and thinks of golden eyes and soft hair and sweet little-boy hugs he misses whenever he doesn’t get to see Teddy.
He waits a moment before the Elder Wand cools and calms in his hand. He cancels the spell and doesn’t comment on Kreacher’s burned hands. The elf would only punish himself worse later on if he doesn’t let him take the pain as punishment now for letting Teddy get kidnapped for even a moment. Kreacher vanishes with the pot – to dispose of it in whatever permanent way he can manage – and Winky appears in his stead.
“Winky will take little master to his room?”
“Please,” he says and curls his hand around Teddy’s head – running his fingers through the dark hair. “Dreamless Sleep,” he adds and Winky nods and pops the pair of them to Teddy’s room and leaves Harry alone with Crowley.
He wants to be furious with Crowley. He wants to demand to know what Crowley was thinking in testing his wards’ ability to keep demons out. Mostly though he feels like a failure for not considering that perhaps a demon’s magical signature is too similar for his wards to distinguish between them.
“Nifty trick, that,” Crowley offers and keeps the table between them.
“Oh, get over here and give me a sample,” Harry snaps and summons a knife and flask. “I’m keying the wards to your blood this time so the next time you piss someone off they’ll not be able to get inside my goddamn home.”
Crowley cooperates fairly quickly. It’s unsurprising given the murderous look Harry’s sporting. He realigns his wards with a few muttered words and vanishes the blood after. Crowley wipes his sliced finger off on a handkerchief and peers at him warily. He doesn’t apologize but his willingness to let Harry near him with a knife while in this mood is evidence enough, Harry thinks.
It keeps his mind off of how he’s going to discuss this with Teddy and Andromeda, at least.
Chapter 5: Brave (is a movie and a state of being)
Teddy thinks princesses can save themselves. Harry just hopes he doesn't have to be the one doing the saving ever again (no thanks to Crowley).
He doesn’t end up having to explain anything to Teddy right away because when he goes upstairs to say goodnight Winky is looking apologetic and tucking the boy into his covers.
“Little Master is sleeping,” she says with an emphasis on sleeping to mean ‘drugged like you instructed’ and Harry feels a tiny bit guilty about that before he remembers the fiendfyre in his palm.
“That’s good,” he whispers as he takes a seat at the edge of the bed. Asleep, Teddy still has his natural form. Harry palms the dark hair and listens to his godson’s easy breaths for a moment. At some point, Winky leaves and he’s left alone.
When he finally looks up Crowley is standing in the doorway silently. The wizard sighs and makes sure the covers are covering Teddy’s shoulders before he joins the other and closes the door behind him.
“Not yours then?”
“My godson,” he replies. The study seems a good place for any discussion so he takes them there and Kreacher pops a tea-tray in with biscuits and scones. Harry’s grateful and pours himself a cuppa.
“Cute lad,” Crowley tries. “Looked like you at first – neat trick.”
“He’s a metamorphmagus; he can change his appearance at will. His mother was one too.” He makes sure his tone leaves no room for the demon to question the ‘was’ in the latter portion. He doesn’t have it in him to give up more than just his godson at the moment.
The King of Hell has some tact at least. He doesn’t say anything about it though his eyes do track Harry’s progression to one of the chairs by the fireplace. He joins him eventually and he’s somehow got himself some of Harry’s good scotch. The wizard scowls at the glass and the demon tucks it against his chest as if to protect it. There’s a shared smirk of amusement and then Harry’s mind drifts.
“So what did you do?” he asks.
“Led the runt into thinking I’d made him a deal,” Crowley replies promptly with a sort of resigned and amused sigh. “Didn’t take the truth too well.”
“That ‘runt’ would’ve killed you,” Harry says. His mind still has a captured impression of the demon – of the fire and brimstone and blood – and he doesn’t like that thought nearly as much as he should even given what almost happened with his godson.
“He would have,” Harry’s hand curls into a claw and clutches at his chair. He itches for the Elder Wand and it hums curiously in the back of his mind. It takes embarrassingly longer than he cares to admit to quiet the urge. “Crowley, if you had gone anywhere else, he would have killed you.”
Crowley’s eyes are dark when the wizard looks over. “You don’t know that.”
He’s the Master of Death – of course he knows that. He doesn’t mention that though because there’s nothing certain when it comes to demons. They don’t always react the way they should and Harry only really has two demons for comparison: the one he just destroyed and the one in the chair beside him.
“Alright,” he says agreeably. He unclenches his fist and smiles thinly.
“Enough about me.” Crowley leans forward and gestures with his scotch. “Tell us about this godson, yeah? Going to be here long?”
“His name is Teddy,” he says and he can’t help it if affection warms his voice. “He’s here for the weekend and I’ll thank you to keep your hide scarce during that time.”
“Don’t want little Ted meeting his godfather’s friends?” the demon smirks.
Harry glares without heat. “Not the demons.” The plural makes something in Crowley’s expression twitch and that gives him a perverse sort of satisfaction. “He already thinks his godfather is strange – I don’t want to be giving him any ideas.”
“I saw that playroom. You have an actual dragon toy that moves and you have an entire shelf of cookies. That brat is going to think you’re the bloody sun and moon.”
Harry smiles genuinely now. He’s very used to being reassured about the things he buys for Teddy. It’s no real effort on his part to do that sort of thing but the cookies – those he made himself and Crowley knows it. Crowley knows it because he stood around the kitchen and tried to steal them while they were still hot and not done and Harry had to ward the trays so the demon got stung every time he went near them.
Even if the demon hadn’t meant to make the compliment personal, Harry is pleased.
The sideways look Crowley shoots him is both amused and relieved. “I’ll just be going then,” he’s gone in the time it takes Harry to look down at the tray and pick a scone.
In the morning he waits for Teddy to finish breakfast before he carefully pulls his little boy into his lap. Teddy blinks wide eyes at him and Harry smiles and uses his thumb to brush the crumbly bits of gunk out of the corner of his eyes while he has the chance. His godson’s face scrunches up in distaste.
“Harry,” he whines. “I’m not a baby.”
“I know,” Harry assures him. Then, more seriously, “I want to talk to you about what happened last night.”
“With that man?”
“Yes,” Harry can’t imagine what else his godson thinks they’re going to talk about. It’s a good sign though, isn’t it? If he doesn’t immediately think of it? He sincerely hopes he hasn’t caused any sort of trauma or memory blockages in the boy. Andromeda is already going to kill him for this when she finds out.
Teddy is quiet and he tucks his head against Harry’s shoulder. “Okay.”
“I would never let anything hurt you, Teddy,” he starts and clutches his godson a little tighter. “The man who got you last night was a bad man. He wanted to hurt my friend.” He doesn’t hesitate on calling Crowley his friend because he’s making a point. “I’m sorry you got caught in the middle but you have to know that you were never in danger. I promise.”
“I know,” Teddy says. He smiles blindingly and Harry’s heart melts. “Grandma says you fight bad guys and you’re just taking a break now. Is your break over?"
It really isn’t. His lips quirk a little and he presses a kiss to the boy’s temple. “Not really. I was helping my friend – that’s all.”
“Alright,” Teddy says and squirms to be let down. “Can I take my toys outside?”
“Of course. Just don’t go near Kreacher’s chickens, alright? We don’t want to scare them.”
“Okay!” Teddy’s scampering off and Winky comes to hover anxiously at his arm.
“Look after him, please?” he asks. She disappears with a soft pop and he resigns himself to the firecall he has to make.
Andromeda’s face looks worried even through the flames. She’s supposed to be taking the weekend to rest and Harry defeated the Dark Lord what could possibly worry him enough to call her? He tries to assure her it’s alright but she’s unmoving and he has to sigh.
“There was an incident. A rather – well,” he can’t give up everything. “An unfortunate acquaintance of mine showed up with trouble on his heels. Teddy was caught in the middle – he’s fine,” he hurries to add. Andromeda looks murderously calm. “I explained it to him a little while ago. He thinks I was just doing my job ‘fighting bad guys’ and knows he was safe.”
“Harry,” she sighs. “I’m not worried about leaving Teddy with you. I’m worried about the people you’re with whenever you aren’t with us.”
“I’m fine,” he insists. It occurs belatedly when Andromeda squints at him that perhaps his standard response is not comfort-inducing. “It’s nothing I can’t handle.” He waves the Elder Wand pointedly and she flinches back. It hurts but it feels better than putting more on her plate for her to fuss over.
“Do you want me to pick Teddy up early?”
“No,” he’s certain of that, at least. “I haven’t seen him in…”
“I know,” she says softly. “Alright, I’ll leave you to it then. Goodbye, Harry.”
“Bye Andy,” he returns and the fire cackles normally as her face vanishes from the flames.
He goes outside to watch Teddy play. The little knights are using the tiny trebuchet to launch pebbles at the dragon perched beside Teddy on one of the low stone walls of the castle. The dragon breathes enchanted yellow flame at them and they use their shields to block the fire. Teddy cheers the dragon on and it flaps its wings and roars in a little voice.
Harry wonders just how long he’ll be able to hold out before Teddy’s pleading eyes convince him that the boy absolutely needs the matching horses to go with the knights. He knows that whenever he caves he’s going to need to get the armour for them too.
Teddy runs up to hug him and enthusiastically thank him again. Harry is informed that Teddy wants the prince too so that the dragon has someone to kidnap.
“Not the princess?”
“I want the princess too,” Teddy agrees. “But I want the one with the bow and arrow. She’s brilliant!”
Harry smiles – it’s hard not to agree with his godson when he’s being so…
“There’s a muggle film about a princess who wants to fight,” Teddy continues brightly. “It’s called Brave. Can we see it when it comes to the cinema? Grandma said we could go but I think you’d like it too.”
“Yes, I’ll go.”
Teddy laughs delightedly and makes him promise to write a note to remember which toys he wants. “For my birthday,” he assures his godfather hastily. “I can wait.”
Harry’s pretty sure the longing tone means he wants to do nothing of the sort. He smiles and murmurs to Winky to put in the order for the other toys while she’s inside getting lunch. The elf’s eyes glimmer knowingly and she curtsies before vanishing.
The rest of their weekend is uneventful. Teddy plays with his toys and convinces Kreacher to show him how to feed the chickens and gather the eggs. The old elf is hesitant but dutifully shows him how. Harry thinks he catches his elf actually smiling when he and the boy come in to hand the eggs to Harry for breakfast.
Winky seems delighted to be able to make meals for more than just Harry when he’s lazy and their lunches and teas are all sorts of little finger-foods. She even makes them a picnic lunch for Sunday – complete with a blanket and basket and iced-tea for them to eat out on the grounds.
It’s Monday morning when Harry Apparates them to Andromeda’s house. She’s waiting in the foyer and smiles when Teddy runs up to hug her. “Had fun with Harry then?”
“Yes,” Teddy enthuses. “He got me a Knights set!”
“Just for at my house,” Harry promises. Andromeda already has enough trouble with Teddy’s toy broomstick – he wouldn’t dream of adding to that with the animated figures. Her stern look makes him hunch his shoulders. “Really.”
“I hope you said thank you,” she says to Teddy.
“I did,” he sounds a little indignant and she chuckles.
Harry waves a little and ducks away – Apparating with just a quiet, muffled pop – before Andromeda can corner him. He’s not ready to explain the company he keeps. He’s not ready to admit to anyone but his own mind that he enjoys the odd visits from demons and angels alike. They’ve – his friends and family alike – all been through too much and seen him fall apart one too many times for him to do so again. He Apparates home and spends far too much time on his wards and a completely unnecessary amount of effort making a miniature castle for Teddy’s toys.
Chapter 6: Call Me Maybe (crazy for sweets)
Gabriel has a thing for sweets. Like - a THING. All caps. He also has a certain song stuck in his head and he isn't afraid to use it for a laugh.
He manages to avoid Andromeda for at least two week before she happens to catch him in the hearth in the study. The fire flickers green which means she’s probably holding Floo powder at the ready to go and get herself an international apparation pass if he tries to avoid her calling.
“Hi,” he mumbles and flops to the ground gracelessly.
“Don’t you ‘hi’ me,” she says sharply. “You haven’t left your house in almost half a month.”
“Don’t put it like that just to make your point,” he points at her warningly. “It’s not been that long and since when do you keep track of my comings and goings?”
“Since your godson has been worried you don’t want him to visit when those toys showed up at the house.”
Oh. Right. He’d changed the delivery to Andromeda’s house because he’d awoken one morning and hadn’t been able to muster the energy to do more than curl more tightly under his quilt. Winky had made the murmured suggestion and he must’ve agreed. He wants to kick himself for it now because he’d told Teddy the toys were only for at Harry’s house and of course his godson is smart enough to make that sort of jump in logic (even if it is wrong).
He doesn’t think too heavily of the time he spent in bed because he’s actually dressed right now and there’s a letter from Luna in the kitchen reminding him gently that she’s going to visit in two days regardless of whether or not he wants the company.
“I’m sorry,” he says softly. “I didn’t mean to worry you two. It was just…” he doesn’t say a ‘bad-week’ because that’s almost worse than admitting he doesn’t remember. ‘Bad-week’ means explaining there’s uncertainty. It means he’s not alright and Andy just doesn’t know how to handle that.
“I didn’t feel very well. Bad cold – didn’t want anyone to catch it,” he tries instead and isn’t hurt – he isn’t – when Andromeda visibly relaxes.
“He was awful, really,” drawls a voice from behind him and Harry doesn’t look because there’s a chin dropped on his shoulder and hair brushing against his cheek. There’s a fluttering noise and flashes of colour in the corner of his vision and the body behind him is entirely too warm. “Puking everywhere, dripping in sweat – not the good kind either – and just ugh…he still stinks a little, you know?”
“Andromeda, this is Gabe,” he introduces with a warning click of his tongue when Gabriel makes a face at the shortened name. “He was kind enough to check in on me.”
“Someone special?” she asks and she is pointedly not looking at the way the other is draping himself all over Harry’s back.
“Just a Mediwizard friend of mine through Luna,” he replies easily enough and elbows Gabriel sharply – eliciting a grunt but a cessation to the dramatics that makes Andromeda’s expression clear. “Tell Teddy he can visit this weekend.”
“I will,” she agrees and the flames drop into a normal shape as she leaves him alone.
Gabriel makes a curious noise in his throat. “Neat trick.”
“I wasn’t sick,” Harry returns sharply.
“Of course you weren’t,” Gabriel replies and there’s an arm curling around Harry’s side and urging him upwards. “But there wasn’t anything you could say that would’ve stopped her coming here and I’m a horribly jealous person.”
“Angel,” Harry corrects mildly and allows himself to be helped up - turning to face the other. “I feel like the universe is banding together against me,” he says conversationally.
“The universe doesn’t have feelings,” Gabriel informs him. “And it can’t band together because it’s not really a group of entities – just empty ever-expanding space. You’ve just got an overinflated sense of importance.”
“No,” Harry disagrees just to be contrary. The angel just looks amused. “It’s definitely a conspiracy. Luna’s probably in on it.”
“Very likely,” Gabriel crows delightedly and his wings flutter without a sound. “She’s absolutely gorgeous, by the way – introduce me?”
“Not on my life,” Harry says because he doesn’t think they’re close enough that Gabriel’s impending doom would convince him. His own: certainly.
“Fun-sucker,” Gabriel accuses but he’s laughing and his eyebrows are dancing high on his face. “So what’ve you got planned today? Killing puppies? Moping in the shadows? Drowning your sorrows in expensive booze?”
“You started out humorous and got increasingly maudlin,” he says with a quirk to his lips he can’t help. “None of the above, actually.”
“Do tell,” Gabriel drawls and leans close with flashing eyes.
“Grocer’s,” Harry says with as little enthusiasm as he can inject. “Nothing interesting. Feel free to go and do…whatever it is you do.”
“I’m sick of hookers. Are you getting cookies? I feel like your life would only be improved by the addition of calories in sugary dough form.”
“I have plenty of cookies,” Harry says.
Which is why he’s somewhat confused when he finds himself in the snack aisle attempting to decide between rainbow-chip and chocolate-chip cookies while an eager archangel flits about tossing package after package into the trolley.
“Get both,” Gabriel advises as he adds another carton of ice-cream. Neapolitan this time and Harry really doesn’t want to know how he’s finding ice-cream in the snack aisle without going over to the freezer section. “The wafer ones too.”
“I don’t even like the wafer ones,” he mutters but deposits all three anyway.
“Everyone likes the wafer ones,” Gabriel informs him and drops in a bunch of bananas. “Do you have chocolate syrup?”
“I don’t think so,” he watches the archangel heave a sulky sigh and take off down the aisle. He glances at the trolley and then up at Gabriel when the archangel deposits three giant squirt-bottles and a bag of marshmallows. “I have a godson, you know.”
“Your point?” Gabriel grabs the handle and takes a few quick steps to get it rolling before he skips onto the edge and rides it down the aisle. Harry follows at a more sedate pace and ignores the disapproving looks a woman with her two children shoots him when Gabriel calls out ‘weeeeee!’ as he goes.
“I don’t need this much sugar in my house. Teddy’s enough of a handful without the additives.”
“You,” the angel declares while piling his loot on the checkout counter, “are a spoilsport. The spoiliest spoilsport of all time. And I’d know.”
“Do you need help getting this out?” The cashier asks cautiously.
“We’re fine,” Harry returns with a tired smile. It has the desired effect of making her grin in return and help him pack everything into the cloth shopping bags Gabriel produces from somewhere within the confines of his jacket.
She blinks a little more than usual and her smile is bemused when Gabriel takes it upon himself to carry every bag containing the sweets and treats leaving Harry just a few light bags of actual foodstuffs. “Handful?”
“You have no idea,” Harry says and they watch the archangel manoeuver his way out the door to the battered blue jeep Harry uses on his rare visits to the village from his home. She laughs and it’s a shade too wicked and he frowns at her with a smile tugging at his lips. “Not like that.”
“Doesn’t look like he’d mind,” she returns with a cheeky wink.
He waves a finger at her. “Don’t encourage him.”
“He’s all the way out there!” she says in mock-protest.
He lets her hear his muttered, “like that makes a difference,” just to hear her snort and giggle. Harry smiles at her over his shoulder when he goes out the door and casually steals a few bags from Gabriel’s rather hilarious juggling as the angel tries to open the back of the jeep.
“Do you flirt with everyone?” Gabriel asks in an almost-mulish tone. He’s fiddling with the radio and something cheerful and popular plays that has Gabriel humming along even as he quickly changes the station.
“Only the cute ones.”
The angel shoots him a wounded look and moans about unfaithfulness and betrayal. Harry reminds him that he’s not the one pulling some sort of reverse Stockholm Syndrome and that Gabriel is perfectly capable of leaving whenever he wants to. Gabriel puts the radio back to the pop song and sings loudly – So call me, maybe! – the ride back. If Harry is at all annoyed it’s entirely drowned out by his amusement at the way the angel shoots him a triumphantly smug look when the hosts try to keep their listeners calm because ‘we’re not sure how but this is the only song we have on file now?’
He only has to pull over once because he can’t stop laughing and he’s going to count that as an accomplishment.
Chapter 7: (Calling in) A Favour
Someone owes someone a favour. Harry's insistent that it isn't him. He certainly wouldn't mind gaining the promise of one though.
“I’m calling in a favour,” Crowley announces firmly.
“Do you want bacon with your eggs?” Harry asks as he checks on the pancakes.
“I was being serious.”
“So was I.”
“Crowley,” he turns and stares at the demon sitting at his table. “I am not having a discussion over which of us owes the other any favours without food. So, do you want bacon or not?”
The King of Hell glares menacingly but nods curtly and the wizard turns back to his cooking. Kreacher starts a second batch of pancakes on the griddle while Harry dishes out a healthy portion of scrambled eggs and bacon and snags some of the already cooked pancakes from a platter. A flick of his wand has the whole thing and a cup of tea floating over to the table and setting down neatly in front of the unexpected guest.
“So, tell me why my keeping an eye on your bones, disposing of the demon you brought into my house thereby indirectly causing the temporary kidnapping of my godson, and now interrupting my breakfast constitutes my owing you a favour?”
“Well when you put it like that…”
Harry takes a seat across from Crowley and nudges him with a foot beneath the table. Crowley pauses in slicing his pancakes into bite-sized pieces to blink at him cautiously. “Tell me the favour,” he says expectantly and steals the demon’s tea rather than summon his own.
“I want your brand of help in defending my home,” he says and gestures vaguely around the room.
“My wards, you mean?”
“They keep everything out,” Crowley says and, “I don’t know as much as I might like about how Enochian magic works.”
“Enochian?” Harry has to startle at that. It’s an old sort of magic that Crowley’s talking about but one that he’s intimately familiar with. Among other things, he’d spent a year attempting to be a curse-breaker with Bill Weasley. He was good at it but he felt it was a lot like cheating when the Elder Wand just disintegrated spells out of sheer spite for standing in their way. “Do you actually mean Enochian magic or are you referring to the runes? The symbols and sigils?”
Crowley stares. “You lot know about that?”
“It’s old magic,” Harry says shortly – annoyed on behalf of wizards everywhere. “Which were you referring to?"
“I wasn’t aware there was a difference,” the demon admits. It doesn’t quite sound like it pains him to do so but he does look like it cost him something to say it out loud.
“You can use the sigils and symbols to create spells,” Harry says. That’s the easiest way. “But Enochian magic is…it’s very complicated.”
“Try me,” he drawls and begins to eat his breakfast.
“Well, Enochian magic is essentially evocation. You use ceremonies and rituals with certain phrases in Enochian to induce mental states. Those states let you see through the Aethyrs – sort of rings or walls, something like thirty of them – that keep most people from seeing the universe as it truly is. It’s not really spells so much as it…a state of being? Ways of being able to summon powers and spirits to you because you know them from the Aethyrs you’re capable of going through.”
“That sounds like every witch’s spell,” Crowley says pointedly.
“That’s because essentially it is,” Harry replies. “Muggle witches can use all sorts of languages and sigils and rituals but it’s all just different ways of doing the same thing. Enochian magic is one of the oldest and purest forms of it because it’s the language of angels while on Earth. Even the idea of thirty Aethyrs is just a mind-trick for humans to be able to use the magic at all. What’s really important is how far a human mind can become other enough to capture the attention of a spirit. That’s what changes magic from simple charms to actual power.”
“I’ve been using those symbols for decades and now you’re going to tell me they don’t do anything?”
“But those are the sigils,” Harry says and puts down his cup to lean back and fold his arms smugly. “The sigils are different from the magic. The sigils have inherent properties because they’re the written form of Enochian. If you use enough of them in the correct combination they create a sort of…force of power. It’s sort of like the Christian God creating angels; you use the Enochian symbols to create a tiny little being of power with a very specific task.”
“And it keeps angels out?”
Harry isn’t surprised that Crowley is aware that he’s met an angel. “Angels are limited by their vessels. A human mind is simply incapable of comprehending what an angel knows in its true form. The Enochian works because it’s what the Angels use to work through a human vessel. Humans weren’t meant to have it on their own but,” he shrugs, “someone messed up somewhere and now it’s out there for those who can figure out how to use it.”
Crowley leans back from his cleared plate and stares at him with something like delight tugging his lips up. “Aren’t you just full of surprises?”
“I have the unfortunate ability to run into the most awful characters,” he corrects. “Why do you want my help with keeping angels out of your house when you’ve got a perfectly functioning knowledge of Enochian?”
“I can recognize the bloody things but I can’t actually use them. That’s where you come in…provided your willing cooperation.”
Harry thinks of Gabriel in hiding from his own kind and his pointed Trickster. He looks at the demon in front of him and thinks of the one he held in his mind for a moment when it tried to kill his godson. The fire and brimstone and sulfur was bad then and he doesn’t relish coming into greater contact with any more than Crowley. Crowley is keyed to his wards. He has Growley for protection but if Harry can see the hellhound so can any angel.
“Alright,” he agrees and is only slightly mollified when Crowley’s triumphant smirk is hidden by a careful sip of tea. “After breakfast though.”
“Of course,” Crowley dips his head.
Crowley’s house is really more a mansion and it’s decorated in an obscene amount of ridiculously expensive items from across the globe. The gate-house out front is manned with two demons and they edge cautiously away from Harry when he appears with a muffled crack in front of main gates.
The King of Hell calls the gatehouse and informs the black-eyed guards to let their guest in – he’s expected.
Harry is unimpressed with the show and makes his opinion known the moment he steps inside and Growley shoves his scraggy head into the wizard’s hands. The guard that had shadowed him from the gate looks as terrified as a demon can be and it practically runs out the door the moment Crowley emerges from one of the nearby rooms.
“Your little stunt has made names in some circles,” he says in explanation. “You obliterated that sod; there’s not a single trace of him left in the pit anywhere."
“Good,” Harry returns just a touch viciously. “Bloody deserved it.”
Crowley’s eyebrows rise. Harry stuffs his hands into his pockets and does not meet the demon’s eyes. “Do you have access to the foundation? The lower I can get the better the wards will be.”
“There’s the basement, yeah,” Crowley says. “Just this way.”
The basement is equally as extravagant and Harry’s nose wrinkles. The Elder Wand mutters darkly and he takes it out of his pocket to shake it irritably. It hisses dissatisfaction at their surroundings. Not safe, is the essential translation.
One flick has the thick rug ripped up and vanished. Crowley makes a pained noise and Harry takes a certain pleasure in banishing most of the things in the room away too. He spends an entirely unnecessary amount of time clearing the entire floor right to the barest bones possible. The stark cement and wooden framework is a shocking change from the opulence of only a few minutes before.
“Is this really necessary?”
“I’m sorry,” he flicks a pointed look, “Do you know many experts in Enochian?”
“Point,” the demon admits grudgingly.
He smiles and tucks his Holy wand away in its holster. Dual wielding is fine in theory (and Harry is one of a very few who can manage it in practice) but for Enochian he’d be next to useless. The Elder Wand’s sheer force of power is the only way he’s going to be able to put up anything resembling a ward.
He wasn’t lying. Enochian magic requires mental states; those mental states are not something he can manage. Not even in his extended lifetime. But the Elder Wand is old and has a primal sort of sentience that can bypass those states and function with a decent capacity. He wouldn’t use it in his everyday warding or anything but as a favour for the King of Hell? He can probably manage to convince his Deathstick to work out some sort of Enochian ward scheme to cover the property.
“Alright you,” he murmurs and curls his hand loosely in preparation for some high-level spell-casting, “let’s see what we can do to liven this place up a bit."
The Elder Wand thrums in his hand and he focuses on the sigils and runes he knows. There are the basic ones for setting up a perimeter and to keep out spirits that are uninvited. He pushes a little extra and adds in a few offensive wards to ensure that anything getting by doesn’t make it back out.
His head tilts, listening to murmurs in his mind, and Harry carefully lets his Deathstick direct him in putting down symbols to prevent anyone from circumventing his wards with their own. A further symbol ensures his can’t be changed for a similar effect.
The pressure against his mind feels like legilimency; it’s been a long time since he’s attempted Enochian magic. The mental states are itching along his bond to the Elder Wand and his mind is no more suited to manipulating this energy than any other human. If he were a vessel, perhaps but…
He must wince because Crowley’s hand is too-warm against his brow. The demon’s frowning when he manages to open his eyes and he can see the bright runes glowing eerie green against the cement behind him. They’ll settle and become intangible when he’s finished but for now the grounds must be lit with them. He’s glad Crowley has enough underlings to keep mention of any strange activity silent.
“Alright then?” the demon asks.
“Yeah,” he winces when the Deathstick’s bond twangs almost violently and uses his not-inconsiderable power to block it out as best he can while maintaining the connection to the magic. “I’m going to add the last of it now.”
“Just be careful,” Crowley warns. Then his eyes flash and his lips curl, “don’t go messing around with my house.”
“Har har,” he retorts but his eyes slip shut and the demon’s palm is still against his head. He sighs and reaches for his awareness of the Deathstick.
It responds promptly and he carefully pulls his memories of Gabriel to the forefront of his mind. Like this, he urges. Keep it out.
Too vague for the magic. His wand burns in his palm and he nearly loses control of the warding. It reverberates and the house shakes with the power about to tear loose before he clamps down and demands: no like this.
Enochian magic has a heady sort of taste. It’s too powerful by half and a thousand times more difficult. But he knows Enochian and so too does the Deathstick. Oh, the wards agree, like that. They flare bright and strong and Harry shouts in alarm when he’s suddenly hitting grass and rock and pavement and his mind is tattered and screaming in pain while his magic surges and flickers and stretches.
“Ow,” he manages and waves away the two guards that come hesitantly over from Crowley’s gatehouse. Never let it be said that demons aren’t capable of looking out for you. Sure, it’s going to be for selfish reasons or out of fear, but Harry’s still grateful that at least someone was bothered to check on him. “Never did that before. Remind me not to do that again.”
Growley leaps over the fence like it’s nothing and shoves his snout into Harry’s chest. The Hellhound inhales sharply and whines low in his throat. The wizard shoves at the great beast and pushes himself to his feet. “Oh come off it,” he mutters. “I’m fine. Just a little accident with the wording – warded the damn house against my own self. Serves me right for messing about with Enochian.”
“I thought you said you were an expert.”
“I am an expert,” he snaps at the demon. Crowley doesn’t look ruffled but his gaze is piercing and he’s got his arms folded. “Your stupid ruddy house is officially protected and warded against any and all things capable of Enochian magic – angels, demons, and me.” He sneers pointedly and ignores the steady ache behind his eyes. He’s exhausted after that but he knows he can’t show weakness in front of any of Crowley’s little minions.
“That’s good then,” the King of Hell says. His head jerks and the minions vanish back to their gatehouse. Then there’s two warm palms settled on his temples and he feels that same warmth consume him.
He stumbles along the grassy field surrounding his home and Crowley keeps a firm hand on his side. It isn’t as jarring as Apparating – travelling with a demon, he means – but it leaves him feeling strung out and bruised straight down to his depleted magical core.
“Bastard,” he grouches but doesn’t protest the help through his door and up to his bedroom. Winky has a fire going and hovers anxiously near her Master while Kreacher presses a vial of dreamless sleep into his hand. He wordlessly returns it and Kreacher scowls but vanishes with a crack! “Go on, get. I’m fine.”
“You don’t look fine.”
“Well I am.”
“On your head,” Crowley mutters but he’s gone in the next moment and when Kreacher returns with the dreamless sleep again Harry takes it.
Chapter 8: The Fair
Teddy Lupin is a lot more perceptive than people give him credit for - he recognizes a good friend for his godfather when he sees it. Especially when that friend is so free with his candy and saves him from giant men with frowning faces.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“Oh bugger off,” Harry mutters into his telephone. Teddy directs his blue knight to ride between his godfather’s legs. He glances down when the knight’s tinny voice squeaks and his lips curl into the smile he always uses when he finds something Teddy’s doing funny but doesn’t want to show it because he’s supposed to be a grown-up. “I’ve got to go – if I can find someone to sit Teddy for me then maybe. Yes? Lovely. Goodbye.”
Teddy sits back on his haunches and uses the toy wand to make the knight charge triumphantly down the hall back to the room his godfather has dubbed the Rumpus Room but is actually just an empty dining room full of all of Teddy’s biggest toys. Harry smiles and tilts his head.
“Don’t tell your gran I said to ‘bugger off’ around you, got it?”
“Never,” Teddy promises. His godfather is the best and he’s not going to tell his gran that Harry curses because she’ll be angry and he doesn’t like it when she’s angry. Andy just doesn’t understand that Teddy is turning ten soon and is basically a grown-up going to Hogwarts almost so he’s allowed to hear cursing. His friend Georgie says his dad does it all the time but he’s pretty sure that’s just because Georgie’s dad doesn’t know Georgie can hear him.
“Alright then,” Harry ruffles his hair and Teddy’s wrinkles his nose and it turns bright blue to match the knight’s colours. Harry laughs and he beams because his godfather doesn’t laugh enough in his opinion and he always likes to see him when he does. “How do you feel about going out today?”
“Go out where?”
“Didn’t you want to see that film? What was it – the one with the red-haired girl?”
“Brave? Yes! Please can we?” Susie Miller in his class at the muggle primary school saw it on opening night and her parents let her stay up to almost nine o’clock. She’s been bragging about it all week and no one else has seen it yet. Teddy’s going to be the second one and Harry already promised to drop him off at school using his motorbike which will make Teddy the coolest.
“Get your coat,” he says and Teddy scrambles off to the front room to where his favourite green coat is. It’s a little big and roughed up but it has brilliant pockets and his Gran Andy says that it used to belong to his mum when she was little. He feels his hair shiver into its dark natural colour and carefully concentrates until it lightens to a sort of brownish blonde like his dad’s is in all his photographs.
Harry doesn’t say anything about his hair or his eyes which are deep vibrant pink (his mum’s favourite colour but Gran Andy says she tended to purple for herself more often than not). “Can we get popcorn?”
“Certainly,” his godfather says. “Now, I’ve only been to the cinema once, with Luna, so we’ll have to go to the same one. It’s a bit of a jump and I had to get an Apparition Pass for this so hold tight – I don’t want to lose you somewhere over the Atlantic.”
If Teddy were older perhaps he’d wonder why his godfather insisted on making the whole trip more complicated than it needed to be – there’s a cinema in town just a brief drive away – but Teddy Lupin is nearly ten and thinks Harry is the coolest adult he knows and he got an Apparation Pass just for Teddy so he doesn’t think to question it.
If he had, perhaps it would’ve saved him the trouble of the rest of his evening. But he didn’t so it happened and it turns out to be one of the only secrets he’ll ever keep from his godfather ever.
Harry Apparates them to America to see the film. Teddy knows it has to be America because they all sound different when they talk and they drive on the wrong side of the road. Harry doesn’t seem bothered by it but Teddy figures that’s because his godfather doesn’t spend nearly as much time in the muggle world as Teddy and his Gran do.
“I can’t tell Susie I went to America to see Brave,” he informs his godfather accusingly.
“Sorry,” Harry smiles sheepishly and curls an arm around Teddy’s shoulders. He’s warm and his single palm covers Teddy’s entire shoulder. The boy leans in as close as he can without toppling over while walking and he can feel the way the elder relaxes. “I’ll see about finding a cinema closer to home next time.”
“You don’t have to,” he says quickly. He knows that Harry doesn’t like going out if he doesn’t have to. Teddy doesn’t mind spending time holed up with his godfather at the castle but his Gran always gets a pinched look whenever she has to call Harry because Mr. Weasley and Mrs. Granger mention they haven’t heard from him in a few weeks.
“It isn’t a problem, love,” Harry says softly. Teddy looks up – worried about the distant tone – but his godfather is already shaking the mood off and smiling at him again. He isn’t convinced that the man is actually alright so he reaches up to snag the hand around his shoulder in a tight grip and tugs. Harry pretends to stumble and lets his arm be stretched out as Teddy drags him down the street to where he can see the familiar lights and posters of a cinema. “Excited?”
“You promised we’d get popcorn,” he reminds him. Harry laughs and it eases the tightness in Teddy’s chest.
“Do you think you can get a seat for us?” Harry asks. Teddy grins and once they’ve got their tickets and are inside, races off to find a spot.
He stops at the top row and claims the two seats directly in the middle. There’s a man with longish hair a seat over and he grins at Teddy when the boy sets his jacket in the seat beside him to claim it for when his godfather gets there. “Best seats in the house, right?” he asks.
Teddy isn’t supposed to talk to strangers but this man has laughing eyes and Harry is only a few minutes behind him anyway. It can’t hurt to say something.
“The top is the best,” he agrees. Once he settles in his seat he looks over curiously. The man has very strange eyes – almost amber but not really and Teddy sort of wants to change his to see if he can match but that man’s a muggle so it’s not really a good idea…
“I should’ve known,” Harry mutters and Teddy ‘eeps’ quietly when his godfather’s warm palm lands on his shoulder in warning before he takes the empty seat between Teddy and the stranger. The stranger flashes a wicked smile at his godfather but Harry just claims his seat and says, “Sit down, Teddy.”
The metamorphmagus pulls his knees up to his chest and watches with wide-eyes as the stranger slings an arm around his godfather and waggles his eyebrows. Harry snorts and shrugs his shoulders pointedly but the arm isn’t removed and his godfather doesn’t do anything more about it. The man pulls out a packet of m&ms and shakes them teasingly. Harry ignores the packet but his eyes are sharp when the man leans more and offers them to Teddy. He looks to his godfather cautiously but all the man does is nod – face pinched but decided – and so Teddy takes the offering and sets it in the available drink holder beside him.
“Why are you dropping in on a children’s film?” Harry says finally in the sort of exasperated tone he sometimes takes when Winky and Kreacher are particularly stubborn about not letting him do something around the castle to help.
“Can’t a guy visit his favourite magical recluse when he’s out with his – hm – godson?” Teddy nods helpfully and the man’s smile widens and he winks. Teddy grins a little and ducks his head when Harry shoots him a firm look.
“A guy can,” Harry returns. “But he doesn’t usually. Thus prompting the question: why are you here?”
“Word is the fam-jam doesn’t want two little boys hanging around a friend of yours. Bad influence or something,” the man waves a flippant hand and his voice is light but Teddy can tell from the way his godfather folds his arms to touch the wand-holsters strapped against each arm that he’s concerned. “Thing is, your friend has a present for those boys but the present is missing certain parts and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that you’re the perfect person to fix that. It’s very important that they get this thing wrapped up too – events in a series that must be set in motion, you know?”
“I’m not having this discussion with you,” Harry interrupts shortly. “I’ll go see what he wants but I’m not going to play whatever little game it is that you lot are running.”
“I knew there was a reason you’re my favourite human,” the man says and then he reaches below his seat and pulls out a truly enormous bag of caramel popcorn. The lights dim and the previews start to play and Teddy has to tear his gaze away from the stranger because there’s a The Amazing Spiderman trailer playing and he needs to see that.
Brave was awesome; Teddy feels that should be made very clear. Merida is the coolest and her little brothers are hilarious and kind of sort of make Teddy wish he had siblings. Harry’s arm drapes over his shoulders and pulls up the armrest between them at the end when they think Merida’s mum is dead because well…
He wasn’t crying. He wasn’t. But Harry just makes a soft noise and curls his whole hand around one of Teddy’s shoulders to stop him from looking away and missing it when Queen Elinor rises under the tapestry – fully human once more and very much alive.
But as awesome as the film was, what’s more awesome is what happens after.
They’re standing out front of the cinema and his godfather is holding a very intense but quiet conversation with the stranger from inside. “Teddy, this is Gabriel,” Harry says finally. He looks tired and the young metamorphmagus frowns even though Gabriel grins and waves cheerfully from a few feet away. “He’s going to watch you while I go help an old acquaintance of mine quickly. Alright?”
“Do you have to?”
“I wouldn’t leave you if I didn’t,” Harry says and he sounds like he means it. Teddy nods miserably but accepts the slightly too-tight hug his godfather pulls him into before he turns and strides away – Apparating in a corner enough out of the way that no one notices.
Gabriel stares at him blankly for a moment when Teddy turns to face him and then he digs into a pocket and pulls out a bag of Hershey’s Kisses. “Chocolate?” he offers.
“Okay,” Teddy decides – right then and there – that Gabriel clearly can’t be too bad. He’s offering him candy. “What are we gonna do while Harry’s gone?”
Gabriel tilts his head, birdlike, and considers it. “Do you like circuses?”
“Like a fair?”
“Exactly,” Gabriel snaps and points at him triumphantly. Teddy holds the bag of chocolate out knowingly and the man grins as he takes a handful – unwrapping one to eat right away – and stuffs them into his pocket. “Well kiddo?”
“I’ve never been,” he begins and there’s a warm hand settled on his shoulder and the sound of wings rustling and he’s staring at the bright tents and lights and listening to the noises of a fair. The sun is setting low in the sky and it makes all of the colours bleed out into a blur of warmth and light. Teddy turns to stare in awe at the sudden transport and his new surroundings.
Harry has the best friends.
“Want to go on the tilt-o-whirl?” Gabriel asks and Teddy spends the next hour dragging the man around to go on every ride.
The tilt-o-whirl makes him dizzy but not nauseous so they follow that with the zipper ride. The sharp jerks tug the safety belt uncomfortably around Teddy’s middle and Gabriel suggests food. Teddy says yes to the corndog but no to a caramel apple. Gabriel takes three of each and two giant balls of cotton candy to boot. Teddy feels like even he would have a tummy ache after but Gabriel looks completely unaffected by the sugar he’s consuming.
“Oh!” Teddy pulls them to an abrupt stop when he sees the toy.
It’s just a cheap stuffed dog but there’s something about the wild scruff of its fur and the yellow plastic of its eyes that makes Teddy think of ‘wolf’ and then, because he’s Teddy Lupin, he thinks ‘werewolf’ wistfully.
Gabriel looks at him curiously and then to the toy. “Want it?” he asks casually – like it’s not at all a problem for him to attempt one of the many impossible carnival games.
“It’s alright,” Teddy tells him just a little sadly. He’s never seen a werewolf transformed before – and since Mrs. Granger’s cure there’s only a handful of them left who have for various reasons chosen not to receive it – but he likes to imagine that his father was more wolf than monster. Harry tells him that his dad was very wolf-like when he saw him but he doesn’t remember very clearly. The night was a bit of a blur for his godfather.
“Are you sure?” the new voice is deep and Teddy jumps a little. He loses grip on his transformation and bright green streaks through his hair and his eyes flash a kaleidoscope of colours before he can get a hold on the reactionary shift. Gabriel is very quiet and Teddy steps closer – worried.
“I’m sure,” he says and stares up, up, up at the man with the long hair glaring at Teddy even though his face is arranged in a smile. He wishes his godfather were here because Harry would never put up with that sort of thing. His shoulders hunch automatically and when Gabriel puts two warm hands on them in a firm grip he relaxes just fractionally. “It’s just a silly toy.”
“Come on kid, don’t let old sasquatch here scare you,” Gabriel drawls. “I promise his bite doesn’t even stand up to mine.”
He’s not quite sure what that means but he musters up a hesitant grin and stuffs his hands into the pockets of his mum’s old jacket. The bag of chocolate crinkles and he pulls it out and then freezes under the sharp stare of this new stranger. “Chocolate?” he offers hopefully. He really wants his godfather back now.
“A baby Trickster?” there’s a second voice and a man with short hair who still manages to tower over most of the people around them comes to stand beside the long-haired one. “I thought we killed you.”
“You thought wrong,” Gabriel says haughtily. “And Teddy here isn’t a baby Trickster, are you Teddy?”
“I’m not,” he tries and flinches back when the pair startle at the sound of his voice. His eyes must be yellow – he knows his hair is his natural dark again – but his eyes are always yellow when he’s nervous. “Can we go?” He’s not above crying if it helps, he doesn’t think.
“Your eyes are changing colours kid,” the shorter of the pair grumbles. “Don’t think you’re fooling us.”
“I’m not trying to!” he exclaims and feels the itch of red pulling at his scalp. “Why are you being so horrible?”
“Stop that,” says the taller and Teddy whines wordlessly.
Gabriel must decide that enough is enough because he steps around Teddy to put himself between the boy and the two strangers. “As charming as you two are, you’re going to have to suck it; me and the kiddo are going someplace that appreciates us.”
There’s no sound of wings but when Teddy’s eyes open after he’s squeezed them shut to ward off tears, Harry is standing and frowning cautiously. Teddy flings himself into his godfather’s arms and Harry makes quiet shushing noises. “What happened?” he asks over Teddy’s head softly.
Gabriel murmurs something but Teddy can’t hear him. Everything is soft and fuzzy and he looks up to see Harry’s thunderous expression and suddenly it hits him. It hits him that his godfather left him with Gabriel because he actually trusts Gabriel – the same way he trusts his few remaining friends. Gabriel looks calm but Teddy knows he’s upset because he’s not even reaching for one of the squirreled away chocolates.
He suddenly, desperately, wants Harry to let it go. Teddy remembers the beginning of the night before the scary strangers Gabriel knew and tugs to get Harry’s attention. “The tilt-o-whirl made me feel sick,” he says in his most pathetic voice.
Everything tense about Harry relaxes. “Is that all?” he asks - relieved. He kisses his godson’s forehead and smiles gently. “We’ll get you a potion at home. Thank you, Gabriel,” he adds over Teddy’s head.
“Not a problem. Pleasure, really,” Gabriel performs an elaborate mocking bow that makes Teddy giggle despite himself. The man winks and waves, “See you later, kiddo,” before vanishing.
Teddy never does tell Harry about the two strangers who called Gabriel a Trickster (with a capital Teddy could just hear). Gabriel got him away, after all, and shared his candy and took Teddy on an adventure and didn’t treat him like a baby. He’s probably the coolest adult ever after Harry and the metamorphmagus isn’t going to spoil that or his godfather’s friendship by mentioning one silly little accidental meeting at a fair.
Besides, he finds the stuffed wolf toy on his bed when he gets back home and he’s hardly going to rat out the man who brought him that.
By the way, Mr. Weasley is Ron and Mrs. Granger is Hermione. They are married but my head-canon has it that Hermione keeps her surname. The children have the last name Weasley though because Hermione knows how much it means to Mrs. Weasley that her grandchildren carry on the family name.
Chapter 9: Tea Time and New Beginnings
He'd almost forgotten how determined she can be when a shiny new opportunity to poke and prod him presents itself on a silver platter. One day he'll learn to face down her research mode; today is not that day.
The problem with archangels is that they never share things if they can help it. Or if the lack of sharing makes them look a hell of a lot better than they actually are.
“Who’s my favourite Gardener?” Gabriel asks and Harry resolutely ignores the spread of glimmering rainbow in the edges of his vision. “Literally, in this case. Really? You actually have a garden that you tend to by hand?”
“It’s cathartic and productive,” Harry says. It’s the reason Hermione gave him, in any case.
“It is cathartic and productive,” Hermione says and directs the tray of iced tea and lemon cookies to rest on the little bistro table she’d set up on the patio by the garden. “You gave up having minions for a reason; they require constant tending lest they blow something up.”
Harry dusts off his hands against his denims and accepts the warm damp towel that Winky hands him to scrub the rest of it off his arms and face. Hermione politely conjures another chair for him when Gabriel claims the only other to peer curiously across the table at her. “That’s what you get for picking the younger ones.”
“They’re mouldable,” Hermione says with a fond sort of exasperation “Give me a few more months and I’ll have a properly useable team.”
“And then you can get a new batch to start all over again?”
“There’s the idea,” she grins.
“I’m Gabriel,” the archangel announces impatiently. Hermione’s lips curl in a secret smile before she turns to look at him. Harry holds back his laughter just barely because seeing an angel put-out at being ignored is one of those things that you only see once.
“I’ve heard,” she says. “I’m still trying to decide if it’s your fault that Harry keeps getting involved in troublesome business.”
“Completely his fault,” Harry says and drops into the conjured seat. “I’m an innocent victim.”
“Aren’t we all?” Hermione says and then, “You should visit Molly.”
“I’m not going to visit Molly.”
“She would like you to.”
“Does Ginny still live at home?” he asks and stares pointedly.
It isn’t that Ginny and Harry don’t get along. They get along famously; that’s the problem. Harry isn’t ready for a relationship and neither is Ginny but put them together long enough and they start remembering before the war and the humour and affection flows easily and then they’re deciding to give it a go again. A couple months down the line one of them inevitably attempts to suggest more and then it all falls apart into jagged shards that they leave to pull out piece by painful piece on their own.
Harry’s smile is a touch brittle when it pulls at his lips.The last time it had been he who had pushed for more. The resulting row had been loud enough that it had broken through the muffling charms on the walls and the neighbouring flat had called the police. Ginny had moved back with her mum and last Harry had heard she’d been promoted to Senior Auror with a squad of her own – the youngest in a decade.
Hermione sniffs and points her chin at his tea. “You’ve put too much sugar in again,” she says.
His lips curl from brittle to warm. “You’re a witch, remember?” he says teasingly. She laughs and he chuckles and Gabriel pouts and stares – waiting for one of them to explain the inside joke. They won’t, of course, but he doesn’t know that quite yet.
“Okay, now you’re just being rude,” Gabriel says.
“Did you want something in particular?” Harry returns.
“I’m setting up a morphic temporal loop,” Gabriel says and Harry has to hold back the resigned sigh that wants to escape when Hermione visibly perks up. She’s staring intently at the archangel now and he knows it’s only a very fine thread of civility allowing her patience to remain intact. “Figured my favourite wizard should be inside to save the effort of having to fetch him myself.”
“I do have a life you know,” Harry says. “A life I can’t just drop to go sit around in your time loop.”
“My morphic time loop,” Gabriel stresses. “It’s only about a thousand times more awesome. Same timeframe but different happenings! Think of how much fun we could have.”
“And what life?” Hermione adds, “Luna will understand if you miss a lunch date and I can certainly make excuses for any of the ones who come looking.”
“Don’t encourage him,” he mutters darkly. “And don’t use my social life as an excuse just so you can run tests when I’m back.”
“You want to go and you know it, Harry. My reasoning is flawless and as thanks for providing you with a clear path to a morphic temporal loop,” her voice quivers with excitement over the words, “you’ll swing by my labs and let me run just a few, tiny, little tests.” She’s tapping her feet and her eyes look entirely too wide and bright to be anything but terrifying to her friend. He’s seen Hermione in research mode; as a friend he gets out of having to deal with her by virtue of her having a perfectly good husband whose duty it is to bring her back home and face near-certain death for interrupting research.
“But you’ll miss me,” Gabriel wheedles and Harry has to grudgingly admit to himself that, yes, he will miss the Trickster.
“Alright, I’ll go,” he says.
He forgets momentarily that Gabriel’s going to be stuck in the temporal loop so if Harry is outside it no time will actually pass.
By then it’s too late and he’s agreed and Gabriel’s vanished off with a promise Harry feels tugging suspiciously like an Oath. Hermione is beaming at him and clapping her hands with a delight so palpable he’s actually concerned she’s putting off accidental magic.
“This is your fault,” he says and she snorts.
“Just admit you want to spend time with him and then do that,” she prods him with the tip of her wand and he leans back in his chair to avoid a second attempt. Her eyes are soft even if her lips are twisted in a smirk. “I can think of worse blokes you could be gallivanting with.”
“Gallivanting, are we?” he asks. “How sordid.”
“It would certainly be a change,” she agrees placidly but her eyes are sparkling now.
“If anything disastrous happens I’m blaming you to anyone who asks.”
She sniffs. “As if they’ll believe that.” Her watch chimes suddenly and her eyes widen. “Oh! Ron’ll be home soon.”
“So?” he watches in slight bewilderment as she quickly gathers up the few things she’d brought with her – eyeing her wrist anxiously. “What’s the rush?”
“It’s nothing, don’t worry.”
“It’s not nothing. Tell me.”
“Really, Harry, it’s just a little thing I’d promised nothing to get all uppity about.”
“I’m not uppity; I’m asking a question. Mione – Mione just - just stop a moment!” he grabs her arm and halts her in mid farewell. His eyes flick across her face searchingly and she visibly wilts. He lets go and waits patiently for the explanation just barely clinging to her excuses.
“Oh fine. Ron and I are trying to have a baby,” she mutters and her face flushes in the almost blotchy red it usually does when she’s frustrated or angry rather than simply embarrassed.
“What?” he gapes a little and her flush darkens. “Seriously? I just – what?”
“It’s not that ridiculous,” she hisses. “I’ve finally got the department in a functioning order and Ron’s been settled with the Aurors for years now and why are you looking at me like that?” her voice rises to a shrill note.
He can’t help it; he laughs. “Mione! I’m not saying it’s a bad thing I’m just surprised is all. I had no idea you two were thinking about a family,” he smiles gently and his eyes are warm and fond – even teasing – as he gently pulls her hands to him to clasp them gently in his own.
She’s smiling again although she’s clinging to her indignation in the twist of her mouth. “I wasn’t thinking about it at all,” she admits in a sort of whispering secretive way, “but then we visited with my family and my cousin just had a little girl and I don’t know…” she shrugs helplessly.
“And you thought – what would a little Granger-Weasley look like?” he fills in and she laughs.
“Merlin, but that isn’t a mouthful of a last name! Yes, that was it, essentially. You should’ve seen her, Harry, all little fingers and toes and just the sweetest thing. Ron was asking to hold her all evening – claimed something about not having done something of the like since Ginny was little or some nonsense.” His friend is almost glowing in excitement and he can’t help the tight embrace he pulls her into.
“I’m happy for you,” he says.
“Thank you,” she murmurs into his neck. Then, “I really do have to leave now; it’s to do with ovulation cycles and optimum times and I’m not saying anymore because I can feel you pulling away now.” She shoots him a playful glare and he laughs.
He escorts her to the kitchen hearth so she can Floo to the International Apparition station and then he’s left alone in his kitchen.
“A baby,” he says out loud, testing the thought. His closest friends bringing new life into the world. A new little one for him to spoil and to brighten his days the way Teddy does. The grin that overtakes his face is wide and very nearly hurts. “Fantastic.”
Chapter 10: The Grand Trick
It starts on Tuesday and Harry sincerely hopes it ends on a Wednesday. One more Tuesday and he swears he's going to DO something.
“This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever had the misfortune of doing,” Harry says and applies a sticking charm to yet another chair. “I’ll remind you that I once took a class where the Professor set an entire cage of Cornish pixies loose.”
“Cornish pixies, really?” Gabriel asks and Harry is pointedly ignoring the way his hair doesn’t stick straight up despite his perch sitting on a table attached to the ceiling.
“Entertaining in hindsight,” he says and adds the finishing touches to the placement of the final chair. “Mind telling me what we’re doing?”
“This charming little hovel is going to be foreclosed and snapped up by some slimy little man – goes by the name Mcilroy.”
“Fascinating; what are we doing?”
“Have a little faith.”
“You are not funny.”
“If that helps you sleep at night.”
“I don’t sleep,” Gabriel sneers a little and sniffs haughtily. “I’m above such theatrics.”
“Sleeping is not theatrical.”
“It is if you do it right.”
“Dirty,” Harry chides without real feeling. The Trickster grins at him and swings down to stand on the normal plane of gravity. “So it’s a sort of prank then?”
“Sort of,” Gabriel hedges and busies himself inspecting the table settings stuck on an angle.
It’s the kind of ‘sort of’ the Twins used to use when they were about to do something potentially hilarious and also potentially harmful. It’s a fine line to walk – between pranking and outright cruelty – and Harry isn’t so sure Gabriel is as playful as he’d like Harry to believe. He mostly trusts him but there’s always that lingering unsettled feeling.
“Alright,” he mutters skeptically. Gabriel flashes a wide grin and Harry holds back his derisive snort. “So where do we start then?”
“Tuesday,” Gabriel says and Harry has never heard a day of the week sound as terribly wicked as it does coming out of the Trickster’s mouth.
It begins with breakfast. Harry stands at the counter in a white shirt and black pants and feels ridiculous. Gabriel looks like an old man and it’s disconcerting to know that it’s the archangel siting before him wearing this strange face. He’s pouring coffee and very carefully not staring at the two boys sitting at the booth behind his friend.
The waitress drops the hot-sauce and Gabriel twists around to watch, lips twisting in an amused smirk, before he meets Harry’s gaze.
“Incorrigible,” Harry pronounces softly. He has no doubt that little accident was the Trickster even if it is ridiculously subtle compared to his usual antics.
“I’m just getting warmed up,” Gabriel says cheerfully.
It’s the Second Tuesday and Harry watches the taller boy twitching fretfully and refusing breakfast. He shoots Gabriel a suspicious look which the angel returns with a bright smile and a hefty tip.
They meet shortly thereafter so Gabriel can reset the loop. “This was shorter than yesterday,” he says.
“Couldn’t help it, I had a better idea,” the Trickster grins and Harry feels the diner uniform reform and the Third Tuesday starts.
The boy looks frantic this morning. A sort of frustrated, furious anxiety that has him trembling and staring at the other pleadingly as they mutter between themselves.
“What are you doing to that man?” Harry scowls even when Gabriel shoots him furtive warning looks. “Oh shush, they aren’t paying any attention.”
“I’m making a point.”
They make it through nearly a full day before Harry finds Gabriel nudging him awake where he’d been napping in the motel bed.
Gabriel smiles and the world melts away into morning and the diner once more.
Harry watches the one boy choke on his order of sausage and whirls on the Trickster mid-reset. It halts the swirl of time around them and the diner is a blurred mess of colour and light and frozen all in place.
“What was that?” he demands. “Was that the point? That you can kill some kid again and again?”
“He’s not actually dead,” Gabriel argues. “Just temporarily…incapacitated – no harm done.”
“The other one notices so there’s certainly some harm done,” he snaps. He’d assumed this was an elaborate prank. To find out that there’s a more sinister motive behind this makes Harry itch uncomfortably and want to vanish back home until the feeling goes away.
Harry doesn’t even get to see the diner for the Fifth Tuesday. They skip to the Sixth before he even gets a chance to orient himself from the reset.
Several days skip by in a blur of resets too quick for Harry to recover. He eventually reaches out with the help of his Deathstick and everything halts. He drops to the bed and puts his head between his knees to inhale deeply and just breathe for a moment.
The archangel looks a little apologetic from where he’s peering up at him crouched on the ground at the wizard’s feet. “Alright?” he asks cautiously – like he’s uncertain of his welcome. His hands are very warm on Harry’s thighs and his thumbs are rubbing soothing little circles that make it hard for Harry to stay angry for very long.
“I don’t approve of torment,” he says and stares very steadily at Gabriel. Memories of the Cruciatus hold nothing to the pain of that year on the run and watching his loved ones die. It’s a special sort of torture and he hates that Gabriel is using that against these boys and using Harry to facilitate it.
“It’s not about the death,” Gabriel says softly and his wings glimmer in Harry’s vision and he feels very warm and very loved despite everything. Gabriel shifts so that the wizard can rest his forehead against the angel’s shoulder and it eases the pressure and dizziness behind his eyes. “Just trust me, okay? I know what I’m doing.”
“You never know what you’re doing,” he grumbles but he relaxes his grip over the Elder Wand and lets the world blur back into the diner once more.
Harry watches the boys now. He watches them fight over tearing apart the Mystery Spot. He watches them burn it down. The blonde goes along amicably most days – accepting the proof provided rapid-fire over breakfast – and then Gabriel gets that look in his eye and something happens. Eventually the simmering resentment in his gut dies and he finds himself amused at some of the outrageousness of it all.
Then Gabriel decides he wants strawberry syrup.
Harry has a variant of the muffliato up and Gabriel looks amused at it. The strange face is starting to grow on the wizard. “You’re going to get yourself caught,” he says even as he puts the pink syrup down and tucks the maple away.
“I mean to,” Gabriel admits with the air of one finally being allowed to do what he wants. “It’s going to be awesome.”
The boys are going to finish their breakfasts soon. Harry tilts his head at the plate of pancakes and is a tiny bit disgusted with the way Gabriel inhales the majority – leaving his usual piece behind in a pool of pink. “I somehow doubt that.”
“Just follow them when they leave yeah? I want your reaction too.”
Harry nods fractionally and watches Gabriel leave. The boys get up shortly after and the taller pulls himself up short – staring blankly for a long moment at the syrup bottle.
He questions it and the world blurs around them.
“I thought you wanted me to follow them?”
“I want him to know it’s me,” Gabriel says gleefully. “This should certainly do it.”
“Incorrigible,” Harry returns but dutifully hands over the syrup – maple again – when Gabriel gestures impatiently.
The archangel strolls along casually. Harry follows at a sedate distance – the boys are too intent to notice a follower anyway – and something in him clenches when he watches the taller slam the Trickster against the fence and hold a stake to his throat.
He can’t hear their conversation but when Gabriel’s familiar face swims into view he decides enough is enough.
“…so not about killing Dean,” he’s saying. “This joke is on you, Sam.”
“Trickster,” Harry says placidly. The older whirls on him – hand flying to a hidden pistol – but the Wizard only has eyes for the archangel. “He’s not taking the joke well.”
“I can see that, thanks,” the Trickster returns sarcastically.
“Who the hell are you?”
“Friendly acquaintance,” Harry says and the same time Gabriel pipes up with “groupie!” They share a glance and Harry reads defeat in the set of his mouth. “Friends,” he says firmly, tearing his gaze away and setting it on the younger brother.
“What he said,” Gabriel agrees.
“The boy isn’t taking the joke well,” Harry says while maintaining eye contact with the younger. The older one is already pretty hesitant about the entire situation even given a Trickster held at stake-point; he’s not going to let this one do anything stupid while under the stress of Gabriel’s tricks. “I find Tuesday losing its appeal. Can we continue our week now?”
Gabriel smiles insolently. “If you insist!” he grins at the boy, “I promise, you wake up and it’ll be Wednesday.”
“Or I could just kill you now,” he snarls in return.
“Or…” the Trickster drawls, and wiggles his fingers at him, “that’s not going to happen. Toodles!” he snaps his fingers and Harry feels the world blur forward this time.
“You’re going to torture that boy,” Harry says immediately – staring hard at the small portrait of a black stallion that adorns the wall immediately left of his study in a vain attempt at controlling the temper he’d thought lost long ago. He can hear Gabriel preparing to lie and says sharply, “You’re going to torture him.”
“He’s still in the loop,” Gabriel says with something like caution in his voice, “but it’s not repeating anymore.”
“His brother is still going to die then.”
“Temp – “
“Is he or he is not going to die, Trickster?” Harry turns and just looks at the angel. He seems surprised – a feat the Wizard has assumed impossible.
Gabriel doesn’t respond. His eyes flicker brown-gold-green and then he looks away. “I need one of them to understand the game they’re playing with the future. There’s more riding on them than they realize and my family – ” he pauses. “My family will take advantage of them and they will be far crueler than I.”
There’s more Angel in the set of his shoulders, in the cadence of his voice, in the way his wings are shimmering brightly in Harry’s vision, than the Wizard has ever seen. Gabriel is so careful about keeping that side of him something like a punch-line to a joke never voiced that Harry sometimes forgets how powerful the other is. A Trickster is powerful, yes, but there’s a difference between making it seem like a single day is repeating for one person and making an entirely separate timeline for one person while actual time continues on and being able to sustainboth entirely on one’s own.
Harry has never believed in justifying one cruelty with the lack of a different cruelty but this is an argument he won’t win. So he sets his shoulders and sighs heavily in acquiescence. Gabriel doesn’t brighten or seem relieved but there’s still something grateful about the way he steps close and curls his hands around Harry’s elbows and simply grips – keeping them close enough that the Wizard can smell the lingering scent of coffee and syrup clinging to the Trickster’s clothes for all that they’ve reverted to his usual attire.
“Go on then,” he mutters, “make your point. But Teddy’s going to be visiting next week and I expect your best behaviour if you’re going to be stopping by then.”
“Done,” Gabriel smiles and his wings curl gently forward – they feel warm around Harry and even if they don’t ease his doubts they still leave a sense of peace – before he vanishes.
Chapter 11: (Aunt) Kali
He meets her mostly by accident and happenstance. She takes far too much pleasure in scaring the living pants off of him.
Harry meets Kali mostly by accident. It’s the Patil twins’ birthday and Parvati somehow gets a hold of his Floo address (he blames Hermione).
“If you leave me with Padma and her work friends I swear to Circe I will hex all your fan mail to skip the sorting room and head straight there,” she hisses. She’s slowly making a name for herself as a reporter – dragging the rest of the Daily Prophet up from the gutters of trashy gossip and Ministry sludge inch by bloody inch. Granted, she maintains one absurdly populargossip column personally but it’s at least a thousand times more tasteful than it used to be.
“You wouldn’t,” he says and feels something inside wilt when she fixes him with a withering look that says yes, yes she would. Even as a social recluse, Harry receives an absolutely ridiculous amount of mail from people he doesn’t know. “I barely even know any of your friends – let alone Padma’s.”
“You’re barely friends with me and yet here I am asking you to come to my birthday and there you are about to say yes,” she says – completely pragmatic – and raising a single eyebrow imperiously at him.
Damn her she’s right, too. His year’s Gryffindors are a large part of the reason he remains unmolested and left alone nowadays. The Battle of Hogwarts had left so many witches and wizards and creatures dead and those that fought in the battle – fewer than is to be believed, in truth – had spent quite a while fending off the general masses who’d escaped any real involvement. Parvati didn’t just choose to work at the Daily Prophet because collecting gossip and sniffing out truths from the rumour mill came naturally; she chose to work there because if she’d had to hear second-hand information one more time about the Battle she swore up and down she’d break in and hex the next reporter to print a single bloody word about the day if they hadn’t been there themselves.
Really, the Daily Prophet thought they were preserving themselves in hiring her. It’s an unfortunate thing for them that Parvati is three times as vicious as she lets on and next in line to be editor if her current career trajectory is any indication.
“So,” she says confidently, “I’ll see you at six, ta?”
“Six o’clock,” she repeats and her eyes are hard and her lips a thin firm line. “You will be there. Everyone is going to be there.”
So Harry finds his nicer clothes – dragonhide pants and boots, a green shirt with an actual collar and buttons, and a neat black over-robe that fits more like a long jacket than most wizards would be comfortable with – and Apparates over to the Patil twins’ shared house in London.
It certainly feels like everyone is there. They must’ve got temporary permits for an expansion charm because the dining room normally large enough to fit the entire Weasley clan fairly comfortably is now large enough that Harry finds himself calling it a ballroom in his head.
The twins look beautiful in elegant silver and blue saris. Padma has her hair braided in an elaborate twist held together with shining pins in the shape of beetles and Parvati has her flowing free instead of her usual bun in silky looking curls that bounce merrily with every motion of her head.
“Harry!” Parvati says when she spots him. She holds out her hands and he steps over to take them in his, smiling sheepishly when several of their guests gawp at him upon recognizing whom she’s talking to. Padma doesn’t scowl, precisely, but the expression on her face dares anyone to turn her and her sister’s birthday into something about him. Parvati’s eyes gleam knowingly at him when he looks back to her from her sister. “She thinks she’s so impressive because she got the Weird Sisters to play later but I got you to come out of hiding so really…”
“Are you using our House affiliation to win in a competition with your sister?” he asks with a bemused quirk to his lips.
“Obviously,” she says and beams. “So where’s my present?”
“In the pile,” he says – referring to the table set up specifically for that purpose over in the corner. “Want to know what it is?”
“Duh,” she says.
“Antipodean Opaleye boots,” he says and watches her eyes light up. “Charlie pulled some strings since he knew he wouldn’t make it.”
Her eyes narrow. “I sent those invites three months ago. What has him so busy?”
“Breeding season,” Harry hedges and very pointedly does not mention that Charlie extended his stay at the Sydney Breeding grounds by a week or the very attractive Head Keeper there with the big brown eyes, blonde hair, and a penchant for trying to actually ride the dragons. It’s a match bound to end in several new burns and some fantastic new breeding pairs arranged between the Romanian and Australian Dragon Reserves but it’s wildly unlikely that Parvati will accept that as a reason to miss her party.
“Bribes,” she says knowingly but her lips are pulled into a bright grin. “Very nice ones I hope?”
“Of course,” he says, “the best gold can buy.”
She smiles slyly this time. “Go find a corner to skulk in; Hermione and Ron are going to be here later. I hear the kitchen is empty but for a couple hired House Elves.”
“You are a saint,” he says and makes a careful getaway through the door tucked away into the corner of the room.
True to her word, there is naught but a pair of House Elves diligently inspecting trays of hors d’oeuvres before sending them floating out into the rest of the party. They glance at him when he comes in and soon he’s set up at a tall barstool at the counter with a cup of punch and a plate of samples from several platters before him.
It’s where Ron finds him a half hour later. He looks rumpled but tidy and his dress robes are actually a fairly complementary sort of deep blue. Harry suspects Hermione is the cause of both the robes and the bit of hair ruffled oddly near the crown of his head.
“Parvati told me,” Ron says when he’s halfway through the door. “So don’t bugger off in a panic.”
“Wasn’t going to,” he says. “Nibbles?”
“Thank Merlin there’s food,” Ron mutters and the House Elves smile and produce another platter for him. “I saw those plates out there – I don’t think anyone’s eating more than a mouthful all night.”
“Don’t let Parvati hear you say that,” he warns with a brief conspiratorial grin at the House Elves. They flash quick amused smiles and return to their work. “Has anyone noticed me missing yet?”
“Couple people,” Ron says while trying to figure out if any of the little sandwiches have more than a single slice of cheese, “figure you’ve got another ten minutes or so before you have to go back out there.”
He gets a cup of tea and finishes it just as Hermione sticks her head in the kitchen door and gives him a sympathetic but unyieldingly beckoning look. She tucks her arm in his and pulls him along with her through the crowd until she reaches a small group of people who smile at her approach.
He’s roped into a conversation about his Curse Breaking apprenticeship and how it differs from similar work in the Department of Mysteries.
“Mostly I think the difference is I knew the Curses I was dealing with were Curses,” he says after Hermione brings up the story of a small wooden staff enchanted with the express purpose of telling whether or not a sheep is carrying twins they’d found in a ruin somewhere and passed along to her department. “You’ll get all sorts of spells and curses and enchantments off of artifacts and we did deal with those, of course, but mostly it was breaking into places.”
“Like Tombs,” someone pipes up with and there’s a bit of a laugh at that.
“Certainly,” he says when the laughter fades, “but also ruins and caves. Most tombs of any magical significance have been cleared already so it’s really mostly just little things.”
“You have worked on the Tombs in Egypt though,” Hermione says and peers at him curiously. “With Bill.”
“Yes, well,” he mumbles, not wanting to explain that the only reason he ever got called out to those were because the Elder Wand is vastly unimpressed with Curses and Wards attempting to stop its Master from getting through them. It’s been considered polite that he not mention his Deathstick nor use it where others can see – no one likes the reminder and no one wants to be the one to have to actually ask him to put it away.
Hermione, bless her, notices immediately and gestures vaguely across the room. “Look, isn’t that your friend? The one with the cottage near yours?” she’s lying so blatantly he’s astounded that anyone ever believes her ever.
“Oh!” he says and nods quickly. “Yes, excuse me.”
He has to put up a couple quick privacy spells because there’s absolutely no one nearby he can even pretend to have spotted. He finds the bar and taps his wand against the first scotch he finds listed and watches it appear on the counter between one blink and the next.
It’s god-awful scotch after having grown accustomed to the truly ridiculous array Crowley brings through his house and he winces at the first harsh burn of it against his tongue.
“Terrible, isn’t it?” a voice purrs at him and he startles badly enough that he nearly drops the glass.
He’s under light privacy spells, sure, but they were cast with the Elder Wand. No one should be able to just walk up and talk to him. No one should want to just walk up and do that.
“Er,” he says instead and whatever garbled words he might’ve been able to force out fail miserably when he meets her gaze.
She smiles at him. It’s the sort of smile that says his speechlessness is both pleasing and expected – and also, somehow, that if he had been able to muster words after seeing her that she would be most displeased.
She’s absolutely gorgeous, he’ll admit that readily and repeatedly with no hesitation. Her hair is perfect ebony against smooth warm brown skin. Her lips are painted the deep red of blood and she has shining gold hoops hanging from her ears. When she lifts a manicured hand to push her hair back behind her ears he smells cinnamon and smoke and spices.
And when he meets her gaze again and holds it this time, something ageless and powerful and furious peers out at him from behind burning brown irises.
“Hello,” he manages in something he isn’t embarrassed to say is more croak than actual language. He clears his throat and tries again and manages something less mangled if the way her smile widens is any indication.
“Harry Potter,” she shapes his name as though she intends to own him. It’s unnerving but then there’s power to be found in names.
Well there would be power in his name, supposing that the Deathstick didn’t snarl any time anyone tried to use it against him. There was a subtle shaping to his name now that actually required the Elder Wand in order to articulate it properly anymore.
But damn if this woman doesn’t come close.
He scratches at his throat because he doesn’t want to be completely obvious about how close she actually is to his True Name or the way his chest feels tight and his magic buzzes under his skin. “That’s me,” he says instead. “I’m sorry, I don’t know…”
“Kali, please,” she smiles like a tiger and steps in close. He doesn’t move – he barely wants to breathe – and keeps a wary eye on her as she ticks her nails against the collar of his jacket absently while maintaining eye contact. “You know my granddaughters?”
Her granddaughters? Merlin’s sweaty balls. “Padma and Parvati?” he ventures.
"Such talented little things, aren’t they?” she looks proud and pleased and twists to peer at them. “I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure how well my gamble with your strange little folk would go but I see it’s turned outvery well. Such talented girls – with blood on their hands already too!”
She sounds delighted by the last and it crackles through her voice like fire – deadly and dangerous. He won’t put out that he knows Parvati has scarcely told her own Gryffindors about what she went through at the Battle – never mind her family removed from Britain at the time – and so Kali really shouldn’t know that. The thing behind her eyes does though, and he’s not going to risk waking that up.
“We all grew up quickly for that war,” he says instead. She flicks a dismissive look at him and he tries again, “It should have been over years ago but it was a generational war; it really did need to end with us.”
“Hm,” she tilts her head and then nods approvingly. “I see why Loki likes you,” she tells him.
Does he know a Loki? He’s pretty sure Gabriel just goes by Trickster but… “He’s a bit of a tool,” he mutters and she laughs.
“Every tool has its use,” she says. “You’ll pass on my regards when he asks, won’t you.” It’s not a question.
“Of course, Lady,” he says and takes a quick stab in the dark for a title. She looks smug so he must’ve done something right.
When she leans in and presses a lingering kiss against the corner of his mouth he goes very still. The look in her eyes means his skyrocketing pulse has nothing to do with attraction and everything to do with abject fear. When she strides away to press teasing kisses against Parvati and Padma’s cheeks and laughs with them, he manages to find the will to move out of the way and dig around for the cellphone Gabriel pressed into his hands at some point.
“You're going to meet me at home and you’re going to bring drinks, yeah?” he hangs up before he gets a reply.
When he turns back to the party, he finds himself staring at Gabriel.
The angel’s eyebrows jump up with concern even as he leers and rubs at the lipstick stain near Harry’s mouth. “How is she?”
“She’s fine. Visiting with her granddaughters.”
“Oh,” Gabriel says and then, “I forgot she meddled.”
“You forgot?” his voice is strangled-sounding again.
“It happens! I’m millions of years old what do you want me to say?”
Harry slaps him with an impotence curse before he Apparates home. It probably won’t stick but it’s the thought that counts in these sorts of disagreements.