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Only in the Dark, Stars Shine

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To say that the past two weeks for one Sirius Orion Black was tiresome would have been the understatement of the century. Hell, if you said that it was the worst week that one wizard had experienced since the time of Merlin and Morgana duking it out, it still wouldn’t have been sufficient. The unlucky, idiotic sod who could have dared to utter such words would have also received a steel toed boot up the ass and something far more painful than a stinging hex.

The man was strung-out physically and mentally. His entire world had been shattered on Samhain’s blessed night. The time that should have been one of peace and ritual had been ruined by the screech of the wards Sirius had secretly placed around his dear friend’s home falling.

xx

Even now, sitting in the overstuffed leather armchair before the fireplace as he was, Sirius hadn’t quite rid himself of the adrenaline induced daze that had engulfed him at the sight of the Dark Lord’s mark twisting upon itself above the quaint little home of the man he had come to see as his brother. James Potter and Lily Potter nee Evans were dead, leaving Sirius to remember how the stars that winked back at him that night seemed so cold and cruel as he stood among the wreckage and bodies.

Once again, Sirius found himself retracing his steps through his memories, the parlor fading around him. Sirius tried to remember every little detail from the night, hoping that would help him cope with the reality of the situation he had found himself in.

That night, magic had been crackling in the air and it traced its way up and down Sirius’s frame ruthlessly like a hoard of vengeful spiders, raising the hairs on both his arms and neck.

It was dark magic. Many of Merlin’s ilk would have turned tail and ran from stifling sensation. Especially when that magic was currently running wild without direction. One wrong swish and twitch of the wand or even the thought of casting a spell might make the residual dark magic react. For one that didn’t know how to handle this shade of magic it could devour them and their magical core.

Yes, any magic without direction was dangerous. Dark magic though, always demanded a price for its service.

For Sirius, however, the sensation was familiar, his own core thrummed with welcome to it as the magic sunk into his skin. It had been accepting, sensing the Black as one worthy of understanding it and waiting eagerly to see if he would dare to give it direction.

He hadn’t. Sirius remembered instead stumbling up the stairs, refusing to let the tears that were nearly blinding him fall, as he stepped carefully over James’ body and then over Lily’s. The young woman’s name hadn’t done her justice. No one flower could have encompassed all her beauty, the goodness, and the fieriness of her spirit. Her red hair had fanned out across the carpet like a halo, one of her hands still outstretched towards the crib. It had been with dread that he forced himself to check to see if the babe had survived.

As soon as Sirius had stepped foot on the property he had been assaulted with the scent of scorched wood and carpet, along with the worrying tang of blood. James and Lily had not bled, which wasn’t surprising when it was well known that the Dark Lord preferred to use the killing curse whenever he did his own dirty work. The blood could only have been from the last unaccounted for occupant of Godric’s Hollow. His breath trembled when Sirius finally forced himself to lean over the crib. 

The sight of vivid green eyes puffy from tears and pouting lips had pulled out a shaking sob from the Animagus. With shaking hands Sirius scooped up the infant in his arms, felt the little heart beating under his palm, and relished in the small fist quickly catching strands of his long, curly hair.

In any other circumstance, Sirius would have winced and whined in pain from how tight the grip on his locks was. Then though, he hadn’t given a damn.  

The Prongslet. Moony’s cub. His pup. His godson…

Harry James Potter was alive and seemed relatively unharmed other than the small wound on his forehead which was marked curiously to look like a lightning bolt. More dark magic was pouring out of the wound, its signature was one that the Auror recognized easily.

Avada Kadavra. Somehow, little Harry had survived the killing curse. Even now, Sirius was still trying to put all of the pieces of that night together.

Along with the fact that they had been betrayed. Not just the Potters had suffered from the treachery, but so many others that had been gifted with the treat that was the vibrant couple. Peter Pettigrew, the stinking rat, was the secret keeper for the Potter’s and could be the only one responsible. Rage had gripped Sirius so powerfully then, and even now his very being howled with lust for the taste of the traitor’s blood on his tongue and to rip into his flesh with his teeth.

In another life, Sirius was certain that his anger and thirst for revenge would have blinded him into doing something he would have regretted. That wasn’t to say that the dark-haired wizard would have mourned Peter’s blood on his hands. No, not at all, but he would have been disgusted with himself for not focusing on the orphan in his arms.

Staying focused on his last living link to what Sirius thought of as his family.

But that was not here or there, as there had been a tug on his magic that night, just a minute or two after Sirius had lifted the boy in his arms.

It had been a request for him to return home, a sensation that had been ingrained into Sirius from a young age. In his distraught state, unable to think clearly, and excess magic now practically bubbling under his skin, Sirius had been running on what muggles would call ‘auto-pilot ’. With a turn of his heel, still clutching the small form that was Harry to his chest, Sirius apparated back to Gimmauld Place. He was greeted by an unimpressed Kreacher, whom had said that he had summoned the ‘unworthy son of his late masters'’ back to ask if he should extinguish the Samhain ritual candles or if the ungrateful whelp of Black was wanting the manor to burn down.

Sirius had answered with an attempt to kick the blasted old house elf, but the wretch had popped himself just out of reach at the last second. The act of violence had jostled Sirius’s package and made Harry start to shriek. Guilt immediately grabbed him, he didn’t want to put the child through more stress and trauma. Not when what Harry had already received this night was greater than all others Harry had gathered through his short life together. He couldn’t subject Harry to anything more, not after what he had suffered. How they both had suffered.

After taking a moment to calm himself while gently rocking Harry in his arms, Sirius started to plan. Despite what his jovial, reckless, and uncaring attitude might lead others to believe, Sirius Black was no fool. He had always had secrets that he kept close to his chest, he had been forced to as it was the only way to ensure his survival from the moment the hat put him in Gryffindor.

Yes, from time to time when he was younger his emotions and impulses could get the better of him, leading to trouble that extended past schoolboy fun and jests. However, with age had come wisdom and weariness of having to face down far too many wands and seeing so much death as a result of this hypocritical war.

The first thing Sirius did, after tending to Harry’s wound the best to his abilities, was strengthen the wards around the manor and cut access to it from anyone without untainted Black blood. The floo network was closed off with a wave of his hand. All the portraits were then flipped to face the wall, though not without some nasty protests from their occupants.

Harry and Sirius needed all the peace and quiet that they could get, and it was an extra security measure to ensure that information would not slip out of the manor. There was already a nursery set up in one of the many rooms of the manor that was filled with toys and supplies from Lily and James’ frequent visits. Sirius called for Kreacher to move the crib into his room, he hadn’t been about to let the small boy out of his sight.

Harry just slumbered on after crying himself out as his godfather worked, writing letters and extracting key memories from Sirius's own mind which he then copied. They would prove that Peter was the secret keeper and that Sirius had rights to Harry as his legal guardian. He sent the packages through a house elf he trusted more than the crotchety nuisance.

They would be delivered to one Albus Dumbledore, Alastor Moody, Remus Lupin, and Minerva McGonagall.

The letters were short. Relaying only a few facts: Harry was in his possession, safe, and would remain so. The place they were staying was only known and accessible to the Black family. Sirius wasn’t going to appear back in public until things got more settled. He was heartbroken, but not about to fly off the boom handle to go after Peter Pettigrew, who was the traitor in the Order and an unregistered Animagus whose form was a rat.

Finally, Sirius Orion Black was not a Dark wizard.

Unfortunately, the last comment was a lie and it still made Sirius almost physically ill to admit that to himself.

He had played at being Light for so long, had since he got his acceptance letter to Hogwarts. Maybe it had been out of a misguided act of rebellion from growing up in a strict household, but it had been too dangerous to change his actions once he was a student and had declared himself to be a darkness hating Gryffindor. It had broken his parents’ hearts that their heir had rebelled and rejected all that they had taught. The senior Blacks had played their part of disgust and anger well in the public eye, but they had never disowned Sirius. Family was a far too valuable to their small number and they obviously had hoped that he would come back into the fold with time.

Sirius had, at least partly, about halfway through his Hogwarts’ career.

There was more to the rumor of the Black Family Madness than half of the wizarding community knew. All those of Black blood were dark or at least some shade of grey. Sirius was born with magic dark as they came, same as his younger brother and parents.

Dark magic was something that utterly baffled those of the Light, being unable to understand it and unwilling to attempt to as it so often offended those with more…. Sensitive morals.

All forms of magic seemed to have a life of its own, but Dark magic required more will and focus from the wizard to summon and mold it into doing what he wanted. Dark spells also demanded full visualization and understanding of what its affect would bring, if one didn’t understand the consequences… the results weren’t forgiving.

Dark magic was heavy and clung to those that used it, constantly it bubbled and grew inside of the wizard or witch’s core. If this excess magic wasn’t expressed regularly, it could very well drive one mad.

It was because of their bred in obsessive nature that the Blacks often suffered from a case of too much dark magic in their systems. In the past, many of Sirius’s ancestors suffered from being so consumed in the passions of their studies and research that they forgot to express the excess magic on schedule. Forgetting to do this once or twice wouldn’t be so detrimental, but when done repeatedly their minds would slowly become unhinged as a result.

Sirius’s precarious situation of being among nosy Gryffindors and playing the role of not following his family’s trend, had made his life at Hogwarts incredibly difficult. For the first couple of years, Sirius managed to get away with casting little to no dark magic. However, it came at a cost, his ‘pranks’ with his new friends became nastier as his focus and reasoning became increasingly distorted.

It was only after the incident that had almost led to the death of another student that Sirius realized that he couldn’t ignore the truth.

He was Dark and there was no changing this fact.

The night that he had slunk down to the dungeons after curfew still stayed in his mind. His feet had felt both incredibly heavy and light as he made his way to the secret room behind a portrait of a kelpie that both Regulus and his parents had told him about. It was a chamber which students used to shed their excess magic, to take part in traditional rituals, and for the older students who dared, to practice Dark spells and potions.

There had been a few sneers the first few times that Sirius had entered the secret room and performed his shedding rituals, but in general the mood that came off the other students had been one of relief. The heir of Black’s seeming acceptance of himself, them, and of dark magic meant that their own risk of exposure was eliminated. The hostility between a majority of the Slytherins and Sirius had been one spawned out of fear, both sides fearing that the other would reveal to the rest of the world all their nasty little truths. So easily, they could have doomed themselves. It was in hushed, tense tones that an agreement was struck between them all and Sirius.

Out in the halls of Hogwarts, Sirius would remain the foolhardy, aggressive Gryffindor that enjoyed magic the color of sunlight. However, beyond the portrait, Sirius was one of them. He was a dark wizard, an honorary Slytherin, and the young future Lord Black.

Dark magic wasn’t evil, just inherently different. Dark wizards and witches were born, though some whose core magic shinned as bright as the sun could wander into the shadows and learn to use some dark spells with difficulty.

Using “Light” magic wasn’t as challenging for those of the Dark as, maybe the spell wouldn’t be preformed perfectly when cast for the first time. But that wasn’t uncommon for a magical person of any ilk when learning a new spell, which thankfully meant that students with dark magic weren’t easily fingered when sitting in their classrooms at Hogwarts. After seeing centuries of their kind persecuted, hunted, maimed, and murdered, there were things that the dark community did to ensure their nature and secrets were kept.

With the knowledge of the spell prior incantato being used to expose the previous spells a wand had cast, Dark wizards and witches had taken to owning multiple wands. There was another reason for this, certain wand cores would refuse to cast dark spells and vice versa. Each dark caster would have at least two wands on their person always. One that was strong at casting light spells and one for dark. The wand for dark magic usually had a core that could handle both types of magic relatively well. When a Dark child went to Hogwarts they would usually have multiple wands as well, while they would only use their light handling wand in their classes, they kept their duel and or dark wand strapped to themselves out of sight to continue building a bond with the instrument.

There was a reason so many Dark witches and wizards were in Slytherin, it was because they learned from a young age to be cunning enough to survive in a world where half of the community and the muggle one would gladly see them burn.

In many cases, such as in the past, this was literal.

Sure, there were some light or neutral magic users that lost their lives in the flames and mania that was the muggle witch trials, but the majority that had been killed were those of Morgana’s clan.

It was well known that Salazar Slytherin was a Dark wizard, but most didn’t realize that the founders were equally split. Rowan Ravenclaw was also a Dark witch, her thirst for knowledge led her to exploring as deeply as she could in all facets of magic during her rather short life. As such, there were places built into Hogwarts that were made with the express purpose for students with Dark magic to be able to express it safely and in secret. It didn't matter what house they came from and in Sirius's time at Hogwarts the only house that didn't have less than one dark magic user was Gryffindor.

By the founding of Hogwarts’ time, the division between the casts of magic was well established, but the hostility had simmered steadily downwards from the time of the founders’ deaths. Then, like the seasons unfailing cycle, the tensions between dark and light magic users once again began to rise with Grindelwald’s search for power. Even with one Dark lord’s fall, another rose to take his place…

Unfortunately, the next was Voldemort.

That bastard led to where Sirius was now, nursing a far too tall glass of firewhiskey, with Harry upstairs down for a nap. There was a charm placed on the infant to alert Sirius when he woke up and needed him.

Thankfully, Harry had remained pretty accepting of his life with his ‘Pa’Foo’. Still whenever the boy babbled out for his mum or da, Sirius felt his heart shatter anew and he knew his strategy of redirecting the baby’s attention to something else would only last for so long. An explosive tantrum would eventually come, and Sirius wasn’t sure how long and how many times it would take Harry to realize that his parents weren’t coming back. He didn’t know if he wanted such a young child to understand the reason.

It wasn’t fair.

But bitching and whining wasn’t going to do shit. Taking a breath, along with a large gulp of the alcohol, Sirius let his head fall back against the wingbacked chair before the fireplace in the main parlor. The burn was pleasant as it tapered down his throat and pooled in his belly, a welcome distraction.

A younger Sirius would have drowned himself in the drink to numb himself to the pain.

Now, he didn’t have that luxury.

Still a small nap couldn’t hurt, right? He had worked hard all day setting up the house to be more kid friendly, feeding and playing with Harry, and also scouring the child raising books he had sent the elves to purchase the day after Harry had come into his custody. Just as his eyes started to slip closed Sirius felt something crash into the wards.

Well, crash wasn’t exactly the right word. It was more like a gentle caress, but with how high-strung Sirius had been lately it might as well have been a Graphorn that rammed into him.

As he surged to his feet, Sirius caught movement from the corner of his eye in the hall, that wretched little… Kreacher was already to the door and had it opened by the time that Sirius managed to get into the main hall, courtesy of him first tripping over the ottoman that just happened to be in his path. Stupid house elf magic.

Two darkly cloaked figures drifted gracefully into the foyer. From their appearance, Sirius knew they were male and the only thing that was stopping him from blasting them was the lack of Deatheater masks.

That and the pale hand held out towards him was graced with a ring that bore the house of Black’s crest.

“Drop the hoods, now.” The order was given with a growl, Sirius keep his wand trained between the two, an incantation constantly rolling about his head ready to he used.

The strangers glanced subtly at each other and Sirius’s nose twitched, “Hurry up, I know it’s you, Reg. Who did you drag in with you?”

This time there was no hesitation from the shorter figure on the right, the hood falling to reveal a face that echoed so much of Sirius’s own. The Black brothers were very similar in appearance, though Regulus wore his hair shorter, was a little smaller and slighter in build, and was the younger of the two. Despite his brother’s foolish decision to become a Deatheater, Sirius knew that he wasn’t a threat to him. He was relieved to see that Regulus seemed to be in relatively good health as well. The last time Sirius had seen his brother was after a literally explosive argument between them about Regulus taking that bastard’s mark a couple years ago.

So that left the other man.

“You already know me.” The unknown male answered in lieu of revealing his face, Sirius couldn’t help balking at the familiar voice.

“Sn-Snivellus?”

Severus Snape and Regulus Black had been close friends since the younger had entered Hogwarts a year after Sirius did. So it wasn’t that surprising that the two continued to be so now. Sirius had heard more than a few rumors that Snape had become a Deatheater soon after he graduated as well.

 Everyone knew why Voldemort had wanted the scrawny snake despite the whispers that Snape was a half-blood. He had become the youngest potions master in history. Snape wasn’t just good at potions though, Sirius had to begrudgingly admit he was brilliant in almost all subjects and was known to have invented many of his own spells.

A number of which Sirius and his gang had found themselves on the other end of in retaliation for their harassment of him.

“Black, I see you have not yet raised yourself above childish name calling.” Snape answered while crossing his arms, a defensive gesture that allowed Sirius to see the wand clasped in his hand. It was unlikely that he would let go of it while in the presence of his former tormentor.

Whatever witty comeback Sirius’s mind tried to make was stopped by his brother’s soft admonishment.

“It’s Lord Black, Severus.”

“L-Lord?” Was all Sirius could croak out as Regulus strode a few steps closer before dropping to one knee before him, his dark robes flurrying gracefully around him. Kreacher’s keen of disapproval was ignored by all.

Head bowed forward to almost touch the floor, Regulus spoke, “I, Regulus Arcturus Black, of sound mind and magic strong, hereby recognize Sirius Orion Black as being worthy of the title Lord Black. I am his to cherish, protect, punish, and guide through all matters that may reflect on my most noble and ancient house, one of the sacred twenty-eight. May his enemies be my enemies and my joy be one with his. Lead us to glory and protect what is ours. Toujours Pur. So mote it be.”

 Swallowing down his shock, Sirius was surprised by how his body seemed to already be moving to perform the next step. His hand summoning the wand, one 15 and a quarter inches of Aspen, heartstring of a Hebridean Black, and springy, which he used for dark magic from its holster on his left arm as he commanded.

 “Raise thy head and bear thy heart.”

Regulus did so, eyes closed and unflinching even as Sirius set the tip of his wand over his heart. It would just take one surge of magic into the thumping muscle to damage it beyond repair and send one into immediate cardiac arrest.

Instead a gentle flow trickled out of his wand and Regulus’s own crept out of his magical core to meet his. The magics swirled around each other, seeming to be delighted in the familiarity of each other.

Both born of darkness and Black.

“I, Sirius Orion Black, hereby claim the title of lordship of the most ancient and noble house of Black, one of the sacred twenty-eight, from this moment on till I draw my dying breath. I take upon mineself the responsibility of its magicks, members, history, and possessions. They are all mine to protect and cherish, should I fail in this duty then let the family magicks strike me down. I recognize one, Regulus Arcturus Black, as mine heir until one of my blood reaches of age and decides to take the title by his own choice. Toujours Pur. So mote it be.”

xx

The magic in the air hummed and visibly shuttered before it swirled into solid, but partly transparent, shapes. Three black ravens hovered in the air, the one in the center of which clasped a skull in its talons. Their small dark eyes and the endless eye sockets of the skull seemed to bore into and through Sirius.

They were judging him. They, the symbols of the Black’s crest, would decide if he was worthy of being the head of the family.

Then two more shapes burst forth from the combination of Black family magic.

Sirius was certain that he caught Snape’s sharp intake of breath and silently cursed. He didn’t want someone outside of the family to see something so personal and in so many ways, damning. There was little he could do about it however as they observed the newest additions, just as ghostly as those of the crest, but much more intimidating.

The clicks of claws attached to eight paws echoed in the silence of the room, a pair of bear-sized, black, spectral dogs circled the brothers. Their sharp teeth were a gleaming white that clashed with the inkiness of slightly shaggy hair. Eerie yellow orbs which glowed with intelligence and lust for blood stayed locked on the Blacks.

Grims. Like many ancient dark families, the Blacks had magical creature blood flowing through their veins that further strengthened their magic and bodies. Many wizards and witches could summon forth aspects of their ancestral creatures if desperate, some even being able to take the shape of them. However, this did come at a cost, when a magical child came into their inheritance they would have to battle to maintain their human mind or give into the beast.

This was another reason some dark magic users went mad. Sirius had been lucky with having already mostly reconciled with his family by the time he came into his magical inheritance. He probably wouldn’t have been able to handle the transformation on his own and would have been written off by the public as another Black falling prey to the ‘curse’.

Sirius incidentally had been able to pass off his Grim form for that of an Animagus transformation to his friends. Grims were creatures of folklore after all, no one would expect them to be real or standing before them playing fetch with a werewolf.

If the Ministry or the rest of the magical world found out about the mixture of creature blood and humans, there would be chaos and bloodshed. The dark families would be seen as a crime against nature and dangerous. Many times, in both the past and present, proved that humanity would rather destroy what was different than try to understand or give chances to it. Dark families didn’t go spreading what their creature ancestry was around in their own circles either, it was far better to keep both strengths and weaknesses hidden to avoid a double-cross.

That wasn’t important now though, at the moment all Sirius could afford to care about was the spectral forms of magic’s decision.

The wait was tense, and four hearts pounded with anticipation of the result.

If the specters found Sirius unworthy, the results could vary, but none of them were pleasant. The manifestations of magic could rip him to bloody pieces, the Black magic at home in his body could be ousted from him and leave his magical core crippled, his mind may be fractured by the upheaval of ancestral bonds that had been inside him since birth.

There was a reason why declarations of new heads of families was so often delayed, no one wanted to risk an unpleasant result until they were certain that the heir was ready. Sirius didn’t think he was suited to be a lord, but the ritual had sucked him in the moment that Regulus had knelt before him and started the ancient process.

The hounds finally let out twin howls. Then as one, the ravens threw back their heads to let out a melodious, yet haunting cry that could rival any Augurey. The skull seemed to smile as not only the wand Sirius held to his brother’s chest, but the other two wands on his person glowed so brightly that the light radiating from them pierced through layers of cloth to reveal their hiding places. Then the apparitions were gone and Sirius staggered as the weight of the family magic and images that were the memories of his ancestors cycled through his mind. The magic that had always been present in Sirius seemed to grow ten times heavier. He was relieved by the fact that it was not an uncomfortable feeling.

A lord, Sirius blinked before groaning and putting his head in his hands as he took as few steps back from his brother, allowing Regulus to rise.

Bloody hell. Why did you do that?!”

Regulus met his brother’s tantrum with patience, but he couldn’t allow Sirius to take too much time. They were quickly running out of it as it was. Still he was curious and repeated. “’Mine heir’?”

“Not important. Tell me why you just fucking pushed me into lordship and are here. I don’t want Deatheaters in my home.” Sirius snapped back, he didn’t want the two to know that the cause of their lord’s defeat was taking a nap upstairs.

“The Dark Lord is no more, it might surprise you, but many of us are glad for that fact. However, the mess he left in his wake is almost as disastrous if not more so than if he was still around. No matter what choice you make tonight, you will need the power and prestige that comes with being a lord to survive.” Regulus answered, tone turning grave as stepped around his brother and started down the hall.

“Tonight? What are you talking about?” Sirius demanded, mind reeling at the fact that his brother just admitted that he didn’t agree with Voldemort’s philosophies. If Snape was here that meant that the dour man was probably of the same mindset.

If Regulus was to be believed, many of the Deatheaters were gladdened by his downfall. But his brother’s words were, at the same time, cryptic and far from comforting.

“You’re wasting your breath with subtleties, Regulus. It’s obvious by how encompassing those wards were that Bl-, Lord Black, hasn’t been in contact with the outside world for some time.” Snape’s still hidden face turned towards him. “Am I correct?”

“I-I’ve been busy.”

Siriurs could practically hear Snape rolling his eyes in answer, before he reached into a moleskin pouch by his side and pulled forth several copies of the Daily Prophet. The top one unfolded to reveal a moving picture of several darkly clad figures fleeing from a burning manor.

It was the headline though that made Sirius feel sick. “The Hunt of Dark Witches and Wizards continues, the Ministry Promises the eradication of all traces of He-Who-Must-Not-Name’s Evil. More on the Aurors’ raids on homes of suspected sympathizers on page 2...”

“Sympathizers.” Sirius echoed, tone broken, and Snape handed over the stack with a small shake of his head.

“I see you are finally connecting the dots. Both the general public and the Ministry is on a lynching spree targeting the families of anyone that has ever been whispered about having practiced Dark magic.”

A bitter laugh escaped Sirius, “A literal witch hunt.”

“Several of the Malfoy’s homes have already been burned down, the main manor fell last night, but by the time the mob and Aurors got in, all they found was a barren mansion. All artifacts, portraits, living creatures, and furniture gone.” Snape explained, his tone trailing off as he glided down the hall after Regulus. Sirius followed while flicking through the papers.

“Where did they go?” The question was off Sirius’s tongue before he could stop himself and the next moment he was slammed against the nearest wall, a pale hand wrapped around his throat and nails biting into his skin.

“Why would I ever tell you that? Planning on turning them in to save your own hide and your precious Auror position?” Snape’s voice came out as a soft hiss and despite them being around the same height, the potions master seemed to have no difficulty keeping Sirius pinned.

That is until Sirius rocketed forward and smacked their foreheads together. Snape dropped Sirius in surprise and pain as he stumbled backwards, hood falling down as a result. Sirius had his legs bunched under him, ready to launch himself at the Slytherin. Eager for a outlet to release all the stress he had pent up inside of him. What he saw stopped him cold.

The face that greeted him wasn’t the Snivellus that he remembered.

Gone was the waxy pallor of his skin, his long, inky hair was mused by the hood, but it wasn’t greasy. It seemed that with age Snape had grown into his nose, it no longer seemed overly large and the hook of it now appeared more aristocratic. The only thing that hadn’t change in the Slytherin’s face was his eyes, still two pitch voids filled with fire and passion that seemed so at odds with his usual stoic expression or sneers.

No, Sirius could no longer say that his past victim was ugly. If anything, Severus Snape looked handsome or even beautiful with his pale skin matching his dark features. The only flaw that Snape had was the red blotch on his forehead that was a result of their heads clashing together. And, of course, all Sirius could do to express these thoughts was utter a very elegant.

“Wha?”

“Inheritance.” Snape answered shortly, though he didn’t offer any more information other than that, but he didn’t pull his hood back up either.

A part of Sirius, which he was desperately trying to ignore, appreciated this fact.

They stared at each other awkwardly before the sound of a heavy door opening down the hall drew their attention. Snape glanced between the hall and the still crouched new Lord Black before sneering and hurrying towards the source of the noise.

Seeing no other choice, Sirius followed and found the two Slytherins inside the massive House of Black library. Several trunks sat open on the floor, both Regulus and Snape were levitating and shrinking large stacks of tomes before sending them into one of the many expanded drawers in the trunks. Kreacher was also bustling about, though he looked torn between being happy to help and lamenting the pride of the Black’s being so hastily packed away.

x x

The two former Deatheaters worked in a quick tandem together and it only took a few moments for Sirius to realize their goal. They were removing certain books. Titles flew past his eyes that he recognized as having been forced to study from them under his parents’ watch. It seemed that any volume that dealt even slightly with dark magic or ideals was being packed away.

It appeared that the two were happy to ignore Sirius’s existence and his glare was not producing any reaction nor providing answers. There was a hint of desperation in how fast they were working, and with how well Slytherins were known for hiding their emotions that meant the pair were, in reality, very close to panicking. Sirius was never good at waiting or being patient though, so called as he crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back against one of the bookcases. “I don’t think I gave you permission to remove my property, little brother.”

The words made the younger Black freeze, the books he was controlling shaking slightly in the air before looking over his shoulder at his brother. Seeing the mulish expression on Sirius’s face made him sigh, “I’m sorry, Lord Bla-“

“Cut the crap and don’t call me that. Just tell me what exactly your planning. I don’t see you for years and suddenly you appear on my doorstep dragging Snape of all people with you, declaring me your lord, saying dark wizards are being hunted, hinting that there’s this big decision I have to make, but you’re still leaving a lot of blaring holes for me here.” Sirius growled, the unnatural sound making Snape’s wand twitch and a book to fall from his own spelled load.

 “We’re short on time.” Snape muttered still not pausing in his own work.

“Then move and talk, you should be able to do two things at once, right?”

Regulus winced as the growing frustration and annoyance around Sirius was becoming palpable. It was better to start talking before Sirius got worked up further, they should have expected as much with the circumstances. “Right then, so you now know that the Ministry is planning on either sending entire families that are rumored to be dark to Azkaban, giving them the dementor’s kiss, or having them conveniently disappear.”

Sirius opened his mouth to protest the fact that the Ministry would go so far but shut it just as quickly. He knew personally how deep the fear and corruption ran in the government. Sirius was a dark wizard, and while he was a member of the Order of the Phoenix, his true ideals differed quite a lot from the others in the group. Sirius didn't endorse the idea that muggles and magical folk should intermingle in the slightest. Sure, muggles might have a few cool inventions like motorcycles, but not enough for him to want to abandon all of the traditions that he had grown up with just to make muggleborns more comfortable. Muggleborns and halfbloods, Sirius had no issue with them besides their desire to change and expose their world, along with how they dragged in with them their own fairy tales that further demonized dark magic and creatures. Sirius didn't believe in killing muggles though, which was the main reasons he fought. He could understand the appeal of what the Dark Lord had been offering.

In the early years, Voldemort had gathered his supporters by making promises of no longer having to hide their dark magic, being able to prove their worth to society, protecting old traditions, and keeping the magical world safe from muggles that would kill them.

Neutral and light members of the Wizenagot would be more than happy to see the dark side of the law-making house disappear to get more power for themselves.

“Well, since society wants us gone, we’ve decided to do the work for them. An agreement has been made by dark and darker grey families to disappear. If this world doesn’t want us…” Severus murmured, fondly stroking the spine of a book that Sirius had almost lost a finger a couple years ago to.

“Morgana’s children will make a new one.” Regulus finished, voice now stronger and grey eyes sparking with determination.

“But that’s it? You’re all just planning on disappearing, tucking your tails and running for the hills?” Sirius demanded in disgust, “Why not stay and fight? You know prove-”

“Prove what exactly, Black?” Snape snarled, “Use that insufferably inactive grey matter between your ears for once. A large number of us bare the dark mark, faded as it now may be. Do you really think that we will be forgiven? That it will matter that we were tricked into or had no choice but to enter his service?

“No, don’t delude yourself. This powder keg of hostility is about to explode, just like it has done so many times in the past and our numbers will be whittled down even more. Possibly down to nothing this time.” 

“Not again, that’s what the coven has decided.” Regulus murmured, grey eyes locking with his brother’s as he lowered his wand in favor of fully focusing on the conversation.

“All of the brats of dark families are currently being portkeyed and snuck out of Hogwarts as we speak. All those whose magic is of shadows will disappear tonight.” Severus added, sighing softly as secretly worry for the young ones gripped his heart.

Sirius felt his head spin, where was the cold-hearted bastard from school?

“How?” Sirius finally croaked, were dark wizards attacking Hogwarts now or was the Ministry descending upon the sacred halls to try and take hostages against families?

“Parents have been sending untraceable portkeys through the mail, Flitwick and Slughorn have been secretly handing them out as well to get them out. The ghosts know of many secret passageways out of the castle and are taking some of the children through those.” Snape muttered, silently he was glad that the old potions’ professor had finally decided on a side and knew how desperately they would need another brewer if they were going to be cut away from most medical resources.

Slughorn was a dark wizard just like most of his family had been and while many claimed that he didn’t take care of his Slytherins that would be a lie. He just couldn’t appear to be too involved with them in the public eye, if he did suspicions would not doubt have been raised long ago. Still Snape could brew circles around the old man any day. Flitwick had goblin ancestry and while he was a world renowned dueling champion, there was still discrimination aimed towards the tiny professor. Flitwick often secretly oversaw students going through creature inheritance if it took place in Hogwarts and an excuse or glamour was needed to hide the changes.

“What about Dumbledore? Surely he would know something of such a mass scale going on.”

“The headmaster is currently away because of a raid going on in Diagon Alley.” Snape’s mouth turned up slightly in amusement as Sirius paled.

“Stop worrying him, Severus,” Regulus chastised, getting a roll of fathomless dark eyes for his efforts.

“The raid’s aim isn’t to kill, just to create a distraction.”

“No, no,” Severus agreed with a cruel twist of his mouth. “Though the theft from all the apothecaries, fabric, book, and other stores for resources is a bonus. More than two thirds of Knockturn Alley had already been cleared out the first week after the Dark Lord’s fall.”

“You’re all going to have to start from scratch.” Sirius observed, surprised to find himself sending a silent prayer to the gods that no one on either side would be harmed in the supply raid.

“I wouldn’t say that exactly. Many of the coven have been able to flee with all of their possessions and with the wonders of shrinking charms and house elf magic, we currently have enough to sustain us for at least a decade.” Regulus wagered, eyes darting to Severus for confirmation which was given with a nod. 

“Where would you go? That many people, it’d be difficult to stay hidden.” With magic, Sirius knew nothing was impossible, but he found himself scratching his head for what crazy, but logical solution the coven could have come up with.

“Black,” Snape released a long sigh, like the conversation was physically paining him as he pinched his hooked nose between his fingers, “Where are we right now?”

“In Grimmuald Place.”

Severus nodded his head, making a show like he was being exceedingly patient. “And how easily can it be found or come to be known by others?”

“Not very, it’s under Fildelius.”

“Indeed. Now how many properties does the Black family own? Public records state that it is six, I know of eight and I consider myself close to the family.”

Regulus was the one to answer. “We have double that, twelve properties and many of them manors in the countryside with acers of land, all hidden, in stasis, and covered in repelling charms for both muggles and magical folk, along with being under Fildelius.”

“Now imagine all the pureblood and wealthy families who are fleeing with us, their pastures, greenhouses, homes, and land will all be put under Fildelius if it is not already so. If you calculate how much larger England is with all the hidden areas, the land mass of our islands would grow by more than a third.”

“All together you might just add up to a small country.” Sirius was in awe, jaw dropping only to click shut when Kreacher made an offending motion to his chin. It wasn’t worth the effort though as Severus continued, tone completely unapologetic for upending the Lord of Black’s mind. “Lucius spoke with Gringotts as well, the Goblins have always been neutral and declared that they would continue to be so. They swore their loyalty to their customers and have agreed to find a way to make the vaults and bank accessible to dark families.”

“They won’t let the Ministry touch anything that doesn’t belong to them unless they want to start another war. Dark families have always had a closer standing with the goblin nation.” Regulus’s tone was becoming more and more excited, his eyes shimmering as he took a step closer to Sirius.

“You really thought of it all.”

“Yes, most things are settled, there is only one uncertain variable left.” Snape mused, finally putting his book down and turning to face his old tormentor fully.

Sirius swallowed as he noticed the way that the potions master folded his arms over his chest, a position that would make drawing his wand quickly easy.

“Me, right?”

“Bravo, you do have something upstairs after all.”

“Shut up, Snivellus Snape. That’s no way to speak to a lord.”

“You are not my lord. I refuse to be called by that foul man’s name any longer, I am the child of Eileen Prince which makes me-“

“The half-blood Prince, they said the last of the line died out three years ago,” Sirius’s eyes were wide. He wanted to deny the other’s claim, to keep hold of something that would finally make the sour man respect him. However, now there was no mistaking where those dark bottomless eyes came from. The eyes of a Prince.

“Indeed, I am the Lord of the most ancient and noble house of Prince.” Severus’s smile was nasty, full of triumph and pride, but Sirius found that he liked it. Unfortunately, he was forced to look away to take in the lordship ring that sat on one of the man’s long pale fingers.

 “Can we please refocus, yes, we are all special lords, now let’s move on to the matter at hand,” Regulus hissed, obviously fed up with the pissing contest that had been going on between the two older males since they had first met. Sirius looked belligerent, but fell silent. Severus also quieted, though he shoved the book he was holding into the trunk with unnecessary strength and noise to show his displeasure at his rare chance for gloating being interrupted.

Regulus rubbed his temples with a sigh, still he knew that he should be thankful that no hexes had been thrown yet. “Now, Sirius, you have two options, regardless of your choice, we must remove as many traces of dark magic as we can from here. So, the books, artifacts and such will be coming with Severus and I unless you want to explain their existence to the Ministry that would send you to Azkaban for just knowing about them regardless of your record.

“One, you can decide to stay and take your chances continuing to pretend to be a light wizard. If you do so, we can could obliviate you and implant a false memory into your mind of us battling and declaring to hate all things dark… again. That should hold under any uses of vertisum.”

Sirius was starting to feel sick as he realized what the second choice was before Regulus even continued.

“The other is that you come with us.” 

 


 

Hello everyone, hope you enjoyed the first chapter of this new story. I've loved the Harry Potter series for so long, but this is my first attempt at actually writing something for it. This story idea has been stuck in my mind for the past month and I decided that I finally had to start writing it down.

I have been interested in Harry Potter works that explore the darker side of the magical world and the lore behind it. Such stories are in short supply I feel and I thought I would take my own crack at it. I plan on exploring more dark themes and ideals in the future chapters, dissecting the mindsets of people on both sides of the line. I'd love to ping ideas against someone and if you want, I'd be open to chat. Please comment, it always makes my day.

Chapter Text

“The other is that you come with us.” Regulus’ tone was tinged with hope and Severus kept his face neutral at the prospect. No one could overlook the value of having someone as skillful as the oldest Black on their side.

“I can’t.” The words that came out of Sirius’ mouth were remorseful.

“Why the bloody hell not?!”

Sirius and Severus jumped at the practical shriek that came from Regulus, Kreacher who was helping to pack the books immediately dropped his load to pull at his own ears at his favorite little master’s distress. Every carefully selected word since he stepped into Grimmuald Place couldn’t amount for nothing. Regulus wouldn’t allow it.

“I’m sor-“

“No,” Regulus cut Sirius off as he stalked closer to his older sibling.

“Reggie, I-“

One pale finger jabbed Sirius in the chest as the younger demanded.

“No, you have no possible excuse! Most of your so-called friends from Hogwarts would just as happily stab you in the back right now as they like sugar in their tea if they found out the truth about your magic. Many of them are already dead. The Ministry and the public have no love for the Blacks and never will, whether you are a white sheep or not.

“You’ve lived a lie since your got on the Hogwarts express, it’s not necessary. No one here needs you, but I DO, DAMMIT. I want my brother back.” The shelves, portraits, and windows of the entire manor were shaking and rattling loudly with the force of a Black’s emotional magic. Regulus might have been the more quiet and unassuming of the siblings, but Sirius pitied the fool that thought that Regulus was a lesser threat or harmless.

Then, before he could, Sirius’ felt his wand vibrated, the same moment that loud crying echoed into the library. The shaking immediately stopped, the two Slytherins wide eyed with confusion as they glanced upwards.

“Bollocks, that’s the reason why I can’t come with you.” Sirius whispered, sidestepping his brother and hurrying up the many flights of stairs. He didn't bother to turn around, he knew that the other two men were right on his heels despite how silently they moved.

XX

Sirius bustled into his room quickly, arms already reaching out for the bundle with messy black hair as his grey eyes darted about to make sure that there were no unseen threats hiding in any dark corner. He knew that the manor shaking, and the pressure of charged magic was what had woken the babe, but it was never inadvisable to be cautious. Constant vigilance, as one paranoid man might say.

Harry was standing on wobbling legs, chubby fingers wrapped around the bars of his crib to help him with his still uneasy balance. Tears were making tracks down his face as he called out with a mouth that was mostly gums and few teeth.

“Pa’Foo.”

“Hey there, pup. What’s with all the tears?” Sirius kept his tone light, ignoring the harsh gazes on his back as he lifted the 1 year old out of the crib and settled him against his chest. Immediately a small fist made itself at home in his hair while Harry continued to sniffle as his guardian made short work of wiping the traces of his fear away from his face and bouncing him lightly into a cheery mood.

“Is that…?” 

Sirius tensed before turning around, he knew that he wasn’t going to be able to hide the truth. “Yup, Harry James Potter, my godchild and I will die before I let anyone harm or take him away from me.” Sirius’s lips drew back in a silent snarl and Severus watched with hidden fascination as the Black’s teeth sharpened and lengthened before his very eyes.

Though they reverted the instant a small, uncoordinated hand smacked Sirius in the face the other hand giving a yank to the long wavy locks. “Ow.”

Regulus snorted in a very undignified manner, and Severus would have done the same if he hadn’t become so entranced by those vivid green eyes when they turned their attention to him.

“Lily.” The name escaped Severus’ lips without his permission and was heard by all occupants, despite Harry’s giggles over the scandalized expression on Sirius’ face and Regulus’ guffs as he slowly lost his composure watching his brother act like a loon to entertain a baby.

Grey eyes met black as Sirius looked between the potions’ master and Harry. The Prince looked crushed, his pale hands clenched into fists at his sides as he gazed at the last living reminder of Lily Evans. Sirius, no, the whole of Hogwarts had known the pains that Severus had gone to with his attempts to win back Lily’s friendship after he uttered that terrible name: Sleeping in front of the portrait of the Fat Lady. Sending constant owls. Offering anything and everything to the red haired Muggleborn just to get her to look at him without contempt.

Sirius had worried that Severus would be a threat to Harry as he was the spawn of the leader of his school years’ bullies. Personally, Sirius had never actually had much against the Slytherin, but with his desperation to keep up appearances, he needed a victim. With James’ feelings of jealousy, it had made Severus the perfect target for him. The fact that Severus gave as good as he got back and then some made him too interesting for Sirius and the other Marauders to leave alone. Severus had been a means to an end in the eldest Black’s eyes and the fact that he was right nasty in personality and had the ability to hold his own against four, resulted in a severe lack of guilt on Sirius’s part.

It wasn’t until the incident while he was half mad with dark magic backlog that almost resulted in Severus being mauled by a werewolf that made Sirius come to his senses. Really, it was, in part, thanks to that greasy haired git that Sirius realized that he couldn’t continue the way he had been and been forced to accept the fact that he couldn’t escape from his darker tendencies and… that he needed his family.

After the ‘prank’, Sirius had eased off the Slytherin. Not completely as that would draw suspicion, but he never again did anything to Severus that was more malicious than name calling. Even behind the portrait where the dark students gathered, the two stayed as far apart as possible when Sirius started to join the others in shedding and practicing dark magic. Sirius could never blame the snake for that.

If Sna-Prince had tried to get him eaten by a werewolf, Sirius would have done the same. Now, seeing the way that Severus looked at the small boy, Sirius knew that the heart of Severus was not as small as he would have liked others to believe.

Taking the deep breath to get over his trepidation, Sirius forced his feet forward. “He doesn’t usually like strangers, but-“ Sirius didn’t give Prince a chance to protest as he placed Harry into his arms. Sirius kept his wand at the ready, either to stop the Slytherin from hurting his godson or accidentally dropping him.

Briefly, Sirius wondered what the hell he had been thinking, with Severus’ lovely disposition he had probably never held a baby in his life!

He needn’t have worried though as after fumbling slightly at the sudden weight, Severus quickly adjusted his hold to accommodate the child. Cradling him with apparent gentleness as he stared at the young Potter with wonder, a look that was being returned by Harry himself.

This close, Severus could not ignore the fact that Harry had received more features from Lily than just his eyes. The turn of his brows was Lily. The shape of his mouth was Lily. The height of his cheekbones was Lily. Really the only sign of Potter’s taint was that wild black hair and the shape of his jaw. Otherwise, Harry was all reminiscent of the girl that was Severus’ first friend.

Severus and Lily had gotten into progressively uglier fights as their school years progressed, some of it was his own fault, but Severus knew he wasn’t completely to blame. Being a Muggleborn and absorbed with the ideals of the Light, Lily couldn’t understand Severus’ needs and his fascination with the Dark Arts.

She saw it as something that could be chosen, but in fact it wasn’t. It didn’t help that Severus was shite at explaining things and the fact that as a Slytherin he was forced into a vow of secrecy about dark magic for both his own and the protection of other students like himself as soon as he had entered the common room for the first time. It seemed that they were fated to fall into the same cycle as other dark and light magical folk. Destined to drift apart if not fall into hatred for each other.

A small hand gripped his nose almost painfully and dragged Severus out of his musing with a small squawk. The little Potter only giggled despite being slightly jostled, Regulus snickering out, “They always go for your nose, don’t they?”

“They?” Sirius echoed, obviously shocked at the insinuation that Prince had been around multiple small children before… and not turned them into potion ingredients.

“I have been named, to my great questioning of Narcissa’s sanity, godfather to one Draco Malfoy.”

“I didn’t know they had a kid.”

“It would be rather vacuous to declare a weakness during war time, Black. So forgive them for not having the announcement plastered across the front page of the Daily Prophet.”

“Kids shouldn’t be seen as weaknesses.” Sirius argued.

“Yet, it is a sad fact, why else have you locked the two of you away from the rest of society?” Severus quipped back with a roll of his eyes.

“Many reasons.” Sirius evaded, still he knew that there was danger both for himself and Harry outside these walls. They all came in horrible, deceiving, nightmarish forms. Sirius doubted that all the followers of Voldemort were recanting and pleased to go into hiding. No, there would be some out there like his cousin Bellatrix and the Lestranges that would gladly continue to commit murder and destruction in the name of their Lord. Sirius feared far more for Harry than himself.

“Se’vv.”

The word, no, the name was spoken with another tug on Severus’ nose as Harry beamed up at the man holding him.

“Only one person has ever called me that.” The potions’ master whispered, dark eyes shining with sadness, pain, and hope as he knew that they hadn’t spoken his name in Harry’s presence and he doubted that Black and the older Potter had ever mentioned him in the past.

No, the reason for the familiarity and happiness in those green eyes meant that Lily had been the one responsible for Harry’s fondness of him despite it being their first meeting. Lily must have shown pictures of Severus to her son and spoke about him in at least a pleasant tone for Harry to associate Severus with something good. Perhaps, Lily had forgiven him to some degree after all these years. Severus was unsure if he would ever get confirmation of that until after he himself took his final breath.

It truly wasn’t fair.

The two Blacks stared at the scene, Regulus stepping forward to rest a hand on the taller male’s shoulder gently as Sirius watched in awe as Harry lifted his little fingers to brush the tear track running down Severus’ cheek. Those small lips pursed in confusion and thought.

In the years of torture at the hands of the Marauders, Severus had only cried once and that had been on the first night that they were all at Hogwarts. Which was where he had gotten the nickname Snivellus. A named that stuck despite the fact that the group never saw tears again. Finally, Sirius cleared his throat uncomfortably, unsure of how to break the heavy silence and sadness that had descended upon the room. “Let’s continue this discussion downstairs in the parlor over some tea or something a hell of a lot stronger.”

Regulus opened his mouth to argue, but was cut off by Severus, “We have little time, but I believe we must discuss… all of this or we might end it with regrets.”

XX

As they settled into the parlor, Severus and Regulus sitting on one couch and Sirius, having taken back Harry, sat on one across from them. Regulus had a petulant expression on his face, arms crossing in a way that neither of the older males had seen in years. Apparently, the frustration and lack of progress in the past two hours had finally worn down his tact and poise. “I don’t see what there is to talk about, we just take the boy with us.”

A yelp was forced from the youngest Black as Severus smacked him across the back of the head, “You insipid little fool, of course it’s not so easy.”

“I was hoping that the fates would give us one too, little brother.” Sirius sighed, trying to keep his guilt at bay as Regulus’s grey eyes looked out at him beseechingly.

“Harry is considered the savior of the Wizarding world and the public is aware that he is in the possession of Sirius Black. The media is having a field day as it is, wondering if the boy is actually alive or not. The hyenas are practically frothing at the mouth with theories about the two of you.” Severus grumbled, summoning the copies of the Daily Prophet that had been left abandoned in the hall from the earlier scuffle. He quickly opened them to their second pages as he spread them across the coffee table.

Just like the other said, the headlines were spouting both hope and suspicion about the last Potter and the eldest Black.

“Seems Alastor had to report my communication with him no doubt and the minister saw fit to declare it to the world.” Sirius didn’t blame the grizzly old Auror, he was only doing his job and despite Sirius working with the man for a few years, he was overly suspicious of everyone. Friend or not.

“If Harry disappears, then dark wizards will be blamed.”

“Why does that matter? It’s not like we are planning on reentering this hypocritical society.” Regulus stabbed back, taking the cup of tea that Kreacher levitated into his hands.

“The children leaving Hogwarts tonight will be seen as young abominations of nature that dabble in the Dark Arts and blood by their own free will. Most will be happy to see them go with claims of knowing ‘there just wasn’t something right about them’.” Severus’s tone was filled with disdain and the other men flinched as memories were trudged up from their own minds.

They had heard those exact words or ones along the same lines whispered about themselves in the halls of Hogwarts. Sirius was not at all exempt from those whispers despite his overly Gryffindor nature.

“However, if Potter were to disappear, we would be declared killers of innocent light magick babies. I rather not offer proof to those old accusations.” Severus explained, after all, he had debated this idea with Lucius because some of the families fleeing this night weren’t suspected of being dark, but were known to have very young children.

Lucius and Severus were wondering how likely it was for the rest of world to assume that the family had been murdered and the babes taken away to be used for dark rituals and potions.

“It’s all a ridiculous notion,” The potions master continued. “Any dark potioneer worth his salt knows that babies are useless for ingredients. The magic in their blood is too underdeveloped to have any significant degree of potency. The blood of virgins’ is best collected from someone of or above the age of majority.”

To any passing listener, they would have been appalled at the content of the conversation, but to the three men this was all common and accepted knowledge.

“Does that mean you can use your own blood, Prince?” Sirius asked innocently, cackling as he got a venomous look in response.

“Masters.” Kreacher croaked bringing attention back to the conversation and the plate of biscuits that the old elf placed on the coffee table. 

“I want Harry growing up in the world of his parents. I know James suspected the truth about me with his mother being a Black herself, but…” Sirius trailed off, fingers trailing through the thick dark fluff that sat on the top of his godson’s head.

“The boy’s magic isn’t exactly pure.” Regulus pointed out, getting a glare for his efforts from his brother. Dark wizards and witches were far more in tune with the magic around them and were able to pick out the signatures of other magic users around them. It was one of the reasons that dark magic users were so slippery and why, by the same token, it was almost impossible for the average person to hide from them.

It was one of the reasons that Sirius was so good at his job.

Sirius couldn’t exactly argue against that fact, if anything Harry’s magic was the perfect shade of grey. That was rare, it meant that the last of the Potter line would be equally adept at all types of magic. The bonus was that if Harry never cast a dark spell he wouldn’t have to do the shedding process and the dark side of his core would grow very slowly.

“He doesn’t belong with the coven, Reg.”

“But you do!”

“I’m not going to leave him for someone else to raise, he’s mine.”

“Surely there are other light families that you would trust with him.”

“I’m not going to leave him, he doesn’t deserve that!”

“He’s too young to understand abandonment! He’ll forget you as he grows older.”

“I don’t want that!”

“You’ll have to live your life constantly looking over your shoulder with the public watching both you and the bloody boy who lived. If anyone gains a grain of evidence that you’re dark your life will be forfeit!”

“I’ve lived like that most of my life already, I don’t care.”

“I do, you arsehole!”

Severus, Harry, and Kreacher watched the argument like one would a muggle tennis match, gaze shifting from one Black to the other. They were certainly getting nowhere with neither of the brothers willing to back down. Severus wasn’t used to seeing Regulus lose his composure and Sirius trying to act mature for once in his life.

Funny how fate could twist people. However, Severus could see that the only way they would be taking Lord Black with them would be by knocking him out. The aftermath of such an action probably would be more detrimental than anything. No, there would have to be some kind of compromise that would still leave Regulus wanting.

“Black won’t be coming, at least not now. It’s time to give up, Regulus.” Severus interrupted, smooth voice cutting through the shouting match.

Ignoring the betrayed expression from his friend, and dare Severus believe it, the grateful one on Black’s face, he pressed on. “We’ll leave a failsafe with him, a portkey that will take him to wherever the coven decides to settle and devise a way that letters can be exchanged.”

“There’s no doubt that my mail will be monitored by the Ministry.” Sirius pointed out, annoyed but resigned with the fact that he was going to be living under the microscope of many people.

“Owls aren’t the only way to send messages. You have house elves, use them to deliver them and destroy any evidence as soon as you are finished.”

Neither of the siblings could argue with that logic, as members of the same house and family, the elves could be summoned to their locations with almost no limit.

This was the way many dark families under suspicion had been communicating with each other for decades. Most magic didn’t affect house elves, which was the reason why they could pop in and out of wards so effortlessly. House elves could sense each other’s magic and for this reason elves did not make good spies. The little buggers could be very vicious to one another in the name of protecting their home and masters. Still house elves were not infallible, so most dark families sent the messages in code with their servants in the case they were apprehended. House elves were designed by nature to be loyal, preferring to die than betray their masters’ secrets even if their owner treated them horribly.

“Kreacher would be honored to be the one to deliver the masters’ messages. Yes, he would.” The old elf sound like a bullfrog with his eagerness and while Sirius still despised him, he knew that Regulus would be happy to have his first friend visiting.

“Very well, you’re hired as the telephone elf, I guess.” The words seemed to shock Kreacher as he looked at Sirius with something other than disdain… Which was terribly creepy.

“What’s a telephone?” Regulus asked, pouting as he was shushed by everyone else, it wasn’t his fault he didn’t take Muggle Studies!

“It would be wise to still be sparse in your communications, limiting it to only once every month or so unless there is an emergency.”

None of the inhabitants of the Black house seemed pleased as Severus’ comment. After living apart for so long both brothers wanted the chance to reaffirm their bond. The desire had increased threefold now that Sirius was the recognized lord of the family and Regulus was marked as his current heir.

The ancestral magic inside of them was trying to push them closer together physically subconsciously. Even now, Severus noted how under the coffee table, the brothers’ feet were pressing against each other despite the overabundance of space.

 “I can be your feed on this side, any rumors I hear about hunts or if you really need some ingredients I can send them your way.” Sirius muttered, most likely the deliveries of things would only be needed during the first few months. Then the coven will probably have reached complete self-sufficiency.  

By claiming the lordship Sirius would also have to give up his job as an Auror, not that he would need the paycheck now that he had full access to the fortune that was in the multiple vaults that the Black’s owned.

It was all for the best, it would be far too easy for Sirius to be met with an accident in his old line of work. He would have to take the Black seat in the Wizengamot, but at the same time keep his head down to not attract any additional suspicion when it came to voting on laws.

Bollocks, he hated politics with a passion. Sirius didn’t think he was cut out for desk work or studying on his own. He had paid his dues in his classes at Hogwarts, along with all his time spent in detention. Severus and Regulus got to go on a grand adventure, creating their own society and Sirius was going to be stuck listening to old folks bitch and moan about raising the tax on quills. So unfair. Still as a nobleman on the board it meant that Sirius could spend almost all his time with Harry. The thought brought a small wolfish grin to Sirius’s lips as he pressed a kiss to the wild black hair as Harry yawned. It was far past the one year old’s bedtime.

“There is one more thing we need to talk about.” Regulus was hesitant, which was obvious by how his words came out rushed.

“What?”

“Dumbledore.”

Chapter Text

“Dumbledore.”

Severus answered, though speaking the name of the old wizard made his own shoulders twitch and Regulus echoed the movement. It was easy to understand why; Dumbledore was not only the symbol of the Light, but he was the only known wizard more powerful than Voldemort.

“I don’t think I’m exactly his favorite person in the world right now either.” Sirius mumbled, not at all looking forward to facing those twinkling wizen old eyes. Dumbledore had always had a soft spot towards him because he was one of the Marauders and a brave Gryffindor. Sirius was also a member of the Order of the Phoenix and one of its most trusted members.

However, Dumbledore was probably very displeased with Sirius’ most recent choices and the list was long:

Going to and leaving the scene of the crime without contacting any of the other Order members.

Taking and keeping Harry without any approval.

Sirius and Peter switching as secret keeper without telling Dumbledore.

And finally, Sirius deciding to completely disappear off the face of the earth with only a short letter and all owls that might have been sent to him returning with their cargo after eventually being forced to give up on finding their target.

Sirius felt that he owed the old man so much. Dumbledore had protected both Remus and Sirius from punishment after an incident that almost ended with Severus’ death. No, it wasn’t exactly fair for the traumatized Slytherin, but both students and the public would have demanded the reason behind either Gryffindors’ expulsion.

Remus would have been labeled as a dangerous beast and killed if exposed.

An unnecessary death of one who had no hand in his own fate.

“Dumbledore isn’t evil.”

“Of course, you would come to his defense.” Regulus sneered only to be quieted by Severus shaking his head.

“The definition of evil is decided by each person differently. No, I suppose Dumbledore wouldn’t fit many people’s idea of bad. He is a threat nonetheless if the Ministry forces him to help search for the coven.” Severus acquiesced.

Forces? You don’t think that he would try to hunt us down of his own volition?” Regulus asked, clearly surprised by his friend’s defense of the man that shrugged aside Severus’ many troubles during the years.

“The old fool is not perfect, and I believe that his desire to combine our culture with muggles is completely imbecilic; however, he does not want to eradicate us. He knows that dark magic is as natural as shadows existing because of the sun.”

“How do you know that?” Sirius was shocked, the words that Severus spoke, he had basically quoted what Dumbledore had told the eldest Black in confidence when Sirius’ faith in the Order’s fight was wavering after a battle that ended with several casualties on both sides. Some of the Deatheaters among the fallen were those who had been in the same year as Sirius in school. Three Slytherins and a Ravenclaw whom Sirius had spent time with in the hidden room were being ridiculed in death by some of the other Order members, but Dumbledore had ordered that their bodies were treated with the same amount of respect as those of their fallen comrades.

Dumbledore had asked Sirius to take care of handling the bodies after the other members had left. It was not known to any of the Order if Sirius had any experience with preparing corpses or not, but their leader had only said these words before leaving the Black to his work.

“Take care of them as they should be, my boy. Aid their souls in departure as you would your own family.”

Those simple words, they had meant the world to Sirius whose heart, mind, and magic had been internally raging at the fact that the three dark wizards and one witch, would not be receiving their last rights. The headmaster and Sirius both knew that Dumbledore had given him permission to follow the practices of the dark to care for the fallen if he saw fit.

With the spell Orchideous Sirius had summoned more than a dozen gladiolus flowers, keeping specific colors in his mind to make sure the blossoms would he what he needed. Gladioli had always been the flower of choice when dealing with death for those of the dark who fell in battle. The name of the flower meaning sword lily , was fitting for those who chose to die in duels with their wands in their hands.

First a yellow blossom was laid in the wand hand of the deceased. Yellow was the color of loyalty, remembrance, and enlightenment. In the other hand was placed a purple flower for grace and nobility. Inside of the mouth was where the last flower was gently set, this one of blue. This represented that the deceased spoke with confidence, wisdom, and truth.

Silver coins were placed over eyes, this was to pay for the ferryman to cross the river Styx to the underworld. This precious metal was believed to draw negative energy out of the body and lighten the spirit after death. By placing the coins over the eyes, it was thought that it would also erase the image of one’s own gruesome death from the mind.

Oil extracted from Star Grass or Aletris farinosa, also known as Unicorn Root, was meant to relieve and mollify the soul. Star Grass was well known across all magical communities as a medicinal herb that could be made into a salve that could help soothe and heal injuries. In the funeral practice for the coven, the oil of this plant was applied to the lips, nose, ears, and around any large open wounds. The idea was that the soul would leave from one of these places and when it did: the properties of the oil would ease the spirit’s anguish.

Finally, the bodies were set aflame with tied clumps of dried sage thrown into the pyres to both cover up the smell of burning flesh and to cleanse the area of death.

Sirius had stared up at the stars while chanting soft prayers as the bodies were rendered to ash, wondering how fate would continue to play with their lives.

While Dumbledore had never confronted Sirius in words about whether or not he was dark, the old man had probed at his mind more than a few times while he was at Hogwarts and as a member of the Order of the Phoenix. It was annoying and terrifying at times, but Sirius couldn’t exactly blame the headmaster for it. Dumbledore was, after all, right about Sirius’ magic and practices behind closed doors as being of a darker shade.

Sirius had never shown or explained any dark practices to Dumbledore, but apparently Severus and Dumbledore had come to have a discussion of ethics.

“I…” The potioneer’s throat constricted and he stood up from the couch, moving to pace before the fireplace.

“…Shortly before the Potters went into hiding, I became incredibly disillusioned with the Dark Lord and his schemes. I did not join him to commit senseless murder, I joined in the belief that I would be able to preserve and further my standing in the wizarding world. Then he threatened Lily and I was desperate to find a way to save her, so I went to Dumbledore. I told him that the Potters were now at the top of the Dark Lord’s list.”

Sirius frowned as he listened, grey eyes narrowing, “You know why they were targeted.”

“Indeed.”

“Why did you know? Dumbledore only told me, the rat, Moony, and the Potters out of the Order. From how he explained it, not that many of the Deatheaters knew why either.”

“I don’t know the reason either.” Regulus admitted, one fine brow lifted in question, but also with unease. He had a feeling that he wasn’t going to like the answer.

“I was a part of the Dark Lord’s inner circle as his most trusted and skilled potions’ master. I overheard the prophecy that Sybill Trelawney spoke that night in Hogsmead as I was in the area looking for ingredients. Completely idiotic for Dumbledore to have a meeting in such a public place during wartime, even if it was only for a job interview.”

“Prophecy?” Regulus now understood why the information was not spread among the ranks.

Divination was a subject that not that many pureblood dark wizards and witches put much stock in. They were far too vague and often the meaning behind the cryptic words was far different than what one assumed. Their father, Orion, often ranted about the stupidity of having divination as a class in Hogwarts as it was well known that one was either born with the sight or not.

It was not something that could be taught.

If the Deatheaters knew that Lord Voldemort was frightened by or acting on a prophecy, no matter who it came from, there would be whispers among the ranks.

“The prophecy said that a child born as the seventh month dies would be the one to defeat the Dark Lord. When I handed off this information, I had no knowledge that Lily was expecting. The seventh month came and passed, revealing that there were only two children that matched the prophecy’s description. The Potters’ and the Longbottoms’.” Severus’ voice had dropped to a mere whisper, but in the silence, there was nothing else to cover up his guilt.

“You fucker.” Sirius snarled, shifting Harry off his lap and on his feet in an instant. Bones were snapped into new shapes, and growls ripped through the air as an enraged Grim raced across the room. Before he could reach his target, an equally dark blurr slammed into Sirius’ side and the massive clump of fur was sent off course.

The manor rattled with the force of the battle taking place. The portraits screeched in confusion at the noise, though all of them being shades of ancient Blacks had a very good guess at the source despite the fact that all they could see was wallpaper in their current reversed position.

The only things Severus could pick out of the black whirlwind of fur were little flashes of white from claws and teeth. Red smears were appearing across the floorboards in the tussle and gouges were made in the wood as the beasts tried to best one another.

The battle was ended abruptly with the sound of a snap echoing and the force of magic that ripped the siblings away from each other.

When the mass separated, it was revealed that there were two Grims instead of one.

While Sirius’ form was much closer to that of a shaggy wolfhound, Regulus’ matched that of a borzoi. Blood oozed from a scratch across the youngest Black’s long thin muzzle, but from the way Sirius wasn’t putting weight on his right front leg it was obvious that he had the favor returned. The Grims panted for breath, still growling at each other, but their focus eventually was pulled towards the others in the room.

Kreacher stood with one bony hand still raised with fingers ready to snap once more, with the elf’s other arm he was supporting a crying toddler that was almost taller than he was. Severus stayed pressed against the wall, wand drawn, and eyes strangely clenched shut. The pale hand holding the piece of wood was shaking slightly. His dark hair might be hiding most of his face, but the aura Severus gave off said he was feeling more than fear.

“Pa’foo! Stop! No!”

The sight of Harry’s terror and tears finally seemed to drag Sirius out of his blind rage and his form shuddered before fur melted away replacing Grim with man once more. Despite the pain Sirius was in, evident by the way the bottom portion of his lower right arm flopping unnaturally at his side, he dragged himself over to sooth his godson.

Kreacher’s face turning to one of shock when Sirius muttered a thanks to the elf for keeping Harry out from underfoot. The old house elf’s attitude had been prickly towards Sirius, even as a child, he held no love towards Lily, James, or Remus when they visited either. Kreacher had groused in the past when it became known that the Potters were expecting, saying it was lamentable that another magical babe of impure blood would be born. However, since Sirius had brought Harry home and Sirius had calmed down enough to allow Kreacher to approach his godson… Kreacher seemed to have instantly been taken with the child. It had made Sirius suspicious at first but seeing Harry giggle at the sight of his toys floating above his head and the fact that Kreacher eagerly took over diaper duty quickly changed his tune.

“Hey little man, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you, shush, it’s okay.”

Sirius managed to keep himself from yelping as Harry glued himself to his front.

“No, f’ghting. Mama hat’s when f’ght.”

“You’re right. Okay. No more fighting.” The anger made Sirius’ eye look like molten silver as he glared over the boy’s head at Severus. “Even if someone severely deserves the shite kicked out of him.”

For his part, the halfblood tilted his head to the side, barring the side of his throat in a sign of submission. Though Severus oddly kept his eyes closed, the haunted look on the potion master’s face kept Sirius from seeking retribution in blood and flesh once Harry was settled back down.

Regulus stayed in his Grim form, creeping first towards his friend. Steps slow and hesitant as his claws clicked against the floorboards.

Severus smothered the urge to flinch as he sensed the approach of a being so heavily associated with death. It was ironic that he would still be afraid of such a thing considering what Severus was. The scent of blood that was thick with dark magic was almost overwhelming to him. The fingers of his left hand spread to give the sign to halt to the Grim. The order was followed giving Severus a few more precious seconds to compose himself before opening his eyes.

Pools of black were revealed, and Regulus deemed it safe enough to continue his approach.

Gracefully, Severus weaved his wand through the air before pointing the tip of it towards the wound on the dog’s face.

“Episkey.”

Flesh knitted itself together quickly and seamlessly, insuring there would be no scar left. Severus busied himself with healing and cleaning the other bites and scratches he found. Using Tergeo and Scourgify to clean the blood away.

It was only then that Regulus transformed back, looking tired, frazzled, and bruised. He didn’t comment on the fight, only moved back the couches after muttering a quick thanks to Severus. He knew that Sirius wouldn’t want Severus to treat his own wounds, so the task fell to the youngest Black.

Still, Regulus didn’t really feel guilty about causing them.

No, it was liberating to finally get the aggression, frustration, and anger that Regulus felt towards his brother that he had collected over all his school years and the fact that he was still refusing to come with Regulus now, out of his system. A look in Sirius’ eyes told him that he felt much the same.

Sirius didn’t flinch when the wand in his brother’s hand was turned towards him, instead keeping his hands busy with Harry as Regulus worked to heal and mend him back together. Gritting his teeth as Regulus finally moved on to the last and most pressing injury. Regulus maneuvered his limp right arm, pale fingers feeling around carefully to realign the two portions of bone.

“Brackium Emendo.”

That one made Sirius groan softly in pain, though he tried to hide it from Harry’s attention by pulling on one of Kreacher’s ears making the house elf squawk and the baby laugh. The bone was tentatively and loosely sealed together but would grow more rigid as time passed. It was a slow working spell, making it easy for the attending medi-wizard to readjust the bones if needed or stop the spell.

“Ferula.” A splint appeared out of the air with the word, instantly wrapping about the injured arm and limiting any movement.

“Severus, Sirius should probably take a small dose of Skele-gro.”

“That stuff taste like hippogriff balls, I’m fine!”

“If you want to carry Potter unaided as quickly as possible, then you should shut your mouth, Black.” Severus drawled, deeming it safe enough to return to the couch. Carefully he summoned his emergency potions kit from a pouch. It appeared to be a long scroll made of shimmering dragonhide. When unrolled it was not words that were revealed, but hundreds of little loops that safely secured almost countless vials whose contents were of different colors and viscosity. There were multiple spoons and measuring cups also strapped at one end, all varying in size and the material they were made of.

Sirius watched as Severus selected a spoon and one of the vials that seemed to be filled with a murky white liquid. When the cork was popped, and smoke immediately started to drift out Sirius couldn’t help but shudder.

That was definitely Skele-gro.

Madam Pomfrey had shoved enough of the stuff down his throat from his multiple trips to the hospital wing for Sirius to recognize it even without its telltale bony, skeleton adorned bottle.

“Come then, Black, open wide. You want to set a good example for your godson by taking your medicine without a fuss, right?”

Oh Prince was pushing it, but Sirius unlocked his jaw to take the vile concoction.

It burned on the way down and brought tears to Sirius’ eyes. But he did it.

A murky red potion was also administered to both Blacks that Severus declared was a potion that would help with pain. Neither of the brothers dared to complain about the taste of that one in the hope that they would be able to take more of it once it started to wear off.

Cuts and lacerations were easy to deal with if they were not caused by curses or magic. Even broken bones, to an extent, were typically fixed with little effort for a halfway competent wizard. It was soft tissue and nerve damage that were difficult to deal with. Under the layers of fabric, Regulus and Sirius were no doubt black and blue, but there was not much that could be done for that other than…

The soft clink of metal on wood brought Sirius’ attention to the tin that Severus had just put on the table.

“It’s still a work in progress, but I’ve been working on creating a paste that quickens the healing of bruises. You can apply it later, it’s not an immediate cure, but it’ll shorten the process by a few days.”

It was a peace offering, Sirius realized, which he forced himself to accept with a short nod.

“Where were we?” Regulus ventured, rubbing the back of his neck before wincing at the twinge of pain it caused.

“Me going to Dumbledore with the warning about the Dark Lord’s intentions.” Severus sighed softly as he sat back on the couch after returning his potions’ kit to his pouch. “I asked him, pleaded for him to send Lily’s family into hiding. He agreed, though not before giving me the dressing down I deserved for putting any innocent babe in danger.”

None of the men made a comment, it was unneeded. One could almost smell the shame that radiated from Severus though his face remained composed and cold.

“He asked me then, if I was willing to switch sides in the war. I told him that I was more than ready to renounce the Dark Lord, but to abandon the dark side of magic: no.”

“That was when Dumbledore told me about his true feelings towards dark magic. He said that he didn’t understand it but was willing to try though there had never been a dark wizard brave enough to trust him with their secrets. Not even Grindelwald when they were boys. I told him that fool was not going to be me either.”

The way Severus spoke, he was painting a picture of the meeting with both the words he said and the ones he didn’t. A meeting called in desperate hope, but pride and a Slytherin’s sense of self-preservation refused to allow Severus to fall into any sort of trap.

“He pressed me, tried to convince me to join his little order as a spy. Promised to protect me from Azkaban and the Ministry after the war was over.”

“Did you agree?” Sirius asked, Regulus looked just as curious for the answer.

“I am no fool, Black. I told him that I would pass along information if possible but refused to be tied to him by vow or being made an official member of his group.” Severus’ lip curled, but it was without true venom. “I already planned on disappearing after the war by then.”

The silence stretched uncomfortably after that bold statement, before it was interrupted by a snort from the potioneer.

“The codger accepted my terms and admitted that he had hoped to make me the new potions professor if I agreed to the original terms.”

“You? A teacher!? What was Dumbledore thinking?” Sirius couldn’t help cackling, imagining Severus swooping through the dungeons of Hogwarts like a vengeful bat ready to gleefully suck out points from all houses but Slytherin like a vampire would blood.

Regulus on the other hand, looked thoughtful.

“I could see it.”

“Have you taken the Alihotsy draught from my stores?” Severus demanded, his fingers twitching to take his emergency kit out again and check to see if that particular vial was still in place.

“I’m not hysteric!”

“Little brother, that’s exactly what someone who is hysteric would say.”

Regulus huffed, “Think about it. McGonagall was terrifying, and she was an excellent professor. Fear and respect go hand in hand when it comes to getting someone to listen to you.”

Severus’ mask actually broke to look horrified as Regulus continued to muse aloud. “Perhaps I should speak to Malfoy about this. The students will be needing to continue their education outside of Hogwarts after all.”

“Don’t you dare.”

Severus probably meant the words to come out threatening, but instead they came with the tremble of desperation.

It made Sirius lose his shite all over again, doubling over to howl with laughter and Harry giggled because everyone else was.

Damn, Sirius realized his eyes were actually tearing up as he managed to get his breathing back under control. He wondered, if this would be what it would have been like if he had been sorted into Slytherin or had decided to befriend Prince instead of trying to make his life a living hell to protect himself.

Sirius had doubted that Severus would open his dark, shriveled heart to friendship. Now, he was unsure how the potioneer would react.

“Still, you were a kind of spy for Dumbledore, I did wonder where all of the Order’s recent leads had come from. You saved a lot of lives, Severus.”

It was a shock for Severus to hear his name spoken by Sirius, but he smothered the feeling quickly as he retorted, “I also ended many others during this war. I’ve had to torture, maim, and kill. I don’t feel as remorseful for some of them as you would probably like me to.”

Sirius didn’t doubt that, he knew just how vengeful Severus could be while they were still children.

“How are we going to ensure the dear old headmaster keeps away from us?” Regulus asked, wanting to move the conversation forward finally after the necessary, but grueling sidetrack.

“He won’t want to be put in a position to harm former students, no matter their alliance. Tell him to use the excuse of having to settle things down at Hogwarts. He’ll be busy with having to replace several of the professors anyway. Also, a curse breaker should be called in to finally lift the one placed on the Defense Against the Dark Arts position. The members of the Board of Governors who are left should be more than eager to authorize it.” Severus listed, all of them plausible excuses for the old wizard to refuse helping the ministry search for the deserters.

“Who will he be replacing?” Sirius pondered, he knew there were a few dark magic using professors for certain in Hogwarts, such as Slughorn and Vector. If there were others, they were much more adept at keeping it a secret from even the dark students.

“Horace is certainly leaving, Flitwick is on the fence, but Lucius is fairly certain he will be joining us.” Severus went through the checklist in his mind, but things were rather muddled in the chaos of the past two weeks and the secret correspondences.  Septima Vector was the arithmancy teacher and Aurora Sinistra taught astronomy, they were both leaving. Irma Pince was the new librarian who agreed to get the dark books out of Hogwarts but said she would be remaining. Irma was planning on being conveniently indisposed in the hospital wing this night, so she would have an alibi for the books being transported out with the students. Silvanus Kettleburn, professor for the care of magical creatures, he was a reckless, eccentric man that suffered the loss of multiple limbs and had been put on numerous probations during his career, would be joining them. His expertise on how to deal with the many rare and dark creatures that some purebloods owned would be a blessing.

Two heads of houses leaving would be quite the blow, but it seemed that the coven was gaining the basis for creating their own school. A little less than a fourth of the student population would also vanish.

“Vector, Sinistra, and Kettleburn will be disappearing into the shadows with us. There is another uncertain that we are treating with very delicate hands.” Severus reiterated, there might be more but at the moment he couldn’t think of them.

“Who’s the mystery man… woman… whatever?”

“Rubeus Hagrid.”

“You’re barking.”

“Unfortunately, not.” Severus muttered, his disdain for the brash and uncultured man as obvious now as it was back in his school days.

“Bonkers, there’s no way that Hagrid would associate with anything dark.” Sirius shook his head, though he was quite fond of the game and grounds’ keeper, Hagrid had quite a number of flaws. No, the half giant was very close to a dark hating extremist sometimes with what came out of his mouth unfiltered.

“Yet, he works closely with creatures classified as dark every day.” Regulus pointed out, “We want someone with his skills and we know that he had faced prejudice for his heritage. Not only that, but if he comes with us he’ll have the opportunity to have a wand again.”

“He won’t do it. He ain’t dark.”

Sirius yelped as he got a kick under the table by his brother, “Watch your language, you’re a lord now and I won’t have my head speaking like a commoner. Father would take you over his knee if he heard you.”

“Yesh, I forgot what it was like to live with the grammar police.”

“What is a ‘police’?”

“Forget it, Reg.”   

“But-“

“Leave it, Regulus. If we go into muggle law enforcement, we might be here all night discussing the fooleries of Scotland Yard.” Severus grumbled, he learned as a young child not be a fan of any form of authority, magical or otherwise.

“But there are many yards in Scotland, what does that have to do with anything?!”

Sirius was snickering under his breath, though the concept of muggle government and their overly complex systems hurt his brain when he first heard about them himself. Hanging out with Lily and Remus forced him to learn more about muggles than he wanted to. He had to at least pretend to be interested or he would get chewed out for being an ignorant pureblood by Evans.

“Later, I’ll explain it later.” Severus’ tone said the conversation was over.

Regulus grimaced before taking an offered biscuit from his brother, returning to the topic of overly brash hybrids. “Anyway, the offer has been made to Hagrid to join us, not tonight, but we gave him a location to go to if he changed his mind in the future. The coven will be leaving a protectively charmed portkey there. Giants are classified as dark creatures because of their rather blood thirsty nature. My theory is that there is dark magic present in Hagrid but it is being shed in an unnoticeable way, even to himself, through his contact with so many dark creatures on an almost daily basis.”

“He has that herd of domesticated thestrals. Those creatures are as dark as they come, gentle in temperament, but so closely linked with death.” Severus added. “The Malfoys had a herd of them too, along with many of the other winged horse breeds. Lucius wants to breed a thestral with a Granian.”

“Of course, he does.” Sirius scoffed, not pointing out that experimental breeding was against the law.

None of them, especially the Malfoys, cared about that.

“Speaking of creatures, if Lupin wants to join us… he’d be welcome.” Regulus was the one to offer, Severus for his part not reacting under Sirius’ probing stare.

“Now you’re painting the coven as a fantasy land of acceptance.” Sirius rolled his eyes, though if it was true… Then his conscious would make him tell Remus. He hoped that the other would choose to stay with him. No matter what, Sirius would have to come clean to the werewolf about being a dark wizard. Remus had confronted Sirius a few times in the past about the odd smell that clung to the Black from time to time after he returned from shedding excess dark magic. Sirius had been able to play off the other’s concerns with the excuse that he was practicing his Animagus form, becoming a Grim did release dark magic and as a result Moony eventually accepted Sirius’ reason.

“Why should it not be?” Severus countered, “The people in the coven have no reason to be dissatisfied with each other and will be free to finally act without fear of being judged. It won’t be perfect, no society is. But it’ll be a hell of a lot better than how we are living now. We can worship and practice as we please.”

“Werewolves are only a threat one or two days out of the month. The rest of the time they are competent wizards and witches that can work and function in normal society.” Regulus added, “We can’t exactly be picky with our allies with such small numbers. There is also the recent invention of the wolfsbane potion that helps one keep their human mind even while transformed. Severus is currently working on improving the recipe to make it cheaper to produce and have better results.”

“The current formula, as it stands, is a slow acting poison that will continue to weaken and damage the internal organs of the werewolf each time they take it.” Severus was disgusted that the potion had been published and was currently being sold when it had such detrimental effects. He had no fondness for werewolves, but he had standards as a potioneer. If something was being sold as a cure then it should actually produce the results it claims to. It was a disgrace to the science otherwise.

“This… is the first time I’ve ever heard of this potion.” Sirius knew that the werewolf community was rather close knit. Remus had revealed to Sirius recently that he had been kept in isolation away from other werewolves in his childhood. Lyall Lupin, Remus’ father, had made derogatory remarks about werewolves being "soulless, evil, deserving nothing but death.". Lyall had tried to oust Greyback as a werewolf when he was brought forward to the Ministry for questioning. Remus had been only five years old at the time. The revenge that Greyback wrought was to infect Lyall’s son with lycanthropy. The small family had feared the discrimination that the wizarding community had for werewolves and kept moving from place to place, along with forbidding Remus from playing with other children until he entered Hogwarts. The Lupins’ attempt to protect their son had been a double-edged sword. Remus grew up lonely, despite his parents’ love. Their attempts at keeping Remus’ condition a secret, Greyback’s reputation, and Lyall’s past comments meant that no werewolf was willing to reach out to the small family either.

Things had changed only in the past two years with Remus entering the werewolf community on the orders of Dumbledore to spy and possibly bring the dark creatures to their side. Remus had been surprised by his welcome and had learned more about himself in a few months than he had in his entire life. This meant that Remus had to have heard of wolfsbane by now.

The potion must be extremely costly, werewolves weren’t allowed to work so Remus didn’t have his own income. Sirius and James would have been more than happy to pay for the potion if they knew about it for their friend. Remus’ pride must have gotten in the way despite knowing that both the Black and Potter heirs had more than enough funds to provide for him. Money had always been a point of contention between the group. Sometimes, when James and Sirius were too tired to argue the point with Moony, they would just slip galleons into his coat pocket before he left.

Remus had learned to never comment on it as he came to realize that the two would never take the money back. If the werewolf tried, then the amount he found in his hands would double for each complaint he waged. A charm that would delight anyone else, was the bane of Remus’ honor.

Would Remus choose to go with the dark wizards or stay and help Sirius raise Harry? The answer came easily, Moony would stay with his pack, though sadly it was incredibly small now. Cub was the nickname that Remus had given Harry, Sirius knew that it came from Moony’s primitive desire to protect the little wizard that had been added to what the dark creature saw as the family unit.

If a choice was ever involved, Remus would stay by Harry and Sirius’ side. Harry would trump Sirius though since he couldn’t protect himself and James had been said to be Moony’s alpha.

“I’ll tell Remus, is there any possibility that you could provide us with wolfsbane? I’m okay at potions, but from the way you are talking about it, it’s out of my league.”

“Far out of your league, Black. Glad to see you come to terms with your incompetence at something.” Severus smirked as Sirius ground his teeth but kept his tongue. He left the Black to squirm for a bit before continuing. “It’s a delicate potion, but I could probably find a way to stabilize it enough to survive being transported by a house elf.”

“Thank you, I’ll compensate you however you want.” Sirius swore.

“That’s a dangerous statement, Black. Do you have any inkling of what I might demand?” Severus cocked his head slightly, dark gaze boring into Sirius mercilessly and slowly Severus’ lips peeled back to show sharp lengthened, gleaming canines.

But Black did not flinch, it figured that Prince would turn out to be part vampire of all creatures.

“Remus would be worth it.” There was no quiver in Sirius’ tone and Severus seemed to accept it fangs disappearing from sight.

Still Severus couldn’t help rolling his eyes as he muttered, “You really are a foolhardy Gryffindor, the hat wasn’t wrong.”

“I prefer the term gallant .”

Neither Slytherin looked amused.

“How do you plan on raising a child?” Regulus cut in having just pulled himself out of a staring contest with a very sleepy Harry. The idea of his brother having a kid was both amusing and terrifying. Regulus wasn’t fond of children, they were loud, messy, and confusing. He was always the youngest growing up and as such never had to deal with anyone toddling under him before. Regulus was in his mid-twenties now and would rather hold a book than a baby any day. Actually, he was currently planning on bribing Severus into taking him on as an apprentice. They were good friends, but the potioneer liked his solitude, and when he was in the middle of brewing something particularly complicated this was reasonably increased.

“I’ll raise him away from the darkness, the way that Lily and James would have wanted him to grow up. He’ll hear more than whispers about my family’s past, there is no avoiding that. I’ll just have to watch my actions carefully to not give any credence to the rumors. I’m certain that my record of running with the Order of the Phoenix will at least paint me as a hero to some children. I’ll be the perfectly fun but composed guardian and Lord Black.” Sirius finished with a posh voice that made Severus snort. Sirius counted that as a victory.

“So, Lord Black . You’ll be suckling him on the fairy tales of vile dark witches and wizards who feast on the flesh of young children? The ones draped in long black cloaks that seem to be made of the shadows themselves, faces never shown even to the judgement of the moon?”

“No.” Sirius winced at the very thought, the action making pain also radiate from his slowly healing arm, “I’m sure I can find some stories that don’t revolve around dark enchanters. I won’t ever say anything bad about the dark, I don’t think my tongue could stand to be soured any further by doing so.”

“He’ll hear the stories from others.” Regulus mused.

“That’s fine, I’ll figure out something to avoid the topic. Maybe pretend the conversation is linked to wartime trauma and get all shaky whenever I talk about it. By the time he’s old enough to ask deeper questions my role as infallible guardian in the eyes of most of the public should be established. I got a few years to think up a tale.” Black answered with a shrug.

“Knowing you it’ll take that much time for you to come up with a decent lie.” Severus muttered.

“Hey, I’ve been lying most of my life! No one’s called me out on it yet.” Sirius snapped back, pouting as his brother spoke.

“And that is the reason why you also belong in the house of serpents.”

“Sod off. I don’t plan on raising the pup here either. Grimmuald Place isn’t exactly full of happy memories for me.” Sirius answered, his parents were strict and had used harsh punishments, but that was typical of many families. Their relationship had improved vastly since Sirius’ fifth year, but even at the end there were things that they didn’t agree on. Still the walls, while familiar always felt stifling and cramped to an energetic youth like Sirius. No, he could already tell by how squirmy Harry could be that the boy would need room to play and run wild… Within reason, Sirius had to be an adult now.

Fuck, that was weird to think about.

“Take the manor that edges the Caledonian Forest.” Regulus suggested quickly. Too quickly it seemed by the way Severus tried to discreetly dig an elbow into the younger’s ribs. The forest was located in the northern highlands of Scotland and the area gave off a foreboding aura to muggles as the forest was the site of one of the battles between Merlin and king Arthur against a splinter coven of Mordred. The ground was heavily saturated with magic even today and was home to many magical beasts that were attracted to the concentration of magic that helped to produce many varieties of magical plants.

“So, that’s where the coven is going to be based?” Sirius raised a brow and Regulus looked like he wanted to melt into the couch to escape from Severus’ smoldering glare.

“Maybe?”

“Regulus, you, Lucius, and I will have words .” Severus hissed, before rubbing at his temples, “The forest is far more massive than the Ministry or anyone outside of the coven knows. Some families already have ancient manors and cabins hidden inside of it. No one would come looking for us there as it is seen both as a sacred site and as much as a deathtrap as the Forbidden Forest if not more so by society. More than three fifths of it has been under a dark version of Fidelius for more than eight centuries. Any unfortunate who isn’t escorted by one who is in on the secret will find themselves either right back at the entrance… or hopelessly lost with many hungry beasts mysteriously attracted to them .”

“Vicious.”

“Like you don’t approve.” Severus rebutted.

“I didn’t say that I didn’t. There’s something to be said about efficiency, that’s what we kept in mind when we designed our pranks.” Sirius grin was somewhat feral, his grey eyes flashing to an eerily yellow. Severus refused to let his resulting shiver travel further than halfway up his spine.

“Fine, we’ll move there, but only because of the convenience of getting the Wolfsbane. I’m guessing you will be cleaning it out of all dark artifacts?” Sirius asked, he could put off the move for a few more weeks. By becoming Lord Black, it would now only take a few drops of Sirius’s blood and his will for the manor to be brought out of stasis. He would have to give a vial of blood to Regulus, so the pair of Slytherins could enter the property and adjust the wards around it.

The name of the property was Cù Bubh Manor, meaning Black Dog.

Sirius wondered how arrogant and prideful his ancestors must have been to name so many of their land holdings with hints to their darkest secrets.

Honestly, the Black line was far more arrogant than the Malfoy’s.

“After we finish packing up the ones here, yes.” Regulus agreed sensing that the conversation was reaching its conclusion. He didn’t want it to, he’d rather continue putting it off and enjoy speaking with his brother for hours or days more without care of what the morning or future might bring. They couldn’t afford to, Regulus knew this even though it made his magic sigh with melancholy to separate from what was left of his immediate family.

“How is your occlumency , Black?” Severus asked suddenly.

Like most dark children, Sirius had been taught occlumency from a young age. With Dumbledore being a master Legilimens , Sirius was grateful for all of those trying and annoying lessons from his youth. It was how the eldest Black had been able to keep suspicion off himself and keep the secrets of his dark forefathers. Occlumency was also a way for one to bypass Veritaserum. Sirius realized where Severus was going with the question.

“Pretty damn good if I say so myself after so many years of Dumbledore’s probing.”

“We’ll see about that.”

That was the only warning that Sirius received before Severus locked eyes with him and began his silent, but ruthless mental assault.

Sirius had been surprised, he would have never suspected that Prince was a skilled Legilimens . To have not been caught as a spy by Voldemort, Sirius knew that Severus had to be a master Occlumens as well.

The Slytherin struck into Sirius’ mind like he was stabbing a sword between the other’s eyes. Sirius hissed in pain, but quickly threw up a barrier between his thoughts and Severus. The image that Severus found himself in was a large dark forest. One that was similar to that of the Forbidden Forest of Hogwarts. Shadows and whispered sounds of beasts with too many legs, snorts, slide of scales, and rustles in the brush echoed the illusion all the more. Severus knew that Black had spent an incredible amount of time in the Forbidden Forest during his time at Hogwarts, running through the dangerous landscape with a werewolf and a pack of mismatched animal companions. After the events in Fifth year, Severus had quickly put the pieces together in regards to the Marauders, their nicknames, and the fact that they held no fear towards the werewolf even though it was the night of the full moon.

There were numerous places for Sirius to hide his thoughts and memories in such a vast and confusing landscape. They could be sequestered away inside of acorns scattered both in the trees and the ground. Locked behind the thick bark of trees that could possibly take a swing at you with their branches. Hidden in the burrows of mice or other animals. Perhaps they were disguised as pebbles in a trickling stream.

Severus tried many places and methods from chopping down trees in the mind forest, breaking open small nuts, and killing some of the animals that skittered by.

Satisfied with Sirius’ mental defenses, Severus withdrew.

“Your level of occlumency should be sufficient, even under truth serum you should be able to keep yourself from spilling our secrets.”

Sirius was left gasping and a small trail of blood was making its way down from his nose. His glare was furious but he was too exhausted to throw himself at Severus. Wiping the blood away with his sleeve, much to the disgust of Severus, he noticed that Regulus was now holding Harry, though the child and youngest Black seemed unsure of what to make of each other. It didn’t help that Regulus was holding the toddler under the armpits and keeping him as far away as possible from himself.

Regulus seemed to believe that the Potter would either spontaneously combust or vomit on him with the smallest provocation.

The latter, Sirius knew from personal experience, was more plausible.

Harry kicked his onesie covered feet in the air looking as contemplative as a one year old could. Before Harry could decide if he was going to scream or not, Sirius took him back from Regulus, grumbling.

“Fuck, it’s like you’ve never held a baby before.”

“He has, but he’s even worse with Draco.” Severus groused, remembering how Narcissa had recently banned Regulus from ever holding her child after discovering that the youngest Black had started to hold him upside down in panic when the baby had started to cry.

“I don’t want to hold something whose neck will break if I move wrong! I definitely don’t want to be held responsible for accidentally dropping the savior of the wizarding world!”  

“We get it, you’re supposed to be the only baby around. Dear baby brother Reggie.” Sirius teased as Harry wriggled himself to have his head tucked under his godfather’s chin, yawning loudly and letting out a tiny whimper of exhaustion.

“Young Master, needs sleeps, he does.” Kreacher warbled out, bulbous eyes watching the babe like a protective hawk.

“He’s exhausted.” Severus observed, by now it was reaching two in the morning and after crying twice, he was sure that one more similar incident would probably traumatize the infant.

“Let’s go to the ritual room, we’ll induct Sirius into the Luravit Fidelius and then finish packing everything up. By the time we are finished even if Aurors bash their way in here they won’t find a crumble of evidence of dark magic.” Regulus hopped to his feet, waiting only a moment before starting over to one of the walls of the parlor. Taking a small knife from his pocket, Regulus made a thin slice across his palm before setting it against the unassuming patch of wallpaper. The surface shuddered before groaning as it folded in upon itself to create a doorway with a spiraling stone staircase stretching downwards. A flick of Regulus’ wand had the torches along it sputtering into life.

XX

Kreacher remained at the top of the stairs, wringing his knobby hands. No house elf was allowed to go below, no matter how trusted. The atmosphere that existed down there had been known to make an elf act almost drunk.

The trek was made in silence, the journey taking them deep underneath Grimmuald Place, but the tunnel remained pleasantly warm with enchantments left by ancient Blacks. The staircase bottomed out into a great circular chamber where arched doorways were set equal distances apart from each other and Sirius knew that they lead through short tunnels to more rooms used from rituals, a dueling chamber, a room for experimenting with spells, and a potions’ laboratory.

It was a similar set up found in many other ancient homes of dark families. It was far safer to practice deep within the earth far away from prying eyes.

The air down here seemed to buzz with residual magic and now as the head of the family, Sirius knew that the leftover magic would jump to fulfill his whims. This store of magic was a sort of failsafe, if it seemed that the manor was about to be taken or their secrets revealed, then with a certain spell and a sacrifice of Black blood the manor would light up like muggle new year’s. All evidence and occupants caught inside of the house when it went would be obliterated.

Sirius hoped that he would never have to do it.

The main chamber seemed to fit Regulus’ needs just fine as he led the way over to a large table and pulled what looked to be an old, but very large scroll. The parchment creaked and groaned in protest as it was unrolled, telling its age and its edges constantly fluttered like it was alive. Regulus held the edges down firmly until the scroll seemed to give up the fight to return to its usual shape.

As Sirius moved closer, keeping the now lightly snoozing Harry tucked close to his chest with his uninjured left arm, he could at last make out what was scrawled on it.

XX

A map, a very large and detailed map from the looks of it. It was of the Caledonian Forest, appearing much larger than it should be according to modern maps. Squinting in the dim torchlight, Sirius could make out several familiar family names scattered across the forest in loopy, elegant handwriting. Some of the names were animated to transform into the crest of the family before returning to simple letters. Those names were probably where family manors were hidden. His gaze roamed to the edge of the forest and saw the marker for Cù Bubh Manor, the title changing to an image of a black dog throwing its head back in a continuous howl. The closest home to the manor Sirius estimated to be well over a two-day hike if the traveler was moving on foot. For beasts and current broomsticks, it would still take a several hours to a day. The coven was both a comfortable distance away and close enough then.

“The charm work is a bit complicated, so Severus will be in charge of that, give me your hand and follow my instructions.”

Regulus’ held out his hand and smiled as his brother put his right in it unflinchingly. Using the knife, Regulus made a rather deep cut into the tip of Sirius’ right index finger and instructed him to trace along the entire border of the map. Sirius shivered as he repeated the words Regulus whispered, feeling the magic settling into his skin from the map and Severus as the part vampire swiped his wand in delicate patterns in the air.

“Secretum devotio est in sanguinem contego nidus. Coven nostri saeculi potentes. Luravit Fidelius.”

The words were Latin and translated loosely into a secret vow made in blood to protect the home and to insure the coven is forever strong. Sworn faithfulness. Sirius chanted these lines over and over while edging the parchment in his blood. He was certain that the ancient map had drank the blood of many others before him. This was certainly different from the lighter Fidelius .

The magic that was tying Sirius to the secret through the dark charm, Luravit Fidelius held an unmistakable promise of retribution if it was broken.

Dark magic was unique in the way that it could sense intentions. Only a person who was honest in their desire to keep the secret of this dark version of Fidelius would be accepted by the charm. If Sirius had any doubts of his loyalty, then he would be rejected by the spell before Severus finished his wand weaving. If Sirius ever tried to reveal the secret with the intention to cause harm to the coven, then the magic linking him to the charm would attack him. It could cause excruciating agony, his magical core being drained, or even death.

Given how ancient the map was, Sirius guessed that the price of trying to break the secret would be a swift death.

If only Sirius had thought to use this spell when the Potters went into hiding, the cowardly rat would have been dead before he could even have finished the thought of giving the Dark Lord their location. James would have never gone for it, Sirius knew, James would have recognized the use of blood and the way magic was linking to the core of a person as a dark practice.

Sirius couldn’t allow himself to be dragged into the ‘ what-if ’s, nothing could be done to change the past. Dark practitioners were more averse to messing with time than their counterparts. To mess with the natural march of time was seen as something worthy of instant damnation. The practice of true necromancy wasn’t one of bringing the dead back to life but moving some of the life force from one being and placing it in another. It was through this transfer that wounds could be healed, the aches in joints eased, and disease expelled if potions weren’t enough.

Witches and wizards of the coven saw everything existing in a circle. There was no true beginning or ending, but all flowed in one direction. Magic, seasons, life: they all moved in a cycle. This was the reason why so many dark spells required graceful twirls, figure eights, and circular movements of the wand or fingers.

Just the sight of a time turner would make some dark witches feel faint.

Sirius let Regulus guide his still bleeding finger to circle around the many names hidden inside of the dark shifting mass that was the forest. To reach some of them, Sirius had to lean forward over the table. Absorbed in his task, Sirius was startled when a small hand smacked on to the map beside his own.

Harry had an expression of wonder on his face, trying to innocently copy his guardian. Unable to break his chant, Sirius simply had to shift Harry further up his shoulder to keep him away from the dark artifact. The lad babbled softly in protest only to settle down just as quickly as he listened to the rhythmical rumbles of his godfather.

A few more bloody circles later and Sirius finished his part with letting three more drops of blood to fall on each corner of the map. As the last of the liquid sunk into the greedy parchment, Severus pressed the tip of his wand to the center of the map.

The spell was complete, and Sirius shuddered as his mind was filled with images of gnarled and overgrown trails that wound their way through thickets and trees. Hundreds of carefully concealed paths, hidden groves, and impressive structures both manmade and by nature herself were being imprinted into his memory.

It only took a moment for the vast supply of knowledge to be transferred into him, but Sirius was left shaky on his feet as a result nonetheless. A hand on his arm steadied him and Sirius was surprised to find the pale hand gripping him was not that of his sibling but Severus.

Grey orbs met dark murky red, the smell of so much blood in the air and the presence of ancient magic seemed to have drawn out Severus’ creature side. Briefly Sirius felt fear for both himself and Harry, who had gone back to sleep on his shoulder, but his body refused to obey any of his orders to move. He couldn’t break his gaze away from the potioneer’s. Shivers were starting to twitch across Sirius’ skin, muscles trying instinctively to flee from the predator bearing down on him.

Fight or flight. The Grim inside of Sirius was growling worriedly, his own eyes turning a gleaming yellow to show the beast was ready to push the Black one way or the other.

Then, Severus blinked.

Eyes once more inky pools, but it was with visible effort that Severus forced himself to release his grip on the other Lord.

Severus didn’t immediately retreat. No, he took a calm, measured step backwards to put distance between them. It was an action that spoke volumes: that Severus had complete control over himself, he wasn’t afraid or ashamed of his heritage, and that he was trusting Sirius to not attack him in retaliation or fear.

Sirius took a breath as the blood rushing through his veins started to slow back down. Safe, they were all safe. The parchment crinkled as Regulus carefully rolled the map back up and returned it to a pouch under his robe. The youngest Black led the way back up the staircase and Kreacher was delighted to see them all emerge. As the wall sealed behind them, Severus spoke.

“You should put the boy to sleep.”

“Yeah, pup’s pretty much had it for the night. I’ll set him in the crib and come back down to help with the packing.” Sirius headed up to his room quickly. There was a sense of urgency that wouldn’t leave Sirius after seeing the images inside the Caledonian Forest. It cemented the reality that a great change was being made right before his very eyes. Events had now spiraled to the point of no return for the coven.

After tonight the magical world, at least that of England, was going to be beyond the point of fracturing. No, it was going to be completely broken in two.


If you want to know what Regulus' Grim form looks like:

 

Chapter Text

After tonight the magical world, at least that of England, was going to be beyond the point of fracturing. No, it was going to be completely broken in two.

Sirius wondered how he had come to be in the very middle of the conflict between these two opposing forces, as he gently lowered Harry into his crib and tucked the soft blue blanket around him.

“What was it that mother said before she died? ‘ Forgive me, my son, I should have known better than to name you Sirius. No Black of that name has lived a peaceful life. My first born, whom I thought might be my only, when I saw you for the first time… I truly thought you were glowing. So I named you for the brightest star in the north sky. But with such a shine, you would be incapable of hiding yourself from allies and foe alike.’ Yeah, thanks for that, you old bat.” Sirius muttered to himself, while leaning heavily on the crib.

“Wouldn’t bitch be the more appropriate term?”

Sirius jerked his head up to watch the lithe, dark form slide into the room.

“Prince.”

“You called me Severus before,” The man walked closer, standing on the other side of the crib with a contemplative look upon his face. “If you so wish, I do not mind if you continue to call me such. We are not enemies any longer, are we, Sirius?”

“No I suppose not, Severus. Merry met.”

“Merry met. So as your… not enemy, should I be concerned that you have taken to talking to yourself?”

“Oh sod off, I’ve had a very long night. Saying it aloud just helps.” Sirius snapped back, keeping his voice soft with a sleeping child between them.

“If you say so,” Severus answered softly, he slowly reached a hand downwards into the crib. One eye staying on Sirius to see if the other would protest. Severus saw him tense, but other than that he did nothing to stop him. Gently he brushed the dark bangs from Harry’s forehead, looking at the curse scar that had once been hidden from view.

“I do not understand how he survived.”

“Neither do I.” Sirius admitted. Whatever had been done, he wished that it had extended to the rest of the Potters.  

“He will be the target of many things, made famous for something that I doubt he will have any memory of.” Severus drew his hand away with a small shake of his head, he hoped that the child would not grow up arrogant, hateful, or narrow minded. The next time that Severus and Harry met, he had a feeling that it would not be under good circumstances. No, it would be far better if their paths never crossed again. Lily’s child should be given as much of the life she wanted for him as possible. Dark magic wasn’t evil and neither was the coven, however, their lifestyle probably left a lot to be desired in the eyes of the light.

“It’d be a blessing if he doesn’t remember that night.” Sirius answered, he was toeing the line of their mutual ceasefire, but his curiosity was strong. “Severus, about your family?”

“My parents are both dead and have been so for years, if that is the information you’re after. It happened during my fourth year, that abusive, drunken bastard, Tobias Snape, killed my mother when he discovered that she was more than a disgusting unnatural witch . Then he turned the gun on himself, first good decision he’s made in his worthless life. If he hadn’t…” Severus’ expression was thunderous, Sirius thought that the muggle’s fate would have been far more messy if Severus had gotten his hands on him.

“More than...“ Sirius’ eyes widened as the pieces fell into place, “She had been feeding off of him.”

Eileen Prince had come from a pureblood, dark family. While the Princes were not part of the Sacred Twenty-Eight their history was long and well documented. With no muggles in their lineage before Tobias, there would have been no doubts that Eileen would express her family’s creature’s inheritance.

It was believed that muggle blood weakens the stability of magic and could smother the expression of ancestral creature traits. The term blood traitor was best explained using a certain redhead family as an example. The Weasleys, as part of the Sacred Twenty-Eight, might have had creature blood at one point. However for years the Weasleys claimed with relish that they had married with many interesting muggles to protest their inclusion to the list of families with so pronounced pureblood ideology. A declaration which was seen by the coven as them shitting on their ancestry, a betrayal to the magic in their blood. By now, year 1981, Arthur and Molly Weasley had become major figureheads for the light for their actions in the war and as members of the Order of the Phoenix.

“She didn’t have any other option for a supply of blood living in a muggle neighborhood and being cut off from her family for her choice of marrying that monster. She was too afraid and ashamed to show her face again in the magical community. His muggle blood, it made her become ever weaker and sloppier in her actions.” There were only two potions that his mother regularly produced in their little hovel in Spinner’s End, blood replenishing potion and a sleeping draught.

Funny how it was the muggle Tobias who was the undisputed monster in the tale despite the fact that the victim was a part vampire that was feeding from her husband as he slept. Then again, there was always two sides of a story and to see all of it, one needed more than a single candle of knowledge.

Most people were focused on seeing what the light illuminated and paid no attention to the shadows that were cast as a result. Without the darkness, the complete picture could not be seen.

“I moved in with Lucius after their deaths, another point of contention between Lily and I. The Dark Lord had been in contact with Abraxas for quite a while, and he had seemed to genuinely want to help Lucius and I when he had time. He was charming with his words, unfortunately we all fell for his pretty promises when our anger at the injustices we had suffered were at their highest.” Severus sighed softly as he remembered all the times that he had fought with the redhead about his change in residence. Of course, Potter had filled her head by then about all the foulness of the aristocratic family. It was a well circulated rumor that Abraxas Malfoy had poisoned the former Minister of Magic.

Whether it was true or not, Severus never knew nor asked.

Regardless, the actions of Charles Potter were cowardly, vicious, and shameful.

Charles Potter had attacked Lucius' father from behind in the middle of the night. To attack anyone when their back was turned was seen as the lowest form of treachery. Not only that, but the curse that Abraxas was struck with was one that slowly and painfully whittled away at the victim until they eventually succumbed. If Abraxas had gone public about the attack, then Charles would have been sent to Azkaban. However, the head of the Malfoy family never did. Abraxas knew that he would die because of the curse and there was no known counter curse or cure to stop its progression. However, despite the great slight he had been dealt by the Auror, Abraxas wanted to ensure that whatever bit of the old families that remained stayed as intact as possible. Abraxas was also a father and as such didn’t want any child to grow up without their parent. Even if his own son was now sentenced to such a fate since Lucius’ mother had passed away in childbirth.

Abraxas Malfoy passed away, the cause being falsely labeled as Dragon Pox as requested in his wil, during Severus’ fourth year and Lucius’ first year out of Hogwarts. The young lord had opened his now painfully empty home to his fellow orphan, though the invitation had been given in his typical greater than thou fashion. The two had taken comfort in each other and it was during that time under Lucius’ wing that Severus truly learned what it meant to be a dark wizard. The two had eventually become close like brothers and when Severus returned to Hogwarts many of the other Slytherins had become fonder towards him with his new mannerisms. The fact that Narcissa, Lucius’ fiancé and a brilliant witch, was more than eager to discuss potions with the halfblood and would hex anyone that gave Severus any grief also helped.

Lily hadn’t been able to see any of this taking place behind the cold, thick stone walls of the dungeons. She only saw the front that the Slytherins put on to protect themselves. No, she wasn’t completely to blame for believing the tales of horror that took place in the darkest house of Hogwarts. Not when so much of it was shreds of truth and the green and silver clad students did nothing to disprove the whispers.

The Potters definitely had a mean streak and a tendency to lash out, Severus hoped that Harry would not follow his predecessor’s trend towards bullying others.

Severus found himself wishing Sirius all the luck in the world.

“I’m sorry.” Sirius didn’t say what specifically he was apologizing for, it could have been many things. His ruthless antagonism of Severus for so many years, the attempt on his life, joining James in mocking his pain when Lily rejected the potion genius’s apologies, the fact that he had to live such a difficult life… Maybe he was apologizing for all of it. It was only two words, but they carried an immeasurable weight as grey and black eyes met.

Severus finally nodded his head, accepting.

“The fallout of this night is going to be immense.” Severus murmured as he stepped away from the crib and started back towards the door not checking to see if Sirius was trailing behind him. He knew that he was.

“Yup, may the circle remain unbroken.”

“May the circle remain unbroken.” The part vampire echoed, before scowling with a hiss. “Would you please change your shirt? The smell of blood is getting on my nerves.”

“Can’t, on a time limit remember?” Sirius chortled, slipping past Severus on the stairs before he could take a swipe at him. Neither man had noticed the small red stain on the slumbering child’s hand as they hurried to remove all evidence of dark magic in just one of the ancestral homes of Black.

 

 

June 21 st , 1991

XX

Sirius sighed into his very large mug of black coffee, as he was known to do so early in the morning. Despite being a grown man, he still very much did not like the mornings. Given the choice he would sleep until well into the afternoon and stay up until the sunrise.

Unfortunately, his live-in werewolf alarm clock didn’t allow for that.

As usual, Remus was sitting in the chair to Sirius’ right with a cup of tea and reading the Daily Prophet with his brows pinched as he read through the usual garbage that the politicians were arguing about. Living with one of the members of the Wizengamot meant that it was unlikely for Remus to find anything new in the rag, but it did come without Sirius’ loud whining and fits about stuffy old wizards that had dust inside of their heads instead of brains. Remus had to suffer through more than one conversation dealing with Sirius’ claims that one member or other farted out dust every meeting.

Still, Remus wouldn’t trade living in Cù Bubh Manor for anything in the world. It had been a shock when he first learned the truth about his friend’s magic and leanings. However, after all the other blows Remus had suffered in such a short time with the betrayal of Peter and the loss of the Potters, he was too emotionally exhausted to react with anger or violence. It also helped that many of the werewolves that he had become close to over his time working as a spy for the Order were of the darker shade of magic. Those people were not any more vicious than any normal witch or wizard.

It was also incredibly difficult to remain angry with Sirius when he had given him the infamous puppy-dog eyes in his Animagus form. No, that was incorrect. It was Sirius’ ancestral Grim form. The idea that a Grim could look both pathetic and adorable was a very perplexing conundrum for Remus.

For the past decade, Sirius and Remus had watched together how the wizarding world changed. Severus had been right, the fallout of almost every dark wizard and witch disappearing from England was massive. What was surprising, was how far reaching the effects were.

Unfortunately, none of them were good for those of the dark.

Across Europe many magical governments began adopting similar policies against dark practitioners after seeing the horrors wrought by both Grindelwald and Lord Voldemort. The fact that the coven of England had given the Ministry of Magic most of what it wanted encouraged other countries to further the hunting and arrests of suspected members of shadowy beliefs. Creatures and hybrids suffered even harsher consequences, they found themselves further ostracized, and poaching was pushing many magical creatures towards either slavery or extinction.

Beings and creatures that were once seen as allies, such as merfolk and Veela, found themselves being captured for fates that might seem worse than death as they were put on display for the wealthy, experimented on, or made into servants.

Sirius fought in opposition of the legislations against creatures, but he was always outvoted, thankfully his famous temper was doused by the fact that he had a child waiting back home for him that would be lost if Sirius was not careful with his words and battles. When Sirius Black and Harry Potter had finally reemerged, many people were not pleased with the guardianship of the hero of the wizarding world. The Ministry had made multiple attempts to oust Sirius as a dark wizard during the first few months of his reentry to society. Raids by Aurors on the many known Black estates were made, but no evidence was found that could be used against the new Lord Black. Sirius had even given a tour and held a few dinner parties at Cù Bubh Manor to show he had nothing to hide.

No one suspected how close they actually were to the hiding place of the coven with the shadows that were the tall pines and firs of Caledonian Forest sitting at the northern edge of the property.

Dumbledore going to the papers and the media with stories of how Sirius had shown only bravery and dedication to the cause of the light during the war gained the favor of many. The other members of the Order of the Phoenix revealing themselves and their own stories about Sirius only cemented the public’s view of the first light Black.

It soon seemed that everyone and their aunt had a story to tell about Sirius and the Potters. All of them good and brave things. Sirius had mastered the art of looking haggard and heartbroken when the flashes of cameras went off, though the expression of love and hope when he was pictured with Harry was never faked.

After the first three years of Sirius’ perfect behavior and charming persona, the Ministry finally seemed to give up their smear campaign against him. Remus had thankfully escaped the notice of the media for the most part despite it being a well-known fact that he was living with Sirius and Harry in the manor. For once, Remus sickly, frail appearance and squeaky-clean record made him boring for the gossipers.

With the monthly dose of the ever improving Wolfsbane potion, delivered by Kreacher, Remus had started to change rather quickly. The transformations were no longer ravaging his body so violently and the bouts of moon sickness, which he usually suffered just before and after the full moon, had become rarer and rarer. The werewolf had finally been able to put on and keep weight on, letting him finally fill out. Remus’ stamina and immunity to illnesses had also improved. With his role being that of a spy, the only people that were aware that Remus was a member of the Order of the Phoenix or a werewolf were the Marauders, Lily, and Dumbledore.  

Speaking of the rat, Peter Pettigrew, had yet to be found. The trace on his wand had been reactivated because of the extremity of his crimes and the calls of the masses for any measure to be taken if it meant bringing the secret Deatheater to justice. If Pettigrew ever tried to use his wand again, the Ministry would be alerted immediately and Aurors would be sent out to wherever the signal had come from. For the past decade though, no sign had been given that Pettigrew was active magically. However, if the Animagus had managed to steal and use a different wand there would be no way of knowing. He could also be surviving in his rat form like the sniveling coward that he was.

Sirius and Remus both wished that they could have joined the hunt for the traitor, but their focus had remained on raising Harry. Both hoped that the ex-Marauder would suffer greatly before he was made to pay his dues. It made Remus anxious to have someone out there that was proven untrustworthy running around with the knowledge of his furry little problem.

Dumbledore had promised his protection and support if the truth was ever revealed, which eased some of the weight off Remus’ mind.

Remus and the headmaster had reentered Sirius’ life on the same day. The two had been in close contact since they had received Sirius’ letters the night of the Dark Lord’s destruction. Both had been hoping that Sirius would contact one of them and would pass the message along as soon as he did. When they were given a short message that only contained the name of a place four weeks later, neither man hesitated to apparate there immediately. Sirius had met them at the edge of the wards that surrounded Cù Bubh Manor, Harry held securely to his chest.

At the sight of Remus, Harry had opened his arms eagerly and called out for his ‘Onny. The werewolf had lost all sense of composure at that moment and broke down in tears. Sirius had made the wards admit the two wizards and didn’t hesitate to hand his godson to Remus. It was a show of unbelievable trust and both Remus and Dumbledore recognized that instantly. The formerly missing man was certain that nothing he said or did would prompt Remus to run away with Harry.

While Dumbledore was relieved to see Harry safe and happy, the first thing he said to Sirius was a very different question.

“Are the children safe, my boy?”

“They are, they’ll be well taken care of too.”  Sirius had observed the worn, exhausted expression on the old wizard’s face and the fact that his eyes had lost their customary twinkle until he heard Sirius’ answer. It warmed his heart to realize that Albus Dumbledore truly cared about the dark children that had disappeared from Hogwarts. Albus hadn’t asked where the children had gone, didn’t demand that they be returned or for him to see them himself. He simply accepted Sirius’ word for the truth and left it at that.

As the men made their way up the winding road towards the manor, Dumbledore said the words that had been a balm to the doubt that had festered in him since that night.

“You made the right decision at Godric’s Hollow, Sirius. I’m very proud of you.”

Not all Deatheaters and dark practitioners had gone quietly into the night. While Sirius and Harry were still hiding, the Lestranges and Barty Crouch Jr. had attacked the Longbottoms and left them in a horrid state. Death would have been a far kinder fate, but if there was one thing that Bellatrix Lestrange Nee Black was not, it was kind. With his parents tortured to the point of insanity, Neville had been added to the long list of children that had been made into orphans by the war. The Deatheaters had been caught and sent to Azkaban, though their remorseless humor at their sentencing further fanned the resentment of the public against the missing dark community.

Augusta Longbottom had taken over the raising of her grandson and Sirius had reached out to her, hoping to secure a friend for Harry that was his own age.

Rightly, the Lord Black and Lady Longbottom were wary in the beginning, but seeing how instantly taken the children were with each other, their reservations were alleviated. Truly the two lads seemed to heal each other, Harry slowly dragging Neville out of his shyness and prompting his round cheeks to show a smile more often. Neville had performed accidental magic when he was eight to stop Harry from tripping and smacking his head against a chair.

The chubby boy had reached out a hand with a cry of ‘No!’ and the chair had shot out of the way of Harry’s fall.

Both Sirius and Augusta had been shocked by the display, the woman had been certain that her grandson was fated to be a disgraceful squib. Worries dispelled, she became more affectionate with the child that she knew would be able to take an active role in the society he was born into. Sirius was annoyed by Augusta’s sudden hypocritical change of heart, but Remus reminded him to hold his tongue since in the end, Neville would be happier than he was if he hadn’t finally shown his magic.  

Harry had shown magic at an incredibly young age; his first display of accidental magic had been when Lily and James were still alive and continued in Sirius’ care. It was both incredible and a nuisance for the household. All of the water suddenly lifting up from the tub and soaking the person who was attempting to give Harry a bath, toys flying across the room, fires starting when the boy sneezed, and many other events kept Sirius, Remus, and the house elves on their toes to care for the last of the Potter line.

Still, Remus and Sirius felt they had been rather successful in their raising of Harry so far. There had been plenty of bumps in the road, but they had all survived mostly unscathed. Dumbledore had become a grandfather figure to Harry and offered help whenever asked. Minerva was also a regular guest in the house as she gushed over the vibrant little boy that was birthed from two of her favorite students. Molly and Arthur Weasley provided advice, and in Sirius’ opinion too much of it. However, his grumbles were quieted by the wonderful food that Molly always made. The red haired couple’s second youngest child was the same age as Harry and became the third member of Harry’s trio.

There were other prominent children that Harry had been introduced to over the years through Ministry functions or ‘play dates’, like Hannah Abbott, Cedric Diggory, Terry Boot, Anthony Goldstein, and others. However, Harry’s closest friends remained Ronald Weasley and Neville Longbottom.

Sirius wasn’t exactly pleased with all of Harry’s choices.

Ron was a kid with a good heart, but he was as prejudiced as his parents towards dark magic. Neither Sirius nor Remus had told Harry any fairy tales or stories about dark creatures or magic. Each time Harry went to the Weasleys or left the walls of Cù Bubh Manor, he was exposed to more and more propaganda against the dark.

Remus and Sirius worried that Harry would become yet another brainwashed member of the light who believed whatever he was told to.

Those worries were put to rest by the incident that took place when Harry was six years old.

It was supposed to be a simple visit to the Ministry of Magic, one that shouldn’t have taken more than an hour. Sirius had needed to pick up some documents for the next Wizengamot meeting. Remus was feeling under the weather because of the approaching full moon and Sirius didn’t want to put more stress on the werewolf by having him try to look after an active six year old by himself. No, during moon sickness, it was better to leave Remus alone with plenty of fluffy blankets, books, and huge mounds of chocolate in a quiet, dimly lit room.

XX

So, Sirius had taken Harry with him, however the scene they stumbled upon in the Atrium after they left the Ministry’s apparation chamber was shocking. A group of five green cladded wizards were dragging a struggling cloaked form between them. The writhing form was bound in both chains and ropes from the waist up. Sirius’ breath caught at the sight and he immediately picked Harry up, cradling him close to his chest. He felt sick. He knew from the smell of blood in the air and the magical aura that surrounded the victim, that they were not human.

Sirius recognized the uniforms that the rough wizards were wearing, a division force that had been created by the Ministry three years ago. Their title was Gatherers , but Sirius called them by a different name to show what they truly were. Poachers. This group would hunt and capture magical creatures in the name of research for the Ministry. However, those subjects quickly landed in auctions: whole or having their parts sold as potion ingredients. Nothing was safe from these beasts if their prey was not human for one hundred percent of their lifespan. The only magical creature that the Ministry would never touch were the Goblins, with their economy relying so heavily on the Goblin nation they were safe from the slaughter that was happening to other non-humans.

The temperature rising a few degrees and a glow slowly growing brighter around the struggling figure was the only warning that anyone received before the trapped form erupted in flames.

The chains were reduced to molten hot globs that were thrown about, causing many passing witches and wizards to shriek. Some, like Sirius, were quick and wise enough to throw up a shield charm, while others fled into the floo or halls. The fabric and ropes had been incinerated in an instant, leaving the figure uncovered and free.

A Veela, a royally pissed off one too.

The feminine figure was tall and thin, a long mane formerly made of hair was now made of bright flame that licked up towards the ceiling. Her arms had disappeared, instead they were replaced with huge, white feathered wings. Her entire form glowed with heat that her beating wings spread about the chamber as she tried to regain her bearings. Her eyes were wide with fright and fury as she looked for a way to escape.

The biggest hallway was the one standing behind Sirius, the Apparation room had an open ceiling as well that she could use as a means to get out. Grimacing as he forced his vocal cords to change, but nothing else Sirius let out a short bark. Hiding the fact that the sound came from him by covering his face with his arm like he was trying to shield Harry further.

The unnatural sound had gotten the Veela’s attention and Sirius met her gaze unflinchingly. He didn’t know what language the creature spoke, she could have come from anywhere. However, certain signs were universal and so he tilted his head just slightly, while darting his eyes from her to down the hall he was in front of. Sirius couldn’t exaggerate his motive or movements too much, not with so many witnesses around him.

Thankfully, she seemed to understand, her wings lifted her into the air and she shot forward. Briefly, Sirius dared to hope that she would make it.

Then it all went wrong.

Incarcerous!” One of the gatherers had managed to recover enough to get back to his feet and fire off the spell. From the tip of the wizard’s wand shot forth a thick rope, one end wrapping tight around the Veela’s neck and the other remaining attached to the wand to keep the magical creature from getting further.

That spell alone would not have been so detrimental, but only a second after that word left the gatherer’s mouth, another of his group had sent another spell.

“Deprimo!” The spell placed immense downward pressure on its target, in this case the Veela.

Sirius and Harry were unfortunately given a front row seat to the unnatural angle the woman’s head turned as her body was pulled in two very different directions.  

The sound of bones snapping echoed in the Atrium and the gatherer in charge of the Incarcerous spell immediately cancelled it… It wasn’t necessary any longer. Not with how the Veela’s head was now laying unnaturally limp against one of her shoulders, her neck had been savaged by the rough texture of the conjured rope. Crimson blood leaked lazily from the new wound and the numerous small ones that she had suffered from her earlier capture.

Dead.

She was dead.

Her body dropped to the floor only a few feet before the pair with a dull, meaty thump. Feathers rapidly became drenched in red as the puddle grew steadily larger.

For a moment, Sirius was too stunned by the scene to move. Memories of his own companions’ corpses lying unmoving upon the ground, never to rise again flashed across his mind. The war was over, death was something that he should not have to witness once more. The Veela was not defenseless, but she was hunted and brutalized for just existing. One could not choose what world they were born into or as what. It wasn’t fair, not for creatures and not for the ones born dark. Remus didn’t choose to be changed into a werewolf, but his fate would not be different from that of the Veela before him if it was known by the Ministry.

“Padfoot, why isn’t the pretty lady moving?”

The small voice jerked both Sirius and the rest of the Atrium out of their shock. Sirius looked down at the child in his arms and felt sick. Harry had seen at least his mother’s murder, but being as young as he was, Harry hadn’t given any sign that he remembered it. This though, this was something that Harry would remember and eventually understand. What a brutal and cruel way to be introduced to the concept of death.

Licking his lips, Sirius tried to think of what to say, how do you explain the horridness of racism to a very young child?

“Because… she’s hurt.”

Big green eyes turned from the corpse to the group of green cloaked wizards that were edging slowly closer. Small brows furrowed as understanding slowly came to Harry, one small hand reaching forward to point a finger towards the gatherers.

“Why did they hurt her? Did she do something wrong?”

Sirius looked upon the gatherers with such fury that the men took a few steps back in fear. It was obvious that they now recognized who stood before them: Lord Black and the Boy-Who-Lived. The leader was easy to pick out because of the numerous badges and medals he had been gifted by the Ministry for past successful hunts . Now though, the man looked like he was ready to piss himself as Sirius took one slow step towards him.

“Yes, gentlemen, if it is appropriate to even call you such. Did she do anything wrong ?” His voice was measured, he wasn’t going to scream and rage in front of Harry and so many people. No, his slightly softer fury seemed to be doing the job just as well.

“Well, Lord Black, sir, it-“

“She, not it!”

The men flinched, and Harry picked up on his guardian’s anger, the child’s glare adding more pressure upon the killers’ shoulders as Sirius continued .

“No, there is no excuse for what you have just done! Veela have long been our allies, they have even served as the mascots for quidditch teams in France for decades and there hasn’t been an unprompted attack by a Veela for hundreds of years. Now answer me this, murderer, what were your plans for her.”

“I think I can answer that.” A wavering voice interrupted any answer that could have stumbled out, a slightly hunched figure, shriveled with age, moved to stand by Sirius’ side. The Black was surprised that he recognized the newcomer. Garrick Ollivander, the most well renowned wand maker in all of England and many other parts of the world. His silver, moon like eyes were full of sorrow as he gazed down at the broken figure lying before him. Sirius had received his own light magic wand from the man as many other dark wizards and witches had before. He was a kind, quirky man whose eyes seemed to look right into one’s soul. Sirius had been uncomfortable the first time he had met the wizen man, certain that he was able to see right through to the darkness inside of him. But, Ollivander had only smiled and started to pull several long boxes from his stacks.

The man from the shop and the one before Sirius now were far different, this Ollivander was serious and his eyes focused on the pitiful sight before him. “I told the Ministry many times before, I will NOT be making wands with materials unwillingly given. It is an insult to both the creature it was taken from, the wand, and the maker. Veela hair and feathers may be common wand cores. But, no, no, they were never meant to be stolen."

The gatherers were shuffling nervously now, flinching as a few bright flashes came from one side of the room. Cameras, of course there were reporters hanging around the Atrium, sniffing about for any juicy story to shove into the next issue. Sirius forced himself not to look in the direction of the whispers that were growing thunderous as the people realized that the physical danger had passed. It took more effort than Sirius thought to force his lip to not curl into a sneer.

“That was very…. Enlightening. Master Ollivander, I commend you on keeping so honorable in your craft. Someday, I really hope you might come to my manor for tea. I’m sure Harry would love to see some examples of your craft, you must have some great tales.” Sirius took a slow breath as Harry gave a small wave towards the wandmaker, which the man returned with a watery smile.

“Sadly, that won’t be today, for it seems my schedule has suddenly been filled with the task of explaining death, murder, and hatred to my godson. So, you’ll have to excuse me.”

Taking one last pitying look at the corpse of the once beautiful creature he turned on his heel and started down the hall back towards the apparation chamber. To hell with the documents, they could be sent by owl, he wasn’t going to allow either himself or Harry to remain here any longer.

Ollivander’s voice called back to him, surprising Sirius. “I’ll look forward to it, Lord Black. Perhaps Harry would also like to meet my peacock, a beautiful creature, albino, ya know?”

Those words explained so much and also alleviated some of the mystery around the wandmaker who was so in tune with the magic of others, yet never reported any of the dark children that went through his shop.

XX

Chapter Text

Before we begin, I would like to suggest the readers listen to these two songs as they set the mood and the song is sung in this chapter with lyrics spliced and changed slightly to fit the story:

 English Version English translation of Faroese Language

Also what Draco will be doing is similar to this Kulning Ancient Swedish Herding Call

June 21 st , 1991 Continued

Sirius sighed once more into his coffee, watching from the corner of his eyes as Remus’ left eye gave a twitch. He was wearing the werewolf down, soon the other would have no choice but to acknowledge Sirius’ attempts for attention. Remus usually had a rule for ignoring Sirius so early in the morning, knowing since their school days that the only thing that the dark wizard would do within the first two hours that he had been awake was bitch and moan about different trivial matters.

Another drawn-out sigh that pitched higher towards the end into an inhuman whine and Remus finally set his paper down. Finally giving Sirius his full, undivided attention.

“Yes, Padfoot? Usually you give up on interrupting me after the third sigh, that was the sixth. What’s wrong today ?”

Sirius hid his grin behind his mug before speaking, tone innocent though he was anything but. Sirius loved to complain.  

“Oh, it’s nothing much. You don’t need to concern yourself over it, not like it’s the most important day of the summer or anything.”

Brows furrowed in confusion, Remus racked his brain for what could be so significant about today. When he didn’t immediately find a reason, he knew that it had to be something related to dark beliefs and practices. Despite the fact that the two had been living together for a decade now and Sirius had begun to hesitantly teach Remus about the truth of his secretive culture, there was still much that Remus didn’t know about his… much more than friend.

The two’s relationship had blossomed naturally over the years, they had always been incredibly close, but now they had no secrets holding them back. The walls and mask that Sirius had constructed to keep himself safe from discovery were gone and with Remus’ ever improving relationship with Moony, the werewolf felt that he wouldn’t he a threat to the person he wanted to be with romantically. Moony had already seen Padfoot as a pack member and he had proven through their wrestling on many full moon nights to be strong: a worthy mate.

The wizarding community was neutral on the subject of homosexuality, it was accepted, but not talked about very openly. Behind closed doors of the manor, Sirius and Remus were very affectionate, but out in public they made sure to keep a professional distance. Neither man wanted to give the gossip rags anything to drag the Black family down on and there were plenty of people who were looking for anything to fault Sirius over. Harry was perfectly content with the love his guardians shared, that didn’t mean that he didn’t pull a disgusted face when he caught them making out however. Then again, that was natural for children to do when they saw their parents kissing.

Giving up his search through his own memories for the answer Sirius was looking for, Remus asked.

“Well what’s so important about June 21st then? Obviously, you want me to know or you wouldn’t have pulled me from my reading.”

“The Daily Prophet is garbage anyway, Moony.”

“Not the point.”

“It’s the summer solstice, also known as midsummer’s night. It’s a very important event for us .” Sirius finally elaborated, before letting his forehead thunk loudly against the table with a groan, “And I have to go to this stupid fucking Ministry banquet tonight. I should be doing my rituals and celebrating the longest day of the year, but nooooo . I have to prance my fine ass around all these hoity-toity bureaucrats that are just itching to dip their fingers in the Black family fortune or sidle up next to the guardian of the hero of the wizarding world.”

“You do realize that you’re a politician too, right?” Remus reminded. His interest had been piqued by Sirius’ words, but he still felt the need to remind his lover that he was an adult with rather unfortunate responsibilities.

“I’m a thorn in the Wizengamot’s side is what you mean.” Sirius countered, smile wolfish as he remembered the horrified faces of the old farts when the papers had been delivered detailing the horrendous event that took place in the Atrium four years ago. Ollivander and Lord Black’s interviews had also been included in the articles along with pictures of little Harry being held by Sirius, looking down at the broken body of the Veela. Sadly, there had been little to come from it. The policy towards Veelas had been changed just slightly to outlaw exporting or importing them from other countries, but that was the most that had been done. The Veela who had died that day had been from France apparently and had been captured while trying to visit family members in England. She had no idea what horrors she was walking into.

The one good thing that had happened from the whole debacle, was it provided an opportunity for Sirius and Remus to explain the unjust racism towards creatures. Harry had asked his questions and his guardians had decided to be brutally honest about the poaching of beings that could think, feel, and love just as well as they could but were deemed dangerous and unworthy of the same respect as humans by many people.

Sirius had asked Harry to think about what they had told him for a week, after that time was up, he had asked his godson if he thought that the Ministry and those people were wrong.

The six-year-old had immediately said that the treatment of creatures was very wrong and he wished that it would be stopped. The words had warmed Sirius’ heart and brought tears to the werewolf’s eyes. That day, the men had decided to tell Harry the truth about Remus’ monthly illness. Harry had boldly promised that he would protect his guardian from the bad people . That statement really did make Remus cry and Sirius told his godson that they would both protect Moony together forever.

“Wait, you won’t be here tonight then?” Remus straightened up as his words dragged Sirius out of his memories, worry now marring the werewolf's features as he spoke, “I won’t be here either, I told you last week that I had made plans to meet some of the other wolves in muggle London.”

Ironically, the muggle world was the one place that some creatures could escape from the notice of the Ministry.

Sirius lifted his head from the table, grey eyes widening. “Can’t you cancel? Kreacher isn’t going to be here tonight either, it’s his day off.”

House elves didn’t have days off typically, no that was code for the house elf was with Regulus in the coven. The last time that Sirius and Regulus had met face to face was about seven years ago when Regulus had visited the manor for a very brief amount of time to include Remus to the secret of the map of the Caledonian Forest. They had made sure that Harry was out of the house that day with the Weasleys. They hadn’t wanted to explain why there was a lookalike to Padfoot visiting to a four-year-old. Letters were still exchanged between the brothers, but it was only once or twice a month. Usually they were delivered with the Wolfsbane potion, and Severus always requested that Remus wrote a report on its affects back to him as he continued to experiment with the formula.

Remus gave Sirius a look, “No, I can’t cancel, you know that these meetings are incredibly rare.”

“What about the Weasleys?” Sirius asked, wordlessly summoning a quill, parchment, and ink in preparation to send a letter to see if someone would be free at the last minute.

“They’re all on that trip to that dragon reservation where Charlie is going to do his internship.” Remus frowned, contemplating who they could ask.

“Madame Longbottom?”

“She’ll be at the banquet as well. No doubt that Augusta will be leaving Neville with that air headed brute Algie. I don’t want that man anywhere near Harry alone.” Sirius growled, Algie Longbottom was Neville’s great uncle and had been suspiciously cruel in his attempts to bring magic out of his great nephew.

“Right, Andromeda and Ted?”

“Ted works nights at Saint Mungo’s, Andromeda and Tonks will be practicing the rituals themselves tonight. Knowing Andromeda, she might try to include Harry into them.” Sirius grumbled, he loved his cousin truly, and she had become an aunt figure for Harry. However, there were many matters they didn’t agree on. There was no denying that Andromeda went against the coven’s beliefs by marrying the Muggleborn wizard Edward “Ted” Tonks, her actions had even gotten her disowned. That was one of the first things that Sirius rectified when he became Lord Black, reinstating her and her daughter into the Black family. Andromeda, despite her love being nontraditional, was dark. Andromeda still cared deeply for her youngest sister Narcissa and for Regulus, though they had chosen to cut off all contact with her for her choice in husband during the early years of her marriage. Bellatrix on the other hand, had lost her love long ago.

Sirius and Andromeda had always been very close growing up, both giving support to the other with the difficulties occurring inside of the family. Ted knew of his wife’s beliefs and her magic, surprisingly he still accepted and loved her. Andromeda had been incredibly honest and open about her heritage with Nymphadora, but also kept herself neutral in most matters between dark and light to the general public. She had given her daughter the choice to join her when she took part in dark practices when Nymphadora was old enough to understand the ‘consequences’ of her choices. Nymphadora followed some of the ideology of the dark but shied away from others.

While Sirius wanted to keep Harry as far from the dark as possible, while at the same time not painting it in a negative light Andromeda wanted Harry to make his own decision after experiencing it firsthand. While Sirius hated etiquette, he knew that it was important and had taught Harry how to hold himself respectfully as a future lord from a young age with his cousin’s help. During the lessons Sirius had caught Andromeda teaching Harry more than one way to greet, bow, and speak certain phrases. While the members of the light might not recognize the subtle differences, they screamed blatantly to those with dark upbringing. The position on the hand when shaking, wrist slightly turned out more than normal, this way it would be easy to summon a wand from an arm holster. The way one never bowed with feet together, so a quick escape could be made. Even the way Harry waved was telling of secrets, show both the front and back of the hand to show no hidden vial, weapon, or mark to reveal that here was no intent to bring harm to another.

When Sirius had confronted her about her actions, Andromeda had answered simply with, “It’s part of our history, how can you expect him not to grow up prejudiced if you keep treating this as something dirty and to be ashamed of?” It had stung a bit for Sirius because it had come from someone who had openly stood against their family in the matters of the heart. Still in the beginning Sirius and Andromeda had gotten into many screaming matches in the drawing room when the famous Black temper flared. Remus always tried his best to distract Harry from the reason of the two cousins’ arguments.

It left poor Sirius seriously conflicted after every quarrel and he had eventually given up trying to stop Andromeda from teaching Harry darker forms of etiquette as long as she didn’t right out reveal what they were. If Harry became suspicious of the differences, then Sirius would explain it away as it simply being the Black way of doing things.

“So, we have no one? What will we do with Harry?” Remus asked weakly, sagging into his chair.

“Do what with me?”

Came a voice from the door to the dining room. Harry strode closer to the table, his vibrant green eyes holding suspicion as they glanced around the room cautiously. He had learned from a very young age to do so, else he fall into some kind of prank his guardians had set up while he was sleeping. It was also how he learned not to be late for a meal. He had ended up with hot pink hair more times than he’d like to admit by the end of breakfast.

Harry had grown like a weed, while still shorter than the gangling Ron, he was a respectable height for his age if not a little tall. James had been a lean beanstalk whom was only shorter to Remus, Lily was also of slightly above average height, it was practically certain that Harry was going to shoot up once he hit puberty. His hair was messy as ever, the entire household, including the elves had given up trying to tame the mop of doom. Harry was all lean, wiry muscle and limbs from constantly wrestling with his godfather in both his human and dog form. If Sirius and Harry tried to team up on Remus, the werewolf would use his superior strength to simply throw his attackers onto the nearest bed, couch, or other soft surface… or if Sirius was being particularly persistent or annoying… a not so soft surface would greet Padfoot. The ravens never gave up though, it made Remus feel like he was living with two children instead of one.

However, the prank king of the manor was, by no contest, Remus. The werewolf’s pranks could be merciless, and the effects could last over a week. Which was one of the reasons why there was a scandal a few years ago because of Lord Black showing up to oversee a trial with lime green hair down to his waist and overly large ears with lobes that brushed his shoulders. After that incident, Sirius had taken to writing down his Wizengamot schedule in a planner that would be copied into Remus’ own so they would know when was an inappropriate time to prank.

Harry’s loyalty between his guardians switched weekly. As he grew older, Harry was gradually becoming bold enough to take a go at pranking without an older ally.

With no expected company that he knew of, Harry was dressed casually in a simple dark green, short sleeved button-up and a pair of dark shorts. Despite being up in the highlands of Scotland, it was still miserably hot in the middle of summer some days.

Strapped to Harry’s right arm was his well-worn holster which held his training wand. It was 12 and a quarter inches of English Oak with the core being the dragon heartstring of a Hungarian Horntail. Ollivander had said that the wand was quite whippy which matched the seeming unending amount of energy Harry had at seven years old. As a training wand, the amount of magic that would be filtered through the wood had a cap, meaning dangerous spells such as bombarda, confringo, defodio , and other dueling spells couldn’t be cast. Training wands weren’t uncommon for pureblood children of light or dark variety.

“Hey, pup.” Sirius greeted, reaching over to ruffle his godson’s hair once he sat down in the chair to his left. A plate full of delicious steaming food appeared before Harry and the youth happily tucked into it.

“Sirius and I were just discussing what to do with you this evening. We’re both going out tonight, Sirius has a Ministry function and I made a promise to meet up with some old friends that I can’t break.” Remus explained after noticing the cautious look in his cub’s eyes and how Harry had tried to discreetly check the color of his hair in the reflection of his glass of milk after his godfather touched him. He couldn’t help smirking softly, Harry certainly was a clever one.

“Everyone and their house elf seems to be busy tonight.” Sirius added, huffing while shoving a sausage in his mouth.

“Why can’t I just stay home by myself?”

Harry groaned at the looks he received.

“Come on, I turn eleven next month and I’ve already received my Hogwarts letter! Doesn’t that prove I’m worthy of at least a little trust?”

“Padfoot is in his early thirties and I still only trust him as far as I can throw him.” Remus answered, getting an appalled look from his lover.

“I’m hurt! This is all the thanks I get, suffering through the idiocy at the Ministry, providing food for this family?!” Sirius demanded dramatically, putting a hand over his heart like he had been stabbed.

“You don’t have to work, and you know it, you practically sneeze out galleons with the family fortune. Also, Wizengamot meetings only take place a few times a month.” Remus snipped back, getting a snicker from Harry.

“Well, now I know how you really feel.” Sirius sniffed. “And for the record, Moony can throw me pretty far.”

“Technicalities.” Remus answered with a roll of his amber eyes.

“Please, can’t I just stay here? The house elves will still be around, right?” Harry’s lips were starting to pull into a pout and his guardians wavered. Remus cursed the fact that Harry was able to copy his godfather’s resolve crippling ability.

Remus shared a look with Sirius, putting the blame and the final decision on the head of the house. There were other house elves, five in total, besides Kreacher that served the Black family, however, the elves by nature were rather one track minded creatures. Surely, they would notice if Harry tried to do something foolish or dangerous, wouldn’t they?

How much trouble could one ten-year-old going on eleven get into? Both Marauders were trying desperately to ignore the multiple examples from their own childhoods that rushed up to answer that question.

Harry James Potter was a smart kid, had been receiving private tutoring from Sirius, Remus, Ted, McGonagall, and even the great Dumbledore over the past few years in many areas of education. Any knowledge that was given to Harry he soaked up like a sponge, he was like his mother in that way. However, like his father, that didn’t mean that Harry always made the most rational choices. His past decision to test to see if the Devilsnare in the greenhouse would attack someone on a broom, using himself as the test subject when he was nine, proved that.

Still Harry deserved the chance to prove himself trustworthy. At least, that was how Sirius rationalized his decision.

“Fine.”

Harry gave a cheer while throwing his hands in the air, making his guardians chuckle.

The day progressed peacefully after lunch with Harry getting his lessons in a few useful charms, potions, and languages from Sirius, then history and math with Remus. Harry finished his lessons without complaint, too pleased with securing some freedom for himself in the evening. Remus had taken off before the sun started to set, Sirius on the other hand dragged his feet. Dressed to the nines in a silver embroidered dark red cloak with a silver and burgundy dress robe underneath, Sirius of course had three wands on him. At the check-in at the Ministry, he would of course only register his light magic wand. The same that he had used from his time at Hogwarts.

Harry was right on his heels, following his godfather down the winding path from the manor to the edge of the wards. The youth was bouncing on his feet, chattering away happily as Sirius outlined their future trip to Diagon Alley to pick up the few things that Harry didn’t already have for his schooling at Hogwarts. Of course, he was most excited about getting his first real wand. Ollivander had come by several times over the years, Neville and Ron usually showed up the same day as all three of the boys loved the man’s stories of how he obtained the materials for his wands and the theories of how wand and wizard worked together.

Stopping at the edge of the property, Sirius’ expression turned serious, his hand cupping his charge’s chin to make sure Harry met his gaze.

“I’m trusting you to be good, pup.”

“I know, Padfoot.” Harry chimed innocently, Sirius was cursing the fact that he had decided to teach the boy Occlumency so early. His godson’s mental defenses weren’t that strong, but he was good enough to know if Sirius was trying to dive into his thoughts. He would have to take his word.

“The rules still apply even though I’m gone.”

“Of course.”

“No breaking anything. No flying while Remus and I aren’t here. No asking the elves for snacks after ten. Bathe and be in bed by eleven. No leaving the wards. Don’t go into the forest.”

“I know, Sirius !” Harry’s patience was growing short, he hated being treated like a child. He yelped as the older wizard cuffed him lightly across the back of the head. Sirius eased the ache soon after as he ran his hand through the thick unruly locks, “Don’t get cheeky, brat. I expect you to be in bed and asleep when I get home.”

When he received a nod, Sirius finally dropped his hand and crossed the wards. A turn of his heel and a loud crack later and Lord Black disappeared into thin air.

Harry waited a few minutes at the edge of the wards, waiting to see if his godfather would return because he forgot something. It wouldn’t do him any good if he was caught before he had even a little bit of fun. When Harry felt it was safe he tore his way back up the path to the manor, he had already eaten dinner before Sirius had left so he was free to do anything he wished until half past ten according to the elves. The first thing that he did was go to his room and pull out his most prized possession. A Potter heirloom that Dumbledore had given back to Harry last Christmas.

An invisibility cloak, the shimmering fabric felt cool and slick against Harry’s skin as he wrapped it around himself. Using the mirror on one wall, he made sure that the cloak was perfectly in place before using a sticking charm to ensure that it wouldn’t slip. Then he cast a muffling charm on his feet and the cloak itself so the swishing of the fabric wouldn’t attract the attention of any passing bat-eared servants.

Now, Harry was ready.  

Did he feel guilty?

No, not really.

It was his guardians own fault for teaching him the spells, though they had been used only in the practice of pranks before. The sticking charm had been taught by Sirius which Harry then used to make all the pages of Remus’ book stick together. It was a good prank, the werewolf admitted, and he even praised Harry’s mastery of the spell. Harry and Sirius had still gotten a very severe tongue lashing for it though. The last Potter had learned a very important lesson that day, never to touch another person’s books. The muffling charm, Remus had taught him. With their footsteps muffled they had snuck upon a sleeping Sirius and poured a bucket of cold water upon his head. Sirius had been roused with a series of loud yelps, instantly shifting into his dog form and darting some distance away before finally turning his great shaggy head to see two figures half crumpled with laughter.

No, really, Sirius and Remus had brought this upon themselves, Harry reasoned.

Stealing his way through the manor and outside Harry hurried his way to the broom shed, a whispered Alohomora and he was able to gleefully retrieve his Nimbus 2000. The newest and fastest broom currently on the British market, Harry’s pride and joy. With both Sirius’ and Harry’s name it had been easy to obtain one before they were even released. The wait Harry had suffered while his guardians tested it for curses, charms, and jinxes had been excruciating. Once it had been cleared though, Harry had found true joy in zipping so high and fast through the air with his guardians who had their own new Nimbuses as well.

Of course, Sirius couldn’t let his godson have all the fun.

Swinging one leg over the length of wood, Harry checked his grip before taking off into the air, he bit into his lip to keep the whoop of joy inside. He doubted that any of the elves were wandering the grounds, but it didn’t hurt to be careful. First, the broom turned towards the Quidditch pitch that was built on the eastern yard of the manor. Ron, Ron’s brothers, Harry, Remus, Sirius, and even Neville had spent countless hours practicing and fooling around on their brooms here playing mock Quidditch games. Neville wasn’t as bad a flyer as he was when he first tried under Remus’ watchful eye four years ago, but he certainly wasn’t going to be a Quidditch player. No, the chubby boy was far happier on the ground and playing referee for the games.

By himself, Harry practiced his turns and spirals, imagining that he was narrowly avoiding chasers and ducking from bruising bludgers. His mind conjured a snitch for him to follow, Sirius had said that Harry was a natural when it came to the position of seeker. Oh, Harry lamented the fact that first years weren’t allowed to join the team, he knew that Ron’s twin brothers were planning on becoming beaters. After watching them practice and the training that Sirius had given them, being a former beater for Gryffindor himself… Harry felt sorry for the other three houses.

The aerial practice and stunts kept Harry entertained for a while, but after each turn around the pitch he felt his eyes being pulled towards the dark shapes to the north.

Caledonian Forest.

For as long as Harry could remember he had been told to keep far away from the patch of trees. There were thick woods near the Wealseys' property that Ron and Harry had run through without any issue. What was it that made this forest so different from the other? Sirius and Remus had said that dangerous creatures lived in the darkness, that it was better to leave nature alone and not go looking for trouble.

But wasn’t looking for trouble exactly what Marauders were known to do? That’s how all the stories seemed to go at least. Sirius had deemed Harry’s trio to be the next generation of them. Remus had often joked that Hogwarts had yet to recover from the first batch of pranksters. Despite being so close to Dumbledore, Harry had yet to visit the ancient castle. The adults had refused to take him there, saying that it would ruin his first-year experience if he did.

On the fastest broom in existence, his invisibility cloak covering both himself and his broom, and a wand, limited as it was, Harry figured that he would be able to escape any creature he might encounter in the forest. With both Remus and Sirius gone, along with no babysitter, this might very well be Harry’s one and only chance to explore the forest. The sun had already begun to set, painting the sky with golden, orange, pink, and purple hues, but gradually it was growing ever darker.

One little peek couldn’t hurt.

Right?

A shift in his weight had the broom turning and then shooting towards the forest.

Breaking through the tree-line, it felt like Harry had been submerged in a cool pool. The forest seemed to swallow any light, the thick canopy of leaves and needles blocking out the last dying rays of the sun. The temperature was cooler, and a chill made goose pimples spring across his arms. There was no obvious path to be seen no matter which direction Harry turned his head. This was a place where nature ruled unchecked by man.

A shiver rolled up his spine and he almost turned tail right there.

He refused, he had made his decision to explore, he wasn’t going to chicken out before he truly even began. It was foolish to fear that he might not be able to find his way out of the forest, all he had to do was fly above the trees. If he hovered high enough it would be easy to find Cù Bubh Manor.

Reassured, Harry eased his broom forward to drift over the shrubbery, eyes and ears open for any signs of danger or wildlife.

A few hundred feet into the forest and it seemed to gradually be coming to life around Harry. On the trunk of one massive fir, was a group of Bowtruckles. The hand-sized creatures were crawling along their home, long spindly fingers, two upon each hand, searched between the crevices of the bark looking for small insects to eat. The beasts were perfectly camouflaged, they would have escape his notice if Harry hadn’t recognized the oddity it was for tiny leaves sprouting from the trunk of a well-established tree so close to the ground. Neville’s love for herbology and Remus’ old Care for Magical Creatures textbooks were proving to be quite helpful before he even entered Hogwarts’ halls!

Flitterby moths drifted by him peacefully, the sound of their orange, glowing wings rubbing against each other created a hum that seemed to echo light human laughter. Harry watched as one of these magical insects met a grisly fate as a Clabbert, swung down from a low hanging branch to swipe one out of the air. The creature was a mixture between a monkey and frog, its wide grinning mouth full of sharp teeth as it chomped down on its prey. The large pustule that sat on the center of the Clabbert’s forehead didn’t flash red when Harry passed it by so the young wizard assumed that it either didn’t sense him or seemed to not think of him as a threat.

Not all the creatures that crossed under or around Harry were harmless. A Jarvey skittered past with blood dripping from its muzzle as it chased a limping gnome, the sound of the smaller creature’s shrieks and following noise of bones snapping, and flesh being torn made Harry feel sick. This was nature, he reminded himself. The strong eat the weak. These assurances didn’t stop him from flinching at the sight of the overgrown ferrety predator reappearing with what looked like a mutilated miniature version of a human arm covered in potato-like skin hanging from its jaws.  

Circle of life, Harry repeated to himself silently.

A gaggle of Red Caps prowled by, clubs held firmly in their hands and prepared to descend upon any unwary soul that crossed their path. A centaur passed with his bow and arrow at the ready, the intimidating creature froze briefly, head turned towards Harry’s direction and fingering the string of his bow. When the black coated centaur finally turned and continued on his way, Harry almost sagged off of his broom in relief.

Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea after all.

He now knew at least some of the beasts that lived in the forest behind his home; his curiosity had been sated, had it not? Also, in the darkness of the trees, Harry had no idea how much time had passed.

Pulling back on the handle of his broom, Harry started to angle himself towards the treetops. More than likely he was going to get scraped up while trying to wriggle his way through the reaching branches. However, just as the tip of his broom brushed against the first needles of a giant pine…

He froze.

His ears pricking and his muscles stiffened, as a sound cut its way through the air and seemed to pierce right through his very chest. It wasn’t a frightening tone, no, it was melodic. Beautiful, but at the same time haunting as it sounded oh so very human. But, no one else could be out here, could they?

Certainly no one would be fool enough to broadcast themselves like that at the very least not with so many dangerous creatures running about! It was like ringing the dinner bell at the Weasleys, you never called out a false alarm for food if you weren’t ready to face the consequences of a hungry and annoyed redheaded hoard of feet and bodies. For a moment, Harry almost convinced himself that he had simply imagined the sound.

Then it came again.

Sound in the Forest

The tone was high and lilting, the voice would hold the note, before dropping swiftly down, then it would rise once more. There was no set pattern, each combination was different, but no less beautiful. The notes seemed to hover in a range just out of what might normally be played on an instrument or be sung. A halftone, was that even a thing? Harry had been taught piano, but music wasn’t something that could hold his attention when he was the one being forced to produce it. Listening was far better than playing in his opinion. This sound though, this one seemed to vibrate into Harry’s very bones and he found his eyes drifting shut, he tried to pinpoint where the call could be coming from as it bounced against the foliage around him. There was a definite direction that he could pick out and follow.

And… he would follow.

Even if it was just so he could find the person, hopefully before something much nastier did, and tell them to stop being an idiot by singing in a predator infested wood!

Harry urged his Nimbus into a graceful sweep back towards the ground, though he still drifted a few yards above it. He knew that the safest place by now was between the soil and the high branches of the trees. The voice continued to ring, pitches falling and quieting only for the next note to ring out high and strong. It startled Harry a few times when he thought that perhaps the singer had stopped for good, the silence stretching long enough for Harry to consider turning back, only for the voice to ring out again.

So, Harry continued his trek.

As something large moved underneath his broom, Harry realized with dread that he wasn’t the only one following the sound. There were these… things that seemed to be staying on the same trail that Harry was, their large ears up and turned to keep track of the sound.

Harry had never seen a picture nor read the description of anything that fit the creatures picking their way as easy as the mist through the foliage. They made hardly a noise, though their cloven feet looked hard enough that they should create at least a small click against any hidden stone or stick. There was none though, these strange beasts moved as silently as death Harry decided.

Their bodies were similar to horses, but Harry could see every bone with how tightly their black hides were pulled over skeletal forms. The skull was only similar to that of a equine with how long it was, the rest of it exuded reptilian features with their ears looking closer to being made of bone instead of skin and cartilage. A wide opening sat above a beak like mouth. Wide wings sprouted from the beasts back, though they were held close to the body for the moment to allow for easier passage through the forest. The wings looked leathery, like that of a bat's. While the beasts were skeletal, they gave off an aura of strength and Harry found himself without doubt that the wings would have allowed the creatures to fly if they wished.

The eyes, those were the most disturbing feature to Harry. They were large and milky with no visible pupil to speak of. A few of the beasts turned their heads towards him and Harry felt like they had no trouble seeing right through his invisibility cloak. They made no move to attack him, no their focus remained on following the voice just like their unwitting human companion.

There was one creature with the herd that Harry did recognize, though he was confused as to why it seemed so at ease traveling with beasts so different to it.

A Granian, with a slick grey coat that covered thick muscle and fluffy black feathers covered its massive wings. It certainly was a fine specimen of the fastest breed of the winged horses. It was a stallion, at least that was what Harry guessed by the way it pranced along the edges of the herd, tossing its head from time to time while keeping an eye out for any danger.

What would dare mess with the sinister looking beasts, Harry hadn’t the slightest idea. He also knew that whatever thing that wanted to take on or eat the unknown beings was something that Harry really didn’t want to meet either.   

They were growing ever closer to the source of the voice and Harry tried to outpace the creatures, hoping that he might be able to warn the person before the herd reached him or her.

The forest opened up into a clearing, the long strands of grass reaching to midcalf and swaying with the breeze that playfully cantered across the ground ruffling flower stalks of many differently colored blossoms. What stood in the center, gave Harry pause. He wasn’t exactly sure what he expected, but it certainly was not that.

There was a figure, small and lithe in appearance despite being dressed in long billowing robes as dark as the night sky. Pale hands poked out of wide sleeves to cup around the stranger’s face to help amplify the notes that escaped their lips. But the hood attached to the cloak kept the singer’s face shrouded in shadows. From what Harry could tell, the person was young, a kid probably around the age of himself. That realization alone unsettled Harry, despite the fact that he was alone in the forest as well.

Harry wasn’t making a spectacle of himself and trying to call any hungry beast to feast on his flesh like this person was!

Something was off, why would someone be out here, so young and acting so bold despite the numerous threats that surrounded them? Who was this person? Harry felt his heart tighten as a new question rose to his mind.

What were they?

Harry couldn’t tell if the person was a boy or a girl with how high the tones they could reach with what seemed to be little effort. The draping fabric obscured any budding features, providing no hints even as Harry edged his broom a little closer. All of those lessons from his guardians screamed at him to be cautious and Harry, for once, obeyed staying about fifteen feet from the stranger. He kept his breath soft and even despite the rapid hammering of his heart in his chest.

Even at the distance he maintained, Harry could pick out elements of the singer’s aura. It was a skill that Sirius, Andromeda, and Ollivander had been training him in, the lessons were also given to Neville and Ron, but they were not nearly as good at it as Harry. The talent seemed to come naturally to Harry, the reason why, he hadn’t the slightest clue. However, whenever he displayed his ability to correctly identify the core of a random wand that Ollivander presented by sensing out the magic that was being exuded from the core, Andromeda would beam with pride while Sirius would have this odd, tight smile on his face. Each species of magical creature had their own unique magical signature. Veela feathers would feel light, hot, and seemed to constantly be spinning in place, unicorn hair was cool, wispy, and made Harry feel like a light mist was clinging to his skin.

For this reason, Harry found himself stunned as he felt… nothing, from the other. Harry had thought that perhaps this was some magical being in disguise, hiding behind a beautiful voice and obscuring their ghastly features until the moment they could devour their victim.

This meant that the other was human, which made it all the more confounding. Harry was beginning to learn how to sense the auras of different people, but he wasn’t nearly advanced enough yet to gauge how strong the stranger was magically. All he could tell was that the singer did indeed what magic.

This was further confirmed when the singer drew out a wand, a simple turn of one of their pale right wrist and a length of dark wood slipped free of what Harry assumed to be a hidden holster.

O ignis fatuus te, in via lux.”

When the spell was spoken with a few circular waves of the wand, Harry was finally able to identify the gender of the other. A male, the lilting quality of it spoke of his youth. The words, Harry could recognize as Latin, but their meaning escaped him.

Pale balls of fire drifted from the tip of the singer’s wand and with the tool he directed them to hover in the air around him. The bluish-purple glow they provided was soft and no heat seemed to be produced from them, it was only then that Harry realized how dark the forest had become around them. The sun must have set hours ago and the only light that was being provided was from the eerie flames and the moonlight that managed to worm its way through the thick branches above them.

The boy released a few more notes into the air before falling silent, his head turning in Harry’s direction. Had he been spotted? Harry swallowed nervously as the faceless shadow continued to stare in his direction.

Then a stick snapped behind him and Harry slapped his hands over his mouth to stop himself from screaming in alarm. His broom wobbled from his sudden movement, but he managed to not fall off. Summoning his own wand, he whipped his Nimbus back to face the coming threat.

The herd had found them, the Granian trotted into the clearing first while the strange wraiths continued to hover in the tree line, waiting for a signal from the stallion. The sleek grey coated horse snorted as he circled around the black cloaked stranger, it seemed unbothered by the floating balls of fire as it stayed just out of reach of the boy. The Granian completed two circles around the clearing before coming to a stop before the other.

The boy bowed to the great beast, the hand holding his wand stretching out to the side while the other rested upon his chest. He was perfectly straight-backed as he bent at the waist and the bottom of his cloak flared out as he did so. The horse answered with a knicker, dipping his own head low in a greeting before cantering closer to the boy.

“Vielantiu, merry met. I see that the spring and summer have treated you well.”

The boy’s voice was fond as he spoke the creature’s apparent name, he quickly slipped his wand back into his sleeve and offered the hand for Veilantiu to sniff. The stallion did so before butting his head against the chest of the boy, almost knocking the slight stranger off his feet with his eagerness to be scratched.

“Oi, none of that now. You tear the cloak and I’ll never hear the end of it from father.”

Veilantiu ignored the protests, pressing closer to the human and trying to entice the other to give scratches along the great arch of the Granian’s neck. With a soft breath that sounded far too drawn out for the other kid to truly be annoyed, he gave in and his pale fingers disappeared in the long glossy black mane of Veilantiu. The fingers eventually moved back to tickle the spot where wings met back, and the horse seemed to sigh with pleasure, one back leg bending to show how relaxed he was.

The boy snorted at this, muttering as he continued his petting, “Behold the fearsome steed of my godfather.”

Harry had to pinch himself to not snicker as the horse whipped his tail to smack into the other youth earning a high-pitched yelp from the victim. He wasn’t sure if Veilantiu understood the words, tone or if it was just a coincidence. Either way, it was a rather funny sight.

The boy huffed, stepping out of the wispy tail’s range and turning his attention instead to the approaching creatures. The skeletal horses greeted the human with short, clipped cries and seemed to delight in the same attention that the Granian received. The boy moved through the bony forms without hesitation, pale hands contrasting against their dark hides as he seemed to be checking over each creature in turn.

“Hrímfaxi, are you really pregnant?” Harry heard the boy murmur as he traced his hand over the side of one of the emaciated beasts. The mare, which Harry observed boss the other strange mares around, only stretched one leathery wing out lazily before letting out a soft whistling breath as the boy ran his fingers over the offered wing.

“Regulus and Severus said it couldn’t be done, father’s never going to let them live this down.” There was both amusement and fondness in the other’s soft words as he patted the head mare’s neck briefly before turning back to Veilantiu, whom had been following the boy about like a loyal hound.

The horse seemed to know what the boy wished as he lowered himself gracefully to the ground and waited patiently as a beautiful, intricately embroidered silver saddle pad and equally decorated saddle of dark leather was set upon his back, summoned from a tiny bag on the other’s side. When Veilantiu stood back up, a sweep of the wand had the straps securing it in place. An elegant bridle was slipped over the head with no protest and then the boy swung himself into the saddle with the grace that spoke of someone who had been riding for years.

The horse seemed to know where to go turning without prompting towards the north and starting forward with a press from the boy’s legs. The herd moved as one, weaving their way through the darkness of the forest and Harry found himself drifting after them. He was careful to not get too close to the small balls of fire that swayed gently through the air, blessing the pilgrimage with just enough light to see by human eyes. The forest seemed to part before them, the group seeming to know how to pick trails that would never have been found by Harry even after a decade of wandering.

As they walked, Harry tried to organize his thoughts of what he had observed of this boy. All of it adding up to a picture that he really didn’t like. The other, cloaked heavily and completely in flowing black fabric that clung to his skin like shadows, but seemed to also breathe with a life of their own at the slightest breeze. The ease that he moved about creatures that looked like they had come out of a cauldron half formed. The boy didn’t flinch when one of the skeletal mares reared up on her hind legs to snatch a Cornish Pixie out of the air. The mare shook her head viciously side to side and Harry could hear the tiny bones of the pixie snapping like toothpicks before she swallowed the limp body down whole. A few of the other mares lifted themselves up to snap up a few of the spritely creatures after the first successful catch, the pixies’ shrill voices wailing in terror and confusion. The now apparent carnivores were forced to give up their feasting when the boy sang out a haunting note, calling their focus once more to the trek.

Harry shuddered as he watched the boy run a finger along the stain of blue blood on the beaky mouth of one of the walking skeletons when she edged her head closer to the boy in a vie for attention. The boy then took the smear of blood and painted a line with it around both of his wrists.

“The circle remains unbroken.”

The words were so soft that Harry almost didn’t catch them, what in Merlin’s balls was that was supposed to mean… he decided he’d think about it later. There was too much for him to process already.

“Walking in the mist.”

English Version English translation of Faroese Language

Harry was pulled from his thoughts as the cloaked boy once more sang, but it was different from the wordless tones of the calls he let out earlier.

“Alone in the deep silence. Far from my home now, going in circles round and round. Gone are all the houses, I call out, but no one answers. Something’s hiding in the dark, lurking in between the rocks. Whisper in my ear, I turn around and no one’s there.”

The hairs on the back of Harry’s neck and arms stood on their very ends, his gaze flickering about the shadows that seemed to creep just a little closer at the boy’s words.

“Shadow, shadow by my side. Drifting through the misty night. Have you wandered as I have? In the silence deep as death? Did you see the street lights shining in the village? Did you see what they did there? Do you remember how things used to be? Was anyone looking for me?”  

The song was haunting, it was sinister with the undertone of anger in the words, but also containing sorrow. Harry couldn’t tear his gaze away from the black abyss that existed inside of the other’s hood, wishing that he could see the singer’s face.

“Friend, friend, can you see me? Walking here in the mist, can you tell what’s happening? Nothing’s ever what is seems. Strayed from the beaten path, close to the mountain’s edge. Facing the darkness, do you know this loneliness?”

One of the small fireballs drifted closer and the lower half of the boy’s face as revealed, pale pink lips, pointed chin edged with high cheekbones and thin nose. The hue of the fire gave the skin an ethereal appearance.

“Do you see their torches, hanging across the hillside? Did they call it off tonight? Friend, friend, do you understand me? Do you know of any secret path?”

The line was delivered with a hint of fear and Harry watched as the fingers gripped the reins a little tighter making the leather creak softly. One of the skeletal being bumped their head gently against the calf of the rider. The shoulders seemed to relax slightly from the action and the final words were sang without a quiver.

“Shadow, won’t you stay with me? Nothing’s ever as it seems. Are you wandering just like me? In the endless mist.”

“The Holly King returns once more tonight .” The cloaked stranger fell silent after those words, the last phrase obviously didn’t belong to the song, more of something the boy was musing aloud to himself. Confirming a fact with the air and, from the way the hood turned, a glance towards the sky that peeked through the leaves. The horses’ hooves against the ground and the gentle wind moving through the trees the only things filling the air now as it seemed that the other creatures of the forest had decided to give the eerie herd a wide berth. That would have been quite fine for Harry if he wasn’t currently putting dots together that were making him believe that the unknown boy might very well be one of the most dangerous creatures in the wilderness.

No, one of the most dangerous beings in the wizarding world.

A dark wizard. The kind that would chop you up for potion ingredients, grind your bones into powder to be added as thickener for soup, and do other unspeakable things to someone like Harry.

That’s what everything that the other had done added up to, draped in clothes that acted like living shadows, the unknown spell, the comfort with creatures that seemed so vicious, the fact that he was out here alone in a place that had been considered too dangerous for wizarding kind for generations… Or he could be completely jumping to conclusions, but Harry wasn’t fool enough to tear off his cloak and demand answered from the stranger.

No, Harry had decided that he had had enough, he didn’t have the means to defend himself against someone with dark magic, regardless of how young they seemed.

At least not yet.

For now, it was time to retreat and silently Harry swerved his broom back in the direction they had come from. Holding himself tight against the length of his Nimbus, he shot away, unaware that the other boy had glanced back as the gust of wind Harry produced tugged at his cloak. Quickly Harry put a couple hundred feet between them, it was only then that he felt comfortable enough to noisily break through the canopy above him.

Once free and in the open air, Harry was shocked to see that he could indeed spot the manor, only it was a tiny speck in the distance. Still he could see it and that was all that mattered. Pushing his broom to its limits, he darted across the star filled sky, the night being cloudless and the moon giving the dark woods below him a slight silvery glow.

Touching down on the ground before the broomshed, Harry felt relieved that the adventure was over. More time seemed to have passed while he was in the forest than he thought, and he hoped desperately that his absence went unnoticed.

Harry stole his way through the manor, taking note of how the lights and torches had been dimmed significantly. It was far later than he had thought, still as he grew ever closer to his room, it seemed that he was in the clear. Reaching out to grasp the knob to his door, Harry started to smile.

…Then froze as he felt a hand fall heavily on his shoulder, voice growling in his ear.

“You and I need to talk, pup.”


Notes:

O ignis fatuus te, in via lux: meaning Will o Whisp, light the way.

I do not speak Latin and if anyone wants to give me a more accurate translation of certain things in this story, I'm always open to it.

Vielantiu: Old French for "Vigilant", this is the name of a warhorse from the French epic poem The Song of Roland (French: La Chanson de Roland)

Hrímfaxi: Old Norse meaning "rime mane" (or "frost mane") this name comes from legend dating back to the Nordic Bronze Age. This horse was believed to have pulled the sun from east to west across the sky, bringing with it the night.

 

Chapter Text

Harry stole his way through the manor, taking note of how the lights and torches had been dimmed significantly. It was far later than he had thought, still as he grew ever closer to his room, it seemed that he was in the clear. Reaching out to grasp the knob to his door, Harry started to smile.

…Then froze as he felt a hand fall heavily on his shoulder, voice growling in his ear.

“You and I need to talk, pup.”

Harry swallowed hard, but let his hand fall away from the knob as his godfather tugged on his shoulder to swing the youth around to face him. Before his feet had even stopped moving Sirius had landed three spells on Harry. One to end the sticking charm on the invisibility cloak, another to tug the unique fabric away and into Sirius’ waiting hand, and the last was a diagnostic spell. While it comforted Harry to know that he was being checked for injuries, he also knew that because he was uninjured, Sirius wouldn’t hold back on his wrath.

This was confirmed by being hit with a type of stinging hex that made a yelp escape Harry’s lips.

“Inside, now.” Sirius motioned with his wand towards the door behind Harry. Reluctantly, he turned his back on his godfather to open the door to his room and when he hesitated in the doorway too long, Sirius sighed and gripped the back of Harry’s collar. Harry grimaced as he was frog-marched inside.

Never before had Harry felt uncomfortable in what he thought of as his personal domain. The room was large and it being part of an ancient manor; this wasn’t surprising. Three of the walls were painted a charming shade of green that was not too dark, but not too pale. On the last wall was a scene that was painstakingly painted by Emmeline Vance, a member of the Order of the Phoenix that wanted to do something personal for both the child of her friends and the one responsible for removing a dark blight on the wizarding world. The scene was intricate and followed the suggestions that Harry’s guardians had made. The edge of a forest that had a proud graceful stag slowly wandering back and forth along the wall, from time to time the creature would prance and leap over the foliage, tossing its impressive set of antlers in a haughty manner. Along the entire image was various colors and types of lilies which shivered and twitched like they were played with by a gentle breeze.

A chest of drawers, shelves, and trunks were all made of a deep earthy mahogany, reminiscent of James Potter’s wand wood. The three doors in the room were also made of this wood, they lead to a large bathroom, closet, and the hallway the pair had just left. The windows looked out towards the northern side of the grounds. From the corner of Harry’s eye as he moved past them, he could see the shadow of Caledonian Forest standing tall and ominous. A part of Harry was tempted to break free from Sirius to close the curtains, unnerved by the idea that someone might be out there and potentially looking in on him through all these years.

The unforgiving grip on his shirt didn’t let him and Harry didn’t want to give any hint to the fact that he had broken the number one rule of the manor.

Sirius marched them both over to the left side of the room where the fireplace, three black leather armchairs, and a coffee table sat.

Harry winced as he was pushed into one of the chairs with force that made him bounce slightly. The action and even the stinging hex from before weren’t that painful, Sirius was never harsh with him and never punished him excessively. No, compared to Ron’s punishments from wooden spoons and Molly’s ire, Harry counted himself lucky.

Being stared down by unearthly grey eyes, Harry wondered if he would still feel that way after tonight.

“I’m rather peeved with you right now, Harry James Potter.”

The boy clenched his hands in his lap, the use of his full name was a rare occurrence and he knew just how badly he had stepped in it this time. He licked his lips, unsure of what tone he should take to try and lessen his punishment. Harry bowed his head, instincts telling him to try to make himself as small as possible.

“I know, sir.”

“Where were you?”

“On the grounds, near the quidditch pitch.” Harry answered quickly, heart hammering in his chest. After all the stress that it had already suffered this evening, Harry was surprised that the muscle hadn’t given out.

“Are you telling me the truth?” The fact that Sirius was even asking meant that he knew Harry wasn’t being completely truthful.

Despite knowing that he was only digging a deeper hole for himself, Harry’s pride refused to allow him to admit he had done wrong.

So, Harry nodded, the long sigh that the older wizard released told him that his attempt at fudging the truth was not only pathetic, but unappreciated.

“And the reason I couldn’t smell you?”

“I… was flying.”

Harry didn’t think his voice had ever come out so weak before. He could practically here the lock on the broomshed locking forever at those damning words. There was little doubt in Harry’s mind that he wouldn’t be seeing his lovely Nimbus for at least until Christmas, possibly not even then. Hogwarts apparently had required flying lessons for all first-year students, but those few hours would be the only time he would have in the sky for the foreseeable future. Those classes would be unbearably slow to someone like Harry who felt like he was born to fly and had been given his first broom as soon as he could walk.

While Harry was a good flyer, he knew and recognized the risks of doing so alone. If he had fallen, as unlikely as he thought it was, no one would have been there to help. The elves wouldn’t even have known to look for him until after ten. He could be laying on the ground broken and bleeding out. Sirius and Remus had painted enough disgusting, disturbing pictures in the past to drive the do’s and don’ts of flying.

A literal growl came from Sirius at the words and he ran a hand through his long wavy locks. He wasn’t looking directly at his charge, trying to keep his anger and frustration under control. While Sirius had grown up under the hands, cane, and wands of his parents’, when it was time for him to receive punishment it was always a more physically than mentally painful affair. This was normal in old families and Sirius knew that Orion and Walburga Black were most likely only copying what their own parents had done. Sirius didn’t fault his parents for it, but he didn’t want to ever use excessive force. A very short spank when Harry was very young and could not understand much. Then around the age of seven light stinging hexes and the removal of certain privileges were what Sirius used on the very few occasions that Harry overstepped his boundaries.

Remus and Sirius sometimes argued on what was acceptable. Sirius did prefer Remus’ way of using words, but he himself didn’t have the talent of dragging guilt from someone with soft disappointed sighs like the werewolf.

“No more flying until further notice.” Sirius finally grunted out, before looking back at Harry.

“Any other broken rules I should know about?”

Briefly the thought of completely coming clean to his godfather came to Harry’s mind. However, he balked just as quickly away from it. For one, he didn’t want to know what Sirius would do to him if he found out that he had gone into the forest that was described as a death trap to him during most of his life. Also, there was no proof that the person that Harry had seen really was a dark wizard or not.

Maybe he should raise the alarm, it was better to be safe than sorry, right? Harry still hesitated to do so as the image of the Veela from some many years ago flashes thought his mind. What If the other boy was, in fact, innocent?

Through occlumency Sirius would be able to see his memories and make the judgement for himself if Harry told him. But what if it turned out that they were both wrong then? Harry didn’t want to see his godfather possibly commit an unjust murder, even if it was indirectly as the Ministry would probably care of the sentencing if they didn’t get wand twitchy like they often were.

If the stranger was a dark wizard, then Harry worried about sending Sirius into the forest. He loved his godfather, truly, but he was known to fly off the handle. A physical enemy to his family, that was sure fire way to get Sirius rattled and snapping at the end of his leash to get at the threat. There was a good chance that as soon as Sirius learned about the stranger he might go marching into the dark forest to confront him. The stranger had been young and honestly, Harry doubted that he had been alone. There had to be others, either in the distance or unseen that were the guardians and allies of such a young boy.

If one young dark wizard was a threat, then multiple older ones…. Harry shivered and rubbed at his arms that were not covered by his short sleeves.

“Geeze if you caught a chill you’re not going to get any sympathy from me.” Sirius grumbled while wordlessly and wandlessly summoning a blanket from the bed and draping it over his charge’s shoulders.

The action dragged Harry out of his thoughts, but the shivers of fear remained as he curled the blanket tighter around his body.

“Well?” Sirius prompted again, one fine, dark brow raising as he waited for an answer.

No. Harry decided that he wasn’t going to admit he had gone into the forest nor his encounter with the stranger and their creatures. Proof, that’s what Harry wanted, needed, before he opened up about what he had witnessed. If he had evidence, then he would be free of guilt and be able to wait for when Remus would be around to stop Sirius from running into danger alone.

Harry also wanted to be stronger before he told. He wanted to be part of whatever happened instead of being told to wait at home and being kept in the dark. To get that proof though, Harry would have to return to the forest. With the way Sirius was glaring at him, Harry doubted that he would be able to do so for….  a very long time.

Bloody hell, Harry knew he would be lucky to be let out of the house before he was to get on the Hogwarts Express!

“Harry look at me.”

The order prompted a flinch from Harry, but he forced his head to rise and finally met the grey eyes that had been scorching the top his head with their intensity. An audible swallow escaped Harry as he waited for Sirius to strike his way into his mind.

But the pain of a mental invasion never came, Sirius shook his head after a few moments of holding Harry’s gaze, “I know you’re not being honest with me. While you broke my trust in you by disobeying me, I don’t want to break your trust in me by diving into your mind.”

The words both stung and relieved Harry, but any reprieve he felt ended with Sirius’ next words.

“Give me your wand.”

There was no arguing with Sirius, but Harry still moved agonizingly slow to unlatch the length of English Oak from its holster and place it in a pale outstretched hand. Harry watched in terror as his godfather ran his fingers over his wand, dreading that he would hear the sound of the wood being snapped. It was a training wand and Harry would be getting a new one in a few days’ time, but this wand had been his companion for the past few years.

Sirius didn’t snap it though, instead he slipped Harry’s wand into the sleeve of his own robe and stood back up, motioning the boy to do the same.

“Other parents, my parents, would have snapped your wand for what you did tonight, but I won’t. Get in the shower, since you proved yourself untrustworthy, I’ll wait out here until you’re done.”

Harry nodded his head mutely, scurrying into the bathroom and into a hot stream of water. He didn’t care that the water was almost scalding his skin, he didn’t notice the temperature as much as the feeling of tears running down his face and joining the water swirling down the drain.

Too many emotions had latched on to Harry as soon as he was free from prying eyes: shame, anger, frustration, fear, and sadness. He hadn’t meant to disappoint his godfather. Well, first of all, he hadn’t meant to be caught at all. Sirius wasn’t being unfair to him, he knew this, but he was still upset with the loss of his wand, broom, and his cloak was probably going to be taken as well.

Once he was stronger and proved one way or another about the boy in the forest, Harry was certain that Sirius would see that his secrecy was warranted. After he had gotten himself back under control and clean, Harry reemerged from the bathroom and crawled under the green and gold comforter on his bed.

The mattress sagged on his left side as Sirius sat there, a hand trailed from Harry’s still wet hair and then to caress the still red flesh under his eyes from his crying. The gentle physical touch as confirmation to both of them that there was still love between them, tinged with disappointment as it was.

“Get some sleep, pup. We’ll talk in the morning about your punishment with Moony.”

Harry rolled onto his side and groaned into his pillow, he had almost forgotten that he would have to face Remus as well. He prayed that he wouldn’t crack under the amber gaze.

Sirius chuckled at the sound, patting the other’s head once more before he stood up from the bed. “Remember, you brought this upon yourself.”

Another grumble answered the older wizard and with a roll of his eyes, he tucked the troublemaker in. Before leaving, a wave of his hand before he closed the door had extinguished all sources of light in Harry’s room. The youth in question was too physically and emotionally tired to stay up much longer, falling into a surprisingly peaceful slumber despite what he had experienced that night.

Light flooded into Harry’s room the next morning with a snap, dragging the youth unwillingly from his sleep. He reached for the blankets that he usually kicked off to the end of his bed during the summer, only to find them missing. Cracking open one eye and hissing softly in pain as the sunlight flooded into it, he knew the elf was in the room and whined out pleadingly.

“Kreacher, just five more minutes.”

“Young master is to get up and get dressed for breakfast.” A voice from somewhere in the room croaked shortly.

Harry blinked, unused to the elf rejecting his request and taking such a sour tone with him. Forcing himself into sitting up, Harry noticed the set of clothes already sitting on the bed beside him and the old house elf, busying himself with straightening random things. It was obvious that Kreacher was pointedly ignoring him as much as a servant could their master. What had he done to deserve such treatment, had a recent prank made more of a mess than usual?

As he reached for his wand holster that usually sat on the nightstand by his bed, Harry was about to ask. The words died before they left his lips as he looked at the empty loops of leather that once held his wand. The memories of the night before came rushing back and Harry knew that the sunlight was only the harbinger of torment that the rest of the morning would bring.

Desperately, Harry looked for a way to delay the inevitable.

“Where do you go on your days’ off?”

“Kreacher doesn’t have to tell young master that. Young master should hurry and head down to eat if he doesn’t want to be in more trouble.”

The house elf’s tone sounded, defensive? Harry was startled by that realization, but he supposed maybe it was a bit personal. Maybe Kreacher had a lady elf he was visiting, as doubtful as that seemed. Still he was a little hurt that the other would be keeping secrets from him, the pair of them had a close bond as Kreacher had helped raise him and usually spoiled Harry to the point of going against some of Sirius’ orders when it came to snacking or when to have all the lights off in Harry’s room for sleep when he was in the middle of a very good book.

Kreacher was disappointed in Harry’s actions last night as well. A vengeful house elf was a dangerous house elf, so Harry obeyed the order throwing off his sleeping clothes and into fresh ones. He brushed his teeth and tried in vain to tame his hair for a few minutes before finally heading to the dining room with Kreacher by his side.

It looked like he was getting an escort, so Harry couldn’t try to hide from what was to come.

“So umm, is Remus back yet?” Harry asked as they walked through the winding halls, some of the portraits were whispering to each other  as they glanced their way. Great, even the elder Blacks of times long past were disappointed with him. Usually the paintings wouldn’t speak to Harry, preferring conversation with his godfather in soft voices. They weren’t completely unkind to Harry though either. The reason for that though, Harry suspected was more out of a mixture of pity for what had happened to him as a baby, the fact that he was the last of the Potter line and Sirius’ heir, and that they didn’t want to be put in storage by Sirius for being nasty.

“The Lupin arrived two hours ago he did.”

There went that hope and Harry tuned out Kreacher’s grumbles about the other house elves that should have been watching him. No doubt that Kreacher would be smacking the other servants around both verbally, magically, and physically for their inattentiveness.

Harry braced himself as the doors to the dining room opened, the table was filled with food and the normal fare. It also seemed that Sirius was missing and only Remus was sitting with a book in one hand and a steaming mug in the other.

Mumbling a soft greeting, Harry moved to take his usual seat; he didn’t have an appetite, but he forced himself to shovel some food onto his plate. If his mouth was full then he couldn’t talk. This close to the older wizard, Harry could smell what he was drinking. The earthy, sharp smell of coffee tempered with the sweetness of chocolate. Remus very rarely partook in coffee as it was far too bitter for his tastes. Which meant that he probably already heard about what had happened last night and felt the need for the concentrated burst of caffeine.

Harry had managed to work through a few pieces of bacon, one egg, and half a piece of toast before Remus closed his book and set it softly on the table. The lump of food in his throat was suddenly much harder to swallow then normal and Harry braced himself as he took a drink of his juice.

“Cub, you know you can tell me anything, right?”

Oh Merlin, Harry was wrong about Sirius being absent being a good thing. The pair were doing the good Auror, bad Auror routine.

“I know, Moony.”

Remus waited a few seconds, gauging if the youth was going to spill his guts or if he needed more probing. He was only met with silence.

“Could you tell me why you thought it was a good idea to go flying alone despite all of our warnings?”

Why?

That was a good question and Harry was ashamed by the simplicity of his honest answer. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

A small groan came from the werewolf, Remus muttering under his breath, “Just like his father and Sirius, I had hoped that he would have inherited some impulse control from Lily.”

“And what else did you do?” Remus prompted, hoping that Harry would open up to him if he wouldn’t for Sirius.

“Nothing.” Harry’s answer was too quick, having obviously waited for that very question. Remus stared at Harry, stern frown marring his features. Harry pushed his eggs around his plate, painting the china a bright yellow from the broken yolk.

“Cub…”

“I swear!” Harry felt like banging his head against the table with how obvious he sounded. Why couldn’t he sound convincing? Living with pranksters and having to play innocent so often should have made him a master of lying. But when it came to this situation, he just wasn’t able to.

Remus shook his head and the door behind him opened to reveal Sirius, the dark-haired man’s lips were pressed into a thin line as he sat at the head of the table heavily. It was an unnecessary question, but Sirius asked anyway, “Are you done eating?”

Harry nodded, and Sirius continued while sharing a glance with Remus.

“So, your punishment. Like I said no flying until further notice, I’ll be keeping your wand and cloak until I think I can trust you with them again.”

Another short nod came from Harry who looked like he was debating if he could drown himself in the pitcher of orange juice on the table.

“I want eighteen inches, in detail, about the things that could go wrong when flying alone and in the dark. By this evening.” Remus added, taking a sip from his mocha grimacing as he could still taste too much of the coffee.

“You won’t be having any visitors to the manor until your birthday and only for that day. Also, I’ll be going alone to Diagon Alley to buy the rest of your school supplies.” Sirius answered, it was the last comment that finally garnered a protest from Harry.

“B-But what about my wand!?”

“Master Ollivander will be coming here for your birthday party, he will pair you with one of the wands he brings with him.” Sirius’ voice offered no argument, even though it pained him to deny Harry one of the experiences most magical children had before going to Hogwarts. Before now Harry had been to the wandmaker’s shop multiple times, but to be there for the purpose of getting his first real wand was something different.

Harry stared open mouthed at his guardians, waiting for them to say it was a joke, an unfunny one, but a jest nonetheless. But, it never came, and he sagged into his chair. The rest of the punishments he could live with, they wouldn’t follow him as long as not having his first school supplies trip to London.

“You’re excused, you have a paper to start writing anyway. You can choose to write in either the library or your room.” Sirius muttered, picking up his own piece of toast as Harry hurried out of his seat and out of the dining room. Neither of the older wizards wanted to watch Harry pout, sulk, and fume.

Harry had decided that his bedroom was the best place to hide. He wrote until his hand was cramping around his quill and he’d had to sharpen the tip of the instrument at least three times. He had been sure to add as many gruesome details as possible to show his understanding and hopefully convey his remorse. Growing up with so many spell books with colorful explanations and imagery of the effects and what could go wrong when performing a spell meant that Harry could write some rather thorough descriptions of what could have happened on his nighttime flight.

It did make him feel a little uneasy writing about how his own death might have come about, but that was nothing to the feeling he got when he looked out the window his desk faced. Caledonian Forest stood eerily still and dark as ever, but now it felt like it was a sinister shadow, just waiting to explode outwards.

Harry didn’t close the curtains though, he felt that not being able to see the plausible threat would make him even more nervous.

Kreacher brought his lunch for him and for that Harry was grateful, he wasn’t ready to face Remus and Sirius again. Still, with all his regrets, Harry was still determined to figure out what was happening in the forest. It would take a lot of preparations before he was ready to do so.

When he had finished his parchment, he began to scan the many books that filled his floor to ceiling bookcases that were built into one corner of his room near the fireplace. He was looking for any information related to dark wizards and their customs, magic, or lifestyles. There was nothing though and if Harry tried to look through the main Black library he would gather too much attention from the portraits and Remus.

No, it seemed that his true research would have to wait until he was at Hogwarts and had access to one of the largest collections of magical books in all of Europe. He believed they would have something that could give him some direction. Eventually, Harry’s eyes began to ache from staring at small print for far too long and knew he needed to turn his paper in to Remus.

As he wandered through the manor towards the library, which is where one could usually find Remus, Harry caught the sound of voices.

Sirius and Remus’ voices, they were in Sirius’ main study and office. A glance around the hall proved that there were no snitching portraits around and while Harry knew that it was a foolish choice, he crept closer to the door. The voices weren’t exactly quiet, then again nothing Sirius did, usually was.

“He lied to me, Moony, lied right to my damn face!” Came Sirius’ voice hot with anger and hurt.

“He’s a kid, Padfoot, they tend to do that.” Remus’ voice was appeasing, but slightly strung out, most likely because the two had been talking in circles for the past hour.

“Not Harry , he’s not supposed to lie to us Hecate , what am I to do?”

Harry could hear his godfather pacing about the room and flinched closer to the wall as he seemed to be drawing closer to the door. Still through all the humiliation and sadness Harry felt at being the cause of his guardian’s distress, one word grabbed his attention: Hecate. From the way Sirius spoke it Harry assumed that it was a name, but he had never heard it before.

“He’s probably just scared of a harsher punishment.” Came the werewolf’s reasoning.

“After almost breaking his neck acting like a fool on a broom? What could he have done that was worse than that?” Sirius grumbled, his footsteps moving away from the door once more and Harry strained to hear the sound of leather from the couch in the study creak as either Sirius sat down, or Remus shifted. Or maybe it was both.

“Did we… and I mean you, think logically at that age?”

“I take offence to that.” The Black answered, but there was a smile that could be heard in his voice. “But you’re right.”

“I usually am.” Remus answered before yelping and Harry assumed that Sirius must have done something to cause the sound. What? The possibilities were endless, and Harry probably really didn’t want to know the details. It was probably another kiss, gross.

The silence stretched for a time and Harry was about to retreat when Remus’ voice drifted out once more. “Pads were you able to, ya know, do anything important last night? I know you were really upset about having to spend so much time at the ministry function and then had to spent some time looking for Harry.”

“I did a little something in the basement after I got the pup to bed. It helped to calm me down.” Came Sirius’ voice now much softer, almost hesitant. How very odd, Harry hadn’t a clue as to what they were referring to.

“One of these days you should let me join you.”

“No… Moony, you don’t have to. I don’t want you to change just to-“

“Just to what, Sirius. To spend more time with you, to learn more about you? You’re still keeping so much of yourself away from me because you’re afraid I’ll be scared off by what I’ll see.” Remus was growling, “Have you not seen what I turn into once or twice a month?”

“It’s not that I don’t trust you. It’s just that once you start; it’s not something you can stop doing.”

“Doesn’t that sound familiar.” Remus grumbled, and the room grew quiet before Sirius sighed.

“Next year, you can join me next year.”

“You promise?” Remus sounded doubtful, like he expected Sirius to conveniently forget whatever he was swearing.

“On my favorite signed quaffle.”

Harry and Remus were both shocked by those words, Remus asking as the sound of shifting on the couch came again, “You’re serious?”

“Yes, I am… and yes, I am.”

Remus groaned as he muttered, “I hate that pun so much and you know it. What was Walburgra thinking giving you that name?”

“I think she was actually being rather clever with it. Sirius Orion Black, S.O.B. Son of a bitch.” Sirius was cackling now drowning out Remus’ sounds of suffering and disbelief. A short cry from Sirius and the thump that Harry felt through the floor told him that Remus must have pushed his godfather off the couch. Well, he probably deserved it, Harry thought, even if he didn’t completely understand the joke.

“Your whole family is full of cracked cauldrons.”

“Aw, you don’t mean that.” Sirius singsonged. It was then that Harry decided to make his escape, backing away from the door as silently as possible and slipping back into his own room when he reached it. From what he had just heard, it seemed that Harry was getting more and more on his plate to research.

The days passed, and Harry’s birthday came and went, the most exciting thing that had happened was getting his wand. Holly, eleven inches, core of a phoenix feather, and supple. The wand and Harry’s magic sung in perfect harmony, Sirius had reluctantly returned Harry’s training wand at Ollivander’s insistence, so he could have a backup in case anything happened. Living in a home with two other known wizards, the trace wouldn’t work on the manor’s grounds and Sirius’ ire with Harry cooled as he helped Harry practice with his new wand.

The day that Harry found himself standing on platform 9 ¾ ’s seemed to come too slow and at the same time too fast.

The Longbottoms and Weasleys stood by Harry’s family as the rush of other departing students and their worried parents streamed around them. The majestic red engine poured out smoke and the whistle blew to remind the gathered witches, wizards, and muggle relatives about its impending departure.

Hedwig hooted softly in protest to all the noise, ruffling her feathers and tucking her head under her wing in an attempt to block it out. The lovely snowy owl had been another gift that Harry had received from a giant of a man, whom he had met for the first time at his birthday party. Hagrid was the gamekeeper at Hogwarts and jovially invited Harry to come down to his hut any time he wished with promises of stories about his parents and the other Marauders from when they were young and wreaking havoc in the ancient halls.  

Harry planned to take Hagrid up on the offer as soon as possible, but with the purpose of subtly asking about the creatures he had seen in the forest. The skeletal, winged horses hadn’t been found in any of the books that Harry could get his hands on in the manor.

“Moony, you have your trunks?” Sirius’ question dragged Harry out of his scheming, whirling around on his heel to face his guardians.

“Why would he have luggage, I have all my things here?”

Sirius grinned and gestured at his lover grandly, “Harry, my boy, meet the new Defense Against the Dark Arts’ professor.”

Harry response was to stare open mouthed at the pair, Remus chuckling as he reached forward to gently close Harry’s mouth. “Dumbledore asked me over a year ago at the New Year’s party to take the post. I’ve been planning lessons in my spare time between my writings and research since January. I’ll also be a head of house, but you’ll have to wait for the opening ceremony to find out which one.”

For the first few moments, Harry was overjoyed at the idea that Remus would be joining him at Hogwarts. A familiar face and a helping hand in a new environment, most likely Remus would also be able to give him extra tutoring to remain at the top of his year. Then, Harry became horrified at the idea that he was not being trusted to be alone at school, that he would constantly have eyes on his back. Would he still be able to do his research? If Remus was the head of a house, surely he would be too busy to be constantly watching Harry, right?

Remus seemed to understand at least a little of Harry’s concern and ruffled the other’s hair soothingly. At least he didn’t have to worry about further musing the youth’s locks, they were as impossible and messy as always.

“I’ll be riding in the prefect’s carriage and I won’t single you out in class or school. You’ll just be a normal student outside of my office and chambers. That means I’ll be taking points if I catch you outside of the dorm after curfew. I think I taught you how to sneak better than that though.” Remus added with a wink.

Harry was soothed a little by the words and nodded his head. Remus rolled his eyes as Sirius gave him a sloppy peck on the cheek before heading to the carriage marked for the prefects.

That left Sirius and Harry together.

“You’re really on your way.” Sirius’ voice was wavering, but his smile was large. There was both pride and worry in the grey orbs as Sirius placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder, giving it a soft squeeze.

“Have fun and create some mischief, Prongslet. I expect you to be at the very top of your year. I got good grades even with all of the sh-stuff I pulled with your dad.”

“Nice save, Pads.” Harry snickered, getting a sheepish grin from Sirius.

“Come on, I’m tryin’ to be all serious and touching here!”

“I know, you’re Sirius .” Harry burst into snickers as his godfather gaped at him, before Sirius chuckled himself while rubbing the back of his neck, “Okay, okay, I can see how that joke can get old now.”

“But seri-honestly, there’s something I must tell you, Harry.” Sirius’ tone turned grave, shocking the younger. “There will be things you hear at Hogwarts, things about me and my family. Some of them good, while others… The one thing I must implore you to do is to keep an open mind. You’ll find people of many differing viewpoints inside the halls of Hogwarts. That many people… I’m sure that there will be some unseemly characters. Always is. There might be someone who tells you that I’m just another rotten apple from an old rotten tree. One that should be cut down before it infects the rest of the orchard.”

“I know you, Sirius. I won’t let anyone change my view of you.”

“Yeah, right then.” Sirius cleared his throat and straightened up while pulling Harry into a quick, but strong hug which was returned in the same style. “Love ya, pup.”

“Love ya, too.”

With that they parted, the train giving a loud, threatening whistle that told those gathered that time was short. Harry hurried to one of the train cars where Neville and Ron were stood waiting for him. With a bit of difficulty due to the cumbersome nature of large trunks, despite the featherlight charms on them, they claimed a compartment for themselves. Harry knew that Percy would have gone to the prefect carriage, the twins and their friend Lee Jordan took the compartment across the hall from the trio. It was a comforting gesture, the older boys giving them their privacy, but also serving as some kind of guard or aid if they needed it.

All three of them startled as the train jolted under them before beginning its long journey. Three young faces quickly squashed themselves against the window to wave as their families gradually grew smaller and smaller, before completely disappearing as the Hogwarts Express left the station. After they settled into the seats, the boys let out a collective sigh, small, nervous smiles on each of their faces.

Xx

“Here we are.” Neville finally ventured as the English countryside whizzed by.

“This is going to be bloody brilliant!” Ron exclaimed, making Neville almost jump out of his seat,  and even Harry flinched at the other’s boisterous attitude after the short stay of silence.

The fact that Ron could curse without the fear of his mum’s spoon made a goofy smile spread across his face and made his many freckles run together. “We’re on our way, lads. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, getting to do awesome spells, see all the famous places, and enjoy the feasts! Next year we could join the Quidditch team!”  

“You mean you and Harry will join the Quidditch team, I’ll be quite happy when we’re done with our mandatory flying lessons this year.” Neville answered with a nervous chuckle, though his eyes brightened as he continued. “I am excited to see the greenhouses and grounds, I’ve read that a lot of interesting herbs grow wild all over the place because of the high concentration of magic in the air.”

“I want to check out the library.” Harry offered, getting a loud groan from Ron in response as the redhead slumped into his seat.

“Merlin’s bollocks, how did I end up with two of the biggest nerds as best friends?!”

“You love us.” Harry reminded as he reached into his pack and threw a chocolate frog box to Ron to appease him for the coming talking of boring stuff . “There are things I’ve been meaning to look up is all, I couldn’t find any information at home.”

“What are you wanting to research?” Neville asked as Ron easily caught the charmed sweet before it could make its escape.

“Just some things I saw in a book from Diagon Alley.” Harry answered quickly, needing to come up with a lie on the spot as he realized that he had just put himself into a corner. Ron wasn’t exactly the best at keeping secrets with nosy brothers and Neville would cave under pressure if one knew his ticks. “I would have bought the book myself if I had been able to go shopping with Sirius.”

“Why didn’t you just owl order it?” Ron asked as he gently tried to work the card from the box free, so he could see which famous wizard or witch he had gotten.

“I forgot its title, I just vaguely recall what was on the cover. I couldn’t exactly ask Sirius to look for it for me either since he was so angry with me.”

“Well you can’t exactly blame him, I mean flying at night? That really was stupid, something worthy of Uric the Oddball.” Neville pointed out, eyes narrowing as he saw Ron starting to squirm in his seat. “You’ve done it too, haven’t you?”

“Aurors do it all the time!”

“Aurors are trained adults that have more than two decades’ worth of experience on a broom!” Neville snapped back. While he was shy around new people, when it was just Ron and Harry, Neville became bolder. Particularly if it was to point out a bad idea that could land them in trouble, Saint Mungo’s, or both.

“You’re not going to tell my mum, are you?” Ron ventured, when Neville was worked up, he could be rather vindictive. Ron would really not like to have his first delivery of mail at Hogwarts to include a howler that would reach through the Great Hall. George and Fred had received some over the years, but the twins had the ability to let things roll off their back far easier than Ron who felt that he had to prove himself somehow with brothers that were successful in one form or another.

“Promise that you won’t do it again and will help me look for wild knotgrass. Then we have a deal.” Harry was silently applauding Neville for his manipulative skills, but at the same time he was terrified. The boy who lived made a mental note never to be in the youngest Longbottom’s debt.

The speed at which Ron bobbed his head in agreement looked like it would hurt the neck, however before he could say anything the door to their compartment opened with a sharp snap. There stood a tall, skinny blond boy with an upturned nose. Harry quickly scanned the other as Sirius had taught him to do to pick out any other hints about the stranger. He was dressed in fine robes that were obviously tailored to fit him perfectly, so he came from a family of money. His posture was straight backed, but there seemed to be a forced slouch to his shoulders. This meant he was nervous, but at the same time self-assured in his purpose for being there.

“I heard that Harry Potter was on the train, I’m assuming that’s you.”

The trio frowned at the rude, haughty tone the boy used as he stabbed a finger in Harry’s direction. This gave Harry yet another tidbit of information, the other was confident about his own social standing to attempt to approach the heir of both the Potter and Black lines. However, Harry didn’t recognize the other and he had met many of the higher standing wizarding families that both did and didn’t have children his own age as they attempted to gain both the boy who lived and Lord Black’s favor. The reason that Sirius and Harry hadn’t been swarmed at the platform was because of the notice me not charms the lord had placed on them.

While the other might be lacking manners, Harry wasn’t and knew that Sirius would have his hide if he was as disrespectful as this guy. Gracefully, Harry pulled himself up from the bench, he still kept his holly wand; which he had summoned from its holster the moment the door had opened, in hand as he dropped into a perfect bow as Andromeda had taught him. He offered his hand to shake as he straightened, muscle memory dictating the turn of his wrist.

“I am Harry James Potter, heir of Potter and Black, ward of Lord Sirius Orion Black. May I ask for your name?”

It was obvious that Harry had thrown the other off with his formal greeting and the handshake was fast, uncoordinated on the stranger’s part which caused Harry to raise a brow.   

“Zacharias Smith.” At the lack of reaction that his name gave, Smith continued, “Of the Smith family, descendants of the great Helga Hufflepuff. My father is part of the Wizengamot like Lord Black.”

The fact that Sirius never mentioned a Smith in the Wizengamot meant that he didn’t think very highly of him, nor was he of high enough standing and influence to be of notice to someone belonging to the House of Black. All three of them knew that and Ron snorted softly.

That gathered Smith’s attention and he whipped his gaze to the redhead with a sneer, “And just who are you then?”

“Umm, Ron Weasley and this is Neville Longbottom, we’re Harry’s best mates.”

“Weasley, so another of the brood is entering Hogwarts then.” Smith said with a disdainful sniff, before turning his attention back to Harry. “You do know that the Weasleys don’t have any real money, right? They had a meager living before the war and then came out as members of the Order of the Phoenix. People started giving them monetary gifts for their services . It was only thanks to the good will of the people that they rose to a respectable position in society. Yet they still squander it!”

“What do you mean by that?!” Ron demanded springing to his feet, his willow wand with the core of a single tail-hair of a unicorn which he had received at Ollivander’s in his hand.

“Your father entering the Wizengamot after the war, claiming himself to be a lord, yet also keeping his job at the Ministry in some muggle related department like a commoner.” Smith answered snidely, either not noticing Ron’s wand or thinking that the other didn’t have the bollocks to attack him. Clearly, he didn’t know about the Weasley temper, nor their ability to hold a grudge.

“Then there’s your mother, taking up the title of Lady Prewett. The Prewett line has been a patriarchal house since its start. The fact that she managed to worm her way in the gentry and Wizengamot last year should be viewed as a sham. You have two brothers that are of age, why haven’t they claimed the lordship? A housewife has no place in holding council.”

The words were too structured and advanced for a normal eleven-year-old. Harry realized that meant that Smith was parroting someone, most likely his father. The Weasley family were well aware of some of the negative opinions they had garnered from the other old houses as of late. What Zacharias said was true, the heads of the Prewett line have long been male, but now Molly was its strongest magical member.

It was Sirius and Dumbledore who had urged the couple to claim their titles and take part in politics. Maybe it was so that Sirius wouldn’t have to suffer the meetings alone. Dumbledore’s reasoning was to have more votes on matters that could impede on the morals of the Order of the Phoenix. The old wizard assured them that they could vote as they wished even if it was against Dumbledore’s own ballot. He hooked the couple by reminding them that they could take a more active and affective part in shaping the wizarding world that their children would grow up in. The aftershocks of the war had pushed a lot of paper around the Wizengamot on numerous matters and laws.

“My father,” Ron began, the grip on his wand was white with how hard he was clenching it, “ Used to work at the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office. And is now the head of the Office for the Detection and Confiscation of Counterfeit Defensive Spells and Protective Objects. Does your father do anything other than whine in his house all day, does he actually do anything useful!?”

“Actually, Ron has more claim to lordship than you. Ron’s a descendant of both the Prewett and the Weasley lines. Both of which are part of the Sacred Twenty-Eight.” Neville mumbled, just loud enough to be heard by the others in the compartment.

Smith’s face turned a brilliant shade of red, but before he could open his mouth, two hands;  each belonging to a different owner, fell on his shoulders.

“My, my, what have we got here, Gred?”

“I’m not sure, Forge, but it seems like an ickle firstie that doesn’t know how to keep his tongue.”

The redheaded twins were grinning, but there was no cheer in their eyes as they kept a tight hold of Smith even as the younger tried to squirm out of their grasps.

“Should he be allowed to keep thy tongue?” George asked imploringly to his brother, head cocking to the side like he was deep in thought.

“Hmm, maybe we should remove it. Dock it like a crup’s tail.” Fred answered, smile malicious as Smith paled further and the trio were delighted in this turn of events. If the twins were terrifying with their pranks when targeting someone they like, Smith’s life at Hogwarts was going to be far more difficult than he ever imagined with the fury of the Weasleys' following him.

“You’re making a mistake Potter.” Smith’s words were quick, seeming to finally realize that his words weren’t exactly gaining him any favor with Harry. “What will you be once the “Boy-Who-Lived” title runs out, you’ll need allies.”

“I think I can decide for myself who is worthy or not to be considered a friend rather than an ally. Both of which will never be you, Smith. I’ll be more than happy to be rid of the title that comes from something I don’t even remember. When it's gone? I’ll be the boy who can go to Diagon Alley without being swarmed for autographs! Have you ever been asked for an autograph?”

Smith’s fuming silence and snickers from the other boys was answer enough.

Harry nodded before sitting back in his seat gracefully, crossing one leg over the other as he waved his hand lazily, playing up his superiority to the House of Smith. “I didn’t think so, Sir Gred, Sir Forge, do with him what you will.”

“With pleasure Lord Potter-Black!” Chorused the twins, jerking their prey out of sight and down the hall cackling.

Lee Jordan trailed after them, wand at the ready.

“Well, that was fun.” Harry mused, “That was wicked what you said Neville.”

“Yeah mate, really, thanks. I was about to fly off the handle at that ruddy bastard.” Ron’s voice was sincere before yelping as he almost lost his balance when he tried to move. “But, Nev, could you please take the colloshoo off now?”

The chubby boy flushed under the praise and then embarrassment as he moved to remove the stickfast hex he had placed on Ron’s shoes when he appeared ready to launch himself at Smith. Growing up with Ron, Harry, the twins, and the Marauders, Neville had found himself leaning plenty of prank spells. Purely for self defense against the others, of course.

Settling back down, the trio chatted as the train continued to barrel onward towards Hogwarts and in turn, the beginning of many adventures. Some good… some horrifying.

All of them life changing.

XX

 


Notes:

To clear things up, the Wealsey family are middle to upper middle class now. They still live modestly but with nice clothes, new wands, supplies, and such. They still don't do anything in excess. In canon Arthur and Molly supported the Order of the Phoenix in the first war, but did not have a very active role in it, or if they did J.K. Rowling didn't go into detail about it. With Molly having infant twins to care for, I doubt she would have been on the front line. In this story Arthur's role in the first war was networking in the Ministry and spying inside of it to root out potential Deatheaters. Arthur also took part in some of the physical fights, but not many as it would blow his cover. Molly was more of a sideline supporter and healer with her having to stay home. She saved many of the members' lives with providing shelter and medical aid at the Burrow.

More about Harry's training wand:

English Oak with dragon heartstring.
Quoted from Pottermore "A wand for good times and bad, this is a friend as loyal as the wizard who deserves it. Wands of English oak demand partners of strength, courage and fidelity. Less well-known is the propensity for owners of English oak wands to have powerful intuition, and, often, an affinity with the magic of the natural world, with the creatures and plants that are necessary to wizardkind for both magic and pleasure. The oak tree is called King of the Forest from the winter solstice up until the summer solstice, and its wood should only be collected during that time (holly becomes King as the days begin to shorten again, and so holly should only be gathered as the year wanes."


Moving from Oak to Holly is a representation of Harry's growth into a young wizard and his changing views.

Dragon Heartstring is the easiest core to turn to the Dark Arts. However for my story I mean for the presence of dragon heartsting to be a symbol of being able to commit evil, though not naturally inclined to do so.


Harry will have a difficult time deciding the definition of 'evil'.

 

Chapter Text

XX

Harry sat on his bed with a small frown marring his features, the curtains around his bed were shut and the silencing charm they had on them ensured that he would have his privacy. The events of the night before were running through his head on repeat as he ran the red and gold tie through his fingers, feeling the silk tease his skin. The opening ceremony was everything that it had been hyped up to be. Harry and his friends’ nerves were in knots as they waited for their names to be called by Professor McGonagall. The boys had spent many hours before their arrival discussing which house they would be placed in. Neville thought that he would, no doubt, be a Hufflepuff which his companions strongly disagreed with. Hadn’t Neville just stood up to that pansy Smith?

Harry and Ron had done their best to assure the more nervous boy that he would be in Gryffindor like them.

They had been right, when the hat was placed atop his head the Sorting Hat had declared that the last of the Longbottom line belonged in the house of lions. Harry’s turn came soon after and that was when things got… confusing for Harry.

He stared at the tie, thinking of how close its colors had come to being  silver and green. Slytherin, the hat had said that it wanted to put him into Slytherin! It had acquiesced that Harry had attributes of all the houses but would resonate the most strongly with Slytherin and Gryffindor.

“ You could be great, you know, it’s all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that — no?”

The words bounced around inside of Harry’s skull. Had he made a mistake by telling, no by begging, the hat not to put him in the serpent den? Harry wasn’t interested in fame or greatness, but still it felt like he had committed some great sin, telling the hat where to place him instead of letting it reach a decision naturally.

But how could he, Harry James Potter, end up in that house? Alone the words cunning, resourcefulness, and ambition weren’t something that brought about negative feelings. But together with silver, green, and serpents;  it was a recipe for evil. Or at least that was what Harry, no, most of his generation, had been raised to believe. Many of Voldemort’s followers were from Slytherin and were rumored to be dark. Then there was the whole issue of The Flight of the Murder .

This was the nickname that the British Wizarding world had given to the night that almost all the dark magic users in the country vanished. Crows had long been associated with the unseemly side of magic and a group of the carrion loving birds was called a murder. It was a play on words with the belief that dark witches and wizards would gladly commit human sacrifice for their rituals and pleasure.

Four fifths of the students from Slytherin house had disappeared when the sun rose the next morning. With them had gone several of Hogwarts’ professors. There were students missing from many of the other houses, but none to the degree that Slytherin had. From that day onward, the idea that Slytherin bred darkness and was wrought with secrets was cemented.

Slytherin still remained a house, though many people had argued for it to be abolished.

Dumbledore was unmoved by the demands, declaring the removal of a founding house was an insult to the institution and that Slytherin was not by nature malevolent. Bad and good wizards and witches had come from all houses. Peter Pettigrew was a prime example of that as he was a Gryffindor, who became not only a Deatheater, but handed over his friend’s location knowing he, his wife, and an innocent infant would be killed.

Still the anti-sentiments remained against Slytherins, to the point that many parents pulled their children out of Hogwarts if they were sorted into that house. Instead those children would be either home schooled or would be sent to another magic school abroad.

During the opening ceremony, whenever a new Slytherin was called, there would be minute clapping, mostly coming from the teachers. The kid would often look a mix of terrified and sick as they watched their tie and patch change to that of Slytherin. Harry knew that many of those kids would be gone by morning. The number of students currently in Slytherin was only a fourth of the population of the other houses.

Harry had always gone along with the public belief that, as Ron was fond of saying, they were just slimy snakes. Now though…

Harry knew that he was not evil and didn’t believe that he could ever become dark. So, if all Slytherins were destined to meet the same fate, why would the hat see him prospering there?

The magical object must have busted a few stitches of the centuries Harry finally decided, trying to push the entire event out of his mind. It was early morning and he had risen far earlier than his dormmates who, much to Harry’s pleasure, included Ron and Neville.

There were two other boys, Seamus and Dean. The two seemed okay for the most part both of them half-bloods whom Harry had never met before. Seamus’ mum was a witch who preferred to stay at their home in the Irish countryside apparently. Dean’s father was a wizard that had left his muggle wife without telling her the truth about his magic to protect her during the First Wizarding War.

Dean was the first person with a practically pure muggle upbringing that Harry had ever spoken at length with. Harry had met almost all pureblood children at one time or another through walking the streets of wizarding shopping districts, attending Ministry functions, or through Sirius’ many connections. Quite a large number of half-bloods Harry had also encountered through the years. But the muggleborns he hadn’t the slightest clue about.

Harry had already showered, dressed, and picked through the beginning chapters of a few of his textbooks while waiting for the sun to rise steadily higher. While he had been under house arrest for sneaking out Harry had nothing better to do than read. All the textbooks he had devoured and several of the new spells he had already mastered with the aid of Remus. The werewolf commented that he was afraid that Harry might be bored in his classes now. If he was, Harry was fine with that. After all, it meant that with his knowledge he could complete the tasks and homework quickly, giving him more time to do the research he wanted to do and enjoy exploring Hogwarts.

No, Harry certainly wasn’t all work and no play.

When Ron and Neville finally pulled themselves out of sleep and finished getting ready to head out for breakfast, Harry was on pins and needles ready to see Sirius’ answer to his letter, which he had sent the night before. Ron and Neville had also sent word back home. All three of them had given their letters, penned during the end of dinner, to Remus to mail. As first years, they had to immediately go back to their dorm after the feast to hear the house rules, expectations, and sort through their new living arrangements.

The trio left their roommates to sleep a little more and tramped their way down the stairs of the dorm. A few of the older Gryffindors were already up and moving about in the common room, many of them seemed to be scrambling to finish some last-minute homework or cramming for a suspected quiz. The elders gave them an odd look, they probably didn’t expect for any of the firsties to be bright eyed and bushy tailed so early in the morning after the opening feast.

And they of course stared because it was the Boy-Who-Lived in their presence. 

There was one other first year in the common room, a girl with bushy hair and slightly buck, but straight white teeth. The girl had her nose buried in a book, while bouncing on her heels next to the portrait hole. As Harry and his friends approached, she finally raised her head, brown eyes analyzing them as she asked.

“Heading to the Great Hall?”

“Umm yeah?” Ron answered, brows pinched as he tried to remember the name of the girl. She seemed to realize this as she continued.

“I’m Hermione Granger, you’re.” She pursed her lips as she went through her memories, gesturing first to the redhead. “Ronald Weasley.”

“Just call me Ron, only my mum calls me ‘Ronald’, and only when she’s right angry.” Ron mumbled, still not at all sure what to make of the witch as she continued on.

“You’re Neville Longbottom.” A small nod from the boy had her turning her attention to the last wizard. “Harry Potter, you know I’ve read all about you in The Rise and Fall of the Dark Lord , Iconic Wizards and Witches Through the Ages , and The End of the Dark Arts in England .

Oh, how those words rubbed Harry the wrong way and he grimaced as he muttered, trying to keep the annoyed hiss out of his voice. “Yeah and I can think of seven other titles that include me in them. None of which was given permission from either myself or my guardian to be written. Most of what’s written is hogwash and speculation. My favorite dessert isn’t pumpkin pasties  and my greatest fear isn’t the haunting memory of my mother’s screams . I don’t remember any of that night and don’t care to.”

Hermione’s breath caught at the words, actually beginning to look pale as she stammered. “Well that can’t be right, they were published, surely they would only print the truth.”  

“Oh boy.” Ron grumbled as he placed a hand on his forehead, “You’re a muggleborn, ain’tcha?”

“Yes, I don’t see what that has to do with anything.” Her tone turned indignant making Harry roll his eyes as he pushed open the portrait and crawled out, the other three first years on his heels.

“Not everything you read is going to be true. After the disappearance of You-Know-Who, many people wanted to cash in on the mania that followed. All of us have grown up with children’s book about Harry and that night. No one was there that night, so it’s all up to speculation… the resulting tales are kind of,” Neville trailed off, rubbing the back of his head. “Most of us purebloods have met Harry before coming to Hogwarts and know that the stories are exaggerations and that Harry hates the fame that was brought from it all.”

“Well then why are the books still on the shelves?” Hermione argued, seeming resolute in finding some reasoning that what she read had at least a shred of truth as they wound their way through the many halls of the ancient castle and navigated the moving staircases.

“The legal system in the Wizarding World is slow in some cases, also the fact that magic can make a hundred copies with a flick of a wand makes it hard to stop the production.” Harry grumbled, as he sat down at the long benches at the Gryffindor table. Ron sat to the right of Harry, while Neville and Hermione settled on the bench across from them. Harry had asked this same question himself when he was younger. It was a rather large shock for a five-year-old to pick up a book in a store that had an animated picture that looked exactly like them on the cover.

“It’s also not exactly high on the Ministry’s to-do list to remove a large source of what it sees to be moral propaganda.” Came a voice from behind Harry.

Craning his head back, Harry greeted the source of the voice with a grin. “‘orning , Moony.”

Hermione cleared her throat, with a pointed glare at the disrespect that Harry was showing not only to a professor, but the new head of Ravenclaw. Ron rolled his eyes at the noise and started to pile bangers, eggs, and hashbrowns onto his plate as he greeted the older wizard with Neville.

“Morning, cub, Ron, Neville, and miss?” Remus trailed off as he cocked his head slightly as he took in the young witch.

“Granger, sir. Hermione Granger, it’s a pleasure to meet you. You’re going to be our professor for Defense Against the Dark Arts, correct?” She answered eagerly, though under Remus continued amber gaze she squirmed slightly in her seat.

“Yes, I’ll be your teacher for that. It’s my first year teaching, but after serving as these nuisances’ tutor since they were four I think I can handle whatever is thrown my way.” Chuckled Remus as he ruffled Harry’s hair, much to his complaint as he tried to duck closer to the table to escape the touch causing his nose to almost meet his eggs.

“Was that a challenge?” Asked a head of red hair popping up from behind Remus’ left shoulder, a moment later an identical head showed up from behind the right.

“I think that was a challenge, brother dearest.” Fred answered his twin, both dancing away from Remus as the man turned quickly on his heel in an attempt to grab the troublemakers. Fred leaped over the table while George quickly slid under it to get to the other side and put a safe distance between them and Remus. They were daring, but they weren’t suicidal.

“So, you’ve known each other for a long time.” Hermione mused aloud, eyes darting between the older twins, Remus, and the other first years.

“Remus is basically my other godfather, he’s lived with me and Sirius since I can remember. Sirius and Remus were both friends of my father during their time at Hogwarts.” Harry answered, carefully avoiding any hint that the two were in a deeper relationship as he didn’t want to make the werewolf’s life anymore difficult than it was as a new teacher. While being in a relationship of the same gender wasn’t exactly taboo, it wasn’t common. Being the partner of Lord Black was a big deal on its own, add in the fact that Sirius was the guardian of the savior of the wizarding world and you end up with far too much gossiping betties that would question if it was a good upbringing for the boy.

“I see, could you tell me about the other teachers?” Hermione asked, Harry found himself interested in the information as well. He had met a few of the professors over the years, but not all of them. Also no one was stupid enough to believe the twins’ descriptions of each teacher wholly.

A glance to the head table told Remus that most of the professors were already there and eating, it seemed that none of them minded the fact that he was chatting with students that were from his old house and not the ones that he was now in charge of. It was a rare case, a professor that was not originally from that house being assigned to be the head of it. However, the only choice of an actual Ravenclaw had been Quirrell and he had pleaded through multiple letters for Remus to take the position instead. Remus had known the brilliant Ravenclaw through being at school at the same time as him, to find him acting as a teacher was a surprise to be certain. He hadn’t gotten over all his nervous behavior, but he had improved dramatically from when he was younger. Dumbledore had striven to make a far closer bond with all his teachers after the flight of the dark inclined ones. Quirrell had flourished with the extra attention and was now a senior member of the staff, he had helped to ease the fears of students that were rocked by the sudden disappearance of who they thought were their friends. The Ravenclaw was devoted to the school and hadn’t left the grounds for vacation or at all in over a decade. He didn’t have to leave with everything he needed being provided by the library, house elves, and owl order.

“Alright, let’s start with the core class teachers first since you actually have them. There’s Quirinus Quirrell he teaches charms, he's quite shy and stutters outside of the classroom, but in class he's very confident and clear. Transfiguration is McGonagall’s expertise as I’m sure you know. Cuthbert Binns is a ghost who teaches History of Magic, you didn’t hear it from me, but self-study would be a far better method. Defense Against the Dark Arts is, of course, me. Herbology with Pomona Sprout, head of Hufflepuff. Flying from Roland Hooch, she’s also serving at the head of Slytherin. Astronomy is taught by Firenze, he’s a centaur. Then there’s potions…” Remus trailed off with a frown as he searched for the name.

“We got a new one, didn’t we?” George asked, hands out as Fred made a show of counting his brother’s fingers as Remus went through the list.

“His name is John Dawlish.” Remus sighed as he nodded his head, because of his and Sirius’ close connection with Dumbledore and McGonagall they had been kept in the know of the going on’s of Hogwarts. While cursebreakers had found and removed the curse on the Defense Against the Dark Arts’ position shortly after the fall of Voldemort, Hogwarts was still in constant need for a new professor.

This time it was for the potion master’s position. Potion masters were in short supply as it normally took years of research and countless galleons for one to achieve the title through apprenticeship. The pool was so small that Dumbledore struggled to find someone to replace the ones that left after a single year or two of teaching at the school.

The reason for the professors quitting so frequently?

Horrible accidents inside the classroom resulting in injuries, maiming, and in some cases death of students.  

The potion’s classroom was basically a live bomb with potential explosions brought about by one extra pinch on an ingredient or a misread step. The stress of watching forty students at once with such dangerous ramifications and the fact that an accident in Hogwarts would follow them throughout their careers meant that not many people wanted the position either. Working in medical services was far more appealing and typically safer. John Dawlish wasn’t a potions master, but an auror that the Ministry and Dumbledore had talked into the position because of his high N.E.W.T.s scores. His strict training as an auror was what made everyone hopeful that he would last and be successful in the position.

“Then there are the elective subjects which you can choose in your third year. Arithmancy and the Study of Ancient Runes will be taught by Bathsheda Babbling, Muggle Studies with Charity Burbage, Divination by Sybill Trelawney, and finally Care of Magical Creatures with Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank.” Remus finally finished, he felt slightly out of breath after going through the list. He and Dawlish were the only new teachers, meaning they would be in the same boat of remembering the names of not only their students, but also their coworkers.

More students were making their way into the Great Hall now and Remus knew he needed to eat fast, hand out the schedules to his chicks, and then report to his classroom for his first class. He quickly rapped his knuckles against Harry, Ron, Neville, and the twin’s heads sharply, speaking over their yelps, “I have to get going, good luck with your first day. Harry keep an eye out for Adhara, she’ll have Sirius’ response for you.”

Adhara was a northern long-eared owl, she was named after the second brightest star in the canis major constellation which Sirius is also part of. Remus had a male tawny owl named Cocoa, Harry was certain that the simplicity of the name was just to annoy Sirius who had apparently spent hours ruminating on what to name his newest companion. Hedwig, a female snowy owl, rounded out the trio of owls that were part of the Black family.

Harry nodded while nursing the small red mark on his forehead from the tap, grumbling softly about teachers bullying students before turning back to his breakfast. He knew that Hermione was staring at him but refused to acknowledge her as he crunched through some bacon and small bangers.

X X

The great flapping of wings stopped most conversation around the hall as the owls flooded in through the open windows. Letters and packages were dropped into waiting hands or in plates of food if the owner wasn’t fast enough to catch it. Harry grinned as he caught his own envelope, tearing into it as Adhara landed gracefully and silently on the table in front of him. Letting the owl take whatever she wished from his plate, Harry read his godfather’s loopy scrawl. Sirius was proud of his entrance into Gryffindor and offered advice on how to butter up McGonagall if he ever found himself in trouble. This came with a warning shortly after that Harry better not find himself ever in serious trouble. Sirius urged him to write him a letter in the evening about how his first day went and what he thought of everything.

As the chime sounded for students to head to their classes, Harry was smiling. The first class went well, along with the one after it. Then the next and so on and so forth. In what seemed like a blink of the eye, three months had passed. In that time Harry fell into a rhythm with his classes, homework, socializing with his friends, and spending much time in the library trying to research various things.

However, Harry wasn’t making much headway in terms of finding the information he wanted. His priority was trying to find out what those strange creatures in the forest had been. He had scoured his way through most of the texts about magical creatures both extinct and those with stable populations with no luck. When Harry had approached the librarian, Madam Pince, about finding more tomes she had turned her nose up at him. She had said that if the information he was looking for wasn’t on the main floor, then it wasn’t something that a first year should be spending their time researching.

A first year had no business trying to get into the restricted section either.

It was frustrating, and Harry was at a standstill for where to turn to next when Hagrid invited him down for tea in his hut. It had been difficult for Harry to hold back his whoop of joy and stop himself from banging his head against the nearest hard surface for forgetting to ask the gamekeeper. The only problem was that the note had been delivered to Harry during breakfast, which meant that both Ron and Neville had seen it. His friends wanted to come along, and Harry couldn’t refuse them. Not only would it draw suspicion if he did so, but Harry was already feeling guilty about all the time he spent locked up in the library.

So that Saturday after eating breakfast found the trio tromping their way down to Hagrid’s hut. After an enthusiastic greeting from Fang that left Neville on his butt, they were ushered into the… rustic home. Ron and Neville easily shared one of the oversized chairs and Harry took the one across from Hagrid after he pushed mugs the size of small cauldrons into their hands. Instead of tea, they found frothy, chilled butterbeer which came with a wink from the bearded man.

There certainly weren’t going to be any complaints from them!

Harry sipped his drink, relishing the taste as it now had been months since he last had the golden nectar of the gods. Ron almost immediately downed his and his eyes grew misty when Hagrid got him another. Neville seemed to be pacing himself like Harry, perhaps a little too nervous to drink too fast while sitting in a hut with so many animal caresses hanging from the ceiling, monstrous skulls, and other mishmash of trinkets. The conversation hopped around naturally, speaking about classes, complaining about homework, describing their new friends, and so on.

When the conversation lulled, Harry took his chance being careful to watch his tone. “Hey, umm Hagrid. You know a lot about magical creatures, right?”

“’Course I do. Say I’d be able ta te’ch the care of magical creatures class. But ah, don’ be tellin’ professor Gr’bbly-Plank tha’. She’s a fine lady and the beasts like ‘er well enough.” Hagrid answer enthusiastically, his cheeks were rosy, and it was obvious that he was drinking something far stronger than butterbeer or tea.

“I was wondering if you could tell me how many species of winged horses there are.”

“Not a probl’m. There’s the Abraxan, Aethonan, Granian, and many other breeds, but they're all pretty similar. Abraxan are the largest and strongest, Granian are the fastest, and Aethonan hail from Irel’nd and England.” Hagrid answered while scratching at his beard, gaze shifting up to the ceiling in thought.

“Are there any other-” Harry paused, unsure of how to bring up the monsters he had seen. He both chomping at the bit to ask, but also worried about the answer he may receive, “More interesting kinds?”

“Interesting?” Hagrid parroted, humming softly to himself before answering, “I s’ppose ya could consider hippogriffs to be half h’rse.”

Harry internally groaned, it seemed that he might have to spell out what he was after. “I read something in a book about a… more interesting creature, but I can’t find any more information on it anywhere. Not even in the books in the Hogwarts’ library.”

The other three members of the hut seemed to be hooked on Harry’s words and even Fang’s ears perked up in interest as the mood seemed to shift.

“Well come on, mate, tell us what you do know about it.” Ron urged obviously eager to find out what had been keeping his friend in the hellhole that was the library for so long.

“They were described as skeletal looking black horses with wicked sharp beaks instead of a muzzle. Their eyes wer-are a milky white, but they aren’t blind. They don’t have feathery wings, more like a giant bat's. They are able to eat at least some meat.” Harry shuddered as he remembered how the beasts had snatched pixies out of the air and viciously devoured them whole after they snapped enough bones in their prey by shaking their heads.

Neville was pale as he whispered, “Please tell me such a thing doesn’t actually exist.”

All eyes shifted to Hagrid who was practically wriggling in his chair with the telltale signs of discomfort.

“You wouldn’t happen to know what they are, would you, Hagrid?” Harry probed and waited. He had been told that the man had far too loose lips before.

“They sound right dangerous and nasty, like something that you’d find in the Forbidden Forest.” Ron said in disgust, his imagination running wild with the imagery that Harry had provided.

“No! The ones in the forest are perfectly tame!” Hagrid suddenly boomed out, startling the other three and causing Fang to let out a bark. As soon as the words finished leaving his mouth, Hagrid paled and covered his eyes with a hand as he muttered, “I shouldn’ ‘ave said that.”

“So, you do know that they are.” Harry felt like jumping for joy, his first real lead after so long!

“Aye,” Hagrid finally admitted, realizing that he had three very determined pre-teens on his hands now. “But they ain’t dangerous ta people. At least not unless ya giv’em a reason ta be. They’re called Thestrals, they’re meat eatin’ flyin’ horses. They’re predators, known ta go after flyin prey like bats, owls, and the like. Incredibly rare, not many people can see ‘em either.”

“Are they invisible or something?” Neville asked, a monster he couldn’t even see, these creatures were becoming more and more terrible by the second.

“Well they ain’t exactly invisible, but only people who’ve seen death, can see ‘em.” Hagrid corrected. “It's the whole associated with death thing. That makes them be labeled as dark creatures. Isn’t their fault though, they're very clever things. Tell ‘em a place ta go and they’ll take ya there, no problem, even if it’s a place they never been before. Vastly misunderstood creatures, boys, vastly misunderstood.”

“If you say so, they still sound like somethin’ a dark wizard would ride.” Ron answered, trying to appease Hagrid, but it seemed that he accomplished the exact opposite as the man dawned an expression similar to that of a kicked crup puppy. Harry couldn’t reach the redhead, but he didn’t need to as Neville took over the task of elbowing Ron hard in the ribs for the callus words.

“I’mma tellin’ you, they ain’t bad.” Hagrid’s words were quick with his agitation. “I trained those in the forest meself. Before the blasted Ministry got involved they used ta pull the carriages from Hogsmead ta Hogwarts.”

“The Ministry?” Neville asked, head cocking to the side as Hagrid paled.

“I shouldn’t have said that either.”

“Hagrid…” Harry pushed.

The gamekeeper heaved a great sigh that rattled the mugs on the table, the drinks forgotten with the focus on this mystery. “After the fall of You-Know-Who, the Ministry started ta pass all these new laws. They reclassified many of the beasts, relabeled thestrals as XXXXX creatures that should be killed on sight. They wanted ta remove anything with even a smidge of dark from everythin’. They saw the thestrals as a threat ta students and Hogwarts. They didn’t care that the opposite was true. If someone ever tried ta harm me or Hogwarts, the thestrals would defend against them. They’re a fiercely loyal creature, yes they are.

“But the Ministry wouldn’t listen ta reason. Ordered the herd ta be culled. I couldn’t let that happen. I just couldn't. So, I led them deeper inta the forest and that’s where they stay. Told the Ministry I killed the lot of them like they said to. Th’y weren’t about ta go inta the forest to check for 'emselves, the ruddy yellow-bellied cowards.”

The trio were in shock, Neville stuttered out as his eyes flashed around the windows of the small hut, making sure that they didn’t have any listeners. “Hagrid, are you mad!? This… this could land you in Azkaban.”

“I don’t care, I’mma not goin’ ta kill something that’s innocent. Do ya consider a starvin' cat evil just ‘cause it kills mice which are smaller and weaker than it for food? No.” Hagrid answered heatedly, obviously he wasn’t going to be moved on the matter. If the Ministry found out now, his fate was sealed even if he did finally kill the thestrals.

Harry’s brows pinched together, so thestrals weren’t exactly evil according to Hagrid. However, they were outlawed by the ministry and considered to be dark creatures. Hagrid certainly wasn’t dark, conversations about the man with his guardians and Hagrid himself proved as much. The thestrals still associated with and obeyed him. They had even been trusted with the young children of Hogwarts! What did that mean in regard to the stranger in the woods, or did it have any worth at all to Harry’s attempt to classify if the other was a dark wizard?

“’arry,” Hagrid’s voice startled him out of his thoughts. “I need ta know, where’d ya find the information ‘bout the thestrals? Like ya now realize they ain’t exactly well known.”

Bollocks, Harry scrambled to find an answer, surprised to see that Hagrid’s beetle black eyes were hard and serious. “From a book in the Black library, but it only had information about what the creatures looked like.”

Hagrid frowned deeper, looking down into his giant mug and swirling the liquid inside of it slowly. The silence stretched inside of the hut before the man continued. “Guess I shouldn’t be surprised seein’ that he’s from such a family.”

Then Hagrid was leaning forward, and Harry found himself leaning instinctively further back in his chair as Hagrid’s beard was dragged across the table. “Listen ‘arry, and listen well, all of ya. Don’t be mentionin’ these creatures or that book ta anyone.”

Now what did that mean? Harry didn’t know, but he nodded his head quickly like his friends. Hagrid seemed satisfied, nodding his head before hefting himself up, “Right’o then, you lads should be a headin’ back ta the castle. ‘bout lunchtime.”

The trio didn’t offer any protest as they were hustled out of the hut with the door falling shut heavily behind them. Hagrid certainly had been spooked by the whole conversation and they couldn’t really blame him when the consequences were so dire if any of them blabbered what they had learned.

“Soooo, Hagrid’s an interestin’ chap.” Ron finally ventured as they started up the long winding path back to the castle.

“I don’t think he’s wrong.” Neville’s words startled his friends and as they stared at him, he continued, “There are plenty of repulsive and dangerous plants that exist in our world. Take Mandrakes for example, their scream can kill you, but they are used as ingredients for important potions. Pepper-up, restorative draughts, and many antidotes include parts of Mandrakes. If we simply got rid of them, it would severely hurt us as well.”

“What could monster horses do to help us?” Ron grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest as he kicked a few pebbles out of his path.

“Exactly as Hagrid said earlier.” Harry answered, “They used to pull the carriages for Hogwarts and apparently can work as steeds and guard dogs.”

“Those things sound far scarier than a common crup, that’s for sure.” Neville agreed. Ron still looked mulish but didn’t argue. It wasn’t surprising considering how anti-dark the Weasley family was.

A thought suddenly came to Harry, that thestral mare and the granian stallion. “Think they can breed with normal winged horses?”

Ron and Neville pulled a face, Ron asking in confusion, “Why would you wonder about that?”

“Granians are herbivores while thestrals are carnivores, I doubt that they would naturally choose to mate. The ministry has a ban on experimental breeding of both plants and creatures.” Neville added, while Ron had little interest in the politics that both of his parents were involved in, Neville and Harry had already began to study them. Ron was one of many children and it was more likely that one of his brothers would be chosen as the next Lord Weasley or Lord Prewett. Harry and Neville were the only heirs to their families on the other hand.

That was right, Harry remembered the law now and it was a solid point against the stranger in the woods who had hinted to the fact that the foal was something that they were intending and hoping for.

As they entered back into the castle they headed straight to the Great Hall, they were, in fact, hungry after only mugs of butterbeer. The cakes that Hagrid had offered them weren’t in any way edible and Ron grumbled that he had almost chipped a tooth trying to bite into what seemed to be literal rock cakes.

Filling their plates, Ron said through a mouthful of steak and kidney pie, “Does this mean that you’re finally going to spend some more time outside of the library, Harry?”

Actually, it meant the opposite. Harry had gotten many answers from Hagrid this was true, but he still had so many questions left. He didn’t say as much, answering with a light, joking tone, “Maybe, but I have to keep my grades up if I actually want to get my broom back during winter break.”

“I’m still so jealous of you having a Nimbus! Mum and dad got us some new brooms, but they’re still not a Nimbus.” Ron groused, and Harry wondered how hard it would be to convince his godfather to gift at least Ron and the twins brooms like his own. The twins on a Nimbus and holding beater bats, a nightmare for any member of the opposite teams.

Lunch continued, and Harry saw from the corner of his eye a group of first year Gryffindor girls sitting on the bench. Lavender Brown, Parvati Patil, Eloise Midgen, and Fay Dunbar were giggling and gossiping together. They were so loud that Harry and his friends couldn’t help but to overhear their conversation.

“Ugh I can’t stand her! She’s a stuck-up bookworm with no manners, honestly.” Lavender huffed, tossing a dark braid back over her shoulder. Fay made a cooing noise of agreement while spreading some strawberry jam on a roll, “At least she finally seems to have gotten the hint that she’s not welcome to join us if she’s just going to prattle on and on about homework. I swear she doesn’t even know the meaning of the word fun .”

Eloise had a fearsome smile on her face as she said in a tone that was probably meant to be a whisper, but she didn’t know how to lower her volume, “She probably ran out of space for the word in that head of her’s. Maybe she replaced it with some complicated word that no one has used in the past century.”

The girls descended into giggles at the mean sentiments. Harry shared a glance with his friends, it was obvious who they were gossiping about. After all, there was only one female not included in the group.

Hermione Granger.

The trio wasn’t exactly fond of the bushy haired girl themselves, but if this was what Hermione had to live with by sharing a dorm with these witches…

Parvati tapped her painted nails against the wood of the table, her tone innocent, “Well she might just be getting her comeuppance soon.”

“Oh, do tell?” Lavender urged all of the group echoing her as they focused on Parvati who seemed to be glowing with the attention, even if it came at the expense of another. “I just saw Smith following Granger to the seventh floor in the east tower before coming to the Great Hall, I think he means to hex her.”  

As soon as the words finished coming from her mouth, Harry found himself on his feet and sprinting out of the Great Hall. The slaps of shoes on stone behind him told Harry that his friends were following behind him. Neville was lightly wheezing already by the time he and Ron pulled abreast with Harry.

“Sho-Shouldn’t we tell a teacher instead?”

“There’s no time, who knows what Smith will have done to her by the time we get a teacher!” Ron answered, while the redhead wasn’t fond of Hermione, he was even less so of Smith. In fact, he agreed with much of what the girls had been saying. Hermione was annoying with her enthusiasm for school and studying, also a stickler for the rules to the point of tattling to McGonagall that Harry was often returning to the tower after curfew. Thankfully, Gryffindor hadn’t lost any points as a result. Harry had permission to visit Remus whenever he wished and that included after hours since the professor was often busy with head duties and papers until then.

“Neville, go find Moony and tell him to head up to the seventh floor.” Harry instructed quickly, Neville’s physical condition was not the greatest and he was slowing Ron and him down. The chubby boy seemed to understand that as well and took a different hallway that would lead him towards the Ravenclaw dorm.

X X

As they bolted up the numerous staircases, taking two steps at a time, Harry couldn’t help but feel like he was partly responsible for what was happening. Hermione and Harry were at the top of their year in all subjects except for Herbology where they were edged out by Neville. Smith had often and loudly complained about this fact, obviously feeling that he should be entitled to being included in the top despite his mediocre grades. A point that both Harry and Hermione had no problem in reminding him of when he got uppity. Harry wasn’t under threat of retaliation from the blond boy because of his social standing and the fact that he had Remus here as a teacher. It was well known within the first week that Harry Potter and the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor were close enough to be kin.

Hermione, she didn’t have such a buffer as a muggleborn that had no political standing and was alone in the wizarding world with no magical relatives.

“Densaugeo!”

Harry heard the cry of the spell followed by the sound of a garbled female shriek. Ron and Harry shared a look before they turned the last corner of the corridor and into the seventh-floor corridor. Hermione was slumped against a wall, her hands against her mouth and a look of pain across her face. Something white was working its way past her fingers and stretching downwards at a steady rate.

Smith was laughing as he stood over her, wand at the ready like he was about to send another hex at the already incapacitated Gryffindor. Harry swore that he saw red at the sight.

“Expelliarmus!” Harry cried out, whipping his wand forward, a jet of scarlet colored light followed the motion, striking Smith squarely in the chest as he turned to face their approach. The tall boy was sent hurling back a few steps, his wand flying out of his hand and landing a distance away. Smith blinked at his hand stupidly for a few moments before he was knocked to the floor as Harry tackled the Hufflepuff.

“Finite Incantatem.”

The words came from behind Harry, but he didn’t give a damn about it as he slammed his fist into Smith’s face three times before he was dragged off the blond by a powerful grip. Still, he struggled wanting to get back at the coward and pay him back for whatever he had done to his housemate.

“Harry, cub, stop!”

Remus’ voice finally shook Harry out of his rage, green eyes looking up to see it was the werewolf holding him back. If Remus was here… Harry slumped, panting as he suddenly felt the effects of his sprint across the castle. Things would be fine now, Remus was far better equipped to deal with and handout punishment than Harry was. Looking down at Smith’s bloody face was very satisfying and he was certain that the other had a broken nose and a black eye. The knuckles of Harry’s right hand were smarting sharply, the skin broken from the force of his punches. Smith also seemed to have been knocked out, Harry didn’t know if it was a result of his strikes or from his fall to the floor.

Once he was certain that Harry wasn’t going to leap on the other student again, Remus let him go. It was only now that Harry could see the effects of the spell that Smith had used against Hermione, her front teeth had been the white substance that he had seen. They had now grown down to her collarbones and she couldn’t move her head much unless she wanted to possibly rip her shirt or skin. Ron was the one that had managed to stop the hex, but she would have to go to the hospital wing to get them shrunk.

“Mobilicorpus.” Remus uttered, lifting and directing Smith’s body with his wand. Neville had finally caught up to the rest of them, his cheeks red from effort.

“Moony,” Harry began, only to be silenced as Remus lifted his free hand to silence him. Instead he only inclined his head motioning for the four Gryffindors to follow him. “We’ll talk about what happened after we get Ms. Granger and Mr. Smith checked over. Can you be gentlemen and help Ms. Granger walk?”

The boys nodded quickly, Ron helping Hermione to her feet while Harry and Neville were on standby. As they walked, and the voices of more students grew closer, the trio moved to box the girl in as best they could to hide her from the curious stares and increasing whispers. Professor Sprout met them halfway through their journey but held her tongue as she fell in step next to Remus and took over levitating one of her young badgers. There were a few students already occupying the beds in the hospital wing and they lifted themselves slightly to see the large group making their way inside.

Madame Pomfrey bustled her way over to them and directed both Hermione, Smith, and Harry to beds, despite the latter’s protest. Smith, because he was unconscious, took priority and after a quick diagnosis spell that confirmed that he wasn’t in any immediate danger, the mediwitch turned her attention to Granger’s teeth. A careful spell shrunk them down to the point that they were even smaller than they had been originally, fitting the girl’s face much more prettily. A result that left Hermione beaming, it would no doubt irk Smith later that his attempt had achieved the opposite of what he wished.

Harry’s wounds on his knuckles were healed with a quick Scourgify and Episkey . Maybe he was just a little disappointed that he wouldn’t have scars to remember this by. At least while in the presence of Pomfrey, Harry was wise enough not to say as much.

Soon Professor McGonagall and Dumbledore were sliding into the room. The witch’s face pinched with worry for one of her cubs, while the headmaster’s face was calm though there was an absence of the twinkle that was usually in his eyes as he asked for what had happened.

It was Neville that spoke up first, “Well, umm, sir, during lunch Harry, Ron, and I heard some students say that they had seen Smith following Gran-Hermione up the staircase that led to the seventh-floor corridor. We thought he might be planning to do something terrible, so I went to go find Professor Lupin, while Ron and Harry went after Hermione.”

“While that is an act worthy of the courageous Gryffindor, I see that Smith is looking… A little less for the wear.” Dumbledore’s words were kind, but also disapproving as he watched Sprout fuss over her charge. She had an annoyed look on her face but seemed to believe what Longbottom said. Neville had built a large repertoire with the Herbology teacher for his grades, love of plants, and the fact that he spent quite a bit of time outside of class in the greenhouses.

“I disarmed Smith with a spell and… punched him.” Harry admitted when his grandfather figure turned towards him in question.

“While Harry did that I managed to stop the hex Smith used on Hermione that made her front teeth grow.” Ron added quickly, looking proud of himself and Hermione nodded her head to confirm the story.

“I see, well Ms. Granger, could you tell us how this came about? Was there some sort of trouble between you and Mr. Smith here?” Dumbledore summoned several chairs for the group to sit in as they spoke.

“Smith is an inane prat.”

Hermione’s words shocked all those gathered, Harry tried to fight the corners of his mouth down. Ron failed completely at this task and was full on grinning at the declaration, obviously his opinion of Hermione had just skyrocketed. Neville coughed unconvincingly into his fist to hide his snickers. Remus’ shoulders shook with the effort to not full on laugh though he kept a straight face.

“Sorry, Headmaster.” Hermione said quickly, growing pale as she realized what she had just said.

“Do not fear, my dear, I’m sure it’s just the shock speaking.” Dumbledore reassured, his face was neutral, but the twinkle had returned to his blue eyes. Hermione nodded her head slowly, like she afraid that if she moved too fast Dumbledore would change his mind. The group let the girl compose herself before she explained in a more… correct manner.

“Smith and I are not exactly friends, professor. Multiple times we have argued about certain things in regard to our classes. Nothing serious, mostly about what is a better essay topic or what is the correct way to pronounce a spell.”

“That doesn’t sound very atypical to what most students disagree about. Certainly nothing to warrant targeting someone with such a painful hex.” McGonagall growled, Remus on the other hand clenched his hands by his sides and kept his gaze away from anyone in the room as an old sense of guilt welled up within him. The Marauders had played plenty of pranks that elicited as much pain as the teeth growing hex on Sna-Prince and several other Slytherins over their school years. When Remus mused on this fact aloud to Sirius, the Black looked uncomfortable as he admitted that he knew the reason why they weren’t punished very severely. It was the Potters and Blacks, Dumbledore couldn’t afford to upset two politically powerful families especially during wartimes.

“I believe it was for the conversation we had yesterday.” Hermione answered, hunching her shoulders up like she was trying to melt into them and disappear. All were surprised by; this was certainly odd of the girl that was often called too overconfident.

“Since arriving at Hogwarts I realized that I know very little about the world I have entered. All of the purebloods and most of the halfbloods know the particular nuances of how to behave in a certain way be it greetings, conversation topics, or the like. I thought I may be able to find some hints if I studied the histories of prominent and ancient magical families.”

Harry felt like groaning, hadn’t they told her when they first met not to trust everything she read in the books from the wizarding world? Merlin help her when she meets a book that literally bites back.

“Smith often boasts about his supposed relation to Helga Hufflepuff, so yesterday I approached him and inquired how he knew for certain that he was related to a founder. I asked for proof or for where I might find some.”

Ron who was shaking his head, muttered heatedly, “Lesson number one, don’t ever question someone’s ancestry. It’s like, basically one of the greatest insults you can give a magical person, particularly a pureblood like Smith.”

“How was I supposed to know that? I didn’t mean to offend!” Hermione snapped back before her voice dropped to a whisper that only a few in the room could hear, “…at first.”

“Smith pushed me from behind into a wall in the corridor. He called me a nosey know-it-all rabbit, so he was going to give me teeth like one, then he hexed me.” Hermione finished, hand subconsciously reaching up to touch her mouth in memory to the feeling of her teeth elongating without control.  

“While I agree that your words weren’t exactly well informed,” Dumbledore spoke, “I don’t believe that you should have been hexed for it. If either Mr. Weasley or Mr. Smith hadn’t stopped the hex it could certainly have caused serious damage. Mr. Smith should have known that words are a far better way to deal with a conflict.”

The old wizard turned his attention to the overseeing heads of houses, “Of course we will need to hear Mr. Smith’s side of the story, but the fact that he hexed another student is a serious offense. I do believe that some points should be awarded and docked.”

They hadn’t come to Hermione’s aid because they wanted house points, it felt odd to be rewarded for doing something decent. However, the friends didn’t say as much aloud instead letting the adults decide on what to do. Remus was the first to speak as he set a hand on Neville’s shoulder.

“I believe Mr. Longbottom is deserving of fifteen points for coming and finding a professor.”

“Mr. Weasley was very quick witted about how to stop the hex, I believe fifteen points would be a fine reward.” McGonagall added, smiling as Ron preened under the praise and sent a grin at Hermione which she hesitantly returned.

Dumbledore nodded his head in agreement before meeting Harry’s eyes, “For young Mr. Potter you did well to disarm your opponent and come to the aid of your friend. However, you used excessive force after you had removed Mr. Smith’s wand. I’d still like to reward you with five points for Gryffindor. This is an important lesson, Harry, holding back can be just as important as acting.”

Harry took the headmaster’s words to heart, though he still didn’t regret punching Smith.

Three times might have been excessive, two…. Not so much in Harry’s opinion.

“It pains me to do this, but it disgusts me more that one of my own house would do something like this. Mr. Smith has cost Hufflepuff thirty points.” Sprout finished, getting a nod of approval from Dumbledore before he turned his head towards Madame Pomfrey.

“Poppy, do you think that the Gryffindors can be excused from your excellent care?”

The matron huffed, but nodded her head, “Yes, yes, they can go. I swear the only house more difficult to give medical attention to is Slytherin.”

XX

The four didn’t need any more permission than that and shuffled out of the hospital wing. They walked in silence down the corridor, Hermione trailing behind the boys. The sound of her footsteps stopping drew Neville’s attention first and he grabbed the sleeves of his friends to pull them also to a standstill as they looked back at the girl.

Hermione’s head was bowed, her frizzy hair was hiding her face as she spoke, “Thank you, if you hadn’t come to my rescue… I don’t know what else Smith might have done. I know we aren’t exactly friends, I’m well aware that no one here particularly likes me.”

The trio winced, Ron more than the other two as he knew just earlier that he had internally agreed with the gossiping girls’ complaints about Granger. The redhead took a step closer to her, rubbing the back of his neck anxiously. “’s not a problem. I mean, Smith’s definitely a problem, but like you ain’t one. I…”

Ron groaned as Harry and Neville snickered at his floundering behind him. Hermione gave a small, but real smile in answer. “I get it, Weas-Ron?” Her voice was questioning, uncertain if she was allowed to call the other by his first name. The freckled boy’s smile was answer enough to take a weight off her shoulders.

“Let’s restart, shall we?” Harry asked as he stepped up beside Ron, offering his hand, as he gave a formal bow. “Harry Potter, heir Potter-Black. My favorite dessert is treacle tart, my hobby is Quidditch and favorite subject is Defense Against the Dark Arts.”

Neville stepped up after Hermione shook Harry’s hand, giving a similar, but not the exact same bow as his fellow future lord. “Neville Longbottom, heir Longbottom. I enjoy banoffee pie, reading, and if you ever have a question about herbology, I’m your wizard I guess.”

Ron rolled his eyes but caved under Harry and Neville’s grins, giving his own bow with surprising grace that came from his lessons from his mother and father. His brothers and sister having been put through the same rigorous training, his parents wanted them to at least know how to do the old customs whether they later practiced them or not was left up to the children to decide. “Ron Weasley, youngest of Lord of Weasley sons. I like chocolate frogs, quidditch, and I’mma whizz at wizarding chess.”

“Hermione Granger, I like crepes with cinnamon and bananas, I love to read, and learning about anything is a passion of mine.” Hermione answered, though she still seemed uncertain if her greeting was adequate enough. That was another thing that they would have to work on with her. If she learned about the culture she entered maybe she wouldn’t be so abrasive, then again Harry had the feeling that even by muggle standards Hermione was a little intense.

Still from that moment on, a tentative, but growing friendship had been born between the four. 


 

Notes: 

Cocoa Remus' Tawny Owl: 

Adhara Sirius Long Earred Owl:

Chapter Text

 

Quick note for the reader, what Draco will be doing in this chapter and the 5th chapter is similar to this Kulning Ancient Swedish Herding Call.

 

Still from that moment on, a tentative, but growing friendship had been born between the four.

Surprisingly it was Harry who found himself the leeriest of Hermione, despite him being the first one to offer his hand in friendship. She was, as Smith had said, very nosy. She would join him often on his trips to the library and it grew increasingly difficult to hide what he was researching from her. Eventually he had given up and decided instead to try to probe Hermione for information. The results he had gotten were very surprising. With the knowledge of thestrals under his belt, Harry had turned his attention to the date that he had encountered the strange boy.

Once again, the tomes in the library had failed him in pointing out if it had any sort of significance.

When Hermione saw the day written over and over again in Harry’s notebook, she had asked him why he was so obsessed with the date of the summer solstice.

Harry had almost kissed the bushy haired girl, but he did hug her which had startled her well enough. Then of course he demanded to hear all she knew about the event. Hermione had been more than happy to share her knowledge on the subject, she loved teaching and it was rare that there was something that she knew that Harry did not. After the events with Smith, there was now a healthy sense of competition between the two Gryffindors inside and outside the classroom. Hermione also had more patience to work with Ron on his homework than Harry did, so that was also a plus for the group.

The summer solstice is the longest day of the year for that hemisphere’s summer season. The day on which the sun was at its highest point for the whole year. The muggle science mumbo jumbo that Hermione also spouted about it didn’t garner Harry’s interest, instead angling the conversation to discuss what might be important for the magical community about the date.

Hermione had just gotten to mention that the day was also called “Midsummer”, before the pair had been chased out of the library for their talking by an oddly distressed looking Madam Pince. Harry hadn’t thought much about it, instead suggesting that they head down to the lake to continue their conversation.

It was then that Harry also learned about the comedic play, A Midsummer Night's Dream, by a muggle named William Shakespeare in 1595. Listening to the plot of the play, Harry suspected that the muggle might actually have been writing about a personal experience with an accidental encounter with fae and magic. There were far too many truths hidden in the work for it to be a coincidence. The poet was also alive when propaganda and prejudice against the magical community and the muggles was at its highest.

It was surprising for Harry to learn that ancient muggles once considered Midsummer to be a magical and religious event. Perhaps it was… or should Harry say, still is, for certain individuals. His sneaking around in the library revealed a tantalizing but damning piece of information in a several decades’ old law book.

Midsummer, Samhain, winter solstice (also called Midwinter, Yule, and Jol), the equinoxes, Walpurgis, and several other old holy days were now deemed illegal to practice according to the Ministry for being considered dark events since they often included sacrifices, blood rituals, and a number of other things that made it feel like there was ice flowing through Harry’s veins. The law also stated that any books that included the practices in detail should be destroyed to not tempt the unwitting. That would explain why it was next to impossible for Harry to find much information from wizarding texts. Muggle ones, on the other hand, seemed to have quite a lot to say on the matters as Hermione served as Harry’s impromptu textbook with asking her if she knew anything about these holidays.

It seemed that while the ministry had been able to almost completely wipe the information from the wizarding world, the muggles still had their own fairy-tales, myths, and legends surrounding the holidays dating back to before the implantation of the statue of secrecy.

How much of it was actually true, both Harry and Hermione didn’t know.

Over the winter break, Hermione had researched and bought as many books dealing with myths as she could. Convincing her to bring the texts to Hogwarts proved to be impossible for Harry. While she was a lover of books and believed, mostly, in the freedom of the press; she wasn’t suicidal. They might be muggle works of ‘fiction’, but the ministry might still deem them to be a threat and contraband.

She did however, take many notes that she shared with Harry through owl posts. Hedwig certainly got her exercise throughout the holidays. Sirius and Remus were confused by the fact that Harry seemed oddly protective of his mail, but decided to leave it be. Childish secret correspondences couldn’t bring too much harm, right?

So far Harry had been able to avoid answering Hermione’s probes about why he was wanting to learn more about Midsummer and where he had heard several of the terms he had given her to research. Usually he could distract his fellow Gryffindor by saying something along the lines of “It’s okay if you can’t find anything, I mean, I didn’t.” That sent her blood a boiling and she would throw herself fully back into her researching, forgetting her question.

Harry would, in later years, claim that his manipulative abilities had come naturally from the Black blood that ran in his veins. He knew just what to say to guide Hermione towards some rather interesting reading material.

“The Holly King returns once more tonight.”

The phrase had stuck inside Harry’s mind and he was delighted that Hermione found some information alluding to the king in a very old book from a secondhand bookstore in muggle London. Apparently in the mythology of ancient Britain the Oak King was a mythical figure that ruled the land when the sun was waxing. The Holly King ruled over the waning sun and began his rule on the summer solstice. The Oak King withdrew to the circumpolar stars, which never disappeared from the night sky even in winter as the Oak King would be eagerly waiting to return to reclaim his throne. Midsummer, like Samhain, was thought to be one of the spirit nights of the year by old world muggles. A time in which the veil between the worlds grew thin and evil spirits and witches were the most active.

“O ignis fatuus te, in via lux.”

The answer to this was something that Harry accomplished on his own. It was Latin which Harry was continuing to study as it was very useful for spell creation. Growing up under Sirius, Lord Black had made sure that Harry was at least bilingual. The language he was fluent in beside English, being French. The spell that the stranger had spoken translated along the lines of “Will o Wisp, light the way”.

Will o’ Wisps weren’t exactly creatures that brought about warm and fuzzy feelings. They, like the Hinkypunk, were dark beings that produced a light that looked similar to that which a lantern would give off from a distance away. They delighted in leading both magical and non-magical folk alike far off into the forest then leaving them lost. The creatures could hurl small fireballs and could imitate calls that would entice a human to follow. The Will o’ Wisps typically didn’t directly harm people, but their naughty nature often led people into harm’s way with either becoming trapped in a forest or bog, or the person falling into the grips of a more vicious monster.

To name a spell referencing such a creature, it didn’t exactly fit the image of a welltodo wizard.

The practice and knowledge of Midsummer, illegal experimental breeding, and an unknown spell that wasn’t listed anywhere in the book Harry had asked for for Christmas of all approved and banned spells from the past to current times; that was three strikes against the stranger in Caledonian Forest.

Harry now felt that he had the ability to deal with the potential dark wizard. After the incident with Smith and Sirius catching wind of it, Remus had started to train Harry, Neville, and Ron. The werewolf seemed oddly reluctant in including Hermione, but in the end let her join in the dueling lessons. The spells he taught focused more on the defensive, but also included offensive ones as well. Remus stressed to the four that if given the choice, their first goal should be to disarm their opponent. Unless the other was carrying battle potions, a weapon, or was skilled at wandless magic, removing the wand could end the fight quickly and with as little damage from either parties as possible.

Harry, Ron, and Neville knew that Remus was speaking from experience, their parents and guardians had lived through wartime and taken up wands in defending what they believed in. 

Aguamenti and Aqua Eructo to produce a stream of water, Alarte Ascendare and Ascendio to shoot a target into the air, Anti-Jinx counter spells, Aparecium a charm that reverses concealing charms, Arresto Momentum to slow the target’s movement. Avis a charm that summoned a flock of birds that would create a distraction. Silencio to mute something was a spell Harry already knew, but now had mastered.

I ncarcerous to conjure ropes to bind someone, Harry had almost refused to learn this spell as it was used in combination with another spell to kill the Veela all those years ago. The memory of the event still haunted him some nights, Remus knew this and said Harry didn’t have to practice it. However, Harry knew that it was a useful spell, even if it made him feel sick each time he cast it. These were the spells that Remus had managed to teach them before they were seated on the Hogwarts Express heading back to London.

It was rather shocking, how fast Harry’s first year at Hogwarts went and now Harry was saying goodbye to his friends at the platform. For Christmas, Harry had gotten Hermione a barn owl,so she could send messages to the three boys instead of having to wait on them to send an owl first.

Hermione’s parents weren’t too enthused with the idea of having an owl flying in and out of their house in a muggle neighborhood. Seeing how happy it made Hermione though, to send messages to her friends, they gave in. The male owl was name Twonk, after Norvel Twonk a wizard who had famously died saving a Muggle child from a runaway Manticore- an act which earned him a posthumous Order of Merlin, First Class.

XX

Settling back into the manor was easy, if not a little dangerous as Sirius was making up for lost time with his pranking of both Remus and Harry. It got to the point that Remus had ordered the elves to only serve dog food to Sirius until he called a cease fire. Harry was grateful as he had already had to grow his eyebrows back three times, found his hair bleached blond with red streaks, and everything in his room shrunken to a fourth of its normal size, this included clothes and furniture alike. The only good thing was that Harry was forced to learn Reducio and Engorgio which wasn’t taught until second year normally.

Harry managed to get his own revenge with transfiguring all of Sirius’ dress robes into collars and all his normal clothing into dog clothes that he had seen from a magazine that some muggleborn had in the common room.

When Sirius paraded about in his animal form in a hot pink doggy coat with bows and fur trim, Remus turned the notch up by charming Sirius’ fur green which tinted his skin as well when he transformed back.

The evening of June 21st,1992 came and Harry knew that it was Midsummer once more. He was going to be alone this evening with Kreacher having his day off and Harry’s guardians having told him a month in advance that they were planning a date night. After being apart for so long because of Remus’ teaching duties, Harry couldn’t fault them for wanting to have some time for themselves.

Especially when it played into Harry’s favor.

Harry might have gathered quite a bit of evidence against the stranger, but he wasn’t willing to share his findings with anyone yet. With his memories of the night he could prove he wasn’t lying. However, to accuse someone of being dark… was basically a death sentence, and Harry knew that after all the things he had heard growing up and the sentiments were reaffirmed by the murmurs he heard in the halls of Hogwarts whenever a Slytherin tried to pass through unnoticed.

If the other was innocent, Harry didn’t want their blood on his hands. No, he needed to be certain, without a single doubt that he was making the right call.

It was for those reasons that Harry was creeping back into the forest under his invisibility cloak, covered in muffling and sticking charms, and atop his Nimbus once more. He was going to find the answers tonight or at least he hoped so. The plan he had come up with wasn’t exactly the most ethical, he was intending to use stupefy against the stranger. With the other unconscious he might then be able to find some incriminating evidence on his person.

If the other boy was knocked out, then it would be all the easier to then take him back to the manor for Sirius and the Aurors to deal with if he was proven to be dark. If Harry didn’t find what he needed he would guard the other until he woke up against any wandering predator.

After all Harry wasn’t heartless.

Just...very concerned and determined to solve this mystery. He was doing the right thing in his mind, after all, there was a potential threat living behind his home and he worried that his family was in danger.

The house elves were easy to distract with giving them a complicated menu for tomorrow’s lunch. Harry’s broom and cloak had also been returned when Harry had returned at the beginning of the summer for being either first or second in his year for all of his classes and for having kept his hands mostly clean of any questionable activities aside from the Smith incident. If Harry got caught, he had the feeling that his punishment would be far worse than last time, so he was resolved to return before midnight even though Sirius and Remus weren’t due to return until late in the morning tomorrow. It was far better to be safe than sorry in this case. Next month he would be turning twelve, Harry was certain he could do this.

stranger's call

Like the time before, the haunting voice started to echo through the trees just as the sky grew purplish and red with the sunset. It lilted in wordless tones that made Harry shiver. All too soon, he found himself faced with glassy white eyes and one set of dark ones as the herd and Harry converged. Harry decided that he wasn’t going to try and outpace the thestrals and Veilantiu, the Granian stallion, instead he hovered over the herd as they steadily made their way closer towards the voice. The stallion seemed to be able to smell Harry as he would turn his head from time to time in his direction. The thestrals on the other hand, seemed to be able to smell and perhaps even see Harry as their milky pupils would actually track Harry’s movement if he crossed from one side of the herd to another.

Creepy, these creatures still unsettled Harry greatly. They seemed tame enough for the strange boy and Hagrid spoke highly of their character, but they made Harry’s skin crawl. He had spent long hours wondering how he had been able to see them, uncertain of the fact that he had ever witnessed death.

The gamekeeper had mentioned during a later visit that the person had to understand that it was death, so Harry as a baby would have been too young to recognize the death of his mother despite it taking place in front of his eyes. After ruminating for hours, Harry could think that the only incident that it could be was the Veela from the Atrium. Human death was supposedly necessary, animals dying just wouldn’t cut it apparently. The woman had been a magical creature, though it seemed to fit the bill enough and growing up the way he did, Harry saw such sentient beings to be on the same level as plain old humans.

In the end, it didn’t matter how Harry was able to see the thestrals and his mind was pulled from it as they started to enter a clearing. Harry suspected that it might be the exact same one from the year before, but he couldn’t be certain with how natural landscapes, particularly those induned with magic, rapidly changed.

The boy, as darkly and heavily cloaked as before stood in the center of the clearing, the small purple balls of fire from the Will o’ Wisp charm providing a little light. The potential dark wizard’s singing had soften and his hood was turned in the herd’s direction. He seemed to be able to sense they had grown close.

How? Harry didn’t know, but he knew that this was his chance and he summoned his wand from his arm holster with a flick of his wrist as he and the herd reached the edge of the tree line.

The action caused chaos to briefly erupt as the herd suddenly bolted into the clearing. The thestrals were admitting a low churring noise as they galloped in, their wings spreading up and out to create more cover as they moved in a constantly moving loop around the clearing. In the center of the circle which was about three meters wide stood the cloaked figure, his stiff stance and the way his head moved this way and that showed he was just as alarmed as Harry by the herd’s actions. Veilantiu was moving on the outside of the loop, tossing his head and arching his great neck while running in the opposite direction of the herd.

Harry was confused and he could barely see the other boy through the mass of bodies, leathery wings, manes, and tails. Veilantiu was flapping his grey feathered wings from time to time like he would take off from the ground at any moment.

It was then that Harry realized what was happening…

The herd was protecting the stranger. The threat, Harry recognised, was himself.

“If some’ne ever tr’ed to h’rm me or H’gwarts, the thestrals would defend agains’ th’m. Th’y’re a fiercely loyal creature, yes th’y are.”

Hagrid’s words came back to Harry, these creatures were using their own bodies to shield the boy from any threat. They circled tightly around him and their sharp hooves and beaks would do damage to many a creature. Unsure of what to do, Harry hovered his broom higher into the air so he could see into the circle that the thestrals were forming unimpeded. Getting a clear shot at the other still seemed unlikely even at this new angle and Harry was conflicted about trying to send a spell when it might hit a thestral instead. His knowledge about the creatures was still oh so limited. Would a spell bounce off their hides, would it send them into a rage, would it accidentally kill the beasts? The thestrals had done nothing to Harry and if he caused them great harm, what would that make him compared to the ministry run Gatherers?

“Hrimfaxi!” The stranger called the name of the thestral, trying to get her attention. If he got control of the head mare, the rest of the herd would follow. One of the beasts split off from the rapid circle, standing on the inner edge with her ears erect and wings spread wide. She glanced into the sky where Harry was hiding under his invisibility cloak and to her supposed master.

“Hrimfaxi, to me.” The boy repeated, though his voice had turned softer, trying to entreat her to obey him. He dropped into the sweeping bow he had given Veilantiu the year before, one hand over his heart and the other holding his wand out and away from him. The thestral clicked her beak in recognition to the gesture, but still refused to move closer. The sound of the hooves pounding over the grass echoing the pounds of both wizards’ hearts.

“Come now, is my voice, magic, and greeting truly not enough for you?” The cloaked one asked, confusion and concern coating his tone as he tried to puzzle out the strange behavior. The question did not move the thestral and the boy sighed in frustration before lifting a hand to his hood.

As the fabric dropped Harry was surprised to find that the youth’s face was still not immediately visible to him. No, the other was wearing a veil of inky black cloth that covered his eyes and bridge of his nose from sight. What Harry could see was thin pink lips sitting above a pointed chin and long hair that was more silver than blond with its color. The locks rested just to the stranger’s shoulders and shorter bangs were swept to one side over the veil.  A tug to the fabric that seemed to be charmed for the wearer to see through and the veil fell to rest around his pale neck.

Harry’s breath caught as he took in the silver colored eyes that unflinchingly stayed locked with those of the thestral. High cheekbones made the boy have an angular face, though it was softened with youth and the skin was completely unblemished. This boy, he had to be about the age of Harry himself and....

He certainly didn’t look evil.

There was no haggard or doping skin, no warts that sprouted disgusting pus, no blood red eyes that shined with a lust for blood; no sharp, crooked yellow teeth were shown when he opened his mouth, and his fingers weren’t blackened or gnarled from dark magic eating away at his flesh in exchange for the use of its power.

No, the boy looked…. Normal, silver wasn’t a common eye color among muggles, but among magical folk it wasn’t such a stretch. Sirius had grey eyes and Ollivander’s were a kind of silver white. There were no telltale signs of the other being a dark wizard in appearance other than how he was cloaked. The tip of Harry’s wand tipped down towards the soil, his resolve failing him as he realized he could be sentencing this stranger to death if he followed through with his plan. When the other had been a literal faceless entity, there had been no sense of guilt or doubt. Now, looking into a face that could so easily be walking among his peers in the halls of Hogwarts, Harry’s heart and mind recoiled at the idea of harming him.

Harry had punched Smith and enjoyed it, but this blond had done nothing to Harry nor to his friends.

As Harry’s thoughts remained in turmoil, Hrimfaxi seemed to have sensed the change in the unseen voyeur and clicked her beak. The herd slowed their racing, though their wings remained stretched towards the sky. Veilantiu trotted quickly into the center of the circle and stood beside the head mare. Both winged beasts bowed their heads to the blond before moving finally within touching distance. The boy still looked concerned, but relieved as he let the stallion lip over the fingers of one of his hands while the other moved to scratch under the thestral’s long mane.

“You great silly beasts, what was cause for all that drama?” The boy asked, glancing about the clearing now that things seemed to have once more calmed. Silver eyes moving unseeingly over the spot Harry hid himself, but nonetheless he found himself flinching. Harry knew that he wasn’t going to go through with his plan, it would be far better to leave things as they were for now. At least until he could unscramble his thoughts. However, he found himself unable to will his broom to turn back the way of home. The charmed object was in tune with Harry’s intentions like all brooms were and could tell that he wasn’t truly ready to leave yet. Wasn’t ready to possibly never see this boy’s face again.

“Ah, is this the reason why?”

Harry tensed at the words and he snapped back to the present as he feared for a moment that he had been discovered, but no. It appeared that the cause was something entirely different.

A small gangly figure was now beside the blond and stood on legs which seemed to still be learning how to balance.

A foal, though it was one that was far stranger than anything Harry had seen before. The hide of the hybrid was black as the night, but the fur that stretched over its legs seemed to act as a gradient as the closer to the hooves the eye was drawn the more the hairs turned into a silver color. The mane and tail, short as they were for being so young, also seemed to follow this shift of black to silver. The wings were leathery like that of a thestral, but at the very base of them sprouted tuffs of grey, white, and black feathers. The muzzle of the foal was like that of its father, soft and round like any normal winged horse. The baby was lean, but not emaciated looking like a pure thestral. The ribs were clearly visible, but muscle and flesh filled out the withers and rump of the foal.  Eyes grey and full of mischief as shown by how the foal tugged at the sleeve of the wizard, before butting its head against his chest.

“Seems you inherited the charming personality of your sire.” The boy grunted, but didn’t fall like he would have if Veilantiu had done as such. As he patted over the small creature, examining it carefully for any signs of discomfort or ill health he murmured. “A filly, are you? Then shall we name you Enbarr? It’s from an old Irish tale of a horse that could travel both sea and land with ease, you come from two worlds; of death and life as reflected in your parents.”

The filly, Enbarr, didn’t seem to care as she quickly grew distracted with the desire to suckled from her mother. The blond rolled his eyes at this, before moving to examine the rest of the herd and then saddling the Graian stallion once more.

Harry drifted after the herd as they started through the trees, telling himself that he would follow for only a little longer and then return home. They traveled in silence this time and the pace was growing slightly faster as it seemed that the boy was worried that they were behind some kind of schedule. As they traveled ever deeper into the forest, Harry noticed that they were being watched.

Centaurs stood in the thickets observing the herd, purple fireballs conjured by magic, and passenger passing without even a twitch for their weapons. A cockatrice, with its feathery body which looked like that of a rooster easily traveled further into the branches of a large tree with a few beats of its wings when they drew closer, the large lizard tail it sprouted wrapped around a branch to further balance it. Cockatrice were aggressive and labeled as extremely dangerous beasts by the ministry, but this one only cocked its head to the side as they passed under it. Multitudes of other creatures slunk through the shadows, some of which Harry recognized, some he didn’t, and others moved too quickly for him to get a good look at. None of them attacked or approached the herd, no it seemed that they were accepted members of the forest as much as they were. Perhaps even more than that as there was obvious respect that the group was being shown.

The trees suddenly opened up into a large clearing: what stood waiting there made Harry freeze. Eight figures dressed in dark cloaks similar to what the blond was wearing, their heights, along with their stature were varied but all of their hoods were turned towards the herd's approach. What was even more shocking was the numerous creatures that the figures appeared to control. Four different types of beasts stood in small herds around pairs of the cloaked individuals.

Bicorns, large, dangerous cow-like creatures the size of horses bellowed softly to each other as they shifted from time to time on their cloven hooves. The two spiraling horns that crowned their heads had wicked sharp points at the end that could be used to gore any threat. Harry had heard that these beasts would run down magical folk and trample them to death for even the slightest transgression. Their horns were useful in potions, breeding and captivity had been accomplished by wizards. However, taming of the beasts had never been successful… At least as far as Harry had known.

However, two of the figures, young males from the broadness of their shoulders, towering height, and bulky frames, sat on saddles across the great backs of two of the beasts. Specialized bridles were on the Bicorns’ heads, the lengths of leather wrapping from the muzzle, ears, and horns before stretching into the reins that sat in the boys’ hands. These two were the first to notice the blond’s appearance and called to the rest of the group.

Griffins, having the front legs, wings and head of giant eagles; while their body, hind legs, and tail were that of a lion. There were around seven of the creatures, and they clacked their beaks until they were given treats of what seemed to be raw meat by the slight figures of another pair of humans. In some parts of the world, Harry knew that Griffins were often used by people to guard treasure and homes, like Sphinxes. They could be steeds, but it was difficult to gain such a degree of trust from these intelligent creatures. Two of the Griffins had saddles on them, so at least two of the group had accomplished the feat. This pair was shorter and lean, their cloaks showing just developing curves.

Beside the Griffins were a group of hippogriffs. It was ironic that Harry would be seeing the very creatures that Hagrid had mentioned when he wished to learn more about thestrals. Half horse indeed with the hind legs and tails of horses, but the front legs, wings and heads of eagles. Their eyes were a striking orange color that gleamed even in the darkness of the night. These were the most common of the gathered beasts and Harry knew that Hogwarts had their own herd of them. An additional pair of what appeared to be boys slid off the backs of their hippogriffs at the sight of the thestrals.

The final group of beasts were the most alien looking. They were rare beasts that had been referenced in one of the old textbooks that Remus had him study. Mooncalves, but they certainly didn’t look at all like that of cows or any other bovine. They had smooth, pale grey skin, and four spindly legs that end in large flat webbed feet like that of a duck. Their necks were extremely long and on the top of their head sat bulging blue eyes that were reminiscent of a full moon which they were named after. They were small and were nowhere near large enough for a person to ride, instead among the group of the chattering creatures stood two Aethonan. These were chestnut colored winged horses, they stood with two more cloaked figures. Both seemed to be female, but their body types were far different than each other with one being very tall and thick and the other being slight and thin.

The herd of thestrals stopped in the center of the clearing, with the blond gracefully sliding out of the saddle as the other figures did the same and approached with a cautious slowness.

“Et sanguinem magicae pur, benedicat tibi.” The Latin flowed elegantly from the blond boy’s lips as he swept into a bow after drawing the sleeves of his cloak up to his elbows in one smooth tug on each cuff. Harry studied the greeting carefully, seeing now that the reason that the other’s long robes flared as he bowed was because he stood with his feet apart with one set slightly further back than the other. The length of wood that was his wand still sat in the boy’s right hand and he swept it out to the side, the tip pointed far away from any creature in the clearing. The left hand sat upon the spot where his heart laid and as he straightened back up, he twisted his wrist to show both sides of his hand, the back of it and his palm.

“Ut vincatis, et magicae pur est.” The answer came from the eight figures that now stood before the blond and then bowed in the same manner as he. Seven of the figures were revealed to have pale skin as their arms were shown, while one had darker skin. Harry picked out the words ‘blood’ and ‘magic’ in the greeting, but the rest he would have to translate later.

As soon as they straighten, the mood changed significantly. A sharp female voice, huffing as she set her hands on her hips, this was one of the pair that had stood with the Mooncalves. “You’re late, Draco.”

Draco .

Harry finally had a name for the stranger in the woods and bit his lips to stop himself from gasping at this wonderful knowledge.

“Oh sod off, Pansy. It wasn’t my fault, the herd was skittish because they had a new foal.” The now christened Draco answered with a roll of his eyes before a smirk spread across his lips as he playfully continued, “But I suppose you wouldn’t wish to see the first hybrid of her kind. No, we are far behind on time as it is.”

“The baby was actually delivered alive?” A soft male voice asked, a very thin, but tall figure swayed which revealed which of the cloaks had spoken.

“Indeed, Theo, but you heard the lady, we must be on our way. No time for dallying.” Draco answered, turning on his heel to head back to the stallion. His steps were slow, far from following the urgency he was proclaiming.

“Oh come off it.” The dark skinned wizard groaned, it seemed that one could almost hear the boy rolling his eyes as he continued. “You never miss a chance to boast, let’s see her then.”

“I am not so predictable, Blaise.” Draco responded with a wave of his hand, though he whistled nonetheless which made the head mare and her filly come forward. The group oohed and ahhed at the small creature, though neither the filly nor the mare let any of them approach. Hrimfaxi clicking her beak in warning and Draco quickly warning the young witches and wizards back.

“Your father will be pleased.” One of the larger boys who rode the Bicorns rumbled and Draco seemed to preen at the words. Only for his face to fall a moment later into a pout as the tallest girl spoke.

“He won’t be pleased to find you without your veil and hood, Draco.”

“Don’t you dare, Millicent.”

“Ah, ickle Draco’s afraid of daddy.” Another female singsonged, descending into giggles with the girl beside her. These two were the ones that rode the Griffins.

“Like you aren’t? What would our great leader think if he heard that you two went on a night ride last Yule? Hm, Tracy, Daphne?” Blaise countered, coming to the defense of the blond as he sauntered over to Draco’s side, slinging an arm across his shoulders while removing his own hood. The dark skinned boy was also wearing a veil, which he quickly pushed up to rest on his forehead to reveal brown eyes that shined with mirth that reminded Harry of the gleam a certain pair of redheaded twins usually had.

The two girls flinched at the challenge, falling silent quickly. Still the atmosphere between the group was friendly and teasing, Draco placed a hand to his forehead as he spoke with a dramatic tone. “Please do not do this to me! Do not ruin one of the few times in the year I’m allowed out while not being covered up to my ears in fabric.”

“Yes, Milli! Do not deny us the chance to see the soft, pale skin of our dear prince.” The girl called Pansy cried as she skipped her way over to Draco’s unoccupied side, running her fingers along the column of the boy’s throat and face making him squirm. Draco got his revenge by pulling off Pansy’s hood and then her veil, revealing her to have a pug face and dark brown hair cropped short halfway down her neck.

These kids, they had to be around the same age as Harry. They laughed, teased, and bickered just like he and his own friends did as well. Though there was a noticeable degree of grace and thought behind each of their actions, like they were hyper aware of their surroundings and constantly on the hunt for clues of dangers or hidden meanings. There was no doubt in Harry’s mind that there was genuine affection between the group.

“Vincent! Gregory! What in the name of Circe do you think you’re doing?” Millicent called sharply, making Harry search for the cause. Two more hoods had fallen and these were the two heavyset boys, both with short hair though one with black and the other with brown. Their veils dropped around their necks to show their eye colored echoed that of their hair. The pair looked confused by the scolding and the one with darker hair asked while tilting his head.

“Umm, are we not all takin’ ‘em off?”

“Vincent.” The girl growled in answer before yelping as a hand yanked back her own hood, revealing long wavy black hair that unraveled down her back. Millicent sent a stinging hex towards her attacker, one of the other still hooded girls, who summoned an advanced shielding charm before it could hit.

Peace be quiet! We wear the hoods and cloaks to hide, but who is here to see us, who would even know us? To the world beyond this wood we do not exist.” The other girl, Daphne if Harry was keeping the names straight, called as she threw off her hood and twirled the long sash of black fabric that had covered her eyes around her fingers revealing blue eyes that complimented her long blond hair. The old phrase ‘Peace be quite’, was it not the same that Harry had read in one of the Shakespeare plays that Hermione had given him? It translated in the modern tongue as a way to rudely say ‘shut up’.

Tracy the one whom just now lowered the magical barrier, flicked her wand at her own face summoning a wind so strong it threw off not only her hood, but also the veil which she scrambled to catch before it drifted further into the air with a twinkling laugh as her brown curls bounced across her shoulders, green eyes looking back towards the last still hooded figure and the veiled Millicent.

“Come then, Theo, give the trees a look see!” Blaise tempted, still leaning heavily on Draco who quirked a pale brow in challenge to the hooded boy.

Theo squirmed under the gaze, the twitch of his cloak revealed this and wrung his hands in front of him. With a soft sigh, he finally caved and let his hood fall back revealing wispy pale brown hair that fell almost to his shoulders with cropped bangs. His ears and blue eyes, which were seen when the veil was lowered, were a little large. Theo’s face was very thin giving him a slightly rabbity or horse like face, Harry felt like Remus would say something along the lines that the other would eventually grow into them.

Millicent seemed to realize she had lost the battle long ago and moved her veil back to act as a headband with a huff, “If we get caught, the blame won’t be mine to take.”

“Yes, yes, we know, Milli.” Pansy answered with a dismissive sniff, smirking as the larger girl’s face colored as she snapped back, “I told you not to call me that!”

The girls descended into a squabble that made the rest roll their eyes, but their lips were quirked up into grins, and Harry found himself joining in. These kids were certainly characters and would have fit in perfectly in Hogwarts, perhaps bringing more fun and adventure to the daily grind of classes and homework. Would they have been Slytherins? Or perhaps they could have filtered into different houses, even Harry’s own if he could have been sent into the den of serpents.

“Avada kedavra.”

The words and the following flash of green light made Harry’s heart stop and his broom rocketed higher into the air in an attempt to get away from the range of the dreaded killing curse. Breath ragged and nails digging into the wood as he looked about the clearing, terrified that he would find one of the cloaked kids on the ground dead. All nine stood tall though as the dark skinned boy walked to the treeline while Pansy shrieked at him, “Griffin teeth! Blaise, a little warning?!”

The young wizard ignored the girl, reaching down and picking something up. As he turned back around it was revealed that he now held a limp squirrel. The apparent victim of the curse. As Blaise walked back to the group he offered it to Hrimfaxi who devoured the rodent eagerly, rewarding the wizard for the treat by letting him touch her and getting a passing brush of his fingers over Enbarr’s flank before the filly skittered away again.

“Oh yes, I’m going to just declare loudly ‘I’m about to cast an unforgivable, please Mr. Squirrel don’t run!’. No one was even near where I was castin’, it’s not such a trifle.” Blaise countered, not at all apologetic, instead gloating at the fact that he was allowed to touch the thestral and the new hybrid foal. Clearly the rest of the group was not at all disturbed by the fact that their friend had just used a spell that had no counter and promised instant death if it even glanced one’s skin.

It was said that the killing curse caused no pain for their victim, so the squirrel did not suffer. Harry knew this and he had also witnessed how thestrals killed their prey, painfully snapping bones and tearing flesh. Many predators killed the same way and the prey was in terror and agony until they took their last breath. In that aspect he knows that Avada kedavra was a far kinder way to go, but it was disturbing that someone, even a child, could cast a spell that ends the life of another in the same casual manner any wizard might cast lumos .

Sirius had told him years ago about the unforgivables, how their incantations were common knowledge. However, not everyone could cast them; you had to be fully committed for the spell to work. The person has to mean it . It meant that Blaise truly wished for the squirrel to be dead and then it was so.

Harry felt sick.

How could he have forgotten that he was in the presence of dark wizards and witches?

“We’ve spent too much time, we need to be on our way.” Theo’s voice cut through the chatting and he was already starting to head back to the hippogriffs. The rest of the group seemed to agree and quickly returned to their steeds. Vincent and Gregory riding the Bicorns, Millicent and Pansy to the winged horses among the mooncalves, the griffins carried Daphne and Tracy, and finally Blaise joined Theo with the hippogriffs. The now much larger herd started into the woods, species that normally did not get along or interact in nature tolerating each others’ presence in the company of the young humans.

Despite his terror, Harry followed after. His hands still locked so tightly around his broom that he felt a growing cramp in his fingers.

“Draco, give us a verse.” Tracy called as her griffin edged its way into the center of the herd, all of the magic users where riding one after the other in a single line, the beasts they led walking on either side of them.

“Why me, we know that you have just as lovely a voice?” Draco’s tone was humble, but his silver eyes were alight with an eagerness. Daphne answered him as she tossed her blond hair back having just finished braiding some of the griffin’s feathers into it. “We shall join you, please lead us in our first song for Midsummer.”

The Cauldron Born (lyrics edited for story)

Draco acquiesced, his light tenor filling the air around him, “Sunset, moonrise, and see how the land is bathed in silver hue.”

Their surroundings were indeed hinted with cool gleam from the moon’s rays that managed to spill between the thick canopy. The rest of the youths were humming now, providing a harmony for the next verse as Draco sang, “You feel so lonely come with me and let me show there are others just like you, who feel the powers of Earth, Sea and Sky. Of Dragon and Faerie, and Shades of the night.”

“Hear the call of our ancestors, of blood and bone, of womb and tomb, and standing stone. Lady, stir your cauldron well, chant your words, and sing your spell. Deep within this darkened hall hear the Goddess Ceridwen call. Come and taste of the cauldron's brew and magic she will give to you.” Yet another name that Harry was unfamiliar with, but the way that she was sung about, she appeared to be a major figure in the group’s beliefs.

Yet more research he would have to conduct because he knew and accepted that he really wouldn’t be able to make himself leave this be. Perhaps he had been enchanted, but most people didn’t realize that they had been. So if he was considering it, then surely it meant that Harry was not trapped under some spell.

The other witches and wizards were singing now, Draco falling silent as they commanded the song, “You will dance in the eye of the storm, you're Ceridwen's children. The cauldron born. The eyes of silver, guides our way. So, we stand on this hill. Our shadows are cast by the Moon. Chanting words, our charm, our spell of power. Our witch’s rune!”

“We call to the powers of Earth, Sea and Sky. Of Dragon and Faerie and Shades of the night. We call to our ancestors, of blood and bone, of womb and tomb, and standing stone.” All of the voices worked in perfect harmony together and sent shivers down Harry’s spine as he listened to words that felt heavy with both power and history.

Draco joined the song once more and his voice gracefully swam with the others’ though it was still easy to pick out, “You will dance in the eye of the storm. You're Ceridwen's children, the cauldron born. Lady stir your cauldron well, chant your words, and sing your spell. Deep within this darkened hall hear the Goddess, Ceridwen call. Come and taste of the cauldron's brew and magic she will give to you.”

“You will dance in the eye of the storm. You're Ceridwen's children, the cauldron born. You’re the cauldron born. Cauldron born.” The song weaved its wave through the forest and Harry felt that it was reaching its completion. The words were an invitation, but also spoke of a solidarity that stretched beyond friendships, it was a promise of loyalty and kinship shared by those who sung and answered to the song.

“We're the cauldron born." The girls sang. 

The boys' voices answered, "Cauldron born."

"We're the cauldron born.” The group sang the last verse together and Harry found himself murmuring the words as well. 

As the song tapered off, Harry realized just how deeply they had traveled into the forest and he knew not how much time had passed. It was time to retreat, he decided. He did not know what laid deeper inside the foliage and darkness, but he felt that he had seen enough for one night.

If anything he had had far too much. Swallowing, he stilled his broom and watched the large herd gradually grow further away. The pale hair of Draco and the will o’ wisp like balls of purple fire that followed him eventually disappeared from sight and it was only then that Harry turned his broom towards the branches, when he returned home, there was no one waiting for him. It was a relief to know that his exploits had not been noticed as he quickly returned his broom to the shed and then removed all the charms on himself after he got settled back in his room.

Bathing now would alert the house elves, so instead Harry simply changed into his bedclothes and crawled into his heavenly blankets. There he laid, frowning up at his ceiling which was painted and charmed to look like the night sky with the constellation canis major sitting right above Harry’s bed. It took a few minutes of tossing and turning and by then, Harry knew that his overactive thoughts wouldn’t let him sleep.

So instead, he began to pace.

The events of the night cycled through his head, the killing curse that had claimed so many, including Harry’s own parents had been used flippantly by someone that was his own age. Supposedly dangerous beasts acted tame as a puffskein under the hands of the dark children. No, there was no doubt in Harry’s mind that these were part of or at least descendants of the people that had fled on the night of The Flight of the Murder . This meant that they could be children of Deatheaters or sympathizers of Lord Voldemort’s cause.

If Harry was to appear before them, would they recognize him?

Would they try to kill him?

Harry found himself believing that the group wasn’t a threat to the manor, they seemed annoyed, but content with their lives in the forest. Most likely, Harry would never see them again if he simply stayed away from the woods.

…But he wouldn’t, he just couldn’t make himself leave well enough alone.

He wanted to understand how and why the other children were as they were. They were dark, dangerous in their use and knowledge of magic, but they had acted so carefree and innocent at the same time. Cursing softly to himself, Harry retrieved his wand from his nightstand, rolling the length of holly between his fingers Harry made a choice that he feared he would instantly regret. An experiment of sorts, he whispered in the darkness of his room trying to copy the circular motions and speed of the spell he saw a year ago. He needed to see if he could do it as well.

‘O ignis fatuus te, in via lux.’

Harry felt the surge of magic inside of him, how it uncurled from inside of his chest, flowing up through his right arm, his fingers, and thumb until it sunk into and then out of his wand.

A small ball of purple fire drifted out of the tip of holly, casting the room in an eerie mauve hue. The little ball hovered in the air, following whichever way Harry directed his wand and then resting stagnant a meter above the floor. The spell had worked and Harry was shocked that it came to him so easily. The feel of the cast was different than when he performed other magic, but it wasn’t a bad sensation. It left a slight tingle in his fingers, but that was it.

XX

Will o’ wisps, from Hermione’s muggle books they were said to appear during Midsummer’s night. It was fitting then that the spell was named after them. As Draco’s face appeared in Harry’s mind, he couldn’t help but to liken the other boy to the magical creatures as well. Harry had followed Draco into the forest, the  same way people follow the wisps.

Harry knew he would do so again in a year’s time. As he watched the purple fireball finally fizz out Harry could only hope that Draco wouldn’t lead him so far down a path he wouldn’t be able to find his way home. 

Chapter Text

After that fateful Midsummer’s Night, the rest of the summer was filled with letters between Harry and his friends. Harry’s thoughts felt too large for his head at times and he almost felt like screaming the first week after his night ride as he puzzled and anguished over what to think of the scene that had played out before him with the dark children and beasts. He had never felt so trapped or claustrophobic in the large manor before now, but having to constantly be on his toes and unable to look for the answers he wanted in fear of gathering suspicion made him feel like he was going mad.

He loved his guardians, but they had gotten increasingly clingy over the days and finally Harry had to admit defeat and give into being a carefree child for the rest of the summer.  

It took some convincing on Harry’s part to get Sirius to agree to let his three friends come at the same time. Which was rather odd to Harry, Neville and Ron coming had never been an issue. When Harry asked if the two boys could come over, there continued to be no problem, Sirius greeting the heir Longbottom and the youngest redheaded son of the Weasleys with open arms as he always had. But whenever Harry attempted to add Hermione to the mix, his guardian would get… flighty. Often recalling some meetings he needed to host or attend with Remus that meant no visitors or the Black would give Harry his most guilt inducing eyes and request that they spend that day as a family instead.

It was frustrating and confusing to say the least.

Eventually, Harry succeeded in getting Sirius to have all three spend the day at Black Dog Manor, only four days  before they would get on the Hogwarts Express once more.

Unfortunately, the visit hadn’t gone very well. Harry and his friends had given Hermione the grand tour of the manor and its grounds for most of the morning after she arrived covered in soot from entering via floo. Remus had quickly cleaned the girl off and greeted her with the boys. Sirius was busy preparing for a Wizengamot session so it wasn’t surprising that they didn’t see hide nor hair of him until lunch.

That was when things went sideways.

The portraits in the dining room were whispering and gossiping amongst each other more than usual. Yet they spoke just quietly enough for their words to not be heard, or at least not by normal ears. Harry had caught Remus grimacing and glaring at some of the portraits from time to time.

The group was pouring their drinks when Sirius made his appearance, he was dressed casually in a red button up, black jeans, and leather boots. Sirius collapsed in the chair between Harry and Remus with dark circles under his eyes while he snapped his fingers to signal the house elves to start bringing the food in.

As the elves tethered about with hot plates and cool bowls of salads, Hermione watched with pursed lips. Krecher oversaw the proceedings as usual as he stood next to the Lord of Black’s chair and remained when the other elves retreated back into the kitchen to prepare for dessert.  

“You look terrible.” Remus commented as he filled Sirius’ plate for him, it seemed like the other wasn’t exactly willing to do more than the bare minimum this day. Not that the werewolf could really blame him, the next meeting of the Wizengamot was sounding like a real pain in the ass. Many of the laws were going against Sirius’... unique morals. As such he had been spending much of his time researching and practicing what he was to say before the assembly in the hope that his true alliance wouldn’t be noticed with his careful selection of words.

“Thanks, Moony, see what I say the next time you feel like shi-” Sirius yelped as he got a kick under the table from his lover while the trio of younger boys snickered. They had heard plenty of terrible words and phrases while in Hogwarts, but Remus was still trying to check their language nonetheless.

“I told you to go to bed when I did last night.” Remus reminded before turning to his own food.

“Yeah well, last night I was busy with something else.” Sirius answered while stabbing a piece of ham, using the long flat piece of meat to swipe up some mashed potatoes and gravy before shoving it into his mouth. It seemed that the lord wasn’t willing to put in the energy to eat his food separately. At least it all ended up in the same place to him.

“I don’t know how people like you, Harry, and Hermione can spend so much time in a library.” Ron complained, sipping on his butterbeer like it was an elixir that would keep the dreaded books away from him.

“Huh? I wasn’t in the library last night.” Sirius answered before wincing as he realized what had come out of his mouth. Harry’s probing stare promised that he was going to needle his guardian for answers.

Rubbing a hand over his forehead, Sirius explained with a groan, “I was in the greenhouse, a… friend of mine wanted some Mandrake parts for his stores because they were running low and ours just finished maturin’ so I thought I’d just provide them instead of him having to go through the process of buying through someone. Can’t exactly send them whole, so I had to prepare them. He’s very particular about the quality of his potion ingredients, it’s a pain and he wanted them in so many different ways.”  

“We could have helped.” Neville spoke up, looking a little disheartened that he had missed his chance to play around in the greenhouses under the eyes of an experienced wizard.

“I know you could have, but I believe you’ll be messing with Mandrakes during your second year in herbology anyway. Moony here’s got more sensitive hearing so I wanted to do it at night when everyone was asleep and didn’t accidentally walk in on the wailing. Wouldn’t want anyone to go the way Minister Crickerly did.” Sirius answered, trying to appease the putout Longbottom.

It seemed to have worked and the conversation began to lull back and forth for awhile, until dessert was brought in and the house elves disappeared once more. Hermione’s voice cut into the dining room, “I didn’t know slavery was a thing in the Wizarding world.”

Sirius, who had been taking a drink of his tea at the time, coughed; hacking as the hot liquid went down the wrong pipe. Harry reached over quickly to smack his hand against the older wizard’s back to help, though if it actually did anything he didn’t know as after a few seconds Sirius waved him off.

Grey eyes zeroed in on the bushy haired girl with an intensity that made her flinch, though she managed to keep sitting tall proudly. Sirius’ words were slow and careful, the rest of the room seeming to notice the tension skyrocketing around them and the portraits had stopped their whispering to watch.

“What do you mean by that, Miss Granger?”

“The house elves, I had read about their existence a few weeks ago. I find their servitude absolutely abominable. They are sold and traded between families with absolutely no regard to the elves feelings, there’s no system in place to ensure their fair treatment either.” Hermione answered shortly, her chin jutting out slightly in stubbornness as she watched the man.

Sirius’ brow furrowed as he stared at the girl, was she expecting him to suddenly cave to the not so subtle demand of letting his elves go of the contract that both sides had maintained and honored for centuries? To declare her emotional reasoning and assumptions to be more sound than the relationship that the elves and magical folk had been establishing for centuries? Before Sirius could come up with with a response a shriek came from one of the portraits behind him.

“What a stupid, stupid child! She acts like she knows what is best for the wizarding world does she?! It is people like her that created so many problems in the first place. The filthy little mu-”

“Mother!” Lord Black barked out the word sharply and the woman in the portrait was silenced, her eyes alight with a darkness as she stared at the girl from her canvas. Sirius stood from his chair and placed himself between the painting and Hermione. His back to the others in the room assured that they didn’t see the way his eyes flashed from grey to an eerie yellow as he spoke. “Out.”

Walburga Black held her eldest child’s gaze for a long moment before tilting her head slightly back and striding out of her frame with a sniff, disappearing to some other part of the manor.

Sirius shook his head before waving a hand, which caused all of the portraits in the dining room to flip on their nails to face the wall.

Harry’s eyes were wide, never before had he heard Walburga speak in such a way, so filled with hate and anger. Sure, the two didn’t speak very often, but she seemed to tolerate Harry’s presence whenever they were sharing the same room. The only people she seemed to enjoy speaking to were Kreacher, the other portraits, and Sirius. Orion, Sirius’ father, had a portrait in the manor as well, but he was far more friendly than his wife and would often offer advice to Harry if he was struggling with his understanding of some spell.

After a calming breath, Sirius turned back to face the others in the room, though his eyes locked with the Muggleborn’s specifically, safe with the knowledge that his gaze had returned to its usual color.

“My apologies, mother is a little… eccentric at times. However, Miss Granger, I believe that you are just as at fault.” Sirius’s anger was raw and though his voice was calm there was a tension to it that made his spine rigid. “You come to my home and your words have been incredibly insulting.”

“Pads,” Harry ventured, unsure of what reaction he would get, but he knew from experience that Sirius’ temper was explosive and Remus was stiff beside him looking ready to counter any spell the Black might throw. Sirius glanced at them, before huffing as he turned on his heel and walked out of the dining room. Kreacher followed right at his master’s heels, though not without throwing a nasty glare Hermione’s way.

The silence that the group was left in was broken with a deep sigh from Remus, the brunet pushing himself away from the table and to his feet. Honestly, he was impressed with the other’s self restraint. If it was one thing that the Blacks had, it was pride and Hermione had tossed it not only into the dirt, but also danced upon it while proclaiming the superiority of muggle lifestyle and values.

“What?” Hermione began before falling silent as Remus rose a hand, of course she would never raise her voice or offer a protest to a teacher despite it being the summer holidays.

“Sirius comes from an incredibly old fashioned family and he holds many of those same values. You are a smart girl, Ms Granger, but you are ignorant and jump to assumptions without gathering enough evidence.” A slight to her intelligence, color dusted the girl’s cheek as she folded her hands in her lap, bottom lip between her teeth to keep herself silent. Remus couldn’t afford to treat the girl with gloves on. Not while she was inside of the manor with a temperamental dark wizard and whispering ancestors upon the walls.

“The world of magic does not follow the same moral code that the muggle one is so fond of. Things are not simply black or white, though some people may argue otherwise. If you let yourself be ruled by assumptions without proper research and understanding, it can lead to consequences that can never be reversed. Sirius knows that all too well so he’s a little sensitive on certain matters. The Wizarding world was at war just over a decade ago and it took little evidence to convince either side to commit murder or torture. The Ministry had passed an order that allowed Aurors to use deadly force in the name of apprehending Deatheaters and sympathizers. The wizarding public has never been fond of the Blacks and as such they became a target in the war for both sides. The base of it all was momentary gain, which ever side gained the family, either by force or coercion, would also gain their vaults.” Remus spun his tale, the one that Sirius, Dumbledore, and he had carefully weaved to keep Harry as neutral as possible in terms of how he saw the shades of magic and their users.

Harry winced, having heard this warning and story many times before, not from his godfather’s lips, but from others’. Sirius had an extreme aversion to talking about the war and his family in regards to it. Honestly, the man storming off was one of his better reactions he had ever given in Harry’s memory to being faced with the topic. Times in the past Sirius would seem to just completely shut down, refusing to speak and being jittery, if he was continued to be pressed Lord Black was known for sending nasty hexes at the nosy wizard or witch, then later claiming he had no memory of doing so. Dumbledore had explained that it was from trauma he had suffered during the war and it was far better to let sleeping dogs lie as it were.

“Sirius’ father had been killed by a Muggleborn wizard who thought that old immediately meant dark in regards to Wizarding families. He’s got a portrait in the manor, but I don’t think he’ll ever come out to meet you, Hermione.”

The girl swallowed hard at Harry’s explanation, but her brows were still furrowed as she picked apart what she had been told. Remus knew this after having her in his class for so long. “Your words are implying that Sirius mistreats his elves and that they are here against their own free will because they do not get paid. Some families may indeed treat their elves badly, but Sirius would never.

That was a lie, but the children didn’t need to know that. Sirius had had a penchant for acting cruelly towards the house elves when he was very young, full of frustration, backlogged dark magic, and anger. Elves were durable and Sirius had changed his ways, though Kreacher was still wary of being close to the Black when he was in a mood despite the many years that had passed. It was probably best that Remus wrapped up this conversation as quickly as possible and find Sirius before he did cause some damage he would regret.

“There may those out there that mistreat their elves, but if a wizard or witch is caught doing such they will be berated by others and if the case is strong enough or brought to court. The elves can be ordered to be released from their contract with that family or person. House elves have very unstable magic and being bound to a magical family helps to stabilize their magical cores and bodies, a free elf will gradually grow sicker and weaker as their own magic deteriorates them from the inside out leading to an early death. For their service, elves get food, shelter, and their health. To be released from service is seen as a great insult and punishment.

"There is always room for improvement in management of House elf affairs because they happen behind closed doors, but Sirius looks after the ones here as well as Dumbledore looks after the ones in Hogwarts. I hope you use this as a learning experience, Miss Granger.” Remus finished before taking his leave, though he called back over his shoulder as the doors closed. “Cub, remember to eat the fried sage or it’ll go to waste.”

Harry sighed at the reminder, like he was a small child, it wasn’t that he didn’t like sage, it actually tasted quite good fried with a little butter and garlic, but they had been eating it with every meal for the past month it seemed. Nonetheless, he stuck one of the leaves in his mouth and ate it quickly as Neville tried to do damage control with Hermione who looked close to tears.

“Y-You meant well, we know that.” Neville offered as he patted the witch on the back as she started to sniffle. Ron was looking more and more distraught at the prospect of dealing with a crying girl. Harry, on the other hand, was more annoyed than anything, he was feeling a bit insulted himself on the behalf of his guardian and that Hermione would think that Harry would allow anything that evil to occur in his home.

“Have you even spoken to a house elf before to get their side of the story?” Harry asked, ignoring the surprised expressions Ron and Neville sent his way at his rather combative and harsh tone.

“Harry, I-,” Hermione trailed off, a few tears rolling down her cheeks which she angrily scrubbed away. “I didn’t mean any harm, I thought…”

“Hermione, we know you’re smart, but this isn’t the first time you made a social faux pas. Remember Smith? In the muggle world this might get people annoyed with you and lead them to avoiding ya. Here though...” Harry interrupted, if he was going to keep the girl by his side like he wanted, he needed to have her understand the danger her ignorance could bring upon all their heads. They might only be twelve and the war may be over, but it was still fresh in the older generations’ minds.

If she said the wrong thing in front of the wrong person, then it could lead to far more than a slap to the wrist. It was a dangerous dance that lords and ladies played in the high society in the wizarding world. By associating with Harry, Neville, and Ron whom all had significant connections she could either be an ally or threat to them all. It was unfortunate, but it was a reality that they had grown up with, Hermione however hadn’t.

“I don’t know any of this.” Hermione’s voice had become small and there was a look on her face that showed that it almost physically pained her to admit that she didn’t know something or was at a disadvantage.

“Well, that’s what we’re here for. We’ll teach ya.” Ron answered as he rocked back on his chair, relieved that it seemed that Hermione wasn’t going to fall into sobbing. Instead she had a look of determination at his suggestion.

“I don’t know if you want to be following all of Ron’s advice though, Harry and I’ll correct you if he leads you too off track.” Neville offered, getting a giggle out of Hermione and an abashed ‘Oi!’’ from the redhead.

The children descended into laughter, but across the manor Remus was about to face a very... upset Sirius Black.

Kreacher stood outside of their room with a sour expression, but that was not unusual. The house elf merely muttered that he would return to take care of the mess later and disappeared from view leaving Remus to Sirius duty .

Opening the door to their room slowly, Remus remained tense, unsure of what he would find on the other side…. It wasn’t as bad as he expected, though he still grimaced as he had to wade his way through the fluff and feathers that now coated the entirety of the floor. The mattress and all of the pillows that had sat on top of it had been torn to shreds and a now feather covered grimm was laying on top of the mess with a rumbling growl constantly echoing out of its throat that vibrated into Remus’ own chest despite being so physically apart from him.

“Sirius?” Remus voice was soft as he moved closer to the bed, while he had never had a problem with Sirius in his dog form while they were at Hogwarts, after he had learned the true nature of the transformation, the werewolf had been unnerved. Hypocritical as it may sound considering what Remus was, being faced off with a mythical being that was only rumor and promised death would rightly concern anyone. As time had passed, once more the great black dog with eerie yellow eyes and Sirius became one and the same in Remus’ mind.

The thick black tail thumped twice against the mattress before going still once more in greeting and Remus managed a small smile as he knew it was safe to approach. Lying down on the bed on his back, the werewolf stared at the ceiling as the grimm shuffled closer and laid his great shaggy head on Remus’ chest.

“Going to transform back anytime soon so we can talk?”

A grumble answered him and the silence stretched between the two as Remus reached his hand down to trail his fingers through the coarse fur on the dog’s head. Eventually the strands became longer and thinner, the weight of Sirius’ skull also growing lighter as he turned back. There was no need to rush into conversation, Kreacher would keep the children entertained if they needed it and they wouldn’t be disturbed.

“You know she didn’t mean any harm, Pads.”

“In the beginning, they never do, but that always changes.” Sirius grumbled back, curling his head into Remus’ stomach and making the taller man squirm as he felt the dark wizard’s hot breath sinking through the layers of his clothes.

“Will you not give her a second chance? You can’t exactly order Harry to cut off contact with her.” Remus pointed out, actually Sirius could, but that probably would not go over very well.

“I don’t want her here.” Sirius answered mulishly, considering his past, Remus knew that that wasn’t an unfair demand.

Orion had in fact, been killed just as they told Harry, but the old Lord Black had not been so innocent. In the early stages of Voldemort’s rise to power, both Orion and Walburga had supported the charming man thinking him to be the one that would finally lead them to standing on equal footing or above the light that had been persecuting them for so long. As time passed, however, and Voldemort’s apparent insanity became ever more visible, Orion set about trying to protect his family by placing layers upon layers of protective and obscuring charms on all of the Black properties.

Regulus had told his brother that he suspected that the Dark Lord actually had a hand in Orion’s murder which occured very close to the end of the war. He may have been feeding information to fanatics of the light side to lead the head of the Black family to a messy end. It would make sense that if Voldemort suspected that his hold on the powerful Black family was slipping that he would get rid of the one he couldn’t control. Regulus had taken the dark mark against Orion and Sirius’ wishes, through it he could control the youngest heir.

Walburga had died shortly after her husband as was often the case with dark couples. Marriage was a far more complicated and… permanent agreement in the customs of shadows. When two or more souls fastened their hands in a contract of love, their magic became irreversibly linked allowing each of them to become more intune with the other’s moods and ensure understanding between them. This came at a steep price though, when one died the other’s magic and body would also begin to wither away slowly unless they could anchor their magic to someone else who had a similar aura to their own, such as their children’s. This ritualistic, but severe connection might have been born out of the ancient need to ensure loyalty and trust between dark families whose numbers had always been so few.

Regulus had been sent on a mission for the deatheaters that took him far away and made him unable to get in contact with his mother before his father’s death. Sirius had also not been in contact with his family because of his connections with the Order and fear he would be labeled a spy for either side if he was seen. When Regulus finally did return, he found Walburga past the point of saving and sent a message to Sirius that their mother was on her deathbed. That was the last time Sirius had seen his mother alive, Regulus was already gone by the time the elder brother had reached Grimmauld Place, but Sirius had overseen the matriarch’s passing. The brothers hadn’t reunited until the night of the Flight of the Murder .

Voldemort had met his demise before he could force Regulus to challenge Sirius for the title of lordship, if he hadn’t…. The brothers didn’t know what would have happened or where they would be now.

“You know that casting her out will draw too many questions.” Remus reminded gently, the werewolf had become disillusioned with much of the light’s hypocrisy over the years and as the rights of his own kind had only continued to be whittled away by the Wizengamot. However, the relative peace that the magical world had now could not be overlooked. As long as Remus and Sirius kept their secrets safe, they could continue on in relative comfort with their lives.

Sirius hummed his acceptance, though it was reluctant. Then the man was rocketing up into a sitting position, grey eyes wild as he exclaimed. “Harry and her better not end up together! Just… no.”

“Sirius, they are twelve years old.” Remus reprimanded, exasperated that his lover had something else to obsess over.

“We were twelve once, Moony! Now look at us.” Sirius cried out, before flopping back onto the bed dramatically. His skull thumping into Remus’ stomach knocking the air out of his companion, making it a struggle to speak, “Would you stop?! Harry’s too young for such thoughts.”

“Is he?” Sirius asked, quirking a brow up in question and Remus found he really didn’t have an answer.

“Yes?” Remus finally offered before reaching a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose between his fingers as he mumbled, “Let’s not talk about this, Pads.”

Sirius cracked a grin at him and Remus knew that things were well enough now, though his smile fell almost as quickly as he asked while reaching a hand out to trace Remus’ cheek, “How are you feeling, Moony?”

The werewolf knew what Sirius was really asking with the question. It was whether or not Remus was feeling any ill effects from participating in the rituals for Midsummer with Sirius, Andromeda, and Tonks over a month ago. Though the dark wizard and witches had walked him through the cleansing ritual to relieve himself of the excess magic that the practice brought, he was left feeling lethargic and jittery at the same time the following day. That was to be expected as the magical channels that allowed the flow of dark magic were different from the ones that Remus had been using all his life. It was like stretching and overworking a muscle one rarely used.

Since that day, Sirius had been overseeing Remus’ practice of small, simple dark spells every other night to slowly build up his body’s reserves and grow used to the new form of energy he wielded.

What was most strange and concerning was the fact that Harry too had been showing the signs of someone who had not cleansed themselves after performing dark magic when the pair had returned from their evening at Andromeda’s.

Harry had been irritable, manic, and kept performing accidental magic when trying to accomplish simple tasks. Remus had thought that it was just the boy’s hormones acting up, but Sirius firmly believed it to be linked to dark magic practice. With Sirius’ keen ability to sense magic, Remus had to take his word for it and they pondered on what to do along with how it might have happened.

Sirius had grilled all the portraits and elves for any hint that Harry had performed any dark magic in their presence, but all of the efforts came up empty. Perhaps the boy had come in contact with one of the many well hidden dark artifacts in the manor, but when Sirius searched those, they too appeared to be undisturbed. It was then pondered if perhaps Harry had unintentionally absorbed some of the dark magic that laid in the air after Sirius’ practices in one of the many hidden rooms of the manor.

The latter seemed the most likely option and honestly, the reason wasn’t as important as the cure.

Sirius refused to teach Harry the cleansing rituals as he could not explain them without coming out as a dark wizard himself. His godson was clever, and he didn’t want to give him any pieces that could lead to him to complete a puzzle that painted Sirius in a very… bad light. There were other ways to get rid of access dark magic, to purge the system of it when the castor was too weak to perform the rituals themselves.

After charming Harry into a deeper sleep after he went to bed, Sirius had performed a few rituals on him to help remove the magic. Placing crystals of quartz and other precious stones on certain parts of the teenager’s body to pull the magic that was starting to fester in his joints and channels without a way to be released. Sprigs of nightshade were set between each of Harry’s fingers and toes, the buds quickly opened into full blossoms as they fed off the excess magic offered. Certain foods also helped with the removal of unwanted buildup. Sage was a cleansing food in many ways and so was ginger which had been served in Harry’s tea the past few weeks.

After the first cleansing, Harry’s behavior and mood had immediately shifted back to normal, but sage and ginger continued to appear on the menu on Sirius’ orders just in case. For his part, Harry hadn’t seemed to notice or remember his odd behavior and quickly moved onto whatever was occupying the boy’s time and what was in the letters that he continued to hoard and guard from them.

“I’m feeling fine, Pads. I’ll keep expressing the excess while I’m at Hogwarts in the room you mentioned in the dungeons. I plan to keep a closer eye on Harry this year too. If he shows any… signs, you’ll be the first to know.” Remus answered finally, this school year was already turning into a mess with how much the werewolf would need to stay on top of: his classes, the Ravenclaw house, teaching dueling to the four, and his professor duties. He suspected that the twin Weasleys had somehow come into the possession of a copy of the Marauders’ Map with how they had been able to avoid him when he was doing nightly patrols of the castle. It had turned into a game between the three to see if Remus could catch the twins before they reached the safety of their tower.

So far the score was even in the number of times they escaped and were caught.

“I hate it when you two are away.” Sirius sighed as he tugged his legs up to be half curled around the taller man, “It’s too quiet when you and Harry are gone, all I’ve got is cranky old portraits to keep me company and then twittle my thumbs during these asinine Wizengamot sessions.”

“You’re on the Board of Governors, it wouldn’t be odd for you to visit and now that it’s Harry’s second year he won’t think you’re being overbearing and protective.” Remus suggested, because he too missed the physical closeness they shared and the bed felt far too large in his quarters without Sirius to crowd and latch onto him like a flesh-eating slug.

“I’ll have to find a reason to drop by, be sure of it.” Sirius grinned as he crouched over the other with a more predatory gleam to his eyes. “Do you have a habit of taking strays into your quarters, professor?”

“Only the particularly mangy looking ones.” Remus quipped back, accepting the kiss that pouting lips pressed to his laughing ones.

“I’m not some common mutt.” Sirius bared his teeth and the werewolf could see the sharp tips they now had, the sight made Moony howl inside of Remus in want.

“I’m a purebred.”

“You’re a purebred something.” Remus growled back, hand suddenly steeling itself over one of his lover’s shoulders and then they were flipped with the werewolf on top as Sirius’ front hit the mattress hard. The dark wizard kicked and squirmed, before freezing as he felt Remus’ breath over the back of his neck, teeth threatening the skin there in the most delightful way that made Sirius shiver.

The children did not see either of the adult wizards until late in the evening.

Returning to Hogwarts came with little fanfare, Harry and his friends falling quickly back into the pattern of classes, homework, and practicing with Remus. The boys were following through with their promise of teaching Hermione about the wizarding world’s customs, though she still met many of them with distaste she was at least using more tact when she did.

Harry and Hermione continued with their research, but were met with surprising resistance from the library. Or more particularly from Madam Pince as she seemed to also be lurking nearby and both of the preteens knew that being overheard could lead to trouble.

The first piece that Harry set to work on translating was the strange greetings that the dark children had spoken… He wasn’t exactly thrilled with the results when he did.

“Et sanguinem magicae purissimum, benedicat tibi.”

These were the words that Draco had said as he greeted his friends, it roughly translated into English from Latin as “And the blood pure magic, bless you.” Pureblood ideology had been the center of the many debates and conflicts between the two forces of magic. The idea that coming from a long line of magic made someone naturally better, more pure, than someone that had been tainted by muggle blood. There was no shortage in books that decried the dark’s view in a bad light Harry found. The tomes all confirmed what he had heard growing up whenever running amuck at the Weasleys and during visits to the Ministry.

“Ut vincatis, et magicae pur est.”

The other children had answered: “In order to win, it is pure magic.”. What was the meaning behind these words, did dark wizard truly believe that if given a choice that magic would choose them over magickal folk of mixed blood? What was it that the dark wanted to win? Was it really as simple as genocide as the books claimed?

Harry felt that asking that question directly to Draco’s face might be a surefire way to get an Avada Kedavra aimed his way. And Harry did plan to say something to the blond dark wizard’s face…

He just wasn’t sure on what it was going to be yet that wouldn’t be suspicious and get him hexed or sacrificed in some bloody way. No, Harry would have to convince Draco that he was one of them if they were to speak in any civil manner that didn’t end in possible death. But there laid the problem of how to impersonate a dark wizard. He had the greeting and Latin down, but he knew that wouldn’t be enough. With an almost attack on sight policy the Ministry had established on suspected dark practitioners, Draco would be far more than wary of a stranger.

As he pondered this problem he had turned to researching the two names he had heard referenced that night, Crice and Ceridwen. The information on the former was surprisingly easy to find as it was found among Ron’s chocolate frog card collection. Circe was a dark witch that lived in ancient Greece and was known for her habit of turning sailors who landed on her island into animals. Most notably her animal of choice was pigs. She was an incredible sorceress who was the first person to reportedly be able to charm and potion food in a way that it would trigger a transfiguration when eaten. Her most common target had been muggle sailors and what was the most disturbing tidbit was the fact that she would eat her transformed victims.

Harry wasn’t sure if that counted as cannibalism and the fact that he was uncertain made it all the more disturbing for him.

Crice was even present in ancient muggle texts, but apparently the non magical folks of the time had thought of her as being a goddess to explain the existence of magic. She was one of the antagonists in an old epic poem called the Odyssey , the contents of the poem made Harry’s head ache at times as he, Ron, and Neville tried to make sense of the creatures and scenes that played out in it. Trying to separate fact from fiction was much more a difficult task than they had suspected.

Ceridwen was more difficult to find information about and it was only after the Christmas holidays that Hermione finally found something of interest in a muggle European mythology book. The name came from a Welsh medieval legend, where Ceridwen was depicted as either a goddess or enchantress that was willing to risk poisoning her own indescribably ugly son with a potion she brewed that would either lead to the boy’s death or grant upon him great wisdom and poetic inspiration. It was certainly… dark, even if Ceridwen had in fact been successful in improving her son’s standing despite his hideousness.

Neville and Ron had slowly joined in on Harry and Hermione’s research. The Longbottom heir interested in what they were finding despite much of the material making him feel physically ill. Ron on the other hand, joined out of boredom and the desire to spend time with his friends, the redhead’s blunt observations often lead to the other three revisiting information they might have overlooked.

Still the group of Gryffindors were uncertain if Ceridwen was real or not when their sources dried up. Harry was also frustrated with the fact that he still didn’t see why Ceridwen was so important to the dark either. The song claimed that by drinking Ceridwen’s brew, then one would receive magic, but was this being literal or figurative?

The question had Harry tossing and turning in his bed many nights as he mumbled the song under his breath, safe in the knowledge that his curtains were charmed against anyone overhearing him.  

The creatures that had accompanied the dark children that night had been easy to look up and research, but Harry lamented the fact that they would be unable to interact with any of these creatures until they entered their third year of studying with the care of magical creatures class. Obviously beasts like thestrals would not be included in that class since the herd hidden in the forbidden forest was supposed to have been wiped out.

Harry really did want to see the thestrals, hoping that if he could get some experience with them that he might then be able to impress or convince Draco of his sincerity.

Unfortunately, gallivanting into the monster filled forest is where his friends drew the line at Harry’s “research”. If they tried to get Hagrid to show the beasts to them he could be suspicious and would more than likely drop hints to Remus that Harry was getting up to things he shouldn’t.

Still Harry wasn’t completely deterred, he walked the edge of the forest when most people weren’t out and about. Now that it was springtime, many of the other students were giving the forest a wider berth than usual. Creatures such as spiders, snakes, and other creepy crawlies were coming out of hibernation. A pretty wildflower for your school sweetheart wasn’t worth the risk of getting a nasty bite from any creature, magical or not.

Harry walked along the edge of the forest one early Saturday morning, the sun was just beginning to warm the earth and most of the students were still in bed at the moment. There had been a Quidditch game between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor the day before and the after party for the entire school had lasted through most of the night. Harry had managed to secure the position of seeker and while he loved the game, the jostling and mess of the party was not to his taste. He had called the night early and managed to escape before clothes started to fall off of the older students. Most of the younger years were banished to the dorm rooms before the real party started anyway.

Plodding through the grass head down, Harry’s mind was working through his mental flashcard list of terms and facts that Remus’ next pop quiz might contain when he heard a startled gasp and movement from the corner of his right eye. Immediately, Harry threw his body in the opposite direction, fearing that he was about to crash into someone.

Unfortunately, in his half aware state Harry’s sudden movement was a little too enthusiastic for the rest of his body to follow through. His feet got caught up with each other and he was sent rolling into the grass, dew drenching his sweater and pants. Dazed Harry waited for the world to stop spinning as a voice snipped at him from close by.

“Ssservess you right, you sshould watch where you’re going.”

“Sssorry, I’ve had a lot on my mind recently.” Harry grumbled back, he was apologetic, but the other didn’t need to be rude about it. They hadn’t collided at least! Harry’s clothing was more in a state than the stranger was probably.

“It ssspeaks?! You’re a ssspeaker?”

This…. Was not how Harry was suspecting the conversation to go and he slowly propped himself up on his elbows to face the person.

Only there was no one there, in fact, Harry didn’t see anyone around.

“Excussse me?” Harry finally asked into the empty air, unsure of what would great him, had the stranger taken off already? The voice hadn’t sounded familiar to Harry, but he hardly knew everyone in Hogwarts. While Harry didn’t know everyone, everyone certainly knew him and usually they were polite, with the exception of Smith, that is. Also with puberty kicking in many of the students had voices that were constantly changing.

“Down here.” Came the voice and Harry blinked in confusion as it sounded like it had come from right next to him. Had someone disillusioned themselves? Invisibility cloaks were rare and expensive so Harry doubted that it was that. Then he remembered the word down and his eyes obeyed the prompt.

A moment later, Harry shrieked as he jerked himself away, he got a face full of wet grass for his efforts. But he scrambled back up again just as quickly, staring at the small form that had now reared back in the grass.

XX

A snake, a venomous one too by the arrow-shaped head that would house glands to produce a toxin and vertical slits for pupils sitting in dark brown eyes. A black zigzagging pattern was printed along the back of the snake, the rest of its scales were a greyish green with more black dots filing down its sides. It was not very large only about  two feet long in length and rather stocky in build, an ambush hunter, not made to be chasing down prey like other snakes.

It was a common adder, the only non magical venomous snake native to Scotland and England. Their venom wasn’t deadly to people either, unless someone was very young, old, sick, or allergic to the venom. The effects were still something that Harry would rather avoid with them being intense pain, swelling, and bruising of the area the bite occurred.   

“Are all humansss ssso graccceful? Are they herbivoresss, I’ve never tried eating grasss.”

Harry reached up to wipe the damp blades of grass off of his face as he tried to compose himself. Yeah, Harry was definitely hearing a snake talk, how in the sweet name of Merlin was he able to understand a serpent?! Had the animal been charmed or had Harry accidentally cast a spell?

No, both of those options were unlikely and the pair stared at each other. The adder without the physical means to blink and Harry’s brain stalling.

“Huh?” Harry finally answered elegantly, the adder huffing in response as it slithered closer and the young wizard didn’t dare to move. “Just my luck, I find a ssspeaker and it’s too young to have an intelligent conversssation.”

“Well mossst people don’t have conversationsss with sssnakesss to begin with.” Harry mumbled back, horribly confused, but a little offended that he was being sassed by a snake of all things. The adder cocked its head back at him and Harry couldn’t help but chuckle at the fact that the animal seemed to be able to pull off expressions despite not having much to work with biologically in terms of facial structure.

“Ssso do you have a name? I’m Harry.” It couldn’t hurt to be polite and it seemed that the reptile really had no intention to bring harm to him. Pulling himself up into a cross legged position on the grass, Harry noticed that the snake sounded male.

I have no name.”

“Oh, umm I could give you one, I feel bad jussst calling you ‘sssnake’ or ‘adder’, ya know?” It really did feel awkward, then again the whole situation was. This was the first time Harry had spoken to an animal, at least one that could talk back. He reached a hand towards the snake cautiously, showing his desire to touch and giving the reptile the choice to protest. When he didn’t, Harry ran his hand down the back of the snake’s neck and partly down his back, marveling at how the scales felt under his fingers.

The snake gave a happy hum at the touch, but his tone was suspicious as he asked, Ssspeakerss only name their familiarsss, why would you want a common, usselesss adder asss your companion?”

A familiar, those were rather rare in the wizarding world nowadays as people often thought maintaining an animal was cumbersome.

“What did he say?”

The new voice startled both Harry and the snake, the human letting out a loud yelp while the adder darted forward to wind itself up the wizard’s arm and around his neck before hissing at the source of their combined fright.

It was a girl, one with a dreamy expression on her face and pale blond locks that cascaded down her back. Her crooked blue and grey tie declared her a Ravenclaw and as Harry got his heart rate back under control, he realized that he knew this girl. Luna Lovegood, a first year that was good friends with Ron’s younger sister, Ginny Weasley. They had crossed paths often enough over the years as the Lovegoods had lived close by the Weasleys, but Harry had never spoken in depth with the girl. Of course there were plenty of rumors about both Luna and her father, who ran a quirky magazine called the Quibbler. Most people said that they were off their rockers and believed in creatures that couldn’t possibly exist.

For her part, the girl only smiled at the boy that now had a venomous snake around his neck like a scarf. Her tone light and unconcerned, just curious as she rotated the gaudy pink glasses in her hands. “What did he say, Harry? All I hear from you two is hissing. You know, it’s really wonderful, you being a parselmouth.”

“A… parselmouth?” Harry echoed, the word sounded familiar and it didn’t take much puzzling to figure out the meaning. “That’s what you call someone that can speak to serpents, right?”

Luna nodded as she perched the glasses on her head now. “Yes, they’ve very rare in Europe now, but there are many reported in Africa. There are probably other speakers out there, but none of them would be prone to admitting it sadly. It’s been labeled as a dark trait, you see, the last known English parselmouth was You-Know-Who. Salazar Slytherin was one too, that’s why the symbol of Slytherin is a serpent.”

The words made Harry feel ill, how could he possibly share a rare trait with the murderer of his parents? The adder suddenly hissed, bringing Harry’s attention out of his horror, What did ssshe sssay, iss ssshe a threat? Ssshould I bite her?”

“No! …No, I mean ssshe’ss a friend, I guesss.”

Then why do you sssmell upssset?” The snake questioned and Harry was tempted to ask what exactly ‘upset’ smelled like, but that wasn’t important at the moment. The adder had a good point after all, why should he be distraught over his newfound ability? Now that he was combing through his mind about any information that he had ever heard about the trait he knew that it was inherited through blood. Harry has to have been born a parselmouth, did the unforeseen knowledge of the ability suddenly make him dark? Did it disregard how he had lived his life up until this point?

No, right? The world was grey, that was what Remus had said. Things were not simply black and white, that was what Remus had said so many months ago. Just because Harry was a parselmouth, that didn’t mean he was dark or evil. It didn’t mean that he was going to become them, either. Certainly his family and friends would stop him long before he descended down such a path if not himself.

Still if everyone else thought that parselmouth equaled dark, perhaps Harry could use this to his advantage… As long as no one else but his intended target found out. He was pretty sure the general public would not be thrilled if the Boy-Who-lived came out with the same ability as the figure he had somehow defeated.

Luna skipped a little closer to the two, ignoring the twin hisses that came from them as she asked again. “Will you tell me what he said anytime soon, or should I continue my search for Crumple-Horned Snorkacks?”

That was a mouthful, Harry didn’t comment on it though as he answered, placing a hand on the length of the snake around his neck. “He asked why I would want a common adder as a familiar, apparently that’s the only way he will accept being named. Don’t know what I would name him though.”

“How about Thuban?” Luna suggested, plopping herself down in front of Harry and it was only then that he noticed her bare feet, which were already stained green by the grass.

Thuban, Harry recognized the name from his astronomy class, Sirius had put extra stress on the importance of learning the stars on Harry since they were so pivotal in the Black family history. The name came from the alpha and brightest star in the Draconis constellation. The origin of the word was Arabic meaning ‘snake’, and the star was supposed to be located at the head of the great serpent in the nighttime sky.

Rather ironic that Luna would offer that name, but Harry thought it was fitting. When he offered the name to his sudden companion, the newly christened Thuban, agreed. Harry wasn’t exactly sure of how familiar bonds worked, but at soon as the adder had said yes, there was a stirring in Harry’s magical core and Thuban glowed for a brief second before dulling once more.

Luna clapped her hands in glee at the sight and Harry was quick to secure an agreement from her that she wouldn’t tell anyone else about him being a parselmouth. The girl seemed a little disappointed that Harry was going to hide the talent, but swore nonetheless.

Harry didn’t know the first thing about taking care of or hiding a snake, but he wasn’t worried about the little things at the moment. He was riding high on the magical burst of forming a familiar bond and the fact that he believed he had exactly what he needed to get Draco to believe that Harry was a dark wizard.

When Midsummer Night came again, Harry was going to speak to the other… face to face. 

Chapter Text

The morning of Midsummer 1993 had Harry waking up in Black Dog Manor feeling almost physically sick with nerves as he knew this would be the day that he would finally attempt to speak to the boy that had begun this now three year old obsession. Honestly, there was a part of him that was tempted to just roll over, put the pillow over his head, and pretend that he had slept through his chance.

The taps against his windows and muffled hissing demands to be let inside from Thuban forced Harry out of bed. As he slid open the window the adder slithered his way up the wizard’s arm and settled himself across Harry’s shoulders eager to steal his master’s body heat after a cool night spent outside hunting in the greenhouses for lizards and mice.

It had been surprisingly easy for Harry to add Thuban to his life. While at Hogwarts the adder would explore the castle and hunt, of course; the snake didn’t exactly understand why he wasn’t allowed to eat any of the numerous rats or toads, but there was an abundance of other prey to satisfy him. Behind the charmed curtains of Harry’s bed was where master and familiar spoke without fear of any eavesdroppers.

Harry had been afraid of what might happen to Thuban if he was locked in his trunk on the train and journey home so he had acted like a belt under Harry’s shirt and robes. The ride back  was an interesting experience as any time Thuban moved his textured scale would tickle Harry’s sides and stomach. Luna, along with Ginny, had joined Harry’s usual group after their encounter that morning and the dreamy eyed girl had distracted the other people in the carriage with her outlandish theories and tales the whole train ride back. Keeping attention off of how Harry was constantly squirming in his seat and his face was slightly red with his effort to not laugh at the feeling of his companion moving about.

The adder was very independent, often coming and going as he pleased. Thuban was also stubborn and sarcastic which came as a surprise to Harry. The boy had thought that, as a familiar, the snake would be compelled to obey his every command. That couldn’t be further from the truth, if Thuban truly did not want to do something, there was nothing that Harry could say to move him.

Thuban was also unafraid to point out when Harry was making terrible decisions.

“Are you really ssstill going to go tonight, my little fool?

“Yesss, WE are.” Harry hissed back with a small sigh, Thuban would be instrumental in convincing Draco that Harry was one of the dark, but the serpent wasn’t at all impressed with the scheme that Harry had worked so hard to concoct. Still, he understood the risks, but in his mind they were all worth it as he ran a finger over the scales on Thuban’s head brushing over the more porous feeling venom glands. I ssswear, I won’t let anything happen to you.”

“It isss not for myssself, I fear.” Thuban answered in a rare show of affection for the soon to be teenager.

Harry knew it would be hypocritical to say not to worry, after all, under his mask he truly was worrying about what may happen. So Harry said nothing.

Like the year before Remus and Sirius would be gone from after lunch to the next afternoon. A convenient date night that Harry wasn’t going to question as he got dressed after setting Thuban on the bed. The serpent had quickly crawled under the blankets to find the warm spot that Harry had recently vacated.  

There were multiple ‘Notice Me Not’ and disillusionment charms on the adder that Harry recast regularly not wanting anyone to discover his scaly friend. No one would be expected to react rationally at the sight of a venomous snake slithering about their house and Harry didn’t want to take any risks of being overheard by the portraits so he only spoke parseltongue while in the safety of his room or on the grounds far from the mansion.

The charms would have to be removed for the plan later.

The bedding was ruffled enough that no one would notice the wriggling form underneath it if they came in while Harry was busy at breakfast or during his lessons with each of his guardians. Half way through the day Harry found himself sitting down for lunch, however his nerves were getting in the way of his appetite as he picked at the chicken pot pie in front of him, stabbing the flaky crust more than eating it.

“Something wrong, cub?” Remus broke the silence first as Sirius was also observing the messy haired youth with a frown under his groomed goatee. Grey and amber colored eyes had met above their glasses of wine in concern for how oddly quiet Harry had been throughout the day. Harry had gone through his lessons for the day and his dueling training against Sirius without asking any of his typical questions about the spells used, confirming facts, or just whining about Sirius playing dirty with his use of wandless magic to tie the laces of Harry’s boots together.

Harry blinked as he was pulled out of his thoughts, lifting his gaze from his food he realized just how many eyes were now on him as the portraits also were looking at him curiously.

“Y-Yeah, sorry, had a lot on my mind today.” He worked quickly to find some kind of believable excuse, quickly occluding his mind when he met his godfather’s eyes. “Was thinking of what I should give Neville for his birthday. Was thinking about a plant, but what kind would he like?”

Remus smiled, glad that the other’s troubles were simple in nature and quickly began to work through the list of magical plants he had knowledge of, he was no Professor Sprout or potions master, but he did enjoy things of nature. Still Sirius was a far better ask as he was a certified potions’ master now, the head of the house of Black had gotten the certificate during the school year. While he wasn’t the youngest to ever have received the title, Sirius did now hold the record for receiving it in the shortest amount of time since submitting his application.

The reason was not connected to money or lordship, no it was because of the numerous patents for improved recipes for well known potions using fewer and less expensive ingredients. Sirius felt he had too much time and a well stocked potions lab on his hands between Wizengamot meetings while Remus and Harry were away. He also had a dark potions’ master just an elf pop away to discuss theories along with trials and errors. Still it had been over a decade since Severus and Sirius had met face to face only communicating through penned letters that would be delivered through Kreacher. The two men had started a trend of sending potions to each other, a challenge to find the ingredients it contained and to recreate it. It was rather fun actually and Severus’ sarcastic mannerisms were reflected well in his writings.

Still Sirius felt guilty at times while he communicated with the Prince, realizing that he was sending more messages to his past bullying victim than Remus. The werewolf never commented on it, mostly because the evidence was usually burned into ashes as per dark protocol before he read or knew about them. Sirius did find himself talking a lot about Severus behind closed doors with his lover, Remus would listen quietly and interested. Remus never acted jealous and there was nothing to be jealous about in Sirius’ eyes. At least Sirius hoped that remained the case.

Severus was the one that continued to brew Remus’ Wolfsbane, he was making it in large batches anyway for other werewolves inside and outside of the coven. While Sirius had the skills he didn’t relish the idea of being the one in charge of brewing something so delicate and important.

While Remus was fooled, Sirius knew that Harry was diverting. There was little hope for the boy to use that trick against his godfather, Sirius was the master of it after all his years skillfully keeping suspicion off of himself. No, Harry’s thoughts were not wrapped around something as mundane as a birthday present. There was something more and from how twitchy Harry was now becoming under his gaze, Sirius knew whatever it was had to be very significant to him.

Harry would soon be in or had already started his teenager rebellious phase so Sirius was wary of starting a confrontation when they already only saw each other consistently a few months out of the year now. Still he had to ask, “Anything else going on up there in that big head of yours, pup?”

The expression that Harry sent him was like a deer caught in a lumos beam, green eyes widening, posture becoming stiff, and face paling. The two stared at each other for a few moments before the youth’s cheeks began to color and he squirmed in his seat. That… was not what Sirius had expected and a glance towards Remus told him that the werewolf was equally thrown off.

Could it be…?

Maybe it was nothing that Sirius had to worry about at all as he gave a wolfish grin, “It’s alright, ya don’t have to tell us about your little crush or private time if you don’t want to.”

“Padfoot!” Harry’s voice came out high pitched as he covered his face with his hands, ears now a flaming red as Sirius cackled. The Muggleborn’s barn owl hadn’t been seen nearly as often as it had been the summer before so Sirius was very certain, and relieved, that it appeared that she was not the target of any wayward affections. Harry had also been staying in his room more often lately with the door firmly shut despite how stifling the summer air could become.

“If you have any questions you know you can ask us. It’s completely natural for someone your age to be curious.” Remus said, voice understanding but eyes shining with mirth as Harry groaned louder and sunk deeper into his chair. Still he knew that he would have to watch out for his cub much closer now if Harry was in fact interested in dating. With the title of Boy-Who-lived and being the heir of two ancient, wealthy, and powerful families, Harry was a target for line theft. Perhaps such young children would not be inclined to date for political reasons, but greedy parents and relatives were not above trying to push their offspring together in the hopes for a boon to their own status.

“Can you guys leave already?!” Harry whined, making his guardians laugh all the more. The talk had been given to Harry far prior and he still felt slightly scarred from the experience of Sirius making far too many jokes while Remus was being too anatomically descriptive. In the end, he had just begged for the book that explained it to end the torment. After two years at Hogwarts Harry didn’t feel that he even needed to have suffered since he had accidentally stumbled upon far too interesting scenes whenever he had to leave his dorm room late at night to use the restroom. He had now received all the references he could ever want for a lifetime.

There was a couch in the common room that Harry refused to sit on, despite knowing that numerous cleaning spells had been cast on it.

Sirius and Remus laughed, the banter and atmosphere around the table lifting as Harry made a conscious effort to be involved and start conversation. Anything to not be teased on the subject of love or crushes. Harry wasn’t in and didn’t have either of those, no, certainly not.

When the older wizards did finally depart, Harry set about his plan. Swiftly giving orders to the house elves to prepare not only a packed dinner for him that he said he wanted to eat out on the quidditch pitch or grounds later, but also busying them once more with the muggle cookbook of desserts that Hermione’s mother had given to her as a present but was the one kind of book that made the bushy haired girl grimace. Harry had been all too happy to take it off her hands as he knew that it could be used as leverage against the elves that loved to test new recipes.

Harry further cemented his alibi by saying he would be out past dusk collecting different types of fireflies for the potion stores and didn’t want to elves to pop in on him as they might scare the insects away.  

The sun was just beginning to set when the elves handed off his dinner and Harry was quick to retrieve a grumpy Thuban from his room, along with his invisibility cloak, a plain black cloak, and a long strip of black fabric. He then hurried to take his broom, carefully removing the charms that were on the shed so the alarm wouldn’t sound.

Harry had spent much of the school year practicing warding which he discovered that Luna had a talent for when the pair would hang out with only them and the serpent late some nights. Thuban’s favorite pastime was trying to entangle himself in the girl’s long wavy blond hair. The following year he wanted to study them in more detail and learn how to sense them. Luna assured him cryptically that there were many places in Hogwarts he could practice such a talent. When asked to elaborate, Luna had simply promised that she would show him when they returned in the fall.

Hiding his broom under his invisibility cloak, Harry walked in clear view from the manor windows towards the Quidditch pitch and it was only once he was well out of eye sight that he started his preparations. He applied his usual muffling and sticking charms, putting the black cloak on over his equally all black attire of a short sleeved button-up, double-breasted vest, trousers, and leather boots. The heat was stifling with so many layers and he quickly cast several cooling charms on himself. Thuban hissed in complaint as he could feel them from where he rested around Harry’s neck.

“If you get cold I’ll cassst a warming charm on you, you big baby.” Harry hissed, wincing as he felt the snake tighten around his neck as Thuban answered while smacking his tail tip against Harry’s nose,“You are the clossser to being a hatchling than I. Ressspect your eldersss.”

“Ow.”

Harry mumbled, but didn’t say anything more, Thuban was not above taking revenge to the extreme and he really did need the snake’s full cooperation. He couldn’t risk truly peeving Thuban to the point that the adder decided he wanted nothing to do with Harry for the rest of the day, then Harry would have to find another snake and convince it to follow through with his plan in a very short amount of time. Not a very appealing venture.

Running the long strip of black velvet through his fingers, Harry swallowed hard as he knew there was no going back. Taking a deep breath he lifted his hands and carefully tied the fabric around his head, covering his eyes and most of his nose from view. Another charm he had learned was to turn the fabric see through on his side and after it was applied it was like he was wearing nothing at all. He ran a finger over the fabric to make sure it was there and secured tightly in place.

Then he lifted the dark hood over his head. An instinctive shiver was wrought through Harry’s body as he knew with little doubt how he looked. A dark wizard, face hidden in shadows and cloak that seemed to float over the ground, a figure that haunted the nightmares of many magical folk both young and old.

But under the fabric… he was still Harry, was he not? No passerby would probably believe him and Harry was very glad they lived so far out in the countryside.

Honestly, Harry wasn’t sure if this would even work, but he suspected that Draco must be in the forest far earlier than nightfall to call the herd to him. The trick was finding him, the dark children seemed to have a schedule to keep to on Midsummer’s Night. If Harry wanted to speak to Draco without the fear of a time limit hanging over both of their heads, it was best to find him as soon as possible.

It was a spell in the dark, but it was the only idea that Harry had as he flinted into the trees of the dark Caledonian Forest. It was just as dim and cool as Harry remembered, the aura of the forest seemed to remain unchanged despite what time it was. That was more than a little disconcerting, but at the same time he was grateful for any familiarity he could get in the situation.

He took a breath before drawing out his wand, the whole grounds and part of the forest were in the realm of the Black property so the trace on his holly wand shouldn’t raise any alarms. His old training Oak wand was also hidden on his person just in the case of emergency.

Laying the length of wood flat on his hand, Harry spoke the spell. “Point me, Draco.”

He didn’t know Draco’s full name, but he hoped that because of the uniqueness of his first name it wouldn’t be needed. At first, the wand didn’t so much as twitch and for one horrifying moment, Harry believed that all his preparation and scheming had been for not. Then the wand rotated on his palm, the tip swaying from left to right before staying rigidly in one direction.

Harry grinned while Thuban hissed in disappointment at the fact that they would be going through with this insanity after all.

A squeeze around the handle of his Nimbus and the two were off, with Harry’s focus divided on flying and watching if his wand moved, the task of keeping a lookout for any possible threats fell to the adder who slithered his way up to rest his head just outside of the hood, but still hidden with the invisibility cloak over them both. Thuban’s tongue constantly flicking out into the air, tasting it and hissing whenever he needed to draw his master’s attention away from their current path to avoid some beast lying just ahead in wait.

XX

The sun had just begun to set, when Harry started to hear singing, not the melodic whooping calls that summoned the herd. This time there were words echoing into the dim forest and Harry slowed, his wand still pointing directly towards where the music was coming from and he recognized Draco’s voice even at this distance.

Honestly, Harry wasn’t that surprised as he discovered that he had been led to a clearing that he strongly suspected was one and the same where he had found Draco twice before.

What he was surprised by was the fact that the cloaked figure seemed to be dancing as he sang. Harry was mesmerized as he watched how Draco moved across the clearing in some pattern that only he seemed to see. The draping black fabric of the dark wizard’s cloak moved fluidly with him like a waving cloud of ink in water. The hood of Draco’s cloak had fallen back revealing his pale blond hair that had grown since the last time that Harry had seen it, now falling two inches past his shoulders. It flowed like silk through the air as Draco spun himself on his heel. The veil though, still remained in place despite its wearer’s exhubert movements.

Dead of Night

“Don't know what to expect. My mind is racing, I can barely feel my breath. Like a dream I can't escape. I wanna run, but I'm still here when I awake.” Draco sang as he leaned back, hands outstretched towards the towering canopy above him like he was going to attempt to claw his way past it before dropping them and spinning, purposely flared his cloak wide to make the blackness around him grow larger. “In a pitch black world, anything goes. No telling where the wind will blow. In a pitch black world, anything goes.”

“In the dead of night, strange things happen. In the dead of night, the world goes cold. When the lights go out all around, whispers fill the air. In the dead of night, better hold on tight.” Draco made a grasping motion with his hands like he was trying to grab hold of a dangling rope that would be his one ticket to freedom.

Then he spun again, his body and shoulders twitching as if he had been wrapped up too tight in the invisible rope he had reached for. “You can shout or you can scream. But it won't save you from the midnight trickery. When the daylight disappears, you'll find no shelter in this tangled web of fear.”

Draco returned to the chorus and Harry knew he was enraptured by the performance, never had he seen anything like it before having grown up around stuffy ballrooms were only waltzing was expected from him in the eyes of the many lords and ladies. “In a pitch black world, anything goes. No telling where the wind will blow. In a pitch black world, anything goes.”

“Better hold on tight. In the dead of night.” Draco’s voice took a whispering quality as he curled in on himself, like he was trying to hide from some unknown threat. “Come take a breath. Don't close your eyes. Don't say another word. Don't let the light find you.”

The last line made Harry’s throat close up, but Draco continued to sing unaware, “Holding still, don't break inside. Don't say another word. Don't let the light find you.”

This song, Harry realized, was a story. It was a telling of how the dark magic users feared discovery and only found solace in... Draco’s song answered him as he straightened back up gracefully, “In the dead of night strange things happen. In the dead of night the world goes cold. When the lights go out all around, whispers fill the air. In the dead of night, better hold on tight.”

“Better hold on tight. In the dead of night. Better hold on tight.” The song was finished and Draco was visibly panting for breath as he recovered from the dance.

“Wasss that sssome kind of mating disssplay? Is that the true reassson you want to ssspeak to him, to take him up on the proposssal he’s broadcasssting throughout the foressst?” Thuban hissed softly, effectively jerking Harry out of his stupor, he was more than a little mortified at the conclusion that his companion had drawn.

“That wasssn’t a mating disssplay! And no, I don’t!” Harry hissed back, barely able to keep his voice in check as for the second time today someone had alluded to Harry having feelings deeper than curiosity towards a boy he hadn’t even spoken to!

The again, Harry was about to hopefully change that. Careful to still stay out of sight as he finally stepped off of his broom. He removed his invisibility cloak and numerous charms that both he and Thuban had on them with a few swishes of his wand. Then he gently set the adder on the ground, kneeling down to be eye level with his familiar as he asked.

“Ready? Any lassst minute questionsss about the plan?”

“Other than thossse about your sssanity and reasssoning, no.” Thuban answered, rolling his eyes, something that Harry had been surprised the snake could do when he had first done it. Now though, it was an old trick that displayed Thuban’s signature sass. Or sssasss , as Harry nicknamed it, much to the serpent’s annoyance.

Harry knows better than to raise to bait, if he did they would be quipping back and forth at each other for hours. This wasn’t the time for that and instead he gave a hopeful little grin at his familiar that made Thuban finally let out a hissy huff before darting through the grass and brush.

Steadying himself for what would happen next, Harry crouched ready to dart forward with wand in hand. He wasn’t sure what Draco would do. Harry had been around twitchy castors, both adults and children alike. The blond seemed to be one that prided himself on his composure and there was grace in each of his movements that must have been trained into him from a young age. Much like Harry’s own upbringing under Sirius; while he was clumsy in normal situations, when multiple eyes were on him Harry knew how to turn his shoulders and walk without falter.

All of that training from Sirius and Andromeda would hopefully come in handy, he really didn’t want to fall on his face when making his first impression.

No, Harry wanted something much more.... Dashing.

Draco had taken to walking slowly around the edge of the clearing, most likely to work out any tension that had built up in his legs from the dance. It was when the blond was on the other side of the clearing from Harry’s hiding spot that the watcher saw his plan finally be put into action. The dark wizard had stiffened and took two quick, but long steps backwards head tilted downwards as he stared at something in the grass.

XX

Thuban, Harry could hear the adder hissing venomously from where he was, it wasn’t surprising that his acting was over the top. But from the looks of things, Draco wasn’t a parseltongue himself, else he would have ordered the snake away from him by now. This of course, only worked more in Harry’s favor, he’d have hated it if there was a chance slip of the tongue from two sources and not just his own.

There was suddenly a wand in Draco’s hand and that was his cue, because honestly, Harry didn’t care to know what kind of spell the other boy would use and it would do wonders for Harry’s continued impression of Draco to not see him cast a killing curse. No, he didn’t doubt that Draco could cast Avada Kedavra, there was something about the way that Draco moved that told Harry that it would be fatal for him not to expect everything and anything about the other until proven otherwise.

Harry hurried out of the brush, making sure that the rustling of branches was heard before he called out, “Wait!”

Even from a distance Harry could see how Draco went rigid at the sound of his voice, the hand not holding his wand quickly reached up to pull the hood back over his face as he darted back several more steps so he could see both Harry and the still furious sounding adder.

While Harry tried not to flinch at having the dark wizard’s wand pointing his way, he failed. Who wouldn’t?! Thankfully, Draco didn’t act on his hesitation, the darkness of his hood staying turned in his direction and Harry hated that he was unable to see where Draco’s eyes were. To know what he might be targeting. Still he could feel the blond’s gaze raking up and down his form, probably looking for threats and weaknesses.

It wouldn’t do to show anymore signs of fear, so Harry drudged up as much Gryffindor courage as he could and started to walk forward. “You don’t need to hurt him, he’s just upset you almost stepped on him.”

Thuban hissed loudly, bringing Draco’s attention back to the initial threat, but he did not speak, though his head turned slightly towards the reptile.

It was time for Harry to work his figurative magic, his tongue changing to hissing tones as he focused on Thuban. As he knelt down his words were careful, just in case Draco could understand serpent tongue. “It’sss okay, he won’t hurt you. Come here.”

Harry heard the way Draco’s breath caught despite how the blond seemed to be trying to keep silent.

“If you sssay ssso, I ssstill have my doubtsss.” Thuban hissed back, still warily eyeing the dark wizard before slithering over to his master, crawling up the outstretched arm and up around Harry’s neck now taking position outside of the hood so Draco could keep an eye on him and hopefully not see him as a threat.

Now Harry just hoped that he wasn’t about to make a large social faux pas as he turned his body completely to face Draco, who hadn’t moved during their exchange. He had practiced the greeting many times in front of the mirror and prayed that he didn’t miss a step as he pulled his sleeves up to his elbows. That done, Harry dropped into a sweeping bow with his feet apart like he had been taught by Andromeda with his right hand holding his wand out and away from both of the wizards. His left hand stayed over his heart as he spoke the Latin that had haunted him, the words felt heavy and cold on his tongue, “Et sanguinem magicae pur, benedicat tibi.”

Harry straightened slowly, almost forgetting to show both sides of his left hand before he dropped both arms down to his sides.

The other boy didn’t move and Harry feared that he had revealed himself or that he had truly offended the other. Then Draco finally moved, thankfully, it wasn’t to attack. The bow was every bit as controlled and elegant as it had been the other times Harry had seen it performed by Draco.

“Ut vincatis, et magicae pur est.”

The words trailed out of Draco’s mouth and Harry was thrilled, they were talking, sure it was only the regimented greeting, but the dark wizard was speaking to Harry. Not to the herd, not to his friends, not to the forest around them, the words were meant for Harry.

“Does my gallant rescuer have a name?” The words were a slow drawl, clearly lacking an impressed air, but Draco did seem intrigued. If he wasn’t Harry thought that the blond would have departed from him as soon as the required greeting had been exchanged.

“Usually it’s polite to introduce yourself first before asking the name of another.” Harry answered, his tone wasn’t nearly as suave as that of the dark wizard and he felt awkward using what seemed to be rather old fashioned language.

The dark hood cocked slightly, and Harry was certain that under the veil Draco had risen a brow as he spoke, “Was it not you that extended the first word? Rather presumptuous of you, but I suppose that can be forgiven. You clearly are not from around here.”

“Why do you think that?” Harry asked, curious and eager to get any insight into the world of the dark and how Draco’s mind worked. The way that Draco remarked on how Harry extended the greeting first told him that there was more attached to the custom than simply being polite.

“Many reasons. You’re a parselmouth and that is a secret that would not remain such for very long in my group. You do not recognize me nor I you. Your boots are of strange design and your accent is thick. I could continue, but shall not.” Draco answered casually and Harry swallowed, silently, but hard.

Draco was right, those were all things that he hadn’t considered and now felt incredibly foolish for, but it seemed that the blond hadn’t decided that any of his mistakes were deemed worthy of being answered with aggression. Still, Harry was careful, he could only hope that the backstory he composed would be sufficient enough. There were tales of the dark being very secretive and holding their cards protectively against their chests even from others of their own ilk. He hoped that if he did the same he wouldn’t be seen as more suspicious than if he didn’t.

“That’s fair and true,” he decided to answer, trying not to sound too rocked and appear nonchalant as he busied himself with stroking a few fingers over Thuban’s scales. “I’m Hadrian.”

“Just Hadrian?” Draco questioned, tone dripping in disbelief like venom from fangs.

“Just Hadrian.” Harry repeated, he had chosen the name because it started with the same ‘Ha’ sound as his original name. It wouldn’t do if someone called for him using his alis and he didn’t respond. By having a similar sound, it was more likely for Harry to instinctively answer and pay attention when he caught it. Hadrian was also an old fashioned name that didn’t have any current wizarding family linked to it in over twenty years. This meant that no one could research him and find that the name and face didn’t match on any records. Luna had mentioned offhand one night that it was unlikely for any dark parents to have declared the names of their children, during or after the war to the public. Harry wanted to ask her why in the world she had brought that random thought out of her head, but she just tittered away to another topic like she was known to do.  

The blond gave an amused hum in answer, “Perhaps you are not as foolhardy as I thought, my name is Draco. Pleasure, I’m sure.”

“I believed the jury is still out on that last part, Draco.” Harry answered, Draco was all wit and sophisticated snark and Harry was just beaming under his hood. Still Harry was raised with the clever tongued Sirius who had his very own brand of sarcasm and snippy comebacks for all occasions. Remus was also never one to back down from a verbal battle, though his remarks were always more backhanded and thoughtfully biting if he was truly pushed. Sometimes, the Black household bickered for the sake of exercising their vocabulary and cleverness. When Tonks and Andromeda were added to the mix, things could get even more nasty, the two Black women could leave anyone limping away to lick their metaphorical wounds if they teamed up on the same target. Tonks would provide exaggerated visuals for her quips with her shapeshifting ability. Ted usually stayed silent during those dinners nursing a very large pint of beer.

Draco placed a hand upon his own chest showing that he was appalled by Harry’s insinuation that he wasn’t pleasant company. It was surprising how much emotion could be shown through body language even when the face was hidden.

“My, you are a bold one, now tell me, Hadrian. What are you doing in my neck of the woods as it were? Especially on a day like today.”

“Wandering I suppose, my family doesn’t have any plans until late in the evening.” Harry answered vaguely and the way Draco’s hood continued to stare at him told that the excuse was not good enough. Harry also noticed that the wand had never left Draco’s hand, one wrong move and Harry was sure to get more than a hex.

Divergence, providing other information while not giving the other person what they truly wanted. Sirius had explained the concept to Harry, it was apparently a very important tactic to use in politics. Harry had used it plenty of times by now as well with distracting his friends when they asked him where he got the ideas for his research or what he intended to do with what they found.

“I was just curious about this place, this is Thuban, my familiar, a common adder as I’m sure you know. We wandered apart and I followed something I heard. That was a…” Harry felt like he had suddenly stepped in it. Yeah, he sure as hell had diverted the conversation, but now he just basically admitted that he had been watching Draco sing and dance like a creep.

“...A nice song.” Harry finished lamely, scratching at the back of his hood.

“It was not of my own creation.” Draco answered simply, he didn’t sound offended by Harry’s spying so that was a good sign. Still he was confused about why Draco would assume that Harry thought that the song was made by Draco. He was missing a bit of information and he fished for it by making only one contemplative sound.

“Oh?”

“It was another girl’s coming of age song from Yule. Mine will be something far more grand. I don’t intend to partake in the overused trope that beckons back to the terror of the hunts.” Draco’s tone had become intense, like the conversation had opened the floodgates. Apparently, Harry had touched upon something that Draco held true passion for as the blond continued. “Gemma should be ashamed really, she and so many others choose to write songs that only confirm our weaknesses and fears . It’s sickening really, we are anything but, just because we have been forced into the shadows does not mean that we are not proud. That we are not something great.”

There was such bitterness and scorn in Draco’s voice that it had Harry wincing. Still the way that Draco had gestured towards Harry as he spoke and how his hood was inclined towards him seeking agreement, Harry realized with shock that Draco was including him in the use of our and we .

It was shocking, but Harry knew that only one mistake would out Harry for what he really is. Even though it was pretty obvious by now that this was something that is common knowledge and well known, Harry still wanted clarification even if it put suspicion on him.

“My family doesn’t do the whole music thing.”

Draco was silent at those words and as he continued to be so, Harry grew nervous his gaze flicking about the clearing as he noticed how very dark it had grown around them. The sun must have finally passed under the horizon.

Then Draco was lifting his wand and Thuban tightened his hold around Harry’s neck as the boy didn’t dare to breathe. As the tip of the wood started to form circular pattern in the air, Harry’s muscles tensed as he got ready to duck and cover. A shielding spell or an accio to summon his broom on the tip of his tongue.

“O ignis fatuus te, in via lux.”

The Will O’ Wisp spell flowed gracefully out of Draco’s wand, the small ball of purple fire providing some light and drifting a short distance before another ball of fire formed. As the wispy flares multiplied, Draco asked softly.

“Truly, they have abandoned this practice?”

Harry licked his suddenly dry lips, the other boy’s tone had become detached, his hood fell back to reveal his blond hair, now tinged lilac by the fire around him.

“They don’t seem to think it’s important for us.”

“Not important, song is not some frivolous fancy!” Draco growled as he stabbed the air with his wand the next fireball that was produced being three times larger than the ones created so far. It hurt Harry’s eyes a little to look at it and Thuban shifted his head to hide in the hood to hide from the stinging light.

Alright, very touchy subject, he waited for Draco to compose himself once more and eventually his breathing did calm, but the dark wizard made no effort to put his hood back up. Draco was aware that Harry had seen him dancing so it was a rather mote point to attempt to keep it on. The veil though, remained where it was, but at least now he could see the turn of Draco’s lips to better read him.

Though pale pink lips were turned down as he spoke, “I suppose… I should not be surprised. Clearly from how you behave you are not a part of a coven, certainly not mine. Which leads me to believe that you have to be one of two things. Either you come from the rare case of a dark and a light couple or your parents are dark and have managed to keep it secret from the Ministry . Either of these comes at the cost of having to abandon most our ways for your continued survival.”

The word was spat and Harry found that he was echoing Draco’s sentiments about the governing body, he wasn’t exactly fond of them himself with several of the policies they had passed in concerns with creatures. He realized that Draco was waiting for him to confirm which of the cases he was, which one would work better to his advantage of milking more information from the dark wizard?

“The first one.” Harry doubted that he could play that he had two dark parents with so little knowledge. “We celebrate a few of the customs on the holy day like today, Yule, and Walpurgis. There’s still so much about our culture that I don’t know though, my father won’t tell me.”

Draco was nodding his head softly, seeming pleased that his deductive skills had hit the mark as he asked. “Who is your father?”

“Whose yours?” Harry asked back just as quick and startled as Draco tossed his head back and laughed .

“Touche, well done. Seems you are not hopeless after all.”  

“Oi!” Harry’s sound of offense only made the blond snicker more. Harry couldn’t be too angry with the mockery, not when it meant that Draco was delighted and believing his story. Draco was practically filling the holes in Harry’s story for him like it was a personal challenge for him to find the information before Harry could reveal it himself. It was certainly working in his favor.

“So…” Harry began, now tentative and knowing that Draco could flat out refuse him, “Could you teach me, tell me about what we are since I haven’t exactly been getting answers on my own? If I can show that I understand the dark, then maybe the ways don’t have to die in my family with my father’s secrets.”

Pride, it was easy to see that was what Draco held towards his values and traditions. It was something that Harry could play on, much like how Sirius did with the fools in the Wizengamot with backhanded compliments while scheming to put moral blocks in front of laws they wished to pass. Still Harry knew that Draco wasn’t stupid, the way he tensed up at the suggestion was obvious enough.

“I do not have much time, I must take my leave in a few hours. What do I get in return for teaching you, Hadrian?” Draco finally inquired, apparently imparting sensitive information would not come without a price. A glance around the clearing revealed just how dark it had become around them.

They waded into dangerous territory, Harry knew that and decided to try to show good faith by lowering his own hood. He heard Draco draw in a sharp breath, assuring him that the action had an affect.

“What would you want? Give me a few ideas, we don’t exactly know each other’s tastes.” Harry suggested, scratching at his wild hair, but being careful of the veil tied there.

Draco stared, even with his eyes covered Harry could feel the way that the other’s silver gaze bored into him.

“You go to Hogwarts.” It was a statement, not a question, even so Harry nodded his head in confirmation. The smile that spread across Draco’s lips was predatory and his white teeth glinted in the combination of starlight and that of the will o wisp spell as he leaned closer. This close, Harry realized that he was a bit taller than Draco, but with the way the dark wizard carried himself, Harry certainly didn’t feel it.

“I want something from Hogwarts.” 

Such a simple statement, but Harry now wondered just what he had gotten himself into. 

Chapter Text

Okay first of all, so sorry I forgot to add the link to the song that Draco sang and danced to in the last chapter, here it is if you want to go back and reread the part while listening to it: Dead of Night


 

“Huh?” Was the only elegant thing that Harry uttered.

Draco gave an exasperated sound before stabbing his finger into Harry’s chest, distantly the raven was glad that it wasn’t his wand or a knife. But… why would it have been?

“I want something from Hogwarts, something that can only be from there.” Draco explained his tone becoming annoyed. “I should have been able to attend Hogwarts as most magical children in England do. The founders were half dark and half light, it was meant to open to all. But instead, from the very beginning…”

A huff escaped Draco and he was obviously trying to compose himself: Harry was trying to wrap his mind about the knowledge that had just been shared. Salazar Slytherin, he was a well known dark wizard, but apparently another of the founders had been a practitioner as well. That was something to ponder at a later date.

“So what… You want me to bring you some of my homework or books I have? Anything else would be considered stealing.” Yeah, Harry really didn’t know if was willing to go that far for any tidbit Draco could give him…

No, Harry grimaced as he realized that he actually was willing to go that far for any secrets that could help him understand what had been haunting him for the past three years. At least to a point.

“It’s not considered stealing if it’s something that already belongs to you.” Draco countered flippantly, “I don’t want some measly assignment or treat from the kitchens. What I desire is an artifact, one that won’t be missed as I’m sure most of the occupants of Hogwarts aren’t even aware of its existence. Including the dear headmaster.”

“Artifact?” He questioned slowly, Harry didn’t know if he liked where this was going. Could he really take something from his school without notice? How did Draco even know it was there if he had never been inside of the castle?

Though his eyes were covered, Harry could sense that Draco was rolling his eyes at him, “Come now, it’s not something dangerous. At least nothing more so than what you would normally find in a potions’ store or in your Defense Against the Dark Arts class.” The subject was spoken with an added curl of a pale lip.

When Harry remained petulantly silent Draco continued.

“It’s a necklace, more specifically a pendent. My father lost it while he was a student there. He could never retrieve it for numerous reasons. Too many eyes watching him as he was already suspected for being dark by much of the student population. Asking another person to search for it just wouldn’t do either, it would be seen as an embarrassment, a weakness, and potential blackmail to be used against the family.”

“What’s so special about a piece of jewelry?” Harry put his hands up in a placating gesture at the venomous expression (even without the eyes visible) that he was sent. “Hey, if I’m going to risk detention, expulsion, and house points I wanna know exactly what I’m getting into for.”  

“It is…” Draco frowned as he seemed to be choosing his words carefully, “an heirloom. Something that has been in my family for generations and was meant to be mine. It would be an adequate trade as… obviously, I will never be able to look for it myself. For us, history, including physical mementos, are important.”

Harry didn’t feel like he was going to get much more information than that, Draco subtly threatening to oust Harry of his status as one of the us if he continued his pursuit made that clear. It was rather shocking though to have it confirmed that the dark students roaming the halls of Hogwarts, at least those that did so more than a decade ago, were facing threats on all sides, not just from the light. How hard must the heart of a dark wizard be? Draco seemed close to his friends, but Harry suspected that there were secrets that they kept from each other either by their own choice, pressure from their family, or keeping to their suspicious traditions.

“Well, what does it look like? Where is it?” Harry was quick to try and pacify Draco, he was curious, after all, it was just revealed to him that Hogwarts had her own, literal, dark secrets.

“He lost it in one of the secret shedding rooms, he was releasing the built up black magic in his system and heard the head boy making his rounds so he had to flee. A building so ancient and enbunded with magic for literally thousands of years, it makes it become… quirky. The rooms, particularly ones where dark magic has been performed in for so long, they have a penchant to move. They can change floors, move behind new portraits, absorb wards, the possibilities are endless. My father never found the room again and could not afford to look for it for too long.” Draco explained, before lifting his wand up into the air once more and uttering, “ Flagrate.”

With the now glowing tip of his wand, Draco drew a fiery picture in the air. It truly was a simple looking piece of jewelry, a chain the dark wizard explained to be silver, ending with a circular shaped pendant hanging from it. It wasn’t large, no bigger than a common coin. In the center of it there was something, Harry realized it was a letter but it was too small to make out which, carved fetchingly out of the center of it.

“Can you remember this? The pendant is thin, also silvery in color, the clasp making it into a charm is green.” Draco asked hesitantly as the image started to fade away, his tone had become tinged with... Hope, perhaps desperation as he shifted from foot to foot making his cloak hiss across the blades of grass.

“It’s a tall order, what you’re asking.” Harry murmured, committing the image to memory despite the impossible weight the task seemed to carry. A shedding room, never before had Harry heard of such a thing, but Draco’s explanation and the title of the place itself provided him with an idea of what it was. Could he even find such a place when it was obviously hidden, especially to those of the light for centuries upon centuries? If the Ministry or past headmasters had known about its existence, surely it would have been destroyed and recorded in Hogwarts’ history.  

“You would have a year’s time to acquire it, you and I can meet once more here on Midsummer Night. ” Draco pointed out, tone turning unimpressed and scornful, obviously he was trying to tease Harry into accepting the challenge.

“You seem very certain that I’ll return. What happens if I don’t find it?” Harry asked, though he had a feeling that he already knew the answer.

“Then do not bother ever entering this forest again. If you come empty handed I will,” Draco licked his lips before continuing, “ persuasively send you away. Which would be a pity, you are interesting, Hadrian.”

That was a nice way of promising that Draco would hex Harry into oblivion. Still it made Harry grin at the fact that the blond really did seem to want his continued presence, even if he attached a price tag to it. A year, surely, he could accomplish that. He had a copy of the Marauders’ Map and even if it didn’t give him a clue on where the room was it would allow him to avoid anyone in his hunt for the necklace. Remus would be the biggest challenge as he had a map as well and was well known for catching students whenever he had patrol duty. Harry could enlist Fred and George in keeping the werewolf distracted, the two were always up for the task of proving themselves to one of their pranking idols.

Yeah, Harry thought he could work with this and nodded softly, still on the off chance that he did fail, he wanted at least some information, an incentive or invoice. “I’ll find it, but I want at least some questions answered tonight.”

Draco inclined his head, seeming to agree that it was a fair trade. “I will ask questions of you as well, though we may choose not to answer them.”

“Fair enough.” Harry was practically buzzing with excitement at the fact that he would FINALLY be getting information from the source, though there were no assurances that Draco wouldn’t be lying through his teeth. He would have to take everything he heard with more than a grain of salt, but wasn’t that what he had been gradually doing more and more during his own research?

“First question, what’s up with the singing and dancing?” Draco seemed very passionate about the subject, so it seemed as good a place as any in Harry’s inquiry.

“What’s… up?” Draco repeated to himself softly with a frown, obviously he was not familiar with the phrase, but he managed to pull its meaning forth. “We use song and dancing for storytelling, it’s always been dangerous for us to write down our beliefs and practices when they might be discovered. We can tell our hopes, horrors, and ideas through music. Combining information with melody makes it easy to remember. When we reach our coming of age, it is tradition for one to compose and perform a song of their own creation on the night of Yule before the coven.”

“Everyone does it?” Harry was surprised, he didn’t think he could imagine Vincent or Gregory performing as gracefully as Draco. The dark wizard only nodded his head though, continuing voice tinged with smug pride, “I will give my song in two years, so I have time to make something truly marvelous.”

Harry didn’t doubt it, but he picked up another piece of information from the statement, the age when those of the dark were declared adults was different than the rest of wizarding society. Draco couldn’t be older than Harry, had to be thirteen or about to become thirteen, that meant that the coming of age was fifteen years old rather than seventeen.

“Music is also a way of confirming harmony, not only with the members of the coven, but with your family, with nature… with magic. There is power in song that the light has forgotten, when chanting incantations and spells they do not think of trying to reach harmony with the world and powers around them. No, they focus only on achieving their goal with the spell. We are mindful of the pace of the magic flowing around us, we try to fall in time with the natural pulses of life and magic. This is why our spells seem so much more powerful and they are, because we can hear the beat that exists around us.” Draco’s words flowed gracefully from his mouth and Harry was eating them up eagerly.

The way the dark saw the world and magic was just so… different.

Still Harry wasn’t sure that he understood. As he closed his eyes and tried to listen for what Draco claimed to be all around them, he heard nothing but the crickets and distant calls of the many creatures that lived in the forest.

“I don’t hear any of that.” Harry finally admitted making Draco cock his head, like he was surprised that his new companion had immediately tried his hand at it.

“It is a skill that takes years of practice, you can’t just snap your fingers and expect it to happen. I’ve been practicing this since birth, you only just learned about it.” Draco admonished, and Harry scratched his head sheepishly. Harry had thought that it would be that easy, after all, most spells and things dealing with magic usually did come easily to him with minimal effort on his part. Harry wasn’t used to failing and it made something uncomfortable slosh around in his gut.

Draco seemed to sense this and gave a put-upon sigh, “You must know at least a few dark spells, do you not?”

“I can do that Will O’ Wisp spell you were doing.” Harry offered, Draco jerked slightly at the comment, but said in an even voice. “That will do, I suppose we could do with a little more light anyway. Now listen carefully on how I say the spell.”

“O ignis fatuus te, in via lux.”

Now that Harry was paying attention, there was indeed a rhythm with how the blond spoke the spell. It was said with the lilting quality of how poetry was read. A short pause between every two beats that followed some internal metronome in Draco’s head. Draco preformed the spell three more times, letting Harry analyze the pattern of his words and recognize when emphasis was needed.

As the three new balls of fiery light drifted through the clearing, Harry was given a nod to try his hand at the spell himself.

Compared to Draco, Harry felt that his attempt was clumsy and stuttering. The same feeling of chill ran through the green-eyed wizard as he cast the spell and he forced his fingers not to tremble as he directed the little fireball to float with Draco’s. It was easy to tell them apart, Harry’s did not glow nearly as brightly as the blond’s and the light produced from it would dim from time to time.

Draco did not look impressed.

“Abysmal.”

Harry’s cheeks heated in embarrassment, but not anger as he couldn’t help but agree with Draco’s assessment.

“Again, this time with your eyes closed, listen carefully.” Draco ordered, and Harry was quick to obey, closing his eyes and trying to focus without any visual distractions. There was a slight change he noticed, the words fell easier from his mouth and the chill that ran up to his fingers wasn’t quite as cold. Harry was ordered to attempt the spell three more times before he was given leave to open his eyes once more.

The fireballs he produced were a little brighter, but still not as striking as Draco’s, who remarked with clear annoyance.

“Not absolutely dreadful, but I told you to listen .”  

“Listen to what?! I told you that I don’t hear anything.” Harry was frustrated, he wasn’t used to having so much difficulty with a spell and Draco was a harsh teacher, though the way he spoke made Harry suspected that the blond was copying someone. Maybe it was one of Draco’s own teachers. Whoever it was, they seemed to be all work and no play.

Despite the other’s eyes being covered, Harry could feel Draco’s glare on him. Snapping at his only available teacher who could also end him with a flick of his wand was probably not the best course of action. However, Harry didn’t back down, standing straight and stubborn against the shorter boy.

“Close your eyes.” Draco finally ordered.

“I told you it doesn’t wo-“

“Did I ask for your opinion on the matter? If you want to learn then shut up and close your eyes.” Draco growled and a shiver ran down Harry’s spine at the tone. Harry thought about disobeying, with the sash around his eyes Draco would not be able to tell if Harry was following his orders or not. Or… maybe he could, it was better to not risk it he decided as he closed his eyes with a sigh and lifted his wand.

“Now listen to what is around you, we’ll start easy. What insects do you hear?” Draco’s tone had smoothed out, apparently having calmed himself now that Harry was listening to him.

Listening closely, Harry answered, “Crickets,” something buzzed past his ear, “and mosquitoes.”

“Now listen for the wind and feel the wind, which direction is it coming from?” Harry answered with it drifting from the south by the subtle tugs against his robes. It was a whisper, not a whistle or howl that would be produced by a stronger breeze.

“Try to listen to the wind and the insects.” Draco prompted next and Harry wanted to roll his eyes behind his lids. Was this really necessary, how difficult could it be? Harry felt like kicking himself a few moments later as he realized that it was challenging, incredibly so. If he focused on the wind, the insects would disappear. If he tried to listen to the insects, he lost the wind.

It took several minutes and not so internal groans before Harry managed it. Then Draco layered something new, listening to his own heart beat and the previous subjects. After that he had to focus on the feel of Thuban breathing as the snake curled itself around his neck, scales to skin. He had to listen to how the grass crinkled under his boots as he shifted his weight.

Harry felt like driving his head into the nearest tree in frustration as it seemed all too much to listen for. If he did so, Harry suspected that he would probably be ordered to listen to the sound that his skull made against the bark.

At last, he was told to do something other than listen, he was to cast the spell once more. It seemed like an eternity before he actually managed to be able to listen to the world around him while casting, many times he had to stop mid-cast whenever he lost focus. His first time wasn’t good enough either as Draco refused to allow him to open his eyes, telling him to cast the spell five more times before finally deeming Harry done.

When Harry opened his eyes, he flinched back from the harsh source of light that threatened to blind him.

“I’m surprised that you managed to pick it up so fast. Not perfect, but a vast improvement.” The murmur of praise had the same effect on Harry as if it had come from Remus or Sirius, it made Harry preen and grin as his eyes slowly adjusted to the light. The last fireball he had produced shined much brighter than all the others and was a larger size than Draco’s. The colored was brighter purple as well, which Harry noted matched closer to the dark wizard’s than the duller ones of his first attempts.

Unfortunately, there was still a stuttered to the power of Harry’s lights. It would need more practice.

“You see, our power comes not from some trick like the light proclaims, no dirty play under the table. It is simply a skill that we have honed, we remain connected to the natural world around us and have it work with us rather than against us or disregarding it. You cannot hear magic yet, but perhaps one day you will.” Draco mused, before shrugs his shoulders, “Or you’re simply hopeless. The jury is still out on that one.”

“Ha. Ha.” Harry answered sarcastically as Draco used his own words against him.

Draco smirked back at him in answer, before reaching into one of the patches on his belt. He withdrew a metal tin that he popped open and slipped a piece of whatever was inside into his mouth, making sure that Harry had clear view of the action before tilting the tin towards Harry in offer.

In the dim lighting Harry couldn’t tell exactly what the food was, it looked like inch long pale strips of something. He was cautious, but he didn’t want to be rude or perhaps he was about to be ridiculed for being too trusting again. Maybe he would be on his side in the grass clutching his stomach in agony while Draco laughed above him. Draco shook the tin slightly in his direction again and Harry gave in, he reached in and snatched a piece of whatever it was.

The food was dry and gritty in texture to his fingers. Popping it into his mouth, Harry realized the grit was sugar, the strip tasted of sharp ginger, sage, honey, and apple rolled into one. Eating it felt like a kick to the mouth despite it being delicious, cleared his nose definitely and the taste balanced on the edge of being medicinal. Harry took another strip when it was offered and devoured it quickly, the taste was actually pretty addictive.

“These are delicious.”

“It is my mother’s recipe. I do enjoy apples and she figured out how to combine the tastes together.” Draco explained, pride in his voice and Harry felt a tinge of jealousy. Perhaps Sirius could cook with his excellent skill with potions, but he had never made anything that Harry could remember that their family could eat just for enjoyment. His friends knew that home cooked meals were one of the few things that Harry was touchy about, only accepting food from the Weasleys because they had been part of Harry’s life for so long. Also, Molly’s food was too good to be bitter about. Draco didn’t know any of this and Harry bit his tongue to stop himself from snapping a snide comment or trying to shut down the conversation.

Instead Harry just shoved a few more pieces of the strange candy into his mouth.

“I guess it’s your turn to ask a question now.” It was only fair after Draco had spent so much time teaching what he probably thought was a brick wall.

“Very well, what house do you belong to at Hogwarts?” There was curiosity in Draco’s voice and also… perhaps scorn. Harry didn’t doubt that the blond felt bitter about not being able to attend the school like the rest of the magical population did over a decade ago.

“Ravenclaw.” It was a lie, but it was better to say that than Gryffindor. Peter Pettigrew was an example of a dark wizard from the den of lions, but no others had ever been recorded that Harry knew of. Because of his close relationship with Remus and Luna Harry also knew much about the inner workings of the raven house. He’d been into their common room several times when he went to get Luna for their late-night meetings… and to leave prank devices in the belongings of the girls that had once bullied the dreamy eyed girl. Remus had put a stop to the bullying very quickly, but Harry was still looking for vengeance.

Draco looked surprised, but immediately dug into Harry for information about what the common room looked like and the castle in general. Prying stories from Harry that he found himself actually enjoying telling, the laughs and snorts he had gotten for his tales made Harry eagerly dive into his next. He spoke of Ron, Neville, the twins, and Luna, but he left Hermione out he didn’t want to let it slip that he was friends with a muggleborn in the case that the dark stereotypes were true. He left out personal details, like last names and physically appearances as well for the most part for the safety of all those involved.

Draco absorbed all of the information offered, breaking the dialogue from time to time with sarcastic comments and expressions of disbelief or disgust. The blond had a lot of questions regarding the Slytherin house and Harry found himself coming up empty for anything to say about the serpents. He had been at Hogwarts for two years and he hadn’t had any interactions with the green wearing students that extended past handing assignments or parchment over to them during class.

Ron and many other students would jeer at and prank the Slytherins relentlessly, but Harry hadn’t joined in. Mostly because he wasn’t there whenever it took place. Harry decided not to mention this to Draco. Still it made him curious, could he try to speak to the Slytherins this year? Could his social status allow it? Should it matter? Honestly, Harry wasn’t sure one way or the other.

As Draco fell silent while mulling over the picture that Harry’s words created in his mind of the view from the astronomy tower and having a centaur a teacher, Harry saw it as his chance to launch once more into his own questions.

“What about you, do you go to… school?” It felt like a lame question, but Harry was interested in how Draco’s daily life, the daily going on’s of dark children, might differ from his own.

“Of course I do, we aren’t savages, though we are portrayed as otherwise in history. As my godfather says, history is written by the victors.” Draco sneered before launching into an explanation to set Hadrian straight. The list of subjects was long and Draco smirked at the wide eyed expression that was on the raven’s face as he continued: arithmancy, alchemy, ancient studies, art, magical theory, study of ancient runes, care of magical creatures, riding of various creatures, transfiguration, charms, potions, history of all magic, Dark Arts, astronomy, rituals, several languages, dueling, poetry, dance, music, debate, and herbology.

Harry felt rather ignorant compared to the vast amount of knowledge that Draco apparently had. It was surprising to realize the amount of devotion to the arts that the members of the dark apparently had. Art, dance, music, poetry, the history class also included works of literature, debate focusing on the significance of events and arguing what may have happened if one thread of fate had been tugged. Draco was right, the picture that he painted was far different than the savage image that had been imprinted in Harry’s mind from a young age of skin painted with blood dancing around bonfires and hazardous rituals.

The classes were apparently held in one of the homes of the dark community with the teachers and students coming and going everyday. It seemed closer to how some muggles went to school, according to Hermione, but Harry didn’t dare make the comparison aloud.

There was one subject that Harry did notice was absent from the curriculum.

“Do you not learn flying on brooms?”

Draco bit his lower lip, his veiled face turning away for a few moments before speaking, “No, I have never flown on a broom, many my age haven’t. The forest is too thick for any true riding anyway. The brooms we do have are old and would not be able to make the quick turns to avoid flying into trees. We don’t exactly have the space or security for quidditch either.”

It was something that Harry had a skill for that Draco didn’t and Harry grinned as he started to plan. He summoned his broom with a quick accio that startled the blond, Draco leaping back before cautiously moving forward once more when he saw what it was.

Seeing the way that pale fingers twitched with the desire to touch, Harry smirked, “This is a Nimbus 2000, one of the fastest brooms on the market, but there’s a new model called a firebolt that blows this out of the water. Still, she’s my pride and joy. Do you want to ride her?”

Draco obviously did, but his tone turned suspicious, “What would you want in exchange?”

“I asked you to teach me traditions and ways, now I ask for spells.” Harry answered with a shrug that had Draco gaping at him. The other apparently thought that Harry would not be willing to take that step in his desire of knowledge. The twist of pale lips was considering and Harry could feel how Draco’s eyes shifted from the broom to Harry.

“The more you practice dark magic… the more your magical core for it will grow.” Draco said finally, voice dripping with warning. Harry wasn’t sure how that was a bad thing, but didn’t ask as he watched Draco turn his thoughts over his mind.

“You need time to think about what you are really asking of me, Hadrian. I will not teach you if you do not understand the risks. In a year’s time, if you find the necklace and find yourself still wanting to practice Dark magic, then I shall.” Draco laid out the deal and raised his hand when Harry tried to argue, the raven’s teeth shutting with an audible, angry click. “I will not be moved, Hadrian. I believe that it is time for us to part as well.”

Harry knew a dismissal when he heard it and gritted his teeth, he had so many questions left, but from the way Draco stood, he knew that he would not be moved. Still he tried to argue, “You’re really willing to give up on the chance to ride a real broom?”

A sharp stinging hex struck Harry in the chest and left him gasping, pain ricocheting between his nerves. Thuban hissed in protest and glared at the now stoic blond, whose wand was still raised.

“I have laid out my terms, you would do well to honor them.” Draco’s voice had grown cold and Harry knew it was best to retreat, that hex had packed a wallop and aggravating the dark wizard more would not be good for his health. Still Harry felt cheated and with spite he threw one leg over the broom to rise high into the air above the blond. A few sharp turns and dives around the clearing to show his skill was his way of getting revenge, teasing Draco with what he chose to deny himself.

The grip on Draco’s wand had turned whiter, but he didn’t give into the temptation and finally Harry stopped his show, now hovering a few meters above the dark wizard.

“This is where we part, hopefully I will see you in a year’s time.” Draco finally spoke, “Merry part, Hadrian. May the gods and goddesses observe your path with affection.”

Harry was still annoyed, but didn’t want to part on bad terms, though his expression and tone remained petulant. “Yeah, I’ll find your little trinket, you can’t get rid of me that easy. Merry part.” The parting was a little odd on his tongue, but it seemed to appease Draco well enough as the blond gave a small nod.

It would be a lie to say that Harry wasn’t tempted to stick around, hidden under his invisibility cloak and try to follow Draco after he summoned the herd. But it felt like a betrayal of trust if he did so, reluctantly, Harry retreated from the forest. Just as he broke the tree line, his ears caught a few of the haunting notes of Draco’s call.

A year, Harry had a year to prove himself to Draco and collect on their agreement.

No pressure.

...There was an immeasurable amount of pressure.

Chapter Text

No pressure.

...There was an immeasurable amount of pressure, and it felt like a heavy weight tied around Harry’s neck for the rest of the summer. The return to Hogwarts could not come fast enough and it felt like he had already wasted so much time when he finally boarded the Hogwarts Express with his friends.

XX

As they sat in a carriage together, Harry knew he would have to come clean on some things if he wanted any aid. He had debated with himself for weeks about whether or not to involve his friends in his quest as it was rapidly turning into. Some of the details would have to be left out, of course, but he couldn’t accomplish his search alone. The biggest obstacle Harry knew would be Hermione and Ron.

Harry was raised under Sirius, surely he had a way with words to get what he wanted, but he didn’t want to trick his friends. At least not fully, if they didn’t ask certain things, then Harry wouldn’t have to mention them. Then, he would simply not have to lie. Easy, right?

Luna, Ron, Neville, Ginny, Hermione, Fred, George, and Lee all sat in the same compartment as Harry, most laughed and caught up with other with ease. Only Luna was aware of the snake that was wrapped around Harry’s upper left arm, hidden from view by his clothes. The dreamy eyed girl was also the only one silent besides Harry, he could feel her gaze on him and knew she was waiting for him to do something. It was strange how she always seemed to be one step ahead of the rest. When he had remarked about her oddness to Sirius the man had pondered aloud if she could be some form of seer.

Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise Harry anymore.

Harry licked his lips before he let his voice cut through the other conversations, “Hey, I’ve been thinking.”

“Oh no, dreadful habit that.” George cut in, Fred echoing his twin’s scandalized expression as he continued, “Please, Harrykins, you must stop this nonsense before it’s too late!”

“Honestly,” Hermione grumbled as she used the heavy tome in her hands to swat the two redheads on the arms, “Your pranks require more brain power, research, and planning than most of our essays! It’s wasted potential.”

“Mum?!” Fred asked, quirking an eyebrow at the bushy haired girl while George cocked his head, “Mum, did you really polyjuice yourself to lecture us? We didn’t think you would be so desperate to rein us in that you would repeat a whole year of Hogwarts.”

Lee snickered as the pranksters were quickly reduced into pleading for mercy as Hermione’s new half-kneazle, Crookshanks, leaped off of her lap and swiped at the two when Fred and George had leaned in too close during their performance. The bookworm seemed very pleased with her pet’s actions, stroking his long fluffy orange fur before coaxing him back into her lap.

“Please continue Harry, I’m sure it’ll be wonderful.” Luna urged with a wispy smile as the group once more turned to the Boy-Who-lived.

Harry didn’t know how to feel about Luna’s words or the sharpness of her gaze, but he pressed forward anyway after placing several silencing charms on the doors and windows of the compartment drawing looks of alarm and confusion from many of his friends. He needed for them to realize how serious this was and how much trust he was putting in them. He loved them all, but he knew that what he was asking wasn’t going to be met with praise from many of them.

“We know that people who practiced dark magic were once students of Hogwarts, that Salazar Slytherin himself was a dark wizard that helped found the school. Yet none of the students were ever caught in the act while in its halls. Which made me start to wonder…”

He trailed off, without holding a smirk as Hermione picked up his train of thought like he knew she would, “If there was some hidden place where they met and practiced in secret.”  Her brows furrowed as she stroked her companion’s fur, a rusty sounding purr echoing out into the tiny room as the others hung on her every word.

“Hogwarts a History said that no dark spell could be cast within Hogwarts’ boundaries without the headmaster being notified though. If they were practicing… there were headmasters more intolerant than Professor Dumbledore, it should have been detected and shared with the public if it was taking place.”

“Maybe they just weren’t using their nasty spells at school then.” Ron grumbled with a small shrug of his shoulders, lips pulled down with a look of disgust at the very idea of dark magic taking place anywhere near where he walked the halls to and from class.

“No, that’s not right.” Harry muttered before he could stop himself, the others looked at him in confusion and he floundered. Shit, what was he supposed to say?

Luna saved him as she spoke while twisting a lock of her hair between her fingers, “Magic is part of the core of your person, a muscle like any other in your body. It’s very difficult to choose not to use it. One can’t really tell their heart to stop beating without some negative effects. That’s why accidental magic is so common among children, they don’t have much control or experience with their,” she twirled her fingers getting her hair tangled but not seeming to mind, “magic muscles.”

“Dad says that the most common cases of muggles seeing magic is when it is performed by a witch or wizard who is trying to live among them and trying to limit how much magic they use in their daily lives. They end up casting accidental magic.” Ginny added, holding her chin in thought as her brothers agreed, having heard the story just a few nights before over dinner.

“So, if ya wait too long, it’s like when your foot falls asleep and cramps. Your muscles twitch without your consent and there’s no way to stop it. You just gotta let it run its course? Your magic muscles get all tingly, oh man, how would that feel?!” Lee mused to himself, the twins sitting on either side of him hummed.

“Well my friend.” George trailed off slowly as Fred continued, “I think we could show you.”

The redheads then leaped into action to send a barrage of tickling hexes at the dark skinned half-blood who practically squealed as he jerked about in his seat with nowhere to escape as he fumbled with his wand with jerking fingers. Between gasps he managed to send an expelliarmus that knocked both wands out of the twins’ hands, “Bloody hell, stop you arseholes!”

Despite the loss of their wands, Fred and George still looked pleased with themselves and the compartment slowly quieted once more though giggles still popped up from time to time at Lee’s flushed face and twisted dreads. The wands would probably not be returned until they settled back into Gryffindor Tower, a punishment that the two seemed to silently accept as they didn’t try to steal them back. They knew when to pull back on their teasing, they didn’t want to end up with a tarantula on their faces when they woke up in the morning either.

“So they had to exercise their dark magic somehow or there would have been… incidents.” Neville summed up with a thoughtful frown before continuing, “But they did it in a place where it couldn’t be detected inside of Hogwarts.”

“They probably just did it in the Slytherin common room, the slimy place wouldn’t be hurt by it.” Ron pointed out, the words making Harry frown and something uncomfortable twist in his gut. Draco would have been a Slytherin, the blond had been certain of that and Harry trusted the dark wizard’s assessment of himself. If Draco was wandering the halls, would Harry have taken notice of him at all, or just passed him off as another green and silver clad nobody? Turned a blind eye and ear when his fellow students spoke of their torment of the snakes.

Probably he would have… that realization left a bitter taste in Harry’s mouth, before he forced his tongue to form words, “There were students from other houses that were among the ranks of Voldemort’s deatheaters. Former Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs that had their wands tested positive for dark spells. Students of other houses going in and out of another’s common room would be too noticeable.”

The others flinched at the casual use of the Dark Lord’s name, but Harry refused to call the monster anything that would show fear or respect. Dumbledore had told Harry that the public was giving into fear by only using a moniker. Sirius wasn’t of the same opinion, which surprised Harry, though his godfather never explained why.

Peter Pettigrew was a deatheater and a Gryffindor, but Harry didn’t want to listen to the claims that he was an exception to the rule. He had heard this excuse spouted by the Weasley parents several years ago in an overheard conversation between them, Dumbledore, and Remus.

“It must have been somewhere else in the castle, perhaps there were even multiple places built in secret by Salazar before he was driven out by the other founders. The castle is gigantic and parts of it are always shifting around. No one has ever found the rumored Chamber of Secrets that Salazar was said to have practiced in either.” Neville mused, George and Fred shared a look before turning to Harry and Fred miming opening something.

Knowing what they were referring to, Harry gave the slightest nod. George pulled a tattered piece of parchment from inside of his robe, speaking a phrase that Harry had heard oh so often growing up, it was practically the Black family motto, “I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”

While they were still far from Hogwarts, the ink quickly filled the formerly blank parchment, they couldn’t see any names with the distance they were at from the castle, but the layout of the castle was available to their eyes.

XX

“It’s the Marauders’ Map, Sirius gave me his copy as a birthday present this year and the one the twins’ have was the one that Filch took from Pettigrew while they were students. It shows all of the places that they discovered while exploring the castle and shows everyone inside of it, even the ghosts and Mrs. Norris show up.” Harry explained as his friends stared at the parchment in wide-eyed awe. He felt pride bubble inside of him for his guardians and his father’s handiwork. The four young men had been more than simple pranksters, they were brilliant wizards and it was not often forgotten that with the exception of Pettigrew, the other Marauders were always at the top or near the top of their class in many subjects.

“This is how you two have been getting away with your pranks all these years.” Hermione accused, her brown eyes wide as the pieces fell into place. “Professor Lupin has one too then? That would explain why no one can hide from him on the nights that he patrols.”

That and Remus’ enhanced sense of smell as a werewolf, but Harry didn’t add that as he nodded his head.

“Lupin and we have been playing cat and mouse the past two years, the man is fast when he wants to be.” George complained, but there was amusement in his eyes that showed he enjoyed the challenge his idol offered. Fred’s nod of agreement showed he shared the same feelings.

“With this we can keep ourselves from being discovered and take a more educated stab at where rooms might be hidden.” Ginny murmured, Harry could definitely see that she held the same pension for mischief as her elder brothers. He would have to ask Mooney if both she and Luna could join their dueling practices and private tutoring sessions. Last year Harry had heard whispers in the hall about how vicious Ginny’s hexes could be when she caught some students picking on her blond friend.

“Hogwarts has many secrets.” Luna pointed out, “There was the incident with the Cursed Vaults just a few years ago, if those could be hidden for so long, there might be so many other marvelous things secreted away.”

“Marvelous is not the word I would use to describe what happened.” Neville muttered, nervousness seeping into his voice as he clenched his hands in a white knuckled grip. “Enchanted ice that trapped both teachers and students alike for days, boggarts running rampant as everyone’s fears, enchanted sleepwalking that led many students into the Forbidden Forest to be maimed by the creatures there. That’s just a taste of the horrors that occurred. What if we rouse something that really should remain buried?”

Neville, as always, was the voice of reason in the little band. Hermione could be tempted and challenged with a few cleverly phrased words, but the Longbottom heir was not so easily moved. If anyone was going to protest gallivanting through the halls looking for something they really shouldn’t, then it would be Neville and while the boy was as good at spell work as the rest of them and took the dueling lessons, he was still shy and nervous. A leftover, but reasonable, trauma from witnessing his parents’ torture when he was a baby and living with the knowledge that they continued to waste away in St. Mungo’s.

Guilt clawed at Harry as he wondered how Neville would react if he ever found out about his interactions with Draco; of the fact that Harry had made a deal so he could learn dark magic. Neville and Harry had suffered the most from the Deatheaters, but while Harry had little feeling towards the parents he had known for such a short amount of time, Neville had the pain of having them, but at the same time they were far out of his reach.

Harry hoped he never had to find out that answer as the rest of the group seemed to also be weighing Neville’s words. The risks now coming before the tantalizing mystery. A soft breath gathered everyone’s attention, Harry stiffening under Hermione’s gaze as she spoke.

“Harry for the past two years, from the moment I met you, you’ve been trying to research dark magic.” The group gaped at her, but she continued as Harry tried to melt further into his seat. Thuban tightened his hold around his arm, an effort to reassure his master without making any sound.

“The research about the myths dealing with ancient practices that are now outlawed by the Ministry, the names that you ask me to study but refuse to tell me where you heard them, and you’re always so edgy at the beginning of each school year like you expect someone to come at you from behind. Please, I just want to know why, Harry.”

Oh he loved Hermione, but why did she have to be so damn clever?

“I want to understand it.” The truth he decided, or at least part of it, would hopefully set Harry’s conscious free.

“Mate, what the bloody hell, you can’t… but you’re the… Harry!” Ron was fumbling in his ability to form a complete sentence as he flushed completely scarlet with his anger.

“I’m the bleeding Boy-Who-lived, yes, we’ve established that.” Harry cut his redheaded friend off before he could work himself up to the point of possible spontaneous combustion, with that color it couldn’t be too far off. “Voldemort, would you stop flinching, it's only a name!”

The others didn’t think so, but they let their friend continue, “I want to understand how the Dark thinks. How Voldemort gathered supporters. I need to know why things happened the way they did in the war. What was the reasoning they had for all the death. All of the information on the dark has been secondhand accounts and written after the war, all the rest had been destroyed or hidden. Why is that?”

“Because, they’re… evil?” Ron answered, but as the last word left his mouth he felt some of his conviction leaving him. His brows furrowed as he glared down on his lap, mind obviously working through all he had heard growing up and it was obvious that the others were doing something similar.

“The Deatheaters were once students just like us.” Luna mused softly as she continued to twist her hair while watching each of the teenagers.

Hermione was the only one that had only heard some of the stories since coming to Hogwarts, she hadn’t been raised with the hate, fear, and distrust that the rest of the Wizarding society had. But she was part of the group that had suffered the most from the Deatheater attacks and policies. Fundamentally, she was in the greatest danger in theory when dealing with dark magic and their practitioners. If she had been alive a decade earlier, her family and her own life would have been in danger if not snuffed out by Voldemort’s forces. She knew all of this very well from her research of battles, reports of the victims, and events of the war, the information on the why however… had been stark.

“So, you want what, Harry? Proof that the dark is evil? I think that you could find that in the mausoleums of many families. Or by looking at who is in Azkaban.” Ron growled with a pointed look in Neville’s direction before shaking his head in disbelief that they were even having this conversation.

“I’m not excusing the actions of those like the Lestranges.” Harry snapped back, frustrated that Ron was using such a tactic. “I want to understand, not to use or become dark. Maybe if we do find anything in Hogwarts it would also help track dark wizards and witches down.”

Traitor creeped the voice in Harry’s mind and it spoke the truth. He was in fact going to be lying to either Ron or Draco by the end of this venture. If he found evidence of the dark being irredeemable then Harry would tell an adult about what he had discovered in the forest. If he didn’t, then he would go through with his intention to continue studying dark magic and its users.

Harry took a breath before asking, “So will you help me explore the castle or not?

Ginny and Ron seemed pacified by that reasoning and agreed though the equally stubborn jut of their chins told Harry that they didn’t think there would be any evidence that would paint the dark in a positive light. The only girl Weasley seemed a little more curious than her youngest brother, but she was still weary and prideful about her family’s way of life not being wrong in any way. Fred, George, and Lee would be coming along for the ride if only to create mischief, but there was an odd light to the twins’ eyes as they started to murmur about dark spells they had heard of from their father. Luna seemed to be more than eager to help and Harry was grateful as the Ravenclaw’s skills at warding would be needed.

That left Hermione and Neville.

It was Neville that spoke first as he let out a long slow breath, “Alright, I’m in, there is so little that we understand of dark spells and how they work. If we find something, anything, maybe we could help people that are suffering from them.”

Harry didn’t think there was any chance that the Longbottoms would be healed from the prolonged exposure to the torture curse, but neither he nor any of the others said so. It was better to hold onto some hope rather than give into defeat.

“If we get expelled, I will never forgive any of you.” Hermione finally muttered, giving a small nod of her head in agreement. “This is my world now too and I need to understand it.”

The words that Walburga hurled at Hermione the year before seemed to have had a lasting effect on the Muggleborn.

“You know, before we can even begin to search we have to figure out how to distract Mr. Moon. If he has the same map as you two do, then he’ll be able to see all of us at any time.” Luna noted, the smile that had been building on Harry’s face at his friends’ acceptance immediately dropped as he realized that she was speaking the truth. While the twins and Lee might be able to cause disruption on the other side of the castle, Remus would still be able to see where the rest of them were at the same time.

“I guess our first order of business is working on our charms then isn’t it.” Hermione answered cheerfully over the groans that she got from the rest of the compartment.

And that’s what they did, while Harry and the twins knew the bare bones of how the map worked it still took three months for them to figure out how to trick the map. Disillusionment charms and the invisibility cloak didn’t fool the parchment, but a very complicated series of charms on a set of bracelets did. The only thing was that they had to be very careful on making sure that they always remembered to wear them during the day. If Remus checked the map and saw them in person, but not on the map then he would probably put two and two together very quickly.

The bracelets were simple and made out a few cords of leather that Luna and Ginny made, stylish and unassuming. They hoped that Remus hadn’t been watching the map when they had first managed the charm as it made a double set of each of them for a brief moment.

Now, when they went out after curfew they left the bracelets in their beds while the twins and Lee would sometimes run interference if Remus was in the area they were wanting to explore. It all seemed to be working well since the werewolf had yet to comment or confront the group during their private lessons. Luna and Ginny had joined them, both of the younger girls proving themselves more than able to keep up with their seniors.

Being in their fifth year, Fred, George, and Lee were having to also prepare for their O.W.L’s which meant they had extra studying and practices with Remus. It also meant that they couldn’t spend as much time aiding their younger friends in their search of the castle. Harry felt bad for the trio as more often than not they looked exhausted in private with having to keep up appearances of being their energetic selves, planning pranks, joining their nighttime adventures when they could, Quidditch practice, and the werewolf putting them through the wringer mentally and physically. All three of them were skilled and intelligent wizards, but there was only so much they could take.

Often when Harry returned from his classes he would find the trio flopped over each other on a couch in the common room sleeping. Basically, dead to the world. The protective charms they set over their area prevented anyone from trying to get revenge for past pranks.

So, even though Harry could feel the pressure of his deadline, he decided that they would only explore the castle three nights out of the week along with the weekends. At least on the weekends they didn’t have to hide what they were doing as much as searching for new places in the castle was a common pastime for the students of Hogwarts. Many of the old students were always on the lookout for dark corners and abandoned classrooms to snog in. The map had prevented the group from walking into any… embarrassing situations. Though the twins wanted to do the opposite in the name of obtaining blackmail.

Being in their third year, Harry and his year mates were required to take at least two elective classes. Harry had chosen to add three to his schedule with them being Arithmancy, Study of Ancient Runes, and Care of Magical Creatures. Sirius had refused to even hear of Harry taking Divination, saying that it was a waste of time and that Seers were only born, not made. While Harry agreed with his godfather’s assessment, he felt that there might be a personal grudge between Professor Trelawney and Sirius. It seemed to be only on Sirius’ side though as the woman had never made any comment about the Black head that Harry knew of.

Harry enjoyed his electives, but he especially found himself fond of Care of Magical Creatures taught by Professor Grubbly-Plank. One of the reasons for this was the fact that Hagrid had been made into the assistant professor of the subject and the pair, while differing greatly in style and appearance made a good team. The witch provided more thorough explanations while Hagrid provided the enthusiasm.  Harry should have known that the man would put him on the back of a hippogriff without his permission, but in the end, the experience was amazing. Riding on Buckbeak’s back had been incredible, as was seeing Hogwarts from above. It was different from riding on a broom, a sense of connection between beast and rider. A thrill of unknown on how the hippogriff might move.

He wondered if this was how Draco felt on the back of the Granian stallion.

During his very short instances of free time, Harry would sneak off to Hagrid’s hut and beg to be allowed to ride Buckbeak.

The group was also still spending time studying in the library, much to the displeasure of Madame Pince who seemed to still harbor an odd dislike of Harry and Hermione.

Another three months passed, Christmas holidays came and went with Harry being delighted with the Firebolt he had received from Sirius as a gift. However March greeted a very stressed Harry James Potter as he knew there was only a little over three months left before his time was up. The group had found a few promising hidden rooms, but they were completely barren besides the odd feeling that seemed to rest in the air inside of them. A coolness that had nothing to do with the temperature of the season or how deep underground they were. Harry believed that these places had been what Draco called shedding rooms at one point, but now held nothing. Not even a woodlice sized kernel of information that would feed a starving bowtruckle, nor any trinket that would tempt a niffler.

As he slumped into his chair in his Defense Against the Dark Arts class, Harry brooded on what he would do if he truly did fail to find the necklace. He doubted that Draco would be fooled if he tried to make a fake. There was no way of knowing the true colors of the jewelry either since all he had was a model made of fire. As he rubbed his temples in frustration to relieve the pressure of his fears, the door to Remus’ office swung open with a small thump.

Glancing up, Harry blinked as he took in the large jumping chest that the werewolf was trying to keep in his hold. Whatever was inside of it was thumping loudly and by the nervous looks that his classmates were sharing, Harry knew that he wasn’t the only one to have a bad feeling about whatever was lurking inside.

With a huff Remus dropped the chest on the edge of the large desk at the front of the room. Harry recognized the mischievous grin on the older wizard’s face as he drummed his fingers over the top of the chest.

This was going to either end wonderfully or horribly. Remus was ranked at the top of many of the students’ list on teachers that they liked, but the man was dangerous in the fact that he loved pranks and while he was a professional… more than once an entire class had ended up soaked when Remus had just happened to leave the room for the briefest period with a grindylow in a large uncovered tank. There was the time that there was a cage of pixies next to a box of ink brushes that for some reason got unlocked. The pixies were too young to cause any damage to any student and they had taken to using the brushes to paint their squealing target.

Yes, Remus was a good teacher, but he could be slightly terrifying. He believed in thinking on your feet and learning through experience.

“Now class, can anyone tell me what might just be inside this chest?” Remus asked lightly even as the chest jumped under his hands again.

“That’s a boggart, ain’t it?” Seamus asked, eyes narrowed at the chest, Harry guessed that the young Irishman had a personal encounter with the creatures in the past.

“Very good, Mr. Finnegan. Now everyone please take out your wand.” Remus praised before straightening himself up and motioning for the class to stand up from their desks, with a swish of his wand Remus moved and stacked the desks and chairs against the walls of the classroom. “Can anyone tell me what a boggart looks like?”

Hermione answered even as she flinched back as the chest jumped once more, higher now that there was no longer a weight holding it down. “No one knows, sir. Boggarts are shapeshifters, they turn into whatever one person fears most, that’s what makes them so-“

“So very terrifying, indeed, Ms. Granger.” Remus answered with a small nod, “Boggarts like tight, dark places so abandoned rooms, foreboding forests, around corners, cupboards, chests, closets, these are all places you might find one of these creatures. They are the magical equivalent of what muggles might call, the boogeyman.”

“What do boogers have to do with magic? Unless we’re talking about the bat-bogey hex?” An obvious pureblood called from the back of the room, a glance over his shoulder had Harry realizing that it was Smith… Of course it was.

“No, no, in this case boogey is not being used in the same sense as snot. The boogeyman is a creature believed to hide under beds and in the closets of muggle childrens’ bedrooms and takes the form of whatever they fear most. The boogeyman is said to take, kill, and eat naughty children that disobey their parents or get up in the middle of the night instead of sleeping.” Remus explained, he had a muggle mother and had grown up with the legend himself. “We are lucky then, that you are all perfectly well behaved teenagers, hmm?” He sent a wink at the class, diffusing some of the building tension as the students snickered amongst themselves.

“Now a boggart on the other hand, its main aim is to make a person afraid. They typically do not aim to kill someone, after all that would be eliminating their food source. Fear and strong negative emotions, these are their main food source. Boggarts are classified as non-beings, they cannot be killed and they do not die. All you can do is drive them away, because they can harm you in their attempt to get more fear from you and it very well might lead to death by fright or over estimation of force by the boggart.” Remus explained seriously and of course, the class was committing every detail to memory.

“Now boggarts cannot stand laughter, it does nothing for them other than perhaps give them a terrible stomachache. To repel a boggart one must us the Riddikulus charm. No wands yet, just repeat after me, class, Riddikulus.” The man nodded his head as the students said the word and asked them to say it once more before continuing his explanation as he brought forth his own wand, ten and a quarter inches of cypress with a unicorn hair core.

“The incantation and wand movement is not enough, you must have a strong mind and good concentration to conjure an image of your greatest fear turning into something truly amusing.” Remus returned his hand back to resting on the chest as he spoke, “I will give you a few moments to think of your fears and how you might transform them, then I will ask you to step forward one by one to try your hand at defeating a boggart.”

Ron looked pale as he stood next to Harry and Hermione, “I already know what my greatest fear is, spiders. How do you make bleeding spiders funny?”

“I don’t know, make the two parts separate into balloons?” Hermione offered while chewing on the nail of her thumb, obviously anxious herself about what the boggart might turn into.

“What’s a balloon?” Ron asked, only for Remus to call the time and students quickly pushed themselves into a que. The person in the front was… Neville?

The boy was shaking in his shoes as he stared at the chest that had got deathly still. Remus moved to stand behind Neville, his presence a grounding point for the Longbottom heir as he talked into his ear, “Steady there Neville, I’ll be right here behind you. Alright? No matter what comes out of that box, you will overcome it. Got it?”

A shaky nod answered the professor and Remus placed a hand on his shoulder, “There’s a lad, alohomora.”

A swirling mass creeped out of the chest, a flurry of movement and colors before compacting smaller until it stopped shifting completely. The only sound in the move was that of ceramic hitting the hard stone floor. Harry craned his head to the side with a frown, finally catching sight of what the boggart had turned itself into… he turned to Ron and Hermione for an explanation. Ron looked just as lost as him and the witch had her brow furrowed as she tried to puzzle out the meaning of the flower pot sitting before a very pale Neville.

The only thing that sat in the small pot was a very obviously dead and diseased plant whose species was unrecognizable in the state that it was in.

“Come on, Neville.” Remus urged softly, but in the silence of the room, the professor might as well have shouted.

“R-Riddikulus!” Neville started with a stutter, but finished strong as he swished his wand with a flourish and the flower pot began to shake. It grew larger and larger until it was almost as tall as the Gryffindor himself, then new life sprung from the soil, a pale green stem shot towards the ceiling and from it sprouted numerous white and dark purple flowers that were each the length of Harry’s arm.

“Are those…?” Someone murmured in shock from the crowd.

“Do they really have…?” Another asked.

“Oh how vulgar!” A girl cried, it sounded like Lavender, but Harry couldn’t tell and didn’t care as he doubled over with laughter. Many of the others joining him as Neville turned to face his audience with a bashful blush across his cheeks as he stuttered out, “Orchis italica, also known as the naked man flower.”

X Naked Man Flower X

“Excellent Neville, ten points to Gryffindor, now who is next? Parvati, yes, come forward.” Remus hooted, his own cheeks darkening as he tried to not seem overly crude  or childish in his position. If Sirius was here, well that would have been a different story as Neville had practically turned his fear and boggart into a penis joke in front of the entirety of the third years.

The monsters and delights came startlingly fast after that, a mummy tripping over its own bandages, a cobra into a jack-in-a-box, a banshee that lost her voice, a werewolf that got shaved down, a disembodied hand caught in a mouse trap, and many others before it was Ron’s turn. As the redhead got pushed forward the boggart transformed itself in a giant spider that towered over him.

Ron let out a whimper, as the beast snapped its mandibles at him and Harry heard his friend whisper to himself, “Merlin, I hate Fred.” Then Ron forced himself to move, crying out, “ Riddikulus!” The spider lost its legs and bounced like a ball a few times on the floor while Ron let out a shaking chuckle before retreating for the next person to take their turn, which was Hermione. She unfortunately was not able to cast the charm when faced with her head of house telling her she had failed everything. Harry felt for her, he did, as she was near tears.

However, the next person was shoved forward to take her place and change the boggart once more. It was then that Harry realized as the laughter died down… he was before the non-being. Remus’ amber colored eyes were wide as he took a few steps forward, “Harry, wait, perhaps it’s best that you-”

The boggart was already stabilizing and when it did, Harry felt like he had the air punched out of him as he looked upon the relatively small, but familiar darkly cloaked and hooded form standing before him.

Draco.

It was Draco under the hood, Harry knew it as he recognized the usual cloak that covered him each Midsummer’s night in the forest. A gnarled hand was revealed as one hand, grasping a wand lifted towards him. The tips of the fingers were black while the rest of the hand looked waxy and corpse-like, Harry could see each of the dark tracks that made up the other’s veins under the far too pale skin. The voice that came from the hood was raspy, but definitely Draco’s as he took a step forward, cloak hissing across the floor as shadows seemed to ooze out of the fabric.

“‘Ello there, Harry, now why do you look so surprised?”

Red, that was the color of the eyes that stared out from under the hood and Harry knew in the back of his mind that that wasn’t right, Draco’s eyes were silver. Not this abomination. This… this was basically everything Harry hoped wasn’t true about the dark confirmed in the snickering form before him. It wasn’t real, Harry knew this, but still found himself stumbling as step back as the fake dark wizard took another forward as he continued to taunt Harry.

“You know that this was how it was always going to end, now you’ve dragged others down with you. Avada-”

Suddenly Remus was in front of Harry and it forced the boggart to shift into what seemed to be a full moon, a lone wolf howl ringing through the room before the professor quickly turned the shape into a cockroach that he flung back into the chest and locked once more. “I’m sorry to say that that will be all for the day, I expect twelve inches of what are the do’s and don’t’s when encountering a boggart. Class dismissed.”

Harry didn’t even notice the rest of the class shuffling out of the door with whispered complaints and theories on what had just occurred with the Boy-Who-lived. Dimly he was aware of Remus ushering Hermione, Neville, and Ron out as well despite their protests.

At least it was the last class of the day, Harry thought in his stupor, finally jerking out of it when a hand fell upon his shoulders and another gripped his chin to gently lift it so green and amber eyes could meet.

“You back with me, cub?” Remus’ voice was soft, but strained, probably very close to panicking under his calm facade.

“Yeah, sorry, Mooney. I…” Harry found himself stumbling for words, what was he supposed to even say? What was the right thing? Remus only hushed him as he helped him back to his feet, Harry wasn’t sure when he had ended up on the floor, but apparently he had. Gently, as he was still getting his balance back, Harry was led into Remus’ office and deposited into one of the comfortably cushioned leather chairs before the professor’s desk. Remus didn’t move to sit behind it, instead taking the chair next to Harry and handing him a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

Honestly, house elves were the best.

As Harry sipped the steaming beverage, he felt himself slowly starting to calm down, Remus was nursing his own cup and seemed to be deep in thought as he glanced about his office. Floor to ceiling shelves covered most of the walls and they were filled with either books or more macabre memorabilia that was needed for the subject he was teaching. There were two banners sitting behind the desk one for Ravenclaw and the other for Gryffindor. On one corner of the desk was what appeared to be a charm bracelet made with corks, it was a gift from Luna. There were a few shelves dedicated for presents he had received from the students he was the head of house for and from various other students he had the past two and a half years.

While Remus himself was a student, he had never thought that he would have any job prospects with his condition. Now here he was, not only with a well paying and respected job, but one that he loved and where people loved him. Though there was still a sense of fear and bitterness about the fragility of the situation if his curse was brought to the public.

That was not something that he could waste time and energy thinking about now as he returned his attention back to the messy haired boy he loved like his own son. Remus was… concerned about what he had seen in the classroom. He had thought that perhaps Harry’s boggart would have turned into Voldemort, which was the reason why he had tried to step in to stop Harry from reaching the creature. What it had been was certainly not the Dark Lord however.

“Do you want to tell me what that was?” Remus probed gently, he already suspected what it was, but he really hoped that he was wrong. It would be heartbreaking if he was correct, but he couldn’t really blame Harry for the form of his fears.

Harry was silent for a while, his fingers clenched around the warm ceramic before finally mumbling out, “A dark wizard.”

Mooney internally howled in despair at the answer, the wolf sensing an impending fracture in the connection between his pack members. Remus bit his tongue to stop any sounds of his own as he felt his heart breaking for Sirius. They had both worked so hard and for so long to keep Harry as neutral as possible towards the two sides of magic. They didn’t demonize the dark, but they had never defended it to Harry either. Of course this would be the result! With the rest of the wizarding world and families like the Weasleys speaking of the dark with only malice, this was the only possible outcome.

Honestly, Remus felt that it would have been far better if Harry’s boggart was Voldemort, at least then he could delude himself into thinking that Harry only felt fear and hatred towards the person that had killed his parents. But now, Remus believed that Harry despised and was terrified of the whole of dark magic. Harry and Sirius both would be shattered if the Black head’s secret was revealed.

“Are you going to tell Padfoot?” Harry asked, dragging Remus out of his whirling thoughts.

Would he? Remus knew that he should, but the thought of the no doubt broken look those grey eyes would take at the news repelled him. Mooney also snarled at the idea of bringing any pain to his mate.

“No, I mean it might be best to tell him what your boggart is yourself, but before that we should see about overcoming it.” Remus knew that he was stalling the inevitable, but he told reason to kindly fuck off.

“I don’t know how I could make that into something funny.” Harry grumbled in answer.

“Well you don’t have to today. We have plenty of time, whenever you want to practice or talk, my door will always be open for you, cub.” Remus reassured as he threw an arm over Harry’s shoulders to draw himself forward into a quick hug. Trying to come up with a lighter topic, Remus smirked as he drew back from the teenager.

“You know, Sirius is too busy to worry about something like this anyway.”

“Oh?” Harry’s head cocked to the side, clearly curious about what could be keeping his godfather busy when the older wizard was constantly whining about being bored out of his mind when the house was empty of werewolf and teenage hormones.

“Ever heard of Gilderoy Lockhart?” There was a fearsome smile on Remus’ face that made a small shiver travel up Harry’s spine.

“He’s some big shot author, right? Wrote all these books that girls my age and older seem to go gaga over.” Harry asked, something told him that this Lockhart had somehow incurred Sirius’ wrath.

“Well a lot of hearts are about to be broken, Lockhart’s about to stand trial for multiple crimes after being exposed as a fraud.” Remus snickered as he leaned back in his chair, the Marauders had known Lockhart when they were in school, he was several years younger than them and the Ravenclaw had been an annoying fanboy towards James especially. Still, Remus was surprised by what exactly the blond man had done after he left Hogwarts. “Lockhart seems to have gotten bored with his fame in the literary world and was trying to worm his way into politics. He decided the best way to do this was through the famous Lord Black.”

“Oh no.”

“Oh, yes.” Remus laughed as he took a biscuit from the tray that had appeared between them. “He sent a copy of every book he ever wrote to Sirius and sent letter after letter harassing him with advice on how to act in the Wizengamot. On the topic of creature bills particularly. Pads decided he was going to put Lockhart in his place by leaving scathing reviews renouncing the books he sent him. But when he read them… they made no sense. The timelines didn’t matchup and neither did the facts. You know how Sirius can be when he gets the scent of something foul. The fact that one of Lockhart’s books was about werewolves didn’t exactly help either.”

Harry nodded his head with a grin, able to picture the angry expression on his guardian’s face as he threw the charlatan’s books at the wall before donning his cloak to begin his investigation like that muggle detective that Hermione talked about, Sherlock Holmes. ‘There’s trouble afoot, my dear Mooney.’

“Sirius sent letters to or visited the places the books were said to have occurred, the people there had something quite different to say about Lockhart. You know what he also found?” Remus asked, Harry shook his head as he stuffed another sweet into his mouth, it seemed that he was determined to forget the boggart incident with massive amounts of sugar.

“They found previously proclaimed dead witches and wizards wandering around lost with no memories.That was the charm that Lockhart was most well known for; anything dealing with the mind or memory. The evidence just keeps piling up and now Lockhart is sitting in a cell, the trial is next week.” Remus finished, honestly, only Sirius would be able to discover a mass obliviator because he was bored. “If you don’t want to have your ears bleed because of shrieking girls I suggest you show up and finish eating breakfast before the post arrives on Thursday. I, unfortunately, will probably have to be a few of the Ravenclaws’ shoulder to cry on. I love books, but goodness, they aren’t sacred or law!”

Harry laughed, Hermione would probably disagree with that and Remus grumbled that she probably wouldn’t.

Feeling better, Harry and Remus chatted for an hour before finally parting ways. Harry felt incredibly guilty about the fact that Ron, Neville, and Hermione were still sitting outside of the classroom waiting for him. Neville and Hermione had at least used the time to get started on their homework while Ron was watching the map where it was hidden inside of one of his textbooks while eating a pumpkin pasty.

As Harry slipped into the hall, a strangled sound came from the redhead and Ron descended into a coughing fit. A few thumps on the back from Harry and Ron was coughing up the piece of dessert that went down the wrong pipe.

“You alright, mate?” Harry asked, Ron’s voice was shaky as he panted back, “I-I feel like I’m the one who’s supposed to be saying that to you, ugh.”

“I’ve told you a hundred times that you need to actually chew your food before swallowing, Ronald.” Hermione chided as she gathered her things from the floor and dumped them back into her bag.

“Oh shut it. I didn’t choke because I was eating too fast or nothin’.”

“Then why did you?” Neville asked as he accepted the hand from Harry to get up.

Ron didn’t answer right away, his blue eyes darted towards the classroom door before motioning his friends to follow. They did while sending confused glances at each other. It was only once they were in a deserted hallway with no visible portraits that Ron explained as he opened his textbook, revealing the map inside.

“I saw two people disappear off of the map. Right here.” A finger stabbed a spot on the fifth floor. There was indeed no sign that there was anyone standing anywhere near that point in the map either.

“Are you sure?” Hermione asked, her voice dipping softer as they pondered what this could mean. Ron nodded as he continued, tone a mixture of triumph and fear, “What’s more… they were a pair of Slytherins. I recognize them because they’re on the Quidditch team, fifth years, Adrian Pucey and Terence Higgs.”

“Seriously… this is seriously happening, right now?” Neville had gone pale as he glanced between his friends. Harry swallowed hard he had mumbled out, “Ye-Yeah, guess it is. Ron keep watch on the map, tell us the moment that those two show back up. Let’s call a meeting with everyone else. We’ll investigate it, tonight.”

“What are you four skulking about for.” A snide voice asked and the Gryffindors jerked around to find the source. All of them grimacing at the fact that it was Zacharias Smith. Really, the Hufflepuff didn’t seem to give up and his vendetta against anyone connected to Harry continued even now since their first disastrous encounter on the Hogwarts’ Express.

“What, you got a claim on a hallway now too?” Ron snapped back, while Harry didn’t usually rise to the bait that the blond dangled, the hotheaded Weasley unfortunately did. He gave just a good as he got back though.

Smith’s ears flamed as he crossed his arms over his chest as he stalked closer to the four, seeming to not care that it was four on one. Somehow Smith had managed to charm some little Hufflepuff firsties into liking him and following him around like he was a god. Now though, they were nowhere to be seen. The four and the great descendant of Helga Hufflepuff usually had only verbal battles, rarely were hexes thrown after Harry proved that he didn’t care about being called a snitch and telling a teacher about any serious altercations in their second year. He had hoped this would dissuade Smith entirely from bothering them, sadly that wasn’t the case.

“Oh was I interrupting a pity party? What’s wrong with you, Potter? You can’t even get the image of your parents’ killer right? Hon-”

Whatever Smith was going to say was cut off by the violent sound of skin on skin, then Smith was squealing as he held a hand to his now bleeding nose and fled out of sight.

“That felt really good.” Hermione muttered, her fist was still raised and there was blood dotting her knuckles but she didn’t seem to care.

“Thanks.” Harry said as he was stood stunned.

“Bloody hell, remind me not to get her truly angry.” Ron whispered in awe and Harry couldn’t help but agree. Neville was laughing under his breath even as he used the spell e piskey to heal Hermione’s busted skin. The group then proceeded to head down for dinner knowing that Smith was too big of a coward and had an ego too large to admit to anyone that a tiny muggleborn had punched him.

Still at dinner, none of them could really taste what they had put in their mouths as nerves gripped them for the night to come. Harry forced himself to only take a few fleeting glances at the small number of Slytherins at their table. Higgs and Pucey were among their fellows, nothing seeming to be amiss, then again Harry wouldn’t know if it was seeing as he rarely watched the silver and green clad students.

The clock eventually reached two in the morning, the agreed upon time that the group would sneak out to search the mystery spot. Lee would be watching the twins’ map while staying down the hall while the rest of the group would search. Thuban was curled around Harry’s arm out of sight and constantly tasting the air, he was his master’s fail-safe to know if someone was around and under a disillusionment charm. The snake would smell them and warn Harry.

It was with difficulty that the group reached the place marked on the map. They would move a few feet forward and one of the group would get confused, asking the others where they were and why they were there. Or a person would be overwhelmed with dread and fear, Fred had to tackle Ginny to the ground and cover her mouth as she suddenly began fighting to run back the way they came and screaming for apparently no reason. There were feelings that what they were doing was pointless: that there would be nothing waiting for them. One by one each of the group suffered some kind of experience, never all at once, but enough to cause great delay and constant fear of discovery. The only ones not affected were Luna and Harry, the reason why, he wasn’t sure, but he believed that his turn was simply coming up.

It seemed that every foot they moved they would crash into another ward or charm, Harry could feel them, but neither Harry nor Luna could remove them despite their skill. The magic of the wards felt ancient, like it was connected to the center of each stone in the hall.

Still they pushed through until they finally reached the end of the damn passageway to find…

A painting. A pretty one to be sure, but just a painting. Lit up by a few wands using lumos the image was revealed to be that of a sprawling forest upon towering hilltops. Neville looked upon the trees, mumbling to himself as he moved a finger to hover over one plant to the next. “Birch, rowan, juniper, oak. Wait, those are aspen trees and those… those are Scots pine. I know where this is.”

“You do?” George asked while mopping up the sweat from his brow from the physical battle it had been to reach the end of the hall. Fred was leaning on his twin panting, “Please do share with the class then, Professor Longbottom.”

Neville sputtered for a few moments at the title before tracing two particular trees. “Scot pines are incredibly rare and so is this type of aspen, they aren’t at all commonly found in Scotland but in one place. The Caledonian Forest.”

 XX

 


 

Notes:

The meaning behind Neville’s boggart being a dead plant. This is a representation of Neville’s fear of failing in what he sees as his one true passion. While in this story Neville is successful in many facets of magic and more brave than he is in canon, he is still damaged with a sense of low self-esteem with growing up in his father’s shadow and harsh grandmother who keeps comparing her grandchild to the child she lost to insanity. Neville wants to go into herbology, though he is pressured as heir Longbottom to be focused on other things instead of trivial gardening. He fears that if he fails even once in herbology he will have to give up on it by those around him and his own crippling self-doubt about his abilities.

Hermione basically treats the dark culture as something she might learn in Social Studies instead of something that is actually part of people’s lives. She does take their actions in the war very personal in the sense that she can’t help but be afraid because she knows that she would’ve been in danger back then.

Why is Harry not affected by dark magic backlog? The reasoning is simple, Parseltongue is considered a dark trait, in this story, when Harry uses the language of snakes to speak to Thuban he is unknowingly releasing the natural buildup of dark in his system. This is similar to the theory that Regulus had towards Hagrid being naturally a dark creature as a half giant, but not using dark magic. Hagrid’s interactions with magical and dark creatures naturally siphon off any excess magic in his system.

Can’t Sirius sense the change in Harry’s core? Yes, he can, but it is a mixture of him in self-denial about it because Sirius thinks that if Harry becomes a dark wizard then he would have personally failed Lily and James, and Harry’s core is constantly growing with him. It could be seen as natural that with the perfect grey spectrum of magic that Harry was born with that his core for dark magic would grow with him. Harry’s use of Parseltongue with his familiar is getting rid of excess magic and keeping Harry calm. Harry doesn’t need to practice any of shedding ritual at the moment because he’s not actively using dark magic spells while at Hogwarts. 

Remus thought that they were about to have Voldemort in the classroom, which was why he had stepped forward to stop Harry from facing the boggart. Remus’ choice about not telling Sirius about Harry’s boggart is in character for him choosing to shield his family for as long as possible. Remus did not have a happy childhood, instead it was a very lonely one, then in the war he was betrayed by whom he trusted and lost many of his friends. Remus’ fear of being alone, which is symbolized by the single howl that was heard, is equal to his fear of his curse.

Yes, I wasn’t going to let Lockhart get away with his horrible deeds and this time I wanted him to pay more for what he did. Smith is not supposed to fill the role of Draco is this story, as my beta said Draco is a level of extra that no other student besides Harry could fill. Smith’s main purpose is to be an occasional pain in the group’s side and to show that even without the presence of the dark magic users in the Wizarding World, there is still discrimination and lack of respect towards muggleborns by many light pureblood wizards and witches, the hypocrisy!

Yes, there is still a basilisk hibernating under the school, not sure how I’m going to handle that yet… Ehhhh, crossing that bridge when I get to it I guess.

Chapter Text

“Scot pines are incredibly rare and so is this type of aspen, they aren’t at all commonly found in Scotland but in one place. The Caledonian Forest.”

Harry felt like he had been punched in the gut by the revelation, it was practically a gods damned painting of his backyard. What were the chances?

“Okay, so we know what the picture is of, why is it so important then? Obviously what’s behind it is a room, that’s where those snakes disappeared to.” Ron grumbled, before stalking forward and gripping the edge of the painting. No matter how the ginger tried to wrench it off the wall however, the picture did not budge an inch. The twins joined at the tugging, but even with the power of three, make that four Weasleys, as Ginny jumped in to help, the painting remained stubborn.

They proceeded to throw spells, anti-sticking charms, revealing charms, anything they could think of. Hermione proved herself to be very good at fire charms, but still nothing worked. Everything simply bounced off of it. Harry put his head in his hands, they were so close, he could feel it. They couldn’t just give up!

“Massster, look in the right corner of the painting, there in the branchesss of that tree. Do you sssee it?” Thuban hissed softly in Harry’s ear, which while being in the wizard’s sleeve, was easy to access.  

Harry looked where his familiar indicated and saw to his surprise a small adder, much like Thuban himself, was resting in the branches of a tree. The snake’s tail swung from side to side idly the only sign that it was ‘alive’. In terms of magical paintings, the contents were never without purpose, the snake had to have some reason for being there. Salazar Slytherin, he was a Parseltongue, a corridor filled with what felt like countless ancient spells, and now there was an almost unnoticeable snake that had to be guarding the entrance to the secret room.

He doubted that the two Slytherins from earlier were able to speak the language of serpents. No, they must have had some sort of password, but Harry could hope that the fact that Harry could speak to the gatekeeper would bypass the need of the unknown word or phrase. He really wasn’t ready to reveal to his other friends his secret talent, not in such a precarious situation when emotions were already strung out. A brush to his side brought Harry’s attention to Luna who stood by his side.

“What about your toes?” The small blond suggested before sliding away, leaving Harry to ponder what she could mean. She was distracting the others for the moment and that was all he needed.

Toes, huh? Okay, Harry thought he could work with that, he pretended to kick the wall in frustration that really was pretty real. The hiss he let out wasn’t one of pain like his friends would think, but a single command, “Open.”

The painted snake lifted its head, surprised at the sound before the portrait suddenly swung outward, almost smacking Harry in the face.

“Merlin’s bollocks.” Ron gasped as he looked at the tight stone corridor that now stretched before them, there were torches upon the wall lit with a strange purple fire.

“Let’s go.” Harry urged, already squeezing himself into the narrow passage and he could hear scrambling behind him as he was followed.

He didn’t wait for them, not when what he hoped would be on the other side waited. The area suddenly opened up in a far more open space and Harry froze at the sight of what greeted him. The room, it had to be around the same size as the Great Hall with a ceiling that seemed to tower just as high. On the map it said that there should be nothing here, if anything the portrait should have opened into a window facing the grounds to the east. A window that would have plummeted them all down five stories to their deaths. Having grown up with magic, it wasn’t such a stretch for Harry to expect  to find in reality, but he could hear Hermione sputtering behind him at the lack of logistics for the space.

Harry didn’t pay her any mind though as he drifted further into the room, green eyes wide as he drank everything in. This place, unlike all the others they found, was not empty. Thuban slithered up Harry’s arm to loop himself around his shoulders instead, the adder had grown much since they had first met, now twenty inches (fifty-ish centimeters) long and a grounding, familiar weight for Harry as he looked upon the strange room.

“The air tassstesss different here.” Thuban observed as he poked his head out of Harry’s collar enough to flick his tongue out. Harry found himself agreeing, while he couldn’t taste the air like the serpent, the atmosphere inside the shedding room was distinctly heavy. Like it was weighed down with a history and energy that was as ancient as time itself.

Harry felt as if he and his friends were committing some great crime by being here, that there were hundreds of unseen eyes in the walls that were looking upon them in severe disapproval. The others seemed to feel it too as they moved quietly through the room despite the fact that it was obviously empty.

With the exception of one corner, everything was covered in a thick layer of dust.

There was a shelf of high quality cauldrons to one side and an adjoining shelf that had numerous vials of different ingredients. Swallowing Harry lifted a hand to pick one of them up, when no shock or other obstacle tried to stop him he brought the small glass container closer to his eyes. Smearing the dust and grime off he could see in small neat handwriting Pixie Livers . Oh, gross. He’d certainly never heard of that being used in a potion before. Harry enjoyed potions, it was his second favorite class under Defense Against the Dark Arts, growing up with Sirius who excelled and loved potions it wasn’t too surprising.

Mountain troll blood, Tears of Agony, Griffin Claws, Smidgen Feathers, Breath of Winter, New Moon Dew Drops, Blood Blossoms, Human Blood (Female Adult)...

The vials kept coming, but Harry had decided he had seen enough. These ingredients… they weren’t right and made his stomach roll uncomfortably. There was numerous potion tools and paraphernalia. At one point, all of this had been used and lovingly cared for.

Moving onto the next section of the room Harry found it to be surprisingly… empty. There were dozens upon dozens of shelves, but all of them were now bare. He ran into Hermione among the towering stacks and she motioned him closer. Drawing her lit wand closer to one of the shelves she ran her finger over the words written on the edge of it, “Charms for distractions, Harry this was once a library I think. I’ve found other listing on other shelves as well, there’s just so many. It seems like they had at least five spells for every situation. But all of them, every last book is gone.”

“My dad said that after the Flight of the Murder it was discovered that many of the books from the Hogwarts library had gone missing along with several artifacts, potion ingredients, and other items. The students and professors that fled that night must have stolen them.” Ginny’s sudden voice made Hermione and Harry yelp, their heads jerking to the left to see the redhead standing on the other side of the hollow stack they were facing.

“They must have either ran out of time or forgot about this place.” Ron muttered from beside his sister, it seemed to surprise him that an empty library was even more boring than a full one.

“I don’t think that’s quite right.” Luna called as she passed the four by. Curiosity stroked by her words, they followed her. The blond was humming to herself, skipping to a beat that existed only in her own mind while Hermione groaned. “What do you mean by that?”

“Hogwarts is old, she has quite the personality too, likes to play tricks when she grows bored. Just look at the staircases if you want proof.”

“A building cannot be sentient, we’ve had this conversation before.” Hermione snapped back, but Luna was undeterred.

“She also protects her students, her children. Perhaps she thought that some of this room should remain as it is.”

“Is she serious?” Ron asked, confused and disturbed by the idea that they were living inside something that was, in a sense, alive and had hidden motives.

“It’s Luna, who knows. More than thirty aurors searched Hogwarts from top to bottom after the dark practitioners fled, it seems odd that none of them would notice those wards outside or discovered this room.” Ginny answered as she followed her friend to another area that the twins were investigating.

It was the corner that was surprisingly clean, George and Fred were staring at the floor before them, their heads cocked in the same direction as they puzzled out what was before them. Drawing closer, Harry could see what had captured their attention, there were marks on the floor. They seemed to have been carefully carved out, the grooves sanded smooth either by spell or physical labor and time.

“Forge?”

“Yes, Greg, brother dear?”

“After you, age before beauty, ya know.”

Fred rolled his eyes, but nonetheless with his wand drawn moved forward, one foot falling onto one mark before gracefully sweeping his other leg to rest on a different one. Then a small leap with his first foot moving to a new mark and the second swinging to another. The pattern continued and Fred was soon laughing as he moved quicker and quicker between the marks, twirling about, like he was dancing until he misstepped and stumbled into George’s arms panting.

“What in the world?” Hermione asked while the rest of the group appeared equally shocked, they’d all heard Fred bust a gut before with laughter, but this was different. It almost sounded hysteric as the prankster tried to compose himself.

“Mate, ya gotta try that.”

George didn’t look so sure, but he had agreed to go after his twin. Leaving Fred to sit on the ground as he recovered, George drew his wand and started to follow the steps that his brother had done. His body turning and twisting as his feet seemed to know where to go next even without his eyes trained on the ground. When he finished, George was in a similar condition as Fred, out of breath and giggling madly.

“It finally happened, they’ve gone barney.” Ron muttered with a shake of his head, he got a ball of old faded parchment thrown at his head by Fred for his remark.

“Take a crack at it, Harrykins, you’ll see what we mean.” George urged while still giggling as he collapsed to sit next to his twin, Fred slung an arm over his brother’s shoulders as he cajoled, “Let’s see your footwork, boy-yo!”

Despite the looks of trepidation that the others were sending him, Harry stepped forward upon the marks. All of them knew what they were now from watching the twins, similar ones were found in Remus’ office and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, after all.

They were place-markers for one to practice their form while dueling. A way to improve their ability to dodge spells while moving in a tight area to not lose any ground while in battle. Typically, mostly harmless spells would be fired at the person moving between the marks to bring a sense of realness to the exercise.

As soon as Harry had stepped onto the second mark, something had changed. It felt like static was tingling across his skin and the world around him faded. The only thing that mattered was where he would place his foot next, that’s all. He swept to the next marker and it felt like magic was singing in his veins with praise, urging him on.

Harry listened, he moved quicker, eager for the reward of reaching his next goal.

Each time he moved there would be another tinge of something pleasant striking him and as he twirled there seemed to be music, more accurately, soft chanting of words he could not make out funneling into his ears that made Harry feel powerful. There had to be hundreds, no, thousands of voices of differing tones, all of them sounded young though.

Expect for two, they sounded like an older man and woman humming above all the others.

Harry found himself laughing at just how good he felt.

Then he stumbled as he grew exhausted from the rapidly increasing pace.

Just like that, whatever had a hold of him was gone, but he was still a giggling mess as his nerves seemed to tingle from what had just happened. From how much magic must have been flowing through his form.

The magic must have been built up over centuries, since Hogwarts’ very founding, each person who practiced upon the stones imprinted a bit of their own magic and emotions upon the marks which the next person could feel.  

Panting Harry was tempted to try again, but Neville’s shaking voice interrupted him.

“Umm guys, look.” Neville’s voice was shaking as he pointed to the wall behind the dueling marks, there were numerous scorch and blast marks upon it.

“Merlin’s pants!”

The group found themselves turning to Hermione in shock at the fact that she had just cursed, it seemed that the muggleborn was just full of surprises today. Well technically it was a new day as they had started their search for the room after midnight, regardless.

“Does that mean what I think it does?” Ginny asked with an audible swallow, she didn’t know exactly what made her brothers and Harry act like loons, but whatever it was it was distracting. For that reason, it was dangerous as the evidence upon the walls stated that others would take shots at the person practicing the steps with more dangerous spells.

One misstep or distraction and a more serious injury would have greeted them. Wasn’t that a bit extreme?!

Or were they that desperate to be prepared for anything thrown their way? Ginny bit her lip at this troubling thought as George, Fred, and Harry seemed to have managed to pull themselves together and were once more on their feet.

Everyone was unnerved by what they had just experienced and hung in a tighter knit group as they edged away from the dueling steps. There was a line of targets of various shapes and sizes that had obvious suffered years of abuse from the multiple holes, burns, and tears in them. Another raised platform that was probably a formal dueling ring. Several long tables and benches where they could imagine students talking and studying together.

A collection of dried up plants that captured Neville’s interest as he carefully collected a sample of leaves from several of them to study more later. A wall of mirrors whose purpose was unknown to them.  A scattering of splintered and rusting instruments resting on stands.

Several small cages with tiny skeletons of occupants long dead. There were also much larger sets of shackles and chains struck into the wall of another corner with a far bigger prison jutting out of the stone. There were deep grooves that appeared to have been made by claws of some terrible beasts.

Large, now bone dry tanks were leaned against the wall nearby. It seemed large enough for the length of two people standing upon their shoulders to lay in, it was just as tall and wide as well.

Models of planets, animals, and different things coated in grime and dust that must have been beautiful at one point. There was a mishmash of many other things about the room and slowly the teenagers felt confident enough to spread out again to explore individually.

Harry was glad for this as it freed him to start whispering the incantation accio in the hope that he could summon the necklace to him instead of digging through decades worth of dust to find the tiny thing. He would walk a few feet and cast, wait, and then repeat the process again. Unfortunately, it seemed that he didn’t have enough information for the accio to reliably summon the piece of jewelry, either that or it had charms upon it to prevent it from being stolen.

Still it would take hours that Harry didn’t have if there wasn’t some magical solution on how to search the room. Anything was worth a shot at this rate and he decided to try the point me spell.

Surprisingly, it seemed to work as the wand spun on his palm before the tip pointed towards the back right corner of the room. There were a few broken ceramic pots there and Harry carefully removed the jagged shards with baited breath.

There was something glittering under the dust.

Carefully, Harry examined the chain and pendant in his hand, eyes wide as he realized that it indeed was what he had been searching most of the year for. Draco’s necklace, the silver chain was tarnished badly and he doubted that it would ever be brought back to its former glory.

A chain was easy to replace, the pendant was the true prize and what the dark wizard was so eager to re-obtain.

It wasn’t large, just slightly larger than Harry’s own thumbnail and almost as thin. It was silver in color, but was mostly round in shape the clasp that pierced the pendant and let the chain run through it was embedded with a sparkling emerald. In the center, a shape was carved out. Harry wouldn’t call it a letter, though it did resemble an M. The middle point’s dip was far too shallow, not even reaching halfway down the length of the outside lines. No, if Harry had to guess this was a symbol, more likely a rune. The meaning, Harry knew he would have to research as it didn’t ring any bells off the top of his head.

Rune Image

The strangest thing was the fact that the pendant felt cool to the touch, unlike metal or other materials that would gradually grow warmer the longer one held it, the charm remained the same temperature. Harry also had no idea what the hell the pendant was made out of.

“What ya got there?” Ron asked over Harry’s shoulder and while he was nervous about showing the others what he had found in fear he would have to hand it over to a teacher, he wanted more opinions on what the strange material might be. Slowly, he brought the necklace into Ron’s view, the others were also coming over to see what had gotten their attention.

“I know what that is.” Ron breathed, blue eyes wide as he glanced about the room, before meeting his brothers’ and sister’s eyes for confirmation on what he thought, “Charlie sends them home from time to time as gifts and souvenirs. It’s a dragon scale.”

The group descended into a debate on what dragon it could be from, there were only three species of the winged reptile that had grey scales.

It wasn’t from a Swedish Short-Snout as their scales were a more silvery blue, the same color as the powerful flame they were known to produce. A fire that was hot enough to reduce anything to ashes in seconds. There were Swedish Short-Snout scales in Harry and Sirius’ wardrobes as it was a common material for making protective gloves, vests, and cloaks used for dueling. There wasn’t any blue tone to the scaly charm so it wasn’t a match.

An Ukrainian Ironbelly’s scales were a more metallic grey color, both their long talons and rough scales were said to be as hard as steel. The fact that Harry could just barely make the scale bend under the pressure of his fingers said that it wasn’t tough enough to belong to the largest breed of dragon.

The closest to fitting the bill was the Antipodean Opaleye. Those dragons were considered one of the most beautiful of the species, their habitat was in New Zealand and they had pearly scales. They were named for their shimmering multi-coloured pupil-less eyes. The color was the closest, but there was a problem, the scales of an Opaleye weren’t reflective. The strange scale almost had a mirror like quality to it when held the right way.

They were all at a loss as to what it might be, Neville suggested taking it to Hagrid later to see what he thought. Harry had a feeling that the only one that might be able to give him answers was Draco himself.

“Oh my, well I suppose it would be fitting if they chose to leave their signature in such a way.” Luna’s breathy voice brought their gaze to what she discovered, eyes following where she had two of her pale fingers tracing a large etching that encompassed the entire wall that held the door that they had entered from.

They simply hadn’t noticed it since they were more eager to explore outwards rather than doubling back.

It was beautiful, an elegantly crafted tree that Neville identified as a Rowen. In its many branches sat a large eagle and coiled around the trunk, which also held the door they had come from, was a sleek serpent.

“Ravenclaw and Slytherin.” Hermione’s eyes were wide as she voiced the conclusions that they all had. This room, it had been built not only by Salazar Slytherin, but also Rowena Ravenclaw. It was proof that another of the heads had been a dark magic user, if not at least one that supported it.

“We can’t tell anyone about this place.” Luna suddenly declared seriously as she turned to face her friends as they cried out in protest.

Harry though thought he might understand, “She’s right, think about it, society has no problems throwing Slytherin under the carriage, but Ravenclaw is different. She was well respected and loved for centuries, if they found out about this. They, maybe the Ministry, maybe the people, they’d want to destroy everything in here, bury it and forget about it. They wouldn’t care that this piece of artwork is a priceless relic, they’d just deface it because Slytherin is associated with it and doesn’t fit what they had believed about Ravenclaw for so long.”

“Surely they’d see the historical value of it? I mean this is one of the few physical remnants from the founders’ time!” Hermione argued, a glance about the group though crushed her hopes that it wasn’t true. Her face fell, she didn’t want something so important destroyed, even if it came at the cost of hiding the truth. “So we… just keep it secret, pretend it never happened?”

“What about Higgs and Pucey? They’re dark wizards! They have to be to have gotten in here.” Ron argued, his expression turning vicious as he remembered how they had found the place to begin with.

“There’s not enough proof to say that.” George pointed out, Fred nodded his head as he glanced about the room, “After all, we’re in here and we’re not dark wizards, at least not that we know of. I don’t see anything that has their names on it either.”

“We can’t prove that they were here.” Neville agreed, “It’s all circumstantial, what we say versus what they say.”

“But our word would be worth ten times that of those slimy snakes’!” Ron wasn’t willing to let this go and honestly, it shocked Harry just how determined his best friend was to see those fifth years charged.

“Ron, you can’t just declare someone is Dark without evidence.”

“You’re acting like ratting them out is a bad thing, we should get them out of Hogwarts as soon as possible. They’re a danger to everyone else.” Ron argued, frustrated with his friends, “Are we seriously going to just ignore the fact that these people are doing something wrong? They’re romping about in a room which is obviously used to practice dark magic! They need to face the consequences for it.”

“The consequence is death, Ron! I know you have a strong sense of justice, but will you think for just one bleeding second?!” Harry was almost shouting now and Ron recoiled, but thankfully fell silent.

Rubbing at his forehead, wincing as his fingers brushed over the raised skin of his scar, Harry continued, “Higgs and Pucey have been at Hogwarts for almost five years without a spot on their records. Percy always complains and knows all about the troublemakers as he’s head boy, but he’s never said a word about either of them. We’ve played quidditch against them for years and they’ve also played clean and fair. Don’t you think if they meant trouble, there would have been a sign by now?”

“There were Deatheaters that were perfectly behaved at school and then turned into murderers.” Ron pointed out, surprisingly it was Neville to pick up the argument next with a shake of his head, “Not every Slytherin became a Deatheater! Listen, we’ll keep an eye on them, but that’s it. Unless we see them doing anything, there’s nothing we can do.”

“Hmm.” “Ya know Freddie, I actually can’t tell if that is wicked or frightening.”

At the twins' chorus, the Longbottom heir’s cheeks flamed before Fred continued as his brown eyes flickered towards him before focusing upwards once more, “Oh not you, Neville, though you yelling at our dear little brother fits both of those categories as well.”

“Oh what is it now?” Hermione asked, obviously near the end of her rope, she actually felt she had learned enough for one night.

“It’s the walls, all of them.” Luna hummed in answer as she tapped her fingers against the stones she could reach, reading the letters that had been carved there aloud. “N.F., L.A.M, B.B., R.A.B, S.O.B, A.B., N.B…. S, hmm this looks scratched out, I can make out an S, but it’s been written over with a P.”

The groups of letters occurred in either two or threes, they were initials. The names of the dark students that had discovered and practiced in the very room that they were now standing in. There must had been thousands of them. Each person claimed a portion of stone for themselves to leave a mark on Hogwarts, a decree of their presence to be remembered beside the two dark founders’ own signatures.

“They’re on the ceiling too…” Harry noted, though he had to squint to make out the tiny letters. The group was stunned, all of these dark wizards and witches, there numbers seemed staggering, but so few had ever been confirmed by any Ministry records and court cases. All of these people hiding in plain sight and they had been for centuries while attending classes at Hogwarts then beyond.

“Nope. That’s it, I’m done, goodnight, I’m going to bed.” Ginny grumbled as she pushed her way out of the room and through the small passageway once more.

The group cast a glance between each other before they started to shuffle after her. Luna and Harry were the last to leave the room. The blond haired girl bowing to the room formally before skipping out, leaving Harry to watch the place she had stood in confusion before looking back into the chamber. The necklace was wrapped tight around his fingers.

What should he make of the discoveries they had found? He remembered that Draco had referenced that there were two dark founders and now he had proof that the blond was right.

There was so much… wrongness in the room, evidence of true darkness in the souls of the practitioners when one looked at the potion ingredients and the many section titles of the now empty library. The damage to targets and walls told him that they were dangerous people, but Harry had already known that.

Yet… for all of this, could Harry fault them without mercy or conditions? All of these people had filtered through and out of Hogwarts, but there had been so few confirmed Deatheaters and it was estimated that around a third of the suspected numbers of Voldemort’s forces had been captured, another third had been killed in battle, the last had simply disappeared after the war. The sheer number of names across the walls with etchings that might have been made in the last twenty years with their lack of dust dwarfed the official estimation of Deatheater numbers.

There was also the fact that Harry still didn’t feel like he was seeing the whole picture, there was still something missing. He would have to ponder what that was later as he finally made his feet move forward and crept out of the passageway to join his companions.

The portrait snapped shut as soon as he was clear, glancing back at it he froze, mouth going dry as he noticed a new addition to the picture, “Guys…”

“No.” Ginny interrupted after glancing back and paling at the sight that awaited her, she turned right back on her heel, back ramrod straight as she spoke while continuing on her way down the hall, “Nope, na-ah, bed. I told you I’m going to my lovely bed. Tomorrow- No, today is Saturday, and I’m going to sleep like the dead for the next twelve hours.”

Everyone else seemed to be in agreement as they made haste to escape the unnerving white eyed gaze of the sodden, bulrush maned creature staring out at them from the canvas.

A kelpie.

However, after sneaking into the dorm once more and retreating into their own beds with curtains drawn. Sleep would not greet Harry, he laid on his back one hand lifted above him to dangle the pendant and chain before his eyes. Thuban was coiled around Harry’s pillow, his scaly head resting atop Harry’s forehead, on his scar to be exact.

“I don’t think you have the ability to exchange wordsss with lifelesss objectsss, Harry.” the adder hissed softly, it was not common that Thuban called his master by his name, usually only in times of seriousness. “What isss that phrassse you taught me? ‘A knut for your thoughtsss’? I’d rather have a fat, juicccy moussse myssself, but you underssstand.”

Yeah, Harry supposed he did.

“I’m jussst feeling a little overwhelmed, there wasss… a lot that happened today. I’m not sssure how to wrap my head around everything.” First there was the episode with the boggart, then the talk with Remus, Smith being an ass, and finally the whole mess that was the shedding room. Thuban did not attend classes with Harry as it was too risky, so he had to describe what the creature was and what it had turned into.

Because of the discovery on the map, his friends hadn’t been able to question what had occurred in the classroom. Tomorrow though, Harry felt that he would most likely be grilled about what the hell came out of the chest.

The answer to which, Harry wasn’t sure.

The boggart had been Draco, it had the same height, same voice, and even the same cloak that the young dark wizard wore whenever Harry saw him. At the same time, it wasn’t at all Draco, or at least, Harry desperately hoped that it wasn’t.

Slowly he sat up hissing an apology for disturbing his familiar before undoing the clasp of the necklace and reapplying it behind his own neck, the scale felt cool as it pressed against his skin as he slipped the jewelry to rest under his shirt out of sight. As he let his head fall back to the pillow he felt that it was yet another piece of the puzzle that was the dark and Draco, a corner piece perhaps. Still he had no idea what picture would be portrayed when it was completed.

For now, it seemed that sleep had finally come to claim him and his eyes closed with a sigh, though his dreams were not peaceful as they had him running through what seemed to be an unending dark forest. Distantly, Harry was certain that he heard the crackle of flames as he was pursued by something unseen. The chant that he had heard while dancing on the marks reaching a fevered pitch as he ran.

Harry needn’t have worried as the following three months became almost insanely busy with the training for the Quidditch house cup demanding that Ron (as a reserve keeper/chaser), Ginny (already training as a reserved chaser), Harry, and the twins spend any free moment that they were not in class either studying or in the air. Oliver Wood was determined to have Gryffindor take the cup in his final year at Hogwarts. They had won, the cup held aloft between the team to cheers of the stadium, their friends, and visiting family members.

Sirius had been in the stands to see the game and Harry swore that his ribs had been cracked at how tightly his godfather had hugged him when he congratulated him for the win. Still there had been pain in Sirius’ eyes as he ruffled Harry’s hair as he spoke of how much he looked like James while up in the air, though Harry was scrambling for the snitch instead of having a quaffle under his arm like his father. Remus had agreed, though he noted, to lighten the mood, that Harry completed turns and maneuvers that would have sent James ass over heels.

Hermione had wanted to speak about what had occurred in the room, but she decided to absorb herself in her own research when the others were too busy with other activities.

Neville joined her with his own search to discover what the dried leaves he had gathered from the dead plants in the rooms were. He was very careful as he did so, knowing they could very will be toxic if breathed or touched with bare skin. This made trying to find what they were very difficult, he dared not take them to Sprout and have her possibly take them from him… Even if it might be for his own safety.

Luna, being the most free of the group was given the task of keeping track of the two Slytherins, Higgs and Pucey, but she reported no unusual behavior from either of the fifth-years. Though with Luna’s questionable definition of ‘normal’ perhaps they should have chosen someone else for the job.

The only notable thing to occur in their final days of the semester was a potions’ accident in the dungeon that left five fourth-years in the hospital wing and three other students, along with the potions’ professor himself, former Auror John Dawlish, to be rushed to St. Mungo’s for more critical care.

None of the patients would be returning from the hospital in time for the end of the year feast and the castle was abuzz with gossip about who might be the new potions’ professor the following year as obviously Dawlish wouldn’t be keeping the position. He lasted three years, which was the longest record for any potions’ professor since Horace Slughorn had... “left”.

The accident had occurred during a Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff class, their foolish mistakes with the volatile potion ingredients had resulted in not only injuries but also a massive loss of house cup points, which led Gryffindor to being named, for the third year in a row, the winner.

Too soon they were bundled onto the train back towards London and they spoke of finally getting back to their original research and discoveries the following year when things should calm down. Knowing their luck, Harry felt that it wouldn’t go nearly as smoothly as they thought.

Harry felt the cool pendant that still sat upon his chest as he looked out the window of his bedroom towards the towering aspens and Scots pines of the forest.

The hollowed out rune upon the scale he could feel against his skin and knew that soon he would be face to face with Draco once more.

Chapter Text

XX

Heels clicked upon the polished marble floors, the sound echoing in the silence of the manner as most of the occupants were busy preparing for the long night ahead. Passing one open door, the croaking voice of an old house elf was answered with a smooth youthful one along with the turning of pages, poetry delivered in a soft, but sure voice. The clicking of a cane could be heard down another hallway alerting all to where the master of the house was most likely pacing in the entryway of the manor. This image brought a smile to red painted lips as the man always was such a worrier, though he was very busy, no doubt dictating messages to a quill to send off. Drifting through another corridor a voice drifted out to greet the ears and drew a startled pause from the owner.

“Narcissa.”

“Severus! I wish you wouldn’t do that, I swear you delight in making me jump.” She answered, slapping the potion master’s arm lightly as he came to stand by her side.

A pair of onyx colored eyes rolled in answer as he drawled, “It is my personal goal to give you a start at least once a day, they say that surprises are good for the heart. Keeps the blood running strong or something other.”

“Oh hush, you cannot make me flinch with that old vampire routine, it ceased working the day after your inheritance when you busted your nose tripping on a rug in your haste to reach a goblet of blood.” Narcissa teased as she took the arm that Severus offered her and they continued down the hall.

“Your blood is far too salty for my tastes anyway.”

“Now, I know that isn’t true.” Narcissa exclaimed while looking up at the tall man under her lashes, her smile sharp and her pale blue eyes holding no fear, only amusement. “Perhaps you need to take another sample to be sure?”

“No need, I already had Regulus offer me his… aid, earlier.” came the answer that was met with a laugh as Narcissa glanced back towards the library they had passed, “You mean to say, you ambushed him when he was returning from breakfast.”

“Perhaps.”

Severus’ smile was small, but present as he remembered the startled squawk that the younger dark wizard had given when he grabbed him from behind. Severus was able to feed from any of the inhabitants of the manor with the exception of Draco. The teenager had offered multiple times to let his godfather drink from him, but each time he was turned down. The excuse was always that Draco was underaged, but even when the lad turned fifty Severus still planned to refuse him. He couldn’t imagine taking the life blood of the child he both cherished and was often infuriated with.

“We’ve been here for almost fourteen years,” Narcissa’s voice drew Severus out of his musing and a glance down at the slim witch striding beside him proved that she was lost in her memories as she looked upon the numerous portraits they passed, the ones they had managed to save from the Malfoy’s old summer home.

Severus made a small sound of acknowledgement as he let himself fall into memories like the lady Malfoy as they made their way to the heir’s wing.

It was so many years ago now.

Narcissa had felt besides herself as Draco, her sweet child, wouldn’t sleep. It didn’t matter how Lucius or his mother rocked the babe, his silver eyes remained puffy with tears, his teething mouth screamed and hiccuped. Draco was simply inconsolable and the Malfoys were looking more and more ragged as they tried to find someway to return peace to their new home. The house elves pulled at their own ears and bashed their heads against walls in distress at not being able to assist the youngest master. It got to the point that Lucius had to banish the elves away from Draco’s room in fear that they might permanently damage themselves in their self destructive grief.

Regulus had taken to hiding, Narcissa hadn’t seen her cousin in two days as the male Black seemed terrified that he might be asked to help with the baby.

Not that that would happen, Regulus was hopeless with very young children and Narcissa wouldn’t trust him with a baby Erumpent, which were very hardy and more likely to harm Regulus than the other way around.

They all knew medically, from a barrage of spells, there was nothing wrong with Draco. He was small, but still healthy. It might be that he was upset about their sudden move, traumatized by the sound of wood blasting apart and the feel of the flames crackling nearby as they turned into a thunderous noise as a massive building collapsed upon its ancient weight.

Narcissa’s memories stretched back an additional few weeks back.

The Malfoys had watched from the shadows of the property as the mob burnt down their summer home. Most likely the mess of Aurors and light practitioners had hoped that the pale haired family was inside as the flames devoured all they could. Lucius had watched with a detached expression as one of his ancestral homes was destroyed as Narcissa silently wept holding Draco to her in a tight embrace.

They were the monsters, not the small family forced to leave all they had known.

Narcissa hadn’t wanted to watch, but knew that this was important for Lucius so she held her tongue even as she flinched as a new shower of sparks raced up from the building to add flickering red stars to the night sky as laughter and mockery filled the hot air.

“This is where my mother birthed me and breathed her last, it is where my own child was born. Now it is gone, reduced to mere ash.” Lucius murmured as he stared at the blaze.

“My dear heart,” Narcissa answered softly, lifting one hand from the bundle she cradled to cup her love’s cheek, gently turning it to face her. “All is not lost, you have me, you have our love, and you have our Draco. As long as this is true, then we have nothing of true worth to grieve.”

“As always, your words are far wiser than my treasonous thoughts.” Lucius smiled softly, pained as it still was, smiles were rare in these times. Had been something that their kind could not afford in large supply for more than simply the past two decades. After placing a soft sweet kiss upon his wife’s soft lips he asked, “Where would I be without you, Cissa? I do not even want to imagine it. I would repeat our vows to each other in every breath I take, if it pleased you.”

“Now you are simply being sentimental, Lucius. I am your wife: my main purpose is to be your anchor, to support you whenever a spell shocks you back. The coven needs a strong leader, a Volkhv. That is you.” Narcissa tsked back, leaning into Lucius’ taller form as he wrapped his long arms around both her and the stirring form of their child.

“That is not true, I could nor would have you remain at my back, it would only be an insult to your power, your grace. If I am to be the guide that they seek of me, then I need you by my side . I have made many fallies, I am not deluded in thinking that there will not be more to come yet I know after it all, I will be led back to you and you will make it right, while giving me a dressing down for good measure.” Lucius pressed soft kisses to the drying tear tracks that did not belong on such a beautiful face.

“Indeed I will, now please, Lucius, take us away from these beasts. I do not wish to look upon them any longer. Neither do I wish for Draco to.” She was exhausted and Lucius could see that, he glanced once more back towards the inferno that had once been a home to him before wrapping his arms tighter around his family and apparating them away.  

The following few days were trying, the chaos that their world had descended into had only deepened with the death of the Dark Lord. Their choices had not been easy nor simple, but they were made. They had fled into the forest and their early days were chaotic trying to settle themselves and the others of the coven into the many manors owned by different families hidden by ancient wards.

Now things were settling down, but unfortunately Draco was not. Both Lucius and Narcissa had finally been chased out of the nursery by Severus when he had witnessed how both fair haired parents were practically swaying on their feet. The potion master had berated them for their carelessness of their own health while giving them the boot to their bed. Narcissa had wanted to argue and tried to turn right back around when she had heard her baby let out another wail, but Severus had braced himself at the door and Lucius finally coaxed her away with some difficulty, promising that she need only take a short bath and nap with him.

Suffice to say, neither of them were roused for many hours after going on so little for such a long time.

That had left Severus to deal with Draco. Sighing softly as he wondered once more how he had gotten into this rather… domestic situation. Coming from a terrible homelife himself, Severus often felt smothered by the affection and attention that his new family lavished him with.

Lucius, had been like an older brother to him since their Hogwarts’ days after the death of the old Malfoy head and then the loss of Severus’ mother and that bastard Tobias Snape. Narcissa perhaps was a sister, they bickered and teased each other goodnaturedly, her wit always challenging his own. Regulus was also added to the unit, already a close friend to Severus and his younger. All together, plus baby, made up the main occupants of the Malfoy manor.

The cry from the crib knocked the dour man out of his thoughts and sighing softly he moved over to look down upon the small creature whom seemed determined to bust the eardrums of every inhabitant of the forest.

“Draco, I would very much like it if you stopped your piercing mewling.” Unfortunately, the words had little to no effect on the upset babe. Not that Severus really expected it to, being the whelp of Narcissa and Lucius it would take more than words to cow Draco from the epic tantrum he had worked himself into. That and the fact that he was too young to even understand a fraction of what was said to him.

Careful, as he knew how easy it would be to break the child with his greater than human strength Severus lifted the squirming mass out of the crib and into his arms. Draco wriggled and cried, his eyes clenched shut with his wailing. Narcissa and Lucius had tried to sing numerous lullabies to ease Draco to sleep, but none had worked. They both were lovely singers, but the baby was petulant about refusing sleep.

By now Severus was desperate enough to try his own hand at it, as he looked down at the small pale face in his hold, he was reminded of another child that he had met only briefly a short time ago. With the memory of Harry, thoughts of sweet Lily flowed back to the surface. He hummed a few notes, trying to find the range he wished before singing, letting the thoughts of the past color his song as his deep voice rumbled out.

Loch Lomond Loch Lomond 2

“By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes, where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond. Where me and my true love were ever wont to gae, on the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond.”

The image of their first meeting danced before his eyes, he watched from the hollow of a tree as the beautiful girl with shining red hair urged a flower to bloom between her fingers. Her smile was bright, green eyes so vivid with a life that reflected the plant she held. Only for her expression to fall as her sister shrieked that she was a freak, unnatural before fleeing from sight. Severus had approached from his darkened spot, ignoring how his bruises ached as he met eyes with the newly discovered witch.

A leafy spring left his fingers to dance into the girl’s now outstretched hand. They didn’t need words as she smiled at him and slowly… he found himself smiling back.

xx

Cokeworth, for a time, became a far less dreary and lonely place.

“O ye'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road, and I'll be in Scotland afore ye.”

Their paths would soon part however, they had received their letters of acceptance from Hogwarts with happiness, the idea that he could finally get away from a time to the magical world he craved with his best, only friend by his side had Severus easily ignoring the pain that Tobias’ words and strikes left upon his skin during his drunken rampages in their tiny home in Spinner’s End. The fantasy had quickly started to unravel from the moment they had stepped on the train.

Gently he rocked the now silent babe in his arms, silver eyes wide as they gazed up at his normally reserved godfather, “But me and my true love will never meet again, on the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond.”

“'Twas there that we parted, in yon shady glen. On the steep, steep side o' Ben Lomond,” The day that Severus saw as his worst memory was like the raw skin of a ruptured blister on a toe in a too tight shoe that he could not remove. Each day it continued to ache, never healing as he was forced to walk forward with it. He remembered how after he had uttered that stupid word that Lily had promised to forever dismiss his company from her.

Severus had been left on the grounds as the Gryffindors departed, thinking back, he remembered how for a short moment Sirius’ eyes had met his own before the Black disappeared with his little entourage. Standing alone he had looked upon the sprawling Scottish landscape for hours as the foliage had been tinged with reds, golds, and then purples of the sunset. He knew it was that moment that he had finally lost her. The last link of the rusting chain between them snapping. Perhaps it was for the best, she was fated to take what she saw as the high, moral road. Severus was left to take what was seen as the lower road, the darker road filled with creatures waiting in shadows and blood.

“Where in purple hue, the hieland hills we view, and the moon coming out in the gloaming.” 

xX

Now though, Severus knew from the way that the last Potter had reacted to him, saying his name and greeting him with trust. Lily must have still had some affection for him, at least enough to show her child pictures of them and speaking of him in tones that would inspire Harry to regard her former friend with warmth.

Severus had been at the Potter home that dreadful night, seen the destruction that the Dark Lord had wrought, before coming upon the body of his dear friend. He had grieved, but could not afford to linger as he knew others would soon come. After casting a spell to erase his presence, Severus had left the small cottage. Though he did not leave until he was sure that it was someone who would care for Lily’s child who arrived first. Seeing Black was comforting, Harry would be cared for, that was the best that anyone could do for her now.

It was strange, that at the current moment Severus was holding a child that he practically considered his own with these thoughts rolling through his head. Cradling Draco as the babe’s eyelids were obviously growing heavy he sang the song he had heard from the window of an old washer woman’s home in Cokeworth.

“The wee birdies sing and the wildflowers spring, and in sunshine the waters are sleeping.” 

XX

“But the broken heart it kens, nae second spring again, though the waeful may cease frae their grieving.” Severus had much to grieve over, deaths, loss loves, and bad decisions. He also had much to live for now, though the song ended, he continued to hum the tune, Draco having finally fallen asleep.

Slowly he moved to sit in the rocking chair beside the crib, rocking gently as he ran his fingers through pale blond wispy hair. Draco leaned into Severus’ cool touch with a soft coo and Severus felt an easy smile grace his lips as he murmured, “You will be trouble if you seek out comfort from the hand of a creature that thrives of blood. Then again, maybe Malfoys’ are born foolish, lacking self-preservation instincts in regards to dark creatures.”

He could feel the little heart beating under his palm, affirming that precious babe was alive and well, “That does not matter, for I will be there to protect you. Always, Draco, this I promise you. I may have failed Lily, but you, I will never. You are a Prince in your own right, my little prince. Listen to me, I’ve gone soft, remind me, little one, to hex Regulus raw the next time we spar.”

Severus had followed through with his threat, though he was pulled out of those pleasant memories as the pair came to a stop before a set of dark mahogany doors. The wood was carved with excruciating detail; the Malfoy crest, what looked to be a stylized ‘M’ but  was really meant to be a rune, had been altered over the years to stave off suspicion. Here in the ancient manor, the symbol was portrayed as it was supposed to be. The rune sat upon a shield made of four panels and six spear heads jutting from the top and bottom of the shield. On either side was what appeared to be dragons with their wings outstretched in a manner that spoke that they were ready to take flight carrying the rest of the crest to safety if need be. Coiled around the topmost spear was a pair of snakes, the serpents faced opposite directions able to observe all. Finally, there was the banner across the bottom of the crest that spoke the family motto, “Sanctimonia Vincet Semper”.

Purity Will Always Conquer.

Narcissa rapped her knuckles twice against the wood before Severus simply pushed them open. They had given the teenager enough warning in his mind and life was not usually so merciful. Severus slipped into the room quickly while throwing a body bind curse towards the form that had been lounging on the black leather couch by the fireplace.

A silently cast protego by the lithe teen managed to block the spell as Draco quickly threw himself over the edge of the couch to get more cover for any upcoming attacks.

“That is not how godfathers normally greet their charges!” Came the hiss from the teenager, much to the amusement of the adults. Narcissa hiding a smile behind her hand as she called, “Draco, love, you have improved. Last year you weren’t nearly as quick to block, perhaps it is time we introduce spells that require a specific countercurse to your reflex tests.”

“Severus does not need your encouragement, mother!”

“Indeed, though she does have clever suggestions. Levicorpus. ” A short shriek came from Draco as he suddenly found his feet rising towards the ceiling as Severus had sent the spell underneath the couch to hit his target who had been prepared for an attack from the side or above, not under.

“Blasted- Liberacorpus! ” The countercurse had Draco falling back towards the ground as soon as the spell left his wand and he clenched his eyes shut as he prepared himself for meeting the unforgiving floor. Only it never happened, as he slowly opened his eyes he saw that his mother was pointing her wand at him and keeping him from falling. She flicked her wand and set him back on his feet.

“Should it not be considered cheating to use spells of your own creation that most do not have knowledge of?” Draco groused as he got his balance back, the look he got from Severus making him sigh, “Of course, the enemy would not care what is considered cheating or fair.”

“That is correct, to expect as such will lead to a very gruesome demise.” Severus answered as Narcissa swept her way into the closet to retrieve the traditional night riding outfit. A house elf popped in with a tray of tea and biscuits for them as the potion master settled himself in the spot that Draco had recently vacated on the couch. This brought an annoyed glare from the youth that had Severus quirking an eyebrow with a smirk.

Draco didn’t bother sitting back down, not when he knew he would be summoned to stand again so soon. Narcissa reappeared only a few moments later, levitating the garb before her and setting it delicately upon the chest that rest at the end of Draco’s large bed.

Draco shed his shirt as Severus summoned a bottle and knife from his robes, he poured the contents into the polished stone bowl that the elf had left behind with the tray. The liquid was shining in the candlelight as it seemed to have a life of its own as it swirled slowly in the bowl. The mixture was silver in color and would soon darken as the raven haired man cut the tip of his finger, letting red drops of blood to fall into the bowl.

Narcissa did not flinch as her finger was cut next and again three drops of the life giving liquid was added. Draco offered his own hand, though he bit his lip at the sting of pain that the knife brought, short lived as it was as he was healed by his mother as soon as his own blood finished its journey into the mixture.

“Lucius and Regulus added their sacrifice earlier, so it’s almost complete.” Severus murmured before drawing a stirring rod made of black obsidian from his pocket and started to tend to the potion. Twenty-one clockwise turns and then nine counterclockwise turns were given while Severus chanted his words softly. The liquid had grown to be almost black in color now, but still had a shimmer to it that made it appear like hundreds of stars were swirling about inside it.

“Did you complete your ablution rituals?” Narcissa asked as she offered a hand to her son, which he took with a small nod letting her lead him towards the bed. “Of course, mother. I am prepared as I am every year. I bathed in remedy and offered rites before breakfast was even brought to me.”

“Are you sure about that?” the witch asked, she could smell both clove and lavender upon Draco’s skin and as she ran her fingers through his pale locks she caught a hint of mint. So he was telling the truth at least about that, she gently clasped his upper arms while setting her chin on Draco’s shoulder, an action that was becoming harder to do as he continued to grow year after year. For now, she could still enjoy being taller than him, though he would always be her little boy.

She waited, able to feel the small twitches in Draco’s form as he grew nervous from her silence. Narcissa was a mother, meaning her patience would far outlast that of a youth.

“...I fell back asleep after my bath.” The teenager finally admitted, he never could lie to her effectively.

“I know, Dobby told me when he brought tea.” Narcissa chuckled as Draco cursed under his breath about traitorous house elves, “Now, now, he seemed completely distraught when he realized he said such. Poor thing looked ready to swallow the teapot in penance.”

“It would be my luck that he would survive doing such.” came the answering grumble that had his mother cuffing him on the back of the head, he stumbled slightly. Thin and unassuming as the Lady Malfoy appeared, there was strength to her. It was far better to appease her as soon as possible, before those carefully maintained nails dug in for a pinch. “I didn’t mean it!”

“I would hope not, Dobby adores you after all.” She patted him on the arm once more before finally straightening up and releasing the boy. At her gesture, Draco shimmied out of his trousers and sat on the floor with his back to the chest and bed in only his boxers. Perching on the edge of the chest herself she took the brush that she had brought with her and started to work it through the pale strands. Narcissa adored Draco’s hair and now it had grown just past his shoulders, the same length as Lucius’ hair had been when they had gotten officially engaged.

Draco let his eyes close as the brush moved smoothly through his hair, feeling as the soft bristles gently skidded across his scalp before moving back and down all the way to the end of the locks. From the crown of his head, from the sides, the brush was search for any tangle. Long, nimble fingers carefully removed the rare find that were caught. He could tell when she was satisfied with her work when she gently tugged and pressed on the left side of his head. Draco rolled his eyes behind his lids as he knew that his mother had decided to braid his hair.

It wasn’t that he disliked the look personally, but Blaise always gave him a hard time about having better hairstyles than most of the girls their age. Not exactly an insult, Draco knew that he was pretty or handsome whichever one decided it was all the same.

“It’s ready.” Severus’ voice suddenly shifted from his soft chanting as he spoke those words and Draco smirked slightly as his mother gave a huff behind him, no doubt that she was disappointed that she didn’t have the time to put more than the single braid on the side of his head. He felt her gathering his hair, including the braid, at the back of his neck and felt her secure it somehow into a low ponytail.

A touch to his back and Draco stood up from the floor as Severus joined them, setting the bowl on the chest before offering a hand to help Narcissa to her feet. Draco stood in a place that would allow both adults to have access and move around him easily. There were two small, fine tipped brushes sitting across the rim of the bowl.

Together Narcissa and Severus both dipped their respective brushes into the potion before carefully beginning their work on the pale canvas before them. Draco couldn’t help but shiver at the feeling of the now cool substance being painted across his shoulders. An action that his godfather chastised him for, while the witch only laughed. The earthy, sharp smell of clove rose from the potion as it was drawn across his skin.

It was always boring when they painted his back and the back of his legs, when they did the other parts of his body Draco was quizzed over the meaning of each rune that was imprinted upon him.

His body felt like it was tingling as magic from both his guardians and the air around him was drawn into his skin through the runes. Giving them the power to do what they were designed. It was far too easy to get drunk off of what they called a magic high. Too many people fell victim to the idea that they were invincible while covered in symbols and absorbing outside power.

It was an illusion, eventually, one would come down from that high and crash… hard.

Already, instead of relishing the magic that was pooling inside of his veins, he was internally lamenting the fact that he would feel like absolute shite once the sun rose again.

Most of the youth of the coven would be in the same boat as him. Anyone that was underaged was painted as a precaution that dated back to ancient times when celebrating Midsummer’s Night. One did not need to tempt fate by deviating to a different path, for those who did, well, history showed far more corpses than victories.

Often times young children needed a smack down from their parents when they got uppity with the excess magic in their system. That was when they were reminded that anyone whose blood was inside the potion paint could still put them in their place. Both Regulus and his father had given Draco quite the thrashing when he was seven and got too loose with his magic, almost caused a cave in of the back portion of the manor. In his altered state Draco had only laughed and declared that he could fix the destruction he caused on his own. Narcissa and Severus had their hands full trying to keep the support beams from completely splitting apart as the other two sorcerers of the manor tried to chase Draco down.

Then Lucius got a hold on him and put him over his knee, that was the one and only wake up call that Draco had ever required, it was also the single episode where Draco had gotten lost in a magical high.

Most dark children had similar stories, some such as Theo, still got lost in magic high from time to time. If one was going to fall into it though, it would be in the first few minutes that the runes were being applied. By the time that Draco saw the wiry boy when the herds converged, it was always hours after the painting so he never felt fear towards his friend.

Lucius would be heading to the Nott Manor as soon as he finished seeing his son off to oversee Theo’s runes and provide aid if the teenager forgot his way in the grip of the ancient magic. Draco suspected that Master Flitwick would also be there in the case the former master duelist was needed.

Draco was pulled out of his thoughts as the brush swiped across his chest, this time he suppressed the need to jump or shiver as he looked down at the diamond shape with two legs following the lines out of the shape on the bottom of the rune.

“Othala.”

“Correct. Original meaning?” Severus asked as he drew the same rune on the other side of his godson’s chest.

“Ancestral property, home.” Draco recited, “It provides aid in spiritual and physical journeys. It’s a source of safety and means for obtaining abundance.”

The adults nodded and Narcissa painted the next symbol between her son’s collarbones, “And this, dear?”

Draco struggled to make out the shape from its placement, but managed to make out that it appeared to be two L shapes with the shorter of each leg pointing into the longer leg of the other L so they were basically interlocking.

“It’s Jera, meaning a year or good harvest. The hope that the results of earlier efforts are realized. A time of peace and happiness, fruitful season. The promise of success earned.”

“Excellent, it seems the extra tutoring on runes from Regulus is doing wonders.” his mother’s praise always made Draco feel warm, like when one drinks a hot draught on a cold day and can feel the liquid’s journey down their throat to pool pleasantly in their stomach to heat the body from the inside out.

“Yes, he’s improving, when he decides to actually focuses on our lessons. The past few weeks it feels that it would be easier to converse with a jarvy than you.” A voice quipped from the doorway and Draco rolled his eyes as Regulus moved into the room, the old house elf tottered behind him like some weird malformed puppy. The elder Black smirked softly as he reached out and set a hand on Draco’s head. It was both an affectionate and patronizing action that the teenager despised, Regulus knew it, but with Severus and Narcissa at work Draco couldn’t smack him away.

Regulus was more like an annoying much older brother than a cousin or uncle. Draco and Regulus delighted in bothering the other whenever able. Though it was more likely for Draco to harass the older than the other way around.

“I too have noticed that you seem… distracted as of late.” Severus murmured as he painted another rune on the upper arm of his godson. Narcissa made a soft noise of agreement to their observation. The Malfoy heir had been doing the herd gathering night ride by himself since he was eight, so they didn’t believe that he had a case of sudden nerves of going out on his own into the forest he had grown up in. That meant that there had to be something else on his mind.

What it could be? They had no easy guess thanks to the endless possibilities with the hormones and drama that were ripe in the lives of every teenager.

“My apologies, I suppose the reason is that I’ve had a few… odd dreams as of late so I haven’t been sleeping well.” That wasn’t a complete lie, Draco had in fact been having a string of strange dreams and nightmares recently. They had only grown in intensity the closer that it grew to Midsummer.

“We could have retrieved you a dose of Dreamless Sleep if you had asked, then again, I suppose that you are as stubborn as your father when it comes to requesting help. I remember how when he was your age he had passed out while walking through the common room from a three day fever before finally going to the hospital wing.” Regulus mused as he finally drew his hand away from Draco’s head and took the brush that Kreacher offered him.

The runes that were painted by the male Black were far prettier and more delicate looking than either Narcissa’s or Severus’. This came from being the teacher of runes to all of the dark youths and being a master of them.

“Father does love to be very dramatic.” Draco noted, chuckling at the image of his teenage father being fawned over by the rest of his house as he recovered from his faint.

“Well, thank the gods and goddesses that you’re above all that.” Severus smirked at the glare he was given, even if Draco wasn’t forced to stand still the potion master wondered if the boy would have dared to send a hex his way… Narcissa gave a very unladylike snort and Draco sent her a betrayed look.

“I’m sorry, love, but subtlety is a skill you have yet to master.”

Draco huffed, wishing that the runes would be finished soon so he could escape the teasing. At least the earlier conversation had seemed to be-

“These nightmares, what are they about? Must be quite something to have you continually rattled.” Regulus questioned as he knelt down to draw a rune upon Draco’s upper left thigh, seeing the way that the muscle tensed Regulus knew that Draco was tempted to jerk his knee out to bonk his cousin in the head or face.

Draco cursed silently to himself, he really did not want to explain the source of his fear. He held no doubts what they stemmed from, if his family found out… Oh he would be lucky to see the light of the sun unhindered before his first century.

“They are nothing of importance, just unsettling feelings and darkness, followed by flames.” Again with a part truth, those themes were indeed interlaid with his nightmares, but remembering the point which they originated from made his heart palpate a stuttered beat before he forced himself to relax again as he closed his eyes and took a calming breath. Doing such made him unable to see the look of concern that the adults sent each other.

A small hand cupped Draco’s face. Gently and slowly he opened his eyes to take in the worried, but determined expression on his mother’s face.

“Never.” She swore, while pressing a kiss to his brow, “Never will I allow the fate of our ancestors to fall upon you. These dreams are the product of our history, not to be forgotten, but they should not haunt you to the point they cloud your vision of a future.”

“You have nothing to fear, now.” Severus assured, one hand moving to cup the back of Draco’s neck, a physical reminder that he was there and always would be. Regulus nodded, but his grey eyes seemed uncertain of that oath. He was at least wise enough not to voice that, it was a pretty promise, they all knew that this peace they lived in could be shattered so very easily. The older that the youth grew, the more they were aware of their unfair and incalculable station in life was compared to those of the so called light.

Draco nodded his head softly, though internally he was not convinced, for his family though, he would act that all was well. That he was still the naive child that believed every word that he was fed by an adult, for a little while longer.

They all knew it, but today was meant to be a time of celebration not one of frustration, fear, or anger. However, this conversation was not over, only pushed back to another time. The conversation pittered off into silence, before being interrupted when the quizzing about the various runes covering his skin continued. Draco was proud of the fact that he had not made a single mistake in the name, definition, or purpose of each.

After the last rune was painted, Draco spoke the incantation he had been repeating for years now, for a brief moment the characters flashed with an electric blue light before the black marks faded from sight as they sunk into and under his very skin. The effects would last for a single day, to make them last longer it would require a bigger donation of blood from all involved.

Then came the clothes, leather breeches that were tucked into an equally black pair of knee high riding boots. A tight long-sleeved black undershirt made from silk that was charmed to either cool or warm the body it covered depending on the wearer’s needs. A black high collared sleeveless vest that had runes stitched into it in silver, glimmering thread for extra protection. The vest was also edged in fabric of the same style as the runes. Then the heavy cloak, the outside of it made of silk and the inside lined with dragonhide to provide protection against many a spell. The veil for the time being laid around his neck, it would be slid into place when he left the security of the manor.

While it was an image that haunted the dreams of both adults and children beyond the forest, the night ride garb’s embrace only brought comfort to Draco. This outfit had been in the family for generations, his father had worn it when he was Draco’s age and was charmed larger each year to fit Draco until he was of age and then he would be gifted his own personal set of similar clothes.

Wearing these pieces of cloth, Draco felt like he was walking comfortably in the skin of countless Malfoys before him. A part of him always wondered if he stayed inside of the wrapping of silk and hide long enough he would somehow absorb his ancestors’ knowledge, power, and memories. He never voiced these sentimentalities, he didn’t want to be mocked for being a romantic.

But Regulus would have been proud of him for these thoughts and that was reason alone that Draco wouldn’t say it aloud. After all, Regulus was also the master poet of the clan and all songs and performances had to be approved by him and a panel of the other masters of music and dance before being shown to others at celebrations. Regulus was the second busiest individual in the coven during these pivotal events, Lucius being the most.

The three wizards, witch, and house elf made their way through the manor until they reached the entrance hall.

At the sight of the Volkhv standing before the grand, but heavily enforced doors, Draco couldn’t help but to quicken his step.

“Father.”

Lucius’ turned his attention from the scroll that was floating before his eyes at the call, though he had no doubt sensed their approach long before. A small, but sincere smile graced his lips as he stretched one arm out to his side, Draco quickly fitted himself there as Lucius waved the parchment away. A short, but welcoming squeeze upon the youth’s shoulder pulled him into a short one-armed hug before Lucius released him.

The distance was short lived however, as Lucius took his heir’s chin in hand and tilted his head to meet his eyes.

“Draco, are you prepared?”

“I am.” Draco answered, while many quelled under Lucius’ intense grey eyes, he never did. His father could be strict and he was not afraid to punish for bad behavior, but there was no instance in Draco’s life that he doubted or was lacking in his father’s love.

“He apparently hasn’t been sleeping well, I would suggest he drink a vial of pepper up before setting out.” Severus voiced as he already held some of the potion in question in hand.

There was a small groan of protest from Draco as Lucius gave a nod and the vial was pressed into his hand. He knew that this was his godfather’s subtle way of punishing Draco for not coming to them earlier for his problems. He was already very alert from the magic under his skin, the effect of the runes, and the potion he had been painted with, but this was all superficial. Underneath the magical high, his body was suffering from a mild form of exhaustion that the elders had annoyingly picked up on.

Uncorking the potion, he swallowed it quickly, the spicy taste on his tongue making him grimace and cough. The rush of rather uncomfortable warmth spread through him from his stomach and throat. He knew his ears were flaming red, but they did not produce steam as Severus had modified the potion to eliminate that embarrassing side effect. Still the color would remain for a few hours.

It would be gone before nightfall which was a long ways off, something that he was extremely grateful for… even if he still found himself doubting that he would have a visitor.

Kreacher offered a wrapped package for Draco which he took and slipped into one of the pouches hanging from his belt. It was the lunch that the elves had prepared for him that he could eat during his journey through the sprawling forest. His mother handed him a tin of the honey ginger strips, from Severus a pouch that no doubt held various potions and medical supplies, and Regulus gave him a small book that held songs and poems that had been written since last Midsummer by the youths of the coven.

What his father gave him was a long, wickedly sharp dagger the sheath of which sat at his waist for easy access. The handle was made of bone and heavily engraved with runes and symbols, the end of the hilt studded with an emerald. The edge of the blade was not that of metal, but of obsidian. If enough pressure was applied to break the stone, then the steel that remained would still slice, the black stone had been used since ancient times and had been proven time and again that the damage it inflicted as more accurate and damaging than any metal.

This exchange had played out many times before, but it felt as significant as it ever had before. He bowed deeply after each gift was given and uttered the traditional phrases of thanks .

Narcissa pulled him into an embrace once more, placing quick, but meaningful kisses upon her child’s brow and cheeks. “I will see you soon, be safe.”

“Do try not to do anything foolish.” Severus warned while giving a short squeeze to the nape of his godson’s neck.

Regulus smiled as he flicked a finger through Draco’s bangs, “Return swiftly, what would the dancing be without the flair of Draco Malfoy?”

Together Lucius and Draco took their leave, the head of the family pressing his palm against the set of double doors that led into the manor and they swung outwards into the narrow, twisting, stone staired corridor. The passageway was dark and tight, but neither of the pair needed to summon any source of light, they knew the way by heart and never once bumped into a wall. The smell of earth was comforting and steadily they were rising higher until they reached yet another doorway, this one looked to be made of tree roots because… it was. A charm had them separating and letting them slip past, finally reaching sunlight and an above ground level.

Draco breathed the fresh air in with a smile, basking in the light that broke through the leafy canopy. The Malfoy manor, like many of the ones hidden in the forest were located deep below the earth to provide protection, avoid discovery, and allow for either escape or defense from attack. All of the windows in the manor were charms to show views of the forest and area that they would have seen if they were above ground.

Lucius clucked his tongue to break Draco out of his revelry of being in unlayered light, as he turned to his father, Lucius moved to gently wrap the veil over his son’s eyes. “Keep this on, there is no need to tempt the fates, Draco. Be safe, bring them home.”

“Of course, father.” He applauded himself at being able to keep the annoyance from his voice. He hated having to hide himself, his very life away, he understood the reasoning, but it was still so unfair. Who was there to see him? Unfortunately, he had come to an answer with that short and strange meeting last year.

The hood was pulled up over his son’s head and a short hug given before Lucius popped away, leaving Draco to begin his own journey on foot.

The towering Scots Pine that hid their manor from discovery sat upon the edge of a hill, the roots visible and trailing down the sides like gnarled, winding spiderwebs. These ancient trees were unique and special to the dark magical community, others were unaware that they held any magical properties or abilities. The whomping willow was a famous enough tree that would bash and twist its branches to attack any that came too close. A Scots Pine however, their roots were what could ensnarl a person as easy as Devil’s Snare could. In other areas of the world, the roots of this pine were usually deep under the ground, however the rocky, hilly landscape of the Scottish Highlands made them exposed.

XX

Scots Pines adored magic, sucking it from the air and soil, but always hungry for more. As such, there was a symbiotic relationship between the Dark practitioners and the trees that hid their homes. The tree would absorb the excess magic that was produced by the family and creatures hidden under it, in return it would defend and hide their home from sight.

One of those roots reached out towards Draco, obviously interested in the thick aura of magic that was around the youth from the runes he was covered with. The tip of the wood probed forward and Draco rolled his eyes before offering his hand, the root wrapping around his index finger.

He let the pine hold onto him for a few moments before carefully extracting himself from it, while speaking, “I’ll return.”

Turning on his heel Draco started into the misty forest, his feet knew where to go without a map. Nor did he need a wand to guide him, though he had three of them on his person. One which he had since he was three and he used for light and neutrally aligned spells was a 10" long, hawthorn wood, reasonably pliant, and had a unicorn hair core. This was his first wand, when his body was too young and weak to handle the constant flow and ebb of Dark magic in his veins. As such this wand had the second strongest connection to Draco.

The second that he used almost exclusively for Dark magic, which he received when he was six years old was 11 ½ “ inches of Red Oak, with a dragon heartstring for the core, and unyielding in its rigidity. The Red Oak wand was held in the inner chest pocket of his cloak and the Hawthorn wand was held inside of his left boot.

The final wand was the one he had received at the same time as his Red Oak wand, but he held a tighter bond with this one. It was 12 ¾” long, Larch, springy, and held a core with the tailfeather of a Thunderbird. This warmly colored length of wood was what Draco used for a majority of his spellwork, Larch being a neutral wood that gave easily to all facets of magic. It was strapped to the inside of his right arm in a holster it was one of his most faithful companions, a friend as much as any member of his family.

With a swish of his Larch wand, he cast multiple disillusion, muffling, and protective charms on himself as he took the hidden paths he had walked through most of his life. While he was alert to his surroundings as he picked his way over rocky terrain and shrubs, Draco’s mind began to wander about what might await him in the clearing that night, whether or not more foals had been born, or… if Hadrian would really come.

Hadrian.

Draco’s lips pursed and his brows furrowed as he rolled the name over in his head and silently spoke it to himself, tasting it. There was something not quite right about it, but he couldn’t put a finger nor wand on it.

The most obvious answer was that the name could be a lie, in fact it most likely was. Yet another fact that should have Draco leery, but only interested him more. Being the son of the Volkhv and having proved himself many times over to be a skilled wizard, he was not used to being lied to so… blatantly .

Perhaps it was not so apparent to most people, but Draco had grown up with learning the subtleties of his Godfather’s expressions and double edged words that were common during the meetings between the heads of Dark families when tempers grew hot, typically during winter time when supplies grew low and the people grew more restless as they were unable to go above ground comfortably when so much of the protective canopy of leaves had fallen at the end of autumn.

Yes, Draco had doubts about Hadrian’s backstory as well; a child born from a pair of practitioners that were each inclined to a different shade of magic. It was not unheard of, but rare. Not all members of the Dark had fled that night either. There were families of mixed magicks that remained and a few unsuspected Dark families that had remained in the rest of society instead of fleeing to join one of the five covens that existed through the United Kingdom.

The covens communicated with each other, but the relationships between them were often rife with uncertainty and distaste. Each coven had slightly differing values, two of the five covens were devout in their faith towards the former Dark Lord and all of his actions through his campaign. Two other covens were simply wanting to practice and live the way they had originally away from the prejudice and hatred they had experienced before.

The last coven, the one which Draco’s family headed was the Ffydd . They wanted to practice and follow their ways, but their members included quite a number of former Deatheaters. However, these were Deatheaters that had been sickened when they realized the lengths that the Dark Lord would go to achieve his aims and were disillusioned when they noticed that the man had little regard for many of the old rites and ways. Yes, many of the coven still wished to see the Light burn for their crimes, but they knew that the cost of vengeance tittered to the side of too great. Their views towards muggles and muggleborns were that of distrust, disgust, and fear. Their reasonings were very well grounded after all.

Draco knew that Hadrian did not belong to any other coven for the fact that the dark haired boy truly didn’t seem to know who he was. If he had any inkling he would not have extended greetings first, being the son of Lucius Malfoy meant that Draco was above almost all others that were not part of Lucius’ family or members of another coven’s Volkhv’s family. Draco had met all important members of other covens a rare handful of times and knew he would have recognized someone such as Hadrian.

The other’s magical signature was something that brought fascination to Draco.

Draco had never encountered someone with an aura so light. It was grey, there were others in the coven that had such a shade, but always much darker than that of Hadrian. It spoke some truth to the other teenager’s words that he didn’t know or use Dark magic actively. Once one began to use Dark magic one’s core would continue to be tinted darker as their ability to conduct their magic grew.

The fact that Hadrian was a parseltongue was one of the only reasons that Draco believed that there was at least a shred of good intention and truth in the other’s words. To embrace and show his talent when it might well sentence him to scorn or even death if conducted in front of others, it showed that Hadrian was extending, more like, flailing a hand in front of Draco’s face asking for his trust and acceptance. It made Draco wonder if, perhaps, Hadrian was lonely in the world of the light with the secret he held and the claim that his father refused to teach him Dark traditions.

The thought left a bitter taste in his mouth, lonely was not something he would label a person living in the rest of society. Hadrian could go and do almost all he wished without fear, things that would never be possible for Draco himself. Hadrian could claim that he existed .

Hadrian was able to attend Hogwarts, experience things that Draco’s ancestors and parents had done, but were barred from him. Yes, Draco could say that he was jealous, at least a tad.

But at the same time, Draco could not find himself feeling bitter towards Hadrian as a person, though he was for what he represented. The other boy was too earnest and eager for the information that Draco held for Draco to dislike him. Suspicious, yes, but he oddly found himself having enjoyed their conversation that night.

It was with regret that Draco had sent Hadrian away from him, though he knew it was for the best for both of their protection. Hadrian had to leave before the herd came and perhaps attacked the stranger and Draco needed to distance himself from someone that very well could be a threat.

Now, he found himself both relieved and disappointed that he had given that ultimatum to the other. Relieved because he doubted that Hadrian would find the heirloom and as such would no longer tempt Draco with his own knowledge of what laid outside of the forest. Disappointed for he knew that he had lost his chance to learn more and to know someone that treated him so differently, open and without knowing anything of Draco’s rank or family.

The nightmares he had suffered from recently also stemmed from Hadrian. From what Hadrian could bring about. He had heard the other’s laughter above the crackling of flames and the frightened shrieks of human and beast alike. The other was not only a danger to Draco personally, but to the coven itself. What he should have done was hexed and attacked the other, forced him to retreat when they had first met. Instead he had been too dumbfounded by meeting an unfamiliar youth and a parseltongue.

It would only take one word for Hadrian to spell doom for all that Draco loved and cared about, the Aurors to be summoned, or the forest to be cast alight in the hopes of smoking out the evil darkness that had hidden themselves away for more than a decade without bringing harm to anyone.

Sighing softly in frustration he rubbed at his face. He worked his way deeper into the forest, the familiar foliage brushing against his cloak like old friends. If this was all true, why did Draco feel remorseful that they would not meet again?

The sky was pinking now, birds sang, a creek rippled nearby, but out of sight, and the breeze teetered through the leaves in a music that was all the forest’s own. This was Draco’s home and prison, he wondered if the fates had anything special in store for this MidSummer’s Night.



Notes: (So... much... research)

Hawthorn and Unicorn core wand: this is Draco original wand from the Harry Potter series. This is unique as unicorn wands produce the most consistent magic, and are the least likely to produce fluctuations or experience blockages in their power. It is the most difficult core to turn to the Dark Arts and the most faithful of wands. However, they do not make the most powerful of wands and are prone to melancholy if mishandled. Hawthorn wands may be particularly suited to healing magic, but they are also adept at curses, and it has been generally observed that the hawthorn wand seems most at home with a conflicted nature, or with a witch or wizard passing through a period of turmoil. Hawthorn is not easy to master, however, and one should only ever consider placing a hawthorn wand in the hands of a witch or wizard of proven talent, or the consequences might be dangerous. Hawthorn wands have a notable peculiarity: their spells can, when badly handled, backfire. Basically, according to the Harry Potter wiki, this wand was never EVER meant to handle dark spells, if attempted it would have produced disastrous results. This is ironic seeing as Draco comes from a Dark family.

Red Oak and Dragon Heartstring: The true match for a red oak wand is one that is possessed of unusually fast reactions, making it a perfect duelling wand. Its ideal master is light of touch, quick-witted and adaptable, often the creator of distinctive, trademark spells, and a good man or woman to have beside one in a fight. It also makes for some of the most handsome wands. Dragon heartstrings produce wands with the most power, and which are capable of the most flamboyant spells. Dragon wands tend to learn more quickly than other types. While they can change allegiance if won from their original master, they always bond strongly with the current owner. The dragon wand tends to be easiest to turn to the Dark Arts, though it will not incline that way of its own accord.

Larch and Thunderbird Tailfeather: Strong, durable and warm in colour, larch has long been valued as an attractive and powerful wand wood. Its reputation for instilling courage and confidence in the user has ensured that demand has always outstripped supply. This much sought-after wand is, however, hard to please in the matter of ideal owners, and trickier to handle than many imagine. Larch always created wands of hidden talents and unexpected effects, which likewise describes the master who deserves it. It is often the case that the witch or wizard who belongs to the larch wand may never realise the full extent of their considerable talents until paired with it, but that they will then make an exceptional match. Larch functions the most naturally for Draco because it’s not so linked to his emotional state like the other ones.

The Thunderbird Tailfeather core is difficult to master, but powerful and skilled in transfiguration work. They too are also able to sense danger, much like their creature donors, also being able to cast curses on their own to defend their owner. A built in failsafe that could save the wizard or witch if a silencing hex was placed on them or they were incapacitated.

From all this wandlore (taken from the Potter wiki) what assumptions can you make for the events that will unfold in this story, hmm? Comparing also Harry’s wands and those of Draco.

Clove: associated with protection, purification, mental ability, and healing. I found in my research that one way to make a protective and purifying charm, one would need rosemary, angelica, sage, three cloves, and a pinch of salt. Then tie it shut with red thread, in this case the blood of those wishing to protect the person is used in place of the red thread.

Ginger: is a naturally cleansing herb, pickled ginger is often used to cleanse the palate when moving from dish to dish when eating Japanese food. (I do live and work in Japan)

Mint: used to sharpen the mind, success, prosperity, fertility, purification, and love.

Lavender: purity, silence, devotion, caution, serenity, grace, and calmness. Lavender can be seen in this work as the flower of midsummer as it blooms usually at its peak from late June through August. To harvest the flower it must be on a dry day, in the late morning hours after any dew has evaporated.

Black Obsidian(Severus’ stirring rod and bow(also his eyes?)): Embodies ancient power as it is created through volcanic activity. Used for protection, strength, clarity, and stability. Obsidian in scalpel blades is being tested currently and supposed to be better than any metal ones. Obsidian was a very valuable commodity in ancient times, it was used in weapon heads, such as for arrows, spears, and such.

volkhv or volhv (Cyrillic: Волхв; polish: Wołchw, translatable as wiseman, wizard, magus, i.e. shaman, or mage) The term volkhv is a cognate of Old Norse völva.

Ffydd: means "Faith" in Welsh, this hints to the Malfoys being the leaders of this coven and their devotion to their ways.

Also wanted to clarify a bit about Ron’s reaction to dark magic . Ron is the youngest of the Weasley male children, it is unlikely that he will ever be named the head of either of the Family lines (Weasley or Prewett). There is a sense of urgency that Ron has to prove himself, growing up under the successes of his siblings is all the more frustrating for him (Fred and George are brilliant inventors and popular, Bill is an accomplished Curse Breaker traveling the world, Charlie is a dragon researcher  which is a difficult field to get into, Percy is brilliant and has already been approached for a Ministry internship opportunity, and Ginny is the only girl who is already proving to be a talented witch). Ron is also a momma’s boy, Molly has been very vocal about her hatred of the dark(her twin brothers had been killed in the first war against Voldemort) and later it will be revealed that the Weasley clan has long held a personal grudge against some dark practitioners. Ron does pretty well in his classes, he’s a good strategist, and he’s already training to be a keeper, however he still hasn’t had the opportunity to truly prove himself and is searching for any chance that might have been remembered in history. He is not jealous of Harry, he grew up beside him and as knows that Harry’s fame has brought nothing but trouble and has more awareness of Harry’s feelings.

Teachers are called masters, this is a sign of a deeper respect and connection between them. As a master, the teacher feels more responsible for the choices that their pupil takes and has a more active role in their lives, it is common for them to have dinner at their pupil’s homes or stay over if the pupil request them to. Apprenticeships are common, Draco is expected and wants to be Severus’ apprentice. However, because of their family bond, Severus does not expect Draco to call him master outside of the lab or while conducting work.  

The Dark and physical touch, between family members this is very common, after the loss of so many of their kind they are in constant need of reassurance that the ones they care about are there and alive. For close friends this can be seen as normal, but it depends on the person. Draco allows his gang of friends, but others he would hex if they tried to touch him.

Video links of the Caledonian Forest:

Video of the Caledonian Forest  Video 2

Chapter Text

The last rays of summer were filled with warmth that was absorbed into pitch dark fabric and, in turn, sunk into the skin of the teenager that was lounging on his stomach in the springy grass of the clearing head pillowed by his arms. Draco was lightly dozing, there were numerous charms placed around him to alert him of any ill intent heading his way, though he had removed his disillusionment once he had reached the meeting spot. Draco felt relatively safe in the forest that was his home.  

There were many dangerous creatures that thrived and moved about the Caledonian Forest, but there was also an understanding between man and beast. At least for those of the Ffydd coven. These dark witches and wizard were taught from a young age to respect the natural world, far more than muggles or the rest of the modern society did.

They never took more than they needed and it was an unspoken agreement that as their shared home, both creature and human alike would act to defend this place from attack or discovery. The centaurs and more sentient beings that haunted the woods looked out for the children of the Dark and often did trade with the elders of them.

That wasn’t to say that there weren’t dangers that Draco had to look out for. Red Caps would gleefully try to bash his head into a bloody glop as they would any other person. The bloodthirsty dwarfish beasts were a threat to anything that moved and voracious in appetite.

Another threat was the Erkling, while they were not as much a concern for Draco as they would be for someone far younger. The gremlin-like beings adored eating children. Erkling could be clever with their ability to speak to tempt someone into their grasp with a false sense of security.

There were pogrebins, rocky demons that would stalk one for miles with the hopes of them falling victim when they gave into the confusion and exhaustion that their presence brought.

There were chimeras that also wandered the forests and it was never advisable to cross that creature’s path. Most did not get out of such encounters alive. Jarveys, pixies, flesh-eating slugs, poisonous plants, attacking plants, and countless other things that needed only one chance and enough effort to take the life of someone unaware.

Yes, there was much to fear in the forest, with many threats from foliage and animal alike.

It was still home.

There was the feeling of familiarity and peace that one had with the dangers that they knew. With how heavily warded and charmed the forest was from the rest of the world, the idea of an enemy unknown was not likely.

Then the wand strapped to his right arm twitched and jerked Draco out of his resting state. There was the sound of something sliding through the grass… and it was coming ever closer.

In less than a moment Draco rolled himself backwards into a crouching position, his left hand was set on the hilt of the dagger on his waist and the other holding his larch wand at the ready to dispatch whatever creature had decided to bear down on him. The hiss that had erupted from his sudden movement had silver eyes glancing downwards.

There, now still as a statue, laid an adder in the grass.

XX

Frowning, but slowly relaxing Draco lifted his wand ready to flick a spell that would help him safely remove the reptile. The words of the spell were on his lips, but were stopped by what happened next.

The snake reared the front third of its body up into the air, the rest of its body curling round itself so that the tip of its tail was now close to the head. Then… the beast opened its mouth revealing curved fangs and bobbed its head towards the ground slowly while twisting so its tail tip flopped from left to right in a very deliberate manner while hissing.

This was not natural behavior for a snake, Draco had never heard or seen such a thing before.

It froze him as he tried to process what he was witnessing.

As the snake straightened up again and closed it mouth, it finally clicked how the actions might look if it had been done by a human and not a limbless animal.

“Are you… greeting me?” The words were uncertain from Draco’s lips, he was not a parseltongue so the snake would not be able to understand him and vice versa. They could however, communicate by tone and body language. This was proved by the fact that the snake cocked its head slightly, seeming to puzzle out what might have been said to it before giving a nod.

Draco couldn’t help the small chuckle that escaped his lips. How else was he supposed to respond to this? The coiling of its body and barring its fangs was representative of showing bared arms to proclaim trust by showing where his wand or weapons might be or if he was marked. The hiss was the saying of the oath. The flicking motion of the tail echoing the twisting of the wrists to show that there was nothing, wand, knife, vial, or otherwise hidden from sight to be used for attack. It was all for formalities, all dark practitioners held multiple wands, potions, and other tools on their person at all times.

Draco straightened himself up, he wasn’t about to let his manners be outdone by a serpent. He returned the greeting, still laughing softly to himself at the absurdity of it all. As he straightened from his bow, he murmured while taking one knee to cautiously extend an arm towards the adder.

“Not how I expected my evening to go, you do think quite highly of yourself, don’t you? Introducing yourself first, how presumptuous.”

As the snake roamed up one of his arms and then stretched himself like a bridge to cross to Draco’s other arm to form a constantly cycling, moving bridge between the two, he continued to speak. “You are a fine beast though, a very pretty one.”

XX

He drew his arms up and closer, taking in the reddish chocolate colored irises surrounding slit pupils. Yes, this was a beautiful creature, male from the greyish green it had in the scales that did not make the black zigzagging diamond pattern that raced down its back. He was also impressed with its intelligence, it was surp-

Draco’s brows pinched behind his veil and he cursed silently at himself.

Animals learned by watching and repeating. Normally non-magical animals grew smarter and were affected in different ways the longer that they were in constant contact with magic. This snake was a familiar, not a wild creature.

He knew this snake, Fu-, Tho-, no that wasn’t correct.

“Thuban.”

The adder stopped his looping figure-eights between Draco’s arms as he recognized his name being spoken. That confirmed his suspicions and gritting his teeth in annoyance at the fact that he had probably looked like a fool with his cooing towards the reptile, Draco lifted his gaze towards the tree-line.

“I know you’re there, Hadrian.”

Silence only greeted Draco and he carefully moved the snake to only occupy one of his arms. The right now free, he lifted his wand towards the trees. He wasn’t sure exactly where the other teenager was, but he could hope for a lucky guess and fast reflexes to correct his aim.

It seemed that luck was on his side that day as, after a few more seconds, a cloaked figure bled out of the shadows of the trees where Draco was gazing. Hadrian had his hands up in a pacifying gesture of no ill will. There were no greetings offered as Hadrian wandered further into the clearing.

Resting on the raven’s shoulders and kept in place by his elbows, were not one, but two brooms.

Obvious offerings, it was rather unfortunate that Draco was not one to be bought by pretty things. Well, he was, but not when they came with so many known and unknown strings attached.

“I commend your familiar having better manners than yourself. He can stay as long as he wishes.” Draco intoned as he kept his wand trained steadily right at Hadrian’s chest, the largest target, “You on the other hand should not have returned. I told you not to-”

“Unless,” Hadrian interrupted, making Draco scowl though the other could not see it under his hood. He fell silent just the same as the raven repeated, “Unless I completed my end of the deal.”

“I do not take kindly to people making a mockery of me, I suggest you choose your next words carefully.” Draco warned, trying to bury the confusing feelings that threatened to overwhelm him. Hadrian had returned, he really shouldn’t have and Draco was at least partly happy to see him again. He was angry, because he knew that they should not be meeting. It would have been far better to let each other fade into distant memories. It would have been safer. There was also the fact that Hadrian had come back only to lie directly to his face. To disregard his warnings, he was forcing Draco’s hand.

After all, there was no way that Hadrian had fou-

Draco’s thoughts derailed as he watched one of the other’s hands dipping into the collar of his cloak and then bringing something small into the fading light of the clearing.

Something that glittered and hung from Hadrian’s neck by a recently polished silver chain.

“It’s the real deal.” Hadrian assured, taking a few cautious steps forward as Draco stood too shocked for a time to move, “I found the shedding room, let me tell you, the things I saw in there-”

Whatever Hadrian had been about to say was cut off, and honestly inconsequential to Draco anyway as he holstered his larch wand quickly before leaping forward to be almost brushing noses with the other teenager’s. His pale fingers moved over Hadrian’s and around the pendant that had been swinging in the air. As soon as Draco’s skin had come in contact with the scale, the pendant had begun to glow softly, welcoming towards the one that had familiar magic and blood.

“Ehwaz.” The name of the rune spilled from Draco’s lips in an almost reverent tone as one finger moved to trace the figure of what appeared to be a shallow dipping M. “It means trust, faith, and companionship in Old Norse. Another translation of it is partnership.”

“You’re kind of choking me here.” Came the strained voice of Hadrian as the metal cord bit into the back of his neck and Draco’s tight grip remained unbudged by his wriggles.

“Then take it off.” Draco demanded. He didn’t let go of the necklace, but he did bring his hands closer to Hadrian to alleviate some of the pressure of the hold.

Hadrian’s hood had fallen back, his bangs and veil covered more than half of his face. His scowl was easy to see as he drew his fingers towards the back of his neck to where the clasp no doubt sat. Then he hesitated, Draco could feel the heat and intensity of his gaze on him through the strips of fabric covering both of their eyes.

“You’ll honor our deal, right? Not just going to run off?”

Draco was appalled by the insinuation, “You have my word on my family’s honor that I will keep my end of the bargain.”

If Hadrian was like the rest of the light wizarding society and knew the name that Draco carried, he probably would not have put much weight to Draco’s words. However, they seemed to be enough as he pinched the latch. With obvious, but surprising, reluctance Hadrian let the chain slide through his hands and fingers as Draco quickly drew the jewelry away and into his own possession.

Quickly Draco wrapped the chain around his own throat after he tugged his own hood down for better access. As the scale fell to sit upon his own chest, the glow of the pedant finally petered off settling and content with its new owner. The rush of familial magic smacked into Draco solidly, making him stumble as the world tilted and swayed around him.

It was cool, but not uncomfortably so, the feeling that came with it was like eating far too much and in the comfort of good people, of family. A sense of so much pleasure that it made one want to fall asleep with a smile upon their lips.

The magic in his system slowly leveled out and Draco was blinking slowly as the world came creeping back to focus around him. It made him also aware of the hands on his upper arms that Hadrian had on him to keep him upright, and how Thuban was slithering himself along the circle the hold created between the wizards, hissing in what seemed to be alarm.

“You can release me now.” Draco winced as his voice warbled as it came out, much like his knees were.

“Um, yeah, I’m thinking ‘no’. You look like you’re gonna pass out so I’m not about to let go and then have you accuse me of having a laugh when you fall on your arse.” Hadrian answered, his fingers tightening their hold to prove he had no intention of following Draco’s request. The raven probably thought Draco was far too weak at the moment for his words to be an order.

“I do not need to be coddled!” He protested as he squirmed. Draco was not used to people outside of his small circle touching him and this was only the second time that he had met Hadrian. A person that he was also more than a little suspicious of. If there wasn’t a tremor in his calves he would have hexed the other soundly for being so audacious and handsy.

There was a beat of silence between them. Then there was the tip of a tail lightly smacking against Draco’s nose, making him let out a rather indignant squeak.

“I have changed my mind on your familiar. Please remove him from my presence.” Draco grumbled, another short stint of silence as Hadrian snickered while hissing at his companion.

“I wish to sit.”

The visitor was quick to accommodate him, lowering himself as well until they were sitting in the grass. It was only then that Hadrian withdrew his touch. One of Hadrian's hands moved towards his own chest where the pendant had sat before. He seemed to catch himself and dropped the offending appendage back to his side as Thuban settled on his master's shoulders as he dared to ask.

“What was that?”

“It was ancient ancestral magicks, that’s what.” Draco answered shortly back, his strength was slowly returning to him now.

“Which means?” Hadrian pressed.

Draco summoned his wand to his hand and sent a stinging hex towards the other teenager who yelped as the spell connected. Thankfully, the other seemed to realize that the topic was not one to further investigate if he wanted to keep his skin intact.

Pawing at one of the pouches that sat at his waist, Draco finally managed to pull free the tin of ginger honey strips that his mother had packed for him. The sweet, but sharp taste, along with their cleansing effects finally roused him to complete awareness. His hand smacking Hadrian’s as he caught the other trying to dip in his fingers to snatch one of the treats for himself.

“Is this the thanks I get? I broke so many school rules, found a missing magical item, then saved you from an embarrassing faceplant and I don’t even get a snack for my troubles?” Hadrian groused, though there was a tenseness to his sitting position that showed he was ready to duck or flee if another hex was thrown his way.

Hadrian was learning, that was good.

In reward Draco let out a chuffing laugh and offered the tin, “You could at least ask first, it’s only polite.”

“I thought we already established that I have terrible manners?” Came the quip back as Hadrian took the offering, being quick as he knew that Draco could take the tin away for his attempt at being witty.

As Hadrian ate, Draco took the moment to examine the other teenager, taking in details that he might have missed from across the clearing and his haste to obtain the necklace. In the year that they had been separated, it seemed that Hadrian had changed in ways that extended past the surface of his skin. The raven seemed to have aged in those twelve months, though that was to be expected with puberty running rampant within both of their bodies. Perhaps he had grown a few centimeters in height and perhaps added a bit more lean muscle, from what physical activity could demand it, Draco did not know.

There was the way he approached and acted that spoke of a different kind of aging. Hadrian was acting more reckless in their interaction with his more crass language and physical presence and attempts. He seemed to have lost some of his fear that he held during their last meeting. There was, however, still some caution; shown by how he remained tense each time for a moment or two after he spoke, waiting for Draco’s reaction.

The amount of dark magic in Hadrian’s core had also grown since their last meeting. At the moment it was stable, but Draco suspected that soon the other’s magic would become unbalanced without taking care to cleanse himself. ....That was a disturbing thought. Did the other even know how to shed off the excess magic? If Hadrian was being truthful about his family’s abandonment of all things dark and was keeping his practicing, along with his parselmouth ability, secret, then he might not know he needed to even do so.  

Before Draco could ponder more about that, Hadrian spoke.

“I brought you the necklace like we agreed, so you have to teach me about Dark culture.”

Draco rolled his eyes, but inclined his head in acceptance, he was going to keep his word. At least to a point, “If it is knowledge that may endanger myself or those I care about, then I won’t share it.”

A frustrated frown, but stiff nod showed Hadrian’s agreement. They both knew that there was no way for them to know the other’s intentions or if the words they spoke were the truth. Everything must be seasoned with salt and the fires stroked with an acceptance level of distrust.

“So… what do you do for fun?”

Of all the questions that Hadrian could ask, that was not the first one that Draco imagined that he would be asked. Nor was it the manner Hadrian using the word you instead of you all or the Dark . Draco felt his head starting to cock, but smothered the action before it could be completed. It was undignified, but more importantly it was an nonverbal cue that was too easy to read. It spoke too much about his feelings, Draco and others of the Dark had grown up learning when to censor themselves in multiple ways to keep their secrets.

“Are you asking about me, or?”

“Well, umm.” Hadrian stopped and seemed to flounder for a moment before answering, “Both, I mean you probably have the same hobbies as others, right?”

Draco scoffed softly, as if he considered himself average by any means of the word. Still he supposed that Hadrian’s reasoning was sound. Rolling his shoulders back and playing with the length of larch between the fingers of his right hand, Draco spoke, his words rather slow as he thought over his answer, “Well, I spend much of my time reading and furthering my potions experience.”

“Is that your favorite subject?” Hadrian prompted, looking strangely eager, his explanation quickly showing why after Draco nodded. “My father, he’s great, no amazing at them. We have a greenhouse and he knows how to prepare each ingredient in there. He was named the second youngest potion master in wizarding Europe’s history. He’s taught me himself since I was little. That is, ya know, until I went to Hogwarts.”

“But, it’s not really my favorite, that’s Defence Against the…” Hadrian swallowed audibly as he took in the fact that Draco had stopped the twirling of his wand and instead held it firmly between his fingers.

“Let me explain?”

“Oh do go on, I’m interested in how you justify liking the class that systematically educates students into fighting against people and creatures of our ilk.” Draco drawled, tone uncaring, but there was a sharpness to his smile.

“It’s the only time that I get any picture of what the Dark may use in terms of spells, sure only the counterspells or what the defenses against them may be. But it’s still something . Also dueling is incredible.” Hadrian was obviously desperate to prove his case, but all it did was fan the flames of Draco’s anger.

“How do you enjoy a class where you listen to hate being spat towards so many races? How do you delight in a subject dedicated to spreading the resentment that has already been smoldering for centuries and advocates the hunts for us who only want to live our lives in peace?!” Draco had gotten to his feet now, he couldn’t sit still, he paced in circles and he could feel Hadrian watching him warily.

“That’s not how Remus teaches it.”

“Perhaps not in an obvious way, but that is the goal of that class. Continuing the festering wound on magical society that is racism on shades of magic.” Draco growled back, he had heard many tales from those of older generations of how when they were students that they would often feel physically ill during the Defense Against the Dark Arts classes as professors would go into grizzly detail of how to hunt their kind and boast of how Aurors had ferreted out dark users in the past and their supposed crimes , along with their fates.

“That’s not, Remus!” Hadrian’s shout startled Draco and he almost fired a curse at the raven on instinct, but managed to stay his hand as he watched Hadrian rake a hand through his already messy dark hair in frustration.

“And how are you so certain, Hadrian?”

“Because,” He took a breath, it was obvious that he wasn’t used to saying what was coming aloud, “He’s a werewolf.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s true, though the only ones that know are myself, my family, and Dumbledore.” Hadrian explained, though he still seemed to hold a sense of shame in the fact that he was revealing such a secret. “Remus has been a family friend since before I was even born, he helped to raise me. He doesn’t like me seeing his wolf form, but I have. With the wolfsbane potion, he’s not a danger to anyone!”

There was a pained grimace on Hadrian’s face that couldn’t be faked as he mumbled under his breath, Draco hearing words he was probably not meant to, “Though he still thinks otherwise.”

His volume rose once more as Hadrian continued, “During full moons he stays in either his own or special chambers in the castle, though he’s almostly completely aware of himself during his transformations now. He teaches us how to defend ourselves in class, but he doesn’t spout hatred or racism. He’s been tutoring me and furthering my dueling skills since… ever. I trust him with my life, I love him.”

“Fine.”

“Fine?” Hadrian questioned and Draco huffed as he flicked his fingers in the air, as if attempting to literally brush off the taxing conversation.

“In this I believe you, let’s leave it at that.” He didn’t want to start a fight with Hadrian particularly when it was a matter that neither of them could do anything about. Draco could hope that this lupin professor was the exception that Hadrian claimed him to be. But Draco wasn’t going to hold his breath, instead moving back to their previous topic.

“The hobbies we have are varied, honestly resources are not lacking with magic at our disposal. Art in all its forms be it in written, played, drawn, or spoken. Games to challenge the mind such as chess, Backgammon, Skittles, gobstones, versions of Exploding Sap, Draught, and bartering games. We care for our magical creatures and crops. Dueling is a favorite pastime.” Draco listed off smirking at the look of wonderment that had crossed the other’s face.

Hadrian seemed to realize his slack jawed appearance and coughed awkwardly into his hand before speaking, “Umm wicked.”

“Wicked? What is wicked?” Draco felt his brows pinch as he tried to figure out what immoral behavior had to do with anything that they were speaking about. It seemed rather random if he didn’t intend to point out that he found the hobbies distasteful.

“No, no, wicked means the same thing as, ya know, banging.” Hadrian chuckled out and Draco became only more confused.

“What is banging? You are not holding anything.”

Hadrian groaned into his hands, though there was still that irritating smile on his face, Draco felt himself bristling feeling that the other was having a laugh at his expense.

“Banging, smashing, wicked, they mean amazing or interesting. You can use it to describe a person, like ‘That person is banging’, which means to say they are attractive? Banging can also mean that two people are having their ‘wicked way’ with someone?” the raven made a crude gesture with his hands and his cheeks reddened.

For a few moments, Draco didn’t know what to say as his mind tried to process all that Hadrian had said and their implications. Finally he sneered, “So the wizarding world has digressed into butchering the English language.”

Hadrian barked out a laugh, snorting as he tried to regain his composure but was still snickering from time to time, “Sure, whatever you say ‘old man’.”

When Hadrian beamed as he successfully blocked the spell that had been sent his way, Draco hoped that the raven could sense him rolling his eyes because the veil was still covering them. Still he was very interested by what the other teenager said next as he gestured towards the two brooms that sat on the ground just a short distance away. They had been discarded when Hadrian had prevented Draco from collapsing after he fully took the heirloom into his possession.

“Speaking of hobbies, I believe that we had an agreement about you being my spell tutor.”

“I remember I had a stipulation for that as well.” Draco countered, trying to withhold the temptation to run over to the brooms like a small child. Telling some things about himself and his culture was one thing, but to actually teach the dark spells they coveted was an entirely different beast.

“You said that you would teach me if I understood what I was asking you to do and how learning spells might change my core.” Hadrian spoke the words slowly, one hand rising to lay over the center of his chest like he could feel his core just beneath the layers of fabric and the surface of his skin. Perhaps he could.

“I want to learn, I’ve always been curious and I don’t think I’m a person who can understand something unless I do it myself.” Hadrian frowned down at the ground while Thuban shifted on his shoulders, perhaps in a show of solidarity or to ground his master. “Doing the spells by my own hand is the only way.”

“I’ve been doing my best to listen when I cast any spell now, the difference it makes… It’s incredible.” Hadrian’s tone had taken a far off tone as he summoned his own wand into his hand, just staring at it before casting the will o’ wisp spell. Draco admitted, at least to himself, that the steadily glowing ball of purple flame was a vast improvement from Hadrian’s last attempt the year before.

“I can feel, hear, so much around me, far more than before. It’s like I was wearing earmuffs before and now,” Hadrian cast the spell again with a grin, pleased that the next flame was just as strong as the first, “I sense my magic, the magic that’s everywhere, it’s constantly shifting. Breathing, I guess, like it’s-”

“Alive.” Draco supplied and Hadrian’s head jerked, showing that he was refocused and intune with reality once more.   

“I’ll teach you.”

X Will O Wisp X


 

Notes:

From my understanding of games: Wizarding Skittles is a game that is a mixture of marbles and chess in strategy to knock out your opponent’s pieces. Draught is basically chess, but the pieces can only move diagonally, it’s also played on a floating black and white checkered board.

M(the rune): Phoneme: E (long and/or short).
In proto-Germanic: Ehwaz means, “horse.”
Old Norse: Ehwaz means trust, faith , companionship.
Futhark alphabet: Ehwaz represents process, advancement and movement.
In Harry Potter canon verse: Ehwza means partnership
All three of these translations hold value to the backstory of the Malfoy crest/rune.
Ehwaz Reversed or Merkstave : This is not a negative rune. It means a change is perhaps craved. Feeling restless or confined in a situation. Reckless haste, disharmony, mistrust, betrayal.

Chapter Text

“I’ll teach you.”

“Y-You will?” Harry blinked, he hadn’t expected Draco to agree so readily. He had thought that he would have to barter and beg on his knees to get the pale haired teenager to give in. The white toothed smile only answered him before Draco started to cast the will o wisp spell himself and Harry hurried to copy him, listening to what was around him and feeling the magic flowing cooly from his center out towards the very tips of his fingers then out of the tip of holly.

Harry could hear the crickets chirping just out of sight, mosquitoes whizzing by lazily, cicadas trilling in the distance, the clicks of bats in the search of food, rustling of leaves, and the sound of other creatures shifting through the forest hidden from view by the darkness the night and canopy provided. There was the wind sliding over the skin of his neck, face, and hands, it also tugged at the billowing cloak he wore. The weight of the wand in his hand and Thuban across his shoulders. The feel of cool scales as his familiar’s tail tip moved over his neck and Thuban’s heart pulsing into his skin echoing his own heart’s beat.

The incantation from two pairs of lips graced the ears.

His and Draco’s.

Harry knew that his smile was no doubt dopey, but he didn’t give a shite. He didn’t even mind the fact that the blond gave him a sharp dig into his side with his elbow, only continuing to grin as he turned his gaze towards Draco in silent question. There was a slight quirk to Draco’s lips in answer before the dark wizard leaped to the side in a graceful half bow, wand out to the side while the unoccupied hand slid over his heart.

Then Draco was moving, first to the left a bow, then a twist and leap to the right. Another spin backwards and bow, the blond was gracefully moving himself about the entirety of the clearing. He was dancing, at the same time casting, purple balls of fire leaving his wand as he elegantly weaved about. The cloak he wore caught the breeze and instead of looking bulking or encumbering, it moved and swayed like a living weightless shadow creating something akin to an after image of each step Draco took as it flared a second after he did.

Harry was staring and honestly, he felt no shame in doing so. He had seen Draco dance before, but this was different. This was not only dancing, but casting.

No. His eyes widened, though it couldn’t be seen behind his veil as he looked upon Draco’s movement with a different viewpoint.

“You’re dueling.”  

Draco stopped short, but it somehow still looked graceful, then he turned on his heel so that he could face Harry while giving a slow clap. It would have been condescending if not for the pleased smile that was on Draco’s lips

“Well done, from your lack of appreciation for the arts of dance and song last year I thought it would take far longer for you to put the pieces together. This shall be a culture and tradition lesson for you.” At Harry’s scowl at his words, Draco looked ever more smug.

“Don’t look so chuffed, it can’t be that hard.” Harry grumbled before giving the traditional bow before dueling, it felt a little silly to do it to the open air and not an opponent, but he pushed the embarrassment down. After all, he did have an audience and he knew that Draco would be as brutal about his footwork as he had been about his ability to cast dark spells. Despite his determination and knowing how to perform the footwork of how to stay on his toes for easy turns and how to keep his center of balance, Harry still found himself stumbling all over the place as he tripped on uneven ground and stepped either far too quickly or too slow.

His heel turned before the rest of his body swung too far in that direction, overcompensating and sending him sprawling into the grass.

Thuban was hissing with laughter despite almost being crushed by his master’s clumsiness. However, the serpent did seem to decide it was safer to find a new perch and slithered across the clearing, up Draco’s leg, and then perched himself upon the blond’s shoulder, giving a small, pleased hiss when Draco glanced at him but didn’t seem to mind his passenger.

“Dreadful, I feel that my mother and her mother would have been personally offended at that display.” Draco mocked while running a finger under Thuban’s head.

“Okay, so it’s more difficult than I thought.” Harry grumbled as he picked himself up and brushed the grass off. He was certain that he wouldn’t be able to pick up his dignity, that had been lost in the undergrowth and confirmed by Draco’s snickering.

“Obviously, let me guess, you’ve only practiced dueling on relatively flat surfaces?”

“Well, yeah, we practice inside the classroom or the dueling chamber.” he answered, before groaning as he rubbed at his forehead, already knowing what Draco was trying to point out. “It’s not very practical, is it? There’s a large chance that a real fight will occur in a place with, literally, unfamiliar ground.”

“Now you are thinking like a child of the night.” Draco praised and Harry tried to keep himself from preening too much. He wanted to understand the dark, but to be one of them? His chest tightened uncomfortably and his fingers moved over to where his scar was hidden under two layers, his bangs and the veil. He could never truly be one of them. The person that Draco enjoyed was not Harry James Potter the Boy-Who-lived, but Hadrian the hopeless-stubborn-mystery trying to induct himself into the ways of his ancestors.

“This time of peace,” the word was said with a disdain that startled Harry and drew his eyes to the dark wizard that was scowling out into the forest. “It has softened the light like pigs for the slaughter. Yet, we still hide who and what we are. Wolves hiding in fear from prey.”

“Draco.” Harry’s voice was strained, rightly disconcerted by the thoughts that were apparently being turned over in the other’s head.

A long slow breath passed out of Draco’s lips before he seemed to gather himself once more, “My apologies, those words must be very foreign and worrying for you. They are, as my godfather often says, ‘the thoughts of hot-headed, hormonal dullards that do not appreciate what they have and will lose everything in their attempt for more. We have lost too much and finally learned that there is no peace or glory to be found in fighting a forever doomed battle’.”

“I know this.” Draco’s voice had become much softer as he spoke these last words, his head bowing slightly as he spoke with clear sadness.

Harry swallowed hard, but said nothing, there was no appropriate response to all that, was there? He couldn’t see out of Draco’s eyes, couldn’t imagine the life that he had lived. He knew far too little still about it all to feel pity, but at the same time he knew enough to prevent him from holding only hatred towards the dark.

Draco seemed to see something in his expression as he pause when he glanced his way. Harry watched as Draco drew his lower lip between his teeth and was obviously debating what to do. Then the long haired teenager was pulling something from the pouches on his belt while taking slow steps back towards Harry. When he got close enough, it was revealed that the item was a small leatherbound book and Harry could feel magic rolling off of it in waves.

“We keep wrong-footing each other, I share the blame. My thoughts, emotions, and words are too loose and sporadic with so much magic in my system, it’s rather unbecoming I know.” Draco explained, “Let’s continue our little lesson, hm? Maybe I can make something respectable out of you with some aid.”

“Aid?” Harry asked, more than eager to move on from the previous mood and conversation. Indeed, Draco was acting stranger than he had in the years he had been observing him. From what the other had said, magic was the cause. Excess magic, was that possible? Harry had never heard of such a thing. Before he had met Draco he had thought that the magic that existed in each of their bodies and that inside of magical creatures, plants, and items was all that there was. Now though, he was of a very different opinion as Draco taught him how to listen and feel for the magic that thrived and shifted around him.

Draco nodded, “My cousin gave this to me, enchanted it himself. The song was composed and performed by a different cousin for her coming of age.” Long pale fingers flipped through the book before coming to rest on a page, which he then tapped with his wand and to Harry’s amazement, music drifted into the clearing. Flutes, drums, harps, guitars, lutes, and voices all flowed out of what seemed to be an unassuming piece of parchment as Draco left the book open on the ground before coming to a stop before Harry.

There was a young woman’s voice that sang above all the others coming from the book and Harry stamped down the idea that it was some evil spell that sealed her very soul and essence into the book to be trapped for eternity… He had to have been reading too many of Hermione’s strange young adult novels snappis that she seemed to be determined to read to keep up with the modern culture, or at least the literature sphere, of the muggles her age.

A snap of thin fingers in front of his face dragged Harry back to the present and Draco was frowning at him as he muttered, “Your mind drifted to a place that I could not follow, I would suggest against that and focus . Despite our agreement I am still on a tight schedule I will not change for you.”

Harry opened his mouth, only to be cut off as Draco ordered, “Hands in mine now, Hadrian. I will teach you scirto duellum .”

For a moment Harry just let himself feel pride for his massively improved Latin for the fact that he quickly understood the meaning of Draco’s words as ‘dance dueling’. Then trepidation wormed its way into him as he looked down at the pale hands held at mid chest level with palms revealed expectantly. Harry had touched Draco before, without the dark wizard’s permission to keep him from falling when he was overwhelmed by familial magicks .

This was different however, this was an extension of trust that couldn’t be mistaken.

Forcing himself to remain cool, Harry laid his hands atop Draco’s, both of their fingers tightened slowly until they had a firm, but comfortable grip on each other that would not easily be broken.

“For now, you have to consent to following my lead.” Draco teased, amusement tugging at his lips as he took a step back, forcing Harry to follow him.

“Like I haven’t been doing that all this time anyway.” Harry couldn’t help but grumble back, his eyes on the ground to make sure he wasn’t about to step on any toes. As a result he missed the confused tilt of Draco’s head.

The steps were simple enough, they were ones that had long been ingrained into Harry from his sessions with both Sirius and Remus over the many years on dueling form. Only now was he realizing that the bows that Draco had been doing earlier were merely graceful ducks that were meant to look effortless and keep the flow of his movements. ‘To keep the flow of both magic and focus that battle required if one was to win’, Draco explained, obviously quoting his own teachers.

“The more unbothered you seem, the more aggravated and in turn sloppy, your opponent will become.” Draco explained as he spun, showing how to balance his weight with the turn to prevent a fall despite the uneven terrain. Harry followed his spin perfectly, making both teenagers grin and Thuban to hiss his approval from Draco’s shoulders.

First they focused on just getting Harry used to stepping and prancing about the natural flooring, making him used to how to correct his posture and balance whenever he stepped into a dip or raised patch in the earth. The next step, was murmured into Harry’s ear, though Draco had to lift himself slightly on his toes to do so as he kept his grip firm on the raven, “Now, I want you to listen while we move.”

Harry gulped as he felt Draco’s breath against the side of his face and ear, until that moment he had forgotten just how close they had gradually come with their dancing. At first they had almost been a full arm’s length apart, now though, they were practically chest to chest with their cloaks constantly brushing against each other’s and intertwining together.

He knew what Draco meant, that he needed to listen as he did when casting. To remain connected to the natural world around them  and have it work with them rather than against them or disregarding it. Those had been Draco’s words a year ago, still Harry was disappointed that he still could not hear magic like the blond claimed to.

Still Harry obeyed, opening his ears and still looking for sounds he recognized, insects, leaves, wind, animals, and the sound of their boots moving across the grass. Then he caught the sound of Draco’s slightly elevated breaths echoing his own, as they continued to step around the clearing.

Then Harry realized that breathing was not the only thing that Draco was doing, he had begun to sing, voice mixing pleasantly with that of the girl’s still resonating out of the book on what seemed to be a constant repeat with the instruments that kept time with their movements.

Faun - Federkleid (English translation) plumage

“Across the heath, in the early morning glow. Birds pass on by, where may they be tomorrow?” The tone was subdued and questioning, perfectly reasonable for someone wondering what awaited them in the world around them, “I follow the sizzling of the wings into the somber moor. Age-old songs resound from the haze.”

Then the song took a far more joyous note, inviting and gleefully free, “Come and fly away with us. Let the wind carry you far away from this place. Come and fly as high as you can.”

Draco led them into a turn and Harry just managed to keep his feet under him as he was enraptured by the song, but struggling to keep connected to everything around him as Draco continued to sing with the tome. “Let us chase the skies. In our dance.”

“Silken Haze, so chilly, brushing my skin. Further and further, where shall I find my yearning's goal?” The song had becoming musing once more, before determination was a flame alit with the beat picking up once more and making the teenagers’ steps become faster. “I close my eyes and grow a plumage. I feel the wind already and spread my wings to fly.”

Harry knew that the chorus was coming and tried to join Draco by murmuring the words under his breath, unsure if they were the right ones until they were already halfway out of his mouth. “Come and fly away with us. Let the wind carry you far away from this place. Come and fly as high as you can.”

“Let us chase the skies. In our dance.” Draco wasn’t smiling, but there was relaxed and pleased air about him as they sung the phrase together before Harry bowed out to let Draco sing along with the book once more.

He did so while summoning his wand to his hand once more, the length of larch fitting itself between their hands as they stayed together and Draco motioned for Harry to do the same with his length of holly. Both could feel the thrum of magic moving between them and into their respective wands as they danced.

“The heavens in you, how can I know them, can I see them? In flight we dance like the stars, moving on their paths.” In the starlight that broke through the canopy of leaves, Harry felt that he really could liken Draco to one of the celestial bodies that hovered so far above them. His pale hair appeared more silver in the dim light and skin had an almost eternal glow in the violet flames that drifted about them. Harry knew what laid under Draco’s veil, eyes that had the glint of stars in their silver color and life.

“Come and fly away with us. Let the wind carry you far away from this place.” Harry rejoined the song as they both bowed and turned before their hands came together again and leaped to the right. “Come and fly as high as you can. Let us chase the skies. In our dance.”

They were both panting as the song, at least for them, came to an end.

“That magic moving between you, it’s delicciouss.” Thuban hissed, his whole body twitching as it was obvious that the familiar had been affected by the exchange as well. Draco frowned at the sound, looking concerned at the adder and running a hand down the lower portion of tail that was hanging off his shoulder and down his front in a soothing gesture. The dark wizard seemed to believe that the serpent was upset by all the movement, Harry too busy getting his breath back to correct that assumption.

“Thiss ssunsspot morssel that ssmellss of ginger, I do like him.” Thuban continued, relishing in the attention that Draco gave him as Harry hissed back at him, “Ssunsspot? Iss that ssome kind of complement in ssnake? Morssel issn’t exactly an appealing word, humanss don’t commonly condone cannibalissm.”

“A sspot in the ssun iss a wonderful place, of course it’ss a good thing!” The adder answered back, tone growing annoyed that his two-legged master couldn’t understand such simple logic. Then he was musing, tip of his tail wrapping around one of the dark wizard’s fingers. Though I guesss I could call him a sssnow glare asss well, Your mate doessn’t have the typical warmth that another might have. He’ss dangerouss, sstrong, and unpredictable, a fine thing.”

“M-Mate?! Thuban, no!” Harry let out a choked sound that now had Draco’s head snapping towards him with obvious alarm.

“Should I begin to fear for my safety? Will he blame me if you suddenly cease to function like a normal person?” Draco asked, mind apparently already at work on how to possibly remove the serpent from himself safely and quickly. The bite from Thuban wasn’t deadly, but it would still be painful and have side effects that would haunt him for hours and at the most a few days.  

“I’m fine,” Harry gritted out while glaring at his scale covered friend who was hissing out a huffy laugh, “It was just a misunderstanding that we will be discussing, later, later.”

He should have known better, Thuban loved to poke fun at his master once he learned that humans, Harry included, finally reached breeding age about now.

“So, what exactly was that song, if you said that songs were how you tell stories and ideas?” Harry ventured, summoning the canteen he had packed to wet his suddenly dry throat and cool the strange heat he felt in his face.

Draco hummed softly while taking a ginger strip from the tin he had pulled out once more starting to relax as whatever crisis that was developing between master and familiar was being pushed to the side for now. “She titled the song “Plumage”, she’s right strange, that one. Decided that actual feathers and bird features would help in her performance. I’m not saying she was wrong in that, but it was a rather shocking development for many watching.”

“I suppose she was talking about the uncertainty that she felt for what the future held for her, but was assured in her own abilities to escape, rise above what the fates had given her, and the support she had from family and coven. Her trying to tempt the rest of us into following a similar path and pointing out that it might not be so different from our current one.” Draco shook his head and waved a hand dismissively. “If that was her intention then she is wrong, but songs of that nature are always up for others to interpret however they please.”

“I see,” Harry actually could understand the dancing and songs’ importance in both practicality for telling stories without the danger of a written account being found or used against them. It was a source of entertainment, a challenge for the youth against both their friends and adults alike to follow both athletically and intellectually. It taught dueling in a fun, but functional way that echoed real-life situations. Still Harry felt far from graceful compared to Draco despite his years of both formal waltzing and dueling lessons.

The way that Draco moved was natural and flowing with his surroundings, adapting rather than stamping his way through, which was probably how Harry had first looked before losing his inhibitions through repetition of the steps while listening to Draco’s singing and the magic thrumming through their bodies as they moved together.

“I assume that it should be easy enough for you to practice scirto duellum, I’m interested to see if you can manage to have more grace than a bumbling newborn graphook.” Draco mused, rolling his shoulders to feel the stretch and burn that the dance had wrought on his muscles.

“Pretty sure my friends would be willing to take a crack at it themselves and my teachers would see it as a good challenge to incorporate I think.” Harry agreed, noticing the crease of Draco’s frown he added, “I won’t give any hint to where the idea came from, but if it can make my friends better duelers so they can defend themselves…”

Draco nodded, “Your reasoning lies in your heart, but know that you might be threatening those I care for in your actions.” He leaned forward, words a dark promise as the wand he held leveled with Harry’s chest, “Do not doubt that I will extract my revenge if that were ever to happen.”

Harry didn’t and his hasty nod confirmed that, Draco’s veiled stare seemed to pick him apart for a few more moment before he holstered his wand once more. Harry recognized the wood from which it was made from Master Ollivander’s many lessons when he was younger and they continued whenever the wandmaker visited. He wondered what core laid hidden inside that sung so contently with Draco’s magic.

“Now then, you are a little more cultured. It’s my turn now to reap a boon from our deal.” Draco announced while strutting towards where the two brooms laid in the grass. Once he got there however, he seemed at quite the loss of what to do next. His head turning towards the lengths of wood and bristles, then back to Harry continually, lower lip caught in his teeth as he seemed to be trying to understand how they worked.

It was pretty adorable, Harry thought, Draco was trying to appear aloof and uninterested, but underneath the mask and veil he was like a young child with a new toy.

A potentially dangerous, but oh so tempting toy.

Harry was very eager to see what Draco looked like on a broom himself and quickly joined him. He picked up his Nimbus 2000 first, this would be the one that he would let Draco ride as it wasn’t nearly as fast as the Firebolt so Harry could catch him on his broom if something went amiss.

“This is my Nimbus 2000, I’ve had this broom for four years now, its served me well and I played my first game of Quidditch at Hogwarts on it. I’m a seeker, the one that flies around looking for the little golden flying ball, ya know?” Harry explained while gripping Draco’s elbow to adjust where he was standing next to the broom so he could properly summon it to his hand.

Harry then moved to copy the other position next to his own broom in front of Draco, “Firebolt, currently the newest and fastest broom on the market, I received it for Christmas last year. It can go from zero to one hundred and fifty miles per hour in only ten seconds. The Nimbus is made from mahogany, while the Firebolt’s handle is made from ebony. The twigs are made from hazel which provides more precision when turning; perfect for my position. The stirrups and the binder on the tail is goblin iron-work, the first time that it’s ever been included in brooms. It’s-”

“Langlock.”

Harry let out a muffled, slightly pained yelp as his tongue suddenly attached itself to the roof of his mouth, cutting off his gushing. Eyes wide he stared at Draco who was looking decidedly unimpressed as he tapped his wand against his arms which he had crossed over his chest.

“I wish to learn how to ride a broom, not listen to you prattle on the history of each design that has ever come into existence.”

Harry growled, though Draco only raised a single brow over his veil in answer as he continued to speak, “Do you even need your words to teach me? I think I quite like how you are now.”

A crude hand gesture was what he received before Harry pointedly motioned to his lips and then the brooms, clearly saying that he indeed needed to speak if Draco was going to learn. With a put upon sigh Draco lifted the jinx.

Tongue feeling raw and tender, Harry winced as he uttered a few choice words under his breath to make sure that he could indeed talk unhindered. He threw a glare at the dark wizard, but knew better than to say anything more. That jinx was painful and he wasn’t looking for a repeat lesson in it… at least at the moment. Putting his hand out to his side and over the handle of his broom, Harry explained, “First you have to learn how to call the broom to your hand, it seems simple, but it takes some people many tries to do it.”

Hermione’s broom rolling around on the grass and refusing to lift itself into her grasp flashed through his mind before he spoke a clear command. “Up.”

The length of elder snapped up into Harry’s hand quickly and without hesitation, letting his fingers wrap around it before he gestured for Draco to give it a try.

“Seriously? You just order it?” Draco asked, frowning distrustfully down at the broom laying innocently by his feet. “I know that brooms are not sentient magical objects, they are charmed to follow and sense the desires of their rider, but still…”

“Scared?” Harry teased, making Draco’s head snap back up towards him with a snarl on his lips.

“I am not yellow-hearted, merely cautious and wanting to understand how things work before putting my life on the line.” Draco snapped back while placing his hand to rest above where the Nimbus sat.

“To quote two good friends of mine.” Harry grinned as he did his best Fred and George impersonation while leaning on his broom. “‘Where’s the fun in that?’ ‘The greatest discoveries often come from the unexpected not planned.’.”

Draco scoffed as he stretched his fingers in the open air, “They sound like typical foolhardy Gryffindors. Up!”

The Nimbus rose a few feet off the ground at the order, before slowly drifting back down to the earth before it finished its journey to Draco’s hand. His head turned towards Harry once more and while he appeared to be composed, Harry could practically taste the dismay that rolled off the other teenager. It was only then that Harry realized how important that this might be for him. Draco said that his kind never rode brooms because of the tight brush, but broomsticks had long been in the history of magic. Reclaiming something that the dark’s youth had lost the opportunity to enjoy or master was a fevered hope that Draco seemed to believe was impossible by his early failure.

“Relax. Just give it another try, I told you, not everyone gets it in one go.”  

The huff that Draco gave clearly told Harry that he thought that he should , the reason why, Harry didn’t have the slightest clue. He decided against asking, instead watching as Draco took a calming breath before commanding once more, voice firm and determined.

“Up.”

The broom rose into Draco’s hand this time and the blond looked at him with a mixture of surprise and pleasure. Harry clapped his hands, not in a condescending way, he made sure his smile portrayed that. As Draco had told him before, he didn’t take well to mockery and it would be wise to make sure that that was as far from what Harry was trying to convey as possible.

Harry convinced Draco, with difficulty, to place the broom back down on the ground and then summon it again a few more times. It rose up to his hand flawlessly each time after that and could soon do it nonverbally, he could tell that Draco was impatient to begin the next step. Mounting and hovering, these surprisingly came faster than the previous, though Harry had to correct the placement of Draco’s hand on the handle several times.

“Why does it matter where or how I hold it?” Draco complained after the fifth time that Harry caught his hands change in position during their very slow, and low to the ground laps around the clearing. The hems of their long cloaks almost brushing the blades of grass.

“Oh I don’t know. To have a better grip and balance so you don’t get flung off while a hundred feet off the ground and moving as fast as a hippogriff?” Harry answered sarcastically, though he did feel a little bad as a moment later the already white knuckled grip that Draco had on his poor Nimbus because even paler.

Fumbling for something to reassure the other, Harry pointed out something that he was indeed impressed by, “You’re keeping it steady while floating, that usually takes a bit of practice.

“I’m not exactly used to riding upon something so narrow. In my mind it should not be possible for such a thin length to support my weight without snapping, or for it to be comfortable to sit on.” Draco admitted, head cocking in Harry’s direction when the other boy made a strangled sound. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine, brilliant, nothing wrong here.” Harry’s voice was tight and his cheeks were flaming he knew. Oh he cursed Fred and George in his head repeatedly for the corruption of his mind to go down a path that he really shouldn’t. What Draco had said was just an innocent observation, nothing dirty about the dark wizard saying that he was used to riding something thicker. Nope.

It wasn’t fair to blame only the twins, Harry’s eyes and ears had seen and heard far too much in the halls and the common room as the sky grew darker outside. Really, the upper years should make use of the broom closets more than they were. For everyone’s sakes, particularly Hermione’s as the girl had been traumatized three too many times when wandering into darker corners of the library.

Harry dragged his mind back to the present and away from images of bushy hair surrounding a far too big, sputtering face surrounded by cackling gingers. He was greeted with the sight of Draco giving him a look with pale pink lips that seemed to be fighting the urge to quirk upwards.

While he doubted that Draco knew the implications that he had made, Harry decided that he might as well punish him anyway for boggling his mind with confusing thoughts. He veered his firebolt a distance away from Draco, leaving the blond to drift for the first time without him by his side.

To his credit, Draco didn’t make a noise to show his discomfort at being left on his own, though the way he hunched closer to the broom and his pursing lips showed his distress at being on his own on a potential death bringer.

“Go on, take her for a spin on your own around the clearing.” Harry urged, trying to ignore the heat of Draco’s hidden glare. Learn by doing, right? It took a few minutes of prompting before the other teenager was flying with growing confidence around the clearing, though he still stayed relatively close to the ground. Harry drifted higher himself in silent challenge that Draco eventually rose to meet.

Draco really was doing better than most on their first time on a broom, a natural, but still didn’t have the confidence nor experience to do anything amazing like barrel rolls or knut tight turns. Probably without his own notice, Draco was starting to fly with only one hand on the handle, which definitely got Harry’s attention.

He would be a good quidditch player, probably would have already been on a Hogwarts house team if he had been attending and had more time on a broom from an early age.

“I think you could be a good Seeker or Chaser.” Harry wasn’t sure which one would suit Draco better. A Seeker was one that was expected to act independently and was mostly separated from the rest of the team. A Chaser worked in tight formations with others, along with holding trust in the other Chasers and command of the entire pitch to aim the quaffle through the hoops. On the team, Seekers were usually the lightest and fastest fliers, they needed both a sharp eye and the ability to fly one or no handed.

Harry had the feeling that if he suggested that Draco take both of his hands from the broom he would get something far more powerful than a stinging hex thrown at him.

Another time perhaps. Next year, maybe Harry could bring one of his golden snitches for Draco to practice with.

“As much as I appreciate the sentiment, it’s an unnecessary deduction,” Draco answered as he managed as reasonably tight turn before turning the broom towards Harry, “I will never be able to play a game of quidditch, two people do not make teams and obviously we aren’t in the position to invite others to join us.”

No, they weren’t, Harry realized and he felt his face heat with shame for forgetting where and who they both were. Or who they thought each other to be. Draco would never leave the forest for his own safety and it was too tight inside of it to play such a game. Harry wasn’t exactly eager to meet any of Draco’s companions either. A flash of green and the careless way that Blaise had cast the killing curse was something that Harry still had a hard time wrapping his head around.

“Right. Sorry,” Harry muttered under his breath, as Draco came to a stop beside him. The mood had shifted and while the dark wizard didn’t outwardly seem bothered, he made a motion that they should both land. When feet were safely on the ground once more and the brooms propped against a tree, Draco spoke while drawing his wand.

“I suppose it is your turn once more, I will teach you a few spells.”

Both eagerness and fear tingled like icy water down Harry’s spine at the words, he had asked for this. That was true, but now faced with the idea of learning and using spells that Deatheaters no doubt did; he felt anxious, wondered if he would still be able to look into the eyes of his friends and family once he returned home. In the end he would have to, because there was no way in hell that Harry was stopping now.

The length of holly fell comfortably into his hand as Draco nodded at the sight.

“Shall we begin then? I’d like to start with one of the most important spells in our arsenal. Given your situation, it’ll be very useful.” Draco moved his wand in check mark, then zigzagging motion through the air like he was trying to clean a smudge from a plane of glass, finally it ended in a loop that incomposed any area that the wand’s previous movements included. Harry repeated this, eyes narrowing behind cloth as he tried to copy each nuance of Draco’s wand work.

Draco made him repeat the motion more than twenty times as he watched with the command to listen . Apparently mastering this spell was just as important as Draco alluded with his determination to have Harry perfect it.

“Now, Hadrian, the incantation. S’effacer.” Draco cast the spell and for a moment Harry felt disorientation as it felt as if someone had placed their hands over both his eyes and ears, even his tongue felt dry for a moment.

When he blinked back into awareness he was met with… Nothing? The clearing seemed the same as it was before, except for more empty. Disconcertingly so, the trees, grass, broken twigs, they were all still there, but it felt more barren.

That and the absence of Draco made him fear that he had been ditched.

“Hadrian.”

Harry whirled around with a yelp as the voice came from behind him, mouth hanging open he gestured from where he knew Draco had been standing before the spell and where he was now. “Wha-?”

S’effacer. It means fade, wear away, or erase. It makes the residual energy that spells create and the magical signitature that one carries, including what core they have, disappear. You can’t find any traces of the castor’s identifying characteristics. Imagine wiping the fingerprints from a mirror. It disorientates any person or creature caught within the area of the spell as well for a few seconds that will allow for an escape.” Draco explained and Harry could see exactly why he wanted Harry to learn this particular spell.

The other teenager didn’t want Harry discovered by others and then leading them all back to the forest, him, and the coven he belonged to.

It was practical. He had to ask though, curiosity getting the better of him despite knowing that it would raise Draco’s suspicions. “There’s no counter to this charm, is there?”

“No.” Draco’s answer was stiff and the tightness in his jaw told Harry not to press. Instead Harry went along a different line of questioning, why was this spell considered dark? The answer was multilayered, for one the only people who had use of such a spell were those that had something to hide, thieves, criminals, and the like. There was also the fact that the spell was essentially, erasing the essence of magic in the air. Something that was not done without a cost.

Draco gestured to the fact that there were a few dead patches of grass that Harry had not noticed before. “It is not a spell to be used unless absolutely necessary. Magic exist all around us, to remove it creates fractures in the natural world. If done in the presence of creatures with weak or short life cycles, it might result in their death as a small amount of magic might accidentally be pushed out of their own forms.”

“If there is nothing organic or alive present, then it may cause the weakening in the foundations, such as decaying wood or stone in structures. It can be dangerous, it can even rebound on the castor, leaving one exhausted.” Draco explained while moving to a tree and carefully severing a small branch full of healthy leaves and carrying it back over to Harry.

“But it can be necessary.” Harry affirmed, as he took the offered branch in his left hand, wand in the right.

“Indeed, when the choice is literally life and death. This is what may await you by learning our ways, Hadrian. Death by your fellows for trying to understand what they so fear as different and dark.” Draco words were slow, there was a hunch to his shoulders like he was subconsciously trying to protect himself from the threats that he pointed out.

Breath suddenly seemed to come much harder for Harry as he realized what Draco said was all too true. The Ministry wouldn’t care for what reason Harry was trying to study dark magic. Memories of the disgust, fear, and anger his friends had shown last year in the train car and then the shedding room came to mind as well. If he continued on this path, he really was throwing his lot in with those of the dark. He would face the same punishments.

The hand that held the holly was trembling slightly, yet still Harry forced himself to cast, “S’effacer!”

Briefly, it felt like his whole body had gone numb, the pins and needles sensation one got when their foot fell asleep spread across his entire body for a few moments as the charm did its work. There was a creaking sound to his left and a glance down at the branch he held showed that the uppermost third of it had withered, the leaves now brown and shriveled while the wood had become gnarled like it had rapidly aged.

He glanced towards Draco and saw that he was standing with his arms crossed over his chest, frown on his lips. When he noticed Harry’s gaze he gave an approving nod. So, Harry had done the spell right, but it didn’t exactly feel good and Draco obviously didn’t care for it himself.

“This spell... “ Harry wet his lips as he tried to figure out the words to say, “it’s not a good one, is it?”

Draco shook his head as he muttered, “That’s putting it lightly, no, none of us like this spell. It is only used in emergencies when it seems that we would be discovered otherwise. It goes against nature, magic sustains life for us. This spell, it expels it from the area affected.”

“In class, this connection between nature and magic it’s never discussed or studied.” Harry mused softly, bracing himself as he forced the spell once more from his wand, the branch continuing to rot in his other hand. He needed to master the spell, like Draco had. It didn’t mean that either of them had to like it though.

“The light has long ago abandoned their respect towards how magic affects or exists in the world around them.” Draco answered with distaste, “They swing their wand and the spell comes forth without regard of how or why, nor any care for how it might affect their surroundings. They disregard the consequences of their actions because it is inconvenient for obtaining what they want. My godfather said that it will one day bite them as soundly on the arse as a Cerberus.”

Draco smiled as his head tilted up towards the sky peeking through the leaves, “My father wants to be present for such a day and I as well.”

There was nothing that Harry could say to that, for Draco had spoken the truth. Harry’s way of thinking of magic had rapidly begun to change after meeting the blond and observing both his spells and behavior towards the world around them. Perhaps that was why dark spells could be so powerful and horrifying, because they knew how to work with nature instead of going against it. They seemed to understand magic and biology at a much deeper level.

Once Harry had S’effacer down, Draco taught him two more spells. One was the Langlock jinx that he had cast on him earlier to render someone mute with their tongue stuck to the roof of their mouth. The next was Scinditur Arcesserent Umbra, which meant "split and summon the shadow" in Latin. It was an impressive spell which created shadowy doublegangers of the castor that could work as distractions or messengers, echoing the words spoken to it by their creator.

A messaging system that was wiser than owls or patronus. Harry had heard of the Order of the Phoenix having used the latter spell in the war to send messages to each other. The problem? The patronus didn’t care who was around when it reached its target, it would spit out the message regardless if the person was alone or in a group of civilians or hostilities. These shadow messengers, a copy of the castor’s essence and intellect to a point, were wise enough to follow extended orders such as how, where, and when to deliver a message though it took far more energy with a time limit of being sustained for only a few hours.

Draco explained that Scinditur Arcesserent Umbra was a spell that his father had invented with a pleased and proud tone. Harry had to agree that it was impressive, but didn’t mention the fact that the patronus charm was thought to be impossible to cast by a user of dark magic.

Then Draco’s expression fell into something contemplating, “You do know that your core is going to continue to grow and you’ll have to start shedding your excess magic?”

No, Harry did not know that and his face clearly said that for the fact that the blond proceeded to pinch the bridge of his nose between his fingers in obvious disbelieving frustration.

“You really are a fool.”

“Hey!”

“No, hush, you have no right to discount my observation.” Draco snapped back, starting to fish out items from the expanding pouch by his side and motioning for Harry to sit down on the ground. “You have no bloody clue. If you do not shed your built up magic then it will gradually drive you mad! Each family has their own cleansing rituals, I won’t teach you mine, I can’t. But I can teach you a simple, weaker cleansing chant that would work if you only practiced a few spells that day.”

Oh, that certainly made Harry shut up and sit heavily on the grass. He hadn’t the slightest idea that… this was a thing. He didn’t believe that Draco was lying, the dark wizard seemed rather panicked even by Harry’s silent admission. Pale fingers placed items around Harry in a tight circle.

Four tall, thick purple candles, one behind, in front, and one either side of him were set around him. A goblet that seemed to have been of a silvery, metallic stone that Draco summoned water into with a spell was forced into Harry’s left hand. In his right, Harry found himself holding his holly wand. Draco proceeded to explain shortly as he lit each of the candles.

“Candles for the element of fire, Hematite goblet for earth, water, wand for wood and magic, words for air. Understand?”

Harry nodded woodenly, yes, so far everything made sense and seemed easy enough to follow. He had a feeling though that it wasn’t about to stay that way for long as Draco continued to power through his lecture like a cranky old professor. He forced down the quirk of his lips at the mental image that was produced by the thought.

“Deluo copia, deluo redundantia, deluo prodigentia. Crateraa redundat et ex insaniam.”

  

Harry repeated the words carefully, committing them to memory and heart. If he didn’t remember the steps to this little ritual, it truly was a matter of life and death it seemed. Draco was murmuring the words under his breath as he watched Harry and it was comforting to know that the other really was invested in his personal welfare. Even if it was tinged with the desire to continue with the deal of exchanging the knowledge they each desperately wanted, but knew that they shouldn’t.

As the chant continued to flow out of his lips, Harry felt as it something thick and heavy, like dried clay, was being delicately flaked off of his body. He was feeling gradually lighter, freer as the excess magic flowed off of him, the sensation similar to a cool shower after a day of being in the hot sun. From the very top of his head and down to where his body pressed into the ground, Harry shivered.

His wand, it was humming pleasantly in his hand, as if it too was happy for the release of the excess. A glance at the water in the goblet showed that it was swirling in a counterclockwise direction though his hand did not move it. The flames that tipped the candle had changed from familiar orange and yellow, to purple which echoed the will o wisp balls of fire that drifted in the clearing around them.

It felt… nice, but there was a growing cramp in his stomach that demanding attention and was becoming ever more painful as the chanting continued.

The verse leaving Harry’s lips for the seventh time before the pain in his gut had tears in the corners of his eyes and his breath became more harsh.

The water in the cup had overflowed now and was drizzling down his hand and to the ground… it was thick and black in color that made part of Harry want to gag, but the rest of him was fascinated.

Finally, Draco called for an end to the chant and cleared the area quickly of the magical objects, pouring the dark liquid in the cup on the dead spots in the grass before returning to Harry, though keeping his distance.

Harry trying to ignore the pain still radiating from his middle, gave a tight smile, “That’s it? That wasn’t so bad, but you said it was for if I hadn’t been using dark magic much. I’ve practiced those new spells, at least ten times each though?”

“Indeed,” Draco answered and there was a nasty little smirk that was spreading across his face as he pointed his wand at Harry, “Expurgo!”

Harry found himself then proceeding to puke his guts out or at least that was what it felt like as something dark, thick, and sticky was forced out of his body through his mouth.

  


 

Notes:

Shadow Split Spell: My own creation and why it is important that Lucius was the creator of it. It is what would be considered a family/familia spell, only family members can teach it to each other or to people they trust. If a person not part of the original family tries to teach or explain the spell to another person they will find themselves unable to do so physically. Draco is breaking the rules, he doesn’t trust Harry, but he is desperate to keep a line of communication between them in the case of emergencies. Harry doesn’t know about family spells yet. This situation is alluding to another spell in this work that has played a hand in Draco’s initial trust in Harry.

Purple also represents meanings of wealth, extravagance, creativity, wisdom, dignity, grandeur, devotion, peace, pride, mystery, independence, and magic. The color purple has a variety of effects on the mind and body, including uplifting spirits, calming the mind and nerves, enhancing the sacred, creating feelings of spirituality, increasing nurturing tendencies and sensitivity, and encouraging imagination and creativity. Purple is associated spirituality, the sacred, higher self, passion, third eye, fulfillment, and vitality. Purple helps align oneself with the whole of the universe.

Hematite is one of the best-known gemstones to use in magical practice. Also called Paint Ore or Iron Rose, this shiny silvery gray stone is tied to the element of fire and the planet Saturn, as well as the sun itself. Use hematite for healing rituals related to inflammation and blood disorders, as well as treatment of infection and fevers. One of hematite’s most common usages is that of protective magic, especially when it comes to homes and property. It’s also an excellent stone to carry for willpower, confidence and problem solving, as well as psychic awareness. You can also place hematite stones around your doors and windows to keep away negative influences from the outside.

Cleansing incantation:
Deluo- wash off, cleanse
Copia- abundance, forces
Redundantia- excess, redundancy, superabundance
Prodigentia- affluence, extravagance, profusion
Crateraa: mixing bowl, depresión, volcano, cup
Redundat- overflow
Et ex insania- out with madness

Translating something like “cleanse abundance/forces. Cleanse excess/redundancy. Cleanse affluence. The cup overflows into madness.” The last part is more consequence of what would happen/what is happening. Or another way it could be read is “for the magic that would hamper me in its excess and drive me insane, overflow out of me and into the cup (cup being more of translating in this sense, returning to the world)”. Again Latin is neither mine nor my beta’s language so this I doubt is fully correct, but if someone offers a better translation, great.

Coven Hierarchy System: How a Volkhv is chosen depends on the coven, some are born in the role, others are voted/selected. Lucius is the first leader of his coven and selected by the group collectively. All assume that Draco will take over one day and will support the decision if he appears to be as wise as his father, the coven is all watching Draco closely. Regulus is far younger than Lucius and was never one in high esteem in the Deatheaters, Lucius has and is known to function well in high pressure situations. The ranking of the coven is Lucius at the top followed by Severus, Regulus, and Narcissa all holding about the same amount of power. They can tell Lucius if he is being a fool. Regulus is a marvel at reading people and knowing how the public will react to a plan. Narcissa is a cool head and can see larger picture that will be brought about by taking action. Severus is the one of strategy and small details, which is reflected by his skill with potions, spy ability, and spell creation.  

“expurgo”, to cure, purge out.

Chapter Text

If death had a flavor, Harry was certain that that was what was coating his tongue and teeth. When he opened his mouth to say as much, more of the black gunk was expelled out and his knees finally gave up the fight leaving him kneeling on the ground as he continued to vomit what felt like gallons of the shite.

Really, it wasn’t that large of a puddle, but Harry didn’t think that his stomach could hold all of… whatever this was.

Draco was grimacing at the sight and noise that Harry was making, apparently losing his amusement as it became clear that the spell had more of an effect than he was probably anticipating.

“I thought, with your familiar…” Draco’s voice came out as a startled murmur before he sighed and trudged over to the side of the other teenager, pale fingers intertwining with unruly raven locks. There was not much to hold back in terms of hair getting in the way, but the feeling was grounding.

At the same time, it was terrifying to Harry to have Draco so close to the veil that covered his eyes and scar from the world. One yank and everything would come undone. The knot of the veil was rubbing at the dark wizard’s wrist, but he made no move to loosen or grab it. No, Draco just grumbled in disgust as Harry continued to empty his system of whatever this was.

A few more minutes of retching and Harry wondering vaguely if this was how he would die, then his heaving finally turned dry.

“What… The. Ruddy. Hell. Was that?”

Harry’s words were carefully measured with anger and exhaustion from the whole experience. At least the puddle of black whatever was sinking into the dirt and grass, disappearing from his sight. Draco had, at last, let go of his hair to walk back around him to stand in front of Harry. The tin of ginger honey strips was shoved under his nose, the sharp smell bringing his focus back and making his eyes water slightly. Still Harry quickly grabbed a handful of the treats, shoving them into his mouth to dislodge the awful taste that clung there.

“My apologies.” Draco’s voice was sincere, which was surprising, his head was bowed slightly a move that would have made his long hair cover his face if it were not for the fact that it was already tied up in a low ponytail. The hand holding the tin was shaking a bit, but Harry decided to make no comment about it. The bastard deserved to feel bad about what he had just put him through, Harry wasn’t about to free Draco of his guilt when he felt like he had swallowed and then thrown up half of the Black Lake.

“The spell, expurgo . It’s for when someone’s magical core has to be forcibly cleansed, when they are either refusing to do it themselves, are too weak or injured to, or are unconscious. It’s a spell that cannot be cast on oneself. Usually a gentler form is used for children when they are too young to perform the rituals. I thought that with your connection with Thuban, your build up would not be so… immense.” Draco’s explanation was rushed, obviously wishing to set things in perspective and justify his actions.

“You knew I’d puke?” Harry already knew the answer, he had seen the smirk on Draco face before he cast the spell.

“Well, yes.” Draco answered hesitantly.

“And there’s a gentler form of the spell?” Harry pressed on before the other could say anything else.

“In my defense, I really didn’t know it would be traumatic.” The blond offered, it was meant as a prank of sorts, Harry realized. Though that didn’t make him feel any less bitter about it.

“You’re an areshole, and you owe me.” the declaration was not argued against by Draco, who only sighed and answered shortly.

“Within reason, Hardian, I will try to right my oversight.”

Harry couldn’t help but snicker slightly, he would never get tired of how Draco tried to talk in a way that was so much older than both of them. All it accomplished was ever affirming the image of Draco being a cranky old professor. Harry could talk more maturely than other people his age for the reason that he grew up under the care of professors like Remus, Dumbledore, and Mcgonagall, and that Sirius was a politician who had to drag Harry to Ministry functions since a very young age.

However, the way that Draco spoke was often much more poetic and old world grace than Harry ever did.

“If I said I want to see your eyes?” Harry probbed as he shakily got to his feet, he should ask for something far more material or valuable. However, his thoughts were rather scrambled at the moment from throwing up. His body was shivering and he felt clammy like he had fever sweats. He was recovering, he could feel that already, still wasn’t pleasant though.

“No.” Came the quick answer making Harry huff.

“Why?”

“Because that is a price higher than some temporary discomfort.” Draco reasoned, the way  his fingers tapped and twisted on his cloaked arms showed his nervousness, no, fright at the prospect of revealing his whole face.

What was so important about covering the eyes? Did Draco believe that his identity would be unraveled if he did so? That he would somehow curse the coven he was part of or incur Harry’s dislike? Harry wanted to ask, but decided it was probably safer not to. From his care of magical creatures’ class, he knew the signs of when an animal felt cornered and was about to lash out. Draco’s body language clearly screamed that the topic was not to be brought up again without some form of peril.

“I will tell you what that is.” Draco offered gesturing to the ever shrinking black puddle on the ground between them.

“Nuh uh.” Harry wagged a finger in Draco’s direction, glad that there was no shake to his hand anymore. “For one, I think I would be owed an explanation on that for free. Two, I’m not stupid and can connect the dots just fine. It’s residual dark magic that’s built up for, I don’t know, three years? Around that, I think. It’s the same gunk that the water became in the cleansing ritual.”

There was a purse to Draco’s lips, he seemed to be disappointed that he couldn’t take the easy way out of his debt. The expression might have also been from Harry’s word choice as he muttered.

“Gunk is hardly an adequate description of magic in its most basic, consolidated form.”

You don’t get to a say in how it’s described because it didn’t crawl out of your throat.” Harry snapped back, perhaps his self-preservation instinct had finally been whittled down to nonexistent.

But he had an excuse, that was quite the terrible experience!

Draco had the sensibility to at least look slightly abashed by the comment, Harry waited silently to see what Draco might offer instead. It seemed that the night had finally claimed its victory over the sun. Not a hint of sunlight crawled through the sky. Instead reign had been given to the stars, moon, and the will o’ wisp balls of fire that edged the clearing. Harry was tempted to cast temptus to check the time, but might come off a little too rude as Draco searched for something suitable to exchange.

“I will give you a two part gift.” Draco finally declared, there was a curve to his smile that made Harry believe that the dark wizard had discovered how to use this to his advantage somehow as the other seemed to have calmed down suddenly and immensely, casually brushing down his cloak now without twitching fingers.

“Hmm?” Harry tried to sound disinterested, but obviously failed as Draco’s lips parted to reveal his white teeth a little more.

Herding Call Kulning

Then Draco was cupping his hands over his mouth and letting out a haunting call, the very one that had first led Harry to discovering the other boy four years ago. The herd was being summoned, Draco was inviting Harry to witness and perhaps even interact with the thestrals, Granian stallion, and the little hybrid filly. Excitement bubbled up inside of him, but he had to try and shove it down to plaster an adequately curious and confused expression on his face instead.

Since seeing the creatures, Harry had wanted the chance to touch and get closer to the different beasts. He had hovered on his broom above the herd many times before, but had never been within touching distance of them. Those sharp beak like mouths and displayed predatory nature of the thestrals had made him reluctant to attempt making contact. That and their obvious protective nature towards Draco two years ago told Harry that it was wise to let them be.

There was a role to play now and Harry asked what Draco was doing, only to be answered with a shushing motion from the other teenager. Giving a seemingly annoyed roll of his eyes, Harry fell silent and sat on the grass to wait. Thuban had slithered his way down Draco’s body while he called and returned to his master’s shoulders. The snake and parselmouth chatted softly as Draco continued the haunting summons.

It truly was a beautiful sound, but it held an almost otherworldly quality for the simple fact that it seemed to echo far further than what was typical and that Harry had never heard anyone else make this enchanting series of notes. Harry doubted that he could ever copy the sounds himself.

X X

There was a soft shuffling just out of sight and Draco’s hand quickly found Harry’s shoulder to gain his attention.

“Come, stand and greet with me.”

Harry rose quickly, following Draco to stand in the center and face one edge of the clearing. The blond seemed to be a little nervous about what was to come and muttered under his breath before letting out a few more notes. “Do exactly as I do, do not attempt to touch any of them without my permission. Understand?”

Harry could only nod his head before his gaze was pulled towards the emerging figure. Vielantiu, the stallion was just as striking as Harry remembered him, his wings were stretched out and up as he cantered into the open with his head held high. However, he didn’t come alone, no, right on his heels was that strange, not so little creature that was Vielantiu’s daughter.

Vielantiu

    Vielantiu

The filly had grown an incredible amount as she now stood just a hand shorter than her sire. She still had the gangly gait of a young horse, but she looked strong and surefooted as she trailed a few steps behind Vielantiu. The hybrid’s coat was still as black as a thestral’s, with the hair that stretched over her legs gradually becoming more silver in color as it grew closer to the hooves. The mane and tail, now much longer than before follow this shift of black to silver. Her leathery black wings sprouted from tuffs of grey, white, and black feathers on her back. She was still lean, but not emaciated like a thestral with her ribs clearly visible, but muscle and flesh filled out other parts to show she was still healthy.  

Both of the creatures had their heads held high, ears perked up and turned forward towards the two humans. They came to a stop just before the pair and Harry quickly followed Draco’s lead in performing the traditional bow in greeting. The dark wizard stepped on Harry’s toes when he started to straighten up from the bow, hissing under his breath, “You do not move until they have accepted you. You’re a stranger to them, a potential threat. Bad manners might get you maimed.”

Yup, that was enough to keep Harry still as a statue.

The wait was tense, the horses breathing loud and their hooves scrapped against the ground to tear up the earth. Harry knew that if he had not been present this little standoff would not have happened. The beasts had to choose to accept him, if they didn’t… Harry wasn’t sure what would happen. Having seen the connection between the herd and Draco, Harry was pretty sure that the dark wizards would have chosen the creatures’ opinion and affection over Harry’s.

Then one of the stallion’s front legs extended out and the other bent under him, head lowering to the ground in a bow that Enbarr reluctantly copied.

There was a breath of relief from Draco as he straightened up, the tap from the toe of his boot against Harry’s told him that he could do so as well. As Harry’s heart rate started to slow once more, the rest of the herd proceeded to melt out of the shadows of the forest and into the clearing.

Harry couldn’t stop the catch in his lungs at the sight of the Thestrals drifting closer. They were even more strange, gruesome, and fascinating up close; they looked to be the offspring of a dragon, horse, and death all in one. They were an eerie beast, but at the same time, the grace and silence with which they moved brought a sense of peace. Right, Harry supposed there was truth in the saying that death was the embodiment of eternal peace.

“So you can see them.”

The statement drew Harry’s attention away from the mares that were now wandering the clearing, though they each came up to the pair to sniff and in Draco’s case, nudge against him in greeting.

“The Thestrals can only be seen by those who have witnessed death.” Draco continued as he delicately wove his fingers through the headmare’s mane, Hrímfaxi if Harry was remembering her name right. The next question was softer, not a demand like the so many inquiries before. “Who did you see?”

“It was… an accident of sorts. I never learned her name, but I saw it happen.” Harry’s voice had turned just as soft as he remembered the Veela from the atrium of the Ministry of Magic all those years ago. Snatched by gatherers when she was visiting from France. “How about you?”

“I never knew their names either.” Was all the answer Harry received and he swallowed as his mind ran wild with the implications of what was left unsaid. Without the admission that it was an accident and the fact that the probable source was used in a plural sense, a shiver ran down Harry’s spine as he tried to distract himself. It was easily done with the fact that the stallion had decided that it was going to butt his large head into Harry’s chest, knocking the air out of him.

Draco snickered, nodding his head to show that it was okay for Harry to give the Granian the scratches that he was obviously demanding. “Sorry about that, Vielantiu has absolutely no manners. I think that is why my godfather likes him so much, for all his high breeding and training, he still acts like a crass ingrate of a mount when not at work.”

Letting his nails dig slightly into the thick hide just hard enough to feel pleasant Harry scratched under the forelock and mane of the winged horse, “These are all yours?”

“My family’s, yes. Vielantiu is my godfather’s mount, given to him by my father. Hrímfaxi, here is my mother’s. My father has a stallion cross of an Abraxan and an Aethonan named Skinfaxi that is his preferred mount at home since Vielantiu is a stallion as well. My cousin has a black hippogriff named Gaignun that’s with a herd of his kind right now. The rest of the Thestrals are ridible and serve us.” Draco explained, the smile on his face clearly showing he was waiting for the obvious question.

Rolling his eyes behind his veil, Harry took the bait. “And your mount?”

“That would be this charming little lady here.” Draco answered cheekily as he patted Enbarr’s flank. The filly gave a loud, long snort in response that had Harry laughing and Draco scowling. It seemed that she had inherited part of her father’s lovely disposition.

Draco was quick to recover, while her personality might leave something to be desired, her pedigree did not. Also Draco could not be truly annoyed with his girl, he never could be, as shown by the fact that she nosed her head under his arm and he immediately caved to her demand for attention.

“Her name is Enbarr, she’s the first of her kind. Obviously you can tell what she is a cross of. Now that she’s three, she can be ridden more often, she’s the first mount I can claim as only my own.” Draco explained fondly as he threaded his fingers through the feathers at the base of her wings, her soft muzzle lipped over the hood of his cloak as he did so.

“Can I try to pet her?” Harry asked, as he watched the interaction between the two. It was adorable, but he was wise enough not to say that out loud.

Draco nodded his permission. Grinning Harry moved closer, reaching out a hand before having to jerk it back to avoid losing his fingers as Enbarr clacked her teeth where his fingers had been only a moment before.

“Draco!”

“What? You asked if you could try , I, in no way, alluded that you would be successful.” Draco pointed out with a snicker as Enbarr pawed at the ground, ears flat and back to show her displeasure at Harry’s attempt. “My father said and I quote, ‘That I will never ride that hellspawn you call a mare.’. He is quite masterful with horses, but Enbarr has imprinted on me particularly strongly.”

“Obviously.” Harry grumbled, before yelping as the long wispy tail of the filly lashed against his face like a whip. He ducked back several steps more as Thuban hissed out his own dismay and anger at being brushed by the hybrid’s tail.

“Enough, girl.” Draco admonished gently, patting Enbarr on the face to get her attention back on him rather than what she saw as the uninvited company. Harry had a feeling that Draco was only stepping in for the serpent's sake and not his own, which made him sulk.

Then Draco was summoning a bridle, pad, and saddle from a pouch at his side and proceeding to saddle up the filly. Enbarr offered no protest as she took the tack, though Draco did poke her in the ribs a few time with his knee to make sure that she wasn’t sucking in air in an attempt to make the saddle loose. He told Harry that he didn’t think she would ever do so, but it was better to be on the safe side than possibly find himself sideways or upside down in the middle of riding.

“You’re getting ready to leave, aren’t you?” Harry realized as he watched Draco finish his work, already disappointment starting to well inside of him. He didn’t have all the answers he wanted, he hadn’t even been able to ask about much of what he had seen in the shedding room, though trying to keep Draco longer wouldn’t end well for any of them.

“I am, but I still have one more thing to give you. Part one was showing you something that no one else has before.” Draco answered with a small gesture to Enbarr to show that she was the ‘thing’ he was referring to. Then he was picking up the tome that had been left in the grass during their dancing, flying, and spell work. Thankfully, he managed to snatch it up before Vielantiu could try to make a snack out of it or the other creatures stepped on it. He carefully extracted a few blank pages from the back of the book before stowing the rest of it away. He took a few branches of the nearby trees, worked some bleeding saps onto leaves, and a few strips of leather bindings that were meant to be used as bandages. All of this he piled into two small piles in from of Harry and himself.

Then Draco summoned a knife from the inside of his cloak that had Harry rearing back in surprise.

“Now, now, Hadrian. There’s no need for such an expression.” Draco’s voice was cooing and Harry just knew that the other was enjoying his discomfort. “All that is required is a few drops of your blood, I promise you. This will please us both greatly.”

“Spell is one thing, blood, that’s different.” Harry pointed out, he could practically feel the blood draining out of his face as he stared at the dark blade. The one edge was serrated from what he could see and the other side of it looked just as sharp, but even. The handle was made from some white material… He did not think that it was stone or metal either.

“Three drops, that is all that it will require.” Draco pointed out, he stepped to stand over one pile and poked the tip of his own index finger with the knife to drip three drops of his own blood on one of the piles. As a show of faith he offered the blade hilt first after he cleaned it, brow raising over his veil in question.

Harry was still hesitating, though he took the knife into his hand. Bone, the hilt was made of bone. Of what creature Harry didn’t dare ask, he had a feeling he wouldn’t like the answer.

“This is one of the very first enchantments using blood that our kind learns to do. A six year old often does this. I have, I’ll do the spell, I just need your blood.” Draco pressed while using a quick spell to heal his finger.

“Tell me what it does first.” Harry countered.

Draco smiled, “You have no way of knowing if I am lying to you, but I commend you on not jumping in recklessly. Perhaps there’s some Ravenclaw wits to you after all instead of just the eccentricity.”

“I’m going to take that as a compliment.” he muttered with a small sigh, it was probably the closest to one that Draco was going to offer him

“You do that.” Draco smirked, “It’s a spell to create two linked journals, what one writes in one will appear in the other before disappearing after it is registered that the message has been read.”

“Such enchanted notebooks exist already. They’re expensive, but they’re available.” Harry pointed out, he knew the enchantments on such tomes were difficult and took some time to produce. Yet, here Draco was offering to create two of them on the spot. Really, Harry hoped that the other could do what he was alluding. If Draco could, that meant that they may be able to communicate whenever they wished! No longer would they have to wait an entire year to exchange words, information, and barbs.

“Yes, but how safe are those? This version means that the only one who can open the journal will be ourselves. Before a conversation can be started, a drop of our blood is needed to be applied to the page. Unless someone has your blood available, they won’t be able to send a message through.” Draco explained before he whistled summoning the stallion to his side, he murmured a few words into Vielantiu’s ear before gently plucking two feathers from his wings. The Granian didn’t seem to mind, though he did demand one of the treats that Draco had apparently been hiding in his pockets.

From his pockets came a vial wrap case made of dragonhide that Harry had seen many potioner’s carry. It wasn’t the largest case he had seen, it looked to be one that could carry about thirty vials along with a small assortment of tools. Sirius had a case that he constantly carried with him that held well over five hundred vials and pockets for ingredients. From the case Draco pulled what seemed to be a black stone stirring rod that he cut in two with Diffindo , before setting to work transfiguring the pieces into quill grips and tips which he then fit the two feathers into.

Watching the other’s skill, Harry couldn’t help but feel rather impressed, and maybe a little… okay, a lot out of his league. He would definitely be asking for more studying materials and tutoring.  

Carefully, Harry took the new quills when they were offered with the hand that was not occupied with the knife. The quill tips, he discovered, were made out of obsidian and looked wicked sharp. It went without saying that the fine tip would pierce flesh just as easily as anything else and would not wear or become blunt like some metal tips did.

“You don’t have to use those quills to write in the journal, any would work. With these tips though it would be far more convenient and hygienic when you give the opening drops.” Draco explained, trying very hard to sell the journals, and Harry had to admit that it was working.

“Wouldn’t this be considered dark magic when I’m writing and sending messages to you? Hogwarts is supposed to be able to alert the headmaster when dark spells are being cast inside her walls.” Harry wanted to keep on contact and he was relieved to see that Draco had the same sentiment, but they still might not be able to communicate once he was back in school if that was the case.

“This is not very active spellwork, the wards of Hogwarts are attuned to sensing the unforgivables and curses of similar nature according to my elders. Many former students had and used similar journals while they were attending.” Draco was being surprisingly patient, though it might be that the blond had slipped into teacher mode again.

That brought another important point back to Harry’s attention, paling slightly as he remembered the horrible taste in his mouth, “How often am I supposed to shed my magic?”

“If you are actively using parseltongue with your familiar that should alleviate some of the excess magic, I can give you the materials that we used for the small cleansing ritual. The ritual should be done perhaps once a month since I doubt you will be casting any dark spells while at school.” Draco sighed as he carded his fingers through his ponytail, “You’ll have to do the ritual in one of the shedding rooms, it truly is a pity that we have to hide and complete what we need to do for our health in secret, isn’t it?”

Now that was a not so subtle dig if Harry ever heard one and he tried to withhold the urge to squirm. While he didn’t completely understand it yet, it seemed that dark magic was part of Draco’s kind’s very biology. If they didn’t do the cleansing, the results were not pleasant. It was as much a choice as telling one’s heart to stop beating or the blood in the veins to stop its path. An impossibility without death or major damage to oneself.

The Harry a few years ago wouldn’t have cared or would have declared that it was proof that dark magic users were inherently evil .

Still there were so many pieces he was missing to the puzzle that was the dark community, creatures, and magic itself. Harry felt that the answers were just out of his reach. Draco was the only one who could answer them, biased as he was.

With that thought in mind, Harry gritted his teeth before nicking his finger with the knife and letting three drops of blood land on the pile of materials next to Draco’s.

“Liero copiet conserver lev compagnonra.”  The lyrical words that came out of Draco’s mouth were French in origin meaning ,though changed slightly in pronunciation to be used as a spell: bind, copy, keep, my companion. French was one of the languages that Harry had been made fluent with since a young age under Sirius’ lessons.

The materials moved, twisted, and folded upon themselves in two miniature whirlwinds that had the herd stepping a few paces back, but other than that the creatures did not seem to be concerned about the magic taking place. After a few minutes of Draco’s chanting they were left with a pair of identical black leather-bound journals that seemed upscale, but not unusual.

Draco smirked as he picked them up and offered the one that was encoded with Harry’s blood to the raven in exchange for the knife Harry still held. The trade was made and Draco launched into explanation on how to use them while bringing forth a bottle of ink. Using the new obsidian and Granian feather quill, Harry pricked his finger and let one drop of blood fall on a clear, pristine page of the journal. Then he dipped the quill in ink and wrote a short message while whispering the incantation in Latin, “ Secretum meum .”

“Dark night, that from the eye his function takes,
The ear more quick of apprehension makes.
Wherein it doth impair the seeing sense,
It pays the hearing double recompense.”

The pages of the book that Draco held in his hands rippled and the blond opened it to watch as the ink appeared. He cocked his head with a frown as he tried to figure out the meaning behind the poetry, before giving up. He borrowed the quill from Harry to copy the words on a different page before swiping his finger over Harry’s original message making is disappear, leaving an unblemished page behind. A drop of Draco’s blood, flick of a quill, and an utterance of the phrase, then the cover of Harry’s journal rippled and felt warm in his hand.

Opening it, Harry snickered as he read.

“What rot are you going on about now, Hadrian?”

“They work.”

“Well observed.” Draco drawled before handing back the quill and a small pouch he transfigured to contain the cleansing ritual materials. Then the dark wizard was swinging himself onto Enbarr’s saddle, taking the reins in his hand as the herd took the cue to get ready to leave.

Despite the assurance of the journals, Harry was disappointed that their time was at an end. Still there was one question burning in the back of his mind that demanded an answer before Draco took his leave.

“Why did you agree to teach me? Not that I want you to start doubting your decision, but why?”

“Because you are starting to see what magic truly is.” Draco supplied like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“What?”

Draco only laughed at the incredulous and confused expression that crossed the other’s face, before he leaned down, the leather of the saddle and the trousers he wore creaked softly as he patted the taller teenager on the cheek. “Do try not to hurt yourself by thinking too hard on it.”

“Okay I changed my mind, I want you gone, gitt.” Harry grumbled while floundering back a few steps at the unexpected touch. Draco was snickering while he pressed his heels lightly to the filly’s side.

“Until next we meet then, merry part.”

“Yeah, merry part, Draco.” Harry found himself saying, watching as the herd disappeared into the tree line with their master.

It was time to return home, but Harry didn’t want to. So, he proceeded to do an incredibly stupid thing and summoned his Firebolt to him, shrunk and stored his Nimbus, fastened his invisibility cloak around him, reset his charms, and flew after the herd.  


Notes (so many notes):

Hackney Horse was developed in the 14th century in England, this is the build of horse breed that I think would be the most similar to what Enbarr and the Thestrals would have I think. At adult age I think that Enbarr would reach 16.2 hands (168 cm) tall, currently she is 14.2 hands (147 centimetres) tall as she is still pretty much a baby. These are one of the high-stepping horse breeds. Hackney horses exhibit showiness and an exaggerated high knee and hock action due to very good flexion of their joints. The front legs reach up high with sharply bent knees that are stretched well forward with a ground covering stride. Their hind legs are well propelled underneath them in a similar exaggerated action. In addition to inherent soundness and endurance, the Hackney Horse has proven to be a breed with an easy, rhythmic canter, and a brisk, springy walk. So maneuvering in the tight quarters of a forest of the rockiness of the highlands would not be a problem for such a horse type.

Granian are thought to be the fastest of the flying horses so I suppose they would be closest related to thoroughbreds or Akhal-Teke horses(these are a most ancient breed of horse that is an ancestor to the thoroughbred breed. They are still used as a racing horse today in the Middle East). I think they might even be deeper chested and have larger lungs than thoroughbreds that would be able to deal with the decreased oxygen the higher they fly.

Skinfaxi: A myth from the Nordic Bronze age, Skinfaxi and Hrímfaxi are the horses of Dagr (day) and Nótt (night). The names Skinfaxi and Hrímfaxi are bahuvrihi compounds, meaning "shining mane" and "rime mane" (or "frost mane"), respectively. Skinfaxi pulled Dagr's chariot across the sky every day and his mane light up the sky and the earth below.

I imagine that the build of such a cross between a heavy draft horse like an Abraxan and an Aethonan (which I believe would have the build of a Cleveland Bay (Which is the oldest established horse breed in England, and the only non-draught horse developed in Great Britain. The ancestors of the breed were developed during the Middle Ages for use as pack horses, when they gained their nickname of "Chapman Horses")) would result in something similar in build to a Shire horse, these are large carriage pulling horses from England that can also be used from riding more comfortabley than other heavy horses.

So all and all, Lucius rides a large winged horse that is chestnut in color with a flaxen mane and tail.

-shrugs- Maybe you guys don’t care about horses, but I’m from Kansas, rodeo country, and have been riding most of my life (I miss it while living in Japan). It’s fun for me to think how magical horses breeds may look and have developed.

Gaignun: name meaning "watch-dog", is the warhorse of Marsile, Saracen king of Spain in the French epic, The Song of Roland. Poetry is Regulus’ forte so that’s where he got the name. The name Vielantiu comes from the same spic.

Idea of what a Potion Case looks like:

  Potion Case

This is a quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
Dark night, that from the eye his function takes,
The ear more quick of apprehension makes.
Wherein it doth impair the seeing sense,
It pays the hearing double recompense.

A modern translation would be: It’s hard to see clearly in the dark of night, but it’s easier to hear well.

This can be seen that in the dark of the forest, surrounded by dark magic, Harry can finally see and hear what about the dark magic users without his previous judgements and stigma. Harry did not write this on purpose, really he’s just a dork who likes a ridiculous play and is quoting it.

Secretum meum : send my secrets

The journals? Basically a secret diary/walkie talkie/cell phone all wrapped up into one for dark children that are still useful as adults. The two way mirrors that Harry had in the books work with a similar concept to the journals being a live messaging system, but much more private and only being used by those that had a hand in their creation. Making a two-way journal was the equivalent of making friendship bracelets with your friend in a way.

 

Chapter Text

XX

Harry drifted after the herd with trepidation, the forest floor was dark enough that he didn’t have to fear casting a shadow, but he still worried about being discovered as he kept his altitude as high as possible without brushing against the canopy of leaves. He had no doubts that if his following was discovered that things would perhaps be damaged to a degree beyond repair between himself and Draco. His presence was an uninvited one and depending on what he saw, might put him in the position to be killed rather than let go.

But then again, maybe that was just Harry’s suspicions and thoughts running away from him.

He hoped it was.

He really hoped it was.

After trekking through the forest for a long while, Draco finally joined with the other dark children. The same number and characters as there had been three years ago, Harry struggled to remember each of their names and with the hoods remaining drawn over their heads it was difficult to keep track of who was who. The groups of creatures they led were around the same size as well, though there were a few new babies in the group. What appeared to be a day-old griffin, sat in the lap of Tracy, clicking its beak as it snoozed away as she chatted with Daphne. Harry noticed that there was indeed, a black hippogriff in Theo and Blaise’s group. Harry suspected that the pitch-black creature was Draco’s cousin’s mount, Gaignun.

While the group bantered and spoke in a similar manner that Harry had observed the last time he had observed them, there seemed to be a nervous energy that surrounded them. The heads would move in jerky motions that probably echoed the darting of their covered eyes. Leather creaked, and metal clicked as the youths adjusted themselves in the saddles more often than what was necessary or comfortable.

All of them, Harry noticed, were ‘looking’ at Draco.

For his part however, the blond seemed to be completely calm and unflappable as he urged Enbarr on.

“This is a terrible idea,” Millicent finally growled, breaking through the tittering conversations that existed around her.

“You’re just scared.” Pansy countered instantly, it was probably out of habit more than actual belief from the way that her own lips were pulled down and the tight grip on the reins of her Aethonan. The winged chestnut horse snorted in protest and she immediately relaxed her hold as the mooncalves trotted along side it.

“You know it’s true,” Millicent snapped back.

The wispy boy, Theo, Harry remembered spoke next, “We’ll be lucky if the punishment is just preparing potion ingredients until our fingers bleed. Then our blood will be bottled up too.”

“I think that my parts would make for fantastic ingredients. They’d make for the most excellent love potions.” Blaise quipped and while the black hood covered his head, one could practically hear how the dark-skinned wizard’s eyebrows wiggled with his words.

“Love potions don’t call for blood, you imbecile.” Draco pointed out, he was holding himself tall and proud in the saddle. His words steady as he led his herd on, “If you don’t want to be a part of it, then by all means, bow out. But know that while I might forgive, I will not forget.”

“Come on, Draco, that’s a little harsh don’t you think?” Tracy cut in, her tone showing that she was among those that were reluctant to go through with whatever the youths were planning to orchestrate. One of the large boys, Vincent or Gregory, Harry wasn’t sure which was which, edged in, “If we just got the panel to review it beforehand-“

“They would never approve it. My cousin might love theatrics, but he would no doubt tell my father and there’s no way he would allow such a performance.” Draco’s words had become clipped, daring his friends to try and argue; none of them rose to the bait. “We have been preparing for months, if you want out, now would be a good time to say such so we know what parts need to be changed before we arrive.”

Again, no one spoke, and Draco nodded his head satisfied.

The herd continued on, Harry their unknown tag along, it was fascinating listening to the children of the dark that had lives and childhoods so different than his own, but they acted much like any other the same age though with more grace and perspective. They discussed the spells they were learning, gossiped about older looser teenagers of the coven, complained about siblings or small problems, and spoke of what might lay in the future for them all.

It was interesting, sure, but Harry was burning to know what they had planned to create such drama and would have them eluding to rather graphic pitfalls.

Harry wasn’t sure how much time had passed before he heard something from up ahead. As they grew ever closer it was revealed to be, of all things in a creepy dark forest infested with dark practitioners and dangerous beasts, music. Drums, flutes, guitars, and other instruments filled the air with enchanting melody that flitted as gracefully around the ears as a Golden Snidget. Voices, male, female, young, old, and many also joined in an enchanting chorus.

The sounds had the herd moving faster and Harry was just as eager to increase his pace as they weaved between trees and thick brush with surprising quietness. Then the trees were opening up before them, it was not a simple clearing that was revealed, no this was an entire valley alight with balls of fire born of the will o wisp spell, torches, and massive bonfires. A babbling river ran on one side of the clearing and the water was full of wreaths of flowers and candles that were charmed to stay in place against the flow of the river and to resist both wind and water from dousing their lights.

XX

Scots Pines lined the valley and oddly enough to Harry, their roots seemed to have been summoned forth from the ground and twisted into forming tables and shelves where a multitude of items sat. There was food, roasted meats from a variety of creatures many of which Harry realized he had no hope of recognizing in the form that they were in, fresh fruits, baked goods, steamed or fresh vegetables. It was fare that was more elaborate and exotic than any Ministry event or Hogwarts’ feast.

There were barrels and chalices of drink, the smell of which Harry assumed to be types of liquor, juices, and ciders. Some held a more heady scent that Harry didn’t recognize.

There was also multitudes of many types of flowers scattered on empty spots on the living tables and edging the entire valley. There were bundles of herbs and spices perfuming the air, some of those gatherings were burning inside of the will o wisp balls that floated about. The air was perfumed with a mixture of lavender, mint, ginger, clove, and other scents that worked together in a pleasing aroma instead of fighting each other resulting in something pungent or overwhelming.

From the branches of the overhanging canopies were strings of trinkets that spun lazily despite the fact that there was only a light breeze singing through the trees. Some of the decorations were made of wood, hollowed and of different lengths and thickness, they knocked together to make charming notes that sounded like the most beautiful windchimes. There were also pieces of metal shaped into delicate, enchanting forms, they were adorned with symbols, runes, stones, and gems that glinted in the firelight.

There were other decorations that made Harry very uncomfortable. Human and animal shaped figures made out of straw were being burned in some of the fires around the gathering. Hanging from the branches of the trees also appeared to be ivory colored lengths that were littered with runes and pictures carved into them. Harry didn’t need to get any closer, he already knew what they were despite their reshaped or broken off pieces.

Bones.

Perhaps from beasts, perhaps from humans. Harry wasn’t about to ask, there were skulls also sitting in some nooks and crannies in the trunks the trees, these at least, to Harry’s great relief, seemed to be from creatures. Dragons, manicorns, canines, pixies whose entire skeletons were held together with twine, and many others that Harry remembered from his studies.

There were hundreds of figures moving about as well and Harry felt his heart seize at the sight of so many billowing black robes. Harry knew that he was naïve in his belief that he would be able to hold his own against a dark wizard or witch his own age, however, against an adult, there wasn’t a chance in hell. Oddly enough among the people gathered there were a few figures both far taller and wider than any average person. There were a handful of others that were much smaller in the same sense.

He knew that Draco was part of a coven, but Harry had thought that the numbers would be small. There just couldn’t be that many people practicing the dark arts, the evidence before him said otherwise as he suspected that there were around three hundred people dancing about, twirling gracefully on their own or with multiple partners as they spun from one to another as the music reached a more fevered pitch.

Harry swore that the powerful beats of the drums echoed his own thudding heart.

Then all at once, all sound stopped, the robed figures bowing as one as they face the center where now four figures stood outlined in front of the blaze of the largest bonfire. From what Harry could tell, it was three males and one female.

One of the men stepped forward, his voice calling out to the gathering while falling to a formal bow, one hand over the heart, wand in the other and held aloft to the side. Dressed in imposing dark robes like the rest of the coven, there was one notable difference about this man. A crown made of fresh, green oak leaves sat atop his hood.

“Et sanguinem magicae purissimum, benedicat tibi.”

“Ut vincatis, et magicae pur est. Volkhv.” Greeted all the others as they bowed in return, including the dark children of the herd, though theirs was a whisper as they didn’t break through the foliage and stayed hidden for the moment. There was a word at the end of the greeting, from the way it was spoken, Harry thought that it must be a title of some sort. This very well could be the leader of the coven, but he sounded very young to Harry’s ears probably around Sirius’ and Remus’ age.

“It is Midsummer Night once more, tis a time when the veil between our worlds has become porous and weakened. We only have to extend the effort to draw back the curtain.” The leader lifted a hand, demonstrating the motion that he articulated.

“We humble ourselves on the change of majesty as the mighty Oak King begins to reluctantly relinquish his rule to that of the Holly King as the sun begins to wane and the nights grow longer. We know the old Oak King will still watch our paths. We see this confirmation of his gaze through his attendants never disappearing below the horizon during each enchanting night that graces us. The great beasts guard us, the great and little bear, a fearsome dragon, and the rulers of Aethiopia. On the winter solstice, we shall celebrate the beginning of the return of the sun and the Oak King’s return.”

“That is not to say that we do not welcome the Holly King.” A new voice spoke up, the only woman of the four stepping forward to stand beside the Volkhv. Her words were elegant and voice so enchanting that they had Harry unconsciously straining forward to make sure he didn’t miss a single one.

The shorter of the two remaining males stepped forward to speak now, his tone full of passion as his robes swished around him with his steps, he sounded like a young man, “The Holly King does what is necessary to bring about the rebirth of the world around us once spring returns. Through those frigid times we learn the importance of those in our lives and in our coven. While he reigns over the darkness, he reminds us where our stubborn spirit to survive comes from. Yes, Holly King does what he must, no matter the cost.”

The last man came forth, his deep voice sending shivers down Harry’s spine, “Light and Darkness, one cannot exist without the other. Without the candle, there is no shadow. Life and Death. Heat and Cold. Summer and Winter. There must be balance, we must not forget this.”

All the hooded figures bowed their heads in acceptance to the words, the speech was not solemn in tone, no it was only logical, truthful, and welcoming. Harry supposed if he had to compare it to something that he had heard before, he would say that it reminded him of the opening or closing feast speeches at Hogwarts. It might be a little boring to those that had heard it before, but every year it still brings a feeling of nostalgia and excitement for what was to come next in one’s life.

The atmosphere was festive and enjoyable despite the silence that had descended around them all.

“Let us enjoy this night once more,” Again the Volkhv spoke and with a small wave of his hand the sound of music began anew, those gathered instantly adding voices to the beat that had begun. The chant made from about twenty women as they started to slowly circle the bonfire, hands linked with each other.

Chant

XX  

“Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna.”

The women took three steps further towards the flames, before taking four steps back and a step to the right while spinning, then they repeated the motion with four steps forward and five steps back then two steps to the right with a graceful twirl of their robes as the list of names was sang.

On the third rendition of the chant, another ring of women this time probably double in the number of individuals as the first circle, formed. There was an arm’s length between the first and second ring, though the steps they followed were the same. The second ring sang wordlessly, their pitches dropping and swelling beautifully.

“Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna.”

A third ring was formed of more women with, again, an increase in number. After another circle and then another, the fifth ring was made of men and their voices were just as varied as the women’s in being able to accomplish clear high to low rumbling tones.

Again, and again, they continued this pattern until there were ten rings swaying, dancing, and singing around the bonfire. Harry shivered as the air seemed to feel almost electric, every last hair on his neck and arms standing on end as he took it all in. Harry knew, he just knew that he had heard this all before, but could not remember where.

Then the song seemed to draw to a close, the cloaked figures were laughing as they broke formation and moved about. The dark wizards and witches seemed to almost be giddy with the way their hands and fingers flicked about, their steps fast as they moved between each other.

This break in action and confirmation of good cheer, seemed to be what the dark youths were waiting for as Draco made a signal to his companions. As they moved to cast multiple charms on both themselves and the steeds they rode. A few pats or touches with their wands on some of the members of the herds followed, along with murmured words that seemed to be a request from them to remain where they were.

Then, the youths and their mounts burst out of the tree line with the pounding of hooves and clicks of claws. The hippogriffs screeched, the griffins roared, the bicorns bellowed, and the winged horses gave long, loud whines. The heavy, horned bicorns were the only creatures that couldn’t fly, but that was not a problem as all the creatures stayed on the ground.

The rest of the gathering gave short cries of alarm as they scattered out of the way, before seeming to relax as the perpetrators were recognized. Some of the coven were laughing as they called greetings as the charge circled the outer edge of the valley before gradually making their way towards the large bonfire in the center.

The youths circled the bonfire tightly before they abruptly turned into the blaze, the winged beasts leaped over the towering flames, while the bicorns lumbered through the burning logs and ash. Harry suspected that those spells the young wizards and witches had cast earlier were fire repellant charms from the way the flames opened around the bodies of beast and human alike.

One of the cloaked figures that had drifted closer to the spot Harry remained hidden in the tree spoke with amusement, “Draco’s watch, they always are up to something.”

Another cloak giggled as she mused, “They are like nightingales, aren’t they? Though with their blood and teachers, who could fault them?”

Harry couldn’t pay attention to the elders’ conversation any longer as his attention was drawn back to the bonfire as Draco and his friends rode through the flames and around the bonfire for the fifth time then, as one, they leaped from their mounts whom raced back into the tree-line to rejoin their herds.

They left their cloaks behind on the saddles, and Harry’s eyes widened as he took in the attire that had been hidden by the thick fabric. Draco was dressed in tight leather breeches that were tucked into knee high riding boots that obviously didn’t at all affect his flexibility. A tight long-sleeved black undershirt that was covered by a dark high collared sleeveless vest that had shapes too small for Harry to determine stitched into it in silver thread and fabric that lined the vest glinted as it caught the light from the flames.

The rest of the dark children wore a variety of clothes in different styles. The girls wore long airy skirts, but as they spun it was revealed that there were leather pants and boots underneath. Some of the other boys and girls were wearing tunic style shirts, others were bear stomached and shouldered, vests, and double breasted jackets of different fabrics and materials. All of them were dark in color, but still somehow as elegant and regal as a multi-brightly colored outfit might be.

The instruments had stopped playing at the abrupt entrance of the teenagers and had still yet to begin again. Which seemed perfectly fine for the Watch as they began to sing nonetheless without any aid. The first notes were wordless, setting the rhythm and speed for the song as the teenagers spun around the edge of the bonfire. The group creating an acapella. Vincent, Gregory, and Millicent were apparently well equipped to provide bass and alto undertones to mimic instruments.

Then Draco’s voice was ringing out and Harry realized that the other must have cast a volume enhancing charm.

Last Night of the Kings

“The castle is lit with candles and torches. The carriages of the nobles arrive in front. The smell of splendour and decadence,” His tone was wistful as he sang before he gave a sharp toothed smile to the gathering, the veil still covering his eyes like the rest of his friends, “And nobody can foresee…”

Blaise took up the verse as he sidled up to the blond, giving an exaggerated bow and kiss to Draco’s hand, “The masters and the mistresses are walking into the hall. They are smiling and laughing and showing that they are tall. They don't recognize that we're waiting there.”

“And just nobody can foresee.” Draco finished, before the following line was delivered together with his companions.

“This is the last night of the kings.”

Draco began again as he let go of Blaise’s hand to spin around the edge of the ring of people that the coven had created, hands gesturing, no imploring would be a better word. “We are the folk and we have the right! To stand up and to fight for an independent life. We are the force. We are the might. And we will stand up for an independent life!”

The girls sang the next wordless chant louder than the boys as they gave time for the gathering to absorb their words before Theo’s voice came forth. Some of the dark twitched back, which confused Harry as the boy had a pretty good voice, “The ball has begun and we're closing our trap. Inwardly we're gathering ourselves.”

Daphne’s smooth alto cut in as she spun with Tracy, “While the dance comes to higher pace. Still nobody can foresee.” The other girl picked up where she left off, “Joining the circle, in black robes unknown. Unsheathing our swords and get ready to dance.”

Once more Draco’s voice “Our hearts are filled with the will to survive. In this last night of their life. It's a murderous, murderous ball night.”

All of the youths broke into the chorus once more, “We are the folk and we have the right! To stand up and to fight for an independent life. We are the force. We are the might. And we will stand up for an independent life!”

Pansy’s high soprano lilted as the others grew quieter, “We are heroes. Heroes of the night. We are ready to live forevermore. Our gods lead us through this fight. On and on, we are one and on our way.”

The last round of chorus was sung by all, though with Draco’s voice raised the loudest, “We are the folk and we have the right! To stand up and to fight for an independent life. We are the force. We are the might. And we will stand up for an independent life!”

The song’s end was not met with applause, which was a relief to Harry on some level. While the performance was passionate and delivered with skill, the meaning behind it made Harry feel almost physically ill. It seemed to be thinly veiled call for war and he had no doubts towards against who. There was murmuring from the slighter cloaked figures that Harry guessed were either Draco’s age, younger, or a few years older. The adults on the other hand were silent and stiff in their posture.

The tension that hung in the air was as suffocating as smog from an incorrectly brewed potion.

Then there was movement, the four figures sliding ever closer to the bonfire. They were the four that had spoken before Harry realized. The Volkhv came to a stop before the slight blond, stance rigid and anger palpable despite the distance and face still covered by his hood and circlet of oak leaves.

Draco opened his mouth to speak, but before a word could escape him the sound of skin meeting skin echoed through the silence. The force of the slap had Draco stumbling as red blossomed across his left cheek.

“F-”

“No, don’t you dare speak, Draco. If you do I fear that I might do something we all will regret.” The older man’s voice was tight and cold, “What you suggest is a fool’s errand. The fact that I have apparently failed in your teachings to such a degree that you don’t recognize that…”

The Volkhv shook his head, obviously struggling to control his emotions, a pale hand on his arm drew his attention to the woman now standing by his side. After taking a deep breath he continued, “I’ll deal with you later, Draco. For now I want you out of my sight. I’m sure the other parents will be assigning their own punishments. For you though, Midsummer’s Night is over.”

“I will return him.” The taller man in the group with the deeper voice offered as he stepped forward to grip Draco’s shoulder tightly, before giving a short whistle. Movement to the left of him had Harry startling, but he realized it was Vielantiu, the Gragian stallion trotting out into the valley and stopping before the man who called to him, though he snorted lowly and excessively once he did so.

“I’ll call Enb-”

“No, if you cannot be trusted to behave, then you certainly have no rights to your filly. Get up.” Vielantiu’s master cut Draco off abruptly and pushed him towards the stallion. After a moment’s hesitation with the heat of everyone’s gaze on his back, Draco swung himself up onto the steed’s back sitting right before the wings. The man followed, sitting behind the wings and Draco, his hands, adorned with long, slim fingers tangled in Vielantiu’s long mane while at the same time caging the youth in on both sides.

Harry was familiar with riding winged horses, he had gotten lessons under Sirius since he was young. He knew the way that Draco was being forced to ride was akin to how a young child would. It was meant to be a humiliating punishment.

“Thank you, Prince, I am sorry that your evening had to be ruined by impertinence.” the Volkhv bowed his head slightly before turning his back on the pair and striding away with the woman on his arm in a flare of dark robes.

The younger man stayed where he was, looking at the brooding youth in his companion’s arms. “It was a nice song, unfortunately it echoes the folly of youth we had all experienced before. It is hard for you to understand since you did not live through it, frustrating I know; however, this is not a path we can walk again.”

Draco did not answer, staying faced forward and not addressing the other wizard.

“Don’t waste your breath, it’s obvious now that we have been too lenient with the youth if they have become jaded towards peace.” The larger rider snapped back, making Draco flinch at the harshness of his tone, then with a click of his heels into Vielantiu’s sides the stallion was off, taking four quick fast strides before lifting himself up into the air with powerful beats of his wings.

All around Harry, the thestrals were also taking to the sky to follow after the stallion, their wings much quieter, like those of a bat. Their dark color had them melting into the night sky and all too quickly they disappeared from sight.

It was time for him to go too, Harry decided, mind still boggled by what had just transpired. He needed to be gone, like three hours ago. Urging his broom up out and above the trees for easy maneuvering, Harry spun his Firebolt back the way he had come. Zooming off he didn’t notice how a head holding grey eyes that was now standing beside the woman and Volkhv once more, turned his direction.

Home was the only goal in Harry’s mind as he pushed his broom to the limit. While it had taken a few hours to travel with the herd, the journey back with the guide of a point me spell only took about half an hour.

Harry stumbled as he snuck back into the manor and thankfully it seemed that his absence was not noticed. Remus and Sirius were gone on their now annual date night. Only the house elves and the portraits would have been around to notice his arrival anyway. He had used the same story as the year before, the excuse of hunting for fireflies late into the night around the grounds. As he closed the door to his room, Harry finally noticed that he was shaking.

Thuban hissed his concern as his master numbly walked to the bed and gently deposited the serpent onto the covers. Hedwig, who had been resting on her perch, hooted softly in concern as she glided over to sit on the headboard of the bed to closer observe her human.

He didn’t speak as he shed his clothing, until he was only in his boxers. Then he collapsed face first into the mattress with a small groan.

“What the hell?” Harry asked the room at large, as he turned his head so his nose wasn’t pressed uncomfortably flat against the bedding. He was met with the sight of the journal sitting oh so innocently with the pouch that contained the cleansing ritual materials.

Lifting one hand to trace over the leather of the book, Harry let out a long deep sigh, he knew he wasn’t going to be able to cut his ties with the dark boy. Draco was a complex character and each year new facets of him were revealed, peeling back layers upon layers that also contained so many hints about the dark’s history and ideas.

At the center though, Harry still wasn’t sure he would like what he found.


 

Notes:

Lucius greeting first because he is in the highest position in the coven.

Oak and Holly Kings: Oak King was believed to have ruled when the sun was waxing, while the Holly King who ruled over the waning sun began his rule on the summer solstice. The Oak King withdraws to the circumpolar stars, which never disappear below the horizon even in winter. On the winter solstice, people celebrated the beginning of the return of the sun.

Circumpolar Star Names: Ursa Major, the Great Bear; and Ursa Minor, the Little Bear. Cassiopeia the queen of Aethiopia and Cepheus the king of Aethiopia.

Isis: Egyptian, mother of Horus and wife of Osiris
Astarte: Levantine, Goddess of war, fertility, sexuality
Diana: Roman, goddess of the moon and the hunt (known to Greeks as Artemis)
Hecate: Greek, goddess of witchcraft and crossroads
Demeter: Greek, goddess of the earth
Kali: Hindu, goddess of death and rebirth
Inanna: Sumerian counterpart to Astarte

Fire Leaping: Midsummer practice of Northern Europe, worshippers would jump over the fire, several times (repetition is important in magic), and both forward and backwards which reflects the sun’s movement through the seasons. Through leaping they can secure protection and good fortune for themselves for a single year. When the flames were still rather high, the leapers are usually the youths of the village, competing with one another. As the flames died down, women and couples also did it, to secure a good marriage, ensure that they would have children, and so on.

Draco’s Watch: A group of nightingales is called a ‘watch’. Throughout history the nightingale has been an important symbol of and for poets. Poets chose the nightingale as a symbol because of its creative and seemingly spontaneous song. This is reflective of Draco’s nature, he is clever, but can be spontaneous. A decision can be made on a spur of a moment and he will go through with it, even if it takes weeks or even months of planning in advance. Even while in the wrong, Draco’s behavior and charming wordsmithing(which can be compared to the singing of a nightingale, going against the flow by singing at night when all others are asleep, but sounding so lovely it is forgiven by those it roused from a dream’s embrace). Draco and his watch as typical teenagers trying to test their boundaries and push society’s values.

In the future, Draco’s going to be shown just what war brings to both sides.

Chapter Text

The morning after the events of Midsummer Night, Harry felt, to put it as eloquently as his exhausted teenage mind could put it, like shit.

He hadn’t slept well at all with his dreams filled with flashes of green lights, swirling black cloaks, the heady scent of pooling blood, the crackle of flames, and rapid chanting.

The morning didn’t care about that though, as the sun was unsympathetic in its cruelty shining its rays through the windows and into the youth’s eyes. Harry rolled himself onto his side with a small grumble, curling himself up tighter in his thin summer blankets. This action however, brought him nose to nose with Thuban, who delighted in the opportunity to flick his tongue over the tip of his master’s nose.

The tickling sensation had Harry squirming and struggling all the more to keep himself from joining the land of the living.

Eventually though, it got to be too much, and he bolted upright in bed to scrub at his nose to try to rub the feeling away.

The adder was hissing with laughter as he watched the other’s misery. Quickly Thuban darted under the covers to coil himself up on the spot that Harry’s torso had been laying on before to absorb the body heat that Harry had left behind. Effectively blocked from any attempt at reclaiming his bed Harry knew that he had no choice but to face the day like most normal people.

Then again, normal people didn’t sneak into forbidden forests, become possible friends with dark wizards, desire to learn outlawed, morally questionable spells, spy on covens and their rituals, and speak with snakes.

To be fair, the fates seemed to already have it out for Harry being saddled with the title of the Boy-Who-Lived, heir of two ancient bloodlines, orphaned from a young age, and being raised by a lord and his werewolf boyfriend.

No, Harry really couldn’t claim to be normal in any sense of the word, but he had made his peace with that fact long ago when he was younger with the aid of his guardians. There would always be people that looked at him like he was a hero, like Colin Creevey; a person to be admired for something that he supposedly did as a baby which he could not remember nor wanted to. Others that wished to use him, like the Ministry, Lords, Ladies, and ‘common’ folk wanting to raise their own standings through marriage or even friendship,such as was the case with Zacharias Smith.

Always eyes would be looking for faults to exploit. This too, was something that Harry had learned young. He was lucky to have developed what he thought to be long and honest friendships with people of so different backgrounds and standings.

It still pained him that he couldn’t be fully honest with them. From the time that he was six, Harry was entrusted with his first secret. One that he guarded with furocity since its reveal could lead to the death of one he considered as something akin to a father to him.

Remus was a werewolf and that fact, that had come from no fault of his own, could unfairly ruin the life the kind man so enjoyed.

So then why, Harry wondered, did he tell Draco that information last night? He had been mortified the moment that he had let the information slip in a fit of desperation to explain why he liked Defense Against the Dark Arts to Draco. There would be guilt the next time Harry saw Remus, despite that the older wizard would not know what Harry had done.

Oh Harry realized that he had a problem and after the events of last night, he knew that he had to address them or at the very least outline them in his head.

Or to Thuban as his familiar cocked his head at him hissing while wriggling his coils deeper into the sheets, You’ve got that ssstrange faccce on again. Do you need to relieve yourssself or are you thinking?”

“It is far too early to deal with your ssasss, Thuban.” Harry grunted back while rubbing at his temples. While harsh and blunt at times, the serpent’s commentary was grounding as ever. Thuban for his part seemed to smirk at his master as he stared at him, then again, Thuban was always staring; after all, snakes didn’t have the ability to blink or shut their eyes.

Right, Harry was getting distracted, he needed to refocus on the the issue named Draco.

“I wasss thinking about what we sssaw lassst night. I know that you don’t underssstand humansss, but that sssong that Draco and hisss group lassst ssang, it wasss…” Harry frowned as he wondered how to describe the concept of war to an animal that was predominantly a solitary species. They were trying to entice the ressst of their family and friendsss into fighting againssst umm… everyone elssse?”

Thuban hummed at that, the snake understood a bit about human behavior and society after so many years with Harry. There were still many things that he didn’t, “Ssso that includesss humansss like you? What do they want to fight for?”

“Well,” Harry grimaced as he tried to think of the reasons himself. What was the cause? Did Harry know without a doubt what Draco wished to fight for? If he divided out what he thought he knew about the dark and focused on the facts that Draco had given him.
That was where his answers laid, in past conversations with, observations of, and songs that he had heard sung by Draco.

“Freedom to practiccce their magic, to not be judged for what they are, to leave the foressst without fear, to do what their ancessstorsss did?” Harry muttered under his breath, though he winced as he remembered the lyrics of the latest song, To get revenge on the Light for being hunted and killed over so many centuriesss?”

Thuban and Harry both sat in silence for a few moments before the youth threw himself onto his back on the bed with a loud groan. When thinking of it from this perspective, it seemed like the demands were not so unreasonable. Bloody scary as hell, but not something that was without sense or merit. Killing was wrong, however it had been a wrong committed by both sides, that is what Harry had realized. Would Draco kill Harry if he knew who he really was?

Probably.

Was that so different from what Harry had almost done? The second time that Harry had encountered Draco it was with the plan of possibly bringing him before the Ministry to ‘pay for his crimes’. It would have practically been a death sentence.

Now though, here Harry and Draco were, still holding secrets and reservations about their companionship, but it was there. The sound of ruffling pages dragged Harry out of his thoughts, bolting upright on the bed he glanced around for the cause in confusion as all of his books and parchment should be secured in his shelves or trunk. Then he caught movement from the corner of his bed.

The journal.

The black leather bound thin tome seemed to be breathing, the exhaling ‘breath’ it released was shuffling the parchment it contained against each other. It was disconcerting, sure charms could make objects become animated, but to mimic something so essential as the need for air… A shiver ran down Harry’s spine as he grabbed his wand, using the tip of it to slowly flip the cover open. He leaned forward cautiously to get a closer look.

Harry had dealt with the Monster Book of Monsters, how bad could this be?

When the book didn’t leap off of the bed to cover his face in paper-cuts, Harry leaned closer, watching as black ink started to scrawl itself across the first page, the loops and curves were elegant; a sign of a well practiced hand.

For a moment, fear gripped Harry as he suspected that Draco had somehow discovered his little stint of espionage. Draco definitely seemed to be vindictive enough to lead his victim into a false sense of security before surging in for the kill. Well, that’s how it went last night at least. Draco and his ‘Watch’, as the coven called his friends, had dove into the valley filled with swirling cloaks after the chant that left the members giddy and distracted.

Well, Harry wouldn’t know if he didn’t throw his pointy hat in, though really he never wore hats, most of all not those gods awful bowler hats that Fudge loved. Also he was dying to know what had happened once Draco left last night.

He swiped the bag that Draco had given him out from where he had hidden it between his mattresses. The journal he had kept out, having been curious how he might be alerted if the blond did send a message. With a swift accio he summoned an ink well from his desk and pulled one of the Granian feathered quills Draco had gifted him.

There were a few moments of apprehension before Harry gritted his teeth and pierced the pad of his left thumb with the sharp obsidian tip. Letting the scarlet blood well up in the nib before pressing it to the parchment. He watched as the blood was eagerly drank up, then dipped the quill in ink before writing as he whispered the spell that Draco taught him, “Secretum meum.”

There was a long pause, there didn’t seem to be any response immediately forthcoming and Harry grew worried. Honestly, he had thought that the pun was rather witty. Maybe Draco wasn’t in the mood to be on the receiving end of humor. Unsure and needing something to keep himself from his growing anxiety, Harry finally maneuvered himself off of the bed after Thuban quickly slithered his way around his master’s neck.

He could at least follow Draco’s advice, though he wanted to ask if there was a reason that being in the forest would have an effect on him. Then again, Harry only needed to think about each time he entered the Caledonian Forest to find his own answer.

It was a place saturated with magic.

It held a different air to it than Diagon Alley, the Ministry, Hogwarts, or any of the other magical places that Harry had visited in his life, but it was definitely imbued with as much air as magic.

Wait, the forest did feel familiar to another place, the same cool, heavy atmosphere existed in the shedding room back behind the portrait of the… Caledonian Forest… with the painted serpent guard… and the kelpie. Harry felt like the air had been punched out of him and he drew his eyes to the ceiling as he tried to organize his thoughts with the newest discovery. Things were lining up, but still Harry felt that the threads he had gathered were too frayed and knotted to follow to the tapestry they were trying to weave.

Racking a hand through his wild hair in frustration, Harry heaved a short breath before deciding to further dissect the idea later. While he waited for a response that may not even come, he might as well attempt to do the cleansing ritual.

A glance down at the luscious, soft, cozy carpet his feet were standing on and Harry knew he needed a different strategy. The results of the ritual had been… messy. Really though, the solution was rather simple as he quickly gathered his supplies in his arms, the bag that Draco had given him, the inkwell, quill, and his wand. Thuban took up the task of holding the journal in a coil of his tail as Harry shuffled his way into his connecting bathroom.

He settled himself into sitting cross legged in the large empty bathtub which he could lay flat in both directions in. A convenient, private place that had the ability to get rid of the evidence when he was finished. There were no portraits in Harry’s room that the many painted individuals of the Black line could sneak into, but it was better to be safe than sorry when he was about to attempt a dark magic ritual in his godfather’s home.

Setting up the same scene as the night before from memory was far easier than Harry thought it would be. From the bag he summoned the four purple candles that he set evenly around himself, the silver stone goblet which he filled with water to hold in his left hand, his wand being held in his right.

Taking a steadying breath as Thuban maneuvered himself to be sprawled across his lap, Harry began the chant, “Deluo copia, deluo redundantia, deluo prodigentia. Crateraa redundat et ex insaniam.”

The feeling of something cool trickling down his spine and the rest of his body made Harry shiver. The words continuing to flow out of his mouth as he watch the flames of the candles flicker then shift away from their cheerful orange color into a familiar purple. The water in the bowl swayed and then swirled with growing speed as the verse repeated again and again. The length of holly in his hand pulsed softly, a point of warmth while the rest of his form was on the borderline of chilled.

There was no pain this time, which Harry was more than grateful for. He hadn’t exactly been looking forward to having to almost willingly torture himself on a regular basis so he didn’t get driven insane by a buildup of dark magic. His system wasn’t suddenly attempting to purge itself of three years of excess through a much too narrow channel that this smaller cleansing ritual provided.

No, if anything this was a rather relaxing experience. Each shiver that rattled through his body made it feel like there was something flaking off of his skin. When he looked there was nothing visible, though perhaps there was a build up of dust on his clothing or the ceramic of the tub, however, that could have been there before the ritual. As the verse left his lips for the tenth time Harry decided that that was enough.

The first thing he did was glance at what the water had become, it wasn’t the thick sludge that it was last night. More like a glass of water that had a bit of ink spilt into it, murky.

As he tipped the goblet towards the drain Harry felt a weird sense of guilt wash over him. Draco had said that the physical remnants from the ritual was magic in its most natural and consolidated form. It seemed quite the insult for it to be discarded in such a way. Until he found a better way to get rid of it though, this was what he had to do. Watching the last dregs slink away into the plumbing, Harry turned his attention to the…. Interesting sight in his lap.

Thuban was letting out a constant hiss that sounded much closer to a purr, the serpent laying on his back and head lolling off of Harry’s right knee.

“You look clossser to a bonelesss worm than a sssnake right now.”

“I can ssstill bite you, I can sssend you to bed with a fever for a few daysss, would you like that? Massster?” Thuban snipped back, rolling back over slowly with an irritated huff at the fact that the human seemed to have ruined whatever moment he was having.

“Sssasssss.” Harry complained with a small laugh, he knew that Thuban would never actually bite him. It was a threat that was empty, unless it could somehow help Harry out of some situation or be for his own good. That’s what Thuban claimed, what instance would call for such an action, Harry had no idea and the snake was vague as well.

As he put out the candles and set the supplies back into the pouch once more, Harry decided he might as well kill two birds with one stone. Quickly he shed his clothes as Thuban crawled up the wall to curl himself around the faucet and shower-head, hissing in pleasure as Harry turned on the tap to make heat radiate into the metal as the hot water gushed forth.

Growing up with guardians with sensitive noses but also loving mischief made it so one had to be aware of certain things if they wanted to get away with things such as pranks… and secret meetings with individuals of questionable nature.

Harry began the process of removing even the slightest trace of his rendezvous in the forest, scrubbing at his hair and body with strong soaps a total of three times which left his skin slightly red, but he was satisfied. After redressing for the day, Harry called for a house elf to wash his clothing from the night before along with the sheets of his bed. He wasn’t going to take any chances and the house elves were as happy as ever to provide him with service.

As he tucked into the breakfast that was delivered to him, Thuban slithered from the bathroom now that it was no longer the blissful sauna that had been created by the hot shower. It was customary to eat in his room when the house was mostly empty. Harry had almost completely forgotten about the journal he had left on his night stand. That is until the pages gave a soft rustle again. Thuban laughed as Harry almost kissed the carpet in his haste to retrieve it. Honestly, he couldn’t bring himself to care as his eyes raked over the script that had appeared.

Harry snorted, he had forgotten that Draco had the vernacular of a stuffy old man too stubborn to give up his spot on the Wizengamot to a younger heir.

Oh, Harry knew why Draco was in trouble, but he had a role to play and hopefully he could glean some more information about the reasoning behind both the coven’s reactions, along with the other teenager’s. There was another significant pause between responses that allowed Harry to stuff his face with more bacon and waffles. He wasn’t stress eating… He wasn’t, that was not a thing he did.

The laugh that escaped Harry was abrupt and loud, despite the sharp words it was fun to ‘talk’ and he had a feeling that Draco was smiling wherever he was as well. It probably felt good to the blond to rant as it seemed that for the time being he was receiving the silent treatment from his family. Harry had experienced Sirius doing the same thing to him when he caught Harry returning from the Caledonian Forest the first time when he was ten years old going on eleven.  

Yeah, Harry knew it was not fun at all to be shrugged off, ignored, and given disappointed looks. And THAT was just for suspected lying and riding his broom unsupervised as well as at night!

It felt awkward to offer encouragement to Draco, after all, Harry didn’t exactly want him to succeed in turning the coven’s opinion. Seeing Draco getting slapped last night made him nervous, the shock that had painted Draco’s face after it happened told Harry that it wasn’t a common occurrence at least. He didn’t feel that the dark wizard came from an abusive home either, Draco always spoke, what little he did, about his family with affection and pride.

At the sight of the fake name scrawled across the parchment Harry flinched before finally writing.

“You have a faccce again,” Thuban’s hiss brought Harry out of his thoughts and with a small sigh he snapped the journal shut after the words faded from existence leaving the page pristine once more.

“I don’t think I can remove my faccce.” Harry answered, but as an eyeridge rose, he gave in. Honestly, Thuban was more of a sarcastic, scaly counselor than a familiar. “I know that Draco isss, well Draco’sss real name. From the very beginning, he’sss been far more truthful than I’ve been.”

“And?” Thuban prompted as he sized up one of the sausages on Harry’s plate.

“In retrossspect, Draco alssso hasss a lot more to lossse than I do by being truthful.If you believe all the ssstoriesss and ssstereotypess, thiss isss incredibly ironic. Then again, what’sss fact and ficcction I’m ssstill trying to ssshift through. ” Really it was both a blessing, a curse, and a massive headache for Harry.

“Like sssand in an hourglassss?”  Thuban had a pension for certain human artifacts, hourglasses in particular seemed to fascinate the serpent for the fact that the tinkering of the little rocks against each other and glass sounded reminiscent to hissing.

“In a way I guess, the facts could be to too big pieces to fall to the bottom? I can only wait and sssee.” Harry mused while tapping his chin in thought.

“What about the other factsss?” the familiar questioned while stretching his jaw to get ready to eat. He continued after a questioning sound from his master, “The factsss about yourssself and the ressst of your too complicated human world?”

Not waiting for Harry’s answer the snake began to eat the pile of sausages on the plate, more than likely becoming a very fat one himself once he was finished. Which was perfectly fine for the now very frazzled teenager as he didn’t know what to say to that. Instead, Harry sat in silence for a few minutes before deciding to work on his summer homework. Anything to keep his mind busy.

Chapter Text

Harry was kept busy by a variety of things as the summer proceeded, his lessons with his guardians continuing as they always had. However, as they did, there was a mounting tension growing inside of the manor.

Sirius was acting odd and the head of the House of Black knew that. However, he couldn’t help himself, not when there were so many… changes in Harry.

Nothing dramatic, just small things here or there. There was a new fluidity to how Harry moved about the manor and the same could be said for how he dueled. No longer was he stamping his feet when practicing the usual steps, the green eyed boy was now focusing on the moves three, four, or even five ahead of his current one. A shift to being more contemplative and opening his mind, ears, and eyes to clues about moves his opponent might make next rather than charging in to attack. Harry’s dueling capability was rapidly improving as a result and he was now able to land a few hexes on his previously untouchable godfather.

While he couldn’t be certain, he swore that he had heard the teenager humming under his breath at one point in a duel.

This might have been by chance, and Harry finding a new way to focus himself wasn’t a bad thing after all, right?

Another tick to Sirius internal alarms was the slight change in Harry’s vocabulary. While the young heir had always been far above many of his peers in knowledge of terms and ability to wordsmith, with each passing day Sirius was noting that his ward was using more obscure, or even dated, words and was able to hold his own more elegantly in the usual debates and conversation during meals.

Again, this had a logical explanation, Harry’s long standing interest in history and devouring any book he could get his greedy little hands on. There were plenty of old tomes in the Black library, though they had been carefully sorted through for sensitive information years ago by Sirius if not completely removed over a decade ago with Regulus.

An increase in knowledge, not a bad thing at all.

Harry staying in his room more often and seeming to be eager to return to it whenever he could? Getting snippy when asked what he was up to inside of it?

Normal hormonal teenage behavior.

What Sirius couldn’t comfortably explain away was the shift in Harry’s aura. His godson was born with a core that was equal shades dark and light, oddly perfectly grey. As he grew older however, Harry’s core had become a paler shade of grey as he learned and practiced spells that did not exercise the other side of magic. Now though, Sirius could sense that the dark was shifting, more accurately, growing steadily towards balancing out so it echoed once more to what the ratio had been between the magicks when Harry was a babe.

While this was not harmful per say- It could be a completely natural occurrence without any conscious actions made on Harry’s part. Actually, when Sirius really thought back, he noticed that there had been a gradual change in the growth of the dark side of his godson’s core starting when he was around eleven.

Perhaps the reason was because Harry was interacting with dark students at Hogwarts along with the ancient structure being long saturated in all types of magicks from its founders and the individuals that came after. Yes, there was well more than a handful of dark kids inside of Hogwarts’ walls, born from families that decided to risk remaining in wizarding society instead of fleeing on the night of the Flight of the Murder, or they were born with a darker core from grey parents.

These later situation kids were the ones that Sirius had some serious concerns about. Many grey parents and families weren’t even aware of the dark magic that could fester in their veins. Some may never need to cleanse themselves as without casting or interacting with dark magic they would never build up enough excess to cause damage to them throughout their lives. This meant that those children with darker cores had no way of learning or practicing the rituals that would stop the congestion of magic in their systems which would edge them ever closer to insanity, ill physical health, and other problems.

Since the fall of Voldemort an increasing number of youths had been checked into St. Mungo’s and other magical hospitals with varying symptoms that Sirius recognized but utterly baffled the medi-wizards and witches. No cures could be found and the patients continued to slowly waste away.

It pained Sirius and Andromeda to see this occurring, Ted Tonks worked at St. Mungo’s and entreated both his wife and Lord Black to find some way to help. They wanted to, but while they could purge the dark magic from the children’s systems in secret, without learning how to do it themselves the cycle would repeat.

Sirius and his cousin had also been speaking with the Ffydd coven on how to deal with this. Severus and Sirius were in constant contact through letters discussing development of a potion or spell that might help.

Andromeda entreated her younger sister, Narcissa, for leverage over Lucius to find a way to aid the innocent victims of circumstance. The sisters’ relationship had gradually improved as Andromeda proved that her own husband was open to the dark and was teaching her own daughter the traditions that Narcissa believed that her sibling was discarding.

Last year… they all had been forced into reluctant action as a young girl, only ten years old from a very publicly Light, but poor family, teetered towards death. It had been during winter break for Harry, a time that lined up conveniently as Sirius doubted that the farce would have been successful without the invisibility cloak. There had been no other option that they could deduce. Though as guardians themselves, the choice pained them all on a certain level.

The only way to save her life was to take her to the coven to be healed and cared for by them. Ted and Andromeda had reasons to be at the hospital so no suspicion would be cast upon them.

Sirius, as one of the very highest lords in the modern wizarding world, often made public appearances to make donations to worthy causes. A dash of publicity was required to keep suspicions off of himself as being dark and to endear himself to the ‘common folk’ as it were. It made for his word to hold more weight in Wizengamot sessions. Money didn’t hurt either, nor did his position as a talented potion master developing many improved elixirs.

While Harry was spending time at the Burrow with the Weasleys preparing for Christmas, they had launched their plan. Sirius came to St. Mungo’s to make a donation and within minutes he had been swarmed by visitors, patients, medical officials, and reporters. While the lord charmed the crowd, Remus hidden under the invisibility cloak snuck off, the werewolf followed after Andromeda and Ted into the girl’s room.

It was a complicated, but quick process.

Andromeda had transfigured the dead goat that Remus had brought in with a shrunk bag into a perfect copy of the girl lying in the bed. She layered dark spell after dark spell upon the copy, warming the blood and charming the once stagnant heart to beat to circulate and create an artificial pulse. Yet another charm to make lungs inflate and deflate, all to make an illusion of life. This would not last more than a day, but by then the real child would be safe and no one would be the wiser that the corpse in the bed was not the real one or human.

Ted had worked to stabilize the girl who had been catatonic for over three months now. Once she was safe enough to move, Remus took her in his arms and under the cloak. He then followed the pair out of the room and came to the main hall where Sirius was carefully dislodging himself from people looking to grease their palms with his fame, status, and wealth.

Donning a dazzling smile Sirius had greeted the Tonks warmly and offered an arm to Andromeda asking her to lunch. She agreed to accompany her cousin and they swept out of St. Mungo’s with Remus following unseen behind them while Ted took up the task dispersing the crowd and admonishing his fellow staff members about being distracted with celebrities and not caring for their patients.

They had to time their apparating carefully, if someone heard two pops instead of one suspicions might have been rose with so many eyes still on the duo. The coordination was perfect and they ended up just outside the wards of Black Dog Manor. The wards were ancient and highly tuned to let only specific people inside, Remus would not have been able to apparate inside of them while carrying his passenger, he had to walk through the invisible barrier instead with Sirius’ hand on the child’s shoulder.

They had not dallied, the adults hurried their way into the forest at the back of the property and to the meeting place that had been decided by the Black sisters. The handoff had been even quicker after short formal greetings between their group and the trio of dark robed individuals that had bled out of the shadows of the trees. Narcissa was one of the people present, her laugh soft as Remus literally growled at her when she moved to take the girl from her arms.

Sirius had been proud of the fact that his lover hadn’t become immediately embarrassed by the sound he had produced. A few assurances later to the protective werewolf from all sides and Remus relinquished his hold to the coven. They hadn’t stayed to chat not when time was of the essence as Ted’s charms would not last long and every moment that passed made more dark magic build up in the child’s systems.  

All in all it had been a success. The copy was buried by the grieving family, but the girl was slowly recovering in the care of the coven. She was confused, terrified, and weak, but alive. She was improving and coming to realize that the stories she had grown up with weren’t all true, very gradually accepting her new life. One of the former Hogwarts’ professors, Sirius had been told, had taken the girl in.

This wasn’t a viable, nor welcome option on how to deal with the afflicted youths in the hospital. Dangers and stakes high on all sides, but so far a better solution hadn’t been found. At the moment, at least, none of those hospitalized were to that point yet… But that could change in an instant.

While it was frustrating, Sirius understood why the dark children of Hogwarts were not reaching out to their fellow at risk students. For one thing, they might not even be aware of the growing plight inside of their peers. It took years to hone the skills needed to accurately sense the cores and magical signatures of other people.

The longer that one is in contact with another, the easier it was to recognize and read their magicks. Which was why Sirius and Andromeda both noticed the change in Harry while no one else did. Remus being a werewolf and dark creature knew that there was something different about the boy, but could not put his finger on it and Moony only welcomed the change. Tonks could sense Harry’s core, but her ability to notice its shifting wasn’t nearly as keen as the older dark wizard and witch.

Another reason why the younger dark wizards and witches of Hogwarts didn't approach their peers ever if they did sense their magicks was fear. A perfectly reasonable fear of being exposed themselves. There was always the chance that instead of accepting help, the student may reject the help and even call the Aurors on the dark youth.

If it was a choice between protecting themselves and their family or helping someone that may stab you in the back or feed you to the dementors… Well, Sirius would choose the same. In fact, he had. During his time at Hogwarts Sirius had acted like he hated his family and their traditions to protect both them and himself when he had been sorted into Gryffindor. An act that had long reaching benefits and consequences, he still had to wear that very mask to this day when in certain situations.

To play a good wizard coming into the light from the shadows of his ancestors, what a load of crock.

But for the family he gained and hoped to keep, Sirius couldn’t completely lament his past decisions.

For these reasons, Sirius did not believe that Harry was learning dark spells from his peers. No, from what he had been told by Remus, there was little to no interaction between the teenager and the students that Sirius knew were dark. Well, besides one, Luna Lovegood was something of an enigma. Like Harry, the girl had been born with a core that was perfectly grey. Xenophilius Lovegood was not exactly a friend of Sirius or his family, but the Lovegoods were known for being neutral in almost all matters though the line had openly opposed the Dark Lord during the war. Oh, Sirius knew that both Xenophilius and his daughter could see right through him and Remus.

Still Xenophilius was no dark wizard, a strange man to be certain, who was more sensitive to the world around him; but no, he was not dark. As such he would not have been able to teach Luna any spells. After hearing about the girl from many people and then meeting her himself, Sirius could tell that she was some kind of seer. Having never cared for divination and having the belief that the study was flawed and misunderstood in many ways, Sirius did not know what all her abilities might be.

Whatever the case may be, it was a good thing that she was a friend of Harry and not an enemy.

Actually, it was more than a little disturbing what Sirius had been told by Remus when he questioned him about Harry’s school life knowing his lover would have a different viewpoint than most; along with seeing and realizing more than the boy himself did. Apparently, while Harry didn’t take part in any bullying or hazing in Slytherin students like some students did, particularly Gryffindors, he didn’t exactly put a stop to it either.

While Sirius and Remus had been proud that Harry and his friends had stood up for Hermione and Luna when they were being bullied; it seemed that Harry wasn’t doing the same for his green and silver wearing peers. Instead, when it was taking place in the vicinity of Harry, two things usually happened: the bullies stopped on their own at the sight of the Boy-Who-Lived or Harry quickly left the area.

When he had read that in one of Remus’ letters last year, Sirius had destroyed one of the guest bedrooms under the reproachful gaze of Kreacher. Still there had been a great sense of satisfaction of ripping apart mattresses, imploding bookcases, and getting feathers stuck in his fur and teeth, well actually that last part wasn’t so great.

It hadn’t surprised Sirius to hear that Ron was often seen hassling Slytherins, nothing physical or even magical, Remus had assured him. Still words could cut just as deep and had both men worrying about the behavior that was becoming typical among even teenagers after the Wizarding War.

Remus with his enhanced sense of smell had said that the Slytherins sometimes reeked of fear when in proximity to the famous Harry Potter-Black. Whether it was a fear of the boy himself or what he represented Sirius didn’t know.

Harry could be a symbol of the end of the dark’s spot in the modern wizarding world. There was also the mystery of how exactly Harry survived the Killing Curse to begin with. The in hiding youths might even believe that Harry could somehow sense and then harm them. If a lesser person had the same mystery around them, they would have used it to gain even more fame and power. A prime example would be Lockhart, no doubt that the fraud would have been accusing people left and right as being dark on whims to make himself out to be some grand saint and hero.

Now Lockhart couldn’t do anything inside of his cozy little cell in Azkaban.

Still what once was simple house rivalry, if grudging between Slytherins and Gryffindors, had spiraled out of control. Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws were also picking on the now less populated house as well, though the birds were the ones that did it the least of all the houses as they shared many traits with the serpents.

Sirius also knew without a doubt that there were hidden dark children of equally shadowed families in all the other houses minus Gryffindor. Perhaps the Sorting Hat had realized the danger it could be putting those students in after Sirius’ trials and knew better than to risk it a second time.

Dumbledore, the professors, and the rest of the Hogwarts’ staff were struggling with how to approach and police this growing problem between the houses and Slytherin as well. Detentions only did so much it seemed when the students thought that they were doing their civic duty or such rot.

Peers teaching Harry was out, Hogwarts still may be the cause of Harry’s dark magic growth though. Harry and his friends were basically mini Marauders, Remus had developed an amusing pastime between classes of watching his copy of the map to see what the teenagers were up to. They were always on the move, exploring every dark corner of the castle they could find.

Those sometimes literally dark corners might be responsible, extended contact with dark objects and areas where those magicks were extensively practiced could rub off and be absorbed by Harry who’s core was more open to receiving it as his core would soak in all shades of magic with it having the tendency towards grey.

However, during the past year, it seemed that the group, with the exception of the twins and Lee Jordan, had turned over the new leaf. No longer were the younger members sneaking out after curfew and they seemed to be sticking to the main, well-known areas of Hogwarts.

Sirius, of course, found this to be very suspicious.

He knew Harry, at least he hoped he did, and laying low was not his style. Harry might not like the title of The Boy Who Lived or even that of being a powerful, rich heir, but he liked being noticed for his actual accomplishments through effort. He was a grand Seeker, always the top or near the top of his year in nearly every subject, enjoyed independent research like Remus liked a cup of hot chocolate in winter, and Harry was constantly on the move.

Like Sirius, Harry couldn’t sit still for very long. They both got antsy when sitting for too long, tapping their feet, shifting, and playing with anything that they could get their hands on. Sitting through long boring Wizengamot sessions was a special type of torture for Sirius even though he discovered that he had a surprisingly good head for politics.

Then again giving off the illusion of being bored out of his mind lulled his political opponents into a false sense of security before the Lord Black would suddenly straighten up in his seat and then swoop into the discussion, dismantling the bills that they had been about to finalize letter by letter. All of the arguments he gave being sound and relentless.

The looks on the old codgers’ faces never got old.

In the end, it didn’t matter to Sirius how exactly Harry was interacting with dark magic, well it did but at the moment it was like trying to enter Platform 9 ¾ through the wrong pillar.

In other words, not very fruitful, but very headache inducing and frustrating.

What Sirius could do was find a way to deal with the situation while still keeping his familial secret. Thankfully, he found a way that would pass off as a simple birthday present to his godson. That is… if Harry would take it.

The air was charged between Harry and Sirius lately, neither of the wizards were exactly trying to improve it either.

The elder knew his behavior was incredibly conflicting.

Some days he would try to distance himself from Harry as soon as their private lessons were finished. This course of action was caused by the sense of guilt that Sirius had festering in his gut, that it was somehow his fault that Harry’s dark core was growing. He even feared that Harry was unconsciously siphoning off dark magic from his contact with Sirius. It wasn’t logical, he knew this, as the magic had continued to grow even while Harry was away at Hogwarts over the years… but the thought that he had failed the late Potters was devastating.

On other days, Sirius practically smothered Harry with affection and conversation. Sometimes Harry was receptive of the time they spent together, others he acted like most teenagers when their guardian showered them with attention: with all the sighs, eye rolling, and looking for not so polite outs to interacting so he could retreat back to his room and who knows what.

They were giving each other emotional whiplash and driving Remus up the fine interior walls.

That was another thing that Sirius felt terrible about. He hadn’t told the werewolf about his suspicions that Harry was doing something consciously or unconsciously that was causing his dark magic to grow. Sirius tried to play it off as just typical teenage behavior, too many hormones and feeling like the world is against them and all that.

Sirius was horrible at lying when it came to Remus, but the werewolf could tell that his pressing wasn’t going to budge the stubborn dark wizard.

Remus had grumbled about the fact that he seemed to be raising two children instead of one this summer with the moody behavior the rest of his pack was showing.

Yes, Remus was doing his best to play peacekeeper and when the three wizards of the household were in the same room, the tension did abate a little. With Sirius and Harry wrapped up in their own thoughts and projects, it left Remus to uphold the prank quota for the manor. Something that Harry and Sirius soon learned to regret. Within one week Harry found all of his shoes to be lefts, all of the ink in the manor became mysteriously hot pink in color, after teatime Sirius became a lovely falsetto for the rest of the day while Harry had a voice deeper than Black Lake, and many other pranks that ranged in deviousness.

And so, Harry and Sirius had to devote at least a bit of their time, love, and attention towards creating havoc in the manor in a… not so emotionally seeped way. At least negative emotions, there was plenty of yelling, laughter, shrieks, and curses alike from portraits, house elves, and wizards.

Sirius thought back fondly to the dinner from a few nights ago when the trio sat down to eat with slightly charred robes. Harry and Sirius had successfully teamed up against the werewolf and now Remus was slowly sipping his beer without any facial hair, including eyebrows or bangs.

Remus had said in a tone dripping with exasperation, “Honestly, getting even isn’t always the answer.”

Sirius and Harry had shared a look at each other before bursting out with laughter as Sirius barked out, “Says the pettiest person I know!”

Which to be fair, was true, Remus was addicted to getting even in pranks. He, to put it simply, was terrifying and Sirius very much preferred to prank with him than against him. Both Sirius and Harry were waiting for the other shoe to drop in retaliation now after that prank.

Still they should, or at least Harry should, be relatively safe today as it was the teenager’s birthday.

Fourteen.

It was only one more year until Harry would come of age in dark society. After certain rites were performed, events and trials passed, then the dark family would descend into a rather rushed phase of securing their family line and laying the final groundwork for the youth’s career. The thought brought out a sense of anxiety in Sirius as he remembered the prospect of arranged marriages and deciding how he would spend the rest of his life.

Harry didn’t have to worry about any of this as for the rest of wizarding society the coming of age was seventeen, there was also the fact that Sirius had already been screening any possible arrangements financial, marital, or political since Harry was born.

Not that Harry knew that or would know that for a long time to come. This was a common practice among all of wizarding society and there was no doubt that Augusta Longbottom was doing the same for Neville. Thin, frail, and old, many might think to take advantage of the Lady Longbottom, which would honestly be the last mistake many of them would make.

Speaking of the iron willed witch, the flaring of the flames turning green in the fireplace of the main drawing room, where the members of the Black household were reclining,  heralded her arrival.

Augusta appeared in a whirl of fur, ash, and feathers. With a flick of her wand as she strode out of the fireplace she removed all of the pesky ash leaving behind the tiny woman dressed in a fur shawl despite the summer weather, large hat adorned with a stuffed vulture, and clutched in one bony hand was her typical gaudy red handbag.

A few moments later, Neville was hurrying out of the fireplace too, his grin small, but warm as he greeted the group formally with his grandmother.

“You’re the first to show up, the Weasley hoard will probably be arriving in a few minutes.” Remus explained with a smile as he offered an arm to the witch to lead her to one of the couches. Kreacher was hurrying over with a tea set and pouring her a cuppa as she got settled with her usual huff and bolster about how being on time is the same as being late in her book.

Sirius chuckled while snatching a biscuit off of the tray, ignoring the reproachful looks he got from Remus and Kreacher, “I could name several members of the Wizengamot that would disagree with you on that, my Lady.”

“Those fools think that business won’t be conducted until they finish powdering their rumps and fronts in the little gentlemens’ room. Should start the next session for once, teach’em a lesson about proper manners by bein’ locked out.” Augusta answered gruffly, getting a shocked look from her grandson, while causing Remus to choke on his tea, Harry to snicker, and Lord Black to howl with laughter. Oh yes, over the years Sirius and Augusta had grown much closer, though even if they weren’t that never stopped the old bird from telling someone exactly what she thought of them.

Before Sirius could answer, the flames turned green once more and in a flurry of magenta robe with stars dancing across it emerged Dumbledore, followed by McGonagall, and then Hagrid; though the later had to crawl out of the fireplace on his hands and knees, laughing in good humor at the fact all the while.

Quirinus Quirrell came next with Madame Hooch on an arm and a quivering, yet honest smile as he bid Harry a happy birthday and thanks for the invitation to the manor. Quirrell had become a key player in Harry and Remus’ life. As Harry’s group of friends grew and wished to join in his extra tutoring sessions, Remus needed more help. So, surprisingly, Quirrell stepped in; as a master of charms and a shockingly good duelist, the workload was divided between the two older wizards. Quirrell had confidence inside the classroom and tutoring sessions, along with growing more comfortable with Harry’s group outside of it. Now, he only stuttered a few times from nerves whenever a new person was added.

Remus had also grown very close to the squirrely teacher and often they enjoyed a glass of elf-made wine in either of their quarters together. With the only people coming that the professor was unfamiliar with being the oldest Weasleys and Augusta he should be able to relatively enjoy himself. The other was still a bit twitchy as it was Quirrell’s first time off the Hogwarts grounds in over a decade.

Hooch was close to Harry for the fact that she oversaw all of the quidditch practices and games. She was eager to give advice when it came to flying and accepted, with reluctance, the invitation to the party. In part, she came just to prove to Sirius that she could still fly circles around him on a broom as she had taught him and the rest of the Marauders while they were at Hogwarts. She was an energetic, yet pessimistic, frightening, strict, and rather morbid teacher. Rolanda fit the bill to be head of house for Slytherin rather well, though she was originally a Ravenclaw.

Harry heard that she was as protective of her scaley chicks as any other head of the different houses as well.

Ollivander came next, his moon-like eyes glinting with a bit of mischief as his albino peacock, Ijdel, clucked his disapproval of the trip, preening his now sooty grey feathers before leaping down from his master’s shoulder to stroll about the drawing room after shaking the ash off himself. Harry didn’t like the bird as it had pecked him when he was young and stupid enough to pull on the peacock’s tail.

Sirius, on the other hand, loved the thing and often played with Ijdel in his dog form.

The Tonks arrived next, Andromeda arriving with grace and giving a blithe smile as Sirius kissed her cheek in greeting. The pair of Blacks sharing a look for a moment before the lord led her to sit beside Augusta and McGonagall. Ted quickly joined Hooch and Quirrell in conversation as both of their lines of work interested him from the standpoint of often needing medical attention with broom and miscast charms.

Tonks with her hair short, spiky, and pink greeted with a “Wotcher, Harry! Happy Birthday!”, before tripping on the edge of the extravagant rug before the mantle and having to be saved from falling flat on her face by Hagrid who grabbed the back of her cloak, though he ended up lifting her entirely off the floor as he asked, “And th’y l’t you becom’ an Auror, when ya st’ll as clumsy as ya’r days a’ Hogw’rts!?”

“I’ll have you know I passed my Concealment and Disguise during training without any studying at all! The Stealth and Tracking parts are just the parts I... well, struggled with.” Tonks countered flailing a little until the large man set her down with a shake of his head. “Guess I w’s wrong ta think you’d b’ done w’th trouble ‘fta school. Ya been stayin’ in contact with your ol’ band o’ troublemakers?”

“Oh yeah, we’re always sending owls,” Tonks answered, “Ya already know what Bill and Charlie have been up to, they should be comin’ to the party too. Andre’s in line to perhaps play in the Quidditch World Cup next month, Penny’s still working on her potions mastery, Ben’s gone across the pond to research some foreign charms, Rowan’s taken over her family’s farm and also doing guest lectures, Tulip…” She continued on as Hagrid listened eagerly about how the students he used to know were fairing.

A sea of ginger piled out of the fireplace next, starting with Arthur and Molly, the later of which quickly smothered Harry in a bone cracking hug that knocked the air out of the teenager. Bill the badass cursebreaker came next, then Charlie the dragon researcher visiting for the month from Romania, Percy now a highly ranked intern at the Ministry of Magic, finally the twins, Ron, and Ginny came out in a tight tumble of laughs and curses.

Arthur laughed at the sight, giving a wink to Harry as he urged his wife to let the poor birthday boy go and help him untangle the brood.

Luna came next, breezing out of the floo with as much grace as Neville and not even flinching as she got hit with a cleaning spell before she could settle herself on one of the couches. The little Ravenclaw was unaccompanied, which seemed to suit her just fine.

Another flash of green brought Lee Jordan who was immediately tackled by the waiting twins and then dragged away into a corner of a room where they proceeded to start whispering, obviously conspiring something. Sirius and Remus shared an amused, but slightly worried look at the sight. Remus summoned a house elf to keep an eye on the trio in the hope that the damage would be minimal.

Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas arrived together, Dean unsteady and needing to be supported by Seamus as it was one of his first journeys through the Floo network. While Harry wasn’t especially close to either of the boys, he liked them well enough sure, but the main reason he had invited them was the fact that the rest of his roommates would be at the party as well. It would be bad manners to talk about having a good time in the presence of people that were uninvited.

Also Seamus was hilarious and got on with the mischievous twins and Lee with his knack for pyrotechnics. Seamus was waved over by Fred and Harry watched how they whispered with their underclassman, the Irish wizard passing something over.

That couldn’t be good. Remus was also aware of the boy’s reputation and narrowed his golden eyes.

Dean was Seamus’ best friend and while the dark skinned boy’s father was a wizard, the man had been killed in the war against Voldemort without ever informing Dean’s mother of his heritage. The boy had a completely muggle childhood until his Hogwarts’ letter arrived and when Dean went home he returned to that lifestyle until it was time to return to school. Harry had hoped that having Dean here would make things… easier for Hermione. That she wouldn’t be completely alone in not knowing all of the subtleties of wizarding culture when in a lord’s house.

Speaking of which, or witch, the sound of flames stuttered and then roared louder, before a small form was hacked out. Ron hurried over to help Hermione back onto her feet as she coughed some of the soot out of her lungs. This was only her second time taking the floo and the first time had also been to this manor a few years ago. She hadn’t been invited back until this year and it had been through Harry asking Remus first to go over Sirius’ head.

Harry glanced at his godfather from the corner of his eye as he called a welcome to the muggleborn. Sirius’ face was carefully blank, an expression that Harry had seen him pull at Ministry functions or meetings with distasteful diplomats. No, it seemed that Sirius was not exactly leaping for joy at the sight of the brash girl. It at least looked like Sirius was planning to be civil and neutral.

Hermione had worried about her coming as well, sending many letters over the days leading up to the birthday party through her barn owl, Twonk. She asked for advice on how to act in Lord Black’s presence, what to say, topics that were pitfalls, and many other things, the poor bird was exhausted but dedicated in his task of delivering the letters. Harry would actually wait as long as possible to reply to give Twonk a break, but eventually the owl would nip at him demanding a response in a manner that echoed his master.

The twins hooted and whistled as Ron steadied the girl, earning them an annoyed, but at the same time confused look from their younger brother.

His attention was brought back to Hermione though as she casually shrugged Ron’s hands off her shoulders. Harry could see the way her larynx bobbed even as far as he was as she turned herself to face the owner of the manor.

Then, after summoning her wand that was strapped to her arm by the holster that Harry had given her for Christmas last year. Hermione bowed to Sirius.

There was not a flaw in her posture, though her frizzy, wild hair bounced as she spoke, “Thank you for allowing me to visit your home again, Lord Black. I am grateful to be able to attend Harry’s birthday party, he’s been one of my closest and first friends since I entered the magical world.”

Grey eyes blinked slowly, both brows having raised as Sirius glanced back at Andromeda, the girl, to Harry, back to Andromeda, and then back to Hermione. The female Black for her part tilted her head, while her daughter made a small choking sound in the background.

“You’re welcome, Ms. Granger. Hopefully we both can enjoy today.” Sirius finally answered with an incline of his head, then he turned his attention to Andromeda, “ Dear cousin, you would come with me for a moment? I have a matter to discuss with you, the rest of you, why don’t you head out to the quidditch pitch. Get the teams divided so I can whip your tails.”

“Of course,” the witch answered, her casual robes flowing around her gracefully as she followed the younger wizard.

Harry and Remus watched the pair leave with narrowed eyes, but the werewolf recovered first as he clapped his hands loudly to gather attention to him, “A wonderful suggestion, come on, I’m sure we have enough people for two teams even!”

The green eyed teenager scoffed softly, he wasn’t one to fall for misdirection so easily. However, he’d really rather not make a scene in front of a handful of his teachers and people he respected. He pulled himself up from his chair and followed the crowd out of the manor, into the sunshine, heat, and lush growth of the grounds.

Neville fell in step beside Harry, asking in a soft tone, “You alright, mate?”

“Oh, it’s nothing , just seems to be another ‘ignore Harry day’ with my godfather.” Harry snapped back, though he felt guilty as soon as the words left his mouth as Neville flinched back at the venom Harry produced.

“Hmm?” An airy voice came from Harry’s left and a glance to the side showed him that Luna had sidled up beside him, “He’s ignoring you, you say, but when I came out of the floo were you not sitting away from both Remus and Sirius? It didn’t appear to be the other way around.”

“Well…” Harry trailed off not sure how to answer that, it was true after all. Harry had been around his guardians since the early morning and been working close to them as they prepared for the party. As such, Harry had been unable to message Draco at all since the short good morning he had written before being summoned from his room by Kreacher, whom had a smile on his bullfrog like face as he went on and on about how the youngest master had grown.

Since the moment that he left his room, Harry hadn’t had a moment of privacy or excuse to shuffle back to his room, he never took the journal out of it in fear that it would raise questions from the older wizards. As such, Harry knew that he had gradually grown snippier and brisker with his conversations.

The more Harry thought back to the morning and early afternoon the more he realized that if anyone was acting unreasonable on his birthday it was himself.

He couldn’t be that obsessed with talking to Draco could he? Honestly, they didn’t even write that regularly, right? There had been a few days in a row in the past month when the journal did not so much as twitch. It had been a disappointing time for Harry sure, but he was able to keep himself occupied with other things and his guardians’ strange schedule and behavior. Harry continued to justify it to himself, though the anxious energy continued to bubble inside of him. The source he could not name or recognize, it wasn’t a nervous feeling more of impatience that further fueled his bad mood.

Hopefully it was, as everyone else said, just the hormones. That seemed to be the excuse that everyone was giving him anyway recently.

Still Luna’s words were a wakeup call that Harry needed to refocus on actually enjoying the party and the company that had travelled all this way to celebrate his birthday. Even if Sirius’ behavior still rubbed him as wrong as if he stroked Thuban against the natural flow of his scales. The serpent wasn’t present for the party, instead he would be gorging himself in the greenhouses on mice and lizards until the moon rose.

The quidditch game was just what Harry needed to forget about things for a while. The teams having the twins split up as beaters for each group. For Harry’s team he had Seamus, Dean, and Hooch as Chasers, Fred and Tonks as Beaters, Remus as Keeper, and finally himself as Seeker. The other team had McGonagall, Ginny, and Luna as Chasers, George and Sirius as Beaters, Ron as Keeper, and lastly Quirrell as Seeker.

Neville almost had a heart attack when his Gran mounted a broom so she could hover high in the air to get a closer view of the action. Lee Jordan flew up because he was, of course, the announcer and had the headmaster cast sonorus on him. Dumbledore, Neville, Ted, Hagrid, Molly, Arthur, Ollivander, Hermione, and Andromeda stayed on the ground to watch the surprisingly well matched teams.

In short, pairing up George and Sirius was a poor mistake on Harry’s part. Then again seeing how Seamus and Dean worked together proved to be impressive, but Seamus would have been better as a beater. Unfortunately, Harry suspected that the Irishman’s temper would prevent him from ever actually getting a spot on the team. Seamus could work effectively with one person, but not with the entire group. The weak links of each team were easy to spot with Tonks’ clumsy aim the bludger was just as likely to head back to her own companions than the other team. Luna was also flying in circles looking more at the scenery and distant towering forest than playing the game.

Quirrell was surprisingly quick on a broom with his dark hair having been pulled into a long braid that trailed down his back whipping in the wind. Apparently once the Charms professor was in the air he had lost his shy nature. Harry and the older man were keeping an eye on each other while also searching for the snitch.

Harry’s team just managed to squeak out a victory, though they came out of it with more bruises from the pair of brutal beaters.

Once the group was back on the ground, bumps treated, and clothes freshened up with cleaning charms courtesy of Molly they shuffled back into the manor for dinner. This time the meal went peacefully, though Harry noticed that Remus had a particular eye on Hermione, no doubt ready to curb anything she might say by mistake. But the muggleborn kept her head down, focusing on asking for hints about healing magic from Ted, and didn’t make a comment as the house elves served them.

Cake came next which Molly provided while having a stare down with Kreacher, the old elf huffed and turned his squashed in nose at her before levitating the tubs of ice cream onto the table. Hagrid brought cookies, but everyone was cautious about breaking a tooth on one and discreetly hid the treats under napkins.

It was time from presents after they had almost stuffed themselves to bursting with both savory and sweet foods. Harry kind of felt like he was rolling rather than walking back to the parlor, while Harry didn’t find himself wanting for anything in particular he was curious about what laid inside of the many brightly covered packages he found at his feet as he settled on the couch with Ron and Hermione on either side of him.

Hagrid had been whispering, as well as a man his size could, to Hermione on the journey to the room, so Harry wasn’t surprised when the girl selected a small leather wrapped package from the pile to hand him first.

As he unfurled the packaging Harry’s eyes widened as he recognize what it was instantly, he glanced up at the large smiling man and then back to the gift before quickly picking up the chain to wrap it around his neck. The pendant fell against his chest comfortably, though Harry knew that he would have to take care to not be scratched by it.

xx

A handmade necklace with a wicked talon and feather that was varying shades of grey.

“Buckbeak h’d ta be talk’d inta helpin’ with it, but I hope ya like it ‘arry.” Hagrid looked a little nervous at Harry’s silence, but it was unnecessary as the birthday boy managed to finally gather himself.

“It’s wonderful Hagrid, thank you, seriously, this just… wow.”  

“There’s ‘a bit o’ hardened Rue sap on the tip o’ ta’ claw, if ya ev’r need ‘a sh’rp point it can be w’rked off.” The creature lover explained with a twinkle in his eyes, though Molly huffed in her chair as she asked, “And when would he ever need a sharp Hippogriff claw?”

“W’ll ya nev’r know Molly, that’s ‘a for ‘arry to find out.” Hagrid answered easily, not at all bothered with the distaste for the way he thought or reasoned.

Harry touched the pad of his thumb to the end of the claw and found that it indeed was dull, though the clear sap hid this fact. It was awesome that he didn’t have to worry about holes in his shirts or gouges in his flesh at least. He was still lamenting the fact that he would have to be constantly taking the necklace on and off though because of the feather, that is until Quirrell cut through his thoughts and explained that he had a hand in the gift as well. Apparently Hagrid had realized the problem as well and had gone to the professors for help as he wasn’t allowed to perform magic himself.

Quirrell had placed many preserving charms on the feather and chain that would make it waterproof along with preventing it from being crushed, rusted, ripped, or burnt. Hooch said that she had placed a charm on it that was common for quidditch players to have the necklace stick as close as a second layer of skin if Harry placed it under his shirt so it wouldn’t get caught when playing that airborne game. Apparently the charm had been developed by players that were determined to keep their goodluck charms on them no matter the danger. Also used by officials with their whistles.

The train of presents began after the explanation from the two professors.

Neville gave Harry a potted Hellebore, much to both Harry and Sirius’ excitement at the potential potions they could now brew. Remus appeared stressed by the plant, grumbling about potioneers being addicted to dangerous things. To be fair, ingesting Hellebore could cause symptoms ranging from vertigo to cardiac arrest. It was a surprising ingredient for healing balms and not so surprising one for poisons. It was flowering and the black petals were practically iridescent.

xx

Augusta gave Harry a new, expensive clasp for his formal cloaks, the head of the clasp kind of looked like the beak of the stuffed buzzard on her hat to Harry.

Ollivander gave him new wand arm holsters and a shin holster that made Harry raise a brow. Why in the world would he put his wand in a place where he couldn’t easily reach it? But he thanked the wand master anyway, those misty eyes crinkling with amusement as his pet peacock gave Harry a peck on the knee as a present.

McGonagall and Arthur gave him some new gear for quidditch with a set of new gloves and bracers.

Seamus and Dean gave him a wide assortment of muggle candy as it was rare in the wizarding world. Harry was curious about it indeed and from the way the rest of his pueblood friends leaned forward, they were as well. Dean also gave him a strange white and black ball he was apparently supposed to kick around. The dark skinned wizard promised to explain the game and how to play if he brought it back to school with him. Seamus threw in a wool scarf that his mum had apparently knitted for Harry, his hands were already sweating when they were covered with it. Perfect for the bitterly cold winter up in Scotland.

Ted gave him some books on healing magic while his wife gave Harry a shrinking pouch that was stitched with the Black family crest on it. Andromeda swore that he would have no worries if he put a few brooms or heavy objects in it together, harm would not come to any of its contents.

Tonks gave her little cous’ a leather jacket that looked to be modeled off of the one Sirius often wore, this present in particular made the residents of Black Dog Manor share a smile.

Molly gave him a shrunken trunk full of delicious homemade snacks that were under a statis spell and would last throughout the year. Something that would hopefully make studying for examples a less painful experience.

A book on recent laws and political conduct was given to him from Percy, while it seemed boring it would be useful. Charlie gave him some kickass scales from a Romanian Ridgeback that apparently had a nasty attitude. Bill gave him an Egyptian style bracelet from his last job through Gringotts.

Both Remus and Sirius were excited to see what the twins would give Harry. However, the twins told Harry as they handed over a suspiciously plainly wrapped package that he should wait to open it at Hogwarts, more specifically in the common room. McGonagall had cleared her throat at the words, but Fred and George only sent her an innocent look.

Harry knew that the duo of Weasleys were hoping to drum up some additional side business with the pranking items they were planning to start selling to their fellow students. The group of friends had heard plenty about their big ideas on the train ride back to London, seemed they had made some major breakthroughs if Harry was to believe the exasperated look on Molly’s face, the slightly fearful one on Ron’s, and the weight of the box in his hands.

Ginny gave him a new pair of slippers in Gryffindor colors that she had knitted under her mother’s watchful eye. Harry knew that the gift wasn’t exactly her idea and found more candy stuffed inside of them that was more like her style.

Ron’s gift was small and an inside joke that made Harry both laugh and roll his eyes. Honestly, a book of chest strategies and plays. The youngest male heir was still pretty much unbeatable at chess and enjoyed flaunting it. For all his skill in other matters, Harry still got his arse handed to him every time by Ron when it came to that dreaded black and white game.

Dumbledore presented him a tin of lemon drops and some weird puzzle box game that would be a challenge to open. The old wizard assured Harry the prize inside would be worth it if he ever did solve it. Well Harry always loved a good challenge and greedily hugged it closer to himself so Hermione couldn’t get her hands on it like she was obviously itching to.

Hermione managed to distract herself by giving her friend her own present, a stack of books of muggle fairy tales, myths, and legends. It looked pretty much like something one might read a child at bedtime, but Harry knew what it really was as did all of his close group of friends prompting them to share a glance.

It was a promise that they would begin their research on the dark once more inside the walls of Hogwarts. Harry winced as he felt how wide he was grinning as he stroked the spines of each heavy book. Now with these reference points and Draco as a resource Harry hoped he could continue whittling away at what was true and false about the secretive community at a faster pace. He’d have to be very careful on how he phrased his queries though. He had no idea how Draco might react if he found out that much of Harry’s information was coming from muggle literature.

Probably not well.

Luna gave Harry a pair of Spectra Specs in an emerald green color, she said that they would help him see things that were usually invisible to the eye or ‘those of a certain viewpoint’. Both Ron and Hermione had scoffed softly at that explanation, but Luna  only smiled wistfully as she watched Harry squint through the cloudy lenses. Nothing strange wandered into his line of sight, at least for now.

Remus gave him an advanced book on Defense Against the Dark Arts and a few passes hidden between its pages that would allow Harry out past curfew if he wanted to visit him in his chambers or office during the school year. Harry also received a Ravenclaw tie and patches, which he had requested though he guiltily didn’t tell the werewolf the reason why he wanted them.

The last gift was coming, though it did not come exactly easily as Sirius and Harry stared at each other from across the room as Harry held the small unopened package wrapped in black paper in one hand. Slowly, Harry unwrapped the package, blinking as he withdrew the multiple slips of paper from within.

Tickets.

They were tickets to the final game of the Quidditch World Cup.

Not only that but they were numerous, enough from each of the youths at the party to attend.

Hermione looked at the date and regretfully informed them that her family was taking a trip to France during that time. Harry didn’t waste a second in offering the ticket to Tonks who happily snatched it up.

A sincere thank you came from Harry and he was happy to see how his godfather’s face brightened as he raised his wineglass in a congratulatory toast with a wink.

The evening continued to wind down with both guests and hosts gradually spreading out into different connecting rooms. Some playing chess in one room, others talking over snacks and playing various games. Harry could hear Percy talking with Madame Longbottom over tea laced with a fruity cocktail about a woman by the name of Bertha Jorkins that had apparently been missing for just over a month now, but the Ministry had had no luck in finding her and the fact that they didn’t seem to be trying very hard.

Harry was on his way back to his room to drop off some of his presents there since he didn’t want the house elves to touch the books Hermione had given him; they were too valuable and he wanted to hide them away as soon as possible.

As he passed Sirius’ office, his feet paused as he caught voices drifting out from within. His godfather and Dumbledore were inside, from the tone they were speaking with, it was a serious conversation.

What was so important that it couldn’t wait to be discussed at a later time, that they had sequestered themselves away during a party? Harry sidled as silently as possible closer to the doorway curiosity burning inside of him.

“I tire of beating around the bush with pleasantries, Albus. Just tell me what you want plainly; you’ve been hinting that you wanted to speak to me alone all evening.” Sirius’ voice was tight and tired, completely at odds with how Harry had seen him only a few minutes before while ribbing Remus with a joke when sharing a soft earnest kiss.

“I’m sorry, my bo-” Dumbledore paused seeming to be caught on the title and correcting himself, “Sirius, I did not mean to speak in riddles as I’m known to do. You are no longer my student, nor my soldier, so you should not feel any pressure to accept my request.”

“I already do not like the way this sounds.” Sirius muttered wearily, the click of ice on glass had Harry suspecting that his godfather was nursing on a whiskey for this conversation.

“I do not believe it’s a thing that needs such dread.” Dumbledore answered with a chuckle before clearing his throat to speak once more, “I want to officially offer you the position of Potion Master and Potions’ Professor at Hogwarts, Lord Sirius Orion Black.”

If Sirius hadn’t taken a sharp intake of breath the same time Harry had then the teenager’s spying would have probably been found out from the strangled sound he made.



Notes:

At this point Sirius is still unaware of what Harry’s boggart is, Remus has not informed him.

In canon it was never said what house Rolanda Hooch was in when she was a student at Hogwarts, but I personally see her as either a Slytherin or a Ravenclaw. Unfortunately, I stated earlier in the story that Hooch wasn’t in Slytherin earlier as she like Remus was the rare case of being made the head of a house they weren’t in as a student. In the games, including the new Hogwarts Mystery one, she has a lot more personality and has her own quirks.

The peacock that Ollivander owns is a part of the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone video game from way back in the day. I gave the peacock the name Ijdel, which means ‘vain’ in Dutch. There was an interesting piece of advice that Ollivander gave Harry in the game that I thought could be important “I must warn you: NEVER use your wand against a peacock. You might hurt yourself.” In the game, the peacock was not albino, but I made it so as a nod to some of Ollivander’s other contacts and connections.

Rue, also known as common rue, is a kind of evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean region, Macaronesia and southwest Asia, with a distinctive bitter taste. Rue has healing properties, and is used in wizarding remedies: essence of rue is used to recover after poisoning, and it is also used in the treatment of mad dog bites and used in Felix Felicis.

(Source Harry Potter Wiki) Hellebore is a flowering plant used in Herbology and as an ingredient in Potion-brewing. Syrup of Hellebore is a substance extracted from the Hellebore plant. Many species of Hellebore are poisonous. Hellebore is a real plant that was used in traditional, early European medicine to treat paralysis, gout, and insanity. However, many varieties of hellebore are toxic, and can cause symptoms ranging from vertigo to cardiac arrest. Some historians believe that Alexander the Great died of a hellebore overdose. In legend, it was believed to be used by witches to summon demons. They are also known as Black Swan flowers.

Why Dumbledore does not call Sirius “My Boy”, it is a sign of respect and recognition that he sees Sirius as his equal rather than someone that he can give orders to. Fundamentally, Dumbledore is more powerful than Sirius, but he knows that Sirius has knowledge that he may never be privy to. Also, while Dumbledore does not know all that Sirius does outside of Wizengamot meetings and behind the scenes, he believes that Sirius still has some connections and more importantly has power within the Dark covens.

Chapter Text

“I know my elf made wine is top shelf, but I didn’t think that it was that strong or that you had so much.” Sirius’ voice had lilted to a slightly higher pitch that Harry had rarely heard, usually the lord only used it when he was in trouble with Remus and trying to cover his ass.

“I assure you I’m being completely serious-,”

“No, I am!” Sirius interrupted, trying to turn the situation into a joke with the old name-pun, but when the declaration was met with silence the Black continued, “Surely there are more people qualified than myself for the job.”

“You already know that there isn’t,” Dumbledore’s tone was gently chastising now, “You are the second youngest potions’ master in European history, you have patents on both original and improved recipes, both your O.W.Ls and N.E.W.Ts were mostly outstandings, you have an acute understanding of standards and educational policies as a member of the Board of Governors. You have experience teaching Harry and other youths. You claim to have been frightfully bored between Wizengamot meetings and we can work with your schedule and classes so you can both attend and prepare for them.”

“There’s also the fact that no one else wants the job because it’s a death sentence to their career.” Sirius pointed out, it had been to the past Potion Professors and it would be so for John Dawlish once he was released from St. Mungo’s. While no one had been permanently injured by the potion accident last year, the fact it happened on his watch would follow him in the public forever.

At least Dawlish would still be able to live comfortably and settle into very early retirement with his pension as a former Auror.

“The political fallout… there are already so many eyes on me. You’re basically asking me to paint an even bigger target on my back.” Sirius continued, frustration obvious and Harry caught sight of his godfather raking a hand through his wavy hair in the reflection of a picture frame.

“I know it is a lot to ask of you, there are also plans to make the classes much smaller and easier to oversee. I’ve heard from Remus that you’ve had ten cauldrons brewing at once before.” Dumbledore was doing his best to be reassuring, but it really was a very difficult sale.

Sirius rubbed at his brow, “I have a feeling that this isn’t just me being a professor though…”

A deep sigh was the immediate answer that Sirius received before the ancient wizard continued, “No, it is not so simple. Recently, there has been much happening within Hogwarts’ walls and even more that I fear is coming. I think you could be a great asset if it may unfold.”

“That’s not foreboding at all.”

Harry had to agree with his guardian's sarcastic sentiment.

“As you know, Cornelius and I have a rather admenial relationship, he often has come to me for advice on many a matter in the past.” Dumbledore continued, lips quirking as he watched Sirius grimace at the name.

“I think Fudge is rather fudge at his job, someone has to hold his hand for every little thing.” It was with difficulty that Harry withheld the snort that he wanted to give to show his agreement to his godfather’s words. No, the current Minister held none of Harry’s love with his treatment of the Boy-Who-Lived’s life. While out at public events, Fudge tried to act fatherly and caring towards Harry in an attempt to endear himself to the people by his connection to the ‘Savior of the Wizarding World’. By the same token, the Minister refused and laughed off all attempts that Harry’s guardians had at trying to remove the books that contained personal information on the boy.

Fudge had the gall to say at one point that removing the books with Harry’s story from the shelves would be an insult to the Potters’ sacrifice as the public could learn that in the attempt to wipe out evil every sacrifice was needed.

Remus had said that the fact that Sirius had been holding a three-year-old sleeping Harry in his arms at the time was the only reason the Black hadn’t attacked the older wizard.

The Minister had grown more obvious with his favoritism towards old, high standing, wealthy families through his tenure. Along with being more open about his dislike for half-breeds, which had indeed, become much rarer since the Flight of the Murder. He was brusque when he had to deal with squibs and matters concerning creatures or beasts.

“He tries to do what he believes is right.”

Sirius snorted at this, but Dumbledore continued.

“However, many of his choices he has made of late I agree have not exactly created warm and fuzzy feelings within myself either.” Dumbledore admitted while stroking his long beard, “His tenure as Minister is almost up and he is looking for ways to secure his re-election. His platform is that he has led the Wizarding World during continued times of peace. The fact that nothing of true note has happened during his time in office means that someone else could probably have done the same job as himself with the same results.”

Minister Bagnold was the one that had been in power when the Dark Lord fell, and the dark community fled. It was her signature on many of the bills that focused on hunting and eliminating all sources of the Dark both living and non-living from existence. It was noted that the person that spearheaded the decisions was actually Crouch Sr.

Compared to his predecessor, Fudge really was a lame duck of a minister despite some of his changes that furthered the anti-dark ideology and practices.

“And this new hook he’s devising for his campaign involves Hogwarts in some way, right?”  Sirius deduced with a grimace.

“Correct, he’s already gained the approval of most of the Board of Governors to establish a new class focusing on the history of the war, explanations of current policies and ones being devised, and the British Isles place in the magical world at large.” Dumbledore explained with a low sigh that showed that he had been deeply troubled by the news and had done much to unsuccessfully stop it.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of this dragondung,” Sirius was seething, his agitation making him unable to stand still and he began to pace the office, Harry flinched further behind the door to stay hidden as he listened. “I’m one of the leaders of the Board of Governors, Fudge knows he won’t get my support and has been going behind my back to the others.”

“Yes, I assumed as much, I do not believe that he has approached the Weasleys or Madame Longbottom yet. They along with yourself would probably be the only ones to oppose the idea.”

Sirius growled softly to himself, “I don’t know how the Weasleys would place their votes, but I think Augusta would see right through this blatant attempt at instilling political propaganda into the school. In the end, there’s nothing we can do to stop it now, is there?”

At Dumbledore’s shake of his head, Harry’s godfather cursed so colorfully that it made the spying teenager’s cheeks flush.

Sure, Harry hated Fudge’s guts too, but Sirius’ anger seemed to be rather excessive.

“Hooch would have appreciated your help before, but now I believe that it is even more imperative to have you at Hogwarts.” Dumbledore’s words further confused Harry. Why would Sirius be needed by the Flying instructor? What could his godfather offer that any other potion master could not?

Harry’s mind whirled with questions and as Sirius huffed, a pained, shameful expression crossed his face, “I know, but…”

“You will be able to spend more time with Harry and continue your lessons with him.”

Harry felt true panic at Dumbledore’s suggestion. The school year was Harry’s one chance to study the dark without the risk of being caught by his godfather. If Sirius was at Hogwarts then any time he spent with him would take away that which he could spend exploring the castle and doing things that he probably shouldn’t be… well things within or just outside of reason.

Then there was anger licking its way into Harry’s belly, his record in both his lessons and behavior was relatively clean, so why did Dumbledore, Sirius, and probably other adults think that he needed a damn babysitter?!

Sirius’ bitter laugh dragged Harry’s focus back onto the conversation, “I know I would have hated it if my parents were teachers at Hogwarts while I was a student. Mum would have been as feared as McGonagall though, wouldn’t have flinched to hex a student if they acted out in her class.”

A sigh left the lord before he continued, “Listen, I can’t give you an answer yet. I understand that time is short with classes only a month away, but I need to talk to Remus and see what he thinks. I must weigh everything, there’s a lot tied into this, Albus. I have to speak with a few others before I make a decision.”

“I understand, Sirius. I know I should have approached you sooner.” Dumbledore seemed amenable about the delay, but there was a hint of eagerness in his voice that Harry was able to pick out after spending so many years in the wizard’s company.

For Harry though, he decided that he had heard enough and slunk back on his way to his room.

The party had been perceptibly soured by what Harry had heard and he dropped his presents on his bed with a bit too much force, almost crushing Thuban whom had been snoozing under the blankets. Harry hissed an apology before storming back out of his room and to his friends. Despite their concerned looks and probes, Harry didn’t tell them what he had heard. Instead just fuming silently to himself as the others glanced between themselves.

There were four of the youths missing, however, and it was the lack of noise that their absence created that finally got Harry to speak. If only to ask where the twins, Lee Jordan, and Seamus were.

Before anyone could provide an answer, a big bang resounded from outside and light flashed through the north facing windows. Every occupant in the manor was then scrambling to the windows as another flash of bright light appeared with another loud crack.

This one tinted blue.

The night sky was being lit up with multitudes of colors and shapes that had the watchers gaping before they hurried out onto the grounds to watch the display unimpeded. Dumbledore and Sirius had joined the crusade outwards, but Harry’s attention was pulled away from them and upwards instead.

Fireworks.

The twins were aloft on brooms that they had snuck in with them and were tossing bundles, that appeared to have multiple wicks hanging from them, into the air which had been set alight by Seamus who held a small device that produced flame in his hands.

A lighter, they were common fancies among wizards, but horribly expensive as they were an oddity to the magical world. However, with Seamus being connected to both worlds he could obtain them easily and cheaply. The tool was how the twins were currently getting around the illegal use of underaged magic which could only be tranced off their wands when they weren’t on the Weasleys’ private property where the twins were registered as living with magical people of age.

Lee was coordinating where the twins should throw the fireworks from below.

Images of beasts prancing about, phrases of ‘Happy Birthday, Harrikins’, and shapes paraded across the black abyss that was the sky. It was all for Harry, an end to his party with a literal bang, and as he laughed with his friends, got plenty of playful shoves and had to shout to be heard over the sound of the fireworks he forgot about the vexing, looming conversation he had listened in on.

It was incredible, short and simple. Harry couldn’t believe what the pranksters had created.

Perhaps this night would end on a high note.

A high pitched whistle screamed its way through the air and all heads craned up in anticipation for what would soon be revealed.

As the bright green flash almost blinded the onlookers Harry felt his heart seize. That color, he knew it all too well. He had seen it once before.

No, Harry had seen it twice and as his eyes fell shut and he felt himself falling backwards, the color seemed to burn into his very mind before everything went black.

When Harry awoke next, it was to dim morning light starting to peek through the drapes in his room. The first thing he registered was something warm and fluffy under his right arm and on his left side was another source of heat. He felt too drained to put in the effort to move to investigate so he just groaned.

The effect was immediate as shuffling occurred on both sides of the bed and two pairs of eyes entered Harry’s field of vision. One an eerie yellow while the other was amber, both were filled with concern.

“How are you feeling, cub?” Remus spoke first as he pressed a hand to Harry’s forehead to check his temperature as Sirius licked his cheek in his own way of checking while in dog form.  

It was a very good question, but as soon as the words registered in Harry’s mind a splitting headache originating from his forehead erupted. With a hiss of pain, he reached up to try to find the source. When his fingers trailed across the raised line that was his scar, the pain seemed to increase two-fold making his eyes water.  

“Your scar hurts?” Sirius had shifted back to his human form, his tone was edged with something deeper than fear as his fingers gently slid under Harry’s own to run over the mark. The pain and pressure was ebbing as Sirius ran a gentle finger slowly from top to bottom of the lightning bolt.

“Has it ever done this before?” Remus asked as he sat on the edge of the bed, Kreacher popped in as quietly as possible to hand the werewolf two glasses of water, one of which was handed to Harry once Sirius had him propted up into a sitting position against a mound of pillows.

“No, not that I can remember. What happened?” Grasping for his memories of the night before felt like trying to catch a Flitterby moth with a net that had holes the size of quaffles in it.

“We were hoping that you could fill in the gaps for us, but I guess we’re just as spotty as one of Lockhart’s novels on the reason. Ya fainted during the fireworks, didn’t wake no matter what we tried either. Ted said you weren’t physically hurt and would gain consciousness when you were ready.” Sirius explained as he settled in next to his charge on the pillows. The lord’s words were making light of the situation with jokes, but there was a pinch to his mouth and eyes that made Harry uneasy.

Remus nodded his head and Kreacher grunted his agreement with the statement as he wrung his knobby hands together anxiously over the health of his youngest master. The house elf croaking in anger, “Kreacher knew those twins were up ta no good, he did. Tis their fault, from the stock of those no good bl-”

“Shut it.” Sirius hissed at the elf and Kreacher’s jaw audibly clicked together though his eyes continued to smolder in anger. The interaction wasn’t a surprise to Harry, the lord and servant always bickered, trading harsh words and Harry knew that there had never been a good relationship between the two. Sirius claimed he only kept the old elf because he knew so much of the Black family history, a connection to his parents, and kept the other elves on task with an wrinkly iron fist.

Right now, Harry couldn’t focus on the usual strange interactions between the two. No, the pieces were finally starting to fall back into place. His voice broke the staring contest between Sirius and Kreacher, “Fireworks, yeah, I remember the show. What they managed to create was wicked, then there was that... Green one.”

“Green?” Remus prompted gently sharing a concerned look with his lover and Sirius grimaced as he seemed to have come to the same conclusion that he had.

Harry felt ill as he came to the same realization as well and suddenly there was a bucket in his lap which he was incredibly grateful for as he proceeded to puke. Thankfully, Sirius was just as quick to vanish the mess as Remus was to accio a bin. That firework had been the same shade as the killing curse.

Still that only created more questions for Harry, why was his reaction so bad? He had seen avada kedavra performed before his very eyes only a few years ago by one of the dark youths to kill a squirrel. While it had been terrifying and made him feel slightly sick, he hadn’t fainted or panicked like this time.

His scar had also never hurt before, during, or after the spell flew.

“Killing curse green,” Harry finally confirmed with a scratchy voice, though it was unnecessary from the way his guardians grimly nodded their agreement to the deduction. Remus motioned for him to take another drink and Harry did so, anything to get the horrible taste out of his mouth.

Kreacher popped out of the room under orders from Sirius to retrieve a stomach soothing potion and something more palate cleansing. Remus gave his two knuts by suggesting it involve chocolate.

“Why?”

The question Harry voiced was what the older wizards were asking themselves and Sirius ruffled his charge’s hair, “Don’t think about it too much, I’ll do some research and ask around St. Mungo’s if they have any information about curse scars. But yours is a… rather special case.”

Remus and Sirius again shared a look that made Harry want to throw up his arms in defeat because he still hadn’t broken the secret code that his guardians seemed to speak in. Perhaps it was a language that only parents or adults knew, one day Harry would just wake up with the knowledge of it, but today was not that day. He leaned further back into his pillows with a small groan.

“Do you want to get more sleep, cub?” The werewolf asked and from the way his eyes darted from Harry to the door, it seemed that the adults were wanting to talk more in private; if that wasn’t infuriating. Didi they think that Harry would not be able to take them talking about something so significant to his life, past, and health?

Well, they could get lost then if that’s how they felt.

“Yeah, I guess I’ll just take it easy.” Harry muttered to himself, not at all hiding the annoyance in his tone well.

“We’ll bring some brunch up to ya, you slept past breakfast. Then again, I guess we all did.” Sirius answered while swinging himself off of the bed, he stretched his back and a series of cracks and pops echoed out into the room. “Damn, I’m getting too old for this.”

“Keep acting like that and I’ll start thinking that Dumbledore is more spry than you.” Remus teased getting an offended look from the great Lord Black.

“Excuse you, I believe that I could outperform Albus in many feats, if you’d like for me to show you. I’d be more than happy to.” Sirius was sidling closer to the werewolf, but was interrupted by Harry shrieking and throwing pillows at the older wizards.

“Not in my room!”

The two Marauders howled with laughter as they retreated from the room and the barrage of feather filled missiles, though with the remnants of his headache Harry’s aim wasn’t the greatest: he was a Seeker, not a Chaser.

As the door closed, Harry let himself flop back onto the mattress and a few seconds later he felt cool scales slide and then curl up on his stomach. Thuban had hissed softly that he had been hiding near the fireplace during the whole mess. The adder had demanded to know what all had happened the night before, but his master had fallen back to sleep before giving an adequate answer.

The days and weeks had passed with little of interest for the inhabitants of the manor. There was still a throbbing in his scar from time to time, but nothing of true significance. However, if Sirius ever caught Harry rubbing at his scar, the wizard would get a strange look on his face, but would never bring it up.

So far, no answers had been found, or at least, found by or given to Harry.

Remus did offer one theory he shared with his charge, which was that the pain in his scar was more mental than physical. Apparently, some of the werewolves he was close to in the Muggle world were following modern sciences and medical studies. They had suggested that it was something called Phantom Pain, which was usually what occurred when an amputation or traumatic injury had happened but healed.

Harry still didn’t find himself satisfied with that answer, not that he doubted that it was a legit medical condition for others.

However, the night of the 23rd of August, Harry’s dream took a strange turn. He had been having nightmares more often after the incident with the fireworks, however, they had always been blurry. The feelings that came with the scenes were more disturbing than anything else. Malice, anger, and anticipation that Harry could practically still taste on his tongue whenever he woke made him break out in a cold sweat that long hot showers could not completely dislodge.

There was a chill that Harry felt was sinking into his very bones despite the fact that he knew that it was summer when he opened his eyes to the sight of a dilapidated mansion sitting atop a large hill. He had never seen the place before, didn’t know where it might be. The surrounding foliage seemed to be common enough, meaning wherever his dreams had taken him wasn’t some exotic place.

One thing he noted was the fact that his point of view seemed to be centered very low to the ground. The way he moved was silent and smooth, there was no rhythmic thumps of shoes upon the grass.

Then Harry noticed a flickering light to his right and as he turned his gaze at the little cottage that sat at the bottom of the sprawling, overgrown grounds of the manor he watched a small, dark figure slowly ambling ever closer.

The unsteady light appeared to be an electric torch like the kind which Hermione had once told the group about. The person seemed to have an odd gait which made the light bob up and down as they steadied themselves with what Harry could now tell was a cane.

It was an old man, one whom was muttering to himself as he kept his gaze locked upon the towering manor he was steadily moving towards.

“Was sure I’d ’a seen’a light. Damn kids gotta have broken in again.”

xx

Harry found himself following the man at a short distance, curious about the sourc e as he noticed that there indeed was a soft light radiating from one of the windows. It barely peeked out of the many half rotten boards that covered many of the other windows. The inside of the manor was not any better than the outside as Harry could taste the mold, stale musk, dust, and decay when they entered through one of the side doors.

Some of the floors were bowed in from water damage and the wood seemed to have lost its polish decades ago. Pictures and portraits were tattered, no sign of movement from the strangely still occupants within. What once was a beautiful expression of wealth, comfort, and heritage now laid in forgotten ruins.

The fact that the old man had a key to the place and concern about it made Harry believe that he was connected somehow. Obviously, he didn’t live in the manor himself, perhaps he was a servant or groundskeeper that still had some rights and responsibilities to the property.

The floorboards creaked in protest as the man made his way through the twisting halls and half collapsed stairs. Harry wouldn’t have had the confidence that the floor would not give way under him if he was the size of the other.

xx

There was light and the sound of a crackling fire slipping out of a crack from what once seemed to be a grand door. As the old man grew closer, Harry did as well, allowing him to see into what appeared to be a drawing room. Compared to the rest of the house, this place looked as pristine as it might have been when life in the manor had been at its height. Not a speck of dust was seen upon the many bookcases, the metal of the chandeliers and adornments glimmered, rugs clean and lush, and the leather of the fine chairs uncracked.

There was a young man in the room, kneeling before a grand wingback armchair, the occupant of which was hidden from this angle.

“My Lord, may I ask how long we are going to stay here?” A simpering male voice inquirred, the source was not the man upon the rug, nor that which sat on the chair, it came from closer to the fire and just out of sight to Harry.

“A week,” said the cold voice. “Perhaps longer. The place is moderately comfortable, and the plan cannot proceed yet. It would be foolish to act so rashly before the Quidditch World Cup is over.”

“The — the Quidditch World Cup, My Lord?” asked the first voice, another man shuffled into sight. He was short, had watery eyes that shined in the fire light, prominent front teeth and a pointed nose which were probably more noticeable for the fact the man looked very emaciated, the many layers of old fashioned clothing he wore hanging off of him limply. He appeared to be a bit older than the man still knelt before the chair. “Forgive me, but — I do not understand — why should we wait until the World Cup is over?”

“Because, fool,” The occupant of the chair’s voice had a hissing quality to it, like he spoke with a lisp, but not quite, “at this very moment wizards are pouring into the country from all over the world, and every meddler from the Ministry of Magic will be on duty, on the watch for signs of unusual activity, checking and double-checking identities. They will be obsessed with security, lest the Muggles notice anything. So we wait.”

"Your Lordship is still determined, then?" the thin man said quietly.

"Certainly I am determined, are you questioning me?" There was a note of menace in the cold voice now.

A slight pause followed -- and the first man spoke, the words tumbling from him in a rush, as though he was forcing himself to say this before he lost his nerve.   "It could be done without the boy, My Lord."

"Without the boy?" breathed the second voice softly. "I see..."

"My Lord, I do not say this out of concern for the child!" the frail man’s voice rising squeakily. "The boy is nothing to me, nothing at all! It is merely that if we were to use another witch or wizard -- any wizard -- the thing could be done so much more quickly! If you allowed me to leave you for a short while -- you know that I can disguise myself most effectively -- I could be back here in as little as two days with a suitable person --"

"I could use another wizard," said the cold voice softly, "that is true..."

"My Lord, it makes sense," said the man, sounding thoroughly relieved now. The young male, probably in his early thirties looked at the other in disgust, but was ignored as the other continued his plea, "Laying hands on him would be so difficult, he is so well protected --"

"And so you volunteer to go and fetch me a substitute? I wonder...perhaps the task of nursing me has become wearisome for you, my servant? Could this suggestion of abandoning the plan be nothing more than an attempt to desert me?" The words were cutting and laced with venom.

"My Lord! I -- I have no wish to leave you, none at all --"

"Do not lie to me!" hissed the second voice. "I can always tell, Wormtail! You are regretting that you ever returned to me. I revolt you. I see you flinch when you look at me, feel you shudder when you touch me..." The occupant of the chair’s voice dropped and turned softer. “Perhaps, you need a reminder as to why you serve me.”

"No! My devotion to Your Lordship --" The man tried to assure, paling more and making him look ever the more like a skeleton.

"Your devotion is nothing more than…” The voice from the chair trailed off. Before continuing a gnarled, small bony white hand moved into view, “Mayhaps it is indeed that you need a remedial as to how you have come to be by my side. Our young friend here I’m sure could do such for you.”

The small man looked ready to faint while the unknown man gained a feral grin upon his face, like a starving wolf salivating over an injured rabbit. For a few seconds, nothing could to heard, but the fire crackling. Then the voice from the chair spoke once more, in a whisper that was almost a hiss.

“You were doing oh so well , Wormtail. Whispering in the ears of those that are rightly sympathetic to our cause, finding that woman which provided us with such a wealth of information that has been invaluable, including on how to free one of our most faithful from a horrid fate. You knew I had to kill her, memory charms can be broken, after all, I had to do such to find what she knew.”

The gnarled hand made a petting motion to the air before him and Wormtail immediately fell to his knees, forehead almost pressing to the rug as he groveled. It seemed that the praise was not something he was pleased to receive. It was Harry’s angle that allowed him to see the thin man’s grimace and the trembling of his lips. The light of the fire reflected oddly off of those watery eyes.

Harry’s attention was pulled away from Wormtail as the voice continued. "I have my reasons for using the boy, as I have already explained to you, and I will use no other. I have waited thirteen years. A few more months will make no difference. As for the protection surrounding the boy, I believe my plan will be effective. You shall remain here by my side while our dear friend does what your lack of courage, faith, and wit cannot."

“I will not fail you, My Lord.” The younger spoke for the first time, sounding reverent as he pressed his lips briefly to those long bony fingers.  

“Good. First gather our comrades, you shall be charged with giving the world a sign. But do not involve yourself in what follows. You must return to me.”

Both men nodded their heads, then the leader spoke once more, “It is decided. There will be no more argument. But quiet...I think I hear Nagini..."

And the second man's voice changed. He started making noises, hissing and spitting without drawing breath. Harry wondered what the muggle thought of the sound, his expression said that he feared the source must be having some sort of fit or seizure.

And then Harry was moving forward, he didn’t know why, but he was emerging out of the dark passageway and into the drawing room. Towards the source of that terrifying aura. He managed to glance back towards the muggle, whom appeared to be paralyzed with fright.

Harry’s gaze never moved from where the old man stood, still in sight through the crack of the doorway. He couldn’t move his gaze from the shaking form despite the fact that his body seemed to be crawling over that wingback chair and could hear rattling breath and hissing by his ear.

The person that Harry was now so very close to, switched to English, "Nagini has interesting news, Wormtail."

"In-indeed, My Lord?" came the shaking answer as the short man stumbled to his feet.

"Indeed, yes," said the voice, "According to Nagini, there is an old Muggle standing right outside this room, listening to every word we say."

Harry wished that the man would have run, but he had watched him during his journey to the manor and knew that there was no way he would be able to outpace the gathered wizards. The muggle had a stiff leg and he was aged, he also seemed to be unarmed, nor did he have a chance to hide himself.

Harry watched as the door of the room was flung wide open by Wormtail who seemed to have a mixture of fear and alarm on his face.

"Invite him inside, Wormtail. Where are your manners?" The voice in Harry’s ear admonished and Harry’s body was moving again to curl upon the rug before the hearth.

Wormtail beckoned the muggle into the room and as he took a firmer grip on his walking stick, he limped over the threshold.

"You heard everything, Muggle?" the cold voice inquired, Harry both wished to see the source and was forever grateful that he couldn’t.

"What's that you're calling me?" said the old man defaintly, now that he was taking action, he seemed to be just a little braver. Perhaps the muggle had experienced something in his life that made him calm in high pressure situations.

"I am calling you a Muggle," said the voice coolly as if explaining why the sky was blue to a small child. "It means that you are not a wizard."

"I don't know what you mean by wizard," said the caretaker, his voice growing steadier. "All I know is I've heard enough to interest the police tonight, I have. You've done murder and you're planning more! And I'll tell you this too," he added, the words came too quick and Harry knew they had to be a lie, "my wife knows I'm up here, and if I don't come back --"

"You have no wife," said the voice from the chair, very quietly. "Nobody knows you are here. You told nobody that you were coming. Do not lie to me, Muggle, for I know… I always know..."

"Is that right?" said the muggle roughly. "Lord, is it? Well, I don't think much of your manners, My Lord. Turn 'round and face me like a man, why don't you?"

"But I am not a man, Muggle," said the cold voice, barely audible now over the crackling of the flames. "I am much, much more than a man. However...why not? I will face you...Wormtail, come turn my chair around. Bartimus, if you please?"

The older servant gave a whimper.

"You heard me, Wormtail."

Slowly, with his face screwed up, as though he would rather have done anything than approach his master and where Harry laid, the small man walked forward and began to turn the chair. The younger servant handed something long and narrow to the waiting bony white hand.

Harry heard the movement behind him stop and watched as the walking stick the muggle held fell to the floor with a clatter. The poor man opened his mouth as he stepped back and let out a scream. He was screaming so loudly, but Harry still heard the words the cold voice spoke behind him.

“Avada Kedavra!”

xx

There was a flash of green light, a rushing sound, and the muggle crumpled. Harry knew that he was dead before he hit the floor.

Harry Potter woke with a short scream, his scar on fire, and tears running down his face as he scrambled for his wand casting a bright lumos to show there were no monsters hiding inside his empty room.

Chapter Text

Harry Potter woke with a short scream, his scar on fire, and tears running down his face as he scrambled for his wand casting a bright lumos to show there were no monsters hiding inside his empty room.

Thuban hissed his concern, but Harry couldn’t speak. The words wouldn’t come through his terror. He fumbled about in his nightstand for a few moments before pulling the journal free. He pierced the pad of his thumb too deeply, not that he cared as he stumbled over the incantation before scribbling across the page with a mixture of blood and ink.

Draco, you awake? -H

Unfortunately, I am. To what pleasure do I owe this late-night correspondence? -D

Harry let out a long breath as he watched the ink blossom across the page, the way the letters curved he could practically hear the sarcasm in the blond’s voice. It made Harry’s lips quirk and the hand stroking Thuban, whom had curled around his master’s neck in an attempt to comfort him, lost some of its shakiness.

Nothing really, what are you up to? -H

I am tending a potion. It’s truly riveting to be staring into the same cauldron for over twelve hours to stir it but never adding anything more.

There was a pause in the writing that was similar to if they were talking face to face before new words spilled across the page in a font darkened by the pressure of the tip of the quill being pressed to the page.

Do NOT lie to me, Hadrian. You did not contact me so late for a mere trifle. It is nearing the witching hour, what are you doing up?-D

Honestly, Harry wasn’t sure what to say to that. Saying, or well, writing it, would make it all real in some way. His throat tightened, and it was difficult to swallow, Thuban rubbed his cheek against Harry’s soothingly. At the same time, Harry needed to get what he had seen out to make sense of it and be assured that it meant nothing. Divination was not a subject he had taken as Sirius had also told him it was a load of crock to anyone that was not a seer, which he assured Harry he was not.

I had a nightmare. It was… real bad. -H

Do- the ink completely faded away before Draco appeared to be writing again. More than likely, the dark wizard wasn’t sure how to respond to what Harry had said. Were they close enough to talk about something that could be so personal? Were they close enough to offer comfort to one another?

Do you want to talk about it? I do not know what advice to give, but I suppose I can stretch myself to be a set of ears… or more accurately a pair of eyes for you.-D

The words seemed to lift a great weight off of his shoulders and he sagged into the mattress once more propping himself up with pillows as he wondered how to start such a bizarre story. So, he said as much before writing a timeline out, feeling ill the whole time as he reviewed each and every detail to himself and the page.

Of course, he didn’t write everything that had occurred in the dream.

It even started out strange, I was outside in a place that I didn’t recognize, but knew I was still in the British Isles. I was looking upon what appeared to be a decaying, abandoned manor in the distance. It was night time, so I could pick out a small light shining through one of the windows on one of the higher floors. There was an old man-

Harry paused unsure if he should write in the fact that the victim had been a Muggle. Would it make Draco less sympathetic, would it annoy him that Harry was torn up over the death of someone that the Dark saw as an enemy? In the end, he decided that it was too important of a detail to leave out, it would do injustice to the caretaker’s memory if he did not mention it.

Then again, the man wasn’t real. Harry assured himself that he couldn’t be.

He was a Muggle, he made his way into the manor and I followed him. Well not exactly, it felt like I was more of a passenger in my body rather than having any actual control of it.

When Harry couldn’t force his quill to move, Draco wrote a short response.

Hadrian? Are you sure that you want to tell me this, not your parents? -D

A bitter laugh escaped Harry at the suggestion, shaking his head as he ran his free hand over his familiar’s tail. The serpent's breath easing him as he wrote.

My family has already been treating me like I’m losing my mind. I don’t want to give them any more evidence to support that. -H

I have questioned your sanity from the moment I met you, but do go on.-D

You’d be lonely without me, you know it~ -H

Harry smiled at the page as he imagined the blond rolling his eyes at the comment. For some reason, Draco seemed to know exactly how to derail Harry’s thoughts when they started to spiral. When the page remained blank for several seconds, Harry decided that he’d better fill it. He really didn’t want any confirmation that he was a passing thing of interest for Draco.

The mansion was a wreck on the inside and I could hear whispering from one of the upper rooms. The Muggle heard the same thing I did because he moved up the stairs, and I followed him, there… there were three men, wizards, speaking. Well, they seemed to be plotting something. One mentioned killing a woman as ‘necessary’ recently. The leader kept saying he wanted a specific person, a boy.

Harry hastily wrote the next part as the conversation he had overheard had horribly unnerved him.

It was just so bloody messed up. Then the Muggle was caught spying and the leader cast the killing curse on him. I watched him die. -H

It was a very abridged and fractured version of the dream and Harry didn’t mention the fact that the leader, whose hand he had seen, didn’t look human with how frail, pale, and gnarled it was. It looked like it should have been attached to a disproportionate corpse rather than something living and breathing. Those dark spider webbing veins had pulsed visibly near the surface of the skin at a sluggish rate, like they were having difficulty moving blood where it was supposed to go.

A shudder ran down his spine as he remembered the feeling of cold clammy skin brushing against his own when Harry’s body had moved over the back of the chair and closer to the source.

Harry also didn’t mention that he recognized one of the people in the room, or at least he thought that he did. Using his lit wand to light the way, Harry shambled slowly out of bed, though he dragged his comforter around him like a layer of fluffy armor. Thuban hissed his encouragement when he noticed how his master faltered slightly at putting his foot to the floor.

Harry snatched the book he wanted from his shelf before practically sprinting back to his bed and leaping on it.

He discovered that Draco had written back in that short time.

You have seen death before, Hadrian. I know this because you are able to see the Thestrals. Why is the death of a Muggle you don’t know so traumatizing? -D

The words were a punch in the gut for Harry, he should have expected as much, but it still came as a shock for him that Draco didn’t care about the life of an innocent non-magical man. Anger flared inside of Harry and his hand was moving across the page before he knew what he was doing.

That’s cold. He was still a person, he didn’t deserve what he got. -H

Perhaps to you it would seem so. However, from what I gathered from your dream, and it was just a dream, correct? The Muggle heard something that he shouldn’t and had to be silenced for the protection of the wizards. A memory charm could have been used, but those are not always foolproof. Or maybe, the wizards were panicked and reacted on instinct to eliminate the threat.  -D

Harry shook his head at the other’s reasoning, even if he did know it made sense. If the Wizarding World was exposed… Still those men, or at least two of them, hadn’t been panicked. The leader had cast the spell as calm as if telling the weather and with just as little remorse.

These men didn’t care about the life of the Muggle in any way, Draco. -H

Sometimes, to protect your friends and family, you can’t afford to. -D

His stomach clenched painfully as Harry came to his own conclusions on what the young dark wizard was implying. Unfortunately, like an enthusiastic dragonologist, Harry had to know, even if the information scorched him.

Is that the reason you can see them, the Thestrals, have you killed before to save those you care about? -H

There was a long pause after Harry wrote that inquiry and with each second that passed he worried that he had overstepped a line that was never meant to have been crossed. It seemed far too late to take the words back now, even as it slowly faded from the parchment.

I haven’t, but my family has. I watched it happen for the first time when I was three. You have never been put in the position of kill or be killed, you wouldn’t understand.

Harry watched as the words faded away before new ones blossomed across the page.

I hope you never have to, Hadrian. -D

There were shivers running up and down Harry’s back as he knew that the people he had watched on Midsummer’s Night had been among Draco’s family. Murderers that were dancing and singing like they had little care in the world. No, that wasn’t fair to say, after Draco’s performance the atmosphere of the small valley had turned dour and tense among the elder members covered in dark cloaks. The passion with which Draco and his group had sung, coupled with what he just learned made Harry unleash another question he knew he probably wouldn’t like the answer to.

Do you want to? To kill people that is -H

The wait for an answer was not so long this time.

I will do what I must to save those I care about, that is what most man and beasts would do is it not? My godfather says that humans are strange creatures whom have developed a contradictory nature of self-sacrifice compared with any other living being, magic or otherwise. There was a time ago that I did not hesitate on the idea of killing for the sake of victory if the spoils were grand enough. However, recent… developments have changed my stance on that. -D

Recent, Harry knew Draco meant as recent as ‘a few weeks ago’ recent. Not that he could point that out without the blond finding out that he had disobeyed him and followed deeper into the forest to witness things he really should not have.

What had Draco been put through or learned to change his tone? Again, Harry couldn’t even guess to what the answer may be, perhaps he was better off not knowing the truth.

I think I understand. -H

Part of Harry felt like he should despair about that fact, but he really couldn’t. If there was a muggle aiming a, what was it again, a gun, at his loved ones; would he hesitate? He hoped that he would throw a stunning spell first at least.

There’s no point in getting upset about the hypothetical anyway. You’ve never had any tendency for seeing before have you? -D

Draco was moving on from the rather painful part of the conversation and Harry was more than happy to follow him, even with his reservations.

No, this is the first time such a thing has happened. I have a friend who I suspect is a type of seer, but yeah, not me. -H

He didn’t think it would be a good idea to mention that his curse scar ached during and after the experience, it was a little too on the nose and revealing that he had suffered such an injury, it would make Draco too curious about his associate’s past.

Then it was just a dream and we should leave it at that. -D

Yeah, tell me about the potion you are working on? I don’t think I’m going to be falling back to sleep anytime soon. Tomorrow, or today I guess, we will spend packing for the Quidditch World Cup. -H

Draco was passionate about his potions and his words were blossoming quickly across the page, though he left out many of the details of what he was making so Harry could not create it himself. It was funny to the raven to see how the other would go on tangents for paragraphs at a time about one ingredient or way to stir and how stupid people were for doing or even suggesting anything different.

It was interesting, but Harry was only truly half paying attention to the journal as the weight of the book in his lap remained as heavy as a boulder.

Just a dream huh?

He really didn’t want to open the pages of the photo album that he had been gifted years ago by Hagrid, but he had to. The faces moved by quickly in the light of his wand as he flipped through the many pages. Until he finally found it…

XX

He immediately felt sick all over again as he looked at the collection of people in the partially faded photograph.

The members of the Order of the Phoenix smiled and waved at him, but Harry only had eyes for the short man half hidden behind his mother.

Peter Pettigrew.

Wormtail.

It was indeed the same man from his dream, even though Wormtail had changed in rather startling ways. The Peter that was slightly squirming in place in the photograph was rather chubby compared to the desperately thin man in the dilapidated manor.  The light in the eyes of the paper copy seemed more dead compared to those of his fellows, though still watery. In the dream there had been a spark of something trying to come forth, but would die whenever Peter looked towards the hidden figure in the chair. Wormtail had also aged in the thirteen years, far less gracefully than Remus or Sirius had.

Something that had remained the same was the dark circles that were bruising the undersides of his eyes. Then again, there were others in the picture that had that, perhaps not to the same degree as Peter, but it meant that they had probably not thought much of the short man’s ragged appearance during wartime.

None of them suspected that meek little Peter Pettigrew was a traitor and spy among them. He was even standing behind Harry’s parents like he belonged there.

Anger made Harry’s knuckles turn white in their grip on the edges of the book as much as the fear and another realization did.

Master, Wormtail’s master had been the Dark Lord, Voldemort. That couldn’t be right, Voldemort was dead. He had to be, sure there was no body and they didn’t know how it happened, but the monster wouldn’t have stopped his rampage across Britain if he hadn’t been dead.

Right?

It was just a dream, like Draco had said. What Harry had agreed to it being. There was no way that Voldemort was back. It was just that flash of green that triggered some childhood memory that was making him have nightmares now, just his mind creating images that meant nothing at all.

Harry glanced back down at the picture before carefully peeling it out of its place and settling it in the back of the journal. If it was going to haunt him, like he knew it was, then he might as well have easy access to it to remind himself that it meant nothing .

He still didn’t get any more sleep that night, but he did enjoy being able to dazzle Draco back when the blond asked about the going-ons that usually happened at the World Cup.

____

The morning of August 25th had Remus, Sirius, and Harry bundling themselves through the floo to the Weasleys’ where they would be met by the rest of their group before they would portkey to the Quidditch grounds. Neville, Dean, Seamus, Luna, Lee, and the entirety of the Weasleys filled up the crammed borrow, but it was filled with laughter as bags were tossed to different hands and stowed away. Molly was leading the last minute packing and had ordered Tonks to wait out in the garden afraid the clumsy Auror might do more harm than good with some of the things they were taking.

Andromeda was a not so surprising addition to the group as Sirius often spent his free time with his favorite cousin. Still with the children basically doubling the amount of adults, or more accurately mature individuals, it was going to be a challenge.

Even so with one order with Remus’ ‘Professor Lupin’ voice, the youths scrambled to the apparition point, much to Molly’s exasperation as she had been trying to herd them out of the door unsuccessfully for five minutes. The willowy man had only offered her a wink in exchange which had Sirius barking out a laugh that he struggled to cover with a cough as the woman turned her attention his way.

Honestly, Harry felt pretty dead on his feet. He hadn’t slept well the last night either as the dream from the night before still bothered him and made him reluctant to shut his eyes.

Still, as the dizziness and slingshot feeling of the portkey travel ebbed away, Harry was able to see the bustle and noise that was the camping grounds, he felt the contagious energy of the place bleed into himself as he laughed with his friends and they raced towards the spot they would claim as their own for the night. The inside of the magic tent was as incredible as it was huge. After dropping their bags on the beds that would be theirs, Molly called for everyone to help with the preparation of lunch.

Sure, everyone wanted to explore the grounds, talk to the foreign visitors, and buy souvenirs, but food was something that had a strong hold over growing teenagers. This was true for males and females alike as Ginny pulled Luna to aid her in peeling potatoes and carrots.

Both Remus and Tonks weren’t allowed to help with the preparation. The werewolf had been chased out by Sirius as he knew for personal experience how bad Remus’ cooking and potion making skills were. They hadn’t improved in the slightest in all these years, Sirius had constantly saved his fellow Marauder’s ass so many times with a bit of sweet talking to Slughorn and aiding Remus when he could.

Sirius on the other hand was an amazing cook and took over making one of the many dishes.

The twins, Lee, and Seamus were making a small bonfire outside of the tent, under the supervision of Arthur and Remus. When the meal was ready, they decided to eat outside to observe the lively chaos.

However it came at no surprise that their group was visited by others. With several recognizable lords, lady, and Ministry officials in their group there were plenty of people that were eager to rub elbows and catch a glance at the potential competition in the gathered heirs.

At least the first person to drop by was someone that everyone was happy to see. Oliver Wood the former Gryffindor Quidditch team captain came over to greet his former professor and to see his old house and teammates, wishing Harry a late happy birthday before shoving a small box into the Seeker’s hand with a laugh. Under the elder’s urging Harry unwrapped it to find a professional set of goggles inside with the logo for the Puddlemere United team across the band.

At the shocked expressions he received Oliver explained how he had joined the reserve team of Puddlemere United and was already rising in the ranks. Unfortunately, it was not Oliver’s team that was playing in the finals, but as a member of a professional team he was able to get one of the limited and expensive tickets.

Harry knew that Oliver was more interested in studying the strategies of the players in the air rather than the results of the match. When Oliver was about to bid his goodbyes, the young man froze, slack jawed and eyes wide as he looked at something at the edge of the campsite.

“I-Is that… Andre Egwu?” Oliver asked, prompting the rest of the group to look at the young dark skinned man dressed in royal purple quidditch robes speaking animatedly with Charlie, Bill, Percy, and Tonks, whom had turned her hair the same color as her apparent friend’s uniform. There upon the chest of the stranger’s robes was embroidered a bright golden sun, it marked him as a member of the Pride of Portree team.

Ron, the twins, Lee, Ginny, and Harry let out an embarrassing noise as they recognised that it was indeed one of the most famous Chasers on the Isle of Skye’s team. The older group had heard the sound, glancing their way before snickering between themselves as Andre sashayed his way closer with the others waltzing behind him.

“If you want an autograph, I’ll need something to sign.” Andre’s voice was higher pitch and teasing, though his chocolate brown eyes widened at the speed at which Fred and George tore their way back into the tents, then returned with several sheets of parchment, a self-inking quill, and some quidditch paraphernalia.  

Yeah, speaking with a professional quidditch player that he had cards of was an early highlight for Harry and his friends as they silently promised to never wash the hands they shook with Andre.

The betrayal was obvious upon the younger Weasleys’ faces when they discovered that Bill, Charlie, Percy, Tonks, and Andre had been part of the same friend group made of students from different houses during their time at Hogwarts. How such differing personalities had grown close they didn’t elaborate upon, instead sharing secretive, but slightly pained smiles between themselves.

Being the legal adults that they were, the Quidditch player, dragonologist, Cruse Breaker, and Auror departed from the camp to explore and catch up without the little fanboys and girl. Percy had decided to remain behind at camp.

George and Lee shared a look as they noticed the way Andre and Charlie’s hands intertwined as they disappeared into the bustling crowds.

Oliver also took his leave after heckling his former teammates into winning the Quidditch House Cup the next year as well. Unfortunately, the next visitors were not nearly so welcomed. At least by Sirius as he grimaced as he watched the approach of two older men and a tottering house elf.

“Arthur, old man, what a day, eh? What a day! Could we have asked for more perfect weather? A cloudless night coming… and hardly a hiccough in the arrangements… Not much for me to do even as head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports!” Greeted the younger of the approaching pair, he hurried over to clasp hands with the eldest of the Weasleys, whom returned the enthusiasm for the coming game.

“Aye, Bagman, it’s shaping up to be an almost perfect night for a game,” Arthur smiled as the rest of the campsite drifted closer to see who the newcomers were.

“Come now, call me Ludo. You’re not exactly on the clock now are ya? Unlike myself.” The other answered with a grin, seeming to be absolutely carefree and oblivious to the tolling of the other Ministry officials that wandered constantly around the grounds. Tight security and many measures in place to assure the secrecy and safety of the event from Muggle eyes.

Bagman’s companion looked far more haggard in comparison and was glaring at the unaware former Quidditch star.

“Crouch.” Sirius offered the greeting first to the man and with several heavy moments of consideration, the now named man shook the hand offered to him.

“Lord Black, I see you have come to join the festivities with your… ward.” The man was dressed in a dark suit, tie, and hat that had Dean muttering under his breath that Crouch looked more like a businessman rather than a wizard. Harry knew that that was probably the point as the Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation was the one coordinating both the many magical folks of different nationalities and managing the obliviating of any wandering Muggles. Still the fact that they were out in the wilderness and campgrounds made Crouch and many of the other oddly dressed Ministry officials stand out like sore thumbs.

“Of course, this was actually one of my presents to Harry for his birthday, having him enjoy the World Cup with not only his friends, but with family .” Sirius answered levelly with a charming smile that didn’t reach his eyes. The animosity between the two men was obvious and startled Harry. Sure, he had encountered Bartemius Crouch before as he was often at the side of Minister Fudge during functions, but this was probably the first time he had seen Crouch and Sirius interact in a relatively private setting in comparison to the parties or crowded halls of the Ministry.

Harry knew of Crouch’s history, any person who was relatively informed about the Wizarding World did. Which was one of the reasons why his green eyes flickered to where Neville was standing. The boy in question was frowning in the direction of the man, that was the father of one of the Deatheaters that had helped torture his parents to insanity. Still while Barty Crouch Jr. was a follower of Voldemort, his father was a stark contrast as Crouch Sr. was brutal in his methods and opinions about the Dark Arts during his time as the Head of Magical Law Enforcement during the war. Having been unaware of his own son’s activities and then sentencing him to Azkaban had made Crouch lose enough popularity with the public to have him lose his bid at becoming the next Minister of Magic over Fudge. Crouch was known for being a strict man and had apparently showed little remorse or emotion when he was informed of his son’s death in prison.

As Arthur, Molly, Remus, and Andromeda joined the conversation with the older men the atmosphere became far less hostile and Bagman was wowing the youths with his tale of travels and time as a professional Quidditch player. He had plenty of tales of his time both over and off of the field. The twins and Lee roping the man into promising to return in the evening after the game to show him something truly fantastical and a possible business venture.

At Harry’s confused look, Ginny whispered in his ear that she had spied the trio packing more of the fireworks from Harry’s birthday party among the supplies they brought with them.

Still Harry kept one ear turned towards the conversation between the adults and Crouch.

“Bagman, I do hope I might ask a question.” Percy’s voice merged the two groups and the former Quidditch player smiled as he nodded his head. Though that smile turned into an annoyed frown as he heard just what the inquiry was.

“I was wondering if there was any news regarding the disappearance of Miss. Jorkins.”

“No, but ya know how she wanders. Pretty airheaded that one, especially recently.” The other answered, trying to physically wave off the conversation as he moved his hands dismissively. Crouch’s face in contrast turned to one of fury as he spoke, “It has been well over a month, do you have anyone out searching for her?!”

You’re the one that transferred her to my department, I d